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Open Your Heart, I'm Coming Home

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It was awfully quiet for a summer night—awfully serene. There weren’t the usual pre-dawn sentiments lingering in the air. It felt like night—3 A.M. kind of winter nights. The air had just the right shade of restlessness—of disquiet; the kind that put your heart in an array of emotions just by dragging another breath of the night—a prelude to despair.

He was at the top of the world, high above, superseding reality and high on not feeling anything his camera couldn’t capture. All he wanted to do was take a couple of pictures, imagining the gritty details of others’ lives—vivid details his camera had no trouble conveying. He was immersing himself in any life that wasn’t his. Scenery and landscape weren’t the kind of pictures he enjoyed taking, not for a while anyway. There had to exist the ‘human’ element to his pictures, not in the pure sense; on the contrary, ‘human’ in the sense of tainting perfection; and nature was perfection.

He just had his special take when it came down to taking pictures. Pictures of lights tailing off, of cars whooshing by, of people walking by, of moments rushing by, of lives flashing by.

Still, there was something rather calming about the chilly breeze hitting him—about the city-night scent. He paused to enjoy this mood. From his place on the roof, he could spot some movement far on the opposing tower: two silhouettes.

It didn’t take much calculation; he picked up his camera again.

There was some scenario going between the two silhouettes, he could almost hear that—hear their camera flashing. It was devoid of any humour—no smiles, no laughs, no smirks—perhaps reflecting the gravity of shooting while putting one’s life on the line. The implicit photographer code, 'to die for the perfect shot', he understood that.

They were no longer two figures; they became people. And only their linked hands was what tethered their souls to their bodies still. One of them was dangling off the ledge, the other was still shooting. Perhaps this was the physical manifestation of the need in love—a hand holding on too strongly to another while the body hung loose in the air, too dependent and easily buffeted.

It wasn’t until the two figures had switched places that he crouched down, inching closer to the roof’s ledge. The air hit him hard, making him almost lose his balance. Maybe that could be his swan song: the picture to die for. He zoomed in, adjusting the focus. Still, he wouldn’t snap the picture; it meant the curtains falling down, the audience leaving, turning your back and walking away.

One last weary sigh.

Contrary to the photographer-protocol of snapping a number of pictures then filtering through them, he snapped just one after long beats of held-in breaths.

This was the kind of scenes only looked at once.

It then struck him, how this was the first time that year he looked at a scene he was shooting twice—looking again with his eyes after snapping the picture, as though doing a double-take to see if the scene was as beautiful in reality as the camera glorified it to be. More often than not, pictures expressed what the photographer wanted to feel, catered to their emotional spectrum rather than reality. He was too used to looking at the world through his lens he often forgot what it was like to appreciate the beauty of something with the naked eye. He didn’t have to mull over it for much; he didn’t find many things worth looking at with the naked eye—things worth seeing.

He fell back to his butt, holding his camera and checking the picture.

He cracked a smile.

He couldn't fully understand it either, but he felt so much affinity for—kinship with—that picture already. Perhaps it was about the mood it conveyed; perhaps it was about perspective; perhaps it had something to do with the way he chose to interpret the scene—to angle his camera and shoot. Or perhaps, much more simply, it was about the avalanche of emotions triggered in him.

That was it for the night; he wanted—he needed nothing more. Perhaps tomorrow, when he was to become festooned for the funeral of his heart, when time would cleave into a before-and-after in his life, he would need more pictures like that to snap.

Two things remained for that pivotal night. First was to print two of those pictures, second was to visit that one café where he was bound to bury his heart.

 

♥♥♥

 

It was known that words had little power over you unless the person who said them struck a sensitive nerve, or you had granted the person who uttered them enough power by letting them hurt you—by caring.

In Jungkook's case, it was the former.

“I'm sorry, Jungkook.” Namjoon was already adapting a sympathetic tone. “But while you played it safe, someone had the courage to risk something.”

Jungkook was getting a taste of rejection, or in his terms, of failure. He was looking at a number of photographs while trying to establish how those second-rate pictures displayed more talent than his.

Jungkook didn’t want to feel too much, but the least he could do was admit the photographer understood how colours operated and how integral a filter could be to a theme.

“Come on, hyung.” Jungkook’s smile was bitter, reflecting the calm anger. “You know the shooting was of high quality. You know it was good, and half of who applied for the internship submitted trash.”

Still with the kind smile. “I know it was good. But you and I, and Changmin-nim, know you have better.”

He didn’t get the logic. How was failing someone a motivation, how could Changmin say this was how he would have Jungkook reach the peak of his potentials?

Namjoon got out of his seat and sat at the edge of his bureau, studying one of the pictures scattered on the desk with a smile.

“Admit it, Jungkook, those photographs have more feelings than your film. Yes, they might not be as good as yours, but those are—” Jungkook eyed Namjoon from the corner of his eye, watching the latter look at the ceiling and trying to find the fit word, “—real.”

Jungkook sighed. He put down the photographs and rubbed his temples. He didn’t want to stare at them longer than that.

“I thought Changmin-nim specifically did not want a photography major for this internship.” He credited his voice for not cracking.

Namjoon smiled, giving Jungkook a pat on the back. “There’s still better, Jungkookie.”

After a few exchanges and a smile Jungkook forced, he left Namjoon’s office.

'Sadly, the timing was bad. And there was someone better at the moment.’

He walked slowly, his portfolio tucked under his arm as he tried to clear his head and rid himself the cold shiver that just wouldn’t part with his body. The words kept replaying in his head, the last part louder than most.

Jeon Jungkook had been unjust—untrue.

The thing was Jungkook was a sore loser; that was the byproduct of the deadly combination: excelling at what you did and hating to lose to anyone. To Jungkook, anything he did, he would put a huge gap between him and what used to be the best record, making it almost impossible for anyone to bridge that gap and, needless to mention, beat him. That was how he distanced himself.

So along with the bitter taste of rejection there was an undertone of anger. He wasn’t sure at whom it was directed—Namjoon, who was only a mediator, the guy who took his place, or himself for not being good enough?

It was okay, really. He could learn rising from ashes.

 

 

And it didn’t end there. October had barely rolled in, with no promise of snow or rain—a year as barren as apparently reflective of his school year—and Jungkook’s second school year was starting off in a rather bumpy way.

Over three weeks later and he would have rather overslept than attended Film History.

He was pushing his way through the hallway, this close to running across campus. Jungkook did his best not to bump into any of the students, wanting to draw as little attention as possible. He needed to be in his dorm—to see Taehyung, maybe. Jungkook was in such a state of mind that he didn’t care how others saw him. Was he fuming, did he have the serial-murderer expression, was he one word away from setting the world ablaze? He was probably all three combined.

It was one of the few times he regretted choosing that ‘stupid, useless, psychologically-consuming, emotionally-draining, futureless major.’

Luckily, the door wasn’t locked. Jungkook only had to give it an unnecessarily violent kick for it to fling wide open and for Taehyung to turn around in his chair, giving him a slightly raised eyebrow; as though he had witnessed similar episodes before it no longer fazed him.

“Fucking professor!” Jungkook cursed, not gently putting down his bag. It was the same bag that if anyone touched, Jungkook would throw hands at them—having his precious equipment, his entire future in it. “Fucking bitch-ass professor who wouldn’t be satisfied unless he failed us all.”

“Sit down and speak in normal-people’s terms.” Taehyung reasoned, spinning his chair to face the door.

Jungkook started, venting. “Three weeks ago it was rejection with Namjoon-hyu—”

“Wait, it was Namjoon?” Taehyung’s eyes flickered with interest. He sat upright. “Double-Major-Kim-Namjoon?”

Jungkook knew Taehyung was a goner and he couldn’t win him over in this argument. Stupid man-crush, stupid Taehyung.

“Namjoon-hyung, you know the TA—”

“He’s a nice guy.” Taehyung interjected.

“Stop calling people nice just because you want to get down on them.” Jungkook snapped.

Taehyung laughed; Jungkook was sure his misery was of an entertainment to Taehyung.

“Well, there’s that but he’s also really nice.” Taehyung smirked. When Jungkook shot him an admonishing glare, he cleared his throat and said. “Please go on.”

“And now it’s Film History.” Jungkook groaned. “It’s just the start of the semester and he’s already giving me such a headache.” Jungkook was pacing, his hands wildly gesticulating as he explained. “He’s giving me extra work too. I mean I know Kim-ssi is not such a big fan of mine, but it’s like he’s deliberately going the extra mile to make my college experience a living hell!”

Taehyung smirked.

“I’ve to say, people still talk about that Me Singing little video you took of him. The toilet paper was a nice touch too, Kookie.”

Jungkook fired him a scandalous look. He then took a deep breath and sat at the edge of the bed.

“After telling us we should prepare ourselves for starting our term projects—a short film animated or not, a documentary, anything—he tells us he expects something different, that he wouldn’t be so lenient with our class because basically we’re lazy asses—”

“He has a valid point there,” Taehyung offered, shrugging.

Jungkook ignored him; Kim Taehyung would probably die if he kept his side-comments to himself.

“So after class he calls out to me. And there I am standing before Kim-ssi trying to be unnerved, thinking about the million things I did wrong in the past two years, and there he is giving me the pressuring-annoyed-teacher smile they teach you as part of being an education major, giving me all that ‘I believe you can do it’ crap.” He got out a paper from his bag and handed it to Taehyung. “He started telling me about this competition—or whatever it is—that will be held near the end of the school year.”

Taehyung started checking the flyer.

“And you're annoyed because…?” He asked, eyebrows knitting in confusion as his eyes skimmed the paper. “If you get qualified, it means your project was the best. As far as I'm concerned, the best is a term that gets you fired up in a turned-on way and not in an angry way.”

Jungkook pursed his lips, keeping the unsaid status of the words quo. He opened his mouth to say something then decided to try to explain to Taehyung. “What if I get qualified but lose? What if it wasn’t good enough?”

Taehyung narrowed his eyes. “Then make it good enough. You know how.”

“Do you know who else is there in that exhibition, Tae? It basically has every art major—painting, photography, sculpture, graphics, design.”

Taehyung didn’t buy it. He moved the chair till he was sitting before Jungkook's hunched shoulders and avoidant eyes.

“Jeon Jungkook, not that I need to tell you this but you were born knowing how to pave your way to the top. Even when you half-ass your way, it’s still million times better than the best they have.”

“That’s the thing.” Jungkook burrowed his hand through his hair then looked away. “I can't half-ass that project anymore, Tae. Not only would I have to put effort into it but also put…”

He trailed off and looked away; Taehyung had a phantom of a smirk tugging at his lips. For a few amused moments, he kept eyeing Jungkook. He then got up, ruffled the younger’s hair and grabbed his jacket and keys.

Jungkook wasn’t too used to Taehyung being this kind to him, not openly at least.

“Get up,” Taehyung said, motioning to the door. “I'm taking you somewhere where you could be inspired.”

“Where?” Jungkook was a bit skeptic; he wasn’t a big fan of his day so far.

“Let’s go to Jin-hyung’s. That place has a magical effect, you know.” Taehyung winked.

It didn’t take a further word to have Jungkook tensing up. “I think I’ll pass.”

Taehyung rolled his eyes. “Listen Kookie, I can pretend I'm not aware of your café-phobia but we have a competition to win. And in order to do that, you're gonna have to figure out a kick-ass topic that even nitpicky Kim-ssi would have nothing against. If you can't get personal, then other people can. Personal is what Kim-ssi wants, personal is synonymous with different.” He let that sink in, knowing he had already won when Jungkook’s eyes were flung wide open at the tone and pitch used. “For a day, don’t be the blundering idiot that you are, and make use of that.”

Jungkook was a bit taken aback by the end of Taehyung’s speech. On rare occasions, Kim Taehyung knew how to appeal to Jungkook's senses.

 

He was staring. Jungkook hadn’t felt this scared to do something since he learnt to face his fear of high places. He felt diminished as he stood in the parking lot, as though the café with its gigantic pink sign—with its big bold flickering letters, and animated cupcakes and coffee mug—was looming over him, threatening to crush him with the weight of the memories.

“Should I hold your hand and kiss your forehead before we enter?” Taehyung asked quietly, stirring Jungkook from his reverie. When Jungkook looked at his side, he realized despite the affectionate eyes, Taehyung was teasing. Taehyung’s hand was about to brush the hair away from Jungkook's forehead when the latter snorted and looked away.

“Please stop treating me like I'm your boyfriend.” Jungkook said robotically—operator kind-of-robotically. “Thank you.”

“Dude!” Taehyung slapped Jungkook's chest; he looked affronted. “I'd not suck your dick even if they paid me tons of money.”

“Shame. And there I was wearing my favourite seductive underwear.” Jungkook smiled. “Thought I'd get lucky tonight.”

Taehyung smirked. “If that grandpa knickers is your seductive underwear then I have bad news for you, Jungkookie. The most luck you can get is a lick from Hobi’s dog.”

Jungkook could write a book on why he could go out with Kim Taehyung but it would be the same book on why he wouldn’t go out with Kim Taehyung. He should be happy they never once felt more than ‘two bros sleeping in the same room, two meters apart cause they’re gay’ towards one another.

In a way, Taehyung relieved some of the tension habituating Jungkook's veins during that little exchange.

Seokjin wasn’t there when they entered. It made Jungkook feel even less good now that his Hyung was absent from his very own café. At least Hoseok was present.

Empty Heart’s Treat wasn’t a normal café. Seokjin had co-founded it with some guy Jungkook hadn’t met about four years ago. It had a blue atmosphere, with jazzy vibes, and its baby-blue-and-pink walls were painted over with minimalist motifs. Tracing the splattered melodies, there was what seemed to be a timeline of polaroid pictures arranged on the wall—of friends caught mid-laugh, of lovers kissing, of people dreamily jotting down in journals, of birthday-candles being blown, of small moments of bliss on tasting delicious pastry, of improvised proposals fueled by the adrenaline rush, of a number of the happiest moments in life.

Jungkook could make up stories, build up lives based on those sole moments captured in frames. The photographer was utterly brilliant—that being said with his strong prejudice against photographers. The pictures invoked something—just looking at them made Jungkook’s heart lighter.

That was what Kim Seokjin wanted to achieve starting his business. He didn’t need the money; he wanted to make people happy.

Still, that wasn’t what made the café stand out nonetheless, not even that one picture that defied the photographer’s ‘café-indoor’ pattern. On every table lied a journal where you could draw or write down how you felt or what you were thinking. Most people took advantage of the anonymity thing and filled those journals as they sat drinking their coffee or eating some ‘heart treat.’ It was like a confess kind of game. The café was doing fairly well, especially with Seokjin supervising menu and experimenting with the recipes.

Sighing one last time, Jungkook tried not to meet Taehyung’s eyes much after they had sat down and ordered.

“What was that about the extra work you’d mentioned before?” Taehyung asked.

Jungkook squinted his eyes, computing.

“Oh, that!” he slapped his forehead with the back of his hand. “Lee-ssi has this group project featuring a variety of majors—theatre acting, film studies, photography, interior design, and literature. He told me he’s still picking ‘the team’—” Jungkook made air-quotations in the air, drawing a smile from Taehyung at the voice-imitation, “—but he wants me there. He considered calling you but I wonder what made him change his mind.” Jungkook smirked and Taehyung hit him with the menu, following up with a playful ‘ass’.

After dodging and laughing, Jungkook picked up his speech.

“I don't know the nature of the project yet, but he said it’ll boost up our scores and help with our portfolios. Probably something like a short film we’re writing, directing, and acting. I'm guessing he just wants to enhance teamwork and all the crap, you know.” Jungkook began pulling the journal closer to him. “Jaebum and Jinyoung are there. Jackson too. I think even Bambam will be there.”

He did his best impression of casual, hoping his voice didn’t betray him. It did nothing to the heavy silence sitting between the two of them after dropping Bambam’s name; and Jungkook pretended he didn’t know how Taehyung was looking at him.

“Pick a page.” Jungkook finally said, trying not to sound as uncomfortable as he felt. “I don’t have the time to go through that many journals and I'm not so shameless as to pry into people’s lives.”

There was game in Taehyung eyes. He was about to reply but Hoseok had their drinks arriving.

Jungkook admired the guy. He found it hard to keep up with his major, knowing how time-consuming being an art major was. Yet, there was Jung Hoseok, a dance major who worked at Seokjin’s and had a stable relation.

“It’s been a while since our holy trinity gathered here at the same time,” Hoseok said with a smile, holding the tray at his side. “To what do I atone?”

“Tae’s second dayversary attempting at abstaining,” Jungkook teased, already leaning away to avoid Taehyung’s punch. Hoseok laughed alright, but sadly, he wasn’t as evil as Jungkook so he didn’t take the joke further.

“I sacrifice so much for you, Kook,” Taehyung put on his best Saint face. “Having sex for the two us, I mean.”

“You have sex enough for the entire campus, Tae.” Hoseok offered. Jungkook's grin became wider as Taehyung tried to look offended. “Is that the journal that was on the table?” Hoseok asked after noticing what lied before Jungkook prying hands.

“Maybe.” Taehyung began sipping at his straw, playing innocent.

“If Yoongs saw you guys reading any of them, he’d give you an earful for life.” Hoseok chuckled as though revisiting a memory.

“Just this time, Hobi. Jungkookie here is having an artist-block.” Taehyung grinned.

Hoseok shrugged an ‘okay then’ and wheeled away, attending to an order.

“Who’s Yoongs?” Jungkook asked, sipping from his coffee and feathering through the journal.

When Taehyung didn’t reply and the silence became long, Jungkook had to look up from the journal. Taehyung was blinking at him as if he had just asked him who BigBang were or something.

“Seriously?” Taehyung leaned in on the table. “You’ve never met Min Yoongi, the co-founder? How long have you stayed away from this café, Kookie?”

Two years. Jungkook was glad it was a rhetorical question. He shrugged.

“Okay, so you’ve never met that short-ish guy who’s always with Jin-hyung. You know, black and white clothes, glasses, pale skin, small frame, intimidating at first but hella sweet?”

“You mean Jin-hyung’s boyfriend, the one with the camera and fierce expression?”

Taehyung almost spat his drink at Jungkook. “Eww, no! They’re like brothers, Jungkookie. That’d be like incest.”

Jungkook smiled, biting back a smart comment.

“Okay, guess I know who you’re talking about.” He vaguely did, but something caught his attention in one of the pages. If it weren’t for the stupid caption, Jungkook would have demanded meeting Min Yoongi that instant; he would have demanded meeting the brilliant photographer who could probably inspire him without Jungkook having to tread down humiliation-lane in the journals, possibly poking at an old scar or two.

“Plus, Yoongi-hyung is already seeing—”

“This is hopeless!” Jungkook cried out, frustrated. He closed the journal with a loud thump and blew out his cheeks. “It’s like everyone who goes to this café has been screwed over. Is there no intact heart in this world or what?!”

Taehyung mumbled something under his breath which Jungkook didn’t miss. He decided not to comment nonetheless; it wouldn’t be in his favour.

“I’ll just resort to plan B.” Jungkook was getting up.

“Finally taking that stripper job?” Taehyung deadpanned.

Jungkook faked a grimace. “Sadly, I already gave them your number.”

He grabbed his bag while Taehyung grabbed his hand.

“You're legit going to get out your journal? Is the world ending tonight?” Perhaps Taehyung wasn’t being sarcastic, but to Jungkook the subject was a bit thorny.

“It’s not a journal.” He didn’t intend to sound this defensive.

Taehyung lifted both hands up in the air in a surrender motion.

“Fine. Your diary. Whatever gets you through the night, buddy.”

Jungkook huffed.

“I’ll meet you in the truck.” He said, slinging his bag on his shoulder and turning around. “Take your time, I’ll explore around with my camera. I like the lack of light-pollution around here.”

“Sixty-nine.” Taehyung called after him. Jungkook froze, feeling all seven pairs of eyes boring at the back of his head.

He was already at the door but he turned to Taehyung all the same. He could clearly hear Hoseok laughing, muttering something about thinking Jungkook and Taehyung were just friends. Jungkook folded his arms and gave Taehyung a dead stare after sparing an old couple a glare.

“Sorry, Tae, no can do. I just washed my mouth.”

Taehyung laughed.

“I meant the page. You asked me to choose and I choose page sixty-nine in your journal. Whatever it has, you work on it.” He shrugged and Jungkook cocked an eyebrow at the confident tone. “I'm pretty sure all your material is more than good if you're so protective over it.”

Jungkook shook his head and headed for their pickup truck. He wondered if Taehyung could have possibly found—and read—that journal. Taehyung, of all people, wouldn’t miss the ‘personal’ element tinting one of the pages.

He didn’t call shotgun. He threw his bag in the bed of the truck and jumped next to it. He got out his phone and started warming up, experimenting with the adjustments before he started filming the scenery. Jeon Jungkook wasn’t a big fan of filming humans. He could only film Taehyung but the latter barely qualified as one.

The dark expanses of the sky stretched on endlessly, a continuous flow glittering with the twinkling stars—varying in size and in brightness, scattered in such a haphazard way that could make order out of chaos. It should look the same. Yet Jungkook always found something new to marvel at. The most tragic thing to ever exist, how the brightest of stars meant they were moments away from exploding—from dying; how only the brightest stars caught your attention and you never spared a second glance at them once they burnt away.

That was people glorified, the beauty of the star, unaware of the stories it never got to tell. Perhaps they didn’t care; as long as it looked beautiful it didn’t matter what tragedy it awaited to unfold.

He always found it funny how all people looked at the same night sky—the stars and galaxies existed all ways—but not everyone could see them. Not everyone could feel the chain of illuminations passing through them. This was the tragedy of our infinity.

Something glinted in the darkness; Jungkook didn’t shift his camera. He liked the stars and the moon too much to be bothered but he looked away from the screen. After a few beats of deadly silence, someone started walking to the café, the moonlight catching his silhouette as he approached closer and closer.

Jungkook might not have been able to make out the face, but the hair was strikingly eye-catching. Even in the darkness, the guy’s silver hair stood out. It reflected a continuous quiet, an unfading light. It reminded Jungkook of the moon; of moonlight streaks reflecting off the surface of rippling water—so much put-out-of-comfort as the air bullied them into dispersion.

The guy halted at the door. He pulled up his hoodie and turned around, as though sensing someone were looking at him. Jungkook caught his eyes.

As the two strangers locked eyes, Jungkook slipped into a niche between moments that time seemed to rush past them. He was looking at the silver-haired stranger but he couldn’t see him. And if said stranger could lock eyes with Jungkook—if he could see him, then where was the crack-a-smile-for-the-stranger-you-meet that was part of the social-contract? It was replaced with a look—a spark in his eyes under the arctic starlight—that seemed integral to something bigger, as was a star to the cosmos.

Jungkook didn’t snap back to reality till the guy had entered the café. Only then did he notice that his phone had been redirected. Jungkook collapsed on his rump on the bed of the pickup truck and checked the video. It didn’t catch the guy; it was angled too low to get the face. In a way, it seemed to have deliberately been positioned to capture the guy’s tentative hand ghosting over the doorknob.

He decided not to dwell on it for long; he needn't more headache. After all, he knew how painful a trip going through his very own journal would be.

Jungkook fished the journal out of his bag. He thought maybe Taehyung had done him a favour by choosing the page; this way he wouldn’t have to go through it page-by-page himself. It was going to get personal all ways, might as well end the torture quickly.

He had barely looked at the Polaroid photo and the scribbling beneath it than he closed the journal altogether and lolled his head back, shutting his eyes. There it was—the tightness in chest he had been working to unknot for years now.

Sixty-nine was not his lucky number.

As the memories came rushing back, images of bittersweet reminiscences crowded his mind, causing him to live the familiar barrage of memories at the sight—to relive the same darkness in his mind.

He didn’t know how long he remained a prisoner to time, stuck in the nothingness separating two seconds. It shouldn’t be called emotional-hell; it should be called emotional-purgatory. Hell was a place; limbo was in-between.

Jungkook had never been happier to hear Taehyung telling him to get in the car, making him emerge from the memories at last.

 

♥♥♥

 

Apparently—also shockingly—Jungkook had interrupted Taehyung at an important point last time they were at Empty Heart's Treat. Apparently Jung Hoseok was none but the proud boyfriend of Min Yoongi.

Jungkook wouldn’t be proud to admit sometimes he was just not so bright. Taehyung wasn’t there to save his ass—to nudge Jungkook or clear his throat snapping Jungkook back or anything. Jungkook was left with his jaw half-dropped at seeing the couple make out by the counter while Seokjin ran an episode of Hell Kitchen featuring a slacking chef a few meters away.

He wasn’t even sure what he was doing 11 A.M. alone on an October night at Empty Heart's Treat, but something about the pictures on the wall made him want to talk to Yoongi.

“Can I help you?” Yoongi called out through the distance, noticing Jungkook's stunned expression and immobile-and-rudely-staring state.

Jungkook had honestly expected something more passive-aggressive, having based his first impression of Yoongi on his conversations with Taehyung; something along the lines ‘would you want a framed picture of my boyfriend and I kissing signed and sent to your dorm?’ or something. But then again, Taehyung had said Yoongi was sweet. Jungkook’d better soon let go of his prejudice against photographers.

He finally gulped and shut his mouth; Hoseok was quicker to react though. “Jungkook-ah!” he cried, already letting go of Yoongi’s waist and heading towards Jungkook.

“Sorry, I'm not usually this rude.” Jungkook managed a chuckle and a polite bow when Yoongi was standing before him, very unintimidating. “I'm Jeon Jungkook. I might be a film major but I highly admire your work.”

Yoongi was smiling when Jungkook straightened up; he gave a slight nod.

“Min Yoongi, the photographer who is trying not to fail Jin-hyung and his business.”

Hoseok said something in Love-Speak to Yoongi about shutting up because ‘your work is inspirational—brilliant.’ Jungkook wondered how he hadn’t connected the dots sooner, how Hoseok had been so keen on keeping this job, how happier he had become months ago after finally getting into a relationship—after finally being tied down—that Jung Hoseok!

Hoseok had to leave to attend to some customers and in a way Jungkook was glad he was alone with Yoongi.

“Can I call you hyung or it’d be too wei—” Jungkook stopped midway when he saw Yoongi’s cordial nod. Yoongi had a tender eye-smile; Jungkook would have never guessed.

“So, I was wondering about one of the pictures you'd taken,” Jungkook began. Yoongi gestured for them to walk—to have Jungkook show him the picture in question.

Jungkook stopped at the picture that didn’t follow the pattern; Yoongi smiled.

“Did you take this one too?” he asked.

Yoongi chuckled quietly. “You have a sharp eye, Jeon Jungkookie.”

Jungkook smiled, keening into the nickname already. The picture was a blur of lights, not particularly clear—a landscape merging with the skyline, perhaps there existed a tall building enhancing the fit of merged colours. It was snapped as if the camera was grabbed mid-shot, a beat too late to not capturing it, but also a beat too fast to fully conveying the scene. Jungkook found solace in that in-between; he almost thought the motif was deliberate. But there was more to the story; probably the part only three people knew. And one of them was the person who took that picture.

He couldn’t help but think back to the day he was rejected in Namjoon’s office—to the pictures he had shamelessly called second-rate when his heart had reacted to them in a manner that said something quite different.

At night, those photographs fucked him up the most—being very three-dimensional and most alive. Over a month later and still the pictures kept flickering in his mind—of faceless people mingling with nature, of backs belonging to people facing the unknown, of colourful shape-shifting smoke exhibiting loneliness, of empty rooftops grey as a whisper of the night, of dangling feet on dangerous ledges, of crackling fires fluctuating in colour and temperature as the flames danced to the quiet hymns of the night. Albeit there wasn’t a single face in any of them, the photos were alive; Jungkook could hear them—see them.

“I can't tell you who took that picture,” Jungkook shot Yoongi an inquiring look; Yoongi shook his head, still admiring the picture. “Not because I don’t want to, but because I can only guess.”

Yoongi bit his lip, halfway smirking amusedly. Jungkook ventured a guess: Yoongi might only be able to guess but said guess was dead-on.

“So what’s your project about?” he turned to Jungkook, offering half a smile, half a smirk. It seemed to fit those delicate features, keeping the soft tones but not taming the fire Jungkook was sure in Yoongi’s spirit.

“It’s that obvious?” He laughed and sat down, having followed Yoongi. “I don’t have a theme yet but I might have a thing or two in mind.” Jungkook suddenly stopped, focusing his attention on Yoongi’s knowing smile, countering with a challenging one of his own. He decided to play ball. “I might have a title tho. A Clean Death in Love, it should breed the theme.

He didn’t even have to let that sink; Yoongi had already burst out laughing. Despite Jungkook's crooked smile, he knew he had scored.

“You must be a friend of Taehyung’s.” Yoongi said. “In fact, you must be that friend of Taehyung’s.”

Jungkook was smiling from ear-to-ear now. “I'd say I'm flattered but that ass never says anything good about me.”

“A clean death in love, huh?” Yoongi started, shaking his head wistfully. “And I've spent years wondering who had ripped that page from that journal.”

“Guilty.” Jungkook scratched his nose.

“So you're intending on making a theme about love?”

Jungkook laughed coldly—as if.

“Is that what that picture in the ripped page instigates? Love?”

Yoongi shrugged, resting his head on his interlaced fingers on the table.

“What do you see in it then?”

He tried not to sneer, to maintain a straight face; Jungkook saw a lot of things in that picture—things that had nothing to do with love. Regardless of the scribbling written beneath the Polaroid photo, Bleeding Hearts: A clean death in love, Jungkook had long ago decided to linger most on the ‘bleeding’ part.

“Undecided yet.” Jungkook replied good-naturedly.

“Why that page specifically?” Yoongi got out his phone, typing something then looking back at Jungkook. “Were you the one who took that picture?”

Jungkook cocked an eyebrow. “Hyung,” he began, smiling down and trying not to be eaten by the image of page sixty-nine burning in his memory. “You and I both know I'm not. The person who took the picture in the page I ripped is the same person who took the one on the wall.”

Yoongi’s smile didn’t falter; the guy exuded confidence and self-assertiveness that almost overwhelmed Jungkook.

“You sound too confident, Jeon Jungkookie.”

“I don’t hear you denying.” Jungkook countered.

Yoongi knew how to tango. “I'm not confirming either.”

Jungkook sighed then checked the time. He had to go now; there was still a certain video he needed to shoot nearby. He had excused himself, promising Yoongi he would come back soon and getting an ‘I like your fire, Jeon Jungkookie’ from the elder.

Jungkook hadn’t taken the pickup truck; he preferred walking. He didn’t think black mixed well with the grey of that October night anyway.

He climbed the stairs of the high abandoned building facing Empty Heart's Treat and hoped to god he wouldn’t be mugged. For two reasons: One, Timberlands were great shoes until it came down to running; Two, if his bag was taken, he would be homeless for the next three years, drowning in student-debt as he struggled to replace his camera, his phone and his laptop, and probably his broken heart.

He was setting the tripod, scanning the people down there for something interesting. Same old story, lovers seemed to take over that time of night—Jungkook wasn’t interested in that. That side of love wasn’t ‘different.’

On the roof of Empty Heart's Treat, a silhouette disentangled itself from the night. Jungkook loved the lightening; he loved the effect of the moon, how a person was no more than a shaped figure—no features, no voice, no dimensions; just a shadow in a wake. As if the person sitting leisurely there were sculptured of the night; as if they were of the night—belonged to the night. He could see smoke; he could make out how that person was seated, painted in an array of blue hues by the moonlight. Albeit it was just a shadow, Jungkook found himself aware of every movement, every infinitesimal detail. Jungkook could guess the clothes; he could make up the face—it wouldn’t matter; he could see just what he needed.

Jungkook could finally tell it was a guy. He was content once he saw his camera didn’t fail to capture the way the wind disheveled his hair, painting dark strings illuminated white by the stars against the sky’s tapestry.

Smoking—vaping—high and beyond the moment of the here-and-now, he lolled his head to the back, slowly letting the smoke drag to the air. Jungkook zoomed in on the guy’s face, liking the way even the eyelashes were caught in a shadow against the flashing around. The guy had spared the smoke a few seconds of his time then lolled his head back again, shutting his eyes and Jungkook could imagine a tranquil smile spreading across his face. He couldn't help but find the tapering-off ringlets, in that light and against the sky’s inky canvas, captivating.

The guy had his legs crossed and his hands supporting him behind his back, the hand that didn’t hold the joint was running through his hair, slowly—catching in the knots, curling and vying to feel the inches of that scalp, of something more. Jungkook made sure to capture the hands, the fingers. Body language was far more expressive than what any words could say—almost as expressive as the eyes.

Jungkook wondered if the height didn’t scare him, if he didn’t care about falling. By the time the guy was walking on the roof—as if walking on a tightrope, with the joint resting comfortably between his fingers, and swaying left and right as though familiar with that path—Jungkook had established maybe he didn’t care about falling. This was someone who had mastered the art of self-destruction, the art of standing amidst ashes and rising above his former burnt-out self.

After nearly thirty minutes, Jungkook thought he had enough. He had the perfect background complementing the perfect shadow. So he wrapped up and left.

 

♥♥♥

 

Sometimes, Jungkook believed that the kind of stops one made on the road heading to their destination made a huge difference. Consider any of them having saved your life, saved you from a car-crash or something along those lines. Consider meeting someone on your way back and your presence at that time was of crucial importance. Perhaps you would save someone; perhaps someone would save you.

Still, it was almost impossible he was seeing the silver-haired half-stranger a few feet before him. He had just parked the pickup truck across the street he should be crossing so he would get a snack.

Jungkook studied the pair standing at the bus-stop. The silver-haired guy wasn’t alone; he was with some blond lithe tallish guy wearing a face-mask and a cap regardless of it being night. Jungkook thought the weird duo looked so off together, considering their contrasting clothing-style. His eyes lingered on how the shorter held the strap of his bag on his shoulder as if clutching for dear life.

But that wasn’t what was most concerning about the scene. They were clearly fighting. The silver-haired guy was facing the other direction, as if having walked out on the other. Something in Jungkook called out to him to go walk to the bus-stop. He plugged in his earphones but didn’t put anything on play, and walked till he was sitting on the bench, more than fully aware of the scene unravelling.

“Just because I'm breathing, it doesn't mean I'm alive.” He dropped his bag and looked defiantly, with the force of his hostility, at the blond—voice emotional, borderline hissing. “Just because I exist, it doesn't mean I'm living.”

The silver-haired guy looked so heated, so frustrated. Jungkook never would have thought the latter could get that angry.

After looking to either side and on checking their surroundings, the taller guy approached him and spoke quietly, as if trying to contain the scene.

“It’ll pass. You don’t have to react this way.”

“So just because it'll pass I should just shut down?” He was hissing a few words ago; now he was shrugging. “Hell, maybe I should just lie down on the road and wait for the bus to run me over. I mean it'll pass, won't it!”

“Please stop overreacting. Stop making such a scene.” The other tried to reason, oblivious to how that wasn’t how you calmed someone—no smiles, no reassuring words, no hands touching, nothing. “People are staring.”

“Well newsflash, Taemin.” It seemed like that was the last straw. “People can't have everything they want in life. Not even you can.”

Jungkook was still pretending he was scrolling through his playlist, pretending he didn’t see that scene. He thought it was an overstatement of that guy named Taemin since only one guy (raven hair, dimpled) and a primary-school kid (with a Mark name-tag dangling off his neck) were at the bus stop. So much for 'people.'

Jungkook had missed what the blond had said once the bus stopped before them, being too focused on the once-over that dimpled guy gave his half-stranger.

“Piss off.” He jerked Taemin's hand away sharply, lifted up his bag and started moving towards the bus. “And don’t even think about following me.”

Jungkook wasn’t sure what to make of the scene but what he was sure of was how he wanted that Taemin away from the silver-haired guy. And so, even though he didn’t plan on taking the bus, he had walked (a bit drunkly, putting on an act) and bumped into the blond, holding to his shoulder as he pretended to fall, smiling while apologizing.

“I'm sorry. I should have watched where I was going.” Jungkook said, half-politely, half-flirtily, so no one would hold anything against him.

The blond looked at him then stole a glance at the bus that the silver-haired guy had just disappeared into. Jungkook straightened up and turned around as the blond guy brushed it off, trying to pass him by. He took his sweet time, hindering Taemin as he lingered before the bus’s door—making sure he would only get on the bus on the last second so no one else would, namely Taemin.

Jungkook thought he could set his alarm early so he would get back and get Taehyung’s truck if he didn’t have a death wish. Or maybe he could get off after the silver-haired guy got off—after making sure he was free of any further harassment.

By some miracle (some miracle that had something to do with the door closing on him because the bus had already moved but Jungkook was adamant on getting in), he was on the bus, barely registering the conductor’s words inquiring about his safety, or the latter’s half-apologies, half-reproaches.

But he didn’t care; he moved to the back of the bus and took one of the last seats, making sure he had a clear view of the silver-haired guy who had his head propped against the window four seats before Jungkook.

Much to Jungkook's chagrin, he had been correct about being wary of the dimpled man. After a particularly wolfish gaze, the guy had got up, eyeing the silver-haired guy like a prey. Jungkook was quick on his feet, casually slipping in the seat next to the silver-haired guy and glaring at the dimpled man. The latter seemed to have caught on, but Jungkook was sure he looked dangerous enough that the other wouldn’t dare a move. And if it came down to a fight, it would be an easy win.

At last, the man returned to his seat, clearly dissatisfied. Jungkook looked to his side to realize his makeshift companion was asleep, with his head leaning against the window and his big bag in his lap. Jungkook's eyes lingered on how he had pulled down his sweater to cover most of his hands; he had noted how small the guy’s hands were. The artist within him found something eye-catchy about the way the other’s hand was curled so protectively on his bag.

So much Jungkook wanted to offer his shoulder instead, saving him the rough ride and inevitable bumps.

Jungkook was watching the clock change minutes, then he wasn’t sure what happened. But he was coming to, the conductor tapping his shoulder while Sir’ing him, telling him they had reached the end of the line.

And of course no one else was on the bus.

Jungkook ran his palm all over his face, clearing his head as he fended off the drowsiness. It was going to be a long trip to get the black pickup truck, especially what the weight of what he had seen.

 

♥♥♥

 

It had been over two weeks yet Jungkook only dared to address his journal now (if that little incident at Empty Heart's Treat was struck out) when and where he was free of Taehyung—of the one person he couldn’t bullshit. It had been a week of him struggling. Struggling to be on time for lectures, to brainstorm for his projects, to work on that group project Lee-ssi had assigned them, to keep his art from getting rusty by filming things and people in their natural habitat every now and then.

He was sitting in a table at the furthest corner of the cafeteria, reviewing the videos he had taken throughout the last month. It was a stupid thing to do—so much like trying to get somewhere when you didn’t have a destination—considering he didn’t have a theme for his project yet. Or maybe Jungkook did have a theme; he just decided he could put addressing the problem on hold till… what? As far as he was concerned, nothing he had run from was ever later addressed.

He looked up when some laughs from two tables to his right called him back to the moment.

Jeon Jungkook wasn’t a big fan of Coincidences, capital C; and he sure as hell didn’t believe in Fate. capital F. Still, there he was looking at Hoseok sitting with the silver-haired guy Jungkook had seen at Seokjin’s two weeks ago—the guy he didn’t talk to at the bus-stop. They were laughing as though they had been friends forever—as though they had grown up together and known each other like the back of their respective hand.

It was such a contrast between that laughing guy who had such a dazzling smile, and the guy who couldn’t even smile at a stranger. Even the clothing style differed. The guy was now dressed in a hippie-gypsy hybrid style, somewhere between black bohemian pants and excessive number of leather wrist-bands, and a half-sleeve grey plain tee with a sleeveless brown jacket on top of it. He even topped it off with a hat.

“Don’t even think about it.” Taehyung had casually taken a seat across the table, setting his satchel beside him.

Jungkook averted his eyes from Hoseok and his friend. He had overslept so he missed Taehyung this morning. Taehyung looked good—model-good—in even the most homeless of clothes. But still, Jungkook thought there was Extra Effort. Taehyung didn’t pull off the skater boy look for nothing.

“Who is he?” Jungkook asked casually, giving Taehyung and his worn-backwards baseball cap his undivided attention.

He is out of your league.” Taehyung emphasized, stealing a chip from Jungkook's tray. “He is too much drama.”

“I asked for a name, not a biography, Tae.”

“I'm giving you facts.”

“You're giving me opinions.” Jungkook had been around Taehyung all his life; it was easy to skirt around his antics without putting effort into coming up with a retort.

“Park Jimin.” Taehyung divulged after munching on another chip. And Jungkook thought back on hearing the name, whispered with an ominous ring to it, around campus. “I know he’s handsome but, again, Kook, he’s too much.”

Jungkook looked over his shoulder. He had a handful of adjectives to describe the face that now had a name; and ‘handsome’ would indeed be one of them. But that wasn’t what called out to Jungkook the most; not so far at least.

After all, his heart neither quickened nor fluttered; there was only an overwhelming sense of unease that coated his heart—an inscrutable type of restlessness. And it was for those two reasons that Jungkook should start feeling alarmed.

No trouble ever started with ‘weak in the knees’; trouble manifested in the ‘calm before the storm’. The heart was no exception; and it always experienced the worst of storms.

Something was wrong about Park Jimin. That was what called to Jungkook most loudly. Jungkook knew for a fact, that that night he couldn’t see Jimin, it was for a reason that far transcended the darkness that was swallowing the whole scene.

Jimin was still talking with Hoseok. Jungkook knew Hoseok was soothing to be around; he often put others at ease. But somehow, it seemed like a two-way road when it came down to that sunshine duo, seeing how both of them were laughing like there were no care in the world.

“How do you know so much?” Jungkook asked at last.

“People talk.” Taehyung shrugged. “I'm assuming you can still hear the things circulated on campus while running late to class every morning.”

Jungkook started staring, waiting for Taehyung to cave in under that keen gaze.

Taehyung sighed. He leaned closer on the table, motioning for Jungkook to follow suit.

“Listen, he’s not a bad guy, I can tell you such. I wish you could be friends, but I know one of you would soon cross to the other side of the line, Kook. So all I'm telling you is don’t get too close. He’s not the kind of guys you'd want to get involved with.”

“Why are you so wary?” Jungkook rested back his back and studied Taehyung closely. “I didn’t even say anything and you're talking as if I'm handing you a wedding invitation.”

Taehyung deadpanned.

“I know you, Jungkook.” He let that sink in. “They say he skips from one person to the other the same way he changes jewelry.”

Jungkook clicked his tongue; Taehyung flinched. Enough was enough.

“Now you're going to believe what ‘they say’, Tae, really?” he gave Taehyung a meaningful look. Jungkook wasn’t trying to be mean. But Taehyung of all people knew better than to follow the herd-mentality of paying heeds to potential rumors.

Taehyung’s petty ass was saved by his phone.

Jungkook finished his chips as he kept his narrowed eyes fixed on Taehyung, the latter’s reaction to Jimin was even more intriguing than Jimin himself.

“Naah, I'm not gonna be there, you're stuck with Youngjae and Jackson.” Taehyung was laughing. “For a week you'll be on your own, man. I told you that.”

Again Taehyung paused to listen to what Jaebum (Jungkook guessed) was saying and laugh. It hit Jungkook then and he threw the question at Taehyung as soon as the latter hung up.

“Wait, you're not going to the recital in two days?” Maybe Jungkook felt a bit hurt that Jaebum knew and he didn’t.

“Sadly, I’m missing out.” Taehyung’s expression didn’t really convey the ‘sadly’ part. “Bogum invited me to stay the week, maybe the one following too—depends—at his place. You know, till the movie premieres. So I'm leaving this hell-hole, thankfully.” He punctuated his words with triumphant laugh. “But you go, Kook. The aesthetic hoe within you would find so many things to be turned on at.”

Jungkook groaned.

“Okay, great. Guess I won't be attending either.”

“As I said, go.” Taehyung got up. “Who knows, maybe you'll actually get lucky.”

“You're such an ass, Tae. I'm always wondering why we’re friends.”

“Because I'm the only person who really knows you and still wants to be friends with your melodramatic ass.” Taehyung replied simply. “Plus, you just said you're not going.”

“I'm not the one who promised Hobi I'd go. Plus,” Jungkook imitated Taehyung, coaxing a snort from the latter. “I have things to do.”

“Right,” Taehyung clasped both hands together in mockery. “Important things to do being a creep-ass who takes stealthy videos of people. You could be sued for this, Kook.”

“You're the worst.” Jungkook said, unhappy about the lack of presence of anything to throw at Taehyung.

“Shut up! You know you love me.” Taehyung countered, taking his cap off briefly and running his hand through his hair. “I gotta go now. Don’t do anything I'd not approve of.” He shouted from over his shoulder as he jogged the distance, leaving the cafeteria.

Jungkook wanted to laugh. As if there were anything Taehyung wouldn’t approve of. And so, he got out his sketch and started drafting his project. Kim-ssi needed the movie conceptualized by November, leaving Jungkook about two weeks. He had to think about his painting project too, but Jungkook would rather focus on the main issue first.

He soon lost track of his thoughts and started doodling on the page, ‘A Clean Death in Love’ with all its connotations causing a ruckus in the avenues of his memory. He hadn’t noticed how engrossed he had been till he heard a camera snap—till he saw a flash.

He looked up from his work, wearing a taken-aback expression yet smiling. He spotted the photographer, the corner furthest to him: it was Jimin. He lowered his camera and smiled at Jungkook, his cheeks bunching up, making the skin around the corners of his eyes crinkle like a leaf held to flame.

Jungkook didn’t know how to react; Jimin was still smiling.

He should be wondering what Jimin was doing with a camera; he should be wondering what major Jimin was. Those two musings seemed insignificant as Jungkook's mind seemed to muse over Jimin's silver hair, over the eyes that beckoned him forth. He found himself nodding at Jimin, as though greeting him. It astonished Jungkook that Jimin was sitting alone; he still had to establish exactly how people on campus dealt with Jimin. Jungkook was about to get up, join Jimin when the latter was already on his feet, grabbing his bag and leaving the cafeteria.

Maybe he should be grateful he didn’t get to talk to that Park Jimin.

 

He hadn’t gone back to the dorm until it was almost midnight. An hour ago, he had been eager to leave the theatre, to escape facing the project’s ‘Identity’-theme and go to his dorm. Now, he was missing Jaebum and Youngjae’s PDA, and almost wishing Jackson would be here to keep babbling nonsense so the noises would drown. The noises coming from the person next door guaranteed either no sleep, or wet dreams. Jungkook had twice had rough sex, but never in his life would he have thought he could get this … rough with his partner.

It should disturb him that he wasn’t totally against those half-screams, half-moans.

Really though, Jungkook didn’t know whether the moans got him riled up in an irritated kind-of-way, or in a turned-on kind-of-way, phrased as Taehyung would kindly offer.

 

♥♥♥

 

With Taehyung gone – eighth day so far – Jungkook decided to make good use of the room. ‘Good use’ to Jungkook meant something along the lines of shamelessly fucking someone without caring about Taehyung walking on him. It happened once; Jungkook spent two weeks trying to convince the staring-slash-impressed Taehyung that his face wasn’t in his crotch.

He was usually sensible when it came down to his sex-drive. But he hadn’t had a good lay since the start of the semester (a guy was worse than a quickie, and two girls were just meh) and the next-door moans every night had apparently built him up. And so, he had Hyeri barely capable of standing, almost hitting third-base before they even got to bed. He was pressing her against the wall, his mouth eager and not giving her any chance to talk—Jungkook did not want to talk.

“Leave the lights turned off.” He whispered when her hand fumbled for the light-switch.

Jungkook had his reasons for wanting to numb one of the senses. He had run into Jimin in the cafeteria that evening and like hell he hated that look in the blackish-brown pair. It had been days—every fucking time they saw each other, and it was still the same: Jimin would be giving him that weird look. It was almost funny how Jimin was usually all smiling, laughing and getting touchy with everyone but whenever their eyes caught, an expression Jungkook couldn’t quite interpret would overshadow his face.

The more he tried to look away—to shut his eyes tighter—the more the look would burn against his eyelids. Jimin's eyes would seem as if they were beseeching something in Jungkook. A silent gaze—of familiarity, of keening into the look, of words vying to be set free. He would look like a long-lost memory appealing to a forgetting heart, begging to be remembered. He would flash Jungkook a smile that smiles could disown—that should be re-categorized into something more … blue.

And there he was, his tongue down some girl’s throat, and hand up her dress, but Jimin’s expression stung in his memory—burning and almost stripping him of the sexual high.

Hyeri moaned something about wanting the lights on against his lips but Jungkook already had enough of the drama. So he lifted her, having her legs instantly wrap around his waist, and gently placed her on bed. He thought older women would be less of a pain in the ass; but maybe Jungkook was a drama-magnet.

By Jungkook's fifth thrust—by Hyeri’s almost painful nail-dig in his back—Jungkook was reviewing his life decisions. Being close to climaxing, he didn’t have much room for critical thinking—or feeling pain. But perhaps he should have opted for the less talkative of the two sexes for the night. Hyeri seemed like she didn’t quite grasp the mutual-benefit concept.

He felt her stiffen, after rocking three more times, she shuddered lightly. Two more thrusts and Jungkook pulled out, attaining the aspired-to satisfaction. Jungkook knew the drill: never ever lie beside your ‘good lay’ if it was a one-night-stand.

So he went to the bathroom to clean up, feeling the onslaught of prolactin making him drowsy. He got into a new pair of underwear and put on his sweats. Hyeri was asleep when he was back, face flushed with post-fuck colours. Her hand was curled near the pillow—holding on to something Jungkook couldn’t see. Some light crept inside for a brief second, illuminating Hyeri’s sleeping face then falling on him—like the headlights of a car driving by slowly.

Silently, Jungkook went to sleep on the couch.

 

He awoke to a small kiss on the mouth. Jungkook was too stunned and it was Hyeri—naturally. It wasn’t even dawn yet.

She smiled at his expression as he sat up. “I can imagine sleeping with that every night.”

Jungkook flashed a smile, hoping it wasn’t too charming but not too polite either. “Trust me, that’s the last thing you'd want.”

She gave him a confused look, putting on her tights. “No, Jungkook, you trust me. I can't trust anything that pretty mouth of yours says. Not when you're that lost.”

Maybe it showed too much.

Despite almost laughing, Jungkook sighed internally, his eyes following Hyeri’s hands—studying their delicate movements. “I'm seeing you with someone better than me, Hyeri.”

Hyeri heaved a dramatic sigh. He liked to maintain friendly terms with his hook-ups, even if he neither intended to call them back nor sleep with them again. That, of course, when they didn’t throw a tantrum, showering him with insults as if he hadn’t clearly stated it was just sex.

Her eyes lingered a bit on his left arm then she went on to fetch her dress.

She was giving him her back. He wished he could film the instant her hand lingered in the air, hesitating before reaching for her dress on the floor, almost half-turning to him as she crouched down, her hair curtaining her expression. He could clearly make out her lips in the dark, the way they seemed to bite back words. Again with those in-between moments—half-truths, withheld confessions, half-in, half-out, ajar doors, parted lips, avoidant eyes, fidgeting fingers—appealing to the melancholy artist within him.

Jungkook thought he should feel bad. Though, feeling bad had nothing to do with wanting to grab his phone. Art had to do nothing with rights and wrongs—with morals. Jeon Jungkook had his very own moral compass; as long as he didn’t violate that, he was good.

“What does your tattoo say?” she asked casually and Jungkook finally realized he wasn’t wearing his wrist-bands. Really though, what did sex have to do with taking them off? He should have learnt.

“Hyeri, listen, I appreciate the sex,” Jungkook treaded carefully, rubbing his temples, already tired with the direction of the conversation. “But I'm not hoping for more.”

Without averting her eyes, she shook her head, a small laugh escaping her lips. “I only asked about a tattoo, Jungkook.”

Jungkook tried not to deadpan. Asking someone about their tattoos was too personal and Jungkook didn’t want to get personal. He didn’t want to get anything.

“You’re impossible.” She got up and flipped her hair to one side, styling it a bit and smiling at Jungkook. “And there I thought we could actually be something.”

Jungkook let out a little helpless laugh.

“You're a nice person,” he started walking to the door—always such a gentleman. “I wish you all the best.” He gave a low bow after opening the door for her.

“Maybe we could try—”

“I'm gay.” Jungkook cut her short. He was already rolling his eyes internally. Next time he should feel horny, fuck wanting less marks on his body—fuck the softer curves. It wasn’t worth it.

She looked at him without the slightest hint of amusement.

“You weren’t gay a few hours ago.”

“Yea,” Jungkook smirked. “I just signed the forms before you woke up. They’d tax me if I back out now, especially that they gave me their rainbow unicorn and special glitter.”

She laughed, hair catching between her lips.

“And they said Taehyung is the worse between you.”

With a small smile, he shook his head.

“Goodbye, Hyeri. It was nice having sex with you.”

She was about to say something but gave up when Jungkook began closing the door. He sighed gravely and walked to the sofa. He held up his left wrist to the moonlight, cursive black letters glinting under the ivory light.

A clean death in love, huh? He thought wishfully; some faraway tangle of memories came unbidden and unrelenting. He contemplated getting out the journal and his camera, piecing his project together—establishing a preliminary profile at least. But naturally, Jungkook decided to avoid the problem so he went back to sleep.

Chapter Text

He wasn’t sure whether it was him now growing conscious of Jimin's presence, or ‘coincidence’ had taken it too far. Moral of the story, Jungkook had been running into, or glimpsing, Jimin more than he would like to let on.

And if there were any poetic irony to the scene, it wouldn’t have gone better. Park Jimin had the room next to his.

That night had the pre-exam stillness even though it was only the third week in October. Jungkook had just left Bambam and Jinyoung—working on their project which was a hell, thank you for asking—and was on his way back to his room when he just had to meet Jimin.

Jimin was laughing, barely keeping his balance as he staggered to his door. He caught Jungkook's eyes and flashed him a smile that made his eyes crinkle into crescents, and it was just as beautiful.

“Heyy,” Jimin said with a wispy sort of voice, like dandelion clocks. He was waving drunkly, his small hands catching Jungkook's eyes. “You're the cute guy with the doe-eyes who has the room next to mine.”

