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Euphoric Endeavours

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Namjoon POV

Pushing his phone back into his jacket pocket, Namjoon feels his brow furrow without his consent, Yoongi’s text whirring in his head. All of the potential scenarios, each more worrying than the last, flashing in my mind’s eye, twisting my stomach in tight knots. He knew Hoseok had been struggling, and he wasn’t lying when he had told you that they trusted each other, implicitly, but still, he worried - a lot. Yoongi being with Hoseok meant he wasn’t alone and, truthfully, he was with the person that best understood him and the person who could best help him.

“Is something wrong?” You ask, mirroring his own expression. You stop, and that forces him to stop as his hands are knitted with your smaller, prettier fingers. You cup his cheek and tilt your head slightly, indicating concern. “Is everything okay? You look a little nervous. Did someone get hurt?”

He hates how perceptive you can be, sometimes.

Namjoon finds himself shaking his head, not really having a reason to explain away his sudden change in demeanor. He stammers, eyes dropping to your swinging hands, “My manager just text me. Some of the fish in my sector died. Some kind of infectious gill rot. She wanted to know if where I had left some equipment, so… yeah. That’s all, baby.”

You grab his hand a little tighter, the space between your eyebrows pinching a bit in upset. “I’m sorry, honey. I know you care a lot for those fish.”

Guilt licks at his gut at the idea of lying to you, but Yoongi had asked, specifically, for you to not know, and despite the fact that they all had agreed not to lie to you, about anything, this felt personal. Yoongi rarely asks for anything, so something in Namjoon concedes to the wishes of one of his oldest friends.

“It’s okay,” he replies, tugging you a bit closer to his side and leading you ahead. “Come. I told you I wanted to show you the lake, right? It’s still a bit far from here.”

“There’s so much land,” YN marvels, a child-like glimmer in her beautiful eyes as she scans the area around her. Her curls had gotten too much to manage in the wind so she had let Jin pin them back in two braids for her quickly. She was more than capable of doing it herself, but something about the physical intimacy of touching her hair, and knowing how much she trusts him not to fuck it up, fills the eldest with glee.

While Jin had braided her hair, both Jungkook and Jimin were off chasing butterflies while the leader and eldest had sat with YN, one braiding her hair and the other sitting on a damp rock by her side, toes splashing in the lake. Namjoon had reached into the lake to pluck out two river flora - a pretty blush-pink and yellow flower that he hands over to Jin, who weaves one into the ends of each braid.

Jungkook had been unable to help himself when he snapped a photo of YN embracing a shy and flushing Jin when she saw how good of a job he did.

Jimin, slightly jealous, had tattled on the eldest. “He only knows how to do that because he watched Youtube videos.”

Jin glared in his direction, annoyed, but he grumbles, “I had to figure out how to do it properly. YN’s hair is precious, you know.”

“I like it,” YN tells him, pressing a kiss to his cheek and knitting her fingers with his own. “It’s really pretty and you did a good job, honey.”

He presses a kiss to the back of her palm, to hide his blushing cheeks and his endeared grin.

Jungkook scrambles forward, childish envy clear in his expression. “I-I can learn too, Noona.”

YN beams, cutely, at the maknae’s eagerness. “I’ll let you do it next time.”

Namjoon chokes over the unconscious double entendre, pretending to cough into his fist when YN’s eyes make their way over to him, suspiciously.

“What are you laughing at, sneaky?” You ask the leader, who shakes his head, refusing to answer.

He skips on ahead as if to avoid your piercing gaze, and he leads the group on.

“This is where we had our first mud fight when we were kids,” Jungkook informs you, pointing to a wide, grassy expanse. “I couldn’t have been three years old, right, hyung?”

Jin nods, pointing to a corner, a handmade bench made of a thick tree trunk, hacked to its core to allow space for seating, hidden under overarching branches with thick leaves. “The first Equinox we all spent together as a whole coven. Jungkook was too little to play with us, so he had a crying fit as his Mom held him under there. But we included him as much as we could.”

Jimin snorts. “Yeah, I dunked my hands in the mud and rubbed it all over his little pudgy face.”

