A low boom in the distance wakes Jeongguk up.
The light is on in his cell. Another serving of dry, sour kimchi had been pushed under his door when he was asleep, and he eyes it uncertainly. It’s been a long time since he remembers eating anything else, and he’s about to slide out of bed to retrieve it when there’s another boom, one that reverberates through the walls of the building.
The fluorescent bulb over the sink flickers.
He looks up, sliding eyes across the ceiling. The security camera that stares into his room leers back at him with its misty blue lens. It’s the one portal Jeongguk has to the outside world, and he wonders if the longer he stares, the more unsettled the person watching on the other side will be.
Another boom, a lot closer this time, followed by gruff shouts. Jeongguk jumps when sirens blare above him, screeches and cackles in his ears. Footsteps pound on the floor outside, gunshots go off and Jeongguk feels his breath catch in his throat.
Peering out of the shutter on his door is not the soundest decision he has ever made. The moment he does he sees a dark figure bent over a navy-suited police officer, a pool of red on the tiles beneath him. Jeongguk’s eyes widen, and in the split second he hesitates to slam the shutter closed, another officer’s bloody face is slammed into the window in the door. His cheek flattens against the surface, drops of blood spraying across the glass. Jeongguk shrieks, stumbling back, tripping on the chopsticks that rolled off his tray of food. The shutter door remains jammed where it is, and slowly does the man’s face slide down and out of sight, leaving a smear of gore on the glass.
Just then, a face appears in that tiny window, and Jeongguk, fallen back on his ass and elbows, swears he sees Cha Hakyeon’s cold, glittering smile in that moment before it’s gone. When he disappears, angry barking fills the hallway and Jeongguk scrambles to his feet—he knows that sound.
“Kkanji!” he shouts uselessly. This cell is soundproof and no one will hear the pound of his fists on the metal door. “Kkanji—”
Where there is Kkanji, there is Taehyung.
It’s a voice Jeongguk doesn’t recognize—high, sharp, cutting through the din. A streak of black fur flashes across the window and that someone laughs. “I can’t believe it—where’s Taehyung?”
Taehyung? Jeongguk’s fingers scrabble at the glass. Someone here knows Taehyung.
“He’s here?” The voice is closer now. “He’s in here? Wait, this can’t be right, this is solitary—solitary! Hey, Namjoon hyung, Jeon Jeongguk’s here, he’s in here—”
In the bloodstained window a bright, sunny face appears. He’s holding Kkanji up in his arms even as bullets whiz by him.
“Wow, he’s bigger than I expected,” he comments, and at this Jeongguk bristles. This munchkin is the person his mother was referring to when she told him that there would be someone to come get him? “You hang in there, Jeonggukkie!” he goes on cheerfully, voice muffled but audible, ducking as something is thrown at his head. “God, I know this is a voodoo attack but does no one in this detention center have any chill—”
“Stand back, Jimin. You too, Jeongguk, if you can hear me.”
Jeongguk backs up, stepping barefoot in cold rice. At first, he hears the lock click, thinking that they’re picking it—and then the metal groans, as though straining under a colossal weight. Finally the door flies off its hinges with an ear-splitting bang and Jeongguk catches a glimpse of a youth with ashen hair already dashing out of sight, but Jimin is still there, holding out his hand.
“No time, come on,” Jimin says, grabbing Jeongguk’s hand in his when he doesn’t move. Kkanji jumps out of his arms and onto the floor. “We’ve got to find Taehyung and get you out of here.”
“Who are you?” Jeongguk asks, trying to keep up with Jimin’s pace. For someone so stocky, he is surprisingly lithe and fast. “How do you know him?”
“Well, first of all, I’m your hyung,” Jimin says pointedly, as they run after Kkanji down a body-strewn corridor. Jeongguk stumbles at the smell of blood, but Jimin never lets go of his hand. “Otherwise I am Park Jimin, nineteen, voodoo master. Taehyung is my best friend.”
So this is the person who taught Taehyung everything he knew. Jeongguk tightens his fingers.
They find Taehyung tending to a nasty head wound across Sungjae’s forehead, the boy under his hands out cold. His sunglasses are absent from their ever-present perch on his nose, and he is so focused that he doesn’t even notice them approaching until Kkanji noses at his face.
“Oh my God,” he says, getting up unsteadily when his gaze falls upon Jimin. “Oh my God, Jimin!”
The display of affection is somewhat badly timed, but perhaps that is what makes it the most heartwrenching; Jeongguk watches as Taehyung throws himself at Jimin, who almost topples at his weight but just laughs and hugs him anyway. When he catches sight of Jeongguk over Jimin’s shoulder, he scrambles down and pulls him to his chest too, as if the argument a few days before had never happened.
“You’re okay,” he says, patting Jeongguk all over. “Right, you’re okay?”
“I’m okay,” Jeongguk mumbles. He tries to pull back and look into Taehyung’s face, but Taehyung doesn’t let him go. “Hyung, really—”
“I’m sorry I got mad at you,” he says, breath tickling the skin of his neck, and Jeongguk looks at Jimin helplessly—but Jimin is more confused than he is, watching them with a kind of vague understanding on his face. “What if something had happened and that was the last thing I—”
“Taehyung,” Jimin says then, tapping his shoulder, “sorry to interrupt, really, but can we do this later.”
He picks up his sunglasses where they lie cracked and broken on the floor—and Jeongguk thinks he’s about to slide them onto his face, but he lays them on Sungjae’s chest, hooks facing up.
“You’re not going to put those on?” Jimin asks.
Taehyung shakes his head. “I’m coming with you guys, aren’t I? I don’t need these.” He pats Sungjae’s bloody forehead carefully. “I’ll see you again one day, my friend.”
The first thing Jeongguk hears when they step into the hostel is “Are you all out of your fucking minds?”
Followed by “Seokjin, hot. I like that look on you,” to which Seokjin laughs nervously. Not that Jeongguk can disagree, because even though the cop uniform is a little too big on even Seokjin, he looks like he’s stepped out of a magazine rather than a government employee, but still. That doesn’t seems like a very welcoming opening line.
This is immediately then sandwiched with the repetition of, “Are you all out of your fucking minds?”
“Turn down, Yoongi,” says the one Jeongguk had just learned is named Hunchul, collapsing on the floor in a heap. His clothes are torn in some places, and he has bloody fingernails. “We just had to take down half a clan of voodoos with our bare hands, and you are not being of any help.”
Yoongi glowers. “You could have died,” he snarls. “What the hell kind of plan was that? And why did you three agree to this?”
“A damn good one, if I say so myself. But aw, thanks man. I love you too.”
“What the hell did you even tell the police?”
“All we needed to. We sat them down, handed over the forged paperwork. That kid had a brain aneurysm, the livestock weren’t correctly sedated, etc etc, yadda yah, seriously, Yoongi. I know what I’m doing. We obviously just needed Seokjin’s hot piece of ass to do it in the middle of a voodoo attack to the only gay officer in the detention center. It was like a one-way ticket out of there.”
“Please,” Seokjin protests weakly. “You’re making me sound like a hero.”
“You look like a damn hero,” Hyosang says.
“Is this all of us?”
Namjoon is the one that asks, in the corner of the room by himself. Everyone quiets, looking around, and Jeongguk counts ten heads.
“This is it,” Hoseok says. “All seven of us. The Incheon voodoos, two Seers, the Supreme, and the Busan kids.”
“Kids?” Jeongguk repeats. “I’ll have you know that I am seventeen!”
Everyone kind of stares at him, and then Jimin slowly says, “So, a kid.”
Jeongguk is about ready to deal him a falcon punch for that smirk when Yoongi interrupts.
“I imagined the necromancer,” he says, nodding at Taehyung, “to look a lot more...intimidating.”
Jimin snorts when Taehyung makes an affronted noise.
“What are you? Any extraneous abilities?” Yoongi asks Jeongguk, who doesn’t answer. He pauses, then, “Damn, black widow? Nice.”
Jeongguk sputters. “I didn’t even—”
Hoseok places a hand on his arm. “You will get used to it,” he says very seriously.
“Oh,” Namjoon says. “You’re the doozy.”
“I’m the doozy?”
“He’s the doozy,” Hunchul affirms.
“There’s a lot we need to discuss,” Donghyuk says, and Hunchul groans at the prospect of it. “But some of us...need naps, in Hunchul’s case, and I think all of us need food.” He looks at Taehyung and Jeongguk when he says this. “It’s not a hot idea to wait in times like these but I think just this once, it’ll be okay.”
Apparently Kim Seokjin, the human voodoo doll, works in the hostel kitchens. It’s a humble step down from the star restaurant he used to be a big important chef in, Jeongguk learns. He disappears in more normal clothing and an apron tied around his waist, and several hours later serves up the biggest meal Jeongguk remembers since being sent to prison.
“Did you mother raise you in the jungle,” Jimin says disdainfully when Jeongguk wolfs down at least his fifth plate of japchae. “How much can you even eat?”
“More than this,” Jeongguk says. “Seokjin hyung is an amazing cook.”
“Thanks,” Seokjin calls across the table. He evidently has the ears of a barn owl. “I try.”
Jeongguk slows, though, when he sees Taehyung set down his chopsticks. He slurps the noodles up into his mouth and says, “You’re not hungry?”
“But it’s so good.”
“I believe you.”
What an odd reply. Taehyung smiles at him, feeding scraps of pork from his bowl to Kkanji, who’s lying at his feet under the table. She looks so naked without her leather lead. Jeongguk frowns.
“Are you sure, hyung?”
Jeongguk finds himself alone with Jimin later—Taehyung having led Kkanji off to tend to her torn claw and discuss some logistics with Yoongi, the hyungs discussing something that is temporarily Top Secret. Jimin is the only one that’s alone, polishing his pewter cauldron with a sponge.
“I guess I have to say thank you.”
Jimin looks up in surprise. “You? Thank me?” He laughs. “I’ve known you for a fresh three hours at most and I already know you’re not the type to hand out affection and gratitude easily.”
Jeongguk punches him in the arm lightly. Not that he’s wrong. In fact, he’s proving Jimin’s point right now.
“Taehyung told me about magic when we were in there,” he says. He sits on his feet, knees going a little numb on the floor. “He said you were the one that taught him.”
“He talked about me?” Jimin asks, pleased. “Wow. I’m genuinely impressed.”
“Well, he didn’t talk very much about himself,” Jeongguk says. “So, naturally, you slipped into his everyday conversation sometimes. Probably more than I knew at the time, honestly.”
“I can tell,” Jimin says. “That he didn’t talk very much about himself, that is.”
“What? How can you?”
“Well, you ask him questions like why he’s not eating more,” Jimin points out. “If he really did tell you everything there is to know about him, then you wouldn’t need to.”
Jeongguk leans forward. “Why doesn’t he?”
Jimin squirms uncomfortably. “It’s really not my place to tell you.”
Jeongguk presses into Jimin’s personal space, getting right in his face. “Why. Doesn’t he?”
The face Jimin makes is hilarious, bordering on constipated. Then he lets out a breath like he’s been holding it. “God, you’re so cute I can’t even tell you to fuck off,” Jimin sighs, pushing Jeongguk’s face away. “And I just so happen to also suck at keeping shit to myself.”
After another moment’s hesitation, Jimin says, “Taehyung has limited sensory feeling,” and he exhales through his nose. “He can’t taste or smell anything. He can see and hear fine. He can’t feel physical pain, and I’m going to assume he can’t feel physical pleasure, either.”
Jeongguk sits back in shock.
Jimin casts him a funny look. “You really don’t know? How do you think we met?”
“He never specified when I asked.”
Jimin takes a huge breath, letting it out slow, then all at once.
“He died once,” he finally says, tone grim. “He was burned at the stake. I found him when he brought himself back to life and took him back to my house until he got better, but he never got...all the way better, you know what I mean? Kind of like when you break your ankle too many times, that ankle never is the same. After his burns healed, it took him a long time to start talking again, and for a while he sounded like someone that smoked a pack a day. It’s the same idea with death. When you travel all the way to that side, and all the way back, you lose some of yourself on the way.” He reaches out, gripping Jeongguk’s shoulder with a steady hand. “Hey, are you okay? Sorry, that was too—”
“He died?” Jeongguk repeats, sitting down heavily on the floor of Jimin’s hostel room that he shares with Seokjin.
“It’s a long story,” Jimin admits. “Not one that has a really happy ending, either. I mean, maybe there isn’t an ending yet. He was—hey, where are you going? Jeongguk!”
The most inconvenient thing about Jeongguk is that he too is a bundle of contradictions, of opposing forces, of complementary colors; he has impulsiveness, decisions made with no forethought, followed by the crippling inability to act on his feelings. Maybe it comes with being a black widow—all that bottled-up love to give away and no one to adequately give it to. He registers himself standing up from the floor, Jimin’s voice behind him, and the next moment he is out the door—running right into Seokjin, who looks surprised to see him come out of his room.
“Jeongguk,” he says, holding him steady by his arms. “Whoa, are you okay? You’re white as a sheet.”
“His room,” Seokjin says, puzzled. “Which is yours too, by the way. Hunchul just managed to check you guys into one of the last rooms, so it only has one bed—”
Seokjin points down the long walkway. “Room 303.”
Jeongguk’s feet work on their own. The brass numbers that hang over the pearly glass peephole are missing the 0; only the 3 and 3 remain. Initially he raises his hand to knock, then thinks it’s stupid considering this is also his room, and turns the knob without announcement.
“Taehyu—oh. Namjoon hyung?”
“Hey, kiddo,” Namjoon says. He’s holding an armful of gauze and Hoseok is holding an armful of sleeping Kkanji, one of her paws bandaged. Taehyung is listing off, rapidfire, all the things they need to know about dog care on the spot and all the things they can and can’t do with her, if Jeongguk is understanding correctly. “Sorry, we’re about to bounce in a second.”
“It’s okay.” Jeongguk stands out of the way as Namjoon steps outside. “Where are you taking her?”
“My apartment. It’s bigger and more comfortable there. I have a dog too, and she’ll get to have some company as she recovers.”
“Remember that she’s not going to understand Korean, it’ll confuse her!” Taehyung calls after them as they bustle outside. “She was trained in a English language school.”
“I got this!” Namjoon says, throwing up a hand in acknowledgement and promptly dropping a roll of gauze. He runs after it as it unrolls in the wintry breeze, and Taehyung looks to Jeongguk in the doorway, smiling a little sadly.
“Ah. She likes them a lot. I shouldn’t be worried, right?”
Jeongguk blinks at him. “Oh. Yeah, she’ll be fine.”
“Tired? You should sleep,” says Taehyung. “I was wondering where you’d gone off to. Just earlier Yoongi cornered me and said by tomorrow morning we need to start seeing how many powers we’ve manifested, and he and I need to try this—hey. Are you all right?”
Jeongguk’s hand is wrapped vice-like around Taehyung’s elbow, gripping tight. Taehyung turns, pushing Jeongguk away, facing him before sinking down to sit at the foot of the bed.
“You look like you’re going to throw up, please tell me now if you are so we can get you to the toilet,” Taehyung says amicably, taking Jeongguk’s hands in his, and the impossible iciness of his skin snaps finally gets the word out of Jeongguk’s mouth.
“I’m sorry for what I said.”
It’s the lamest possible thing Jeongguk can say in this situation. Ace, Jeon Jeongguk.
“What did you say?” Taehyung is frowning now. Jeongguk wrests one of his wrists from Taehyung’s hold, then runs the tip of his finger along the scar across the back of Taehyung’s hand, white and harsh.
Jeongguk pauses, more useless things to blurt on the tip of his tongue, but Taehyung’s reaction to his touch is so pleasantly unexpected that he does it again, running his fingers over the scar, then wandering over his skin.
“I was saying,” Jeongguk says distractedly, pulling away, “that I—”
Taehyung catches his hand in his, tangling their fingers, and Jeongguk startles at the abruptness. For once, Taehyung isn’t watching him, can’t seem to meet his eyes, even—which is usually a job reserved for Jeongguk, but here they are, Taehyung keeping his eyes trained in the vicinity of Jeongguk’s stomach.
Jeongguk stares at him. His heart is pounding in his ears but the silence stretches out taut between them. He is loath to reach out and pluck it, break that impossible quiet as Taehyung flicks his gaze up to meet his.
And then it’s like a tower of cards being knocked down, a row of dominos falling. Jeongguk swoops down and Taehyung reaches up, hands hooking over the back of his neck and they pull each other in in in. “Jeongguk,” Taehyung gasps, like he’s been waiting for this since the very first day and, somehow, Jeongguk feels the same. The same desperation boiling in his blood, the same conviction that despite all odds, something makes this so right.
Their lips are maddeningly close when Taehyung stops.
“Wait,” he whispers and he’s so close that Jeongguk can feel the puffs of his breath on his mouth. “Let me. Remember this.”
His eyes are shut, and Jeongguk watches the butterfly-wing flutter of Taehyung’s shut eyelids, entranced. From here he can count every eyelash and before Taehyung can open his eyes, set time in motion again, he closes the distances between them.
Jeongguk has kissed and been kissed hard enough to bruise and draw blood, raise hickeys like whiplashes across the skin of necks and collarbones. This—mouthing at Taehyung’s bottom lip, kissing for the sake of kissing—is new, foreign territory. It’s uncertainty. The exhilaration of it makes Jeongguk dizzy.
Taehyung gets up on his knees, the edge of the bed bending under his weight, to drape his arms around Jeongguk’s shoulders. Maintaining balance is a challenge, especially when Taehyung slants his head to kiss him deeper, opening his mouth to Jeongguk’s tongue.
And then breaking apart is another monumental struggle. Jeongguk manages to do it first. Taehyung is not impressed, chasing him with his mouth until Jeongguk has to physically press a hand over his lips, laughing.
“I need a breather,” Jeongguk says, panting. He shudders when Taehyung’s fingers wander under the collar of his shirt at the back of his neck, stroking over the cobbles of his spine, and reaches back to swat it away. “Hey, no touching what you can’t affo—”
But Taehyung, snatching the chance when Jeongguk’s hand is away from his mouth, kisses him again. Jeongguk isn’t about to push him away this time, but within a few moments Taehyung needs to pull back for air too.
“How long have you wanted to do that?”
Taehyung’s voice is broken and raspy. It takes Jeongguk a second to find his own words, thoughts flatlining through his mind. He’s not too sure he even has a concrete answer, lips parted like a fish, waiting for something to fall into his head.
But Taehyung just laughs and brushes his lips over the shell of Jeongguk’s ear. “That’s okay,” he murmurs, “I’m not too sure either.”
Frankly, hell sucks. If pop culture didn’t make that obvious already.
But in hell, there is no fire, there is no ice, there is no river of lost memories. No, in hell, you face your own worst fears.
Hell is different for everyone.
So naturally, going to Descensum is not something Yoongi makes a habit of. It’s an unpleasant, terrible experience, different for everyone that travels there. It’s catered especially for Yoongi, for example, in the form of getting up on a stage with raps he composed himself, mic to his lips, only for everyone to frown in disgust the moment he opens his mouth to sing.
But this is the only way he can do this.
“Back again? This is the fifth, sixth time? In the last three weeks.”
“Yeah. Well, what’s new.”
“What have you got for me this time?”
“You fucking bet.”