He laughed then started walking to Jungkook—or to the door of his room. Albeit Jungkook had paused meters away, not out of curiosity—not chiefly anyways—but because he was a bit taken aback, he could tell Jimin was the kind of drunk that in the following morning left you regretful of the majority of the decisions you had taken that night. He was wondering how Jimin was alone that night. Not only was it out of habit, but also to leave him in that state was quite … inhumane?

It didn’t matter; Jungkook started walking to his door.

Jimin had somehow but not surprisingly mixed the doors. He was trying to fish out the keys when his knees gave in. Jimin would have fallen to his knees had Jungkook not reached out instinctively, hand catching Jimin's, feeling an unspeakable sort of coldness on the contact, then instantly moving up to hold him by the shoulder—having the latter grab into what should have been Jungkook's chest. Jimin's laughs started to taper off, like a fadeout, his small cold hand against Jungkook's chest—the younger deliberating whether or not to hold it, to warm it.

Indeed, he could smell the alcohol on Jimin's breath. He could swear he heard Jimin let a soft gasp that ended up with a small hold in breath and he had to look down. As much as Jimin's lips called out to Jungkook, he shifted his attention to the eyes—they were what always mattered, falling second only to his precious body language. Up close, those lips looked more chapped than when you stood meters away, those eyes much smaller—wearier.

Jungkook looked into the glossy pair, searching for something—anything. He could only imagine a dam, holding back whatever flood of god-knows-which emotions. He should know. This couldn’t end here; the guy whom he had seen in Empty Heart's Treat was the same guy he was holding now; and those laughs and smiles couldn’t be the end of it. There was more, Jungkook could swear.

He could see flashes of light shifting the brown in Jimin's eyes to something more muddled. He could see his very own reflection in Jimin's dark irises as they focused on him, growing bigger—focusing then unfocusing, growing further away. Jimin cast down his eyes; Jungkook wasn’t sure if they were looking at the ground or somewhere else on his face. He studied the flutter of the long eyelashes, too beautiful to fringe eyes that wore such a shattered expression. When Jimin looked up again, there wasn’t the silent curiosity in his eyes; Jimin's slightly parted lips and quickened breath hankered after something unsaid.

Jungkook wished he could say something instead of holding this long monologue in his head, holding analogies and trying to make sense of the situation—of Jimin. Of him holding Jimin.

Jimin had opened his mouth to say something when a voice finally intervened. It belonged to some guy Jungkook wasn’t a big fan of. Jimin spared Jungkook one last glance before breaking into a lopsided smile that he soon transformed into his usual giggle, breaking free from both, Jungkook's tender hold and penetrating gaze. The guy took Jimin from Jungkook's arms, telling him he would handle it from here. And like that, there was Jimin again to his … what? Former self? Jungkook didn’t know what Park Jimin’s self was to begin with.

Jimin started giggling—laughing—into the guy’s mouth. It didn’t take long till the guy had Jimin's back against the wall, his tongue forcing Jimin's mouth open and quietening the laughs. The noise though? Not so much.

It didn’t concern Jungkook, but he began to see why ‘people were talking.’ That guy Jimin was more than making out with already seemed like the archetype decision a drunk person would regret in the morning.

Without a second glance, Jungkook unlocked his room and slumped on bed. He didn’t bother changing. All he wanted was to try to drift away. And so, he put the pillow on his face in an attempt to drown Jimin's laughs, and all else that would ensue.

 

♥♥♥

 

Jungkook didn’t know what to expect when Taehyung had told him he had a surprise for him, but he sure didn’t see Jimin coming—literally.

Once again, Jungkook had sat out on entering Empty Heart's Treat, letting Taehyung go there alone. And once again, Taehyung had let it slide, telling Jungkook he would come back with his favourite treats. Taehyung was taking too long, but Jungkook didn’t really mind it. He was sitting on the truck’s bed, reviewing one of his video-material when he heard a new combination of giggles, immediately forcing him to turn around.

He became uncomfortable for a reason that went beyond his on-knees position on the truck-bed. At the door of the café, a strange group was standing. Jungkook must have not given the due credit either to Taehyung’s social skills, or to Jimin's. If he had thought Hoseok and Jimin looked like childhood friends, then it was because he hadn’t yet seen Taehyung and Jimin together. Taehyung had his arm thrown around Jimin's shoulder, laughing at something Hoseok—or Seokjin—had said.

Jungkook didn’t waste too many seconds being shell-shocked; he had quickly started his recording, just in time to catch Jimin's hands reaching for Taehyung’s and lightly squeezing it. Hoseok had disappeared into the café after hastily handing Jimin a pastry box; Jimin's hand rose for a goodbye-wave that Hoseok missed, so he instantly drew it back, pressing a small smile to no one in particular.

The threesome started walking, abreast, their attention now fixed on something Taehyung was saying. Taehyung looked at Jimin, as if seeking support to a former statement; the latter nodded, imitated something with his hands and started them laughing again. Taehyung then lifted up his pinkie, Jimin following suit—the size-difference was almost comical. And again, all three were laughing, except this time Taehyung held Jimin's hand in his as the latter laughed into Taehyung’s chest.

Jungkook made sure nothing escaped the recording. He switched to camera-mode the second Jimin noticed him and cracked a smile for him.

Jungkook lowered his camera, reeling momentarily, staring at the smile without a barrier separating art from the artist. Perfect.

He jumped off the truck and was on his feet just in time their group of three halted before the jet-black pickup truck.

“I don’t see your face here at my place for years and the day you come, I'm not present.” Seokjin began, crossing his arms and eyeing Jungkook cheekily. “Really, Jungkook-ah, I'm hurt.”

Jungkook laughed.

“I should be the one hurt. You knew I was waiting out here and you didn’t even bring me my favourite rice cake.” He added a small pout for effect.

Seokjin only smiled and opened his arms wide open, a clear gesture he often made when he demanded a hug from the younger. Jungkook happily obliged, chuckling and handing the amused Taehyung his camera. After a few seconds, Jungkook disengaged himself but Seokjin still kept his arm on the younger's shoulder, keeping him in a side-hug that Jungkook didn’t mind.

“I thought with Taehyungie and Jiminnie with you, you'd not need anything sweeter.” Seokjin said.

Jungkook lifted an eyebrow, briefly meeting Taehyung’s challenging look before smiling at Jimin and locking eyes there. Apparently everyone was friends with Jimin.

“That thing?” Jungkook rudely jerked his thumb at Taehyung. “Ohh, he’s nothing sweet, hyung, take my word for it.”

Taehyung was about to hit him when Jungkook took a sidestep, standing right before Jimin's smiling face. They locked eyes again, and this time, they were both smiling.

“Jimin… tho,” Jungkook found himself wearing his flirtatious smile, trying the name afresh on his tongue; it felt nice. He didn’t miss the almost-giggle on Jimin's part. “I'm afraid I’ll have to agree.”

He didn’t break gaze despite being aware of the growing silence punctuated by Jimin's proud-slash-genuine smile. Jungkook couldn’t help drawing the comparison, how Jimin seemed years younger wearing that expression—so much in contrast with the first time he had lain eyes on him.

“But seriously tho,” Jimin was the first to break, holding up the pastry box and enthusiastically looking at Seokjin. “Those dumplings are heavenly.”

Taehyung spun around to face Seokjin, eagerly nodding.

“I don’t usually agree with Jiminnie but trust me, hyung, he’d know,” he said, grinning widely now. “Jiminnie is from heaven.”

Jimin started giggling, pulling at his sleeves and Jungkook almost wished he hadn’t given Taehyung his camera.

Seokjin’s phone started ringing; he got it out then frowned. He excused himself, mumbling something about wanting to fight Yoongi. Jungkook rested his back and both elbows on the tailgate, studying his surroundings. The sky might have looked like a masterpiece with its red and blue gradients, but Jungkook wasn’t interested in that now. He found his eyes fixated on Jimin, regardless of whether or not the other decided to lock eyes with him—which was a frequent choice of Jimin's.

Taehyung started staring at Jimin blankly; Jungkook wasn’t sure if he were reconstructing his entire worldview or just lost in Jimin. The latter didn’t seem to mind it; if anything, he was smiling at Taehyung the way one would at the camera.

“I'm really thankful to your parents, Jiminnie.” Taehyung began and Jungkook instantly knew this would be interesting so he cocked his head to the side, watching Taehyung with a grin.

Jimin laughed, walking past Jungkook and putting the box on the roof of the truck. Jungkook found it hard not to inhale the scent on Jimin's skin. For some reason he was reminded of sparklers—bright, sizzling, short-lived but going off with a flash.

“Like I'd send them a thank you cake for having sex on that exact date they did.” Taehyung went on and Jimin started laughing. “Thank you, Park-ssi, for being horny enough.”

This time, it was both, Jungkook and Jimin laughing, although the former didn’t have his body flinging forward or was laughing this hard. Jungkook grinned from ear-to-ear at his shameless friend, watching him carry on that speech without the slightest hint of a joke present in what should usually be a smirk.

“And thank you Park-ssi’s balls for going off hard,”

“Dude,” Jungkook interjected.

“What if your mom was the first one to come th—”

Jimin was now holding on to Taehyung’s arm as he laughed the life out of him—the only thing keeping him on his feet still. He was laughing so hard he flung his whole body into it, clutching to Taehyung with a small fist and doubling forward. Jungkook widened his eyes, lips curling in barely held-in amusement.

“Dude,”

Taehyung was looking at the slightly crouched Jimin with an impish grin now.

“What if he hadn’t hit third base with her—”

“Dudee,”

Taehyung ignored him; maybe Jungkook should try to sound indignant when he was actually indignant.

“Or what if his sperm didn’t like that one egg and just lived to die inside your mother? What if he wasn’t enough to make her come?”

“Dude!!” at that—at Jungkook's hand on Taehyung’s shoulder—Taehyung turned to him.

“Okay, I’ll stop talking about coming.” Taehyung said at last, looking down in fake shame regardless of the smile.

Jimin straightened up, barely having ridded the laughing fit. Jungkook looked at Jimin and smirked, scrunching up his nose.

“But seriously tho,” the two faces now turned to him; he ran a hand through his hair, feeling playful. “Imagine having them come a second later, you'd not have been you—you'd not have existed.”

He had already lost Jimin at ‘later’, having him doubled over in laughter with Taehyung finally breaking into laughter. He couldn’t help feeling good for some reason.

“Does it ever hit you hard in the night,” Jungkook began walking closer to Jimin, making a show in pondering it. “You are nothing but the product of a sausage and some egg—best dish ever. Can you believe that?”

Of course Jimin started laughing, knees buckling in spite of losing control on his body. Jungkook couldn’t help feeling his boyish smile spread across his face as he went back to leaning against the truck.

“You guys are unbelievable.” Breathless, Jimin spared each of them a long glance, tinged with the relics of his former laughs.

Taehyung shook his head and started walking to the other side of the truck, leaving Jimin and Jungkook to smile at each other like they, too, had been childhood friends. Jungkook didn’t even notice when Taehyung was back by Jimin's side.

“Shall we?” Taehyung asked, motioning to both of them.

He finally broke free. When Jungkook gave Taehyung a questioning look, Jimin stepped forward, offering a hesitant smile and rubbing his forearm with one hand.

“I have a project—dichotomy is the theme. I told TaeTae I wasn’t free today because I had to go to the park and a few other places and—”

“And I offered to drive him.” Taehyung finished. “Thought maybe you could get inspiration being around people of the same species.”

Stifling his laughter at Taehyung’s word-choice, contrary to Jimin's evident giggles, Jungkook shifted his eyes between the two of them.

“Dichotomy,” Jungkook addressed Jimin, wearing the same friendly smile, getting cockier about his open posture. “Another abstract theme. Will they ever let us live?” He shook his head in a rueful manner, deliberately trying to coax a laugh from Jimin—which was a success.

“Probably not.”

“What do you have in mind?” Jungkook was interested.

“Stick around and I promise I’ll make sure to impress you.” Jimin's flirty smile wouldn’t be missed, not even ten miles away.

Jungkook pursed his lips, toning down the huge grin on the brink of becoming just as flirty.

“I don’t think we’ve officially been introduced,” he took a step towards Jimin, ignoring Taehyung’s smirk. “I’m Jeon Jungkook, second year being a film major aka I'd officially be broke and homeless in two years and I'd kindly be accepting donations. Nice to meet you.”

Jimin was laughing; Jungkook thought the guy did an awful amount of laughing but in the least did he mind it—not really.

“I thought you were one of those physical majors,” Jimin said. “Didn’t think that’d be your preference.”

“Yea,” Jungkook smiled and pushed his hair back (maybe he was putting on a little bit of a show, just maybe) then looked into Jimin's eyes. “I swing both ways.”

While Jimin laughed and Jungkook reveled in that, Taehyung gave the younger a disbelieving look.

“Park Jimin, I just turned twenty-two last week,” Jimin began, Jungkook liking that timid smile tinged with a hint of amusement adorning the plump lips. “I’m a photography major and I'm trying not to be homeless.”

Jungkook could feel his own smile fade, his jaw clench, and his heartbeat race. He didn’t find it amusing how Taehyung hadn’t bothered to mention that minor detail on telling him Jimin's biography. Taehyung seemed to stiffen on sensing the atmosphere, soon engaging Jimin in a light conversation and steering the latter’s gaze from Jungkook.

He should have noticed earlier—he should have noticed the second he saw a Canon EOS in Jimin's hands that day in the cafeteria. Jungkook should have paid more attention.

Resting a hand on Taehyung’s arm and talking softly, Jimin had excused himself to the bathroom. On his way to the door, he started tugging more at his sleeves even though it wasn’t remotely cold; Jungkook couldn’t see his face—couldn’t quite catch the eyes.

As Jungkook stood watching Jimin disappear into the café—watching Taehyung watch Jimin just to have an excuse not to turn to Jungkook, another gear moved and another piece fit in the puzzle. The jigsaw should have fell in place once he learnt the name of the silver-haired guy. That was the same Park Jimin who took the internship. Jungkook felt the bitter anger crawling up on him again.

“Yah!” Jungkook began, placing a hand on Taehyung’s shoulder and forcing him to turn around. “When did you guys become friends?”

Taehyung gave Jungkook his camera back and walked past him till he rested against the truck’s door.

“Almost four years ago.”

Two thoughts barraged Jungkook's mind simultaneously. The first was ‘the fuck and you only thought to mention that now’, and the other had a lot to do with that time not being the best era he had with Taehyung. He turned around and faced Taehyung.

“Just where and how?” Jungkook wasn’t angry; he was just confused.

“How, is a long story.” Taehyung chuckled and ruffled his hair. “Where, on campus. He used to do a minor in literature—but he dropped it a bit over a year ago—so we teamed up a lot when we needed a script or I needed to get a particularly good score on one of the assignments.”

“I thought he’s bad news and I should stay away from him.” Jungkook folded his arms.

“I never said he’s bad news.” Taehyung didn’t flinch. “Why are you getting so worked up here? Weren’t you just checking him out now or I missed out on something?”

Jungkook felt mildly offended, mildly defensive.

“That’s the same photographer who took the internship, Tae.” He wasn’t sure what he intended with that comment.

“Get over yourself, Kook.”

Reading into what Taehyung truly meant by flatly saying the former statement, Jungkook bit his lip and looked at sky. The afternoon sun was wavering to a black sun, making a pinhole on the horizon, and he couldn’t help the thought of a sun-drenched elsewhere.

He looked back at Taehyung to see an indecipherable expression clouding his face—sympathetic, pained, understanding, Jungkook wasn’t sure.

“Look, Tae, I'm just struggling to keep up here. I'm getting so many mixed signals from everyone—you especially—about this Park Jimin. He’s a sweetheart, I can see that. But he shows out of nowhere and everyone treats him like best-buddies tho they never once mentioned him, like—” he shook his hands while shaking his head, puzzled. “And how come he dropped a minor in his third year? I thought the rules said no.”

Taehyung was smiling nervously.

“It wasn’t his third year. Jimin is currently a third-year, not a fourth.”

Before Jungkook could object, having done the maths, Taehyung sighed, closed his eyes and carried on his speech once they were opened again.

“He took last year off—” he was about to say something but Jimin was heading back so he just drew closer to Jungkook, his voice taking a confidential tone. “I’ll explain later. Just be nice, ok, he’s a good guy.”

When Jimin was within a few paces from them, Jungkook noticed he now had his camera with him. Jimin wasn’t all smiley right now; there was a twinge of sadness hidden in the corner of his mouth. Jungkook's eyes lingered a bit on Jimin's camera—even longer on where the camera-strap made contact with Jimin's neck.

For more reasons than wanting to film the scenery, Jungkook still sat on the bed of the truck and let them have the seats. The trip to the park could be summed up in Jungkook trying to distract himself from staring at Jimin by pretending the sun breaking over the horizon looked more magnificent—that it fascinated him more.

When they arrived to their destination, Jungkook wasn’t doing much talking, not while his mind was roamed by conflicting thoughts. He was glad Taehyung was doing that enough for the three of them, putting Jimin at ease and the other meeting his part in co-operating. Jimin sounded lively, speaking in Laughter and always having a topic to keep the conversation alive. When Jungkook was addressed, he didn’t reply taciturnly; he tried to seem unmoved by his earlier conversation. But Taehyung’s occasional prompting glares told him he wasn’t doing such a great job. He even saw Jimin looking down—pouting—when he snuck a glance from the corner of his eye.

He tried not to dwell too long on that blue look, although the last thing he would want to make someone feel was unwanted.

Jimin was taking pictures of everything; Jungkook wondered how he could narrow it down—having so much material on hand. He even had Taehyung model for him—candid shots of Taehyung sitting on a bench, of Taehyung leaning on the railing staring off at the distance, of Taehyung getting tackled down by a dog while wearing his signature boxy-grin—although Jungkook had his doubts noticing the angles Jimin chose to snap the pictures from. Usually having someone model for you implied them being the centrepiece.

Or maybe it was Jungkook who had hung around with the wrong photographer.

He had his phone on standby, letting it be his outlet when he needed to look away—to not be engaged in the conversation. It came as no surprise that the object of his filming often steered back to Jimin. Now ‘Photographer Jimin’ could be added to his in-progress Jimin material.

Fun fact: Jungkook had lied to Yoongi. Ever since that day—ever since checking page sixty-nine—and Jungkook knew exactly how he was going to tread down that short film. He only hoped he could pull it off well enough.

He was about to try and have a decent conversation with Jimin—now that Taehyung was basically having more talk with his newfound dog and leaving them to their merits—when he spotted a girl jumping in a chase of the helium balloon that was flying up to the sky, out of her reach.

Without pondering long, Jungkook forsook the artist in him and jogged across the street just in time to catch the balloon string without having to jump up himself. Smiling while brushing off the girl’s gratitude, he crouched down and handed her back the balloon. He might have not captured this moment, but Jimin had, Jungkook turning his head with the same caught-off-guard expression to see Jimin lowering his camera and giving him the same smile—a sense of déjà vu overtaking him.

The second Jungkook was next to Jimin again, he couldn’t help but ask, “What’s the title of your project?”

“I just settled for Pantomime,” Jimin said, motioning for Jungkook to walk after snapping another picture of Taehyung. “I'm working with black and white for my theme.”

Jungkook smiled wistfully, looking at his feet as he walked.

“No room for shades of grey, I see.”

“Not for this concept.” Jimin replied. “Art is about how honest one is with themself.” Jungkook could swear there was a meaningful pause at that, a piercing gaze pushing past his skin, as though Jimin wanted to deliver something specifically to Jungkook. Or perhaps he was the one who felt like the shoes fit too much and so he thought he should wear them.

It took him a tremendous amount of self-control not to escape Jimin's gaze or flinch at the riot of events triggered in his mind. To Jungkook, everywhere there was nothing; and the only place there was something, he couldn’t be honest with himself enough to admit such a fact.

“And I'm not feeling like expressing in-betweens anymore.” Jimin's tone was now casual.

Like most people, Jungkook associated black with negativity and white with positivity. In this park, there were nothing but positive vibes; and therefore, he didn’t quite get it—Jimin's ‘black’ that was.

He stopped and turned to face Jimin, seeking the refuge of the shade of tree.

“I'm not seeing any black so far.”

Jungkook wasn’t sure whether or not that was a smirk Jimin had pulled—did the guy even know how to do anything but smile?

“Really tho,” Jimin winked. “What is black but a darker white.”

Jungkook chuckled, feeling more at ease now—the effect of Jimin's soothing voice.

“In a yin-yang kind of way.”

“Naah,” he carded through his hair while craning his neck, exposing more skin; Jungkook would have killed to have caught that on camera. “I'm choosing things that stem from the same water, not opposites or complements, you get me?”

Jimin wasn’t aware of Jungkook's stare befalling on him, being caught up in something that was going on in his mind as he shut down his eyes, still running his hand through his hair—feeling himself in a way that reminded Jungkook with the guy he filmed that day on the roof. Jungkook was comfortable that way. He was studying Jimin—his hair, his eyes, his lips, his skin, his hands.

Careful not to make contact with Jimin's skin, Jungkook reached out and took the camera from Jimin's hand, having no resistance but Jimin's confused smile didn’t fail to prevail.

“Enjoy the day a bit,” Jungkook began, looking deeply into Jimin's eyes which seemed to ever be mood-changing, being a gradient as temperate as the sky at dusk. “It’s a lovely day and you obviously like Tae so go on, have fun together.”

Jimin laughed and looked away; he was clearly dismissing that as a joke. When he looked back at Jungkook, he realized the younger was serious, with his urging eyes telling him to enjoy his time.

“I am having fun.” Jimin tried to take the camera but Jungkook took a step back, shaking his head and holding the camera away.

“I enjoy taking pictures, and if you look at them, you’ll see they are a proof I'm having fun.” Jungkook arched an eyebrow, clearly not buying that so Jimin carried on. “Plus those pictures of Tae aren’t all for the project, those are memories that will stand when everything else falls.”

Jungkook's smile flickered, probably would have died away had Jimin not been smiling as brightly still—as though he had said nothing. But Jungkook had been around that mentality long enough not to dismiss sentences like those, and the words caused a stabbing sensation in his chest.

“Are you living your life of documenting it?” his voice had inadvertently become quieter; Jimin blinked. “Do you want to enjoy it or convince yourself you did?”

Jimin's smile finally dropped away.

For a while, they only stood staring at one another, faces devoid of any smiles, eyes devoid of any playfulness, hearts heavy with the words hanging in the air between them. This was what Jungkook had sought out in Jimin—this kind of familiarity that reached beyond the pseudo smile.

“Fine.” Jimin nodded; it came out barely audible and his eyes no longer wanted to meet Jungkook's for long. “I’ll put it down for the day if you stop documenting everything too.”

Jungkook started nodding slowly, deciding he could manage doing that.

“Sir, you have yourself a deal.”

On Jimin's uplifting laugher, he got out his phone from his back-pocket and extended his hand to Jimin, ready to hand it in. Jimin's eyes turned skeptic, then they melted into a smile.

“Nice tattoo.”

Jungkook followed Jimin's gaze, finally realizing his eyes were never on the phone, but rather on the ink running beneath the skin of his left wrist. He thought that many wrist-bands did a fine job concealing the tattoo, but he was wrong. He always banked on the fact not everyone was fluent in English nonetheless.

Jungkook played it off.

“Thanks. I was thinking about removing it.”

Wordlessly, Jimin reached for the phone, not quite taking it as his eyes dug into Jungkook’s, a ghost question hanging there—strictly unanswerable to anyone. An unearthly quiet seemed to have enshrouded them, a drilling of everything but pulse and breath. Jungkook waited; perhaps Jimin wanted to say something; perhaps he so badly wanted for Jimin to say something.

At last Jimin took the phone, letting out a small laugh while dropping his gaze; Jungkook's heart burst with relief. Jimin looked up at the younger again, tilting his head; it looked flirtatious.

“Also, Kookie?” the usage of the nickname amused Jungkook and it showed on his face. “Whatever your imagination is making up about me and Tae, we’re not like that.” The teasing lilt was back in his voice. “I don’t like him that way.”

Jungkook took a step forward, narrowing his eyes teasingly.

“And four years ago? He didn’t try to get into your pants?”

There was an imperceptible cloud eclipsing Jimin's face for a fraction of a second.

“Hard to believe, I know.”

Jimin started walking backwards so he wouldn’t break gaze with Jungkook till he had regrouped with Taehyung. Jungkook felt like there was some kind of an alarm going off in his head, trying to get him to notice most things he turned a blind eye to—most things he wanted to ignore.

And so, by the end of the day and almost by midnight, after he got Jimin and Taehyung to actually enjoy each other's company, Jungkook gave Jimin back his camera and took back his phone.

It saddened him how he couldn’t capture this exchange of hands with his camera. While he tucked his phone in his pocket, he heard Jimin snapping a picture. He wasn’t even surprised to look up and see it was of him.

“My camera loves you.” Jimin lilted, pressing his lips into a line that made his suppressed smile form dimples in his cheek.

“I'm afraid I might break her heart.” Jungkook joked, mirroring Jimin's smile. “I tend to do that a lot.”

Jimin’s laugh was cut by Taehyung honk and loud ‘Get your asses here, I have an early lecture in the morning.

While Jimin smiled and turned around, heading towards Taehyung, Jungkook stood for a few seconds looking at the darkening silhouette—a frame becoming smaller the further it moved away. No matter how hard he tried to think of Jimin in White, he couldn't help seeing Jimin as the true embodiment of a colour-shifting shade of Grey. And it made him uneasy how everyone seemed to dismiss that.

 

♥♥♥

 

Jungkook began contemplating his masochistic tendencies whenever he was late to Art History. Doing a minor required a tremendous amount of dedication and effort—he knew that when he decided to do a minor in painting. But being familiar with his unpunctual ass which could snooze for millennia, he should have known better than to sign up for a course whose professor was clockwork made human.

The closed door should have been enough of a bad omen. Jeon Jungkook pretended he had hope, all for the sake of his academic score.

Since when was hope alone enough? Of course Professor wouldn’t let him in.

His only condolences about Taehyung being his roommate was having someone there to wake him up in the morning when the snooze button had had its limit with Jungkook. But Taehyung decided to pull a Taehyung on Jungkook, leaving him to run late to class. He should probably blame the person who deprived him from sleep. Maybe he should set Taehyung and Jimin up so he would guarantee himself some sleep knowing Taehyung didn’t fuck when he had an early lecture the next morning.

It was easier to pretend that was what most bothered him. Because since when was sex an end and not a means?

Jungkook turned his back to door, huffed and tried to take deep breaths—his anger-management drill. He could see Jimin jogging from across the hallway, sparing Jungkook a smile as soon as he stopped before the door. Jungkook had established almost a week ago that Jimin only wore those hippie-ish clothes and no other fashion-style. He wasn’t even aware how his very own eyes had dragged over Jimin, the way your eyes would take in a new place, digest its beauty and learn every foreign inch. It wasn’t like it was Jungkook's first time seeing Jimin. Still, his eyes seemed to find some new detail, as if he were making a mental profile for Jimin and feeding it every time his eyes perceived the elder.

“I'd not attempt at entering if I were you.” Jungkook slumped on the bench, his bag hitting the floor with a loud thud. “I just got kicked out but of course not without getting a lecture on punctuality.”

Jimin winked; Jungkook’s heart misplaced a beat at that.

“I still owe you for that other night on the bus—” Jungkook squinted his eyes at Jimin, finally putting two and two together to remember that night where he woke up on the bus and didn’t find Jimin next to him—where he had last seen him. It gave him goosebumps—the fact Jimin was actually aware of Jungkook's presence that night.

“—And the other night I confused our rooms.” Jimin followed with a smile. Just when Jungkook had just recovered from that wink, getting a grip on himself, Jimin had to mention a night Jungkook wished to forget. Usually the ‘forget what happens in the dark’ happened after a one-night-stand; but alas, there was Jungkook thinking back on the night Jimin was drunk within his embrace.

“Get up, Jungkook-ah, I'm getting us in.”

“What, did you like sleep with him too or something?” Jungkook hadn’t realized what he had just said until he realized that, as little harm as he intended, Jimin didn’t take that snide comment well. ‘Are you playing the hoeing-around card’ wasn’t how you really hit it off with someone you weren’t really friends with. If anything, it was quite an untenable path to set off on. What did he want to achieve saying that anyways, was it a joke? Jungkook was never one to think out loud; he weighed words because words had a way of fucking things up because they were just that inadequate.

“Yea,” Jimin gave a contrive smile, his eyes growing hard and voice having the slightest hitch. “Actually I'm only late because I was showering after I let him fuck me sideways.”

Jungkook flinched at the tone. He didn’t get the chance to call out to Jimin for the latter had already knocked and entered the lecture room. Or perhaps he did have the chance; it was the courage he was in need of.

The comment was too hostile, even for Jungkook—not that his crankiness was justifiable.

Great, another thing he needed to feel shitty about.

He was waiting till the lecture was over—perhaps because he had to apologize; perhaps because he wanted to. Nonetheless, he didn’t get the chance. Jimin walked past him without sparing him a single glance, as if Jungkook were nothing but an air molecule—unseen and almost insignificant.

Assuming his voice hadn’t failed him, he still wouldn’t have been able to call out to Jimin; Jungkook felt like he had lost heart.

 

♥♥♥

 

When he dies, Jungkook wants to be reincarnated as a rock. He would do nothing; he would feel nothing; he would be nothing.

October was dying and so was Jungkook. Apparently his second year was going to be a piece of hell. If all his professors had ganged up on him to grant him absolutely no free time, things wouldn’t have gone that way. The project Lee-ssi had assigned them had cost Jungkook his second all-nighter so far.

He had stayed in the theatre, with Jaebum and Youngjae sleeping – or cuddling – there too after being done for the day. Jungkook thought ‘Identity’ would be interesting to work on; the more abstract, the better. Alas, he couldn’t be more wrong—especially that they had about a week to submit the short film, even though they had been working on it for a month now.

Lee-ssi had assembled a more or less competent team; still, Jungkook found the load of work almost inhuman. He was directing, and he was editing the videos shot with Mingyu; Youngjae wrote the (kind-of mute) script with Taehyung; Jaebum and Jinyoung were acting—more on the pantomime side; Lisa, Bambam, Jackson and two unknown soldiers were doing the theatrical design.

He thought that was enough. They were cooperating well, being almost done with the film. But of course one of the unknown soldiers decided to show up on Jungkook's second all-nighter; and of course it had to be Park Jimin.

The second Jungkook's eyes fell on Jimin, he veered between wanting to apologize and wanting to call Jimin out on his slacking ass. He settled for a third option: ignoring Jimin—though Jimin was the one doing the ignoring, talking to everyone on set but never to Jungkook. After all, Jimin came late—Jungkook saw him late—and he chose pretending he didn’t know Jungkook.

But really, did they know each other?

He was on the verge of asking why a photography major was needed then he took a look at how concentrated the Design Unit was, gathering around Jimin while the latter illustrated something, pointing to the walls and speaking in colours and musical notes. Having had his third hugeassed cup of coffee that day, Jungkook was too much on edge already. He was trying to figure out which parts he should take out—which parts to condense and which to fast-forward without compromising the content or the message.

Jeon Jungkook was basically skipping everything but lectures. So, it only took Bambam chasing after Jackson with a bucket of glitter in the theatre for Jungkook to snap.

He hadn’t seen his room in three days; he hadn’t had a proper meal either; he had just lost his progress; he had almost broken the memory-card that had the entire film—Bambam laughing was the last fucking straw.

Jungkook closed the laptop’s lid and got up.

“Could you please focus on finishing the fucking project so we can all go home tonight?”

He wasn’t shouting but all the voices soon died down—all but the music playing in the background—faces turning to him.

Jackson approached Jungkook.

“Hey man, it was just a small break.”

Jungkook spared Jackson a glance then locked eyes with Bambam, ignoring the former. He didn’t have a problem with any of them but the one whose tongue was eaten by a cat now.

“You don’t show up for two days, you come late today, and now you're distracting the people who are actually working.” He was listing things, pushing past Jackson and glaring at Bambam who was returning the hard gaze.

“Cut me some slack, Jungkook.” Bambam said, standing his ground while spitting Jungkook's name through gritted teeth. “You don’t want to be here and neither do I—”

Jungkook laughed coldly and tilted his head in mock sympathy at Bambam, watching him with iciness he hadn’t thought he was capable of.

“But we have to do this so might as well try to get along.” Jungkook said at last. “So stop being such an ass, get back to work and don’t make my job harder.”

He could see Jaebum and Youngjae waking up from their nap, sitting up on the makeshift sofa. At least Mingyu and Lisa were currently MIA. But whatever; Jungkook was too focused on his intense stare-off with Bambam.

“I'm not making your job harder.” Bambam was hissing. “You're trying to make my life harder.”

I am the one making your life harder, Bambam, really?” Jungkook let another hollow laugh while taking a step towards Bambam, seeing his jaw clench. “Just fucking get back to work or so help me, Bambam.”

Bambam was about to retort; Jungkook was ready to bare his teeth, aching to fight the other, but of course there had to be some kind of (angelic) intervention.

“Heyy,” the last voice Jungkook excepted hearing was saying. His attention shifted, watching Jimin walk to him from across the theatre, shoulder almost bumping into Jinyoung’s. “Everything is going well. Just calm down.”

Jungkook laughed; it held no humour but he was smiling at Jimin.

“Do not tell me to calm down.” He stretched each syllable emphatically while looking fiercely into Jimin's eyes, Jimin's words and presence doing very little to soothe his crankiness or tone down his anger. “All I want is that project to be over in the best way possible.”

Jimin was finally standing before him. And like that, he was now standing head to head with an unfazed Jimin, like cocks ready to fight; like that, Bambam was no longer the subject of his attention—not at all.

“We’re all trying our best, okay?” Jimin argued.

“No, not all of us.” Jungkook countered, and resisting glaring at Bambam proved to be a challenge on saying so.

“I’ll stay the night if we don’t finish tonight,” Jimin promised, eyes determined as they returned Jungkook's stare. “Just let him be, Jungkook.”

It was weird, how seconds ago he was a word away from biting Bambam’s head off and now he was, his ears hearing his name a new—like a foreign language holding a sway over his head—a look away from letting his heart become malleable in those small hands. He was again a prey to Jimin's Close-Effect. His eyes were studying the shorter’s features, noticing the same tiredness about the eyes, the same ambivalence about the lips.

“You should stay out of it,” Jungkook said flatly after he let his eyes fall to Jimin's lips then back up to his resolute eyes. He was now talking quietly—shallowly—as he gazed even deeper in Jimin's eyes, feeling the same intensity violating his every fiber. “You weren’t even here to begin with.”

If Jungkook was fire back then, then Jimin was ice—calm despite the fierce look, susceptible to scorching anyone who would dare approach him. Jimin took a step forward; Jungkook resisted taking one backwards, not wanting to share more breaths with Jimin than needed.

Because his former statement seemed to have triggered the elder.

“You think you're the only one working his ass off here?” Jimin pressed on, motioning in the air as he started to get worked up. “You think we don’t all want to—”

“Jimin-ah, it’s ok—” Jinyoung interrupted quietly, putting a hand on Jimin's arm.

“No, it’s not okay!” Jimin looked meaningfully into Jinyoung’s eyes then back at Jungkook's. “Everyone has had it hard and we all need a good grade, it’s not just you.”

Jungkook was heaving as he looked at Jimin, the latter didn’t do as much as flinch, not even when the music stilled. There they were standing, in a pause between two breaths, looking at each other as though nothing else in the world existed but not in a lover kind of way.

Jungkook just clicked his tongue and looked away, walking backwards as he raised up his hands. He knew letting Jimin win this round wasn’t much of a choice at that point, but he didn’t want to push the argument further either—not when so many people were around them. He liked the feisty in Jimin; the fighting spirit kindling his eyes and making them even harder to look away from. Something about Jimin's eyes felt private; and he wanted to seek that in Jimin—he had to.

Jungkook wouldn’t leave the theatre though, not instantly. He had to finish what he planned on doing regardless of the anticlimactic nature of the atmosphere and the occasional glances others stole between Jimin and Jungkook. He didn’t trust himself enough to look in Jimin's direction, to meet his eyes or let the latter invade the architecture of his mind more. Jungkook didn’t regret his choice of staying nonetheless; he had the satisfaction of watching Bambam leave—bump shoulder into him as he walked out of the theatre.

He had barely got out of the theatre than Jackson had him in a neck-lock—basically jumping him—already being too loud for Jungkook's taste. Still, despite his big mouth, Jackson had a big heart and Jungkook liked him.

“So you guys gonna spend the night here together,” Jackson began. “Isn’t it enough for you every night?”

“What is enough every night?” Jungkook credited himself for not glaring at Jackson.

His smile cracked, removing his hand from Jungkook's shoulder and halting to face him.

“I thought you guys worked on this project in your dorm, having neighbouring rooms, you know. Helped each other out.”

He thought maybe he had misjudged Jackson’s intentions. Jungkook smiled to himself—as if.

“I don’t think Jimin has the time for that kind of things at night.”

Jackson laughed out loud, slapping Jungkook's chest; the guy didn’t know what maintaining a low profile meant.

“So I guess it’s true,” Jackson said, walking away and Jungkook was still smiling at the thought. “Jinyoung-hyung told me he was involved with one of the professors last year, that’s why he left.”

He wasn’t sure what Jackson intended with that remark, especially that he seemed as though he were talking to himself. Jinyoung had caught up to Jackson, reproaching him about having a big mouth.

As he watched Jackson’s back, he caught Jimin from the corner of his eye. There wasn’t even an uneven smile, just hurt in those slanting eyes. Jungkook's former smile was instantly wiped off his face, flooded by guilt. How much of this conversation had Jimin heard anyways? Jimin looked away—down—and started wordlessly walking away.

 

♥♥♥

 

“Get in,” Jungkook repeated, opening the shotgun door as he motioned to Jimin. “It’s better than walking back.”

Jimin was still glaring at him. Jungkook was heading back to the dorms, taking the highway. It was sometime after sunset and before midnight—Jungkook didn’t know exactly for he had forgot his phone and, once again, got too caught up filming that he lost track of time. He was smiling at Jimin, wondering how the hell he had mustered up the courage to ask Jimin to ride with him. For days, he was haunted at night, hating the painful—the pained—look Jimin gave him in the theatre. He just wanted to make things better with the elder.

He had tried to—kinda. But the film was submitted to Lee-ssi and he hadn’t caught Jimin anywhere in the past week. Occasionally, he would run into a strange face in their hallway early in the morning, glossy eyes drunk on something faraway—perhaps a thought; perhaps a memory; perhaps a feeling; perhaps the lack of it—and body cold and staggering, wrapped around itself and making a shelter of its own waning warmth. So much did those arms look like they were shaping themself around an ache—a deep visceral ache.

His eyes dug into Jimin's, sifting them for clues. He didn’t like the way Jimin looked—his eyes were of a hue as tormented as the night. He had a scarf that he wouldn’t bother wearing around his shoulders; his cheeks were bleached of colour despite the cold, his windblown hair seemed too disheveled, and his eyes glistened with what Jungkook's suspected wasn’t just the stars.

And like hell did Jungkook understand what Jimin could be doing walking alone that time of night; Jimin didn’t even have his camera. He was hugging himself, rubbing his arms for some warmth as he dragged his feet on the concrete—that was what caught Jungkook's eye in the first place: those seeking-warmth-from-within hands. That was why he pulled over—to shoot the scene only to realize those hands belonged to none but Jimin.

Jimin ignored him and looked away, starting to walk again. Jungkook finally got out of the car, jogging the distance to the other side of the car and blocking Jimin's path.

“Come on, Jimin,” Jungkook said, hands doing their best not to hold Jimin by the shoulder. “You don’t have to be overly sensitive about everything.”

“And you don’t have to be a fucking jerk all the time either.” It was the first thing Jimin had said to him that night.

Jungkook laughed and looked at Jimin with a warm smile.

“I’m sorry. Just get in and we’ll talk. It’s not safe to walk on foot that time of night, especially down that road.”

“Leave me alone, Jungkook.” Jimin took a step to the side, trying to move past Jungkook but the latter mirrored him, once again blocking his path.

“I’m sorry, ok?” Jungkook's voice was soft, trying to calm Jimin down. “It was just one stupid unthought-of comment.”

It didn’t work; Jimin looked offended; he was still angry. He closed the distance with Jungkook, expression burning.

“You don’t know anything about my life—” Jimin's words—eyes—were chockfull or emotion, “—You don't know me, and you don’t get to judge me, Jeon Jungkook,” he pushed Jungkook, the latter wanted to take those fists—those wrists—into his hands, Jimin into his arms.

“Not you, not anyone else.” Jimin hissed.

Jungkook wouldn’t lose heart, not this time. He closed the step Jimin had just forced between them.

“Just get in the car, you can hate me when you're safe in your room.”

Jimin still wouldn’t budge; he was staring at Jungkook in a way that left the younger puzzling over his expression.

Jungkook could hear cars grind their way along main road; he could hear the cool gust numbing his cheek; he could see it whipping a few strands across Jimin's face. As his gaze burnt a path across space, Jungkook fought the urge to stroke the wisps of hair at Jimin's temples.

“Come on, Jimin. Give a guy a chance to atone for his wrong doings.”

Jimin looked at him as if he were trying to establish how genuine Jungkook's words were. At last, he pushed past Jungkook and got into the car, looking out of the window—away—at once.

Jungkook stood looking at the ground for a few beats, smiling to himself. That was progress.

He kept stealing glances at Jimin once he started the ignition. Jungkook thought he would get them in an accident at this rate. Still, it was easy to find something to stare at in Jimin as if he were unravelling a new shade of a familiar colour—a shade people didn’t like to use much, like the last pencil running out in your colour-set.

“I really meant it when I said I'm sorry.” Jungkook started carefully.

Jimin said nothing; he was still looking out of the window, head resting next to the seatbelt in a nonchalant way. He seemed so far away. Even though it was chilly, he kept the windows down and his scarf unwrapped. Jimin seemed so small as he sat in the seat next to Jungkook, with his right arm hugging himself and his legs crossed, inching far from Jungkook's direction.

“I know things didn’t kick off well with us, but I don’t want bad blood between us, Jimin—”

“I know.” Jimin interrupted, voice quiet but audible enough. “You’re not a bad guy, Jungkook. And that’s the problem.”

Jungkook was confused. Still, Jimin wouldn’t look away from the star-studded sky. Darkness stretched around in every direction, with no stars visible; only clouds blanketed the sky.

He still hadn’t finished his piece; Jimin didn’t deserve this. So he gulped and tried to choose his words carefully.

“That day when we came late to the lecture—I didn’t mean what I said.” He paused, regrouping his thoughts and not wanting to sneak a look in Jimin's direction; he was agonized about this enough, he needn’t the visual representation—the wish to avoid the image of what he was hearing. “All I wanted to say was that if you'd gone in after me that day, it’d have looked suspicious and people would… people would start talking.”

Jimin laughed; Jungkook hated that sound. He had heard Jimin laugh—truly laugh. This was too hollow, a sound lost between the voice and its echo.

“Everyone already thinks I'm a whore, so might as well give them a reason to think so.”

Something gripped Jungkook cold at those words. From the rearview mirror, he watched the lights make shadows over Jimin's distant expression as he drove on. He should say something; he should reassure Jimin, assuage him with anything.

“I'm sorry.” He repeated again. Jungkook didn’t know what else to say.

“Does it really matter now?” Jimin asked, Jungkook catching a glimpse of Jimin's heart and forgetting that his own heart was mourning. “Would it really matter when the person I wanted most to believe in me didn’t?”

Jimin shifted beside him; Jungkook was glad there was a red light. He could feel Jimin’s eyes on him; he could feel the weight. When he looked at Jimin—at his glassy eyes, swollen with tears, and at his thin smile, heavy with imprisoned feelings—he wanted to perish. Jimin's pupils were taking a lonely hue, like grey clouds reflected in a calm lake. Jungkook thought this was a reflection of the pent-up pain. As if that one statement Jimin had uttered weren’t sufficient to shift things in Jungkook—to push against an insurmountable number of defenses.

“Jimin, I—” Jungkook began, voice caught in his throat.

Jimin shook his head softly, silently asking Jungkook not to apologize.

“Just don’t believe everything everyone says, Jungkook.” There was more pain in his voice than Jungkook could bear.

And do, he stared at Jimin for one unguarded second, searching for an eyelash, a free wish, on those cheeks. It might have been a two-minute time-frame but to him, time stilled. He kept gazing at Jimin's eyes, trying to read into the deep pair rimmed with so many words unspoken. Jungkook couldn’t help but think of Jimin in halftones—in cold-splashed stones, in gusts of air smelling like doused campsite fire, in saccharine-coated tears, in pastel-hues pushing against blacked-up souls. He had got so lost in that vulnerable look he forgot time and space.

And it literally tore him apart to look away from Jimin's eyes—from his oceanic eyes into which Jungkook had just streamed. It had taken plenty of angry horns till he shifted the gear and started driving again, feeling the night desaturate—hoping the moon would rise, hoping the stars would prick through the sky's darkness.

Jeon Jungkook had been right; something was too familiar about Jimin.

The first time he had lain eyes on Jimin, he could see it. Even through the distance, as he looked at him in the parking lot, he couldn’t help noticing the off air about him. Something was broken about Jimin, something that went far beyond the familiar pain of a broken heart—something that dealt with the brokenness of a much more important thing: the brokenness of his soul.

Jungkook wanted to ask him a lot of things, find out what lied beneath. But he knew timing was an art; and right now, he just had to let Jimin exist in peace. At least if he couldn’t offer him a remedy, then he shouldn’t let the infection spread more.

And so, in silence the ride went on; and in silence, he watched Jimin enter his room, dragging one heavy bag that no one could see.

 

♥♥♥

 

Just when Jungkook, drunk and contemplating his inexhaustible idiocy, was locked out of his room, it had to be raining. He was sure he had taken his keys, knowing before leaving for that damn get-together that Taehyung would be in the theatre when he returned.

He slid against the door, forearms resting on his bent-knees and his head hanging. The rain clearly established running across campus to the theatre was a huge no-no; it was like the sky was making up for lost time, pouring its heart out with the storm rolling through.

“Why are you sitting here like a lost child?”

Jungkook lifted up his head, linking the crystalline voice to a face already, having the scent of night-lilies instead of the rain-dew filling his lungs. Jimin’s clothes were dripping, his hair slightly wet. His moist lips were gleaming attractively; and rain had dotted his face with tint-pinprick of ice. He was holding a cup of hot chocolate in one hand and his keys in the other. The droplets seemed to ring against the carpeted floor, like music complementing that usually beatific-with-emotion face.

The more Jungkook looked at the friendly face in its current state, the more he established that so much did Jimin resemble rain, having its very own unique charm: associated with darkness and coldness yet beautiful, transparent but powerful, tinged with an air of melancholy—and letting you feel fully alive.

He smiled at Jimin—the alcohol’s effect, since he knew well where they had last been standing.

“I forgot my keys and Tae won't be here until tomorrow.”

“Oh so it’s because Tae isn’t there.” Jimin was nodding understandingly.

“Yup. That’s how I became a lost child.”

Jimin went to throw away his paper-cup then came back; Jungkook’s eyes never parted with Jimin—studying every movement, the way his hips swayed, the sequence of his steps. He felt so lightheaded.

“Why didn’t you come to the after-party?” Jimin asked. “We were celebrating finally finishing the short film.”

Jungkook laughed.

“You guys are about two weeks late.”

There was another translation to Jungkook's prior statement: I'm trying not to be in the same place with you at the same time.

If Jimin had forgiven him, the problem lied in the fact that it was Jungkook who hadn’t forgiven himself. And he was avoiding the elder as if not to betray something inside of himself.

Jimin moved till he was standing before Jungkook.

“You’re avoiding me.”

“Bingo!” Jungkook said and Jimin let out a laugh—a pure contagious laugh.

“Jungkookie, how drunk are you?”

It wasn’t reproaching; if anything, Jimin sounded amused.

“On a scale of shouldn’t-be-driving to about-to-call-my ex?”

Jimin laughed and tilted his head; Jungkook was glad at least his eyes were focused enough to register Jimin's beauty.

“That’s one meek scale you have there,” Jimin smiled knowingly at Jungkook. “Mine usually ends with orgy.”

“Wild.” He was only blinking dreamily at Jimin, not fully present. “At least you don’t end up with a regretful relation.”

Jimin crouched down before Jungkook and bopped his chin up; Jungkook's head became even more wobbly at that. It felt good; he felt like closing his eyes.

“I thought you were the kind of guys who didn’t want to be in a relationship.” Jimin teased, biting his lip.

“Wait,” he narrowed his eyes while cocking his head to the side. “I thought that was you.”

Instead of a laugh, Jimin only shook his head softly—wistfully.

“I had been in three relationships.” Jimin's eyes shone wet in the night. "That's quite something, yea?"

“One.” Jungkook sighed, closing his eyes briefly, trying not to let his past steal another second from him—another second eclipsing the beauty of the present.

Jimin's smile now shaped his beauty into another kind of astonishing.

“And there I thought you were too young to have an ex, Jungkookie.”

Jungkook laughed and passed a hand over his face.

“Heartbreak has little disregard to age, Jimin-ah.” He instantly rose to his feet so he wouldn’t deal with Jimin’s gaze. He thought maybe he could run the distance and to hell with catching a cold. It wasn't such a wise decision to stay where he was at the moment—not in that state of mind at least.

“You can stay the night in my room,”

Jungkook froze and turned to Jimin. He didn’t look uncertain; he looked like someone who was testing how far another someone would go.

“If you want to, I mean.”

Now that was hesitant.

As Jungkook looked at Jimin who was still biting his lip, he wondered what could possibly go wrong.

“I’ll make you a hot drink and something sweet?” Jimin scrunched his nose and forehead.

“How, you gonna put your finger in it?” Jungkook wondered where all this flirtiness was a few hours ago. It didn’t matter; Jimin was giggling and the cloud of confusion was clearing on the horizon of his mind. So much was the sound filling the deepest chambers in Jungkook's heart with ethereal musical laughter.

Jimin took a step forward, tilting his head flirtatiously and looking up at Jungkook's smiling eyes.

“Does that make me hot or sweet, Jungkookie?”

“Both.” The younger shrugged simply.

Jimin giggled and nodded, proceeding to opening the door. 

“Soo,” he leaned against the wall, watching Jimin from the corner of his eye. “A truce?”

“No,” if Jungkook hadn’t caught Jimin's petulant expression that second he pushed the door open, he would have believed that ‘no.’ “I'm luring you into my room so I can hold you a hostage and torture you. Maybe even blackmail TaeTae into doing my biddings.”

“Tae?” Jungkook smiled, shaking his head as he entered the room. “He’d actually pay you to keep me.”

Jimin hadn’t turned on the light yet so Jungkook was just waiting by the door, hearing some shuffles around, his lungs relishing the roses-like, vanilla-like scent of Jimin's room.

“Guess I'll keep you then.” Jimin's voice was distant. After almost a minute of Jungkook's eyes tracing Jimin's outlines in the dark—after a minute of Jungkook watching the moonlit outline moving familiarly in the dark, his legs almost gliding and hands too skilled with the drill—the latter passed him by, lurking by the light-switch.

“So, friends?” Jimin proposed, his feet clicking with the floor as he stopped before Jungkook.

Jungkook bit the inside of his cheek, watching Jimin's eyes shimmer like a cat’s.

“Friends.”

Jimin lightly put a hand on Jungkook's shoulder then turned on the lights. He blinked a few times to adjust his eyes to the light, seeing Jimin's smile as he put a portfolio on his desk.

To say Jimin's room looked like a gallery would be a blasphemous understatement.

It had the same architectural design as his and Taehyung’s; but it seemed more spacious—perhaps because it was neater. A desk, a closet, a food cabinet, a small fridge, a boiler, a bean-chair facing the TV—college-life starter pack. The two beds were next to each other, making a bigger one (it only hit him then that Jimin didn’t have a roommate for some unknown reason). There were two shelves above his desk, next to framed portraits graduating in size. The wall facing the bed had plenty of pictures on it; they looked like a paint splash, scattered haphazardly as if reflective of their content.

He could feel Jimin's eyes on him as he walked to that wall.

He recognized some of the faces—Seokjin wearing an apron and concentrating on whatever he was baking, Hoseok’s face sneaking a glance at someone over his shoulder, Yoongi crouched down with his camera taking a picture in a parking-lot, Namjoon’s kind smile accentuating his dimple as he signed some paper, Youngjae laughing into Jaebum’s chest. Even Taehyung made it to the wall, making a silly face as his hands made a heart over his head. There were three more faces Jungkook didn’t know. His eyes did a pause and a double-take at the last picture, surprised to see he had reached the end without encountering a single photograph of Jimin. though that wasn't the most interesting part. The last photograph was of him ... of him that day he was absentmindedly doodling in the cafeteria.

Jungkook now understood how Jimin took his pictures, now that he was looking at a photograph of a moment that he allegedly lived. Albeit it he was present on said moment, now, he was an outsider, looking back on a moment when he hadn’t been there.

“Do you like them?”

Like them? Jungkook didn’t know precisely what he was feeling but there was a lot of it—of them. And at Jimin's warm tone, not hesitant, not proud, made him feel even more overwhelmed.

“I feel like I've witnessed all those moments in a way.” Jungkook began, not breaking his gaze from the wall. He fell silent for a few seconds, still admiring Jimin's art.

“Do you ever put down your camera?” he turned to Jimin, already wanting to turn back to the photographs. “They must think you're crazy or something. I go around filming people for a few hours and I get those weird stares as if I'm an asylum escapee.”

A smile settled across Jimin’s face. He was sitting on his desk, arms folded.

“Take pictures of the people you love, Jungkook.” He looked down, smiling sadly and Jungkook wished he had been sober. Rekindling his usual broad smile, Jimin got up and started walking to the wall—to Jungkook.