Joon ducks his head, to hide his chuckles. “Jimin had to kneel in the kitchen corner with his hands raised for like an hour because of that.”

“He’s a vampire, it’s not like he can actually get sick,” Jimin grumbles, crossing his arms over his chest as if still miffed at his punishment.

“Why mud?”

Jungkook takes a moment to think over his answer before he replies, “We aren’t like werewolves, who follow the moon and tides. We aren’t bound by nightfall, like pixies, or by sunlight, like the fae. We just… roam.”

Jin continues, “The Equinox is more a symbolic shift in time for us than a physical one. Covens sometimes go for walks together, some burn sage and dance, some have parties, some take inhibitors and go on trips together. Our parents wanted us to do something meaningful, so every year at the first Equinox, we plant something and over the year, we are able to watch it grow. From one half of the year to the next, we are able to watch it grow and change, and we’re supposed to come and visit it to see its development.”

“That year, it rained,” Jimin recalls, happily. “It rained like crazy, and we were sure our parents wouldn’t let us out of the house to find our patch of land to plant our seeds.”

“We all picked something different,” Jungkook says. “I chose beetroots. That’s what Kyunnie’s Mom gave my Dad the first time they met. Taehyung planted French beans because Jimin hated to eat them and he thought that if he planted them, maybe Jimin would love them because he loved him.”

Jimin’s cheeks burn in embarrassment. “Joon and Jin both planted blueberries and raspberries respectively because the other really liked the taste and they wanted to feed each other, as the leader and the eldest of the group.”

“Hobi wasn’t with us at that point, so he never got to experience our first Equinox,” Jin explains. “But Yoongi planted strawberries, even though he didn’t especially like the sweet taste of them. It turns out that they’re Hoseok’s favorite fruits. We always thought that was funny.”

Jimin finishes, “And I planted these creamy white hydrangeas because they’re my Mom’s favorite flowers. I took her the first bloomed flower and she pressed it in her little pocketbook. I think she still has it now.”

“But, around midnight, they woke us up,” Joon murmurs, expression strangely nostalgic. He swoops down to pick up a small flower in between dexterous fingers, careful of its already limp and drying petals. “And we went and planted our things. Not just us, but all the kids who were around at that point, and our parents watched us, thinking of the time when they had their first Equinox experience. It was almost biblical for us.”

“Of course, that’s when Tae got bored and shoved Joon into the mud,” Jin remarks, lip quirking up in amusement when the leader grimaces. “He went face-first into the dirt, smack. And, even back then, Joon liked bugs and creepy crawlies, so the dirt didn’t bother him. His sister, though, went ballistic.”

“She’s only a few years older than us, so when she saw Joon’s glasses break in the mud, she pounced on Tae like an alley cat,” Jimin explains. “Then, of course, that meant I had to attack her.”

“Before long, all the kids were covered, head-to-toe, with wet, sloppy mud, and we spent the next hour cycling in-and-out of the various showers around the house,” Jungkook reminisces, a happy little smile on his adorable face. “I wasn’t big enough, and my Mom was worried I’d get crushed somehow. But, as Jimin said, he came over and included me, in some weird Jimin-way, by rubbing mud across my face.”

“I got in trouble, of course,” Jimin continues, unapologetically. “But, it settled something deep inside of me. Seeing our Jungkook, who was crying so intensely in his mother’s lap, calm down almost instantly after he was included in our stupid game. I took that punishment like a champ.”

“Hell yeah, you did,” Jungkook choruses, and the two high-five over your head. “I don’t think many of our plants lasted very long, though. We didn’t live here, so we couldn’t tend the land and after a while.”

Joon shakes his head. “My Dad and I came here, sometimes, together. We’d mess with the plants, make sure that they were getting enough sunlight, trimmed the ends of the ones that were dying, and broken by the wind and other animals. We even secured a fence around the area, to ward off little pests, but… I got mad one day and broke them all down.”

He stares at the ground, seemingly ashamed of himself. Jin claps him on the shoulder in a gesture of solidarity and you brush your thumb along his jaw, a gentle touch that barely did anything to protect him from the waves of guilt and trepidation that must be washing over him.

