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And All the Stars Above

Chapter Text

Jungkook walks to his apartment every day at 7:30 after his shift ends. Threadbare backpack hanging from one shoulder and a plastic bag heaving with his daily lot of groceries in hand as he twists the key to home at 8:45.
Sometimes his grocery bag is empty, just fluttering about in the wind with nothing holding it steady. The overused carrier knotted in his white-knuckle grip so his hands have something to do besides shake.

Earbuds dangle from his black hoodie, one in one out. Eyes dart from empty alleyway to moving shadows in the streetlight glow. Its the not so nice part of Seoul but he can't afford anything else but fear at this point. His run down studio apartment is ground floor with a communal bathroom down the hall for his midnight showers.

The walls are constantly damp making his chest rattle in the winter and air grow stale with heated mold in the summer. There a dirty and moth-eaten mattress in one corner and a sink in the other. Its small, cramped with just himself, and he probably could afford better if he searched for a roommate or took on another job.

But its the emptiness he can't stand anymore. On the bad days when his hand rattles inside dwindling supply of expired pain med, he sees the vastness of Namjoon's shelter filled to the brim with optimism and hears the echoes of their voices.

It's the days when the room is just too small but just as desolate as he feels. He'll find himself pressed into the spongy walls like it could swallow him whole and just focuses on how his inhaled air taste like mud and cigar smoke.

But no matter, it's just his past, present, and future, he accepted it a long time ago. It's as routine as his daily walks between the coffee shop and home.

His panic and mania fall right in step with the abandonment issues and trauma he's acquired like dusty trophies over on the years. It nearly makes him want to laugh at how ironically, the tables have turned.

Being part of the group, the Bullet Proof Boyscouts as Tae dubbed them, was something he was just sorta inducted into. There was no beginning just hazy memories of being part of something. Maybe it started with school and Jimin or perhaps street dance with Hobi.

Somehow, one way or another, the ragtag members adopted his 14-year-old self into the group like a mascot or something. The 'Golden Maknae' as Namjoon called him, the boy who didn't fit the broken mold like the rest. His scars were shallow compared to the others, light bruise stark against their broken bones and marred flesh.

He's walking down the familiar road at 7:41, 11 minutes after his shift ended, when he thinks about them again. No pills or alcohol to numb the pain when the wave of nostalgia hit him like the riptide. It's a train's whistle that crackles into the night on the first of a new month.

The schedule must have changed, he thinks dully

The sky's a deep blue with washed out stars when he looks up in hopes of steam wafting up to join the twinkling lights. He thinks of the paint Hobi used to buy him after an especially hefty payday. Fingers stirring the lustrous liquid and watching it drown out his tanned skin tone. The rich hue staining everything from Jimin's t-shirt to Namjoon's hair.

That one time. That one time. That one-

He's making a detour to an alleyway to upheave emptiness crawling out from the pit of his stomach because he's not drunk or high enough to be this sentimental.

Among the floating remnants of the past, alarms are blaring with forboding paranoia about what lurks in darknesses after sunset. The last time he was in an alley, two thugs left imprints on his ribs and his pupils dilated wide, he didn't even fight back. He didn't want to fight back.
In vivid techno colors like the movies projected onto Namjoon's shipping container, he remembers all of them before he can stop himself.

Apples roll across the rubbled concert, bruising even more than they already were. The banana milk carton bursts on impact and its sickly sweet scent mix with the acidic stench of vomit. The pale yellowing color streaks across the asphalt and the glossy fluid reflects back to the stars.
He spits onto the ground and takes a wavering breath before falling on his back.
The puddle of milk now swirling around the vomit to his left and his backpack barely touching his twitching fingers. Rocks indent onto his skin and remind him of the accident so long ago.

The scent of his flesh burning and the metal scrapping together in a despairingly useless attempt to brake. The whiplash leaving him breathless and flying through the air just before crashing to the ground. It was right after he peeled himself from the dirt floor where two strangers left him a bloodied mess of black and blue.

It was the day he showed up to the train car only to find it vacant and devoid of the only good thing he had his life at the time. The walls held trances of Yoogni's cologne and glitter from Taehyung confetti still stuck to the floor to serve as his own eviction notice.
His legs were wobbly from the sprint over after school and he found himself sliding down to the ground begging for them to come back. Wishing the walls could talk and let out all the happiness it had soaked up over the years, giving him one last taste of euphoria.
Then fists were plummeting him into an imbrued pulp on the ground of some back street where the streetlight flickered before the bulb finally shattered to the tune of departing footsteps.

Sooner than later, he was shuffling out into the street. The green light buzzing with fluorescent neon amongst the other lights in Seoul like the watercolored painting he created for Jin on his 19th birthday. Time was stopping, then speeding up as sirens blared and hands cupped his tear tracked cheek.

In legal jargon, he wasn't at fault and not medically deemed suicidal either. An unsolved hit and run to add to the overcrowded files of cases just like him. No one cared once he was released from the hospital and taken back to his foster family, the rightfully legal home he was confined to for another 2 years until he became of age.

Maybe, he thinks as the blinding lights above him weave into the paint colored sky, maybe that's why it's been so bad lately.

A cold shiver of sweat sheened onto his forehead and the nausea returns in a tenfold. Anxiety creeps up on him the same way Yoogni's music used to leave him uneasy and in fear of the darkness looming in his hyung's eyes. Its been over 2 years since the accident and a few weeks since he turned 19, he can leave now.

Rain starts to fall as he curls into a ball of chewed nerves and drug deprived thoughts. His birthday passed without fanfare and he had been sick with pneumonia for most of it. Only a week later, did he realize the gravity of his situation now. The freedom of adulthood, the freedom to leave the too big city that weights him down with too many memories. In all honesty, it terrified him to the point of panic. The bubbles of stress and gut retching feeling of 'I don't know what to do' make him reach for the clear orange pill bottles more often than not nowadays.

Nevermind that he's run out only a few days ago. Whatever hoarder's reservoir he had is now dried up and collecting dust on a rickety shelf behind a cracked bathroom mirror.
Some part of him knows exactly what's happening to his lithe body as his writhes in the mud.
It's not an overdose, he's too immune for that, it's a withdraw. With twisted hilarity, he still had another refill on it. The accident gave him physical scars to match the mental ones life left. Chronic headaches and a whole body ache on some occasions. When he first got out, he was given fentanyl for the pain, back when he was just as beaten as his discount apple now drowning in milk.

His foster parents never let him touch a single pill. Mrs. Kim had just given him a tight smile with glazed eyes as she moved the bottle to the top shelf

            "It's addictive Jungkook. I-...we are just trying to keep you safe."
That, along with the copy of the prescription, was the first thing he took with him when he left 4 months later. Based on its weight, he knew it was quite a few pills lighter than it should be. The childproof cap had become a scratched and mangled mess too. He'll probably never know if it was Mr. or Mrs. Kim who took his pills. For the first time in a long time, he muses that maybe it was both of them.

The moon's waxing in the sky when his eyes start to flutter shut. The constellations name are a muffled pulsation in his head as he racks his brain trying to recall what Jimin taught him. The elder used to drag him to the roof of his house and point to each star and tell a story. Sometimes it was mystical lore, other times it was whatever random tales he'd contrive just to make them both laugh.

The Pleiades, he thinks as his hand lazily stretches to touch the burning lights above.
The cloud wrings out rain and soon the white puffs move along to give him a clear look at the 6 stars clustered together.
7, he amends with a frown, there're 7 stars but you can't see the 7th
His coffee-colored eyes are closing but in his mind, the stars are burning even brighter. He holds on to the constellation like it a lifeline and it's been so long since he's put so much hope and passion in something.

The familiarity of alarms reverberate in his ears but it's like he's already drowning in the bile and milk and rain. Something soft is prying his eyes open and maybe it's God above him because whoever's there, they're beautiful.
There's a blinding light boring into his eyes and maybe if he wasn't still hallucinating luminescent blues and 6 stars blazing through his vision, he'd be nauseous by its intensity.
Someone's telling him to hold on but he's got only one thought coursing through his entire being like a prayer.

I wonder if that 7th star can see the other 6? I wonder if that 7th star ever gets lonely too.

Chapter Text

After passing out, he dreams.

Velvety clouds growing and shrinking like a concussed pupil. Shimmering stars spread out like dots of a fever rash. Folded depths of bruised blues and bloody purples.

In the chaotic dreamscape, he’s finally at peace. Legs outstretched on the dewy grass tingling with the honied smell of dirt. It’s damp and cold like the abandoned undergrounds where they used to run. Yet he remains at ease, the twists of tension dissipate with every passing moment.

There are no thoughts, no haunting bit of memories bouncing in his skull. It’s just him and the stars, old friends basking in silence. He inhales the picturesque night like it’s a rolled-up cigarette smoldering between his fingers.

Minutes or hours past when he finally squints at the masterpiece of oil pastels above. Faint traces of pencil-marked outlines depicting each constellation. The 3 stars right in the middle of the magnified sky catch his eye right away. There’s close enough to touch.

The brightest one twinkles knowingly and there’s a bubble of twisted nausea that follows. That’s Sirius, his mind supplies, the big dog

The feeling leaves a bitter aftertaste on his tongue, a dissolving pill, and he’s quick to dart his eyes away.

Instead he concentrations on another star in the upper corner of his tunneling vision. It’s intense but small, achingly familiar to Jungkook. Maybe it’s the drugs or lack of drugs, but he’s even able to name it.

Betelgeuse. It could have been the brightest star in the world

There guilt that follows that thought. The feeling crawls up each knot of his spine and hisses in his ear, blame sits cold in his stomach. He tries to focus on the reddish hue that distinguishes it from Sirius and the last one-

            “Procyon.” He murmurs aloud like an apology.

He stares at Procyon the longest, memorizing the yellow tint and the lazy flicker it gives him. A ghost of a hand curls around his shirt collar, his side throbs a phantom pain. He thinks of a mirror shattering, glass raining down like meteorites.

It’s just a dream, they’re just stars.

It’s the chiding mantra churning in his head when his hesitant hand reaches out to the fire blazing above. He gets close, the warmth of the heat barely grazing his fingertips but nothing tangible to hold.

Then the whole sky shuts down like a lonely power outage. The darkness envelopes him and paint fumes poison the air. The only sounds are his jagged coughs that curb into violent sobs. Tears draw charcoal lines down his sullen cheeks and the clammy frost suddenly becomes unbearable.

It was his first dream in months, years even, and yet he still can’t reach them.

When he wakes up again, it's too bright. There's a sickly churning in his stomach and when the reminisce of sleep dissipates from his eyes, he sees white. It's a pure, blinding and ardent white that only aggravates the violent swirl of queasiness.

The heart monitor beside him is only a faint but rhythmic lull amidst the background noise of the people around him. His paper gown's just as thin and dry as his own skin yet the sleeve keeps slipping down his left shoulder.

A blue curtain's drawn on each side but there are shadow puppets of people moving methodically behind the screen. Shiny metal trays of scalpels and kidney bowls, boxy machines and rusty blood streaks on the floor. Nurse and doctors speak muffled speech and the smell of latex permeating the air.

There a tickling itch and he discovered the needle plunged into the pulsating vein on his inner wrist. Medical tape's tacky on his sweaty skin and it shifts uncomfortably when he wiggles against the brusque glare of too many light bulbs.

He’s still groggy and his movements are stiffly lost. Sluggish limbs and doe-eyed blinking of blurred images dancing across his vision. It reminds him of being drunk, a flurry of good and bad memories accompanies unwarranted.

He pushes away the thoughts and instead focuses on the transparent pack of fluids above him. The slow and deliberate way it drips into a plastic tube that's stuck into the spindly vein, blending into his blood with disregard for his consent. The pinpricks of unnerved energy run through him like a rabid dog and it's as if all his nerves are on fire.

Sirius, the dog star. He reminds himself with a dismal hum Brightest star in the sky

A chair rolls up next to his bed while he daydreams. A sickly popping sound follows as the wheels move across dried blood and other syrupy stains. He pretends not to notice. Instead, he fails to match the hostile stare the nurse is sporting. His whole-body cringes away from the beating eyes that push him further to his heap of scratchy blankets.

            "Mr. Jeon."


His voice is raw from misuse and the crisp oxygen forcing its way into his nose. The nurse looks even more indifferent. He's not surprised, however. It's a public hospital, overcrowded and underfunding.

Does it hurt, a burn that bright?

This isn't even a new place to him. They used to drag Hobi here, back when his doped-up smile radiated a restrained suffering rather than endless hope. It's the kind of place that is less about healing and more about surviving.

But it had always been a view of the checkered tiles and the uncomfortable chairs in the waiting room.

Still, he has questions that he won't ask. In this hospital, there are no clocks or visible windows. It's a timeless abyss where life just keeps moving until the halls are clear and the waiting rooms are empty.

Soon they see past each other's facade and the exchange becomes more formals. He reads her like a book. He sees the judgmental snarl she’s sporting, the disdain in her eyes. No words are needed to see how low she thinks of him, its written the crinkled frown lines of her face.

            "I just want the bill and my stuff." He says quietly.

He had been trying for a curt timbre, something less high pitched and more authoritative. He tries to sound like an adult, no longer anyone's little brother. But it just sounds funny on him, like a child wearing their mother's pearls or father's shoes.

The nurse shakes her head and Jungkook's eyebrows furrow in confusion. He knows this place inside and out. He knows that money and space are valued commodities in the government-subsidized clinic. He knows he's just a body waiting for the morgue in the discriminations of a tired old nurse like her.

            "Your emergency contact paid it. He’s waiting for you in the lobby."

As the previous inferred, she walked out with no further comment.

Then a voice rings out from a speaker, code blue. Simultaneously, someone drops a set of instruments with a tinny clacker. The woman next to him is arguing with her doctor and there a baby screaming a few beds down. There so much sickly static filling the air.

It's not quiet, it's not a bone-chilling silence that's as stark white as the walls. Somewhere in his head, he knows this as the honest truth, yet his mind is so paralyzed to his surroundings. He can't remember who he wrote down as an emergency the last time he was here. Different hospital, different doctor, same form.

His accident, that day when his hope wasn't quite as stagnant as it is now.

He still remembers how his left eye was half swelled and his ribs creaked with every breath. A social worker mingled in the background. He watched a silent film of her yelling into her phone through the open doorway.

He had let his gaze linger on her, failing to read her pink stained lips, before flickering his eyes to the grey-haired doctor beside him.

            "Do you know the number of your parents or another adult you trust, we need to file an emergency contact."

If it hadn't hurt so much, he would be hysterical. If pain wasn't a factor, he knows he would have ripped every stitch until he was a dead and mangled ragdoll on the floor. Because he was back into the land of realities, back where adults don't quite understand kids like him.

He didn't trust anyone because it's not about healing, it's about surviving.

In the end, the number he gave them was obsolete, no one even tried it so they say. Within the hour, the Choi's were half-dressed and in his room. Smiles plastered on and anger raging in their eyes. And by the next morning, his social worker was livid with spitfire questions for the family. Unsurprising, she was curious as to why their foster son hadn't been living with them in almost 3 years.

He didn't remain in the room long enough to hear their answer, there were more important matters for him. But he was smart enough to understand Miss. Min when she looked him dead in the eye 2 months later and said,

            "You will be living with the Kim's now Jungkook."

His mind stays in a hollow state until the nurse returns 20 minutes later with a clear zipper bag of his stuff and folded clothes. He mindlessly put on his freshly washed shirt and slightly damp skinny jeans, relishing in the traces of lavender soap clinging to the fibers.

His possessions are just a chewed-up key and a fading pleather wallet, colorless and desolate. Just like him.

His immediate plan is to sneak off. He's more than ready to dismiss whoever may be waiting for the lobby and pretend like he was never caught this phantom zone. But he's not stupid, he acknowledges the ugly truth buried of him. If it had been a few weeks sooner, back at the tender age of 18, he would have been racing down the steps with hope seizing his chest and erratic beats of his optimistically unsteady heart. Face lighting up like the sun.

His hyung's return is a child's fantasy that now comes at the adult cost of his pride.

Maybe, he thinks, just maybe

But he shakes the thought out of his head before folding back the cheap polyester cover. He doesn't think about it. Instead, he straightens out the sheets as if to look like he never was there, like he never existed in the first place.

He's lacing up his stolen Timberland when the curtain is drawn again and for a second he thinks its Nurse Park coming back with a thin lip frown and the words 'Get Out' resting in her throat.

But it's not her who calls out a moment later. The melodic voice is softer and a shade lower. It's reluctant and familiar yet it hurts more than he expected.


Head bowed and heart-dropping straight down to his ankles, he hopes the lavender detergent will suffocate him. He trails his eyes to the scuffed-up sneakers, surreality fills him.

He so desperately wants to be mad, but he's always been a child inside. More memories pool in his head, like the IV holds them, letting it slowly meld with his repressed being. A new drug for him to fixate on.

But the shoes, it stuns him. The world’s back to being a fevered drunk but there’s a flare of nauseating pain to it. It physically hurts to feel. The tispy feeling returns and parts of him wish it’s just the lasting effects of withdrawal.

Still, a senseless smile twitches at his mouth and he inhales the scent of soapy lavender on his collar with a sigh. Nostalgia tugs at his mind and he thinks:

His birthday party. Drunk, the last good drunk you had

Yoongi's 19th birthday spent in the homey confines of Jin's apartment. A night they all still look at back with fond smiles and a bittersweet lump of tears stuck in their throat. It was back when Jungkook was still the quiet kid, a puppy trailing behind, bouncing from member to member with a silent disposition. Jin letting the younger 5 share a single pint of beer before pouring Yoogni's first legal shot.

The rush of a good buzz sinking into Jungkook's bones after only a few sips and the bottle's condensation washing his fingertips. They had all thought it was the first time he had been drunk, they had been wrong though.

His first taste was hard liquor in a park at midnight. A pack of random roaming kids just like him and a stolen assortment of drinks. Aching bones that lay sprawled on park benches and the burn of whiskey sitting warmly in their chest. Cigarette smoke wafting in the air and obstructing his view of the stars that slid in and out of focus as the drunkenness shifted to a  blackout. He woke up as daylight flooded in. There was a girl resting peacefully in his arms, nameless and faceless to him now.

He still likes to imagine that the birthday party as his first drink. The gentle hum of beer in his body and watching his second older hyung grow redder after every shot. The night air warming up with contentment and blowing faintly in through an open window. The easy lull pushing into a rush of adrenaline. They were running through the abandoned tunnels scattered around the heart of Seoul. Yelling at their reflections in the scratched mirrors in the underground. The forgotten youth of the city running away from all the adults who like to tell them no.

Everyone took off their shoes to dance around in the puddles that filled potholes in the road when they reemerged to the ground floor. Namjoon even distinguished out his cigarette just so he'd have the night air in his lungs. Nearly 3 in the morning but too drunk to care anything except each other. Even Jungkook didn't care about the dirt stuck on the soles when he dutifully carried their boots and sneakers. He took smooth strides as his feet waded through the water slowly. Head turned up to the blue-toned night sky and grey storm clouds still bundled together like cotton candy.

            "Oi Kookie-ah," The birthday boy slurred, "let's go get so lamb skewers eh?"

            "Yoongi-hyung, nothing's open."

            "Ahhh Kookie, disrespecting your hyung like that, you wanna go punk?"

He took 6 wobbly steps forward before he was a giggling mess in Jungkook's arms. The shoes had been dropped and now splashed in the gutters.

            "Kookie," Jin whined with no malice. "My shoes."

He smiled sheepishly before passing Yoongi onto Hobi's back as the sun slipped back into the sky and dried up the stars and rainwater.

"I'll make it up to you Hyung."