“Take pictures of people before they’re gone. While they laugh with someone they like, while they savour their favourite food, while they’re lost in thought, while they cry watching the endgame in their favourite show, while they help a stranger carry a bag, while they’re feeling crazy, running like children in the streets, while laughing at the face of having cheated death and escaping being run over,” he paused to let out a small laugh; Jungkook wagered it was the byproduct of some memory hitting him, and he couldn’t help but look at Jimin with admiring eyes.

Jimin at last turned to face Jungkook, the latter realizing how little space was between their turned faces now.

“Take pictures of your loved ones so even if they go, you'd never forget how they looked. People might call you crazy as you go around with your camera, but when everything is said and done, they’ll realize you’ve been the sanest person of them, all along.”

Having heard that, Jungkook knew Park Jimin would always overwhelm him, one way or another. He should have known, ever since he could see it in Jimin's eyes—eyes which seemed to hold all the mysteries of the world in their depths.

“You must have one heart of steel.” Jungkook mumbled.

Jimin laughed; it didn’t sit well with Jungkook's ears. He turned around, probably to make Jungkook his promised hot drink.

“To love and to lose and love still.” Jimin chirped, turning the kettle on whilst giving Jungkook his back. “That’s the real victory love grants—to learn kindly, you know.”

The alcohol should be wearing off, yet Jungkook was seeing things. The longer he stared, the more out-of-this-world—surreal—Jimin looked; and ironically, the more real.

“What happens when only the photographs stay, what happens when it ends?” Jungkook asked; he felt such a radical question should be asked when he was more sober—in a more vulnerable time of the night; but the last few minutes were real enough for him.

Jimin was now laughing in a way that his voice expressed a shade of sorrow.

“I try not to reach that part, you know. I'm not such a fan of endings. They are mostly unhappy.”

Jungkook let out a short bitter laugh.

“Well it’s not much of a choice, now, is it?”

He could see Jimin's hand pausing. The elder threw a glance over his shoulder, as if checking what kind of expressions Jungkook was wearing, then said,

“You know what they say, not even stars last forever, Kook-ah.”

“Then why bother in the first place?” Jungkook leant against the wall, studying Jimin’s back as he poured the boiled water into a mug. “It’s like fighting a losing battle. Those photographs ends up being nothing but a painful reminder, the memories are in sepia-filter, their warmth turns cold with the lingering pain. Even you change.” He shrugged. “So basically nothing stays the same.”

Again, Jimin laughed.

“Because it’s worth it.” He turned to Jungkook, looking into his eyes. “It’s not easy, yes. But then again, everything worth having is bought at a heavy price.”

“Love sure has one heavy price.”

“Living life, Jungkookie,” Jimin said. “If not by love—with love—for love—to love—then why.”

“So you're willing to feel the pain just because love is worth it?” Jungkook gave an impressed whistle and folded his arms.

Jimin put down the mug and turned to Jungkook, a forced smile on his lips.

“Aren’t you?”

There was a hairsbreadth of a pause at that.

“You should really start thinking in terms of the person being worthy and not love, Jimin-ah.”

Jimin flinched and turned back to his drink. Jungkook watched; Jungkook waited.

“What you're looking for is looking for you, Jungkook.” He said without facing Jungkook, his voice somehow muddled, like trying to talk beneath the water surface. “Always remember that.”

False.

Jimin was trying to reach for the upper shelf; Jungkook started walking to him. He didn’t stop until he was standing right behind Jimin, his right hand reaching for the cocoa powder while his left was on the cabinet, barring Jimin in. He looked down in the same second Jimin had turned around, a moment so much like the silent pause separating an inhale and an exhale. An inexplicable warning was murmuring in a distant region in Jungkook's mind.

“There.” Jungkook said steadily, looking deeply into Jimin's eyes while holding the container next to Jimin's face.

Jimin took the container but neither broke gaze nor broke free.

“Was that really necessary?”

Jungkook gave a cosmic shrug and made way for Jimin, watching the latter spare him a long look before handing him his mug.

Maybe he had been staring at Jimin for too long that the latter needed an excuse to escape the room, heading to the bathroom with his change of clothes. When Jimin was back, he bid Jungkook goodnight and slipped into one of the beds.

Jungkook didn’t spend too long marveling; he knew his night was going to be all about staring at ceilings.

 

When Jungkook woke up, Jimin was already out. He had left him a cup of still-hot caramel macchiato and a box of fresh muffins—which Jungkook didn’t know how Jimin figured was his favourite. With a soft smile, Jungkook headed for his room.

The rain had been nothing but a testimony to magic happening; it was only the second week of November but the month was truly a bliss. Albeit he wasn’t late to his lecture, he hadn’t sat down and caught up with Taehyung and his ‘did you really spend the night with Jiminnie?!’

He had to see Kim-ssi; Jungkook finally had a theme.

 

♥♥♥

 

“If you're going to stare so much, get up and ask him for a dance or something.” Hoseok said.

“Just let him ogle over Jiminnie in silence till he dissipates, Hobi.” Taehyung added.

Jungkook eyed both of his friends as they stood on either side of him by the Soju-fountain, each holding his god-knows-which-nth cup. First, Taehyung took his phone and camera; then there was this rude presumption.

“And the guy he’s standing with?” Jungkook asked, sipping from his drink. They had only been two hours into that party and every time Jungkook's eyes found Jimin, he had someone by his side—sometimes on friendly terms, sometimes more.

Hoseok shook his head ruefully. “That guy is an ass anyways.”

And in agreement, Taehyung was nodding sympathetically, at which Jungkook was slightly offended; Taehyung sure knew how to swing for all teams.

“What happened to ‘stay away from him’?” Jungkook mimicked in a dramatic manner, hearing Hoseok’s laugh and seeing Taehyung’s deadpan.

“I was so young and reckless back then.”

Jungkook shook his head and Hoseok was biting his lower lip, clearly liking whatever he was seeing. He was about to tease Hoseok when he realized Hoseok’s eyes lied nowhere but on his photographer boyfriend. Alright, Jung Hoseok, bite your lip all you want then.

Taehyung put down his drink and moved to hold Jungkook by the shoulders.

“Do you want me to demonstrate how to talk to someone you like or does Hobi have to go show you?”

Jungkook grimaced.

“I do not like him.” When even Hoseok gave him a disbelieving look, Jungkook clarified, “I'm just interested.”

“God,” Taehyung touched his temple, tired with Jungkook and his bullshit. “I don’t have time for this. If you guys end up fucking, stay away from my bed.”

Jungkook was halfway spitting out a curse when Taehyung simply wheeled away. He huffed out and turned to Hoseok as if seeking support. The latter only shrugged and left Jungkook alone with his drink.

And so, he decided to ‘fuck it!’, YOLO’ing the night.

An hour later, Jungkook was drunk off his ass, on one of the tables, having a passionate duet pretending the plastic cup was a mic and singing Eyes, Nose, Lips with Taehyung—who was only in his shorts, socks, and Jungkook didn’t want to ask how he was wearing a tie around his neck, considering his outfit didn’t have that. By the time they got to singing Good Boy, Taehyung lost the tie and Jungkook was dying out of laughter.

Replying to Jungkook's ‘yes I'm a player’ with ‘you could be my coach, love affair’, the elder turned to him, holding Jungkook's head and planting a kiss on his lips as the crowd went even wilder. Jungkook only smiled and went on rapping his part.

He had the crowd singing the chorus while he did body rolls on the table. He then jumped off it, deciding he had enough cheers and claps and on-stage-life for the night. Jungkook even got a few back-slaps and butt-spanks as he made his way to the bathroom; he needed somewhere quiet. He was highkey glad Taehyung had taken his phone, this way he wouldn’t do any decisions he would definitely regret in the next morning: consider texting someone.

Regrettable decisions? Seeing Jimin pinned to a wall while trying to pry himself away, push the hand—the person—that decided to take the hot session of making-out further was all it took for him to decide he could handle one more of those decisions. He almost couldn’t believe that was the same guy who had taken Jimin from his arms weeks ago.

“Hello,” he said, tapping the guy’s shoulder. “I said hello.” He added a bit louder when the guy didn’t turn to him the first time.

“You again?” he spared Jungkook a glance and returned to shoving his hand up Jimin's shirt—Jimin whose eyes seemed alert now. “Piss off.”

Jungkook rolled his eyes, clasped both hands together and did his best to imitate the annoyed-teacher smile.

“Yes, hi, hello. How about you spare me punching you and your nose bleeding and Jimin's shirt getting ruined and all that party-clichés and just walk the fuck away?”

Jimin looked too stunned to formulate words; the guy didn’t seem too amused by Jungkook's humour.

“You think you're funny?”

“I think I'm cute.” Jungkook smiled, feeling himself on the brink of getting his second warning from the school’s administration. His smiled faded; his eyes darkened and he proceeded, “Back off. He’s too drunk.”

The guy was about to dive for a punch when, rolling his eyes, Jungkook took a step to the side. Drunk as he was, this would be an easy fight to win. He had barely turned around when his face received Jungkook's punch. Indeed, Guy's nose started bleeding. Jungkook watched him curse as he staggered back, stumbling against some making-out couple and falling against them, blacking out. The couple barely bat an eye; they just moved away, letting the guy fall to the floor.

“Let’s go back,” he turned to Jimin at last.

Jimin's was slack-jawed, eyes shifting between the body and Jungkook who wasn’t smiling anymore. Jimin started laughing, sitting on the floor cross-legged before he ended up falling in spite of laughing so hard. Jungkook wished to know just how drunk Jimin was.

“That was totally unnecessary,” Jimin wiped a tear from his eye. “I was about to get fucked, fuck you, Kook-ah.”

There was no bite there, especially with Jimin still feeling the aftermaths of his drunken laughter.

“I'm glad one of us is having fun,” he extended his hand to Jimin. “Now get up, we’re heading back.”

Jimin stopped laughing, eyeing Jungkook's hand blankly, as if just realizing Jungkook wasn’t joking about leaving the party.

“No.”

“What do you mean no?” Jungkook pulled back his hand, forehead scrunched up in indignant confusion.

“No as in no. I'm not leaving.” With a noticeable effort, Jimin rose to his feet, touching his forehead. “No as in he wouldn’t ever sleep with me again because you punched him.”

Jungkook stared in disbelief at Jimin. “I'd carry you back if I had to, Jimin, don’t test me.”

He hadn’t noticed he had taken a step towards Jimin, slightly feeling the motion was violent. And he could see Jimin seemed threatened, no longer laughing.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Jimin returned the hard stare. “You just cock-blocked me.”

Jungkook huffed and shot him a dead look. “That wasn’t how it looked to me.”

“Then you'd better get your eyesight checke—”

Jungkook was tired of trying to reason with a drunk—too emotional—Jimin, especially when the argument seemed illogical to him, as though the elder was deliberately starting a fight. And so, he grabbed Jimin's hand and said, “You're too drunk, let’s go back.”

Jimin was shouting out something, trying to free his hand as Jungkook led him through the crowd and out of that damned frat house. He was glad he had the keys to the pickup truck, hoping Taehyung could find another ride back home.

When he stopped next the pickup truck, Jimin finally shook himself loose.

“What the fuck, Jungkook!” Jimin's eyes were wide.

“Again,” Jungkook began, ruffling his hair and shutting his eyes for a second. “You can hate me in the morning when you're safe in your room.”

Jimin just blinked at him.

Jungkook was staring. It took him too long before he looked away.

“Do you have your phone?”

Jimin seemed confused, mumbling something but fetching out his phone all the same. Jungkook took it, making sure not a millimeter of his skin would make contact with Jimin's because he had little trust in himself at that moment. He quickly texted Taehyung without much elaboration, getting a confirmation text that the latter could handle himself getting a ride back.

He didn’t yet hand Jimin back his phone, sneaking glances at the elder. There were high notes of defiance mingling with anger in the brown slits shifting in his eyes.

A strong wind breezed by, pushing Jimin's hair and slightly lifting up the hem of his shirt. Jungkook was aware he was staring, but Jimin seemed like a work of art now more than ever; his bare hands—his skin drinking light from the moon barely let Jungkook's eyes look away. Mesmerizing. Park Jimin in black jeans and a plain tee, collarbone marked with a hickey, hair a wonderful mess of silver—a handful of Eden ashes—making Jungkook fall in love with chaos; lips kiss-swollen, making Jungkook want to place his thumb and slowly pry them open—smearing them; eyes puffy from drinking so much, calling to Jungkook to get lost in them.

Jimin shook his head, his fingers—his ringed fingers carding slowly through his hair as he looked away, sighing. Jungkook had watched this hand motion too many times to finally understand that all along Jimin had been the object of his filming, of his film—the guy he was bound to, the guy whose body attracted Jungkook's camera and pulled it in as if in a gravitational pull. Realization was the mental equivalent of a slow-motion clip played in reversal. This was the Park Jimin who used the line separating enjoying life from self-destruction like a jump-rope, skipping between them too fast, too often.

“What?” there was an edge to Jimin's question, to his voice.

Jungkook handed Jimin back his phone and unlocked the truck.

“Get in.”

“You can't even drive in your state!” Jimin said in protest.

Jungkook wasted exactly one second, pressing his lips into a thin line.

“Fine.” Locking the truck again, he tucked the keys in his pocket and grabbed Jimin’s hand. He started walking; the station wasn’t far. “We’re taking the bus then.”

“Jungkook, what gives!”

“We’re friends now. And friends don’t let each other do things they’d regret.” He replied simply, feeling little warmth on Jimin's skin.

Jimin seemed to give up, finally pulling his hand free and walking next to Jungkook. For a while, all Jungkook could hear was the snow crunching softly under their feet. They didn’t even have to wait; a bus had just stopped by the time they reached the bench. Jungkook turned to Jimin, urging him on with his hands, watching him oblige begrudgingly.

It was way too crowded, especially considering that time of night. Jimin leaned against one of the walls, fitting in the small space between the back door and a window; Jungkook squeezed against two passengers, standing before Jimin and holding to one of the straphangers. He knew the ride was more or less a ten-minute journey, maybe less since there was no traffic. And he could spend it having a stare-off with Jimin. He wasn’t sure what he was reading in those eyes—what kind of anger and about what.

“It’s pissing me off that you are the one pissed off,” Jungkook finally broke under the pressure of the silence, speaking calmly in a low tone in spite of the setting.

“You’re pissed off?!” Jimin arched both eyebrows—offended. “Because I'm the one who just told you whom to have in your life.”

“You know damn well it was useless with that prick.” Jungkook once again found the alcohol taking the wheel, muddling his brain enough to force his eyes to travel down to Jimin's lips, registering a feeling mature in him slowly. “He was just your fuck-buddy and it wasn’t going to lead anywhere.”

“Well newsflash, Jungkook,” if there was such a thing as ‘calmly snapping’, then that was Jimin at that moment. “Sometimes you start a relation just to see where it leads, even when you know it leads nowhere. Maybe you should understand that there exists something called love.”

“That wasn’t even a relation.” Jungkook snorted. “You were fucking horny, Jimin. Being horny has nothing to do with love.”

“It’s a process, Jungkook.” Jimin hissed, causing a nearby prying asshole to eye them curiously. “Maybe it starts with sex then the falling in love happens in the process.”

Jungkook looked away, laughing humourlessly as he shook his head. On meeting Jimin's eyes, a whole set of 'might haves' unspooled in him.

“Why are we even arguing right now?”

“Because you’re a fucking dick and you had no right to do that!” Jimin's voice rose at that, drawing attention to them but Jungkook didn’t care. The stares didn’t last for long anyway; they soon had something more entertaining to watch.

The bus had screeched into a sharp halt—some idiot driver breaking the red-light. Inertia played him good; Jungkook's hands had slammed on both sides next to Jimin's face, his head jerking forward and he could swear his lips brushed Jimin's nose. He neither registered the driver’s angry words nor the passenger next to him stumbling and hitting him in the process; he was focused on Jimin's eyes which wouldn’t even flinch, seeing how the irises bled red into the brown.

It was almost as if his eyes were trained to seek Jimin's lips at that proximity, always lingering there as though they were his birthright. He expected to see Jimin's eyes fixed on his eyes—sporting the same fire—when he looked up; instead, Jimin’s eyes were studying the younger's lips as well.

Perhaps a minute had passed; perhaps Jungkook's heartbeat had miscounted.

“Let’s go,” He said steadily, not yet drawing back. “Our stop is next.”

“Yea.” Jimin replied, eyes just as steady as they met Jungkook's gaze. “We should go.”

As they walked in silence to their rooms, Jungkook felt as though he were a parent picking up their child from a party before 8 P.M.; he wasn’t even sure if Jimin was sulking or just passively pissed off.

“Jimin?” he ventured when they were to part ways before their doors.

Jimin looked up to meet the younger's gaze, eyes glossy. Jungkook was on the verge of saying something that would open him up; he was on the verge of willing to be split open. Jimin's eyes propelled him on, with that honest look that just begged Jungkook to say something. As usual, Jungkook couldn’t, so he just brushed it off with a ‘never mind’ and looked away, not missing the crestfallen expression taking Jimin's eyes.

“I guess that’s goodnight,” Jimin said quietly.

Jungkook nodded, offering a tightlipped smile. He reached for his pocket when he realized his keys were in the camera bag.

“Shit.”

Jimin stopped closing the door midway, throwing Jungkook an inquiring look.

“You’re even homeless before finishing uni,” Jimin shook his head amusedly. He gently pushed the door wide open and motioned for Jungkook to come in. “It’s either me or the cold floor again, Jungkook. Your call.”

“You’ve been inviting me over a lot lately.” Jungkook was smiling, feeling better about Jimin's change of tone. “Careful.”

“Yea, I like to feed the rumours.”

As he passed the threshold, as Jimin's back made contact with the wall to make room for the younger, Jungkook teasingly pressed close to Jimin, inadvertently recreating the moment they had on the bus. This time as he lent close, both of his forearms barricaded Jimin's head, head already tilted as if going for a kiss. He searched Jimin's emotive eyes for a reaction, a red-sign, green lights—anything. He wanted to let those eyes in on his secrets, letting them become one of those hushed secrets. But what could he tell Jimin? That the nights he had spent filming him as a stranger felt familiar to his heart, that he really wanted him that instant, in every sense of the word?

“You know you want me, Jungkook.” Jimin’s voice was breathy, lips parted—ready.

“I'm just too drunk and you're really hot and I feel like I want to get down on you.” Jungkook breathed against Jimin's beckoning lips. He was perilously balanced between his pain and his desire.

“I can live with that.”

Really, Jungkook had leant in, the grain of his lips resting a hairsbreadth away from Jimin's, tasting the anticipation in the partition of Jimin's lips. But alas, he knew this kiss would make things more fragile—more uncertain.

Sparing Jimin's lips one last glance, he backed off, slightly feeling frustrated with himself.

“You're hopeless, Jungkook.” There was a hint of a smile in Jimin's voice.

“I didn’t prevent you from making a regrettable decision to have you fall into another, Jimin-ah!”

There was a huff of air; perhaps it was a laugh, perhaps just an expression of frustration—of an escalating tirade.

Jimin had barely turned on the lights when Jungkook's eyes spotted the Gallery Wall (it was his nickname for the wall with the photograph-spam) instantly.

It wasn’t the same.

The wall facing the bed had more than just the vibrant photos Jungkook had seen before. It had plenty of pictures on it, some looked like a paint splash, scattered haphazardly, and a group was clustered in an orderly way a few centimeters next to them—like two groups. The contrast was comical—the first group was so vibrant in colours while the other was monochromatic.

He moved up to the cluster, feeling Jimin tense beside him. He had expected personal photos like the last time, ones Jimin had taken. Instead, a group of city-landscape photographs were stacked up there. An icy chill stole over Jungkook. The photographs were off, not a single human being there; they mostly had one element of focus, a zeroed-in object—building-fronts, marquees, signage, menu boards. He thought Jimin must have not taken all of them; though they had the same concept, they were radically different from the ones he had seen at Namjoon’s office.

For one pure shining moment, everything swarming in Jungkook's mind cleared; he could lucidly see.

“Why did you remove those last time I was here?” Jungkook didn’t expect his voice to sound this uneven—this chocked. In a way, his heart felt pricked knowing Jimin didn’t want him to see them weeks ago.

He awaited Jimin's reply; he waited till Jimin was standing beside him facing the wall as if studying the photographs for the first time. The choking force was gripping him more sober the faster his heart beat—the more beats sat between the question and its unuttered answer resting on Jimin's lips.

“I'd feel naked if you saw them.” Jimin said, eyes crinkling into a soft smile. No, not soft; it was tainted by a sad hue—wistful.

Jungkook smiled down.

“And there I was about to have sex with you.”

“Guess I can drop my pants for you.” Jimin mirrored the expression.

He smirked.

“What about your guard?”

Jimin laughed and slumped on his bean chair. It took Jungkook an impressive amount of self-restraint not to jump him at that, especially that Jimin's half-closed eyes pleaded with longing.

Jungkook started taking backward steps; he didn’t stop until he had hit the bed. Not heeding Jimin's puzzled expression, Jungkook kicked off his shoes, lay on his back and let his head hang from the end of the bed. He started seeing things upside down, Jimin's smile was now a frown, the crescent eyes now crestfallen.

He knew the stacking looked peculiar for a reason. The monochromatic photographs were arranged in a sequence that formed ‘보고 싶다’—I miss you. Jungkook now understood just how naked Jimin was right now.

“Beautiful.” Jungkook found himself saying.

He hated how most beautiful things stemmed from tragedies; but still, it was all he could think of. One of the corners of Jimin's mouth quirked up, throwing a glance at the wall. He seemed to be sobering up too.

He was now sitting next to Jungkook on bed; Jungkook hadn’t yet straightened up. He seemed to be mulling over a thought—an unmade decision.

“Those are my past.” He conceded, biting his lip pensively. “I left a piece of my heart in each place of those.”

At that, Jungkook finally sat up. “How long ago?”

“Almost two years ago.” Jimin gave breath to a sad laugh. “Yes, that’s why I sat out on last year. It wasn’t a professor, but I just had to get away.”

“And you still chose to hang them around?” Jungkook didn’t get the logic. “You wake up every day to be greeted by this.”

Jimin shrugged, patting Jungkook's thigh and getting up. Jungkook watched him as he started taking off his rings and shoes.

“You really have one heart of steel.” He mumbled. It felt like Jimin's heart was solid where Jungkook's was brittle. “I don’t think I can stand a constant reminder of someone’s absence.”

Jimin's hands paused before unlacing his boot, halfway looking forward—halfway looking at Jungkook.

“Is that why you want your tattoo gone?”

The words stripped Jungkook of the last bit of his drunkenness, gripping him wholly sober.

In that moment of stunned silence, Jimin nodded to himself and walked to the bathroom; he probably didn’t even need an answer to that. Jungkook wondered who was the naked one between them—wondered how transparent he really was.

When Jimin walked out of the bathroom, he was only in his boxer-shorts. Jungkook wasn’t even subtle about checking him out—the perfect skin, the toned abs, the small waist, the pelvic bones that were sculptured by the god of pheromones himself.

“If you like what you see so much then you shouldn’t have turned me down.” Jimin said as he stood in front of Jungkook, the latter’s eyes in level with Jimin's naval. Jungkook was about to make a suggestive remark when he noticed the ink right above Jimin's pelvic bone—on his left side.

A clean love in death,” Jungkook read in English.

Jimin shrugged.

“You're not the only one who gets to have a tattoo. Move.”

“We’re sleeping in the same bed now?” Jungkook tried to sound indignant.

He had been so preoccupied by the pictures and Jimin's former words he didn’t notice how the two beds were no longer one now—how the bed Jimin wasn’t using had what could be all of Jimin's closet.

“No need to be coy, Jungkook.” There was now a playful glint of mischief in Jimin's eyes. “But next time you try to pull something off, I can't promise I’ll have that level of self-restraint.”

That being said, Jimin slipped into bed, giving Jungkook his back and pulling the quilt over his body. The quilt wasn’t of much aid though. Jungkook wanted to ask about the tattoo, to press the subject, but Jimin's ass was starting to really distract him. And he really needed to spend the night without jumping him.

And so, he took off his jacket and jeans, uncharacteristically keeping his shirt on, and slipped next to Jimin, facing the other direction.

 

♥♥♥

 

Occasionally Jungkook became grateful for having a Kim Taehyung in his life. Or having specifically Taehyung as his bestfriend. Even though Jungkook spent days trying to convince him the two nights he spent with Jimin had nothing more than ‘just sleeping’, Taehyung was like a bridge in his relation with Jimin—as friends.

Though arguing ‘nothing happened, Tae. Shocking, I know,’ wasn’t done much favour when Jungkook spent yet another night with Jimin—just not in the latter’s room. It wasn’t done any good once he came back one day, cursing the so-called lenient Dean, after having been called to his office—after receiving yet another warning for having punched yet another guy in one of the parties. Especially that Taehyung was so persistent with his ‘you went so far for ‘just friends’, Jungkook.

Ever since waking up, Jungkook had been out, driving through the city, crepuscular sky melting into an inky mantle, sun giving way to stars. From mountains to sea—sand to salt; from skyscrapers to roofs topping collapsing buildings; from movie-theatres to cafés, from bookshops to open markets—camera skipping between shots of friends and lovers, barely discerning. The stage preceding falling in love was magical—of shy smiles, of innocent hearts, of lingering words, of calm before the storm. A limbo of its own, minds reining hearts, hearts battling for freedom—an emotional revolution.

Jungkook got all that on his camera; he was collecting moments he wasn’t sure he would use because they seemed so precious. Earlier, he had visited that old cabin near an old theme park—the one he had made his sanctioned world, the place he went to most of the time for some clear air and mind. His day couldn’t get any better, having got even Jimin, as his stranger, on camera.

In the filter of eventide and against a bleeding sky, Jimin was dancing on an empty roof, the dusk sun painting itself along his frame, the way you would dance when no one was looking—just for the fun of it, though it soon morphed into something more professional, more skilled. It no longer had the happy skipping around to it; it felt like an ode to a well-away dream. Watching alone felt like a violation—a sin—like it was too private; and it had nothing to do with the sensuality of the moves, of the touches. But Jungkook couldn’t look away; Jimin wouldn’t let him; there was too much emotion—there was just too much there.

Jimin was in the kind of trance that no narcotics could grant, delivering a rapt performance for a no-show audience—eyes closed, hair whipping around in beguiling streaks of silver, hands reaching out for something, feet following an invisible rhythm. It was easy to guess how high Jimin was; he often was. Jungkook found himself wondering how Jimin resurfaced each time like nothing happened. As though as he lost himself in his pleasures, he had left himself there and another person would emerge, living the day on his behalf. An analogy of a snake shedding its skin to emerge as new struck Jungkook, but he knew the just analogy would be that of a phoenix shattering into million tiny flakes of ash; and the peerless bird would fall short in beauty.

So much the elements of nature seemed to mirror the atmosphere. The sky—it tired; it ached. As the sky bled crimson, bruised to purple, and healed in black, Jimin kept dancing, and Jungkook kept filming. Dawn would wake another day; the sky would keep bleeding; it would keep bruising itself—opening and reopening—and it would keep healing itself.

He decided to visit Empty Heart's Treat before retreating to his dorm, thinking maybe it was about time he entered the café without hearing the walls whispering every memory shared there. Instead, he stood in the parking lot, lost once again in how exquisite the sky looked there, especially with the shadow-play the nearby crackling fire was making. Apparently, someone had decided they could set fire to the rain, making a small bonfire near where Jungkook had parked.

“You know, I have nothing against the night, but the morning filter is just as captivating.” Something cold touched Jungkook's cheek, snapping him awake from the trance of filming. He didn’t have to look up to know who interrupted him; the voice was unmistakable.

Instantly, he set down his camera and jumped off the roof of the truck. Jimin had to take a step back, making space. Smiling as he approached the elder, Jungkook took the can, locking eyes. Jimin was still in the same clothes he was in when Jungkook caught him on camera earlier, smelling of night and gold-dust, looking like a wisp of a dream.

“Everything is prettier at night.” Jungkook began. “Have you ever seen anyone talking about the ocean at night? No. Even though it’s by far more beautiful when the sun says its goodnight.”

Jimin gave him the turn-away smile. Maybe Jungkook was indeed feeling a bit flirty.

“Does Tae know you abuse his precious baby that way?” Jimin asked, leaning against the door with his hands behind his back, watching Jungkook before him with a wry smile.

Jungkook laughed, sipping from his drink.

“He once caught me as I sat on the roof, like you did a minute ago,”

“Yea, and what happened?”

“He didn’t wake me up for early morning lectures for a month, telling me I should run to class because, and I quote, ‘you thick and I'm pissed at you but you thick, Kook, and my baby doesn’t deserve them thighs.'”

Jimin laughed, body flinging forward. Jungkook was never so grateful to the moonlight, the way it lent it rays to Jimin's oceanic eyes, shimmering on with no shame—with beauty.

“He makes a good argument there.”

Jungkook smiled.

“So, Jeon Jungkook, breaks cameras’ and cars’ hearts, anything else I should know?” Jimin teased.

Despite his bitterness, Jungkook managed a laugh.

“Yea, but still gets his very own heart broken.”

The words didn’t hang in awkwardness between them; if anything, it implored familiarity—comfort—in that timely silence.

He sighed and leant against the truck, as gently as he could so he wouldn’t add ‘denting’ into Taehyung’s list of charges.

“Who killed you, Park Jimin?” Jungkook asked; it sounded flirtatious but Jungkook's heart was thudding loudly in his ears—just not loud enough to overrule Jimin's laughter. “Why would anyone let go of you?”

Jimin tilted his head, a phantom of a smirk tugging at his lips. Orange light glazed all over his face, the flames of the bonfire crackling against the dark sky, colour-shifting with the play of light.

“And why am I not the one doing the letting go, Jeon Jungkook?”

“Maybe it takes one to know one.” Jungkook quipped, just to lighten the mood. “So tell me, why would anyone make you a place to be deserted instead of a home?”

Jimin's eyes hardened—not in the cold sense, but Jungkook didn’t know how to put it to words either. All he knew was that it was dark and it was beautiful.

“If you're lost, any place can be home.” Jimin said, voice too flat. “And I was a beautiful place only to a newcomer.”

For a few marvelously horrid beats, Jungkook stared at the person standing next to him, watching dust-swirls in the strange light of the waning bonfire, thinking of Jimin in terms of a dawn-washed waterfront, of pewter-coloured light of dawn, of dappled light and newbloom, of ribbons of sand beneath feet at a low tide.

At last he let out a small scoff then said, “Maybe life would be much easier if everyone could accept the fact they can't make homes of people.”

For some reason, that made Jimin laugh. As confused as Jungkook was, he couldn’t help but marvel at Jimin's jawline as his head was thrown back, at his eyes as they focused back on him, a shadow of a dream dancing in them. At least the atmosphere wasn’t so morose now.

Jimin tilted his head, eyes hooded as he looked at Jungkook, blinking slowly.

“Which team are you batting for?”

Jungkook wrinkled up his nose. “Told you, I swing both ways.”

Again, Jimin was laughing, resting a light hand on Jungkook's shoulder for a brief second.

“So what brings you here, Park Jimin?”

I,” Jimin lifted his chin up and pursed his lips on the emphasis, “was looking for balloons and most stores were closed so I thought Jin-hyung would surely have some.”

“Balloons?” Jungkook cocked an eyebrow, huffing a chuckle.

Jimin pushed himself forward, un-leaning himself.

“I've this stupid habit of mine.”

“What habit?”

Jimin pressed his lips into a thin line, shaking his head. “It’s stupid, really.”

Jungkook touched two of his fingers to his forehead, sighing.

“Jimin, I'm someone who still doesn’t step on the lines separating tiles from each other. I can't brainstorm unless I walk in circles in my boxers and Timberlands only for thirty minutes and I never sit for an exam unless I have my lucky rubber-band with me. You think I'm in a position to judge you or that you could possibly have a more stupid habit?”

That started him laughing. In a way, Jungkook didn’t want Jimin to answer yet; he was too much caught up in that look besieging the darkness of Jimin's browns.

“Whenever I feel myself on the verge of slipping into a hole, I write my worries on a paper then tie it to a balloon and let it off in the air, watching it fly up the sky. Like those sky lanterns.” Jimin looked at Jungkook uncertainly, as if waiting for a laugh or a grimace or anything. Jungkook would offer none of those; this was nowhere near stupid.

“But normal balloons don’t fly high, they’d soon hit the ground,”

Jimin only smiled and looked down. Jungkook thought he saw a small pout.

He held up a finger; an idea struck him. After all, if Taehyung was bound to hate him then Jungkook had better make most of his list of accusations. He could even visualize his gravestone, having the punniest epitaph. Through the opened window, he fidgeted in the glove-compartment, crying triumphantly when his hands found the box he was looking for.

Jimin still looked confused, especially now that Jungkook's smile held too much playful mischief while he walked a full circle around him, hands holding the box behind his back.

“Tae doesn’t have balloons here,” he began. “So can a box of condoms do?”

Jimin laughed so hard he clutched to Jungkook's shirt but his knees gave way eventually, falling to the ground so Jungkook just let Jimin drag him, hoping the latter would have a kinder fall.

And there they sat, on the concrete ground before the flickering sign of some café, facing one another with their legs entangled. Jimin was still holding to Jungkook's shirt, his eyes dropping to the spot where his small hand met the fabric, high notes of his effervescent laughter echoed through the hallways of Jungkook's mind—even as his laughter died down. He slowly let his eyes rise to meet Jungkook's, meeting a smile as tender as the night.

Cold as the weather might have been, Jimin's eyes radiated like the embers of a fire as they stared back his own—as they offered their mute beauty. It was the kind of beauty Jungkook had no vocabulary for. An angelic beauty depicted by a yearning unfettered by shame. As he gazed, he felt like he was falling through air—like he was hovering, suspended in time.

Jungkook couldn’t help but think this was how it was done—laughter and helpless grins, a swift breaking down of barriers.

“Jimin,” Jungkook began, his voice nothing but a breath against the lips he was staring at. “I want to know you.”

Jimin pulled away his hand, looked up with a residual smile still on his face and evenly maintained eye-contact.

“Park Jimin, twenty-two years old, photography maj—”

“No,” Jungkook shook his head softly, setting the box down and fixing his posture so he would sit cross-legged before Jimin. He looked deeply into Jimin's eyes, watching their breaths make clouds above their lips. “The real you.”

Jimin eyed him with the same warm smile for a few beats, tilting his head. He looked like someone who was trying to assess just how deep still waters ran—if the depth they concealed was as dark as the surface. It was a look exchanged more intimate than any kiss; and Jungkook’s soul leaned half out of his body hungering after it.

“I had my very first disappointment at the age of fourteen, when my mom told me I was a mistake and she wished she never had me. I left home and the person I liked back then didn’t stand by me, giving up on me as if the years we spent together meant nothing to him—” Jimin was talking in such a rapid pace—so steadily with unflinching eyes, as though he were reading horoscopes in a newspaper, “—Two years later, I had a highschool sweetheart but he played me, so again I was on my own. Just when I thought I've learnt—that I’ve reaped my fair share of heartbreaks, thinking the person I liked during my first year of uni was finally going to be the one, he proves what I should have learnt when I was fourteen. So I yet meet another disappointment—another heartbreak.”

Jimin stopped talking; he just looked at Jungkook's eyes so intently with that damn smile which the other couldn’t understand. Neither did he understand how Jimin could recount years of his life as though he were a bystander—living within another world though a stranger to it—watching a fast-forwarded recap instead of actually being the one who lived it.

He didn’t want to press the gaps Jimin left out further, fully understanding just how much courage it took to spill that out. Only then did he understand Namjoon’s words by saying ‘someone had the courage to risk something’; Jimin was a person who put his heart into everything, and that left him easily broken.

Because this world could hate; this world could break.

Jimin crawled away, leaning his back to the car as he hugged his legs. Jungkook sat staring blankly at the space Jimin had just left.

“That doesn’t sound like just a heartbreak, Jimin.” Jungkook said quietly, his eyes squinting momentarily as if feeling Jimin's words to heart.

Albeit the two Jimin's looked nothing alike, this Jimin felt so much like that night Jungkook drove him to his dorm—shattered. He finally turned around, too scared to see the kind of expression Jimin was sporting.

And indeed, he shouldn’t have looked.

Jimin's bottom lip quivered imperceptibly with the weight of his emotion.

“No.” He replied, voice fragile and hoarse, as if it would break any second. “Not just a heartbreak, Jungkook.”

As he looked away, Jungkook knew he should just let the subject rest; his mind slid away on trying to imagine Jimin getting his soul shattered. This was Jimin stripping himself, letting Jungkook closer to his core; it was dangerous enough. It left him vulnerable enough. And the contract was a two-way street, opening up was synonymous with getting better and not getting hurt; opening up to someone needed that someone to show them they were not alone, that there existed a hand familiar with the scars like theirs.

And so, he just sat next to Jimin, his legs stretched before him and a smile plastered on his face, amazed that the fire still danced in the wind.

“I don't think the people who hurt us are aware of the amount of damage they cause.” Jungkook began, biting his lips—biting down his smile—as he looked forward. “The heartbreak and the brokenness of the soul are indescribable. If they were aware of the gravity of what they'd done, they'd not have done it, you know.”

He heard Jimin huff out a small amount of air—an attempt at a small laugh, a scoff.

“Well, not everyone is a good person.”

The corner of Jungkook's mouth tugged upward: too bitter.

“But what’s a good person, Jimin-ah?” he looked to his side, watching Jimin stare off into space as if he were nothing but a shadow contributing to the chaos of the universe.

“A good person is…” Jimin started nodding, as if finally settling for which words to use. “A good person is someone whose heart can love.”

And Jungkook couldn’t tear his eyes away. Park Jimin was nothing but a human trying to survive in a world that had lost touch with its humanity—with what it meant to be human. It was as he looked at those honest eyes so raw with pain that he knew something within him shifted—something that had to do with his ideals of beauty.

After long beats of staring into the smiling Jimin, Jungkook looked away, smiling down. Perceiving too much beauty was dangerous, like staring too long at the sun, like looking up at a sky raining so hard — burning high or burning low, both still hurt; both still pricked your eyes.

The wound still smarted and Jimin enabled it; the flame wouldn't extinguish itself.

“There are things in you that you have to make dead if you want to go on living, Jimin-ah.” Jungkook’s pitch rose with that half-jab. “There are things that can't be saved in you even if you end up being saved.”

There was the half-smile painting Jimin's face again—a smile brittle with pain.

“What’s your story, Jeon Jungkook?”

Again with the bitter touch to his smile, so much similar to the one that was on Jimin's face.

“Would you like the movie version?”

Jimin only smiled, gentleness flowing into eyes and lingering there. They lapsed into the comfortable silence, together witnessing the last breaths of the dying fire.

“Say, Jungkookie,”

Jungkook turned his head to the side, his lips avoiding brushing against Jimin's by a hairsbreadth; Jimin was leaning closer than he had expected, eyes aglitter with a gleam of hunger.

“What’s with the bedroom eyes?” Jungkook breathed each syllable slowly, not trusting himself enough to let his eyes wander down to Jimin's lips.

“We have the condoms, we have the car.” Jimin was talking in an equally low tone but his smirk was pronounced.

Looking meaningfully into the younger’s unfazed eyes, Jimin's hand reached to the other side of Jungkook's thigh, body stretched across—pressed close to Jungkook's in an attempt to reach for the box. Jungkook shifted uncomfortably, not pushing Jimin away, only counting how many grey specks were in Jimin's irises. Jimin threw his head to the back for a second—pushing Jungkook further with that low groan escaping his lips—and closed his eyes while his lips parted for a beat.

Jungkook imagined what it would be like for his teeth to scrap Jimin's skin, for his lips to meet Jimin's neck—to move against the hollow of his throat—what kind of fire they would kindle on that silver of skin, whether fire and gasoline burnt so painfully. He imagined what it would be like to lick into Jimin’s mouth, to suck his lower lip into his mouth, to have them shape into a shared sinful kiss, to have the spark be subsumed by a deeper, fuller fire. It was almost unbelievable—absurd—how everything inflamed his desire for Jimin. There was nothing he wanted now more than to watch Jimin fall apart beneath him, hearing Jimin's breaths come in ragged gasps, calling out his name in a bleary-eyed desire fugue. He almost, just almost, let himself indulge in the blissful thought.

After what seemed like an eternity, Jimin's hand started drawing back as slowly, as torturously and as sinfully, as possible, more than simply ghosting over Jungkook's crotch.

Jungkook smirked and snatched the box from Jimin's hands, getting up to his feet and watching the latter’s offended expression. He set it on the roof of the car; and with stretched arms, he let his interlaced hands rise over his head, palms facing the sky as he started stretching. Despite the cracking bones and aching muscles, Jungkook enjoyed how the air hit his bare abs once the shirt was tugged upwards.

“Well, I'd love to test what we can do with that number of condoms in Tae's car but sadly I value my life.”

Jungkook left out an ‘and’ to his former statement—and our relationship.

He was halfway groaning when Jimin broke out into laughter.

“You're an idiot, Jungkook.” He said, shaking his head with the amusement of this world.

“Yea,” Jungkook scrunched up his nose. “It’s one of my many charms.”

 

The pair talked for several hours into the night. And that night, they blew up the condoms—Jungkook fighting Jimin to see what he wrote but the latter refused, leading to a short game of hide-and-seek which Jimin won—and watched it fly up the sky as they laughed till their eyes got teary. It didn’t only have their worries; Jungkook had written his goal—his wish on the back of the paper, too.

Chapter Text

Days passed to nights and once again, Jungkook lost a game of rock-paper-scissors to Taehyung. The latter only challenged Jungkook to that kind of game because Jungkook always owned Taehyung’s ass in video games so it was the only game Taehyung won at. When Jungkook tried to challenge him into something that sounded so much like a duel, Taehyung told him he had better accompany him or he wouldn’t shut up about ongoing-anime spoilers. So really, Jungkook could only yield. Moreover, Taehyung was still sulking, thinking there was something Jungkook was keeping from him about the nights he spent with Jimin.

And like that, he had dragged Jungkook's whining ass to Empty Heart's Treat, Jungkook not finding it in him to object since Taehyung had also asked Jimin out.

“Once again, Dumbkook,” Taehyung hit Jungkook's head with the menu. “If you're gonna ogle so much over Jiminnie then don’t pass up on his offer to sleep with him.”

Jungkook was staring at Jimin's back as he stood chatting with Yoongi, awaiting their orders.

“I'm not ogling,” Jungkook began, finally giving Taehyung his attention. “I'm just interested.”

Taehyung frowned, giving Jungkook the dirtiest look so far.

“Listen, Jungkook,” Taehyung tried again. “Jimin is not the type to ask others to sleep with him. They are usually the ones doing the begging.”

Jungkook leaned on the table, lowering his voice.

“Really, Tae, Jimin is like the Voldemort of love—” he ignored Taehyung’s sardonic eyebrow-twitch and went on explaining. “—he has shattered his soul too many times by loving so many people. Into too many pieces he left with them.”

“You're even getting fake-ass poetic about it,”

“Just be serious for one second, Tae.”

Jungkook knew Taehyung knew exactly what happened almost two years ago—how Jimin had broken his heart against the hollow rocks others offered him under the guise of love—but still refused to tell him. When Jungkook confronted him, all Taehyung could say was that it wasn’t his place to divulge that information. And hell, Jimin must indeed have been one catalogue of disaster if Kim Taehyung let his morals outweigh his need to tell Jungkook everything and indulge his gossip needs.

“Then what are you doing here?”

Jungkook shrugged and relaxed back into his chair.

“I don't know but he’s nice to be around, especially that my camera is in love with him. It’s like I can actually enjoy what I'm doing.”

He had to bite his tongue before he said the following part, knowing how Taehyung might decide to read too much into a simple statement like ‘he’s what I'm looking for.

Taehyung narrowed his eyes; there was more than mere skepticism in that pair.

“So Jimin is like your journal,”

Although Jungkook only shrugged, he wasn’t sure whether or not that was a question. He wouldn’t have offered any other answer but that shrug either ways.

After a few seconds, Taehyung laughed. It was something between a scoff and a disbelieving chuckle. “You’ve gotta be kidding me, Kook.”

It might have not been sharp but Jungkook was both, offended and hurt. In a swift motion, he leant forward again.

“One day you're like stay away, the other you're like talk to him. Just pick a damn corner, Tae.” It was a hiss-accented whisper and Taehyung was taken aback, unable to counter-argue.

“Just stop playing the devil’s advocate so much,” Jungkook was surprised to hear the edge to his voice. “It’s not like you're putting any effort into making us stay away from each other.”

Taehyung seemed to have a reply in store—as usual—but Jimin was two paces away, holding some sparklers and a cake.

“Jungkookie, please hold this,” Jimin handed him the cake. “And Taehyungie, you get a sparkler and a lighter,”

“Those rare times when you're favouring me to Jungkook. I’m flattered.” Taehyung sure knew how to make Jimin laugh easily. He hit Taehyung playfully then started lighting up four sparklers, putting them in the cake.

“What are you doing?” Jungkook inquired when Jimin, still standing, was holding up his camera, adjusting the lens.

He couldn’t see Jimin's eyes, but the smile was unmistakable; he could imagine how Jimin's eyes would crinkle, the number of small lines decorating his chocolate-brown eyes.

“In time, you’ll know.”

The sparklers were becoming smaller and smaller; Jimin was still snapping a few pictures. Jungkook watched the sparks shoot hither and tither—like pinpricks of stars, like a twilight sky—a smile breaking out on his face.

Taehyung checked his phone.

“Bogum is really an idiot!” He muttered to himself, furiously typing a reply. “He just had a one night stand and the girl woke up telling him I love you.

Jungkook snickered. “Some unenviable position he is in.”

“He should have avoided that.” Taehyung pressed the send button, eyes flickering back to the sparklers. “I told him many times he would end up in a similar situation... ughh.”

“How do you even avoid saying ‘I love you’?” Jungkook asked, indignantly confused as the thought didn’t sit well with him.

Jimin was wearing a lopsided smile.

“Not everyone is serious about their relationships, Kook.”

Jungkook only eyed him amusedly, watching him take more pictures as the sparklers started their farewell odes.

“Damn!” Taehyung said, putting away his phone. “Two of them are almost done for.”

Jungkook smiled, watching the last spark being let off.

“It’s wonderful how they were all lit at the same time yet not all… die at the same time.” He paused, pondering whether he should go on. “Like it gets me wondering why some matches burn faster than the others.”

“Guess the brighter the flame—the stronger the fire—the faster it burns out.” Jimin was done with taking pictures.

He told Taehyung to make space and sat next to him, smiling widely at Jungkook who kept throwing wishful glances at the sparklers. One of them was breathing its last breath. And it kept going on for longer than Jungkook thought it would—longer than he thought it could.

He didn’t look away until it had bitten the cake-dust too.

And just like that, their evening together went without any turbulences—just three friends hanging out together in a place made of memories.

 

♥♥♥

 

November was barely giving way to December and the snow was already fucking with Jungkook. Another prejudice he should let go of: hating snow. Snow was crowning the peaks. Dawn would whiten behind the stark shapes of the trees on the quivering summit of the hills, and no sun would be sufficient to melt the snow.

Jungkook had just ripped out a page and crumpled it, angrily throwing it at an innocent tree, halfway hearing it make a loud crunch against the accumulating snow. Taehyung removed one earphone and shifted on the bench, looking at his despairing friend and putting down his pen. One of the students gave Jungkook a glare, having almost been hit by the flying paper.

“Hey!” Taehyung objected. “Trees have feelings too.”

“It does not want to come together!” Jungkook held both sides of his head and explained to Taehyung why he was seething, frustration ebbing out of him. “I'm trying to piece shit together but I feel so distracted and I don’t like what I have so far.”

“What do you have so far?”

“A theme. Some random shots.”

“Page sixty nine?”

Jungkook smiled, nodding.

“I have two ideas for that concept. I'm working on one of them but—”

“You like the other one more so you're protective over it.” Taehyung supplied.

Jungkook almost instantly regretted having said so aloud. He wondered just how transparent he truly was before Taehyung’s eyes.

“I'm not sure,” he admitted. “But I used to enjoy filming. Working on this project isn’t really giving me that satisfaction I usually feel.”

Taehyung eyed his friend compassionately for a few seconds.

“Then you're not putting yourself out there yet, Jungkookie.”

Jungkook leant forward, elbows on knees. He smiled, hoping it didn’t come out sad, and looked forward, watching the pale afternoon sun dip low over the main building.

“This time the risk isn’t just about the film, Tae, I'm—”

Jungkook stopped midsentence because he caught sight of Jimin passing by a few meters away, camera hanging down by the strap but hand resting readily on it—just awaiting the perfect shot.

“Hey, shortie!” Jungkook called out, throwing both hands on the back of the bench as he smirked at Jimin who turned around instantly at the call.

Was that a reply to Jungkook's voice or to ‘shorty’, Jungkook wouldn’t dare guess.

All the same, Jimin was giggling and started crossing to the other side, grouping with Taehyung and Jungkook.

“S’up, Jiminnie,” Taehyung greeted.

“Morning TaeTae,” Jimin said then averted his eyes to the smirking Jungkook and held his eyes for a few seconds, simpering himself. “Did your petty ass just call me shorty?”

As his heels dug into the ground, Jungkook started lolling his feet to either side on the ground, still with the same open posture.

“I said 'hey shawty,' Jimin-ah.”

It was enough to have Jimin laughing, however lame. Taehyung looked at Jungkook and mouthed ‘how’, to which the latter could only shrug.

“Watchu guys up to?” Jimin, for some reason, decided to ask that while stealing a snapshot of either Taehyung or Jungkook.

“I'm filming a porno starring Tae so I was wondering if you'd be interested since I can't direct and be a cam boy at the same time.”

“He’s joking,” Taehyung quickly dismissed with his hand when Jimin started blinking more than the average rate at Jungkook, especially that the younger had somehow mastered the infamous Taehyungian Deadpan on cracking an inappropriate joke. “In fact, Kook is having an artist block I was trying to convince him to let me to do him some nude modelling.”

“Good luck with that.” Jimin smiled, eyelids slipping to half-masts. “He passed out on my nude modelling and I even promised some action.”

“Jiminnie,” Taehyung stood up—absolutely needless in spite of the height difference—placing a hand and looking sympathetically into Jimin's eyes. “I can only be sorry that you exist in a world where idiots like him let golden opportunities slide.”

They stood next to each other looking at Jungkook, Jimin shrugging and Taehyung nodding, his arm looped around Jimin's shoulders.

“I'm sorry I passed up on cheap meaningless sex.” Jungkook was everything but apologetic.

“Heyy,” Jimin punched him. “It’s not cheap! Only the first time then you'd have to call my pimp and make an appointment. I'm always fully booked.”

While Taehyung laughed, Jungkook gave Jimin a dead stare.

“Satisfaction-or-money-back guarantee.” Taehyung had that wry expression on his face, folding his arms. “All of it.”

Jimin had a serious expression now; he jerked a thumb at Taehyung.

“He’s my pimp.”

“I'm his pimp, yea.” Taehyung was nodding.

Jimin was mirroring Taehyung’s expression; Jungkook was already feeling like a bullied kid.

“Or if you don’t like it, I can try till you're satisfied with the service.”

Jungkook shook his head then looked at Jimin, his hands emphasizing the words-to-come. “Why are you so adamant on sleeping with me?”

Jimin looked at him as if he thought the answer were so obvious. At last, his grin widened and said, “Guess that’s something for you to figure out.”

Jungkook heaved a dramatic sigh and threw his head backwards, already thinking of new ways to scream into the sun with the weight of his frustration.

“I think we should stop,” Jungkook could hear Taehyung saying. “Poor Kookie gets shy and his cheeks start blooming shameless shades of red.”

“We should stop talking about pimps, yea,”

Jungkook was rolling his eyes during the whole exchange of them ganging up on him, waiting for them to settle down. He wasn’t really bothered—he was even smiling now as the two discussed what they guessed were his kinks and preferences (Taehyung even had his money on Jungkook taking it up his ass every once in a while just because he liked it). Still, he just wanted to talk Jimin.

A hand slapped his thigh—Jimin's. His head jerked forward, smiling already.

“So what did you really want?” Jimin inquired, sitting next him.

“Can't a guy call his friend to hang out with him?”

Taehyung gasped.

“Then what am I? A sack of pot–”

“A sack of potatoes, yes.” He turned back to Jimin and flashed him a smile, ignoring Taehyung’s admonishing glare. “I just feel so good around you—inspired, you could say. So just stick around, Jimin-ah, will you?”

Jimin seemed speechless for a reason. Taehyung moved close enough to Jimin to nudge him, whispering a ‘Jimin’ in his ear.

When Jimin was still at a loss of words, with a hanging jaw and knitting-and-unknitting eyebrows, Taehyung said, “I know it sounded so much like a proposal but he’s only asking you to be his muse.”

Jungkook glanced at his friend with a lopsided smile—if only he knew. He reached for Jimin's hand and fiddled with his thumb, smiling tenderly at Jimin.

“Okay.” Jimin finally said, nodding.

Jungkook started smiling so widely he thought his face wouldn’t contain his smile.

“Boy, he even gave you that bunny smile.” Taehyung was mumbling. “Jiminnie, what kind of sorcery is that!”

“Just his charm,” Jungkook replied while still holding gaze with Jimin, who was now grinning just as widely, lowkey about to let his head fall to Jungkook's chest as he tried not to giggle.

“I have a feeling I missed a lot that day at the party.” Taehyung pushed back his hair, sighing.

Jimin pulled back his hand and winked at Taehyung. “What happens in my bedroom, stays in my bedroom.”

“So, who’s up for a lazy afternoon eating pizza and watching a movie while we pretend uni isn’t causing us existential crises midday or mental breakdowns in the shower?” Jungkook proposed, rubbing both hands together and shifting his gaze between Taehyung and Jimin.

“You mean a normal school day.” Jimin said, patting Jungkook's thigh and getting up, Jungkook soon doing the same.

“I have a better idea,” Taehyung got out his keys and jiggled them. “It’s winter, it’s cold, it’s soon going to be night and the sky is clear, wanna go for a long ride?”

Taehyung watched Jimin and Jungkook twinning—impish grins playing on their lips. They soon looked at one another and broke out laughing, Taehyung sighing helplessly in the background.

