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Eternal Sunshine

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His parents were arguing again. Not that this was ever a common thing, but over the last couple of years, Jeongguk’s parents couldn’t go a day without butting heads, saying stuff they know they didn’t really mean but felt angry enough to shout it out for the whole neighbourhood to hear. From his room, Jeongguk could hear the sound of a plate smashing, which he took as his cue to leave before things escalated even more. Grabbing his Gameboy and stuffing it into his bag, the boy quickly exited through his bedroom window, using the branches of his garden’s tree as his escape route. He only had one destination in mind, his favourite place, his own personal bubble, far from the torment and arguments his house conjured night after night.

The hill was further along on a small route that you could only get to through a small hole in a hedge at the bottom of his street, and since Jeongguk is the smallest person he knows, he’s the only one who knows of it. Tightly grabbing the straps of his bag, Jeongguk excitedly hopped to the foot of the hill, only to stop and stare, mouth slightly open in confusion. There was a boy, another boy, a very small boy. Smaller than me, Jeongguk noted. The strange boy was jumping, reaching his arms up high, the tips of his stubby fingers barely grazing the branch of the tree that resided at the hill's peak.

“Hey, you!”

Treading carefully over the hill’s long grass, Jeongguk called to the boy, who stopped jumping to slowly turn his head, mouth formed in a pout and eyes revealing his fright at the sudden yell. “What are you doing?” Jeongguk asked as he reached the boy, shrugging his bag off of his shoulders. The boy remained silent, avoiding Jeongguk’s eyes and hugging his arms tightly around his waist.

After a long pause, Jeongguk tried again. “How did you find this place anyway, I go here all the time so technically you’re invading my area. Can you leave?” Jeongguk exclaimed frustratedly with a huff, trying to catch the other boy’s gaze, who was now staring at the ground.

At this, the boy’s head moved up quickly, eyes reflecting the panic at Jeongguk’s exclamation. “I can’t leave, my ball’s stuck in the tree, it’s the only one I have. Besides, you can’t claim a random area, I can come here if I please!”

The taller boy sighed, “If I get your ball from the tree, will you go away?”

“No”, the other boy replied bluntly, stomping his foot for emphasis, which only made Jeongguk laugh. Even his feet are tiny, he thought.

“Well, I guess it can stay there then. Keep jumping, I’m sure you’ll get it eventually” Jeongguk said with a smirk as he plumped himself down, reaching for his Gameboy. The small boy fiddled with his fingers, looking at his ball up high in the tree, a small whimper escaping his lips.

Jeongguk sighed again. “Listen, whoever you are, th-”

“My name is Jimin”, the boy said, hands fiddling even more.

“Listen, Jimin, there are plenty more balls in the world for you to have. Just forget about that one, it looks tattered anyway.” Jeongguk turned away, only for Jimin to sit down next to him.

“…It’s the only one I have.” Jeongguk was only just able to grasp the faint reply, turning slightly to see Jimin’s head hung low, a small sniffle reaching his ears. Judging from his reaction, this wasn’t just about a ball. Jeongguk’s gaze moved further down to Jimin’s shoes, noticing the scuffed edges and small holes scattering the soles. To say he felt bad was an understatement. At that moment, he realised that he was just taking his frustrations out on a boy that he barely knew, and so he gently the nudged Jimin’s side.

“Hey, I’m sorry, I don’t mind sharing my hill with you.”

“…Don’t you mean my hill?” Jimin said with a watery laugh.

“Well” Jeongguk smiled back, “I guess it’s our hill now, isn’t it? Besides, it can get a little boring out here by myself sometimes, with no one to talk to.”

“I just talk to the wind”, Jimin replies quietly. Jeongguk couldn’t help but laugh at that, a bit too loudly, judging by the light slap on his arm. “It’s not funny!” Jimin sounded angry, but the corners of his mouth were upturned slightly despite his pout.

“I’m sorry, but talking. To the wind?” Jeongguk threw his head back and laughed more. “Does it answer back?”

Jimin looked at him with squinted eyes. “Don’t be stupid, the wind can’t talk.”

“Then why do you talk to it?!” Jeongguk laughed again.

“Because” Jimin slapped him again as he calmed down, turning to look past the hill at the tops of the houses, far away from where they were, “If I talk long enough and loud enough, the wind might carry my words to someone who needs it. Some people have it hard, and it’s comforting to know that someone understands, no matter how far away they are from you.”

Stunned into silence, Jeongguk asked “How old even are you? You sound like an old person.”

“I’m 12”, Jimin giggled lightly, eyes forming into crescents, “Why, did I sound smart?”

“You sounded weird,” Jeongguk said, “But I don’t mind it too much.” Smiling at Jimin, he reached out gently and placed his Gameboy in his lap, looking away quickly. “You can borrow this if you want. It’s not your football but it’s still fun. I’ve got a load of games back at my house if you wanna check ‘em out.” Jeongguk’s parents had hopefully stopped arguing by now.

