#VMINAU th's family owns the village bakery. he grows up delivering baked good all over the village and later even around the region. when's he's 15, his grandmother makes him a ruby red riding hood that soon becomes the bakery's signature. people don't often come to their small
village. it is said that the woods surrounding them are populated with vicious, hungry wolves, just waiting for their next meal.
th doesn't really believe in the silly old tales. wolves are gentle, territorial creatures that only attack when hurt or feel threatened. maybe if
the hunters and the teenagers would stop antagonising them, everyone could cohabit. unfortunately the mistrust has been going on for so long that it's as part of their village lore as taehyung and his red riding hood is.
it doesn't help that on top of the highest hill, lives a
recluse lord with his two sons. the dark castle gives their small village a rather sinister look. or so th hears from passing travellers. he doesn't mind the castle or Lord Park. actually he finds jm, the eldest son rather... cute and sweet.
he's never really talked with him but he sees him sometimes, wearing his austere hanbok, cheeks red from the cold, following his younger brother as this one goes from stand to stand in the farmer's market.
"he loves to cook," th heard jm whisper conspiratorially to the red bean
seller. maybe it was th's young heart or maybe it was all jm but hearing his voice transporter, for a small moment, th out of his dreary, routine life. he must have made a sound because jm turned his silver gaze to him.
th's heart dropped into his wicker basket.
ever since that day, th has looked forward to the few glimpses of jm he would get. they were few and far in between, the Parks kept to themselves. th could only imagine how many tutors and lessons jm had to sit through.
one time, when he was around 17, th's father couldn't make the delivery to the castle so his mother begrudgingly allowed him to do it. she packed his basket full of bread and pastry, told him to be very careful with the dasik since they were the LOrd's favourites.
th takes his bicycle and up he rides to the highest hill.
he has to go through the heart of the forest, it's the most direct route to the foot of the hill and although he refuses to be scared, he still feels a chill running down his spine with every foreign noise he hears.
he can't quite stamp on the sigh of relief he lets out when he gets to the castle's gates. somehow, the edifice looks smaller from up close. careful with the merchandise, th dismounts the bicycle and runs up the big stone staircase that leads to the entrance.
he knocks three times. nothing but silence and the cries of a nearby crow. another shiver runs down th's spine and he's almost tempted to turn on his hill and leave but this is a weekly income for his family, an important one. he can't imagine how the lord will react if th bails.
so he knocks again and this time, he hears someone call for him to wait.
"stupid door!" the person grumbles. the door inches open and two small hands hook over its side and pull it further open with difficulty. a moment later, a harried jm fully comes out from behind the door.
"oh it's you," jm says, his frown smoothing out into a small smile.
th is so surprised to see him, so pleased actually, that he has no words. he bows and offers the basket.
"thank you," jm says taking it from him. th looks up again and finds big grey eyes, dark hair falling
over them, sweet darling smile and he still can't find words. he bolts.
"wait, don't you want your basket back?" jm calls. th stops. it is his mum's favourite basket & she will box his ears if anything happens to it. but the thought of turning around and facing jm is too much.
"i have another errand! i'll come back for it another day," he says and all but run to his bicycle.
it's a shame too because in his hurry to leave, he doesn't see the sad tilt of jm's smile or the way he lingers at the door to watch him pedal away.
A/N: just for the record because i'm bumming hard about it, THIS is the moodboard that should be in the 1st tweet
A/N (bis): anyways let's resume this story. this will once again be a rather short update but i am SO happy that so many people are invested in this story!! love you all!!!
th doesn’t go home immediately. He doesn’t linger in the forest, of course. He knows better. He doesn’t really believe the wolves stories but there are still wild animals in this pretty dark forest that he doesn’t wish to disturb.
he lingers in the village, visiting their very
small library, passes by nj hyung's art shop, staring longingly at the paint brushes, exchanging a few friendly words with nj before he eventually goes home to face his mother's disapproval.
to his surprise however, his mother doesn't scorn him to the missing basket.
she waves his apology away. "as fate would have it, you'll have to head back there tomorrow anyways," she says, stirring the stew.
th's heartbeat races. "i will?"
"yes," his mother nods, offering him a distracted smile. "i forgot the hodugwaja." she adds rather seriously.
"you're making hodugwaja?" th asks, excited for a whole other reason, the walnut and red bean paste biscuits are his favourites.
his mother grins. "yes, apparently they're the oldest son's favourite. his father asked for a large batch in his letter last month, saying that it was
his son's birthday this week," she explains. "now, be a love and go look for your brother and sister, they've been playing in the field all afternoon...," she laments good-naturedly. "i can't even imagine the state they'll be in."
but th isn't really listening.
"it's jm-ie's bday?" he asks and he can feel how round his eyes are, how parched his mouth is. he swallows harshly and tries to soothe his expression.
"jm-ie, huh?" his mother asks, throwing a smirk over her shoulder. th blushes. "yes, it's the Lord's first son's birthday.
his 18th birthday in fact," she says. "you were born the same year," she teases. th flicks his gaze away. it doesn't matter. he says so to his mother. "who knows," she shrugs. "you might end up being friends."
th scoffs. "sure."
"go get your siblings," his mother rolls her eyes
the conversation is put to rest until early the next morning when (despite having spent most of the night staring at the moon, listening to the wolves howl and thinking about silver eyes and pink lips) th drags himself out of his cot and trudges to the bakery where his mother is
already preparing the first batch of biscuits. she startles when she sees him darkening her doorway.
"can i help?" he asks. she looks shocked for another second before a knowing smile adorns her lips. "sure, sweetheart."
th knows the basics about baking, he's had to learn from a very young age but he's not very good at it. he doesn't particularly enjoy it either, but this morning, doing this with his mother, for jm... he thinks he understands why baking is a show of love.
around mid day, after helping his parents with the early rush at the bakery, th's mum hands him his red riding hood and a large parcel. it still smells delicious.
"don't forget my basket this time," she winks and he shakes his head, a shy smile stretching across his cheeks.
he's allowed to take the horse this time. Yeontan's dark brown coat shines with the early october sun, despite the clouds. th wants to take this as a good omen. maybe this time, he'll actually open his mouth and hopefully words will come out.
he carefully places the parcel into the saddle and hops on.
the journey is much quicker this time. crossing the forest and the climb to the dark castle is as chilling and tiresome as ever but th makes it in record time. unfortunately, in his haste to get to jm, he forgets about
the hodugwaja and by the time he climbs off the horse and pulls out the parcel, it's less than prestine. in fact, too many crumbs cascade from the carefully tied parcel. "oh noooooooo," he moans.
"problem?" someone says and th startles so hard that he drops the biscuits.
he looks up, and when he confirms what he suspected (that it's jm on the other side of the rusty fence), tears spring to th's eyes.
"i'm so sorry," he says. he wants to jump on his horse and ride away but he's already fled jm's presence once, he can't bare doing it again.
plus, he's ruined jm's birthday presents. he has to take responsibility for the mess.
"i'll go back to the bakery right now and i'll bake you another batch," he pleads, grabbing the fence and coming too close to jm's nose. "i'm really sorry. i promise i'll be quick."
but before he can actually turn around and jump on his horse, a hand closes around his. it's gone in less than a second but th's skin burns with the touch.
"wait," jm pleads, big silver eyes boring into his. "what are they?" he asks to the mess on the ground.
"hodugwaja," th says through dry lips, his gut twisting with guilt. "your father ordered a huge batch for your birthday... happy birthday," he offers and jm gives him a smile so vribrant, so sweet & pretty that th almost forgets why there are tears in his eyes.
he must be magic.
"you baked those... for me?" jm asks, his eyes twinkling. th's mind feels hazy.
"i helped," he says with a shrug as if this isn't the proudest he's ever felt in his entire life.
"i love hodugwaja but i never learned how to make them. i don't have the patience for baking."
"do you want to come with me to the bakery, we can help mum make them," th offers but the last words are barely a whisper. jm's smile progressively dims until it's a mere shadow of itself.
"i can't leave the castle without asking and my father isn't here today."
th's heart sinks until an idea occurs to him. he almost doesn't say the words but jm looks suddenly so far away, so forlorn. th wants his smile back.
"can you have guests?" he asks.
jm hesitates and th is sure he's going to say no but then his expression shifts to burning
determination. "i'm sure father won't mind," he whispers conspiratorially.
th grins. "just give me time to run back, i'll bring the recipe and the ingredients and we can bake them together. they're not that hard, i promise."
jm's eyes widen. "you'd do that? for me?"
th nods, feeling a blush creep up his neck and cheeks. "it's your birthday. you deserve a treat."
jm gives him a smile that he can't quite decipher. something with a glint, something a bit dark and inviting. his tummy swoops.
"i'll be waiting," he promises.
th has never ridden a horse this fast in his life. he almost falls and breaks his neck at least three times but it's all worth it for the dizzying smile jm gives him when he comes back, still waiting by the fence, a book in his hands.
that's the first time th realises there are no bounds to how far he's willing to go for jm. for love.
it won't be the last.
th, jm and his younger brother spend a wonderful afternoon baking together. well, mostly, messing around, throwing flour at each other and eating the red bean paste. the walnut biscuits are far from perfect, some even burn despite jm's brother guiding them through the process.
they also have the carefully scripted recipe from his mum but this isn't really about making biscuits. they're very proud when a batch comes out looking good but that doesn't meant they don't play at throwing them directly into each other's mouths.
their time together is filled with laughter and games; th's chest fills with warmth and a sense of... right. down at the village, th has friends aplenty but he doesn't have someone he could confide to easily. and it's not that he trusts jm already but he so desperately want to.
the castle is less sinister inside but it's so big and empty and cold. the furniture and taspetry are exquisite but aging and th doesn't see any staff. jm tells him that his father doesn't want people in his business but they do have guards that come at night to secure the place.
th used to look up at the castle and envy the people living inside of it. so much room, so much money, so many people surrounding you. but the reality is that jm and his brother are lonely boys in a dark, cold stone prison with an absent father and... well, th doesn't know what
happened to his mother and he doesn't want to ask.
maybe that's the sadness lingering in both their gazes. jm's brother is a bit shier than jm is. jm, th notices, is guarded. he has moments where he closes off, avoiding questions and th's curious gaze. but his brother's sadness
is more like a heavy blanket that makes his shoulder rounder, his eyes shier, his hands slower. it pierces th's heart.
At the beginning of the afternoon, he wouldn't even look at th, sticking by jm's side. He even takes his older brother aside at first to furiously whispering
about "stranger" and "wrong" and "father", but as the afternoon progressed and seeing jm laugh with th made his brother relax.
by the time night falls and they make plans to meet at the library soon, jm and his brother both wave good bye at him from the heavy door.
as he galops home on yeontan's back, th can't help but feel like maybe he and jm could actually be friends.
over the next few months, the same age friends do spend more and more time together. they either meet at the market place nd th helps jm and his brother buy the best products. they go to the library where jm spends hours reading to th. they also go visit nj who also knows jm.
noticing the surprise on th's face when they first bump into nj and jm hugs him, jm explains that nj is his art's tutor.
"he's only a year older but he has an undeniable talent for it," he says. then nj and jm exchange a look, something that th doesn't comprehend but to which he
is not privy. so he doesn't ask.
there are so many mysterious things about jm and his sheltered life that th never asks about. he doesn't know where jm's mother is. he doesn't understand why jm and his family leave town once a month since according to jm, they don't have other
relatives and all of their tutors come to them. th has never seen jm's father, only hears about his orders and worries. jm speaks about him with a strange mix of affection and resentment.
so much remains untold but th doesn't dare quench his curiosity.
what if asking the wrong questions leads to the end of their blossoming friendship?
and it is a friendship. and it is blossoming. there's something in jm that settles th. as strange as it is, as closed off as jm can be sometimes, th feels connected at him. at peace.
#VMINAU th's family owns the village bakery. he grows up delivering baked good all over the village and later even around the region. when's he's 15, his grandmother makes him a ruby red riding hood that soon becomes the bakery's signature. people don't often come to their small
he is determined not to let these questions ruin their friendship even though they plague him. there's a hollow space in his heart where he thinks jm could be if only they were honest with each other.
but if th is allowed his secrets (well only one to be honest), then so should
jm be. th has a feeling that those secrets are all about keeping their family safe so he doesn't pry, doesn't let himself wonder for too long.
even when jm cancels several of their plans without giving a concrete reason why. winter is long passed, th turned 18 as well and their
blossoming friendship has bared fruits, like the summer. it comes with horrendous heat wave but th doesn't mind because there's a pond behind the castle where he jm spend their summer days swimming.
sometimes, th is even allowed to sit during jm's sparring practice and other
tutouring sessions. jm's teachers don't mind, apparently jm is more focused, works better when th is there. th loves the lessons. their small village has a small school but th is too old to attend and too poor to attend college in the city.
what he loves most are the days when
nj comes to tutor and th gets to paint alongside them. he's always adored painting but paints, canvases and brushes are far too expensive to buy on the regular so he doesn't get to do it often.
afterwards, they either take walks down to the forest and to one of the lakes where
they dip their legs in the water and lay at the shore, taking the sun in.
th tries really hard not to stare at the open collar of jm's shirt or at the way his moon grey eyes shine under the sun.
the beginning of the summer is enchanting, th feels like writing poetry about youth and first love, the juicy fruits of aching yearning but he's not that far gone... yet. if any of his siblings were to stumble upon his writing he'd never hear the end of it. he already has to deal
with his mother's knowing looks every time he tells her he's spending the day with jm. he'd rather die than let his siblings discover his secret.
so he keeps it all locked in and rejoices in every smile jm bestows on him.
past the summer equinox however, seeing jm gets rarer. jm isn't avoiding him because he writes him regularly, has one of their night guard deposit letters while th works at the library. sometimes he even meets th at the market but those days are far and few.
the only thing jm keeps insisting on is not to get too close to the forest and makes it clear that the castle won't open its doors for anyone at the moment, not even th.
it leaves th perplexed, more so than ever and when he asks nj about it one, the artist remains elusive.
th worries, he can't help it. especially when stories about wolves attacks start to spread like wildfire around the village. even his grandma, who always laughed at the folk tales, has a tense set to her shoulders and dark lines by her mouth.
th wants to go to jm, make sure he
and his brother are alright but jm asked him to stay away and he can't overstep his boundaries.
so he stays put and worries.
worries a lot.
th breaks his promise to stay away when whispers of someone in the castle getting injured. an out of town physician rides into town early one morning. th, from the bakery window, can see the two castle guards escorting him out of the town centre and towards the trails that lead
into the woods.
they don't come back and with every passing hour, th's tummy churns with anxiety. it doesn't help that he hasn't seen or heard from jm in days. not even a letter or a small note.
as the day progresses, rumours of a fire in the castle arrive at the bakery doorstep
the sun is starting to set and the idea of approaching the woods so late in the day, with everything going around scares him more than he can say but th can't sit still any longer.
when he gets home, he readies yeontan for a ride. his parents won't have it, of course.
his father takes the reins from his and locks th in his bedroom. th tries to fight it but there's unreasonable fear in his father's eyes, there's a tremor to his mother's voice as she scolds him for even thinking about putting himself in danger that he can't fight against.