Jin and Jungkook lead you all further into the woods, and the deeper you go into the brush, the darker your surroundings seem to get. The trees overhead almost curl over, as if protecting you and your boys from the sky above.

Jungkook catches you staring up above and he tosses a muscular and heavy arm over your shoulders. “The forest is filled with magic. Every plant, every leaf, every droplet of morning dew - it’s all fizzing with some kind of magic. There are parts of this forest that even I haven’t been to, but I trust this place with all of me. It protects us… most of the time.”

You reach for his hand, draped over your shoulder, and use both of yours to encompass his. “If you trust this forest, I trust it too.”

He grins down at you, bunny teeth peeking from between pinkish lips, and he presses his forehead against your own.

You all walk for a little while more until you breach the forest line to see a smooth and calm lake. The lake is wide, larger than any football field you could imagine, and the other side seems to be a perfect reflection of the side you are standing on. As beautiful as the lake appears to the human eye, there is just a sense of strangeness about it that nudges your perception from appreciation to macabre. 

You reach for Namjoon's sleeve, subconsciously needing the protection that you feel when any of the boys are by your side, and you ask, quietly, too afraid of shattering the ambiance, “Is this the lake you mentioned earlier, honey?”

Joon nods, his expression somber in a way that turns your stomach. “This is it.”

“It’s beautiful,” you remark. “And huge.”

“It oughta be,” Jungkook murmurs, approaching the water-bed slowly. He picks up a perfectly smooth and turquoise rock from the floor, and you note how out of place it seems amongst the thick and lively green brush you have just trekked through and winds his arm back.

“Jungkook,” Jimin mutters, in warning, if the quirk in his brow says anything.

Jin scoffs with a roll of his eyes. “He never learns.”

Jungkook snorts as if amused and purposefully launches the rock across the surface of the water. The force behind his toss should have skirted the rock at least thirty feet away, easily, if the angle was right, but, to your amazement, before it even kisses the surface of the eerily calm lake, it freezes, as if paused in time.

The rock judders a little, then soars into the air, tossed up by an invisible being, suspending itself in the air some fifty feet above you, before descending back down to Earth with a speed you couldn’t track with your human orbs.

Jungkook skids out of the way at the final moment, disappearing then reappearing behind your body, as the rock collides with the floor, creating a crater of sorts.

“Fuck, Jungkook!”

You didn’t realize he could ever move so fast.

Jungkook’s ears redden as he comes to the same conclusion. “I forgot we hadn’t really shown you any of that before. Sorry, Noona, but Kai can be awful precise when he wants to be.”

Your brow furrows at the unfamiliar name. “Kai?”

“Me,” a sultry voice responds in his place. You swirl back around to see a head poked out, just above the now-rippling water’s surface. “You always push my buttons, Jungkook. You know, Father doesn’t like Otherkind messing with my lake. He makes it almost impossible for any Normie to find for that very reason.”

Namjoon’s face crumples. “Quit using slang. It sounds weird coming from someone older than my mother.”

He eyes you curiously then as if contemplating your existence. His hair is jet black and trails down his back, disappearing under the water, but the left has been razored to his scalp, exposing four long scars that also disappear as he shifts his gaze from you to the other boys. His head floats along in the water, towards the deck leading to the pier and the four boys shuffle along with him, before he disappears under it, only to pop out again, barely a second later, at the apex of the pier.

Jimin gestures for you to sit down at the edge of the pier, and you would be lying if you said you weren’t afraid of falling in.

“If you did slip, they would catch you before any meaningful damage would be done,” Kai informs you, in a condescendingly amused tone. “Plus, I’ve been told that I’m an exceptional swimmer.”

He shuffles back a little, laying back and the half of his body hidden underwater shifts just barely under the surface, showing you his long and very visible tail.

“Holy fuck,” you curse in English.

Kai’s amusement is obvious on his face as he rights himself and hides his tail from sight. “I’ve also heard that. Quite often.”

