Chapter 1: author's note.
I, JUNG HOSEOK, owe this all to my friends. From the smirk cast on Min Yoongi's lips to the blazing fire set alight in Kim Namjoon's eyes, to the city lights dancing on Park Jimin's cheeks, I'll always admire them.
This story should convey that, I hope.
I'm not sure when, exactly, I became so withdrawn from what we used to be. I can't quite place the moment when I forgot about our childhood. The bitter truth is that we left our youth behind, and we watched it drag behind us, staring longingly at it until it had diminished.
I suppose this is more of a treasury for them. A story of what there used to be, what there is going to be, and anything in between.
I owe this autobiography to all six of my friends. Things may have changed, we may have changed, but I know our youth will never change.
Chapter 2: prologue.
IT WAS JUST like any other working Tuesday when I had received the letter.
I had been leafing through my favourite book and reclining on my favourite couch, I can imagine, thumbing each page weightily and with great care; I had probably held my breath within each turn so as not to taint the sepia paper with oily fingertips. The wafer-thin sheets still managed to slip beneath my touch, as the air conditioning rattled them around wildly.
The late evening sky had been acrylic outside, layers of caramel oranges and idyllic yellows crashing upon the horizon, and if I had let my gaze fall through my kitchen - floating out of the high rise penthouse - to have simply looked at the sunset, I would have called it breathtaking.
With a roll of my tongue and a heaving sigh, I had pushed my glasses up the slope of my nose. Perhaps it was too late for this. It took only a brief glance at my ever-ticking clock to take note of the time. 10pm sharp.
Setting the book down, I made a mental note that I was on page 237. Then, wearily, I pushed the heels of my palms into the couch, feeling the upholstery scratch against my skin until I manoeuvred myself into a sitting position.
As if on cue, the doorbell rang.
Yawning, I stumbled to the door, ruffling my unkempt hair with one hand and straightening out my sweater with the other. My feet stung with pain as I hadn't walked for a few hours, and I felt the soles cracking on the floorboards as I made my way over to the door.
The door clicked open cleanly, and my gaze drifted from the delivery man's professional expression to the letter that he held outstretched in his hands.
"Thank you," I automatically mumbled, smiling subtlety and accepting the letter. The man nodded and took his leave. I shut the door behind him.
This was strange. I rarely received mail. Not at this address, anyway; I had a PO box assigned for fan mail. I didn't even have a post box, and it was particularly weird for the letter to come all the way up to my penthouse.
I could only decipher one thing: it must have been important for it to have come here. My secretary only gives my address to those who need it. This list of people includes my mother, my father, my sister, any close relatives and my agent. Nobody else should know where I live.
My eyebrows furrowed a little as I caught sight of the Busan Mail marking. Nobody I knew lived in Busan.
When my eyes fell upon a poorly handwritten scrawl with a small smiley face scratched into the side of the envelope, I sighed.
It was probably some creepy fan that had dug deep for my address. I received these every so often, and they never failed to make my day a little bit worse.
Clicking on the tv and switching over to a random channel as I hopped back onto my couch, I carefully tore open the envelope. I watched as the luminescence of the television screen spilt out and lit the rips in the fibres of the paper.
The letter was cool under the warm ridges of my fingertips as I whipped it out of the envelope and turned it over in my hands. The paper was cheap and flimsy. It was a little damp from transit.
I read it once and my eyes widened with a waning smile. I clutched the paper again, reading the letter a second time and flicking the TV off.
I read it a third time, truly letting the words sink in.
The watery sunlight fell across the vertexes of the chicken scratch, and I could only laugh at the ever familiar signature drawn at the bottom.
His name made my heart fondly ache with nostalgia, and I hugged it tightly to my chest as if I didn't want to let it go.
It occurred to me at that moment; I think I realised how lonely I was.
Without hesitation, I placed the letter on the side. It fluttered around on the surface with the breeze of the air con.
Then, with the hum of the fan and the distant rumble of the evening radio acting as a backing track, I began to pack my bags.
It was time to start living.
Chapter 3: the letter.
I know you're kinda busy with your ~super famous career~ in the big city and everything, but I think we should catch up.
Meet us next Saturday at my place. 7pm. Yes, that's right; whilst you've moved into 30 new mansions , I've stayed here in my same old flat from college. We've all stayed in Busan, actually. You're the only one that's moved.
I think we'd rather have you come down to Busan than all of us up to Seoul. The travel is too expensive. You'll find a way to get here, I know you will. Fly yourself in on a helicopter or something.
I just want us to all be together, you know? There's going to be a games night and pizza. There's something really important I need to tell you, too.
I'll explain everything later.
Anyway, please come. We need you here. It's all of us or none of us, Hope. It will be just like the good old times.
Ps - PACK. YOUR. BAGS .
Chapter 4: one.
"THANK YOU FOR accompanying me on my trip, Jongdun."
My chauffeur – admittedly the closest person I had to a friend in Seoul – hummed, flicking an indicator off and reversing next to a block of flats.
"No problem. You might wanna wear your mask out there, by the way. You might get recognised."
"Oh, please," I breezed, "firstly, the walk up to Jimin's apartment is like two minutes. Secondly, I'm just an author. I don't have batshit crazy fans."
I smirked at Jongdun, watching as he rolled his eyes.