he lets himself be locked in his room, waits for the town to go to sleep, for his parents and siblings to turn in, for the moon to be full and big in the sky before he careful climbs out of his bedroom window and gets yeontan. he walks until he's sure the sound of the horse's
hooves won't wake anyone up, then he jumps onto yeontan's back and rides as fast as he can.
the very first time he rode through the woods to the hill of jm's family castle, he'd felt a frisson run down his spine, a chill born out of an abstract fear. tonight, as the moonbeams
pierce the canopy, there's nothing abstract about the fright lining his ribs. he can feel eyes on him. even with the sound of his horse's thundering strides,he can hear branches snapping, the leaves whispering as they move with invisible forces.
something vicious wraps around his heart and squeezes until he feels nauseous when he hears howling. long, guttural wolf calls that freeze his blood and make sweat drip down his back.
he urges yeontan on, desperate to get closer to jm and away from the lurking shadows and what almost looks like glinting eyes through bushes. it can't be. it couldn't be, right?
he's come too far to turn around and he can see the hill that leads to jm's home. he's almost there.
his red coat is flowing behind him, the hood having fallen off his head long ago. he's cold and tired and scared and if he stops now, he's not sure what will happen, but he knows deep in his gut that it won't be good for him.
then he hears it, a low growl coming from the bushes
at first, he thinks it's the wind howling but then he hears it again, feels the hunger and desperation in the sound, the bestiality in it. th's throat hurts as he snarls for yeontan to speed up but he makes the mistake of looking back, sees golden eyes glinting at him.
instinctively, he pulls on the reins & gasps, making the horse jolt. th's heart is in his throat as he hangs on for dear life.unfortunately the tail end of his red riding hood gets snagged in a low branch and th is sent flying backwards as yeontan continues galloping without him.
when his back hits the ground, the breath is knocked out of him and he feels dizzy. but he doesn't have the time to think about that or even to jump to his feet because, emerging from the shadows, a brown beast appears. th realises it's a wolf but he's never seen a wolf that big.
what he thought to be golden eyes were mere reflection of the moon, the gaze is as red as blood, as dark as shadows. th's eyes swim with tears. he tries to crawl back but he soon realises his back is against a tree. he has nowhere to go, paralysed by fear; he watched terrified as
the wolf's mouth foam with hunger and his snout creases, showing off razor sharp teeth.
the wolf is inches away, so close that th can smell his rancid breath. he smells blood and raw flesh. he feels like his belly is going to upturn.
he closes his eyes and prays for a quick
death and begs his parents for forgiveness. as the breath of the beast hits his face though, there's only one person he thinks about. a boy with rosy cheeks, a sharp wit and laughter like music. a boy with moon eyes and gentle hands. a boy who allowed him into his life and made
room for him like the starry skies make room for the sun every morning.
he thinks only for jm and feels heartache so cutting he sobs with it.
the wolf growls, th whimpers, thinking it will be his last moment on earth but then, he hears and feels a body fly over him & slam into
the wolf. there are sounds of a scuffle, whimpers and snarls and horrible other sounds that th can't identify. he's almost too scared to open his eyes but he has to see why he didn't die tonight.
his eyes flutter open & he finds another wolf, just a tad smaller than the brown one
its fur is white with streaks of silver and it is fiercely defending th from the other wolf. it has him by the neck, teeth sunk into the brown fur, keeping him in place. the other wolf tries to suirm away but the moon wolf is too strong. soon, the brown wold submits, offering its
neck with a whimper.
the white wolf however isn't budging, he continues to growl and put pressure onto its opponent's neck. anger radiates out of him, th can feel it. it's shaking with it and th watches on mesmerised, heart racing.
"it's okay, let it go," he whispers.
th doesn't think his voice carried, he's still shaking furiously with fear, he can barely breathe... and yet, the white wolf seems to hear him bc he gradually relaxes and eventually lets go of the other wolf. he doesn't settle down, remains in a defensive stance.
the brown beast doesn't linger to see if the moon will attack again, he crawls from underneath him and slowly backs away until the shadows of the forest cover him.
silence reigns as if the woods themselves are waiting, breath caught, to see what will happen next.
neither th nor the wolf move. he can still hear its low defensive growl, as if it's daring any other creature to come near. th can't feel his legs, his lungs and back hurt and his face is cracked like marble, his tears splitting his cheeks. he swallows and it hurts.
in the back of his mind, a voice is screaming at th to get to his feet and run as fast and as far as he can but he can't move. he doesn't understand why or how but he feels safe with this wolf.
eventually it settles on its hind legs and quiets down. th is breathless.
gingerly, with a lot of difficulty, th stands. he's shaky on his feet and he's afraid to empty his stomach if he moves but he can't stay still anymore. he's terrified, as well. scared that if he comes close the wolf will turn on him. or worse that this was all a dream and he did
die under the beasts teeth.
still, he feels compelled to advance, come closer, see the moon wold upfront.
before he can take a step however, it turns around. slowly, as if not to startle th. when their eyes meet, th feels faint because he knows those eyes.
those silver eyes.
"ji-," he starts to say but he can't finish the word, can only hear the blood rushing to his ears.
he faints but his body doesn't touch the ground, the moon wolf hurries and catches him with his back.
when th comes to, he's in his own bed, back home and his head hurts like it never did before. he groans as he rolls over in bed and when his eyes flutter open he finds his mother at the foot of the bed.
"yeobo," she calls. "he's waking up." the look on her face, the taut lines
of her face, make th's gut twist with guilt.
"mum," he says through dried lips. there are tears in her eyes and she shakes her head.
"i'm so angry with you," she says but she comes to kneel by his side and holds his face. "how do you feel?"
th tries to put on a brave face,
not wanting to worry her further but everything aches, from the roots of his hair to the tip of his toes, he feels like he's all bruise and no bones.
"i'll be alright," he says. "how did i get here?"
"we found you laying in front of the door," his father says.
his anger is less obvious than his mother's but th can still feel, feel terrible for it, even more so bc he knows that if the situation presented itself again... he wouldn't choose differently.
he swallows and asks, "did you see a wolf?"
his mum looks surprised and his father shakes his head. "why?"
"no reason," th lies quickly.
"what happened to you?" his mum asks. th doesnt know how to answer that. he's not sure exactly what happened. the memories come and go, seeming out of touch from reality. yet, he knows
that he didn't imagine any of it. he can't tell that story to his parents though. they wouldn't believe him. or worse, they would and they'd never let him see jm again.
"i fell off yeontan and lost consciousness. is he ok?"
they both nod."he's in the barn. who helped you back?"
he shrugs. because how can he say "my best friend might be a wolf and he saved me tonight and helped me get back home safely"?
his dad sighs. "it's really late. you better catch some sleep. no bakery for you today," he says. th nods. his mother pats his head and then
his parents leave the room, closing the door behind him. when he turned 15, as a reward for finishing classes and working and so he wouldn't have to share a room with his brother and sister, his parents built a room for him in the back of the house. it's connected to the main
floor but has a big window which allowed him to escape tonight. right, he turns in his bed to face that big window and watches the moon. it looks bigger tonight, closer than it usually is. he feels his lids become heavier and he almost falls back asleep when he hears a scratch at
the window. he opens his eyes and finds white fur and moonlit eyes. they stare at each other for a moment before th gets off the bed. it's a difficult process, his whole body throbbing, but eventually he gets there and unlatches the window. he moves aside and despite his huge
built, the wolf jumps gracefully in, with barely sound. he sits on his hind legs and just stares at th, gaze gentle.
"i know you," th whispers. the wolf's ears twitch, making th smile. "i do know you."
and then, extraordinarily, the wolf bows his majestic head for th.
th breath hitches in his throat and he coughs, overwhelmed with an onslaught of emotions. he takes a tiny step further but the wolf growls lowly.
th stops. instead, he extends his hand and slowly, the wolf leans until his head is nestled in th's palm.
they stay like that for a long moment, connected, warm, alive. after a while however, the wolf steps back and moves as if to leave but th doesn't want him to. he really doesn't. he has so many questions, he still feels so lost and scared after what happened.
the wolf pauses, looking back at th. the boy, feeling brave, takes a step closer and another and another. the wolf lets him. he lays his head on his furry shoulder and whispers, "please stay, jm-ah."
he walks to his bed and slides under the sheet as the wolf watches him intently.
the wolf doesn't move for several heartbeats until eventually, he moves to the bed and swiftly jumps at the end of it. he lays there, head on his paw, his silver moon eyes intent on th's.
he smiles at him. "good night, friend." the wolf give a low whine and th feels less scared.
he falls asleep a moment later, the child of the moon watching over him while she watches over them both.
A/N: i'd also like to take a moment to thank everyone who has been encouraging me, reading along & qrt-ing with lovely, supportive and sweet messages. it really means so much! please don't hesitate if you love this story to let me know! postivity brings positivity!!! thank you
when th wakes up, he feels strange. not because his head and back hurt (they do) but because he usually wakes up around pillows.
today he wakes up wraped around a boy. a boy that smells like the earth.
his heartbeat picks up and his cheeks warm.
"good morning," jm whispers and th's eyelashes flutter open.
"how did you know i was awake?"
jm places a hand over the thin layer of his night shift, right over his heart. "i can heart your heartbeat quickening."
"oh," th breathes. "so, last night wasn't a dream."
"a dream?" jm asks, suddenly tense. or perhaps, tenser than he already was. he scoffs. "don't you mean nightmare?"
"what?" th asks, watching, powerless, as jm slips from under the covers and goes to sit at the foot of the bed. his expression is closed off, stern but his eyes...
his gaze is bare, naked in its bulnerability, profound in its sadness, heartwrenching in its self disgust.
"jm-ah," th starts but jm is quick to continue.
"you parents left a few hours ago. it's almost mid-day. don't worry they didn't see m-... they didn't see the beast."
"how?" th asks through dry lips. he swallows and it hurts again. he needs water. before he can get up to have a glass, jm jumps off the bed and to the small pitcher his parents left on the dresser. he pours it into a globlet and brings it to th. he even helps him drink.
their eyes lock over the cup and th feels his tummy swoop and his heart stumble. th has never been so close to that fave,never looked so deeply into his eyes. there are specks of gold in the silver.
he's mesmerised, bewitched, utterly taken.
jm blushes and swallows.
he straightens up, clearing his throat and the cup in th's hand shakes. they avoid each other's gaze. jm shifts and takes a few steps back until he resumes his position at the foot of the bed. th notices that the shift jm's wearing is his own and that makes his head spin.
"how did my parents miss the giant, beautiful wolf laying on their son's bed?"
jm's eyes jump to his, wide and shocked. his eyelashes flutter and his tongue swipoes over his bottom lip. "i... i, i uh jumped out of the window and waited for them to leave."
"why didn't you go back to the castle?"
"i had to make sure you were safe. and then when your parents... i felt tired so i laid down. i fell asleep, i'm sorry."
th shakes his head. "it's okay. i don't mind. especially not after you saved my life."
jm's jaw works and the lines of his face harden. th's spine stands rigid because, this time, jm is angry with him.
"i told you not to go anywhere near the forest. and you... you ride your horse through it past sunset?"
th purse his lips and looks away, very aware of his own
stupidity, especially in the light of recent revelations. still, jm must understand, right? that stupid instinct that pushes you to protect the ones you... care about.
"there were rumours. i hadn't heard from you in days. i saw that city doctor...," he shrugs. "i was worried."
"i don't need you to worry about me or to listen to silly rumours," jm says, jaw still set.
it stings, more than th would like to admit.
"so you can worry about me and fight wolves for me but i can't?"
jm's eyes burn cold. "i am a beast. i can fight!"
"you are not a beast!" th screams. jm falls back against the board of the bed, surprised by th's outburst. "you're... you're jimin, my friend. my best friend! so i will worry about you if i so please even if you could rip a tree in half with a simple snap of your jaw. alright?"
jm's lips part in surprise.
"alright?" th insists.
jm swallows. "not alright. we can be friends but you cannot meddle in wolf affairs."
"you don't trust me?" th's eyes sting with sudden tears.
"i do not trust myself when it comes to your safety
th blinks. "am i in danger?"
"no." it comes quick and sharp. "you're on our territory, you're my friend. no harm will come to you."
th scoffs. "i'm the friend you baby and lie to."
jm's eyes glint with heartache. "you're my /only/ friend. do not take that lightly bc i don't."
th almost laughs because there's nothing light about the way he feels for jm. "i don't either." jm nods. "but i don't like being told to do things and behave a certain way, especially if i'm kept in the dark about why i have to... submit."
jm looks down at his hands on his laps, fidget with the fabric of th's sleeping tunic. eventually, he looks up and nods. "i understand. i wouldn't either. but it's not submission. it's for your own good. for my peace of mind."
th rolls his eyes. "look how well that turned out."
jm's nostrils flare. "if you'd listened, if you stayed away...-," his voice is horse but th cuts him off.
"you can't ask me to stay away, not from you," his closes his mouth with a clap as jm's eyes widen and then soften. they fill with tears and th continues, "not you need me."
they stare at each other for a moment and th is sure, so certain that jm is going to refute it, get up & leave. he braces himself to watch him jump out of that window, maybe turn back into a wolf.
instead, jm moves as if finally unbound by the forces that were keeping him still.
he scrambles to get on all fours and climb on to th's lap, wraping his arms around his neck and holding painfully close.
th stays frozen for half a second before dropping the cup of water to the floor and wrapping his own arms around jm's small waist.
he buries his nose in his neck, smell earth and a delicate yet biting hint of citrus.
it's absurd, he knows. none of it makes sense. none of it should exist, but th feels at home here, in this small boy's arms. in his best friend's loving embrace. he doesn't question it.
"i don't think i've ever been this scared in my life," jm whispers, digging his fingers into th's shoulder blades, fisting the fabric of his shirt in small hands. "please, don't scare me like that again."
th's heart sings a tune he's never heard before. "you didn't look scared."
jm doesn't say anything for a long time, just holds him. th doesn't find any objection to it. the many questions he has don't come close to mattering as much as he likes this moment.
"are you okay?" jm whispers, voice wet and shaky.
"i've never been better," th smiles.
"th-ah, please, until i tell you otherwise, don't venture into the forest at night."
th sighs. "why?"
"because no one should venture into forests at night," jm says. "please let me hide just for a little while longer?"
"alright but don't keep me from your company."
jm hesitates so th adds, "come watch over me at night, i'll leave the window open."
jm leans back to look him in the eyes. there are tear tracks on his face and his nose is red. his iris look almost translucent under the midday sun. th wipes his tears away.
jm does the same for him. "i can't tonight. i've been gone for too long and my father," he swallows harshly. "my father's health isn't great, right now."
th's sinks while it goes out to him. "i understand," he offers a smile.
"but i'll come tomorrow," jm says and th grins.
"as a wolf," he asks.
jm's eyes shutter. "you don't mind?"
th squares his shoulders and gives hima direct look. "there's nothing about my moonchild that i would change," he says. "nothing, alright?"
jm's eyes shine with true happiness for a tiny moment before he looks away.
