Not one living creature ever walks past his garden’s gate.
Not one living creature stepping on the grass, not a single warm hand caressing the heads of the poppies that grow in a writhing, veiny carpet where the ground slopes. There are other flowers too—asters and begonias, lush pink camellias, velvety dark peonies that sit tidy in perfect little ceramic pots drizzled with bright color. They used to be the church’s, these pots, but now the church is gone and Yoongi’s borrowed them. They’re nice pots, keeps things neat and tidy, and he feels guilty that he likes the foxgloves best, the way they grow wild, the way they rise up and up on thin little stalks like arrows pointing to the heavens.
He’s here often; sometimes thinks this is the only place he ever is. There’s the sea not too far from here, and if you lie amongst the poppies with your ears pressed to the ground you can sort of hear it. It comes and goes, a forever melody, never once interrupted in all the time Yoongi’s been here.
In the summer there are people in the big white house by the sea.
The big white house has blue shingles, blue doors, blue windows. Bright, dreamy, baby-boy blue. In the afternoons the shade of that blue spreads all around the house, as if dyeing the earth. Yoongi likes the way it looks almost like the house is wearing a cape.
They pay him sometimes in the off-season, to come weed-out their garden—a craggy, barren little patch of stubborn vines and hydrangeas. Yoongi feeds saltwater to the parched earth, scatters salts that burns his fingers, sticks his shovel in the cracked ground and plants sunflowers. He thinks the yellow will look nice with the blue.
There’s a boy that comes to clean the house, pouty little thing in distressed jeans, who watches him from the dirty gazebo with low, sleepy eyes.
“Do you like music?” the boy asks. “Do you like cartoons? I like cartoons.”
Yoongi feels a bit old for cartoons, and the only music he likes is piano. The caretaker boy frowns at him—at his obvious disinterest in anything but plant sap and fertilizer—and cocks his head like a little owl.
“What do you like?”
Yoongi pretends to think about this, quiet in the sodden blue of the afternoon, listening to the gentle stirring of the grass and the sweeping crash of the sea.
“Flowers,” he says, quietly. “And bones.”
There are a lot of bones in his little garden.
He thinks the birds bring them. They’re big birds, beady-eyed and gray-bellied, swooping low sometimes to peck at his jewel-weed. He made a little scarecrow once, all twigs and burlap, to scare them off. They’ve made friends with that scarecrow since, sitting smug on its twiggy shoulders, bringing bones for it as a little gift.
He used to throw them away—the little bones.
Now he makes things with them.
Nothing exciting happens in this town.
There’s a lighthouse and a coast, and a seafood stew restaurant. There’s a souvenir shop, a temple, and a church. There are other big white houses on other little cliffs, tended to by other caretakers and gardeners.
Then there’s Seokjin’s oyster and curio cafe.
Yoongi likes Seokjin. He laughs a lot, makes him tea, and buys his bone sculptures. He calls Yoongi his little Gothic ghost. Yoongi is not dead and doesn’t know what Gothic means, but Seokjin’s been to college so he trusts this is true.
Seokjin also has a piano.
“If you come play during the touristy months, I’ll get you all the fancy seeds you like,” Seokjin told him once. “And I’ll sell your flowers and scrimshaws. How does that sound?”
It sounded okay. Yoongi thinks Seokjin’s business is a bit confusing—how do you sell oysters and coffee and flowers and piano music? But Seokjin seems to make okay money, and some of the tourists actually buy Yoongi’s Gothic shit.
Having a piano to play is only one of the perks.
He’s only ever found bones on his own once.
It’s in the big white house, in the wet blue shade offered by the afternoon sun. There’s a slight drizzle and he’s digging, making a big enough hole to transplant a whole bunch of slutty pink roses, head full of the sea and a little melody he’s been thinking of. Jimin is lounging in the gazebo, singing softly to some love song, reading a comic book. He jerks up when Yoongi’s shovel strikes something hard.
“What’s that, hyung?”
“Nothing,” Yoongi says. “Just some rocks.”
Jimin nods. Still, he watches Yoongi for a little bit, distracted from his book, and Yoongi leans on the grass, squishes a bit of dirt between his fingers, acts like he’s doing nothing more than burying some seeds.
The bones are white and oddly clean. They’re in a shimmery little drawstring bag. There’s quite a bit of them.
In a while Jimin stands up, grabs his mop and bucket, and goes back to cleaning the walls of the house.
Yoongi steals the bones.
