the street is quiet. a crescent moon shines above the suburban neighborhood, the only other light source being the street lamps that line the sidewalks.
an attentive listener, should they strain their ears hard enough, would be able to hear the low creaking of a window being opened. they'd be able to hear a bare foot stepping out onto a shingled roof, a small hiss of pain as the rough material digs into skin.
if one had good eyesight, they'd be able to see the outline of jeon jungkook carefully settling down on the roof that extends out past his bedroom window.
one well-versed in neighborhood gossip would know all about jeon jungkook: his future internship at his father's law firm, lined up for him since birth; the perfect grades his mother brags about to anyone who listens; the beautiful mural he painted on the once garish brick wall in the nearby park. when he's not in school, he's leading a group of neighborhood children to the local duck pond to play, or placing first in every track meet. he's the pride of his family—and the entire neighborhood, the place where it's hard to keep a secret.
but jungkook manages. on those occasional nights when his brain is flitting through a million thoughts at once, when he can't keep his eyes shut for more than a millisecond, he clambers onto the roof, the one place that’s gotten him closest to the sky.
the view of the stars from here is incredibly intimate. smog from the nearby city doesn’t stretch towards the outskirts of town, leaving the sky untainted and for anyone’s viewing pleasure.
jungkook stretches out on his back. early april wind whispers through his hair, rumpled from tossing and turning. his pajamas, a matching blue checkered set made of thin silk, does little to warm him up, but he pushes through it. he clasps his hands over his stomach. his feet dangle slightly over the edge, just enough to be exhilarating.
he's often wondered what it would be like to stand up, toes curling in the gutter, and jump off, only to be saved at the last second by beating his wings and soaring into the air. it’s a dream he's had many times since his childhood, and it's one he keeps private; his friends would scoff (though he thinks taehyung might understand) and his parents would insist he go to therapy or something equally drastic.
that's the way his family has always been, jumping to conclusions without any real evidence to back them up. he's gotten used to it in his 16 years of living with them, but it doesn’t make it any less aggravating when his mother assumes he's depressed whenever he comes home from school looking even the slightest bit down.
but she's just overprotective, as many mothers tend to be. living in the neighborhood he does, there's a good few reasons why.
no small, tight-knit community goes without its secrets, and jungkook's neighborhood is no exception. he went through his childhood years blissfully unaware, ignoring the eagle eyes of his parents wherever they went and the whispers of neighborhood ladies in his mother's parlor as they drank tea together. it wasn't until jungkook was 6 years old did he find out that months before he was born, a young boy left unattended in the woods had been snatched up in the middle of the night, and hadn't been seen since.
he'd been a friend of jeonhyun's, apparently. jungkook's mother said his brother had cried for days, but now he never spoke of it. jungkook supposed he had forgotten all about it. his mother, on the other hand, had not.
“i really should make something for her. it would've been his birthday, after all,” he remembers her saying timidly to his father one night. jungkook had been hiding under the dining room table, waiting for jeonhyun to come find him, when his parent's voices filtered through the open door from the kitchen. “his 10th.”
there came a sigh, his dad's throaty one. jungkook's eyes watered as his nostrils caught the smell of cigarette smoke. “it's not like she's our neighbor, darling, and i pray for the ones who are,” he'd said, tone flat. he coughed a little, jungkook following suit from the other room. he hoped jeonhyun would find him soon; the smoke was starting to fill up the small room thanks to it being filtered in by the heater. “i say let her die alone in there. god knows it would serve her right after losing him in the first place.”
then there was the sound of water dripping onto the floor, the telltale sign that his mother was wringing a wet cloth nervously as she often did. “put that out,” she'd hissed, and the next thing jungkook heard was his father cursing as she threw the cigarette into the roaring garbage disposal.
the sink stunk of nicotine for weeks.
it was common for older boys at that time to sneak around the house of the reclusive mrs. min at the outskirts of the neighborhood. they would throw rocks and break windows, in the hopes of seeing the woman come outside for the first time in years. “her house is haunted,” one of them told a young, impressionable jungkook once. “my ma says the devil lives there.”
