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Give Me Your Butterflies

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Justin has always had these butterflies. As far as his memory goes back, he knew he was surrounded by butterflies. For imagery, they looked like they were drawn by a toddler, sketched into air with thick black marker lines. They move around near him animatedly, dancing wildy especially when he felt particularly upset. As a child, he was fascinated with them that instead of dwelling in his bad feelings, he'd be calmed by their mere presence. 

When he was happier, the butterflies would shy away. He knew they were there; he could distinctly see tails and ends of their funny scribbled forms. He didn't know where they came from either. He asked his parents and they always just smiled and patted him on the forehead, saying all kinds of comfort except believing him.

It took him some time before he realized that nobody really saw them except for him. When they think he's asleep, he'd hear his parents in hushed, worried tones while his mother would comb her fingers through his hair.

His older brothers would indulge him. They never mocked him for it, but they would always accomodate him in ways that made Justin both happy and frustrated. Why wouldn't it frustrate him? It's clear as the light of day that they didn't see the butterflies.


 

He could never forget that day when he was eight. He remembered it being particularly bad. He also remembered being a tiny, lanky kid that was too shy to speak up or too slow to think of a retort. He was too "soft", the bullies said. He remembered that awful day, when one of them snatched him by the bag slung across his back. The ripping sound was almost defeaning compared to the silence that followed. Justin saw the butterflies in his peripherals again, fluttering agitatedly. 

Almost, he could hear the flap of their inked, distorted wings. He remembered feeling the tips of his fingers and toes tingle in unfamiliar cold. When he opened his eyes, the kid who was unsurely holding his ripped backpack was on the ground. He heard himself scream in a hoarse, probably embarassing, battle cry. His knees planted on either side of his classmate's middle. His hands, frail and small as they seemed, were curled to a fist. They stung in the aftermath.

Of what, he didn't remember.

What he could recall, however, was the butterflies. How they flapped near him, almost tickling his nose. Their scribbled outlines moved erratically, mirroring his untamed anger. In annoyance, he blew at them to keep distance from his face.

At contact, they dispersed into shapeless chaos of lines. They wriggled like mindless worms, and they faded as they landed inevitably on his classmate's chest. Justin's eyes widened, but soon enough a strong hand hauled him upright. "K-kuya, the butterflies-"

"Later, bujing, okay? Later." Kuya Yani pulled him to a protective embrace. His Kuya JC snarled at the younger kids, getting his ripped bag back.

"Mama will get angry." He told them. Mama bought that bag as a birthday gift. It was his favorite. He promised to take care of it. 

Kuya CJ shook his head, "No. She won't. Come on."

As expected, they ended up in the principal's office. No matter how the boys apologized though, his bag was still ruined. He remembered seeing glimpses of the butterflies again as anger bubbled up in his chest. His attention was caught in them, his thoughts running wildly like the mindless flitters of their wings. 

The next day, he remembered the empty chair where his classmate sat. Their teacher said he got sick and had to be in the hospital. He felt a little worried, but not too much. It was because of that classmate that his bag was destroyed after all. What consumed him more was the thought of butterflies. He talked to Kuya Yani and as always, he smiled and told him it was indeed something new. It was that night he felt more upset than happier to confide in his brother.  Frustration crept up his veins. For the first time, he saw their patience as another form of patronizing him.


His thoughts unresolved all night, they inevitably continued the next morning. For good reason, though. For the first time in his life, the butterflies did something else other than hover around him. Justin recalled that day as the start of everything. That day, he started digging through what those buttlerflies could do. 

Alas, they did nothing else except disappear like the first time whenever he blows at them. The rest of the time, they just shied away from any contact.

When they do get blown and then fade into wisps, they almost always land to the next, closest person. The second time it happened, it landed on a random kid in the older class. She stumbled and slipped on the cafeteria floor, spilling her tray too full of food amd drinks and getting her pristine white uniform dirty. The third time it happened, it landed on his teacher. He didn't mean to, but the class dragged on and his teacher was being unfairly mean that morning. His teacher excused himself in that next minute, complaining about a sudden headache.

The fourth time, it was deliberate. He blew it to the direction of his classmates who were particularly noisy and annoying that day. They escalated into a fight somehow, resulting to a lost tooth and broken nose.

The fifth time, Justin recalled.. was an accident. Kuya Yani called out his distant and cold behavior among his peers one day, and he snapped. He was so high in the thrill of knowing he had this "superpower" that he could use anytime. That time, his older brother looked nothing more them a nuisance to him. 