It’s unfair, he thinks, walking back home in the evening. It’s wrong.
Beyond just meager justification for stealing someone’s bones, Yoongi thinks it’s wrong to be forgotten, like this, in an untended garden. Wrong to be buried, like this, with nothing of beauty marking the space.
Just plain wrong.
He needs flowers and twines and a fertile imagination to make it work. They’re all mostly small bones, after all, and the flowers are big by comparison.
He presses the flowers and dyes them, soaks them in their own essence, arranges them in lush, fragrant piles. Then he picks and chooses the best ones to go in his little sculptures. Most of the bones the birds bring are cattle, too soft to etch, but sometimes there’s whale tooth, or walrus—once the jaw bone of an eagle. They all go between the flowers, married to pretty gardenias, to black-eyed poppies, to sweet bouquets of forget-me-nots.
All dead things, entwined together, preserved and encased in small glass cases for eternity.
A beautiful burial.
“These ones are bigger than the ones you usually bring,” Seokjin says. “Beautiful, but bigger.”
Yoongi looks at them. They are big, he thinks, but that’s because the bones were bigger.
“They’re not for sale.”
Yoongi shrugs. He’s not sure of the answer yet. He notices the eyes on him through the window, ignores both the peering face and Seokjin’s question.
He takes the glass cases and arranges them neatly on top of the piano, one above the other, a little pyramid of flowers and bone.
Then he plays them a song.
That face at the window follows him home.
He sees it sometimes in his own windows, in his mirror, like a shimmer once in a cup of water. He sees it on warm, pretty afternoons most of all, a glimmer and then gone, in the pond outside his house, and the gleam of his silver-ware, and the screen of his phone.
“Hi,” Yoongi says once, waves shy.
Hi, the wind says back, soft on the nape of his neck.
He lies on the wet grass one afternoon, eyes to the dizzying blue sky, poppies swaying hypnotic around him. He feels the end of spring coming, the gentle dark swelter of summer creeping up through the ground.
Soon, the sun will become hot enough that lying here would burn his skin, sear his thoughts. He won’t be able to watch the sky like this, clouds like sugar whorls, the blue of the sky-dome framed by the stalks of the flowers he’s so helplessly fond of.
He hums his little spring song, gentle, wonders if this is the kind of music Jimin likes. He doesn’t think so.
“I like your song,” somebody says.
Yoongi doesn’t startle. He’s seen the boy peeking—in the mirrors at his house, through windows in Seokjin’s cafe—and he’s been waiting.
Waiting for him to make a move, to say something.
To realize Yoongi is shy, talks only to his flowers, likes the piano more than people.
“It’s not finished yet,” Yoongi says.
“When will you finish it?”
Yoongi shrugs. There’s no hurry, is there? Seasons change and flowers wilt. Songs are forever.
“I really like it,” the boy says. “It’s already my favorite tune.”
Yoongi feels a little happy tug in his stomach. “Okay,” he says, turning in the grass to look at him. He looks back, gaze intense. He’s dressed in a ratty yellow shirt and loose pants. There’s a little smudgy spot on his forehead, like he’s been rolling in the dirt. It doesn’t go away when he rubs at it.
“I like your flowers.”
“These ones are poppies.”
“What are the blue ones?”
“Some are hydrangeas. Some are delphiniums.”
“I like the purple ones best.”
The violets. They’d been particularly hard to grow, dying before they ever bloomed, and it had taken tears and coaxing and gentle tending to get them to blossom.
Yoongi feels pleased. “I like those too.”
Not one living creature ever walks past his garden’s gate.
“What’s your name?” the boy asks.
“Min Yoongi,” says Yoongi. He meets curious eyes, stomach twisting with the desire to ask the boy the same question, but there are only a few things his mother has taught him and one of it is that names have power.
Names summon things. Names banish things.
The boy waits for him. Yoongi swallows, opens his mouth, closes it again.
“Do you like piano?” he asks instead.
The boy likes cows and dogs and fishes. Berries—but the ripe kind, not the sour; the sweet kind that bursts with juice if you no more than touch them a little too hard. He likes the sunsets that fill up the sky like canvases spattered with paint, and the gunmetal gray of the sea on cloudy days. He likes that big white house, with the blue windows, but he won’t go there anymore.
“I like caterpillars,” he says, holding a green one on the back of his palm, watching it wriggle. “Look how cute.”
