kim seokjin wakes up on a tuesday morning and the world is ending.
well, not yet technically—there’s still ten days until an asteroid falls to earth, killing everyone and ending all forms of life.
continue on with life as usual, the president said mournfully, it is the only way.
so seokjin goes to work, rides the subway with his face pressed up against the pole, purposely not thinking about how everything is meaningless.
three days pass.
seokjin wakes up, rides the subway with people who cry and kiss and drink at 8 am, gets to the restaurant and cooks, walks home through a city thrumming with anxiety. at night when he’s laying in bed, he can’t stop thinking about the asteroid—how it’s been falling for four days, getting closer with every passing second. his friends tease him for being old but twenty-five is young. don’t they say that when twenty-five year olds die?
what about acting? his mind unhelpfully asks when he can’t sleep. what about watching yoongi and taehyung stay together forever and adopting ten dogs? what about traveling? what about—
shut up he says to the voice, shoving his head under the pillows, i didn’t waste my life
but there was supposed to be more time.
on saturday night, seokjin’s neighbor invites him to a party.
“come on, seokjinnie,” jaehwan leans against the doorframe, voice dropping into a teasing tone, “it could be for the last time.”
but it really would be.
the party is wild. a girl with no shirt on keeps making eyes from across the room at seokjin but his mind can only focus on the couch he’s sitting on--how many hours he and jaehwan spent planning things for league of legends sitting here, eating takeout. he runs his hand across the worn fabric; would furniture be obliterated too?
jaehwan is making his way over, drink spilling over the rim of his cup as he plops down on the couch. “jin-ah.”
“i’m going to miss you so much,” jaehwan’s pupils are big, like he’s on something mixed with the alcohol, but his words are sincere.
seokjin doesn’t reply, wraps his arm around his friends shoulder instead and presses their foreheads together.
“do you know what’s good?” jaehwan asks, after minutes of silence.
“what’s good?” seokjin replies, voice quiet in the bubble they’ve created.
“all the sex.” he snorts but jaehwan contines, “no one cares about anything. not even your dick size or getting an std. it doesn’t matter.”
“yeah, thanks apocalypse.”
they get quiet again and he shifts, looking around at the party—someone is doing coke off the counter in the kitchen and the topless girl is still eyeing him. “jaehwanie, i’m gonna go now.”
“ok,” jaehwan smiles slow, and it seems to say goodbye.
he gets back to his apartment and lays down face first on the couch. the day had been so overwhelming, and every passing moment felt like it was being wasted. there were only seven days left.
he rests his face against the velvet of the cushions and considers just going to sleep then, but there’s a noise from outside. it sounds like a combination of someone coughing heavily and sobbing. do people still do nice things at the end of the world? seokjin gets up anyway, opening the window that leads the fire escape. he shares it with his neighbor to the left; they never interact except for the music he hears through the walls.
sitting on the fire escape is a young guy—he has dark hair, face flushed from crying, eyes shining in the dark. his back is pressed against the railing, feet propped up against the building, and in one hand is a burning cigarette. they make eye contact when seokjin leans out the window.
“uh,” he stumbles over his words, like he was surprised there was someone actually out here. “hey.”
“hey.” the guy rubs at his eyes quickly.
“um, are you ok?” seokjin rests his elbows on the frame. “i heard—” what’s less embarrassing when talking to a stranger, coughing or crying?
the stranger picks for him, quickly answering, “oh no, i’m fine. i tried to pick up a bad habit now that my health doesn’t matter anymore.” he raises the hand that has the cig still burning—almost down to his fingers—brings it to his lips, before falling into another coughing fit.
“do you want a water?” the guy nods through a cough and seokjin heads to his kitchen, grabbing a cold bottle from the fridge. when he gets back to the window, the cig is gone, smoke rising from one of the plants on seokjin’s side of the fire escape. he passes the water through the window, resting on the frame again. “i’m seokjin.”
“i know,” the guy cringes. “i mean i know because we’re neighbors. i’m jeongguk.”
“ah, i like the music you play at 1 am,” seokjin smiles, and jeongguk looks embarrassed again, face flushing a shade darker.
“sorry,” he presses the bottle against his face, “some songs just can’t be played quietly. no matter the time.”
