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everything i never told you

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in the spell damage ward on the third floor of the seoul hospital for magical maladies and injuries, on a sun-streaming day that betrays the bitter colds of february, on a day just like every other day that he will come to forget—jeongguk meets min yoongi for the first time.

or—is it the first time? he can’t remember. each new day is one that erases the last, so that when he wakes in his hospital bed, it’s as though for the first time. everything is as though for the first time. and yet these healers know him. these patients know him. for years, jeongguk was once so certain of his own identity, his own future. now, suddenly, he seems to be the first stranger to himself.

by the time a healer knocks on the door and announces that jeongguk has a visitor, he has most if it memorized. he’s relearned the most important bits of his life now, an agonizing task his healers must go through every morning to keep jeongguk from panicking. he’s argued with his nurse about having tangerines with his lunch, but they don’t allow it, they never do, of course, but jeongguk does not remember this; he’s met and re-met the young witch in the room next to his, suffering from an unliftable curse that leaves her in horrible pain whenever she tries to speak; he’s stared out the window and remembered, of course, blistery seoul winters and sweltering seoul summers and wondered and hated and resigned himself to understanding that he will live through them again, for the rest of his life—but simply never be able to recall them, just as he cannot recall yesterday, and just as he will not be able to recall today once tomorrow comes.

it’s a lonely sort of existence, he’s sure. but he can’t remember enough to feel it.

then—with a knock at the door, a healer peeks her head inside (healer kim or choi or—what does it matter anyway, he wonders, when he’ll merely have to relearn her name and face tomorrow?). “jeongguk,” she says. “you have a visitor. are you up for it today?”

jeongguk perks up, sitting up straighter in his bed. visitor. perhaps one of his parents or a sibling or a friend from school—these people that he remembers seeing only yesterday, but of course, his yesterday is not theirs, and does it make them sad to see him like this? do they visit him at all? and does it matter anyway, he wonders, when he’ll merely forget that they were or were not here to begin with anyway—

“yes,” he says, eager. eager. what does this life hold for him now?

when the healer disappears, jeongguk finds himself going through the facts once more in his head. it’s easiest that way, to remind himself of who he is, to be upfront about the truth. it’s an apology hidden behind fact.

hello, he thinks when he hears murmurs outside of his room, his visitor waiting. my name is jeon jeongguk. a year and a half ago, i was in an accident and was hit by an obliviate charm. because of complications with spell damage, the charm recurs every time i fall asleep. i am twenty-six years old. but every morning when i wake up, i cannot remember anything past my eighteenth birthday.

if we have met before, he thinks, as his visitor enters the room, i’m sorry that i can’t remember you. if we—but jeongguk stops when he sees his visitor fully, memorized truth failing him. all he can think is that if he had met this man before, he’s certain he couldn’t forget.

the man is beautiful in a way that makes jeongguk remember every sunset in the eight years that he’s lost. thin and lithe, swallowed in a long black coat to shield him from the winter weather, the man is careful in the way he comes to a stop at the foot of jeongguk’s bed and watches him as though for signs of something. sharp, gentle eyes, a round nose, pink lips covered by the scarf wrapped around his neck. his hair is like honey. everything about him is like honey.

“jeongguk?” the man asks, and oh, his voice is like honey, too. jeongguk forgets what he’s supposed to say. “i’m—”

“pretty,” breathes jeongguk, and then immediately blushes when he realizes what he’s said. “oh—no, sorry, oh my god. i didn’t mean to say that.” he covers his ears with his hands instinctively, watching the man—who doesn’t look upset by the mishap. although he doesn’t look amused either. he just looks kind of… sad.

“it’s okay,” he says, those pink lips revealing a small grin. “i could say the same about you.” jeongguk blushes further, remembering looking in the mirror for the first time and being both intrigued and shocked at what he saw: himself, of course, but jeongguk remembers himself as an eighteen-year-old, still fresh-faced and so, so young. his face is that of a twenty-six-year-old’s, though. the face of a man who has lived eight years that jeongguk cannot remember. “i was going to say i’m min yoongi.”

“min yoongi,” repeats jeongguk. a pretty name for a pretty man. “i’m jeon jeongguk. well, i—i guess you know that.”

“yeah,” says yoongi. “i do.”

“sorry,” says jeongguk suddenly, brows furrowing. “if we’ve—if we’ve done this before. i don’t… remember.” it’s harder to say to a stranger who might actually be a friend than to himself. i don’t remember. i’ve been in this hospital for a year and a half. i’ll probably never leave, but i won’t remember anything other than the hours since i last woke up, so maybe it doesn’t matter. and still—even without remembering that year and a half in the hospital, and the six and a half of his life before that, an ache suddenly burns so deeply within jeongguk that it threatens to nauseate him. he wants to go home, even if he doesn’t know where or who home is.

yoongi grins at him. “you don’t have to apologize,” he says. “it’s not your fault. none of this is.” the accident wasn’t your fault, healer kim or choi said to him. there was nothing you could have done to prevent this. “i actually just came to the hospital to deliver some snacks. if you want any, that is.” yoongi reaches into his coat pockets and pulls out two tangerines, both sheepish and bold in the way he holds them out to jeongguk.

and jeongguk grins right back. “i love tangerines, yoongi-ssi,” he says. “what luck. i’ll have one if you have the other.” yoongi’s shoulders sink in what seems like relief, his grin coming even easier when he pulls a chair up next to jeongguk’s bed and hands one of the tangerines over, and suddenly, jeongguk doesn’t care so much if they have met before—because this is fine, just like this. this is more than fine.

“pretty flowers,” yoongi murmurs around the first slice of his tangerine, nodding toward the bouquet of forget-me-nots in a vase on jeongguk’s side table.

jeongguk regards them. “someone must have brought them for me,” he muses. “someone who doesn’t want me to forget them. ironic.”

they talk as they eat their tangerines, small talk about the hospital and pressing questions that jeongguk wants answered—simple things about the world, about korea, about magic. yoongi is infinitely patient in answering all of them, pulling a third tangerine from his pocket when jeongguk finishes his first so that he can have another. and as they talk, jeongguk tries to decipher it—if this is the first time he’s met yoongi. it’s infinitely frustrating to realize that there’s nothing familiar about yoongi, yet yoongi knows to open the tangerine for him because jeongguk always manages to use too much force and squish his thumb into the fruit. yet yoongi moves about the room to lower the shades and pour jeongguk a glass of water as though he’s been here before, as though he knows how this works. but he doesn’t offer any explanation to jeongguk, and surely someone who was important to jeongguk would tell him. wouldn’t be able to keep that sort of thing a secret.

jeongguk assumes that yoongi works for the hospital, then, or a program that comes through and provides visitors and conversation for long-term patients who don’t always get regular visitors of their own. the mute girl told him about that, in pictures and writing rather than speaking—about how her parents can’t come every day even though they want to, because it’s been two years. because they have jobs and lives and other children and even the most beloved of long-term patients can get left behind when life must move on without them—so the hospital offers programs for strangers to come in, to provide friendship and entertainment. to give presents or snacks.

or tangerines. jeongguk has been here for a year and a half. the hospital staff must know he loves tangerines. must tell the visitors to bring them for him, if they’re to bring anything.

and maybe—that’s easier. not knowing yoongi, knowing that there isn’t some aching chasm of pain between them that either of them must endure. it’s a shame that jeongguk didn’t know yoongi, that he will never remember this day—the day that he met min yoongi for the first time. because despite his condition and the pain of it all, it’s turning out to be a very good day indeed.

because yoongi is pretty and kind and easy to talk to. he listens to jeongguk talk about things that yoongi may have heard already, if he’s been here before. he tells jeongguk bits about himself without revealing too much—he’s a pureblood, likes medical research, dreams of being an unspeakable, has a dog named holly.

he can’t stay long—just long enough to finish their tangerines and have a nice chat, long enough for jeongguk to wish that he would remember yoongi tomorrow. maybe they could have been friends, if they met in a world where jeongguk doesn’t have a recurring obliviate charm fucking up his life. maybe it could have been good.

but that’s jeongguk’s life now, isn’t it—always the could haves. and at least for now, he doesn’t want to dwell on those.

when yoongi admits he has to run to catch dinner with friends, jeongguk only grins. “thanks for visiting me,” he says. “it was really nice to meet you, yoongi-ssi. i’d tell you to visit me again, but… i won’t remember you, so.” he shrugs. today, he doesn’t feel like being upset about that kind of thing. and he’s sure he is some days—maybe most days. but if he’s only ever going to remember one day at a time, he might as well make it a good one.

yoongi grins back at him as he’s putting his coat back on, but there’s something more. something that has been hiding beneath his smiles and laughter the entire time. “it was nice to meet you, too, jeongguk,” he says. “i’m sorry i couldn’t stay longer.”

“ah, you have your own life, yoongi-ssi. a job and friends and a spouse—” he’d spied the wedding ring on yoongi’s fourth finger almost immediately. “i don’t expect you to want to give up hours of your day to visit some wizard in a hospital who doesn’t remember the last eight years. but i really appreciate it. and the tangerines.”

yoongi seems to hesitate after he finishes wrapping himself up for the cold, hovering beside jeongguk’s bed. his hand lifts toward jeongguk, his mouth opens—but he doesn’t say anything. he just nods to himself, forehead creasing, and then takes a few steps toward the door. before he gets there, he turns back to jeongguk with that same sorrowful grin. “you know you’re so loved, don’t you, jeongguk?”

jeongguk swallows.

“i know you won’t—you won’t remember this tomorrow, but you are,” says yoongi. “i hope you know that deep inside, in that part of you that the magic can’t erase. there are people who… who love you more than you can know. who would do anything to bring you home.”

all at once, something shifts in yoongi’s gaze. while jeongguk had been searching so earnestly for any sign that they’ve done this before, he failed to notice that maybe the reason he didn’t find any proof is because they have done it. maybe they’ve done it countless times. maybe yoongi has just learned how to hide the habits, the familiarity. maybe there’s more to this than jeongguk will ever know.

but when he begins to say, “yoongi-ssi—” it’s yoongi who cuts him off, laughs, shakes his head. “sorry,” he says, blinking away tears. “i have to go. goodbye, jeongguk.”

yoongi—”

but he’s already gone, and even when jeongguk clambers out of bed to follow him, he only stares out into a hospital hallway with no familiar faces in it. it’s there that a healer finds him, gently leading him back to bed so they can give him his dinner for the night. but even as he slides back under the covers, his eyes are on the door, brows furrowed, trying so hard to remember, to find yoongi’s face in the massive hole of his memory.

no matter how hard he tries, he can’t remember him, if yoongi is even there to remember. he can’t remember anything from the past eight years. it’s just graduating from seven years of magical education, a summer of quidditch in the backyard and trying to create his own spells with his friends, and then his eighteenth birthday filled with magic and too much alcohol and so much damned hope for the future, a future he couldn’t wait to live and meet and know—and then nothing.

and then this.

“that man,” says jeongguk absently as the healer tidies the room from yoongi’s visit. “has he been here before?”

the healer stops, turning to look at him with something unreadable in his eyes. “why?” he asks.

“he was nice,” says jeongguk. “but he seems very sad.”

on the nightstand next to his bed sits a remembrall, swirling with red smoke as it does when its owner has forgotten something—as it always does for jeongguk, because he’s forgotten so much. but when he glances at it, thinking only of min yoongi, the smoke seems a darker red than usual.

》》》

yoongi is fifteen minutes late to dinner, even being able to apparate directly from the hospital to the restaurant. even while apologizing profusely, namjoon and seokjin brush it off. they know how these things go. they’re used to the time yoongi loses these days, how easy it is to slip. yoongi feels lucky that they’ve remained friends with him at all, after these years.

over barbeque and bottles of soju, yoongi feels himself relaxing. he listens to their talk of work—or as much as they can talk about, considering unspeakables are called such for a reason: they’re sworn to secrecy about the things they research and learn about magic. as a freelance editor of unspeakable research papers, yoongi knows more than the average witch or wizard, but it’s only because he was once in their position, too, and in another life, another world with less tragedy and freak accidents, yoongi would be an unspeakable alongside his friends.

but oh, he’s dwelled enough on it. he’d rather enjoy his meat and alcohol.

“enough about work, please,” seokjin is saying when yoongi tunes back in. “let’s talk about manly things.”

“like the fact that you’ve almost burned our pork belly?” asks yoongi, gesturing to the meat still on the grill.

“some of us like our meat with a little char on it, min yoongi.”

“ah, namjoon-ah, why did you put him in charge of the grill?”

“because i was last time and i almost started the table on fire,” says namjoon. “i don’t know why this place doesn’t have spells in place to keep that from happening to begin with.”

“it’s less authentic, i think,” says yoongi. everything else about the restaurant is magical, though—the food and drinks appear magically, without the aid of a waiter, and the menu itself is magical, although yoongi opted out of gigglewater or another substance that might make him float or burp brightly coloured bubbles. “or they just assume people know how to use a grill.”

“did either of you see the last national league game over the weekend?” seokjin asks, averting the conversation. “speaking of char. the korean team is an embarrassment this year.”

“they just need a better seeker,” says namjoon. “the rest of the team is fine, but since so many points are dependent on the seeker, you have to make sure you have a good one.”

“if the beaters would have taken out the japanese seeker first, we would have been fine,” argues seokjin, aggressively offering yoongi a piece of pork belly. “but if we don’t turn things around, we won’t even make it into the semi-finals. there aren’t even that many teams in the league! i’ll show them where to find a damn good seeker.”

yoongi stares at his plate. he doesn’t mind talk of quidditch—it’s the most popular magical sport in the world, after all, but talk of the korean team, talk of seekers always makes him a little queasy. when namjoon doesn’t respond to seokjin, yoongi realizes it’s because he’s looking at him like he’s just remembered something important.

“sorry, hyung,” says namjoon without prompting. “i forgot this stuff makes you uncomfortable.”

“it doesn’t,” says yoongi quickly, reaching for his soju. “talk about what you want. i’m just, ah—tired.”

still, the other two don’t return to their quidditch talk. and maybe this has always been one of the worse parts of it all—the fact that the truth is always hanging over him like a stormcloud charmed to follow him. for most people, it doesn’t matter because no one knows. but namjoon and seokjin have known him for years now, when they all met while beginning training to become unspeakables. they knew him before. and now, in the after, it’s impossible to forget.

that’s the irony of it, isn’t it? they can’t forget because he can’t remember.

yoongi downs half of his soju in one go, and then opens his mouth to break the silence with some other mundane topic, but seokjin beats him to it: “how was jeongguk today?”

it doesn’t matter how many times he hears that question, how often he talks about it—tears still sting the backs of yoongi’s eyes as he remembers that look, the comfort. the way he said pretty.

“he was good today,” says yoongi. “really good, actually. lately, he’s been having a bad streak, i think—gets angry and bitter and upset more often, but today he was calm and happy and like… i dunno. like he just wanted to make the most of it even though he knows he won’t remember it tomorrow.” some days it’s hard visiting jeongguk. some days are worse than others. some days the healers won’t even let him in because jeongguk is so agitated and upset after learning the truth about himself. but even on those days, yoongi will sit in the waiting room just in case he has a chance. just in case he can see jeongguk for even five minutes.

because that’s his life now—going to the hospital every day. meeting jeongguk again every day. some days it’s hard not because jeongguk is having a bad day, but because yoongi is drowning in the sorrow of it, the hopelessness. the utter frustration of walking into that hospital room and being met with the eyes of someone who doesn’t recognize him.

“that’s good,” says seokjin. “that’s really good, yoongi-yah.”

