Actions

Work Header

slow song

Work Text:

 

 

being lost is the first step of being found, often rather slowly...

 

 

 




*

 



min yoongi is a dreamer. and well, you know what they say about dreamers.

 



*




if yoongi was a praying man or if yoongi was a therapy man, if yoongi was a man who yoongi never will be, maybe he'd have a conversation about these: the dreams he has and the dreams he doesn't have, the problem with fire and the solution of fire, the fear that is his own fear but also someone else's fear -- the fear held tight and shaking in his arms one piano blue afternoon.




*

 



what yoongi wanted to say that day: "i'll take care of you. i won't let them hurt you."

what yoongi actually said: "jungkook. jungkook...we have to go."




*





he replays it a day later a week later a month later a year later two years later; he--

--can't stop.

namjoon pulled him aside back then.

"he's afraid he's never going to see you again," he said.

yoongi wiped some blood off of his own mouth, choked when he tried to swallow, said, "that'd be best for him." he remembers namjoon's look that told him to try another one over on him; remembers cutting his losses and turning to go 'home' which wasn't really home, remembers that he coughed again and mumbled too low to be heard, "you'll look out for him. won't you."





*




when yoongi was a kid he played the piano to try and say the things he couldn't say with his mouth. when yoongi was too old to be a kid but not old enough to be thrown out, he played the piano as language learned and thoughts still snarled in numbers that made no sense to him. he played his own lifeline and sometimes he played his mother's. if he ever tried to play his father's it came out wrong and eventually yoongi stopped trying. this was before the fire but after the storm and to this day when yoongi passes by a piano he thinks sometimes he can feel his mother's hands on his shoulders or his father's shadows behind his eyes. 

less often, he thinks he can hear a boy's smile. don't ask him how you can hear a smile. he just knows that with jungkook, that's how it was.

how it is.

"not even real," yoongi mutters to himself, scuffing down a graffiti-tripped alleyway. 

of course, jungkook is real. 

what yoongi means.

what he really means?

not even here.





*




the chip on yoongi's shoulder is a planet-sized self scrutiny that takes on different voices and points in time. he has this bad habit of trying to go back to other bad habits: hovers outside bodegas eying their cigarette buffets, loiters down various streets hoping to run into who he doesn't deserve to run into, sets small things on fire -- once, almost, by accident, himself. he still doesn't know why it wasn't worse; or he does and it doesn't make an especially convincing amount of sense. 

yoongi has been running forever but mostly from himself. 

if he thinks about it enough he almost smiles but the feeling of wanting to cry never really leaves him.

a missing piano key. a lighter he doesn't have anymore. a boy curled on the ground of a special place. a safe place made unsafe.

he thinks about the sea and one day filled with tired laughs carrying tenuous wishes on their backs and oh.

it's just second nature to run a little more.




*



the first day yoongi meets jungkook, jungkook is fifteen and yoongi is almost eighteen and they introduce to each other parts of themselves they did not know were there.

yoongi says, "hey," then after a kick from namjoon adds, "you play?" a nod to the music books clutched tight in jungkook's arms -- arms better for something soft than the strong defense they suggest, a rigid carefulness yoongi knows by heart; he wonders where this boy's comes from. 

"um," jungkook says. his teeth are huge, yoongi notes, then revises: cute. then tries to erase that thought and supplement it with: bunny. lucky or not, jungkook continues, "teaching myself," shrugs. "namjoon-hyung says you play too." 

yoongi's mouth twitches, denying a smile, but maybe it's a little there anyway in the firelight flicker of his eyes as he leans a little closer, watches jungkook's ears flush pink to the tips, and says, "yeah." a small smile thieves in anyway. "i play too."

then namjoon jerks him back by his collar, yoongi curses him out, and he hears it for the first time: that sound he loved best to associate with the piano and private quiet -- laughter that curls warm and friendly and tender, starlight sounds jostling each other for space in the sky, just...jungkook with a music yoongi recognizes from day one and can't stop recognizing thereafter.

even in all too lonely silences.




*




their special place is nothing. it's everything. it's a piano yoongi tuned to perfection, a bench that leans off-kilter to the right, and no lighting. a few desks. 

it's his.

and jungkook's.

that's enough.

a clatter has him jump.

"sorry, sorry," jungkook says as he steps through the door to drop his book-bag on the ground and all but collapse onto the bench beside him. yoongi's brow arches, his hand reaching back to run fingers through jungkook's hair.

this is the first mistake.






*





"listen more carefully," yoongi tells him, plays the melody, waits. 

on all weeks before this, jungkook has nodded wordlessly and practiced until he got it. 

today he tiptoes his fingers across the keys until one of his hands rests between yoongi's. he's close enough that his chin angles easily against yoongi's arm, head tilted to the side, eyes catching the light as he looks up at him. 

this is the second mistake.

some movies lead to kisses in scenes like this.

this movie stays right here, yoongi daring to be playful -- to be a bit more himself -- as he blows a puff of air down at jungkook's bangs, watches the flutter of his eyelashes and the honest twitch of his mouth almost smiling almost laughing almost that one word too big for both of them just yet. when jungkook opens his eyes again, yoongi doesn't think it's a trick of the light that jungkook's eyes sparkle.

and despite his best intentions, he can't convince himself it's a trick that they fit together so nicely.

a little cruel, perhaps. the way good things happening maybe slightly too late tend to be. yoongi's shadows whisper gentle like water, uncompromisingly human: 'too late'.

"like this?" jungkook sits up, plays the song his way. yoongi snorts.

"what was that?"

jungkook being jungkook, shrugs with a giggling sound, and lets yoongi play it again.

 



*



once yoongi told namjoon he stays out of trouble and namjoon drily looked at him only to say: no, you are trouble.

at the time, yoongi didn't think much of it. 




*




on a rainy afternoon, standing between jungkook's knees while the boy perches on a desk, his head tipped back so yoongi can easier clean a few cuts on his face, yoongi remembers that conversation, surprises himself by whispering in the dark,

"what kind of trouble are you in?" thinks: other than me.

"nothing," jungkook says, flinches when one cut stings worse than the others.  yoongi blows on it. jungkook settles, whispers back, "thanks."

yoongi meets jungkook's gaze as lightning illuminates a few things -- how lovely jungkook is, how close, how almost his, how...too good for that.

physical pain blooms abrupt and full in yoongi's chest.




*




mistake three.




*




in one version of that memory which is also sometimes a dream, yoongi lets jungkook in close enough to try never letting go.





*




"he likes you," seokjin warns yoongi one night, sitting arm to arm with yoongi which makes it easy to reach over and pluck the unlit cigarette out of his mouth. on the beaten up couch jungkook sleeps curled improbably small. namjoon has his head back against the seat of the couch, mouth open, sleeping just as deep.

"i like him too," yoongi says knowing full well that's not what seokjin means, seokjin who crushes the cigarette with a calm no-nonsense reserve and says,

"i know."

that cuts through yoongi's facade more than anything else could. he scowls into the sparks of the fire in the metal bin. 

it would be hard to say who between them is more caught off guard when jungkook opens both eyes, wide and alert, stares straight at them through the twisting light and...does that thing. 

smiles.




*




min yoongi is a dreamer; has recurring dreams: flies through certain song sounds and sleeps in his sleep under pianos and in the hearts of fires. lately in his dream he visits something like the stars, visits a boy who plays a song and sings it twice as well, lets himself in dreams step behind him just to hold him tight, kiss the back of his neck, mumble dream things in his ear that he cannot let himself say otherwise because yoongi long ago decided he ought not be an attachment in that way.

funny though, or not: he can't remember why he made such a decision. it's just that he thinks jungkook is bright; that jungkook should live his life -- his everything -- and not be held back by the hesitations of some other person. 

but maybe it's too late.

because jungkook brings an extra umbrella on days it might rain, jungkook brings him music, jungkook hooks their pinkies together when they're just sitting at the piano talking about their days and their nights; jungkook looks at him with the love yoongi has lifelong wanted to feel and lifelong been afraid to believe in. jungkook plays the piano and sings and lights a way through the dark halls for yoongi to find him in a place that only belongs to them.

yes maybe it's too late, for yoongi to be unimportant. for jungkook to be unimportant.

for blue rooms and seashores to be only blue rooms and seashores.




*




for every once-in-a-while that yoongi takes a cotton ball and some antiseptic to jungkook's jaw or his neck, jungkook uses ten times as many on yoongi who has what jungkook calls 'that stupid thing' where he tells him he's fine. 

"yeah, yeah," jungkook murmurs, cleaning a bruising swell of a cut near yoongi's temple, adds, "this isn't fair."

something in how sad he sounds makes yoongi circle jungkook's wrists with his hands, hold him still without holding him close.

