Darkness couldn’t be that bad, right? Jimin wasn’t really afraid of the dark, he had always been happy enough getting around his small home with just the light from the one candle Taehyung made him in the small hours of the morning, long before the sun would rise. He almost found a strange kind of comfort in shadows. They concealed him, wrapped him up, kept him safe. He wasn’t averse to being kept safe.
Didn’t mean he wanted to spend extended periods of time running around in the dark, though.
“What do you think I’m gonna need?” he asked whilst briskly packing up a rucksack. “Pliers? Those roots can be tough to get up sometimes.”
“I don’t think you should be going at all.” Taehyung’s reply was just about the least helpful thing Jimin could have heard, and sure enough, when he turned, all he saw was his best friend’s forlorn face, eyes wide, lips pulled down.
Jimin rolled his eyes.
“Don’t look at me like that!” Taehyung berated him loudly (too loudly, the shop where they both worked was still full of people after all). “I hear things, alright? We all do.”
“It’s just superstition, Tae,” Jimin not-so-gently reminded him.
“It isn’t, though! Enough people have said it, ok? And you’ve seen the patients Hoseok has had here.”
Jimin wrinkled his nose. Of course he knew, he’d heard the rumours too, he just wasn’t dumb enough to believe them. An old forest was always going to draw stories, that was just the way of the world – people liked to imagine dark secrets and worst-case-scenarios in places that probably just gave off a bit of a creepy vibe. But Jimin wasn’t afraid of the dark, and besides, the woods were somewhere he felt at home.
“Hoseok has had one patient,” Jimin replied flatly. “And he probably blinded himself in the fire, we’ve been over this.”
“Fire didn’t do that,” Tae responded seriously, and Jimin glanced up at him. “Trust me, Jimin. I know fire, and fire didn’t do that.”
Jimin bit his lip. Taehyung was a fire witch, unlike Jimin who worked with the earth. He’d never been wrong before about something related to fire, but… but the old man had been a burns victim. He’d claimed to have run into the woods to escape the fire (and met something far, far worse), but…
“It doesn’t make sense,” Jimin shook his head. “Stories, Tae, that’s all they are. Stories.”
Taehyung’s expression was still beyond unhappy.
“Look,” Jimin placated him gently, “I’ll be in a forest. Worse comes to worst, I’ll just get the trees to pick me up.”
Taehyung still didn’t look remotely pleased.
Jimin decided there was little point trying to convince him further, so he returned to packing up his rucksack with a (slightly forced) bright smile on his face. Pliers, a basket to collect the roots, some freesia flowers for thoughtfulness, and the blue iris for faith and hope that he always carried with him. He was looking forward to being back in the woods. He hadn’t spent time with his tree friends in a while.
It was just a bonus that he’d be able to pick up some wortroot while he was there. Wortroot was very useful for giving out to patients, but Hoseok usually had to import it in through a supplier which was just a pain. He’d been beyond excited when he heard from a customer that wortroot was now growing in the forest just to the east of their little village.
Jimin looked up from packing his bag to find Taehyung standing in front of him, still looking very forlorn.
Jimin let out a little sigh and patted Taehyung on the shoulder. “I promise I’ll bring you back some conkers, how about that? You can challenge Jeonggukkie to some games again.”
Taehyung’s pout increased. “Are you seriously going?”
Taehyung let out a low breath of air. He reached across the desk and plucked some heather from the pile of plant cuttings by Jimin’s side. “At least take this with you for protection.”
Jimin rolled his eyes slightly, but took the heather and added it to his rucksack. “Happy?”
“No,” Taehyung pouted, but stepped aside anyway.
Jimin closed his rucksack and swung it onto his back, reaching out to draw his best friend into a hug. “Tell Hobi-hyung that I’ll be back before lunch?”
“I’ll tell him,” Taehyung agreed, squeezing him back. “And you’d better be back by then, or I’m sending out a search party.”
“I’ll be back,” Jimin promised, half-smiling.
“And stay out of the shadows!” Taehyung added. “Don’t trip over any roots.”
“I can just ask the trees to move, don’t worry!” Jimin called as he headed towards the door, raising one hand in farewell.
Jimin loved being outside.
He was an earth witch, and as such felt most at peace when he was out among nature. The woods were some of his favourite places, though he hadn’t explored the ones to the east as much as he had the ones to the south and west. To the north, there stood a mountain, home mostly to the air witches, and Jimin preferred to stay out of their way.
The woods to the east had far more suspicion about them than the others, which was partly why Jimin hadn’t ventured as far into them. Tales of monsters, of vampires and werewolves and banshees and ghosts, seemed never-ending, but Jimin had never really paid them much attention. He loved the woods, loved speaking to the trees and flowers and walking underneath the great canopy, and he was sure that nothing there would truly harm him.
The legend that Taehyung was afraid about was a fairly recent one. Over the past few months, stories of a shadowy creature that took people’s eyesight had started to grow. A man had come back swearing that he’d almost gone blind, and there were children who’d been playing only to run home screaming about a shadow creature. But Jimin wasn’t afraid – he was sure it was just the Autumn weather bringing with it new stories, nothing to pay true attention to.
The smell of moss and earth greeted him as he stepped further into the woods, the canopy above shielding him from the warm sunlight of the day. It might be October, but the weather hadn’t truly turned for the cold yet. Jimin was only wearing a light tunic and brown trousers and he felt fine, no scarf or hat needed.
The trees greeted him like old friends, murmuring in their ancient, creaking language. He waved as he passed them, rucksack bouncing on his back. The deeper he went, the darker and quieter it got, every sound muffled by the thick trunks and heavy foliage. The forest here was undisturbed by people, quiet other than Jimin’s footsteps and the occasional cheep of a bird.
He began to scour the ground, looking between moss and tree roots and the thick green bushes that thrived in this landscape, searching for the wortroot he’d come here for. If the directions he’d got from the customer were correct, then it shouldn’t be too much deeper.
As he moved, the shadows under the trees seemed to gather a little closer, edging with curiosity along the treeline. Jimin paused, darkness gathering at the edges of his vision. He gave his head a little shake and carried on.
Stay out of the shadows, Taehyung had warned him. Jimin might not put much stock in fairy tales, but he did make a mental note to stay in the patches of weak sunlight that made it through the canopy.
As he walked further, he could swear the shadows were moving with him. He frowned, stopping and looking from side-to-side, and saw the darkness creeping at the edges of the trees to either side of him, blacker than anything he’d seen before.
He started forward again, and the shadows seemed to slink along silently by his side.
After a while, Jimin couldn’t stand it anymore. He stopped still and faced the trees with a frown. “Who’s there?”
Only silence answered him.
Feeling slightly foolish, Jimin started forward again, and this time the shadows were definitely moving with him.
Jimin stopped again, narrowing his eyes. He glanced around at the shadows crowding around the corners of his eyes and asked, “Are you following me?”
Jimin bit his lip. He wiggled his toe into the muddy, mossy ground beneath him and huffed. “I’m just here to get some wortroot. I’m not going insane.”
He started forward again, stubbornly ignoring the shadows that were definitely following him, what the hell, and focused instead on the ground.
Until a voice said, “The wortroot is the other way, you know.”
Jimin stopped in his tracks, frozen. He glanced around and narrowed his eyes. “Who’s there? Stop following me!”
A low laugh sounded from the shadows to his right. “I’m just trying to tell you that you’re going the wrong way.”
Jimin turned to face the darkness and marched forwards, hands on his hips.
The shadows instantly retreated. “No! Don’t get too close.”
Confused, Jimin stopped. “Why? I want to beat your ass for following me, get out here right now.”
“Pretty sure I’m your hyung,” the voice said again, amusement colouring his tone. It was a man, definitely – the voice was a low rasp that Jimin begrudgingly admitted he found attractive. “You sure you want to speak to me like that?”
Jimin huffed aloud, crossing his arms in front of his chest. The straps of his rucksack dug into his shoulders but he ignored them, instead narrowing his eyes at the darkness he could see just beyond the large trunk of an oak tree that stood before him.
“I can just make the trees bring you to me, you know?” Jimin said petulantly. “Show yourself.”
The shadows stayed silent.
With a loud sigh, Jimin closed his eyes and found the energy of the ancient tree standing before him. Gently, he coaxed it into talking to him – it was a very old tree, he had to treat it with great respect – and kindly asked it to reach into the shadows to pluck out whoever was teasing Jimin.
The oak creaked, slowly starting to turn.
In a flash, the shadows retreated again, light beginning to spill into parts of the forest that had previously been inky black.
The last thing Jimin heard was the voice telling him, “Wortroot is to your left, by the violet,” before it disappeared along with the last wisp of darkness.
The old oak creaked back into place, grumbling quietly about being disturbed, so Jimin hastily thanked it and left some of his heather as an offering at its roots. Then he stared back passed it to a patch of forest that was definitely light now – he could make out more oak trees and an elm, too, when they’d previously been covered in shadow.