“Really? I can?” Jimin blinked back at him, clutching the Gameboy to his chest.

“Yeah, come on before it gets dark. We can come back tomorrow, if you want that is.”

“Well, it is our hill now after all. Let’s go!” The two boys jumped up and walked down the hill back to the path, Jeongguk clasping the straps of his bag and Jimin skipping next him, the football sitting amongst the branches, watching them as they departed together.

 

~ ☀️ ~

 

Jimin and Jeongguk were arguing again. This was always a common thing nowadays: someone says something inappropriate, the other kicks up a fuss just for the hell of it, resulting in them both leaving the confines of their apartment, Jeongguk to work and Jimin to Tae’s. Jeongguk was the first to come home tonight, back aching from being hunched over at his desk and fingers itching to light a cigarette. He knew that today’s argument was partly his fault. With only his computer screen to stare at all day, his mind drifted back to the morning, when Jeongguk tore into Jimin for leaving the dishes in the sink instead of washing them, before slamming the door in his haste to leave.

He slowly walked up to the kitchen sink, now empty, save for the handle of a mug, it’s bright red colour fading in the centre from years of use. Jimin’s favourite mug, Jeongguk thought as he caressed the crack laid against the handle’s curved edge, recalling the way in which he violently grabbed it off the table, flinging it in with the rest of the dirty pots.

“It’s broken…you broke it Jeongguk!”

“It’s just a mug Jimin!”

“…maybe to you.”

I have to apologise.

Sitting down to wait for Jimin, Jeongguk turned on the tv, the 10 o’clock news projecting the week’s latest stories. He went through what he was going to say, thinking of all the things he had to apologize for, his eyes growing heavy as his thoughts spiralled.

He awoke to the sound of the door slamming shut, the tv screen black and the clock above it flashing the time. 3 o’clock? How long was I asleep for?

“Jimin?” The sound of heavy footsteps was his reply, followed by Jimin’s stumbling figure coming around the corner of the hallway and into the living room. His jacket was haphazardly hanging off of his body, sweaty hair sticking to his forehead and make-up smudged like the forming of a bruise around the outer corners of his eyes. Jungkook sighed, his previous apology forgotten as a wave of frustration encompassed him. “It’s late.”

“So?” Jimin wasn’t quite looking at him, his gaze flitting from the top of Jeongguk’s head to the coffee table in the middle of the living room. “You don’t even come home most nights.”

“I’ve already told you, I’m always telling you, why I have to stay late -”

“Yeah, yeah, we have to have a stable income blah blah blah. I get it.” Jimin’s words came out mumbled at the end as he bent down to tug his boots off, falling onto the arm of the couch.

“I wouldn’t have to if -” Jeongguk stopped himself. “You know what? You’re drunk, I’m not gonna have this conversation with you.”

Jimin raised his head slightly to finally lock his gaze with Jeongguk’s, eyes formed into slits. “No. Please say what you were going to say. I’m a big boy now, I can handle it.” His words had a bite to them. He was taunting him, Jeongguk knew it, and he just couldn’t help but abide his boyfriend’s wishes.

“I wouldn’t have to stay so late at work if you didn’t go out half of the week with Tae to flush all of my earnings down the toilet. I wouldn’t mind it if you actually contributed as well, instead of painting away your troubles like you have all the time in the world!”

Jimin stood up on unstable legs and reached for the book sitting on the coffee table, aiming it at Jeongguk’s head. “Fuck you!” The spine hit the side of Jeongguk’s arm, missing it’s intended target, but Jeongguk didn’t have time to process it properly as the tissue box hit his shoulder, followed by a pen to his temple and the tv remote hitting him square in the chest. “My paintings are my career, I work just as hard as you.”

“But they’re not fucking selling Jimin! You’re not providing anything in this relationship anymore!” Jeongguk’s heavy breathing filled the space between him and Jimin. He came closer, batting away a flying take-out menu to hold Jimin’s arms firmly against his side. “Every time we’ve had this conversation, you revert back to the immature 12-year-old who refuses to listen to anything.” He breathed deeply before continuing, Jimin stunned into silence while weakly trying to pry his arms away from Jeongguk’s hard grip. “Painting isn’t a career.” At this Jimin whimpered, turning his head away from Jeongguk’s cruel words. “N-No. Jimin, you have to listen. Okay? Look at me.” Jimin’s gaze reluctantly returned. “Your paintings are never going to sell, okay? You have to grow up before I lose my mind, Jimin. You’re always drunk, you never help around the house anymore…” Jeongguk shook Jimin slightly as his words spat out of him, his head shaking in disbelief. “Sometimes I wonder why I even still put up with you.”

