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just look to the moon

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Taehyung was asked a question once: would you choose to live over a hundred years and live a boring life or live half that time and live a life full of adventure? Taehyung suspects whoever wrote that question probably had a different idea of what adventure is than he does because he’s on one now and it feels terribly boring.

It’s silent for the most part, just the hum of Jungkook’s music and the sounds of the cars on the highway. There’s a sleepiness in the air that’s warranted, as they spent the day on the beach with the sun and the ocean seeping the energy from them. Now the night is dark and calling for it, but Taehyung can’t fall asleep. 

It’s not horrifically bad though Jungkook won’t share his other air pod with him. He is a warm presence beside him. They are sat in the back of their camper van, on the cot that is raised high enough that there is only a small space between the roof and their heads. Their things are shoved beneath it, stacked neatly though Taehyung knows that won’t last long.

There’s a small kitchen on the side. The essentials; a sink, stove, and mini fridge. On the other side, there is a table with cushions that can fold out for an eating space or can be rearranged into a small (very tiny) couch. Currently though, their boxes from their university dorm are stacked there.

It is quite spacious when they’re sitting. Laying down is another story. Their toes push into one side of the van while there is only a small space for a pillow between their heads and the other side of the wall.

Despite the space, Jungkook is pressed beside him, one hand cupping the inside of his knee as he plays on his phone. Their first night of adventure and Jungkook is playing Candy Crush.

He teases, head dancing from side to side in time with whatever song he’s listening to. Taehyung knows it’s on purpose because he can see the glint in Jungkook’s eyes whenever he looks out the corner of them.

“Jungkook-ah,” Taehyung complains, quietly because it feels wrong to disturb the silence. He can hear the crickets chirping outside. “Let me listen.”

Jungkook hums along now. There is a grin touching his lips when Taehyung complains, head knocking to Jungkook’s shoulders. He swats at Taehyung’s attempts to pull the ear phone from him, trapping Taehyung’s hand to where he had been cupping his knee.

With a long sigh, Taehyung hooks his arm into the window beside him and leans into it, away from Jungkook. He pushes his lips into a pout, staring at the few cars that are traveling down the long highway behind them. Maybe headed to another beach, the mountains, like they are. Maybe just driving without any destination in sight.

That’s what Taehyung wanted on this trip, just going and going and seeing where it leads them. But he doesn’t mind planning out some of it. He likes the mountains for the most part, he just hates the climb up to the top of them.

Taehyung’s pout lasts for a moment before Jungkook’s hand letting go of his own to slide higher up Taehyung’s thigh. He tugs gently until Taehyung’s leg is spreading away from him. Jungkook still doesn’t look at him, starting to hum now one of Taehyung’s favorite songs. 

They’re parked on one of the stops off of the Kancamagus highway, used for sightseeing over the mountains it runs along. Taehyung doesn’t know if they’re allowed to park here overnight, but Taehyung and Jungkook’s plan is to avoid paying for hotels or campgrounds as much as possible to have money to do things while they travel. 

Plus, the view is nice, even if he’s afraid of heights. 

“Let me listen.”

Taehyung kicks at him, causing Jungkook’s lips to quirk up but once he sets his mind to something, he always succeeds.

It’s annoying most of the time. If Jungkook wasn’t his best friend and if he wasn’t so fond, he’d be overly annoyed by the fact that Jungkook does well at anything, no matter what it is, if he puts his mind to it. 

But because Taehyung is Jungkook’s best friend, and he has been since they first started rolling around on the ground in the attempts to take off like they’re doing now, Taehyung knows what works.

Taehyung lurches over the small space between them now, hand cupping Jungkook’s cheek to turn his face towards him. He resists at first, pushing back into Taehyung’s hand until Taehyung manages to slip the ear piece from his ear to whisper in it.

“Kook- ah .”

Jungkook stills, fingers still gripping into Taehyung’s thigh. He wishes he could see if the amusement is still on his face. He suspects it isn’t, when he breathes hotly over the shell of Jungkook’s ear.

When Jungkook doesn’t move to get his ear phone back, nor move at all, Taehyung tucks it into his ear and leans back against the window. He feels victorious and tries not to glance at Jungkook to gloat about it.

Maybe boring isn’t the right word because it’s nice, this silence between them. The song they share is soft, sad, but when Jungkook looks to him he’s wearing a smile that Taehyung knows is on his own lips. 

Taehyung likes this more than he’ll admit. It feels like they’re in their own little world, their own bubble. Jungkook holds his eyes, mouthing along to Dokyeom’s ‘ I lean on one side of the room and call your name ’ and looking dumb with how dramatic he does it.

He is soft when he falls into the next part, hand moving up Taehyung’s thigh as the smile changes from his lips to his eyes.

You’re so pretty, you’re so so soft.

Taehyung rolls his eyes, but he doesn’t know if it’s from him judging the heat in his own cheeks or judging Jungkook’s dumb face. 

Even in the darkness, the only light seeping in between their makeshift curtains is the glow of the moon, Jungkook’s face is dumb and beautiful. His cheeks are starting to swell and redden from being in the sun all day, salt water and chlorine making strands of his hair hard in some places, sticking out in others. 

They had rinsed off quickly at the beach’s bathroom before changing into clothes that smell too perfumy because someone left Jungkook in charge of laundry and he dropped half the box of dryer sheets into the machine. Despite this, Taehyung can still smell the sun lotion on Jungkook’s skin when he gets too close.

His eyes are bright as his nose wrinkles. Taehyung bites at his laugh as Jungkook presses their noses together, no longer mouthing the words but whispering them beneath his breath.

Taehyung can’t hear them, but he can feel them on his lips before Jungkook presses his own to them.

Taehyung knows he’d live over a hundred years with nothing but these boring moments with Jungkook.

With a hand shifting over Taehyung’s jaw, pulling him into the kiss, Jungkook pulls the ear phone from his ear.

“Cheater,” Taehyung murmurs, not even reaching for it when Jungkook pulls away again.

He’s lived his life beside Jungkook because that is where it feels the most right. As they traveled through their childhood together, jumping into their awkward preteen years and suffering through highschool, almost dying to get through college, they’ve picked up a few other friends they both would consider best friends. But from the beginning, it’s always been the two of them.

Everything about Jungkook is familiar to him the way the home you grew up in is. The way he scrunches his entire face in a laugh, the way he tucks his hair behind his ears. The shape of his body, the feel of his skin. The sound of his voice, even if it’s changed over the years. Even if he’s changed over the years, growing bigger and broader, defining the muscles of his body and ridding the fat that used to cling to his cheeks. Coloring his hair and almost going bald because he bleached it too much.

All of it is familiar to Taehyung in a way that he feels at home beside Jungkook.

This though, this hand up high on the inner part of Taehyung’s thigh, the kiss, this is all new.

Granted, Taehyung has thought about it before, has always cuddled Jungkook before. They even kissed when they were younger, experimenting under the blankets while Taehyung had been trying to read his comics to Jungkook. 

But it’s still new and Taehyung doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to get used to it.

“Go to sleep,” Jungkook whispers, tucking the ear phone back into his ear.

Taehyung shakes his head, cocking his leg so his knee is now resting over Jungkook’s thigh. “Can’t sleep yet.”

“You look exhausted,” Jungkook whispers, rolling his eyes and pulling Taehyung’s leg further over his thigh. Taehyung curls closer to him, shaking his head some until Jungkook fully closes the space between him. 

The kisses are new. Teen years and drunken dares aside, they’re new. Those were different, not as soft, not with the same feeling behind them. Maybe, at least, Taehyung could just be imagining it because there’s always been a lot of feeling inside of him when it comes to Jungkook.

“You literally look like you’re about to drop,” Jungkook says, head tilting. 

Taehyung doesn’t really quite remember what had started it. Jungkook had slipped into his bedroom, wanting to hide beneath the covers like they always do. But Taehyung doesn’t remember how that progressed to lips molding together, exploring hands that are as familiar as his own beneath their clothes. He doesn’t remember how reminiscing about Jungkook’s childhood bedroom turned to panting into his mouth or tasting parts of Jungkook that were new to him.

Taehyung definitely doesn’t know how that has turned into sneaking away from their friends to kiss and touch, to soft moments where their eyes meet when they can’t and Taehyung can tell Jungkook wants to.

Even if it’s new, Taehyung will be able to read Jungkook in any situation.

“Not tired,” Taehyung lies, smoothing his fingers over Jungkook’s neck and feeling the raised skin there. The long line that he knows is white and stands out loudly against his tanned skin.

Even if Jungkook’s had it for years, the sight of it still bothers him. The both of them. Sometimes he catches Jungkook staring at it in the mirror and he is quiet for the rest of the day.

“Me neither,” Jungkook says, grabbing Taehyung’s hand and holding it. “I have a feeling this trip is going to be a lot of staying up in the night and sleeping all day.

Taehyung thinks anything would be fine if he were spending it with Jungkook. “S’too hot to sleep during the day.”

Jungkook touches gently over his knuckles before he’s hooking his hand beneath Taehyung’s knee and making Taehyung move closer. There really isn’t any space left between them anyway but there is mischief in Jungkook’s eyes.

“We’ll pull a King Louis and spend all day in those bath house things.”

Taehyung’s giggle sounds breathy as Jungkook’s fingers slide over his thigh. He drops references like this but will refuse to admit to any of their friends how much he loved Korean dramas. “I don’t think they have those here?”

But Jungkook only shrugs. He doesn’t fight Taehyung off when he takes the ear phone back.

The song is another slow sad one, as almost all of Jungkook’s songs are.

“Well?” Jungkooks says, fingers shifting beneath the shorts that Taehyung has bunched up at the hips. It is really muggy in their van but most of his summer clothes are at home. They have to stop there before they take off for the rest of the country, so Taehyung is going to be stuck in these same shorts for a few days.

Jungkook doesn’t offer anything more than that and Taehyung laughs.

“Wanna bone?”

Taehyung likes it a lot when Jungkook laughs. His little snickering, the way his face scrunches up and it would look disgusted if it weren’t for how loud his amusement is.

“Now I think that’s what we’re going to be doing this summer?” Jungkook giggles as he lets go of Taehyung’s leg so Taehyung can crawl in his lap instead. 

“Why climb to the mountains when I can climb on top of you?” Taehyung teases, amusement in his tone. He threads his fingers through the strands at Jungkook’s nape, enjoying how soft they are and how long they’ve grown. 

Jungkook snorts, eyes dropping between them to watch the way his palms move up Taehyung’s thighs until his shorts are bunching up at the hips.

“Is this considered public indecency?” Jungkook hums thoughtfully before he leans his head back to look at Taehyung. “Three days after graduation and you’re hauled off to prison. 

“What a mood killer,” Taehyung complains, pulling back but Jungkook is following after him, laughing.

Jungkook crawls over him as Taehyung lays back, Taehyung’s fingers fisting in Jungkook’s shirt. It’s already a little damp with sweat because the battery operated cooling system they have isn’t that good. Good enough for them to avoid heat stroke but not to avoid sweat on their skin.

“No? I find it exciting, don’t you?” Jungkook laughs, arms caging around Taehyung’s head.

Taehyung doesn’t sleep that night, listening to the crickets outside and the cars going by instead. There aren’t as many as the night drags on, but when it’s quiet he can hear Jungkook snoring and that keeps him from feeling afraid of the darkness around them. 

Climbing the actual mountain is hard as shit. Taehyung regrets it the entire way up. His body aches, his chest aches. He complains loudly about it and Jungkook listens to it with a smile.

The view at the top is worth it for a few seconds. The sight is beautiful, looking over other smaller mountains and the small village they’re going into afterwards for dinner.

But the thought of tumbling off ruins it and Taehyung sinks back into the trees outside of the cliff. He watches Jungkook take it all in before he grabs the camera from around his neck.

Watching the smile on Jungkook’s lips is worth it too.

The walk back down the mountain seems to take years longer than the walk up. Jungkook grabs Taehyung’s elbow often when they step onto the unsturdy rocks and the small logs that they don’t need to walk on to cross the tiny streams, but do anyway.

Halfway down, Taehyung’s back is pressed to a tree, Jungkook pressed to his front. Jungkook kisses him quickly, just enough to surprise him, before he’s letting go and taking off again. 

It is just the two of them, no need for sneaking around to kiss and touch. 

They eat at a tiny breakfast place in town, sharing a stack of pancakes and waffles. Jungkook eats most of it, though he constantly shoves bites towards Taehyung until he eats more. His cheeks bulge and his lips smear with locally made syrup that Taehyung finds he wants to lick off.

He watches Jungkook do it instead, rolling his eyes at the teasing in Jungkook’s.

By the time they leave, it feels like  Taehyung has consumed in breakfast food all the calories he burnt off walking the mountain.

They rent a motel that night. Some shotty, low cost room that gives Taehyung the creeps, but the air conditioner works. He inspects the bed, or tries to, as Jungkook slumps down onto it without a care and makes it difficult to pull back the bedding.

“With your employee discount, we can afford to sleep at hotels instead of the van more nights,” Taehyung says, smoothing a hand over the comforter. “A nicer hotel.”

Jungkook peeks at him from underneath the arm he has over his face. “What is the fun in that?”

“Clean sheets,” Taehyung laughs. He didn’t find anything on these. They look clean, he’s just heard too many horror stories about hotels. Especially hotels that cost less than fifty dollars a night in a high tourist area.

“Why? Just to get them dirty again?”

Taehyung rolls his eyes and plops himself down beside him. “I can sleep in my own grime. Not others’.”

“Not mine?” Jungkook teases, curling towards him. His hair has curled from his shower, clinging to his forehead. It’s been some time since he’s had dark hair, and Taehyung likes the way it looks with his sun kissed skin.

Not that he didn’t like any of the thousands of other shades Jungkook has had. But he hasn’t had the black hair in years, since they were kids and life was much easier.  

“Nope,” Taehyung hums. His back hurts and exhaustion weighs heavily on him. But he likes how soft this moment is and doesn’t want to sleep yet. 

Jungkook taps idly over Taehyung’s hips, fingers drawing circles over the sharp bone there. “Are you sure about that? Not too long ago you were just begging for me to -”

Taehyung snaps a hand to his mouth, giggling softly. He squeezes his fingers around Jungkook’s lips until they pucker out like a fish. 

If he wants to lean down and press a kiss to them, no one has to know. He lets Jungkook’s lips go instead, rubbing the corner of his mouth. When they planned this trip, Taehyung hadn’t foreseen this new change in their relationship. 

“I would be fine just riding,” Jungkook says, eyes soft when he grabs Taehyung’s hand to pull it away. He holds onto it, letting their clasped hands rest in the small space between them. “It would be cheaper anyway, and we can buy stupid shit like souveniers we’ll never use or even look at again.”

They’ve had this trip planned since they were little, too young to even know the cost of it or where they would go. They’ve saved up for years, as much as they could.

Taehyung is lucky in the sense that he could save up. Unlike Namjoon, who worked so much around school so every cent could go to keeping himself fed and clothed. Or Jimin, who started paying his college loans his freshman year even though payments weren’t due until after he graduated because the idea of drowning in debt sent him into a whirlwind of panic.

Jungkook wouldn’t consider himself lucky for the large number in his bank account, and Taehyung would agree. There are certain things that money can’t fix. But it’s nice to have anyway. Just in case.

“Come here,” Taehyung says, turning to his back to reach for his phone. He fumbles with it for a moment before bringing his camera up and angling it towards his face.

Jungkook gets what he’s doing and a second later he’s pressing his chin to Taehyung’s shoulder and glowering at the camera. 

The laugh Taehyung lets out is captured as his finger smacks down on the shutter button.

It’s cute the way Jungkook is glaring, eyebrows pushed together and top lip curling, while Taehyung’s lips are stretched into a wide smile.

He doesn’t hesitate to send it to their friends as Jungkook lays back down beside him.

Day Two. Lincoln, New Hampshire. 

The responses flood in a second later and Jungkook tucks his cheek against Taehyung’s shoulder, snickering at what their friends have to say. He wraps an arm around Taehyung’s waist, making it so he feels Jungkook’s body vibrate when he laughs.

When a private one from Jimin appears at the top of his phone, Taehyung is quick to flick his thumb against it and swipe it away just in case. Knowing Jimin it’s probably something he doesn’t want Jungkook to see or something that will embarrass him.

Not that he keeps secrets from Jungkook or feels truly embarrassed around him. Jimin just has these assumptions about the state of Jungkook and his relationship, and Taehyung doesn’t know how Jungkook would respond to them. 

“What was that?” Jungkook asks, amusement in his tone. 

“Jimin being dumb,” Taehyung murmurs before he changes the subject and points to Namjoon’s message. “Hyung wants you to send him pictures of the mountains.”

Jungkook nods, but he doesn’t move to do so. He only tightens closer to Taehyung, curling a leg over his and pushing it between them. Only Jungkook had showered and Taehyung probably should too, but Jungkook is warm and Taehyung doesn’t want to move.

“Where are we headed tomorrow?” Jungkook asks tiredly. He yawns a second later, mouth opening wide and pressing into his shoulder.

Taehyung nudges him when he bites him playfully.

“Boston,” Taehyung giggles as he opens his camera again.

This picture he keeps for himself, Jungkook’s eyes closed and cheek squished against his shoulder.

He tosses his phone to the side and covers the hand Jungkook has on his stomach. He feels over his knuckles and the thick skin there, trailing up until he can slot their fingers.

Jungkook pushes his fingers up until Taehyung can link them together. It’s only a few moments before Jungkook is asleep and Taehyung lays heavy with exhaustion. 

“You smell.”

“Fuck you.”

“What do you think I’m trying to do here?”

Jungkook groans, head knocking back into the pillows. Taehyung grins at the reaction, watching the slope of Jungkook’s neck and the way his throat constricts as he swallows.

He can’t believe he’s gone all this time without having Jungkook like this. Spread eagle before him, his body between Jungkook’s legs. Taehyung warms his hand beneath Jungkook’s loose tank top, dragging it up high enough that he can lean down and tongue around his belly button.

His face is sunburnt again because Jungkook swears his bucket hat is enough to keep the sun away. They spent the day walking around Boston, trailing after the tour groups on the historic trails but not paying for them. Giggling at the random acts scattered about: a man playing a bagpipe, way too many mimes, and even a woman painted head to toe in silver that stood so still that Taehyung hadn’t realized she wasn’t a statue.

A few streets past Quincy Market, they found a crowd surrounding a group of street dancers. Jungkook had been adorable with how excited he was, pulling Taehyung to the front of the crowd so they could watch.

He looked murderous though when Taehyung shoved him into the center of the crowd to dance as well.

They loved him almost as much as Taehyung does.

“Well get on with it then,” Jungkook grunts, hips rolling up but Taehyung cups them and plants them back to the sheets. 

“Get on with what?” Taehyung teases. He sucks a kiss beneath Jungkook’s belly button, enjoying the way the muscles in Jungkook’s abdomen clench when his hips attempt to rock up again.

Tomorrow they’re back in Connecticut. They’ll spend two days there, returning home for the first time since the summer before. Taehyung is excited but he knows Jungkook isn’t.

It was Jungkook’s idea to stop there before heading off again, headed off to New York and past it. But Taehyung knows he only suggested it because Taehyung misses his baby sister.

She was too young to come to their graduation, and it’s been months since he’s seen her.

There would be no other reason for Jungkook to want to venture back to their home again. Even for the holidays, Taehyung has to beg and plead for him to come with him. Taehyung doesn’t like spending the holidays without his family, but they have each other and Jungkook has no one if he stays on campus alone.

“The fucking,” Jungkook grunts, waving a hand aimlessly above himself.

“Impatient,” Taehyung clicks fondly, enjoying the way Jungkook’s hips kick back up when he kisses lower.

Jungkook is impatient, always has been. Even like this as he pushes up and fists a hand into Taehyung’s shirt. Tugging, pulling until he’s wrestling Taehyung onto his back.

Their kiss is filled with laughter and shit talking before those noises turn to moans, hands exploring beneath clothes. Taehyung savors the feeling of Jungkook’s back dimples under his fingers, pressing down until Jungkook’s hips roll into his. He likes when Jungkook finally strips his briefs and sweatpants from himself, only letting Taehyung catch a glimpse of his bare skin and stiff cock before he’s leaning back over him to mold their lips back into an urgent kiss. 

Maybe they do this too often or maybe not enough, but he craves how good Jungkook makes him feel. How soft and strong he feels succumbing to his fingers, how tight he is around them. How he urges Taehyung for more and more but gasps like he’s surprised when Taehyung gives it to him.

Taehyung has always been a fan of the phenomena that is Jungkook’s thighs, but even more so as they cradle his hips and flex with each movement. Tensing when Jungkook lifts himself up, and softening when he bottoms out.

They way they shake and tremble when Jungkook’s fingers dig into his chest, and how tight they squeeze around Taehyung when he sits up and drags his hands roughly up Jungkook’s back.

“Like that,” Jungkook grunts, head burying into the slope of Taehyung’s neck as Taehyung snaps his hips up. His rhythm is off and his thighs ache after a few minutes, but it’s worth it to feel Jungkook’s hiccuped gasps against his skin. 

It hurts when Jungkook bites into his skin, but pleasure drags a loud moan from his lips as his hips stutter.

The concern for the neighboring hotel guests on the other side of the wall leaves Taehyung’s mind as he feels his orgasm approach. He doesn’t think as he plants Jungkook back to the bed and grabs his thighs. He only focuses on each loud, hiccuped gasp that Jungkook lets out when Taehyung snaps his hips forward with a force that knocks the headboard against the wall.

He tastes those gasps when Jungkook comes, Taehyung’s body leaning over his to mouth at Jungkook’s parted lips. There are blunt nails digging into the back of his neck, but he doesn’t care, enjoys the way he can make Jungkook feel that good he loses a little bit of the gentleness he always uses on Taehyung. 

Taehyung pulls out to come, one hand slipping beneath Jungkook’s shirt to shove it up his chest as his other strokes quickly at his cock. He grunts at the first sight of come spurting from the tip, coating the already come covered skin of Jungkook’s abdomen.

He slumps heavily onto Jungkook afterwards, earning a tired sounding laugh from Jungkook.

There are lips at his hairline, and Jungkook’s nails gently dragging up his back. It tickles, but Taehyung likes the sensation.

When he feels himself growing heavy, he flops onto his back beside Jungkook, their labored breathing the only sound in the room.

A loud bang on the wall behind them has them laughing, Jungkook’s hand grabbing Taehyung’s thigh and bringing it over his lap.

If he weren’t so exhausted, the way Jungkook draws circles over his inside of his thigh would get him hard again. But he feels like he’s going to pass out, and he needs to clean up.

“S’good,” Jungkook murmurs, holding onto his leg so Taehyung can’t move. “You don’t look like you’d fuck that well.”

Taehyung snorts, yanking his leg back. Jungkook fails at keeping his expression serious, the amusement too loud in his eyes.

It’s his favorite Jungkook. The Jungkook that appears when it’s just the two of them. Not even just in an intimate way like this. Jungkook is soft and bright, silly. There are no walls between them, no hesitations or insecurities. Even with this new thing between them.

They’re each other’s person.

“Kind of like you. You look like you’d be a master in the bedroom, but you fucking suck at fucking.”

It’s a lie, banter, and Jungkook is laughing as he swats his ass when Taehyung finally stands.

“How am I at sucking then?”

“Horrible,” Taehyung lies again.

Jungkook doesn’t leave the bed as Taehyung pads into the bathroom. He can hear him shift around, no doubt bringing an ear phone to his ear because Jungkook’s always said he likes the way music drowns out his thoughts. Silence is his enemy, and if Jungkook doesn’t have his music, he’ll keep the television on to fall asleep.

Taehyung needs the silence, so when they shared a dorm, he would turn off the television and talk and talk until Jungkook fell asleep.

He never minded. There’s something pleasing about seeing Jungkook rest.

“Do you think Yena will be more excited to see me or you?”

There is mischief in Jungkook’s voice and eyes when Taehyung walks back out, warm towel in hand. 

The answer is an obvious one. His baby sister is always much more excited to see Jungkook when they video chat than her actual big brother. 

“She loves you,” Taehyung says, plopping onto the bed as he drops the towel to Jungkook’s stomach because he knows Jungkook doesn’t share the same love Taehyung has for his thighs. It’s only during the build up to sex that he lets Taehyung actually appreciate them. “Hates me.” 

Jungkook looks pleased. He sits up and actually offers his other airpod for Taehyung to listen too.

Take a deep breath, until each side of your heart gets numb. Until it hurts a little, let your breath out a little more.

Jungkook turns when he wipes himself off, hiding himself from view. His shoulders expand as he inhales.

Until you feel like there’s nothing left inside.

Taehyung falls onto his stomach, giving Jungkook his privacy as he stands and collects his underwear to pull on.

He flops down beside him a second later, turning so his head rests on Taehyung’s bare back.

It’s alright if you run out of breath, no one will blame you.

“This song is sad,” Taehyung comments. He tries not to let his worry show because ninety percent of Jungkook’s music is sad, but this one exceptionally so. 

“Mhm,” is all Jungkook responds with. 

Their hometown is a fancy area off the Mystic River, on the coast of the Atlantic. All big homes and massive yards, looking over docked boats and old buildings that used to belong to the fisherman that first lived here. It still feels like home for Taehyung even though it’s been some time since he’s actually lived here. The smell of the water, the sight of the short road that leads into the downtown area.

Jungkook holds his hand over the center console as Taehyung drives. Their van doesn’t quite fit in with the neighborhood, but Taehyung had fallen in love with it the moment he saw it.

He also loved the way Jungkook’s eyes were bright as he opened the back and explained it would be perfect for their future road trip. 

The sight of his home makes his chest expand, lungs pulling in a long inhale because he’s missed it. Jungkook’s fingers squeeze harshly around his own, and he returns it.

The sound of Yena’s laughter is filling his ears before he can fully turn off the engine. She waddles out of the house, hands in the air.

It isn’t surprising she goes straight to Jungkook. She looks tiny pressed to his chest, her giggles loud as she squeezes her arms around his neck.


The tears come flooding a second later. She wails, choked out sobs of Jungkook’s name as fat tears roll down her chubby cheeks.

Jungkook laughs fondly, holding her high in the air before pulling her to his chest and swinging her around. “Why are you crying my little bear?”

Taehyung grins as he drags himself to them. His father cups his cheek warmly where he stands watching, his eyes squinting in delight. He’s dressed like he’s been in the yard, a straw hat tucked over his head and his striped polo shirt splotched with dirt. 

“She’s been off the wall waiting for you and Jungkook-ah.”

Just Jungkook, Taehyung thinks, but he doesn’t mind. He likes how close they are, how tender Jungkook is with her. He’d be an amazing big brother if he could spend time with his own siblings and Taehyung doesn’t mind sharing Yena or his parents with him.

Those sobs turn to giggles as Jungkook continues to fly Yena around, a firm grip around her as he flies her to where Taehyung and his father stand.

He soars Yena in front of him, bringing them close enough Taehyung can lean in and boop their noses.

Yena giggles, eyes still wet as she grabs Taehyung’s cheeks when Jungkook passes her to him. “Ta Ta.”

The house is as Taehyung expects. Sparkling clean and smelling like those fresh linen candles his step mother’s been obsessed with the last few years. It changes every now and then. When she finds a scent, she sticks to it for so long they either get sick of it or hardly notice it until she changes again.

“How was your drive?” Taehyung’s father asks as they shuck off their shoes. He tries to help pry Yena from Taehyung’s arms, but she clings on.

She only lets Jungkook take her away.

“Fine,” Taehyung replies. “Stopped in Lincoln and Boston. Thought we’d come home so I could see Yena and of course you, Appa.”

His father smiles as he pats Taehyung’s chest. He sees it coming before it happens, the eyes welling up with tears before he reaches up and cups Taehyung’s neck.

“I’m so proud of you, Taehyung-ah. Your Eomma would be too. You have her looks and brains. A business degree. She would be so proud.”

Taehyung want to grimace, but he doesn’t. He lets his father rant about how proud he is because he knows he and his mother worked hard to get him into college here to begin with. They worked hard for everything around them, and though they’re expecting him to get a job as soon as he has returned from his trip, they’ve at least allowed him to take the trip first.

In truth, Taehyung’s father is probably sick of Taehyung wandering around the kitchen while he cooks, talking nonstop about everything he’s worried about that could go wrong. 

“And you, Jungkook-ah! Oh, she would be so proud of you too. You know you were just as much of a son to her as Taehyung here.”

There is pink in Jungkook’s cheeks as he bows his head. “I hope to continue making her proud, Abeoji.”

The tears are loud, and as excited as Taehyung was to come home, he has dreaded this part.

It’s only been a handful of years since his mother has passed away. It still hurts so much at times, but he can deal with it when it’s his own pain. He can’t when it’s Jungkook’s or his father’s. 

Even if his father has since been married and had another child. His mother was the love of his father’s life, from when they were teens until now.

Until forever and even after that his father always says when they talk about her.

Jungkook has always felt the same comfort Taehyung had when he was with his mother. She tended to him in the loving, caring way he needed, and he never took it for granted. Sometimes, Jungkook made him feel like a shitty son. He was quick to help around the house while Taehyung wanted to do nothing more than hide upstairs in his bedroom. 

When she passed away, Jungkook sat right up front at the funeral with them. His hand tight on Taehyung’s thigh and sobbing softly, but it had seemed loud in his ears. It wasn’t until then that Taehyung actually let himself cry. 

Taehyung’s father drags them into the kitchen, showing off the table already filled with Saran Wrap covered dishes. His father always gets excited to feed them, hurrying them to sit down so he can make their plates with more food than they can eat.

“You should invite your parents for dinner,” Taehyung’s father says as Yena climbs into Jungkook’s lap. “It would be nice yes? It has been so long since all of us have had a meal together.”

The tension settles in the air but Taehyung’s father seems unaware of it. Jungkook is quiet as he secures Yena on his lap and allows her to pick from his plate. He’s probably thinking over a proper way to refuse that, a way without being rude.

Taehyung reaches beneath the table and gently touches  at Jungkook’s knee. 

“My father is back South Korea,” Jungkook finally says.

Taehyung’s father stops dumping ten pounds of rice onto Taehyung’s plate to look at him in surprise. “Oh. That explains why he hasn’t come around to the ponds since he’s gotten out. Your mother must be terribly stressed handling all of those kids on her own. It is good you’ve returned to help her.”

Taehyung gives his father a look, politely asking him to be quiet, but his father shrugs his shoulders like he doesn’t understand it.

“We’re leaving the day after next, Appa. Remember? Jungkookie and I have been planning this trip for years.”

His father looks like he’s about to debate this but presses his lips together when Taehyung bulges his eyes at him.

He’s always had something to say about Jungkook’s avoidance even if he knows some of the reasons Jungkook avoids home in the first place.

That’s family, Taehyung-ah. We fight, we make up, we love.

Maybe their family does, but it isn’t quite the same thing.

“Yes, yes. That’s correct. I’ll stop by myself then, see if there is anything I can help assist with. Jane and I.”

Taehyung settles back in the seat once his father sits. The prayer before eating is new, but Taehyung indulges his father, thankful the talk of Jungkook’s parents is done.

But he isn’t thankful for the change of subject when his father waves a fork towards him once prayer is finished.

“Tell me of this girlfriend of yours.”

Taehyung feels heat rise to his cheeks. It takes him a minute to realize he’s noticed Taehyung’s bad attempt at covering up his hickey. It was a lot darker than Taehyung had expected, taking him by surprise when he looked in the mirror before his shower.

He made sure to stop at the department store before returning home, but Taehyung knows nothing about makeup, and rubbing it on the back of his hand like Jungkook had suggested was not helpful.

“Oh, it’s - nothing like that, Appa.”

Jungkook laughs quietly at his father’s disapproving look. Yena laughs too but only to follow after Jungkook. She even looks to him in approval and earns a squeeze on the cheek. 

“I didn’t raise you to be a womanizer, Taehyung-ah.”

Jungkook turns red in his attempts not to laugh at that, and Taehyung swats at his knee under the table to get him to shut up.

Womanizer ,” Taehyung whispers, scandalized, as he strips the comforter from his childhood bed. “Me! I can’t believe him.”

Jungkook sits on the floor, hands pressed behind him and looking too amused for his own good. “Naughty boy. Sex is after marriage, Taehyung-ah.”

Jungkook is the most annoying person in this world. Taehyung is sure of it.

Taehyung balls up his comforter and tosses it at Jungkook’s face. He catches it and lets it fall into his lap. “Then it should be fine. Remember when we had that big wedding ceremony down by the docks?”

Throwing his head back, Jungkook laughs. They were maybe eight when they decided to marry each other. It didn’t last long, only until school began and Jungkook caught Taehyung kissing one of his school crushes beneath their school playground’s slide.

Taehyung shushes him as he drags the rest of his pillows to the ground to lay beside Jungkook. It’s late in the night, Taehyung’s family in their beds and probably asleep by now. Jungkook turns apologetic, his voice turning into an overly hard to hear whisper.

“Yes, I remember you broke my heart too. Kissing fucking Heather Lockland of all people.”

“Listen,” Taehyung starts, flopping the comforter to cover the both of them, “she’s hot.”

“And you’re gay,” Jungkook reminds him.

They roll close to each other like their bodies are tugging at each other to do so. Taehyung tucks his hands beneath his cheek, looking to his best friend beside him.

“Yeah and? I still know when women are hot,” Taehyung argues under his breath. “Just like you had that massive crush on Ms. Chang for the entirety of our high school career yet you’re just as gay as me.”

Jungkook pinches his hip but he’s quick to smooth his fingers over it to soothe it. “Don’t remind me.”

They bicker under their breath and somehow move closer, their legs tangling and their faces inches apart. Taehyung goes cross eyed trying watch the way Jungkook’s nose scrunches when he laughs.

“Shut up. She still was hot,” Jungkook argues, curling an arm over his hip and holding him there. He softens as he sucks on his bottom lip, silence following.

Taehyung knows Jungkook better than Jungkook knows himself. He knows his wide eyes and raised eyebrows means something, that he needs Taehyung to be soft with him. That he is nervous about whatever he is going to say even though there is not a thing in this world he should be nervous about when it comes to Taehyung.

“What is it?” Taehyung encourages.

“Will you come to my house with me tomorrow? It’s okay if you don’t want to.”

It’s a ridiculous question, and Taehyung snorts. “Of course I will. If you think I’d let you go into that hell hole by yourself, you’re crazy.”

Jungkook grins, his palm flattening over his spine. The smile doesn’t reach his eyes. “I just need to get my things and I don’t want to deal with my mother yelling at me.”

Taehyung’s chest feels hollow as he nods. “I can go for you.”

Jungkook makes a noise at that, shaking his head. The last time Taehyung had tried to go to Jungkook’s family home without him had caused one of their few arguments. All of their fighting is playful, but this time the emotion in Jungkook’s eyes had been so raw that he hasn’t returned since unless Jungkook asked first.

This is the first time he’s ever asked.

“Nah, I got it. Just - I don’t want to be alone.”

Taehyung curls a hand around Jungkook’s shoulder until their chests press together. “You never are, Kook-ah. I’m always right next to you.”

There is a smile pressed to his a second later, and Taehyung hesitates. He doesn’t feel like Jungkook is in a sexual mood, and he highly doubts Jungkook would ever do something sexual in his house with his parents down the hallway. But Jungkook does kiss him, lips molding against his.

It takes Taehyung a few moments to realize that Jungkook isn’t doing anything other than kissing him to kiss him. They kiss sometimes, but it isn’t as intimate as this feels. 

Projecting again, maybe. It could just be a regular fucking kiss on Jungkook’s part. 

Jungkook doesn’t mention it when he pulls back and Taehyung watches him close his eyes. Jungkook’s arm tightens around his waist. A moment later, he’s breathing heavily like he’s fallen asleep.

When they were thirteen, Jungkook moved away from Taehyung’s neighborhood to the next town over. Close to another beach and another downtown area that is less touristy than Taehyung’s home and filled more with locals. The roads aren’t as private but busier with traffic. The beach is at the end of a long river that travels alongside the town. These aren’t sailboats or fishing boats but larger ones with horns that blast loudly in the morning.

Jungkook’s home isn’t as Taehyung remembers. The grass is no longer perfect but far too overgrown. There are toys thrown all over the yard, and he makes a face at them, feeling petty about it because Jungkook never had toys when he was younger. 

The stones leading up to the house are cracked and in pieces, and Taehyung is surprised to see the clutter inside when Jungkook opens the door. The hallway is filled with a clutter of shoes, coats, and bags thrown to the ground. The pictures are no longer on the wall, though he doesn’t remember what had even been there.

A messy house is understandable as Jungkook has six young siblings now with only one parent around, but Taehyung doesn’t like Jungkook’s mother enough to feel for her. Maybe it’s immature. He hasn’t decided.

“Eomma!” Jungkook calls as he opens the door. “Eomma, I’m here with Taehyung.”

There’s no response, and Jungkook is curling his fingers around Taehyung’s wrist, tugging him towards the staircase. 

It would be ideal if she weren’t here at all, but Taehyung hears movement upstairs and doesn’t think they’ll be so lucky. Unless the children are alone.

Taehyung wouldn’t be surprised. They have found Jungkook alone in his old house before, too young to be so, and Taehyung hadn’t understood why his parents seemed so upset about it at the time.

Not until he was older and started to understand the things Jungkook told him. 

“Eomma?” Jungkook calls again.

Taehyung doesn’t miss the way he hesitates on the top step. Or the way he moves just enough to cover Taehyung’s body with his own. He moves around Jungkook, tugging his hand away to step into the upstairs hallway. It’s just as messy. He sidesteps a pile of clothes and heads towards Jungkook’s room.

Jungkook’s mother appears then, a look of rage on her face that softens into something friendly when she spots Taehyung. “Taehyung, what are you - oh, Jungkook!” She sidesteps Taehyung then to embrace Jungkook, who’s finally braved the hallway. He looks uncomfortable, but he pats his mother’s shoulder in his attempt at hugging her.

“Why didn’t you call? I’ve missed you. Are you staying for dinner?”

Jungkook’s eyes flicker to Taehyung, and when he parts his lips, Taehyung knows he’ll agree. He’s seen it happen too often.

Even when it’s for a handful of minutes, Jungkook doesn’t like being here. But he’ll agree to stay whenever his mother asks, even if it turns out to be exactly as Jungkook expects.

Despite this, Jungkook always expects it to be different. Somewhere deep down inside of him, at least. Taehyung won’t claim to understand it, but he wishes that he did.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says before Jungkook can say a word. Relief fills Jungkook’s eyes. “We are actually about to hit the road. We just came to get Jungkookie’s things like you’ve asked.”

Jungkook’s mother glances at Taehyung as her lips press into a frown. She pulls away from Jungkook, and it’s immediate how cold she turns.

Sometimes Jungkook can be like that with other people. Stone faced and bored looking when things become too much for him. Sometimes people just think he’s being that way when he’s not.

When they first met Hoseok, one of his first questions had been why Jungkook looked like his pet dog had died. 

“It’s been years, Jungkook. Surely you can stay for a meal.”

“We really can’t,” Taehyung says, as apologetic as he can be. “I’m so sorry.”

A few of Jungkook’s siblings step into the hallway then, and Jungkook looks even more uncomfortable. He waves his fingers to them, but they aren’t nearly as excited as Yena was to see him. The youngest - Chris - even hides behind the door when Jungkook looks at him.

Jungkook clears his throat and moves away from his mother. His shoulders hunch forward as he digs his hands into the pockets of his pants, his knuckles pressing into the material when his hands become fists. “Taehyung is right. I’m sorry Eomma.”

The door to Jungkook’s bedroom is barely open before Jungkook is clasping hard onto Taehyung’s hand and dragging him inside.

It isn’t anything like Taehyung remembers. There are bunk beds and characters on the walls that he doesn’t recognize. Small clothes thrown across the floor that must mean it is now a bedroom for one of his siblings. Jungkook only looks around for a moment before he opens the closet.

There’s nothing but children’s clothes and more toys. Some shoes on the ground. Nothing that belongs to Jungkook. 

“Ah,” Jungkook says, easing the door closed. “They must have put my stuff away already. When I told her when graduation was, she must have expected me home right away.”

Taehyung steps towards Jungkook when he moves back to the door, but Jungkook only gives him a small smile and squeezes his hip in assurance.

Jeon Jungkook may be able to fool anyone, but he can’t fool Taehyung.  

“Eomma, where did you put my things?”

His mother is no longer in the hallway. His sister is the only one who lingers, the oldest of the second set of children. She’s fifteen now, Taehyung thinks.

“They’re in the garage,” Mina tells him. She’s stretched up in height, the youth gone from her face. Her cheeks are still round and her eyes wide, but there’s something much older about the way she holds herself. “Eomma moved them there when you left for school.”

Four years ago. Way before now like she had claimed.

Jungkook smiles sweetly, brushes his knuckles against her cheek. “Thank you. Are you okay?”

She nods, eyes brightening. A moment later her arms are a vice grip around Jungkook’s waist. The sob she lets out is muffled.

“Ah, it’s okay,” Jungkook says, leaning down to kiss the crown of her head. “Better now that Appa is gone?”

She nods, squeezing him harder.

Taehyung steps back into the bedroom, offering them their moment. Jungkook isn’t particularly close to his siblings, but he had been around Mina the most.

Even if he was barely at home as a teenager, when he was, he was with Mina.

Taehyung lingers in the room for a while, finding a few of Jungkook’s things still on the bookshelf shoved inside. He pockets a few of his figurines that Taehyung had given to him, feeling bad because it means someone had gone through his things.

Jungkook never kept them out where his parents could see. He had always been too afraid they would be taken away. Sometimes, he had even hidden them at Taehyung's house. At a young age, Taehyung had thought Jungkook had hated them. It wasn't until later that Taehyung realized that Jungkook only left his toys with him because he only trusted Taehyung to cherish them.

There's a sadness gripping at his chest that Taehyung doesn't want to deal with and doesn't have to as a  few minutes later, Jungkook is leaning in the doorway and calling for him.

"You ready to get the fuck out of here?"

Taehyung nods, exhaling out. There's nothing more he would like. 

It feels tense when Jungkook walks through the house to get to the garage where his things are stored. It’s dusty and smells like mildew. There are boxes upon boxes, little space to even walk through. It takes a while, longer than either one of them wants, but after some searching, Jungkook finds a few boxes of his things shoved into the farthest corner. 

He doesn’t even open them to make sure everything is inside before he’s hauling them out and into the back of their van. Dust flies after them and clogs Taehyung’s nose. 

“You can keep your things at mine,” Taehyung offers. "You know Appa won't mind."

Jungkook’s family is moving again, and the last time his mother had called him was to tell him to come get his things. There wasn’t any room for him at the new house.

And at twenty one years old, Taehyung could understand a parent expecting their child to go on their own. But with Jungkook, it’s different.

It makes Taehyung angry, but he doesn’t show it, doesn’t want to make it seem about him even if that would never be his intention.

“Stay out here,” Jungkook says as they place the last box into the van, eyes wide in a pleading way that has Taehyung wanting to do anything but that. He never wants to leave Jungkook alone when it comes to Jungkook coming home, but Taehyung knows it can lead to Jungkook feeling even worse. 

Taehyung nods, leaning back against the warm metal of the van. Jungkook reaches out, touching briefly over his knuckles, before he's turning to head back inside.

Taehyung stays at the ready, body posed and ready to rush inside when Jungkook disappears through his front door. But he doesn’t go in, even when he hears the yelling. He knows Jungkook doesn’t want him to see it. He pretends not to hear it, and he’s thankful it’s too muffled for him to make sense of any of it.

Hearing it will make him angry, and he has a hard time not letting those feelings show. It's bad enough that he has to hear the tone of it, the anger, the foulness in Jungkook's mother's voice. 

A few minutes later, Jungkook steps outside. His face is that blank mask again. Taehyung doesn’t ask. He wants to, but he doesn’t. Jungkook has that face that tells him he’d rather do anything else in the world than talk about it.

He takes a hold of Jungkook’s hand when they’re inside of the van and sees Jungkook’s shoulders relax some. Not enough, but it’s enough comfort that Taehyung isn’t worried he’ll take off.

Over their life together, Taehyung has learned Jungkook needs attention when he’s upset. Even if he doesn’t want to talk about it or go into detail what is wrong, he needs some kind of attention. The times he does vent about his feelings, he locks up with guilt that he’s somehow become burdensome.

Taehyung’s always reminded him that’s why he’s here, best friends and all, but that hasn’t lessened over the years.

“Lets go to the docks,” Jungkook says, and Taehyung only hums his answer.

The music Jungkook cranks up on the radio is a soft crooning song in a language Taehyung doesn’t recognize.

He doesn’t need to know the language to hear how sad it is.

They return to the river, sitting on the edge of the docks closest to Taehyung’s home. It’s down the road some, where the road curves and leads them out of the neighborhood. It has always seemed like an abandoned dock. No one ever locks their boat here as it’s quite short, only a few yards into the water. The only people that are ever around are ones walking on the street behind them, oblivious to them. 

Once again it feels like Jungkook and him are in their own world. Their own place, their own home. Just the two of them, dangling their feet in the water and forgetting anything, anything exists than them.

“Mina got really big,” Taehyung says, kicking his feet through the water. He has his slacks rolled up his knees, unlike Jungkook whose pants are soaked from the middle of his shin and down. The fabric is darkened from the water and clings to his skin but Jungkook would keep his shoes on in the water if he could. 

Jungkook nods, humming softly to some tune neither one of them are listening to. “She’ll be sixteen in October. She's still short though.”

Taehyung huffs out a laugh at that, knocking their shoulders together. The sky starts to darken, only slivers of pink still left as the moon grows brighter across the rippling water. Soon it will be pitch black, but they’ve traveled here so often in the night it doesn’t scare him. He likes the way the glow warms Jungkook's skin, shines in his eyes, and sparkles against his teeth when he drags them over his bottom lip. 

“Yeah well, you were pretty short at sixteen before you suddenly grew ten inches.”

A smile takes over Jungkook’s lips finally. A genuine one. “I grew maybe three. Don’t exaggerate.”

Taehyung scoffs. “Three? You were barely up to my waist and now look at you.”

Jungkook kicks out an elbow, but it’s gentle when it pokes into Taehyung’s side. “You’re taller than me, Tae.”

“Barely,” Taehyung argues and he spreads his legs when Jungkook cups his thigh, giving him room to do so. 

The hum Jungkook lets out sounds amused. He looks out to the water now, silence overcoming them. Taehyung doesn’t mind it. It’s rare that Jungkook is okay with the silence, so he refuses to interrupt it.

It’s Jungkook who does after awhile, once all the pink has left the sky and there’s nothing but a blanket of black. “I don’t want to come back here again.”

Taehyung sucks in a breath, digesting that. He figured that for the most part, but Jungkook has never said as much. 

When they were younger, their dreams of the future always included the other. They still do. They’ve looked for jobs in the same area and searched up apartments, cringing at the price of some, and cringing at the appearance of others.

Regardless of where they are or what kind of apartment they have, they’ll make it work.

“I know,” Taehyung says. “Maybe while we’re traveling, we’ll find some place we both fall in love with and can move there instead.”

Jungkook snorts, disbelief loud in his eyes. “You’ll never leave the coast.”

“There’s plenty of coasts in the world,” Taehyung shoots back immediately. “We’ll find one you like better.”

Jungkook turns then, eyes as soft as his smile. He seems to think for a moment before he leans back, hands planting onto the deck behind him.

“Do you remember when I first moved? When I didn’t know where I was going?”

Taehyung won’t forget it. For weeks he had been terrified that Jungkook’s parents meant moving far. Another state, back to South Korea. Somewhere Taehyung couldn’t get to Jungkook in moments like these.

Fate was on their side then because Jungkook only moved to the next town over, and their hometown is so small, they still shared the same public high school.

“I remember.”

“I said no matter where I went, I would find a dock like this so we could still look at the moon together with our toes in the water.”

Taehyung smiles at the memory. “A poet you’ve always been. It’s all that sad love shit you listen to.”

Jungkook’s chest vibrates with his quiet laughter. “I’m just saying. That will be true even if we fall in love with different places.”

The idea of not being beside Jungkook for forever is out of Taehyung’s realm of possibilities. It’s the most impossible thing he can see happening in his life, and he thinks about the future a lot. He’s a worrier, that’s what he does, is known for, but he’s never worried about Jungkook not being there.

Jungkook is always in his future, and Jungkook’s never implied otherwise. Not since then. Not until now.

“That is nice to know,” Taehyung says, shaking his sweaty bangs from his forehead. “But if you think I’m going to be somewhere other than where you are, you’ve got it wrong.”

Sitting straight again, Jungkook curls his foot around Taehyung’s in the water. Their skin slips over each other's and it's ticklish, but Taehyung finds he likes the feeling. “Anything could happen. You never know.”

“I sure as shit do,” Taehyung argues gently, taking Jungkook’s hand into his own. 

Even if the new things between them are something for only the two of them to share, this is common. They’ve always held hands, each other. It isn’t a secret thing they do.

“I’ll follow your ass wherever you go,” Taehyung promises. “So don’t ever think of something like that again.”

Jungkook turns his hand over, palm facing up and allowing Taehyung to cover it with his own. He watches their hands and doesn’t say a word back in response.

Chapter Text

The sun is bright and burning. The air filled with the smell of the sea and the soft music playing from Jungkook’s phone. The park they’ve been staying at has a grill, and Jungkook had been over the moon when they first found it. 

He stands over it now, shiny with sweat and his loose shirt clinging to his shoulder blades. He cranks his head to the side before he flips the beef patties.

Taehyung is content just watching him. 

When Jungkook stands back, he holds his hands out and up and faces the sky. Oblivious to the way Taehyung is watching him. 

“What are you doing?”

Jungkook’s eyes are closed, and for a moment, he doesn’t respond. “Sunbathing.”

Taehyung laughs at that. “Come here.”

Jungkook’s feet move without hesitation, his eyes squinting because of instead of wearing his eyeglasses, he’s left them in the camper beside Taehyung. There are tan lines around his eyes, pale lines stretching from the corner of them and towards his ears.

“Food’s gonna burn.”

“You’re gonna burn,” Taehyung says as he snatches the end of Jungkook’s shirt. He waves up a bottle of suntan lotion, and Jungkook groans.

“I don’t need it.”

“I’m literally going to throttle you if you don’t put sunscreen on.”

Jungkook pulls back, but Taehyung is snaking a hand under his shirt and dragging him towards the van. Taehyung sits on the edge of it, legs dangling. 

“I don’t need it,” Jungkook says again, but he pads forward anyway so Taehyung can hook his legs around his shins to keep him in place. Despite the petulant look on his face that makes him look more like a child than an adult, he closes his eyes and lets Taehyung apply the sunscreen.

“You do need it,” Taehyung says as he gently dabs the lotion onto Jungkook’s cheeks. 

The last two days have been filled with Jungkook assuring Taehyung his fried skin is fine while he winces with every movement. It had been uncomfortable for him to sleep, and he ended up curled in front of the small cooling unit before he could.

His nose even blistered and now is peeling. 

Jungkook plants his hands around Taheyung’s hips, scrunching his face until wrinkles appear in his forehead. Taehyung snorts, rubbing his finger over them until they loosen.

They’re in Virginia Beach. Their campsite for their time here is off some winding path that leads down to the ocean, the area filled with other campers and children running around. 

It’s been two days here already, and Jungkook doesn’t seem eager to leave. Taehyung wonders if this is the coast he’s fallen in love with but he doubts it. 

There are too many people, too many people glancing their way. Not that they particularly stand out, but he’s watched the way Jungkook’s taken in every glance their way when they held hands on the boardwalk.

“It’s going to come off in the water,” Jungkook argues.

He’s bouncy, playful today. Head cocking side to side, pushing up on his toes to press their noses together. He woke up this way, hand kneading at Taehyung’s hips until he was alert, tongue eager against his throat.

Afterwards, he sprung from the bed and claimed he wanted burgers for breakfast. Taehyung was slower moving, laying in bed until he could smell the grill and finally making his way to where he is now.

“I thought we were going to the Adventure Park today.”

Jungkook shakes his head before he lifts his bangs back, letting Taehyung dab lotion there too.

“We can’t blow through our money,” Jungkook reminds him. “I can only imagine how much that costs. You know they always hike up the prices in places where people tourist the most.”

Taehyung peers his eyes at him, trying to get a good read. One of the reasons Jungkook wanted to come here was because of the Adventure Park.

But he doesn’t push it. He pours more lotion into his hands as Jungkook tends to the burgers. He drops them onto a plastic plate and jumps into the camper van to plop them onto the counter.

When Jungkook returns before him, his torso is bare and pale compared to his forearms. His shirt dangles in his hands before he drops it beside him.

Rarely ever does Jungkook take his shirt off in public. Not at beaches, not at the pool, not even in the locker room showers. It’s like his legs, he always has hips to ankles covered. 

So Taehyung hesitates before Jungkook takes his hands and plants them to his chest.

“Living life on the edge?” Taehyung teases because he wants to make light of it to ease Jungkook.

“I decided I don’t care what people think today,” Jungkook admits, tilting his head back when Taehyung’s hands rub the cream up to his neck.

“Good,” Taehyung says proudly. The white line across Jungkook’s neck stands out even more with his darkened skin, but that’s one scar Jungkook’s never been able to hide.

The others he always has. Once, even from Taehyung. It had been an accident finding them, and Jungkook had closed off for a few days until Taehyung forced him to hang out with him.

They hadn’t talked about them then, and they don’t now either, not when Taehyung’s hands slide over the ones on his inner arms. Not when Taehyung eases over the circle shaped ones in the center of his chest. He is aware of the way Jungkook watches him, and Taehyung makes sure not to acknowledge a single scar.

“Wanna get your legs?” Taehyung asks, offering Jungkook the bottle. Usually Jungkook wears a bodysuit to swim or these pants that Taehyung quite likes because they’re tight and spandex . He doesn’t know how much of this bare skin thing Jungkook is ready to face today, but he is ready to encourage this as much as possible. 

Jungkook shakes his head. “Nah. I didn’t bring swim trunks.”

If Jungkook did want to take that step, Taehyung has a dozen different swim trunks. But he doesn’t push, never wants to do that. He nods his head and taps Jungkook’s shoulder for him to turn around.

The scars on Jungkook’s back are the most noticeable. A handful of long, raised tissue sketched across his skin. These are hard to look at sometimes, and Taehyung feels Jungkook tense when his hands run over them.

“What is this song?” he asks, wanting to distract Jungkook because he’s proud of him. Even if he makes it a short time before tugging his shirt back on, just the fact that he’s attempting it makes Taehyung’s heart swell.

He doesn’t have to ever be comfortable with taking his shirt off, but Taehyung doesn’t want Jungkook to feel the shame that comes with covering himself up.

“Error,” Jungkook says. He cups the sides of Taehyung’s thighs when Taehyung touches the thickest scar on his shoulder, palms kneading at his skin. “It’s by a group called Vixx.”

It’s sad, too sad. The line ‘I don’t want to let go of myself, I don’t want to ruin myself anymore’ has Taehyung reaching over and changing the song. 

“Hey! That’s my favorite song,” Jungkook says, attempting to turn, but Taehyung presses his palms to his shoulder and prevents him.

Taehyung has never minded Jungkook’s sad music, not usually. But right now, there is something about it that has Taehyung feeling as if there are knives digging into his gut.

“We need a summer playlist,” Taehyung says as pulls back the band of Jungkook’s spandex pants, eyeing the pale line where his tan ends and butt begins, to tickle his fingers there.

Jungkook jumps forward, but there is a grin on his lips when he steps back between Taehyung’s thighs.

Taehyung wipes the excess lotion on his arms before he grabs Jungkook’s phone to find a song. He feels Jungkook’s eyes burning on him as he pulls up the Music app.

He tenses when Jungkook’s hands slide higher up his legs, tugging him closer. There is mischief in his eyes.

Taehyung grins. “What’s gotten into you today?” He laughs, putting the phone aside as Jungkook’s arms curl around his lower back. “Don’t we have burgers to eat?”

“Hungry for something else.”

Taehyung laughs and squeezes his bare shoulders. “Shut it. You’re so lame. Remind me why I’m your friend?”

Jungkook’s teeth pop out when he smiles. “Because you love me.”

It’s true. 

When the song plays, Jungkook groans in complaint. It’s a silly song, one of those addictive kinds that can stick in your brain for days at a time. Taehyung played it so much when it came out that it was stuck in everyone’s head, even Jungkook’s.

“This song again?” Jungkook asks, but when he leans forward and sings softly against Taehyung’s lips, he’s smiling.

I don’t need anything else for this to be a good day.

When they were fourteen, Jungkook was in an accident. His father was driving and swerved off the road, colliding with the guard rail off the side of the expressway leading into town. Jungkook's face had been swollen, black and blue. His lips cut open and bandages around his arms.

Taehyung still remembers it in detail.

He had been unrecognizable. Taehyung hadn’t cried until he left - which he hadn’t wanted to do. But when visiting hours were over, Jungkook’s parents refused to let Taehyung lie and say he was his brother so he could stay.

That had been one of the scariest moments of his life. When his parents had told him, it felt like the world was crashing down around Taehyung. Even seeing Jungkook alive wasn’t enough to ease his mind. He’d heard of people declared fine after an accident just to die later from a missed internal problem. 

It took weeks and Jungkook insisting that he was fine for Taehyung to truly calm down. Jungkook still hates driving, his hands always too tight around the steering wheel. Taehyung does most of it unless Jungkook refuses to let him with guilty eyes like he feels he isn’t doing his part.

That had been the first scariest day of Taehyung’s life. The second followed a year later. The third hits him suddenly and hard .

He lays on the blanket in the sand, air pods in as he tries to create a happier playlist for Jungkook. The beach is crowded around them, but they came early enough to get a spot closer to the water, where Jungkook had run just a short while before.

Taehyung likes the water, but he can’t stay in it all day like Jungkook. Plus, he had shoved his mouth full of greasy snacks and burgers.  There’s some rule about waiting for thirty minutes, right?

He doesn’t know how true it is, but he’s happy enough to use it as an excuse. 

With the air pods and the noise of the crowd across the beach, it takes Taehyung a few beats to realize there is a commotion around him. It takes him a moment to realize there’s screaming for help and lifeguards and panicked voices until they grow loud enough to penetrate through the music in his ears. 

The sight of life guards taking off towards the water has Taehyung looking into the sea immediately. He looks for Jungkook right away, the first thing on his mind.

Jungkook, always the first thing on his mind, but right now the thought of him isn’t paired with the same happy feeling it usually is paired with. 

Panic floods through him when he doesn’t see Jungkook nor the reason the life guards are springing into the ocean. He stands, pulling the sunglasses from his eyes. The last time he looked, Jungkook was floating over the soft waves directly in front of him.

Others stand around him too, gasping and murmuring. No one moves as the life guards get to whoever it is. No one moves. Taehyung can’t move either, just his eyes searching frantically searching over the miles of water.

Jungkook is nowhere to be seen. There are so many people. Some run out of the water. Some follow after the lifeguards that rush into the water. And Taehyung can’t see Jungkook.

He sees where the life guards are going then. The body is noticeable as it rolls over the waves. Their arms spread out, the sun catching on the raised red skin of their back. 

At first, Taehyung’s mind doesn’t recognize the wet black bangs covering the man’s face when his head is lifted from the water. Maybe it’s his mind not wanting to accept what he sees, how it makes him feel. The body does that. It protects itself. The feeling hits Taehyung so suddenly, the breath rushes from his lips. 

He speeds down the beach the moment he realizes. Taehyung doesn’t have a coherent thought other than Jungkook and fear so deep inside of him that his body takes over. 

His feet pound into the sand, burning hot against his soles, but it’s nothing - nothing compared to the pain in his chest. 

There are hands on him, shoving him back. They are strong. Taehyung can’t move past them. Can’t do anything but watch Jungkook’s body as it is dragged across the sand. 

Taehyung is aware that he is speaking but he can’t hear what leaves his lips. His ears pound with his rapid heartbeat, drowning out everything around him but Jungkook.

The way he looks . He looks so… Taehyung’s brain can’t even come up with the word. The word would be enough to make Taehyung’s body sag the way Jungkook’s is. 

A woman guard leans over Jungkook, hands pumping his chest, and Taehyung is doing the same to the man pressing him back. He’s shoving him off to no avail. The man doesn’t let him move, and Taehyung swears he’s never felt this angry.

Rage. It’s blinding. 

“Sir, calm down. The paramedics are on their way. Our staff is professionally trained -”

Not a word reaches Taehyung. In one ear and out the other. The only thing in his brain is the rush of fear and panic.

The world is slow around them. Around Taehyung. Each push into Jungkook’s chest. Each breath forced past his lips. It takes centuries.

The fear doesn’t relent. Even when Jungkook’s stomach lurches and water sprouts from his mouth. It only drags a choked noise from Taehyung that he tries to cover so Jungkook can’t hear. He’s too far away, probably too out of it to notice.

But Taehyung’s first instinct has always been to make sure Jungkook is comfortable. Jungkook worries too much about his affect on people. Shutting down not because he’s ashamed or embarrassed but because he hates making other people feel bad.

Taking care of Jungkook has always been important to Taehyung because no one else has ever cared if Jungkook is comfortable or not. Safe or not. If he feels loved or not. Taehyung will spend every moment of his life making sure he feels those things if he needs to. 

Everything speeds up around him when the man lets Taehyung go. When the lifeguard lifts Jungkook’s head from the ground. Everything now is suddenly fast paced, dizzying as Taehyung rushes to Jungkook’s side. 

Taehyung doesn’t register how hard his knees hit the sand as he falls beside Jungkook.

He’s afraid to touch him. Jungkook’s eyes are watery and his face redder than when he was sunburnt. The sound of Jungkook’s heaving is loud in his ears.

“Jungkook-ah,” Taehyung chokes. Pretending to be calm, in this moment, would be impossible. 

It’s erratic, the feeling inside him. Taehyung can’t distinguish one emotion from the other, but his entire body throbs with all of them. It’s a tornado, an earthquake, a national disaster with no name wrecking Taehyung’s insides.

Jungkook plants a hand to his leg, fingers weakly gripping down. The lifeguards are moving around them, saying something, trying to touch Jungkook, but he and Taehyung are in their own world once again.

“I’m fine, Tae. I’m fine.”

Voice hoarse, he doesn’t sound fine. He coughs, body wracking, and Taehyung gets over his fear of touching Jungkook and grabs for him. 

He rubs his hand up Jungkook’s back, his body shielding the marred skin from the crowd of onlookers. They part when the paramedics come rushing in, and Jungkook’s grip on him suddenly tightens.

Jungkook is quiet in the beach’s medical center. He sits there on the bed, head tilted away from Taehyung. For the first time in a long time, Jungkook looks small. Shoulders hunched with his hands between his thighs.

Taehyung isn’t as quiet. Nor as small. He has one thing on his mind, and it’s never a thing he could be quiet or small about.

“I’m sorry, sir. But I know about secondary drowning. Are you sure that Jungkook is okay to go home?”

The doctor holds his hands up, turning to Taehyung. Later, Taehyung will feel guilty for the way he treated the lifeguards and the hospital staff, but he can’t think right with the way his mind is firing off right now. 

All he feels is panic and worry that Jungkook is going to leave here and dry drown in his sleep. 

“Mr. Kim, secondary drowning occurs mostly in children and is quite rare. Keep an eye on your boyfriend, and I will give you signs to look for to ease your mind.”

It won’t. Nothing will. He wants to keep Jungkook here just in case, but he knows Jungkook won’t allow it since the doctor has cleared him to leave. Jungkook hates hospitals as much as Taehyung hates seeing Jungkook in them.

“But doctor -”

“Tae,” Jungkook croaks, his voice raspy. Taehyung looks to him immediately and hates how dead his eyes look. “It’s fine. Can we just go home?”

It isn’t fine, and Taehyung wants to shout about it. He wants to scream until he’s no longer afraid and just angry even if he isn’t angry with anyone. But he doesn’t because Jungkook hates shouting, and this isn’t about Taehyung.

“Okay. Okay.”

Jungkook looks half out of it as Taehyung helps him stand, even if he doesn’t need it. Brain damage from the CPR is another worry, but the sudden guilt he feels is worse.

He hadn’t been paying attention. He doesn’t even know how long Jungkook had been like that before the lifeguards noticed him. Taehyung had been too worried about making a happy playlist even though he knows Jungkook likes the sad ones. 

“Tae,” Jungkook says again, fingers circling around Taehyung’s wrist. He presses his thumb into his pulse, rubbing gently. “I’m really fine.”

Taehyung nods, over and over. He knows Jungkook can feel his hands trembling from the way he holds onto him, but he can’t stop it no matter how much he wants to.

“I just - I just need the bathroom? Wait here.”

The camper van is too small. It’s never a problem. He has nothing to hide from Jungkook ever. But this, the way the tears build up in his eyes, he has to hide. He can’t let Jungkook see his tears because guilt is an agonizing feeling and Jungkook will drown in it. 

When Taehyung emerges, cool water pressed to his eyes and doing nothing to eliminate how red they are, Jungkook takes his hand. He holds onto it tightly, fingertips digging into his knuckles.

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook says as they walk back out into the hot, salty air.

It sits between them for a minute before Taehyung sighs. He had expected the guilt but it doesn’t make it easier to see on Jungkook’s face. “There isn’t anything to apologize for.”



Open up your heart and let your love touch me.

It’s quiet. Even though the music plays, it isn’t enough to fill it. The camper van suddenly seems large, massive in its attempts to hold the silence.

I just need it all. I’ve been so patient waiting for you for so long.

Taehyung turns to his side, facing where Jungkook lies on his back. His eyes are closed, but he isn’t sleeping. He’s changed out of his clothes, now wearing a long sleeved shirt and long sweatpants, and Taehyung worries he is too hot and uncomfortable.

That’s what Taehyung does. He worries and worries - mostly about Jungkook.

When Taehyung is upset, he likes to be alone, not touched. When Jungkook is upset, he wants to be with Taehyung. He likes to be held. 

They’re rarely upset at the same time. They work well together when they are, one being strong for the other. But right now Taehyung isn’t feeling strong enough, and Jungkook doesn’t look like he is either.

Right now the time is wrong. I’ve been writing these songs about how I can’t be with you.

Taehyung sighs, fitting his hand beneath his cheeks. The van is warm, but the breeze from the water coming through the opened windows keeps it from being unbearable. 

This silence though, that’s a different story.

He is strong though, and he knows he can be. He inhales through his nose and fights through the static still inside him. 

“I know you’re awake,” Taehyung finally says. “I want you to talk to me.”

He doesn’t like to push Jungkook when he is upset or bothered, but right now he needs to.

When Jungkook turns his head, his eyes are bloodshot, eyelids swollen. 

When Jungkook cries, he cries silently.

“I’m sorry I fucked up and ruined our day.”

Jungkook’s voice breaks the tension, the invisible barrier between them. The barrier Taehyung hates because it’s dumb. It’s them. They’ve been through shit over and over, and it’s always been them getting through it together.

Taehyung rolls his eyes and scooches closer until they’re nearly touching.

Even if he likes to be alone when he’s upset, there’s never a moment where he doesn’t want to be next to Jungkook. The only person that can be near him when he’s forcing everyone else away is Jungkook.

“Don’t go there, Kook. You didn’t ruin anything.”

Jungkook looks away. His Adam’s apple bobs with the way he swallows before he speaks. “I know you were crying in the bathroom.”

Taehyung hesitates before he reaches over and lays his hand on Jungkook’s chest. He wishes he could tell if it were beating regularly or rapidly.

“That scared the living shit out of me, but it isn’t something you need to apologize for. It’s not like you purposely tried to drown.”

Bringing his hand over Taehyung’s, Jungkook’s chest puffs out like he’s holding his breath before he exhales slowly. He doesn’t say anything before he’s crawling up and laying his head against Taehyung’s stomach, faced away from him.

He hisses when he moves and Taehyung can’t get the image out of his head, how bruised his skin is after having been given CPR. They’re lucky his ribs weren’t fractured but it doesn’t make the sight of it any better.

For the first time, Taehyung is thankful Jungkook hates taking off his clothes.

Taehyung sighs, threading his fingers through Jungkook’s hair and rubbing down his neck. He’s tense there. Taehyung kneads his muscles until Jungkook exhales sharply. 

“If you feel even the slightest bit off you have to tell me.”

Jungkook nods, fingers idly playing with the bottom of Taehyung’s shirt. “I always feel off, Tae.”

It hurts to hear Jungkook say that. It hurts almost as much as the thoughts of how he looked laying in the sand not breathing. Or how he looked all of those years ago after the car accident, in that hospital, bruised and bloody. 

It hurts because Jungkook says things like this sometimes, so offhandedly like he doesn’t understand the weight of his words. But Taehyung knows he does, knows he’s just comfortable with opening up to him about them.

Even if they’re few words and not a detailed explanation of his thought, Taehyung understands them.

And it hurts .

“I know.”

Taehyung doesn’t sleep. Even after Jungkook has fallen into his dreams and the sky starts to lighten. Even when there is no sign of Jungkook being ill. Taehyung doesn’t sleep. 

“You can’t drive.”

They leave the beach the morning after the incident. Jungkook doesn’t sleep for long that night. He wakes when the sun is just attempting to break through the curtains around the camper van. Taehyung quickly closes his eyes when Jungkook looks to him, pretending to be asleep.

But Jungkook knows Taehyung as well as Taehyung knows Jungkook, and he sighs heavily like he knows Taehyung is pretending.

They eat leftover cheeseburgers as they search for their next destination. They don’t taste good with coffee, and Jungkook laughs when Taehyung spits out his first sip. It’s that whole body laugh, eyes squeezing shut.

It feels nice to see until Jungkook groans in pain and immediately wraps an arm around his bruised ribs.

“Let me see.”

Jungkook opens his lips to probably tell him off, but Taehyung is already moving. Jungkook lets him pull up his shirt, his body stiff.

“We should double check that you didn’t fracture a rib. Get a second opinion,” Taehyung murmurs. As light as he possibly can, he grazes his fingers over Jungkook’s purpled skin and watches it erupt in goosebumps.

“I’m sure that doctor knows just fine,” Jungkook insists, pulling his shirt back down before Taehyung can finish. “Any other part of my body you’d like to inspect?”

Taehyung snorts and tickles beneath Jungkook’s cheeks. Jungkook’s playfulness is a good sign. “Cheeky. You know what I want to see? Yayoi Kusama’s Light of Life. It’s only a few hours from here. Over in Raleigh. We could stay over there tonight? Visit the Museum tomorrow. Spend a couple nights before going to those Mountains you want to see.”

There is grease smeared over Jungkook’s lips, and Taehyung wipes it with his thumb as Jungkook nods. “Whatever you want to do.”

What Taehyung wants to do is bring Jungkook to another doctor. But, he knows the only way Jungkook will see one is if Taehyung can somehow drag a doctor to their camper instead.

“Remember what I said,” Taehyung insists as he cups Jungkook’s cheek so Jungkook has to look at him. “If anything at all is bothering you -”

Jungkook rolls his eyes and pushes forward, lips knocking against Taehyung’s. “I know.”

They head to Raleigh. Taehyung insists on driving as he watches Jungkook move around the camper to collect their garbage. He moves like his body is cramped, as pained as Taehyung suspects him to be.

Jungkook isn’t having it. He lifts Taehyung with only a hiss of pain and plops him into the passenger seat. 

“You’re supposed to be taking it easy,” Taehyung scolds as Jungkook leans over and forces his seatbelt on. 

He stops when Jungkook’s mouth presses firm against his. When Jungkook pulls back, there’s a cocky grin on his lips.

It is unfair how often Jungkook does that. It doesn’t distract Taehyung from his worry, but it cuts him off from expressing it.

“You can control the music,” Jungkook compromises.

Taehyung slumps into his seat as he waits for Jungkook to climb into the driver’s side. It’s obvious his movements hurt, but he won’t admit it if Taehyung asks. It’s sitting, driving. Taehyung tries to convince himself it won’t hurt Jungkook.

It doesn’t work.

“What if you suffer a hemorrhage or something while driving?”

The article Taehyung read doesn’t explain exactly what happens when someone hemorrhages, but he doesn’t like the sound of it. The word makes him think of seizure, or something similar, and even though he knows that’s not what it is, he can’t convince his brain to stop associating the word with that. He has never been good with medical jargon. When his mother had been sick, the doctor’s explanations always muddled in his brain. 

“I’ll pull over,” Jungkook says without looking at him as he sticks the key into the ignition. “Stop reading WebMD articles, babe. I’m fine.”

Taehyung hesitates at that. Babe . That’s new. It also could be a distraction tactic that works because he finds himself speechless as Jungkook pulls their van from where they’d parked it for the last three days.

“It wasn’t WebMd,” Taehyung finally says under his breath. He knows not to trust that one and probably any other medical website online, but there are a few that look like real doctors respond to.

There is a quirk to Jungkook’s lips. “I promise, I’m fine. Just a little bruised, alright?”

Taehyung sighs, crossing his arms. He’ll let it go for now, but he won’t stop thinking about.

He doesn’t, not even when the music plays fast and loud. Music has never been a distraction like it is to Jungkook. He doesn’t fall asleep, and Jungkook keeps glancing at him as if to check to see if he has.

The drive is only a few hours. They only stop at the welcome centers in North Carolina twice for the bathroom and food. Each time, Taehyung tries to steal the driver’s seat from Jungkook. 

Each time, Taehyung loses because Jungkook doesn’t let an injury get in the way of winning. None of them really work in easing Taehyung’s concern, but he sees Jungkook needs to do this.

He really doesn’t need to feel guilty about a thing, but Taehyung knows he does anyway. That’s why Jungkook needs to drive so badly. 

As long as he can remember, Jungkook beats himself up whenever he thinks he’s put Taehyung out in any way. Even if Taehyung loses all of the oxygen in his lungs trying to convince him otherwise. 

“You’re a shithead,” Taehyung complains as he buckles himself in again. There are bags of snacks at his feet, drinks filling the cup holders that he shouldn’t sip at too much or they’ll have to stop again before they reach Raleigh. 

Jungkook cranks the music up before he curls his hand around his ear. “What?”

The tension releases some in Taehyung’s chest when he smiles. He reaches over the console, presenting Jungkook with his drink because he knows he’ll never take his hands off the wheel to sip at his own. “Like I said, a shithead.”

“Technically this shithead is still your husband,” Jungkook says. He glares, nose wrinkling at the sour taste of Taehyung’s slushie. “We never got a divorce.”

It’s dumb and silly and Taehyung laughs. “Was my kissing of Heather Lockland not obvious enough? That’s like the eight year old version of divorce.”

Jungkook’s eyes widen in offense, and he glances at Taehyung so he can see. “Fuck you.”

Taehyung hikes his legs onto the dashboard, sinking down the seat. “Once you’re healed, babe .”

Using Jungkook’s new petname works against him too. His cheeks turn pink, and his hands tighten around the steering wheel.

They spend a few days in Raleigh, touring through the different attractions and restaurants (mostly restaurants) before heading back to the mountains. Jungkook seems disappointed that he isn’t magically healed in a few days, but he finally gets sick of the anxiety that comes with driving and allows Taehyung to take over. 

Jungkook sleeps most of the way, head tucked beneath his bucket hat and arms curled over his stomach. Taehyung turns off his summer playlist and turns on Jungkook’s playlist, the beats more soothing.

The lyrics however, not so much. Without anything else but the road to focus on, Taehyung listens to every lyric. The love songs are about saying goodbye and not being loved in return. Taehyung wonders if Jungkook relates to those.

The sad songs not about love are the ones that have Taehyung the most uneasy. Songs about being broken inside, torn apart inside, wanting to be better and wanting to be nothing at all.

Taehyung prays Jungkook doesn’t relate to those.

When they reach their campground, just outside the Blue Ridge Mountains, Taehyung’s body aches. The ride here wasn’t too long, but they’ve been driving for weeks, and their cot really isn’t comfortable. 

Despite this ache, he forces Jungkook to lay down while he hooks the camper van up for electricity.

It is cheaper than a hotel, for the most part. Jungkook’s been working at a brand name hotel for the last four years and can book a room for roughly the same price, but he refuses to use his employee discount, and camping isn’t so bad. It feels like solitude even if it isn’t.

When he walks back into the camper, Jungkook has their small, mini television playing. His arm is hooked over his eyes. His legs are spread, knees bent, and his other hand curls into the fabric of his shirt.

Taehyung stretches before he pulls himself onto the cot and crawls over him, careful not to jostle him. He eases Jungkook’s arm from his face, smiling down at him. 


Jungkook wrinkles his nose, only peeking one eye open to look at him. “You should sleep.”

“We’re camping,” Taehyung tells him. He’s exhausted, but he can’t let Jungkook know or his guilt will become worse when he also realizes Taehyung can’t sleep. He won’t be able to, he already knows it. 

As much as he’s tried, he can’t get the images of Jungkook out of his mind. Even when he focuses hard on the way his chest moves when he breathes. Just looking at Jungkook’s face can drag them back and make his body lurch with their sudden intrusion.

For as long as Taehyung can remember, sleep has never been easy for him. Next to Jungkook, it’s easier. Sometimes.

“I want to make s’mores.”

There is a grin on Jungkook’s lips even though he rolls his eyes. “Of course you do.”

The fire blazes hot. Despite the humidity in the air, it isn’t too bad. Taehyung has chocolate covered fingers, sticky lips. Noise filters to them from the other campers around them, but it feels quiet.

Their own world, their own bubble. 


Jungkook shoves a smore against Taehyung’s mouth, muffling his  laugh. He opens his lips wide, the crackers digging into the corners of his smile. 

“Am I cute?” Taehyung asks, knowing his words will only come out garbled.

Jungkook hums anyway, nodding. They can’t read each other’s minds, but sometimes it feels like it. Their friends have always said as much, claiming that they can communicate silently.

They aren’t wrong, but there isn’t anything odd or supernatural about it. When you’ve been side by side with someone your whole life, they become a part of you. A separate part of you that you can read and understand just as well as yourself. Just a look, a small gesture, and Taehyung can guess what Jungkook’s thoughts are. Sometimes, Taehyung doesn’t even have to look at Jungkook to know.

They’re similar in many ways. Their gestures mimic each other like their bodies are designed to move in sync. At least, that’s what their friends have said.

“I want to climb the mountain tomorrow.”

That should have been something Taehyung saw coming. He throws Jungkook an incredulous look. But Jungkook is looking into the fire, one leg hooked over his knee. 

“You can’t. You’re hurt.”

“I’m not ruining this trip anymore by being bedridden.”

Rolling his eyes, Taehyung pushes another marshmallow on the metal stick and pushes it close to the fire. “A few days won’t matter. You didn’t ruin the trip.”

“Every day of this summer matters,” Jungkook mutters, his voice distant. 

The fire crackles in the silence, and Taehyung watches as the marshmallow browns. 

“Well, I hate mountain climbing. Staying bedridden with you sounds much better.”

Jungkook laughs at that. He stands as Taehyung pulls the marshmallow out of the flames, and Taehyung worries that he is going to hole himself up inside the camper van. 

But he doesn’t. Instead, he sits between Taehyung’s legs, butt on the dirt ground and shoulders pressing into Taehyung’s thighs.

It’s a habit the way Taehyung’s fingers instantly go to Jungkook’s hair. He smooths his hair back, finding it odd that he suddenly wants to kiss the top of his head.

He shakes his head at that and hugs his thighs around Jungkook instead. He fluffs the strands around Jungkook’s ears, scratches at his scalp, grazes his fingers down his neck, and assesses the tension there.

“Honestly,” Taehyung emphasizes. “We can do whatever the fuck we want to, and it won’t ruin this trip. That’s the point.”

Jungkook leans his head back, resting against Taehyung. It allows Taehyung to see some of his face - his eyes closed and lips slightly pouted. Taehyung continues to brush his hands back before he scratches at the thick hair behind Jungkook’s ear.

“I’m supposed to be the one that worries,” Taehyung jokes as Jungkook remains silent. He leans over, face hovering over Jungkook’s, but Jungkook doesn’t open his eyes. “Stop taking my job. It’s hard out here for the unemployed.”