Confused, Jimin stared a moment longer before shaking his head in bewilderment.
When he went back to searching for his wortroot, he begrudgingly went left, and was surprised when he found it sitting there happily in a circle, as if waiting to be dug up.
Slowly, Jimin got down onto his knees and began digging at the soil with his fingers, gently calling to the wortroot. It answered his call happily, rising up through the soil, and he collected the roots into his basket with ease.
He didn’t see any more strange shadows the whole way back to the village.
Jimin was going into the forest again.
This time, Hoseok was joining Taehyung in telling him it was a bad idea.
“Seriously, Jimin-ah,” Hoseok said, leaning back against the counter of his shop where the three of them were on shift together. “Almost every customer that comes through our door has a bad thing to say about those woods.”
“It was fine,” Jimin grumbled, although admittedly he hadn’t told them about the strange conversation he’d had with the shadows. Jimin almost didn’t believe it had happened at all. Perhaps he’d hallucinated the whole thing. It would make more sense.
Taehyung huffed. “Sure, you were fine that one time. Don’t go back! Literally no one says anything good about the woods!”
“You can’t ignore literally everyone,” Hoseok agreed.
Jimin narrowed his eyes. “It isn’t everyone, surely.”
“I heard Mrs Bobbins saying she felt something bad in her bones,” Hoseok said knowingly. “And that air witch, the one that’s always coming asking about wind directions, she said everyone on the mountain is avoiding the eastern forest. Something arrived there recently, something bad.”
Jimin pursed his lips. “It can’t be that bad.”
“They say that no one comes back from there the same,” Taehyung said mysteriously.
Jimin raised a brow. “What do you mean?”
“They say the darkness is so absolute that no one who’s seen it can ever see again.” Taehyung folded his arms and nodded his head as if he was saying something truly profound.
Jimin let the silence linger, and then rolled his eyes heavily. “I’m going anyway.”
“Chim!” Taehyung cried.
Jimin huffed, reaching out and poking Taehyung right in the centre of his forehead. “Come on. You just don’t like it because you’re a fire witch who’s afraid of the dark.”
“So what? It’s natural,” Taehyung huffed. “I don’t see you going up on that mountain where there aren’t any plants.”
“My point is,” Jimin said, exasperated, “There’s no good reason why I wouldn’t be safe. I was fine last time, wasn’t I? And I know where I’m going this time. We need more wortroot, do you really want to wait for the supplier again?”
“I hate to admit it, but he has a point there,” Hoseok admitted.
“See? I’ll be fine.” Jimin reached out and patted Taehyung on the head, then scooped up his rucksack full of supplies and turned for the door.
Taehyung’s wail was audible from the street outside.
This time, finding the wortroot took no time at all.
Still, Jimin stayed out for a while, admiring the forest and the large trees and little plants that survived in such a thickly populated climate. It was apparent that not many people came here; the plants were largely undisturbed, and Jimin liked it that way. His magic tingled at his fingertips as he listened to the trees grumbling away and the small flowers singing. He needed to spend more time out in his element.
As he was sitting on a thick tree root, legs swinging and listening to the bluebells tell him about how one of their petals disappeared, the shadows came back for him.
It started as just a flicker at the edge of Jimin’s vision. Then darkness seemed to crowd around him, pulsing at the edges of the trees on either side, until he was sitting in a circle of sunlight surrounded by shadows.
Jimin narrowed his eyes.
“You came back,” the voice said, surprised.
Jimin arched an unimpressed eyebrow. “Are you trying to scare me away?”
The shadows instantly retreated, letting a little more sunlight bleed through.
Jimin tilted his head, curious. He glanced around slowly, noting the perfect blend from sunlight to darkness, how the shadows seemed to move almost of their own accord, weaving in and out of tree trunks and falling across the mossy forest floor.
“Neat trick,” Jimin said eventually. “Playing with the light like that. But you can come out now.”
Silence, and then – “I can’t,” the voice said hesitantly.
Jimin huffed. “I won’t actually beat your ass.”
“Hyung, remember,” the voice replied, tone dry.
“I’ll believe that when I see it.” Jimin stood up from the tree root, hands on hips, and said pointedly, “Literally, when I see it.”
The shadows pulsed around him. “You’re kind of a brat.”
“I’m glad you’ve learned that so early in our acquaintance,” Jimin answered blandly, and then folded his arms. “Am I going to have to get a tree to scare you off again?”
The shadows pulsed faster. “You’re an earth witch.”
“Your observational skills are excellent,” Jimin said dryly.
He was answered by a low chuckle.
Slowly, carefully, Jimin took a step forward, and watched as the shadows moved with him, shifting, leaving him in a circle of light surrounded by inky darkness. Jimin looked at it curiously. Well, he hadn’t gone blind yet, so he didn’t really have much to lose.
“How come you can’t come out?” Jimin asked, curiosity evident in his tone.
The voice huffed, darkness floating around Jimin. “Next question.”
Jimin rolled his eyes. “It’s going to be really boring talking to you if I can’t see you and you don’t answer anything I say.”
“You’re being difficult,” the voice in the shadows answered, and Jimin could have sworn the darkness rippled. “Did you find the wortroot?”
Jimin chewed on his lower lip, arms still folded. His rucksack was behind him, leaning against the tree root, and he turned to make sure it was safe. It still lay there innocently, just inside the circle of light that had Jimin as its centre.
Jimin turned back around and nodded, unsure if the disembodied voice he was talking to could even see him.
The shadows rippled again. “Good,” the voice said, satisfaction dripping from his tone.
Jimin pursed his lips. “Thanks,” he said begrudgingly, and sat back down on the tree root. The shadows moved with him again, and Jimin kicked his legs, swinging his heels against the rough bark. The tree rumbled at him in response, and Jimin hastily apologised.
The shadows flickered. “You can talk to them.”
Jimin tilted his head. “You’re surprisingly astute for someone who refuses to show himself.”
“I can’t,” the voice said again.
Jimin huffed. “At least tell me something about yourself.”
There was a pause, and then the voice answered, slowly, “Like what?”
“I don’t know?” Jimin swung his feet again, careful not to kick the tree bark this time. “Name, age, appearance? Type of magic?” There was definitely some magic going on, after all. Jimin wasn’t hallucinating the darkness moving with him.
Roughly, the voice said, “Min Yoongi. 26. Your third question is irrelevant, and I’m not telling you what my magic is.”
Jimin narrowed his eyes, frowning into the surrounding darkness. The voice sounded like it was coming from right in front of him, but no matter how hard Jimin studied the darkness, he couldn’t make out anyone there.
The magic was strong. Jimin could feel it thrumming in the air.
“Why is me asking about your appearance irrelevant?” Jimin hummed, tilting his head. “Are you, like, a formless shadowy blob or something?”
The voice – Yoongi – snorted. “You have no respect, mm?”
“Sorry, hyung,” Jimin said pointedly. If Yoongi was telling the truth, then he was two years older than Jimin, but Jimin felt like being cheeky. After all, if Yoongi was refusing to show himself, then he could probably get away with it.
“That’s more like it.” The shadows pulsed, and Jimin swore he could sense curiosity in the way they flowed in front of him. “What about you?”
Jimin tilted his head. “What about me what?”
“You know.” Yoongi cleared his throat – if he even had a throat. “Name. Age. Appearance. Type of magic.”
Jimin pursed his lips, debating. He had no reason to share anything about himself, but Yoongi had answered a couple of his questions. He kicked his feet and looked at the ground. “Park Jimin. 24. You already know what I look like, if you even have eyes – and I’m an earth witch, you know that too.”
The shadows pulsed. Yoongi hummed. “And what are you doing in these forests?”
“Why do you want to know?” Jimin challenged.
There was silence for a moment, and then Yoongi said lowly, “Not a lot of people come here.”
Jimin couldn’t tell if that was supposed to be a threat or not. He slowed his movements, looking away from the shadows to instead study the patch of moss on the tree root by his right hand. He licked his lips. “Do they not come here because of you?”
The shadows went still.
Jimin swallowed. He straightened his back and looked forward again, peering into the shadows in front of him. “If they don’t, then they’re stupid. You’re not scary.”
A low growl sounded from the darkness. “I’m not?”
“Nope.” Jimin popped the p and got to his feet, holding back a smile as he swung his backpack over his shoulders. “Just a bit grumpy.”
“But that’s ok,” Jimin said with a charming smile. “I need a grumpy hyung. I’ve got to go, though, my best friend will be worrying. See you next time?”
The shadows pulsed, and parted, leaving a route back through the forest lit by sunlight.
Jimin stepped forwards, rucksack straps digging into his shoulders, and walked through the passage. As he stepped out of the woods and back onto the track to his village, he heard Yoongi murmur quietly, “See you next time.”
Jimin knew he’d be going back to the forests again.