“When you guys are done deciding if it’s a repletion or attraction in your Gravity Pulls game, I’ll be waiting in the truck.”

“Oh trust me,” Jimin began, smiling so hard at Taehyung his eyes made small crescents. “It’s anything but attraction h—”

“Whoops,” Taehyung tickled Jimin then broke into a run. “You're already falling behind, shortie.”

Sometimes Jungkook questioned how Taehyung was the elder between them. Jimin’s foot had barely kicked the ground, laughing and about to run after Taehyung when Jungkook grabbed his hand.

This was foul play.

“Suppose I was attracted,” Jungkook closed the distance slowly. “What good would that do me when you clearly said you’ve left your heart somewhere in the past?”

Jimin's smile was as flirty as ever.

“Guess we’ll just have to play finders keepers with my heart.” He placed his other hand on top of Jungkook's, ready to yank his hand free and start running—expecting Jungkook to chase after him.

Jungkook tugged at Jimin's hand; he wasn’t done yet.

“And if I do find it?”

Jimin turned around, fully giving Jungkook his attention as he smiled down for a second before looking up to meet Jungkook's gaze.

“Then it’s yours if you want it.”

In the brief silent spaces of Jimin's words, Jungkook heard a maybe—perhaps a warning, perhaps a promise. At Taehyung’s voice calling out to them, at Jimin and Jungkook's twining smiles, the hourglass was turned.

This was the beginning of how the three of them became a one-package deal.

 

♥♥♥

 

Ever since Park Jimin came into the picture a few months ago and Jungkook had to reconstruct an opinion or two on life. To him, there was no such a thing as Fate; just some haphazard incidents that no higher order could possibly be orchestrating. After all, it seemed impossible that amidst the chaos of this universe, something could be pulling the strings of his life when bigger—beautiful—things were left untended-to, were left uncared for, swimming in the swirl of chaotic injustice.

Perhaps it was about Jimin passing Jungkook's threshold of perception, deliberately demanding attention by merely existing within a twenty-mile radius of the younger. Perhaps it was Jungkook who couldn’t tear his eyes away—who couldn’t un-see.

Still, the question forever remains: when do coincidences end and intentions start. It couldn’t be fate; and it was too much to be coincidence.

It was sometime before midnight, in one of those November nights Jungkook made a yearly point to wild-out in, and he was standing before the bar about to head back to the dorms with a head that was swarming with more liquor than he had intended. As if his companions thought he hadn’t drunk enough, they gave him a hip flask with a ‘secret mix’ as a farewell gift. Jungkook decided to down it that night, just when he was back to the dorms.

The drunken-scale was easy—the rule itself was simple: if he could still walk and put two and two together, then he was good.

What he couldn’t put together was how he was standing two meters away from a barely-capable-of-keeping-his-balance Jimin in a party that wasn’t affiliated with their university.

“Jungkookie!” Jimin lilted, bumping into the tall guy who was the only thing keeping Jimin on his feet and heading towards Jungkook.

A smile had barely broken out on Jungkook's face when Jimin, laughing, fell into his arms—or collapsed against his chest more like it.

“I'm so happy you came,” he was saying and Jungkook couldn’t help but feel this flush-faced Jimin was nothing but a ten-year-old child.

“Thank god!” The guy who had Jimin said with too much relief. Jungkook thought he had such a great smile that he would have never linked to that deep voice. “Please don’t let him do anything stupid.”

Before Jungkook could ask what kind of stupid thing he shouldn’t let Jimin do, the tall guy had re-entered the bar.

Well, Jungkook couldn’t complain.

“You're drunk,” Jungkook teased, breaking into a fit of uncontrollable grinning.

“You’re drunk,” Jimin mimicked loudly, pointing a finger in front of Jungkook's eyes. The latter almost laughed, but he was too busy keeping Jimin from ending up on the drenched pavement.

“On your drunk-scale,” Jungkook began, grinning helplessly as Jimin clutched more to his arms, trying not to fall. “How close are you to starting that orgy you mentioned before?”

Maybe he shouldn’t have made Jimin laugh; he almost made them fall down.

“It won't be an orgy if it’s just the two of us.”

“Should I call Tae then?”

“Can it be just you and I?”

Jungkook laughed, helpless to his emotions. Jimin was looking at the stars, his smile too big on his face as he blinked tiredly.

“Do you ever think that the stars could be so ugly?” Jimin asked and Jungkook was laughing at the pensive expression paired with the hooded eyes—at Jimin's overall tone.

“Ugly?” Jungkook parroted skeptically—amusedly.

Jimin nodded, patting—or hitting—Jungkook's bicep feebly.

“Ugly as in once they burn out, they no longer catch your attention. As in maybe once you get close you'll realize how ugly they are.” He was laughing for some reason. “Stupid shining stars, only beautiful because you can't get close to them.”

He let go of Jungkook's arm and started spinning around with his eyes closed and head tossed back. Jungkook was laughing as he shook his head. He truly feared Jimin would fall or hurt himself; so he approached him. It was the first time he found beauty in something and not wish he had his camera with him.

Jimin opened his eyes and looked at Jungkook as he spun round and round, his smile lapsing into a lopsided one then a full-blown genuine-Jimin one.

“Jungkookie, you're looking at me funny,”

You are acting funny, Jimin-ah.” Jungkook countered.

Jimin stopped spinning and walked till he held Jungkook's face between both of his hands, forcing the latter’s lips to jut out like a fish’s.

“Why are you so cute?” Jimin asked in baby-talk. “I want to squish your face so bad.”

Again, Jungkook was laughing. Jimin made a face, probably mocking Jungkook, and moved too close to Jungkook's face in the process. The younger pulled back, same silly grin plastered on his face as he held Jimin by the shoulders, steadying the elder at a safe distance from his face. Not as a precaution—not this time—but because he wanted to fully digest Jimin's raw beauty that night, to commit every detail to his memory.

“Let’s head back,” Jungkook said, scratching his nose and looking away. “You need some rest.”

Jimin looped his arm around Jungkook's, hugging it in a way. Jungkook was too drunk—too happy—to protest. Not that he would have, not really. And so, he wordlessly urged Jimin to walk till they found a cab to hail.

Under the tattered moonlight in the quiet streets, with the low whoosh of the wind whipping around them and the rythmatical sound their shoes made against the small ponds of rain on the pavement, Jungkook couldn’t help but wish this could go on forever. He was feeling way too cozy at the way Jimin was clutching to his arm, veering between loud happy blabbering and unintelligible mumbling.

“It’s so hot,” Jimin complained. “Jungkookie, isn’t it hot?”

Jungkook laughed.

“It’s hot, Jimin-ah.”

They stood before a red-light, Jimin shifting uncomfortably next to him.

“I'm so horny, Jungkookie,” Jimin whined, tugging at his arm. It was by far the most irrelevant thing he had spilt out so far. Even more irrelevant than earlier when he had randomly told Jungkook he had a biting kink.

But all Jungkook could do that night was laugh.

“Ahhh, you're so cute, I want you to do me.” Jimin stomped his feet childishly.

Jungkook gave him that smile Taehyung always teased him about. He pursed his lips to keep from laughing and looked away at last.

“In the morning, when you're sober, let’s see if you'd still want that.”

Jimin sighed.

“I'd sober up and I'd still want that, Jungkook.”

Jungkook didn’t dare turn his head fully to the side, not when Jimin was speaking in such a breathy tone or with such heavy-lidded eyes.

By the time Jungkook had hailed a cab, Jimin was drifting off to sleep. They were more or less huddled in the back seat, Jimin's head resting on his chest and Jungkook could feel Jimin's hair tickling his cheek and chin. He tried not to look down much, having that spectacular view of Jimin's lips and that tranquil expression.

He loved the way Jimin's hand was made into a small fist resting on his chest. He needed to get more drunk; he needed to numb parts in him so he wouldn’t end up being the ‘stupid thing’ Jimin did.

And it was getting hotter, and he was growing more conscious of Jimin's scent and body temperature—of the tendrils of sensations shooting down his body. Especially as he got out his flask and took two stinging gulps.

As much as he wanted to let Jimin sleep—as willing as he was to carry him to the dorm if he had to—Jimin stirred awake once the driver screeched into a halt. He rubbed his eyes, stretching in that little space and against Jungkook—the latter trying to edge away from him.

Jimin staggered out of the car, Jungkook catching him last second. He started moaning something while feebly hitting Jungkook's back.

“Carry me home tonight, Jungkook.” Jimin managed to hop on Jungkook's back and Jungkook didn’t mind it. Judging by Jimin’s limp arms around his neck and the pattern of Jimin's shallow breaths against his nape, Jungkook could tell Jimin was drifting away again. He was surprised at how light Jimin was.

“No wonder you're such a lightweight.” Jungkook said as they walked, hoping they didn’t draw much attention as they passed the main gate.

Jimin chuckled.

“Don’t worry, I'm durable.”

Jimin hopped off Jungkook and started stretching; Jungkook shifted on his heels, fending off the same heat waves that hit him in the cab, especially with the soundtrack playing accompaniment to Jimin stretching and bending. Maybe the more-alcohol-policy wasn’t a successful one.

Mental note to self: alcohol stripped you off and heightened sensations, not numbed them.

After painful moments of eye-porn, Jimin straightened up, putting his hand on Jungkook's shoulder and tilting his head.

“Wanna have a go?”

Jungkook mimicked the look.

“Pretty sure you'd lose if you fought me.”

He knew that wasn’t what Jimin meant but he would glide around Jimin's frequent request-slash-remark as many times as he could, especially if it meant he get to see him laughing like that. As if it weren’t the same person getting shy now who gave so many suggestive remarks. They were in their hallway now, Jimin punching Jungkook's chest as he laughed, once again more like collapsed. Jungkook was too caught up when his eyes caught Jackson passing them by, smirking.

He decided he wouldn’t let it get to him.

Though, he was sure, judging from the look that overshadowed Jimin's face, that Jimin had caught the displeased vibes coming from him. He rekindled his smile all the same, thumbs hooked in his pants’ pockets as he stood before Jimin—before Jimin's dorm door.

“No goodbye kiss?” Jimin asked; it was ninety-nine percent teasing, and the remaining one percent had an undercurrent of hope.

Smiling, Jungkook shook his head.

“You're not going to get a gold medal for that self-restraint, Jungkook.”

In a blink, something seemed to have unspooled in Jimin, making him take one step forward. He looked up, lips torturously close to Jungkook's and eyes hooded with the same old mischief. While Jimin caught Jungkook's gaze with that risqué look, his hand moved lower—cupping Jungkook. A thriller rode all the way into the place Jimin was touching, sending the warning voices skittering to the recesses of his mind.

“Would you like me to take care of that?” Jimin whispered, voice low but undeniably sultry. Jungkook broke gaze, eyes travelling down to Jimin's hand on his crotch. “You’ve no idea how much I want to get down on you right now.”

Jimin was halfway kneeling down when Jungkook grabbed his hands and yanked him up, forcing Jimin's back to slam against the wall, watching Jimin's smirk spread and tongue wet his lips. With one hand, Jungkook was pinning both hands above Jimin's head on the wall, locking his wrists. His knee pressed against Jimin's crotch, spreading his legs a bit as he teasingly bent in, watching Jimin let out a mewl and chase after his lips—eyes closed.

He shifted so his lips were close to Jimin's ears, halfway brushing against his earlobe. As if caught wholly rapt in the magic of the moment, Jimin groaned then threw his head back to expose the long line of his neck. Jungkook's eyes darkened, one of his hands drifting down the base of Jimin's throat, drawing softly across the pulse as he nosed in the crook of Jimin's neck, breathing him in.

He backed away, feeling all his senses heightening—feeling himself on the precipice of a very bad decision. He kept staring at Jimin's lips, feeling Jimin grind against his knee. He tried to pry his hands away but Jungkook pressed them more, pinning them—pinning him more.

Jimin fixed him with the same promising gaze, eyes more inviting, body more eager.

“I promise I'd be the best fuck you'd ever had.” He whispered, tone laced with promise.

This was going to be the last time he drank to a level where he couldn’t control his bodily needs. This was going to be the last time he allowed his conscience to drown in the pools liquor made.

Jungkook leant closer again, taking a deep breath near Jimin's neck; he would drink in him; he would drink Jimin up. He let his lower lip brush against Jimin's neck—let it drag against the warm skin, hitch against his Adam’s apple as he relished all the salt and sugar Jimin tasted of. He could hear a small moan as Jimin craned his neck more, giving Jungkook more. Jungkook pressed close to Jimin, a low groan rumbling in his throat as he shallowly grinded into Jimin. Another moan escaped Jimin's lips, puncturing the silence in the hallway.

His hand cupped Jimin's jaw, angling it to the side where his lips should be. He backed his head a bit, again watching Jimin lean into a kiss he declined to him. There was something hard in Jimin's eyes this time, something that kept Jungkook's gaze fixed on the eyes alone this time after its pilgrimage to the moist lips.

This Park Jimin was truly clueless about what he was asking for.

At last, Jungkook let go, taking two steps backwards to set some distance between the two of them. He was glad the voices in his head won against his body.

“I like you too much to sleep with you.” He divulged at last, calmly letting the words sit in the air.

Jimin's expression was no longer affable; he looked offended.

“I just told you I want to get down on you and you tell me ‘I like you’?”

“Yeah.” Jungkook shrugged, falling to the ground and sagging against the wall—trying his best Taehyung-impression whilst looking at a worked-up Jimin.

After a few beats of a blinking game on Jimin’s part, the elder's hand started threading through his hair.

“God, you're so fucking dense.”

Again, Jungkook only shrugged, and Jimin only stared, unbelieving.

“You don’t want to sleep with me but there you are being that hard for me?” Jimin folded his arms, a bit of heat creeping into his voice.

“I didn’t say I don’t want to sleep with you. I said I won't.”

For a cold second, Jungkook thought Jimin would burst out laughing, regardless of the fire of his anger.

“Why?”

“I don’t want to contribute to your chaos, Jimin-ah.” Jungkook said, narrowing his eyes while feeling on the verge of starting a fire. “I won't cause another crack and I won't be a temporary.”

He watched Jimin huff and indignantly walk towards the door.

“So it’s just because you think it’s a one-time thing?” Jimin turned around heatedly; he seemed too pressed about that subject for some reason.

“Isn’t it?” Jungkook smirked, calling Jimin's bluff.

Jimin gave him a dirty-slash-offended look.

“What is that? Some mind game so I'd not sleep around?”

Perhaps Jeon Jungkook was set on ‘shrug’ that night. So much for the all the laughter preceding.

“Maybe.” He replied simply, punctuating his shrug.

There was a long pause—deafening and insufferable—stubbornly brought by Jungkook's words.

“Sleeping with you would be the epitome of self-destruction, Jungkook.” Jimin hissed. “If you think you're saving me or whatever your messiah complex is deluding you to, then you’re wrong.”

“Well,” Jungkook got up, slowly walking till he was a breath away from Jimin. “For the long term, if you ever feel self-destructive, then know I'm willing to always be up for destroying you as many times as you want in bed.”

Jimin was frowning, as if he wanted to burn Jungkook with that stare. At last he shook his head once more and turned the doorknob.

“Don’t fall for me, Jungkook.” Jimin said quietly; Jungkook almost wanted to cock an eyebrow. “It’s not in your best self-interest.”

“You're awfully full of yourself.” Jungkook countered, not understanding where that came from. “I'm merely trying to keep you from doing yourself more damage.”

Jimin laughed; it sounded hollow. He half turned around.

“You, you, of all people?”

Again, Jungkook only shrugged.

“Fucking hell, Jeon Jungkook.” Jimin said then finally stepped into the room.

Jungkook truly and thoroughly underestimated that warning, almost downplaying it enough for his hungover memory to blur most of what happened that night on the following morning.

His memory indeed might have glossed over most parts, but not the most significant details.

 

♥♥♥

 

With December arriving, students should be preparing for exams; instead, Jungkook's university always had a different say. They were on a camping trip to the woods—supposedly a one-day-one-night campfire but Art Majors were always good at bending rules.

Jungkook thought it would be fun. He thought the worst case-scenario would be him getting aesthetic shots; and that wasn’t so bad. As for Jimin, he had run off with Taehyung once they set their tents somewhere, though Jungkook caught him sitting alone, basking in the moonlight on a dangerous mountain-edge.

He wasn’t trying to find Jimin—he was hiking, phone in hand, taking a small break and in the hunt for any good footage—but his eyes were too used to spotting what would make ‘the perfect shot’ and Jimin was innately attracted to most of those shots. As though beauty called more beauty forth.

But that was a few hours ago. Now, he just wanted to jump off that edge Jimin was sitting so close to.

He would somersault from one building to another, covering a reckless ten-meter of stretching void; he would jump over a racing car; he would do a Kamikaze dive into oblivion—there were very few things Jungkook wouldn’t do just so he wouldn’t be in the same place, playing an improvised game of truth-or-dare, with the group he had worked on the joint-Identity-short-film with. And so, he had easily volunteered to collect more woods when the chance presented itself, wondering what on earth he was doing with a group that had Bambam without Jimin (who god knew where he—a member of their honourable group—was) or Taehyung in it.

He had barely stood up when Jackson tugged at his hand.

“I’ll tag along.” He said. “You might need help.”

Jungkook hesitated, trying to come up with a way to evade Jackson’s help. His eyes spotted Jimin walking towards them in the distance.

“I'm not up for this game either.” Bambam said, getting up from the log he was sitting on. “I don’t feel like ending up lip-locking with any of you—or worse.”

“Right,” Jungkook forgot everything about any logs and shot Bambam a look. He had been bottling up for hours now but still, he honestly didn’t intend to sound this cold. “Because Mr. Holier Than Thou here has a boyfriend.”

Bambam didn’t reply; he just made do with that silent venomous glare he shot Jungkook. Youngjae was saying something, trying to steer the conversation away from the tensed-up colleagues—somehow succeeding but still, Jungkook didn’t break the stare-off. As Jungkook listened to Jackson telling him they should go, he could make out actual flames burning in Bambam's eyes and not just the ones reflecting off them.

“No need, Jackson.” Jungkook tore his eyes away and motioned to Jimin with his chin. “Jimin is helping me.”

Jimin had just stood three paces in front of Jungkook, sparing the group a greeting smile and returning the warm ‘hey’s with more heartfelt hand-waves and smiles. It was almost comical—the change in demeanour. Jimin then turned to Jungkook, locking eyes with him.

“Helping you in what?”

“Collecting wood.”

“No, I'm not.” Jimin replied, not smiling. Jungkook hated how much time Jimin was spending with Taehyung to pick up his worst habits.

“See? Jimi—”

Jungkook had no time for Jackson’s rambling.

“Yes, you are.”

Jimin tilted his head and took a decisive step towards Jungkook, looking up to his eyes.

“Or what, you're going to force me to?”

Somehow, all Jungkook could make out of Jimin's former sentence was a silent challenge—a silent ‘make me.’

“Team work, Jimin. That’s how things work out.” Jungkook tried to deliver the ‘just roll with it’-message to Jimin, but the latter was clearly blocking off everything.

“Oh no.” Jimin brushed it off with one hand. “I'd not want to do me more damage. The logs can hurt, you know.”

He wasn’t sure what he had done to piss Jimin off, if he had at all. Perhaps Jimin wasn’t really over what transpired between them almost a week ago. Throughout the week, he hadn’t got the chance to talk to Jimin alone—and for a change, he was glad that was the case. When Jungkook tried to test waters, Jimin had brushed it off with an ‘I don’t remember much of that night anyways but know I’ll always be down if you want to.’ Jungkook had felt the statement had a subtle ‘we don’t talk about what happened that night, ok?’

“It’s the first time I'm asking you for a favour.” Jungkook still tried to reason.

Jimin deadpanned. “Well, you didn’t do me any favours last week.”

Yup, Jimin was still bitter.

Jungkook took a step forward; less than a pace separated them now.

“How about we talk this over as you help me with the logs?”

“I'm pretty sure a tough guy like you can handle a few logs on his own.”

Jungkook could only stare disbelievingly. But still, Park Jimin was more of a tease than Jungkook could have imagined.

“Well if we’re done here, then I'm going to go get high somewhere else.” Jimin then tiptoed to whisper in Jungkook's ear, his lower lip brushing against Jungkook's earlobe. “Come find me if you want to, you know how.”

He then patted Jungkook's shoulder, passing the latter by on excusing himself. Jungkook watched Jimin’s satisfied smirk and swagger—watched Jimin fiddle with his phone as the trees swallowed him again. As though the circle sitting by the fire were a stop he never planned.

“Do you guys ever do anything but fight?” Jaebum asked, laughing while clasping both hands together.

“Ohhh,” Jackson let out a notorious laugh. “You’d not want to know that, hyung.”

At that, Jungkook turned around sharply, fully facing Jackson and shooting him a disgusted look.

“Stop making innuendos all the time, will you?”

For the briefest second, there was a flicker of shame overshadowing Jackson’s smiling face.

“I'm sorry, man. It’s just that you guys are always at each other's throats all the time so I just assumed.”

“Then stop assuming with so little basis.” Jungkook smiled at Jackson, nowhere near feeling friendly.

“He has a point, Jackson.” It was Bambam; Jungkook was lowkey taken aback. “If your basis for two people sleeping together is them constantly fighting, then Jungkook and I have been fucking for years now.”

There was a pause – of Jungkook skeptically eyeing Bambam, of Jungkook's eyes skimming through the shifty gazes of the four people sitting around the flickering fire.

“And we wouldn’t want that to happen now, would we?” Jungkook did a great effort not to clench his hands. “All three of us, you know.”

At that, Bambam got up heatedly.

“Dude! I was only trying to fucking help here.”

“Well, I didn’t fucking ask you to stick up for me.”

“Stop being such a fucking dick all the time.” Bambam marched the distance, ready to push Jungkook back.

“Why,” Jungkook shot back, daring Bambam to lay a finger on him. “Am I threatening your position as Prick of the Year?”

Bambam was heaving now.

“Suck my dick, Jeon Jungkook.”

“Oh no,” Jungkook smiled lifelessly. “That’s what your fucking boyfriend is for.”

At that, Bambam snapped—he would have tackled Jungkook down hadn’t it been for Jackson’s restraining hands.

“Chill, Jungkook,” Mingyu was somehow by Jungkook's side now, laying a reasoning hand on his shoulder. “He meant nothing bad.”

“Trust me,” his voice was quiet. “He meant nothing but bad. All along.”

He pressed his lips into a line at Mingyu, nodding, then left for the woods. To hell with the logs.

He started walking fast, ending up in a jog that soon morphed into a run, blindly following a path he hoped would lead to Jimin. He felt lost—Jungkook felt so utterly lost as his feet pounded the ground, sifting through the darkness and looking left and right in frantic zeal, searching for something he wasn’t sure he should be seeking.

Impasse.

That was why Jungkook stopped running; he was face to face with what looked like a cave—his dead-end for that direction. He could see Jimin's Getting High starter kick—the blanket, Jimin's bag, the pillow—lying by the opening. His eyes were still wide with the aftermaths of his frenzy, hand running slowly in his hair. He was turning around when he caught sight of Jimin.

“Maybe I'm not playing hide-and-seek with ghosts anymore.” Jimin beat him first.

Jungkook looked; Jimin was up on the branch of one of the trees, head dangling down as he hung upside down—like a dream, a mirage. He couldn’t help but smile in relief.

“Get down from there.” He approached Jimin, looking up. “It’s dangerous.”

“I've been higher.” In one graceful move, Jimin swung himself upwards, sitting upright on a branch that Jungkook feared would break. “You get up.”

Jungkook placed his foot on the lowest branch, testing. His heart hadn’t yet calmed down to its normal roll. He thought that much height could be handled.

When Jungkook only had the branch Jimin was seated on left, the latter extended his hand, gesturing for Jungkook to take it. It surprised him how easily his hand clutched to Jimin’s, even when he knew fully well he needn’t that outstretched hand. And so, Jimin pulled him up, having Jungkook as safely as their situation dictated beside him.

“Why do you look so stressed out?” Jimin gave him a warm head-tilt.

“Nothing.” Jungkook clicked his tongue, looking onwards. “Just a bunch of assholes who think I'm doing you.”

Jimin didn’t reply for a while; Jungkook could feel the piercing gaze falling on him—trying to remove all the needless layers.

“Is that all, Jungkook?”

He couldn’t help his smile, eyes dropping downwards.

“Please tell me you have that vape bottle you and Tae never got to finish last week.”

“You mean the one you were the reason we never got to finish.” Jimin teased, already fiddling with his jacket’s pocket. He got a hip flask—not of vape, of course—out and wiggled it. “Yes, but not for you. You stay healthy. I still have a knockout drink tho.”

Jungkook took the flask and took a sip, feeling the burn in his throat.

“I have a game to play, Jimin-ah,”

Jimin was swinging his legs, hands to either side on the branch.

“Is it called ‘fun drinking game: take a shot every time I hit home about your past’?”

“Close but I like to call it ‘let’s play who has the most tragic backstory.’”

Jimin was pouting when Jungkook looked.

“But it’s not fair, Kook-ah. I’ll easily win and I know how much you hate losing. And you'll get drunk off your ass too soon it won't be fun.”

“Then we take the risks up a notch.” Jungkook’s lips worked into a smirk. “If the guess is right, you confess something, explaining, or jump. And of course you drink if you're wrong.”

Jimin shrugged, already smug with some victory.

“So it’s getting drunk either way, cool. I’ll give you a head-start.”

Jungkook tried not to look too cocky, but judging from that flirty lip-bite paired with the infamous challenging look in Jimin's eyes, he was beyond too cocky. Perhaps he, so much like his tone, felt playful—full of himself.

“You lost your virginity when you were fifteen.”

Jimin smirked. He handed Jungkook the flask, urging him to drink regardless of Jungkook's confused stare.

“That’s probably your number, Jungkook. Confess.”

“Not even close.” Jungkook laughed then drank. “There we go, Jimin-ah, I'm about to trespass against the gods of film-studies. I, Jeon Jungkook, film-major, never once liked Casablanca, I actually believe it’s one shitty love-story.”

Jimin let out a spray of laughter.

“Just because their love-story is unfulfilling, it doesn’t mean it’s shitty, Jungkook-ah.”

“Not by my terms.”

Jimin exaggerated a sigh and started swinging his legs. “Ready to drink?”

Jungkook shrugged, calling his bluff.

Jimin was smirking.

“Your ex is a photography major.”

Instantly, Jungkook opened the flask again and took a huge gulp. Perhaps he looked too bitter; perhaps what happened in the past hour added to his bitterness in ways he hadn’t expected.

“What happened?” Jimin’s tone was sympathetic.

“Same old story.” Jungkook smiled, hearing the wind rustling through the leaves. “We shared the memories, I carried the pain.”

“That’s the abridged version of the story.”

“You'd need a whole lot more than two chugs to have me relating that story out loud, Jimin.” Jungkook was looking onwards—away—he daren’t meet Jimin's eyes, despite his smile.

After he thought he was in enough control, he ventured a guess.

“Your three ex’s more or less used the same excuse for leaving you.”

Somehow, Jungkook wasn’t surprised to hear Jimin laughing beside him.

“It's not about needing an excuse to leave.” Jimin heaved a sigh—as if inserting an emotional punctuation mark—and Jungkook couldn’t understand that dreamy look in his eyes. “They're just waiting for you to show them your soul so they can leave.”

“Their loss.” Jungkook mumbled.

“Well now I realize that. Back then my heart thought it could overrule love.” Jimin admitted. “But guess you can control everything but love.”

“Bullshit!” Jungkook had never felt so indignant; that kind of mindset really got on his nerves. “Love isn't supposed to be controlled. Love is free. It's not supposed to make you chained; it's supposed to set you free.”

Jimin started blinking rapidly at Jungkook—as if still trying to wrap his head around that emotional outburst—then he soon broke out laughing.

“You get really deep when you're drunk.”

“I get a lot of things when I'm drunk.” He turned his head to Jimin only to realize Jimin already had his head turned to the side—having less than a centimeter separating their lips. He wondered what he could do under the guise of being drunk.

It didn’t matter.

“You had a dramatic fallout with Tae.”

Jungkook squinted his eyes.

“What gave you the impression?”

“I was really close to him our first year, Jungkook.” Jimin gave him a wry smile. “And never once had I heard your name.”

Jungkook silently took the flask. ‘Dramatic’ didn’t quite cut how it went down. Jungkook had fucked up plenty of his relationships almost two years ago. But whatever.

“Heights scare you,” Jungkook ventured a guess, though it had some basis.

Jimin cracked a smile.

“Well, I am the kind of kids who could never enjoy a trampoline or most of the theme-park height-based games.”

Jungkook wanted to laugh; it was kinda cute. Jimin cocked his head to the side, watching Jungkook amusedly.

“Heights scare you.” Jimin mimicked but not without jabbing an emphasis there. All Jungkook did was laugh, chugging down another huge gulp and feeling electricity crackle in his head.

“Everyone and their mother know that.”

Jungkook sighed then started swinging his legs, letting another beat of silence pass between them before he dropped his bombshell.

“The ‘bogo shipda’ on your wall is not directed to your ex.” Jungkook began, letting it sink in then looking to his side—into Jimin's eyes. “It’s directed to you. The pre-heartbreak you.”

Jimin took the flask from Jungkook's hand, smiling down.

“It takes one to know one, I guess.”

Jungkook couldn’t help with the bitter smile.

“What happened?” he mimicked Jimin's expression earlier, successfully coaxing a giggle on his part.

“Every time I lost someone in my life,” Jimin's expression turned wistful as he looked up at the moon that hung low, soon rekindling his smile. “I bid farewell to something with them, something taken from deep within me. Till I feel that I became empty, as tho I were born emotionless—without a heart. A sad someone who can't feel a damn good thing.”

Jungkook kept looking and looking at Jimin, at how his smile didn’t dim even as his voice cracked by the end of the sentence. Love was never inseparable from sadness—and that was the one damn heavy price paid for something as worthwhile.

“That’s the tricky thing about sadness,” Jungkook looked up at the sky, witnessing a star go off. “Sadness might not kill you, but it makes you insipid—empty—sapping you of your capacity to cherish and appreciate little things in life.”

It was Jimin’s turn to look at Jungkook as though the latter were the eighth wonder of the world. Unlike Jungkook, though, he hadn’t uttered a follow-up; he just went on with their game.

“It’s not the pre-heartbreak you that you miss, it’s something that goes beyond that.” Jimin said, already making an alarm go off in Jungkook's head with that guess of his. “That’s your I miss you, if you dared write one.”

Jungkook sighed and took the flask, fingers brushing against Jimin's.

“There’s something I'm missing. Perhaps it’s hope, perhaps it’s forgetting, perhaps a friend… perhaps I'm missing me.” A bitter laugh escaped his lips, making the alcohol taste like saccharine in comparison. “I thought I was someone important to him, but alas, I'm dispensable after all.”

“Oh well, you know what they say, Jungkook-ah,” Jimin looped his arm around Jungkook’s shoulder in a side-hug. He squeezed Jungkook for a fraction of a second then let go, an off-colour smile resting easily on his lips. “To avoid further disappointment, don’t delude yourself into thinking you're indispensable to someone.”

Jungkook just kept watching Jimin from the corner of his eye. That amount of alcohol wasn’t enough to numb the pain; and Jimin’s former statement was nurturing the kind of pain Jungkook always tried to keep at bay.

At last he looked away, wondering how to tackle down his next guess without causing Jimin to tread down the most painful alleys in his memory lane.

“You are a fan of self-destructing. You practice it like an art.”

Jungkook wasn’t sure if that sound Jimin had made was a laugh or a sound a weeping wounded animal would make.

“Love, Jungkookie, is the epitome of self-destruction.”

That, Jungkook didn’t need to yet learn. 'Love’, a word so ambivalent; it was so vulnerable yet could be so powerful—so destructive.

“What happened?” Jungkook repeated, more meaningfully this time.

Jimin was laughing.

“First time, I spent my entire life asking myself how transparent his feelings for me had been, whether they were nothing but merely a reflection of my very own feelings I see in his eyes.”

Jungkook watched Jimin take a huge gulp, deliberately looking up at the progressively-growing-darker night sky.

“Second time, I'd been too focused on becoming his that I forgot how it was to be mine.”

“And third time?” Jungkook dreaded the answer; the question alone sent his heart racing.

Jimin took another sip and looked onwards, forsaking even the stars.

“Nothing.” He shrugged. “He woke up one day and stopped loving me. And I've been dwelling in that unfixable darkness ever since, unable to get out for some reason.”

For a while, neither of them spoke up. They just listened to the wind playing farewell-odes to the night. As the seconds dragged by, a dragging sadness seized Jungkook. He wouldn’t face Jimin, not when that look that impelled him forward and tore him away glistened in Jimin's eyes.

“Bambam’s boyfriend.” Jimin said quietly after he thought the fair interval of silence had purged them. “That’s your ex-photographer.”

Jungkook threw his head back, laughing.

“You're really going to get me drunk tonight.” He took the flask, eyeing it amusedly before offering his elaboration. “Maybe I fucked up. Maybe we both fucked up. Maybe I was taken for granted.”

“Unrequited?”

Jungkook shrugged noncommittally. “He was someone who made me wonder how the most beautiful of dreams could feel like the most terrible of nightmares.”

“Sometimes your nightmares like to wear your deepest wishes' clothes.”

Again, all Jungkook could do was stare. Jimin was ethereal that night.

“How come you can smile so easily about this? It almost makes you look like one of those people who have their shit together. Almost as if it doesn’t show, your hurt—the scar, I mean.”

Jimin laughed. A full hearty laugh that Jungkook thought sounded more painful than any tears he could possibly shed.

“The greatest forms of hurting somebody are ironically those made without inflicting wounds.” Jungkook's jaw clenched, fist tightening. Jimin wasn’t done just yet, his smile growing the further he progressed with his words. “Is it an inscription that serves like a curse, or a mark that only trained eyes could detect? So tell me, where does it scar—claws scratching or strong grips squeezing—can your eyes see the imprint made?”

Jungkook didn’t want to dwell long on Jimin's expression—on his tone or the way his eyes shimmered in the night, glittering on as if his tragedies were something exquisite. And so he looked away, breaking free from that look that painfully moved his insides.

He counted to ten before he thought he was in enough control to risk proceeding their game.

“You loved someone just a bit too much.” Jungkook was no longer sure if they were both talking about one another or about themselves.

Jimin’s hand moved on top of Jungkook's, making the latter look at him before taking the flask with the other hand.

“You could say that, yes.” Jimin nodded, not yet letting go of Jungkook's eyes. “It goes like this. If you let them know how much you love them, they take your love—your presence—for granted. And if you go ghost, they demand your return to cater to their want of unconditional love – a daily dose.”

That, Jungkook could understand. And it was sad, just so fucking sad, how relatable Jimin's words were. He had spent that year in emotional hell praying to god no one he cared about would experience that level of excruciating pain.

Jimin looked at Jungkook, tilting his head and blinking a few times in spite of the wind.

“You haven’t even confessed to him.” At that, Jungkook stiffened, feeling Jimin's eyes drop somewhere on the branch. “Not directly.”

Jungkook withdrew his hand and in silence, returning Jimin's stare, he drank.

“That’s not the rules of this game, Jungkook-ah.”

Jungkook hoped his smile wasn’t uneven.

“Some people deliberately turn a blind-eye even when things hold a neon sign and scream at them.” He looked to his side, wondering if Jimin was looking at him—if Jimin could see him.

The sound Jimin made sounded so much like a jeer; Jungkook could see him shaking his head as he snuck a glance from the corner of his eye.

Jungkook's heartbeat was approaching a red line; he ventured a guess nonetheless.

“You're still holding on.”

Jimin laughed, tossing his head backwards that he almost fell off the branch.

“Who isn’t, Jungkook?”

That was life’s greatest irony: how much strength it took to let go.

“What kind of logic is it to continue watering a dead flower?” Jungkook tried to catch Jimin's eyes, to convey the compassion. “It won't bring it back.”

Jimin turned sharply to him.

“Did it work for you? Is it really that easy?”

“No.” Jungkook admitted, voice catching in his throat. “But you're not me.”

Again, that was the abridged version of Jungkook's answer—that ‘you're not me.’

Jimin was nodding.

“I'm trying to be the best I can.” He thought he had never heard Jimin's voice so small, so transparent—so fucking vulnerable. “But it’s not every day that you can pretend it’s okay.”

It was as he gazed at Jimin that second that Jungkook finally established what he needed to know. Perhaps there was something exquisite in tragedies after all; perhaps that was how romance and tragedy were the two interwoven genres; perhaps that was how sadness was inseparable from love.

“Don’t you get tired?” Jungkook summed up all the questions he ever wanted to throw at Jimin in that simple arrangement of letters.

And Jimin could read that off him—be it Jungkook's tone, be it his eyes, be it the raspy voice, he could read it all. He smiled heavenwards and patted Jungkook's thigh.

“It’s okay.”

Jungkook kept looking at that smile—so steady, so thin.

“This is unfair.” Jungkook swallowed.

Jimin's smile faded—a lunar eclipse.

“What are we talking about here, Jungkook?”

Jungkook looked away, cracking a smile a few beats later for show’s sake. Jimin seemed to grant the younger’s silent wish: moving past that hitch they created in time by that clandestine breach in their game.

“Your first time was with a much older man.” Jimin said.

The ‘what the fuck’ look Jungkook gave Jimin was in so much contrast to the nature of their conversation, as though one put a clown next to the grim reaper.

“Jump or confess.” Jungkook finally said, shaking his head as though fending off the ugly visual pictures that guess stirred.

Jimin laughed, nuzzling closer to Jungkook for a moment.

“Confession time. My first time was with a man more than twice my age.”

Jungkook watched Jimin drink for absolutely no reason, ending the chug up with an excited cry and for a second he thought Jimin was ready to jump—in a suicidal way. It didn’t matter; he understood.

And so, his turn came.

“Your last relation was by far the worst.” Jungkook managed to draw Jimin's attention at that. “It’s what made your smile so… lonely.”

Jimin smiled, looking at Jungkook in the same confident way he had when he related his life to him.

“What do you mean so lonely? I'm not the one shutting everyone out.”

Jungkook gulped, restraining his eyes from conveying too much.

“The loneliness I'm speaking of doesn’t mean you're shutting everyone out or that you hate them. It doesn’t mean you can't stand the people around you—friends, family, you know.” He wished that nonplussed look of Jimin's—that always too-warm smile—couldn’t see through him, that it wouldn’t tell Jungkook was speaking so familiarly of that smile because that was his kind of loneliness—the kind of things he was sure called out to him in Jimin's eyes. “What I mean is that something within you feels hollow.”

He bit his tongue. Something is utterly and thoroughly hollow, he thought.

It was the first time Jimin's smile had faded that night.

“Imagine being forced to still draw more breaths even tho your lungs had been stabbed. Heartbreak was that kind of fatal stab to my heart—that kind of death—yet I was forced to keep on living.”

Park Jimin was a lot of things; right now, all Jungkook could make of him was just the tiniest bit dabbing too much in a heart that once loved too much, with all its might.

“They made us love them, then they left.” Jungkook started with a cynical smile. “They took a part of us, then they took off.”

“We left our hearts with them, then they left us with a hole instead.” Jimin raised the flask up. “Cheers.”

Jungkook watched Jimin down three gulps as though they were nothing then wipe his mouth with the back of his hand. For a few beats, Jungkook's eyes lingered on Jimin's hand on the branch—the way they curled and uncurled around it, tapping and relaxing their grasp. He then got out a cigarette—or at least that was what Jungkook hoped it was—and lit it up. Jungkook eventually managed to look up to Jimin's face. Even as he smoked, he was still gazing at the moon.

“To Sad Ghost Club, forever love-deprived.” Jimin blew out a long drag, facing skywards. “You and I are too damaged to know what love is, Jungkook.”

Despite feeling fuzzy with so much alcohol, something turned sharp in Jungkook's gaze at that comment. It stung, standing at the distant fringes and burying his heart in handfuls of dirt. He had a reply; he knew how to counter that. But the words tasted bitter and they hung in the air, weightily so. Still, it was hard not to marvel at Jimin like that—when he was turning into a melancholy drinker.

He watched the cigarette perch down Jimin's lips; he watched Jimin's lips wet the filter—closing up on the paper. He watched Jimin toss his head backwards, tracing the veins in Jimin's neck with his eyes, slowly taking the scene in. Jimin was blowing ringlets of smoke when Jungkook gently pried the cigarette away from his fingers.

He held it with his thumb and forefinger, taking a drag before Jimin's amused eyes.

“You and Tae almost dated two years ago,” he had a go, slowly letting out the smoke, like a veil between Jimin and himself.

Jimin looked smug; he shook his head.

“Drink.”

Jungkook put the cigarette—he was now sure that wasn’t just tobacco because his head was starting to get fogged—between his teeth.

“I’ll jump.”

Before Jungkook could act on his words, Jimin had dangled down the branch, holding on by both hands. He rocked back and forth twice before jumping the seven-meter height, landing ever so gracefully.

“Too late, Kook-ah. And it wasn’t even your turn.” Jimin was wetting his lips, walking backwards as he locked eyes with Jungkook who was still taking long drags of smoke. “You stay up there while you face your fear of heights and stop trying to fish.”

Jungkook laughed, a new compulsion igniting within him.

“I wasn’t fishing, I can totally see you guys together.”

Jimin was laughing, falling flat on his back—on his outspread blanket and pillow—and somehow Jungkook was glad he couldn’t see Jimin's face.

“Kim Taehyung is so much better than to date me, Jungkook.”

Without further thinking, he too had jumped the distance, slowly walking up to where Jimin lay. Without further thinking, he got down on his knees before the elder.

Jungkook was now hovering above Jimin, caging one of Jimin's thighs between his knees. He was trying not to marvel too much at how Jimin's hair was splayed against the pillow, thinking of millions of ways to have shades of pink and red contrasting the silver of those silky strands.

Although they had lived that scene so many times, at this proximity, with that broken look on Jimin's face—his hooded eyes and dilating pupils—Jungkook couldn’t help really wanting to have him then and there. And at that moment, Jungkook knew for sure that Park Jimin was the kind of marvel he had been staving off for a while now.

Leaning on his left elbow—closer to Jimin's lips—he took one last drag of smoke, one hand ghosting over Jimin's jawline while the other had his cigarette burning away between his fingers.

He put his right hand on Jimin's cheek, relishing how the latter’s eyes instantly shut. As his hand cradled Jimin's jaw, Jungkook let his thumb pry Jimin's mouth open, his hand gently pushing Jimin's head forward as he lowered his very own head, sighing the smoke into Jimin's open mouth.

“Drink,” Jungkook repeated, voice husky.

And so, Jimin let his tongue teasingly run along his lips, taking his sweet time wetting them and watching Jungkook's progressive smirk as he sighed more smoke. He tilted his head back, opening his mouth more, egging Jungkook more—willingly and almost ecstatically breathing in what the younger had just sighed.

Jungkook's mouth closed the distance, shutting Jimin's small gasp up on slipping a tongue into his mouth and feeling Jimin's curling around his own, turning the gasp into a moan. One of Jimin's hands instantly went to the back of Jungkook's head, grabbing knots in his small fist and yanking his head down, the other hand burning hot against Jungkook's neck. He inched closer towards Jimin, pushing the pillow from beneath Jimin's head away, Jimin's leg bending enough that Jungkook could feel Jimin's knee scraping against his side.

Everything burned as his lips worked against Jimin's plump ones. He was feeling a lot of chemicals at the same time—of alcohol shakers pouring into glasses of mixed medicines, of narcotic pills bathing in oxytocin, of testosterone dangerously mixing with dopamine, of knots of longing blurring the line between want and need, of painful desire that superseded just lust.

And the way Jimin was moving his lips against Jungkook's—opening his mouth more to let Jungkook's tongue familiarize itself with every tooth and every inch of those walls, to let Jungkook taste his lips as he sucked on them—was pushing Jungkook's chemicals over the edge, overflowing his body and flooding his mind.

Jungkook's hand wrapped under Jimin's shirt, feeling the heat emanating from his body as he pushed Jimin's arching body down. His thumb was rubbing small circles close to Jimin's navel—wondering if the soft friction could start a fire as he pressed and pressed. He could feel Jimin's hands on his back, pushing up his shirt. He let his thumb experimentally glide down to Jimin's waist-band, slipping beneath it and pressing against Jimin's pelvic-bone. There was no need for the testing attitude; Jungkook was getting all kinds of reactions that urged him on—further. Jimin gave up on yanking Jungkook's shirt so his hand took Jungkook's teasing one and placed it on his crotch.

Jungkook broke away for breath—to pull his hand, hearing an obscene moan slipping from the lewd lips he was just devouring. In one swift motion with barely separating their lips again, he yanked his shirt off, smirking more.

“Fuck,” Jimin's breathy voice was urging Jungkook more, broadening his smirk as he peered down at the kiss-swollen lips and flushed cheeks.

Placing his left hand now on Jimin's neck, Jungkook started littering Jimin's neck with his open-mouthed kisses, his tongue gliding up as it licked the skin begging to be marked. He could feel Jimin's hand against his chest—on his heart; he could swear once it stopped making contact with his skin, it would have left a permanent burning mark behind. Jimin let his hands glide from Jungkook's shoulders to his backside, pulling the younger against him.

“God!” He groaned low and deep against the hollow of Jimin's throat. “I want you so fucking much.”

It was as though Jimin couldn’t hear him; he wrapped his legs around Jungkook's waist and bucked Jungkook to him, clutching to his body—circling his hips against Jungkook's body.

“Now you say that.” Jimin was breathing hard.

He needed no urging; he slipped his arm under Jimin's waist making him arch forward as he pushed his pants down to his ankles. And once his finger had slipped into Jimin's shorts—once it teased against Jimin's hole—he heard the filthiest moan spilling out of Jimin's lips so far.

Jungkook wasted no time; his tongue begged entrance into Jimin's mouth, and when the elder let him in, he moaned. He inserted a second finger, scissoring Jimin, feeling him shudder lightly—feeling his very own fingers getting wetter and hotter, slicker. Jimin jerked forward and Jungkook sighed into the kiss.

“Let’s be clear on something…” Jimin pulled away for a second, breathing shallowly as Jungkook's lips sucked on a sensitive area. Jungkook didn’t pull away, still eliciting moans from Jimin—even as the latter tried to push Jungkook away, to talk. “This is just transient—a term hook-up, friends in for the sex.”

“Sure,” Jungkook was glad he wasn’t facing Jimin's eyes; his lips kept on kissing, fingers moving. “I want nothing serious either.”

Perhaps it was his sex hormones talking, perhaps not. Jungkook was in no position to analyze Jimin's word-choice. Perhaps he thought it just didn’t matter what their status was; perhaps it was evident that the two of them belonged together, one level or another.

And like that Jimin had fulfilled his promise to Jungkook—being the best fuck the younger had ever had. As if something had flipped in the elder once he heard Jungkook's confirmation, he had pushed Jungkook back, not giving him the chance to object as his lips stripped Jungkook of his critical thinking, as his hands stripped Jungkook of his pants—offering the best ride Jungkook had ever had.

 

 

“Where the fuck have you been?” camp site, 7 A.M., December morning – that was the first thing Kim Taehyung greeted a the-morning-after-Jungkook with.

He had barely shown up where they were supposed to meet for the bus when Taehyung’s hawk eyes spotted him. Jungkook deliberately lagged behind Jimin, pretending to fix his shoes while asking the latter to go on, just so he would avoid this specific awkward conversation.

Before he had the chance to reply—to explain in terms that wouldn’t send Taehyung flying in a fit of rage, Jimin had shown up next to him, making a small circle around Taehyung before tiptoeing to whisper in his ear.

“In me.” Jimin was smiling wryly.

Okay, Plan Z.

“In him as in sex?”

“No, as in possession, Tae.” Jungkook almost face-palmed. “Of course as in sex.”

“What?” it came out indignant enough that a few of the wrapping-up-their-stuff heads turned to them.

“Chill, Tae.” Jungkook wasn’t sure if he really wanted to do any damage-control. He was on the verge of smiling, especially with Jimin half-giggling by his side. “I—” he began; he made a face, not knowing how to follow.

Taehyung folded his arms, expression unreadable.

“Are you guys together now?”

“No.” They both said in sync, impassive faces replicas of each other.

Taehyung shifted his eyes between the passive-faced duo.

“Okay.”

Jungkook bit his lip, doing his best not to steal a glance at Jimin, especially as Taehyung’s indecipherable gaze pressured him. Jimin took a step towards Taehyung, hand resting on his stomach.

“Really, it was nothing.” He chuckled into his fist. “I mean it was indeed a lot of things, like a lot—” Jimin gave Jungkook his signature lip-bite smile then averted his eyes to Taehyung again, “—but I mean it means nothing.”

Taehyung didn’t waste too many seconds looking at Jimin; he was more interested in eyeing Jungkook skeptically. He shrugged an ‘okay’ and turned around, picking up his bag and getting on the bus. Jungkook was about to follow but Jimin shook his head, mouthing a ‘let me handle this,’ before jogging the distance to join Taehyung.

During their journey back, Jungkook watched Jimin and Taehyung talking and laughing in the seat before him. Albeit Taehyung’s laughs didn’t all sound so genuine, but Jimin was doing a fantastic job not addressing the elephant in the room.

He almost lost track of thought the instant Jimin suggested they (Taehyung and Jimin) played the cat’s cradle—the way their knuckles grazed, the way Taehyung would fiddle with Jimin's small fingers, the way Jimin's fingers fell in the places between Taehyung’s, the way Taehyung brought their foreheads together and scrunched up his nose, laughing wholeheartedly. It was no new sight. Jungkook often witnessed those acts whenever the three of them hung out; and it still didn’t annoy him.

He just hated that Taehyung was giving him the cold shoulder while there he was having the time of his life with Jimin.

He shouldn’t be hung up over that. He was going to fix it.

 

“I can explain.” Jungkook said as soon as he closed the door to their dorm, watching Taehyung’s back.

“I'm not angry.” Taehyung replied; Jungkook flinched. It was flat and Jungkook needn’t see his face to confirm Taehyung would be wearing his impassive face.

Taehyung put down his bag and straddled his chair, looking at Jungkook.

“I really am not angry, Kook.”

He brought his chair in front of Taehyung’s, mirroring his posture.

“Then what’s with the cold shoulder?”

Taehyung looked at him for a few beats then pressed his lips into a rueful line.

“I'm sorry, Jungkook. This is all just new to me, you guys being together—”

“We are not together.” Jungkook corrected for the umpteenth time.

“You guys being together in a no-strings-attached,”

“We’re not like that, Tae.” Jungkook sighed, not sure where he was going. “It was just sex, just friends not friends with benefits.”

“That’s exactly what friends with benefits are, Jungkook.” Taehyung whispered feverishly. “Are you guys serious?!”

He sighed and looked away. They were everything but serious; that was how they ended up in that position. Though that wasn’t what Taehyung meant with them being serious.

“What happened to not wanting to sleep with him?” Taehyung asked and the question chilled Jungkook to the bones. He had no idea how to respond to that. But Taehyung didn’t let him grope for words.

“Listen,” he could feel Taehyung’s hand on his arm; he could feel Taehyung’s tone melting back to its normal concerned one. “Remember that idiot who months ago told you not to try to get that close to Jiminnie—”

“I'm sorry, Tae, I'm an idio—”

“Just let me finish.” Taehyung smiled kindly, words urgent and coming out at a rapid-fire pace. “What I was going to say is forget what that dumbass said. All I'm asking you right now is to make sure both of my friends don’t get hurt, make sure that’s what you really want—that you can handle this. I love you, Jungkook and I really don’t want to lose you again. At whatever cost.”

Taehyung was smiling by the end of his sentence, failing miserably at pretending his voice didn’t crack or that his former statement didn’t have so many underlying tones. And Jungkook was speechless for a few seconds.

“I know how amazing Jiminnie is, and I know you can perfectly see that. And of course I wish you guys all the best. So if the best is a relationship, then so be it. Stop being such kids and get it over with.” Taehyung punched Jungkook's arm and got up. “If not, then please walk away before either of you get hurt. You both had enough of that for ten lifetimes.”

At that, Jungkook was done being not-soft. He got up and pulled Taehyung in a tight hug.

“Hey—”

Taehyung was halfway objecting when Jungkook laughed, squeezing him tighter, feeling grateful tears pool in his eyes.

“You can't expect to say something like that and not have me hug you, you idiot.” Taehyung laughed and Jungkook smiled wider. “So just stop being an asshole and let me hug you for a while before I change my mind.”

Cue the light punch. “Asshole.”

Jungkook smiled.

“Maybe. But I'm also your kind of assholes, Kim Taehyung.”

Chapter Text

No matter how many times Jungkook had to re-watch Casablanca, he couldn’t help feeling frustrated.

He removed his headset and huffed out, rubbing his eyes. He heard the camera shutter going off so he spun in his chair, trying to crack a smile for Jimin.

“You looked like you'd cry,” Jimin said, flopping flat to his stomach on bed and checking the picture he had just snapped. “I couldn’t not shoot that.”

They were in Jungkook's room—Taehyung had been there too; he just had to leave less than an hour ago for an emergency rehearsal, which left Jimin and Jungkook alone … studying.

“Something should be created that’d surpass Casablanca so we’d not have to study everything about that movie.” Jungkook flipped his chair and straddled it, leaning his arms on the headrest and trying not gesticulate as usual. “Something with a more fulfilling ending.”

“I thought your job was to analyze the cinematography and direction and such.” There was some kind of bluff underlying Jimin's tone. “And not the plot.”

“Well yes. Admittedly it’s a masterpiece.” He bit his lip, trying to figure out how to tread down that path. “The ending gets to me every damn time. They should add ‘tragedy’ to its genres.”

 “Why?” Jimin sat up, legs beneath his thighs as a flicker of amusement glinted in his eyes. “There were no real deaths in that movie.”

Jungkook chuckled; Jimin snapped another shot.

“Actually, I think there was.”

Jimin put down his camera and gave Jungkook his undivided attention.