The Devil is the only thing down here that is worth Yoongi’s time and energy. The most frightening thing about him is not his appearance—no, the Devil isn’t a little red goblin of a man with horns. He can be beautiful, because he was an angel once, and he was God’s favorite. He has hair as dark as shoeshine that falls down to his shoulders, dressed from chin to toe in black. The red of his eyes is bloody and piercing.
No, it is the mind games he plays.
“I don’t think you understand how knowledge works, little friend,” says the Devil. “No matter how many times you throw it away down here, it will always find your way back to you. Knowledge is power. Didn’t they ever teach you that people can take away anything from you—your love, your money, your rights—but knowledge is something no one can ever steal?”
Yoongi doesn’t speak. He instead closes his eyes and waits, feeling cold, dry lips press to his forehead, wincing when he feels energy drain from his body. When the Devil pulls back, he licks his mouth hungrily, and Yoongi sways from the punch-drunk sensation from the sudden outflow of information.
“Good and gone now?”
Yoongi nods, shutting his eyes.
“Any idea who the Second Supreme is?”
“Not a clue.”
“You’re the Devil, though,” Yoongi points out. “You can take anything you want.”
“Ah, but not without an equal give to compensate for that take. I’m afraid there are other high powers besides me, little friend,” he says. “Those fuckers up there, for example.”
“Oh yeah, them.” Yoongi hesitates. “Actually, I wondered if there was something you could do for me this time.”
The Devil raises his eyebrows.
“Asking favors from me? Brave, you are.” But the Devil is a bargainer, a gambler by nature, unable to back down from challenges like this. “What do you want?”
“If I have given you knowledge, can you keep someone alive?”
“You want me to play God?”
“I guess that’s what I’m asking, huh?”
“Someone,” the Devil repeats, the word slimy on his forked tongue. “Someone special?”
Yoongi shakes his head. “I don’t know who it is. I only know that soon, someone is to join you forever here, during a test of Vitalum Vitalis. What would it take for you to keep him alive?”
The Devil searches Yoongi’s face, a horrible, unctuous smile playing along his mouth. It stretches wider and wider, bordering on a Glasgow grin. “I know which one you speak of, little friend.”
“Will you save him?”
“On how many sins he has over his pretty head,” says the Devil. “And how much you, the deal maker, are willing to fork over.”
“I’d like to to stay alive, thanks.”
“I’m not too picky.”
“I’ll tell you what, mouthy little friend,” says the Devil, “I will grant that request for all the knowledge you have given me. You have paid me handsomely. I’m return I will keep little friend’s little friend alive.”
Yoongi pauses. “Really?”
“At a price to you. But yes, I will.”
Yoongi sighs in relief. “Thank you. Though if you’re going to be expecting monthly debts in the form of child sacrifice from me or something, I’d like a warning before we shake on this.”
“You humans and your obsessions with liabilities and contracts,” the Devil mutters. “No worries, little friend. I won’t be coming up anytime soon to ask you for soul sacrifices. This is a price affecting you and you alone. You don’t need to worry about anyone else.” His eyes, sharp and calculating, dart to a point over Yoongi’s shoulder, and he nods. “Your ride is here.” He sounds disappointed.
“Hey,” Taehyung says, holding his hand out to Yoongi. His figure is a little blurred and dreamy around the edges. “Time to go back, hyung.”
“Why don’t you stay for tea?” the Devil asks. “Awfully rude of you to walk out so many times on me, Taehyung. Especially that time you—”
“Thanks, but we still have unfinished business,” Taehyung says. “And someone is waiting for me to get back soon.”
“Oh! Then don’t keep him waiting,” the Devil calls and Taehyung leads Yoongi away with gentle, firm force. “Goodbye, little friend. I don’t think I will be seeing you for a while. I stood by my decision until the very end, though. You would have made a good Supreme, Yoongi.”
Yoongi whirls, but Taehyung doesn’t let him go, and the Devil is already gone.
But Yoongi feels the darkness slipping out of his fingers like smoke as he wakes. Early dawn is washing over the room, ghostly green-grey through January skies. Yoongi blinks up at the ceiling, sweat beading alone his hairline, before he turns to see Taehyung rustling in his blankets. He lets his hand go, mumbling in his sleep.
“Thanks, kid,” Yoongi mutters, sitting up. Jeongguk teeters on the very edge of the bed, curled at an awkward angle around Taehyung’s body with his shoulders and head pressed against the headboard. Yoongi slips into his shoes and makes sure Jeongguk doesn’t roll off the mattress by pushing him into the center of the bed, which proves to be far harder work than he expects, because Jeongguk is a dead weight. He deems his work done when Taehyung rolls over and into Jeongguk’s chest, throwing an arm over Jeongguk’s middle and latching on tight.
The moment the door clicks shut behind Yoongi, he looks up into Hoseok’s shadowed face and he lets out a shout of surprise.
“Jesus, don’t do that!” he snaps. The wind bites at his cheeks and Yoongi tugs his jacket tighter around himself, crossing his arms and hunching into himself. That trip into Descensum has been the most draining by far; he feels cold and tired and just wants to get back to his own room.
“Did you feel that?”
“The power shift.”
The cruel breeze is cooling the sweat on Yoongi’s forehead. He clears his throat.
“I might have heard about it.”
Hoseok’s eyes widen. “What, you Saw something about it just now?”
“Can we do this in my room?” Yoongi says. “I’d prefer not to freeze my ass to death.”
For weeks now, Yoongi has been sending himself to Descensum to sell what he knew about the Supreme.Every time the Devil gets a little too clingy, which was every time, Taehyung would appear in the blackness, digging deep into death and into Yoongi’s subconscious, pull him back into the world of the living. It’s an inconvenient procedure, since it requires Taehyung to be touching him, which means Yoongi has to sleep in Taehyung’s and Jeongguk’s room and those nights, well. Yoongi has Heard Some Shit, so to speak.
“Isn’t it kind of...awkward?” Hoseok asks as Yoongi unlocks his door.
“I mean,” Hoseok says uncomfortably. “Sleeping in their room. Sleeping in their bed. I thought they were a thing.”
Yoongi laughs dryly. “Trust me, it would be a lot more awkward if you could hear what they’re thinking about each other for twenty-five straight hours a day. But clairvoyants get used to that shit after a while.”
“But isn’t Jeongguk a black widow?”
The keys clatter when Yoongi throws them onto the dresser. “Yeah. So?”
“So...how would they…?”
“You don’t get it, do you,” Yoongi says, slinging an arm over his eyes as he collapses in his unmade bed. “It’s because he’s a black widow that makes it so much worse. Which is hilarious, considering they’d be safe even if they did bang.”
“Wait, how?” Hoseok asks.
“Ugh, Hoseok. I’ll tell you later. Can we stop talking about them?”
“Of course, sorry,” Hoseok says, shaking his head and settling himself down in the worn armchair beside the bed, arranging his expression into one of matronly severity. “About the power shift, though. The electricity literally faltered for a moment and I woke up to see the billboards and shit flickering outside. What the hell happened? What did you See?”
Yoongi groans melodramatically. It is way too fucking early to be play good cop bad cop with Hoseok, but he has to admit that this is important.
“The identity of the Second Supreme has been changed.”
“Wait, shut up. Changed?” Hoseok flails his arms expansively. “As in, it’s not the same person you thought it was?”
“It’s not the same person I knew it was, correct.”
“Damn,” Hoseok says. “That explains the…” He waves his arms again as if batting away giant moths and Yoongi eyes him wearily.
“You can’t feel it?”
“I feel like I’m coming down with pneumonia, Hoseok, thank you.”
“Namjoon told me,” Hoseok says, leaning his elbows on his knees, “that the power of the Supreme is like a spirit, or a soul. It takes residence in the body of the warlock it decides is the most worthy of wielding its power. That’s why the reigning Supreme always begins dying when there is a rising Supreme. That magic is leaking out of their body, transferring to a different one. But now there are two, and if you say the identity has been changed, that sudden…” He pauses. “Who’s to say that there isn’t just magic running rampant among us now?”
“That is a wonderful point. I’m going to ask the others if they feel anything like you said.” Yoongi sits up. “You,” he says, “are impressively intellectual in the early mornings.”
Hoseok smiles. “Why thank you. I try.”
“Okay, now get the fuck out. I am going the fuck back to sleep.”
Seokjin walks back into his room after his lunch shift in the hostel kitchen at one PM in the afternoon to find that the curtains are still drawn and there is a very Jimin-shaped lump in the bed beside his.
“Are you serious,” Seokjin says, flicking the light on and off a few times, then rapidly like a club strobe light. “Hey, Park Jimin. It’s past noon, you were supposed to meet the Council today to talk to them about voodoo alchemy.”
Jimin doesn’t budge.
Seokjin means to shout. What he doesn’t mean, however, is for Jimin to quite literally fly out of bed, backward, hitting the opposite wall with a deafening thud and landing in a heap of blankets. When he groans, presumably in pain, Seokjin is still standing in the doorway frozen in shock.
“What the hell, hyung, I heard you the first—wait,” Jimin says blearily, squinting at him as he props himself up. His hair is adorably tousled. “Was that your first successful go with telekinesis?”
“Yeah, it was, but are you okay?” Seokjin says, kneeling down besides Jimin who has a bruise blooming across his shoulder already. “Oh, God, I’m so—I’m so sorry, Jiminie—”
But Jimin is laughing, throwing his arms around Seokjin’s neck—and today, just today maybe, Seokjin feels daring, and hugs Jimin back.
The headache comes unannounced and almost splits Hoseok’s skull open.
“In that rogue clan are six voodoo masters and four voodoo queens,” Jimin says. He and Seokjin are here, gathered around the dining table of the Wixen Council’s apartment. His fingers are stained with wine and other potions, a mess of drawings and symbols and powders strewn over the roll of parchment paper he taped down to the wood.
“So you can tell the future too?” Donghyuk asks, trying and failing to understand as Jimin draws more lines over the paper, dipping his fingers in his crucibles and cauldron.
“I can’t tell the future, but voodoo is about ritual,” Jimin explains. “Conduct it right and you can craft curses and find out information you need. Like what I’m telling you now.”
“Are we looking at any other human voodoo dolls?” Seokjin asks.
“Most likely,” Jimin says grimly. He wipes his fingertips off in a paper towel. “The chances that a clan of ten voodoos don’t have a doll are very slim.”
“What kind of combative forces do we have,” Hunchul says, frowning. “Let’s see. Two types of Seers, which...only Yoongi could be helpful if he could tell us all the next moves they pull, but that would be impossible for him with twenty voices screaming all around him. Hoseok’s a shapeshifter, so that could be really useful.
“Seokjin, all you would have to do is stand in place and stab yourself,” Hyosang says.
“Thank you, I had no idea.”
“Jimin, I don’t know, could you concoct Molotov cocktails or something?”
Jimin scoffs. “I can do so much worse than that.”
“Taehyung is a necromancer, but he can only bring people back to life, and he told me he refuses to do that for anyone anyway, and Jeongguk can only kill people through—Hoseok, are you okay?”
Pain explodes behind his eyes. It’s all Hoseok can do not to start tearing at his hair, fingers clawing as he falls from his chair and onto the floor, curling into a tight ball. He tightens his hands into fists in the hair at his temples, screaming in the back of his throat at the pain. It feels like a hot, electrocuted rod has been shoved through his head at his temples, sawing back and forth against bone.
“What’s happening?” Jimin asks, voice scared.
“Hoseok,” Seokjin says, and his soft voice makes the pain fade just that much. He pulls Hoseok’s body into his lap. “Hoseok, where does it hurt?”
But Hoseok feels like his entire body is crumbling under the weight of the pain, and all he can do is scrabble blindly for something to hold onto and ground himself. Jimin wraps one of his hands in both of his, squeezing tight, and the Wixen Council hover over him until he’s no longer seizing with agony.
“What was that?” Hunchul asks, eyes wide as Hoseok drops his head back to rest on Seokjin’s shoulder. “Jimin, can voodoo attack from from this far away?”
“They can,” Jimin says. “It get more difficult the farther away, naturally, but if ten of them worked together, they could probably do it. And with great accuracy. But why would they just target—?”
“That was not a voodoo attack,” Hoseok says, panting, a sheen of cold sweat darkening the hair by his ears. He swallows and shakes his head. “I know it wasn’t.”
He shakes his head again. “Have you guys felt a little...weird, lately?” he asks.
The look Jimin exchanges with Seokjin is the only answer he needs.
Sharing a bed presents an assortment of difficulties, so kudos to married couples that can actually pull it off.
For example, Jeongguk wakes up shivering every night with no blankets over him, Taehyung swaddled up in a massive burrito. Taehyung is a motionless sleeper while Jeongguk lives up to his sleep-singing, sleep-dancing violence, and Taehyung has to kick him awake in the wee hours of the morning just to get him to lie still. Taehyung also sleeps with his eyes open, which has served to freak the shit out of Jeongguk more than once.
It also makes kissing, turned more, way too easy.
“I think they all know by now,” Taehyung says, slamming the door to their room as Jeongguk surges up behind him, knocking him down onto their rumpled mattress. He laughs, bouncing slightly, as Jeongguk climbs over him on all fours, bending his head to kiss him hard. “We need to stop taking off every time after all the convocation-Council meetings like we got a damn bus to catch.”
“I got a damn hot piece of ass to make out with, same thing,” Jeongguk says, pulling back only tilt his head and kiss Taehyung deeper. “And let’s be brutally honest, I’m at least half convinced Jimin and Seokjin are fucking.”
“True,” Taehyung says. “Do you think Jimin has bomb stroke game? Wait, that’s weird, he’s my best friend.”
“Don’t talk about your best friend when you’re making out with me,” Jeongguk says.
“Yeah, bad idea on my part.”
For a while all they do is make out. It happens in flows and ebbs—sometimes it’s heated and furious, like they’re trying to breathe the fire of each other into their own lungs, and then sometimes it’s lazy, mouthing at each other’s lips and sucking on tips of tongues.
But always, always, without fail, it segues into something more, and that’s when Jeongguk always has to hit the brakes and bring everything to a screeching halt. He hates doing it. He hates himself more for being what he is.
“Stop, stop,” Jeongguk gasps into Taehyung’s mouth, pulling off, pulling Taehyung’s hand out of his shirt. He has to force himself not to whine at the loss of the touch, and Taehyung looks even less pleased, sticking his bottom lip out. He smiles ruefully, kissing the swollen pout. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Taehyung says, running his thumbs over Jeongguk’s cheeks, cradling his face. “We don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to.”
Jeongguk groans, falling back into the sheets, throwing his arms across his eyes. “That’s the thing Taehyung, it’s not that I don’t want to. Because I do—I want to, I really. I. You have no idea, hyung. It’s that we can’t. If we get too caught up, you know, I don’t want—no. I can’t let it happen.”
His arms are peeled away from his face, and Taehyung is wearing a Cheshire grin.
“No,” Jeongguk moans, shaking his head, rolling onto his side. “Please, don’t do this to me.”
“Does it only happen with genital sex, or any kind of sex?”
Jeongguk separates his arms so that he can peer at Taehyung through the crack between them, making a face.
“What? I had to ask! Like, if it only happens if you take it up the ass, or vice versa…” There’s a gleam in Taehyung’s eyes. Mischievous and pleading. “Well.”
“Y-yeah, actually…I messed around a lot before I met you and...” Jeongguk says, trailing away. He reaches forward, taking Taehyung’s wrist into his hand. “It only happens with genital sex.”
“Do you want to?”
Jeongguk looks up into Taehyung’s face.
“Yes,” he says, voice gravelly.
Taehyung’s face changes, lights up and darkens at the same time. “What do you want to do?”
“I want to,” Jeongguk says, heartrate beginning to quicken at the idea of taking his clothes off for the first time in months, and for Taehyung. “I want you to touch me. Suck me off. I want to touch you—”
Taehyung is amazing with his hands and his mouth. Jeongguk sucks in a breath when Taehyung pulls his pants down enough to get his cock out, licking cheekily up the shaft of it with his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth.
“You’re so hard,” he marvels.
“Take responsibility for it, goddamn,” Jeongguk says, hips jerking as Taehyung presses a kiss to the tip.
“Hang on, I need to let Old Glory breathe,” Taehyung says, slipping off the bed and undoing his own jeans, shimmying them off his legs.
Jeongguk props himself up on his elbows. “Old Glory,” he repeats.
But he stops complaining when Taehyung turns around, climbing back into bed. Jeongguk doesn’t think there’s anything he wants to see more than Taehyung on his knees, legs spread and cock full and hard because he did it, he did that.. He doesn’t think there’s anything more beautiful or gorgeous, even though he’s slept around so much and had so many people get on their knees for him that this shouldn’t even be anything of noteworthy significance, but this is Taehyung—Taehyung, who’s at present leaning forward and taking as much of Jeongguk into his mouth as he can.
“Fuck,” Jeongguk whispers, head tipping back, eyes fluttering shut at the perfect heat around his cock, sinking lower, lower, until he feels his head nudge the back of Taehyung’s throat. “Fuck, you’re good, don’t—don’t stop—”
Taehyung’s eyes are dark and hooded when he glances up at Jeongguk, lips stretched around him, bobbing slowly and so painstakingly that it’s all Jeongguk can do not to snap his hips up into Taehyung’s mouth. He doesn’t want him to choke.
The hum of Taehyung’s groans has Jeongguk’s hips jumping, though, and Taehyung struggles to hold him down onto the mattress with his hands, sucking and licking up and down Jeongguk’s shaft until he’s close. Jeongguk is so close, he’s squeezing his eyes shut with the beginnings of fireworks on the backs of his eyelids. Flashes of sparks, nothing more, that fizzle out when the slick heat of Taehyung’s mouth disappears.
“Wh—what, no, don’t stop.”
“You taste so good,” Taehyung moans, the sound making Jeongguk’s cock actually twitch in his hands. “You taste so good, Jeongguk, fuck. I want you in me, I want to feel you in me.”
Jeongguk reaches out, running a hand down Taehyung’s cheek and wiping up the shine of spit on his lower lip. “Don’t beg me like that, you know we can’t,” he says softly, a noise of surprise bubbling up from his stomach when Taehyung sucks his finger into his mouth, eyes full of pleading. “I’m sorry, but we can’t.”
“I know,” Taehyung says, letting Jeongguk’s thumb slip out and leaning forward to kiss him. “I know, but. I want it.”
But they play it safe—they play it alive, as Taehyung goes back down on Jeongguk’s cock, taking him in, consuming him, sucking like there’s nothing more important to him in this world but getting Jeongguk off. He’s unexpectedly talented with his tongue, though Jeongguk realizes that he’s probably not the only one between them that’s messed around. The muscles of his thighs strain as Taehyung runs his hands down from Jeongguk’s bent knees, all the way until they reach Jeongguk’s waist. When Taehyung drags the tip of his tongue over his slit, though, Jeongguk cries brokenly and comes right down Taehyung’s throat, thrusting gently until he pulls back.
“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk says as he collects himself, pulling Taehyung up to make out with him, tasting himself in Taehyung’s mouth. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I want it as much as you.”
“Shush,” Taehyung says, kissing Jeongguk harder, pressing his lips into his, sucking Jeongguk’s tongue into his own mouth. “Don’t feel bad. It’s okay.”
He says it’s okay because it’s true. If he’s going to date a black widow then he had better damn well be ready for it. Jeongguk knows this, Taehyung always says it right to his face, but both of them can hardly keep their neediness in check every time their clothes come off.