“i don’t know how you do it, hyung,” says namjoon. it’s the alcohol that loosens his tongue, yoongi knows. normally, both of them are so kind about it, so gentle. but he already knows this isn’t going to be one of those times. “how do you reintroduce yourself to him every day and still do it smiling?”

“i don’t really have another choice, do i?” asks yoongi.

“you could not go every day.”

“namjoon,” warns seokjin.

“you know you’re thinking the same thing, hyung,” says namjoon. “he dropped everything after the accident and i get it, of course. but yoongi-hyung, it’s been a year and a half. don’t you think that it’s time you—i dunno, moved on?”

moved on?” snaps yoongi.

“not like that,” says seokjin.

“like what, then?”

“hyung, you went through three years of unspeakable training,” says namjoon. “the department heads still love you. i asked them a few weeks ago, you know, and they said they would love to have you back if you wanted to pick it up again and they wouldn’t even make you go through all the training again—”

“you’re trying to make plans for me life now, namjoon? it’s been my dream since i was a kid to be an unspeakable, but the work i do now is so much more important.”

even seokjin looks a little pained to hear this. “he has a point,” he admits. “it’s been a year and a half and what do you really have to show for it in your research?”

“it’s not that easy. you should know that, considering you’re both researchers as well,” frowns yoongi. “i’ve recently been in contact with a medical researcher in canada, actually, who has been studying medical cases of memory charms for years and she might have better answers on how to help jeongguk, how to fix it.”

seokjin is unbearably gentle when he says, “you say that every time, yoongi.”

“what do you want me to do, then?” asks yoongi. “you want me to just give up on him? after all of these years, after all of the promises i made to him, you just want me to let him sit in that hospital for the rest of his life while i go on and pretend he doesn’t even exist?”

“no, hyung, god,” says namjoon. “but at least pick up some other hobbies or something. do more than just your research at home that honestly isn’t leading you anywhere. make new friends, hyung. try new things. you can’t just visit jeongguk every day for the rest of your life and let that be it.”

“he’s my husband, namjoon,” snaps yoongi.

“hyung, he doesn’t even know who you are.”

seokjin has cast a silent disarming spell on yoongi before he even realizes he’s grabbed his wand and stood up, but he ends up pointing nothing but his hand at namjoon as his wand flies into seokjin’s grasp instead. and he’s not a violent person, rarely raises his voice or his wand against someone, but when it comes to jeongguk—to someone telling him to give up on the love of his life because jeongguk lost his memory and doesn’t know how much yoongi loves him and has loved him for eight years—yoongi feels so much more.

the thing is, he’s heard it all before: from friends, his family, his therapist. it’s probably not healthy to cling to jeongguk the way he does, to have quit his dream job and taken up freelance editing so he can instead devote most of his time to researching ways to cure jeongguk and restore his memory. it’s probably not healthy to visit jeongguk every goddamn day and reintroduce himself every time, knowing that these conversations will only ever be surface level, knowing that he can never kiss jeongguk or tell him that he loves him again.

but yoongi loves him. yoongi has loved him since he was twenty-two years old and saw the only future he wanted to pursue when he looked at jeon jeongguk. he can’t let a recurring obliviate charm take that from him.

but aren’t you sad? they ask. of course he is. some days he, too, wonders why he does this, why he puts himself through the pain. but grief and love don’t have to look so different, and it’s in the pain of losing jeongguk that yoongi finds him again—because the very first time they met, jeongguk called him pretty, and for the past year and a half, almost without fail, jeongguk has done the exact same thing every time yoongi walks into his hospital room. because yoongi has known for eight years that tangerines are jeongguk’s favourite fruit and the utter joy on his face when yoongi pulls one from his pocket is enough to remind him of such devotion and love, of why he fell in love with jeongguk in the first place.

because jeongguk doesn’t know who he is. jeongguk doesn’t remember him. he doesn’t remember meeting shortly after jeongguk’s birthday, or the first time they kissed under a room filled with magical mistletoe. he doesn’t remember their wedding. he doesn’t remember the three years after it or the adoption papers on yoongi’s desk that they had yet to sign when the accident occurred.

but yoongi cannot unlove him. yoongi cannot break every promise he made to be with jeongguk until the very end, and if all he gets is one day at a time, one conversation where jeongguk looks at him like he wishes he would remember come the morning—then yoongi will take it.

sometimes he thinks jeongguk is just on the cusp of remembering, thinks that the memories that have been erased or blocked or hidden away in his mind are trying to burst forth when yoongi shows up again. he knows, somehow, that jeongguk cannot unlove him either, even if it looks a little different. and if yoongi has to work for the rest of his life to find a way for jeongguk to remember him, even for a second, then he will.

he knows that namjoon and seokjin know all of this. they’ve been with yoongi through it all, were good friends with jeongguk before the accident, too. and he knows it’s hard for them to see him struggle, to think that he’s wasting his life away waiting for something that will likely never happen. he knows they love him. but they don’t love him the way he loves jeongguk.

“namjoon,” says seokjin lowly. “that was uncalled for.”

namjoon’s eyes are dark before he concedes, softening and bowing his head when he says, “you’re right. i’m sorry, yoongi-hyung. i shouldn’t have said that.”

yoongi wipes at tears he didn’t realize were gathering in his eyes. “i mean, you’re right,” he says. “jeongguk doesn’t know who i am. but he’s still my husband and i still love him. and i won’t give up on him. those things can all be true at once.” the dinner has been ruined now, their meat left to char on the grill. and he should sit down. this is not the first time they’ve had this conversation and it won’t be the last. but suddenly, he doesn’t feel right being here.

“i have to go do research,” says yoongi, grabbing his coat. “thank you for dinner. it was nice catching up.”

“yoongi,” begins seokjin. “please.”

“my wand, hyung.”

“yoongi.”

“my wand.” yoongi holds out his hand, waiting. when their gazes meet, he sees so much pain in seokjin’s, and he knows that this situation benefits no one. what hurts jeongguk hurts yoongi hurts all of them by extension. but they’ll have dinner again, and they’ll be okay. they’ll talk about work and quidditch and life, and yoongi will watch as they live on—grow older and get married and have children of their own, get promotions and start new hobbies and go on vacation far, far away. and yoongi will be here, tirelessly working to save his husband. yoongi gave up all of his dreams for the future a year and a half ago—because it’s no future at all without jeongguk at his side to experience it with him. to remember it with him.

so he will go home and pour over his research, searching for any answer or clue to help jeongguk. and tomorrow he will go back to the hospital. he will introduce himself to jeongguk again, as he has every day for the past year and a half. they will start over, if only for a day. and maybe one day, when yoongi walks through that door, jeongguk will say his name first.

》》》

“min yoongi,” says jeongguk the next morning when yoongi comes to visit, testing the name on his tongue for the first time. “pretty name for a pretty man.” it’s like clockwork, this—the way jeongguk’s eyes widen when he realizes what he’s said, the way his cheeks darken with embarrassment, how he fumbles over himself to say, “oh my god, that was so inappropriate! i’m sorry.”

“it’s okay, jeongguk,” laughs yoongi, but each time he says it, the amusement is leeched from the words just a little more. for a year and a half, he’s heard that. for a year and a half, he’s had to reintroduce himself to his own husband every day. he still feels some irritation from the conversation with namjoon and seokjin from the night before, but being here just solidifies why he won’t give up: because even if jeongguk doesn’t know who he is, he still looks so pleased to have a visitor at all. to spend time with someone who doesn’t care much about the memory thing.

the thing is, yoongi knows jeongguk doesn’t get many other visitors. his entire family lives in busan, and while it’s not hard to floo into seoul for a visit, it’s hard with schedules and lives. and it’s been so long. yoongi has seen it with other long-term patients in this ward, too, the ones that he knows because he’s here every day: when they first arrive, their room is always filled with visitors and flowers and get well soon cards. and then slowly over time, it just… stops. all of it stops. and even if jeongguk won’t remember any of it, yoongi can never allow him to go a single day without feeling like he’s important, cared for. loved.

“have we met before?” asks jeongguk. he does, sometimes. and sometimes, yoongi says no—because it’s easier, because reminding jeongguk of what he forgets only makes him sad most days. but today—today this is for yoongi, too. he never admits that they’re married, never even admits that they knew each other before the accident, but he can go halfway today.

“yes,” says yoongi, watching the way both disappointment and curiosity fill jeongguk’s eyes. “i come to the hospital often. we’ve, um. we’ve met a few times.”

“i’m sorry i don’t remember you,” says jeongguk. there’s something different in the way he says it today. yoongi has heard that apology as many times as he’s heard jeongguk call him pretty for the first time, but—there’s more. most days, yoongi brings jeongguk snacks or a book to read to him, and they talk about simple things. most days, they just spend time together, which is all yoongi wants. this has never been about trying to unlock some part of jeongguk’s memory. this part has always been for the both of them: giving jeongguk some comfort, some company. giving yoongi a chance to spend time with the man he loves most, even if it’s not how he wants it.

today, though, he can tell that they won’t be sitting and making jokes. jeongguk looks out the window, at this wonderful world that he might never get to truly experience again. yoongi takes the opportunity to admire his side profile like this—the strong jaw, the sharp cheekbones. the hospital staff keep his hair short and tidy, its natural black colour. now, yoongi thinks of how jeongguk loved changing his hair colour—pink one day, blonde the next. he’d been planning on growing it out just before the accident, but the healers believe it’s best to keep him looking as close to how jeongguk remembers himself as an eighteen-year-old, for his own health.

and still, every day jeongguk grows older. every day in this goddamn hospital, he moves further from the boy he remembers himself to be—and the man that he was before the accident. he’s still devastatingly handsome, still with those big eyes and that wide smile. still yoongi’s husband.

and yet—yoongi can’t reach out and touch him. can’t run his hands through jeongguk’s hair like he wishes to, can’t kiss him and hold him. sometimes, if yoongi shows up and jeongguk is sleeping, he allows himself to pretend. he holds jeongguk’s hand so gently, touches his face so softly. and this is all he has now; after seven years of being inseparable before the accident, yoongi has to play the perfect stranger.

jeongguk turns to look at him so suddenly that yoongi almost forgets to school his expression into one of vague concern rather than the heartbreaking devastation he always feels here. “what’s it like?” jeongguk asks. “me not remembering you, i mean. what’s it like having to… introduce yourself again every time you come here?”

it’s the first time jeongguk has ever asked. normally, yoongi tries keeping the conversation trained on things other than himself—because how can he lie about the most intimate parts of his life if jeongguk asks? how can he keep from breaking down and admitting the truth when jeongguk is so earnest? he always wants this to be good for jeongguk. light and fun and happy.

but yoongi knows that jeongguk is searching for the truth right now. so yoongi sighs, leaning back in his chair. he says, “it sucks.”

somehow, jeongguk looks relieved.

“and i can’t blame you,” says yoongi. “it’s not your fault. but it’s an objective truth that it hurts me to know that you won’t remember this or me. and it’ll never stop me from coming and starting all of this over again, because it’s worth it to spend time with you. to hear you laugh and see you smile and try to make your day okay, but… of course i can’t deny it. we’ve had the same conversations so many times, jeongguk.”

“it sucks forgetting,” replies jeongguk quietly. “and the worst part is that i don’t even know what i’m forgetting. i don’t remember going through all of this before or having to re-learn what happened to me every day. i don’t remember the long days in this hospital so really, i shouldn’t feel the frustration, but just thinking about it—thinking about how much time i’ve lost, how many people i’ve lost…” he shakes his head, lips pinching. yoongi knows it means he’s trying not to cry. “i just want to stop forgetting, yoongi-ssi.”

perhaps against his better judgement, yoongi reaches out and takes jeongguk’s hand. he squeezes it. “i know, jeongguk-ah,” he whispers. “i know you do.”

“it’s a terrible way to live.” jeongguk’s fingers curl around yoongi’s, but he’s looking out the window again. “it’s not even a life to begin with. stuck in a hospital, only ever able to remember one day at a time. i wanted—i wanted to make it big in quidditch. i was going to be beast handler with the ministry. i wanted… a husband and kids and a house by the sea. and i’ll never have it, all because my brain keeps erasing itself every night.” he squeezes yoongi’s hand. “when i was a kid, i thought magic was the best thing in the world. but it’s magic that has stolen everything from me.”

“i wish i could make it better,” whispers yoongi—and jeongguk will never know just how much he does. just what he would do to fix this, to give jeongguk back his ability to remember.

but jeongguk turns to look at him again, something sad in his grin. “you do,” he says. “i might not remember you, but i can tell that you’re kind, yoongi-ssi. and if you come to visit me as much as i think you do, that’s more than enough. i can tell you make me feel less lonely.”

it’s a thought that sticks with him for the rest of the day. leaving jeongguk is always hard, but he has a job to do—to pay the bills, to keep their house in case jeongguk does get to come home one day. and he has his research—his research which he throws himself into even harder with jeongguk’s pained, tired voice in his head: i just want to stop forgetting, yoongi-ssi.

one afternoon, jeongguk asks yoongi to show him a few spells because he misses magic—the good kind of magic, the kind of magic that heals more than it hurts. he looks at yoongi for a very long time when yoongi casts his patronus, when jeongguk must realize that it’s the same as his patronus—and it wasn’t always that way, but somewhere around the third month after jeongguk’s accident, during a night that was particularly hard for yoongi, he cast his patronus and it was a jackalope. jeongguk’s.

a different morning, jeongguk stares at the remembrall he insists on keeping at his bedside, watching as it turns red when yoongi enters the room. before yoongi can even introduce himself, jeongguk has gotten out of bed, grabbed the remembrall, and thrusted it at yoongi as he demands, “who are you? who are you that i’ve fucking forgotten? why can’t i remember you?

yoongi doesn’t end up staying for a visit that day, the healers ushering him out as they lead a distraught and shouting jeongguk back to bed. and yoongi can’t fault him for that, either—the ache of not knowing, the frustration of forgetting every day and not even knowing what he’s forgotten, the helplessness of looking at a new world and wondering, day after day, if he’s meant to know it, if it’s meant to be something to him.

so yoongi goes back to his research. so he knows he has to work harder.

for a year and a half, yoongi has worked tirelessly searching for a way to help jeongguk. giving up the job of his dreams was an easy decision, somehow—when it came to jeongguk, to the love of his life who needs him more than ever to gear his research passion toward finding how to relieve him of his pain. he’s found plenty of information, but most of it has been dead ends. at this point, the hospital staff won’t even listen to any ideas he has because so many have failed before, or because they don’t want to cause jeongguk any distress.

but yoongi won’t stop. he has to find a way to fix this. so he gets up earlier, stays up later, pouring over books and resources, contacting healers and researchers from across the world in hopes of finding even one thing, just one thing that might help jeongguk. he shows up at the hospital with tangerines in his pockets and bags under his eyes, and jeongguk smiles at him so kindly every time—says, you’re very pretty, yoongi-ssi and what’s it like out there? and the girl in the room next to mine told me that i have a husband, but i think she’s just being silly. he meets jeongguk for the first time day after day, tries not to let it frustrate him, and then goes home to research some more.

there has to be something. there has to be something.

and then, one day—

《《《

“jeongguk, they’re ready for you in the operating room,” says the assistant healer when she appears in his room, grinning as jeongguk takes a deep breath and then slides out of bed to follow her through the hospital. he doesn’t know exactly what the healers are doing, only that it’s some sort of magical operation that might help with his condition—and it’s odd to know in his head that he’s been here for over a year and a half, has been waiting this long to find something that works, yet in his memory it only feels like it’s been a few hours.