“I just think it’s ironic.” He began, motioning with one hand while not particularly looking at Jimin. “While the world gets to live because of the decision Rick made, it was at the stake of the death of an integral part of his heart. I feel like a part of him died by letting Ilsa—his true love—go.”

“But was letting go ever a choice, Jungkook-ah?”

Jungkook smiled at that challenging expression. Jimin clearly had an opinion on that.

“What do you think?”

“He had to convince himself she was pretending to love him in order to let her go.” Jimin shrugged. “Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to.”

Jungkook nodded, getting out of his chair.

“And she loved him, truly. The idealist in him—no, he didn’t feel alive enough to fight, to lose the cynical façade until she was there to love him.” He started pacing before Jimin's amused eyes. “It gets me thinking that maybe it is true. Maybe you're not truly existent—alive—until there’s someone out there who loves you.”

“Maybe.” Jimin said; Jungkook could feel the words slinking softly against his nape.

He turned around just in time for Jimin to push him on bed. It was almost natural how his smile came to his face the second Jimin climbed up on him, arms looping around Jungkook's neck as he tilted his head; it was almost natural how Jungkook's hands naturally gripped Jimin's thighs, smiling up at him.

“How about you come here and let me give you a taste of death instead?” Jimin was slowly running his tongue along his lips—that gesture that sent shivers of excitement tingling Jungkook.

“I hope your mouth is as bold as your words.” Jungkook teased, diving in and fully taking Jimin's lower lip between his lips.

“I promise, I’ll take you away.” Jimin was barely able to finish that tapering-off sentence, having Jungkook's daring smile—his kiss—slur his words.

Their kissing was a mess of wet breaths and panting—of their bodies moving in the chase of lips as Jungkook's hand started taking Jimin's shirt off. He could feel Jimin's body against his—Jimin's abdomen grazing his as he lifted up his hands, Jimin's ass deliberately grinding against his dick as he rolled his body further down once the shirt was off.

Jimin broke away, his hands gliding down and slipping under Jungkook's shirt, his head following suit. As Jungkook’s hand grabbed Jimin's ass closer, he could simultaneously feel his shirt pushed up and Jimin's tongue against his skin—breath warming, a hazy cloud. He felt a suckle against his naval, lecherously moving upwards—that brat went as far as biting his nipple, lips working into a smirk when Jungkook fired him a dirty look.

That cost Jimin a kiss that left him out of breath once Jungkook broke away, biting his earlobe.

“Off.” Jungkook ordered as he tugged at the waistband of Jimin's jeans.

Jimin lifted his ass and Jungkook instantly started tugging the pants down. His mouth incessantly sucking Jimin's neck, licking, tracing along one of the throbbing veins. He could feel Jimin's hand tangling in his hair, drawing him forward—to Jimin. Jungkook got particularly more excited once his teeth sank in Jimin's shoulder, hearing one obscene moan and feeling Jimin's head jerk backwards—feeling Jimin lose control over his body momentarily.

“Fuck,” Jimin panted.

Those tight pants were a feast when you were looking at them—marveling at them hugging the meticulous work of god; when they were to be pushed down? That was when they became a curse. He slipped his hand into Jimin's boxer, slipping a finger between his butt-cheeks.

“Get off.” Jungkook whispered in Jimin's ear.

He backed away, smirking, to realize Jimin wasn’t amused. He hopped off and Jungkook leaned back on his elbows on bed, watching Jimin, flushed, heatedly push down his pants. Trying to kill the wolf in his smile, he watched Jimin step out of his pants. He was about to drop the boxers too when Jungkook shook his head—that was something he liked to personally do.

Jimin only smirked and took them off, instantly walking up to an offended Jungkook. He yanked Jungkook's pants down in one sharp tug and straddled him. Jungkook was smiling too much—halfway laughing when he dove in for a kiss. He could feel Jimin's length against his abdomen; he could feel himself growing harder, especially with Jimin's naked ass rubbing against him.

“You don’t have to do anything.” Jimin said, slightly breathless. One of his hands left Jungkook's face and he spread his legs to either side of Jungkook more. Jungkook was about to insert his finger, to finger Jimin when the latter slapped his hand away and grabbed Jungkook's dick out, aligning his entrance to Jungkook.

He didn’t have much time to be shocked; Jimin had moved down, a loud moan spilling out of his lips as his head jerked backwards in a momentary bliss. It felt so fucking hot. He had always been sensitive to sounds and that moan had sent light shockwaves down to his groin, making it grow harder.

“You're so fucking tight.” Jungkook groaned. For some reason, Jimin smirked and he started moving, rutting his way to hell.

Jungkook groaned again, grabbing Jimin's thighs tighter, sure his fingers would leave marks on Jimin's body. He started kissing Jimin but the latter soon broke away, resting his left forearm on the crook of Jungkook's neck as he grinded himself in and out at a steady rhythm. He could feel Jimin's dick leaking with precum against his abdomen; he could feel himself getting excited more at that—could feel his length throbbing against Jimin's slick walls. He couldn’t believe Jimin could bend his body like that—it was almost impossible.

His tongue started twirling around Jimin's nipple, his free hand pressing it. Jimin moaned, moving slightly to the left—getting off his sensitive spot. He wrapped his hand around Jimin's dick, feeling it hot—throbbing. He had barely touched Jimin's slit when the latter managed to make eye contact with him through the haze.

“No,” Jimin panted, still rocking. He went in for a kiss but it was too sloppy; Jungkook could feel him picking up pace. He so much wanted to push the hair matting against Jimin's sweaty forehead, to make his moist lips more kiss-swollen, especially with the way they parted as if begging to be kissed. The pink flush blossoming across his cheeks and that overall sultry expression was driving Jungkook off the edge; he needn’t the rocking.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Jungkook growled, refraining from biting Jimin's neck and digging into his own lips instead, sucking at the lower lip, letting it go with an obscene pop.

Jimin opened one eye, panting.

“Quite a—” he let out a loud moan Jungkook was sure the Dean could hear. “Quite a religious experience… huh?”

Jungkook was half-laughing, half-seeing stars as Jimin threw his head against his shoulder. He could feel his stomach tightening and judging by the way Jimin's body seemed to grow tired regardless of the speed—the way Jimin's nails were digging in Jungkook's shoulder blades—he, too, was close.

Jungkook was never good at following orders. He moved, making Jimin bounce higher, a small scream escaping his lips. He arched up again, hands curling around Jimin's ass and helping him thrust down more easily.

“Did you like that?” he whispered in Jimin's ear, tongue making sure to lick Jimin's shell.

Jimin's head was back now at being buried in Jungkook's neck. Jimin rocked three more time and he came, Jungkook barely registering the warm threads on his abdomen or the way Jimin's eyes rolled to the back of his head. It had taken Jimin moving two more times, overstimulated, for Jungkook to find his release, feeling Jimin's wet lips on his shoulder, seeking breath.

Jimin unlatched himself, barely looking at Jungkook as he limped to the bathroom, eyes fixed on the floor. Jungkook was still trying to come down from his high, having conflicted feelings as he watched Jimin's figure disappear. He fell back to the mattress, trying to get everything back to its normal pace—his breathing, his heartbeat, his thoughts, and perhaps their status.

After an interminable minute of staring at the ceiling, he cleaned up himself, getting into a fresh pair of shorts and pants. A few minutes later, Jimin emerged out in clean shorts and an oversized tee—Taehyung’s. He was smirking as he approached his pants.

“Now that was some death ride.” Jimin said.

And Jungkook didn’t know what else to do but laugh. Jimin had bid him goodnight and walked (or limped) back to his room after collecting his stuff.

That was the second time they made use of their ‘friends in for the sex’-contract.

 

♥♥♥

 

When it came down to painting, work-in-progress was in its most intimidating forms. All artists struggled with the fear of not living up to standard, of presenting something inferior to their last work, of never being able to surpass themselves—or worse: of being too scared to create in the first place.

Painting? That was fearsome because you wanted a masterpiece even though it was still a work-in-progress—the two parallel lines, never meeting, never parting. Any wrong line scraping against the paper and it could send your sketch flying in a fit. Especially when you wanted that one piece to be perfect—as deserving and as reflecting of its content.

Jungkook thought the rain freezing to snow would cool his mind. He thought a lot of things would put him in the mood – the scent of the early morning-dew, mingling with the flitting rays of sunlight struggling to prevail and warm the sky for the new breaking day, the sound of leaves dancing in the wind, making playful shadows as they played tag with the sunrays. But nothing emerged—not more than his ‘warming-up’ sketches: four pages worth of sketched hands.

He had been sitting by the fountain near the library since dawn; he could see students breaking out of their dorms now, zipping in and out of buildings.

“I think you need a break.”

He could smell a lilac scent on the breeze—Jimin's—mixing with another sweet aroma: caramel macchiato.

As casually as he could play it off, Jungkook turned over his sketch, already cursing the inevitable smudging that small motion would do. It was a knee-jerk reaction—not dependent on who was in his company—although the outcome would still be the same all ways.

“Want us to have some fun?” Jimin asked, grinning impishly.

“Morning sex?”

Laughing, Jungkook managed to dodge Jimin's book-attack.

“That’s not what I meant!” Jimin was laughing as well; he now stood with his hands on his hips. “We are friends first and foremost, you idiot.”

“Oh. Then, morning, Jimin-ah,” Jungkook said with a smile, watching Jimin set his bag on the ground then sit next to him. Jimin almost spilt one of the cups had Jungkook not took them, letting Jimin adjust beside him, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Jungkook so familiarly. The elder felt so cold against Jungkook's clothed skin.

“Your good morning is about two hours late.” Jimin said cheekily. “Have you not moved ever since dawn tho?”

Jungkook chuckled, letting Jimin take one of the cups.

“Should I be offended you were up and didn’t keep my company?”

Jimin scratched his nose, looking away briefly.

“You seemed too much in your element for me to interrupt.”

He only started sipping from his cup to realize it wasn’t his caramel macchiato. It was an espresso; Jungkook was frowning. But of course Jimin seemed to have gleaned satisfaction from Jungkook's reaction.

“You never even liked that stupid caramel macchiato.”

“I always ordered it.”

“I said,” Jimin shifted around, knee bending beneath thigh to face Jungkook. “You never liked it.”

Jungkook sighed and started drinking his espresso.

“What gave me away?”

“Your eyes.”

Jungkook cocked an eyebrow.

“You always had that longing look or a bittersweet smile on your face whenever you looked at your cup.” When Jungkook smiled, Jimin shrugged. “Let me guess, it was the one thing he never drank so you decided it was your favourite.”

Jungkook started laughing.

“Wow, Park Jimin, are you psychoanalyzing me—” he checked his watch “—ten in the morning?”

Jimin made a face.

“You're transparent, Jeon Jungkook. You're not fooling anyone.”

“I'm not fooling you, you mean.”

Jimin only smiled and looked away. Jungkook put his cup down and held Jimin's head between both of his hands.

“Well,” he began, watching Jimin's eyes widen in surprise. “That’s a game two can play, Jimin-ssi.”

Jimin slapped both of Jungkook's hands away and looked cheekily at him.

“Oh yea? And what do you have on me, Jungkook-ssi?”

“Lie down first, Jimin-ssi.” Jungkook instructed, setting his sketch aside and patting his thighs, successfully making Jimin laugh. Without even his signature lip-bite, Jimin spun on his butt then lay down on Jungkook's outstretched legs, looking up at the younger.

“Is this the time you tell me the root of all evil in me is because I want to fuck my mom?”

“Pffft,” Jungkook dismissed with his hand. “I don’t have the cigar and glasses needed for that.”

Jimin laughed; Jungkook feeling each melody in his every bone.

“Hit me,” Jimin had game in his eyes.

And Jungkook knew how to raise and fold. He gave a dramatic sigh, cracking his knuckles.

“Your problem is that you see everything that's not perfect as unworthy, so you're always a prisoner to the 'not enough' syndrome.” He cleared his throat, watching Jimin keep his smirk unfaltering. “Even sadness has become your habit. You almost feel as tho you're addicted to sadness, or it to you.” A pause to let out a laugh. “I mean I personally wouldn’t blame it. But the point is that the two of you have grown inseparable.”

Jimin made point to look into Jungkook's eyes for a few beats then shut them down, looking to the side as if sleeping.

“Not bad, Freud-nim.” He mumbled in a low tone.

“Stick around and I promise I’ll impress you.”

At that, Jimin was laughing heartily, and Jungkook wasn’t sure how much time had passed; he had been too taken into marveling at the silvery strands dancing in the breeze, teasing Jimin's forehead.

“I've been wondering,”

“Hmm?” Jungkook inquired.

“Why did you assume my last relation was the worst of them all?”

Jungkook smiled, looking up briefly at the sky before replying.

“If I answer your question, promise to answer my next one directly.”

Jimin opened his eyes; he seemed cautious.

“I could lie.”

“You're not that kind of people, no.”

Jimin shut his eyes—closed them against the sun—again so Jungkook began,

“You seemed to be that kind of people who always gave one last chance. I mean even tho the two relationships preceding your last fucked you over badly, you still chose to fall in love again.”

At that, Jimin sat up, hands folded in his lap.

“You make it sound like it’s up to me. Falling in love, I mean.”

Jungkook countered Jimin's lopsided smile and experimental approach with an unintentionally thin smile.

“Isn’t it?” He was looking deeply into Jimin's eyes, once again sifting those dark eyes for a sign.

Jimin broke away from the gaze, resting his head in Jungkook's lap again and closing his eyes. Jungkook let him have his silence for a while. And much to his surprise, Jimin was the first to speak.

“It was the worst kind of gaslighting.” Jimin started. “Each time he does something and decides to end it while I'm not even sure why, he doesn’t, and he comes back eventually. Till he did end it one day, but not really—like he just left it hanging out in the air, you know.”

“He couldn’t even set you free.” Jungkook's face twisted in pain—in disgust.

Jimin shook his head, opening his eyes at last.

“If only you knew how much I hate endings. Imagine the kind of endings that wouldn't yet end and you're left to your fears and pain.”

Jungkook couldn’t help but smile bitterly—not even Jimin's slanting eyes could undo that smile.

“And I got really tired of that kind of hanging relationships. Those starting sweet but tapering off to unresolved, to unfulfilled question marks left to your interpretations—the open-ending kind of endings. The kind of endings that leaves the door open for a sequel, like they’re going to come back. Like they expect you to wait.”

Jungkook knew that kind of relationships; those falling prey to your yearning heart, tormented by hope—by your wishful dreams—even when they were hopeless and you knew it.

And oh, so much he hated that detached look haunting Jimin's eyes, as if he were recounting some distant memory that he was still reliving – day and day over again.

“You'd think that kind of open endings inflicts less pain, that it cushions the blow for your shrinking heart, that it’s safer,” his voice broke at that and Jungkook flinched. Jimin swallowed, buying his voice some time. “But no. It consumed so many years of my life—precious years I should have enjoyed. It literally devoured my dreams and hopes ... and it will always leave me wondering, stuck and unable to move on with my life.”

This was unfair.

“And that’s my purgatory. That’s my punishment for giving one more chance.” Jimin scoffed, running his hand over his face. “As tho picking up the pieces wasn’t enough of a punishment for that love.”

“Is loving someone wholly now considered a sin?”

Jimin's eyes flung wide open at Jungkook's question. Albeit Jungkook's tone was calm, eyes warm, he hadn’t felt that offended since that night Jimin said he could control love. “Something deserving of a punishment?”

Jimin slowly let his eyes meet Jungkook's. The latter only hoped he could convey the depth of that statement—that he wouldn’t fail in exhibiting the compassion Jimin's mere presence usually exuded.

Jungkook touched his temples and shook his head dramatically, muttering something under his breath.

“It’s probably because I admire that, you know—giving another chance.” He admitted, looking onwards and not capable of bringing his eyes to meet Jimin's. “I mean it took only one relationship failure for me to boycott dating altogether.”

He laughed nervously and started getting up, careful Jimin's head didn’t hit the ground—careful he didn’t get sucked into those widening eyes.

“Come on,” he said with a grin as he extended a hand to Jimin. “We have some birthday-Christmas shopping to do.”

 

 

“You didn’t ask the question you wanted to.” Jimin said, swinging his legs as he licked his ice-cream.

Ice-cream in December? Jungkook was a conventional hot-drinks-in-winter, ice-cream-for-summer kind of guy.

The ice-cream story was summed up by Jimin's excited ‘Jungkook, let’s get ice-cream’, and Jungkook's disbelieving ‘but it’s raining, Jimin-ah’—by Jimin's puppy eyes and small pout, and Jungkook being unable to say no. He liked to pretend Jimin's argument of ‘it’ll keep us warm’ was a valid one rather than believe he was developing a soft spot for that Park Jimin, melting all the more under the pouring sky.

After ten hours of shopping, they finally were on their way to Empty Heart's Treat. Even though Jungkook was Jimin's personal-bag-carrier, the latter insisted they reached a high point and watched the city blur into mosaic nothingness from their vantage point, having Jungkook take six-storeys of the fire-escape to the roof of some building with their shopping bags. He was lucky his ice-cream still survived the trip.

Once again, they were high above, sitting on the ledge—on the precipice of falling to their doom. Jimin was leaning his head on the handrail, his left hand curling around one of the bars, his legs fitting in the space between one of the bars and the one next to it.

It felt so much like that night in the woods, where they sat like almost-lovers, like half-strangers, and talked about life. The memories were brought back in their rawest form whenever their shoulders bumped into each other—like magnets unable to keep away from one another, or whenever their swinging legs would overlap as they lolled back and forth—like waves lapping against the shore, or whenever his fingers would brush against Jimin's knuckles—like a feathery dandelion resting on the back of your hand, or whenever he would sneak a glance at Jimin to find him being the moon-child he had always been—making constellations of the disarrayed stars against the sky-mantle.

“Don’t they ever hit you,” he started gazing at one of the stars as well, just so he wouldn’t have to gaze at Jimin—just so he wouldn’t be enamoured. “All the ‘it could have been’-s, all the what-ifs, all the maybe’s that haunted your life?”

He could see Jimin smiling from the corner of his eye.

That was enough of an encouragement to go on. Night was made to be open—night made you willing to be split open.

“The thing is people want to forget what happened, to get over it.” Jungkook paused, fending off the bitter smile. “For me, I want to forget the things that never happened.”

“Possibilities are memories. Even the almost-memories are still memories.” Jimin said; Jungkook's smile had a dash of saltiness. “They take up space and they weigh on your heart. Emptiness weighs, Jungkook.”

Jungkook turned his face to the side, not surprised to realize Jimin was staring at him. He sighed and looked up at the sky—still finding it in him to marvel at the beauty of the night. The moon mingled with the city-lights, spilling its colours and producing champagne-coloured lights on the surface of the world.

“How come something missing can feel so roomy in your heart?” Jungkook's question was rhetorical; the kind of questions once its cynical surface was scratched left your heart weeping.

“Who said that the missing pieces made your broken heart lighter anyways?”

That made Jungkook's head turn abruptly. Words lingered on the tip of his tongue, debating whether or not they wanted to be out in the open. Even with the moon hanging gibbous; long shadows seemed to be encroached everywhere, their world seemed leached of colour. Still, with Jimin pouring himself out through his eyes—through his gaze—Jungkook found something in him leaping in answer to that silent call.

“The first time I saw you drunk, I couldn’t help shake that feeling,” Jungkook began, smiling thinly because the memory of all the pseudo-smiles Jimin smiled hit him at once, all the elder’s orgies of self-destruct playing in chronological order in Jungkook's mind—like a series of vivid flashbacks intensely condensed into one scene. “When I said you practiced self-destruction like an art, I meant that it seemed that you only felt in control when you were self-destructing, you know.”

Jimin laughed—the same cold lifeless laugh that chilled Jungkook to the bones. He started nodding, getting out a what Jungkook hoped was a cigarette and lighting it up, dragging purging inhales from it before deciding to speak at last.

“There's an emptiness, a gaping hole inside and you've to fill it.” Jimin's pitch and hand dropped; and so did his eyes for a moment. He then looked directly into Jungkook's eyes, reaching deep into his soul. “And that's where the desperate pleasures come in play.”

He gazed back at Jimin and there it was. The hurt was visible there; Jungkook could see every scar and every wound and it was simple: the holes in his heart wouldn't let him be whole.

They fell into the murky silence for a while—that sad brooding silence, the kind that shed tears without crying. Jungkook was sure he wasn’t the only one dealing with his demons at that moment. He could see Jimin closing his eyes and lolling his head backwards, exhaling; Jungkook was too familiar with the sight.

“I wouldn’t change a thing tho.” Jimin said. “I'm thankful to circumstances and not people, Kook. It made me appreciate what truly matters. Everything, all of it, was one wakeup call after another.”

So much did Jungkook want to break out laughing; instead, he just fixed his eyes on Jimin's hands that held the cigarette, slowly being driven crazy.

“Is there anything that truly matters tho?”

“A lot of things do.” Jimin's free hand pressed Jungkook's, grabbing his attention as he affectionately peered into Jungkook's eyes. “And you believe that yourself, Jungkook, you're not fooling anyone.”

After flicking down the cigarette and watching it fall down, Jimin smiled and looked up at the sky.

“You just have to find what’s worth fighting for and stick to it.”

Jungkook could swear he glimpsed a shooting star sifting the dark sky at that instant—could see it reflecting off Jimin's dark irises—but he was too caught up in Jimin.

He looked down, watching people drift into the night, crossing paths and moving along. He felt the words easily slipping out of his lips without his consent, as if Jimin's words—Jimin's courage—were what called them, were a spell that evoked his honesty, that summoned it.

“It’s kinda sad, how seeing your brokenness reflected in someone is what makes you close to whole.”

Jimin started laughing—a sound so imperious, so melancholy and piercing. It went on for a while, and when he was done, Jungkook thought his eyes had never registered a sadder sight—of faraway looks tinged by cruel wistfulness, of blue eyes painted with shattered dreams, with old reminiscences.

Jimin was silent for a while; Jungkook wasn’t oblivious to the words held back with that lip-bite—to the fingers fiddling in Jimin's lap. Just where was his camera now?

“He was a public figure—a dancer.” He began, tone soft. “And of course a male dancer can't ruin his image saying he’s dating a guy, so it was a bit of an open relationship that we had. The rule of that kind of world was easy: if you're bisexual, it’s a privilege; if you're gay, you're an outcast.” He paused and looked down; Jungkook begged himself to look away—this was a look he would rather die and not have seen.

“For three years he had me convinced he loved me—that it was love that he felt for me, that he didn’t really love her, that it was all for show. I thought to myself okay maybe you can love two people at the same time, maybe because she and I are so different in everything that he couldn’t choose. Maybe he shouldn’t be in a position to choose in the first place.”

Jungkook knew timing was an art that very few people mastered; knowing when not to say anything was more important than knowing when to speak. And he gave Jimin his time. He knew he wasn’t done talking, but it wasn’t easy relating everything that plagued you day and night for years all at once before someone.

Still, this was Park Jimin putting himself out there. And Jungkook couldn’t do anything but look—but see Jimin that night.

“It kinda sucked. How I decided, after everything that happened to me in all my relationships, to still trust him.”

Jungkook gulped; the wider Jimin's smile grew, the more stitches that were pulled apart in the elder’s heart, gushing out the blood of his unforgiving love. He wasn’t the one telling the story—Jungkook wasn’t the one revisiting his pain—but there he was unable to understand how Jimin could still wear such an expression; as though he had made peace with the situation—as though he had befriended his pain.

Jimin's smile kept growing, blinking the same second a star burnt out but Jungkook didn’t care much about the universe at that moment.

“And you know the saddest part was that I truly loved him—we both did while he loved neither of us. I gave him everything I had, I loved him with everything I got—even tho I had very little left in my heart—and it hurt.” He made a small fist in front of his heart and hit his chest multiple times, not too softly, his voice catching in his throat. “And it still does. Like one day I’d wake up deciding he’s not worth my time anymore. He’s not worth the energy and overall he’s not worth it. All the things he thought were wrong with me, all the times I felt ashamed and needed to explain—to justify my existence—were nothing but a reflection of all the things wrong with him.”

Jimin paused; he was smiling; Jungkook wasn’t really breathing that moment—his lungs stopped drawing breathable air for a while now. Perhaps they were trying to supply oxygen to Jimin's increasingly choking voice.

“The other times, I feel the hole left by everyone who had left me all at once.”

Again, Jungkook understood that. Nothing was as terrible as the kind of absence that had a presence—a heavy looming presence. How easy it would be to tell Jimin that; how easy it would be to meet Jimin's willingness by his very own brokenness—uttering everything his words were failing him.

Sorrow for Jimin dragged at him, bearing him down. Still, that night, Jungkook wasn’t made for talking.

“Each time something happened, I still yet chose him before me.” Jimin let out a small humourless laugh; Jungkook fought not to flinch. “Even her, she screwed me over plenty of times herself and yet I couldn’t come to hate her. Being around someone as toxic as him for so long would eventually rub on you.” He turned his head to Jungkook, tilting it and Jungkook could see the same old shimmer, the same old exquisiteness. “You know the Nietzsche quote everyone quotes, how you'd never emerge as yourself after fighting a monster? That’s what happened to me. Sometimes at night I feel like I've lost touch with everything—with reality, that I feel nothing, that I could never feel anything. Because eventually, you become the one thing you fought. It’s inevitable.”

“No,” Jungkook said. His voice was nothing but a whisper in the night, a few letters caught in the breeze—still, the confidence it resonated with was enough to make Jimin look directly into Jungkook's eyes, a first that night. Jungkook smiled warmly, his hand on the verge of tucking a wind-loosened strand behind Jimin's ear.

Park Jimin was so much more than that broken heart; Park Jimin was so much more than the people who failed to love him.

“You could have chosen to be a monster, Jimin. But you chose to revive your heart every time someone tried to kill it.” He let that sink in, feeling himself drown in that naked look Jimin returned his stare with. Jungkook was unable to tame the tide of violent emotions flat out attacking him. He knew then that it was sink or swim; he had already decided on what he wanted.

“You still chose to be human.”

Something gripped Jimin's expression—something so raw and so real in its pain that no painter and no writer, however brilliant, could describe. No explosions of colours against any canvas—there were never a canvas so pure—could exhibit; it would be too much of a mess. No pen seeping into any page—scraping against any paper—could take; it would dig; it would leak; it would ruin the paper with the weight of the dark inky droplets. It was something that could only be seen once in a life time.

“That has always been my problem: not caring about others and knowing my heart is slowly becoming dead.” Jimin began, looking away for a few blinks and Jungkook could swear the crystal tears that formed in those eyes were more precious than pearls. “Or not caring about them hurting me and knowing my heart has long been dead.”

And Jimin kept breaking, but this time he wasn’t smashed like fragile china, but he broke like waves—vigorous and sent away only to come back even stronger, determinant to keep kissing the shore. Park Jimin had such a sad soul that Jungkook just wanted to hold up high and kiss its sadness away. Jungkook wasn’t a fool. He knew strong feelings like affection, love, and care didn’t cure everything—if anything, he advocated killing that very mindset.

He just couldn’t help wanting to protect Jimin from the very cruel wind that could threaten to make him cold or hurt his skin. He couldn’t help but want to patch the pieces, to undo the pain—to fix the brokenness. He couldn’t help but wanting to avoid another massacre, avoid having more blood shed on his hands.

“Your tattoo,” Jungkook began, moving closer to Jimin if possible—as if trying to become one. “A clean death in love. It amazes me how you still think that’s a clean death.”

Jimin laughed. When he looked at Jungkook, with that often flirtatious head-tilt, the latter wasn’t sure if that was cynicism or pain tinging that half-smile.

“A bleeding heart, Jungkook. Bleeding hearts are as clean as that death could go. But you tell me, how many times can a person die?”

To Jungkook, there wasn’t birth and death; there was what lied between the two—that was how many times a person could die. He knew there were millions upon millions of ways to die; the most painful of those deaths was when one repeatedly died while they were alive. And he hoped, from the depth of his heart, he would never get a taste of what death felt like while still being alive.

“Three types, infinite times. There’s the death of the body,” Jungkook began, unwavering in gaze and voice. And he could swear Jimin flinched at that. “The death of the heart, and the death of the soul.”

Jimin broke out laughing, shaking his head like a man forfeiting his sanity. Jungkook wondered just how many times Jimin had come undone like that.

“You're unbelievable, Jeon Jungkook.” Jimin said, pushing his hair back and voice growing quieter, integrating into the night.

Jungkook smiled lopsidedly.

“In a bad way?”

Jimin didn’t reply, his smile having richer shades of stronger feelings.

Time seemed to stutter and strobe as they sat silently in the blurry creeping moonlight. The sound of the racing wind, of rasping breaths stinging chapped lips was playing accompaniment for their silence, striking a chord or two in Jungkook's heart. Jungkook gazed and that look took him apart inside—that same look that was revealed to have set forth new blooms of feelings overnight.

Because there Jungkook was, having glimpsed at that honest heart that no longer had the capacity to scream, on the verge of asking the one question that mattered in life. It then hit him, making his heart race. There was a chance that Jimin had scribbled Jungkook's tormenting ‘bleeding hearts’ on the journal.

But really now, Jungkook was asking the minor questions here.

“I still haven’t asked my question, Jimin-ah.” Jungkook spoke out calmly.

Jimin looked at him.

“I thought I had answered everything without asking.”

“Not the one that matters, no.” Gently, Jungkook shook his head. For a few steady beats, loudly thrumming in his ears that he almost felt his body shaking with the wind, he looked at Jimin.

“What do you want?”

Jungkook could swear the air whooshed by unkindly at that, punctuating his question, wanting to drown it, to make it drift away; but he knew, there was no way that question could be undone. It could only make them undone. And he gazed on, watching Jimin’s lips quiver under the weight of his smile.

“I just want to be home, Jungkook.”

For a moment, amidst all that air surrounding them, Jungkook's lungs could draw none. Instead of providing an answer of anything he could possibly want, and instead of offering a more complex one like that of ‘I want to be happy’, that was what Park Jimin chose: home.

And by far, this had been the most loaded, most complex answers of all time.

He looked and he looked. Jungkook's first thought had been how someone needed to collect Jimin into their arms and hold him tight—how he needed to collect Jimin into his arms. But he soon remembered that someone should not be him; Jungkook wasn’t apt to give Jimin anything. Not when he was this inadequate and not when Jimin was the kind of ‘laughing in public’-sad; even when the elder was carrying around such a burden, he felt like he should protect everyone from the weight of his sadness.

He started getting up, a smile resting on his lips as he smoothed his clothes and extended his hand to Jimin. The latter looked at him inquisitively, perhaps overwhelmed by the sequence of events, especially with Jungkook's easy smile now.

Jimin squinted at Jungkook's extended hand.

“Where are you going?”

“Come on,” Jungkook replied, his smile holding as much playfulness as it held warmth. “I'm going to bring you home.”

Jimin stared at him for a few beats, eyes big and sparkly with a shade of wonder-like confusion, as though Jungkook were just walking out one of his dreams. At last he turned his head, shaking it as he let out his signature turn-away laugh; it was directed at the sky now.

The second Jimin's hand clasped into Jungkook's—the infinitesimal second Jungkook's finger rested reassuringly on the top of Jimin's knuckle, he could swear they made electricity, everything fading to black in the still background but the two of them. Like a handful of sparkles, they were bursting in flashes of colour—bursting with life. As he felt Jimin's hand warm within his grasp—his smile ambivalent in its pain and beauty, he could swear the rules of gravity and space didn’t apply to them. Something occurred in the veil of time; perhaps a hitch, perhaps a skip; perhaps a break.

It didn’t really matter. For them, time doesn’t still; time goes anti-clockwise.

 

Jungkook was still smiling as he entered his dorm. He could see Taehyung sleeping on his stomach on bed, his left hand and leg dangling out of bed as he snored. He couldn’t help but smile more at that. He covered Taehyung with the blanket properly and taking off his shoes, he flumped onto his own bed, one hand bent beneath his head, feeling the light of night creep into the room.

He couldn’t sleep—naturally. Maybe he shouldn’t have bid Jimin goodnight so early.

Leaving his bed had never been easier. He was two steps away from Jimin's door, hand about to knock when the door opened and the angelic face emerged out—almost bumping into Jungkook—some kind of mellow zeal colouring his face.

Jimin's expression melted into a smile as he held the door ajar.

“I was just…” Jungkook said, drawing his hand and scratching his nose.

“Yea,” Jimin replied quietly, wrinkling his nose, eyes looking away briefly. “Me too.”

Jungkook bit his lip, watching mirrored emotions flitting across Jimin's face.

“Do you wanna—”

“Take me away.” Jimin grabbed Jungkook's wrist, pulled him in and shut the door.

And away was where he had taken Jimin—somewhere where stars exploded and new brighter ones came to existence, scattering with the force of life; somewhere where both of them came apart and it was still okay to feel alive while being at pieces as long as they were lying in the same bed: together.

 

♥♥♥

 

That year’s Christmas Eve would go down in history as Jungkook's most memorable one—unfavourably so. It was snowing and every corner on campus was bustling with Christmas spirit; everyone was rejoicing.

Jungkook had made it a point to wait till the twelfth strike so he could wish Jimin merry Christmas; and so, he had spent the day away, dragging a begrudging Taehyung around the city. Of course Kim Taehyung wasn’t the kind of guys that could be forced to do something—of course everything came at a price—and albeit he enjoyed driving around the city with Jungkook, he had demanded they went to Empty Heart's Treat the next day.

Now that he was in their hallway, a smile flashed on his face, he could smell a strong pungent smell—something burning. He knocked on Jimin's door, feeling the slightest bit queasy. Jimin didn’t open the door.

Jungkook's smile was gone by the time he felt his shoes getting wetter—by the time he noticed the water seeping from under the threshold. It was probably the only time he was thankful to the university’s shitty security policy—having unlocked Jimin's door without a key, that was.

Jimin’s room was still the same, though he wasn’t that keen on taking in his surroundings when he could distinctly smell something on fire and see a thread of water snaking its way out from under the ajar bathroom door.

“Jimin,” Jungkook called, perplexed and with his heart beating at 850 BPM, tentatively pushing the door open. “Is everything ok?”

He wasn’t opening the bathroom door; he was pushing the gates of hell open with his bare two hands.

“For god’s sake,” Jungkook gasped, stopping dead in his tracks. ‘What happened?’ and ‘What’s wrong?’ were what he wanted to ask, but he thought a lot of things must have gone wrong for Jimin to be the centrepiece of a tragic scene unfolding—to look like a tragedian’s hero, his pawn.

He could see the ache in Jimin's expression as he scanned the bare pieces of the elder's skin. Jimin was a mess. In only shorts and a top tank, he was on his knees, shoulders hunched and head bowed down, in the middle of the bathroom with his back to the door, a lighter in one hand and a burning photograph in the other. A pile of burnt photographs—of still-flickering flames and pilling ashes—amassed before him, between the bath-tub and his knees. The water tap was running, flooding the bathroom floor and making a puddle of ash-paste that streaked in the flow—towards the door.

His hair—his beautiful, angel-like hair—was matted to his face, dripping audibly to the ceramic floor. Jimin was drenched, somehow shuddering with more than the sobs he couldn’t let out.

This scene was too familiar—too painfully familiar.

Jungkook finally broke free from the shock that gripped him.

“I'm sorry, Jungkook,” Jimin said in a small voice; Jungkook could see the back of Jimin's hand moving up to wipe his face. He had turned off the tap, taking off his jacket and frantically kneeling before Jimin—feeling the water icy against his skin, feeling the water seep through the fabric of his clothes as his hands started to fumble in their panic to wrap the jacket around the shivering Jimin.

As a note of anguish escaped Jimin in between his to-come sobs—as Jimin looked up at Jungkook, the elder’s expression, marred by tears, reached into Jungkook's chest and tore at his heart. Jungkook was wrapping his jacket around Jimin—his hand coming in contact with his skin to realize just how cold Jimin felt. He gently pried the photograph and lighter away from Jimin's hand. Jimin smiled, his cheeks lifting up to make his eyes crescents, trapping the tears in as his lips quivered; Jungkook's thumb brushed over his cheekbones, eyes wide with so many levels of pain—his own and Jimin's.

“I'm just really sad right now.” Jimin finally said—a plangent dissonant note.

Jungkook couldn’t, for the life in him, understand how two days ago Jimin was smiling up at him, so beautiful with that fucked-out expression on his face, so honest and so real: a byproduct of their midnight-talk on the roof and his promise to take him away, of the dreamy night that stretched on and one—not of the sex following—and now there they were. He couldn’t understand how he had been lying in the same bed with Jimin, watching Jimin's sleeping face—leaving early in the morning before Jimin woke up instead of after cleaning up—and now he was watching Jimin in the middle of a breakdown.

“I'm just so sorry,” Jimin sobbed and Jungkook couldn’t look at him anymore. He held Jimin, bringing his head closer to his very own chest—to his very own beating heart. “I'm just so fucking sorry about everything.”

Jungkook closed his eyes, feeling himself on the brink of breaking down himself as he rocked Jimin back and forth, holding his head closer to his chest while Jimin tried to break free—to push Jungkook away. He only held him tighter, barely keeping from kissing the top of the elder’s head. He was holding Jimin for everything that he was—everything that he was not.

“Ssshh,” Jungkook was once again trying to make the string of needless apologies to stop, warding off the pain in his chest that burnt—that made it hard to breathe.

There Jimin was, on the floor trying to hold himself together as he relived, for the umpteenth time, the memory of everything coming apart at once—wanting yet to be held and to be told it was going to be okay: the mere reassurance of the presence of someone there to love him.

Jimin was still sobbing into his chest, muttering apologies as if in a trance, as if talking to Jungkook caused a crack in the dam and everything came down at him in a merciless flood—tears that wouldn’t stop running down, feelings that just wouldn’t cease, memories that wouldn’t relent, wounds that wouldn’t scar over.

“It’s okay.” He repeated, swallowing hard, taking in Jimin's thrashing hands. “Everything is gonna be alright.”

“I'm so sorry,” Jimin's thrashing was growing weaker, his sobs quieter—his pain louder. He hated this because Jimin wasn’t apologizing to Jungkook about the situation. A loud sob ripped from his throat and Jungkook could feel something clawing at the walls of his heart. “I'm so sorry everything wasn’t enough.”

Jungkook was filled with so much bitterness, so much resentment for this world—this world that broke someone like Jimin, making him feel like he should apologize for his existence, making him uncomfortable in his own skin, making him feel as though he were never enough.

“You’re going to be ok, Jimin.” Jungkook mumbled, kissing the top of Jimin's head. He dragged in a breath, surprised there was life in him. “Everything is going to be okay.”

“Nothing is okay.” Jimin's sobs rose with a hint of hysteria, borderline screaming. “I'm sorry nothing was ever okay. I'm sorry I was never once okay. So fucking sorry.”

“Ssshh, don’t apologize.” Jungkook felt like screaming, his almost-screams scrapping his throat as he swallowed them down.

Jimin kept thrashing, Jungkook taking it all, holding him tighter. The cycle of Jimin wanting to be let go of and Jungkook holding on tighter, of Jimin's screams and thrashes and Jungkook's kisses and reassurances went on for a while.

When Jimin’s sobs died down, Jungkook still wouldn’t let go, letting Jimin cope with his pain while knowing Jungkook was there—while knowing that he wasn’t alone, not this time. He knew hugs could be crucial: to leave yourself and everything that hurt you within the embrace of someone who cared—to leave yourself and everything that hurt you to that person.

It hurt him that he couldn’t offer more; it hurt him that he couldn’t be more. As he hugged Jimin tighter and as he brought him closer to his body, trying somehow to touch his soul, he grew more vividly conscious of their status. They were the ‘maybe’ between the ‘yes’ and ‘no’, the ‘what if’ between ‘it was’ and ‘it wasn't’, the ‘could have been’ between the ‘never was’ and ‘never will be.

In less than ten minutes, the cycle of crying and comforting tapered off. Jungkook was cleaning up all the traces of the breakdown, making a hot bath for Jimin. While Jimin showered, Jungkook was making him a hot drink—barely doing any talking.

“Jungkook,” Jimin mumbled drowsily. Jungkook was sitting on a chair by the bed, making sure Jimin would drift to sleep. “I'm sorry you had to see that.”

He didn’t wait for Jungkook to respond; he had turned around and gave Jungkook his back.

Jungkook pressed his lip into a thin line, hating that Jimin would still apologize, especially to him for something like that. He rose up and went to the other side of the bed, leaning down to brush the hair away from Jimin's eyes.

“I'm glad I was here.” Jungkook muttered, letting his eyes be as loud and as assertive as he could regardless of the quiet voice—smiling and watching Jimin's shocked eyes fling open. “I sure hope to hell this never happens again, but I swear, Jimin, as many times as it takes, I’ll be there.”

Jimin was staring, wide-eyed, but Jungkook wouldn’t linger on that look for long. He had much to do still.

“And whenever you decide you want to talk about it, I’ll still be there.” Jungkook added—voice deep, resonant and carrying far. “Always.” He was oblivious to how much affection his eyes were dripping in that moment.

His hand was still ghosting over Jimin's face, pushing the hair away. Jimin kept staring at him with the same wide-eyes for long, long beats that Jungkook could hear in his ears, resounding against the four walls of a room that witnessed an act of violence.

As that long look they exchanged extended and blurred their sense of time, Jungkook felt like he were standing before a high wall, a gate with a rusty lock and a long-lost rare key. He felt as though he wanted to knock against that gate until his hands bled, to scream until he had no voice, till he was let in. He looked at those tormented eyes—at that long-suffering gaze—and he hoped he could utter words that couldn’t be levelled down.

You gotta try. Jungkook's eyes pleaded. You gotta let me in, Jimin-ah.

But he would wait—till he, too, hadn’t an ounce of hesitation, till he was ready.

Jimin finally took Jungkook's hand, interlacing their fingers while scooting over, making room for Jungkook. He needn’t say anything; Jungkook understood.

That night, he had stayed with Jimin in bed, holding his hand while watching him fall asleep.

Chapter Text

If he had thought the holiday’s sprit would make people on campus less of assholes, then Jeon Jungkook couldn’t have been more wrong. Or perhaps he had assumed the cold snow would tone down their horny asses; snow had a way of dwindling even the most impassioned of feelings.

They were in the parking lot, about to drive to Empty Heart's Treat but Taehyung had forgot something back at the dorm so they, Jimin and Jungkook, were waiting for him to come back. He was leaning against the hood, Jimin standing before him while they talked—or while he talked and Jimin snapped pictures of him. That was the short version of how Jungkook was glaring at some tattooed guy blatantly stripping Jimin with his eyes five meters away.

Jungkook couldn’t remember the guy’s name—Jay something—he just could remember how much he detested the guy.

“Hey,” he called over the distance, being fed-up with this shameless attitude. “Do you mind?”

Jimin looked over his shoulder then back at Jungkook, resting a hand on his arm.

“It’s okay,” he brushed it off with a smile. “It happens a lot.”

“Just because it happens a lot doesn’t make it okay.” Jungkook countered, looking deeply into Jimin's eyes. “You're a person, not a thing, and what he’s doing is violating you.”

It didn’t make sense; Jimin didn’t even do as much as glare at the guy. Sometimes it annoyed Jungkook how nice that Park Jimin was.

He freed his arm then moved past Jimin—in front of Jimin to meet the ticked-off guy who was approaching them—not heeding his words. The guy stopped in front of Jimin, giving him a ruder once-over with too much of a hungry expression on his face.

On biting his lip while still staring rudely, he asked, “How would you like a good fuck?”

“How would you like my fist in your face?” Jungkook countered with an annoyed smile, getting a sense of déjà vu of that party night.

“Hey,” it was Taehyung’s voice; Jungkook could register a few things at once—Jimin's hand on his chest paired with his it’s not worth it, Kook, Taehyung’s alarmed expression and voice, and the guy’s ruddied mask of anger.

Jay-somemthing ignored Jungkook, shifting his gaze to Jimin now.

“Piss off.” Jimin said flatly.

“You heard him.” Jungkook put a distancing—a warning—hand between them, glowering dangerously at him. “Scam.”

Taehyung was running now, clearly sensing Jungkook was about to throw fists at Rude Guy.

“I was talking to him, not you.” Jay-something was apparently not amused by that hand; he had jerked it away, barking at Jungkook. “Mind your own fucking business.”

“Well he’s my fucking business.” Jungkook took a step forward, hand turning to a fist beside him, feeling Jimin's tug and let’s just go.

“You wanna start a fight?” the tattooed guy smirked.

“You must be a detective or something.” Jungkook craned his neck, cracking a bone or two.

“Kook-ah, really—” Jimin tried but of course Jungkook brushed it off, daring the guy to make a move.

Jay had hardly pushed Jungkook back when Taehyung was standing between them now, basically shoving Jay behind him and addressing Jungkook's common sense.

“Jungkook, he’s not worth it. You already have a warning.”

Jimin was holding Jungkook back, clutching to his arm and pulling him; the latter could feel the anxious look Jimin exchanged with Taehyung.

Jungkook backed down, lifting both hands up in the air, watching Taehyung slowly straighten up and let go of the guy. He didn’t break the hard gaze, watching Jay fix his clothes.

“Bet it’s fun having two guys take turns with you.” Jay was looking at Jimin, hissing. Jimin seemed taken off guard; Jungkook almost saw him flinch. “How many other people are you giving time to other than them, huh?”

At that, Jungkook anger meter was through the roof; he was willing to get expelled from school but Taehyung smiled and placed a hand on his chest.

“You know what,” Taehyung began, still smiling as he spun around to face that damned Jay-something-guy. Jungkook should have registered the fist earlier. “Fuck you.”

Any other day Jungkook wouldn’t have imagined a genuine proud smile breaking out on his face because Kim Taehyung, always a pacifist, had punched a guy and broke his nose, hearing a pitiful growl from Broken Nose. He would have been proud he brought said Kim Taehyung up well. But watching Jay’s bleeding nose and him staggering back to fall down was something worthwhile—worth the almost-cheer, stifled-laugh he had let out.

Jimin was too - amusedly - shocked; Taehyung was flexing his wrist; Jungkook was lowkey laughing.

“Now we can go.” Taehyung threw one arm around Jungkook's neck, the other around Jimin's, and led them to the car, hearing Jay’s not-so-creative insults and threats.

 

 

They had stayed out till after midnight, almost making a camp somewhere on the outskirts of the city; even though there were plenty of inns and motels there. But the trio wanted nature—the unembellished. They didn’t care about the snowy ground; they didn’t care about the cold—after all, they were together—all that mattered was the clear sky exhibiting the twinkling stars most brilliantly.

“Do you guys ever think about how amazing it is to be alive?” Jimin started.

Taehyung was lying between Jimin and Jungkook, both of them making pillows of his arm as they lay on the kinda-wet grass facing the sky.

Jimin turned his face to the side, on the verge of elaborating.

“Nights like this just feel so—”

“Alive.” Taehyung offered with a smile and Jimin nodded in agreement.

“I mean sometimes I just think how blessed we are,” Jimin continued, his tone dreamier. “To have that much beauty around us and still be able to appreciate it. Because you know, I feel bad that not everyone could see beauty in everything.”

Jungkook just stared at Jimin, biting words back so he wouldn’t slip. He could feel Taehyung smirking as he eyed him from the corner of his eye, as though he knew some kind of secret about Jungkook that the latter himself wasn’t aware of.

“Jiminnie, you're too short to have your head up in the clouds like that.” Jungkook teased at last, bracing himself for either the elder’s giggle or his playful attack.

But Jimin didn’t even find it in him to pinch Jungkook as he often did; he was laughing so hard he had to sit up for a few seconds, holding his stomach.

“You know,” Jimin twisted his body to face the lying-down Jungkook. “You're not that much taller than me.”

“I'm younger.”

“Then you'd better start acting like it.” Jimin said, expression serious. “You start calling me hyung or something.”

While Taehyung snorted, mumbling a good luck with that, Jungkook was laughing.

“Told you you're such a dreamer.”

“Look who’s talking!” Taehyung was about to hit Jungkook's chest but the latter rolled to his side just in time, laughing. It hardly took a second later for the other two to start laughing as well.

“I think we’re lucky the three of us exist in the same time and space.” Jungkook said, closing his eyes. “Imagine being of different generations, or born into different places, never meeting or missing each other.”

He didn’t have to open his eyes to know both Taehyung and Jimin were smiling; the night was too serene for anything but that kind of conversation.

“Imagine having been born into a world without Jungkookie for instance,” it was Taehyung. “Imagine how less pain-in-the-ass your life would have been.”

“Surely not your ass.” Jungkook replied casually, speaking in Snide. “Oh wait, you already have too many dicks up your ass to notice any of them gone.”

“Heyy,” Jimin objected, straightening up to slap Jungkook's chest, forcing his eyes open though a smirk played around the edge of his lips. “You should be nice to him—”

“Thank you.” Taehyung began but Jungkook could see the familiar glint of mischief dancing behind Jimin's eyes.

“His birthday is in two days, at least wait till after that.”

That started Jungkook laughing, especially that Taehyung and Jimin started bantering. Taehyung was sitting up, looking like he was about to throw a chair at Jimin, repeatedly asking him is that all I mean to you, while Jimin giggled and kept trying to reassure Taehyung by placing a hand on his chest, muttering you know you mean the world to me—Taehyung countering with then you'd better act like it and coaxing more laughs from the elder. Jungkook watched with a genuine smile on his face, thinking this could go on forever and he wouldn’t mind.

 

 

The diner was their last stop for the night. Jimin had just excused himself, taking a call outside.

Jungkook wasn’t really focused on the food before him; he hadn’t missed the note of hesitation and the crestfallen expression gripping Jimin on seeing the caller-ID. The way Jimin was smiling when he picked up almost made him flinch. By the time Jimin attempted at a smile then failed midway, his eyes dropping to the ground as his feet fiddled with a pebble, Jungkook did flinch. Jimin was saying something, clearly cut midway, his tone falling. He turned around, still talking, running a hand through his hair; Jungkook needn’t see the face to be able to tell the expression.

Again, Jungkook was short of breath.

“Jungkook!” Taehyung had to call out to him twice before the younger snapped out of his agonies. There was something in Taehyung’s eyes, something that superseded concern and compassion. “Are you okay?”

Jungkook pressed a smile, seeking his voice.

“What do you mean if I'm okay?”

He didn’t have to register Taehyung’s expression to realize that was the worst policy of skirting around a question.

“A few days ago, it’s a sex-less night in Jimin's room,” Taehyung shook his head when Jungkook was about to object; he didn’t know how Taehyung knew that. “I know how both of you look after sex, Kook. And the next morning was… different.”

Jungkook dipped his chip just so he would have an excuse not to look directly at Taehyung’s eyes.

“What was that all about?”

Jungkook deliberated. He wasn’t sure how he could begin to explain to Taehyung something he couldn’t put to words. Taehyung was that one person Jungkook liked to share his thoughts with, feeling they became more valid—real—once he shared them with the elder. Talking to Taehyung made his mind clearer. But right now, just looking at him, thinking of how to put his feelings to words, deprived him from more air.

“It feels like there’s this thing—” Jungkook started pounding on his chest, demonstrating what wasn’t even a drop in the ocean of what he was describing. “—piercing my heart repeatedly and it hurts but it won't stop, Tae… and I just feel his pain worse than any of my own.”  

Just like there was vicarious happiness, there existed vicarious pain. And Jeon Jungkook underwent strong doses of the latter. From his increasingly unsteady vision, he could see Taehyung sitting back in his chair, expression serious—with too many overtones of understanding. All Taehyung did for a while was look at Jungkook, trying to catch his eyes but the latter was faraway.

“If it’s not just sex that you want, and it’s not more that you want either.” Taehyung was stating, his eyes warm shades of compassion. “Then what do you want, Kookie?”

He looked up at Taehyung, eyes chockfull of emotion.

“I don’t want to feel anything, Tae—” and his voice, it cracked, “—that’s what I want. Especially not towards him.”

“Let go,” Taehyung said decisively. He was about to add something but refrained when Jungkook's eyes flicked up, watching a smiling Jimin take his seat next to Taehyung.

“Why do you look like you want to cry,” Jimin asked, sparing Jungkook a glance then looking down then at Taehyung. “Did Tae say something?”

Jungkook forced a laugh—a smirk.

You are the one who looks like they’ve been crying, Jimin-ah.”

Jimin shrugged, taking a chip from Taehyung’s tray. Taehyung’s eyes caught Jungkook's; the latter wanting some support here—a way out of this conversation.

And Kim Taehyung was always the man for the job; he easily engaged Jimin in a conversation, having him back to his familiar giggling in less than two minutes—putting Jungkook back at his ‘teasing’ status with Jimin.

 

Naturally, everything had to come to an end. Their night had to end with the fading of the stars and the break of day, putting yet another one of their late nights spent pointing out constellations out from their starry guise on hold. They had to say goodbye in the hallway.

Taehyung was hugging Jimin; Jungkook watched the way Jimin's hands pressed tighter against Taehyung’s back, once again feeling the urge to have his camera. When they broke away, they were standing side-to-side; Jungkook was focused on Jimin.

Jungkook had his arms wide open, exaggerating a hug-demand as he smirked; Jimin was smiling cheekily at him, a silent refuse to move an inch from Taehyung’s side.

“We’d been closer.” Jungkook urged, shrugging. He thought he made a good argument here; at least Jimin was laughing. He ended up caving in, accepting Jungkook's hug at last.

“That’s one long hug.” Taehyung coughed after a while and Jungkook smiled into Jimin's hair.

“It’s a nice hug, so cozy.” Jimin mumbled, breaking free. “Jungkookie would make a great human-sized plushie.”

Jungkook took a step back, standing next to Taehyung while locking gaze with Jimin. He could see a star going off in the distance.

“See,” Jungkook began, smiling smugly while gesturing to the window, attempting at a serious philosophically-challenged expression. “There are two types of bodies and collisions, like stars crossing paths. Maybe they’d explode—” he motioned at Taehyung who was cocking an eyebrow and barely keeping from laughing, then pointed at himself, “—maybe they’d fuse.”

Jimin was smirking now.

“That is the question,” the daring look prevalent in Jimin's eyes drove Jungkook off the edge. “Are we going to fade out or burst in flames.”

