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A Garden Full Of Statues

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There are, an infinite number of stars in the night sky or so. Yoongi likes to think that none of them ever die, that no matter how many centuries pass, humanity will forever be able to look up at the sky and never be able to tell that a constellation has perished other than what they'll record.  

He also wonders if he'll find himself weeping if he notices said changes.

He thinks he might.

 

Time passes, in a slow trickle, and he's fine, really, eventually the days and nights blur to darks and lights and stars and the chirping of birds and he's fine with that.

He finds that it hurts less to think about something like time.



He remembers the first time someone called him beautiful, how he had blushed immensely and stuttered out words of timid gratitude.

The first time was the beginning of many, and as the words repeated themselves over and over in the mouths of devouts, clergy and priests alike they morphed into something wicked, something shameful.

Suddenly he didn't think being beautiful was all that great.




_____________



Before Taehyung was Taehyung . When the boy was less than even that, still fragile and clothed in heat within the body of his mother.

 

He lived in darkness, surrounded by nothing else but warmth and the ever present beating of his mother's heartbeat. 

He must have liked it that way.

 

Because when he was born, the first thing his father did was count his fingers and then his toes.

But never did it occur to him to check his son's eyes.

 

But after three days had passed and the child's eyes were finally revealed, it was found that they were veiled in the color of a foggy morning.

 

Taehyung was born blind.

 

The world was full of warmth and smells and love, as he grew he didn't think he needed anything else. He could map his mother's face with his fingertips, touch outlines and see them in his mind's eye, feel the roughness of his father's beard and love the texture of the peaches from the tree where he'd pluck them, often time bringing them up to his lips and feeling the flesh of them soft and fuzzy against him as he inhaled, sweet and tart.

 

Taehyung was happy, until he wasn't.

 

Because for several seasons, the wheat dried in the fields, and the animals fell ill, suddenly there wasn't much to eat.

 

He was happy until the rain stopped coming and he could feel how frail his mother was becoming, how labored his father's breath became while working in the field, and all he could hope for as he laid in bed, feeling the dips of his ribs, counting in between them the days where his parents tried tricking him into believing that there was more to share that what there really was, where they'd quietly add a serving more on his plate, utensils brushing against bowls, the soft sound of bread ripping between his parent's quiet hands, quiet, but not quiet enough, never quiet enough, and for every dip of bone he'd pray that this would soon pass.

 

"Mama, I'm full now" he declares, hears his dad sigh out, his mother clears her throat.

"My son, there's enough, if you don't finish it, it'll go to waste" she assures voice lilting and sweet.

And Taehyung dares, he dares to stretch his arm across the rough wood of the table, dares to let his fingers caress at the lip of his father's bowl to find nothing but what he knows is dried bread.

 

And the taste of herbs, cheese and his own share of bread on his tongue sits heavy, tasting of guilt and sadness.



"Please don't lie to me" he whispers, voice breaking and hears his mother's quiet sniffle from the side.



It only gets worse.



It only gets worse from then on because his mother succumbs to illness and hunger, and suddenly there's a battle his father must tend to, a battle of kings where men are being sent to die and Taehyung is fifteen and tall for his age and able bodied as far as strength.

 

But Taehyung is blind.

 

And all he has known in life is the feeling of vegetables underneath the dirt from his parents small planting grounds. But dirt has dried out, and his father must go, because they'll give rations to the family of military men, you will not go hungry.

 

And Taehyung wants to tell him not to go, to please not go, because he can push back his hunger, push back the pain at his belly much better than push back the fear of being alone.

 

But Taehyung is blind.



His father leaves one chill November morning, kisses Taehyung on the forehead and guides him by the hand to his uncle's home.

 

A home he doesn't know yet, a home he must learn to navigate through.

 

His father's kiss still stays like a brand on his brow, his uncle's hand heavy on his shoulder and even when his father's steps can no longer be heard, even when his uncle retreats to the inside of his home.

 

He stays at the open door.



__________________



There are men, who still decide to take their chance, to walk deep into the old forest, where the trees are ancient and the ponds have seen reflected on their surfaces tales of woe. 

 

Yoongi doesn't know what they're searching for.

The men mutter under nervous breaths about the monster that hides in a cave in the woods, a creature so foul, with serpents for hair, able to turn you into stone if you dare meet his eyes, but if killed, the creature holds the secret to immortality, and believing this they waltz right in, thinking they can prove their valor with a sword half their length in height and a mask of half attained honor.

 

And it makes Yoongi seethe, because who are they to think that they can take his life so easily?

 

Because he has watched the trees grow and  homes of stone age brittle, the temple where he once served has long since succumbed to the earth, so who are they to try and end his life? 

 

Men in their righteousness, believing that blood brings honor and death brings pride.

Worse than dogs, the lot of them.

 

Yoongi doesn't know if they search for honor by killing him, or simply proof that they're not cowards, is there honor in that?

 

Yoongi thinks there's honor in dying gracefully.

 

But the statues that adorn the garden above his temple, all cower, faces frozen in fear, in sheer terror.

There's hardly honor in that.

 

 Yoongi was once beautiful, skin alabaster and marble, and hair as dark as the night sky, and soon people couldn't stop staring, people couldn't stop whispering about the boy that looked like he came from the very gods and after a while, people couldn't keep their hands to themselves.

 

And their hands felt like they'd bruise.

Felt like they'd brand his skin and would leave it marred, unrecognizable and forever impure.