Jeongguk snakes a hand between them, slick with spit and sweat, and jerks Taehyung off until he’s positively moaning into his mouth, hips pressing against Jeongguk’s stomach. It’s not enough friction, not enough heat, but it’s the best they can do—and Jeongguk is already half-hard again at the sensation of Taehyung’s cock dragging up and down his belly, hot and thick and solid. He keens into Jeongguk’s mouth, and then comes all over Jeongguk’s torso, come painting milky white on his skin. Taehyung shakes with the force of his orgasm, shakes against Jeongguk’s body, and then tips them forward with his weight and stretches out on top of him.
“You’re just,” Taehyung says, closing his eyes and kissing Jeongguk again. They both ignore the sensation of come cooling on their bellies, stickiness trapped between their bodies. “I just want you. So much, Jeon Jeongguk, you have no idea.”
“No, I have plenty of ideas,” Jeongguk says, words muffled by Taehyung’s mouth. “More than you know.”
None of which we can try.
One time they cut it too close, almost fuck, seeing as both of them are barely keeping themselves in check. Blowjobs and handjobs can only do so much before they’re seeking something more.
It starts out pretty conventionally. They get back from a convocation meeting and Taehyung gives Jeongguk a fucking wild ride of a blowjob, lightning splitting the darkness inside Jeongguk’s eyelids as Taehyung sucks and teases and edges him until Jeongguk’s thinks he’ll combust, turn into a thousand little particles of stardust. But then it goes too far, farther than Jeongguk should let it—because instead of reciprocating, instead of blowing Taehyung in return, he slicks his hand up and fills Taehyung with one-two-three fingers as he straddles Jeongguk’s lap, rutting onto his hand as he clutches Jeongguk’s shoulders for support. Every time he slams down harder, it’s as if he’s searching for Jeongguk’s cock instead.
“Please,” Taehyung whines, tilting Jeongguk up by the jaw with both hands. He kisses him in earnest, filling Jeongguk’s mouth with his tongue, fingers tangled in sweaty hair. “Please, I just—”
“Jerk yourself off,” Jeongguk says, cutting Taehyung off before he can suggest it again and blur Jeongguk’s better judgment. “Show me how you do it. Show me how you do it when you think about my cock filling you, hyung.”
“Just do it,” Taehyung moans. “Please—give it to me, Jeongguk, please—”
“No. No, I can’t, you know who I am, Taehyung. You know what I am.”
“What if I don’t care?” Taehyung whispers.
“I do,” Jeongguk says. “I want you, but I want you alive more.”
Taehyung sighs, nodding, reaching between their bodies and taking his cock in the tight curl of his palm, stroking himself. Jeongguk teeths a trail of hickeys in the column of Taehyung’s throat, so red and raw and angry that there’s no way that Taehyung’s clothes with be able to hide it.
Come streaks Jeongguk’s belly, as usual, when Taehyung climaxes. He clenches hard around Jeongguk’s fingers, as if to hold him there, the feeling of fullness the closest thing he’ll ever get to Jeongguk’s cock up his ass. But Jeongguk is pulling out, pushing him off, and lies back in the pillows.
“Let me taste you,” he says, letting his mouth hang open, and Taehyung cottons on quickly. He smiles, dropping his head down and licking his own come off Jeongguk’s skin, chuckling when the soft fluttering touch of his tongue makes Jeongguk seize with giggles. He’s so sensitive and ticklish.
Just as Taehyung is within kissing distance, Jeongguk reaches out and pulls him in, lips crashing together. Taehyung slips his tongue in between Jeongguk’s teeth, and there it is—the taste of him on the roof of Jeongguk’s mouth, strong and tangy. They kiss like that, noisily, sloppily, until the bitter taste of Taehyung’s come is nothing more than the soft burning heat of their mouths meeting. Jeongguk can feel a sheen of sweat drying on his chest, but Taehyung ignores it, settling down on top of him with his head nestled into the crook of Jeongguk’s neck.
“You’re heavy, Jesus Christ,” Jeongguk says, rolling onto his side until Taehyung is dumped unceremoniously onto the bed.
Post-coital slumber is creeping over Jeongguk, but he struggles to stay awake because he doesn’t want to be that douchebag that just check out right after sex. Taehyung reaches out, resting a sweaty hand on his cheek.
“Ugh,” he says, no bite in his voice. “You’re damp.”
“I love you.”
Jeongguk opens his eyes, startled. Taehyung is watching him with a soft expression, one that Jeongguk would hate if he had to see it happening in public, but this is Taehyung, in their room, beside him in bed.
“Thank you,” he says expertly, and Taehyung snorts.
“Ah, I do,” he says, getting off the bed and returning with a box of tissues. “Your answer could use a little work, but whatever it is, I do.”
Namjoon’s reaction to the question how do you tell someone you love them? is so painfully typical of him that Jeongguk should have rethought his decision to ask Namjoon of all people.
“Write them a song,” he says, as if this is obvious. Jeongguk stares at him. “Rehearse it, record it, perform it for them.”
Yoongi actually agrees with this with great enthusiasm.
“I don’t know if Taehyung really is the type to enjoy rap,” Jeongguk says haltingly.
“You would be surprised,” Jimin says from his cauldron, ever smoking. “He personally thinks he can rap his sorry little ass off.”
“Why do you ask?” Namjoon asks. “It’s way too early to be planning for Valentine’s Day.”
“It’s not for anything,” Jeongguk grumbles, blushing. “Never mind.”
“I think it’s something you say over time, with lots of things that people don’t think much of,” Seokjin says. “Like, ‘have you eaten yet,’ ‘sleep earlier,’ ‘text me when you’re safe.’ You know? Time is the strongest force in this universe but also the most limited resource we have, and giving your time to someone else, is, well.”
There’s a soft silence between Jimin nods.
“Yeah, deep,” Jeongguk echoes. “I’m looking for something more direct, though.”
“Have you even tried just saying it to his face?”
Jeongguk freezes at this question, and Jimin frowns loudly when he doesn’t answer right away. “You haven’t? Jeongguk, what the hell.”
“I don’t know!” Jeongguk says. “We get—kind of, caught up, in, uh—”
Jimin holds up a hand. “No. Stop. Do not talk to me about anything you guys might have tried. I love myself.”
“You’re a bitch.”
Jimin crosses his arms. “How are you going to sit there and call me a bitch when you’re the one with a boyfriend to whom you can’t even say ‘I love you’?”
Namjoon blows a breath into his fist. “Shots fired, son.”
“But where is the lie,” Jimin says.
“Okay, okay, okay,” Jeongguk says, throwing his hands in the air. “I’ll. Just say it, I guess. I’ll try.”
Namjoon, Seokjin, and Jimin exchange looks between them, and he swears that they are all enjoying this far too much.
“This is so wrong,” Jeongguk moans. Taehyung’s entrance is right there, right in front of him. No, no, no, Taehyung really needs to turn around again so Jeongguk can be distracted by his cock or his mouth or his face. “This is dangerous, hyung, fuck, we shouldn’t—we really shouldn’t.”
“It’ll be good,” Taehyung breathes, looking over his shoulder as he warms up lube between his palms, rubbing his hands together excruciatingly slow. “Just do it, we just won’t go all the way.”
Jeongguk growls in the back of his throat at the flippant cheekiness in Taehyung’s voice, snaking arms around his middle and pulling Taehyung roughly towards him until his back hits Jeongguk’s chest. His cock nudges into the cleft of Taehyung’s ass and the proximity makes Taehyung drop his head back onto Jeongguk’s shoulder, gasping.
“All I would have to do is put it in right now,” Jeongguk says, turning his face ever so slightly so that he can look into Taehyung’s face, eyes hooded and and dark. His voice is so low that Taehyung feels the words more than he hears them. “And it would be over, hyung.”
But then Taehyung is pulling away, leaning down and running his hands up the backs and insides of his thighs. He does it until they’re slick and shiny with lube, and pitches forward to rest on hands and knees. Now the sight is even more enticing, and Jeongguk knows that Taehyung can see him struggling, tongue darting out to lick his lips.
“Come on,” Taehyung says. “I’m waiting.”
Jeongguk shuts his eyes, controls his breathing. The light pleasant scent of the lube is pounding in his temples but when he reaches forward, he fits his cock in between Taehyung’s legs, pushing his thighs together tight so there’s friction.
“Pussy,” Taehyung teases, and Jeongguk rams between his legs so hard that Taehyung’s ass is going to bruise to shut him up.
But today Jeongguk is inexplicably on the brink, teetering on the edge with only three, four, five thrusts and thinks again, of the sensation of almost being buried in Taehyung’s ass, and comes all over the underside of Taehyung’s cock. That’s all it takes for Taehyung to shudder apart under him, completely untouched.
They don’t talk about how dangerously close they cut it and Jeongguk decides now is not the best time to bring up love.
“If you’re going to think that goddamn loudly, can you at least get a room?”
Yoongi doesn’t sound all too displeased, just tired. Well, maybe he’s a little annoyed, but Jeongguk can’t truly tell with the way Yoongi has his eyes trained on his laptop, headphones clamped over his ears. Jeongguk blushes down to his chest and berates himself, forgetting too often that Yoongi can see and hear everything he’s thinking.
But in his defense, last night was the first night he and Taehyung went to third-and-a-half base since the time Jeongguk had fucked his thighs. Neither of them brought it up again, and had spent all the nights afterwards being painfully platonic, kisses going no farther than necks and falling asleep clothed.
It would be just like the curse to make his lust worse around someone he actually—well. Someone he actually likes spending time with.
And last night Jeongguk had pulled Taehyung into their room and pinned him against the door. Taehyung let him, pliant under his hands, until Jeongguk slid down his body and onto his knees. The room was dark, evening rolling in as the afternoon sunlight fled in flocks of orange-pink-purple flocks of birds from the sky, and he had watched Taehyung unbuckle his pants, take himself out with slow measured movements, the clink of his belt buckle loud.
The thud of his head against the door was loud as Jeongguk raised himself up just as leisurely, taking his cock into his mouth and sucking slow. Neither of them spoke, and Taehyung’s head rolled to the side as he slid fingers into the hair at the crown of Jeongguk’s head.
Jeongguk hoped it didn’t come off like an apology, because he knew Taehyung was always flinging them back into his face, swallowing up his words and spitting them back down his throat. Not your fault, not your fault, not not not. It was his mantra. You love me the only way you know how. Love me like a black widow and I’ll love you like a necromancer.
When he pulled back to give the swollen head of Taehyung’s cock a kiss, he came, sticky and hot all over Jeongguk’s mouth. Some it of ran down the swell of Jeongguk’s lower lip, trailed in rivulets out of the corners of his mouth, dripped down his chin.
Taehyung slid down the door, until he sat in front of Jeongguk and wiped his mouth off with his sleeve and a faint smile on his face, leaning forward to kiss him.
“Please,” Yoongi protests again, covering his eyes with a hand and Jeongguk drops his face into his own hands in shame. “I’m begging you, Jeon Jeongguk.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Jeongguk says, cheeks burning. He shovels the rest of his congee into his mouth and makes to stand up. “I”m leaving.”
“Look, I’ve got something to tell you.”
Jeongguk looks up with his mouth full, then swallows. “Me?”
“Yes, you, A-Cock-47,” Yoongi says, and Jeongguk feels rice go down the wrong pipe as he chokes. “God, I can’t believe I’m letting the others win this bet. Motherfuck. Seokjin is going to rip me a new asshole.”
“Bet.” Jeongguk crosses his arms. “You guys have a bet.”
“He’ll have to split with Namjoon and Jimin,” Yoongi says. “Yes, a bet. Two hundred thousand won as of today says you and Taehyung fuck after finding out that it’s safe. Seokjin and I called the opposing side. Two hundred thousand won saying that you guys would just go for it and find out that way. Namjoon threw in in the former plus if you guys did it before the Second Supreme is crowned.”
“Find out...what,” Jeongguk asks with narrowed eyes. “What do you mean, safe.”
Yoongi sighs. “Jeongguk. What does the black widow curse do?”
“It kills everyone I have sex with,” Jeongguk answers.
“What does something have to be in order for it to die?”
Jeongguk blinks. “Living?” he guesses.
“Correct,” Yoongi says, making a finger gun at him. “And what is Taehyung.”
“I don’t follow. He is also living?”
“He’s animate, yeah, but is all of him really here?”
“Well,” Jeongguk thinks. No, not really. Not with the way Taehyung can never taste any of the amazing things Seokjin cooks them, or that time Jimin came home with handful of free flowers from the vendor that had said he was cute, and Taehyung hadn’t been able to smell them at all. “I guess not. But I don’t get what you’re trying to say here, hyung.”
“Hmm. Think of it this way. What do you call something that comes back to life after death?”
“Undead,” Jeongguk finishes.
“There you go,” Yoongi finishes, sweeping a hand out in a flourish. “You, my friend, might be a black widow, but you also happened to choose perhaps the one and only person in this sorry little world that can survive that curse. It’s like it’s meant to be.”
“Are you—you’re serious. Seriously?”
“Seriously. So now you and Taehyung can fuck to your hearts’ contents, and maybe I can get a little peace around here, because I am tired of living in a 24/7 porno.”
The world is spinning under him, like Jeongguk’s had way too much to drink and his head is buzzing. “Wait,” he says as Yoongi moves to slide his headphones on again, “how can you be sure? It’s not like this is something we can test.”
“Jeongguk. Why the fuck would I lose at my own bet just to fuck around with you?”
Jeongguk crosses his arms, frowning, getting only an eyeroll in response.
“You,” Yoongi says simply, “clearly did not do your homework on voodoo magic.”
It’s really not every day that Jeon Jeongguk comes barging into Jimin’s room with this much urgency and eagerness on his face but it’s not like he’s going to complain about it if it does happen. Seokjin says he’s far too fond of a taken, cursed warlock, but Seokjin is just jealous.
“Well hello,” he says, as Jeongguk’s eyes fall upon the approximate six dozen levitating pieces of popcorn in the air, and then on Taehyung who waves from Seokjin’s primly made bed. “Would you like to join us? We’re watching Insidious and laughing at everything.”
“You mean I’m watching it and laughing at you crying every two minutes,” Taehyung corrects, navigating fluffy little pieces of popcorn through the air so that they drop into his waiting mouth.
“Yeah, well,” Jimin said defensively. “Hoseok’s been in the bathroom since the first ten minutes of the movie.”
“Yeah, what a pussy.”
“Fuck you, son!” Hoseok shouts, voice muffled.
“What’s the big fuss,” Jimin asks, plucking popcorn from the air. “You look like you know who the Second Supreme is.”
“Well,” Jeongguk begins, suddenly extremely embarrassed in the presence of Taehyung, “Uhm, I had a question. A request.”
Jimin’s eyebrows disappear into his bangs. “You have a request to make of me? Incredible. What is it?”
“Yoongi hyung says you’re good at alchemy.”
“I’m a voodoo master,” Jimin sniffs. “What do you want? All the water I’ve turned into vodka tastes horrible, so unless you’re really good at taking low quality alcohol, don’t try.”
“I know voodoo does rituals,” Jeongguk flushes, “For, like. Sex.”
Taehyung’s eyes go wide and Jimin literally crows at the top of his lungs, slapping his thigh.
“I cannot believe you have the face to ask me of all the hyungs!” he shouts. “I cannot believe—”
“Shut the fuck up, oh my God—I will kill you, Jimin, shut the fuck up—”
“How, huh? You gonna stick your dick in me?” Jimin shouts in his face, leaping to his feet on his bed and jumping, knocking popcorn onto the ground. “Guess who gets sixty-six thousand won! Suck it! Suck it, Yoongi hyung!”
“Wait, we won?” Hoseok calls from the bathroom, opening the door with his phone in hand. “Is the movie playing?”
“No, the movie is not playing. Who’s getting sixty-six thousand tonight? THAT’S RIGHT, IT ME.”
“It us,” Hoseok corrects.
“Wait,” Taehyung says, sitting up. “What the hell is going on.”
“What Jeongguk is essentially asking me,” Jimin says, voice still full of mirth, “is to prove whether or not you guys can actually fuck without you dying.”
“I swear I—” Jeongguk begins weakly.
“How is that even possible,” Taehyung asks, unfazed by this line of conversation while Jeongguk stares up at the ceiling and wonders if it’s amoral to use concilium on Jimin right now to hit himself over the head with the lamp. “Black widows kill anything they have sex with.”
“They kill anything alive,” Jimin clarifies, echoing Yoongi. “And you’re not exactly that. But don’t take it from me, listen to the alchemy and let it speak for itself. Hyung, can you hand me my backpack?”
The briefcase Jimin pulls out of his backpack is torn and battered around the edges like it’s seen rougher days. The contents rattle as he take it out, pushing his bag, followed with bits of popcorn, onto the floor. Hoseok makes a face, bending down to clean it up.
Jimin has had this briefcase since the moment his parents knew he was a voodoo master like they were. Over the years, he replaced the supplies as they ran out, getting nicer and higher-quality vials and bottles as he got better at alchemy. He holds the wineskin up to his ear and shakes it. There can’t be much left—just enough, if he’s lucky.
“What are you doing?” Jeongguk asks as Taehyung stares at both him and Jimin dumbly, speechless.
“Ritual for sexual compatibility. It has one hundred percent accuracy like most things in voodoo but I’ve never done this for two guys, so shush and just do as I tell you to and let me concentrate,” Jimin says, setting a cauldron between his legs and dumping the remainder of the wine into the well. Jeongguk shrinks away, and Taehyung reaches out for his hand. Jimin notices the way Jeongguk doesn’t shake him off like he does for everyone else, letting Taehyung pull him close. They whisper to each other, Jeongguk doing a lot of frowning and eyebrow furrowing.
Jimin wishes Seokjin were here just for this. It’s easier when he can get him to hand him things as opposed to groping blindly in the briefcase for his glass bottles and tubes, and Jimin does not trust any of the warlocks around it. Dark purple smoke wafts out of the mouth of the cauldron as Jimin scatters the last few ingredients into the pot and then ladles it carefully into a vial, the inside of the glass fogging up.
“I need you to prick your finger,” he says, holding out his hand for Taehyung’s. He doesn’t even wince as Jimin sticks a needle into index finger and holds it over the rim of the vial until a drop of blood runs down the glass. Jeongguk offers his finger too, unnaturally still as Jimin pricks his skin gently. Taehyung takes Jeongguk’s wrist when he’s done, pressing his lips to the puncture wound and licking across it.
“Gross, that’s unsanitary,” Jimin murmurs, swilling the vial until Jeongguk’s blood meets the rest of the solution. When it does, the mixture bubbles violently, some of it spilling over the edge and onto Jimin’s hand. When the bubbles clear, all there’s left in the bottle and on his skin is a thick golden ooze, and he holds it up to eye level.
“Is that a good sign?” Jeongguk asks warily.
“Well, it’s nothing I’ve ever actually seen,” Jimin admits. He runs his fingers through it; it has the color and consistency of honey. “Just between us, I used to do these rituals in back alleys for couples who were going to rough patches in their marriages, and the results I got were ranges of tar to water or, if they were honestly really compatible, it reverted back into wine.”
Taehyung and Jeongguk stare at him.
“Don’t believe me, right? Jeongguk, give me your finger again, I’ll show you what happens if we mix you and me.”