“of course,” seokjin agrees, amused, “understandable.”
there’s silence for a beat, neither really sure how to continue. jeongguk looks like he’s turning something over in his mind. “hey, do you want to try another one of my bad habits?”
seokjin chokes on his tongue, jaehwan’s voice in his head no one cares about anything not even dick size. “what?”
“like, do you want to drink?”
“oh,” his grip on the frame loosens. “oh, sure i’d love to drink.”
“ok,” jeongguk smiles at him, and it makes him look so young — this kid was probably 20 or 21 at most—his eyes big and shiny, like the sky above them, full of stars. he stands up, opens the window to his apartment and throws one leg inside. “i’ll be waiting seokjin-ah.”
“hey!” seokjin leans more out the window, stopping jeongguk from fully entering his. “where’s the respect, huh?”
“i don’t think honorifics matter in the face of imminent death.” he smiles big again and climbs fully through the window.
“it matters to me .” seokjin says to himself, slamming his window closed.
the coffee table is covered in textbooks (introduction to multicultural dance, dance and gender) and notebooks, full of things written for a degree that will never be finished. seokjin pushes the depressing thoughts away when jeongguk enters the living room again, a bottle of whiskey in one hand and two glasses.
“how much do you want, hyung?” he asks, but fills the glass up fully.
when they’re settled, an awkward silence falls around the room. it is kind of awkward; they’ve only had one ten minute conversation and now they’re drinking together alone in a private space. but what else is there to do? jeongguk connects his phone to the speaker in the room, picks a song, but it’s one seokjin doesn’t recognize. he takes a giant gulp of whiskey just for something to do with his hands.
“jin-ah,” jeongguk narrows his eyes, “are you challenging me to a drinking contest?”
jeongguk tips the glass back, draining it until nothing remains at the bottom and whiskey spills out of the side of mouth. “i win.” he says, grinning.
“you can’t win,” seokjin sputters, “there was no contest when i took a sip.”
“fine, let’s do it again.” he picks up the whiskey bottle and pours.
so they do it again.
when they’re four drinks deep, seokjin is feeling loose limbed and loose tongued. the bottle doesn’t seem to be getting emptier but they are definitely getting drunker. a soft song is playing through the speakers—it sounds like it might be in english.
“i wish i could see my family one more time,” jeongguk says, staring into the empty glass.
seokjin leans in close, the alcohol fuzzing his brain, the words not processing. “huh?”
“i want to see my family again.” he says louder, leaning in too. his eyes are shining with tears, wetness sticking to his long eyelashes.
jeongguk says it with conviction, like seokjin could help him. seokjin doesn’t know how to reply. everything seems inadequate or totally wrong—it’s ok, just breathe, everything will be alright in the end. it won’t be. there’s still an asteroid falling second by second, getting closer.
“they stopped the trains. i don’t have a car.” jeongguk pushes on, even though his voice is shaking. a single tear makes its way down his face. “i don’t have a way to see them before—”
seokjin takes his hand, hopes it’ll provide some comfort when he squeezes it tight. jeongguk rests his head on seokjin’s shoulder, he was already leaning in so close so seokjin could hear him. his tears dampen the shirt seokjin is wearing. this night is so wild he thinks. crazier even than having to face his own mortality. maybe because it’s so out of character. the sniffles are starting to subside from the lump on his shoulder. he squeezes jeongguk’s hand again.
“i think i remember some drinking games from college,” he says softly. “if you’re prepared to lose.”
when jeongguk looks up at him, his eyes look clearer. a little less anxious. “jin-ah, i never lose.”
when seokjin starts awake in the morning, the first thing he feels is pain. pain in his neck, pain in his head. he’s on his couch and he doesn’t remember how he got here. jeongguk really doesn’t lose he thinks, sitting up slowly.
on the coffee table is a huge stack of letters, on top a handwritten note: sorry :( -jk
he moves the note aside, flipping through the first of the letters. old bills mostly, his old bills, obviously delivered to the wrong address. some of these were over a year old, and seokjin lets out a noise of both endearment and annoyance. a water bill, multiple phone bills, scam mail, an old birthday card, a handwritten letter from kim namjoon—
he flips back to the letter. the postdate is six months old.
