Jeon Jungkook is four years old when he dies for the first time.
The pain is excruciating in a vivid kind of way that he’s never experienced before; sensations this acute, this overwhelming, have always come gently and washed over him in waves, the experience embedding itself into his skin with a gradual sort of ease he’s grown far too reliant on, apparently. It seems that not everything will caress him with care before it strikes.
This is the first time something has hurt him this badly. He can’t breathe with how loudly and how forcefully he wails for someone, anyone to come to his rescue. He yearns for the comforting embrace of his mother and her uncanny ability to soothe him into sedation. He doubts she’d be able to quell the intense throb that seems to pulse throughout the entirety of his toddler’s build, but he’s willing to let her try.
“Mama,” he scream-shouts to the sky, vision blurred by the tears that threaten to obscure his eyesight completely, “Mama!”
Not five full seconds pass before he hears the familiar pitter-patter of her sandals hitting the sidewalk’s pavement as she rushes over. Somewhere in the recesses of his pain-addled brain, Jungkook can recall that she’d been inside their house before he’d started wailing. She must have heard him from where he is, all the way outside in their front lawn. What had he been doing here, anyway? Jeez, he can barely remember, not when his body is screaming at him like this. He thinks he recognizes the bright pink bouncy ball that lays next to him on the grass, the cartoon rabbit face printed on its expanse staring back at him almost mockingly. The rabbit smiles, buck teeth bared and eyes nearly closed shut from the force of its grin, and it only makes Jungkook sob even harder.
“Oh, baby,” he hears her coo as she approaches. As soon as she picks him up by the armpits and shifts him onto her hip, his wailing dies down in volume but he’s still whimpering. It still hurts.
Quickly, she rushes him up the driveway and back inside the house. The door slams behind her in her haste and the jarring sound startles another round of blubbering out of Jungkook. In her arms, he lets himself be unabashed in his expression of anguish; it feels only natural to do so. More than natural – it feels good to be able to snivel and sneeze and shake with the intensity of his dismay. With each shout, more and more of the suffering becomes tolerable to his limited toddler’s threshold for pain.
“Honey, Jungkookie scraped his knee playing outside. Do you remember where we put the first aid kit?”
His father gets up from his perch on the couch slow, slow, slowly. By the time he’s reached them, Jungkook’s lungs burn with the force they’re exerting to wail at such a level.
His father does not have a nice look on his face.
It reminds Jungkook of the wasp’s nest they’d found underneath the slide at his daycare center. It reminds Jungkook of shots at the doctor’s office. Reminds him of fear in his heart and a dreadful heaviness in his tummy – like something is wrong. Like something is about to go very, very, very wrong.
In a way, his mother’s expression is mirrored unto his father; the same crease between their eyebrows, the same downward twisting slant to their mouths. The thing that’s markedly different is the tone with which they speak.
His mother is on the verge of tears, her voice trembling with the distress that Jungkook’s heart aches with. When his father speaks, he’s as steady and measured as he always is. Jungkook usually finds comfort in the familiarity of his lack of an overreaction – or, really, his lack of a reaction at all – but now? While he’s in the worst pain of his entire four years? While his mother is crying along with him? While he’s certain that he’s going to die?
His father’s hard face does little to quell his tears.
“Jungkook,” he says, completely disregarding Jungkook’s mother as he bores into the eyes of his four-year-old son. “Stop the crying.”
Jungkook feels his mother stiffen her hold around him and it only further upsets him. She’s squeezing him so tightly that it’s hard to breathe, hard to push out the hiccups that threaten to choke him from where they bubble up at the base of his throat. “…Honey, the first aid-“
“You’ve got to be strong.” His father continues on like she hadn’t even spoken, like the rapid rise and fall of her chest isn’t growing as erratic as Jungkook’s own. “You’re too old for this now. Men don’t cry, Jungkook.”
And Jungkook – he hears his father, but he doesn’t understand. All he can grasp about what’s going on is that both he and his mother are crying, and his father looks… angry. He can’t remember ever seeing him with his features so dauntingly blank.
He’s so scared. He doesn’t know what’s happening, not really, and his body still hurts like something out of one of his superhero comics; he’s been mortally wounded, and badly. But instead of him acquiring superpowers from the whole ordeal, all he can do is ball his little fists into the fabric of his mother’s sweater and sob out in a cocktail of fear and pain.
They look at each other for a good few seconds, Jungkook and his father. It’s rather disconcerting how unaffected he seems to be when faced with the sight of his son gurgling on his blubbers, wracked with whole body encompassing shivers as he struggles to understand why the hurting won’t stop, why Daddy is so mad, why his chest aches with a pain that’s decades too old for him to know the name of yet.
The silence that overtakes the living room as Jungkook waits for his father to respond is deafening. Something, anything would be better than the empty stare he’s met with as he struggles to breathe. He’s distantly aware of his mother beginning to rock him back and forth in her arms, shushing him quietly in an attempt to soothe him out of his dismay, but all he’s really able to hone in on is not the pain of his injury, not the shortness of his breath, not even the muffled sobs of his mother – it is the eye contact he holds with his father.
Jungkook tries willing him to react by crying even louder, letting his wails bounce off the walls in a sick sort of crescendo, desperately imploring him to break and just blink.
Looking back, Jungkook can’t pinpoint the exact moment he realizes it – the truth of the matter, the fact that his father is waiting for him to stop crying, and will wait as long as it takes without betraying even a hint of an emotion – but when he does, that’s when he dies for the first time.
It’s a little bit like going to sleep. Gradually, his heart rate slows. His breathing evens out, steady, almost shallow in how it barely spills past his lips before he’s drawing in another lungful. He’s not calm, per se, but rather, resigned to the reality that emoting is getting him nowhere.
The emptiness he feels in the cavity of his chest is a sensation that’s alarming in its foreignness, but that won’t be the case for very much longer. Over the years, he will grow intimately acquainted with the sensation of relinquishing the intensity of his reactions – or, more accurately, relinquishing any reactions at all. It is a skill he becomes very good at honing. Being a corpse, that is.
Jungkook is silent. He has no more tears left to cry. No more sobs to let burst out of his mouth, no more blubbering to slip past his lips. All that exists in this moment is his body – his shell. His armor. He will learn to wear it with pride. It is all he will have. It is all he will know.
Finally, his father smiles.
“Well done, son.”
Working ‘til closing isn’t something most people enjoy. But, then again, Jungkook has to wonder when he’s ever been conventional.
He likes the bone-deep ache that comes with heading home at some ungodly time in the morning. Likes hearing his joints creak and groan when he slips into bed after it’s all said and done, likes the way his muscles feel like they’ve served a purpose to someone other than himself that day, likes feeling useful. There’s never enough hours in the day for him to give everything he feels he has to offer.
His gig at the popular Japanese steakhouse in the fancy part of the city isn’t anything major – he’d need to have had graduated for that. No, he spends his shifts bussing tables and drying dishes, picking up scraps and staying out of the way and in the background. He feels most comfortable in his work-issued attire: a white and black ensemble without a hint or pop of color to it. Simple. Clean. Easy to disappear in if he wants to (spoiler: he always wants to.) All characteristics of an outfit he’s predisposed to take a liking to.
The satiny texture of the dress shirt the establishment provided him with is soft and cool to the touch. Sometimes, Jungkook will catch himself rubbing at it almost in a trance, too caught up in the satisfying sensation to realize that it might look… odd for one of the busboys to be fondling himself over his shirt.
(Spoiler: it isn’t really about the texture of the shirt, but how it feels to have contact with something. Anything. It’s why he spent half of his first paycheck on a weighted blanket. It’s why he appreciates living with someone as touchy-feely as Hoseok-hyung. It’s why, sometimes, when it’s late into Sunday afternoon and he doesn’t have a shift to clock in for and all the hyungs are out being proper adults with degrees and social lives and driver’s licenses, he will curl up under his comforter and cry for something he’s never had.)
Out of the entire working experience, though, Jungkook thinks he likes the walk home the best.
As bustling as city life tends to be, it’s mostly wound down by the time he begins the trek back to his shared apartment. He finds that the quietest spaces exist in one of two realms: 1) between the frayed threads of the sheets his mother had sent him in a care package the week after he’d dropped out, and 2) Hongdae at four in the morning.
It’s a peaceful kind of eerie. He takes the backroads on purpose, preferring to be led by the gentle light of the moon rather than by harsh streetlights that hurt his eyes if he looks up for too long – he hates that. If the walk is for anything at all, it’s to look up at the night sky and count on his fingers and toes how many stars he’s able to unearth from underneath the heavyweight veil of clouds and light pollution.
When he’d been younger and less concerned with his general wellbeing, he’d let them guide him all across the city. He’d walk for hours and hours until his toes bled in his heavy worker’s clogs and his fingernails turned an ugly pallid color and his fingers shook violently with the cold, following the stars and whatever directional plans they had in store for him that particular night. Looking back, he can see why his hyungs had been a bit troubled by this – Jungkook would disappear for hours at a time, turning up to the apartment long after his shift had ended, without a real explanation to where he’d been all night.
And it wasn’t like he was lying, either. It was just – easy to let the time slip by when it was just him and the stars. The stars and him.
Now, though, he’s a little more practical.
After Namjoon installed that parental tracking app on his phone to keep tabs on his whereabouts during the walk home, it kind of took the fun out of wandering. Jungkook relished in the sensation that came with his whereabouts being known to none, that he may as well have evaporated gently into the brisk night air and no one would have been the wiser.
(“Where do you go at nights, Jungkook?” Namjoon had him cornered after a long walk home, one morning. Caught him just as he stumbled in with the sunrise that bled into their shitty two-bedroom, pockets full of stardust and moonlight and scraps he’d stolen from the kitchen at work.
“’Dunno. I just – go. Walk around, you know. It’s less lonely, that way.”
At this, Namjoon had furrowed his brows. “It feels less lonely to roam around by yourself for hours at a time? At night?”
“Yeah. It’s less lonely, hyung.”
Jungkook almost wished he hadn’t said it. The way Namjoon’s face fell through the floorboards at just a handful of syllables…of all people, Jungkook should have known what weight words carry. He cringed, then, about five seconds after the implications of his answer settled into the heavy silence of the room.
“Gimme your phone, Kook.”
Obediently, Jungkook fished it out of his back pocket and handed it over, his own grim expression mirrored unto Namjoon.)
So. He goes straight home, now, although he’s sure to take his time. Smell the roses, and all that.
Tonight, he reaches the front door in record time. It had been a slow day at work, an even slower night, and almost all of the wait staff had gone home early. His manager – a kindhearted man just a few years older than him, a few inches taller, a few inches broader – told him to take off. Normally, Jungkook would have protested and remained on shift for the duration of the night, but something about tonight told him to bow his head. So, he did. And then he walked home without any detours. And now he’s fumbling with his shitty key fob and trying to get it to fit correctly.
The damned thing never unlocks right on the first try. He has to fiddle with it for a couple of minutes before the door finally gives way, and he’s pushing inside to the place he’s called home for the past three years.
It’s a meager two-bedroom he shares with three other guys. Nothing fancy, certainly nothing spacious, definitely not something luxurious, but. It’s affordable. It hasn’t provided any problems that they weren’t able to fix. It’s a good space, it’s treated them well enough, and they’ve yet to stray.
He can hear the telltale metronome coming muffled from behind Yoongi’s and his bedroom door, and wow. He didn’t know he’d come home this early. Usually, Yoongi’s passed out in front of his keyboard by the time Jungkook drags himself through the door. It’s a nice change of pace. He hasn’t caught his Yoongi-hyung for more than a couple moments’ worth of clipped conversation, both of them run ragged from the demands of their jobs, and, well. Life.
Jungkook toes off his shoes and sets them carefully on the rack they have by the door for this exact purpose. Hoseok’s colorful, multi-layered platform sneakers that had cost him half his paycheck stand proudly next to Namjoon’s unseasonable Birkenstocks next to Yoongi’s thin-soled canvas shoes next to Jungkook’s nondescript worker’s boots. To an outsider looking in, the shoe rack is a disaster of a mismatched hodgepodge, clashing against itself in one big, painful eyestrain.
To Jungkook? It settles something warm in his hollow chest.
With stealthy, socked footsteps, he pads his way to their bedroom and knocks twice before hearing no answer – Yoongi must be working on something – and opens the door just wide enough for him to slip inside.
As predicted, Yoongi has his headphones on and his head is bopping to a beat Jungkook’s unable to hear. It probably sounds good, though. Most of what Yoongi makes always sounds good. Same for Hoseok and Namjoon as well. Jungkook doesn’t know how they do it. He can’t quite comprehend having that much talent contained into a single human vessel; it’s just not feasible to him. He’s grateful that they like his company, feels lucky that they tolerate him.
Jungkook debates on whether or not to tap Yoongi on the shoulder to alert him to his presence. He knows the elder doesn’t like being disturbed in the midst of work, but he doesn’t want to be…rude. Would it be considered rude to waltz into your own damned bedroom without making small talk? Is there some sort of etiquette to these things? Would Yoongi even care?
God, he’s probably overthinking it. He’s most definitely overthinking it. What kind of stable young adult guy stresses over whether or not to say hello to his roommate? You’d think that three years would have made Jungkook a little bit more comfortable with interacting with other boys his age, and you’d be right. He is exactly A Little Bit More comfortable. That’s, like, a singular teaspoon’s amount more of comfortable.
He fidgets his socked feet awkwardly on the carpet, toes digging into each other in muted anxiety. He can’t step further into the room lest he risk alerting Yoongi to his presence that he’d failed to notify him of, and he can’t tap Yoongi on the shoulder because what if he gets angry?
Jungkook is just going to move out. That’s obviously the solution here. He’s probably long overstayed his welcome, anyways, he doesn’t really know why they haven’t kicked him out yet, he would have probably kicked himself out if he were another person. Does that – does that make sense? Fuck, he can’t even string together coherent sentences anymore, he should really just go to bed but he– he can’t–
“You’re home early, Jungkook-ah.”
Yoongi’s headphones are set around his neck like a piece of jewelry as he clicks away on his computer mouse, body still faced towards the monitor.
Huh. When did that happen.
To be truthful, Jungkook is glad Yoongi’s not looking at him right now, because he’s still breathing kind of heavy from his small-scale internal meltdown. Yoongi probably knows this, had known it as soon as whenever he’d sensed Jungkook’s anxiously awaiting presence and mercifully spared him the scrutinizing. This is why he’s always been The Favorite Hyung. (Don’t tell Namjoon.)
“Slow night,” Jungkook manages. “Seokjin hyung let us all out. Said there was no point in keeping us there ‘til closing.” His breathing is now somewhat under control. The only last remaining vestiges of his lingering panic is the way he digs his nails into and around his cuticles, picking and prodding and fussing and fiddling, but he always does that.
Yoongi hums a noncommittal sound that Jungkook has learned to interpret as a sign of general satisfaction. “This ‘Seokjin hyung’ is the best damned boss you’ve ever had. I like him.”
Jungkook can’t help but be inclined to agree. He’s not the only one in the household that remembers all the odd jobs he’d worked as a fresh drop out, desperate not to live out of a car he didn’t have and willing to do…questionable things. He doesn’t like dwelling on that six month stretch in his nineteenth year. It leaves him feeling oddly dirty, like he needs to take a shower just from thinking about things that happened years ago. He prefers focusing on how good things are now, in the present, how far he’s come and how he could almost say he’s comfortable.
“Y-yeah. Me too.”
A beat of silence passes.
“You know, Jungkook, you don’t have to wait to be invited into your own bedroom. Even for a polite kid like you, ‘s a bit much.”
He doesn’t know what’s wrong with him tonight. Usually, he’s at least a little awkward, but never this much with the hyungs. Everything feels half a note off. When he steps forwards into the bedroom, he almost loses his balance and has to catch himself on the doorframe to avoid eating carpet.
Come to think of it, this entire day had just been…weird. The restaurant is high-end enough to where they have reservations booked weeks in advance; there was no reason for it to have been empty for his entire shift. The sky was dim and shrouded by clouds, and he’d been left feeling bereft of his fill of star-gazing. And coming home early is just an unsettling experience, mostly because it acts as a reminder that the hyungs stay up just like him. They too have things that they’re afraid to close their eyes and submit themselves to. Jungkook hates thinking about that.
