The world was spinning, it was tilting on its own axis, and it wouldn’t stop.
Jungkook felt the bright, hot redness of light against his eyelids before his brain comprehended the sight, and he felt everything dip, like he was a cookie being slid off a cookie sheet. Then, the pain hit him, delayed and sharp as a tack, a stabbing, grinding sensation all over his skull that continued to throb even after he had gasped and gotten the breath back into his lungs. Everything hurt, and he felt glued to the whatever he was against.
He scrunched his eyes, forcing them open painstakingly, and felt another wave of the blurry, disorienting nausea. His eyes closed and opened again half a dozen times before they allowed him to focus. A part of his brain screamed that he needed to figure out where he was, but the majority of him just wanted to drift off, to let the blackness overwhelm him again, as it had a few minutes ago. It was much better than dealing with the pain, and his consciousness had been weighted down as if by cinder blocks, dragging him down into that darkness once again. The cookie wanted nothing more than to fall off the sheet, but he fought his eyes open anyways.
There was a face above him, and his chest felt a stab of pain. It was a man, he could tell from the voice, and he was familiar, he could tell by….well, by nothing, but still.
“Jungkook!” called the voice, high-pitched and broken. “Jungkook, can you hear me? Jungkook! Oh my god!”
Why are you screaming in my face? Jungkook wanted to groan out, but his lips weren’t working. He tried to move them but found them dry, a metallic, warm taste coating his mouth. It wasn’t a lot of blood, but it was enough to make him choke, and he coughed. There was a loud noise, like someone reacting, but he couldn’t evaluate who or how they were saying the words that no longer had meaning. The cookies tilted another way, and with it came an overwhelming sense of nausea from the pit of his stomach, hot and grey, like fresh ash.
“Jungkook, stay with me! Someone call the fucking ambulance!”
What happened? Someone tell me what happened! He blinked his eyes, looking up into the bright blue sky overhead, the warm spring sunlight washing over them. The man over him leaned in closer, and Jungkook’s vision cleared enough to see the absolute terror on his face. The man’s eyes, filled with tears, were locked on somewhere just above Jungkook’s head, as if he was seeing a ghost. His lips were so pink, it made Jungkook angry. Who was allowed that much pink?
“God, you’re...okay, you’re gonna be okay, I promise. Just hold on.”
The man paled, then his eyes flickered over to Jungkook’s, and Jungkook’s vision started to fade out.
No, wait a fucking minute! I need to figure out what happened! WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?
But the nausea hit him again, and he was dumped into blackness so abruptly, he didn’t feel or dream anything.
An irritating beeping noise kept going off, and Jungkook blindly reached over to try and shut the alarm off. When he found only empty air, he groaned, and tried to roll over onto his side, but found his chest weighted down. He grunted, blinking open his eyes. They felt sticky, heavy, and stubborn.
He was in a hospital room, and he was lying facing up, only mostly able to see the shitty tilework on the ceiling and the top half of a flat screen TV hung from the far wall. A variety show was on, with some Kpop group he didn’t recognize, and the occasional screams and exaggerated noises from the host’s reactions faded in and out like white noise.
He tried to force his eyes down, but it stung. There was a weird, distant sort of dull ache all over his body, like a hangover in a way, but much, much more annoying. He reached up his free hand, and found an array of tubes and plastic all attached to him in various ways. Blindly investigating, he found his nose, neck, head and arm were all hooked up or strapped down in one fashion or another.
Then, a hand gently dropped onto the back of his own, and Jungkook nearly jumped out of his skin, not having known anyone else was in the room with him. There was a gentle shushing, and the hand squeezed gently, entwining their fingers after a moment. Jungkook tried again to turn his head, but he couldn’t see the figure.
“Shh, it’s okay, I’m right here,” the voice said, honeyed and wet, as though it had been crying. “Jungkook, can you hear me?”
“Y-yes,” he croaked, the sound weak and echoing inside his chest weirdly. He strained his eyes and saw the top of a head of dark brown hair.
There was an audible sigh of relief, and then a creak of a chair, and a man’s face was in his view. The face was small, soft and rounded, and handsome. Jungkook’s heart blipped oddly on the monitor system for a moment, and his eyes widened, surprised by how close the man got. He looked as though he was about to move in to whisper something in Jungkook’s ear, but stopped when he saw the look on his face.
“H-hi…” he breathed.
“Hi?” Jungkook croaked out, coughing a little and feeling a stab in his chest from something poking into him. A thousand questions were bubbling behind his dry lips, but he couldn’t verbalize any of them.
The man smiled softy, little puffs coming to his cheeks and deep creases tucked into the edges of his lips. “I brought you your stuffies,” he said quietly, reaching off somewhere and holding up a small, rounded stuffed human doll with a swimming club jacket on and grey floppy-eared rabbit. Someone had shoved a tiny pink hooded sweater onto the rabbit, and cut uneven little slits in the hoodie for the ears to poke through. “Makoto and Star.”
Jungkook stared at the stuffed toys, blinking in confusion. Were those his? Was he attached to those? They didn’t look familiar at all, and the man was holding them so delicately, like they would shatter if he held them too tightly. An awkward moment passed, and the man’s weak attempt at a smile broke, and he opted to shyly tuck the stuffed toys against Jungkook’s chest. The smell of them wafted up to him, contrasting with the harsh cleaner-smell of the hospital, and the smell of them seemed familiar, comforting.
“There, they’ll just keep you company,” the man said, leaning forward again and taking Jungkook’s hand in his.
“Are you the doctor?” Jungkook asked, finding a little more strength in his voice.
The man blinked at him, the hand dropping to the bed, slipping out of his as if he’d been gently reprimanded.
“What happened?” Jungkook continued. “There was an accident?” He remembered the pain, the looking up in the sky. He remembered falling off the cookie sheet into the black abyss, and the blurriness and the nausea.
The man sat back, unknowingly slipping out of Jungkook’s limited range of vision.
“Uh. Jungkook, you were in a car accident. On the way back home from the movies. You hit your head really bad.”
“Oh,” Jungkook said. The two of them fell into a weird silence. The man had been holding his hand. That was weird, right? Who was he?
“You’re gonna--” the man sounded like he was choking back tears. Jungkook wished he could turn and see him. It was so frustrating. “You’re gonna be okay, though. Alright? That’s… that’s what’s important.”
“I guess,” Jungkook mumbled.
The door opened, and he heard a woman’s voice crying.
“Jungkook, you’re awake?” A lady in a lab coat with her hair pulled back into a tight bun leaned over him, smiling a practiced smile. “I’m Dr. James, and I’m the one who did your surgery. How are you feeling?”
“Like I just left a college frat party and then fell into the Grand Canyon,” he croaked, as she leaned in with an annoying flashlight and checked his vital signs.
“Good, that’s great. Feeling pain can be a good thing, sometimes,” she patted his shoulder gently. “I have a couple of people here to see you, you wanna say hello?”
Someone must have pushed a button, because the bed suddenly groaned, the electric system tilting the top of the bed up so that he could finally see more of the room. The man who had held his hand was seated to his left, wearing a black turtleneck, and there were three people standing behind the doctor, a man, a woman, and a young man around Jungkook’s age.
“Jungkook, sweetie?” the woman sniffled. She moved forward, smiling fondly at him through her tears. The smell of her perfume wafted down over Jungkook, and he blinked. He knew this woman, but…?
“Do you know who this is, Jungkook?”
He blinked. Frowned. Tried to remember. He knew he’d seen her somewhere. He could see himself hugging her, could see her vacuuming in some image from the corner of his mind, but he didn’t know her name.
“N-no? I know I know her, but… I can’t remember.”
The faces in the room, save for the doctor’s, turned stony.
Dr. James patted him gently again. “That’s alright, it’s perfectly fine. You suffered some pretty serious brain trauma in the accident, but you’re young, and everything went well.” She turned to the other people in the room, hugging her clipboard to her chest. “It looks like he’s suffering from retrograde amnesia, it’s unfortunately quite common with this type of brain injury. Can I speak to you all for a moment in the hallway, please?” She gestured everyone to the door, then sent Jungkook a smile. “Just sit tight here for a bit, okay, Jungkook?”
“It’s not like I can go anywhere else,” Jungkook mumbled, watching them leave. The man in the turtleneck paused in the doorway, glancing back at Jungkook with the single most wounded expression imaginable. Jungkook stared, confused, and then he was gone.
There were muffled voices out in the hallway, and Jungkook couldn’t understand what they were saying. But when they came back in, it was with awkward, resigned looks. The man and the woman, he was told, were his parents. And he had an older brother, who hung back across the room from him, hugging his chest. The man in the turtleneck didn’t come back in.
“There’s no need to rush things,” Dr. James gently instructed. “Just take your time and get back into the swing of things normally.”
“Will my memories come back?” Jungkook asked.
The doctor frowned.
It was over a week later when Jungkook had been placed closer to the window for the afternoon. He stared blankly out at the two sparrows who were slowly building a nest in the under hanging below the drainpipe. A leather-bound notebook lay open in his lap, forgotten temporarily. The pages were scrawled across in smudged pen, detailing the mundane day-to-day musings that had been getting him through the recovery.
It’s spring. I don’t even remember the winter.
Mom and dad came by again today. They said Jung-hyun was in school, but I think he doesn’t feel up to coming anymore. It’s not like we know what to talk about, since I can’t remember anything.
The food here tastes like ass. I wish I had a hamburger. With actual meat.
Maybe some meat buns, or something.
What kind of hamburgers do I like? Do I like pickles on them? Mustard? I don’t know.
I wish I knew. This is so frustrating.
There came a knock at the door, and Jungkook craned half his body over to face toward the door. It was less painful than turning his head right now, even though he had earned a little mobility. The constant headache that throbbed in the back of his skull to somewhere behind his eyeballs was usually kept to a dull roar if he was careful.
A creak shrieked out across the room as the guest opened it slowly, peeking around the fake-polished wood. It was the turtleneck guy from before. Today, it was warmer, and he wore a simple T-shirt and jeans, but the bouquet of flowers he held in his hand was anything but simplistic.
“Hey, Jungkook,” he said shyly, a strange sparkle to his eyes. “Can I come in?”
“Sure,” Jungkook shrugged. “I don’t remember you, though.”
“That’s...that’s okay.” Contrasting his words, the man’s smile seemed forced and worried.
“You were there the day of the accident, right?” Jungkook said, his fingers burying underneath the thin blanket and gripping at a lump in the sheets. He’d secretly been keeping Star, the stuffed bunny with the pink sweater, close to him. There wasn’t any particular reason for it, and in all honesty, an adult man with stuffed animals seemed odd to him, but...it was strangely comforting, to have him close. In particular, Star had a strange smell to him that felt familiar and comforting, and it wasn’t like his parents or his brother. It was woody and faint, and it helped him sleep. He supposed his apartment smelled like it.