he and namjoon dated once, a long time ago—he thought maybe namjoon was the love of his life, so tall and smart, but also shy with big dimples. they broke up because namjoon wanted to focus on education more, the promise of getting back together later, it’s just a break...but namjoon learned english from watching friends, he should know what a break does to relationships. eventually they lost contact—until now. or six months ago technically.
with shaky hands, he rips open the letter.
i know it’s strange to reach out to you after so long, but i’ve been thinking about you recently...
namjoon’s parents moved from seoul to a small district outside busan; his father’s health was declining and namjoon took time off from pursuing his masters to move home and help his family. the people here make me think of you he wrote, handwriting so familiar, everyone is so carefree.
he didn’t write about their relationship, just said seokjin had been on his mind during this period of time and hoped he was doing well. seokjin folds the letter up, holds it to his chest when he lays down again on the couch. with time, he got over his and namjoon’s breakup, was able to recognize they weren’t the perfect soulmates he imagined. but...
but he was literally going to die in six days.
and namjoon’s address was sitting right there on the coffee table.
on a surface level, he could recognize he was misplacing his feelings—he was scared, afraid he didn’t do enough, hasn’t done enough even now. he thinks about yoongi and taehyung, going through the kama sutra before their time’s up, jaehwan’s parties, even jeongguk and his bad habits...what is he doing in his last few days on earth? still going to work and cooking for people who don’t even pay, like that matters anyway.
he starts feeling nauseous.
maybe he could find a car (steal a car?) and...what?
he exhales loudly, pressure pushing down on his chest. bile is rising in his throat, and he leans over, throwing up all over the carpet.
next door, music starts playing.
yesterday was a bust, but today was another day. seokjin tries to be positive as he makes tea, holding the warm cup in his hands. he walks over to the window, ready to look out at the city, memorize every bit of it—but promptly drops his mug instead.
the buildings are on fire. or at least the one directly next to them is, flames bright and getting closer with each passing blow of the wind.
seokjin stands there, stupidly, panicking, until the fire alarm goes off. startled into action, he looks for his wallet, and finds it directly on top of kim namjoon’s envelope. he grabs both and rips the door open. jaehwan’s door is open across the hall, and seokjin looks in but finds the apartment empty—on the tv stand are his car keys and seokjin grabs them, shoving everything into his back pocket. he speedwalks down the stairs, suddenly feeling more overwhelmed then he had since the announcement of the asteroid.
outside, it seems like riots have broken out. he shoves himself through the crowds, trying to find jaehwan’s car on the street. he finds jeongguk first, staring up at the burning buildings. he’s holding a coffee in a hand that visibly shakes.
“hey,” seokjin says, but has to repeat himself, “hey, are you ok?”
“no,” jeongguk is still looking up at the building, flames getting closer and closer to theirs.
“me either, really.” he replies honestly. the heat from the fire makes him feel warm. somewhere behind them there’s the sound of glass breaking. “uh, i’m gonna leave. do you want to, um, come with me?”
jeongguk tears his eyes away from the building.“what?”
“do you want me to drive you to see your family?”
“you don’t have to do that for me,” he breathes out, in a voice that says seokjin absolutely should do it.
“i mean, why not?” seokjin replies lamely.
“thank you,” jeongguk smiles big at him, nose scrunching up. he throws his arm around seokjin and says more enthusiastically, “thank you!”
jeon jeongguk is, actually, a huge brat.
when they’re driving they argue over the radio,
(“driver picks the music.” seokjin says sternly, smacking jeongguk’s hand from the aux cord.
“yeah, but i’m younger than you, shouldn’t you be giving it up for me?”
“yah, now you care about respect, when you get something out of it!”)
he complains about how there are no snacks, as if seokjin could even control that considering they kind of stole jaehwan’s car—but he’s also endearing, cute, in the way he smiles that nose-scrunch-y way when looking over the address on namjoon’s envelope.
“i know how to get here,” he had said, eyes crinkling, “see, picking up the busan brat wasn’t a mistake!”
seokjin felt like he wanted to protect jeongguk, wrap him up and stop any bad things from happening.
as if they’re not in the worst possible situation for a human being to be in.
so he concedes, let’s jeongguk have the aux, stops for snacks at a convenience store, stops at roadside restaurant an hour later.
there are five days left.
“so who are we going to see?” jeongguk says around a mouth full of lamb skewers.
the restaurant is small, probably family owned, and everyone in the establishment seemed to be drunk.