He likes music too: slow, sad songs. Sings them sometimes, lying belly-flat on the grass, watching caterpillars and the secret hearts of violets. His voice is a smooth, deep thing; warm honey; summer swelter stirring hot even through the sweetest note.
Yoongi likes it like he likes the piano. Not anymore, not any less. Just the perfect amount.
“Why are you always here? Don’t you have friends?”
Yoongi pauses his snipping of roses. “Don’t you?”
The boy laughs. “No.”
Yoongi shrugs. “They say I don’t know how to love.”
The boy’s eyebrows pull together. “That’s stupid.”
“The thing you do with the bones,” he asks one day, while Yoongi’s panting and pink-cheeked, having worked in the heat the whole day in the rose-beds. “What’s it called?”
“Pretty word,” he says. “Can you show me?”
“You’ve seen the things I make. In Seokjinnie hyung’s place.”
The boy frowns. He has an interesting face, Yoongi has observed. High nose and soft cheeks, mismatched eyelids, sharp eyebrows. When he smiles his eyes go little, like Jimin’s, and his nose scrunches. When he frowns he looks hurt, softly confused, a dullness creeping into his gaze.
“I want to see you make them.”
Yoongi brings his kit the next day. Pats a little brown square of earth next to him, lets the boy crowd close while he works, exults in the delighted oohs and aahs he makes when Yoongi lays out all his tools.
Candlebeck, soot, and Indian ink. Steel wool, scratch awls, and scribes. Gravers with wood-palm handles, pin vises, fixative sprays and dyes. He explains each one, patient. The boy is an artist, he has the eye, he makes a good listener.
Yoongi’s glad for him.
Yoongi lets him pick the flowers and he comes back with a splash of colors—everything from marigolds to bluebells to bubblegum pink petunia—bright smile on his face and a honeybee nestled in the middle of the sole centerpiece violet.
“Do you want to pick the bones, too?”
The boy shivers, shy. “No,” he says, all coy glance, smile growing in both size and warmth. “You pick those.”
He takes the quiet away.
He’s always talking—about flowers and bees and bones, about gods and monsters and ghosts, about the sea and art and stones. Yoongi hmms softly to everything he says, contributes sparsely, shows his interest by planting more violets.
In the evenings he gets tired and lies down amongst the poppies with Yoongi. Puts dirty fingers to the sky, in the shape of a picture-frame, snapshots the day like a precious memory, folds the fingers against his chest.
Yoongi looks at him, at his flat chest and the little mole on his lips, his lopsided smile and his delight at finding an earthworm.
He feels all warm with pleasure inside; spine thrilled with sweet joy; thinks friend, friend, friend.
He goes to Seokjin’s shop more these days. The tourists are coming in, and the money is nice to have.
He sits at that piano and stares at his floral ossuaries and plays the whole night. They shimmer in the low light, through the glass, reflects the red lanterns that hang at the entrance of the store.
They’re pretty. Everybody says so.
People come to talk to him and always mention the flowers. They’re curious about the bones. Yoongi smiles, asks them for a favorite song, plays it on the piano. In between the classics, when he feels too much to keep it under his skin, he plays snippets of his new song.
“What’s that one?” Seokjin asks one day. “Doesn’t sound like your usual music.”
“It’s something, you gremlin, look at you blush.”
“It’s a song.”
“It’s a love song.”
“Yoongi-ah, listen. You know the people at the big white house? They were asking to buy your little flower projects. These big ones.”
“No,” Yoongi says, instantly. “I’m not selling these.”
“They’ll give good money, though. They just want one.”
Yoongi tries to stand up and hits a discordant note on the piano. He winces. “No.”
Seokjin looks at him curiously. “Why not?”
Yoongi takes a breath. “They’re mine,” he says. “Mine.”
In the town hall’s dusty corner, there’s an archive of local news clippings and a record of town births and deaths.
There has only ever been a single case of a missing person.
They were never found.
“I don’t like that house.”
It’s raining. Not a drizzle but a downpour, the earth turning to mud beneath them, the flowers flattening. The boy brings his hands above Yoongi’s head, fingers laced together, offering gentle shelter.
“You’ll catch a cold,” he says.
He’s beautiful. Drops of water in his lashes, coursing the length of his nose, falling from his cheeks to Yoongi’s.
Yoongi catches a drop on his tongue. “So will you.”
The boy winks, puts his head down on Yoongi’s chest, soft hair tickling Yoongi’s chin. “Don’t be silly,” he says. “I can never catch a cold.”