“YN, this is Kai, the second eldest son of the reigning Sea King,” Jimin tells you, dropping down and throwing his legs over the edge. He pulls off his shoes and lets his toes dunk under the water, to show you that it is safe. He glances up at you, eyes crinkling as the sun gets in his eyes. You didn’t realize how late it had gotten, nor how warm it suddenly felt under your collar, but you join him. You don’t kick your legs out, but you do give the apparent merman a polite smile.

Jin continues, sitting beside Jimin, “His Father’s name isn’t speakable in any human language, but he doesn’t ever really leave the Crest so we’re never needed to use it.”

“That doesn’t mean he doesn’t see what goes on,” Kai reminds the eldest, brow quirking. “Any body of water that exists on land, my father has the ability to see through. Any animal that lives and thrives in the sea is under my father’s command. Any and all Mer-Folk or Sea-Beings that wish to reside in the Aqua must also answer to his Royal Law.”

Kai barely hides his eye roll and mimics falling asleep, and then drowning, the light frothing of bubbles dribbling from his mouth and foaming at the surface finishing the whole gesture.

“Kai isn’t a fan of his Father’s politics,” Jungkook whispers in your ear from behind you. He has you seated in between the ‘V’ of his legs, his hands resting comfortably on the swell of your hips, and he nuzzles behind your ear, charmingly. You have to swat at him to get him to stop because you weren’t sure what the rules were about showing affection around Mer-folk and you didn’t want to get him in trouble because he wanted to get raunchy in public. “He thinks many of the rules to be too banal for his liking.”

“I didn’t realize you had such a fetish, Little One,” Kai remarks, sounding closer. He is staring directly at you, his eyes reminding you of a pair of precious and hauntingly beautiful opal stones. “She’s pretty.”

“T-Thank you?”

“I don’t believe I framed it as a compliment,” he declares, blinking softly, like a curious child. “Maybe I need to work on my delivery.”

Heat engulfs your face as you feel embarrassment wash over you.

“Pretty things in my home get destroyed,” he continues, voice light despite the topic being immovably dark and painful. “If you were a mermaid, you would have already been disfigured by now.”

He turns his head to the side, gesturing to the scars on his head, and up-close, you can see more of the scared tissue along his shoulder. Bite marks. Your stomach drops to your toes. “A wedding gift.”

Jungkook’s grip on your hips tightens.

“Don’t look so sad,” Kai states, lips twisting up in a self-satisfied smirk. “He died quite painfully for his sins against me. Then, I married his brother. A win for all, if I do say so myself.”

He floats away on his back, tail flicking quickly out of the water to shower himself with a light mist of seawater, and he smiles, relaxedly. His tail is long and thick, strong, and powerful. The scales are mostly dark violet, with shimmering green and a splattering of deep copper tones that catch the light. It reminds you distantly of the armor of a beetle - iridescent.

“Come,” Kai jeers the boys on. “Jump in. It’s really warm, I promise!”

He dunks himself under the water, disappearing from sight, tunneling under the water, before careening upwards and out of the water, throwing himself in a majestic backbend, water sprinkling off his tan and smooth skin.

Jungkook covers your eyes, much to your amusement. “Don’t look! He’s naked!”

“I can’t see anything, Kookie!” You try to bat his hands away, giggling at his silliness. “Go have some fun!”

Jungkook drops his hands from your face and scrambles to his feet, kicking off his shoes and undressing in seconds, leaving himself only in his tight black boxer shorts. His broad back is completely visible and, not for the first time, you wished you could drag your tongue along all of him.

Jimin senses your wandering thoughts and tuts his teeth, frowning. He pulls off his own shirt, staring you down and flexing his biceps, purposefully, in your direction. He flicks some lake water at you with his foot, before laughing t himself. “You got her, Joonie?”

Namjoon shuffles a little closer to you and nods over your head. Jimin then asks, “Jin, you coming in?”

“I guess I could take a dive,” the eldest reasons, getting up and pushing your hair out of your face to press a kiss to your forehead. “Be safe, okay?”

You nod, grinning up at the two of them and watching them rush off in the same direction as Jungkook, cannonballing into the water with whoops and shouts of fun and joy.

“Amazing, right?”

Joon murmurs under his breath a few moments later. You glance over at him, noticing that the two of you are bumping shoulders as he slows his breathing.

