The nights in Seoul are cold.
It isn't that different from Jungkook's home in Busan. The weather here is pretty much the same, but to Jungkook it always feels colder. Maybe it's because back in Busan, he'd never be outdoors so late at night. Or because his hoodie is getting worn and he hasn't found the motivation to buy a new one.
Maybe back in Busan, it wasn't something he had to notice. The outside world could be freezing, and he'd still go home to warmth and hot food.
He can't say the same about Seoul.
The bus stop is brightly lit and deserted. There's an old man sitting on the bench with Jungkook, clicking carefully at the keys on his phone as if he can't see the letters very well. Half of Jungkook wants to help him. It wouldn't be hard to speak up and let the man know that he's here.
Instead, he stares at the ground listlessly. The man click click clicks next to him. He has an old modelled flip phone, the kind Jungkook's parents had back when he was a kid.
Click click click.
It's satisfying to hear. He should probably help, but Jungkook can't bring himself to. There isn't anything to look at on the ground but he loses himself in it anyway.
A bus rolls in, and he glances up. It's not his.
He turns back to the ground.
His hands are so cold. He needs to buy gloves. He needs to buy a lot of things.
Is there any food left in his apartment? Had he eaten the last packet of ramen? Oh right, he was out of milk too.
The list he'd forgotten is coming back to him, and the irritation spikes. It's already ten in the night. For once, just once, he wanted to go home and eat something edible and just sleep. Maybe he could skip the run to the convenience store and skip dinner and sleep anyway. There has to be something salvageable around the apartment.
There was a bar of chocolate in the fridge and a bag of grapes. It could do.
The man next to him is still struggling with the keypad.
Click click click.
Jungkook says nothing.
There's a couple of university students standing to the side, falling into each other in their laughter. They're bright and happy, their voices an odd backing track to the numbness that Jungkook is stuck in. Another person stands apart from them, scrolling absently through his phone.
The old man next to Jungkook lets out an exasperated sigh.
Now that he thinks about it, he might have an energy bar in his backpack. If he adds that to the pile, his dinner is sorted.
Then he can sleep.
The guy who's been scrolling on his phone steps closer, his shadow falling over Jungkook. Jungkook glances up, half curious, half alarmed - but the guy isn't looking at him.
"Ahjussi," he starts. His voice is low and careful. "Can I help you out there?"
The old man looks up, a smile on his face that's grateful and resigned at the same time. "Please," he says. "I need to type out this address - could you send it for me?"
"Of course," the guy says. He slips onto the bench easily, sitting between Jungkook and the old man. He doesn't spare Jungkook a second glance.
He seems young, but definitely older than Jungkook. There's a giant pair of headphones slung around his neck. For a second, Jungkook stops staring at the ground and stares at the other boy's shoes instead. They look expensive, but worn to tatters. Like he'd spent too much money on them and then couldn't ever let go.
Click click click. The two of them speak to each other in soft murmurs. The boy says something, amused, and the old man bursts out laughing.
Maybe Jungkook should have helped him.
Maybe he's a selfish jerk. Just like all the people he hates on every day. It doesn't bother him as much as he should.
At last, his bus rolls in. Jungkook pushes himself up.
The other boy lets out a stream of apologies, typing as fast as he can on the phone before he hands it back to the old man. There are thank yous and it's nothings and hurry, don't miss the bus and an overwhelming amount of human decency.
Jungkook should have helped him.
It's not the guilt that bothers him. He zones out on the ride back home, on the walk back to his apartment.
It's not the guilt that bothers him.
It's that there's no guilt at all.
Sometimes, he keeps extra handkerchiefs in his pockets.
When it gets too cold, he stuffs his hands deep into his pockets and wraps the cloth around them. He should really buy gloves. Everyone else at the bus stop seems to have had sense and worn them.
He fists the handkerchiefs tighter.
It shouldn't be so hard to go to the store.
Maybe he'll go during the weekend. When he's finally got enough sleep. He'll sleep in past noon, and then go to the store in the evening. Somewhere close by, walkable distance. He remembers seeing a small clothing store a block away.
It's past 11PM today. He's still at the bus stop.
Jungkook leans his head back against the wall of the bus stop. It's filthy, and if he thinks for a second he'll realize just how freaking unhygienic he's being. But he's tired.
There's no one on the bench with him today. Again, there's a group of university students chatting to the side. Always too okay, always somehow ready to smile.
As if it isn't 11PM on a work day and there's no food at home.
There's no choice this time, if Jungkook doesn't buy something on the way home, he'll be forced to skip breakfast as well. Maybe - if he makes it that far, he can buy something at the cafeteria of his workplace. But he doesn't think he can make it that far.
He's tired, but he's starving.
His phone pings in his pocket, and he ignores it. It's probably one of his coworkers, trying to pin some more work on him. He hits his head once against the wall he's leaning on. There's a dull, satisfying thud.
He does it again.
Thud, thud, thud.
The university students glance towards him, a mix of concern and disgust in their eyes. It doesn't bother him. He isn't going to be affected by kids who still think the world is theirs.
He doesn't know where their confidence comes from. When Jungkook was in university he kept his head down and prayed that no one would ask him for his name. While also hoping that they would.
Praying to be noticed while making it as hard as possible for anyone to do so.
Thud, thud, thud.
He's going to buy a hundred energy bars and stuff them in his backpack.
His phone pings again. He ignores it.
A shadow passes across him again, and then someone sinks down next to him on the bench. Jungkook glances at him, more out of reflex than anything else, and it's the same guy who'd helped the old man that day with his phone.
He has his headphones pulled over his ears, hands stuffed deep into his pockets. He doesn't look at Jungkook - staring straight ahead.
Jungkook shuts his eyes again and goes back to hitting his head.
Thud, thud, thud.
A part of him hopes the boy asks him what's wrong. Another part hopes he doesn't.
Sometimes, in Jungkook's fantasies - he meets someone who cares. They ask him what's wrong and he tells them that he doesn't want to be alive. He stands at the top of a building, ready to fall over, and they stand behind him, and don't say a word.
Sometimes, in his fantasies, his life is already over. He had his chance, he lost.
It should be time to go home.
He keeps his head rested on the wall, eyes tightly shut. The wall is a bit damp, and he hopes it's from the rain. He'll need to take a shower when he gets home, but he knows he probably won't.
The handkerchiefs in his pocket are barely enough. He fists them tighter anyway.