“…Put up with me?” Jimin was quiet, but his gaze was piercing. Tears began to collect at the bottoms of his eyes, a single tear escaping, mixing with the make-up to create a dark crack along the curve of his cheek. “Is that all I am to you now? Someone to put up with until you find something better?”

The room was silent, the clock on the top of the tv blinking slowly. Jeongguk looked at Jimin. He looked at the tear tracks on his face, at the way his bottom lip trembled, and regretted everything. His grip on Jimin loosened, and the shorter boy wrenched his arms away, grabbing the one boot he was able to pull off, and putting it back on, refusing to look anywhere else. Jeongguk couldn’t speak, he couldn’t move, he could only watch as Jimin stood up and walked towards to hallway. He stopped before he turned the corner, turning his head so only half of his face showed, the corner of his eye shining with fresh tears. “I’m done, Jeongguk. I’m gonna stay at Tae’s for a while.” As he turned his head to walk down the hallway, he shouted out, “Don’t try and contact me, I won’t be there to answer.” And with that, the door slammed shut, the noise ricocheting off the walls and stabbing Jeongguk’s ears. His hands moved to his head, pulling strands of his hair as he let out a violent sob.

I was supposed to apologize.

He continued to cry as he stumbled to the bedroom, planting himself on top of the covers, fully clothed, too tired to take them off. He turned over to stare at the ceiling, eyes heavy and tears blurring his vision. He’d really done it this time. Another sob escaped his lips, his hand running over his face, aggressively wiping away his sorrow. I just need to wait a few days. Just a few. Then I can apologise. We just need time to calm down. It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay. He realised he was outwardly voicing the last part of his thoughts, the mantra whispered quietly into the deafening loneliness of the room. He could feel himself getting tired, and in a sudden spurt of panic, he texted Jimin, before succumbing to the heaviness of his eyelids. Tomorrow is a new day, Jeongguk thought as he drifted off to sleep.

To: Jiminie [03:47]

I love you. Please remember that.

 

~ ☀️ ~

 

The rays of the setting sun seeped through the gaps of the blinds, prying open Jeongguk’s eyes. He reached over for Jimin, only for his hand to hit the mattress, grasping at the bedsheets as he remembered the events of last night. Wait, where did Jimin’s pillow go? Jeongguk rolled over to grab his phone, his lock screen lighting up, the numbers 17:32 shown above a picture him and Jimin at the beach. 5 in the evening? How tired was I? He unlocked his phone, his last text to Jimin looking back up at him in red.

To: Jiminie [03:47]

I love you. Please remember that.

                          Unable to send.

Sitting up, Jeongguk put his phone down in frustration and stretched his arms up high, working out his muscles and yawning loudly. That’s when he noticed it. There were things missing from the room, like someone had burgled him. Jimin’s easel was gone, as was his line of shoes against the wall, and his books he always kept in a pile in the corner, and his wind chime he hung up on the window, and his paintings. His paintings were gone. Jimin’s things were gone. He got up like a shot, running into the living room, noticing the lack of jackets hung over the dining chairs where Jimin always left them. His paintings on the wall were gone. He ran to the kitchen and pulled open cupboard after cupboard. His mugs were gone. Even that godforsaken mug handle was gone from the sink. Striding back to the living room, Jeongguk noticed that all of the photos were gone from the sideboards, all that remained were the empty frames. Staring at him. Mocking him. Everything that Jimin was, Jimin’s very essence, was just gone, like he was never there to begin with. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t even know what was going on. In his panicked state, Jeongguk’s gaze focused on the coffee table.

Something was laid there that wasn’t there before.

As he got closer, and as he realised what the object was, his knees gave in as he crumpled to the floor, loud cries echoing in the tampered space. From the coffee table, Jeongguk’s old Gameboy watched him fall apart.

Chapter Text

“Is that all I am to you now?”

No…

“Someone to put up with until you find something better?”

Never, Jimin, please…

“Is that all I am to you?”

Please, Jimin, you’re so much more…

“Someone to put up with?”

You’re not just anyone, you’re everything…

 

~ ☀️ ~

 

Jeongguk woke up on the couch, too exhausted to trek back to his bedroom. His bedroom. Only his. Eyes puffy and barely open from the number of tears he shed the night before, he noticed that the stain on the ceiling had grown, reminding him once again that he needed to call the landlord about it. No one else is gonna be here to remind him now anyway.

(“The stain has gotten bigger.”

“Goddamn it, Jimin, I said I’d sort it! Get off my back!”)