His favorite memory; all of them walking home, back into the folds of real life. The dawn providing the first light as he drew the dusk onto Jin's shoes.

When he sees it again, gawks at the painted cloth a second longer. The converse highs are ripped in some places, caked with dirt in others. The toe cap has a new scratch on it too, a zigzag lightning bolt of off-white.

He can't help but focus on it, zero in on the mark instead of looking up to see what else changed. He wants to keep his pure image of Jin forever engraved in his head. He wants to remember him throwing his head back with a perfect smile. Pants legs rolled up to retain the cleanliness of his clothes.

And the shoes, dangling from his fingers by the laces, glimmering in the lunar twilight.

            "Jungkook." The plead is evident in his tone, but it's not Jin "Please look at me."

There hope in the voice, but he doesn’t comprehend it. Everything’s a slow-motion film of a house of card collapsing, his feebly constructed life crashing down. His crumpled form straightens by a fraction, still hunched over with tensely shut eyes.

The voice, he plays it over and over, not trusting his drug deprived vision either. It’s like crackling lightning in a clear glass jar. Its loud and crisp, no amount of background noise could drown out something that beautiful.

            “Jungkook, C'mon, look up.”

His unseeing eyes are cast down with his messy fringes of unevenly cut hair shadowing over. There’s shame washing over him, self-scolding for shutting down like a child, like a scared 14-year-old boy. Still, he's wringing his hands frantically in his lap and there’s an emptiness growing like the deadening vine in his heart. It’s a breath-taking gaping hole that he usually tries to fill with pills or drown out with alcohol. But he can’t. There’s no wall between him and himself, his trauma.

So, he tries to numb it out by sinking his teeth into his dry lips. The metallic tang that follows his self-abuse is close enough to the burn of stolen whiskey.

But even with eye’s squeezed shut, begging more another second under the stars, he knows exactly who’s in front of him.

He’s not sure how, but he does. There’s an air of peace that surrounds the bed, something he’s always associated with them. But it’s icier than he expects it to be.

Namjoon, Jin and


            “…Hey kid.”

It’s the same low growl he’s accustom too, the rumbling notes of a well-tuned piano droning with every word. But there’s a strained shakiness that harmonizes with the rendition of an old piece.

Eye’s closed, halfway in a dream, he tries not to think.


            “Right here Kookie.”

No one says anything else, all waiting on edge for him to continue but he doesn’t. He can feel the heavy weight of their stares and it's killing him.

Even the dripping black of shuteye darkness, his mind’s vivid imagination run wild. There’s too much time between then and now but he’s never forgotten. And now he’s desperate in wanting to preserve their memories.

He visualizes the mint of Yoongi’s hair, Jin’s Hollywood smile and the way Namjoon’s eyes used to hold all the answers.

            “Just look at us kid.”

More emotion pours into him, making him a numb detached mess of a man. He wants to refuse. He wants to hold on to the colors of Yoongi’s favorite bomber jacket and run away from the reality that’s in front of him.

If he’s being completely honest, he never wanted them to come back. He wanted them to never have left at all.

            “Please,” Jin says and his melodic voice is dripping with sadness and anguish. “just look at me.”

Both eyes open simply because no one ever taught him how to say no. His locks eyes with Jin’s, as requested, but there’s no sense of ‘home’ in them, not like before. He knows he shouldn’t, but he searches for it anyways. His gaze flickers between all of them and he’s ashamed by it.

That childish feeling bathes him in anxiety and self-loathing. The shame of being all hot and bothered by yet another adult that’s left him. It scolds him, frustrates him into wanting to rip open his chest just to crush his still-beating heart.

He wants to be anger, wishes hate would ooze out him and burn the 3 people in front to him. Melt himself down into a puddle that can wash down a storm drain, away from everything he’s been running from. Yet, any rage sizzled out when he saw them, saw the reflection of hollow sadness he’s felt for so long.

Pity, you feel pity

More silence follows as he drinks in their presence. They look the same, yet there’s something missing. It’s different enough to ruin the dying mirage of before. But there are enough similarities to smile.

It's watery and his chin still quivers, there’s pain stuck between his teeth. Yet it still produces the desired effect.

Jin still radiates a blinding smile, Yoogni’s gum show, and Namjoon’s deep-set dimples remind him of everything he lost.

But for a second, it’s like he’s dreaming again. An eagerness stirs in his hands and he nearly reaches out to them. The smiles, it feels like before, like home within his grasp again.

But he makes no outward move. Limp hand remains still and the reality slowly weights him back down the earth. It’s not before, it after. There’s too much distrust in him, the small voice sounds like truth when it put doubt among the flecks hopes.

His everlasting images are still poisoned and taunted, even before seeing them today. He thinks about the night Jin left a bloody Tae in the kitchen, or the mess Yoongi made in their home. It’s all still there, floating under the surface of a happy reunion and his dandelion wishes.

His smile dims a shade and he feels the tension rise again like a wave pushing back into the sand. There’s so much he needs to say, so much they need to hear. But it's jumbled into a formless mess in his head.

So instead he watches them with half-smiles and a fear-soaked heart. He fingers over them like dusty piano keys and tries to remember how to hope.

Chapter Text

Jin still remembers leaving. His rusty truck caked with salty mud and engine coaxing him with a full tank of gas. He remembers how easy it was. Foot pressing the pedal as roads yawned on forever. An emotionless escape that was unbothered by the twisted swell of guilt and relief inside of him.

He feels breathless remorse, however, when he finds Jungkook. His neon EMT vest getting damp in the rain and knees skidding into the watery filth of the Red Light District. He didn't recognize him at first. The darkness and the rush of adrenaline masking everything except for small details he can't help but notice. Little things like the acidic sick washing off the cement or a ransacked backpack little ways to the side. The icy sheen of sweat that coats his victim's skin.
He pushes back the matted overgrown bangs and pries open an eyelid to check for any signs of life. Then he sees it.
It's like a dull chant in his head as he works on autopilot. His gloved hands stay on the kid-
He's not a kid anymore
-on Jungkook's face for a moment longer. His index finger traces lightly on the starved cheekbones, over his split lip and then to his flush forehead.

He thinks about the drive. Open road visible through his bug smudged windshield and too many thoughts racing in his head. He thought about them until he nearly skidded over the road in a failed U-turn. But he kept driving because he's his father's son, never the staying type. 

Now only one filters through as the stretcher rolls the boy he raised back into the ambulance.

It wasn't supposed to go like this

He looks even worse in the unforgiving synthetic light of the vehicle. His face is a sickly pale married with rosy blossoms of freshly blooming scrapes from where his body collided with the pavement. Jungkook's eyes flutter a bit, dark slits of confusion barely visible but it doesn't stop Jin from selfishly trying.

"You're ok, just hold on."
A groan escapes his lips before the moment passes with a spasmodic rise and fall of his chest. Wires and needles enclose Jungkook, reducing him into just a diminutive waxy corpse on the cot.

His partner is sitting across from him, unperturbed and methodically searching through Jungkook's things. Jin just stares blankly ahead, trying to detach himself.

            "Jeon Jungkook, 19." The other said, eyes scanning an ID card, and Jin lets off an absent hum. He doesn't see the other look up at him with a frown. "You know this kid?"

The word 'yes' cuts at his lips as the car lurches to a halt. The orderly mayhem of transport cuts off conversation but the words stick to his head like nicotine gum.
He wants to say he knows Jungkook, keyword 'want'.

The shift ends 5 minutes after arrival. He changes out his stiff uniform slowly, heavy movement peels back each layer of cloth, converting him back into someone who's allowed the luxury of compassion. His punchcard dings at the plexiglass window as the woman behind it smile with too much conviction for it to be genuine.
Who are you trying to convince?

Nevertheless, he tries to return the gesture but he's pretty sure it flattens to a weary grimace. His loose shirt blows against his chest when he steps outside into the night air, the chill not even registering on his skin.
You could go home, pretend you never saw him he thinks, the thought sinks down to his stomach, cold and slimy. His hand slips into his pant pocket but then stays motionless. Calloused fingertips ghost the plastic phone cover.

He thinks of the drive, the apathetic taste of relaxation that offset the stress in his bones when his car cruised down the highway.

At first, it was his past looming in his shadow A deadbeat family lost somewhere else in America, miles away but etched in the corner of his mind. Seoul was a good alternative for him. It was a city so big he could lose himself.

He was fortunate to find an indifferent landlord to provide room and board throughout high school. He can still picture her frail outline looming in the background. The splintered wood of the decaying door still rough on his hands.

However, making friends, genuine connections, it was all an accident. He wasn't used to the responsibilities that follow, dongsaeng doe eyes that begged him for guidance.
There was too much sentiment in all of them, its washed over him unconditionally. But for once, he didn't try to shake off the drops. He was the only one without a record, a clean slate for all of them strive for. He held their love in the palm of his hands, rays of sunlight warming his skin, but never been the staying type.

Once high school ended for him, he didn't leave right away. College was out of the question but various jobs provided enough for EMT training. The itch in his brain, the discontentment in his identity, it begged him to leave. 3 days after this graduation, he almost did.

They bought him a cake, faux chocolate crumble with chemical buttercream. It surprised him and the packed bags in his truck. They even bought candles, stacking wax on the dessert like it was his birthday.

The firelight glow warmed his face and he blew them out one by one. He couldn't bring himself to leave after that. Clothes seemed to unpack themselves against all internal instinct and he followed up by extending the apartment lease the next day. A basement floor that they all learned to live in. He was never lacking for rent, everyone contributed something. He'd call it a home if he knew what 'home' was.

It wasn't until the kitchen floor fight did he go, no cake to make him stay. Dried blood under the nails that dug into the plush of the steering wheel and home feeling so far away.

His stiff fingers eventually curl around the phone as his head tilts back to the stars with eyes dusting with uncertainty. Clouds stilling rolling in like a humid fog, thin layers of frosting on the dark chocolate sky. Evening traffic filling the silence that threatens to scare him into bolting.

The sky, he notes, is like the ocean. It's so big and hollow
But for once the emptiness doesn't comfort him, he can't lose himself in it, he only finds shame.
He thinks of her as a bright star smiles at him, like its laughing at the way his pretty face wrinkles with grief.

After she died, he stayed in Seoul, his fast-moving life crashing to a standstill. He didn't really know her, but her death exhausted him, it drained the thrill out of the chase. The next day he drove to the gas station where Namjoon worked, seaside tears drying as the wind kissed his cheek.
A polaroid found it's away to his rearview mirror. He was done running.

"Namjoon." He starts but there's too much to say, to explain. The middle isn't so easy. "Namjoon I...we just." He stares at the star again, it's burning the clouds away, burning the doubt.
            "God, Joonie, it's Jungkook."

He went to Namjoon because he needed guidance. The high school dropout was smarter than he ever hoped to be, ever wanted to be.
There was a lollipop stick poking out of his mouth when he crouched down to collect pay. Jin remembered what Tae said, back when they were all just students spending lunch in homeroom.
please hyung, sugar not cigars.
He supposed the soft plead stuck with Namjoon, even after all this time.

The petrol smell blew lazily in the air as he deposited a capsule of sand instead of cash. He watched as recognition and bittersweet emotions flooded the younger's face, the hope in his eyes. He pulled the sucker from his cherry-stained lips and his lets mouth hang in shock.
            "Hyung?" He said.
            "Hey, Joonie."


Chapter Text

They don't speak as they walk along the sidewalk.

It’s just Yoongi walking Jungkook home, the others having peeled away at the hospital. There's no buffer to protect against the wounds they've left on each other.

No artificial lights or buzzing electric sound, either. Just the afternoon sun glaring at them and humid air beating on his lungs as sweat trickles down his back. For the first time in a long time, he has no caustic words to ignite the atmosphere with.

Instead, he just silently follows the younger with hunching steps. Somewhere along the way, he finds melodic notes in their alternating steps. 2 measures behind but still in sync with the tempo. He knows its all his head though. The old melody of his grating misery mixed with Jungkook's relentless hope, it's not real.

It's outdated and inconstant to the adult he sees in front of him. He's not blind to the straining anxiety curling around Jungkook's entire being as he shuffles down the cracked sidewalk.

Birds cry lazily overhead and Yoongi watches them perch on power lines. Beady eyes stalking every move, hearing only shoes slapping on cement. No song to cherish, just the buzz of background sounds melting into the view of smog and chipping paint.

He's almost afraid to talk. Eyes just shift around every now and then, scanning the deteriorating state of their surroundings. Shoddy wood and slanted roofs, neglected islands in a thriving city.

The worn out look of the buildings supplies a small indication of the type of life the younger leads. The streets are deserted, desolate, save for the few rumbling passing cars that hurry by with only a tendril of smoke in its wake.

It's the kind of place, he heeds, that you only go to at night.

In the day, it's easy to see the fractures and breaks, all the bitter imperfections that night scarred on its skin. The blistering heat rays bounce off the glass buildings, blending with the smudges of dirt and hairlines cracks. Grim layers itself to suffocate the landscape.

He can recognize the unofficial landmarks, tells to their location. It's not in its former glory, construction is vainly trying to ease its past. But there's enough left for him to know it's not an innocent community.

There's the reflection of shiny highrises sprouting from the ground but its erroneous on the backdrop of graffiti tarnished bricks and soiled smells.

They reach the apartment when Jungkook stops abruptly to fishes a key from a pocket of his black hoodie. The tall building swaying on unstable ground intoxicated its own piteous conditions.

"...Come in, I guess." He says softly and Yoongi has no choice but to follow.

There isn't a lot to be said about his apartment. It's clean with tidy objects sitting among the sterilized air. But it can't, however, hide the rot that's buried deep in every nook and cranny of the small space.

His piano fingers run over the popcorn finished walls. The squelch of mold seeps through the sponge and plaster, slick mildew coating his sensitive fingertips when he pressed on it. The ground heaves under the weight of too many people invading the sanctuary of isolated clean. There are so many details befitting of the self-portrait Jungkook's designed, the false facade of clean. A stripped, brown splashed bed cramped on the peroxide scrubbed flooring and abandoned in unfurnished space. The golden sunlight pours through a singular mud-streaked window and illuminates the floating specks of dust. The sharp redolence of harsh acidic bleach sorely out of place with the perpetually rabid home.

no, not home.

No pictures or relics of time, just more of the same faded off-white paint and bleached soaked fumes. Yoongi forces himself to stare, jaw slack and eyes scrutinizing every feature with morbid fascination. Its off, wrong with sirens screaming out every mistake. Even the air taste slightly amiss; artificial, chemically fake. The mangled feeling of absolute wrong makes it impossible to pull away. It's like seeing the remnants of a car crash.

You did this He scolds You left him when he needed you

            "Yoongi-ssi." A voice calls him back from his thoughts and he finds himself blinking back tears.


            "You can go now." Yoongi turns to see a bashful child with an embarrassed flush sprinkling on haggard cheeks. "If you want." He whispers the last bit, eyes locking on the putrid sink in the corner.

            "Pills, Jungkook-ah. I need all of them first."

            "There aren't any. Not anymore."

            "Prove it."

A snarl twitches at the corner of Jungkook's mouth, creases deepen the corners of his raccoon eyes. A pale wall oozing bitter rage.


He not used to the anger, the hostile ferality of the group's youngest. It ricochets him back to a halt, c minor depressing onto the gypsum board. A brush of irritation thrashes in his stomach and his own eyes flare red. Nothing in his nature is built for docility, the streak of rebellion beaten into his bones.

But its why they've always gotten along. Untamed blazes singeing everything but the soft crystals of ice that remained unfazed. 

It wasn't until spring melted them into a watery jumble of crushed sea glass and abraded fists. Flames engulfing the basement flat, everyone's first stable home. Yoongi remembers being a wasted drunk. Blood sloshing through his dilated veins and exhaustion swirling around the alcohol.

Jin had been gone for a few days, everyone scattering in a panic. Unanswered phone calls and skipped school days. Disappearing backing into a shell of barbwire walls and cutting-edge anxiety.

The fear like a rubber band around Yoongi heart, he had so much to lose. His attempts to sink the dread in yeasty bottles of beer and shots of Soju only furthered the distress. Sadness turning into anger and fury with each acidic sip. Furious at his parents for kicking him to the streets, too high on their own self-loathing to care about him or his dreams. Angry at the boys who were scurrying like rats on a sinking ship, survival instinct driving them to push any potential harm away. The curse of the broken, he supposed.

But he was disappointed at himself for hoping, for trusting.

Rage kindling into turmoil, most vividly he remembers how violently he decimated the room. Colors flying as things broke from the sheer intensity of his ferocity. His whole body vibrated with drunken madness because he was alone again with nothing but his degrading thoughts and the ghost of 6 living people haunting him.

Then someone hurled themselves into the spiraling flame, hoarse prays fighting the erratic beat of his heart. A babyface soaked with tears and a chin digging into his shoulder. He smelled the oceanic breeze from the Busan docks still waterlogged on Jungkook's skin, cold sweat mixing with salt. Fingers gripped his jacket, tightening in hopeful in a way he never could be.

That enraged him even more, it set him on fire. He smashed and plummeted everything until he was left with hot air and the static aftermath.

The last clear image was the terror clouding the younger's eyes and the guilt tightening his chest. Insomniac nights always trace back to that moment, the fight or flight choice that tainted all the colors blacks.

He left him on the floor, eyes glazed over, mouth gaping for words. Left town two days later, shame tangling with the hangover as he took a bus to oblivion.

Crumbling gravel crackled under the wheels and jolted the vehicle at night. He never seemed to sleep but on the off chance when he did, he only dreamed of the betray etched eyes of his friend, his brother. The way the body collided into rachitic stairs with a choked off moan, a sickening thud of a ribcage rearranging.

Oh but his devasted eyes and quivering lip, the picture seared into his retina. It haunts him, it still drives him to discounted cigarettes and alcohol-induced dreamless nights, anything to take the edge off.

It was still there, numbed by time but present on his aged face. The wounded look that mutes every other sense, Yoongi can't help but focus on it.

You did that. Fix it

He pushes all it back down; the fear, the anger, all of it. The fight or flight moment but he's not going to run away again, not wasting another 2 years away from his family.

            "Ok. I believe you." He says tentatively, cautious lacing every syllable as he backs down.

            "Then get out." All bark no bite, Jungkook can't punctuate the demand with a heated glare.

Yoongi thinks of their fight, the last time he thinks Jungkook saw him. The precision of his punches, taut muscle restrained. A street fighter born from frost and endurance, yet soft like seafoam bubbling on the shore.

Nothing like himself, wild and deranged, so intense that he burns among the ash he ignites.

Fix it

            "Why won't you look at me kid?"

The silence is deafening, too long and chocking. Yoongi steps closer, closing the space, trying to make up for all the lost time. Then he finally looks at the older boy, chin trembling and shoulders bowing in.

            "Your hair," he starts, voice jarring as tears roll, "it's not green or-or-or pink."

A stray hand wanders to the jet black locks, ghosting over the strands with stiff movements.

            "Yeah, I dyed it black after..." Yoongi pushes through the painful lump building in his throat. "It's like the night sky." He says as a murmured afterthought.

It was meant to comfort, to soothe the hurt he's caused. Yet, it only intensifies the fitful shakes and briny tears that drip from Jungkook's face. His own vision begins to blur and the grief threats to drown out the courage.

            "No." Jungkook says hoarsely. "no, the green. That was the color of the sky hyung, mint green, and cherry blossom pink and it was hope and..."

The fingers curl into the black wisps and the weight of his palm grounds Yoongi to reality. It keeps him in the too clean room with decaying walls and puke-stained clothes.

            "And you left, you all did."

There's no more running, not anymore, not from this.