And why not? He never listened to Justin about the butterflies. Nobody did. Could everyone stop meddling with him now?

Those thoughts ran wildly in his head that he didn't know he already called the butterflies with his bitterness. They swarmed around him, fluttering and making ticklish gusts of air on his skin.

Justin sobbed relentlessly hours later, watching his sibling being carried away by the ambulance. A motorbike had just sped past them, out of control as it drove to the sidewalks. It swept his older brother by the side after succesfully pushing Justin away.

It rattled the whole family that even his grandparents rushed to the hospital with them. He was a mess, crying and whining incoherently that even his mother couldn't console him. "M-ma, mama- I gave kuya the b-butterflies! So-sorry, 'm sorr-sorry-"

He found himself in the arms of his grandmother then, tenderly wiping tears and snot on his face. She probably had to repeat the question, but Justin remembered vividly that she was the first person who asked about the butterflies and sounded genuinely curious. 

Many years later, Justin would also recognize the worry in her voice. Back then, he only remembered sleeping soundly in her Nana's embrace after tirelessly crying the whole night. 

When he woke up, Nana told him, "The butterflies are gone now, Jahjah." 

He didn't believe her at first, but Kuya Yani had recovered fast and miraculously so. When he came running to her, talking fast about the butterflies and how she drove them away, Nana only shook her head. He cupped his cheeks and kissed him on the forehead lovingly, "Jahjah, the butterflies won't go away. But we can try not to let them hurt. Promise me you'll be careful, Jahjah?"

"But Nana, you made Kuya's butterflies go away!"

"Yes, but they will still be around you. One day, Jahjah, you will learn enough to drive them away and not let them hurt."

She held his wide-eyed stare with her own soft look, "One day, Jahjah. For now, let Nana drive them away for you. But you have to promise to be careful."

He nodded then. For the first time, he was scared of the butterflies. Terrified. But he found comfort  from his grandmother and he clung to it like a lifeline. 


 

Justin is nineteen now, awkward and all-nerves as he stepped into the dance studio. He carried his determination to pursue his dreams of becoming an idol, but his confidence is shaky at best. His skills are average at best, after all. Then again, he was here to train and improve and grow further.

Not that it stopped his nerves to get the best of him now. The butterflies, like Nana said, they never really went away. They flew nearby in normal days, and they clustered around him when he felt upset or angry. Justin knew now what trigger them, so he tried his absolute best to be calm and rational all the time. In the last years that Nana had been alive to help, she only had to drive his butterflies away for two times after the first time.

Nana's not here now. Nobody's going to chase the butterflies away when he accidentally gives them to other people. The thought made Justin more worried, but it only agitated the butterflies and therefore it no help at all. In the end, Justin tried not to think too much on it.

It's hard to control them today, though. The studio was full of people, stretching and practicing their moves while a set of eyes observed them. The long table in the front was occupied by five people; two of which he knew as their teacher and the company CEO.

Justin was understandably nervous. What's even less helpful was the sight of the butterflies wandering around the room like they're taunting Justin himself. They didn't quite whisper or say anything, but the flaps of their wings made up for their irritating, voiceless noise.

He closed his eyes, saying a prayer to himself to calm down. His hands were clasped together, shaky and clammy. "Butterflies, please go away. Please go away." 

He blew a breath once. Then twice. If he messed up now, it's going to be his fault and nobody's going to help him out. Why did he even think of coming here anyway? Just by taking a look at all these people, it's clear that someone with no background like him could even hope to fit in. He could step out right now and nobody would notice, right? Right-

He blew a breath once.

Then twice. 

He could do this. 

Thrice- 

"Justin, is that you? Why are you just standing here!"

He heard the distinct soft, inaudible sound that the wisps of black scribbles made. Justin opened his eyes immediately, sudden terror clawing at his insides. It's too late. His sight already caught the tail end of butterflies sinking into the approaching man's skin. Then they disappeared.

"No."

"Sorry, didn't catch that. What did you say?" The man was Justin's acquaintance who invited him to join the talent search. Josh was his name. He's a few years older than him and yet the man managed to look more youthful than probably half of the people in the room. Josh, who was only ever friendly and helpful. It was Josh who Justin gave the butterflies to when he didn't even deserve it. 

And Nana's not here anymore.

"Justin?" Josh called out again, cocking his head a little as he probably saw the still frozen figure that was Justin himself. He chuckled then, small and soft, "Ah, I get it. Nervous, huh. Don't worry too much! They liked your audition piece. You'll fit in just right here."