There's the telltale sound of crinkling paper, and then a waft of something that smells like chicken. Jungkook's eyes slip open, curious, and sure enough - the guy next to him is eating what seems to be a chicken sandwich.
It smells so good that it pisses Jungkook off.
He turns his head away, about to try to get some rest again, when the boy speaks up.
"Do you want some?"
Jungkook turns to look at him in shock. The boy looks uninterested, but he's holding the sandwich out a bit, as if to offer Jungkook a bite.
"You look hungry."
Jungkook is hungry. He's always hungry, because he can't ever freaking remember to buy himself food.
He shakes his head, trying to force out a smile. He wants to say I'm okay, but nothing comes out.
On most days, Jungkook tries not to sleep in the bus.
It's hard. Both in the morning, and at night - the hum of the engine and the quiet lull of deserted traffic is enough to put him to sleep. Listening to music makes him sleep even faster. Podcasts are no help as well.
For a short while, Jungkook would spend his commute listening to the news. It was something that Namjoon had drilled into him, back when Jungkook was still in university and thought that Namjoon's opinion of him could make a difference in his life.
Back then, his senior had been alarmed by how little Jungkook knew about current events, and had tried to make him read the news as a habit. He'd sneak it up on him at the most unrelated of times - something that Jungkook, despite himself, had been fond of. Namjoon was really bad at acting, and all of his casual attempts to inject knowledge into a conversation went like oh, look, Barack Obama, who happens to be a former president, as you surely know, and I am unnecessarily repeating -
For a while, he listened to the news because Namjoon made him do it. Then he did it because Namjoon wasn't around to make him do it anymore.
But now - starting the day listening to how horrible the world is, makes things worse. Ending the day like that makes it just as terrible.
Instead, Jungkook stares straight out the window, and hopes he doesn't fall asleep.
It doesn't always work.
He's just looking outside blankly, thinking about all the work he has to do tomorrow, and then he loses himself, because the next second he knows it someone is shaking him by the shoulder.
"Hey," a familiar voice is saying. "This is the last stop."
Jungkook wakes up with a jolt.
"I - what?" he stutters. He looks outside and - the surroundings are unfamiliar. He has no idea where he is.
He has no idea where he is.
"Hey," the guy says again. It's the same guy from a few day's before, who had offered him a bite of his sandwich. "It's okay, it's okay. Come on, let's get off."
Jungkook can't just get off - he doesn't know where he is. He doesn't know how to get back - or if he even can. Are there buses that run this late? He doesn't know.
He's going to be stuck here, alone, in the cold -
"This isn't your stop, huh?" the guy asks, and he sounds a bit sympathetic. "It's okay, come on. I'll show you the way."
He looks at the guy, still panicked and confused, but he's ushering Jungkook out of the bus just as the driver starts to call out to them in irritation. His hold Jungkook's sleeve is gentle, careful to not actually touch him - just enough to get him moving and out of the bus.
The bus stop is deserted, with one light shining too brightly above their heads and everything else around them dim and dark.
Jungkook has no idea where he is.
"Where do you stay?" the other guy asks. His voice is low, almost soothing to his startled, sleep deprived mind. At the same time, it sets Jungkook on edge. The only thing he's really learned in Seoul is to never trust a stranger, and to never ever trust one who talks to you.
But now he's stuck here, alone with a guy he doesn't know, and the panic is rising again.
There's no way he can escape.
"Is it somewhere close?" the other guy asks, clueless. He's pulled out his wallet for some reason, searching through his crumpled bills.
"I - I stay in Hong-je dong," Jungkook says, tense, voice barely there. He doesn't actually - he gets off on the stop right before it. But he knows better than to tell this guy his address so he can follow him home.
"Hong-je," the guy murmurs to himself. He looks up at the sky once, moving his lips as if calculating something. Then he grabs a couple of bills out of his wallet. "I'll get tickets, hold on a second."
"I - what? Wait!"
The guy turns around, eyebrow raised.
"You - you missed your stop too?"
The guy snorts. "No," he says. "I live here. But it's late, and you look like you're two seconds away from passing out - I'll sleep better if I make sure you get home in one piece."
The words send something cold washing over Jungkook, sounding wrong wrong wrong. All of his walls are going up, but he doesn't know what to do. Everything about what the guy is saying makes it sound like he's figured that Jungkook is weak. Like he would lose to him in a fight.
"I'll go alone," he says, voice cracked and too high pitched. There's too much panic, too much chaos. The boy's eyes widen. "It's - it's fine. I'll go alone. Please."
The guy seems to realize that something is off, because he backs off. "Fine," he says, voice quiet, like he's trying to console a startled animal. "Yeah, fine. I'll just get you a ticket and show you to the right stop, then."
"Thank you," Jungkook says, bowing halfway.
The guy shakes his head. "It's fine," he says again. "Just get home safe, okay? I'll - " he pats down his pockets, searching for something, and then pulls out a business card, handing it to Jungkook. "I - if you want to, text me when you get home. Just so - just so I know."
Jungkook stares down at the business card. It isn't much too look at, just a white rectangle with the name Min Yoongi, Music Producer. An address, a phone number.
He bows again, pocketing the card. His mind is already racing - should he message him? Give a complete stranger his phone number? But if he doesn't, he still might run into Yoongi tomorrow and then things will be awkward…
In the end, when he gets home (and has to walk an extra kilometer because he'd given Yoongi the wrong freaking address) - he sends a short text.
Hey, this is the guy from the bus stop. I made it home.
The reply is instant. Alright! Thanks for letting me know.
He doesn't ask for Jungkook's name, or push him for anything more.
Jungkook is relieved, but at the same time - he feels like just another face.
Jungkook doesn't like to say that he hates his job.
Even when he gets out at 10PM, even when he's bone dead exhausted and hasn't slept in weeks - he wouldn't admit to hating his job at knifepoint.
He'd studied graphic design against his parent's will - they'd been trying to push him into business or law, ignoring how Jungkook had the skills for neither. He'd built his portfolio in secret, spending late nights on the computer instead of studying, and it's still a sore spot in his family that he ended up using his parents' money to study a degree they were against.
He'd offered to pay them back of course - but it doesn't look like it'll happen any time soon. Most of his paycheck is spent on his rent and utilities, and what's left is too embarrassing to transfer to his parents.