There another moment of hesitation, a second where his entire body begs him to run from the humiliation and guilt. But quiet sniffles and a calloused hand gravity him back to earth. He tilts his head up to see flecks of tears gathering in starry eyes, falling like raindrops on raw skin cheeks. There's no delay as his own unsteady hands wipe them away. He doesn't know what to do but he's trying so hard.

There’s nothing left for him to say, not when the truth still taints the once antiseptic air. He can't apologize, not because he isn't sorry. Rather, he knows regret and remorse can't mend the damage. It would just be wasted efforts, meaningless to children like them. Too many patronizing adults and broken promises.

Without his words, Yoongi doesn't know how to fix it, he's just as tattered and damaged as the kid standing in front of him.

The boy he loves crumples with an anxious heat, shuddering out every ounce of suppressed pain that's accumulated over the years. Without words, he doesn't know what to do.

His life's work has been in word, inky lyrics flying off pages and into the ears of an audience. Nothing to lose, he fought tooth and nail for a job in the city, for a place to call home. He eventually found a home in her. Her delicate touch strumming chords or running polished nails through his hair. She didn't just contain him, she softened the jagged edges and listened when it counted. Nightmare babbles drunk confessions, and wanton whispers, all of it.

Running from them, meant standing still for her.

He even wrote a ballad for her, piano notes and young love buried deep in every stanza. A rich girl from Gangnam hung the galaxy with nylon guitar strings and stars twinkled in her brown eyes.

Then a phone call, a nurse’s mellifluous voice conveyed a sharp tongue message. His 5-month dream coming to an end. His boy in a hospital with broken legs and careless adults milling about. Running again, shame on him. He needed to be more, for her and for him. More successful, less wasted, and well put together in the head.

In the end, he sold songs as faster as he wrote them, feelings molding into passionate verses and sentimental bridges. Pushing everything out, letting the ambers consume him and him alone. He's not sure where she went, she took his lighter but nothing else. Not when his heart has always belonged to star-eyed boy from the slums of Busan.

The same boy with a shivering finger coaxing goosebumps on his crawling skin despite the sticky draft blowing in.

He thinks of their fight, the way Jungkook tried to hold him, tether him to reality. But it never works for someone like him, a flame that spreads until everything's blackened and scorched. Meanwhile, Jungkook and her, they melt into warm steam. A car engine combusting and imploding, a sandcastle caving in. The boy's like a star flickering out of existence, wondering if he'll even be missed.

Sand in a sieve, slipping away as he tries to piece himself together. But that's ok, Yoongi wants to say, it's ok to fall apart like deadened leaves because he's here now.

fix it

Yoongi wraps his arms around a tremoring skeleton, no words but motions. Waves of warm caresses sliding up and down the small of the younger's back. He pulls the bruised face to rest on the jut of his collarbone and Jungkook inhales sugared candy and ballpoint ink on paper.

The wet droplets dampen his shirt and sizzle in anguish, but he can't bring himself to care. There's just him and his brother and too much bleach in a dirty apartment. He knows that the younger is talking, chatting with a rapid tongue of incoherence. Gasping breath and warped syllables are flying out, muffled by his cotton fibers of the elder's worn-out shirt.

His boy is too far away to hear what Yoongi could possibly say. So, he hums instead, slow and low. A piano melody of a lazy Monday field trip. Happiness ascending with each staff and treble clef. A lite up a room and baby grand begging to be played, wanting to feel their contentment. 2 brothers lost in Seoul, but finding a home in a song messily scrawled on the back of a math test.

The once bouncing tune is choppy and sagging with sorrow. Somehow it fits, it wards off the gagging aroma of acrid disinfectant and awful misery they've inflicted. It dries up the tears, puts the hate on pause.

It's not meant to heal, it there to understand.

They start to undulate like white frothed waves rebounding off rocks, tides pushing and pulling, opposites attracting. This isn't what they want it but it what they need. Sobs lessen to sharp gasps as the harmony fades and the spell breaks. Still swaying, Yoongi feels a heartbeat drum to the rhythm, slow and steady.

            "There's nothing left," Jungkook confesses into the crook of his neck.

The once screaming voice is gruff and hoarse but even more desperate.

fix it now

            "That's ok Jungukkie. Hyung is here now, so don't you worry."

Chapter Text

The sunlight streaks in mercilessly and his eyes squint at its ravishing white light. There's disorientation at first. Questions shuffle around his brains while his paralyzed limbs regain sensation.

His left hand, he's keen to realize, is swallowed whole by another. A coarse and calloused palm encases his sweaty skin, a pulse flutters under his thumb. Twitching movements slithering through his veins as he attempts to extract the moonbeam pale fingers laced into his.
His shoulder seizes with tingling pricks when he tries to move. It's been clumsily stretched over in a dire reach for the stranger's appendage.

He's usually already out by now, first shift in a junkyard clean up beginning at sunrise when the atmosphere's still spiked with lust and liquor. God and his own shadow are privileged to witness to the sleazy businessmen slinking out the back door with the washed-out colors of an oil pastel dawn burnishing on rumpled coats.

Sometimes he thinks about sitting on the creaky steps and painting out the scene with coffee thawing powdered paint. A brush sitting loose in his grasp instead of cardboard rolled tobacco, the brisk air squeezing his soul as daybreak is immortalized on polyester canvas.

But the bills he thinks as too much light casts dancing shadows in his house, a ritual he's never seen before. You always go to work

That is until he doesn't. Work at 5, home by 8:45, it constant and safe. A new routine for a new life. Jeon Jungkook, no one's little brother. And it works with staggering simplicity and efficiency. Blips and limps taking a grotesque form of abused prescriptions and late nights staring at the ceiling wishing it had an overhead fan. Cleanly cut regrets stain his past like the suspicious splotches on his floor. However, his shut-in style of livelihood, the way he rebuilt discarded shards into an artfully construed mosaic of self-destruction, he'll never be sure whether it was his saving grace or the ultimate catalyst for a slow demise.

But work, he always goes to work for no better reason than because it pays his bills. There are patterns akin to a repeated chord in his schedule, crescendos, and rising tides, his day literal goes from dirt adhered trash to mellow steam on the lips of tidy teacups. The final signature on the masterpiece of modern life, his silhouette ceiling shrouded by darkness.

Past tense crept upon his thoughts that swirled in the mid-morning breeze. His new life's work ruined by the warm touch of nail-bitten hands invading space and the sunlight gleaming on both their faces. He doesn't dare to turn his head, opting instead to stare intently at the chipping off-white paint. Wandering eyes memorize each crevice and crack, the dips of the texture.

A dry-humored bit of him recognizes that he's now jobless, save for maybe the role of a late-night barista. His talent and efforts were mediocre at best in a replaceable position, fish food in the grand scheme of things. A once impeccable attendance spiraled into 2 days gone and no phone to call. Half the information he put on his application was fabricated anyways, no one would hire him knowing the obscure priors he's collected. But he's got debts, lawyers' loans to repay and rent due. The swell of apprehensive anxiety, fear of being homeless again, it makes his hold on the hand just a tad tighter.

Anything and everything could be said but the teen remains wordless after hearing his name called. Yoongi's voice is lower and rough from sleep, the confusion slips into the tone as well. He could feign slumber but his eyes refuse to shut and simply focuses on the creamy yellow undertone of streaky varnish. He's not exactly surprised that the older stayed the night, just overwhelmed.
"Hey, Yoongi-ssi."
A moment passes, then another.
            "C'mon kid, let's get coffee."

He's detached and boneless as he's pulled upwards. There are thousands of indulgent excuses for him to use to shift out the faux cycle of familiarity. The blindingly obvious one being job hunting, yet he makes no move to protest as he's dragged out the door. They never let go of each other, not even when bystanders raise judgemental brows or logic dictates separation. Jungkook shrinks under the pressure of the world's thunderous attitude, nearly begging to rewind the clock just he could die on the rain-stricken pavement alone.

But he doesn't beg or plead, no reaching for pills or crying in a corner because the world is just to damn big and it's diminished him something too damn small. There's is no routine for these uncharted waters because he's never stopped on the steps to draw pictures.

Yoongi's physical presence is his prize for being brave, guiding him through the behemoth sea of people, a pinky promise that he's won't drown in the tides.

They walk for a while, weaving through busier areas with his chest compressed into the small of the elder's back. He breathes mint shampoo and the acquired musk from his own apartment. It's actually Jungkook who find a popup stand with a cheap menu and empty chairs.

It's in a park only a few miles away from his complex. He had taken a bus there occasionally, originally found it with Jimin years ago. Older couples coo at each other as they walk alongside, children run free under the watchful eye of parents. The two younger teens used to sit on plastic seats, watching a snowglobe scene from the inside. The orange hair dye reflecting sunlight to create a halo around his apple cheeks and smiling eyes. There was doubtless contentment in those days, peace soothed the past and replaced it with hope.

Then it became a hangout spot for all of them, a meeting place in the tree-topped woods. Empty fields and overgrown grass carpeting their harmonious oasis, a safe haven away from the atrocities of the world. Jin would climb to the top of the ditch with a shaky camcorder as they infused themselves with the sunshine and colors. Maybe it was a phantasm of a good time, a coverup for the dark truth of unhappiness that laid waste in real life.
Nevermind that Tae was abused, Jimin was dying or Hobi did drugs. Disregard that Yoongi was an arsonist, Namjoon was poor and Jin left them all.

Forgot it all because there used to be a single box spring bed, bleached by the sun and always warm. Each person in turn, sought refuge and sleep for the weary in the confines of the abandoned. And then all was said and done, the metal box car frosted over and the light of Joonie's shack stayed dark, Jungkook couldn't leave it stranded in the winter torrents.

Nevermind all the pain that shot up his foot when staggered back the 2 miles, there would be no more rejecting good things.

Excluding the hidden ditch with wildflowers and milkweed, the main area of the park was clean cut paths and exotic plants for the green thumb enthusiasts to admire.
Their coffee is fixed relatively quickly, 2 blacks no cream or sugar. The hard part comes next. They sit face to face wordless, unsure of what to do next. Hard topics and unanswered questions come to Jungkook's mind but there's something unbearable about bringing up the complex wonders. Their hands are still locked together for silent reassurance but it's not enough.
2 years have passed and it's like looking at a stranger.

He's not used to the hard set jawline opposed to the soft puffed cheeks. His hair is a cynical black and missing the usual glossy shine. Even his eyes look damaged and sullen, the exhaustion taking hold of his irises and shading it a whiter hue.

It's not his hyung anymore but he's done morning the loss.
"What do you do for a living?"
Yoongi's eyes flicker up with an uncertain twinge floating around but he answers nonetheless.
            "I produce music and write songs sometimes." He stares at the finished swoops of the barista's handwriting for a second longer. "I live with Joonie-ah and hyung."
Jungkook takes a sip and processes the information as the bitter liquid blisters his throat. He still smiles despite the hurt, pleased they all found their way back.
The winter triangle

            "Do you talk to the others? Hoseok or Jimin?" Yoongi interrupts his thoughts softly, the mild reluctance poking into his voice and hiding deep behind the word.

The liquid splashes a bit when Jungkook free hand lands the cardboard cup down wrong. Neither makes a move to clean it up, just staring at the mess as it dribbles its way into the decaying wood.
            "I know they stayed somewhere in Seoul. I don't have a phone but I may still have their numbers written down somewhere."

Jungkook thinks of the shoebox riddled with skinny rubber bands straining to close Pandora's box; polaroids, and small victories ready to spill out the sides. It's tucked in a corner of his closet under a mountain of dark tees and faded jeans. He's sure the crisp folded page is still yellowing under scraps of useless sentiment. Collecting ashy dust and silk spiderwebs like a broken record on vinyl. He's been terrified of opening it, afraid of the memories that will pour out like exquisitely aged wine.
There's shame in his keepsakes, his own mistakes mixed in with the bitter remedy for nostalgia.

He could pinpoint the studio where Jimin and Hobi reside, the lemon polished glass mirrors and repetitions of intricate footwork molded on the oak floorboards. While he doesn't know much anymore, he remembers the falling out. The way autumn leaves fell when the school bell rang and the trees themselves had shriveled up dead by winter.

It started with his bones creaking as he pulled himself from the floor, blood drying to the gash on his cheek and bruises throbbing on his side. Automatic shuffle to the next home; people go, nothing new. He knew he could survive without them, without Yoongi. However, it was a matter of how badly he even wanted to go on.

As school dwindled down, they all vanished one by one until it was just him pretending he could afford lunch, sitting alone in an empty classroom. The vivid pigments of glossy academic posters eating him alive every single day.

The isolation held him tighter while he wrapped himself in eviction notices posted to Jin's door, biding the days and submerging deep into the eldest's sheets that only scarcely emanated the smell of cheap detergent and homecooked spices.

He showed up to Jimin's graduation, wheezing his way through cheering parents and begrudgingly proud siblings. A long processional heard from the tops of a sticky metal bleacher. The sun setting low by the time it was over swarms of people streaming through narrow gateways and embracing their children with pride.
He remembers the way his touch-starved nerves buzzed under his skin at the sight, selfishly longing for his eomma to come back and kiss his forehead one last time. He remembers how instead, he cupped Jimin's cheeks and told him how very happy he was for his hyung.

But he also remembers how the name tumbled off Jimin's lips and tears gathered in the corners of his trusting eyes when he requested,
            "Where's Hoseok-hyung?"
And he remembers how he didn't ask,
'Why am I not enough?'

But the number, Hobi-ssi departure from Jungkook boiled down to jealous envy and sickness. In all fairness, it was his fault. He kicked the dancers from his life because, at some point in space and time, Yoongi didn't come back. Their relationship seemingly ended with stale air holding its breath and ghosts of his past reminding him of all the similarities between then and now. Angry drunks pummeling him, people leaving and tears surging down like a fire and flood rolled into one. However, beyond that, there's aching bitterness that spins hurt into rage.

There was anger when the drug addict ball of sunshine came bursting through the masses with a blinding smile and track-marked arms holding flopped over tulips for the new graduate. He came back, Yoongi did not. The turbulent emotions and betray they all suffered through like a withdraw were cured through dancing and music. They skyrocketed into the stars and Jungkook remained grounded. Wasting away in school and slowly detaching himself from it all. Spending nights in at the train track. The house Jimin and Hobi were renting was too far from the school for him to stay. The distance between the poorhouses and their new lives grew until somewhere they turned into adults, no longer anyone's older brother.

The falling out started with shouting and ended with Jimin seizing on the floor. Eyes rolling back into his eyes, a choked gasp drawing out from his throat. Ignorance led him into bolting, terrified he somehow caused the tremors that rippled through his friend's muscle. He didn't know Jimin was sick, only thinking about the shiver stabbing his spine and the tunneled echoes of his sneakers kicking up pebbles as he sprinted away. 

Then Hobi found him at work one night, a week before the car accident. The shock was palpable in the air but muted by the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world in full swing. The world didn't just stop because the 7 of them were falling apart. It moved mercilessly, unrelentlessly spinning on a tilted axis despite the horror.
To his surprise, Hobi still waited in line to order, one caramel latte and one hot chocolate no whip.

Jungkook stalled for time, failing to address all the unspelt tension and apologies. He was too panicked to even ask if Jimin's even alive, petrified over the answer. Instead, he took in the small things, the tan flush coating Hoseok's skin and the smiling lines more raised on his face. The clear signs that he's thriving without them, living instead of just surviving. He doesn't need Jungkook, hell, he's flourishing beautifully without him.

The exchange sped up at the thought. He slipped the paper pulp coffee sleeves onto the cup before handing it into awaiting hands. A tight smile waned on his features and nodded silently.
However Hobi presses on, he scrounges for a pen before scribbling a telephone number on the back of a grocery list he procured from the depths of a pocket.

            "We're both sorry." He said. "Call if you need anything ok?"

He nodded because the customer's always right but still hid the note away before tendering to the next paying consumer. For the first time, he didn't feel like their equal. He felt dirty and gross and rotten because he knew he'd sleep under the stars that night, homeless, while they chase across the night sky like Halley's comet blazing through. Not everyone would know them, ever see them perform but they will not be forgotten by the lucky few.

And Jungkook, he doesn't quite know how to light up in a dark room. He's good at shrinking into backgrounds and blending into the shadows produced by golden moonbeams and colored sunshine. So he left the phone number stranded in the box sandwiched between the photos from the beach and the half-burnt newspaper clips saved from the smoldering embers of the campfire.

And Jungkook nearly tells Yoongi the drawn-out tale of it all. The abridged version of how he ruined the last connection to better days. But he doesn't. He takes another slip of now lukewarm coffee, only seconds ticking away in months worth of memories.

A small child giggles from somewhere far and the world never ceases to pass the time.
            "He and Jimin-ssi run a dance studio last I heard." He finishes and the other nods with sated curiosity.
            "And what about you, where did you go after high school?"
He thinks about the car and drugs and jobs. Close encounters with cops and spending a dangerous few weeks withering away on the very park bench a few trails away.
And yet again he feels the semblance of self-disgust because he seems to be the only one who cracked under pressure. They arose as diamonds while he broke into charcoal crumbles.

He's not ready for disappointment on his hyung's already emaciated and weary face.
            "I took some jobs, got an apartment. I work in a coffee shop."
Yoongi doesn't look quite as happy, his smile is thin-lipped and doesn't reach his eyes. Instead, he takes a savors the dark favor of mediocre coffee and nods along for a moment.
            "And the drugs?"
            "I'm all out. You can check the apartment."
Another hum and they both take a drink.

            "You could come live with the three of us you know." Yoongi's eyes are clear but his voice is stuck between careful and pleading. "Joonie's in college now. And Jin, well you know he's based in Seoul. But I work from home a lot."
Jungkook's eyes narrow with caution and the dangers of those implications. Yoongi stutters out an apology ramble about the house for a while. His eyes dart from the pale pink peony buds to the bouncing group of friends now at the window to buy sugary ice blended concoctions.
            "What I mean is, you don't have to be alone Junggukie."
There's conviction and earnestness cling to the scratchy drawl of Yoongi's voice. The message wraps his brain in a cotton swaddle as he processes the words. He feels exposed by the sentiment, like the scar is bursting raw and red all over
The strength of the elder's stare forces his own pupils to dilate and open like he's letting Yoongi peer into his soul. It's jarring but he never breaks away until slowly the pressure melts into the floral-scented air.

He downs the rest of the cold liquid, sludgy aftermath and all before he even tries to think. Yoongi's still fidgeting in his seat, impatient for a reaction but he can't bring himself to talk.

He doesn't want to be alone, but maybe that's where he belongs. He thinks about Hobi's optimistic warmth curling into his icy cold hand when he pressed the paper into him. The way Jimin crashed onto the floor mid-scream all those years ago. The stars, Winter Tringle, the three eldest making something out of nothing far away from the dilapidated streets.

He tries not to think about his youngest hyung, the venomous animosity that saturated Tae's eyes when they last met. He's not ready for anyone to see how far he's fallen without them, maybe not even ready trust them.
Forgiveness comes easier than trust. She taught him that. One of many nights in the hospital, bodies entwined in the bedsheets, late-night talks coiled in the comforts of each other.
It was never about clemency or revenge. It was closure, stitches for the wound instead of growing the skin back piece by piece by like he did.

it was in healing where he grew contempt for himself and the memories repressed on his mind. He wants it to not hurt anymore, want to prove that he didn't need them either.
            "Don't apologize for leaving Yoongi-ssi, don't patronize me." He coughs it out with strangled heaps. "It's fine, I don't care. You didn't need me and that's ok."
Ths world doesn't need me He doesn't say.