The Gameboy was now clutched desperately in his hands, fingers white from his hard grasp. He didn’t want to let it go. He didn’t want it to disappear as well. Placing the Gameboy delicately against a nearby pillow, he sat up in search of his phone, only to find it laid underneath the table, the image calling back to how he threw it aside last night, the harsh beeping of a disconnected number rattling his brain and making him scream. The screen was cracked terribly, and as he turned it on, a long gash crawled along the middle of his face, distorting his features. This is the only picture I have left of him. Jimin, arms around the still version of himself, smiled up at him, mid-laugh, sunshine frozen in a single moment. He stroked his thumb lightly over Jimin’s face, barely there, fearing it would disappear. He contemplated calling again, but he knew that nothing could get through a disconnected number. Last night’s attempts were more of a form of torture than a way to reach out; he knew that the line was disconnected, but he knew that he deserved to hear the beeping. He deserved to know the devastating result of his actions.

Throwing his phone aside, Jeongguk begrudgingly stood up, working the joints in his shoulders and hearing the quiet crack of his knees as he dragged his body to the bathroom in search of warmth that only the shower could offer him. The shower was longer than his usual due to the only company being his thoughts, endless and harsh, replaying the night before over and over like a broken record. He scrubbed the suds off of his body in the hopes that he could scrub away the look in Jimin’s eyes, but they remained, glistening with fresh tears and a hollow smirk etched into his tired face, once soft and free of stress. He missed the softness. Getting out and drying, he headed to his bedroom and threw on his clothes from the night before, not giving a second thought about his appearance. His only thought for today was to find Jimin and bring him back, and he would, even if he had to get on his knees and beg. Their relationship hadn’t been the best in the last couple of years, and Jimin was just as responsible as himself, but Jeongguk knew that he had crossed a line last night, had reached down and scavenged for Jimin’s biggest insecurity, and at that moment, all he wanted to do was make Jimin break. He didn’t realise that the reality of that thought was wrong, was heart-breaking for both of them. He had to apologise. It had to be him.

His first destination was Tae’s apartment. He didn’t want to think of this as a positive, but if Jimin was too upset over last night’s fight, he would forgo his daily schedule, meaning he’d still be cooped up at Tae’s, huddled up on the couch or in bed. He hated to think of Jimin in such a state, but it would be easier to find him. Walking past the bike racks to get to his car at the corner of his street, Jeongguk wasn’t surprised to find Jimin’s bike gone. Just like the rest of his things. Just like Jimin. Starting the car and pulling out into the busy traffic, Jeongguk’s mind called back to when he first discovered Jimin’s missing things, and in his heartbroken haze, he never really sat down to think about how Jimin got rid of everything in a night, with him inside the apartment too. I know I was asleep, but surely something would’ve woken me up. He took his paintings for Christ’s sake, some of them were framed and screwed to the wall! Jeongguk slowed down the car as the traffic lights turned red, stopping his endless stream of thoughts. The junction in front of him was busy. Cars were flying by, their drivers trying to get through the early morning rush hour. There was a group of school kids huddled at the corner of the street, leaning down to pet a dog tied to a fire hydrant. A mother walked with her child, hand in hand at the crossing. The girl was explaining something enthusiastically as her free arm waved about in uncontrollable delight, her mother smiling down at her fondly. As they finished crossing, the lights turned amber. Foot hovering over the pedal, Jeongguk turned his head at the last second to see a couple exiting a record store to the left of the street. The woman was holding out her purchase and admiring it, turning her head as her boyfriend leaned down behind her to hug her waist and have a look too. She moved to kiss his cheek, but he turned so their lips could meet in a light kiss. Soft, Jeongguk thought, I miss the softness. A scream of a car horn interrupted his thoughts and Jeongguk turned, the green light looking back at him in its artificial glow. He pushed the pedal to continue down the road, the couple shrinking in his rear-view mirror until they were out of sight. He sighed to himself, turning the corner onto Tae’s street. There was one thing he just couldn’t stop thinking about: why didn’t I wake up?

Climbing the four flights of stairs because of the broken lift proved in inconveniently tiring start to his search, as knocking on the apartment door confirmed the fact that no one was there to answer. Damn it, I missed them. Calling proved useless too, as Tae’s voicemail was the one to reply. Sending a quick text asking to call him when he gets the chance, Jeongguk begrudgingly walked back down the four flights of stairs to get to his car, his head hitting the wheel in defeat. Where else could he be? Thinking of all of Jimin’s favourite places, Jeongguk checks the time, and noticing that it was just past eleven, his next destination was the café near the station.

He and Jimin used to go to The Busy Bean for late breakfast all the time before separating for work, him the office and Jimin to the studio. The name always made Jimin laugh, and it became their regular just so that Jeongguk could hear Jimin’s quiet giggles every time they went. Their ritual sadly dwindled the more Jeongguk stayed late at work, too tired the next day to even think about doing anything other than getting dressed and driving back to the office for another gruelling shift. Jimin continued to go by himself, which eventually became the reason for Jeongguk’s evenings sat on the couch, listening to Jimin rattling on and on about the lovely new barista. Namjoon. So lovely, in fact, that he became a regular presence in Jeongguk’s life. In his car, in his apartment, in his bedroom. He knew that Jimin would never cheat, despite the hostility of their relationship, but Jeongguk couldn’t help but imagine. And Jimin knew that Namjoon bothered him. He liked to bring him up sometimes when he got bored or drunk enough to start an argument.