Jimin scoops the rest of the concoction into an empty vial as Jeongguk obliges, followed by Jimin, who cringes when he drives the needle into his finger. The moment his blood hits the liquid in the vial, it smokes slightly and settles—with far less of a show than the first.
“Stick your hand in that and tell me what it is,” Jimin says, holding the flask out, and Jeongguk reaches in apprehensively. He pulls back after his fingertips dip into it, rubbing them together. A long, thick string of it drips from his hand and Jimin just barely catches it in the flask before it stains the bedsheets.
“Blood,” Jeongguk says. “It’s blood.”
“You bet that’s blood, and we’d see a lot more of it if you and I ever got down and dirty,” Jimin says.
The same results come up when they try it with Hoseok’s blood, and the uncertainty in Jeongguk’s face is morphing something more like giddy elation. Taehyung’s eyes are glinting, understanding leaking into his features when Seokjin comes home from his date with the Wixen Council and is strongarmed into donating blood for the cause as well.
“I’m going to kill Yoongi,” he laments as Jimin holds up the fourth vial of the ritual, blood staining the bottom. “I just got my paycheck today. Kitchen work is thankless and painful.”
Jeongguk stares into Jimin’s face with huge eyes as he cleans up the mess, dropping all the glass flasks into the cauldron to wash later. He smiles crookedly.
“It’s okay, you know. Voodoo doesn’t lie about shit like this. We wouldn’t lie about this, either. Yoongi hyung is the human personification of a lemon but he just wants you guys to be happy. I don’t know how you did it, but by some ungodly stroke of luck, you two found each other.”
Taehyung is quiet as they make their way back to their room.
They walk hand in hand. Both of them are wordless, neither of wanting to break the thick, bated silence. The distant roar of traffic mutes when Jeongguk shuts the door behind them, leans back against it on his hands.
“Who told you?”
Jeongguk looks up.
“Did you know?”
“I didn’t,” Taehyung says. “But how do you?”
“Apparently, they all did,” Jeongguk says, dropping his face into his hands. “Yoongi knew, I’m guessing Namjoon knew—they’re the old hands at this and they know so much more than any of us, I can’t believe—”
Jeongguk’s head hits the door when Taehyung kisses him. And finally Jeongguk can just give in, let down the steel restraints. When Taehyung presses a thigh between his Jeongguk wraps his legs around it and ruts down until Taehyung laughs, pulling away.
“Slow down,” he says. “We finally get to do this and you’re going to get off like that?”
The last time Jeongguk stripped down this fast was during a school theater production, between costume changes, and ever then his shirt had gotten caught on his chin. He reaches back and yanks his tshirt over his head, letting it pool on the floor, and Taehyung is already working at his pants.
“How the fuck are you so fast,” Jeongguk asks.
But all Taehyung does is wink at him, tip of his tongue sticking out in concentration. The second Taehyung gets his pants down to his ankles, though, Jeongguk is yanking him up and pinning him into the mattress, stretching out his body against the length of Taehyung’s.
“Jesus,” Taehyung says, out of breath. “You’re going to be the death of me.”
“Objection,” Jeongguk says, pushing Taehyung’s legs apart so he can settle between them. “You are the only person in the world who’s not going to be the death of me.”
Taehyung laughs breathlessly. “Aren’t you a syntactical genius.”
Jeongguk shifts on his knees, spreading them slightly so he can lower himself with ease. Taehyung watches him sink down, leaning back with a gaze so intense that Jeongguk hasn’t the slightest idea how he didn’t realize that Taehyung’s sightlessness had been a ruse in the beginning. He bends his knees so that his feet are planted against the mattress, inhaling sharply when Jeongguk’s lips brush across the head of his cock.
“Don’t tease,” he grits out, when Jeongguk does nothing but kiss the head of his cock. “Don’t, we can actually fuck and you’re going to—fuck, come on, don’t—”
Jeongguk chuckles, a scoff. Then he sinks down, slowly, flattens his tongue and runs it over the underside of his cock. He looks up through his lashes, at the way Taehyung’s head drops back and the rippling of the muscles in his neck when he gasps.
“Hey, look at me,” Jeongguk says, pulling off, and Taehyung whines. “I want to see your face.”
Taehyung looks wrecked when he brings his face back down, cheeks dusted pink, his bottom lip sucked in between his teeth and Jeongguk can’t take his eyes off his expression. His hands are still holding Taehyung’s erection still and steady, cock heavy and thick between his fingers.
“Sorry, sorry,” Taehyung breathes. “Sorry, it’s just, I haven’t. This feels different.”
“Oh,” Jeongguk says, voice cracking when he realizes what this implies. “Oh, can you—?”
Taehyung doesn’t answer, instead reaching out and sliding his fingers into Jeongguk’s hair, rubbing across his scalp. “Warm,” he says. “You feel warm. I can feel you, under my hands. It’s real.”
And Jeongguk goes back down on him, earnestly, enthusiastically, bobbing his head up and down hard and letting the moans tickle the shells of his ears. Taehyung’s grasp loosens and tightens, pain pricking every time his fist clenches in Jeongguk’s hair.
“Get off, get off,” he says, and Jeongguk does, sitting back. Taehyung props himself up on one hand and uses the other to pull Jeongguk in, mouths crashing together. They collapse in heap when Taehyung lets his hand give out under him.
It feels like they spend hours just kissing. Taehyung scratches at the slopes of Jeongguk’s shoulders. He leaves thick lines of white where his nails drag across Jeongguk’s skin, chokes into his mouth when Jeongguk slides a thigh between Taehyung’s. He bucks up against it, rutting until he’s breaking away from Jeongguk’s lips to pant against his cheek. They’ve been holding off on this for ages, whole lifetimes, and now finally—finally, they can have this.
“Can I,” he asks, voice broken and unsteady, “can I have you from behind?”
“You can have me any way you want,” Jeongguk replies, immediately blushing when he says the words, and Taehyung eyes him with a disbelieving grin spreading across his face. “Ugh, no, stop. Stop. No, don’t look at me like that.”
But Jeongguk is already pulling away as he says it, frowning when he sits back on his heels and watches Taehyung rummage for condoms and lube.
“Do you still need those?”
Taehyung stares at him, hand halfway between the nightstand and the bed. “You want me to take you dry?” he asks incredulously.
“No!” Jeongguk says. “No, I meant...do you still need condoms? I—I mean. You’re not...technically all here, right, it’s not—or. Does it work that way?”
A glint swims into Taehyung’s eyes. “You want me to fuck you without one?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I want you to feel as much as you can.”
“You want to know a secret?” Taehyung says, sweeping the condoms off the blankets in one stroke, not meeting Jeongguk’s gaze. “It’ll be okay. Because I...might’ve fooled around a lot before Resurging, but you’re the first person I’ve ever slept with.”
Jeongguk feels heat flush through his body. He reaches forward, tipping Taehyung’s chin up so he can kiss him, reaching for the lube and squeezing some into his own hand. Taehyung keens, breaking away, when Jeongguk slicks him up, palms warming the lube.
The bed creaks when they shift positions. The snap of the lube cap is loud even over Taehyung’s ragged breathing. He shivers when Taehyung’s hand ghosts over his hip, sliding down to slick the lube into his entrance.
“Relax, you’re so tense,” Taehyung murmurs, stroking a hand up and down the side of Jeongguk’s thigh.
There’s no good way to tell Taehyung that even after all this time, even with the guarantee he won’t be hurt, the image of blood on the bed haunts Jeongguk’s nightmares. More than anything he’s scared it will happen to Taehyung—his Taehyung, the only one who would ever survive the curse unscathed. They’ve toed where they thought was an edge for so long yet now that they know there is no imminent death on the horizon, Jeongguk is afraid.
But Jeongguk lets the feeling of Taehyung sliding a second, then a third finger into him distract him, groaning, dropping his head low, until he’s ramming himself back onto Taehyung’s fingers.
Jeongguk nods, air burning in his lungs, sweat dripping from his chin. Taehyung holds Jeongguk’s waist tight in his hands, pulling him in close and lining the cleft of Jeongguk’s ass up with his crotch. His grip is hard and bruising, fingertips pressing pale white imprints in the crests of Jeongguk’s hips. A whimper slips out from between Jeongguk’s lips, and Taehyung leans down and drops a ghost of a kiss on his tailbone.
“It’ll be okay,” he says, stroking a soft hand up the valley of Jeongguk’s spine. “I’ll be okay. Relax, babe, relax.”
Jeongguk just curls his fingers into the blankets under him tighter. “Do it,” he chokes. “Do it, I want to feel you in me. I want you to feel—”
His words break there, falling off the edge of his tongue unspoken when Taehyung ruts in, cock filling Jeongguk, so thick and tight that all he can do is to try to tamp down the broken cry in the back of his throat. Both of them are frozen where they are, Taehyung choking slightly at the impossible tight heat, Jeongguk feeling so full that his breath is congealed in his lungs.
Then Taehyung draws away, slams back in, and Jeongguk cries out.
“Make all the noise you want,” Taehyung grits out. “I want to hear it.”
Taehyung can’t stop touching Jeongguk, mapping the expanse of his back, fingers tracing the outline of the fiery red hourglass. From day one Taehyung has had roaming hands on Jeongguk, touching him more than he needed to, pressing his body against his until there was nothing more than the vibrations of their heartbeats between them. Jeongguk squeezes his eyes shut as Taehyung drives into him, breathless, and thinks that after such a long time in a place with no feeling, coming back to this side of the world must have been an unfriendly shock.
But if Jeongguk can make Taehyung feel again, he’d do anything.
“Are you okay?” Taehyung asks then, slowing down, and Jeongguk opens his eyes. He wants Taehyung to keep going, not stop never stop, make him forget—but the words are tumbling out before he can swallow them back down.
“I can’t believe this is real,” Jeongguk mutters, and chokes a little on his own breath when Taehyung leans closer to hear him, his cock sinking deeper as he does. “I can’t believe this is real, you’re here, you’re intact and fine and—last time I was in this place someone died and I thought that was it, I could never do this or make anyone feel good like this ever again, and—”
And Taehyung is pulling out, the solid heat of his body melting away. Jeongguk thinks he should be ashamed of the needy whine that he makes but Taehyung is flipping him over, rolling him until his back is on the mattress and Jeongguk is splayed out underneath him. The light is dim and Jeongguk wonders how much of his own face Taehyung can actually see, but then he’s smiling faintly and running his fingers through Jeongguk’s bangs, slicked wet with sweat.
“Shh,” he whispers, “I’m right here. I’m not going to bleed out on you. I’ve survived fires, I think I’m too hardy for a few killer genitals to have any effect on me.”
“Please stop talking,” Jeongguk says, panting, chest rising and falling, cock still standing stubbornly at attention and waiting. He lets his eyelids flutter shut, waits for Taehyung to take him all the way again, when he feels Taehyung’s hands close around the wrist that rests beside Jeongguk’s head. At first he thinks Taehyung will pin them back, but all he does is run his thumb across the heady, thrumming pulse just under the thin skin. It isn’t until Jeongguk feels lips there that his eyes fly open.
“What are you doing?” he demands.
“Smelling you,” Taehyung says, gaze hooded, lost in the scent of Jeongguk’s skin. “You have so much...life in you, it’s amazing. And beautiful. So beautiful.”
Jeongguk squirms, supporting himself on shaky elbows before sitting up completely. Taehyung sits back on his haunches as he does, so slowly, like both of them are afraid that any sudden movements are going to break this delicate, fleeting moment that neither of them have been caught in for a long time.
“How much do I make you feel?” Jeongguk whispers, hands on Taehyung’s shoulders, thumbs pressing into his collarbones. He’s so close he can feel the wet heat of every exhale Taehyung breathes against his mouth.
Taehyung closes his eyes. His world becomes tactile, and for once, he really is as blind as he once pretended to be. Jeongguk watches, waits for him to reply, but he simply leans forward until their lips are barely brushing and murmurs,
“Alive. You make me feel alive again.”
They kiss. As desperate as the heat of this moment might be, what with Jeongguk’s boner digging into Taehyung’s stomach and Taehyung’s still-slick cock pushing against his, it’s a slow burn. They kiss and it might not be so different for Jeongguk but for Taehyung, this is the only time he can taste, smell, feel pleasure, feel pain. Jeongguk slides a hand down his chest, until his palm rests right over the spot where Taehyung’s heart is and it glugs erratically beneath his touch. He pulls back.
“It usually doesn’t stutter this much,” Taehyung says when Jeongguk presses his palm flatter against his sternum, eyes wide, and he shivers. “It only does that around you.”
Jeongguk own heart skips a beat the words. He turns his face to hide the blush, instead dropping his hand, letting it fall, and wraps his fingers around Taehyung’s erection, pumping until Taehyung is tipping his head back and batting his hand away.
“Lie back,” he says, words muffled against Jeongguk’s mouth when surges forward to kiss him again.
Jeongguk feels the heat in his face spike again when Taehyung slides back in, easy and unresisted. He reaches out, helplessly, scrabbling for contact. Taehyung is never one to back down from that, and laces his fingers through Jeongguk’s, pinning them over his head. It’s so hard to keep his eyes open. The feeling of Taehyung inside him has all his nerves crackling like they’re livewired open circuits. The only thing he can do is blindly crane his head up and nuzzle into Taehyung’s face until he finds his lips and kiss him again.
Jeongguk manages to wriggle one hand free from Taehyung’s grasp, and hooks it around the back of Taehyung’s neck. He strains his body upward, pushing the both of them upright, whimpering into Taehyung’s mouth when he’s jostled in his seat. When he gets used to the angle, arms still looped loosely around Taehyung’s shoulders, he takes in his face, just as slick with sweat and flushed as his own.
“What?” Taehyung asks, trying to smile up at him, but too breathless to really get all the way there. Jeongguk wraps his arms tighter around him, until they’re chest to chest and his erection is caught between their bellies.
“Nothing, just fuck me, hyung,” he mumbles into the skin of Taehyung’s shoulder.
And he does. He shifts so that there’s some leverage to snap his hips up to meet Jeongguk slamming himself down. Jeongguk threads his fingers into the hair at the back of Taehyung’s head, clutching hard, like a lifeline, choking when he feels Taehyung sucking deep red blooms of hickeys into his shoulder.
Like the first time, the words come tumbling out unplanned.
“Hyung,” he breathes. “Hyung, you know—ah, ah—you know, you know that I love you, right?”
Jeongguk is burning through his quota of embarrassing words today like a damn wildfire, and shuts himself up by biting down into the junction between Taehyung’s neck and shoulder. At the words,Taehyung slows, imperceptibly, before picking up his pace again and thrusting hard and deep into him.
“I know,” he grinds out, and Jeongguk whimpers in his ear. “I know you do, I—”
Taehyung shakes against him, hands so tightening around Jeongguk’s ribs so much that he can hardly breathe. He clenches hard, milking Taehyung dry, sinking down and lifting himself up slowly until Taehyung keens and locks him in place. Jeongguk lets him do what he wants, knows that Taehyung must love the feeling—one of the only things he can feel.
He lays Jeongguk down on the bed, stretching out beside him, resting his temple on a fist and closing the other one around Jeongguk’s cock. He pumps lazily, leisurely, at first, Jeongguk shuddering and grabbing at it too, but Taehyung swats his hand away. Instead, Jeongguk just reaches up, yanks Taehyung’s face down to make out with him, feel his lips on his.
“I love you,” Taehyung murmurs into his mouth. “I love you, I love you, I love you—I love—”
Jeongguk’s body tenses under Taehyung’s touch and he comes, pleasure cresting down his body in waves and he has to physically hold onto him, blinking feverishly through slitted eyes up at Taehyung, who just smiles down at him. Taehyung strokes the head of his cock absently until Jeongguk has come all the way down from his high, hips jumping at the overstimulation until he pulls Taehyung’s hand away and anchors it to his chest, breath coming out in ragged pants. Sleep is washing over him already and Taehyung’s body is so warm.
“If this is a dream, I’m going to falcon punch whoever wakes me up,” Jeongguk slurs, snuggling into Taehyung’s chest and breathing him in. “Damn.”
Taehyung kisses the tip of his nose. Jeongguk wrinkles his face. All through childhood he was made fun of for it, but Taehyung doesn’t seem to care. Seems to love it, even. Jeongguk dares to let himself hope.
“Not a dream,” he singsongs, voice like a lullaby. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
The rejection letter is heavy in Jeongguk’s hands, the paper stiff and cold as a body. His surroundings are tinted blue and unfriendly, a lone student sitting in a plastic chair and surrounded by empty desks.
To Jeon Jeongguk,
It is with great sorrow that we must inform you that we cannot accept you for the 2015 - 2016 school year. This does not mean, however, that this is the end of your educational career.
The words get harder to read. They shuffle around on the page by themselves, strokes and characters sliding off the paper, dancing in the margins, rearranging to make new sentences.
This does mean, however, that you are a complete, utter failure; you were a fool to apply for our school in hopes of receiving an acceptance. You have never been special or talented in anything, your incompetence crippling and shameful, and would never amount to anything in our institution anyway—
“Your brother was always our biggest hope,” and there his parents are, his father with an arm around his mother’s shoulder. His face is steely, and she shakes her head and doesn’t even look at him, as if too ashamed. “We never thought you would be anything worth raising.”
“No,” Jeongguk protests, reaching out, but they fade away only to be replaced by his dance teachers, the mentors that had always believed the most in him no matter what happened, and all they can do is shake their heads, too. “No, please, don’t do this—”
And Jeongguk’s breath freezes in his lungs when Taehyung melts out of the darkness, standing in front of his desk and Jeongguk looks into his face. It’s never been colder, more closed off, eyes as black as Jeongguk imagines the other side is from his stories.
“Hyung,” Jeongguk says, reaching out for Taehyung’s hand, voice breaking when Taehyung jerks away from him. “Hyung, don’t be like—”
“You’re going to live with that black widow curse forever, not that I never loved you anyway,” Taehyung says, voice flat and colorless as their surroundings. “You were an idiot to think I did.”
A dark figure looms up behind Taehyung’s head—a beautiful figure with ashen wings, a man with silky black hair and red, red eyes in a pale face. He looks down, down, down into Jeongguk’s eyes and he feels his soul being shaken by the roots.
Suddenly a force like being hit by a car slams into Jeongguk and he jolts. The images turn into a muddled, milky dark pink and his body is wrapped in a warmth so perfect that he thinks that whatever this is, it’s at least better than—
“Hey,” comes a soft, hoarse voice. “Hey, Jeongguk-ah. You’re dreaming.”
Sunlight streams in through a harsh slice of open curtain, stinging Jeongguk’s eyes when he cracks them open and the last tendrils of gripping fear melt away when reality swims back into Jeongguk’s consciousness.
Taehyung. Taehyung’s body against his, chest pressed to his back, legs tangled with Jeongguk’s. One of his arms is wound snugly around Jeongguk’s waist. A thick blanket is draped over them.
“Oh,” Jeongguk says, and shivers even though it’s so nice and warm. He turns his head slightly, but his neck is stiff and sore, and only gets there halfway. Taehyung’s lips brush against his ear. “Oh, you’re here. Oh, God.”
“Where else would I be?”
“That wasn’t a dream,” Jeongguk says, wriggling out of Taehyung’s grasp and tossing onto his side so he can press his face into Taehyung’s neck. “Fuck. Fuck, I think I went into Descensum. That was definitely Descensum.”