“you won’t even know what we’re doing,” explains the healer he meets near the operating room. “you’ll be unconscious the entire time. you’ll have to recover for a few hours afterwards, but then we’ll begin some tests to see if the operation worked. but it’ll be just like falling asleep and waking again. do you have any questions?”

jeongguk shakes his head. the hospital staff seem so familiar with him even though this is the first time he’s met them—and maybe he’s done this before. maybe he’s done these kinds of operations before, maybe none of them have worked if he still can’t remember anything. but he has no choice but to trust them, letting the assistant healer lead him into the operating room.

at the last second, he looks over his shoulder and out of the massive window that leads into the hospital hallway. there’s a man there, a stranger—or is he? jeongguk only sees honey hair and sharp eyes and a worried mouth, one hand pressed to the glass, and when they meet eyes, the other man mouths something that looks a lot like i love you.

inexplicably, his heart replies i know.

jeongguk turns and is led into the operating room.

《《《

when jeongguk wakes next, it’s slowly, blinking up at the lights hovering near the ceiling. his neck is a little stiff, but otherwise, he feels fine, and when he looks around once gaining his bearings, he sees a familiar hospital room: the one he woke up in this morning, at which point he began to panic at having been involved in a situation that landed him here. like that time, there are a few healers huddled around his bed, who perk up upon seeing he’s woken and ask him a round of questions.

how are you feeling? fine.

do you know where you are? the seoul hospital for magical maladies and injuries. long-term care ward for spell damage, right?

right. do you know why? um. i was in an accident… recurring obliviate charm. i can’t remember things.

what’s the last thing you remember? i… i was on the roof of my apartment with my friends. we were having a drink because it—it was my eighteenth birthday. we were casting stupid spells and talking about the future, i think. i said i wanted to remember this forever. and that’s… that’s it, i’m sorry.

it’s okay, jeongguk. do you remember anything after that? no.

anything that happened, say, yesterday? in the hospital? no, i’m sorry.

don’t apologize, jeongguk. you’ve done well. get some more rest and we’ll be back later.

he does try to remember more. he really does. they’ve done some operation on him and he has no idea what it was, but whatever they tried didn’t bring back his memories. he’s not even sure memories erased by an obliviate charm can be brought back, but no matter what he does, he can’t remember anything past that night: the night of his eighteenth birthday. his friends had thrown a wild party for him, and after it was all done, when the sun was just barely beginning to peek above the horizon, it was just the four of them on the roof: him and jimin and taehyung and hoseok. they were all so full of hope, then, for their futures. they all wanted to live forever.

now jeongguk can’t help wondering where they are. it’s been… eight years since then, according to the healers. did they achieve their dreams? are they well?

do they ever visit him?

when the healers come back, it’s with a visitor. jeongguk starts, just a little, because it’s a man he recognizes—the man from outside of the operating room, the one watching him.

“jeongguk, this is yoongi,” says the healer that leads the man in. “he’s here to spend some time with you, if you’re okay with that. we hope it’ll help with the recovery from your operation.”

yoongi looks… nervous. but pretty. somehow, this is the first thing jeongguk’s mind decides to notice about him. but yoongi sits next to him and introduces himself and asks jeongguk questions—gentle questions, kind questions. he never stops looking nervous, never stops looking hopeful about something that jeongguk doesn’t understand.

when he leaves little over an hour later, jeongguk can’t help feeling like there’s more he’s not telling jeongguk—more the healers aren’t telling jeongguk. but according to his condition, he’ll just fucking forget tomorrow anyway.

except—

he doesn’t.

when jeongguk wakes up the next morning, he remembers. he remembers the day before—remembers waking up in the hospital, remembers the operation, remembers meeting yoongi. he remembers each little detail of it, the first memories that he’s been able to store since the accident. it’s the first new memory he has other than everything up until his eighteenth birthday.

whatever the healers did worked.

admist the shock and celebration of it, healers continually streaming in and out of his room to ask him questions and run tests, jeongguk eventually catches sight of a familiar face. min yoongi bursts into the room, almost knocking over an assistant healer on the way. he’s out of breath, like he ran up the stairs and down the hallways to find the room, and jeongguk is startled as everyone in the room falls quiet upon his arrival.

they stare at each other. jeongguk is sure there’s more to this—because there are already tears in yoongi’s eyes when he looks at jeongguk, a dreadful sort of hope marring his pretty features when he takes a few deep breaths, collects himself, and then asks, “jeongguk?”

jeongguk swallows tightly. “min yoongi,” he says. and then yoongi begins to cry.

“yoongi-ssi,” says a healer, reaching for him, but yoongi waves her off, wiping at his own eyes as he takes a step toward jeongguk’s bed. and jeongguk is still confused about why yoongi is having such a reaction in the first place; when they met yesterday, he appeared to be just a hospital employee who was assigned to give jeongguk some social interaction while recovering. and yet jeongguk doesn’t dare turn away from the sight to ask one of the other healers about it, too focused on the way yoongi lifts his hand to jeongguk and then stops, the way his eyes shine with tears.

the way he says, “you—you remember me?”

“um, yeah,” whispers jeongguk. “we met yesterday.”

yoongi sucks in a breath, pressing the end of his sleeve to his wet cheeks as more tears spill over. “yeah,” he says. “yeah, we did.”

jeongguk throws a desperate look toward a healer over yoongi’s shoulder, but no one looks poised to step in. and jeongguk has been somewhat emotional about it all since waking up, too; he can finally remember, although what he still can’t remember is every day he’s spent waiting for something like this. but while yesterday he remembers looking back and knowing nothing but emptiness after his eighteenth birthday, now there’s something. there’s breakfast yesterday, and the little girl in the room beside his bringing him a drawing she did of cherry trees. there’s the operation and min yoongi and the tangerine he pulled out of his pocket and set on jeongguk’s nightstand before leaving. there’s—the pain of realizing he’s somehow lost eight years of his life.

but. there is something. and maybe tomorrow there will be something more and maybe, finally, when jeongguk wakes up, he will no longer forget where he’s been. who he’s been.

“are you okay?” jeongguk eventually whispers, feeling as though yoongi ought to be asking him that. but yoongi laughs wetly, nodding his head.

“yeah, jeongguk,” he says. “i’m just happy.”

yoongi doesn’t stay for long, the healers too busy trying to ask jeongguk questions and run tests and make notes on their clipboards. but even after he’s gone, jeongguk can’t stop seeing the look on his face—that hope, that joy that overwhelmed him so greatly. in those last moments, he looked like a man who had been carrying something for a very long time, looked like a man who had just been able to lay down whatever burden had been forced onto him. the relief of it, but also the fear—the fear that being without the burden would somehow be worse, that he would no longer know how to live without it.

somehow, jeongguk understands that. somehow, jeongguk feels like he understands much more about min yoongi than he should.

《《《

the next morning, miraculously, jeongguk wakes with his memory still intact. he can remember everything from the past two days, and again, his healers poke and prod at him, asking more questions and running more tests. despite spending a year and a half forgetting every morning, the magical operation seems to have held off the obliviate charm from erasing his memories again. or they got rid of it entirely—although jeongguk had hoped that his memories of the past eight years would be restored as well.

but this—this is magic. if this is what he’s being given, jeongguk will take it.

this time, when min yoongi arrives, it’s just the two of them. and yoongi still has that terrified sort of hope on his face, treading carefully, clearly worried that something will have gone wrong—or perhaps that it’s all a dream. but when yoongi enters the room, jeongguk finds himself grinning. it’s almost like an experiment with yoongi: seeing who he can remember from day to day, or how much information. while the healers have mostly been speaking to him about medical things, at least yoongi is just a person.

“yoongi-ssi,” says jeongguk. “any tangerines today?”

and yoongi’s responding grin is—almost enough to knock jeongguk off of his feet. he pulls a tangerine out of his pocket, offering it to jeongguk, and jeongguk laughs. it’s so odd to look at this tangerine, at these hands, at this man and have memories of it all. the past few days have been overwhelming for him, but he’s hopeful now. if this is his fresh start, then he wants to get it right. rather than letting yoongi sit, then, jeongguk swings his legs over the side of the bed and stands up.

“walk with me?” he asks. “i feel like exploring.”

“it would be my pleasure to go anywhere with you, jeon jeongguk,” says yoongi, and for a second, the way they grin at each other is goofy. giddy. jeongguk is so sure yoongi isn’t telling him something.

but yoongi holds out his arm for jeongguk to take, and he does take it, and they walk. jeongguk has lived in this hospital for a year and a half but this is the first time he’s seen it, the first time he’ll be able to remember any of it. the first time the healers won’t have to remind him where the bathroom is or how to call them for help. it’s the first time any of this is familiar, and despite how overwhelming it all is, jeongguk wants to learn all of it. the sooner he can get on his feet here, the sooner he can go home—wherever that is.

“it’s so weird to remember things,” says jeongguk when they’re walking down the hallway, past rooms and rooms of people not unlike him—helpless and hopeless, suffering from spell damage that has taken so much from them. “not that i can remember not remembering every day, but the last thing i do remember is being eighteen and now, suddenly… i can remember the hospital. and the healers. and you.”

“is it overwhelming?” asks yoongi.

“a little. but a good overwhelming. because this means… i might be cured. and if i can remember things again, i can go home and go back to having a normal life. and i might not have those eight years of memories back, but this is better than nothing.”

when he looks at yoongi, the other man quickly looks away, but it was clear he was staring. jeongguk’s not sure how to feel about that. “be honest with me, yoongi-ssi,” he says.

“hm?”

“the other day… that wasn’t the first time we’ve met, is it?”

he’s not sure what he’s expecting. if yoongi was a friend or someone important to him, jeongguk clearly met him after he turned eighteen, so all of his memories of yoongi were stolen by the obliviate charm. and he’s not sure if it’s better or worse to learn that yoongi was someone—that he’s close enough to jeongguk to be the first one the healers wanted him to see after the operation, the one who was so desperate for jeongguk to remember him that he immediately began crying upon jeongguk saying his name without any prompting.

because if yoongi did mean something to him, that means that he’s been suffering for a year and a half, waiting for jeongguk to remember him. waiting for jeongguk to get better. that means the obliviate charm stole jeongguk from him, too, just as it stole yoongi from jeongguk, and maybe there is something so wonderful that jeongguk has forgotten.

eight years is a long time. the healers have told him that he was playing in a minor quidditch league, trying to achieve his dream of playing for the national team one day. he was a beast handler in the ministry, often caring for the less dangerous and smaller creatures who had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time and needed to find their way back home. he had friends, family. he had been happy.

he lost all of that. but—here is min yoongi. and who is min yoongi? and if jeongguk lost him, what did he lose along with him? what beautiful part of his life, what beautiful memories, what beautiful truth about himself did he lose when the magic took his memories from him?

and would it be too much to handle, to know? would it be better to believe that yoongi is merely happy that someone is making progress after a year and a half of being a dead end in a hospital? would it be better to never know at all?

he thinks perhaps he wouldn’t mind not knowing. he wouldn’t mind just letting this be a fresh start. they can become friends without any potential past between them changing who they are. some part of jeongguk feels like he could love min yoongi, like his heart already knows him even if his mind doesn’t. and maybe, whoever they were to each other in the past, they can make something new now, in the future. in a future that jeongguk will finally remember.

yoongi just smiles at him, sweet and sad. “no,” he admits. “it’s not the first time we’ve met.”

“and you’ve visited me before.”

“every day since the accident.”

jeongguk sucks in a breath. he looks down at where their arms are hooked together. “and that ring on your finger?”

“jeongguk—”

“i don’t want to know,” he says quickly, heartrate speeding up. “not really. not yet. maybe one day i’ll be able to handle the truth, but i think i just… for now, i just want to talk. just tell me what it’s like out there, yoongi-ssi? so i have something to look forward to?”

they’ve stopped at the end of the hall, near the recreation room for the patients. when yoongi moves closer, jeongguk’s eyes rise to his in time to see yoongi lifting his free hand and gently moving jeongguk’s bangs away from his eyes. “you wanted to grow your hair out,” he whispers, seemingly transfixed on this. jeongguk isn’t breathing. “i tried to tell them not to cut it, but they wanted you to look how you remember. but you can grow your hair out now, if you want. you can do anything you want, jeongguk-ah.”

it’s a sudden and heartbreaking realization—min yoongi knows jeongguk better than jeongguk knows himself. whatever they were, it’s too big to know right now. maybe one day soon he’ll ask yoongi to tell him.

for now, he takes a step into the recreation room, tugging yoongi with him. “what else?” he asks. “what else did i wanna do?”

yoongi tells him. and the whole sky opens up.

》》》

on the fourth day, yoongi arrives at the hospital with a bag of supplies. his conversation with jeongguk about his past has inspired yoongi—and if jeongguk can remember each new day now, there’s so much hope for the future. he can begin introducing jeongguk’s past, can show him pictures and tell him stories, can show jeongguk who he was before the accident. now, as he heads up to the spell damage ward, he can see jeongguk’s face when yoongi gave him just a glimpse into his past: how hopeful and mesmerized.

and hopefully soon, yoongi can tell jeongguk the whole truth. the truth of he is, too.

when he’d found the experimental magic that had been used in several other countries to reverse the effects of spell damage that affected part of the brain, he’d been hopeful yet knew, because of every other failed attempt, that this might not be the one. but he’d convinced the healers to try it anyway, because they’ve been out of options with jeongguk for months. but jeongguk remembered him. he’s been remembering him. and today might just be the start of forever. his chance to show jeongguk just a little more, to show him the life they had built together. the life they can still build together, if jeongguk wants that.

the spell damage ward is bustling when yoongi arrives, as it often is. he has these walls memorized, could find his way to jeongguk’s room with his eyes closed. sometimes he even brings snacks or books for the other patients in the ward, having seen them every day since jeongguk arrived here—and how cruel is it, and how ironic, that the other patients in this ward and the healers working here know yoongi better than jeongguk does?

yoongi grins when he spots jeongguk’s healer at the end of the hall, lifting his hand in a wave when the woman notices him and starts toward him. “yoongi-ssi,” she begins.

“healer kim,” he greets her. “good morning. how’s jeongguk today?”

“yoongi-ssi, i need to have a word with you.” but yoongi is already turning down the hallway toward jeongguk’s room and the healer has to hurry after him, clearly panicked about something as she tries to catch his arm. “yoongi-ssi, i insist. you can’t go into jeongguk’s room.”

“why not?” asks yoongi, too high on hope for the future to stop and listen to her. “i brought a bunch of pictures to show him today, but not too many to overwhelm him. you know, yesterday he really wanted to know about his past, so i’m thinking—”

“yoongi, stop,” says the healer, reaching out and grabbing his arm. her eyes are wide when yoongi actually does look at her, shocked at her physical response. “please.”

yoongi frowns, shaking her off. “he’s my husband,” he says. “i have every right to see him.”

“yoongi-ssi—yoongi!” the healer calls after him as he continues down the hallway toward jeongguk’s room, and the closer he gets, the more he sees there’s some commotion going on around it. a few healers are huddled around the door, peering in or speaking amongst themselves, and when they notice yoongi heading toward them, all of them have similar reactions to healer kim—the head for him instead, trying to stop him from getting any closer, and yoongi begins to grow irritated, trying to brush them off and get through to the door. to jeongguk.