"okay, then i'll see you in two days," jm says as climbs off his lap and jumps off the bed. th's heart twists at the thought of him going but he, more than anybody else, understands obligation to one's parent, responsibility to one's family. he doesn't stop him.
jm is about to jump out of the window, throwing one last shy smile towards th when they both realise that he's about to walk out in night clothes.
"can you... change?"
"i'd rather not shift during the day," he winces.
th gets up and walks to the lone armchair where his red
cape lays. he takes it and walks up to jm. "here," he says softly, throwing the riding hood over his shoulders. it sits perfectly on his frame. it makes th's unbearably and unreasonably happy. he ties it carefully at the neck and then gingerly places the hood over jm's grey hair.
jm looks at him like he just gave him the sun itself. th feels like he just swallowed it, in fact. "there, it looks good on you."
"i'll take care of it," jm promise and takes th's hand to squeeze it.
"just, take care of yourself, alright?"
"alright," jm whispers, squeezing his hand one last time before jumping gracefully out of the window and running down the trail that leads to the woods.
th watches him until he's nothing but a red dot amidst the foliage.
th hopes against all hope that jm will still come that night even though he said he couldn't.
jm doesn't come but he sends a note with one of the guards who also hands him a small jar. they bow to each other before th hurries back to his bed to read the letter.
the word resonates in th's mind for the rest of the day and when his mother comes home that night and checks on him, he can't help but ask, "mum, is dad yours?"
his mother grins at him fondly. she takes the jar from his hands and shakes her head, then hums hesitantly.
"your father is is his own person, the love i have for him doesn't make him my property," she explains as she opens the jar to sniff it.
"you mean your love isn't strong to keep him?"
his mother scrunches her nose. "actually, it's quite the contrary. we are free to take any
path we choose, leave with the consequences of the choices. loving each other has freed us from the burden of those choices. or at least made them easier to handle. your father doesn't love him because i asked him to, he doesn't stay because i want him to, he does so of his own
volition. we belong together but he doesn't belong to me. do you understand?"
th mulls those words over and nods. "your love is strong because you both make the choice to love each other."
"every day," she smiles gently. "what is this?" she asks, shaking the jar.
th feels his heart squeeze in his chest. "jm sent it over, for my back pain."
"ah, jm-ie," his mother's smile turn indulgence. "is he yours?"
th blushes but doesn't answer. "would you mind helping me with the oinment? i can't reach," he asks instead.
"of course, baby bear."
th lies on his stomach and lifts his tunic until the lower part of his back is uncovered. he hears his mother hiss. "is it bad?"
"it's black and blue," she says, voice strained. "does it hurt a lot?"
"a little," th lies. it hurts terribly.
he hears his mother rub the paste between the hands to heat it up and after warning him that she's starting, she applies it over his lower back, gently pressing on the muscles. th bites down on his lip to avoid whimpering.
"sorry, love," she whispers. "this smells good, though."
"it's alright, mum, I already feel better," and this time it's not a lie. the ointment does soothe his pain almost instantly.
"good," she murmurs. "is jm the one who brought you back last night?"
th purses his lips for a moment, hating having to lie again but this isn't his
secret to tell. he's jm's only friend, something that apparently matters enough for jm to abandon his ailing father and his scared brother to come rescue him.
"i don't remember anything after I hit the ground," he says. strangely, his voice doesn't waver.
his mother is quiet for a long time before saying. "you're old enough to make your own choices and i know how smart and responsible you are. i know you've made tough sacrifices for the good of your family. so i won't berate you but there are rumours about the Parks."
"there are rumours about every family in the village, mum," he says.
she hums. "i know, i know. just be careful."
th smiles into his pillow. "trust me, i'm always safe with jm."
"aish, what a line. you are so smitten," she teases gently, but th still detects an ounce of worry.
he shifts, gentle with his movements, to look at her over his shoulder. "it's not about that. i pormise you, I won't be reckless like that again and more to the point, jm is no danger to me. his family are good people. you know i'm a good judge of character, right?"
his mother's gaze soften. she nods. "you are."
"from the moment i met him, i felt a kinship with him. even before we knew each other. i /know/ him now & i couldn't have chosen a better best friend for myself," he says firmly.
"you chose him, huh?"
this time, th doesn't evade.
"i did. i chose him and he chose me. i'm his only friend and we both care about this friendship. trust me, mum."
his mother sighs and nods. "alright. i'll let you go down that path."
he rolls his eyes. "thank you," he says sarcasm dripping thickly from his words.
his mother finishes the massages and brings him tea. th spends the rest of the evening re-reading every letter jm sent him this summer in order to miss him a little less and to assuage his worries.
it doesn't really work but at least jm's words are even warmer than the tea.
the next morning, before going to the bakery, his mother applies more ointment to his back. he can't resume his delivery job but he feels well enough to help with the service.
he loves the bustles of their small bakery. he loves mr choi who always stops by "not to gossip but..."
he loves when school let out and some of the kids rush in to grab a bun, their teacher myg in tow. th has always admired yg and wondered if he didn't have responsibilities here, if there had been more money, if he could have followed his path. he doesn't let himself wonder about
these things for too long, there's no point. he truly believes there's a path for everyone and nowadays, he finds himself glad that he stayed in his small town, working at this small bakery, filled with love and laughter, with his family. maybe by doing so, his younger siblings
will be able to have a future where dreams come true.
besides, if he'd gone away, would he have met jm? he'd like to think that they were destined to meet but the idea of having to wait years is now impossible to him.
he likes the way things are now. he likes his present.
even with distraction of work, times drags on. every time he looks at their old clock and find the hands have barely moved, his belly twists in disappointment.
"are you alright?"his father asks, catching his son pouting and sighing. "is your back hurting again?"
th shakes his head and his mother pops her head over her husband's shoulder. "need more jm paste?"
jm paste his father mouths, bewildered. again th shakes his head.
"i'm just a little tired, don't worry." his parents exchange a look but th quickly reassures them.
they resume work and eventually the day work day does end. at home he helps with his siblings' homework and his grandma with dinner. he checks on Yeontan who nudges his shoulder in apology.
the sun sets, the moon rises and th's heart calls for his moonchild.
he opens the window wide, settles on his bed with a book that his sister chose for him at the library. he reads without retaining a word and almost falls asleep twice.
then, he hears it. a low scratch by the wall. th runs to the window and outside, a big silver wolf is waiting.
there's a bag clutched between the teeth of his maw. a big brown leather back from which th can see a red hood.
"hi," he grins, his heart racing. "come in," he invites and steps aside. jm doesn't wait for another word; jumping gracefully into th's private room.
th bows his head, reverent, heart in his throat and jm gently butts his head against his shoulder. he stays there until th wraps his arms around him. "hi, moon boy," he coos. jm licks his cheek and th laughs. "i prepared clothes for you. i'll turn around while you change."
jm bumps his snout against th's red cheeks in what he gathers must be gratitude. he waits for th to turn around before starting to shift. there's fleeting thought, a mere moment where th thinks about turning around, or angling himself so he could maybe take a peak through the
small mirror on the opposite wall, but the tought doesn't even have time to take roots before th closes his eyes, dismissing it completely. he hears a faint whine, a snap, a few pops and a groan before jm's breathing changes into something human.
"are you alright?" th asks.
"don't look!" jm yelps and th grins.
"my eyes are firmly shut."
jm huffs before quickly putting on the tunic and trousers th prepared for him. a moment later, he touches th's shoulder. "you can turn around," he says, breath fanning across th's neck.
th braces himself and yet when he turns and their eyes meet, his heart still free-falls. the moment lasts for barely a second because in the next, th takes notice of the taut line of his face, the deep bruises under his eyes, the rigid way he holds himself, as if the slightest
breeze might topple him over.
th reaches out without thinking and jm flinches. he takes a step back and they both stare at each other in shock.
"sorry," th breathes, the sting of the rejection makes his voice shake.
jm shakes his head vehemently, bottom lip trembling.
"i'm sorry," he presses his hand against his chest in emphasis. "i should have told you. right after the shift, the skin is still too sensitive, the wolf in me doesn't like the shift from very powerful beast to frail human," he explains tears swimming in his eyes.
th's heart breaks for him. "it generally takes me a few moments before i feel fully like myself again. not to mention, i've never changed in front of anyone that wasn't related by blood to me, so this isn't a very easy moment for me." his chin is tilted up proudly and th thinks
there's nothing frail about him. nothing beastly. he's just... jimin.
but th can only imagine what position he's in, what kind of courage it must take to be who he is and to let anyone in. so he accepts his explanation and doesn't push for more. "is there anything i can do?"
jm shakes his head and blinks up a couple of times before his gaze clears. "i'm just glad to see you up."
"it's all thanks to you, thanks for the ointment. it's a miracle potion, i swear. it even healed that sore spot at the base of my spine that used to hurt from riding."
jm grins, a light blush on his cheeks. "it's my mother's recipe."
and then silence falls between them. th has so many question, burning with such curiosity that it almost hurts but jm made it clear he wasn't ready to talk about it. and jm just put himself through a vulnerable
moment. awkwardness is kind of... unavoidable.
"i can't sleep with you tonight," jm says and then his face goes so red that th almost chokes out a laugh. he tamps down on his amusement as best as he can while jm mumbles curses, his face covered by his hands.
"i meant, i have to go back to the castle tonight, my father is still unwell," he explains with a wince.
"it's alright, i doubt i could explain the pretty boy in my bed tomorrow."
it slips out, like a breath. this time th's face is the one to burn bright red.
"i mean... ugh, there's no explaining that one," th laments, sitting heavily on his bed. jù is grinning from ear to ear.
"so that's two times you complimented my physique," he says.
"are you keeping score?"
"of compliments gorgeous baker boys give me? yes absolutely."
ths heart swells. "how many baker boys do you know?"
"just you, ruby," jm answers, his gaze warm and inviting.
"like your hood," jm explains. he bends down to rumage through his bag and pulls out th's red riding hood. he extends it shyly and adds, "i mended the tears
from your accident two nights ago," he says.
"thank you," th whispers, a spring awakening in his chest.
"you're welcome. i also embroidered your name," he says coming to sit besides th on the bed. he fumbles with one of the sides until he finds the 김태형 sewn in burgundy.
"it's gorgeous," th looks up to smile at him and when his eyes meet warm silver, he feels flowers blooming in his chest. he's gorgeous, too. th doesn't say that. not again, instead he continues with "i didn't know you could sew."
jm beams. "i can do a lot of things."
"you mean besides turning into a gigantic wolf," th teases.
jm waves it off. "please, that's just in my blood. sewing and crocheting are way harder!"
th is delighted. "you crochet?"
"i do, it soothes me, quiets my racing mind. i sometimes do it before bed, it helps me sleep.
i even brought my current project with me," he says and opens his bag to show th the wooden crochets and his yarn. he peers inside of it, absolutely thrilled to be let in another secret.
"i've known you for almost a year and i didn't know this! how?"
jm shrugs. "when you come to the castle, i don't need soothing or distractions or to be learning a new skill," jm admits, voice a lot softer. "i just have to be with you, be... me. it seems to be enough, somehow," he finishes, wonder and heartache in this voice.
"it is," th reassures gently, bumping his shoulder with his. jm's answering smile is faint.
"that's miraculous to me," he says.
th nods. "you feel like a miracle to me, too."
jm turns soft, moonlit eyes on him and th smiles. "not the magic wolf bit, although i do find that amazing. it's just... i always sort of thought you were."
"were what?" jm asks. when his eyes flick down to his mouth, th has to make himself speak.
"amazing. magic. miraculous."
jm's breath shudders out of him and he looks back up at th, his eyes huge and beseeching.
th would give the world and the moon for one kiss.
"do you talk like that about all your friends?"
th grins. "only the ones who save my life and call me their best friend."
jm's smile burns bright for a moment before it turns grey with a kind of sadness jm has never seen in his life. something like mourning. he lays his head on th's shoulder and sighs.
"you're not my best friend. you're the best person in the world."
th's heart races and fumbles. it tumbles and falls and fractures. he doesn't understand what's happening but he knows he won't get that kiss.
that's not what's making his heart cracks; it's the loneliness in jm's voice.
"as long as I get to stay your best friend, too," he rasps
jm lets go of his bag and laces their fingers together. the touch is warm and soft. there's dirt under jm's nails but th doesn't mind at all.
"do you believe in destiny?" th asks him.
jm shakes his head. "no but i do believe some people are meant to meet."
"so do i."
"i'm very glad i met you," jm says.
th squeezes his hand. "and i, you." they stay like that for a moment until th's lid starts to feel heavy again.
"go to sleep. i'll watch over you until i have to go back."
so th settles under the sheets while jm sits next to him, back
against the headboard. he pulls out his crochet and under the feeble light of the candles, he starts working. th watches him until he can't anymore.
"night," he mumbles. "don't forget the candles on your way out."
jm cards his fingers through th's hair in answer.
"sweet dream, ruby," he whispers. "the moon and her children are watching over you."
th's last thought before sleep overtakes him is "i love you."
it's the last easy moment between them for a very long time.
A/N: important notice!
i will be posting a couple of snippets from jm's POV on my patreon in the upcoming days!!! if you want to know a bit more about our moon boy, please join us here:
the next morning th is shaken awake.
"five more minutes, mum," he grumbles and tries to bury his face under his pillow but someone stops him.
"taehyung," jm hisses in his ear and that finally pulls th out of his sleep. why is jm in his bed? why is he /still/ here? and why does
he sound so upset.
th straightens up and blinks furiously, only for his blood to run cold.
at the threshold of his private room stand his mother, father and grandmother. jm is standing near the bed, looking lovingly rumpled but th can't even appreciate the sight.
"oh no," th breathes but it's loud enough for everyone to hear. he looks outside and the moon is still high in the sky but dawn is fast approaching.
his parents should be at the bakery already, his grandma should be at the farm and yet here they all are. th's belly twists.
th opens his mouth to say something, anything but the words are stuck in his throat and his mother holds her hand up to halt him.
"jm-ssi," you should probably head home.
jm doesn't move. he looks at th, unsure, probably unwilling to leave him. "i'll stay," he says.
th's father raises one eyebrow. "young man, social status don't matter in this house."
jm bows his head in respect. "it's not about arrogance, sir," he says assuredly, gaze still lowered. "and it's not about pride but we're both at fault here and i wouldn't feel comfortable
leaving th-ie take the blunt of your anger. i am sorry for having spent the night here without asking for your permission. i promise it will not happen again."
then he bows deeply and th watches as all three adults falter in their miscontent.
"he didn't do anything wrong. i asked him to come. i was the one who chose not to tell you about his visit," th cuts in, getting to his feet.
jm sends him a scornful look. "i still came. i knew it was without your parents' consent."
th's grandma rolls her eyes, indulgent.
"look at these two, jumping in front of a sword for each other."
th's dad has to stamp down a smile,amusement shinning in his eyes but it's his mother th can't look away from. her face us still a cold mask of anger. "i appreciate your honestly, jm-ssi," she says.
"however, there are things i wish to discuss with my son that are, i'm sorry to say, none of your concern," she says.
jm flushes up to his ears but nods.