"Fine. But do you remember the incident with the rabid fan and the chihuahua-"
"Oh my fuck, do not remind me."
"Wear the mask, Hoseok. You're more famous than you think you are."
Sighing, I resigned to pulling out a beanie from my backpack, tugging it over my ears to let my fringe cover a little of my eyes.
"I'll be staying in the hotel across the block. Call me if you need anything," Jongdun finalised. "Now get out there and, like, reconnect with your friends or whatever. Show Busan how cool you are."
"You bet I will."
I chuckled and stepped foot outside, hoisting my backpack onto my shoulders. I immediately groaned at the weight of my belongings upon my back, then shuffled to the trunk to collect my suitcase. Once I'd grabbed everything I needed, I waved Jongdun goodbye. The ghost of a smile graced his lips, dissolving as he reversed away and rumbled down the road into the busier parts of the city. Craning my neck around, I made sure that nobody had noticed me. Then — slowly, albeit — I breathed in the scent of Busan city. I missed it, goddammit; it smelt warm and carefree somewhere amongst the car fumes and fast food joints; it smelt so distinctly of my childhood and of the things I had left behind so long ago.
"It's good to be home," I whispered to myself. I had said it in the pinch of a whisper, so quietly that nobody had heard it, but I knew it was important regardless. Glancing at the screen of my smartphone, I checked the time. 6:43pm. I was a little early, but I was sure Jimin wouldn't mind.
I held back a gasp when I caught sight of Jimin's apartment block. The building towered over me, and in the golden evening heat, a few lights glowed within shut windows.
It wasn't that it had changed at all; in fact, it was the opposite. The familiar brickwork scratched beneath my open palm as I grazed it across the wall. That potted plant that I had poured coffee into (as a joke, I'll have you know) still stood in the porch as I ran the pad of my finger along the name plates, although a little wilted from years of malnutrition. It felt too good to be true.
PARK JIMIN + JEON JEONGGUK, one of the name tags read. It was scrawled finely into a slip of paper tucked beneath a sheet of semi-grimy plastic. Just to check that I wasn't dreaming nor delirious, I applied a little pressure to the plastic and watched the paper dip beneath my fingertips. It was definitely real. The urge to meet my childhood friends overcame me, then; I pressed onto the buzzer with some force, listening to a tinny buzz.
"Yeah?" I heard a voice echo hesitantly. It was definitely Jimin, I could tell from the softness of his tone, the little upturn at the end of his sentence. I found my words clogging themselves in the back of my throat as soon as I heard that voice. Maybe it was a buildup of emotion, or something of the sort.
"Hello? Anyone there?" The voice came again, a little more persistently.
"Is Yoongi-Hyung back from the shops?" Another voice wavered in the background. That was distinguishable, too; I knew that that was Jeongguk.
"Yeah, is that you, Yoongi?"
If I knew my friends correctly, which I certainly did, it was a good choice for me to give them a little surprise. So, I used my best Yoongi impression, raising my eyebrows at how effortlessly his Daegu accent slipped off my tongue: "Yeah, it's me."
I felt a sense of achievement wash over me when no questions were asked and the porch door clicked open.
Everything was so surreal in that moment — the faint smell of old peeled walls, the steady grind of the laminate floor as I pulled my suitcase along behind me — it felt like deja vu. A little like that time that I ran away from home in middle school because my mom wouldn't let me attend dance club, and I camped at Jimin's old flat whilst his parents weren't home. We had eaten pizza, pieces of each slice dripping onto Jimin's checkered bedspread as we felt adrenaline rush through our very bodies. I was doing something that I shouldn't have, and it was fantastic.
The good old times, I would have called it.
Goddammit, my heart ached as I pushed my belongings into the flat's elevator.
All I could picture was Jimin's fluffy smile, his faded blue dinosaur wallpaper peeling and falling down to rest upon his treasured photo frame. The childish red blocky letters spelt out FRIENDS FOREVER and I always smiled at it every time I glanced at that picture of us. I was wearing a funny hat, and Jimin was holding a piece sign to mask half of my grinning teeth. At the time we had both found it hilarious, sharing laughter as our naïve footsteps led us to a developer's shop. He always kept that photo frame by his bed; always sitting there, gathering dust upon the gleam of his full cheeks and the hopeful shimmer in my eyes. I wondered if it was still there.
I held back the knot tying itself at the back of my throat — it felt like it had formed at the nape of my neck several hours ago. I pushed in the number 4 and listened for the familiar ding. As the doors heaved closed I tapped my foot against the floor, humming a tune to myself. Why was the melody so familiar?
Why was everything so familiar?
That was the question that continued to echo within the confines of my head as the elevator door groaned open, as I took practiced steps towards Jimin's apartment door. As I knocked with the shell of my knuckle coming into contact with the cool wood, and watched the door creak open. A sliver of warm kitchen light found its way across the boy's cheekbone, diving out of the threshold of the apartment and onto my skin.
There he was, after all that time; Park Jimin.
"You're not Yoongi..." He mumbled, a little grin easing up one of the corners of his mouth. This was something that had never changed, I supposed: Jimin's lopsided smile. It meant I could watch the gaps in between his teeth, the sparkle in his eyes.
"Is that all you're going to say to me?" I chuckled, watching him shake his head a little. Probably in disbelief.