but jungkook used to walk by it on his way to school every morning with his older brother, and never once noticed anything out of the ordinary. the house was certainly in disrepair, with shutters shut tight and wooden slats covering the broken windows. no one knows how they got there. jungkook always thought if creatures like the devil really existed, they'd want to stay in nicer places than that. it wasn't even that scary.
still, he kept away and didn't ask too many questions, because that was the way his mother liked it (though for some reason she had wanted to bring mrs. min something on what would've been her missing son’s 10th birthday), and jungkook liked when his mother liked things.
had such a disappearance only happened once, it would've been waved away as a worrying incident, but one that was bound to happen when you were careless about your child like that. and it had been that way for many years, until 10 years ago—the day a girl went missing on the 10-year anniversary of the first disappearance.
it was a girl who lived just down the street from jungkook that time, instead of on the other side of the neighborhood. she had been several years younger than him, with a massive crush on the older boy that led her and the other children to the park on sunny saturdays. ”maybe when you're both old enough you can marry her,” jungkook's mother had joked, and it hadn't seemed like a bad idea. until she was taken straight from her bed on a mid-march night, when jungkook was 9 years old.
the police had searched for three weeks straight. jungkook accompanied jeonhyun and his father, sitting high on his hyung's shoulders as they and countless other men stalked through the woods and circled the entire town, shouting her name. nothing had ever been found, and despite the suspicious anniversary, there had never been enough leads in the first place to constitute a real case.
and now, it’s happening again.
it was two weeks ago. jungkook remembers it clear as day: he was eating cornflakes on a crisp friday morning before school, too distracted by the crunch of his cereal to be watching the clock ticking closer and closer to the time his bus would arrive. the tv had been on in the living room, quietly playing some news broadcast while his father snoozed on the couch, suit on and hand around his empty cup of coffee.
jeonhyun had left minutes prior to his job, with a quick kiss pressed to his mother's cheek and a ruffle of jungkook's hair. his mother was humming quietly to herself as she washed and cut up strawberries, peaceful for the first time in a long time, and the last thing jungkook remembers thinking as he watched her from the kitchen island was this is the way it should always be.
then the door slammed open. jeonhyun stood there, cap clutched in one hand and a poster of some kind in the other. “the kims are putting these up everywhere,” he'd said, and when jungkook caught sight of the photo on the poster and the big red letters spelling out missing across the top, his heart leapt into his throat.
going to school that day had been torture. jungkook was even more twitchier than usual, with nothing but his fingernails to substitute for the random objects he uses to distract his brain at home. his leg bounced up and down, pencil forgotten on his desk as he stared at the spot by the window where taehyung's empty seat taunted him.
taehyung wasn't the one missing, and jungkook felt more than a little guilty for thinking thank god. but the victim was kim jonggyu, taehyung’s younger brother. he had texted jungkook and their entire group chat earlier with his whereabouts; the police station, comforting his hysterical mother and sister. his father was out looking with several officers.
the entire school had been restless that day, whispers reaching jungkook's ears wherever he went. there was talk of kidnappings, hauntings, the devil himself. most of the rumors were preposterous, but they still got under jungkook's skin nonetheless, making his stomach burn and head pound.
jimin reprimanded him for the nail-biting at lunchtime and passed over a rubbery bracelet he had on hand. “keep it, i won't need it after your slobber gets all over it,” he had said tenderly, and jungkook took it without hesitation, spitting out a muffled “thanks, hyung” around the bracelet-turned-chew-toy.
hoseok paced around and around in the grass, until namjoon pulled him back to the soft ground. “that's not going to do anyone any good,” the smartest of their gang had scolded. “you're stressing gukkie out.”
“w-who said i'm stressed out?” jungkook had stammered, his pallid face and tense posture—not to mention the bracelet now littered with teeth marks resting in his palm—all indicating that he was panicky. “you're the one who's stressed out.”