He made a motion that told Justin to follow. For a few beats, Justin didn't know what to do. When Josh's back was fully turned, his feet then struggled to catch up. Then his mouth, "J-Josh, sorry. Yeah, nerves. Um, do you mind if I stick with you for a bit?"

He was answered with a beaming smile and a pair of strong arms steering him by the shoulders. "Sure! Just relax, okay?"



Not even a full day later Justin found Josh furrowing over the contents of his bag, muttering lowly. "Josh? What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I left my charger at home and my phone's already at low batter-"

"I brought mine!" Justin exhaled quickly before the older man could finish. Seeing his face light up made Justin almost distracted, but he willed himself to concentrate. He quickly got to his bag and fished out his charger.

"Thanks!"

It was then when Justin started to anticipate when the metaphorical other shoe would drop. He observed and looked for it around Josh, reverently so. From lost shoes to almost accidents in the studio, Justin was there to mediate. He had decided then, that if he was going to be responsible, he had to try fight off the effects of the butterflies.

His grandmother wasn't here and he's probably late in finally doing these countermeasures but Justin supposed it was better late than never. He had to do this, until he could find out how to drive the butterflies from Josh. He didn't even know how bad they could be this time, but he didn't want to scare himself further by thinking of it. Josh was his friend, and he didn't want the other to suffer.

Thus, he began bringing everything in extra. He even brought a first aid kit and all kinds of meds. He honestly didn't know what to prepare for, but he expected a lot ranging from bad to worst.


So when Josh lingered behind after practice hours, staring determinedly at the rain as if it could stop by a mere glare, Justin slid next to him offering a second umbrella. "Keep it. It's my extra."

"You have an extra one??"

"Um.. yes.. but yeah, use it. " He then got the telltale shiver down his spine that was definitely not from the cold weather. Justin retracted his offered hand back, "You know what, why don't you come with us? Kuya's going to get me today anyway."

Josh relented and refused, of course. Their places were too far from each other but somehow Justin made do with his pitiful look and, "please? Let me repay you?" Card- which was admittedly overused by now but Justin kept using it anyway. Now, Josh is a rational man, first of all. He took a look at the severing skies, slumping in defeat. "Fine, okay."


 

When Josh looked sullen and quiet one normal training day, Justin immediately tensed up and approached him. After some prodding and one nonsensical dare that Josh made Justin do, the older man finally talked about being behind his rent and bills. Justin had only been in training for three months, but Josh had been here longer. All of them shared the same struggle of paying their bills and coming to classes. Justin was just fortunate that his family was supportive through it all. Josh? He knew Josh had it harder, being independent among other things.

Justin didn't hesitate to lend him money. By Josh's stubbornness, he even conceded to write a list even though he really didn't make a habit out of it until now. 

He didn't know when it happened that he became the group's go-to man when they were short with finances. Justin didn't mind, really. In the months that he stayed, he saw their group thin in numbers tragically until they were just a meager count of seven people. It was an experience he shared with those same people, and it was an experience that brought them closer and tighter together.

He didn't mind because then nobody would notice how close of an attention he tended to give Josh, coming to the rescue whenever Josh was in an unlucky situation. 

It's been months. Aside from the minor unfortunate events, Josh appeared to be fine. Maybe the butterflies this time weren't that bad. Maybe Justin could finally breathe easier.


Maybe he could go on to the next problem where Josh made his chest thud lively whenever he's around or near. Where Josh could make him tremble at their touches. Where Josh could light up his entire day with just a laugh, a smile, or a look his way.

Maybe.


 

"Thanks!" Justin averted his eyes immediately from staring too much at the older man. Josh looked all too small in his shirt, but Justin couldn't help but like it. 

They stayed up later than usual, practicing routines. Josh thought he brought enough clothes with how much his bag bulked, but he guessed wrong. His bag was just bulky because it was messy.

Justin, as usual, rushed to lend Josh one of his extra white shirts. Now he got to be tormented with the thought of Josh wearing his clothes and smelling like him.

It's terribly unfair, but Justin secretly took it with little protest.



On a Monday, six months into his stay in the training, Justin arrived to the studio with no Josh in sight. He was an early bird than the other man most of the time so Justin didn't mind. When noon came and he was still a no-show, Justin felt his stomach turn to lead. He checked his phone and there was not a hint of a respond to his messages. He asked the others, and they too were clueless and worried.