“yoongi-ssi, please, you can’t—” begins a healer, desperate as yoongi suddenly realizes there are loud noises coming from jeongguk’s room, and one of the healers grabs yoongi’s arm, trying to pull him away as yoongi wrenches himself away and pushes into the room. just as he does, the healer behind him says, “yoongi, he doesn’t remember—”

everything goes silent as yoongi steps into the room. not so unlike that first day after the operation, when jeongguk’s healer sent her patronus to tell yoongi to come to the hospital immediately. that time, when jeongguk had looked at him, there had been recognition for the first time in a year and a half.

this time—

jeongguk appears to have been in the middle of trying to physically attack one of the healers, because the three hospital staff in the room have their wands pointed at him and jeongguk is clearly bound with an incarcerous charm, ropes binding his arms to his sides as he twists against them. there’s so much anger and panic on his face that yoongi forgets what he’s meant to say, such a horrifying sight before him that he can only stare.

worst of all, when jeongguk looks at him, there’s no hint of recognition. no familiarity, no sign that they’ve spent the last few days getting to know each other. instead, there’s nothing but cold, hard anger.

“what do you want?” jeongguk spits at him.

“jeongguk,” begins yoongi. “it’s—it’s me.”

“i don’t know who the fuck you are,” snaps jeongguk, and yoongi doesn’t have time to understand that before there are hands on him, gently tugging him back into the hallway, then leading him away from the room. he goes blindly, numbly, letting the healer take him to her office—her familiar office, the office where she first told him that jeongguk had been hit with an obliviate charm. the office where she first told him that jeongguk didn’t remember him, and may never remember him again.

cruel irony. someone slips his bag from his shoulder, the one containing every good part of jeongguk’s past that yoongi was so excited to share with him. someone presses a mug of coffee into his hands. yoongi stares at the floor in front of his feet.

“we think,” healer kim tells him, “that the operation didn’t cure him entirely. we’ll have to continue monitoring him, but i believe that it did work, in a way. i believe that the operation has managed to push the limits of the obliviate charm, so that it only recurs once every three or four days.”

yoongi looks up. “what does that mean?”

“it means jeongguk won’t forget every morning. he’ll forget every fourth morning. he’ll be able to remember three days at a time, probably, and then on the fourth morning, like this morning, he’ll wake as a blank slate again.”

it didn’t work. it didn’t work like he wanted it to work. there’s no—real future in this. now, jeongguk will be able to remember him for three days at a time before having to start all over again. all yoongi has done is prolong the effects of the magic, given jeongguk just a few more days to hope and want and feel frustrated with his condition. all he’s done is given them just a fraction more time, but it’s not… it’s not enough.

this is never going to be enough.

later, when he’s three firewhiskeys deep and it still hasn’t dulled the ache in his heart, seokjin takes the bottle from him and slides a glass of water to him across the table. yoongi just stares at it. says, “i really thought this was gonna be the one.”

“oh, hyung,” whispers namjoon.

“i don’t know why i let myself hope so much. i mean, you’re right, aren’t you? it’s been over a year and a half and what do i have to show for it?”

“yoongi, you did good,” seokjin tells him, putting his hand over yoongi’s on the table. “you did so well. you managed to give him a few more days every time, and that’s—that’s so much compared to what he had before.”

“hyung’s right,” says namjoon. “now you can spend a few days together. you can have meaningful conversations and get to know each other.”

“but he still won’t remember,” says yoongi. “what does it matter if it takes one day or three days for him to forget? he’s still going to forget. he’s still going to wake up one day and not know who i am and we’ll have to keep starting over again and again.” maybe he should be happy about the partial success of the operation. three days is so many compared to the constant one-day time limit they’ve had for this long. and yet—“i don’t know if this is better,” admits yoongi. “it gives us time to… what? become friends, get to know each other a little. maybe have a connection. and then he’s just going to forget again.”

yoongi swirls the water in his glass with his wand, watching the tiny whirlpool it makes. he doesn’t look at either of his friends. “when he could only remember a day at a time, it was so easy to pretend,” he whispers. “it was easy to introduce myself every day because every day was the same. but now… what if he asks questions? what if i can’t pretend we’re strangers anymore? what if three days is just enough to make it hurt?”

it’s only now that he realizes there was a certain comfort in jeongguk forgetting every day. now, there are so many possibilities for how it could hurt more. yoongi gets so easily attached—and he’s never stopped loving jeongguk, but for a year and a half, he and jeongguk could only have surface-level conversations, ask the simple questions, share just a little time. but now it feels like anything can happen in three days. they can know each other, and then jeongguk will forget and yoongi will be left with only these tiny, broken pieces of a marriage lived only three days at a time.

and he doesn’t want that. he doesn’t want to be reminded of how funny and kind and wonderful jeongguk truly is just for jeongguk to look at him again and not know who he is. he doesn’t want to have just enough time for something to start only to have it all taken from him time and time again.

worse, he just wanted it to work. he just wants his husband back. he just wants his husband, period. he just wants their lives back, wants back everything they built together before the accident. most days, the worst part isn’t even going to the hospital and having to introduce himself to the love of his life again.

it’s having to come back home. alone. it’s having to come back to a home that he and jeongguk built together, still so wrapped up in their life together, and feel how big and empty it is without jeongguk. and know that it will always be like this without him. it might just—always be like this.

when namjoon and seokjin leave, that’s all the house is: big and empty and without jeongguk. he shuts the door after the two of them and turns his back against it, looking at the house—their house. jeongguk’s shoes are still neatly placed on the shoe rack next to the door. his coats are still hanging in the closet. as yoongi slowly makes his way through the house, he sees all of the places that jeongguk lives on, the places that yoongi hasn’t been able to erase along with his husband’s memory: the stupid matching mugs he insisted on getting are still on the kitchen shelves, though yoongi hasn’t touched his since the accident; his quidditch robes are still hanging in their bedroom closet, no longer smelling of blood, sweat, and tears; all of his knickknacks and collected items and books are still scattered around the house, exactly where he left them over a year and a half ago. yoongi still buys jeongguk’s favourite foods, just in case he gets to come home and can have some familiarity that first day. yoongi still uses his shampoo, because that way he can fool himself into believing that the pillows smell like jeongguk because jeongguk is still there.

he’s still here. he’s always here, in the very fabric of this house—he chose that rug, begged yoongi to buy that piece of artwork. he used to charm mistletoe to grow in every doorway during the holidays. when holly pads up to yoongi and paws at his legs, yoongi knows even this is tainted: jeongguk was the one who chose holly in the first place.

for years, jeongguk’s life has been yoongi’s, too. and most days, he can block out the pain of it—by throwing himself into his research, by spending hours at the hospital, by trying to have a real social life and real hobbies to take his mind off of reality. but today, he’s just tired. today, he’s just upset; he wanted so badly for the operation to work. he’d pinned all of his hope on it, bolstered by jeongguk remembering him for three fucking days, and now—now.

yoongi draws his wand, extinguishing the lights in the house so that he stands in darkness. then he closes his eyes, imagines—their wedding day. how magical, how beautiful. jeongguk’s wide, wide smile, all of those stars. i do, i do, i do. then yoongi whispers, “expecto patronum.”

when nothing happens he tries again, louder. and then louder. he thinks of moving into this house with jeongguk, thinks of the day they decided they wanted to adopt a baby together, thinks of the happiest that jeongguk has ever made him: every goddamn day of his life before the accident, and he shouts, “expecto patronum!

but when he opens his eyes, he’s still left in darkness. the spell needs happiness. the spell needs goodness, and yoongi can’t even provide that now, the sorrow of it all clouding over every good day with jeongguk. “just—fucking work!” he shouts into the air, trying the spell again and again and again until he’s begun crying, until he can’t even remember what happy memory he’s trying to use to summon his patronus, until he’s desperate and upset and he just—he just wants jeongguk.

and his patronus isn’t jeongguk. but when his own patronus became jeongguk’s, the jackalope had always been synonymous with jeongguk in yoongi’s mind. jeongguk had even named his patronus, had liked being friends with it, and it’s some stupid, cheap imitation of his husband, but the jackalope has always brought him some comfort. sometimes, he conjures his patronus for hours at a time just to have it with him, because it’s as close as he’s going to get to jeongguk.

and now, when he wants jeongguk most, he can’t even do the fucking spell right.

yoongi tries one last time, the spell becoming an angry yell when it still doesn’t work. and now he’s not just angry at the spell, at his magic—he’s angry at all of it. he’s angry at magic for taking jeongguk’s memories, angry at the world for not being able to provide a cure. he’s angry that his husband has been stuck in a hospital for almost two years and might never set foot outside of it again. he’s angry that they had so many plans, so much hope for the future, and now neither of them will ever move past this—because jeongguk can’t and yoongi won’t, not without jeongguk.

he’s angry because he thought he might finally have the answer and now all he’s done is perhaps made it all worse. he’s angry because he’s sick and tired of all of this, of losing jeongguk in little ways day after day, of never being able to unlove jeongguk no matter how fucking hard he tries.

his anger carries him into his study, and when he sees all of his precious research—hundreds of books and research papers and notes—his anger only grows. he’s been searching for almost two years and what good has it done? what has he done other than waste his life without anything to show for it? and even when he thought he found the right answer, it’s all come crashing down on him anyway.

yoongi lets out a shriek at the sight of it, immediately slashing his wand over his desk and watching as it goes up in flames. he grabs a pile of papers on the desk and flings them across the room, shouting at that, too, and even as holly barks at him from the doorway, yoongi doesn’t stop. he sends exploding hexes toward the bookshelves, smashes his quill and inkpots on the ground and then stomps on them.

and he shouts—he shouts everything that he’s been keeping inside for this long, too afraid of letting the anger out. but he is angry. and all he wants to say is—"i just want it to be over!” he yells into the fire and the destruction. “i just want it to stop. i don’t want to hurt anymore. i don’t want him to hurt anymore. i don’t want us to be like this anymore.”

yoongi wipes at his angry tears, reaching out for one of the last standing objects on his desk so that he can ruin that, too, and then—stops when he realizes what it is: a framed picturree of him and jeongguk. in it, yoongi is looking at the camera and smiling, but jeongguk—jeongguk is looking at yoongi. and his eyes are so bright, and his grin is so soft, and he’s so, so in love. after a few seconds, the yoongi in the picture notices that jeongguk isn’t looking at the camera and turns to him, perhaps to scold, but jeongguk only laughs silently when they meet eyes and then darts forward to kiss him so forcefully that they both drop out of the frame before appearing in it again, laughing, and return to the start. to do it all over again.

yoongi stops, suddenly, staring at the moving photo. this photo of them has been replaying these few moments over and over for years, since it was first taken. every day they’ve restarted over again, falling in love again, and each time it’s the same—but no matter how long yoongi watches it, he never sees their love diminish.

and isn’t that a bit like their lives, now? restarting over and over, replaying the same words, the same actions, the same things. the same day. but no matter how many times it happens, yoongi is still just as in love. and jeongguk is still just as enamoured with him, still just as glad to see him, even if yoongi is only a stranger to him.

wiping at his tears, yoongi absently puts the fire out, and then sinks to the floor with the picture in his hands. he remembers something, suddenly—when he’d put this picture on his desk, he’d stuck something in the back of the frame: a note that jeongguk had written to him one morning not long after they’d gotten married when jeongguk had had to work and yoongi had had the day off. jeongguk had made him breakfast, magically keeping it warm, and written a note along with it.

when yoongi opens the back of the frame, he finds it still tucked there, where he’d wanted to put it for safe-keeping years ago. carefully, he retrieves it, unfolds it.

my dearest husband, it reads. there is a species of magical creature, not unlike a bird, native to japan that slowly but surely loses its senses as it ages. by the time these creatures are at the end of their life, they can no longer speak or see or hear or smell the world around them. sight is always the first to go. hearing is always the last. and you may think it’s terribly sad—because it is. but these creatures mate for life. and at the end, when they can only hear—when they can no longer see their mate’s beauty or speak their love to them—they know the love of their life only by their heartbeat. over years of being together, they memorize each other’s heartbeats, know the exact pitter-patter of the heart that is most precious to them. they would know that heartbeat anywhere.

and i hope, of course, that i won’t lose my senses. i hope i will always wake to see your awful bedhead and hear the way you call my name when you are happiest and smell the beautiful flowers you illegally pick for me from the park at the end of our street. but if i do, know that i, too, am one of these magical creatures.

min yoongi, i would know you by heartbeat alone.

i will always know you by heartbeat alone. the mind can do such cruel things to itself, but the heart never forgets. and i love you, i love you, i love you forever.

yoongi looks at that note for a very long time, until the anger dissipates, until the smouldering embers on his desk no longer weep smoke. he reads it again and again, until even his tears stop. and jeongguk couldn’t have known then what would happen to him, but it’s still somehow everything that yoongi needs to hear now. for almost two years, jeongguk has been a different person, stuck in an eighteen-year-old’s mind, unable to recognize his own husband. and yoongi has yearned for that smile he knows, for those hands he loves. he’s just wanted to hear jeongguk say i love you again.

but here it’s been, all this time: i would know you by heartbeat alone.

none of this has been about yoongi. he has clung to jeongguk because he refuses to let go, but more than that, he’s clung to jeongguk because he will never allow his husband to go a day without feeling like he’s wanted, like he’s cared for. he might not remember every day that yoongi has poured out his love for jeongguk, but yoongi believes it’s done him good. he’s always believed that holding onto hope will one day pay off.

and maybe it hasn’t this time. maybe the operation didn’t cure him this time. but three days is longer than one. and it might hurt yoongi, but it’s not about yoongi. he can’t give up, because he loves jeongguk, because jeongguk deserves to have yoongi fighting tooth and nail for him every step of the way. because jeongguk would know him by heartbeat alone—even if he no longer remembers what yoongi looks like or sounds like.

the heart never forgets.

》》》

“hi, i’m yoongi.” jeongguk looks up at him from the book he’s reading, one that he’ll forget about in a few days. but isn’t that more than enough time?

“yoongi,” repeats jeongguk, and then cocks his head. “you’re pretty.”

“i know,” says yoongi. “you’ve told me that before.”

he sees jeongguk hesitate, eyes widening as he stares at yoongi and then says, “have we—we’ve met before?”

“oh yes,” grins yoongi, and this is what he’s decided to do—tell him the truth without telling him everything. and maybe it’ll be enough for now. “we were very good friends before the accident.”

jeongguk’s breath hitches in his throat. “really?”

“yeah, we met not long after your eighteenth birthday and—” he’s cut off by jeongguk suddenly lurching out of the chair and throwing himself at yoongi, wrapping him up so tightly that it’s hard to breathe. and yoongi is stunned for as long as it takes him to realize that jeongguk is hugging him, that jeongguk is here, finally, in his arms and—yoongi holds him back, staggering under the weight of this moment.

“oh my god,” jeongguk is saying, pressing his face into the side of yoongi’s head. “oh my god, hi. you came—you came for me.” he lets go, stepping back and staring at yoongi with wet eyes and the brightest smile yoongi has ever seen. “i didn’t know if anyone even cared anymore after this long and i don’t even remember you, but you came anyway.”