Jimin leaned back on the counter the next day, having eventually caved and told Taehyung all about the voice he heard in the shadows. He was terrible at keeping secrets, and honestly, he didn’t like not having Taehyung know about every aspect of his life.
Taehyung listened with wide eyes and a terrified expression as he stood over a hissing cauldron, stirring a warmth draught that customers were asking for more and more now that Winter was setting in.
“But you never saw him?” Taehyung asked, tone horrified.
Jimin bit his lip. He glanced down at the herbs in his hand, avoiding Taehyung’s gaze. “I mean. Not exactly. But! He didn’t harm me, did he?”
“That doesn’t mean he couldn’t have.” Taehyung let out a huff of air, gesturing for Jimin to throw the next lot of herbs in the cauldron. Jimin did, and the mixture spat out blue flames. “Are you seriously going back?”
“Mhm.” Jimin nodded. He had plans to go back that evening. He liked his conversations with the grumpy, sarcastic shadows, and now he was curious. He wanted to find out more about Min Yoongi.
The bell above the door rang. Jimin turned to see a recent regular come in, tall and skinny and wearing a long coat, glasses perched on his nose.
Taehyung made a distressed noise.
“I’ll be fine!” Jimin promised, patting Taehyung on the shoulder with his free hand. “I’ll bring loads of heather with me. And I’ll have my blue iris, like always. Plus, the trees and I are getting reacquainted, it’s nice.”
“You could do that in any of the other forests,” Taehyung whined.
Jimin pouted. “The trees are different.”
“Yeah, and there’s nothing that could actively kill you,” Taehyung hissed.
Jimin rolled his eyes. “I thought the shadows were going to blind me, not kill me.”
“Well, you don’t know, do you,” Taehyung grumbled, lifting the cauldron and carefully beginning to ladle the draught into vials for the customers. “You know nothing about what this darkness could do to you. The fact you can’t see him worries me enough.”
“He won’t hurt me,” Jimin said confidently. He believed it, too, feeling reassured as he turned to the counter to serve the customer.
“You hope,” Taehyung grumbled from behind him.
Jimin ignored him, instead pulling open the till and beaming at the customer. The customer smiled back, glancing interestedly between Jimin and Taehyung before he laid a few miscellaneous ingredients out on the counter – a plant pot and a few fish scales, how odd – and said, “Can I get a sleeping draught, too?”
“Sure!” Jimin beamed, and turned behind the counter to where they kept their vials. “What kind?”
“For insomnia,” the customer answered.
Jimin hummed, pulling out one of the forms and beginning to fill it in. “What’s your name?”
“Kim Namjoon,” the customer said.
Jimin wrote the name on the form, signed and dated it, and then picked up one of the vials and handed it over to the customer with a smile and a bow. “I hope you sleep better!”
Kim Namjoon smiled at him, collected his things, and left.
“I still think you shouldn’t go,” Taehyung grumbled.
“But you know I’m still going to,” Jimin replied sweetly.
That evening, Jimin packed up another rucksack and headed out to the woods. He wasn’t specifically looking for wortroot this time, or any herb, but he enjoyed chatting to the trees and listening to the gossip among the flowers. He’d been neglecting the eastern woods for a while.
And if he got to talk to the shadowy Yoongi again, then that would just be a bonus.
Jimin hummed as he listened to the flowers bickering, pausing a moment to slip his shoes off and instead walk barefoot through the forest, his toes digging into moss, the soles of his feet growing muddy. He smiled. Being at one with the earth was when he felt his calmest.
As he ducked under a low-hanging branch and entered a small clearing, Jimin caught sight of a shadow pulsing in the corner of his eye.
He froze, and the shadow stopped instantly. Jimin span around and pointed to the darkness. “Aha! There you are, following me again.”
The shadow rippled guiltily. “I wasn’t following you.”
Jimin scoffed. He leaned back against the trunk of a birch tree and grinned. “It’s ok. I’m cute. I can see why you’d want to follow me.”
The shadows slipped forward, snaking into the clearing and surrounding him with inky blackness. The sun still spilled into the clearing overhead, but it was as if thick black smoke surrounded Jimin, opaque and impenetrable.
Jimin wasn’t afraid. He just felt… curious.
“Are you still going to hide yourself?” Jimin asked.
Jimin sighed, reaching one hand out in front of him, almost brushing the edges of the shadows. Inky blackness retreated from his fingers, shrinking back in on itself.
“Careful,” Yoongi’s voice sounded warningly.
Jimin retracted his hand, but he pouted. “I can’t even touch it?”
“It isn’t a good idea,” Yoongi said evenly.
Jimin sighed, but let his hand fall back to his side. He leaned his head back against the birch tree and pursed his lips. “I really can’t see you, either?”
Hesitation, but then Yoongi said, “You could. But you can’t touch me.”
Jimin arched a brow.
Yoongi sighed. “You have to promise. No touching me.”
Jimin thought about being petulant about it, but decided against it in the end. He gave a gentle nod of his head. “I promise. Why, though?”
“Because it would be bad,” Yoongi grumbled, just as the shadows began to coalesce in front of him. They formed a thick, hard, black wall that stopped just in front of Jimin’s face, and then the wall parted and a figure walked out, flanked on both sides by trailing wisps of darkness.
Jimin took him in with wide eyes.
Yoongi had black hair that flopped down into his eyes, a cute small nose, a rounded jawline, and sharp, narrow eyes that appeared as black as the shadows around him. He had pale skin, at least for their part of Korea, and he walked with a sort of quiet confidence that made Jimin’s heart thrill.
He was beautiful.
Jimin swallowed. Suddenly, his promise not to touch Yoongi seemed much harder to keep. He wanted to run his fingers across that sharp jaw, to touch the soft-looking black hair that kept falling into his eyes.
Yoongi stopped a few steps away from Jimin and just kind of… stood there, awkwardly.
Jimin was impossibly endeared.
“Oh,” he breathed, and automatically reached forward again, one hand coming up short right in front of Yoongi’s face.
Yoongi took a careful step back.
Jimin pouted, but dropped his hand. He stood there for a moment, simply taking Yoongi in – from the top of his black hair, to the black cloak he had wrapped around him, to the pale glimpse of an arm he could see down by Yoongi’s side.
Jimin narrowed his eyes. “Are you a vampire?”
Yoongi scoffed, folding his arms under his black cloak and giving Jimin an unimpressed look. They were almost the same height, Jimin noted with interest.
“Of course I’m not a vampire,” Yoongi grumbled. “They’re far more annoying than I am.”
Jimin arched a brow. “I don’t know. You’re pretty annoying.”
“You’re still alive,” Yoongi pointed out, raising his eyebrows. “Unless you want me to change that?”
Jimin grinned, completely unbothered by the threat. He’d been alone in the woods for hours before with Yoongi and nothing bad had happened to him – if anything, Yoongi had been protective of him. He didn’t believe for even a second that Yoongi would harm him.
He also wasn’t entirely sure where that belief came from.
“So what kind of magic do you have?” Jimin asked eagerly, running his eyes down Yoongi’s form again (Yoongi was attractive, sue him). “How come the shadows obey you? Can you turn into a bat?”
“Not a vampire, remember,” Yoongi said, tone dry.
Jimin pouted. “No turning into a bat, then?”
“You’re annoying,” Yoongi griped, stepping back a bit so the shadows engulfed him.
Jimin pouted. “You’re the one who was following me. Why were you doing that, by the way?”
Amazingly, Yoongi managed to look a bit abashed. He glanced down, a tiny bit of colour appearing on his cheeks, fiddling with the edges of his cloak.
Jimin’s heart gave a tug.
“’Was interesting,” Yoongi mumbled almost too softly to hear. “Haven’t seen anyone new in a while.”
Jimin tilted his head. He was impossibly endeared as Yoongi ducked his head. “Well, there have been a lot of strange stories coming from here.”
Yoongi pursed his lips.
“I don’t believe them, for what it’s worth,” Jimin added, watching Yoongi carefully. “I don’t believe there’s anything scary here.”
Yoongi looked back up at him, and their eyes met.
For a moment, Jimin stopped breathing.
Then, Yoongi smiled – a wide smile that showed his gums and made his eyes crease up. Jimin’s heart thrummed in response, his pulse spiking.
“Come with me,” Yoongi said. “Earth witch. I want to show you something.”
The path Yoongi led him on was winding, going deeper into the woods than Jimin had ventured before. He wasn’t afraid – the trees were still grumbling, the flowers they passed every now and then sang out to him happily, and the moss underfoot was soft and ancient, undisturbed but for them.
Yoongi’s strides were long, and Jimin struggled to keep up – although once Yoongi noticed this, he slowed down to match his steps to Jimin’s. All the while, shadows followed them, creeping at the edges of their vision, darkness dogging their steps.
They came upon a small clearing, and then—
They’d reached a sort of ravine – a great dip in the forest floor. The ground disappeared before them, dropping down into a great crevice in the land. A river ran through it, impossibly far down.
And by the river – by the river sat the biggest tree Jimin had ever seen.