 

He served the Temple so very long ago, that at times it seems a dream, his mortal life so short compared to what he'd been turned into. Arriving at barely ten years of age along with his younger brother Namjoon, who had been a boy of barely eight then, left to stand at the pristine temple doors and Yoongi had been taken in immediately as the priest's apprentice, his younger brother had held his hand tightly then before they were separated, eyes wide as he was guided to a different group. 

He'll become a fine scholar he had been told, and Yoongi had watched his father receive a handful of coins before disappearing, and never coming back.

 

Namjoon was all he had. 

 

And so Yoongi didn't mind giving his body away when his mentors began asking, as long as Namjoon was kept clothed, fed, and happy, it didn't matter when his bath water ran red and the rough groping of  phantom hands stayed etched on his skin like spilled paints of green and violet because;

 

 ' your brother has so many dreams, what a pity it would be if he were to be expelled from the temple .'

 

And Yoongi would close his eyes, close his eyes and pretend he wasn't held roughly beneath men from the clergy,  beneath priests and older scholars and come some time beneath men who adorned his mentors in gold as a fair trade for the body of a beautiful broken boy.

 

Yoongi could pretend, pretend sanctity, all false as he dressed in the white and crimson robes of a soon to be priest, hiding just how very tainted he was beneath it all, how marred and twisted and imperfect.

 

Because Yoongi wasn't pretending for himself.

Yoongi was pretending for Namjoon.



_________________




In his dreams, Taehyung dreams of his parents, he dreams of the scent of his mother, something like ripe berries and the slight smell of smoke that would cling to her after cooking a meal in front of the open fire, he dreams of the singing of cicadas and the sound of a saw on wood, his father hard at work.

 

But when he wakes, all of it disappears, and Taehyung wants to recall, recall every detail and feels like crying when he fails to do so, the finer details of his dream slipping away, quicker than the breeze in the spring.

 

Because it's been two years, and the rations stopped coming sometime ago, his father lost in a battle, one less soldier, one less sack of flour to give.

 

There's too many bodies, your father was older, he's most likely among them, he didn't report back to his post.

 

That's what the official had said,  and now Taehyung can barely recall what the steps of his mother sounded like, can hardly recall the way his father's face felt beneath the pads of his fingers.

 

His uncle is impatient, he has no sons, only three small daughters who stay home and help assist his aunt in the household chores, young girls who sometimes giggle at Taehyung and throw small stones his way when he is doing the weeding, or, washing the bowls outside, the only things he knows he can do well.

 

But his uncle is impatient, and oftentimes Taehyung finds himself on the ground, nursing a throbbing cheek, tasting blood in his mouth. 

And he hates it, wants to go home, wants to leave and find his father, crawl to his mother's grave and pray to the gods that she's brought back but every time he's struck, he's reminded of how very alone he is In this world.



One day his uncle wakes him up gently, and this startles Taehyung almost as much as the proposition of his uncle.







From where Taehyung is standing, holding his uncle's dagger to his chest, he can smell the forest. He can smell trees and undergrowth and hear the scurrying of animals.

 

"You've been helping out a lot back home, it's time you help me hunt" 

His uncle explains, and his tone sounds strange, like the time he hit Taehyung in the head so hard that he lost consciousness, almost apologetic.

Dread pools in his belly.

 

It takes many minutes, Taehyung doesn't count, too focused on trying to follow his uncle by sound alone, clutching at the dagger like a lifeline, thinks; 

 

What are we really doing here?

 

And is afraid of the answer.

 

He falls, as expected, gets startled by his uncle reaching out and stabilizing him. The more they walk the harder it is for Taehyung to follow, branches snapping and sticking between the straps of his sandals, vines clinging to his ankles like the hands of a neglected lover.

 

"Here" his uncle states, voice cold, and Taehyung reaches out a hand to feel his surroundings, only for his uncle to place in his hands the thin straps of what Taehyung recognizes as a gourd, the slight weight and the sound of sloshing of water affirming this.

 

"You wait here, I'm going to set up a trap, once we catch something, you'll carry it back"



That's what his uncle had said as he guided Taehyung to a fallen log and sat him there.

 

That's what he had said, and somehow, Taehyung already knew .

 

Taehyung knew he wasn't coming back, and still he held onto the small hope that his mother's brother wouldn't, that he couldn't.

 

But he did.

 

Taehyung feels the night fall, feels how the air cools significantly and he's left shivering and frightened because he's counted the minutes, counted the seconds but no one comes back, his uncle didn't come back and now he's lost, didn't pay enough attention to their path.

 

He walks through the forest, tears heavy and head hurting because he could be going in circles, because he doesn't know where he is and it all makes sense, the odd request, the dagger pressed almost kind into his hand, the gourd of water and Taehyung still stupidly followed.

 

And he feels so stupid. 

 

At some point his legs tire, and he sinks to moss covered ground beneath a tree that feels ancient, his feet sore and blistering, the hem of his robes feels torn when he goes to hug his knees to his chest, and sobs, sobs and wails for being so gullible, for believing so much, for the loss of his family. 

 

He cries for being born the way he was.





_________________

 

Eventually pretending leads to nowhere.

And when Yoongi had found a street vendor selling loukoumades outside of the temple he thought it simple enough to bring the sweet puffs for his younger brother.

 

When Yoongi had entered Namjoon's chambers, it didn't occur to pause after a quick knock, knowing it was high past noon and his brother should be done with weekend lectures.

 

Namjoon had been pressed to a mattress, eyes shut and tears glistening on his cheeks, pretending, pretending, pretending.

 

Pretending leads you nowhere.

 

He shuts the door, unnoticed and unheard.

 

Because there had been tears fresh on Namjoon's face, the face of someone who pretended.