The laugh Jungkook lets out sounds more like a hum. A chuckle deep in his throat as he reaches up, fingers curling around the back of Taehyung’s neck and dragging him down.

The kissing for no reason, no heated reason, is new still. It still catches Taehyung off guard yet Jungkook has been doing it constantly over the last couple of weeks.,

Taehyung doesn’t question it. He cups a hand beneath Jungkook’s chin, using his other to rub down his chest and kiss him back. 

“I have a feeling you won’t fall in love with any of the coasts we see, but the mountains,” Taehyung admits, fingers rubbing down Jungkook’s cheeks before he squeezes them together. His own bangs hang over his face and he probably looks silly upside down, but Jungkook looks at him with bright eyes. Brighter than the flames reflected in his pupils. 

“Nah, it will be the coast,” Jungkook assures him. “I’m already too in love with everything that reminds me of the coast.”

The heat from the flames licks at their skin and the humid air wraps around them like a blanket, but it isn’t anything compared to the warmth in Taehyung’s chest.

They don’t get to hike up the mountain, but Jungkook seems content in driving. They hook the camper off the side when they find a good view, appreciating the solitude and the actual silence around them that they can fill on their own. 

“I still don’t believe you,” Taehyung says as he glances from the stove to Jungkook. They’ve opened up the camper to cook, the smoke billowing into the cooler mountain air. “You definitely fucked that computer lab guy.”

Jungkook laughs where he’s perched himself on their makeshift couch. He has one leg propped, his elbow resting on his knee. He’s been fiddling aimlessly with a straw, and now the end is so chewed apart it’s starting to break.

“I swear, I didn’t.”

“Dude, he gave you the lab’s office password so you could print for free,” Taehyung reminds him incredulously. He drags the spatula through the pan, turning over the pieces of chicken to brown them evenly. “That totally says you fucked him.”

“I swear I didn’t!” Jungkook laughs, twirling his chewed straw in the air. “I didn’t fuck anyone in college.”

Taehyung turns at that, hip cocking against the counter as he twists his hat until the brim is at the back of his head. “I doubt that.”

“It’s true,” Jungkook says easily, head tilting to the side. He looks to Taehyung with wide eyes. “Last person I even messed around with before you was Mark back in high school. Do you remember him?”

It’s hard not to scowl. Taehyung remembers Mark. He had been a fucking asshole that was just interested in sex. Jungkook never implied he wanted more, but Mark literally wouldn’t even text him unless it was to hook up.

He still does sometimes, expecting Jungkook to say yes and getting pissy when Jungkook tells him to fuck off. The man has entitlement issues, and it’s always pissed Taehyung off.

“Yeah I remember,” Taehyung says.

“One of the reasons I don’t want to go back home,” Jungkook explains with a long sigh. “No one leaves there, and I hate running into people from high school. Especially him.”

Taehyung watches as Jungkook stretches out his legs and cranks his head to the side before standing. He moves to Taehyung then, reaching out to grip his hip.

“You’re the only one I would want to run into.”

The pan sizzles loudly and Jungkook takes over, easing Taehyung aside to shimmy the pan. Taehyung isn’t sure what to say to that so he doesn’t reply.

Jungkook says things like this here and there, like he thinks one day they’ll be the type of people who will have missed out on years of each other’s lives and awkwardly catch up at the supermarket.

It’s too absurd for Taehyung to consider, but it bothers him that Jungkook doesn’t feel the same way.

Maybe it’s just him overreacting. It’s only been about a week since the incident at the beach, and Taehyung still can’t fully shake it from his mind. He’s slept some since, but even then he wakes in the night to make sure Jungkook is breathing beside him. 

There are nights he doesn’t remember what dream woke him, but the feeling in his chest always tells him it was Jungkook. The overbearing need to curl closer to him, to touch a palm over his chest and feel the way it rises. Taehyung doesn’t need to remember his dreams to know what they were about. 

“I don’t believe you didn’t hook up with anyone in college,” Taehyung says, going back to an easier subject to talk about.

The wrinkles appear over the bridge of Jungkook’s nose as he shifts the pan from the burner and turns it off.

“Is it that hard to believe? You know I don’t like showing my body off. Not even to you.”

Taehyung busies himself with checking on the potatoes boiling on another burner. It gives him an excuse not to respond right away. “You do show me though.”

“Because it’s you ,” Jungkook says, and even though Taehyung isn’t looking at him, he can hear the eye roll in his words. “You’re different. You’re not going to look at my scars and ask a thousand questions.”

Taehyung gives Jungkook his full attention again. This is uncharted territory. Jungkook rarely even acknowledges their presence let alone talks so openly about them.

“Because you already know why I have them,” Jungkook finalizes. 

He does, for the most part. He knows about the ones on his ankles and thighs. The white line across his neck. The ones shaped like circles on his chest are obvious enough that Taehyung can take a guess at what they could be.

But the ones on Jungkook’s back he has no idea and the assumptions Taehyung had made make him ill whenever he thinks about them.

“If you want to talk about them,” Taehyung says conversationally, “you don’t have to wait for me to ask.”

An elbow bumps into his playfully, but Jungkook’s tone is softer now. “I know.”

“Or anything you want to talk about,” Taehyung keeps going, shrugging his shoulders to tell Jungkook it isn’t a big deal because he knows it is to him. The topic is a big deal, but there isn’t a thing in this world, no matter how awful, that Jungkook can’t talk to him about.

Silence happens again. It’s been around more often than usual. Something like a third wheel on this road trip. He can hear Jungkook’s mind running as they put their food together and bring it back to the table.

It isn’t until Taehyung is sitting and Jungkook is turned away from him, taking his time looking for drinks beneath their cot, that Jungkook speaks.

“My dad called me the day before graduation.”

Oh . Taehyung was expecting Jungkook to take his time to open up, and he definitely wasn’t expecting that of all things. He doesn’t even know how long it’s been since Jungkook spoke to his father last.

“How’d that go?”

A lift of Jungkook’s shoulders, fingers shaking around the can of Coke.

“Alright.” Jungkook moves to the fridge next, still not looking at Taehyung as he pulls a cold can from it. “You know Eomma never called me about graduation. She didn’t even say anything about it when we went home to get my things. Not a ‘congratulations’, nothing.”

Taehyung nods even if Jungkook isn’t looking at him. If anything is more taboo to talk about than Jungkook’s scars, it’s his parents. Especially his father. 

He used to always tell Taehyung about the things his father did before he moved away. Sneaking out of his house at night to come to Taehyung’s just to hide beneath his comforter with him. 

After he moved, it was too far to sneak away. When they got to high school, Jungkook started taking the bus back to Taehyung’s house more often than not, so he didn’t need to sneak over.

When Taehyung first got his license, Jungkook would text him most nights and ask him to pick him up. 

After Jungkook got the scar on his neck, he stopped talking about it. He started seeking the silence and the comforting touches, only letting things slip out here and there over the years. Jungkook’s father was gone then, but he had left his mark. It took a while to finally get rid of his presence.

“What’d he say?”

Jungkook sits across from him, handing him the cold can. He plays with the hair behind his ear, twirling and tugging at it for a moment.

“He finally found a job. Has a nice apartment in Busan, I guess. Close to the water.”

It’s easy to pretend to eat when Jungkook’s attention is focused on the window beside them. Taehyung’s stomach churns too much for him to digest any of it, even if it looks delicious. 

Finally . That makes it sound like they’ve talked since his father left for Korea and Jungkook knew his father was struggling to find a job.

“He has a baby on the way.”

The sound that leaves Taehyung’s mouth is technically a laugh, but it’s far from amused. It sounds strangled, ragged. Jungkook finally looks to him, face crumpling in offense.

“Sorry,” Taehyung sighs, shaking his head. “If there is one person in the world that should be banned from having children, it’s him.”

Jungkook watches Taehyung as he shoves food into his mouth just to make himself shut up.

“Maybe. It’s been a few years though. Maybe he’s changed.”

Taehyung highly doubts that, but he doesn’t mention it. If Jungkook wants to think so, if it comforts him, than Taehyung won’t ruin that.

Or he’ll try not to. What Jungkook says next makes him fail.

“He asked me to go to Korea. To stay with him for a while.”

Taehyung plants his silverware to the table. He wants to laugh again but doesn’t want to offend Jungkook. The number of emotions he has felt this week have made him tired. But this sudden anger and protectiveness inside of him is the worst of it. “You’re shitting me.”

Dread fills him as Jungkook plays with his earlobe and shrugs. He looks small again.

“I haven’t been there since I was young. Plus, he said he was proud of me, Tae. Don’t you think it’s possible for people to change?”

Yes . Taehyung completely believes that. There are people who do wrong things but can change when they’re told that what their doing is bad. There are people who know what they’ve done is bad and remorse makes them change. 

But he doesn’t believe someone can abuse their child for fifteen years and suddenly change. 

“Yeah, I do. But I also think you can’t ignore what people have done to you. How many times have you came to me because you were afraid of what he would do to you? You’ll have nowhere to run to in Korea.”

Jungkook stands abruptly then, the table rattling. They never fight, and this is the second one on their trip. The trip that hasn’t even been that long yet. 

“You don’t have to remind me.”

Taehyung follows after him, not letting Jungkook walk away. He’s gentle when he touches him, an arm curling around his shoulders.

“If you want to go see your dad, I’ll go with you.”

Jungkook shakes his head immediately. “I don’t want you anywhere near him.”

Taehyung could point out that that right there is why Jungkook shouldn’t go. But he doesn’t. He rubs his shoulders and brushes the hair poking out from Jungkook playing with it and tucks it behind his ear.

“I think you should keep it over the phone for awhile. Talk to him some, feel him out, before you decide. Maybe he has changed.”

He hasn’t. Taehyung knows that deep in his gut. 

“But if he hasn’t, you can’t risk your life finding out.”

Jungkook nods, fingers fisting into Taehyung’s shirt. “Okay. You’re right.”

It takes a moment for Jungkook to relax completely. Until his breathing evens out and he no longer tries to keep his eyes diverted from Taehyung’s.

“It’s not about being right,” Taehyung tells him. “Just safe. You know you mean the world to me, right? Your safety is always my main concern.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes, but his lips are tilting upwards. “Yeah, I know.”

“And you don’t want me to spend my life in prison, do you? Because I’ll have to if he lays a finger on you.”

There is the tiniest quirk in Jungkook’s lips then. He rolls his eyes, hands lifting to rub his hands over Taehyung’s arms. “He’s a lot bigger than you.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Taehyung says, grabbing Jungkook’s chin as he reads his mind. “I don’t care if his arms are bigger than my entire body. Nothing will be stronger than my need for vengeance.”

He’s trying to be dramatic to ease the tension around them, but he also means it.

Too many times, for too many years, he’s watched the things that Jungkook’s father has done to him. He’s always been too small, too scared, too unsure what to do to do anything at all. 

That’s not the case anymore. 

From the mountains they travel through Georgia, venturing through Atlanta, down the outskirts of the Alabama state line into Florida.

They visit parks and historical sights, enjoying taking it easy and taking pictures they send to their friends. Taehyung goes to sleep with Jimin on his phone, cooing about how Jungkook curls around his legs when he sleeps. 

They grocery shop and buy more microwaveable food than actual food.

When they get back to the camper, they realize they don’t even have a microwave.

The topic of Jungkook’s father doesn’t come up again.

When Jungkook’s bruises heal, they rent bikes and hike like Jungkook’s been craving to do. They visit museums and spend more money than they planned on souvenirs that Jungkook has started taping to the walls of the camper. 

Once in Florida, they settle in Pensacola. The beach makes Taehyung nervous, but he and Jungkook drive over the long bridge from Pensacola to Pensacola Beach. They take in the sight of the Gulf of Mexico and lie in the blinding white sand.

They dress in oversized tye dye shirts with animal prints on the front. They fill their camper with floral button ups and large hats that flop around the sides of Taehyung’s head. Jungkook entertains Taehyung’s want for a fashion shoot, though he is all laughter and giggles when Taehyung unbuttons his Hawaiian shirt and tries for his best sexy face. 

It comes out looking more constipated than anything because the sun is blinding, and Taehyung is stepping into a shell that hurts when it digs into his skin.

It rains their last night in Florida, the thunder loud above them. It’s the first day of bad weather in their near month of traveling, but Taehyung doesn’t mind. They have shelter and each other.

Taehyung can’t hear the noises Jungkook lets out under the pounding of the rain on the camper’s roof, but he can feel them when they’re pressed to his mouth.

They touch each other lazily, hands shoved beneath pajamas. The cot is cramped, and Taehyung’s toes curl into the side of the van almost painfully when Jungkook’s hand works over him.

It doesn’t stay lazy long as Jungkook’s fingers search for more. 

He turns Taehyung to his side, kissing down his spine as his fingers tease between his cheeks. Taehyung giggles at the feeling. Giggles that turn into sharp moans when Jungkook’s fingers prod between his asscheeks.

It’s slow, the way Jungkook stretches him. The pace doesn’t stay that way, the tenderness doesn’t stick around, as eagerness and desire build between them. 

“Stay like that,” Jungkook murmurs hotly, breath casting over the shell of Taehyung’s ears as Jungkook’s hand rubs down the curve of Taehyung’s side. “Wanna fuck you like this.”

Taehyung is thankful for the heavy rain drowning out the sounds he makes when Jungkook’s chest plants to his back. They’re on their sides as if they were spooning, but Jungkook has a hand firm beneath his thigh, lifting his leg until Taehyung’s toes touch the ceiling rather than the bottom of the cot.

Jungkook’s breath is hot and wet against the back of his neck. Taehyung’s arm flies behind himself, wanting to touch any part of Jungkook he can. It is difficult with his own leg in the way, but Jungkook’s fingers dig into his skin roughly to keep Taehyung’s legs spread for him. He settles for cupping over the hand Jungkook has on his leg, nails digging into skin when pleasure hits him. 

The heat and salt stick to their skin. A fire burns inside Taehyung with every press of Jungkook into him, every slow drag that has Taehyung attempting to rock back in need for more, but the position makes it difficult. It’s mind numbing, his brain clear of everything except for the way their bodies touch and the pleasure that comes with it.

The thunder is loud and Taehyung’s body trembles like lightning struck him. The electricity through his limbs, pulsing pleasure of his orgasm crashing through him the moment Jungkook lets go of his leg to wrap a hand around his cock instead.

Despite the loud storm, Taehyung falls asleep with Jungkook around his back. With the heavy air and exertion, exhaustion takes over easily. Jungkook curls an arm around his waist, holding him close and nuzzling into his neck like the scent of his sweaty skin will calm him enough to sleep too.

When he wakes, Jungkook is no longer beside him. Taehyung rolls into the warmth he left behind, smothering his face into Jungkook’s pillow.

It’s no longer raining, and heat pours through the windows. His body feels stiff, and he doesn’t want to crawl from the cot. He doesn’t want to do anything at all.

He doesn’t move, not until sleep is fully gone from him, and Jungkook’s yet to return.

Groggily, Taehyung sits up and peers out of the window beside their cot. Pushing the curtains aside, he spots Jungkook sat in the grass. He has a phone to his ear, knees up and his arm hanging off one.

Taehyung lays back, pulling out his own phone. He has a good morning text from his father, one about an internship back in Maine from Yoongi. Another from Jimin, which Taehyung clicks on first when he reads Jungkook’s nickname in the preview.

jimin : kookie’s view

Paired with the text is the emoji with the tongue hanging out and crazy eyes. There’s a link to Instagram attached too, and Taehyung clicks on it without hesitation.

It brings him to a picture Jungkook must have taken when they were on the Blue Ridge Mountains. Before their argument. 

The background is all colorful trees and mountains. On the side, Taehyung sees his own profile. He’s also taking a picture, a camera in front of his face.

It isn’t a really appealing picture. Taehyung’s shirt is sweaty and sagging around his hips, his basketball shorts even baggier. He takes in the way his back is slightly curved, the round of his ass, and grins before he exits out

taehyung : shut the hell up 

jimin : it’s nice, i’d climb that mountain

Taehyung’s laugh vibrates through the cabin, and he tosses his phone aside. He stretches out his aching limbs before touching his feet to the small mat beneath him. 

He grabs his own camera as he steps out of the camper van and into the warm morning air. This view isn’t as spectacular as a mountain. They’re parked outside of a park, the background a long field of dark green and trees.

Taehyung snaps the picture anyway, focusing on Jungkook’s profile. His head turns at the sound of the shutter. Taehyung snaps another.

His hair is a mess around his head, sticking up in places. His cheeks burning red and neck starting to purple with mouth-shaped bruises. His shirt is inside out, and the sweatpants he wears ripped in places.

Jungkook is a better view than any mountain.

“Go away.” Jungkook huffs but grins.

“Coffee,” Taehyung says, wiggling his camera before he steps back inside the van.

They don’t really have a plan where they’re going this time. They are just going to drive, roughly using a map to take them through the southern states. Taehyung thinks their destination is California, another coast for Jungkook to possibly fall in love with.

When Jungkook comes back into the camper van, he pads across the small floor and wraps around Taehyung’s back.

His heart thumps heavily, and he shakes some. Taehyung runs his fingers over his forearms as he listens to the coffee pot and the sound of Jungkook’s breathing.

This kind of heavy intimacy is new but Taehyung doesn’t mind it. He doesn’t think about it when it happens, only afterwards. 

He doesn’t know what to make of how he feels about it. He ignores those thoughts, focusing on his best friend and his clear need for comfort.

“Alright?” Taehyung finally asks when Jungkook rests a chin to his shoulder and his breath hits the side of Taehyung’s neck.

Jungkook’s arms squeeze a little tighter around his waist. “Yeah.”

“What is it?” Taehyung asks as he turns. Jungkook only loosens his arms a fraction before they’re circling tight around him again.

There is no response as Jungkook leans forward and captures his lips against his own. Taehyung grips onto the counter, body molding forward and into Jungkook’s.

He’s sure his mouth tastes like morning breath, but Jungkook doesn’t seem to care as he continues to kiss him. The coffee stops dripping, and Jungkook keeps kissing, hands cupping the sides of Taehyung’s neck to angle his head.

Circling his fingers around Jungkook’s wrists, Taehyung wants to pull him away and ask. But he doesn’t. He holds Jungkook’s hands into place and opens his lips wider, letting Jungkook lick and sigh into his mouth until he feels better.

Taehyung feels breathless when Jungkook finally pulls back. He brushes their lips together, presses a peck against Taehyung’s parted lips.

“I'm glad we started doing that,” Jungkook murmurs as he presses their foreheads together. Taehyung’s stumped for words, but Jungkook doesn’t seem to need them as he pulls away to grab a mug.

But he tries anyway, lifting his lips into a small smile when Jungkook glances back towards him. “Me too.”

Chapter Text

“You know you’re supposed to sip wine, right?”

Jungkook smiles dopily, starfished out on the cot and leaving no room for Taehyung. Taehyung stands over him, smiling just as much. 

“Isn’t that what I did?”

“Hardly,” Taehyung laughs. “You downed each glass.”

“Well, at least I did the swirl thing.”

Taehyung tugs Jungkook up as he laughs. His face is bright red with intoxication. They had gone on a wine tour and left with Taehyung slightly tipsy and warm and Jungkook drunk and burning.

“Yeah, at least you did that. How sophisticated of you.”

Jungkook fumbles a bit as he stands, hands circling instantly around Taehyung’s waist. He sways some, his smile brushing against Taehyung’s cheek.

It’s not that late, the sun still burning over the horizon. It feels late though, exhaustion heavy on Taehyung’s shoulders. He blames the dry heat, the food, the alcohol, the fact that he hasn’t slept much this entire trip.

They’ve been on the road for nearly a month, and it’s been everything Taehyung imagined it would be. Just him and Jungkook, cruising the roads.

“Dance with me,” Jungkook murmurs as he turns them. Taehyung secures his arms around Jungkook’s torso so he won’t fall.

“This isn’t a dancing song.”

“Anything’s a dancing song,” Jungkook replies as he continues to rock him.

Their dance doesn’t consist of much more than that. The two of them stepping side to side and Jungkook occasionally turning them. 

I just wanna know, I just wanna know.

Jungkook bends Taehyung, giggling softly before bringing him back to his chest.

My lingering feelings are trying to withstand the end.

Their fingers intertwine as they pull apart, only for Taehyung to be twirled back to Jungkook.

The heat between you and me won’t cool down.

Jungkook slides an arm around his waist, chin tucked over Taehyung’s shoulder. Lips against his ear, he sings along.

“If there are hellos then there are bound to be goodbyes.”

Taehyung’s heart squeezes in his chest, and he turns his face, finding Jungkook’s only an inch away.

It is intimate. There’s no question about it. Jungkook’s eyes are heavy, from the alcohol probably, but also something else that sends a whirlwind through Taehyung.

It feels tense, but not in a bad way. Not with the way Jungkook smiles so softly before his eyelashes flutter.

They stay like that for awhile, dancing slowly to songs about lost love and broken people. If Taehyung were looking in, he’d find it silly. But it isn’t. It feels warm and heavy and not quite like friendship.

Taehyung still loves it just as much even if his mind has been too busy lately. They say this happens with friends that hook up, but it’s not the sex. It’s moments like this that are new and different and dragging up feelings Taehyung had thought were nothing more than just understandable attraction towards his best friend.

“Tae,” Jungkook murmurs, his body heavy as his fingers slip beneath the front of Taehyung’s shirt. It is one of the few pieces of clothing that Taehyung had brought along that is dressy. It’s one of his best button ups, but it’s starting to wrinkle from the way Jungkook curls his fingers into it. “What do you want for your future?”

It isn’t a question that Taehyung had been expecting. Not while they slowly dance to The Rose in their tiny camper van. 

They had taken a wine tour through Santa Fe, their current home for the next few days before they take off again. The area is beautiful, the air dry. Neither one of them have been to this side of the country, and Taehyung wants to spend a few days exploring. 

“A good job. A house or an apartment that I can afford to live in while being able to afford other things too. Not just food or whatever, but stupid shit I don’t need.”

Jungkook laughs at that. “Big goals there, babe.”

Taehyung turns then and pinches Jungkook’s cheek playfully. “I’m twenty two years old. I have no idea what I want to do with my life. No one does. Do you?”

At eighteen, they’re forced to make decisions that will affect the rest of their life. Taehyung thought his four years in college would give him some insight as to whether or not he made the right decision, but he still isn’t sure.

Jungkook holds his gaze for a moment, his eyes more focused than before. He opens his lips, eyes widening before he presses them together.

“The future isn’t promised.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes at that. “Okay, but if it was? What would you do?”

But Jungkook is turning then and attempting to pull himself back onto the cot. He struggles and tenses when Taehyung presses his hands to his back to help him.

A moment later, he’s sitting on the ground and pulling Taehyung with him. 

Beneath the cot, they don’t really fit. Not with their belongings stored down there but they fit just enough that they’re half hidden. Hidden from what? Taehyung doesn’t know. But he knows Jungkook likes to hide.

“Let me ask you something,” Jungkook starts, and Taehyung braces himself. Jungkook isn’t much of a drinker, not a big partier in college. He usually giggles too much or falls asleep.

Something feels off about Jungkook, and Taehyung doesn’t think it’s the alcohol.


Jungkook plays with his hands for a minute, rubbing over his knuckles and tracing the lines of his palms. “Is marriage something you’ve planned for your future?”

Taehyung snorts. He’s never thought about it, not really. “I don’t know. Do you?”

“Yeah, I’ve always wanted to get married,” Jungkook says, nodding his head with every word he speaks. 

Throughout the years, Jungkook has only dated a handful of times. None of his relationships were ever serious, and if they were, he never spoke of them in a serious way. He’s never mentioned marriage or anything of the sort.

“I didn’t know that,” Taehyung admits, wondering why Jungkook brought it up. 

Jungkook hums. “Not willing to divorce you for it to happen though.”

Taehyung laughs, gripping tight onto Jungkook’s hands. “Whoever you end up marrying will have to challenge me to a duel before I ever let you go.”

The laugh Jungkook lets out is soft. “Who said I would ever want to marry anyone other than you?”

The words sit heavily between them, and Jungkook’s gaze drops, focusing on their hands. With the way the sun starts to set, the camper glows in a dim light that has everything around Taehyung feeling soft.

He’s never thought about marriage, but he’s always thought about Jungkook being beside him for the rest of his life. He’s dated too, here and there, and they’ve never been serious. Just flings because Taehyung likes affection and attention. 

Even when he’s had a full blown crush on someone else, he’s always preferred to be around Jungkook. It’s caused problems for him before, when his partner had more feelings than Taehyung and hated that Taehyung wanted to spend all of his time with Jungkook.

Breaking it off was easy then. They’re a package deal. There are times when Jungkook needs him by his side, and Taehyung won’t let anything get in the way of him being there. 

“We’ll stay married then,” Taehyung decides. “On our way to Cali, we can stop in Las Vegas and have one of those Elvis Presley weddings.”

Jungkook’s laugh is infectious. “Shut up.”

“I’m serious,” Taehyung insists, and it’s not until he says it that he realizes it’s true. If Jungkook wanted to get married, he’d be fucking down, even if it’s ridiculous. Being beside Jungkook forever is the only thing he’s figured out about life. “Maybe then you’ll stop with this whole we aren’t spending our life together thing.”

Jungkook lets go of Taehyung’s hands to grab his calves, opening his legs to spread them around him. He throws Taehyung’s thighs over his own and rubs his palms over his skin. Taehyung’s toes press into something hard beneath the cot, and there is a tightness in his hips from the stretch, but he likes the way Jungkook’s hands feel on him.

“You know shit changes, Tae. People who have been inseparable have to go their separate ways for work or whatever. They lose touch. Only see each other again at their ten year reunion.”

Taehyung’s mouth forms into a frown that feels like it’s dragging his face down with it. “I will literally superglue my body to yours.”

Jungkook doesn’t look up from where his thumbs dig into the soft flesh of Taehyung’s thighs. “Things change. Shit happens. You never know. Both of us know that loved ones don’t stick around forever. There could be a day we wake up and one of us -”

Taehyung pushes a hand against Jungkook’s mouth, his heart suddenly erratic in his chest. “Don’t go there. Don’t say shit like that.”

Jungkook closes his eyes before he leans forward, pushing Taehyung’s hand back and planting his hands beside Taehyung’s hips.

“You just always talk about us with such certainty that - I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Jungkook presses their foreheads together, and the ache in Taehyung’s hips is even worse now but he doesn’t move. He grips Jungkook’s shoulders and rubs them, tilts his lips up to kiss him.

The sudden carefree atmosphere is gone and replaced with something that feels as off as Jungkook seems. Taehyung kisses Jungkook to soften the air around him, but he’s not sure if it works.

“I think I’m just drunk,” Jungkook whispers against his lips. “Don’t listen to me.”

Taehyung nods, warming his fingers at the back of Jungkook’s neck. “Are you thinking about your dad again?”

There is a beat before Jungkook nods. If anyone knows what it’s like to be afraid they might die so suddenly, it’s Jungkook.

“Stop thinking about him,” Taehyung says even though he knows it isn’t easy to do. He doesn’t understand it, why Jungkook still has a connection to him. “Think about me.”

“I always do,” Jungkook breathes. He lets him go, their bodies untangling and their heads brushing against the bottom of the bunk.

Taehyung helps Jungkook strip from his sweaty clothes. He throws on a pair of Taehyung’s shorts and climbs onto the cot, this time successfully. He lays on top of the comforters and pats the empty space beside him when Taehyung heads to the couch.

It’s too warm, but he curls beside Jungkook and waits for him to sleep.

They don’t get married in Las Vegas. They get drunk and lose money. They win money too, more than they lost. They go for a gondola ride, visit national parks, and fill their camera rolls with pictures of red rock formations and as many tourist selfies as possible.

Jungkook gives in and books a hotel under his employee rate. The cooling system in the camper is weak against the dry heat, and Taehyung plants himself in front of the hotel’s air conditioner, desperate like he’s seconds from dying of heatstroke.

“You’ve got a tan.”

Taehyung hums, holding his phone out in front of him. Jimin’s face is there. Namjoon wanders around in the background. They live in a tiny apartment in their college town, and Taehyung has been trying to convince them to move closer. It’s expensive, Maine and Connecticut, but there are cheaper cities nearby, and Taehyung is selfish.

He wants all of their friends to stay together, but he knows over the next few years, they’re all going to part.

“I’ve spent a shit ton of time outside,” Taehyung says. The air conditioner makes his bangs blow out. He looks a little silly, but he likes the way Jimin giggles at him. 

“I know,” Jimin hums, a teasing glint in his eyes. “You’re in every one of Jungkook’s Instagram posts.”

Taehyung knows. He had seen Jungkook post a picture of Taehyung at the Valley of Fire, and once Jungkook fell asleep, he searched through his feed.

None of them are of Taehyung except for the one at the Valley. The rest just have Taehyung in the shot. Whether it be his side profile or his back. There’s even one with Taehyung’s mouth hanging open from when they walked through the Bamboo Forest in New Jersey. He doesn’t remember what he had been telling Jungkook, but it looks like he was talking shit.

There aren’t as many pictures of Jungkook in his camera roll, and since then, he’s been set on changing that.

“What about it?” Taehyung asks as Jimin smirks.

Jimin shrugs and Namjoon leans on the couch behind him, lips pressed together as he smiles and waves.

“Just wondering if there’s some discoveries made this trip yet?” Jimin asks, going for cool but he looks too amused.

There have been. Taehyung’s still working on figuring out exactly what they are.


Both Jimin and Namjoon laugh at that. “Well hurry up and figure it out. The summer will be over before you know it.”

Taehyung lays on his back, keeping the phone above him. Jungkook went for a run a while ago. Checking the clock, Taehyung wonders if he has gotten lost. Jungkook hadn’t clarified how long he would be gone, but he thinks an hour is quite long for a run.

“It’s not like I’m not going to see him after the summer is over. We’re still gonna live together.”

Or Taehyung assumed. If Jungkook does find somewhere he falls in love with, it’ll take some time to actually move there. They need to find jobs wherever that is and pack their things.

Until then, he’s assumed Jungkook will stay at his house. He knows Jungkook doesn’t want to go home, and they have an extra bedroom. Jungkook just prefers to sleep in Taehyung’s room when he stays over.

If they don’t fall in love with another place, they can rent one of those cheap apartments near Taehyung’s hometown that he’s been trying to convince Jimin and Namjoon to move to.

The smile slips from Jimin’s face, and Namjoon presses up, the same surprised look on his face.

Dread fills Taehyung.

“What? What is it?”

Jimin’s eyes go wide in that way they do whenever Taehyung is stressed and overwhelmed and he can’t help. 

“Jin hyung says Jungkook’s been looking into going to Korea with him at the end of August. You know he got that teaching job over there.”

The phone falls. Taehyung barely registers the way it’s hitting his face before he’s flying up. There’s no way Jungkook wouldn’t tell him about that. 

“He probably just asked because he wants to visit his dad.”

There is silence. 

“That’s probably it,” Taehyung says. Jimin doesn’t look like that’s it. 

Whether Taehyung is assuring himself or Jimin, he doesn’t know. “I have to go, Jimin-ah. Hyung.”

He hangs up before they can say a word and immediately calls Jungkook.

His breathing is labored when he answers. “Hey. What’s up? I’m coming up the elevator now. Got fried food.”

Taehyung’s stomach had been groaning while he talked to Jimin, but now it’s a distant thought. He paces as he thinks.

Of course Jungkook wouldn’t tell him if he was planning on visiting his dad. He knows it would upset him. Just like it is right now.

“Jimin said you’re going to Korea with Jin.” There is no point acting like he doesn’t know. They are always honest with each other. Even if they never fight, they always tell each other when something is bothering them. Especially if it’s something regarding the other.

The elevator beeps in the background. Jungkook doesn’t say a word. 

“I asked him about the details,” he finally says. “I'm just thinking about it, Tae. That’s all. I told you that.”

Taehyung plays with his hair, smoothing it behind his ears just to have something to do with his hands. He feels like an asshole for being pushy about this, but he can’t stop the panic that fills him just thinking about Jungkook and his dad together.

When he panics he becomes an asshole.

He remembers the way Jungkook looked with that knife pressed to his throat. He can still feel the bruises on his hands from how hard he beat on Jungkook’s door when he first saw the red against his skin.

Some nights, he can’t sleep thinking about it. Some nights, he dreams about it, jolting out of sleep with his chest hurting so bad it’s like he had dreamed Jungkook was more than just injured.

It isn’t even only at night, either. There are moments during the day when the memories flood into Taehyung’s mind. It used to be worse after it happened, when they were still in highschool, and even into their freshman year of college. 

The dreams may have decreased in frequency but the effect they have on Taehyung has never lessened.

The door opens before Taehyung answers, too lost in his thoughts, and Jungkook steps inside with a bag of greasy smelling food. He is drenched in sweat, his shirt clinging to every inch of him. His skin is flaming red, his chest still heaving like he just stopped running when he got to their hotel. 

“Do you remember when we were little? Your Eomma would let us eat greasy chicken and watch cartoons to keep us busy so our parents could talk adult things?”

Taehyung frowns but nods as Jungkook sets the bag on the small desk tucked into the corner. There is only one chair, so he tucks himself onto the desk and kicks the chair to nudge it towards Taehyung.

Maybe it’s Jungkook still trying to catch his breath, but he sounds desperate when he speaks.

“They were just playing cards,” Taehyung says, taking the desk chair. 

“I was thinking about her while I ran,” Jungkook says. “I remembered that. Her chicken was probably better than this.”

Taehyung smiles softly, quietly. Jungkook keeps talking as he rips open boxes and lays the food out between them.

“They knew my dad had a gambling problem. Played him anyway. They told me when I got the money from him.” Jungkook makes a face and plops a dollop of mashed potatoes onto his plate. “I thought maybe some of the money would be your parents’ since I’m sure he swindled them just like he swindled the casinos. They didn’t want it back.”

Taehyung doubts they would have ever taken it from him. They didn’t need it. Taehyung’s family is well off. And what Jungkook’s dad did to him was a lot worse than cheating at poker games.

“He told me to slowly put it in the bank so no one would notice it once I turned eighteen. And I did that. I helped him so he wouldn’t have that crime adding to his sentence too.”

Silence falls between them as Jungkook cracks the sides of a chicken wing and eats. He looks stressed and tired, and Taehyung prays Jungkook is enjoying their trip as much as he is. 

“A sentence that wasn’t long enough,” Taehyung finally adds.

Jungkook’s father got out of prison two years ago for good behavior and immediately went to Korea. Taehyung doesn’t think he said a word to Jungkook then, but now he isn’t so sure.

“Yeah,” Jungkook hums, nodding. “He would have gotten longer if I didn’t run out before the police got there.”

Taehyung remembers the exact day. The exact sound of Jungkook’s voice when he called and asked him to pick him up because his parents were fighting again.

He even remembers how warm the air felt but how cold he was when he got to Jungkook’s house and heard the screaming inside. It felt like a winter day when he peeked through the windows of Jungkook’s kitchen.

“I hope you don’t feel guilty for being the reason he didn’t get a harder charge,” Taehyung says. He opens his mouth when Jungkook offers him a spoonful of mashed potatoes. 

“No,” Jungkook promises. “I feel guilty because I didn’t want him to get a harder charge because I should have wanted that. I should have hated both of them with every part of me. My dad for what he did to me and my Eomma for acting like it never happened. For never caring what he did to me.”

Taehyung reaches over, touching Jungkook’s knee and sliding up his thigh. “Emotions are emotions babe. You can’t control them.”

Jungkook nods, eyes sad. He blinks a few times and clears his throat. “Anyway. I figured out what I want to do with his money.”

There is grease on Jungkook’s lips. He grabs Taehyung’s hand on his thigh to wipe it, then laughs quietly as he lets him go.


Taehyung blurts out a laugh. “ Okay .”

“I’m serious,” Jungkook says as he tosses a chicken bone at him. “One for your Eomma and one for us. I have a couple other ideas too.”

Taehyung stares up at him, but Jungkook doesn’t look like he’s joking. He actually looks excited. Usually when they talk about Jungkook’s parents, he's out of commission for a few hours. But it’s only been a few minutes, and he seems fine. Taehyung doesn’t trust it, but he is happy to fit into the pace Jungkook needs to take to be better.

If pretending to be okay is what he needs to do right now, Taehyung will follow along. 

“I want you to get one with me,” Jungkook says while studying his chicken like it’s the world’s greatest mystery. “But only if you want to.”


Jungkook nods, finally looking at him.

That sounds terrifying but Taehyung finds himself nodding instead.

Getting a tattoo is as painful as he expects it to be, but Taehyung likes the sight of it once it’s done. It’s on the left side of his chest, a black and gray moon about the size of his palm. The words written beneath are in Jungkook’s hand writing, scratchy but perfect.

Just look to the moon.

Jungkook lies on the table in front of him, their fingers clasped. He doesn’t squeeze his hand as hard as Taehyung had squeezed his. He doesn’t seem to be in pain either. He winces here and there or exhales sharply, but those are the only signs that there’s even a needle scratching into his skin currently.

The circled scars disappear beneath the drawing, and Jungkook grits his teeth when the tattoo artist moves his gun over the scar tissue. 

Those nights with greasy chicken and cartoons, their parents would play poker in his father’s den. The room would fill with smoke from the thick cigars their fathers smoked. He remembers how big the burning tip of the cigar looked the one time he tried to be sneaky and see what adult business his parents were up to.

He imagines that tip against Jungkook’s skin every time his eyes land on those scars.

“Looks good?” Jungkook asks, peering up at him. Taehyung went first, knowing he’d chicken out watching Jungkook get his done. His own is now covered, his shirt still unbuttoned and hanging off of his arms.

It makes Taehyung warm, watching Jungkook’s promise get inked into Jungkook’s skin in his own handwriting. It’s important to Jungkook to always be connected to Taehyung, even if they’re apart.

The idea of being apart is still one that makes Taehyung uneasy, but maybe now he understands why Jungkook needs that assurance. Jungkook always needs assurance, even if it’s repetitive. Taehyung doesn’t mind giving it to him.

They’re at the parlor for a few hours before they’re both finished. Jungkook’s smile is big and contagious, stuck on his face and making his cheeks round.

He swings their hands as they walk back to the hotel, humming to whatever song plays in his AirPod.

Taehyung finds his eyes on Jungkook, a smile stuck on his face too.

They hit the beach once it’s dark, laying in the sand and staring up at the stars. Jungkook’s music plays softly in his ear, nearly drowning out the sounds of the waves crashing onto the shore.

I wanna hold your hands as we look in the same direction, wanna hold you tight when we meet eyes.

The tattoo feels raw, but he likes the feeling over his heart. 

It’s a good place for anything Jungkook related to be, Taehyung realizes.

Spending time with you makes me so happy, it’s making me smile right now.

On that beach, Taehyung realizes just how true those words are. They could have gone anywhere, stayed home, stayed in their college town, and it would have been the best summer either way.

Taehyung turns on his side, looking down at where Jungkook lazes there mouthing the lyrics.

He leans down, kissing Jungkook’s lips as they shape the soft, “falling for you, falling for you once again” of the chorus.

There is a smile on Jungkook’s lips that feels nice against his own, but Taehyung licks it away. Fingers catch against Jungkook’s cheek, guiding his head back.

They stay like that, making out beneath the moon they just tattooed to their chests, curled into each other along a coast they’re searching to fall in love with.

Taehyung won’t fall in love with one, he thinks as Home plays in his ear. It isn’t the coast, or the water that brings him the comforts of home.

It’s Jungkook. 

Taehyung stretches out beside Jungkook in the hotel that night, mind busy and erratic despite being exhausted from the day.

He closes his eyes and exhales out at the feeling in his chest because fuck , realizing the way he loves his best friend is either going to be amazing or an absolutely massive fucking shit show.

California. It’s bright and sunny. There are a lot of people, but no one looks their way. Jungkook swings their hands between them, every now and then stopping to fix the floppy hat keeping Taehyung’s face safe from the sun. Jungkook has a pair of sunglasses perched on his nose, the sun dragging out the strands of golds and reds in his hair.

Their pockets are heavy with souvenirs--magnets, keychains, the like. There’s ice cream on Taehyung’s tongue and melting down his fingers. 

It’s nice.

“It’s expensive here,” Jungkook says as he scrolls through his phone in one hand, refusing to let go of Taehyung’s even if their palms are sweaty. 

They haven’t done much but walk around and eat. Jungkook wants to go to the beach. Taheyung knows because he keeps mentioning it, but he’s yet to suggest it.

“It’s California.”

Jungkook snorts. “I’ve barely touched my money for this trip. Let me pay.”

Taehyung shakes his head. He knows Jungkook hates touching the taboo money in his bank account. A weak attempt at an apology. It’s dishonest money, and Jungkook’s father asked Jungkook to be dishonest with it. Slowly putting it into his bank account so it wouldn’t raise any red flags.

Since Jungkook told him that in Nevada, it’s been playing around in Taehyung’s mind. He isn’t sure exactly why, but it makes him extremely uncomfortable that Jungkook went along with it. Not because it’s criminal, but because it was for his father.

“We can find free shit to do. Or just walk around.”

Jungkook shrugs, tightening his fingers. “I wanna do whatever with you.”

Grinning into his ice cream cone, Taehyung rolls his eyes at the feeling in his chest. It’s still an unusual thing, and he’s trying to deal with it.

“Let’s sleep.”

Jungkook laughs loudly at that. He lets go of Taehyung’s hand only to curl it around Taehyung’s shoulders instead. He pulls him in close so Taehyung can curl his arm around Jungkook’s waist.

He offers Jungkook his ice cream, and he licks at it, only to kiss Taheyung a second later. 

“We should keep doing that,” Taehyung says as Jungkook looks away, the responsible one that makes sure they don’t run into anything. Taehyung can’t look away from Jungkook.

“Do what?”


Jungkook’s nose wrinkles as he glances to him. “Did you think we were going to stop?”

Taehyung busies himself with his ice cream. This isn’t really a place to have a conversation about it. He doesn’t even know if they need to have a conversation about it. They’ve worked well with little verbal communication their entire lives, but it feels like it should be talked about.

“Wasn’t sure.”

Jungkook licks his lips, hesitating for a moment, and Taehyung wants to look away because he feels like he’s ruined the softness of the moment. Especially when Jungkook’s jaw tenses.

But the tension breaks when Jungkook grins, squeezing his arm around him more. “You can kiss me as much as you want, Tae.”

“Even after the summer?”

Jungkook nods. “We started kissing before the summer.”

“We never talked about it.”

“Did you want to?”

Taehyung turns from Jungkook but continues to hold on to him. He bites around his cone before offering the rest to Jungkook.

“Do you remember when we were younger? The first time we ever kissed?”

Jungkook makes a face at that. “Yeah, I guess. If you call that kissing since you wouldn’t stop laughing. Made it kind of hard.”

He remembers it clearly. How nervous Jungkook had been. Taehyung had been trying to read his comics to him, but Jungkook was restless. It took him a few tries to finally blurt out what was on his mind.

I was thinking about kissing.

They were hidden beneath Taehyung’s comforter, knees touching and cheeks squished into Taehyung’s pillows. Jungkook kept exhaling out in a way that made his cheeks balloons. 

It was like that for awhile, the two of them awkwardly staring at each other while Jungkook struggled to breathe. It was Taehyung who had grabbed his face and crushed their lips together. He didn’t know what he was doing, but he did know that his laughter always relaxed Jungkook. 

It softened after that when they tried it again, exploring the shape of each other’s mouths, and how to move them properly until it felt good. Taehyung didn’t know much about kissing, but he knew it felt nice when Jungkook’s bottom lip was pressed between his own. 

“I told Eomma about it.”

Jungkook tenses then. His throat constricts as he swallows, and he busies himself with shoving the rest of the cone into his mouth.

“She was happy,” Taehyung adds. The sun is bright, and he squints at the people around them. The ones holding hands, holding each other. He wonders if the people walking past them think of them as a couple. Even if no one really looks their way. “She said she was glad I had a best friend like you.”

Jungkook laughs softly after he swallows, his head ticking to the side. “I always thought it was me who was the lucky one.”

“Maybe we both are.”

Jungkook shakes his head softly. “No, it was always me.”

They could argue about it. The insecurity creeps into Jungkook’s expression, and Taehyung wishes he could remove it forever.

“Well, right now it feels like me.”

Jungkook side eyes him and Taehyung doesn’t miss the slight quirk to his lips.

They find a grocery store and decide to eat back in their camper. Even if they’ve already stuffed themselves with food throughout the day, Taehyung still feels like he can eat more. 

Plus, food gives them a distraction and a reason to hesitate while they try to find the words to say.

“Jimin thinks we’re dating.”

Taehyung hesitates, fork pressed into some kind of premade salad that he thinks is supposed to be potato salad, but he isn’t sure. There’s definitely potatoes in it, at least.

“Actually, Jimin, Hoseok, and Yoongi all thought we were dating when we first met. Almost our entire freshman year.”

Taehyung giggles. He guesses it looks like that. “Really?”

Jungkook nods, wiping at his mouth. “Remember the end of freshman year there was that frat party? You suggested I hook up with someone, and Hoseok asked if we had broken up.”

Taehyung doesn’t remember. “We should tell them that like, we do non-friend stuff.”

Hesitating mid chew, Jungkook looks silly with his cheeks bulging and mouth opened to reveal the contents inside.

“You know,” Taehyung says, shrugging a few times, “that way when we’re around them we can still kiss.”

Jungkook swallows slowly. “Then they’ll really think we’re dating.”

Taehyung shrugs a few more times. He doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing or what he’s thinking. He doesn’t even know what he wants from this conversation.

His mother had asked him once if they were dating. Shortly before she passed away. She hadn’t believed him when he said no.

He’s used to people thinking that way about them. It has never bothered Taehyung before, and it doesn’t now. They’re each other’s person regardless of what label they put on themselves.

Jungkook lifts his phone then, and a second later, Taehyung hears his phone shutter going off. Taehyung kicks him under the small table, but Jungkook is giggling as he taps away.

“What are you doing?” Taehyung says, trying to grab his phone. “I was shoving food into my mouth.”

Jungkook looks like he’s sneering when he giggles. He tucks himself farther away, angling the phone so Taehyung can’t reach it.

Since he’s discovered that Jungkook likes to Instagram their travels, Taehyung has set it so whenever he posts he’s notified. His phone dings a second later, and his face reddens when Jungkook’s eyes widen.

Taehyung barely has his phone open before a series of suggestive text messages are flooding through from Jimin.

jimin: what in the hell

jimin : explain now

jimin : is his dick big? looks like it would be and i’ve been DYING to ask

Taehyung ignores them to click on the notification instead. The picture is as bad as Taehyung expects it to be. His cheeks are bulging, there’s food stuck at the corner of his mouth, and Jungkook had caught him mid chew so his lips are opened.

But it isn’t the picture that’s embarrassing. It’s the caption.

jjkoo : a snack and a meal, which to try first?

Taehyung bursts out in a laugh, his cheeks catching on fire. “You’re so lame.”

Jungkook shrugs, stabbing his fork back into his own premade salad. “Now they know.”

It’s easy, like always with Jungkook, and even if nothing really has been talked about or decided, Taehyung feels at ease.

“Now they know.”

“So Jimin asked me to ask you to ask Taehyung to answer his phone.” 

Jungkook snickers where he lies, his phone on speaker and resting on the ground beside him.

“Tae is busy.”

Jungkook grunts as he curls his body up, arms tucked beneath his head, and Namjoon makes a wretching noise.

“Ew - what. Oh god. With me on the phone?”

Taehyung presses a hand to his lips. He’s tucked away on the cot, reading some tourist-y book he found on the history of the town they’re in. Some small town they accidentally stumbled upon because Taehyung needed to use the bathroom and they were nearly out of gas.

“No,” Jungkook laughs, resting back against the ground. He breathes heavily, legs spanning out like butterfly wings. “He’s reading.”

“Oh god,” Namjoon huffs, still sounding disgusted. “Well Jimin said to tell him to put the book down and call him. He said it’s an emergency.”

It isn’t an emergency. It’s about Jungkook. Taehyung and Jungkook specifically. He has responded to Jimin, but he doesn’t have an answer to all of his questions so he stopped replying.

When did this start? How did this start? What are you guys now? Taehyung doesn’t know the answers and he’s fine with it. 

“I will.”

Taehyung snorts because Jungkook is grinning up at him. He is insane for working out in this heat, but he looks nice with sweat dripping down his forehead and making his shirt cling to his body. He’s braved a pair of Taehyung’s shorts, which are current bunched up around his hips and leaving little to the imagination.

Maybe it’s the heat or maybe Jungkook’s finally realized that Taehyung is the one person who won’t look at him differently because of his demons. He doesn’t like the pale scars on Jungkook’s skin, but Taehyung isn’t going to make Jungkook insecure about them. 

“And we’re all getting together before Jin leaves,” Namjoon goes on, and Taehyung had been too busy holding Jungkook’s gaze to realize he’s been talking. “It's the last week of August so will you guys be back by then?”

They don’t really have an end date to this road trip. Their plan was to head close to home when their money starts to wean out. They have been looking for jobs between their traveling, and Taehyung isn’t sure if it’s nerves or not, but he can’t seem to find one.

“Probably,” Jungkook sighs, stretching out before he sits.

“Probably? You should let Jin know if -”

But Jungkook is hitting the speaker and bringing the phone to his ear before Taehyung can hear what Namjoon has to say.

Taehyung looks back to his book, fidgeting with the sides of his paper. It can’t be what he thinks. Jungkook wouldn’t keep hiding it from him after Taehyung has already gotten upset at the idea of him hiding it.

That’s what is bothering him the most. More so than Jungkook being around his father again. Jungkook may not always directly tell him things, not in detail, but he doesn’t hide them from Taehyung. 

“Yeah, yeah. No I didn’t. Because I can’t .” Jungkook makes a frustrated sound. He turns around then, but not before Taehyung can see the way he clutches at his face. “You can’t either, alright? Alright, bye.”

Jungkook hangs up then, tossing the phone aside before he falls back to the ground.

“Everything okay?”

Jungkook nods. He tilts his head back, peeking one eye open at Taehyung. He is quiet for a minute before he says, “Let’s go in to town. Go dancing or whatever.”

Taehyung laughs, but he hears the tension in it. “Dancing?”

Twisting around and pushing up onto his palms, Jungkook nods. “Yeah. It’ll be fun.”

They find a tiny bar filled with people. Some dancing, some on stage singing their hearts out badly to old tunes. It’s cool in the bar, thankfully, as Taehyung’s slacks are warmer than he anticipated, and Jungkook’s in tight, black jeans.

They used to go dancing a lot before school became too overwhelming to do much more than work and study. During high stress times like that, Taehyung’s idea of letting loose and relaxing was laying around his dormitory with Jungkook. Talking shit, eating horrible food, and watching even more horrible dramas.

Maybe he understands moreso than before why all of their friends thought they were dating. It was rare to see the two of them away from each other, and that only happened because they had different classes on different sides of campus.

They take a shot before Jungkook drags Taehyung on the dance floor, tugging at him until he’s drowning in a sea of people. It’s just as nice as their dance in their camper. The only difference between that and this is this has happier music and a lot more people.

Jungkook swings him around all the same, hot hands slipping beneath the Hawaiian shirt Taehyung wears. He wonders if they look silly together, Taehyung’s baggier clothes an array of bright blues, reds, and yellows while Jungkook’s clothes are fitting to his body and completely black.

He doesn’t care because they fit together nicely either way.

The people around them don’t matter. Nothing matters except for the dopey grin Jungkook wears and constantly presses against Taehyung’s cheek.

They dance until they’re sweaty again, Jungkook’s bangs sticking to his forehead and Taehyung’s to his neck. They haven’t cut their hair since they’ve graduated, and it’s now long and unruly. Taehyung likes it, likes being able to run his fingers through the long strands over Jungkook’s forehead and over his nape.

And he does, fingers threading their way through his hair as Jungkook mouths at his jaw and dances hotly against him. It makes it hard to breathe, but Taehyung doesn’t mind.

The touches, the kisses, the push and pull at Taehyung’s insides until he no longer feels hot from the dancing but from something else burning like a hot coil in his belly. He doesn’t mind it.

It’s sudden the way Jungkook pulls away with a wicked grin, leaving Taehyung tilting on the edge of needing to excuse himself or grind into Jungkook’s leg until the feeling releases. He’s shameless enough not to care, even finds it kind of exciting.

“Want a drink?” Jungkook asks, and the look in his eyes tells Taehyung he knows exactly what he’s doing.

Taehyung can play along. “Yeah. Was getting bored.”

Jungkook snorts. Their fingers tangle together so effortlessly, and Jungkook is pulling him back towards the bar.

Crowding around Taehyung’s back, Jungkook orders two glasses of some beer he’s never heard of. Taheyung chats idly with the people around them. They’re friendly, even the ones who slur around their words and spill craft beer over their fingers.

“We’re on our honeymoon,” Taheyung hears Jungkook say, and he freezes for a moment, face forming into one of confusion before he laughs. 

“Oh shit! Congratulations,” the guy next to them cheers. Ben he thinks, maybe Brian. “How long have you been together?”

Jungkook’s fingers rub absently at Taehyung’s hip as he responds. “About twenty two years.”

Taehyung snorts into his glass at the look of confusion of Ben Brian’s face. “He means we grew up together. Been by each other’s side since we were babies.”

The man holds a hand over his heart. “That’s sweet. Falling in love with your best friend?”

Taehyung warms as he nods, and Jungkook squeezes his hips a little firmer. There are lips on his ear a second later, and he can feel Jungkook’s breath as he speaks.

“Stay here. Be right back.”

He wants to grab onto Jungkook and keep him near, but he settles on the bar stool and plays with the rim of his glass. 

Taehyung doesn’t know what Jungkook is up to, lying about being married, but he likes it. It makes him feel giddy in a way that’s a little embarrassing, but more addicting.

“You guys are cute.”

Taehyung smiles. “Thank you. Gotta say he’s the cute one.”

Ben Brian laughs. “You’re cute yourself. It’s not often you find two people who have been around each other that long and still look as in love as you two.”

Taehyung sips at his drink so he doesn’t have to respond. His cheeks feel like they’re burning. 

They’re definitely burning when the pair singing loudly to some bubblegum pop song stop and are replaced by a face too familiar. A face more familiar on his own, or maybe even moreso. 

Jungkook grins down at them all, fingering the microphone stand. He licks his lips, leaning forward and bumping them against the microphone. He makes a face of disgust before he quickly wipes his mouth.

“This one is for my husband. We’re on our honeymoon. Taehyung Kim-Jeon.”

It’s a ridiculous lie, but Taehyung likes it. He likes the way Jungkook’s eyes find him when he smiles. 

Jungkook has never liked attention on him for too long, and he usually doesn’t like crowds, but he seems comfortable now. And it isn’t even alcohol, he’s only had the one shot and half of the beer that sits beside Taehyung now. 

There is a cheer from the crowd, and Taehyung gives Jungkook a pointed look when all eyes turn to him. 

“This is Only Love by Ben Howard.”

The beat is one Taehyung recognizes. Soft but happy. Jungkook looks good as he closes his eyes, body swaying to the music before he leans in.

“Darling you’re with me, always around me.”

Jungkook wanted to try singing when they were younger, and he excels at everything he does. His voice is nice, smooth, honey . Taehyung doesn’t get to hear it usually, but since they’ve been on the road he’s heard it when Jungkook’s showered or when the camper is quiet and Jungkook is lost in his music. Nothing more than a hum, singing under his breath. Nothing like this.

“Darling I feel you under my body. Only love.”

He looks like he’s made for the stage when his fingers caress down the microphone stand, and his eyes slowly flutter open. They’re heavy as they scan over the crowd and find Taehyung again.

“Come on love, watch me fall apart and I’ll be yours to keep.”

“Your boy has a good voice,” Ben Brian says, nudging Taehyung. 

Your boy. It’s dumb how that makes Taehyung’s heart feel. Jungkook’s always been that. His boy, his best friend, his person. 

When Jungkook finishes, Taehyung stands and whistles. He demands an encore, but Jungkook is bowing in gratitude and embarrassment before rushing from the stage. 

They find each other instantly in the crowd, Jungkook’s arms snaking around Taehyung’s waist and Taehyung’s around Jungkook’s shoulder. 

“Trying to woo me?” Taehyung jokes. Jungkook’s face is still with embarrassment, but his eyes burn bright.

Jungkook nods. “Always.”

It’s ridiculous. Taehyung is fond of Jungkook no matter what he’s doing.

Ben Brian buys them drinks, and Taehyung feels bad for the lie. Jungkook does too. Taehyung recognizes the guilty way he looks at him when Ben Brian orders the next round.

The alcohol is strong and disgusting. It doesn’t warm Taehyung or make his head dizzy. That’s all Jungkook, who holds his back and smothers the back of his neck with kisses. He clasps their fingers together, settling them on Taehyung’s waist.

Ben Brian looks away here and there, giving them a privacy that Taehyung isn’t used to needing around other people.

When Jungkook shifts a hand to his jaw to kiss him, Taehyung forgets about Ben Brian altogether.

“I was happy to see you singing.”

Jungkook grins down at him. The night is still warm but not unbearably so. They walk through the camping ground where they had parked, passing parents still up and around their fires. It’s quiet save for the low chatter and the crickets, the crackling of the fires still up.

“I like singing.”

“I know. You just don’t usually get on stage.”

Jungkook shrugs, lips rubbing together. “I wanted to be a different person tonight.”

Taehyung nearly rolls his eyes at that. “That person is still you, even if you don’t show it often.”

Sighing, Jungkook curls an arm around Taehyung’s shoulder. “Oh yeah? Jungkook Kim-Jeon?”

Taehyung snickers, warming a hand over Jungkook’s belly as an excuse to curl closer to him. “You keep mentioning marriage, Kook. I’m expecting you to drop to your knees one day. Maybe ask my father for my hand.”

Since I’m not asking yours , Taehyung almost adds before he stops himself last minute.

Jungkook laughs loudly at that before he looks around in alarm, pressing his lips together. “Do you think he’d approve?”

Definitely. Taehyung’s family loves Jungkook like he's one of their own. And he is, he tells Jungkook as much.

“Yena would be over the moon. I might just marry you for real if it keeps you from leaving for Korea without telling me.”

The soft moment fades away when Jungkook tenses. He clears his throat, eyes focused in front of him.

“I know that’s why you took Namjoon off speaker earlier,” Taehyung continues. “You don’t have to hide these things from me.”

Jungkook doesn’t respond. They’ve been walking a while and still haven’t found their camper, but it’s a thought in the back of Taehyung’s mind.

He doesn’t even realize it until Jungkook is frowning. “We parked in spot 26 right?”

“Don’t change the subject,” Taehyung sighs. “I’m not angry. I just want to understand you.”

“It is an important subject,” Jungkook sighs as he waves at the large sign that marks lot 26 and the empty plot behind it. “Losing the camper van is a big deal.”

“It’s here somewhere,” Taehyung sighs, circling his fingers around Jungkook’s wrist when he pulls away. He’s gentle when he touches over Jungkook’s palm and slots their fingers together. “Just tell me why you won’t tell me about it.”

Jungkook grits his teeth as he side eyes Taehyung and guides him to the next plot. Taehyung doesn’t remember where they parked at all. But he isn’t panicked. It has to be somewhere, and he knows they’ll find it eventually.

At first, Jungkook doesn’t respond. They just walk and walk, searching for their camping site. When it feels like forever, and they still haven’t found it, Jungkook slumps down on a log marking another empty lot.

“I don’t tell you because you look broken and sad when I do,” Jungkook says. “Whenever I lean on you, you look broken and sad, and it eats me alive inside because I can’t stop doing it. I feel strong with you but also weak because you wouldn’t have to deal with any of this bullshit if it wasn’t for me.”

Taehyung is still for a minute. He hadn’t been expecting that . He wonders how long Jungkook has been sitting on it because it rips from his chest like it’s been desperate to get out.

“I want to lean on my best friend because you help me get through it, but it also makes me feel worse because when I hurt, you hurt, and you worry and panic. I know you don’t sleep well and that’s my fault.”

Taehyung hurriedly sits beside Jungkook, trying to get Jungkook to look at him, but sometimes he needs to hide himself. That’s why so many of Taehyung’s memories of the two of them are of them hiding beneath his comforters or hiding away on that dock beneath the moon.

“Nothing is your fault. I am your best friend, that isn’t a bad thing. Those emotions are because of how important you are to me.”

Jungkook’s inhale is hitched, and Taehyung pushes up on his knees, wanting to grab his face. “I hate him more for what he made you go through than what he did to me.”

Taehyung hesitates. They’re back on the topic of his father. It must be plaguing Jungkook, and Taehyung ruined his happy mood and made him think of him again. Taehyung would sell his soul to the devil just to keep that man from ever entering Jungkook’s mind again.

“Shh, listen to my voice,” Taehyung says, pointing to himself. “Look at my face. See? I’m fine.”

Shaking his head, Jungkook only glances at him briefly. When he does, the pained expression worsens. 

“I’m indestructible, Kookie. Nothing you say will hurt me to the point where you’re not allowed to say it,” Taehyung assures him. He hopes he does, at least. “And I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring it up and ruin your good mood.”

Jungkook lets out a harsh sound, shaking his head. “You don’t know that. I’m fucked up, babe. That’s why you’re so careful around me. You’ll even leave the town you love so much just to go where I go because you’re always like that. You always do that.”

Taehyung shakes his head, grabbing Jungkook’s hands. “I’ll go wherever you go because one of the reasons I love that town is because it reminds me of growing up with you.”

There aren’t tears in Jungkook’s eyes but frustration, hatred. Taehyung knows Jungkook feels that way about himself, and he’s always hated it as much as Jungkook hates himself.

Jungkook is kind and soft. He’s gentle and compassionate, talented and intelligent. He has a big heart and loves and forgives so much. That’s why he’s so willing to give his father another chance. His father doesn’t deserve even a glance, a thought, let alone a second chance.

That foul man broke Jungkook down in a thousand different ways, and there are moments where it’s too hard for Jungkook to put the pieces back together. Taehyung will take over and work on it constantly, even if the shards rip up his palms. That pain is nothing compared to the pain he feels knowing how much Jungkook hates himself.

It isn’t a burden on him, and he needs Jungkook to realize that.

“I’ll go wherever you go because I’m fucking selfish and can’t live without you, got it?” Taehyung insists, maybe more aggressively than he intended to.


Jungkook’s voice is filled with disbelief, and Taehyung knows Jungkook is in the place where no matter what Taehyung says, he won’t believe him. Jungkook pinches at the skin on his wrist, and Taehyung focuses on that instead, gently coaxing his fingers away from where they pinch and dig. He holds his hands in his lap, tuned into every one of Jungkook’s uneasy breaths.

It’s gotten worse. It’s been more frequent, how Jungkook jumps from carefree to broken like this. Over the last handful of times, it’s been like this. Jungkook always pulls through, but it terrifies Taehyung when he falls this low. 

“Tell me what will make you feel better.”

A shaky exhale. “I don’t know.”

Taehyung accepts this. “How about next summer we go to Korea? You and me. We can visit your dad, my grandparents.” 

His father has been wanting to back home, to see his mother’s parents. His step mother has never been, and Taehyung knows they would pay for Jungkook and him to go too. He just has to convince them that it’s time to.

Jungkook shakes his head, legs bobbing up and down. “I don’t want you near him.”

“I’ll stay at a hotel or wherever we decide to stay. I just want to be close in case something happens.”

Jungkook stands then, vibrating in frustration. His hands turn into fists by his sides, flexing a few times before they tense again. “Can we not talk about this? We have a camper to find.”

When he starts to walk away, he only makes it about a yard before he’s circling back and sitting back down next to Taheyung, who hasn’t moved from his spot. Taehyung may not know exactly how to drag Jungkook out of this pit he buries himself in, but he knows enough to know when Jungkook isn’t done talking.

“Can we talk about it on a day we aren’t pretending to be husbands?” Jungkook asks. The moon catches on his eyes, and it’s enough to make it look like they’re gleaming. “I wanted to do that, and I ruined it. It’s one of the reasons it’ll never be more than pretend, because I ruin things. I just wanted a night of happiness, and I ruined it again.”

Taehyung shakes his head, denying that. He curls his leg up, turning to face Jungkook. It is immediate the way Jungkook touches over his thigh. 

He doesn’t know what to make of that. For once, he doesn’t know what Jungkook means. 

“I brought it up. I ruined it,” Taehyung corrects. “We can pretend to be husbands again tomorrow. And the day after that and after that. And if you want to make it so it’s not pretend, I told you we can.”

Jungkook nods, his eyes trained onto his hands. The tears build more then, and it kills Taehyung inside. He doesn’t like this, not understanding Jungkook. It feels wrong. The more Taehyung tries to assure Jungkook, it seems the more he gets upset.

“But you’re right, we should find our camper. It’s kind of important.”

Taehyung gives Jungkook a few minutes to catch his bearings before he stands. He clasps their fingers immediately, and Taehyung squeezes the tremors away.

They search for what feels like hours. There are no longer campers outside of the RVs and tents, no more fires guiding their way. 

After two times circling around the camp yard, Jungkook falls against a log beside another empty lot.  

“We’ll look in the morning. Come here.”

They shouldn’t wait, but Taehyung is so tired he can’t keep his eyes open. He sits beside Jungkook, and Jungkook curls an arm around him so he can tuck his body into Jungkook’s side. 

They don’t talk, but it isn’t awkward or tense. There is a heaviness in the air that follows after sadness, but it doesn’t push between them. 

As they walked, Taehyung had been plagued with thoughts of the times Jungkook’s been like this. Scary times where Jungkook’s struggled to get out of bed for days at a time, when he lost so much weight his face appeared sunken in. When Taehyung would wake up to him having a nightmare or wake up to his bed empty and Jungkook nowhere to be found.

During those moments, Jungkook would so often curl an arm around Taehyung and settle his face to Taehyung’s belly, or his back, sometimes his legs. He’d be quiet and just lay there until he fell asleep. When he’d be gone, he’d be gone for hours it seemed, before returning and crawling beneath Taehyung’s comforter. 

Taehyung never asked Jungkook where he goes during those times. He left it up to Jungkook to tell him, but he never did. 

Jungkook isn’t completely wrong. He’s right about how affected Taehyung is when Jungkook is upset, but Taehyung thought he had been better at hiding it. 

Now, the thoughts of those times are still in his mind. Taehyung listens to Jungkook’s heart beat, and he welcomes the sleep when it comes. He doesn’t like that Jungkook has noticed his inability to sleep and blamed himself for it.

It used to be because of nightmares, but now Taehyung doesn’t know what the reason is. It feels as if he’s gone so long without a regular sleep schedule, that his body has just defaulted that way. 

“I love you Jungkook-ah,” Taehyung murmurs quietly.

Maybe he’s fallen asleep already because Jungkook seems to glow beneath the moon, and Taehyung doesn’t seem to understand why his words sound so pained.

“I love you too, Tae Tae.”

Chapter Text

The morning after they’ve lost their camper, they find it just as Taehyung had thought they would. The park has five lots in total, and they had wandered through the wrong one.

As soon as a park ranger helps them locate it, they saddle up and take off. 

They leave their conversation in the park though Taehyung can’t help but feel it latch onto the back of their camper and follow along.

They’re headed in the direction of home. They don’t have a date in mind as to when they’ll return. Taehyung wants them to take their time, stop when they want to stop, see what they want to see. Jungkook agrees. 

They stop in small town after small town, circling around the big cities. They lie about being husbands, fiancés, to everyone they meet. Taehyung isn’t sure why Jungkook loves it so much, but he kind of does too, so he goes along with it.

They head to the upper part of the country, seeking out the Great Lakes. After weeks and weeks on the road, Taehyung thought he would crave home. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t mind the stretch of road even when there’s nothing to see and they drive for hours. He enjoys the silence, the small talk, the loud talk.

They don’t mention Jungkook’s father again. Not even when Jungkook leaves the camper to take his phone calls outside, leaving Taehyung to watch him from the camper and wonder what the man is saying to him.

Jungkook smiles often, and Taehyung doesn’t know how to calm the storm inside of him. There are fingernails clawing at his chest every time, sharp nails digging in and ripping at him like he might come apart with worry.

If the low moments happen again, Jungkook doesn’t let him in on it or show it. Taehyung hates that more than anything else. He hopes he doesn’t see them because they aren’t happening, but Taehyung worries more that Jungkook no longer wants to show them to him, to let Taehyung help him.

“Did you know that pregnant women aren’t supposed to eat tuna because it has mercury in it?”

Taehyung glances away from the road, making a face at Jungkook. “No.”

Jungkook nods as he continues to read off of his phone. “It’s been shown to be correlated with developmental disabilities. Like, babies being born with neurological problems.”

The music that plays is sad like always. Taehyung’s summer playlist is forgotten, only appearing here and there. The sky is dark, the night late, but they are a few hours away from Lake Superior and have decided to drive straight through.

I want to remain, I want to dream more. Even so, what I’m saying is that it’s time to leave.

“Is that true or is that like the vaccination thing? Total bullshit but everyone believes it’s true?”

Jungkook shrugs. He rubs his lips together and fidgets with the brim of his snapback. “I don’t know. Scientific jargon isn’t my thing.”

Taehyung grins. It isn’t Taehyung’s thing either. “At least it’s safer to be anti-tuna than anti-vaccinations, I guess.”

I will be covered in wounds all over, but it’s my fate.

“Oh true,” Jungkook huffs. His face scrunches as he reads, bringing the phone close to his face despite the bright way it shines. “Oh god, swordfish too. You should call your Appa and tell him to stop giving Yena these things.”

There is a look of worry on Jungkook’s face, his eyes focused on the side of Taehyung’s head like he’s waiting for him to pick up the phone.

“It’s late,” Taehyung laughs in disbelief. Jungkook is being serious. “Plus, I’m driving.”

Jungkook cocks his head to the side, his eyes narrowing. “But this is important. It says it can harm children under six too, Tae. Yena is three. She can’t eat any seafood.”

Apparently salmon is also another mercury-infested fish, and Jungkook looks miserable as he puts his phone away. He slumps in his seat, leg shaking as he turns the music up.

“What is it?” Taehyung asks. He can’t stop himself from laughing. Jungkook’s actually pouting, his eyebrows furrowed like he’s pissed off. All because of seafood.

“Your Appa fucking loves seafood. It’s the basis of his whole career. What he makes a living on. He’ll be devastated.”

Taehyung snorts, reaching over the middle console to slip his hand over Jungkook’s thigh. “I’m pretty sure that’s all him and his wife eat, and Yena is fine. Don’t worry.”

Jungkook touches over Taehyung’s knuckles. “Maybe. Yena is only three. We’ll see.”

His legs continue to shake, and he seems uncomfortable, so Taehyung searches for a pull off and hops off of the highway when he finds one.

Jungkook looks to him in confusion, but Taehyung doesn’t say a word as he turns off the engine, unbuckles his seatbelt, and climbs out of his seat.

He settles himself onto Jungkook’s lap. The lot off of the highway is empty and overlooking a forest of trees that are hard to see in the dark. It’s all black, the only light coming from the moon that shines above them.

“I’m the one that worries. Remember? Don’t take my job. We’ve discussed this.”

Jungkook grins as he tilts his head back. His hands instantly find the side of Taehyung’s thighs and settle over them. “They say the more time you spend with someone, the more traits you pick up from them. Even facial expressions.”

“Cool,” Taehyung breathes. “That means we’re going to be one person soon. Clones.”

Jungkook wrinkles his nose, and Taehyung mimics the expression. When he releases, Taehyung follows in suit.

The laugh Jungkook lets out is soft and warm. “I hope you don’t get stuck with the shitty parts of me.”

Taehyung sighs like he’s considering it. He brushes over Jungkook’s jaw with the tip of his finger, trailing it down his neck to settle his palm over his chest. He can’t see it, but he knows Jungkook’s tattoo is beneath his hand.

“I can’t think of one.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes but doesn’t move other than that as Taehyung slowly undoes the buttons of his shirt. He pulls the material back to see the healed tattoo and warms his fingers over it.

“Let’s see, I think I could use some of your compassion. Definitely your talent.” Taehyung taps his chin, thinking. “Oh your intelligence, please. Your silliness too. Wanna make people laugh like you do.”

There is a hint of pink to Jungkook’s cheeks, and Taehyung keeps going until they’re red. He lists off positive traits about Jungkook, honest ones. Jungkook is the best person he knows, and Taehyung could go on about him for hours. 

“This isn’t as important as those, but you’re also pretty hot. Fine as fuck.”

Jungkook groans in complaint and catches Taehyung’s cheeks with gentle hands. “Shut up.”

“No,” Taehyung laughs as Jungkook starts to squeeze his cheeks together until his words are garbled. “You’re sexy, Jeon. Sexy brain, sexy bod. What a man.”

All Taehyung sees is the wrinkled bridge of Jungkook’s nose before their lips meet. It’s just as gentle as Jungkook’s fingers, which brush over Taehyung’s cheekbones.

The crickets, the soft breaths, the slick of their mouths. It’s soft and warm, relaxing in a way that has Taehyung’s body sinking into Jungkook until they really do feel like two pieces of the same person.

“If you don’t stop now, we’ll have to sleep here,” Jungkook murmurs though he makes no move to let Taehyung go. His fingers push up the back of Taehyung’s shirt, drawing circles over his heated skin. 

Taehyung nuzzles in the side of his throat, breathing in and focusing on the steady thump of Jungkook’s heart. “You’re right.” 

He doesn’t want to move, but if he doesn’t, he’ll tire himself out and be unable to drive. He untangles himself from Jungkook and plops himself down in the driver’s seat. 

It’s a cold, cold world out there. Sometimes I feel as if nobody cares. I’m down, down -

Taehyung turns the music low, watching Jungkook adjust himself in the passenger seat. He grins when he fixes his shirt and drags it over his lap to hide his half-hard cock. He rolls his eyes when Taehyung’s grin grows. 

- down. Can somebody save me now?

“Why were you researching tuna fish?”

“Babies,” Jungkook corrects as he lifts his legs onto the console. He’s in shorts again, but his socks are long and covering most of his calves. He fiddles with his basketball shorts, tugging on them until they’re covering all of his thighs. “I was reading about babies.”

Though it’s hard, I gotta get up, don’t give up now.

Taehyung waits until he turns back onto the highway to look at Jungkook. “What? Why?”

Jungkook fidgets in his seat once more and turns up the music. 

Even my sad heart will smile some day.

“My dad’s having another baby, remember?” Jungkook reminds him. He crosses his arms, sinks into his seat. “I have six siblings, but I know nothing about babies.”

The insecurity is in his voice, and even if it wasn’t, Taehyung would know by the way he presses his temple into the window and stares out of it.

“And we were in school when Yena was a baby.”

“Yena is still a baby.”

Jungkook hums his laughter, lips quirking up as he pulls his head from the window. “This is my second chance at being a good big brother, and I want to try.”

Taehyung fidgets in his seat, fingers rubbing and gripping hard into the steering wheel. He doesn’t know what his father’s wife’s consumption of seafood has to do with Jungkook’s ability to be a good brother.

“You aren’t a bad big brother.”

It’s true, but Taehyung knows Jungkook doesn’t feel that way. He understands why, but he also thinks Jungkook is too hard on himself. 

That night, all those years ago, Taehyung had only thought of getting Jungkook out of his house. He didn’t think twice about the children hidden upstairs in their bedrooms, not even Chris - a newborn at the time. His panicked mind was just focused on getting Jungkook out.

And if Jungkook feels guilt for barely going home after the incident with his father, he shouldn’t. His mother wasn’t any kinder. She blamed Jungkook for his father going to prison. Taehyung wouldn’t want to be around that either.

“You’ll be great, Goo .”

Taehyung doesn’t ask if Jungkook plans on being around his new sibling. It makes Taehyung feel like an asshole for not wanting him to.

Jungkook grins, eyes bright. “I hope so.”

“I’m not doing that. No fucking way.”

Jungkook snickers as he tugs Taehyung’s arms. “Come on.”

“I don’t do boats.”

Despite growing up by the river and watching sailboats pass by, Taehyung doesn’t like being on them. When he does spend the day on the boat, he goes to bed those nights feeling like his body is still riding the waves. It makes him nauseous.

Those had been big boats, and Taehyung hadn’t felt safe. This is a tiny boat that looks like it could easily topple over into a massive lake filled with mercury-contaminated fish. 

“This is technically a canoe,” Jungkook replies unhelpfully.

Taehyung narrows his eyes. “No.”

“Oh please,” Jungkook begs, using his strength until Taehyung is tumbling forward. “I have a place I want to show you.”

The day before, Taehyung hadn’t felt too well, deciding to stay in the camper and sleep while Jungkook explored. Taehyung didn’t actually sleep much but texted their friends, chatted with his sister, read, and played games on his phone instead. 

Jungkook had been gone nearly the entire day, and when he came back just as the sky started to darken, he kept Taehyung up with stories of the things he had seen. Jungkook really is meant to be outdoors. He thrives on the views, on nature. He doesn’t mind the dirt and the bugs. He loves the ocean, regardless of how deep or dark.

“Chan told me about it.”

Taehyung tries not to roll his eyes. He heard all about Chan too, a hiker Jungkook had met that had showed him around. The big mountain man Chan, or at least that’s how Taehyung pictures him in his head. 

“Oh fantastic. I must see,” Taehyung deadpans.

Jungkook glares at him, but he’s smiling. “Jealous much?”

“No,” Taehyung says. He doesn’t even know how to get into the damn canoe. Just step into it? It rests on the shore, so he doesn’t think it would topple over if he tried. “I’m very glad you had fun while I was in the camper dying.”

He’s just being dramatic. He is happy Jungkook had fun. Even if it was with muscular, sweaty, mountain man Chan who knows about the different shapes of leaves, which Taehyung really sees as useless knowledge. 

“You kicked me out of the camper,” Jungkook reminds him. “Remember?”

“I didn’t kick you out. You get all weird when I’m not feeling well.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes as Taehyung steps into the canoe. Once he’s seated, Jungkook pushes forward until the rest of the canoe is floating in the water.

“I don’t like seeing you sick, babe.”

“I know.”

Taheyung grabs onto the edge when the canoe rocks from Jungkook climbing in. Their bags are in the middle, and Taehyung doesn’t know about balanced weight, but he feels as if the boat may topple over already. His knuckles turn white, and he glares when Jungkook laughs.

“How did you grow up on the Mystic River yet are afraid of the water?”

“I’m not afraid of the water,” Taehyung argues because he isn’t. “I just like when my feet can touch the ground.”

When they were younger, their parents would take them on fishing trips. Out on the Thames River that led into the Atlantic or over the state border and into Rhode Island. Down to beaches that were only accessible by boat. Jungkook always liked to sit at the top of his father’s speedboat because he enjoyed the way he rose into the air when they picked up speed.

Taehyung hated it. His life vest always felt too big or like it wasn’t on him properly. He hated being thrown over the side of the boat and into the clam-filled water, but Jungkook’s father always got a kick out of it. 

It was bearable when Jungkook grabbed his hands. The two of them bobbing in their life vests as their toes touched over hard shells. Taehyung didn’t like the feeling, and Jungkook somehow knew, kicking out his feet so Taehyung could press his toes to the top of them instead. 

“I wouldn’t let anything happen to you,” Jungkook promises as he takes the oars into his hands. “I’ll drown before I let you.”

Taehyung clears his throat, trying to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling in his chest. He doesn’t think about it as often, but sometimes the memory of Jungkook lying on the beach enters his mind and shakes his insides like an earthquake.

“Too soon.”

“It’s been like, two months.”

The lake is beautiful, serene. They seem to be on a part broken off from the rest. Trees surround them, and the water has patches of grass scattered about. Taehyung wants to touch the water, but he can’t see into it. He knows his mind is wrong, but he can’t help imagine the mercury-filled fish as radioactive. 

“Can you believe it? Almost two months. Feels like years since we first hit the road.”

Jungkook’s eyes are warm when they meet his. “If it were possible, I’d say that’s what we should do. Just travel and travel. Spend the rest of our lives that way.”

