Taehyung walked, his hands shoved in his pockets, careful not to make any eye contact with anyone passing by.
He heard laughter erupting from behind him. He knew who they were without having to turn around. He heard fast footsteps approaching and then all of his friends were there, running past him.
Jin slowed down and turned to him. He smiled, waving him over.
Tae smiled and started to run. He was going to catch up to them, one way or another.
Jin's eyes landed on the thrown bottle on the floor, and then on the pills.
"Hoseok," Jin murmured. "Why?"
Hoseok turned around and smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes.
Yoongi opened his eyes and shielded it for a moment until it got used to the sunlight.
"Why are you sleeping on the grass?" Jin asked, sitting down next to him.
“I like it here,” Yoongi said, looking at the blue sky. "Where are the others?"
"Coming. They said they might be late, though. I wonder what is taking them so long." Jin raised an eyebrow.
Yoongi sighed. "Who told you?"
"No one," Jin smirked, making his wide mouth widen even further, and curl, just on one side. "It’s obvious."
Yoongi shrugged. "I told them that it was useless to hide anything from you, that you were going to figure it out anyway."
Jin hummed in agreement and leaned on his arms. "And what was your job? Distract me until they finished setting up the place?"
"Yes," he looked at Jin and grinned. "Did it work?"
Jin simply shook his head and chuckled.
"Well, anyway," Yoongi said, looking at the sky again. "Happy early birthday, hyung."
The smell of cigarettes invaded his senses.
"Namjoon?" Jin murmured as he entered the dark room slowly.
The figure on the bed moved, but no answer came. He could just make out his figure in the little light provided from the small window in the room.
"Namjoonie?" It was a nickname that Jin made for him the first day they met. Namjoon always told him to not call him that, but Jin never missed the small smile the flickered to his lips before he replaced it with a frown or his eyes rolling.
The bed creaked under the pressure as Namjoon sat up slowly.
Jin took a step closer. "Are you okay?"
"I SAID LEAVE!" Namjoon shouted, standing up and walked towards him. He stopped just a few feet away from him, the light of the small window illuminated his bloodshot eyes.
"What's wrong?" Jin asked.
"You can't stay here," Namjoon whispered, his voice breaking, just a little. "Leave me, hyung. Please."
Jin wanted to reach out, to take Namjoon in his arms, to tell him that whatever it was going to be alright, but he couldn't.
He glanced at the torn calendar in the corner. December 4. "I can't leave."
Namjoon took one last look at him and ran outside the room before Jin could say or do anything.
Yoongi walked across the room back and forth, shouting, breaking everything in his sight. Jeongguk watched him, unable to do anything. Despair clawed its way inside of Jeongguk, settling in and choking him slowly.
Yoongi whipped around looked at the mirror. His eyes widened for a moment before he grabbed a chair and threw it towards the mirror. Glass shattered and scattered across the wooden floor, mixed with droplets of blood from Yoongi's hands.
Jeongguk swallowed and stood up. He took a couple of steps towards Yoongi.
"Please stop. Please." Jeongguk said, wrapping his arms around Yoongi's body. "You are only making it harder for all of us."
"Get off me."
"It has been a year, hyung. We-"
"Jeongguk," Yoongi warned. "Don't."
"Yoongi, please, just listen to me-"
The punch came swift and unexpected. Jeongguk's head whipped to the side. He straightened slowly, carefully. He stared at Yoongi and tentatively felt the bruise on his chin.
Anger blinded him. He lunged. Yoongi hit the floor with a thud. Before he knew it, they were rolling on the floor, landing punches wherever they could, screaming, directing anger and frustration and a thousand unspoken emotion into every hit.
They separated, panting. Jeongguk licked his lips and tasted copper and salty water. Blood welled in the corner of his mouth, on both of their arms and legs from scraps of glass.
But it wasn't enough. It was never enough. He needed Yoongi's anger, needed it to shore up his own, to keep the need and anguish from bleeding out through the cracks.