“we all are, gukkie,” jimin cooed, leading jungkook's hand back up to his mouth. the bracelet had found its way in between jungkook's canines instantly, and he couldn't help himself from chewing on it again. “trust me, we all are.”
jungkook yawns, the sound breaking his peaceful reverie. his nail beds still burn as he idly scratches at a spot on his stomach. all five fingers on his left hand are bandaged, that's how badly he's bit at them. he still has jimin's bracelet, but he prefers to bite his nails in class, as painful as it is. it's easier to explain, even though his mother makes it a point to speak to every single one of his teachers every single year and make it clear to them that her son has some… behavioral issues (as long as she doesn't give too much away, their family can keep the title of the most perfect family in the history of suburbia).
yesterday had gone by in the usual routine. jungkook ate breakfast, sat through his classes, and excelled in track practice. he bested his own record again for the second time in the past week, prompting congratulatory remarks from his coach (“run any faster and i'll mistake you for a bullet, jeon”). then he proceeded to change out of his sweaty exercise clothes and back into his uniform after taking a brisk shower in the locker room, feeling light and giddy from the praise of his coach and teammates.
then that mood had darkened considerably as he met up with taehyung at the edge of the soccer field so they could head up to their group’s usual corner of the study room together. everything that spewed from taehyung's mouth as they walked were complaints, ranging from all the homework he had to do to the fact that he'd been on the bench for half the practice. jungkook, who had been eager to share his achievement, stayed quiet instead, his hand closed around the bracelet concealed in the pocket of his school slacks.
jimin had been there waiting for them by himself, as hoseok and namjoon were at hagwon, preparing for the university entrance exam they would have to take in june. he'd noticed taehyung's sour expression and immediately went into damage control mode, dragging the boy into the seat beside him and pestering him until he saw a smile. jungkook collapsed into the chair on jimin's other side, desperate to chew on the bracelet rather than his aching fingers (“i told you to stop doing that,” jimin chastised once he noticed, glaring disapprovingly at jungkook's cuticles that were lined with the dried blood he couldn't quite wash out).
namjoon and hoseok had shown up around 6 pm, just in time for dinner. after eating it was time for homework, studying, and more studying, which lasted until 9:30 as per usual. then they all piled into namjoon's car (which they didn't really trust him to drive, but they had no choice) and he dropped them off one by one.
“are you worried about taehyung-hyung?” jungkook had asked the second the boy in question had hopped out with a clipped goodbye, leaving jungkook and namjoon the last two in the car. “he hasn't been himself lately.”
namjoon nodded, looking thoughtful as they had jolted into motion. “that's to be expected,” he'd said. jungkook had watched his face reflected in the front window ahead of them, shaded the yellow of the street lamps lining the roads. each house they passed looked the same as the one before it. “i hate to say it, jungkook-ah, but it may be awhile before taehyung is back to his old self.”
jungkook stayed silent for several moments. “do you think they'll find jonggyu, hyung?” he asked quietly.
“i don't know,” namjoon had responded truthfully. his voice, deeper than jungkook's, draped comfort over jungkook like a blanket in the soft yet authoritative tone in which the elder spoke. “all we can do is pray he comes back from all of this safe.” they both knew namjoon was just regurgitating what every elderly person in the area seemed to say whenever tragedy struck—pray for the missing, pray for the dead, pray for the misguided—but it was the only thing they could do in lieu of going out and finding jonggyu themselves.
the search parties had gone on for a week. the 6 of them halted their evening studies to forage through the woods alongside the police and other volunteers, but had come up with nothing.
the police were still searching, chasing any leads they could find, but taehyung was only growing more hopeless by the day. he's the kind of person whose emotions are amplified tenfold, from the highest highs to the lowest lows. he loves so fiercely and so strongly, that to see him without that compassionate spark is frightening.
jungkook had waved goodbye to namjoon before he closed the front door quietly behind him. he crept up the stairs, trying not to make a single creak, and started getting ready for bed.
he'd just finished brushing his teeth when there was a soft knock at his bedroom door. his mother was standing there as usual, swaddled in her robe and still managing to look mature and beautiful in her weariness and contradicting the signs old age slowly creeping up on her. “sweet dreams, jungkookkie,” she'd said with a kiss to his hair, like she did every night, and he repeated the phrase before closing the door and sliding into the sheets.
then, he texted taehyung for another hour, trying to convince the distraught boy to go to sleep. at the same time, he was trying to block out the hushed, heated conversation he could still hear from the bedroom across the hall (“he's been looking so pale lately, and he hardly talks to us anymore. i think he would benefit from some professional help—” “he knows himself better than anyone, darling. boys often act like they're too good for their parents; i know i did—”).