 

And Yoongi feels hopeless as he walks back to the temple, feels putrid in his stupidity and wonders just how long he had kept his eyes to the ground in order to protect his brother.

 

  I saw you.

 

You saw me?

 

With the scholar, the one at your temple.

 

Brother…

 

He comes to my bed as well. They've been coming to my bed for a long time.

 

They–?

 

Namjoon, How long have they been visiting you?

 

Recently, only recently, they'll kill you if I don't let them, they'll–

 

Hyung is strong, Hyung won't die so easily. Don't cry, I'll make sure you're safe.

 

Brother, I'm–

 

Don't cry, I'll keep you safe, I promise I'll keep you safe.





Namjoon is tall for his age, a boy of only sixteen but tall and handsome, with dimples like their mother, but the features of his father.

 

But Namjoon is still so small, still so kind and forgiving and pure and hides behind Yoongi when anxious, curling in to try and fit himself into Yoongi's smaller side.

 

He hides his face into the crook of Yoongi's neck when the fire starts, when the priests and devouts feast in the halls in order to rejoice and pray to the gods on a special night.

 

And nobody is looking, nobody thinks it odd when Yoongi passes by the guards who know him well and offers them a drink for their troubles.

 

Nobody thinks it odd when the temple's exits are blocked, heavy doors moved to trap.

 

But when Yoongi throws the first bottle high, sees it twirl almost elegantly, oil and fire on a knotted cloth, hears the first scream.

 

It feels good.

 

But what's the point of the screaming? It's too late for that.

 

More bottles are thrown, and he hears Namjoon sniffling behind him and his own eyes blur, tears threatening to fall and he feels useless.

 

Even as the people who made him suffer writhe and cry out for mercy.

 

Where was Namjoon's mercy?

Where was his mercy?

 

That day he killed so many, burned and purified their souls, spat at the ground and cursed the Gods and took Namjoon by the hand and ran and ran and ran. 

Ran away from the officials that would soon follow.

 

Ran until they couldn't, ran until Namjoon, sweet sweet Namjoon was struck by an arrow.

 

That's how it began.

 

That's how it ended.

 

When they managed to escape from authorities, receding to the forest, finding refuge in a fallen tree, with his brother bleeding out in his lap, the only thing Yoongi could do, was pray.

 

Holding Namjoon to his chest applying pressure to the younger's stomach and praying for the Gods that were all of this time supposed to protect him.

 

Prayed and prayed and Begged.

 

And somehow, this time, out of all the others,  his prayer was answered.



His life will be spared, no one will look at you again, this I promise, but a price must be paid.

 

Yoongi figured that the burning of a temple would offend the Gods, the murdering of devouts must have too, but Namjoon was all he had, and there was never an ounce of hesitation.

 

Namjoon lived. And Yoongi became a monster.





___________________




The night is cold and Taehyung thinks that if he remains, curls in on himself, becomes small small small, perhaps he'll wake back in the arms of his parents.

 

But animals still call out in the night and insects still sting and the night is still cold and he's still lost.

 

He's still lost.

 

When he finally feels the warmth of the sun he tries again. Stands up on stiff legs and tries and stretches his arms, holds  the dagger close to him and hangs the strap of his water gourd across his body after taking a small sip.

 

Taehyung tries again because he has to, reaches with his free hand, feels the wind between his fingers and stands very still.

 

With the foliage of the trees it's hard to feel the sun, but  he manages to feel its warmth.

 

West, he lives west.

 when Taehyung was brought into the woods by his uncle, his face had been warmed by the sun, now with new purpose he feels the sun's rays to his left, he starts to go right.




He does this as fast as he can, but it has his feet slippery in his sandals, the blisters opening and bleeding and it hurts but he's already starting to smell the rain, and the sun will not wait for him before it moves or disappears behind the clouds and he falls, scrapes his knees and hands and his robes get caught and he cries, cries because he feels he'll die here.

 

And the rain comes, and the drops of it feels like all the tears that he can't let out fast enough.

 

It is the second morning, when he finds the cave, or rather when he falls in, he's rushing again, because the sun doesn't wait, it never does and at this point he doesn't know if he's going in circles, and in his stomach there's the pain of hunger.  He soon comes across a clearing, the trees part and he has to follow the path of them to realise that it must be a meadow, thinks perhaps he's found the edge of town, runs clumsy only to collide with something that he comes to find is a statue, walks a couple of steps to find more, and more, he feels them, touches the statues and finds that these resemble people, faces contorted in something that could be anger,  fear.

 

This plants a seed of anxiety in his belly, and he steps back only to slip in uneven ground, and stumble into a crack on the earth.

 

Eventually he hits something that feels too much like a wall and hears his dagger skid away, suddenly he has the urge to cry again, because hasn't he been through enough? Taehyung is hungry, feels it painfully in his gut and curls in on himself, tries not to cry but it's hard, it's so hard when he is alone and it's just a matter of time before a serpent bites him in the cave, he's sure of it

 

I wanna go home, he mutters helplessly, before the sound of hissing reaches his ears.




____________________




When the Gods told Yoongi that no one else would look at him again, he really hoped that would be the case, what more could he ask for? With Namjoon alive and safe, and him hidden away from the eyes of deviants, what more could he ask for?

 

But he understood the curse too late.

 

Because at the end of the day it was a curse. The first time that a person had seen him, back at the abandoned and burned temple he was now cursed to remain in, they had fallen to their knees in shock, mouth gaping and eyes as wide as they went, and then stayed… 

 

They stayed just like that, petrifying on the spot, skin hardening and tinting gray, their scream dying in their throat, it was then that Yoongi understood.