"hey." pause. "don't worry about me. we've been over this."

jungkook's frown only deepens, so yoongi lets go of one of his wrists just to reach up and press his index finger right between jungkook's eyes.

"wha--"

"i said." he retracts his hand slowly. "don't worry."

as a response, jungkook kneels in front of him and presses the cottonball to one of yoongi's more open cuts.







*





when jungkook was younger he spent a lot of time on his own. he grew quick at telling himself it was all his own doing, his own idea; that if no one noticed him for any given reason -- big, small, in-between -- that was okay. fifteen almost sixteen, that lie doesn't work as well anymore. jungkook aches around the edges, feels a phantom break somewhere near the center of him, and idles somewhere dangerous inside. 

then he meets yoongi. yoongi who for a while he thinks of as piano-hyung the way he thought of namjoon as book-hyung. he meets yoongi, feels him get close, holds his own breath and....feels strange.

feels...good.



*




at the beginning, when yoongi plays the piano for him, jungkook can almost hear the words, finds himself humming along like his tongue could pick up on that secret story if he carried the tune long enough. he only falters when yoongi stops. he takes a few anxious steps to the side of the piano, wrings his hands and says,

"s-sorry." looks down. "i just like it."

around them the music shop is just loud enough to not care about what they are doing; in the near distance someone questions a markdown on one set of sheet music versus another. 

yoongi shakes his head. "don't 'sorry'." he smiles and jungkook feels strange all over again, vision hooked on the crinkle at the corners of yoongi's cat-eyes and the soft almost eternal pout to his mouth even when he's showing his teeth. "you sound good," yoongi says and jungkook whispers with no reason to whisper.

"oh." and, "thanks."

they stare at each other a second more before yoongi swings his legs over to get up, rests a hand between jungkook's shoulderblades and guides him out. 

"hungry?" he asks.

eventually jungkook learns just how little yoongi has, but today not knowing, he dares to smile back and let himself be led to a small street vendor who gives them one extra skewer with the comment of: "too skinny," at yoongi, who, once they are out of sight, offers it to jungkook instead anyway.




*




have you ever met someone who makes you feel more You? not forever. maybe not even for very long. but for a while.

to jungkook, that person is yoongi. now. back then. and somehow, tomorrow. to jungkook in different ways that person could also be namjoon, could be jimin, could be hoseok, could be jin, could be taehyung. 

but the way he means it with yoongi is a bruise that doesn't go away, the kind jungkook presses on hard just to make sure he himself is still here. 

it's the bruises all over yoongi that he wants to get rid of; and in years to come he wonders if yoongi ever did wash them away.




*



"what do you mean it's 'normal'?" jungkook grits his teeth, hands reaching for yoongi's face to tilt it just so. the fight yoongi puts up is minimal but jungkook knows by now this is mostly due to the fight being taken out of him prior. jungkook bites his lip, bites the inside of his cheek, bites his tongue; feels yoongi's hands not quite on his waist, just making a play of tugging on his over-sized hoodie as he says,

"i mean exactly what i said and stop biting yourself." 

only human, jungkook is distracted by yoongi's hands not quite doing what parts of them acknowledge in never-completed glances and motions. what they want. what yoongi won't let himself have and therefore won't let jungkook have. 

sighing, jungkook wipes at the sweat persisting across his brow. yoongi frowns.

"you getting sick?"

jungkook shakes his head, lies, "nah." pauses. "i'm going to go buy you some ice." he's to the door of their special place when something occurs to him -- not the first and not the last never the last -- and he turns, resting his head softly against the doorframe with his backward glance. "...don't leave...okay?"

and yoongi feels like a villain as well as a fool, turns a lighter over and over in his pocket and nods.



*




"it's not normal," jungkook whispers watching taehyung sleep, the nighttime not entirely obscuring the danger of the house he lives in. yoongi isn't here tonight and jungkook can't help but worry all the more. at his side, namjoon shakes his head, tugs a lollipop out of his mouth.

"it's not. and it's not okay. but they're doing the best they can."

"i know that," jungkook doesn't mean to be defensive but he is. 

"i know you want to help."

"so do you," this time jungkook looks over at him, sees how tired namjoon looks, thinks he can see the long unrewarding hours of doing things far below one's dreams and heartbeats and it hurts him, hurts to see his friends like this, makes him think: you deserve better. it's a thought he often has when he catches the tide going out on any of them, just enough to reveal their most fragile parts. he thinks of all people seokjin hides it best, maybe followed by hoseok who is strongest when he's strong and weakest when he's weak. jimin worries jungkook all the time and taehyung just as much. 

"yeah," namjoon says, sticks the lollipop back in his mouth a little too hard, and faces forward.

jungkook stares into their small trashcan fire and wonders what yoongi is up to.



*



a voice stirs drags jungkook out of sleep, slow slow slow.

"--kook? jungkook! hey!"

opening his eyes is very hard. he decides he doesn't want to, just shifts slightly in whoever's arms and winces.

"jungkook wake up. god come on...."

it's the breaking sound that pulls jungkook up. not a vase of flowers. not a snap of bone. yoongi's voice: cut jagged in half.

his eyes seem glued shut and when he opens them it hurts. he moans a little, shivers and shrinks and is vaguely aware of yoongi's hands trying to gather him up against him. they must both be on the ground. he can feel yoongi's hands -- one against his neck impossibly gentle, the other soft-hard against his face; can feel the tickle of yoongi's hair and the brush of his ear as he listens for jungkook's rasping breaths.

"i knew you were sick," yoongi sounds close to crying and it shocks jungkook more than anything because yoongi isn't the kind of person who cries, almost like he's forgotten how; and he wants to tell him it's just a cold or the flu or whatever, not to worry. but it's too hard to stay awake. he has just enough consciousness to shift and curl closer into yoongi's hold, his hand grasping for a few seconds at yoongi's shirt before he slips under again, feeling guilty as yoongi calls his name.



*





"stupid," yoongi tells him when jungkook wakes up, feeling like what he imagines almost-dead must be, though if almost-dead means yoongi turning a damp cloth over on his forehead, the group's communal blanket tucked in ferociously around him on their couch, he supposes he can deal. his smile is chapped and dizzy and yoongi is floored by it anyway as he thumbs the sharp of jungkook's cheek. he's still too warm but not as bad as before, and what yoongi doesn't tell jungkook is...well there are a lot of things actually.

but right now it's this: you mean a lot to me.




*



(you are almost everything.)



*



the day jungkook tries to follow yoongi home, they fight.

"it's none of your business!" yoongi cannot quite bring himself to yell at jungkook. yet. 

"i'm your--" jungkook stops short, panting from chasing yoongi down streets he doesn't even recognize anymore. 

"you're my?" yoongi echoes and it comes out mean.

he regrets it immediately, feels jungkook's fallen expression like an impact of his worst nightmare. but he doesn't take it back. instead he watches jungkook swallow something shaky and sad as he says,

"i'm your friend."

means: let me be.

means: more.

means: please.

"yoongi," he reaches for him. yoongi steps back, pulls away. has already started but it's not really fair is it? he let jungkook too close and now jungkook wants to help, wants to fix things; but yoongi doesn't have the words, never did, for all the things he's grateful for people wanting to do despite knowing they cannot actually do them. he runs, he fights, he dreams of fire; lately he found respite in a blue room. a piano. and the boy not quite crying in front of him, wearing that same black hoodie yoongi met him in what seems forever ago and isn't quite. 

isn't really.

forever.

except that's what jungkook feels like.

forever.

yoongi shakes his head; he can't let it happen.

"go home, jungkook."

"hyung, please--"

yoongi keeps his distance, won't lay a finger on jungkook that isn't to tell him his hands do beautiful things on the piano or he's a complete moron for getting sick just because he's too busy taking care of yoongi himself. but he can feel the fight and ire in him amping up, can feel the very kind of spark that his father says makes him just as dangerous as he is and nothing hurts quite like that does, nothing stains quite like that does. 

no, yoongi thinks. i won't.

he backs away, turns--

--runs.

and despite his reputation, he's fast.

jungkook is still healing. he can't keep up.

later at the house that does not fit the word 'home', half his face swollen and his shoulder screaming, yoongi is about to text him to make sure he got home okay, but jungkook is jungkook; he beats him to it:

i have a song for you.

yoongi texts back half conscious and sluggishly foolishly warm:

what kindof sng?.



*




jungkook thinks: a love song.

thinks: stupid.

replies:

your song.