Whatever. It’s not like one bizarre day is the end of the world. He’s been half a note off for the better part of twenty-two years. He can manage. He’s a big boy.
It’s quick work to strip out of his work clothes and fall onto his twin mattress resting comfortably on the floor in the coziest corner of the room, farthest away from the door. He likes sleeping on the floor. It’s easier to curl up and making himself smaller; easier to blend into the room and become just another piece of décor.
“G’night, Koo. You did well today.” Yoongi murmurs it so quietly that it’s said almost to himself.
Jungkook doesn’t have to look up to know that Yoongi is decisively Not Looking At Him. He’s such a dad.
That thought kind of makes him want to cry, so he immediately stops thinking it. “Night, hyung,” Jungkook whispers into his worn pillowcase. If he burrows into it hard enough, he can still smell his mother’s shampoo.
Hobi hyung – 12:16 a.m.
hey jungkookie! mind doing something for hyung? heheh ^___^
hv u left work yet?
Me – 12:16 a.m.
I’m leaving right now
What is it
Me – 12:20 a.m.
Hobi hyung – 12:20 a.m.
sorry!! joonie just called
Me – 12:20 a.m.
What did he say
Hobi hyung – 12:21 a.m.
he’s gonna be at the club late tonite
they’ve got a blitz battle tournament going on
prize money is insane, apparently
Me – 12:21 a.m.
Tell him I said gl
What did you need btw
Hobi hyung – 12:21 a.m.
no need to sound so excited there jungkookie kkkkk
Me – 12:23 a.m.
Hands are cold cant type a lot
Hobi hyung – 12:23 a.m.
i know! was just teasing you koo dont say sorry
and jeez, havent we scolded you about bundling up before?
one day i’m gonna jump u while ur sleeping and tape on a pair of
gloves and a padded coat and there will be no escape
u will HAVE to keep warm and not get sick
Me – 12:24 a.m.
Hobi hyung – 12:25 a.m.
i was wondering if u wouldnt mind stopping by the convenience store
we r out of bath salts n it was kinda rough at the studio today..
ill pay u back!!! obvs
Me – 12:25 a.m.
The jeju hot springs brand?
Hobi hyung – 12:25 a.m.
aaahhhhh u know me so well dongsaeng
Me – 12:25 a.m.
Nah I just buy you shit all the time
Hobi hyung – 12:25 a.m.
how dare u speak to ur own flesh and blood brother this way!!!!!
just wait til i tell joonie and yoongi hyung >:-T
ur fathers will not be pleased
Me – 12:26 a.m.
Ok gtg hyung see you when I get back
Hobi hyung – 12:27 a.m.
NO WANDERING! joon put that tracking app on my phone too u know
i can see u mister!!
Hobi hyung – 12:28 a.m.
get home safe little one
And Jungkook…can’t really reply to that, unless he wants to embarrass himself by typing out and sending the keyboard smash he so strongly feels.
It should humble him a little bit more than it actually does – the fact that he gets warm in the face and weak in the knees and just a little bit wet in the eyes whenever the hyungs are especially soft with him, that is. He doesn’t know what the hell is wrong with him. Bite-sized pieces of the barest amounts of affection shouldn’t make him want to roll over and expose his stomach, shouldn’t light a candle at the pit of his gut and heat him from the inside out. Little one, reads the message.
Hoseok had been the warmest to him when he’d first moved in. Not to say that his Namjoon hyung and Yoongi hyung weren’t just as concerned with his wellbeing and comfortability in their own gruff, roundabout ways, but Hoseok was…something else.
Cuddles and kisses and pet names and love yous were an area of relationships that Jungkook had never before traversed. He’d briefly enjoyed the sanctity of his mother’s arms when he’d been a small child, but that came to an end as quickly as it had come to fruition. He never tried to initiate any kind of affectionate physicality between him and his friends, not since he’d been caught by his father the first time. It was safe to say that Jungkook was effectively touch-starved.
Enter: Jung Hoseok.
It took about a week and a half before Hoseok was greeting him good morning with kisses on the cheeks and fond back hugs. At first, Jungkook had been mortally terrified that he was being flirted with, which would have sucked major ass because he’d finally found a stable place to stay and his portion of rent and utilities to pay was manageable and he really liked the location–
But then he saw how Hoseok did the same to Namjoon and Yoongi. And suddenly it all made sense.
Slowly, Jungkook’s shoulders lost their rigid stiffness when engulfed in a hug. He learned how to stay still as his hair was being ruffled, as his nose was kissed, as his belly was rubbed – eventually, he even learned how to like it; how to crave it. If it weren’t for Jung Hoseok, Jungkook has no qualms admitting that he’d still be a touch-starved hermit who flinched violently at sex scenes.
(Spoiler: that last part is still true. It’s okay. He’s working on it.)
(Not really, though.)
Jungkook doesn’t really have the words to describe how grateful he is for what Hoseok has done for him, what he continues to teach him. One day, he promises himself, when he’s done growing up and has come to terms with everything that’s happened to him and knows how to articulate himself beyond monosyllabic texts, he will thank Hoseok properly. For now, though, he slips his phone into his pocket, swipes at his eyes twice for good measure, and heads to the convenience store a couple blocks away from their apartment.
What’s fortunate is that it’s in the same direction he’d already been heading in. What’s unfortunate is that he heads straight there. He’s been feeling especially restless tonight, and to wander would have definitely alleviated the contained nervous energy bubbling just underneath the surface of his skin.
But Hoseok needs bath salts. Jungkook doesn’t want to keep him waiting up for it too late, knows his hyung has a toddler’s class at eight sharp tomorrow morning. So, he heads straight to the convenience store.
His arrival is loudly announced by the tacky bell that sounds above the door. Thankfully, there’s nobody else in the store to be alerted to his presence. Well. Nobody except the guy behind the counter, who’s – oh.
Jungkook’s first thought is: pretty.
He’s got pink hair. Jungkook thought only guys who were idols dyed their hair abnormal colors, let alone… pink. It suits him, though, accentuates the roundness of his cheeks, the subtle curve of his button nose, the gentle crescent of his eyes. He looks a little bit too much like something out of the fairy tales Jungkook’s mother used to read him as a child. Fairies were always mischievous creatures. Jungkook doesn’t trust him primarily on the grounds that he is, quite possibly, a fairy.
“Hello, sir,” the faelike boy greets, and his voice sounds like wind chimes and summer holidays spent at the beach from his childhood and his mother’s honeyed milk recipe and stardust and moonlight and wandering even when Namjoon’s texted him five times that he’s strayed from the route home and – fairies. This boy sounds like fairies.
Jungkook doesn’t know why his brain is stuck so stubbornly on fairies.
“Fairies,” he mumbles under his breath.
Fairy Boy tilts his head uncertainly at Jungkook and that lost puppy expression on his face is giving Jungkook a Charley Horse. Right in his heart. “…Sir? I’m sorry?”
“Nothing. Sorry,” Jungkook mumbles again, only this time it’s loud enough to be heard by ears other than his own, reddened ones. “’M’sorry, jus’. Uh. Long night.”
“Oh boy, I felt that one,” giggles Fairy Boy as he brushes a lock of bubblegum hair behind his pierced ear, and Jungkook can tell he isn’t lying – he can see the bags underneath Fairy Boy’s eyes, the droop to his lids, the yawn that he manages to suppress before speaking once more. “Do you need help, though? Looking for anything in particular?”
Jungkook’s initial reaction is a mental kind of double take at the tone in which the question is posed. It’s almost…flirty? Not that he’d have any firsthand experience in recognizing whether or not something is flirtatious, but he’s lived vicariously through enough romantic comedies to know when someone is being coy. When he steels himself and manages to look into Fairy Boy’s eyes, he’s fluttering his lashes the way Jungkook sees Hoseok do at Namjoon, sometimes.
Also, this is literally a twenty-four-hour convenience store. What kind of cashier asks patrons who stroll in at damn near one in the morning if they need help?
“I can find it,” he says, like an absolute buffoon.
Fairy Boy laughs again. “I think you’re gonna need to step inside, first, to find it.”
It is then that Jungkook belatedly realizes he’s still stood in the doorway, door held open against his elbow as it lets in chilly night air. “Oh, shit, yeah. Um. Sorry.” He’s apologized three times in the last thirty seconds. It’s a nervous habit he has, saying sorry for things that don’t matter in place of things he really feels compelled to apologize for. It’s kind of a mood-breaker, though, to break down in front of a virtual stranger. Definitely awkward. So, Jungkook sticks to saying sorry for breathing too loudly; for taking up too much space; for existing in a way that alerts others to his presence.
If Fairy Boy notices, he thankfully doesn’t comment on it, although he does shoot Jungkook a kind smile full of pixie dust and sunshine and vanilla beans, so Jungkook counts this as a win.
“What’s someone like you doing out at this time of night, anyways?”
He speaks leisurely, like he’s got all the time in the world to ask Jungkook pointed questions that make him flush from his brow all the way down to his wriggling pinky toes. The way he says it is confident, too. He knows exactly what he’s doing. It feels too much like a cat-and-mouse game.
Jungkook tucks his proverbial tail between his legs and hurries into the medicinal aisle. “S-someone like me?”
“Yeah,” Fairy Boy drawls, “no jacket in the dead of winter. Lost look in your eyes. Momma’s boy cheeks. Too cute to be walking these streets alone.”
God, is it hot in here? He’s fanning himself with one hand as he rifles through the aisle’s shelf contents with the other, desperately searching for the Jeju Hot Springs brand he knows is Hoseok’s favorite. “Is that, uh. Is that a compliment?”
“If you want it to be.”
Fuck yes, he’s finally found it. The tiny jar is a, acquainted weight in his calloused palm, comforting in how familiar it feels. He grabs two, just for good measure, and makes his way through the rest of the aisle and towards the register. “I s-see.”
…Charisma does not come to him naturally. Actually, it doesn’t come to him at all. Jungkook is painfully awkward in even the most comfortable of situations involving other boys his age, and that’s the best-case-scenario.
He’s never really known how to be One of the Guys. He’s never really known how to talk like that, how to stride with his gait wide and his chest puffed out, how to hook his chin up, up, up, like nobody’s worthy of catching his gaze.
Oddly enough? Fairy Boy doesn’t seem like he’s One of the Guys, either.
Jungkook supposes this is what gives him the confidence to utter more than two syllables in response to the gentle, good-natured teasing. If anything, it speaks volumes that he’s even able to recognize it as good-natured at all.
Fairy Boy doesn’t respond right away. They’re standing maybe four feet apart, separated only by the paying counter, which he’s leant his elbows on in an attempt to get a closer look at Jungkook. Jungkook, strangely, doesn’t…feel uncomfortable. He knows he should feel scrutinized, a little antsy, a lot anxious, but.
There’s just something about this boy – something that tramples all over Jungkook’s guard.
“What’s your name?” asks Fairy Boy slowly.
He probably shouldn’t give it out to a stranger. “Jeon Jungkook,” he says anyways, like the fool he is.
“And how old are you, Jeon Jungkook?”
Jungkook can’t stop staring at his hair. It looks like cotton candy. He’d never known something could look so soft. “Ah, I was born in ninety-seven.”
Fairy Boy smirks. “Hah. Ninety-five. You can call me Park Jimin-hyung, then.”
It strikes him odd that such an extraordinary boy has one of the most common names in Korea. And yet, Jungkook can see this working to his advantage; Jimin seems like the type of person to exceed any pre-set expectations placed upon him.
“But I- we- um, n-not to be rude, but I don’t even know you…”
“Well, we’ll work on that. For now, though, are you ready to check out?”
He’d forgotten that he came here to make a purchase. He’d forgotten that he was here for any reason other than talking to this lovely fairy boy with cotton candy hair who seemed to make talking feel so easy – talking has never felt this easy, especially not with a guy he’s literally just met. It took him months to get acquainted with the hyungs, and even longer for him to stop stuttering in conversations with them. He’s not quite there yet with Jimin, but he’s got an inkling telling him that it’s soon coming.
As he hands over the two bottles of bath salts to be scanned by Jimin, his eyes can’t help but to stray to the display racks to the right of the counter. He knows that they’re strategically placed there to garner any last-minute impulsive purchases, he knows that they’re purposefully stocked with items of bright wrapping and shiny packaging, and his gaze is still caught on something.
A small, rectangular beginner’s kit complete with three shades of pink hue – one shimmery, one matte, and one satin-looking – along with an applicator brush, looking like something a grade school girl would doll herself up with to play house in, but, still. Eyeshadow.
It’s the last one of its kind on the rack, and it’s on sale for literally three thousand won. If he wanted to, he could easily afford that kind of splurge purchase. He’s been working extra shifts at the restaurant practically from the moment he’d been hired – he has a considerable amount of pocket change to spare. And that’s all it costs, really; pocket change. Wouldn’t even make a dent in his wallet. It’s small enough that it would be easy enough to conceal, too. No one would know that he’d bought it. No one would know. No one except him.
“It’s a nice shade, isn’t it?”
Jimin’s soft comment startles him. He thought he’d been discreetly eyeing it out of the corner of his eye.
Embarrassed at being caught gawking at eyeshadow of all things, Jungkook immediately begins to panic. “I- well, it. Y-yeah, I guess so…”
“I think it’d suit your complexion,” Jimin continues, a kind smile playing at his lips.
(Yoongi and Namjoon going out late at night to participate in underground rap tournaments is commonplace.
What isn’t so commonplace is Jungkook being home to wish them good luck before they leave; he’s usually left for work by about one in the afternoon, and isn’t due home until maybe two or three in the morning, and that’s excluding time for wandering. Today, though, Jin-hyung had forced him to stay home after his thirteenth consecutive day at work without break. “So help me God, Jeon, if you don’t turn around and head back home right now, I will smite you,” had been the exact words he’d used.
So. Jungkook is home for tonight.
He’s never really seen their pre-game routine, and he’s curious what it looks like – how Namjoon goes from Joonie hyung to Rap Monster, how Yoongi goes from Yoongi hyungie to Gloss. Jungkook has to admit, he’s a little jealous of how badass their rapper personas are. He doesn’t think he could pull it off. They look like they carry around brass knuckles in their back pockets, like they pack a mean right hook, like they know how to scrap.
Which is why it comes as an axis-tilting surprise to see Yoongi applying eye makeup in their bathroom mirror.
“What’s that for, hyung?” Jungkook manages to ask calmly even though his heart feels like it’s going to beat out of his chest at the sight of Yoongi expertly swiping over his lids in a well-practiced motion.
Yoongi doesn’t bother looking away from his reflection. “It’s stage makeup. Hobi taught me how to do it.”
Hoseok hyung wears makeup? Does Namjoon hyung do it, too? Shit, why has Jungkook never noticed before? When did they start?
Why didn’t they tell him?
“You wanna try some, Koo?” Yoongi asks neutrally, because Jungkook knows that he knows that Jungkook is decidedly Not Comfortable. “I think the color would suit your complexion.”
He has to get out of here. Right now. He can’t cry, let alone in front of Yoongi hyung, and especially not because of something as trivial as putting on makeup. “Uh, I’m okay, I think. You look – you look really good though, hyung. Good luck tonight.”
“I’m gonna. Go. I don’t know, sorry, just need to go for a walk, tell Joonie hyung I said good luck.”
The front door closes heavily behind him.)
“Oh,” says Jungkook, winded, like he’s just been hit by a train.
He feels silly. If there was a chance at anything at all with Jimin, Jungkook’s sure he’s just ruined it. He knows he’s acting weird in response to a simple, offhanded comment that meant no ill will, but he – he can’t help it. His body is frozen, standing stock still in the wake of the slew of overwhelming sensations that threaten to drown him.
Jimin’s looking back at him, which is terrifying because the absolute last thing Jungkook wants is to be looked at right now. He doesn’t want the pity. He doesn’t want the concern.
