God said, "Let there be rain," and there was rain.
In Taehyung's dreams, he's still caught in the monsoon. Swelled with the weight of the water, he looks down upon his filthy, dripping hands and counts his fingers. Six. No thumbs, no pinkies. He starts over. Rain beats down on the earth, sending foul-tasting dust into the stickyhumid air. The dust clogs his throat, snakes down into his lungs, and threatens to suffocate him. He counts his fingers with gasping breaths and chattering teeth and finds only thumbs.
Emaciated bodies in their church clothes arc past Taehyung, treading water to reach their seats, close enough that he can feel their unnatural warmth and see their gaping, toothless mouths. Four fingers, eight fingers, one finger.
The sermon starts, Shakespearean, and Taehyung opens his eyes. One second asleep, the next awake, the deafening sounds of rain replaced by the apartment building settling, people walking heavy down the hall, keys jingling, a car passing by outside, Jimin's breathing. He is alive and dry and he has all of his fingers. He tries to convince himself of his ten fingers, his heartbeat, his space in Jimin's bed, and snuggles closer to Jimin.
Jimin makes a sleep-garbled sound. "Nightmare?"
Taehyung doesn't answer. His uneven breathing is confirmation enough.
"Think you'll be able to get back to sleep?"
Taehyung shrugs. These questions are boring. "We haven't seen the others in a while."
"It's only been a few days." Jimin sighs. "I have work all week."
"So I won't see you at school?"
"Tuesday," Jimin yawns. "I can make it in Tuesday."
Jimin skipping school came as a gradual but obvious conclusion, but Taehyung hates it. He hates that Jimin rarely comes to school anymore because every second is precious now that it’s coming up on June. They don’t have a lot of time before school’s out for the summer, and then they barely have two full months before Jimin has to pack up and move away to college.
There are 100 days before Taehyung is Twice Abandoned, left beside the river among the reeds.
Two years ago, in the middle of July, Taehyung was kicked out of his house. Now, every year, he dies. For fourteen days he'll lay dying, barely breathing, eyes hollow and unblinking, and on the 15th he will cease to be. A death, a period of stillness, a resurrection. The details of his sudden re-homing are a mystery to his friends, even to Jimin. All he knows is that Taehyung buzzed him from the apartment building lobby sounding seconds from bursting into tears or throwing up, choking out fragment sentences. And then with a clap of thunder, Godless Taehyung, soaking, shaking, broke down into a thousand tiny, orphaned pieces outside his apartment.
"Can I sleep on your couch?"
There was no couch. Rent had gone up. At the time, Jimin was working after school, so he was broke and stressed out and failing math. He sold his couch. His only independent possession, a milestone in his adult life, sold to make rent last month. So when Taehyung showed up (Godless, Shaking, Soaking), Jimin stood in his doorway short on rent, without a couch to sell, to spare. Rent had gone up. He made a thousand decisions per second.
"Come inside, Tae, you're drenched."
But that’s all in the past.
(God looked upon his angry, angry children. Looked upon them, and kicked one out.)
Namjoon's apartment is full of good art and good vibes. Hoseok and Yoongi are playing Battleship on the floor, lost between half-cleaned canvases and paint-stained mugs of brownish water, pencil cases barfing out their Crayola guts. Seokjin is leaned against the kitchen counter, playing guitar in front of last night's dishes, Jungkook his captive audience. Every available surface is piled high with coffee stained fashion sketches, rounded charcoal stick-figures who would never wear last year's trends or socks with holes in them. Jimin lays on Namjoon's bed, spread out beside his fashion class final project. A book bag? Maybe a jumper.
Taehyung on the stool beside the computer desk, crosses his eyes and watches dust swim around in a beam of sunlight. They’re getting ready to go to a club. It was his idea. Right now, Namjoon’s making himself pretty in a shatter pattern mirror, darkening his top lip and lining his eyes, and everyone else is pre-drinking. The radio's on to some underground indie station, because at heart Namjoon's just an ex-goth hipster wannabe, drinking black coffee when he needs to feel particularly non-conformist and chai tea lattes with soy milk when he needs to feel that little bit more refined. A new song starts, and the nasally singer almost drowns out Seokjin's strumming.
Taehyung has his hands around a jet black shirt. It was laying beside the computer desk in a crumple and when he turned to get a better look at it, the fabric sparkled. So now he's touching it, and it's the lightest, most pleasant fabric he's ever felt. It feels like flower petals, a warm mug in cold hands, finally being out of the rain. FINALLY BEING OUT OF THE RAIN.
Shaking, Soaking, Godless Taehyung knee deep in muddy water and—
Namjoon sees Taehyung eyeing the shirt through the mirror, and stops applying his makeup long enough to turn around. His lower jaw juts out in a shy smile. "I thought of you when I picked the fabric. Try it on! I don’t need it anymore, it was from an assignment."
Taehyung's changed in a second. It's a little too big in the shoulders, and he takes careful attention in adjusting how it falls over his chest. Namjoon helps, smoothing out the shoulders and pulling down the collar at the back of his neck.
"I love it..."
"You look good, all sparkly and shiny." Namjoon laughs, bending closer to the mirror and resuming his eyeliner.
Jungkook crawls over Yoongi and Hoseok, ignoring their protests, and rummages around under Namjoon's bed until he comes out with a bottle of soju. He shoves the bottle in Taehyung's face, and they take shots.