But with eyes blown that wide, Yoongi can see it written all over his face. At first, he straightens with seeming approval. Then he empties the cup with a single swallow.
            "I nearly set myself on fire after I left you. I hit you and left when I should have stayed." There's the same tone of strong will binding every sentence but it's backed by sorrow and pain too. There are tears in his eyes that wash out the dullness to replace it with an anguished glow. "I'm so sorry Jungkook. You're worth more than that"
He squeezes his hand under the table, nearly having forgotten they're still fused together, and only lets a few tears plink onto the plastic lid.

He's still trying not to reject good things, But he's not sure whether the rule applies to himself, not sure if he's a good thing. 

Chapter Text

Jungkook remembers his eonmma the same way the moonlit sky recalls its constellations. Never in while the sunshine chases away shadows, and only through distant stories passed through time.

There are a few pictures of her. Her bashful smile stays flush and smooth between two ratty textbooks in his loft. Radiant polaroid colors protected from prying eyes and the bleaching sunlight. Its too precious for the wear and tear of the world, too much haunting love in her eyes for his sensitive palette.

In his mind, he can recall a smudgy image of long silk tresses of hair braided into threads of onyx and obsidian. Melancholy contrast of brittle porcelain pallor and luscious locks of ebony hair that fell just passed her heart. Long callouses running along a razor edge of her fingertips, a modest indication of her days as a violinist. 

Small things, big things, everything and nothing. She’s always there when he doesn’t need her presence skimming the rippling puddles of tranquil thoughts.

Back in a teenager swing of glory days, they’d voyage streets stalls of grease-sodden vendors selling cheap food and handmade goods. Happiness weaving its way into every golden fiber of his being, he’d exude happiness as if he was born to do so. And it’d stay like that as the sun lapsed down to level off the peak of passionate emotions, evening wind curbing the heat of intensity into rich remanences.

But sometimes, it’d flicker off instantaneously. A cart of sickly sweet blossoms fanned flowery aromata that mixed with street sweat, for example, would remind him of the perfume of her skin, a mother’s touch. And then it was suddenly worthless, all the bright glory of life and love became an obsolete treasure because she wasn’t there to enjoy it too. A halting reminder that he’d go to someone else’s home at the end of their afternoon parade.

His first good thing was her and still, she slipped through his fingers like water. He doesn’t remember much, certainly doesn’t remember her death.

Min Hye-mi, however, can’t erase it from her mind. She’ll always see Jungkook as the small boy with tear tracked face and snot running onto her blouse under the abusive fluorescents that highlighted the utter despair of his chubby cheeks. The social worker was there for the aftermath, the dusty ruins of a hollowed shell.

She wasn’t privy to the moments of destructions, only used to rebuild the pieces. She doesn’t know the fairytales passed from delirious lips to awaiting ears. Jungkook’s eonmma centered in the maze of tubes and wires pumping life into a sapped husk of former splendor. Her fingers ran through a mess of soft black hair, his whole body leaning deep into her touch. Eyes closed as her words morphed pictures of his absent appa in his head.

In his mother’s star glazed perception, he was always someone else, something sweeter than the truth. Sometimes he was a proud and honorable soldier who went to war and never came back. Other times he was portrayed as a star-crossed lover who chose his duty to his family name over sultry desire. Only once was he described in detail, her very last fabricated lie. Her raspy breaths of a withering heart only slowed as her woven tales unraveled the heartbreak she had carried around since her belly was once swollen with life.

Had he been older, he might have seen it. The twisted torment that dripped from her thin face that betrayed the demonstrative luminosity glowing for his final salvation. Altering the tale of her withheld monstrosity wasn’t an easy feat for a dying woman, but still, Jungkook nuzzled her hand and begged for more.

She knew he deserved the truth, even if it was a glorified version drenched with her own memory of love should have been. And she tried, led him by the hand through her roaring childhood, brought him back to a golden age of the vortices of teenage romance. 

            "He had slicked-back hair and a golden tan, like a movie star really. His voice was gentle and kind, Gukkie, he had such a way with words."

But then the pain trickled back to her marrow, a gasping chokehold compared to Jungkook’s effusive grip at her waist.

His hummingbird heart drumming against her, faster and frantic and, more importantly, still alive compared to her.

            “He’s not coming back baby, ok? They don’t come back." A breathless chant, a parting comfort for them both, only her voice grew violent with each rendition.

The milky whites of her eyes grew bloodshot and wilted as she drifted from reality. Somewhere her screaming ended and his started, but it was too loud to tell. Nurses and doctors prying off his soft skin hands as machines howled, and electricity crackled in the room.

Her shrieks did stop but he didn't, not until a social worker sat on the floor and curled his body into hers.  Supple raven hair once drawn taut in a bun, now mangled by his 4-year old finger clawing at everything, trying to somehow turn back time. Long strands smelling like jasmine and honeysuckle lulled him into a final state of enervation. Grief shuddering out of his body in wails and mourning. His voice ripped raw and all he could think about how his appa might sound. How he might barrel through the double doors and scoop him up with a tender voice to soothe the ache.

Neither parent came, however, and somehow that makes the yearly mourning all the more blistering.

 But the present, a garden of florets and bittersweet mocha, he thinks of her. Too many years later, he sees her in the gloss echoes of Yoongi’s eyes. He squints at the portrait of familiar contrast, noting even the droplets of unshed tear that wobbles unsteadily on spindly black lashes.

Maybe he did see the anguish bristled in the swallowing depths of her. Perhaps he’s been mistaking her stories for dreams instead of what they truly were; nightmares, abandonment.

It’s now that he sees what she had been trying to do, the invaluable lessons she bequeathed on him in dangling moments between life and death, warning him not to make the same mistakes. It was never twinging affliction clouding rust specked eyes

No, it was fear, heartrending fear for him and what the merciless world’s done to him, how it would inevitably mutilate his childhood into a snarl of cynicism and ache.

She felt the weight of the harrowing concern the second his squirming body was placed in her awaiting arms, the feeling growing like suctioned ivy burrowing innocuously onto a cold stone wall. It warmed over her own icy reserve, soft waters glittering with golden sunshine.

A jaundiced preborn boy still wet with slime and afterbirth but breathtaking in her 20-year-old eyes. Quiet, even as a child, yawning through a faltering attempt at inflating paper lungs with salt tarnished air. The millisecond when her own heart stumbled through the beat, the crippling fear that her baby had died.

But then a feeble whimper escaped her. The mess of it all was still tacky and caked on her thighs, muscles contracting with muted spasms and tears threatened overflow on her lashes. Damp eyes locked on the small lump passed between doctors to nurses and then into her hands.

She didn’t even know she was crying out, begging to hold him. Alive or not, he would always be hers. Born from her womb and to-be raised by only her touch. And despite her youth, her own misgivings and the lack of fatherly care, it was the only truth she knew at the time. Disowned by her parents but never alone, not anymore; the only truth that matters.

Her skin to his and worried faces circled around the bed, but she only saw him. Long lashes and a button nose, he looked so much like his father but for the first time in months, the forsaker’s name eluded her.  Motherhood looked good on her, it lite up the unusual pale flesh, put life in fatigued bones. The abundance of life transferred onto him it seemed. A hacking cough, spittle trickled down her collarbone, and then a pouting whine to follow.

More tears rained down, washed away the blood and after birth. The terror alleviated but not forgotten. Always veiled as a sharp pang of dread lurking the mucks of her mind.

And then Yoongi, his friend, a stranger it seems. But the concern; impenitent in the quiver of his lip, and expressive in swirls of sympathy mixing like tinted colors of fresh paint. Acting like Jungkook was knocking on Death’s door, like society destroyed him when the elder was absent

But maybe, just maybe, he has a point

            “Jungkook?” Yoongi calls with nervous apprehension but it's far away, a fluctuating sound failing to reach underwater ears. “Say, something kid.”

He thinks of good things; sweet pretty lies she’d whisper, his hyungs’ tender smiles and maybe, just maybe himself.

He cocks his head to the side in deep contemplation, dull brown strands brush against the old scar on his cheekbone. Blood turning to molten lead, straining to accelerate through too small veins, too much effort to do anything else but stare and think.

They don’t come back. He thought with obstinate denials, like a devote hymn, salvation for a decade-old wound.

Someone’s lying to him, there’s always a catch, but he can’t quite place it. Instead, he’s taken to search tawny colored orbs keening with attention and candid concern. He’s so certain of the betrayal lurking in the caverns of genuine hope, teetering on the edge of coveted dreams that tease within his longing grasp.

Because his appa didn’t come back for his supposed lover and Hobi’s eonmma left him too. They didn’t come back, but they should have.

But not for someone like him, not when better people, more deserving people have lost more than he has. Good things, fake love, and pretty immortal eyes buried under a mountain of other tender remembrances; they all weight heavy on him.  

He’s been looking for love in all the wrong places. Searching the vastness of scrapbook thoughts and what-ifs. His veins flood with venomous irritation for his own foolishness, making the same mistakes as his eonmma. Mile a minute, racing deliberations of what it all means, why it has to be like this.

He’s been looking for love in hyung’s tacit approval when maybe…he should have been looking from within.

Meanwhile, his hyung talks some more, just babbling at this point. His face’s screwing in a half-cocked panic over Jungkook’s catatonic state. The shadows having moved so there’s a long monster pinned to each of them; maimed charcoal figures growing longer and longer as the hours passed. 

He talks about them, all the things they’ve done since finding their way back together. Stars converging at just the right point, a supernova of their own kind, a quiet explosion. When he speaks, his whole demeanor lights up with a fondness.

            Happiness Jungkook concludes as he studies How?

It’s a field study, a science fair experiment, watching a star up close and personal. Watching fluid movements of soft pale hands animate anecdotes. It's magnificent, stunning and painful to have him so close and yet so far away. A million miles north of where Jungkook is but his dead hand remains enveloped in the elder’s warmth.

But it's numbing. The dullness of capitulate fades away as seeming reality floods thin veins, dilating them to a throbbing pulse.

His hand slips off, a block of melting ice softening to become pliant and malleable to the world. Cooling coffee, fresh blossoms, and acquiescence relax muscles and will.

            “I was in a pretty bad car accident. That’s…that’s how I got the drugs. I ran away from my foster parents a month after I got better.” It’s important, for some reason. “I made Hoseok-ssi and Jimin-ssi mad too, that’s why I don’t talk to them. They’re both doing so good together though. They own a dance studio somewhere east of Seoul, too far for me though.”   

It’s imperative that the air doesn’t suffocate his lungs anymore. Proof that the world didn’t kill him off, the actions aren’t as shameful as they feel. He’s older now, doesn’t need a mother’s touch to survive, doesn’t need approval from anyone else.  

His verities, they hang in the air, no sugar coating to sweeten the bitter medicine. But maybe it’s better this way, the hurt doesn’t cling to him so tightly. Instead, it dispels into the air, it floats over to a stranger, an old friend who’s grown strong enough to hold him for a change.

Yoongi stares at the empty cup with a wistful silence that trails behind the confession.

            “I know. I got a call from the hospital. I saw you there, half-dead and all banged up. They said you may not ever walk again I didn’t know….”

He looks up, a passive resign just submitting his features into a relaxed state; utter sorrow.

            “Gukkie…you had to know…I just…you deserved more than I could have given you, than any of us could have given you.” He’s begging, pleading but not reaching out to take the younger’s hand back. “You need to know that kid, we wanted more for you. Your hyungs would have hung the stars for you but we just couldn’t.”

This time Jungkook reaches out, unafraid with dry cheeks. There a stuttering pulse throbbing and the image of perfection is shattered. Yet it’s a comfort, it shakes the ripples of tension from his bones.

It shows him that maybe they've all been where he is now, but if they got better so can he. It was proof that they’re both still standing, still alive in a vibrant city and that could be enough for now.

Chapter Text

It’s a real house with 4 walls and working a tap that doesn’t drip. Long slats of scuffled wood and a bed of lopsided roses in the sandy dirt. The younger’s taking in the scene with meticulous eyes, watching even the overgrown grass with unease. He looks as if he wants to crawl out of his taunt pulled skin and bury himself among the ragworts and kitten tails that grow freely.

Yoongi wants to say something, give him a soft-spoken way to weasel out, yet he knows they both need this. So, he keeps a tight lip and rubs circles in the younger’s neck with his thumb. An unyielding nudge forward through the threshold. There would be a time for tears, for anger and longs nights of comfort. But at the house with evening wind ruffling hair and rising goosebumps of fear, it was the time for courage.

Except with the critical furrow of brows, Yoongi can’t see where Jungkook's despair starts, and the determination ends. And there's so so much doubt weighing down on his thin boned chest and he so very lost.

            “Look, Jin and Joonie will be fine with it ok?”

            “Mkay,” Jungkook says as he pauses in the hallway, breath bating and a white-knuckle grip on the walls.

            “And you can stay for as long as you want…”

            “Thank you.”

Yoongi waits for anger, sadness, something from the younger who simply sways like an overgrown widow’s weeds amidst the lawn. Dead eyes focus on a patchworked couch, a hodge-podge of repairs courtesy of Jin’s needle and Namjoon’s old t-shirts. His mouth opens a few times to speak, to try and coax more of an explanation from the other.

But he knows the latter needs a minute to adjust to the solid floors and the clean air of outer Seoul. His stargazed boy peers inside the cookie-cutter house like it’s a distant world; like it’s been eons since after school meetups and since they were their own hybrid bred of ‘home’.

The house itself is suffocated in a monstrous dog-pile of identical structures, a long chain of shelters that seems to extend on a narrow ally until somewhere you hit Busan shores that sit so far away. Still, he looks at the bland house and lived in furniture and the books collecting dust, acting as if Yoongi is offering the star-soaked galaxy and beyond. And in some ways, he is.

Meanwhile, Yoongi’s breath withholds exhale until he sees a bunny smile grace once lifeless features. Even though there's a subpar-paint-job that chips to reveal the old wallpaper, and the reedy patch of the yard is bald in too many places. And it’s smaller than small, not nearly sterile as Jungkook’s old apartment and sometimes the neighbor’s mangy dog barks too loud and-

And despite it all, there’s a smile, hopeful and pure and happy.

            “Home?” Jungkook repeats as his moon-white teeth lurching on hesitance and very careful distress.

            “Yeah, we’re home.” Winded in pitch but certain, stable even.

The tension break with a shiny little giggle that escapes Jungkook in a breathless sigh as he runs his bony fingers on everything, feeling home, breathing in the scent to store away for later. He infects the house with his presence, lets his laughter saturate the walls as the heaviness rises into the ceiling. Even Yoongi’s glass shattering, a cat-like hack of a laugh makes an appearance.

In their rattling cage of ribs, hearts glow with exhilarating warmth when he lets the bliss rush through him, intoxicate him without repercussion. All the jagged edges fit together when his dizzy mind pieces them together and Jungkook thinks

Maybe, it’s ok…maybe I’m ok

And the quiet part of him, fearful and sad in a corner, knows he’s just riding a new kind of high. The blast of earnest newness wears off as daybreak nips at his eyes but he’s sitting on Yoongi’s bed telling him about the small bit of his life, the life he built.

The coffee shop and the stray dogs that sometimes follow him home. His coworker that will share a joint on the first Monday after an especially good payday. No one can be unhappy all the time, there were good moments. The time someone bought him coffee, the one instance when he helped an old woman load her car with grocery and earned a crooked beam in return.

He reserves the girl, keeps her close to his chest even after reconciliation. He hopes she got better, maybe that big American hospital in New York did cure her after all. But maybe not, maybe her swollen heart exploded in her chest, too full of cheer and love. He always thought she was too kind, but that was never a saving grace as she claimed. He was rough and tired and old and knew too much, even back then when gauze wrapped his ankle and pins lined his back like a ragdoll ready to be resewn.

Back when the nurse’s eyes shifted away from his, guilt and pity unable to meet drugged up and lost.

            “No,” She said, “But look, we can try calling the number again and your new foster mom is here anyway.”

Back when he felt the ache brought on by a white lighter dangling from another pretty girl’s guitar and he shivered up like burning paper. Meanwhile, she took his hand and an earbud. Pale hands inching the volume up before carding through dead brittle shocks of thinning black.

            “No,” She said, “Don’t think about him, he’s fighting his own battle too and in time he’ll be back.”

Back then when his pocket heaved with discharge papers and unopened bottles, pills clinking with each enthusiastic step, the limp barely noticeable in every determined stride.

            “No,” He said to the fresh sheets and dying flowers that drooped in his hand. This time there wasn’t an afterthought, just devastation and so much disappointing.

Because he knew she wasn’t going to stay but still…hope and optimism and stolen daisy and drugs and-

And so, he kept her in his own heart. A heart too small to endure sporadic and violent beats but big enough to hold her. Because telling Yoongi would mean it’s a loss, there’s grief tinging each word that’s sticks in his throat.

He says nothing, and the warmth stays even when his head hit a pillow, a real pillow this time. He has blankets that reach his nose and don’t smell smoke. Yoongi slides in next to him and they stare for just a while. The whole world's asleep, just the two of them now. But it’s light and clean and bright. There’s happiness flooding every bit of his being. He wants to be like this forever. Wants to be a better person, wants to be someone new and golden and pretty.

Just like Jimin used to say…

“You already are Jungukkie.” Yoongi says with a sleepy frown, a slight ‘tsk’ making its way through the obvious concern. “You’re golden, you just need to see it.”

And Jungkook tries so hard to believe him. He hurtles his body into the chest of the older and throws his soul into trying to trust the gentle words. Yoongi chuckles, a rumbling of cosmic dust stirring to make zodiacal lights and presses a sleepy kiss to the shell of his left ear.

            “Go to sleep.”

And he listens with a faint nod of acknowledgment. Dreams of golden shimmers and spotlights of gegenschein and twinkling stars in the sky. 7 of them this time, not just 6.

He there too, just barely, but still alive in the infinite vast night sky and it’s brilliant and perfect…but it’s not real.

And his first love is probably buried 6ft under with a cold gravestone. And it won’t last, it never does. And the Pleiades has 7 stars, yes, but no one ever sees the 7th, no matter how hard they may try.

And he finally understands what Jimin meant all those years ago, it feels like eternities.

In reality, it was maybe about 4 years, back when the world was just sweeping dust around a punch bowl universe.

Jimin would pull a 14-year old kid into his room and showed him the stars. Two bodies laid out on a cobalt blue quilt, left hands intertwined and matching grins.

A drooping poster thumbtacked to the ceiling, a faux blanket of the printed constellation and a teenage tour guide leading Jungkook through space. Voice seeping with huffed confidence and pride, knowledge passing on like a family secret.

Like we’re brothers…

The sheet of meandering lines and midnight blue granulating with amethyst purple. Not a speck of black in sight, just more dark hues and candy-colored tints.

            “See that one Kookie, it's easy. Big Dipper, Little Dipper.” A stretched hand reached above, straining to point out the connecting dots. “Ooh and that one, the Pleiades, 7 sisters.”

Jungkook hummed along, eyes closing around the sweet sound of the elder’s voice just gushing with excitement. Their flimsy backpacks remain untouched by the doorframe, half-finished homework spilling out and eraser shaving trail to marker stained fingertips.

An especially grass green finger glides in the air, tracing out the path of Leo. It looks like a garbled image of what may be a lion, but it doesn’t matter because Jimin’s eye crinkles and he sounds like honey compared to angry beer sticky breath awaiting him at his foster home.

It was still a high school world of report card problems and school bell trills. Jungkook always liked Jimin, clung to him like wet paper. An adoration for the boy, fascination for vicarious living.