The only reason they think he has a bit of pride left is that they believe he's doing a job he enjoys - but Jungkook hates his job. He hates his coworkers. He hates how he'll probably never be promoted because management has figured he won't resign and will overwork himself without complaint.
He hates it all so much that he barely feels anything anymore.
It's late again today, when he reaches the bus stop. There's a hint of a drizzle, just enough to dampen his shoes. Jungkook has a can of soda in his hand that he'd picked up at the vending machine, which seems to be a mistake because it's cold and the soda is cold and if he drinks it it's not going to make anything better.
A part of him wants to turn the can upside down and watch the soda drip onto the floor. Leave a mess for someone else to clean up. Just because he can.
He pops the can and soda spurts onto his clothes.
Jungkook is frozen for a second. The liquid seeps into his clothes, sticky against his skin. He blinks back tears.
He probably deserved that.
Of course he deserved that.
A woman at the bus stop notices the soda on his clothes and scrunches up her nose. The rest of the people don't look up, eyes fixed on their phones.
Min Yoongi isn't here today.
Jungkook doesn't think much of it - he doesn't always run into him. If anything, he's happy that he isn't here, because he doesn't know what to say to him after yesterday.
Is he expected to smile at him…?
He sets the sticky soda can on the seat next to him. A bit of it leaks on the bench, but he can't bring himself to care. It's someone else's problem.
He thinks that's how it works around here, anyway.
He shakes out his clothes a bit, but the stickiness doesn't go away.
The bus finally rolls in, and Jungkook stands up, shaking out his shirt one last time. He steps in line behind everyone else, when his phone rings.
Jungkook frowns. It's probably one of his coworkers - no one else calls him at such absurd hours. He doesn't want to pick it up.
He hands his ticket to the driver and sinks into his seat, when his phone rings again. His irritation spikes, but this time he takes his phone out. If it's his superior then it's better to get things over with now.
He catches the caller ID and his eyes widen.
"I - hello?"
"Thank god!" Yoongi says, on the other side. He's panting, out of breath. "Just - just ask the driver to hold on a second, okay? Okay? Please?"
Jungkook is out of his seat in a second. He glances out through the back window and sure enough, there Min Yoongi is - running through the street, panicked as he tries to chase down the bus.
He turns to the driver, stuttering through his words. "There's - there's someone coming, we need to stop, I - uh, can you hold on just a minute?"
The driver looks annoyed, but he slows down. The doors slide open, and a moment later Yoongi is grasping at the handle rail, pulling himself in. He looks like he's run a mile, and like he might pass out, but he stutters out apologies to the driver. The driver still looks annoyed, but somewhat appeased.
"Thanks," Yoongi says, sliding into the seat next to Jungkook. Jungkook tenses instantly - there are a lot of empty seats, but Yoongi doesn't seem to think this is odd. "You saved my life."
"It's - it’s fine."
Yoongi is still breathing hard, shutting his eyes and trying to breathe through his nose to calm down. It takes a while.
Jungkook turns back to the window. There's silence for a while, until Yoongi finally seems a bit better and starts fiddling with his phone.
"I don't even know your name," Yoongi says, sheepish. "I'm Min Yoongi, by the way."
"I saw it on your business card," Jungkook says, before he can think it through. He feels his ears heat up a bit. "I'm - I'm Jeon Jungkook."
"Jungkook-ssi," Yoongi says to himself, like he's testing the name out. "That's nice." His eyes drop, to the dark stain on Jungkook's clothes from the soda, and Jungkook's ears burn even more. Without a word, Yoongi reaches into his backpack.
It takes him a while to find whatever he's looking for - the backpack seems to contain literally everything that a person would need to stay alive. There are files and documents and a box of food, at least two bottles of alcohol, a laptop and a bunch of electronic gadgets and accessories. There's even a couple of sets of clothes and, oddly enough, a ship in a bottle.
Not the kind of stuff he'd think a music producer needed to carry around every day.
Yoongi seems aware of this as well, since he mumbles excuses under his breath as he searches through the chaos. Finally, he pulls out a pack of wet napkins, handing them to Jungkook without meeting his eyes.
"I'm not usually a messy person," he says, as if Jungkook is going to judge him.
Jungkook shakes his head. "Thanks," he says, taking a napkin and trying to wipe off the mess on his shirt. It doesn't work, at all, but it feels a bit better knowing that he tried. That someone cared enough to offer help.
Yoongi doesn't talk much after that - he pulls on his headphones and leans back into the seat, closing his eyes. He isn't asleep - Jungkook can tell because he keeps switching songs on his phone, almost too often.
It's odd, sitting there with someone he doesn't know, but doesn't seem determined to not know him. It's still quiet, still stagnant, the way this blasted city always is - but the silence is somehow content.
He shuffles a bit when his stop approaches, unsure if Yoongi will be able to hear him if he asks him to move. Surprisingly, the shuffling is enough to make Yoongi's eyes snap open.
"Your stop is here?"
Yoongi slides out of the way to let Jungkook out, and then his eyes widen when he sees the buildings outside. "This isn't your stop."
"I - uhhhh."
Jungkook's heart falls. Of course - he'd given Yoongi the wrong address yesterday. He could say this was a friend's house? Or yesterday's was a friend's house? Which would he be more likely to believe?
Some kind of realization seems to dawn on Yoongi, and then he looks almost amused. "You gave me the wrong address, huh? That was actually pretty smart." And then, "Wait, shit, how did you get home?"
"…I, um, I walked."
Yoongi looks absurdly guilty. "I'm sorry," he says, and it sounds - so sincere. So wrong, for someone to say to Jungkook. "Shit, I overstepped - I wanted to get you back home but I just scared you and made things harder, ahh sheeshh. I'm really sorry, Jungkook-ssi."
Jungkook shakes his head, at a total loss. He doesn't know what to do with this apology, he didn't see it coming. He thought Yoongi would be mad that he thought he was a predator of some sort and then be like if you think that's what I am then I guess I should just be one and then skinned Jungkook alive and sold all his organs.
He blinks at Yoongi, unsure of what to do now.
The bus slows to a stop.
At the last second, Jungkook realizes what he'd forgotten - the ticket. Yoongi had paid for his ticket yesterday and Jungkook hadn't paid him back yet. That was probably why he even sat with him today - it was the subtlest way to ask. He pats down his pockets for money, can't find his wallet in a rush. There's a brief moment of panic, because the bus has already stopped and he really needs to leave, so he grabs the first thing he finds in his coat and thrusts it at Yoongi.