Jungkook touched two of his fingers to his lips, smiling into his almost-fist and barely registering whatever comment Taehyung was making. While Jimin walked to his room, he was still locking eyes with Jungkook, smiling knowingly.

Oh, little did they know—little did they know.

 

♥♥♥

 

That year would be marked in history as unprecedented; Jeon Jungkook missed a New Year party to go to the library. He had a good excuse though; around 12:03 there would be a lunar eclipse which couldn’t be seen unless he was somewhere near Uni’s library.

More to the fact, they had celebrated Taehyung’s birthday the day before and Jungkook was still a bit of a victim of a merciless hungover and Park Jimin's insatiable ass. He thought maybe he should have some alone-time, trying to thread together the last bits of his project as he felt short on time.

It was ten to eleven; Jungkook was packing his stuff—his camera, his journal, his laptop, some snacks—and about to leave the dorm.

He had barely opened the door, bag slung over one shoulder, when he saw Jimin, hand ghosting low over the door in an almost-knock. Jungkook blinked a few times, watching Jimin slowly lift up his hunched-down head and give him a weary smile. Oh, and that expression—that heart-gripping, heart-wrenching expression—so much did Jimin look so beat-up by his emotions; so much did he look like he was nursing a devastated heart.

“Jim—” Jungkook wasn’t able to finish calling out Jimin's name. For all he knew, he might never be able to finish anything in his life should he ever see that heartbreakingly heartbroken smile again.

“Take me somewhere,” Jimin's breathy voice divulged; he couldn’t keep his smile up nonetheless. “Away.” His voice had cracked.

And Jungkook knew, this time, unlike the million times before, it was a place Jimin needed to go that encompassed more than just the physical body. Again, all he did was gaze on and on. All he wanted to do was wrap Jimin up in his arms—with no words spoken, with no lips touching, with no eyes catching—only selflessly let Jimin exist in the space between his heart and this cold reality of theirs. For hours—for eternity.

He smiled and looked down, stepping out of the room and draping an arm over Jimin's shoulder, startling the elder somehow as he pressed him close.

“Let’s go,” he was smiling as he urged Jimin on, hoping it would rub off on the often smile-lined face. “I’m going to show you something really good.”

He could feel Jimin's confused gaze falling on him.

“What are you going to show me?”

Jungkook put on a pondering face, looking up at the ceiling as they started descending the stairs.

“The sex-tape I made of us of course.”

At least Jimin cracked a small smile at that; Jungkook was getting there.

He paused once they were out of the building, walking a full circle around Jimin.

“Would you like a piggyback ride—” he stepped closer to Jimin, scrunching up his nose, “—or would you prefer a different kind of rides?”

Jimin giggled, giving Jungkook that tight-lipped amused smile by the end of the melodious string of laughs.

“Yes,” Jungkook's smile was 50% smug, 50% satisfied. “More like it.”

They had walked till Jungkook found the spot he thought had the best view of the sky—somewhere between the twin-trees and the benches near the main library door. He had excused himself for a few seconds to exploit the coffee machine in the library hallway, coming back with a black coffee and a caramel macchiato.

When Jimin cocked a skeptic eyebrow at Jungkook—when Jimin had said he never mentioned he liked caramel macchiato—Jeon Jungkook had successfully made Jimin laugh, presenting the best argument of ‘I know it’s your fav because sweet things flock together.’ And yes, he knew it was hella lame but he would go all the extra miles making a fool of himself should it mean he would get to see Jimin smiling.

Jungkook checked the time; it was thirty minutes to midnight. He slumped against the tree next to Jimin, his knees bent before him and his bag resting to his other side.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Jungkook asked, throwing his head back and looking at the moon.

Under the ambient light from a full moon, Jimin smiled; and it was still rimmed with melancholy.

“Yes. But I'm waiting for you to tell me something that will make me feel less like a monster.”

“You?” Jungkook laughed; it wasn’t a result of finding anything humourous. “Park Jimin,” Jungkook tilted his head. “Why would you of all people feel like a monster?”

Jimin kept looking at Jungkook for long beats which the younger counted by the slow thudding heartbeat of his syncing with every second. At last Jimin just offered such a sad smile, looking down and fidgeting with his hands.

But this time Jungkook wasn’t going to let it slide. He reached for Jimin's face, angling it towards him.

“Why?” Jungkook was surprised to hear his voice being nothing more than a whisper.

“Because you and I exist in the same time and space.” Jimin replied, gently bringing Jungkook's hand down—tenderly pressing it. Jungkook never would have thought the reason he felt human—his very own words heard to his ears—would be the same reason Jimin felt like a monster. “Because you and I are currently sitting like this, at that time of night, under this infinite sky.”

Jungkook didn’t get it. With an increasingly growing-restless heart, Jungkook kept staring for a whole wretched moment, and still he couldn’t understand why the world would wrong someone so irreparably they would start naming themselves things that they were not. He wouldn’t speak, not before Jimin's smile had downgraded the sadness it exuded, not before it stopped causing his soul to weep in pain.

“Relax, baby,” Jungkook had to smirk—had to make it a flirty playful smile and nothing more; he had to undermine the true meaning he so desperately wanted to convey yet he still hoped Jimin would understand. “We’re good people.”

He could feel Jimin's gaze on him like a physical touch; he could feel the cousin of shock melting into something warmer. He could detect all the tenderness etched to the skin around Jimin's eyes as he smiled ever so warmly at him.

At last, Jimin looked away, closing his eyes and enjoying the bracing wind like so many times Jungkook had seen him do—as both, his stranger, and his ‘friend.’ Jungkook couldn’t bring himself to marvel at the stars when Park Jimin was within reach a few breaths away.

“Say, Jungkook,” Jimin began with a smile; Jungkook knew, that below the surface, something was breaking. “Would you still tell someone you love them even if you never hear it back, is that ok?”

Jungkook was taken aback. He shifted around, expression grave as he felt his heart slowly became the beating of a drum.

“The unconditional uttering of ‘I love you’… not because I want to hear it back. It has nothing to do with me, you know. Like I'm speaking those words to let you know I've seen who you are—I know what you are—and I'm in love with everything I've seen.”

Jimin looked at him as if the younger weren’t really there—as if Jimin himself were looking at some foreign body, at someone speaking in a language Jimin never had the chance to learn.

Still, Jungkook wouldn’t have phrased it otherwise. He was never a fan of using I love you mindlessly—without meaning it. As simple as it may sound, but to him it was either he truly meant it or it wasn’t to be uttered. People have been using that liberating statement so often it almost lost its value coming from certain mouths; it had been way too undermined.

They were watching the sky as they drank their respective cups, Jungkook giving Jimin his space to cope with his demons and decide what he wanted to let him in on, and Jimin fighting his angels and not just his demons.

Jimin had been teaching Jungkook how to dispose his camera for the sake of admiring something with the naked eye for a while now. Slowly, as though under the all-consuming force of the world of their embrace—of their unseen embrace—Jimin's body began to unwound from its flinch; and Jungkook would draw it out—all the sadness and emptiness.

“Now that we are here,” Jungkook began after a while of comfortable silence. “You can tell me what your other two wishes are so I can grant them.”

He could feel Jimin smiling; Jungkook was adamant on making him get back to his former happy self. He turned his head to the side, watching Jimin's soft wistful smile as he fiddled with his fingers.

“Tell me something that will save me from myself, Kook-ah.” Jimin said at last.

Jungkook sighed dramatically. Perhaps it was about time he showed Jimin ‘something really good’; perhaps it was about time he showed Jimin himself.

“Two Small Boys with a Love So Big for a Camera,” Jungkook started with a bright smile. Jimin looked at him inquisitively. “A bloodless tragedy in four acts, starring current-film-studies-student Jeon Jungkook and current-photography-major Kim Yugyeom. I'm going to tell you the story of two bestfriends where one of them made the mistake of falling for the other.” Jungkook’s voice started taking a ceremonious tone, seeing Jimin's amused smile. “This story is about two stars passing each other just in time to collide—to cause a huge explosion. It starts with a shared passion for an interest in an afterschool club, and ends with a discredited love, a broken heart, and a broken mind in a café.”

Jimin put his hand on his mouth, covering his to-come giggles. Relating his pain was such a small price for that sound. And Jungkook drugged himself on the satisfaction.

Still smiling, Jungkook looted out the journal; he opened page sixty-nine and held the Polaroid picture up. That photograph that haunted him for over two years was before Jimin's eyes—the one where two hands were shown as the centrepiece, one clutching onto the other for dear life; a zoomed-in photograph with the perfect background to complement that almost-Kamikaze. There was more to the clutching hands’ story—a tragedy in a way.

Under Jimin's keen gaze, Jungkook rolled up his left sleeve.

‘Falling for you was my last violent act unforgiven by the gods’,” he read in English, turning the photograph for Jimin to see after tapping it twice against his palm. He couldn’t quite interpret Jimin's expression; he held up his left wrist, letting Jimin connect the dots. “I’ll relate that story in a minute, but I've some spin-off to mention first, so let’s redirect the camera’s angle and shoot our flashback.”

Jimin cocked him an eyebrow, still ever so amused.

“And there I thought you couldn’t top off that flying condoms night.”

Jungkook laughed, eyeing the photograph for a few beats and feeling his laughter die, trying not to let his smile diminish at least.

“Two years ago, that picture was taken without the two people knowing. Two days later, I found it in one of the journals—Jin-hyung’s café, you know. That day, for some reason, I felt the urge to clarify what the ink marked on the skin so I jotted that tattoo—my tattoodown on the page, beneath the photograph.”

Jungkook held up the journal, showing ‘bleeding hearts: a clean death in love’ jotted beneath his very own entry signed by a date—that of two years ago. Another scribbling was written somewhere on the page: ‘he breaks me tonight.’

“The following day I went there alone,” Jungkook continued, not particularly looking at the photograph but not meeting Jimin's eyes either. “There were also those two statements jotted down on the same page—as if a reply, a shoulder-pat maybe.”

A silent you're not alone, Jungkook didn’t voice that out loud.

He paused and flipped the journal in his hand, smiling. He then looked up and tilted his head, smiling at Jimin.

“That’s your handwriting next to mine, isn’t it?”

Jimin held out his hand for the photograph; the way he was looking at it had more than tinges of nostalgia to its edge. He spoke after a long while—of Jimin smiling wistfully at the photograph, of Jungkook gazing wishfully at Jimin.

“My handwriting, my photograph, Jungkook.” Jimin said at last, voice quiet but audible enough—resonating enough.

Jungkook wasn’t really surprised. It would have made very little sense if Park Jimin had scribbled down on the page without being the one—the same person—who took that picture.

The moon was getting closer to becoming a shadow. So he just fished out a bag of chips and handed it to Jimin.

“Story time, you’re gonna need this.”

Jimin was laughing now; it had a bitter edge to it.

“Only you could turn a life into a movie.”

If Jungkook hadn’t shrugged, he would have sighed. He sat cross-legged, feeling like a ten-year-old as he looked up at the moon.

“The climax takes place when co-star Kim Yugyeom falls in love with secondary-but-crucial character Bambam. The anti-climax happens when they break up. The tragic conclusion happens when the two ex-bestfriends decide to part way in Empty Heart's Treat.” He rubbed his hands together, watching Jimin munch on a chip. “Where do I start?”

Jimin's smile was lopsided, voice dropping to a wisp.

“The breaking point.”

And of course Jungkook had to laugh.

“The breaking point happens on a ledge—you witnessed the most important act.”

“Really, Jungkook,” Jimin was shaking his head, almost laughing. “Can you be serious about this for a moment?”

“Why?” Jungkook shrugged, the corner of his lips twitching upwards. “I've been serious about it for years now. It’s about time I laughed at the pain. It’s about time I make it a movie—about time my pain sold.”

“I don’t feel like that’s a movie I'd pay to see, Kook-ah.”

Again, Jungkook laughed.

“Trust me, it’s not a movie I'd pay to see either. Sadly, I didn’t have a say in acting it.”

He watched the way Jimin's hand—Jimin's fingers—lingered motionlessly for a few beats before they led the chip to his lips. For a long while, as the night dimmed more, he just looked at Jimin as he pensively bit his lip—studying the movement of Jimin’s lips as they moved in circular motions, watching the way his lips enclosed on the chip.

“What did you see that night?” Jungkook ventured, finally reciting the question out in the open—to someone’s ears instead of hearing it ricochet in the haunted avenues of his mind for years. “What did your lens see?”

Jimin looked at him for a few beats, trying to establish how much he should say—how he should phrase his words. He shifted in his place, his hand brushing peripherally against Jungkook’s.

“I saw the thing that existed in-between, the place lying between what my camera captured and what reality dictated.”

Jungkook almost laughed; if only Jimin knew how dead-on he was—that damn in-between he could never flee. Instead, he just nodded understandingly and smiled.

“What do you think I saw, Jungkook?”

“A version of the story.” Once again, all Jungkook did was shrug. “You could say I was a drowning man at that night, and Yugyeom was the only hand I wanted to see.”

“You know what they say,” a darker tone overlaid Jimin's gaze and tone—something that went deeper than the simple flirty look or the nonchalant-to-pain tone. “If you’re about to drown and your only hope hinges on a certain person saving you, then drown. Don't hold on to anyone.”

The comment stung, but Jungkook had ruined enough relationships to understand how crucial one flinch or a look-away could be.

“Real talk tho.” Jungkook heaved a small sigh, not letting his smile fade—not as he rubbed his temple and looked up at the moon. “Yugyeom, he was the kind of photographer who lived under the motto ‘I'd die to get the perfect shot.’ That night I was supposed to be the one taking the picture but we had to switch places—having me as the one dangling off the ledge—because he wasn’t satisfied with the shot. Because he had to take it himself.” Jungkook paused, his smile getting wider, feeling Jimin's eyes getting warmer.

“Till that night, I’ve never felt how our relationship truly was, realizing how scared I was being that high off the ground with nothing to hold on to but his hand. That was the kind of trust I had in him.”

“You'd not have cared if you'd fallen.” Jimin's eyes narrowed, not compromising their warmth in the least. “It’s not that you trusted he who had held you, Jungkook.”

At that, Jungkook laughed—feeling cold—turning his head to Jimin.

“In a way I've had the worst falls of them all. Would having fallen to my doom be worse than falling in love, really now?”

For some reason Jimin shook his head. Perhaps it held sympathy within its folds; perhaps it was disapproval; perhaps it was what lied in-between.

He decided not to dwell much on that look; he had a movie to bring to an end, especially that midnight struck now—especially with the start of a new year.

“I had joked about that photograph, telling him someone had his own scenario and concept—their own take—on our situation. I had told him someone out there thought we were a couple. And you know what hurt the most, the fact that he said I never once liked him, that I'm confused about my feelings for him. He was so broken that he was adamant on not seeing anything or anyone but Bambam—but the person who broke him. As if you could be fixed only by the one person who broke you—that damn faulty logic.”

Jungkook could perfectly recall that moment; a day hadn’t come when the memory could lay to rest—how the following day Yugyeom had read that page in the journal and obliviously undermined Jungkook's feelings, how Yugyeom never truly understood what Jungkook's tattoo—the only way Jungkook tried to confess—meant, how Jungkook forced a smile, swallowing the call-note of pain, and tried to bring the day to an end.

In a way, the memory didn’t sting so much now—not under the black sky with its light streaks, not on the verge of witnessing an eclipse, and not with the promise of a new dawn.

“Bambam and he, they dated in highschool. Bambam fucked up real bad and Yugyeom got hurt also pretty bad. He became so sad all the time; he lost interest in most things that made him happy, almost trying to ruin his life more as he grew more apathetic to his mere existence, you know.” Jungkook swallowed, thinking maybe he should have phrased that in a better way. “Still, I was there to pick up the pieces, to still offer to love him without wanting anything in return.”

“You tried to fix him, Kook-ah.” Jimin sounded so much like someone rectifying a statement—Jungkook's statement.

“Maybe.” Jungkook shrugged, watching the halo of the moon becoming a ring—an iris. “It didn’t work either way. Or maybe it had the opposite outcome since I was the one who got broken.”

Jungkook was glad the eclipse was taking place after saying that, buying him so time. Even as time was supended in a whirlpool of some dark brittle pain, even as marveled at the engulfing darkness, Jungkook felt Jimin's gaze befalling him better than any illumination—than any spotlight.

“You know why I took it?” Jimin scooted closer, holding the photograph up. “Because nothing ever looked as raw—as real. It was a scene—an emotion so strong—that made me feel for the first time in a long while.”

He looked to his side, feeling how close his face was to Jimin's—their noses, their lips, everything they channeled. It occurred to him then—he had never really kissed Jimin. Almost as if on cue, on a director’s ‘action’, both of their eyes travelled down to each other's lips then up to meet a familiar ache in each other's eyes. Perhaps Jungkook had leaned his head closer; perhaps Jimin had pushed another wall set up between them.

Jungkook was too overwhelmed, reading too much into Jimin's former statement. It excited him—it scared him—what Jimin thought was real on taking that picture.

“So how does that movie end, Jungkook-ssi?” Jimin whispered; Jungkook feeling every word a grey whisper of the night against his skin—washing down the side of his face.

“It’s left for interpretation.” Jungkook thought Jimin's eyes never looked as lucid—as dark. “Some say the ending insinuates the start of another story. Others think it’s a dead end.”

Jimin drew closer, his hand on top of Jungkook's.

“What does the director think?”

Jungkook smiled.

“I had thought that day was my emotional suicide but I was wrong.” It astounded him—how steadily he was looking at Jimin at that instant. “I had been wrong about so many things—things that I got to truly learn what they are very recently.”

Something was glistening in Jimin's eyes—a match waiting to be lit up, a flame waiting to dance, a fire waiting to be tamed.

He wasn’t sure who closed the distance first; the lines of where Jungkook ended and Jimin began had melted at the touch long ago. He couldn’t tell how dark the eclipse had made the world for his eyes were closed, relishing the unseen. Because the darkness didn’t matter, not that night.

 

♥♥♥

 

Ever since the new year started and January had been a series of different shades of rain, ranging from light showers gently pattering on glass windows and stone grounds, like soft background music in your favourite coffee shop, to cold and mercurial heavy rain, so fit for complementing the thoughts that haunted you at night—letting you fall prey to overthinking and drowning you in a literal and metaphorical sense; except that the whole day was night.

Still, Jungkook wouldn’t change a thing. It was funny, how rain was just another form—a melted form—of snow yet he hated one while being in love with the other.

He was sitting on the windowsill, earphones plugged in, eyes and laptop’s monitor closed. Jungkook might have been lost in his thoughts for too long; he wasn’t stirred back to reality until some fabric was felt against his skin—until Taehyung had thrown a balled cardigan at him.

There he was, Kim Taehyung in his boxers and socks only, lowkey smirking with an irritated eyebrow twitch and hands on hips, standing two meters away from Jungkook.

“Was that really needed?” Jungkook asked, removing his earphones and putting both feet on the floor.

“It is needed when I call out to you at least ten times and you don’t do as much as show any signs of being alive.” Taehyung’s smile widened, irritated. “Thought you wanted to die or something.”

“If I wanted to die, I'd have chosen a more peaceful place that is miles away from you.”

Taehyung seemed about to retort when the last face Jungkook expected to see that day showed up: Jimin's. Jungkook was processing multiple things at the same time—Jimin's clothed state as if about to go out, his uneven smile and his camera, Taehyung’s amused demeanour and clinking keys twirling around his forefinger, his very own underdressed state as Jungkook too was only in a tank top and shorts.

“Instead of wasting your day, do something useful and take Jimin out.”

Jungkook looked skeptically at his friend, doing his best to ignore Jimin who was only smiling thinly till that moment. After a while of blank staring at Taehyung, Jungkook's eyes started shifting between the pair. He tried to deliver a certain message to Taehyung but the latter seemed adamant on not reading anything.

“You're asking me to go out in that weather?” Jungkook got up, inadvertently folding his arms.

“As if you ever disliked rain.” Taehyung tossed him the car keys; Jungkook caught them with one hand in the air. Again, his eyes started shifting between them.

“I could use the company.” Jimin offered with a timid smile.

“Does a man have to beg for a ride,” Taehyung began, taking a step towards Jungkook’s direction while smirking. “Jungkook?”

“I thought you two were going out tonight.” Jungkook tried to find another way out, ignoring Taehyung’s remark.

“Rain check, literally.” Taehyung signaled the window out with a jut of his chin. “I've to finish studying else I'm failing tomorrow’s exam. And Jiminnie needs the pictures for that good-looking boss of his.”

His eyes rested on Jimin. As much as he hated the way Jimin was smiling at that moment—as if he felt like he were a burden for asking anything—he couldn’t be around the elder right now.

“It’s okay—” Jimin was about to turn around.

“Alright,” Jungkook called out, smiling and trying to catch Jimin's eyes. He started taking confident strides towards Jimin while wearing a cocky smile. “But don’t expect returning early tonight.”

He wasn’t sure what kind of expressions Taehyung was wearing for his eyes were solely fixed on Jimin's slowly-spreading-smile that made his eyes the crescents they usually formed when he was trying to seal off a smile.

It didn’t take long before Jungkook was ready, taking Jimin's hand before Taehyung’s amused eyes while muttering a playful ‘let’s go, baby,’ and coaxing Jimin's body-fling signature-laugh before leaving the dorms.

When Jimin noticed Jungkook was putting more than their bags in the bed of the pickup, he started laughing so hard that Jungkook had to join him—that damn infectious laugh. It felt bubblier, literally, under the pouring sky. Jimin looked prettier in the rain, as if the raindrops washed away all the unnecessary filters, making everything truer in colour—closer to reality.

“Are we camping out?” Jimin asked, pointing to the pillows and blankets when he was done laughing.

Jungkook shrugged.

“Guess we’ll have to see where this goes.”

For a few amused moments, they held each other's gaze, Jungkook breaking first after flashing Jimin a flirty smile and getting into the car. The rain was really doing his mind strange things.

Jungkook wouldn’t play anything; the sound of rain was too soothing to have anything overrule it. Jimin had the window rolled down and his feet on the dash—Taehyung sure went soft for Jimin for the latter to be able to do that.

“Can't believe that Kim Taehyung sold you for one stupid exam.” Jungkook teased, picking up speed and focusing his eyes more on the road despite the rain. It would soon die down, with all those drops getting lighter—more distant.

“What would you sell me for then, Jungkook-ssi?” Jimin's tone was light.

“Two moons,” Jungkook's wasn’t aware of how giddy his smile was; he could hear Jimin laughing, his head almost meeting his knees in the shotgun. “Ten, maybe.”

Jungkook bit his lip, on the verge of riskily stringing letters together. He chanced a look at Jimin who was now fiddling with the setting of his camera.

“To be honest, Jimin-ah,” he ventured at last. “I'm really happy that you're friends with Tae. I'm happy he has you and you have him.”

“Tae,” Jimin started nodding to himself, savouring Taehyung’s name on his tongue. “Tae is one of the few variables I was happy I still had after most things fell apart. I was glad he was a constant.”

Jungkook started smiling ruefully. He understood that; it only saddened him that he only came to appreciate that a few months too late.

“You never asked.”

“About what happened between you and Tae?” Jimin asked and Jungkook nodded, eyes focused on the road. “I thought you'd tell me when you're ready.”

Jungkook nodded to himself.

“I pushed him—maybe to the limit, maybe away—who knows. It was kinda selfish of me but not entirely. Because I know it’s deadly easy to break yourself in the process of fixing someone. And I was a mess back then.”

Jungkook's hand curled around the steering-wheel. And I still am.

He was trying.

He couldn’t turn to Jimin to see what kind of expressions he was wearing for the silence to extend that long. After a while, the velvety voice drifted to him.

“Taehyung is unconditional love in flesh and blood, Kook-ah.”

Again with the rueful smile. He heard the shutter go off, preceded by a gentle flash.

“What are you going to do with that amount of pictures of me?” Jungkook asked through an imitation of a laugh, trying not to lose focus of the road—trying not to get lost in the breath-stealing, heart-caressing human beside him.

“What are you going to do with that amount of films you have of me?” Jimin mimicked Jungkook's expression. When Jungkook only threw a glance at Jimin, he added. “I told you, my camera loves you.”

The first time Jimin had said that, it didn’t make Jungkook lose sense like that—as though he were on the road to nowhere, following a map to getting lost.

“You’ll get to see… someday.”

Perhaps Jungkook would have let the subject die had Jimin's tone not been that quiet—its echoes that thunderously loud as the rain couldn’t drown them.

“Okay but starting now, you have to offer me something every time you snap a picture.” Jungkook said jokingly. “Like some sort of pay for my unconventional modelling.”

“Like a sexual favour?” Jimin laughed.

“Hmm,” Jungkook mulled over the thought. “I was thinking of something more… naked.”

“Would a confession do?”

Red light was doing them a favour; Jungkook slammed on the breaks, skidding to a halt. He looked to his side and narrowed his eyes, watching the residues of Jimin's smile become replaced with something more serious—heavier.

“Jimin-ssi, are you looking for an excuse to open up to me?”

“Maybe. “ Jimin’s lips toyed with the thought of a smile. “Jungkook-ssi, are you going to turn me down?”

Jungkook smiled.

“Park Jimin-ssi, there are two pictures you haven’t yet paid for.”

Jimin kept looking at him for a few beats, waiting for Jungkook to buckle under the pressure of the honks and shift gear again.

“Let us just finish taking those pictures for Changmin-nim then we’ll talk about it.”

Like that, Jungkook drove to the theme park where there was a carnival, and watched Jimin lose sense of reality without any smoke around. He watched Jimin get lost between the flashes—between the meshes of bright lights; among the kids and their parents—between affection and protection; between the couples of lovers and friends—a fine grey line; among the melodies of happy tears—a song so versatile; he watched Jimin get lost among people looking like a movie—faded edges with focused-on showpieces.

Jungkook watched him get sucked into the black-hole where time and motion stilled while the camera was the only veil—the only gateway—between the artist and reality; the only way reality was perceived impartially—for what it truly was.

And not even the soft drops of rain made the people in the carnival seek shelter. Perhaps it was about the time of year, perhaps not. But people seemed to finally grasp what was so magical about rain, with its scent lingering in the air, its drops pelting down making ripples in puddles like soothing music. Perhaps it had something to do with the speed of lightening and how it lit up the sky for one clear moment—so similar to a camera flash—so humbling, so stripping but only as an omen of rain. Perhaps it had something to do with thunder and how it shook earth—a roar so powerful, so promising.

The rain had stopped by the time Jimin was taking non-landscape pictures. When Jimin wanted to head back, all Jungkook could think of was ‘fuck no, not before you enjoy your time as a non-photographer first’; he had only omitted the ‘fuck no’ on voicing his thoughts. That was the story of how they were strolling down the alleys of the carnival, with snacks in hands instead of cameras and phones.

“Suicide note: I feel you, Virginia.” Jungkook read off one of the booths. “Now that’s a depressing name for a carnival.”

Jimin had his half-smile, with its imperturbable brightness and friendliness, resting comfortably on his face. He seemed amused, not making any comments, just eating his chocolate-dipped apple while watching Jungkook. The rain was getting lighter, singing its swan song; and Jungkook almost wanted to beg it to stay for a while longer.

“It really gets me thinking how all poets are depressing, like how do some of you actually choose literature as a major when poetry with its suicidal poets exist.” Jungkook went on, slightly getting worked-up like he usually did when getting too into getting his point across. “A warning should come along, something like ‘Read at your own risk’ or something along those gloomy lines.”

“Have you read anything by Virginia Woolf?” Jimin asked.

“Literature is not my strong suit.” Jungkook replied. “I hear she was good, which makes it even worse. My point is, that’s exactly why I don’t get why she killed herself.”

“My dear,” Jimin lilted, smiling brightly. “No good poet ever lived long. That is your answer.”

Jungkook arched an eyebrow. Jimin was now standing before him; he started walking backwards as he tilted his head, smiling impishly.

“It is because she was too good. You could say the idealists are the first people realizing the faults in our stars, that’s why they hasten the process of ending up with the stars—when they’re finally free.”

Jungkook blinked at him a few times, making sure Jimin caught that look with his eyes. He didn’t even register the kid bumping into him or his apology; Jeon Jungkook was too busy being overwhelmed by a surreal entity.

One, two, three—five long beats and the words spilled from his mouth.

“You know I’ll always be there for you if you ever feel like talking, no?” Jungkook injected enough affection into those words; nonetheless, he was surprised at the timing he chose to utter them. It was easy—guessing how the words were triggered, were lured out of Jungkook's mouth. It was Jungkook who sometimes didn’t connect the dots easily.

Jimin pressed Jungkook's hand, looking heavenwards as he smiled crookedly.

“Good. Because tonight seems like the perfect setting for the unbidden memories of a broken heart.”

Jungkook laughed, not too bitterly.

“Isn’t that every day’s serenade, Jimin-ah?”

Jimin was laughing in that laugh-away-the-pain way of his. Jungkook gulped down his laughter; it was the first time Jimin's laugh grip him that cold, giving rise to goosebumps on every inch of his flesh. He looked at the oceanic eyes, watched them take an uneasy colour of jet black in the slanting moonlight.

“You know what fucking pisses me off most about this whole thing?” Jimin met Jungkook's eyes and the latter never thought such dark beautiful eyes could look so glossy. “That some of their fucking words still echo in my mind. I still hear them playing like a broken record in my head and they still fucking get to me.”

The last part came out through clenched teeth, regardless of Jimin's smile. Jimin sat down on one of the benches, looking up at Jungkook as if the latter were a celestial body.

Never had Jimin looked so lost, so out-of-place. Jungkook wasn’t smiling; Jungkook was trying not to be anything.

“I wish I could hate him for making me so torn. I wish I could settle the strife between my heart and my mind. That universal dilemma of heart versus mind. A heart that says ‘dive in’,”

“And a mind that murmurs ‘you’ll regret it’.” Jungkook finished the sentence for the elder, words said through the ache in his chest and with throat so raw. Jimin cast his eyes down, smiling. That haunted expression—so much like a shadow from another life.

Jungkook wouldn’t sit down. He was looking at Jimin with his emotional baggage, watching it deflate the more he let out—letting space for air instead of the suffocating unresolved feelings.

Jimin sucked in a faltering breath, closing his eyes for a fraction of a second as he slowly pushed his hair backwards. He opened his eyes and they glittered with the burning-out stars; he rekindled his smile and it flamed away in his heart … till nothing remained but a cinder.

“That unconditional ‘I love you’—you were talking about the situation from an ideal standpoint, when love goes both ways. I said it over and over again and never once truly heard it. I'd hear things that sound like it only when I do something that made him momentarily like me—something that won his affection for the loneliest shortest moments, you know.”

Sometimes when people talked, they didn’t need a solution. Whoever they decided to let in wasn’t a sorcerer; they couldn’t whip out a cure; there didn’t exist a cure to sadness. Sometimes the only solution was listening. Sometimes the mere act of letting it out made the burden lighter; sometimes all you needed was someone who listened—a hand that held yours.

And that was all Jungkook aspired to be. So he kept on listening.

“All I wanted was that one day I'd hear his name and I'd feel nothing. I thought I was doing fine. But no, he goes public that he’s in a relationship with another guy—that he had been for almost a year now.” Jimin's speaking pace started picking up, the way it usually did whenever he related the painful chapters of his hefty book, as if he could gloss over it—as if the speed could tone down the pain, could ease off the poison exiting the body.

He was still smiling though; that smile Jungkook hated most. It made no sense to call it a smile, not when so much pain instigated it; not when it instigated so much pain.

Jimin was fiddling unconsciously with his fingers, cracking them, interlacing them. Jungkook's eyes were trained to take notice of them however astray they were led—wherever his eyes were focused.

“And you know what? He only broke up with me a few weeks ago, and I felt nothing at his call—after hanging up too. I thought I was okay but I was just numb. And the next day everything hit me at once—the memories, the pain, the fact I was never enough—” as Jimin kept talking, Jungkook could vividly recall that day in the bathroom—that was what broke Jimin so much back then, even though it was something time should have remedied long ago. But of course it hadn’t; Jungkook should know better than to believe that bullshit.

“Part of me—a petty part of me wishes the numbness could come back. The other knows not feeling anything is never the answer, that there are so many great things in life and I shouldn’t waste any more time on him like I promised I'd do. But of course it’s all talk—all easier said than done. There’s a huge difference between knowing something and knowing how to apply it to yourself. It does nothing to the pain, Jungkook-ah. It only does away with my heart. It still hurts that I wonder if I’ll ever be able to at least move past it.”

Jimin wasn’t broken; it wasn’t the accurate description. Jimin was fragmented. He had picked up the pieces so many times, knowing he would function with them glued back together, even if they were pieced back together in the wrong way. The smithereens were so small that they interchangeably subbed for one another, subbed for the missing ones—like dust, like glass, like diamond-dust. They were so shattered that each piece had to learn the other’s job—that it didn’t matter if it were in the wrong place; it’s not like it was adequate in the first place.

Still, Park Jimin was alive; he was flesh, blood, and soul—one glorious blinding soul. And maybe, just maybe, the cracks in his soul were the only thing that made him feel alive—feel the light seep in. Maybe those cracks were the only thing letting the air in, the only thing that let him breathe.

At last, Jungkook sat down next to Jimin on the bench, leaning his elbows on his knees. For a while, he let the silence clamour in his ears, hearing Jimin's breath clatter in and out without flaming away at his smile.

“You still insisted to be with him even tho he didn’t love you?” Jungkook's eyebrows knitted in pain.

Again, Jimin’s smile was a sad shade of blue.

“I thought by sleeping around so much I'd outgrow my feelings.” He let out a hollow laugh; Jungkook almost shuddered. “I mean we were in an open relationship after all. I thought since I can't reclaim ownership over my heart, I won't let him claim my body too. And since I amounted to nothing more than my body then I destroy me. He doesn’t get to control that too.”

Jungkook looked to his side, pulse stuttering at the sight. He was grateful he was too absorbed in Jimin's a-shade-too-bright-smile that it made him deaf to the increased beat of his heart. He almost unlaced his hands and reached out to Jimin.

“You're so much more than to be touched so carelessly.”

As usual, he bit the more important parts, especially with Jimin's eyes having so many mingling feelings in them. Jimin had too much soul than to be touched by lips that never knew what love was; Jungkook wished he could see that.

And so, Jimin's breath gave way to yet another sad laugh.

“I believed I wasn’t worth to be loved by anyone. I thought I had to be with him else I was nothing—he made me believe that.” Jimin swallowed hard, attempting at a smile while doing his best not to do as much as accidentally meet Jungkook's eyes. Jungkook was glad Jimin’s eyes weren’t on him; he had felt a strong wave of pain overtaking him that he knew his expression would fail him—would give away too much.

“And I feel like I've put too much into loving him that I no longer have the capacity to love anyone. He made me feel like I don’t want to fall in love anymore. That last time was truly the ‘last time’ for my heart.”

As Jimin carried on his speech, killing Jungkook over and over with his words—mistrustful of love, mistrustful of people, mistrustful of circumstances—speaking in old scars, still, the younger’s eyes couldn’t cease looking at him with feelings.

Jungkook rested his back, words pushing against his lips, revolting to be set free.

“When we first met, before we talked I mean. There seemed like there was something you wanted to tell me.” Jungkook emphasized, trying to think of the right words, if there existed any.

And so was Jimin. In his prolonged silence, Jungkook could read the struggle words suffered from as they fought their way out of the clumsy phrasing.

“I don't know how to explain it,” Jimin was making a cousin of an okay-sign as he tried to explain. He finally looked into Jungkook's eyes, same old fire burning lucidly in them. “But I can swear I could hear ‘see me, see me’ in my head syncing with my heartbeat, and I found myself wishing you could read that off my eyes somehow.”

Jungkook laughed, his head thrown backwards in the process. It was true—freaky on another level—how two people could think of the same thing. That was what had drawn Jungkook to Jimin in the first place—that damn furtive look, that unuttered ‘see me’ their eyes seemed to be pleading for whenever they caught.

As he looked at Jimin, now and more than ever, Jungkook became conscious of the cracks he thought he saw in Jimin. Jungkook and Jimin, perhaps they belonged in those cracks—in that unfillable place in their entwined hearts that had no other choice but to have to cross paths—waiting for something bigger than the two of them to happen as they nestled in that space. Perhaps Jungkook was letting himself hope.

After a while, Jimin started laughing, like a man coming undone—that, Jungkook understood. He felt a smile breaking out on his face too, feeling the first few patters of the rain resuming its game.

“Are those enough confessions for your fee?” Jimin asked. “Or do I get more naked?”

Jungkook looked at Jimin from over his shoulder, hoping he could convey the warmth his eyes tried to deliver.

“It’s raining.” He pointed out, getting up and flexing his muscles in a dramatic manner, lowkey moaning while hearing Jimin giggle. “Enough with the anticlimactic subjects. The weather is too good to be wasted.” He got out the keys. “How about a long ride?”

Jimin wasted two seconds before bursting out laughing. It wasn’t long before he looped his arm through Jungkook's and let the younger lead them to the truck—to their long ride.

They were going to the outskirts of the city, not particularly seeking a destination; it was about the journey—that was their ‘somewhere.’ He was going to give Jimin everything that made him happy.

Jimin was going through the glove-compartment, muttering approvals at Taehyung’s taste in music.

“I need something more lively.” Jimin murmured, holding one of the mixtapes up. “Something I can actually sing.”

With one hand, Jungkook dove in the glove-compartment, looking for a certain tape. He switched the tapes and Dear No One started playing. Jimin gasped, clapping his hands happily.

“That’s one of my favourite songs!” It sounded like a grateful whine—choked, small, and full of emotion.

“Let me hear your divine voice then.” Jungkook flirted, rewarding himself with Jimin's soft giggle and trying to still be focused on the road instead of, again, willing himself to be lost in the sound. A few times he had heard Jimin singing along with a song and it was such a religious experience he would die to repeat. “Heavens called and they want their angel back.”

Of course, that started Jimin laughing again, Jungkook's smile growing warmer. The song number changed and We Don’t Talk Anymore was on; Jimin was still giggling and Jungkook's smile was getting giddier.

“Louder than the wind and rain, Jimin-ah.” Jungkook half-screamed in that small space.

He started humming the tune, Jimin warming up by drumming on the dashboard and moving his head to the beat; and by the chorus, his voice twined with Jungkook’s.

Never would Jungkook have thought he would be hollering and singing his heart out, harmonizing—in perfect harmony with Jimin as they drove on—after holding a conversation heavy with the ghosts of Jimin's past. But the latter always had a way of amazing Jungkook, always finding a way to hold a sway over his head. He couldn’t help but sneak glances at Jimin as they sang, watching him close his eyes and toss his head back, watch the wind dishevel his hair, watch the rain smear wet streaks across his features, watch Jimin feeling every fiber in his body, every brush of air against his skin—watch Jimin feel alive.

Jungkook had long established where he wanted to take Jimin.

He had parked at a familiar cliff near an old seasonal theme park that only opened in summer. Jungkook had often made that remote area a secret place of his where he came to when he wanted to seek refuge from life. The better part wasn’t what the cliff out-looked, rather what was on the other side of the theme park he would have to talk Jimin into jumping.

He pulled the brakes, threw a glance at the sky that was still crying, then smirked at Jimin.

“We run on the count of three.”

Jimin laughed wholeheartedly, his body flinging forward.

“You brought so many things but forgot to bring an umbrella, Kook-ah?”

Jungkook wrinkled his nose, coaxing another laugh from Jimin.

“I didn’t forget. I just like getting wet. Just leave everything behind and let’s go.”

While Jimin laughed, Jungkook got out, pulling his jacket up and using it as an umbrella, waiting for Jimin to come out too. When Jimin saw him and the way he gestured for him, mouthing a ‘get under’, he almost fell down to the moist concrete in spite of laughing so hard.

It was almost easy, how they fit into that small space together under the makeshift umbrella, their laughs mingling with the steady rhythm of rain and the chaotic splash-sound their feet caused. It was almost easy how Jungkook's hand reached out to Jimin's when they were standing before the gate, dripping wet with hairs matted across foreheads and blinking the drops of rain for clearer views of the world around them—of one another. It was almost easy how the younger made the universal hush-sign while wearing a conspiratorial expression, causing Jimin to laugh even louder without letting go of Jungkook's hand.

As the rusty gate squeaked open, Jimin muttered a ‘Jungkookie, isn't that trespassing?’ to which Jungkook only replied with a wink.

As soon as they were inside, the rain got heavier—more audible. Neither of them seemed to mind it in the least; not even the cold could bother them. As far as Jungkook cared, he had all he needed to be kept warm.

Jimin let go of Jungkook's hand, putting out his hand, tasting the rain and feeling the rain-shower against his skin. He started spinning around as he played in the rain, laughing so heartily that Jungkook was torn between marveling and joining Jimin.

“This is too good to be real!” Jimin was shouting over the rain, still dancing.

Jungkook could feel the raindrops trickling down his skin—feathery, teasing. He could hear Jimin's voice over the rain, softly carried over—close, vibrant, a secret long-lost lullaby. He turned to Jimin and he could see him through his dewy eyelashes—a blurred fit of colours, like a brush sliding against a canvas too quickly and leaving a brilliant mess in its wake. So much he wanted to hold Jimin's head, to run his thumb along his eyebrows, his cheekbones, his lips—to push his hair back and look deep into his eyes, to see his reflection, to see himself as nothing but a fit of colour-shifting lights. So much he wanted to feel Jimin's breath warm against his skin, bringing their lips closer and tasting the rain off his lips—savouring every drop imploding with things he wished he could say—kindling the skin that the rain tried to turn cold.

“It gets even better.” Jungkook finally shouted back, running the distance and grabbing Jimin's hand, tugging on it. Once he got Jimin's attention, they started running again, Jimin letting out all kinds of delighted cries and Jungkook getting high on that sound alone, leading him on, not letting go of his hand. So many times he had come here on his own—taking the same route behind the Ferris wheel to the House of Horror, jumping to the water slides—but never had he felt this happy, as if it were an out-of-body experience.

Jungkook stopped before the top of the water-slide, Jimin pausing behind him. This was Jungkook's favourite part, standing almost thirty meters off the ground and awaiting jumping headlong into water, light speed with an adrenaline rush hyping up all his senses, enhancing his out-of-body experience. Had it not been for the rain in that unseasonal time of the year, the jump would have been impossible—nothing to cushion it, just a jump to your death.

“Where to now?” Jimin asked softly, slipping his hand again into Jungkook's once he stopped beside him.

Jungkook smirked, looking down and feeling his heartbeat skyrocket already.

“We jump.” He said then beamed at Jimin whose eyes flung wide open.

“You're joking.” Jimin took a defensive step back but Jungkook wouldn’t do as much as loosen his grip, gently pulling Jimin forward—towards him—again.

“It’ll be fun. I promise you what lies beyond is worth it.”

Before Jimin could object, Jungkook turned around fully, grabbing both sides of Jimin's head and kissing him full on the lips, rendering the elder a lot of things. As Jimin was left speechless, Jungkook's smirk widened. With his back to the unknown void, still facing Jimin and without breaking gaze—slowly letting go of his hand, their fingers touching in the air—Jungkook took two steps backwards.

He smirked and let himself fall, Jimin's astonished face and half-frantic, half-scared cry engraved in his memory, his high-pitched ‘Jungkook, are you crazy!?’ ringing in his ears louder than the rain as he fell through space, descending through time.

His descent into madness—his fall—was with power that felt like the design of the universe. Before Jungkook's body was submerged under the water, he had closed his eyes, letting go of Jimin's image at last. It wasn’t cold, not in the least. He didn’t bother holding his breath, knowing it was only a matter of seconds till he had resurfaced.

Jungkook was finally breathing air again, standing up and letting out a triumphant cry that was full of life. He could feel his clothes become heavier; he could feel more water get him wetter as he ran his hand through his hair, trying to dry himself and enjoy the rain simultaneously.

“Jimin-ssi!” Jungkook shouted, focusing his blurry vision on Jimin who was hugging himself with one hand.

“You're insane!” Jimin shouted back, more than just laughter tainting his voice. Jungkook shrugged, mouthing a ‘maybe’ and winking.

Jimin wouldn’t move.

Biting his lower lip, Jungkook looked up at Jimin and waited.

And waited. Because it was worth it. Jungkook had jumped; and he'd wait for Jimin no matter how long it took. Because Park Jimin was worth it.

“Jimin-ah,” Jungkook called out again, voice loud as few raindrops slipped into his mouth. He shook his head, clearing his vision from the rain as his smile broadened. “Jump.”

He could feel Jimin's shoulders tense as his nervous laugh rippled through his body; he could see Jimin's feet standing on the edge as he looked down, scared he would lose his balance.

“Jungkook,” Jimin's voice was a mixture of a whisper, carried by the wind, and a breathless laugh, lost in the rain. “I'm scared.”

He looked at Jimin like he were clinging to the edge of a cliff, with an erratic heart and washed-out knuckles, on his last breath with one last thing to say. And he knew for sure, this was something he would tell Jimin to save them both from themselves, letting him know he wasn't alone.

“I'm down here.” Jungkook opened his arms in a dramatic manner. “I’m here to catch you.”

“But Jungkookie,” Jimin was heaving, smiling a shade too bright, voice growing fainter. “That’s what scares me even more.”

Jungkook took a step forward, feeling the water resisting.

“The distance isn’t as scary as it looks. It’s the good kind of thrillers, trust me.”

Really, it was the good kind of deaths.

Jimin mulled over the thought. He sucked in a deep breath, took a few steps backwards and muttered something—Jungkook thought he had heard an it’d better not hurt—before sprinting the distance and jumping, screaming at the top of his lungs.

Jungkook was laughing, arms ready to catch Jimin as he saw him falling through the distance—adamant on not letting him fall to the water alone; if not to his arms then at least Jimin shouldn’t fall alone to the water. As the scream got closer—louder—Jungkook knew it was a cry for a cumulative effect—for everything broken in Jimin's world, every scar marking his heart, every fear he was letting go of.

And Jungkook gained more courage, watching the distance get smaller—Jimin bigger. Because Jimin had died,

Over,

And over,

And over again.

And Jimin did fall into Jungkook's arms, making them both fall under the surface of the water, Jungkook almost choking on water as he half-smiled, half-laughed once Jimin's body made contact with him. He pushed against the weight of the water before his back hit the bottom, holding Jimin by the waist—Jimin's hands resting on Jungkook's shoulders—and looking into his blinking eyes once he was on his feet again, still holding Jimin up by the waist. Jungkook could swear he could feel Jimin's heartbeat shaking his small frame, his eyes wild—in a frenzied, excited way.

For a while, all Jungkook did was watch Jimin's face, how the rain bouncing off his skin and hair made like a small aura, a bubble surrounding him, how Jimin's eyes only tore away from Jungkook's eyes to travel down to his lips—to move up to his eyes again, with words hanging off his tongue, prying his mouth open and disrupting his breaths. He couldn’t register the rain against his skin; Jungkook was for the first time losing himself in another person to the extent of forgetting himself.

“Are we going to stay like this for the rest of the night?” Jimin’s voice was no louder than a whisper.

If forever was an option, Jungkook would have opted for that. Instead, he slowly let go of Jimin, reaching out for his hand and getting out of the water together.

It was close, where Jungkook planned on taking Jimin—on bringing him.

Somehow, both of them understood the clandestine agreement to walk the rest of their journey in silence. Only the pattering of rain and the hum of their breaths were their companions. Perhaps Jungkook should be grateful it was still raining; it meant postponing suffering the aftermaths of that brash jump.

After all, dancing in the rain was always fun, at the moment of playing, until you woke up next morning suffering from a merciless cold. Still, knowing you would catch a cold didn’t hold you back.

Jungkook stopped before what now looked like a hut—that was his secret place. He could feel Jimin dropping his head on his shoulder as he studied the hut.

“So that’s it?”

Jungkook smiled.

“That’s Somewhere, yes.”

There wasn’t any electricity; it was one of the things that made that hut so appealing to Jungkook. Usually, the moonlight and the flickering lights outside sufficed, and when he needed extra light or heat, he used the fireplace. Jimin took off his shoes and stood beside him, taking in the inside of the room.

“I can almost see you here.” Jimin's voice was tinged with a dreamy undertone. He moved inside more, to the centre of the room, almost stumbling upon a tripod Jungkook had left along with some sketches afew weeks ago.

“I can picture you, filming as you sit on the windowsill.” Jimin pointed at the windowsill and Jungkook smiled, recalling the many times he had reenacted the scene Jimin was describing. “You know, fire, stars, the sky, solitude, nighttime, soft music or the night lullabies, a glass of wine, you and your camera against the world.”

Jungkook laughed, watching Jimin amusedly. He started looking for a towel in the pile of pillows scattered around the room.

“I can't believe you made me leave my camera, Kook-ah.” Jimin whined.

“It’d have been ruined.” Jungkook countered, stifling a smile as he wiped his neck. “It wouldn’t have survived the jump.”

Jimin groaned.

“At least we need music now.”

Jungkook tossed him the towel, mostly to buy himself time to approach Jimin. If anything, he wanted to dry the angelic face himself, wipe every raindrop and dry every hair-strand, watching the bare perfection.

“That, we can manage.” Jungkook said, crouching down next to the blanket and holding up an MP4.

Standing up, Jungkook yanked off his shoes, watching Jimin's smile get wider once the jazz tunes started filling the room.

He approached Jimin, taking the towel from his hands, slowly drying his hair—gently dragging the fabric against Jimin's delicate skin, watching his eyelashes flutter. Once Jungkook was done, Jimin was giggling with that look-away smile of his.

He grabbed Jimin's waist closer, hearing the other laugh and feeling his very own smile get wider. He held up one of Jimin's hands, feeling Jimin's smaller hand rest on his shoulder—feeling Jimin's eyes catching his. And like that, they started dancing. After a few beats—a few sways—Jimin's head dropped to the crook of Jungkook's neck. It had dropped in-between—place separating shoulder and neck.

For an entire song, all there was were the blue tunes, their soft giggles and their tender whispers—all there existed was pure inebriation.

Jimin twirled and Jungkook received him in his arms, holding Jimin cross-arm'd—holding his hands from behind, resting his chin on Jimin's shoulder as he swayed him left and right, feeling Jimin's warm body pressing close against him.

“I was afraid your wings would stand in my way of becoming your blanket.” Jungkook whispered into Jimin’s ear, feeling giddy.

Jimin giggled, spinning again, bringing their entwined hands up and smiling. The way his eyes held Jungkook made the younger wonder what they truly held back, the words that Jimin feared saying.

“Really,” Jungkook tilted his head. “You're taking all of my attention that the other stars look bad.”

“God, you're so cheesy.”

“Great,” Jungkook smirked. “Would you like to eat me then?”

Jimin was again giggling. He had his head tilted and his eyes smiling for a few beats as they danced.

“Jungkook,” Jimin began, his smile still alive, “what are we?”

Still dancing, Jungkook smiled and shrugged, an answer prepared.

“Atoms preceding creation, specks of dust, stars exploding in galaxies.”

Jimin didn’t laugh this time. The warmth of his eyes seemed to be marred by the words unsaid. He stopped dancing and took a step back, offering his kind smile still.

“No, really… what are we?”

In between, Jungkook thought. Everything we shouldn’t be.

Jungkook could hear his heartbeat thudding in his ears. For the first time in his life, running away meant taking a step closer to what he was running away from. And so, he closed the step Jimin had just spaced between them. His hand could be cradling Jimin's jawline now, just like his eyes were holding Jimin as though they cherished every fiber and every bone in him. Not ‘as if’; they did cherish everything this fine person stood for—everything that soul was.

“Shades of black.” Jungkook finally replied. He wasn’t going to let Jimin think much about their situation; and it seemed that Jimin himself advocated that notion. And so, they had met each other's lips halfway.

Jungkook had hardly yanked Jimin's shirt off when the latter kneeled down—halfway unbuckling Jungkook's belt—when Jungkook swiftly swooped Jimin off his feet, making the latter fall on his back to the pillows.

“No, not this time.” Jungkook said, pushing Jimin's hair back and going deeper with his kisses. For the first time, Jimin didn’t seem to object. If anything, the way his arms wrapped around Jungkook's neck, bringing him closer as he swallowed his face in those kisses—the way Jungkook sensed Jimin's legs about to wrap around him too—made it feel like Jimin was more than okay with letting Jungkook do all the work.

Jungkook reached for his back-pocket, only now remembering he had left his wallet in the truck. He broke away, on the verge of being irritated at his stupidity. Jimin seemed to understand, his arms pulling Jungkook closer again, almost reconnecting.

“It’s okay.” Jimin breathed. “I've not been with anyone but you since new year.”

They hadn’t done anything yet and that sent shivers down Jungkook's spine in the most pleasurable ways possible.

So much he wanted to teach Jimin there existed a language more fluent in love than having sex – a language the eyes mastered the moment their eyes first caught, the hands expressed each time they traced their lifeline on Jimin's body, the lips conceded as their breath of life lingered on Jimin's skin. But tonight, he would have to do with what he had.

It was ironic how clearer his mind got with every kiss, every bite, every suck. Jungkook did have an answer to what they were—they were a lot of things; but again that was asking all the wrong questions. What mattered was what they made. And that was a Heisenbergian kind of love—so uncertain you were never sure where you were, nor where your pair was going at that reckless speed; but it was impossible not to be together, unthinkable to stay away.

Jungkook was getting high on how wretched his thrusts were leaving Jimin—on his broken cries and his hitched moans, the way he pronounced Jungkook's name like a mantra. After a particularly hard thrust Jimin had gasped and looked to the side, covering his face with his forearm; no crook of necks existed now to have that small weary head be buried in—to have it hidden. Jungkook leaned in and kissed him, prying what was in the way.

“I want to see your face. Look at me when you come.” Jungkook whispered, his fingers on Jimin's skin, learning every inch anew, like the most intimate conversation they could ever have. “Forget everything that is not us tonight.”

Jimin was looking at him through heavy-lidded eyes—through the haze of their sex—hair slick and face sweaty. He managed a smile and interlaced his hand with Jungkook's on the floor next to their colliding bodies.