'no one will look at you again, this I promise, but a price must be paid.'



The temple eventually became the place where only men of valor would dare enter, but little by little, the land became scarce and the sky refused to bless it with rain and the men turned to stone and the people left.

 

And then Yoongi was alone.

 

Because Namjoon grew, and was happy, and found love, and aged.

 

The Gods kept their promise.

 

And what more could Yoongi have asked for?

 

The men stopped coming, growing wiser and speaking in hushed tones of the serpent-like creature that turned you into stone.

 

Dying in such ways was less than favorable, and even if the head of the gorgon could grant you eternal life, was it truly worth it?

 

Yet oddly enough, after only centuries Yoongi finds himself standing in front of a young man on the ground. Nursing bruised knees to his chest and when the boy that is not yet man raises his eyes Yoongi finds that they're clouded, foggy irises and pupils.

 

With a start Yoongi realizes that the boy is blind.



"H-hello?" The boy rasps, he looks tired, there's many scrapes on the heels of his hands Yoongi notices as the boy stretches his hands forward, fingertips almost grazing Yoongi.

 

And it's been so long, so long since he was able to gaze upon another's face, that he has the sudden urge to reach out and touch the boy's face.

 

It's pretty he realizes with a start, large eyes framed by heavy eyelashes, lips pretty and rosy in color even in their chapped state.

 

"Hello?" The boy tries again, and Yoongi reaches out a finger, touches the boy's own fingertip with the tip of his fingernail, and the boy scrambles so fast back in surprise his back hits a fallen beam, the boy hisses in pain.

 

"Who are you?" the words feel odd in Yoongi's mouth, his voice raspy and unused, he clears his throat. The boy suddenly stays very still, cloudy eyes so focused that Yoongi is suddenly afraid the boy can actually see as he meets his stare, but suddenly the boy breaks out into a smile so wide that Yoongi is left breathless.

 

"Hello! My name is Taehyung" the boy, Taehyung, exclaims, trying to stand on shaky legs. "I've been lost in the forest for two days now...could you help me get back in town?" He explains briefly, bringing his hands together, wringing fingers nervously as he asks.

 

"I'm afraid I can't do that" Yoongi states calmly, and sees the boy's face fall, panicking suddenly. Taehyung bites his lip, bruised hands still held nervously in front of him.

 

"Ah, I'm sorry, I'll be on my way then" the boy declares, nods once, pensive, face sad and distant eyes hurt, how odd, Yoongi thinks, for a boy to be blind but have his every emotion project on useless eyes, Taehyung begins to walk forward, small hesitant steps, his feet are bloody, sandal straps rubbing sore blisters and one of his ankles already swelling, probably from the fall.

 

"Taehyung-ssi, if you go now you'll die" he states not daring to reach a hand out yet but the boy stops nevertheless. And Yoongi is surprised with what comes from his own mouth.

 

"Stay instead, remove your sandals, rest"

 

How long has it been since he last spoke with anyone? Suddenly Yoongi feels giddy, he's allowed at least this much isn't he?

 

The boy nods looking for all the world like he'll cry in relief, but finally sits on the stone floor, removing sandals shakily.

 

"Thank you, umm.."

 

"Yoongi...my name is Yoongi."






____________________

 

There's a beast in the woods. That's what the townspeople hear when the uncle of the blind boy returns from a hunt without the boy, conveniently leaving him with more food on the table for his family.

 

Taehyung was known, seen often at the edge of the little house he lived in, weeding the small plantation of vegetables his uncle grew, washing pots and pans, trying with all of his might to be useful.

 

People knew something was wrong as soon as the beautiful boy with the pale eyes was no longer seen.

 

It was then that the myth of  the serpent creature who could turn you to stone with only a look resurfaced once more after nearly three centuries.

 

And so people begin to search.



The head of the beast will make you invincible.

 

If you kill the beast you'll live forever.

 

If you kill the beast…



Perhaps people didn't really care for the boy, perhaps going into the forest was only to feed their selfishness.

 

Taehyung only an excuse to venture into the dense forest.





_______________




Yoongi is kind, Taehyung, decides when a bowl of fresh water is placed next to him to drink and the man helps him bandage bloody feet after cleaning the wounds and applying a balm that smelled like crushed rue and arnica, all the while humming under his breath, broken sighs and lyrics that spoke of freedom and sunlight.



"How old are you Yoongi-ssi?" He asks, feels the man's hands at his ankles, feels what can only be a long fingernail tap at his ankle now that it is secure and his wounds dressed

 

A laugh escapes the other, something airy and raspy "you could say I'm a bit older than you" the other admits and Taehyung finds him somewhat endearing. "So you're my hyung?" He asks, knows his eyes are wide with excitement.

 

"I suppose" Yoongi breathes after a pensive pause,  and after the nights spent in the forest, after the months where the rations stopped coming, after the land had dried and left only dust sitting in bellies, Taehyung feels strangely warm.

 

And Taehyung stays.



Yoongi is careful, in the way he goes out of his way go hunt in the middle of the night, quiet in the way Taehyung never notices when the older slips away and only wakes to the smell of meat cooking, bowl of hot stew placed in his hands smelling of heaven and home.

 

And days pass, With Yoongi giving Taehyung the patience and kindness that the younger had already forgotten about, meanwhile asking nothing in return. There was only one thing Yoongi refused, that left Taehyung perplexed everytime.

 

"I'm not taking you into town"

 

"Hyung, I need to return"

 

"For what? Only for the people that left you to die to lead you right back here once a day or two have passed? Or for them to guide you by the hand all the way to a cliff this time?"