It turns out to be an energy bar.
"I'll pay you the rest tomorrow," he says, before turning around and hurrying out the door just before the bus starts again, leaving Yoongi in complete and utter confusion.
It only occurs to him once the bus has pulled out of the station that he didn't give the older boy any context at all to go on. He'd listened to his apology, panicked, handed him an energy bar, and run away.
When Jungkook first moved to Seoul, he thought he was on his way to something.
It was hard, being in the city after living in such a tightly knit community for so long. All of a sudden he was an embarrassment to his parents, and a warning story of what giving too much freedom could do to kids to the families of everyone he knew. For the first time in his life, Jungkook had been completely and utterly alone.
It was terrifying, but he thought that was a good thing.
It seemed like a new beginning, the sort where the protagonist found themselves with nothing and then realized that the life they'd been living was a lie and true happiness lay elsewhere. And for a long time, he forced himself to believe that.
He tried to make friends. He went to parties. He got drunk and got high and made terrible mistakes and met Namjoon. He thought things were getting better, that he was going to be happy.
But nothing ever changed.
It's been six years since Jungkook first moved to Seoul, and he's still completely alone. Standing at the empty bus stop, quiet dismay in his heart - he's missed his bus back home.
Already, unbidden, he can feel his eyes getting wet.
It's later than usual tonight - past eleven PM. According to his contract Jungkook should be out by five, but his supervisor never runs out of reasons to keep him back late. Today, he'd got into a nasty situation with a client as well - he'd made the mistake of taking liberties with a portion of a colour palette that the man hadn't given him details about, even though he'd asked over and over. Apparently that was the wrong thing to do.
And now, he's here, and he's missed his bus.
It's not like - like he's stranded. Jungkook could take a taxi, they do run pretty late. But his anxiety is already way too high and he doesn't think he can survive sitting in the back of a stranger's car in the middle of the night.
He could - he could take the train. It's something he tries not to do because payment at the train station stumps him, but it's not like he has another choice.
He fists the handkerchiefs in his pocket and tries not to cry.
The train station isn't too far from here, maybe a five minute walk. He pulls his jacket around him tighter and starts towards it. The streets are quiet, deserted, but still brightly lit. Cars still pass by, shops are still open. Somehow everyone is okay with going on for so long when all Jungkook wants to do is sleep.
He pats his pockets for a spare energy bar, and unwraps it with his teeth, chewing on it halfheartedly.
"Yoongi-ssi," he says, and then remembers the disaster of their previous conversation. "Shit," he says. "I - I swear I meant to pay you back."
He starts patting his pockets again for his wallet, but Yoongi looks a bit alarmed.
"What? Hey, no, that’s not what I meant - just, what are you doing here so late?"
"I missed the bus," Jungkook says, forcing a sheepish smile. He finally finds his wallet and starts counting out the money, but Yoongi stops him with a hand on his wrist.
Yoongi blinks. "Shit," he says, looking even more alarmed. "Your hands are freezing."
Jungkook stares at the fingers around his wrist, uncomfortable.
Yoongi lets go immediately. "You don't have to pay me back," he says, and he looks sincere. "Honestly, just - are you alright? You look too tired."
He wonders who Min Yoongi is. If he just hangs around the streets trying to help anyone who goes by, as if this city hasn't sucked the insides out of him yet. Every time Jungkook has met up with him has been some variant of a disaster, but he's looking at him with - with concern.
"Did you miss the bus too?" Jungkook asks.
Yoongi snorts. "No, I was meeting a friend at a café, and it ran pretty late…" He glances back at the café window, just a few meters off from where they're standing. He seems to be calculating something, and then he turns back. "I'm about to go home, actually, you want to leave together?"
Strangely, it doesn't terrify Jungkook as much as it did last time. Somehow or the other, he's started trusting this strange man.
Yoongi grins, all his gums showing. He's pretty, and Jungkook realizes it like a punch to the gut.
"Wait here for a minute," Yoongi says, already stepping back. "I left my stuff in the café."
He hurries back, and Jungkook stares after him in surprise. Had he just…run out of the café when he saw Jungkook?
When Yoongi comes back, he seems in a rush, shouting apologies to someone behind him as he tries to pull his coat on halfway out the door. There's someone else shouting behind him, kind of annoyed, kind of resigned, something along the lines of I'll get you back for this someday, Min Yoongi!
"Not important," Yoongi insists, before Jungkook can ask what the heck is going on. "Come on, let's go home."
It's been so long since Jungkook took the train, that the interior takes him by surprise.
There's the usual posters and advertisements plastered across the wall, uneven bits of paper in every colour. When Jungkook was younger, when he was tagging around with Namjoon - he'd take photographs of the job listings because he was sure he'd end up unemployed and would need the list of phone numbers for reference.
The ads are still there, but along with it, there's something else as well.
Along the wall of the train are carefully placed rows of words, in beautiful calligraphy. The words look simple from afar, and too small to read with Jungkook's shitty eyesight even with his glasses, so he ends up moving closer.
Yoongi opens his eyes once, to see what he's up to, and then goes back to leaning against the window, headphones on and eyes shut tight.
The words are poetry, of some sort. The train lurches suddenly and Jungkook grabs at the rails in alarm, but he doesn't move to sit, instead staring at the words.
But the real world is different from the promise.
We have to run, we have to accelerate,
There's no destination, and there's no scenery.
You're out of breath, but you run, because you need to, you need to.
It's startling, to read in this brightly lit train - words that spit into his face that they're all here living this same messed up pretense at a life. He glances around, a bit overwhelmed, to see if anyone else is looking at this, but the other occupants of the train are either asleep or staring into their phones.
There's no destination, and there's no scenery.
Something in his heart hurts too much.
It's one of those moments where Jungkook realizes too intensely the kind of hellhole that he's stuck in. He's stuck in so deep, for no reason -
That's the worst part. It's for no reason.
There's shifting behind him, and Yoongi blinks his eyes open again. He squints curiously at what Jungkook is looking at and in a moment he's next to him, holding at the railing as well, rubbing at his eyes to read better.
"Oh," he says. "This one."
"There's poetry in each of the compartments," Yoongi says. "I used to try to get into each compartment just to read them all - had to pay for a first class ticket and shit. Most of them are really good. This is one of the best ones."
Jungkook blinks. This was one of the best? What was so good about bashing into people's faces that they were living in this shitty excuse of a city?