(“Namjoon never acts like this.”

“Namjoon cares more about me than you have in the past year.”

…“Namjoon looked so good today.”)

He knew he didn’t mean it. He wanted to get a rise out of him. Wanted any kind of attention from him after being neglected for so long, and he understood. It still hurt, though. He didn’t know if Jimin would be at the café, but he had to try.

 

~ ☀️ ~

 

The bell rang as Jeongguk opened the door to The Busy Bean. Looking around at the partially busy café brought back so many memories. The table in the corner was where they used to sit, ignoring the second couch in favour of squashing together on one, hands clasped together in a soft embrace. They’d sit huddled, whispering and giggling like they were the only two people that mattered. The corner seat was empty today, with a single coffee cup sat by itself, observing the other customers. He could almost hear Jimin’s giggles.

(“I can’t believe you still find the name so funny.”

“Sue me, the name is cute. And don’t act like you don’t either. I saw you hide a smile Mr Grumpypants.”)

Maybe Jimin was here. Walking to the counter with the question on his lips, the barista turned to face him and the sight of a small dimpled smile took the words right out of his mouth.

“Jeongguk?”, Namjoon uttered as he set down a coffee in front of the customer at the counter, “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

“I’ve been busy with work.” Jeongguk’s reply was curt and empty of warmth. He didn’t want to talk to Namjoon anymore than he needed to.

“Ah yeah, I remember Jimin mentioning it.” He smiled slightly as he mentioned the smaller boy’s name, souring Jeongguk’s mood even more. “How is Jimin, by the way?”

Jeongguk scoffed, his eyes narrowing slightly. “Wouldn’t you like to know.” His hand twitched as he slowly walked to the counter. Namjoon shifted slightly, showing his discomfort at Jeongguk’s tone.

He laughed awkwardly, reaching up to scratch at the back of his head. “That bad, huh. Listen man I” –

“That bad?” What do you mean ‘that bad’? Did Jimin tell you about last night?”

“Huh? Did something happen when he got home?” Namjoon placed his hands on the counter, confusion crossing his features as he leaned forward slightly, “I know Jimin got really bad last night, but me and Tae both tried to stop him, and I was the one to make sure he got home okay. He just looked like he really needed to let off some steam and I’m sorry if…”

Namjoon’s words quietened, filtering into the murmurs of the other customers.

I was the one to make sure he got home okay.

Those words echoed in Jeongguk’s head, crawling into the recesses of his mind and making a home there, stirring his anger until it broke through the surface. Of course, Jimin would do this. Of course, he would choose to go out with Namjoon. It was almost as if Jimin wanted an argument that night. He no doubt would have brought it up if things hadn’t escalated so quickly. Jeongguk’s eyes, previously staring at the floor as his thoughts broke out, moved upwards to aim his fury straight at Namjoon.

“…and I was with him the whole night so he wouldn’t do anything stupid, and Ta” –

“You were there.” Coming out as more of a statement than a question, Jeongguk’s exclamation was quiet and void of emotion. His face, however, was a different story. His eyes were wide and unblinking, staring at Namjoon, his slight smirk halting the other boy’s tangent. His tongue rolled against his cheek in irritation. He tilted his head slightly, “You were with Jimin.”

Namjoon’s eyes widened slightly. “I mean, yeah, we all went out toge” –

“I didn’t know you’d be there.”

“…Why is me being there such a big deal to you?” Namjoon moved back, silently thankful that the counter was in between the two of them. “H-have I done something to offend you?”

“Don’t act like you don’t have an agenda.” The idle chatter of the customers quietened as Jeongguk raised his voice, with a few turning their heads to observe the altercation. “Ever since I disappeared you just so happened to waltz your way into my space and take Jimin for yourself.” Jeongguk had gotten closer to Namjoon, leaning over the counter to jab his finger into the other’s chest.

“Take Jimin for – what are you even talking about?” Namjoon questioned as he pushed Jeongguk’s hand away. “Jimin and I are just friends.” At Jeongguk’s scoff, Namjoon’s calm demeanour turned irritable. It was clear that he wasn’t going to be able to dissuade Jeongguk from his wild accusations any time soon. “We can discuss this later if you’re still so mad about it, but I’m on shift right now and you’re causing a scene” –