Maybe the dancer knew, maybe he didn’t. But still, it was the toothy smile and radiant body heat making the younger orbit into his atmosphere. Jimin let feel him firsthand what normalcy was. A house, 2 parents, a dog, and a stove. It was beautiful in Jungkook’s eyes, from the mismatched dishes down to the bleach stain on the carpet.
And maybe it was wrong, selfish really, but Jungkook sometimes hated him for it.

And it went on, at least once a week, sometimes twice. Jungkook got a taste of a home-cooked dinner before walking away lighter, but never empty.

Only this time was special. It was a few months before the fallout, the summer before Jimin and Taehyung’s last year.

They would lay out on dusty rooftops, sipping lukewarm banana milk and listen to the crickets' chirp. The air would be humid with summer monsoon steam, but the company was almost always in good taste.

            “The Pleiades, they’re right over there. See? No one ever sees the 7th one though, it’s too far away ya know?” He said one night, the smog and ash and bustle of Seoul left the world veiled under a curtain of grey, all except the brightest cluster.

            “Why.” Nose crinkled at the name that sits foreign and heavy on his tongue.

            “Bah kid, where’s the respect?” Eyes rolled as Jimin teased but still he complied, he always did.

            “They say that they were the daughters of Greek titan Atlas and Pleione, a sea nymph I think.” He paused, squinted at the lights once more. “I don’t remember their name but according to the Greeks, they killed themselves in grief over the loss of loved ones. Zeus hung them in the stars afterward.”

The morbidity stills the air and the story’s just a bit too close to home, too similar to his own thoughts.

            “There’s another legend that said it used to be one giant star before Polynesian god Tane shattered it into pieces.”

They soaked up the silence after that, a moment to mourn the loss of nothing. Hearts banged against paper skin and rocks pierced indent into boneless limbs.

            “Merope.” He said to break the tension spell. “You don’t see her, the 7th star. She’s gone.”

And maybe it was the sudden and unfriendly wind that violently churned the kimchi that sat in his stomach or it was the sadness in the other’s voice. But nonetheless, Jungkook was damn near terrified to ask,

            “Why not hyung?”

            “…She married a mortal and faded away.”

Faded like names of every person that never came through for Jungkook. Faded like the girl in the park who kissed him through vodka burnt teeth and faded like the black and blue handprints that had been left by his foster father the night before.

Jungkook, Jimin, and Merope; they all fade at some point.

And while they didn't know of it, but that day a comet flew right above them. Somewhere in Europe or the Americas, even right in Seoul, people waited with high hopes and awaiting breath for it to burn a hole in the darkness. The brightest comet to ever touch the sky, brighter than the moon they said. 

And the boys had a front view seat to watch the sky explode…only it didn’t. It disintegrated as the sun melted dreams to a fine powder. The comet of the century,  Comet ISON, the comet that never was.

The two stayed quiet, thoughts stewing away as just a threaded flash of color dared streaked by, a broken scrap of what could have been.  A lackadaisical excuse of what should have been and Jimin follows suit with an indifferent demand.

            “Make a wish Jungukkie.” He muttered halfheartedly, the sarcasm biting every syllable.

Jungkook scowled but didn’t answer, his muscles twitched in stuttered attempt to find a cigarette.

What could possibly be so terrible about your life? He didn’t say, he’s still too young yet so old.

They stayed quiet once again and the droplets of perspiration clung got their shirts and wormed its way into clammy discomfort.

            “Hey, Jungkook?” “Yeah?” “Did I ever tell you about the 52hz whale?”

He racked his irritated mind before answering, a cotton head buzzed with the question.

Why are you complaining when you have everything?

            “No Hyung.”

            “There a whale out there,” He said slowly like there was an epiphany to be had. Like there was some philosophical truth to be found in the depth of a silly story. “His…I dunno, pitch? Yeah, his pitch is higher than all the other whale. They can’t hear him. And he’s all alone.”

Softly Jimin decelerated to a whispered halt, thin brown eyes flecked with tears.

            “I think…I think I understand that whale ya know? Like sometimes I feel alone and like no one can hear me like…” he sighed and pressed a tear flecked cheek to the humid rubble. “You're probably too young to get what I mean huh?”

Why the hell do you get to think you’re alone? You know nothing about loneliness.

But he knew through his own red scratched annoyance that he was being unreasonable. He was 15 and scrappy but not stupid. He knows things aren't always pretty, no matter where you come from or where you go.

So instead of yelling, letting all his filthy injustice burn Jimin, he just took his hand. A livewire of a pulse electrified him when he squeezed it. His strength in the gesture, one-part fury, two parts comfort. 

“You have a family and a mom and a house.” He said softly, the anger melted into wistful choked words, “I’d give anything for that.”

Jimin didn’t say anything else, instead, he pressed his frostbitten nose into the flushed nap of his neck and whispered low.

            “’ M sorry Kookie, you’re right. It’s ok, you’re alright.”

And somewhere it morphed into a chant, honey-thick slow but not nearly as sweet. As the words washed over him, he didn’t feel better, only dead and sad. Only then did he realize how heavily he had been crying.

And maybe it was because maybe they are all like the 52hz whale. Destined to wander vainly in the vastness of the ocean, alone together and so very angry.

There are no more fairy tales, only reminders.

He wakes up in a cold sweat, the memory fresh in his mind and empty sheets twisting around his torso. Another upright gasp of clean air and then he’s slumping down, static thoughts and dreamless visions.

He stays in for at least a day. Sleeps off the remainder of the drugs and just enjoys the peace of home. But the serenity crumbles to stardust in place of the cold spot where Yoongi once slept.

By now it’s been 3, going on 4 days. He realizes this as he wanders the empty rooms. And somewhere between the 2 AM trips to the bathroom and his tomb of sheet music and bedsheets, he also knows he’s being unfair.

Holing out in Yoongi’s room, he waits in the darkness and too many thoughts. Though, even he’s not sure what he’s waiting for. But it’s dim and the portable fan that sits openly on the desk blows cool air onto his cloistering walls, entices him back into welcomed gloom.

He supposes, maybe, he should be out and about. If nothing else, at the very least, he should force himself into the kitchen while the sunbeams pour in like cream swirls diluting fresh coffee.

Join in, He rebukes for the billionth time, you want to get better right? Try. You have a house and your friends and you’re 19, you can go anywhere.

But then his back presses into the wall, a familiar routine from back at his old apartment, and he shivers with menacing anxiety. His spindly fingers pick at loose threads of the overlaying quilt. And he stays still for hours and hours and hours, not quite listening to his own words but not really caring either.

The determination is still there, barely. It hangs on like the fuzz lingering on the comforter, easy to flick off yet…

And then the clock tells him that somehow another 4 hours passed and Jungkook smells like yesterday and grief and burden. And he knows it’s stupid, but he tries to sink into the bed and vanish forever, unburden the shadows that dance under the door.

Maybe it would be better if I faded away too.

But then it scares him, the feelings and angst and ugly appeal of suicide. It just sounds like a foul word, even in his head, never testing the potency in the untainted air of home.

Instead, he shrinks even smaller and keeps the thought right next to her and his mother, a murky corner of his heart.

The clock chimes again and Jin sighs from the deep in the house, because yes, he can sometimes hear them talk, and he hates it most when they talk about him.

            “Does he eat?” Jin

            “I don’t know, maybe, yes?” Yoongi, frustrated, annoyed, worried

And it’s all your fault.

            “Maybe?” Namjoon, confused, baffled even.

Then a cabinet door slams and there’s ringing tension polluting the goodness that used to drip from a clean faucet.

You could be something more than this, but you just aren’t

            “I thought that at least, if he was here, then…I don’t know, he wouldn’t….”


            “Yeah Hyung. But maybe it's me or something. I mean he was in bad shape before but now… I don’t know if he’s gonna be better.”

Jungkook can smell their tears underneath all the layers of cologne and soap and 3-day old smells. And all the determination just seeps out, squashed by the darkness and too depressed to go on.

He thinks of Jimin and the whale and maybe, just maybe Jimin was trying too. Because here's  Jungkook is, a fresh start just waiting for him but he’s too petrified to move. But maybe it doesn’t matter anymore, nothing matters. A shiver licks every knob of his protruding spine as he crawls deeper and deeper into his self-made abyss.

The voices continue but he’s too craven to listen in, too gutless to live. And it's not good but then again, nothing seems to matter.

Namjoon finds him the next day, enviable really. He can only avoid the older boys for so long and Joonie had always been the most tactful out of all of them. A calm demeanor, forever wistful with kind eyes.

The bedroom door announces his arrival a little past 4 in the afternoon, a swerving creak and then silence. It's been 5 days and Jungkook hides under every scrap of everything, begging him to just go away and let him die a coward.

            “Hyung said you’ve been staying with us.” Casual and fake, they both know it. “I just thought maybe you’d want a proper tour.”

And Jungkook knows he means no offense, there a thin tightrope between healing and harm. It’s barbed wire and clouds twisting like steel and fairy floss. A kindness that’s struggling to steer a capsizing ship back to shore. And all it’s worth, he’s doing in a good job at coaxing his bestial form from its cave.

Because, truly, he feels a bit like an animal, corralled and caged, unpredictable even to himself. There’s that brokenness snaking back into his thoughts, he doesn’t feel right, hasn’t in a very long time.

Yet his mind functions with scalpel weld precision. He picks out the dips and folds of tension discreetly hidden in the silk fabric of the elder’s voice. The illusory detachment of panic; scooped out valleys and peak mountaintops of emotions. He’s by no means brilliant, not like the genius boy hovering a mere foot away from his shriveled form. However, he’s well reversed in the art of other’s pity.

‘A tour of the house’ He replays it over and over, echoes against the old sheets. You’re a visitor in another home.

Namjoon means no offense. And Jungkook isn’t even agitated or distraught by the word choice, he’s just quietly reminded. A gentle nudge to loosen the jumble of tucked away reminiscences that tumble free. The memories of every adult looking down with syrup laden eyes and those same words springing out to ambush him. All these repressed memories and thoughts just bounce around his muddled brain and suddenly he knows exactly what to say.

Because by age 7 he learned to say the same thing he repeats back to Namjoon at age 19, “Thank you but I won’t be here long.”

And usually, that works. A brazen first impression followed up by a standoffish demeanor as he’d haunt the walls of another’s home. The glossy sclera would flicker with furrowed surprise before slipping back into sugary pools of insincere niceties.

Jungkook knows he’s just lying in a pit of self-pity and week-old smells. Still jobless and about to be homeless when they throw him out. It’s a waiting game to see how long he can go before he eventually dissipates into bones and skin, a whispering vapor of what could have been.

Waiting for them to scurry back into the main room, quarantine him to his thoughts like he wants them to do. His brashness always has the desired effect of isolation and survival in the long game. Though he muses that maybe it’s all come full circle and he’s out of cards to play, out of people to push away.

He’d cash in the chips but if anything, he’s the one in the red. Waiting, waiting, waiting and yet-

A sigh, then a sloshing thud of a yarn muffled landing.

The surprise comes when the cold something rolls against him. It sends sea sprays of shudders against the concave of his stomach, the junction where his ribcage begins into knitting together. He makes no move to reveal himself, just pausing in darkness.

The bedding dips a bit and a hand pulls back the layers that keep all the dripping tar sick from touching the elder. A rising whimper pushes out from the back of Jungkook’s throat, the dusty fades of sunlight blind his pupils.

He knows how awful he must look, bloodshot eyes and rumpled clothes. He hasn’t showered in days, sleeping off the hangover he can’t seem to shake. Greasy hair tangled in the wrong places and the bed of his nails are raw and blood dried.

            “If you keep like this you will die.”

Good, fine, I don’t care He thinks with torrid acrimony, yet he thaws under Namjoon’s hand as it brushes through his dirty hair, unbothered by the squalid state.

            “I care if you die. Jin-hyung and Yoongi-hyung care. So, does Jimin-ah and Hobi-ah.”

I don’t care. I don’t care. I don-

“Tae would care too. Someone would find tell him when you die. Because you will die, and he will cry, and we will all regret not trying sooner.”

‘When I die’…

Years later, he’ll still be mulling over that moment, still grateful that he didn’t say ‘if’. Because, yes it matters to him. It’s a subtle confirmation of vicious intent brewing inside the tarnishing bones, a reminder that Namjoon understands the turmoil simmering. Their eyes still haven’t met, Jungkook’s gaze stays firmly rooted in pinstripes sheets. However, they both know he hit a sore spot. The mention of the youngest hyung makes the room drop a few thousand degrees.

He remembers his last meeting with Tae like a mouse recalling it was vivisection of his beating heart. He can’t just unlive it, it’s ingrained like the cigarette burns patterned on his back.

And while the two of them had always gotten along, they weren’t exceedingly closer as one would imagine. Both came from breaking home, the loud, flinching and angry kind. Jungkook, maybe, was the fortunate of the two, not that it was ever a competition. The ire rolled in like snarling riptides, a revolving door of people.

With every rendition, it was a new person and a new method. Blue eyes and a belt, jet black hair and a pension for living ashtrays. He was furious, yes, but each home never lasted.
However, with Tae, it was the same man every time. It was his own blood and bone that hurt him and his sister. The anger boiling well past its restraint, and someone paid the price, but in the end, it was Jungkook’s doing to make sure it wasn’t Taehyung.

But they were opposites in nature, the more important factor of their falling out. Jungkook was passive, Yoongi fought for him because he learned self-preservation, not self-love.

Inversely, Tae only knew hostility, it ran his blood. He was raised on the scalding white pain of a paddle and sneers of the yellowing teeth. Namjoon helped, he unwrapped the rage to reveal its true form; sadness.

But Jungkook was a caitiff because he took every ounce of pain he was given, sat through every beating like he earned it and scraped through the muck and tar to find comfort in it, an invisible silver lining of his own creation.

And soon he sought it out, fought back alley fights for money, half went to Jin for rent and half went to his own savings. It was always rigged however, he was lanky and built like a horse with spindly veins and bulging muscle. A fixed fight where he’d let someone rough him up, betting on his own losses really. And then every once and while play for keeps, the underdog move where he made bank and walked home scratch-free. He played a dirty game, profit from the pain with no moral backbone. Just street smarts and the policy of never ever looking back.

Meanwhile, Tae fought it, every time and all the time. He’d throw himself in front of his sister, absorbing all the animosity just to throw it back his father. Never backing down, never submitting to any of it. He knew his worth, and damn it, he was worth more than every blow.

Jungkook never understood that type of cope, didn’t understand how to love yourself and still accept every strike. He didn’t like to think about these things, too complex in his quiet opinion. He had Yoongi to rant and launch into a tirade, fight for him when he didn’t have the strength to do it himself. Not that he ever fully believed the words, but the nearly poetic insults eased the pain, showed that maybe someone cared even when he didn’t.

“Danm it Kookie, you shouldn’t just let them push you around like that ya hear? I’m sick of seeing you so banged up whenever that stupid excuse of a homeless drunk need to release the stress of his pitiful excuse of a life and another thing…”

And he still doesn’t get it, so but he likes to hear it. He’s just selfish like that he supposes as Namjoon continues to stroke stringy hairs with perfect metronome time.

            “C’mon.” He says before pulling at his bony body, limbs too cumbersome and uncoordinated, and makes him sit up.

There a plastic carton of banana milk sitting innocently by his hip, the bubble green words stare back.

            “You still like those right?” Joonie asks and Jungkook lets his head tip up and down soundlessly. His arms and hands are heavy and shaking but he picks up the drink nonetheless.

Namjoon’s pulling his sticky hands up and he’s on unsteady legs like a newborn fawn just awkward and insecure.

And just like Yoongi, the elder pushes him into the rooms, narrating every step and object.

            “Jungkook-ah, you act like you forgot how to walk.” He laughs with a force airiness.

Meanwhile, Jungkook feels like he’s forgotten how to breathe. The comfort of familiarity is sorely gone, and everything screams ‘NEW’ despite the worn-out state of the possessions.

But he follows, doe-eyed and like a child clinging on his milk. He feels young and maybe stupid but he’s too tired to care.

            “This is my room, I’ve got all my books and stuff scattered but…” He waves to the chaos of papers and pens and something that looks like it used to be a calculator in a past life that lays on his desk. “But you're welcome at any time, there're no locks on any doors so it’s not like I could stop you. Doesn't stop Jin-hyung anyways”

            “You go to school now?”

The tension drowns the room and a tight grip keeps Jungkook rooted to the itchy carpet under his feet. His voice is scratchy and hoarse, days of disuse and lack of water but there a swell of misery attached.

An ancient accident from the big bang when the world explored and Tane broke all the stars into fractured parts. Back when Merope loved a moral and paid the price.

He thinks about all the sentiments he felt in months past, because of Tae and money and it’s all Namjoon’s fault yet…

And yet the blame falls on Jungkook.

There was money, not enough to pay in full but Jungkook gave everything and then some. A lawyer got Taehyung off on the charges that spring day. Snow just starting to melt and die on the gravel streets of Seoul.

Somewhere, water seeped into a freshly dug grave but no flowers adore the shrine, not for abusive bastard 6ft under. But that’s beside the point.

The point is that 16-year-old Jungkook remembered the courthouse where he waited in the bitter cold of the early morning gale slapping his cheeks and the holes in his shoes drowning with slush. He was the only one there. And the building was a behemoth of a structure, ominous and towering over him and his anxious tapping.

Namjoon was already gone, left his slipshod home in favor of his blood family in the countryside. A coward…but no, not really either. He left to care for his impoverished family as the clock ticked down his timer on success. A failure in his family’s narrowing eyes, trudging back with a heavy heart and pockets stuffed with notes ready to be scattered in the wind.

A dastard in his own right, not quite leaving them, but not staying either. His presence followed them with steam drawn encouragement relaying back from somewhere else. Tae called him a coward a week after he left, stumbling into awaiting arms of Jungkook half drunk and fully pissed…but no, not really, just deeply, tragically and hopelessly sad. And the guilt starved off air in Jungkook’s lung because both his Hyungs were hurting while the box of won lay under his new foster enomma’s floorboards, unnoticed but very much there.

And maybe, perhaps in another world where Jungkook wasn’t so afraid, he would have given his older hyung the money. Only half a million wons stored for a rainy day but it would have allowed Namjoon to stay a little longer. The dimpled boy nearly begged them to help, pleading on his knees for something to send back home so he could stay.

But Jungkook was so very afraid and selfish and just shook his head no as his telltale heart burst. And 6 became 5 right until Tae stabbed his father and killed him. And then 5 became 1 as they scattered when the cops came snooping and the emotions finally got the best of everyone.

Except for Jungkook who sat in fear on a bench,

Because what if a cop finds me and just knows that I’m haven’t been with the Quang’s.

Unsurprisingly no one catches him. Tae however, dragged his protesting form to the brick wall outside and hung him by his already stretched out shirt collar. Feet dangle and the air forced out of his chest as Tae’s nose ran with the inklings of a cold.

            “How dare you?” he seethed and there’s unadulterated lividity burning in his hollow eyes. “You didn’t help Joonie, you lied about being some abused broke ass orphan when Joonie could have stayed!”

And there was a rant, spit froze on Jungkook’s face as his eyes scrunch with every awful truth. And there’s no Yoongi to defend him either, so he takes every verbal hit with a succumbing nod because he’s so sure that this is what he deserves in life.

            “If you ever come near me or my sister or my mom, ever again, I swear…” The threat is implied and Jungkook sees a coldness iced over usually fired eyes.

A deadness, loneliness waned over, not yet defrosted out. And it right then does Jungkook wonder if maybe he made the wrong choice. But it's too late for all of them, all in due time.

Jungkook crumpled when Tae finally let him go and ice fractals crunch under his boots.