“well,” says yoongi. “you’re… you’re my best friend, jeongguk. that hasn’t changed even if you can’t remember me.” and that is, at least, the truth. and if telling as much of the truth as he can bear is giving jeongguk this much joy, he doesn’t know why he’s never done it before.

jeongguk reaches for him, grabbing yoongi’s hand and tugging him into the armchair next to the one he was sitting in. they’re in the recreation room for patients in jeongguk’s ward, games and entertainment scattered around. this is where these people can go to have fun, and it isn’t much. but it feels a bit like a second home to yoongi after all of the time he’s spent in this hospital.

when he sits down, jeongguk doesn’t let go of his hand, instead pulls his feet under himself and turns to yoongi, grinning. “you have to tell me everything,” he says. “the healers haven’t told me much, i guess not to overwhelm me, and i get that. and i get that i won’t remember any of it in a few days when the spell erases my memories again, but i don’t care. you’re really—you’re the only piece of my past that i have. i’m so happy that you’re here.”

finally, yoongi gets to say so many of the things he’s wanted to say to jeongguk. he’s wanted to tell so many stories about him, about the two of them—their lives together, and how they’ve grown in the past eight years of knowing each other. he’s wanted to show jeongguk all of the pictures of those years, with or without yoongi in them, to tell the story of jeongguk’s life that he has forgotten. and now, finally, he has the chance. the chance when jeongguk has three days instead of one, when he can handle it. when he can remember long enough to be joyful about it—and isn’t that all that yoongi has been trying to give him since the accident? a little joy?

because jeongguk being happy makes yoongi happy, even if it’s just for a few days. someone once told him that he can’t live a marriage like this, one day at a time. but if it’s enough for jeongguk, then it’s enough for yoongi.

after answering all of the initial questions about jeongguk—his job, his hobbies, his dreams—and the initial questions about himself, jeongguk moves onto something he’s never asked before, because he’s never known their shared history: questions about them. for almost two years, yoongi has kept all of this a secret, but there’s something healing in hearing jeongguk ask, “so how did we meet?”

“like i said, it was shortly after your eighteenth birthday,” says yoongi, grinning now as he remembers it. he hasn’t told this story in so long, which is—odd. jeongguk loved the story so much that he’d demand yoongi tell it every time they met someone new. he never thought he’d have to tell it to jeongguk, too. “at the time, i was working an administrative job for the department of sports and leisure at the ministry, so they’d sent me out to the quidditch try-outs happening for the junior league here in seoul. just to make sure things were running well, take some notes. some of the players were really good, trying their best. and then there was this group of absolute idiot teenagers.”

he pauses, glancing over at jeongguk only to catch him leaning halfway over the armrest, chin propped up in his hand and watching yoongi with an expression caught between curiosity and something closer to adoration. “oh,” he says when yoongi looks at him, leaning away. “oh. you’re talking about me, aren’t you?”

“you and jimin and taehyung and hoseok,” says yoongi, and jeongguk’s eyes brighten at the very mention of his friends. “the four of you were so annoying, i swear. goofing off and terrorizing the other players and showing off. god, you were such a show off.”

jeongguk giggles.

“obviously you’d been good at quidditch in school,” says yoongi, although now he’s heard all of the stories. “you thought you were the best player on that pitch by far. you’d do the drills they asked, but add your own little flare—usually a dangerous flare, and then blow kisses to the people watching or whatever. some other people seemed to enjoy it, but i thought you were asking for a bat-bogey hex.”

“isn’t this supposed to be the story of how we became best friends forever?”

“let me tell my story,” yoongi scolds, flicking jeongguk in the forehead. “anyway. it went on for a while until they wanted all of you to scrimmage. you were seeker—”

“good.”

jeongguk.

“sorry, yoongi-ssi—hyung.” yoongi’s cheek burns at the honorific, trying to focus on the story rather than dwell on the fact that that’s the first time jeongguk has called him hyung in almost two years.

“anyway, i don’t know exactly what happened, but i guess you were going for the snitch and tried this really dangerous move with your broom and ended up colliding head first into the stands directly beside me.” yoongi shakes his head, laughing now that he’s had some distance from it. “obviously i was worried and panicked, because i thought you might have died right then and there beside me. so i tried waking you up, and when you did, you looked at me and just… grinned. you called me pretty. and then you asked me for a tangerine.”

for a second, jeongguk just looks at him. and then he starts giggling. and then he doesn’t stop—and yoongi could laugh with him, at how ridiculous and wonderful their first meeting was, but. try as he might in the past near-two years, yoongi has never been able to make jeongguk laugh like that. he’s never been able to give him as much joy as he must be feeling now, knowing that someone who has meant so much to him in the past eight years is here to share this with him, to give him a glimpse into who he was.

and that makes yoongi want to cry instead. just a few days ago, he was ready to give all of this up—because he was frustrated and upset, because he wants forever instead of just three fucking days at a time. but sitting here now, with a giggling jeon jeongguk at his side, enamoured with stories of his past and elated to know that his best friend hasn’t stopped visiting, yoongi knows exactly why he does this. exactly why he can never stop. because it’s not about him—it’s about jeongguk. it’s always been about jeongguk.

when jeongguk’s laughter begins to die down, yoongi reaches into his pocket and pulls out the tangerine he brought with him—that he always brings with him. when he offers it to jeongguk, it starts the laughter all over again, and this time yoongi does laugh with him. and this time, it finally feels right.

》》》

“is that me with pink hair?” asks jeongguk, grabbing the picture from yoongi and staring at it intently. “wait, i actually look really good.”

“you liked changing your hair colour a lot,” says yoongi, searching for the ones of jeongguk with blonde hair and red hair and purple hair, too. “you were like, classic rebellious kid for a few years. piercings and tattoos and crazy hair colours.”

jeongguk’s head shoots up. “i have a tattoo?”

“you used to have a lot, but you got most of them magically removed eventually because you decided you didn’t like them,” laughs yoongi. “but, um. there’s one on your spine, just below your neck. it’s a fox.” jeongguk reaches up to touch the back of his neck, and yoongi considers his next words carefully before he adds, “i have one, too. a snake. they’re charmed so that they alert us when the other is in danger or hurt.” he doesn’t say, we got them on our honeymoon, terrified of unknowing. he doesn’t say, that’s how i knew about the accident.

“do you think… i’ve felt that since the accident?” asks jeongguk. “if you’ve ever gotten hurt. but i just didn’t know what it was?”

yoongi thinks of the motel on their first anniversary after the accident, the loneliness, the pain. thinks of the lighter in his hand, wanting to do it the old-fashioned way.

he thinks of coming into the hospital the next day and not being allowed to visit jeongguk because he’d been complaining of a sudden and intense pain in his neck and spine the night before, and the healers wanted to run tests on him to see it was anything they needed to worry about.

“i don’t know,” lies yoongi. “but i’m sorry if i’ve ever caused you pain because of it. i’m not—i’m not usually in danger, so you don’t have to worry about it.”

jeongguk opens his mouth to say something more and then seems to think better of it. “show me more pictures, hyung,” he says. “i like those ones of us with holly. that’s his name, right?”

and yoongi can do that. yoongi can show jeongguk pictures of his life, omitting the most important part of it to protect both of them. he can tell stories and answer questions, can give jeongguk a glimpse into who he was. here: jeongguk’s first game as a seeker in the junior league and his trophy case over the years of medals and acclamations for his quidditch career. and here: a whole photo album of jeongguk with the magical creatures he’s saved and cared for as a beast handler, including the several he’s had to bring home for one reason for another, and the ones he’s begged yoongi to keep even though he never gave in. and here: countless get-togethers with their friends, these friends that jeongguk admits he wishes he could see now and the ones that he wishes he could meet again, and holidays spent with jeongguk’s parents and brother, and so many candids that yoongi has taken over the years, always wanting to capture jeongguk just one more time.

sometimes he thinks that jeongguk suspects there’s more that yoongi isn’t telling him. because it’s so obvious, isn’t it? it’s obvious they’re in love, even in the pictures where there’s nothing to confirm it. it’s the way jeongguk looks at yoongi when they’re in the same frame, the way yoongi so lovingly captures jeongguk in the morning sunlight in his pictures. there are so many unanswered questions that jeongguk doesn’t ever ask but yoongi knows he wants to: why did they move in together? why is yoongi in all of the pictures with jeongguk’s parents during the holidays? why does he know so much, seem so intimate with these parts of jeongguk’s life?

why is he the only one who has visited so often? what makes yoongi different?

but jeongguk doesn’t ask. and yoongi doesn’t tell. it’s easier this way. and it’s still frustrating, especially when they spend three days together laughing about their past and sharing stories, and then yoongi shows up on the fourth day only to start all over again. he was right, in the end, when he told namjoon and seokjin that this might be worse—because now, he has just enough time to miss jeongguk more than he ever has in the past. now he has enough time to see jeongguk get attached to him, to laugh at his jokes, to let yoongi hold his hand or play with his hair, and then yoongi is nothing but a stranger again.

but it’s never been about his pain. it’s always been about making jeongguk happy, so he goes day after day, time and time again when jeongguk forgets him. he brings new pictures and new stories, uncovers parts of their past that even he has begun to forget. he relearns these things as jeongguk learns them for the first time.

he falls in love all over again.

then, one evening, they’re in the middle of watching one of jeongguk’s favourite muggle films, the notebook—the first time for jeongguk, although he used to have nearly every line memorized—when jeongguk whispers, “i wish i could remember you.”

without pausing the movie, yoongi turns to look at him. they’ve crammed into jeongguk’s hospital bed, all tangled up like they used to when they would cuddle at home, and it’s the first time in so long. and it’s good. but it also serves to remind yoongi that this is what he’s missing. so he gently sweeps jeongguk’s hair from his forehead, frowning when he says, “yeah?”

“yeah,” nods jeongguk. “you always… you always focus on me, on making me feel better and helping me remember the things i’ve forgotten. but i’ve been thinking about how it’s not fair for you, either. i forget my life every few days, but you remember everything. you remember the accident and me not remembering you and you still show up every day. and i’m sorry, hyung.” his eyes flicker to yoongi’s, sad enough to make yoongi’s heart hurt. “i want to remember because i hate being stuck here and not knowing my own life, but i also want to remember because i think you deserve that, too. you deserve to have your best friend back.”

“jeongguk,” begins yoongi.

“i know you’re going to say this isn’t about you,” laughs jeongguk. “but it is, a little, at least for me. and i hope that you know that when i forget again… i think some part of me still remembers you. my mind might not, but i don’t think my heart can ever forget.”

yoongi sucks in a breath, brought back to that stupid note jeongguk wrote him about the magical creatures. i would know you by heartbeat alone. and he’s hoped for it for this long—that even if jeongguk’s mind can’t remember him, that there is some part that will never forget. that he’s attuned to yoongi, that he knows him in some deeper way than just through memories. and maybe it won’t make a difference on the surface, but it still makes him feel better.

“i think i miss you, hyung,” adds jeongguk quietly. “i think my heart misses you. when i woke up yesterday and i didn’t know who you were, it didn’t matter. as soon as i saw you, my heart started hurting, like it knew. i just didn’t want you to leave again.” he hums to himself and then shifts a little so he can wrap his arms around yoongi, sneaking one between him and the bed. he holds yoongi tightly, as tightly as he might have before, and yoongi stares at the projection of the movie before them and tells himself not to cry. not to feel so helpless about all of this, about knowing that yoongi wants jeongguk and maybe jeongguk’s heart wants yoongi, too, but neither of them can have what they want. and this is all they have: fleeting moments and days together, a ticking clock that must reset every three days.

it’s been almost two years. and if yoongi nor the healers are able to find something to cure jeongguk, it will be like this for the rest of jeongguk’s life.

jeongguk rests his head against yoongi’s chest, ear pressed over his heart. i would know you by heartbeat alone. and in it, in that, yoongi wills jeongguk to hear all that he’s wished to say for two years but hasn’t, couldn’t, has been too afraid to: i love you, i love you, i love you forever.

《《《

something is wrong with yoongi. jeongguk can tell, even if yoongi hasn’t said anything. it’s not that jeongguk has spent enough time with yoongi to know his tells—technically he’s only known yoongi for two days—but jeongguk’s body has known yoongi for eight years, according to yoongi. somehow, jeongguk can just tell. somehow, it’s like his own body is attuned to the rise and fall of yoongi’s chest, the way he holds himself, the skittish sort of way he’s been answering jeongguk’s questions today. jeongguk knows. he knows in a way that only someone who has spent a third of their life with someone can know.

yoongi hasn’t said anything, though, so jeongguk doesn’t press him. instead, he keeps picking through the pictures and objects that yoongi brought along at jeongguk’s request yesterday. and jeongguk knows that they’ve been over this time and time again; yoongi told him that it’s been almost two months since the operation that has given jeongguk three days instead of one, and since then, yoongi has been showing him the same pictures, telling him the same stories. when jeongguk asked if yoongi ever got tired of it, he said no. said he’d never get bored of seeing that look of wonder and awe on jeongguk’s face when he finds out about his past.

and although jeongguk can’t remember any of those other days, nothing except the past two days, he already knows that every version of himself that has met yoongi in the past two months has been happier for yoongi telling those stories. he doesn’t really know yoongi, but there’s so much comfort in his presence just knowing that this is his best friend, the man who was his best friend for six years before the accident and the man who has continued to visit him in the hospital every day since. without knowing all of the intimate parts of yoongi that his past self did, he still feels safe. he feels happy with yoongi. it’s yoongi’s utter devotion to him that lets him know this is who he wants to spend his days with in the hospital. he could listen to yoongi talk about them for hours.

tomorrow, he’ll forget again. and it’s not fair, not when he wishes more than ever that he could remember yoongi so that they could get to know each other again, so that they could become best friends all over again. have new stories to tell, new pictures to take. three days isn’t enough time. and he knows that tomorrow, when yoongi shows up and tells jeongguk that they’re best friends again, he’ll still be amazed. he’ll still be excited. but just once, he doesn’t want to have to start over again.

see, today he’s been thinking. looking at these pictures of the two of them, there’s something wrong with them. something wrong the way there’s something wrong with yoongi—like a secret is hidden in plain sight, just beneath the surface. yoongi is quiet today. he looks at jeongguk differently when he thinks jeongguk isn’t looking—with so much longing that jeongguk can almost taste it.

it’s how the yoongi in the pictures looks at jeongguk, too. it’s how the jeongguk in the pictures looks right back.

see, there’s something more. jeongguk is sure of it. yoongi hasn’t shown him any incriminating pictures, but it’s obvious, isn’t it—that they might have been more than best friends. or that they wanted to be, or that they were at some point. jeongguk looks at himself in some of those pictures and sees a man so in love that he doesn’t know what to do with himself, in the pictures where the two of them are merely standing beside each other, or looking at each other. but jeongguk knows himself. he knows this the way he knows that something is wrong with yoongi today.

maybe it’s all the same thing.

he can’t help but ask. he’ll forget tomorrow, anyway, so what’s the harm? what’s the harm in reaching for one of the pictures, one of the two of them taken just months before the accident, according to yoongi, with holly snuggled between them. jeongguk must have said something that made yoongi laugh at the last second, because the moving picture is of yoongi laughing silently, turning his face into holly’s fur to hide himself, and jeongguk turning to look at him, grinning and proud of himself. and jeongguk sees the way he looks at yoongi, sees something in his gaze that makes his heart ache.

jeongguk runs his finger over the picture. yoongi is silent as he sits on the end of the bed, pictures spread out between them. and then jeongguk asks, “hyung, did we ever…”

yoongi looks up from the picture he’s holding, eyes wide when he says, “ever… what?”

somehow, jeongguk blushes. “you know. did we ever, like… i mean. were we ever a thing?” when yoongi doesn’t immediately answer, jeongguk tries to gain some confidence by looking back at the picture, certain now of the way he’s looking yoongi in it. “it’s just that, so many of these pictures make me think—well. maybe i never said anything. maybe you didn’t actually know. but it looks like… yoongi-hyung, i think i was in love with you.”

he touches yoongi’s laughing face in the picture, lovely and beautiful and sweet, and thinks—maybe i still am.

a cut-off sort of choking noise makes jeongguk raise his head only to see yoongi holding his own head, bowed down like he’s hiding from jeongguk. his shoulders are shaking. and jeongguk panics, unsure what he’s said or done wrong, but the longer he watches, the more yoongi seems to break down, curling into himself as his body begins to shake.