Slowly, as though he’s offering food to a feral animal, Jimin grabs the eyeshadow kit off the rack and slides it across the counter to Jungkook. His actual purchase is in a white plastic bag that Jimin hands to him, as well, although it’s a much less dramatic affair.
“Enjoy the rest of your night, Jungkook.”
“But I – I didn’t pay for–“
“Oh, really? Check the receipt.” Jungkook does as instructed of him.
A phone number is written hastily in permanent marker just above the barcode.
“Don’t lose that,” Jimin smiles, “you never know when you might need to come back and return an item.”
This is a convenience store, Jungkook wants to say.
Things like this aren’t supposed to happen to guys like me, Jungkook wants to say.
You’re the prettiest person I think I’ve ever seen in real life, Jungkook wants to say.
What he actually says:
“Alright. Good night, Jimin-ssi.”
“Hyung!” Jimin calls out after him as he makes his way out the door, the bell overhead loudly announcing his departure.
It makes Jungkook smile something small, something genuine. “We’ll see,” he whispers to the stars above.
The walk home feels shorter, somehow.
Me – 11:03 a.m.
Is this Park Jimin’s number
Unknown – 11:06 a.m.
depends on who’s asking…
Me – 11:06 a.m.
Ah this is Jeon Jungkook
Are you Jimin ssi?
Unknown – 11:07 a.m.
lol what’s with the “ssi”?
i told you! i’m your hyung now!
Me – 11:10 a.m.
Um but why
We arent really familiar like that
Park Jimin – 11:10 a.m.
what if i said i want us to be familiar like that
Me – 11:10 a.m.
Then I guess I would say
That I want that too
Park Jimin – 11:11 a.m.
Me – 11:11 a.m.
There’s just one thing tho…
Park Jimin – 11:11 a.m.
Me – 11:11 a.m.
I didnt pay for the thing last night
Park Jimin – 11:11 a.m.
Me – 11:11 a.m.
Park Jimin – 11:11 a.m.
i really don’t
sorry! my memory is a bit foggy, last night was a long one…
a lot of people buy a lot of things, you know.
it’s a popular store!
do you remember the name of it?
Me – 11:12 a.m.
You just gave it to me
I feel bad…
Park Jimin – 11:12 a.m.
oh, i see.
tell you what jungkookie
you know how you can pay me back?
Me – 11:12 a.m.
Park Jimin – 11:12 a.m.
Me – 12:45 p.m.
It’s almost time for him to leave for work. He doesn’t have the minutes to waste on fooling around with the kit himself and fumbling his way through a messy application – he’ll be late, and it’ll look stupid, and he doesn’t want it to look stupid because he kind of really wants to send a picture to Jimin if it turns out okay…you know. As payment.
So. He goes to Yoongi.
He knocks softly twice on their bedroom door before entering, and there’s a little bit of déjà vu clinging to the gooseflesh that arises suddenly on the backs of his arms. He can’t pinpoint why, exactly.
There’s a moment of hesitation that makes him falter in his footstep forward– Yoongi looks like he’s working on something, if his headphones and the rapid clicking of his computer mouse are any indication. Should Jungkook really be bothering him with this? What if Yoongi thinks it’s weird? What if Yoongi says no?
Well, Jungkook thinks to himself, there’s really only one way to find out.
Swallowing down the drumbeating of his heart, Jungkook pads into the room and gingerly taps Yoongi’s shoulder. “Hyung?”
In one fluid motion, Yoongi slips off his headphones and turns towards Jungkook. “Yeah, Jungkook?” He says, looking up at him with an inquisitive raise of his brows.
Jungkook didn’t envision himself getting this far. He has absolutely no idea how to phrase this question. Hey, hyung, would you mind teaching me how to put on eyeshadow? is a little too blunt – he doesn’t want to give Yoongi a heart attack at his age. After all, this is the same Jungkook who’s only ever dressed in muted dark tones, who wears clunky worker’s boots even when he’s off the clock, who spends his down time lifting at the gym a couple blocks away until his triceps scream at him to go home; what would it say about him, suddenly asking for makeup advice?
“I – well, I. I bought this thing last night.”
“And I. Don’t know how to use it.”
“I think you might know how to use it better than I do.”
“That might be the case, maybe.”
“Can you, um. Please teach how to do it?”
And now Yoongi is smiling. A soft, muted thing that’s a bit too warm for the mundanity of the situation, but it eases Jungkook’s nerves all the same. “Oh, sure. Where is it?”
The eyeshadow rests innocently on the counter, right where Jungkook had flung it down in frustration after his first failed attempt at solo application. He’d looked in the mirror, then, and felt a bone-achingly deep sense of sadness when all that stared back at him was a mural of patchy colors smeared haphazardly along the canvas of his lids. It was – ugly. Jungkook dosen’t want to be ugly. Jungkook wants to be…
As soon as Jungkook sees Yoongi spot it through the mirror, he hones in on his hyung’s expression.
Yoongi betrays nothing, as usual.
His features are just as steady set as they always are, and it only adds to the mounting anticipation that lodges itself right between Jungkook’s shoulder blades. Distantly, he’s aware of a slight tremble in his left hand. He stuffs it in his pocket, sets his jaw, and braces for impact.
“So, uh, yeah. I know you and Namjoon hyung sometimes wear this stuff to performances. And Hobi hyung too. I just – thought I’d try it out, see what it’s all about. I don’t really know how to do it, though. Not really. Not at all, actually, which is why I wanted to ask you…but…um…I’m just now realizing how weird this probably is, haha. It’s totally cool if you, like, aren’t down with this. I’ll just…yeah…”
“Are you done?”
“Yeah,” says Jungkook.
“Good.” Yoongi grabs the palette. “Hop up on the counter, Koo.”
Yoongi works quietly and meticulously, as he works on most things, Jungkook supposes. The movements of the applicator brush feel more measured, more precise than what Jungkook had done to himself – less harried staccato strokes, more firm presses of the pad against his lid. It feels…peaceful, almost, to close his eyes and let somebody else touch him, like this. He can feel Yoongi’s hot breath wash across the bridge of his nose, steady and even as he concentrates on the application. It smells tart. Jungkook makes a mental note to remind Yoongi to eat something after he’s finished.
Time kind of bends a little backwards; it feels simultaneously as though years have passed, but also as though it’s been a mere handful of seconds when Yoongi draws back (Jungkook tries not to shiver at the sudden loss of heat) and announces with a muted murmur that he’s done.
He doesn’t open his eyes right away, not even when he slides off of the counter and turns around to face where he knows the mirror awaits him. It’s. Well, it’s silly to be feeling nervous of all things to feel about putting on cheap dollar-store eye makeup, and yet.
Here Jungkook is, feeling like he’s about to die.
Yoongi doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t have to. He places a hand gently in between Jungkook’s shoulder blades and massages there in quietude, which says more than anything he could have said aloud. It’s a silent reminder, but a reminder nonetheless. Means: Take your time. Means: You don’t have to do this. Means: I’m right here with you.
Jungkook finds himself wishing that the other hyungs were here, too. Not to say that Yoongi’s support isn’t enough – God, no – but. He wants them to see him right now. He feels like this is a Big Deal. It only feels right to share it with the people closest to him, the ones who have been right next to him throughout the entire journey thus far.
Slowly, carefully, afraid that if he does it too quickly it’s going to hurt, Jungkook opens his eyes.
“I – oh,” he breathes out.
Yoongi hyung definitely knows what he’s doing.
His eyes are a soft, blushing pink, with a bit of a sparkly accent towards the center of the lid and the darkest shade in a ring closely following his lashes. Everything is very nuanced, very understated, and yet, it’s all Jungkook can see. It’s so – it looks so – he feels so –
“Pretty,” he whispers, “it’s so. Yoongi hyung, it’s so pretty.”
“Yeah, Koo?” Yoongi whispers back, like the two of them are exchanging secrets.
And then he’s crying.
He’s feeling too much and he doesn’t know what any of it means – it all just kind of aches in a way that doesn’t quite make him sad, but it still feels like he’s mourning the loss of something.
His whole skeleton shudders with the force of the sobs that wrack him, and if he were a bit more stable-minded, he might attribute this to the fact that he hasn’t cried in years, the fact that he hasn’t felt safe to cry in years, the fact that his shoulders hunch over in fear of his father barging into the bathroom and boys don’t cry and well done, son and you’ve got to be strong and what the hell do you mean you left the fraternity and don’t ever bother coming back home again and –
Jungkook is howling. They’re sure to get some kind of noise complaint, but that’s at the very periphery of his mind, which is currently preoccupied with remembering how to inhale. It gets a bit easier when Yoongi wraps himself around Jungkook, encompassing him whole, and begins to rock him side to side to the beat of his own heart; Jungkook knows this because his face is tucked snuggly into the soft plane of Yoongi’s chest.
“Sorry,” he manages to splutter in between blubbers, “God, fuck, I’m so sorry, hyung.”
Yoongi speaks unhurriedly, cautiously, like he’s handpicked his words specifically for this moment. “I don’t know what, exactly, has happened to you, Jungkook. But I do know that it’s over. You’re safe here with us.”
At some point, Namjoon and Hoseok join them. Jungkook thinks they must have been drawn in by the racket he’d made, and he wishes he had the mind to feel embarrassed about that. He will most definitely cringe later, for sure.
But for now?
He lets them envelope him in the group hug that’s apparently a thing. It doesn’t feel stifling even though he’s at the center of three mostly-developed adult men; instead, he feels…okay.
It’s cathartic to cry, Jungkook discovers. There’s still the lingering layers of guilt, of fear, of frustration and of ashamedness, but those will all peel back in due time. He’s got his whole life ahead of him to learn how to let his tears escape without feeling remorseful about it, and he’s grateful to have the kind of support system now that he’d needed when he was growing up. They’re a little late coming, but they’re there all the same.
The strength in the arms that encircle him are not the product of muscle – it’s the compassion so potent in how they wrap around him that makes Jungkook feel protected; the compassion that’s always been open to him, the compassion that has never ceased to be open to him even when he wasn’t receptive, or ready, or even responsive. He finds himself wondering what he’d done in a past life to get blessed with these hyungs of his, who go out and dominate the underground scene clad only in the armor of their eyeshadow, and come back home to press kisses to each other’s’ foreheads with the gentlest of brushings of lips against skin. There is strength in softness. There is valor in vulnerability.
He doesn’t know when the last tear falls, when the group of them slowly separate from their huddle. Namjoon and Hoseok are looking at him a little warily, like they’re afraid he might spontaneously burst into tears again, and – they’re right. He just might. And that’s okay, because he thinks he’s earned the right to do that after spending twenty-two years deprived of the privilege.
“Can you – “Jungkook interrupts himself by sniffling loudly, wiping at his nose as he rushes to get his words out before he loses the sudden bout of nerve that’s compelled him to speak, “Hyung, can you do my makeup, again? I think it’s all gone, now.”
“Sure. Whatever you want.”
“Can you – can you make it more neutral, though? I have work.”
“Yeah, of course.”
“But I really like the part that you did that looks kinda like eyeliner. Can you do that again?”
“I’ll try to, yes.”
“And also –“
“Jungkookie,” interjects Hoseok, not unkindly, “would you like to borrow my palette? It has ten different shades, all neutral.”
That would be – oh. “Oh,” he breathes. “Oh, can I?”
Everyone is smiling at him like it’s his birthday, or something. And, to be honest, it does kind of feel like it’s his birthday. Not in the adult way, where all that settles in his chest is a vaguely stoked hearth, weak in its conviction to truly warm him, soon to be extinguished by morning. No, Jungkook feels like it’s he’s turning seven; he’s giddy off of excitement, surrounded by his best best most bestest friends, and he’s invincible. He’s ready to turn a new chapter in his life. He’s ready to grow up into who he’s meant to be. He’s ready to be happy – and he’s ready to express that openly, too.
He’s never seen Hoseok smile so softly. “Sure, Koo. I’ll go get it right now.”
“Thank you,” Jungkook says, doesn’t whisper, doesn’t stutter, doesn’t stumble.
Me – 1:12 a.m.
Jimin hyung – 1:12 a.m.
oh wow, jungkook!
you look really, really good. 😳
Me – 1:12 a.m.
Jimin hyung – 1:13 a.m.
hm? what’s up?
Me – 1:13 a.m.
I have to tell you something
I kind of cheated
Jimin hyung – 1:13 a.m.
Me – 1:13 a.m.
My hyung put it on for me
I tried to do it myself first but it didnt work out so good
Also in that pic im wearing a different palette then the one u gave me sorry
My other hyung let me borrow it
Jimin hyung – 1:15 a.m.
i don’t think that counts as cheating
to be honest? i just wanted to see a pretty boy in makeup ;)
and i got that, soooo… all’s fair in love and war!
Me – 1:16 a.m.
Jimin hyung – 1:16 a.m.
i will if you want me to
is that what you want?
Me – 1:16 a.m.
Jimin hyung – 1:16 a.m.
are you in the neighborhood rn?
Me – 1:16 a.m.
Me – 1:17 a.m.
Can I stop by
Jimin hyung – 1:17 a.m.
do you wanna stop by?
Me – 1:18 a.m.
Jimin hyung – 1:19 a.m.
we’re already finishing each other’s sentences. cute
Me – 1:19 a.m.
Jimin hyung – 1:20 a.m.
is that any way to talk to hyung?
Me – 1:23 a.m.
I dont know
Is it Jimin ssi
Jimin hyung – 1:27 a.m.
Me – 1:27 a.m.
Jimin hyung – 1:29 a.m.
you should come around and keep me company…
it’s pretty much dead, more so than usual
Me – 1:30 a.m.
Didnt u say before that its a busy store
Jimin hyung – 1:30 a.m.
sorry jungkook! someone just walked in, i have to help them
see you soon!
Jungkook pockets his phone, then, albeit a little reluctantly.
If he’s being honest, he finds it odd how easily he’s falling into a comfortable rapport with Jimin. He’s spent so long with his social circle limited to three people that he’d eventually lost hope along the way for the prospect of new friends – the closest thing he had to an acquaintance outside of the hyungs was probably Seokjin hyung, but did his work manager really count as a friend? Jungkook tries not to feel kind of really pathetic when it’s put that way.
Making and keeping friends has never been his forte, after all. There’s something about opening yourself up to someone enough to get an intimate feel for each other that has always scared Jungkook away from any serious, long term relationships, platonic or otherwise. He supposes the only reason he’s been friends with the hyungs for this long is because he lives with them. They’ve seen the entirety of him over the years and, for better or for worse, accept him despite it. Jungkook can’t possibly imagine why.
Jimin, though, is not held to the same obligation.
They don’t live together. They aren’t situationally forced to at least get along. Hell, if they decided to, it would be frighteningly easy to cut themselves out of each other’s lives – after all, they’ve been speaking for about…a day.
Despite this, Jungkook finds himself inexplicably drawn to the other boy.
Talking to Jimin is akin to the sensation he gets from wandering; the loneliness settles down, the tremor in his fingers begins to quiet, and he feels…safe. Safe, away from well done, son, and fraternity life, and feeling like he’s going to die at the most trivial of turning points in his life, and all other ailments that he finds himself unaccountably saddled with. The freedom that comes with wandering is jarring in the strength of its comfort. It makes Jungkook feel as though he has the power to choose how he expresses his identity, regardless of the consequences, even if it lasts only until he’s forced by the threat of sunrise to get back on route and return to his stifling reality. This is why he wanders. This is why Jimin intrigues him so.
The walk to the convenience store takes even less time than it did the night before. If Jungkook happened to have picked up the pace just a tiny bit, then nobody needs to know.
This time, he doesn’t linger in the open doorway when he enters. He’s feeling a bit more confident, a bit more courageous, a bit more secure as he walks in, worker’s boots thumping heavily on the tiled floor. Jimin looks up from the Sudoku puzzle book in his hands at his arrival and smiles something sweet. “Well, hey there, stranger.”
He makes to respond – really, he does; he opens his mouth, inhales some, has a semblance of a plan for what he wants to say, the whole nine yards – but then he takes in Jimin’s appearance and time just kind of stops.