"It's kind of depressing," he mutters.
Yoongi looks surprised. "You think?"
"Yeah." If Jungkook saw this in the morning, he wouldn't want to go in to work. He'd just turn around and go back home. And then stay there forever, until he was dead and his landlady realized she hadn't received the money she was supposed to and came knocking on his door to find his dead body.
Yoongi's eyes widen in realization. "It doesn't end there," he says. He points to the side, at another set of words, set apart from these ones with a giant doodle of a whale in between. "That's the next bit."
Jungkook frowns, holding the railing tighter as he moves closer to see.
It's okay to pause. It's okay to not have a dream.
There's no need to run without knowing the reason.
It's alright to stop - stop running for nothing.
We deserve a life.
"Oh," he says.
Yoongi laughs a bit. "It's nice, huh? Sometimes I see it at the beginning of a shitty day and it makes things easier."
"We deserve a life," Jungkook repeats carefully. It doesn't settle right in his heart, the words too foreign.
We deserve a life.
It's hard to wrap his mind around.
In some way, it's almost like Yoongi's a friend.
Jungkook gets used to seeing him at the end of each day, sitting at the bus stop and listening to music. He sits with Jungkook in the bus every day, and sometimes they take the train together instead.
Sometimes Yoongi brings earphones instead of his headphones, and he offers Jungkook one side like it's nothing. His taste in music is impeccable, and it's not wonder he's a producer.
Jungkook could listen to his playlists forever.
He also knows too much about the music world - while the tracks on his phone play, he tells Jungkook softly about how the voices on the backing track never got paid, or passed away last year, or had an affair with the secretary of his own boss. He tells Jungkook about how impossible some idols can be, and how some of them are too kind for their own good. He talks about how he always wanted to learn the guitar, since the piano doesn't seem like it'll get him everywhere he wants to be.
Yoongi is older than him - somewhere around four, five years, and has lived in Seoul since he was a teenager. But somehow, he's unlike any of the other people Jungkook has run into in the city.
It's not that Yoongi isn't cautious. He's more than aware of what the city can do when they let their guards down for a second, and when shady guys who are drunk out of their minds enter the train compartment, he always switches seats with Jungkook to keep him as far from the guys as possible. He's always concerned about letting Jungkook go home alone, and constantly reminds him to text him once he's safe - but somehow, in spite of knowing how determined the world can be to destroy people, Yoongi is somehow still nice.
Sometimes it's in the small things. It's in how he kicks stones to the side of the sidewalk so no one will trip, or in how he wrestles with a dog at the end of the street to keep her from swallowing a plastic bag she found somewhere.
Sometimes it's more personal. It's in how he smiles at Jungkook and tells him to take care when he leaves. Or how he turns up one day with two cartons of hot chocolate instead of one because surely Jungkook would want one too.
It's in how he texts Jungkook after a long day asking if he'll be there soon or if they should take the train together instead.
It's in how they know absolutely nothing about each other, and still, Yoongi cares. How the fact that Jungkook will see Yoongi on the way home is enough to get him through the day.
On the worst days, it's too hard to breathe.
When Jungkook stumbles into the bus stop, his breathing is erratic, vision blurry with tears he refuses to shed. He doesn't know what time it is, he doesn't know if it's too late. All he really knows is that he wants to go home.
He stumbles onto the bench, pulling his legs up to curl up, hiding his face in his knees. The place is lit up bright but he's the only one here. There aren't even many vehicles that go by. It must be really late.
He takes a careful, shaky breath, covering his head with his arms. It doesn't help.
It's a wonder he even made it outside without breaking down.
Jungkook is - he's still young. He's doing the work of three people put together and people expect him to be more experienced than he is, but the truth is that he's not. He's been out of university for just two years and is way out of his depth, and yet, and yet -
Somehow his coworkers expect so much.
He's not good with raised voices. He can't deal when people shout at him. When he messed up today it took everything he had to not hide under the table and just cry while his supervisor lashed out.
Jungkook can't - he can't do this. He isn't built for it.
It's cold and dark and he's so alone.
He presses his arms tighter over his head, curling inwards. If he makes himself small enough maybe he'll just disappear.
The tears start before he can stop them, and then he's shaking, crying alone in the middle of the night.
Once he starts, it's impossible to stop. Jungkook is cold, so cold, and so hungry, and he hasn't slept through the night for months together. The loneliness has clawed its way inside of him and there's too much empty space in his chest. There's nothing inside of him to keep him going, he's been running on energy that he doesn't have.
There's no destination, and there's no scenery.
Jungkook should stop. There's nothing to keep him standing, nothing to make him put one step after the other, he should just stop.
But he's too scared to do it.
Out of nowhere, he thinks of Yoongi. He hasn't checked his phone in too long, he doesn't know if the other man has texted him. If he's gone home or not. It must be really late, it's unlikely that he'll be here anymore, and for some reason that just makes Jungkook cry harder.
It's fitting that the only part of the day he's looked forward to is something he has to miss.
He's starting to hyperventilate, face pressed too tightly into his knees, and a part of him wishes that he passes out. That he just - stops here. On the side of the street. Just another casualty of the messed up world that no one wants to admit is accelerating towards a dead end.
There's a hand on his shoulder, and Jungkook jerks, nearly toppling over in his haste to get away.
"Hey, hey," Yoongi says, worried and voice carefully gentle. "It's just me. I - shit, what happened?"
Jungkook shakes his head, burying his face deeper into his knees, choking on his tears. It's somehow worse to hear such gentle words than it was to get screamed at, it hurts deep inside his chest, in the hollows of what's left.
There's a soft, careful touch to his knee, and Jungkook peeks out of where he's hidden enough to see Yoongi kneeling down in front of him. He's frowning, too concerned, rubbing gentle circles with his thumb into Jungkook's knee.
"Cry it out if you need to," Yoongi says, and it's enough to make him start all over again.
He doesn't know how long they sit there for, in the absurd brightness of the shitty light above them. When his tears have dried up and the anxiety has dulled into the greyness that always runs through his veins, he's too ashamed to lift his head up. He stays there, face hidden, breathing hard.
There's no way he can face Yoongi after this.
The circles he'd been rubbing into his knee have slowed into a simple hold, and when Yoongi seems to realize that he's calmed down, the hand disappears entirely. Jungkook's stomach sinks at the loss of contact, but instead, Yoongi straightens up.