 

"Hyung…"

 

"People are cruel Taehyung, they are cruel and sick and mean and they make you feel like it's your fault in order to save themselves the guilt, so no, I'm not taking you into town"

 

At some point Taehyung stops asking.

 

And he doesn't mind, doesn't mind walking out and around the cave only taking sixty steps, sixty, no further, lest he gets lost, Yoongi tells him, but the bird song and the sound of the small stream that runs through the forest become things he begins to love.

 

Yoongi has a garden, a garden of vegetables and herbs and makes many things out of those, makes medicine and tea and condiments for their food, he also hunts and knows how to use every bit of game so nothing goes to waste, it makes Taehyung wonder.



"How long have you lived here?"

 

"A long time"

 

"How long is a long time?"

 

"Long enough"




After days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and the warmth of the sun begins to do little to warm him, Taehyung's wounds have long since healed, no pain other that the odd feeling of something underneath his ribs when he helps Yoongi with what he can, tying herbs to dry, he learns their scents and even learns to skin an animal, Yoongi guiding him, voice gentle, hand soft and cool as he helps Taehyung guide the edge of the knife between flesh and muscle.

 

And even though Yoongi's hands are cold on most days, nails sharp, Taehyung's heart beats hard in his chest, he's suddenly afraid of what this might mean. Perhaps it's not a bad idea to stay with Yoongi.



______________



Did you see the beast?



It's what they ask the man who returned alone from the forest, the man who had wailed about his lost nephew, flesh torn by a monstrous creature, and it had been so long, since a man was lost to such a thing. The elders speak amongst themselves and the people fill with fear as the forest at the edge of town seems to loom threateningly.

 

The people are restless, and it doesn't take long for volunteers to venture in.

 

Whether in search for the remains of the boy, or for the secret to immortality, who knows anymore?

 

______________________




Once, there was a child, that had come to see If there truly was a beast in the forest, and Yoongi had been doing something idly, Namjoon had still been alive then, he had been preparing something for his younger brother, or rather,  for his brother's children for when the younger, now older in appearance than Yoongi, would come for a visit, blindfold secure over his eyes, and dimpled smile big and bright, a horse, he thinks, a toy of some sort, gently held in his hands as he carved out the shape, and it wasn't intentional. The snap of a twig that stole his attention and he found himself glancing up, forgetting for a second, the curse of his eyes.

 

It was a young girl, body barely blooming into the softness that came with being a woman, her eyes had grown round and shocked, mouth open slightly in a silent gasp, hand reaching to cover the sound.

 

And then she was still. Yoongi had cried then, cried harder when Namjoon recognized the child as the daughter of a Baker from his town, the serpents that framed his face also seemed to cry with him, tangling with one another, restless, until Namjoon had placed the blindfold over his eyes once more and turned back to reach for his older brother.

 

But that was long ago, and Namjoon stopped coming only fifteen or so years after the incident, and at Yoongi's request, his nephews never knew of the lonely creature that lived in the forest, afraid they too would become nothing but stone.



Now a branch snaps outside, the hiss of the serpents seems to tell that there's something other than an animal out there.

 

"–I think your snakes are hungry Hyung" Taehyung chides still believing the lie Yoongi had told him only days after he had met him, when he had inquired about the sounds of the animals and Yoongi had simply told him that he raised the animals as pets, 

  the younger smiles softly still poking gently at the dying fire, wrapped securely in the furs Yoongi gave him to protect him against the recent harsher weather.

 

"Shhh" he orders with Taehyung opening his mouth to retort something "Wha–" Yoongi places a hand over the younger's mouth and ignores how the others cheeks taint pink, ignoring how that makes his heart thud strangely.

 

Something flies in from the outside dangerously close to Yoongi's face, and it thuds against a tapestry, burns bright with fire

 

" Oh–" when was the last time something like that happened? He thinks perhaps he should've covered the old temple windows, now buried from the outside, odd little open entrances for whatever lurked outside, Yoongi would've guessed that the human mind would learn from past mistakes.

 

"What was that?" Taehyung wrestles the hand off of his face, holds it between warm hands.

 

"An arrow" Yoongi sighs, the others pale eyes go wide "An arr–" A sound from outside interrupts Taehyung before there's another arrow planting itself only a meter to the right of Taehyung, the younger swallows quickly as Yoongi picks up the large water pitcher and throws it at the slowly burning tapestry.

 

"Be still, stay here!" He directs, feels Taehyung's hand reaching out, Yoongi sighs before reaching back for the younger's hands. "Where are you going??" Taehyung asks and Yoongi instinctively reaches to kiss the boys cheek

"I'll be back, I'm going to go see who's out there" Taehyung's face turns a pretty shade of pink, only vulnerable for a second before he's processed Yoongi's words

 

"They just shot an arrow at you and you want to go outside!?"

 

"I'll fix it" he assures.

 

"How?" Taehyung tries, but he's already looking somewhat placated

 

"I just will," he promises.

 

"...hyung I'm scared" Taehyung swallows, his hands tremble and Yoongi is oddly reminded of Namjoon and yet, there's an affection burrowing itself deep in his chest that is different from the love he held for his brother.

 

"Don't be, hyung is here" Yoongi whispers, kisses Taehyung's forehead in quiet promise before leading him to what he hopes is a good hiding spot.

 

There're about fifteen of them, at least as far as he can see from his place still in the shadows, arrives just in time before another arrow Is fired, makes a noise on purpose and has both shooters looking at him out of instinct.

 

It's a bad choice.

 

It doesn't take much, not with the aid of the shadows, and he's able to pick out  words of 

 

The missing boy  and the man eating beast .