Taehyung thinks he’d get sick of it after awhile, even if his camper now feels as much of a home to him as Jungkook does.

“Once we start working, it will be hard to even get a week off.”

He’s nervous about it. Over the last week, he’s started working on his resume and different applications. But Jungkook has yet to decide where he wants to be, and Taehyung isn’t sure where to apply.

He’s lucky enough that there isn’t a serious rush to find a job. Not for Jungkook either. Taehyung’s father will still have a home for him even if he doesn’t find anything right away. 

But Taehyung is afraid that if he doesn’t find something soon, he won’t at all. Graduate school would have been the best option, but he had some idea in his mind he would find a job that paid for it. 

It seems far reaching, but at least, if he doesn’t find a job soon then he’ll apply. Maybe. He’s been pushing off thinking about it because it stresses him out. 

“Fuck being an adult. I want to be a kid again. When my worst problem was you kissing Heather Lockland.”

Taehyung laughs. That wasn’t Jungkook’s worst problem growing up, but he doesn’t mention it. “I didn’t realize that was such a problem for you.”

Jungkook shrugs as he rows, arms flexing with each turn. His shirt is already sweaty from the hike here, and the warm air adds to it. The breeze around the water makes it bearable, but Taehyung still feels the sun collecting at his skin.  

“Of course. You didn’t even kiss me at the wedding ceremony.”

It really had been a big affair. They had collected the neighborhood kids, Taehyung’s parents. All of them had come down to the docks for their fake wedding ceremony. His parents had even indulged them with a cake down from the local bakery.

He doesn’t remember the details, as it was so long ago, but he remembers the way Jungkook sneered at the end and kissed his hand.

Even if Taehyung hadn’t remembered it, it was one of his mother’s favorite stories that she spoke about often. She laughed like it was her first time telling it every time. 

He wishes she were here so Taehyung could ask her about this feeling inside of him. He should have asked her more back then, when she asked him about his relationship with Jungkook. Maybe she saw more to it than Taehyung did. 

Taehyung had laughed at the idea of his mother thinking whatever was between Jungkook and him was romantic. Now, it is, and Taehyung finds he doesn’t want that to stop. 

“I didn’t realize you wanted to.”

Another shrug and Jungkook peers around the water instead of looking at Taehyung. “I’ve always wanted to kiss you.”

If Taehyung weren’t so afraid of toppling out of the canoe, he would move closer to Jungkook. But he is, so he doesn’t, remaining where he is to watch Jungkook instead.


Jungkook nods without hesitation. He glances at Taehyung from the corner of his eye and nods again. It’s a nervous habit of his but Jungkook doesn’t need to be nervous about a thing. “Yeah. That’s why you were my first kiss.”

Taehyung is warm, and it isn’t because of the sun beating down on them. 

“So when you said you wanted to have your first kiss, you just meant you wanted to kiss me?”

The laugh Jungkook lets out is embarrassed. “Yeah. Well, both. I did want my first kiss, but I also just only wanted to kiss you.”

The warmth in Taehyung’s skin sinks into him, touching into his chest and wrapping it’s fingers around his heart. 

“The first time we -” Taehyung starts but hesitates. He rubs his lips together, thinking. “The first time we messed around earlier this year, did you come to my room wanting to then too?”

There is a slight quirk to Jungkook’s lips as he licks at them. “Yeah, kind of.”

Butterflies erupt in Taehyung’s stomach, and he wants to roll his eyes at himself. He wants to keep asking questions, but they know each other so well that Jungkook is answering before he can even ask.

“You looked really fuckable that day.”

A laugh bursts from Taehyung’s lips. “Just that day? I’m offended.”

Jungkook laughs through his grins. “You’re alright other days too.”

It’s easy being with Jungkook. A conversation like this shouldn’t be so easy, but it is. Taehyung finally musters up the courage to stick his hand into the water just to flick it across the canoe at him. 

“Tell me the real reason.”

“That is ,” Jungkook admits, cheeks reddening. “There were other times I wanted to, but that day I guess I just had the courage.”

The breath gets stuck in Taehyung’s lungs. He has the things Jungkook says into his brain, slowly piecing them together. The want to kiss him, fuck him, marry him.

It makes his heart twist in his chest, and he wonders how long Jungkook has felt that way. If it was since their first kiss, than it’s been years and years. If it was since they fake married, then it’s been practically always. 

“I just wanted to be next to you, mostly,” Jungkook keeps going. “You’re carefree about being naked at home, dude. I don’t think you realize how soft and obscene you look most of the time. You’ve driven me crazy for years.”

Jungkook bites his bottom lip as his nose twitches and wrinkles like he’s judging himself. 

Before, when they would lay together and tangle their legs, Taehyung would feel himself become aroused by the way Jungkook always touched his thighs. By the way he smelled and the heat radiating from him. He left it to hormones, or whatever.

Their first time, even more so. He thinks Jungkook’s touches had been less out of habit and more searching for a purpose then. He’s always liked to hold Taehyung’s thighs, but then he had rubbed and circled over them. He tangled their legs until Jungkook’s leg was slotted between his own, and they were so close he could taste Jungkook’s breath.

Taehyung doesn’t remember who moved first, but there were lips on his and a hand slowly working up his chest to hold his neck. There was a thigh rubbing between his legs and a hard body wrapping around his own. 

“I do not.”

Jungkook looks fully to him then, disbelief in his eyes. “I’ve seen your dick more times before we started fucking than after.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes. Maybe it’s true. They’re opposite in that way though it isn’t his body that Jungkook is trying to hide, but his skin. That first time, he had tensed beneath Taehyung’s touch and asked quietly for Taehyung to leave his shirt on. Taehyung hadn’t minded, and since then, he’s left it up to Jungkook to decide whether the shirt stays on or off.

Taehyung, however, is quick to take his own clothes off if he’s wearing them to begin with.

“Well I’m glad we started.”

Jungkook’s smile is as bright as the sun, which shines so strongly that Jungkook is squinting an eye to look at him. “Me too.”

“So? You’ve really thought about kissing me that much?”

The smile quickly slips from Jungkook’s lips as he groans out in complaint. “I’m never telling you anything again.”

Taehyung presses his lips into an amused smile, eyes trained on Jungkook’s embarrassed face.

“Well, tell me about how I’ve tortured you all these years.”

Jungkook narrows his eyes, and tries to look displeased, but his smile fights past the purse of his lips. 

The place Jungkook was excited to show him is an empty clearing in the woods. It’s off the lake’s shore, about twenty feet wide in each direction. There are trees circling around it but far enough away that the view of the sky isn’t hidden behind their leaves.

There’s already a fire pit built in the center, filled with long logs sticking up and against each other to form a cone shape. A few yards away there is a tent, a small blue tent with a rounded top.

Jungkook swings his bag from his shoulder and drops it to the ground. Taehyung had wondered why he shoved blankets in there. Now he understands.

“We always look at the moon from the river or the ocean,” Jungkook explains with a grunt. “How about the lake tonight?”

He doesn’t wait for an answer as he starts to pull out the blankets and deposit them inside the tent. Behind the tent there seems to be a cooler of some sort and other duffel bags. Excitement fills Taehyung as to what Jungkook has planned. 

“Did Chan show you this place?”

Taehyung doesn’t know how long they had been in the lake for but the sun's still shining bright. Their phones are tucked away in the bag Taehyung carries because Jungkook had insisted on leaving them behind, but Taehyung was afraid of an emergency.

“Yeah,” Jungkook says, amused. “I told him I needed the best place to propose to my boyfriend of thirteen years.”

Boyfriend . Taehyung knows Jungkook is only pretending again, but he finds he doesn’t want him to be this time. 

“Is that what you’ve brought me here to do?”

“No,” Jungkook says as if it’s ridiculous. As if he hasn’t mentioned marrying Taehyung a handful of times this trip. “Just thought it would be nice.”

It is nice, especially when the sky starts to redden and the fire flickers in front of them. The air smelling of campfire and bug spray, the ocean and the dryer sheets Jungkook had used the last time they found a laundromat. 

They eat the wrapped peanut butter sandwiches they made this morning, which contain so much peanut butter, Taehyung’s tongue gets stuck to the roof of his mouth. Jungkook brought cut up vegetables and fruit too, but Taehyung feeds them more to Jungkook than to himself.

Jungkook grins as he wraps his lips around Taehyung’s fingers, holding onto them longer than necessary. 

It’s quiet, and the only visitor they get is a small rabbit that won’t come near them, even when Jungkook waves a cucumber slice at it. The rabbit stays there for awhile, just resting at the edge of the woods.

“I better not get eaten by a bear tonight,” Taehyung says as Jungkook adds more wood to the fire. The sky is almost dark now, and the moon is right ahead. It’s low towards the horizon and full, looking as if it drops an inch it could drown in the lake.

“People camp here all the time,” Jungkook says before he returns to Taehyung’s side. He’s on the edge of the tent, his legs sticking out and feet digging into the dirt. Jungkook’s hand is back on Taehyung’s thigh, idly playing with his pants. 

“That doesn’t mean some don’t get eaten,” Taehyung teases as he rests his head to Jungkook’s shoulder. The sight of the moon so close really is beautiful, especially with the way it sparkles over the surface of the lake. “But even if I do, this night is perfect. A good way to go.”

Jungkook hums, slipping his hand from Taehyung’s thigh to wrap around his shoulders. “The only person that will eat you is me.”

Taehyung wrinkles his nose. “I know you’re trying to sound sexy, but you sound more like a cannibal.”

It’s a lie. Taehyung won’t admit that his stomach erupts in butterflies when Jungkook smiles.

Jungkook only shrugs, lifting a shoulder towards his chin.

They’ve spent countless hours beneath this same moon back home, yet it never gets boring. It feels nostalgic but at the same time different, like they’re a step away from making massive steps in their lives that will change everything. 

Taehyung doesn’t want the trip to end for that reason, and he’s buried the fear that Jungkook will leave at the end of it. It’s still alive and crawling around inside him. Just deep down inside of him.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung whispers because the quiet of the night makes him feel like he has to, “have you fallen in love with a coast yet?”

It’s quiet for a moment before Jungkook shakes his head. “No. I don’t think I will.”

“We should decide where to go soon,” Taehyung supplies. “Start applying for jobs. I know you don’t want to go to grad school, but I think you should consider it.”

Jungkook’s fingers catch in Taehyung’s hair. The moonlight is in his eyes, shining bright. “Apply wherever you want.”

Taehyung nods. There’s that moment again, where nothing in his chest feels like friendship. Maybe it never has or maybe Taehyung’s definition of friendship has always been wrong.

Maybe he should say it out loud and confront it, but it doesn’t feel necessary. 

“I want you by my side,” Taehyung explains again, for the millionth time. He’s sure Jungkook will get sick of hearing it soon.

“I will be,” Jungkook promises, but he looks away then. It’s only a brief moment, but it’s enough to have Taehyung’s insides feel like they’re being crushed.

“In the same place,” Taehyung pushes. “We can get a shitty one bedroom or a studio and tell everyone we’re broke lovers that ran away from home to live out our dreams.”

“Does that mean you figured out what you want to do in the future?”

Taehyung hasn’t but he nods anyway. “You and me, two best friends living and growing. Taking the bullshit the world handed to us and spitting it back in its face by being happy.”

Jungkook grins. “I can’t be too mad at the world since it gave me you to help me through the bullshit.”

That night Taehyung and Jungkook tangle around each other in the rounded tent. It’s soft, slow. It feels like a lot more than it had before, the gentle way Jungkook lays over his back and rocks his hips in time with his own. Nothing but the harsh breath and the sounds of the woods around them.

They’re on the edge of Lake Michigan, headed towards Chicago, when Jungkook’s father calls. It’s the start of what will turn into the shittiest day of their trip, maybe of the year in general.

It’s the world being a shithead because Taehyung had spent half the night with images of the man’s face in his mind. It had made it hard to sleep. When Jungkook had a nightmare himself, Taehyung had been thankful to be awake . But now he’s exhausted.

He’s seen Jungkook have nightmares a few times before. He breathes heavily like he’s panicking, nostrils flaring and chest expanding harshly. He never wakes during them, and Taehyung is afraid to wake him. He’s heard stories about children’s night terrors and how not to wake them, and he isn’t sure if that applies to adults as well. 

All Taehyung can do is curl around him. Fingers tracing over Jungkook’s chest until it stops rising so quickly.

It’s calm now, slowly expanding as his snores fill the camper. At least, for Jungkook. Taehyung doesn’t feel as calm as he stares at Jungkook’s phone, at his father’s name. 

He doesn’t think before he snatches the phone and rolls quietly off the cot.


The sky is cloudy like it may rain, a dark gray blanket overhead. Foggy too. Taehyung can’t see more than a few yards ahead of himself. An omen, if Taehyung believed in those things.

A flush of anger rises through Taehyung, but he doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t know why he even answered the phone. 

“Jungkook-ah, it’s been days. Why haven’t you answered your father’s calls?”

He shouldn’t expect Jungkook to, Taehyung thinks. He thinks angrily. The man shouldn’t expect for Jungkook to even spare him a glance, a thought. 

Taehyung’s mother always taught him not to hate, to forgive rather than hold a grudge. But Taehyung can’t with Jungkook’s father. The hatred he has for the man is so strong he feels it down in his very core. Like a natural instinct he’s been born with.

In truth, Taehyung hasn’t even tried to forgive him. He won’t. 

“Hello, Mr. Jeon. This is Taehyung.”

There is silence before the sound of Mr. Jeon inhaling deeply sounds. “Taehyung.”

There is a cold edge to his voice that has those images flashing back into Taehyung’s mind. The threatening tone of his voice still so clear in his memories. The feral way he looked at his wife as he held onto Jungkook. The way his body jerked enough to dig the sharp edge of the knife into Jungkook’s skin.

“Jungkook said you were traveling with him.”

“I am,” Taehyung says as he paces around their camper. He wants to cuss the man out, scream at him, but his throat has clogged up.

It isn’t that Taehyung doesn’t want Jungkook to be right, that his father has changed. He doesn’t want to ruin his chances in case he has, but not a single part of Taehyung believes it. He wants Jungkook to get whatever the hell it is he wants by talking to his father. Whatever it is, he hopes it brings Jungkook peace and helps him move on. 

With everything inside of him, he hopes it doesn’t make Jungkook feel worse.

“I am surprised. I was hoping since you’ve torn our family apart, you two would go your separate ways.” 

Taehyung laughs. It sounds as cold as he means it to be. His thoughts of remaining polite as not to ruin things between Mr. Jeon and Jungkook are thrown out the window. “I am not surprised you see it that way, sir. Jungkook hasn’t been answering your calls for a reason. It’d be best if you didn’t call again.”

He hangs up before Mr. Jeon can say another word. His hands shake as he considers deleting the call from the records, but he isn’t going to lie to Jungkook. He never has, and he isn’t going to start now. Jungkook’s always understood Taehyung’s hatred for his father. It just wasn’t until now that Taehyung realized he doesn’t actually know if Jungkook shares the same feeling.

Taehyung had called the police that night. When no one would answer the door. When his hands were bruised from banging on it and trembling so bad he could barely dial the number.

Screaming about who he called had the door finally opening. Taehyung learned what Jungkook’s fathers hands felt like that moment, but Jungkook was there. 

They’re strong for each other. Jungkook never fought his father off of him when it was just him, but the man barely had a hand on Taehyung before Jungkook was fighting back.

Jungkook begged him to leave before the police got there, and Taehyung didn’t know better. His mind was too focused on getting Jungkook’s neck cleaned, looked at. He let Jungkook convince him to leave before the police could see that his father did a lot more than just fight with his mother with children in the house.

Jungkook’s father was arrested that night and spent the next five years in prison.

And to Taehyung, it doesn’t seem like he’s changed at all. Torn our family apart . There is no remorse for the things he did, no accountability or regret. If he truly changed, Jungkook’s father would realize it was his own actions that put him in prison. Not Taehyung protecting his best friend.

It takes a few hours for Taehyung’s hands to stop shaking completely and for Jungkook to wake up. He plays on his phone, attempts to read, but his mind is too busy.

When he’s finally gotten restless, he goes back to the camper to find something to do with his hands. He listens to Jungkook toss and turn before his feet touch down on the bottom of the camper.

“Good afternoon.”

Jungkook grumbles something. His hair is a fluffy mess around his head. His eyes are swollen shut.

“Can we get a room tonight? Slept like shit,” Jungkook grumbles.

He’s warm against Taehyung’s back as he leans his cheek to Taehyung’s shoulder. His hand is limp against his hip, just holding him.

“Did you have a nightmare?”

“I don’t know.” Jungkook yawns. “I think so.”

Jungkook grumbles in complaint when Taehyung pulls away, but it’s only so Taehyung can turn around. He teases some of Jungkook’s hair down, cooing softly until he gets a sleepy smile.

They’re less than a day from home if they decide to drive that way, and Taehyung doesn’t want this trip to end. He twirls the hair behind Jungkook’s ear before grabbing his lobes and wiggling them gently. Jungkook grins warmly.

They only visited one half of the country, and Taehyung is tempted to ask Jungkook if they can explore more. They won’t have the funds to, but they could figure it out.

He wants to tell Jungkook about his conversation with his father now instead of later, but he doesn’t want to ruin the warmth in Jungkook’s features. So he doesn’t mention it. Instead, he rubs Jungkook’s neck and brings him in for a kiss. 

“Are you feeling okay now?”

Jungkook nods as he pulls away. “You didn’t sleep.”

“I did.”

Jungkook shakes his head as he reaches for a coffee mug. “I know you, Tae. I know you didn’t sleep.”

Taehyung doesn’t bother lying about it again. He doesn’t say anything at all as Jungkook makes himself coffee. He searches for a motel in Chicago and tries not to show the fact that he’s confused about directions is because his mind is too preoccupied with something else.

The afternoon moves slowly as they eat, and Taehyung video chats with his family. Jungkook researches what they should do when they get to Chicago, and once he’s figured it out, they take off.

Jungkook insists on driving again, pushing the fact that Taehyung hasn’t slept and shouldn’t be behind the wheel. But Taehyung is nervous because the sky is filled with fog, and the rain that sprinkles from the clouds grows heavy here and there. 

Should I say this or not? Although I don’t want to. I’ve been holding on to you for so long.

Turning up the music, Jungkook seems to sink into the driver’s seat. Taehyung watches him. 

“Are you going to tell me what’s on your mind?”

Jungkook doesn’t look at him when he speaks, his eyes focused on the road. The rain pounds onto the windows. The wipers work hard on clearing it away but fail.

But now I must let go. There’s nothing I can do for you. It’s the only way to make you happy.

“I talked to your father when he called.”

The van jerks some as Jungkook jumps in surprise. His eyes are wide with alarm. He swallows thickly. He is quiet for a moment, and Taehyung can practically hear his mind running.

Holding onto you will do you no good.

“I don’t have a reason for answering his call. I just did. I don’t trust him, Kook. He still blames me for tearing your family apart.”

Jungkook huffs out, fingers gripping and loosening around the steering wheel. He’s upset, Taehyung can tell by the way he constantly swallows like he’s trying to rid the tightness that is there in his throat. The rain patters hard against the windshield, picking up speed like it’s influenced by the mood growing around them.

“You didn’t,” Jungkook says finally. “You saved my life, probably.”

“I know that,” Taehyung says, even though he tries not to think of it that way. Coming so close to possibly losing Jungkook is difficult to think about, even if it was seven years ago and he’s fine. Alive fine. “But your dad doesn’t see it that way.”

Jungkook’s face crumples. Taehyung feels like an asshole as he sees the hope leave Jungkook’s eyes. He didn’t realize just how hopeful Jungkook had been, he guesses, and he doesn’t know what to do with the feeling that he ruined it.

“I’m sorry, Jungkook-ah.”

He doesn’t reply, only swallows again. 

Taehyung undoes his seatbelt and walks into the back of the camper. The walls and cabinets are covered in their souvenirs. Magnets and keychains that remind him of their time on the road and Taehyung doesn’t want these tiny things to be the only thing they have to remember it. 

He doesn’t want these tense moments to be the only thing they have to remember it either.

So I let go, so you can smile some day.

He touches over the different state names, aware that Jungkook is probably watching him through the rear view mirror. It feels unsteady, walking along the moving camper van, but Taehyung feels unsteady even when they’re still. He doesn’t know what else to say to Jungkook, how to apologize to him for something he isn’t sorry for.

The bright future we sought together, I know - I know we can no longer wish for a happy ending. 

It’s Taehyung’s fault. Walking around the camper, distracting Jungkook from the road. It’s his fault for telling Jungkook something like this while driving in the pouring rain. It’s his fault for never sleeping and always making Jungkook feel like he has to drive when he hates it.

Someone who can make you happier, that’s the kind of love you deserve.

Taehyung’s attention is grabbed when Jungkook cusses loudly. He can’t ask why as his body is jolted from his feet. 

I’ve got to say goodbye right now.

The first time Taehyung realized Jungkook’s parents were abusive, they had been ten. Taehyung didn’t understand a lot of what Jungkook told him before then. He remembers how sad it made him. He remembers telling his parents and them not seeming as alarmed. Spanking was normal. A lot of parents spanked butts or hands.

It was more than spanking. More than the butt or the hands. Jungkook never described it in detail and begged Taehyung not to tell his parents when he did. He told Taehyung his parents hurt him a lot when he was bad. Taehyung’s own parents had hit his hands a few times when he was spectacularly bad, but it never really hurt. It scared him more than anything, made him feel bad for upsetting his parents.

That was the first time he saw that it wasn’t just spanking. Jungkook moved like he was in pain, and his eyes watered. He had walked to Taehyung’s house in the middle of the night even though it looked hard for him just to walk from the door to Taehyung’s bed.

That’s the first time Taehyung realized how wrong it was.

“Tae? Tae. You’re okay. I’m so sorry.”

Jungkook had said that same thing when Taehyung sat beside him then. When Taehyung first started to get upset. When he realized how much pain Jungkook was in.

That was before Taehyung realized how guilty Jungkook became when he made Taehyung upset. He hadn’t handled the situation right, and even though he had only been ten and didn’t know better, it still makes him feel guilty about it.

He thinks about that time now. He had thought he had forgotten about it. But he remembers clearly the way Jungkook had walked with a bent back and would only sleep on his stomach.

Taehyung thinks of the stripes down Jungkook’s back. His own throbs with pain, and he feels kind of dizzy. But Jungkook is clearly in front of him.

He thinks he could lose his vision and still always be able to see Jungkook.

“I’m so sorry,” Jungkook says, hands shaking as he cups Taehyung’s face. “I didn’t even see that car in front of us. The rain - the brakes -”

There is yelling outside, Taehyung realizes, as he becomes more alert. There is an ache in his forehead like he must have hit it falling. His vision blurs, and he isn’t sure if it’s because he’s dizzy, or because the pain is starting to grow so bad his eyes water.

“Taehyung,” Jungkook whispers desperately, fingers digging into Taehyung’s cheeks.

Taehyung presses a hand to his chest as he sits up. “I’m okay.” He must not be. There is blood on Jungkook’s hands. 

He doesn’t know. He feels dizzy still. The pain worsens when he sits up. 

“You hit your head,” Jungkook says, tentatively touching Taehyung’s temple. “I called 911 already. The police and stuff are on their way. No one else is hurt. I wasn’t going very fast. The brakes locked up because of the rain. Oh Tae .”

Jungkook’s shaking as he helps Taehyung stand. He moves carefully, helping Taehyung step over the souvenirs that have fallen from the walls.

Outside, the yelling is louder. It makes Taehyung’s head ache and anger surge through him because they’re yelling at Jungkook. Jungkook, who has blood on his hands and trembles like an earthquake. 

“I’m so sorry,” Jungkook is saying. Desperate, he sounds. The people from the other car keep shouting.

Neither the car Jungkook hit nor their camper looks very damaged. There are dents in both, but they don’t look serious. It must have just been hard enough to knock Taehyung off balance. Taehyung was already feeling unsteady from their conversation.

Jungkook looks worse off than Taehyung feels. He isn’t hurt, but his eyes are loud with fear and pain. His hands shake when he touches Taehyung, and the people keep screaming at him.

“Shut up,” Taehyung grunts. He doesn’t do well in these kinds of things. He just needs them to stop yelling at Jungkook. “Shut up, please.”

Jungkook insists on Taehyung getting into the ambulance when it arrives. They probably can’t afford it, not with whatever this accident is going to cost them. But the blood on Jungkook’s hands is Taehyung’s. 

“Please. Please go,” Jungkook begs quietly as he ushers Taehyung towards the EMTs. “Please, Tae.”

It isn’t until the ambulance starts to move that Taehyung realizes Jungkook didn’t get in with him.

Taehyung gets seven stitches in his forehead. He hadn’t realized he had cut himself that badly. It’s when the nurses are helping him clean up and offering him another shirt that he understands why Jungkook looked so afraid, why he had blood on his hands.

They keep him overnight. Taehyung doesn’t sleep, but the nurses check on him every few hours in case he has a concussion. 

Jungkook doesn’t show up.

Taehyung doesn’t take it personally. He knows how badly Jungkook is beating himself up right now. He can feel it in his gut that Jungkook is somewhere, breaking down. If he’s been bad before, Taehyung knows it will be worse now.

Thinking about him makes Taehyung restless, and he nearly flies from the hospital when he’s finally discharged.

The hospital is in Chicago. At least Taehyung had his cellphone in his pants pocket and can use it now. He has no idea where Jungkook would be, and fear has his hands shaking as he dials the phone. He never told Jungkook which motel they were driving to, and Taehyung doesn’t remember what it was called to check if Jungkook is there anyway.

It makes him feel helpless being in a city he doesn’t know and having zero idea where to start looking for him. Jungkook doesn’t answer the phone each time Taehyung calls, and the feeling only worsens.

“Taehyung, calm down. Just breathe and start over.”

Taehyung presses a hand to his forehead before he remembers he’s injured and pulls away with a hiss of pain. 

“Jungkook wouldn’t leave you,” Namjoon assures him. His voice is level, and Taehyung thinks that’s why he called Namjoon instead of anyone else. Namjoon’s always the best at handling stressful situations. “He’s probably around the hospital, yeah?”

The only problem is, Namjoon doesn’t know Jungkook the way Taehyung does. Namjoon doesn’t know how badly Jungkook rips himself to pieces when he thinks he’s hurt him. 

When they were real little, Jungkook accidentally tripped Taehyung while they were playing soccer. He sobbed and put himself into time out, even when Taehyung insisted he was fine.

“I - I don’t know,” Taehyung says, tugging at his own hair. He literally has no idea where to go.

“Here, let me call Jin hyung. If Jungkook doesn’t answer soon, I’ll get a flight to Chicago.”

Taehyung lets out a wild laugh. “You can’t.”

“I will. Just hold on.”

As soon as Namjoon hangs up the phone, Taehyung dials Jungkook again. It answers on the third ring.

“Where are you?” Taehyung asks immediately. He starts to pace as the overwhelming feeling of relief floods through him. “I’ve been calling.”

That relief changes into dread at the sound of Jungkook’s voice. “I’m sorry, Tae.”

“Where are you?” Taehyung asks again, softer this time. “Please come pick me up. I’ve been discharged.”

The silence is worrying. 

“Jungkook please, please come pick me up. I hate hospitals.”

Jungkook exhales out, and it sounds like his mouth is close to the phone. “I’m waiting for the camper to be fixed.”

“Tell me where you are,” Taehyung pushes. “Tell me the address. I’ll come to you.”

Jungkook looks worse than Taehyung feels. He won’t look at Taehyung at all. They sit in silence inside the waiting room of the car shop. The only sounds come from the employees and the way Jungkook’s chair rocks as he shakes his legs.

His fingers dig into his shirt, knuckles white. Blood still stains it. Jungkook is pale, like he hadn’t soaked in the sun for weeks and weeks. His whole body vibrates, and Taehyung is still beside him.

“I’m fine,” Taehyung finally says.

Jungkook doesn’t look at him. His leg moves faster.

“I’m really okay. Accidents happen.”

Taehyung isn’t sure Jungkook is even hearing him until he nods. 

“I promise. I swear on Yena, on Eomma, on Appa. On you. I’m not upset or hurt.”

Jungkook shakes his head, eyes closing before he turns his head completely and looks away from him.

It takes most of the day until their camper is released to them. Minor damage, but like people, Taehyung doesn’t trust that there isn’t an internal problem. Jungkook won’t let him drive again, but he sits in the driver’s seat for what feels like hours before he finally puts the key into the ignition and drives off.

He’s tense, so tense Taehyung is afraid his limbs might break as he drives. He’s careful as he does, and they park off in some garage close to some hotel that looks worse for wear.

“If you don’t look at me, I’ll be pissed,” Taehyung says as they enter the motel room. The lighting is bad, the lamp shaking above them where it hangs. “I’m not angry now, but if you don’t look at me, I will be.”

Jungkook looks at him. Taehyung wishes he didn’t.

He looks absolutely fucking wrecked.

“Kook,” Taehyung says softly, reaching for him but Jungkook steps back. “Come here.”

Jungkook shakes his head, hands shaking as he holds them up in front of himself as if to warn Taehyung off.

It’s wrong. It’s never like this between them.

“Please don’t beat yourself up for this,” Taehyung whispers, taking a tentative step forward. “Accidents happen all the time. This one wasn’t even bad.”

Jungkook isn’t listening. His eyes are glazed over and glossy. His face is starting to redden. He won’t look away from the wall behind Taehyung’s head.

“Hey,” Taehyung murmurs, ignoring his hesitancy and crossing into Jungkook’s space. Jungkook immediately pushes into Taehyung’s chest, but it isn’t hard or forceful. It’s just his hands laying over Taehyung’s chest, trying to keep him back. “Hey, don’t do this.”

Jungkook makes a noise when Taehyung manages to get his arms around him. 

“Hey, hey. It’s okay. I’m okay, touch me, you’ll see.”

Jungkook keeps his arms still around Taehyung, spread out so they are inches away from Taehyung’s body. Taehyung clings tightly to him, a hand rubbing over his neck and the other curling around his shoulders so he can’t pull away.

“I’m not angry, either.”

Whatever Jungkook says is hard to hear as he hides his face into Taehyung’s neck, but it sounds a lot like, ‘you should be.’

Gently, Taehyung guides Jungkook to the ground. He spreads his legs, pulling Jungkook forward when he feels his chest starting to quicken. He threads his fingers through Jungkook’s hair, keeping his face against his neck.

He doesn’t know how much time passes until Jungkook’s breathing has calmed. The sky looks dark outside the motel’s windows when Jungkook stops trembling. Taehyung hums softly, exhaustion weighing on him as he rocks Jungkook gently.

“I’m sorry.” Jungkook’s voice is raspy, raw. He doesn’t look up at Taehyung when he shifts around and curls up against him. He presses his cheek into Taehyung’s shoulder and looks away from him instead.

“It’s okay,” Taehyung assures. Jungkook’s legs fold up into his chest, and he fits between Taehyung’s thighs. 

Jungkook shakes his head. “It isn’t. I didn’t even go to the hospital after I hurt you.”

“You didn’t hurt me,” Taehyung insists. He is glad Jungkook is turned away so he can bury the look on his face into the back of Jungkook’s neck. It hurts him, the way Jungkook’s voice sounds. “It was an accident, and I’m fine. I know why you didn’t come, and I’m not mad.”

Jungkook makes a wounded noise at that, and Taehyung closes his eyes, knowing he said the wrong thing. He doesn’t want Jungkook to feel bad about things he can’t control. 

“I want to go home,” Jungkook breathes out. 

The words hang in the air for a moment before Taehyung sighs. “Okay. Okay. Let’s get you out of these clothes first, okay? Sleep and then we’ll leave.”

The pain is loud in Jungkook’s eyes when he allows Taehyung to help him strip from his shirt. He throws it in the garbage instead of their dirty clothes bag, not wanting Jungkook to see the blood on it again.

He pulls a thick sweater over Jungkook’s torso, despite the shoddy air conditioner that makes the room stuffy. He knows Jungkook likes the soft material, likes the way he can hide his hands in the sleeves.

When Jungkook curls up in bed beside him, he tries to place his back towards Taehyung, but Taehyung doesn’t let him.

Neither of them sleep.

They don’t go home, not right away. They spend the next few days in Chicago. Neither Taehyung nor Jungkook want the other to drive.

Jungkook doesn’t pull himself out of it. Even with Taehyung’s attempts to help him, Jungkook doesn’t get better.

He lays on the bed, curled up around the blanket he has bunched around his chest. He’s pretending to be asleep, Taehyung can tell.

Taehyung sighs and curls up behind him. Jungkook tenses when Taehyung throws a leg over his and fits his hand against Jungkook’s chest. 

At least that’s a good sign, that Jungkook still lets Taehyung touch him.

The day they decide to leave Chicago, they get into a fight.

It takes Taehyung some time to get Jungkook to eat. They find a Korean restaurant close by to the motel called Ahjooma’s Apron. The food is delicious, but Jungkook only picks at his.

The tension between them is wrong, and Taehyung hates it.

They return back to the motel to get their things, and the silence is loud. Taehyung hates it.

“I’m not leaving until you look me in the face.”

Jungkook doesn’t say a word as he packs his things. He hasn’t showered since they got here, and his hair is starting to look greasy. His eyes are sunken in because Taehyung is also quite positive that Jungkook hasn’t slept at all.

No, he knows it because Taehyung hasn’t slept either. 

“I’m really serious,” Taehyung goes on to Jungkook’s back. “This isn’t us. We don’t go days without talking, and I’m not letting it happen.”

Jungkook doesn’t say a word, and Taehyung doesn’t know if it’s panic or fear inside of him that has him grabbing Jungkook’s shoulder and turning him.

“I said I’m not letting it happen,” Taehyung grunts when Jungkook’s wide eyes land on him. “It was an accident. I’m fine. I know you’re torn up inside because of it but I promise you, I’m okay. I hate seeing you like this. It breaks my heart, Jungkook. You have no idea.”

It’s immediate, the way Jungkook’s eyes water. He grits his teeth, fingers flexing into fists against his sides. He breathes out sharply, making his nostrils expand.

“That’s the problem.”

It’s quiet, but clear enough for Taehyung to hear.


“That’s the problem,” Jungkook repeats, louder this time. The tears grow, and Taehyung can’t move. He can’t read this Jungkook. For once, he isn’t sure what Jungkook needs or what to do for him. “That’s the problem. That’s my problem. That’s why I shouldn’t be around you at all because this is me. This, broken down fucking piece of miserable shit is me, and it affects you. It hurts you. I do that. All the fucking time, and I can’t stop it even if it rips me up inside.”

No, no. Taehyung shakes his head quickly. That’s not what he meant at all. He says as much, but Jungkook gritsg his teeth and turns away from him.

“You’re not listening,” Taehyung tries, keeping his voice calm even though it’s difficult to do so. “I tell you all the time that I don’t mind. I don’t mind being your strength, or being someone for you to share the weight of life with. But I’m not going to let you beat yourself up over something you shouldn’t even feel guilty for.”

Jungkook shoves his duffle bag from the bed. Taehyung stills, eyes focused on the contents now splattered on the ground.

“And you’re going to spend years and years, wasting your life explaining this to me even though it’ll never change anything.”

When Jungkook turns again, the tears are hot down his cheeks. He grabs Taehyung’s, holding them as he presses their foreheads together. His cries are soft but his hiccups loud like he can’t catch his breath.

“Oh,” Taehyung murmurs, warming his hands up Jungkook’s chest and holding onto him. He shouldn’t push Jungkook, but he’s just frustrated. “It’s okay. It’s okay. I’m sorry.”

Jungkook laughs at that, but it sounds too sad to be amused. “I should be sorry, not you.”

“Nope,” Taehyung says, pressing his lips to Jungkook’s cheeks. “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about, Jungkook-ah. Every thought in your head is wrong. Just catch your breath and let’s go home, yeah?  You can see Yena, and we can have home cooked food. We can lay under my comforters and talk about whatever the fuck, doesn’t matter.”

When Jungkook lifts his head, his eyes are so swollen they don’t look like they’re even open. It’s silent, the way he cries. 

It makes Taehyung feel like he’s the one being shattered to pieces. 

They don’t drive straight through, but they only stop at cheap motels to pretend to sleep and are off again. He thinks one night Jungkook actually sleeps, but it takes him silently crying into his pillow to do so.

Jungkook won’t let Taehyung behind the wheel for too long, and he looks like he’s on the verge of panicking whenever Taehyung tries to. They make it home in three days. 

Neither one of them tell anyone that they’re coming home. When Taehyung pulls into his driveway, he spots Namjoon’s old battered Toyota and Seokjin’s truck parked there.

Jungkook inhales, staring at the cars in the driveway. “You told them we were coming?”

Taehyung shakes his head. It feels strange being home. He’s been here longer than he’s been in this camper, but it’s disorientating to suddenly be around so many familiar things.

“I don’t want to be around anyone.”

Taehyung looks to Jungkook in worry. Jungkook doesn’t look back.

He reaches out for Jungkook, taking his hands. “Hey. You know I love you, right? It’s okay to be having a hard time right now and to not want to go inside. Tell me where you want to go and I’ll take you there.”

Jungkook looks at him, shaking his head. He stopped crying the night before, but his eyes are still swollen. “I’m just going to walk down to the docks.”

Taehyung’s gut tells him that’s a bad idea. “I’ll go.”

“I want to be alone.”

Taehyung deflates. Jungkook’s rarely ever told him out loud that he doesn’t want him around. “Okay. Please keep your phone on. I’ll tell you when everyone leaves.”

Jungkook nods, and Taehyung doesn’t let go when Jungkook reaches for the door handle.

When he looks back to Taehyung, he’s raising an eyebrow.

“Please kiss me first.”

He hopes to make Jungkook smile, but it doesn’t work. Jungkook does lean in and gently presses their lips together.

Taehyung wrinkles his fingers into Jungkook’s shirt and angles his head. Jungkook is more vocal kissing than he is talking. He sighs softly, kissing Taehyung back like he’d prefer to speak this way than any other.

It isn’t until Jungkook steps out of the camper that Taehyung worries that it’s their last kiss, that this new tension between them isn’t going to be as fixed as easily as it always is. He worries that Jungkook is a second from running because that’s what he does when he breaks down.

Everyone is there--Yoongi, Hoseok, Jimin, Namjoon, and Seokjin. They all seem disappointed that Jungkook isn’t there but shake it off after a moment. Taehyung doesn’t know how they knew they would be here, since it’s only the end of July and their rough plan was to return late August. 

Maybe they know Jungkook better than Taehyung thought they did.

Yena asks for Jungkook right away, and Taehyung promises her Jungkook will be over shortly. He knows not to promise things, but he felt that one to be true.

Jungkook doesn’t show up. He doesn’t answer his phone. When Taehyung walks down to search for him in the docks, he isn’t there.

Chapter Text

When Taehyung was twelve, his parents took him up to the tippity top of Maine, close to the border of Canada. It was for his parents’ business. They wanted to expand to different states in New England, build partnerships with other fishing companies. It wasn’t much of a vacation for Taehyung, even if their hotel was along the beach.

He had to stay inside for most of it while his parents worked. Taehyung remembers hating it. He brought his playstation, but it wasn’t as fun to play alone.

He spent most of his days and nights talking to Jungkook on the phone. That vacation only lasted about a week, but it felt like a lifetime. It was the only time they’ve really spent any time apart from each other.

A week. It doesn’t seem like a long period of time, but it is for Taehyung. Not only because he’s worried but because it’s not something they do. Especially not when they’re in the same state.

Taehyung’s friends don’t stay for long. A few days. Jimin doesn’t seem to want to leave, and Taehyung doesn’t want him to, even if he looks at Taehyung with sad eyes.

“Jungkook’s always been the type to hide,” Jimin tries to assure him. “Don’t worry.”

Taehyung shakes his head. “Never from me.”

Jimin decides to stay then. Taehyung doesn’t know how to tell him how grateful he is for it.

He tries calling Jungkook after their friends have left, telling him he’s in the clear to come over, but Jungkook’s phone is off. 

Every time Taehyung calls him, Jungkook’s phone is off.

Taehyung tries to keep his mind busy. He works on his resume just to give up on it. He plays with Yena and tries not to show how worried he is when she asks for her Goo . Even if she won’t understand, he knows kids can be affected by emotions. He shows Jimin around his hometown, but every part of it reminds him of Jungkook.

Even the part of the downtown area that has been redeveloped after a fire, completely different from when they were younger, reminds him of his childhood. Every inch of this small burrough along the river has memories that easily come to Taehyung. Some of them not so great.

Taehyung understands why Jungkook wants to escape it. 

He doesn’t answer his father’s questions about where Jungkook is, and he tries his best to not show him his worry either. Taehyung knows he fails every time his father grips the back of his neck in support and every time his step mother gently tells him they’ve made him his favorite meal.

After the sixth day, Taehyung’s father stops pretending like there’s nothing wrong.

“You’ve been upset,” his father says from his doorway. Taehyung had wanted to shut the door, but he feels lonely when it’s closed. Even if Jimin had just been inside with him and is only in the bathroom, he’s been feeling alone. 

When he is alone, his mind is too loud. 

“I know it has to do with Jungkook. Tell me what happened, son.”

Taehyung doesn’t know. Not really. That’s the worst thing plaguing him. He knows Jungkook feels guilty, but he doesn’t know what is making Jungkook stay away from him. It can’t be that, surely can’t be just that. “Jungkook blames himself for the accident.”

His father sits on the edge of Taehyung’s bed. “You know, when your mother became ill, I blamed myself.”

Taehyung looks to his father instead of staring at the wall opposite his bed. His phone is clutched in his hand. He needs it close so he can answer right away when Jungkook calls him back.

He knows, deep in his heart, that Jungkook will.

“I look back now, and it feels ridiculous. But when something happens to someone you’re so close to, it’s natural. I had no hand in her getting sick, but at the time, you couldn’t convince me that I didn’t.”

Taehyung blinks away his tears. He’s never been this easy of a crier, but he’s drained. He hasn’t slept all week, practically all summer, and it’s starting to wear him down.

“Accident or not, Jungkook’s mistake hurt you. His own actions led to that. And I know, if I were in his shoes, I would feel shame.”

Taehyung throws a frown at his father. He doesn’t like that, and he never wants Jungkook to hear something like that. “Well he shouldn’t.”

His father smiles and pats his leg. “If our mind worked the way we wanted to, things would be much easier.”

His father leaves when Taehyung refuses to speak again, and Jimin returns, curling up beside him on his bed.

It’s then that Taehyung realizes it isn’t loneliness he feels. There is a hole in his chest that only Jungkook calling him back, being beside him can fill. It isn’t loneliness--he just isn’t used to not having Jungkook there. 

A week passes by with no word from Jungkook before Taehyung tracks down where Jungkook’s family now lives. In a cold voice, his mother tells Taehyung he isn’t there, hasn’t been there.

Taehyung doesn’t care what she thinks about him. She’s a trash bag in the wind to him.

“You know that’s what he does. Runs from his responsibilities.”

He may not care about what Jungkook’s mother says about him, but he cares what she says about Jungkook. He cares even more because he can see Mina in the background, listening in. 

“At least he comes back and deals with them. You were responsible to take care of him as a child, and you didn't even try to do that.” 

He’s walking away when she slams the door.

Seven nights since he’s talked to Jungkook last. Each night, Taehyung sits on the dock and stares up at the moon. Most of those times, Jimin sits with him. But Jimin had left in the afternoon, needing to go back as he was to start his internship the next day. So Taehyung sits there by himself, hoping he won’t be alone for long.

His feet in the water, eyes focused on the glow, he wonders if Jungkook is somewhere outside, looking at the same moon. He sits there, remembering what it was like when he was young enough that his feet barely touched the surface.

Did Jungkook remember his promise? Why didn’t he take Jungkook’s comments about being apart more seriously? There were so many, but Taehyung had thought each one to be bullshit, just Jungkook being insecure.

Sitting and wondering doesn’t do Taehyung any good, but he has nothing else to do. All he can do is wait and wonder. Taehyung has always known Jungkook better than anyone else. He’s certain Jungkook will show up to the docks if he doesn’t call. One night, when he is ready. Taehyung doesn’t mind coming down here each night until then. 

Taehyung doesn’t hear him when he approaches. He doesn’t realize he isn’t alone until Jungkook is right beside him, sitting on the edge of the dock. The water sloshes as Jungkook dips his feet into it. His pants cover his ankles again, soaking up the water. 

There’s silence but it doesn’t feel bad. Taehyung continues to gaze up at the moon, hoping Jungkook knows that even if he were gone for months, he’d still be welcomed right here by his side. Even if Taehyung is hurt that he ran away from him, he could never hold it against Jungkook.

Even if he wants to demand an answer from him, Taehyung is so overwhelmed with relief that he’s beside him that he doesn’t ask.

“I was at Kyle Bishop’s. Do you remember him?”

Taehyung looks to Jungkook as he speaks. He must have known Taehyung would look for him. Jungkook may be insecure, he may have thoughts that make him disbelieve how much Taehyung cares for him. But Taehyung knows deep down Jungkook knows he does.

“Yeah. The kid that was high throughout high school. Fell asleep in the middle of Higgin’s gym class.”

Jungkook nods. His lip quirks up, but he doesn’t smile. “Yeah. I’ve been crashing on his couch.”

The implication that Jungkook’s spent the last week high as a kite is there. Taehyung has no qualms with weed, though he doesn’t personally like to smoke it. He doesn’t necessarily think it’s bad, but he doesn’t think it’s good if Jungkook spent his time smoking it because he is using it to numb whatever pain he is feeling.

“Are you alright?” Taehyung asks despite knowing the answer.

“No,” Jungkook replies in truth.

Taehyung nods. Even though he knew, it hurts to hear. “You’ve never hidden from me.”

Jungkook kicks his feet in the water. “I know.”

Silence falls around them. Taehyung lets it happen as long as Jungkook doesn’t make a move to leave without saying another word. Taehyung won’t let him, and he’s thankful when Jungkook doesn’t.

“I have to tell you something.” Jungkook shifts uncomfortably, kicking his feet in the water again. It’s still quiet for a bit while Taehyung waits for Jungkook to continue. 

“Please let me apologize.” He breathes in, chest expanding. “It was wrong of me to leave you alone at the hospital. Even if you think you understand why I did it, it was still wrong.”

It wasn’t, but Taehyung doesn’t want to argue anymore. The reason they work is because they understand each other. If he didn’t understand Jungkook’s demons, the way they affected him, maybe it would be hard to deal with. But Taehyung does know, he’s experienced some of them too. 

“I have only been that afraid once in my life.” Jungkook’s voice is steady and his eyes trained on Taehyung’s face. “I’ve never been as afraid of my father as I am afraid of losing you.”

Taehyung inhales, his throat tight. He won’t interrupt, but he wants to assure Jungkook he never will. Thousands of times, he’s pushed Jungkook into agreeing to be by his side forever. Surely, he must know. 

“When I had those nightmares after - after what he did, they weren’t because of what he did to me. Not always, at least,” Jungkook continues. “They were also of the way he grabbed you. How angry he was that you were there. That’s the scariest moment of my life. I thought he was going to use that knife on you.”

It had mostly been a blur to Taehyung. He had a few bruises on his arms from the way Jungkook’s father dragged him into the room, but he doesn’t remember feeling pain. “Kook -”

“I’m not done,” Jungkook says, swallowing thickly. “When I stopped the van, you were slightly out of it. You were bleeding a lot. My father never made you bleed, but I would have nightmares that he did. I felt like I was seeing it then. You were bleeding a lot, and I’ve never been so afraid in my life. I kept seeing those nightmares again.”

Taehyung’s chest aches so bad he has to look away from Jungkook. He presses his lips together, trying not to imagine how badly that must have hurt him. He knows from experience what it’s like to be afraid of what that man can do. He knows from experience what it’s like to be afraid of losing Jungkook.

“You would have never had to go through any of that if you weren’t my friend. That’s what made me feel guilty. The accident, yes. But more so that you only had to deal with those scary moments because I called for you.”

Taehyung whips his head back to Jungkook. The argument is on the tip of his tongue already, a habit for whenever Jungkook does this.

“But I needed you, and I’m thankful I had you,” Jungkook murmurs.

It’s past tense. Taehyung hates that it’s past tense.

“I’ve been thinking about how I never told you that. I’ve thought about it a lot. Being away from you, losing you. Yet I’ve never told you how grateful I am for you.” Jungkook’s eyebrows push together as his lips form a thin line. “I could lose you any moment, yet I never made sure you knew.”

“I know without you telling me,” Taehyung says as he finally gives in and wraps his hand around Jungkook’s. “You don’t have to say thank you, either. Get it through your head that we are best friends, and that’s what best friends do, babe. They take care of each other. They are there for each other. They go through bullshit together.”

Jungkook nods, spreading his fingers so Taehyung can slip his own between them. 

“I should be honest with you and tell you something else,” Jungkook continues. He sucks in a heavy breath and for the first time since he sat down, his voice wavers. “I’ve never once thought of you as my best friend.”

Taehyung falls still. He glances down at their hands, frowning. “What?”

“Well, I have,” Jungkook says quickly, flustered. “You are my best friend. But. It would be lying if I said that’s all you are. I’ve never really hidden it, but I don’t think you’ve really ever understood either.”

The moon shines down on them. It’s not as bright tonight, or as big. It’s a crescent, barely standing out in a sea of black. It doesn’t offer much light, but there’s lamps around the dock that outshine it and show off the way Jungkook looks at him.

Maybe there isn’t a word that describes the feelings Taehyung has been battling inside of his chest. But he doesn’t think he needs a word when he looks into Jungkook’s eyes and sees that same feeling.

“I haven’t told you before because I didn’t think to,” Jungkook says. “But I guess, I want you to know now. Know it in clear words that I’m in love with you.”

Taehyung sucks in a breath. He felt these words coming, but it’s different than hearing them. He isn’t surprised, though he isn’t sure if he’s known. Maybe he’s always known.

“I’ve imagined my life by your side. I’ve always thought of you as the person I’ll marry,” Jungkook goes on, not looking at him. He watches the moon, his feet still swirling through the water. “When you said you would marry me too, I knew you meant it but not in the same way I did. You change everything in your life to fit me into it, and that isn’t fair to you.”

Taehyung doesn’t have a concrete way to explain to Jungkook how he feels. It’s still new to him, he’s been sitting on it and trying to find the words for it. He doesn’t think they exist. “It isn’t different.”

Jungkook looks to him then. “What?”

“How I feel for you,” Taehyung says immediately. He didn’t think they would talk about this so soon. He didn’t think they needed to, but maybe he doesn’t know Jungkook as well as he thought he did.

That thought doesn’t sit well with him.

“It isn’t different.”

Jungkook sucks in a sharp breath as he nods. “I’m sorry about that.”

Taehyung wrinkles his nose. “Don’t go there, Kook.”

“I’m sorry because of the shit I put you through,” Jungkook continues. “You can deny it all you want, but it is hard. I know it’s hard. You don’t know when I’m going to just crack, and when I do, you don’t know when I’ll be back to normal again. Which is never, by the way. Every moment of my life, even the happy moments, I fucking hate myself.”

Taehyung shakes his head before he can stop himself. He hates Jungkook’s words so much. They make him angry, and Jungkook never makes him angry.

“I know you do,” Taehyung says softly. “I know that you hate yourself, and I fucking hate that. But I need you to stop assuming things about what I can or cannot deal with. Stop assuming you’re a burden on me when I tell you you’re not. I don’t lie to you, and I’m not trying to sugarcoat anything here so you won’t feel bad. It’s the truth.”

Jungkook nods and Taehyung can’t tell if he believes him or not. Even if he did, the voices in his head won’t let him believe him for long.

“Please understand me,” Jungkook murmurs, settling his hands into his lap when he pulls away from Taehyung. “If anyone deserves to know everything about me, it’s you. But I don’t want you to hurt hearing it. I’m not closed off. I don’t like telling you things because they look like they cause you pain.”

Taehyung scooches closer, pushing himself down the dock until their thighs touch. “You’re not hurting me by talking Jungkook.”

Jungkook nods at his lie. It isn’t that Jungkook is hurting him, it’s that he hurts for Jungkook. 

“My dad used to whip me with his belt,” Jungkook finally says. “When he told me how much I got in the way, how much of a burden I was. When he was angry at my mother or had to remind me of how much I ruined his life.”

Taehyung bites so hard into his mouth he tastes blood. He really intended not to let this affect him and the words hit him so hard, his chest aches. He breathes in through his nose, willing the tears in his eyes away.

“He did that for a long time,” Jungkook says. “I think that’s why it’s so hard for me to get those thoughts out of my head. You’ve never said them to me, but they’re still there. And each time I think of them, they feel like I’m being hit with that belt again.”

“I would never,” Taehyung says, harsher than he intends. “I would never say those words to you, Jungkook. I’d never think those things.”

“I know,” Jungkook promises. “I know. You’re normally the only person I like to be around, the only one who makes me feel like I’m not some fucked up kid. That’s why I’m so selfish about being around you.”

It isn’t selfish to lean on the person that comforts you. It isn’t selfish because Taehyung doesn’t mind. He tells Jungkook as much.

“It is because I’ve never been able to return the favor. Even when your mother died, it was still me leaning on you.”

Taehyung shakes his head. “We were both leaning on each other, Kook. You lost her too. That was a pain we both felt equally.”

Jungkook exhales slowly. “I’ve always wanted to be stronger for you.”

“You need to be stronger for yourself,” Taehyung replies immediately. “Even if it takes a while, that’s the most important. You’re good at everything you put your mind to. This is no different.”

They sit in silence for a while after that. Taehyung doesn’t want to accept silence as a new part of their relationship, this kind of silence at least, but he will. 

The moon grows brighter as the night darkens. It’s Jungkook that interrupts the silence because Taehyung doesn’t have the courage to.

“I know you don’t think I need to apologize, but I still need you to forgive me. Forgive me without telling me there’s nothing to forgive me for.”

It’s the easiest thing Taehyung’s ever done. He takes Jungkook’s hand and kisses his knuckles. “I forgive you.”

Jungkook’s entire body seems to relax as he exhales. “Can we pretend again? That everything is alright? Just for a little bit?”

Taehyung sighs. He’d give Jungkook whatever he wants, but he doesn’t want to pretend. He wants to know every way there is to make it so Jungkook isn’t just pretending to be alright. But he doesn’t have the answers right now. He’ll find them, but for now he’ll give Jungkook what he wants. “Of course. But when it’s not, when it’s too hard to pretend, just don’t run from me.”

Jungkook doesn’t promise, but he nods and it’s enough for now. 

It is quiet. Just the heavy stream of the water echoing through the bathroom. Jungkook asks, tells Taehyung it would make him feel better, so Taehyung gives it to him.

He doesn’t know exactly what Jungkook wants to pretend to be, but Taehyung will give him whatever it is.

He presses Jungkook’s wet body against the cool tiles of the shower, the suds of body soap still dripping down his spine. He touches over Jungkook’s slippery skin, kissing along his shoulders. He can’t look at the rest of him as his fingers slip down his side. He can’t touch him, not after what Jungkook told him.

Jungkook asks, tells him he needs it. Taehyung gives it to him, slipping his fingers between Jungkook’s cheeks and feeling him stretch tight around him. He kisses over his skin, wanting to speak, but he stays quiet.

They hide beneath Taehyung’s comforter once they’re out of the shower. Stripped from their clothes and the door locked. His parents aren’t home. They’ve left for the weekend, their own end of the summer vacation.

Taehyung had been invited, but he refused to go anywhere until he found Jungkook again. The idea of not being there when Jungkook wanted to return was too unbearable.

He knew he would return. Deep in his gut, he knew Jungkook wouldn’t leave him for good. 

Jungkook clings to him the way he does whenever else they’ve hidden here. He brushes his fingers through the long strands at the back of Taehyung’s neck, pants into his mouth.

He bites into Taehyung’s bottom lip hard when Taehyung grabs his thighs and wraps them around his hips.

The way their damp skin rubs together is uncomfortable but Taehyung focuses on the way his body moves with Jungkook instead. The way Jungkook clings to him, kisses him.

It is different this time, more. The confessions between them don’t change the way they feel as they move, only puts a title to it.

Jungkook pulls and tugs at Taehyung. He knocks off the comforter to lean Taehyung onto his back, straddling his hips.

Taehyung promised to pretend like everything is alright, and he hopes he’s doing a good job at it. He hopes Jungkook doesn’t realize that tender way he touches him is because he’s so focused on making sure Jungkook is actually getting whatever it is that he needs right now.

The heavy weight of Jungkook on top of him is welcomed. Taehyung leans up, snatching Jungkook’s hair to hold his lips near his mouth as Jungkook rocks down on him.

It’s slow. The slowest they’ve ever gone. When Jungkook’s body tenses, when he tightens around Taehyung, he stops moving, fingers circling around the base of his cock like he doesn’t want to come yet. Like he’s dragging it out.

When Jungkook finally lets go, he’s clinging to Taehyung tightly. So tightly it hurts. The noise he lets out is a mix of a cry and a grunt, muffled into the side of Taehyung’s neck.

The air is heavy around them as they kiss. Jungkook’s breathing doesn’t calm, even when their bodies become over sensitive and Taehyung’s own chest has stopped rising and falling so rapidly.

Even as they curl into bed to sleep and Taehyung rests his head on Jungkook’s bare stomach. It moves sharply with Jungkook’s uneven breaths, but Taehyung is looking away from his face to give him the privacy he needs.

Pretending isn’t working. He can hear the hitch in Jungkook’s breath before his fingers drag against Taehyung’s scalp. “What do you want to pretend?”

“That we’re happy,” Jungkook says without hesitation. He wheezes the words out like his chest has been trying hard to keep them in, but has been struggling.

Taehyung sighs, warming his hands over Jungkook’s bare belly. His whole body is bare, like he’s pretending to be okay with that too. “I am happy. Being beside you always makes me happy.”

Jungkook doesn’t respond, and the rise and fall of his stomach doesn’t either.

“Even if it’s hard for you to be beside me sometimes, don’t leave like that again,” Taehyung says. “At least, don’t leave without telling me you need space first. I won’t take offense.”

Jungkook’s fingers rub over Taehyung’s scalp, but he doesn’t say a word. 

The morning comes and Taehyung wakes with a panic that Jungkook isn’t beside him. He is though, laying beside him wide awake. He’s watching Taehyung, the expression on his face unreadable.

“It’s good to see you sleep,” Jungkook says instead of good morning.

Taehyung blinks his swollen eyes until they’re fully open. “It’s good to see you beside me.”

There road trip was supposed to last longer, but Taehyung had meant it when he said he would be happy regardless of what they were doing. He likes slowly getting out of bed and sharing kisses. He likes making breakfast and getting distracted as he sits on the counter and pulls Jungkook between his legs.

He likes seeing Jungkook without swollen eyes and hesitancy. Even if Jungkook falls quiet sometimes.

They find their way back to the camper van, parked outside Taehyung’s house. They don’t talk much and end up lying back in their cot.

This little thing on wheels has become their home.

Without air conditioning, it’s hot. The breeze from the water comes from the open windows, but it isn’t truly cooling. Jungkook strips from his clothes, leaving on a pair of Taehyung’s shorts. 

You only passed through my dreams, but now you’re in front of me.

“I’m getting Eomma’s name inked, Kim Boyoung, right here,” Jungkook says, pointing to the bare skin of his chest opposite of his moon tattoo. The music plays softly from their speakers, another sad song that adds to the sad feeling surrounding them. “I made an appointment for today.”

Taehyung raises his eyebrows and touches the bare skin. He thinks it would be overwhelming to see his mother’s name inked there. “She loved you a lot.”

Love has come, but you say you’re leaving.

“I know,” Jungkook says as he drags Taehyung’s fingers up and kisses them. “I told her, you know. That I wanted to marry you.”

Taehyung smiles at that. It is soft between them, but the dread hasn’t left yet. He feels like something is coming, and he hates it. Jungkook is still quiet and moves like he’s weighed down. His smiles don’t reach his eyes even when he really forces it onto his lips.

I waited for you, but you say I can’t see you anymore.

“What did she say?”

“That I should,” Jungkook laughs. For a moment, his smile reaches his eyes. “She said, ‘Jungkook-ah, you’re already my son. But nothing would make me happier than you being my son in law.’”

The flowing tears tell me goodbye now, goodbye.

Taehyung grins. “When was this?”

“The day before she died.”

Taehyung’s heart squeezes in his chest. His mother passed away the year after Jungkook’s father went to prison. “We should, um, probably figure out what this means.”

He waves his fingers between the two of them before Jungkook lays on his back. Jungkook keeps his arm out, fingers beneath Taehyung’s head. 

“Why should we?”

Taehyung doesn’t really have an answer. It just feels like something they need to do. They’ve confessed, spoke out loud that the thing between them is more than friendship. They don’t really need to do anything else.

“You’re right.”

Jungkook looks at him before he curls over and brushes the bangs from Taehyung’s hair. They still haven’t cut their hair and they probably should soon, as it’s starting to become unmanageable. His step mother has teased him for it a few times.

“Saying I love you is enough, right?”

There isn’t a spark in Jungkook’s eyes when Taehyung says it. It’s the opposite of what Taehyung expects when Jungkook nods.

“It is.”

Maybe it’s something Jungkook can focus on while Taehyung tries to figure out the right way to help him. This new, not so new, thing between them. Hopefully, it’s enough to push Jungkook through just a little longer until Taehyung can figure out what he truly needs to help him.

“I was thinking about looking into that clinic down by the village,” Taehyung says conversationally. “You know by the duck pond? For my insomnia.”

Jungkook lifts his eyes at that. “That’s a good idea.”

It’s also a lie. “It’s psychiatric. You could come with me.”

It’s quick, how Jungkook closes off. His body tenses, and he shifts away. Not far, but enough for Taehyung to notice it.

“It could be a chemical thing,” Taehyugn quickly says, trying not to rush his words out and pretend like he doesn’t notice Jungkook’s reaction. “Or maybe it’s psychological. I mean, why I don’t sleep well. They might be able to help you too, with the bad thoughts in your mind.”

Jungkook turns further away from him now, but he keeps his hand on Taehyung. “I don’t have insurance.”

Taehyung hesitates. “What? You can be on your parents’ insurance until you’re twenty six.”

“Yeah, maybe. But I’m not. Eomma was kind enough to text me that I’ll lose my insurance on my twenty second birthday.”

It’s a few weeks away. “Well, just go to a couple with me until then. Appa doesn’t really understand things like this, but you know he’s always willing to help you.”

Jungkook shakes his head as he returns back to Taehyung and touches his cheek. “If I have to think about any of the shit inside of me right now, Tae, it won’t be good.”

Taehyung presses his lips closed, teeth digging into his gums until the breaking in his chest stops. He doesn’t know what that means, but it causes dread to rock through him so hard he struggles not to show it on his face.

“You already think about it all the time anyway. Maybe someone at the clinic can help you deal with them better.”

Jungkook’s eyes shift over Taehyung’s expression before he closes his eyes. “I don’t want to think about them at all. I still want to pretend for right now.”

For a few minutes, Taehyung just watches Jungkook. The stress between his eyebrows, the hard way his lips are pressed together. Jungkook’s words are running through his mind, connecting with other things he’s said in the past, trying to create an answer to Taehyung’s questions.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung starts, hesitates. He starts to reach out, to touch Jungkook, but he stops himself. “Kook, can you please tell me what you’re thinking?”

Jungkook doesn’t react for what feels like centuries. “About?”

Taehyung doesn’t know how to approach the topic the correct way, the gentlest way. He sits up, folding his shoulders forward and tucking his hands between his thighs. He just watches Jungkook; the uneven pace of his chest as he breathes, the tension in his jaw.

“I want to know what you think about when you get quiet like this,” Taehyung tries. “You’ve been really - I don’t know, sad lately. I want to know what’s making you that way.”

He isn’t expecting Jungkook to open his eyes, but he does. “Not lately.”

It’s comments like this that Taehyung doesn’t know what to do with. They hurt his chest, and it’s worse knowing that Jungkook’s probably in much more pain.

Getting rid of his previous reservations, Taehyung reaches out to touch Jungkook. He clasps a hand over the fist Jungkook has pressed to his side, rubbing over the knuckle of his thumb.

“Talk to me about it.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Well, I want you to.”

Maybe Taehyung isn’t doing this right. He thinks even more so when Jungkook flies up and nearly rips his hand away from him. His breathing is heavier now, more labored.

“I’m fine, Tae. Just let it go.”

But Taehyung can’t. He forces himself in Jungkook’s way when he tries to remove himself from the cot, even if it hurts him when Jungkook glares.

He tenderly touches his hands to Jungkook’s chest, holding him back.

“Please,” Taehyung whispers. “You say stuff sometimes, and I don’t know. I don’t know, but they make me concerned. I want you to lean on me.”

Jungkook squeezes his eyes closed, and shakes his head. When he opens them, they’re watery. “Tae, I - I can’t say it.”

Taehyung sighs out, chest deflating. “Okay. Okay, just - if it’s about the accident, I really need you to know it’s okay. It wasn’t malicious, it was an accident. And I’m fine. Look.”

When Jungkook doesn’t open his eyes, Taehyung cradles his face with gentle hands. His head dips immediately, hanging so Taehyung can’t see his face.

“Seeing me hurt hurts you,” Taehyung murmurs. “It’s the same for me, Jungkook.”

The tears slip from his eyelids then, and Taehyung doesn’t know if he’s said something wrong, or if it’s just whatever is eating Jungkook.

But he looks tortured when his watery eyes meet Taehyung and he whispers, “I know.”

Two days pass. Taehyung barely hears from Jungkook. Even when Taehyung texts him to tell him his parents and Yena have returned, that his sister wants to see him. There’s no response.

The only thing keeping Taehyung from drowning in worry and panic is Jungkook’s posts on Instagram. Taehyung isn’t clingy, but he’s uncomfortable with being away from Jungkook right now.

When Jungkook is upset, he hates being alone. 

It’s gray all day, gray clouds follow me. I ignore my friends’ calls. I answer only after a day passes.

Taehyung listens to the song Jungkook had screenshot and posted. There was no caption, but Taehyung thinks the words say enough itself. 

He had been worried Jungkook would relate to the words he always listened to. That it was more than just liking the song, or whatever. That the songs were Jungkook actually expressing himself, and Taehyung had never listened.

It’s obvious they’ll ask “how do you feel?” I force myself to smile.

Taehyung fiddles with his phone. Jungkook’s contact is already up, and he stares at his photo, the one he took on the very first night of their trip. Jungkook always looks peaceful when he sleeps.

He sits up, staring harder at the phone. It’s never been this difficult to call Jungkook.

For a good part of the day, he’s spent Googling the right things to say. But they’ve all seemed artificial, ingenuine. 

Because of me, even my surroundings get darker. I realize, that cloud is me.

Taehyung hits call before he can back out. It rings, rings, and rings. Jungkook doesn’t answer.

Intuition isn’t something Taehyung believes in, but something feels wrong. It’s felt wrong since Jungkook left. It could be his concern, but it’s an uneasy feeling.

Strapping on his sandals, Taehyung calls Jungkook again. He keeps calling as he leaves the house and starts up the camper. 

He goes to the docks first. Then the ones along the same river. Taehyung even messages Kyle Bishop, but Jungkook isn’t with him.

The camper idles on one of the backroads for awhile as Taehyung thinks. Hands pressed to his face, he tries to calm himself. Maybe Jungkook is fine, just shutting himself out.

Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t sit well with Taehyung. He doesn’t want to force himself onto Jungkook, but this isn’t right. Maybe it’s just him worrying too much again, or maybe he is a little more selfish than he realized, but he just needs to see Jungkook and make sure he’s okay.

When the idea hits, he hurriedly puts the camper back in drive. It isn’t just the accident that’s broken Jungkook down. Taehyung’s always known Jungkook’s been plagued by his parents. Anyone would be, even if they only dealt with half of the shit Jungkook has.

He wonders if it’s easier for Jungkook to deal with his worry for how Taehyung has been affected rather than how he has been affected himself. 

Taehyung cuts the camper’s engine when he finds the house. It’s been abandoned since Jungkook’s family moved out, but the town is big about image and has cleaned up every piece of graffiti that has been left on the sides. Jungkook even shattered the windows once, but they’ve all been replaced.

The grass is somewhat overgrown though. He walks through it, feeling it tickle his ankles.

The way the door opens so easily has Taehyung breathing in deep. He keeps it in until his chest hurts.


Nothing in response. It doesn’t smell like what Taehyung thinks an abandoned house would smell like. It smells like cleaning product.

“Jungkook- ah .”

There is a tightness in Taehyung’s chest when he spots him. His lungs refuse to take in oxygen, his feet refuse to move. He just watches where Jungkook lies sprawled on what used to be the living room floor.

He’s still, but his chest moves so unevenly and harshly that Taehyung knows he’s at least breathing. His eyes are closed, eyebrows wrinkling in distress. 

The earphones in his ears prevent him from hearing Taehyung. Taehyung wants to rip them out. He doesn’t want Jungkook to hear those sad words anymore.

As not to scare him, Taehyung pulls out his phone. He listens to it vibrate as Jungkook lets out a quiet sob.

“Fuck,” Jungkook grunts, and it sounds so pained Taehyung retreats.

But Jungkook flies up, hand reaching into his pocket and noticing Taehyung in front of him.

“Fuck,” Jungkook says again, this time more harshly. He drags a leg up, his elbow instantly hooking over it so he can hide his face in the crook of it.

Growing up, Taehyung had always been bigger than Jungkook. But right now, Jungkook looks like a small child, and Taehyung feels like he’s towering over him.

“Oh,” Taehyung starts, unsure what to say or do. His body takes over as he drops to his knees, arms instantly going out to wrap around Jungkook. But Jungkook’s been closed off lately, and his instincts come to a halt when he remembers this.

“Why are - are you here?”

Jungkook hiccups when he speaks, shoulders hitching. Taehyung keeps his arms open around him, wanting to squeeze and pull him to his chest.

“I thought - I thought I came to the one place you wouldn’t find me.”

Taehyung inhales slowly as he closes the gap between his arms and Jungkook. “I’ll find you anywhere,” Taehyung promises, though he knows the music is louder than his voice. 

It’s a good sign when Jungkook leans into his chest instead of shoving him off. But his body wracks violently when he cries, and he tries to curl up further. 

He doesn’t once open his eyes.

Taehyung doesn’t know how long they sit there in silence. His throat itches with the need to say something, to list reassurances and questions. He wants to know the thoughts in Jungkook’s head, and what’s plaguing him so badly. He wants to know why he’s here and why his fingers grip Taehyung’s shirt like he might fall if he lets go.

Mostly, Taehyung just wants to know how to fix it. 

When Jungkook’s breathing calms, his fingers relax. He smoothes out the wrinkles left behind in Taehyung’s shirt and buries his face into Taehyung’s chest.

Jungkook feels small, even if Taehyung’s arms stretch to accommodate his body between them.

Taehyung cups a hand over Jungkook’s cheek, swiping his thumb over the tears there before he reaches to pull Jungkook’s ear phone out. Jungkook doesn’t stop him, but his exhale is hitched when Taehyung succeeds.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung breathes, leaning his cheek to the top of Jungkook’s head. “Jungkook, what’s going on?”

It’s abrupt the way Jungkook pulls away. His fists instantly go to his eyes to roughly rub the tears away. He lets out a broken gasp before he stands and turns away from him.

Taehyung follows suit. He is never this unsure of what to do. Everything he had Googled to know what to do isn’t helpful right now, and even if it were, Taehyung’s mind is too focused on the way Jungkook claws at his face to remember any of it.

“I’m hiding here for a reason, Tae. I am not answering the phone for a reason ,” Jungkook shouts. The noise he lets out afterwards makes him sound more frustrated than angered. “Can’t you just -”

He doesn’t finish. Whatever he was going to say, Taehyung knows he can’t just do whatever it is. Leave? No. Forget about it? Definitely not.

The last time Taehyung saw Jungkook this upset was when his mother died. Not even when they first found out but the morning before her funeral. 

“Tell me the reason.”

Jungkook grips at the back of his head, fingers tugging into his hair as he starts to pace. “Please just leave.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Taehyung says, speaking over him. He tries to sound soft, but he isn’t sure if his voice sounds as pained as his chest feels. 

Jungkook only glances at him, his eyes glaring. 

They have experienced a handful of new things this summer. New kisses, new touches. New confessions, and now this. Taehyung could have gone without ever seeing Jungkook look so angry at him. That’s what the pain inside of Jungkook is twisting itself into. The nastiest of emotions, anger.

Jungkook is radiating it, but Taehyung doesn’t feel it. He knows it isn’t towards him.

“I don’t want to tell you,” Jungkook huffs. “I’ve been trying to. For weeks. I can’t find the words because I don’t want to see your face when I do.”

Worry settles in Taehyung’s chest but he only nods. He needs Jungkook to trust him here, to open up the floodgates and empty out his brain without worrying about drowning Taehyung in the process.

“Hell, it’s probably been years,” Jungkook goes on. He makes a noise like he’s laughing but he looks too pained for it to sound amused. “Years that I’ve wanted to leave you, and I’ve never been able to tell you.”

Shock rips through Taehyung, and he freezes. Jungkook doesn’t look his way as he paces.

“What are you talking about?”

Jungkook sucks in through his teeth. He rubs a hand down his face, holding it there to press his sobs into his palm. He doesn’t stop pacing. “It’s not going to come out correctly.”

“Try me,” Taehyung challenges, taking a step forward when Jungkook isn’t looking. “Say it however it’s in your mind. You know I always understand you.”

He stops walking when Jungkook turns back to him. Taehyung can’t tell if he needs the space or not. “You won’t.”

“I will.”

“You won’t!” Jungkook shouts again. Veins stand out over his temples now, and Taehyung desperately wants to hold Jungkook’s face in his hands because it looks like he might shatter. “You won’t get it because it sounds awful, Tae. It sounds so bad that I can’t stand being around you.”

Taehyung’s hands are reaching out when he stops them. Jungkook looks ruined by the confession, and Taehyung doesn’t understand it.

The tears are flooding from Jungkook’s eyes now, and his trembling fists come up to tug into his hair again. Taehyung stops them, folding his palms over each one and bringing them to his chest.

“That sounds like you’re trying to push me away,” Taehyung says gently. “Which is bullshit, and I’m not letting you do that. You’re not that type of person, either.”

Jungkook shakes his head. He lets Taehyung move closer until their clasped hands are close to being squished between their chests. “No, that’s not what I mean. I am trying to push myself away, not you.”

Sniffling hard, Jungkook lifts their fists and presses his lips into Taehyung’s knuckles. “It isn’t you - it’s not you. Seeing you, being who I am and forcing you to deal with it, that - that’s what I can’t stand. Literally can’t stand. Like this moment, right now. This is going to ruin me because you’re seeing it, and you look like your heart is breaking. And that’s my fault. It’s always my fault.”

It is breaking, Taehyung thinks. He doesn’t say as much though because Jungkook’s lips are opening and words are flooding out.

Taehyung is no longer sure that they won’t suffocate him.

“I’ve always done that, and it makes me feel like shit. You wouldn’t have had to deal with my parents if it weren’t for me. You wouldn’t have gone through school skipping events and not hanging out with your other friends because I’m needy and hate being around people. Hell Tae, I’m so consuming I didn’t even let you lean on me when your Eomma died. I was too busy forcing you to hold me up instead.”

Taehyung shakes his head as Jungkook speaks, but Jungkook doesn’t look at him. His eyes are trained on the tight squeeze of their fists. The pressure keeping Jungkook’s tremor down to a minimum.

In theory, Taehyung understands self hatred. He can assume the way it plagues someone and hurts. But it’s different than seeing it like this, hearing the twisted thoughts in Jungkook’s head.

“We hold each other up,” Taehyung assures him. “And since when do I keep my mouth quiet and just deal with things? If I had a problem with you, Kook, I would have told you.”

Taehyung wants Jungkook to open up more like this in actuality. Most of the time, Jungkook wallows in silence and here and there clues Taehyung into what’s going on. Sometimes there are details, but it’s never about how it makes Jungkook feel inside.

“And now?” Jungkook hiccups out, and Taehyung isn’t even sure he’s listening. “This road - road trip was the only thing to get me through the last year. Because I knew how much you wanted it, and I wanted that for you. Yet - yet I still tried to ruin it.”

It doesn’t make sense to Taehyung why Jungkook is this affected by a simple fender bender. Even if he understands that it reminded Jungkook of that night with his father. Taehyung desperately wants to understand.

“Jungkook, I had the best summer,” Taehyung promises. “Better than I could imagine. You didn’t ruin it.”

“I tried to,” Jungkook corrects. “I thought I could handle - handle it until it was over. But I couldn’t. Every time you kissed me, I thought how selfish I was to hold onto you. Every day that passed, I was reminded that you always shine bright and the only time you don’t is because of me.”

Jungkook’s eyes finally meet his. He plants his cheek to their hands, lips trembling. Taehyung knows he’s failing at keeping up his strong front, at not showing Jungkook how it hurts him to hear this. The pressure in his eyes and the swell in his throat are too difficult to hold back.

“Hurt you by being around you, hurt you if I leave you,” Jungkook goes on. “That’s only one of the thousands of reasons that I want to - I want to -”

The words become too difficult for Jungkook to get out, and Taehyung is letting Jungkook’s fists go to wrap around him instead. “It’s okay, Kook.”

He doesn’t know if it is. He doesn’t know how to convince Jungkook that he isn’t a burden on him, or how to deal with the thousands of other things that are breaking him down. 

“I want to die, but I’m so afraid to that I can’t,” Jungkook whispers like a secret.

A secret that rips the hold Taehyung has on his own reactions away from him. He chokes out quietly, eyes pressing closed but the tears escape anyway. The words sit between them, dig into his skin, punch at his chest.

“You can’t.”

Maybe later, Taehyung will think of something better to say in this moment. He’ll feel bad that he can’t be the friend for Jungkook that knows how to help him with this feeling, that knows the right things to say.

“Jungkook, you can’t do that to me.”

Maybe later, Taehyung will feel bad about being selfish. He’s always tried hard not to be, but he’d do anything to get that thought out of Jungkook’s head.

“I know,” Jungkook murmurs. Taehyung’s arms squeeze so tightly around him, he isn’t sure it doesn’t hurt Jungkook. It’s the only thing that relieves the feeling in his own chest. “I know.”

Taehyung exhales out. He tries to shake off the feeling, but he can’t. He can’t unlock his arms from around Jungkook. “Is that - is that what you meant you were trying to tell me but couldn’t? That you feel this way?”

Jungkook shakes his head. He’s always been stronger than Taehyung, and it’s never mattered. Not until now, when he uses his strength to break out of Taehyung’s embrace. 

“I never wanted to tell you that,” Jungkook breathes. He wipes at his eyes as he inhales, holding his breath for a while before he exhales. “I never wanted you to know. I wanted to find a way to make it look like an accident.”

The ugliest of emotions is anger. Taehyung’s always thought so. It comes up for the wrong reasons, causes people to do wrong things. 

It comes out now, and it’s wrong. Taehyung is angry, but he doesn’t know at what. Not at Jungkook but because of Jungkook. At the feeling inside of him, this empty house they’re standing in. The memories that are stored inside of here and Jungkook’s brain.

“You can tell me these things,” Taehyung lies. He’s always meant it, but he never expected this. “Whatever you’ve been struggling to tell me, you can.”

Namjoon will know how to help. He’ll call the counseling center he had found in the village. He’ll force Jungkook if he has to. 

“You just can’t  -” Taehyung rubs his lips together. “Not just because of me. For yourself.”

Jungkook shakes his head. His face isn’t breaking anymore, but he looks exhausted. “I’m not going to kill myself, Taehyung.”

It doesn’t relieve him. Not enough. The words still feel like daggers, pinning the worry and fear to his heart. “Okay. Okay. I brought the camper. Do you want to lay inside instead of in here? Or bring the cot inside?”