"i'll leave," he says quietly. the adults nod. "i'm sorry," he whispers.
he quickly gathers his things and instead of
jumping out of the window, he has to walk through the adult curtain at the door. they move aside and he bows once again before departing. he throws one last glance th's way, eyes worried and sad. th waves and then he's gone.
th's dad and grandma leave him alone with his mum.
she looks at him for a long time. th swallows and clasps his hand in front of him.
"two days ago, we were in this room when you asked me to trust you," she starts and immediately, th feels like horseshit. "how can I trust you when you hide things from me?"
he doesn't know how
to reply so he says the only thing that comes to mind, "nothing bad happened."
"you let a boy jump into your room in the middle of the night without alerting us... i think that's bad enough."
th stays quiet for a long moment. "sorry," he eventually mumbles. "he just came to
check on me. i asked him to come because...," and there, he falters because he doesnt want to lie but he can't tell the truth either. he mother's gaze is unwavering, piercing yet patient. ready to understand.
"because i'm worried about him. his father is ill and
he's got so much weight on his shoulders... i just," th sighs. "i just missed him."
his mum's shoulders relax ever so slightly. "you should have told us. i wouldn't have kept him away from you."
th nods but he can't tell his mum that jm travels by night in his wolf fotm.
"it was his only free time," which isn't a lie. "i was afraid if i asked, you wouldn’t allow it." which isn't a lie either but isn't the truth. th didn't factor in his parents. he missed jm too much and wanted to see him again.
the rest of the world and all its rules faded away.
his mother's eyes finally soften. relief floods th's chest.
"i'm not so old that i forgot what it's like to fall in love for the first time," she says and th's heart skips a couple of beat. "you, on the other hand, are far too old for disrepect your father and i in such a way."
th nods quickly. "i'm sorry," he repeats and means every letter.
his mother approaches him and tiltis his chin up with a curled index finger. "it would be ridiculous to ground you and i won't stop you from seeing that Park boy again but..." and she doesn't have to finish her
sentence, th hears the reproach and quiet threat loud and clear.
"i promise it won't happen again."
"good," his mother nods. "and i don't want any boy jumpring through your window," she adds. th is still too shaken and nervous, otherwise he would have laughed at the thought
that occured to him. "what about a wolf?" he would like to ask but he can't. he won't.
"he'll have to pass through the main door when he comes for dinner," she adds, voice stern but there's a twinkle in her eye. th knows he's out of trouble, now.
he looks at her, stunned.
"you want him to come over? for dinner?"
the corner of her mouth lifts but she quickly regains control of her expression, frowning even more than a moment ago. "i'd like to know the boy who turned my sweet baby bear into a rebel."
"i'm hardly a rebel, mum."
she sighs and her expression falters and softens. she pulls him into his arms. "no, but you're growing up. you're doing adult things, making choices that will change your life and take you away from me. i knew it was coming, i'm just surprised all it took were pretty eyes."
th laughs even if his heart squeezes painfully inside his chest. his family's well being has always been his priority, his only saving grace from this cruel world. knowing he's causing her pain is difficult to bear.
he wraps his arms tightly around her. "he's more than that."
"judging by the way he defended you earlier, i have no doubt about it," she says squeezing him one last time before letting him go. "now, quick, go get dressed, we should be at the bakery already!"
she almost pulls away but he grabs her wrist and holds her in place.
"he's not just a pair of pretty eyes, mum," he insists. "i think he's my soulmate," he adds, words barely above a whisper.
"alright," she says and kisses his cheek. "he better love you as you deserve."
the word pierce him like aknife because th doesn't know /how/ jm loves him.
"maybe i can love him enough for it not to matter," he says and his mother's gaze shutters.
"love, you can love a person more than a heart is allowed to love but if it's not mutual, it cannot be enough."
th smiles sadly, even as his heart revolts against the notion.
"we'll be alright," he says out loud and hopes it's enough for the universe to back him up.
his mother pats his cheek gently and then without another word, she leaves him alone to get ready for the day.
it's only as he makes his bed after getting dressed that he realises he missed waking up next to jm.
he missed the moment he woke up next to him. were they holding each other? is jm as clingy as him in sleep? how adorable is sleepy jm? more adorable than teasing jm?
th gets on his bike and pedals to the bakery, pouting all the way there.
thankfully, the red riding hood still smells a bit like jm. he revels in that and tries not to worry about what's to come.
in the following days, th and jm don't see much of each other. jm's brother comes to the market place on his own and drops by the bakery a couple of times, leaving a letter from jm in th's hands but it's the only form of communications.
th writes back every single time.
in one of these letters th invites jm over for dinner but in his ansswer, jm evades the invitation. talks about everything, from the books he reads to his father, to the meals his brother cooks for their family.
but no answer.
so th tries again, hoping that perhaps jm simply forgot to answer. except in the next letter, the invitation is once again ignored.
so th waits for a lul in deliveries before he takes Yeontan and rides to the castle. he's technically not breaking the rules since it's not night &
he's not cutting through the forest. he takes the much longer and more tiring route. when he knocks at the huge door of the castle, nerves are bubbling up his throat.
he hears footsteps running to the door and braces himself.
"kim taehyung, i swear if it's you on the other side of this door, i'm going to be very cross!"
th almost grins. it's so good to hear his voice. "open up."
"why are you here?"
"i was missing my best friend, is that a crime?"
a heavy sigh and then the door inches open, jm hooks his small fingers around the edge and pulls it open.
"stupid door," he says, with a pout. th almost laughs but then the sun hits jm's face and any amusement drains from his face.
"what happened?" he asks, throat tight.
there's a gash cutting across the bridge of his nose down his cheek. his lower lip is cut and there are several bruises on his cheeks and neck.
he scowls. "wolf business," he says and th's spine hardens with fear. every bone in his body locking in place.
th wants to reach out, gather him in his arms, wipe the scars and bruises away with his lips but he is paralysed.
"this is why you can't come to dinner," he whispers.
jm hesitates before nodding. "th we cannot be seen together right now. you cannot be here. my father is..."
his eyes fill with tears. "my father is dying and once he's gone... things are going to get really messy. if something happens to you... i'll never forgive myself. so please go home. don't come back. i'll come for you when things are better."
th's lips tremble with trapped emotions. "i can't leave y-," he starts but jm interrupts.
"you can't help me. this has nothing to do with you!" the word slash through th like a jagged blade. jm reaches out and taes his hand, his face softening. "please, th-ah. please. leave."
th is loathe to do so. his feet are taking root, his heart is unstitching itself from his chest, tearing through his flesh, begging to be left at th's feet. but the desperation and sarrow in jm's eyes make him nod.
"i'll go but please write."
"i promise." jm squeezes his hand.
th nods and makes his feet start to move but jm doesn't let go of his hand. he looks down and up again. jm swallows. "please be careful. don't cross the woods."
"i won't," th promises.
but again jm doesn't let go. there are tears swiming in his eyes now.
and before he knows it, th is pulled into a searing, breath-taking, sweet kiss. jm craddles his face tenderly and kisses him as if he is afraid he won't ever see him again. his desperation passes through the kiss and th drowns in it.
his first kiss and first heartbreak.
there's a sharpness to it, a bite to the kiss. the both of them hungry, impatient and immature.
jm tilts his head, eager for more and th allows it, melts into him, welcomes him. th isn't sure the kiss will ever slow down and end, so lost are they. but it eventually does.
jm rests his forehead against th's and pants, his small hands fisted in th's red cloack.
"i should apologise. i promised myself i'd never indluge in my weaknesses but you seem to be impossible to resist."
th laughs as tears trail down his red cheeks. "i won't ever feel sorry."
he swallows and adds, "not about you."
jm closes his eyes,as if in pain. "you have no idea the scars i have. the scars my family inflect."
"i don't care," th utters.
jm sighs and steps back. "go before i drag you in here and lock you away for myself."
th grins. "what an incentive to stay."
jm pushes his shoulder,smiling fondly. "go, please."
so th leaves but he is useless for the rest of the week.
A/N: THIS IS THE OFFICIAL START OF THE NEXT PART. i prepared a moodboard and i come with warnings. the next few parts will contain graphic violence (nothing too detailed) , blood , wounds and deals with death, grief and mourning. (NOT major character death!)
here are a few lines of poetry that go with these next few parts
exactly ten days after th's first kiss, Lord Park passes away.
it happens at dawn. th knows bc he hears the heartwrenching howls of his sons all the way down to his small farm. the cries are filled with grief and anger. th rides to the bakery with tears flowing down his cheeks
th knew something was about to happen because jm's letter all but stopped even though he promised he'd keep in touch. and while that ddn't anger th, it made him worry tenfold. the only missive he received in the days between their kiss and jm's loss is one that one of jm's guards
it's a small parcel with a bowl of tteokbooki, a new jar of paste because apparently jm heard that th's younger brother caught a nasty cold and a small note.
th eats the tteokbokokki and applies the paste on his brother chest and tries not to let the worry eat away at his chest.
as a thanks, his mother prepares several buns and other pastries to send to the castle. she has th's father deliver it because th refuses to set foot there even if his heart wails and longs to see jm.
but jm told him to stay away, made him promise.
th all but jumps when his father comes back.
"how is he?"
"Lord Park isn't doing too great." when th's face falls and looks away, his father puts a hand to his shoulder and adds. "i'm sorry, i didn't see jm-ssi. one of the guards took the parcel."
that makes th's heart drop.
"the guards were there, in the middle of the day?" he asks, throat dry.
his father frowns in confusion. "yes, there were several of them."
"several?" his father nods. th nods and turns away to resume work, loading up on other delivery and throwing his red cloack on.
for the rest of the day, he worries whether or not the increase ion guardsis a good thing. worries about jm and his brother losing the only parent they have left. worries about jm's bruises and cuts, wonders if they're healing well, hopes he's at least eating and sleeping.
some part of him must have sensed that something terrible was happning because the night before Lord Park passes away, th can barely sleep. the moon is blood red and the forest surrounding his family's farm seem thicker and darker.
as he gets ready for the day & hears the first
piercing howl, th's heart shatters.
he's never even seen Lord Park, jm used to get this clouded, dark look whenever his father was mentioned. th doesn't know what kind of father he was to his sons because neither of them really talked about him unless it was about his rules.
his heart shatters because the cries of the wolves resonate with agony and a sarrow like no other.
he goes about his day but it's difficult to focus. how could he? when the howls don't cease all day or when the village is aflutter with the news of the death.
by early afternoon, carriges and riders cross the center of town and head for the castle hill. all aftenoon long and well into the evning, th can see and hear more and more people coming and climbing up to the castle.
judging by the crests on the carriges and the silk on these
people, and the delicate lace of their mourning veils, they're clearly of noble descent.
th wonders if he perhaps could join them, put on a dark cloak and ride along to the castle. perhaps it would be less dangerous for him. but jm hasn't sent word that things were better.
but something deep in his guts tell him to stay put. there's something in that forest. something dark and hungry, th can feel it even from afar. sometimes, he even feel like he's being watched.
so he stays put and watches the lords and ladies pass by. he watches the moon, and
listens as the howls increase in volume and number.
at least jm and his brother are not alone.
they cry all night and, alone in his bed, th does the same.
the next morning, one of the guards, the same one that always delivers jm's notes, his name is hoseok, comes by. his eyes are red and puffy and he's clearly grief striken. th bows deeply.
hs smiles a bit sadly and offers him a note.
th has to clear his throat before asking, "how is he?" his voice still comes out raspy.
hs hesitates, probably because the question is absurd. th has spent the past day hearing jm howl in sorrow.
"he misses you." is what hs says.
"i miss him, too. please tell him that if there's anything i can do, i'm more than willing to help. i want to help," he says and if he sounds desperate, he doesn't care. he is.
hs inclines his head. "i'll pass your message along."
then, without a care of being seen, hs shifts
into a beautiful, rusty-brown wolf, even bigger than jm.
he runs away into the forest and th is stunned for a long moment before he remembers he has a note to read.
"come to the funeral. all of you. you'll be safe, i guarantee it.
in the back of the note are a detailed explanation concerning the proceedings.
th informs his parents that the funeral will be held in two days and they are all invited. they offer to close the the bakery for the morning but th explains that the funeral will be held at midnight.
that night, th sits by the window and watches the full moon, it's still blood red as if she too is mourning a loved ones. tonight the village and the woods surrounding it are quiet.
th sits on the edge, window wide open, jm's letters strewn on the floor. every so often he picks
one up and reads it, trying to imagine jm's leaning over his desk, plush mouth pursed in concentration, dark brows pulled together over his tiny nose as he writes to him.
somehow, it makes th miss him more.
he senses a movement by the forest edge, and immediately drops down from the ledge of the window, out of sight. he picks over the frame and watches as a big white and silver wolf breaches the wall of trees. he jumps to his feet and thenover the window.
he runs barefoot.
he collides with jm, arms wrapped aroud his neck. jm hooks his huge head over his shoulder and whimpers.
th's heart breaks.
"hello, Moonchild," he whisers, voice breaking. it's so good to see you.
they hug for a very long time. th's nose is buried in jm's fury neck, he can hear his heartbeat through his own chest. the tears won't stop but he doesn't care, he thinks would be crying too if he were in his human form. they hug until th's legs can't hold him anymore.
the both of them settle on the gound. jm wraps his impressive form around him, and th nestles there, face pillowed on his flank.
"i'm sorry for your loss," he whispers, passing a hand down jm's nose. the wolf nudges his palm and then licks it. his silver eyes latched onto his.
"are you alright?" he asks and jm looks towards the edge of the forest. th peers over his back and notices glinting eyes. slowly, as if called, dozens of wolves step out of the shadows and come join them. th's stares in shock as more keep coming, every one of them more beautiful
than the last. they all vary in colour and even in size although they're far bigger than the average wolf. they settle down, just like jm, surrounding them and jm turns back to him, his eyes soft.
th understands. "you're not alone. they're your family."
jm licks his cheek in confirmation and something warm like love settles in his heart. the osterity of the castle and the lonliness of its inhabitant made th think that the Parks were solitary creatures by nature but also because they had no one to rely on. th even thought the
lack of servants meant that they were either poor or had ascandalous past and that no one dared be associated with them. then when jm revealed his true nature, he thought they couldn't trust anyone to know them.
now, seeing all these wolf nobles, he can't help but wonder
if perhaps their story isn't more complex than that.
he lies more comfortably against his best friend, caressing his fur gently. "i'm so glad you're not alone."
jm nudges the side of his head with his nose as if to include him. th smalies at him and, daring, he kisses jm's nose
jm whines lowly, as if to complain but he licks th over his mouth and nose. it's a little gross but th doesn't mind. will go as far as saying that he likes it in fact.
maybe that, too, is part of being in love.
th talks. he talks of everything and nothing, he tells jm and
his family stories about his own, about the village, about the customers at the bakery. he tells them about how his dream as a boy was to travel the world and be an artist and how, in another life, he hopes he can.
he talks until he falls asleep, nestled in jm's embrace.
th is nudged awake some time later. he's warm, his skin clamy and when he blinks his eyes open he finds a few wolves peeing at him. they step back when they notice he's actually awake. th turns to jm who nudges his him until th is sitting straight. jm sits on his hind legs.
the wolves surround them, making several circles around them, all sitting like jm. when this one bows his head to th, they all do the same.
th blushes and bows back.
the wolves then cran their necks back and howl at the moon, but this time it's a cry of celebration.
th stands still, speechless and shocked. he looks over at the howling wolves surrounding him, these magical, beautiful,mystic creatures and feels one with the entire universe.
the wolves quiet down & th falls to his knees, gives a full bow. moved, humbled & grateful beyond words
after a quiet moment of revenrence they all stand up and some of the wolves come to offer their heads for a pat before heading back for the woods. th offers gentle pats with a smile. he recognises hs's rusty-brown fur and offers a tentative hug that the guard accepts.
then only th and jm are left and th can't quite quell the notion that he won't see jm for a while. his feet grow roots as he stares at him.