The man nodded. “Yeah, I’m Seokjin. I was the one who found you. And I came in the ambulance with you. I doubt you’d remember that, though, because you were unconscious for most of it.” He handed the bouquet of flowers to Jungkook, tilting his head a little and smiling. “To be honest, I’m surprised you remember anything from the crash.”
“Yeah, well. It’s remembering something,” he mumbled bitterly. “Some stupid brain I have, letting it all slip out like that.”
“Hey, that’s like getting pissed at your gaming laptop because you downloaded a virus to it,” Jin reprimanded, pulling a chair up to the bedside and sitting close. There was something friendly and warm about it, that Jungkook couldn’t put it finger on. It felt more natural than the words in their conversation, more genuine than the small talk the nurses or his parents tried to form.
“You had-- well, if you had an expensive gaming laptop, and then you stumbled onto a virus on it, all that complicated hardware is for nothing, right? It’s not that the computer is faulty, it just...had an accident. It got exposed to something it never should have, and which you didn’t expect to happen, so. It’s not a stupid brain.”
Jungkook stared brazenly at the man, at his soft smile and the ease with which he had offered the first real-sounding reassurance since Jungkook had woken up. A thick, tightly wound something in his chest let up a little, allowing him to let out a breath. “Oh.”
Seokjin smiled, then let out a little sigh, “Ah, I brought you something.” He reached into the medium-sized messenger bag at his hip, pulling out a container of food. Jungkook could see the bowtie pasta pressed up against the inside of the clear plastic, a reddish-pink sauce smothered throughout. He opened it up to find underneath the thick puff of steam that wafted up a mouth-watering combination of some kind of tomato-based sauce, shining sauteed baby portabella mushrooms and thin strips of medium-rare steak that were glistening and pink in their center. It was all topped with a couple pinches of some kind of cheese, which based on the smell had to be parmesan, and there was a sort of garnish made from parsley tucked off to the side.
“Woah,” Jungkook breathed, the smell dizzying after the medicated blandness in the hospital air. “What is this?”
“Rose pasta,” Jin beamed, looking proud at the way Jungkook’s eyes widened. “Well, sort of. I altered it a bit from the original recipe, but..”
“It smells amazing,” Jungkook said in awe, taking the offered fork from Seokjin and digging in. As an afterthought, he figured he should have stopped and thanked Seokjin first, or given a more outwardly dramatic showing of how heavenly the pasta tasted, but… he was a little too focused on stuffing his face. Seokjin let out a soft laugh, adjusting his sleeves a little and giving a rough blink. Jungkook was basically inhaling the pasta, barely chewing the steak (although not much chewing was needed, since it melted like butter on his tongue, the light bite of the grains of salt a lovely contrast to the flavorless life of the last week) and tilted the container to scoop the food in faster.
“Slow down, there, tiger,” Jin laughed, standing up to take the dead and wilting flowers from the vase on the bedside table, dumping it out and replacing it with the bouquet he had brought. When he finished, he made his way back to the chair at Jungkook’s side, smiling as he saw Jungkook finishing off the meal.
“Thank you,” Jungkook moaned, half-chewed pasta in his mouth tumbling out as he spoke, “That was wonderful.”
Seokjin shook his head, chuckling and reaching over for a few tissues. He plucked up the half-masticated noodle and threw it away, lifting up the blanket a bit to try and wipe up the majority of the sauce, blotting at it. In doing so, the bedding wrinkled up and one floppy bunny ear poked out of the blankets. Jungkook felt a bolt of embarrassment flush through him, and he hurriedly shoved Star further under the blanket. Luckily Jin - for the most part - pretended not to have noticed, just smiling a little softly.
“I don’t think it’s coming out,” he said with a little twinkle in his eyes. “Guess the nurses will have proof of my contraband.”
“Let them come,” Jungkook growled. “That was the first real food I’ve eaten in days.”
“Yeah, you look skinny,” Jin whispered suddenly, his eyes softened as he surveyed Jungkook, who arched an eyebrow at him. “I mean, just compared to when I saw you the day of the accident, you’ve already lost quite a bit of weight. You want me to bring you something tomorrow?”
“Oh, god yes. Yes, please.”
“Any other requests from the prisoner?”
“Umm…” Jungkook sat back a little, thinking. His hands were still clutching the food container. “Maybe banana milk?”
“Definitely can do, I’ve got like a dozen in my fridge right now.”
Jungkook watched Jin curiously for a moment, smiling. “It seems weird, you know.”
“You were probably the one that saved me, right? So why are you doing stuff for me, when I should be the one thanking you?”
Seokjin didn’t say anything for a long moment, but the sparkle had faded from his eyes. “Oh,” he said with a thin air of candidness. “I just feel bad, it was an awful hit and run. I just wanted to make sure you’re alright. Besides…” Jin looked away, his fingertips fiddling fussily with the rubber-esque feeling hospital blanket. “I wasn’t really able to do anything to help you. I was just...there.”
“Well, I’m glad you were there,” Jungkook said quietly, turning and looking at the two sparrows in their nest outside his window. “And here. Are you coming tomorrow?”
Seokjin smiled, deep creases forming in the edges of his lips. “Of course.”
Another day, another blank head, Jungkook wrote. My brother came this morning for a little while, since it’s the weekend. He brought a video game he said I used to like and we played it. It’s weird, I don’t remember ever hearing the name of the game, but I knew how to play, and I even beat him on the first try. It really pissed him off, but I dunno. It felt almost natural between us for a second, I guess? I wish I didn’t know how awkward they felt, knowing I don’t remember them. I wish I could think hard enough and bring those memories back, or place a names to a face, or something.
Seokjin is coming back today, I think. I look forward to his visits. He’s pretty easy to talk to, although his sense of humor is horrendous - he says his second language is bad puns. I wanted to punch him. He brought me tuna and pickled plum rice balls last night before visitor hours ended. He didn’t stay long, though, because my head has been hurting pretty badly since they lowered my pain killers. To be honest I ate more of the seaweed chips he brought, because I couldn't stomach that much.
Mother brought my new cell phone by today. Apparently the old one got lost or something in the crash. I don’t even know what SNS I used to have, so I guess I have to figure it all out by process of elimination.
Jungkook was sitting curled up on his side, bandaged head angled gingerly against multiple pillows, while he checked every social media app he knew for his information. He had gotten his main email from his brother, and he knew what his old cell phone number was, but it was difficult. The only reason he had been able to get into his main email was because Jung-hyun had hacked it enough times that he knew it by heart. What a typical brother.
Kakaotalk was reactivated, obviously no longer with his old chats but with a long list of contacts. All of which he had no memory of. The names, nicknames, odd and unique profile photos...none of them rang a bell. His fingertips hovered over the first couple of names, pondering whether to reach out and say hello to any of them. But what could he say? ‘Hello, I don’t know you’?
He sighed, closing Kakaotalk, and downloading Instagram and Twitter. Maybe one of those would reveal a little more about himself.
There was a soft knock at the door, followed seconds later by a now-familiar face smiling around the corner. “Hey there, Captain Kook,” Seokjin greeted with a little salute. Jungkook, despite himself, felt a little smile come to his lips.
“Hey,” he sat up. “What’dya bring me today?”
“What, am I just a vending machine to you?” Jin laughed, even as he set down a small pie pan covered in foil. “I made quiche.”
“What? Are you serious?” Jungkook leaned in, gently peeling back the foil with an audible crackling. Sure enough, a beautiful quiche lay before him. It was already cut into little slices, and Seokjin used a couple of the tissues as make-shift napkins, serving them out a piece each. “Seokjin, I can’t even spell quiche. Where did you even come from?”
“Um, how about culinary school?” Seokjin laughed, as Jungkook’s eyes widened.
“Oh. That makes sense.”
“Yeah, now let’s eat.” Seokjin singsonged, picking up his own. “Sorry, I forgot utensils, so.” He took a sizable bite of the slice, crumbs from the crust raining down onto the blanket. It was force of habit by now, that whichever of them ate the first bite of whatever-it-was Seokjin brought, they would have to make the most exaggerated noises and mutterings possible. Since Jin was first this time, tilting his head back and closing his eyes, letting out the most melodious moan and then grunting out his feelings about the taste. Jungkook, as always, couldn’t help but chuckle at it, his nose scrunching up in amusement before he started on his own piece. It was still slightly warm from the oven, the eggy-sponge-like texture soft and slightly sweet, chunks of ham and sliced green onions rolling around amidst the very delicately nutty flavors he could detect. He rolled his eyes into the back of his head, moaning out his appreciation as best as he could with a full mouth.
“Wow,” he said. “It’s...it’s so good, Jin.”
Seokjin did that same smile he always did whenever Jungkook praised him, a smile that was a little thrown every time but which was mostly overwhelmed by a quiet shyness.
“Thanks, I’m glad you like it,” he said slowly. “Hey, also today, I brought you a surprise.”
“Isn’t the food enough of a surprise?” Jungkook couldn’t resist adding on the joke, “And isn’t your age enough of a surprise, too?”
“Hey, stop it,” Jin smacked his knee a little, careful to not get anywhere near Jungkook’s bandages. “I’m a few years older than you but I’m not that old. You’ll be my age eventually, don’t you know?”
If I live that long, his brain suddenly supplied, and he felt a piece of his heart shatter with a black, marble-esque weightiness against it, a pressure he couldn’t deny. The thought had come out of nowhere, a seemingly baseless statement that he knew he couldn’t breathe aloud. But he couldn’t help it - it was frustrating, to live every moment knowing that all the time he’d spent before, his personality, his quirks, his relationships...they had all gone out the window, and he was just left as a sort of weird shell of his former self.
Sometimes, it seemed easier to plan to run away from everything as soon as he was released from the hospital. Sometimes, it seemed easier to just give up and call this life he’d been given a void one. But he kept that worry to himself, the thought which came in deep waves in odd moments and overwhelmed him like temporarily drowning on air, until it washed away.
Would his parents be better off if he just left? If they could just mourn the death of Jeon Jungkook properly, instead of being left with a man who both was and was not their son? Did anyone on Earth even know who this Jungkook was, or care? Or were they all secretly waiting for the old one to come back out of hiding, from wherever he had run off to?
“Hm, it needs a bit more salt, I think,” Seokjin mumbled, licking at his fingertips. “What do you think?”
Well, there was one person at least, who seemed to like the current Jungkook alright. Someone who would care if the new version of the man suddenly vanished. So Jungkook moved a little impulsively.
Jungkook held his brand new cell phone up, still with little bits of protective plastic stuck to the camera lens and the touch screen. “I just got my new phone and, um… I have some of my old contacts back, but I kinda… don’t know any of them, so...I..uh..”