The other boy’s styled his cotton candy bangs in front of his face in a gentle swoop that curves below his eyebrows and tickles at his lashes, which Jungkook can tell are coated in a layer or two of mascara. Nothing too overbearing, nothing too heavy – but even if it were to be a bombshell look, Jungkook has no doubt Jimin would be able to pull it off. Actually, now that he’s looking properly, the entirety of Jimin’s makeup tonight is just a beat above natural; soft brown liner running close to his lash line, smatterings of a peachy blush across the bridge of his nose and up the sides of his face, and all of it accented rather cheekily by the bubblegum he’s blowing.
Jungkook looks at the confidence Jimin very clearly has, as he stands tall and proud in all his pink-haired, gloss-lipped, lash-curled glory, and thinks: you’re so pretty.
Says: “You’re so pretty.”
Means: I want to be pretty like that, too, someday.
His stomach folds in on itself when Jimin giggles his faelike giggle. “Why, thank you. You don’t look too bad yourself, stud. C’mere . ” He doesn’t even bother phrasing it as a question, like he knows just how powerless Jungkook is in the wake of his will.
Sure enough, Jungkook makes his way from the general entryway area and straight to the counter, only stopping when he’s close enough to bring his hands up and drum his fingers nervously against the linoleum. His nails make a funny clicking sound that clashes against the noise of whatever variety show Jimin has playing on the television situated in the corner of the leftmost wall; it sounds a bit like Running Man, but Jungkook isn’t positive.
This isn’t close enough for Jimin. The other boy leans forward, bracing one hand on the counter as he brings the other up to tug at the collar of Jungkook’s work shirt and use it as leverage to pull him closer. “Better,” he whispers, and Jungkook can smell the dizzying scent of artificial sweetener from the gum he’s chewing.
His first thought is that he wants a taste, which, whoa. He hasn’t had thoughts like these since he’d been a preteen too young to be anything but unabashed about his desires and the intensity with which he wants is a little jarring. He feels like he’s young and impulsive and hormonal again, feels like he hasn’t been trampled over yet by the weight of well done, son. It’s – intoxicating, refreshing, invigorating, and whatever other adjectives are out there to describe the specific sensation of being about ten centimeters away from the prettiest boy on the planet, having him blink up at you because of course he’s shorter, of course he has to look at you through his lashes like he’s trying to give you a heart attack at twenty-two.
“Hi,” breathes Jungkook.
“Hi,” Jimin replies.
Jungkook hadn’t even known this part of his heart still worked. But here it is, palpitating in earnest as he struggles not to start panting in Jimin’s face. Suddenly, he can’t stand the reality of the situation: that he’s going to eventually have to leave the convenience store, at some point, and leave this behind. Leave Jimin behind.
Jungkook doesn’t want that.
He’s spent so long living as a corpse with only the hardness of his skin and the hollowness of his chest as the armor with which he would protect himself. It’s been an entirely too long twenty-two years of nothingness. Now that he’s dipped his toes in the waters of compassion, of affection, of emotion – he knows he’s not ready to leave it alone. Not now, not when this is the first time he’s felt alive since he’d been an untainted toddler.
The fear hits him all at once, like a freight train without any brakes: he doesn’t want Jimin’s place in his life to be confined to this convenience store.
Jungkook doesn’t want to see him only when he’s bone-achingly tired after a lengthy shift; Jungkook wants to see him curled up underneath his comforter with early morning sunlight trickling through the slats in the blinds and hitting his peaceful, sleeping face; Jungkook wants to see him lit up with joy as they picnic by the Han river, eating well and enjoying each other’s company; Jungkook wants to see him in his natural element, wants to know what it looks like when he’s at peace with himself and his surroundings, wants to feel that same serenity shared between the two of them, wants to feel it so intimately, so closely, so personally, that they have trouble remembering where one ends and the other begins.
“Do you – want to go wandering with me?” Jungkook asks.
Jimin doesn’t miss a beat. “Sure. Lemme lock up.”
And just like that, he’s fallen.
Jeon Jungkook is nineteen years old when he dies for the second time.
It’s a slow, gradual process, one that he’s not really aware of until he’s already six feet under. He doesn’t know how he’d managed to let himself decompose for so long, doesn’t know how he’d been able to stomach the stench of himself, the sight of himself, especially the rigor mortis – he’d been so stiff. So cold.
Joining a frat hadn’t even been his idea. His father was the one that pushed for it, really, citing the fact that he’s always been a shy kid as evidence that he needed something to break him out of his shell.
I’m not shy, Jungkook had wanted to shout at the top of his lungs, with all of the meager might he’d amassed in his eighteen lackluster years. And it was true – he wasn’t shy. If he wasn’t loud spoken, if he didn’t demand things arbitrarily, if he didn’t sit with his legs taking up a seat and a half on the subway, if he didn’t let his anger turn into action…did that make him shy?
Despite all that had been pounded into his young, impressionable mind thus far, Jungkook wasn’t inclined to believe so.
What really made his skin crawl about the entire experience was that it was too similar to home.
Jungkook had been under the assumption that going away to university meant escaping the life he’d been raised up in. When he turned fifteen, he started tallying down the days until he left for good. His mother had joined him.
His whole childhood had been spent waiting to be an adult, so that he was free to conduct himself however he pleased without his father’s warning tone just several paces away. And that…kind of made him sound like some sort of delinquent, but he wasn’t, really. What he meant by “free to conduct himself” came in the freedom to cry when he felt sad; to bask in his mother’s affection without any outside reprimanding; to wear the clothes that he liked to wear and pursue the career that he wanted to pursue and love the boys that he wanted to love.
But from the minute he’d stepped into the fraternity house – from the moment he shook the president’s hand, the very split second that they’d made and held eye contact…
All Jungkook could see was his father’s hard stare looking back at him.
“Welcome to Iota Phi Theta, Jungkook-ssi.” Well done, son, rung heavy in his ears.
And if it was only being forced to join the fraternity, Jungkook still probably would have ended up dropping out, but it wouldn’t have been as traumatic an experience as it ended up being. If he’d gotten to choose his line of study, he thinks he could have held out for a bit longer. Maybe he would have made it to sophomore year if he’d been enrolled in the vocal performance program like he’d originally wanted. Jungkook thinks he would have been able to hold out if it was in the name of something he loved.
Instead, he majored in business and finance, along with two thirds of the rest of his fraternity.
Like it seemed to be with most activities Jungkook participated in, he would have excelled had he applied himself. The content matter was easy enough to understand, the coursework consisted of probably the least demanding academic assignments he’d ever encountered, and yet, he found himself unable to muster up the meager amount of conviction it took to make it to class; or to study groups; or to the library. In fact, the only place on campus he spent real time at was in the music building.
In the beginning of the year, he’d gotten strange looks from the actual music students who were supposed to be there. He guesses that he’d been seen at enough events with his fraternity for it to be common knowledge that he belonged to Iota Phi Theta – and, by association, he must be a douche like the rest of them. As unbothered by that assumption as he liked to appear, it unnerved him, deep down. He wasn’t like them. He wasn’t anything like them, and he never would be, whether he tried to or not. It wasn’t in his heart to say some of the things they did, to treat others – especially women – how they did; he never understood how they could act like that and not feel wrong. It felt wrong to be in their general vicinity, let alone while they were rowdy.
The music building was his only refuge from the college life he’d come to closely associate with home. He would schedule out studio rooms for hours at a time and teach himself how to use the music production software. It was slow going at first; after all, he’d never touched a MIDI pad a day in his life.
Eventually, though, he managed to find some guidance.
“Look, kid,” Yoongi had sighed heavily at him, cornering him as he’d been on his way out after his two hours in the room had been spent fiddling with the keyboard and trying to coax it into producing sounds that weren’t painfully off-key. “I’m gonna be honest with you. It hurts me, physically, to hear you fuck around in there for hours at a time. I’m not gonna waste your time by assuming you’re a music student, because I already know you’re not – there are some amateurs in the department, sure, but they’ve got at least half a clue about what they’re doing. You, though… you don’t.”
Yoongi gave him an appraising glare. “But you could,” he’d said almost reverently, in a tone that made Jungkook stumble a half a step back by the sheer intensity behind it. “You’ve got potential,” he continued, “more than I did when I was just starting out, and I wish I’d had someone to show me the ropes. Can’t imagine where I’d be now. Anyways, what I’m saying is – let me help you. I can teach you.”
“J-just suddenly like this?” Jungkook was young, but he wasn’t stupid. Everyone wanted something.
“Well…I’ll teach you how to use the shit – all of it, I promise – and, in exchange, I get to sample your voice for my assignments. Fair?”
Even back then, Yoongi never scared him. Jungkook only came to learn of the reputation that preceded him later down the line; but by that point, they’d already been bound by blood, practically. His hyung’s colored hair and multiple piercings and vaguely visible tattoos never put him off – if anything, they provided the contrast necessary to fully absorb and appreciate Yoongi’s personality.
Looking straight into those dark, chatoyant eyes, Jungkook somehow knew that trusting this strangely enigmatic upperclassman was the first step in reclaiming the life that had been stolen right from out of his grasp and stuffed into the coffin of the fraternity. Should he accept Yoongi’s terms, he’d be making the first real strides towards his own personal happiness.
At the time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. In a way, it was. What could go wrong, he’d thought.
“Fair,” Jungkook said, about a decibel and a half above a whisper, hesitantly taking Yoongi’s hand when it was outstretched to him. It felt kind of like a childhood pact, the kinds he’d seen in coming-of-age films; only, he’d missed that part of his life. He was no longer a child with all of the foolhardy youth it took to spit in his palm and shake a hand and create memories to last him the rest of his life. No, that was stolen from him.
Even still, he gripped Yoongi’s hand with all of his might and made a promise to himself: he will live like he’s alive.
From there, everything kind of spiraled.
They meet as often as they can outside of classes, which added up to about every day, give or take. It was an exhilarating experience. Yoongi is a professional, carrying knowledge with him like it’s stuffed in his pockets and carved behind his ears and jammed underneath his fingernails. He just… knows. Jungkook is grateful that he’s such a fast learner, because he’s sure that he wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the pace that Yoongi set for them. From the moment they’d met in the studio for the first time, he knew that this was the real deal. He was getting taught by the best of the best, and he was going to absorb every second of every minute of it all, even if it came at a price.
What was even more exciting than learning about the actual equipment were the reinforcements that Yoongi brought in when he felt as though his longwinded explanations might do more harm than good for Jungkook’s beginner’s brain.
Namjoon was everything Jungkook had come to stop expecting from the men closest to him in his life; gentle yet firm in his reprimanding, honest yet constructive in his criticism, subtle yet earnest in his expression of his affection, and with an affinity for cute Kakao mascots. What Yoongi couldn’t explain without getting frustrated at Jungkook’s lack of comprehension, Namjoon broke down and simplified for an easier understanding. The two of them worked together like that, as well. A sort of Ying-Yang effect between their dispositions that Jungkook had only read about in Y/A novels as a child. It was beautiful to watch – and also, kind of intimidating.
Despite the pre-existing ties between the two, they were mindful never to make Jungkook feel out of place in their space. They were open to answering all questions and entertaining any dialogues Jungkook may have for them.
All except for one.
It’s kind of funny to look back and remember how they’d danced around the subject.
“Where do you go at nights, hyung?” Jungkook had asked one day, as sensitive as ever to the bags that plagued their under eyes, the muted limp in their gait, the hoarseness of their voice should they have met in the morning.
“We can’t tell you.”
They’d both spoken at the same time, and then immediately made heated eye contact with each other.
“What Namjoonie meant to say is that we can’t tell you because there’s nothing to say. We don’t go anywhere at nights. After nine p.m., our human vessels evaporate and don’t re-form again until sunrise.”
“Oh, hyung, stop it,” Namjoon rolled his eyes, “he’s going to think we’re hiding something from him. Like it’s a secret he’s not in on.”
“Well. We are. It is.”
“Valid, but you don’t have to say it.”
Jungkook felt more than just a little uncomfortable being confronted suddenly with the knowledge that there were things Namjoon and Yoongi shared that they weren’t willing to involve Jungkook in. And he wasn’t delusional – he knew that they are entitled to their own intimate details, considering how long they’ve known each other for – but it didn’t hurt any less. Didn’t bring back the air that seems to have been squeezed out of his lungs, didn’t stop tickling at the backs of his eyes. “You guys, um. You guys don’t have to tell me anything,” Jungkook had murmured quietly, “I just wanted to know if hyungs were doing okay…”
Neither of them really knew what to do with that. Namjoon was the first to speak, albeit a little reluctantly. “Er – thanks for worrying about us, Jungkook, but you don’t have to. We’re alright. It’s nothing for you to be concerned about, I promise.”
There must have been something on his face. To this day, Jungkook doesn’t really know what expression he’d pulled to have made Yoongi break so fast.
“Rap,” the eldest burst out, “we rap in the underground. No, you can’t come, because they’re dangerous bars and you’re still just a kid and you – you can’t. But that’s what we do. Just, God, stop looking at me like that…”
Once the other shoe dropped, it was as if Jungkook was a permanent fixture in their lives – and had always been one.
For starters, they moved the lessons from the campus provided studios which were up for grabs on a first-come first-serve basis, and into the comfort of their two-bedroom apartment in the city that they shared with another guy their age. At first, Jungkook had been wary of this unfamiliar character; just because he lived with Namjoon and Yoongi didn’t mean that he was as kind as them, or as compassionate, or as good. It’s not that Jungkook doubted the company that they kept, he was just. Scared. He was scared. And anxious and more than a little awkward and afraid of men he didn’t know who didn’t feel any obligation to be good people.
The moment he’d been greeted at the door with an affectionate hug and warm smile, Jungkook knew he’d been worried for nothing.
Hoseok was four-fourths sunlight, radiating a positive, cleansing energy so powerful that even Yoongi on his most sleep-deprived mornings couldn’t manage to subdue a grin at one of Hoseok’s witty jokes. He was a charming dance performance major who took to dragging Jungkook to the studio on days neither of them had prior engagements and teaching the younger some of the choreography that he’d been working on for the workshop class that he lead.
If Jungkook was being honest? It was hard not to fall for him at first. For all of the hyungs, really; he’s sure that, at some point in time, he’d had a crush on each of them. What else was he supposed to do? These endlessly kind men who took to practically adopting him as one of their own, who never shouted needlessly, who never scolded him for being emotive, who took their time with him despite their being accustomed to a fast-paced life.
He trusted them. More than he’d trusted anyone before in all of his nineteen years. Which is why when he’d made the split-second decision to drop out and leave the fraternity and all remnants of his father and well done, son behind him, the first place he’d gone with his meager duffel bag’s worth of belongings was straight to their front door. He knew he’d be welcomed with open arms. He tried not to feel guilty for it.
After all, theirs was the only true home he’d ever known. It would do him well to accept that fact sooner rather than later.
Jungkook has mastered the art of sneaking into the apartment soundlessly. He’s memorized which floorboards whine underneath pressure, has mentally mapped out the layout of the entryway area to avoid having to turn on the lights to see and risk awakening the hyungs; he’s even invested in thicker socks to absorb the sound of his footfall. It wouldn’t be too far a reach to call him a professional in the art of stealth.
The hyungs aren’t stupid, though.
As he’s just finished slipping through the front door, a pointed cough comes from the kitchen. Too high pitched to be Namjoon’s gentle reminder and too long in duration to be Yoongi’s brief yet stern warning. Hoseok’s caught him. This is possibly the worst-case-scenario.
it’s not like he’s afraid of Hoseok hyung. The older boy is just – a little intimidating when he’s not pleased. Judging from the hard set to his features Jungkook is greeted with as he pads into the kitchen, Hoseok is decidedly less than pleased. This should be a fun conversation.
“I texted you four times,” it what he begins with, which is a pretty solid argument. Jungkook hadn’t even known that he’d been getting any messages at all, too wrapped up in the company he was in to pay any attention to the device in his pocket. “Namjoon texted you eleven times,” he continues, ignoring Jungkook’s violent wince, “and Yoongi called.”