"you're the new Lord," he whispers, a lump forming in the back of his throat. "you're going to have so many more responsibilities."
jm shifts closer, nudging his shoulder. th blinks away his tears. "just promise me you'll take care of yourself and you'll let me know when it's safe to visit again."
jm bows his head in agreement. th can finally move again. he throws his arms around his neck and holds him tight
/i love you/ he thinks as loud as he can. maybe jm can't read minds but he can hear the way his heart beats.
for him. only for him.
"take care, Moon Boy."
jm licks his cheek and turns around to join the rest of the wolves.
th stays in place until he hears noises coming from
inside the house. his parents have woken up. he hurries inside and closes the window.
when he joins his family for breakfast, his heart is still heavy and his mind is full of jm.
the next morning, a young noble walks into the bakery just as th finishes serving teacher min. the two men exchange a polite bow before the noble turns to th.
"ah, you must be young taehyung," he says with a slight smile. His eyes shimmer like gold under water.
th nods and bows. "I am."
"I was told by a very brilliant cook that you sell the most delicious bread," his eyes twinkle as his surreptitiously slides a letter across the counter.
th grins. "the best buns," he says, swiftly swiping the letter with a few buns.
the noble leaves a pouch with enough money to make th's family live for a couple of fortnights before gliding out of the bakery, his black cloak billowing in the wind.
"who was that?" th's sister asks, suddenly appearing from the back of the shop.
"a good omen, i think," th answers before shoving the letter in one of his pockets.
it burns a whole through his trousers until midday when he gets a break. he grabs lunch and goes to eat by the temple. it's always quiet there around this time.
despite his stomach wailing for mercy, he completely ignores the food in favour of reading the letter.
seeing jm's familiar messy scrawl brings a smile to his face, seeing that the missive is longer than the few notes he's been receiving lately makes his heart soar.
by the time he's done reading the letter for the fiftieth time, th's heart is in shambles and all he longs to do is run to jm. run through the woods, fight wolves and humans bare-handed just to be with him. hold him close, offer him the freedom is so rightfully deserves.
he can't though. jm is counting on him and he has no one else to count on. so, even though, it's killing him, th goes back to work after eating his lunch and waits until he finishes all his chores back home before he settles at his desk and writes a response.
the next morning, another noble, this time a lady whose eyes glint like a crystal in the sun, waltzes in. unlike the other Lord, she is wearing her mourning veil and doesn't smile. she extends her hand, and th scrambles to serve her a few buns.
she rolls her eyes and takes the buns before dropping a few coins on the counter and shaking her free hand in th's face, her veil trembling with frustration.
"oh," he blushes before pulling his own letter out of his pocket and hands it over. Then she turns on her heels & leaves.
"are you and jm-ie using these Lords as postal services?" his mother asks.
th feigns innocence. "i have no idea what you're talking about."
his mother slaps his shoulder with a scowl, making him laugh. they resume work.
the next day he passes another noble on his way to nj's shop who whispers "he promises" as he walks by.
th falters for barely a moment before he carries on his merry way, a jaunty spring to his step.
@🍯🌻 hi all i have to say is i used @skiploom⁷ 🏳️🌈 ‘s designs because they’re perfect and every time wolf au updates i scream to the sky because it’s also perfect
eeeeeeeeeep i'm sooooo delighted!!! here's another splendidly tender fanart based on the last update! i'm do moved by the love and inspiration surrounding our lil story. thank you @pixie for this gorgeous piece
i can't believe how lucky i am to have so many people reading this adventure and having so many WONDERFUL people wanting to draw for it: here's another EXCELLENT drawing from @pwoom⁷ 🏳️🌈 (i feel like this AU is asmuch hers as it is mine)
A/N: i actually had time to do a bit of research on funeral rites in historical Korea and it was super interesting. You'll see bits of it in this update and it might not totally match with previous tweets and for that i apologise!
after sundown, hs comes to pick up th and his family for the funeral.he comes with a large carriage and 6 other guards.
his parents look flabbergasted as they watch the majestic horses pull in front of their farm house. They've all pulled on their black hanboks for the occasion.
hs and the guards are all wearing traditional sangbok which throws th off. usually, only close family members wear the hemp outfits. while the guards help th's family into the carriage, he leans over to whisper, "were you related to Lord Park?"
hs looks surprised so th gestures to his outfit. the guard's gaze shutters as understanding settles in and he shakes his head. "we're wearing sangbok because we're mourning our king."
hs avoids his gaze, lips trembling and chin dropping. th's loses focus, his vision blurring as the shock of the statement registers.
"i didn't know," he whispers.
hs looks up, gaze warm despite the grief there. "you weren't meant to know."
"why are you telling me now?"
hs pats his shoulder. "things are changing," he says with a conspiratorial scrunch of his nose. "now, hop on," he urges and guides th into the carriage. the small door closes with a snap and th settles next to his brother, feeling quite dazed.
if Lord Park was a king, then jm...
th shivers as his views of the sinister castle, of jm's secluded life, of the incredible miracle of their friendship fundamentally changes.
"th-ah, sweetheart, you look pale," his mother notes. "are you alright?"
th nods. "i've never been to a funeral," he says.
his father reaches across the carriage to pat his head. "your friend is pain, be strong for him, alright?"
"i will," he says. he looks out of the window and thinks about jm's letter, remembers the word 'politics' and wonders what's the next chapter of their story can be.
accidentally becoming friends with a lonely boy living in a grey castle is one thing, being in love with the heir to a kingdom is an entirely different thing.
th never saw his life beyond the bounds of his small station. he rarely allowed himself to dream beyond that.
he loves jm with every pulse of his heartbeat, wants to be strong and reliable for him.
but th is just... th a young boy from a tiny village. he bakes bread and delivers it to farmers. how can he be a prince's consort?
they took the long road to the castle. not that th could see, all the curtains were closed but he knows because it takes three times as long to reach the castle than it does even by horse. by the time they disembark, it's closer to midnight than it is to sundown.
the moon is full
the usually dark grey castle has been covered with white cloths and the path to the entrance is lit up with hundreds of candles.
"oh," his mother exclaims when she steps down, her hand still in th's who helped her out. she squeezes his hand and looks at him, eyes swimming with
tears. "Lord Park was loved," she says.
hs appears next to them and nods. "he was a great man. brave and strong and loving. very warm."
th's eyes are locked on a lone fingure on the steps. the mourning clothes look out of place on him. when they 1dt met, jm's hanboks were all
made out of dark fabric. always, black and grey and dark blue. he looked lovely in them but it gave him an austere look that didn't match his personality. after a while however, he started wearing lighter colours, a lot of pastel peach and pink and lilacs. it made his usually
rosy cheeks look even rosier.
now, the austere beige of the sangbok and gulgeon wash him out. he stands tall (or as tall as jm can be) leaning on his bamboo sangjang, his back straight, his shoulder set in a tense line and his expression is blank.
but his gaze falters when his eyes fall on th. even from afar, he can see how the corner of his lovely eyes crease and his eyelashes flutter.
"go," hs whispers. th turns to his family and they all nod, urging him on. so, th commands his shaky legs and heavy heart to move.
he takes the stairs slowly and jm watches him come, unmoving. when th is a step below him and their gazes meet fully, a lone tear trails down jm's cheek.
th has never lost anyone. he's never even been to a funeral that he can remember; and here stands jm,
orphaned before he reached his 19th birthday. th feels so out of his depth but he's also with jm and it's always been easy to predict what jm wanted. so he doesn't say anything he just bows his head slowly and then climbs the last step and stands next to his beloved.
jm doesn't move at all, his posture gets straighter somehow so th stands tall next to him and watches as wolf nobility climbs the stairs one after the other to offer condoleances. each of them hands jm a piece of coal that jm puts in a linen bag.
"why coal?" th asks when there's
a break in the concession.
jm turns sad eyes on him, his lips tilted up in a tiny smile. "it's part of our beliefs. the coal represents the wood that we burn to eat our meat but also the wood that used to hide us from human eyes. it is said that the heavier the bag of coal, the
happier the afterlife," jm explains. "it's a way to grant access to... our nature even in the next life." then his eyes shutter as more tears gather in his eyes. "a full bag also signifies that the person who died was respected and loved."
"your father was indeed."
jm nods and his face crumbles for a slight moment before he clears his throat and smoothes out his expression. "i didn't think this day would come so soon but i also never thought so many people would come when it did. i'm glad i don't have to send him off on my own."
"you wouldn't have been," th promises and jm must understand what he means bc he smiles up at him. a true one.
"thank you for being here," he whispers and turns back to the stairs where th's family is finally coming up. th's siblings bow their heads respectfully and offer quiet
and awkward words of condoleances. th's father and grandparents do the same and offer gentle pats to his shoulder.
then th's mother moves close and embraces jm. he seems lost for a moment before an torrent of emotions washes over his face. he wraps his arms around her and lets
himself be swayed from side to side. th's throat closes up and he has to fight tears of his own. a fight that he loses the next moment when jm all melts into th's mother's embrace and starts sobbing quietly.
"it's alright, sweetheart. cry your heart out. you're alright."
jm's wrap more tightly around her and he buries his tiny, red nose in her neck. th's mother continues to offer words of sympathy and comfort and th can't hold himself still any longer. he goes to stand behind jm and wrap his long gangle arms around the both of them.
th's mum pats his arms and slowly pulls back but th doen't let go of jm and jm doesn't try to move, instead he leans against his chest, head resting on his shoulders. he takes several breaths in and out to regain control of his breathing.
th holds him close and thinks as loud as
he can 'i love you i love you i love you i love you.'
more people come in. jm's brother handles the bag of coal while jm regains his composure. th helps him wipe away his tears and jm lets him, leans into the touch and even kisses the palm of his hand.
'i love you i love you.'
the last person to come surprises jm. nj makes his way up the stairs and bows to everyone present. he stands awkwardly in front of jm, opening his arms; jm snorts and falls into his embrace. "thanks for coming, hyung."
"you'll always be my family, no matter what," nj says.
nj heads inside, patting th's shoulder in passing.
th's family and jm's brother follow nj in and th holds jm back. "nj is a wolf?" he hisses.
jm smiles. "he is. on my mother's side, yes."
"wow. was he here the other night?"
"remember the big black wolf that stumbled over the
roots of a tree?" th nods. "well, that was hyung."
"oooooh, makes sense. he's beautiful," th thinks out loud. jm scowls at him. "what, can't i find other wolves beautiful?"
jm huffs. "you can do whatever you like." he starts to walk away but th grins and pulls him back, flush
against his chest and hugs him from behind. he hooks his chin over jm's shoulder and sways them from side to side. "you're still my favourite," he reassures softly.
jm huffs again but he melts against him.
they finally go in but they don't stay inside, they follow the rest of jm's family to the courtyard. th has never been back there. whenever he visited the castle, they either spent time in the huge library or in the front yard. he's surprised to see a small temple.
"we don't really believe in any deity," jm explains as he leads the way towards his father's portrait. "but we are spiritual by nature, especially my mother's side of the family. my father built this in her memory," he says.
a whole has been dug in the ground next to another grave. oh, taehyung thinks. and reaches for jm's hand to hold it.
"she's not here," jm says. "she was buried in her family's kand, far from here. my father still wanted us to have a place to mourn her and talk to her."
next to the freshly dug grave stands a portrait of jm's father. th's breath hitches in his throat as he takes in soft round cheeks, deep, intense silver eyes and a pouty mouth.
"you look just like your father," he can't help but say and regrets it immediately when jm's gaze
shutters. he squeezes th's hand before letting it go. he walks up to his brother, the bamboo cane thumping on the ground softly while his feet barely make a sound.
th goes to stand beside a young woman with a heart shaped face, sapphire eyes that shaped like a cat's.
she smiles at him and makes room for him. she's standing right next to nj who smiles tensely at th.
"my name's hyejin," she says. "i'm the big red wolf," she grins and nj shakes his head fondly. "i'm namjoon's cousin."
th bows. "i'm kim taehyung. i'm... uh," he trails off, not
knowing how to finish the sentence without giving too much away. without giving the words too much weight.
"he's a friend of ours," nj saves him. "he likes art, he's pretty good at it too," he smiles proudly at th who finds himself blushing. "hyejin is a master," he continues.
before th can ask more however an old man makes his way through the crowd and comes to stand next to jm. he pats his shoulder and turns to the rest of them. he claps in his hands once then thumps his frail chest. he repeats the motions several times, setting a rhythm.
the crowd follows suit and soon the entire clearing is filled with sound of their hands. th joins them, eyes wide as he looks around. jm, the chief mourner, doesn't clap but he thumps his cane on the ground to the rhythm of their hands.
then the old man starts humming.
a soft sound, coming from the back of his throat that can barely be heard through the clapping but, soon, the mourners follow suit and th understands. they're howling. it's nothing like the elongated, guttural sound of a wolf howling but the humming has the same tenor to it.
it starts small as people get into it, some too shy to hum loudly but then the mourning song seems to bring everyone closer. they sway as they hum. across from him, th can see his family looking around surprised but soon his siblings follow the chant and so do his parents.
everyone in thr crowd closes their eyes and tilt their heads up to the moon while they continue clapping and humming. jm's cane gives them a tempo to follow and they all fall into it.
th closes his eyes too and prays that Lord Park rests in peace and that his sons find strength
in their mourning.
he promises the moon to take care of her children to the best of his abilities.
with one last clap, the crowd goes suddenly quiet. everyone seemed to know exactly when to stop, even th's family. the crowd turns to jm and his brother and bow their heads.
th looks on, throat tight as jm squares his shoulders and tilts his head up. he looks so young, so vulnerable and yet so strong. th wants to put a hand on his back and help him stand straight.
"my father was a strange man. he defied conventions, didn't really believe in much but
he believed in love. he built his home and his family around love. it was perhaps, a strange sort of love. i know i struggled a lot with the way he ran things around here but he was undeniably a man of heart and valour," he clears his throat & passes a thumb under his eyes.
"he fell in love with my mother when they were fifteen & they ran away and got married in secret when they were sixteen. it angered a lot of people but did my father care? no," jm smiles brightly, even as more tears fall. "he loved her enough to lighten up any negative emotion."
he wraps an arm around his brother. "and he loved us the same way when she was taken from us. i wanted to write a beautiful speech to do him honour but i think he wouldn't want that. he would want me to talk from the heart so i will just say that i will miss him every day.
i'm always going to be sad that he isn't here anymore and that i want to be a man of love and valour, just like he was," jm finishes, looking straight at th when he says the word love.
th's heart melts into nothingness.