It was ancient and proud, its trunk thick, its branches sturdy. Its leaves were a beautiful golden brown that signified the time of year – huge, each leaf was bigger than Jimin’s whole hand. The branches were as thick as planks, looking sturdy and firm, and the trunk itself was so vast that it would take many people to circle its circumference.
“Oh,” Jimin gasped, hands flying to his mouth.
From beside him, Yoongi smiled.
The energy wafting out from the tree was ancient, the language almost undiscernible even to his earth witch ears. Still, Jimin reached out with his own power, magic floating through the air, until it brushed the edge of the trunk.
The tree turned, curious.
Hastily, Jimin introduced himself, quickly dipping into a deep bow. The tree was slow to respond, but its words were beautiful, its tone inviting and lovely. Without thinking, Jimin stepped forward, wanting to be closer.
Who is the night witch with you?
The ancient tree’s voice was lulling Jimin, but he still furrowed his brows. Night witch?
He took another step forward, wanting to be closer to the tree—
And then the ground disappeared from under his feet.
With a screech, Jimin was falling. For an earth-shattering moment everything tilted around him, air rushing passed his falling body, and his stomach dropped horribly. He screamed, opening his mouth wide—
The world came to a jarring, juddering halt.
And then everything went black.
Jimin screamed again, struggling. Something was holding him – something was clinging to his sleeve, holding him suspended in the air, but Jimin couldn’t see. Darkness surrounded him, opaque and terrifying. He could sense the trundling magic from the ancient tree, and feel the sturdy grip holding him in place, but there was nothing beneath his feet and he sensed emptiness all around him.
He kicked his feet, crying out.
“Hold still!” Yoongi’s voice, from somewhere above him.
Jimin tried to stop moving. He felt himself swinging.
There was a grunt, and then Jimin was moving – upwards, being lifted upwards until there was ground against his back again. Heart shuddering with relief, Jimin scrambled backwards and felt a warm body behind him, arms coming around his front, holding him in place.
He still couldn’t see anything through the impenetrable blackness.
“Why the fuck would you do that?” Yoongi’s voice, angry, from right by his ear. “Who the fuck just walks off the edge of a cliff?!”
Jimin shuddered in his arms, tremors running through him. He still couldn’t see. He blinked, squeezing his eyes shut, and shook his head, but when he opened his eyes again he was still met with utter blackness.
Panic squeezed at his chest.
“I can’t see,” Jimin wheezed, scrambling backwards until both his hands met something soft – Yoongi’s cloak. “I can’t see.”
“I know, I know, I’m sorry.” Yoongi’s voice had dropped to a low murmur, soothing in his ear. The arms around him held on tighter, and then they were moving backwards – Yoongi dragging them across the mossy ground.
The voice of the ancient tree grew further away.
Jimin drew in a shuddering breath. He blinked several times over, but each time he opened his eyes the blackness remained, thick, like someone had just pulled an opaque cloth down over his head.
“Why can’t I see?” Jimin felt like someone was stepping on his chest. “What’s – what’s happening?”
“It’s me,” Yoongi murmured. “My magic. I’m sorry.”
The words from the ancient tree ran through his mind again. Night witch.
“You’re—” Jimin’s breath was knocked out of him. “You’re a night witch.”
Night witches were the rarest type of witch in the world. Their magic was old, uncontrollable, incredibly strong – as strong as night, as strong as the darkness they commanded.
The shadows that always floated around Yoongi. His reluctance to let anything touch him. His black, black eyes, the way he’d refused to show himself to Jimin at first—
“Holy fuck.” Jimin was astonished, awed. “I’ve met a night witch.”
He felt Yoongi shift uncomfortably behind him. The arms around his waist disappeared.
Jimin shrieked, his contact with the world disappeared for a moment. He curled his hands into fists, feeling the material of Yoongi’s cloak bunch under his fingernails.
There was a pained grunt from behind him. “Stay still. I’m just – I’m sorry, fuck.”
“Did you blind me?” Jimin blinked, staring in awe at the darkness he was stuck in. “Fuck. That’s some insane magic.”
“I can fix it, I’m sorry,” Yoongi mumbled. “Just – I’m gonna move you, ok, don’t freak out.”
Jimin held himself still, then felt hands – warm and big – wrap around his abdomen, gently lifting him. He was placed back down against mossy earth, and instantly dug his fingers into the soil, grounding himself.
The earth responded to him, singing, and he calmed down instantly.
There was a scuffling sound from above him, and then Yoongi’s voice, sounding abashed. “Can you stand?”
“Uh,” Jimin swallowed, then tucked his legs against his chest and rocked onto his heels, feeling the soil beneath his bare feet. “I think so?”
“I’ve got you,” Yoongi murmured, and then warm hands were wrapping around his elbows and pulling. Jimin moved with them, leaning into the touch – he couldn’t help himself – and then he was standing, leaning against something warm and hard.
He felt rather than heard Yoongi’s next words, and realised he must be leaning against Yoongi’s chest. The thought made heat flood to Jimin’s cheeks.
“Alright,” Yoongi grunted, and an arm snaked its way around Jimin’s shoulders. “Come with me. We’ve got a bit of a walk, but I have a friend who’s developed some eyedrops that should bring back your sight.”
Jimin swallowed, stumbling a bit as Yoongi began to guide them forwards. It was incredibly disorientating, moving without being able to see a thing. The blackness clung to his lashes, pressing against his eyes.
Jimin shook his head, lifting one arm out in front of him. “This is amazing.”
Yoongi huffed from beside him. “Not normally the reaction I get when this happens, to be honest.”
“How did you even do this?” Jimin’s voice was awed. “I can’t see a thing.”
“It isn’t really under my control,” Yoongi said wryly. His voice sounded right by Jimin’s right ear, one of his arms still wrapped around Jimin’s shoulders, the other carefully on his elbow, guiding him forward.
Jimin didn’t want to admit that he leaned in a little closer, enjoying the warmth Yoongi exuded. He smelled good – clean and fresh, like the smell just after rain. Jimin wanted to lean in closer.
He held himself back. With difficulty.
“So how did this happen?” Jimin chattered on insistently. “Is it because you touched me when I fell? Thanks for catching me, by the way – and the tree, you showed me the tree, it was so old—”
“I wasn’t really expecting you to try and jump at it,” Yoongi said dryly.
Jimin huffed. “Clearly you’ve never met an earth witch before.”
“You’re my first,” Yoongi confirmed, his low, dark voice making something warm happen to Jimin’s insides.
Jimin swallowed. “So? How did it happen? How did you blind me?”
Yoongi grumbled something under his breath before answering. “Yes, it’s because I touched you. I’m sorry, but there was really no other way – you could have died—”
“That’s so cool,” Jimin enthused. He twisted his head, trying to face Yoongi, but ended up tripping over his feet and sliding down with a screech.
Strong, steady hands caught him, steadying him, gently lifting him back up again.
“Careful,” Yoongi reprimanded. “There’s all kinds of tree roots and low hanging branches—”
“But you really transferred your magic through touch?” Jimin interrupted. “That’s like, insane power.”
“Will you stop being so excited and let me guide you?” Yoongi huffed, tugging on his arm. “There’s a tree root, lift your leg—”
Jimin, predictably, walked straight into the tree root. He winced, bending down to rub his shin, and then lost his balance and fell with a shriek, his hands splaying out before him and catching in mossy soil.
Yoongi gave an exasperated huff from behind him. “You know what? Fuck this.”
“What are you—” Jimin was cut off before he could finish his question by the feeling of a warm arm wrapping around his back, another slipping under his knees. Before he could gather himself together, he was being lifted into the air, the ground dropping away beneath him.
He was pressed against something warm and solid that vibrated when Yoongi huffed. Jimin was jostled a little, his head finding a place on Yoongi’s bony shoulder – the warmth seeped through Jimin’s clothes – and then they were moving forward again.
Jimin could feel heat spreading across the back of his neck to his cheeks. He was being carried bridal style through a forest by a night witch – if this wasn’t straight out of a fairytale then he didn’t know what was.
Taehyung was going to have a ball with this story once Jimin got back to tell him.
“Where are we going, anyway?” Jimin’s voice was a bit squeakier than he intended, because he could feel Yoongi’s heartbeat through his thick cloak and the strength in his arms where they held Jimin against him.
Yoongi grunted. “My friend, Namjoon. He has eye drops that should restore your sight.”
Jimin made a soft noise of acknowledgement. He turned his head a little and found his nose pressing against something bony. He was surrounded by the clear scent he’d noticed earlier, and it made his head spin a little. He hadn’t exactly planned on being this close to Yoongi when he’d stepped into the woods earlier.
A night witch.
“I can’t believe you’re a night witch,” Jimin breathed, turning his head back around so his voice wasn’t muffled and he could feel cold air brushing against his warm cheeks.
Yoongi gave a dry laugh. “I blinded you. I feel like that’s a bit of a giveaway.”