“I…” Jungkook doesn’t know why he’s opened his mouth. It’s not like he has any semblance of an excuse that would be enough to rectify the situation.
Hoseok’s mouth twists down in an odd interpretation of the ‘ㅅ’ character, a tick that only befalls when he’s genuinely disturbed. The amounting guilt that Jungkook feels comes to a peak when he realizes that Hoseok isn’t giving him a Namjoon Speech, where he’ll be scolded for all of five minutes before being let mercifully off the hook – not even a Yoongi Speech, where he won’t even get scolded, just clapped on the shoulder with a suggestion to “do better next time, Jungkookie.”
He’s getting a Hoseok Speech: firm, unrelenting, and straight-to-the-point targeted sharp-speaking that only softens when he’s agreed to admit his faults and adjust his behavior accordingly. Jungkook can count on his left hand the amount of times Hoseok has had to talk to him sternly. He remembers each instance like it’s been permanently engraved into his amygdala, and in a way, they were. He’d left each conversation feeling lower than low – not at how Hoseok had treated him, because he knows that he’d deserved the reprimanding, knows that his hyung wouldn’t arbitrarily scold him for a wrongdoing that wasn’t worthy of correction. It’s the feeling that he’s let his hyung down, that he hadn’t behaved well enough, hadn’t been satisfactory enough, had disappointed him…it’s this component that makes Hoseok Speeches the worst, by far, to be on the receiving end of.
“Do we need to start picking you up from your shifts, Jungkook?”
“No,” Jungkook immediately interjects, because the hyungs are busy adults with their own schedules and lives that would be tremendously inconvenienced should they be forced to walk him home in the middle of the night. “No, no, hyung, no. Of course not.”
“Then why? Why do you insist on wandering off by yourself at nights? It’s dangerous, Jungkookie, we’ve told you this, you know this. You were doing so well, too. You’ve been coming straight home for a couple of weeks, now. Why was tonight different? What changed?” Hoseok’s features have softened from rigid to concerned, eyebrows drawn up together and eyes shining a bit too brightly for it to just be the moonlight refracting off of them. “We just want you to be safe, but it isn’t entirely up to us. What happened tonight, Koo?”
There isn’t a real reason to withhold the truth. He knows – and has known for quite some time – that he could trust the hyungs with his life. And the issue lies not with Jimin being a man; Yoongi’s not straight, neither is Hoseok, and Jungkook thinks that Namjoon gave up on caring about gender somewhere along the way.
The issue is the role Jimin plays in his life.
Jungkook hasn’t entertained someone in a romantic light since he’d been a teenager too reckless to understand what bringing another boy into his father’s house would mean for him if he were to be caught. And caught, he was.
He hasn’t felt a spark for anyone in nearly a decade. Admitting it to himself has been difficult, is still difficult, let alone speaking about it out-loud to people who have never known him as someone that experienced romantic attraction. It’ll shock them. They’ll be caught off guard. But the last thing Jungkook thinks they would do is judge him, and that’s what he’s banking on.
“There’s. There’s this boy,” he begins, forcing himself to make eye contact.
Hoseok’s entire face freezes. And then it relaxes. And then it melts, warm and gooey like how Jungkook knows his hyung to be at his core. “Oh,” Hoseok breathes, “Oh. You’re – oh, alright. I see. Our Jungkookie is growing up.”
He feels his entire face flush with hot shame. “Ah, that’s – stop it,” Jungkook whines as his socked feet fidget below on the hardwood floor. Literally anywhere else is more interesting too look at than Hoseok’s face, which he just knows it drawn up into something entirely too bright to look at without sunglasses.
“No, no, it’s okay, it’s alright, Koo. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t tease you…” His voice trails off uncertainly. Everything about the conversation has done a complete one-eighty and Jungkook can’t help but to feel a little dizzy at the speed at which Hoseok had softened. “Can I ask his name?”
“Jimin,” whispers Jungkook, “Park Jimin.” The simple act of saying Jimin’s name is enough to lift the corners of his lips, to crinkle the edges of his eyes, to flush the apples of his cheeks. He hopes he doesn’t ever stop feeling this way where Jimin’s involved.
Hoseok is about to ask more, Jungkook can tell. His hyung is the type of person to be excited on behalf of his loved ones; Jungkook’s seen it in his overenthusiasm when congratulating Namjoon and Yoongi on their victories in battles, and he sees it here, now, in how Hoseok looks elated at five in the morning when he hasn’t slept a wink, all at the prospect of Jungkook’s…friend that happens to be a boy.
At one point in his life, he would have felt stifled by Hoseok’s investment in other’s happiness. Now, though? It spreads something warm in his tummy, leaves him feeling full and content and a little bit hot in the face. “You should go to bed, hyung,” he says quietly, “you have an early class tomorrow.”
“When did you get so mature, eh, Jungkookie? Looking after the hyungs... I remember when you were a baby-faced freshman, you know. Don’t think I’ve forgotten.” He’s rambling as he pads out of the kitchen and into the hallway connecting their bedrooms to the rest of the apartment. Jungkook follows closely behind him, obediently playing the role of a good dongsaeng and humming in agreement when appropriate. His hyung is running on empty engines. Most of what he’s saying is the product of a mind run ragged due to lack of sleep, and a pang of guilt strikes Jungkook square in the side when he remembers that he’s the reason Hoseok hyung hasn’t gone to bed yet. If only he’d checked his phone, if only he hadn’t been so impulsive in asking Jimin to wander, if only, if only, if only.
By the time they reach Hoseok and Namjoon’s shared bedroom door, Hoseok looks dead on his feet. “Good night, hyung,” Jungkook says softly, like anything louder would shake the walls and wake up half the building.
He’s relieved to not find any crease between Hoseok’s brows, no hardness in his eyes and no downward twist to his mouth. It’s not like he’d expected Hoseok to hold a grudge against him – because his hyung isn’t that type of person, really – but. Well. It’s just nice to know that Hoseok isn’t going to bed upset. “G’night, little one.”
Jungkook is already in the process of turning on his heel to retreat back to the comfort of his own bedroom before he’s stopped by a hand on his wrist. “Hm? Hyung?”
“Thanks for telling me,” smiles Hoseok. “About your Jimin. I’d like it if I could meet him one of these days, if that’s alright.”
“I’d like that, too.”
“Alright, we both need to go get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow, Koo.”
The bedroom door creaks shut behind him with an eerie little drawl that used to freak him out, when he’d first moved in. Now, it’s a mark of familiarity. He thinks the apartment wouldn’t feel like home if the doors didn’t creak and the floorboards didn’t complain underneath your footfall and there wasn’t a leak in the kitchen ceiling.
Yoongi’s fast asleep on the miniature sofa next to the door. The room originally had space for two twin beds, but his makeshift studio set up had taken up more room than anticipated; so, he slept on a couch his parents had gifted him when he’d first moved out of the dorms and off campus with Namjoon. Jungkook remembers feeling like a burden, out of place and more than a little guilty when he’d moved in and forced Yoongi to the couch when the elder could have enough room to sleep comfortably in a single bed had Jungkook not been his roommate.
What Jungkook has come to realize, lately, is that trains of thought such as these aren’t really productive. There’s no use dwelling on timelines where he’d never existed in the lives of his loved ones. Would a lack of his presence prove less inconveniences for them? Maybe. He’s still here, though, and he plans to be for as long as he’s able.
It’s quick work to strip down to his briefs and climb onto his mattress, still as flat and hard as ever where it sits on the floor. He thinks it’s about time to get a bedframe for this thing. They’ve got enough space for it.
The last thing he finds himself pondering before he drifts off into slumber is that he’s glad he told Hoseok about Jimin. He hopes to tell Namjoon and Yoongi as well. It feels good – really, really, really fucking good to talk about what’s going on in his life with them. He hadn’t expected to feel the rush of positive sensation flood through him when he’d revealed why he’d been late and Hoseok had just…lit up. Like he was genuinely happy for Jungkook. Like he cared about what went on in Jungkook’s life. Like he was invested in his state of being.
That night, Jungkook dreams of the beaches of Busan.
Me – 11:17 a.m.
I had a lot of fun last night
Jiminie hyung – 11:30 a.m.
i had fun too, thanks for taking me out. 😘
Me – 11:35 a.m.
How do u do that
Jiminie hyung – 11:36 a.m.
Me – 11:36 a.m.
Take selcas like that
Jiminie hyung – 11:36 a.m.
i’d argue that point, but it’s been a while since i’ve seen a selca of yours.
care to refresh my memory?
Me – 11:37 a.m.
Jiminie hyung – 11:38 a.m.
pretty boy. 💗💗💗
still in your pajamas this late in the morning?
Me – 11:40 a.m.
I dont go to work til later
Jiminie hyung – 11:45 a.m.
i’ve been meaning to ask, actually.
where do you work at?
Me – 11:45 a.m.
The jpn steakhouse a couple blocks away frm your shop
Jiminie hyung – 11:45 a.m.
YOU WORK AT NOBU?!
i’m friends with the manager there!
Me – 11:46 a.m.
You know seokjin hyung
Jiminie hyung – 11:47 a.m.
he practically raised me.
he never mentioned the wait staff was so cute.
i might have to stop by for dinner, one of these nights…
Me – 11:50 a.m.
Im not wait staff
Jiminie hyung – 11:50 a.m.
what do you mean?
Jiminie hyung – 12:15 a.m.
Me – 12:30 p.m.
How about we just stick to meeting at your store
Jiminie hyung – 12:35 p.m.
i won’t push, but also…don’t feel like you need to hide things from me, jungkookie. hyung will always understand.
Me – 12:40 p.m.
Im omw to work rn
Meet you after?
Jiminie hyung – 12:40 p.m.
i’ll be waiting.
tell jin hyung jimin says hello!
Me – 12:43 p.m.
Me – 2:44 a.m.
Hey i will be late tonight
Dont wait up ok
Joon hyung – 2:44 a.m.
Hey. What do you mean you’re going to be late?
Where are you going?
Yoongi hyungie – 2:45 a.m.
dont make us get up and come find you
Hobi hyung – 2:50 a.m.
i will keep an eye on him ^^;; you two just go to bed…
jungkookie will be fine. he’s an adult now!! no need for us to be breathing down his neck
Joon hyung – 2:50 a.m.
Yoongi hyungie – 2:50 a.m.
Hobi hyung – 2:51 a.m.
wow you guys are…really showing your age -__-“
you aren’t his literal parents u know that rite?
jungkook can take care of himself nd if anything we’ve got that app so we can see where he is all the time!!!! in case of an emergency we go get him!!! ^__^
he’ll be fine without us for a couple of hours bros
Joon hyung – 2:51 a.m.
Yoongi hyungie – 2:51 a.m.
Hobi hyung – 2:52 a.m.
siiiighhh ~ ;____;
koo just text when ur on ur way home okay?
Me – 2:55 a.m.
Hobi hyung – 2:55 a.m.
don’t have too much fun ~
Jiminie hyung – 8:26 a.m.
i still can’t believe you convinced MY scaredy cat ass to follow you into that abandoned mall last night. 😅
how did you even know where it was?
Me – 10:03 a.m.
Ive been all over the city
Theres lots of cool stuff people dont really know about
Jiminie hyung – 11:22 a.m.
hey sorry!! i was in class.
Me – 11:22 a.m.
You go to school
Jiminie hyung – 11:23 a.m.
Me – 11:23 a.m.
Jiminie hyung – 11:24 a.m.
Me – 11:24 a.m.
Doesnt it get tiring..
Jiminie hyung – 11:24 a.m.
well yeah, but i’ve been dancing since i figured out how to stand on my own two feet. i like to think i’ve built up some stamina between now and then, lol
Me – 11:25 a.m.
Not what I meant
You work late nights
And you texted this mroning at like 8 am
And we are out til the sun comes up sometimes
Be honest Jimin is it hard on you
Jiminie hyung – 11:27 a.m.
hey i started working graveyard shifts in high school… sure i get tired sometimes, but a little wear and tear never hurt anybody. no pain no gain right?
i promise it’s nothing i can’t handle, tho you’re very sweet for thinking of me. i appreciate that. i hope you know i think of you, too.
tbh? i like spending time with you, kook. it’s worth the extra cup of coffee in the morning.
Me – 11:30 a.m.
Jiminie hyung – 11:30 a.m.
also. don’t think i didn’t notice.
honestly i’d prefer the ssi
you either speak respectfully or not at all.
Me – 11:31 a.m.
Sorry Jimin ssi
Jiminie hyung – 11:31 a.m.
Me – 11:43 a.m.
Can I ask you a question
Jiminie hyung – 11:50 a.m.
Me – 11:51 a.m.
You dont have to answer
Ik theres stuff I would not want to answer
Jiminie hyung – 11:52 a.m.
just ask, i’m an open book!
Me – 11:55 a.m.
Why were you working so late in high school
Idk i get why u would now because uni costs and stuff
But in HS is a bit…
Jiminie hyung – 11:55 a.m.
well. i was living with a roommate at the time and the mice under my bed weren’t about to make up my half of the rent.
couldn’t work during the day because school obvs
so i took up night shifts.
Me – 11:58 a.m.
Jiminie hyung – 11:59 a.m.
it wasn’t what you’re thinking. i left home on my own. there’s no need to feel bad
Me – 12:00 p.m.
You deserve to have a family…
Jiminie hyung – 12:01 p.m.
so do you, kookie.
Me – 12:04 p.m.
Jiminie hyung – 12:05 p.m.
you didn’t have to tell me
i know a lost boy when i see one.
anyways, enough of this. you’ve got work soon right? you should start getting ready.
Me – 12:05 p.m.
Jiminie hyung – 12:06 p.m.
alright then. i’ll see you tonight?
Me – 12:07 p.m.
Later Jiminie ~
Jiminie hyung – 12:08 p.m.
Hobi hyung – 8:11 p.m.
Me – 8:11 p.m.
Ur literally sitting right next to me
Hobi hyung – 8:11 p.m.
first of all do u rly think namjoon OR yoongi wld take kindly to me interrupting movie night AGAIN?!!?! x___x they hav been waiting literal weeks for u to take a night off so we can have sum <<direct quote>> “Family Bonding Time” e.e
tbt to like 15min ago when i sneezed and namjoon threatened to break my shins :^/
Me – 8:11 p.m.
They look pretty into it
Hobi hyung – 8:12 p.m.
yes hence why im txting u!!
but also like…..u wld prolly want me to text this to u anyways even if we werent watching movies
Me – 8:12 p.m.
Hobi hyung – 8:12 p.m.
now u know i love u kookoo and i would NEVER push or pressure u to do anything u r uncomfy with/dnt want to do
but if ur planning on being late every nite like this…
u might want to consider telling dads abt jimin
Me – 8:13 p.m.
Hobi hyung – 8:13 p.m.
even if all it’s for is to explain why you’ve been wandering out late again
don’t u think they deserve to know whats going on in your life?
Me – 8:14 p.m.
Hobi hyung – 8:14 p.m.
come on jungkook don’t do this
uve been doing so well
Me – 8:14 p.m.
Hobi hyung – 8:15 p.m.
there was a time when you wouldn’t even tell us when you were physically injured
like LEGIT injured!!!!!!
and two weeks ago was the first time ive ever seen you cry. ive known you for three years
idk what happened to make you so afraid of opening up 2 people but u rly have been working hard at connecting w us lately and we appreciate that
srsly after u went to work the day u cried yoongi literally broke down nd didn’t have dry eyes til he fell asleep
ugh what im trying to say is that its ok to share intimate details abt urself and ur life with ur loved ones. its very normal. theres literally nothing u could do that would make us hate u…
that isn’t the problem right
u don’t think theyre gonna hate u for jimin
Me – 8:18 p.m.
Hobi hyung – 8:18 p.m.
jungkook why would you think that?
baby….who’s hurt you?
shit wait i didn’t mean to make u upset;;
Hobi hyung – 8:24 p.m.
dads paused the movie
i know ur hiding in the bathroom
i made them promise not to ask u about it if u come back
Me – 8:25 p.m.