*



in his spare time, jungkook sketches more than he studies. he draws all of his friends but there are three times as many yoongis in the margins, in the mistake spaces in the just right places in the every place that he can fit him -- and that's everywhere. half of his expression bleeding into a starry sky, just the barely there curve of his cheek when he's turning away and his hair obscures the glint of his eyes which would otherwise help jungkook know what he's thinking. yoongi's hands, moonlit anchors on the piano which jungkook often thinks of as being a part of yoongi, not so much two sides of a coin which suggests something of a foil; but rather the heartbeats and the rests between them; inextricable until they both stop. he draws this idea, dislikes how it comes out because it's dark and no matter how dark yoongi feels, to jungkook yoongi is a light; not the bright bright light of day which can be too consuming and maybe not even midnight, but moonlight at dusk or in the just beginning hours of dawn, soft and blue despite everything. how weary the world makes people so young. 

jungkook plays the song he has been trying to write for yoongi to tell him all the things he has this feeling yoongi does not want him to say. 

why do the small words mean the most?

yoongi, beat up as he is that following day, rests with his back against the wall and listens to jungkook fumble through his confession, recognizes it for what it is and pretends to fall asleep.

feels jungkook drape his hoodie over him, feels him do what he knows jungkook would never do if he knew yoongi was awake: kiss his temple, kiss the top of his head, and...

...hold his hand.

for a very long time.





*





 no one else knows about the special place, which is why it belongs to them. some days yoongi is too tired or hurt to play and jungkook will. other days yoongi plays for hours on his own and jungkook sleeps curled up on a couple of desks shoved together; and it's fine. because it's enough -- it's everything -- just to be together.





*



"what are you going to do after school, hyung?"

"i don't know."

"tell me when you do?"

a soft not-quite laugh.

"go back to sleep, jungkook."




*




that day at the sea, jungkook is fairly certain everyone cried at least once. and they felt stupid. and they felt young. and they were. stupid and young. stupid and young and---

--together.




*




but they come away alone.





*



yoongi notices it without fully letting the note ring. something is wrong. jungkook too quirks a brow, squints at the piano; pauses.

this goes on for almost an hour before jungkook hurries after an almost hysterical yoongi. if fire had a human form, jungkook sometimes thinks it would be yoongi who exhales smoke without a cigarette anywhere near him, yoongi who lights up or fires off at any given moment in some unprecedented pinnacle of desperate understanding. yoongi who understands this in particular that first day back:

i don't think i can make you happy.

means:

i don't think i can keep you happy.




*



the distance between yoongi and the piano becomes like the absence of the sea. jungkook thinks the music isn't wrong but the connection is. he goes to touch yoongi's shoulder one afternoon and flinches when yoongi jerks away, ducks his head to hide how he feels though yoongi knows just the same, feels bad and almost reaches for jungkook as apology but...doesn't.

because this is the point, he tells himself.

he watches jungkook pull himself up onto a desk, hold his knees to his chest, his head resting on those knees.

the argument of the piano covers any soft sadness shivering from his direction.






*




lately, when yoongi dreams, he dreams of jungkook's laughter at the seashore.

when jungkook dreams, he dreams of yoongi and the piano and a light sunset red.




*





at the school inspection, when jungkook sneaks off, he doesn't think he's noticed.





*






he's done this so many times. it doesn't occur to him anymore that they would ever be caught.





*





mistake four.






*




a few nights prior, yoongi and jungkook collapsed together in laughter behind the warehouse fire, melted against each other's sides, yoongi freed by liquid courage and daring, jungkook high off of just being allowed so devastatingly close, overwhelmed by yoongi's arm around his shoulders, his hand pulling him closer, the brush of his mouth to jungkook's ear as he said,

"that's good."

jungkook, not daring to turn, not wanting to break what was happening, asked beneath their laughter, "what's good?"

yoongi's laugh grew warmer, lower, something with loving teeth as he answered with rounder words, "you...happy."




*




jungkook wants yoongi to be happy, knows that talking about that night is not what will necessarily get them there and yet maybe it would? haven't they tried everything else? and if he's honest, it hurts; it hurts to listen to yoongi play the piano like a tool rather than his oldest friend; it hurts to watch him shrink and ache and fracture because of it. jungkook doesn't want yoongi to rely on ways like drinking or smoking or fighting to get where he needs to with his language: music.

jungkook wants to be the other way. 

but yoongi won't let him.

thinly he's aware of yoongi's muttered curse, the slip of the sound on the piano, and it's not his problem but it is his problem.

yoongi said his happiness was good but jungkook thinks the reverse is also true. 

your song is my song. 

if yoongi cannot play, the analogous truth, perhaps, would be that jungkook cannot sing.




*



"pretty," yoongi says when he walks into their special place some months earlier to jungkook singing and hitting one or two keys on the piano here and there. he blushes in the dark.

"just messing around," jungkook says. yoongi drops down next to him, plays the beginning of something beautiful, sends him half a smile and says,

"keep going."




*





yoongi records jungkook only once. he's as grateful for that singularity as he is regretful that it happened only one time. his own fault -- not daring to keep things...not knowing how.





*




"being happy is scary," namjoon once said to him and yoongi scoffed with his voice but said 'i agree' with his body crouched low on the pavement, watching rain break against the street in pellets. trapped under an awning, yoongi considered whether or not jungkook had gotten home okay until he felt namjoon kick him in the side. 

"hey!"

"you should just tell him," namjoon said.

yoongi slouched further, a human imitation of a rock, and said, "i don't know what you're talking about."



*



suppressing tears is no new talent but with yoongi it's harder. jungkook cannot always control them. blinking hard, he moves himself just enough that if yoongi looks over he won't see, head tucked down, eyes carefully shut. but he needn't have bothered. 

things happen fast, the way the uncontrolled tend to:

a slammed door, a silent room in its wake.

a pain against his face that has nothing to do with trying not to cry.

he thinks it's a little unreal; he's been hit before once or twice but this blow comes with the anger of authority that isn't afraid of the outcome. this isn't a child against a child which is all jungkook has known so-far. it occurs to him as he hits the ground that this is a fraction of what causes yoongi all his shadows and that hurts more than the physical blow. he's stunned, head spinning and thoughts whirling too many at once; cannot find the nerve to stand up and feels himself a coward as he tries to become as small as possible. if someone had posited this situation to him before he would have said he hoped he could fight back; it's disheartening to find he's just....scared.

it takes him a while to understand that the little gasping sounds are his own; breathing is hard. is he panicking? don't panic, he tells himself but it's maybe too late. he hears anger, hears anger returned, rolls on his side enough to see something he'll see for a long time whenever he closes his eyes:

an expression on yoongi's face that is so much more than this individual the moment -- a lividity built over years for people who abuse their power because they will always get away with it; again jungkook thinks: smoke, fire --

-- yoongi. 

his head is still swimming but he thinks the teacher surges forward, not toward yoongi but toward him. a reflex, jungkook shuts his eyes and waits for another blow that does not come. instead, yoongi has his arms around him and jungkook has wanted yoongi to have his arms around him completely sober for so long, but the sayings bear listening to: be careful what you wish for.

yoongi holds him tight, holds him close, holds him like jungkook is.....important.

over his shoulder, jungkook sees the cost of being that kind of thing to a person like yoongi, jungkook sees the teacher's still clenched fist and the invisible power on that title versus their own and sinks against yoongi who surprises him by holding him up all the while. he absently can feel yoongi's fingers running fast through his hair, realizes belatedly that under the teacher's ongoing verbal assault, yoongi is whispering just to him:

"jungkook, jungkook are you with me? jungkook...we have to go."




*


no, jungkook squeezes his eyes shut, cries as yoongi shoves their way past the teacher and steals him away. he doesn't remember getting to their hideout, nor the bed they all would often try to share, seven growing boys making room the way the adults in their lives hadn't. he doesn't remember much; just that gut feeling: no.

that's not what i want you to say.




*




mistake five.






*





jungkook dreams that yoongi kisses him goodnight instead of goodbye but dreams are just dreams sometimes.





*




he falls asleep crying and wakes up crying; but the worst of it is that yoongi isn't there.

at his side, seokjin sits with a pink camera limp in one hand, a photo from the sea in the other. curling on his side, jungkook wipes his face with the back of his hand and whispers hoarsely,

"i want to go back."

seokjin, not looking at him, reaches to rub his hand up and down jungkook's back gently.

says,

"me too."





*



even though yoongi stops coming, jungkook goes back to their special place anyway, until one day he goes back and the piano isn't there. 

he goes back even after that, a few times.

thinks: i can't lose both of you.