Taehyung is quiet. “You’ve never been down there, huh?” he asks after a heartbeat, and Jeongguk nods mutely. “Oh, no. What was it? What did you see?”
“I was a failure,” Jeongguk mumbles. “Everyone I cared for said I was nothing.”
Taehyung seems to sense the unfinished end of Jeongguk’s words. “Is that all?”
“I was there?”
“Yeah, you were. You said that I—that I...”
Jeongguk trails off, Taehyung’s Adam’s apple bobbing against his cheekbone when he swallows, and lets the feeling chase away the doubt.
“Let me guess. I said I didn’t love you? That I didn’t want you?”
Jeongguk nods again.
“If anything happens,” Taehyung says, “anything at all, just know that in this life, in any life, probably even in the life before I knew you, I loved you, Jeon Jeongguk.”
There is a slight mishap in the middle of the week that is just as accidental as Jeongguk’s introduction to the world of magic.
It was Taehyung’s idea, naturally, and considering Yoongi neither convicted nor condoned it, nothing stopped him from dragging Jeongguk into the fray. Both of them are just lucky that Seokjin is too nice and soft to bash their skulls in on each other’s heads.
“We still have to talk to the Council tonight,” Jimin says with a massive yawn, arm hooked around Seokjin’s. The plastic bags with their takeout boxes rustle in the wind. “I just want to eat and go to sleep.”
“You got up at two in the afternoon today,” Seokjin says, scandalized. “How are you so exhausted?”
“I’ve had to try getting you to learn all Seven Wonders every day!”
“Then shouldn’t I be the one that’s tired,” Seokjin says, and Jimin wrinkles his nose.
“Hurry up, it’s cold,” he mutters, and Seokjin knows he’s won this round, searching in his pocket for the keys to their room. The wind blusters past them, lifting their hair, and Jimin is wearing nothing but thin sweater, so he presses in close to Seokjin’s side until he finally gets the door open.
Seokjin walks in, toeing his shoes off, and just as he sets down his food and keys on the dresser, he hears a plasticky snap and a tiny, “Boo.”
Jimin screams, and Seokjin makes to turn around but the sound tunnels into his brain and makes his temples pound. Piercing pain punctures both his ears. He sees Jeongguk in his field of vision, blurry, singed red on the edges, and Jeongguk looks almost as mad as him—eyes hazy and wild.
And deep, deep down in Seokjin’s gut, there is a sudden, terrible jolt of bloodlust. His hands move of their own accord, reaching out, and Jeongguk’s neck looks so frail—
But just as fast as it comes, though, it disappears.
Jimin has both hands clapped over his mouth.
“What the fuck was that?” Taehyung says, beside Jeongguk in the darkest corner of the room. He shakes his head like a dog ridding water after a bath. Seokjin flicks the lights on, and Jeongguk switches off the flashlight he had evidently been holding under his chin. “Jimin, what the hell did you do just now?”
“I don’t know!” Jimin cries. “Holy shit, I’ve only—are you guys okay?”
“That was something else,” Seokjin says, rubbing his eyes. “Did you guys feel that too?”
“If by that you mean the inexplicable urge to kill the nearest living thing, then yes,” Taehyung says. “Sorry, Jeongguk-ah.”
“Oh,” Jimin squeaks. “Oh, is that what you felt?”
Seokjin raises his eyebrows. “What, were we supposed to see fireworks and light shows snd shit?” he asks.
“No! No, I’m saying that if the sound of my screaming made you guys feel that,” Jimin says, “that’s a—that’s a voodoo ability, it’s a war cry, and that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do.”
“It’s supposed to make people want to kill everything,” Jeongguk clarifies.
“You have a war cry,” Taehyung says. “Why did I never know this?”
“I don’t know.” Jimin looks troubled. “It’s never happened before now. Maybe that’s why I’m so tired.”
“This might be something you want to tell the Council about,” Seokjin says. “Later tonight. Because it sounds like it could do some serious damage if you can make it work in our favor.”
“Wait, try it again,” Taehyung says, eyes wide, and Jimin is already sucking air into his lungs when Seokjin pulls Jimin to his side and slaps a hand over his mouth.
“Let’s not play with death more than necessary,” Seokjin says, Jimin struggling to peer up at Seokjin out of the corner of his eyes, and Taehyung sagely agrees.
The meeting with the Wixen Council and the convocation that night is oddly formal and official, all of them sitting down at the round table in the Council’s apartment.
“I think you elbowed me in the crotch,” Taehyung complains as they take the elevator upstairs. Squeezing into Hunchul’s car all together had been unnecessarily difficult, Seokjin taking shotgun, the youngest two and Yoongi sitting in the back, and Jimin splayed out over all three of their laps. “I don’t understand why we couldn’t have just taken the bus.”
“I’m not a middle-class, stay-at-home dad,” Hunchul says. “It’s not like I own an eight-person minivan. Besides, you guys won’t even be here for much longer.”
Seokjin raises his eyebrows. “Why won’t we?”
This question isn’t answered until they get inside the apartment, Donghyuk and Hyosang already seated. Even Taehyung is quiet as they settle in, and when everyone is comfortable, Hunchul leans forward onto his elbows.
“Yoongi and Hoseok estimate that they’re not going to wait past this month to start coming after us in earnest,” he begins. “They know we’ve grown in numbers. They don’t need to follow us around to know that we have. That’s the advantage they have over us. Voodoo rituals,” he looks to Jimin, who nods, “can tell them all of that and more.”
“Well, we have,” Hoseok pipes up, “a…we have, uhm. A Supreme!”
“We have two Supremes,” Hunchul corrects, and then quickly amends himself he sees looks of shock around the table. “Well, we will have two Supremes, soon. Because we’re going to administer the test of the Seven Wonders tomorrow.”
A silence broods over them like a dark cloud.
“Tomorrow?” Seokjin asks. “As in, tomorrow tomorrow?”
“Did I stutter.”
“It’s for the protection of everyone,” Hyosang explains. “We’ve been on voodoo watch since we all came together, but they seemed to not want to mess with us—fair enough. But now they know we’re not that big, nor that powerful compared to them, so we need to send something downwind if we want to keep them off our tails.”
“But isn’t that just putting off conflict that’s going to come anyway?” Taehyung points out.
“Yes,” says Hyosang. “Long enough for us to crown the Second Supreme. Supremes are always immensely powerful for some time after they come to position. That can help us more than you know.”
“I am a weak old man,” Namjoon jokes.
“Where are we going to be doing it?”
“Namjoon’s apartment, tomorrow evening. We’ll start after dinner, and that gives you guys enough in Descensum before the sun rises,” Donghyuk says. “You’re okay with that, right?”
“Yep,” says Namjoon.
“As for that voodoo clan, we know there are seven masters and four queens,” Hunchul says. “We don’t know how we can expect to anticipate them, or if we can even anticipate them at all—so if you’re going out into public, and notice anything weird, don’t act weird in response. Or they’ll sniff you out right away if they haven’t already.”
“How powerful are we talking, exactly,” Jeongguk asks.
“Let’s just say by the time you can take your pants off to stick your dick in them, they’ll have taken your head off already,” Hunchul says, and Jeongguk makes a noise of indignation.
“Maybe that’s overestimating it a little,” Jimin says. “Actually, I found out something today.”
The Council have mixed reactions to his news about his war cry. Donghyuk looks delighted, Hyosang completely jaded, and Hunchul pensive.
“How could you corral that to only work on them, though,” Hunchul asks. “And how do you know that they don’t have something to combat it?”
“The war cry ability is not a common one,” Jimin says. “If they’re going to prepare for anything, they’re going to prepare for your Vitalum Vitalis and Seokjin, to be honest.”
“You two, stay behind,” Hunchul says. “Otherwise, meeting adjourned. Get some sleep. Hyosang, could you get the other three back to the hostel?”
“Do I have to sit in the same car with them,” Yoongi gripes, and Jeongguk flushes.
“I’ll be good!” Taehyung says. “I swear! I’ll think about Edgar Allan Poe and pregnancy and—”
“No,” Yoongi says. “Please just—think your normal thoughts.”
After his stint in prison, Jeongguk abuses his access to warm water. Sometimes he’ll be in the bathroom for a good half an hour, just standing under the hot stream of water, watching it pool between his toes.
“In the time you use to take a shower,” Taehyung says the moment Jeongguk walks out in a cloud of steam from the bathroom, “I could have eaten a whole meal, written a novel, backpacked across Tibet, and still had time left over to get off.”
Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “I’m scrubbing down the body you put your mouth on, and you’re complaining?” he asks, toweling his damp hair dry. “Seriously, your nerve, hyung.”
“Mmm,” Taehyung says, stretching out on his stomach luxuriously, hugging one of the pillows under his chest. Jeongguk feels heat pool at the base of his abdomen when he realizes that Taehyung must have been rutting himself into the mattress this whole time. “Well. I’m not complaining now,” he says. “But I will again if you take your sweet ass time over there.”
“If you’re so horny, get yourself off already,” Jeongguk challenges, looking right into Taehyung face as he hangs up his towel. For a moment, a pout graces his lips, but quickly melts away when Jeongguk sees his hand snake down under his body between his legs, as if outside of his own control. Jeongguk blinks, stepping back in surprise, and the spell is broken.
“Bitch,” Taehyung says, laughing breathlessly, bringing his hand back out of the blankets to wrap around the pillow, clutching it like he can convince himself it’s Jeongguk’s body if he uses his imagination. “You didn’t say you learned how to use concilium.”
“I’m sorry,” he says. “Jimin tried to get me to do it today, actually. It didn’t work.”
Taehyung pushes the pillow aside, slipping out of bed, and Jeongguk makes a point of not looking at him even as he approaches on little cat feet. “It’s okay,” he says. “I thought it was kind of hot, actually.”
“Real hot,” Taehyung says, arms snaking around Jeongguk’s middle. “What did Jimin tell you to do?”
“He told me to try and make Seokjin kiss him,” Jeongguk says, and Taehyung snorts. “Not like Seokjin needs coercion on my part to do that anyway.”
“Amen to that.”
Jeongguk tenses when Taehyung presses up behind him, and even through the thick chenille of the bathrobe Jeongguk can feel the chill of his body. His hand falters on the comb in his hair when Taehyung kisses the back of his neck, still pink and sensitive from the hot shower.
“You really can’t wait just one second,” Jeongguk says, eyes fluttering shut.
Taehyung kisses the shell of his ear when Jeongguk’s head tips back, one of his hands sliding into the fold of his robe and running down the length of Jeongguk’s bare chest.
“Nope,” he replies, and Jeongguk opens his eyes just enough to see Taehyung undoing the knot of the bathrobe with one long, teasing tug. The fabric falls open, hanging loose, and then Taehyung slips it off of Jeongguk’s shoulders.
Jeongguk shivers as Taehyung moves lower, tongue dragging down the valley of his spine, tracing the ridges, until his mouth lands on the place where Jeongguk knows the red hourglass is cinched. He kisses it, and Jeongguk squirms.
“God,” Jeongguk says as Taehyung leads them back to bed, climbs over him, bracketing his body with hands and knees, “God, Taehyung—”
“God knows all the dirty things you’ve done with me, let’s not invite him in now,” Taehyung says, sitting back as Jeongguk searches for the lube. He makes a noise of frustration when the drawer comes up empty besides the worn Bible that seems to mock both of them.
“Where the fuck—” Jeongguk turns around to see Taehyung holding it already, a sly smile on his face. “Oh. Oh, my God, really?” he asks, cock literally aching at the mental image of Taehyung spread out on their bed as he was in the shower, three fingers deep and telling himself his own hand was Jeongguk.
“You told me to get off myself,” Taehyung says, a wicked twinkle in his eyes. “I mean.”
“I can’t believe,” Jeongguk says, swiping the lube out of Taehyung’s grasp and drizzling it in strings over his own cock, hips jumping at he strokes himself. “You are going to be the death of me, hyung, Kim Taehyung.”
“Your choice of words,” Taehyung says dryly, walking on his knees until his cock is pressed down tight against Jeongguk’s chest, “is truly a work of syntactic art, Jeon Jeongguk.”
“How long did you fuck yourself, thinking it was me?” Jeongguk asks as Taehyung lines himself up. He doesn’t sink down all the way, teasing the head of Jeongguk’s cock, mischievous smile painting his mouth again.
“Too long,” he says, as Jeongguk snarls in his throat the more he teases, digging his nails into the skin of Taehyung’s waist. He gives a little more, sinking further down. “Too long, Jeongguk. I thought about you filling me in deep. I thought about fucking me into the mattress until I cry. I thought about you taking me from behind, when I’m tied down, I thought about you letting me ride—ah—”
He shudders when Jeongguk pulls him all the way down to his hilt, mouth falling open. Jeongguk looks up into his face, nodding like he understands as Taehyung’s lips tremble, body shaking with the feeling of Jeongguk’s cock pulsing inside him, whimpers slipping from his mouth.
“Uh-huh,” Jeongguk says, smiling, even though his voice is strained. “Good, right?”
Taehyung glares down at him, hands on Jeongguk’s shoulders tightening to match the grip Jeongguk has on his waist. He swallows, lips parting, before he rolls his hips and Jeongguk almost comes right there.
But that would be embarrassing, and kill the fun, so Jeongguk forces the orgasm down. It’s difficult to corral, especially as Taehyung pulls off and sinks down so slowly. Within moment Taehyung is riding him him earnest, cock slapping against Jeongguk’s belly with every slam downwards.
Jeongguk’s own rasping pants are cut off when Taehyung kisses him, sliding his hands up Jeongguk’s neck to hold his face on either side of his jaw. His touch is oddly gentle, contrasted sharply with the insistence of his body and the frantic movement of his hips.
This time they’re more synchronized—Taehyung clenches down hard around Jeongguk, in that same way he used to right after coming when Jeongguk fingerfucked him. The impossible tightness around Jeongguk’s cock makes him cry out, right into Taehyung’s mouth as he comes. Taehyung follows him, only heartbeats behind.
In retrospect, it was a dumb fucking idea for Jeongguk to take a shower this early in the evening. They jump into the stall together, slipping a little on the slick floor of the tub and slipping a lot when Jeongguk trails down Taehyung’s body and gets on his knees between his legs. The water is lukewarm, toeing cold by the time they finish rinsing off. The only way to combat this is obviously cuddling in bed again, and the sleepiness is hitting Jeongguk in full force now.
Taehyung watches him, wide awake, and Jeongguk blinks slowly up at him. He doesn’t want to fall asleep just yet.
“Don’t start crying on me again,” Taehyung warns. “You scared me that time in the detention center.”
Jeongguk pinches the meat of Taehyung’s abdomen, hard, earning a yelp of pain and a kick to the knee. “I was happy to see you,” he grumbles. He shifts his cheek on the pillow, shaking hair out of his eyes. “What do you look so troubled about?”
“I’m not troubled,” Taehyung says. “No, I’m just thinking about you. And how much I love you.”
“Oh, God,” Jeongguk mutters.
“What I’d do without you. Where I’d be if you hadn’t been shoved into my cell that day.”
“Stop,” Jeongguk pleads. “Stop, you’re killing me.”
“Thinking—wondering. Wondering if there’s anything for me in a world without you.”
There’s no joke, no laughter in Taehyung’s voice when he says this last part. Jeongguk doesn’t answer right away, but then gathers the blankets tighter around their bodies. “I swear to God, Kim Taehyung, if you keep talking, I am going to go sleep in Jimin’s room.”
“Okay, okay,” and the chuckle is back, “not like you’d take his room over this. What if you woke up to him and Seokjin kiss—”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry.”
Jeongguk waits until he can feel the subtle loosening of Taehyung’s arms around him, the tension in his muscles fading to a low hum. Somehow, he’s still awake and listening to Taehyung’s uneven heartbeat, though sleep has been tugging on the corners of his eyes for a while now.
He cranes his neck, wriggling out of Taehyung’s grasp, until they’re face to sleeping face, and Jeongguk watches him for what seems like hours. Then he finally works up the nerve to say,
“Sometimes I wonder that too,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung continues sleeping, walking in a place of starlight that is completely his own. “And I don’t know what your answer is, but there is nothing for me in a world without you.”
Jeongguk lets the words sink into his own consciousness, flushing high in his cheeks before he tosses to his other side and pulling the covers up to his chin.
(Taehyung blinks sleepily, presses his forehead to the back of Jeongguk’s neck, and smiles.)
Jimin’s hand settles over Seokjin’s thighs, calming the jittery bounce of his legs. The subway to Namjoon’s place is crowded, and they are pressed between businessmen and women on their commute back from work.
“Kind of,” Seokjin says, snow parka rustling against Jimin's. “What if I don’t come out of Descensum?”
Jimin frowns. “I really shouldn't have told you the consequences of that. But remember, that’s only if you can get to Descensum, anyway. It’s the Sixth Wonder, you’d have to pass all five before that to have to worry about Descensum.”
“Thanks. I think.”
They arrive after Taehyung and Jeongguk but before Yoongi, shedding winter coats when they make it inside. Namjoon’s apartment has the look of a place that’s ordinarily Mess Mountain but was cleaned up in a haste in light of guests, and Jimin is fairly sure that the towel over the sink is hiding a pile of unwashed dishes.
“Hey,” Taehyung says, Jeongguk asleep on his shoulder on the couch. Kkanji is at his feet, and Jimin drops to his knees to give her a scratch under the chin.
“Hey yourself,” he replies.
“Well, Yoongi is late,” Hunchul says. “Not that I’m shocked, but he makes it to these sorts of things on time. Did any of you guys hear from him before you left?”
Seokjin shakes his head.
“Hm,” Hyosang says. “Should I call him?”
“Not yet,” Hunchul says. “We’ll give him a few minutes, if he’s not here in the next five, call him.”
Jimin lets Kkanji lick at his fingers absently, staring at the doorway. There seems to be something strange about Yoongi not arriving on time, but he sweeps in exactly five minutes later on the dot.
“Glad to see you didn’t decide to bail on this,” Donghyuk says, standing up. Taehyung shakes Jeongguk awake and everyone gets to their feet. “Right, we don’t have any time to waste if you guys want enough time in Descensum.”
Namjoon puts Kkanji in his room with Rapmonster to keep them out of harm’s way, then pulls out the folding table that he and Hoseok use as a dining table, setting out a row of six candles on the table, one for each of them.
“We’re going to start with Pyrokinesis,” Hunchul says, crossing his arms. “And then work our way up through difficulty from there. Sound good?”
Pyrokinesis is the First, and easiest, Wonder to wield.
Yoongi steps up to the table of candles lined up in a row unprompted, having done this once before. The other five of them are slower, but follow his example. Jimin stares before him at the long, innocent white candle balanced in the well of the glass candle holder, the waxed wick bent, crooked, to the side.
“Light them,” Hunchul commands.
Jimin focuses all his attention on that little wick, raising his hand over the candle. He know it’s not necessary, but he’s accustomed to using his hands in voodoo practices, and it feels more natural than standing with them hanging loosely at his sides.
“Try not to burn the apartment building down, please,” Namjoon calls from the couch.
The wick sparks, then bursts into flame, and Jimin grins.
Hyosang is nodding as little orange fires pop up across the table. There’s a stain on the corner that Jimin swears is probably from some kind of alcohol, and laughs to himself when he realizes they must be using a BP table for something as important and official as this.