Hobi hyung – 8:25
im just as much of their friend as i am yours.
i don’t like keeping things from my friends…
its ur thing to tell but i cant keep covering for u like this
Me – 8:27 p.m.
Hobi hyung – 8:27 p.m.
of what koo?
Me – 8:27 p.m.
My parents already left once
I dont want them to leave again
Hobi hyung – 8:27 p.m.
im coming in there right now
Me – 8:27 p.m.
Jiminie hyungie – 9:32 p.m.
hey, i know you’re working rn…
…but i thought you might be interested.
we just got a shipment of the new etude house lip tints.
do you like any of these?
Me – 10:02 p.m.
Im on break now
I like all of them
Is that ok
Jiminie hyungie – 10:02 p.m.
of course that’s okay kook.
i swatched them for you, after all!
swing by after your shift i wanna see you in theseeee
you know. strictly for scientific research purposes.
Me – 10:03 p.m.
Ok dr park
Jiminie hyungie – 10:04 p.m.
oh god lol please don’t that’s my mother
Me – 10:04 p.m.
See you later jimin ssi
Jiminie hyungie – 10:04 p.m.
Jungkook is effectively distracted for the rest of his shift, which is uncharacteristic enough for Seokjin to pull him aside a few hours before closing. He’s lead by the crook of his elbow in his manager’s gentle hold and pulled through the main dining area and past the bar, beyond the hostess’s podium and out through one of the side entrances only employees are authorized to use. Outside, the mid-December chill racks through his body, but no more so than usual. He’s spent years walking through all kinds of weather to get to where he needs to go – the slight numbing sensation that prickles at the very ends of his fingers barely even phase him, anymore.
Seokjin looks at him not unkindly, which is vaguely unsettling for a reason Jungkook can’t quite articulate. He isn’t angry – and Jungkook can’t imagine why he would be, doesn’t know why his first instinct was skin-prickling fear when Seokjin had pulled him aside and asked him to come outside for a word – but he doesn’t look…happy. Jungkook can’t imagine that they’re out here discussing a potential promotion.
Even in the alleyway between facilities, Jungkook can still smell the enticing aroma of their kitchen. It makes his stomach growl, reminds him that he hadn’t had lunch that day, or breakfast, and he hadn’t really eaten much the day before, either. Huh. Maybe if he sweetens up to one of the sous chefs on his way out, he’ll manage to score something to take home.
“Jungkook-ah,” Seokjin sighs as he leans against the cold, brick exterior of the restaurant, “tell me what’s going on. You’ve been all over the place, tonight. Is everything alright? You can talk to hyung.” His eyes shift around the alley, like he’s afraid someone is going to overhear their conversation, and leans forward to whisper urgently, his words slipping past his lips and up into the wintry air in puffs of vapor. “Is it because you aren’t eating enough? Are you tired? You look thin these days, Jungkook, thinner than I’ve ever seen you. Do you need to take a break?”
Has he been losing weight?
Seokjin continues on, “God, I knew I shouldn’t have let you pick up all these extra shifts…is this about money? Are you struggling? You’re a good kid, Kook, I’m willing to help you out as much as I can. You just have to let me know what you need.”
The sounds of the patrons dining inside seem to echo out into the alley, providing an unfitting selection of background music for the conversation. It feels wrong. Like someone has cut him out of an entirely different reality and pasted him haphazardly into this moment without any regard for how he might clash with his surroundings.
He thinks of Hoseok asking him who he’s been hurt by. He thinks of Yoongi wondering what’s happened to him. He thinks of Jimin telling him he deserves a family. And now, Seokjin, pulling him into the freezing cold in the middle of both of their shifts and asking him if he’s struggling.
He doesn’t understand how easily it comes to them – how effortlessly they’re able to communicate their compassion. How uncrippled they are by whatever it is that seems to have wrapped Jungkook in its stifling embrace and refuses to disengage. He can’t help but to find it just a little bit unfair.
Why, after indulging in seemingly everything that he’d been denied as a child, is he still damaged goods?
Why is he still damaged goods?
Jungkook must stay silent for too long than Seokjin is willing to wait for an answer. “Can I see your phone?” The elder asks tentatively. Wordlessly, Jungkook slips it out of his back pocket and hands it over. He feels a strange onset of déjà vu run from the back of his throat all the way down until it pools at the pit of his gut, like cold water.
Seokjin fiddles with it for a couple of moments before handing it back. Their fingers brush as Jungkook retrieves it from his grasp, and he’s startled by the warmth that grazes him.
“My number’s in there. Please use it if you need it.”
“You’re going to go home, now. Your last day off was over a week ago.”
He nods once more, suddenly finding himself too fatigued to really argue this point. The lack of meals is starting to catch up to him; his head feels like it’s enshrouded in a thick layer of cotton. He barely has enough in him to catch Seokjin’s hand in his own as the elder turns to the door to head back inside. He looks back at him – a question written all over his features. “Yeah?”
“It’s not money,” says Jungkook, “’nd I just forget to eat, sometimes, I guess.”
“That’s…Jungkook, you should work on that. It’s not healthy. You’ll run yourself into the ground.”
“I know, sorry.” And he means to say more, he really does. He always means for more than just an apology to slip past his lips, always has more to say than what he actually ends up having the courage to squeeze out of himself.
The right words never seem to come to him naturally enough. He’s a smart kid, talented at almost anything he puts his mind to, and yet he’d never learned the lesson that’s proving to be the most integral to living his everyday life:
How to say what he means.
His vision is kind of blacking in and out, chest constricting tighter and tighter around his lungs with every shallow breath that he manages to draw in and, wow, those missed meals are actually catching up to him, now. Seokjin’s hand slips from his weak grasp as he tips over to his right and crashes shoulder-first into the brick wall beside him, barely feeling the pain that comes with the impact.
Seokjin manages to catch him before he makes it to the grimy concrete below. He feels bad, really, knows that he’s nothing more than dead weight in the elder’s struggling grasp, but he can’t find the strength to re-animate himself. It’s all he can do to move his legs in the same rhythm as Seokjin’s, cooperating just enough to allow them to move down and out of the alley. Jungkook doesn’t register that they’ve been walking somewhere until they’ve made it inside the parking garage directly across from the restaurant, and approaching what Jungkook assumes to be Seokjin’s car.
Hurriedly, the elder opens the passenger door and ushers him inside, strapping him in when he’s situated properly. “Alright, in you go. I’m taking you home, just give me an address.”
His mind is moving at a snail’s pace. It takes a couple of seconds to process the fact that he’s been asked a question, and then another couple to figure out what he wants to respond with. “Y’know the convenience store on Dabok-gil?” He slurs, watching through a haze as Seokjin slips in to the driver’s seat beside him.
“What? Jungkook, I don’t think you heard me, you need to go home– “
“’S’okay, Jiminie’s there,” Jungkook interrupts, fiddling with the coarse fabric of the seatbelt stretched across the expanse of his chest. “He’ll take care of me.”
“He better,” he thinks he hears Seokjin mumble as he starts the ignition. Once the engine purrs alive, they begin their journey out of the parking garage and into the streets of Hongdae.
It’s a relatively short trip – it’s not even a very long to walk, which is why Jungkook manages it every night (spoiler: he’d manage the walk to Jimin every night even if it was a marathon) – but it’s especially brief tonight. Somehow, Jungkook feels like this has nothing to do with the fact that he’s travelling by car and everything to do with how it feels like a fraction of his brain has gone on strike without pay. His head pounds with the urge to lay down in a bed as soon as possible, but he ignores this in favor of reminding himself that Jimin had been expecting him, Jimin had swatched lipsticks for him and Jimin was eagerly anticipating seeing them on him. Hell, Jungkook himself was more than just a little excited at the prospect of trying out more makeup, let alone in Jimin’s company.
This, he finds, is enough to stave off the dreadful sensation of weightlessness that plagues him. He feels as though if he were to stop inhaling so heavily, if he were to stop inhaling at all, he might just float up, up, up and away into the sky, back amongst the stars where he belongs.
No, he says firmly to himself, gotta see Jiminie.
Seokjin’s car is very expensive, Jungkook observes. It absorbs the shock of all the potholes and speedbumps, and it makes for an all-around smooth ride. The leather is soft and supple underneath his finger’s curious prodding – it must be Italian. He’s heard that Italian leather is really nice. It feels really nice, anyways, malleable and cool to the touch. He wants a car like this, someday. When he’s not a busboy.
By the time they pull up in front of the store, Jungkook is on a different plane of reality. “Hang tight, let me come around and I’ll help you out,” Seokjin says, and it sounds like he’s speaking from the opposite end of a tunnel, voice faraway and echoing distantly in Jungkook’s ears. It’s unnerving. He hates being hindered, hates not being alert and aware of his surroundings, hates when he’s incapacitated enough for it to be debilitating. Right now, he has no choice but to wait for Seokjin to help him out of the car, lest he attempt to stand up on his own and have his legs fold like playing cards.
The familiar ring of the bell overhead signaling the arrival of a customer has Jimin’s head popping up from where it had previously been hung low, studying what Jungkook barely manages to make out as a manhwa.
“Seokjin hyung! What a surprise! And… Jungkook? Oh – oh, oh my God, Jungkook,” Jimin breathes out all at once, hopping over the counter in one swift move like he’s in a fucking action movie. If Jungkook were more present in himself, he might have swooned. “Hyung, why is he leaning on you like that? What happened? Is he alright?”
He tunes out the rest of the conversation in favor of replaying the cool way Jimin cleared the stop of the counter. He wishes someone had been recording.
When he checks back into what’s going on around him, he finds a cold bottle of water being pressed into his loose grasp. “Drink, Jungkookie,” says Jimin. It takes Jungkook a couple beats to realize that he’s been transferred into different arms, that Seokjin is now hovering uncertainly in the doorway, that he is the closest he has ever been physically in proximity to Jimin. He tries and fails to resist the urge to snuggle even further into the rock-solid embrace that stabilizes him.
“Go, hyung. I’ve got him.” Jimin’s voice is so close. Jungkook can feel the vibrations all the way down to his toes, which curl in muted pleasure at having the elder so near.
Seokjin must hesitate, because Jimin repeats himself – this time, more firmly. “Alright, okay,” Seokjin eventually relents, “make sure you tell him he’s off for the rest of the week, including Saturday and Sunday. I’ll see him back on Monday. Did you hear that, Jungkook? Are you listening? You show up tomorrow and I’ll beat your ass.”
Absently, he raises a thumbs-up, to engrossed in keeping himself from burying his nose in Jimin’s infinitely soft-looking cotton candy locks to take in the reaction he gets. He drops his arm when the telltale overhead bell announces Seokjin’s departure.
“I’m serious, Jungkook. Drink the water.”
There’s a split-second temptation to resist, albeit playfully – but he doesn’t think Jimin would receive that very well. Not to say that he can’t take a joke, because most of their interactions start and end with Jungkook being a brat, but, well…
As Jimin props him up against the counter, Jungkook is startled by the intensity of the concern that plagues his features. He’s never seen him with an expression like this, certainly not directed at him, and it almost disconcerts him into taking a step back, before he realizes he can’t, as he’s leant against the counter. Jimin stands directly in front of him, hands braced on either side of his waist in the event that he spontaneously loses his balance, and Jungkook finds himself feeling a little cornered.
The water is cold when it touches his tongue and it’s even colder going down his throat. It shocks his system, brings him back down from whatever higher reality he’d been floating in; he takes another gulp, and then another, and then pours the rest of the bottle’s contents over his face.
“Jungkook!” Jimin exclaims, laughter evident in his voice. The surprise of the sudden waterfall startles Jimin’s hands off of his hips, but Jungkook is quick to set the now-empty bottle behind him on the counter and take Jimin’s hands in his own, guiding them back onto his hips, pressing them into his body until he can feel the heat from Jimin’s hands all the way down into the marrow of his bones.
It quiets, then. Hongdae’s ever-present nightlife soundtrack fades into white noise in the background of Jungkook’s consciousness as he takes in the faelike boy in front of him, who gazes up at him through his voluminous lashes and bubblegum bangs like he knows exactly what he’s doing to Jungkook’s poor, weak heart.
They find themselves in situations such as these more often than not, more often than what is appropriate for Just Friends. Oddly enough, Jungkook doesn’t think they’d ever been Just Friends.
From the moment he’d walked into the store on that fated night picking up bath salts for Hoseok, Jungkook had known that he wanted Jimin and that Jimin had wanted him, too. It was no secret to either of them that, should they decide to indulge in their urges to advance, they would be met with no resistance. Jungkook can’t think of anything else he’d rather do than be close to Jimin, close like he is right now – close enough to count his mascara-clad eyelashes; close enough to breathe in the vanilla scented conditioner he must use on his hair; close enough to let his gaze drift southward to his lips and physically feel his mind fall into the gutter.
“Can we still do the lipstick?” says Jungkook, half a breath above a whisper.
A couple of moments pass before Jimin answers him. Jungkook may be young, may be inexperienced, may be a virgin, but he’s not stupid. He knows what the glint in the other’s eye translates out to be – the way Jimin sucks his bottom lip between his teeth and pulls, how he rubs his thumbs into Jungkook’s hipbones like he’s trying to leave an imprint. “Yeah,” he replies after what must be at least a full thirty seconds. He makes no move to step back.
“Yeah?” Jungkook brings his arms up to settle atop Jimin’s shoulders, hooking around each other behind his neck so as to keep him from escaping.
Distantly, he can hear the mindless drone of a television in the background, playing whatever variety show rerun it’s set to display. The fluorescent lighting crashing down from overhead washes Jimin out a little bit, makes him look raw, unfiltered, candid. It hits Jungkook, then, that this is real life – not a fantasy borne out of years of repression and fruitless longing, like he’s more than accustomed to, not a romantic comedy that he’s living vicariously through.
His ears are ringing with the adrenaline that suddenly makes itself known as it courses through his veins, making him tighten his hold behind Jimin’s neck.
A lot of things are flashing through his head all at once. Ugly words hurled at him in the dead of night when nobody was around to combat the wrath of several thickset frat boys, the tone his father had used over the phone when he’d exiled his only son, the sound of his mother’s stricken weeping, hunger pangs that hadn’t left him for years, extemporaneous fits of anger that hadn’t left for even longer, well done, son.
He finds Jimin’s eyes. Takes in the way they’ve been painstakingly outlined in a thin, subtle layer of black. Appreciates the shimmering pink shadow that accents the middle of his lids. “Hyung,” Jungkook says, doesn’t whisper, doesn’t stutter, doesn’t stumble.
“Yes, baby,” Jimin responds immediately. He moves closer, closer than he’d been before and Jungkook really isn’t sure how that’s possible, given that they’d already been touching hips to begin with; but now, they knock knees, they touch stomachs, they bump breasts. All it would take is for Jungkook to crane his head down a fraction of an inch. Not even an inch. They’re breathing into each other’s mouths. Jungkook can taste the remnants of the bubblegum he knows Jimin had been chewing probably just a few minutes prior. It’s sweet and pink and tastes like fairy dust on his tongue and he can’t help but to want to lick into it properly.
Jungkook thinks that, after all these years, he deserves to let himself have this. He deserves Jimin.
It is with this thought at the very forefront of his mind that he joins their lips together.
The kiss is surprisingly gentle in spite of all the tension and buildup that had led to it. Jungkook feels like aggression and dominance would have been the least possible fitting attitude for what he’s trying to convey, what he’s trying to achieve, what he’s trying to indulge in. He’s spent his entire life raised up on a manifesto with its foundations rooted chiefly in how to take as much as he can for himself at the expense of others – but here, encased in the embrace of another man, surrounded by nothing but warmth in the middle of December, Jungkook gives everything he has.
This is not to say that Jimin takes from him; neither of them are domineering in their engagement, and even if that were the case, it wouldn’t stem from an ugly place. Jungkook thinks that Jimin must have had his fair share of well done, son, thinks that he, too – just like Jungkook – is learning how to unlearn a lifetime’s worth of ugly places.
Their lips slide against each other with a rhythm so tender that it’s painful. Is this what he’d been missing out on as an adolescent – Hell, as a young adult? Now that he’s gotten a taste, Jungkook doesn’t know how he’d managed to survive twenty-two years without the warm, quiet press of another boy against himself.