"that was a strange funeral" th's sister says as the carriage takes them back home.
"you've never been to a funeral before," th's brother points out with a huff.
"still," she insists. "wasn't it strange, dad?"
their parents exchange a look before shrugging. "it was beautiful."
that night, th can't sleep. thoughts clamber in his mind, rolling around and piling up, making it impossible to do anything but toss and turn.
just after he slips into bed he hears the wolves howling again and can't help but yearn to be there too.
instead he turns his back to the window and tries not to cry.
eventually, sleeps overtakes him but right after it does, he hears a noise at the window. he recognises the noises of the shift and freezes.
"don't turn around," jm whispers.
"there's a tunic over there," he points to the chair by the window.
a moment later, jm slips into bed with him and wraps his entire body around his frame. any idea of sleep disappears.
"i-," he starts to say but jm brings a hand to his mouth and shushes him.
"i just needed to hold you for a bit, is that alright?" th nods so jm lets go of his mouth and buries his nose in th's neck. "i haven't been sleeping very well," he admits. "i've missed you. i miss our summer together. things used to be easier," he continues.
"miss you too."
"i had to make sure i wasn't followed but this is still reckless," jm sighs. "it's just really hard to be everything i should be right now, especially when the hardest thing is not seeing you and holding you every day."
th closes his eyes and swallows. "i understand."
"you're so good," jm says and holds him tighter.
"so are you," th replies. "thank you for coming." he knows very well he shouldn't encourage jm's reckless behaviour but he can't care about an abstract future when his present is this: jm in his bed, holding him and loving him.
they fall asleep, tangled together and when th wakes up the next morning, all that's left of jm's visit is the tunic on the chair and the citrus of his soap on th's sheets.
throughout the day, carriages and riders climb down from the hill and off into the horizon. a steady stream of lords and ladies leaving their small villages.
hyejin drops by the bakery - still wearing her mourning robes - to buy a few pastries for the road.
"you should come visit with oppa and jm-ie one day, we can talk art and music," she offers with a grin and th nods. she leans over the counter to whisper "look after him, will you? he may seem fiercely strong but he needs a hand to hold."
"i will," th promises.
she scrunches her nose in approval, then she turns to bow to th's parents and runs off.
th pretends he doesn't see or feel his parents staring holes into the side of his face.
that evening when everyone gets home and gathers around the table, his sister brings up something that
shakes him to his core.
"i think i'm being followed," she says, looking rather pale.
"what?" their parents gasp.
"it's just a feeling but it's chilling. i felt eyes on me throughout the day," she says. their mother wraps a hand around her shoulders and exchanges a worried look
with their father.
"we'll make sure you're not alone this week, alright?" he says. "there have been a lot of people from out of town, the forest has been buzzing with strange noises... i'm sure it's nothing to worry about but your brother will be with you tomorrow."
she nods, grateful. "it's probably just my overactive imagination," she says with a smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes.
that night th paces his room waiting for a note from jm and wondering if he should say anything about what his sister said. but why worry him further?
like his father said, it's probably just the drama of the last few days. the kims have always had a very active imagination and it wouldn't be out of the blue for his sister to overreact over a reflection of the sun.
he can't bother jm. he can't bother a newly appointed king.
in any case, th doesn't get a missive that night. in fact he doesn't hear from jm or see for a few days. not that he has time to think about it (it's all he thinks about, truly) with his new chaperone duties, th barely has a minute to write himself.
the week ends and a new one begins and slowly, his sister gets a skip in her step back. her eyes are brighter, her shoulders loosen. it seems like the bad feeling has passed.
th can't stop looking over his shoulders but he can't quite convince himself they're safe.
if they were completely safe, he'd be with jm.
still, his sister gets antsy and asks him to back off. "oppa, i promise, i'm fine. it was just a bad feeling, it's gone. no one is following us."
"but-," he starts but she crosses her arms and scowls.
"i said no!"
th chews on his bottom lip and frowns down at her, not liking her tone. "sorry," she quickly apologises. "tell you what? let me do the rounds tomorrow, if i get the bad feeling again, you can step in as my personal guard again."
"alright," th sighs. "but promise to be honest?"
"i promise," she smiles up at him.
the next afternoon, he's pacing in front of the bakery as she rides up to the storefront. she jumps from her bike and grins at him.
"nothing!" she says.
"promise?" he asks, fluffing the hair on the back of his head anxiously.
her smile expands, full of pride. "i promise. i had a very normal, boring day. i even had time to help out Mr Min with..." and off she goes into another lovesick rant about the village professor.
she really is fine. th sighs in relief, glad he didn't bother jm with it.
the next morning, th is surprised to be the 1st one up. his younger brother is always up before anyone else, running back and forth between the well and the house to bring everyone the water they need to clean up.
he puts on his clothes and slips into his shoes before jumping
out of the window to go look for his brother. before he can take more than a few steps he hears a shriek pierce the quiet dawn. birds take flight and th's heart plummets to the ground. that was his mother's voice.
he roun ds the side of the house and comes to a halt when he sees his mother bent over a body.
a bloodied and unconscious body.
"heeeeelp me!" his mother is scraming, voice and face distorted with sorrow and fear. th's father is running out of the house as well, dishevelled.
he screams at th but th can't hear anything but the ringing in his ears, can't see anything but the blood on the soil and his brother's shoe mangled several meters away from his unconscious body.
he falls to the ground, unable to utter a sound as his entire world stops.
#VMINAU th's family owns the village bakery. he grows up delivering baked good all over the village and later even around the region. when's he's 15, his grandmother makes him a ruby red riding hood that soon becomes the bakery's signature. people don't often come to their small
A/N (1): i usually don't apologise for delays in updates because i have a life and i'm a person before i am a writer, but this time, i really want to apologise. i'm sorry i took such a long time to update. life happens, you know but i promise, this show is still on the road!
A/N (2): please, please with everything happening on this app lately, i really need you to be active and interact with the thread. please like, rt and qrt as much as you can, i'd really appreciate it. thank you so so so much!!! love you all!! ENJOY THIS UPDATE
A/N (3): this update in particular is going to be bloody so CW// blood, injuries, horror elements, grief, past death
(also this update is going to go on for a couple of days so forgive me for the staccato rythm)
the rest of the day is a blur for th.
later he'll remember it in spanshots: his mother's pale, ashen face, her chemise tainted red. the deep gnashes on his brother's legs. his sister's tear strained face. his father riding off on yeontan's back to get a doctor.
professor min, nj coming to help cary his brother to the small house that was turned into a hospital when the doctor moved in their little village. his brother's empty room. his shredded shoe on the kitchen table. his own shakinh hands.
and blood. blood everywhere. so much blood
sillence falls over their farm. eerie and unsettling after the soul wrenching screams of his mother this morning. th feels completely useless, his father went with the doctors and his mother is with his sister. they're comforting each other but th can't even feel his own tears.
the sun travels through the sky in what feels centuries but then, as if the day passed by in a blink, dusk is upon them and there are still no words from his father.
this morning, the doctor said th's brother would survive but when he inspected his injuries further, he looked
worried. th saw the way his brow pinched together severly as he looked over the deep scratches on his brother's arm, the bone jutting out of his left leg and the wound at the back of his head that had yet to stop bleeding.
so much blood. th feels hollow just thinking about it.
he sits on the front door, right under the threshold and watches as the sun starts to dip. his eyes hurt from looking directly at it but he can't look away; every time he tries to look down, he sees blood.
"th-ah," his mother calls before appearing suddenly behind him.
he looks up and feels his heart twist and his tummy churn at the ghost-like expression on her face. she opens her mouth to say something but her eyes fall on the courtyard and he face pales even further.
she leaves without adding anything.
th follows the path of her gaze and finds the patches of dried blood. this morning, it felt like they were drowning in an ocean of blood but now... it looked like someone had spilled a bucket of strawberry jam and left it to dry in the sun.
he can't look at it anymore.
he jumps to his feet, gathers the items he needs and gets to work washing away the blood. the dirt turns to scarlet mud and th can barely see through the tears, his throat hurts from trying to contain sobs.
but he doesn't flinch, doesn't stop. he scrubs furiously until his arms
ache and his chest caves in with the force of his fear and anger.
it's all his fault. he should've been more careful, he should've told his family about the wolves, he should have gone to jm when his sister first mentioned being followed. he was weak, he let himself be fooled.
he feels a hand on his shoulders and turns with a shout. he finds his mother, her face twisted with heartbreak. he looks over her shoulder and sees his sister and he feels his spine straighten. he throws his shoulders back and locks his jaw tight.
but his mother shakes her head.
"sweetheart," she says and th marvels at the strength in her, even as her frail voice wobbles with emotion. "it's all right, my dear boy. you're alright," she whispers and gathers him in her arms.
th lets go of the broom he was holding so tightly that it chafed the skin of his
hands, and falls into her. his sister joins them and the three of them fall to the muddy ground, holding each other as tightly as possible.
"he's going to be alright," their mother says and th wants so badly to believe her but he can't unsee, can't forget all the blood.
th doesn't know how long they stay like this, huddled together, blood and mud sipping into their clothes but at some point, yeonjun - the doctor's son - interrupts them offering somewhat reassuring news. they managed to suture all his wounds and th's brother even woke up.
th's father is going to spend the night with him. upon hearing that his mother quickly jumps to her feet and says firmly: "we'll be right there."
th and his sister nod but their mother shakes her head. she turns to th and takes hold of one of his hands. "stay. i'll take your
sister but someone should stay behind to make sure your grandparents and the farm are safe," she says. th wants to protests but he knows she's right.
and another, smaller, part of him isn't ready to see his brother yet. the idea alone makes bile rise up to his throat.
he nods and watches as his sister and move to the house to clean up. he watches them and notices the way they walk the same, the way his sister's hair has the same type of waves as his mother. he sees their resemblance even in the way their hunch their shoulders against the cold.
he wonders if people can see them in him as well. if they can see him in his brother's eyes or in his fathers voice.
it doesn't take that long for his sister and mother to clean up and change and they leave with one last look towards him. silently as the night, they go.
th stands alone in the courryard, feels the mud hardening against his skin, feels his body pulse with an ache he doesn't think he can wash away or sleep off.
still he should try to. he should also eat something. make sure his grandfather drinks his medicine.
he rounds the well,
leaving the broom leaning against the stone. his gaze is focused on the ground that's when he notices it, a dollop of blood. he wouldn't have questioned it except it's so far from the attack scene and no one takes this route but him. it leads to his room, not the main house.
it also leads to the forest edge.
cold trickles down his spine. he follows the path to the forest and that's when he sees it, more blood, a trail of it, leading towards the trees.
forgetting everything, th runs. he jumps over rocks and roots and ducks under leaves and branches.
he follows the bloody trail until he finds hoseok.
or at least hoseok in his wolf form, laying on the ground, on his side, a huge gash adorning his usually immaculate coat of fur. th comes to an abrupt stop, a shiver running up to his scalp.
he feels them then. eyes on him.
he's not so far into the forest that all hope is lost but he also knows that they got hs and he's merely human. there's no way he can outrun those who brought both the guard and his brother down.
he promised jm he wouldn't cross the forest.
but jm also promised they were safe.
th is tired of being left in the dark, of being a pawn, of being passive and seeing the people he cares for being hurt. all because he keeps quiet, all because he keeps secrets and doesn't act on his instincts.
he runs back towards the edge of the forest and right to their small
barn. yeontan is waiting for him there. th doesn't know if he was lucky and quick or if the wolves are simply waiting for him to be stupid.
either way, th isn't letting hs die in that forest.
he readies yeontan and jumps on his back. he passes by the front of their house where he knows his grandparents are probably looking out of the window.
"close the doors and every window. do not come out!" he says, tone as firm as possible. his grandparents look gobsmacked.
"please," he begs them. "now!" he hears how his voice falters, can feel how lifeless his legs grow, how his tummy twists and churns at the idea of crossing the woods. but doing the right thing isn't always easy. sometimes it's very stupid. "please," he repeats.
they nod and do as he told them.
th is left alone once again, just him, his loyal horse and the fear growing inside of him like a poisonous weed.
he leans down to pet yeontan's neck and whispers: "if you outrun them, you will have all the apples in the world."
whether or not yeontan hears the urgency or the fear in his voice, th cannot be sure but he must understand how much th needs him because he starts off faster than th has even seen him.
th leads him towards the other entrance of the forest, the one closest to the village.
it's potentially useless but that path is easier to manoeuvre on horseback and also leads quicker to the hill leading up to jm's castle. because that's his plan. find jimin. he should've have gone to jm immediately and the more he thinks about it, the more obvious it is.
hs's presence at the edge of the forest, the fact that he too was attacked, the people following his sister and the wolves who attacked his brother as well... it's all connected to jm. it all happened so that th couldn't reach jm. so that they could distract jm long enough to...
th can't even think about what is going to happen to jm if he doesn't reach the castle in due time but he knows that a lot of blood was spilled in the past few hours and he knows that can't mean something good.
so he rides as fast as he can through the woods, hoping against all
hope that he'll be quick enough to prevent any more blood being spilled.
anything but jm's blood.
halfway through, he feels eyes on him again. he doesn't know how or why but ever since that 1st night he was ambushed by that brown wolf, he's been able to feel them. as if that
1st attack triggered a long dormant instinct. it's the cold trickle of an icy droplet of rain at the very top of his head, down to his neck and shoulders.
for a single second, fear grips his gut so viciously that he almost vomits. but he doesn't stop, doesn't falter and urges
yeontan to go faster. the harder and faster they ride, the closer they seem to get. it's as if th can feel their bloodlust breath against his own neck. he hears the way they growl and snap their teeth at him. tears swim in his eyes but he won't die here. he won't let jm down.
yeontan who is usually squeamish of every little thing seems to be as determined to save their necks as th is. he runs so fast that it feels like they're riding lightning.
his heart jumps to his throat when the trees finally become scarce and the castle hill emerges.
relief floods his chest and in that moment, hope is so tangible that th forgets he has murderous beasts on his tail. he pulls on the reins on instinct and regrets it before he finishes the gesture. one of the wolves, white with brown on his fur coat jumps in front of yeontan,
scaring the horse and sending th tumbling to the hard cold ground. the wolf forgets about yeontan and turns its rage-filled red eyes on th. he recognises those eyes. that 1st night, it was so dark that he mistook the colour of his fur but it's the same wolf that attacked th
all those months ago. th stares at it, heart beating so hard it hurts. the wolf advances on him, drool dripping down from his growling mouth. his yellowing teeth look bigger than th remembers them.
and just like that night, as the wolf approaches, all th can think about is jm.
he let him down. th let everybody down. he's going to die here, they'll feast on his flesh before going to finish off jm and his brother.
he closes his eyes and wants so desperately for his last moments on earth to be happy but he knows that it's impossible so instead, he pulls
from his memory his happiest moments. again, like snapshots he sees: jimin's beaming smile, the way his cheeks dimple whenever th pays him a compliment. he conjures up thoughts of his lovely hands, his beautiful laughter, his silver eyes that made th feel alive. known. seen.
he almost feels the ghost of their one and only kiss against his mouth. remembers so vividly how jm had pulled him in, hands fisted in his cloak as if he couldn't bear to let him go.
he feels the breath of the wolf against his cheek and a dry sob escapes him.
he wonders if jm will bring coal to his funeral, if he'll forgive th for being so foolish and so weak. he makes a wish for his family to heal from this, even without him.
the last hope to survive trails down his cheek but instead of the hot bite of death... another low growl is
heard behind him. th turns around, hope ignited anew but instead of jm's familiar white and silver coat, another brown wolf with a halo of white hair around its face appears.
it snaps its jaws... not at th but at the other wolf. th thinks perhaps this is another one of jm's
guards but that hope is quickly dashed when the 1st wolf whines but relents. it sits back on its haunches as if waiting for instructions.
the second wolf then turns its attention on th, eyes as dark as the bloody mud th tried to clean earlier. it advances on him and then nudges
him, hard. th stumbles from his crouched position. it nudges him again and th finally understand that it wants him to stand but th isn't about to be led around to be played with.