finally, taehyung said goodnight—though whether or not he was actually going to sleep was a mystery—and jungkook tried to fall into a fitful slumber of his own. that had clearly proven unsuccessful, which is why he's out here now, staring up at the stars and wondering what it's like to fly.
that's when he sees the light.
it's a hurtling ball of something, something the size of a human body and the shape of a football. jungkook looks around wildly, rubbing his eyes several times. the object doesn't disappear; in fact, it only gets bigger, a purple and blue flame wrapping around the nose of it as it picks up speed, moving closer to touching down in the woods.
jungkook almost leaps down from the awning. he stands up, almost slipping, but keeps his balance as he watches it, enraptured and utterly confused. surely the news would've reported about this. surely this would've been seen by nasa or kari or somebody—jungkook can't be the only person witnessing this.
he expects to hear an impact sound, expects to see the giant pines catch fire. but as the object disappears behind the line of trees, there's nothing but silence. the stars still twinkle in the sky. the only thing to suggest a disturbance is the trail of smoke the thing leaves behind, hovering in the air before the wind sweeps it away.
jungkook throws himself through the window, tumbling over the chest of old children’s toys his mom insisted were antiques and thus should be kept. he scrambles to pick up the drawstring bag lying on the floor, yanking on socks and shoving his feet into slip-on sneakers. the last thing he grabs is a flashlight before sneaking out his bedroom door.
his father's obnoxious snoring can be heard even through the closed door. jungkook has no idea how his mother manages to sleep through a sound equivalent to that of a bulldozer, but no one comes looking as he tiptoes down the stairs.
he slides open the back door and runs through the grass, then slinks along the fence of hedges blocking his house from their neighbor’s until he's out on the street. he runs down the sidewalk, the sound of his shoes slapping against the concrete too loud for his own ears.
the entrance to the woods approaches, and jungkook barrels through it. the path is familiar to him, so he treads it easily, leaping over stray tree roots and avoiding poison ivy.
slowly, the trees close in until they form a twisted pathway, towering tens of feet above him. his feet crunching in the underbrush and his ragged breathing are the only things he can hear, but it doesn't break the unease he feels, nor the impenetrable quiet of the forest life around him. he crashes past branches, cursing as they scratch along his face and tear at his clothes.
he can see flames as he draws closer, a smoking wreck of whatever the hell has crashed. jungkook stops behind a large thicket surrounding the clearing the thing has conveniently landed smack dab in the middle of. he fidgets there, all-too aware of the gaping hole left in his pajamas pocket where jimin’s bracelet had been.
stuck in the dirt by its pointed nose is a weird pod of some kind. it's completely busted, the chrome dented and scratched. some pieces of it have come loose. a circular window along the front is cracked, moments away from shattering. the grass around it is smoldering, smoke still curling up towards the sky in thin, wispy strands. jungkook's eyes takes in the mysterious object, itching to step closer and run his fingers along the jagged metal.
then suddenly, something moves.
jungkook ducks down immediately. he peers through the curled branches of the prickly thicket and has to stifle a gasp at what he sees emerge in the fogged-up window.
it's a human face, a disgruntled one. whoever—or whatever—is inside appears to be struggling to break free. jungkook resists the urge to help and stays crouched down, knees tucked up to his chest. a weird mix of curiosity and fear is what keeps him rooted to the spot.
with a bang, the door is blown off its hinges and ricochets off a tree behind the pod. jungkook flinches and shrinks further into himself, swallowing hard.
the thing that steps out has the body of a human as well. its skin is milky, with tousled jet black hair laying across its forehead. jungkook averts his eyes once he realizes that it's completely unclothed.
the creature also has wings, ones that are skeletal and snowy white, only a few shades lighter than the creature’s peachier skin. they emanate an iridescent glow that almost blinds jungkook at certain angles as he moves his head to see through the bush obstructing his vision. it elegantly stretches them out to reveal an impressive, yet threatening wingspan. there's a deep gash in the right wing, a gross crimson tear in the delicate, sinewy ligament.
the wings envelop the creature like a blanket, every movement tentative. it lifts a pale hand to the wound and makes a hissing sound at the lightest of touches. jungkook winces along with it.