“Take two steps back. Use telekinesis to bring the candle to you.”
The glass flies into Jimin’s hand the moment he thinks about it. Taehyung, next to him, turns and stares with a furrowed brow.
“How did you—?”
“Uh,” Jimin says meaningfully, nodding at something out of the line of Taehyung’s sight, just in time for Taehyung to turn and see the candle holder fly off the table, glance on his fingernail and shatter on the floor. The flame extinguishes with a puff of smoke in the spilled wax.
“Nice,” Jimin says.
“That’s a pass,” Hunchul sighs. “But please try to catch the things you summon, Taehyung.”
The first person to fail is during the test of the Third Wonder, transmutation.
“Come on, hyung,” Jimin says, flashing back to where Seokjin remains, six feet away from the rest of them. “Come on, we tried this.”
“I know,” Seokjin says, shifting from foot to foot. “I’m trying!”
“Ten more seconds, and we call fail,” Hyosang says. Best friend though he may be, Hyosang does not bend the rules of something as important as this. “Starting now.”
Taehyung and Hoseok are, at present, chasing each other around the living room, appearing and disappearing behind the couch, on top of the dinner table, balanced precariously on the bookshelf. Namjoon watches them with helplessness in his eyes.
“Don’t kill yourselves,” he says. “That’s how one of the Louisiana witches did once.”
Taehyung freezes where he is, one leg still lifted in a running pose. “How?” he asks.
“She transmutated onto the top of an iron spike in the gates,” Namjoon says. “And impaled herself.”
There’s a horrified silence, which Hyosang breaks with “Fail. Sorry Seokjin, you’re out of running.”
“Yes,” Seokjin says, punching the air, and Hunchul almost laughs. “Don’t judge me, Descensum is not something I want to fuck with. Ever.”
“So we’re down to Yoongi, Hoseok, Jimin, Taehyung, and Jeongguk,” Hunchul says. “Fourth Wonder...right, concilium. Remember, it’s not so much mind control as it is body control, so don’t do anything that causes physical harm. Got it?”
Jimin turns to Taehyung, without missing a beat, and points at Jeongguk. “Slap him.”
Taehyung’s hand lands across Jeongguk’s cheek far louder than Jimin had anticipated it. No one makes a move, Jeongguk reaching up to cup his face, and Taehyung has both his hands covering his own mouth in horror at how red it is.
“Oh my God, Jeongguk-ah, I’m sorr—”
“Strip,” Jeongguk says, looking Jimin in the face.
“Gladly,” Jimin says, until his hands start moving to the waistband of his pants. “Wait—hey, no, no no no, not—goddammit—”
“That,” Hoseok says, staring at Jimin’s dick, “is a lot smaller than I pictured it.”
Seokjin laughs dryly.
“Oh, fuck you!” Jimin screeches, and for a second, Hoseok feels red tinge his vision. “Jeon Jeongguk! I will fuck you up—”
“Jimin, please keep your voice down, we don’t need any friendly fire to happen right now,” Donghyuk says.
“Isn’t that considered physical harm?” Namjoon asks.
“Nah,” Hunchul says.
“We only say physical harm because one of the Lousiana witches once made the other stick a lit cig up her vagina,” Hyosang says calmly, and Namjoon chokes on his own saliva.
“Are you going to make him kiss you?” Hoseok asks when everyone looks to Taehyung. He’s eyeing Jeongguk, who’s trying to hide behind Hoseok. “Aw, come on, Jeongguk, that’s cute.”
“Yeah, I’m going to make him kiss me,” Taehyung says. “I’m going to make him kiss my ass.”
“I can’t believe you!” Jeongguk cries, blushing down to his collarbones, feet moving against his will. “I was kidding when I said—”
“The fact you said that at all,” Jimin says as an aside, and Jeongguk glares murder in his direction.
“On your knees, honeybun,” Taehyung laughs, and Jeongguk screws his eyes shut when he’s forced forward, dropping a tiny peck on Taehyung’s tailbone, right between the pockets of his jeans. Everyone in the living room crows at the top of his lungs. “See, was that so bad? It’s not like you haven’t done that anyway—”
“Okay!” Jimin says over him. “I can’t believe I just had to witness that with my own naked eyeballs.”
“Hoseok?” prompts Hunchul.
“Hmm,” Hoseok says. “Jimin, what’s the freakiest thing you’ve ever thought of while jerking off to Seokjin?”
“Oh, boy,” Seokjin mutters.
“Using a voodoo aphrodisiac on him,” Jimin blurts out, and Taehyung screams with laughter. “Fuck! Fuck!”
“You guys are so horny,” Yoongi complains.
“Well, it’s your turn,” Hunchul says, looking unfazed by all of this. “Show us what you got.”
Yoongi fixes his gaze on Jeongguk, who fights the urge to back away, but he doesn’t move at all. After a few moments, Yoongi looks away.
“I can’t do concilium,” Yoongi says. “You guys know this already. I might be a clairvoyant but of course the irony would be that the only Wonder I can’t use is mind control.”
“Are you sure?” Hyosang says. “We’re going to fail you if you back out on this.”
“Fail me,” Yoongi says, sounding restless.
“Then, fail,” Hunchul says. “But you knew this would happen, didn’t you?”
Yoongi grunts, neither confirming nor denying the accusation, and squeezes into the last empty seat on the couch facing Hoseok, Jimin, Taehyung, and Jeongguk.
“Fifth Wonder,” Hyosang says. “Divination.”
Divination turns out to be the most nerve-wracking test yet. It really is like an interrogation, Jeongguk going first, sitting down at the bare table alone facing the Council.
“Tell me,” Hunchul says, “where does Namjoon hide the spare keys to this apartment?”
Jeongguk closes his eyes.
“Gee thanks, bro,” Namjoon says in the silence.
“Just hide them somewhere else!” Hunchul says. “Besides, he might not even—”
“The dresser,” Jeongguk says, “under the lowest drawer to the very right, all the way in the corner.”
“Just kidding,” Hunchul says. “Good job, Jeongguk.”
Jimin is asked to tell them what the previous owners of this apartment were like. It takes him a few moments but he manages to determine that they had been a family of four, parents and a set of twins, that had moved to Ilsan a year before. A pile of little odds and ends are strewn onto the table for Taehyung—rings, coins, pairs of earbuds—and he is asked to point out exactly what belonged to who.
“Hey, you have nice earbuds, Namjoon hyung,” Taehyung says, moving them aside. “And Jesus Christ, Donghyuk hyung, I don’t know why you carry around so much change…”
But it is Hoseok who fails Divination, unable to tell them what in this apartment once belonged to the Supreme before Namjoon.
“You’ve got ten seconds, Hoseok,” Hunchul says. “And then we call a fail.”
“I don’t know,” Hoseok says sadly. “I have no idea.”
“Time’s up,” says Donghyuk. “Out of the running, son.”
“It was a tiara,” Namjoon says. “It’s in my desk in my room.”
“A tiara,” Hoseok says.
“Little would you know that the last Supreme quite liked them,” says Namjoon.
“Jo Kwon liked anything that glittered,” Hunchul says. “But we have Jimin, Jeongguk, and Taehyung left now, right?” The sky is blackening outside. “How are you guys? All right?”
“Tired,” Jimin says. “I’m starting to feel it.”
“You’re going to feel it a lot more after Descensum,” Donghyuk says. “If you want as much time as you can get, we need to start right away so you guys have enough time to get back before dawn.”
“Before we do, though,” and Hyosang sits up, leaning forward and beckoning the last three of them forward, “I’m sure you guys know this, but I have to say it anyway. Descensum is dangerous. If you’ve been down there, chances are it was by accident. You guys laugh at the movie Insidious and it’s true that a lot of the shit in that movie is stupid, but they had one thing right—the farther away your soul travels away from your body, the harder it will be to get back. You guys are pushing yourself willingly into that space and getting lost is easy. Getting back will be impossible.”
“God, don’t be such a downer, Hyosang,” Hunchul says. “As if Descensum wasn’t stressful enough.”
“I just want everyone to be aware!” Hyosang says. “How would you feel if you were signed up for a clinical trial, or whatever, and bad shit happened to you without a consent form or some shit?”
“They really don’t have a choice right now,” Hunchul points out.
“Who’s the downer now.”
“Well, he’s right,” Jimin says. “We have to do this one way or another, and we’re wasting dark, aren’t we?”
“Right,” Hunchul says. “Make yourselves comfortable, I guess. It’s going to be a long night.”
Seokjin and Hoseok peels the pillows and cushions off of the couch for them, and they settle down in rough circle around each other, curling up on the floor.
“On three, you say the word, Descensum,” Hunchul says, “and you will find your way there.”
“Should you be telling us that?” Jeongguk says.
“Oh, it’s not the getting there that’s what what we test,” Hyosang says. “It’s getting back.”
“Are we ready?”
“Good luck, okay? On three. One. Two. Three—”
Taehyung wakes just as the sky is beginning to turn a bruised shade of lavender, the last bits of indigo night running from the impending sun. Jeongguk is leaning heavily against Seokjin’s legs, head resting on his knees, letting his hyung run his fingers through his hair, for once without flinching, the touch soft and soothing.
“Jeongguk,” Taehyung blurts the second he sits up, voice still thick and confused with sleep. “Jeongguk?”
“Pass,” Donghyuk says, checking off on his clipboard. “Good job, Taehyung, take it easy.”
“I’m right here,” Jeongguk says, going to kneel by Taehyung’s side. “I’m here, how was it?”
Taehyung simply pulls Jeongguk closer without a word. His movements are jerky, his head thudding hard against Jeongguk’s chest like a sharp rap of knuckles on a door, someone on the other side waiting to be let in. Jeongguk lets his body relax, melt into the cracks around Taehyung, arms settling around his shoulders.
“A world without love,” Taehyung says, and chuckles despite himself. “A world without you.”
He says it low enough that only Jeongguk could have heard the last part, and Jeongguk rests his cheek on the crown of Taehyung’s head. It takes a while for Taehyung to come all the way back, but when he does, they join the rest of them waiting for Jimin now. Jeongguk holds his hand in his lap. It’s as cold as usual, won’t warm with his touch, but he thinks Taehyung might need a little something to keep him grounded in the living world.
The minutes tick by ominously. Taehyung dozes off on Hoseok’s shoulder, who tips Taehyung’s head so that he’s leaning against Jeongguk instead. The movement wakes him only enough for him to mumble and then curl tighter into Jeongguk’s side.
The urge to sleep is hard to fight off. Jeongguk finds his own mind wandering, slipping into a light doze. It isn’t until he feels the shift of Taehyung’s body that he wakes up—which is unusual, because Taehyung could pour magma on Jeongguk’s face and he’s probably still be able to sleep through it.
Sleep clears from Jeongguk’s eyes slowly, the shadowy film of innocent dreams dissipating as he blinks. Taehyung is clutching him, but his grip is underlined with urgency and worry and Jeongguk is about to ask what’s wrong when he sees.
It’s almost dawn. The sun pummels up towards the line of the horizon, turning the sky red, and Jimin is still quiet and still as a grave. His head rests in the crook of Seokjin’s arm, head lolling when Seokjin shakes him lightly.
“Follow my voice, come on, you can do this,” he says. “Come on, Park Jimin.”
“He has five minutes left.” Hunchul’s face is uncharacteristically grim.
“Come on, Jimin,” Seokjin whispers. He clutches Jimin’s body to his chest, and from here Jeongguk can feel Jimin quivering along to the shaking of Seokjin’s frame. Seokjin, who kept himself together the best he could for the rest of them, recognizing his age and living up to it the only way he knew how. Seokjin, who has never shown weakness around Jimin. “Come on, follow my voice. You can do this, come on.”
Taehyung raises his head off Jeongguk’s shoulder. The don’t exchange any words, but both of them know what happens when someone doesn’t come out of Descensum before the sunrise. It happened once to a witch in the New Orleans coven, Namjoon had told them, and legend has it that anyone who stayed down there long enough looking for her would find her there, still trapped in hell with no living body to return to.
“Four minutes and forty-five,” Donghyuk murmurs. “Seokjin—”
“Seokjin,” Hyosang says, kneeling down beside him and laying a gentle hand on his shoulder. “It’ll be okay.”
“It won’t be okay,” Seokjin says, shaking his head, voice finally breaking, “he’ll be stuck down there, God knows where, forever—do you know what forever is, Hyosang, do you have any id—”
“Let me try this,” Taehyung says suddenly, pulling away from Jeongguk then. “I’m going to find him.”
Yoongi and Jeongguk shout the word simultaneously, but everyone in the room except Seokjin stares at Yoongi, his hand outstretched. Hearing that from Jeongguk is to be expected, but from someone like Yoongi, who didn’t even exhibit enough energy to talk sometime, is unsettling. But Taehyung only glowers, already lying down on the floor beside Jimin and taking his hand in his own.
“There’s no time, hyung,” he says. There can’t be much more than four minutes left on the clock before dawn breaks. “If I don’t do this now he’ll turn to ash.”
“Is this legal?” Namjoon whispers to Hunchul, who shrugs. Jeongguk hears him whisper something in reply, but he doesn’t move to stop what’s happening, and assumes that they carry out the control, not law principle out to completion.
“Please find him,” Seokjin says, beseeching. “Can you do it?”
“I’ve never done it for anyone but Yoongi,” Taehyung murmurs, shifting around on the floor to get comfortable. “But I’m going to try.”
Just as Taehyung closes his eyes, Jeongguk grabs his shoulder.
“Come back to me,” he says under his breath. “Don’t leave me here alone.”
Taehyung nods, almost imperceptibly. Then his entire body relaxes, muscles loosening under Jeongguk’s touch. His head falls to the side.
“They need to get back before sunrise,” Donghyuk says. “Or else both of them are toast.”
Taehyung is so motionless that Jeongguk has to press a hand to his chest just to feel the rise and fall of his breath. It’s shallow and weak. The shadows around them are lengthening, darkening as dawn blinks innocently on the horizon.
The most unsettling thing about Descensum is the time dilation. The first time Jeongguk had gone down there, the night after he first slept with Taehyung, he couldn’t have been down there for more than ten minutes—but a whole night had slipped by, Taehyung had informed him. A whole night, nearly eight hours, and Taehyung admitted that Jeongguk had been abnormally still for all of them.
Jeongguk looks up when he feels eyes on him. Yoongi is watching him, face unreadable, from across the room, but then his gaze flits to Taehyung and Jimin lying hand in hand on the floor.
He doesn’t know what to make of it. Yoongi has known who the next Supreme will be for ages. Maybe it really is Taehyung—the irony would be too much, considering how many times Taehyung has led him back only for it to be him—a young warlock that brought himself back to life after death. It would make sense.
“One minute,” Hunchul says.
Jeongguk shuts his eyes. Minutes up here in the living world are mere seconds, fleeting moments and glances on the other side.
“Follow my voice,” he says. “Come on, Taehyung hyung. I know you can hear me.”
Then Jimin gasps in Seokjin’s arms, eyes flying open as he panics blindly for a few moments. Jeongguk feels his stomach settle, but only ever so slightly, until Taehyung cracks his eyes open. He blinks in the morning sun, eyelids slitted. Then he looks into Jeongguk’s face, an exhausted smile staining the corners of his lips. They’re chalky and white.
Jeongguk breathes a sigh of relief, dipping down to press their foreheads together. Taehyung’s is cold and clammy, but solid. Solid and here.
“I can’t believe you,” Jimin accuses, voice wobbly and hoarse. He’s sitting up on his own, but Seokjin has an arm slung around his shoulders. “That was such a fucking stupid thing to do, Taehyung. What if you’d gone too far?”
“You’re my best friend,” Taehyung says simply. His words hang between them with immeasurable weight.
Jimin shoots him a grateful, exasperated look. He leans out, rapping his knuckles on Taehyung’s head gently. “Goddamn you,” he says. “You could have seriously fucked yourself over. Don’t do it again.”
“Is that a pass or a fail?” Seokjin asks.
“He woke up before Taehyung did,” Hyosang admits. “So it’s very difficult to say.”
“So, I pass?”
“Nice try, kiddo,” Donghyuk says, to which Jimin sticks out his lower lip.
“How about we let him try the last two Wonders,” Hunchul suggests. “And if he passes them, he does Descensum again. Alone. No one is going down to find you if you don’t come back by dawn.”
It sounds fair, albeit cruel. Jeongguk finds himself hoping feverishly that Jimin fails soon, because he doesn’t want to lose him.
(This is something he’d only ever admit to himself, and Yoongi can fuck off if he can hear this right now.)
Jeongguk grins to himself when Yoongi snorts across the room.
“And the last test, then,” Donghyuk says. “The Seventh Wonder, Vitalum Vitalis. We hope you’re not squeamish.”
The test of Vitalum Vitalis is a little macabre, in retrospect. The Wixen Council had procured bodies of animals from the local veterinary office—rabbits that had passed away and stray cats that had been caught in road accidents and died shortly afterwards on operating tables.
“Is this even safe?” Taehyung says, eyeing his dead cat uncertainly. “Like, what if this one died of rabies or something.”
“The cat did not die of rabies,” Hunchul says, rolling his eyes. “All right, it’s just you three left now, right? Youngest to oldest, then. We’ll start with Jimin.”
Jeongguk runs his palm over the soft, velvety head of the cocker spaniel that’s laid out before him. Its body is cold and and stiff, and from what Namjoon has told him, he doesn’t need to touch the body for Vitalum Vitalis to work, but it feels right. It feels right that, if he’s going to be bringing something back from the other side using his own life force, for him to touch it, get to know it.
There’s a moment of breathless silence as the rest of the convocation and council watch Jimin try his hand on a runt of a puppy that had only been a few days old before it succumbed to nature’s calls. Seconds tick by, ballooning into full minutes, and only after Jimin is red in the face does Hyosang call a fail.
“Man,” Jimin says sadly, cradling the tiny body in his hands. “You take care over there, little guy.”
Jeongguk decides it would be best not to tell him the stories that Taehyung has of the other side. Seokjin, on the other hand, looks like he is about to burst with happiness, pulling Jimin into his side.
“Taehyung,” Hunchul prompts, nodding at Jimin apologetically. Donghyuk hands him a Gatorade.
“Drink,” he says quietly. “Vitalum Vitalis takes more out of than you think and your stint in Descensum is probably still in your system.”
It takes only a few heartbeats for Taehyung to bring the tabby back to life. Of course. No one is surprised, for a necromancer who brought himself back to life when he was little more than a pile of burnt flesh and bone, a measly cat is nothing. Jeongguk can’t help but smile at the delighted little grin that spreads across Taehyung’s lips when the tabby turns in a circle and then leaps into his lap.
Donghyuk holds out a bottle of Gatorade to him too. It’s then that Jeongguk notices there’s something off—in the way Taehyung reaches out, how shaky his arm is, as if simply lifting it is a struggle. His hands shakes, fingernails a pale white.
“Hey,” Jeongguk says. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Taehyung says, voice faint as he unscrews the cap. “I’m fine, let me just—”
A sticky splash of electric blue washes over Jeongguk’s knees when the full bottle of uncapped Gatorade hits the floor. Seokjin lunges for it, snatching at thin air as though to catch it before it hits the floor, but then Taehyung slumps, entire body crumpling under its own weight.