Taehyung doesn’t know what Jungkook needs, and Jungkook doesn’t seem to be listening as he lists off different things. He wants to keep pressuring Jungkook to tell him why he’s hiding in here if it’s not because he wants to hurt himself. But that’s already quite a big reveal, and Taehyung doesn’t want to push him too hard.

Jungkook shakes his head eventually. He leans back against the large window in the living room, which used to overlook Jungkook’s mother’s flower garden. Now it’s all weeds and grass. The moon shines through, still so dull in the sky. 

“I want you to go home.”

Crossing his arms over his chest, Taehyung refuses to leave. Even when Jungkook looks desperate, like it’s what he really needs, Taehyung can’t do it.

“Please, Tae.”

“No,” Taehyung replies. “I’m not going anywhere unless you’re going with me.”

Jungkook grips at the back of his neck, pacing again. He paces and paces, frantic in the way he moves. 

Taehyung feels guilty, watching. Jungkook had told him that it feels bad to be around him, but Taehyung’s struggling to accept that. He doesn’t think he can. Even if he did accept it, he can’t leave thinking - thinking things his mind won’t even allow him to think.

“Please,” Jungkook begs quietly. “Just - please turn around.”

It doesn’t make a difference as Jungkook isn’t looking at him anyway. But Taehyung turns around. He tenses his ears like that may make him hear better.

“I have been having a hard time finding the words to say without telling you that,” Jungkook starts. “I don’t want you to know that - that I - I wanted to hurt myself, but now I think it’s the only way you’ll understand.”

Taehyung stares down at his toes. Dread fills him so heavily that he chokes on it. He doesn’t try to hide it either. 

Maybe he doesn’t exactly understand every feeling Jungkook has, every thought. But Taehyung knows Jungkook, and he knows what Jungkook is going to say now.

“I tried to - in Virginia. Tried to hurt myself,” Jungkook admits shakily. “When I - fuck - when I saw your face afterwards, Tae, I wanted to again. It hurt me so bad to hear you cry because of me.”

Taehyung bites hard into his tongue so Jungkook doesn’t hear it now. He struggles to breathe though, and he can’t stop the hitched sounds he lets out as he tries to catch his breath. They break through, his cheeks sticky and eyes starting to swell. 

“Jin called me the next day,” Jungkook says thickly. “He didn’t know what happened. He was just ranting about his nerves for the move. About his job, finding an apartment. I uh, I didn’t even think at the time, I told him I would go. I always planned on leaving.”

The thud of Taehyung’s heart is painful. Moving isn’t as bad as Jungkook’s last confession, but it still hurts. 

“I lied when I said I was just thinking about it,” Jungkook goes on. “At first, I thought I would change my mind. But I think, leaving this place, the things that make me feel so shitty, might help me.”

It hurts because Jungkook didn’t tell him, even when he asked. It hurts him because it isn’t Jungkook’s father that is dragging him back to South Korea. That made Taehyung afraid, but he knew Jungkook wouldn’t stay there for long. 

This, this sounds indefinite.

“I just want to feel better,” Jungkook breathes. “I’d rather feel better than the alternative. I don’t want to go each day worrying whether I’m going to give into my demons. I don’t want to go each day with you looking at me like you’re thinking about that too.”

Taehyung gives up. He turns around, watching Jungkook’s pained expression grow worse when he looks at him. “Being around me is that hard on you?”

Jungkook’s lips stretch out in a pained expression. “Yes.”

It feels like there’s more, that there’s something Jungkook isn’t telling him. Or maybe he did, and Taehyung’s mind isn’t accepting it. 

“But it isn’t just that,” Jungkook says desperately. “I don’t want to be here, in this town. This state. Hell, even this side of the country. I want to be as far away from here as possible. I think that’s my first step.”

Taehyung wipes furiously at his swollen eyes. He doesn’t understand Jungkook’s mind. He understands wanting to get away. That’s why he wanted to help Jungkook find another coast to fall in love with. 

“And Appa’s baby is due next month, the day after my birthday. I think - that feels like a sign this is my second chance to not be such a shitty person to someone.”

Shitty person . Taehyung could laugh. Jungkook is far from a shitty person. “Struggling doesn’t make you a shitty person, Jungkook.”

Jungkook approaches him then, hands held out. Taehyung’s tears still stream from his face, but the pain in his chest feels more like an ache now instead of a stabbing. It’s just as bad, but it’s not choking him. “I want to not believe that.”

Taehyung nods and lets Jungkook take his hands. He doesn’t get it. Doesn’t get why leaving the country is the answer. “For how long?”

“I don’t know.”

It isn’t that Taehyung is upset about Jungkook wanting to visit South Korea or even stay there for a short time to get better. It’s the way Jungkook talks about it, the tears in his eyes. The way he’s building up to a goodbye that feels permanent.

Taehyung refuses to say it if that’s Jungkook’s end goal here.

“Every time I mentioned being together forever this summer, this is why you’ve always argued it?” Taehyung asks shakily. The damn tears build again, and he doesn’t even try to stop them. “Trying to prepare me without telling me?”

Jungkook exhales. He almost looks relieved.

“Which is why you won’t tell me now that you’re not planning on coming back at all.”

The tense way Jungkook freezes up is all Taehyung needs to know. 

“Not anytime soon, at least,” Taehyung continues.

Jungkook presses his lips together. “I don’t ever want to come back to this place. I was lying here thinking about it. How people always say they wish they were a child again, when their problems were easier. My life was harder as a child, and every time I think of this town, I think of that.”

Taehyung nods. That he understands. He loves this place, this town. He even loves the tourists, despite how rude they can be. But he knows his memories of it are a lot different than Jungkook’s. 

“I don’t know how long I’ll be in Korea, but I won’t ever be back here.”

That, Taehyung can handle. He can’t move out of the country and leave his family behind. But he can move to another state, when Jungkook is healthy and wants to be around him again.

“Okay,” Taehyung breathes out. He’s said it a lot today, and it’s the first time he’s meant it. “I want you to take care of yourself, Jungkook. Tell me what I need to help you be okay, to believe that you’re not hurting me, to know it’s okay to lean on anyone. When you figure it out.”

Jungkook is looking away again. Taehyung doesn’t understand why support is so hard for Jungkook to handle.

“But please, please,” Taehyung begs softly, grabbing Jungkook’s cheeks, “please be careful. I don’t think seeing your father is a good idea in your process of getting better.”

Jungkook’s eyes are watery and unfocused as he nods. “Probably not. I’ve tried what you said, to talk to him. Sometimes it’s hard but I have to, to see the baby. To make sure - to make sure he doesn’t treat them like he treated me.”

Taehyung understands then. He leans in, pressing a kiss to the corner of Jungkook’s trembling mouth. Jungkook guilts himself for not being there for his siblings, for letting them get hurt the way he did. 

“When are you leaving?”

“Two weeks.”

Jin didn’t tell him. While Jungkook was missing in action, and they were all camped at Taehyung’s house to welcome them home from their road trip, no one said a word about it. Taehyung missed every sign from Jungkook, that he was struggling that badly, that he already planned on leaving. That being beside him hurt him.

He isn’t missing a thing now. He knows Jungkook isn’t promising to come back to America, and leaving where they left off. Finding another place to live, being together forever. He knows Jungkook wouldn’t be this upset if it wasn’t permanent.

But Taehyung refuses to acknowledge it. It’s a great thing about the body, it will push away things that are physically impossible for it to handle. This is one of those things.

“The way you are acting makes me think it’s like tomorrow,” Taehyung tries to joke, but the room is too heavy for it. “What happened today for you to hide away?”

“Nothing different,” Jungkook says, swallowing thickly. “Felt too bad to be around anyone. I came here because I’m self destructive, and when I’m hurting, I hurt myself more.”


Jungkook shakes his head. “No, I promise.”

“Can you please come with me?” Taehyung asks. He still doesn’t trust to leave Jungkook alone. “I know you said - you said that it’s hard for you to be around me, but if you need silence, I’ll give you silence. If you need noise, you can have that. If you want to talk, I’m there.”

Jungkook doesn’t hesitate to nod, and pressure releases from Taehyung’s chest. “Can we drive?”

They drive. They listen to quiet, sad music. Taehyung fucking hates it today.

They don’t talk much. Jungkook curls up in the passenger seat, forehead pressed to the window and legs tucked up towards his chest. 

There’s no destination, really, but when Jungkook points to a pull off beside the highway, Taehyung finds the one thing they always come back to.

The moon. It shines brightly over head, now. The pull off looks over a river that Taehyung probably knows the name of but can’t remember. His father used to take Jungkook and him out fishing all the time. Not for work but just to stand with their feet in the water and throw back every fish they caught.

“I don’t like the silence.”

Taehyung turns to Jungkook, who stays facing away from him. He wants to ask Jungkook what he wants to talk about then, but it feels like an awkward thing to ask. 

“Me neither,” Taehyung says instead. “I prefer the sound of your voice.”

The response he was hoping for is not the one he gets. Taehyung thinks at this point, he’d commit the most heinous of crimes to get Jungkook to smile again if that’s what it took.

“You said you were getting Eomma’s name tattooed? Let me see it.”

Jungkook shifts then. He slowly lifts up his shirt, revealing the fresh ink on his chest.

The sight of his mother’s name on Jungkook’s skin makes Taehyung feel warm. It’s in her handwriting.

“She used to sign my progress reports,” Jungkook explains. “Remember your Appa told her she should sign it Boyoung Kim but she refused?”

Taehyung smiles. “‘This has been my name for my whole life, Yongnam. I’m not changing it now.’”

Finally, Jungkook smiles. It’s soft. “When my Eomma tried to make ‘John’ a thing, your mother refused that too.”

Taehyung laughs. That had been so long ago. “Oh god, imagine if you actually changed your name to that? It would make dirty talk a lot more awkward.”

Jungkook’s nose wrinkles when he finally looks to Taehyung. Sadness still grips at him, but the smile lessens the intensity of it. 

“I miss her.”

“Me too,” Taehyung replies. He reaches over, leaning his arm over the middle console so Jungkook can have easier access to his hand if he needs it. 

Shaking his sweaty bangs from his face, Jungkook sighs out and sinks back into his seat. “After my father was arrested, I told her about it all. How my spankings weren’t that.”

Taehyung tenses, fingers curling when Jungkook’s hand shifts closer to his. 

“She cried. I think about that a lot. I made her feel guilty when she shouldn’t have.”

As long as Taehyung can remember, Jungkook has always begged him not to tell anyone. Not even his parents.

“I wish I would have ignored you and told them earlier.”

Jungkook shakes his head and clasps their hands together. “I would have been angry with you. Even if that doesn’t make sense, or isn’t right.”

“Fear makes us act weird.”

It falls quiet again. This time neither of them interrupt it.

Chapter Text

Like Taehyung expected, the two weeks fly by. He’s selfish, making Jungkook spend most of his time with him. It was never like that before. They always just were together, it never felt forced.

It’s been a fine two weeks, which surprises Taehyung. He knows better than to think Jungkook’s sadness has suddenly disappeared, but if he didn’t know about it, he wouldn’t be able to tell he ever had that breakdown.

Nor would he be able to tell Jungkook was leaving. 

The night before he is due to leave, Jungkook is giggly. His nose nuzzles into Taehyung’s jaw, and his giggles tickle Taehyung’s skin. He talks a lot of shit that is interrupted by his choked out laughter or his lips crashing down against Taehyung’s.

It makes Taehyung’s chest feel light and heavy. He can’t really explain it, and he doesn’t try to. He wants to enjoy this moment with Jungkook.

They haven’t kissed much since Jungkook’s confession, since he said he was leaving. It’s strange. Normally, when one confesses they’ve been in love with the other and it’s reciprocated, they kiss a lot. But that hasn’t been the case for them, not until tonight.

“Go to sleep.”

It’s muffled as Jungkook speaks the words into Taehyung’s mouth. Taehyung grins, fingers tugging in the strands of Jungkook’s hair, but Jungkook resists. He surges further, their noses pushing together as Jungkook catches Taehyung’s bottom lip between his own.

Taehyung giggles into it. He presses the heels of his palms into Jungkook’s cheeks, gently guiding him back. “Can’t sleep with you eating my face.”

In truth, Taehyung doesn’t want Jungkook to stop. He knows he won’t be sleeping tonight, no matter how hard he tries. 

Jungkook flops over, landing onto his back. He’s quick to curl an arm beneath Taehyung’s head, and it takes them a bit of squirming to fit into each other. 

They fit perfectly.


“Hm?” Taehyung hums, pulling out his phone to search for music to fill the silence that will come. He knows Jungkook sleeps better with it, and at least one of them should sleep tonight. 

“Did you send any of your applications in?” 

There are files and files of them on his computer. Some opened in a tab on his browser that’s probably timed out by now. Some paired with resumes that Taehyung has half assed because he should have worked or taken an internship during college but didn’t.


Jungkook’s chest rises sharply as he sighs. “Why not? Electric Boat is always hiring. I hear they hire anyone, and they pay well.”

Taehyung doesn’t want to talk about it. Not right now. He’s been thinking about it over the last two weeks, how much of his life he has planned around Jungkook’s. Jungkook had been right about that.

But it never felt like a bad thing, not the way Jungkook made it seem. He’s still doing it now. He doesn’t want to settle on a place or a career in a town that Jungkook’s never coming back to.

“I’m going to help Appa,” Taehyung finally decides. He keeps scrolling through the music, his thumb rushing over sad songs in desperation to find something happier. “He just bought a shellfish and clamming company in Rhode Island.”

Jungkook turns to his side, facing Taehyung. He snakes an arm over his waist and props his chin to Taehyung’s shoulder. “You, who are afraid of boats, are going to work for a fishing company?”

There is amusement in Jungkook’s eyes when Taehyung side eyes him. “I’m not going to fish. I can help with the paperwork and shit. Marketing, whatever. Appa is the biggest supplier in Connecticut. I can help him spread throughout New England.”

Jungkook just listens to him, never interrupting. Taehyung’s voice hitches when he finally selects a song, but he hopes Jungkook doesn’t notice.

Oh just stay, come to me, stay here. Stay by my side for a moment.

Fingers draw shapes over Taehyung’s t-shirt before they push beneath it instead. It’s a gentle touch, just a hot palm grazing over Taehyung’s belly. Just a firm grip at his hip that has Taehyung turning to his side too.

Jungkook doesn’t stop touching him. He curls his hand over Taehyung’s hip to plant at his spine. Taehyung throws an arm over Jungkook’s shoulder, his fingers instantly searching for the long strands of hair at the back of Jungkook’s neck.

Oh just stay, fill up my one and only empty spot.

“I’m going to miss it.”

Taehyung pauses talking. He lifts his brows, eyes searching over Jungkook’s face. He doesn’t see anything there. “Miss what?”

“The fishing.”

There’s pain in Taehyung’s chest. “I am quite positive there is fishing in Korea, Jungkook. I could be wrong but -”

The lift of Jungkook’s lips is small, but Taehyung still takes it as a smile. “Shut up. I know. That’s not what I meant. I meant with you and your father.”

Oh just stay, don’t leave me today.

Taehyung tightens his grip around Jungkook’s neck to press their bodies closer together. The words he wants to say are playing in the music, are right there, but Taehyung can’t say them.

He doesn’t want to be a reason Jungkook is unhappy anymore. Even if Taehyung doesn’t fully understand it, even if it confuses him. 

It confuses him that Jungkook can look so happy, crinkly eyed and giggly beside him, yet says he feels tortured.

“I can take my brother or sister fishing,” Jungkook goes on before Taehyung can say anything. It only makes his chest ache more. “When they get older.”

Taehyung blinks rapidly. When they get older. He wonders how long Jungkook plans on staying away. He stays silent as he tries to rid the tight feeling in his throat.

If Jungkook notices, he doesn’t say anything. His eyes fall closed, and his head tilts, letting Taehyung better rub at his scalp.

“That would be nice,” Taehyung finally says. 

Stay here, don’t leave me today.

When morning comes, Taehyung  doesn’t want to wake Jungkook up. He even considers turning off his phone so the alarm can’t either. 

The night had been as sleepless as Taehyung and Jungkook had both expected. For Taehyung, at least. Sometime in the middle of the night, when the air felt heavy with exhaustion, Jungkook succumbed to it.

He’s still asleep now, clinging to Taehyung like he’s a pillow. Taehyung doesn’t mind. With Jungkook’s arm tight around his neck and his face pressed into the side of it, breathing against his skin, Taehyung feels alright.

He gently trails his fingers up Jungkook’s spine. Despite the air conditioner pumping cold air into the room, sweat makes Jungkook’s shirt cling to his skin. 

“Jungkookie,” Taehyung sighs, turning his head so his lips graze over Jungkook’s cheek. “Jungkookie, you have to wake up.”

Jungkook doesn’t move. His brows jump a little, but his expression remains relaxed. Taehyung sighs, staring back up at the ceiling.

Dread weighs down his chest. He doesn’t know if it’s just his own paranoia or his habit of worrying over things he doesn’t need to, but Taehyung has a horrible feeling about Jungkook leaving. It’s really not a big deal - this shit happens. People move to other places, but Taehyung hates it so much that he feels it in his core.


Still no response. Taehyung tries to push Jungkook off of his chest, but he’s heavy and even heavier when asleep.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung tries again, squirming beneath him. “Wake up, you rock.”

Taehyung grunts loudly as he manages to pull himself from beneath Jungkook enough that he can get a better look at him. Jungkook seems to wake now, his lips rubbing together and his arm tightening harder around Taehyung’s neck.

He’s quickly brought back to square one as Jungkook readjusts himself over Taehyung’s chest.

“Stop moving.”

Taehyung grins at the muffled, sleepy sound of Jungkook’s voice.

“Your alarm has been going off.”

It’s a lie, but Taehyung doesn’t want Jungkook to know he’s been lying here awake.

Jungkook’s face is swollen and puffy when he pushes himself up. He hovers over Taehyung for a moment as he rubs at his eyes with his fist. 

“I don’t want to wake up yet,” Jungkook murmurs. There’s a pout to his lips as he bends back down. “I was having nice dreams.”

“Dreams of?” Taehyung asks, tilting his head back into the pillow as he reaches up to cup the back of Jungkook’s neck. He looks silly with his hair hanging over his face, eyes slightly dazed like he’s still dreaming now.

“You,” Jungkook murmurs, arching his neck down until he can breath the words over Taehyung’s lips. “You and me.”

Their kiss is short, interrupted by a loud yawn from Jungkook that has him dropping back onto the bed beside Taehyung.

Taehyung sits up them, untangling his legs from the blankets. “I want more details, Jeon.”

Jungkook grins, rubbing a fist at his brow, but he doesn’t elaborate. 

“So dream me is better than actual me?” Taehyung pushes, joking. Jungkook still wears a smile on his face, but now his arm is hooked over it so Taehyung can only see his mouth. “I see how it is.”

“Shut up,” Jungkook grunts, flying up. He wraps his arm around Taehyung and quickly brings their lips together. “‘Course you’re better. But dream Taehyung gets to be mine.”

Jungkook walks away from the bed then. Confusion fills Taehyung and breaks across Jungkook’s face before he’s shaking his head and walking out of the room all together.

Not understanding Jungkook is as bad of a feeling as Jungkook leaving.

Taehyung purposely set Jungkook’s alarm earlier so they could spend more time in the morning together. They do. Showering together, brushing their teeth together. Jungkook helps Taehyung get dressed and lets Taehyung distract him when he’s trying to dress himself. 

In the kitchen, Taehyung’s family awaits them with breakfast ready on the table. Jungkook immediately goes to Yena, lifting her from the seat and into the air.

“Goo,” Yena cries, delighted. She clings to his cheeks with tiny fingers. “C’mere.”

“I’m here, little bear,” Jungkook says, his words muffling as Yena pushes his cheeks together. “Did you cook?”

Yena nods, lying as Jungkook plants her back in her chair. He takes the seat beside her, across from Taehyung’s step mother. 

There are eyes on him when Taehyung sits beside Jungkook. Taehyung won’t meet them. He doesn’t want to know if they’re curious or full of pity.

When Taehyung told his father that Jungkook was leaving, it had been quick. A quiet comment a few days before after his father asked why Taehyung looked so glum. Taehyung had left the room immediately after, not wanting to see his father’s reaction or hear him say anything about Jungkook finally getting to see his father.

“Looks delicious, Mrs. Kim,” Jungkook says as he looks over a pot of stew in front of him. 

“When is your flight, dear?”

Jungkook grabs Taehyung’s bowl instead of his own to fill with soup. “Not until two.”

“You should head early,” Taehyung’s father says. “I would like to send food with you, but I know how security can be. I’ll give you some to bring to your mother, though.”

Jungkook’s jaw tightens as he plants the bowl back in front of Taehyung. He doubts Jungkook is going to eat much today, since when he fills his own bowl there’s barely a full spoonful.

“Thank you, Mr. Kim.”

Taehyung glares at his father, but his father wears the same confused look as always. 

Breakfast feels awkward after that. Even when Jungkook reaches beneath the table and cups his knee. Despite this discomfort, Taehyung doesn’t want it to end.

It does, and Taehyung helps Jungkook pack the very last of his things. Jungkook doesn’t have many things, not even as much as he had at the beginning of the summer. Two small suitcases and a backpack that looks as if it could fit Yena inside. 

The things he had retrieved from his mother at the beginning of the summer are still tucked away in Taehyung’s basement, and Taehyung hopes that means Jungkook will return for them.

“Please stop looking like I’m dying.”

Taehyung glances away from the camper van at the sound of Jungkook’s voice. Jungkook doesn’t look at him, doesn’t wait for him to respond, just climbs inside. 

“I didn’t mean to look that way.”

Jungkook grunts as he squeezes himself beneath the cot. They really should go soon. The airport is over an hour away, and they need to be a few hours early to get Jungkook through security and meet up with Jin. 

But Taehyung doesn’t care if Jungkook misses his flight. He kind of hopes he does even if it will leave Jin alone in the airport. So he climbs into the camper van and sits beside him.

“Do you think your grandmother would remember me? If I visited her?”

Taehyung frowns at that. His grandparents would visit sometimes before his mother passed away. Now, most of their communication is through video calling. Jungkook’s been on those video calls with him. “Of course.” 

Jungkook just nods. He twists his head to the side before hanging it. “She looks like your Eomma. I think - I think it’s one of the reasons I’m most excited to go there.”

Taehyung needs to get used to the ache in his chest. That he understands. “I’ll send you her address.”

The tears in Jungkook’s eyes are back, and Taehyung doesn’t know where they’ve come from. But it makes his own build up. He doesn’t want to cry yet, doesn’t want to even acknowledge the fact that Jungkook is leaving him in a few hours.

“Jungkook, what is it?”

Jungkook huffs out, eyes squeezing shut. He tries to curl his legs up towards himself, but there isn’t enough space. “I’m sorry.”

He rubs frantically at his eyes until Taehyung stops him. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re moving to another country, Jungkook. It’s okay to be nervous.”

Jungkook tugs at Taehyung’s hands so he can keep his own pressed over his eyes. Taehyung wants to stop him from hiding, but it keeps Jungkook from seeing the tears that spill over his own eyelids.

“And there are phones so whenever you need me I’m there,” Taehyung goes on, not mentioning how hard that’s going to be at times with the time difference. “I want you to call me when you’re feeling low, okay? Even if we don’t talk. We can just sit on the phone silently and pretend we’re beside each other.”

Jungkook gasps out, nodding. He lets Taehyung see his red, swollen eyes. “One of the reasons I’m leaving is so you don’t have to see it anymore.”

Taehyung shakes his head. He’s not going to go on about how frustrated he is every time Jungkook says things like that. He’s not going to bring up how scared he is for Jungkook to be alone, because when Jungkook’s alone when he’s like this more scars appear on his body.

“Just breathe right now. If you don’t want to go, you don’t have to.”

“I already planned the whole thing with Jin,” Jungkook mumbles, looking away from him. “I can’t bail on him. He’s counting on me as a roommate.”

Confusion fills him again as he watches Jungkook’s quiet crying. He’s been planning this for months, he had said. Months he’s had to decide if this was right for him.

“Well, we should go then, if you don’t want to,” Taehyung says. No, no. He doesn’t want to even drive Jungkook there. “Don’t want to - to miss the, um flight.”

Jungkook’s eyes open but delayed enough that Taehyung has time to wipe at his eyes and pull himself from where they’ve hidden. 

“Come on,” Taehyung says, keeping his back to Jungkook as he hops out of the camper van. “We should text Jin that we’re on our way.”

The drive is quiet. Taehyung plays talk radio instead of Jungkook’s music. They hold some conversation, not a lot of it.

They’re pulling into the windy highway around the airport too soon. Much too quickly. Taehyung grabs hard onto the steering wheel and tries his best not to show how badly his chest aches.

But the feeling is starting to consume him. He can’t stop swallowing, blinking. He knows his face won’t be strong enough to fight the emotion off soon. 

The first shaky exhale comes out when Taehyung spots the airport. His chest feels hollow, his throat closed off so every pull of oxygen he tries to take doesn’t get far past his lips.

“Hey,” Jungkook says.

Taehyung shakes his head. He never cries. Not this much. He has very good control over it. Even when his own mother passed away, he could force the pain in his chest down enough that it didn’t break through until Jungkook started crying beside him.

It’s like that now. It’s harder to stop when he hears the sadness in Jungkook’s voice.

“Did you text Jin?” Taehyung asks, clearing his throat. Throughout the night, while he lay awake beside Jungkook, he had convinced himself he was being dramatic being this upset. Right now, he can’t remember any of that. 

“I did,” Jungkook says. From the corner of his vision, Taehyung sees Jungkook curl his legs up towards his chest. 


It’s impossible to hide Taehyung’s growing discomfort as they circle towards the airport, following the lanes that take them to the parking garages. Taehyung can’t control his breathing at all, and a swoop of panic whips through him as his lungs seem to shrivel up inside of him.

Fighting it off is a mistake, as it entails Taehyung making the deepest, loudest inhale and exhale so far. Jungkook shrinks into himself more.

“There’s no point in going inside,” Jungkook says as he realizes Taehyung is entering one of the parking lots. “You can’t go through security.”

It feels like torture being out here while Jungkook waits for hours inside. Taehyung ignores him, pulling into the first parking spot he can find. “I’ll sneak in.”

Jungkook snorts. “Come here.”

Uncurling himself and reaching over the console, Jungkook interwines their fingers. How many times have they done this? Kissed in the front seat of their camper van. Maybe a thousand times, just this summer. It technically isn’t different.

But it feels different. When Jungkook’s lips slot against his own, it’s accompanied with a pained noise. When he clutches at the back of Taehyung’s head with his free hand, his fingers are shaking.

The heavy exhales between the movement of their lips sound more like quiet cries.

“Tae,” Jungkook murmurs, forehead pressing against Taehyung’s before he brings their lips together. He kisses him harder, deeper, like he’s desperate for Taehyung to remember how it feels. “I should go.”

Taehyung grips his fingers into Jungkook’s shoulder, but Jungkook doesn’t pull away or stop. 

When he does, it’s aggressive. He pulls back like he’s been punched. His face is bright red, and he doesn’t meet Taehyung’s eyes as he practically flies from the camper van.

“Hey,” Taehyung calls after him. He steps out too and rushes to Jungkook’s side. He stops him from ripping the suitcases from the camper, and helps him ease them out instead. The child size backpack weighs a thousand pounds, and Taehyung grunts as he nearly drops it before Jungkook takes it from him.

“Please call me every second you can. Especially when you land. I don’t care about the time.”

Jungkook nods. Taehyung wishes he brought more to unload, because suddenly the suitcases are all around Jungkook, and the goodbye is here.

Taehyung won’t say it. He just looks at Jungkook for a moment, whose hands are fidgeting over the handles of his suitcases.

“Promise me.”

“I promise.”

It’s heavy. It’s here. Taehyung can’t keep it in. Maybe it’s good for this to be rushed.

“Okay,” Taehyung says. It’s building up inside of him faster now. The pressure makes his face feel like it’s throbbing. “Okay. I love you.”

Jungkook’s face twists. “I love you too, Tae.”

They both nod. Nothing happens, time is still. Jungkook breaks it first, leaning in to press one last kiss on Taehyung’s lips.

“Goodbye, Tae.”

So quick, just like that. Time moves too fast, and now he is watching Jungkook’s back as he walks away from him.

It isn’t until Jungkook disappears from his sight that Taehyung feels his body jerk with the need to tell Jungkook that he thinks this is a really, really bad idea. 

Goodbye Tae.

Taehyung doesn’t make it out of the parking garage before the pressure is exploding. He curls in the back, their living space, arms clutching at his bent knees. It hurts like he’s being ripped apart, and he doesn’t know if he’s being dramatic. But watching Jungkook walk away made things inside him shatter.

Maybe it’s panic, or fear. Taehyung’s never been good at telling those apart from just being upset. Fear that they’ll lose touch and become those kind of strangers that make awkward conversation when they run into each other. Maybe they’ll become those people who are only updated on each other’s lives through social media, and Jungkook never uses it.

Fear that Jungkook’s father is going to hurt him if Jungkook doesn’t hurt himself first. 

He doesn’t know how long it takes for the pressure in his chest to calm down enough that he can stop crying so he can drive. But it feels like forever before he’s stretching his limbs and making his way to the driver’s seat again.

Jungkook calls the moment he’s planting his phone into the holder glued to the dashboard. He hesitates answering, knowing there is little he can do to sound normal the way he’s been crying. 

“I’m through security. Getting food. Jin’s already there.”

Taehyung swerves from where they had temporarily parked. “I’m just leaving now.”

“What?” Jungkook asks, alarm in his voice. “Tae, it’s been like an hour.”

“I’m more upset than I thought I would be,” Taehyung admits. He focuses hard on the road in front of him, like Jungkook’s still sitting in the seat beside him and could see his face. He didn’t want Jungkook to see how upset he is, and he doesn’t want to tell him now either but it feels right to be honest. “I’m sorry.”

Jungkook is quiet for a minute. Taehyung wishes he could see his face. “I know.”

Taehyung laughs, shaking his head. His amusement feels more like heartbreak. “It’s so dumb. People move away all the time. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a short time, and you’ll be back. Even if it’s not our home town. I’m acting like I’ll never see you again. I’m sorry.”

More silence. Maybe Taehyung shouldn’t drive. Not right now. He can’t quite pull over onto the highway, not as busy as it is. He blinks away the tears in his eyes, letting the silence go on.

God, he hates it.


Taehyung grips hard onto the steering wheel. For the first time ever in his life, he hates the sound of Jungkook’s voice. Loathes it. If Jungkook were here, he might just cup a hand over his lips to keep him from saying his name again.

Tae .”

As much as Taehyung hates silence, he refuses the words Jungkook speak. The way they come out choked over the speaker. Taehyung is aware of his ears collecting the soundwaves, but his mind isn’t processing them.

“Tae, I lied about coming back to America so you wouldn’t try to stop me from going.”

Jungkook’s always been a master of languages. Maybe that’s what he’s doing now, speaking another language that Taehyung doesn’t understand. Or maybe, Taehyung’s Korean has just become so shitty from lack of use that he isn’t understanding it now.

“I want to help raise the baby. Be there for them when they grow up.”

The words aren’t connecting in Taehyung’s brain, and he pulls off the highway the moment there’s a space large enough to be safe. He idles the car, almost forgetting to flick on his hazards.

“Keep my father from hurting them. I’ve been talking to the mother - Kyung-mi. She’s really nice. My father doesn’t help her often. He made it seem like he does, but according to her, he’s barely around.”

Taehyung’s head is throbbing. Maybe it’s his temples, where his heartbeat pounds. His fingers feel stiff, like he can’t unclench them from the steering wheel. 

“Taehyung, please say something.”

Being there for the baby while it grows up could be years and years. Taehyung was hoping this would be only one. Two was the worst case scenario. 

“You should have told me,” Taehyung rasps. He tries to keep it in, he does, but the pure shock of it has the words stumbling out of his mouth before he can stop them.

He thinks Jungkook did tell him. Not outright, but there was enough said that Taehyung should have realized. He’s starting to realize that Jungkook says a lot in that same manner. Jungkook tells him so many things that Taehyung doesn’t pick up on.

“I know. Taehyung -”

Taehyung hangs up before Jungkook can say another word. A reflex he doesn’t plan, but his finger is smashing into the red button before he can even process he’s moving.

He’s been trying very hard to keep it together, to not make Jungkook feel bad. But it’s in his throat, and he can’t have Jungkook hear it.

The scream vibrates through the closed up camper van. It hurts to let out, makes the pain inside him feel worse. It doesn’t relieve it, even when Taehyung screams a second time.

It ends in a choked noise as he dials Jimin’s phone number, eyes blurry. It’s difficult with Jungkook calling him, and it hurts to hang up on him.

“Tae, hey. I was waiting for you to call me.”

Taehyung sinks into the chair, pressing a hand to his face. Jimin doesn’t pressure him to talk, let’s him be silent. Let’s him be silent for awhile. Jimin’s always been the patient kind. 

“I can’t drive.”

“Okay,” Jimin says. There is a touch of panic in his tone, but he’s good at keeping it calm. “Where are you?”

“Outside the airport.”


“Yes,” Taehyung breathes, voice cracking around the single syllable like the pain inside of his chest is making it too difficult to do anything. Breathe, speak. 

The phone beeps and without looking, Taehyung knows it’s Jungkook. He sinks further in his seat, wishing he could fold his body into itself.

Jungkook can’t handle knowing he’s upset Taehyung, and Taehyung has no way to hide it from him. He feels like he’s suffocating.

“Hobi lives about a half hour from there,” Jimin says. “Do you want me to call him? Or do you want me to stay on the phone until you’re calm enough to drive?”

Taehyung never told Jimin why he couldn’t drive, but he guesses it must be obvious. “Both.”

Hoseok is pulling up behind him faster than he should be. It isn’t safe, being parked off the road like this, but it wouldn’t be safe for Taehyung to drive with blurred vision either. 

True to his word, Jimin stays on the phone with him.

“It’s okay to be upset Tae Tae. You’ve been inseparable for your entire lives,” Jimin says for what is probably the millionth time in the last twenty minutes. “I’m sure he’ll last a year at most.”

Taehyung doesn’t tell Jimin Jungkook’s secrets. He doesn’t tell Jimin that it would be bad if Jungkook came back after a year, with how determined he is to be there for his siblings. So determined he’d lie to Taehyung about coming back. 

Telling Jimin would mean telling Jimin too much, and Taehyung swore he would never tell a soul.

There is a knock on his window, and Taehyung jumps, eyeing Hoseok’s cheery smile. Hoseok’s coo is muffled until the door opens, and Taehyung is being swallowed up by Hoseok’s arms so quickly that Taehyung misses Yoongi standing behind him.

“Oh poor thing,” Hoseok sighs. “Come here.”

The attention makes Taehyung feel ridiculous, like he’s being over dramatic. But it doesn’t change the pain in his chest. It gushes harder beneath Hoseok’s care, even though Hoseok is trying his hardest to make him laugh with his butterfly kisses and squeaky voice. 

“Hobe, you’re suffocating him,” Yoongi says. The sound of his voice has Taehyung pulling away from Hoseok to look over his shoulder. Yoongi cocks his head to the side before he reaches into the camper around Hoseok and pats Taehyung’s knee. “You alright?”

Taehyung nods, wiping at his eyes. He’s getting frustrated because the tears keep pouring out of them. 

“I know you called Hobe, but I was with him,” Yoongi says, patting his knee a second time before he pulls his hand back. “I hope it’s okay that I’m here.”

Hoseok squeezes Taehyung’s cheeks, gentle in the way he shakes his face. “Of course it’s okay.”

When Taehyung is upset, he likes to be alone. But the idea of being stuck here by himself, trapped by his own inability to calm himself down, makes him terrified of it.

“Thank you for coming.”

Hoseok presses a wet kiss to his forehead. “Come on, on the other side. Let’s get food. Eomma always said nothing is a better cure for sadness than greasy pizza.”

A smile tries to touch Taehyung’s lips. “Is that so?”

“Well, not pizza,” Hoseok laughs as he nudges Taehyung to get up. “Go on, I’m driving.”

They pick up greasy pizza and sit in the parking lot, hidden away in the back of the camper van. It feels weird sharing this space with someone other than Jungkook. Despite there being three of them instead of two, it feels empty without him.

“So, what’s got you so broken down?” Hoseok asks, jumping into it the moment they’ve sat down.

Taehyung only shrugs and uses the pizza to stuff his mouth full so he doesn’t have to answer. He doesn’t feel like eating, but he knows if he doesn’t it could look worrisome.

“Jungkook leaving,” Yoongi hisses unsuccessfully under his breath. Hoseok only side eyes him. 

“He’ll be back,” Hoseok says, just as confidently as Jimin had. “He’ll make it a week tops before he gets homesick.”

The pizza feels lodged in his throat, which is too tight for Taehyung to swallow. He chews and chews until the food in his mouth is soft enough to go down.

It still chokes him.

He doesn’t realize the tears are back until Hoseok is moving from where he sits to press into his side. Taehyung hates being touched when he’s upset, but he lets Hoseok, even if it’s more suffocating.

“I know,” Hoseok coos. “It’s hard when your best friend leaves. I would be broken hearted if Yoongi left me.”

Taehyung glances between them. He feels ridiculous. “He hates being around me.”

He doesn’t mean to blurt it out, especially not so desperately. It’s not his story to share, not his feelings to expose. But they’re the true reason behind the lack of oxygen in Taehyung’s lungs.

Both Yoongi and Hoseok glare at him like he’s said something offensive. But as Taehyung breaks and their eyes meet, those offended looks turn to ones of pity

“That’s not -”

“He said it,” Taehyung whispers, glaring down at his pizza because looking at them is too hard. It makes Jungkook seem like an asshole if he doesn’t explain it properly. “Those exact words. It’s too - too hard for him to be around me.”

Taehyung’s chest heaves as he tries to catch his breath. God, he really does feel dramatic.

It isn’t about him, not all of it at least. But that’s what hurts the most. Even if he understands why Jungkook doesn’t want to come home.

But he doesn’t understand because Jungkook has run away to be near the one person that’s ruined home for him.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung grunts as he stands abruptly. “I just need to be outside for a second.”

No one follows him out, and Taehyung is thankful. He looks to his phone with shaky hands, eyeing the three more times Jungkook tried to call him.

The message notifications glare back at Taehyung. He feels like an asshole for making it about himself. He’s always tried not to do that. He’s always tried to be someone of comfort, of understanding, for Jungkook. Now, he has no idea.

Anything he does will make it worse. He doesn’t get it, and he doesn’t know how to modify his actions to be whatever it is that Jungkook needs to make him not feel upset. Even if Taehyung can’t make him feel better, he doesn’t want to be a reason he’s upset. 

jungkookie kim-jeon: i’m sorry tae 

jungkookie kim-jeon: please answer me we’re about to board soon

jungkookie kim-jeon: jimin called, i am really sorry 

jungkookie kim-jeon: tae please please call me back i know i don’t deserve it but please

jungkookie kim-jeon: we’re boarding now i’ll call you when we land i’m sorry

Leaning back against the van, Taehyung clutches the phone to his chest. He presses it down into his skin until the pressure feels like it’s radiating the ache inside of it.

Worry, worry, worry. It feels like his mind could explode with how filled it is with thoughts that only add to the ache.

His phone is locked when he pulls it away from his chest, and he stares at his lock screen, at Jungkook’s resting face, before he swipes it open to call Jungkook back. He’s nervous to call, even knowing Jungkook can’t answer.

Guilt quickly meets worry. He shouldn’t have hung up, he shouldn’t have given Jungkook a reason to feel worse.

“Jungkookie,” Taehyung says into the voicemail, “I’m sorry. I’m - I’m sorry for hanging up on you. I didn’t mean to react like that. I love you. Call me when you land. I’ll answer.

After a lot of convincing, Yoongi and Hoseok accept that he’s able to drive home. They leave with an agreement to meet soon, to talk every day. Their expressions are worried, but it isn’t him they should be worried about. 

Taehyung listens to sad music when he drives. He blasts it, makes it so loud it vibrates the van. He understands why Jungkook searches for music to quiet out his thoughts, but it doesn’t work for him.

When he gets home, he doesn’t lower the music. He idles in the camper, parked in the street in front of his house. He just watches as his father moves around his work shed, gloves pulled up to his elbows and a thick apron covering his torso.

Taehyung doesn’t know if he’s in the mood to hear his father talk about Jungkook still, but he feels bad sitting when his father presses a gloved hand against his back like he’s in pain after trying to lift a bucket. It’ll be a distraction at least, something to do until Jungkook lands and can actually call him back.

Better than staring at the blank screen waiting.

“Ah, Taehyung-ah. Come, come.”

The smell of fish hits Taehyung’s nose first. He’s used to it, as he is used to the sight of his father deboning them. 

“Did Jungkook take off safely?”

“Yes, Appa,” Taehyung replies. He lifts the bucket of what looks to be tuna and lands it beside where his father sits. 

“Good. I know his father will be happy to see him.”

Taehyung expected it. 

“I hope he doesn’t.”

For the longest time, Taehyung hasn’t pushed his parents into understanding. He’s never understood how they didn’t get it. There is a white line across Jungkook’s neck that is enough of an explanation. Even if it was just the one time Jungkook’s father touched him and not a thousand, it should be enough to feel no remorse for the man.

“Taehyung -”

“He hurt Jungkook,” Taehyung says, hanging his head so he doesn’t have to look his father in the eye. “Really badly and very often. So I am afraid Jungkook will get hurt again.”

His father is silent after that, only the sound of him working on the fish filling the space between them. Taehyung chances a look at him and finds him staring hard at the bones he pulls from the carcass.

When his father side eyes him, Taehyung drops his gaze again. His father sighs. “Jungkook’s father wrote me when he first went to prison. Apologized for scaring you.”

Taehyung feels sick. The squelch of the fish from his father’s fingers only make it worse.

“It is difficult for me to understand how a parent could harm their child. Any child, really, but especially the one that is a part of them,” his father continues. “Maybe my denial has looked more like ignorance all of this time.”

Reaching for the gloves on the ground, Taehyung pulls them on his own hands. He doesn’t say anything as he sits across from his father and starts to help him. 

He feels his father’s gaze on him, but neither of them say a word at first. Taehyung doesn’t know what to say. He wasn’t expecting his father to accept what he was saying so easily. 

Maybe he never tried hard enough to get him to understand. Maybe he needed to be a voice for Jungkook and never was.

Maybe’s and if’s fill his mind and make Taehyung feel worse.

“Have Jungkook call me,” his father says, breaking the silence. “I would like to explain myself.”

“He loves you and Eomma,” Taehyung assures. “He wants to see Harmeoni.”

His father’s face lights up as he plants the bloodied fish to the table and finally looks at him. “Oh, that would be wonderful. She’ll take care of him. Old and fragile looking, but that woman once threatened to debone me like this fish here if I ever treated your mother wrong.” 

It doesn’t make Taehyung feel that much better. But at least, his grandmother might be able to provide Jungkook comfort.

God, at least he hopes so.

“I’ve only spoken to her once since your mother passed,” his father admits under his breath. He avoids Taehyung’s gaze again. “She did not approve of our marriage to begin with, and the one time I spoke to her since her daughter died was for her to tell me how unhappy she was with me that I had remarried.”

Taehyung shifts uncomfortably. His father and him never talked about his new marriage, not really. His father told him he met a woman, that she was kind, and that was that. Jungkook had been more expressive about his contempt towards it than Taehyung. 

Still, Taehyung doesn’t know how he feels about it. His step mother is kind, doesn’t over step. They actually don’t talk much, but he loves Yena. 

Taehyung’s heard that people find comfort in focusing on a new life after losing one dear to them. Adopting a child after burying one, getting a new dog after losing one. Finding comfort in another partner after losing yours. He’s heard about it, and maybe that’s what Jungkook is doing.

It sits heavily on Taehyung as he considers it. The feeling of wanting to die, it isn’t something Taehyung understands. He can imagine how it may feel, how heavy and painful it must be, but his mind doesn’t have the full concept of it. Maybe it’s as painful of a feeling as actually losing someone close to you, and Jungkook’s new sibling is that comfort.

Different circumstances, same idea. Taehyung doesn’t know.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Taehyung asks his father. It’s the last thing he wants to talk about right now, but he doesn’t want to be selfish with everyone.

His father shakes his head immediately. “No, my son. I prefer silence sometimes. Especially when dealing with heavy thoughts.”

Taehyung nods. “Me too.”



Jungkook’s first thought when he looks down at the blanket of clouds beneath him is what it would feel like if he launched himself from the plane right now. If he just let himself go, experience the feeling of falling, flying. 

It changes quickly. He knows what it feels like, or a feeling close enough to it. It’s terrifying. 

It’s silent other than the sounds of the engine. Jin seems to know he needs the silence and doesn’t try to fill it. Jungkook doesn’t know if that’s good or bad because his thoughts are loud.

He knew Taehyung would be upset, that’s why he hadn’t told him. He spent weeks and weeks trying to have it all make sense enough to explain it to Taehyung, but it was a task he could never complete. It doesn’t make sense, not even to Jungkook. 

The desperate need to be near this baby when he already has six siblings in their hometown. The desperate need to be away from the hometown that is filled with just as many good memories as bad ones. The desperate need to be both by Taehyung’s side and as far away from him as possible.

The desperate need to be some place he can tear himself apart without the people he loves having to see it.

Jungkook clears his throat when the tightness starts to build up. He hates that he left Taehyung with tears in his eyes, and he shouldn’t have. He hates that he told Taehyung now that he doesn’t plan to come back to America at all. 

It’s easier to focus on these things. It is a lot easier to focus on his guilt about hurting Taehyung, about his father hurting him, than deal with the angrier demons inside of him. Those are savage, ripping him apart if the thought even trickles into his mind. 

He blocks it out. He only thinks about the way his father’s hands looked on Taehyung than the way they felt on him. How Taehyung looked more upset by Jungkook’s words than he has ever looked in his life. Those feelings he can deal with better, even if he isn’t dealing well with them at all. 

“I fucked up.”

Jin whips his head up at the sudden sound of Jungkook’s voice. “What?”

“Fucked up,” Jungkook murmurs. Jin and him are close - one of his best friends. But Jungkook’s never opened up to anyone other than Taehyung. Maybe he can’t fully with anyone else, not the demons at least, but he can open up about this. It’s easier, everything having to do with Taehyung is easier. “I told Taehyung I was in love with him.”

It would be comical, normally, the way Jin’s eyes widen at that. His lips part and snap closed. Jungkook is sure it’s obvious enough. He’s always thought everyone knew, even Taehyung. He thought it was their thing, just not needing the announcement or the label. But this summer, he wanted the label - the answer. He wanted it defined, and to know whether Taehyung felt the same way.

It was supposed to be Jungkook’s last summer, and he wanted it. 

Taehyung says he does. Jungkook isn’t sure if he believes him. Not that Taehyung would lie to him, but even if Taehyung wasn’t in love with him too, he’d spend his life with Jungkook just for Jungkook’s sake.

It’s one of the reasons Jungkook needed to say goodbye, so Taehyung can focus on himself. But his heart is so broken, he doesn’t think he’s going to be able to put the pieces back together again. He’s never been good at it to begin with. He’s had these shattered pieces inside of his chest, attempting to fit them together but failing for years. 

“And then I lied. Half lied. I told him I was never coming back to our hometown, but I never told him I wasn’t coming back at all. I still haven’t told him I got a job already.”

Jungkook fucked up, bad.

He knows Taehyung hasn’t applied anywhere because Jungkook gave him the hope that he’d be back. He knew that, and yet he still was unable to tell Taehyung.

Often, over the last two weeks, Taehyung has mentioned places they could go when Jungkook returns. Jungkook never told him, never wanted to squash his hope.

It was like that during the entire road trip. Jungkook could never bring himself to tell Taehyung how miserable he was. He knows how it sounds. That Jungkook is miserable with Taehyung. He knows.

But he doesn’t know how else to explain it. Taehyung makes him the happiest out of anyone in his life, but he hates being around him.

It’s been frustrating to the point where Jungkook feels like his mother’s nails are digging into his skin again. He’s been so overwhelmed with his own emotions, that he’s tried to shut them off permanently.

Selfish, selfish. The thought of how willing he was to leave Taehyung alone, by himself, and completely shattered apart in Virginia still eats at him to the point that he wants to do it again.

That had been one of the scariest moments of his life, that second right before he was pulled from the water. A second that seemed to repeat itself every time he tried to tell Taehyung he was leaving.

“You speak like once this plane lands, you’re never allowed back,” Jin says with clear judgement in his tone. “Or that Tae can’t move there too. It’s a little dramatic.”

Jungkook knows Jin is trying to tease him, to make him feel better. But it isn’t working.

“You may realize how much you hate your father again,” Jin goes, now more serious. Jungkook never told Jin about his father, but he guesses it must have been Taehyung. Taehyung wouldn’t divulge his secrets to anyone, but he also doesn’t think Taehyung would let Jungkook anywhere near the man without someone there to be beside him. “Or realize how much you hate Korea, or hate being away from Taehyung. You could be here six months, at the most.”

Jungkook only shakes his head. It was a sign to him, the announcement of the baby when he had a blade so close to the veins inside of his wrist. It was a sign to him that the baby was due on his birthday.

A sign just to keep pressing on forward a little more. Maybe it’s all in Jungkook’s head. Maybe he’s desperate for something to make him happy. 

This feeling may not leave him at all, even if he tries for it to. He may succumb to his own feelings and hurt everyone in his life worse. That’s the most terrifying. 

Jungkook chokes on the sudden thought. He hates how often and silently it creeps into his mind. Out of nowhere, infiltrating his brain with thoughts that make him feel as if he’s been hit by a train while wishing that he actually was.

When they land, Jungkook’s phone is blown up with messages. He kept it off after Taehyung wouldn’t answer his calls.

Most of them are from Jimin. He hadn’t been kind when they spoke before Jungkook boarded. Jungkook didn’t take it personally, he would have been just as defensive if Jimin had hurt Taehyung.

His hands shake as he scrolls past Jimin’s name and sees the messages from Taehyung. He thinks the texts would be safer, that the sound of Taehyung’s voice might just ruin the composure he’s spent the entire flight trying to maintain. 

taehyung kim-jeon: don’t apologize, i’m fine 

taehyung kim-jeon: you’re going to be the best big brother, babe

taehyung kim-jeon : i know it

Jungkook swallows down the clump that’s choking him. He doesn’t answer, not right away. He tucks the phone into his pocket, feeling like a robot as he moves through Incheon International Airport. 

Being here makes him uneasy. The realization of how close he is to his father, how soon he’ll see him, hits him as roughly as his intrusive thoughts do. His inhale is choked, loud enough that Jin’s attention turns to him.

He shakes his head, insisting he’s fine. For so many years, he’s been so good at pretending. The fact that he’s struggling now makes him frustrated.

“I’m fucking tired,” Jin grunts as they step outside. Jungkook is still working on night time though the bright sky above them is morning. “When did you tell your step mom you were coming?”

His father and Kyung-mi aren’t married, but it doesn’t feel important enough to correct him. “Not for a couple days.”

“Good,” Jin sighs. “I want to sleep, and I have strict orders from Taehyung not to let you go near them alone.”

Taehyung’s care for him should make Jungkook smile, but it only makes him feel bad.

“Gonna explain that?” Jin goes on gently.

Jungkook shakes his head. “Not right now. If that’s okay.”

When Jungkook is upset, he likes to be touched. He likes a presence beside him, but when Jin touches him now, a hand cupping his shoulder, he feels his body coil inwards.

“Of course it’s okay.”

It’s not soon into their arriving at the hotel that Jin falls asleep. It’s only one bed, all they can really afford until they can move into the apartment. Jungkook feels claustrophobic, like there is no space around himself for him to breathe.

It’s made worse as he stares at Taehyung’s voicemail, at the shitty attempt his phone makes at translating it into text.

He hides himself in the bathroom, tucking himself against the edge of the tub to listen to it. 

Jungkookie, I’m sorry. I’m - I’m sorry for hanging up on you. I didn’t mean to react like that. I love you. Call me when you land.

There is a rattling in his chest that can be heard when he exhales. He plays it again, and again, too focused on the raspy sound of Taehyung’s voice. How upset he sounds. So upset, yet he sent those text messages a few hours later like everything was fine.

That’s how Taehyung is. Always fine. Even when his mother died, he was fine. It wasn’t until he saw how Jungkook was upset that he finally looked upset himself. He knows how hard it is to pretend all of the time, and he hates that he makes Taehyung have to pretend. 

Jungkook clicks the call back option, thinking Taehyung should be asleep, but he should know better. Taehyung doesn’t sleep. 


He sounds tired though, even yawns after he greets Jungkook.

“Tae, I’m sorry.”

“No,” Taehyung immediately says. “I overreacted because I am just worried. I just needed some time to assure myself it’s fine, and I couldn’t when you first told me.”

Jungkook finds himself nodding even though Taehyung can’t see. He brings his knees up to his chest to lay his cheek against one. 

It’s the thing he hates most about himself, the way his demons spurt out of him and latch onto other people. Taehyung’s concerned eyes and need to be so cautious around him because Jungkook can’t get his shit together. His sister crying because he won’t come home because he can’t bear the idea of it all becoming too much and him snapping, turning into an image of his father in front of her.

The hatred he has for himself hurts worse than anything. He knows it’s due to the way his father’s treated him, dug that feeling into his skin so he can continue to hurt him even when he’s not around.

“Jungkook?” Taehyung says softly. “Jungkook, you there?”

“I’m here,” Jungkook whispers. It isn’t as easy over the phone, the silence that sits between them when Jungkook feels this way. “I should probably go though, so you can sleep.”

Neither one of them mention how they both know Taehyung won’t. Maybe he should have been better, sucked it up and went to that counseling center with Taehyung. Been a better friend, supported him. 

“Talk to me for a few more minutes,” Taehyung murmurs. “Please.”

Jungkook sighs and curls further into himself. “Okay.”

They don’t say anything. Silence sits there, and Jungkook hates how tense it feels. He’s trying to learn how to tell the difference between reality and the way his depressed mind warps things around him, but he’s always failed at it. He’s failing now, trying to determine the meaning of Taehyung asking to speak yet remaining silent.

“Do you remember when Yena was born?” Taehyung asks, finally interrupting the silence. “How excited you were? Pulled me out of class so we could drive home and be there when she was born.”

Jungkook closes his eyes. Taehyung’s father had called him because Taehyung wasn’t answering. He didn’t hesitate to rush from their dorm, run across campus to get him.

He was maybe a bit more excited about Taehyung’s new sister than Taehyung was. Not that Taehyung wasn’t excited, but he still had unsure feelings about how quickly his father married after his mother died.

Not that he would ever admit it, and not that Jungkook doesn’t understand. He had been angry himself.

“Before we got the camper,” Jungkook murmurs. “I had to promise Hobi hyung that I would do his laundry for two months just so he’d let us borrow that piece of shit he drives.”

When Taehyung laughs, Jungkook’s chest feels warm.

“You made me do it,” Taehyung snickers. “But it was worth it. You looked so happy when you saw Yena. You were gentle with her and so nervous. Remember? You thought you’d drop her? That’s how I know you’re going to be good, Jungkook. You’re always good.”

Jungkook looks up at the ceiling. Every time he visits his mother, his sister cries. She used to beg for him to come home. He felt so ashamed, he never even told Taehyung about it. 

But Jungkook felt that his father wasn’t there, she would be safe. Even if that’s bullshit because his mother’s verbal hits are just as bad as his father’s physical ones. The mark his father left behind is enough even without his mother’s addition to it. 

“And I’m coming to see them,” Taehyung declares. He yawns again, and Jungkook really wants him to hang up so he can sleep. But he’s always been selfish. “As long as you’re comfortable being around me, I’d like to come see them.”

Jungkook cringes, his face forming into a painful grimace. “I’m always comfortable around you.”

“You said you weren’t,” Taehyung says gently. “And that’s okay. I love you, you know?”

The worst part is that Jungkook knows. He doesn’t get how someone like Taehyung could love someone who has hurt him so badly. If someone said they couldn’t be around him, if Taehyung ever said that to him, he thinks the pain would be the worst he’s ever felt. “I know.”

Despite his exhaustion and his struggle to readjust, Jungkook takes the next day to find Taehyung’s grandmother. He has her address, not far from the apartment they’ll be staying in. 

It’s very disorientating being in South Korea. He understands the language, but he still isn’t expecting to hear it around him. The city feels different, the transport. It’s been so long since he’s been here, he feels like he sticks out like he doesn’t belong.

All of it throws him off. 

Jin travels with him. Jungkook suspects he is playing his bodyguard position again, but he doesn’t mind. Jin doesn’t know these demons, doesn’t know the signs to look for. He doesn’t have to hide them as much as he has to hide them with Taehyung.

“Who is this again?” Jin asks as they look up at the stand alone house. It’s connected to others, but there’s a tiny yard in the front that is covered in a row of flowers.

“Taehyung’s grandmother,” Jungkook says. He feels more nervous than he did telling Taehyung goodbye. Did Taehyung tell his grandmother that he was coming? Should he have called first? “His mother’s mother.”

Jin makes a noise of understanding. “So she’s like old old.”

Jungkook glares at him but knocks on the front door without another word.

It takes a minute before she appears. He saw her around his graduation time, when she called to congratulate Taehyung, and she doesn’t look much different. Her face is ancient looking, heavy wrinkles hanging from her face. Her hair still black from coloring it, but thinned and wispy in places.

Her fingers shake as she reaches out, but her face brightens when her eyes find him. “Oh, Jungkook-ah? Is that you?”

Jungkook swallows down as he lets her touch his face. She looks so much like Taehyung’s mother, and he wasn’t ready for it. Not seeing her in person. 

He wonders if she would look close to this now. Surely not as old, but wrinkling and trembling. Both Taehyung and his own parents look a lot older than others their age, because of the Kim’s hard work and the Jeon’s general lack of care for their bodies.

“Oh, this - this is such a surprise,” she goes on. Her smile is so bright, boxy shaped like Taehyung’s. “Please, come in. Did you bring that grandson of mine?”

“No, Harmeoni,” Jungkook says apologetically. “This is Jin, my hyung. We’ve just moved here, and I wanted to see you.”

Her eyes are filmy, and a tiny bit unfocused before she lands them on Jin. She looks him up and down when Jin bends forward into a bow.

“Without my Taehyungie? Oh he must be heart broken. My Boyoung always goes on about how even the sharpest of knives couldn’t cut you two apart.”

Maybe this was a bad idea, Jungkook thinks as he follows Harmeoni inside. 

The first thing he sees when he walks through the door is a photo of Taehyung and his mother. It makes his heart lurch, the sight of them on a small side table pressed to the wall. The table is covered with different pictures of them, from Taehyung when he was small to maybe about twenty.

It’s sad to see the transition of son and mother to just son. But Jungkook still smiles because he can see himself in the background of the last photo of just Taehyung, lying down behind him with his head tucked on a pillow.

He doesn’t remember it. There are a lot of memories with Taehyung he probably doesn’t remember, and the thought of that doesn’t sit well with him. 

How many more will he forget as he grows old?

He wishes he took more photos.

“It’s made from persimmon leaf,” Harmeoni explains as she hands out tea cups. She refuses help, even when Jungkook stands and politely tries to take them from her. “My Boyoung’s favorite.”

Jungkook thanks her with a bow of his head. The warmth of the cup is welcomed against his palms. He knew she would talk about Taehyung’s mother, but it isn’t until now that he’s unsure as to whether he can handle it or not.

“I know,” Jungkook murmurs. 

“Does she make it for you often?”

He hesitates, side eyeing Jin when she isn’t looking. “Ah, she used to. Before she passed away.”

Harmeoni’s eyes fall over him. It takes a moment before they widen just a fraction. He feels bad, if she’s forgotten and he reminded her. “Yes, yes. She is probably making tea for the angels.”

It’s a little uncomfortable. He didn’t think about that beforehand. 

“I miss her.”

“She always spoke so kindly of you,” Harmeoni says as she sits and reaches shakily for her own teacup. “She was so happy Taehyungie had a friend like you. The last time we spoke -”

Pain flushes through Jungkook, and he hides behind his tea cup. Jin’s eyes are still on him though, a sign he isn’t hiding very well. 

Harmeoni sighs, rubbing her forehead. Her eyes closed, she stills. Jin side eyes him as they wait for her to continue, but Jungkook ignores it.

“My mind seems to be giving out on me as much as my body is,” Harmeoni laughs quietly. “I was going to say, the last time we spoke, she apologized for moving so far. But she was so happy that husband of hers was happy, that her son was doing so well, that he had you. Even if she wasn’t the happiest, she felt happiness through those she loved.”

Jungkook furrows his brows as he lowers his tea cup. Maybe Harmeoni’s mind truly is giving out. He’s sure there were times Mrs. Kim wasn’t smiling, but they were so few that he can’t remember any specifically. “She wasn’t happy?”

Harmeoni shakes her head. With her wrinkles and frown, her mouth droops off of her face. “For a long time, my Boyoung was caged in by her own demons.”

“I didn’t know.”

It isn’t funny, and Harmeoni doesn’t look amused when she laughs under her breath. “She would have been happy to know that.”

It sticks with Jungkook, even days after they’ve left Harmeoni’s. He is bothered by it, uncomfortable by the fact that Mrs. Kim had demons. He knows everyone does, but the way Taehyung’s grandmother had put it makes Jungkook wonder just how bad they were.

If they were anything like his own.

The thought of it makes him sad.

“He’s fine,” Taehyung says in his ear, slightly muffled. “You know that man! He doesn’t know when to take it easy. He’ll be out of the hospital and right back to that damn fishing boat.”

Taehyung sounds worried, Jungkook feels a bit numb. He hasn’t had the courage to see Kyung-mi yet, and he hasn’t had the courage to call Taehyung until now. He doesn’t want Taehyung to ask about his grandmother, and he doesn’t want to keep something like that about his mother a secret, but he is going to anyway.

“He’s okay?” Jungkook asks.

“Yeah,” Taehyung sighs. Jungkook imagines him walking around his bedroom while he speaks. “I guess he’s been having back problems, didn’t tell me. The doctors want to do surgery. I guess they warned him if he didn’t take it easy, it would get to that point.”

Jungkook didn’t know that either. Taehyung’s father has frail limbs, but Jungkook’s watched him launch pounds and pounds of fish from the boat to the docks. He’s watched him sweat and grunt his way through the warehouse with buckets of clams in his hands.

“Anyway, not about me. I want to hear about you. Have you seen your step mom yet?”

In a few hours. It’s quite late for Jungkook, nearly two in the morning. It’s the afternoon for Taehyung. They aren’t even on the same day anymore. “Tomorrow.”

“Are you nervous?” Taehyung pushes. “I’d be so nervous. I bet that’s awkward.”

Jungkook knows it’s going to be. They’ve texted a handful of times since she first called Jungkook. His father had disappeared for a week, without his phone. In a last ditch attempt to find him, she called the contact labeled ‘my son’.

She sounded hurt when she found out he wasn’t with him. It was before graduation. Jungkook still remembers how he had tried to hide the phone call in his and Taehyung’s shared bathroom.

“I am. I don’t really want to talk about it.”

It’s awkward now. He hears Taehyung suck in a breath, and he’s definitely pacing now.

“I don’t want to talk about Appa either,” Taehyung sighs. “What do you want to talk about?”

That’s one question neither of them have ever asked the other. Not in this context, he’s sure of it. 

“I don’t know.”

It’s been five days. Jungkook buries his face into his pillow. That’s too fast for it to be this awkward, but he ruined it. He should have expected it. Taehyung shouldn’t keep trying.

“You know what we should try?” Taehyung asks. His voice is higher pitched, a sign that he’s trying his hardest to be positive and lift Jungkook’s mood. “Phone sex.”

Jungkook’s chest hurts. “No, I don’t think so.”

Taehyung sighs dramatically, still sounding amused. “It was worth a shot.”

Normally, Jungkook would laugh. Normally, this wouldn’t be so hard. “Sorry.”

This time, the sigh is softer - genuine. “Oh, I was just trying to make you laugh, Jungkook. I mean, unless you were down for it. Then I was serious.”

This time, a small smile does touch Jungkook’s lips. He can picture the face Taehyung is making, the suggestive wiggle of his eyebrows. He’s always been good at cheering Jungkook up. “How has it been helping at the fishing company?”

“Good,” Taehyung says, falling into a different topic easily. “Smelly. I will have to probably work harder now that he is out of commission. But it’s temporary.”

“Is that consignment shop still next door?”

Taehyung snorts. “It’s been like six days, Jungkook. Yes, the consignment shop is still there.”

It’s been months and months since Jungkook last visited Taehyung’s father’s shop. “Oh.”


Jungkook rolls onto his back, stares up at the ceiling. “I just was wondering if Minghao still worked there?”

There’s silence on the other line for a few moments before Taehyung makes a grunting noise. “I guess? I don’t know. That’s the kid with the mullet right?”

“I don’t think that’s considered a mullet, Tae.”

Taehyung giggles. Jungkook smiles again. Sometimes, he can lose himself in the happiness Taehyung brings him, even if it’s temporarily. “Well, yeah. He still works there. What about him?”

And as easily as Taehyung can make him smile, Jungkook is even better at ruining it. “Wondered if he was still hitting on you like he did in the seventh grade?”

“That’s exactly it, the seventh grade,” Taehyung repeats with judgment in his tone. “I don’t even remember that.”

Jungkook does. It was some school dance that Minghao had asked Taehyung to go with him to. 

“Oh,” Jungkook murmurs. 

“Why do you ask?”

The truth? Jungkook doesn’t know. He had a thought to say something dumb, but now he’s realized that it is and wishes he could take it back.

“Just wondering.”

More amusement from Taehyung. Jungkook stares around the hotel room, listening for Jin in the apartment. Jungkook’s body throbs from exertion earlier. He ran and ran on the hotel’s treadmill until his legs gave out on him, needing just something to tire him out and make him hurt.

He hurts and he’s tired, but he still can’t sleep. 


Jungkook hums. “Shouldn’t be. You’ll find someone soon, and Minghao is nice.”

It isn’t what he meant to say. Not like that, not right now. He’s made himself think about it, made himself deal with a normal human problem that seems manageable. (It isn’t). He’s tried to think of ways to sneak it into the conversation, to assure Taehyung it’s okay to be with someone if he truly discovers what being in love is like. No more holding back because of him.

Years and years, Taehyung never dated. Because Jungkook was clingy and too broken to take care of himself.


It’s hesitant. Just a breath. Jungkook’s sigh is louder, and he considers suffocating himself in his pillow.

“Sorry,” Jungkook murmurs. “I just meant -“

“Hey, Kook,” Taehyung interrupts. His voice shakes, and he tries to hide it. He doesn’t do a good job. That’s how Jungkook knows he’s really hurt him. Taehyung has always been good at pretending to be fine. “I should get back to Appa. Make - make sure he isn’t fighting the doctors off.”

Jungkook’s bottom lip is throbbing too from how hard he bites into it. He tastes blood but he only releases his grip when Taehyung’s silence demands an answer from him.

“You’re at the hospital?”

“Would I offer phone sex if I was in the hospital, Jungkook?”

The harsh edge to his name ruins Taehyung’s attempt at a joke. It’s followed by a sigh, and Taehyung’s voice softens.

“I hate hospitals,” he says. Jungkook knows. He should be there with him. “Came home. Thought talking to you would make me feel better.”

The implication that he hasn’t is there, but Taehyung doesn’t say it. Jungkook wants him too. The sadistic part himself that craves to feel pain because he’s somehow always had an addiction to punishing himself. 

“But I really should get back,” Taehyung goes on. “Get some sleep, babe. Call me before you go meet Kyung-mi.”

Jungkook nods. He isn’t used to talking on the phone with Taehyung, not since they were little kids. It takes him a moment to remember Taehyung can’t see him.


“And Jungkook?” A pause. It feels tense but soft at the same time. Taehyung can make anything soft. “I’m not looking into finding someone so don’t think about it."

They say their goodbyes, and too soon, Jungkook is left in silence. He tosses his phone to the side, curls his legs up towards his chest, and looks out his bedroom window. 

He hasn’t put any curtains up yet, the moon still shining brightly into the room. It’s then the realization hits, hits him so hard he has to suck in a breath.

They don’t get to look at the moon together anymore.

Chapter Text


“Did you know that there are turtles that live a long, long time? Like one hundred years.”

Jungkook wrinkles his nose. The turtle in front of them is huge, gliding through the water. Jungkook wants to glide through the water like that too. But going under the water scares him, even if he likes to swim. 

“That’s not true,” Jungkook denies. 

Beside him, Taehyung licks at his ice cream. His eyes are big, reflecting the fish tank in front of them. Taehyung is taller than Jungkook, and he hates it. Mr. Kim says one day he’ll sky rocket into the air and become taller than all of them.

Jungkook isn’t patient enough to wait. He pushes up on his toes until they’re equal height.

“It is,” Taehyung says with a shrug. His eyes follow the turtle, but Jungkook keeps his on him, Taehyung. His best friend. “I’m older than you. That means I know.”

Jungkook giggles. He’s really happy that Taehyung’s family brought him to the aquarium today with them, but Taehyung’s been a brat. “You may be older than me, but we’re still both in fourth grade. I know the same things as you.”

Taehyung finally looks at him. There is offense on his face, ice cream smeared around the mouth he has opened, ready to defend himself. “That’s not true. You got a C on the science quiz last week.”

Jungkook turns away from him, stares at the turtle. When his head goes underwater, he can’t hear anything. He feels like it’s just him, no one else around him. It’s nice most of the time, except he really likes Taehyung around him.

“I know.”

There is a sigh, and Taehyung is wrapping his arm around his shoulders. Maybe it’s okay that he’s taller.

“Here,” Taehyung says, offering him the rest of his ice cream even though Jungkook finished his already. “Have the rest. You got a C on the science quiz, but you did so good in Spanish class that Ms. Zhicay wrote a letter to your parents, remember?”

Jungkook doesn’t want to eat the ice cream. It melts over his fingers. The letter didn’t mean anything when his parents were angry about his bad science grade.

His chest aches, and he hands Taehyung his ice cream back. “It makes me happier seeing you eat. Comes , Tae.”

Taehyung wrinkles his nose but takes the ice cream and turns back to the turtle.

Jungkook hopes the turtle doesn’t live that long. It’s a long time to be swimming through the ocean alone. 


There’s pain. Sometimes it’s dull, muddling around in his chest. Sometimes he doesn’t even realize that’s what it is. A weird feeling in his body, exhaustion, headaches. A sickness, like the world is killing him off before he can get the chance to.

It scares him then. The fear is overwhelming, and he has to close his eyes to breathe through it.

And then the pain comes back. This time worse. This time, Jungkook knows what it is. It feels like heartbreak, like he’s experiencing someone he loves dying again. It hurts that badly, and it’s caused by the thoughts in his head.

He’s torn from one to the other to the other. Numb to panicked to hurting so bad he can’t breathe. Just to be numb again.

Jungkook thinks the numbness is the worst, but he’s so afraid of feeling and acknowledging the pain that he’ll deal with it. There is a tennis racket in his mind, swatting at the ball of painful thoughts before they can get to his conscious. 

“Are you listening?”

Jungkook isn’t. He’s staring up at the ceiling, tracing the outlines of the shadows the light from outside brings in.

He’s in his new apartment. He’s tired. The difference in time is still difficult to adjust to. He’s been waking up at weird hours. 

Thankfully, Taehyung is awake when he does.

“I am,” Jungkook lies. He turns to his side, focuses on the empty room instead.

He met Kyung-mi today. She had been nice, soft spoken. Her belly round and so swollen it looked painful to Jungkook. Her arms cradling it nonstop like a protective shield.

She had that look on her face. The same look that causes Jungkook to avoid the mirror.

It made the thoughts flood back just talking to her, even if they barely spoke of his father.

“What did I say?”

There is teasing in Taehyung’s voice. Jungkook tries to picture him smiling.

“You said you love me,” Jungkook whispers because he wants to hear it.

The sigh Taehyung lets out has Jungkook ripping his body around as if that can distract his mind from telling him untrue things about what that sigh means. Like his body is that tennis racket trying to slap his thoughts somewhere else other than his mind. 

“I do love you,” Taehyung replies. “But no. I said, Namjoon is taking me to that clinic tomorrow. I asked him to go with me. I think my exhaustion is getting to me.”

Pain, guilt, fear. It sits inside of Jungkook always. He was born with it. He remembers it through his childhood, the only thing that was always there other than Taehyung. The happiness that surrounded Taehyung is brighter, stronger than those dark feelings.

There was a time that Jungkook thought Taehyung was enough to wipe those feelings away from him. The hopelessness that came from Jungkook realizing not even the one thing that makes him truly feel happy can make it go away only made him worse.

“Are you okay?” Jungkook whispers. He wants to apologize. It should be him going with Taehyung. He’s always denied his insomnia.  It must be worse than Jungkook realized.

“Yeah, yeah,” Taehyung says in that way he does when he doesn’t want to admit that he isn’t. “My focus is just off. My brain is fried. It feels like I can’t think half the time.”

“Worrying about your dad probably doesn’t help,” Jungkook says.

The universe is punishing him. It’s selfish to think, to make it about him. But when Taehyung really needs him, he isn’t there. Because he chose to leave. It’s like the universe is set out to push and push and push at him until he gives in.

Pain, fear. It is there, now, growing inside him.

“No,” Taehyung agrees. “But he is okay. I have to do extra work for him because you know he’s hard headed. Won’t let anyone help him even though he’s injured, and we got into a tiny fight about it. So it’s made me even more tired.”

Jungkook’s never had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. He likes it, maybe too much. He’ll risk the nightmares then to avoid the ones when his eyes are open. 

“Take care of yourself, Tae,” Jungkook says. He wonders if it sounds like a plea to Taehyung too. “Whatever time you go, no matter what time it is here, you can call me.”

“I know,” Taehyung whispers back. Another sigh, another jolt through Jungkook. “You should sleep though. Force yourself to adjust.”

Today was a bad day. Tonight is a bad night. Jungkook should sleep. Like always, he teeters between needing to tell Taehyung that he isn’t okay and making himself hide it so Taehyung never finds out. Doing both and not doing both feel horrific.

“I met Kyung-mi today,” Jungkook says instead. “I kept pushing it off. The baby is due in a few days.”

He does that. Pushes things off. Even things he wants to do. It’s the real reason he never went to grad school, but he can’t admit it to anyone. Tries not to even admit it to himself.

It’s the reason he hasn’t done many things. Always pushing things off until the very last minute for no reason. At least, not for a reason that he understands or can figure out. Always the last minute.

“How is she?” Taehyung asks. “Was it awkward? I bet it was awkward.”

It was. “I don’t know if what I’m doing makes sense,” Jungkook admits. “I don’t know her. It feels like I shouldn’t be here.”

It feels like he shouldn’t be anywhere. Jungkook spent the summer searching for some place that felt like it, but he never did. He doesn’t think he would even if he visited every town and city in both countries.

“Well, it is going to feel that way,” Taehyung says without pause. “But what you’re doing is really nice. It sucks to feel alone.”

Do you feel alone? Have you? Jungkook doesn’t have the courage to ask. He furrows his brows, draws his knees closer to his chest. He pushes pressure against his throat until it feels like he can breathe down the pain inside of him.

“I want baby pictures,” Taehyung goes on, his tone lighter, giving Jungkook more time to calm himself down. “You and them. Together.”

Jungkook nods. He keeps forgetting Taehyung can’t see him. He isn’t used to their conversations being over the phone, but he’s thankful for it when his eyes close and the tears slip between his eyelids.

The worst part about it all is if Taehyung knew, he would ask why? The pain? What happened? What can I do?

Questions Jungkook doesn’t have answers to, and they make him frustrated. 

“Okay, Tae.”

There’s silence that follows, always. Their new thing. Jungkook wonders if Taehyung can hear his pain somehow, if it will change the conversation. If Jungkook ruined another moment with Taehyung.

If the sigh Taehyung lets out means something this time because it sounds shakier than before.

“What time is it there?”

Jungkook presses a hand to his face. The fact that he can’t calm himself down right now is the thing upsetting himself the most. 


It comes out like a whispered wheeze. Taehyung definitely hears it. Jungkook should hang up, make an excuse about being tired. Something, but Taehyung -

“I took Yena fishing this morning. Down by the submarines, you know the place? She hated it. Appa is devastated.”

Jungkook huffs out a laugh, wiping the tears from his eyes. 

“She sobbed when the fish came out of the water. Got really angry. Didn’t calm down until I threw it back into the water. Wait until she’s older and realizes what Appa does for a living.”

Jungkook closes his eyes, pictures Yena in his mind. When she was first born, so tiny and red. The way Taehyung was so nervous he actually looked more disgusted than anything when he held her for the first time. How he only handled holding her for a moment before he was looking to Jungkook so desperately to take her.

Jungkook hadn’t been as nervous. He has strong arms and sturdy hands. They shake too much now. He doesn’t know what happened, why he’s gotten worse over time.

He was broken then, broken now. It feels worse now. Maybe his mind and body have just gotten tired of fighting.

“Her and the baby can be friends,” Taehyung goes on. “Pen pals. Have them Skype or whatever. I’ll convince Appa and his wife to let me bring her when I come to visit you.”

Jungkook blinks. He wants to say something, but Taehyung keeps talking. Talking and talking, jumping from subjects like they’ve randomly popped into his head.

It isn’t until Taehyung is reminding him that he should sleep that Jungkook realizes the tears have stopped and the pain went away. There is even a small smile on his face.

But the numbness is still there, and when Jungkook closes his eyes, he knows the pain could come in the morning. Or the afternoon, tomorrow night. It never calls before it shows up, it just breaks his doors down.

There is the smell of cigarette smoke. It’s stale, like it’s been lingering in the air for some time. It reminds Jungkook of his father, of his childhood home. He hates it, but he pushes down his grimace as not to offend the woman in front of him.

“We met on an online forum.”

Kyung-mi is young, but she has a face that seems old. Not in a wise way but like her body is aging faster than it’s supposed to. There’s a grayness to her skin, a sagginess to her face that people as thin as her don’t normally have.

“Sounds silly, I know,” she goes on with a laugh. It sounds awkward, and it’s only made worse because she doesn’t hold eye contact for long. Instead, she glances down at the mug she cradles between her palms, holds her eyes there when she speaks. 

There is a matching one between Jungkook’s. It burns. 

“It doesn’t,” Jungkook assures. He knows from experience that assurances don’t mean much. 

She smiles softly. “Well, either way. We started dating shortly after. He was very kind.”

Jungkook doubts that, but he doesn’t mention it. He doesn’t mention that she said was , either.

“He told me all about you and Mina. How much he missed you and her, but you two weren’t as eager to speak to him. He said he understood. ‘Teenagers don’t understand life yet’ or something.”

Jungkook looks down into the swirl of dark liquid in his mug. He can see his reflection, but it’s distorted. Just him and Mina, the only two kids he really knows. Jungkook can’t judge, he barely knows his siblings. 

“I thought it was sweet, that he was a good father. I didn’t want kids of my own, but I still liked that about him.” 

She touches her belly then, absentmindedly wrapping her arm around the part that poke out the farthest. Like she’s afraid of the baby inside her hearing her words, about not wanting them. Jungkook wonders if she still feels that way. 

It makes him ache thinking it. A child growing up with parents who don’t want them. Like Jungkook had. He wonders if his own mother came off this way, or if it’s unfair to compare her and Kyung-mi. Kyung-mi seems gentle, and her hands aren’t as strong looking as his mother’s. She packed a mean punch. Worse with her words.

Still strong enough to hurt someone so innocent, small. Jungkook wishes his mind didn’t always go there.

“Then I got pregnant, and he left. Came back, left again. A cycle that’s still going on.” Kyung-mi sighs. It’s heavy, her chest expanding as far as it can go before deflating. 

Jungkook expects his father to burst in at any moment. He’s been anticipating it since he admitted to his father he’s been here a few days yet refused to tell him where he’s moved to.

His father doesn’t know him and Kyung-mi have met yet. Jungkook hasn’t told him, and he has a feeling she hasn’t either.