With summer comes the town’s only festival.
Yoongi never goes.
It’s a loud, disarrayed mess of rundown carnival rides and sticky sweets, children everywhere, thrumming music and too many people and the smell of frying things.
He never goes, and he’s not planning on going this year, but Jimin sighs and whines about the festival being by the sea, about the bonfire and the sunset, about not having a friend to go with.
“Where are your friends?” Yoongi asks.
“Jungkook keeps running away to the cities and comes back only when he runs out of money,” Jimin pouts. “Hoseok is too busy studying for exams. Just go with me, hyung.”
He’s not sure he’s Jimin’s friend, at all, and he’s not sure if he wants to go to the festival. He’d rather spend the evening in his garden, curled close with his boy, watching the fiery sun sink into the sea. They’ve taken to planting fruits now—tangerines and melons and strawberries—and Yoongi likes how everything is growing so fast, the harvest violently abundant, vines thickening and leaves unfurling like they’ve cast a spell on the land.
Maybe they have.
Maybe the boy has.
“Please, hyung,” Jimin says. “Just this once.”
“Okay,” Yoongi says, hesitantly. “But you’re paying.”
“Are you jealous?” Yoongi asks, later that day.
They’re in the garden, among the poppies, drinking orange juice and snacking on the lemon cake Seokjin had foisted on Yoongi the previous night. The boy likes sweet things, Yoongi’s noticed, feels his own heart miss a little beat when he smiles with a crumb of cake stuck to the corner of his mouth.
“You’ll come back here.”
Yoongi thinks a little bit. His heart feels very noisy. Then he throws caution to the wind, leans in, and kisses the crumb away.
The boy looks at him in dazed silence when he pulls away. Then he smiles, sweetest thing, presses both palms to Yoongi’s chest.
His fingers, as always, are cold on Yoongi’s skin, petal-soft, just perfect.
Seokjin—ever the entrepreneur—has imported a cotton candy machine that can make weirdly shaped, multicolored candy floss. Jimin and Yoongi get one each. Jimin’s is shaped like a little fluffy chicken. Yoongi’s looks like a grumpy cat.
The candy is very sweet in his mouth, and they both yell a lot on the carnival rides. The sand in the beach feels heated beneath Yoongi’s bare feet.
“Where do you go?” Jimin asks, when they’ve done the rides and the sweets and the attractions, when they’ve met all the local elderly women dressed in traditional wear, when they’re waiting for the bonfire. “When you don’t work at the houses or play in Seokjin hyung’s shop—where do you disappear?”
Yoongi feels a little thrill of fear. “Nowhere.”
“You’re not at home,” Jimin says. “Because I came by once or twice, to talk to you.”
Across the beach, Seokjin’s laughing wildly at a long, tall man, blowing bright bubbles in his direction while he, bashful, clicks a picture.
“I don’t go anywhere,” Yoongi says. “Just. Here and there. Gardening.”
“What are you hiding?” Jimin asks, grinning, and it’s a joke. He’s just being friendly, ribbing Yoongi, teasing him. “You seem so happy these days. Humming when you work. Smiling more. What are you hiding, hyung?”
Yoongi feels chilled to the bone. “Nothing,” he says. “What would I hide?”
“No cute mermaid boys?” Jimin teases. “Seokjin hyung says you’ve been writing love songs.”
“I’m not in love.”
“No? Feels like you are. It’s a good thing, hyung. If you are,” Jimin’s tone becomes serious. “Boy or girl, you know I don’t care. You can tell me. If you want. I won’t even ask details.”
Yoongi shudders. There’s fireworks in the sky, brilliant and purple, and he thinks of the boy. I like fireworks, Yoongi remembers him saying. Fireworks are pretty.
Yoongi wonders if he’s watching these. If the sky’s as lit up and bright in the garden as it is here, by the sea, sparks in the air like fairy glitter.
“I’m not in love,” Yoongi says.
A field of violets, replacing the poppies, and in the afternoon sun the world is purple, purple, purple. The garden has never been so pretty, so alive. It’s like the boy causes the earth to breathe in rushing pants, the fruits and flowers spilling over, a lush verdant spell that shudders through the hearts of trees like carnal joy.
Yoongi brings candy-floss with him, freshly churned from Seokjin’s machine. For the boy it’s in the shape of a sticky purple flower, with a bright red heart. It’s flavored like roses. The scent of it so sweet it almost brings Yoongi a headache.