Josh wasn't the man who ducked out of practice without good reason. He was here the longest. He knew how hard everything was at the training, but he was one of the most steadfast members who stayed. 

When they eventually got the news, Justin felt himself sinking to the ground fast. The numbness overtook him as he went straight to the man's place after practice. 

Josh was pale and sweaty when Justin saw him open the door. The surprise on the older man's face was also clear. Nonetheless, he let Justin in.

"I'm fine, Jah. Nothing I can't handle. Go home already." Josh told him gently like he was the one that needed the comfort. Justin thought it was ridiculous; between the two of them, it was Josh who was sick enough that even being vertical for a few seconds was a struggle. 

Justin tried not to think about his eight-year old self bawling over butterflies on his grandmother's lap, waiting for his older brother to wake up. He only focused on his friend who was shivering under the blankets. His palm touched his forehead for the second time of the night.

"I'll go home when your fever breaks." Justin said firmly. Josh only half-chuckled and half-coughed his lungs out.

"You'll get sick by that time comes." 

"I don't get sick easily." 

"Stubborn.." 

"I am." 

Justin allowed himself to sit on the ground next to the bed, head pillowed by his crossed arms and bent knees. It must have been past midnight now; his eyes were tired as was the rest of his body. His thoughts though, they ran a mile per minute. 

He thought of the butterflies and how they sunk into skin like ink on paper.

He thought that this must be it, however delayed it was. Justin was a fool to think that he could counter his butterflies, now they seemed to mock him by striking at an insconspicuous time. Justin was a fool.

He was also an unlucky fool who hurt other people who didn't even deserve it.


 

"Tell me a story.." Josh croaked in his hoarse voice. It's past four in the morning and Justin was woken up by Josh's fit of coughs that almost didn't end. 

Justin hummed, now crowding the man's bedside while he absently ran his fingers on his sweat-soaked hair. He was tired now, and even his thoughts were sluggish at best. He didn't know what came to him when he mumbled,

"I'll tell you about a boy and his butterflies.."

A curious noise sounded from beside him, but Justin was already on a roll. He yawned absently, and then traced his fingers on the arch of Josh's scarred eyebrow.


"Once upon a time, there was a boy. He was just an ordinary boy, except that he was cursed with seeing butterflies. They just appeared one day out of the blue, when he was coloring on his drawing book. He broke a crayon that day. He would have cried if not for the butterflies.. They looked just like the ones he just colored in. They were a mess of scribbles by a black crayon-"

"Black?"

Justin shifted on his seat idly, "Yes, they were black. To him they were alive and real. They flew around him at times. At times they would be shy, but the boy knew they were still around.

He told his mother, but she just smiled. He told his father, and he just ruffled his hair with the same smile. He told his brothers, and they played along many times but... but they admitted one day that they too don't see the butterflies.

The boy grew upset. But see, whenever he was upset, the butterflies would always come near him. They would appear to soothe him. To him, they were real. He could see them like how clearly he could see the moon on a dark purple sky.

And so the boy kept them like his tiny little secret. They kept him company after all. They didn't really do much.. They flew and danced and flapped their black, fuzzy wings and nothing else.

But one day.."

Justin jumped awake minutely, sighing when it was just his companion shuffling closer to his leg with a sluggish roll. 

".. One day, he learned what they could do. One time, when he was so upset after a bully, the boy sent the butterflies to him. The next day, the bully was so sick that it continued on for weeks. Another time, he tried it on his friends. Then on his teacher. It was only when he accidentally gave his brother the butterflies that his arrogance and carelessness turned to fear. 

The boy began fearing the butterflies. He was scared whenever they appeared, but then again they always did when he was upset or scared. It was a never ending cycle as soon as it started. 

The boy grew, but the butterflies never went away. So he grew afraid. His fear grew until he was afraid of his own thoughts and emotions. The boy learned to cage them altogether in a tight box somewhere, but the butterflies still lingered. They kept him company until now.  The butterflies never made exemptions, from his bullies to his brothers, to now his friend who got so sick. The boy could only try to fix things in the aftermath, but he thinks it's useless. He could never make the butterflies go away; he could only pick after the pieces that they leave in their trail. 

So the boy  continued to live with the butterflies. It wasn't a happy ever after, but he lived."

 


Silence blanketed them as Justin exhaled his last bits of the story. Finally, Josh made a sound. "T-that's it?"

Justin could only nod. "Now, go to sleep."


The older grunted, sniffling, "That's not a very good story to sleep to."

"I'm afraid that the boy doesn't have any more good stories than that."