*




things yoongi never did that he tells himself are for the better: kiss jeon jungkook on the mouth, write songs into his skin with the tips of his fingers, hold him close when he would remember everything sharp sharp sharp without fear standing in the corner.

things yoongi never did that he regrets the absence of: kissing jungkook on the mouth, writing sad songs happy songs forever songs across his skin and in the divots of his spine, threading his arms around him and pulling him in like some kind of magnet for the brightest thing in the room.

things that are the same things: those.

and this: yoongi listening to jungkook's voice on loop; yoongi in love.








they drift. not just jungkook and yoongi; all of them. 

jungkook wonders if the sea feels this way: always reaching but never truly touching.



*




a year passes, two years pass. he thinks: it's getting harder to remember. then he thinks: what about you?

in the background he knows there is family, or is it? he knows it's someone. they don't seem to see him. jungkook takes care of himself, sees himself to school or not to school, has memorized this city like the back of a hand that doesn't belong to him.

it makes it easy for him to finally do what he's been meaning to for some time now.



*



there is no one else on the street. and he could easily avoid them; could run away when their fists find his face, his chest, his stomach.

he doesn't. 




*





stumbling or not, dazed or not, there are obviously cars coming. and he could easily avoid the nearest one.

he doesn't.





*






not there but not as far as jungkook thinks he is, yoongi dreams of a music shop and a car crash. 

yoongi dreams of jungkook's smile and broken glass.

he dreams and he wakes up with a scream choked halfway in his throat, sweat soaked sheets that these days no longer smell of smoke.

"just a dream," he mumbles, lisps badly in the dark. 

jungkook is fine wherever he is. better now. without him. 

surely.

but yoongi cannot sleep for the rest of the night, reaches for his cigarettes as the sun bleeds in his window and then rolls his eyes. right. no lighter. 

watching the climb of sunrise against the walls of his room, yoongi misses what he ran away from.

apparently, even admitting he did it to himself, doesn't help. if anything, it makes it worse, because the parts of love that are permanent are for real and no amount of running really changes that.

figures.

in his left hand the box of cigarettes turns over over over.

 




*




"do you know where you are?" 

jungkook shakes his head.

"what's your name?"

again he shakes his head.

then he looks down at his hands. 

name?

"sorry," he mumbles and it comes out raw; he coughs. a hand steadies him, gentle but firm.

"it's okay," they assure.

jungkook thinks it sounds like a lie.






*






hit by a car. indications of prior injuries. possible abuse. jungkook cannot correct them because he does not remember. instead he listens to their not quiet enough suppositions, detached and a little distant. they tell him he'll need a wheelchair for some time and a memory he cannot fully reach reacts for him: knots itself into the most tangled of messes and whispers something about needing to be able to run. 





*





certain things confuse jungkook more than others. he loses time quite a bit. 

where he goes in these lost spaces is anyone's guess. sometimes he thinks he must be sleeping and other times he thinks he's not even real. jungkook wanders the halls of the hospital, wheels under his hands a rough reminder of the fact that he is, against all odds...

...alive. 




*




"your name is jungkook," they tell him.

"okay," he says. 





*





not as far away as one might expect, yoongi is laughing at himself, a dark in the light, when his phone buzzes.

three words glare up at him, and for a while he forgets to breathe.



*






i found him.






*





when yoongi was ten he tore a tendon falling down the stairs, trying to run away. almost twenty-one now, he is trying to not run, is trying to do the hardest thing any person has ever done:

go home.





*



but going home is the true neverending story. amnesia they say. doesn't even know his own name, they say. yoongi stares numbly through the narrow window of the hospital room door at the boy who sleeps and dreams in memories he doesn't recognize as his own, thinks he hears a piano, thinks he hears jungkook's voice:

"hyung..."

yoongi walks away without ever waking him up, fights with the one new friend he made and has so far tried to keep, argues in the middle of the street and yells terrible things he doesn't really mean. except some of them he does: he's better off not knowing, he's better without me. old ghosts are not ghosts so much as chains and chains are not so much chains as self inflicted chokeholds. yoongi can't breathe, wants a cigarette to drive it home, wants to be less sober than the clean him he's become but carrying jungkook around with him in his head has done more than his fair share: he settles for making a mess. he settles for trying to play a piano sound and receiving a screaming sound and throwing it all into a hundred wrong angles. the room is dark and yoongi is fire and his favorite place is a place he hasn't been to in years.

his favorite place is a person.

but that place doesn't know him and yoongi says it's for the better but what he means is: i miss you.

what he means is: you were supposed to miss me too.

what he means is: i listen to your voice when i can't sleep.




*



"he saw your lighter," she tells him. yoongi's hand flattens against the piano keys.

"so?"

"i think...he recognizes it," she says. 

"so give it back."

a lollipop is pressed into his hand as she leaves, guitar slung over her shoulder, a shake of her head and a murmur of, "it's not the lighter that's important."




*




one month. thirty-one days. morning and evening. yoongi goes to the hospital intending to do one thing and doing nothing.

on the first day of the second month, yoongi dreams about the sea, thinks he hears the snap and process of instant film, thinks he hears fire crackling and laughter that braids highs and lows together like sun and shadow, thinks he hears philosophy toeing the edge of childhood, thinks he hears one indelible smile a little brighter than the rest, thinks he hears a song once called 'yours'. 

he goes back to the hospital. 

unlike days before, he doesn't dress nice, doesn't anxiously shuffle outside a sleeping jungkook's door. 

today he murmurs secret words, lets himself in, and tries not to bolt when as if on some cosmic cue, jungkook opens his eyes and says, his gaze dream-lush and daylit:

"who are you?"





*




"volunteer," yoongi says. 

jungkook tilts his head.

"i play the piano," yoongi tries again, shifts his weight. 

jungkook sits up a little straighter.

"i like the piano," he says and it's weightlessness against yoongi's gravity. 

yoongi thinks: i know you do. says, "that's good."




*



they say what the mind forgets sometimes the body remembers. the first day jungkook hears yoongi play the piano is not truly the first day; something in him knows, has him shuffling and limping forward on his crutch until he's the person closest to that sound, that song that he has never heard and yet has always heard. he thinks: this is that music in my sleep, the one that plays backdrop to those other strange sounds: a whistle, a metronome, the crash of waves on some locally universal shore. 

for some reason, when yoongi finishes, jungkook can feel he's near tears. 

confused, he leaves, doesn't notice yoongi watching him go.






*



back when they were more kids than they are now, yoongi had no plan except to try not to hurt jungkook; in the end he could not manage even that. in the here and now he also has no distinct plan -- even less so than before, come to that: this idea sewn into him by the breaking of bad habits and the dream of oceans and friends not all the way gone. the idea that is actually just a truth: how yoongi has never felt as happy as he felt one day in that blue room at that old piano with this golden song tucked up against his side, smile leaning into his shoulder, voice feathering against the lilt and lull of yoongi's composition. he remembers jungkook's hand curled in the tail of his plaid shirt, snarled there like some kind of apology saying: you're not responsible for me. and he remembers thinking: there are worse things to be. 

watching jungkook disappear as fast as he can, yoongi ducks his head and hides his thoughts.



*



that night jungkook dreams of the car but in this dream someone is chasing him, someone is calling his name.

"jungkook! jungkook!" it sounds comfortable on this person's tongue, more so than it feels as such on jungkook's own, jungkook who wide awake looks at his handful of legal papers and supposes he has to take their word for it -- to an extent. "jungkook!"

suddenly he's underwater, arms flailing, bursts of tiny bubbles racing up past him as he reaches long and up for the rippling sun, lungs burning, ears still full of the car crash sounds. his body twists, screams burns cries: why did you let this happen to me?

i don't care.

for no apparent reason, jungkook breaks the surface of the sea only to be flung backward, head aching, vision spotted black.

"get the fuck away from him." the voice he hears is calm, even; danger incarnate -- boy shaped and folly shadowed.

jungkook knows this voice; it's the voice that calls when he's not safe, the voice when he's sad, the voice most evident when it rains deep into autumn.

lying on the surface of water the way he would collapse onto a tile floor in the waking world, jungkook shivers, lies to himself even then, mumbles: i'm fine. don't fight for me.

the world upends itself once more and when jungkook wakes up it's long long minutes before he can move.