Jimin shook his head, twisting his hands in the folds of Yoongi’s cloak. It was still disorientating, being stuck in utter darkness, but the knowledge that they were on the way to get a cure calmed his panic. Mostly, Jimin was just curious.
“You said you couldn’t control it,” Jimin said, interested. “Does that mean you’re still learning? But you said you’re 26, shouldn’t you be done with school?”
“You are such a brat,” Yoongi muttered under his breath.
“For your information,” Yoongi continued, “I just need to let my magic stabilise a bit more. It’s getting much better, but it’s still too strong to contain so when someone touches me it transfers.”
Jimin hummed in interest. “So how are you not blind all the time?”
“It doesn’t affect me,” Yoongi murmured. “Other than to make my eyes black.”
Jimin thought back to the image of Yoongi, black-haired, black-eyed, black cloak, pale skin. He bit back a grin. “No wonder I thought you were a vampire at first.”
“Do you have no respect?” Yoongi huffed, but Jimin swore he could hear amusement in his tone.
Jimin squirmed in his grip a little, but secretly he loved the feeling of being held safely against Yoongi’s chest. Every few steps, Yoongi would mutter curses, and Jimin could feel the forest responding to him – the trees lifting branches out of their way, roots disappearing, flowers singing him passing greetings.
Jimin leaned into the forest’s energy and smiled.
Yoongi grunted a little. “Your hands and feet are filthy.”
Jimin scoffed. “Did you just call soil filthy?”
“What?” Yoongi definitely sounded amused.
“How dare you,” Jimin huffed, digging his fists into Yoongi’s chest.
Yoongi chuckled, the noise vibrating pleasantly against Jimin’s side. Jimin tried not to feel how much he truly liked it, tried to ignore the desire slowly creeping up on him to lean further against Yoongi, to delve properly into his side, to place his head in the crook of his neck and press his face into his warm skin.
They walked for a while further, and then Yoongi jostled him a little in his arms, murmuring a soft, “We’re here.”
Jimin stirred from where he’d been lulled into near-sleep, blinking against the darkness still pressing to his lashes. Experiencing the world through his other senses had him tired, confused by the sounds and smells when he couldn’t see what was causing them. The only comforting thing was the secure hold Yoongi had on him, and the warmth exuding from him that made Jimin want to curl up like a cat and sleep there.
Jimin felt himself jostled as Yoongi freed one hand enough to knock his hand against what sounded like solid wood. He clutched harder onto Yoongi in response, and Yoongi muttered something under his breath about soil getting stuck to his cloak.
Jimin listened as the sound of footsteps grew clearer, and then the creak of a door opening.
There was a startled exclamation in something of a familiar voice.
“Before you say anything,” Yoongi said, tone defeated, “I can explain.”
Silence held for a moment, and then there was the sound of jovial laughter. Yoongi moved forward, so Jimin presumed they’d been invited inside. The air grew warmer around them, and Jimin smelled spices and wood and varnish and oils, something unfamiliar but at the same time welcoming. He relaxed a little in Yoongi’s arms.
“I’m gonna put you down now,” Yoongi grunted, and Jimin shrieked again when he felt himself moving. He was placed down in a seat, his feet brushing the floor again, back meeting wood.
Jimin pretended not to enjoy the feeling of being manhandled so easily.
Yoongi stepped back, and Jimin suppressed the feeling of missing the warmth of his arms, the clear clean scent of his clothes.
He could hear shuffling, and chairs being scraped against wooden floors, and then the new, somewhat-familiar voice spoke up again. “Go on then, hyung. I have to hear this story.”
“It was an accident,” Yoongi said immediately, and Jimin could hear something like gruff embarrassment in his voice. “That one decided to walk off a cliff, I had to catch him, and now he’s blind. You still have the eyedrops, right?”
“Sure,” the new voice said again, amusement dripping from his tone. “But first you’ve gotta tell me more about this.”
Jimin swallowed, then attempted to speak. “It really is my fault. I would have died if Yoongi-hyung hadn’t caught me.”
“That’s the first time you’ve called me hyung ever,” Yoongi muttered.
Jimin huffed. He would have folded his arms, but he didn’t want to let go of where he was gripping the sides of the chair, not wanting to lose his bearings. “Maybe that’s because you hadn’t earned it.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Yoongi clicked his tongue. “Maybe I should have just let you fall, hm?”
“You’re the one who showed me the tree,” Jimin said petulantly.
“Interesting,” the new voice spoke up. “I thought I recognised you. You work at the medicine shop, right?”
Jimin blinked, surprised. He knew the voice was vaguely familiar, but he was having trouble placing it, and he would really like to be able to see so he could recognise the man currently speaking to him. “Yes? I do?”
“I thought so!” There was the snap of fingers. “I’m Kim Namjoon.”
Oh. Jimin instantly remembered him as one of their recent regulars, the one who’d asked for a sleeping draught. He felt a lot better, being able to place the person whose home he was presumably in.
“Let me get the eye drops,” Namjoon said, “Then I’ll introduce myself properly. Any friend of Yoongi’s is a friend of mine.”
“He isn’t my friend,” Yoongi muttered.
Jimin huffed out a laugh. “You say that like you haven’t been following me around the forest for the past three days.”
Only silence met his words, accompanied by muffled laughter from Namjoon.
After a couple of awkward moments, Jimin felt someone come closer to him, and Namjoon spoke from somewhere just in front of him. “I need to touch your face to put these eyedrops in, is that ok?”
Hesitantly, Jimin nodded.
He felt a cool hand cup his chin, tilting his face back gently. “Try not to close your eyes.”
Jimin did his best, staring into inky blackness, and then felt three cool drops of liquid touch first his left eye, then his right.
Initially, he panicked when the blackness didn’t clear.
“It takes a few minutes to work,” Namjoon said soothingly, releasing Jimin’s chin. “Blink a couple of times, let the magic work.”
Obediently, Jimin blinked, and felt the rush of power flutter behind his eyelids. With each blink, the darkness shifted a little, and colour began to bleed through. Haltingly, the image of a warm, wooden cabin swam into view – a wooden table before him, shelves spilling out books on the opposite wall, a small window set into the side that looked out over trees crowding thickly against the cabin.
They were still in the woods.
With another blink, Jimin’s vision cleared fully, and he was able to make out the two figures in front of him.
Namjoon stood just in front of him, smiling his charming smile, and Jimin recognised him for sure – that tall, lean figure, the glasses perched on his nose, the wild wisps of hair that were pushed back from his face.
Behind him, a little to the left, sat Yoongi. He was seated at the wooden table across from Jimin, looking determinedly down at his lap, shadows clinging faintly to his sides. His black cloak was swept back over his shoulders, revealing a soft-looking black tunic. Jimin could make out two darker patches on his chest, what looked like soil clinging to his clothes, leftover from Jimin’s desperate clutching at him.
Jimin swallowed. He’d been held by those arms, cradled against that chest. He willed his cheeks not to flush.
“Hello!” Namjoon bowed, and Jimin quickly turned his attention back to Namjoon, blinking a little in the light. “I’m Kim Namjoon. It’s nice to meet you properly.”
“Hi,” Jimin replied, summoning up what he hoped was a welcoming smile. “I’m Park Jimin. It’s nice to meet you too, Namjoon-ssi. Sorry for barging into your home like this.”
“As I said, any friend of Yoongi’s is a friend of mine,” Namjoon answered warmly.
“Not my friend,” Yoongi muttered.
Namjoon ignored him and instead smiled interestedly at Jimin. “Would you like some tea?”
Tea with Namjoon and Yoongi was an experience.
Jimin sipped at his hot cup, enjoying the scent of jasmine from the fine tea leaves – Namjoon had good taste, evidently – and listening to Namjoon and Yoongi lightly bickering. They’d explained their history to Jimin, how they came from the same village but Yoongi’s magic was taking a long time to stabilise, so they had to move around a lot to stop him from injuring anyone. Namjoon followed him ‘for damage control’, although Yoongi scoffed at that.
“You cause more damage than me,” Yoongi huffed. “How many plates have you broken this week?”
“Irrelevant,” Namjoon hummed, then turned to Jimin with a smile. “Have you always lived in the village?”
Jimin shook his head. “I came here after I finished my training. My parents live a couple of villages over. I came here because of Tae – that’s my friend, the fire witch? – we wanted a change of scenery, and Hoseok-hyung offered us a place working at his shop, so. We stayed here.”
Namjoon hummed in interest. “We’ve only been here a couple of weeks, but it seems a nice place.”
Jimin nodded, then turned to Yoongi, biting his lip. For some reason, he felt inexplicably nervous around the night witch, although seeing him sitting there at the table with just a couple of wisps of darkness hanging around his shoulders, it was hard to imagine him as anything scary at all.
“Do you like it here, Yoongi-hyung?” Jimin asked.
Yoongi started a little at being addressed, then turned to face Jimin with a small furrow in his brow. “The forest is nice.”