“Look,” he whispers and gestures to the lake below your bare swinging feet. “They like you.”

A school of tiny orange koi fish flutter prettily under the water, so close to the surface that you can make out the intricacies of their scales.

“Kai has been kin with the koi for as long as he’s been living as Prince of the Sea,” Joon informs you. “For as cheeky as he comes across, he’s very serious about his job as next in line for the throne.”

“I thought he was the second eldest.”

“He is,” he replies. “His sister is eldest. She was outcast from the kingdom for falling for a human.”

“Seriously?”

“So the legend says,” he replies. “That’s why the Sea King forbids most Sea-Beings from interacting with humans. The only ones who do are Sirens, but they exist outside of the Sea Kings’ control.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re dead,” Kai interrupts from below you once more, making you jump out of your skin. “Sirens are the reanimated corpses of the long-dead Mer-folk, hunted and killed by humans. They spend eternity trying to lure stupid human men to their deaths, as their ancestors did untoward them centuries ago.”

He pushes his hair from his face, exposing his shapely forehead and the charming slope of his nose. He truly was handsome beyond words. “I see you’re falling for me already,” he remarks, cheekily.

Joon growls in his direction. “Go back to playing, Kai.”

“You’ve always been no fun, Namjoon,” the merman teases, flicking his tail in indignation as he disappears underwater.

“You seem close.”

Namjoon snorts, shyly. “I guess you could say that. He was close with my father. He knew my Dad from when he was a kid.”

At your confused expression, he continues, “They used to meet up at a lake near my father’s childhood home just outside of Ulsan, in a rural village. I never got the full story, but from what I guessed, Kai was injured in a trap laid by Hunters and my father showed him a kindness he hadn’t been raised to expect from Otherkind.”

“You know how they say all bodies of water are connected, somehow, right? That there’s a spot way deep under the Earth that connects them, and if we dig deep enough, we’ll find it, and somehow humans will take advantage and ruin it for us all?” He chuckles to himself, a touch on the disparaging side. “Well, that is partially true. But, there’s no way any human would be able to do that, not even if they were given a thousand years to figure it out because the Sea King’s will is like iron. Sea-Beings of a certain caliber have access to underwater portals, created eons ago, meaning they can travel between two bodies of water, as long as it connects to a natural source in the Earth.”

Your mind is blown by this information, and it is obviously showing on your face if Joon’s adoring little giggle means anything.

“It was pretty hard for me to understand when my Dad explained it to me the first time, too,” he says, chuckling to himself, eyes crinkling as he reminisces over his father’s words. You reach for his hand, bringing it up to your lips to press a kiss on his middle knuckle, and bringing his palm into your lap. You play with his much longer fingers, attentive to every crease and wrinkle, the pads of his fingers, and the light scarring of his callouses.

“Take all the time you need, honey,” you tell him, moving to press a loving kiss to his cheek.

“It’s fine, honest. I just don’t usually think about him,” he admits, a touch shamefacedly. “He and Kai were very close friends, despite the fact that my Dad was still an eight-year-old kid at the time.  Still, Kai would visit infrequently at first, then every other day. It was like he couldn’t get enough of my father’s quirky idiosyncrasies. It was Kai’s first time being able to interact properly with another being, and one that was so innocent at that, so he was beyond fascinated. They played in the water together for hours at a time and Kai would tell my Dad the most fanciful stories about his life in the Crest.”

“Their friendship transcended speciation, and they grew together. Kai grew emotionally and my Dad, physically.” He explains. “Before long, my Dad was leaving home, to move to inner-Ulsan and closer to his university, where he met my Mom, and then they ended up settling down together in this area. My Dad would make visits to his childhood home to see Kai, but the interactions slowly became few and far between.”

“Apparently, he brought me to meet Kai when I was still a newborn,” he remarks, a smile worming its way onto his charming face. “My Dad said he almost dropped me when he tried to hold me for the first time. Merfolk don’t swaddle their young, they lay eggs and leave them in safe spaces near their Crest and when they hatch, they instinctively know to swim home. Kai couldn’t figure out why my head was so soft.” He chuckles, and the sound is wet. He seems to be weighed down by his grief, his shoulders hunched, and his breathing heavy, like it is taking too much energy to even keep himself upright, let alone alive. You reach over to wipe away a stray tear that trickled down the side of his cheek, and he clasps the hand in his own, to hold your palm against his face in a gentle moment of vulnerability. “Thank you, baby.”

