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Open Your Heart, I'm Coming Home

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It was awfully quiet for a summer night—awfully serene. There weren’t the usual pre-dawn sentiments lingering in the air. It felt like night—3 A.M. kind of winter nights. The air had just the right shade of restlessness—of disquiet; the kind that put your heart in an array of emotions just by dragging another breath of the night—a prelude to despair.

He was at the top of the world, high above, superseding reality and high on not feeling anything his camera couldn’t capture. All he wanted to do was take a couple of pictures, imagining the gritty details of others’ lives—vivid details his camera had no trouble conveying. He was immersing himself in any life that wasn’t his. Scenery and landscape weren’t the kind of pictures he enjoyed taking, not for a while anyway. There had to exist the ‘human’ element to his pictures, not in the pure sense; on the contrary, ‘human’ in the sense of tainting perfection; and nature was perfection.

He just had his special take when it came down to taking pictures. Pictures of lights tailing off, of cars whooshing by, of people walking by, of moments rushing by, of lives flashing by.

Still, there was something rather calming about the chilly breeze hitting him—about the city-night scent. He paused to enjoy this mood. From his place on the roof, he could spot some movement far on the opposing tower: two silhouettes.

It didn’t take much calculation; he picked up his camera again.

There was some scenario going between the two silhouettes, he could almost hear that—hear their camera flashing. It was devoid of any humour—no smiles, no laughs, no smirks—perhaps reflecting the gravity of shooting while putting one’s life on the line. The implicit photographer code, 'to die for the perfect shot', he understood that.

They were no longer two figures; they became people. And only their linked hands was what tethered their souls to their bodies still. One of them was dangling off the ledge, the other was still shooting. Perhaps this was the physical manifestation of the need in love—a hand holding on too strongly to another while the body hung loose in the air, too dependent and easily buffeted.

It wasn’t until the two figures had switched places that he crouched down, inching closer to the roof’s ledge. The air hit him hard, making him almost lose his balance. Maybe that could be his swan song: the picture to die for. He zoomed in, adjusting the focus. Still, he wouldn’t snap the picture; it meant the curtains falling down, the audience leaving, turning your back and walking away.

One last weary sigh.

Contrary to the photographer-protocol of snapping a number of pictures then filtering through them, he snapped just one after long beats of held-in breaths.

This was the kind of scenes only looked at once.

It then struck him, how this was the first time that year he looked at a scene he was shooting twice—looking again with his eyes after snapping the picture, as though doing a double-take to see if the scene was as beautiful in reality as the camera glorified it to be. More often than not, pictures expressed what the photographer wanted to feel, catered to their emotional spectrum rather than reality. He was too used to looking at the world through his lens he often forgot what it was like to appreciate the beauty of something with the naked eye. He didn’t have to mull over it for much; he didn’t find many things worth looking at with the naked eye—things worth seeing.

He fell back to his butt, holding his camera and checking the picture.

He cracked a smile.

He couldn't fully understand it either, but he felt so much affinity for—kinship with—that picture already. Perhaps it was about the mood it conveyed; perhaps it was about perspective; perhaps it had something to do with the way he chose to interpret the scene—to angle his camera and shoot. Or perhaps, much more simply, it was about the avalanche of emotions triggered in him.

That was it for the night; he wanted—he needed nothing more. Perhaps tomorrow, when he was to become festooned for the funeral of his heart, when time would cleave into a before-and-after in his life, he would need more pictures like that to snap.

Two things remained for that pivotal night. First was to print two of those pictures, second was to visit that one café where he was bound to bury his heart.

 

♥♥♥

 

It was known that words had little power over you unless the person who said them struck a sensitive nerve, or you had granted the person who uttered them enough power by letting them hurt you—by caring.

In Jungkook's case, it was the former.

“I'm sorry, Jungkook.” Namjoon was already adapting a sympathetic tone. “But while you played it safe, someone had the courage to risk something.”

Jungkook was getting a taste of rejection, or in his terms, of failure. He was looking at a number of photographs while trying to establish how those second-rate pictures displayed more talent than his.

Jungkook didn’t want to feel too much, but the least he could do was admit the photographer understood how colours operated and how integral a filter could be to a theme.

“Come on, hyung.” Jungkook’s smile was bitter, reflecting the calm anger. “You know the shooting was of high quality. You know it was good, and half of who applied for the internship submitted trash.”

Still with the kind smile. “I know it was good. But you and I, and Changmin-nim, know you have better.”

He didn’t get the logic. How was failing someone a motivation, how could Changmin say this was how he would have Jungkook reach the peak of his potentials?

Namjoon got out of his seat and sat at the edge of his bureau, studying one of the pictures scattered on the desk with a smile.

“Admit it, Jungkook, those photographs have more feelings than your film. Yes, they might not be as good as yours, but those are—” Jungkook eyed Namjoon from the corner of his eye, watching the latter look at the ceiling and trying to find the fit word, “—real.”