And here Yoongi thought those types of tales were gone.



When the men fall quiet, soft horrified gasps as they turn to stone, or the snapping of bones before the screams die in their throats, only then does he go back to the cave, inspects everything to make sure that nothing is too badly damaged and pulls Taehyung out of the large chest where he'd had him hide, he too is unscathed and the relief that washes over him is so immense he thinks he'll drown in it as he hugs the younger man tight against him, Taehyung remains quiet, fists holding tightly onto Yoongi's robes.





"I don't understand.  Why did they come here, and why are they after you?" Taehyung asks, holding a small piece of dried meat in front of Yoongi, the serpents hiss before one strikes out and bites at the offered treat, Taehyung rips another small piece of meat from his plate. Yoongi sighs, belly a nervous flurry.

 

"I'm not wanted around here Taehyung, but it seems they thought I took you, your uncle must have said something" he says, words careful, wonders if Taehyung will try and run away once he knows the truth.

 

"What? Why would they think that? You're not bad, you're not the thing that lives in the forest? Hyung, you're not the cursed one" Taehyung snorts, as if that thought was a ridiculous one while another piece of dried deer meat is stolen by a serpent, the cursed one?

 

"The curs– what?" He voices, unsure of the term, he had never paid attention to the titles he was given, but somehow this one makes him feel ashamed.

 

"You know Hyung!–" Taehyung begins, almost excitedly, as if fascinated by the story he's about to tell "–the demon that lives in the forest, the one they tell you about when you're a kid, something about a priest that one day decided he was God and ended up burning the great temple and ended up cursed and now eats babies that toddle into the wood–"

 

Wait. What? Yoongi scoffs loudly, he guesses Taehyung has to find out eventually, might as well be now.

 

"I didn't think I was a God, I was actually angry at the Gods, Gods don't like blasphemy–" he corrects quietly, watching Taehyung's expression as the words dawn on him, Yoongi expects him to leave, knows it'll hurt when he does, knows that there is now a feeling so deeply rooted beneath his sternum that if Taehyung leaves there will forever be a permanent ache, a permanent mourning for the company of the other.

 

"...what?" Taehyung asks, eyes wide and so full of moonlight pale questions, and Yoongi hasn't really touched his own plate of food, knowing that this day would surely come, and now he berates himself internally for letting Taehyung into his life, he doesn't regret it, no, for Taehyung is the gentle breeze in the spring and the sound of the forest in the morning, Taehyung is as sweet as a honeycomb and as beautiful as the sky.

 

Taehyung is–

 

"The story they told you, they're telling you wrong, The priest didn't think he was God, the priest was only trying to protect himself and his brother from the corrupt clergy of the temple, the priest, killed them for revenge." Yoongi's hands shake, and The dawning realization in Taehyung's face is enough for him to begin tearing up, it's over. He thinks.

 

"You…"

 

"I'm that priest" Yoongi admits with a sigh, fisting his hands tightly, claws almost breaking skin, wishes perhaps he could hold onto Taehyung a little longer, at least one last time before the younger decides to leave, however, what Yoongi is not prepared for, is for the complete rage on the youngers face, for the words that come out of the boy.



"Then, they deserve it, if you killed them, then there must have been a good reason" Taehyung counters quietly, so sure of Yoongi's innocence that it knocks the air out of the older's lungs and the boy reaches forward with a large hand, palm up, and Yoongi takes it before a tear rolls over his waterline.



Taehyung is love.



___________________




Peace doesn't last, Taehyung didn't expect it to, after the first attack suddenly the cave is, or old temple, as Yoongi explains how the temple where he lived as a child sunk into the earth with time, creating a chamber underground, is no longer safe.

 

There's suddenly people that come by and try to attack, and it always ends the same. He can tell it takes a toll on Yoongi, because the elder goes stony quiet afterwards, It makes Taehyung ache with protectiveness.

 

Yoongi who helped Taehyung when he came stumbling into his life, who cleaned his wounds and dressed them between gentle hands, who fed him and promised his safety.

 

Yoongi who finds honeycombs to drink from and brings them to Taehyung who told him only once that his favorite thing in the world was honey, and Yoongi had remembered.

 

Yoongi doesn't kill because he wants to, and that makes Taehyung frustrated beyond belief at how the elder is pushed to resort to such measures.

 

It's late when Yoongi tells him they have to leave, with nervous words of their home not being safe anymore and Taehyung mourns the small farming grounds he and Yoongi had been trying to upkeep.

 

But he understands Yoongi is leaving his home behind, because he doesn't want to kill anymore.

 

 

And it tears him apart, how he knows that the people are trying to shed blood only because they believe he kidnapped Taehyung, and yet…

 

Yoongi's hands are warm in his, and Taehyung doesn't want to lose this.



In the forest Yoongi builds them a shelter, wood, and leaves mostly, and Yoongi let's him arrange the inside, having only brought a cot and several blankets and cookware, but Taehyung tries, sets the cot in a far corner and and builds a small stone circle for the fire that they'll light in the evening.

 

He hears the sound of wood being scraped and knows Yoongi is surely carving something.

 

Taehyung briefly wonders what it is.

 

"Hyung I've been thinking…" he starts, but the words already lack courage and there's a lump in his throat that he simply can't swallow, he hears Yoongi stop his carving, then the ruffle of clothing, knows the man is paying attention to him.




"If, if it's me they want, then….then, I'll go back, if that's what it takes, if they'll leave you alone..."  