"I didn't think you were going to come," He murmured truthfully, a little taken aback. The edges of his words were melting, and I could hear the waver in his voice overcome with a drought of emotion.
"That's a lot of bags," he said.
Park Jimin took me into his arms, then, with no further words. None were needed, though; it was warm, comforting, nostalgic. I could taste our childhood ramen recipe dissolving on my tongue. I could hear our favourite song echoing through my portable radio that he bought me for my 9th birthday. I could feel his little hands grasping onto mine as we climbed up a tree together.
"I've missed you," I whispered, pressing my words to the side of his head. He smelt of cinnamon.
"You too," He muttered. When he pulled away, I noticed the slightly dazed expression he wore. I most likely held a matching one, after all.
Jimin gave me one last introductory grin, then craned his neck back into his apartment. Truthfully, I had forgotten that the two of us had been standing so freely in the doorway (with the handle of my suitcase persistently pushing into my thigh, probably leaving a lasting imprint in my skin).
"Come in," he said casually, adjusting his stance so that there was a significantly wider gap between his hip and the doorframe. Then, with a hesitant Jeongguk! We've got a visitor you might want to see!, Jimin dove down right away to grab hold of some of my belongings.
"Yeah?" I heard another voice echo a little further into Jimin's apartment (behind my back) as I dragged my bags through the doorway backwards. Once I had made my way inside of the apartment, I turned to see Jeon Jeongguk, a grin plastered onto his youthful face with sparkling eyes. He seemed very excited to see me, that was for sure.
"If it isn't Mr Jung-Famous-Author Hoseok!" He yelled loudly enough to startle the neighbours (and Jimin, quite evidently), diving to engulf me in a tight hug, the shock of which bringing my eyes to snap shut. I opened them after a few seconds, expecting Jimin to be standing there with his arms crossed, a giggle tumbling out of his lips; upon realising that he had gone to put my bags in the guest room, I returned my gaze to my youngest friend.
"I read your books, Hobi Hyung," he mused. "They're so good! And deep. And meaningful."
"Thanks, Kookie," I chuckled, knotting my fingers in his soft hair and giving it a ruffle, "but you don't have to suck up to me now that I'm famous or whatever. I'm just Hoseok to you. No author talk. I've heard enough of it."
"But you've been on TV-"
"I know," I replied. "Still, it would be better if you guys could remember me as Jung Hoseok the friend, not Jung Hoseok the famous author."
"Sure thing," he hummed, then paused. He seemed very awkward in that moment, fiddling with his thumbs behind his back. "Do you... uh, want an apartment tour?
"You bet I do," I grinned.
"Hey, don't do the apartment tour without me, Kookie!" I felt the door slam into my hip as the new voice rumbled into my ear. His voice was gravelly, deep. "Your door was unlocked. Who are we doing the apartment tour for?" He paused slightly, and his eyes must have landed on the back of my head. "Wait, Hoseok's here too? I thought he'd be too busy to see us."
With a lopsided smirk pulling at my mouth, I spun around to find myself face-to-face with another of my childhood best friends; through the mop of blonde hair and his gentle eyes which gleamed playfully, I could still see the socially anxious high-schooler that was Min Yoongi. He shook his head slightly, and I watched as the luminescence of Jimin's lighting danced in his hair.
"Look at you!" He mused, punching my arm playfully. "You've lost weight, man. And those round glasses. Like a real hipster author! Lookin' snazzy." I internally grinned at the compliment, pushing my glasses further up the bridge of my nose in response.
"Did you know that Hobi-Hyung's got like... eight bestsellers now?" Jeongguk piped up, pushing himself between myself and Yoongi so he could move to join our conversation.
"Of course I do." Yoongi breezed. "You never shut up about it, Gguk."
Jeongguk smiled at me in admiration, hopping from foot to foot with giddiness. "When you first moved away to Seoul, every time we heard you had an interview, Jimin invited us all round for a Hobi support night! We all had takeout and watched you on the screen. We even did a drinking game where we had to do a shot every time you said the word thankful."
"That was so fun," Yoongi muttered.
"What are we talking about?" Jimin pushed his head into the room and giggled. "The Hoseok drinking game?"
I felt myself choking up slightly, a glossing over of tears pooling at the ducts beneath my eyes — the thought of the six of them gathered to support me was too much for me to handle. Maybe it was the absence of myself that provoked this; an empty space in the couch, one less pair of eyes, one less mouth framed into a grin. Maybe it was the thought that, after I had left the six of them behind, life had moved on. Life had continued with the absence of Jung Hoseok, and that was hard for me to swallow.
"Oh, he's getting emotional. Bless," Jimin cooed, rushing over to run the pad of his fingertip beneath my teary eyes.
"You really did this all... for me?" I forced out, my tone melting into a sob, leaning slightly into Jimin's touch.
"Seriously," Yoongi commented, "we all look up to you so much. Even me and Seokjin. Must be nice to have made it big."
Laughing fondly, I finally pulled Yoongi in for a hug. He smelt of coffee and laundry detergent. I noticed that as my arms wrapped around his frame, he'd gained a little more muscle. The frail and jittery Min Yoongi was long gone, it appeared.
"Somebody's been working out?" I teased, and Yoongi puffed his chest out in pride.
"Yeah, of course!" He scoffed. "One day I'm going to be a weightlifter or something."