“I bet you know where he is.” Ignoring Namjoon’s words, Jeongguk leaned over the counter a second time to shove sharply into the older boy’s chest. “I bet he’s hiding at yours.” At Jeongguk’s actions, Namjoon roughly threw open the right side of the counter, walking towards the younger, who moved further forward. Chest to chest, Jeongguk eyes travelled across Namjoon’s features, looking for any sign that his accusations were true. He moved his head further before he spoke, both boys’ noses barely touching. “I bet you’ve been waiting for months for this to happen. Making sure to always be there when I’m not with a ‘comforting shoulder’ for him to cry on.” Jeongguk’s breath became more ragged as he spat his words towards the older boy. “I don’t blame you. Jimin’s beautiful. Too beautiful for anyone. Sometimes I wonder why he picked me, you know? He could clearly pick someone like you, someone who’s there for him.” At those words, Namjoon leaned back, moving his body to create space to breathe. Every customer’s attention was now on the two boys in the centre of the café. Jeongguk’s eyes were at the ground again, too busy staring to catch Namjoon’s sympathetic look. He slowly placed his arm on Jeongguk’s shoulder. “C’mon, Gguk, let’s step out for a sec, yeah?”

The younger boy’s head shot up as he shoved at Namjoon’s shoulders, who hit the counter. “Don’t call me that!” His vulnerable words were gone, replaced in an instant by his deluded thoughts. “Don’t talk to me like you know me! Like you care!” Stalking back into Namjoon’s space, and ignoring the gasps and outcries from the café’s customers, Jeongguk screamed “Where’s Jimin?! Tell me or I swear to God I’ll” –

His words were broken as Namjoon grabbed and turned him roughly, holding his arms tightly behind his back as he struggled for release. Ignoring his shouts of protest, Namjoon stomped towards the exit, yanking the door wide open and shoving Jeongguk out onto the street. “Stop acting so immature!” Jeongguk looked up at him from his newfound spot on the pavement floor, too defeated to get back up. “You are in a public place Jeongguk. I get that you and Jimin fought, but that doesn’t mean you can just waltz into my place of work and randomly assault me for something I never did.” Taking a deep breath, Namjoon continued, his voice quieter in volume but harsher in tone. “Do you wanna know what happened when we went out?”

Jeongguk stood up slowly, eyes dark. “You don’t need to tell me about what you got up to with my boyfriend.”

“He cried, Jeongguk. All night.”

“…what?”

“Jimin cried because of you.” Namjoon paused briefly, calming himself down. “He was a wreck. Tae and I kept saying that we should stay in for the night, but he would’ve gone out if we didn’t, and I couldn’t let him get hurt. He kept saying that you’d forgotten about him, that you were too busy for him… it got worse the more he drank. At one point he started blaming himself for everything. He disappeared for a few minutes and I found him staring at himself in the bathroom mirror, saying he wasn’t good enough for you.”

“I-I didn’t…I didn’t” –

“You didn’t know, I get it. But it’s…” Seeing that Jeongguk’s gaze had returned to the ground, he bent his knees slightly to capture his attention, grabbing his shoulders slightly in the hopes of creating some form of comfort, “It’s like you guys don’t even speak to each other anymore. He wouldn’t have been so bad last night if there was a least some level of communication between you two.” His hand began to slowly stroke the younger’s upper arm in an attempt to calm him somewhat. “I know relationships are difficult, I understand, but you and Jimin have been together 6 years. Hell, you’ve known each other for 14! So don’t let something you’ve kept safe for so long crack over a few arguments.” When he had finished his lecture, Namjoon released Jeongguk from his hold and straightened himself upwards, awaiting the younger’s response.

“…You’re right. I need to talk to him. That’s what I was supposed to do now, and look what I’ve gone and done.” He scoffed at the thought, looking up to Namjoon with an apology hanging off the tip of his tongue. “Namjoon I’m sorr” –

“Yeah, yeah, you’re sorry, whatever. You can apologise with a drink when you’ve got this all sorted out. Just try not to start another fight in the process.” He punched Jeongguk’s shoulder lightly and turned to open the café door, but not before turning back around towards the younger, “And for the love of God, if you do, please leave me out of it.” With that, he showed his small dimpled smile once more before disappearing, the café door swinging slightly before ceasing its movements.

Jeongguk’s anger was gone. As he trekked back to his car, the previous argument played over in his mind. For the second time today, Jeongguk lets his head fall against his steering wheel. Even throughout that entire argument, Jeongguk knew that Namjoon was never in the wrong. Something is hidden deep inside him, something cracked and rotting, had just been begging to escape ever since he woke up to the bare walls of his bedroom. If it wasn’t Namjoon, it would’ve been Tae if he had answered the door. And despite his dislike for the guy, Namjoon had calmed him down. Had brought him back. Goddamn it, why did he have to be so nice?