 

There's a long moment of silence, and Taehyung feels his eyes prick with tears, wishes he could see Yoongi, or feel about his face to feel what kind of expression the elder has, his heart beats almost too loud before Yoongi finally answers in that quiet tone of his, feels how Yoongi runs a hand softly through his hair before leaving it, caressing softly at the nape of his neck and Taehyung let's out the breath he was holding.

 

"...I may not want you to go back anymore" and it's a confession so quiet Taehyung thinks he's imagined it but then Yoongi plants a kiss to his forehead and Taehyung inhales sharply, and dares to reach out and grasp at the sides of the others face, immediately there's the thin cold body of a serpent wrapping itself on his wrist.

 

Yoongi remains still, body almost lax, and Taehyung has to giggle. It's the first time Yoongi let's him be so close, and Taehyung relishes in it, daring to scoot even closer.

 

"Hyung… that's okay, I don't want to leave either, and I think your snakes like me. Is it okay?" He asks again, just to be sure, hears the small puffing sounds the snakes make, and already knows Yoongi's answer

 

"It 's okay…."

 

Taehyung thinks he's in love, feels the feeling of it bubble up and up and up and suddenly wonders how soft Yoongi's lips might be.

 

When they sleep in the cot, Taehyung wraps his arms about the elder, and notices how well he fits within his arms.



______________



There are things Yoongi never thought of feeling, remembers Namjoon telling him about the one . Remembers the youngers face of adoration everytime he spoke of the person he came to love and Yoongi had been ecstatic for his brother, thinks perhaps he lived vicariously through the younger, but now Yoongi gets it, gets it in the way Taehyung smiles and suddenly his breastbone is brittle over his heartbeat and the feeling is almost embarrassing. The lone boy who fell quite literally into his life and made a home in his heart almost immediately.

 

It's maddening.

 

He thinks he'll still never let go of the younger, regardless of whoever hunts them down. Wonders what course of action to take.

 

Yoongi finds himself praying to the gods for an answer.




___________________




"Hyung I'm cold" Taehyung tries, voice quivering, the wind outside howls and Taehyung wonders what is taking Yoongi so long to put his arm around him when suddenly there's an arm being draped about him, the older rubs his hand up and down Taehyung's arm, creating friction and Taehyung is not really cold, but simply wants to have the other closer.

 

"Better?" Yoongi asks and his voice sounds weak, Taehyung nods. 

 

His chest so full of sticky honey that he's afraid his breathing will fail him.

 

It's been weeks since they left the cave, weeks of running away because Yoongi is being hunted down 

 

The beast in the forest is fierce and has killed countless people, but once you sever the head, you'll become a God.

 

Taehyung remembers the tale well enough, now knows more of it from Yoongi himself, Yoongi who is not sure if that myth happens to be true at all, if somehow ending his life will grant his murderer immortality, simply knows that being turned into a gorgon was the price for not differentiating between the people he had set on fire nearly three centuries ago. Some of them innocent, and what had Yoongi said?

 

 i wanted them to suffer. I was wrong.

 

He had thought it was unfair for Yoongi to be cursed at all.



Now in their tent, Taehyung wonders how long they'll have to be on the run before he can hold Yoongi close without the fear of being torn apart from him





________________________





It's a mistake. 

 

Taehyung who wanted to bathe separately all of the sudden even though they've both bathed together before, Yoongi supposes things have changed, now that they've admitted the feelings that might be flourishing within them.

 

And now everything is wrong.

 

Taehyung had yelped only several minutes after Yoongi had gone back to their tent for the small bird he had carved for the younger, a whistle of sorts for this exact type of situation, and now Yoongi feels his world crushing him.

 

He's suddenly reminded of Namjoon and the day they'd made the temples burn, years and years of abuse finally taking the form of something catastrophic.

 

He's reminded of the arrow that had pierced his brother's stomach, of the way he had prayed to the gods to save his brother, to please spare the boy who was his entire life.



And now, his biggest fear is presenting itself again.



He's afraid the gods won't be as merciful.

 

The waterfall in the forest is loud enough to be almost deafening, but Yoongi hears Taehyung clearly, they're covering his mouth as they drag him, muffled screams scared as they pull him from the river.

 

Yoongi is suddenly the same boy he was all those years ago, and he's tired.

 

"Present yourself!!" The man that holds Taehyung is standing with a dagger to the boy's neck and is careful to keep his eyes to the ground, and Yoongi could take on the one other man that stands besides them, but then what about Taehyung?

 

Taehyung manages to pull away the hand that muffles his voice, before he screams out in warning.

 

"Run Yoongi-Hyung!" There's a whimper as the man tightens his arm around Taehyung's neck.

 

"You like this one don't you? Wanna keep him?" The man that holds Taehyung bellows almost mocking "cover your eyes then, and come get him!!" The order is thrown along with what looks like a piece of cloth, both men keeping their eyes focused on other things. Yoongi doesn't hear anyone else in the forest, perhaps the two men are only ones left of their little entourage, and that would have been good, except now they have Taehyung, and Yoongi might as well have already been blinded.

 

"Leave him" he responds weakly, as he makes his way to the discarded cloth on the ground, the waterfall next to him seems to warn against it.

 

Both men take a step back, swords still held in tight grips, Taehyung let's out a quiet whimper.

 

"Hyung…"



If it's for this beautiful boy, Yoongi would do anything. The cloth is wrapped tightly around his eyes when he finally steps into the men's field of vision.





____________________



It was a mistake, asking to bathe separately, now Taehyung can't bare the thought of doing it in close proximity to Yoongi, there are now many reason as to why, and Taehyung doesn't want to think about those reasons either lest he implode from over thinking.

 

There was an russle  of leaves from behind him, he had been already waist deep in the water, only his under robe in place as he turned back towards the sound.