“Oh, here!” Seokjin breezily held out his hand, taking the phone from Jungkook and opening up Kakaotalk. After a moment, he frowned down at the screen, biting his lip a little.
“What is it?” Jungkook asked, moving forward to see if he could look at the screen, in case Seokjin had clicked on the wrong thing, but Seokjin withdrew the phone a little.
“Nothing, I think my name just doesn’t come up as searchable or something, one second.”
He pulled his cell phone out, quickly unlocking it and going into his Kakaotalk. He sat back, putting his feet up onto the hospital bed, and clicked away for a few minutes, then turned to smile at Jungkook.
“There, now let me try it.” He took Jungkook’s phone, and in a couple of taps, had it ready to hand back to him. “I went ahead and had you send me a message, so the chat will show up.”
“Thanks,” Jungkook said quietly. He took the phone back and Seokjin had sent an ugly fish-man sticker to himself, and Jungkook smiled at it, at the dramatic lines of it. It felt a little familiar, so he wondered if he had used that sticker once, maybe multiple times way before the accident. He clicked to send it again.
“Hey,” Seokjin cut in instantly. “You already sent me that one.”
“It didn’t count, your fingers sent it.” His voice was teasing, and Seokjin stuck his tongue out at him playfully, turning back to his phone and setting his ankles in Jungkook’s lap. The movement seemed like no big deal to Seokjin, but it was the most physical contact they’d had, and Jungkook stared down at the feet in his lap in surprise. After a few moments, Seokjin looked up, jolting a little before pulling his feet back to the floor. “Oh, sorry.”
“N-no, it’s fine,” Jungkook shrugged, confused more than anything. “I guess you’re just one of those guys that likes a lot of skinship?”
“I guess you could sort of say that,” Seokjin mumbled. His eyes were locked onto his phone screen, brow furrowed in a way that suggested he wasn’t actually reading it. “Only for certain people, though.”
“Oh.” It must have just been a slip, a mistake, then. Jungkook brushed it off, eating another slice of quiche while Seokjin played some noisy game on his phone. Jungkook was into his third quiche, surprised that he was still feeling hungry (although not really surprised, considering Seokjin was feeding him so well these days, he was starting to fill out visibly and his appetite was growing) but not complaining in the least. When he glanced up, he paused a moment, staring at Seokjin. There was something odd about him today, at least his appearance. Jungkook looked up him up and down, trying to pinpoint it. He hadn’t really taken in much about Seokjin’s appearance the first time or two, since he had been preoccupied with the accident and hadn’t known the man would become a more regular visitor than his family. But now he realized that Jin was very tall, with long legs he held at weird angles when he sat, and a strange, long neck. His almond eyes were fixated on his phone screen, and he blinked hard with both eyes like something had flashed in front of him. Jungkook realized he probably wore contacts, and was blinking their dryness away. Jin’s mouth was parted slightly, quirking back and forth and then a tongue darted out to wet them as his fingers flew against the touchscreen. The front lip dipped down just a little bit in the middle when his mouth opened, and somehow Jungkook found himself distracted by it for a long moment. Seokjin glanced up at last, seeing Jungkook staring.
“Uh, nothing,” Jungkook said, shaking himself and taking a fourth slice of quiche, eating half of it in one bite. He glanced sideways at Jin once more, and realized it wasn’t Jin himself that struck him as odd - it was what he was wearing. The black jeans he had already seen, but today had been a bit cooler, and Seokjin had worn an enormous oversized hoodie, in bright pink.
Curiously, Jungkook continued to stare, even as his hand threaded underneath the pillow and retrieved Star. The bunny had been tucked under there when the nurse had come to give him a checkup, and he pulled it out and held it up. It was uncanny, how similar the hoodie that Seokjin wore and that which Star wore were. The same little white tied strings attached to the hoodie, the same logo across the left breast, the same kangaroo pocket. Seokjin glanced up again, delayed as he was finishing his level, and found Jungkook holding up the bunny in the air, as if to compare the two side by side. Seokjin’s eyes widened, suddenly looking down at his hoodie and connecting the dots.
“They’re the same,” Jungkook commented quietly. He lowered Star to his lap at last, trailing his thumb along the velvety ear. “That’s kinda funny.”
“Yeah,” Jin laughed, but weakly. “It is. I guess Star and I have the same kind of style. Trust a bunny to be this fashionable, of all woodland creatures.”
“How did you know the bunny’s name?” Jungkook looked up, voice quiet. “You told me their names when you came the day of the accident.”
“Oh, your mom left them at the edge of the bed,” he explained. “She told me their names. Said they were your favorites, especially Star. Your mom said you’d had her for awhile now, and that it might help bring back some memories if you had her.”
“Didn’t you say you’d brought them?”
Seokjin frowned, arching an eyebrow, looking uncertain as he thought back. “No? I just told you their names.”
Jungkook had been pretty sure that Seokjin had said he had brought them.
He also had asked his mother about Star, and she had called the bunny by ‘he’ pronouns.
“Okay.” Jungkook allowed him that version of the truth, even though he highly doubted it. “So what’s my surprise?”
“Hm? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Seokjin hummed, being a total brat as he shoved more quiche into his mouth.
“Come on, you said you had a surprise for me. Where is it?”
“A good question,” Seokjin chuckled, still facing his phone screen but glancing up to shoot Jungkook a smirk. “Why don’t you guess?”
“Is this the part where you reveal yourself to be a pervy old man? Because if so, I have a panic button to call a nurse.”
Seokjin choked on his quiche, bits of crumb flying from his mouth as he coughed, laughing dryly and patting his chest with a couple of knuckles to encourage proper breathing again as he wheezed. “Oh my god, no. You little shit. Look.” And with that, an unexpected thing happened - Seokjin reached into the kangaroo pocket of his pink sweater and pulled out a whole live, small, furry creature. It wriggled and clambered up his hand and onto the wrist of his sweater, long, dark bushy tail coiling behind it. Jungkook gasped, and Seokjin huffed in pride. The tiny rodent looked something similar to a squirrel, but was mostly grey and black colorings with bits of white flecks. The tiny creature’s nose twitched a little, and it looked right at Jungkook in curiosity, its little pink paws still gripping Seokjin’s sleeve possessively. The wide, black eyes blinked up at him, and Jungkook fell in love.
“Oh my god, it’s so cute! What is it?”
Before answering, Seokjin reached into his pocket again and procured a second one. Jungkook actually gasped, mouth dropping open into a broad, unrestrained smile of pure joy.
“They’re sugar gliders,” Seokjin declared, holding out the first one so it was closer to Jungkook. “This is Odengie, he’s the friendly one. And the other is Eomuk.”
“Can I touch them?”
“If he lets you,” Seokjin chuckled. “They don’t usually go to others unless you’ve bonded with them, so he might--”
As he spoke, Jungkook instinctively held his palms out flat, and Odengie considered for a moment before he leapt from Seokjin’s arm and right into Jungkook’s hands, the little flesh-wings spreading out to help him aim for the waiting palms, then tiny paws clinging to the edges of Jungkook’s thumb in worry. Jungkook stared agape at the tiny creature as it readjusted, exploring and sniffing quietly.
“Well, that’s…” Seokjin said quietly, as though hushed. “Well.”
“I guess he likes me!” Jungkook chirruped, looking up and grinning happily at Seokjin. In return, Seokjin smiled back at him, although he looked a little sad. “Hey, don’t worry, I’m sure he still loves you most,” Jungkook teased, lifting his hands so he could get close to the sugar glider, hoping it would sniff at his nose. “Their little hands are so cute. It’s like they have tiny fingers.”
“Yeah,” Seokjin chuckled.
Suddenly, Eomuk started to make a loud noise, angrily panting in Seokjin’s palm. They both jumped in surprise at the surprising audio attack, the sound similar to a very loud cicada and echoing and amplifying throughout the empty hospital room. Seokjin, flustered momentarily, suddenly cupped his hands together around the sugar glider, hiding it and squeezing slightly. For a moment, Jungkook panicked, worried Seokjin was squishing it, but then Seokjin offered him a little grimace. “It feels like the safety of their mother’s pouch to them,” he explained. “It’ll calm him down.” And true to his word, in a few moments, the loud rattling-like noise tapered off, and Eomuk was quiet.
“Wish it was that easy with actual people,” Seokjin chuckled. “I guess I should go, before one of the nurses hears them and gets all worked up.”
Seokjin stopped halfway out of his seat, smirking at Jungkook. “What, are you saying you’ll miss me?”
Jungkook frowned, rolling his eyes. “It was just a short visit, is all. You came for longer periods before.”
“Yeah, it’s kind of far from my apartment here…” Seokjin shrugged. “But hey, when you get released from this prison, we should hang out sometime.”
He’d said it so casually, but Jungkook instantly brightened, sitting up a little straighter on the bed as he held out Odengie on his hand so that Seokjin could collect the baby sugar glider. “Really?!”
“Of course,” Seokjin chuckled. “Just message me on Kakaotalk when you’re free.” He paused, tucking the sugar gliders nonchalantly back into the kangaroo pocket. “Or if you just wanna talk. I’m usually available for a text.”
“Okay,” Jungkook smiled. “I may take you up on that, Seokjin-hyung, because it gets a little boring here.”
“See you,” Jin laughed, waving.
“See you…” Jungkook muttered, a little deflated as he was left alone in the hospital room again.
Seokjin comes every day now, even if it’s just for a few minutes. He never said how long it takes to get here from his place, but I hope it’s not too bad. He’s going to bring me dessert next time because I kept complaining about the hospital pudding tasting like tar.
I think I remembered something today, but I’m not sure. It’s not clear or factual, of course, the useful sort of memory. I think I remember an umbrella being important. Maybe it had to do with the accident? Or just some random, unimportant memory. I don’t know. But it was a black and white umbrella, and it was huge. There was black writing on it.
I dunno. It’s probably nothing. But it’s a memory at least, I guess?
“God, you’re such a cheater!” Seokjin shouted, bumping his elbow into Jungkook’s side as he focused on the TV, a make-shift gaming setup dangling precariously across the back of two chairs and a large bag in order to balance it as they raced.
“Ow!” Jungkook exaggerated, clutching his side. “I’m an invalid, you know!”
Seokjin paused, stopping to glance over at him. “Wait, did I really hurt you? I’m sorry I--”
Jungkook smirked, elbowing Jin back much harder, and the older man cried out, nearly falling off the tiny hospital bed. At the last second, Jungkook reached out and hooked his good arm underneath Jin’s, holding him up onto the bed, his eyes crinkled in laughter. When he looked up into Jin’s eyes, however, he suddenly sobered, seeing the expression on Jin’s face. He stared down at the place where Jungkook held him, looking as if he’d just seen a ghost’s arm there instead of the patient’s. Jungkook withdrew his hand, his smile fading.
“Sorry…” he mumbled, figuring Jin didn’t want to be touched.