 

At least when Josh was well again, Justin felt double of the relief. The curse was over. He wouldn't have to look after Josh excessively now, he reasoned himself. Now Justin could be Josh's friend without worrying too much on where he goes and what he does. He wouldn't be so tired on some nights, thinking what could happen. He wouldn't be so paranoid in the random moments he would feel the familiar shiver along his spine.

So why, why did he still linger? Why did he still find himself like his dark, translucent butterflies- hovering near the man?  Why did he still want to be close to him?

"-Jah! We're going out for snacks. Someone's craving for egg waffles." Josh told him casually, his body brushing up to Justin's arm that it sent heat to his own skin. 

"That was you." He heard Stell retort. Justin didn't pay it much of an attention; he was busy staring at the smaller but stronger hand wrapping around his wrist, guiding him forward.

Justin shouldn't have lingered. He knew this. He could slip up and give Josh the butterflies again and he couldn't afford that. He couldn't relive all those months again, waiting and anticipating in agony.

He shouldn't have stayed closer. Then again, he was like his butterflies. Persistent and helpless, like they were drawn to a field of flowers on the first day of spring. 

Justin wished Nana knew and told him how to get rid of the butterflies altogether, but this life wouldn't be his if it weren't so unnecessarily difficult.

"You just want me to pay for all of you." He heard himself say despite his inner turmoil. It was worth the battle, if only for a moment, as he witnessed Josh's laugh chime and made his heart shudder and stutter.

"Nooooo. I mean, just in case?"


 

They've been here for too long, Justin knew. He could sense it, and to think he was just the newest in the group. They trained so hard in the past years, faced heartbreaks after heartbreaks together too. They were down to five members now.

From the looks of things, they were going to be less than five by the end of the month. 

He could see it. He could practically touch it; the dejection, the hopelessness, and the impending acceptance of defeat. He could see it in the way Sejun would get more easily irritated and frustrated by their or his own shortcomings. He could see it in the way Ken got more somber and quieter as days passed by. He could see it in the way Stell would sometimes be too cheerful or too loud that it only rubbed them the wrong way.

He could see it in the way Josh stared at nothing sometimes, like he was in a far away land, already saying his farewells.

Justin couldn't help but think. It's what kept him up for days now, as the heavy feeling in his chest grew. Along with it, the butterflies made themselves at home near him. Constantly. Irritatingly. Even now, they hovered and occupied the small storage room with him. If not for the unmistakable sound of their buzzing and fluttering, Justin would think they weren't there at all against the pitch blackness.

What if he gave them the butterflies when he wasn't aware? What if he was at fault, after all? If not because of his carelessness and his butterflies, then because he was always lagging behind? Wasn't he the one that they always adjusted to in song arrangements? Wasn't he the one who memorizes the steps too long? Wasn't he the one who had the least input in their group? 


Wasn't he the person their teacher scolded just minutes earlier, for not doing enough?

What if, all this time, he was the butterfly after all? The curse, the bad luck, the omen that came to their doorstep the moment he arrived?

"I think the boy needs to stop believing in the butterflies." 

A voice appeared out of nowhere, startling Justin from his spiraling thoughts. He didn't know how Josh knew he was hiding in their storage room, crying as silent as he can. Then again, Josh has the weirdest but most unneringly accurate predictions at times.

"W-wha?"

The older man offered his handkerchief without necessarily looking his way. Justin thought it was too generous of his friend to save his dignity even if it was not needed. He took the offering. Then he tried to wipe himself enough to feel like a decent human being again.

It partially worked.

"The boy in your story. I remember."

"You remember the most random things." Justin commented.

The elder snorted, making a soft noise as he sat next to him, resting his head on the wall and making do of the cramped space. The difference between them was almost comical; Justin was stiff and coiled like a tight ball, while Josh looked like he was lounging on a park bench.

"The butterflies gave the boy the power to curse misfortune at other people, yes?"

Justin nodded, but he didn't really know where this was going.

Josh continued as calmly as he did before, "But then, didn't the boy know that he was giving them the power because he believed they can?"

"I.. I don't think that's how it works." The butterlies fluttered by his ear. He shook his head. Just because he contradicted didn't mean he needed the buttetflies to agree, too.

"People have their own misfortunes. More often, from their own consequences. Sometimes, it's just the way their lives are. Nobody's exempted, even if some get worse luck than others. It's just the way thing are, even if it's sometimes frustrating that they are without reason or meaning." Josh would know, Justin thought idly. Josh had it rough for most of his life, after all.