He hits the floor with a thud, head cracking on the concrete, and Jeongguk feels his heart go cold.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, trying to keep his voice under control. The blue is leaking into his shoes and socks. Jimin is already by Taehyung’s side, rolling him over onto his back. He hovers over his body, hands outstretched, like he doesn’t know what to do.
“Taehyung,” Jimin says, shaking him lightly. “Taehyung, wake up.”
Seokjin pulls him away, instead laying the back of his hand on Taehyung’s cheek. It’s losing what little color it had.
“Let me see him.”
Jimin and Seokjin shuffle out of the way when Hoseok comes pushing through everyone else. He kneels down, giving Taehyung’s body a cursory once-over.
“He’s…” Hoseok knits his brows together, holding first a finger under his nose, then prying his mouth open and passing a hand over it. He gets down on his knees and presses a ear to Taehyung’s chest, then straightens with a stricken expression. “He’s...gone.”
“Wait,” Jimin protests, lunging forward again and grabbing Taehyung’s shoulders and Jeongguk screams at himself to do something, but his body is frozen.
He’s back. He’s back to the night where this had all started, watching someone bleed to death under him with no way to stop it, like a bad dream. The tabby noses at his damp knees and the contact pulls him back a little, but he still feels trapped between two realities, neither of which Jeongguk can comprehend—a world in which Taehyung is alive, and a world in which he isn’t.
“Taehyung, come on, this isn’t funny anymore,” Jimin says, voice rising. “Come on, you’re the necromancer, you know how to get back—you saved me, you saved Yoongi hyung every other week, don’t tell me you’re going to give up now!”
But Taehyung just flops in Jimin’s grasp lifelessly, eyes half-open, lips turning white as marble.
Yoongi looks just as thunderstruck as Hoseok, and Jeongguk realizes that he must have known someone would die at this moment. He must have seen it, and no wonder Yoongi was so cagey about the details he knew of the future. Maybe if he didn’t acknowledge what he’d Seen, it just wouldn’t come to fruition.
But they aren’t children. Not recognizing the existence of an idea doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist at all. Yoongi obviously hadn’t expected it to be Taehyung—the warlock that was Death’s best friend, felt the cold embrace of the grave, knew it like the backs of his hands. Led Yoongi out of the abyss every week and back into the living world.
How could it have been Taehyung?
Donghyuk, Hunchul, and Hyosang are silent. Maybe they’ve seen scenes like this before. Maybe this happens all the time. It would explain why Hunchul turns to Jeongguk then and says, softly, “We must proceed regardless of who we lose along the way. There are greater dangers.”
The cocker spaniel under Jeongguk’s hand is cold.
Taehyung is dead.
There is a clan of voodoo sorcerers that are out for their necks.
Taehyung is dead.
The cocker spaniel under Jeongguk’s hand is cold.
“No,” he says, hearing the word like someone else is speaking. “No, he’s the necromancer. He can’t die.”
“He must have used up all that was left of his life energy,” Namjoon says, beside Yoongi, whose face is contorted, painted with something that Jeongguk can’t quite read, mind full of fog. “He didn’t have much to begin with.”
“Jeongguk,” Hunchul says. “If you really are the Second Supreme, you need to prove it first. And we can go from there.”
Jeongguk stares at the cocker spaniel again, then back at Taehyung, whom Jimin is hugging to his chest now, cheeks wet with Jimin’s tears.
It’s pretty clear what Jeongguk should do.
Jimin jumps back when Jeongguk slides in between him and Hoseok, hands shaking, vision blurring. If performing Vitalum Vitalis on a dog or a cat weakened you, then doing it on a grown human being is probably riskier than Jeongguk would like to consider, but he doesn’t have time for that.
“Jeongguk,” Namjoon says sharply when he figures out what Jeongguk is doing, sliding a hand up Taehyung’s neck to cup his cheek, bending over his face. “Jeongguk, that’s not a good idea, you just came out of Descensum.”
But Jeongguk isn’t concerned with what is or is not a good idea right now; the only idea he cares about is one of a world where Taehyung is alive, whether only halfway or just barely. Maybe it’s selfish, and Jeongguk should just let him stay on the other side.
Kissing Taehyung without him reciprocating with three notches too much enthusiasm is one of the most disorienting things Jeongguk has ever done. He presses his mouth down, harder and harder, into Taehyung’s lips, tasting the bitter tang of death in his mouth. Nobody moves to pull him away. As he concentrates, Jeongguk feels aches and pains spreading in his joints, chills cutting into his bones. Just when he starts losing feeling in the tips of his fingers and toes, a pleasant buzzing filling his ears, the words “Jeongguk, stop, you’re going to hurt yourself,” tugging on his shirtsleeves, Taehyung jerks under him.
At first Jeongguk thinks he might have imagined it, refusing to lift off, eyebrows still stitched together. Then Taehyung’s mouth moves against his, kissing him back, icy fingers finding their way to the nape Jeongguk’s neck. A murmur passes through the room.
“Damn,” Taehyung says weakly, words muffled in Jeongguk’s mouth. “I should die more often.”
“Oh, my God,” Jimin says, falling heavily back against Seokjin, weak with relief. “Jeon Jeongguk, I swear to God, you enjoy playing with Death way too much.”
“Can we proceed,” Hyosang sighs.
Jeongguk laughs, a mix of a chuckle and a sob, sitting back. His head swims when he does, the room spinning, and Seokjin steadies him with an arm across his back.
“Whoa, slowly.” He opens the Gatorade that Donghyuk has in hand and holds it to Jeongguk’s lips. “You brought a whole person back to life, don’t overexert yourself.”
“I thought you were going to die, and I,” Yoongi says, coming to kneel down next to Taehyung, who laughs at the unshed tears in the corners of his eyes. It comes out more like a dry hacking cough than a laugh, but seeing Yoongi with this much emotion in his face is an occurrence rarer than peace. “And I even—never mind. I thought this was where it ended.”
“Who’s going to come get you if I died?” Taehyung says, hands coming up to wrap around the Gatorade bottle that Hoseok is holding for him. He brings it to his lips with shaking hands, letting Hoseok support him.
“Wait, if Taehyung died, that means he fails Vitalum Vitalis. Which puts him out of the running. That means—” Jimin straightens, eyes huge. “That means—”
“That means,” Hunchul says, “Jeon Jeongguk, you’re our Second Supreme.”
Jeongguk smiles from where he sits against Seokjin’s sturdy frame, cheeks stiff and numb, and promptly blacks out.
It’s a little embarrassing that the first thing Jeongguk does as the Second Supreme is pass out cold, but as it were, no warlock had ever brought a dead body back to life during the test of Vitalum Vitalis as a first-timer.
He wakes up in his own bed, in his own house, for the first time in a long, long time. The sheets still smell exactly the way he likes them, a little homey and little like the fabric softener his mom always used too much of. The shadows in his room are long and dark, the light in his window a thick honey orange. Sunset had always been beautiful from Jeongguk’s room. He’s surprised to find how much he’s missed this view.
When Jeongguk turns his head, Taehyung is there.
He’s dozing, head propped up with a hand, elbow digging into Jeongguk’s pillows and the blankets draped over his lower body. Dark circles still hang under his eyes, dusky evenings on pale skin, and the hollows of his cheeks are a little deeper than usual. Jeongguk extricates one of his arms from the delicious warmth of his blankets and reaches out, fingers hesitating over Taehyung’s skin before he runs them down the line of jaw, traces the bow of his lips and the bridge of his nose. By the time he circles back to where he began, Taehyung’s opened his eyes. He stares down at Jeongguk with a tired smile.
“Didn’t your parents ever tell you not to touch works of art,” he mumbles sleepily, letting his eyelids fall shut. He looks like a wraith.
“I never listened,” Jeongguk says, pressing his thumb into Taehyung’s lower lip and feeling the soft give of flesh. “I always liked touching the prettiest ones.”
Taehyung cracks an eye open again. “I think I like you better when you’re rude and tsundere. That’s how I know you’re feeling okay.”
“I had to make sure you could still feel my touch,” Jeongguk admits. “Two trips to that side has got to be rough.”
“Do it once, it’s not so bad the second time,” Taehyung says, but Jeongguk knows he can’t be telling the whole truth. “Thank god for you, Second Supreme. Hey, Supreme sista, ain’t that mista mista on the radio, stereo, the way you move ain’t fair, you know—”
Jeongguk kicks him in the knee and Taehyung grunts, laughing.
“There it is.”
Jeongguk stretches up to kiss him. It’s a touch he didn’t know he’s been craving, but the desire must have been there ever since kissing Taehyung’s lifeless mouth. Now it’s warm, and Taehyung’s lips lock together with his so perfectly, two pieces of a broken puzzle.
Kissing turns into Jeongguk pulling Taehyung down until their bodies are pressed together, which turns into grinding against each other through their clothes, which turns into Taehyung rolling them over in his bed until Jeongguk hovers over him.
“Aren’t we still on Voodoo Watch two-k-fifteen?” Jeongguk asks suddenly, responsibilities smacking him in the face with an electrified flyswatter. “Where’s everyone else?”
Taehyung makes a face. “You brought me back to life only to kill my boner like this?” he asks.
“What the fuck, I’m Second Supreme, I need to know these things.”
Taehyung sighs, pushing himself up onto his elbows and pecking Jeongguk’s worried little mouth chastely, despite the heat between his legs. “Yoongi said that they’re not going to try anything right after we crown a Second Supreme, and if they’re as powerful as we estimate them to be, they’ll know we have two Supremes now.” He smiles. “They’re not going to try fucking with us until they know the extent of your power.”
“You make this all sound a lot sexier than it needs to be.”
“I don’t know, I think it’s pretty fucking sexy to be in bed with the Second Supreme. Stop me if I’m wrong.”
Taehyung’s not wrong but Jeongguk shuts him up anyway.
Regardless of how unnecessary Taehyung makes it sound, it’s true. Jeongguk can feel the newfound magic thrumming in his blood—actually, he doesn’t even know how strong he is right now, which is a little exhilarating and a lot scary. It isn’t apparent until he and Taehyung have both slicked up and Taehyung has straddled his legs and sunk down onto his cock with a hoarse moan. Jeongguk is holding him tight and steady against his own chest, arms gripping Taehyung’s ribcage, when he hears a breathless, “Ow, ow, you’re hurting me,” beside his ear.
“Oh,” Jeongguk says, pulling away immediately, arms dropping. “Fuck—fuck, I’m sorry, I’ll—”
“I didn’t tell you to let me go,” Taehyung says, grabbing Jeongguk and pulling him forward until they’re chest to chest again, Jeongguk’s face pressed into his neck. “Just to loosen up. You’re just a little stronger than usual, is all.”
The combined factors of Jeongguk’s unsurety of the extents of his physical prowess and the size of the bed—small, or at least smaller than the motel bed, anyway—leads to them rolling right off the edge when Jeongguk pulls Taehyung down to pin under his body. One moment there is solid box spring mattress beneath them, and in the next there is nothing.
When they hit the ground, Taehyung lands with an oof! on Jeongguk’s chest. Jeongguk wheezes when the wind is knocked out of his lungs, before he starts laughing, and Taehyung is laughing too, body quivering over his, holding up the sheet that’s draped over his head and tangled up around their bodies.
“Oops,” he says, still giggling. He pulls Jeongguk upright until he’s sitting up, back pressed to the side of his bed. “Well. This works too.”
Taehyung grips the edge of the mattress on either side of Jeongguk’s head, rolling his hips, and Jeongguk drops his head back onto his bed. He struggles to keep his eyes open, see the way Taehyung’s face morphs from smug and playful to desperate, panting as he rides Jeongguk in earnest.
“I love you,” whines Taehyung, leaning into Jeongguk, pressing their bodies together. “I love you Jeongguk, I love you—I love—”
His breath hitches as Jeongguk shifts, pushing himself up off the floor. The metal bedframe is digging into his back uncomfortably, and he braces one hand on the ground, wrapping his free arm around Taehyung’s waist. Taehyung links his ankles around Jeongguk's hips when he stands, pressing his face into the skin of Jeongguk's shoulder.
“God, you're heavy,” Jeongguk says as he collapses on top of Taehyung back in bed, cock slipping halfway out of Taehyung when the mattress bounces at the sudden weight. “Somehow that looked easier in my head.”
“You say that as if you’re not the approximate mass of a tank,” Taehyung says, whimpering when Jeongguk presses back in to the hilt, hands still looped around Jeongguk's neck. “Who do you think carried you up here?”
“I guess that’s love, huh,” Jeongguk says, chuckling under his breath as he rolls his hips, Taehyung’s back sliding over the sheets.
“Oh, fuck you,” Taehyung hisses, hiking his knees up around Jeongguk’s sides, but Jeongguk simply laughs again before tipping in and kissing him as the tug of Taehyung’s hands on his neck grows insistent.
They break apart when they come, just barely, just enough, lips still brushing as Taehyung arches beneath him, clenching around Jeongguk. Jeongguk’s arms shake and he is loath to keep himself supported, waiting until Taehyung has milked him dry before pulling out and stretching out beside him.
“Ugh, we have to actually launder your sheets ourselves this time,” Taehyung sighs, dragging his fingers through the mess on his stomach, reaching for the Kleenex on Jeongguk’s desk. “Which we should probably do before your parents get back because—”
He breaks off when Jeongguk catches his hand before he can wipe it clean, and Taehyung turns his head in time to see Jeongguk lick the come off his fingers, glancing up to meet his gaze.
“Hey,” Taehyung says, trying half-heartedly at most to tug his hand out of Jeongguk’s grasp, “Jesus, Jeongguk—”
“I know I’m bad at saying these things when we’re,” Jeongguk says, as he licks off the last drops from Taehyung’s pinky finger, “uhm, not having sex, or in bed together, I know I’m not super hot at saying these things even then. Not like you. But I used to think that showing affection or wearing my heart on my sleeve made me weak, or people would take advantage of me if I did. It wasn’t until I met you that I learned that—that showing affection is the scariest thing and it takes a lot of bravery to, uhm, to show it. To anyone, even if they mean everything.”
Taehyung doesn’t move, eyes searching Jeongguk’s face.
“I guess that’s why I slept around a lot, or you know, messed around a lot before all of this.” Jeongguk looks away, unable to match the intensity of Taehyung’s expression. “That semblance of being wanted, even sexually, made up for how shitty I am at love. And I never figured out why I was so hard-pressed to be a warmer person but now I figure that’s part of the black widow curse. Being afraid to love someone and not being able to love them all the way.”
“So what I’m saying is, I love you too,” he mutters, mostly into Taehyung’s neck, but he gets it out. “I love you, more than you know, probably, more than you ever will, most definitely, unless I get better at this whole thing, and maybe then I’ll—”
Taehyung kisses him, fiercely, holding his face in his hands, still damp from Jeongguk’s tongue. He kisses him and pulls Jeongguk into him, like he’s trying to say something without using words like Jeongguk always does. When he pulls back, Jeongguk swears his eyes are glassier than usual, eyelashes a little wet.
“I know,” Taehyung says, voice hoarse. “I know. You don’t need to if you don’t want to. I didn’t choose you because I wanted you echo back all the words I say to you. I love you because you don’t have to.”
The days after the test of the Seven Wonders are oddly quiet. Taehyung goes back to live at the hostel, and Jeongguk spends a week trying to get his parents up to speed. They can’t seem to understand why he’s so eager to be out of the house, but his mother does say, “Son, you’re different.”
“I don’t know, did you grow up when you were away?” she says, and for a long time Jeongguk has been taller than her but now he truly seems to tower over her. “You look older, but that’s not it. You stand up straighter, you look me in the face when I talk to you...you have this light in your eyes now.” She holds his face in her hands like she used to when he was a child and still tripped on his own feet, and it’s been so long since he’s let her do that. “You’re happy.”
“Oh,” Jeongguk says. “Does it seem that way?” He thought it had something to do with his new title. He didn’t expect his mother to notice something like that.
“Is it because you found someone?” she teases, but when Jeongguk doesn’t answer, her face grows serious. “Did you really, my son?”
“I think so,” Jeongguk says.
“But,” she says, pulling out a chair across him at the dinner table. “Do they know what you are? Do they know—”
“They know,” Jeongguk says. “And they’re okay with it.”
“Really,” says his mother. “Incredible. I will have to meet them one day.”
“You will,” Jeongguk says. “They’re really...something else.”
Jimin, on the other hand, does not seem to give a flying fuck that Jeongguk is the Second Supreme. He messes with him every chance he gets, at the expense of Taehyung as collateral damage. It’s especially frustrating for them to pull open the nightstand drawer for the lube, only to be one, mocked by the Bible again, and two, to hear Jimin cackle a good six doors down when Taehyung shouts his name at the top of his lungs.
“My life is a joke,” Yoongi says to Seokjin over breakfast. “If I have to spent the rest of my sad clairvoyant life listening to the thoughts of you four I might as well just go work for the Devil.”
“Hey,” Seokjin says defensively, “It’s not like I—”
“You are the fucking worst, Seokjin, don’t even front,” Yoongi snaps. He pauses, then, “But you’re marginally forgiven because you cook.”
“What! As if all those times I brought you back from Hell didn’t count for something?” Taehyung protests.
“You really shouldn’t have,” Yoongi says, but there is no real bite in his voice. “Man. Maybe I should just look into moving in with Namjoon hyung, although Hosoek isn’t any better—”
“Do you not like us?” Jimin says. “Unfair! I like you, hyung.”
“How creepy.” But Yoongi is smiling, unable to help himself.
And for a while, things are good.
For what it’s worth, the thing they so fear comes in the form of a phone call on one end and a knock on the door on the other.
Taehyung and Jeongguk are at Namjoon’s apartment, Taehyung insisting that he has to visit Kkanji, and Jeongguk naturally went with him wherever he did.
“You’ve been spoiling her, huh,” Taehyung says, beckoning for her to come to him, getting only a high whine in response. “At least she’s been enjoying her time here. You did a good job, Hoseok hyung.”
“She likes playing with Rapmonster,” he says. “Even though Rapmonster half is her size but thinks she’s twice that. All that time in that detention center, I think she enjoys having playmates and toys.”
“When this is all over,” Taehyung says, rubbing her cheeks and making kissy faces at her, “maybe I can move in with Jimin again, and send her back to the training school. She’ll have a chance at a better life with someone that actually needs her.”
“You’re going to move in with Jimin again?” Jeongguk asks, silent until now. Taehyung looks up at him.
“Yeah, I mean, after I was burned, I lived with him those two years afterwards. His parents are amazing people and they treated me like their third son.”
“Oh,” Jeongguk says shortly.
“Are you jealous,” Taehyung says, grinning, and Jeongguk sniffs.
“No. Don’t be ridiculous.”
“You’re jealous!” Taehyung whoops, tackling Jeongguk on the couch. “Don’t even try to deny it, I know you—”
Namjoon’s phone rings, and they fall silent as he picks it up. As soon as he takes the call though, there’s a caustic screech in the receiver and he has to hold it away from his ear.
“Jimin?” he asks, troubled. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?” He pauses, eyebrows knitting together. “Jimin?” His expression is growing more and more worried, and Taehyung climbs off of Jeongguk to walk to here Namjoon is sitting at the table. “Jimin, slow down, I can’t—”
“Put him on speaker,” Taehyung urges. The din is loud and staticky when Namjoon does, setting the phone down on the table. “Jimin, where are you? What’s happening?”