Jin shook his head with a sudden sort of violence. “N-no, you’re fine, it’s just…”
Jungkook tilted his head to the side. He had suspected, for awhile, that Jin kept coming back to visit him because he liked him. Not as in a friend - because who picks up a friend during an accident where the other person’s brains get scrambled like morning eggs? - but as in...like liked him. For who knew how long. For all Jungkook could remember, Seokjin may have been his stalker before the accident, a secret admirer, or even someone he knew. He had no memory of him, so should he just leave it as a clean slate, or call him out on the unspoken weirdness that had just risen in the air at his touch?
“Jin, did you...did you know me before--”
“Sorry, I’m just really awkward,” Jin laughed, deliberately cutting him off. “You just remind me of someone, it’s my own fault, really. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Oh?” Jungkook mumbled, feeling his heart-rate pick up inexplicably. Without thinking, he touched a hand to his chest, able to feel the slight fluttering of it against his rib cage beneath his fingertips. “Who?”
Seokjin let out a soft little scoff, slipping off the bed and starting to roll up the game controllers, indicating that he was going to slip out, probably once again leaving behind him a couple more questions hovering in the air like an unfinished concerto, complex and invisible, but all the more compelling than the first movement. “My old boyfriend, in all honesty…”
“I remind you of him?” Jungkook narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Am I your old boyfriend or something?”
Jin looked over, as though wounded, and stared directly into Jungkook’s eyes for a long, long time. Jungkook felt his breath catch, wondering if that was it, if that was the thing that he’d stumbled upon, the truth of the matter. His face turned a bright red, and he knew the panic in his eyes was evident, almost tangible. “J-Jin-hyung?”
“No,” Seokjin said at long last, each word slow and deliberate. “My old boyfriend is gone. You’re just a lot like him, is all.”
The breath that Jungkook hadn’t realized he was holding was suddenly released in a slow hiss. There was something about the way that Seokjin had said it that made Jungkook feel a heavy sickness deep in his belly, but he couldn’t pinpoint its source. “Oh…”
Seokjin gave a sad little smile, setting the game console back down on the chair and coming to sit at the foot of Jungkook’s bed. “He liked my cooking a lot. He was also really clingy.” He shrugged, chuckling. “Kind of annoyingly so at times.”
Jungkook drew his knees to his chest, leaning forward in interest. “Why was it annoying?”
“Oh, it’s just that sometimes, he got carried away, or would just do stuff in inappropriate places or times.”
Seokjin frowned, crossing his arms, folds of his pink sweater coming together like little pastel mounds over his chest. “I dunno, like when I was really pissed off at him.”
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t have been pissed at him.”
“Well, maybe he shouldn’t--!” Jin started to retort, suddenly withdrawing as he realized he’d begun shouting. He sighed, dropping his arms limply to his sides. “I should...I should go.” He scooped up the game console, heading toward the door. Once he’d stepped away from the bedside, however, he appeared to hesitate, shuffling his feet. “Sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry,” Jungkook muttered. “I just wanted to hear about someone else for once. Someone with history, I suppose.” He shuffled, tilting his head with a little smile.
Jin paused, his hands seemingly frozen on the door handle. He bit his lip, staring at the ground as though he’d been handed a particularly challenging puzzle. “You do?”
“Yeah, I mean, if that’s alright?”
Seokjin’s answer never came, in the end. He just offered a tight-lipped smile, waving briefly and slipping quietly and suddenly out the door.
Jungkook frowned, flopping gently back over onto the pillows, relinquishing a sigh into the silence.
He hadn’t wanted to admit aloud that he’d been extremely curious. Seokjin represented a sort of strange, opalescent figure in the corners of his new existence - the only existence he knew. He wanted to know more about him, and the longer they hung out, the more they talked, the harder of a time Jungkook had, refusing to admit that the subject of an ex-boyfriend stirred more than curiosity, but also a note of jealousy in his veins.
The next time Seokjin visited was on his last day in the hospital a couple of days later. Jungkook was beyond excited. He was tired of being interrupted by nurses just when he had fallen into a decent sleep. He was tired of his limited freedom, of the incessant beeping of machines. He wanted to go home. Wanted to see what kind of home he had, for starters. To figure out what semblance of a normal life he could construct from the missing pieces that the Old Jungkook had left behind in his wake.
“Do you know your own address?” Seokjin queried gently, as he unpacked the homemade egg rolls he’d made the night before.
“Yeah, my parents gave it to me. I looked it up online so I think I’ll be able to find it. It’s a tiny-ass little apartment near campus.”
“Mm…” Seokjin seemed preoccupied, laying the container lid out on the mini-table for Jungkook to use as a makeshift plate.
“Mm?” The younger man chuckled as he leaned in, meeting Seokjin’s eyes and arching an eyebrow. “What do you mean ‘Mm’?”
“I mean, shouldn’t someone be there to take you home? You know, make sure you get in safely and all?”
“Well, I’m not a child, so I should be able to figure it out,” Jungkook shrugged, only realizing after the words left his mouth what Seokjin was trying to work at. He smirked. “Unless you wanna take me? You know, to give you some peace of mind?”
Seokjin, not realizing Jungkook had already caught on to the suggestion, picked at his eggroll, inspecting the crispiness of the hand-rolled edges. “Um, if you’d like me to, then sure. I could probably arrange that. What time?”
“In the morning? Oh, that works out.” Seokjin smiled, “I’m free then.”
Jungkook narrowed his eyes, waiting until Seokjin turned back to eating before saying, “No, 6pm.”
“Oh…” Seokjin hesitated, pretending to think, then adding, “I’m free then, too, by chance.”
To this, Jungkook smirked, crossing his arms over his chest. Seokjin looked up, arching an eyebrow at him.
“Nothing.” He knew Seokjin had cleared his day for him, or was skipping out on something, but not telling him.
“You’re gonna treat me to pizza, right?” Seokjin chuckled, leaning in on the foot of the bed. His wrist ended up brushing up against Jungkook’s blanketed ankle, and for some reason Jungkook found this point of contact extremely distracting. “I’ve brought you so much food at this point, you owe me a little.”
“Um, what happened to it being ‘just because’ and ‘no problem’?” Jungkook scoffed. “I don’t owe you squat.”
Seokjin dramatically gasped, clutching his chest, then reached up to slide the pile of egg rolls he’d carefully stacked up for Jungkook back towards himself. With a lightning quick movement, Jungkook reached out and slapped his hand down, trapping the egg rolls under his fingertips and pouting at Seokjin.
“Hey, these were given freely, with no contract or anything!”
“So says you. How rude are kids these days?”
Jungkook picked up an egg roll, lightly bapping Seokjin on the side of the face with it, leaving a little line of crumbs and oil drawn across the apple of his cheek. Seokjin scoffed at him, and Jungkook bapped him again, the eggroll crumpling under the abuse. Seokjin leapt forward, grabbing Jungkook’s wrist and forcing it aside. Jungkook was laughing openly, a thick guffaw that, even just a week ago, would have made his head ache. Jungkook tried to force Jin’s hand back, but his body had been too weakened, being bedridden, so instead of arm-wrestling back, he ended up trying to use his whole body weight, shifting as he threw back his head in open-mouthed laughter, and in that moment he felt Seokjin shoving an entire eggroll into his mouth, the tips of two fingers caught in the edges of Jungkook’s lips. Jungkook’s eyes shot open, seeing the laughter in Seokjin’s face as he stuck out his tongue in jest.
“Serves you right,” Seokjin began, “If you’d just--”
Jungkook inhaled sharply, sucking in his cheeks and running the tip of his tongue across Seokjin’s fingertips, tasting salt and coolness. Seokjin abruptly stopped, as Jungkook looked up at him with a cheeky expression. He’d expected Seokjin to draw his hands away in disgust. He didn’t expect Seokjin to suddenly pale, staring at Jungkook for a long moment before whipping his hand back as though he’d been burned.
“J-jeez, Jungkook, you’re so gross,” Seokjin said, no malice or sincerity in his words as he now couldn’t meet Jungkook’s eyes, trying to inconspicuously wipe his hand off on his jeans. He moved to stand up, intending to get the rest of the food from the bag, but Jungkook reached out and took hold of the edge of his shirt.
“Hey,” Jungkook’s voice was quiet and attempting to be gentle, even though he knew no better way to word his question other than, “Jin-hyung? What...what exactly is it you want from me?”
Seokjin shuffled and fidgeted uncomfortably under the interrogation, brushing Jungkook’s hand off, jolting at the moment of contact with an electric-shock sort of jump. “What I want,” he managed, wriggling out of reach, a continued enigma. “Is for you to buy me pizza tomorrow for helping you get settled back in.”
Jin slowly came back, but this time returning to the hospital chair that probably had his butt permanently pressed into its cushion. He smiled, setting out a container of sauce on Jungkook’s tray and very carefully said, “Just that. Although if you want me to find something, I’m sure that can be arranged.” He chuckled, then took a large bite, finishing off an entire eggroll with impressive cleanliness. Jungkook watched him, took note of the fact that over half an hour passed before he was able to look Jungkook’s way again, and even then, he seemed off-set.
Seokjin was still that strange, evanescent figure on the edges of his now miniaturized world. He dreamt again that night, this time about waking up the day of the accident and looking up to see Jin’s face, the worry in his eyes as he called out Jungkook’s name.
The hospital forced Jungkook to be wheeled out in a wheelchair to the entrance, even though by now he was perfectly capable of walking (or so he grunted in complaint). Jin just chuckled, pushing the chair out to the front where Jin’s car was parked. Seokjin did everything, opening the door for him and cautioning him that the window would only roll down, not up. Asked if he wanted the heater, the air conditioner, whatever. Jungkook rolled his eyes, buckling his seatbelt and sitting back. The car had been sitting in the sun, and had a slightly musty smell to it. He stared up at the windshield, where a couple of burned CDs had been tossed in a haphazard pile. He leaned forward, scooping them up and browsing through them casually, in search of something to do with his hands.
“So, um...you’re gonna need to give me directions,” Seokjin said pointedly.
“Just keep going down this road,” Jungkook gestured with his head, still flipping through the CDs. He had stared at and studied the map on google for enough hours, virtually wandered down the streets which no longer had a file folder in his memory, that now he knew it by heart. It was one of the only places he knew the directions to, now, so he figured the first might as well be his apartment. “I’ll let you know when to turn.”
Jin’s mix 2006
Jungkook glanced up, raising an eyebrow at Jin in curiosity, then kept flipping through, the CDs sending up a bright glare from where the sun hit them. The sight felt sort of familiar to Jungkook, and he angled them to catch a little more light.
Jin’s mix 2010
JK Remix 2000
He let out a little sigh, slipping in the Foreign Music CD and sitting back as Adele started to croon away in her emotive alto. Seokjin glanced over, smiling a little.