“yoongi-hyung?” jeongguk asks quietly, tentatively, reaching out only to snatch his hand back when yoongi whispers, “i can’t do this anymore.”

“what?”

“fuck,” whispers yoongi, voice torn and wet. he sniffles, pressing both hands into his eyes. “i’m sorry, jeongguk. i’m sorry.

“hyung, it’s okay—”

“i thought it would be fine. i thought i could make it through today and it would be okay, but i just—i can’t do it—”

“it’s okay, you’re okay,” jeongguk says hurriedly, pushing the pile of pictures over so he can slide down the bed toward yoongi, until they’re sitting knee to knee and he can reach out properly this time. jeongguk hesitates for a second, unsure of himself, and then asks—what would the other version of himself do? the one that yoongi knows, the one that yoongi has been waiting for this jeongguk to wake up as for nearly two years? and then he wraps his hands around yoongi’s wrists, tugging them away from his face, and slowly slides their hands together until he can tangle their fingers. yoongi shudders out half of a sob, keeping his head down.

“hyung?” he asks.

“do you know what today is?” yoongi asks quietly.

“june thirteenth?”

“it’s our anniversary, jeongguk.” yoongi finally lifts his face, meeting jeongguk’s eyes with his own teary ones.

jeongguk’s brows furrow. “of what?”

“of getting married.” yoongi’s mouth tries to grin, quivering into a crooked line before it falls again. “it’s our wedding anniversary, gguk-ah. i’m not… i’m not just your best friend. i’m your husband.”

jeongguk inhales sharply—and then his lungs stop working. he just stares at yoongi’s face, at the tears that fill his eyes and then spill over. at… this mouth he must have kissed a thousand times, these hands he must have held every day. this man he must have loved so fiercely that his body could never quite forget even if his mind could, because even in the initial shock of the admission, all jeongguk can think is: of course.

“i’m sorry i didn’t tell you,” yoongi continues when jeongguk doesn’t respond. “i actually… i haven’t ever told you. and you don’t remember any of the other times, but i’ve never told you the truth. but i can’t keep it in today of all days. today, we’ve been married for five years, jeongguk. and you’ve spent almost two of them in this hospital, not even knowing who i am.”

yoongi tries to grin again. it’s clear that he’s trying not to show how much it’s affecting him, how horribly painful it is to spend his wedding anniversary in the hospital with a husband who doesn’t remember who he is—but it doesn’t quite work. and oh, doesn’t jeongguk’s heart just break. “oh, hyung,” he whispers, and yoongi makes a strangled noise, like he’s trying to keep himself from truly breaking down the way he wants to. jeongguk lets go of one of his hands to lift his own to yoongi’s face, brushing away the tears on his cheeks. “why didn’t you ever tell me?”

“how could i?” asks yoongi. “how could i do that to you every time? i was so afraid of just… making things worse for you. i was afraid you’d only get upset knowing how much you forgot, knowing that you’d wake up the next day and not remember who i was. it’s just easier pretending i don’t matter that much to you. if i’m just a friend or a stranger, maybe it won’t hurt so much for you to know you’re gonna forget me again.”

and jeongguk hates that he’s right. that knowing every time that yoongi is his husband would have made letting him go even harder, that it might have even upset him to the point of being inconsolable. yoongi has been trying to protect him this whole time—but it’s been at his own expense.

“didn’t that just hurt you, though?” jeongguk asks. “how could you see me every day for almost two years and know i only thought of you as a stranger?”

this time, yoongi does just manage to smile. he turns his face a little into jeongguk’s hand, looks like he’s been waiting two fucking years to let himself do something like that. “it’s not my well-being that matters here,” he says. “it hurt, but if the option was between hurting myself by pretending to be a stranger or causing you distress, how could i ever put myself above you? i—i love you, jeongguk. and i have for the past eight years. but that means taking care of you even if it hurts me.”

“no,” whispers jeongguk, shaking his head. “no, hyung, you have to take care of yourself, too.” and now he feels tears stinging the backs of his own eyes as he thinks of it—of how yoongi has allowed himself to hurt this way for two years so that he can protect jeongguk. of how lonely he must have been, how heartbroken knowing jeongguk would never know the truth.

it must be the first time in almost two years that yoongi has been able to tell jeongguk he loves him. and for jeongguk to understand what it means.

“i made a promise to you five years ago,” says yoongi. “in sickness and in health. for better or for worse. this is the worse, jeongguk. the worse is going home to an empty house that is still full of your things and your scent and your presence, and asking myself to be okay with that, at least for now. the worse is looking at your beautiful face that i’ve been in love with for so long and being okay with only thinking all of these things i’ve wanted to tell you.” he rubs his thumb over the back of jeongguk’s hand, maybe mindlessly. “i’ve wanted to touch you every day, wanted to kiss you and tell you i love you, but—just being with you is all i could really ask for. i almost lost you entirely, jeongguk. and maybe you don’t remember me. and maybe you never will. and my heart will never heal from that, but how could i ask for more when i get to meet you for the first time again and again, and see you smile at me for the first time, and call me pretty like you do every time, and know that no matter how many times you forget me, you will always be happy to meet me again?”

two years is such a long time. jeongguk can’t imagine how much yoongi has suffered, how much pain he’s been in just trying to protect jeongguk. how brave he must be, how in love to only want jeongguk to be comfortable and happy, even to the point of hurting himself. and the worst thing about it is that jeongguk is going to forget again tomorrow. he’ll forget about this conversation, this admission. yoongi will go back to pretending they’re nothing more than good friends.

and how can jeongguk allow him to keep hurting like that?

“you stupid, lovely man,” he sighs. “i don’t want you to hurt yourself, hyung. not for me.”

“it’s not so bad,” says yoongi. “not anymore. if i can make you happy, i don’t mind it.”

“god,” sniffs jeongguk, wiping at his own eyes. “god, you really love me, don’t you? to show up here every day and reintroduce yourself like nothing’s wrong…”

“i do love you,” says yoongi, sounding relieved to finally be saying it. “i’ve loved you for so long. and it’s hard and frustrating having to do this, but i love you. and i married you and i promised to take care of you. just because some stupid spell keeps erasing your memory, that doesn’t change anything. i’m here, and i’m always here. and i’ll be here until i find a way to fix this or you don’t want me here anymore or i get so old that i can’t leave my house, and then i’ll use magic to see you.”

it’s horrible, thinking about this being the rest of their lives. knowing now that they should be spending the rest of their lives together in a very different context makes it all worse; they should be in their home together. they should have kids together, go on vacations during the summers, plan renovations and christmas cards and get-togethers with their friends. they should be spending their anniversary at a restaurant they can’t afford with gifts and balloons and all of their dreams ahead of them.

instead, they’re spending it in a hospital and tomorrow, jeongguk will wake up not knowing who yoongi is. not knowing how much yoongi loves him, just what he’s sacrificing. next year, jeongguk will have spent as many years of their marriage knowing yoongi as he has not knowing him. they didn’t get enough time. they will never have gotten enough time.

but what can they do, other than merely exist together? what can yoongi do other than show up here day after day to spend such precious time with his husband, even if jeongguk doesn’t understand the gravity of it? what can yoongi do other than love jeongguk the way he has, the way he’s promised to? they are helpless to the magic in jeongguk’s mind. perhaps they always will be. and here yoongi is anyway; here he will always be.

“you know,” says jeongguk carefully. “i love you, too. even if i don’t remember you, i think i just—i know. my heart knows you, hyung. it’s only been two days, but i think i feel it every time. i never want you to go. and the moment i see you, even if my head doesn’t know who you are, my heart does this thing, like—” he shrugs. “oh. there you are.” when yoongi had told him they were best friends, it had only made sense. he felt something more for yoongi when they met two days ago than he did for anyone else who he’s come into contact with in the hospital. and he’s so sure it happens every time. it’s like his heart is trying so desperately to tell his mind something, to nudge him toward the truth.

yoongi sighs. “i’ve waited a very long time to hear you say that,” he says.

he’s been so lonely. he’s been in so much pain just trying to make things easier for jeongguk, and jeongguk loves him for it. is ever grateful. but right now, he doesn’t want it to be about himself. for once, he doesn’t want yoongi to think of jeongguk’s happiness and comfort. because tomorrow, he will forget about this conversation. yoongi will walk into his hospital room and introduce himself and jeongguk will inevitably call him pretty and yoongi will inevitably give him a tangerine and they will inevitably become friends again before the clock runs out.

but right now—right now, jeongguk knows. he knows all of yoongi’s pain and his suffering, knows the weight of the truth. so he lets go of yoongi, shoving the pictures off of the bed entirely, and scoots back up until he’s resting against the pillows. then he pats the space beside him. “c’mon,” he says. “you’ve been taking care of me so selflessly for two years. but i want you to be selfish, just for one night. just… hold me like you’ve wanted to, say what you’ve wanted to. and i’m not… i won’t be him, not like you want me to be. but i think i can be pretty close.”

yoongi stares at him for a heavy moment, like he’s trying to allow himself to want it. for so long, he’s been holding back—not reaching out for jeongguk the way he was once used to, not using pet names or sweet language, not saying i love you or kissing jeongguk. but jeongguk wants him to want it. he wants this to be good.

then, slowly, yoongi moves. he gets onto his knees and crawls up the bed toward jeongguk, eventually settling on his stomach between jeongguk’s legs, resting his head against jeongguk’s chest and wrapping his arms around his torso like that. jeongguk sighs, gently running his hands through yoongi’s hair as yoongi presses his face into jeongguk’s chest and just—breathes. for a long moment, he just breathes.

and then he whispers, “baby.”

jeongguk closes his eyes, carding his fingers through yoongi’s hair. “tell me about us?” he asks.

and yoongi does.

he tells jeongguk about how they met—which jeongguk has heard before, just two days ago, but this time, yoongi tells the whole truth: how yoongi was so annoyed with him but kind of wanted to kiss him at the same time, and how after the try-outs, jeongguk found him outside of the stadium and asked if yoongi wanted to grab coffee with him. how yoongi said no. and then how they kept running into each other anyway, until yoongi eventually gave jeongguk the benefit of the doubt and agreed to hang out, just once, and then were inseparable after that.

he tells jeongguk about how he had a crush for a few months before they ever tried anything, and it was because it was new year’s and hoseok was hosting a party and knew that jeongguk liked yoongi, so he charmed mistletoe to sprout from the ceiling any time yoongi and jeongguk were in the same room together. they laughed it off for the most part until they were both a little drunk and a little tired and finally, finally—

he tells jeongguk about it all: dating for four years and moving in together and adopting holly. it was jeongguk who proposed, although they always argued about it because yoongi had a ring and just hadn’t decided how to make the proposal dramatic enough for jeongguk to love it, but maybe it had something to do with a tangerine. he tells jeongguk everything he can think, about their wedding and honeymoon and the simple things, like waking up for the first time as husbands and the things they fought about and their traditions. he tells jeongguk, again and again, about all of their plans for the future, how much they loved each other, how good it was going to be.

he tells jeongguk about the accident—which jeongguk has heard before, too. but he’s never heard it from yoongi’s perspective. he was training as an unspeakable at the time, working in the ministry when the tattoo on the back of his neck started burning, and he knew—he knew then that something had happened to jeongguk. he was running out of the ministry before he the patronus from the hospital arrived to tell him that jeongguk had been brought into emergency care.

it was a work accident, see. jeongguk had been working on the east coast of korea with a team of aurors investigating an illegal breeding ring of rare and dangerous magical creatures. they confronted the breeders, but it got out of hand, got nasty. jeongguk hadn’t meant to get caught in the middle of it, as the aurors had briefed him on apparating away the moment someone pulled a wand. but he’d wanted to save the creatures, that bleeding heart of his pushing him onward.

no one knows for sure what happened, but it might have been: jeongguk got hit by two spells at once. one was an obliviate charm, fired by one of the breeders in an attempt to escape. the other, whatever it was, did something in jeongguk’s brain that caused the obliviate charm to stick and to repeat itself every time jeongguk fell asleep for longer than a few hours at a time.

yoongi tells jeongguk about that first day. the worst day. about waiting for hours and hours to see jeongguk after the healers had done their best to reverse the effects of the spells and then running tests and asking him countless questions. and about walking into jeongguk’s hospital room for the first time, and jeongguk looking at him with no recognition in his eyes, and yoongi, for the first of hundreds of times, saying, hello. i’m min yoongi.

he talks until he exhausts himself, until jeongguk is so filled with love that he could burst with it. and it breaks his heart even more to know the truth, to know that yoongi has kept it all inside for fear of only hurting jeongguk. he will never be able to comprehend the pain that yoongi has felt, or the love he has for a husband who forgets his face every day. but jeongguk allows himself to bask in it, at least for now. he lets yoongi stay just like this, lets him take all the comfort he needs, knowing that if he chooses not to tell jeongguk the truth again—and he can’t force yoongi either way—this is all he has. this is all he may ever have.

eventually, yoongi falls asleep just like that, in jeongguk’s arms. and he can’t stay—he never can. eventually, he’ll have to wake up and go home, back to their house that is so full of jeongguk yet entirely devoid of him. he’ll have to go back to his life without the husband he so desperately pines for. he’ll come back tomorrow and reintroduce himself. and he’ll hide his pain as he has for nearly two years. and jeongguk will be none the wiser.

but—it’s not fair, is it? jeongguk looks down at yoongi—at his husband—and wants so badly to be able to remember. this whole time, yoongi has been trying his hardest to find a way to help jeongguk, to make this easier, to maybe one day bring him home. yoongi has been keeping the truth a secret in fear of hurting jeongguk, but right now, jeongguk knows. until he wakes up tomorrow morning, he knows.

and he doesn’t want to forget. he can’t allow himself to forget. when he watches yoongi, gently playing with his hair, he knows he has to do something. yoongi has been selfless for so long, trying to take care of jeongguk. but maybe now jeongguk can take care of yoongi, too.

maybe there is more than one way to remember.