“But anyway, tell me more about you. Your trip! With uh, Taehyung right?”

Despite looking worn and broken, Kyung-mi is nice. She’s cheerful at times, so suddenly it’s like the cheeriness is being ripped out of her. Jungkook really hopes she isn’t like his parents. 

“Yes. My best friend. We grew up together.”

Kyung-mi sips at her tea. Jungkook keeps his in his palms, wishing it wasn’t cooling down. He likes the burn, wants it back again. It steadies him, he thinks. He isn’t sure.

As long as he has been dealing with all of this, he still hasn’t figured much of it out. He thinks if he did have it figured out, maybe it wouldn’t be a problem. Or maybe it would be even worse, because he’d understand too much of it yet not be able to make it go away.

“I’ve heard. Your father said you two were inseparable.”

Jungkook nods. He doesn’t like thinking about his father talking about Taehyung, saying his name. He knows one day, if Jungkook stays here, her and him will have to talk about his father’s true character. But he doesn’t want to force it onto her so quickly. 

He doesn’t want to tell just how shitty of a father he is when she’s currently pregnant with his child.

But maybe that’s why he should.

Maybe she’ll be shitty too. 

“My father didn’t like it,” Jungkook starts. His throat is tight. He wants to call Taehyung, but he can’t risk waking him up. It’s his first day on the sleep medicine his new doctor gave him.

Jungkook doubts he even took it, but he hopes he’s sleeping. Sleeping restfully and won’t wake up more exhausted than ever because his mind was too active from dreaming. 

He wishes he’d stop thinking about Taehyung so much too.

“That Tae and I were close,” Jungkook finishes. “Did he tell you that?”

She seems to hesitate, but she nods after a moment. 

For once, pain and fear feel distant beneath his anger.

He normally doesn’t let himself feel anger. He’s afraid that it will take over the fear and pain because with so many people it does. But it only causes fear and pain in other people. Both the creator and the creation of these other emotions that Jungkook doesn’t want to deal with.

“I was with him when you told him you were on your trip with Taehyung. He was angry.”

Jungkook nods. It’s on the tip of his tongue. The thoughts and memories are already there, but for some reason saying it out loud makes it worse. Makes him acknowledge it. He has acknowledged it. Too much. It has yet to get easier.

He’s read that the more you expose yourself to something, the easier it’s supposed to be to face it. It’s been just as hard each time for him. 

He watches Kyung-mi’s face. Jungkook came here to help her. To help himself, maybe. He isn’t exactly sure how he thought he could do that. Realistically, he knows he has to face things. Just having a little life in his hands again isn’t going to make them go away.

Jungkook is so fucking terrified to face them that he feels suddenly sick at the idea of having to do so.

“There is one picture you posted,” Kyung-mi says, moving now more than she has since Jungkook arrived, “where I can see your face too. I thought about that one, about how happy you look, and didn’t understand what about Taehyung made your father so angry.”

She walks around the table, sitting at the chair beside him as she pulls out her phone and starts scrolling. A moment later, she’s showing Jungkook a picture he didn’t realize he was even in.

There’s a mirror behind Taehyung. His reflection is a little distorted, but there is a big smile on his face. It’s at some museum Jungkook barely remembers. Some famous historical person’s house that Jungkook had never heard of before. 

He remembers liking how Taehyung looked standing amongst the antique jewelry and furniture. How everything around them looked old but Taehyung glowed with youth. Taehyung isn’t smiling in the picture but staring at something Jungkook can’t see. There really isn’t anything about him that would cause Jungkook to smile so big, except for it’s Taehyung.

His skin is sunkissed and a few shades darker than usual. His hair is still wet on the ends that cling to his neck because it had gotten long over the summer. The clothes he wears are Jungkook’s, a white shirt tucked into a pair of black track pants. Nothing special, but Jungkook even smiles when he looks down at the photograph.

It’s been a short time, and Jungkook misses him.

“Then I realized your father is an angry man,” she whispers. Jungkook holds her phone in his hands, touching the screen when the screen threatens to go black. He must have this photo on his phone too since it’s on his Instagram. 

The whole world saw this one of him smiling at Taehyung. Taehyung saw it too. He doesn’t mind. Jungkook’s never hidden how he feels, he just never said them out loud in a defined way.

Maybe he should have, or maybe it would have just been worse if they defined themselves, became something, just for Jungkook to break Taehyung’s heart when he left. Because he would still have left. He still wants to leave.

Maybe that’s what he did anyway, their relationship defined or not.

“Taehyung called the police on my father,” Jungkook says quietly. He gently touches his thumb beneath his own face in the photograph. He wishes he knew how Taehyung did it, how he could continue to look at him without being reminded of that night. Jungkook is still struggling with that. “My father went to prison because of it. So he hates him for that reason.”

Silence. He hates that too. 

He tenses when Kyung-mi speaks. Her eyes burn a hole in his face, but he can’t look at her. Maybe he shouldn’t have said anything. He could have given her things she should be worried about, but it doesn’t change how damaging worry can be. 

“Your father went to prison for what he did,” she says as she takes her phone back. “Not because your friend called the police on him.”

Jungkook looks to her then. There’s an understanding in her expression before she clears her throat. She reaches out, hesitates, before cupping her dainty hand around Jungkook’s. His hand seems massive in comparison. Her wrists are so thin, it looks painful how the bones stick from her skin. 

“Come on, let me show you the nursery.”

It comes out of nowhere, never announces itself. After dealing with it for so long, Jungkook wishes he could see the signs better. The thoughts that slip through his mind throughout the day, how tired he feels dealing with them.

He doesn’t know what caused it this time. He slept fine, went to the doctor’s with Kyung-mi, learned more about her. He went shopping with Jin, filled out their apartment a bit more with decorations and regular household items. He has furniture in his room, it looks less empty.

He’s been productive, been human. That’s supposed to be a good thing. A thing that should make him feel better.

It’s been two days, and Jungkook has only gotten two text messages from Taehyung. The time differences, the work schedule, the fact that Taehyung is actually sleeping now, means they haven’t talked much.

It feels like he’s dependent by being so thrown off by it. It’s only two days. Maybe he has been too dependent on Taehyung. It feels true when he thinks about it. It hurts when he thinks about it.

He’s spiraled throughout the day. Tiny thoughts building inside of him, and he felt like he’s pushed them aside until now.

Until now. His hands pressing into the ground. He tries to seize up his body as much as possible. Head turning towards his knees, folding his body.

The pain is so heavy in his chest it feels physical. Like his heart is actually shattering into pieces inside of him. He doesn’t know why. It feels like when he lost Mrs. Kim, that same kind of pain.

All because of his fucking mind.

Jungkook gasps into the ground, body heaving. He can’t stop it. His eyes are closed so hard, but the tears still come out. His throat tightens, body stilling as one sob grows so big his body can’t physically handle it.

It comes out loud, broken. Jungkook buries it into the ground, into his knees. His hands turn into fists that he clutches at his chest. It hurts. He hits his chest, trying to push the feeling away.

Jungkook can’t breathe through it. It’s taken over him. He feels paralyzed, trapped by the sobs.

Hands touch him, but Jungkook is too lost in his pain to focus on them. He doesn’t want Jin to see, but he can’t think.

Jungkook stays frozen around a sob, mouth open against the ground. Drool collects at his lips, and his face throbs. He feels ridiculous, but he can’t stop.

It feels like hours. The hands on his back come and go. Jungkook feels too much shame to look at Jin.

He can barely see as he turns his head and rests on his temple. His body is calming down, but the pain is still there. It hurts, all of him. His numbness is quickly trying to return, to wash away the pain. A survival instinct.

His eyes hurt from crying so hard. They start to swell, his vision too blurred to see anything but the way his phone lights up beside him. The ring tone tells him who it is, and Jungkook shoves his face back into the wooden floor and bites into his bottom lip so hard he tastes blood.

The pain comes back again. Round two. Jungkook’s muscles hurt with how badly his body heaves and trembles. 

The hands are back, trying to press on his chest to lift him up. Jungkook fights it off. Something cold and wet is at the back of his neck. Jungkook’s phone keeps ringing. The same song over and over.

You’re everything, everything I wish I could be. I could fly higher than an eagle because you’re the wind beneath my wings.

Mrs. Kim’s favorite American song. She always said so when she sang it around the house. Always to Taehyung, sometimes to Jungkook. She would lift him in her arms and kiss his forehead. 

When he became too big, her palms would touch hold his cheeks instead. 

After she died, Taehyung would sing it to him instead like he knew how much it meant to Jungkook. How much it meant to be loved for a moment, so strongly by someone like a parent.

Jungkook falls asleep on his knees, bent over with his face on the ground. When he wakes, he is still on the ground but on his side, a pillow beneath his head and a heavy blanket wrapped around his body. 

He brings his legs up to his chest, holding them. His eyes are sticky and swollen. There is crust in his eyelashes, and the light shining into his room makes his eyes hurt so much he refuses to open them.

taehyung kim-jeon: call me back would u? miss u

taehyung kim-jeon: i found a website where we can watch shows online together, u down?

taehyung kim-jeon: if u don’t answer the phone, i’ll take the next flight to sk kook, i’m not kidding

taehyung kim-jeon: ok jin told me he found you in ur room and ur not alright i need u to call me

taehyung kim-jeon: kookie pls answer the phone

taehyung kim-jeon: it’s ok to let me be there for you, i promise i can handle it

taehyung kim-jeon: jeon jungkook answer the phone

taehyung kim-jeon: i love you so much, jungkook please call me

Jungkook’s face is still throbbing. He rubs at it, groaning. His body aches worse than his chest does.

The pain is there to wake him up.

He sighs as he sits up. There is no breaking down, sobbing. His body has adjusted to it. It doesn’t feel good or anything, but it’s going to sit in his chest until he suffocates. A slow death.

There are nerves too. Nerves because he has to get out of bed and face Jin, who has never seen him like that. He’ll have to answer questions, find a way out of explaining things. Be told that Taehyung called, or that Jin called him. He figures that’s why Taehyung called so much.

Reading Taehyung’s text messages only confirms it.

jungkook kim-jeon : i’m okay, i love u too sorry for worrying u

His phone rings in a second. Jungkook stares at his own swollen face reflected on the screen and quickly denies the call.

It rings a second later, this time a phone call instead of a video call. It still makes him feel guilty and nervous, but he answers it.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung breathes out. There’s pain in his voice. Jungkook did that. “Good morning.”

Jungkook feels like he’s ran fifty miles without a break. He can’t do much but stay sitting on the ground, shoulders slumped and eyes glaring at the too bright room.

“What time is it?” Jungkook asks casually. He hopes that’s how he sounds. 

“It should be close to twelve there,” Taehyung says. Jungkook knows him well. He can tell Taehyung is pacing, even if Jungkook can’t hear him moving. It’s in his voice. “Did you just wake up?”

Jungkook grunts as he pulls his legs up. He can’t sit in bed all day. He promised Kyung-mi he would help her pack for her hospital stay. He’s going to take care of her apartment while she is there. She’s worried about dust build up, her succulents dying.

Maybe she won’t be like Jungkook’s parents.


“How are you? Did you eat?”

“I just woke up, Tae. Like a second ago.”

Taehyung sighs. “Right, sorry. God, I fucking hate that you’re so far away.”

Jungkook presses his eyes closed when he hears Taehyung curse.

“Sorry, I’m sorry,” Taehyung quickly says. He’s definitely pacing now, probably rubbing his face. “I shouldn’t have said that. I just - nevermind. I’m just. Jungkook. Fuck.”

Things build. That’s what Jungkook’s realized. The tiny thoughts they build and build until they fill you up and come out in ways you can’t control. Jungkook feels like he’s two different people when he’s numb and when he’s feeling. 

“I don’t do this right,” Taehyung whispers. Jungkook doesn’t know who he is speaking to. “I so badly want to say and do the right things here, and I’m really fucking that up. Fuck, it isn’t about me. Ignore that too.”

Jungkook’s too dried up to cry again, but this time he wants to. 

“Just, I’m here, okay? When you need someone, even if we don’t talk. I’ll stay on the phone. Whatever you need to feel better, I’m here. A distraction, to vent. If you need me to remind you of anything, I’ll do that to. Until I lose my voice, Jungkook.”

It’s strange how these things make Jungkook feel worse. They shouldn’t. Jungkook is so fucked inside of the head. He hates it. Hates himself.

“Or through text. Something just - just please reply to me at least.”

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook croaks, rubbing his face. “I didn’t want you to know at all.”

Another curse. Taehyung is crying. Jungkook can hear it. It isn’t a big deal, but it is. Jungkook’s told him things that he probably thinks could happen. Maybe they could happen, but they weren’t last night. Even if Jungkook wanted to stop all of the pain, hurting himself hadn’t been in his mind.

It is right now, but he pushes it away. He reminds himself of the things he has to do today. That Kyung-mi will be alone when she gives birth if he doesn’t stick around. That Jin won’t be able to afford his rent.

That Taehyung’s heart will break.

It’s enough to get him through until tomorrow. That’s how Jungkook has always worked. Get by until tomorrow.

“I promise I’m okay,” Jungkook tells him. “Just a bad night, okay? I’m sorry. Next time, I will text you.”

Taehyung clears his throat. Pretends that he isn’t crying. They’re a lot alike sometimes. “If you feel - if you want to. If you feel like you want to, you know -”

Jungkook pulls the phone away from his ear, closing his eyes. He shouldn’t have told Taehyung that he felt that bad. But he wasn’t expecting Taehyung to show up to his childhood home. He had been vulnerable then, too afraid to do anything but vent.

“Jin is there, you know? Even if you can’t call me at least go to him. So you don’t - so there is someone -”

The words come out harshly at the end. Jungkook made Taehyung afraid. He’s always been a worrier, but he’s afraid now.

For years, Jungkook has wondered how Taehyung can still go through life without everything they’ve dealt with holding him back. He knew Taehyung didn’t see it all, or know everything that Jungkook’s dealt with, but he has seen enough for it to hurt. Taehyung still pushed through life with strength and confidence.

Now, Taehyung is probably afraid, and Jungkook caused that.

“Can we just talk about something else?” Jungkook interrupts. “I promise I’ll go to Jin. But I - I don’t want to talk about this right now.”

Taehyung clears his throat again. Silence before, “Okay. Yeah, of course, Jungkook.”

Jungkook’s the worst kind of friend out there.

While packing for the hospital, Kyung-mi’s water breaks.

It is difficult watching her in pain. The way she clings so desperately to her belly when she bends over. Distantly, Jungkook wonders why bodies do that when there’s pain. Seize up, makes itself small even though the danger is internal.

Jungkook sits in the waiting room. He doesn’t want to call his father, but Kyung-mi insists. So he calls and calls and calls. From both his and Kyung-mi’s phone. There’s no response.

Jin comes though, sits with him. They don’t talk much. They haven’t since Jin walked in on him crying. It’s been fine, though. Jin didn’t push him for questions. He cupped his shoulder, rubbed the back of his head, and that was that.

It filled Jungkook with relief. But now he is worried again.

It’s happening. The little life he wants to see, to give him some more hope. It’s a lot of pressure to put on someone that isn’t even born yet.

Kyung-mi gives birth to a girl. She’s tiny, tinier than any baby Jungkook has ever seen. Too small, really, just like her mother.

Jungkook is afraid to touch her. His hands could hurt her.

Jin does though, holds her in his arms and brings her close to Jungkook. He’s a stranger to Kyung-mi, but she doesn’t even look their way.

She looks exhausted, sweaty and eyes swollen like she’s been crying. She doesn’t look at them as Jin and Jungkook greet the new baby. 

Jungkook watches the baby’s eyes blink open, and there is a tight feeling in his chest. A tiny baby, so innocent and not yet in pain. The thought of how much pain she is getting ready to face has his own returning.

He wipes at his eyes when he looks away from her. He’s exhausted. It’s in the early hours of the morning.

Jungkook doesn’t even realize it’s his birthday.

“You don’t have to stay.”

Jungkook glances up from where he sits cramped in a plush chair in the corner of the room. He can only come in during visiting hours, but they’re letting him stay the first day., until she’s moved to a different unit of the hospital.

“It’s okay,” Jungkook promises. Kyung-mi still looks like a train has hit her. She holds the baby in her arms, the tiny face pressed against her chest, fast asleep. “I don’t start work for another week.”

Kyung-mi side eyes him before looking back at the ceiling. “Most mothers are happy when they give birth.”

Jungkook tenses and sits up slowly. They aren’t close enough to confide in each other, but they do in small moments like this. Maybe Kyung-mi has no one to confide in. She never mentions anyone. No one has come to visit her. 

“I can’t even look at her. It makes me sick and twisted. But I - I think of her becoming your father, of being hurt by him.”

The words are too much for Jungkook to hear, but like always, he’s trapped. He listens to them anyway, eyes defocusing.

“You’re gentle and kind, but he’s broken you apart. I can see it in your eyes that he broke you like he broke me.”

Jungkook stands, clears his throat. He pushes his fists into his pockets. He doesn’t like being called broken, even if Kyung-mi is correct. He is broken. Barely a person.

“I had a lot of good,” Jungkook says under his breath. “This woman, Kim Boyoung, she gave me strength. Kept me from breaking apart. She was sad too, but she was strong and loved hard. Made me feel loved.”

It’s still hard to believe what Harmeoni said about Mrs. Kim struggling. Jungkook can’t wrap his head around it, but if it’s true, he wants to do that. He wants to be like Mrs. Kim. 

“There is bad, and there is good. You just have to make sure she has more good because you can’t prevent pain. I want to be for her what Mrs. Kim was for me. She won’t be like my father, I know it.”

Jungkook looks at the tiny sleeping baby. So small she looks premature. Soft and so pink. She won’t be vicious like that man because Jungkook has gentle hands. He looks at them then and finally allows himself to touch her. 

He doesn’t mention that even with that good, he was still broken. He wants to give Kyung-mi hope, even if it’s fucking bullshit.

“Boyoung,” Kyung-mi says. “I like that name. Who was she?”

Jungkook watches the baby squirm, tiny fists coming up before resting back down as he touches his knuckle to her pink speckled cheek. He pulls his hand away like he’s the reason she wakes, but she rests again. 

“Taehyung’s Eomma.”

“I missed your fucking birthday. I’m shit. Tell me I’m shit.”

Jungkook listens to Taehyung’s frantic voice, which is constantly interrupted by his yawning. 

“I swear, I set an alarm. This new medicine is strong, and I didn’t sleep the night before. I’m so sorry. Tell me you hate me.”

It’s an impossible thing to do. Jungkook’s always been good with languages, but those are words he could never say to Taehyung. It isn’t physically possible.

The reason Taehyung didn’t sleep the night before was because of Jungkook. Always because of Jungkook. He can’t be angry with him for that.

Hell, he doesn’t think he could ever really be angry at Taehyung. Taehyung would never give him a reason to be. 

“I love you, Tae,” Jungkook tells him. He’s back in Kyung-mi’s apartment. He wants to clean it again, get it ready for Kyung-mi to come home. “I forgot it was my birthday.”

He had. He doesn’t care. It’s not his day anymore anyway, it’s the baby’s.

Taehyung isn’t convinced. He doesn’t let it go until Jungkook threatens to hang up on him. The apologies make him feel bad. The fact that Taehyung is apologizing for sleeping makes him feel bad.

He always feels bad, but it’s worse when he knows he’s made other people feel bad too. 

“I’ve barely talked to you,” Taehyung whines. “Tell me what you did then? Did you and Jin go out to celebrate?”

Jungkook wanders around her apartment. He hasn’t been alone inside it before. He barely has been inside it enough to feel comfortable alone. It’s bare, only a few paintings on the walls in the hallway. 

“Kyung-mi had the baby,” Jungkook says. “It’s a girl. She’s tiny. So tiny, Tae.”

Taehyung is quiet for a minute. He’s always doing that lately. Or maybe it’s Jungkook that’s always done it. Or maybe it’s never happened, and it’s all in Jungkook’s head.

Or maybe it’s always happened, this silence, but now it feels like more. 

“I’m so happy,” Taehyung breathes. He doesn’t sound happy. Maybe that’s all in Jungkook’s head too. “Remember, I told you I want pictures, Oppa.”

Jungkook grins as he rests against the hallway wall. There is a hole across from him that he doesn’t remember seeing before. It’s fist shaped.

“Shut it,” Jungkook murmurs. “I’ll send you pictures. I promise.”

More silence. Jungkook looks to the ground next, looks to his feet. He could say it. It should be obvious, but maybe Taehyung needs to hear it. Maybe he needs to say it, even if it’s his own fault.

“I miss you, Tae.”

Taehyung sucks in a breath. “I miss you too, Jungkook. Kidnap that baby and come home. We’ll adopt her. Get married like we dreamed.”

It sounds like a plea. There are tears in Jungkook’s eyes. It felt good to admit that thing to Taehyung. He thought he would tell him before he told him his worst dreams. The ones of dying. Buffer it a little. It didn’t.

But it’s true. Jungkook has always dreamt of marrying Taehyung. He even picked out some of the decorations in his head once.

“Sorry to break your dreams.”

The words slip from Jungkook’s mouth before he can even think them. He doesn’t know where they came from. It’s been a thought on his mind for years. Apologies to Taehyung, thousands of them.

He wants to help shield the new baby from pain while he’s out there creating pain on his own and not apologizing for it.

“For leaving you and hurting you all the time.”

“Jungkook,” Taehyung starts, but Jungkook interrupts him. He’s probably confused by the change of tone too. But this is what Jungkook does. All the time. Happiness is like a mosquito, and Jungkook has soaked himself in bug spray.

“I have to go,” Jungkook says apologetically, frantically. Panic washes over him. He always does this. “Before I ruin this more. Bye, Tae.”

He hangs up before Taehyung can say another word.


“Did you know penguins are like humans? They find a partner and stay with them forever.”

The penguins are lined up in front of them. They aren’t doing anything much. One jumps in the water. The rest just stand there, soaking in the sun.

“Humans get divorced,” Jungkook supplies. Taehyung is filled with animal facts today. “So not quite like humans.”

Taehyung knocks his arm into Jungkook. They’re sitting on a bench in front of the penguin exhibit, waiting for Taehyung’s parents. They’re big enough that they got to explore on their own for the first time, but they have to leave. Jungkook doesn’t want to leave.

He wonders if Mrs. Kim will let him sleep over again. He doesn’t want to go home.

“Not everyone,” Taehyung argues. “My parents will be together forever just like these penguins.”

Jungkook hopes so. He hopes his own parents get divorced. He looks to Taehyung, at the way he wiggles in his seat. His head bops side to side. He wants to be beside Taehyung forever too. Maybe kiss him one day and get married. If they got married, they’d never get divorced.

Mrs. Kim said she kisses Mr. Kim because he’s her husband, that’s what married couples do. He thinks about kissing Taehyung and wrinkles his nose.

But Mrs. Kim says you marry the person you love most in life, so maybe kissing Taehyung is something he’ll have to get used to. 

“I know they will,” Jungkook says because Taehyung and him are in the same grade, and Jungkook knows just as much as Taehyung. He didn’t know about the turtles or the penguins, but he can pretend he did. “Just like you and me.”

Taehyung snickers. He takes Jungkook’s hand and threads their fingers together. “Heck yeah. Even when we’re eighty, and I’m still taller than you.”

That’s a long time to live. Just like the turtles. But Jungkook won’t be swimming alone like them. He has Taehyung.


Jungkook stares at his phone. At the date of the message.

It’s been seven days.

An entire week since Jungkook has spoken to Taehyung. It’s been happening lately. They’ll go a few days without speaking, or just a few short texts here and there but barely an entire conversation. 

Work is really hard on the both of them, consuming their lives. And the baby too. Jungkook’s been spending a lot of his free time trying to help with her, to give Kyung-mi some time to sleep because she always looks like a zombie. 

Then there’s the time difference, the medicine.

It’s been a week since Jungkook has spoken to Taehyung. A month since he’s been in South Korea. That’s it, only a month, and they’re already falling apart.

Jungkook isn’t sure if he’s just afraid of it happening. He wanted it, didn’t he? To be away from Taehyung? To stop burdening him?

Jungkook keeps that in mind as he closes his phone and throws it aside without texting or calling him.

Maybe he’s overreacting.

He came here to get better. He hasn’t really made an effort to. He kind of just hoped it would happen.

It’s a foolish thought, but Jungkook is afraid.

“Alright? Work?”

Jin is at his door. Jungkook doesn’t look at him. Work is boring. He translates documents mostly. He’s basically a secretary. He’ll move up one day, become a translator for the big bosses. Make more money, probably not be any happier. 

Maybe it’s a bad job for him. He struggles to pretend that he’s fine. Talking to strangers and having to pretend to be okay wears him out. When he gets home, even if he’s sent home early, he’s exhausted. 

“Yeah. Just tired.”

Another person that knows about his demons. Another person that looks at him like he’s about to break down at any second. A reminder that he’s broken.

Jin doesn’t mean to do it, but he does it whenever Jungkook so much as sighs. The concern is loud on his face, screaming from his eyes. 

“Do you want to go out? Get some drinks?”

Jungkook shakes his head. It doesn’t work. Jin is leaping onto him, pulling him from his bed with hands grabbing at Jungkook’s forearms.

“We’re going out,” he declares.

“I said I was tired, hyung.”

Jin clicks his teeth, shakes his head. “Nope. We’re going out, getting drunk, getting fucked. Whatever stops you from looking like a mope.”

He’s teasing. Jungkook knows this, but his brain doesn’t take it that way. He’s a mope, a burden. Jin is another person that his bullshit is affecting. 

“So get up, get dressed,” Jin says as he finally lets him go. “I’m not taking no for an answer, Jeon.”

Jungkook sits on the edge of the bed as Jin walks out of the bedroom. It feels like a lot of work to change out of his clothes, so he doesn’t. He tightens his tie, fusses with his hair until it looks slightly decent, and tells Jin he’s ready.

If Jin disapproves of his work attire, he doesn’t say anything. He seems excited enough that Jungkook is going out with him, so Jungkook musters up the little strength to show Jin he’s okay.

Jungkook’s not a big fan of the bar, not really. There’s the crowd, the loud music that plants him on edge until he’s downed enough shots of soju that it doesn’t matter.

He likes to dance, but he doesn’t quite feel like it tonight. Even with Jin making a fool of himself, Jungkook’s smile feels like it looks obviously forced.

Another shot. Jungkook gives into Jin’s teasing about someone’s eyes on him, asks him to dance. He’s taller, thicker than Jungkook. He feels wrong against his body, and Jungkook is too aware of how his hands explore too much.

With a grunt, Jungkook plants those grabby hands above his hips, keeping them there.

He accepts the man’s offer to buy him a drink. He doesn’t feel bad when he forgets his name, or denies his request for another dance. 

He goes home with Jin instead. Jungkook feels bad if Jin was looking for someone else to take home, but Jin knocks down his apologies.

Jungkook is numb, but it’s still there. It’s always there. He presses his lips together hard so he doesn’t accidentally say it when Jin helps him to bed. So he doesn’t apologize again for no longer being good at pretending.

It has to be obvious because Jin is careful with him as he helps Jungkook undress. He shakes his head every time Jungkook tries to open his mouth and say something.

When Jungkook is in bed, he sweats. Even removing all of his clothes, he’s overheating. He sits up, tries to will away the sick feeling in his stomach. Mind over matter, he forces it down.

Mind over matter. Jungkook hates his mind too much to trust it. He uses his phone instead, even though he should probably just go to bed. 

He blinks at his phone screen. The world spins around him, but he tries his best to focus and to type.

He manages, but he deletes every message he tries to send Taehyung anyway. 

“Come now, come now. Eat more. You’re thin, my boy. You’ve lost weight since you’ve arrived here when you should have gained it.”

Jungkook nods his head. He can’t be rude, so he fills his plate more. She watches him until he shoves food into his mouth.

A smile takes over Harmeoni’s mouth. “Tell this old lady why you look like you’ve been dragged down. Your shoulders are heavy. Let me help lift the weight.”

Jungkook chews slowly. He saw his father today. Just a glimpse of him coming out of Kyung-mi’s apartment. Jin had driven him there and then drove him away before Jungkook could even think about getting out of the car. 

They’ve never talked about it, but Jin somehow knows. 

“I may look fragile because I’m old but I’m not,” she jokes. She has Taehyung’s smile.

They spoke the other day for awhile. Through text. Jungkook misses his voice.

This morning Taehyung posted a picture of the boy that works next to his dad’s shop. Minghao. They went fishing together. Jungkook is happy he isn’t alone.

It’s been like that. A few messages here and there. A lot of missed calls at weird hours. 

“Harmeoni, can I ask you about Taehyung’s Eomma? You said she was struggling?”

Harmeoni doesn’t respond at first. Her hands shake when she moves the dishes between them around. She’s too old to be sitting on the floor, but she had slapped Jungkook’s hands away when he tried to help her.

“She did not want to move to the States,” she finally says. “She was very sad when she got there. Her English is very good, but speaking a language that is not your own can be tiring. The only one she could speak to her in own language was that husband of hers. Every time I spoke to her, she sounded like she had gone days without sleeping.

“That and a newborn. Taehyung was a fussy baby. It took him awhile to sleep through the night, and even then, he didn’t do it often. She didn’t have her mother to help her with her first child. A woman needs their mother around them at that age.”

Jungkook looks down at his food. He doesn’t want to eat anymore, but Harmeoni is still watching him. 

He thinks children needs their parents around at all ages. Even when they’re okay, stable. 

“She wouldn’t talk to me either. Found it helpful to talk to a stranger. As ridiculous as that sounds. She couldn’t talk to her own mother but could talk to a stranger.”

Harmeoni scoffs. Jungkook wonders if she means a therapist. He wonders if Taehyung knew any of this. 

“She met that mother of yours and felt a little more peace, I think. Someone else who could understand the difficulties of moving to a strange place, who was also a first time mother.”

Harmeoni stands then. She struggles to, but when Jungkook moves to help her, she waves him off.

He ignores it, grabbing for her elbow when her knees refuse to straighten. It earns him a glare, but he only offers her a smile.

With a shaky hand, she presses it to Jungkook’s cheek. She pats it a few times, not saying a word. The look on her face speaks enough, especially when her eyes dip down to the white line crossing Jungkook’s throat.

She knows.

He hates that the scar is there. He can’t hide it. The whole world can see the leftover marks from one of the worst moments of his life.

There have been a lot of them. Maybe that wasn’t even the worst one. Maybe it was when his father purposely drove their car off of the road. Maybe it was seeing Taehyung’s face when he came to the hospital.

When his youngest brother was born and Jungkook wasn’t happy. Just another little human for his father to use his anger against. 

“My Boyoungie was a strong woman. You are a strong man,” Harmeoni whispers. “You make sure to come here when you think you aren’t. I will remind you.”

Jungkook blinks back his tears and nods. He wonders how much a human can cry. “Yes, Harmeoni.”

She nods, patting his cheek once more. “I find being productive and giving back to the Earth that created you to be helpful. Come and help me fix up my garden. I will show you.”

There is a mischievous glint in her eye, and Jungkook smiles. She looks like Mrs. Kim, and he tries to focus on the comfort she used to give him. Not that Mrs. Kim never got a chance to look so old. 

It helps a little. For the moment. Everything is only helpful for the moment. 

But it’s nice touching the soil, listening to Harmeoni talk about Mrs. Kim. Her garden isn’t big, just a small patch of flowers, and it’s over too soon.

When he leaves, he walks towards the bus stop and calls Taehyung.

It’s early morning for him. He doesn’t answer. Jungkook wants to feel relief that maybe he’s sleeping. He is trying not to be selfish anymore. He forces himself to do things around the apartment so Jin doesn’t have to worry about him. 

He calls Kyung-mi next. She also doesn’t answer. He sighs, raking his fingers through his hair. Maybe if he sees the baby, he’ll be able to stare at her long enough until he finds some peace. Until he reminds himself the importance of life. 

It hasn’t been that way lately. Maybe Jungkook shouldn’t have come to this country. It isn’t different than when he was home. 

Jungkook trips up the stairs on his way to Kyung-mi’s. He has been on edge all day. Him and Taehyung got into an argument. Jungkook doesn’t even know what it was over. 

There weren't any harsh words said, but Taehyung’s voice had a colder edge to it before he apologized with a heavy sigh like he didn’t even want to apologize.

Like he’s tired of apologizing. Jungkook gets it. He hates that he’s made Taehyung feel like he always has to.

I don’t know what to say to you anymore, Jungkook. I feel like everything I say upsets you more, and I so badly want to say the right thing.

They ended the phone call without telling each other they loved each other. It was the first time.

Jungkook breathes in deep as he walks down the hallway, forces himself to be okay. He can’t. He feels like shit. It’s getting worse.

Every day, Jungkook feels like he’s coming out of his skin. He’s thinking about going home. He has nowhere to go when he gets there.

Despite their argument, Jungkook knows he could probably go to the Kim’s. That they would accept him, but Jungkook can’t do it. Because of the argument, the shame that he failed at what he set out to do. The guilt that he promised Jin a companion and left him alone here. 

Jungkook hesitates when he gets to Kyung-mi’s door. There’s muffled yelling through it, and he can hear the baby crying. 

“You’re a fucking low life. Shut up. Stop crying.”

Jungkook hates rage. He hates anger. It’s poisonous. It makes him want to shrivel up inside when he hears it. It makes him hate himself when he feels it.

That voice, that familiar voice can trigger it with just one calm word. This though is laced with that same anger that Jungkook grew up with. 

He punches in the code to the door, frantic as he pushes the door open.

It’s been a long time since he’s seen his father. He can barely see him now. His brain refuses to focus.

The anger and tension is in the air. Jungkook feels it. Alarm coats his father’s face. Kyung-mi is there, hands covering her own.

Everything goes still. Quiet. 

Jungkook hates rage. Right now he doesn’t mind it.

He also hates violence, but his fist moves before he can stop it.

It isn’t how he pictured meeting his father again. But maybe he should have. Just a day of thoughts creeping into his mind makes him break at night.

Things build over time. 

This anger at his father has been building for twenty-two years. 

It comes out of him. Maybe he is his father. The thought hits him suddenly, like a freight train. 

He staggers back, doesn’t fight off the hand pressing down against his throat. To shove him away. To leave another mark over the one his father left behind before. Jungkook doesn’t know.

Panic seizes him up, even when his father shoved him off. He braces himself for another hit. He sees himself small in his mind. Flashes of it slip into his mind, slow at first.

They come in rapidly after a second, and Jungkook can’t breathe. He can’t hear. His vision starts to blur.

He smacks away the hands reaching for him, the small hands.

He’s learned what to do when this happens, but it’s gone from his mind. Just yelling, screaming, pain.

It’s silent. Jungkook hates it. He wants music. He hadn’t been listening to it lately.

His hands ache. His chest aches. Everything aches.

Jin is talking. Jungkook isn’t listening. He couldn’t if he tried. It will fill the silence, but it’s all Jungkook hears.

His phone rings. The wind beneath my wings. Jungkook doesn’t have wings. If he does, they’re broken.

That feeling is there again. It’s terrifying. Or, it should be. Maybe he’s accepted it again. Just like he did back then, right before he plunged himself into the ocean.

Life is a blur around him. He doesn’t focus on any of it. Just his thoughts. He hates them though. 

Everything is a blur. The yelling. The reason his neck throbs. Jin appearing. Blackness. Kyung-mi crying. The baby crying. Choking. 

Jin is still talking. Jungkook still isn’t listening.

He’s tired. So tired. 

He yanks back when a hand grabs his face. The anger is still there. He forces himself to focus on Jin. He isn’t angry at him. Maybe he is. Maybe he’s angry at everything.

Jungkook hates anger.

It takes him a minute to realize the car has stopped. They’re in front of a big building. A hospital.

Jungkook isn’t hurt. A few bloody knuckles. He might die anyway. 

“You’re about to be mad at me, but I’ve been looking for this place for weeks. Took a lot of my time, so make it easy on me.”

Jin is trying to joke. Maybe. Jungkook can’t laugh anymore.

“Come on,” Jin says. Sighs. Jungkook hates sighs. They say a lot. Or his mind hears a lot from them, but not enough for Jungkook to understand. “We’re going inside, and you’re going to talk to someone.”

Jungkook can’t talk. He lost his voice. His throat is tight. 

His chest hurts so fucking bad, but he feels numb.

“Now,” Jin says. It’s soft but Jungkook doesn’t want soft. “Let’s go.”

Jin touches his hands. It hurts when he does. Jungkook looks down at them, at how they’ve turned purple.

He thinks of how badly he hurt his father. How that doesn’t compare at all to how badly his father hurt him.

His phone rings again.

“Did you tell Tae?”

The words rip from him. It hurts to speak. He has to ask. 

“No,” Jin assures him. “I promise. I won’t if you come with me. If you don’t, I’ll have to. He seems to be the only one who can convince you to take care of yourself.”

It isn’t true. Jungkook tríes to take care of himself because he’s afraid of hurting Taehyung. He used to wish he could take care of himself for himself. He wants to do that. He used to want to do that.

“Let’s go,” Jin says again. “I’m right here.”

Jungkook looks back at the building. It isn’t an ordinary hospital building. It is a scary one. One he’s been avoiding. He thinks about it a lot, but he hasn’t mustered up the courage to go to one. 

But Jin lets go of his hands to get out of the car, and when he opens Jungkook’s door, he forces himself out of it.

“Your life,” Jin starts. He swallows. Jungkook’s never seen him look emotional like this before. “Your life is the most important thing. Got it?”

Jungkook shakes his head. He stares up at the building, then the sky. He wonders if Jin has been waiting for a moment like this to bring him here. A moment where he would crack again. It’s always again

“Well, I’m bringing you here so someone can help you get it,” Jin says. Another sigh. This one sounds pained. “So will you go in with me?”

Jungkook looks back to his purple hands. He doesn’t remember much of it. Anger took away his memories. He hates anger.

“I’ll go in with you.”

Jungkook clutches onto the soft stuffed animal in his lap. He plays with it’s fur, squeeze its face. It’s a fish, bright orange that’s interrupted by harsh black lines.

The car idles. He can feel it vibrate beneath him. He knows he’s supposed to get out of the car but he can’t make himself.

“Here,” Taehyung says as he drops his gameboy into Jungkook’s lap. He whispers because both of his parents are in the front seat. Mr. Kim is watching him through the rear view mirror. “Bring it to me tomorrow.”

Jungkook shakes his head as he pushes the gameboy between them. Taehyung always sits in the middle seat so they are close. 

He can’t have gameboys. His parents don’t allow it. They’ll just break Taehyung’s game.

“How about you stay over next weekend?” Mrs. Kim asks as she turns around in her seat. “We’ll take a trip to Block Island, rent some bikes.”

Jungkook nods as he plants the stuffed fish on Taehyung’s lap.  He can’t have that either. “So your fish isn’t lonely.”

Taehyung wrinkles his nose when he giggles. “It’s a stuffed animal but okay.”

Jungkook shrugs. Taehyung looks sad whenever Jungkook reminds him he can’t have toys, so he doesn’t. He can’t say he doesn’t want it either because it’s a lie, and it will be rude because the Kim’s bought it for him. Even after he tried to insist he didn’t want anything.

“I’ll walk you in,” Taehyung says with a sigh. Worry fills Jungkook, and he shakes his head as he quickly takes off his own seatbelt.

“I’m not a baby. I can walk myself in,” Jungkook says. The lights are all on, burning out from the windows and into the dark night around them. It’s late for him to come home, he tried telling Mr. Kim.

“I’ll walk you in,” Mr. Kim says. 

Jungkook doesn’t protest.

Taehyung rolls his eyes, but he holds his hand out. They do this sometimes. Maybe it’s a kid’s version of kissing the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.

He laces their fingers together and squeezes Jungkook’s hand. 

“You know we’re penguins,” Taehyung whispers as he tugs Jungkook closer. He cups his free hand to Jungkook’s ear. “Gonna be beside you forever, Kookie. Even when I’m not actually beside you, I still am.”

Jungkook smiles, squeezes Taehyung’s hand back. There is no way Taehyung can tell he’s afraid to go inside, but somehow Taehyung just always knows what he’s feeling.

“I know, Tae.”

Chapter Text

“Jungkook-ah, you’re not supposed to be out after dark.”

It isn’t that dark. The moon is bright and full, reflecting off the surface of the water and making everything seem brighter.

“Well, what are you doing out then?”

Taehyung smacks his butt on the dock when he sits beside Jungkook. He doesn’t put his feet in the water like Jungkook but curls them beneath himself instead.

“Looking for you,” Taehyung says as he nudges their arms.

Jungkook likes when Taehyung’s eyes get fat and wide. But he doesn’t like when they look sad. Thankfully, they don’t right now.

“Well, you found me,” Jungkook mumbles. Taehyung is the only one who knows about his hiding spot because he’s never hiding from him.

Taehyung’s nose wrinkles when he smiles.  “Eomma said I have to be back home in ten minutes, and you better be with me. Or else.”

“That doesn’t sound like your Eomma.”

“I just want you to sleep over. I do have to be back in ten minutes though.”

Jungkook snickers at that. The water feels nice on his feet. There is something about the cold, silky texture that he likes when he’s upset. 

When he’s upset, his body gets really hot like he has a fever. The water cools him down. He wants to dive in, but the moon doesn’t give him enough light to see into the depth of black.

“Okay,” Jungkook accepts. He doesn’t move though. Taehyung is his best friend and knows him well, knows he isn’t ready to go yet, so he doesn’t stand either. 

“I got some new comics. You haven’t been over to read them yet.”

“Because they’re boring.”

Taehyung tries to look mean sometimes, but he always ruins it when he laughs. “You’re boring.”

“Oh yeah?” Jungkook challenges. He puffs his chest out like his dad does when he’s angry. Like he did before Jungkook ran from his house and came to the docks he’s currently hiding away on. “Then why do you want me to sleep over so badly?”

When Taehyung laughs, his lips stretch out wide, and his shoulders hunch up beneath his ears. His really big ears that kind of look silly but only Jungkook is allowed to think so. Anyone else who says so is a jerk. 

“Because you’re my best friend, duh,” Taehyung giggles. He stands then, hopping to his feet and holding his hands out. “Come on. I’ll let you wear my sweater. You’re shaking.”

Jungkook didn’t notice. He pulls his feet from the water and grabs his shoes. Mrs. Kim won’t like his dirty feet, but she’s left a mat by her front door because she knows Jungkook’s feet are always dirty.

“I’m not cold,” Jungkook tells him. 

Taehyung slings an arm around his shoulders. He’s taller right now, but one day Jungkook is going to be so much taller that he’ll have to yell down below for Taehyung to hear him. He’ll be so tall that his father won’t be able to reach him even if he jumped. 

“Well, if you’re shaking because you’re afraid, don’t be. I’m with you.”

When Jungkook was eight, he realized he wanted to be by the water for forever. Lake, river, ocean, it didn’t matter to him. When he was eight, he thought forever was something he could have. It’s a concept most children don’t understand and something Jungkook quickly came to realize doesn’t exist. Sooner than other kids, perhaps.

At eighteen, Jungkook didn’t think the same way. He still was in love with the water, even if he realized then it was for a completely different reason than because of the water itself. At eighteen, time felt limited, and a future by the water was gone from his mind.

At twenty two, he felt like he was suffocating and drowning in the water, the thing he loved so much, just to miss it the moment he left it. 

Now at twenty five, he still isn't so sure about forever and a long life, but time doesn’t feel as limited. He lets himself soak in the sight of the water and miss the things he loved about it. He accepts the way it makes his chest feel, tries not to let it consume him the way it used to. 

The air is crisp and cold. Jungkook doesn't mind it. It makes his bones ache, and sometimes he chases that feeling. Sometimes, he just needs the chill to calm the heat inside of him that makes his skin feel swollen when it starts to burn.

Somehow he’s adjusted to it. Even though when he first got here, he thought the idea of this as freezing to be absurd. It’s not quite as brutal as a winter in Maine, but right now it sure feels close to it.

There is a lot he’s adjusted to being here, and a lot he hasn’t yet. But he has time. 

Jungkook jogs. His breath is a cloud in front of his face, his sweat confused as it rolls over cold skin.

His heart is a steady fast rhythm against his sternum. A thump he focuses on, reminds himself to always hold onto.

Sometimes that’s still hard. 

He doesn’t stop until he’s found his usual rest area.  It’s a small market that Harmeoni used to take him to while she denied needing help carrying her things. It’s filled with tourist items: souvenirs, postcards, random shit foreigners might like to prove they’ve been to South Korea. But it also has warm people and fresh baked food.

“Jungkook-ah,” the store owner greets. Sunja is her name. She’s tiny and withered. Her back curves when she walks, and her hands are so wrinkly that sometimes Jungkook is surprised she can feel anything. 

“Ahjumma, let me help you.”

She’s moving trays of food to the front counter. She opens her lips to protest, but Jungkook is sweeping his hands beneath the one in her arms and lifting it before she can. 

“Worry less about me and more about yourself,” Sunja scolds. “It’s cold. Where is your coat?”

Jungkook smiles softly as he starts to move the rest of the food. He doesn’t work here, and he doesn’t help just because Sunja and her husband give him free food. He likes how small the market is, how warm it makes him feel even when he wants to be cold. 

Sunja listens to the same music as Mrs. Kim. Even if they’re different generations, and it’s been so long since Jungkook has heard it. He likes it. It reminds him of when he was younger, and he would visit. Mrs. Kim would play her music while cleaning around the house, sometimes even being interrupted by her husband sweeping her into his arms for a dance.

“It is slow this time of year. Why so much yakgwa?”

Sunja flings a hand at him. It’s dismissive even when she doesn’t mean to be. A habit she’s developed from bickering with her husband so much. 

“A new customer. I think a foreigner. He buys a tray of these every day. Sometimes more.”

Jungkook wrinkles his nose at that. “It’s incredibly unhealthy.”

Another wave of the hand. “The heart wants what the heart wants, boy. It fills my pocket, and makes up for all the snacks you take!”

He doesn’t mention that she gives them to him while refusing his money, only laughs quietly under his breath at her shamelessness. “Are you alone today? Or is Jihoon helping you?”

Sunja never stops working, leaving Jungkook to set the trays on the counter as she starts to rearrange the candy beneath it. “He will be here eventually. A hard worker he is. Here, for your help.”

She offers him a bag of sweet cakes. Jungkook denies them, only for her to slap them down on the counter.

“Take them. Bring them to that girlfriend of yours if you won’t eat them yourself.”

Jungkook pockets the bag. “I’ve told you, Ahjumma, I don’t have a girlfriend.”

She glares at him from across the counter. She’s too old to be squatting. Jungkook quickly rounds the other side to help her up.

“You’re a handsome boy, Jungkook-ah. Don’t lie to me.”

He rolls his eyes. He’s used to this. Every time he stops by the market she scolds him for not settling down. For not bringing his imaginary girlfriend. 

“You know you’re the only woman in my life.”

Sunja looks amused as she gently slaps him in the chest. “Bo will be a woman before you realize, and she’ll have no womanly influence in her life to help her blossom. Not now that your Harmeoni has passed.”

Jungkook steps aside. Hiding face is a habit that he can’t break. He busies himself, pretending to be interested in a display of postcards so he can think of a response. He doesn’t want to think about Harmeoni passing. It makes him feel guilty for not seeing her in the hospital or going to the funeral.

There are things that Jungkook has gotten a hold of, but he still hasn’t gotten a grip on his fear. He still is working on dealing with his pain in a way that isn’t so crippling.

It’s gotten better. 

He’s supposed to focus on the step forwards, not the step backs or the pauses he needs to take on his hike because moving forward is difficult. There are steep hills, some that feel like mountains that he struggles to get to the top of. 

“She has you.”

Sunja snorts obnoxiously. “I am old. I won’t be around for much longer.”

Jungkook grimaces at that, but he cools his expression and grins. “Oh, who is lying now? You look barely thirty.”

She lets out a loud laugh. “Go on with yourself. Get out of here before you woo me out of all my snacks. And bring that little one to me. She can have my snacks.”

He bends down, tucking a kiss to the high of her sagging cheek. “I’ll be back with Bo.”

There’s giggling. Jungkook is a bit addicted to the sound. He tries to listen to that over his heavy breathing as he carries the few heavy pieces of lawn furniture across the yard. 

It’s routine. Every year for the past three years he’s done this. He won’t stop now just because the house is no longer occupied.

Harmeoni only had him. Helping her gave him something to do, to feel good about, to make him feel less like a shitty person. It feels selfish to think about it that way because he didn’t have selfish intentions.

She mentioned her worries about her lawn furniture outside during the winter, and ever since, Jungkook has put it all away when the air turns cold and brings it all back out when it’s warm.

It isn’t much. Her yard is tiny, but there’s enough space for a few chairs and a small glass table. He’s sat out here many times with her, watching the grey nightjars in the trees lined along the edges of her yard. The ugliest birds Jungkook has ever seen, but she loved them. 

“Oppa! Oppa!”

It’s cold. Her cheeks are bright red, and she can barely move with the thick coat clinging to her. She waddles even more than usual, arms awkwardly sticking out from her sides.

Maybe it isn’t cold enough for her to be so bundled up, but Jungkook worries. 


She holds out a tiny, glove covered fist. Slowly, she unravels her fingers to show off the rock on her palm. It isn’t anything special, just a simple gray rock, but Jungkook makes a loud surprised noise.

“Oh it is beautiful, Bo-yah,” Jungkook praises. He pets a finger over it gently. “Save it in your pocket. We can give it to your Eomma as a present?”

Bo giggles and squeezes her fingers back around it. She doesn’t put it in her pocket but instead runs off to the other pebbles lining the walkway to Harmeoni’s door.

It’s something that inspires Jungkook. She can see so much delight and excitement in the world. She usually plays by herself, seems to have a great time. 

Despite being a product of darkness, she shines brighter than the sun above. 

He thinks about forever. It doesn’t exist, but he hopes it does for her. That her brightness lasts longer than anything else in the world. 

He knows it won’t happen, but he hopes anyway. Soon her clouds will start building, at times hiding her shine, but he is working his hardest to make sure they never become storm clouds. 

Jungkook watches her for a minute before he continues to pack away the lawn furniture in the tiny shed outside the back of the house. When he’s finished, he calls Bo inside. Harmeoni left him a set of keys, instructions to take care of her house. Until when, he isn’t sure. It’s only been a few weeks since she passed, and no one has come for it.

There is only one person that could be considered Harmeoni’s living heir, her own blood, and Jungkook is nervous for the day he unlocks the door and finds him inside.

He’s the reason Jungkook hadn’t gone to the funeral, as cowardly as it is. Jungkook will admit that. He’s a coward. 

Acceptance. His counselor always goes on about that. Accept that you have that feeling, Jungkook-ssi. Pull yourself aside and say, ‘I feel this way, and it’s okay. What are we going to do about it?’

It sounded like a pile of horseshit at first but now he gets it. Kind of. 

The house is empty, and Jungkook feels like he can breathe a little better. He helps strip Bo from her winter clothes and sets up her tablet to play on while he works, even if Harmeoni would scold him and claim she isn’t too young to help him.

Bo is smart. She can operate that thing better than Jungkook can, and she can’t even read. But she can’t quite help him manage a house. That would be horseshit to Harmeoni.

The sound of squeaky voices counting to ten fill the house as Jungkook cleans. Harmeoni was a stickler about dust. Even when she lost her eyesight completely, she always knew when Jungkook skipped over it.

He doesn’t understand why it’s healing to dust over the trinkets decorating her living room, but it is. He tries not to analyze it too much. 

That’s something he’s really failed at. Analyzing things, trying to figure out things when he should just accept that they are. They’re easier to deal with after acceptance. He gets what his counselor means, but things are easier said than done.

He’s working on it.

“Give Oppa a kiss.”

Bo giggles. She presses her hands into his cheeks, forcing him back. She’s strong for a three year old. 

Jungkook pushes his lips into a pout. He flutters his eyes closed but it only makes Bo giggle more.

Jin, who stands to the side of them, giggles too. He’s probably a bad influence on her. They love getting up to no good together. Jungkook struggles to pretend like he’s annoyed by it.

“Fine, fine. Be good for Jin. I will see you after work, little one.”

When he stands, Bo grabs for his hand. He grunts as he pretends like he’s being lurched forward when she tugs on him.

Still giggling, Bo presses a kiss to the back of his hand. 

Jungkook warms. Or maybe he’s always warm lately. Even when he wants to be cold.

He thanks Jin for watching her even if he always does on Tuesdays. Jungkook never wants Jin to think he isn’t grateful. He’ll say it until he’s blue in the face. 

“Thank you, Ahjussi.”

Jin glares, hands pushing into Jungkook’s chest to shove him out. “Get out of here, brat. Go work hard and get a lot of dick.”

It’s spoken quietly but Jungkook immediately glances to where Bo had been standing. She’s already run off to Jin’s living room, probably, where her toys are. “Shut up.”

Jin snickers as he wiggles his brows. “If you need me to watch Bo overnight, just say the word.”

Jungkook laughs. “No. I don’t like being away from her for too long. But thank you hyung. Thank you for your support.”

It’s a train ride from Jin’s apartment to Jungkook’s job. He listens to talk radio to fill the silence, but he doesn’t listen to what is being said. 

Instead, he focuses on the life around him. The teenager sleeping across from him that should probably be in school. The couple next to him, heads tucked towards each other. 

The small things in life can get him through for a moment. It doesn’t hurt to see the way the couple embrace each other, or how peaceful the teenager sleeps. Sometimes he gets jealous watching other people go on so easily.

Other times he thinks too much about what demons they’re hiding inside of themselves.

But all in all, it’s life. Surrounding him, inside of him. 

His work building is a tall, expensive looking building with guards set up at the front. Jungkook bows his head as they open the doors for him. He hates this part of his job. The constant head bowing because his boss’s security team is massive.

There is an ache in his neck by the time he gets to his floor. Not really, but he milks it at the sight of his boss. Rubbing his neck and groaning for effect.

But Seokmin isn’t paying him any mind. He paces about, a look of concentration on his face and a hand held out like he does whenever he addresses them in a meeting. His russet brown hair is perfectly sculpted like it is every morning. The jacket to his suit is already missing because he’s probably been here for hours already. 

“I would like to thank you all for coming here. I am Lee Seokmin, CEO of Diamond Broadcasting Company.”

He repeats it as he paces around. He flails his tongue out of his mouth, shakes his head. He changes up his pronunciation even though there was nothing wrong with it to begin with. 

Jungkook leans against the office door, amused. 

“I have been here from the beginning, alongside my partner Jeon Wonwoo. Our goals and values here at DBC -”

Seokmin halts when he spots Jungkook. It’s instant the way he smiles shyly, head cocking to the side. For someone who looks intimidating with his strong jaw and sharp features, he is incredibly soft when he turns shy. 

“Don’t sneak up on me.”

Jungkook grins, crossing his arms. “Your English has improved so much you won’t need me soon.”

With a roll of his eyes, Seokmin crosses the floor until he’s a few inches away. “That’ll never happen. You’re very important to this company, Jungkook-ah.”

He’s only been here for about six months. A change from his old desk job. Much better pay. Jungkook doesn’t have the experience or qualifications for the job, but he does well. He puts in a lot of effort, and it does actually feel good when his hard work pays off. Whether it be compliments, a raise, whatever. 

“And you flatter me for no reason,” Seokmin murmurs through his smile. 

Jungkook opens his lips to deny it, but he presses them closed when Seokmin’s fingers wrap around the end of his tie to gently tug him forward.

“Say that in English,” Jungkook teases. 

Red blossoms across Seokmin’s cheeks. “Shut up,” he says in English instead.

There is a kiss pressed to his cheek before Seokmin is sliding away. He turns around, a cheeky grin on his lips as he looks over his shoulder and starts to list off the things they’re doing today. 

He’s like that. Focused on business. They’re casual because that’s all Jungkook can afford to do. His heart is mending, healing, and he doesn’t want to give it away to anyone unless it’s himself.

Part of him struggles to think of it as his own, as it’s always belonged to someone else. But he’s learned that even if that is still true, he can’t truly give it away until he’s used all the love inside of it for himself first. 

Things are better. They’re getting there.

Sometimes he fails, gets that feeling back on his chest. The guilt comes back, now mixed with shame that prevents him from reaching out. Jin still looks at him with worry when he isn’t smiling.

Seokmin doesn’t know any of that. He doesn’t question the silence or Jungkook’s sudden need not to be alone. He doesn’t look at him any differently, doesn’t treat him differently when he thinks he is bothered by something.

“Got it, boss-nim,” Jungkook calls with two fingers tapping against his temple. 

He doesn’t get a response as Seokmin takes a seat at his desk and starts tapping away at his computer.

Jungkook works down the hall. He should be on another floor with the rest of his team, but with a promotion came a new office, and the only empty one was conveniently on the same floor as the rest of the heads of the company.

It makes Jungkook feel a little out of place. He is aware that he isn’t fully qualified for the job, but he is still struggling with which thoughts are because they’re true and which are because he’s always been harsh on himself.

It’s a small office, but he can see the water. Distantly, but it’s there right between the shelves lined with books on different languages and media. He even turned his desk around so he could face it instead of the glass doors overlooking the hallway.

He doesn’t like his back exposed to where he can’t see it, but he finds comfort in the water.

The picture of Bo on his desk too. She’s laughing, tiny hands pressed into big cheeks. It’s the only decoration in the room, the only personal touch besides the portrait of mountains pinned to the wall.

Maybe he finds his seat slightly turned to look at that too. The same comfort the ocean gives him. Or maybe the reason the ocean gives him comfort.

Every time he looks at it, his chest is a little tight. Sometimes briefly, sometimes throughout his entire shift.

But Jungkook keeps the picture up. He remembers the exact moment he took it still clear as day. The Blue Ridge Mountains had been beautiful, but not quite as beautiful as the man standing to the side of the frame. 

Jungkook looks over his profile for a moment, like a silent good morning, before he takes his seat and starts to work.

“You’ll never believe who messaged me today.”

The bar is loud and filled with the scent of greasy food and beer. Jungkook doesn’t mind it. He’s used to it now, after coming here with Jin every week for nearly three years.

It’s been Jin’s way to make sure Jungkook isn’t holing himself up inside every day.

“Who?” Jungkook asks through his mouth of food. Jin sits across from him, his hair growing long and shagging over his forehead.

Jungkook cut his years ago and has kept it simple since. Long enough to cover his forehead but short enough to look neat. He’s kept the black though Bo keeps begging him for green hair.

Most of his appearance is the same except the ink he has covering each arm, from elbow to shoulder. He wants to cover his forearms, but he’s been pushing it off. He doesn’t have scars to hide from Bo’s eyes there. 

“Fucking Jung Hoseok,” Jin garbles back. Grease shines across his lips. “Him and Yoongi moved up to California, I guess. Started some urban clothing store called Hope on the Street.”

Jungkook stares down at his plate. He doesn’t remember the last time he spoke to any of them. As far as he knows, Jin hasn’t either. But Jin has a tendency to walk on eggshells when it comes to talking about certain things. 

Certain things like the past and college, the people they knew there. Home, and the things that always felt like home to Jungkook.

“He asked about you,” Jin goes on, gentler. “I told him you were fucking some rich CEO and adopted the sugar baby life style. It turned you into a snotty little bitch.”

Jungkook kicks him under the table, causing the table to shake and the dishes on top of it to cling. Offense and mock anger crosses Jin’s face as he gasps out in pain.

“Fuck off, I’m just kidding,” Jin grunts. He points a chopstick at him. “Though you are fucking some rich CEO. A famous rich CEO I should add.”

Suddenly too nauseous to eat, Jungkook only plays with the fried vegetables on his plate. “It’s not a thing, hyung. It just happens sometimes. Like only three sometimes.”

Not that Jungkook is keeping count. But he kind of is. 

“Whatever,” Jin goes on in amusement. “I don’t believe you because if you were good enough of a lay that he promoted you within a month at your new job, it would be more than three sometimes.”

Another kick, another grunt of pain. Jin kicks him back, but Jungkook barely feels it.

“That’s not why he promoted me,” Jungkook denies. More often than not, Seokmin and him are together outside of work because Seokmin’s son is friends with Bo. That’s how they met, when Jungkook went to pick up Bo from daycare. “I work really hard.”

Jin softens but rolls his eyes as if he doesn’t want to appear soft. “I know. I’m just kidding, Kook.”

Jungkook leans back in his chair. Everyone around them are regulars, but as long as Jungkook has been coming here, he’s never really talked to them before. He regrets it during times he wants to run away from a conversation. 

“What did you really say?”

He’s uncomfortable that Jin talked to them at all. Not that he can’t. Not that Jungkook doesn’t want him to, or he doesn’t want to himself. He’s just afraid. He’s filling with questions that he’s been trying to avoid thinking about.

About him . Do they still talk to him? Is Hoseok asking on his behalf? Is he with someone that makes him happy? Did he find a job that makes him happy? Is his sister okay? 

Jungkook should get Hoseok’s number, but he feels himself locking up.

“I said you’re good,” Jin says. The amusement is still in his eyes, and Jungkook can’t tell if he’s joking. “That you're really good.”

Jungkook doesn’t respond. Both answers suck if Hoseok were calling on his behalf. Maybe it’s just hopeful thinking though. It’s probably hopeful thinking. Hoseok and him were friends too. Hoseok’s probably only asking for himself. 

“Are you really good?”

There it is. A gentle slip into the conversation. Jin always manages to make it seem casual. 

“I am, hyung,” Jungkook assures. “The third sometime was this afternoon.”

Jin lights up when he looks up from his food. He laughs hard, and Jungkook finds his lips tugging up into a smile in response.

Despite the worried looks and comments, it’s good being around Jin. He won’t push, and he makes Jungkook laugh. 

“They’re sending us some clothes,” Jin goes on as his laughter dies down. “I think you should call them. It’s been a few years, and they miss both of us.”

Jungkook nods. He looks around again at the familiar strangers. Life. People his age. He wonders if they’ve lost touch with their friends or if they will with the ones they’re drinking with now. 

“You know Hobi, he’s easy. He won’t bring anything up. Don’t be nervous.”

Easier said than done, Jungkook thinks. It’s all in his head. It is easy. Pick up a phone, dial a number, say hello. 

“Did you? Did he mention?” Jungkook presses his lips closed. He drags his finger through a pool of grease on his plate. 

Jin doesn’t wait for Jungkook to keep talking. He knows Jungkook won’t finish.

“Yeah,” Jin says. He’s still bright with his smile. “They saw him before they left for California. He’s good.”

Jungkook nods. His chest is tight but it loosens. It loosens more than it had been before, when it didn’t even feel tight.

He doesn’t ask anymore, though he wants to. They aren’t things that he should know. He gave up his right to know the details. 

“Namjoon and Jimin moved to Connecticut two years ago,” Jin goes on. He knows Jungkook too well. 

He doesn’t say where in Connecticut but Jungkook’s chest loosens even more.

“Got a dog.”

Jungkook grins around the greasy finger he shoves into his mouth. Bo wants a dog. He doesn’t know how to tell her he doesn’t think he can handle taking care of two right now.

He’s doing well taking care of her, but sometimes it feels like he’s being pushed to his limits. When she cries and cries, and he can’t figure out a way to calm her down. When she puts up a fight about eating, taking a bath, or getting out of the bath, Jungkook finds his frustration feels like anger even if it isn’t, and it terrifies him.

The feeling is too similar, but he’s done well. His counselor told him to compliment himself often, even if it’s something small. He shouldn’t praise himself for not taking his frustration out on Bo, but it feels good knowing he has control over himself.

Normal frustration that every person raising a child goes through. His counselor assured him when he had a breakdown about it. His fear consumed him to the point he couldn’t even look at Bo when she was only a little over a year.

You don’t take it out on her, Jungkook-ssi. The difference here is you don’t want to hurt her. You’re not your parents.

“I’m happy for them,” Jungkook says. 

He means it. Even if he’s sure Jimin hates him. 

“Me too,” Jin says. He flicks a piece of meat, sending it soaring across the table. Jin gives Jungkook hope that Bo won’t lose all the brightness inside of her when she gets older. “You should call Hoseok.”

Jungkook nods. There’s cement seeping through his veins. The moment he picks up a phone, dials Hoseok’s number, it will harden, and he won’t be able to move.

“I will.”

“Are you not warm yet?” Taehyung sighs as he tucks the blanket further over Jungkook’s body until it’s covering half of his face.

“I told you I’m not cold,” Jungkook whispers. He tucks his face into the blanket more. 

“Well you said you’re not afraid either,” Taehyung reminds him.

He likes being tucked under the blanket like this. Even if Taehyung moves too much in his sleep and kicks him too much, he likes Taehyung beside him too. He doesn’t like being alone at night.

When his sister was born, he was sad they couldn’t share a room. Now he’s glad. Appa gets the angriest at night. 

“I’m not,” Jungkook denies gruffly. He sticks his cold toes to Taehyung’s calf and giggles when Taehyung says a bad word.

“You can sleep on the floor,” Taehyung grunts.

It’s a dead threat as he secures a hand over Jungkook and keeps him in place as he gets comfortable himself.

He rubs at Jungkook’s back the way Mrs. Kim does when he’s upset. He told Taehyung he wasn’t upset.

Maybe Taehyung is right. He’s older so he knows more. 

“Did your Eomma call my parents?” Jungkook whispers into the blankets. He can see a little of Taehyung when he peeks over it because the moon is bright.

Taehyung’s eyes are open and watching him. “Mhm. She told them you were staying here tonight. I didn’t tell her where you were hiding, don’t worry.”

Jungkook tucks his face back into the blanket. Taehyung keeps rubbing his back. He’s going to get in trouble for running away.

“Do you think I can move in? I can do half of your chores. Or different ones. I’ll help your Eomma, or your Appa at work.”

Taehyung giggles as he tugs on a strand of Jungkook’s hair. “You only live two streets away, silly.”

Jungkook sighs. He tucks himself even further until his face is pressing against Taehyung through the blankets. He tenses but Taehyung doesn’t push him away.

“I’ll ask,” Taehyung says seriously. “If she says no, we’ll make a room for you in the shed. I’ll bring you food, and you can sneak in when it gets cold.”

This time Jungkook snickers. He isn’t cold now. He’s very warm, too warm, but he doesn’t want to move away. 

“And if your parents say no, I’ll kick them both in the knee.”

Jungkook buries his mouth into Taehyung to muffle his laugh. It isn’t a nice thing to say, and Jungkook feels bad that it makes him feel better. 

Taehyung’s body shakes with his own giggles. It isn’t until he stops that Jungkook realizes he isn’t shaking anymore. 

The air is cold. It bites at Jungkook’s nostrils, claws into his chest. It’s easier to breathe when it’s cold.

He can still smell the ocean amongst the icy air. Maybe he’s imagining it. He can’t see it as well in the dark, but he isn’t looking for the ocean.

Tucking his blanket up into his neck, Jungkook tilts his head back and stares up. Music plays softly, and his tongue is filled with the taste of the sweet wine that now sits forgotten beside him.

I know, I know, I’ll overcome.

It’s a full moon. One of those moons that seems larger than usual, closer than usual. Like Jungkook can reach out and touch it. He feels silly when he reaches out and cups his hand around the moon, holding it between his palms before burying himself back beneath the blanket. 

I know, I know, open me up.

He breathes in the cold air until it hurts. He drags his knees to his chest, arms wrapping around them to keep him close. The moon is so bright that his entire porch glows beneath it.

The phone held in his lap feels heavy. He hides it away as if that will prevent him for scrolling through it until he finds the face he sees in the moon.

He’s told himself to look. Pushed it aside for another time. Body locking up, fear stopping him in a way that doesn’t even feel physical. It just is there. Stopping him.

Where there is hope, there is always hardship.

Jungkook closes his eyes. The moon sticks to the back of his eyelids for a moment before it turns to the sun. A face he can’t forget because Jungkook’s stuck photographs of him everywhere. 

The feeling in his chest is warmer than the thick blanket wrapped around him. He savors it, sinks into it.

The air is cold and Jungkook misses the summer. He misses home. 

He doesn’t miss it often, and he doesn’t miss all of it. He can think about it and feel warm, or think about it and feel as cold as the winter air. 

One day he wants to bring Bo there. It’s just a place. A place can’t hurt you. The person who hurt him the most is here, anyway. Perhaps. Jungkook hasn’t talked to his father in years.

Nor his mother, his siblings. Anyone from home. He misses Yena. He regrets not being able to watch her grow the way he can with Bo.

He pulls out his phone, stares at the black screen. Tucks it away again. He’s only looked for him once, twice. It hurt, solidified that cement in his veins. He could create a social media account of some kind, find him easily again.

It’ll hurt again. Jungkook is afraid of pain. He is stronger now, but he’s afraid of the things he thinks could tear him down again. He’s afraid of falling back to that. Who he was. Who he could still be. He’s afraid of being shown that he isn’t as strong as he thinks he’s becoming.

He’s terrified of being hated, of being told he’s caused pain when he’s spent his entire life trying to get rid of his own.

“Are you excited?” 

Bo jumps on her toes. Her tiny fists shake in the air. She has a rock in each one, some shells from last summer in her pockets. Her eyes squeeze closed as she starts to run in place, and happiness explodes inside of Jungkook’s chest.

It pushes a laugh from his lips, and the urge to scoop her into his arms is too loud to ignore. She doesn’t push him off this time, let’s him smother a kiss to her cheek.

“I will take that as a yes,” Jungkook says. He cradles her in his arms, thankful she’s still tiny enough to be held. “Are you going to give your Eomma the biggest hug?”

Bo nods her head. She lets him hold her until they’re in front of the door. She wiggles her body until he’s planting her to the feet. She hands them the rocks with strict instructions not to lose them.

“Bo-” he starts to warn as she grabs the door knob without knocking. She’s fast, turning it and shoving the door open so quickly that Jungkook’s fingers only brush her hand before she’s out of reach.

“Eomma!” Bo yells as she bounds through the apartment. Jungkook sighs, still smiling as he walks in behind her.

“Bo, it’s rude not to knock,” he scolds gently as he jogs to catch up to her.

The apartment is clean. It’s usually a bit messy, the tables covered in dishware that’s been forgotten about. Harmeoni would fuss over the dust on the lampshades, though Jungkook does suspect it’s a normal amount. 

The plants in the window are alive so Jungkook takes that as a good sign. It’s been a good month, hopefully.

“Eomma! Eomma!”

Jungkook cups a hand to Bo’s shoulder before she pushes through the cracked bedroom door. Nerves spark inside of him. He guides her behind his body, inhaling before he gently raps his knuckles against the door.

“Kyung-mi? We’re here. I’m sorry. Bo let herself in.”

He’s always a little nervous about coming here. There have been times she’s been in a bad state, and he doesn’t want Bo to see it. She’s getting older, bigger. Jungkook doesn’t know how early on people can remember things. 

Thinking back to his earliest memory is hard for him. He can’t figure out how old he was in the things he remembers. They’re quick flashes, little details, only feelings.

The door swings open. Kyung-mi looks a little dazed, half out of it. She rubs her hands over her face and through her knotted hair. 

“Sorry. Overslept,” she says quickly. Jungkook gives her a once over, tries not to snoop around her bedroom though his curiosity and concern is yelling at him to, before he steps aside.

Bo cries in delight as Kyung-mi leans down to wrap her thin arms around her. She does indeed give her mother the biggest hug she can, squeezing her arms around Kyung-mi’s tiny frame and shaking with the effort she puts into it. 

“Oh my Bo. Are you okay? Eating well?” Kyung-mi asks between kisses to Bo’s face. “Are you sleeping in your own bed yet?”

With more giggles, Bo nods enthusiastically. It’s only somewhat true but Jungkook doesn’t squeal.

Kyung-mi’s hands shake as they capture Bo’s chubby face between them. They’re always shaking because she takes more medicine than she eats. As she claims. 

Bo grabs Jungkook’s hand then to retrieve the rocks. She presents them with a big smile.

“For you, Eomma.”

Kyung-mi gasps in delight. “Oh they’re so pretty. Why don’t you go put them with the others, hm?”

When Bo takes off running to the potted plants in the windows, surrounded by other small rocks, Kyung-mi stands. She rubs another hand down her face and one at the back of her neck.

The smile slips off her face for a moment, and she looks apologetic when she turns to Jungkook. 

“I didn’t forget,” she promises under her breath. “I really did just oversleep.”

Jungkook nods, tucking his cold hands into the pockets of his jeans. He glances to Bo, who pets over the leaves gently, because it’s hard to look at Kyung-mi.

When they first met, Jungkook thought she was too skinny for a pregnant woman. Not that Jungkook really knows much about it. The only other pregnant person he had ever met at the time was Mr. Kim’s new wife, and she was heavy set to begin with.

After she had Bo, when the big swell of her belly disappeared, her thinness seemed sickly. It’s that way now. Her skin pale, bags beneath her eyes dark. It could be eyeliner, or a combination of both.

The left side of her face sags some, more prominent where her mouth drags down lower than the other side. It’s hard to look even though it’s been some time since his father did that to her face.

“I’m not here to pick you apart,” Jungkook whispers. “I know demons just as well as you do. I’m never trying to be hard on you.”

Kyung-mi snorts. She’s grown cold over the few years they’ve known each other, but it only shows sometimes when Jungkook and Bo are here. 

“You don’t know these demons, Jungkook-ah. I hope you don’t.”

He doesn’t. He stays quiet as Kyung-mi walks off, watches as she plants a gentle hand to Bo’s head to guide her to the kitchen.

It’s usually this time that Jungkook offers to give them time together alone and fear surges into Kyung-mi so quickly that her body trembles worse. He doesn’t today, instead occupies a different part of the house. 

He allows himself to feel concerned, to not feel bad about it. The reason Bo is with him and not her is because Kyung-mi is aware that she isn’t able to care for her. It won’t hurt her feelings if Jungkook sticks around, but he’s nervous about that. 

The last few years are a blur, the year Bo was born especially.  It was a bad one. He thinks he spent every day in the hospital or clinic between his own visits, taking Bo, or getting called there to come pick up Kyung-mi. A bad year, probably his worst, and it gave him so much good.

His phone screen is Bo right after she was born. In his arms. Jungkook doesn’t recognize himself in this picture. Jin says he should use another one, but Jungkook likes to see how much he’s changed.

The picture disappears as a slew of messages appear across his screen. His bosses, Seokmin and Wonwoo, bickering back and forth. There’s a teasing tone in it that has Jungkook smiling.

boss man: jungkookie tell wonwoo here that our deal in the states is a good one

wonbro: jungkookie tell seokmin here that our deal in the states is trash

Jungkook grins. He doesn’t know either way. He’s still acclimating himself to this kind of work. It goes over his head at times, and he’s embarrassed by his constant need to ask questions that show his lack of knowledge. But they’re both great, patient. They even add explanations into their speeches that Jungkook feels are just for him. So he doesn’t have to ask. 

translator man: seokmin-ah you’re a good one & wonwoo ur trash 

translator man: happy now?

Jungkook closes out of the group chat as more mock offended messages come in. He clicks on the private one from Seokmin, his smile growing at the can I come over later? 

He replies quickly before the small blur in the corner of his vision comes hurtling towards him. Bo knocks into him, always too fast for her own good.

“Oppa, cake!”

It’s too early for cake, and he tells her this. Her eyes immediately go wide, bottom lip pushing out so far Jungkook almost says fuck it and gives in.

But he’s strong so he remains firm.

“Oppa,” Bo whines, dragging out the last syllable. “Please.”

He follows her into the kitchen. Kyung-mi’s head hangs, one hand pressing into her forehead, but she’s quick to snap up when she realizes they’re there.

“I haven’t gone grocery shopping,” she explains as Jungkook opens the fridge. There isn’t much, just some necessities. Ketchup, butter, eggs, milk, and that slice of cake Bo wants. “I was planning on going tomorrow.”

“I’ll go,” Jungkook says immediately. “After work. Speaking of, how’s work going for you?”

She makes a small sound in her throat like a groan but it’s weaker. “Fine. Tiring. It’s just making coffee, but it’s tiring.”

Jungkook closes the fridge, peeks through her cabinets until he can find something else for Bo to eat. He skips over the canned tuna, glares at it, and decides on sugary cereal instead. He’s unsure if that’s actually any better than the cake, but it feels like it is. 

“People are tiring,” Jungkook laughs, putting together the cereal. “It’s draining to be around them in general, but in customer service? Ten times worse.”

Bo eats more than he does, Jungkook swears. She had breakfast, a snack on the way here, but she takes the bowl from him and starts eating like he’s been starving her. 

Despite what Kyung-mi thinks, she is a good mother. Maybe not in all the ways she should be, but she’s tender and gentle. There is a lot more a child needs than just that, but that’s what Jungkook needed the most when he was younger, so maybe he’s biased.

She wipes Bo’s bangs back from her forehead, humming her agreement. Bo smiles when Kyung-mi’s hand cradles her cheek. “They are. It is hard for me to remember the orders if they’re too long, and people are not understanding. You would have thought they watched me spit in their drink instead of just accidentally putting skim milk instead of two percent.”

She smiles when Bo smiles. Jungkook finds himself smiling to.

“You know who called me last night,” Kyung-mi starts quietly as she turns away from Bo. Her smile slips away. 

Jungkook clears his throat, his smile wanting to disappear as well. He side eyes Bo, but schools his face so she doesn’t notice anything. 

It’s one of the reasons Jungkook wants to be better, faster. She’s getting older, more aware. Even as a baby, he tried not to let himself to get stressed around her because it made her cry.

“What did he say?” 

He doesn’t care. It’s the one thing he’s worked the hardest on. Maybe he’s still doing that wrong because the anger is still there, but it isn’t consuming. He accepts it, tells himself he has every right to feel it, and it’s okay if he feels it for some time.

That anger towards his father will sit with him for a long time, but it isn’t violent, dangerous. It only sparks up during moments like these, but he knows Kyung-mi hasn’t reigned in her anger yet. She talks about it, needs to spit it out.

“He is sorry. Wants to come home, blah, blah,” Kyung-mi says with ice slipping into her tone. “Wants to meet the little one.” 

The anger flares. He isn’t good at controlling it when it comes to Bo. Sometimes, he gets himself worked up just thinking about his father coming near her.

“I said no ,” Kyung-mi quickly says when Jungkook opens his lips. “I know you don’t want that. I don’t want that. He’s only asking because he probably got kicked out again and has nowhere to go.”

Jungkook smiles when Bo looks to him. He wrinkles his nose and rocks his head side to side until she’s huffing out a laugh, the sound squeezing through her pressed closed lips.

“Probably. Don’t be afraid. He can’t find you.”

Kyung-mi sighs, picks at the skin at the inside of her elbow. Sighs again. 

She stands up, rubbing her hands down her thighs. 

“I’m going to shower.”

Jungkook doesn’t say a word about her sudden need to leave. He didn’t bring up his father, but he gets it. The fear that he can show up at anytime is there, even if they’ve both moved to different parts of the cities. 

But Jungkook isn’t afraid. He just doesn’t want it to happen.

“Come here,” Jungkook says to Bo as milk dribbles down her chin. 

“Eomma mad?” Bo asks as she juts her chin out so Jungkook can wipe it. She curls her fist incorrectly around the handle of the spoon and immediately proceeds to get more milk on her jaw.

“No,” Jungkook promises. Maybe she’s already old enough to notice these things. “No, she’s not mad, little one.”

The moon glows in through the porch doors, still bright and large. He likes the sight of it, but he closes the curtains anyway.

The moon might be for everyone, but it feels wrong to share it with a person other than him

“You said it’s pretty there? Mystic, was it?”

Jungkook turns from the curtains. Seokmin stands in his living room, loose pants covering his hips and nothing else. He’s looking at a collection of photos lining one of Jungkook’s bookshelves.

“Yes. Anywhere on the water is pretty.”

Seokmin grins when he looks over his shoulder. “Not everywhere. Oceans are full of trash, remember.”

Jungkook wrinkles his nose as he comes up behind Seokmin to look at the pictures too. He avoids them usually. He doesn’t even know why they’re up other than he doesn’t have the stomach to take them down.

Just like the one in his office. He wasn’t thinking when he had it professionally printed and framed. He just wanted it. 