“Yeah, a little, I guess.” Jungkook flopped his head against the headrest, wincing as the remaining bandage caught against the fabric uncomfortably, burning a little. He’d have to be careful for a little longer. “You’ll turn left at the next light,” he instructed, shutting his eyes.
“Oh, okay.” Silence fell into the car, Jin quietly tapping his fingers against the wheel in time to the music. Jungkook opened his eyes. Something about this felt like deja vu,and he wondered if he’d just fallenl asleep with google maps open to this street too many times. But it wasn’t just the street. Even though he logically knew this was the first time since the accident that he had ridden in a car, much less home, it felt as though he’d done this before, this feeling, this moment. He looked over at Jin, who made another right turn, then felt Jungkook’s eyes on him and jumped, a little tense.
“U-um...I had to turn, is this the right way?”
“Yeah,” Jungkook looked out the window. The sun was too bright. That morning, the baby birds had been chirping in their nest. He was a little sad that he’d miss seeing them fly. “My house is the apartment complex down at the end of the street, near the cul-de-sac.”
The second song on the mix was another female vocalist, the beginning notes sounding familiar as they slid out of the speakers. Her voice was light and held a coy lilt to it, delicate and breathy.
Remember the way you made me feel
Such young love but
Something in me knew that it was real
Frozen in my head
“Wait, is this…?” Jungkook pulled himself away from the window, staring at the stereo as if it would answer his question. Jin glanced his direction, slowing down as they neared the cul-de-sac. “I think I know this one.”
“Oh?” Jin said, strangely quiet. He parked but they made no move to get out of the car.
I hate this part - paper hearts
And I’ll hold a piece of yours
“Yeah, yeah, this is Paper Hearts!” Jungkook beamed happily, singing along with the rest of the chorus, looking proud as the words fell from his lips, rounded and a little off in pitch, but there, and familiar, all the same. Jin just sat and smiled, leaning on the steering wheel and letting him have his moment.
When the last notes rang out, Jungkook sighed, smiling over at Jin and meeting his eyes. “Wow, I can’t believe I remembered something. Do you think I’d remember more?”
Seokjin’s smile faded. Like he’d thought of it more than once. “Well...Jungkook...the doctor said that’s not likely to happen. You may get pieces back, but..your memories are gone. This..” he gestured to the radio, his own coloring going a weird sort of gray. “This is more like a muscle memory, like holding a pencil. Your actual memories are stored differently.”
Jungkook gave a deep frown. “Since when did you become an expert on amnesia?”
The only response he got to that was another of Jin’s tight-edged smiles, the ones he gave in lieu of a proper answer. “Let’s go inside. What’s your apartment number?”
Jungkook sighed, slowly slipping out of the car with his thin, cheaply-bought backpack that held his few things from the hospital room. He looked up at the building, not recognizing it at all, save for the shitty, pixelated google images photo he’d studied. He hoped the inside would feel more homey.
It didn’t, not really. He walked in and there was definitely not the same smell that had been slowly wearing off of Star, the rabbit tucked secretly into his bag and on the top, carefully folded into it. But the overstuffed couch, the elaborate video game system set-up (its wires entangled across the floor in a chaotic heap as though he had just jumped up and left it), the kitchen, the messily made bed, the dirty laundry on the floor...it all felt like he had just trespassed into someone else’s home.
Seokjin slowly stepped in behind him, setting one hand on his shoulder. “Jungkook?”
“Nothing,” Jungkook sighed. “You’re right. I’ll never remember anything.”
“It’ll…” Seokjin paused. “It’ll be okay.”
“No, it won’t!” He threw off Seokjin’s hand and glared at him. “You don’t get it! I had a whole l-life before, and it’s all gone. I don’t know any of my friends, I’m an awkward stranger to my family, I--”
Jin reached out, slowly taking hold of Jungkook’s shoulders and pulling him in, tucking him into a broad, warm embrace that seemed to shake Jungkook to the core, warming him slowly and leaving him surprised, his arms held strangely around Jin’s waist.
“I’m sorry,” Jin whispered into his ear. “It sucks… it sucks so bad, but… You’re gonna be okay. Even if you don’t ever remember anything.”
“Easy for you to say,” Jungkook let out in a huff, but let his head rest against Jin’s shoulder. “You’d be awkward, too, if you’d known me before. I bet I’m really different now.”
Jin sent him a soft look, staring up at Jungkook’s forehead and brushing back his bangs, as though transfixed. “Maybe not. I mean, you never know. Either way, you’ve got me.”
Jungkook nodded, gratefulness washing over him in a soft wave.
“Let's get you settled in, you want me to stick around a while? We can figure out where everything is and watch a movie or something.”
Again, he nodded. “I still owe you that pizza, I guess.”
“Sweet. I can order while you start unpacking.” Seokjin pulled out his phone, tapping away with a little smile on his face while Jungkook sighed, stepping towards the first door he came to. It was a bad guess, as that was just a mostly-empty linen closet. The second door was a bedroom, oddly enough with a queen-size bed covered in a dark blue comforter. A shelf along one wall was covered in DVDs, figurines and video game cases. Obviously he was kind of a nerd, that was worth noting. There was a window against the head of the bed, the curtains some kind of cheap, unhemmed material, red threads sticking out of the ends and entangled slightly around the push pins holding it to the wall, a crimson glow to the room the carpet was shitty and stained, but the floor was surprisingly clear. Jungkook dropped his backpack roughly to the bed, looking around and silently hoping it would start to feel familiar if he explored it enough.
No such luck, of course. Luck didn't seem to be on his side anymore, and he didn't know if it ever had been, because he couldn't fucking remember it.
Jungkook's shoulder slumped, and he unzipped the backpack before starting to pull out the sweaters and socks and things his mother had brought to the hospital for him. A couple of books and the notebook he'd been using as a sort of diary since the accident. His new phone, charger, toothbrush.
Should coming home feel like moving into a stranger's house? He heard Jin’s voice from the living room, muffled as he ordered their pizza. He felt himself breathe more evenly, the tenseness in his shoulders dissipating at the sound, representing the only thing familiar in the situation. He felt grounded somehow, indulging in that anchor of the amusing rise and fall of Seokjin’s voice, exaggerated and slightly different in tone and formality than it was when he spoke directly to Jungkook. He didn't know having him there would feel so comforting.
Maybe I’m a little too attached to him already, Jungkook thought fretfully, unpacking his shirts. He took the socks and decided to go hunt for their proper drawer, and it took him three guesses before he found it. Seokjin stepped in, smiling at him with shoulders looking broad and formidable in the small, paint-chipped doorway.
“Should be about 30 minutes. If it takes 45 minutes or more we get it FREE.” He positively beamed at Jungkook, as though praying for the delivery man to need a bathroom break so they could acquire some gifted food. “You need some help?”
Jungkook shrugged, suddenly feeling shy as Seokjin stepped up, picking up some of the shirts and walking confidently over to the corner of the room, opening the second drawer down and slipping it easily on top of the other shirts. Jungkook froze, arching one eyebrow in confusion.
“Wait, how did you know those went there?”
“Huh?” Jin blinked, staring down at his empty hands as though surprised, and then at the drawer he was closing. “Oh, uh. Just a lucky guess? It makes sense for them to go there.”
“I guess…” Jungkook frowned, turning his back on Seokjin to dig the rest of his stuff out of the backpack. There were all these little things he was starting to notice, especially ever since Jungkook had asked Seokjin about his ex-boyfriend. It was hard not to be suspicious, especially when he couldn’t figure out any reason for Seokjin to have stuck around this long, unless he was waiting for something. An acknowledgement? A date? A free pizza? Whatever it was, in all honesty, with each passing day Jungkook was feeling more and more prepared to give it to him.
“What movie do you wanna watch?”
“Um, well. Technically speaking, I haven’t seen any but the ones we watched in the hospital, so…” Jungkook took a step over to the shelf of DVDs, pulling out a random one. “What about this?”
“Die Hard?” Seokjin laughed. “I think I’ve only seen that one once.”
Jungkook barely heard him, staring at the cases. He noticed a lot of his films were less of the action/adventure and more of the Ghibli and romance variety. What kind of a guy was he, really? He slipped out another case, which was some anime called Free! Iwatobi Swim Club. Seokjin laughed.
“That one’s gotten some use,” he muttered, stepping away with the case for Die Hard. “Doesn’t Bruce Willis still have hair in this one?”
Jungkook looked over his shoulder, watching Seokin retreat to the living room.
How would he have known how much use the DVD had gotten? He turned the case over to look at the back, reading the summary. Oh. I have this doll. The character Makoto, specializing in the backstroke in swimming, was the name of the doll that he’d had in the hospital with him. He looked over, the doll face-down and smiling against the comforter. He supposed that made sense. People don’t usually buy merchandise for shows they don’t care much for.
He wondered where Star had come from, why that had become her name.
“You ready?” Seokjin called out. Jungkook looked at the stuffed rabbit for a moment, for some reason feeling tempted to hold it while curling up on the couch for the movie. He opted against it, dropping the DVD case next to the doll on the bed. He’d come back to it later, when Seokjin left. For now, it would be Die Hard and pizza. At home.
I’m home today. It feels weird to be home, but I was glad that Jin stayed to hang out for a few hours. I dunno… I guess I secretly did hope that being home would bring back the memories, but there’s nothing. My apartment doesn’t even smell like Star, which is weird, right? The smell has faded but I think I’d remember it if the house was the same.
I had a falsely happy alarm, remembering an old song by heart. Jin said it was just muscle memory, not a real memory. I kind of wish that he had let me believe it, just a little. Any hope or expectation seems like a nice one, at this point.
Tomorrow I go back to school. I only have afternoon classes, but I need to talk to all my professors and explain to them the situation. God, I hope I can find my way around campus, I’ll look like some dumbass freshman.
But it might be nice to be around other people again. I don’t think I was very social before? Only one or two people in my KKT have messaged me since the accident, and the messages didn’t make any sense. Jung-hyun says I was kind of anti-social. Lovely. I guess I’ll try to get some sleep.
Jungkook fiddled with his phone, debating.
It was nearly midnight, but he couldn’t sleep. He had already tired himself out of the different games and apps on his phone, and he had nothing to do, no-one to talk to. He had hated the midnight shift, when he knew all the nurses by face and name and how many children they had, when he listened intently to every creak and beep and groan that echoed through the hospital. He had lived for the times something major happened outside, when he could hear flustered voices and quickened footsteps. Now, he was alone in an empty apartment that was utterly unfamiliar, and the silence was deafening, pressing in from the walls to pin him to his bed in anxiety and uncertainty.
Jungkook opened his Kakaotalk, sending a random sticker to Jin, the only contact in his list that had a conversation currently going.