 

~ ☀️ ~

 

With The Busy Bean ruled out, there was really only one option left: Jimin’s studio. If he wasn’t curled up alone in Tae’s apartment, he would be at the studio. Jimin always used painting as a way to cope with things, he had since he was young. Sitting up properly and pulling out of his parking space, Jeongguk made his way towards the studio, his hands gripped tightly on the wheel. Entering the building, Jeongguk asked a few bystanders if they had seen Jimin, but with little luck, he powered on, climbing the stairs two at a time, itching to get to Jimin and Tae’s shared space. The place was still as cluttered as he last remembered, with paintbrushes, fabrics and photos littering the desks. Tae’s was particularly messy, Jeongguk noted, as he recalled him speaking of a project in which one had to focus on something monumental and life-changing to the artist. A mood board was hung near the desk for it, adorned with several polaroids of Yoongi, and a rough sketch of the music studio back in their university days. He always was a sap, Jeongguk thought. Jimin was just the same, which is why he and Tae were always so inseparable. Jimin’s softer side hadn’t made an appearance in quite a while. He missed it.

Moving over to Jimin’s desk in the corner, Jeongguk immediately recognised the painting sat on the shelf, it’s previous residence being their bedroom wall facing the bed. Jimin’s favourite painting. It was always special to Jimin. Despite it being his first time using watercolours, he had painted the seashore perfectly, blending elegantly into the sand. He’d intended for it to be a landscape, but he got too into the waves, and the way the line of the shore would latch onto the grains of sand like a lifeline.

(“What happened to the rest of the beach, Min?”

“I don’t know, there’s just something about the shoreline that grabbed me. It’s like it’s washing away the mistakes. Why, does it look stupid?”

“No, Min, it’s beautiful.”)

There were two seashells towards the edge of the canvas. Jeongguk had joked once that the shells were the two of them, but Jimin had never found it funny. Touching the canvas, Jeongguk moved his eyes to the desk and slowly realised that the photos of him and Jimin were gone. Jimin had always kept them there. He said that he liked to be reminded of his reason for perusing art.

(“You’re my reason, Gguk. You never gave up on me.”)

Jeongguk wondered when the photos disappeared. He’s long since given up on Jimin’s dream. He didn’t deserve to be on the desk. Guilt enveloped him in a flash. He truly was gone from Jimin’s life. I know I fucked up, but I didn’t think it was bad enough for Jimin to leave me behind. Jeongguk’s hand subconsciously moved to one of Jimin’s various sketchbooks. The pages were crisp as his fingers flicked through the illustrations, consisting mainly of dismembered body parts. A lone arm; a zoomed-in eye, with its pupil almost shining; the back of someone’s head; a pair of lips, half cast in shadow and barely open, as if holding itself back from letting out its deepest and most hidden secrets. Jimin had always loved landscape, but he wanted to work on people more. He had said one night a while back that he had almost felt detached people, that he felt like he was still sat by himself on their hill, overlooking everyone rather than being amongst everyone. Sometimes Jeongguk wondered the same thing. The sketchbook slipped slightly in his hold and fell onto the desk, a full painting of their hill staring back up at him. Everything else so far had been rough sketches, but this looked complete: perfect and freshly painted with colour. Jeongguk stroked the edge of the hill with his finger and noticed something sitting in the tree’s small branch, and laughed wetly as he recognised Jimin’s tattered ball, frozen in a single frame, forever a guardian overlooking the tops of the trees and the houses far ahead. A drop of water gently splashed onto the top of the hill, and in a spout of confusion, Jeongguk reached up to find his cheek wet with tears. Just when he thought he’d ran out of tears for the day. Seeing the hill – their hill – brought back too many memories and reminded him that nothing had been this way for the last two years: nothing had been theirs, it had just been each other. They never shared anymore, and it broke Jeongguk’s heart all over again when he thought about realising it too late.

Wiping them away gently, Jeongguk’s attention was captured by the corner of a leaflet poking out of the side of the sketchbook. Pulling it out revealed a picture of the human brain at the centre, encased in an outline of a human head and surrounded by some sort of mist. At the top, in bold black letters, were the words:

Lacuna Inc.

Remember: It’s OK to Forget

What would Jimin want with this?  Without thinking, Jeongguk pocketed the leaflet and turned to leave. It was clear that Jimin wasn’t here. Sighing in defeat and looking down to check his phone for messages, Jeongguk was unaware of the newcomer walking through the studio door.

“Oh, I didn’t know there was someone in here. Did you need something?”

Jeongguk looked up abruptly at the familiar voice, both shock and relief morphing his features into a tired smile. He couldn’t help but stare, lost for words. It felt like he hadn’t seen Jimin for weeks. Maybe he hadn’t, not fully. Jimin’s face pulled down into a confused frown.

“Were you looking for me or Tae. He’s on his lunch break but he hasn’t had a commission for a while so I’m sure he could fit you in somewhere.” His frown morphed into a sweet smile as he spoke, creating a sense of comfort. It reminded him of the Jimin back at college, the care-free Jimin who had all the time in the world to discover who he was.

“I’m looking for you, obviously, I’ve been looking all day, to be honest”, Jeongguk blurted out in a relieved sigh, “I’m so glad you’re here.”