For a brief second, his hands are in Jungkook's hair, smoothening it down before he pulls Jungkook's hood back over his head.
Jungkook sniffs, rubbing his face against his jeans in hopes that there's no tears or snot left on his face. Yoongi tucks his hood in around his ears, so careful, and Jungkook still doesn't dare to look up.
"You don't have to talk about it," Yoongi says softly. "But I do need to know what I can do for you."
Jungkook shakes his head.
"Do you want me to take you home? Or do you want to stay here a little longer?"
Honestly - Jungkook doesn't know. He doesn't see anything going right no matter what he does. He wants everything to be solved right this instant - he doesn't want to sit out here in the cold, but he dreads the idea of having to go all the way back home.
He just wants to dissolve into a puddle, right here. To pass out unfeeling on the floor.
He wants for everything to stop.
"Jungkook-ah," Yoongi tries again, and Jungkook realizes in passing that he's completely dropped any honorifics. "It's too cold here, you need to get somewhere warm. If you're too tired to walk I can call a cab."
Jungkook shakes his head again, the anxiety spiking once more. He can't go back home alone in a car with a stranger. Not now. He can't do it.
He finally uncurls himself, daring to look up, but he doesn't meet Yoongi's eyes. A look around the bus stop tells him that they're still alone, at this absurd hour of night. What time is it, anyway? He hasn't a clue.
"What time is it?" he manages to ask.
Yoongi shuffles a bit for his phone. "Almost 1AM," he says.
Jungkook rubs at his eyes, guilt sinking in deeper. "I'm sorry."
"Aish," Yoongi says. "What are you even sorry for? If you say for crying I'll stab you."
Jungkook sniffs again. "I knew I shouldn't trust strangers," he mutters. "They're always trying to kill you."
Yoongi makes an indignant noise and swats him on the head, but then he doesn't move his hand away after it, just holding the back of his hood gently. It's grounding, in a way, and Jungkook is grateful for the touch.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Yoongi asks quietly.
Jungkook shakes his head. "I'm tired," he admits, voice cracking. "I'm hungry."
The hand on his head stiffens. "You didn't eat?"
"I eat when I get home," he says.
"You get home at midnight every day."
"Yeah," Jungkook agrees miserably. "They said it's just for another week though. New client, some shit."
"Fucking - " Yoongi cuts himself off, and there's a moment like he's coming to terms with something. "Come on," he says at last. "I'll buy you something to eat."
He's so - he's too nice. He's doing things that he doesn't have to for absolutely no good reason, and it doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense that someone could do so much for Jungkook when he has nothing to give in return.
The thought sinks in enough to turn back into poison, and Jungkook pulls away. "You don't have to pity me," he says, still not meeting Yoongi's eyes.
"I - what?"
"I'm not - you don't even know me. Why are you doing this?"
For a second, Yoongi doesn't say anything. It's a horrible second, with Jungkook's heart completely still.
Then he just sighs.
"Jungkook-ah, if you genuinely don't want me to be here, I'll leave," he says. "But if you're just saying this because you feel like shit and you're trying to make sense of it - then your brain is being shitty to you and you shouldn't be listening to it."
Jungkook's brain is always being shitty to him - he has no choice but to listen to it. But he is hungry, and - even if he's just a weird charity case to Yoongi, it's still the most warmth he's felt in years.
He doesn't want to let go of it.
He sniffs again, rubbing at his face with the end of his sleeve. "You didn't answer the question," he says, just to be petty.
"For what, why I'm doing this?"
Yoongi sighs again. "You know what, I do pity you," he says, grabbing Jungkook's sleeve to pull him up. "I honestly pity anyone who doesn't know to say yes to free food."
Surprisingly - or unsurprisingly, Jungkook feels a lot better once there's food in his stomach.
Yoongi doesn't eat. He says he ate at normal hours like a normal human being. Instead, he sips at a glass of soju and occasionally asks Jungkook if he wants anything else to eat.
They're at a simple fast food joint, one of the few places still open at this ridiculous hour. It's not the kind of food he'd like to eat at night but after spending too much time crying in the cold, anything besides his energy bars is a literal godsend.
"You do know they aren't allowed to work you this late, right?" Yoongi asks at one point.
Jungkook shrugs. "It's not - it's not official. They just ask us if we'd be okay with staying a while longer and it's sort of…understood that saying no would be a bad thing."
"Yeahhh," Yoongi drawls. "They aren't allowed to do that, either."
Jungkook shrugs again. He doesn't want to think about his shitty work schedule, not when there's actual food in front of him. "You don't ever get asked to work late?"
"Of course I do," Yoongi says. "But within reason. I've seen you around here at this hour for literal months, that's way too long."
"I don't want to lose my job," Jungkook says, and the thing is, he doesn't even mean it.
What's the worst that could happen, if he lost his job. He'd die alone in his room instead of in the middle of the street, that's all.
Yoongi shakes his head. He looks like he wants to say something, but then thinks the better of it.
"Don't go in to work tomorrow," he says suddenly.
"I - what?"
"When was the last time you took a break?"
Jungkook can't remember. Probably some time when he was sick. He doesn't usually like taking time off because it means his work piles up, and then everything just gets harder. He does still get his weekends, and he usually spends them lying in bed and pretending he doesn't exist.
"I don't know," he admits.
"That means it's time for one," Yoongi decides. He refills his glass of soju, downing it all in one go. "Go home, sleep all day. And then if you're still up to it the next day I'll murder your boss for you."
"Would you?" Jungkook asks.
"Sure," Yoongi says. He pats at his backpack. "One swing of this thing and he'll be out."
"And you'll be in jail."
"For a good cause," Yoongi says, and he actually seems genuinely angry at his boss. It doesn't make sense. "But let's forget about him," he says, checking the time on his phone. "Want to take the train?"
The words on the train are different this time. They're all over the place, and Jungkook can't tell if they're part of the same poem or not.
Don't be trapped in someone else's dream.
If you feel like you're going to crash then accelerate.
We're too young and immature to give up.
It's odd, that someone would stop and look at this train and think - it needs something to keep people going. It's odder still because that's precisely what it needed. The poetry is the barest hint of a heart in the madness that this city is, evidence that someone else has looked at it and thought - this isn't going okay. This isn't going to last.
This isn't enough to keep the world going.