“What about the village?” Jimin pressed. “Or have you not been there?”
Yoongi snorted. “It would be too risky. I don’t like having children scream at me.”
Jimin narrowed his eyes. “Why would they scream at you?”
Yoongi raised his brows at Jimin, and Jimin instantly felt like he was being scrutinised. Yoongi’s gaze remained on his for a moment, then dipped down, taking in Jimin’s muddy hands, the rings on his fingers, the ease of his flowy tunic, down to the mud on his feet.
“Not many people react to a night witch like you,” Yoongi murmured finally.
Jimin willed himself not to flush. He sat up a little straighter, could feel Namjoon looking between them interestedly, but kept his attention on Yoongi.
“You should come into the village,” he said softly.
Yoongi frowned, brow furrowing further. “Not a good idea.”
“It would be fine as long as you didn’t touch anyone,” Jimin insisted, leaning forward a little and almost knocking over his teacup.
Yoongi shook his head, looking away, but Namjoon hummed in interest.
“You know, hyung, he’s right,” Namjoon pressed. “I’ve been saying that to you since we got here.”
“And if you did blind anyone,” Jimin added, “We can just give them the eyedrops. I’m fine now, look!”
Yoongi looked over at him and narrowed his eyes. “You shouldn’t have had to go through that in the first place.”
“You saved me,” Jimin said stubbornly, folding his arms. “And I’m absolutely fine now. Your magic must be close to stabilising, too, right?”
“Within the year, hopefully,” Namjoon agreed, smiling at Jimin. “I like you.”
“I like you too, Namjoon-ssi,” Jimin said bracingly.
“Hyung, hyung, call me hyung,” Namjoon waved a hand at him. “And help me convince Yoongi-hyung to go into town. He needs to get out more, he isn’t sleeping properly.”
“Oh yeah, sure, give him my life story,” Yoongi grumbled.
Jimin, however, sat up straight, grinning at Yoongi. “Was the draft Namjoon-hyung got for you? I can whip up something much better – you’re a night witch, I can put in some soothing plants—”
“There’s no need,” Yoongi mumbled, shrinking into his seat. “You don’t need to go to any lengths.”
“It isn’t a problem at all,” Jimin insisted. He sat up, leaning forward, watching as Yoongi refused to meet his gaze. His hands were tangled in his lap, his cloak brushing the ground, his black hair falling into his face.
Jimin’s fingers itched to brush it back.
“Come to the shop tomorrow,” Jimin insisted. “I’ll make a draught tonight. It’s really no problem.”
Yoongi shifted to look at him, eyes almost nervous.
“Hyung,” Jimin murmured, looking directly into Yoongi’s deep black eyes. “Please?”
Silence hung over them for a moment.
Eventually, Yoongi’s face scrunched up and he broke with a low grumble. “Alright. Fine. If it’ll make you happy, I’ll come in tomorrow.”
Jimin’s answering smile was blinding, and he could have sworn Yoongi’s eyes lingered on him for a little longer than was normal.
The next day, Jimin was behind the counter with Taehyung, as always. Hoseok had gone out to treat some of their home patients, so it was just the two of them, and the shop was fairly quiet. They’d spent most of the morning playing endless games of noughts and crosses and Taehyung plying Jimin with questions about Yoongi.
Jimin had told him everything that had happened – the tree, the almost-falling, the blindness, having tea at Namjoon’s. Taehyung listened with rapt attention, then insisted on checking over Jimin’s eyesight just to make absolutely sure he was ok. Jimin was fine, though. He’d had no trouble with his vision since Namjoon had put the eyedrops in; everything was clear as day.
“A night witch, though,” Taehyung said, his tone awed. “That’s so rare.”
“Isn’t it?” Jimin agreed, a thrill running through him. “And he’s, like, cool. And awkward. And also sort of adorable.”
Taehyung arched a brow at him. “A night witch is adorable? Aren’t they supposed to be all doom and gloom, hellfire and thunderclouds, all of that?”
Jimin thought of Yoongi – of his hunched shoulders and sharp, catlike eyes, his low, raspy voice, the strength in his arms and the clear scent of his clothes.
Jimin swallowed. “No, he – he’s not like that at all.”
Taehyung hummed. When Jimin looked at him, his expression was mischievous. “Oh. Oh, Jiminie. Don’t tell me.”
Jimin screwed his hands into fists and faced Taehyung as innocently as he could. “What?”
“You wouldn’t happen to be crushing on this night witch, would you?” Taehyung asked with a sly grin.
Jimin swallowed and tried not to think about being cradled in Yoongi’s arms. He’d left that part of the story out when he told Taehyung. “No, no, I just – he’s interesting.”
“Interesting enough for you to invite him to the shop,” Taehyung grinned. “Oh, oh, I think this is definitely a crush, you wait until I tell Hobi-hyung—”
Just then, the bell above the door rang, and when Jimin looked up to see who had walked in his heart stuttered to a juddering halt.
“Shut up,” he hissed at Taehyung, and instantly straightened.
Yoongi had just walked through the door. His black cloak floated behind him, a couple of shadows clinging to his shoulders, his black hair matching them where it fell across his forehead. His eyes, deep black and intense, were scanning the shop with interest, but they stopped when they met Jimin’s.
For a moment, they just looked at each other, suspended in time.
Then Taehyung coughed very loudly from beside Jimin.
Jimin jumped, turning to the counter with heat rising to his cheeks and creeping around the back of his neck. Taehyung was watching him with amusement, but Jimin just glared at him and focused on the till.
There were footsteps, and Jimin looked up again to find Yoongi standing right in front of him.
Jimin felt a smile already tugging at his lips at seeing Yoongi again. To have him here, standing in his shop – Yoongi looked almost out of place, clad all in black and with his brow lightly furrowed, his catlike eyes narrow as he looked at Jimin.
“Hyung,” Jimin smiled. “You came.”
Yoongi met his eyes – the world paused again – and nodded, and were the corners of his lips twitching up?
Jimin’s stomach fluttered.
“So hi!” Taehyung appeared at Jimin’s side, grinning at him. “You’re the super-cool night witch that Chim hasn’t stopped talking about?”
Yoongi raised a brow, looking at Jimin. “Chim?”
Jimin could have died. He pressed his hands to his cheeks and turned to full-on glare at Taehyung. “It’s just a nickname from when we were kids.”
“And he loves being called it now,” Taehyung smiled angelically, leaning into Jimin’s side.
“I do not,” Jimin hissed.
Yoongi’s faint smile had turned into a full-blown one – although his gums weren’t quite showing yet. Jimin ached to see that expression again, felt his heart jump. Dammit. Jimin wasn’t ready for these feelings, and yet looking into Yoongi’s eyes made his whole world stop.
It didn’t help that Jimin could quite distinctly remember the feeling of being held in Yoongi’s arms.
“I made you that draught, hyung,” Jimin said. “Come with me to the back?”
Yoongi nodded his head, and Jimin sidled passed Taehyung out from behind the counter, reaching out to beckon Yoongi over (although he made extra sure not to touch him, despite wanting to feel the warmth of his skin again).
“Mind the shop, Tae!” Jimin called over his shoulder as he pushed open the door to the back and held it open for Yoongi.
Yoongi entered slowly, his eyes looking around with curiosity, taking in the rows and rows of shelves containing all sorts of magical ingredients. There were books of potion recipes lining the walls, jars and pots of ingredients stacked neatly in shelves and catalogued precisely.
Yoongi gave a low whistle. “You do a lot of magic in here.”
“Yeah,” Jimin hummed, leading Yoongi over to the right where he stored all the earth ingredients. “It’s the supplies for all our potions, and some other things too.”
“All collected by you?” Yoongi asked, eyebrows rising.
Jimin laughed a little, shaking his head. “Not all. Some. We use suppliers for a lot.”
Yoongi hummed. “You were collecting wortroot the first time I saw you.”
“Yeah.” Jimin remembered the sensation of the shadows following him and smiled a little. That had been Yoongi. “We normally source it through a supplier, but its several villages over and takes a long time to get here, and there’s always more demand at this time of year. When I heard there might be a supply nearby I could collect myself I had to go, even if everyone warned me not to.”
Yoongi arched a brow. “Everyone warned you not to?”
“Come on,” Jimin said, grinning slyly. “You must know that rumours have started up about you.”
Yoongi huffed out a low breath. “I can only imagine.”
Jimin side-eyed him. It was hard to piece together the horror stories he’d heard from the villagers and the image of Yoongi here, next to him. He knew for sure that Yoongi wouldn’t have blinded anyone on purpose – the care he’d taken of Jimin showed that.
“Hey,” Jimin murmured, pausing in hunting through the shelves for a moment. “Thank you for saving my life yesterday, by the way.”
Yoongi hummed. He leaned in close beside Jimin, so his clear, fresh scent washed over him, and Jimin could feel the warmth of his body tantalisingly close. “It’s no problem. Just don’t fucking walk off any more cliffs, ok?”