“I’m not like one of those Californian stereotypes. One with the ocean and all, riding the wave. It was a quaint little town. Couldn’t really surf on the oceans close by,” Jungkook explains. “This is Mystic here.”

He plants his chest to Seokmin’s back, reaching over to point to a photo he had taken of the drawbridge. There are sailboats in the back and a few tourists blurred around the boy in the picture. “The downtown area a few streets away from the house I grew up in.”

Seokmin hums. There’s a smile on his lips when Jungkook rests his chin to his shoulder. Jungkook peers closer, at the young boy in the picture, standing off to the side with his back towards the camera.

Long before the road trip, Jungkook took pictures of him. 

“This is the Bluff. Next town over. It’s a wooded path along the water. T -”

Jungkook rubs his lips together as he points to the next picture, tastes his name on his tongue. Holds it there, keeps it to himself.

“I liked to walk there. It was peaceful.”

Seokmin turns, lips brushing over the high of Jungkook’s cheekbone.

“And this one?” Seokmin asks against his skin before pointing to the third framed photo.

The organ in Jungkook’s chest leaps and flails around at it. Jungkook had been lying down, he was hanging over him so his head centers on the sun. It makes him too dark to see, or the camera he has planted in front of his face. Only the outline of his big floppy hat is visible, surrounded by bright light.

It’s strange that he can still find something good, even a small moment, from such a shitty day. So good that he’s framed it and placed it in his living room. 

“Virginia,” Jungkook breathes. “Virginia Beach.”

His voice doesn’t give anything away, but Seokmin turns, eyebrows twitching towards each other. He plants a hand to Jungkook’s cheek and pulls him in for a kiss.

Seokmin lingers there, breathes over him. Jungkook likes the intimacy with no strings attached. His strings are already attached in too many different places.

“I’m going to New York in a few months to discuss DBC’s partnership with that company I was telling you about,” Seokmin says as he pulls away. His hands slip over Jungkook’s shoulders, rubbing as he kisses him between his words. “When I go, do you want to come? I’ll pay.”

Jungkook lets out a weak laugh. Seokmin is always saying stuff that makes Jungkook feel like Jin is right. 

“Nah. I don’t like long flights, and I don’t know if it’s right for Bo yet.”

Seokmin accepts it with a nod, doesn’t push. He’s like that. “Well the offer doesn’t expire, so if you change your mind -”

Jungkook is tugged out of the living room as Seokmin’s words trail on. He cuts them off with his lips, his hands.

He cuts off Seokmin, his mind, everything.

“I’m telling you, no tuna.”

Jungkook listens to Jin babble on the phone, which is tucked between his ear and shoulder as he sweeps. The house is cold, but he doesn’t know if he can crank up the heat more than just enough to keep the pipes from freezing. He doesn’t know who is keeping the electricity or the heat on, and he doesn’t want to accidentally cost them more.

“No fish,” Jungkook says. He isn’t listening to Jin. They’ve talked about this before.

“Not for Bo,” Jin says loudly. He knows Jungkook isn’t listening. “I’m having people over, and I want you there. I want to know if you still will eat or if this fish thing is just little baby Bo related.”

It’s a little silly, Jungkook knows that. It’s one of the things he can’t help.

“Yes, I’ll eat,” Jungkook says with a sigh. For a house that isn’t lived in, there’s a lot to sweep up. Dirt from outside, hair, food particles. He doesn’t eat in here often enough for much to accumulate. Plus he’s clean. Bo is a messy eater who refuses help. 

“Okay, good. That’s all I wanted to know.”

“Who is coming over?”

Silence is loud sometimes. Jungkook hesitates, grip tightening around the broom handle.

“Kim Seokjin .”

Jin lets out a strangled noise, caught. “My coworkers. I wasn’t going to tell you because you think they have too much attitude stuffed up their assholes.”

With a snort, Jungkook sweeps the pile of mess towards the trash can. “I don’t think that. I just hate that one guy who yells at me about American politics like I single handedly caused all the bullshit that happens over there.”

Jin’s laugh is infectious. Jungkook squats to scoop up the dirt and toss it in the trash. He is thankful for his past self for putting in a trash bag because he had forgotten to bring them today.

His memory must be going because he doesn’t remember bringing them last time either.

“I can name only like five presidents,” Jungkook jokes. “Maybe six. I don’t even know how many there are in total.”

“Well, I’ll tell him to back off. Just come, alright? Please?”

They’ve only known each other for a handful of years, but it feels like Jungkook knows Jin better than himself now. He knows that tone.

“What are you actually getting me into?”

Jin lets out an awkward laugh. “Nothing. I promise. Just bring some drinks or whatever.”

The trash can is full when Jungkook opens it. He frowns as he deposits the dirt over ripped up paper, material, and what looks to be random items from around the house.

“Yeah, yeah. I gotta go.”

Jungkook hangs up without another word as he searches for the gloves he uses to clean the bathroom. He pulls them on before reaching into the trash.

Old containers, cardboard boxes. There is junk mail that dates back to years and years ago.

Nerves fill Jungkook’s stomach as he walks off, forgetting to take off the gloves. No one else should be inside. Harmeoni was alone after her husband passed, years before Jungkook came. Most of her husband’s family lives in different parts of the country, but she never talked about any of them enough for Jungkook to think they would come for her house.

Nothing else looks out of place until Jungkook steps into the spare bedroom. He’s spent some nights here before when it was too hard to be around Jin, the baby, Kyung-mi.

The first few weeks after his breakdown, after Jin forced him to talk to someone, were hard. So hard Jungkook didn’t think he’d be able to get through them at all. 

He came here, hid away. As much shame and guilt as he’s had in his life, it was nothing like the way it filled him during those first few weeks. Few months. He didn’t recognize himself, felt embarrassed. He was afraid of himself, of the things around him, inside him.

Jungkook takes in the rumpled duvet, the box now sitting on top of it. It’s opened with a few letters spread out across the sheets. He never snooped through Harmeoni’s house, but he remembers that box used to be on the desk in the corner. He knows who those letters are from because Harmeoni would take them out and read them to him sometimes.

There’s a cup of something red on the nightstand, half filled like someone had been drinking it and forgotten it there. Clearly not someone close to Harmeoni, because he thinks she would have banned him from the house if he ever left his dishes lying around.

Removing his gloves, Jungkook carefully plants the letters back into the box. He feels a little silly for being upset someone was reading them, and even more so when he takes the box from the room and puts them into the master bedroom instead.

He never comes in here. He feels uncomfortable doing so now like he has to divert his eyes, an invasion of Harmeoni’s privacy. He slips the box beneath Harmeoni’s bed, ignoring the pang in his chest, and quickly runs out. 

Jungkook doubts the deed to the house said housekeeper included. He doesn’t want to look like an intruder, so he snags his bag and leaves.

It makes his chest ache for some reason but he shakes it off as he steps back into the cool air. 

“Come here, boy. I swear you will be what kills me off.”

Wrinkled hands touch Jungkook’s cheeks, warms them. Her glossy eyes search over his face before she sighs.

“Wear a coat,” Sunja orders. She taps the point of his red nose. “I’ll get one of my husband’s for now. Go grab some hand warmers.”

Jungkook doesn’t argue. He takes a pack of hand warmers from the counter and slips the money behind the register when Sunja walks into the back for his coat.

“I’ll bring it back, I promise you,” Jungkook says as he takes the coat from her shaking hands. “I’ll be wearing mine.”

She glares at him. “You better. It is the winter. You’re not from the Arctic, Jungkook-ah. Your body isn’t immune.”

He grins as he slips on the coat. It is heavy on his shoulders. “I am okay, Ahjumma. Do not worry about me.”

“I’ll do what I want,” she grunts. “Hopefully you find a strong, patient woman. You’re hard headed and don’t take care of yourself.”

Jungkook turns so he can roll his eyes without her seeing. Her comments don’t bother him, but he’s trying to take care of himself by himself. He’s doing well.

“Now take something to eat before you go. You’re getting thin.”

He snorts. He’s actually gained weight. Mostly because of Sunja’s need to feed him. He doesn’t argue though, just waits patiently as she puts together a takeaway box for him.

“You really take good care of me, Ahjumma. Why would I need anyone else?”

Sunja makes an alarmed noise but her smile is soft. “You’re too charming for your own good. This is why I have to keep threatening people out of my shop. You’ve made me fond and protective little one.”

Jungkook snickers. He reaches over the counter to help clean where sauce has dribbled onto it, but his hand is swatted away. 

“Who are you threatening? Jin again?”

Amusement makes Sunja smile more. “No, no. He’s a loud one but a good boy too. A few days ago someone came in asking for you,” she says, not looking at him. “I figured your father sent him. Trying to be sneaky as bastards tend to do. I told him if he comes back into my shop asking about you again, I’ll take a chopstick to his eye.”

Her face is soft when she looks at him. Jungkook’s chest is tight again. He doesn’t think his father cares enough to go through all of that effort, but after everything, he’s always tried to reach out to Jungkook. It could be possible. 

“Thank you, Ahjumma,” Jungkook whispers. “Who was it?”

Sunja shrugs. “I didn’t care to ask his name. I kicked him out. Young man but gray hair. Why that’s a trend with you young people, I don’t know. There is no rush to get old.”

Jungkook holds out his hands as he accepts the food. It’s warm. “Don’t worry about me so much, Ahjumma.”

He’s a little worried. He’s trying hard not to let it consume him. 

She plants a hand to his cheek. “I told you, I do as I please. Now go, get warm.”

With a bow, Jungkook presses a kiss to her forehead. “Thank you. Oh, Ahjumma, did Harmeoni ever mention who she left her house to?”

Sunja pulls back, a thoughtful look crossing her face. “No. But she did say her husband’s family came before she died, nosing around. It’s in his name you see, they feel they have more right to it with Boyoung gone as well.”

Anger, he feels it. It’s just there, not overflowing.

It’s just there. He swallows it down. It doesn’t belong to anyone but Taehyung.

He lets the name sit on his tongue, in his heart, still always in his thoughts.

“I don’t want to live in your shed,” Jungkook grumbles. He has to be quiet because it’s late. Taehyung’s parents aren’t going to like it if they’re still awake. “It smells like fish in there.”

Taehyung cups his hands beneath his cheek, making it squish up towards the middle of his face. “I’ll live in there with you.”

It’s silly. Jungkook’s nose hurts from how hard it scrunches when he smiles. “Then they’ll find out and make me go live at home again.”

The sigh Taehyung lets out is long and dramatic. “Jungkookie, do you hate your baby sister that much?”

Jungkook’s smile fades. He pinches Taehyung under the blanket. “No! I don’t hate Mina. I hate -”

It’s bad to say. He wants to say it though, but he just groans instead. Everyone says he’s a sweet boy, but he’s bad if he says what he’s thinking.

“I just want to live with you.”

Taehyung giggles and twists his fingers through Jungkook’s hair. When he tugs, it’s gentle. “We will when we are big. Like adult big.”

Jungkook wrinkles his nose at the thought. “I’ll be a bigger adult than you.”

They bicker. It makes Jungkook smile and laugh so much Taehyung is pressing a hand to his mouth to keep his parents from hearing.

Jungkook fights him off, but Taehyung is stronger. He tries to pinch instead,  but Taehyung is grabbing his hands and holding them instead.

It goes quiet then, just a small laugh from Taehyung as he flops down beside him again. Jungkook turns to his side so Taehyung can keep holding his hands.

“Don’t worry so much, Jungkookie. We’ll go somewhere far away. We can go live with my Harmeoni. Back to South Korea. Your parents will never find us there.”

Jungkook sighs. He nudges his pinky until it’s curling around the side of Taehyung’s hand.  

“I don’t care,” Jungkook sighs. “As long as I’m with you.”


The ocean is scary. Even the calmer ocean around the coast of Connecticut. The waves don’t crash down as harsh, but there’s still miles and miles of deep blue ocean.

Taehyung stares out at it. It’ll freeze soon. The winter here is warmer than usual. He remembers it already being bitingly cold in December, but he’s okay in his jeans and hoodie.

The rocks are slippery. He’s a little nervous climbing them, but he secures his butt on one and stares out at the lighthouse on the horizon. This is his new spot. In the next town over, around the town beach. It’s empty in the winter.

He never came here much before, even though Jungkook lived only a few streets away after he moved. He passes by their last house often, plays with the new owner’s dog that’s always running free around the front yard. 

It’s bigger than the river, though when Taehyung was a kid the river probably seemed just as big. He can’t see the houses on the other side like he can at his dock.

It’s massive.

“I’ve been looking for you”

Taehyung circles his arms around his knees. He likes how easily he can zone out just staring. His mind blank.

“I’m not climbing up there. I, unlike you, won’t risk breaking my face.”

Taehyung jerks when he hears Minghao’s call. He looks over his shoulder, finds him standing at the bottom of the rocks with his bottom lip pushed out.

Slimy rocks. It’s strange beneath his fingers when he places his palms behind his back and stares up at the bright sky. He smiles when he hears Minghao threaten him. 

“You know there’s no refunds on the flight tickets? If you fall and miss your flight, you’re fucked out of that money.”

With a heavy sigh, Taehyung slowly climbs down from the rocks. 

He misses his river, his dock.

“Thank you,” Minghao grunts when Taehyung is safe on the ground. “It’s freezing. What are you doing out here?”

“Waiting for the moon,” Taehyung tells him. He is a little cold now. He rubs his palms over his arms. “It’ll be out soon.”

Minghao rolls his eyes and shrugs off the peacoat he’s wearing. Behind him, past the beach’s fences, his car is idling.

“You can see the moon from our apartment,” Minghao says. He grabs the lapels of his coat and closes them over Taehyung’s chest. “There’s heat there. We pay a lot of money for it.”

Taehyung giggles. Heat is ridiculously expensive. That’s a thing he wasn’t expecting when he became an adult. And his apartment is tiny compared to his childhood home. 

“You don’t want to be sick on your flight,” Minghao says. He tugs Taehyung forward. “Come on, in the car! You’re shivering.”

The apartment is only a short drive away. He can afford more, but he’s trying to live modest, like a regular twenty five year old. It’s on the second floor of their tiny complex, across from an old lady that actually hates everyone.

Taehyung  can hear here yelling inside when he unlocks their door. She complains about their music, but it’s quiet in comparison to her hollering.

The last few days, he’s been staying at his parents’ house. Playing with Yena, watching over the workers building the ramp up to the front door even though Taehyung knows nothing about it. He’s packed away some of his things in their basement, right beside the things of Jungkook’s he never came for.

In a few days, Minghao has packed up most of the apartment. There are boxes littering every room, their furniture pushed away from the walls to clean behind them. The walls are all empty, all of Taehyung’s photographs wrapped up and shipped out.

“Still don’t understand why you’re moving out,” Taehyung says as he takes in the kitchen, where there are milk crates filled with the contents of their cabinets. “I’d still pay rent while I’m gone.”

Taehyung touches over the photos on the fridge. The ones from college. The ones of just him and Jungkook. His mother. Minghao hasn’t touched those because he knows Taehyung wants them in his carry on.

“Because I don’t think you’ll be back,” Minghao says, arms crossing over his chest. He pulls back the curtains he hasn’t taken down yet and stares up at the sky. “Your moon is out.”

The airplane hums in his ears. It’s silent except for that hum. It’s driving him crazy, but he tries to ignore it. 

He plants in his headphones for more silence, but that silence echoes.

Taehyung can’t sleep.

He stares up at the console above him. It’s dark all around except someone has on their light a few rows ahead of them. It gives him comfort thinking someone else is struggling to sleep.

Taehyung stretches, leans into the side of the airplane. They’ve already been flying for hours. He hates it. He’s tried reading, playing games, watching movies. 

It was easier when everyone was awake.

He glances at the small bundle of blankets beside him. Her face peeks out of them, and he’s happy to see her asleep even if she looks silly with her mouth hanging open.

Taehyung lifts the arm rest between them, and guides her down until her cheek is pressed to his lap. He brushes the hair out of her face, and closes his own eyes. He tries hard to fall asleep, but the fucking humming is there.

It’s dreadful. Taehyung tries to swallow up the anxiety that grips at his chest in fear that all the progress he’s made in getting over his insomnia is going to disappear.

Taking medicine made him nervous, so he stopped. He slept too much, panicked over the side effects. He’s trying melatonin now. It seems to work, but he believes a lot of it is just in his head. A placebo. Science data or whatever can suck his ass. He’s not changing his mind.

He doesn’t want to be dependent on anything. He’d like to think he can take it into his hands and control it. There are a lot of things in this world he can’t control, that he has no effect on whatsoever.

It’s been hard accepting that.

Taehyung is working on it.

Maybe the fact that he’s on this plane is proof that he’s really failing. There are some things Taehyung refuses to accept. Jimin says he’s too stubborn for his own good.

“It’s small.”

Taehyung looks around at the apartment. It is small. The kitchen can barely hold two people let alone all four of them. Even the living room will be a tight fit. It’s already furnished, but it’s lacking any kind of decoration. 

“Perfect for you and Jimin-ah,” Taehyung teases. He sighs dramatically as he looks to Namjoon. “Looks like us Talls need to get out of here.”

It earns him a kick in the ass from Jimin. But Jimin is smiling when he slings an arm around his shoulder, dragging him down to his height. It isn’t really that much of a distance, but Taehyung likes when Jimin pretends to be angry, so he exaggerates. 

She only glares at him. She is quite short. It’s hard to believe she’s nearly twenty when she has the height of a twelve year old. It’s a little disorientating how young she looks yet how mature she does at the same time.

“You need some new jokes old man,” Mina sighs. She’s got a bit of an attitude. Closed off, only open with him when they’re alone. She’s still getting used to Jimin and Namjoon. “You comment on my height ten times a day.”

Taehyung grins. He doesn’t deny it. “You can pick your room first. I just want the one with the best view of the moon.”

Mina smiles and pushes up on her toes. She clasps her hands, and Taehyung tries not to think about how much she looks like him.

Tiny things excite her. Like this, picking her room first. She was excited to pick out the colors of the bath towels too. Simple things, like a child. A child she wasn’t allowed to be.

“Wicked. Alright.”

It’s a search then. He darts through the house with her, ignoring her jokes about how the best view of the moon is in the bathroom. He ignores Jimin’s demand that they need the largest room because they fit two. Namjoon keeps quiet. He’s the type that would sleep on the couch if he had to. 

Taehyung’s heart blossoms in his chest when he peeks out the window of the third room and finds the crescent moon in direct sight. Heat grows over him, and he just stares at it for a minute. It isn’t any different here, the same moon with the same face, but it is. It is different.

“This one is mine,” he declares.

“It’s the largest. How convenient.”

Taehyung shrugs. He cups the side of her head, plays with the buns she has at the top. Her hair is dry from how often she’s bleached it, her roots showing where her hair is parted down the middle. 

Earrings cover the entire shell of her ear, and there’s two on her eyebrow. Another in her tongue. The one in her lip is gone, leaving only a small scar in it’s place.

It had been strange seeing her without all of it when they went through airport security.

“You can sleep in here tonight, if you want.”

Mina also doesn’t sleep well, and she can’t take sleep medicine. He doesn’t think it’s insomnia as much as just a need for comfort, safety. Maybe there’s no difference between the two. Either way they both aren’t sleeping.

“Thank you,” Mina says quietly. She glances at the door that separates them from Jimin and Namjoon. “I’m dead on my feet. Forcing myself to stay up when I’m used to sleeping is fucking hard, man.”

Taehyung agrees. He doesn’t know how long it will take for their body clocks to catch up to the time difference. Even if he can’t sleep well, his body still knows when to get tired.

It’s the worst part of it all. Feeling exhausted, so tired, yet being wide awake.

“Go wash your face while I put the bedding on. And then lay down,” Taehyung tells her. He rubs his thumbs over her temples. She never washes her face before bed, and it’s ruined hundreds of his pillowcases. 

When she dies her hair, it’s even worse. Taehyung has considered covering it all in plastic.

“Okay, Dad,” Mina says with a roll of her eyes. She smiles though. “Thank you.”

“Just looking out for your skin,” Taehyung assures her softly.

Mina rolls her eyes. “For your pillowcases, maybe.”

When he’s made the bed and made sure Mina has tucked herself in, he walks back through the rest of the apartment. He’s had many first nights in many new places, but there is an anxiety inside him here. 

It isn’t like moving into his own place for the first time with Minghao by his side. It was an unfamiliar apartment, but it was in a familiar place. The streets were ones that Taehyung had traveled thousands of times to pick up Jungkook when he called. Ones he’d walked, ran through, to get to him.

This feels different, nothing like home.

Home didn’t quite feel like home for a time either. Things changed too much. He realized at the time, he fucking hates change. It’s all he’s going to get in life. Change. People coming and going. Stores he grew up with going out of business until his hometown no longer looks like the place he grew up.

His dock empty every night. Until it wasn’t. Other kids playing around it. People actually docking their small boats or canoes there. It made Taehyung angry because it was his.

Even if it belonged to the town, it was Taehyung’s. Jungkook’s. He brought Yena there a few times before he moved in with Minghao and the beach became his new place to look for the moon.

“Who thought it was a good idea for four people who don’t know how to cook to live together?” Jimin calls from the kitchen. They stopped at the market before coming, and the kitchen counters are covered in bagged groceries.

“You cook just fine, Jiminnie,” Namjoon says from where he leans against the counter, not helping put things away. 

“No,” Jimin grunts. He points a threatening finger at Namjoon. “I’m not going to be in charge of cooking for all of you. I’ll share my food with Mina, that’s it.”

Despite Mina’s hesitancies to get close to people, Jimin has grown close to her. She won’t quite let him in, but Jimin is fond of her. Protective.

She deserves to have people watch out for her. To coax the softness out of her.

“How did you live with him for years?” Taehyung asks Namjoon. It’s only teasing. “Must have been difficult for you, hyung. I’m sorry to keep putting you through it.”

Namjoon covers his mouth as he laughs. Jimin has death in his eyes. “It’s okay. Jimin-ah isn’t so bad to live with. You live in a camper every year for months on end. I’m sure you can survive without home-cooked meals.”

Taehyung’s smile softens. He watches as Jimin and Namjoon bicker, but the sound of it doesn’t reach his ears. He thinks of the camper, of the humidity. The way it would feel like death in there if they cooked during the day. 

He thinks about Jungkook. The way he looked standing above the stove. His shit eating grin when he talked about something distracting. The way it faded and Taehyung never noticed.

There’s a tight feeling in his chest. Tight and warm. He tried to be angry for awhile, but anger never fit well with him. He let himself feel hurt for awhile, struggled with it. It felt wrong to be hurt by everything that happened.

I don’t know what happened, Tae. He had a break. He couldn’t tell me what happened because he was out of it or something, I don’t know. His hands were bloody, like the knuckles. He wouldn’t stop crying as I tried to clean them. Didn’t seem to hear a word I said.

Taehyung swallows down the tight feeling in his throat. It’s been three years, he wishes it would go away. He doesn’t think it will.

His father tells him often that he still feels the pain of losing his mother. It’s been years, and it can feel like his heart is breaking all over again sometimes. It’s discouraging even though he sees how happy his father is despite that pain.

“I have a few recipes,” Taehyung says. There are boxes labeled ‘kitchen’ on the ground that he points his hand to. “It shouldn’t be hard.”

Jimin snorts, the teasing remark in his eyes before he says it.

“Shut up,” Taehyung says before he can. “If you don’t want to cook for all of us, shut up now.”

Most days are okay. They’re not really ever bad. Some days are, but not usually. It feels as if he’s just going from day to day. The same routine. Wake up, get ready, check on Mina, go to the fishing docks to help his father. 

His back is getting worse, so Taehyung has had to shove him even more behind the scenes. Taehyung isn’t used to the labor, but he likes the way his arms look more sculpted. He likes his broader shoulders, and all the squatting has done amazing things to his legs.

Now he doesn’t have a routine. He lets himself lay in in his makeshift bed on the ground a little longer, gripped down into the sheets by his nerves. Mina half hangs off the bed, mouth opened and drooling again. 

There’s still make up on his pillowcase when Taehyung stands to help her back into the bed so she doesn’t fall off. 

She may have trouble falling asleep, but she’s like her brother. She sleeps hard and could sleep the entire day away if Taehyung let her.

“I’m waking you up soon,” Taehyung whispers. It sounds like a threat. He wipes a hand over her face and leaves the room.

Only Namjoon is up. Kind of. He sits with his legs spread over their small couch, a cup of coffee in his hands and head tilted over the back of the couch. He blinks his eyes open when Taehyung greets him.

“Where you going?”

Taehyung snickers. He pats Namjoon’s cheeks until his eyes open further. “I’m going out into town today. I have a few places to see. Will you keep an eye on Mina?”

Namjoon clears his throat. He presses his thighs closed only to open them wider. Taehyung does the same thing, and they’re going to struggle to sit on the same small couch together.

“Of course, Tae,” Namjoon grumbles. “She doesn’t like me though.”

He shakes his head. “You’re just a lot bigger than her. She’s afraid. But she’ll see. You’re a gentle giant.”

Namjoon snorts, lets his head roll back again. He doesn’t argue with him.

It’s been difficult since Mina showed up on his doorstep, begging for his help. She wasn’t hurt, she was just hurting. 

He tried telling her he is no good at it. He can’t help, but he wanted to try. He thinks he’s been doing well this time around. 


The boy behind the counter is short, eyes wide. He reminds Taehyung of Yoongi. Maybe it’s just because Taehyung already misses him and Hoseok. It’s been a few weeks since they moved across the country, taking Taehyung’s camper with them. 

“Yeah?” the boy asks. He glances to the side where a small, ancient looking woman is working on a shelf full of keychains. “I mean, welcome. How can I help you?”

Taehyung snickers. “I get it. It’s early.”

The boy sighs, shoulders relaxing. He allows himself to look unfriendly again. “It is early. We opened only a few minutes ago. What can I get for you?”

Taehyung glances at the counter of food. “My grandmother used to tell me about this cookie I always wanted to try. I was wondering if you offered it here. I stopped at a few places before, and I think I recognized the name of this one.”

He holds out the piece of paper with the scribbled recipe. He tried to make it himself, and it came out awful. Jimin was right, none of them can cook well.

The old woman approaches then. Her hands shake when she reaches for the letter. The paper trembles in her hands. Taehyung swears she has to be older than a century like those turtles he and Jungkook used to visit.

“I don’t have any of this today,” the woman says. She hands him back the letter. “Come back, and I will have some for you. You are not from around here, are you?”

Taehyung shakes his head. He feels embarrassed that he sticks out that much in his birth country. “No. I haven’t been here since I was little.”

She peers at him from over her glasses. “From the Arctic then? It is cold outside, and yet you have nothing but that sweater on.”

It isn’t that cold outside. Not for what Taehyung is used to in December. Even back home, in December, he isn’t wearing his winter coat yet. That’s saved for January and February when he can no longer pretend like the cold isn’t stabbing his skin.

“America,” Taehyung says. “Near New York.”

The woman frowns. “You’ve come a long way. And for some yakgwa?”

Taehyung laughs quietly. The boy has walked away now and resumed the old lady’s work on the shelf. “No, no. I’m looking for someone. My Harmeoni just talked about this recipe often. It has been awhile since I’ve had it.”

The old lady pulls the recipe from his hands again. She looks over it a few times. “It is similar to my own recipe. Quite similar, I think. How much do you want?”

“As much as you’d like to make.”

The woman’s cold face lightens when she laughs. “It’s bad for your teeth.”

Taehyung glances down at the shelves of candy beneath the register. “All of this is. You and the local dentist office must have a good partnership going on.”

The woman laughs as she hands back the recipe. “Your parents did not teach you to have manners.” She looks amused when she says it. “Come, come. I have other food for you for now. You may not like my cooking at all.”

She leads him to a counter filled with different foods. He watches as she starts to put some together without asking anything about what he likes.

“This city is quite massive,” the woman says, eyeing him. “It will be difficult finding someone. Especially if they don’t want to be found.”

That thought crossed his mind. But he’s always wanted to be found. At least by Taehyung.

“Could I put up a photo here?” It’s a joke. Taehyung wants to do that, but he’s afraid it will scare him off.

The woman looks scandalized, and even the younger worker laughs from somewhere in the store.

“I don’t think so,” the woman says. She eyes over him. “I recognize that recipe. I don’t know what you’re doing here, but if it’s to fight for Chunja’s home, you should know she was insistent on who it would be passed to.”

Taehyung hesitates. “How did you know?”

“Her handwriting,” the woman says. “And I know she has a grandson in New York. If she wanted to leave the house to you, she would have. Here, try this and come back. I’ll have the yakgwa for you.”

Taehyung doesn’t tell her that Harmeoni did. The woman seems protective of something, and Taehyung doesn’t mind. 

He wonders if there are people coming to fight for his grandmother’s house. He doesn’t want it, really. Though it’s why he first decided he was going to come to South Korea. He wants to see the place his mother grew up again.

“Thank you, ma’am. Can I ask your name?”

The woman looks him over. “Lee Sunja. This is my grandson, Jihoon.”

Jihoon only looks at him as Taehyung bows his head. 

“It is nice to meet you. I’ll be back for that yakgwa.”

The house is unfamiliar. Taehyung feels like he doesn’t belong inside it. He touches over the framed pictures, smiling softly at his own face. He sits on the tough couch’s fabric, lies on it. He closes his eyes, breathes in.

This is his house now, but nothing about it reminds him of home. Just the pictures of his mother, of himself, of Jungkook.

There’s so many of Jungkook, Taehyung had been surprised. Pleasantly surprised. Some pictures he remembers. Of when they were younger. He always thought his parents were exaggerating about them being side by side always, but he’s gone over photographs the last few years, and realized it was true.

Wandering into the master bedroom, he finds photos of a Jungkook he doesn’t know. Those ones don’t hurt as much as he thought they would. They make him happy, actually.

He sits on the edge of the bed, which is covered in a thin layer of dust. The rest of the house is clean.

He stares at the photo on the dresser. A Jungkook he doesn’t know. The tight feeling is back in his throat, but there’s a smile on his face.

Jungkook is sitting on the couch in the living room. His head is tilted to the side, leaning on Harmeoni’s shoulder. His hair is shorter than it was when he left. His face is fuller, cheeks round. Taehyung hopes that’s a good thing.

He stands, touches the frame. He lifts it up closer. His chest aches.

I don’t know, Tae. He won’t answer for anyone. He hasn’t talked to me in days. Are we sure making him go the hospital was a good idea?

The pressure in his throat rises, and Taehyung presses a hand to his face. It is in his eyes. The date is at the bottom of the photo, months after Jungkook went to the hospital.

He’s smiling in the photograph, and it shows in his eyes.

His grandmother mentioned how often Jungkook came over, and it made him happy. But whenever Taehyung called, he wasn’t there. 

One time when he was, shortly after he was admitted, he refused to come to the phone.

“What are you doing?”

Taehyung turns, clears his throat. He plants the photo back on the dresser. Jimin stands in the doorway, his face softening as he takes in Taehyung’s wet eyes.

“What is it?”

He feels silly. He shakes his head. He’s hurt, he’s happy. He’s nervous. He’s determined. He’s nothing and all of it. 

“I’m so nervous.”

Jimin coos softly before he’s crossing the room. He likes that Jimin supports him coming here even though he was more pissed at Jungkook than Taehyung was. 

It took awhile, but Taehyung finally told Jimin why he shouldn’t be angry with Jungkook. It felt like breaking Jungkook’s trust, but Jimin’s need to protect him came out as anger, and Jungkook didn’t deserve anger.

“Don’t be nervous,” Jimin tells him. He squeezes him tight. “You know Hobi-ah got ahold of Jin hyung like we asked him to. Got his address.”

Taehyung nods. He wipes at his eyes. He stopped talking to Jin because he got angry. Just a moment of it because Jin wouldn’t force Jungkook to talk to him.

It was then that he realized how shame and embarrassment could make you want to hide. He understood more than ever how Jungkook felt.

He’s working on it.

“Okay,” Taehyung whispers. “That’s so sneaky. What if neither of them want to see us and get wicked pissed?”

Jimin rolls his eyes as he sticks out his pinky finger. “Hoseok said Jin was really happy to hear from him. It’ll be fine.”

Taehyung sucks his bottom lip into his mouth before wrapping his own pinky around Jimin’s. “Did he say? Is he still with?”

The worst part is thinking Jin couldn’t handle Jungkook the way Jungkook needed, and now he’s alone. It aches.

Taehyung regrets not coming sooner.

“He said he’s good,” Jimin whispers. He cocks his head to the side, holds Taehyung’s hand between his own. “He said he’s really good.”

Relief washes through Taehyung. It feels like pain, that pressure in his chest, even though it isn’t. His eyes water again, but he laughs it away when Jimin giggles. Jin better be telling the truth.

“That makes me so happy.”

It’s been a tiring few weeks. Taehyung needs to hold off on finding Jungkook until he can rest and clear his mind. With his grandmother passing, work, and the time difference, Taehyung feels like he’s been dragged through the mud.

The nerves aren’t helping. It keeps him from resting when he needs to.

Maybe he’ll take his medicine again.

“I don’t really understand,” Jimin admits, but it’s gentle. “But whatever you need here, I hope you get it.”

Taehyung looks away. He looks at the photo of Jungkook. New Jungkook. A Jungkook he doesn’t know. 

He doesn’t know what he needs by coming here. Maybe he’s stubborn and pushy, and that’s why it was hard for Jungkook to be around him. But there’s a nagging need in Taehyung. There’s regret there that he accepted Jungkook didn’t want to talk to him, that he wanted to keep hiding.

He shouldn’t have accepted it. He should have kept reaching out.

It’s been a hard three years trying to analyze himself. He took Jungkook’s words into consideration. He did so much because he was focused on Jungkook, concerned about Jungkook. He really would have gone wherever it was Jungkook wanted to go. 

He doesn’t see it as a bad thing. If he was walking one egg shells, it didn’t feel like it put him out. He felt okay still. It didn’t feel like a burden, but this is.

The fact that he just accepted Jungkook didn’t want to talk while going through a bad time makes him feel like he’s drowning in guilt. He shouldn’t have done that.

“I don’t know what I need here,” Taehyung says. “I think I just need to see with my own eyes that he’s okay. And not d -”

The word is on his tongue. He swallows it. He spent many nights terrified of it, calling Jin at random times to assure him Jungkook hadn’t hurt himself.

“Jin wouldn’t lie about that,” Jimin reminds him for the ten millionth time because Taehyung is always bringing it up.

“He would if Jungkook asked him not to tell me,” Taehyung breathes. He blinks at his eyes. It’s ridiculous. A ridiculous worry.

Taehyung’s always been bad at worrying.


The morning feels different. The world feels different. Life is different. The feeling is in his chest. A numbness. It’s hollow. 

The pressure of Jungkook’s head against it helps a little. The way his fingers trail over Taehyung’s palm feel nice.

His shirt is wet from Jungkook crying.

He threads his fingers through Jungkook’s hair. He isn’t crying anymore. It’s quiet around them.

Taehyung stares up at the ceiling. Closing his eyes makes him see her face. Keeping them open makes him see her face. It should cause him more pain, but it makes him happy to remember her.

It’s only been a day. He doesn’t want to forget her. He’s afraid he’ll forget her.

Jungkook shifts until his head is now placed so he can look up at him. They’re close. They’re always so close. His eyes are red and swollen, and a little more pain trickles into Taehyung.

“You should sleep,” Jungkook whispers.

Taehyung shakes his head. He cups Jungkook’s cheek, holds him in place.

“I’m thinking about her,” Taehyung tells him. “I want to keep thinking about her for a little while longer.”

Jungkook sighs, closes his eyes. “Me too. But I don’t want to anymore. Does that make me bad?”

Taehyung snorts. “You could never be bad. People handle pain differently.”

He can feel the pain in Jungkook’s exhale. Maybe he’s bad for not hurting as much as Jungkook. Or not showing it as much. There is no difference in the love they have for her. Taehyung knows Jungkook loves her just as much as he does. Maybe more. Maybe he’s a bad son.

“People heal differently,” Taehyung finds himself saying. He doesn’t know what he’s thinking about. His mind is kind of as hollow as his chest. “That’s why you and I are out here and Appa has hidden away on his sailboat.”

Jungkook brings his hand up, squeezes it into a fist and lays it beside Taehyung’s neck.

“Do you want to be here?” Jungkook asks. “Or do you want to hide away too?”

It’s a dumb question. Taehyung doesn’t say as much. “Being beside you is healing for me.”

Another heavy exhale from Jungkook. He blinks open his eyes, stares up at him. “Me too. But we should go find your Appa. Your Eomma wouldn’t want him to be in pain alone.”

Jungkook is right. Taehyung didn’t even think of it. He accepted that’s how his father deals with his pain. With the ocean. With his boat. 

“And I’m not just saying that because I think he should be with you,” Jungkook says. “Though I do think that.”

Taehyung didn’t think of it that way. He thinks people suffer differently. They need different things to heal. Maybe hiding away makes it worse. That’s why he never lets Jungkook do it. He never lets Jungkook hide away from him, even when he tries.

And this last year, that’s all Jungkook has tried to do. Hide away. 

Now his father is doing it.

“Let’s go get him,” Taehyung decides. It’s late in the night, but he knows his father is still on the water. He’s been awake and hasn’t heard him come home. “I think even if we need to heal differently, we should heal together.”

Jungkook sits up first. He wipes at his eyes and grabs Taehyung’s hands. 

“It’s okay to show pain.”

Taehyung isn’t hiding. He nods his head. “I know.”


Over the last few years, Taehyung realized he was hiding in his own way. Not physically. Not forcefully. 

Focusing on comforting Jungkook, on Jungkook’s pain, was easier than dealing with his own.

He thinks about it often. He had been upset when his mother passed away, but Jungkook had been right. His focus was on Jungkook. Because Jungkook was broken and needed tending.

Maybe he shouldn’t have thought of Jungkook as broken. But he did. Focused on those feelings instead of his own. His pain didn’t stick with him, though it comes here and there. When he thinks about his mother, it’s sometimes happy, it’s sometimes sad. He misses her, but he’s happy she isn’t sick anymore.

He’s happy that every picture of his grandmother, she’s smiling. He’s happy that she had someone. It’s easier to focus on that then the guilt he has that he wasn’t the someone.

Taehyung isn’t sure if it’s wrong or right to focus on someone else other than yourself. It feels like both. Ignoring his pain isn’t dealing with it, but helping someone else through theirs isn’t bad either.

He wishes pain didn’t exist at all. But if pain didn’t exist, it would be harder to enjoy the truly good things in the world.

It’s fucked up.

Taehyung is on the train, having a life crisis as he thinks about it.

He rubs a hand down his face. The world shouldn’t be analyzed because it’ll never be figured out.


Taehyung looks to the man beside him. He’s handsome, with a sharp jaw and even sharper eyes. He’s dressed like he’s too rich to be riding the train, but maybe here it’s different. 

In his hand, he offers Taehyung a piece of candy. It’s wrapped in pink. 

“Eomma always told me not to take candy from strangers.”

When the man smiles, it’s big. It’s a little too big for his face. 

“Here, unopened.”

When he opens his briefcase, Taehyung sees even more candy inside. He accepts one as not to be rude, but he doesn’t trust it.

“I put them in here to hide them from my son,” the man says. “If he gets ahold of candy, he’ll eat it until he’s sick. My briefcase has a code he can’t figure out. Yet. Who knows, kids these days are geniuses.”

Taehyung smiles. It’s only been a few days, but he misses Yena. She’s a little genius. “How old is your son?”

“Four,” the man says. He pulls out his phone, scrolls through for a moment, before showing off a picture of the small boy. He apologizes when a text comes through, blushing furiously as he swipes up the message from translator man written in English.

Taehyung snickers at the name, at the crude words he only got a glimpse of written in English as well. “He’s beautiful. Do you speak English?”

The man’s face turns red. “Oh no. Not well. I am trying to learn.”

“Let me hear it.”

The red slips down into the man’s neck. His laugh is awkward. “Oh, it really isn’t good. I mix up words, and my grammar is kind of bad. Like really bad.”

Taehyung shrugs. His mother always spoke to him in Korean, yet Jungkook was the one who could always speak it better. His parents tried to shun their culture, but Jungkook clung to it. “I speak English, and my grammar is still bad.”

They share a laugh. The man shows him another picture of his son, this time with a small girl whose eyes are too big for her face. It makes her look innocent.

“Your daughter?”

The man shakes his head. “A friend,” he says in English.

Taehyung snorts and claps the man on the back. “See? You’re doing excellent.”

The man is still red, but he laughs too. “Thank you. Sorry for being weird. You just looked like you need a cheer up.”

Taehyung looks down at the pink wrapper. Since he’s been trying to allow himself to feel pain, he’s been sucking at hiding it. 

Or maybe he was hiding away from it, not hiding the pain itself. 

“Thank you, I did. Life, you know?”

The man laughs. It’s softer. Taehyung wonders if he always smiles this much, and if so, if he can give Taehyung his secrets. “I know. I hope you find something better than candy to make it better.”

The train slows to a stop, and the man holds his hand out as Taehyung thanks him.

“Lee Seokmin,” the man says. “And you?”

“Tae - Kim Taehyung.”

Another big smile on the man’s face. It’s too big on his face, but it’s fitting. “It’s good to have met you.”

Taehyung stares up at his walls. Even if he’s here for only a few months, he can’t stand how blank they are. 

He rips himself from his bed and searches the house for hammer and nails. He knows they’re here somewhere because Mina spent the day putting together a bookshelf.

When he finds them, he gets to work. He struggles keeping the nails in an even line, but he decides it doesn’t matter.

The pictures are in his closet, wrapped tight in bubble wrap. Taehyung almost didn’t bring them, didn’t want them to get ruined in their travels. But he decided he can’t be without them.

It feels silly, but memories can fade and pictures don’t. Pictures help memories stay alive.

He places them above his bed, three pictures hopefully an even amount of space apart. They’re somewhat unlevel when he steps back to take them in.

The first one, a picture of his mother. She’s in a green sundress, a hand over her eyebrows and eyes still squinting in the sun. Behind her is the ocean, though he doesn’t remember which one. He doesn’t think they’re any from his hometown. Maybe it’s here, in Busan, because in the photo, she’s younger than Taehyung is now.

In the middle is the camper van, which is now beneath the California sun again. Taehyung had been happy to give it to his friends because he didn’t enjoy traveling in it as much. It’s meant for one person, but he felt lonely in it.

In the picture, the camper sits in front of the mountains. There’s a spread of green trees. In the front, there’s their attempt at a campfire. Taehyung remembers it kept going out.

The last picture is Jungkook. It doesn’t fit with the others. There’s no landscape behind him. It’s just him sitting in that camper van, face twisted in a laugh with his head held back. It’s one of his rare moments in his shorts, his leg propped up with his arm balancing on his knee. The scars on his thighs are visible from how low his shorts ride down.

The one on his neck has always been hard to hide. With his head tilted back, it’s on full show.

He can’t imagine what that’s like, having those marks stick with you. Stay with you forever. He has a mark from the car accident, right above his temple, but his bangs cover it.

Maybe it’s weird to have him on his wall. But Taehyung doesn’t care.

“I like it,” Mina says from behind him. It scares him, and he jumps.

She hides her body too sometimes. With baggy shirts she steals from Taehyung. At first she stole a lot from him because she needed help and didn’t know how to ask for it.

She’s wearing a stolen shirt now, hands hidden in the sleeves and in her armpits. Her hair is down, unwashed and hanging over her shoulders.

“I never saw him smile.”

Mina’s shoulders lift as she sighs, and she squeezes herself tighter. 

“Not once. He never came home, and when he did, it was either fighting or sadness.”

Taehyung listens quietly as Mina walks through the room. She only lets herself go to touch the scar on Jungkook’s neck.

“I’m not even angry,” she whispers under her breath. It sounds like she’s speaking to herself. “He should have never came back to me. I’m the reason he got that, you know?”

Taehyung watches her. She’s very closed off. She’ll say things with no emotion, and he’ll listen to her cry later on, hidden away in the bathroom.

“Appa was trying to use me against Eomma because he was angry with her,” Mina says. She sniffles, wipes her nose. “I was her favorite. But Jungkook stopped him. Fought him away. Got a knife to his throat because of it. I listened to Eomma scream that she didn’t care if he died or not.”

Mina blinks her eyes, pulls her hand away. “So yeah, I get why he wouldn’t want to come home. I’m afraid he won’t want to see me.”

Taehyung stops her from tucking her hands beneath her armpits again. He tugs her close, rests her face against the lowest part of his chest. 

“Of course he’ll want to see you,” Taehyung says. He has that same fear.

But with Mina, Jungkook had been afraid of her being angry when she wasn’t. With Taehyung, the last time they spoke, Taehyung was angry.

He wasn’t angry at Jungkook, but he should have known it would be taken that way. That’s how Jungkook’s mind worked. 

“You’re on this train every morning. Where are you going?”

Taehyung looks to Seokmin. There’s more candy in his hands, this time with a receipt attached so he would know it wasn’t anything suspicious.

“My grandmother’s house,” Taehyung explains. “She passed away. Left the house to me.”

He’s thankful she has a housekeeper or a landscaper. The house is always clean and dust free, though he found a half eaten container of ramen the last time he visited. 

“I’m sorry,” Seokmin says. He offers another piece of candy. His teeth are too perfect for someone who has a stash of candy in his briefcase. “Is that why you’ve traveled here? I’ve assumed. You have an accent I don’t recognize.”

Taehyung grins. He fiddles with the candy in his hand, the book he has on his lap. It’s a photo album, mostly empty, because he wants to steal the photos his grandmother has.

He reminds himself it isn’t stealing. She left everything to him.

“I’m from New York,” Taehyung says because no one ever knows Connecticut. He opens his book, shows off the beaches on the front page.

Seokmin looks over, touches a picture that has Jungkook sleeping in front of one of the Great Lakes. His head between Taehyung’s thighs, the glistening water behind him. It’s taken at a strange angle that only shows half of his face and a little bit of water, but it’s one of Taehyung’s favorites.

“Boyfriend?” Seokmin asks as Taehyung turns the page. Maybe he’s a creep for having so many photos. Their lives really were intertwined so much. 

Seokmin taps another picture of Jungkook. Of the both of them. Jungkook’s mouth is buried against Taehyung’s neck. A stupid mirror selfie that felt childish, but Taehyung’s heart does too much when he stares at it.

“Person I’m looking for,” Taehyung murmurs. He touches Jungkook’s sleepy face. “Every day when I get on this train.”

Seokmin looks at him for a moment before he’s opening his briefcase. He hands Taehyung a business card with Diamond Broadcasting Company written in blue at the top.

His stomach jolts a little when he eyes Seokmin’s name and the C.E.O written beside it.

“If you need my help, call me. I’m pretty good at finding people,” Seokmin says.

The train comes to a stop, and he stands.

“I think I can help you find your friend. Give me a call.”

“I’m never going to that shop again. Fuck you.”

Taehyung feels tired. His chest aches. “What?”

Jimin looks flustered, shaking a hand through his silver gray hair where he stands in Taehyung’s doorway.

“That old lady threatened me. The things I do for you, Taehyung.”

Taehyung looks up at the ceiling. He’s trying to accept that feelings are how they are. They’re there.

He said he doesn’t want to live, Tae. I don’t know what to do. I am afraid that I’ll make it worse if I push too much.

He found letters from his mother to his grandmother. Confessions about how she was struggling to go on with life.

It makes him think of Jungkook, of the pain he felt hearing Jungkook say the same. Maybe he’s hiding again, deciding to turn away from the pain that he feels knowing his mother felt that way too and going back to a pain he’s already dealt with.

He’s trying to figure out himself. He’s working on it. Maybe he’s analyzing it too much. 

He’s tired.

“What old lady?”

Jimin doesn’t answer as he sits at the edge of the bed. He presses the back of his hand to Taehyung’s forehead.

“What is it?” he asks, his annoyed expression quickly turning into one of concern.

Taehyung shakes his head. “I went to Harmeoni’s house, dug through her things to find something of my Eomma.”

Jimin lays beside him, wraps an arm over his waist.

“I’m not actually sad about anything,” Taehyung tells him. “I just hate that some things exist, happen. That the world is a little too complicated to figure out.”

“Stop trying to figure it out then,” Jimin whispers. “You’ll go mad.”

It’s all Taehyung has been doing lately. Trying to figure it out, analyze. He wants there to be a reason pain exists. He wants to understand why he does the things he does. 

“Anyway, the old lady.”

Maybe he’s hiding again.

Jimin sighs, accepts it. “She definitely knows your Jungkookie. No one threatens to stab someone’s eye out just because they’re asking for help to find someone. I wonder what Jungkook’s been up to that an old lady would be that protective of him.”

Taehyung is that protective of him. He’s failed at it a lot though. But that’s the thing about the world, you can try and try to do it right, but there is no manual on how to do things right. 

“So I’m going back tomorrow,” Jimin goes on. “I’m gonna find him for you.”

The business card sits on his nightstand. He glances at it. Maybe Seokmin has ties with detectives or something. He doesn’t know how he can help him.

“Don’t risk your life,” Taehyung tries to joke. He lets Jimin take his hands and hold them.

“I will for you,” Jimin says with a sigh. “You’ll have to take care of Namjoon.”

Taehyung thinks Namjoon can take care of himself just fine. They’ve only been here about a week, and he’s already found a job. 

“He went to go see Jin today,” Jimin says after a bout of silence. “Said he looks really good. Healthy.”

It’s odd. Taehyung came here to search for Jungkook, and the best place to start would be going to Jin. But he hasn’t. He’s too terrified. 

He understands Jungkook now more than he had before. He was never afraid of his friends or people that used to be his friends. Not the way Jungkook was, not the way he is now.

“He invited us for dinner,” Jimin adds. “You too. Namjoon told him you were here.”

Something plays on Jimin’s face. Taehyung waits, doesn’t push. Jimin isn’t good at keeping secrets when he is excited to share them. It won’t take long for him to spill, only a second.

Jimin sucks in a breath before he does. 

“He gave us Jungkook’s address.”

That breath Jimin sucks in feels like it’s been pulled out of Taehyung’s lungs. 


“It’s just an exam, Tae.”

Soft hands cradle his face. Even softer lips kiss the tears beneath his eyelids.

It is just an exam. Taehyung feels stupid for both not doing well and for being so upset about it.

“I know,” Taehyung whispers when he feels Jungkook’s breath hitting his own.

Taehyung parts his lips. This is new, but he likes it when Jungkook’s mouth fits perfectly over his own. A lot.

They’re locked away in their shared dorm room. Nothing but the fairy lights on around them. It’s cheesy, but Taehyung wanted to cry in darkness. Jungkook wasn’t letting him cry alone.

“You never cry,” Jungkook murmurs. His lips brush back over Taehyung’s cheek bone, nuzzle against his temple.

Taehyung sighs when Jungkook’s lips trail to his ear, and his head turns to allow him room to kiss him there. 

“And when I finally do it’s about something stupid,” Taehyung laughs. Jungkook slowly curls over him until there is a thigh fitting between Taehyung’s legs. A shiver rushes down his spine when Jungkook’s lips catch on his earlobe. 

“It isn’t stupid.”

Jungkook nuzzles their noses, presses a kiss to Taehyung’s top lip. 

Taehyung cups the back of his neck and kisses him hard. 

He kisses until the tears dry and his exam is forgotten. His worries about his father being angry from him gone, and his attention on the hard body against him and the way it makes his heart feel.

“Love you,” Taehyung breathes, fingers shifting through Jungkook’s hair. He tugs, bites. 

Jungkook tenses. His body becomes tight. He presses his forehead to Taehyung’s cheek before turning back and kissing him again. 

Taehyung thinks he’s crying again when his cheeks feel wet, but it isn’t until the hitch in Jungkook’s breath that he figures it’s Jungkook instead.


Chapter Text

“I want you. Just you.”

Teeth, lips, tongues colliding. Slick skin over slick skin. Soft hair between fingers, even softer thighs beneath palms. Jungkook’s heart thumps so erratically every inch of him is throbbing with the force of it. He’s sure Taehyung can feel it.

“Just me?”

Jungkook nods. He squeezes Taehyung’s thighs, pulls him closer despite there being no space between them.

“Just you.”

Obscene it is, the squelch where their bodies connect, the way Taehyung’s sharp breaths grow in pitch. The way Taehyung’s fingers claw at his shoulders, his biceps, before his arms squeeze so tightly around Jungkook’s neck he wonders if it could break.

He wonders if Taehyung knows exactly what he means. There was a time he thought Taehyung just knew everything, everything he was feeling, wanting. Then came the time when  Jungkook didn’t want him to know any of that.

But this - this, Jungkook has never hidden. He wants Taehyung to know, knows he must. Taehyung is too tender and caring of his heart to not know it belongs to him.

Fingers catch Jungkook’s jaw, and Taehyung holds onto him so roughly it almost hurts. Their foreheads press together. Jungkook can taste his breath, his moans, the heat spilling off Taehyung.

“Just - just want you too,” Taehyung moans against his lips, thighs tightening around Jungkook’s waist.

It doesn’t matter if he means it the way Jungkook does. If he’s only saying it in the heat of the moment. Jungkook is selfish that way, always so selfish.

“Love you,” Taehyung hiccups, gasps. 

Quiet, yet in Jungkook’s ears he’s screaming it. 

“You don’t talk about him.”

Smoke spirals in front of him, mixing in with his cloud of breath. He doesn’t like the smell, but he knows Kyung-mi doesn’t want to be alone, so he deals with it.

They’re sat outside his apartment, on that same porch Jungkook sits on to look out at the moon every night. The moon isn’t out yet, the sky still clinging to the sun before it descends beneath the horizon.

“I don’t talk about a lot of things.”

Kyung-mi laughs. “That’s true. You can though. With me. You know I understand.”

Jungkook nods. He may not understand all of her demons, but she understands his. But his could trigger hers, and she crashes hard. Harder than he ever has. Or maybe they crash just as hard as each other, and their methods of hurting themselves are just different. 

“I don’t really understand love, but it makes me happy to hear it.”

There is mischief in her eyes when she smiles. Jungkook finds his eyes drop to the half of her mouth that can’t move with it. He feels guilty when he does that, because he knows how much it sucks for people to keep noticing the physical marks trauma has left behind.

He rubs at his neck, touches the hardened skin there. “Love isn’t any different in its different forms. It feels the same, at least. Romantic, platonic, familial, it’s all the same feeling.” 

Kyung-mi snorts. She thinks he’s bullshitting to make her feel better, probably. “Well I am bad at it regardless of its form. I can’t give it, and the world doesn’t give it to me.”

Jungkook leans back on his hands. The porch is cold beneath them. “Bo loves you, and I know you love her.”

She inhales deeply. Silence follows as the smoke slowly trails from her lips. It isn’t so bad when it’s quiet between them. Not so much as it was now that he has more of a handle on how to sort the thoughts that come with silence. 

“I want you to talk about him,” Kyung-mi says. Avoiding. Jungkook doesn’t mention it. “Please.”

Jungkook sighs as he looks around. They can’t share the moon anymore, but their sunrises and sunsets are close enough that Jungkook imagines him by the docks, looking at the same shade of sky as him.

He hopes he’s sleeping well. That he’s looking at more sunsets than sunrises. 

“The last time we spoke we fought,” Jungkook finally says. He hasn’t said the words out loud before. “I remember every word of it, but I don’t remember why, really. I know he probably beat himself up for the things he said. I hate knowing he thinks that’s why we lost touch. I know he must.”

Jungkook swallows the thickness in his throat. He knows he shouldn’t keep stuff inside. 

“Did he know? The shit you were going through?”

No. Yes. A mix of both. Taehyung has always known everything about him, even when Jungkook never said it out loud.

“He was there. When -”

Jungkook touches his throat again. Kyung-mi sighs as she stubs out her cigarette.

“I think I could kill that man,” she says under her breath. “If I saw him. I think I could kill him. Bo wouldn’t love me too much then.”

It’s mostly a blur, the last time he saw his father. He felt like a different person. He felt like he was watching everything from outside his body, unable to control himself. 

The same way he felt that night when he was young. When his father dragged Taehyung into the house after he called the police.

The same way he felt when he came to pick up Bo and found Kyung-mi on the ground, her crushed face hidden beneath her hands. His father hadn’t been there then, had already left, but Jungkook moved around with the kind of rage that made it difficult to trust his own hands.

“I think I could kill him too. I think Bo would still love me if I did,” Jungkook says. 

When Kyung-mi stands, it’s abrupt. She holds out her hands for him like her frail limbs are strong enough to lift him up.

“It always turns back to sadness, doesn’t it?” she asks. “I want to hear about your love, and we are always back to that bastard.”

Sometimes it feels like that bastard and the things he’s done have defined Jungkook’s life. Every piece of it. He’s trying to reclaim it. 

His counselor has suggested support groups, reaching out to other people who have gone through the same thing as him. He wants to, to see with his own eyes that there are people who have truly healed and made life their own. But there are still times that talking about it can trigger him too.

“Not always,” Jungkook assures her. Maybe it doesn’t sound as genuine as he wants it to. He used to believe sadness was something that was inevitable. Biting, destructive sadness would always happen again and again. “I’ll tell you a happy thing.”

She rolls her eyes as he stands. “Let’s see what you got.”

There is a smile on his lips before he is even fully aware of what memory he’s thinking of. It comes out though, making his smile grow with each word. “When he bought the camper van we used on the trip, he pulled up to my job all excited and stuff. He came storming in and pulled me outside. Basically told my boss to fuck off and everything. He was vibrating with excitement. Happiness. His smile took over his entire face.”

Kyung-mi’s smile is soft.

Jungkook leaves out the part where Taehyung had jumped him the moment he had stepped into the camper. It was illegal technically, even if Taehyung had the windows covered. He got in trouble for taking too long on his break, but Jungkook had been too happy to care.

“He looked forward to that trip so much. It was all he wanted for years.”

Jungkook ruined it. He’s accepted that he did, and that he can’t change it. It still makes him feel bad. But he’s learned that’s how it is, why it’s so bad. The things he’s going through. They dampen everyone’s light.

He shines now. Not always, and not fully, but his darkness isn’t so bad.

Kyung-mi glances towards the house where Bo is probably playing on her tablet again. Today she is learning colors and has been screaming at the top of her lungs every time she’s come across something purple.

“I hope you find him again.”

Jungkook clears his throat. He is kind of worried Taehyung is somehow at Jin’s house right now because Jin’s been so weird the last few days. The talk about his get together with his coworkers has been obnoxious. Overly obnoxious. He’s definitely up to something, and the only thing that could cause him to be so secretive is Taehyung.

Or their other friends. Or an intervention. Maybe Jin thinks Jungkook is crashing again. He doesn’t always believe Jungkook when he assures him he’s actually okay. 

Jungkook gets it. He’s always lied about being okay, it’s understandable that his friends won’t always believe him. 

“Thank you,” Jungkook says. He lets her hands go. “You sure you don’t want me to wait until Bo is asleep? Jin won’t mind if I’m late.”

Kyung-mi shakes her head, tucks her hands beneath her armpits. “It’s just a few hours. One night. I can handle this. I need to work on being a good mother anyway.”

Jungkook thinks she is a good mother. 

“You’ll do fine. And I’ll keep my phone on, just in case. She likes to sneak into my bedroom at night, so you can sleep in there if you’d like.”

Kyung-mi sucks on her bottom lip. Her chest rises and falls heavily as she sighs. The fear is obvious in her eyes, but it’s only one night.

A lot can happen in just one night, Jungkook thinks as he collects his things and kisses Bo’s forehead goodbye. His nerves have been on fire all day thinking about leaving them together, but he has to one day. 

One day, Kyung-mi will want to take care of Bo again. Be her parent. Jungkook will have to let her. 

Jungkook breathes through his nose. He’s been to Jin’s house a thousand times. It’s like his second house, but he stares at the door like he can’t open it. He looks at the keypad, struggling to come up with the code to unlock it. 

Surely it’s not what he’s thinking. His mind has just been jumping to that because he misses Taehyung. 

He’s always missed Taehyung. But lately it’s been different, stronger. 

It isn’t normal for him to knock, but Jungkook finds his fists rapping against the door before he can stop them. 

Dread fills him when Jin opens the door. He looks flustered and nervous too. His ears are bright red. 

Jin is always obvious when he’s up to something, and Jungkook can’t think of anything else it could be but Taehyung. 

Jungkook’s body turns rigid. “It’s not a dinner with your coworkers, is it?”

Jin laughs. It sounds forced. He takes the cooler by Jungkook’s feet. “Well, you see. Um. Come in, come in.”

Jungkook doesn’t move. Jin narrows his eyes and tugs him inside.

“So it turns out Hoseokie is sending us clothes, but that’s not why he asked for our address You trust your hyungie, yes?”

Jungkook can’t breathe as Jin steps aside and shows off the people in his apartment that he most definitely doesn’t work with.

His chest aches.

Sometimes it feels like he’s not a part of the world, like his body is separate from the things around him. He’s aware he’s staring, that his heart is thumping, but he can’t do anything about it.

“Jeon fucking Jungkook,” Jimin says. He doesn’t look any different. His hair is silver gray, hanging over his forehead. Maybe he’s a little slimmer, not much taller. His eyes are bright. “It’s been forever.”

Jungkook breathes in. Namjoon is beside him. He looks nervous too, uncomfortable. He also looks just as Jungkook remembered him. Tall and strong. His black is styled in the same side part and swoop he always wore in college, like no time has passed at all. 

Jin claps him hard on the back, shoving Jungkook forward. It brings him back, makes him realize he has to respond.

“Jimin-ssi,” Jungkook breathes. “Hyung. It’s good to see you. What? What brings you all the way to South Korea?”

When Jimin comes up to him, Jungkook braces himself. He isn’t a violent person, or at least, the Jimin Jungkook knew wasn’t. But the last time they spoke, Jimin wasn’t kind. 

“You,” Jimin says. The hand he cups to Jungkook’s neck is gentle. “It’s really good to see you, Kook.”

Me? Jungkook thinks. His mouth is dry. He licks his tongue around his mouth, but it doesn’t seem to help. 

“Jimin-ah got a job here,” Namjoon says, side eyeing Jimin. “In the special effects department of some broadcasting company. I found a job at a medical center near his building.”

There is silence. Jungkook nods as Jimin squeezes his neck. It’s probably meant to be comforting, but Jungkook hates being touched. 

“DBC?” Jungkook finally asks, eyes traveling from Namjoon to Jimin. It feels surreal, having them here. In front of him. Time is all he has, but he’s lost so much of it. 

“Yeah, you know it?” Jimin asks. He pulls his hands away, brings the glass in his other hand up to his lips. 

“Fucking the head of the company,” Jin grumbles under his breath. There’s amusement in his eyes, and Jungkook wants to kick him. This time he wants it to hurt.

“What?” Jimin asks. His eyebrows shoot up towards his hairline, and his jaw tightens. 

“Fucking works beside the head of the company,” Jin quickly corrects himself as Jungkook glares at him. He gives him a look that says he doesn’t know what he did wrong. “They’re close.”

Jimin’s face relaxes some. Jungkook wonders if Jimin hates him. He deserves it. 

It makes him wonder just how much he had hurt Taehyung for Jimin to be so angry. 

Jungkook turns on his heel to pull out his own drink.

His hands are shaking again.

“Small world,” Namjoon says. He sounds awkward. All of this is awkward. “We’ve rented a temporary house a few miles from Gwangalli Beach. Close to the water, you know.”

Jungkook’s hands are shaking so hard he can’t open the bottle.

“I met Sunja,” Jimin adds. He glances to Jin, and Jungkook wonders how much they talked about him before he arrived. “That old lady is protective of you.”

A few days ago someone came in asking for you. I didn’t care to ask his name. I kicked him out. Young man but gray hair.

Jimin came looking for him. The question is at the tip of his tongue, but Jungkook doesn’t ask it. He doesn’t have the right to want Taehyung to look for him. It should be him looking for Taehyung and finding him with an apology ready.

He doesn’t say so as he struggles to open his drink. He already wants to leave, but he can’t keep letting his demons make him an asshole to everyone.

“Hoseokie said you moved to Connecticut,” Jin says, filling in the silence. 

Namjoon relaxes some. He leans against Jin’s dining room table, resting his butt on the edge. “Yeah. For about a year. Uh, because. Yeah.”

Jungkook turns when he finally manages to get the cap from his bottle. “You can talk about him.”

Namjoon turns red. He nods his head. Jimin’s eyes are still on Jungkook, but he no longer looks amused. He watches him the way Jin does when he thinks he’s upset. 

It feels like the shaking in his hands is obvious, and he can’t hide it.

“Taehyung was having a hard time, so we moved down to help him,” Namjoon quickly explains. The redness slips down to his neck. 

Jungkook can’t breathe. He takes a sip of his drink, chokes on it.

“That’s when I called you,” Jimin said. He looks around, regret in his eyes. “I’m sorry by the way. Taehyung told me what was going on. I shouldn’t have been so mean.”

There is pressure in Jungkook’s face. He shakes his head, shrugs it off. He reminds himself to accept the feeling in his chest, but he can’t. He has to figure out where it’s coming from first. 

“Don’t be,” Jungkook says. He clears his throat because his words come out weak. “Really, don’t be. Um. I understand. I was an asshole.”

Jin turns then. The same kind of protectiveness is on his face. Jungkook waves him off. 

“What have you guys been up to?” Jungkook says loudly when Jin keeps opening his mouth like he isn’t going to be quiet. He walks across the kitchen to sit at the dining table. “I want to hear.”

Jimin hesitates before he sits down across from him. “You can ask about him.”

Jungkook smiles. His chest hurts. His hands are shaking so hard around the bottle he feels like his years of work have shattered in one moment.

“It’s okay.”

A hand touches the back of his neck before Jin sits beside him. He wishes people didn’t think he needed to be tended to so much. He wishes he didn’t need to be tended to.

“He’s here,” Jimin finally says. 

And Jungkook can’t breathe with how hard his heart swoops into his throat. It makes his eyes water immediately. He clears his throat, hides his hands beneath the table. 

“In South Korea,” Jimin goes on. “So you can ask about him. Or see him, if you want to.”

Jungkook clears his throat again. He can’t fucking breathe . “If you’d excuse me for a moment.”

The moon is right there. It’s small tonight. A crescent.

Taehyung is looking at that same moon.

Jungkook presses the heels of his palms to his eyes. He can handle this. It is emotion, and it’s okay to have it.

He tells himself this. He can’t identify why it feels so strong. Or what it is exactly. Fear? Happiness? It feels like both but neither at the same time. 

Jungkook inhales as deeply as he can. His eyelashes are wet. He feels embarrassed that he had to leave. He looks weak, unable to handle a simple conversation. But it isn’t that. 

“I’m sorry.”

When Jungkook whips around, Jimin is there. He had thought he closed the door to the bedroom Jin made up for Bo here.

Jimin looks around at the toys, frowning slightly before he looks at Jungkook.

“I didn’t think telling you would upset you that much.” Jimin speaks carefully. “I figured you missed him the way he misses you. That’s what Jin said. That’s why we came. I thought we should just get straight to the point instead of jumping around the subject.”

Jungkook nods. Even if Taehyung wasn’t here, the topic of him would still have hung in the air. “I do miss him. A lot. Every day.”

“Why haven’t you called?”

It’s dark in the room, but Bo’s night light casts a purple light over them. It’s her favorite color just like it’s Taehyung’s. 

Or was. Jungkook doesn’t know anymore. He hates that the most. He doesn’t know things about Taehyung anymore. Is his sister okay? What school is she going to? What does Taehyung do for a living? Are his father and step mother still together? Still working at the fishing company?

Does Taehyung sleep? Does he bring flowers to his mother’s grave now that Jungkook isn’t? 

“I was afraid.”

Jungkook and Jimin were never close to the point where Jungkook opened up to him. It was only ever Taehyung before Jin and him moved here. He isn’t sure if he’s okay with telling Jimin that, even if it’s a little thing.

“His grandmother died,” Jimin says. Jungkook knows. “That’s why he came here. And to find you.”

Jungkook takes in a breath. That’s shaky too. There’s a trap door over his lungs that doesn’t open to let the oxygen in. 

“You’re the gray haired boy that’s been asking about me at Sunja’s shop.”

Jimin grins as he tugs his fingers through his hair. “That old lady threatened me. It’s good to see someone looking out for you, though I hope you aren’t in trouble.”

He wonders how much Taehyung told Jimin for Jimin not to look at him with hatred in his eyes. He wonders how comfortable he is sharing his stories. He doesn’t understand why they’re hard to tell people. He didn’t do those things. There is no shame he should feel. 

That’s the one thing that’s been the most helpful. Learning not to feel shame for being hurt by someone. By his parents.

“My father comes around sometimes looking for me. She thought you were with him.”

Jimin softens. His eyes widen some before he reaches out. Jungkook hates being touched, but Jungkook knows that Jimin is just doing it to try and comfort him. “I’m sorry, Kookie. I didn’t - Tae told me. Some. But enough. The scar -”

Jungkook has gotten over it in a lot of ways. Or maybe that isn’t the right word. He’s accepted that it happened, and that there wasn’t anything about him or what he did to cause it. 

Which can be frustrating sometimes. Having no control over the horrible things that have happened to you, having no reason they even happened in the first place. They just did, and there’s nothing that could have been done to change it because it’s in the past and time traveling doesn’t exist yet. 

Jimin’s eyes dart to his neck and back to his eyes. He lets Jungkook go. “I really feel like an asshole. But Tae was just upset. Like, really upset. I don’t mean to say that to make you feel bad. I just - I was wrong, that’s all.”

It hurts knowing that, even if Jungkook suspected it.

“It doesn’t mean much,” Jimin says softly. “But he said you probably feel shame for having a breakdown, for hurting your father. I don’t know much, but I know enough to say that you shouldn’t feel shame for that.”

Jungkook tightens his hands into fists. Taehyung always knows even when Jungkook doesn’t tell him. 

“I want to see him,” Jungkook says. He sniffles. God, maybe he shouldn’t drink. “I want to apologize. Is he - is he doing okay?”

There is certainty in the way Jimin nods, but his eyes are wide and sad. He cups his elbows as he hugs himself. “He’s good. Regular Tae. Misses you.”

Maybe this pressure is happiness because Jungkook smiles. Maybe he shouldn’t be happy about that. But he is. 


“I meant it. I’ll marry you Jungkook Jeon.”

Jungkook wrinkles his nose. He looks at the building where a statue of Elvis Presley stands in front.

Taehyung deserves the wedding of his dreams. If he has one. His father is now religious. Maybe he’d want one in a Church. Their state is more liberal. He could probably find one.

There is a place on the beach by Jungkook’s mother’s house that he always envisioned marrying Taehyung at. It’s a small house near the slippery rocks lining the edge of the water. From one of the rooms inside, the lighthouse is visible. Jungkook’s always thought of marrying Taehyung in his suit, standing in front of the window that shows it. 

“I will,” Taehyung sings. He takes Jungkook’s hands into his own, swings them out until their bodies are pressing together. “Right now.”

Jungkook knows Taehyung would. Even if his heart doesn’t belong to him, Taehyung won’t give it away to anyone else either if he knew Jungkook wanted him.

He must know. Because they’re here, in front of a chapel. Taehyung’s the one that’s adamant about going inside.

But it’s wrong. Jungkook won’t do that to him.

He can’t stop himself from being honest. He wants Taehyung to know how he feels, just in case he gives into the things he wants to do.

But he’s torn. Torn between needing to tell him and knowing it would be really fucked up.  

“Can get the honeymoon suite. Have sweaty sex.”

Taehyung’s mouth is against his as he says that. Jungkook grins and curls his arms around his waist. 

They’re in public. Jungkook likes that the world can see them embrace. The world can see the good things about him and not just the bad. 

“We can do that without getting married,” Jungkook whispers. “The honeymoon suite is too expensive.”

A soft moan leaves Taehyung’s lips when their tongues touch. Jungkook can taste it.

“Hm, sounds like you’re chickening out on me,” Taehyung teases as he pulls back. His face is burning red. “What did I tell you? Married or not we’ll be together, always. Might as well make it legal, so when I die, you can have the camper.”

Jungkook’s chest hurts. Sometimes he can’t breathe around Taehyung, and sometimes he can only breathe when Taehyung is there.

“Don’t talk like that,” Jungkook says. He kisses Taehyung. “Take me to the camper. We’ll have sweaty sex there.”

There is a soft look on Taehyung’s face. He touches Jungkook’s jaw. He can probably read his mind. Knows everything inside.

Jungkook wishes he did as much as he doesn’t. He doesn’t want Taehyung to know what’s in there, but if he did, he wouldn’t have to tell Taehyung he’s leaving.

“Okay,” Taehyung whispers. “We’re getting married someday, Jeon. So buckle up boy, and get ready to be my husband. I’m not letting the camper get abandoned.”


Jin’s hand is on him all night. The back of his neck, his shoulder. It’s a reminder that Jungkook isn’t alright.

Not that he isn’t alright. He’s confused by the pressure in his chest, by the thoughts in his head. They won’t shut up. He thinks about Jin telling Taehyung what happened that night. About the fight. He wonders if Taehyung knew it was because of that and not their fight that Jungkook pulled away from him. 

It wouldn’t really make Taehyung feel better. Jungkook knows - knew Taehyung. Even if Taehyung didn’t think Jungkook wasn’t speaking to him because he was angry, he still would have been riddled with worry.

He excuses himself abruptly. He isn’t up to the small talk right now. Nor the eyes on him. The sympathy, the caution. None of it.

If he’s running again, so be it. But the cold air feels good in his lungs and on his hot skin. 

There are still times when Jungkook feels as if his old feelings, his old crippling feelings and habits, are sneaking up on him again. There are plenty of people who are burdened by something sad, who take themselves away from things that make them uncomfortable or hurt, without having depression, without those urges to make themselves hurt more. They’re just normal things. 

But Jungkook is afraid of being that way again. He’s afraid of his past self returning.

Jungkook walks. He walks for awhile. His phone rings in his pocket, and he turns it off without looking at the texts he knows Jin has sent him.

It’s normal to need space, comfort. It’s okay to be confused by emotions and to feel sadness. Jungkook reminds himself under his breath, which comes out in a puff around his face from the frosty air.

Wet cold touches his cheek, and Jungkook wipes it away with his warmer fingers. He was too lost in his head to notice the smell in the air. The smell of snow.

It won’t snow much. Maybe just a very thin dusting that will be gone by the morning. 

He realizes the feeling then. The one in his chest. It isn’t sadness although that’s how it’s disguised itself. That’s the only emotion Jungkook has known for so long, but it isn’t that now.

Jungkook’s homesick.

Jungkook can’t feel his face or fingers by the time he’s arrived back to his apartment. He fumbles getting into the door, cussing quietly at his loudness when he notices all of the lights are off.

The moon still comes in though, highlighting the slumped over figure on his couch.

He grabs a sweater from the coat rack to replace the jacket he wears. He tucks his hands into his armpits and tries to warm them quickly before he approaches her.

Her chin is against her chest, which moves enough to calm the panic inside him. He still doesn’t wait to warm his hands enough before he’s slipping them beneath her jaw to lift her head.

For a moment, Jungkook thinks she will remain asleep, or passed out, but her eyes fly open when her head touches the back of the couch. It’s immediate how her hands then come up to wrap tightly around his wrists.

Kyung-mi exhales when she spots him. Her hands weaken their grip before she rubs at her eyes.

“Sorry. I must have fallen asleep.” 

“Don’t be sorry,” Jungkook says. He keeps an eye on her as she stretches. She seems with it, just tired. “You can go back to sleep. Take my bed, I’ll sleep on the couch.”

Kyung-mi shakes her head. She turns, staring at the hallway. It falls quiet, and Jungkook leaves her be to check on Bo. 

The purple light spills into the hallway from her cracked door. He pushes it open slowly, wrapping his body around the door frame to look in.

She has her hands beneath her cheek, face relaxed. There is a blanket over her, some of it tucked over her head so only her face peeks out. He worries when she sleeps like that, like she’ll somehow suffocate, so he walks in and slowly pulls it from her. 

For a moment, she fusses. There is movement behind her eyelids, but she lets out a soft exhale and falls back into her dreams.

“She was good.”

Jungkook looks up. Kyung-mi’s eyes are more alert now as she peeks in too. She rests her face against the door frame. 

“I forgot to turn on her night light, and she didn’t tell me,” Kyung-mi goes on. There is sadness in her voice. “That was our only hiccup.”

Bo’s skin is warm when he brushes his knuckles over her cheek. He plants a kiss to her forehead before he leaves. 

Seeing her is comforting. He meant it when he said there is no difference in love’s forms. The comfort and warmth Bo brings him is nothing different than the comfort and warmth Taehyung gave him, or Mrs. Kim. Or Harmeoni. 

The strength they give him is the same too. Jungkook’s always wanted to be deserving of their love as well. 

“She is afraid of the dark,” Jungkook says as he slips out of the room. He closes the door until it’s only cracked an inch. 

“I get that,” Kyung-mi huffs dryly. She shakes her fingers through her hair until she can pull her ponytail out. “The dark is a terrifying place. But I know you’ll make it a secure place for her.”

Jungkook doesn’t know the look she’s giving him. He’s too drained for this right now. He already kind of feels like a mess, and it makes his throat tight.

“I won’t let anything happen to her.”

It’s something he’s told her a thousand times over. He’s told himself it too. He’s whispered it to Bo while she’s slept, has promised it to her when she first went on the big kid swings. 

“You’re upset,” Kyung-mi says, cocking her head to the side. He isn’t, but as used to being sad as he is, everyone else is used to it too. “What happened?”

Jungkook shakes his head as he walks off. He knows Kyung-mi is following him.

“You should talk about it,” Kyung-mi says quietly. It’s ironic coming from her, but Jungkook doesn’t mention it. 

“I’m not upset,” Jungkook says. He clears his throat. “I don’t know what the feeling is, but it’s not a bad one. I’m a bit nervous though, which isn’t a good feeling of course.”

Confusion fills Kyung-mi’s face. Jungkook wants a drink, but he can’t drink in front of her. He decides for water instead.

“Taehyung is here,” Jungkook says. His chest is tight, and he breathes in as deeply as he can until he’s sure his lungs fill with oxygen. He hears Kyung-mi do the same thing. “It feels like a mix of longing, happiness, nerves, and guilt. But the guilt is kind of muted right now because I’m so overwhelmed.”

Pressure hits Jungkook’s eyes so suddenly, he doesn’t see it coming. He blows his cheeks out as he exhales, but it doesn’t stop his eyes from watering. 

“That’s - that’s good, right?” Kyung-mi asks, hesitating. 

Jungkook stares at the water pouring from the faucet. He knows Taehyung well. Taehyung probably forgives him even if he shouldn’t. That’s why Jimin is looking for him.

But he doesn’t get it. If Taehyung is here, why didn’t he go to Jin’s? 

“I don’t know,” Jungkook says as he pulls himself from his thoughts. “We’ll see. Even if it is bad, I still want to see him.”

Jungkook runs. He’s never late, but he overslept. That and Bo was difficult, extremely difficult. She wouldn’t let him dress her and threw a tantrum over breakfast. Brushing teeth felt like going to war.

Leaving her at daycare felt like sending a family member off to it. He didn’t want to leave her knowing she was so distraught all morning. But he’s hoping it passes. Maybe it’s just a morning thing. Maybe he’s a shit big brother.

Harmeoni told him that it’s okay for children to be upset sometimes, not to give in to her every time she is upset. Jungkook feels like an asshole. He doesn’t want to ignore it when it’s important. 

“I’m so, so sorry I’m late,” Jungkook yelps as he rushes into the office. He quickly tugs off his coat and scarf, dropping his briefcase to the ground to do so.

Silence answers him. Jungkook looks around, taking in the empty office. It’s the first time since Jungkook’s first day on the job that Seokmin hasn’t been here when he arrived.

He eyes Seokmin’s winter wear hanging up, the glow from his computer, and the missing blinking red that signals the eighty voicemails Seokmin always listens to when he first comes in. Seokmin must be here somewhere. Hopefully unaware that Jungkook is late.