"On the other hand, Hobi," Jimin cut in, "you're like, a stick. An unhealthy stick. Seokjin-hyung won't be happy with whatever you've been eating. I never thought I'd find myself saying this, but take a leaf from Yoongi's book."
They must have been very observant; unfortunately over the past few months my appetite had dwindled. I didn't feel like eating much anymore, to be truthful. Sometimes I would sit at my writer's desk and count how long I could go hungry for, feeling the empty cavity of my stomach eat itself alive with gnawing pain and count down the seconds until it hurt so much that I had to eat something. My record was three days. The few meals that I did eat were just takeout, or leftovers of takeout... I hadn't eaten a vegetable in months.
"You were so healthy when you danced," Jeongguk admitted, and I could see Yoongi widening his eyes, jabbing Jeongguk in the ribs with his elbow.
Rule number 1, the unspoken rule between us; never talk about Hoseok's dancing.
I could read the question about to tumble off Jimin's lips: why did you ever stop dancing?, and I felt a little sick just thinking about it. Had he forgotten about the rule, too? Suddenly the room was spinning, I could see the lights blurring into one being which floated in my vision, loomed, ebbed, overshadowed the pleasant experience I had had so far tonight. A ringing in my ears. My hands were numb.
"Let's talk about something else," Yoongi's chiding voice cut its way into my peripheral hearing as he made stern eye contact with Jimin. Jimin read the panic in my eyes and clapped his hands together wordlessly, gesturing to a closed door.
"Yeah, let's go and wait in the living room until the others get here. Go put on a movie or something," Jimin proposed, but the distinguishable wavering in his voice just told me that he had been trying to patch up the mistake that he and Jeongguk had made. "There's snacks."
"I love snacks," Jeongguk beamed, slapping his hands onto his knees enthusiastically.
"Me too," Yoongi agreed. He didn't sound completely convinced, so I figured that he either wanted to accompany Jeongguk or leave myself and Jimin alone. My legs were stuck in place and my body was held back as I watched the pair head off to the living room. Jeongguk mumbled something to Yoongi which made him wheeze with laughter. I hoped it wasn't about me.
I just stood there, fixed in one place — it was only when Jimin trotted over to greet me that I snapped back to reality. Jimin's expression read concerned, and I felt the smallest hint of guilt for making him worry like this.
"I'm sorry for mentioning your dancing, Hobi-Hyung," Jimin murmured, rubbing his fingers of his right hand along his left elbow, head tilted to the floor in shame. "I just... forget about it sometimes."
"It's okay," I answered truthfully, coaxing his heavy gaze off the floor with a gentle hand resting on his shoulder-blade. "We all make mistakes. Kookie doesn't know better, and I know you didn't mean it, Jiminie."
Sighing, Jimin still looked a little uncomfortable; it wasn't hard to deduct this from the small, closed posture which he had adopted.
"Thank you for understanding, Hyung..."
"No problem!" I replied, letting my lashes kiss my cheekbones as my eyes crinkled shut. "You can go and join the others in the living room. I want to answer the door when the others get here."
Nodding, Jimin lifted his gaze to the clock mounted on his wall, then brought it back down to me.
"It's like, seven sharp now," Jimin observed. "Seokjin will be here right about now, Taehyung will be here in five minutes and don't even bother waiting for Namjoon."
"How come Yoongi was here so early?" I asked, trying to spark some conversation that was significantly less awkward.
"Ah, he wanted to catch up with us. We went out for lunch, it was nice I suppose. He was just at the shops buying stuff for our games night when you arrived." Jimin paused. "I'm gonna go join them, feel free to answer the door... or you can watch the movie with us."
I held eye contact with Jimin for another tenacious second, then gestured for him to go join Yoongi and Jeongguk in the living room. He simply spun round and left, and my eye trailed his little white teddy bear slippers padding against the floor which I hadn't noticed before. I had bought them for him as a gag gift when we were in college; the synthetic fur had both matted and greyed in the span of a few years. It made me chuckle.
It was a few minutes before I heard the crisp knock of someone's knuckles against the door, and in the time leading up to this, I had taken a brisk walk around Jimin's apartment, giving myself my own apartment tour. Everything was exactly as it had been a few years ago, if only a little more cluttered; the healthy cooking book that I had bought him in college laid unused on the very top shelf, gathering a thick blanket of dust. His bathroom still had the fast clock which we had hung on the wall courtesy of Jeongguk, who suggested if we make the clock in the bathroom five minutes fast, if you're taking a shit then you can rush yourself until you find out the real time on the clock outside, then you can be really relieved and have a spare five minutes to yourself.
When somebody's knuckles tapped on the door a second time, I was in the middle of raking my eyes over a particularly iconic photo that was placed on the top of a chest of drawers. The frame caught my eye as it glittered in the light.
It was Jimin's sixteenth birthday party when it had been taken, and the center of the attention himself was sat at the table behind a cake, a wave of candlelight bringing out the excited gleam in his eyes. All seven of us were gathered around, of course; Jimin's arms were looped around mine and Jeongguk's necks who sat either side of him, pulling us closely and cheek to cheek. The sides of his mouth almost met the creases in his eyes. Namjoon had Yoongi in a headlock, and Seokjin was leaning in to block Taehyung's face with his own. I could see young Hoseok within the group. He didn't wear glasses, had hair which was pushed back onto his forehead. He was smiling too, of course, waving around Jimin's baby blue polaroid camera birthday gift as if it were even vaguely important.