JK: I’m bored
He whined, expecting Jin to not see it until he woke up. Jungkook had noticed he was an early riser, often answering messages as early as 5 am, if Jungkook was still tossing and turning then. To his surprise, however, his phone blipped and he glanced over to see a judgemental cat sticker sent in reply.
Seokjin: what is this boredom you speak of, child???
Jungkook smiled, chuckling as he replied.
JK: entertain me!
Seokjin: what am i, your own personal clown? YOUR the one with the nose for it
Seokjin: Shut up, you
Jungkook was laughing before long, teasing Seokjin late into the night. Seokjin talked about how a guy caught his sleeve on fire during culinary class the other day, about how he got a discount on some lightbulbs. Jungkook was glad Jin never pressed Jungkook for a topic, but seemed endlessly prepared with little rants and stories to share. He wished he had some of his own to share with the elder.
At one point in the conversation, Seokjin sent some photos of food he’d been working on, including two sadly failed chocolate souffles. Seokjin mentioned a friend of his on Instagram had made a really funny joke about it, and Jungkook realized that he had never checked to see if he had an Instagram of his own.
He went to the app he had downloaded days ago, left untouched, and put in the log in info the same as his main email.
Jungkook sighed, then tried the back-up email he’d seen attached to his Kakaotalk, with the same password, expecting another rejection.
He arched an eyebrow as it silently moved to a full Instagram feed, showing photos of people he didn’t know and what seemed to be a lot of artist and art feeds.
Was I interested in art? He pondered, pausing to watch a 2x speed painting of a dark fae done in watercolors. There were a lot of posts on his feed by this guy with a nonsensical screen name of numbers and letters and he posted a lot of photos of himself in different outfits that made him look like an actual model. Jungkook had been sure he was some kind of celebrity account, but he only had about 30 followers, which surprised him. And apparently they followed each other.
A little concerned about what he would find, Jungkook clicked to view his own profile. He didn’t have very many posts, all in all. Most of them were abstract photos of nature or cityscapes in different levels of sunsets or sunrises. The profile pic was a greenery-heavy undershot of some oak leaves, the sunlight shimmering bright and white behind it.
But the posts that weren’t scenery were the ones that confused him the most. The last image, for example, was a blurry, dark photo that was apparently in a movie theatre, and it was of what he knew was his own hand on one of the red, worn-out arm-rests. He was holding someone else’s hand tightly, a faded jean jacket sleeve-adorned wrist twisted at an angle to allow the fingers to tenderly entwine with his own. It was captioned: Fifth time and still willing to sit with me through the whole film! #StarBoyAndMakoto #DatingGoals
Who the fuck is that?! Jungkook tried to zoom in, tried to check the comments for answers. There were five or six replies underneath exclaiming the photo adorable or asking how the film was. The last comment was simply a crying face, accompanied by the words sorry to hear about the accident.
Jungkook checked the date of the posting. He felt his throat go dry.
It was dated the same day as the accident, just a few hours prior.
Who was the person with him? Where had they gone when he got hurt? Where were they now? Why hadn’t they come to see him?
Jungkook scrolled further, and he felt his heart stop when he saw a photo he had taken of a rainy afternoon, following someone who was walking away from him across a bridge, an enormous black-and-white umbrella covering their top half, emblazoned with the cursive letters Callaway across two of the sections. The person wore black skinny jeans and bright white sneakers.
The caption read: just like the day we met
“Who are you?” Jungkook hissed, trying to find some hint among the food and beach photos. This person had apparently meant something to him, had been in his life enough to warrant the aesthetic-focused photography.
Then, he found it. It was the silliest little post, using one of those mini gif-esque maker apps that took a video and would repeat it, playing it forward and then in reverse over and over again. His video was of a man shoving an entire eclair into his mouth, eyes widening as he stuffed his pliable pink cheeks. The video forced him to shove and remove the eclair over and over, and Jungkook sat staring at it for an obscenely long amount of time.
He knew the face the man was making, had seen it a hundred times now. He knew the plush, pouting lips, the crinkle in his eyes at the end of the replaying clip that showed the precursor to his signature laugh. He knew the shoulders. He knew the long neck and the almond eyes.
The caption was left blank, with no explanation. He kept scrolling, his heart rate speeding up in anxiety he couldn’t name, an emotion he didn’t understand.
There was a photo of them, that Jungkook had taken. Seokjin leaned in close to Jungkook’s shoulder, staring up at the camera softly as Jungkook gave a little smirk, holding it up at an angle.
Dinner at our favorite place for my birthday! #StarBoyAndMakoto #IPromiseToStillLoveYouEvenWhenYouGetFat
Jungkook wasn’t sure when he had started crying, when the tightness in his chest had exploded into a thick sob. It didn’t feel like crying, it felt more like letting out air polluted with more complex emotions than words could comprehend.
“You bastard…” he wept. “How dare you?”
Around 6AM, Seokjin sent a cheerful good morning message on Kakaotalk, but it was left unanswered, the phone draped over Jungkook’s limp hand as he stared at the message through sleepless eyes.
It was the next afternoon, and Jungkook’s first day back on campus. He sat through his first class, confused as hell not only as to what was missing from his school notes in the weeks he’d been out of commission, not to mention the fact that he didn’t remember any of the class content. His parents had suggested he drop out for the rest of the semester, but he’d said he wanted to try.
But things were a little hard, especially with that nagging, weightiness in his chest that made him want to cry.
He walked from his second class to a leisurely lunch, and turned a corner toward the cafeteria (according to the map) and ended up facing a glass office room of some sort. The workers inside looked up, shooting him confused glances, and he continued on. Where the hell is the cafeteria??
Suddenly, two figures walked down the hall, and his name was shouted. He looked up to see two young men rushing at him, smiling from ear to ear before they embraced him. Jungkook awkwardly stiffened up, uncertain.
“Jungkook! Oh my god! You’re back! We wanted to see you earlier but--” said the first boy, a short, orange-haired creature with a warm giggle like a babbling brook, who squeezed rather intimately at Jungkook’s midriff.
“--But the doctors said to wait until you were back in school. We didn’t hear you were back in your apartment until this morning. You should have messaged us!” The second boy was tall and lanky, with deep almond-shaped eyes that crinkled when he smiled, only reminding Jungkook of Seokjin… and large ears that stuck out a bit to the side.
The orange-haired man smacked the other in the chest, hissing, “Taehyung, he wouldn’t know to message us. He doesn’t remember…?!”
“I…” Taehyung pouted, as though deeply insulted. “I knew that.”
“It’s fine,” he smiled up at Jungkook, reaching up to pat his head. “I’m Jimin, and this is Taehyung!”
“We’re your best friends,” Taehyung added.
Jimin shot Taehyung a glare. “Excuse you, I think you lost that position some time ago, hmm? To a certain brother of yours?”
Taehyung frowned, crossing his arms. “Not anymore. Jungkook is ours now, again.”
“I’m… I’m sorry, but… My memories of you probably won’t come back,” Jungkook mumbled quietly, “I don’t… I don’t know you, or that Jungkook at all.”
“That’s fine, you were always the quietest one anyways,” Taehyung shrugged, earning another playful smack on the shoulder from Jimin. “Hey!”
“What he means is, we’re going to support you, Jungkook. Whether you remember us or not. We can help remind you, if you want?”
“Um, I guess?” After last night, Jungkook wondered if he even wanted to remember that person anymore. “Would it be okay if we just… kinda… started over?”
Jimin looked up at him and smiled, grabbing his arm in a gesture of camaraderie. “Absolutely. Whichever is easiest for you.”
Sitting with Jimin and Taehyung was like having a weird mix of sugar-rush and grandfather at the table, traits which were split somehow evenly between the two like they were bits of sandwich that had been traded.
Which, of course, they did trade parts of their lunch, Taehyung taking bits of onion off of his plate to give Jimin, and Jimin giving Tae his shrimp silently, moving smoothly. Jungkook wondered how long they’d been friends, how they’d become friends. What sort of rapport did they have? Had he been someone who was playful and sarcastic, or serious? He wracked his brain for something to talk about, and came up empty.
Jimin, glancing over, was the one who swooped in to help him out.
“Stop worrying, just be yourself,” Jimin laughed, patting him on his back.
“That’s the thing,” Jungkook sighed, “I don’t know what kind of person I am. My likes or my dislikes, my personality…”
“Then just do what comes naturally,” Taehyung gave a little shrug, not realizing he had some lettuce stuck to his cheek.
“I don’t know what’s natural.” Jungkook exhaled deeply, plastering his face down on a clear spot of the tabletop, his body slumping in frustration. “I wish I could just wave a magic wand and bring it all back.”
“Well, we can’t,” Jimin said softly, his fingertips working into a spot of Jungkook’s neck. The boy halted, attention perked, as he felt the stiffness of his muscles relax, like the moment a large dog would settle comfortable into its owner’s lap, not sure why it was comforting but knowing it just was. “So let’s not spend time on it.”
“Why’re you sorry?” Taehyung leaned in, confusion on his face at Jungkook’s words. “You didn’t ask for this.”
“Yeah, Taehyung’s right. We’ll just act normal, and eventually, it will be normal.” Jimin squeezed at his neck, and Jungkook, somehow, felt like maybe he was right.
But that wouldn’t be true for all his old relationships.
That night Seokjin came over, bearing a box of homemade macarons. They were a plethora of different pastel colors: pink, turquoise, orange, etc. He slipped inside the house and wrapped an arm around Jungkook in a hug, his softy woody smell washing over Jungkook, permeating Jin’s sweater and emanating off of his bare collarbone. Jungkook looked at them, but felt hollowed inside, and not in a hunger sort of way. He ate them, complimented them as usual, and held up the DVD for Free! Iwatobi Swim Club.
“Can we watch this tonight?”
Seokjin lips curled into a soft sort of smile, and he patted Jungkook on the head. “Sure, if you want.”
Jungkook watched Seokjin make himself comfortable on the couch as Jungkook went to pull out leftover pizza for their dinner. He looked so comfortable, as if he had sat there a hundred times before.
Jin had one delicate wrist draped over the back of the couch, the other buried in the macarons. He put his ankles up on the cheap, creaking coffee table. It reminded him of that time in the hospital, when he’d naturally put his ankles up in Jungkook’s lap and then abruptly apologized for it when he’d realized what he’d done, how intimately he had moved.
Now, he supposed, he knew that that had been one of Jin’s numerous little slip-ups, the miniscule moments when he had almost - almost - forgotten that Jungkook didn’t remember him. Jungkook felt his heart sink into the floor, wondering if Seokjin had secretly hoped that the old Jungkook would come back. But no, he had known. The way he had talked whenever the subject came up, he had very firmly insisted that Jungkook not get his hopes up.
But what if he had wanted the memories to go away? What did he want from Jungkook, an old boyfriend whose first words upon waking in this new, hollowed out shell had been ‘Are you the doctor’?