“we?” seokjin raises an eyebrow at him. jeongguk raises one back, as if to say duh, i’m here aren’t i? “an old friend.” pause. “an ex boyfriend.” he adds on apprehensively.
“that’s so romantic , seokjinnie,” jeongguk drops his lamb sewer to focus his full attention on seokjin.
“yeah, well,” he feels uncomfortable, doesn’t want to talk about namjoon. this plan had fallen into his lap, he didn’t really think about it that much. “are you excited to see your family?”
jeongguk’s face lights up and he excitedly talks about his parents house, the beaches of busan, his mother’s kimchi and seokjin just smiles and listens and listens and listens.
“can i drive? since i know how to get there?”
“sure,” seokjin tosses the keys over, settles into the passenger seat when the door is unlocked.
jeongguk grabs the aux as soon as he’s settled. “i’m driving and younger.”
seokjin rolls his eyes, ripping open a bag of seaweed chips. jeongguk drives like someone without a lot of experience—slowing down then speeding up quickly and getting slow again. there was barely anyone on the road. it was supposed to take six hours, but they made so many long stops they were only three hours deep and it was already 7 pm. the music jeongguk plays makes him feel like he’s in a liminal space, drowsy, but also completely comfortable.
“what are they saying?” seokjin has his eyes closed, listening intently to the english song but not understanding. when he looks at jeongguk, he’s focusing on the road.
“the song is called ‘sleep alone,’” he starts, face looking contemplative, “i think it’s about how sometimes you think you need someone, but what you really need is love yourself. and respect yourself.” the song continues. “here, the singer is saying he wants someone to hold him, he hasn’t been so far away from home before.”
the song plays for a little longer before jeongguk speaks again. “this part is my favorite.” a pause. “he’s saying, he doesn’t know if in the morning he’ll be there, but he knows he’s worthy.”
seokjin feels maybe the song is too on the nose, too real for this moment, but maybe they’ve been listening to songs all about facing death and he didn’t realize. jeongguk looks away from the road, looks at seokjin with an emotion that he can’t read. he doesn’t know what to do so he says, “focus on the road.”
when they get to namjoon’s district, it’s late.
they sleep in the car, jeongguk across the front seats and seokjin stretched out in the back. he wakes up in the morning when jeongguk’s head falls against the steering wheel, honking the horn loudly. he rubs his eyes, forcing himself to wake up.
“guk-ah,” seokjin shakes his shoulder, “get up, it’s time to wake up.”
there’s a moan in response. “it’s time to sleep. it’s early still.”
“it’s 10 already,” he shakes jeongguk again and finally, he opens one eye to glare.
“ok,” he sighs, “ok i’m getting up.” he sits up, sleep still heavy in his features.
“i’m, um, gonna go now.” seokjin says, gesturing vaguely to the houses behind them.
“oh yeah, of course,” jeongguk nods, like he’s giving seokjin permission.
seokjin gets out of the car and jeongguk follows, before suddenly getting embarrassed. “sorry, you probably don’t want me to come. i’ll stay here.” he sits on the hood of the car, pulls out his phone, “good luck jin-ah.”
seokjin smiles thinly back, before turning towards namjoon’s family home. he feels stupid now that he’s here—has no idea what to say at all. he walks up the stairs with anxiety twisting in his gut. he knocks at the door, but there’s no answer. he tries again, louder but there’s still nothing. he reaches for the handle and it opens easily.
the inside is dark and empty. “hello?” he calls, but knows there won’t be an answer. the front room is set up exactly the same as the kims previous house, like they just lifted it up and moved it across space. on the wall is a picture of namjoon from his undergrad graduation, smiling big, dimples on display. seokjin presses his fingers against the picture, into namjoon’s dimples through the frame. thank you joonie, he thinks, thank you for always looking out for me.
a big feeling is running through his veins (relief) that he doesn’t really know how to face. he pushes the feeling down, examining the room one more time before opening the front door. jeongguk looks up from his phone, clearly confused that seokjin was coming back so quickly.
“there was no one inside,” seokjin says once he’s in earshot.
jeongguk doesn’t reply, just wraps his arms around seokjin tight. “i’m sorry hyung.” he says into seokjin’s collarbone.