            “I’m glad you used the money.” Joonie settles to say, his knowing eyes reading Jungkook’s self-depreciative thoughts. “I’m here now and Tae isn’t dead in a jail cell that that’s all that matters.

And part of Jungkook wonders how Joonie could possibly know the story, but then again, that’s a question for later. Because the squeal of anxiety still nips at his head and he’s still forced to play the game.

            “I need a job.”

            “Ok.” Careful, curious to see where this dead-end may lead. “You need a shower first, some food and a change of clothes.”

They’re still in the doorjamb of between organized chaos and the rest of the house, still undiscovered and frighteningly big in Jungkook’s eyes.

But Namjoon guides him to a small bathroom and shows him the tap, lend him a spare set of clothes. They both ignore that the shirt used to belong to Tae and the sweatpants look far too big.

Once the door shuts, he strips and his reflection catches in the mirror. His heart snaps at the skin covering each rib and there’s still a disgusting caked-on bit of puke from that night. He presses a finger in the space between his bones and it hurts more than he imagined.

There are still ugly scars on his knees and dots of blacked flesh on his back. He looks too big for his own body, just gangly and unproportioned. And suddenly he understands the hushed whisper that fell in the kitchen some nights. The rare moments when he could swear Jin would hover just above him before slinking away, leaving him wondering if he’s ever truly awake.

He looks like how he feels, and that when he knows its game over, no more hiding behind clouds or the looming safety of Yoongi.

The bathwater slides off black and brown and then red and then clear. He uses too much soap that smells like coconuts but it’s a pretty contrast to his usual scent of nothingness.

When he steps out, he looks even worse. Skin is gleaming with a heat splotch red, a translucent pale and just a dash of mustard yellow bruises he can’t remember getting.

And he sees the hopelessness just heaving down his eyes and he thinks, not for the first time,

I don’t think I want to be here.

Chapter Text



The pant, predictable, are too big. The frayed drawn string is knotted in too many places for it to be useful and hem pools at the floor, fabric stretching over his feet. The shirt drowns him at the neckline, but he tugs at the collar like it’s threating to tighten over his Adam’s apple.

He’s anxious

Namjoon does a once over and pretends not to see the way his dongsaengs shifts from foot to foot.

            “C’mere,” He says and beckons him over. “Imma roll up your pants.”

There’s something to be said about how the younger waddles over with a limp head pinned down so his chin lays on a jackrabbit thumping chest. Soft and compliant as he lets Namjoon do as he wants.

He rolls up the leg of the sweats twice before he deems it good. Still, the cloth drowns his figure despite the fact he’s nearly as tall as Namjoon now.

He still holds himself like a child, shoulders hunching inwards, and eyes cast down to the hairline cracks of the floor. He makes no effort to stop the elder’s hand that roam his sides and all around, calloused pads of his sensitive fingertips working their way up as he stands on cracking joints.

There’s lean muscles quivering under his touch, vibrations of tendrils of pent up everything impending implosion. Broad shoulders and a sharp jawline signs that his little Jungukkie, isn’t so little anymore.

But it’s not really news. Namjoon stands square with him and taps his chin so their eyes met with renewed ferocity.

His eyes, he thinks with a faint recall of his astronomy class last semester. It’s like a Crab Nebula.

Strange analogy but fitting he concludes as he compares the two images.

The Crab Nebula, fragments of a supernova, shards of the past but still swollen with promise. Older than time itself but still…it's there, bright and beautiful. Seemingly oceanic blue like the beach tide pools of Busan but blossomed in the center of dusty sand and licks of orange flames.  

And then, Jungkook’s eyes, a written essay of compare and contrast and repeat till your hands bleed. He has bamboo shoots of red veins and glassy fog over a swirling rich honey iris. Puffy around the skin, telltales that he’s been crying. But so big and vibrant, never static even as he stares deep into Namjoon’s soul. Not wavering, just stoic to the surge of concern that Namjoon isn’t even attempting to cover up.

It radiates off of him, he can’t help it really. He’s trying to read Jungkook like its one of his Philosophy textbooks for school or like a recipe when Jin tries, fails, to teach him to cook.

Mind and matter-separate them

Namjoon read him page by page and he leads him to the kitchen. The limp of his leg, tinges of pain starting at the hip and flaring at the knee, he sees it in the subtle way he drags his feet, skimming the floors carelessly.

Why? Pills…Accident…Injury?

Namjoon isn’t stupid, not emotional and naïve. He’s like Jungkook, perhaps not as hostile and rough but similar. They both implode with expression, inhale whatever fire and smoke their counterparts tend to burn and turn it into water. It’s like alchemy.   

They are both quiet with dangerous eyes and hard geared minds, a racing engine that never has the fuel take off. Simply humming with exhilaration, waiting and waiting and–

And the gas station. And his eomma and peace and love and loss.

Waiting in childish youth because Namjoon was never good about forcing people. He tried fruitlessly but he wasn’t much of a God and control was never his strong suit.

Back when he was young in his childhood home, he tried to control the bedlam and save whatever chaotic ruins he was born into. It was his job to lead, but that didn’t make it easy.

He wasn’t born to the silver spoon, none of them were, but Namjoon remembers the spiral his mother threw herself into. His little brothers and sisters with little mouths to feed, taken in and out of the home at the drop of a hat. But really, it had been years since he’s seen them, even before he left home. He’s soft compared to the others, but sensitivity is relative, and truth be told, he’s never let himself miss them. Why start now?

Though, the malt and the men who left boot stains on the floor. Mud tracks and steel-toed shoes parading through their home, his home. Distractions of ecstasy and lust that dusted her drunken cheeks. His eyes closed to the abhorred state, denial and waiting and working and trying so hard to fix it.

He took up working at the gas station at age 14, chubby cheeks and pouting lips asking over and over, ‘got any change? Got any changes? Got any-’

And sometimes they did loose wons and coins. Other times were unsavory. Cigarette butts, condescending scoffs and just once, an entire can of coke that streaked humiliating, sticky lines down the front of his hand-me-down shirt. Sickly sweet molasse stains that crusted dry in the baking heat when he walked home that day. Back home to his mother’s hair teased into fizzy shrieks, a mess of pin-tucked American curls, and the empty eyes, devoid of tears and emotions altogether. 

            “Got any change?” She’d parrot with ruby red lips and painted nails thumbing at his face, tracing his dimples and ruffling his hair softly.

He could remember leaning into her touch, warm smooth palm, and perfect polish nails tapping against the money in his outstretched hand before slipping it all into a bathrobe pocket. His money liquified into cardboard cases of liquor and pink wine. He used to mistake this for love.

But he remembers the way her fingers would curl onto a glass bottle, then another and another and then-

Then there’s were hurricane fights, begging and pleading on both sides. She wanted time, he wanted change. Screen doors slamming shut and empty packed bags, threats and broken promises. The bills and school supplies and the promotion from gas station attendant to convenience store worker.

The climax of frothing tirades bubbling at her mouth, and sharp commands laden with satoori and accountability. And maybe, just maybe he’d believe she would step up, actions speak louder than words. But then again, he was 15 trying to pay the bills while she slept off yet another hangover.

Namjoon remembers talk of rehab and her tears and his shouts rattling window panes. Acidic anger dripping from his quivering lips and decimating her brittle-boned form. Moonlight paling as she trembled into a chair, citing love and loss as her excuse

Her limp finger cupped in his lost hands as his exhaustion dripped into a puddle of desperation, because he was only 16 when he left home.

But the exhilaration of relief when the toxics of Seoul pollution made his head spin until he couldn’t think of empty eyes looking for hope at the bottom of bottles.

Because Tae was there to meet him at the train station as snow blanketed the earth in powder frost and cleaned away the frozen tears piped on his lashes like icing. The way his feet finally moved on his independent accord, the snow giving way to his command with a slushing crunch.  Tae’s hand slipped into his on their walks around the city, Yoongi helping him write songs in summers and correcting Jimin’s math homework during the red tinted fall. His small world thundering its applause in the tinny confines of a basement apartment when he got high marks on his report card.  The lace and grandeur of a new life in the city, his for the taking and the end of his trials against time.

And then she called. Wets sobs and sobriety on the cusp on his fading memories. Bills, she named, and problems and debt and-

And he needed to come home to help out. Starve and beg for change like a vagrant. And he went to Jin a few times. Quiet, maybe scared too. And like the flicker of burning lights, taciturnity chilled the room. Eyes lusting over with a sharp redolence of ice. 

And then Namjoon realized he already knew the answer. Because there were stony days when Jin’s phone rang and his handsome smile would curl into something sour and thin-lipped. His hand would nearly break the metal and wire and plastic.

And it was sobering to remember that their favorite Jin-hyung had a real family somewhere else.

They’d remember their own blood, sweat, and tears of childhood, every single mistake and selfish steal that led them all to this moment.

So, no, Jin didn’t have an answer. He has his own truth and, right or wrong, only Jin could live with his choice.

Because space is so cold, no matter the beauty.

But no more waiting. Namjoon swallows the pill of the past and draws the younger to the brightly lit kitchen while the sun’s still high and welcomes them into each room. There a wooden table with magazines under a leg, a blue electric kettle that’s seen better day and a mess of misshapen and dried out vegetable on the counter.

Jungkook surveys it silently mutely, all spices and pots and food laid out haphazardly. Namjoon smiles sheepishly.

            “I’m not the best at cooking.”

            “…I can help.”

So, they work side by side with Namjoon talking as he stirs a new pot, a task given to him via one incredulity look after Jungkook saw the scorch marks cross hashed on the burnt metal.

And there’s a peaceful calm before a storm, just waiting for the other shoe to drop. They’re both a little afraid.

But the wooden cutting board produces a rhythmic noise when the steel knife falls to meet it, and the stove clicks to a blue tongue of flames that lick that the copper shine of the pot. He simply watches Jungkook squint at the beam of sun that spray into the room through a streaky window, it bathes them both and everything else in a white ethereal glow.

He can’t quite coax a story from the younger, not even an explanation or inkling of emotions to elucidate. So instead he takes on the task of stirring the sloppy mix of chopped vegetables and spiced broth. The liquid bubbling and churning as the oil of beef bouillon swirls.

It takes a while, longer than it should but neither of them mind. The result, a pasty looking dish that’s a horrid green for some abominable reason but it doesn’t smell that bad either.  

2 paper plates are set out and they stare at it unappealingly. The chunky splatter of mush stares back with a wisp of steam baking off. Neither take a bite unsurprisingly.

            “I tried.” Jungkook defends with a half-smile, eyes dancing at his own joke. “At least we didn’t burn down the kitchen.”

The joke, if that, fell flat between the tension. Namjoon saw the way the younger embraced the unease wholeheartedly, the way he sustained his assault on the blob with a frown. Namjoon tries to comfort, if that, and swallow what might have been a carrot without a grimace at the abundance of garlic that coats his throat as it does down.

            “I really did try.” He echoes with glistening tears pooling in the corner of his doe eyes.

            “Gukkie-” “Jeon Jungkook.”

The elder’s lips were still parted like the Yellow Sea at the youngest’s interruption. The tidal wave of words were cut short by the sizzling bluntness of the words.

Does it matter?

            “Jungkook,” He repeats with a pointed inflection because there’s so very much he doesn’t understand but he can’t bear to deny him the comfort of small victories, the details that the spiraling boy gets to control. “It tastes good.”

He takes another bite, another deliberate action, before reaffirming his statement with a nod.

He understands, maybe even more than the others, what Jungkook is feeling. That hopeless feeling, like he can’t do much of anything correctly, like everything about you isn’t right. 

It the cold tremor that gives it away, the shake of his bony wrist and wet hair drizzling down like melancholy rain. It’s the disdain and hatred in his eyes, the pout in chapped lips, the way his clothes hang off him as if he’s just as lifeless as a wire hanger.

The food tastes bland now, maybe just a hint of lemon and pepper. Namjoon swears the dirt from the vegetables clings to his tongue. It reminds him of Jungkook somehow, he’s too sentiment he supposes. Maybe is the sweetness of the honey the 19-year-old put in after procuring the nearly every seasoning from their pantry and dumping into the stew to hide the raw favor of vegetable. The earthy flavor of the natural sweetness makes it better perhaps, makes it worth the girt of the nonexistent dirt or the half-raw onion.

He's still watching, observing with too much focus on everything. It hurt so much that he wants to cry and scream all at once. He thinks of Taehyung too. Maybe its because they’re both young.

And maybe, he thinks with a dismal shiver, it’s the glistening anger residing behind the blanket of stars in his eyes.

He thinks of the childhood home where his only neighbors were the singing willow trees and Taehyung’s grandparents that lived only a few miles east of riverbeds that babbled songs in summer and iced over in the winter season.

The summers were the best. There was a little boy who trailed behind him during the long days as Namjoon examined the moss-lined trees or the tadpoles in the stream. The shaggy-haired kid with a boxy smile hiding behind his mother’s leg the first time they met.

A kind woman, Taehyung’s mother. Kind face, kind eyes, and a kind touch. One hand reaching down to pat his dimpled cheeks as the other one remained firmly clasped in her son’s ravioli fist.

He was 6, Tae was 5. Neither of their birthdays had passed. It’s been quite some time; his memories are fuzzy and clouded by childhood innocent, the unawareness of how important that little moment was.  But he remembers shrieking shouts and peals of laughter once the younger broke out of his shell. Grubby hands touching the bark of trees and fingerprint stained with juice.

And then somewhere along the way, they both grew up. Namjoon running away with wobbled legs and guilt just nipping at his heart as it swelled with hope.  His first friend in the smog riddled city was a fox-eyed boy who had grown into someone angry and wild.

Namjoon left home because he couldn’t handle the toxicity of a household drunken into liquor stupor and debt. Yet he went to Tae because he was afraid of the glimmer of hate shuffling underneath the hazelnut eyes. The gloss shine of unadulterated rage simmer in narrowing pupils.

He knew everything by then, knew exactly what afterschool special the younger faced but by then was too late. He was 16 and Tae was a month away from 15.

In the bustled train station cloaked into misty goodbyes and joyous reunions, he could only see hunching shoulders and a snarl resting on his lip.

But he remembers innocence on sunburned skin and little fists curling into his clothes when the younger demanded piggyback rides through the fields. The gleaming sparkle of whole-body expressions when the fireflies rose to touch the horizon on humid evenings.

And maybe, just like him and Jin. Jungkook and Taehyung chose their own path to deal with an impossible situation. Neither right nor wrong…it is what is it. And maybe that’s why it hurts.

They still eat in silence as the tension eases itself into normalcy. You can’t be angry forever, can’t live in a constant state of fury and sadness.

But still, despite the shower and new clothes, Jungkook still looks off. Maybe a bit raw and ruddy nosed. And maybe Namjoon’s a bit upset too, trying hard to suppress it because of the wrecked state of his brother.

Is he still my brother?

And maybe in some muddled way, Namjoon knows he's not mad at Jungkook. He’s mad at himself. But still, not mad either.

Because there was never a good answer when 18-year-old Joonie looked up to 20-year-old Jin with cloudy eyes and begged him for guidance. He still remembers the conversation. It was the first time he had really seen the other falter. A crack in the façade of steadfast success. His hyung, the one who pulled himself out of poverty and provides a home for them, grimaced.

            “You just have to be able to live with it.” He said, his voice echoing through the tin walls of Namjoon’s temporary home. “It doesn’t matter what I say or what you do. You are born alone and die alone.”

And he remembers the wound it left on his skin, the coarse goosebumps of the truth untold and maybe dread. Being alone in a vacuum of space, one no to listen to your screams or hold you close when you get cold.

            “And whatever you do Joonie,” He said squinting about the rising sun from the doorway to his departure, back turned to a frustrated dongsaeng. “Never ever look back at the damage.”

And he chose to go back home, his plan being opposite to his hyung. But there were consequences.

And he’s seeing them. It’s time and space floating in the eyes of the once innocent, the chain reaction caused by his sentimental ties to blood family.

The silent tautness, it permeates the air, soaks his now peaceful life with a new mayhem. Because he knows the implications of Jungkook’s return. There’ll be hell to pay and he selfishly wants to be done with it. He wants to leave it in the dust of his past, doesn’t want to deal with the shameful repercussions of his actions. And maybe he understands why Jin used to hang up the phone, why his words still ring true with a foretold clarity.

Yet he’s not Jin either. He forces his eyes to inspect the damage. Sees the new sharpness around the youngest, notes the faint rattle of lungs blooming with infections and ease, little sighs escaping parched lips. His gaze meets protruding bones and he thinks of the hospital visit when his heart drummed against his chest with throbbing anticipation.

And now, he sees the shy boy they’ve raised since age 14, grown-up. His smile dims a shade as he rips his gaze away from the scene.

But he’s happy and sad and angry and wants it all to go away because he hates feeling like this. All alone and upset and anxious over what to do next, how to fix the mess they’ve all created. He can’t help but stare and him, still pretty after all these years.

Yet there’s something biting at his mind, a striking stir of defensive snarls and bitterness.

I was only 18, almost 19…You were turning 17, you should have been fine, you didn’t need to fall apart

Tears sting at the corners of his eyes and he’s so very angry at the world but he doesn’t let them fall.

I was only 18-It wasn’t my fault.

A chant, a mantra racing through his head like a drumbeat when he even attempts to dissect the madness.

The cyclone swirling all the reasons why he’s not a bad person, why he’s not at fault.

You had Yoongi and Tae and you could have helped me, and we could have made it work and what was I supposed to say to her?

He feels the remorse carve its way into his bones because he knows he’s the catalyst for the suffering, the first to go. And then a salty tear plinks into his half-eaten food, provides a touch of salt for variation.

            “Namjoon-ssi?” Somewhere in his buzzing head, he hears the soft concern and tumbling panic.

Guess we’re not brothers after all but why does it have to be my fault

And he reaches his hand to cover his face and hid the tears because he’s so damn sorry but he just can’t mend all the broken part of anything.  

And a chair grinds against the floor as Jungkook pushes out and hesitantly steps closer. Jungkook's movements slowed only by ache and caution and his own inability to understand how to fix things.

            “H-hyu…Hyung. Hey…it’s ok…I mean…It will be ok, I promise.”

And then clammy fingers press into his face, cools the heat of emotions that threatened to burn him. And through the tears he sees Jungkook knelt down at his side, nail-bitten fingers wiping away tears that still gather at his lashes.

And maybes it’s the bunny grin, even though it’s a little fake, only there to cheer him up, or the familiar ring of the endearment, but he finds himself laughing just a bit.

Their foreheads press together and it’s a dynamic of dry tornado heat and cool water still plastered on messy hair.

And the tears still haven’t stopped. They flow to a puddle on the floor and just mix with the dirt to form mud and Namjoon just hates it.

Because even there’s still so much to do, so much to understand. The pills, the accident, 2 years’ worth of celestial solitude that he and the other’s confined Jungkook to.

Maybe he weeps for the memory of the starved hopelessness in his eomma’s voice, static crinkles of a shattering voice and desperation rolling through the phonebooth speaker like a charcoal fog. For Tae, the boy he didn’t protect, witnessing firsthand the anger that burning inside bruising eyes grow and grow until he snapped.

He cries for them; all the people he’s failed, every action regretted and every word that left his mouth bitter with a churning stomach.

And maybe he’s crying for himself, even if he shouldn’t be wallowing in his own self-pity he does anyway because Jin was right. No matter what, he was going to have to live with his choices.

Because as much as they’re hurting, he’s hurting too. He holds the unfair burden of guilt and responsibility and commitment. And it’s not fair, never will be fair.

He can go to school and study all the old European men who died trying to decipher what he’s contemplating now. His silly little head can be filled with knowledge and devoid of all these impractical emotions until it’s like he’s floating on icy water.