“Keep going,” you tell him, rubbing his tummy in soothing circles. You are reminded of your mother, at that moment, and you pray the same comfort you feel whenever she caresses your belly to ease your tension can be felt by your despondent lover.

He lets out a juddering breath before he can continue. “My Dad is the real reason I’m so fascinated by nature. He taught me from a really young age to respect the cyclical nature of life - things are born, they live, and eventually, they… pass on. He liked to plant his own vegetables in his private garden in the greenhouse. When he was alive, it practically glowed with life. I loved that space, it was like our own little universe. I was the only one allowed in there. Not even Mom went in there.”

He shakes his head. “I hadn’t even looked at it for years after he died. And then Mom let him take it over, for him to fix up his bikes. And I knew I shouldn’t be mad, because it’s her house and nobody was using it, but it was his space and it was the only thing I had left of him that hadn’t been soiled by this nasty, cloying, cold thing that seemed to coat everything I looked at since he passed on. Well, I did have this place, so I suppose that isn’t all the way true.”

He wipes his nose with his sleeve, pulling the excess materials to cover his hands, retracting them from my grasp, to wrap around himself - protective, not rejection, you remind yourself, quickly.

“Kai made a portal under this lake when I was only a few years old, and my father would bring me here, and use this little boat to take me to the center of the lake, where Kai would pop his head out and marvel at how slowly I was growing. A few times every year, we would come here together, and every single time, Kai just knew to appear. I guess I relied on his a lot after he passed away, and we got really close.”

“So close that a lot of us got jealous,” Jimin teases, swimming towards the two of you with powerful swipes of his toned arms. He keeps himself afloat with gentle wading motions that draw your attention to the droplets of water cascading from his hair, soaked with water and spiky where he had messed with it. He continues, ignorant to how quickly your gaze had become lustful, wistful eyes fixed on Joonie’s teary face. “The few times a year we were all in the same place at the same time, and Joon would just up and disappear all the way until nightfall with a book and his little reading glasses. And, we couldn’t even follow him. We tried, many times, but eventually we’d get on a trail and get lost, only to appear right back at the breaching line at the Mansion.”

“Kai never explained what he did, but he had some connection to the Fae-folk in the forest, who made sure they all got back safe and made sure I was never followed,” Joon explains. “I guess he thought I needed the time away from everyone.”

“Tsch,” Jimin mocks.

You flick him with water using your toes and fix him with a purposeful glare.

The other man simply exhales heavily through his nose. “I only came over here to ask if you wanted to come and join us any time soon.”

You take a cautious glance over at the boys, a large ball of water, having been conjured into the shape of a beach ball, being tossed between Jungkook and Jin over Kai’s head. The merman would have no problem with catching the ball he created with his own magic, but it seems he’s more than satisfied watching the two well-built men play to their hearts’ content, unwittingly showing off every curve and shift of their muscles under the shining sun.

A sudden and uncontrollable wave of jealousy crashes over you and it renders you speechless with how much you just want to leave this beautiful, tranquil, and clearly emotionally significant place and never come back, just to keep Kai’s eyes off of your boys.

“No, thanks,” you reply, tone clipped, as you glare down at your own hands. “I’m gonna stay here.”

“I’m good, Jimin,” he tells the other boy. “Go ahead and have fun.”

Jimin winks at the two of you before dunking himself underwater and shooting off back towards the other three.

“Are you okay, honey? You feel stiff,” Namjoon, ever the sweetheart, asks, suddenly concerned about your welfare and if you didn’t already feel like the world’s biggest asshole, you definitely did now.

You give him as genuine of a smile as you were capable at the moment and wrap your arms around his neck, tucking yourself into his shoulder, and throwing your legs over his lap, just to be as close to him as you possibly could. And, it didn’t hurt that you could hide your face from his discerning eyes under the guise of seeking more intimacy.