It probably wouldn’t be anything serious, maybe a light or teasing scolding. But Jungkook feels bad when he puts Seokmin out. He breathes out in relief, quietly tiptoeing out before the receptionist arrives. 

Jungkook stills as soon as he enters his own office. There is Seokmin, standing in front of the portrait of mountains on his wall. His fingers are grazing over the shape of Taehyung before he turns when Jungkook clears his throat.

That bright smile takes over Seokmin’s face. “Good morning, Jungkook-ah. I was just waiting for you in here. Not snooping, I promise.”

Jungkook rubs at the back of his neck. It isn’t odd for Seokmin to come into his office, but that’s normally when Jungkook is already inside. There’s nothing for him to find if he was snooping, really. Everything here is related to work except for the pictures of Bo and Taehyung. 

Throwing a thumb over his shoulder, Seokmin points to the portrait. “I never really looked at this before, it’s quite beautiful. Is this from that trip across America?”

Jungkook steps into his office as he nods. He tosses his things beside his desk before he too stands in front of the portrait.

The only thought in his mind is that Taehyung is here. He’s near. Somewhere. Jungkook is going to find him when he’s mustered up the courage. 

“It is,” Jungkook replies. “The Blue Ridge Mountains. We stayed there for a few days. Drove around on this trail. In a camper.”

It's nice to talk about it with Seokmin. With Seokmin who doesn’t know the past or the baggage that comes with it.

Maybe Jungkook gives Jin a reason to worry about him by shutting him out so much. 

“We,” Seokmin repeats as he stuffs his hands into his pants. “You always say we, but you never talk about the person you went with.”

Jungkook shrugs. He wants to reach out and touch the picture. He wants to reach out and find Taehyung to touch him for real.

Just to feel his warmth, his skin, his heartbeat. Jungkook wonders if he smells the same. He’s never been sure what the smell was, but it was just Taehyung. Taehyung’s home smelled differently than his own too. 

“That’s him,” he says even though it’s obvious. 

“He’s in the pictures in your apartment.”

When Jungkook looks to Seokmin,who is still smiling but it’s softer.

“Yeah. Tae. Taehyung. We left as soon as we graduated college. He had been planning it for years.”

There’s a smile on Jungkook’s lips that feels genuine, personal. He reaches out and touches. 

“We didn’t see all of America, just some of it. Felt like we had all the time in the world to sightsee but no time at all.”

Jungkook hadn’t wanted it to end. He made it end.

He dreams of it sometimes. The way Taehyung looks in the back part of the camper, out of it and bleeding. Bleeding a lot. He couldn’t sleep for nights afterwards because he didn’t trust that Taehyung was okay.

It wrecked the already ruined parts inside of him. The fear of losing the only thing he saw as good in his life at the time.

Now there are other things that are good, that are worth living for. He can keep going on. He believes that. Even when he struggles to, he still does in the end. But that never changes how much he misses the good Taehyung gave him.

How much he misses just being able to live beside Taehyung. He wants to now, to show him he’s better. He can live beside Taehyung without hurting him all the time. 

Jungkook sighs. For the longest time, the only reason he wanted to keep going was because of Taehyung. Now he just wants to keep going, and he doesn’t have him.

“What happened to him?”

The question shocks Jungkook from his thoughts. He focuses on Seokmin’s soft features and tries to come up with a response. 

“Nothing. We just parted ways.” It sounds like a lie. “Lost touch.”

It’s too simple of a thing to say, but it’s the most true. 

Seokmin’s fingers touch the back of his neck and rub gently. “You sound like you miss him.”

The laugh Jungkook lets out surprises him. He doesn’t know why he does it. “I do.”

He lets Seokmin pull him close. He accepts the soft kiss pressed to the corner of his mouth. It lingers for a minute before Seokmin pulls away. 

“I need you to help Seungkwan-ssi in reception today, if that’s okay?”

Jungkook blinks his eyes. Back to work. It’s always that way with Seokmin. A reality check. Usually Jungkook is thankful for it. 

“Of course.”

It’s an odd request. Jungkook has done a similar job before, but Seokmin has never asked him to.

Seokmin’s smile grows big. “Alright. I want to hear more about this trip of yours. And the man that makes your face change into that.”

He points to Jungkook’s face and walks away. Jungkook stands there, waiting for him to leave before he gently touches his face to see what he means.

“Okay, tell me another.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes. “That’s all of them.”

Seungkwan leans back in his chair, peering at him. He taps a pencil to his lips. It’s been very slow today, and Jungkook isn’t quite sure why Seokmin wants him to help. He’s technically the main office’s translator, but Seungkwan isn’t asking him to translate anything. He’s asking him how to cuss in English.

“I don’t believe you,” Seungkwan claims. He holds up four fingers and taps his pencil to each one. “Shit, fuck, ass, and bitch can’t be the only bad English words.”

Jungkook laughs at that. There isn’t even a chair for him at Seungkwan’s desk. He had to drag the extra one in Seokmin’s office out to sit on. 

The doors are still open, and he can see Seokmin smiling as he talks on the phone. Jungkook wonders if he can hear him, if he’s aware of how much Seungkwan slacks off.

Most of the calls that have come through, Seungkwan’s transferred them without answering. At one point, he even took the phone off the hook so whoever called would get a busy signal.

“There’s bastard,” Jungkook says, giving in. “And probably other ones, I don’t know.” 

Seungkwan rolls his eyes, looking displeased. “Fine. I’ll Google it. Your phone has been blowing up, by the way.”

Jungkook frowns as he grabs the cell phone lying between them. The screen reads 10 new messages from Kim Seokjin.

He quickly stands and excuses himself. If it was Bo, Jin would be calling instead of texting, but the worry still fills him.

Kim Seokjin: listen fuck face i’m not going to force you into anything

Kim Seokjin: because I understand kind of

Kim Seokjin: maybe not a lot

Kim Seokjin: but i do know you miss Tae so 

Kim Seokjin: here’s his address and phone number:

Kim Seokjin: so i think you should either see him or call him

Kim Seokjin: probably call him first just in case but 

Kim Seokjin: just do one of them

Kim Seokjin: alright i love u

Kim Seokjin: no i’m not being held hostage i actually said that

Jungkook presses the phone to his chest before pulling it away and staring back at the address. The phone number. It’s the same number.

He feels like an idiot. There had been a time he tried calling it, but it was off. But that’s the same number.

Jungkook could have spoken to him before now. Or maybe he wouldn’t have had the courage to.

He closes his eyes and inhales deeply. There is a tremor in his body from the nerves, from the fact that the address Jin sent him is only a few blocks away. It wouldn’t take him long to get there, to see him.

Without thinking about it more, Jungkook walks back into the main office. He ducks his head into Seokmin’s office, gently knocking on the door frame as not to interrupt him.

Seokmin puts a hand over the receiver of his phone as Jungkook says, “I have to go. I have some leave pay I can use, or I can work on Saturday to make up for the lost hours.”

Alarm fills Seokmin’s eyes, and Jungkook hesitates. No , not now. Seokmin is always offering him to leave early, to take an extra day off. It would be Jungkook’s luck that the one time he actually wants to, he can’t. 

“It’s really important,” Jungkook says again. His heart is thumping a mile a minute. He doesn’t even know if Taehyung will be there. “I’m sorry.”

Seokmin presses his lips closed before he nods. “Of course. Is everything okay?”

Jungkook nods. “I think so.”

The nerves are worse the moment Jungkook takes in the apartment number. They’re so bad, he’s afraid he’s going to have a panic attack. It shouldn’t be like this.

He braces his hands on his knees, breathing in. He has always cried easily, and he hates it. He knows he’s going to cry the moment he sees Taehyung’s face. 

God, he’s right there. Possibly, through the door.

Jungkook paces in front of it, pressing a finger to his lips. His heart is too big for his chest. It doesn’t hurt though. It’s just the feeling of sadness, not the emotion.

Maybe Jin was right. He should have called first. But the longing Jungkook feels has him forgetting about acceptable social norms. 

“Fuck,” Jungkook grunts quietly before he jolts his arm out and bangs on the door.

His fear doubles. Different thoughts of bad reactions fill his brain. What if Taehyung punched him? He can’t imagine Taehyung punching anyone, but if he’s hurt him bad enough he might. 

What if Taehyung is with someone ?

Jungkook coughs as he chokes on the thought. It wouldn’t be strange. It’s been three years, and they never technically dated. Jungkook has someone to have sex with, it’s just not a relationship. He can’t judge. He’ll be happy if Taehyung is happy. He wants to see Taehyung happy, but he can’t deny the part of him that is afraid of that thought being true. 

He knocks again before he turns around to catch his breath. It’s okay if Taehyung has someone because all Jungkook wants is to be beside him. Anyway. He just wants to see him again and God, he hopes they can form some kind of relationship again. 

Shaking his head, Jungkook forces the thoughts out of his head. He’s getting way too ahead of himself. He hasn’t even thought of what he’s going to say right now. 

The door opens, and the pressure is in Jungkook’s eyes before he even turns around. He halts when he does, his fear growing so loud it makes his heart throb in his ears.


It’s been years. He’s only seen her once, for a few minutes, in seven years. And then all he did was hug her, not look at her. He couldn’t handle looking at her.

Now he stares. She is unrecognizable really, but he knows it’s her. Mina, his baby sister. Even though she looks a lot older, like he’s missed a lot more time than he thought. 

“Jungkook,” Mina gasps again, her eyes filling up in time with his own. She presses a hand to her mouth, eyes clenching closed. He watches the black streaks slip down her cheeks before he reaches out for her with his trembling hands. 


“So you’re telling me that you don’t love him?”

Jungkook looks up at Taehyung. He’s lying on his floor with Taehyung hanging over the bed to look down at him. It would be so easy for Jungkook to lean up and lock their lips. 

He kind of needs to stop thinking about kissing Taehyung so much, but whatever. 

“No,” Jungkook grunts. He looks away and sits up so he’s against the bed. Taehyung rests his cheek on his shoulder. “We just like, fuck around sometimes. He’s kind of a dick.”

Taehyung hooks an arm around him, his hand pressing into his chest as he snuggles a kiss into the side of Jungkook’s neck. It makes his heart skip a beat.

“Okay, but dicking you down good isn’t a good reason to deal with someone who’s a dick to you, Jungkook.”

It’s said softly, but Jungkook takes it like a slap. He knows that. He does it anyway. Everyone treats him badly except for Taehyung and his family. 

“I know.”

Taehyung sighs. Jungkook can feel him staring at him as he grabs the comic book he had tossed to the side earlier to try and focus on that instead. 

“I’m going to tell him to fuck off,” Taehyung announces. He lets Jungkook go to climb off the bed and sit beside him. “Leave you be. I’ll find someone else for you to mess around with. Someone who isn’t a dick.”

Jungkook has a bad problem with looking at Taehyung’s mouth when he speaks. They kissed once, and he thinks about it sometimes. Even though it was over three years ago and awkward because neither of them had ever kissed anyone before. 

“I’m really okay,” Jungkook promises. “I’m really not looking for a boyfriend, Tae.”

Taehyung sucks on his bottom lip, his eyes wide in the way they turn when he pouts. He takes the comic book from him to link their fingers. “Then it’s just going to be you and me, isn’t it? Just the idea of having a boyfriend gives me a headache. I don’t want one either. Or a girlfriend. A relationship with anyone of any gender.”

They both squeeze each other’s hand at the same time. Jungkook smiles and doesn’t try to hide it. Lately he’s been hiding away from Taehyung, but Taehyung doesn’t let him much.

There is a knock on the door, and Jungkook’s instinct is to jump away. But Taehyung doesn’t let his hand go as his father opens the door.

“Jungkook-ah. I didn’t know you were here. Are you staying for dinner?”

Jungkook snuck in through Taehyung’s window. He had been afraid Mr. Kim would tell him he couldn’t come in, even if that’s never happened before. 

“Oh, no, I was leaving,” Jungkook says as he starts to stand. Taehyung clings onto his hand, not letting him go. “I’m sorry for sneaking in.”

There is a look of pity on Mr. Kim’s face. He shakes his head and gestures for Jungkook to sit back down. “It isn’t sneaking in if you’re always welcomed. Stay for dinner. Stay the night. You’re family, Jungkook-ah.”

Jungkook sits back down as the door closes. Taehyung is still staring at him but Jungkook can’t look back.

“Stay. Unless you have plans to fuck that dick.”

Jungkook snorts. “Okay, but a second ago you were eager about pushing me to date him.”

Taehyung sighs as he leans his head against Jungkook’s shoulder. They could sit like that for hours, doing nothing. “I just want you happy, Kook.” 

The reason Jungkook had snuck into Taehyung’s room is because it was a bad night. He didn’t want anyone to see. He couldn’t handle being rejected, even if he knows it wouldn’t happen. The fear of it though was so strong, Jungkook forced himself to climb up two stories of railings to get to Taehyung’s bedroom. 

He had been upset, but right now he is happy. The happiest he can be.


She’s crying. Taehyung listens to it. He doesn’t know how to help her. When she gets like this, she doesn’t like to be touched, and all of his attempts at comforting her fail.

His nerves have gotten the best of him. He still hasn’t reached out to Jin, or to the man from the train. It would be so easy to find Jungkook, and he needs to. At least for Mina’s sake.

But Taehyung is nervous. Mina hadn’t had a good reaction to the news about the baby. Taehyung doesn’t even know if Jungkook is around his father or the baby. What if he is around his father, and Taehyung accidentally brings Mina around him? 

Anger flares inside him whenever he thinks about Jungkook being around his father. He doesn’t get it at all, and he’s trying to remind himself that whatever it is, it doesn’t have to make sense to him. 

But the last time Jungkook and he had spoken, Jungkook had been spiraling. Spiraling bad. Taehyung made it worse, but he couldn’t help it. Jungkook spoke like his death was imminent and kept saying things that sounded so hopeless that Taehyung could feel his own heart shattering in his chest.

I don’t know, Tae. I can’t get him to calm down. I don’t even recognize him.

“She’s crying again.”

Taehyung looks up at his door to find Namjoon there. He’s been getting ready for work and clutches his jacket now like he’s about to leave.

“I know,” Taehyung says as he sits up. If he doesn’t do something productive today, he’s going to lay in this bed and listen to her cry for hours. “Do you think Jungkook is still around his father?” 

Namjoon scoffs. He makes a face like that’s absurd. “No, I really don’t think so. He looks really good.”

Taehyung freezes, his entire body tightening. Namjoon’s eyes widen like he hadn’t meant to say it.

“We asked you to come,” Namjoon says quickly and defensively. “To Jin’s. You said you didn’t want to yet. Which is fine if you’re nervous, but don’t look angry about it.”

Taehyung’s heart is punching against his chest. “He looks good? You saw him? Tell me.”

Namjoon looks unsure. He takes a step back. It isn’t a good sign. “Listen, I have to go to work. But I promise, he looks really good. Jin says he’s been going to therapy and that it’s made a world of a difference for him.” 

The feeling in Taehyung’s chest is so strong he thinks he might cry. He never cries, but lately he’s been doing it more often. He’s been allowing himself to do it more often. Especially for good reasons like this.

That Jungkook is okay and has been getting better.

“Okay,” Taehyung says, turning around without a goodbye to reach for his phone. He quickly searches for Seokmin’s phone number, which is saved beneath train candy man . He doesn’t think his nerves can handle talking to Jin too after getting angry with him for not forcing Jungkook to speak with him so often. 

It would be rude to just call him for Jungkook instead of to catch up with him. Which Taehyung does really want to do.

The phone picks up after three rings.


Taehyung paces. He always does that. “Hi, this is Taehyung. From the train, do you remember me?”

“Of course,” Seokmin says, his big smile loud in his voice. “It’s only been like a day.”

“Sorry, I’m nervous,” Taehyung says. He bites hard on his bottom lip. “I was wondering if you really could find my friend. Or help me find him.”

There’s a moment of silence where Taehyung regrets calling him. It’s too good to be true.

“I work with him.”

Taehyung stops pacing. He bites hard on his bottom lip again to keep himself from interrupting and demanding to know where. To demand if this guy Taehyung barely even knows thinks Jungkook is doing okay.

“I’ll be more than happy to help you,” Seokmin goes on. “He has pictures of you. I know this sounds creepy, but I recognized you on the train because of them.”

Taehyung drops to the edge of the bed. The pressure in his chest is growing so much it makes his eyes water. He doesn’t know what to say, but thankfully, it seems like Seokmin doesn’t need him to respond.

“I hope you understand, but I’d like to make sure he wants to see you first,” Seokmin says, hesitancy in his voice. “I care about him and don’t want to accidentally help you if it could hurt him in any way. No offense.”

The tears make Taehyung’s vision blur. He’s so happy about that he thinks his face might break off. Jungkook has someone to look out for him and who cares for him. He didn’t realize how badly he wanted that. Almost as badly as he wanted to be that person.

Jungkook has pictures up of him. In his office

“No, I completely understand. Uh, sorry. I just -”

Taehyung can’t find the words. He doesn’t even need to say them to Seokmin. They don’t know each other well. But Seokmin laughs quietly.

“I know. I understand.” 

train candy man: Definitely wants to see you. Here’s where he’ll be this afternoon. Top floor. I gave security your name so you should get in easily. He’s allowed to leave work.

train candy man: I should have mentioned that I am his boss, lol. 

Taehyung is going out of his skin. He can’t stop shaking his legs, pacing. Even when he feels wobbly on the train and there’s people looking at him. He only has one thing on his mind: Jungkook.

The building is massive. He recognizes the name and thinks Jimin has mentioned it before. He feels like a shitty friend being so wrapped up in his own things, but he’s been working on it.

There’s a thousand floors, Taehyung swears. He gets by security easily, but it takes him forever in the elevator. With stopping at different floors for people to get off or on, Taehyung feels like he might just jump out and run up the staircase instead.

The number of people lessen the farther they go up, until they’re reaching the top floor, and it is just Taehyung and a security guard inside. The guard holds an arm out and bows his head as Taehyung steps out. He looks around, finding a smiling man at a desk and Seokmin running towards him.

“He just left,” Seokmin says, guilt in his eyes. He grabs Taehyung’s elbows. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know if you wanted to surprise him so I didn’t say anything to stop him.”

It doesn’t ruin his happy mood. He looks around, eyes wandering. This place Jungkook sees every day. He feels like he’s getting a tiny glimpse of his life. 

He hates that the most. That there’s now a Jungkook he doesn’t know about. He used to visit Jungkook at his job at the hotel so often, he could probably draw the lobby area without taking a picture and get it exactly right.

“It’s okay,” Taehyung says. “I’ll come back tomorrow?”

Or he could just strum up the courage to call Jin.

Seokmin nods. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pink wrapped candy. “I tried calling you before you got here.”

Taehyung grimaces. He hadn’t even been looking at his phone. He pulls it out now as he accepts the candy from Seokmin. Worry distracts him for a minute as he spots the three missed calls from Mina. 

“I’m so sorry,” Taehyung says as he calls her back. “I have to go. But tomorrow! Thank you so so much for everything. Are there stairs?”

The worry builds as he hears Mina’s voice. He is thankful Seokmin gave him the staircase because he has no patience to deal with going down that elevator again. He still has to take the train to get back to her, and he hates that.

“Mina, what’s wrong?”

She says something muffled. When he left, he had found her in the bathroom with cold compresses to her eyes. When she cries, her eyes puff up so bad sometimes she can’t open them enough to see.

When she cries, she doesn’t want anyone near her. Not even in the same room. Taehyung won’t bother her, he just doesn’t want her to disappear. 

“Mina, are you okay? I’m coming home now.”

Before moving in, Taehyung had discussed with Namjoon and Jimin that she shouldn’t be left alone often. She still isn’t fully comfortable with Namjoon and Jimin, but Taehyung thinks she trusts him enough to know that he wouldn’t bring her around men who would hurt her. 

But some nights are bad for her. It reminds Taehyung of Jungkook, but she lets him see more than he did. He’s caught her making the same scars that litter Jungkook’s thighs, he’s found her slumped over before, barely able to lift up her head. He’s listened to her talk about how hard it is for her to want to be alive.

He even convinced her to go to therapy, and he goes with her. That was the only way she would agree to go.

There are times when she shuts him out worse than Jungkook ever had. Screaming at him to leave her alone, soft sobs coming out of her lips like she’s begging. Taehyung does now, and he’s learning when she wants him beside her and when she doesn’t. 

“He’s here.”

It’s so quiet, Taehyung is struggling to hear it over the way his steps echo in the empty staircase. “What?”

“Jungkook,” Mina gasp quietly. “He’s in the living room.”

Taehyung catches onto the railing before he trips over his own feet. That fear is back. That happy, excited, doesn’t know what it wants to be fear. He calms it down though. For her.

“Okay. Are you nervous?”


Taehyung laughs under his breath. “No need to be terrified. He would never hurt you.”

“Not that,” Mina breathes. She cusses under her breath. “He looks at me like he’s terrified of me. I - I don’t want to say the wrong thing.”

Her anger towards Jungkook didn’t last long. It comes out sometimes, but she always apologizes to Taehyung afterwards like she did something personally to him. She invalidates her feelings often to show understanding towards Jungkook’s. 

“You won’t,” Taehyung assures her, but he’s nervous too. He doesn’t know if seeing Mina will make Jungkook run farther. She’s one of the reasons Jungkook went across the fucking globe to begin with. “You know I told you Jungkook beats himself up really bad about not being there for you. Seeing you just probably reminds him of that, okay? You know, the way people who look like your dad scare you? So just, I don’t know. Make some tea and ask about his life or something. Make small talk.”

Taehyung has no fucking clue, in truth.

Mina exhales shakily. “I’m a fucking wreck. I started crying as soon as I saw him, it’s awkward now.”

“Are you hiding in the bathroom?”

There’s a moment of silence before she utters out a quiet “Yes.”

Taehyung snorts. “Well, that’s going to make it awkward, Mina. Go out there, I’ll be home soon. Keep him there.”

In highschool, Taehyung hated running. He fucking despised it. Each year, they had to run the mile around the football field in a certain number of minutes. It was barbaric. Jungkook did it like a champ and would always be waiting for him at the end of it. Sometimes he’d even scoop Taehyung up and run him half a lap before his arms gave out. 

Now, Taehyung is running like he’s trying to finish that mile on time for change. Adrenaline pumps through him, mixing in with his nerves until he feels kind of sick. He just desperately wants Jungkook to still be waiting for him at the end. 

He fumbles with the code, punching in the numbers quickly. As much as his body is in speed mode, he stills when he cracks the door open.

His heart thumps so hard against his ears. He breathes in, forcing himself to calm down.

The pressure in his throat hits him quickly at the sound of his voice. Taehyung can’t even make out what he’s saying, but he’s inside, a few feet away from him.

God, Taehyung has missed him so much.

He clears his throat and wipes at his eyes before quickly tossing off his coat. “Mina? You home?”

It’s a warning. A moment for Jungkook to collect his thoughts and decide if he wants to actually see him. God, he hopes he does. He doesn’t know if Namjoon or Jimin told Jungkook that Mina was here, if she came here just for her. Or for him. Or for both of them. But if he looks as scared as Mina says, Taehyung doesn’t think he came for her.

It feels dramatic the way Taehyung’s body reacts. He’s already tearing up, and maybe he shouldn’t know that Jungkook is here or it will look obvious that Mina called him, but he can’t stop it.


Taehyung stops when a body moves in front of him. It breaks then, the pressure in his chest. His face, he’s there. No different than Taehyung remembers. It doesn’t feel like any time has passed at all, really. He’s close enough that Taehyung already knows he smells the same. 

“Jungkook,” Taehyung breathes. Jungkook looks terrified. His eyes are wet and his face and neck so red. There are tears on his cheeks, and Taehyung briefly wonders if Mina skipped over his advice and talked about hard things already. “You’re here.”

Jungkook rubs at the back of his neck, sniffling. He’s dressed up in a really nice, expensive suit. His skin looks clear. There are bags under his eyes but probably just as bad as Taehyung’s. Rings adorn his fingers and threaded bracelets are wrapped around his wrists. 

He looks good. He looks okay. Well, as okay as he can look with tears in his eyes.

“Yeah, I’m - I’m sorry,” Jungkook tries. The sound of his voice is making it difficult for Taehyung. It’s proof he’s right there. “I should have called. I just - I heard you were in town. Maybe I’m - I’m sorry.”

Taehyung wants to hug him, or hold him. He wants to hold his hand or something. But he doesn’t know this Jungkook.

That feels like a lie. 

“I should go,” Jungkook quickly says. 

Taehyung touches him then. It’s gentle, his fingers curling around Jungkook’s wrist like the threaded bracelets he has there.

“Stay,” Taehyung says. “Just for a few minutes. Please. I missed you.”

Jungkook’s Adam’s apple bobs angrily when he swallows. He nods his head and doesn’t try to remove Taehyung’s grip on him.

For as long as Taehyung has been imagining seeing Jungkook again, he hadn’t planned on what to do or say. He’s afraid that bringing up everything right away will ruin any chance he has at getting to know this Jungkook. But pretending none of it happened makes it feel awkward.

He hates not knowing what to do with Jungkook

“I’m going to make cheeseburgers,” Taehyung says. “Stay for lunch?” 

Jungkook nods. He licks over his lips, and Taehyung finds it hard to ignore the urge to hug him. He blinks his eyes, smiles softly, and squeezes Jungkook’s wrist instead. 

“I missed you, Kook.”


Taehyung is tired. The medicine he was given for his insomnia is making him feel worse, he swears. Maybe he’s just paranoid about the side effects. He just doesn’t understand why the side effects to medicine that’s supposed to help you sleep and be rested would be drowsiness, weakness, and insomnia. 

It actually says that in the list. Like, everything Taehyung is trying to get rid of with the medicine could happen because he’s on the damn medicine.

It’s making him irritable.

“I asked how Minghao is.”

Taehyung hates that he’s annoyed with Jungkook, but he really needs him to shut up about Minghao.

“I know,” Taehyung grunts. He rubs at his eyes. His father’s back injury has been really affecting him too. It’s worried him. 

It’s torn muscles, but Taehyung has lost a parent already. He doesn’t want to watch the other grow old and sickly.

“You keep mentioning Minghao like I’m about to confess to you that we’ve fallen in love and got hitched or something.”

It’s unfair. He knows Jungkook is pushing him away, even if it’s unintentional.

Jungkook is quiet for a long time. Taehyung tries to reel himself in, but he’s starting to shake. “I just don’t want you to be alone, Tae.”

Taehyung huffs out his laugh. “I wasn’t -”

He presses his lips together. It’s unfair and selfish to say. He wasn’t alone or lonely. Not until Jungkook left.

“Have I ever been the type to date?” Taehyung asks instead. “No. So drop it okay? I’m really not interested. I’m fine.”

He knows he doesn’t sound fine. He sounds how he feels. On edge. 

“Okay, okay. I just - I am just sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Taehyung says quickly. “It upsets me when you ask about him because - because you know that my feelings are for you.”

More silence. That’s wrong of Taehyung to say. Everything is wrong for him to say. He hears the pain in Jungkook’s voice when he replies and guilt makes his stomach twist.

“I know. I’m sorry,” Jungkook whispers. “I thought leaving would stop my fucking shitty ass affect on you, and it hasn’t.”

Anger. He hates it. He hates how angry he feels right now. But Taehyung can’t calm it down. “Can you stop saying that too? Because it isn’t true, Jungkook. You didn’t have a fucking shitty ass affect on me, okay? I need you to start understanding that.”

It’s wrong of him to say. He sounds like an asshole. He just - he just really needs Jungkook to get it through his head. 

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says. He paces. He feels like he’s crawling out of his skin, and he just wants everything to go back to how it was. When things were easier between them.

He hurts knowing it wasn’t ever easy for Jungkook.

“I just don’t know what to say to you anymore,” Taehyung admits. “I tell you how much I care, and it upsets you. I tell you you’re not bothering me, and that upsets you too. I don’t.”

Taehyung flails onto his bed. He wants to cry. Jungkook isn’t responding, and he checks his phone to see if he’s hung up or not. He hasn’t. 

“Yeah, well I wish I wasn’t upset all the time either,” Jungkook is saying as Taehyung brings the phone back to his ear. He sounds angry too. “I should go. I’ll call you later.”

They haven’t been talking as much. Rarely, actually. Taehyung hates it because if Jungkook hangs up, he doesn’t know when they’re going to talk again.

“You better actually,” Taehyung says. “Because we haven’t been talking much.”

He can hear Jungkook breathing into the phone like he’s getting upset, and Taehyung feels horrific. 

“I know. Because I know how miserable I am, and that I make it hard for you to say anything,” Jungkook says. The anger and hatred is loud in his voice. “I know these things. But I miss you so fucking much that I talk to you anyway even though it makes me feel bad. I make me feel bad, not you. But I make you feel like it’s you and I just - fuck, Tae.”

The phone suddenly clicks off then, and Taehyung tosses his phone so hard it shatters against the wall.


There is a moment where Jungkook doesn’t say a word. He stares at Taehyung like he can’t process what he’s said.

When he sucks in a breath, one that sounds like it hurts, Taehyung braces himself for the worst. 

It doesn’t come.

The wrist wrapped beneath Taehyung’s fingers turns until Jungkook’s fingers are brushing over his skin, light as a feather.

“I missed you too,” Jungkook breathes out. “I -”

Taehyung shakes his head when he sees Jungkook’s face contort. He doesn’t know what Jungkook is going to say, but he knows that face. 

“Come in,” Taehyung says. He doesn’t let go of Jungkook’s wrist or move. “I mean, you’re already in. Shit. I interrupted. I’m sorry. Is Mina -?”

Jungkook moves his head back as if nodding in her direction. Taehyung lets go of his wrist then. He swallows down the thickness in his throat, steadies his features. 

As much as he’s a whirlwind of emotion that Jungkook is here, actually here, in front of him, there’s Mina.

“She’s living with you,” Jungkook says under his breath as Taehyung starts to move past him and into the kitchen. Jungkook stares down at his fingers, at the ones he had touched Taehyung with.

“Yeah,” Taehyung says. He doesn’t add anything else because he doesn’t know what to say.

When Jungkook looks up, his eyes are wide and filled with something that shoots Taehyung straight through the chest. He wants Jungkook not to feel guilt or fear, but he doesn’t know what Jungkook is feeling.

Mina isn’t in the kitchen when Taehyung steps into it. He feels awkward leaving Jungkook alone, but when he looks to Jungkook, he waves his hands as if to gesture for him to go.

She isn’t in his bedroom or hers. 

When he hears the front door shut, he sighs. He sends her a text, hoping it doesn’t take hours for her to respond. She too has a habit of running away. 

Jungkook is still standing awkwardly in the entranceway of the kitchen when Taehyung returns. His hands are stuffed into the pockets of his pants, his eyes wandering aimlessly around the kitchen before they land back on him.

Taehyung still can’t believe he’s right there. 

“Make yourself at home,” Taehyung says. He struggles to breathe as he hurries over to the fridge. He’s always been able to handle awkward situations easily. But this is more than awkward, it’s heavy and weighted. “I hope you’re hungry.”

“Tae -”

Taehyung hesitates at the open fridge door. He lets the silence sit there as he grabs for the thawed meat and pulls it out.

Jungkook still just stands there, watching him. He rubs his lips together, sticks his tongue into his cheek. 

“Are you not hungry?” Taehyung asks. He wants to go for easy, casual, but maybe that isn’t the right thing to do.

Hell, he has no idea what the right thing to do, to say is. 

“No, I am,” Jungkook says. He cringes at himself, avoiding looking at Taehyung. “I mean, I just - I just wanted to say that I really did miss you too.”

Taehyung warms. He places the meat on the counter and closes most of the space between them. He leaves some of it open in case Jungkook doesn’t want him to come close. 

“How are you doing?” Taehyung asks. 

It’s a normal question to ask someone you haven’t talked to in a while. An easy way to catch up. But between them it’s also something that’s heavy and loaded.

He has never been one to fidget much, but now he can’t stop. He hooks his thumbs in the edge of his sleeves, digs his nails into his palms. He relaxes them when he realizes he’s doing it, not wanting Jungkook to see.

They’ve always looked at the same thing differently. Taehyung wonders what Jungkook sees about him, what stands out the most to him. 

“Good,” Jungkook says. He nods his head along with it. “I’m good. I’m yeah. Just -”

Taehyung feels his heart throttling up into his throat. He hopes Jungkook means it because that’s all he wanted to hear. He knew he desperately wanted Jungkook to be good, but he didn’t realize just how much until now.

A surge goes through him. Powerful enough to make him choke again on the tightness in his neck, but he presses his lips together and swallows it down. 

“That’s...” Taehyung nods. His arms feel strange hanging by his side, like he doesn’t know what to do with them when he so badly wants to hug him. 

For a long time, he and Jungkook were always so attached, it was like Jungkook was a part of him. An extra set of limbs. Even if they weren’t touching. 

Their bodies move in sync.

It’s muscle memory. When Jungkook inhales so deep his entire body expands, his elbows extending from his body with his hands still in his pockets, Taehyung’s body starts to move forward like it used to. But he stops himself, too conscious of every move.

“Tae -”

“Jungkook -”

They speak at the same time, and Taehyung lets out a quiet laugh at the silliness of it. It’s a moment of ease, a moment that gives Taehyung enough confidence to say the one thing pushing at the front of his mind. 

“I really want to hug you right now,” Taehyung whispers, eyes searching over Jungkook’s face. Another normal thing for them to do, but he’s nervous. “Is that okay?”

Jungkook’s eyebrows shoot up towards his hairline. He doesn’t hesitate to nod, but Taehyung sees the way he tenses when Taehyung steps forward.

Despite that, Jungkook grabs for him first. It’s gentle, just Jungkook reaching out until the tip of his fingers are grazing the sides of Taehyung’s torso. An invitation that Taehyung accepts, even though his hands shake when he reaches for Jungkook in return.

The first thing Taehyung thinks is how hot Jungkook feels against him as Jungkook’s arms wrap around his middle. He keeps his arms loose around Jungkook’s shoulders until Jungkook tightens and molds against him like he used to, like muscle memory has taken over.

It worsens the feeling in his chest, and Taehyung closes his eyes, presses his lips hard together. He holds on tight. 

Before, the silence between them felt damaging. Right now it feels right, healing. Or maybe he just hopes for that.

Jungkook’s head presses against his own, and Taehyung leans in. He cups the back of Jungkook’s neck, squeezes tight. They’ve never needed words, even when they probably should have spoken them, and it feels like that now.

Even if they need to speak them, eventually.

“I’m so happy you’re good,” Taehyung says under his breath. “You have no idea.”

Jungkook doesn’t say anything. When his breath hitches, his fingers twist into Taehyung’s shirt. 

There are a million things rushing through Taehyung’s mind at once, but that’s the loudest. As much as he has missed Jungkook beside him as often as he used to be, or at all, his worry has always been what hurt him the most.

When it was hard to ignore, and Taehyung couldn’t stop calling. It was less about him missing Jungkook, and more about him reassuring Jungkook that whatever demons were in his head were wrong. When he stopped calling, he missed Jungkook’s voice. But the fear that Jungkook wasn’t being comforted, was hurting himself, was gone--that kept him awake. 

Taehyung pulls back first, but he keeps his hand on the back of Jungkook’s neck. He squeezes once more before pulling away. 

Jungkook wipes at his face immediately, hiding whatever thoughts Taehyung could try to read there. 

“Come on, we’ll eat,” Taehyung says, trying to think of something to ease the moment. “Do you still like your burgers medium, or are you a well done kind of guy now?”

There’s a tilt in Jungkook’s lips, and Taehyung finds himself almost desperate to see a full smile. Even with Jungkook’s reddened eyes. 

“Still medium,” Jungkook says. “Can I help?”

Taehyung grabs his wrist then, tugging gently. He tells his nerves to fuck off, pretends that they do, and drags Jungkook further into the kitchen.

It feels like taboo to bring up anything from the past, but the, ‘just like old times’ slips from his lips before he can stop it.

Jungkook smiles then as he grabs the meat from the counter to rip open the plastic wrapping. “Does that mean you still burn more than you actually cook?”

Taehyung nudges Jungkook in the elbow. He bites at his bottom lip, forcing his own smile to go down. “Maybe.”

“I have a job at a broadcasting company,” Jungkook says. There’s grease smeared around his mouth that he wipes at with the back of his hand. “Technically, I am supposed to head the team that works on closed captioning, but the boss has me doing a lot of other things. Like teaching him English.”

The nerves are still there. Jungkook looks up when he speaks sometimes, but mostly focuses on the food between his hands. 

“I bet he’s fluent already then,” Taehyung says.

“He thinks he sucks, but he’s good.”

Taehyung takes in the warm smile on Jungkook’s lips. It is in his eyes when Jungkook glances up at him again.

Jungkook clears his throat. “I lived with Jin for awhile, but I got my own place. Uh. It’s not just me though. It’s um.”

Taehyung looks down at his own plate. He pulls his burger apart into bits, distracting himself. 

“Well, I have Bo. My sister.” 

Looking up from his burger, Taehyung finds Jungkook looking at him fully now. 

“Her mother, Kyung-mi, has a lot of uh, difficulties. Things that make her unable to take care of Bo, so I am. For now. Until she’s better.”

Taehyung’s heart expands in his chest. He sets his ripped up burger down, forgetting the grease on his fingers as he lays his hands into his lap.

He still remembers the day Jungkook told him the baby’s name. The way he felt both happy and sad at the same time. Two emotions that had been so strong it felt impossible to have them both at once. 

“I bet you’re doing a great job,” Taehyung says softly.

It’s there, hanging between them. Jungkook’s fears. 

“I think so,” Jungkook says. “Sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing. Harmeoni helped me a lot, though. Oh - shit.”

Realization makes Jungkook pause. It’s instant the way his face morphs into something like regret.

“Shit, Tae. I’m sorry about Harmeoni. I should have said that earlier. I’m -”

Taehyung shakes his head to cut him off but offers a soft smile so Jungkook knows he means what he says. “It’s okay. She was old. Like ancient.”

“It doesn’t make it easier.”

It doesn’t. But Taehyung wasn’t as close to her as he thinks Jungkook became. 

When his grandmother passed, it brought back the feelings of losing his mother, the great ways in which he missed her. 

“No,” Taehyung agrees. “It makes me happy though going to her house and seeing she had someone. You specifically.”

Jungkook looks surprised. “I - yeah. I would help her around her house and stuff. She didn’t have much of a yard, but you would have thought it was miles long with how much she made me work.”

When Jungkook smiles, it isn’t big, but it lights up his entire face. Taehyung feels so warm, as if it’s summer and he has the heat on. Or as if Jungkook is the sun sitting only a few feet away from him.

“She gave me her house,” Taehyung tells him. “That’s why I came here.”

Jungkook’s smile grows. He nods his head, looking pleased before he takes a bite into his burger. Even with his mouth full, the corners of his mouth stay tilted up.

Taehyung finds himself smiling too. 

“Good,” Jungkook says through his food. “That’s really good. If anyone should have it, it’s you.”

It doesn’t make sense that Jungkook would be that happy over something like that, but Taehyung doesn’t question it. He isn’t sure his grandmother should have left it to him. He doesn’t know what to do with it. 

Because I don’t think you’ll be back. 

Taehyung never had a desire to leave his hometown. He would be okay with doing so if he had a reason, but the urge to was never there like the rest of the people he grew up with.

“Yeah,” Taehyung tries and fails. The silence returns. Not even the sound of Jungkook chewing fills it as he plants what’s left of his burger on the plate and lets it sit there.

“So,” Jungkook starts. He clears his throat. “What about you? What have you been doing?”

Taehyung fidgets in his seat, shrugs. It’s easier now that they’ve gotten over the first few awkward moments, but the heavy air has yet to subside. “Nothing really. Got my own place too. I took over the fishing company after -”

Jungkook pales. It’s immediate. Taehyung finds himself shaking his head again. Soon, he thinks, his neck is going to give out. 

“No, he’s fine. He can’t work much though. Not physically. His back has gotten really bad.”

The color doesn’t return to Jungkook’s cheeks. 

“Not that I do much of the physical labor anymore. We’ve had a lot of profit come in since we expanded across New England and partnered with a fishing company up in Maine. I hired extra manpower. Kind of lazy, you know.”

Taehyung feels like he’s about to start word vomiting all over Jungkook, so he shoves a piece of food into his mouth to quiet himself.

Nodding, Jungkook’s eyes travel over Taehyung’s chest and arms. “Who would have known? You doing physical labor and me in an office.”

It’s habit, muscle memory, the way Taehyung kicks out beneath the table to collide his foot into Jungkook’s leg. 

“A lot has changed,” Taehyung says offhandedly. “Yena is doing well, you know. She’s in school now. Still hates fish. Refuses to eat it. It breaks Appa’s heart.”

Jungkook chuckles. He leans back in his chair, arms stretching over his head before he crosses them over his chest. His eyes are bright, and Taehyung can’t get over the way it makes him feel.

Light, happy. Relieved.

“Misses you,” Taehyung says, hoping the brightness grows and doesn’t dim. “Appa tells me you still send her birthday cards?”

Jungkook shifts his fingers through his hair, eyes darting off to the side. “Yeah, well. When I last saw her she was young enough to forget me. I kind of, I don’t know, hated the idea of that.”

“You should call her. Video call her.”

With a nod, Jungkook goes back to eating. The silence returns, only interrupted by small talk that feels okay. Jungkook talks about his sister, how she loves the color purple and desperately wants a dog. Taehyung just listens, ignoring his food to focus on the way Jungkook’s face morphs into something he’s rarely seen before when he talks about her.

Jungkook came here for her, Taehyung thinks. They don’t get into the details of it, of whether or not he achieved what he wanted, but the look on his face has Taehyung hoping so.

When Jungkook stops talking, the way his head tilts to the side confuses Taehyung =. He had been so focused on Jungkook, he missed whatever Jungkook heard.

His answer comes with a cat call that sounds a lot like Jimin.

“Listen fucker. You better claim me as your best friend because -”

Jimin halts when he steps into the kitchen. His eyes immediately grow big. Amused, alarmed, a mix of both. Taehyung isn’t quite sure. He sends a warning look Jimin’s way, but he knows Jimin is ignoring it by the way he grins.

It’s mischievous.

“Well,” Jimin says, clapping his hands together in front of himself. He rocks back on his heels. “This is nice.”

Taehyung clears his throat with a fist pressed to his lips. Jungkook is back to looking awkward, his eyes dropping down to his hands.

Jimin sends him a look that demands an explanation, but Taehyung ignores it the way Jimin ignored him.

“Jungkook, I was going to actually go to Harmeoni’s today? Did you want to come?”

Jungkook glances at his wrist. There, wrapped around it, is the same watch he wore for years after Taehyung’s father had given it to him. “I actually have to pick up Bo. But um.”

When he stands, a wave of panic rushes through Taehyung. Maybe it had been wrong of him to think it would be okay to just see Jungkook the one time. He should have known he would want to see him again. 

“Um, I’d like to meet up soon though,” Jungkook says. He side eyes Jimin and rubs his palms over his thighs. “If that’s okay?”

Taehyung can’t stop the smile from taking over his face, even though he wants to grunt at Jimin to leave them be. “Yeah, of course. Let me give you my number. It’s the same as before, and we can uh, yeah. Yeah, I’d like that.”

Jungkook nods. “I uh, yeah, I remember it. I still have it. I thought you had changed it. I should have kept trying it.”

He is tense, and Taehyung doesn’t even think before he reaches out and cups a hand around his elbow.

The smile Jungkook gives him is shy. 

Taehyung doesn’t know what to do with the fact that Jungkook has tried to reach out before. It makes him sad, fill with regret, that Jungkook couldn’t get ahold of him and was discouraged to keep trying it.

But Taehyung shoves that thought aside. He focuses on the now, the Jungkook that is here with him.

“Right,” Jungkook says as he shoves his hands into his jeans. His elbow stays cocked a bit, and Taehyung rolls his eyes at how focused on that he is. He pulls his hand away anyway. “I’ll text you um, soon.”

Taehyung follows after Jungkook when he heads towards the door. Jungkook bows his head in goodbye to Jimin, who only presses his lips in a small, amused smile and waves his fingers.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung says as Jungkook reaches for the door knob. He isn’t wearing a jacket, just a dress shirt that looks too thin to keep him warm even in the slightest. “Take a coat.”

Jungkook tries to say no, but Taehyung insists. He grabs a warm coat from the coat rack and shoves it into Jungkook’s side.

Reluctantly, Jungkook pulls it on.

“Thank you. I’ll text you,” Jungkook says again. When Taehyung reaches out to him, he hesitates, but lets Taehyung take his hand anyway.

When Taehyung squeezes his fingers, Taehyung’s heart feels like it’s being squeezed too.

“I am really happy to see you, Jungkook,” Taehyung says. “And I meant it when I said I’m really happy you’re doing good.”

Jungkook’s eyes are still bright. Taehyung wants to tell him he still looks at the moon, even if they can’t see it together. That it makes him think of him, and the comfort he’s always brought him. 

But it’s too soon, so he only squeezes Jungkook’s fingers again and hopes he knows.

“You too,” Jungkook says. “I - I, yeah, am happy.”

And that’s what leaves Taehyung pressing his smile into his door frame when Jungkook leaves and closes the door behind him.




“Jungkookie, what are you doing here?”

Jungkook knew he would come sooner or later. He always does. Taehyung always seems to know when he’s started to run and hide.

It’s cold. Clouds cover the moon. The breeze from the water bites at his skin.

Warmth coats him. Jungkook doesn’t protest the thick blanket wrapping around his back. Taehyung’s eyes meet his as he wrestles the blanket to the front of him, nearly suffocating him with how tight he wraps him in it.

“It’s cold,” Taehyung says. He plops down in the sand beside Jungkook. “You’re going to get sick.”

Jungkook buries his face into the blanket. It’s one from home, from Taehyung’s home. Jungkook had teased him about bringing his blankie to college but he’s glad he did. 

“How did you know I was here?” Jungkook asks instead.

Taehyung presses his lips together, eyes dazzling. “I have a sad Jungkook detector in my phone. It goes off whenever you need me.”

“Must be annoying then,” Jungkook tries to joke. He even darts an arm out to poke into Taehyung’s side. “Since it never shuts up.”

Pressure hits Jungkook’s side and a moment later, he’s flailing back into the cold sand. A garbled shout comes out of his mouth, the blanket falling as he scrambles to wrestle Taehyung off of him.

He fails. In truth, Jungkook didn’t try too hard to win.

“Quiet,” Taehyung says, hands pressing Jungkook’s wrists back into the cold sand. He leans down and a breath gets stuck in Jungkook’s lungs. “One day you’ll see that I just want you happy and safe, Kookie. I don’t care how often I have to look for you.


Chapter Text

Jungkook stares at his phone. He holds it in his hands, his body locked up and tense. 

It’s as if he’s expecting the phone to suddenly ring. He jolts forward when his screen lights up, only to realize he accidentally hit the home button.

With a sigh, Jungkook tosses his phone across the couch. He rubs at his temple, sinking into the cushions. 

Dealing with the fact that Taehyung is here and wanting to see him is one thing. Dealing with the fact that he’s here, with Mina, is another.

Jungkook presses his hand over his eyes. He wasn’t expecting Taehyung to appear, but he’s thought about it sometimes. Moments when Taehyung would slip into his mind and Jungkook would imagine opening his front door and seeing him there. He’s never, ever imagined that Taehyung would appear with his sister in tow. 

Seeing Taehyung went well, better than expected. Jungkook had been stuck between jumping right into it--apologizing, explaining himself, telling him how badly he’s missed him--and just making the awkward small talk that strangers make. 

Either way it went well. Jungkook should be eager, excited, to call Taehyung.

He’s nervous again.

“Oppa, help!”

Jungkook lifts his head to find Bo waddling from where she had been sitting on the floor amongst mountains of toys. In her hands are a bunch of ribbons all knotted together that she shows off with a frustrated look on her face.

“For Eomma,” Bo explains before she starts stuttering over an attempt at a bracelet

Instead of taking the ribbon, Jungkook lifts her into his lap. She immediately turns into him, feet tucking beneath her butt and eyes intent on the way he works at the knots until one finally gives.

“Did you have fun with your Eomma the other night?”

Bo nods as she takes the ribbon and tugs at it, only to give up on it a second later. 

Jungkook grins. He doesn’t remember much of what Mina looked like as a baby, but he watches Bo and thinks of how wide her eyes probably were, how innocent. 

Guilt has filled his chest for a long time not being there for her. He was bigger, stronger. She was small, defenseless. Jungkook never had the chance to have anyone protect him at home, and he took away her chances at having someone too. 

Seeing her made his guilt worse. How upset she looked, how nervous. She was trembling but tucked her hands beneath the table so he couldn’t see. She locked herself away in the bathroom for a while. It was awkward, but Jungkook didn’t feel right leaving while she hid.

He doesn’t feel right knowing she’s here and not going to her. He never went back to her, or his other siblings, when they were younger. He needs to push himself into it, force himself to get over his nerves. 

“Bo, you know Oppa loves you a lot, right?” Jungkook asks as he slips a nail beneath the ribbon and tugs another free. 

Telling Bo about Mina is another thing he has no fucking clue about. He has no idea if Mina knows about her. They barely talked in their short time together before Taehyung appeared. It’ll be confusing to Bo, but it’d be better to tell her when she’s young and won’t remember not knowing.

Bo looks to him then, eyes widening. She grabs his face like she’s inspecting it. “I love you, Oppa.”

Jungkook is sure Mina thinks he doesn’t love her. Maybe she’s young enough that he can change that. Maybe it’s too late.

He reaches for the phone again, keeping Bo secure on his lap. Either way, this is his chance to tell her.

Even if it should have been him going to her, not the other way around.

The cafe is empty, quiet. It’s early in the morning, a little too early. The scent of coffee fills the room, filters through Jungkook’s nostrils but never touches his tongue.

His stomach is a wreck, and the caffeine will only make it worse. It’s all they had brewed at this early hour, and it’s warm in his cold hands that are still red from the walk here from his apartment. The gentle throb in his face tells Jungkook his cheeks are too. 

He brings his mug of coffee up towards his face in hopes the steam will warm him. When the door to the cafe chimes, Jungkook forces himself to drink the coffee despite his protesting stomach.

Nervousness, it’s all about anticipation. Jungkook tries to remind himself that the getting worked up about things before hand is always worse than the actual thing he’s nervous about. He tries to do that now, to get himself together, stop chugging down the hot liquid, and finally look at the man in front of him.

“Hey, Jungkook.”

The morning sky glows, but nothing glows as warm as Taehyung. It’s something Jungkook found to relieve him. He didn’t know what Taehyung would be like when they met again. His worst fear was that he’d have lost his shine.

Jungkook understands Sunja’s fussing over him as he looks away from Taehyung’s glow to the rest of him, noticing he isn’t wearing much to stay warm. There are gloves on his hands, but they’re the thin kind. His jacket is thin too, and there’s nothing covering his neck or face. 

“Hey? Hey,” Jungkook replies, pushing up to stand before changing his mind. His scarf rests on the seat beside him, and his fingers inch towards it like he wants to wrap it around Taehyung’s head until the redness in his skin disappears. 

Taehyung smiles as he sinks into the booth across from him. The mug is already waiting for him though Jungkook hadn’t filled it in case Taehyung took too long and it went cold. 

Part of him knew enough that Taehyung would show to never worry that he wouldn’t.

“I’m happy you texted me to meet up.” Taehyung chews on his bottom lip as he starts to fill the mug. Steam dances up from the stream of coffee, and Jungkook hopes it’s enough to warm the cold sticking to Taehyung’s face.

The one thing Jungkook also was happy to see was how calm and at ease Taehyung always is. Even when they first saw each other and Jungkook could see some uncertainty in his eyes. He flowed right through like it was nothing. 

Jungkook parts his lips, but Taehyung keeps speaking. It’s hesitant, but Taehyung doesn’t stop himself from saying it. 

“I would like to know if that’s something you’d like to do sometimes? Meet up for a drink, or whatever. Or just text. I don’t know. It’s totally okay if you say no, of course. I just am not quite sure how to push the conversation into the way of me finding out whether or not you’re comfortable with us reconnecting without asking, I’m sorry. Even if it’s just sometimes. Or rarely. Or often. Or -”

Taehyung bites at his bottom lip so hard it looks like it hurts. It makes his laugh come out muffled and even more awkward sounding. 

“Sorry,” Taehyung says again. “There are just things I want to ask or say, and I don’t know if you’re okay with them, or if it’s me being presumptuous, or if I say them, then you’ll feel pressure.”

There is an urge inside Jungkook to reach across the table and grab Taehyung’s hand. An old habit that appears right then and there. Instead, he grabs a sugar cube from the small glass pot on the edge of the table and drops it into Taehyung’s coffee. 

He asked Taehyung here with the excuse to talk about Mina. Which Jungkook does want to do. But he also wants to know those same things from Taehyung. If he wants to meet up sometimes, or rarely, or often, or until whenever Taehyung leaves. 

The insecurities Jungkook is working on aren’t fully gone. The ones that mess with his mind and his thoughts and make it confusing to tell whether or not he’s seeing a situation through them or through reality. 

Jimin told him they were in South Korea looking for him. Taehyung seemed happy to see him. But there’s still that fear inside Jungkook that Taehyung is angry with him, hurt by him to the point where even exchanging hellos will be forbidden.

It would be understandable if that were the case. Jungkook did hurt Taehyung.

“I’m okay with meeting up and texting,” Jungkook finally responds. It doesn’t sound like enough, but the tension seems to seep away from Taehyung anyway. “I, Tae -”

“We don’t have to talk about it right now,” Taehyung quickly interrupts with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Unless you wanted to, which is fine if you do. But if you just wanted to talk about whatever random shit people talk about over coffee, that’s okay too. We can ease into it.”

The tension seeps away from Jungkook too. Not fully, but enough that he can collect himself and say what he wanted to say. “I wanted to talk about Mina.”

Taehyung exhales long and slow. There’s a moment of silence, one that Jungkook doesn’t feel is as awful as he’s always felt silence to be. “She really wanted to see you, so please don’t take her disappearing as a bad thing. It isn’t a good thing, but it wasn’t because she didn’t want to see you. She just...”

When Taehyung shrugs, Jungkook fills in the pause for himself. She runs away like me .

Jungkook hates that. 

“Is she?” Jungkook starts, rubbing at his lips. He doesn’t have a right to ask. If he wanted to know how she was doing, he could have picked up a phone. He could have stalked her profile from Jin’s Facebook page, something . “Is she okay?”

“Depends,” Taehyung says. He turns when a waiter appears, his face changing into something cheerful when he orders breakfast.

Jungkook takes his chance to stare openly, to take Taehyung in. How he hasn’t changed, how he has. His hair is still long around the ears, shaggy over his forehead. The two hoops wrapped around the upper shell of his ear are new. 

“And you, sir?”

Taehyung smiles, eyes fluttering. Jungkook smiles when Taehyung’s nose wrinkles. He should look away, but Jungkook doesn’t want to.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung says, throwing a thumb at the waiter, and realization makes Jungkook rip his eyes away.

Clearing his throat, Jungkook quickly orders his breakfast with burning red cheeks. 

Luckily, Taehyung doesn’t mention it. Though his lips stay quirked up for a moment before he starts talking again after the waiter disappears. 

“She’s had a rough few years,” Taehyung starts slowly, like he’s searching for the right words. “She came to me one day, really needed a place to crash. I insisted she stay with me. You know, we didn’t know each other quite well at the time, but I - I wanted her to have a safe place.”

Jungkook’s heart swells and aches at the same time. Different thoughts rush through his head at once, muddling his brain until he’s forcing his eyes closed for a moment to rid them all away.

How much is she like him? The way she looks reminds him of Kyung-mi, frail and small. Hesitant and uncomfortable. 

Why was it Taehyung she thought to go to? Jungkook is happy she did, either way. 

“We’ve gotten really close,” Taehyung goes on, pulling Jungkook from the questions running through his mind. Questions that he won’t have the courage to ask. “There are times when things are still really rough for her. I’d like to think I can help her get through them when she allows me to. Sometimes she doesn’t though.”

Jungkook and Mina went through a lot of the same things. Jungkook was the only one who really had to deal with his father, but his mother was just as unkind. Her words were her fists.

They hurt just as much. They dig their way into the brain, take over thoughts, actions, affecting every piece of someone even if they don’t realize it.

It’s the words he thinks about when he’s struggling with himself. They’re what he hears coming from other people when it’s not even close to what they’ve said. He even hears them in the silence. 

After his father went to prison, Jungkook rarely went home. He has no idea what Mina went through there. He doesn’t know what kind of words were said to Mina, or if their mother started hurting her the way his father had. 

“Asking for help is hard,” Jungkook says, “especially when you don’t know what will help.”

There is a moment where Jungkook and Taehyung lock eyes. Maybe a lot is said, or understood, or it means nothing at all. But it makes Jungkook’s chest warm either way.

“How true,” Taehyung sighs. 

“And when you think nothing can help,” Jungkook whispers.

He slides his coffee to the side, focusing on the veins in his hands when he feels Taehyung looking at him.

It had been Jungkook’s thought for a long time. Nothing could help. Even when he actually started getting help, he didn’t think it would do any good. He had already spent years trying to remind himself of the people that cared and loved him, that his worrisome thoughts weren’t true, that there was a life past pain if he kept moving on.

All these reassurances did nothing. Jungkook had no hope things would be better.

When the sad feelings come back sometimes, there’s that fear that past him had been right. Nothing makes it go away. 

But they aren’t as crushing. They don’t push him into the place he used to go.

“I -” Taehyung starts, licking his lips. “I know I said we don’t have to talk about it now, but I have to say it. I’m sorry, Jungkook. I’m really sorry.”

Jungkook looks up from his hands. The pain is loud in Taehyung’s eyes, and it hurts. Even after such a long time, it’s still one of the worst things Jungkook has ever seen. Sadness and pain shouldn’t be on a face so bright. 

“I really need to say it,” Taehyung says, breathing out harshly. “I’ve thought about it a lot over the years. When you told me how much you felt like a burden, it was so untrue to me, I think my need to reassure you that you weren’t made you feel worse, and I didn’t understand that. It wasn’t my intention, and to be honest, I think I do the same thing with Mina still. I understand that to you, to her, it’s true or was true and nothing can change your mind when it’s convinced, but -”

Jungkook bites hard at his cheek when his throat swells. His heart throbs so hard he can feel it in his face, the pressure building.

It’s something he still feels bad about. Even if he’s come to terms with the fact that his feelings couldn’t have been helped, that he was suffering from an illness, the effect it had on other people still makes him feel bad.

“Sometimes when Mina runs off, I’m terrified,” Taehyung says. His eyelids are red, and he wipes at them with the back of his hand. “I’m so scared she’s going to hurt herself, I have this desperate need to just tell her I love her, that things are going to be okay. Even if I know it can sound meaningless when your mind doesn’t agree. Even if she needs to be alone, I need her to just tell me she’s okay, or I go mad with worry.”

Jungkook gives into the urge and stretches a hand out. The corner of his mouth quirks up when Taehyung’s hand immediately stretches out for his own. A smile of encouragement, reassurance.

A smile to distract himself from thinking about how Mina and him really are alike, and how Jungkook must have caused Taehyung that same fear. 

“It isn’t meaningless,” Jungkook assures him. “But you’re right. The mind takes those reassurances and crushes them between its hands. It makes you focus on other things to prove itself right rather than the things that could prove it wrong.”

He still remembers Taehyung’s face the night Jungkook told him he wanted to die. The pain that was so loud in his eyes, the frantic way he spoke. His hands, how bad they trembled.

The way it reminded him of how terrified Taehyung looked the night his father was arrested, the same way he looked in Virginia Beach.

Seeing that killed Jungkook, and he couldn’t stop thinking about how it was his fault Taehyung looked that way. It didn’t stop his mind from thinking that this was the effect he had on the world, hurting people. 

Now, it seems kind of ridiculous to compare that to his father, but Jungkook had. His father hurt people, and so did he. They hurt the same people in different ways. 

“You don’t need to apologize for that,” Jungkook says like a promise. He rubs a thumb over Taehyung’s knuckle, eyes focused on the way their fingers tangle together. “Telling someone how much you care about them isn’t a bad thing. It just - knowing you’ve worried someone you care about again, and again, and again, makes people - made me feel worse about myself. It wasn’t the words that you said, but the fact that I was making you have to say them again that upset me.” 

Taehyung sniffles. He never used to cry, but his eyes are watery now. Their hands let go of each other when the waiter comes, and the silence feels a bit tense as they watch him set their plates down.

It’s the thing Jungkook most regrets ever letting Taehyung know. Even to this day, as he’s accepted the things he’s done and forgiven himself. Regardless of the reason, it’s hurtful when your best friend says they can’t stand being around you.

“I understand that better now, and I am sorry for the last time we spoke,” Taehyung says once the waiter leaves. Neither of them touch their food. “It was unfair of me to say those things to you. I should have been more patient and not taken out my exhaustion and frustration on you. Even when I was saying it, I knew it was wrong but... you were upset about hurting me, and I was there basically telling you that you did when that’s not what I was trying to do at all. I’m not trying to make excuses, I just really need you to know how sorry I am.”

There’s nothing to be sorry for. Jungkook says as much, softly and with hopefully enough conviction for Taehyung to believe him. Taehyung looks like he’s going to argue, but Jungkook cuts him off before he can.

“I don’t think there is anyone to blame. It was just a shitty ass situation,” Jungkook tells him. He’s thought a lot about it too. He’s blamed himself, has wanted to apologize a thousand times over.

But hearing Taehyung blame himself makes Jungkook wonder if these thoughts in his head are just his old ones that are still being trained and tuned.

“I think that year for us, we were working on a low percentage of ourselves,” Jungkook goes on. “I was trying to run away from a depression that was swallowing me whole, and every part of your life was different. You’ve always had a plan for life, and though it wasn’t detailed, you were set on certain things happening. Suddenly every plan you had was out of reach. You were worried about me, your father. I don’t think you slept at all.”

Taehyung sinks into the booth some. He plays with his silverware but still doesn’t touch his food. There’s a dimness around him, the bright glow that always radiates from him turning dull as Jungkook speaks. 

He hates it.

“And I get what you mean about wanting to comfort someone, even if you’re saying things that don’t help. I kept bringing up Minghao because I know how badly you hated being alone.”

Silence builds between them again. Taehyung openly looks at him while Jungkook finds it hard to look back.

“I think you talked about Minghao to hurt yourself,” Taehyung whispers. It’s gentle, but Jungkook still flinches. “Because I never hated being alone, Jungkook.” 

“Maybe you’re right,” Jungkook sighs. It doesn’t matter anyway. It’s probably true. Jungkook did a lot of things to hurt himself, even unintentionally. “Though I did think you hated being alone. One thing I kept thinking after I left is how shitty of a friend I was for leaving you alone.”

Taehyung shakes his head when he finally starts on his food. “I actually like being alone. You know that beach by where your mother used to live? Eastern Point? I go there a lot, by myself. It’s relaxing to me.”

It isn’t the kind of alone Jungkook means. He hates being alone himself, but he enjoys the solitude that comes with sitting out on his porch beneath the moon.

Jungkook doesn’t clarify himself, though. He finds comfort in knowing Taehyung eventually had Namjoon and Jimin when he was struggling, but he’s afraid to ask if Taehyung felt alone.

“You go all the way out there?” Jungkook asks. “What happened to the docks?”

“Nothing,” Taehyung says in a hurry. He talks with food in his mouth, cheeks bulging. “I moved to Groton. Well, actually, I moved in with Minghao.”

Jungkook snorts. It isn’t funny, but a laugh leaves his lips before he can stop it. He isn’t sure why exactly. It feels ridiculous, even more amusing when Taehyung’s eyes widen in confusion.

“We’re only friends,” Taehyung clarifies, but Jungkook lets out another laugh, this one louder.

Taehyung’s face brightens with amusement. “What’s so funny?” 

“I don’t know,” Jungkook hiccups, a hand coming up to cover his mouth. “I just started laughing, and now I feel too awkward to stop.”

A smile erupts across Taehyung’s face. He chuckles, though hesitantly. It sounds so nice to hear, Jungkook isn’t sure if it’s because of that or his own laughter that causes the tears in his eyes. His glow is so bright now, beams of sunlight shining from every inch of Taehyung.

They talk about whatever people talk about over coffee after that. Taehyung’s apartment with Minghao, the difficulty of owning a home he’s never lived in. Jungkook talks about Bo, shares memories of his over the last few years.

Their food goes, their coffee gets replaced. Jungkook isn’t quite sure how much time passes before his phone vibrates.

“It’s work,” Jungkook apologizes as he hits silent and shoves it back into his pocket.

Taehyung is smiling at him, fists pressed beneath his chin. He makes a move to leave then, but Jungkook doesn’t want to.

“Don’t you have to go?” Taehyung asks, eyes widening. His lips push out into a pout when he speaks. “We’ve been here a few hours.”

Jungkook bites the corner of his mouth. “Ah, no. It’s probably nothing important. Though, I do have to pick up Bo soon.”

He watches as Taehyung pulls out his wallet. Jungkook moves to grab for his, but he stops when Taehyung opens it, and he sees his own face.

Jungkook clears his throat, eyes darting away to take out his own money.

“You should meet her,” Jungkook says, chest tight. “Some time.”

Taehyung’s eyes smile. They squint and brighten when his cheeks bulge. “I’d love that. The four of us can do something.”

Jungkook nods. Taehyung told him Mina knows about Bo but not how she feels about having another sister, or how she feels that Jungkook left their home to take care of her. He can only imagine. 

“You should talk to her first though,” Taehyung goes on. When he stands, Jungkook follows and quickly wraps his scarf around Taehyung’s neck.

Taehyung’s eyes widen again, alarm filling them. Jungkook hesitates but continues tying it in a big knot against his throat. He doesn’t want to overstep. 

It’s kind of frustrating being like this. Before, there was no thinking when it came to Taehyung. Especially after they started kissing and touching. Now it’s the exact opposite. Jungkook thinks about every movement, every word. 

When Jungkook musters up the courage to look at Taehyung again, Taehyung is watching him with curiosity and something warm in his eyes. 

“It’s cold,” Jungkook explains. “You aren’t wearing a jacket.”

“Feels like summer to me,” Taehyung teases as he attempts to nuzzle his cheek into the scarf. 

“You’re only wearing a sweater.”

“Seeing you warm warms me.”

It’s silly, playful. Nice. They share a smile, one that makes Jungkook feel a little breathless. 

Taehyung rolls his eyes as he slips his arm around Jungkook’s. It feels as familiar as it is, but at the same time foreign. Taehyung seems to do it without thinking, without hesitating. Jungkook can’t focus on anything else.

The cold air stabs at his lungs, and he thinks he probably should have worn something more than a sweater. Taehyung’s arm tightens around his, his other arm coming around to grip onto him too, and it’s all Jungkook can think about.

“Thank you for asking me for coffee,” Taehyung says, turning his head until his lips disappear behind the scarf. “I really hope we can hang out again soon.”

Jungkook nods. Spotting the bus stop makes him think about leaving Taehyung’s side and how he doesn’t want to yet. 

Those fears are still there. He might not have the courage to ask him to hang out again.

“Are you free for some time now? I’ll show you my apartment? You can pick up Bo with me?”

Taehyung looks away when he smiles. “I’m free.”


The first thing Taehyung notices about Jungkook’s apartment is the pictures of himself. Given the panic in Jungkook’s eyes when Taehyung spots them, Taehyung takes it Jungkook has forgotten they were there.

To him, that means they’ve been there a long time. They’ve spent such a long time on Jungkook’s shelves that they’ve blended in with the background. 

Taehyung doesn’t comment on it, though he is surprised to see the picture of himself from Virginia Beach. He remembers every moment of that day. There is no way he could forget with how often he has thought about every moment, about how he could have missed the signs. 

“Do you have a maid?” Taehyung asks. Jungkook’s apartment looks expensive is the second thing he notices. It’s not large by any means, but everything inside looks of money. There aren’t many decorations or hangings on the walls, but the television takes over one completely, like Jungkook has a mini movie theatre in his living room. “It’s sparkling clean in here.”

“No,” Jungkook says with a laugh as he dips into another room. Taehyung follows after him, finding the kitchen is just as spotless as the rest of the house.

It still makes him happy knowing Jungkook’s been taking care of his grandmother’s house, that he was taking care of her when she became too old to do so. He feels bad thinking of the messes he’s left behind, unknowingly making someone else clean up after him. 

“How do you keep an apartment so clean with a three year old?” Taehyung asks in surprise. The fridge is covered in photos as well. Drawings that Bo must have done, pictures of her and Jungkook. Another picture of Taehyung and him.

In this one, they are little. Maybe seven or eight. Jungkook’s got an arm around Taehyung’s shoulder. It’s right next to one of Jungkook and a little girl he assumes to be Bo.

“Ah, she put that up,” Jungkook says, grimacing to himself instead of answering Taehyung. “She said there needed to be a baby picture of me too so I let her choose one.”

Taehyung touches over Jungkook’s baby face. He’s missing his front tooth in the picture, and his cheeks are like small apples over his cheekbones. “Where did you get it? Your things are still in my garage.”

Jungkook’s eyebrows shoot up to his hairline. “I’m sorry. You could have thrown everything out.”

“I wouldn’t have done that.”

There have been times Taehyung’s father has whined about the clutter, but neither of them would have thrown it out. It’s everything Jungkook owned except for the few suitcases he brought with him to Korea.

Even then, it isn’t a lot. Jungkook’s never accepted gifts, and when he has, he’s kept them at Taehyung’s house anyway. He never had a lot of clothes or items he had attachments to. That’s the way Jungkook is. Looking around, Taehyung can tell those habits stuck with him. 

Jungkook takes a step towards him, and for a moment Taehyung can’t breathe. When he does, it comes out as a quiet laugh as he realizes Jungkook wants to get into the fridge.

“I brought my photo albums with me,” Jungkook explains. “Do you remember? Your mother helped us make scrapbooks one day?” 

Taehyung doesn’t remember. He has a scrapbook that clearly a young child made stashed somewhere in his closet at his parent’s house, but he doesn’t remember making it.

He admits it as Jungkook pulls away from the fridge with a bottle of milk in his hand. When Jungkook closes the fridge door, Taehyung taps on the photo of Bo. “She looks like you.”

They’re close. A few inches apart. Taehyung worries he’s relaxed too quickly. Earlier, he slipped his arm around Jungkook’s like a habit. As soon as he realized it, he felt he couldn’t pull away, or he would have made it awkward.

He can’t tell if Jungkook minded. It isn’t simple or easy to meld back into someone’s life, but Taehyung wants to make it seem like it is. Even if the end game is nothing like before. 

“She looks like her mother,” Jungkook says. There is a smile on his lips when he looks at the picture of Bo. Taehyung wonders if he realizes it. It’s the same smile he wears when he talks about her.

Taehyung couldn’t keep count of how often Jungkook smiled, laughed under his breath or behind his hand. The smile just stayed on his face when he talked about his baby sister.

“You said she isn’t around?” Taehyung prompts. 

Since Taehyung first saw Jungkook the other day, he’s wanted to apologize for the mess that was their last conversation and the weeks afterwards. He had told himself while getting ready today that he wouldn’t touch on anything unless Jungkook did first, but seeing the regret and pain in his eyes when Jungkook said he didn’t know what help he needed, Taehyung couldn’t hold back.

As nervous as Taehyung was, it went a lot better than expected. It wasn’t sad or difficult. They still smiled and laughed. 

“She’s around,” Jungkook corrects. “We usually visit her once a month, but the last few weeks we’ve seen her a couple times. That happens. We’ll see her a lot for a short time and then not for weeks.”

Taehyung frowns. He watches Jungkook move around his kitchen. He’s different than Taehyung remembers him, but Taehyung can’t figure out exactly what it is that makes him look different.

“Mina did that at first. Until I felt like the safe space that I was,” Taehyung says. “She doesn’t trust easily. Whenever Jimin or Namjoon would come over, she’d hide in my room. Minghao put her on edge.”

Jungkook hands him his drink, his eyes sad. As expressive as he is, Taehyung wonders how he ever missed how bad Jungkook had been. 

“Taehyung,” Jungkook says slowly. His Adam’s apple bobs when he swallows. “Thank you for taking her in.”

Taehyung warms. He reaches out, rubbing Jungkook’s bicep. “We’re family, remember? Of course I’d take her in.”

The truth of that makes Taehyung’s own throat tight. He hums so it goes away, but it doesn’t work well enough. His next words come out a little choked sounding, even when he clears his throat.

“I got to see Chris,” Taehyung says, trying to change the subject. There is pressure in his eyes already, and he’s desperate to stop making their conversations about them before. Even if they should, at some point. He doesn’t want to push Jungkook. “He’s a little pimply teenager now. A happy one, though.”

Jungkook’s father went to prison shortly after Chris was born and couldn’t hurt him the way he had his other children. Or, Taehyung hopes. 

There was once that Jungkook’s father returned. Mina had seen him, had called Taehyung frantic. He had made the wrong choice of having Minghao go to her, to keep her safe, until Taehyung could get there as well.

Mina was in panic mode. Even Minghao, with his thin limbs and gentle face, terrified her.

“Good,” Jungkook murmurs, nodding to himself. “I don’t know him at all, you know?”

Jungkook gestures his head towards the entrance to the kitchen, and Taehyung follows. His voice sounds regretful, and Taehyung reaches out to touch his shoulder again.

“I know.”

Jungkook’s shoulders expand as he exhales. They walk through the living room and towards a balcony where Taehyung spots two wicker chairs covered in blankets. There’s a bench too and a tiny glass table between the chairs that holds an ashtray.

It would be odd for Jungkook to be a smoker, Taehyung thinks. He doesn’t smell cigarette smoke and can’t imagine Jungkook being around one, let alone smoking one himself.

There are cigar burns littering Jungkook’s chest. There are memories filled with smokey, burning scents that even make Taehyung avoid the smokers that linger around the downtown area at home. 

“I wouldn’t have known it was him,” Taehyung says quietly. “But he also looks like you.”

The air is colder than Taehyung would like to admit. It smells frosty, like it might snow later. Jungkook sits outside anyway and doesn’t wrap a blanket around himself.

Taehyung’s yet to take Jungkook’s scarf off. It smells like him, like Taehyung remembers Jungkook smelling. 

There’s something pleasing about knowing Jungkook hasn’t changed his cologne or his favorite kind of laundry detergent. Taehyung wraps the blanket around his shoulders and tucks his feet beneath his butt, breathing in the scent of Fresh Linen.

“I was happy when I realized Bo looked like her mother,” Jungkook says under his breath. “One of the reasons I was afraid to go home was because I looked like him. My mom constantly reminded me of that.”

Taehyung curls his lip. Mrs. Jeon constantly calls Mina. He’s gotten into arguments with Mrs. Jeon before over it. He hates her.

His own mother used to tell him that hate was a bad word, that it was wrong to hate someone. But Taehyung hates the Jeons, and he knows his mother would understand why.

“She’s beautiful,” Taehyung says. He doesn’t know what Bo’s mother looks like, but all Taehyung could see in the picture was Jungkook. They have the same eyes, the same smile. Round cheeks and bunny teeth. “I can’t wait to meet her.”

Jungkook smiles. Taehyung likes that it looks genuine, that they can talk about sad things and still find a way to something that makes them smile.

“She’s going to love you,” Jungkook promises.

Bo does not love Taehyung.

Bo looks at Taehyung like he has three heads and wrinkles her nose like he smells disgusting.

She clings to Jungkook’s leg, eyes wide and horrified. Taehyung stands still, a half smile on his face that probably looks like a grimace. But he’s nervous. As soon as Bo looked at him, she hid against Jungkook.

“Bo-yah, this is my friend,” Jungkook says, fingers twirling around one of her pigtails. He attempts to get her to let go of his leg, but she squeezes harder. “Taehyungie.”

Taehyung tries a full smile, only for Bo’s eyebrows to scrunch together. When he squats down to her level, she hides her face into Jungkook’s thigh.

There is confusion on Jungkook’s face. He pets the back of her head, shrugging his shoulders. “Bo loves people. I don’t know.”

Bo turns her head, peeking at Taehyung. She quickly hides again when she realizes Taehyung is still crouching and still looking at her.

“Boyoung-ssi, look at this,” Taehyung says as he pulls his phone from his pocket. “I have a little sister that’s a few years older than you. She has a castle, take a look.”

He panics a little when he can’t immediately find the picture. When he does, he’s quick to show off the fort in his parent’s backyard, shaped like a castle and so big it takes up a majority of their yard.

Bo peeks again. She gets a little brave, pulling her face away from Jungkook’s thigh to take a good look.

“Her name is Yena,” Taehyung says. He points to where she stands in the middle. 

At the mention of her name, Bo looks up to Jungkook. He nods, giving her a gentle nudge against her head to let go of him.

“Baby,” Bo says. She keeps an arm around Jungkook but releases one. She presses it against her cheek, taking another look at Yena. 

There is still distrust in her eyes when she looks at Taehyung.

“I have her baby picture,” Jungkook explains, that sheepish, embarrassed sound in his voice again. “You know, the ones from the hospital. Your step mother gave me one after Yena was born.”

Taehyung smiles. That makes him happier than it should. “She’s not a baby anymore. She’s big, see?”

“I’m big,” Bo says, blinking her eyes. “I’m three.”

“Wow,” Taehyung says in mock amazement. He touches his own chest, indicating himself. “I’m three, too.”

Bo’s eyes grow wide. She looks to Jungkook for confirmation again, but Jungkook only presses his lips closed to hide his amusement. She decides for herself, shaking her head. “No.”

“I am!” Taehyung exclaims. “Are you calling me a liar, Miss Boyoung?”

Bo giggles. She looks even more like Jungkook, especially when she reaches up to cover her mouth.

Taehyung understands why Jungkook doesn’t like looking like his father, why he doesn’t want Bo to. But Taehyung’s never seen Jungkook’s father in him, nor does he see it in Bo. Even if he’s the reason Jungkook and Bo look so much alike. 

“Oppa’s fifty,” Bo says with another giggle.

Jungkook makes an offended noise. He scoops Bo into his arms until her shrill laughter fills the living room. She pretends to fight Jungkook off, but she giggles like mad when he brings his mouth to her belly and blows.

When her legs are flailing around and her laughter sounds painful, Jungkook puts her back to her feet. Her face is red, tears in her eyes as she laughs. Taehyung finds the sound filling his chest until he too is smiling so hard the pressure in his face makes him think his eyes might water.

Jungkook’s eyes had at the cafe. There was nothing funny about Taehyung living with Minghao, but seeing how hard Jungkook laughed over it made Taehyung want to tell him again and again just to see the way his eyes crinkled around the corners. 

He has thousands of pictures of Jungkook. Thousands of him laughing, smiling. Taehyung has missed that the most. 

When Taehyung looks at Jungkook now, the way he glows as he looks down at his baby sister, he realizes what’s different about him.  

The smile actually reaches Jungkook’s eyes now.

Taehyung spends more time at Jungkook’s than he intended. Hours pass by without him realizing it. 

It’s not until the moon is popping out that Taehyung actually remembers time exists. 

“She’ll fall asleep soon,” Jungkook says as he walks in where Taehyung is waiting for him in the living room. Bo had run off to hide in her bedroom at some point and hasn’t come out since. Jungkook hasn’t mentioned Taehyung being here for so long, so Taehyung assumed it’s okay. 

But Jungkook is also the type not to make someone feel unwelcome. He’s polite and used to never tell someone when they’ve upset him or made him uncomfortable. 

“I should go,” Taehyung says, rubbing his legs. It’s been nice, even if they haven’t talked much. Bo got a little more comfortable with him, let him see her toys. There’s a fuck ton of toys, more than a child ever needs. Jungkook had looked sheepish when she showed Taehyung. 

Their pasts pop up quietly here and there, hanging between them. They don’t have to talk about everything right away, and Taehyung doesn’t want to bring it up so much. Jungkook looks happy, and Taehyung hopes he truly is. That he’s no longer burdened so much by the things his parents did to him.