》》》

the next morning, jeongguk doesn’t remember. and although yoongi knew it would happen, and although he prepared himself for it, it still takes everything within him to keep smiling when jeongguk looks at him and grins the way he does at strangers, a polite kind of grin that reminds yoongi they are nothing but unknown faces to each other once more.

it hurts more knowing what they did have, if only for a few hours. it hurts more knowing yoongi had jeongguk, something much closer to the jeongguk he once had, and has now lost him again. and this, too, is why he’s never told jeongguk the whole truth—he’s been trying to protect jeongguk, yes, but he’s also been trying to protect himself. it hurts pretending. but it hurts even more to have jeongguk close but not nearly close enough.

so—things go back to normal, or as normal as they can be. yoongi visits jeongguk every day, tells him that they’re best friends, shows him pictures, recites stories. and each day, yoongi grows a little sadder. a little more hopeless. even when jeongguk asks more questions about himself, about their lives together in the past, remembering old stories that he’s never told before simply serves to hurt him more.

even when jeongguk sometimes seems to notice the wedding ring yoongi can never stop wearing and asks questions about his husband, it only makes it worse—because then yoongi finally gets to talk about jeongguk the way he’s always wanted to, but jeongguk doesn’t know all of the sweet words are about him. he doesn’t know the faceless man in all of the stories about yoongi’s best days is himself, and he never will.

he’s the love of my life, yoongi says, and watches the way jeongguk’s cheeks turn rosy as he listens, like hearing some fantasy tale of a perfect marriage is enough to make him happy. he makes me want to be better. he is the only thing i am certain is worth fighting for.

i would know him by heartbeat alone.

through the summer, yoongi strives onward. comes home to an empty house, stares blankly at his research as he feels the hope begin to drain from him. it’s too frustrating, too agonizing to live this way; he’d become stagnant and comfortable with the routine of jeongguk not knowing who he is, with being touch-starved and unable to hear jeongguk say the words he longs to hear. but having just a moment of weakness and telling jeongguk the truth has only served to remind him of all he’s lost and all he longs for.

and how far he is from ever gaining any of it again.

jeongguk’s birthday comes and goes. and then, suddenly, it’s been two years since the accident. two years of jeongguk not knowing his face or name every time the magic takes his memories. two years of visiting the hospital every day, two years of research, two years of wanting and waiting and hoping and hurting.

and he doesn’t want to give up. he never can, not when he loves jeongguk so fiercely and has for nine years. but yoongi doesn’t know what to do anymore. so he locks himself in his study, surrounded by two years’ worth of trying to fix this, and opens a bottle of firewhiskey. he looks through the pictures of him and jeongguk, looks through every memento they’ve saved from their life together. he relives every dream they ever had for their future. he lets himself feel it, just once more: the hope.

and then he writes jeongguk a letter.

》》》

yoongi has never been good at saying goodbye. and maybe it’s not actually a goodbye. maybe he doesn’t know what it’ll be. but yoongi doesn’t know what to do anymore and he doesn’t want to feel like this anymore and maybe he just needs—time. maybe jeongguk was right about yoongi needing to take care of himself. but yoongi doesn’t know how to do that anymore. maybe he just wants all of this to end. maybe he should have gone through with it in the motel that night, with the lighter. maybe he can try again.

as he makes the familiar trek to the hospital, he can’t help wondering if it might be the last time. the last time he grabs a handful of floo powder from the pot next to his (and jeongguk’s) fireplace and steps inside, closes his eyes, says, the seoul hospital for magical maladies and injuries. the last time he steps out of the fireplace in the waiting area of the hospital and merely nods toward the receptionist at the front desk, whom he’s familiar with as he is with nearly the entire hospital support staff. the last time he makes his way up to the third floor, to the spell damage ward, to the rooms that house the long-term patients.

here, like always, he greets the healers on duty, who know him by name. here, he pauses in the recreation room to say his hellos to the other patients there, who have seen him every day as jeongguk has. who actually remember him. he pauses in the room beside jeongguk’s, for the little girl cursed to stay mute for fear of the pain that comes with speaking. she grins at him so wide, this constant visitor she sees more than her own parents, and yoongi—he feels so helpless even here, as he sneaks a sugar quill from his pocket and hands it to her, putting a finger to his lips and winking as she giggles when he leaves.

here, like always, he pauses outside of jeongguk’s door. today will be a fresh start again, jeongguk waking up with no memories of the past nine years. like always, he closes his eyes and imagines what he wants to happen—imagines jeongguk seeing him and knowing him, and remembering him. imagines that the past two years have been nothing but a terrible nightmare and he still has the man he fell in love with and married. they’ll go home. they’ll live their lives. they’ll be okay.

then yoongi opens his eyes, and it’s the same hospital hallway he’s stood in hundreds of times. it’s still the same door he’s walked through every day for two years. jeongguk is still inside—a different jeongguk, but still his.

yoongi takes a deep breath. and perhaps for the last time, he sets himself up for failure by walking through the door to meet jeongguk again. this time, jeongguk is sitting on his bed, some sort of book open in his lap. when he notices someone has entered, he looks up at yoongi, and—yoongi sees recognition warm his face.

yoongi stops short, staring at how jeongguk stares back at him. this morning when jeongguk woke up, he forgot everything again. and yet he stares for a long, silent moment, until his brows furrow together, until he tilts his head to the side like a curious puppy—and says, “yoongi?”

yoongi thinks, suddenly, of the last thing he remembers of their lives before the accident. he’s tried countless times to remember their last conversation, but nothing comes to mind. even then, he knew it was nothing remarkable; they woke up, danced their routine of making and eating breakfast together, chatting about schedules, making plans for the upcoming weekend. jeongguk would have left first to catch his portkey, kissing yoongi goodbye and complaining that he tasted like coffee, as jeongguk always did. jeongguk was going to be gone for a few days. yoongi must have told jeongguk that he loved him, that he’d miss him.

but the truth is, there was nothing remarkable about it. it was just—their lives. and that afternoon, when the obliviate spell hit jeongguk, their lives were interrupted. yoongi has tried for two years to find meaning in it, to understand why. he’s always come up short. he’s always wished that he could have known so that he could have told jeongguk everything he would never get to say again. for two years, he’s wished so desperately for jeongguk to look at him and to know him. to remember him.

and—here he is. he knows yoongi’s name, even though he shouldn’t.

“hyung?” jeongguk asks again, tentatively, when yoongi doesn’t respond. then he points to yoongi’s left hand with his right and lifts his own left hand to show yoongi the ring on his fourth finger.

yoongi stops breathing.

it’s not—jeongguk’s wedding ring. can’t be. yoongi keeps it tucked safely away in a ring box in their bedroom, and he always thought that if jeongguk ever regained the ability to form memories and could come home, yoongi would propose to him with it again. they could get married again, or at least renew their vows. they could start again.

but jeongguk is sitting there with a ring he got from somewhere and he knows. he knows yoongi’s name, knows they’re married. as though tugged by some invisible force—perhaps by some invisible red string connecting their hands—yoongi lifts his own left hand and spreads his fingers, his wedding ring on display where it has stayed for two years. 

yoongi stares at jeongguk. jeongguk stares back.

and then yoongi, finally able to find his voice over the roaring of his heart in his ears and the tears that prick at his eyes, says, “you—you remember me?”

jeongguk shakes his head. but before the hope can dash away completely, he then lifts the book in his lap. “i found this book you made for me. in my drawer.” brows furrowed, yoongi approaches him. he’s never left anything for jeongguk, other than the tangerines—other than the forget-me-nots. the hospital staff have never allowed yoongi to leave anything that could allude to jeongguk’s past life in fear of causing him distress. but when he gingerly sits at the edge of jeongguk’s bed and takes the book into his hands, he sees… everything.

it’s a scrapbook. the front is a plain blue colour with no markings to suggest what might be inside, but when he flips it open, the first page holds a picture of the two of them. he recognizes it immediately as one that he brought to show jeongguk on their anniversary, the one that made jeongguk think they had been in love: jeongguk making yoongi laugh, holly snuggled between them. underneath it is the words, written in familiar penmanship, things to remember.

yoongi glances up at jeongguk, confused, but jeongguk is just staring back at him. so yoongi flips to the next page, and what he sees makes him suck in a breath. it’s him—a picture of him sitting at the kitchen table, sipping a cup of coffee, and grinning when he sees the camera is trained on him. it was jeongguk who took the picture, of course. and this, yoongi remembers, too; shortly after their anniversary, jeongguk asked for pictures of yoongi that he’d taken. he’d wanted to know how his past self saw yoongi, what he thought was important to capture forever. the picture had gone missing, in the end.

the rest of the two-page spread is filled with writing.

“this is yoongi,” he whispers. “he is—” yoongi stops, emotion filling him as he stares at the words. he is your husband. he has come to visit you every day since the accident, even on the days when it hurts too much. he is always happy to see you, even when you can’t remember who he is. he won’t tell you who he really is because he’s afraid of making it harder for you, so he makes it harder for himself instead.

he introduces himself again every time you forget. he sneaks in tangerines for you even though it’s not allowed.

this is how you know he loves you.

yoongi’s eyes fill with tears, unbidden, unrelenting. he runs his fingers over the words, shaking his head as he tries to understand what he’s seeing. when he turns the page, he sees more pictures of himself accompanied with endless information about who he is: his birthday and where he grew up and his extracurriculars in school. likes: black coffee, his (and your) dog holly, when you laugh at his jokes even if they’re terrible. dislikes: movies with sad endings, crowded places, leaving. there are lists of his hobbies and answers to silly would-you-rather questions, all things that yoongi vaguely remembers talking to jeongguk about in the past four months.

there’s a whole page of his habits, things that he’s never said out loud but were observable nonetheless: he scratches behind his ear when he gets shy. he sucks in air between his teeth when he’s talking. his pinky is always a little curled when he puts his hand against his face. there are countless pictures of him, little observations and stories about his past, about his dreams, about his life. things that yoongi could never have compiled, not like this.

when he keeps going, wiping at his own tears to keep from ruining the pages, the scrapbook changes from information about yoongi to information about jeongguk—the jeongguk from the past nine years. complete with pictures is the life that jeongguk forgot: his job and his hobbies and bits of his personality that developed and grew only after he turned eighteen. stories, things that he’s said or done, things that yoongi has so happily retold in the past few months.

“you are a dreamer,” mumbles yoongi, reading the description under a picture of jeongguk watching a fireworks show, the reds and whites and blues of the lights flashing across his face as he stares with wide eyes and a wider smile. you are a quidditch player. you are a hopeless romantic. you are so loved.

after a few more pages, the scrapbook turns to their relationship. pictures of them accompanied by things that jeongguk can’t possibly know even now, after he’s forgotten again: how they met. how they began dating. stories of those dates, especially the first—the story of their first kiss, of them moving into together. the proposal. their wedding. their life as husbands, their hopes and dreams for the future.

it’s their story. it’s everything about them, about them together, contained in one little book. as yoongi flips through the pages, he stares down at a perfectly compiled love story, everything he could possibly tell about his marriage to jeongguk, about their love for each other.

yoongi likes to kiss your moles, it says. sometimes one at a time, just to count them. just to say good morning. you wanted kids, both of you. yoongi would be a good father. he will be. you leave love notes for yoongi everywhere, some that he doesn’t find for months at a time until he stumbles upon them when he needs them most. once, you had a fight about growing a garden in the backyard and when you woke up the next morning, he’d conjured a thousand flowers that filled the bedroom as an apology, even though you weren’t really that mad at him.

he reads about them, all of these stories that remind him of who they are. of what they lost, but what they still have, too: devotion and compassion and love. so much love is in these pages—not only in the stories and the pictures, but in the words themselves. in how carefully each word is written, how lovingly the pictures have been stuck to the paper. in how it’s clearly taken hours upon hours to complete these, to give jeongguk a chance to remember this wonderful life that he no longer knows.

there are pages of instructions to jeongguk, things like, remind yoongi to take care of himself, too. things like, he’ll open the tangerines for you because you don’t want to squish them and you don’t even have to ask. he just does it. there are pages of pictures of them, none that truly show their relationship—no wedding pictures, no kissing pictures. but they all have captions anyway, things like, this is how he still looks at you when he thinks you’re not looking. things like, you are nineteen and so very in love in this picture. you can almost taste it.

it’s endless, almost a hundred pages of notes and pictures and stories, things for jeongguk to remember. it’s nine years’ worth of a life that he forgot, that he wants to remember. that yoongi has always wanted him to remember.

and at the end, on the very last page, is just one more picture. one more story. yoongi remembers he’d had a hard time deciding whether or not to bring the picture pasted there, fearing that it would show too much when he’d been trying to maintain that they were only best friends. it was taken the night before their wedding, when they’d promised their friends that they would stay up and pre-celebrate, get drunk out of their minds because magical hangover cures are always a good idea the day of a wedding.

but jeongguk and yoongi had ended up falling asleep by the time their friends had turned up at the house, and before disrupting said sleep because, according to park jimin, no one was going to keep him from a promised rager, namjoon had taken a photo of them. in it, they’re lying on top of the covers of their bed, curled against each other, foreheads a bare inch apart. yoongi’s hand is grasping the front of jeongguk’s shirt, almost like he’s going to pull him in to fight—or to kiss him. jeongguk has his leg wrapped around yoongi’s thigh, the rest of them out of frame.

it’s not the most romantic photo taken of them—not by far. it’s not even the most romantic photo in this scrapbook. but there’s something about it, something about what happens as he watches, that makes his heart ache. yoongi pulls jeongguk closer in his sleep, just a little, and jeongguk tilts his head up, just enough that his lips are able to rest against yoongi’s forehead in a forever kiss. neither of them ever opens their eyes.

but it’s—enough, isn’t it? it’s them. it’s everything. and yoongi runs his finger over the picture, over jeongguk’s sleeping face. he loves this picture, wondered how he’d misplaced it when he’d gotten home from the hospital and couldn’t find it in the envelope of other pictures he’d taken to show jeongguk that day. and here it is.

under it is one final story.

at your wedding, your friends were supposed to make it snow rose petals during your first dance, but some of them were already drunk at that point and they made it rain instead and everyone was upset about getting wet and ruining the decorations and you were so, so worried about it but yoongi just grabbed you and kissed you and said it’s like in that muggle movie, the notebook. and then he recited the entire ‘what do you want’ speech while everyone was running around and screaming and desperately trying to reverse the spell because it made you laugh and it made you feel like you were in a movie and it made you feel like it didn’t really matter if things didn’t go according to plan, because you were together. you had each other. you loved each other, and that was enough.

“and he was right,” reads yoongi, tears blurring his vision before he wipes them again. “things didn’t go according to plan. but you’re together. and you have each other. and you love each other, and—” he stops, raking in a breath that rattles his heart. rattles his bones. and that’s always going to be enough.

yoongi stares at the words until his vision blurs again, until he can begin to understand the gravity of what he’s holding. things to remember.

he swallows, and then finally looks up at jeongguk. “i didn’t make this,” he says quietly, watching confusion pass over jeongguk’s face. “jeongguk, this is—this is your writing.” and it doesn’t make sense how it could be, but it is. it’s jeongguk’s writing. those are his words. those are the pictures that yoongi has been bringing to show jeongguk and the stories he’s been telling since their anniversary, since his breakdown. since he admitted the truth for the first time.

he wipes at his eyes, looking back down to the book. “i think you made this.”

“but i…” begins jeongguk. “i don’t remember. how could i make it when i don’t remember?”

he thinks of the questions jeongguk has asked in the past few months and how, somehow, yoongi’s answers have ended up in this book. he thinks of the pictures he’s brought and how, somehow, they went missing from his collection. he thinks of that night, breaking down and admitting to jeongguk that they’re more than just friends, and how jeongguk had looked so incredibly sad to learn that yoongi had been hurting himself to protect jeongguk.

when he tries to close the book, yoongi pauses upon realizing that the last page isn’t quite the last page. he turns it, staring at the back cover of the book, and sees there’s a hidden flap in it. when he slips his hand inside, he finds something else—an envelope, he sees when he pulls it out, with his name written on it.

his eyes meet jeongguk’s. but jeongguk still looks clueless, so he opens the envelope instead. inside is a page—a letter, not so unlike those love notes that jeongguk used to leave around the house and in yoongi’s books and in the pockets of his jeans. this, too, has jeongguk’s familiar writing. this time, it’s addressed directly to yoongi.

“read it—” begins jeongguk. “read it out loud.”

yoongi swallows. and then he begins.