Jungkook sighed. He put down the photographs and rubbed his temples. He didn’t want to stare at them longer than that.

“I thought Changmin-nim specifically did not want a photography major for this internship.” He credited his voice for not cracking.

Namjoon smiled, giving Jungkook a pat on the back. “There’s still better, Jungkookie.”

After a few exchanges and a smile Jungkook forced, he left Namjoon’s office.

'Sadly, the timing was bad. And there was someone better at the moment.’

He walked slowly, his portfolio tucked under his arm as he tried to clear his head and rid himself the cold shiver that just wouldn’t part with his body. The words kept replaying in his head, the last part louder than most.

Jeon Jungkook had been unjust—untrue.

The thing was Jungkook was a sore loser; that was the byproduct of the deadly combination: excelling at what you did and hating to lose to anyone. To Jungkook, anything he did, he would put a huge gap between him and what used to be the best record, making it almost impossible for anyone to bridge that gap and, needless to mention, beat him. That was how he distanced himself.

So along with the bitter taste of rejection there was an undertone of anger. He wasn’t sure at whom it was directed—Namjoon, who was only a mediator, the guy who took his place, or himself for not being good enough?

It was okay, really. He could learn rising from ashes.

 

 

And it didn’t end there. October had barely rolled in, with no promise of snow or rain—a year as barren as apparently reflective of his school year—and Jungkook’s second school year was starting off in a rather bumpy way.

Over three weeks later and he would have rather overslept than attended Film History.

He was pushing his way through the hallway, this close to running across campus. Jungkook did his best not to bump into any of the students, wanting to draw as little attention as possible. He needed to be in his dorm—to see Taehyung, maybe. Jungkook was in such a state of mind that he didn’t care how others saw him. Was he fuming, did he have the serial-murderer expression, was he one word away from setting the world ablaze? He was probably all three combined.

It was one of the few times he regretted choosing that ‘stupid, useless, psychologically-consuming, emotionally-draining, futureless major.’

Luckily, the door wasn’t locked. Jungkook only had to give it an unnecessarily violent kick for it to fling wide open and for Taehyung to turn around in his chair, giving him a slightly raised eyebrow; as though he had witnessed similar episodes before it no longer fazed him.

“Fucking professor!” Jungkook cursed, not gently putting down his bag. It was the same bag that if anyone touched, Jungkook would throw hands at them—having his precious equipment, his entire future in it. “Fucking bitch-ass professor who wouldn’t be satisfied unless he failed us all.”

“Sit down and speak in normal-people’s terms.” Taehyung reasoned, spinning his chair to face the door.

Jungkook started, venting. “Three weeks ago it was rejection with Namjoon-hyu—”

“Wait, it was Namjoon?” Taehyung’s eyes flickered with interest. He sat upright. “Double-Major-Kim-Namjoon?”

Jungkook knew Taehyung was a goner and he couldn’t win him over in this argument. Stupid man-crush, stupid Taehyung.

“Namjoon-hyung, you know the TA—”

“He’s a nice guy.” Taehyung interjected.

“Stop calling people nice just because you want to get down on them.” Jungkook snapped.

Taehyung laughed; Jungkook was sure his misery was of an entertainment to Taehyung.

“Well, there’s that but he’s also really nice.” Taehyung smirked. When Jungkook shot him an admonishing glare, he cleared his throat and said. “Please go on.”

“And now it’s Film History.” Jungkook groaned. “It’s just the start of the semester and he’s already giving me such a headache.” Jungkook was pacing, his hands wildly gesticulating as he explained. “He’s giving me extra work too. I mean I know Kim-ssi is not such a big fan of mine, but it’s like he’s deliberately going the extra mile to make my college experience a living hell!”

Taehyung smirked.

“I’ve to say, people still talk about that Me Singing little video you took of him. The toilet paper was a nice touch too, Kookie.”

Jungkook fired him a scandalous look. He then took a deep breath and sat at the edge of the bed.

“After telling us we should prepare ourselves for starting our term projects—a short film animated or not, a documentary, anything—he tells us he expects something different, that he wouldn’t be so lenient with our class because basically we’re lazy asses—”

“He has a valid point there,” Taehyung offered, shrugging.

Jungkook ignored him; Kim Taehyung would probably die if he kept his side-comments to himself.

“So after class he calls out to me. And there I am standing before Kim-ssi trying to be unnerved, thinking about the million things I did wrong in the past two years, and there he is giving me the pressuring-annoyed-teacher smile they teach you as part of being an education major, giving me all that ‘I believe you can do it’ crap.” He got out a paper from his bag and handed it to Taehyung. “He started telling me about this competition—or whatever it is—that will be held near the end of the school year.”

Taehyung started checking the flyer.