“No,” Jungkook says quickly, the word tumbling from his lips. He hesitates, eyes widening. “I mean, can you stay for a few more minutes?”

Taehyung warms. He nods his head. He has no plans or responsibilities. He just needs to catch the bus before it gets too late. “Okay.”

“Sorry,” Jungkook says with a laugh. He is nervous suddenly, hands fidgeting around his body like he doesn’t know what to do with them. “I’ve made you stay here all day. Didn’t mean to. I just - I just really enjoyed spending time with you.”

Taehyung stands from where he’s sitting on the couch. He reaches out, taking Jungkook’s hand into his own. “It’s okay, really. I don’t mind. I’ve missed you.” 

“Me too,” Jungkook says. He blinks his eyes, licks his lips. “I’ve missed -”

With a wave of his hand, Jungkook gestures towards the balcony. Taehyung frowns in confusion.

“The moon,” Jungkook says. He wheezes it actually, his face turning red. “We haven’t been able to look at the moon together.”

Taehyung doesn’t move, even when Jungkook looks like he might die from embarrassment. 

The moon had always been their thing, but Taehyung didn’t realize it meant as much to Jungkook as it did to him. He can’t explain it, but it always brought him comfort.

To him, the idea of Jungkook and him being far from each other had always seemed impossible. But the promise that there was something still connecting them always brought Taehyung peace. 

“I like to sit out there at night,” Jungkook explains. “And I uh? Well, I sometimes think about how our promise to each other couldn’t stay true with our time zones being so different.”

It’s sad, really. Taehyung thinks about sitting beneath the moon on the beach for years, not wanting to sit with Minghao because he wasn’t Jungkook. How the moon is everyone’s, but those moments felt like only theirs.

All those years and Jungkook might have been doing the same thing.

“Which shouldn’t be the one thing I apologize for because it’s the silliest, but I wanted to apologize for that,” Jungkook goes on. 

When Taehyung had apologized, Jungkook stayed quiet and still. Taehyung does that now.

“You apologized earlier when you shouldn’t have.” Jungkook’s words come out faster, more sure like he’s slowly building up the courage to say them. “I keep asking you to stick around because I also want to apologize, but I’m bad with words, and I am afraid of talking sometimes.”

Taehyung moves closer. It’s instinct. He has to stop himself from wrapping around Jungkook like he used to when they would talk about sad things.

There were so many things Jungkook did when he was upset, signs Taehyung could have picked up on, but never had.

He stops when he’s a few inches away from where Jungkook still stands awkwardly in the middle of the living room. Close enough that Jungkook can reach for him if he needs to. 

“But I want to say I’m sorry too. I’m sorry for many things, some things you might tell me I shouldn’t be sorry for, but it won’t change the fact that I am.”

Taehyung reaches out, closing the small space between them to cup Jungkook’s cheek. He’ll call it a habit, or an urge. Jungkook’s eyes close when their skin meets, his eyelashes growing wet as he nudges into Taehyung’s hand.

“You’re right,” Taehyung whispers. “I will tell you you shouldn’t apologize. For anything. Like you said, no one’s to blame.”

Jungkook nods, lips rubbing together. He won’t open his eyes, even when a tear slips out and taps Taehyung’s thumb. 

“Doesn’t make it right,” Jungkook mumbles. “How I had gotten - the weight that I put on you? You sounded sad or afraid every time we talked on the phone, and I just kept doing it.”

Taehyung cups Jungkook’s other cheek when his head starts to hang. Jungkook’s hands fumble over each other between them, and that tight feeling in Taehyung’s chest has never been a match against Taehyung’s need to make Jungkook comfortable.

“Jungkook, you can’t control those things,” Taehyung whispers. He’s been reading a lot about it, talking on forums and help sites. He was worried he hurt Jungkook more than helped him, and he didn’t want to make the same mistake with Mina. 

Truly, he has no idea if he’s doing the right thing for Mina, either.

“I should still take some responsibility for the effect I have on other people.” Jungkook breathes out, finally looking to Taehyung. “It’s not me being brainwashed. I can’t control my thoughts, but I can have better control over my actions. It may not have been my fault I was hurting so badly, but it wasn’t your fault either.” 

Taehyung’s lips quirk up some, his attempt at easing the pain in Jungkook’s eyes. “I see you’re still hard on yourself.”

Jungkook lets out a wet laugh. He doesn’t push Taehyung off when Taehyung thumbs at the tears collecting beneath his eyes. “I am a lot better. This -” Jungkook waves a hand at his face. “I have trouble sometimes still figuring out my thoughts. You know, ‘am I thinking this because the signs are actually there, or am I thinking this because my mind only sees the things that prove itself right’ kind of thing. And whichever it is now, I don’t care. I want you to know I’m sorry.”

Taehyung closes the small space between them completely. He wants to guide Jungkook’s head to his chest, or bring Jungkook back to the couch to lay his head on his lap like they used to. When Jungkook was really upset, he would hide his face. Then, his need to be close to someone had him crawling into Taehyung’s lap and turning his back to him.

“Don’t be sorry,” Taehyung says. He pulls his hands away but ghosts them down Jungkook’s arms to take Jungkook’s fingers into his own. “No more saying sorry. For either of us. Okay?”

Jungkook presses his lips together. It’s heartbreaking to see him cry, even to this day. His whole face swells, his eyes bright red. He inhales, and it’s broken sounding like there’s another sob in his chest wanting to come out.

It comes out as a throat clearing when there’s a loud bang, and Jungkook pulls away from Taehyung.

“Asshole, you better be alive!” comes Jin’s voice. “Jungkookie? Jungkook-ah!”

Jin steps into the living room, his eyes immediately zeroing in on them. He looks frazzled, alarmed. His hair is sticking up around his head.

He nearly shoves Taehyung out of the way to grab for Jungkook.

“Get off,” Jungkook grumbles, struggling to get away from Jin. He wipes at his face, hides it. 

“You weren’t answering your phone,” Jin argues, a scolding in his tone. “Seokmin-ssi couldn’t get ahold of you, so I tried calling. Jungkook, we’ve talked about this. Hi, Taehyung.”

Jin stops trying to get Jungkook to look at him. He slowly turns, eyebrows raising towards his hairline as he looks to Taehyung like he just realized he was there.

“Hi, hyung,” Taehyung whispers. He’s been nervous to see Jin too. If anyone deserves an apology from Taehyung, it’s Jin. Taehyung was far from nice to him.

Maybe he understands what Jungkook means. Taehyung couldn’t control his panic or his anger when Jin wouldn’t tell him what was going on with Jungkook, or wouldn’t make Jungkook talk to him. But it wasn’t Jin’s fault. Jin deserved the exact opposite of what Taehyung gave him.

“I was hoping this reunion would be sticky, but not because of tears,” Jin says, his frown growing. His eyes light up though, easing the nerves inside of Taehyung.

Jungkook moans like he’s in pain, elbowing Jin harshly in the arm. “I’m fine, see? Can you please go now?”

Jin peers at Jungkook, his amusement quickly slipping away. He stabs a finger into Jungkook’s chest. “Answer your phone. You know that.”

Jungkook doesn’t say a word as Jin disappears into the hallway that leads to Bo’s room. His shoulders drop, but his face has cleared of tears.

“I am better. He doesn’t have to worry,” Jungkook says. It seems like he speaks more to himself than to Taehyung. 

“You always worry about people you love,” Taehyung says. He sighs, folding his arms against his chest. “I should get going. It’s getting late. Do you want to come over tomorrow? To talk to Mina?”

Jungkook nibbles on his bottom lip, but he nods.

“After, we can look at the moon?” Taehyung suggests.

There’s a smile on Jungkook’s lips. It reaches his eyes. Even if they’re still kind of red, the smile is there. “I would love that.” 

The touch on Taehyung’s back is hesitant at first as Jungkook guides him to the front door. It grows a little more confident, fingers stretching out and his palm pressing in before Taehyung turns.

He leans back against the door as Jungkook reaches up, securing the scarf around Taehyung’s neck.

The breath swoops from his lungs when Jungkook tugs gently, pulling them closer together like a habit. When Jungkook realizes it, his eyes dart away nervously, but he doesn’t step away.

“You know when you said you were sorry about leaving me alone earlier?” Taehyung whispers. It feels like he should talk quietly as not to disturb the air warming around them. 

Jungkook nods, their eyes meeting. He doesn’t keep them still, his eyes dropping to Taehyung’s mouth when he speaks, to the hands he has on Taehyung’s scarf. Back and forth while Taehyung keeps his eyes trained on Jungkook’s face.

God, he’s missed him.

“We barely spent any time away from each other,” Taehyung tells him. “Even in college, remember? Our classes were in the same building, and we hadn’t even planned that.”

Jungkook’s lips quirk up. “I planned that.”

Taehyung huffs out in amusement. There is another tug on the scarf, and Taehyung gives in to it. He cups Jungkook’s cheek again, rubbing at the quirked corner of his mouth.

“I mention it just because I could be surrounded by people, people who care about me, but none of them could have filled your space,” Taehyung whispers.

Not even just the romance that had blossomed between them that last year, but the bond they’ve shared for years. Their entire life. 

“It was always you, Jungkook,” Taehyung admits. He isn’t nervous to, but he isn’t quite sure how to explain what he means. “You were my person. Minghao, or anyone else, wouldn’t have been able to replace you.”

Jungkook buries his cheek into Taehyung’s palm. He lets go of the scarf to rub his hands down Taehyung’s chest, his sides, twisting his fingers into the thin jacket Taehyung wears.

“Were,” Jungkook repeats. He turns his head, his lips brushing over Taehyung’s thumb. It’s intimate, soft. It isn’t surprising they’ve fallen into it so easily.

Sometimes, it makes Taehyung laugh at how long it took them to embrace each other like this. Jungkook’s always looked at him the same way. He just never realized it.

There were a lot of things Taehyung never realized.

“Are,” Taehyung corrects.

Jungkook’s lips quirk again, eyes dropping between them so Taehyung can’t see if the smile reaches them.

He pulls Jungkook in as he leans forward. His eyes fall closed when Jungkook exhales, the sound shaky and loud in Taehyung’s ears.

Taehyung’s lips brush over the corner of Jungkook’s mouth, just a gentle pressure that probably tickles. The fingers in his jacket tighten, pull the material tight over Taehyung’s back as Jungkook inhales in surprise.

Time stretches, though it’s not more than a second, when Jungkook turns so their lips brush. Their noses push into each other, Taehyung’s heart leaping up into his throat when his body moves without his brain’s instruction.

Taehyung slots their lips together. Just a soft press of his mouth against Jungkook’s before he pulls back. He doesn’t move far, staying close enough to feel Jungkook’s quick breathing on his lips.

Jungkook’s chest moves rapidly, his grip on Taehyung still tight. Taehyung caresses his cheek, pushes his thumb between the small space between their lips.

When he pulls back completely, Jungkook’s eyes follow after him.

It makes it harder to leave, Taehyung thinks. But he pulls his hand away from Jungkook as Jungkook releases the jacket he’s nearly ripped.

“I want to be,” Jungkook says, finally speaking when Taehyung turns to open the door. “That person again. Your person again.”

Taehyung nods, giving Jungkook a soft smile. The way his chest tightens feels like pain, but it isn’t. It’s warmth, it’s happiness, it’s just the way Jungkook’s always made him feel. “You never stopped being my person, Jungkook.”

Chapter Text

Jungkook jogs across the office, briefcase in hand. It’s been his days off, but he still hasn’t talked to Seokmin since he called Jin in search of him.

He doesn’t really know why. Maybe because he needed only to focus on the things in front of him to get his mind in order. Seokmin and he have always been casual, but the appearance of Taehyung has Jungkook’s mind running around with different questions he wishes he didn’t have because he doesn’t know the answers to them or how to ask to get them. 

“Jungkook-Ah!” Seokmin greets, smiling as big as always. Beside him is the co-founder of the company, Jeon Wonwoo. They both wake up in business mode, so it’s no surprise to see them working already. “Glad to see you’re alive.”

Jungkook shakes his head, an apology on his tongue, but Seokmin waves him off with the papers in his hand like he knows it’s coming.

The papers he slaps gently against Jungkook’s chest. “Can you translate these for me, please? There are a couple of sentences I'm stuck on. I need to send it over to the representative in the States as soon as you’re finished.” 

“Yeah,” Jungkook says, holding them to his chest. He bows to Wonwoo, feeling his face grow hot. He expected a scolding from his bosses, though he’s never gotten one before. “Yes, sir.”

Seokmin gives him a confused look, his lips pressed in amusement. “Are you able to stay after? You can bring little Miss Bo. I’ll get takeout?”

Jungkook hesitates. Things are nothing but casual between Seokmin, but he’s still the boss. 

Heat prickles at Jungkook’s neck. He definitely is an idiot. He should have thought of that. That first time. Maybe he did, he doesn’t remember. He isn’t really sure how it started to begin with, but he knows it had been him to make the first move because sometimes he still acts a little recklessly. 

Hesitation fills Seokmin’s face before he claps a hand to Jungkook’s shoulder to guide him out. “Excuse us, Wonwoo-ssi.”

Jungkook is thankful for something to grip onto, but he wishes it wasn’t paper as he feels his hands start to sweat. 

Seokmin leads them to Jungkook’s office, where he closes the door enough to give them privacy without shutting it completely.

“What happened?” Seokmin asks, his eyes full of concern. “Whatever job offered you better pay, better hours, whatever--I’ll double it.”

Jungkook stares at Seokmin. “What?”

Seokmin starts to pace. “You’re making a face like you’re about to quit.”

A laugh rips from Jungkook’s lips before he can stop it. He covers his mouth quickly, but it only adds to Seokmin’s visible stress. 

“No, no,” Jungkook quickly assures him. “That’s - no, I’m not quitting.”

Relief makes Seokmin pause in his step. He clutches at his chest, shoulders relaxing. “Oh thank god. My last translator was an asshole. He made me feel so dumb for not understanding the difference between who and whom.”

Jungkook relaxes some too as he props his butt against the edge of his desk. “I don’t know the difference either.”

Seokmin smiles softly, arms crossing over his chest. “What is it then? If it’s about not answering the phone, don’t worry about it. It’s unlike you not to, so I was only concerned.” 

“I’m sorry--”

Seokmin cuts him off with his hands waving in the air. “You don’t need to be. You aren’t required to answer your phone on your personal days. I’m just used to it, but you can tell me to fuck off. You requested the day. I shouldn’t have called.”

Jungkook smiles. It’s always easy with Seokmin. Even if Jungkook isn’t quite sure what his thoughts are in the moment, he has a feeling Seokmin will understand them enough. 

He doesn’t even know if Taehyung is staying.

It doesn’t even matter if he is. Ending things with Seokmin feels necessary either way. 

“It’s okay,” Jungkook promises. “I’m dedicated to the job. I don’t mind you calling me when I’m off.”

Seokmin laughs, eyes rolling. “It wasn’t work related. I saw a meme I didn’t understand. Your hyung explained it.”

Jungkook snorts. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to.”

It falls quiet for a moment, Seokmin’s soft eyes on him. The look is one Jungkook knows, the face someone makes before they ask if he’s okay.

Except Seokmin never pries. There’s something about the way he holds himself, tiny gestures and comments he makes that tells Jungkook he could talk if he wanted to, but he never directly asks.

He doesn’t now, either. Jungkook wants him to.

Seokmin is the one person he’s kind of close with that doesn’t have biased opinions about him and Taehyung. Jin is impossible to talk to about it. Kyung-mi looks sad whenever he mentions Taehyung, even if she tells him to talk about him. 

“My friend,” Jungkook starts, eyes darting to the picture on his wall to explain before Seokmin leaves, “and one of my sisters are here. To see me. I - uh.”

“You don’t have to explain,” Seokmin quickly says. “Really. Your personal time is your personal time.”

Jungkook finds he wants to share a personal part of him with someone new, someone close to him. A step forward, a hurdle to jump over with someone who makes him feel comfortable enough to talk. Someone who can’t even guess at all the details that come with a life of hell. 

“I had a really bad life back home,” Jungkook explains. Seokmin hesitates, but he leans back against the office wall as if to say he’s here to listen. “I ran away from it. The bad and the people who made it not so bad. Including my sister, my siblings—I have a few— and Taehyung. I went completely MIA, cut everyone but Jin hyung off.”

Jungkook fidgets with the papers before sliding them on his desk. He doesn’t plan on going into detail, but it’s scary telling someone new. Even only touching on the topic. 

These things he’s struggled with don’t define him, but there are people who once they know them, that’s all they see. He’s worried about people analyzing his every move the way he does, trying to apply the things he’s gone through as an excuse as to why he’s doing it. 

“In this day in age?” Seokmin teases. His eyes smile when his mouth forms into one. “That’s impressive.”

Jungkook laughs quietly, focusing on his own fingers. He locked himself out of his own Instagram because that first year, looking at the pictures of their road trip made Jungkook feel like his heart was being ripped out each time. “Yeah. But my sister was angry with me, and Taehyung didn’t want to push, so we didn’t talk for years.”

“He seems nice,” Seokmin says. Jungkook wasn’t going to mention his role in helping Taehyung find him, but he’s happy Seokmin does. “I recognized him on the train. You have quite a few pictures of him in your home.”

“We were inseparable for a long time. Like, my entire life basically,” Jungkook tells him.

“And you’re in love with him.” 

Jungkook parts his lips, licks them. He hesitates, but Seokmin’s smile doesn’t leave his face. It remains gentle, maybe even a little amused.

“My entire career is focused around making strangers act like they’re falling in love and being in love,” Seokmin goes on as he pushes up from the wall. “My shows wouldn’t do as well as they do if I didn’t know what that looks like.”

Jungkook has worded his feelings like that before, has said he was in love, but it’s never felt like that truly. It doesn’t seem like enough to explain it.

Taehyung hit the nail on the head though. They’re each other’s person. 

“I am, yeah. Have been as long as I can remember.”

Seokmin closes the space between them with small strides to cup the side of Jungkook’s neck. “Then he must be as nice as he seems.”

“I don’t know if he’s staying,” Jungkook blurts. He’s nervous to breach that topic with Taehyung. “I was going to go there after work. I’m nervous about it.”

It would only make sense for Taehyung to go back. He has his father’s fishing company, his parents, Yena. But with Namjoon and Jimin finding jobs here, the wonder is there.

The hope is there.

“Take the day if you need, and ask him,” Seokmin says as he pats Jungkook’s neck. “We can reschedule for tomorrow. I promise no funny business. Strictly professional.”

Jungkook huffs out a laugh, turning his face away. Relief fills him. “Thank you, Seokmin-ssi. For helping Taehyung.”

Seokmin taps two fingers to his temple in a salute. “You ran out of here when he was due to come. I never felt such devastation in my life.”

Jungkook giggles. “I was going to his apartment.”

Seokmin makes a pleased noise, clutching at his chest. “Amazing. I’m putting that in my next drama. I can see it now.” He holds a hand out above him, eyes searching like he really can see it. “Two soulmates ripped from each other, desperate to find each other again. Searching and searching, just to miss each other by a minute.”

Jungkook’s cackle is loud. “Shut up.”

Seokmin giggles too as he backs out of the office. “Really. Take the day. It’s an order.”

The silence is uncomfortable. Jungkook’s mind is blank when it comes to filling it despite being so full just a few hours ago he thought he would word vomit and make a fool of himself.

It’s different though. Thinking about what he would say hypothetically is a lot easier than actually saying it to her. 

Every time she looks at him, Jungkook cusses at himself for not being able to come up with a word. 


Jungkook rubs his lips, watches his hands pull away from his face. He scratches at his jeans, picking at the hole in them.

He can do this.

“Mina, I -”

Jungkook has a hard time looking at her. He sees her younger with big fat tears in her eyes because she had wanted him to come home that badly. She cried whenever he did. Her thin arms never had much strength, but when she clung to him, she used all of it to keep him there.

For a minute. 

Jungkook had to pry her arms off every time to escape. 

He felt like the biggest fucking asshole every time he did. Just like he does now. Sitting across from her, unable to come up with the right words to say to her.

“Mina, I’m sorry.”

Mina is curled into the side of the couch, her arms wrapped tightly around the legs held to her chest. She looks as small now as she did then. Her limbs just as weak, clinging to herself instead of him. 

Jungkook exhales, blowing his cheeks out like bubbles. “It sounds kind of meaningless when I say it because I don’t know how to tell you just how sorry I am.”

She cocks her head to the side, eyebrows pushing together. Her lips poke out into a pout that she buries against her knees.

“I want to explain myself, but the whys don’t always make up for it.” Jungkook bites his bottom lip, unsure of where he’s going with this. It made a lot more sense when he rehearsed it to himself. “I just - I just don’t want you to think I’m making an excuse in a way that means you’re supposed to feel bad and forgive me.”

The silence returns followed by a shuffle. Jungkook knows Taheyung is lingering about. Mina had looked panicked when he moved to leave them alone.

Maybe Jungkook would be less nervous in his own home, not a strange one, but he’s focused on making sure Mina is the comforted one. He kind of wishes Taehyung would listen in so Jungkook could explain to him too without having to face him. 

He had woken up earlier than usual for work to call his counselor. Jungkook needed to sort out his thoughts and worries about his day with Taehyung, about his fears on approaching his sister.

In his office, Jungkook rehearsed. He made no sense half the time, jumping from thought to thought, stumbling over his words and trailing off into points that didn’t matter. It felt more like trying to figure out his own thoughts than explain them for someone else to understand. 

Jungkook shifts on the couch, ready to force himself to say it, but Mina speaks to him for the first time since he arrived. 

“Why do you think you have to apologize?”

The worst thing about rehearsing is doing so without being sure of what the other person is going to say. Jungkook is taken aback for a moment, stumped by the question and the obvious answer.

“Don’t you think I’d understand why you wouldn’t want to go there?” Mina keeps going, the emotion in her eyes loud in her voice as it grows stronger. “Why you wanted to leave?”

Jungkook swallows down the thickness in his throat. It doesn’t do any good as the pressure surges up into his face anyway.

“I shouldn’t have left you alone,” Jungkook manages. “And I really shouldn’t have made myself so distant from you.”

Mina sinks into herself again. “I won’t lie. I was angry. I probably wouldn’t have talked to you after I found out you left even if you did try.”

It stings, but Jungkook expected it. Hell, he expected worse. For her never to want to talk to him again, to tell him they were never to talk again after this. 

“But I’m not angry anymore. Not at you, at least. I actually understand. Whenever I scream at Taehyung, I feel so bad that I’m afraid to face him again,” Mina says quietly, like she knows Taehyung might be listening. “Maybe I’m assuming that’s what was going on to make myself feel better. I don’t know.”

“It was,” Jungkook interjects, reaching out quickly to speak with his hands. He’s too aware of the way she flinches at the sudden movement. “Forcing myself to go there made me so sick and would ruin any kind of better I thought I had become that I just couldn’t. The last time I saw you, it hurt me so much to think I caused you that kind of pain, I was afraid to reach out to you. But it was never, ever you I wanted to stay away from. You didn’t do anything.”

It’s something that she has to know. Often, Jungkook has to remind himself that the things he suffered through were never things he caused, were never because of him.

Mina turns her face away, but her sniffle is loud. She rests her cheek back to her knee for a moment so long, Jungkook isn’t sure what to do.

He does the thing he should have done. He reaches out, tentatively, moving over to touch the hand she has squeezing around her leg so tightly her knuckles turn white. Her fingers extend out, latching onto Jungkook’s. 

A quiet sob leaves her lips as she puts that force she was using on herself into Jungkook’s grip. 

“I didn’t want you to see me how I was either,” Jungkook admits quietly. “I was ashamed that I couldn’t be stronger.”

It’s as much as he can admit. He doesn’t think he knows how to tell her about the hope he had that coming here would make him better without sounding cruel. He should have tried to be a better brother to the siblings he already had. 

“I still have a hard time talking about everything I’ve gone through, but if you want to, we can,” Jungkook goes on. “And you can tell me about you, if you need someone to listen who gets it.”

Mina’s eyes are red and puffy when she looks at him. It’s small, but she nods. 

“It’s scary to talk about,” she whispers.

Jungkook lets go of her fingers to thread his own between them. “I know.”

Time passes. Jungkook isn’t sure how much, but when he feels as if he’s exhausted himself from trying not to cry, it’s dark. 

Mina wipes at her eyes, smiling softly. The tension seems to be gone, her head a bit higher though her eyes are swollen more than before. 

“I want to see her,” Mina says.

Jungkook nods, immediately pulling his phone from his pocket. His fingers are cramped from holding onto her for so long. He couldn’t let go, not after she told him the things she’s gone through trying to escape their parents. 

“Her name is Boyoung,” Jungkook says. “I call her Bo.”

The smile on Mina’s face grows and even reaches her eyes. She rolls them. “Boyoung. Of course.”

Jungkook hesitates before he opens the album in his phone full of photos of her and hands it off. “Her mother, Kyung-mi, didn’t have a name.”

Mina holds the phone with shaky hands. Jungkook can’t tell if her smile dims or softens. “Eomma hated her. Mrs. Kim. Said she meddled too much, was the reason you hated her so much.”

Defense rises in Jungkook. He bites his tongue to keep from speaking harshly. His mother has always been ignorant to the things she’s done, has said. 

It used to make him sick when his mother would reach out to him with kind words, beg him to come home, only to treat him cruelly when he did. The young him had hoped he’d get what he needed from his mother during those days, only to be shot down every time. 

It felt like self sabotage, those hopeful thoughts Jungkook had whenever he would muster up the courage to go see his mother.

“I don’t have any friends, safe friends, friends that care about me getting better,” Mina says as she stares at the phone. She had told Jungkook about a few, people who were unkind to her because they were aware of how defenseless she was. It makes Jungkook angry thinking about the unsafe situations she put herself in to escape. “I had seen Taehyung snap in your defense a few times at Eomma. I knew how often you went to the Kims’, I figured you felt safe there, cared for. Or I hoped. I had nowhere else to go. That was scary too. I figured they couldn’t be as bad as the people who took me in before that.”

There is movement, and Jungkook glances over Mina to see Taehyung popping his head in. He slinks away when he’s caught, and Jungkook tries not to smile.

He feels bad that Taehyung has been stuck here waiting all this time but thankful Taehyung didn’t leave.

“I was hoping that was enough reason to let me stay with them for a few nights, even if they didn’t actually care about me.”

Mina smiles down at the phone. She keeps the same picture up for a few minutes, one of Jungkook holding Bo high in the air above him. It’s at a beach a few miles away. He and Jin had a picnic there, but it didn’t last long because Jungkook had been scared of Bo spending too much time in the sun. 

“I can tell he cares about you,” Jungkook says, meaning it. He’s sure Taehyung’s parents do too. 

With a scoff, Mina makes a face. “Yeah, he’s obnoxious about making you know it too.”

There is no bite to it, and Jungkook laughs. One of those laughs that come from the belly.

Mina’s eyes brighten. “The first few nights I was terrified of him. Weeks maybe. I didn’t like him. Maybe because he hovers too much and kept making me eat when I didn’t want to. Or maybe I was still angry at you and in my head, Taehyung was one of the reasons you never came home. 

“But one night Eomma kept calling and calling. You know how she is. I felt desperate to just get her away from me, my mind. I kind of felt like I was going mad, probably a bit hysterical,   but I just needed her to get it in her head to leave me the fuck alone.”

Taehyung comes back to the living room’s doorway, eyes wide and focused on Mina. There are drinks in his hand, but he doesn’t make a move forward. He doesn’t even look at Jungkook, his eyes full of concern and focused on Mina. 

“He went off on her. I heard him. He sounded so hurt too, like he really meant the things he was saying. Then he walked in a few minutes later with a cool expression, eating from a bag of chips like nothing happened and asked me if I wanted to go fishing of all things.” Mina hands the phone back to Jungkook. “She’s beautiful.”

The lump is back in Jungkook’s throat. Even if he doesn’t know what Taehyung said, Jungkook knows he had meant it. Had felt that pain. Even if it wasn’t his own pain. Or it was. Pain is pain when it comes to its physical feeling. 

“What’d you say?” Jungkook asks.

“She told me, and I quote, ‘do I fucking look like I want to fish right now?’” Taehyung finally reveals himself. Mina jumps up, her cheeks turning pink. 

“I’m sorry.” She turns to him, hands reaching out like she already knows he will have something for her before she sees it. 

Taehyung smiles, his eyes clear, but they’re so red there’s no hiding he heard at least something that made him choke up. “I wasn’t eavesdropping, I promise. I was just checking up on you.”

“He probably did every two minutes,” Mina whispers not so quietly to Jungkook. The smile on her face tells him it’s playful.

“Three,” Taehyung corrects as he hands a drink to Jungkook next. “I just came in to tell you I made some food if you guys are hungry.”

Mina shakes her head as she unfolds from the couch. “I think I need to sleep. I want to keep talking, but I think I need a break for now.”

Jungkook attempts to stand up from the couch, but when Mina shakes her head again, he stops himself.

He isn’t jealous when she allows Taehyung to walk her out. Taehyung whispers quietly to her, that concern back in his eyes.

Jungkook diverts his attention. He feels warm. It’s a little overwhelming, the feeling. 

Even if Taehyung was there for Mina just because he’s a caring person, Jungkook can’t help but think Taehyung  had done the one thing Jungkook felt so guilty that he didn’t do. He was there for one of his siblings. He’s taken care of Mina the way Jungkook always wished he could have been able to.

There is hope in Jungkook that Mina is stronger than he had been at that time. She knew she was unsafe, hurting, and reached out to someone she barely knew for help. 

When Taehyung returns, he stands awkwardly between the couch and the entrance. He hooks his thumbs on the pockets of his jeans, dragging the band out nervously before swinging his arms to clasp them behind his back. “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to.”

Jungkook pats the space on the couch beside him. Bo is with Jin tonight, who had shoved Jungkook out of his apartment after he dropped her off and insisted he not to return until he got his fill of the moon.

“How’d it go?” Taehyung asks, the tension leaving him as he sits. 

The way they had left each other the night before is in Jungkook’s mind. Not just the kiss, though that had lingered in Jungkook’s thoughts well after Taehyung had left him but the softness and the comfort he had felt in those moments. The feeling that maybe Taehyung has forgiven him and the hope that maybe they can be in each other’s lives again was strong then.

Jungkook is afraid of hope usually, but right now he isn’t. He doesn’t know where to even begin building what they had before, but he thinks it might not be as hard as he thinks. 

They fall into each other easily. They always have.

“Good, good I think.” Jungkook pauses. He wants to move closer, to have that same courage he did when he reached out to take Mina’s hand. “Is what she said true? About you going off on my mother?”

It reminds him of the first time they kissed, when they were too young to be doing that probably, the way Jungkook taps his fingers over the space between them. He stares at it like it’s offensive because it’s between them, yet he’s too nervous to breach it. 

Jungkook tries, nudging his butt a bit, leaning his torso in a little. He’s not sure if he’s actually gotten any closer, but it feels as if he’s moved miles. 

“Yes,” Taehyung says without missing a beat. He only glances at Jungkook when he says it, not holding eye contact. He seems unaware of Jungkook’s stress about the space between them. “I've been holding in a lot of anger for a long time, and hearing Mina like that, I had enough. I should have done it sooner. For you.”

Jungkook opens his lips to argue, but Taehyung rolls his eyes at him. Taehyung fidgets with the earrings lined around the shell of his own ear and tugs on the strands of hair behind them. His eyes are still so red and swollen that Jungkook wants to interrupt their conversation to get him a cold compress. 

“I should have. Even if it seems impossible because we were just kids,” Taehyung says. “For a long time, I was really frustrated that my parents never did anything. I asked Appa about it a few years ago. Maybe screamed at him too.”

Taehyung closes the space between them then. Jungkook lets out a breath of relief as Taehyung curls up close to him, legs pulling up so his knees press against Jungkook’s thighs. He turns to him, his eyes searching over Jungkook’s face. 

“His parents were firm, strict, whatever. That’s what he thought it was, and I was angry that he couldn’t see it wasn’t that.” Taehyung sighs, fluffing his fingers through his hair before he rests a hand to his head and an elbow to the back of the couch. “But seeing his face after I told him how wrong he was made me feel like shit. But I also kept thinking what it must have been like for you, having people who you knew cared about you but never did anything to help you.”

Jungkook looks away from Taehyung’s face and at his knees. He doesn’t mean to reach out, but Taehyung doesn’t pull away when Jungkook traces the designs on his pants. He cups his palm over the bony part of Taehyung’s knee, wanting to pull him closer but stopping himself. 

“I asked you not to tell your parents,” Jungkook reminds him, “because I knew they cared about me enough to do something. But in my head, that just meant my father would hurt them as much as he hurt me.”

Taehyung pulls away then, readjusting himself on the couch. Jungkook worries he said something to cause the distance Taehyung puts between them, but a moment later, Taehyung is cupping the side of his neck to pull him down.

Something rushes through Jungkook so strongly, he has to press his eyes closed as the tears he’s been holding back start to slip out. 

Taehyung holds Jungkook’s head to his lap, fingers brushing through his hair. It reminds Jungkook of when they were younger, when Jungkook wouldn’t tell Taehyung he needed to be comforted, but Taehyung somehow always knew. 

Small moments that comforted him for a time but not completely are now small moments Jungkook wants to have without all the worry and sadness that filled him at the time.

It isn’t the moon Jungkook sees when he opens his eyes, just the wall of the living room. He thinks maybe it was never the moon that Jungkook wanted to share with Taehyung again, but the moments Taehyung and he had beneath it.

“I bring flowers to her grave every month.” Taehyung strokes his fingers over Jungkook’s scalp. “For both of us.”

Jungkook rolls to his back to look up at Taehyung, finding that Taehyung is looking down at him. A palm cups the cheek Jungkook had just been resting against his thigh, cradling it. 

Time, it passes by slowly, quickly. Sometimes a day feels like a year and years only feel like days. Time changes people and the bonds they have, but in this moment, Jungkook thinks maybe time hadn’t touched them at all.

“Let’s go look at the moon,” Jungkook suggests, whispering as Taehyung strokes the corner of his mouth. “I think it’s missed us.”

Taehyung looks away when he smiles. His chest expands as he laughs. “Probably not as much as I missed us.”

The moon shines above them, the air crisp and hazy with the coming frost. A thick blanket wraps around their shoulders, their bodies pressed together in a way that brings even more heat. The cushions beneath them block the chill of the ground from touching their butts.

They probably look silly to Taehyung’s neighbors, sitting in the middle of Taehyung’s small yard at such a late hour while it’s so cold, but everything else in the world seems to fade away the longer Jungkook looks to the sky.

It’s quiet, but the silence is okay. Jungkook is okay.

When Jungkook looks to Taehyung and finds a soft smile on his lips, he thinks Taehyung is okay too.

He hasn’t asked. Not in the way that he truly wants to know.

“Tae,” Jungkook calls softly, dragging Taehyung’s attention away from the sky. “Have you been sleeping better?”

Taehyung bats his eyelashes as he nods. “Minghao helped me find better ways that worked for me other than prescription medicine.”

“Minghao,” Jungkook repeats, teasing.

With a roll of his eyes, Taehyung pushes into him playfully. “I’m not understanding why that’s so funny to you.”

“Me neither,” Jungkook admits with a grin. “I’m just happy you had someone who helped you.”

Taehyung bites at his bottom lip. Jungkook clings onto the blanket to keep it over them, but he desperately wants to reach out and take Taehyung into his arms. 

“Anyway, you? Are you -?” Taehyung makes a face before he laughs awkwardly. “Sorry, there isn’t really a way to ask that doesn’t feel like it’s the wrong thing to say.”

Jungkook shakes his head, wanting to assure Taehyung. For a long time, Taehyung has always walked on eggshells around him, which led to him being cautious about everything he’s said, how he’s said, what he talks about. He’s always been the first one to reach out, to comfort.

Jungkook’s always needed it, but it’s given Taehyung a hard time. He doesn’t want that to happen again this time around.

“I know what you mean, though. I’ve been good. There are still some bad days, but I handle them better.” He searches beneath their blanket to find Taehyung’s hand. When he finds it, he cups the side of it and squeezes. “I don’t want to, you know, break myself apart when the bad days come.”

Taehyung leans into him, resting his head on Jungkook’s shoulder as Jungkook threads their fingers together. Taehyung’s palm burns against his own, his fingers immediately searching out to rub over Jungkook’s knuckles.

Jungkook’s missed this. Even small things like their hands clasped together.

“Good. You don’t know how happy that makes me to hear.”

“I do,” Jungkook whispers, focusing his eyes back on the moon. He wishes it were warm, or that Taehyung will be here when it’s warm so they can go to the coast. “It makes me that happy to be able to say it and mean it.”

Taehyung pulls his head away then. Jungkook can feel his gaze. He doesn’t turn to look at him until Taehyung’s soft palm is cradling his cheek and guiding him to.

“I quite often regret not being by your side,” Taehyung murmurs. His eyes are wide and warm, searching over Jungkook’s face. “But I think maybe, as much as it hurts to say, I would have made it worse for you than better.”

Jungkook parts his lips, wanting to tell Taehyung how untrue that is like an old habit. But Taehyung presses a thumb to his lips until he closes them. 

“I don’t mean that in a sad or bad way,” Taehyung says, the corners of his eyes crinkling. His eyes are a warm brightness like the moon, nothing sad about them even when they water. “Just thinking about what you said the other day, and maybe I listened in a little today. But I promise I didn’t mean to.”

Jungkook smiles, nudging into Taehyung’s palm. Het isn’t sure how to fill the silence that follows. He doesn’t want to quite accept what Taehyung said, even if he does think it could be true. Part of Jungkook just doesn’t want to accept there was a time Taehyung shouldn’t have been by his side. Not out loud, at least.

If Taehyung knows he’s struggling with finding the right words to say, he is patient. Their eyes search over each other as Taehyung’s thumb strokes over Jungkook’s cheek, their hands beneath the blanket maneuvering to fit better together. 

They’re close, they’re connected. The moonlight shines down, making Taehyung glow beneath it. The same moon as always, but not the same them

Years have gone by. People change, grow, little by little over a period of time or massively in a short time. Relationships change, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fit back together. 

Jungkook is not be the same boy who sat beneath the moon and had to force himself not to dive into the river and never surface. He thinks about it, how often their moments beneath it were only because of how sad he was.

He doesn’t want that. He wants to change its meaning for them, to sit beneath it as the people they’ve become. 

“We should go inside. Your lips are blue.”

It’s a lie. He’s still growing.  

“If you’re saying that just to kiss me again Jungkook, you’d only have to ask,” Taehyung jokes as he pulls away completely. There’s a teasing smile on his lips as he closes the blanket around Jungkook’s chest.

Jungkook feels a little breathless suddenly. It’s nice to know Taehyung still has that effect on him. Like this, Taehyung is close enough for Jungkook to kiss him. He thinks about it, wants to.

“I’m kidding.” Taehyung huffs as he stands, grabbing the cushion that had been beneath him. “Come on, I’ll make tea.”

When Jungkook stands, Taehyung tightens they blanket around him again. His smile is soft before he turns away and heads towards the back door of the apartment. 

It isn’t as quiet as it was when they had left. There’s a rumble of chatter and a laugh that stands out so much that Jungkook hasn’t forgotten it. 

They’re in the kitchen, Jimin sitting on the counter with his feet swinging. Namjoon leans beside him, talking vigorously with his hands moving in front of him. 

The amusement simmers when they spot Jungkook and Taehyung entering. Jimin hops off the counter, immediately reaching for Taehyung.

“You and that damn moon,” Jimin says, dragging Taehyung along. “Mina about bit my head off when I tried to go out and tell you we were home.”

Jungkook stands off to the side, watching as Jimin uses his sweater paws to warm the cold from Taehyung’s cheeks. He’s thankful for the blanket around him, giving his hands something to squeeze onto as he backs himself into the wall, separating himself. His teeth rub anxiously over his bottom lip, the swell in his throat uncomfortable and making him want to bury his face in the blanket. 

“I always knew she was my favorite,” Taehyung jokes.

A shoulder bumps into his, and Jungkook looks over to Namjoon smiling at him. It still unsettles him being around all of them at once, but he tries not to show it.

If he does, Namjoon doesn’t react to it. 

“I heard you had a dog,” Jungkook tries. Small talk still puts him a little on edge. Starting conversations in general. 

“Yeah, an old guy,” Namjoon says with a frown. Maybe it was the wrong thing to say, Jungkook thinks. “His name was Rufus.”

Jungkook tucks his face into the blanket, mumbling out his apology. He’s never liked socializing much, and he hates it mostly for this reason--the fear of saying something wrong. He’s never felt like he fit in much, so introverted and quiet that he came off like he was standoffish.

But growing up attached to a social butterfly’s side, Jungkook’s spent a lot of time trying to learn how to blend in.

Namjoon waves it off. “No need. I hear you have a baby.”

Talking about her brings a smile to Jungkook’s lips every time. “Bo.”

When Namjoon smiles, his dimples appear. “I can’t wait to meet her. Jimin and I are moving here, so if you ever need someone, or help, or just want to hang, we’re here.”

Jungkook nods, heart swelling in his throat. Just him and Jimin.

The question is there in his mind as he follows Taehyung into his bedroom. He wants to ask it, but he’s afraid of ruining the easiness between them.

Plus, it’s already been an emotionally draining day. Jungkook isn’t sure he’s quite ready to hear how long he has before Taehyung leaves.

“I can explain.”

Jungkook is confused for a moment. Taehyung sounds nervous, and it isn’t until Jungkook looks over his bed that he understands why.

“You don’t have to.” Jungkook takes in the photo of him. He doesn’t remember it. It feels like a thousand of years ago he was sitting in that camper van. He doesn’t remember ever shining that brightly. Not then at least. 

Jungkook spreads his arms beneath the blanket as he walks up behind Taehyung. He captures him in his arms, bringing the blanket around the both of them.

Taehyung smells the same, Jungkook thinks as he buries his face into the side of his neck. 

“I have a lot of pictures of you, but that’s my favorite,” Taehyung says as he waddles Jungkook closer to them. “I’m not sure why.”

Jungkook isn’t either. He can see the scars on his thighs, the ones he's always tried to hide because looking at them always made him sick but never enough to stop himself from creating more. He felt ashamed by them, even around Taehyung.

He still does sometimes.

“I want to show you something,” Jungkook says as he pulls away. He deposits the blanket on the bed, suddenly nervous before he shifts his fingers to the brim of his thermal and strips it off.

Taehyung watches him quietly, eyes focused on the face Jungkook keeps turned away from him.

“I’m learning not to hide from things.” Jungkook’s hands fall limp at his sides as he stares down at his own body. “Some things I still want to hide, though.”

Reaching out, Taehyung touches the ink covering Jungkook’s biceps. The ones not covering any scars. Goosebumps erupt over his skin from the touch, and Jungkook’s eyes follow the movement of Taehyung’s hands.

Jungkook turns his arm to show off the inside. Looking closely, Jungkook can still see the scarred skin, but he doesn’t know if anyone else can. Only he really knows where each line lays.

Taehyung’s thumb brushes over them before his fingers glide down his arm, his fingers latching onto Jungkook’s hand.

The first time Taehyung and him were ever intimate, Jungkook was terrified of Taehyung seeing them. He was afraid Taehyung would be angry, or hurt. He was afraid that even if Taehyung was, it wouldn’t have been enough to stop him from creating more.

He’s still a little uncomfortable with Taehyung touching over them, but he isn’t afraid.  

“I think that’s okay. It - I’m sure it must be hard constantly being reminded of the things you’re moving on from,” Taehyung whispers. They both watch their hands, fingers spread out as the tips touch each other’s. 

It tickles when Taehyung’s fingers slowly trace down Jungkook’s before sliding up and slipping between them.

Jungkook nods. Taehyung rubs his other palm over his chest, settling on the moon over his heart. Taehyung smiles at it as he traces its shape, and Jungkook reaches up with his free hand to cover Taehyung’s over his heart. 

“Tell me about them,” Taehyung asks, looking back to his face.

Jungkook nods, turning the other arm to show off the inside. It’s the silhouette of a boat and two men sitting inside. 

Taehyung’s nose wrinkles when he smiles. Jungkook knew he wouldn’t have to explain it.

“I can’t believe you forced me into that canoe,” Taehyung teases as he touches it. “And somehow it still turned into one of the best days of the summer.”

“For me too,” Jungkook says. 

Taehyung slides his hand up and around his shoulder, moving closer so their chests nearly touch to do so. The scars on Jungkook’s back are too thick to cover up, so he hasn’t tried. He doesn’t realize Taehyung touches one until Taehyung tenses.

“It’s okay,” Jungkook says, cupping Taehyung’s hip to ground himself. 

One of the hardest hurdles for him to get over is the mountain full of his father’s words and touches. The one that makes Jungkook think he deserved every hit to him, every word that’s made Jungkook feel like he’s more of a burden than anything else. 

Jungkook’s choices and feelings always felt like his own, especially after his father first left. He didn’t like thinking his parents had that much of an impact on him that even when he was far from them, it still stuck with him.

Taehyung lets out a hitched exhale as his fingers trail down Jungkook’s back. His brows furrow, frustration filling his eyes as he touches over the thick, raised skin. Jungkook wants to look away, but he holds onto Taehyung’s gaze. He wants to show how hard he’s working at trying not to hide. 

“I’m really okay,” Jungkook assures him, but his words come out like a wheeze because of the pressure in his throat. 

“You never deserved the things they did to you,” Taehyung whispers.

“Don’t think about it,” Jungkook says, even though he was the one to breach the subject anyway.

When talking to Mina, she told him they didn’t have that in common. She had no physical scars left by their parents, just the ones on her heart, in her brain. Their mother is gentler with their younger siblings, but even they were taken from her, sent to a nice home about an hour away from their hometown. 

It had been the hardest not to cry when Mina told him that. Mina had felt guilty about it, being the reason Child Services were called to the house.

But Jungkook is relieved. Their parents can’t touch any of them. Mina had put herself around people who had hurt her, but she found the courage to find help. Earlier than Jungkook ever had. 

“I don’t want to feel like that’s an elephant in the room,” Jungkook admits, searching over Taehyung’s face as Taehyung continues to touch his back. “That my past, the things I struggled with, are always in our thoughts when we’re together. I know for a while it might be, but I don’t want it to always be. I don’t want that to be the thing that defines me.”

Taehyung shakes his head as he plants their chests together, the hand on Jungkook’s back slipping between his shoulder blades. “The only thing in my mind right now is how strong you are.”

People say that. Jungkook feels that way sometimes, especially when he looks back at himself. He doesn’t know how true it is yet.

Especially when before, whenever that pain would cave in his chest and he’d see that Taehyung would notice, he’d kiss and touch Taehyung until he believed Jungkook was okay.

Jungkook is okay now, he’s not pretending like he used to, but he still wants to not think about it. He’s impatient, wanting to get over these hurdles faster than is probably best.

It will be the elephant in a room at first. Jungkook still kind of hates that. 

“Thank you,” Jungkook says. 

Taehyung sighs, a soft smile on his lips. “Do you remember when we were little, you hated that I was taller than you?”

Jungkook cracks a smile, laughing quietly. “Only because you were such a shit. ‘I’m older so I know more, Jungkook-ah. I’m bigger than you, Jungkook-ah.’”

The chuckle Taehyung lets out at Jungkook’s squeaky impersonation of him is loud, making his shoulders shake. “I mention it because you were determined to be taller than me, and you are. Everything you’ve ever set your mind to, you’ve accomplished. Even if it took you some time.”

Jungkook warms. For the first time in his life, Jungkook is in a place where he believes those kind of words, and he’s proud of himself.

There’s barely any height difference between the two of them, making Jungkook smile amusedly. But he knows what Taehyung means. 

He lets go of Taehyung just to trail his knuckles up his arms, his shoulders. Fingers gently tapping against Taehyung’s neck before he cups it and drags him closer.

“I’ve never been patient,” Jungkook mumbles. 

The amusement is gone from Taehyung’s eyes as the air around them heavies. His eyes drop to Jungkook’s mouth as he nods. “You are, even if at times it doesn’t feel like it.”

Jungkook nods, his chest tight. He breathes in until it loosens and exhales as he leans in to close the space between them.

The feeling is there in his chest. The feeling that only Taehyung has ever been able to give him. Without the sadness latched onto it, it’s overwhelming.

It hasn’t dulled any. Jungkook didn’t think it would. The chill that still lingers from sitting outside disappears as heat burns inside him, Taehyung’s arm hooks around his neck to pull him close. The other hand tickles over his rib cage before circling to his back as well.

It isn’t as hesitant as before, or as soft. Taehyung’s lips move with his own like they haven’t forgotten the dance, his lips parting before Jungkook can even slip his tongue over the seam, like he remembers how much Jungkook liked when their tongues touched.

Jungkook knots his fingers into Taehyung’s hair, holding him in place to kiss him deeply. It makes the feeling in his chest grow until it seeps into the rest of him, until he feels as if he’s full of nothing else but the love he has for Taehyung.

Taehyung exhales heavily when he pulls back, panting softly against Jungkook’s mouth before kissing him again. 

Their bodies mold together. Jungkook’s always thought they fit perfectly. As corny as it is, it’s always made him feel good thinking of him and Taehyung as two halves of one whole.

Their time apart makes Jungkook think a little differently. Two whole pieces that compliment the other, that are still shaped to fit together.

It’s comforting, the hands rubbing at Jungkook’s back, the body pressed to his front. The pounding in his heart, the heavy way Taehyung breathes as they kiss. 

Despite the need to touch and touch, Jungkook pulls away first. Breathing hard, he drags his lips over Taehyung’s cheeks, eyes remaining closed as Taehyung rubs his fingers through Jungkook’s hair and massages his scalp.

He can feel Taehyung’s heartbeat against his chest, and he holds onto Taehyung when he starts to move because Jungkook doesn’t want to stop feeling it yet.

Taehyung’s breath skates across Jungkook’s cheekbone before his lips do. The silence is welcomed, comforting, not something Jungkook wants to avoid anymore. 

Taehyung seems to know that, not breaking the silence as he leans his head back to look at Jungkook’s face.

They kiss again, and for the first time, Jungkook isn’t afraid of how tight his chest is, or how it feels like there is no oxygen left in his lungs.

They kiss until Jungkook’s mouth throbs, and his eyes become so heavy he can barely keep them open. 

They kiss until Taehyung’s breathing has become soft pants that’s interrupted by yawning and heavy eyes.

The question of laying together isn’t one Jungkook needs to ask, because Taehyung leads him to bed before he can. 

“Do you want pajamas?” Taehyung asks as he knees onto the bed. He collapses onto it, eyes falling closed, and Jungkook bites at his fond smile.

“No, I’m good, thank you,” Jungkook says. He’s slept in worse conditions than jeans. He sits on the edge of the bed, hesitating until Taehyung reaches for him to pull him down. 

The bed smells like Jungkook remembers Taehyung’s home smelling. He settles back against the pillows as Taehyung throws the blanket over them. 

Taehyung looks at him for a quiet moment, their eyes meeting before he curls into Jungkook’s side and rests his cheek to Jungkook’s chest instead of laying on the pillows himself.

Jungkook lets out a quiet exhale, careful not to jostle Taehyung. It tickles when Taehyung traces his fingers over Jungkook’s bare stomach, and if Jungkook weren’t so tired, he thinks the pressure would build back behind his eyes because of it.

He plays with Taehyung’s hair, twirling his fingers around strands of it absentmindedly. It’s a little cold inside the apartment, and he should put his shirt back on, but he finds he doesn’t want to move.

Taehyung hums quietly to himself, the melody matching the pace of the finger he has dancing over Jungkook’s skin. Jungkook pets over his hair, wipes his bangs from his forehead. He cups Taehyung’s cheek to see the way Taehyung sleepily smiles at him. 

When Taehyung crawls up Jungkook, Jungkook touches his sides to hold him close. Their lips press together again, soft and slow. It felt like they kissed for an eternity, but Jungkook opens his lips, ready to kiss for an eternity more.

“Missed that,” Taehyung murmurs against his lips, tilting his head to the side so their noses nudge together. “Do you remember when you said you were glad we started doing that?”

Jungkook doesn’t remember. He nods anyway and opens  as Taehyung’s lips tease at his mouth. 

“Me too,” Taehyung murmurs, eyes heavy before he falls back into his position of resting his head against Jungkook’s chest. His rubs his hand back over Jungkook’s belly as Jungkook slides his palm over his shoulders, kneading at the muscles there. 

It’s late. The moon shines into the room brightly from Taehyung’s window.

Jungkook wants to wait for Taehyung to fall asleep first, to see for himself that what Taehyung said was true.

Taehyung does, the tracing over his belly turning into just his fist resting there as Taehyung’s soft snores fill the room.


The room is cold. It’s the first thing on Taehyung’s mind when he slowly starts to wake. He shivers, curling himself into a ball around his pillow.

A hard pillow, Taehyung realizes. He blinks his eyes open, turning his head to glance down at the stomach he rests on.

A smile touches his lips when Taehyung closes his eyes again. He thinks about the night before. The way Jungkook kissed him, held him.

The body beneath him shifts as Jungkook groans. He touches Taehyung’s head, back, palm flattening against his spine.

Taehyung lifts up to watch Jungkook slowly wake. The twitch in his eyebrows, the scrunching of his nose. He rubs at his eyes, turns to his side when Taehyung gives him the space to, shifting around until he’s on his stomach, his arms squeezing beneath his body and the bed.

Taehyung can see the thick scars on his back. It still hurts to look at them, but he’s happy Jungkook seems at peace with them. He doesn’t know what it’s like to have scars like that, but he assumes having the constant reminder of your past isn’t easy to deal with. 

Jungkook still speaks of himself in a sad way, insecurity wrapped around his words. Taehyung isn’t sure he said the right thing in response last night, about their past always being present between them.

But he needs Jungkook to know how strong he is. It wouldn’t be good to just pretend everything they’ve gone through together and separately just didn’t happen, but Taehyung gets what he means.

It doesn’t always have to be in the forefront.

Taehyung leans down, lips skating over Jungkook’s cheek. “Wake up.”

When they were younger, even before they became intimate, they shared a bed so often, it became a habit for Taehyung to sleep to one side. It isn’t until now that Taehyung realizes how much he missed it.

“Wake up, Jungkookie.”

Jungkook grunts as he rolls back, his lips pouting out. Taehyung kisses them. 

Jungkook’s lips form into a smile, but he doesn’t kiss back, doesn’t open his eyes. He stretches his arms above his head, resting them there on the pillows.

“I have work,” Jungkook half groans, half yawns. Despite this, he closes his eyes again and looks as if he may go back to sleep.

“Call out,” Taehyung teases as he pulls his knees beneath him. He doesn’t have anything to do today but to figure out what to do. There was a plan coming here to take Mina exploring, to teach her about Korean culture, but Taehyung wants Jungkook there with them. 

Jungkook peeks an eye open, smiling. “I shouldn’t. Seokmin-ssi already gave me some time off the last few days without even asking a reason.”

“He seems kind.”

Taehyung is confused by the sudden change in Jungkook’s expression. The way it goes from sleepy and soft to nervous and hesitant when he slowly sits up. He rubs a hand down his face, hiding it as he exhales out.

“Tae,” Jungkook says. He plants his hands behind him, curving his body to face Taehyung. Taehyung isn’t used to Jungkook being so comfortable without a shirt on. “I have to tell you something.”

Taehyung nods, some nerves sparking inside himself too. Even if it had been years ago, Taehyung meant it when he said Jungkook never needs to feel like he can’t tell Taehyung something.

But Jungkook looks really hesitant. He drags a hand through his hair, shaking it as he exhales out. 

“I - well.” Jungkook swallows thickly. His body curves as he reaches out, his hand dancing up the side of Taehyung’s thigh. “My feelings for you never changed.”

Taehyung softens, smiling down at the small space between them. His nerves subside, though he isn’t sure why Jungkook seems like he’s struggling with his words.

If it’s because he thinks Taehyung might be uncomfortable with that, Taehyung thinks kissing him the way he did last night would have told him he wasn’t. But Jungkook has always needed a little extra reassurance, and Taehyung’s never had any qualms about giving it to him.

“I’m not saying that because I am expecting anything else with us just getting to know each other again. I never cared about us being together like dating. I just wanted you in my life. Want , want you in my life.” Jungkook sighs to himself. His hand hikes higher, settling at Taehyung’s hip. 

Taehyung remembers. Jungkook always thought Taehyung would be with him because Taehyung would do whatever it is that would comfort him. He still would do everything in his power to comfort Jungkook. But Taehyung dreamed of being beside Jungkook forever because that’s where he wanted to be.

“I’m just telling you so you don’t think that’s changed,” Jungkook says as he drops his eyes and pulls his touch away, “when I tell you that I’ve been sleeping with Seokmin.”

Coming to South Korea, Taehyung knew the chances of Jungkook having a partner were likely. Jungkook craved intimacy, of being with someone when he was sad. He liked romance. He always dated more than Taehyung, dreamt of marriage when Taehyung never even considered it.

Taehyung is okay with that. But the kiss, and the fact that it’s Jungkook’s boss throws him a little off.

The same man who went out of his way to help Taehyung find Jungkook.

“Not often. We aren’t dating. And we haven’t... in a couple weeks,” Jungkook goes on, his face growing red. He exhales, playing with his own fingers before he reaches again. He pauses like he may stop himself before taking Taehyung’s hand into his own. “Only four times actually. I kept count. I don’t know why.”

Taehyung snorts softly, playfully in hopes to ease the tension radiating from Jungkook. “You don’t have to tell me any of this. It isn’t any of my business.”

Jungkook keeps his eyes on their hands, rubbing at the scar on the back of Taehyung’s that hadn’t been there before. 

“I feel like I should,” heargues gently. He finally looks at Taehyung, reaching out to rub a knuckle over Taehyung’s cheek. 

Taehyung shakes his head immediately. “Jungkook, you really don’t. Even if you were married right now, it’d be okay. Well, not the kissing but, just the fact that you were.” He’s trying to joke to lighten the tension in Jungkook’s face. It doesn’t work.

With a sigh, Taehyung crawls over the small space between them. Jungkook moves like their bodies are still in sync, adjusting himself before Taehyung throws a leg over his lap and sits on his knees.

“I think there’s a certain sadness to watching people grow apart and see people you love fall in love with other people,” Taehyung explains quietly as Jungkook’s palms rub up the side of his thighs. “But when you just want that person to be happy, it isn’t a sadness that hurts.”

“I’m not in love with Seokmin,” Jungkook says, eyes so serious like he needs Taehyung to understand that. 

“I know,” Taehyung assures. He did really, but there’s a relief in hearing it. “I just meant it’s okay if you were. I’m also just wanting to be in your life again. I don’t care how. The way we were before we lost touch was new. We were best friends for nearly twenty years before that.”

At this point, Taehyung isn’t sure how possible it would be for the two of them to just go on with life like they had before they realized their feelings for each other, but he’s willing to deal with it either way.

Jungkook seems to relax. He cups Taehyung’s cheeks, thumbs rubbing over his heated skin. Their eyes meet, and Jungkook’s are soft but intense in a way that makes Taehyung’s chest tight. “It wasn’t new. I told you. Even when I was too little to understand what marriage was, I knew I wanted to marry you.”

Taehyung’s eyes flutter shut, focusing on the gentle way Jungkook caresses his skin and the way his heart expands because of it. “Well, if you remember, we never got divorced.”

Jungkook grins at that. “If I remember correctly, you told me kissing Heather Lockland was an eight year old’s way of getting divorce.”

With a groan, Taehyung lurches forward to circle his arms around Jungkook’s shoulders. “You’re still on that?”

Whatever Jungkook opens his lips to respond with, Taehyung quiets it with a kiss.

He could do this often, until his lips fall off. But it’s just a quick peck before Taehyung pulls back and looks over Jungkook’s face. He’s so close right now, after years of being so far.

As long as Taehyung can remember he’s never been interested in dating. He has thought back to his crushes in high school and college, about how the feeling never lasted that long. How obvious it had been to the people he had dated. 

He likes kissing, sex, but it wasn’t anything he ever craved. He never had an interest for hookups. 

But this kissing and opening up, hearing Jungkook still talk about how he thought about them getting married, makes him want it. With just Jungkook.

It makes him wonder what the hell he’s going to do about leaving. 

“It’s the same for me,” Taehyung whispers, holding Jungkook’s gaze. Jungkook’s palms rub up his back, fingering the material of Taehyung’s shirt before slipping beneath it. “I’ve always been in love with you, that never changed. Even if we have, I know I’ll just fall in love with the new parts of you too.”

Jungkook blinks for a long moment, the corners of his mouth tilting up. He touches Taehyung’s spine, rolling the tip of his thumb over each bump.

“I know you used to think I just wanted to be beside you to comfort you,” Taehyung goes on as Jungkook’s eyes flicker open. Even if it were just Jungkook’s insecurities speaking to him back then, Taehyung needs to know for sure that Jungkook knows they were never true. “I don’t know if you still think that, but I meant what I said before. Being beside you is where I want to be.”

Jungkook nods his head, but he still looks unsure. “I’m sorry for making it so you couldn’t have that, Tae. I know I’ve said it, but I am sorry for pushing you away and leaving you.” He swallows thickly, the muscle in his jaw tensing when his eyes drop to Taehyung’s chest. 

“Don’t be,” Taehyung says, rubbing their noses together before kissing Jungkook again. “We came back to each other, didn’t we? Thanks to that boss of yours.”

Jungkook looks to the side, cheeks reddening. “I told him about you, the way I feel about you. There’s not going to be a fifth time with him.”

It’s a mix of emotions inside of Taehyung. The happiness he feels that Jungkook still feels the same way he does is there, but it’s paired with the guilt of Jungkook losing the person he’s felt comfortable enough to be intimate with.

The person he won’t have if Taehyung leaves. 

He wonders if Jungkook thinks he’s staying. 

The way Jungkook looks at Taehyung makes Taehyung feel like he has more to say, but Jungkook is leaning in to kiss him before Taehyung can pry. He kisses Taehyung firmly, arms circling around Taehyung’s body like a vice grip. 

There are butterflies in Taehyung’s stomach as he slips his hands beneath Jungkook’s jaw when Jungkook’s head tilts back. Taehyung thinks they’ve already ruined their chance at just being in each other’s lives as friends.

He’s good with it. With this. Jungkook’s tongue in his mouth, their bodies pressed together like this. 

There is some worry mixing in with the butterflies, concern that he won’t be able to find a way to stay. But Taehyung’s plan has always been to spend his life with Jungkook, so he knows he’ll find a way.

Taehyung pushes those worries away, focuses on the moment, the way Jungkook lays back until Taehyung is leaning over him. How Jungkook touches tentatively beneath his shirt to warm his already hot skin.

The way their noses nudge when they pull away, a hesitant moment between them before Taehyung rolls his hips down.

They definitely should talk about this. They never needed to before. The not talking was a problem between them but never over things like intimacy, their feelings for each other. But this time they need to. Jungkook’s comment about there not being a fifth time with Seokmin has Taehyung feeling as if he wants it too, for Taehyung to stay, but they need to talk about it. 

Jungkook’s hands are a hard pressure against his back, holding Taehyung down against him. Taehyung likes it like that, Jungkook’s need for him coming out in the press of his fingertips. He loves the way Jungkook sighs his name and strokes his skin, how firmly Jungkook holds the back of his neck to kiss him deeper.

Taehyung hates that the bedroom door flies open.

“Oh! Oh god .”

Taehyung rolls from Jungkook quickly, fixing his hair and his shirt. He only gets a glimpse of Mina before she scurries out of his room.

“Mina,” Taehyung calls, scrambling from the bed. “It’s fine, come in.”

When she opens the door again, her eyes are closed.

Taehyung forgot for a moment that he has a doors-open policy at all times for his room. It’s his way of telling Mina that she’s never bothering him. 

Which she isn’t now, and Taehyung assures her of that. He’s a little embarrassed, but it was just kissing. Mina’s had sex before. He shouldn’t be embarrassed, but he imagines this is what a parent feels like when a child walks in on them being intimate. 

“It is okay,” Jungkook repeats behind him. When Taehyung looks to him, he’s pulling a shirt quickly over his head. 

Mina opens her eyes up at that. “I didn’t think you’d still be here.”

“Is that okay?” Jungkook asks, pausing before walking forward. 

“Yes. I - yes. I just am not used to it.”

It isn’t said harshly, still, Taehyung finds himself wanting to defend Jungkook but also comfort the worried look that takes over Mina’s face after she says it. 

She’s cold to other people, saying mean things without looking like she feels bad even if she does. Now she looks guilty even though she shouldn’t.

“I know,” Jungkook says, his tone tender. “I would like to be around, if that’s okay. Even if sometimes it’s not, you can choose how often. For myself, sometimes things feel okay at the moment but not later. It’s okay if it changes.”

Taehyung wants to take a step back, to give Jungkook and Mina their space, but he feels it might be noticeable. He diverts his attention instead, until Jungkook walks near them and he can pretend to busy himself pulling clothes from the dresser.

“I’d like that,” Mina says. “I want to meet Bo too.”

Taehyung smiles to himself. 

“Of course. I have to go to work soon, but if you want we can meet for lunch? Or dinner. You can choose wherever,” Jungkook says, sounding more comfortable than he did a moment ago.

“Can Taehyung come? I mean, other than how you were just trying to make him,” Mina adds, a smirk making her face glow with mischief.

Taehyung chokes, bringing a fist up to his mouth to cover it. He keeps his back turned to them, feeling his face grow hot.

Jungkook doesn’t say anything, and the idea of how embarrassed he may look gives Taehyung the courage to face them.

“Of course,” Jungkook wheezes, his face as red as Taehyung feels. Mina is smiling, her amusement loud, and it’s nice to see her that way with someone else. 

“Go back to what you were doing,” Mina says before she puckers her lips to mimic a kiss as she backtracks out of the room, closing the door as she goes.

The laugh Jungkook lets out is awkward. It all feels a little silly when their eyes meet.

Taehyung pads over to Jungkook and grips the shirt he now wears. Jungkook rubs his hands over Taehyung’s arms, warming his already burning skin. 

“Have breakfast before you go,” Taehyung says instead. “We can talk more tonight.” 

Jungkook nods, a warm smile on his face. “I’d like that.”

They had spent the morning together--ate breakfast, drank coffee, just the three of them. It had felt like old times, no tension or awkwardness between them.

But now Taehyung stares at Jungkook’s apartment door and is nervous.

Mina looks it too. Her skin is pale. She’s dressed up though, which is something Taehyung has never seen before. Nothing fancy, but dressier than the sweat clothes and leggings she usually wears. 

She holds the dish she made using one of Harmeoni’s recipes. She worked on it all day, which had been fun. At one point, it burnt, and they had to start over. Taehyung thinks that’s when the nerves started.

He doesn’t know the things the Jeons have said to Mina, but the things Mina says about herself when she makes a mistake gives him an idea.

Taehyung sighs to himself. Maybe Jungkook was onto something. He makes things about people define them. He needs to be more aware of it, to make it so Mina’s demons don’t define her.

The hallway they stand in is long and empty, making it so Taehyung’s knock echoes. There’s the faint noise of a television playing from somewhere, but Taehyung can’t tell if it’s from Jungkook’s apartment or the one across from it.

Knocking again, Taehyung exhales out to rid the tightness in his chest. He glances down at his sneakers, scraping them over the red and gold carpeting. It’s an ugly color and patten, but he traces the swirls and shapes until he can school his features for Mina’s skae.

Taehyung’s knock is met with silence. A few minutes of it. He glances at his watch. They’re only a tiny bit early.

He knocks again. 

“Whatever.” Mina cusses quietly. She turns on her heel, rolling her eyes. “Let’s go.”

There is no way Jungkook would ditch them, Taehyung thinks. He knocks again, pressing his ear to the door. Worry fills him when he doesn’t hear anything. 

The neighbors are probably getting annoyed by now. Taehyung doesn’t know how long he should knock before he just calls Jungkook.

He lifts his fist again, but the door swings open, revealing a woman.

She’s small. Taehyung’s second thought is that she looks sickly--dark bags beneath her eyes, sunken in cheeks and limbs that seem tinier than a child’s. One half of her face drags down like she’s had some kind of nerve damage. 

“You’re Taehyung,” she says, her tone surprised. 

Taehyung glances around her and into the apartment. He doesn’t see Jungkook. “I - yeah, I am. This is -” He waves his hand towards where Mina stands a few feet away from him, but presses his lips closed when she interrupts his introduction.

“It isn’t important,” Mina says before he can introduce her. There is a hard set to her mouth, eyes unkind when Taehyung frowns at her for being rude.

“I’m Kyung-mi,” the woman says hesitantly. Her hands come up in front of her, rolling over each other. “I - I’m sorry, come in.”

Taehyung is a little unsure about entering, especially when he doesn’t see Jungkook. The apartment is just as clean as it was last time, though there’s now blankets and pillows on the couch and the floor beneath it.

“I’m...” Kyung-mi stops touching her hands, holding them out before clasping them again. She inhales, blinking her eyes. “I’m sorry. Do you want a drink? Let me take that.”

Taehyung insists on doing it, taking the food from Mina’s hands. The hard look on Mina’s face doesn’t ease, nor does she look around the apartment in interest. She is tense, her body turned in the direction of the door like she wants to make a run for it.

“Jungkook is coming. I - I needed his help with something,” Kyung-mi explains as Taehyung walks into the kitchen behind her.

It isn’t as clean. There’s food cooking on the stove, smoke filling it. It smells like it’s burning, and when Kyung-mi realizes, she lets out a soft sob.

“Fuck,” Kyung-mi grunts, quickly grabbing for the pot. She hisses when her hands touch onto the hot handle without protection.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Taehyung says, though he has no idea if it is. He didn’t imagine he would meet Kyung-mi at all, let alone like this. “I got it.”

Kyung-mi breathes out harshly, rubbing her fingers through her messy hair. “I was supposed to watch the food. I’m fucking shit at cooking.”

“I got it,” Taehyung promises with a reassuring smile. “Where is Jungkook?”

When Kyung-mi hesitates, Taehyung holds up a hand in apology. “I’m sorry. It isn’t my business. What else do you have cooking here?”

It’s awkward. Kyung-mi trembles quite often. Her breath hitches, and when she isn’t helping Taehyung with the food, she holds herself like she might fall apart.

Mina lingers in the kitchen entrance the entire time.

Some of the food goes to waste, but Taehyung scours through Jungkook’s cabinets until he finds something else for them to cook. He’ll apologize later for going through Jungkook’s things, but Taehyung is a little desperate to get the panicked look off of Kyung-mi’s face. It feels like hours before the door finally opens. 

“Eomma! Eomma!”

A tiny body bursts into the kitchen, rushing past Mina like she doesn’t see her. Bo hesitates when seeing Taehyung, but her attention is grabbed by her mother.

Bo shines bright, giggling as she reaches her arms out for Kyung-mi. It’s tense when Kyung-mi only pats her head and turns away.

It’s heartbreaking the way Bo’s arms falter in the air, her fingers no longer making grabbing motions. The confusion in her face is loud before she pushes herself into her mother’s side, her fist coming to Kyung-mi’s side to demand attention.

Jungkook jogs in a second later. There’s such a hard look on his face that he looks even more like Mina, but it morphs into surprise when he spots Taehyung and Mina.

“I - sorry I’m late,” Jungkook says. He looks flushed and winded. His dress shirt is half unbuttoned, tie hanging from his neck. He isn’t wearing a jacket despite the cold. “I ran into a small problem.”

Taehyung doesn’t miss the way Kyung-mi drops her eyes at that. Bo is still looking to be picked up by her mother, body now wiggling against her and her expectant eyes wide. 

“Bo-yah, come here,” Jungkook calls, already leaning down to do just that.

Bo keeps watching Kyung-mi’s back, but she allows Jungkook to pick her up.

It’s quiet, but Taehyung hears it when Jungkook asks Kyung-mi to leave.

Kyung-mi blinks her eyes, nodding. She smiles sweetly, fingers waving in the air. “Nice to meet you, Taehyung. Taehyung’s friend.”

Mina and Taehyung lock eyes as Jungkook walks Kyung-mi out like he wants to make sure she leaves. The tension leaves Mina a bit when they’re gone, but she still looks uncomfortable as she starts to nibble on her bottom lip.

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook says as soon as he comes back. He hikes Bo up onto his hip, turning her to face Mina. “Bo-yah, this is Mina.”

Bo cocks her head to the side, curiosity in her eyes. “I’m Bo.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Mina says quietly. 

“She’s my sister. Our sister, your unnie ,” Jungkook says, though he makes a face like an apology afterwards.

It must be hard to know what the right thing to do is here, Taehyung thinks. But Bo lights up, excitement in her eyes as she reaches out for Mina.

Mina looks hesitant, but she takes Bo into her arms. It makes Taehyung feel warmer than the steam dancing up from the pots that hits his skin. She’s had plenty of experience with children, but she looks at Bo like she’s been handed a bomb.

“Why don’t you go show her your toys?” Jungkook asks, rubbing Bo’s back.

Panic reaches Mina’s eyes, and Jungkook freezes. Bo looks excited, nodding enthusiastically as she starts to wiggle for Mina to put her down.

“Yeah! C’mon,” Bo exclaims, grabbing Mina’s hand. She jumps on her toes. “C’mon, c’mon!”

Mina lets Bo drag her out, and Jungkook turns his worried eyes onto Taehyung. “Was that wrong of me?”

“It’ll be fine,” Taehyung assures lowly. It might be easier for them to bond without Jungkook looking at them like he did just give Mina a bomb. “Mina is just nervous. Are you okay?”

Jungkook doesn’t look it as he drags his fingers through his hair, chest heaving with his sigh. “I asked Kyung-mi to pick up Bo from Jin’s, but she showed up without her. I think she spent the night here, which is fine, but when I came home, the door was unlocked and the apartment empty.”

Taehyung waits for Jungkook to fill in the silence, but he doesn’t. Not at first. Jungkook walks through the kitchen, coming to a halt a few inches away from Taehyung but not moving to touch him either. 

Jungkook’s eyes are heavy as they search over Taehyung. He rubs a hand down his own face, sighing again.

“People take their time to heal,” Jungkook mutters. “I want to be patient, but when it affects Bo, I can’t deal with it.” Jungkook looks guilty when he says it. 

Taehyung reaches out then, circling his fingers around Jungkook’s wrist. “It’s okay.”

“She smelled like alcohol,” Jungkook whispers with a grimace. “The deal is she can’t be around Bo if she’s using anything. I know she wants to be a good mom, but I can’t trust her with Bo. I won’t risk something happening to -”

Jungkook presses close to Taehyung then, nuzzling against the side of his head. Taehyung trails his hands up Jungkook’s arms to wrap his own around Jungkook’s shoulders. 

“Bo’s catching on,” Jungkook mumbles, his lips tickling Taehyung’s skin. “She’s too young to understand that Kyung-mi avoids her because of her own struggles not because her mother doesn’t love her.” 

Jungkook buries his face into the side of Taehyung’s neck, shoulders hitching.

Taehyung’s been thinking about this all day. About him and Jungkook falling into each other again. He thinks this is the one thing he wanted the most about finding Jungkook again, to be able to comfort him when he’s not feeling okay.

“I can’t imagine how hard that must be,” Taehyung replies honestly. He can’t imagine it. “Is that why you asked her to leave?”

Jungkook nods, pulling away. “I don’t want Bo to see her like that. Even though I want to lift Bo up and show her to Kyung-mi until she gets it through her head that she has to be better, right? But that’s fucked up because that’s not how it works. You don’t just get better because you’re supposed to.”

Taehyung rubs Jungkook’s shoulders. He wants to comfort Jungkook, but he doesn’t know the right thing to say. He wouldn’t know how to fix it either.

But before, when Jungkook needed comfort, he just needed someone close to him. Taehyung close to him.

Taehyung isn’t going anywhere.

He’s been thinking about that too, not going anywhere. 

“There’s nothing we can do about it right now, right this moment,” Taehyung says hesitantly. “But what we can do, which is just important, is have you, Mina, and Bo spend some time together. Go be with them.”

“Dinner was supposed to be ready before you got here,” Jungkook says regretfully as he glances at the stove. 

“I got it,” Taehyung insists. He presses his hands to Jungkook, gently urging him back. “Plus, Mina and I brought over some food. Tuna.”

Taehyung tilts his chin, keeping up a serious expression. It’s hard though when Jungkook looks alarmed, and Taehyung’s lips tremble in his attempts in not smiling. 

Jungkook parts his lips, the argument in his eyes, but Taehyung laughs until it goes away. “I’m kidding. No tuna. I remembered.”

Teasing helps in small moments. Laughter helps in small moments. He hopes the way Jungkook’s smile lights up his face means it’s helped in this moment. 

The nerves, the tension, don’t go away immediately. Bo is oblivious to it though, and helps be the reason it fades away.

She loves Mina, clinging to her, refusing to sit anywhere but by her side. Taehyung sees a Mina he doesn’t know, soft and tentative. She giggles a few times, tries to teach Bo how to use a spoon properly. 

She doesn’t protest when Bo drags her away after dinner, exclaiming that Mina has to help her get ready for bed and read to her.

Jungkook watches them the entire time. Taehyung watches Jungkook, the way he’ll turn his head and smile to himself, how bright he becomes whenever Bo or Mina laugh. The way he tenses when he reaches out to touch Taehyung like a habit, just to pull his hand away with a nervous glance towards his sisters. 


The words are soft spoken. Taehyung turns away from where he peeks in on Mina and Bo, both fast asleep on Bo’s small bed, to find Jungkook behind him.

Jungkook touches his hip, his hand cupping over him before bringing Taehyung in so their bodies are close. Jungkook leans in, brushing a kiss over Taehyung’s jaw. 

“Please stay,” Jungkook whispers.

It doesn’t sound like he’s asking Taehyung to stay the night. Maybe that’s because Taehyung just wants to hear from Jungkook that it’s okay if he does decide to stay. He wants Jungkook to ask him to stay. 

Either way, Taehyung nods as he cups the back of Jungkook’s neck, tilting his head to the side as Jungkook’s lips glide over his pulse. 

Maybe it’s a decision Taehyung shouldn’t make so soon, not without working out the details. He’s just going off of want here, not practicality.

Dinner with Jungkook and his sisters has Taehyung wanting more of that, the four of them together. He’s missed the sound of Jungkook’s laughter, missed seeing the way he lights up like the sun. 

He wants these intimate moments, the warmth that comes from Jungkook’s body and somehow finds a way to warm Taehyung’s chest too. He wants to learn the parts of Jungkook that have changed and grown, and he wants to fall in love with those pieces too.

Taehyung wants to relearn Jungkook, but he doesn’t want anymore time where they’re apart and have to reconnect to relearn each other again after this. 

There’s time to figure it out at least. For now, Taehyung indulges in his want, plants himself in the one place he’s always wanted to be.

Right next to Jungkook. 

“I’ll stay,” Taehyung promises, guiding Jungkook’s head from his neck. Taehyung sucks in his bottom lip, nibbling on it as he holds Jungkook’s eyes so Jungkook can see how much he means it. “I want to stay.”

Jungkook lets out a shaky exhale, eyes widening a fraction when he realizes what Taehyung means. 

Taehyung swallows, smiling nervously. “If you want me to.” 

Jungkook’s brows push together. He reaches up, cupping the sides of Taehyung’s neck. With his thumbs rubbing against Taehyung’s jaw, he gently guides Taehyung’s head back. 

It’s quiet. Taehyung’s heart thrums hard in his chest, the sound pulsing in his ears. He sighs shakily when Jungkook continues to rub his skin.

The look in Jungkook’s eyes is intense, and Taehyung can’t read it. They’re watery, and his lips are pressed tightly together, forming into thin lines. 

For a moment, he wonders if Jungkook is going to tell him he doesn’t want him to stay. But it’s only a moment.

“Of course I want you to stay,” Jungkook finally says, his words so quiet that Taehyung can barely hear it over his pounding heartbeat. “You don’t know how badly I want you to stay.”

Taehyung lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding in. He wraps his arms around Jungkook’s waist, hugging him. “I do, because that’s how badly I want to.”