"no," he says. the wolf growls,baring its teeth at him. it is much smaller in size than the other
but somehow, from up close, its size doesn't matter. it still has two rows of teeth that could make him bleed. th swallows and tries to repeat the word but fear has tightened his throat to the point of hurting.
he can barely breathe.
the wolf growls again and th stands up.
it nudges th from behind, its snout pushing into his thigh and th starts to shiver, sweat and fear dripping from his skin. he didn't take his cloak before leaving and now he regrets it.
before he can take more than a couple of steps however both wolves fall into defensive
stances. they growl as their ears pick up something that th can't hear until it emerges from the trees in a cloud of dust and dead leaves.
jm's white and silver coat strikes through the sky like lightning as he jumps over th's head to get to the bigger wolf.
it feels like time is suspended as jm flies over his head, jaw wide open, muddy paws making dirt trickle down on all of them.
th has never been more relieved to see dirt.
he braces himself for a fight, a long battle. he fears that the second will get involved and that jm's
chances to survive are minimal at best.
he couldn't be more wrong bc even though the wolves were clearly expecting jm, he seems to have been ahead of them the whole time. he lands right on the wolf's back, holding him down as his teeth sink into its neck.
the other brown wolf whines as if its been struck too. th's breath catches in its throat, from where he's standing he sees nothing but jm's hind legs and his ears. the rest is just a dark mound of fur lost in the foliage of the forest.
all he can hear is the guttural whine of the wolf still standing beside him and the low growl that he knows is jm's.
and then dead silence. as if the entire forest falls silent at the same time, even the wolf by his side. than it makes a noise that is so close to a human sob
that th looks sideways at it. it reminded him of the sobs his mother let out this morning as she was holding his brother.
th's eyes widen and he swivels to look back at jm who emerges back into the dim light now. his snowy white snout is now covered in blood and the silver of
his eyes is both threatening and devastating.
the wolf behind him doesn't move and with every step jm takes, he leaves bloody paw prints behind him.
th swallows, rooted to the spot. for some reason he feels like kneeling down and giving a full bow. before he can understand
the urge, he's viciously shoved aside as the last standing wolf charges at jm.
this time, jm seems unprepared for the assault, and th doesn't understand why. the half second of surprise is enough for the wolf to take the edge and soon it has jm on the ground.
the fight is much more intense this time and despite their stature, they move too fast for taehyung to track their movements precisely. all he knows is that every time the wolves teeth graze jm or sink into him, he never makes a sound. the only thing th can hear is the other
wolf's anger, its desperation to hurt jm, make him bleed.
th should probably go get help but yeontan is nowhere to be found and he simply cannot move.
he does the only thing he can think of, he searches the ground for a big enough rock. he tests the feel of it in his palm,
smooths its edges with his thumb.
a moment ago, he was lost, paralysed by fear but now, he's jm's... he doesn't know what he means to jm but he knows that no matter, they will go down together. he will not stand back and watch as the love of his life dies in front of him.
th is not much of anything. he's not that great of baker, his riding can use a bit of tuning and he is certainly made for battle but if there's one thing he's good at it's aiming. he used to play shoot-down- the-cup with his brother and sister all the time.
if he can manage to
position himself right, he can aim the rock well enough to hit the wolf between its ears. if they could just stop moving long enough for him to take the shot. he slides his left foot sideways, bends his knees, breath caught in his throat he wait for the next time the wolf is
in his line of sight. it happens in the next blink. it moves its entire upper body to swing at jm but in doing so, it exposes its chest to th. he takes aim and shoots. despite the aches and fatigue of the day, th puts enough force behind the hit that when it collides with
its ribs, the wolf stumbles back, howling in pain. jm takes the opportunity to finally get the upper hand and sink his teeth into the wolf's side. he tears fur and flesh off its body and th feels bile rise in his throat. he looks away but he hears the sound of bone breaking.
another low, pathetic whine, a growl from jm and then its silent again.
th looks up again to find jm limping up to him. he runs towards jm and falls to his knees.
"jm-ah? are you alri-," but before he can finish his question, jm falls to the ground, unconscious.
due to their positions, jm's head falls directly into th's lap and for a moment all th can do is stare at him, not understanding what's happening. jm was in control for most of the fight. he killed the 1st wolf within seconds and the seemed to be unscathed from the second fight.
this shouldn't be happening. jm is always so strong, so in control, so powerful. even in his human form, he seemed to be... untouchable. as if a piece of art had come to life, he glided from room to room as if he was born to be a conqueror. a true king. th has always seen that.
of course jm is of royal blood because, well... of course he is. it makes perfect sense now that th thinks about it. so it doesn't make sense for him to have fallen.
and yet he doesn't flinch or startles or even open his eyes when th buries his hands in fur.
he strokes his fingers through the silver hair and when he reaches the wide expanse of his neck, his hands meet something wet and sticky. his heart stops as he pulls one hand away and brings it to the dim light of the moon. the deep red of jm's blood breaks the last layer of
self control still holding him together.
his sorrow builds like a tidal wave. a flutter of his eyelashes, a defiant shake of his head, a loud no escaping his trembling lips. his chest heaves as he fists the white and red fur of his best friend and he breaks, sobbing loudly.
"no, jm-ah, sweetheart, please, i can't," he babbles as tears stream down his face. "you can't go. you can leave your brother, jim- jm-ie please," he begs, before letting his face rest against his head. his cheeks rests on blood and th's face screws up in agony.
"jiminie, you can't... you can't leave me. wh-what will happen to me? how can i go on without my moon? jm-ah," he pleads with a whine. "i didn't even get to tell you m-my secret. you promised, beloved, you promised me!"
"will you come back if i tell you," he gasps out a breath and straightens up. he holds jm's face in his bloodied hands and strokes his snout. "i love you, park jimin. i love you so much, it's like your name beats the same the rhythm as my heart. please don't leave me here alone."
but jm doesn't wake up. he doesn't move and th's heartbreak weakens his arms, jm's head lays on his lap as he sobs for him.
he doesn't know how long he stays like that but at some point he hears feet running. it seems like a group of people are headed their way and th
doesn't have the time to hide before nj, professor min and several men th's hazy mind recognises as the guards jm had hired for the funeral are upon them.
"hyung," th calls, but his throat is so sore that it comes out as a croack. "help him, please," he begs. "help."
nj and yg kneel on each side of him.
"how long has he been unconscious?"
"just a few moments," th says.
"alright," he calls for the guards and it takes six of them to carry jm. "there's a carriage waiting not far. we'll get him to safety and heal him."
relief floods his chest. "he's not...," but he can't bring himself to say the word.
yg shakes his head. "i checked his eyes. still silver. he's just wounded."
a sob escapes th and he hides his face in his hands.
nj pats his shoulder. "it's all right, now," he says gently and a whimper rattles th's chest. he nods and then opens his eyes when he feels jm's heat being lifted away from him. "don't worry, the doctor will have him back on his feet in no time."
yg grabs his attention. "one of the guards find your horse. he's waiting for you to get you home," he says in that gravely voice of his but for the 1st time ever, th isn't soothed by the sound.
"i'm not leaving him," he says.
yg opens his mouth, readjusts his glasses but nj cuts him off. "you're not winning this one, hyung."
"alright," he sighs and th gets to his feet. he feels dizzy for a moment but once the head rush passes he remembers.
"hoseok," he whispers. that makes yg jump to his feet.
"what about hobi?" he asks, curt and sharp.
"he was... did you find him?" th asks, feeling like utter scum for forgetting.
"no. is he not...," he shoots a glance at nj who has visibly paled. "where is he?" yg grasps th's shoulders firmly. so th tells him.
"what do you mean the attack?" nj asks.
"my brother, this morning, a...," and then he points at the two wolves that jm fought; because who else could it be?
nj and yg curse. "take jm home, get him settled, i'll go back to hoseok," yg instructs nj.
he turns to th. "i'm taking your horse," he says before he runs back into the woods, two more guards following him.
"let's go," nj says.
th's gut is still churning with guilt. "i'm sorry," he says.
nj shakes his head. "it'll be alright. this family has weathered too many
storms to go down like this. beyond anything else, we're survivors. we persevere." he looks down at th with a gentle gaze. "let's go before you fall," he says and gingerly wraps an arm around him. he steadies th's wobbly legs as they walk towards the carriage.
the guards have placed jm on the back and th goes to lie next to him. nj sits by their feet and paws. the guards have prepared a makeshift bed to carry the second wolf who is apparently still alive.
that gives th hope for jm. that's his last thought before he falls asleep.
th is woken up mere moments later by jm licking his cheek. he sits upright, heart jumping to his throat. jm's still in his wolf form and it seems that he can barely keep his eyes open but th is so happy to see that special tint of crystal-like silver that he starts crying again.
jm lets out a tiny whine and nuzzles his neck until th wraps his frail arms around him (as much as his massive build allows). he looks over jm's fur at nj who gives him a hint of a smile. th's heart sags in relief and so does the rest of his body.
by the time they reach the castle, jm is more alert. he manages to jump off of it on his own and walk up the grand stone staircase with the poise that is so ingrained in him, even in his animal state.
the guards take care of the still unconscious wolf and th watches them all go.
he has so many questions, so many worries, still. are they safe now? how is his brother? will the wolf bites he suffered have any consequences on his still too young human body? who are these people? how will jm cope with having taken someone's life?
are they truly alright?
nj comes to stand next to him and brings an awkward hand to his shoulder. the sky is still as dark as ink and the moon is now hidden by clouds.
there's gloom gathering in th now that everything is over and he doesn't like being in the dark, both literally and metaphorically.
"let's go inside," he says, and has to clear his throat and lick his dry lips. "i need water."
he needs to talk to jm but he knows that won't happen tonight.
nj leads th to the kitchen although it's unnecessary, he knows the castle well enough. he's spent many afternoons in this very kitchen with jm and his brother, eating, drinking, and sometimes even baking. he has so many fond memories of their summer together but now he knows,
a part of him will always remember this moment. fetching two cups for he and nj while his friend brings out a pitcher of water. they light the fire and a couple of candles and then they wait, sitting opposite each other at the sturdy wooden table, silently sipping the cold water.
he doesn't know how long they stay that way but it's not even long enough for him to drink half of his cup. one of the guards comes to fetch them and they rush to the entry hall where, jm, human and dressed again, is talking with a young woman. several guards surround them.
yg walks in a moment later, a few guards carrying hs's unconscious body. yg's brows is pinched, his mouth pulled into a tight frown.
they all turn to look at him and jm's already pale and taut face seems to harden further.
"go," he tells the woman and immediately she follows yg
and the guards as they lead hs up the stairs. jm watches them go and th watches him. the great doors are open, letting the feeble light in, a few candles were previously lit and they cast a warm glow on his profile. He looks as beautiful as always, even with the blood running
down his chest and the cuts on his face. a bandage was hastily thrown over the wound on his neck but it looks like it's still bleeding. th takes a step forward and jm senses the movement because he turns around and they stare at each other. in that moment th is struck by how
young he looks.
jm's expression crumples for a moment, his eyelashes fluttering and his mouth trembling. th's heart bleeds for him but before he can go to him and gather him in his arms, carry him away to safety, away from all this, jm's face smooths out and he stands taller.
"status update," he demands one of the guards and the older, tallest one comes forward.
"hs-ie hyung's injuries were pretty severe, it seems that he was bitten by a wolf and struck by a human as well. Bungho's body has been buried and his sister is still unconscious."
the guard doesn't stumble over his words but th still notices the way jm shifts on his feet at Bungho's name. His expression doesn't falter but it might as well have been a full body flinch.
he nods. "I'll deal with Eunu as soon as she wakes up."
"You should rest," nj says the only thing that matters and jm ignores him.
"the doctor is busy with hs, i'm fine anyways," he says and somehow manages to look paler than the moment before.
"jimin-ah," th says and jm finally cuts his eyes back to him.
again, his expression blinks into something soft and vulnerable. it's gone too soon and th thinks he understands why people bleed for their loved ones.
he doesn't care how many pair of eyes are on them, he steps closer until he reaches his beloved and takes his hand.
"please," he whispers. jm's gaze is soft and he might not want to show it but th sees the beseeching in the silver of his eyes. "let's go to bed," he adds and jm closes his eyes. he sways on his feet and th wraps his arms around him.
"alright, love," jm says.
he turns to nj, still holding on th's hand tightly. "fetch me when the doctor is done with hobi-hyung," he says, voice like steel. he turns to the guards. "make sure eunu is looked after and that she stays in the dungeons."
the guard nod and the leader leads his troops away.
th helps jm up the stairs. when they reach his room he looks up at th with the ghost of a smile. th's heart hiccups. "this isn't how i imagined i'd first invite you to my bedroom," he says, voice wobbly and th's cheek turn pink.
"there's nothing conventional about us," he smiles
that seems to be the wrong thing to say because jm's gaze shutters before looking away to open the door.
th doesn't bother looking around the room. he's thought about it so many times, during the most of ungodly hours, but right now, all that he needs to know is that jm's heart
is still beating, that when he reaches out, he can touch his skin and it's warm under his hand. jm leans into the touch as th cups his cheek.
"how's your-," he starts to ask but before he can finish, th pulls him into a deep kiss. he sighs as his lips press against the
warm rosebud of jm's mouth. jm opens up for him, a tiny whimper escaping his mouth as he melts into th.
"sweetheart," th whispers as he pulls back. he rests his forehead against jm's and breathes in that earthly scent of his. "sweetheart," he repeats and jm's sighs.
"i'm a rolling stone," jm whispers. "my family wrecks everything it touches," he adds, tears rolling down his cheeks. "i'm so sorry about your brother, i just heard," he says. but th shakes his head vehemently.
"he's alright," he promises even though he still doesn't know that
jm holds his face in his scrapped hands. he looks at th as if he might disappear if he blinks. "you should go," he says.
th ignores that, takes one of his hands to kiss its palm and the back of his fingers. he holds it close to his heart. "let me hold you."
"but," jm starts again. th pulls himl into another kiss. as sweet as honey, as warm as a summer day.