I found myself wondering if my smile was still as bright as it had been in that photo, tracing my finger over the dips in the photo frame. I found some dust caking my fingertip when I took it back, and wiped the remnants on the front pocket of my shorts.
The door knocked for a third time even more persistently than before, and I heard a shout of Hoseok, you are the absolute worst at answering the door, it really is not that hard coming from the living room that sounded suspiciously like Yoongi.
"Got it!" I yelled in response, shaking myself away from my scattered thoughts and trudging to the door. It swung open, and I was met by a pair of mature eyes which glistened with
"Jin Hyung! Good to see you!" I smiled genuinely when my eyes met Seokjin's warm smile. The broad-shouldered man pulled me close. I could feel the brush of his favourite lilac sweater grazing my palm when I wrapped them around the expanse of his back; it was soft to the touch, and it smelt faintly of lavender and stale cologne when I pressed my nose to the tight-knit.
"Nice to see you too, Hobi~" He chuckled, breath fanning into my neck and making me shiver. "How's your work going, hmm?"
"Ah..." I mumbled sheepishly, pulling away and exhaling through my nose as the door clicked shut. "It's okay, I guess..."
"Okay?" Seokjin's eyebrows pinched into a shocked expression. "Bitch, you're outselling J.K Rowling!"
That coaxed a laugh out of me, which Seokjin gladly mimicked.
"You're doing good, too?" I inquired, trying to stir up the distant memory of what Seokjin had amounted to. A businessman of some sort, I could remember. Maybe a CEO. Something important, no doubt.
"Yeah," he hummed as he stretched his arms out above his head and making a shocked face when one of his arms popped out of its socket, "I'm a lawyer."
"Ah..." I sighed. "That's, uh... cool!"
"You don't have to lie to me," he mused. "I know that being a lawyer is like, nothing compared to what you're doing. It has good pay but I'm nowhere near your level."
"No, no, no!" I blurted out, trying my best to respect the elder man as he untied his shoes and kicked them off by the door. "I think that being a lawyer is... awesome."
"That would make only one of us, then..." he smiled bitterly, breathing hard through his nose.
"Oh, you didn't want to be a lawyer, then?"
"We can talk about that later, okay? Not relevant right now." Seokjin playfully winked at me and placed his bags to the side.
"Jimin and the others are in the other room," I gestured across the hallway. "They're watching a movie, I think. I'm gonna wait for Tae and Joon."
"Are you sure you want to wait here?" Seokjin tilted his head to the sight inquisitively.
"Of course!" I grinned in return. "You go, I have to wait for the others!"
Seokjin nodded and started to tread off towards the living room casually, the lighting illuminating the little creases in his jeans and the inside out label sticking out of his t-shirt underneath the sweater.
"Oh, Hobi! One more thing," he stopped and turned back to me on his heel as if in mid-thought, bending over to collect one of his larger bags and digging inside to find something that must have been important. "I have a gift for you."
I noted that a tuft of his hair was sticking out as he fumbled inside. I noticed that his tongue reached out of his mouth to grip the corner of his upturned lip, and I noticed the distance in his eyes as he squished them shut, searching desperately for the item with only his fingertips.
"Ah, found it!" Seokjin carefully pulled out a small paper wrapping. It was creased several hundred times, yet meticulously folded into a square-inch package. "This is for you, Hope."
I took the gift and it sat lightly on my outstretched palm. The paper was rough on the skin, but I held it with the utmost fragility, as if it were a butterfly's wing.
"Should I open it now?" I mumbled, eyes trained on the gift but ears trained on Seokjin.
"Go for it," Seokjin hummed casually. "Bye now, Seokie!"
As he trotted back to the living room to meet the others — from which I could hear the distant rumble of conversation — I pried the sellotape from the tissue paper carefully. It didn't tear perfectly, but I was happy enough with my method of opening it.
A small burgundy velvet bag laid flat in my palm; when I shook it up and down, a weighted object fell out and onto it. It was warm and small — an inch diameter, I could presume — and I felt my heart melt when I noticed what it was.
A golden broach of a butterfly, elegant and intricate. Beautiful.
I think the best part about that broach was that when I held it up to the light, the light shone through.
Chapter 5: two.
THE BUTTERFLY BROACH was fastened tightly to my jacket; I pinned it in place with the utmost precision, as I feared Seokjin's reaction if I were to lose it. He probably wouldn't mind, actually — perhaps it was my own reaction that I feared more. I would certainly beat myself up about it for a while.
It felt perfect on the fabric, and I could feel the little pinch of it sitting on my chest. The soft gleam of the butterfly's wing was distinguishable from maybe a few feet away, but it was relatively undetectable. Each intricate pattern convoluted on the metal, like a tangle of golden branches which melted together. The little gaps in the framework formed negative spaces which were like objects of their own; a scattered disarray of rounded shapes.
A gentle tapping on the door — not with too much urgency, yet persistent enough to garner my attention from my drowsy inner monologue —was heard directly behind me. I released the broach from my grip and let it flop onto my chest, quirking an eyebrow and padding to the door.