Why hadn’t he told Jungkook from the start, and instead, lied to him?
More poignantly, Jungkook realized, why had it taken him so long to admit that, memory-loss or not, he was in love with Seokjin anyway?
It was like a curse on his heart and a spell on his mind, and as he sat down next to Seokjin on the couch, holding out a plate of pizza, he realized that he was growing more and more bitter and melancholy by the moment. He wanted to know that Seokjin loved him, this New Jungkook, wanted to know his reasoning, to understand him inside and out, as he assumed he once had. Was Seokjin just waiting for him to remember, or hoping that he wouldn’t?
What would he say, how would he react, when he realized that Jungkook hadn’t remembered, but still knew? Seokjin glanced over after pressing play on the TV, seeing Jungkook looking his way and sending him a smile.
“Hey, what’s up?” he chuckled. Jungkook looked at him, heartily wished for his mind to remember something about their past together. How close were they? How long had they dated? The photos went back to almost two years. Two years. Some people didn’t even keep pets that long. But when had it started? Who had confessed first?
Why… Why hadn’t he told Jungkook after the accident?
He leaned in, needing a reaction, a confirmation perhaps, that this man he had come to know in the last few weeks was the same to the spectre in the Instagram feed. Seokjin froze, uncertain what was happening, as Jungkook shifted over and planted his lips against Seokjin’s, rough and unsure, determined and awkward. His lips tasted like macarons. No magical moment of remembrance, no woosh of returning memories like in the movies came.
Instead, Seokjin pulled away.
Instead, the corny anime opening played in the background, too upbeat and happy for a moment that felt like it was crashing around him like shattered glass.
“W-w-woah, hold on a minute! Uh..” Seokjin blinked, arching his back over and away from Jungkook in a way that looked quite uncomfortable. “Um..Jungkook?”
“Do you not like me anymore?” Jungkook found himself asking. Of all the questions rushing through his mind at hyperspeed, the one that choked itself out was the most childish, insecure one.
“W-what? Of course I like you, Jungkook, I just..? I didn’t know if…” Seokjin shuffled until he was sitting on the other side of the couch, instead of right at Jungkook’s side. It felt like an ocean away. “Jungkook? Do you like me?”
In lieu of answering, Jungkook snapped, “I know that we were dating. I found the pictures on Instagram.” Seokjin just blinked at him in shock, unable to respond other than gaping. “Us on dates, going on walks, in stores, for months. I tagged every damn one with ‘Star Boy and Makoto.’”
“J-Jungkook,” Seokjin suddenly had tears in his eyes, and somehow, that pissed Jungkook off. “I was… I mean, I didn’t--”
“You brought Star and Makoto to the hospital, you knew where I lived, you knew the foods I would like probably, too! You kept saying weird things, and I wasn’t sure if I heard them wrong. And--” he choked a little on his words, “When you hugged me last night, you smelled like Star. Nothing else in this apartment smells like that, just Star and you.”
Seokjin just stared at him.
“You fucking lied to me, right? You said we’d never met before. You said your ex was gone.” Jungkook pushed roughly at Seokjin’s shoulder, more weakly than he meant. He decided it was because Seokjin was too far away on the couch for his arm’s reach.
“B-because he is gone, Jungkook!” Seokjin sat up further, leaning in with an apologetic, wounded look. It reminded Jungkook of the look he had sent him that first day, leaving the hospital room knowing for the first time that Jungkook wasn’t coming back. “You aren’t the same guy, you don’t remember anything! What was I supposed to do, pretend like we could pick up right where we left off?”
“Where did we leave off, Jin? Why wouldn’t you just tell me? My parents said who they were, my friends all have, why not you?”
Seokjin sat back, staring into the coffee table and letting the frustrated tears fall. “It’s not the same as your family, Jungkook. You’d love your family no matter what. I was just... trying to protect you. I didn’t want to make things harder.”
“Protect me?! What the fuck happened that night, Jin? Just tell me! Had I dumped you? Had you dumped me? Why wouldn’t you just tell me what happened?”
Jin was taking in slow, deliberate breaths. He looked so far away, that Jungkook wondered if he had been blocked out. He wondered if Jin always did this when they fought. He wondered if they would have the chance again.
“I took you to the movies. We were going to see the new Iron Man movie again.”
“For the fifth time,” Jungkook added, sounding bitter. Jin shot him a surprised look. “The Instagram photo is on there.”
Jin stared at him, then slowly turned over to watch the TV. “We had a fight. It was over some stupid thing, but...it got pretty ugly. I screamed, you stormed off. You stepped off the curb, and I told you good riddance, then.” Another tear fell, slow and hesitant, and Jin frowned. “Neither of us saw the van coming. Scared the shit out of me. You were bleeding all over.”
Jungkook bit at his lip roughly. “So...what? You felt guilty and wanted to break things off?”
“It’s...no. It’s more complicated than that, Jungkook.”
“But you did lie to me, right from the beginning. It’s like you had this big roadmap laid out to make me like you, is that it? I was some scrambled-egg-head that was easy to manipulate?!”
Seokjin’s face turned stony, his face unbelievably pale. That wounded expression came back, the one from the first day in the hospital, making Jungkook regret his words whether he believed them or not. “You don’t understand anything.”
“Just tell me: did you come around just because you wanted to get back together with me? Were you ever planning on telling me? Were we just going to go back to being friends?”
There was a long, long pause. A painful pause, that prickled at Jungkook’s nerves and his patience like so many needles. Seokjin stared at the floor, then looked up to meet Jungkook’s eyes.
“I never planned on telling you,” he said quietly. “About us. Or the fight. Because I--”
“It was only so--”
“I said,” Jungkook seethed, standing up and pointing a harsh finger toward the door, “Get the fuck out.”
Seokjin met Jungkook’s eyes, a rogue tear slipping down his cheek again, and his lip starting to tremble uncontrollably. It made his next words thick and wet, trembling around his tongue with emotive uncertainty.
“I’m sorry, okay?! But you’re not the only one that had to go through this whole shitfest, Jeon Jungkook! So f-fuck you!” And with that, Seokjin stomped out the door, slamming it closed so hard that the pictures on the wall clattered.
A hiccup or two escaped Jungkook before he realized he was staring at the closed door, weeping. He sank until he could lean sitting against it, burying his face in his hands.
It was over.
Jungkook woke up the next morning and felt awful. Sick to his stomach and with aches and pains all over. His head throbbed terribly, and he cried randomly. He emailed his professors and didn’t go to classes that day. Or the next.
He ate very little, and the only people he saw the first two days were his parents, who still visited once a day, and sometimes his brother. On the morning of the third day, he got a message from Jimin in their little group chat, asking if he could come over. “I have home-cooked food for you!”
The offer somehow left a bit of a bitter taste in his mouth, thinking about the last person who had brought him food. But the pizza had been gone since the first ‘sick’ day, and he had to admit, he was starving. When he texted the okay back, Taehyung sent a photo of some blooming flowers he’d seen on his way to class. Jungkook smiled a little for the first time in days.
He tried to tell himself it was just the over-exertion after the accident that made him so lethargic, but it was difficult to lie to yourself when you were alone for hours and hours at a time. And Jungkook couldn’t help but know, buried under the dust and junk in his mind at the time, that he missed Seokjin so hard it ached in his chest.
But he wanted an out, taking advantage of the situation, so fuck it. Fuck him. I don’t need him, anyways. I just miss him because I’m used to having him around so much, is all. He’s one of the few people I have made any memories of now.
Yet, to Jungkook’s ire, the memories of Jin were the strongest and most dear to him now. While he was waiting for Jimin and Taehyung to come over, he did a load of laundry, throwing Star in, along with an extra dosage of fabric softener (in the hopes of removing the last trace of Jin without actually having to give up the rabbit, who was innocent in this affair) and found himself going through his diary since the accident. It was a bad decision. He had gone in hoping to make himself more bitter and angry, in order to compile some sort of stronghold of emotion against missing him. To see the points where Jungkook should have known the truth, should have really seen through the lies.
But all he saw was himself sincerely falling in love. The brief mentions of the birds in the window had quickly faded, until some days the only thing he wrote about had been what he and Jin had shared together that day, or some moment when they’d confided in each other. What food Jin had brought him.
He had to quickly wipe away his tears when the doorbell rang, and paste on some semblance of a smile when he opened the door. Immediately, Jimin’s smile faded, but Taehyung rushed forward to pull him in a quick embrace.
“Long time no see!” Taehyung sing-songed, using the chest-squeezing hug to push his way into the apartment. “We brought you pork soup rice!” Jimin held a lidded pot wrapped in a thick, plush light-blue towel, and smiled softly as he walked into the apartment. The lid was glass, and condensation had gathered in thick, fat droplets clinging to the top.
“Wow, have you been vegging out, or what?” Taehyung stated bluntly, looking at the open and emptied pizza box on the floor, the wrappers and unwashed cups scattered about. Jungkook had stopped sleeping in his bed as much and mostly just napped in a big comforter-cocoon on the couch.
He had thought about cleaning up, but a part of him didn’t mind if New Jungkook was established as kind of lazy and a bit of a slob. He had no energy to be anything or anybody else right now.
“Pork soup rice?” he asked, “I wonder if I like that.”
“You love it, it’s one of your favorites,” Jimin smiled. “ But even if you don’t feel like eating it, we can order something else.”
They sat around the table, Jungkook half-wrapped in his comforter, and Jimin reheated the soup a bit on the stove.
Jungkook stared blankly off at the TV screen, which for the last few days had been playing the entirety of Free! Iwatobi Swim Club on repeat. The entire first season. It had taken the second viewing before Jungkook had realized, with a stinging pang, that the reason he had called Seokjin Makoto was because he reminded Jungkook of Seokjin. Broad shoulders, the hypocritical mix of soft and hard, the overprotectiveness, the gentle laugh, even the way they blushed so easily all the way up to the tips of their ears.
Star Boy and Makoto.
“Jungkook?” Taehyung said quietly, watching him solemnly from across the table. Jungkook looked up, humming a bit in acknowledgement. “Are you okay? Seokjin told me about..um..your fight.”
Hearing his name would have been one thing. Being asked if he was alright, somehow, made him want to cry again, but also made him want to throw something in frustration.
“You don’t have to talk about it if you’re not ready,” Jimin clarified quietly. He set three bowls on the table, and Taehyung helped serve them out. Jungkook was too preoccupied trying to perfect the feeling of numbness, preparing to answer them. He had to answer them. He had to prove that he was fine, that he would be fine. After all, he had only really ‘known’ Seokjin a few weeks, right? He shouldn’t matter that much, in the grand scheme of things.