“The tree was calling to me,” Jimin mumbled, feeling warm at the thought that Yoongi had even decided to take him there in the first place.
He turned his head, and Yoongi was right there, beside him, looking at him intently.
“I wanted you to see the tree,” Yoongi said abruptly, not taking his eyes away from Jimin’s. “Figured as an earth witch you’d want to see the oldest thing in the forest.”
Breathless, Jimin nodded his head. “Why did you think of me, though? You don’t even know me.”
Yoongi’s eyes lingered on his face, and Jimin couldn’t breathe.
“Maybe I want to,” Yoongi murmured, turning his face away.
Jimin swallowed. His entire face felt warm, flushed, his heartbeat pattering away in his chest. It was difficult to breathe, but he studied the side of Yoongi’s face, the slight hint of colour he could see high on his cheeks, his prominent cheekbone, the curve of his jawline.
Jimin wanted to touch.
He held his itching fingers back and pushed his toes together, not holding back his growing smile. “See. I knew you were following me because I’m cute.”
Yoongi huffed, rounding his shoulders, black cloak flowing behind him. “And I was right about you being a brat.”
“It’s good you know that from the outset,” Jimin told him with a cheeky smile, then turned back to the collection of potions in front of him, feeling warm. He reached for the jar he’d put there this morning after staying up late to finish it – their usual draught for sleeping, but with some added extras that he thought would complement a night witch. He’d done his research, dug out one of the old books and read up as much as he could.
Night witches took a long time for their magic to settle. It could continue well into adulthood if the witch was a particularly powerful one, and Jimin had a hunch that Yoongi was pretty powerful.
Jimin picked up the jar carefully, the liquid inside black as night, although it glittered under the light. He held it out to Yoongi with a smile. “Here. It should help to regulate sleep patterns if you take it every night an hour before you plan to sleep.”
“Not sure I can be that regular,” Yoongi muttered, but he took the jar anyway, careful not to brush Jimin’s fingers.
Jimin wanted to ask more, but held himself back. Instead, he said, “Well, you should try. One teaspoon a night will do.”
Yoongi nodded, sliding the jar into his cloak where it disappeared, presumably into some sort of pocket.
Jimin pressed his lips together, looking at Yoongi, desperate to ask more, to find out more about his life.
“I’m going back to the forest,” Yoongi murmured. “You want to come?”
Jimin lit up. His mouth dropped open. “Uh – I’d, I’d love to, but I’m working—”
“I can cover!” Taehyung yelled from the door.
Jimin’s eyes widened, staring over Yoongi’s shoulder to see Taehyung leaning in the doorway, peering back at them both with a sneaky expression on his face.
Jimin felt heat creep even further up the back of his neck, turning even the tips of his ears dark. He glanced at Yoongi, and saw him turning towards the door with one brow arched.
“You surround yourself with brats, Jimin-ah?” Yoongi asked.
Jimin bunched his fist up, wishing to whack Yoongi’s back for that, except he was his hyung, and also Jimin would go blind again if he touched him. Plus, he was kind of melting from the familiar honorific from his elder.
Taehyung just laughed. “You have no idea. Maybe you should run now while you still have the chance.”
“Shut it, Tae,” Jimin hissed, stepping around Yoongi to send Taehyung a warning glance.
Taehyung just stuck his tongue out at him.
“Are you sure you’re old enough to be minding a shop?” Yoongi asked, smirking at Taehyung’s offended expression.
“See if I do anything for you again,” Taehyung huffed. “Here I was, just trying to provide you with an opportunity to take our Chim here out on a romantic date—”
“Tae,” Jimin seethed, at the same time Yoongi choked.
Jimin daren’t even turn to look at him. Something in the air between them felt charged, electric, expectant, and Jimin was afraid to touch it too early for fear it would crumble at his touch.
Then, Yoongi took him totally by surprise by saying to Taehyung, “So you can cover, yeah? Jimin-ah is coming with me.”
Jimin felt a thrill run through him.
Taehyung’s eyes studied Yoongi for a moment before shifting to Jimin, and he dropped his expression to a serious one for a moment. “You sure?”
Jimin nodded without even a moment’s hesitation.
Taehyung gave him a long, serious look, but eventually nodded, shifting to stand aside to let them out of the back room. He pointed at Yoongi as Yoongi walked passed, careful not to touch him. “If you hurt Jiminie in any way—”
“I wouldn’t,” Yoongi murmured, and another warm thrill ran through Jimin.
He swallowed as he stepped back into the shop, free of customers still – Wednesdays were usually a quiet day – and turned to face Taehyung. “You sure you’ll be alright?”
“Hobi-hyung will be back soon,” Taehyung answered. “Just come back safe.”
“He will,” Yoongi murmured.
Jimin pressed both of his lips together and rocked back onto his heels. Happiness and eagerness ran through him, along with the steady electricity he felt at being so close to Yoongi again. It was nothing compared to actually being in his arms, but this time Jimin felt different – he’d always known Yoongi must like something about his company, but now, after Yoongi had come into the village specifically to see Jimin, and was asking him back out again…
Jimin was allowed to feel a little excited, he thought.
He turned and followed Yoongi back to the door of the shop, where Yoongi opened the door and then stood aside to let Jimin through first, and Jimin could practically feel Taehyung’s approving gaze on his back.
Walking through the forest with Yoongi again was a wonderful experience.
Out of the village, Yoongi must feel more able to be himself, as the shadows flowed around them much more obviously. Rather than just a shadow of darkness clinging to his shoulders, the darkness flowed around them in obvious, inky circles, with Yoongi and Jimin always in the centre of them, bathed in the afternoon sunlight.
Jimin was itching to reach out and take Yoongi’s hand, but he knew he couldn’t. Instead he pressed his fingers into the sides of his light tunic – he’d spent time picking out his clothes that morning, secretly hoping Yoongi would show up – and did his best not to overly read into the situation.
It was difficult, though.
They talked as they travelled – Jimin asking questions about Yoongi’s life, Yoongi answering them quietly. Jimin learned that he had an older brother, but that he hadn’t seen his family in several years – it was safest while he was still waiting for his magic to settle.
In return, Yoongi asked about Jimin, and Jimin told him all about his family – they were all earth witches, but Jimin had been the only one to really pursue his magic – and how he and Tae had decided to travel and see the world before settling in the village.
As they walked, the trees reached out to Jimin, and he closed his eyes, listening as the they complained about the happenings of their day. The flowers gossiped at him, Jiminie is with another witch, they were watching everything happen and Jimin just laughed in response to them, telling them to shush, everything is perfectly ok.
Yoongi watched him, eyes intense. “You’re talking to them.”
“Oh.” Jimin flushed a little, glancing down to the ground. “Yeah. They like to talk.”
Yoongi’s lips twitched. “No wonder I always feel like I’m being watched.”
“Oh, yes, they know everything,” Jimin answered with a small laugh.
“I’m not surprised.” Yoongi looked at him with interest, and Jimin felt everything stop when their eyes met. “What are they saying to you now?”
“Um.” Jimin swallowed, tried not to look down at Yoongi’s lips, even though Yoongi was close to him from where they were walking and Jimin’s fingers were itching to touch. “Not much. Just – just they’re surprised that I’m with someone else.”
Yoongi lifted one brow. “They’re surprised? You don’t seem like a particularly solitary person.”
“I’m not, I just.” Jimin did his best to keep his tone neutral. “I don’t usually, um, go on walks like this with just one person. It’s… it’s different.”
Yoongi paused in walking for a moment, digesting this. Jimin stopped too, fiddling with the edges of his tunic, glancing down towards the ground.
“And the plants can tell that?” Yoongi asked quietly after a moment.
Jimin swallowed. He nodded. “Yeah. They can, like – they pick up on my mood, too.”
A bluebell by his feet started chattering very loudly. Jiminie is nervous! He’s with another witch and he’s nervous!
Great, now the gossip would spread through the whole wood. Jimin was thankful he was the only earth witch in the village, so no one else could pick up on what the plants were saying.
Yoongi cocked his head at Jimin, and then glanced down at the ground, where he was digging the toe of his boot into the soil. “I’m glad. That, uh, that it’s different for you too.”
Jimin perked up. “You mean you don’t do this often either?”
“I don’t do this ever,” Yoongi corrected, and started moving forward again. “Come on. There’s somewhere else I wanted to show you.”
Jimin followed him eagerly, trotting across the mossy floor and trying to ignore the constant clamouring of the flowers by his feet. He’d slipped his shoes off when they entered the forest again, despite Yoongi’s eye roll, so he was pleased when he dug his bare feet into soil and moss as they climbed over tree roots.
Eventually, they crested a small hill, and Jimin paused. “Are we headed to another ravine? Just so I don’t fall off the edge again.”
“You’d better fucking not do that ever again,” Yoongi huffed.
Jimin had to bite back a smile at the concern he could hear hidden away in Yoongi’s tone.