it collapses to the ground on its knees, its wings acting as a protective shield. jungkook watches it hang its head, and then begin to weep.
there isn't any noise besides the occasional sniffle of the creature. jungkook finds himself moved by the broken emotion it shows, and wipes at his eyes with his jacket sleeve.
he almost feels like he's invading this thing's privacy, watching its quiet moment from afar like this. so he starts to back away, creeping on his toes while still in his crouching position. at this rate, he can make it home before daybreak, still get an hour or two of sleep, and wake up only to realize that this had been some weird fever dream all along.
he starts standing up, still moving backwards, when his foot catches on a root. time slows as his ass makes contact with the ground.
it's worse than a siren going off in the middle of the night. it feels like a mini-earthquake reverberates a few miles around him with the force he lands on his back, a particularly sharp rock digging into the exposed skin of his arm.
jungkook scrunches his eyes shut. warm, fresh tears collect behind his lids as white-hot pain sears throughout every inch of his body. his bag took most of the fall, but he must have hit a sensitive spot.
he hears a guttural screech a few feet away. a whimper escapes his lips as he clutches at his throbbing wrist, with nothing to do but lay there and wait. this is just a horrible nightmare, he's going to wake up on the roof any minute now—
a foot nudges his leg.
jungkook lies still, though his heart is pounding and his fingers are shaking noticeably. his chest stutters with every gasping breath he holds back. he can feel the tears slipping through the cracks in his eyelids.
the foot nudges him again, a bit more forceful this time. he can hear its ragged breathing above him. its foot is wet and muddy against his pant leg, making him shiver.
there's a moment of silence. jungkook doesn't dare crack open an eye, doesn't dare move an inch; until something freezing cold wraps around his ankle.
with a yelp, jungkook’s entire body spasms at the single touch. his eyes fly open on instinct, face-to-face with the pale-faced thing kneeling inches away from him.
“holy—” he’s dry-heaving, now, panicking as its eyes, dark and cat-like and curious, ogle him. its face is streaked with flecks of mud melded with undried tears. the wings have unfurled and are flitting slowly behind it, leaving its form exposed. and it's definitely biologically human, jungkook notes, as he tries to get up and make a run for it.
its hand has jungkook's ankle in a loose grip, but it holds fast when it senses jungkook's attempt to escape. it cocks its head to the side. up close, its face is human like the rest of it, with softer facial features. with its mono-lidded eyes, it looks asian, and judging by its anatomy, it's male.
“p-please, please let me go,” jungkook begs. he has no idea if it can understand him. does he (jungkook decides to refer to this thing as 'he' for the time being) even comprehend language? where the fuck did he come from?
he doesn't answer, just slides his hand a little further up jungkook’s leg and runs his large, frigid fingers along the skin like he's admiring it. “h-hey, you've got two of your own, let go of me,” jungkook splutters. his hands fist in the dirt behind him as he tries to subtly drag himself backwards.
once again, he doesn't heed jungkook’s plea. gooseflesh springs up all along his body. the man is getting uncomfortably close to his inner thigh, where a tear in his pajamas has left his entire right leg exposed. he's calm, no sign of him even hearing jungkook speak as he breaks every personal space boundary jungkook's ever had.
he finally finds his voice the second the man's hand barely grazes his groin. “hey!” he thunders, and smacks the fucker's hand away with his sore wrist.
with a grunt the man retreats, his wings enclosing him in a cocoon. jungkook stands up on shaky legs only to find himself moving closer.
the man's hands are covering his head as he cowers at the trunk of a tree. the audible sniveling means he's started crying again.
jungkook's shoe squelches in something; he looks down to see the man's blood, seeping from the wound in his right wing in a puddle on the ground. he bites down harshly on his lip, swallows back the bile, and crouches gingerly beside him.
“i'm… i'm sorry,” he says slowly, unsure of what to say. his brain is all over the place, telling him to run or report this to the authorities or anything other than stay here and comfort this man, of all things. “who are you?”
the man's hands fall from his head to wrap around his torso. his knees are tucked into his chest, chin between his knees as he avoids making eye contact.
still, jungkook persists. “can you speak?” he asks, then repeats the phrase in english. still no response. the man shuts his eyes and lets out a shaky breath, teeth chattering audibly.