"Hiya!" I breathed out through my nose, perhaps a sigh of relief — it was nice for Taehyung and Namjoon to finally show up. I let my sight flutter to the wall clock out of the corner of my eye; it was 7:35.
I simply crossed my arms in bewilderment as an exasperated Taehyung tried to explain the order of events leading up to the present.
"So my car broke down because — wait no, it didn't actually break down. It technically ran out of gas. So I called Joon because I knew he would still be sitting like a lemon at home and collecting dust, but when he picked up he said he was already on his way over here because he stopped to get drinks. I had to convince him to come back because no party is complete without Kim McFucking Taehyung so he finally agreed and picked me up in the old SUV. So... we're late."
"You still have the SUV?" I chuckled lightly, watching as Namjoon slipped out of his denim jacket and fixed his glasses to rest on the bridge of his nose.
"Yeah," replied Namjoon as he took a carrier of beer away from Taehyung's grasp and handed it up for me to take. "I still need to name her, though. We never got round to that."
"I say you name her Kim Seokjin Hyung," Taehyung suggested. "Seokjin would love a truck named after himself."
"That's a great idea!" I mused.
"But we'd get mixed up between Seokjin Seokjin and truck Seokjin." Namjoon muttered, grazing a hand along his jawline in thought. "How about Sin Keokjin?"
"I vote Keokjin," I chuckled, "like Seokjin's crazy cousin or something."
"Perfect." Taehyung's eyes lit up in excitement. "What are you waiting for? Bring it in," he finally spoke after a lengthy exhale, pulling me into a hug a little too tight for my liking. His leather jacket was hot under my palms — presumably from a full day of sun on the dark fabric.
"Come on, Hyung, you have to join the hug too!" Taehyung beamed, hot breath tickling the back of my neck as he yelled in Namjoon's direction.
"Oh, all right..." Namjoon sighed, caving in. "I'll hug you guys. Whatever."
Namjoon smelt of cologne, I noted — I couldn't decide if I liked it or not, but it was undeniably too strong. I scrunched my nose up.
"Nice group hug, huh..." Taehyung mumbled as Namjoon awkwardly stretched his arms around the two of us as if he were trying to poorly bandage a wound with the ability of a child — I frowned when he awkwardly patted my back.
"Sorry," Namjoon smiled sheepishly as he pulled away. "I'm bad at hugs."
"Bitch, I know!" Taehyung exclaimed with a grin. "Remember when you had to accept an award for student president or whatever in front of the whole school and Mrs Lee wanted you to shake her hand, but instead you went in for a full meaty hug."
"Meaty?" I laughed, watching amusedly as Namjoon's expression contorted into discomfort — unsurprisingly, reminiscing over his high school years was not the most enjoyable experience.
"Whatever. You get the gist, right?" Taehyung shrugged. "Let's go see the others now."
If I closed my eyes and focused on the sound rather than the sights or the smells or the euphoric feeling of this long overdue reunion, I could easily pick out the mellow chuckle of Yoongi, Jimin's squeaky voice, Namjoon's storytelling pricked with intrigue as Taehyung hummed in approval. Above it all, the chiding tone of Seokjin as Jeongguk said something inappropriate.
I exhaled deeply, trying to let all of the stress tumble off my shoulders and into the coarse leather of Jimin's armchair.
I spent a few minutes just sitting there and drinking in the presence — the atmosphere — like a sweet elixir, a golden champagne. Blissful, I would call it.
Finally I opened my eyes, a glassy smile melting onto my lips. Everybody in the room was looking at me — most likely in amusement, if Taehyung's humoured smirk was anything to base my conclusion off.
"What?" I asked, snapping out of my daze and tightening my grip on the leather couch.
"A little lost in your head, Hobi?" Seokjin chuckled from where he was wedged between Jimin and Jeongguk on one of the couches.
"Haha, yeah..." I trailed off, running a finger along the hem of my sweater to occupy my hands.
"You should totally make me a character in one of your books." Taehyung suddenly changed the subject and veered the conversation forward, leaning forward and pushing his elbows onto his kneecaps, palms laid flat onto his chin to squish his cheeks up.
"No! Character creation is a totally natural thing, Tae. I might name one after you, though," I breezed. Taehyung sighed and furrowed his eyebrows.
[ If you're reading this right now, Taehyung, I hope you're happy that you were, in fact, included in one of my books. ]
"This pizza is, like, the bomb dot com," Jeongguk smiled as he prised the cardboard lid from the cardboard box, thin dwindling ribbons of hot steam rising from the pizza. "Me and Chim have this pizza from that place 'round the block called Freddy's every fortnight, on a Friday. For the record, at first, we only chose Freddy's so we could have Freddy's Friday. We could also have Tony's Tuesday but Tony's pizza is absolute horse shit."
"Thanks for the explanation, bud," Yoongi snorted as he reached to pull a slice from one of the boxes. It was coloured a bright red, blocky letters spelling out FREDDY'S with a small cartoon frog pigmented an electric green. That was Freddy, I assumed. Molten cheese dropped from Yoongi's slice and a small amount of it collected in his lap. "Damn, these are my nice jeans," he frowned.
Jimin lunged to snatch a piece from the other box sat on Jeongguk's lap, Seokjin patting Jimin's head and grinning awkwardly into space as he stretched across the eldest boy's legs and towards the youngest.
"Hobi, can I swap with you?" Namjoon spoke up, from between Yoongi and Taehyung on the other couch.