Yoongi spat blood from his mouth. "Don't come after me, Jeongguk," he said. He turned around and ran outside the room. The front door was slammed shut before Jeongguk could decide on what to do.
Jeongguk slumped on the floor, wrapping his arms around his legs, rocking back and forth, back and forth, remembering what seemed like another lifetime, and holding to it with all his fragile might.
"Happy birthday, hyung,"
Jin took the box from Namjoon and opened it slowly, careful not to ruin the wrapping.
He looked up and found Namjoon watching him closely. "I love it," he said.
Namjoon ducked his head and ran a hand through his hair. "Well, I wanted to give you a gift before everyone, and I knew you wanted the camera for a while now so I figured..." He shrugged and smiled.
Jin leaned in and hugged him tightly. "Thank you."
Namjoon wrapped his arms around him and hugged him back.
When they separated, Namjoon dug in his sweater and took out a cigarette. Jin snapped it from Namjoon's fingers before it reached his mouth. "I thought we agreed that you would stop."
"Come on, hyung, it’s just one," Namjoon leaned in to take the cigarette, but Jin moved away before he could reach it.
Namjoon sighed. He took a lollipop from his pocket, unwrapped it and popped it in his mouth. "There," he mumbled as he put it in his mouth. “Happy?"
A sharp pain hit his head. Jeongguk snapped his eyes open. He blinked at the empty apartment around him, at the shattered glass just a few feet away from him.
He felt hollow, and he couldn't bear it anymore.
The door clicked open. Jeongguk closed his eyes and took a deep, long breath.
When he opened them, he saw Jin standing there.
"Hey, hyung," he said, ignoring the voice in his head, crushing it with his foot. It didn't matter anymore.
Jin frowned. The smooth lines on his forehead crinkled. "What happened?"
"It’s Yoongi. He..." Jeongguk sighed. There was so much pain in Yoongi. Some huge, dark space inside him which he tried to fill with anger. "You know."
Jin sighed and sat down in front of Jeongguk. "He is going to be okay." He smiled, his eyes crinkling like a leaf held to flame. "All of us are going to be okay."
"Yeah," Jeongguk said. He swallowed. "I know."
Namjoon's cigarette slipped from his fingers, onto the floor of the gas station. At the same moment across the city, a flicker of fire caught the dirty bed sheets of Yoongi's bedroom.
Namjoon and Yoongi closed their eyes.
Great tendrils of flame arched up to captivate the two moments, illuminating the moonless sky in the glow of their anguish and wrath.
Jimin smiled as Jin unwrapped the presents. He watched the way his eyes shined excitedly as he opened each one. Jin engulfed Yoongi in a hug when he opened his present. Yoongi grinned and hugged him back tightly.
Hoseok suddenly wrapped his arms around Jimin's neck. "You know, I think we actually managed to surprise him this year."
Jin's eyes connected with Yoongi then Namjoon, barely containing his smile.
Jeongguk pouted. "You knew?" He shot a glare towards Yoongi, who raised his hands in surrender.
"Well, it was weird for everyone but Yoongi to be suddenly busy," Jin said, grinning. "And then I looked at the calendar, and it made sense. But I didn't expect this," he pointed around, at the decorations, at everyone one of them. "This is perfect. I didn't know you would work so hard for it."
"Let's take a group picture," Jimin suggested.
Namjoon had one arm on Jin’s shoulder, another on Jeongguk’s. Yoongi was next to the maknae while Jimin stood on Jin's left side. Tae and Hoseok stood in the back, party hats on their heads.
Jin's lips drew back into his most genuine smile that he only really used when he was laughing at himself or with them. The rest followed. Jin snapped the picture.
Jimin looked at the picture as the sound of running water filled the background. He took a deep breath and put it away. He wanted to burn it, burn the memory of that whole week off his mind. But he couldn't.
He entered the bathroom and started to undress. It was only when he was inside the icy cold water of the bathtub that he heard the knocking on the bathroom's door.
"Tae? I was trying to call you all day."