“Besides,” Yoongi murmured, “Not a ravine this time.”
Jimin glanced at him sidelong. He was about to ask what it was, but then they rounded a corner and the tree line faded away, instead opening up to a natural clearing that was wide and bright and filled with sunlight. The grass was carpeted with thick bluebells, sprouting up everywhere there was any space. In the centre of the clearing was a loan weeping willow tree, its branches hanging down and skimming the grass, its trunk tall and beautiful.
Jimin’s breath was swept away.
Instantly, he could feel the energy coming from the willow tree, slow and cumbersome, and the high-pitched chattering of the bluebells as they greeted him. The air was fresh and clear, a cool breeze gently rustling the branches, and the sky above was blue and cloudless.
It was beautiful.
Jimin turned to Yoongi, watched as his shadows roamed around them eagerly, pulsing in the corners of Jimin’s eyes, spilling into the sunlit meadow. The darkness wasn’t scary, or a blemish – rather, it mixed in well with the sunlight, flowing over the grass and forming a pathway over to the willow tree.
Jimin grinned and started down the path immediately, pausing when he realised Yoongi wasn’t with him. He looked back, frowning, to find Yoongi studying him quietly.
“You really aren’t afraid of me, are you?” Yoongi asked, his tone low and even.
Confused, Jimin shook his head.
Yoongi’s lips twitched upwards.
Jimin answered with a wide smile of his own, feeling his eyes curving upwards. He held his hand out for Yoongi. “Come on.”
Yoongi looked at his hand for a moment before starting forward. “Can’t touch you, remember.”
Was Jimin imagining things, or was there a note of regret to Yoongi’s tone?
Jimin retracted his hand and walked alongside Yoongi, ducking under the branches of the willow and settling down on the grass, side-by-side, their backs to the wide trunk. Yoongi was so close that Jimin could feel the warmth radiating from him, smell his clean, fresh scent, and it was driving him mad. He wanted to lean in, to rest his head on Yoongi’s shoulder, to take his hand and cup the side of his face and have Yoongi lean in and kiss him—
Jimin shook the thoughts away, leaning his head back against the willow tree. He drank in the warmth from the sun and watched idly as Yoongi’s shadows danced around them, slinking along the grass, turning into wisps in the air.
“Why did you follow me?” Jimin asked suddenly, feeling Yoongi turn to face him. He didn’t look at him. “When I first came into the forest. You were following me.”
Yoongi’s jaw clicked. “Not sure I want to tell you that.”
Jimin did turn to look at him then, watching the way Yoongi’s catlike eyes were trained on his face, how close they were, how much he ached to lean in.
“Please, hyung,” Jimin tried, widening his eyes.
Yoongi scoffed, glancing away. “Think you’re cute.”
“I am cute,” Jimin said with confidence, then bit back a smile. “Or so I’m told.”
“Cheeky, too,” Yoongi added, the corners of his lips pulling up. “And a brat.”
“And yet you still followed me,” Jimin said sweetly.
Yoongi shook his head. He ducked his head down, watching his hands twist together in his lap, his dark cloak wrapped around him. “…I heard you before I saw you, when I started following you.”
Jimin bit his lip and made himself listen quietly.
“At first I wondered who was making all the racket,” Yoongi said with a low laugh. “I was curious. I went looking, and then, when I saw you…”
Jimin held his breath.
“No humans had ventured into the forest for a while,” Yoongi murmured, “Let alone witches. I knew that’s what you were, I could feel your magic. I was curious. And with you looking like that, I couldn’t…”
Yoongi trailed off, and Jimin’s heart was singing.
“So you were following me because I’m cute,” Jimin said, beaming.
Yoongi huffed. He let his hands fall still in his lap and looked directly forward, purposely avoiding Jimin’s gaze. “Essentially, yes.”
Jimin bit his lip to hold back a bright grin. Warmth rocketed through him, warmth and closeness, and happiness – happiness in what he hoped was brewing between the two of them, in what he felt when he looked at Yoongi, at what he thought he saw in Yoongi’s dark gaze when he looked at him—
It made Jimin hope for something in a way he never had before.
Carefully, without thinking, Jimin reached out and took Yoongi’s hand in his.
He had all of a second to catch Yoongi’s startled gasp before everything went black.
Jimin blinked, eyes widening in shock at the sudden darkness surrounding him, before he remembered – of course, he’d touched Yoongi, what a damn idiot he was—
“Jimin-ah, are you ok?” Yoongi’s grip on his hand remained, tight and strong, their fingers slotting together in just the way Jimin had planned. But Yoongi’s confused voice, the touch Jimin could feel on his shoulder – that was not what he’d planned.
“Fuck,” Jimin said, blinking against the blackness. “I was trying to be all smooth.”
Despite everything, Yoongi gave a low chuckle. “Did you just conveniently forget that I’m a night witch?”
Miserably, Jimin nodded, and squeezed his fingers around Yoongi’s. “I was just – ah, I just wanted to hold your hand, hyung, it was gonna be all sweet and thoughtful—”
“I appreciate the intention,” Yoongi said with a low laugh, leaning closer if his voice was any indication. Jimin could feel the warmth of him, tantalisingly close, and he went still when Yoongi added lowly, “Not like I didn’t want you to do it.”
Jimin had never wanted to see Yoongi’s face more.
“You did?” Jimin asked breathlessly, feeling Yoongi give his hand a squeeze.
Yoongi gave another low chuckle, and then something warm was wrapping around Jimin’s back and over his shoulders – Yoongi’s arm, Yoongi was holding him.
“I did,” Yoongi confirmed. “Would have done it myself if I didn’t know it would blind you.”
“Worth it,” Jimin said quickly. “Totally worth it.”
“No, Jimin-ah,” Yoongi told him off, but there was a smile in his voice. “Your sight is more important than us holding hands.”
“Why,” Jimin said petulantly, grinning when he wrung another laugh out of Yoongi. Now that he was already blind, Jimin decided to push his luck even further – he had nothing to lose now, so he went ahead and leaned in, following the curve of Yoongi’s arm to where he felt the hollow between his shoulder and his neck, and Jimin firmly rested his head there.
Yoongi made a startled noise. “Come on. We’ve got to get you to Namjoon.”
“In a minute,” Jimin mumbled, closing his eyes – not that it made any difference – and resting more heavily against Yoongi.
Much to Jimin’s delight, he felt a hand start to card through his hair. Jimin closed his eyes in near-bliss and leaned into the touch, breathing in Yoongi’s clean, fresh scent, feeling the sturdiness of his chest where Jimin was half-curled in his lap.
He could feel breath wash over his cheek.
He must be so close to Yoongi’s face right now.
“Hyung,” Jimin murmured, turning his face into Yoongi, “Hyung, please—”
“What is it, Jimin-ah?” Yoongi murmured, his fingers still gently stroking through Jimin’s hair.
Jimin sucked in a breath and gathered all his courage. “Kiss me. Please.”
The hand in his hair stopped.
“I would be kissing you right now if I could see,” Jimin added, “But I can’t, and—”
“Jimin-ah,” Yoongi interrupted, warning in his tone.
“I really wanna.” Jimin licked his lips. “Hyung, I really wanna.”
A pause, and then Yoongi let out a low breath. “You are going to be the death of me.”
Jimin’s breath hitched when the hand that had been in his hair slid down, curving across his jaw, gently angling Jimin’s face.
And then they were kissing.
Jimin’s eyes fell closed, even though he couldn’t see anyway, and all he could focus on was the feeling of Yoongi’s mouth against his – the gentle touch to his jaw, the surprising softness of Yoongi’s lips, the clean, fresh scent that surrounded him.
Yoongi’s tongue gently teased his lips apart, and it was magical.
Slowly, after a long moment, they drew apart, and Jimin’s chest felt warm and full. He could feel Yoongi close to him, feel his breath against his cheek, their hands still tangled together in their laps, Yoongi’s other hand soft against his jaw. Yoongi’s thumb was absentmindedly stroking Jimin’s face, and Jimin leaned into the touch, sighing in utter bliss.
Yoongi let out a low, breathy chuckle. “Fuck knows how I’m going to explain this one to Namjoon.”
“We can worry about that later,” Jimin hummed. “Kiss me again.”
Yoongi did, just once – a light peck that was definitely not enough. Then he was moving. “Come on. Got to get your sight back.”
Jimin pouted and resisted Yoongi’s touches.
Yoongi sighed. “Jimin-ah, I want to kiss you again, believe me, but I want to do it when you can see me too.”
A warm thrill ran through Jimin at those words. He smiled, relaxing, letting Yoongi sling one arm around his shoulders and slide the other under his knees, lifting him up again. He snuggled into Yoongi’s chest once he was picked up, and felt utterly safe as Yoongi began carrying him through the forest towards Namjoon’s cabin.
“You’d better kiss me lots when I can see you again.”
“I will, Jimin-ah. I will.”