The previous confusion returned as Jimin spoke. “You needed me that badly?” He thought for a second before laughing breathily, “Are you in need of a last-minute present? Did you forget someone’s birthday?” Jeongguk watched, speechless, as Jimin continued to talk, walking towards his desk and shuffling through the papers there. “As you can see, I only really do landscapes, but I have been practising so if you desperately need a painting of a loved one then I can guarantee that’ll try my very not to fuck it up too much.” Jimin finished his tangent with another little laugh, but Jeongguk couldn’t find a reason to laugh with him.

“Jimin, listen, I know I went too far last night, but acting like you don’t know me is a bit too much don’t you think?” Jeongguk’s shoulders hunched up, the feeling of relief completely gone. “I came here to apologise. Jimin, I’m sorry about last night, about yesterday morning too. I know I haven’t said this in a long while, but you mean more to me than any” –

“I’m sorry, how do you know my name?” Jimin’s words sounded wary, saying them with a slight tilt to them, almost as if he was accusing him of something. He took a step back towards the door, creating space between the two of them. Noticing this made Jeongguk’s eyes begin to water. “I don’t put my name on my social media or my adverts, so how did you get it?”

“This isn’t funny Jimin.”

“Stop saying my name. I don’t know you, you’re making me uncomfortable.”

At those words, the tears began to fall, and Jeongguk became desperate. “What do you mean you don’t know me?! We’ve known each other since we were kids. You’re my fucking boyfriend!” Jimin flinched at the other’s shout, moving further towards the door with his hands clasped to his chest, subconsciously trying to hide from the shouting stranger. “Is this some form of punishment?! Are you doing this to punish me?! Because if this is a joke then I really don’t find it funny!”

“Stop acting like you know me! Who are you?!”

“Jimin, please” –

“Look, you clearly have something personal going on, but I’m not the person you think I am” Jimin voiced cautiously as he held up his hands, now almost at the door, “so I’m just gonna leave you alone so you can calm down by yourself, ok?”

In an act of despair, Jeongguk shot forward and grabbed onto one of Jimin’s arms, tears streaming down as he begged, “Please don’t leave me alone again. Please…”

Despite the obvious fear in his eyes, Jimin’s words dripped with pity as he wrenched his arm from Jeongguk’s tight hold. “I’m so sorry, I hope you find whoever you're looking for.”

“Jimin, wait!” Jimin had already fled the room, his hurried steps echoing as he flew down the stairs. Jeongguk followed, tears blurring his vision as he tried to catch up to him. They both made it to the ground floor, Jimin significantly ahead, having already made it through the front doors and into the arms of a tall man standing next to a car. As he got closer, Jeongguk recognised Tae as the one with his arms wrapped tightly around his boyfriend, with Yoongi sat at the wheel of the car, looking on with concern in his eyes. The two break from their embrace and begin to speak in hushed tones, Jimin clearly panicked as Tae rubbed his arm slowly in comfort. Yoongi murmured something to the two, to which Jimin rubbed at his cheeks and got into the back of the car with Tae’s hand securely on his back. Jeongguk couldn’t move his feet. He could only watch as Jimin yet again slipped through his fingers, his heart breaking as he looked on. After Tae closed the car door, he turned quickly and noticed Jeongguk at the entrance, fixing him with a hard stare. Unlike Jimin, Tae definitely acted as if he knew him. Unblinking, Tae pulled his phone out of his pocket and nodded his head slightly, fully acknowledging Jeongguk’s presence. Without a word, Tae broke their gaze as he walked around the car to get to the passenger seat. Yoongi didn’t even spare him a glance as he pulled away from the curb and drove to the end of the street. Jeongguk watched as the car disappeared around the corner, ignoring the curious looks around him as he let out a quiet sob. His pocket buzzed, and he pulled out his phone to see that Tae had texted him. Why didn’t he just come over and talk to me?

From: Tae [13:12]

Come to mine at 9. Jimin won’t be there. I’ll explain everything.

Jeongguk read the text over and over again. How did this all happen in a day? Why is Jimin being like this? There was no use pondering over these questions, he’d get his answers when he went to Tae’s. He still couldn’t help but think about why Jimin didn’t know him. Despite it being cruel, Jeongguk desperately wished that it was all an elaborate joke and that when he went to Tae’s, Jimin would be there with open arms and a kiss for him. They could all sit with a drink in their hands and laugh about it, and Jimin and Jeongguk could finally start again. That wouldn’t happen, though, and Jeongguk knew that. It didn’t mean that he wouldn’t still wish for it. Sighing loudly, and for the third time that day, he rested his head on the steering wheel, willing the tears away as his mind conjured up the image of their hill, Jimin’s football watching Jeongguk as he sat alone at the peak and watched the tops of the trees, talking to the wind and hoping to hear something back. There was only silence.