The muted flame simmering at the small of his back roars and shimmies upwards along his spine, hopscotching along each vertebra when Jimin’s hands begin to roam, sliding from their fixed position on his hip bones and coming to rub at his stomach and lower rib cage. An outsider looking in would think that, judging by Jungkook’s reaction, there were no layers between them; it’s startling how severely each touch impacts him, how sharply he feels it along the curvature of his torso, how steadily his body temperature is rising. Jimin’s fingers crawl their way up to his chest and grope and pinch and squeeze and Jungkook is forced to break the kiss to moan – loudly, unabashedly, and wantonly.
“So pretty,” pants Jimin into his neck, where he’s taken to mauling the exposed expanse of flesh, “knew I had to have you from the minute I saw you. You walked right through that door over there ‘nd I knew you’d be mine.”
He’s going to die, here and now. His knees are already threatening to buckle underneath him, trembling and knocking together like he’s scared. “Ah, hyung, that’s– “
“It’s what, Jungkookie?” Jimin pulls back and Jungkook could faint at the sight of him; hair mussed, lips red and spit-slick from his ministrations along the length of Jungkook’s neck (that will most definitely show themselves the next morning, if the satisfying smarting is anything to judge by.) “Sorry, baby,” he pants, unrepentant. “Hyung gets a little carried away sometimes.”
“No. I like it.”
“Yes, a lot.”
They stare at each other, then, in silence, the only noise filtering through the store being the television’s muted droning in the background and the soundtrack of their own harsh panting. Jungkook can’t help but think it’s a little extreme for only a couple seconds’ worth of exchanging closed-mouth kisses. The shame comes quickly after that thought, but – it’s the good kind of shame. The kind that runs down the length of him after he’s just released his grip on himself, hands sticky and trembling with the retreating force of his pleasure. The kind that puts a tremor in his right leg on a good night, the kind that pools heavy into the pit of his laden gut when he has to muffle his whimper of “hyungie, please,” into the cheap cotton of his pillowcase.
Jimin’s looking at him like he’s his next meal. Suddenly, blindingly, Jungkook understands what it’s like to be wanted.
Had they even had their first date, yet? God, they weren’t even boyfriends. They’ve known each other for barely a month, if that. And yet, Jungkook wants, wants, wants. He supposes this is cosmic retribution for all of his years wasted dormant.
He can’t bring himself to be contrite. Not after spending his entire life lying in wait for Jimin, not after finally experiencing firsthand the reality of fantasies he’s harbored from the time he’d learned how the telltale, dull throb of attraction felt in the hollow of his chest, the cavity of his stomach, and. Somewhere a little lower, as well.
“Jungkook, you know we don’t have t- “
“I want it,” he says with all of the bravery packed into the spaces between his joints, behind the backs of his ears, hidden away in crevices he’d never known he had, not until he needed to draw from them. “I want you.”
“You’re sure?” Jimin asks, even though his fingers are already crawling down to the front of his work pants, fiddling with the button and zipper, scratching lightly at them with his neatly trimmed nails.
Never before has Jungkook felt more resolute in a decision. “Yes, hyung. I’m sure. Please.”
“Lemme lock up.” Jimin’s eyes don’t leave his. “You’re coming over to mine.”
When Jungkook wakes up, it is to cool sheets and a lack of pants – or anything on his lower half, really.
He immediately registers his surroundings as unfamiliar. For one thing, his body is splayed out across the entire surface of what feels to be a queen mattress, something he’d be hard pressed to accomplish in his modest single. The sheets are also foreign; they’re softer than anything he’s used to, anything he’s ever been used to. Upon further examination (read: snow angel-ing in the bed for about forty-five seconds) he comes to the conclusion that they’re significantly above his paygrade.
Memories of the previous night return to him sluggishly and halfheartedly, presenting mere suggestions of what had transpired instead of lending way to the true events in their most vivid color. He definitely remembers passing out in Seokjin’s arms due to lack of food, being dragged like a limp ragdoll to his car, driven to the convenience store to meet Jimin, and then…
“Oh,” breathes Jungkook, and suddenly his bare lower half makes a lot more sense to his sleep-addled brain.
He feels an abrupt rush of heat wash over him at just the recollection of what they’d done. It almost feels like a fever dream, or a fantasy he’d conjured up when the grip of loneliness held him just a bit too tightly, choking him at the collar (as it’s prone to do from time to time.)
Remembered sensations flash through his mind like they’re excerpts from a film: plush lips sliding along the dimples just above his ass, ringed fingers gripping hard onto the backs of his calves, the supple give of flesh underneath his hungry grasp, aborted halfway-there echoes of words whispered desperately against the shell of his ear, a tight, warm heat engulfing the length of him in a way that he hadn’t dared to imagine would feel as good as it did.
And, most prominently:
Curling himself around a body comparably smaller than his – yet still packed taut with its own collection of coiled muscles – devoting every measly thread of his soul into the gentle caress he’d laid upon what was encircled in his arms.
All of a sudden, the bed feels far too empty, too cold, a bit on the wrong side of spacious. He shivers with the phantom loss of a body next to his own. It is an awful feeling. It licks along the nape of his neck, salacious and hungry for his vulnerability, before crawling under his skin and dying there; embedding its corpse just underneath his epidermis, stinking up the room and making his eyes water.
Jungkook squeezes his eyes shut to avoid the sight of the vacant space beside him, white sheets still wrinkled as though just recently agitated. He knows it will feel cool to the touch, though. He knows that there’s no one there. He knows that there hasn’t been someone there for a little while. Despite this, he still finds himself peeking through the thin layer of lashes that he partially obscures his own view with as he palms the area where Jimin had slept next to him the night before.
His curious fingertips are greeted by a slip of paper tucked halfway underneath the pillow. He unearths it, his hand a little unsteady in its unfurling of the meticulously folded note. It’s some sort of Origami figure, Jungkook discovers upon closer examination. He can’t remember the name.
Morning Kookie, reads the first line, and Jungkook bites hard at his lower lip.
Didn’t wanna leave you alone but I’ve got class til twelve... If you wanna stick around, then you totally can! My roommate Taehyung will keep you company! He’s really nice!! I promise!!!
Your work clothes are really fancy so I didn’t take the chance of throwing them in our crappy washer…sorry! They are folded up on top of the dresser with your phone! If you don’t feel like putting them back on, you’re welcome to borrow anything of mine (altho…I don’t know if it’s going to fit…) Underwear and socks are in the top drawer in the dresser, shirts are in the second, pants are in the third!
Also! Eat something! Jin hyung told me you’ve been skipping meals…even if it’s light, you gotta get something in your system. Anything in the kitchen is up for grabs, except Tae’s special cereal. You’ll know it when you see it.
BTW…I have some things I wanna talk about. Is that OK? If you stay, I’ll cook you a late breakfast and we’ll go from there? Text me!
The note has something so quintessentially Jimin about it that Jungkook can’t help but to re-fold it in a poor recreation of the Origami it had been shaped into originally and vow to save it for as long as he’s able to preserve it.
When he eventually summons the strength to drag himself up and out of bed, much to the chagrin of his sore hip and thigh muscles, he finds his clothes and phone just where Jimin said they’d be – folded neatly atop the oakwood dresser that’s tucked so snugly into the drywall that Jungkook hadn’t noticed it, at first, until he began to look. It’s a fine piece of furniture. Durable. Sturdy. Something Yoongi hyung could probably put together in a single afternoon with nothing to aid him but his bare hands and a couple ounces of determination.
About two seconds pass before Jungkook decides that his own feelings of trepidation are no match for the urge to be wrapped securely in something of Jimin’s, especially if Jimin himself is unavailable at the time being. It’s quick work to scavenge through the drawers for something, anything, he doesn’t care – as long as it smells at least vaguely of bubblegum and vanilla.
Soon enough, he’s dressed in a comfortable pair of joggers and a sweatshirt that’s probably oversized on Jimin, but fits the curvature of his body nicely. It’s all soft fleece on the inside, warm and comforting and feels a little bit too much like home. He allows himself the small pleasure of burrowing even deeper into the garment, if only to close his eyes and fantasize – just for a fraction of a second – that it’s Jimin who he’s burying his nose in. The action is nice, sure, but nothing like the real thing.
Checking his phone, he finds, isn’t as bad as he’s anticipating.He doesn’t know why, but his muscles had been clenched tight in nervous anticipatory tension. Like he was going to turn on his phone and immediately be greeted with a barrage of angry messages. Like he was going to be scolded for spending the night with Jimin. Like the Busan area code he hasn’t seen in years was going to be at the top of his missed calls list, voicemail upon vitriolic voicemail lying in wait for him to open up and weep to.
Instead, he’s greeted with three succinct texts, all from Hoseok.
Hobi hyung – 1:18 a.m.
be safe tonite nd call me if u need anything
finally talked sum sense into dads. we trust u, u kno
have fun with jimin. ok?
A heavy sigh pours out of his lungs all at once, his shoulders sagging from the relief of the weight. He knows it was a little irrational of him to expect anything else.
Me – 11:29 a.m.
I spent the night at jimin hyungs
Sorry I didnt tell u before
We were uh
Hobi hyung – 11:29 a.m.
oh i SEE
Me – 11:30 a.m.
I am ok
Hobi hyung – 11:30 a.m.
good m glad!!!!!!
r u gonna leave from there for ur shift later????
Me – 11:30 a.m.
Seokjin hyung gave me the rest of the week off
Hobi hyung – 11:30 a.m.
Me – 11:31 a.m.
I wasnt feeling so good
Hobi hyung – 11:31 a.m.
define that a lil bit more for me kook
Me – 11:31 a.m.
Pls dont worry hyung
Hobi hyung – 11:31 a.m.
were there paramedics involved.
Me – 11:32 a.m.
Hobi hyung – 11:32 a.m.
did u lose consciousness at any point.
Me – 11:32 a.m.
Hobi hyung – 11:32 a.m.
Me – 11:33 a.m.
Its ok hyung I promise
Jimin hyung gave me some water to drink
But I think I need to eat some food now
So im gonna go do that
I will be home later ok
Hobi hyung – 11:33 a.m.
ur rly gonna put me in a early grave one of these days -____-
Me – 11:34 a.m.
Ah pls dont say that
Hobi hyung – 11:34 a.m.
hyung is just kidding koo
so,,,,,, ill see u later????
Me – 11:34 a.m.
Hobi hyung – 11:35 a.m.
tell your jimin hyung i said hello
He slips his phone into the fleeced pocket of Jimin’s hoodie, takes about two steps forwards, and instantly feels the rest of the room waver and wobble dangerously along the edges of his field of sight. The water last night had been enough to shock him out of whatever addled state his body had been in, but it apparently wasn’t going to tide him over forever. It’s high time he ate something. God, Jungkook can’t even remember the last full meal he’s sat down for.
Although the apartment is a little more well-furnished, a little more of something out of an interior design catalogue than his and the hyungs’ is, it isn’t all that much bigger. Locating the kitchen is simple enough, takes about maybe a minute’s worth of padding along the refreshingly sturdy and silent wooden flooring to reach it. Upon entering, he notices the make and model of the fridge is the same as the one back home. Huh.
Resting innocently atop the decently-sized granite island is a bowl of fruit, which immediately catches his attention. He isn’t too big on the idea of fixing himself a meal in someone else’s kitchen, let alone rummaging through their pantry and risk eating something he’s not meant to. Granted, Jimin had said that he was welcome to whatever he pleased, but did he really mean that? Or is Jungkook going to get thrown onto the cold, mid-December streets of Hongdae because he’d unwittingly broken into Jimin’s protein shake stash? Yeah, no, he doesn’t think he’s going to risk it.
It takes at least a full five minutes for him to weigh the various options that entice him before ultimately deciding on a banana that’s been mocking him with its ripeness ever since he’d stepped into the kitchen. The meat of it is pleasantly sweet – a natural kind of saccharine, one that clings to the underside of his tongue and will probably linger there for the next couple of days.
All in all, Jungkook thinks he’s doing pretty well. He’s enjoying a banana in relative comfort in a kitchen that is not his own, surrounded by various knick knacks and souvenirs and décor that are not his own, swaddled up in clothes that are not his own, and all of this directly after having sex for the first time. Gay sex, no less.
He thinks that nineteen-year-old Jungkook would have probably had a meltdown.
This Jungkook, however – twenty-two-year-old, post-makeup, post-crying, post-pseudo-boyfriend-maybe-kinda-question-mark Jungkook – is content to chew at his banana in comfortable silence, his only companion being Jimin’s fleeced hoodie into which he burrows even further halfway through his mid-morning snack.
Just as he’s getting down to the last quarter of the thing, he hears a door close from somewhere else in the apartment, followed by a heavy footfall that grows increasingly louder the longer he’s monitoring it. Jungkook remembers the mentioned roommate; Taehyung, Jimin had referred to him as.
Who he can only assume to be Taehyung strolls into the kitchen approximately half a second after Jungkook remembers his name, barefoot and clad in a loose long-sleeved top coupled with a pair of the most wide-legged pants Jungkook has ever seen in his life. His hair is a bright, vibrant red, the kind that only idols have the means to be walking around with. If Jungkook looks carefully, he thinks he can pick up subtle hints of a nude palette expertly applied across the lids of both of his eyes, set off by a complimenting blush and lip product. Jungkook thinks of Jimin and his pink hair and beauty-guru-like makeup skills and starts to notice a pattern.
Before he can even begin to agonize over how he’s going to fumble his way through what is bound to be one of the most awkward interactions he’s ever had the displeasure of engaging in, Taehyung beats him to the punch. “You’re Jungkook,” he states, does not ask, as he makes his way to the cupboard without sparing a glance upwards.
“Y-yes. And you’re – Taehyung?”
Taehyung’s back is still towards him and it’s unnerving him a little. Eye contact makes him a little bit uneasy, but not having a face to talk to – rather, a disinterested side profile or back of the head – crawls under his skin and dies there. Leaves him with an itch that won’t leave for weeks. “Ooh, Jimin picked a clever one this time ‘round. Finally. ”
He – doesn’t really know what to say to that. He doesn’t really know what to say at all, if he’s being honest, doesn’t think that it would come out right if he even wanted to say something. In lieu of giving a response, Jungkook shoves more of the banana in his mouth and uses his free hand to drum his fingers against the countertop, the granite cool to the touch and grounding in a way that he craves. He wasn’t prepared for confrontation with a stranger so soon after he’d woken up.
The thing about it that really gets him is that he wants to leave a good impression on Taehyung. He wants the people in Jimin’s life to like him, in the same vein of how he wants the hyungs to like Jimin. He wants them to be interwoven into each other’s daily realities like that, wants them to be so written into each other’s lives that all of their main characters co-exist in one big, long, Harry Potter- esque novel.
Jungkook laughs, albeit with a little bit of an uncomfortable stilt to it. The unsettling sensation that comes with having to interact with strangers settles deep inside him, like a sinking stone, vibrating at a frequency high enough to cause discomfort, but not enough to cause any real consequences. His awkwardness lingers on the edges of his consciousness, instead of at the forefront.
“I like your hair,” he feels possessed to blurt out just as Taehyung is turning around from the cupboard, a bag of rice clutched securely in the firm grip of his left hand, “it’s really – the color is so cool. Did it take long?”
“I mean. It probably did, yeah, but I dye my hair so often that not a lot registers as ‘long’ to me. Why do you ask? Thinking of doing your own?” Taehyung says this last part with a bit of a flair to his intonation, a familiar friendly push and pull that Jungkook can see himself growing comfortable with. Maybe in a few months’ time. Maybe shorter. Taehyung seems like the kind of boy he’d wanted to be friends with in middle school, the kind of boy that Jungkook needed to be friends with in middle school.
“Yeah, actually,” Jungkook responds, not because he’s been actively thinking about bleaching and coloring his hair, but because it’s always been a thought simmering on his backburner. He thinks he’d suit something like Taehyung’s fiery red, but maybe a little on the fruitier side.