Of course it’s for you, Yoongi thinks. All this is for you.
“Did you see the fireworks?” Yoongi asks, and the boy nods, fluffs of candy crystallizing on his fingers.
“Yes. Pretty, weren’t they?”
He pops one finger in his mouth, then another, sucking the sugar from his skin. He’s a hallowed sight, a sacred little secret, held quiet in this place like a flower pressed deep within a book.
Yoongi tells him there are things prettier than fireworks; then grins at the smile that comes tumbling out of the boy, hopelessly sweet and stained candy-purple.
“What are we doing today, hyung?”
In answer, Yoongi smooths out a wrinkle in his shirt, kneels by the boy and plucks out some baby’s breath. He moves around the garden, as usual, and the boy trails him, watching as he pulls out mini carnations, daisies, blush roses, the pinkest peonies. Some of the violets, too, and purple wax flowers, and now he’s asking are these for a bouquet, hyung, following Yoongi, pausing for a minute to stare at a butterfly, following again.
They end up beneath a yew tree, and Yoongi sits, pulls his tools from a pocket, and begins threading the flowers together. It’s slow work— snipping stems, arranging leaves, twining together the buds and the blooms. The sun dips while he works but the boy keeps him company. Today he talks about jellyfish, how some are biologically immortal, haunting the seas they live in forever.
“Some other things live a long time, too,” he says. “There’s a sort of sea-grass in the Mediterranean that’s been alive for 200,000 years. Two hundred thousand years, hyung. Can you imagine?”
“Neptune grass,” Yoongi says, nodding. “I’ve heard of that.”
“Imagine living that long.”
Imagine living long at all.
His fingers stumble for a moment at the thought, but only a little. A single peony loses its petals. He sees the boy’s eyes flick to it, soft. The next wind buries it under leaves.
When the work is done he beckons the boy close, smooths a hand across the top of his hair, places the crown there.
The boy coos in delight. “Do I look pretty?” he asks, twirling this way and that, the flower-crown sitting low on his forehead, turning him into a woodland sprite.
Yoongi nods, whispers, says like benediction: “Prettiest.”
A bit of silence, then: “Beautiful?”
He’s biting his lip, looking away, almost afraid of the answer.
Yoongi leans into him, gentle yet forceful enough to push him flat to his back on the grass, hands fisting at clumps of earth, body rocking in a breathy shiver. He brushes his fingers over the boy’s spine, over the indentations of his ribs like piano keys.
“Beautiful,” he says, and kisses the boy’s mouth.
“Who said you can’t love?” the boy asks later, laughing soft, rattling Yoongi’s ribcage. “Who said it? You’re the softest person ever, hyung.”
The flowers sit on his crown all that day and the next, and the next, and the next.
A week passes.
They never wilt.
Yoongi thinks the boy’s mouth still tastes like roses when they kiss.
None of it makes sense, none of it needs to. It’s just them, their violently blooming garden, their trembling fingertips and flushed-hot faces and skin-hungry mouths.
Yoongi presses the boy into the field of violets and sucks a kiss to his collarbone. He lets the boy nip and lick at the soft underside of his jaw and loses what little rhythm he’d managed to build. The boy laughs beneath him, holds his face to kiss the tip of his nose, folds his legs against Yoongi’s back and guides him down right.
He’s all long limbs and shaking ribs, wet down where he leads Yoongi, the base of his cock pulsing when Yoongi gives him a tight fist to strain into.
The boy shudders. He rubs soft palms down Yoongi’s back, pausing occasionally along the length of his spine, his skin icy but drawing warmth like a gentle, cold-blooded creature.
Yoongi doesn’t mind at all.
The boy smooths a hand through Yoongi’s hair, pushes and presses at his back till the angle works just right, a little punched out gasp spilling out of him as Yoongi accidentally ruts his hips forward, too hard.
“Yeah, like that,” he whispers, tensing around Yoongi in a way that makes Yoongi gasp, chase the slow, sweet taste of his mouth. The swell of his lip and then his tongue both bloom with salt under Yoongi’s teeth, and then is sweet again. It still makes him pant and buck, stare up at Yoongi so pretty, a wetness at the edge of his eyes that could have been a dream.
Yoongi asks, running a thumb over swollen lips, teasing at his jawline, “Are you crying?”
The boy looks at him shy, hazy and heady, biting hard on his own lip as his hands go searching for his full cock. Yoongi catches both of the boy’s wrists with a single hand, cages them on either sides of his head, holds them down rough: ten and five make fifteen.