It's an odd way to tackle the problem, by giving them all something to look at on their way to places they hate, by reminding them that it's too early to give up on themselves. It's dark, in a way, and maybe that's why Jungkook finds it calming.
It's the small things that have kept him going for this long. His mother's cheerful voice on the phone, when she thinks he's happy. Yoongi's presence at the end of a long day.
He tries to think of more to add to the list, but…that's all that he can think of.
Yoongi is already seated next to the window, but he hasn't put on his headphones. They're still slung around his shoulder, and his eyes are wide open. It's past two in the morning but he doesn't seem tired at all, unlike Jungkook, who is half dead on his feet.
He still can't believe he's kept Yoongi outside for this long. He still can't believe Yoongi stayed with him.
He settles down carefully next to the older man.
"You can sleep if you want," Yoongi says. "I'll wake you up at your stop."
"Serial killer," Jungkook remembers to say, in the bleariness of his own thoughts.
"Oh for god's sake," Yoongi mutters, but he's smiling a bit. "If I was a serial killer you'd have been in deep trouble about a month ago."
"Sometimes they take their time," Jungkook points out, but his eyes are already closing shut. "Stake out their targets and such."
A part of him wants to lean against Yoongi's shoulder, but he holds himself back.
He sleeps in the next day. He sleeps like the dead.
When Jungkook finally wakes up, it's almost evening, and the sun has gone down enough that not much light makes it in past his curtains.
He pats around his pillow for his phone, and isn't surprised by the ton of notifications he has. He hadn't called in sick to work - he just…hadn't turned up. He's definitely in for an earful, in which case he should bunk tomorrow, and then the day after, and then the day after…
It's nice to think about, never going in to work again.
He's slept for so long, and he's still so tired.
Another hour passes, with him just staring vacantly at the ceiling, and then he decides he should get something to eat. It takes him a second to remember if there's anything to eat in the apartment.
There might be some milk. And some cereal. That'll do.
He loses another fifteen minutes trying to convince himself to brush his teeth.
It takes much too long to get out of bed, to make it in and out of the bathroom, and to finally sink back into his bed, a bowl of cereal in hand and his laptop under one arm. There are still a ton of phone calls that he needs to reply to and a bunch of messages as well, and it all burns at the back of his mind, but Jungkook can't bring himself to do anything about it.
He boots up his laptop and starts an old, shitty romance anime.
He watches it late into the night.
At some point he realizes that he hasn't drank any water all day. But to do that he'd have to get up, and Jungkook doesn't want to get up any time soon.
His phone pings in rapid succession, and he taps at the screen to see who it is. Probably one of his coworkers again, asking him to send them a file or some shit.
Surprisingly, it's Yoongi.
Did you go to work today? Should I wait for you?
Someday it'll stop hurting when people are nice to him.
No, hyung, I'm at home.
Awesome. Rest well.
You too, hyung.
He doesn't go in to work the next day either. Instead, he decides to go to the supermarket.
It's been ages since Jungkook actively decided to go anywhere besides to work. It's a strange feeling, getting dressed so late in the evening. It isn't so much as getting dressed as pulling on a hoodie over the questionable stains on his t-shirt, but still. It's effort. Effort that isn't being forced out of him.
It's an odd feeling.
The supermarket isn't too far, it's just far enough in the opposite direction of the bus stop to ensure he never stops by on the way home. He pulls his hood over his head and keeps his face down as he walks, checking his pockets too many times to make sure he's carrying money.
If he keeps this up - not going into work without calling sick - he's going to end up being fired. He needs to make up some shitty story about how someone died or something.
The supermarket is mostly empty.
There's a lot that he needs to buy, he's run out of nearly everything. He needs rice and sugar and milk and vegetables, and hopefully a lifetime supply of instant noodles. The only problem lies in carrying everything home.
The man at the cashier scowls at him the moment he comes in, like it's Jungkook's fault he exists. His stomach sinks instantly and he ducks behind one of the shelves.
He hates having to go to places.
He fills his basket as quickly as he can, then spaces out in front of the fruit section, and only remembers where he is when his phone pings again in his pocket. It's Yoongi.
You aren't here yet?
Oh, right. Yoongi thinks he did the responsible thing and only dumped work for a day. He doesn't know that once Jungkook stops doing something he pretty much can't ever start again.
I didn't go to work today, he types, with the hand that isn't holding his basket. You can go without me, hyung.
Oh. You're okay?
What is okay, even. Jungkook hasn't felt okay in too long. But he feels like - like nothing is happening. Like if he ignores the rest of his life for long enough, it will quietly cease to exist. Or he will. Whichever happens first.
Yeah I'm at the supermarket.
Cool. Get home safe.
They're such - such simple texts, but for Jungkook, it's enough to help him face the cashier who looked like he wanted to kill him. He holds his phone tightly, like if he does that, he might make a larger imprint on Yoongi's life. Like it might be harder for him to let him go.
It strikes him then that if he resigns from his job, he'll never see Yoongi again.
It's - not even that. He won't see him if his schedule changes, if Jungkook starts getting back early. He won't see him if Yoongi's schedule changes. If he moves. If he leaves.
There's nothing tying Yoongi to the lonely bus stop - nothing except simple convenience. Jungkook could lose it all in just a second.
"Cash or credit?" the man says, irritation in his voice. Jungkook falters, dropping his phone in his haste. He leaves it there on the floor as he fumbles for his wallet, pulling out the bills he needs.
If he wants Yoongi to stay, he'd need to be - important. He'd need to be more than a random person who sits around crying at the bus stop.
And Jungkook can't be more than that, he doesn't have it in him.
He can't pin his only bit of happiness on a person he might never see again.
The third day that Jungkook misses work, he manages to call his supervisor.
It isn't hard to sound sick on his phone, he's completely miserable anyway. He coughs in the right places and sounds as tired as he really is, and his supervisor instantly believes him. And then Jungkook is free once again to lie awake in his bed, staring at the ceiling and wishing he wasn't anywhere.
It's something that he shouldn't do - it's probably creepy and overstepping, but in the darkness of his room, Jungkook feels like anything goes. He ends up typing Yoongi's name and company details into naver. It takes a bunch of searches and a couple of wrong turns for him to finally end up at Yoongi's instagram profile.
Min Yoongi, Producer at BigHit Entertainment.
He hasn't posted much. Just a couple of photographs of his music equipment, and some pictures of the stars. An award, with a whole bunch of hashtags along the lines of we did it, oh my god, we made it.