*


the girl who encouraged jungkook to go outside with her, to listen to the girl with the guitar, also brought him a sketchpad. jungkook doesn't know why but he's been using it more since piano-hyung showed up. he draws him quite a bit and hopes he never finds it, isn't sure how that would even happen but his face burns some parts shame and other parts something else -- something fluttering and almost like memory. piano-hyung who has given his name but jungkook has a hard time remembering it even still -- forgets things in short term as much as he already has in long term -- tends to dress in blues but sometimes jungkook's vision goes in and out of focus, pictures him instead in red. he doesn't know why. in his sketchpad the piano this boy plays is slightly different. jungkook gives him a room to put the piano in and the right kind of posture to put a backstory in and he doesn't know anything but it feels right; it feels true.

one afternoon, rain finger-tapping against the tall windows, jungkook listens to the song that this person favors most and finds himself blinking hard against that crying feeling again. rubbing his hand across his face a little too harshly, jungkook hobbles over to him as fast as possible, pitching himself into resolve he does not wholly feel.

yoongi looks up from under soft bangs and bright-dark eyes and says, "got a request?"

jungkook blushes. leans heavily on his crutch. stares at the floor. yoongi counts his eyelashes.

"can i--" jungkook's tongue darts out to wet his lips which are chapped again. everything in him feels dry like he's already cried or gone weeks without sleeping or something in-between. he tries again. "can i have..." his throat constricts. 

a touch so light it might not be there at all has jungkook blinking, eyes veering to the side at where pale fingertips touch where his knuckles are gripped white on his sketchbook.

"sure," yoongi says. and jungkook doesn't know why he understands so easily but he accepts it. 

in recent weeks he's lost almost all versions of understanding -- of himself, of others, by himself, by others.

his frame sags heavy and aching with the reminder of what it feels like just to have someone Know.

he whispers a little hoarsely, "thank you."

the fingertips drag slightly against his wrist as yoongi pulls away and turns back to the piano, something warm and wistful in his voice that bleeds into his next song.

it feels like moonlight.




*


yoongi dreams again of fire. it strips him into a nightmare but the actual nightmare isn't himself so much as the absence of someone else.

he runs down that old highway. he avoids the car. and he cannot help but wonder lately if he was supposed to get to jungkook sooner.

a whistle drags down his spine and he can't see it but he can feel when the piano breaks clean down the center.

jungkook's voice years ago reaches him: "you're hard to separate, in my head."

the piano breaks. yoongi burns.

calls jungkook's name long into the smoking dark.




*




the hospital's lightness is at odds with the drowning feeling. jungkook is well enough now to be irritated by it. he doesn't need his crutch anymore and despite his lack of memory the doctors always remind him how lucky he is to be young and resilient. jungkook tries not to laugh; he doesn't feel young and he doesn't feel resilient and there's the thing: no one warns you about how fast you get tired of things, how quick the fear climbs your throat and roosts behind your eyes in everything that happens when you forget what it's like to feel okay. because jungkook doesn't remember who he is but the whole of him still knows how he feels: why he dreams of drowning.

though lately the dreams are a little different.

anger yes. loneliness yes. the feeling of being left behind and probably deserving it yes.

but also.

he thinks almost there is piano.

there is piano-hyung--- no, yoongi.

there is yoongi.

he plays the piano in the middle of what looks to be an ocean nameless and vast and star studded at just the right hour.

jungkook can never seem to reach him but he's always playing that same song.

listening to it now, jungkook leans his head on the side of the window, closes his eyes and absorbs the july sun the way most people take in breath. exhales. he hums a rough melody, because to sing the actual words he wrote a week ago to go with it is embarrassing. to write a song for a stranger who doesn't feel like a stranger is embarrassing; and jungkook doesn't have to have all his memories to know he probably was never very great with words. but something in him wanted him to try. so he hums and turns his face toward the sunlight and tries to let it come inside, just a little; touch the sounds he's trying to make into stories, just a little.

he doesn't see yoongi at the door to his room, what with his eyes being closed; doesn't see the way yoongi's mouth softens and parts on a silent 'oh' because he knows that song.




*





he will always know that song.





*






the night yoongi finds out about jungkook's car accident he goes to wait for him to wake up; his intention is to stay but he's not family and he's not...anything else.

they would kick him out anyway after a fashion, which they do.

and he loses the fearful courage he found the second he thought jungkook would die before he got a chance to tell him he was worth the handfuls of happiness even if yoongi himself feels he squandered them by not knowing how to keep making them happen.

he doesn't go back. not for a couple weeks. by the time he does, they've moved jungkook and they won't tell him where and they won't tell him why.

yoongi drinks that night. writes a song that night.

destroys a song that night.




*






this room is just for when performers come for the patients. jungkook knows. 

he sneaks in anyway, sits down at the piano and feels.....a little more himself.

thinks: okay.

he rests his hands on the keys, feeling foolish and excited.

not too unlike how people feel on the verge of falling in love.





*





jeon jungkook. age seven. neighborhood weirdo for being shockingly quiet and those huge eyes that watch everyone but never say anything. best friend: stray cat. 

jungkook meets the black cat on a tuesday and calls him new moon. the cat walks to and from school with him, lets him hold him, lets him kiss his scraggly black fur and feed him pieces of lunch meat since that's what jungkook has and he doesn't want it anyway. new moon also lets jungkook sing when they walk -- home, school, through the nearby woods, down the neverending train tracks, anywhere.

the day jungkook stops seeing new moon, he cries and his stepfather tells him to be quiet or go to his room.

he goes to his room.



*





underwater again, dreaming again, jungkook looks up at the ceiling of the sea and watches little black cat feet pass over.





*



the first time yoongi catches jungkook in the hospital's piano room, he almost goes into shock; his breathing escalates and his vision goes white bright then dizzyingly gray. because it's familiar. because it's jungkook. because it's so close to who what where why how he wants them to be again; that stupid word. that perfect word. home. home not walls and not blood. but maybe a piano and a blue toned afternoon. knees that keep brushing. lips to ears for no reason except to emphasize that 'this is ours'. ours and no one else's.

these days yoongi has only old scars. jungkook too. 

in the soft white of the flower-patterned hospital gown, he thinks this jungkook doesn't look so incredibly different from the one he shielded years ago, clutched in his arms like he could make some kind of difference to him...the one he tried to protect.

and couldn't.





*





the second time yoongi hears jungkook play, jungkook is also singing. his playing isn't very good; he clearly can't remember though he touches the keys like he's very very close, a certain agitation that comes with that self-awareness too. but his singing is better than good. 

jungkook has the kind of voice yoongi keeps in the pocket over his heart. and he guesses it's true what namjoon's poetry tends to say:

the important things stay important.





*





yoongi dreams of a room that is neither past nor present. jungkook and the piano also seem neither past nor present.

but he looks up and his smile is what jungkook's smile was from the start. yoongi murmurs, "forever" under his breath. dream jungkook tilts his head then waves him over, reaches for the nearest edge of yoongi's plaid and says,

"are we meeting for the first time, hyung?"





*





"dreams are just dreams," yoongi once said to namjoon and namjoon rolled his eyes, smiled that summer slow smile and shook his head.

"not always."





*




"pretty," yoongi says -- not for the first time, and not for the last. jungkook startles so badly he jams his knee up against the underside of the piano, yelps, winces, and feels fortunate it was his good knee all in less than a second. yoongi hurries forward, rests a hand on jungkook's shoulder to steady him."sorry, sorry....you okay?"

the red in jungkook's cheeks is shockingly bright. 

"y-yeah."

"i didn't mean to---" hurt you leave you mislead you keep you waiting, "--scare you."

jungkook shakes his head, teeth catching on his lower lip before he smiles just a little and says, "s'okay i just..it's a little embarrassing." 

arching a brow, yoongi removes his hand from jungkook's shoulder, nods at the bench and waits for jungkook to slide a little over. just sitting next to him makes yoongi ache but maybe part of growing up is this: being willing to ache in order to also smile.

which he does.

a small one. a soft one. not wide and gummy. not sharp and crooked. just soft. just waiting. 

says, "you sound good," then plays what he knows jungkook meant to play, revels a little in how jungkook's eyes shine, focused on yoongi's hands. 

"you're better," jungkook whispers. "how did you know that's what i wanted it to be?"

rather than lie -- because yoongi has been lying, has been a lie and he doesn't want to be anymore -- he says, "i listened to you before a few times..." at jungkook's wide-eyed expression, yoongi laughs but it's a kind sound; warm. "sorry. but it was nice."

"i'm really bad," jungkook starts, hands wringing. yoongi stops playing, takes jungkook's hands in his own and untangles them, places them soft gentle home on the piano and says,

"no," presses down. "you're just trying to remember."





*




a quick learner, jungkook learns the song better from yoongi than himself, which he supposes should bother him but the effect ends up being rather the opposite: he feels comforted.




*



"hyung," jungkook says beneath the sound of the song.

"hm?"

"did i know you....before?"

the song pauses on yoongi's side but jungkook keeps playing, keeps listening for the truth.

"why do you ask?" yoongi is trying to be careful, to not break things anymore.