“Hyung,” he says, frantically, straining and stiff. “Keep going. Please.”
Yoongi tightens his fist. The boy gives a little whimper, eyes rolling up in unhinged bliss, trembling and needy. The rising sweet warmth of him gets Yoongi’s blood hot, head wired, and he fucks in harder; pulling out slow only to slam back in faster; in and out in a nice slow drag.
The boy moves restless beneath him, bucks his hips, says please, please, please in a quiet, serious litany. The curve of his throat looks indecent in the thin sunlight.
“Do you want it harder?” Yoongi asks, and the boy sighs hotly, fat cock slicking up Yoongi’s hand, “Is that it, baby? My pretty, secret little sweetheart, do you want to feel it for days?”
The boy makes a ragged sound in his throat, an almost-sob. Kisses up the crook of his neck.
“Yes,” he says, pink-cheeked, anticipatory. “I want…”
Yoongi’s breathing heavy now, the slide impossibly tight, and the boy looks right into his eyes the whole time, watching his face when he comes, the thick, shuddering release so sudden and blinding that his head spins.
It’s almost to the end that Yoongi lets it slip—when the boy’s softening and weak in his hands, a rush of slick on his stomach; when his own head is still spinning, the blood whooshing in his ears; when it’s all half-kisses and lazy lips.
“Tae—” he starts, and the boy’s eyes go large and innocently shocked, fingers stilling where he’s been skating it between their bodies.
Yoongi coughs and stops. Rolls carefully away. Lies there in the meadow with his heart throbbing and the last of his sex high fading.
(the name of a thing has power, his mother had said, the name of a thing can summon or banish it)
No, Yoongi thinks. Oh, no.
They lie in the stillness for a while after that, apart and silent, until the boy rolls over with grass-stained skin to kiss Yoongi again.
Not one living creature has ever walked past his garden’s gate—until now.
He’s not very surprised that it’s Seokjin and his long, tall man—after all, Seokjin’s the only other person that has ever seen this place.
Back then it wasn’t a garden, just an ugly, vine-covered bone-yard, but before he’d gone to college and come back all polished, he and Yoongi had hung out here. Quietly, in the shade of the abandoned church, smoking weird cigarettes and watching weeds strangle concrete.
The grass scrunches beneath their feet. They walk down the closed pathway to the front of the church’s ruins, take a left, and are suddenly in the garden.
The boy sits up amid the flowers, eyebrows scrunching in doubt. “Who are they?”
“It’s okay,” Yoongi sooths. “They’re just—they’re friends. I know them.”
Yoongi holds the boy’s palm tight, watches as Seokjin discovers the garden—the field of violets and the dazzling fruit, the creeping bougainvillea, the blue moon wisteria that sweeps over trellises. Surprise crackles across his features, and he comes to a sudden stop, standing by the rose-beds with his mouth hanging open. The man with him gapes, eyes wide open, lips in a little O as he stares.
And then Seokjin spots Yoongi.
“Yoongi,” he gasps. “Is this—did you do this?”
Yoongi nods. It comes across a little frantic, tight on his neck, and he clenches his fists. He notices, startled, that his hands are empty.
(Of course they’re empty.)
The boy is gone, melted away, just as Yoongi expected.
Seokjin gapes at the rose-beds. “Why did you never tell me?”
Yoongi shrugs. I didn’t want you to know, he doesn’t say. You went away, he doesn’t say. You told me I should learn affection, he doesn’t say.
Jin gapes. “It’s—it’s beautiful,” he says. “It’s really, really beautiful.”
“You should show it to others,” Seokjin says. “What you’ve done here.”
Yoongi’s stomach flips. He doesn’t want to, he thinks. Doesn’t want to show this to anyone, doesn’t want to share.
“Yoongi-ah,” Seokjin says, turning to the man with him, “This is—ah, a friend from college. Kim Namjoon. He’s visiting me. Namjoon-ah, this is Yoongi. We go way back.”
“Yoongi-ssi,” Namjoon says, as if recollecting something. “The same Yoongi-ssi who plays the piano? Makes the bone-flower sculptures?”
Namjoon nods. “They’re very beautiful.”
“He learned it from his mother,” Seokjin says. “Scrimshandry.”
“Interesting!” Namjoon says, shoulders perky and completely earnest. “Is it very hard?”
“You need dexterous hands.”
“Not for me, then,” Namjoon laughs. “What bones do you use for carving, Yoongi-ssi?”