There aren't any photos of him - but there's a whole lot that he's tagged in.
In all of the tagged photos, he's smiling awkwardly, or trying to block the lens, or making ridiculous faces at the camera to ruin the photo, but the thing is - he looks so fond. He looks at his friends like he finds them horribly annoying, but like he loves them. And it's starting to sink in just what a complete life Yoongi has, one that doesn't involve crashing into a strange guy on the bus at the end of each day.
The loneliness that never left Jungkook's chest starts to crawl up into his throat, leaving everything hollow inside him.
Out of nowhere, he thinks about Namjoon.
It's something he tells himself not to do on a daily basis, but he types Namjoon's name into the search bar. His face comes up, smiling, content, still the same person Jungkook had looked up to all those years ago.
He scrolls through the posts without thinking about it, heart twisting with each smile he sees, each new face that Namjoon is next to. Jungkook makes the same mistakes over and over, every day of his life.
He finds the first sign of kindness and latches onto it with a death grip, completely aware that he doesn't deserve it - and then he's surprised when it leaves.
Yoongi is just - a stranger. He doesn't know anything about him except that he loves music and that he's good at what he does. They only even meet up because it's easier to go home together than go home alone.
He clicks his phone off and tosses it onto the side table.
It's not worth it. None of this is worth it.
It's what living in this damned city has taught him every day, but somehow he never lets himself learn. Maybe - maybe it's time to give up and go home. Back to Busan.
He should stop running for no reason, without a destination or scenery.
His supervisor gives him hell the next day.
He knew he shouldn't have trusted the voice on the phone - of course the man had just pretended to be nice because he was sick. Today he's a literal demon, and Jungkook is in hell.
When he finally makes it out of the building, at a decent time for once, just 6PM, he feels like complete, utter shit. There's a roll of papers in his hand that he guards with his life, freshly printed from when he sneaked into the printing room.
It's going to be over soon. He's going to go home.
He's a bit too late for the six o' clock bus, so he starts towards the train station instead, shooting a text to Yoongi while he's at it.
Hyung, I got off work earlier, I'm going home now.
He gets an instant reply. Okay. And a second later, Train or bus?
Nice. Take care.
Jungkook stuffs his phone into his pocket, rolling the papers he's holding in between his hand. It's probably an asshole move to print out a resignation form at the place he works, but to be honest, where else would he print it?
If his supervisor gave him so much hell today, he doesn't want to see what he'll do once he files his two week notice. But Jungkook is done.
There's only so long he can keep going on motivation he doesn't have.
The train is a couple of minutes late, and he sits at the bench, kicking absently at his shoe. It's almost weird going home when the sun hasn't set yet. The place is crowded, alive. Somehow just as lonely.
He spots Yoongi hurrying past the ticket counter, and his mind goes blank.
What the heck is he doing here?
Yoongi seems rushed, searching the station frantically, and when he spots Jungkook, he looks oddly relieved. His backpack is hung over just one shoulder, and one of his shoes is untied - he looks like he just got up and ran his way to the station.
"I haven't seen you in days," Yoongi says, sinking down next to Jungkook. "I thought you were sick."
"How - don't you have work?"
"Hey, I'm a good employee," Yoongi says. "My boss lets me do what I want as long as get stuff done in time."
"I thought you weren't coming today."
Yoongi looks a little embarassed. "Just wanted to see how you were doing."
There's that warmth in his chest again, the sort that he's been trying to squish into nonexistence.
"How are you doing?" Yoongi presses.
Jungkook shrugs, handing Yoongi the roll of papers. Yoongi opens them, confused, and then he lets out a low whoaa.
"Finally," he says. "You should have resigned ages ago."
"…I do need money, hyung."
"Yeah, well. What changed?"
Jungkook shrugged. "I think I want to go home."
Something like alarm passes over Yoongi's face. "As in?"
"To Busan. I don't think - I don't think I'm good at living here."
"Oh," Yoongi says, his grip on the papers loosening. "Oh."
There's a moment of horrible silence.
"Do you…think that’s stupid?" Jungkook tries.
Yoongi shakes his head. "It's not stupid," he says. "I mean, I get it. Seoul can suck. I've always wanted to go back home too."
"You've been here so long though."
"How do you manage it?"
Yoongi tilts his head, considering. "It's the hope, I think. That's what the city feels like. It's dark and shitty and full of capitalistic assholes, but it's still full of people who are trying, you know?"
"Like the poetry, on the train," Yoongi says. "It's those small things that make me think. The system isn't working but people are starting to realize it, and I think - I think I keep hoping that if anything changes, it'll be here. It's going to be the first place to crash, which means it'll be the first place to build itself back up."
Jungkook considers it. "I can't tell if that's optimistic or not."
Yoongi grins. It doesn't quite reach his eyes, he seems sort of defeated. "I want to be here, when things are getting better, you know?" he says. "I wish you would too."
The words take Jungkook aback.
"You - huh?"
"It was nice, having a friend," Yoongi admits, his smile too sad. "It's going to get lonely again."
Jungkook just stares at him.
For some reason, it never occurred to him that Yoongi could get anything out of their friendship. It always seemed like he was just too nice to tell Jungkook he was a nuisance. But this - Yoongi isn't just nice because he had to be.
He was just lonely too. He was as lonely as Jungkook was, and Jungkook was, somehow - a friend. The slightest bit of hope rises in his chest, his instincts screaming at him to destroy it - but maybe, just one more time, he could let it grow.
He's been in Seoul for six years. He's crashed and burned and then felt nothing at all, with lone specks of hope scattered in between. He met Namjoon, he met Yoongi.
And Yoongi isn't gone yet.
It hurts so much to hope. It hurts too much to try. Everything in him is screaming that he should give up, and that things can only go wrong, but -
Maybe he could try again. He's tired, he's exhausted, but - if there's even the smallest chance that things could get better, maybe he could try again.
"I mean, I could stay," he manages to say. "I could - I could just get another job here. See if it works out."
There can't be anything wrong with trying again. It's not stupidity, it's just hope.
Yoongi stares at him for a second, and then he breaks into a smile, all his gums showing. He's pretty, Jungkook thinks again, and - he's right.
The world isn't alright. Everything will crash soon, and they're on their way towards a dead end, but - at least that meant they could build the city up again sooner.
At least there were enough of them, the lonely strangers in the dark, who still wanted things to be okay.