Taehyung swallowed. He opened his mouth to reply, but his voice was too low. He coughed and tried again.
"Tae?" Jin said, quieter that time.
"Hyung.." His voice broke. Taehyung cursed under his breath. "I need to see you, hyung."
"Where are you?" Jin asked. His voice was unbearably soft. Taehyung swallowed the lump in and took a breath, trying to regain whatever control on himself he had left.
Silence stretched between them.
"Yes. I just saw her."
"Is he still there?"
"He left before I came." He pushed a hand through his hair, tightening it into a fist until the roots pull at his scalp enough to hurt. The pain was distracting. If he concentrated, he could hear her sobs through the wall. "I called someone. One of her friends is coming."
"Stay where you are, Tae. Don't go anywhere," Jin said. "I am coming to get you."
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Okay."
Jeongguk walked, let his legs drag him mindlessly. He looked around desperately, but he wasn't there. He wasn't there.
For the first time in forever, he felt numb.
He needed to change that.
" Kookie, smile,"
Jeongguk opened one eye, blinking at the bleary image in front of him until it became clear. "Morning, hyung."
Jin smiled, the camera still hiding half of his face.
"Were you picturing me while I was sleeping?" Jeongguk asked as he hit Jin lightly on the arm.
"I had to take a picture," Jin said as he moved away from Jeongguk's reach. "You look too innocent like this, without makeup and sleeping."
Jeongguk rolled his eyes. "I'm not a kid anymore, hyung," he said but didn't stop Jin from ruffling his hair before he stood up from his bed. The smile shining on Jin's face was worth it.
Jeongguk let himself get beaten up. He laughed as one of them hit him in the stomach. He spat blood as he rolled on the floor.
Those poor bastards. They thought they were giving him a lesson.
They didn't know that they were doing him a favour.
"Hyung, it’s late. Come on." Jimin whined.
"I am coming," Jin said. His footsteps echoed in the narrow silent street. He should have taken his car with him, but he didn't know that he would take so long to buy groceries.
"I can't believe you guys convinced me to go shopping - and on my birthday!"
"You had your surprise party last week," Jimin argued. "Anyway, wasn't Yoongi supposed to pick you up?"
"He called and said that he couldn't make it," Jin said. "He is probably out with Namjoon doing god knows what," he made a mental note to check on them when he went home. "I will be there in ten minutes."
After saying goodbye, he hung up with Jimin and picked up his pace.
Then, he heard footsteps approaching him. The smell of alcohol invaded his senses.
"Hyung," V murmured. He swallowed, gripping the mobile tighter to stop his hand from shaking. His other hand scrubbed the blood off his shirt. "I really need to see you, hyung."
It was some time later before he managed to pull himself off the floor.
The distant sounds of panicked voices washed over him as his attackers ran away. Jin wanted to yell, to tell someone to call his brothers, but no one was there.
He leaned on shaky arms and legs, searching blindly for his mobile as blood trickled down his temple, but he couldn't find it. He needed to call his boys. He needed-
His arms gave away. Blood blinded his eyesight, his heart beat desperately in his chest. He took a ragged breath and tried to stand again.
He didn't know how everything escalated so quickly. It was supposed to be a robbery, they were supposed to take his money and his phone, but they had too much to drink, and who knows what else, and they grabbed him.
He fought and screamed and kicked anyone who touched him. And then he heard a frustrated growl and saw a shining metal. It happened too fast for him to do anything.
Dark spots appeared in front of his eyelids. He blinked as he continued to crawl. He was almost at the end of the street. He could feel blood seeping through his shirt and into the floor.
He heard distant sounds around him. His vision finally crumbled as he fell to the floor.
Jeongguk sat on the chair next to the window, staring at his hyungs, and hugging his knees to his chest.
Jimin and Hoseok sat on either side of the bed, caressing Jin's hair.
It all happened in less than a minute.
Nurses rushed into the room. A doctor ordered them to step aside.