Something sticks in Yoongi’s throat.
“Anything that can be made beautiful,” he says. “Anything strong, and gentle, and lovely.”
A wind blows.
The violets quake.
Kim Namjoon smiles and reaches out to touch the bougainvillea. “That’s nice,” he says, and then falls silent. His glasses are a little askew on his nose. “What are these flowers called?”
“Well,” Seokjin says, loudly. “Do you mind…mind if we look around?”
“No,” Yoongi lies. “Of course not. No.”
Yes, Yoongi wants to scream, as Seokjin smiles and leads Namjoon across the field of violets. Yes, this is my place. It’s mine.
He coaxed it to life from death. He brought it alive. It’s his sanctuary, away from the rest of the world, his place of beauty.
His and—and the boy’s.
But then again it isn’t, really, is it? It isn’t anyone’s. It’s a piece of land, abandoned, left to disappear from all memory. It’s a nameless relic of another time, long-lost from history, any information of it faded to archives and property records.
Just like Yoongi’s boy.
But just like with the boy, he’d claimed this place. He’d made it real. He’d pushed life into it, little by little, drawing it out from secret, quiet places deep within the earth. He’d worked on it—a thing that no one believed in—and he’d made something of it.
That means something.
It’s not a conjuring, not a magic-trick, not a summoning.
It’s work. It’s love.
He can love.
He can love, and no one can take that from him.
Not now. Not ever.
The boy isn’t around for a day.
Yoongi lets him be, thinks maybe he’s spooked, thinks maybe he’s afraid Seokjin will come back.
A day turns into two, and then into three. His absence begins to feel like a noose, tightening the more Yoongi tries to breathe, an iron collar that sits heavy on his throat.
He feels like he’s asphyxiating.
He goes to the garden and can’t sit still; goes home to carve some bones and ends up breaking one of his scribes. He staggers into town to play the piano and can’t think of anything that isn’t painful, anything that isn’t the sort of lonely that rips holes in your spine. He looks at his flower ossuaries and wants to put a fist through them, wants to watch the glass crack and the bones break, but he can’t— of course he can’t— and so he just plays.
Seokjin watches him. Watches him over the throng of customers, over the lulls, over the spates of time he leans across his counter to speak to Namjoon.
When it’s done and the shop is closing for the day, he perches on the piano bench next to Yoongi, eyes closed and a sigh leaving his throat.
“I won’t bring anyone else,” he says. “Not again. It’s your place. Okay?”
Yoongi’s always hated how Seokjin just knows.
Like magic. Like affection held so close to heart that it becomes a festering wound.
He just knows.
Maybe Yoongi understands, too.
The boy gives away affection so easily, like he’s got coffers full of it, generous even when Yoongi rejects it. Other people aren’t as lucky—the scraps they get are what they can give back, and it hurts them inside to give and give and get nothing visible in turn.
One thing is not better than the other.
It’s just the way of people.
Three days becomes four. Five. Six.
Yoongi goes to the garden and finds only solitude. Or it used to be solitude. It’s funny how the boy makes up the fulcrum of a seesaw balancing solitude and loneliness.
He stays quiet a few days; brings sweets like offerings to a mischievous woodland spirit; brings a little speaker and plays all the songs he knows the boy likes. Then, a week into the quiet, the emptiness, he walks through the violets, saying boy, boy, where are you. He stops that quickly. Feels too much like one of those, the kind of person that people talk about in quiet, hissing whispers.
(you know, you know, the son of that madwoman, it runs in the family)
He hopes fervently, works diligently, plucking roses without scissors or gloves until he bleeds. He works into the night with an old diving headlamp and stumbling fingers, pulls preserved gardenias and callas and lilacs into an atlas of patterns. The bones he picks carefully, soft ceremony, pressed into the flowers like in an altar.
When it’s done it’s the prettiest one he’s ever made, prettier even than the ones at Seokjin’s, and he leaves it there.
Stumbles home, in the hope that it works like a summoning charm.
The next day he gives up, purses his lips, and walks into the garden with a hummingbird heart. His voice sticks in his throat the first time he tries, and he has to cough it out—verklempt with hurt—haggard and confused and snappish.
“Taehyung!” he yells, and scatters some birds on the yew tree. “Taehyung-ah. Where are you?”
For the longest time, Yoongi didn’t want to put a name to him. Felt like it might spook the boy off, like he might realize Yoongi knew, and run.