“it’s ok,” he whispers back, lips pressing into jeongguk’s hair, fingers on his back. “it’s ok.”
they drive into busan, the city rising above them. jeongguk badgers seokjin into stopping at an old favorite hole in the wall bbq place.
“don’t you want to see your family?” he asks, confused as to why jeongguk was prolonging this.
“yeah,” he has a faint flush on his cheeks. “but i’m hungry. don’t you want to eat?” he turns his big doe eyes on seokjin and he gives in easily.
“we should go to the beach,” jeongguk suggests, when they exit the bbq place. “there’s this really secluded spot near my house, it’s really beautiful.” he looks thoughtful. “unless you don’t want to go. then i can just go home.”
“i’ve never been to the beach.” seokjin answers, and it’s true. his father had a powerful position in a big company, taking them to paris, tokyo, berlin, so many cities that all looked the same, but he had never been to the beach. it was always something he was going to do later.
jeongguk looks affronted, almost offended. “now we have to go.”
the spot is secluded and also beautiful—big and vast, water so blue, making him feel small and unimportant in a way completely different to the asteroid. he thinks maybe he’s going to cry.
“thank you for showing me this place,” seokjin says, voice watery. jeongguk hasn’t stopped smiling since they got here, won’t shut up about how many hours he spent here as a teenager, swimming in the summers, sneaking beer at night, skinny dipping.
“yeah, it’s really great,” jeongguk agrees fondly. their hands keep brushing against each other. seokjin extends his fingers a little, but then—
there’s someone running towards them, jumping, wrapping their arms around jeongguk. “gukkie!”
“jiminie!” he’s yelling back, hugging the person close.
jiminie is a guy of average height, blonde hair, ethereal looks. kind of like a fairy and this place was his home to rule over all other cute creatures. he lets go of jeongguk to ask, “what are you doing here?”
“ah, seokjinnie drove me here, so i could see my family.” seokjin bows at his introduction, but doesn’t add anything to the conversation. “what are you doing here?”
“oh,” a faint blush rises, “you know hoseokie-hyung.”
“of course,” jeongguk narrows his eyes.
“we’re, uh, getting married.”
“what?!” he grabs jimin’s shoulders and shakes them, “how?!” he turns to seokjin, grabs onto his shoulders too and says forcefully, “they’re getting married.”
“yah, i heard,” he laughs, shaking jeongguk’s hands off.
over jimin’s shoulder, someone else is approaching and jeongguk takes off towards them.
“i know i don’t know you, but i think it’s really cool. what you’re doing.”
“it is,” jimin smiles, “it’s just one of hoseok-hyung’s friends getting ordained online. it won’t even mean anything in four days, but it felt nice to be in control, you know?”
jimin’s smiles turns a little impish as he continues. “and also, a final way to say fuck you to the government before i go.”
they’re both laughing when jeongguk returns with who seokjin assumes is hoseok.
“i’m so happy for you guys,” his grin is big and infectious, hand still hanging loosely around hoseok’s wrist, “when is the ceremony, or whatever?”
“literally now. we were on our way over when we saw you,” hoseok says, ruffling jeongguk’s hair.
“let’s go, then,” jeongguk pushes them ahead, then turns to seokjin—an unasked question, are you coming too?
the ceremony is farther down the beach, a small area set up with big blankets on the sand. jeongguk cries and cries and cries—they haven’t even read their vows yet. seokjin tentatively takes his hand; nothing happens for a beat, then jeongguk rubs his thumb lightly across the back of seokjin’s hand. he breathes out.
in front of them, jimin is waxing poetic about hoseok, “...you are my hope, my love, my sunshine...”
jeongguk starts to cry again.
seokjin raises their joined hands, brings them up to his lips and presses a kiss to jeongguk’s knuckle. then the next one, and the next one. seokjin can hear his labored breathing. he doesn’t know why he’s even doing this, the feeling of love and comfort so overwhelming he feels like he needs to express it somehow.
when he gets to jeongguk’s pinky knuckle, he lets his lips linger, then drops their joined hands again. jeongguk is looking at his lips, eyes still shiny with tears—he leans forward, closer and closer; his kiss is a lot like himself, soft, a little bit shy. seokjin wants it again, so he takes, until they’re startled by the sound of people clapping around them.
jeongguk’s eyes well up again, and he slaps seokjin on the shoulder. “you made me miss the kiss.” he pouts.