"well," jungkook lets the song lull to a whisper. "it's just...that's how it feels to me."

a minute passes. out the corner of his eyes jungkook can see yoongi is staring at him, a hundred silent things crossing his expression in nanoseconds that tell a lot more than one might expect; but maybe that's only because it's jungkook looking, jungkook who without remembering still Knows yoongi the way yoongi Knew Knows will Know him if he has anything to say about it now. he knows he's right. 

he just wants to hear him say so.

"yeah," yoongi says. 

jungkook exhales soft. 

"we were friends," jungkook says rather than asks and this time yoongi looks away. his voice has a strange pitch but he does answer, does nod his head, does in fact say,

"yeah. we were." 

"are we friends now?" this gets yoongi to face him and jungkook acts without thinking, reaches out to brush some hair out of yoongi's eyes and repeats, "...are we, hyung?"

something sharp is lodged in yoongi's throat, in his heart, in his guilt, in his want.

he can't find his words.

instead, he leans forward until their foreheads touch; closes his eyes, feels jungkook's tapered fingers push back through his hair and curl at the back of his neck; it gives him courage maybe. 

enough to say, "i want to be."

the too kind way jungkook brushes his fingertips up and down the back of yoongi's neck is a like-minded answer.

"okay," jungkook says.






*



when jungkook leaves the hospital, he goes with yoongi because if he has family they never came to visit, and he gets nervous thinking about being out in the world without anything familiar. he doesn't have to remember everything by now to at least feel more at ease with yoongi near, or knowing yoongi will be there when he comes back. between volunteering at hospitals and working a lot of delivery jobs, yoongi writes music and jungkook isn't surprised by the sheets and sheets of paper all over the studio apartment. yoongi apologizes. jungkook shakes his head.

"it's very you," he says.

yoongi beams.

jungkook decides he wants to see that from him more.





*



having nightmares alone is one thing. having them with someone there is very much another.

jungkook strangles awake gasping so hard it burns, firm hands on his arms -- soft but strong.

"breathe. jungkook. it's just a dream." 

yoongi.

piano.

blue.

"hurts," jungkook whispers. yoongi's hands are off him in less than a second but jungkook reaches blindly. "no...come back." he doesn't mean to whine. it just comes out small, uncertain. yoongi does as he's asked, tentatively, lets his hand grace jungkook's side just to feel him breathing. "not you," means: you don't hurt me. means: i know you wouldn't. says, "...in my dream."

it's the middle of the night and the dark obscures how yoongi's face twists, how he glares into some offending deeper shadow before smoothing out and saying in low, ocean smoke tones, "do you remember what happened?"

means: in your dream. means: and not in your dream. means: anything.

when jungkook blinks, tears thread out, catch the millimeters of light thieving in the room. 

yoongi uses his other hand not at jungkook's side to reach and brush them away, doesn't think so much as act, the soft lean of his body that lets jungkook smell him that much easier. it soothes him and he's too tired to question it, just answers yoongi's question instead.

"there was a fight." he says but does not know if that's quite it, revises, "or...something. someone..." he feels stupid saying it because it's a dream, but he says it anyway, "...someone hit me. i guess." enough silence passes that jungkook opens his eyes again, looks up to see yoongi staring down at him full of conversations they have not yet had. "yoongi..." he tries, uses his name like a secret.

"i want to hold you," yoongi says and he sounds....sad. 

jungkook scrambles to sit up, opens his arms far too wide, unnecessarily wide; it's so childlike that yoongi's sadness is undermined by yoongi's own surprised laughter, pitched into a frenzy by jungkook's not-fully remembered smile. who embraces who first is anyone's guess: the shadow, the moonlight, the blue hour of three in the morning, clouded by autumn rain and residual dreams.

"tighter," jungkook mumbles into yoongi's shoulder, because yoongi is holding him like he's breakable. even then, yoongi holds him closer rather than tighter but jungkook accepts this for now, ends up with his nose pressed against the side of yoongi's neck, yoongi's nose against his temple, their hands fisted in each other's clothing the way children twist their grasps around bedsheets against the things that scare them the most.




*





when they wake up, it's not that jungkook remembers. but he knows a little again what he knew once before.

he runs his fingers through yoongi's hair, watches his sleeping face and thinks he doesn't necessarily look older than jungkook when he's like this. not that either of them look old anyway, he supposes. when he tries to sneak away from the couch where they both fell asleep, yoongi's hold on his waist (somehow in their sleep he'd slid down so his profile was pressed against jungkook's shoulder, his arms solidly around his middle) tightens. jungkook sighs a smile sound, draws his index finger in a perfect crescent under yoongi's pretty eyelashes and thinks a dozen things.

among them:

i think we've done this before. 

and:

i think we were happy.

and:

i hope we are happy again.







*



min yoongi is a dreamer. on the nights he sleeps deepest, he dreams of a lighthouse; he dreams that he built this lighthouse and that he built it just to be able to guide someone to where they are supposed to be. in some versions, he is trying to guide himself; in others, he is asking other voyagers to notice he's there; and in still other ways the dream is both: the lighthouse and the traveler, the light and the dark. yoongi dreams and because they are dreams they are not always real but they are always true: where there is smoke there is not necessarily fire.

because sometimes smoke is just an afterthought. 

in one such dream yoongi watches smoke twist off the surface of the black-blue ocean; yoongi breathes deep; yoongi watches the stars and thinks: but you're not there are you?

a pull on his sleeve has him turning just as he wakes up to jungkook: pulling on his sleeve in his own sleep, face pressed to yoongi's stomach. 

they don't have to sleep together. but the first week jungkook arrived, yoongi woke up one night to find jungkook just sitting wide awake, staring out the window from his place on the couch; went to him. he asked why he couldn't sleep and jungkook told him he didn't know except that maybe he was afraid he'd wake up and not know anything about himself again, not know yoongi, not know. 

the word 'stay' curled on jungkook's tongue, still scared, and yoongi stayed; also still scared. they sat on the couch, held hands without looking at their hands, only to fall asleep and end up tangled together so well that coming apart was near impossible. 

looking down at jungkook now, yoongi watches the light leave him as clouds cover the moon; then he watches the light return. 

of course, jungkook is beautiful in any light -- more or less. (more.) and yoongi doesn't dwell on that of all things; just cards his fingers through jungkook's pillow mussed hair and murmurs,

"do you still care that the light's left on?"




*




"it's not a big deal," a sixteen year-old jungkook squashes a coke can under his heel, then picks it up and tries to read the words picasso'd there. 

"it doesn't have to be a 'big deal' to be important," yoongi plucks the smashed can from him and swishes it into the closest trashcan (not close at all) without really trying. 

"it's only important to me though," jungkook says and the way he says it tells yoongi a lot more than his words: how something being significant to jungkook is not reason enough, but to yoongi that's ridiculous, yoongi who reaches out to grab the back of jungkook's neck warmly and says,

"then they should remember. it's not that hard." he regrets saying it when jungkook's softening expression goes dark again.

"yeah," pause. "guess that's just..." and he doesn't have to say it for yoongi to understand what he means: guess that's how much his 'family' cares, how much it 'matters'. but it's at odds with how yoongi feels, yoongi who thinks simply: it's jungkook; of course it matters.






*





during high school, the more jungkook gets to know him, the less he tells yoongi about himself. 

"why?" yoongi asks one early early morning, jungkook pressing ice too softly against the bruise that seems to explode down the top of yoongi's back like some kind of poison. because he's on his stomach, his mouth pressed to his arms, his words are muffled. jungkook pretends not to hear him but that's a game yoongi has long been a pro at. he repeats himself. "why don't you talk to me anymore?"

he feels jungkook remove the ice and it's a relief at the same time that it hurts ten times worse. then the ice is back again, layered with one more handtowel that eases the cold burn. yoongi's eyes flutter shut.

"well," jungkook is biting his lip. yoongi knows without even looking at him. "they're not real problems."

"what do you mean they're not ah--" yoongi's voice breaks off in a pained rasp as jungkook deftly presses the ice a little harder.





*





not real problems. that's what jungkook says.

compared to yoongi's. that's what jungkook means.

and yoongi argues with him about it off and on for months.




*




"come back! jungkook!" yoongi chases jungkook's fleeing shadow, is more surprised than he anticipated being because he never quite imagined they would be like this...whatever 'this' is. yoongi runs. jungkook runs faster. but he comes up against a chainlink fence looking into a traincar yard and finally gives up, buckling over so that his hands brace on his knees, breaths coming out fast gasps and wheezes rather than proper inhales and exhales. yoongi isn't much better, but he regulates it faster, gets close enough so that when he drops down into a crouch, he can peer up at jungkook's skittish eyes and say, "look both ways before you cross the street." 

true, a car had leaned on the horn equal parts shellshocked and furious when jungkook darted out into right-of-way traffic just to get gone.

yoongi's heart voice backbone had all frozen, watched as something bad almost happened and then didn't. 

now he lifts one hand to frame jungkook's face, asking him to look at him. 