Now he thinks it’s stupid. Taehyung’s been very upfront about the details of his existence. The non-wilting flowers, the lack of a home, the way he disappears when Yoongi isn’t around.
He never even tried to pretend.
“Taehyung!” Yoongi calls again. “Please. I know you can hear me.”
It works like conjuring.
There’s a rustle of wind and a dancing gust over the flowers. And then his hands snake around Yoongi’s waist, chin pressing to his shoulder, that flower crown smushing against Yoongi’s hair.
“I just wanted to know,” Taehyung says, quietly. “Just wanted to know if you knew.”
“If I knew what?” Yoongi asks, though he already knows the answer.
Taehyung’s hold on his waist tightens. “If you knew who I was.”
“I knew,” Yoongi says. “I’ve known a long time.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
Yoongi stays very still. “Because I love you,” he says, “And I don’t want you to leave.”
“Why would I leave?”
Why wouldn’t you, Yoongi thinks. Everybody leaves eventually. His mom, his dad, Seokjin. Everybody leaves.
Taehyung sighs, and nuzzles into his neck. “Say it again,” he says. “Say my name again.”
“Taehyung,” Yoongi says, and all the violets flutter again. “Taehyungie. Tae.”
His boy laughs, happy, the sound warm and booming in his chest.
This Yoongi likes.
Even better than the piano.
The town records—the most dry, boring, somniferous books in existence—describe Kim Taehyung, forever 22, as bright, vibrant, beautiful.
It gets a chuckle out of Yoongi every time he reads it.
Of course he’d charmed the centenarian town librarian of the time, Yoongi thinks. Of course he had.
There’s a grainy old photo. He’s wearing a high-collared button-down. His smile is the same in it— maybe grown bigger with heart now—the shape boxy and crinkling up his eyes.
Yoongi cuts it out, keeps it in his wallet, all proper boyfriend-like.
Walks out of that dusty room with a smile.
“You can sell it if you want,” Taehyung tells him, fitting a pressed gardenia to one corner of their newest ossuary. “I don’t really mind.”
Taehyung shakes his head. Peers at the bones.
“You make me pretty,” he says. “I want the world to see.”
“Vanity, even in death,” Yoongi smiles. “That’s like the opposite of memento mori.”
Taehyung sticks out his tongue. “Pretty is pretty, hyung,” he says, a rose stalk held between his teeth, like a flower prince from an old-school anime. “And money is money. You know we need it.”
Yoongi’s almost there. With the bouquets and the potpourris, the piano and the fruits, his new line of scrimshaw goods and Taehyung’s little flower ornaments.
He’s almost got enough money for this land, for this piece of earth—forgotten and resurrected and now theirs. Just a little more and it becomes legal, official, his name on a dozen signed papers, his thumb-print on every corner. Just a little more and he can have this—forever—this earth and this sloping hill and these ruins.
And this boy—his boy—summoned from this land and a name and those bones.
“Just a little more,” Yoongi sighs, and Taehyung gives him a big, happy smile, leaning to press little butterfly kisses down his face.
He still has that flower crown.
Fresh and pretty, as eternal as a platinum ring, slightly smushed but wondrously wearable still.
Yoongi teases him that he still loves it so much. He’s just kidding. In it, Taehyung is the prettiest thing he’s ever seen.
He meets Jimin on the day he signs the papers, coming out of a restaurant, dragging Jungkook bodily by his arm and with a mutinous expression on his face.
He stops when he sees Yoongi, eyes narrowing in gentle suspicion, one hand clenching at the back of Jungkook’s shirt like a wolf picking up a cub.
“Why do you look so happy?” he asks. “You’re the resident Grumpy to my Dopey. You look wrong.”
Jimin’s suspicion seems to grow. “Is it that love thing again?” he asks.
“Really? Who?” Jimin’s eyes bug out, but Yoongi’s already walking past with a wink. “Hyung! Who?”
“You said you wouldn’t ask details.”
Jimin splutters. “Fine,” he says, lets go of Jungkook and marches up to Yoongi to slap a congratulatory palm to his shoulder. “Fine! Hope you finished your song.”
Yoongi did. Seokjin was right, he thinks—it is a love song. Love song on a moody piano, beneath flowers and bones, an ode for everything lost and everything gained.
He hums it under his breath as he walks back home—to his flowers, to his land, to Taehyung.
Not one living creature has ever walked past his garden’s gate—but something else did.
Yoongi’s glad it did.