"I think.. If the boy learns that, he would eventually lose belief in the butterflies. Then, the butterflies would be gone."

"They never go away." The younger replied too quickly, resigned and tired of his fate long time ago.

"- Then they don't. But the boy will stop looking for them too much. Then, the butterflies will just be there, but will otherwise be powerless."

"What if.. what if you're wrong?" A huge part of Justin wanted Josh right. Then again, a soft voice in him told him otherwise. If bad things did happen for no reason or meaning, then how can one fix them? How can one prepare for them? If he was wrong all along, then how can he accept that he spent his last years believing in that misbelief?

Josh turned to him fully, smiling. It's not his usual where he would show his teeth and look like an adorable bunny character. This time it was this gentle, close-lipped smile where Josh looked softer around his usual edges.

Justin felt the other pinch his tear-streaked cheeks, "I've been unlucky for a lot of times in my life, but they never included the time that I met you. In fact, I've only ever been lucky ever since we met. You were always there when I lost things or didn't have things, or when I had nothing-"

"That's because I wanted to fend the butterflies away!"

"Really?" Josh raised an amused and fond eyebrow, "Then give me all your butterflies then-"

"What? No!"

"- I'm serious. Give them all to me, then I'll prove to you that I'm right." Josh looked with the intensity of a burning candle flame against the stark darkness. His expression was immovable, his voice firm and steady. Justin couldn't look away. He was a moth drawn to those flames that were unbothered by any breeze.

"I know what you're thinking.  You just want me to start praying they don't work even if it's useless. I told you-"

"I'm telling you that whether or not you give me the butterflies, I will still be as lucky or unlucky as I have been before." Josh said like the words strung together were just talking about the weather. He smirked and then tackled Justin to the ground, tickling him on the sides.

"Come on, give it! Hahah! How does it work? Ooh, I know I'll make you so annoyed and then-"

Justin didn't anticipate the move, and at the last second tried to block the older's hands. It's too late though. Now he was squirming all over the place, howling in laughter while trying to pry the hands away. "Wh-JosH! That's not how i-hahahah!-works! "

The butterflies flittered closer to him now. Justin thought he would go mad with their taunting. Taunting him for what, and why, he didn't even know. He exhaled a heavy brrath in between gasps, for a moment letting go and wanting to believe fiercely in the thought that Josh was right.

But no! He couldn't think like that. He couldn't afford to. He shot up, pushing Josh abruptly as he panicked, the rattling dance of the butterflies as frenzied as his heartbeat now.

"Josh-"

"Oh, did it work already?" Josh snickered. He checked on himself as if to see whether something changed, even if it was most probably futile hope.

Justin worked his vocal chords for a few times to even try to say anything, but he couldn't. The man in front of him was ridiculously bullheaded and a known risk-taker. But to see it actually go this far? To think that not only Josh Cullen Santos took his childhood nonimaginary friends and nonimaginary fears seriously, then risked himself to prove those wrong?

Justin couldn't even begin to form the words for this man. Even his mind wasn't cooperating. Even his heart was thudding erratically, beating helplessly for this person in front of him. "Josh-"

Their chaotic movement finally landed its karma in the form of a box full of old props. It fell from its confines up the shelf which they disturbed from earlier. Justin saw it, unfairly vividly now as his eyes had begun to adjust helpfully in the darkness.

The next moment, he saw nothing. His eyes blinked open many times but all he could see was black yet again. This time, it was accompanied with a strong whiff of the cologne he's grown accustomed to ever since he stepped into the studio. Then, it was followed by a startling realization that his lips were pressed to something equally soft and warm. Then, Justin felt a strong heartbeat from the tips of his fingers where they were clinging on the other's chest.

In the darkness, Karma missed its mark. Josh's lips didn't.


"Are you convinced?" Josh said into the space where their soft, warm breaths mingled.

The heartbeat he felt on his fingers began to slow next to his own. 

"I.. I think, I'll need more proof."


 

One year after their debut, SB19 emerged from the shadows and saw the light. The group of five brought the presence of a relentless storm and the force of a dark horse. 

Josh stood by the boy who once believed in butterflies. The boy had grown up now, helped by his three older brothers and one beloved who held his hand all through everything. 

The boy, who was now a man, now believes in more things like maybe love and friendship and brotherhood. The boy, who once resigned his life to the company of the butterflies, now found a different joy and purpose in a different company.

The butterflies never really went away. The boy just learned to accept their existence as a reminder, but not something that controls anything or himself.