Then, silence. Painful gut-wrenching silence as they watched the doctor shooting off orders and working.
Then, the doctor stopped.
"Why are you stopping?" Yoongi demanded.
The doctor turned around. Pain gathered in Jeongguk's belly, sending heat licking out just beneath his skin.
"I am sorry. He bled too much. It is... There is nothing I can do."
His eyes travelled from his elders to the doctor, to the screen in front of him.
"What do you mean?" Jimin asked. "No. No. But he said--"
An anguished cry came from Taehyung as he stared at the still heartbeat on the screen. He grabbed Jin and shook him as he muttered his name over and over again.
"I am sorry-"
The doctor took a quick step back, barely avoiding as he walked towards where Jin lay. "There is something," Yoongi said. "There has to be."
Jimin head was buried in Jin's neck, muffled cries breaking out of his shaking body.
Hoseok just stared at Jin, unblinking, like he wasn't really there.
Jeongguk felt his nails digging into his legs. He wanted to look away, but his eyes kept going back helplessly to his hyung. Jin looked so fragile on the bed, with bruises covering every visible inch of him.
Yoongi snapped. He whirled around and grabbed the doctor by the collar. "DO SOMETHING!"
Namjoon grabbed Yoongi. "Stop this," he said, something strange and heavy in his voice.
But Yoongi didn't look at him. His eyes were still on Jin.
"Let go of him."
Yoongi growled and pushed Namjoon away. Namjoon grabbed him from the back and forced him away from the doctor, who hurriedly left the room.
A fist connected with Namjoon's face. He staggered.
Yoongi stared around, looking like a trapped animal. His eyes landed on Jin again.
He bolted outside of the room.
Jin sat on the edge of the bathtub. His face was pale and drawn. He ran a hand through Jimin's wet hair.
Jimin closed his eyes. Maybe if he focused enough, then he might be able to feel it too, and wake up from this nightmare to know that Jin was really there again.
"Don't do this, Jiminie," Jin whispered.
"You can. You did for a year."
"No," he whispered. "I can't take it anymore."
Jin looked at him helplessly and continued to run his hands through his hair.
Jimin let himself loose, letting the water cover his body, choking him until there was nothing left.
Jin was standing a few feet away, his back to the sea. He watched Hoseok silently.
"I called Tae, tried to speak to him, but he kept repeating that he had one more thing to do, then he hung up. I can't reach him. I can't reach anyone," he choked out. "They are all gone, Jin.”
Jin didn't answer. Just stood and watched. He looked just how Jin did before everything fell apart. Hoseok wondered if he really was a ghost, appearing when they couldn't handle it anymore, a spirit still determined to take care of them, or a figment of his desperate imagination.
Finally, Hoseok's vision started to blur. Gravity pulled him. He didn't fight it.
The breeze caressed Taehyung's skin. The sea stretched for miles ahead of him.
He looked down. The whole group was finally there. They kept yelling and waving him over, telling him to join them.
His eyes landed on Jin. His hyung watched him for a moment, and then he smiled.
Tae took one last glance at the sea, then he closed his eyes and fell.
F lames flickered as the group huddled next to each other for warmth.
Jimin made a joke and Namjoon laughed. Hoseok heard the snapping sound of a camera. His eyes landed on Jin. "Stop taking pictures, hyung."
Jin simply shook his head and raised the camera again. Taehyung instantly wrapped his arm around Jimin and Namjoon's neck and smiled, his teeth showing. Jin chuckled and took another picture.
Yoongi kept fiddling with his lighter. Jeongguk glanced at the lighter then blew at it. With a sigh, Yoongi closed it.
Jin took a picture out of his pocket. "Shall we go?"
Hoseok glanced at the picture of the sea and nodded. It would be a good place to celebrate Jin’s birthday next week.
Hoseok looked at everyone around him, at the boys who became his second family for the past two years. Then he looked at the bottle in his hand.
He opened it and threw the pills into the fire, watching as the flames ate them eagerly.
He didn't need them anymore.