“my dearest husband,” he reads, and already has to pause, already has to take a breath to go on. yoongi presses his lips together, willing himself not to cry at just three little words. but then he feels jeongguk’s hand on his wrist, squeezing it. the words blur before him. jeongguk takes the letter instead, pulling it from his hands, and then intertwines their fingers.

he reads it instead. “my dearest husband,” says jeongguk. “i don’t know when you’ll read this, but i’ve been writing notes to myself saying not to show you the book until you’re ready, and i guess that’s now. so: hi. do you know what today is, yoongi-hyung? it’s june thirteenth. our anniversary. you just left after telling me the truth for the very first time, and i want you to know that you are incredibly brave. you are incredibly selfless. you are an idiot, too, but i know i married you for a reason.” jeongguk lets out a quiet laugh, but it’s wet. yoongi has to close his eyes, letting his tears finally overflow. he doesn’t want to stop them anymore.

“i have decided to start this book to help me remember,” jeongguk continues. “to remember you and myself, but most importantly, us. the past eight and a half years that i’ve forgotten. it’s not fair that i don’t remember you, but i’ve realized that maybe i can. for so long, you’ve been searching for a way to reverse the spell and bring back what i lost. but there are other ways. and this is my way.”

“it breaks my heart, hyung,” reads jeongguk. “i can tell how much you love me. i’m sure it’s been obvious since day one. but i can also tell how much it’s hurting you to do this—to introduce yourself again every time i forget and know that i will never know the truth or even part of the truth. i don’t want to keep forgetting. i want to remember you and your smile and your laugh. i want to remember everything you’ve told me tonight. i want to remember our story. and i can’t, because there’s a stupid spell in my brain that won’t let me. but i just realized… i do love you, min yoongi. i don’t remember you, but my heart does. and why the fuck should i let some magic define my fucking marriage?”

a laugh practically bubbles out of yoongi’s mouth, so surprising and sudden that he has to cover his mouth to stop it. but it’s—it’s so jeongguk. jeongguk, who has always been stubborn and determined. jeongguk, who liked yoongi so much when they first met that he wouldn’t give up trying to become friends with him even when yoongi was having none of it.

this is him. he’s still here.

jeongguk squeezes his hand again. “i’m going to write down everything that you told me tonight,” he continues, “and then, when i wake up tomorrow, i’m going to read it. and i will know you, min yoongi. and even if i won’t remember writing this letter, i trust myself to follow my own instructions: every day, i’m going to add to this book of memories. every day, i’m going to leave questions for myself to ask about me and you and us, even if you don’t know i know you’re talking about us. i’m going to steal your pictures, and for that, i apologize in advance even though i’m not really sorry. i’m going to make myself remember and then when you’re ready to know, i’m going to show you.”

there’s a pause—yoongi opens his eyes to find jeongguk staring at the page, mouth curled in a way that lets yoongi know he’s trying to hold it together. but he does, and when he speaks next, his voice wavers: “because i know i’ll probably never be cured, no matter how much you research or how long i spend in this hospital. but i don’t want to keep hurting you, yoongi-hyung. the magic can take my memories, but it can’t take my heart. and my heart knows you. my heart wants to be with you.” jeongguk sucks in a breath, his own tears finally spilling over. “i refuse to spend the rest of my life in a hospital not knowing who the love of my life is. so this is my gift to you and to myself: i remember you, min yoongi. i know you. i would know you by heartbeat alone.”

for a long time after jeongguk finishes, they both just sit there. and yoongi can’t stop crying, silent tears dripping down his chin and soaking into his collar. is there anything to say? is there anything he can say about knowing that he might have given up after today, and now jeongguk himself has given him every reason not to? they’ve always been in this together. and he’s right: yoongi has been hurting himself every day for two years. but they’re never going to go back to how they were before. jeongguk will probably never be okay.

but that doesn’t have to mean anything. because jeongguk has been working for months to create this house of memories for himself, to remind himself of the truth. to tell himself who yoongi is, what he does, what he means to jeongguk. this is how you know he loves you. every day for four months, jeongguk has read this book, has known the truth that yoongi is his husband, and he’s kept it a secret, keeping it safe until he knew that yoongi needed to know.

he’s been asking those questions to help himself remember. he’s been looking at those pictures to help himself remember. this whole time, since the anniversary, yoongi has been talking about jeongguk and jeongguk has known—has silently and diligently spent his nights telling himself these stories so that, one day, they might have hope for a future together once more.

i would know you by heartbeat alone.

finally, jeongguk sniffs and reaches for the book. on his lap, he flips through it slowly, stopping to touch some of the pictures. then he asks, “is this true?”

yoongi wipes at his own tears with a fist, both relief and fear flooding him knowing that jeongguk knows. that he’s known for months, in some way. “yes,” he says. “all of it. maybe—maybe not the part about how i snore, but… yeah. yeah, jeongguk.” he’s hit with a fresh wave of tears, trying to wipe them away as they fall. “i—i miss you. and i’ve never said it because i was scared of hurting you.”

“you’ve… really visited me every day for two years? and not said anything?”

“i didn’t know what to do,” whispers yoongi. “i just wanted to make you happy. i always—jeongguk, i just want you to be happy. more than i want you to remember or know me or love me, i just… want you to be okay.”

“i am,” whispers jeongguk, then tugs on yoongi’s hand. “i am, with you. i do remember you.” he pats the book. “i remember you now. and i know you now. and—and the me who wrote that letter was right: my heart can’t forget you, hyung. it can’t just stop loving you.”

yoongi lifts his eyes, watching jeongguk blearily. “how did you know?” he asks. “in the letter, it said… it said you told yourself not to show me until i was ready.”

jeongguk’s lip curl downward into a sad frown. “i found your letter,” he says, picking up an envelope from his side table. yoongi stills seeing it, remembering that night only a week ago when he’d gotten drunk and cried so hard he’d thrown up—and wrote jeongguk a letter. he’d left it last night, slipping it into jeongguk’s side table drawer, intending for him to read it only after yoongi had visited and gone this morning, as well.

he closes his eyes. he doesn’t remember entirely what it says, having been too drunk at the time, but he remembers: i’m sorry. i don’t know how to do this anymore. i love you, i love you, i love you forever.

“i found the letter first,” says jeongguk. “so i was confused, but… then i found the book. and there was a note at the front saying that i would know when i had to show you, and if you weren’t ready, i had to pretend not to know the truth. and then there was a list of questions that i should ask you. but i—hyung, you’re so sad. and in the letter, you told me that you were running out of ways to make me happy and if you couldn’t make me happy, then what was the point of you being here? if i was just going to forget anyway?”

“jeongguk-ah—”

“it’s okay, hyung,” says jeongguk. “i understand. but i… i’m not going to forget anymore. i’ll still wake up with no memories, but i have this now. and if i read this every time i forget, i’ll know who you are. and i’ll know who i am. and we can—” he laughs. “we can make each other happy again.”

he wants to say he didn’t mean it, the letter. but the truth is, he did. the truth is, yoongi doesn’t know if this is better, but—for months now, jeongguk has been preparing himself. he’s been waiting for this inevitable breakdown, having sensed that yoongi would reach his own breaking point. for two years, yoongi has tried so hard to take care of jeongguk.

and now jeongguk is telling yoongi that he’s been brave. that he’s done his best. that it’s time to let jeongguk take care of him instead, until they can find their footing. until, not so unlike in their marriage, they can learn to take care of each other and themselves at the same time. and it won’t look the same. it won’t feel the same. but yoongi has endless tangerines to give jeongguk, to fulfil that first promise he was ever asked to make. maybe they’re meant to heal together.

yoongi takes a deep breath, feeling as though he’s cried enough to drown them both. jeongguk touches his wrist so carefully. “hyung, can i hug you?” he asks.

when yoongi agrees, jeongguk pulls him in. they sit like that for seconds that stretch into minutes, yoongi resting against jeongguk’s chest as jeongguk holds him. for years during their relationship, they were always so good at bearing the burden together. they could be strong for each other, but neither of them was afraid of being weak, of letting the other lead. but for two years, yoongi has tried so hard to be the strong one. he didn’t have another choice, did he? for two years, he’s needed his husband to comfort him, to help pick up the pieces that jeongguk has left behind, to assure yoongi that he can be afraid. he can be upset. he can be weak.

he’s never gotten it, not when jeongguk has never truly known who he is. and now, for the first time—jeongguk just holds him. and yoongi lets himself be held. and it’s like breathing with both lungs again, like falling into a soft dream after being tired for so, so long. it’s like having jeongguk back, like he’s wanted. like he’s ached for. it feels like… love.

“hyung,” jeongguk eventually whispers, mouth pressed to the crown of yoongi’s head.

“hm?”

“do you think…” he hesitates, choosing his words carefully. “do you think if we work like this, and have this scrapbook and maybe others—have pictures and videos and proof, and go to familiar places and do familiar things… do you think i can come home?”

yoongi thinks of jeongguk’s shoes still by the door, his books still on the coffee table in the living room. he thinks of holly waiting at the door every day at the time jeongguk used to come back home from work, tail wagging patiently against the floor. he thinks of this life that jeongguk has forgotten and will forget again. every three days, jeongguk will wake up and have no recollection of anything beyond his eighteenth birthday. one day, he will wake up as an eighteen-year-old in an old man’s body, limbs and mind failing him, an entire history he doesn’t remember behind him.

but yoongi will be there. he will be there to take jeongguk’s hand, to gently lead him back through the years of their lives together, until jeongguk remembers again, until he has the words for this thing his heart does when he looks at yoongi and wonders why he knows there is more.

things didn’t go according to plan. but you’re together. and you have each other. and you love each other, and that’s always going to be enough.

yoongi grins. “yeah, jeongguk,” he says. “i think you can.”

《《《

when jeongguk wakes, it’s slowly, eyes bleary when he finally opens them to find an unfamiliar ceiling. he blinks the sleep out of his eyes, brows furrowed when he eventually lolls his head to take in the rest of the room. it’s a bedroom, but nothing about it is familiar; a closet and a dresser and nightstands, shelves of books and pictures and decorations on the walls. briefly, he considers that he may have gotten unreasonably drunk last night and somehow ended up in a stranger’s bed after a night together, but he has no recollection of any of that. and he’s not one to sleep with strangers, anyway.

and—and. the more he stares at the room, the more he feels as though he should know this place. it’s familiar in a way that his mind can’t make sense of, but his heart seems to know. his heart seems to call home. jeongguk feels safe here, in a way that he can’t begin to explain.

then—a firefly hovers into his vision. perplexed at it, jeongguk reaches out and cups the tiny creature with both hands. immediately, the firefly transforms, blooming into a forget-me-not in jeongguk’s hands. its petals shiver until they become stiff and then unravel themselves into a piece of parchment, words scrawled over it.

good morning, it says. don’t worry if nothing seems familiar. it will. two and a half years ago, you were in an accident and got hit by an obliviate charm. because of complications with spell damage, the charm recurs every three days. you are twenty-seven years old. but every three days, you can’t remember anything past your eighteenth birthday.

jeongguk stares. but once he finishes reading, the parchment dissolves in his hands, becoming sand that slips out of his palms and onto the covers pooled in his lap. before he has time to panic—an accident, he’s lost nine years of his life, why can’t he remember—the sand gathers together and morphs into a book, of sorts.

a scrapbook. a non-descript front cover other than a small note that says, read me. these are things to remember. when jeongguk curiously opens the front cover, he finds a page of pictures of himself in a hospital along with written descriptions of his accident, of spending two years in the hospital. the next page is pictures of… a house. he tilts his head as he sees a picture of the bedroom he’s currently in. at the bottom of the page is written all you have to do is ask for help and the house will listen to you. it’s been charmed to show you the way, to point you to what you’re looking for, to keep you from getting lost. this house loves you. it keeps you safe. i promise.

when he keeps going, he finds a collection of pages about himself—of his life in the past nine years, things that he has forgotten, things that he will never truly remember.

and then.

“this is yoongi,” he whispers, running his fingers over the picture of a man smiling into a mug of coffee. “he is your husband. he introduces himself again every time you forget. he sneaks in tangerines for you even though it’s not allowed.”

this is how you know he loves you.

when he finishes the book, and then the second one that appears after, detailing the last six months of jeongguk’s life after leaving the hospital, he sits and stares out at the room for a while. it’s terrifying, all of it. the pressure of it, to be who these books say he is. to know that he has lived nine years he can’t remember. but beneath it is a thrum of anticipation. of something eager. he… wants. he wants this life.

gingerly, jeongguk pulls the covers off of himself and slides out of bed. he stands hopelessly for a minute, and quietly asks, “help?” and he feels—the very magic in the air sigh around him, moving to surround him, to keep him standing. the magic, born from the same root of the curse in his brain keeping him from remembering, guides him, leads him. helps him find clothes to wear, a mirror to stare at for a minute as he sees not the boy he remembers himself as but a twenty-seven-year-old man. on the mirror glows words written not in his handwriting: i loved you as both. i still do.

when he tentatively steps out of bedroom, he finally smells breakfast being made somewhere further into the house. he can hear the pitter patter of tiny paws on the floor, a collar jangling, yips and barks, and—a low, amused voice speaking to the dog. despite never having heard the voice before, hearing it now makes jeongguk’s stomach curl into knots of anticipation, of want.

this is yoongi. this is how you know he loves you.

there’s something nerve-wracking about meeting his husband of almost six years for the first time. but… there’s comfort in it. a calm sort of reassurance that his heart gives him. somehow, he knows yoongi. somehow, he’s always known yoongi. for the next three days, he’ll remember yoongi, will be able to be with him the way they ought to be all the time. and things didn’t go according to plan. but jeongguk knows, in a way that he can’t explain, that he will never want anything other than this kind of love.

jeongguk follows the magical footprints on the floor that lead him to the kitchen, the sounds of the morning growing louder until, finally, he’s standing in the entrance to the kitchen staring at the back of a familiarly unfamiliar man standing at the stove, and a small brown dog at his feet. quietly, his heart sighs, there you are.

“yoongi?” jeongguk asks.

the man stops, turning around. for a second, he looks almost dazzled, and then his mouth curves into an easy grin. “jeongguk-ah,” he says, and it—sounds right. jeongguk’s name sounds safe in his mouth. the dog—holly, his name is holly—barks and yips, taking off across the kitchen to greet jeongguk, and jeongguk laughs as he squats down to pet the dog, this most loyal pet that waited for two years for jeongguk to come home.

and didn’t yoongi, too?

he stills when he sees legs stop next to him, and then yoongi is squatting down next to him, ruffling behind holly’s ears. this is their dog. this is their home. and jeongguk’s not sure how the next three days will go—or the next three years, the next thirty years. but sitting on the floor of the kitchen with holly licking his hand and min yoongi grinning at him like that, like he doesn’t care that jeongguk keeps forgetting, like he would introduce himself ten thousand times if only to see jeongguk smile at him—he thinks this might be the best way. it’s the one he wants to be here for.

belatedly, jeongguk realizes he’s staring at yoongi, a blush on his cheeks when yoongi catches him. “sorry,” he laughs. “you’re just… really pretty.”

yoongi grins, wide wide wide, and then holds out his hand to jeongguk. in it sits a perfectly round object. “tangerine?” he asks. and oh, jeongguk thinks. this is a love worth re-learning. over and over again, every time he forgets. this is always worth it.

you did this together, the book said, under pictures of the past six months. of every measure and precaution they’ve taken to ensure that jeongguk can exist here, can live a normal life. he can’t be a beast handler, not like he was. he can’t keep many of the same friends or hobbies, not the things that he’s learned since turning eighteen. but it doesn’t matter so much, not when jeongguk sees what he does have. he used to think that he had to do it alone, that it was only his burden to bear. but you built this together. yours is not a conventional marriage, not a conventional love. but you’re together. and you have each other. and you love each other.

and that’s always going to be enough.