"Honorifics," I corrected.
"No honorifics in this friendship group!" Jeongguk cheered, high giving with Jimin in front of a disgruntled Seokjin.
"You're only saying that because you're the youngest, Gguk!" Seokjin murmured. "But sure, I guess I'll allow it. You don't even use them anyway."
"NICE!" Jeongguk yelled, a beaming grin stretching his cheeks as he bit into another slice of pizza.
"Anyway..." Namjoon continued, "can I swap seats with you? You're smaller than me so you'd fit better into the gap."
I was about to question Namjoon, but the slightly uncomfortable expression on his face as his knees dug into Yoongi and Taehyung was what prompted me to just switch places with him.
"Oof," I grinned as I squished between Yoongi and Taehyung, squishing my nose up as it was an undoubtedly tight fit.
Then Seokjin turned the TV on, Jeongguk flicked the lights off and we watched Is Your Home Worth More Than A Castle?, a shitty daytime show which definitely shouldn't have been playing at 8pm. I found myself glancing up at Yoongi whilst Yvette Thompson valued a castle in Scandinavia. He seemed strangely at ease, a shimmer of grease on his pizza slice illuminated an iridescent blue. The lights picked out the gentle slope of his nose, curving smoothly into his creased cheek. Yvette made a terrible pun about chinaware or something like that, and I felt the couch rock with Taehyung's laughter.
My gaze wandered to Jimin and it stayed there for a little while; he seemed out of it. Nobody was paying attention to him, and I didn't blame them — in the dark, one could only see the highlights of his cheeks if they squinted hard enough. Yet I could see his distant eyes — my observance as a writer could compete with the others' tenfold, and my eyesight was used to a dim writers' lamp which barely provided sufficient light.
What was wrong with Jimin?
I ignored it as Namjoon insisted that we watch the new Alien Wars movie that just came out last week, so we did (much to Seokjin's protest). The movie dragged, and I saw little plot development. Everyone else must have been invested in the storyline, though, if their intense stares at the television screen were anything to base my conclusion off.
So, I let my gaze wander again.
Everything was perfect. Jeongguks figure was slumped in the corner of the couch with a gentle rise and fall of his chest (he must have fallen asleep). Seokjin kept up the atmosphere with a cheerful Taehyung, that looks like you every time a specific alien appeared on the screen, Taehyung merely grunting in response. I felt Yoongi leaning into me from one side and Taehyung from the other. It felt like the good old times.
Just as a television break came on, I pushed myself up from the couch pivoted on the heels of my palms, and spoke up a little.
"I'm just so glad that we're all here!" I said cheerfully, taking my turn to look at everybody's equally content expressions.
"Oh, I would have thought that you'd have replaced us or something..." Jeongguk trailed off sleepily, chewed on the inside of his cheek. "I mean, expensive people. Famous people."
"Have you met J.K Rowling?" Taehyung enquired, interrupting Jeongguk as always.
"What about George R.R. Martin?"
"He's dead, Taehyung."
"Actually, yes. I saw him at a convention once a few months back." I smiled at Taehyung, who nodded his head in satisfaction.
"Look, listen," I continued, "I would never replace any of you. Sure, it's nice to have celebrity connections or whatever, but you guys are my actual friends. End of discussion."
And then Alien Wars was back, and Namjoon was eagerly slotting himself back into his armchair with a cushion propped on his chest, and I was pushing back into the sofa between Yoongi and Taehyung.
"No, wait. I... uh, I have to tell you guys something."
Jimin spoke up for the first time that evening as his fingers twiddled with the television remote and he paused Alien Wars, a bittersweet smile stretching his lips. He put the pizza back onto the table. "This is kinda the, uh... the real reason that I invited you guys here."
We stayed silent at that, waiting and watching in anticipation, eyes trained on Jimin's darting eyes and wriggling fingers. I wondered if they were greasy from the cheese.
And the next words that he said changed my life.
"I'm... moving to America."
Needless to say, I knew that none of us wanted to break the silence, none of us wanted to ask any questions; maybe if we stayed quiet for long enough Jimin's Big News would shrivel up and be pushed under a carpet. Maybe it would just disappear of its own accord. That would have been nice.
"T-that's great, Hyung," Jeongguk said, smiling with tight lips and nonchalant eyes.
"What are you leaving to do?" One of us asked — I didn't know who it was. I wasn't paying attention.
"I, uh." Jimin fidgeted with the fingers splayed in his lap. "I'm moving to America to pursue dance."
When my heart jolted in my chest at the word dance, I swallowed back the lump in my throat and released my grip from the leather.
"What kind of dance are you doing?" I asked with a dry throat, smiling as convincingly as I could.
"Oh, I'm going to be a choreographer for Western performers. Like for when they do their live shows." Jimin tried not to make eye contact with me; I think he was scared of my scrutiny. Instead, he rubbed his slippers against the carpet in insecurity as his eyes stayed pinned to them.
"That's cool," I said. "I hope you do well."
"When do you leave?" Asked Namjoon.
Jimin gulped, squished his eyes shut in shame. "I'm leaving in a week, and I'm 90% sure I won't be coming back."
"Fuck," said Yoongi.
"Fuck indeed," mirrored Seokjin.