But it won’t matter. Doesn’t matter anymore. But then he sees Jungkook pull back, one last swipe to his face to dry the last drop.

And he remembers walking in the green thumb forest. Treetops providing shade and a brook charted a course to nowhere. The two of them walking and walking like soldiers marching. And Jungkook, maybe 15 or 16, turning to him with glowing cheeks and leaves sprouting in his hair. The forest sanction where two old souls could lay and watch the world go by. No fire or flame, just mother earth, and her rewards.

A child looking at him and saying the same thing Jungkook says right now as they sit in a new kind of oasis.

            “I want to be just like you when I grow up. You’re so amazing, you know, that right?”

And maybe the world’s just a tad unfair but then there’s a moment just like this that makes it all worthwhile.

Chapter Text

Hey, Rosie here,

I'm sorry I haven't updated in a while (*cough, cough 2 months, cough*) but don't worry I will be back. Honestly, I've lost some inspiration. I know where I want to go but I clearly have no idea how to get there. Seriously, I'll take suggestions or any help but I'm soooo stuck in writer's block, it's not even funny.

And I'm really sorry I haven't been keeping up, but trust me when I say that I will NOT abandon this work. Your support keeps me going and I'm very sorry I can't deliver.

Chapter Text

He wants to walk home. Well, walk the some-odd miles to the bus station and ride the grime riddled vehicle until somewhere

But Namjoon clutches the sleeve of his shirt, bottom lip worrying between his teeth.

            “Just stay awhile Jungkook-ah. It’s getting dark ok? Jin-hyung can take you back when he gets home.”

So, he stays. Rips the soiled sheets from Yoongi’s bed and scrubs the pans within an inch of their life. He wants to just walk out the door and let his strides carry him to the carnage wreck of where he belongs.

He’s never been afraid of the darkness in the streets; there was always a sallow glow of nightlife to wash out the emptiness of alleyways and illuminate the passive passage. The strips of overlapping gang turf where neither troop resides, the bellowing roads with too many grainy cameras to make the bloodshed worth the punishment.

Like a cockroach in the apocalypse, he’s always known how to survive.

But he’s heard whispers through walls and he knows what they think of him. And it doesn’t matter if they’re right or wrong, it never mattered. Even as children with paper crowns and an aspiration for danger, they always survived on ramen noodles and youthfulness. Never bothering with the details or bruises, it was the unspoken agreement that their individual affairs were to be left alone.

Now Namjoon pretends not to hover nearby as Jungkook lets scalding water cascade over dirty dishes. The elder’s reading glasses perched on the tip of his nose and heart lurching with every waft of steam that twists up from lemon suds from afar.

The water is scorching hot, scalding even as it gushes from the metal spigot. It bits Jungkook’s skin as the steel wool crushes under his iron-clad grip. And the plates, they’re already clean. Bowl and cups and forks are shiny and spotless, but he doesn’t let up.

He can feel eyes on his back and it burns more than the water that now runs red when it drips from his dry and cracking hands. He’s ok, always been and always will be.

Yet it’s not enough for him to say it. It’s not enough but isn’t that the point?

Somewhere during his mindless cleaning, Namjoon had moved his school things to the kitchen table. The dining table now cleared of tears and tableware. Instead, it’s littered with papers chalked with neon highlights and smudge red ink. Rough drafts kissed with circles of creamed coffee and sticky fingerprints of various stains.

Still, Namjoon beckons him over for no better than reason than to just make Jungkook stop. And the younger complies with will little resistance. He’s practically boneless when he plops down in a chair to survey the seas of schoolwork. The tidal waves of intelligence that makes Jungkook dizzy just trying to decipher fancy words like ‘Axiology’ or ‘informal fallacy’.

It’s more interesting to watch his Hyung from a careful corner of his eye. All the courage has been drained from his bones but he tiptoes away when the elder isn't looking.

Jungkook finds out that they have a piano. It’s somehow hidden, quite well all things consisting. A brown upright that looks like it’s been chewed and withered to just faded ivory keys and feeble wooden legs.

It here that Yoongi finds him hours later. Once steaming dishes having been dried and up back on the shelve and the dining table cleared of notepads and pens.

Jungkook had been sitting there with passive eyes and stiff fingers that barely even grazed the keys.

Line by line he reads the sheet music and matches the positions on the key. But he never presses down. Never exhales and lets the sound ring out in the otherwise silent house. He can’t bring himself to taint the house with his presence.

So instead he bores into each note, every stanza, and cleft. Lips mouthing to shape the letter and fingers almost giving in to the temptation.

He’s aware when another body slide next to him.

            “Hey, kid.”

            “Hey, Yoongi.” Jungkook responses softly, fingering twitching over a B flat, “How was work?”

            “It was good. I did some editing and finished the backtracks for a client.” Yoongi says as he watches the younger glide over to a D sharp. “How was your day? Namjoon said you guys made lunch?”

            “It was fine,”

They bask in silence for another moment, a quiet hesitance surrounds them both. A sorta ‘what now’ kind of tension.

            “You should play something.” Yoongi whispers but Jungkook only hums and continues to skim the ivory. And Yoongi joins in the imaginary duet, side by side they pretend.

Moving down the song line by line, piece by piece until they reach the final note. The younger’s hand fumble into position and his brown eyes close.

            “I want to go home.”

And maybe it shouldn’t hurt Yoongi as it does. But still, he swallows hard and reaches to the young so so softly. Tries to close the gap between them and simple fix all the damage.

But Jungkook’s hand richetite back and finally exhales a murmuring “ Just take me home.”
And who the hell is Min Yoongi to refuse that?

Jungkook stares back at his reflection in the mirror only 5 minutes before Yoongi supposes to take him back to the bus stop. Not even Jin could convince him to let one of the Hyung drive him directly home. His reflection shows shiny orbs that hold something sad, something bittersweet. There’s longingness in the grave of a dirt brown iris and desperate worms of crimsons veins.

A hollow void that can’t be filled with warm food or new clothes. Even they can’t suffocate his mind, so it may forget the empty years spend alone. Jungkook knows they’re trying, he saw the pain writing on Namjoon’s face when he cupped it in his own frail hands.

The wire thickets of hair in Jungkook’s brittle fingers when the Namjoon cried buckets and buckets, trying, failing, to fill the abyss with his apologies. And maybe that should be enough to patch up a bloody wound, the scarlet flaps of serrated skin kissed back together with words and promise.

But it’s only a scar that aches. The callouses of hands still bruising his chest, hands that should have held instead of harm. The raised bed of smeroldo white tissue and road rash purple. The physical marks that needed warm hands and something, something, something-

Something that didn’t hurt like toxic fumes of city pollution or grinding joints. That emptiness that still had drops of hopes at being filled with subway soda instead of vinegar.

And maybe they know, maybe Yoongi remembers at least, but Jungkook did try to find them. And it shouldn’t matter, not after all that time, but he still liked to press an abusive palm against the angry patch of marred skin. The ugly roots of tarnishes flesh, the twisted path where flames licked his shoulder. The lasting imprint of Yoongi’s shirt burning him alive. The fabric still carried glowing embers, even after Jungkook douses out the flames.

And the air that was hot with death’s chuckling breath exhaling wisps of smoke and gasoline. And there was Yoongi, nearly a year after his swift departure, still the epicenter destruction. In the hotel room of Omelas, the final stop of Jungkook’s train ride to nowhere.

Smears of ash and smoke coated the wallpaper as it curled onto itself. Wails of alarms and clatter of drunken patrons who stumbled out at the smell of scorching fear and hate and pain and-

And Jungkook never dared look at the carnage left in the wake. Not at the anger peels of melted skin that burned hot then cold…then numb. Not anything but the bruising night skies. A train ride back with wide eyes fixated vanilla frosting stars and chocolate sky. Blood that wasn’t his – it melted into the fibers of his favorite sweater. Empty seats with ghosts of people. It was his 18th birthday.

The highlight reel of good things and happy shiny people. A film reel burned up in the wreckage. Going, going,

Gone. Jungkook doesn't spare another glance before climbing out the bathroom window. He leaves a note with chicken scratch scrawls he barely remembers writing. His feet moving by instinct as the afternoon sun barely lets up from its spotlight shine. The guilt and adrenaline and fear clutching at his veins until he reaches the underpass where the 3:15 will arrive.

Thank you for the food. I apologize for any inconvenience. I left the dirty sheets in a pile.

And he doesn’t think about it as the bus lurches to a start and all their passengers stagger forward. It smells funny – stale air, petrol leaks, and sweat. All the seats are taken so he stands dangerously close to a girl with a faded yellow scrunchy. He can at least appreciate how the bright color contrast to the drab greys of sheet metal and grime.

Still, his face lights up with a rosy blush and he cringes away. She pays no attention, instead choosing to stare out the tinted window as the landscape blurs by. He stares for a moment longer before shuffling his gaze to the lines of penmanship on the walls.

His stop approaches, and he gets off, mind already wandering away from the girl. Instead, he walks to the familiar concert steps and sees the soft colors of home. The aesthetics of hues and palettes of space.

The bricks are a dull Mar red while the iron rods that poke through its crumbling estate are a lunar grey. The doors were once brown like the rocks of Venus but are now subdued to a sallow shade of chalky mud.

He’d think it sad if he even allowed himself the luxury of imagining something greater than this. It feels like home compared to his Hyung’s house. He knows every meager square inch like the back of his hand and has memorized the texture of the crumbling walls. Like most things in life, he’s learned to love it because there was never any use in hating in inevitable.

The lingering presence of coconut shampoo and steam of spice cling to his clothes and he soon finds himself back under the spray of hard water and suds of discount soap. The temperature fluctuates between a scalding heat and numbing cold, but it does its job.

He watches the foam and memories of a Yoongi’s bed twist down the drain. His hair’s back to its dull shade of irrevocable brown while his skin lightens to a sunless pale. It’s a slow and tedious process, but he’s unwilling to lose the life he’s built just because the three of them came running.

When he finishes, he put on his best clothes and ventures out. It’s still bright out but the wind crawls through his coat and chills the bathwater still clinging to his skin. And…and it’s surprisingly ok.

Maybe it’s because he can breathe alone for the first time in the day. In the bustle of Seoul, sometimes the skyscrapers enclose him until the air gets squeezed from his body. Sometimes, like today, it swallows him whole and it’s just him with nameless faces that can’t haunt him. It can't hurt, it doesn't hurt.

He could jump onto a park bench and scream but no one would hear it. No one would care. Somedays it frightens him, the isolation and crippling fear of hollow eyes. Now it comforts him. Two sides of the same coin and the world keeps turning.

The world that’s been painted into cherry blossom hues and beach waves blues. He buries the past week deep inside, under streetlamps and tourist camera flashes.

He walks and walks, searching for work and something new. Walks further from Yoongi’s house until he can barely remember he’s even in Seoul.

People spare no passing glance at him. Instead, he watches families march through, couples wander and businessmen rush. He thinks of the girl with the scrunchie, thinks of what her story might have been.

But he doesn’t think of them. And maybe it’s closure, maybe it’s denial. He doesn’t think of the ache in his bones or guilt gnawing at his heart. Instead, he watches mothers scoop up their children and press them close.

And the longingness still hurts. The compressed feeling of want that threats to spoil a new beginning. So, he tears his empty eyes away and keeps trenching until he’s on the complete opposite outskirt.

The sun starts to fall asleep and wild grass blows from across the street. He’s somewhere new, somewhere he’s never been. The final street before reaching dead outskirts and countryside. The last street with little bodega stores and homeless already tucked in for the night.

And he hears it. Rains that showers abruptly and the stale air rapidly turning to ice. His Milky Way eyes wander to the storefront of yet another convenience store up ahead. A shelter from the storm.

And he’s walking closer and closer. Faster and faster. Goosebumps seizing his skin and hail cutting his checks as it stings red.

It’s warm inside. Jungkook can at least appreciate that. There’s a blast of heated air that blows right into his face and melted the droplets of the rain that’s collected in his hair. A bead of water drips onto the corner of his crackling lip when he sees it.

Narrow brown eyes and the copper unruly hair. Bony wrist with a slithers of a starved vein crawl to an oversized Nirvana sweater.

Jungkook lets door chime just ring in his ear because if he can just stay in the moment- with the heat kissing his cheeks and clean clothes on his back and Taehyung still out of his life – maybe he wouldn’t melt into a puddle on the floor.

Because he's still not ready. But nonetheless, the moment passes as the chime rings in his ear again and yet another patron shoves past him in an attempt to fight the rain that showers down,

So instead he closes his eyes, ears ringing and heart still pounding, and he runs back out and into the rain.

Because anywhere else is better than here. anywhere else in the entire world, would be better than Taehyung's eyes still coated with hate and ferocity. Eyes that see everything and hate everyone. Jungkook included.

Chapter Text

And he’s out the door and into the night. He runs and runs and runs. He doesn’t ache or feel pain. There’s no racing thought or pounding heart. No panic swelling like bruises in his chest. His lungs don’t burn nor does his muscles melt into jelly. He doesn’t feel anything besides the rain being absorbed into skin.

It’s pouring down like fists and fury and hate. Cold hail and black ice. Empty streets and empty thoughts. He doesn’t remember why he’s running, can’t see more than an inch in front of him.

Running from home to home. fight to fight. Hyung to Hyung.

He keeps going until Taehyung crashes back into him. His voice roaring in his ear, sound ripped raw from the cold.

They skitter into the pavement, his cheek grazing the rubble.

            “Fuck, Jungkook! Shit, fucking shit I thought you fucking heard me calling you fucking name.”

And then hands, calloused fingertips, and creased palms are roughing him without meaning too. Pulling at his wet clothes or tousling hair or-

Or pulling at his cheeks. Laughing in a sun soak classroom in a condemned building that was never taken down. Sunken floors and wallpaper peeling like lunchbox clementines. Creaky chairs piled like barricaded for the war outside. Taehyung being pulled into the merriment by Namjoon. But the looks they shared, him and Jungkook, empty smiles or strained eyes.

Or snuggling closer, wiggling him and Yoongi on the wood log. Fire illuminating faces with a cherry glow and smoke tendrils wafting up to the stars burned brightest when he was with his friends. Soft light dipping to the shadows of starved collarbones and flesh fading to pastel yellow. Their matching tattoos.

And he loved them so much, he would have died for them. But he didn’t love himself enough to live for them

And Taehyung’s hand that held him close, holding him so high his feet merely dangled in the air. Up to the stars, closer to heaven. And he sees himself reflected in dilated pupils. Someone else who’s scared and alone. Nostrils flared and quivering muscles wound tight.

Or staring him dead in the eyes. Rain cascading on both of them and lighting thrashing the dirt in the distance. And Jungkook still can’t see much when the droplets collect on his lashes.

Bu suddenly Taehyung has oceans in his eyes and an apology on his lips. And Jungkook could hit and holler with a fit of rage but he’s still soft. He lets Taehyung trace over his paper eyelids and tap at his nose

            “I’m,” he says. 'I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.' He doesn’t say.

The words want to drizzle down like honey in tea. A salve on a wound. He doesn’t mean to hesitant, doesn’t want to stutter through his chance.

But Jungkook shoves Taehyung away before the long-awaited word can tumble free. Puddles splashing as the younger’s water-logged shoes scramble for purchase on the slick street. The muddy splashes undoubtedly stain the already wet sleeves of Taehyung’s sweater, but Jungkook doesn’t think about it.

He just pulls away from the flame, curls away from the heat and flies forward. Legs don’t fail him as he bolts faster and faster, winds cutting his ears and drowning frantic calls.

Thinking only of the hands that hurt when they dropped him down into the snow. And he runs and runs until he gets to his apartment. Past the vine-lined brick and shady corners and stretches of road with screeching cars that burn rubber to brake and skitter to the side. Random lives colliding as they all struggle not to hit the strange boy who cuts through their path.

Past the girls on street corners and cocaine coughs and police wails and and and

And the right to the thick of it. The quiet and dull eye of the storm. His apartment building where his lung rattles with hate and love and reality.

Face hot and red with blood pulsation, he huffs away the dizzy spots that blurry his vision. The ache in his heels finally catches up to him. The shaky legs that trudge through the air to catch on the doorknob before he collapses.

He doesn’t think of anything else but the sweat that drips from his hairline to his brow. The photo tucked away and the shame he feels because of it. Random nonsequiturs that sneak inside. And he wants home. Wants Jin’s basement and Yoongi’s arm around his shoulder and food in his stomach and happiness.

But instead, he’s wet and cold and alone.

Whose fault is that?

Meanwhile, the city lights below never go out, never shuts up, but he shut it out. Closes windows, locks the doors and roots around for something, anything to take the edge off.

But it’s barren and desolate and hopeless as he rips floorboards and wallpaper and books and furniture and papers and and and

And the mess of tee shirt curtains he made, they cover everything but one light. The construction site a little way down. Past the park, past the school, past the past. An illuminating future. The yellow crane plowing away for a shiny new high-rise to replace the unwanted scraps yesterday.

The moonlight glow of metal scraping the sky, skimming the clouds, reaching the stars – it sparks an idea in his head that he just can’t quiet. No smoke, no drug, no fury.

He sees the stars in the sky, and they’re just stars this time. Not faded smiles or bomber jacket blues. No warm touch on his shoulder or piano hymn.

And now he only thinks of falling. A spiral down, further and further until there’s no more bitterness or wonder or hate or anything besides the starry sky above him.

They’ll still be out of reach, still too far to even touch or hold. But at least he won’t have to feel the distance.

Meanwhile, Tae’s still in the rain. Stunned and cold and wet. The thuds of footsteps still echo in his mind as he watches the fog roll in to cover tracks.

He trudges back and tries not to think about the doe-eyed expression that pooled with fear and tears. He’s waited so long to shout his apologizes. His throat burns with a brittle cough and he kneels, sits back on his heels to think. He didn’t want any of it to turn out like this.

And the heavy rains beat the spine of his back like fists pounding its victim into a pulp. Something like the one time he saw his baby brother, the stupid little squirt that used to pull the darkness from his eyes; saw Jungkook tear and claw and scratch and burn his victims for a quick buck.

And Taehyung only saw it once. Saw a skinny 15-year-old enter a makeshift with too many bruises and scars on his goosebumped skin. Bare and raw, shirts strewed in a corner with the prize money thrown into the middle. Ice grinding beneath frostbitten toes and roaring crowds shoving and pushing in a back-alley corner just to get a glimpse of the action.

The 17-year-old concealed in the background, memorized by the lie. He wasn’t used to the boy who eyed his opponent like a piece of meat. Muscles that were normally hidden like modest black hoodies or loose shirts with lavender-infused into the very fibers.

The softness that coated the younger boy. The innocent that they all held in their hands like it was golden waters. Like it was a gift to be treasured, a reason to be gentle. And he held them right back. Listened with a quiet tongue and open ears. Let them yell and scream and hate and and and –

And Taehyung watched as the clock stopped and the smoky air cleared to reveal the truth.

Bony hands that destroyed everything in its path. That plummeted and pulsed with rage and evoked a fire within the yellow teethed patrons that bellowed and cheered as blood flew from the prey’s throat when claws dug in. The hands that had to pull only Jungkook when he lost all color in his eyes.

Only shinnying black abysses that wept when one, two, three people had to peel him from the ground. Ripped him away from the unconscienced bloodied mess of bumped and limp limbs that were choking on its saliva and pride.

And Tae watched as his best friend, his brother, slaughtered the one, two, three men who tried to tie him down. Howling and growling with lost tears only seen by the cat eyes in the corner. A normally boxy smile that soured to a frown.

Drunks and druggies who finally calmed down their youngest champ. They doled out the money and let their savior savor a cigarette in peace. Slurred, lazy speech passed down tequila chasers to ruin even the most seasoned drinker.