“We’re at the hostel,” Jimin says, and even through the bad reception his voice is full of fear. “And—I don’t know, Taehyung, I—”
There’s a loud clatter and a new voice resonates through the phone.
“Who’s speaking? Why don’t you tell me who’s speaking?”
“No ask-backs, I asked first,” says the voice, and Taehyung’s eyes go wide.
Jeongguk feels his blood turn to ice.
“What have you done with him,” Namjoon demands. “I am the Supreme, release him at once or you will have Hell to pay.”
“Ah, is this the Supreme? I am Cha Hakyeon, head voodoo master. It is a pleasure to be finally speaking to you. I’m under the impression you have another Supreme under your wing, though. Is he present?”
Jeongguk opens his mouth, but before he can answer, Namjoon says, “No. He’s not here.”
“Mmm,” Hakyeon hums. “This is going to be hard if you’re going to lie to me. Let’s try that again. I’m under the impression you have another Supreme under your wing. Is he present?”
There is a cry of pain from the other end, and Taehyung grabs the sides of the table as if he can physically dive through Namjoon’s phone.
“You let him go!” he shouts. “Don’t touch him or I’ll—”
“Shut up, Kim Taehyung, even in prison you could never shut your sorry trap,” Hakyeon hisses. “Where is the Second Supreme? I want to talk to him, not a reject of a warlock so pathetic that even Hell spat him back out.”
Taehyung recoils, and Jeongguk feels anger rising in his chest. “Don’t talk to him like that,” he says. “And don’t you dare hurt Park Jimin. What do you want?”
“Oh dear, is that you, Jeon Jeongguk?” Hakyeon says. “Wow. I have to say, I didn’t expect it from you. I’m impressed. What we want is pretty simple. Your convocation and our clan. There’s only room enough for one group of magic in this city and it’s not you.”
“Is that a challenge,” Jeongguk says. “Are you waiting for us to accept it?”
“Well, we’re not really waiting, are we,” and another grunt of pain, this time from someone that sounds like Seokjin. “It’s now or never.”
Namjoon hangs up on him. “Call the Council, and call Yoongi. He must have heard them coming, there’s no way he’s still hanging out around the hostel right now.”
“How are we getting there?”
“Are you not the warlocks?” Namjoon asks, throwing on a jacket. “And do you not know how to use Transmutation?”
There are seven masters, just like Hoseok had predicted. There are all huge, imposing, and to the naked eye far more threatening than a ragtag group of teenage warlocks. The queens are no better, petite killing machines, perhaps even more intimidating than the masters, line up in row in the back parking lot of the hostel.
Jimin has a nasty cut across his cheek, and he’s pinned to the ground by some unseen force beside Seokjin. Even when the clan takes their attention off of them to face the convocation approaching, they aren’t freed, struggling against their restraints.
“Somehow I expected the Second Supreme to be older,” one of the queens says, and Jeongguk squints. “I didn’t know warlocks had to recruit children for their cause now.”
“Cut the crap, how do you want to do this,” Namjoon says, rolling up his sleeves. “Because it’s going to be a lot easier if you just hand those two over and we can be done with this shit.”
“Oh my God, it’s a fight a to the death,” the tiniest queen says. “If this wasn’t obvious already. Oh, but I’m Gain, by the way. I have manners.”
“I cannot believe I am putting off my paper for this shit,” Namjoon mutters. “Oh, what the hell. Let’s do this. He vanishes from beside Jeongguk, and even the clan don’t seem ready. One of the masters is knocked to the ground as Namjoon appears before him, slamming him in the chest. Seokjin wriggles free, jumping to his feet and slashing a kitchen knife through his arm the second he regains control of his limbs, and the rest of them take this as a cue to run head-on into the fight.
“Nice,” Jeongguk comments, when the master he’s grappling with howls as the cut appears in his flesh, but he only counters this with bashing his head into the ground, and a bruised, bloody lump erupts in Hoseok’s forehead. He yelps in pain, clutching his head as he struggles to hold off one of the queens, who has a knife held to his throat. Then she flies off of him, slamming into the side of the hostel and crumples to the ground.
“That’s what you get for calling us useless,” Hoseok mutters, getting up and brushing himself off.
They find out that the knives the queens use are laced with a voodoo poison, as soon as Jeongguk gets Jimin back onto his feet again. None of them are particularly good at hand to hand combat, and with one human voodoo doll on either side, it becomes a struggle to hurt the other by stabbing their own respective dolls.
Jeongguk find himself facing the queen that had taunted him earlier, dodging well-aimed, deadly swipes. He uses telekinesis to disarm her but she seems to have something that counteracts everything he tries on her, even immune to the tactic Hoseok had used on the queen named Narsha.
“You can’t beat me, warlock,” she says, and he appears behind her. She hardly misses a beat, turning to aim more stabs at him. “No matter how strong you may be as the Second Supreme.”
He sees the amulet that’s hanging around her neck. It flashes, he notices, every time she deflects one of his attacks, and aims to grab at it, rip it off her neck.
“Oh, trying something new, are we?” she says, face turning to one of concern when he gets too close.
But then, Jeongguk hears, “Taehyung!”
He turns, and Jimin is trapped under a master, and Taehyung is sucking the life out of one of the queens with Vitalum Vitalis where she’s pinned under him, but another master is creeping up on him, a knife raised over his head.
Taehyung turns, but just enough to meet Jeongguk’s eyes, and immediately his face is filled with horror, not at the master behind him, but—
A warm slash of pain sear across Jeongguk’s neck, and his blood burns; he chokes when it seeps into his windpipe and he looks back only to see Gain smirking, twirling the knife in her fingers.
The world fades around the edges as Jeongguk feels himself falling back, hands coming up to clutch at his throat. Taehyung appears over him just as the world goes dark and he thinks, Oh, Taehyung, to die by your side is such a wonderful way to die.
“Sleeping in class? I knew you were a gutsy one but isn’t it a bit rude to be sleeping in company like me?”
Jeongguk jackknifes upright, looking around him, only to find that he’s here again—in a classroom full of desks, alone. Standing before him is that same man that he’d seen hovering over Taehyung the first time he went into Descensum, red eyes and black wings.
“Who are you?”
“I am the Devil,” he says smoothly. “So your boss, in a sense.”
“Oh,” Jeongguk says. “So, I’m dead?”
“Yes,” replies the Devil simply. “You are dead.”
“Oh, no,” Jeongguk says. “Oh no, I was the Second Supreme, and I—”
“But,” the Devil says, “I am the Devil. And I can decide who to keep, and who to send back to the world of the living.”
Jeongguk blinks. “Are you going to keep me here? I thought Death was going to be more...nothingness than this. That’s what Taehyung told me.”
“So, knowing what he told you, what do you think I’m going to do with you?”
“Send me back?”
The Devil doesn’t answer this. Instead he smiles, a terrible little grin, and says instead,
“Do you want to know why you are the Second Supreme, Jeon Jeongguk?”
Jeongguk has questioned it before, sure, wondered why it was him and not more powerful warlocks in their convocation—Taehyung, who fought so hard. Jimin, who knew magic like an old friend. Yoongi, who could see all and said nothing. Why not Hoseok, why not Seokjin?
“Why?” he asks.
The Devil leans back, folding his wings so that the tips cross behind him. “It’s a long story, and we don’t have much time,” he begins. “But it’s because of Yoongi, and Taehyung.”
Jeongguk stays silent, waiting for him to continue.
“Yoongi was originally the Second Supreme,” the Devil says. “He would have been a powerful one, one to be feared, while Namjoon is one to be respected. Before the seven of you, there were twelve, and Yoongi was the one who came the closest to the crown until he failed concilium. But also originally, Taehyung was going to die, once and for all, during Vitalum Vitalis. He is only here now thanks to Yoongi.”
“Yoongi gave away his Second crown,” Jeongguk says slowly, “for Taehyung?”
“Taehyung, Taehyung, Taehyung,” says the Devil, sighing like a parent who isn’t sure what to do with a delinquent child. “The story with him is complicated. He should have joined me years ago, you know. From the moment that first tuna came back to life before his eyes, I was waiting on this side for him, but he slipped right out of my grasp. Then I thought I had him years later, when his cousins burned him at the stake, but no, he vanished like smoke between my fingers.”
“Why him?” Jeongguk asks, knowing full well he shouldn’t be challenging the Devil of all things. “Why do you want him so bad?”
“Because there is a give and take among life, Hell, and Heaven, Jeon Jeongguk,” snaps the Devil, face turning hawkish, red eyes glowing. “Hell needs practitioners of magic who are full of light to keep this place intact. Too many bad souls and we collapse here, and chaos escapes into the world of the living. Why do you think there is so much evil in your world? Think about all the death, the rape, and the mysteries that never get solved anymore. Why do you think that’s happening? Do you know how hard it is for me to take away the good to keep here in Hell, only to protect the living?”
He relaxes at the sight of Jeongguk cowering in his desk. “And Taehyung, your Taehyung, was exactly that. He was supposed to die, you know. And he wouldn’t have had enough energy to use Resurgence. But then Min Yoongi asked me, ‘Save him. Whoever it is, don’t let him die.’ I’m not sure why, actually. Yoongi doesn’t care much for anyone.”
“That’s not true,” Jeongguk objects. “He cares about us. He was worried for us when the voodoo clan attacked us in the prison. He cared about us enough to trade away his crown to save whichever one of us it was.”
“Well, granted, he didn’t know he was trading away his crown,” the Devil says. “But you are missing my point, Jeongguk, this isn’t about Min Yoongi. I knew it was going to be Taehyung that would die during Vitalum Vitalis, and here he was, asking me to let him live, and of course I was going to wonder why—so the night that you first made love, I came to pay you a long-overdue visit. At first I saw your drive, your determination. And I saw Taehyung.
“Fears can tell a lot about a person, little friend. And all of yours matched up with your strengths. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of disappointing the people that mean so much to you—your teachers, your parents. I was impressed, Jeongguk, because it is not often I see these qualities in someone your age, and I didn’t think I would again so soon after Namjoon. But I dug deeper, because if I was going to take Yoongi’s crown away from him, I had to have a very good reason, no?”
“Of course,” Jeongguk says, barely breathing now.
“So I did. I tunneled deeper, and then I saw it—your fear of losing Taehyung. It was raw, and new, a fear that is fresh and more like terror than the sleeping dread of failure. Taehyung, the one person that survives your curse. Taehyung, who looks at you like there’s nothing else in this world. Taehyung, who has lived, and died, to meet you.”
“Oh,” Jeongguk says, and his chest feels so tight, throat full. “Oh.”
“And I understood,” the Devil smiles, and oddly, it isn’t malicious, or eerie, and for a moment Jeongguk thinks he can see the angel he once was in that smile. The man he once was before he became the angel that eventually fell. “Finally, I understood who you were—someone that I, the Devil, have been losing to since the moment you were born, Jeongguk. I have been chasing Kim Taehyung’s soul across lifetimes and he’s been escaping me all this time for you.” He frowns, then. “Don’t cry, little friend.”
Jeongguk wipes at his cheeks furiously, the breath burning is his lungs as the struggles to keep the sobs down.
“But why are you telling me this now?”
“Because I did not crown you Second Supreme for you to give in,” the Devil says, anger flaring anew in his voice, and Jeongguk shrinks into himself again. “I saw your talent, Jeongguk, I saw your drive to succeed, and I knew that you would wear the crown well. It is not your time yet. It will come, but until then, I did not put the existence of Hell at risk by relinquishing Taehyung, only for you to leave him in the living world alone.”
“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk says, traitor tears slipping down his face. “I’ll go back now. I’m sorry, I didn’t—I didn’t know—”
The Devil sighs. “Bring me back some voodoo souls, little friend,” he says wearily. “If I’m going to uphold Hell down here, you better damn help me.”
“I will,” Jeongguk says. “You can count on me to.”
The Devil smiles again, and this time it’s a twisted one. “Attaboy,” he says. “That’s what I want to see in my Supremes.”
There is blinding pain in Jeongguk’s neck when he wakes, gasping for breath, but he is very much in the world of the living again.
Hoseok’s voice is full of wonder, and he lays both of his palms against Jeongguk’s chest, checking for breath. “Jeongguk, are you with me?”
“I’m here,” he says broken, voice a whisper. “What’s happening? What’s going on?”
“I’m injured and they’re holding off Hakyeon and Jea,” Hoseok says, “the most powerful of the clan, the head master and head queen. They needed Taehyung to help but with me out of commission and most of them bleeding, I don’t know how it’s going.”
“I’m going out there,” Jeongguk says, sitting up, and Hoseok pushes him back down with one arm, and Jeongguk notices, stomach twisting, the horrible angle at which Hoseok’s arm is broken.
“Are you kidding? I don’t even know how you’re alive, you were poisoned with one of their most potent—”
“I had heart-to-heart with the Devil, actually,” Jeongguk admits, “and he said...he said I still have shit to do here.”
Hoseok stares at him, and Jeongguk sits up more slowly this time, laying a hand on Hoseok’s.
“It’s okay, hyung. I know what I’m doing. I’m Second Supreme, aren’t I?”
Hoseok lets him go, quirking the side of his mouth.
“The Devil himself, huh?”
“Then go,” Hoseok says, “And bathe Hell with their blood.”
When Jeongguk lets himself back out, he feels the eyes of the convocation turn to him before he hears the gasps of shock and delight.
“Jeongguk,” Taehyung says fuzzily, when he walks over to stand next to Taehyung, who’s bleeding heavily from a gash on his forehead, right on his pulse point. His hair is matted with blood. “Am I dead?”
“No, you’re alive,” Jeongguk says. “I’m alive, you’re alive. I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.” He turns to Hakyeon, who looks thunderstruck.
“Surprise, bitch,” Jeongguk snarls. “Bet you thought you’d seen the last of me.”
“It’s not possible,” Jea says, shaking her head. “That blade was tipped with lethal poison. Nothing survives that.”
“I’m just going to make this easy,” Jeongguk says, slipping the bloody blade out of Jimin’s hand. “We can kill who we want, but if death spits it right back, there is nothing you can quite do about it, can you?”
Jeongguk appears behind her, drawing the knife over her neck before stabbing in deep, feeling the tip crunch through bone. A warm spray of blood spurts onto his hands and Jeonguk lets her fall to the ground, eyes wide and staring.
Hakyeon doesn’t move a muscle even as Jea’s blood pools in his direction, staring at Jeongguk like he can’t bring himself to acknowledge this reality. It isn’t until Jeongguk makes a step towards him that he jumps, hissing, bringing his knife up.
“You’re still going to try me?” Jeongguk says. “You’re outnumbered, hyung. Frankly, I’m surprised you’re still here.”
“How are you here,” Hakyeon snarls. “You were dead! I saw it with my own eyes!”
“Trust me, I saw it too,” Jeongguk says. “And have you forgotten? I asked first. No ask-backs.”
Hakyeon disregards his words, lunging one last time; but the knife slips from his graps, clatters to the floor as Hakyeon ages rapidly before their eyes, skin wrinkling, sagging, hair turning white. He grabs his wrist, fingers clawed, as his limbs turn wizened, dried, as if he’s been mummified before their eyes. His screams reverberate around them, and then he falls at Jeongguk’s feet.
“Is he gone?” Jimin asks, voice shaking in the silence.
Jeongguk turns around, shivering from the sudden influx of energy pulsing in his body.
“He’s gone,” he says. “Long live the convocation.”
Yoongi makes a mental note that the next time he meets the Devil, he has to thank him. Somehow, he knows he won’t be seeing much of the Devil in the time to come, but it wouldn’t hurt.
Jeongguk may not be as powerful as Yoongi, but he makes a good Supreme—working alongside Namjoon after the bodies of the voodoo clan have been burned to make sure everyone who was injured is wrapped up long enough to make it to the hospital, dividing Hakyeon’s energy surplus among the six of them.
He returns to the Namjoon’s apartment with Jeongguk and Namjoon first, and the rest of them come back in waves depending on injury level—Jimin and Seokjin, then Hoseok and Taehyung the next day. Taehyung takes one look at Kkanji sleeping with Jeongguk on the couch and throws himself at him. Curiously, Jeongguk reports that he cannot smell the delicious aroma of Seokjin’s cooking that night, and Taehyung stares at him with a face full of wonder.
“Like me?” he asks.
“Like you,” Jeongguk replies. “I guess the Devil wasn’t going to let me off that easy.”
Yoongi pretends to retch into his soup when he hears, But you, I can still smell. Only you, and Jeongguk seems to know exactly what he’s reacting to and just laughs.
Only when the seven of them are gathered here like this, in the same room they had had the test of the Seven Wonders, do they realize that this means goodbye. They had come together in the wake of a rising evil and together they had defeated it.
“You don’t have to move out if you don’t want to,” Namjoon says when Hoseok brings up the idea of moving back to Gwangju. “I don’t know, I got used to your presence here. And I don’t want to find another roommate.”
“Really?” Hoseok asks, brightening. “I can stay?”
“You can stay.”
“I should go back to Incheon,” Seokjin says. “Talk to Gukjoo. Get a beating. Then tell the kitchen all my adventures, because I know I’ve got a story to tell.”
“Wow, if you’re doing that, then I have to go back to Busan to find Sungjae! Maybe by the time I do he’ll be released on probation already,” Taehyung says, hooking his chin over Jeongguk’s shoulder. “Come with me?”
“Always,” Jeongguk murmurs, so soft that Yoongi is the only other person besides Taehyung who catches it.
“What are you going to do?” Seokjin asks Yoongi. Jimin is curled up kittenishly between his legs, sleeping with his back against Seokjin’s chest with his head lolling on Seokjins’s shoulder. His hair falls into his eyes and Yoongi is tired enough to feel abnormally sappy, so reaches forward and brushes some of it away from Jimin’s face.
“I don’t know yet,” Yoongi says thoughtfully, and stretches out on the couch. His feet find their way into Jeongguk’s lap and he scrunches his nose, squirming in Taehyung’s grasp, halfheartedly trying to shake his hyung off. “But first, I think I shall take a nap.”
Yes, a nap sounds good, Yoongi thinks as he folds his hands behind his head and closes his eyes with a sigh. A long, dreamless nap.
author’s note: if you’ve made it to the end of this fic, congratulations. you have earned the right to press this button 500 times
and tl;dr for those who have gotten this far and don’t mind reading a little further—
this was written for nanowrimo 2014!! it was my fourth year doing this but my first year doing it as fanfic so #damn this was an experience!!!
this also would not have been possible w/o jo and emmi considering half of this fic was planned when i was drunk and about a quarter of it was actually written when i was drunk ([taehyung voice] turnup!). thank you jo for writing down all my plot bunnies for me, for the brainstorm sessions, for everything that is ridiculous in this fic. thank you emmi, you are a saint for giving me a crash course in slow burn even when this turned into “snail’s pace smolder.” credits to them both for some direct quotes/lines of dialogue in the sex scenes. one day i aspire to be able to spew filth as raunchy as yours both without feeling the visceral need to defenestrate myself. #economics, though tbh i don’t know shit about business
also there are smatterings of quotes from the ahs anthology itself, i’m sure anyone who watches it recognized them! ((sorpresa, puta)) title from a line in chuck palahniuk’s novel haunted, don’t read it while you’re eating bc wtf was this book
i hope you enjoyed reading this as much as i enjoyed writing it!!!