In less than thirty seconds, Jimin came, screaming Jungkook's name with his nails digging into the younger’s back; that broken expression did away with Jungkook, having him follow Jimin up to the clouds where they could fall apart together—like comets shooting down the sky in a dark hopeless night.

 

♥♥♥

 

Albeit winters were characterized by long nights, it was still too soon. The sun had set for them—on them; the ashes of last night's fire were white and cold.

“What the fuck, Jimin!” Jungkook shoved Jimin in, slamming the door and angrily heaving before him.

Jungkook couldn’t understand just how he had been on cloud nine but now he was plummeted into the seventh circle of hell. He thought things were going fine, sleeping with Jimin, waking up next to him—finding Jimin's sleeping face tucked into his chest, playfully waking Jimin up by tucking his own head in Jimin's neck and slowly breathing him in. Apparently, the memory was like a scepter that only happened in Jungkook's imagination—eternally living in his memory as it died in reality.

Now he had shoved Jimin in after grabbing his wrist and almost fighting some stranger—looking at a stranger himself. A fair distance lay between them, Jimin standing close to the wall with the pictures on it and Jungkook trying his best not to close the distance.

“Why are you here, Jungkook?” Jimin asked, voice colder than any winter night.

“Why wouldn’t I be here?!” Jungkook said, voice thick with outrage. “Letting that fucker touch you like that, you’re getting back to your game of destruction, Jimin. That is not what we agreed upon!”

“We’re not together, Jungkook.” Jimin didn’t flinch.

“He was being too rough. It doesn’t need us to be together for me to butt in.” Jungkook shouted, frantically gesticulating before Jimin. He still couldn’t shake the way that stranger was shoving his tongue down Jimin's throat, the latter’s unpronounced objections, the faraway look as though he weren’t fully there in the moment, as if he wanted to head full-speed to his doom. He wouldn’t let himself think of what would have transpired had he not been there—had he not interfered when he did.

“That was borderline abusive, Jimin! Stop deliberately wasting away. Stop wanting to drown.”

“Why do you even care!” Jimin shouted back. “I didn’t ask you to save me—” Jimin had closed the distance, barely letting any air pass between Jungkook and himself, “—there is nothing to save.”

If Jungkook's anger level had been livid a few seconds ago, then now his anger had just broken the meter.

“I'm not a broken toy, Jungk—” Jimin's hands didn’t make it to pushing Jungkook back. The latter had held them, bringing them down as he drew closer, forcing Jimin's back to be glued to the wall.

He was holding one of Jimin's shoulder, pinning it to the wall as he seethed.

“What kind of fucking logic is that?!” Jungkook roared, slamming his fist twice against the wall and next to Jimin's head, pretending the icy gaze didn’t just flinch at the force. “What kind of logic to throw everything away?”

Jimin only returned the hard stare, Jungkook feeling their heaves fall into sync.

“Why do you keep insisting on letting your pain be your pride?” Jungkook choked, feeling his anger turn his eyes moist, his throat raspy.

That being said and it didn’t even come close to summing up all the why’s Jungkook wanted to ask—why do you keep insisting on letting people soil that beautiful skin of yours, why do you let people touch that glamorous soul of yours with their filthy hands, why do you let them touch your heart when they were not ready for it, why couldn’t you see everything I saw in you for yourself?

Jungkook drew back, despairingly running a hand through his hair as he gave Jimin his back. It didn’t make sense and he hated how he couldn’t breathe. He turned around, making eye contact with Jimin and fighting not to hiss, especially that Jimin's eyes were regaining their anger again, his lips pressing and unpressing into the infamous tight line.

“I thought we fucking had a deal.” Jungkook was the closest thing to shouting.

“Well I'm not the person who fucking broke it first, Jungkook.” Jimin spat back, fist clenching.

As if buckling under the force of Jimin's words, Jungkook flinched and almost took a step backwards. When he spoke, his voice seemed to have lost its power—its anger.

“What do you mean?”

Jimin crossed his arms, voice low but intense.

“You tell me.”

Jungkook strode back the distance, looking deeply into Jimin's eyes for a fraction of a second.

“What do you mean, Jimin?” Jungkook repeated through clenched teeth, not budging.

“I told you not to fucking fall for me. I told you I'm too fucking damaged for you.” Jimin angrily pushed Jungkook. “And you're not whole yourself, Jungkook.”

For a few cold seconds, Jungkook just stared at him—watching Jimin card through his hair in an attempt to quell the anger, feeling his very own anger die down. He opened his mouth to speak, fully aware that he was bound to utter words that would always taste bitter in his mouth.

“What if your broken heart and my broken heart made a perfect whole… Jimin-ah?”

Jimin blinked at him, as if Jungkook were speaking in tongues. He burst out laughing—so cold, so hollow.

It was easy to fall in love with someone when you knew everything about them. To Jungkook, he knew all that mattered. To fall in love with the imperfections more than the perfections, not allowing the flaws to ruin a love so honest.

He knew Jimin in bleary-eyed; he knew him in dazzling smiles—in a series of laughs, in a montage of memories, in a movie fadeout, in bright flashes, in hazy smoke, in vivid colours, in sepia filter, in 4:44 A.M., in shooting stars, in closed eyes, in clashing bodies, in beating hearts. Jungkook knew Jimin in alive under the crepuscular sky painted with dreams, in crashing-down against the bathroom floor slippery with tears, in worlds crumbling on small chests, in the black and white of life, in the shades of grey of their in-between. He knew Jimin when no one was looking; he knew Jimin when no one else could see him.

Jungkook knew Jimin like the back of his hand; he knew Jimin and he knew where he wanted to meet him—finally learning the directions. In simpler terms, Jungkook was no longer lost. Maybe that should have been enough of a sign that he was in love—how everything was smooth sailing—his heart no longer took orders from him; it knew what to do without asking about anything—without asking how or why.

After a few head-shakes and two steps backwards, Jimin spoke.

“I'd only break your heart, Jungkook.”

“It shouldn't concern you.” With a heart spiraling out of control, Jungkook started shaking his head, feeling himself on the brink of madness, slowly losing foot. “You can't break a thing that was never whole in the first place.”

Jimin was laughing—that bitter laugh that scorched Jungkook's ears. Jimin tilted his head; his eyes seemed glossy, smile transparent—heart glass.

“That should be my line, Kook-ah.”

Jungkook felt a whole storetank of existential angst.

“If it’s not a relation you’ve been seeking in me then what were all those looks about?” He was bitter. At his question, he could swear something unlocked in Jimin's heart—he could hear the rustling, the mess.

“I don't know, Jungkook. I don't know, ok!” Jimin sounded fraught, borderline hysteric. The way his hand touched the side of his head and the way he could barely maintain eye contact, voice picking up pace, looked so much like a coming-undone scene.

“It’s not just about my body.” He finally met Jungkook's eyes, closing only one of the steps separating them. “All I know is that my heart yearns for your touch and if shit went south this time, it’s gonna be the worst heartbreak I experience—and I've had my fair share of those.” Jimin's voice cracked by the end.

“Then let’s see where this leads.” Jungkook spoke calmly, taking a confident step in Jimin's direction. “You said it yourself, some relations start and we see how it goes.”

“You don’t start a relation to fall in love in the process, Jungkook. People have it backwards.”

Jungkook heard; Jungkook read between the lines.

“So you don’t feel anything for me?” He asked, voice guttural. “You want to tell me last night and all the ones preceding were just friends?”

Jimin's lips tensed into an angry line.

“I became aware that I'm catching feelings for you and I wanted it over.” Jimin admitted, heaving. As though he were pushed into confessing something.

“I thought if I could get to sleep with you then you'd want nothing to do with me after that and leave like every other dick before you and I'd have a reason to hate you.” Jimin started shaking his head; Jungkook could swear that was the only thing keeping him from crying. He finally met Jungkook's eyes, pausing and letting something silent sink in between them. “But even that—you had to be different.”

Again, Jungkook could only stare, feeling himself this close to tears as well.

“What do you want…” he could never remember his lips feeling a smile so heavy. “Jimin?”

Jimin was shaking his head. He said something but his voice was so small it didn’t come out; he had choked on the words. Jungkook waited. He tried again, this time looking Jungkook square in the eye.

“I'm sorry, Jungkook, I'm such a mess. I'm sorry—”

Jungkook shook his head assertively.

“Don’t apologize. Just answer my question.” Jungkook's look was a plea and Jimin took an involuntary step back.

“I'm tired. I'm tired of being caught in the crossfire.”

Jungkook started closing the distance slowly, feeling his confidence to heart.

“Then drag me to the fire. We’ll set afire together.”

Two steps backward, another one forward.

“You don’t understand—”

“I don’t want to. I don’t need to.”

Jimin's back had hit the wall.

“I can't stand anything and I'm so lost and I can't stand being around you—” Jimin was back to his frenzied tone, barely meeting Jungkook's eyes. Jungkook was finally standing right in front of him.

And he could audibly hear Jimin's shallow breath; there was more. He waited.

“And you scare me so much.” Jimin put a hand on Jungkook's cheek, Jungkook instantly putting his hand on top of Jimin's and kissing the heel of his hand, his lips finding a hard time leaving the skin of Jimin's hand.

“But I want you, Jungkook.” Jimin breathed, lips drawing closer to Jungkook's. Jungkook felt the words soothe his storm-wracked heart, scattering all his fear and caution. Jimin’s lips slightly parted as if waiting to speak, eyes shifting alternatively between Jungkook's lips and eyes. Jimin let the words hang in between them like a cloud, then inhaled the words in a whole; he kissed the younger.

It didn’t last long, and that was all Jungkook wanted—he wanted to see Jimin clearly that night. A kiss, that was presumably meant to quell the instability of their feelings, did nothing but stoke his hunger for Jimin.

When he drew back, there were a few darker shades overlying Jimin's nervous smile.

“Is that a yes?” Jungkook could hear his heart beating in his ears—too anxious.

Jimin nodded slowly, then a smile broke out on his face.

“Yes.”

Jungkook had grabbed Jimin's waist at the same second the latter had thrown his arms around Jungkook's neck, smiling into Jimin's hair while hearing the infamous series of relieved laughs mingling with his heavy breathing, as though ‘confessing’ was like running miles—miles to the shortest route to yourself.

Labelling it a confession was a bit of a stretch, Jungkook was aware. But what else could he do anyways? He was waiting for Jimin's heart to accept his love; he was waiting for that beat-up heart to be ready to let him in—to love him. He understood that ‘I love you’ needed open arms to catch it once it was thrust in the air—once it was out in the open. And Jimin's arms were still busy hugging himself, tending to his wounds—shying away. Though he couldn’t let the words out himself, Jungkook's heart didn’t wear a helmet; it didn’t need an armour; it trusted in the open arms ready to catch it.

He had taken the road unravelled to Jimin's heart. And Jungkook would wait.

 

♥♥♥

 

Taehyung had taken the news pretty well. If staring confusedly then blinking multiple times at Jimin and Jungkook's intertwined hands—at the former’s shy smile and the latter’s hesitant lip-bite—the moment they sat down before him at the cafeteria could be considered ‘pretty well.’ He had shot them three rapid-fire questions, barely sounding coherent: ‘How and when and where, tell me everything.

But that was two days ago. Today, with the weekend being over, Jungkook and Jimin had to face more than their bestfriend.

Jungkook was half-concentrated on Taehyung’s rant about his assignment and the book they had to read for Jungkook was scribbling in his sketch, making a mind-map, tying the loose ends in his film project—having finally decided to connect his material and piece them into the proper context instead of having worked on most videos separately for the past three months. It wasn’t much of a choice since he had more or less a week till the project was due.

Well, Taehyung at least had Hoseok listening and interacting with that tragic story of his. Even Yoongi, who was only there because Hoseok had a showcase, had plugged in one earphone a few minutes ago and was scrolling through the pictures of his camera.

“Is this seat taken?”

Jungkook barely had the time to put his pencil down and receive the owner of that sultry voice. Jimin was soon in his lap, pushing the sketch away and throwing his arms around Jungkook's neck, tasting the smile off the younger’s lips.

Jungkook's hand rested on the small of Jimin's back, smiling up at him.

“Good morning, stranger,” Jungkook muttered, heavy with happiness.

Jimin giggled and Jungkook craned his neck more, going for another kiss.

It was the first time Hoseok had looked away from the worked-up Taehyung.

“Forget about them and focus with me.” Taehyung demanded, drawing Hoseok’s head to him with his forefinger. He hadn’t done as much as bat an eye on the making out couple. “They’re going to be a gross couple for a while and I don’t want you to throw up in your mouth, Hobi.”

“G-gross c-couple?” Hoseok stuttered.

Jungkook was too amused at Taehyung’s shrug.

“Yea. It’s been like three days and they’re all about back-hugs and piggyback-rides and obscene kissing-sounds and cheesy movie lines.” Taehyung sighed. “You'd not want to see what I’d seen.”

“He’s just jealous people are appreciating more beautiful faces than his annoying one.” Jungkook quipped, looking nowhere but into Jimin smiling eyes regardless of Yoongi’s amused stare and Hoseok’s confused one.

“Why, Jungkookie, you think I'm beautiful?” Jimin was giggling again and Jungkook could feel the tunes reverberate in his bones; he could relish the sound to his core.

“Umm, duh??” He faked an offended expression, peripherally seeing Taehyung face-palm. “Me and everyone with eyes probably.”

“Are you guys together now?” Hoseok asked at last.

Jimin looked at Jungkook and the younger just returned the fond stare. Yoongi scoffed or coughed, or whatever—what Jungkook didn’t miss was the elder’s ‘captain obvious Hope-ah.’ Taehyung was at that point of shaking his head, readjusting in his seat and giving in to reality that was having to acknowledge that said gross couple existed.

“We’re experimenting.” Jungkook said at last, breaking eye-contact with Jimin at the last letter.

Hoseok and Yoongi just stared blankly at them.

“They’re together, yes.” Taehyung said, slightly shaking his head in disapproval as he sipped on his drink. “They’re just too stupid, too stubborn to admit it.”

“Congratulations!” Hoseok chirped, getting out of his seat and almost spilling Taehyung’s drink on Jungkook's sketch as he dove in for that hug.

Jimin and Jungkook were laughing in sync, the former accepting Hoseok’s hug without leaving his favourite seat.

“I'm so happy for you guys.” Hoseok pressed, eyes sincere. “I've always rooted for you.”

“Hey,” Jimin began. “It’s nothing still.”

“Yea, right.” Taehyung snorted.

Yoongi hit the back of Taehyung’s head and Jungkook lowkey found pleasure in sweet revenge. It didn’t really matter since all his surroundings seemed to evaporate with Jimin in his lap—with his lips brushing against the bare skin at the base of Jimin's neck and as he nosed across the slope of Jimin's shoulder, making him giggle further, wondering when his angel would grant his longing lips their wish.

Perhaps it happened; perhaps it was just an impression. But Jungkook could hear a shutter go off but still he was too busy getting lost in Jimin to wonder—to care.

“Nothing is a start.” Yoongi said, throwing a knowing glance at Hoseok who held it knowingly for a while. “Everything has to start somewhere, and nothing might just be your somewhere, Park Jiminnie.”

Little did Jungkook know, at that moment, how dead on Min Yoongi’s words were—how they were hitting home.

Chapter Text

January was ending and today, the threesome were at Empty Heart's Treat with Jimin and Jungkook being more than just ‘friends in for the sex’ for the first time. And boy, it sure felt good.

While they were leaving, Taehyung met Bogum; and so, Jimin and Jungkook took the chance to sneak somewhere private, sparing their friend the intense making-out. Nonetheless, it didn’t go as planned—not really; Jungkook had to lag behind, receiving a call that went on for almost thirty minutes.

When he was done with the call, finally realizing Jimin had left him and went off somewhere, he started to lowkey panic. If anyone asked, Jungkook would defend himself by saying he hadn’t been doing that boyfriend-thingie for long. If Kim Taehyung asked, specifically. But said Kim Taehyung was having second dinner with Bogum, as if he were sure his two friends wouldn’t mind the delay—knowing how to make good use of their quality time together.

And so, Jungkook ventured a guess, heading to the abandoned building facing the café.

Bingo! Jimin was near the ledge, camera on the ground as he exhaled the smoke in that rapturous way of his that was also quite too voluptuous and it drove the younger insane, making him want to drink Jimin up even more.

He didn’t mean to creep up on Jimin, though lost in thought as Jimin was, Jungkook’s surprise-kiss on his nape and arms around his waist were more on the pleasant side. A few days ago, Jungkook had established Jimin was particularly ticklish at that spot his lips were brushing on the elder’s neck. While giggling and like a cat, Jimin was craning his neck to the side, as if shielding that sensitive area.

“It’s bad for your health. Please quit.” Jungkook whispered into Jimin's ear from behind. “Get addicted to me instead.”

When Jimin was done giggling, he threw away the cigarette. He then freed himself to turn to Jungkook, smiling at him while intertwining their hands. He leant in for a kiss—a shared smile was now shaping their mouths.

“That’s a normal cigarette.” On breaking away, Jimin said—with that shy smile of his. “I've not smoked the ‘too harmful stuff’ since New Year. But I can get addicted to you all the same, Jeon Jungkook.”

“So many achievements since then, so many about-face changes.” Jungkook teased, savouring the kiss Jimin had just stolen. “Park Jimin, what happened on New Year?”

“You.” Jimin tilted his head flirtatiously and Jungkook's heart skipped one, two—ten beats. He didn’t see that coming when he asked that question.

Perhaps he had been immobile for too long; Jimin had bent down, brought up his camera and snapped a picture.

“Beautiful.” He said, admiring the picture on the screen. “This just snatched my Second Favourite picture of you from the one I have on my wall."

Jungkook laughed and sat down with his legs dangling off the ledge, not finding beauty in nature’s masterpiece—in night—not with Park Jimin sitting next to him.

“And what’s your favourite one, Jimin-ssi?”

Jimin swayed left, hitting Jungkook lightly with his body—lowkey flirting as well.

“Of you sleeping.” Jimin was scrolling through his camera, clearly fetching a certain picture. Jungkook's heart started to race, wishfully hoping his guess was correct.

Jimin held up the screen for Jungkook to see and Jungkook forgot how to breathe; he had been right. It was that one night he had seen Jimin with that blond guy at the bus-stop; it was that night he had slept and missed Jimin. Apparently, Park Jimin, irked and blue, couldn’t abandon the photographer in him that night; he had to take a picture of Jungkook.

“Something about your eyes always gets to me.” Jimin began, hand making an almost-fist as though trying to grip the word eluding him. “Something feels so real when you look at me, so pure, you know.”

Jungkook smiled; he understood. He looked at him—no, Jungkook gazed at Jimin, and he was never sure if he met Jimin to change him, or he met Jimin to be changed by him.

It only occurred to Jungkook then that he had never asked.

“Did you know?” Jungkook was still looking at the picture, getting the same feeling about it like every time he looked at any picture taken by Jimin. He hadn’t lived the moment; he could feel a different feeling. The photograph looked innocent—serene. He lifted his eyes to meet Jimin’s compassionate ones.

“When you first talked to me, did you know I was the same guy in that Polaroid picture you took two years ago?”

Jimin's smile became wistful, eyes dropping down briefly.

“No.” He shook his head and Jungkook's heart felt lighter. “Not until that day I pointed out your tattoo. I thought maybe you could connect the dots, I thought maybe you'd know who I am or something.”

Jungkook looked up at the sky, a memory hitting him after a few blinks so he started laughing.

“Remember the photograph collection you presented to Namjoon-hyung for that internship?” Jimin nodded so Jungkook went on. “I have such a love-hate relation with them, you can't imagine.”

Jimin was chuckling.

“You disliked me that much?

Jungkook shook his head, only looking at Jimin while biting his lip.

“What?”

“Not even close, Park Jimin. Not even close.”

Cue the giggle.

They were sitting on the ledge like two silhouettes watching the night-sky—shoulders touching, knuckles grazing, feet bumping. Jungkook felt like they were years younger—like they were kids.

“Did it take you so long to find me?” Jimin asked, voice dainty and quiet.

He could feel a smile spreading on his face.

“Are we talking in the metaphorical sense or when you abandoned me and went to satisfy your photographer needs like an hour ago?”

Jimin was giggling and Jungkook still marveled.

“Both.”

Jungkook pressed his lips tightly, suppressing a smile Taehyung had told him looked too shy.

“Yes.” He nodded. “And it was worth it—so worth it.”

He could swear Jimin's eyes lit up as he started giggling again.

“What were you doing tho?” Jimin shifted closer, putting on a serious face. “As your boyfriend, I want to know.”

Jungkook laughed, tossing his head backwards.

“As my what?”

“Your boyfriend.” Jimin cooed and Jungkook felt just as giddy.

“I like the sound of that.”

“Yea?”

“Yeah.”

He swayed and bumped into Jimin’s shoulder, coaxing a laugh.

“I was fixing the last bits of my short film.” Jungkook replied. “I was fighting professor on something.”

“It’s due already?” Jimin asked.

“In a few days, yea.”

“Kim-ssi’s class, no?”

“That’s the one, yup.”

They sat down in silence, reveling in each other's company as the minutes dragged on.

“What happened?” Jimin started, head falling onto Jungkook's shoulder. “With Yugyeom, I mean. How did you part ways, how did it go?”

“Would it matter now?”

“Maybe.”

It was clear that Jimin was underplaying it, mimicking Jungkook's ‘maybe’ that dramatically.

“You could say we weren’t on the same page back then. I was focused on him being sad and he was focused on remaining sad.” Jungkook smiled; the memory didn’t hurt that much now. “There are mistakes you make in life before stepping into adulthood—before becoming an ‘adult’. Yugyeom wasn’t one of those mistakes, only because I had tried everything I have. It saddens me that for a long while he wasn’t there, you know, like the damage was that irreparable and I might have made it worse, not doing anything to ease it off, I mean. It just saddens me that he couldn’t be pulled back from that black-hole—from sadness.”

“It saddens you that you couldn’t pull him back from his sadness.” Jimin corrected, making sure to catch Jungkook's eyes once the latter looked down, lips almost tasting Jimin's.

Jungkook just shrugged. He fiddled in his pocket with one hand, fetching his phone. He snapped a picture of Jimin replicating Jungkook's very often taken-aback expression.

“Now I have a picture of you.” Jungkook said, already adoring the picture too much. He hated how Jimin never once took a picture of himself, pretending he couldn’t understand why. “You're too beautiful not to make a gallery solely of your pictures. You should be living in an art-museum and not that shithole of a campus.”

Jimin shifted so he was looking at the younger now without hurting his neck in that crane-gesture. He was trying to be serious as he laughed and as he asked Jungkook to delete that picture.

“No.” Jungkook refused with a decisive headshake, carefully tucking his phone in his pocket as it held precious material now. “It’s payback for that picture you took of me today at the café.”

“But you agreed to be my model.” Jimin pouted.

Of course Jungkook would lean in to kiss that pout.

“Still.”

“Oops,” Jimin said, jolting to straightening-up position. “I have to rectify. That picture I just took of you is my third fav.”

“Do I get to know who got gold and who got silver?”

Jimin just gave him a wry smile, looking up at the sky. And Jungkook was unable to keep the grin from his face.

“I'm starting to believe that Kim Taehyung.” He said, having Jimin look up at him. He liked the weight on his shoulder; he liked that Jimin was resting his head on his—his—shoulder. “You're really made in heaven.”

Of course Jimin started laughing—pleased, shy.

Jungkook slid his hand through Jimin's hair, laughing really soft when Jimin nuzzled into his palm. He leant into Jimin's ear, on the verge of whispering all kinds of things.

“This is romantic for you, no?” Jungkook teased, with lips and tongue more than words.

“Shut up!” Jimin pushed against his chest lightly—playfully—despite the blush blossoming in his cheeks. “This is romantic for you too.”

Like hell could Jungkook deny.

Sadly, their bliss was cut short on Jimin's phone ringing: Taehyung texted to call them down from their high. And so, they got up, Jungkook wrapping an arm around Jimin and bringing him closer as they descended to reality.

 

♥♥♥

 

Ever since highschool competitions and Jungkook had made it a habit not to check up on others—abiding by the golden rule in order not to get daunted or conceited. And so, he made sure to attend Kim-ssi’s lecture fashionably late, where he could hardly watch one or two of the films made by the rival-students. Usually, Kim-ssi wouldn’t have let him in, being almost ninety minutes late but he had been showing too much interest in what Jungkook was working on ever since the latter had presented his draft.

He had taken one of the front seats, trying not to draw more attention than he already had. Mingyu was giving the last of his speech—obviously answering some former question about his documentary. Jungkook hadn’t noticed how nervous he was until Kim-ssi had called out his name.

Sucking in a deep breath, Jungkook got out of his seat, walking steadily to the podium. He dimmed the lights and plugged in his flash-drive, working in a robotic manner because he was trying not to think too much.

“I’d have given a brief introduction but I'd not want to ruin the experience for you.” Jungkook began, addressing the mass number of students. “Also I'm not very good with words so if this film flops I'd have to lie and say my bestfriend wrote this work of fiction.”

A ripple of laughter broke out; it eased some of his tension.

“So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado—” Jungkook bowed as he pressed play. “—Ask of the Black Rose, something between a poetic-documentary and a short film.”

Jungkook took his seat just in time the tenth countdown was due. He leaned on the armrest and focused on his lecturer’s reactions.

The film started, showing a colourful smile—featureless, bodiless—an echoing laugh mingling with the background music as the owner seemed to shy away from the camera. Progressively, the figures—the figure—was slowly slipping into darker shadows. The bodies became further; the looped arms became more distant; the hugs became less frequent—colder.

It went on for about thirty seconds before an about-face change took place—like a beat drop or a building up scene that had you holding your breath.

The screen became a blackout, a crashing sound, a thud accompanying another shattering sound—perhaps it was of inanimate glass; perhaps it was of fragile glass-hearts. The colours started to slowly fade—slowly draining of life—and the movie was dipped into ashes, resurrecting in silvers of black and white with the music slipping into slower—much more lamenting—tunes. As time cleaved into bittersweet memories and bitter unknown, so did the frame, becoming two parallel lines with neither side overtipping the other—black and white with a small space separating them in shades of grey for the occasional words showing, as if for subtitles, a commentary on a life gone awry.

The smiles and laughs become frowns and tears in the lower—in the blacker—part of the frame. The playful light arm touches became clutches for dear life, clutches for what should be let go of—memories, people, pain. The walking next to one another became frenzied running—in chase after someone, in search for something, in search for anything.

Regardless of the stripe of grey serving as a turning—an infliction—point in the video, the twine of colour were playing simultaneously, showing the same places but evoking pole-opposite feelings.

The upper part, the brighter part, still breathed of life; the hands still pulsed with blood—of palms facing rain, weighing the ocean in a drop; of hands reaching out of car windows, trying to catch the air in palms; of fingers slipping into hair, threading through it as its body hung to its thread of life, oblivious to the unescapable snap; of strands of hair flying like sparks of light in the breeze, glistening in the sunlight; of closed eyes twitching, savouring the unseen, excited about the unknown; of bodies dancing with hands thrown up in the air; of stars tallying heartbeats; of increasingly loud heartbeats overruling excited screams—of enjoying life.

The lower part had the other face of the coin, the uglier face—of cold palms curling on arms, beseeching warmth from within as heavy feet dragged against the wet concrete; of weary heads resting against fogged windows, heavy with unshed tears in which heavy hearts drowned in; of shaking backs with hands running despairingly through hair, warding off the mirth of pain; of wet hair matting across sweaty foreheads, with puffy eyes imprisoning tears; of dancing on ledges with demons, expertly yet near nonchalantly enough; of stars exploding with no signs of remerging, dying unseen, forgotten; of heartbreaking cries splintering the silence—of forfeiting lives.

Everything, in either colour, was nothing more than mere shadow-play. Jungkook daren’t touch the eyes—just silhouettes, limned frames, rimmed by whatever light-source. All the footages of smiles shown were expertly edited where the concept of featureless-bodiless was reserved.

Jungkook could see Kim-ssi’s eyebrows knitting, not in confusion, but in something that had the relics of compassion. His voice carried on in the film, mingling with the music slinking and rising in the background, a bittersweet eulogy to a ‘could have been’.

“Sometimes living in fear would be worse than having said fear strike, and you're back to the drawing board. You might be scared all your life, but it’s inevitable. Unannounced, it would strike and you'd be rendered paralyzed. The paths you crossed, the roads you walked wouldn’t look the same—your goggles had been shattered—cracks are cobwebbing your view, hindering you from seeing the beauty of life. You'd been broken, you no longer see things the same way you did—you need to reconstruct your worldview because it is no longer applicable, no longer adequate. Your skin is marked, your heart is scarred, your soul is shattered—you're one of the dead now.”

The screen became one colour—not black, not white, and not in-between; it was the unnamable: what people ignored for the sake of preserving their sanity and hence had no description having them pretending it didn’t exist. The quick montage with climaxing music started and Jungkook could swear he heard a few sharp inhales at that—cameras clicking and changing scenes quickly, like eyelids shutting and opening to a different scene, unable to take in the new scene and not fully recovering from the preceding one. Of dark silhouettes merging into the background, of small frames—insignificant against the immensity of the night, of the world—outlined by the shattering moonlight; of hands shaking and clenching—furious with waiting then stilling on the sight of a certain someone; of faces bathing in smokes—far from this moment, dimensional; of blinding flashes, of stolen moments, of glimpses of lives—quicker, further away.

The music became colder—more haunting, as deserving of the monochromatic aesthetics complementing the fiddling hands. Lonely rooftops, like screaming into empty spaces; nails digging into backs, using the fine line between pain and pleasure as a jump-rope that would soon serve as a noose. Arms wrapped around torsos, of self-hugs; hands intertwining with each other, being your own support, your own warmth; hands ghosting over doorknobs, longing; hands lingering in the air, stuck in between; hands drawing back, rejected. Fiddling hands, waiting hands, anxious hands, fed-up hands, reaching-out hands—hands, hands, hands.

“And people would try to fix you but you're so sad, your soul is gone—it’s death—”

A subtitle showed in dripping fonts: ‘There’s no correlation between salvation and love.’

“—It’s a sickness with no cure, still they’d make it their life mission to suck you back from the black-hole.”

The frame was showing two hands pushing someone back, zooming in on the lips later—clearly an angry dialogue taking place.

“And lifeless as you are, you're oblivious to how much you're taking of them in the process—making them step into the ‘dead’ as well.”

“You miss being alive.”

Another subtitle showed in the darkening shade of grey: ‘You miss your old self.’

“But what brings you back to life?”

The question seemed to hang in an ill-timed lull for a while. The video soon started to become frantic, more erratic; everything was hard to keep up with—the music note, the shots, the hands, the smiles, the moves—like a crescendo coming undone, chasing a note that was just a beat too fast; like reaching for your reflection on the other side of the mirror—of disillusionments and let downs.

At last, with the music calming—tapering off into oblivion, bold letters started emerging from the blackness of the background: It is fifty shades of…

It ended at that—left for guessing, for interpretation.

When the screen died and Jungkook turned on the lights, he could swear he heard a combined release of formerly held-in breath. For a few beats, he tried to make sense of the taken-aback faces before him.

“Thoughts, class?” Kim-ssi asked as soon as he stood next to Jungkook on the podium, putting a hand on his shoulder and facing the students. At first, the startled silent carried on, then the voices shot up.

“So what is the black rose?”

“It’s death, Jennie, don’t be an idiot.” Jennie’s girlfriend shot from across the classroom. “No, Jungkook?”

Jungkook shrugged, the corner of his mouth twitching into a smile. He took a step forward.

“I believe the message was clear at the end—it’s left open.”

“You're deliberately delivering multiple messages.” Mingyu narrowed his eyes, resting his head on his interlaced hands. “Double-entendres. It’s like a pun kind of films.”

Jungkook laughed, slightly nervous. He flashed Mingyu a wry smile.

“Maybe I'd been spending too much time around Kim Taehyung.”

A few smiles broke on some knowing faces.

“How do you even save anyone from death? After death, I mean, like they’re already dead.” Mina, one of the girls Jungkook actually liked, asked. “Or let me rephrase. How do you think you can save someone from ‘death’” —she made air-quotations with her fingers, at which Jungkook was sure Mina had picked up on the whole word-play— “without actually putting yourself up for becoming dead yourself?”

“Cheating death, working behind the scenes. Maybe you can skirt around that rule.” Jungkook smirked. “Doing your best without giving up or letting on so much—a safe distance.”

“Like a precaution.” Mina narrowed her eyes, leaning forward in her seat. “A guarantee so you'd not get hurt even tho they’re bleeding. That makes sense to you, Jungkook-ah?”

Jungkook smiled; he was still trying not to let on too much.

“It’s fiction, Mina. It doesn’t have to make much sense.”

Mina laughed; it held no humour.

“Yeah. It doesn’t have to make sense … part of the charm I guess.”

It seemed like the girls were onto Jungkook that day. It was Rosé speaking up that time.

“Following up on what Mina was saying, why don’t you walk out instead of putting a distance? I mean it’s safer, right?” She practically jabbed enough sarcasm to the last part, as though mocking Jungkook in his very words—by his very own terms.

“Sometimes your sense of duty overpowers your heart.” The corner of his mouth unevenly quirked upwards. “Sometimes the child in you can't accept the fact there’s a broken toy they couldn’t fix—that Death took it from your hands.”

“I don’t think everything can be ‘fixed’,” even Jennie didn’t miss out on making the air-quotations, somehow spitting the word in her interjection. “Not that kind of things.”

“You can't just sit around and not try.” Mingyu said, voice carrying over from the third row as a pensive expression was pasted onto his face. “Even if the method is faulty, it’s a noble cause.”

Jungkook almost smiled at that but that seemed to enrage most of the female species in their class.

“You’ve gotta be shitt—” Rosé never got to finish her heated sentence.

“Girls,” Kim-ssi interfered at last. “As amusing as it’d be to watch you corner Jungkook-ssi here, I'd like to focus more on his techniques rather than ideals.”

Jungkook smiled and he heard a few grunts. Girls sure knew how to be classy.

“Any other thoughts or comments?” Jungkook asked after a while, eyes skimming the few first rows. And of course answers shot up then.

“It’s about losing someone and not being able to enjoy life afterwards.”

“No, it’s about life after them.”

“Or about death of your old self.” Jungkook thought this one was pretty close; he smiled to himself, trying not to aver anything especially that Mingyu had a sharp eye.

“Body language.” Jungkook hadn’t expected the silent kid, Wonwoo, to actually be able to spot one of the things so quickly. The class focused on Wonwoo. He straightened up in his seat, cleared his throat and carried on.

“I think Jungkook was trying to convey emotions without a face. He was trying to express how telling someone’s signature movements are, how double-edged they can be.”

“What do you mean by ‘double-edged’?” Jungkook asked, his heartbeat kicking up a notch and adrenaline flooding his system.

Wonwoo smiled and looked down then up to meet Jungkook's eyes again.

“How they could be double-edged weapons, what used to be a soothing gesture now becomes a sign of hostility, what used to be a cure is now a sickness.”

Jungkook only started nodding. He turned to his professor after a few beats of silence.

“Any comments,” Jungkook asked, half amused, half scared. “Sir?”

“Would be of me praising your work, Jungkook-ssi. Other than that the concept itself,” Kim-ssi nodded to himself, impressed. “I liked the lightening most—how you made use of the streaks falling to illuminate or dim a motif to emphasize the dichotomies. I think you did a fantastic job finally stepping out of your comfort zone.” Jungkook smiled unevenly, unnerved. Kim-ssi placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, smiling. “I can't wait to see how you'll expand on that in the final competition.”

Jungkook barely had the time to enjoy his triumph.

“I still don’t get it. Is this about living in fear of death and ruining your life by not enjoying life?” A voice interrupted and Jungkook, smiling crookedly and ready to explain, was turning to its owner. Jungkook was halfway through when the words froze on his tongue, noticing a certain silver-haired guy in one of the back rows.

Jungkook felt as though he were doused with icy water—wrapped in skins of air—with the numb pulse of surprise. His thoughts became scattershot, seeing a hash mirage of the angelic face, witnessing the scene unfold through the veil of panic and the unbearable upwelling of guilt.

“It’s not about death.” Jimin's voice carried over to Jungkook's ear, like the loudest bang ever made in the universe—a calm tide during a full moon. All faces turned to Jimin. He stood up, locking eyes with the wide-eyed Jungkook and the younger couldn’t breathe, Jimin's image swelling in him like screams.

“It’s about love—or guess it doesn’t matter.” Jimin's shrug held too much pain in it and Jungkook still couldn’t function. “Such a fine line between the two, especially when it comes down to a heartbreak.”

“Park Jimin-ssi,” Kim-ssi began, sensing Jungkook's distress. “I don’t recall you being registered in my class.”

Jungkook was falling—falling into the landscape of pain. He was forced to bear witness to its ugliness—to his very own ugliness.

“It’s okay, I'm done here anyways.” Jimin pressed a smile and bowed.

As he started leaving the lecture room, Jimin didn’t break gaze with Jungkook—chilling the younger to the core with that sharp stare. Sharp not in its anger, but in its pain; and that hurt Jungkook more. Perhaps Jimin had bumped into him as he walked out of the classroom; perhaps Jungkook had been too numb to register anything—to function. He was still staring at the door, unable to do anything and he didn’t want to think about how he looked—about what the situation looked before the entire class.

“Jungkook-ssi,” Kim-ssi called for Jungkook for the third time. Jungkook snapped out of his nightmares, gulping and turning to his professor. “Do you have anything you want to add?”

When Jungkook shook his head, Professor turned to the class.

“Class?”

No one said a thing. Some were looking at Jungkook skeptically; others didn’t seem to have noticed what transpired. Kim-ssi dismissed Jungkook; the latter had barely been in his seat for a minute—for sixty cold seconds—with the start of the last documentary, than he dashed out of the classroom, muttering a small and a probably inaudible ‘sorry’ to his professor.

He was glad most of the students had lectures now, leaving the hallways and campus fairly empty. It was as he ran that reality kicked in—Jimin had seen that short film; Jimin shouldn’t have seen that short film.

He caught up with Jimin before the fountain behind the library. That same place where they had shared so many real moments—where they had learnt to set each other free without laying a finger on one another. It was the same place that was about to witness a catastrophic scene—an emotional Armageddon.

“Jimin,” Jungkook called out, panting for more reasons than the short run and grabbing Jimin's wrist once he was within reach. “Wait.”

“Piss off, Jungkook.” Jimin grunted, jerking Jungkook's hand away without turning to face him.

“We need to talk.” Jungkook reached out again, already sounding desperate. “Please.”

This time, Jimin turned around sharply enough, drawing some attention but in the least did Jungkook care—not right now. A reasonable distance sat between them; the distance Jungkook wanted to bridge but couldn’t move.

“What do you want to talk about?” He shrugged. It had too much anger—too much pain—to be labelled as an indifferent shrug. “How that’s all I've been to you, something you had to work on, a project?” Jimin took a step forward; Jungkook did his best to hold his ground, almost breaking under the pressure. “Is that why you stuck around, because you need to fix someone?”

“That’s what you think you mean to me?” Jungkook couldn’t believe his ears; he almost felt himself freezing, reliving the same old pain. Suddenly, his prepared apologetic speech seemed to dissipate and pain seemed to take place instead. “Someone to fix?”

The corner of Jimin's mouth twitched upwards.

“I'm not hearing you deny it. Though I could swear you were so descriptive and verbose back in the classroom.” Jimin shot another sharp-edged arrow through Jungkook's heart when he let out that harsh laugh, running a hand through his hair. “Congratulations tho. I think it was a brilliant film, the cinematics especially. Didn’t think my pain could look so beautiful.”

For long torturous minutes, Jungkook couldn’t formulate; and that seemed to give off the impression that he had nothing to say in his defense. Perhaps it was true. After all, he was stupid to make that short film. It was stupid to rally with the girls back then and say things he didn’t mean. Jimin was turning around again; Jungkook had to speak up.

“Not everything I said there was true, Jimin.” Jungkook beseeched and Jimin turned around again, folding his arms as he eyed Jungkook hard. Jungkook could feel his voice become ragged as words scrambled from his mouth. “Open your eyes for a few seconds and—”

Jungkook stopped short. He knew what he wanted to say, what kind of opening he needed but Jimin was even more unready. And Jungkook himself was no better; he was having cold feet and his timing sucked. With everything that had transpired in the last hour, Jungkook's framed portrait of love was smashed—this confrontation had him done away once and for all by a single bullet. And so, Jungkook's silence became his acknowledgment.

Piercing through enfolding layers of the anesthetizing fear and pain, a sound came. Jimin had laughed, looking to his side for a few beats, anger and pain marring his beautiful eyes.

“Do you have anything to say, Jungkook, or you’re here because you still feel responsible or something. Because to be honest, I don’t know what to believe in anymore—” Jungkook started shaking his head, almost feeling the tangible weight to Jimin's words. He could almost hear the words being released like venom out of Jimin's body—reluctantly and painfully—poisoning Jungkook himself. He tried to will his hand to move, to reach out for Jimin whose eyes exhibited more pain than was humanely possible. But it just wouldn’t oblige; the words shocked him too much it made his body unresponsive, as if killing his heart. “—Like thanks for the memories, thanks for the lesson, thanks for the final strike, thanks for entering my life just to screw it up more. Just fucking thanks, Jeon Jungkook. Congratulations on mastering the art of breaking the people you allegedly care about.”

Jungkook was still shaking his head. Jimin didn’t seem close to being done; it was as if that improvised speech held all Jimin's raw pain in its folds. As if Jungkook had unleashed years’ worth of bottled-up pain. Despite the heart furling in his stomach, Jungkook managed to break free of the paralysis.

“Allegedly?” As painful as speaking that one word out was, Jungkook managed not adorn the choked voice with tears. He finally took a step in Jimin’s direction; the other took a defensive one backwards, trying not to be within Jungkook's reach. Jungkook flinched but still willed himself not to give up. “But Jimin… I do care.”

“Oh well, that’s fucking expensive of you.” It seemed that the more Jimin laughed, the more Jungkook became closer to tears. He folded his arms and tilted his head, fixing Jungkook in his stance—at that distance—with his stare. “Hearing that now—so characteristic of you. Because the thing is, Kook. You don’t have the courage to be out there in the open. Until this very moment you can't admit the things that matter. You can't say the words that matter. And you'd lie about your true feelings just so people couldn’t use them against you. You're still running away.”

“That’s not me, Jimin. You’re the one who has it wrong this time.” Jungkook interjected, slightly getting worked up. In his frustrated state, he had finally closed the distance, holding Jimin by the shoulders and looking him deep in the eye, letting himself be seen thoroughly, trying not to let his pain morph into anger.

So much he wanted to scream at Jimin. Jungkook might be running away from his past, but Jimin was running away from his present.

Instead, he found himself drawing back his hand, swallowing slow but not breaking the intense gaze. Instead, he chose the safer route.

And he finally spoke.

“I'm not running from anything.”

Jimin pursed his lips and pushed Jungkook back.

“There’s nothing you're not running away from.” Jimin spat, seething so much that his nostrils were flaring.

As Jungkook staggered a step backwards, he touched his hand to his chest, feeling the place Jimin's hands made contact with burn and it had nothing to do with the force of the push—it was all about the intangible pain. And still, Park Jimin was nowhere near done.

“I had asked you about what happened with Yugyeom and you skirted around the question… this is what you didn’t want to tell me—the reason you still chose to be around me.” Jimin took a step forward, jabbing an accusative finger in Jungkook's chest. “Because in the end, Jungkook, it had nothing to do with me—you sticking around had all been about ‘duty’. I was that stray cat you picked up off the street and couldn’t leave because you felt obliged towards it. And that pretty much fucking sucks, you know.”

He heard the rip inside when the words came knocking him over. As Jimin's voice broke around the last sentence, Jungkook could swear so did an indispensable piece of his heart.

Instead of flinching, he tried to pour what he truly felt; frantic and wild-hearted as he was, he did.

“It’s different, everything is—the timing, the situation.” Jungkook put a hand on Jimin's arm, like the latter always did, tilting his head and trying to appeal to Jimin like he usually did. “You are different, Jimin.”

Jimin was laughing as if it were the most brilliant joke of the century. He gently brought Jungkook's hand down, taking a step backwards as if watching his creation from a distance. When Jungkook pushed against the catharsis of pain—when he fought to keep it to a minimum and when Jimin realized Jungkook was being serious, he once again took a step forward, standing an inch away from Jungkook's face.

“Really, Jungkook,” he said with that damn painful smile. “Really, now. I'm different?”

“You're being unfair here.” Jungkook's tone took its surefire route to despair as he shot back. “You're not giving me a chance, Jimin.”

You're not giving us a chance, Jungkook would decay with the words unsaid.

He should have said them. Oh, he should have said them.

For a few beats, Jimin just stared coldly at Jungkook's eyes, as if waiting for the tears to break the younger. Perhaps if they had, the situation would have been better. Jimin would have added his very own tears to the flood and they would have made a mess that only they could clear up—only because it was the two of them pushing through it together.

“Say it, Jungkook.” Jimin challenged, voice raspy like sandpaper. Jungkook could feel the words against his lips, could feel the clawing pain against his heart. “It shouldn’t scare you. Give me one thing to believe in since I feel like everything has been a lie—one true thing, that’s all I'm asking. Because I feel like I'm caught in a movie that you’ve not yet decided how it ends.”

For a while all Jungkook could do was look and feel the tears threaten to unleash themselves in the worst way known to him. He was the one who wanted to take a step backwards now. Now, it wasn’t just about Jimin who wasn’t ready to catch the ‘I love you’ doing its inevitable Kamikaze dive; it was also Jungkook. How did anyone ever become ready for such a leap anyway?

He couldn’t speak and that served Jimin's cause even better, much to the former’s chagrin. Perhaps it was Jungkook who wasn’t giving them a chance, with Jimin still beseeching the younger's eyes to let him in on what his heart truly felt.

And there was the onsets of the numbing despair, with their suffocating odour witting around them.

“Where’s the truth?” Jimin’s voice was so small it made the younger feel so dwarfed, so insignificant—so unworthy to have inflicted enough pain on Jimin to have him sound like that again. ‘Speak up, you idiot’, Jungkook's heart was screaming. But he wasn’t making the decisions anymore. His heart was a mess and the words it spilled needed to be thought of well first.

“Why are you so adamant on believing that?? You'd rather believe what you heard there—in a work of fiction” —Jungkook could barely register his rising pitch, growing erratic. His hand made a fist before his heart, as if holding it, as if pointing at it, as if shielding it. It didn’t make sense; there was no way Jimin truly believed Jungkook's feelings were that fickle— “than believe me?”

“Believe what, Jungkook?” Jungkook never would have thought hearing his name could hurt him so much. And the words pushed him back, as if losing balance he staggered a step backwards.

That was the same person who made his name sound foreign in a sweet way to his ears; those were the same lips that divulged the name like a confession, making Jungkook relish the sins—the same lips he had devoured times and times again.

“Where?” Jimin closed the distance again, pressing Jungkook further as his voice started growing quieter—with more hurt than accusation. “You never said a damn thing.”

No.

“If you don’t believe me,” Jungkook felt the each word—each letter—scrapping against his throat. He could barely register Jimin's beautiful face in spite of flinching so quickly, so often, as if closing his eyes that briefly would fend off the pain. “Then what about everything that happened between us?”

Don’t they speak volumes louder than the words I can't say?

Again, it was stupid how he awaited Jimin to read the words off his eyes when he was so scared to utter them.

“Us?” Jimin let out a long harsh laugh; Jungkook didn’t think he had the capacity to watch how this scene ended. Jimin tilted his head in that mock gesture, undermining his very own pain and not just Jungkook's at that.

“What ‘us’, Jungkook? We were doomed from the day we met. The moment I snapped that picture, the moment you got on that bus, the moment I scribbled those words, the second you ripped that page—the second our eyes met. It was as good as us having met at a psychiatrist’s, Jungkook.” Jimin paused, laughing quietly—becoming more undone. Slowly, he let his eyes travel up to meet Jungkook's and the latter would have gouged his eyes out himself before seeing such a cynically cold expression drawn on the smile-lined face. “Whatever you think we have—whatever you think we had is a fucking mess.”

For a moment, Jungkook couldn't breathe; the mere act of drawing breath in seemed to take a toll on him, to exhaust his very core, making him conscious of the heaviness of his burdening existence, of the volume of his loudly unattainable desires, and of the weight of that miserable heart that lied starved and gasping for its oxygen—for love within his chest, reminding him of how bound he was within the prison of his body and how he couldn't escape this pain burning under his skin. As he looked at the eyes twinkling with tears, Jungkook was becoming more and more painfully conscious of every weighing bone, every tingling nerve, every scorching breath—the flare of the veteran dormant pain was most unexpectedly rekindled, breaking into a wild fire that no soothing words could quell after the icy fire of the preceding ones, after Jimin's words.

Who said ice didn't burn? Ice scorched worse than any fire when it was to conceal a fiery surface.

“Jimin, I'm sorry.” He put his hand on Jimin's arm again, holding him with his eyes more than hand. “Just please—”

Jimin shook his head, pressing his lips into a hard line and shaking himself free of Jungkook's grasp, once again taking distancing steps. Jimin seemed so much like he was doing his best not to force the tears that pooled in his eyes down his cheeks.

“No, Jungkook. You please.”

“I'm here, trying to fix—” He had barely begun, feeling his voice unfamiliar to his ears when Jimin interrupted—ferocious expression before icy words.

“Don’t use that word.” Jimin hissed, his hands stuck between wanting to push Jungkook back and between having second thoughts. “Just don’t. Whether it’s me or the situation, or anyone—you just feel the need to fix someone. That’s the dominant emotion within you and it drowns everything else—you just have to feed that parasitic dependency, Jungkook.”

Jungkook gulped, feeling the bad omens preceding a breakdown.

“You're still questioning my feelings, Jimin? After all those months?”

Jimin shook his head ruefully—sympathetically. Jungkook still didn’t get it; he still couldn’t see the crux of the problem—of this mess he started.

“Say, Jungkook, assuming I was a ‘broken toy’, how do you expect to fix me when you yourself need to be fixed?”

If Jungkook thought he had been rendered speechless minutes ago, then it was because he still didn’t know Jimin would say that. He was cold—too cold as the numbing despair fully sank in. Jimin's eyes seemed to melt into some purgatory between pity and empathy—between love and hate.

“It's not your job to save everyone. You don't have to save everyone just because you failed to save one person.”

And like that, Jimin was passing him by, the latter seemed to have left his body in this world while his soul moved on. After all, Jungkook was still a boy as regards of pain—was inclined to be thrust into its depth blindly and uncontrollably. His pain was insatiable, thriving on the droplets of blood his heart bled. It hurt him that he was once again, stripped of the validity of his feelings, that despite trying everything he could, he still wasn’t enough; that what he genuinely felt for another was questioned—discredited.

He couldn’t speak; he didn’t want to speak.

Jeon Jungkook and Park Jimin, they burst in flames and the flames ate them up.

“That place we were supposed to see, where this relation would lead, yea?” Jimin said from over his shoulder, halfway turning to Jungkook but it didn’t matter; they were facing different directions. “Well, Jungkook, we headed for a car crash.”

That was it. That was the moment when his soul was on its knees—the moment Jungkook, fallen and hunched down, finally realized he was human. And there was nothing he could do; he couldn’t bring himself to turn around—to call out to Jimin. His heart was in shambles and no one was to blame but him.

Perhaps not everything could be fixed; perhaps falling in love was synonymous with falling apart.

Chapter Text

It had been so long since Jimin last woke up in the middle of the night drenched in a nightmare’s sweat—cold and shivering.

Albeit it was still night, the moonlight didn’t forsake Jimin—didn’t give him his release; darkness did not prevail. The moon made sure it lent enough light to the room to fall on what Jungkook called ‘The Gallery Wall.’ It made sure to add to Jimin's pain, as though the nightmare he had just awoken from wasn’t excruciating enough. As if the nightmare—the worst and most ruthless of dreams—he was reliving awake, for days, wasn’t heart-wrecking enough.

Even as he curled into a ball on his bed, with his hands running over his face, trying to breathe and shake away the undesirable images—the undesirable memories—Jimin's eyes couldn’t leave Jungkook's photograph on his wall. It was the knife he was turning inside himself—the face, the person, the feeling, the photograph. That one photograph with Jungkook taken off guard while he was sketching some hands—that innocent expression preceding the lopsided smile, to have been awoken from one’s reverie, to have been called out from one’s sanctuary while shutting off the world. It was the one photograph he loved so much till he knew what the younger intended.

Alas, a week might have passed and the pain was still in its richest blacks. Again, there it was—the familiar pain. The only variable that this time was that the same hands that had patched his heart were the same hands reopening the wounds in that scarred fed-up heart. He was happy; he was okay, now the wound was smarting again.

Jimin flopped back into bed, pulling the blanket up to his head and trying not to cry himself to sleep, mourning yet another lost love.

It was unfair to group said lost love with the preceding ones. Because really though, had Jungkook taken a chance as fair as the three unnamable heartbreaks preceding?

 

♥♥♥

 

Somehow over the years, what people labelled as the month of love and lovers, became a connotation of a constant aching loneliness and heartache to Jimin. This February, with Valentine’s spirit filling campus and with their reflection of happiness in Jimin's negatives, was still a painful ache to his heart.

Love that was doomed to decay; bones that were doomed to hollow out.

Jimin was tired and he didn’t know what to think. Was Jungkook trying to talk to him; had he given up on their relation? Jimin wasn’t sure. He just made sure never to be in the same place when Jungkook was there too. If he was hanging out with Taehyung and Jungkook suddenly showed up, Jimin would just excuse himself quietly, feeling Jungkook's gaze burn, feeling their burdening silence like an empty speech-bubble—an increasingly yawning chasm, widening more with every time the younger wouldn’t speak out his piece. Jimin honestly didn’t get it.

Still, he was living—no, reliving—the pain intricately described in Jungkook's visual masterpiece again. He was walking through the same streets; what was intimate walks of two souls became aimless strolling with misplaced hearts—lost and wounded. It seemed that every corner had a memory of them together when they weren’t even together.