Yet Jungkook just took one after another until the void exploded into a star-riddled sky and his thread worn boots no longer walked straight.

A girl with too much makeup and not enough clothes snaked her hands further down his chest and got only to his waistband before Taehyung intervened. His deep voice quivered but his stare withheld her withering stares.

Once everyone got paid, no one cared about how the older boy was able to drag the intoxicated fighter away. Meanwhile, Taehyung was scared deep in his bones. His mind racing as Jungkook flopped to and fro. His heart booming as he licked his lips.

Finally dragging him back to Jin's apartment to clean him up.

            “Hey baby lets go back to my place,” Jungkook said. Eyes sparkled, nose running and voice incoherent and coy, giggling and crying, so very soft.

            “Kookie, it’s Tae. Remember, you were in a fight and then got drunk. Some girl was going to –” And his Adam’s apple bobbed nervously before he just let the awful words fall down his throat.

            “Oh, just fuck off.”

Taehyung stopped mid-motion. One of Jungkook’s shoes already off and the other in hand.


            “Piss off Taehyung.”

In a daze, the elder let Jungkook stumble off the bed. Crawl closer in an inebriated rage. Eyes darkening and movements unfocused.

            “Kookie, just calm down, you’re getting worked up –”

            “I DONT NEED YOUR HELP!”

The scream vibrates the air. Everything gets tainted by the words that dripped from his rabid mouth. And Taehyung was petrified. His breath quivered before he reached up. His hands cupping Jungkook’s cheek.

And it’s strange how the elder doesn’t fight back. Didn't try to stand ground or push back. He just rode the storm. The storm that left just as fast as it came.

His hand stayed peaked on a gaunt cheekbone before Jungkook’s flew out the door.

And Taehyung’s heart still races when he thinks about it. Blood pounds with exhilarated fear and gut-wrenching nerves that refuse to calm. His finger hovered over a call button but never found purchase. And maybe then he finally understood why Namjoon cried when he thought Tae was asleep.

Why his childhood friend used to kneel by his nightstand and prays to a God that doesn’t exist. Why Namjoon held Taehyung closer when fist fly without intent or his words spews like lava.

He was afraid for the younger; just as Tae was afraid for Jungkook; and Jungkook is afraid of everything except for himself.

And Taehyung thinks that’s the scariest part of it all.

And now Taehyung trudges back to the store. It's empty but warm. Bright lights coax him away from dark thoughts and he doesn’t think as he punches the screen.

A tinkling brass ring hums in his ear until the line answers.

            “Hello?” A voice calls.

            “Hey Hyung.”

            “Jungkook! we’ve been wandering Seoul looking for you! Yoongi’s back at your apartment waiting for you to com – “

            “Namjoon,” The words catch in his throat and so desperately wants to hang up. To give up and crawl into bed and just –

For Jungkook

            “Namjoon, Jungkook came by today. ran out like a fucking banshee. I was hoping you knew where he was. Maybe he still kept in touch you guys for something.”

And the pause drones on and on until Taehyung can barely breathe but he doesn’t dare to hang up. Not when it means everything. Not when Jungkook’s given up.

Because Tae remembers when happened when he didn’t call. Remembers Jimin’s frantic voice through the echoes of a speaker because he’s not waking up Tae, I don’t know what he took Tae and he’s not breathing anymore.

The trio used to be as thick as thieves and it was a miracle that puppy dog eyes convinced the older two to help hide it from the Hyungs. A blessing that they bought every lie; a chilling reminder that Jungkook was nearly too good at forging the details, the little things to con them.

Only thing time it’s different. There’s no one for Jungkook to go to, no one to hide from.

            “T-tae?” Joonie stutters from the other side.

            “Hyung.” And the moment washes over both of them, bathes them in a comfort; a fleeting moment where maybe in some timeline things didn’t hurts. And maybe this call could have been a time to reconcile. “Hyung, we need to find Jungkook.”

And the euphoric moment is gone. The bubble gum past of childhood swing is gone and there’s a problem that still haunts them. A dirty secret they all chose to bury.

            “Yeah, we’re working on it but tell me where you are so at least we can kinda nar – “

And then there’s an ugly pause. And the quiet grows painful and the heat becomes sweltering.

            “What? Hyungie, what’s wrong?”

            “The hospital. T-that construction sight. Near the hospital.”

            “Okay.” He recites slowly because the walls are closing in and the fluorescence exposes every flaw under the abusive throbs. “He’s in the hospital then?”

            “No. The construction site. He’s gonna jump.”

Chapter Text

He thinks, belatedly, maybe this is a bad idea. His ratty shoes are only half over the side and his arms are spread out like a bird to the wind; like that smog-ridden breeze is the only thing keeping him for falling.

He wants to be buried by his mom, all the way back in Busan. Growing up it was always jarring to visit her gravestone. Fresh flowers once a year with sprinkled visits every now and then. Her birthday never went uncelebrated as he’d bring contraband liquor and daisies to lay down against the cold stone.

A little plot of unturned grass right next to her rotting corpse, his grave. He can practically taste the dirt mix with the smoke of the city.

Another part of him thinks maybe he should have been back in Busan for this. Away from city lights and noises. Back home so the tide could reel him back in. Saltwater lungs and a seafoam noose. Not a fire, not like Yoongi, but the waves to lull him to sleep. The sun warming his cheeks and the sand between his toes.

His eyes drift shut as he sways just a little too much. A foot scraping roughly against asphalt rubble. His parched heart leaps in his chest as his stomach lurches. He sees an ocean of lights and he takes a gulp of breath, yet he does nothing more than just spread his arms out further.

Maybe the sea breeze can scoop him up and finish the job for him.

They took a train back to Busan once. Springtime frost and sakura perfume. Taehyung lost his shoes in a tipsy haze. Jimin tried to drown himself in the bathtub. Namjoon took a day trip home. it was a derelict jumble of what was supposed to be Jin’s 20th birthday.

Until the beach. Busan shoreline that stretched on like a Cheshire smile. Frothing waves as soft as the whipped cream on his birthday cake. They were so young with apple cheeks and gleaming eyes. They didn’t take the train that time. Only Jin’s beaten down truck and a handful of gas money. Sleeping in the bed with all their limbs curled together for warmth.

A prayer, a forgiven that laid over all of them like the blanket of stars that wrapped them close. All the anger, the tears the pain, it was gone. Just them and the world.

Jungkook cried in Jin’s arms that night. his shoulders shaking like laughter and silly tears puddling in the jut of the eldest’s collarbone. He remembers how the others cooed around him, their hands brushing back tuffs of his hair or gliding up and down his arm. He was only 16.

They couldn’t understand that he was crying for happiness. Instead, they hold him a little closer, treat him like sea glass instead of callousing grains of sand. He had never cried in front of them before.

            “Jungukkie,” They whispered, “just breathe.”

And he inhaled salt and soap and smoke and coffee. He thought back to a lonely grass patch next to an ancient slab of stone, his inheritance. But he likes that this, all 6 of them, they might be a little bit better than her.

And he hates himself for thinking that. Even now.

 Meanwhile, Jin surveys the wreck with quiet eyes. His lips sealed into a thin line and his legs wary from running. The three of them see white walls and bloody thrashes. A cramped room with stale air and peroxide stains on the floor.

It’s not quite sad per se. There a lived-in quality that Jin can pick out. Takeout menus and chewed pens. The blanket is awry and there’s a box on his top-shelf.

Namjoon’s talking to someone outside the door. Yoongi paces and Jin just watches. He sees starlight and dirty windows. A burnt tin can sits by the window, cigarette butts shriveled in their own ash and misery.

There’s an old paint stain from where maybe Jungkook once tried to create color in the greyscale world. A closet of black and white tees and ratty brown boots. Yet there’s a box in the corners with pops of tired colors weakly pulsing through.

Yoongi paces, Namjoon shrieks suddenly and there’s panic.

But Jin stares. There are things they didn’t know about the youngest. Things even Yoongi was never privy too. Night terrors silenced and dry lips unable to unleash its truths.

The box, Jin thinks as Namjoon roughly drags him along, it must hold so much pain.

But then the world slams forward and satoori screams in his ear about dying, roof and go go go

And yeah Jin doesn’t want Jungkook to die. Doesn’t want to run toward a body, a corpse, already hollow on the pavement. But he saw how the cardboard creaked and sagged under the weight of memories.  He wouldn’t be mad if they were too late, just a breath away from saving him. He’s danm sure the kid, his baby brother, would be smiling as he fell.

The final breath, Jungkook’s sigh of relief as he was weightless to all the pain the world inflected on him.

He doesn’t want Jungkook to die, but he refuses to let him suffer either.

Still, the three of them smash through the street and run through the puddle. Running and running and-  


There’s no real answer. None of them know how they ended up like this.

Panting out chocked breaths of relief. Bent over, practically dry heaving the panic from their system. Jin and Namjoon and Yoongi and Taehyung and


They’re all on the roof now. A tangle of shouts and limbs and hands reaching towards the stretched-out collar of a familiar t-shirt. The four of them, no one sure how got there first or last. Not sure how Jungkook went from hanging himself with clouds to now kissing the dirty cement. Not even sure what to do now.

            “Road trip,” Namjoon calls out with a pant, eyes glassy and breath crystalizing every thought. “Hobi and Jimin.”

And just like that, the five of them peel themselves off to the ground. Yoongi’s finger twisted into the meager flesh of Jungkook’s arm as he drags him along. Taehyung taking hold of Joonie’s hand. Jin brings up the back, no one’s escaping tonight.

They can’t acknowledge what’s happening, not so soon after. Hell, none of them can even face each other without the burn of shame gouging into painful wounds.

Jungkook’s still a little hazy, a little out of it but coherent enough speak. The only brave one at this point.

Cars zoom by and light pollution drowns the tense air with neon colors and flashing illumination. It’s fitting how exposed they all seem under the yellow pulsation of urban life.

            “I wasn’t going to jump.” He says once they’re in the car, still the same damn pickup truck. “I wasn’t going to jump.”

            “We’re still going,” Joonie says from the passage seat. “Jungkook this...this is-”

            “We are your hyungs so fucking listen, kay?”

Yoongi watches the kid twitch his nose for a snarling second before relaxing back into the plush seat. Maybe it’s compliance, maybe he’s just giving up.


Maybe he knows that they’re trying.

Korea, really, it isn’t that big. It’s like the size of England. You can get to and from places rather quickly. Still, it’s at least a few 100 miles in any direction.

Jungkook mumbles an address as he sinks further into Yoongi’s arm, too tired to fight anymore. The burning feral glow in his eyes now suffocated by the reality of the situation. His limbs curling into himself and his resolve wilting like flowers.

About 150 miles until the dance studio, if it even still exists, if they’re both still alive. No one says much as stoplights pass in a haze.

It’s too quiet so Taehyung talks. Talks about his collections of plants; talks about the stupid people who stumble into the store; talks about the girl who kept coming back.

His hands fold over Jungkook who smiles with pearly teeth and cloudy pupils dilated into mush. It’s not an end to the high school horrors, it’s a beginning.

By the end of the first hour, they’re maybe less than halfway there. They know that she was pretty, that she liked him and that he loved her.

He tells them about running with paint cans clanging echoes in at 2 am and kissing her cheeks in slow afternoons. For them, it wasn’t about sex on Sundays or healing scars.

They ran with bloody knees and mangled pasts, but they ran together. Broke and stupid and so young.

Graffiti stains on guilty hands when she took the fall. Kissed his forehead and left in cuffs. He got to taste love, real love, with every strawberry gloss kiss on his crackling lips.

Taehyung’s dragging fingers through his sweaty fringe as he explains with hurried words. He explains why he’s soft like water instead of ice, tries to pour his heart out in a single breath.

            “It’s like, it’s like it just clicked ya know? I-I haven’t seen her since, but like, like- “

His eyes are wild as they flicker like a power surge in his mind. Thoughts running a mile a minute until Jungkook murmurs a sleepy reassurance.

            “Tae,” He says, kindness laves his slurs “we’ve got all night.”

When Jungkook was young, maybe 6 or 7, his foster mom used to take him to the library in the summer. She’d sit and read with him for hours before taking him to get patbingsu and then tell him about how they started to add those cherry things and whipped cream after the war ya know.

The shaved ice melting in the summer heat and sugar crystals dissolving on his strawberry stained tongue. Almost as sweet as the kisses she’d press to his temple at the end of the day when she’d tuck him in.

Mountains of books the corners of her apartment. Fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, and newspapers. He liked the ones about the Greeks and Romans, all the stars and the gods.

Because, of course, there were good people out there. The smiling couple, the nervous single mom, a wild group home there and there. So many people took his hand and led him with kindness.

He knows this, remembers each and every.

Remembers Ms. Munhee with salt and pepper hair pulled into braids and buns. He lived with her in a skyrise apartment in the beating heart of Seoul.

Luke, Lei, and Chewie, the cats with names from some American film. Her hallways littered with pictures from when she was younger. A framed photo of a college student abroad in New York. Other foster kids as they age her. Polaris of her with a white coat and a stethoscope amidst a jungle. Knick-knacks in the living room and a cross over the front door. Her home, his whole world.

He loved her and the books and his life. Hardcover tales stacked in tall heaps waiting until 8:00 PM sharp, his bedtime. A small heart thrumming excitement every night as she’d sit by his bed and read to him.

For once, he did well in school. Ms. Munhee’s crow eyes crinkling in delight as he proudly presented his award for his grades. His once scrawny frame filling out a bit with chubby cheeks and strong arms. He sprouted nearly an inch that first year.

He thought he was going to stay. His roots planted deep into the soil of the city. He had a mom and friends, a life to cling too.

It was just like the stories he’d read. The ones where the main characters’ are happy, then sad and they get to be happy once more.

The stars watch over him and he kneels down to pray whenever he can remember to do so. He’s heard their stories too, murmurs his condolences to the stars who lost a loved one, congratulates the stars who achieved greatness.

Most of all, he gives thanks. Over and over, he bows and thank the stars for giving him his home.

And lastly, right before his eyes slip closed, his mind buzzing with a dreamy fog, he begs them, any of them, all of them, to please, let him stay.

He was 9 when he had to go, it wasn’t personal. It was business, a shuffle of papers, the click of a stapler. Something about something about something.

He liked stories. Still does really.

He liked the ones where the hero gets the girl when the sun sets over a peaceful land. The happy endings engraved with the bloodied knife that just slayed the villain, the tales craved into the earth so that no one can ever forget the struggle.

Ms. Munhee shoves a book into his dangling arms. His head pinned to his chest and eyes refusing to meet hers. It was an encyclopedia of stars. All the myths and facts and maps, all of it.

He says thank you, stiff and polite.

Shuffle through the line. Next – please and thank you.

They make it to what is supposed to be Hobi and Jimin’s dance studio. It’s empty of course. Dark and empty with crickets playing loudly in the background.

It’s a white complex of offices and other such things. Lawyers and tax collectors, real adults in the real world.

            “They’re not here.”

            “Well, of course, they’re not here, it’s fucking 3 AM.”

            “Well, what now? Why the hell did we drive out there?!”

And Jin gives a look in the rearview to the 3 in the back.

            “I... I don’t know ok?”

Silence. Crickets. And the breaking.

The cracks and chips of their relationship. Yesterday wounds of brotherhood and the fresh blood of today. All their hate from childhood, the bitterness of being cheated out of life. It's here, in each other, in all of them.

Jin and Taehyung growl and snarl, an ancient argument coming to mind as they glare harder and harder. 

           "Got a problem Tae?" Jin says, voice low, baiting the hot head - waiting for him to give in to old habits.

And he does, just like the rest of them do. A familiar step, their entire childhoods, their blood even. The fight is in all of them. If it wasn't, they'd all be dead.

Taehyung's out of the car and wrestling Jin to the floor before anyone can stop them. Sidewalk turns to battleground and Namjoon joins the fray and Yoongi grumbles his protest in the backseat. 

Shouts, albeit muffled, seep through into the confines of the car and Yoongi ignores it, just like old times. 

Namjoon, the leader, the peacemaker, he's trying, failing, to pull them apart as they scratch and claw with no real malice. No intent to hurt each other really. 

They want to hurt themselves but that's just too danm depressing. 

The next house Jungkook went too, wasn't so nice. Par for the course but it hurt all the same. And the next one was ok, a few little siblings to watch but not much. 

His foster siblings got younger as he got older.  New faces smashed and blended into a pulp until it didn't matter where or who or what or when - he just wanted it to stop. 

Good, bad - it was all the same. He wasn't 9 years old with a chocolate smeared face and soft hands reaching out. He was 10, 11, 12, 13 - 13 when he met Jimin, his neighbor. 

Jimin and then Taehyung - 2 best friends and sophomores when Jungkook was a freshman.

And then Namjoon through Taehyung; Joonie the Junoir (because he's soooo smart Gukkie, he got to skip a grade). Yoongi through Namjoon.

Hobi was another street rat like him, Jimin's friend from dance class too. And of course Jin, a senior at the time. He had stopped Jungkook from being beaten up one day. 

And then the next. And the day after that until the bullies just stopped coming. The pain just stopped. In the classroom, the park, everywhere; they didn't stop being friends no matter what.

But they weren't good. And maybe it was because they were all together. Bad habits feeding into bad habits; a wall that never came down between them. But most of all Jungkook remembers how everything suddenly mattered. He had to maintain grades so his social worker wouldn't check-in, he had to behave in the bad houses and sneak away at the good ones. 

No more drinking alone, in case a cop came and took him. No more drugs in case he got caught by someone, anyone with authority above his. 

He needed a home, a family just as much, if not more, than the others. So it mattered, all of it. And his reward, the nights spent with Yoongi, curled into his side as if the older boy could actually shut the entire world away. Like the lyrics he wrote could come true. 

The fact that they all converged at just the right time, their lives intersecting for those 3 or 4  golden years; it was a fucking miracle and that's all that mattered.

Until nothing did.

            “Stop it.” Jungkook says, words muffled by the fabric of Yoongi’s coat, “Just stop it.”

And then he stretches, bones grind and joints ache from sleeping so awkwardly against his hyung.

Slow, he moves slow. They do stop, fists mid-throw and foamy mouths open. They watch him untangle his limbs from the car. Seat belt unclicking and body compressing as he slides out and into the darkness.

And there’s a breeze blowing through his hair, a sliver of ocean air.

            “If you wanna fight,” He says as they all clamber closer to meet him. “fight me.”

And then they stare, pupils blown and faces slack.

            “C’mon, punch me.”

            “Jungkook, we...” Namjoon trails, his shock chocks his word. “We’re not gonna hit you.”

Their breaking, it even hit Jungkook once again. He grits his teeth and his eyes narrow. Taehyung notes the terrible wildness that returns to his eyes.  

His hand, shaking with frost and anger, trembles into a fist and then he’s swinging.

Feral and mean, he rams into something, anything. A phoenix, bird that rises from its ashes. A boy named after his dying grandfather.

A rebirth, a fresh start.

A never-ending cycle of love and loss and pain and heartache.

There’s shouts and grunts and groans as Jungkook, no longer a child aims to hurt. Rises from the charred remnants of the past to end the future.

He gets as far as Yoongi before arms tug him back and Jungkook fighting with a bursting chest and tears rolling down his cheeks.

            “PUT ME DOWN! PUT ME-“

            “Stop it! Jungkook, calm down!”

A breath and yet the tides turn again. Emotions rising and falling, an ocean wave coupled by still waters.

            “Jungkook, hush. My fucking – are all of you guys here?”

            “Jimin. Hoeseok.”

And the stars collide all at once.