"i don't want to fight with you," jungkook whispers and it's wet; it's fractured; it's the edge of small and important things. jungkook says 'i don't want to fight with you' while he means to say 'i want to be close to you' while he also means to say, 'i'm bad at this'. the last at least, yoongi seems to already know, yoongi who will later look back on this moment as one of dozens where he should have kissed jeon jungkook and...didn't. he'll have variations on the same argument with himself over and over: keeping a distance in that singular way was right, grating against the notion that keeping said distance was the lynchpin of all his mistakes.

for the moment, he just nods.

says, "neither do i." then, a little rougher around his edges, "you don't even tell me about your day anymore."

an uncontainable giggle does not entirely obscure jungkook's shaky hiccups, suppressed tears that alarm yoongi even as jungkook tries desperately to just hold it together -- the fraying nature of doing the best one can and finding it might not be enough.

"not much to tell until i meet up with you," he admits. thinks: what do you want me to say? thinks: that i'm lonely any other time lately? thinks: that even though i'm not in such a bad situation i'm still sad? thinks: no one else notices and i don't know why it matters; it shouldn't matter. 

they sit against the fence for a couple hours. jungkook doesn't want to go to where the other boys will surely be; doesn't want them to see him like this more than they already have. and yoongi almost invites him home. 

almost. 





*






a week later, jungkook finds a small blue square on a keychain added to his others. when he squeezes it, a light shines -- one of those emergency camping flashlight things. to anyone else, such a gift might be baffling.

to jungkook, it's just shy of a love letter.

it still drags up a dull, sour kind of ache whenever he gets home and the whole house is dark, when the door is deadbolted like he was never going to come home and so his keys do him no good, when jungkook sighs and scales the tree to get to his own bedroom window and sneak back in not because he's doing anything wrong (they don't care) but because he's got this knee-jerk habit of trying to be considerate. it still kind of...makes him sad. but using the little light to illuminate his path through said window, less bruises from miscalculating small distances and where he might have forgotten certain things, even being sad is tinged with something happy. 

the blue color of the light reminds jungkook of their special place.

that's happy too.

for a while.






*





present day jungkook still has that light though he does not remember yoongi giving it to him. 

yoongi notices but of course yoongi notices, watches jungkook fidget with it absently while he hums half to yoongi and half to himself with the current of yoongi's new song.

for whatever reason, jungkook feels most at ease when yoongi plays the piano; feels close to 'home' when yoongi coaxes him into singing.






*





"do you mind if i record this?" yoongi asks one day.

jungkook arches a brow.

"what for?"

yoongi shrugs.

"for me."

it's a sunny day, the studio apartment flooded with soft gold light that does nothing but highlight jungkook's sharp blush. 

"if you want," he says. but he's so nervous then that his voice comes out all wrong and it works jungkook into such a state that yoongi ends up rubbing wide warm circles on his back and telling him it's fine because they have time. they'll try again tomorrow. it's fine. still, jungkook mumbles, "s-sorry."

yoongi's hand pauses against the center of jungkook's back, broad and strong and meant for building things: music, history, and maybe love.

"tomorrow," yoongi repeats, incomparably gentle. 

when jungkook exhales again, he relaxes a fraction, nods his head and says, "tomorrow."




*




fact: yoongi loves jungkook as he is, as he was, and acknowledges that maybe these two jungkooks will never fully coincide again.

fact: jungkook loves yoongi. thinks he probably has before.

fact: his favorite part of the day is the night because if yoongi is home he'll let jungkook hold him if he wants or hold jungkook himself if he wants or they will hold each other. their legs will thread, their noses won't quite brush as they face each other in the moondark and sometimes they talk about their days and sometimes they talk about their dreams and sometimes they don't talk at all but somehow that's conversation too. their hands pressing to interlace fingers, their breathing overlapping likewise; dialogue happens one way or the other. 




*




love you, jungkook thinks one night.

love you, yoongi thinks one morning.





*




on days when jungkook cries inconsolably, yoongi doesn't try to force him to feel better. he holds him if he wants, or just sits nearby to him, if he wants, covers him with a blanket and headphones with a familiar song if he wants; stays.

often jungkook doesn't say anything; once in a while, jungkook says, "i want to remember."

yoongi, after asking first, holds his hand, thumbs his wrist.

says, "i know."





*




there are parts of their history yoongi doesn't want jungkook to relive, but given the option between remembering everything and remembering nothing, he's himself enough now to want jungkook to have the same thing: agency of a kind, control.

but what he wants for him does not line up with what he can do for him.  old truths are still true; it's one of the scariest things in the world to be helpless to the ones you love.

"do you want to see someone?" yoongi asks him on an especially bad day. jungkook considers, then shakes his head. looks away. yoongi whispers, "alright."




*






"what're these for?" yoongi stares into the cluster of blue roses all but pressed under his nose. jungkook lowers them a little and yoongi looks up, a cold-warm hope because blue roses are so specific and this must be one of those things jungkook Almost remembers. he waits.

"i just," jungkook presses his lips thin, scrunches his nose in thought while toeing his shoes off at the door and nudging them into line beside yoongi's. they each only have one pair. "i just wanted to get you something nice."






*


years ago:

"why blue?" jungkook asks, kicking his legs up and touching his toes, his back on the floor -- truly a child in some ways, the blue roses yoongi dropped into his lap a few minutes earlier gently laying to one side.

"red is cliche," yoongi says and jungkook laughs a wide open sound.

"yeah," he agrees, reaches out next to him to draw the flowers close, smooths his fingertips against blue petals and murmurs, "well, thank you."

"sure," yoongi pauses between notes, frowning, wondering if he needs to re-tune it so soon.

at the time, he doesn't see how jungkook looks at him.





*




"thanks," yoongi says as he takes the blue roses from jungkook, pads over to the sink where he cuts them at an angle before realizing in their new life they have never before had need of a vase. jungkook realizes this at about the same time and laughs, sheepish. 

"didn't think it through very well."

"shh."  yoongi has affection in spades for jungkook, can't help it, just presses two fingers against jungkook's apologetic mouth and shakes his head. "it's fine. here." they have two huge bowls for the simple soups they tend to live on. one serves a different purpose now: yoongi cuts the roses down to a barely there stem on each, sets them afloat like lilypads in the bowl, and in the days to come they watch them bloom so full that they shape into the ceramic frame. 




*




when they are at peak, jungkook suggests pressing them, and yoongi tells him that's a good idea.

to save things -- to keep what they can.





*



"hyung?" jungkook waits for yoongi to turn toward him, knowing how close they are. and it's not that it's easy to lean forward and kiss him just because he's so near; it's just as hard as though yoongi could be continents away; because it's not so much about physical distance as it is about fear, as it is about not-knowing. but jungkook does kiss him, does lean over the book open-faced between them where the blue roses rest ready to be held. it's only a second; then jungkook pulls back, shaking. 

"jungkook..." the question on yoongi's every nerve never fails to be a little cruel, not because yoongi is cruel but because the situation is. jungkook shakes his head.

"no," he swallows a thin sound. "i don't remember anything." he rubs his eyes. "it's not that." a breath. "but i..."

he runs on empty. half way to collapsing in on himself, he feels the couch shift as yoongi surges forward. the book falls to the floor along with the flowers. jungkook makes a protesting sound, reaches for them but yoongi has his arms around him, has his face buried in jungkook's shoulder, is breathing fast -- too fast. 

he's trying not to cry.

jungkook has cried plenty in front of yoongi since moving in with him, but this is the first time yoongi has. maybe it's a little messed up, but jungkook regroups, gathers some courage from that, angles back even in yoongi's grasping hold, just enough so that he can lower his head and angle their faces better together: kisses him again in a ridiculous fashion -- all over his face, tastes proof of sadness and fear and love, kisses him on the mouth until this time yoongi kisses him back and for a long while that's all they do.

kiss and breathe. kiss and breathe.

barely. barely.

kiss.

breathe.







*






memory comes to jungkook in split seconds. sometimes when they kiss. sometimes when yoongi asks him how his day was. sometimes when he wakes up and yoongi isn't there and the four walls of the apartment briefly seem foreign and lonely. 

yoongi gets quite adept at noticing, supposing he's present.

watches jungkook sometimes and says, "what is it?" but also means: you don't have to tell me if you don't want to.