“you're cold,” jungkook states dumbly, and nearly jumps out of his skin when the man's eyes open and he gives jungkook a 'no, shit' sort of look. “so you can understand me?” he exclaims. he receives the smallest of nods in reply.
“great! w-well of course you're cold because you're—you know—n-naked… do you want this?” he shrugs out of his mud-stained but still warm jacket and holds it out to him cautiously.
the man's wings unfurl; jungkook has barely any time to turn his head. the jacket is plucked from his hands, then there's a moment of silence. jungkook sneaks a peek. thankfully the jacket is covering certain areas as the man holds it out in front of him, looking at it curiously. “do… you not know how to put it on?” jungkook really hopes he’s just admiring this, too.
but he shakes his head a bit. jungkook steels his nerves; would he rather let this guy die of hypothermia or put the damn jacket on him?
“just, spread your arms like this,” jungkook shows him what he means and the man does the same, his wings following suit. “shit,” he swears under his breath. “i didn't think about those.”
he swings his bag onto his lap and rummages through it until he pulls out a small pocket knife, an essential part of the 'man of the outdoors' starter pack. carefully, he jabs the knife into the fleece material in the places where the man’s wings would fit in. “it might be a tight squeeze, but you'll feel better once you put it on,” he says gently, holding it out to him.
it makes a bit of a tearing sound as the man pulls it on, and when jungkook looks back his fingers are fumbling with the zipper. “here, let me help,” he mumbles, making sure not to make direct contact with the man's skin as he zips it up. he's practically swimming in the garment, burying his hands in the pockets and burrowing further into its warmth. his wings flutter as his eyes regard jungkook in curiosity.
“i can get you some other clothes later, if you want,” jungkook tells him timidly. “but, uh, do you mind telling me your name, if you have one?”
the man dips a finger in the mud and slides down the sleeve of jungkook's pajamas. jungkook watches as he writes his name with the stuff, too intrigued to care about the sanitation aspect.
“yoongi?” the name feels nice on his tongue. the longer jungkook looks at him, the more it seems to suit him. “how do you know your name?”
yoongi uses jungkook's palm this time, drawing a small box shape with a triangle on top of it. “home?” jungkook asks eagerly, and yoongi nods. “do you remember your home? where is it?”
he gestures to the whole of the forest. jungkook's brow furrows. “you lived in these woods?” yoongi shakes his head and points to something behind jungkook, in the direction to the neighborhood that seems a million miles away right now. “you lived here?" he asks incredulously. “like, where i live?”
yoongi looks unsure, but he eventually nods. he points at jungkook, then shakes his head. “you don't know me?” jungkook asks, and laughs a little when yoongi shakes his head in exasperation. for a guy that doesn't speak, he sure is feisty. “you don't remember me?” he guesses, and that appears to be the right answer going by yoongi's bob of the head. “i don't know you, so it's safe to say we wouldn't remember each other at all. but my name is jungkook.”
he stretches his hand out to yoongi, who stares at it blankly. jungkook mimes a handshake with both hands, and then yoongi seems to realize, shaking jungkook’s hand with his dirt-streaked palm. “there. now you know me,” jungkook says, a bright smile on his face. yoongi is as harmless as a fly.
yoongi mimics the way his mouth stretches out, the muscles of his face looking tight as he tries to smile back. jungkook laughs again and yoongi's smile looks a lot more genuine as he shakes his shoulders up and down, the same way jungkook does.
“you know, you look like you could be a bit older than me,” jungkook muses as their laughing slows, observing yoongi with his head cocked to the side. “i've lived here my entire life, i think i would remember you if you had lived here.”
yoongi merely stares at him, dark eyes blinking owlishly at him. he clearly doesn't have much to input in this strange mystery either.
“where did you just come from?” jungkook can't help but ask. it seems obvious, but for all he knows, this could be some government-related conspiracy. yoongi could be from some secret underground lab, sent to destroy the world (jungkook really needs to stop reading superhero webtoons before bed).
it shouldn't be much of a surprise, but jungkook's breath is still stolen from him when yoongi points towards the sky.