“sorry.” he says, not meaning it at all.
after the ceremony, they get drunk off bad champagne, night creeping in slowly. there’s a fire pit set up, but seokjin and jeongguk abandon the warmth for a blanket and a secluded spot near the rocks.
“if it was clearer tonight i could point out constellations,” jeongguk says, arms wrapped around his knees as he looks at the sky.
“i don’t want to look at the stars,” seokjin rolls over onto his stomach, “i’m afraid if i look too hard i’ll see the asteroid.”
“you won’t,” jeongguk answers, laying down too.
seokjin admires his jawline, his collarbones showing through his shirt, his fluffy hair. cute his mind supplies, cutecutecute. he presses a kiss to jeongguk’s neck, feels him take a shuddery breath. “is that ok?”
“yes,” he exhales, and they’re kissing again, but different from before. more needy.
seokjin straddles his hips, grinds down. “i don’t want to see the stars,” he repeats, answering the unasked question. he connects their lips again, and they kiss and kiss and kiss. jeongguk’s hands are hot on his body, he feels like he’s on fire, like he’s out of his mind. when he comes, he feels the familiar prickle in his nose.
“the universe is unfair,” he whispers into jeongguk’s skin, tears leaking out of his eyes.
in the morning, seokjin drives them to jeongguk’s family home, his directions the only sound in the car. it feels like all the air had been sucked out of it, even their breathing too loud.
when they arrive, no one moves for a solid minute.
“well,” jeongguk slaps his thighs, “i guess i should go now.”
“yeah,” seokjin agrees, but they still don’t move, just look and look and look.
“seokjin-ah, i—” he starts, but there’s a banging at the window.
the resemblance is there, jeongguk’s brother, smiling brightly, opening the car door, taking him away. jeongguk follows him but his eyes are still on seokjin.
seokjin doesn’t really know what to do now.
he starts the drive back to his apartment, stops for gas at the lone station still open, does 100 when there’s no one on the road just because.
the building is still standing when he arrives, his apartment just as he left it--bed unmade, broken mug on the floor, tea staining the wood.
seokjin just lays on the couch, watches glitchy tv all day. he suspects soon the electricity will go out. he wishes the asteroid will come sooner—the wait is killing him.
in a moment of indulgence, seokjin climbs out onto the fire escape, pries open the window to jeongguk’s apartment, and climbs in. it looks the same, smells like him.
he lays down on the couch; almost a week ago they were sitting here drinking whiskey. time felt oppressive.
he half falls asleep, awoken hours later by the sound of a door opening. it’s totally dark, the power must have finally gone, and seokjin’s eyes take awhile to adjust. his internal body clock tells him it’s late at night.
“i went to your apartment first,” jeongguk says, “there was no answer, i guess because you were here.”
seokjin stands up quick, knees knocking into the coffee table. “why are you here? what about your family?”
“i saw them,” he says simply, “i wanted to see you too.”
seokjin laughs but it sounds a lot like a sob.
they lay on jeongguk’s unfairly comfortable bed, with a singular candle lit.
“i’m scared,” jeongguk says into the night.
“me too,” seokjin replies, no point in lying now.
“i thought that maybe we would save each other,” he takes seokjin’s hand, presses their palms together before interlocking their fingers. “i wish there was more time.”
“i think if we both lived one thousand years, it still wouldn’t be enough time,” he says, squeezing jeongguk’s hand.
there’s just a watery “yeah” in response.
“just wait until the world rebuilds itself, guk-ah. you’ll be a bee, and i’ll be the beautiful flower you need to survive. we’ll find each other again.”
outside, there’s a loud bang—it shakes the whole building. jeongguk’s breathing comes out quick and panicked.
“hey, tell me a story,” seokjin says, to try and get him to relax, “tell me a story about you and jiminie.”
jeongguk tells him about when they were young, and they’d sneak out at night to eat ice cream to break jimin’s dancer diet, when jeongguk broke his leg because he fell off his bike racing to get there first...
outside, there’s another bang, louder, closer.
“finish,” seokjin urges.
jeongguk takes a deep breath, starts again, voice unwavering, and seokjin listens and listens and—