*




small victories are not all that small.

when jungkook says with conviction what yoongi's favorite song is, what season he loathes most, how he likes his coffee....it occurs to yoongi these are the things that mean a lot to the sorts of people who intend to be together for a very long time; it then occurs to him that, far before this, a deepseated part of jungkook had such intentions.

in his dreams, a voice whispers sea like: well, you're supposed to be. 

he's not sure he deserves it, is pretty sure he doesn't.

but jungkook clasps his hands warm with the days they haven't spent together yet, days where he might remember other things and other people; and yoongi won't take that away. 



*




a yesterday from some time ago, he hated himself enough he forced them apart. 

a today that is more or less right now, jungkook's smile kissing the side of his neck, nervous fingertips making back-and-forth motions at yoongi's side, yoongi tries not to force anything at all.





*




another thing they don't teach -- in high school, in university, in any place that counts on paper: the art of letting things happen, the honest to god math of the fact that a person might not ever fully deserve something but to deserve in parts is sometimes enough, the reality that overrides the dream wherein love isn't the thing at the top of the ladder; it's just another part of it, all along. you can climb it or not.

find out what happens.

or not.





*






min yoongi is a dreamer and you know what they say about dreamers? don't fall in love with one.

this, jungkook is aware of and thinks he was even aware of it before; but in the silver-blue midnight he pulls his own personal moon close closer closest, holds him tight and just thinks:

well, what do they know?






*





"in a lot of my dreams, you're hurt." jungkook says one day, quiet. 

"hm?" yoongi is half asleep, his head in jungkook's lap. jungkook sighs.

"is this a memory, yoongi?" it still feels a little weird. but yoongi told him to call him plainly, so he does. "yoongi, come on." he shakes him a little. yoongi grouses. 

"what?"

another sigh.

"did you used to get hurt a lot?" he rephrases and watches as more recognition comes into yoongi's expression, dark eyes going sharp. 

"we both did," he says and it's true, if in different ways. the skeptical look jungkook flings down at him says he knows but yoongi won't say it out loud if he won't. says instead, "but that's over."

eventually jungkook relents, covers yoongi's eyes with his hand, feels his eyelashes against his skin, says, "i'm sorry it happened at all."

"not your fault."

it's big for both of them when jungkook exhales gentle gentle gentle and says, "yeah. i know."




*



in jungkook's dreams he finds drawings of people he wants to remember, yoongi among them. 

not a single depiction of yoongi he finds is without injury.




*





"did i ever hurt you?" he asks.

yoongi pauses.

"well," he thins his lips nervously. "i hurt you first."

jungkook looks down at his hands, murmurs, "ah."




*



sometimes when jungkook kisses him, yoongi can feel him trying to remember, has to stop him, hands solid and overwhelmingly in love where they hold jungkook at his waist, has to tell him, "i'm not going anywhere."

on better days, jungkook lets yoongi just hold him. on bad days, jungkook pulls away and yoongi could deal with that if not for the way jungkook fists his hands in his own hair and pulls, if not for the way he curls in on himself and cries.

"i'm so close," and it's half whisper half sob.  

yoongi carefully kneels in front of him, watches him cry, lifts a hand for jungkook to lean his cheek against.

"close to what?" he asks when jungkook's sobs have softened to shuddering breaths.

"to knowing you," he says. his voice breaks. yoongi can feel it.

says, "come here."








it's after one such night that yoongi surprises jungkook by picking him up at work. 

"what are you doing here?" he's too confused to say anything except the first thing that comes to mind. 

yoongi says, "dinner." 

"you sold a song?" jungkook is never sure if he is excited that other people appreciate yoongi's creations or disappointed that neither of them has connections enough to let him produce his own things; he usually ends up somewhere in the middle. but yoongi shakes his head.

"nah." pauses. "ah i'm early," his brow pinches when he notices the bakery clock. "i'll wait outside."

"you don't have t--" but yoongi just smiles, waves, and slips out the door. jungkook is left bemused until a woman startles him by asking him if anyone can help her or not; apparently her imminent selection of just the right loaf of bread is of great importance. jungkook carefully does not roll his eyes, smiles and says, "sure, what kind would you like?"



*


his shift ends twenty minutes late, and jungkook bolts out of work so quickly he almost barrels down yoongi entirely. he squeaks.

"sorry! sorry i made you wait, sorry, i was just hurrying because--"

"jungkook." it's the tone that stops him blabbering as he looks at yoongi, really looks at him. oh. 

"oh," he says.

"hungry?" 

he nods.

yoongi takes his hand. "okay then."






*





it's only after dinner, when they're sitting across from each other -- jungkook with hot chocolate and yoongi with coffee despite the late hour -- that jungkook tilts his head and squints at him.

"yoongi what is this?"

"hot...chocolate?" 

jungkook stares a little harder. yoongi looks down into his coffee cup.

"well. i thought....we haven't gone on a date. even though..."

the feeling that bubbles up in jungkook's chest is warm and slightly ticklish, it's refreshing and it's startling, it's...laughter.

he laughs: bright, open, clear.

yoongi blinks.

"i love you," jungkook says, sets his drink down so he can reach for yoongi's hands, yoongi who hastily puts his drink down too so their fingers can lace, palms kiss, stay. "i love you," jungkook says again. 

it feels good to say.

"i love you too," yoongi says it quieter but no less true, tightens their hands and says, a lilt of humor in his eyes, "want to be my boyfriend?"





*




walking home, bundled together in the same scarf, jungkook holds yoongi's hand inside his coat pocket to keep it warm.





*




for every date, yoongi brings jungkook a different flower. they devise ceiling fixtures to hang them from and jungkook loves it because it reminds him of a manga he read just a month ago. 

around the fifteenth date, jungkook has twine pinched in his teeth as he bundles his newest bouquet a little tighter before hanging it to dry. beneath him, yoongi holds the stepladder steady despite jungkook's insistence that it's fine on its own.

"is this really the fifteenth?" he asks.

"huh?" yoongi closes the ladder after jungkook steps off.

"i mean, what about...before?" 

"oh." pause. "well we didn't...date before. so. yeah."

for a moment, all jungkook can do is stare. "but why do i feel..."

yoongi shakes his head.

"i said we never dated." he pulls jungkook in by the ties of his oversized hoodie. "i didn't say anything about not loving you." his gaze goes a little distant. "not that i did anything right then anyway." this time jungkook pulls on him, the sides of his shirt, pulls and leans down to kiss him. it's soft, tender like he's cleaning a wound as much as conveying his love; and maybe that's not all too inaccurate. yoongi breathes him in sharp, whole, and real.





*




"teach me every song we used to play," jungkook says.

so yoongi does.




*





"tell me about our friends back then," jungkook says.

and yoongi does.




*




"promise...promise we'll be okay this time," jungkook says.

yoongi does.





*




at night when cars pass, the headlights move like rippling water across their wall and ceiling. if he's awake, yoongi will imagine the sound of the ocean. if he's asleep, sometimes yoongi will abruptly find himself at the ocean. jungkook imagines an afternoon yoongi told him about, a day spent in the laughter and delight of friends under a blue sky and a soft white sun.





*





it's nearly a year later when it happens.

"hey yoongi."

"hm?"

"i know this one," jungkook says and yoongi's hands falter, the notes going awry under his stumbling fingertips. but jungkook carries on in his place; jungkook remembers; jungkook says, "this one....was ours."

for the second time in memory, yoongi cries.

 

 

*

 

 

 

it figures. theirs has always been a slow song. for better or for worse.

 

but most importantly: for real.

 





*






around them: piano sounds that are memory sounds that are coming home sounds.

inside them: the silences holding those things together, no matter the time.






*




when spring returns, they go to the sea.

jungkook holds up a water damaged polaroid yoongi gave to him. it's them and five other boys.

they look happy.




*





yoongi is a dreamer but so is jungkook. 

someday they want to go back to the ocean and they want everyone to be there; someday.

if it seems like an impossible thing, they don't much mind because it looks as though they may be in the business of impossible things anyway.





*





"hi."

"hi."

when jungkook looks up from a new song, yoongi angles down to press an old one against his jaw, the corner of his mouth, his lips. 

"hi."

"hi."

and again.




*






in a studio apartment whose fire escape is more decoration than safety reassurance, there are two young men, a piano, and a lot of flowers. sometimes they are happy. sometimes they are sad. sometimes they dream wide awake. and through it all, the difference between the past and the present makes itself known in one word that means many things -- the way forever words do.





*






"home," jungkook says, only halfway in the front door, balancing on one foot as he shakes his other shoe off. 

yoongi smiles, says more to himself than anyone else, "yes."






*



  

yes we are.





*

 

 

 

 

...and being found is not the end; it's the beginning...albeit, rather slowly.