“I’m okay,” he told himself, as well as the others. “It just sucks. He lied to me, all that time. And the pathetic thing? Is that I think I really was starting to like him. Like, New Jungkook actually liked him. But it was all just fake, I don’t even know what was really him and what was him doing shit because he was the only one of us who had any memories. But he lied to me.”
Taehyung looked over at Jimin, who just shook his head, answering no to an unasked question. Jimin sat down and touched Jungkook’s shoulder. “Eat something, Jungkook.” Once Jungkook sighed, turning in his chair and leaning forward into the steam of the bowl, Jimin quietly added, “Did he give you any reason why he would do that?”
“He said it was to ‘protect’ me.” Jungkook scoffed, stirring his spoon around in the bowl. “But I could tell. He said we had this big fight the night of the accident, that it was really ugly. He wanted out, and I guess this was an easy way to go back to being just friends without having to deal with all the baggage of however-long we were together.” He lifted a spoon, blowing on it a little, and stopped when he noticed both boys were staring at him, wide-eyed in disbelief.
Taehyung looked over, meeting Jimin’s eyes, another unspoken communication that infuriated Jungkook to no end.
“Um...no?” Taehyung stated bluntly.
Jimin was frowning in a way one would if they had just received terrible news, patting Jungkook’s hand. “No, no sweetie.”
“Seokjin never wanted to break up with you,” Jimin spoke softly, his fingers still wrapping around Jungkook’s hand as best as they could, warm and gentle. “He totally missed you, and he wanted to work things out. He’s still crazy about you.”
“I live with him, trust me,” Taehyung snorted. “He hasn’t stopped talking about you, what ways you were different or the same as before. He jabbers my ear off. ‘Jungkook said this, he was so cute when he did that.’ It was just like back before you two first started dating. Ridiculous.”
Jungkook gaped at Taehyung, looking between the two of them. “But...then why wouldn’t he just tell me?!”
“Because,” Taehyung snapped, slurping the soup off his spoon. “He was paranoid he’d break your scrambled-egg-brains more.”
“What Taehyung is trying to say,” Jimin said, glaring over at Taehyung, “Is that Seokjin knew that you’d feel pressured to love him again, if you knew you two were already dating. He said that it was different with family, that loving them was a given, but… you weren’t required to love him.”
“I got pissed at him, a couple days after the accident." Taehyung said. "He said he had to go see you again, and I told him to just tell you. He said he was going to, but that you looked so scared, he wasn’t able to do it. You needed him to not have a past with you. He wanted to tell you. But he said he was prepared to walk away, if you couldn’t love him this time.”
Jungkook stared at the bowl of soup, the steam wafting up around his face. The smell felt very, very familiar but he was feeling very, very nauseated, a weightiness and lightness in his chest all at once.
“And he did,” Jimin added in a breath, pulling out his phone and holding it out so Jungkook could see a message sent from Jin.
Seokjin: He knows.
Seokjin: I really fucked up, but he knows now.
Seokjin: And as expected, he’s really hurt, so… I’m going to step back now, so it isn’t any harder on him.
Seokjin: Please take care of him for me?
Jungkook withdrew, hugging his comforter more tightly around him. It wasn’t a totally conscious thought that pushed the next words from his mouth, so they came out a lot more miniscule and tentative than expected.
“So...he still loves me?”
Jimin sighed, smiling and squeezing Jungkook’s hand. “So much that it’s annoying, honestly.”
Slowly, demurely, Jungkook turned his hand over and squeezed Jimin’s hand back. “I..I love him, too. It’s weird, right? Even when all my memories are gone from before, i just… I couldn’t help it.”
“That’s a big surprise to exactly no one,” Taehyung chuckled. “Now eat your soup, I wanna kick your butt at Overwatch.”
Jungkook chuckled, too, nodded and shuffling to move back in towards the soup. “It smells really good. I kind of hope I still like it.”
“Just try it,” Jimin shrugged, turning to his own bowl.
With a little sigh, Jungkook blew on a spoonful of the soup again, taking it down in a thick bite and letting it rest against his tongue. The heat, the taste of soy sauce in the broth, the familiar texture of the pork…
They say that smell is the sense most strongly linked to one’s memory. Jungkook wasn’t sure if that was true or not, but he knew that as he took his second and third bite of the soup, a very vague, pellucid memory swam its way back to him from across that vast ocean, where he had thought everything had sunk irrevocably to the freezing depths.
He had been sick. Sick as a dog, with some kind of nasty flu he’d caught from a classmate. He remembered answering the door and complaining that Jin was letting the cold in, his bare feet feeling the frozen air. Jin’s shoulders had been peppered with little snowflakes clinging to the fleece fabric of his trenchcoat, and his cheeks had been rosy.
“I brought you something for your cold,” Jin had said, leaning in to kiss him in a casual, cold peck, his lips icy against Jungkook’s feverish cheeks.
Jungkook leaned forward, pouting, “Everything makes me want to throw up right now, I dunno if I can eat, Jinnie.”
“Well, you can try,” Seokjin shrugged. Some of the snowflakes had warmed, turning into clear droplets that clung possessively to him.
Jungkook flopped forward to drop his cheek to Jin’s chest, letting out a long, low whine. “What did you bring me?”
Seokjin opened up the pot, which was wrapped in a familiar blue towel from his apartment. One of his nice ones, that he usually barked at people for using. The steam and smell washed around Jungkook’s face, making his nasal passages clear and let him smell the soup and appreciate it. “I made your favorite, pork rice soup!”
They’d curled up on the couch next to each other under Jungkook’s blanket, but before long he had crawled up into Jin’s lap, tucking himself inside Jin’s oversized sweater and making Jin laugh, complaining that Jungkook was tickling him. Jungkook popped his head out of the neck hole and opened his mouth, Jin carefully spooning the soup to him bite by bite, coaxing and fussing with him in their usual, bickering way until he had finished half the bowl. Then, he had curled down, tucking his head back inside Jin’s sweater, tufts of his hair sticking out, and started to drift off. He remembered the way the light had stolen through the fabric of the grey sweater, giving a strange, dusk-like glow underneath. He remembered the rise and fall of Jin’s chest, bare and warm against Jungkook’s cheek. He never wore shirts under his sweaters, and Jungkook liked to torment him for it. A hand was resting up against his back, cradling him close, and the TV was thrumming in the background. The taste of pork rice soup was still warm and comforting against his tongue, and he had sighed in contentment before dropping off to sleep.
“Jungkook, what’s wrong?” Jimin asked in a panic, drawing him back to the present. Jungkook sniffed hard, and he heard the tears plunk against the comforter with the slightest of sounds.
“I…” Jungkook exhaled, shaky and broken. “I just remembered something.”
Taehyung blinked, looking over at Jimin and then back to Jungkook. “Wait, like...one of your old memories?”
“Yeah,” Jungkook sighed, blinking the fresh tears from his eyes and laughing. “Just one. But that’s enough.”
Seokjin’s heart leapt up to his throat when he saw the message. It hadn’t elaborated on much, but asked him to come over so they could talk. And as sad as it was, as much as he should have been prepared to stick firmly to his rule of avoiding the boy, he was always a sucker for whenever Jungkook needed him. Always.
When he arrived, it was nearly midnight, and it had started to rain. He didn’t bother with an umbrella, just rushing out of the car and up to the apartment door. When Jungkook answered, he felt his chest constrict the same way it had ever since the accident. Jungkook had always been slender, but the hospital stay had made him skinnier than usual, and he still hadn’t filled out the way he had before, making him look more fragile, frailer somehow.
Or maybe it was just the terror that gripped Jin, ever since that day, that made him look fragile in Jin’s eyes. He felt himself choking back the tears already, and he hated himself for it.
Jungkook stared into his eyes, as if searching for something, and then he bit his lip, looking down.
“Thanks for the soup,” Jungkook mumbled. “It’s my favorite, you know.”
Seokjin couldn’t see Jungkook clearly anymore. It was like he was underwater, blurred and a mess of color and complexity. He nodded, a tight smile twitching its way across his face. “Yeah,” he half-chuckled, half-cried. “I know. You tell me every time I make it.”
Jungkook leapt forward, flying forward and wrapping his arms around Seokjin, pulling him close, squeezing around him. Instinctively, Seokjin embraced him back, nearly lifting him up as he nudged his way inside, closing the door while Jungkook was still holding onto him, face buried in his chest. Jin kissed the top of his head, sniffing.
“I missed you,” Seokjin said quietly.
“I missed you more,” Jungkook muffled into his chest. He tilted his head back, glaring up at Jin through his puffy eyes and tears, a deep frown on his lip. “How the hell did you manage to make me miss you this much, even without any of my memories? How the hell did you make me fall in love with you, all over again?”
Seokjin blinked, surprised by the sudden confession. Embarrassed, Jungkook just went back to bury his face in Jin’s chest again, grumbling a little and clinging harder. Seokjin just sighed in relief, wrapping his arms as tightly as he could around Jungkook.
“God, you scared the shit out of me that day,” Seokjin admitted, his face hot with tears and emotion. “You looked so helpless, and I couldn’t do anything to help you. Then you didn’t remember me and… I kind of didn’t want to be erased that easily. But when I went to tell you, Jungkook, you just looked--”
“You were right,” Jungkook muttered bitterly. “I hate it but you were kind of right. I didn’t want you to be someone I knew because I liked you too much, and I thought that if you’d known me, you must be disappointed in me. Or angry that I couldn’t remember.”
“No, no, no…” Seokjin pulled him back, sighing. “Jungkook, do you know how horrible it feels, to know we had a fight that we’ll never be able to reach the conclusion of? It doesn’t even matter, but… I still feel awful, knowing we’ll never work it out, that we won’t have the chance to? I don’t know if that makes any sense, but… I realized, that even if the accident hadn’t happened, we would have changed anyways? It just happened in one day, instead of over, say, years and years.”
Jungkook laughed. “Years and years? Are you fucking proposing to me right now?”
Seokjin blushed clear hot crimson, “N-n-no! God, no.” But Jungkook kept chuckling, the laughter tapering off to a warm, comfortable chuckle, and he rested his head back against Jin. “I just mean… I knew that I’d still love you, even if you weren’t the same anymore. And you kind of proved that to me, every single day I saw you.”
Jungkook sighed. But it was a contented one, as he reached up and clung to Seokjin’s shirt.
“Do me a favor?” he whispered.
“Mmm?” Seokjin ran a hand through his hair, appreciating the feel of it beneath his fingertips in a way he hadn’t in a long, long time.
Jungkook leaned up, planting a chaste kiss again Seokjin’s. “Don’t ever leave me again.”
Seokjin felt that tug at his chest again, realizing the depth and fear behind the words. He nodded, smiling through a fresh set of tears. “If I have to carve myself right onto your fucking heart, I’ll do it. It’s a promise.”
And that, they realized, was how Jungkook had come to fall in love with Seokjin all over again.