"I-I just wanted to spend one more week with my favourite people, y'know?" Jimin tore his gaze from the overused carpet and locked his glassy eyes with mine. "One more week where we can have fun and stuff, just like the good old times..."
"Is this why you told me to pack my bags?" I asked, teetering on shaky fingertips which pressed into the leather. "So we can go have some fun?"
Jimin proceeded to tell us that we would have one more week together, and for every day one of us could plan an outing to somewhere they wanted to show us. It was going to be the road trip of a lifetime, alright. The trip started tomorrow, and we were going to get drunk off the stars and drive further and further until our denim clothes were wrinkled and worn.
"I want to see the Han River," Namjoon started suddenly. "I know it's a while away, but maybe we could go to Hoseok's house afterwards since it's in Seoul?"
"Yeah, let's go to mine," I said. "I'll show you my house."
"I just want to go to the railway station again," Yoongi hummed, pressing his mouth into a thin and unmoving line.
"I think I want to visit our old high school," Jeongguk said. "Since I'm graduating from university that would make sense, right?"
"I want to break the law," Taehyung mused, eyes glittering with excitement. "I just want that adrenaline rush, you know? Let's go vandalise some stores."
I frowned a little. "I can't afford a scandal, my career -"
"Career shmareer," Seokjin chuckled. "Wear a mask. And I want to see the sea. I haven't for ages."
"Yeah," Jimin said. "We can do that." He pulled out a small package from the pocket of his jeans which I had no doubt that he had prepared beforehand, unrolling it onto the coffee table. It was a map of Korea, creased and crinkled from years of use.
The rest of us began to gather around the coffee table as if an unspoken order. When Jeongguk flipped the lights back on, Jimin's complexion shifted from a shimmering blue to a blazing gold in the shadows of the living room lighting.
Jimin set his mouth in a straight line as he pulled a red marker out of his pocket, teasing the lid from the body of the pen between his lips until it sprung onto the table. He seemed so concentrated as he circled the Han River, the railway station, Busan central high school.
"What do you want to do, Hobi?" Jimin smiled that fluffy smile of his, glancing up from his eyelashes to meet my distant gaze.
"When we go to my house, I think I want to throw you a goodbye party." I felt a lump in my throat as I said it, but swallowed it back. "I'll invite a bunch of people. It can be the last night on our trip, and I can get you a flight at Seoul airport for the next morning."
"Sounds good," said Jimin. "Get some rest, we're leaving tomorrow."
We didn't know what to do with ourselves; Jimin had just announced a road trip out of the blue, and ordered us to sleep with no further details!
We complied, though. It wasn't worth fighting Jimin, and I would be lying if I said that I didn't feel some level of excitement and giddiness from it. So, I sank back into the couch, the leather warm from where I had sat for the past few hours.
"Why so sudden?" Namjoon asked, settling back down into his armchair.
"I don't know," said Jimin. "Just because."
"How are we travelling, by the way?" Yoongi wondered aloud, his cool eyes tracing the clean lines of Jimin's map. I was about to offer a limo ride courtesy of Jongdun, but Taehyung interjected before I had the chance.
"By Sim Keokjin, bitch!" He cheered, Namjoon joining in with a fist bump and Seokjin muttering a what the fuck guys. "She may be old but she's made of gold."
"Is that Joon's old SUV? Why the fuck does he still drive that thing?" Jeongguk couldn't cease his laughter, doubling up and heaving with every breath.
"Hell yeah, she's outside right now!" Taehyung replied. "We can leave tomorrow, right?"
"Right," said Jimin, eyes still focused on his map. He paused, calculated. "Let's start with our old high school, okay? Gguk's night."
"So," he continued, "first night is Gguk's night at high school, then we'll go to the railway station for Yoongi's night. Then we'll start travelling out of Busan and break the law for Taehyung on the way. Next up is Seokjin's night as we'll go to a beach somewhere. Then Joon's night as we head towards Seoul and see the Han River. And finally, Hoseok's night at his house with the party or whatever."
"Sounds good," agreed Seokjin.
And fuck, I started crying right there. I'm not quite sure why — it was probably because I was really going to miss Park Jimin, and I was going to miss this, and I was going to miss everything, and life was moving way too fast.
"Save the tears for the final night, Hobi!" Jimin chided. "No crying allowed. This is a No Crying Trip, okay?"
"Okay", I agreed, wiping the wetness using the hem of my sweater sleeve. "No Crying Trip. Got it."
"What do you want to do though, Jimin?" Yoongi questioned. "We all want to do something or see something, but what about you?"
"I want to live," said Jimin.
We didn't ask any further questions.
It wasn't long before Jeongguk had turned the lights off yet again and Namjoon had resumed Alien Wars, and things were back to normal (more or less, although Seokjin had notably ceased with his comments towards Taehyung). We were to pack and leave tomorrow.
I found myself wondering if I should alert Jongdun of my whereabouts over the next week, but concluded that I needed to forget about my outside life. This was a vacation from the ordinary.
Soon everybody was snoring lightly with only the gentle hum of Alien Wars lulling us to sleep, Jimin's discarded map a creased whisper of what had just happened.
And that night I fell asleep on Jimin's couch with Taehyung on my left and Yoongi on my right. I had one wish, and one wish only: I was going to bid Park Jimin goodbye in just the way that a friend should, and I was going to give him the best last week of his entire life.