Hell, it was ridiculous how much memories they had made—how much memories Jimin savoured—piles and piles amassing in their hearts during that short time – or in Jimin's heart for he wasn’t so sure about Jungkook here. He would look at benches—at tables, at spots on the grass, at roofs—which he and Jungkook shared and the unkind lucid tidal wave of throttling memories would wash over him, leaving him gasping for air—leaving him yearning with no cure but Jungkook's touch. The memories held him in limbo, making his chest feel strangely hallowed.

Under the bleeding sky in a February dawn, Park Jimin was sitting, once again physically experimenting with the fine line separating life and death. He was sitting on the familiar ledge again, waiting for the pain to do away with his heart as memories of last week replayed with vivid details in his mind for the umpteenth time.

He looked at his dangling legs, remembering how often Jungkook's legs entangled with his—how often Jungkook teased him about his short limbs which made Jimin pinch the younger—and a bitter smile broke out on his face, gripping his heart and depriving him oxygen for a few painful beats. Sometimes, when Jungkook sat down next to him, Jimin would forget how to breathe. And it was stupid that the younger had such an effect over him—such power over his heart. And still, it was such an ironic analogy—the other pleasurable oxygen deprivation Jungkook often caused Jimin contrasting with the now suffocating one.

He threw his head back, closing his eyes and enclosing the tears in, trying to feel the chilly air, trying to feel alive … trying to feel. Just when Jimin thought falling felt like flying again, he was plummeted violently into Earth, crashing—burning out like a meteorite.

“Where’s gravity when it comes to love?” Jimin was surprised to hear the sardonic—the bittersweet tinge to his tone. Still, the question seemed to disintegrate into the wind, having Jimin breathe it in—choke on it.

This was another day breaking and this was another heart breaking. He was going to be okay.

 

♥♥♥

 

The days wore on, one morning blurring into another, and the pain didn’t dull. Jungkook's absence was a gaping void beside him—something still tugged his heartstrings apart at the missing presence.

“He’s trying, Jiminnie. He really is.” Taehyung said casually and out of nowhere. Nonetheless, his eyes seemed to convey what his tone refused to let on.

“So much for not even bothering to talk to me.” Jimin cracked a smile just for show’s sake, pretending the mere act didn’t rip his heart.

They were sitting in the cafeteria, Taehyung going through Jimin's camera and Jimin trying to pick up the pieces and move on. As much as he tried to fight it, Jimin couldn’t help the dagger twisting in his heart whenever he thought that Jungkook had given up on him—that the younger didn’t talk to him because he thought things were better this way. It still hurt that after that much time, Jimin was still a prisoner to the same old pain of feeling not good enough—not worthy enough—even as regarded that one person he hoped would be an exception.

Jimin had surrendered to one of those weak moments the night before. But Jungkook, once again, fucked up, so all the elder’s pre-planned words slipped down his throat, losing heart, and he returned to his room—once again falling to sleep on a soaked pillow.

“But did you give him a chance?”

Jimin took in a deep breath that was so winded it almost sounded like mewling.

“Tae, I understand your position and I don’t expect you to take sides—”

“I'm not trying to take sides.” Taehyung interjected. It was honest. There seemed more he wanted to say but wouldn’t nonetheless.

“I know.” He nodded. “What I meant to say is that I tried to. I was this close to knocking on your door last night but—” he bit his tongue and looked down, the memory of Jungkook’s arm wrapped around some girl’s shoulder and him smiling burning lividly in Jimin's memory. “It’s just that I couldn’t, not last night at least.”

Taehyung was silent for a few beats, trying to read between the lines—between Jimin's shifty gaze and fiddling hands.

“It’s not what it looks like, Jiminnie. Just talk to him.”

He would be lying if he said he didn’t get what Taehyung meant. Jimin did understand … without Taehyung having to spell it out for him.

In a way it was poetic irony, how Jungkook was the one refusing to bridge the hurt and breaking their hearts even more irreparably yet letting his eyes silently speak to Jimin's like they always did, doing his biddings and begging them to look for something in the debris of his heart—to look for Jimin inside his very own now-broken heart; as though it were Jimin who broke his heart and not the other way around.

Perhaps there was a kernel of truth to that former statement; perhaps the hurt was a two-way road; perhaps Jimin and Jungkook shared the weight of the first-degree crime: having murdered each other's hearts.

Jimin didn’t want to admit he wouldn’t change a thing. He wanted to believe Jungkook was a chapter in his life he had ended, without the slightest intention of visiting it again, reliving it or rereading it, even for memories’ sake.

Still, falling feeling like flying? It was unfair to say he didn’t get to feel that again, unfair to both him and the person who taught him not to give up just yet—to be comfortable in his skin while knowing it was still going to be okay, that he was okay. Even now, the memories didn’t turn him cold like they should; they still had a small flame that kept him warm—that would singe him every now and then. Slowly, Jimin's mind started sifting through the images.

Of Jungkook's marveling face as he lay on the truck’s bed filming, how their eyes met for the first time.

Of Jungkook's sleeping face on the bus that day he fought with Taemin, how they belonged in the same space for the first time.

Of Jungkook's confused face that drunk night he collapsed against him in the corridor, how their hands met for the first time.

Of Jungkook's flirty smile when they introduced themselves to one another, how they met for their first time.

Of Jungkook's tender eyes that night he picked him up from his broken walk of shame, how their souls brushed for the first time.

Of Jungkook's hungering eyes and lips many nights but that night in the woods specifically, how their bodies met for the first time.

Of Jungkook's warm smile telling him to enjoy his time at the park; of his honest eyes that camp night and so many other ones.

And of course, most remarkably, how their hearts met for the last of first times … as separate entities—before collision, before fusion. Jimin could still clearly recall that day he had faced his fear and jumped headlong into Jungkook's arms, trusting in the younger’s waiting arms, in his promise—trusting in Jungkook.

Looking back on that day, Jimin couldn’t help feeling his heart clench in the cruelest way possible; looking back on one of those days, that was. As though his heart were eating itself inside out, thriving on its own blood, with its walls closing in, getting redder—bloodier.

He still could remember the way his heart was revolting in his chest, hitting against his ribcage in dire need to break free. He could still remember the number of beats his erratic heart underwent as he contemplated jumping—the way him being scared couldn’t override his excitement. He could still remember hoping it wouldn’t hurt—the jump.

It still hurt. But that was also it for him. Back then at that pivotal moment and as much as Jimin tried to fight his feelings, he knew Jungkook was his. He couldn't keep on pretending nothing had changed when Jungkook had lain all his cards on the table like that.

‘I'm here to catch you,’ Jungkook had said and for a moment, Jimin forgot all the hurt and the pain; he forgot everything but Jungkook—his hug-like silly smile, his warm embracing voice, his sincere eyes.

It wasn't like he hadn’t known what that one sentence—what that one look—entailed. Jimin just chose to ignore it, feigning ignorance—the truest of all bliss. He had hoped against hope Jungkook would confess—hoped Jungkook wouldn’t confess.

But that night didn’t end at that; it was only a start—a prelude to salvation.

It was one of those rare nights where Jimin didn’t ‘fuck’; it was a night where he had sex—in its pure form, in the form it was made for. But of course, being the coward that he was, with a heart loaded with abandonment issues, he ran away—perhaps for the first time in his life; that one time he shouldn’t have, that one time when it was love and not pain chasing after him.

He didn’t even take too long; next morning was when he decided to act on his cowardly heart—that heart Jungkook had found, that same heart Jimin had promised the younger once he had found his way to it. Jimin tried to wash away all the warm traces Jungkook had left on his body that previous night, all the kisses and heart-touches, letting himself be fucked raw as though it would take the feelings away—as though it would make him unfeel the things he felt towards the younger, as if it would deaden something so alive. But Jungkook had to interfere, calling him out from the numbness he was trying to plummet into.

Albeit it didn’t work out in the way he wanted; Jungkook, more or less that day, managed to see him for everything he was: unworthy.

Jimin gulped; within him, something was passionately fighting for the truth—telling him it was the exact opposite of ‘unworthy’ that Jungkook could see in him, that Jungkook had taught him to see in himself.

Everything they shared replayed in his memory, like a montage—a painful montage of sepia filtered flashbacks.

Ever since that day when Jungkook just had to be there at the wrong—no, at the right time; ever since Jungkook had collected him into his arms as the elder failed to beg himself to stay strong and fell to the bathroom floor, trying to set his feelings ablaze and watch them burn away, watch them eat him away; ever since Jungkook had given him the most compassionate, the most understanding gaze his unwanted heart had tasted, and the most tender, the most reassuring hand his scarred skin had felt, and Jimin felt the change—within him just as much and as violently as it was in Jungkook.

That was why. That was why it hurt so much now.

It was the people whom you got most naked before that you couldn’t level back down with—that you couldn’t ask them to unsee you. It was the people who had seen most of you that you couldn’t look in the eye once things went south; they had seen too much and you couldn’t veil the wounded heart you were so protective of. It was the people who promised salvation after all the hurt and the pain—the people who had failed to keep their promise—that hurt you the most, as if with the accumulated pain of everything prior to that point was their share.

It was ironic how Jimin pulled his defenses up more after being that vulnerable before the younger. It was ironic how more scared he was after such loud reassurances, still thinking he wouldn’t be enough.

Alas, he still wasn’t.

Because Jungkook hadn’t run and fallen into him; Jungkook ran out and fell into anybody.

“Found anything good?” Jimin asked, breaking out of his romantic reverie and stirring his drink.

Taehyung shook his head.

“I gave up on that. I'm actually going through your personal folder.” He lifted his head as if awaiting Jimin's red or green light. The latter only cracked a smile; he was the one who had given Taehyung his password after all.

“You won't find the good stuff here. I keep the negatives in my dorm.”

“Hmm,”

Taehyung seemed too engrossed in the camera, going through what Jimin didn’t want to guess its nature.

“I'm thinking of restarting the project altogether, you know,” he leaned on the table. “New concept, new material—a fresh start. Maybe it’s easier than trying to fix the project.”

“New muse.” Taehyung looked up from over his askew glasses. “For your project, I mean.”

Jimin chuckled, nervous, anxious—restless.

“For more than my project, actually.”

For a long beat all Taehyung did was stare at Jimin who could only keep on sipping from his drink, feeling unnerved by those compassionate eyes.

In a way, he wanted to throw himself into Taehyung’s arms and cry his heart out. He wanted to cry for every moment, for every smile—that damn boyish smile that made Jimin's heart give a long hellish pause—for every flirty remark Jungkook made with the intention of either making Jimin smile or toning down the force of his true feelings, for every ‘could have been’ he let himself hope he would share with the younger.

But in the same way, Taehyung’s arms weren’t the ones he truly needed to lie in; and Taehyung’s kind and impartial demeanour killed him all the more.

“How could you take this picture when he looked at you like that?” Taehyung asked, lifting up his gaze and holding the camera for Jimin to see the alluded-to picture.

Jimin needn’t see the picture; he had lived the moment—full force with its overwhelming emotions and its kaleidoscopic details, like maps to secret places engraved on his heart.

He took the camera all the same, looking at the picture of Jungkook leaning on the table while looking so fondly at the camera—at the person behind the camera. It was stupid how Jimin wanted the verbal affirmation when there existed a tangible evidence like that picture—that damn picture in which Jungkook's gaze screamed ‘I'm in love with you’, making Jimin melt back then. It still did; it still could. And it still hurt.

If Jungkook was in love with him, then what was holding him back? Why wouldn’t Jungkook let him know, why wouldn’t he set him free?

And there Jimin was, feeling a tear involuntarily trickle down his cheek as he looked at the picture and he could swear his brain didn’t send the signal to his eyes; he didn’t make that order. He could feel himself sniffling, trying to stay strong, and he could feel his hand rising up to wipe his tear. He could register Taehyung’s distraught face as he quickly switched seats and held Jimin close to him, muttering some nonsense that should alleviate Jimin's pain, trying to offer some semblance of comfort.

Still, the pain was just too fucking loud. And it was even more annoying as it was his very own choice, thinking things had better end now before he got hurt even worse in the future—before he had to go to square one. A step backwards was tolerable, but not to square one, god, not that.

The punchline was that it still hurt pretty fucking bad as it was now. Jeon Jungkook was indeed the worst heartbreak of them all.

 

♥♥♥

 

“Do you like it?”

Jimin looked over his shoulder, already too familiar with the voice. Having spared Yoongi a glance, Jimin lowered his hand, hooked his thumb in his pocket and once again stood facing the photographs aligning on the wall of Empty Heart's Treat—stood facing a certain photograph.

“I've lived it.” Jimin replied with a smile just a tad bit too sad.

It was a picture Yoongi had snapped last time they—Hoseok, Taehyung, Jungkook, Yoongi, and he—were at the school cafeteria: the day they came out to their friends. It showed Jungkook, eyes closed and smile wide, nuzzling into Jimin's throat, the latter laughing and tossing his head backwards in the process, granting the younger more skin to smear with his lips.

Jimin had felt the affection back then; now, as an onlooker, he became aware of Jungkook's feelings too—not just those towards him.

If only they both weren’t so scared; if only both of them wouldn’t let their past cloud their future.

He could still remember the first time he had visited Empty Heart's Treat, after hearing Namjoon recommend it and mishearing the latter, thinking it was Empty Hard Street. Afew years ago, he thought it was such a fitting name, having a bitter smile resting painfully on his lips. Almost four years later and there he was, reliving the same scene, thinking the same thing.

“He came here, you know.” Yoongi proceeded, looking at the wall as if marveling at the pictures for the first time. “Asking me about that photo.”

Jimin followed Yoongi’s finger, already knowing which photograph he meant—that landscape-ish one he took of Yugyeom and Jungkook, that one Yoongi decided to hang along with his works.

“He seemed to admire it almost more than my work—what a brat.” Yoongi slapped Jimin's chest lightly, the latter smiling feebly.

“Nothing lives up to you, hyung.” Jimin said, meaning it. “Wish you'd trained me.”

Yoongi sighed dreamily.

“As much as I'd have loved to have a talented dongsaeng as you, I'm glad I didn’t. I'm glad you turned out that way without me in the picture.”

“I'm not really happy about the way I turned out.”

Yoongi shook his head sympathetically.

“I'm glad you turned out exactly that way.” Yoongi was smiling. “Looking at your recent work and this—it gets me thinking of how every piece now has a person in it, not in a complementing sense, but as in a centrepiece. Like how photographs should be.”

At that Jimin had finally turned to face Yoongi, seeing the meaningful pause.

“How they have one person, you mean.” Jimin looked at the floor sadly.

He could see a new pair of shoes joining them, stopping to his right—Seokjin’s.

“Are you guys talking about Jungkook in my café?” The elder asked, faking an offended face.

Yoongi snorted.

“Real smooth, hyung.”

Jimin laughed; it had some life in it.

“It’s okay. It’s not like we’d pretend he doesn’t exist.” Jimin reassured them, sparing each a look.

They twined in their smiles.

“It’s not like you'd want him not to exist.” Seokjin teased, grabbing the shorter into a hug which he let last for a while. “He’s a good guy, Jimin-ah.”

Yoongi turned fully to them, dirtily looking at Seokjin while folding his arms.

“I thought we agreed that that corny speech was unneeded.”

Seokjin mirrored the pose, Jimin amusedly watching the skit.

“Yea, because the ‘he came asking about you’ card is so smooth.”

“Why don’t you get back to your kitchen?”

“And let heartless robots like you handle situations that need a big heart?”

“What?” Yoongi smirked, Jimin tried not to laugh, putting his hand on his mouth. “You'd give him a ‘heart treat’?”

Jimin was sure they would have went on forever had they not stopped rallying as they watched Jimin who now fell to the floor laughing. It was the first so-genuine ‘post-breakup’ laugh he had let out, not even Taehyung had managed to coax that out.

It didn’t take long before his two hyungs had helped him up to his feet and joined him in having his heart treat.

 

♥♥♥

 

When Taehyung had asked Jimin to tag along to the theatre, the latter thought it would be fine; he thought it would be one of those times he would watch Taehyung practice then they would spend the night making fun of the play, of the people, of themselves—of life. But of course it didn’t go that way.

What he hadn’t expected was to find Jungkook there. Or perhaps he did expect to find the younger; what took him off guard was how fixated the doe-eyes had been on him throughout the auditions—how little attention Jimin was giving the play as he felt throttled under the weight of the apology in the sincere eyes.

It hurt him that he had to ignore that look—that goddamn heart-wrenching look—just because he thought he was shielding himself from further hurt by choosing to ignore the apology he could clearly read off them, that maybe it was true that things were better now.

False.

It was as though there were an invisible rope tying them together; they had the freedom to try to stay away from each other—to a certain degree—till the rope tightened around their necks, becoming a noose suffocating them so they would return to one another in order to breathe again.

“Cut!” Jaebum shouted. He had his sleeves rolled up, three buttons down, and he looked like he had spent the previous four days sleeping in the theatre. He walked to Jinyoung and Jackson as he ran his hand through his hair, trying not to look too ticked off. “This is going nowhere.”

“Hyung, if you could just give us ano—” Jackson’s sentence was interrupted by Jaebum’s head-shake.

“We need more chemistry.” Jaebum illustrated, turning to their group of seven. “Tae doesn’t do romance, Youngjae is away so I too am off the list… and we just need a couple with some if not the most chemistry.”

“Hmm,” Taehyung began, eyes sparkling with the same old mischief. “A couple with the most chemistry.”

Jimin knew this day wouldn’t be a good one, ever since Jungkook walked into the theatre and he had established such. To be more accurate, he knew this day wouldn’t be a good one ever since he received an email with a video attachment from Jungkook—which, of course, he decided to ignore.

Before either one of the aforementioned couple could object, Taehyung had shoved both of his bestfriends up on stage with scripts in their hands.

“They’ll do.” Taehyung said with his box-like grin, ignoring Jungkook's wide eyes and Jimin's accusative ones.

“They’re not even part of the theatre team, Tae.”

“True, but they can act well.” Taehyung winked. “Just trust me on this one, Jaebum.”

Jaebum turned to them.

“Would you like to?”

Jimin was about to object when Jungkook spoke up.

“I’ll do it.”

Jimin spared Jungkook a glance then got back to the script in his hands, pretending he could read it clearly, without hearing his heartbeat override every other sound within a ten-mile radius, and most importantly, without hearing those voices in his head.

“It’s all pointless as long as we don’t have a girl.” Lisa held the script up. “Because that Jimin is supposed to be a girl.”

Taehyung was laughing.

“Consider it a word-play. This Park Jimin is not a girl.”

In a way, a smile found its way to Jimin's lips. This was how he and Taehyung had first met, that was what Taehyung had first said to him: this Park Jimin is not a girl.

“It’s okay,” Jimin said, looking as steadily as he could manage into Jungkook's eyes. “We’ll probably fail anyways.”

He had pushed past Jungkook and into his spot on stage before the younger could reply, though he could clearly see Jungkook's eyes pleaded for something within him.

“Okay. Last resort we ask the administration if Jimin could be a guy and one of us plays the role instead of the absentee.” Jaebum was adjusting their seats on table, giving everyone their instructions. “We’ll start from the scene before Myungsoo finds out about Jimin's suicidal attempt. We’ll skip to the important part where Jimin gets her long-awaited sign in Myungsoo’s words.”

Jimin skimmed through the script quickly, feeling the lights dim again and feeling Jungkook's presence across the table from him stronger than ever. To say Jimin hated the script would be an understatement.

Action.

“I feel like I need a break.” Jimin spoke, stealing an indecisive glance at Jungkook as instructed. “I feel like I need to go somewhere faraway.”

Jungkook laughed nervously.

“Then let me take you somewhere far away—somewhere only we know, Jimin-ah.”

Jimin felt a huge lump building in the back of his throat. He started to lose sense of his surroundings as the light seemed to only be there for Jungkook and only Jungkook.

“Can I tell you something unfair—something that will make me feel like a monster?” He started feeling his eyes prickle with tears. He looked up at Jungkook, feeling a sense of déjà vu in a worse form—the melting way in which Jungkook's eyes held him now was so similar to that night he snapped that picture in Empty Heart's Treat, but it was an expression absent of fear; it was more determinant, more decisive, as if Jungkook was no longer lost.

Jungkook’s eyes flickered as he read his passage. He leaned on the table, giving an uneasy smile despite the anticlimactic atmosphere. That smile wasn’t in the script.

“I promise you, nothing in this entire world could ever make you sound like a monster. Not to me.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this quiet—Jungkook's breathy promise.

He leaned back in his seat, avoiding the younger’s eyes.

“Even if I told you I hate myself,” he gulped, reciting his lines. “Deeply so?”

“That’s quite insulting because I love you,” Jungkook replied, eyes boring into Jimin's soul; the in-character words making Jimin's heartbeat skitter. “Deeply so.”

“Unlucky for you.”

Jungkook's hand reached out for him on the table, his thumb brushing over every knuckle in Jimin's hand; that wasn’t in the script yet Jimin couldn’t draw back his hand.

“On the contrary,” he could swear Jungkook almost cracked a smile—the warm kind, his favourite. “Love.”

He knew it was his part now; he knew he should say something. Instead, all he could do was drown in Jungkook's gaze, feeling multitudes of his feelings in the past few months, of everything he tried to drown amplifying—heightening, coming back to him stronger than ever.

The intense staring went for so long that Jimin’s surroundings started to dull. Everything did but the one person intruding his soul, the one person whose gaze was pushing against the walls surrounding his heart—crying out to be let in.

“I need a moment.” Jimin said at last, pulling back his hand, getting up and storming out of the theatre before everyone’s astonished eyes—before Jungkook's eyes that flickered with pain in the last second Jimin caught them.

He knew Taehyung meant well when he shoved them together; but Jimin was weak—so damn weak when it came down to the honest doe-eyes overtaking his heart so brutally with their nakedness. And being this physically close to Jungkook hurt, especially when their hearts were so far away.

He was rounding the corner for their dorm building when he heard Jungkook's voice—so flowery amidst its distress, teasing the barren fields in Jimin's heart. Jimin picked up pace, breaking into a run once he was before the flight of stairs. The head-start was the only advantage that made Jungkook not yet catch up to him. But Jimin was too fluent in running away that he fully understood that no matter how hard, how quick, he ran, it was inevitable that he ran—that he rammed, full force—into himself, into everything he tried to ever outrun.

It was as he was shutting the door to his room that Jungkook's foot held it open, forcing him to come face to face with a panting Jungkook.

“Jimin, please,” Jungkook pleaded, eyes dripping with the weight of his emotions.

“Leave me alone, Jungkook.” Jimin hissed. It was either the anger or the pain; there was no in-between. Conflicted; Jimin was so damn conflicted he could break into tears on the command of those frantic eyes.

Jungkook pushed the door open and Jimin stepped back in, putting a good distance between them.

“Just hear me out.” Jungkook bit his lip. “You can lash out at me later.”

“Just walk away like you did before and do us both a favour here, Jungkook.” Jimin focused on staying angry; he had had enough of the alternative.

“I'm trying here,” Jungkook's voice sounded choked. “You're not the only one who’s suffering here, Jimin. Please listen to me.”

“Well, I'm fucking sorry.” Jimin folded his arms. “I'm so sorry I'm ruining your perfect life, Jeon Jungkook.”

He watched Jungkook look down, sighing then pulling in a deep breath. It didn’t seem to calm his anger; if anything it seemed to intensify it.

“I know I fucked up and I'm sorry, I really am. You’ve no idea how much pain I've gone through knowing I'd hurt you.” The sincere plea was patent in Jungkook's eyes even more than it was in his words; but Jimin didn’t want to see that. “Just give me a chance to explain, ok?”

“Now you ask for it.” He gritted his teeth; something within him screamed at him, something that knew that wasn’t what he truly wanted to say. “Took you long enough.”

Jungkook stared at him coldly, clearly having some comeback but refraining from speaking for some reason.

“At least one of us is trying here, Jimin.”

For someone who had mulled over his words, for someone who had possibly rephrased, Jungkook sure did one fantastic job.

He wanted to get in Jungkook's face, to scream at him. Jungkook wasn't the flash; he was the thunder—the goddamn tempest that brought the temple down. He wasn't a major scene; he was the ending credits—the curtains falling mid-way.

And that last sentence he strung could break Jimin further, surprisingly so.

“Sometimes we push others away just to see if they’d hold on—to see if we’re worth holding on to.” Jimin was on his highway to tears, feeling on the brink of breaking down while the only thing that tethered his sanity to his body was lashing out. “To see if they’d still stay. And yes I know it’s a fucked up way to think, but so are people.”

“I'm sorry.” Jungkook apologized but somehow the words felt too thin and they only seemed to enrage Jimin all the more.

“No, Jungkook, I’m sorry. You hurt me once and I can't let you do that again. I will no longer make my happiness dependent on someone else, I'm sorry.” Jimin’s hand moved to hug his other arm; so much he wished he could forsake that gesture, especially after seeing it depicted in Jungkook's short film. “But still, I won't relinquish my share of the blame in this mess. Whatever you want, I don’t think it can work out. I'm bound to fall out of love and I'm bound to hurt you too somed—”

Jungkook cursed under his breath, his words resonating against the four walls.

“Of course you'll hurt me and of course I’ll hurt you—but that shouldn’t stop us from being together. That’s what life is all about, it’s not just about love.” A spam of fury wracked Jungkook's cold and he was shouting, not angrily, just heatedly, fueled by hitting the end of his rope. He calmed down and approached Jimin, stopping two paces away, voice coming out as tender as his eyes. “Being apart does nothing to us not being hurt either.”

“But why?” Jimin marched the remaining distance, feeling played, feeling too pissed off with everything and Jungkook was on top of the list.

“Why what?” Jungkook seemed too confused to fully let way to his anger.

“You never said a damn thing, Jungkook!” He hissed, reeling back. “You still don’t.”

“Why did you never ask?” Jungkook yelled back, frustration written all over his face in permanent ink—or perhaps it could be erased by some magical words, a secret spell that only Jimin could cast. It was stupid that Jungkook expected Jimin to ask; it was stupid that Jimin didn’t ask because he dreaded the answer.

“Because you never did love me.” Jimin snapped, feeling the words come out without his consent. “And whatever you're feeling for me right now will soon fade away faster than it took to surface.”

However Jimin looked at it, admitting that hurt most of all. He wasn’t scared to fall in love; he was scared to fall in love with Jungkook. When the younger came around, gradually, Jimin started feeling not out of place for the first time in a long while; he started to feel like he finally belonged somewhere. He thought being together and as time went on, he would finally ‘get there’—to that somewhere.

Jungkook took a step forward, standing right before Jimin looking more undone than ever.

“What if I confessed my feelings, what if I told you I love you?” It was rhetorical; he was getting somewhere and Jimin was flinching. “You’d be the one running away this time.”

Jimin laughed bitterly; and for a cold second, he turned and gave Jungkook his back.

I would be the one running away? Me, Jungkook, me?” He shook his head once he turned around again, same old desperation creeping up on him as he put some distance between them again. “The thing with you is that you're nothing but a fucking what if, there is nothing more to you and I'm sorry if I just don’t want to fucking go through this again. I'm sorry if I'm not there to give you my all while you want to play it safe and distance yourself.”

The fine line between love and hate was becoming transparent, and Jungkook was dangerously walking that line, Jimin could tell that much.

“What do you want, Jimin?”

A reason, a sign—something to believe in. Jimin shook his head.

So much did this feel like a dead-end.

“You were a short-lived promise.” He paused and Jungkook tried not to flinch; he seemed to be focusing on the fire of his anger. “And I'm done with those.”

Just like he could break, it was easy to unbreak.

Jungkook took a step forward and Jimin almost took two backwards. He knew the wall was hardly away from where he stood. Jungkook was fixing him with that gaze, so intense, so calm—like a still surface that sure had deep water running beneath.

“I'm not afraid. Not anymore.”

“Well, I am, Jungkook.” Jimin’s tone took on a frenzied edge, becoming too erratic—so much in contrast with Jungkook's calm one on uttering the last sentence.

Still, Jungkook was unmovable. Jimin almost had the urge to take another step backwards—unable to keep up with that soul-intrusive gaze; he felt like he would crumble.

“Why would you? I'm here.”

“To fix me, not to love me.” Jimin hissed, words stinging him more.

Jungkook took a step forward; Jimin felt cornered.

“Wrong.” His eyes narrowed, as if bent under some weight; Jimin felt short of air—the ‘wrong’ making something unspool in him albeit imperceptibly, because the verbal affirmation sometimes helped. There was some kind of certainty Jimin hadn’t witnessed in Jungkook's eyes before—those eyes he loved but were also the same eyes that often looked lost.

Jungkook suited that look; Jimin had often glimpsed similar ones when the younger looked at him, but never as intense, never as irreversible.

“You're a person, not an object.” Jungkook's voice was calm, as if his pain in the past few weeks had tamed him—had made him mature. Jimin tensed, hearing Jungkook say that statement for the first time in his head. Jimin's back had hit the wall and Jungkook was barely a breath away. “And I'm not fit to fix anything as you said.”

“Now you say that.” Jimin knew he was being unfair; but defense mechanisms never cared about ‘fair’—only about protecting said person from further damage. “Now you finally realize that.”

“I always did. So tell me,” now there was some untamable fire breaking wild in Jungkook's eyes as he gazed at the elder, unfalteringly so, “Why would you be afraid… Jimin?”

Jimin's lips tightened into a line and he balled his fists.

“Because I was afraid to fall in love with you.” He got up in Jungkook's face, seeing something shift in his now wide eyes. “Because I looked at you and I felt like your heart was never given, only leant—on loan till you asked back for it.”

Jungkook flinched. Jimin was no better; the words left him heaving. He was for the first time admitting all that truly hurt him. If Yugyeom was someone who made Jungkook wonder why dreams felt like the worst of nightmares, then Jimin, from the very first moment he realized his feelings were growing stronger for the younger—from the very second he replied to the younger on that branch of their tree of intertwined fates—was fully aware Jeon Jungkook would be that one person who made him have a piece of heaven then have him crashing into the bitter reality.

Still, that didn’t make him resist his feelings, because Jungkook was also someone who taught him many things. And he was going to be okay, one way or another—because that, too, was something Jungkook had taught him. And such had proved sustainable, better than anytime preceding, in the past month.

Jungkook took a deep breath and it seemed like he were letting the words soak him before he spoke them—like he were letting them purge him. When he opened his eyes, the clarity present had Jimin gasp audibly.

“If only you'd believed that my heart was the only place you'd not have to pay rent to stay in—the only place where you're the owner and not merely a resident.”

Jimin was shaking his head, not on the verge of tears, but on the verge of exploding. This was foul play; the timing was unfair; the infection was spread too deep—so close to his heart.

“You can't expect to fuck up and just wrap it up like that” —Jimin wanted to break down; how come they were standing this close, this emotionally-naked before one another, without yet becoming one? The thought did nothing to calm him down— “This mouth has told so many lies why should I believe you now?”

Jungkook took that as a sign; Jimin credited him for not crying. Had it been him, he would have definitely broken down.

“It scares me that one day, I'd wake up in my forties to find I'd wasted away because of a stupid mistake I'd made while I'm a young naïve person.” Jimin was shaking his head, so much reminded by Jungkook's state when the tables were turned last time—that headshake, that was.

“This is the mistake I mean, Jimin-ah, the one made before stepping into adulthood. Adulthood isn’t marked by age; it is marked by mistakes. Be that be at the age of six or sixteen or thirty-six. Letting you go now would be that once-in-a-lifetime mistake.”

He was about to reach out to Jimin when the latter shook his head vigorously. Jeon Jungkook was the arms he would sleepwalk into; Jeon Jungkook was the arms he would fall into even if everyone he loved was in the room—not that anyone went on a par with Jungkook when it came down to Jimin's feelings. And that kind of dependency hurt Jimin; the power Jungkook held over him hurt him; his very own strong feelings for the younger, the ones that gave him strength and perspective, hurt him.

He could feel his eyes filling with tears; he could feel his bottom lip quivering; he could see Jungkook's image blur.

“Fuck you.” He said, fists hitting Jungkook's chest, eyes falling down, tears threatening to add to the mess. “Fuck you, Jeon Jungkook.”

Conflicted; so fucking conflicted it physically hurt.

His fists hit again and again and again and on the fourth time Jungkook had grabbed both of Jimin's wrists, forcing him to look up.

And Jimin never would have thought he could see his expression more mirrored in someone else’s face. The staring didn’t last long; it didn’t give enough time for their hearts to get back to their normal beating rhythm, not when they were about to skyrocket anyway. Perhaps it was Jimin who closed the distance sitting heavily between their lips; perhaps it was Jungkook. Perhaps they met halfway.

There wasn’t even a second of hesitation—of registration; there were just two hearts that finally realized they could beat as one. There was the inhibited hunger—the longing, the scamper for the feel of each other's skin. And like that, Jungkook was tasting Jimin's half-assed ‘fuck you, Jungkook’ off his very own lips.

Jungkook was holding both sides of Jimin's head, forcing him back to the wall. Jimin had tried to hold Jungkook's head but the latter had pinned both hands to either side of Jimin's head, muttering something but Jimin was too busy feeling angry. It took a lot of teeth-clatters and swallowing kisses before Jungkook let go of Jimin's hand, tugging at his waist-band.

“I hate you so much.” Jimin was saying, taking off Jungkook's shirt with too much force, barely registering the expression on the younger’s face.

Now shirtless, Jungkook again pinned Jimin's hands over his head again. He bit Jimin's lower lip, sucking at it, moving down to his shoulder and having the elder gasp—moan in pleasure—by the time his teeth had sunk in Jimin's skin. Jimin tried to push him back but Jungkook reasserted his grip, holding up Jimin's wrists above his head.

“Good,” Jungkook’s voice was husky and it irritated Jimin even more. He took a step backwards, watching Jimin's face like a finished canvas; and he seemed satisfied at his work, smirking in that cocky brattish way of his. “Because the feeling is mutual.”

“You’re such a fuckin—” Jimin had succeeded in pushing Jungkook back, but he failed to end his sentence. Jungkook was once again cupping Jimin's jaw and kissing him with such animalistic hunger it almost hurt. But Jimin was one to talk; he was no better.

He could feel Jungkook's fingers skidding against his skin; he could feel Jungkook's hurried hands as they yanked off his shirt; he could feel Jungkook's knuckles grazing against his sides. He could feel Jungkook's tongue burning inside his mouth, the younger’s breath setting his skin ablaze, their teeth cluttering in that incessant mess of a kiss. He wasn’t sure what came first, Jungkook getting down on his knees and yanking his jeans off, or Jungkook swooping him off his feet, having the elder right where he wanted him.

He could feel his very own lips moving into a feeble ‘You’re an asshole’ as Jungkook pried them open times and times again.

Jimin thought that time of them having sex would dull into oblivion, with that inhumane number of scratches and bites and not-so-gentle words. But by the time Jungkook was fingering him, he could clearly register that the younger’s eyes had turned kinder—perhaps they had long ago and Jimin just couldn’t see.

And perhaps it was the sex-haze or Jimin's angry cloud, but in a way he felt too drained to fight back. He felt a kind of tiredness that nothing could cure and nothing could make go away. He was just too damn tired of fighting and Jungkook could see that.

“To the left.” Jimin was half-delirious, tightening his arms around Jungkook's neck so he would not see the younger’s face.

“Jimin,” Jungkook called out, not disrupting the thrusts’ rhythm. If anything, they seemed slower. No, that wasn’t the correct word—gentler. They seemed much gentler. Jimin shut his eyes more.

“Jimin,” Jungkook tried again, this time unlatching himself and gently pushing Jimin's shoulders back to the mattress. Jimin was conscious of his panting, of Jungkook's melting eyes, of himself growing tighter and the room growing hotter. He wouldn’t reply still, looking to his side as Jungkook slowly rocked in and out of him, making him delirious with the painful pleasure.

“Jimin,” Jungkook's hand angled Jimin's face to him. He ghosted over Jimin's face and Jimin almost relished the touch. But Jimin wanted to calcify; he needed to.

“Just… shut up.” He half-moaned, looking to his side again so he wouldn’t meet Jungkook's eyes.

Jungkook just shook his head. He then leaned in, his lips brushing against Jimin's cheek, lingering there for a while. Indeed, Jimin was too tired that death seemed like a sweet alternative now, sparing him what could possibly ensue. If death and love were so interchangeable, as art could be a standing witness to, then Jimin would like choose the former; it hurt less.

Jungkook's hand was now tilting Jimin's face at an angle where he could stare deeply into the hooded eyes. Jimin looked back and he thought the clarity—the passion present in that gaze was akin to a final dissolution of the lie. Jungkook bent to kiss the corner of Jimin's mouth; Jimin was breathing hard.

“Close your eyes,” Jungkook was now whispering, his breath tickling more than just Jimin's ears; it was carried all the way to his heart. The spot Jungkook had just kissed burned, like the flames engulfing Jimin's heart. The look in Jungkook's eyes burnt, his gaze silencing thousands of voices—of thoughts.

It was close; Jimin could feel it; he was getting there.

Jungkook was still gazing and time seemed to stretch for the elder. Anxiously—restlessly, Jimin's heart was thudding softly in his chest, like a pair of butterfly wings delicately fluttering, its echoes reverberating in his bones, overpowering the riot in his mind and almost deafening his ears—trespassing even the darkest chambers of his makeshift heart. Jungkook was still moving, his eyes their warmest shade ever. A tingling feeling was blossoming within Jimin's core, throbbing in his veins and snuggling this cold vessel, making his blood warm with life. As Jungkook's fingers lingered on his skin, as the touch of a farfetched promise teased his heart, it made Jimin feel the weight of this skin for something more than a cage barely sustaining the tragedies of his soul.

Jimin was barely there; he was hung loose in space.

It was like a butterfly. A moment that within itself was aware of its fragility, of the fragility of this happy moment, yet not seeming to care—getting shattered was a small price for this ambivalent feeling. Jungkook’s fingers touched him again and all of Jimin's thoughts were displaced; that hungering look in the younger’s eyes was scattering all his caution and making his heart stutter even more.

Everything started to dull; everything but the chaos in Jimin's heart seemed to integrate into that still background. And after everything quietened around him but their in-sync breaths and their hearts that thrummed to the tune, nothing was ever as loud as Jungkook’s gentle whisper of 'I love you'—a whispered confession into his lips.

The liberating words pushed against the walls he had built around his heart, demolishing the last of the defenses he had confined himself in. Sometimes, one of the roads taken to learning to love yourself again was that taken to another’s heart—to the heart of the person you loved wholly despite everything, who loved you wholly despite everything. Because there was some kind of clarity—of purity and smaller magic—in giving yourself up again, in loving someone.

And Jungkook still managed to love him, with those broken pieces that made up his heart and with that whole—that wonderfully blinding—soul of his.

And Jimin could swear, he had died.

 

♥♥♥

 

Jimin was still livid. Like rain, it hailed down; but Jungkook wouldn’t drown.

Jungkook let him roar and roar, knowing there was no going back now. The first few times they met, there was nothing but the calm—no rapid heart beating, no agitation for the soul. Just calm. So much for the storms they had stirred in one another later—a tempest of unseen consequences. If only they both knew.

He was done running away; almost a month was long enough of an interval as it was. There was no denying he had ruined things; he had reflected and hurt and suffered and yearned and hurt again. He had loved and he had hurt and he had lost. But there he was not wanting to let go—there he was holding on. There he was wanting every piece of Jimin, and there he was ready to let him know—to let him feel—that.

It sure took Jungkook long enough; but it wasn’t easy outgrowing your pain or your fear. There was no way he could approach Jimin without having been ready—not again. Jungkook understood he had to grow individually before he proposed they grew together; and he felt he was ready. Any more preparations he should have for his heart, he would have along the way—with Jimin. He had let go of the toxicity plaguing his heart and he was ready to give his all again. It was all or nothing and Jungkook was all in—in the uncertainty, in the chaos, in Jimin's heart.

Jimin was the butterfly effect; but he was also in the eye of the storm. Jungkook didn’t care.

He was willing to be the lighthouse in Jimin's storms—the getaway boat.

And if the storm keeled the boat over, he would be his makeshift raft.

And if the raft was buffeted, he would be his buoy.

And if the buoy was swept away, he would be the tide that carried him to the shore.

And if the waves tried to pull him under, then with open arms, Jungkook would embrace the storm.

He didn’t care about anything, not from the minute Jimin had said ‘I was afraid to fall in love with you.’ Jungkook's ears had heard and his mind had translated, had read into the words, had seen through them. And he knew all that was to ensue in Jimin's heated speech was irrelevant; Jungkook had all he wanted. He had heard and seen all he needed.

He let Jimin break, with every stinging word, with every sharp look. He let him feel it all, let it out all. And he called out to him—once, twice, thrice. He called out until Jimin could hear him—could see him. Until he could reach out to Jimin.

Jungkook would meet him in the depth; he would crash on his shore and it would still be okay.

“Close your eyes,” Jungkook whispered, heart beating arithmetically knowing what was to follow—the three forbidden words either making or breaking everything. But Jungkook was done—done running away, done pretending he was not, done naming things as they were not. This was the moment where smaller magic collided with reality—breeding something breathtaking between those two almost-lovers.

Close your eyes to see what this art is all about, Jimin-ah. He thought, marveling at the perfection spread beneath him—of sweet sweat trickling down marble, of heavy-lidded eyes and hungry hands. To see the perfection that you are, Park Jimin.

Jimin was everything he denied being and everything Jungkook himself idolized. And that, Jungkook was head over heels for. The way Jimin smiled—making even the most barren of fields grow the most beautiful of flowers, consider Jungkook's heart; the sound of his infectious laugh—a remedy for the soul; Jimin's compassionate breathtakingly-beautiful eyes—giving everything he was once deprived of in more generous forms; the warmth Jimin's mere presence provided—Park Jimin was home.

All Jungkook wished was for Jimin to see all the things he saw in the seraphic being whenever Jungkook looked at him.

Falling in love was the irrationality—the impossibility—of being at the top and at the bottom at the same time.

“Jimin-ah,” Jungkook breathed into Jimin's ear at last, feeling out-of-breath and close to death yet he had never felt so alive. “I love you.”

And through the haze of everything, he could see Jimin's eyes widening; he could see tears pooling in his eyes and he could feel him clutch to his body, bury his face in the crook of Jungkook's neck as the latter thrust quicker, hearing incoherent slurs of his name mingled with Jimin's cries.

And as every piece of him smashed into every piece of Jimin's, he could swear they had made stars—galaxies, dimensions. They were in a moment far away from this doomed-to-decay world of ours, a moment where their love strived on the explosions going off in their hearts.

With a loud scream that sounded so much like Jungkook's name, Jimin came. And Jungkook was done for.

 

 

“So what comes after angry-breakup sex?” Jimin asked; he seemed conflicted about uttering that question. He was lying on Jungkook's arm, their feet entangled under the mess of the sheet, the latter absentmindedly playing with his hair as they both faced the ceiling.

“We get together.” Jungkook replied simply, smiling brightly.

Jimin chuckled; it wasn’t entirely humourless.

“Angry break-up sex, Kook-ah.”

Jungkook looked to his side, his lips brushing against Jimin's forehead, tasting wisps of hair.

“Well technically, we were never officially together.” Jungkook beamed. “And I just told I love you, don’t you get to rephrase that question?”

Jimin blinked, as though recoiling. Jungkook didn’t blame him; his heart still beat madly thinking about what he had just said, about what could ensue. Still, it was a feeling he would not trade for the whole world. All he wanted was to keep saying those reservation-vanishing words, turning the words over in his mouth, relishing their solidity on his tongue.

“Jungkook—”

“Did you open the mail I sent you a few hours ago?” Jungkook interrupted, lazily smiling down at Jimin.

“No.” Jimin squinted his eyes. “What does it have?”

“My final project.” Jungkook shrugged. “The one I'm gonna win the showcase with.”

Jimin shifted and Jungkook could read the pain in his eyes.

“I think I've seen enough of those.” His voice was small but Jungkook had more.

“It’s different, just please watch it.”

This time, Jungkook's project was everything he wished he could say to Jimin but words seemed to fail him. He watched Jimin deliberating.

“What is it titled this time?”

“Home.” ‘Giddy’ was Jungkook's middle name.

It was all about Jungkook being out there in the open; it was made of true feelings—of the footages he was protective of. It was about how love scattered all your caution once you fell with the right person, how it had your heart cradled in the hands of that person—making a home of that cozy place.

“Jungkook, for the last time, I'm too damaged for you.” Jimin turned to his side to fully face Jungkook, his hair tickling Jungkook's bicep. Jungkook could swear Jimin's eyes would break the second he finished his sentence. “I told you I lost my capacity to love. I've been hollowed out, Kook-ah. I feel empty like those haunted hallways, please understand.”

“But the deeper they'd hollowed your heart out is what makes my 'I love you' resound the loudest.” Jungkook let that sink in, trying not to overwhelm Jimin more. Those allegedly empty hallways made Jungkook's ‘I love you’ linger there the longest, till it had irrevocably filled every empty corner in Jimin's heart with the depth of his emotion. Park Jimin, a fine person who loved with all his heart—broken as he was.

“Don't the emptiest of hallways make the loudest of echoes?” Jungkook asked softly.

Jimin’s eyes broke into a sad smile; Jungkook frowned. He sat up, gently pushing back Jimin's hair, caressing his cheek and watching Jimin's eyes close like precious clams.

Jungkook didn’t know what reassurances he could offer; time always found a way to break things. But he knew there were only two things he could promise Jimin. The first was his heart; the second was his forever.

In other words, Jungkook didn’t want to be Jimin's temporary; he wanted to be his forever. That was the answer to all that couldn’t be rationally explained when it came down to their relation—Jungkook not wanting to sleep with Jimin, Jungkook finally sleeping with Jimin, Jungkook not confessing to Jimin, Jungkook finally confessing to Jimin.

He gazed at the elder and a smile broke out on his face. He bent down to speak the words against the plump lips.

“Endings don’t really have to be that bad. I vow to make you love me every day more than the one before.” Jungkook was whispering, bringing their foreheads together while closing his eyes. “I can't guarantee that you won't ever fall out of love, but I can promise I’ll do my best not to give you a chance to.”

He planted a long kiss on Jimin's forehead then slowly opened his eyes. Those were the eyes of someone who feared ending up alone yet kept pushing the people they loved away because they were scared to get hurt.

“You don’t mean that.” Jimin's voice was a shade of hurt—relics of old lovers, bittersweet memories, insomniac nights, haunting loneliness. Jungkook would take it all away.

“I've never felt so sure about something, Jimin-ah. I’ve never meant something so much.” Jungkook’s expression was one absent of any faltering, and he was letting his eyes channel just how assertive his feelings were. He wouldn’t let Jimin push him away, not when he had finally found what he had always been looking for.

“I understand that things could be broken someday, but we’ll cross that bridge when we reach it … together.” He held Jimin's hand in his and brought it to his lips, planting a small kiss as he let his eyes close, opening them again to see emotions warring behind the beautiful pair of eyes. “Yes, I can't guarantee things would always be smooth sailing, but at least we’ll be together… we should try, baby steps. And yes, things won't be easy because we’re together, but they’ll be easier. Even if it’s just a bit easier, I'd still want to be by your side.”

He didn’t notice that his smile was lopsided; perhaps it was because he felt the oncoming words raw against his throat. He shifted closer, hearing Jimin's breath audible and heavy—as if his lungs struggled for air.

“Jimin, you don’t understand, I love you so much I don’t want you to go through anything alone, I don’t want you to be sad, and I don’t want to be with anyone but you. I want you and I want to be there for you and I'm here to stay, please trust in me.”

He could see tears starting to pool in Jimin's eyelids; he could feel the words flood his heart, his veins, his body—moving all the way till they had reached Jimin.

“You’d not want that.” Jimin could manage no more and Jungkook was okay; Jimin had to hear him out. A smile started spreading across his face.

“I want to share every moment with you. I want to share my favourite food with you—my favourite music, my favourite movies, my memories, my heart. I want to share everything with you—”

“You can't sign up for the sweet part alone, Jungkook.” Jimin's voice was too small, eyes smiling sadly. “I have too much of a heavy past that it’d weigh on you.”

Jungkook shook his head softly, smiling.

He would never let Jimin go back to the drawing board, even if, and that was a big fat hypothetical if, things fell apart.

“I never said that’s all I want of you. I'd choose your storms any day of the week, Jimin-ah, over anyone’s sunshine. I'm not afraid.” Jungkook was grinning; he would have the hurt, the pain, the memories—he would have everything that Jimin carried alone. “And I don't care. We’ll be okay.”

“Jungkook, please understand what you're asking,” Jimin rose up in bed too and Jungkook hated that smouldered tone. “My heart feels dark, you’d get lost … I don’t want to do that to you.”

Jungkook wanted to laugh till he no longer had a voice. He tilted his head and looked at Jimin for a few beats, watching how he wouldn’t let the tears down, how he bit his bottom lip as it threatened to quiver, how his eyes still sifted Jungkook's for something. He looked and looked and saw, and nothing changed about his perspective: they were both human, not without flaws, but whole in their imperfections—perfect for each other.

“Park Jimin,” Jungkook held Jimin's head in both hands, looking deeply into the glossy eyes, watching them blink shiftily. “You have one of the purest, most brilliant and most beautiful hearts I've ever seen. You're beautiful, with all aspects of the word—body, heart, and soul. I don't care how long it takes, I’ll be there and I’ll make you bear witness to your own beauty every day. And if my words sound thin today, tomorrow you’ll see how bold my act of love for you and only you is.”

Jungkook had made it a life-mission long ago, ever since he took that risky jump: making Park Jimin loved like never before, like never ever; but that wasn’t up for negotiation since Jungkook intended to be his last—his forever.

Jimin still looked conflicted, in the silent pause, Jungkook could hear that.

“My heart is still a mess, Jungkook—”

Again, registering the pain in Jimin's tone and eyes, Jungkook shook his head.

“And so am I, Jimin.” He let out a small laugh, trying to coax Jimin's out too. “We’ll be okay. We’ll solve things together one problem at a time. We’ll be okay, Jimin-ah.”

“But you should—” Jimin had barely tried to push Jungkook's hand away from holding his face when the latter interjected, unyielding.

“You're pushing me away and I'm not going to leave. Not this time.” Jungkook was at this point of determination that he wouldn’t let anything, not even death, push them away from each other. His thumb brushed over the arc of Jimin's cheekbone, watching the latter relish the gesture. “You smell like home. Tell me how can I leave my home, Jimin-ah?”

At that, Jimin seemed to have forgotten everything; he started tearing, burying his face in Jungkook's chest. Jungkook was about to panic at first, but as he felt Jimin's warm tears against his skin—as he felt Jimin's small hands looking for something to clench to but Jungkook's naked state deprived him that—as he heard Jimin's soft cries, he put a hand on the back of Jimin's head and started to slowly pat it, smiling softly to himself.

“I love you, Jimin.” He said, his voice taking a new resonance as he felt a chain of illumination passing through him—through them. “Today, tomorrow, till the end of time. Nothing is ever going to change that.”

Jimin's cries seemed to intensify at that; Jungkook could feel Jimin's moist lips against his chest. And he let him be, smiling more to himself.

“I'm scared, Kook-ah,” Jimin was sobbing and Jungkook brought him closer to him.

“We’ll be okay,” Jungkook repeated for the millionth time.

“I'm scared that I trust you, I'm scared of how much I want you,”

Jungkook was smiling, stroking Jimin's hair as he looked at the ceiling; he liked the sound of that.

“We’re a mess—and I'm in love with the mess, Jungkook.” Jimin finally looked up. Jungkook resisted wanting to kiss those puffy lips. “I am.”

“Just the mess?” Jungkook teased; but he too needed to hear the words.

“I love you, Jeon Jungkook.” Jimin’s voice sounded choked yet so decisive. His eyes were squinted, like someone who was feeling lightheaded with tears—with happiness. “So much that it hurts.”

Jungkook chuckled and looked with a huge grin at Jimin for a few beats.

“I'm giving you my heart and you’re giving me yours.” He was twirling a hair-strand around his forefinger, pressing his lips against Jimin's hair. “Thinking like this is wonderful, isn’t it?”

Jimin giggled, once again looking so much like he was crying—but in a good way.

“Yes.” Jimin was looking at him while holding some words back. “Promise me, Jungkook,”

In a way, Jungkook understood.

“You don’t even have to ask, Jimin-ah,”

Jimin's smile wasn’t sad, just nostalgic. Because reality is inseparable from what-if’s, as paradoxical as it sounds.

“Just promise me that you'd be that one person I look back at if things went wrong and smile to myself, knowing I had everything and that things ended on the best terms, knowing we had everything—that we had the sweetest love.”

Jimin's hand slipped into Jungkook's, smiling warmly up at him, a smile bereft of pain; it only had love. Jungkook looked at that angelic face and he couldn’t get his head wrapped around how much love he held for him; he couldn’t understand how anyone—how he could ever let go of him.

“I never intend to let go of you.” Jungkook reassured him. “And I promise, if anything went wrong you'd look back only to find sweet memories. You'd look back and still feel the love.” Jungkook let that sink in though the scenario hurt him; but there was no way his love for Jimin, however strong, was time or life foolproof. “You'd look back and unquestionably know you’ve been loved truly.”

He added the last part with so much silent emphasis because that was what Jimin beseeched implicitly by securing a promise from Jungkook; the younger understood that by merely looking into Jimin's eyes.

A tear-loaded smile broke out on Jimin's face, gratefully so.

“How did I ever find you?” Jimin chuckled, running his free hand through his silver locks.

Jungkook groaned at the sight.

“How did I find you?”

Jimin was laughing; Jungkook held his hand tighter, smiling wider.

“Maybe we’ve always been in each other,” Jimin was biting his lower lip, smiling flirtingly at Jungkook.

Jungkook grinned and mouthed a silent ‘I love you’ in an exaggerated way, getting another giggle.

“Say it again,” Jimin asked, nuzzling closer; Jungkook was still giddy.

“I love you,”

Cue the giggle. Jungkook hugged Jimin closer to his body, relishing the warmth—the love. He needed nothing more; it was like a message in a bottle reaching its destination, resting reassured on the shore.

They had come to each other in pieces … so they could bring each other home.