“Tell me more,” you greedily whisper into his ear, inhaling his natural scent and burrowing further into his protective warm embrace. “Tell me something, anything, you think your Dad would want me to know about him? What was his favorite order at the coffee shop? Or, what was his favorite color? Tell me about his favorite childhood movie? I’ll listen to every and any little tidbit about him.”

He shudders in your arms, a deep shudder like he couldn’t help but tremble like he was weak to it, then his grip went awfully, painfully tight for a moment before he relaxes into you.

“He didn’t drink coffee unless my Mom made it,” he divulges, quietly. “She ground the coffee herself in the mornings and woke him up with coffee every day since they moved in together. It was one of their rituals that I never understood… Not until I met you.”

You rear back slightly, to stare at him. He was already looking your way, with earnest and eager eyes. “Why do you say that?”

“Now that I have someone that I cherish as much as I cherish you, I think making you breakfast every morning would be something that I would fall in love with,” he admits, carefully, before pulling back, suddenly embarrassed. “I guess that’s the way I express my love.”

“Young-mi and I took a test, one of those silly online ones. It told me that my love language was physical touch. I thought it was strange, considering I never enjoyed being touched much by past… partners, but I think I understand it now. Whenever I need you to feel me, I struggle to express it in words, but I find with my hands and with my heart, it all comes spilling out… like a geyser.”

“So, every time you reach for my hand,” he says, lifting both of your knitted fingers into your line of sight. “You’re telling me you love me?”

“Eternally,” you promise. “I love you.”

He stares down at you, brow furrowed in emotion and you watch in awe as his eyes spring with fresh tears. “I know. If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that you love us. Finally, I can say that, without even a shadow of a doubt in the deepest parts of myself.”

The moment is broken by the sound of rushing air around you as Namjoon hoists you to your feet and hurries back onto dry land, using speeds that send you nauseous.

“Kai! YN could’ve been hurt!”

Where you had sat moments ago was now destroyed, a large hole created by one of Kai’s mischievous balls of water.

The merman swims by, coquettish and clearly guilty, and he hums, cheekily, “Oh… I am so sorry. I suppose I lost control of the magic and it just… flew away.”

“Kai, you’re over a thousand years old! You’ve been doing magic more complex than this since many of these trees surrounding us had first sprouted. You expect me to believe you made a mistake?”

Kai sighs as if affronted he even had to continue the conversation. “You are correct. To err is human and I… am not.”

“Is that your problem? That she’s human?”

“I would never be irked by something so trivial,” he replies, rolling his lovely opalescent eyes before floating on his back. “I simply felt it would be more fun if you both joined in on the festivities.”

Namjoon sets you on your shaky feet but offers his arm for you to use as purchase, and he berates the merman, “You could have just asked!”

Kai yells back, as if his statement is more than obvious, “That’s boring! Now, hurry up and join us! I don’t have long and the others are starting to get all wrinkly.”

Namjoon growls under his breath while the other supernatural disappears back towards the group, who seem, at a distance, to chastise him thoroughly (even though Kai, himself, seemed nothing but disinterested by their drivel).

You waddle over to a log to rest your feet, your heart still trembling uncontrollably in your chest from the shock, and you mumble, “You can go, you know.”

Joon glances down at you, as though affronted at your mere suggestion. “I’m not going to leave you alone. It’s dangerous in those woods.”

“I’m not going into the woods alone,” you inform him with a quick roll of your eyes. “I’m right here, on this log.” You pat the aged wood, purposefully. “I’m not gonna move an inch.”

He eyes you, distrustfully, before he exhales heavily through his flared nostrils and seems to make his decision.

“Only if you promise not to go anywhere that we can’t see you,” he commands, jaw set in his seriousness.

“I’m not a child, Joonie,” you tell him. “But if it makes you feel better: I promise. I won’t go anywhere. Now, can you please, hurry into the water before Kai created a spear and pierces my head with it?”

He snorts, barely hiding his eye roll. “I’d catch it before it reached you, obviously.”

“Not the point,” you quip back, just as sassily. You shoo him with your hands, pushing a hand against his stomach. You whisper, “Go.”

And he does.