Taehyung moves fluidly, speaks almost lackadaisically, as though entertaining virtual strangers in his kitchen on Tuesday mornings is something he considers a mundanity. The ease with which he removes the lid to the rice cooker and begins pouring in grains strikes a chord deep within Jungkook at the domesticity of the act – he doesn’t think he’d feel comfortable enough with someone unfamiliar in the room to go about his daily morning routine in front of them. He wonders why Taehyung seems so practiced in this particular area, and then decides to derail that train of thought immediately.
The damage is already done, though. Not that the thought of Jimin having sexual multiple partners before he came along is something bad – Jimin is entitled to do whatever or whoever he pleases. His sex life is his business and his business alone. It’s just that, well.
Jungkook hasn’t really lead that kind of life. Last night was his first and sole experience with anything other than his right hand, and to think that Jimin’s probably had better than him – way better than him – and was probably humoring him with all of his enthusiastic moans…
He needs to find something to distract himself. He can’t afford to spiral, not in front of someone he’s trying to…not impress, per se, but definitely not leave a less-than-stellar impression on. Taehyung has just finished pouring the rice into the cooker, and Jungkook takes this opportunity to snag a measuring cup from where it’s resting along with other miscellaneous drying dishes next to the sink, fill it up with enough water to sufficiently cook the amount of rice that had been poured, and bring it over to the counter where the cooker (and Taehyung) await.
“Thanks,” hums the other, gently lifting the glass cup out of Jungkook’s hands and into his own, emptying it into the cooker in one smooth motion. “I could do it for you, y’know. Dyeing your hair, I mean.”
Jungkook silently offers with a quirk of his open palms to take the cup back to the opposite counter. “Oh, uh. Really?”
“Yeah,” Taehyung says, smiling gratefully as he hands it over. “I don’t bestow my skillful dyeing techniques on just anybody, but Jimin really likes you, and I think I do, too. You seem like a good dude.”
“Hyung really likes me?”
The drop in Taehyung’s features is almost comical. “Oops! I so was not supposed to tell you that!”
“No you were not, Kim Taehyung,” a familiar voice echoes from the hallway.
He hadn’t even heard him come in. But, then again, that makes sense; Jimin moves like a fairy – light steps that only brushed the surface of the ground on which they treaded. Easier to catch prey like that.
His entrance isn’t that grand in actuality, even though Jungkook can’t help but to be captivated by the way he glides into the kitchen, candy floss hair artfully mussed back off of his forehead in a graceful swoop, clad from head to toe in comfort wear, barefaced and glowing. Jungkook doesn’t think he’s ever seen him without any makeup on, save for the sleepy good-night selcas they occasionally exchange; the first thought that crops up at the front of his mind is how unfair it is that Jimin looks flawless both with a full face on and without.
He must be staring a bit too hard, because when his eyes drift back towards Jimin’s face, the elder is smiling a small, knowing little thing. Intimate and vaguely amused, like the joke is just for them and nobody else.
Jungkook struggles to keep his face blank – and then, wonders why his kneejerk reaction was to maintain a façade of apathy. He has to remind himself that he’s in a safe place. And even if he weren’t, would that be grounds for being stoic? Would that be grounds for withholding an expression of himself?
Slowly, tentatively, he smiles back. It’s shy and a little muted and his hands are jammed into the very bottoms of Jimin’s sweatpants pockets, fingers fiddling with each other nervously, but. He smiles back.
Jimin seems pleased by this, if the way his grin softens considerably around the edges, all traces of teasing replaced swiftly with an unbridled brand of fondness. “Hi, Jungkookie,” he hums. Jungkook should definitely be making eye contact and listening attentively, especially when he’s being directly addressed.
Instead, he can’t help but let his line of sight catch on every little detail of Jimin’s that hooks him in, that’s hooked him in since that fated night when he’d stumbled oafishly into the convenience store; the elder’s dumpling-like cheeks, the way he smiles with his eyes, the slight chipped crookedness of his top left incisor – it all draws Jungkook in with a stubborn refusal to relinquish its grasp on him, and he can’t really complain. There are worse things he could find himself enamored with.
In lieu of a verbal response (in fear of stumbling over his words, as he’s prone to do, and prompting Jimin to regret the entirety of the past twelve hours,) Jungkook brings his hand that isn’t preoccupied with the measuring cup up into a shy wave, fingers tinkling softly in the early-afternoon atmosphere. The sunlight trickling in from the halfheartedly shut blinds casts everything in a gentle sort of tone, the kind of tone that reminds Jungkook of his favorite Downy fabric softener and warm printer paper and lazy Sunday afternoons spent in the comfort of his own bed.
It should strike him as odd that he’s this comfortable in an environment virtually foreign to him. He knows, though, that the knowledge that this is Jimin’s dwelling is what puts him at ease.
He’s jarred out of his thoughts when an unfamiliar pair of hands slide between his own and slip away the measuring cup from his distracted grasp.
“I think I got the rest,’” Taehyung says. He’s got a smug set to his features.
“Yes. I-if you’re sure, Taehyung-ssi.”
Taehyung’s face almost immediately screws up. “Oh, please. You’re gonna be around for a while, I can already tell – call me hyung.”
What is with you people and over-familiarity? Jungkook wants to ask. Strangely enough, he finds it doesn’t bother him that much, anymore. Quite the contrary – he catches himself shooting a grateful grin Taehyung’s way, something too close to satisfaction simmering earnest and low in his gut when he gets a similar smile returned back to him. “Okay, hyung,” he says, hands trembling a little bit as the honorific tumbles forth from his lips.
Everything just feels kind of… right. The familiar scent of rice bubbling in the cooker, soft fabrics caressing his body just as gently and tenderly as their original owner would, the encompassing warmth of a cooking kitchen – it all reminds him too much of a home he doesn’t think he’s ever had, before. Not like this. Not one where someone’s said to him “can we talk for a second?” and his heart doesn’t immediately erupt in palpitations.
The thought that Jimin could be intending to break things off does cross his mind as he’s being lead back to his bedroom, yes, but – for once in his life – he’s having a difficult time convincing himself of the worst-case-scenario. It’s a bit of a foreign sensation. The absence of anxious adrenaline rushing through his veins provides a kind of clarity of mind he’d never knew he could have access to. Although a small pocket of nerves at the base of his spine still makes itself known, as is wont to be there and probably always will be, the overwhelming majority of his conscious self takes the time necessary to critically asess the situation: What has Jimin done leading up to this moment that would convince me he wants to end it? Even if he’s going to, I’ll ask him to still be friends. I think I really want him in my life.
As he repeats and reaffirms himself, Jungkook can’t help but to focus his gaze on the broad back that he’s following through the corridor. Jimin’s in shape, if the defined musculature of his shoulder blades is anything to judge by. It’s visible even from behind the fabric of the grey T-shirt he’s wearing. Jungkook resists the urge to reach out and caress it with his fidgeting fingers.
The apartment is well-lived in. He finds pleasure in walking around and taking in the pictures hung around at random intervals – both photography and some abstract artwork, some of the impressionistic style, and some that he wouldn’t even know how to categorize. All the frames used to encase them are odd, as well, printed in bright neon hues with various shapes floating about in the margins. Somehow, it works. Jungkook thinks of the mismatched hodgepodge of a shoe rack he has at his own front door and a ghost of a smile tickles at his lips.
The first thing Jimin does upon entering the bedroom is hop on the bed. He invites Jungkook to sit next to him with an amicable pat of the mattress next to him. Jungkook takes this as a good sign.
“Listen,” Jimin says, scooping one of Jungkook’s hands into his two, smaller ones, “I’m not trying to scare you. I guess I was kinda cryptic with the whole ‘can we talk’ thing, but I promise it’s nothing bad. Do you trust me, Jungkook?”
His answer is immediate. “I do, hyung.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that. I promise I won’t ever take your trust for granted, Kookie, never.”
And Jungkook – doesn’t really know how to respond to that. He’s never had anyone say something of that magnitude to him. He can’t process it fully, not right now; but he knows that the full effect will sweep through his body, head-to-toe, when night comes and he’s left to stew in his own thoughts. He is going to lie awake for hours and shiver with the intensity of Park Jimin and his stubborn refusal to be something – anything that Jungkook knows how to react adequately to.
If Jimin is undeterred by Jungkook’s lack of a verbal reply, he doesn’t show it. The elder continues on with a unique sense of unhurried poignancy that speaks to some sort of practice. Like Jimin has been waiting long before this morning to have this conversation with him. “I was a lot like you, growing up, you know.”
His confusion must show on his face.
“You didn’t need to say a word. I see the way you watch me, how you watched Tae just now in the kitchen, how you watched that three thousand won eyeshadow that very first night like it was going to grow a set of fangs and chomp your face off just for looking at it.” Jimin circles his thumbs across the back of Jungkook’s hand to the beat of both of their breaths. “Someone in your life has told you that these things are wrong. I want you to know that they aren’t, Jungkook. And neither are you. You’re not wrong.”
Time comes to a screeching, crashing halt around them. Right now, the only things that exist in Jungkook’s overloaded consciousness are himself, Jimin, and the vague echo of well done, son that hasn’t left its place engraved into the backs of his knees and tattooed behind the cuffs of his ears and embedded into every strand of hair that sprouts from his head. It seems as though not a part of him has been left untouched, unmarked, unscarred. The entirety of his body roils in revolt at what’s being challenged.
“You,” he tries, “you, you don’t-“
Jimin smiles sadly. “I do know. I told you, I came to Seoul as a teenager. You don’t think I know?”
The fitted sheet crumbles underneath Jungkook’s death grip.
The silence that hangs heavy over the room is deafening. He supposes it’s his turn to respond and further the conversation into productive territory, but he can’t find it within himself to move his mouth, let alone produce sound out of it – he’s barely breathing. It’s all he can do to bite down on his lip to keep from doing something ridiculous like bursting into tears.
They stare at each other like that, then. A wordless impasse. Jungkook feels an ache in his right knee.
Not for a second is eye contact broken. As he gazes ahead of him, he finds he can make out his own reflection in the shiny black of Jimin’s pupils. He shouldn’t be surprised when all he’s greeted with is the sight of a wailing toddler in his mother’s arms.
“Jungkook,” whispers Jimin, soft, soft, softly, like anything louder would be too dangerous. “It’s okay. You can cry.”
He wonders what his father would think if he were here right now to witness his only son urged to cry by his boyfriend.
As Jungkook begins to let wails rip forth from his trembling lips, Jimin surging forward to enwrap him in strong, warm, compassionate arms, he reminds himself that it no longer matters what his father thinks. It hasn’t mattered for a long time. All the saved voicemails and text messages and e-mails and bedding sent with the scent of his mother embedded into the fabric and well done, son – he thinks he’s been holding onto it for too long. He thinks it’s the last piece of them that he has to remind himself that he’d had parents, once.
But he also thinks that he’s going to be a parent one day. And he doesn’t want his children to remember him with angry, fifteen-minute-long voicemails barring them from ever entering their family home again.
When he’s been lowered into the ground, he wants his children to visit out of compassion. Not out of compliance.
So, he cries. He sobs his heart out into the crook of Jimin’s neck and he’s four years old again, with a scraped knee and a face full of tears.
Only, this time, he’s being embraced. This time, there’s a pair of comforting hands at the base of his back and scritching at the top of his scalp and a plush set of lips that tell him he’s going to be okay.
Jungkook believes it.
(Later that afternoon, after he’s cried himself dry and eaten a real meal and exchanged Kakao handles with Taehyung before heading out the door, Jimin drove him home. It was a nice gesture. He really didn’t have to – Jungkook knows that he himself would feel at least a little bit awkward in such close quarters with the same person he’d seen just an hour earlier have a mental breakdown (albeit, cathartic one.)
Jimin’s car is nice. Not as nice as Seokjin’s, maybe, but the leather is still supple to the touch and it smells vaguely of vanilla. He’s got a backpack resting on the floor in the passenger’s side between his legs filled with his work clothes and at least four containers of banchan that Taehyung had insisted he take home with him so he wouldn’t “practically starve to death! ” again. The Tupperware’s warmth radiates through the thick material of the bag and heats his lower calves. It’s a pleasant sensation. He feels comfortable.
Comfortable enough to turn to Jimin after he’s stopped the car in front of their complex and invite him upstairs.
“There’s some people I want you to meet,” he says, trying to keep his heart out of his throat long enough to get the sentence out coherently.
He takes in the crinkled-eye smile he gets in return and wonders why he’d waited this long in the first place.)
Jeon Jungkook is twenty-two years old when he dies for the last time.
It isn’t a very momentous affair. In fact, he doesn’t think he says one word out loud for the entirety of the ordeal. Not that he ever speaks when this time of the year comes around, but, still.
He’s visited his parents’ urns every year since they’d first been filled. He remembers being nineteen with a few months freshly spent out of school, walking home at some ungodly hour of the morning after one of his more questionable odd jobs he’d taken up out of desperation, and being stopped in his tracks underneath a flickering lamp post at the familiar Busan area code that lit up his screen.
A car crash, his aunt had said. Both of them died on impact and suffered little to no pain. It was a freak accident, really. The rains were heavy that day. People always forget how to drive in the rain. The funeral starts in three days, Jungkook, please come down. We haven’t seen you in years.
Jungkook did not come down and has never went down except for one day out of every year. It’s always around lunar new year, too, which used to be a special kind of pain. Nowadays, it’s more of a dull ache than anything else.
He makes his way through the columbarium purely on muscle memory. He remembers every divot in the marbled flooring, every twist and turn it takes to make his way to the Jeons. Even the scent of the room is the same – vaguely floral, what with all of the blooms brought to wither and die within the glass casing. Jungkook is empty handed as he approaches his father’s urn.
The picture that sits there, framed and gleaming, is one that was taken right after Jungkook was born. In it, his father looks young, and healthy, and happy; all rosy cheeks and bright eyes and a mop of thick, voluminous black hair sweeping across the expanse of his forehead. He couldn’t have been more than a couple years older than Jungkook currently is. The picture has always been jarring to him, no matter how many times he’s seen it over his years of visiting. To think of his father as what he’d once been – a boy, like any other, one who still smiled unabashedly and had dreams and aspirations and people he loved and a sense of compassion, of sympathy, of empathy. It’s hard to line up with the man that raised him.
He’s lingering longer than he usually does. Some part of him knows that this is the last time he’s going to come back here. Another part of him feels remorseful for that, but the overwhelming majority of himself is resolute in his decision. He’s spent long enough carrying around the remains of his father. It’s time to let the ashes rest where they belong – securely inside the urn.
And he feels…reborn, almost. The Jeon Jungkook who enrolled in business and finance, who’d struggled with receiving simple skinship, who hadn’t shed a tear for eighteen years, is not the Jeon Jungkook who turns on his heel and strides out with a firm force behind each and every footfall. No longer is he a corpse, hallowed and carved away on the inside. He’s found regrowth in the community that has come together around him, to support and uplift him; with every outreach of kindness extended his way, he’s learned to accept the fact that he deserves it – them – everything.
There will be bad days. There will be days where he will struggle to let even just one tear roll down his cheek. There will be days where he will mourn his lost childhood. There will be days where it will be hard to return the affectionate, emotional sentiments given to him so selflessly by the men around him who’ve mystified him in their mastery of self-expression. Progress is not linear. It never has been.
Jungkook knows that progress is an intentional thing, however. It is all he can do to wake up every day making a mindful effort to do better than what he thinks he can, to be better than what he’d been taught to be.
A gentle breeze tousles his freshly-dyed cherry locks as he steps out of the building. Jimin’s car is idling right in front of the steps, where he said he’d be waiting for Jungkook when they’d first pulled up. He knew he hadn’t made a mistake inviting Jimin to Busan this year, the last year.
“Where to now, Kook?” Jimin asks, fondly watching him strap himself into the passenger seat. His painted nails drum melodiously against the gearstick.
If someone had told him all those months ago that he’d end up with the fae-like boy from the convenience store, Jungkook wouldn’t have believed them.
And yet, here he is.
“Wherever you feel like, Jimin-ssi.”
He’s never felt more alive.