 

"Did you forget something Hyung?"

 

Surprisingly, it was another voice all together that greeted Taehyung.

 

"You call him with such familiarity, y'know, when I left you, I didn't expect for you to befriend the beast"

 

His uncle's voice is calm and pensive, and Taehyung feels his stomach sink.

 

"Is it true? He has the secrets to life?" His uncle continues, and Taehyung wishes he could call out for Yoongi, tell him to leave, to find someplace safe and leave

 

"I owe you no explanations" he grits out standing his ground, he hears his uncle  chuckle.

 

"Well if we're going to be like that…"








Once in his uncle's grasp, Taehyung knows Yoongi will come, but his uncle and the other man he's brought a long are much well aware of the curse Yoongi carries, and they'll use him as bait.

 

He prays to the gods that Yoongi doesn't show up, and the pray goes unanswered because Yoongi not only shows up immediately, but does as instructed.

 

And Taehyung will be damned if anyone would hurt him.




Taehyung doesn't need to see to do something. He can hear the men plotting to stab Yoongi, knows his uncle  who now holds him in a choke hold will attempt to, hears the whispered I'll kill him, I'll kill him  like a chant that if he speaks out loud enough times, will come true.

 

He hears the rustle of steps, Yoongi coming closer.

 

Taehyung doesn't have to think about it, knows Yoongi is stepping right into his death and as the man thrusts forward, Taehyung does too, twists himself out of the other man's grasp and between both bodies, feels himself be pushed against what he recognizes is Yoongi's chest, and only notices the pain after.

 

There's an audible gasp from his uncle, and suddenly Yoongi's gasp of shock is in his ear.

 

"No–" his uncle sounds legitimately surprised as Taehyung collapses in Yoongi's arms.

 

The pain is there, what can only be a dagger deep in the soft part of his belly, buried to the hilt just below his navel. He whimpers.

 

"Taehyung!" Yoongi gasps and Taehyung can only feel the elder's hands grasping about him, butterfly soft touches afraid of further damaging him.



There's the quick swishing sound of a blade , and the serpents hiss before Taehyung is quickly pulled away, the dirt of the forest cling to his still damp robes and he let's out a whimper only to be gingerly shushed by Yoongi 

 

"Don't move darling" and the older's voice already sounds wet and  defeated, he can only manage a nod before Yoongi's body is gone from his side, and Taehyung let's himself rest.

 

It's upsetting he thinks, that he can feel himself growing weaker with each beat of his heart, can hear the struggle and the slashing of swords and garbled screams and know that Yoongi will come out victorious, but Taehyung needs him now, needs to dance fingertips across his brow and the bridge of his nose, nuzzle the apple of his cheek and feel his cupid's bow under his own lips.

 

Taehyung wants to kiss Yoongi, at least before he fades.

 

He doesn't know what light looks like, doesn't understand it, but he can feel the heat of the day caressing his skin and warming his soul.

 

Taehyung supposes, that even in his own dark world, he knows light. He knows light because he knows Yoongi.

 

"Stay with me, stay with me please" the world is warm and Taehyung wants to say that he'll stay, that he'll stay forever and laugh and hold and love Yoongi, but he's so worn out, so shallow his breathing and so brittle his consciousness, wants to say the words that stick like the wax of  the honeycombs Yoongi would find for him, but the world is warm and distant, and Yoongi's crying sounds like spring showers 

 

Yoongi is whispering something fervently, something that sounds too much like;

 

Please, let him stay.

 

And Taehyung wants to.






Light is warm.

 

Light is….



When Taehyung opens his eyes, it's not the same anymore.

 

Held tightly onto someone's chest he has to close his eyes to go back to the familiarity of the only life he's ever known.



When he opens his eyes, Yoongi is looking right back at him.  

 

And he knows that its Yoongi, just like he knows that the sun is what is making his eyes hurt and how beautiful the world is because now, Taehyung can see.

 

And he knows it's Yoongi, knows it in the way his heart aches, and in the way the other is looking at him.

 

He thinks that that's what Love looks like.

 

"Hi" he whispers and Yoongi's eyes do this amazing thing where they widen a fraction and fill with unshed tears of gratitude.

 

"Hello" the elder responds, smiles in awe, gums peeking under full lips.

 

They're still in the forest, leaning against a massive tree trunk, the sound of a stream comes from nearby and then there suddenly are things that dawn on him at once, he can see, for one, and Yoongi's appearance has changed, this Taehyung knows because the serpents that Taehyung had touched with gentle fingers are gone, he reaches towards him, threads fingers through  the long silken strands pulling him forward gently, noses nearly touching, wonders briefly if this is all a dream, has to make sure it isn't.

 

"Hyung kiss me" 

 

The smile Taehyung receives in return makes his heart stutter before he whispers the words he'd thought he'd never get to say.

 

"I love you, Hyung I'm in love with you"

 

Yoongi tastes sweeter than honey.

 

Warm lips firmly against him, yes, Taehyung is sure nothing has ever tasted as sweet

 

Only later Taehyung comes to understand that Yoongi once again, in all desperation begged the gods for another chance, and miraculously this prayer was answered, in more ways than one, Taehyung's wounds repairing themselves and being granted the ability to see, and Yoongi regaining his mortality back. It's suddenly too good to be true.



It's them against the world, and Taehyung is fine with that.

They leave the forest behind, and within its grasp, memories of abandonment  and curses that lasted too long. 

 

They leave hand in hand and don't bother to turn back.





The sky is blue and with Yoongi by his side, Taehyung thinks he couldn't be happier