"i'm not leaving," he whispers when he pulls back and jm looks, for half a second, relieved. "come," th adds guiding him to bed. he helps him undress. when he's down to his
chemise, th helps him into bed. then he fetches the pitcher of water and the rags that the doctor left behind. he brings everything to bed and wipes all the blood from his neck and chest. jm watches him do it silently, a reverent look on his face.
th blushes every time his hand brushes the now pink cloth over jm's breast bone. he doesn't dare come too close to the wound on his neck but even when th strokes the cloth over his collarbone, jm winces.
"sorry," th keeps whispering but jm shakes his head.
neither of them ask questions. neither of them whisper more than a few reassurances. th doesn't think any of it really matters in the end.
almost dying and losing the love of your life is good for perspective, he reckons.
he slides into bed with him after he's done cleaning jm up. it seems like the wound has finally stopped bleeding but jm's expression is still pinched withn pain and he's still far too pale.
th wraps his arm around his middle and gingerly shifts closer.
right here, under the lavender light of dawn dawn, he doesn't look like a king or a child.
he looks like th's very soul.
"thank you for saving my life again," he whispers.
jm shifts until he can kiss his forehead. "i was only looking after my own."
th's heart swells at the words and something must pass over his face because jm gives him a smile.
they fall asleep soon after. th doesn't know what the new day will bring but he knows that as long as they have each other, they'll be alright.
a few hours later, th is woken up by something wet.
it's a very strange sensation and it pulls him from sleep in an instant even though he still feels incredibly tired.
he pulls away from jm's neck where his nose found home during sleep and feels alarmed. why is jm's neck wet?
it's only a thin layer of it but when he shakes jm, tries to wake him up, jm doesn't respond.
yg is the first one in the scene and he takes one look at them before he runs back out. he comes back with the doctor and soon th finds himself pulled away from jm and out of the room.
he paces back and forth in front of the door under the eyes of nj and yg. at some point,
he remembers to ask about hs. yg tells him he's as fine as can be. a couple of broken ribs, a broken leg & a stab wound that thankfully didn't touch any vital organs. he's back to his human form. now he just needs rest.
"lots of it," nj adds. "it's probably what they all need."
th gasps out a breath, feels his nerves rise to the surface. "i'm so tired of seeing blood," he says.
nj and yg exchange a look. "jm shouldn't have tried to get back on his feet so quickly last night. he should've gotten better treatment," yg says. "but he'll be alright."
th nods before he leans against the nearest wall and slides down until he can sit on the floor. yg does the same and pats his shoulder.
th quints at him. "are you a wolf too?"
yg grins. "no but i was stupid enough to fall in love with one," he says.
"hobi hyung," th breathes.
he thinks about it for a moment, something warm but frail blossoming inside of him. "was it the eyes that pulled you in?"
"gold as the sun," yg smiles, letting his eyes fall shut. "but it was the smile."
nj sits opposite them, his emerald green eyes shining.
"never thought we'd have so many humans in our lives," nj ventures and th can't help but laugh.
down the hall a door slides open and jihyun, jm's younger brother comes out. "is hyung awake?" he asks.
the other three boys look at each other. "not yet," nj says smoothly.
the younger boy pads to them & sits down heavily next to nj. he leans his head against his shoulder. "he overdid again, didn't he?"
"that's the jm-ie way," yg says. "he'll be alright, kid."
jihyun nods and cuts his big silver eyes to th. "are you alright? you look like death."
th nods bc he doesn't know how he feels. he's anxious to see his family again but he can't leave yet. not before he sees jm again.
"where's eunu?" the way her name sounds on jihyun's tongue is like one would train themselves to say a dead person's name after they're gone.
"she's in the dungeon," yg says. "jiwoo noona said that her wounds are too serious for her to shift for now."
a dark cloud passes over jihyun's face and he nods.
th can't keep quiet any longer. questions have been burning his tongue for too long now and he's tired to be the
only one in the dark. "who is she? who were they?"
silence falls between them as the three other boys look at each other. it's jihyun who speaks first, surprising everyone. "she was from the contestant family. the supposed heir, as we call them." th makes a confused sound so,
jihyun continues. "back in ancestral times, like long, long, long ago before wolves had to go into hiding, kings were chosen by confrontation. the two reigning families would have their oldest child fight to the death for the right to ascend to the throne."
th winces. "brutal."
"back then," nj picks up the thread, "people thought that the only way for the wolf to live peacefully as a human was to allow the bestiality to win over from to time. so we ruled as people but we chose our royals through violence. it seems... barbaric but no family was better
money didn't matter, what mattered was the ability to defend your people," he says with a small roll of his eyes. "money did matter btw, only the richest clans fought for the throne but yes, theoretically, anyone could be king -,"
"- or queen," jihyun interjected.
nj nods. "or a royal as long as they fought their way to the throne."
"but that was centuries ago. over time as wolves decided to hide from humans, the practice, the royalty itself lost its meaning. it was more of a symbolic position. it was just tradition," jihyun says.
"the last king by blood dates so far back that barely anyone remembers who it was, only that its children were Parks," nj says.
"our ancestors," jihyun nods.
"so eunu and..."
"bungho, her brother," yg intervenes.
"why were they after my family?"
nj sighs, shaking his head. "they weren't after you, they just knew that the best way to get jm to fight was to hurt you. they couldn't hurt you because jm posted guards to insure your safety so, we assume, they got tired of waiting for you to be alone and attacked your brother."
th throat dries out. "that's why hs hyung was attacked. he was looking after me." their silence is all the confirmation th needs. he curses.
"they're descendants from the last family who confronted the Parks for the throne," yg says.
"i don't understand, if the position of
leader lost all its power, why would they care enough to maim and kill?" th asks. he feels nauseous.
"it's because of my father," jihyun says. "his family was always pretty rich but when he married my mother, his family and power grew in wealth," he says. "my mother came from a
prominent family of healers. they made a fortune in the wolf world developing and selling treatments to wolves. she was an amazing healer, my mother," jihyun says with a proud little smile. "even after they ran away together, she continued the family business, accumulating even
more wealth. she was an only child, and came from a very wealthy wolf clan so when her parents passed away, she - we - inherited even more wealth."
"greed is such a viciously seductive feeling," nj comments. "we were related. she was my mother's cousin but my side of the family
didn't want to be involved in politics or money. we're creatives," he says.
"how is medicine about politics?"
"money is politics," yg says.
jihyun nods. "when my grandfather died and my father was given the title, i was just a baby. bungho's father challenged my father to a
duel but my father had never fought a day in his life. he barely ever changed from his human skin, felt much more comfortable in it than in the animal."
th remembers the barely hidden disgust jm showed for his wolf form at 1st.
"did they fight?" he asks.
jihyun shakes his head. "he refused. said he could have the throne if he wanted it so bad but that he wouldn't fight him for it." jihyun's voice was hushed, filled with a kind of grief th couldn't understand.
"i take it he didn't take your father on his offer."
"bungho's family are the opposite of the parks," nj says. "they let the wolf lead their behaviour. the fact that Lord Park refused the ancestral tradition was...," nj seems to be unable to find a word to it.
"it was an affront," jihyun interjects. "he shamed bungho's father."
"but... why?" th asks. "he could just take the throne, it was offered."
"the throne is built on the blood and bones of the best warriors in history. taking it without fighting would be a dishonour."
th nods understanding. "he tried to force your father's hand, then?"
"he killed my mother," jihyun says, voice cold with barely contained wrath.
th gasps. "i'm so sorry," he says, tears blurring his vision. he cuts his eyes to jm's door and can't imagine the scars his beloved bears alone.
"he waited for my father to be gone on a trip and slithered into the house while we were asleep. she didn't go down without a fight but in the end he was stronger and she was found the next morning by servants," jihyun says, words difficult, as if he never told the story before.
"Uncle never recovered from it. he knew they would never be safe again unless he fought but he couldn't bring himself to take a life so..;"
"so we fled. we left our home, left all our belongings, left our family behind and came here to this ancient castle that belonged to
no one. it was far away from eunu's father's territory and it had no links to royalty."
"how did he discover it?"
jihyun gives a faint smile. "they married in secret, jm-ie hyung mentioned that during the funeral, right?" th nods. "they fled in the middle of the night and rode
away for a long time and they stumbled upon this village. my mum loved it so much that she made my father promise they'd come grow old here," he finishes.
tears stream down th's face and he quickly wipes them off, clearing his throat. they've been following the ghost of their
mother; living in the shadow of her happiness, wearing it like a mourning veil.
"is that why Lord Park didn't allow you to leave this place?"
jihyun and nj shake their head at the same time. "that was for safety measure," nj says.
"bungho's father wasn't letting up, even after
we disappear. so my family, on both sides, let rumours fly that we had been killed in a fire. that's why we lived here alone, without any guards or servants. but then," jihyun cuts himself off, guilt in his gaze. he looks away from th and something twists in th's gut.
jihyun looks at nj who nods. "he deserves to know the whole truth, he can take it."
the younger boy nods. "hyung was planning on telling you, anyways," he says and licks his lips. "we don't know how bungho ended up so far away from his territory but somehow, one day, he was
in our woods hunting. he must have smelled other wolves because he wouldn't leave. he saw my father once and... uhm, we still don't know how he did it but he must have passed the guards one night and he- he...," tears gathered in his eyes and nj pulled him closer.
"he stabbed Lord Park with a poisoned blade in the middle of the night," yg finishes.
"he said that since he wouldn't fight like a wolf, he'd die like a human," jihyun sobs.
th has no words left in him so he just stares at all three of them, mouth hanging open.
"how did he even know it was your father?"
"the silver eyes," yg says.
nj nods. "each line of wolf comes with a specific eye shade that shines until death."
"we're known for the silver of our father's line," jihyun says. "some say that we're the rightful line to the throne
because we have moon eyes. there's an ancient prophecy about the moon choosing its rightful children by the colour of their eyes," jihyun says with a roll of those silver eyes. his are a bit darker than jm's, swirling with the emerald of nj's eyes.
"then afterwards he refused to leave, tried to have jimin fight but he had... no leverage. he couldn't make him fight and there was still a chance that my father would recover. and then..." he trails off and looks straight at th, that strange guilty expression in his eyes.
realisation settles in th like a grey cloud, thundering away. he shivers as he says through dried lips, "that night in the forest." jihyun nods. "when jm first rescued me."
"leverage," yg murmurs and th wants to disappear. he feels so incredibly stupid.
"it's all my fault."
"it's not," nj shakes his head firmly but no matter how much he wants to believe th can't shake the feeling that if only he'd listened to jm, none of this would have happened.
"that family is resentful and won't stop at anything to gain power and our money," jihyun says.
"it's true," nj says. "they never stopped looking for our family, that's why my family and hoseok's family moved out here. to protect each other. we knew we'd be stronger together. we knew that eventually, people would notice that someone was still spending the Park & Kim money,
we knew that no one can really disappear. especially not a king, no matter how tradition got lost. it still mattered enough."
"but jm would have avoided all of this, if it weren't for my foolishness," th insists.
"you were an excuse amongst many," yg says.
maybe but th knows he was still the start of their nightmare. jm's wolf affair bruises, th's brother's attack, hs getting injured, bungho losing his life, jm killing someone. it's all because he couldn't stay still.
because he couldn't quiet his begging heart.
it's his fault.
all of it is his fault. he's too young and too stupid and he cost people their lives. so much blood was spilled all because he couldn't stop being selfish for one moment. maybe that's why jm kept him in the dark. bc th wouldn't be trusted with anything.
maybe jm is better off without him. th would throw up if he had anything in his stomach.
he feels dizzy suddenly. he closes his eyes and leans his head against the wall behind him. "i'm sorry," he says to no one in particular.
"th-ie hyung, please," jihyun says.
th can't look at him but he can't respond to his call. he opens his teary eyes and stares at jm's younger brother. he's lost so much at such a young age, he almost lost his brother tonight and it's all th's fault.
"bungho and eunu would have found a way. i know jm-ie hyung
wouldn't change a single moment from the past year," he says. "and neither would I. you brought life back in this mourning family. we were so alone, my bones were frail from loneliness but jm... jm carried such a heavy burden on his shoulders. he used to be so closed off,
so afraid to be human and yet so trapped by his wolf identity, by what it meant, by everything we had lost because of a throne that some day would be his," jihyun shakes his head, suddenly looking older than all of them. "his entire life revolved around making me happy and
helping my father through an endless grief. I was alone but he was even more so, in ways even I will never fully grasp," he sighs, straightening away from nj and shuffling closer to th. he takes his hand and offers him a soft smile. "you made him... alive."
"he remembers the first time he saw you," yg says. and th's gaze jump to his, heart racing. it was a couple of years ago, he'd come to the village with his father and hoseok and he saw you coming out of the bakery."
nj laughs. "god, he even remembers the way you threw you red
hood on and how it looks like your hair was endless because it was such a perfect match for your red hair," he says.
th's heart aches, a pulse of longing so strong, he almost sobs with it.
jihyun smiles. "you lit up his small world and killing is literally the least he would do for you."
tears stream silently down th's face. he thinks he understands but that doesn't make the acidic taste of guilt in the back of his throat disappear.
that's the moment the doctor chooses to poke her head outside. they all scramble to their feet and she smiles patiently and reassuringly at them. looking at her up close and with a clearer head, th is struck by her resemblance with hs.
"he's fine," she says immediately.
relief is so overwhelming that th sways with it. "he just lost too much blood last night and someone," she says looking pointedly at yg, "should have told me that he'd gone to bed without being fully stitched up."
yg has the decency to look ashamed. "he said to call you when you
were done with hobi."
"i was done with my brother an hour ago," she sighs.
"they looked so peacefully asleep," nj comes to yg's defence.
jiwoo holds her hand up. "thankfully, jm's been living healthily. he listened to all my advice up until last night. he just needs to rest so
i gave him a heavy sedative and he should be sleeping for a couple of days. since it's his wolf form that was injured, he should be recuperating fast but i'd still advise for a lot of bed rest, a lot of soup and one of your mother's magical treatments," she says.
they all nod, clear relief in all their faces. she turns to th. "he woke up and asked for you," she says. th's tummy swoops. "you better go quickly before the sedative takes effect," she urges him and even though nerves are dancing under th's skin,
he quickly stumbles into jm's room.
the drapes have been pulled open and the sun is shining brightly into the room. the wound on his neck has been bandaged in a sleeker way. the cloth is smaller and stark white. the room smells heavily of honey and peppermint.
jm's eyes are half closed, still he gives th a beautiful smile. th rushes to his side, kneeling beside the bed and taking his hand, lacing their fingers.
"how do you feel?"
jm pouts and blinks slowly. "i'm tired," he says, his voice a mere rasp. "how are you?"
th doesn't have an answer to that but he knows what he feels right now and it's fairly simple.
"i love you," he says, tears once again blurring his vision. he kisses the back of jm's hand and watches as he swallows harshly. "it's alright," he says because he doesn't need jm to
say the words. he has spoken his feelings in more ways and more times than th could count. he doesn't need the verbal confirmation. "i know, moonchild."
jm shakes his head. "i could learn every language, travel every inch of the world and i still couldn't find the right words."
th kisses his hand again. "rest."
jm's lips tilt in an almost smile. "kiss?" he asks and th can't help but gasp out a laugh. he leans forward and gives his pouting lips the softest of pecks. when he pulls back, jm has fallen asleep.