Sometime between the third shot of soju and the second can of cheap, too-sweet cider, Taehyung starts to ramble. It's internal at first, his monologue darting this way and that as Jungkook wrestles with Hoseok around mouthfuls of beer and Seokjin teases Yoongi with cheesy love songs and Jimin has Namjoon do his makeup. Next thing he knows, he tastes whiskey and they're waiting for the bus and he's been talking.
"Dunno, d'you ever feel like everything's gotten boring?" He's leaning against Seokjin, unsteady and disoriented but still talking. "Stale and. Boring. 'Cept you guys."
"Except us." Yoongi parrots, ducked behind the seats as he takes a joint from Hoseok and stuffs it neatly inside his cigarette case.
"Nothing's boring with you guys but I'm so...Greedy." He turns in his seat, legs hooked over Seokjin's lap, to look at his friends. Jungkook and Yoongi are in the seats directly behind him, with Hoseok and Namjoon and Jimin one row behind them.
Hoseok scratches his nails through Taehyung's hair. "Being greedy's okay."
"Even," Taehyung closes his eyes. "Even if I wanna get into more fights?"
Jungkook fiddles with his necklace, crinkling his nose, mouth quirked up. "The less fights we get tangled up in, the better."
Jimin rests his chin on the back of Jungkook's seat. "How did we get such a shitty reputation?"
No one answers.
The bus squeaks to a stop and a group of middle school kids file on. Taehyung thinks he sees his sister, but the bus is rolling along again before he can be sure and then he's losing track of time. It's the tail-end of rush hour and just getting dark, so the sidewalks are packed with people just getting off work or out of cram-school or heading out to eat, and illuminated by the light spilling out of shops, from cars that crowd the streets. From space, Seoul must look like a carnival.
"Do you think things're," he pauses, too dizzy to think straight. "Think things'll change if there's no more fights? We don't have long, you know."
Seokjin and Namjoon lead him off the bus, into the cool night air of the downtown core. It's a short walk to the club, and before Taehyung knows it, Jungkook is being marked as underage and Jimin's at his side.
"What?" Jimin's dyed red, blue, green by the lights of the club.
"Us," Taehyung says. "Us, I mean."
Jimin laces their fingers together and pulls him through the doors with a nod and a thank you to the bouncer. It's louder tonight; the club is stocked with people, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, middle schoolers flocking to the far side and over-aged high school seniors showing off in front of the DJ. Jimin gets them into the centre of the action, wedged between people in tight outfits and fluorescent body paint, and puts his arms around Taehyung's neck.
"Your worries can't follow here," he almost promises, which is dangerous. "Okay?"
"We don't have much longer."
"Taehyung." Jimin levels him with a steady, firm stare. "I'm gunna go get us a drink."
Taehyung loses sight of Jimin, and there is nothing except the absence of him (the absence of Him), until the DJ shouts into the crowd and everyone cheers, and he doesn't really know the words to this song but he's singing along anyway. And before he knows it, the absence of Jimin is a barely felt thing and he's dancing and everyone has fallen into routine.
Routine. Seokjin going too fast for Namjoon to keep up and neither of them able to get enough of Yoongi. Jungkook and Hoseok, attracting attention, a circle growing around them. Jimin at the bar, some older guy (no wedding ring) with an arm around his waist. He buys Jimin drinks, smiles like an angel, inches a hand up his thigh.
Taehyung, dancing alone.
He dances until his calves scream and his arms feel like Jell-O and his head is feather-light, barely attached, threatening to float away. He dances until his loses sight of his friends, until he loses sight of the DJ and the exits. The dance floor is like an ocean, and it's pushed him around so much that he's lost all sense of direction, can't tell which way is up or where he left his drink. If he even had a drink. Right, Jimin by the bar with another man's arm around his waist.
He surfaces near the bar. Godless, shivering, but only for a millisecond. Nanosecond. Everything is fine.
Taehyung spins around and finds Jimin, two plastic cups in his hand. His face is sort of red, and he's busted out the small smile he saves for being late or when he forgets his key and has to climb through the window. Taehyung might be the only one who sees this smile.
"Thought you went home with that guy."
Jimin takes a moment to process, handing Taehyung a cup. "What guy?"
"What d'you mean what guy?" Taehyung throws his free hand up and gestures vaguely. "The guy you were flirting with at the bar."
"I dunno, I guess!"
Jimin smiles, equal parts amused and disgusted. "We weren't flirting."
A headache takes shape behind Taehyung's eyes, so he just shrugs. The dancer's high is ebbing away, the alcohol is wearing off and this new drink tastes like shit, so he stares into the impending crash with nothing but sore muscles and sweatsticky skin.
"Feel like you're sobering up?"
Jimin finishes his drink and tilts his head toward the dance floor. "Dance it off with me."
This time Taehyung gives himself, almost desperately, to the music. Because they don't have the time. School's ending and summer is only two measly months and then everyone is off, everyone except Taehyung is leaving and it’s already May and— Back to dancing, focus on dancing. At one point the wall of people opens and someone hands him a can of Redbull (probably Hoseok), but for the rest of the night it's stray elbows and feet knocking into him and Jimin from all sides like one giant, million-limbed organism. It's worth the forming bruises, worth the beer spilt down the back of his shirt, because every shove sends him closer to Jimin.
God said, "Let there be rain," and the rain did not stop for days.