“And you're annoyed because…?” He asked, eyebrows knitting in confusion as his eyes skimmed the paper. “If you get qualified, it means your project was the best. As far as I'm concerned, the best is a term that gets you fired up in a turned-on way and not in an angry way.”

Jungkook pursed his lips, keeping the unsaid status of the words quo. He opened his mouth to say something then decided to try to explain to Taehyung. “What if I get qualified but lose? What if it wasn’t good enough?”

Taehyung narrowed his eyes. “Then make it good enough. You know how.”

“Do you know who else is there in that exhibition, Tae? It basically has every art major—painting, photography, sculpture, graphics, design.”

Taehyung didn’t buy it. He moved the chair till he was sitting before Jungkook's hunched shoulders and avoidant eyes.

“Jeon Jungkook, not that I need to tell you this but you were born knowing how to pave your way to the top. Even when you half-ass your way, it’s still million times better than the best they have.”

“That’s the thing.” Jungkook burrowed his hand through his hair then looked away. “I can't half-ass that project anymore, Tae. Not only would I have to put effort into it but also put…”

He trailed off and looked away; Taehyung had a phantom of a smirk tugging at his lips. For a few amused moments, he kept eyeing Jungkook. He then got up, ruffled the younger’s hair and grabbed his jacket and keys.

Jungkook wasn’t too used to Taehyung being this kind to him, not openly at least.

“Get up,” Taehyung said, motioning to the door. “I'm taking you somewhere where you could be inspired.”

“Where?” Jungkook was a bit skeptic; he wasn’t a big fan of his day so far.

“Let’s go to Jin-hyung’s. That place has a magical effect, you know.” Taehyung winked.

It didn’t take a further word to have Jungkook tensing up. “I think I’ll pass.”

Taehyung rolled his eyes. “Listen Kookie, I can pretend I'm not aware of your café-phobia but we have a competition to win. And in order to do that, you're gonna have to figure out a kick-ass topic that even nitpicky Kim-ssi would have nothing against. If you can't get personal, then other people can. Personal is what Kim-ssi wants, personal is synonymous with different.” He let that sink in, knowing he had already won when Jungkook’s eyes were flung wide open at the tone and pitch used. “For a day, don’t be the blundering idiot that you are, and make use of that.”

Jungkook was a bit taken aback by the end of Taehyung’s speech. On rare occasions, Kim Taehyung knew how to appeal to Jungkook's senses.

 

He was staring. Jungkook hadn’t felt this scared to do something since he learnt to face his fear of high places. He felt diminished as he stood in the parking lot, as though the café with its gigantic pink sign—with its big bold flickering letters, and animated cupcakes and coffee mug—was looming over him, threatening to crush him with the weight of the memories.

“Should I hold your hand and kiss your forehead before we enter?” Taehyung asked quietly, stirring Jungkook from his reverie. When Jungkook looked at his side, he realized despite the affectionate eyes, Taehyung was teasing. Taehyung’s hand was about to brush the hair away from Jungkook's forehead when the latter snorted and looked away.

“Please stop treating me like I'm your boyfriend.” Jungkook said robotically—operator kind-of-robotically. “Thank you.”

“Dude!” Taehyung slapped Jungkook's chest; he looked affronted. “I'd not suck your dick even if they paid me tons of money.”

“Shame. And there I was wearing my favourite seductive underwear.” Jungkook smiled. “Thought I'd get lucky tonight.”

Taehyung smirked. “If that grandpa knickers is your seductive underwear then I have bad news for you, Jungkookie. The most luck you can get is a lick from Hobi’s dog.”

Jungkook could write a book on why he could go out with Kim Taehyung but it would be the same book on why he wouldn’t go out with Kim Taehyung. He should be happy they never once felt more than ‘two bros sleeping in the same room, two meters apart cause they’re gay’ towards one another.

In a way, Taehyung relieved some of the tension habituating Jungkook's veins during that little exchange.

Seokjin wasn’t there when they entered. It made Jungkook feel even less good now that his Hyung was absent from his very own café. At least Hoseok was present.

Empty Heart’s Treat wasn’t a normal café. Seokjin had co-founded it with some guy Jungkook hadn’t met about four years ago. It had a blue atmosphere, with jazzy vibes, and its baby-blue-and-pink walls were painted over with minimalist motifs. Tracing the splattered melodies, there was what seemed to be a timeline of polaroid pictures arranged on the wall—of friends caught mid-laugh, of lovers kissing, of people dreamily jotting down in journals, of birthday-candles being blown, of small moments of bliss on tasting delicious pastry, of improvised proposals fueled by the adrenaline rush, of a number of the happiest moments in life.

Jungkook could make up stories, build up lives based on those sole moments captured in frames. The photographer was utterly brilliant—that being said with his strong prejudice against photographers. The pictures invoked something—just looking at them made Jungkook’s heart lighter.

That was what Kim Seokjin wanted to achieve starting his business. He didn’t need the money; he wanted to make people happy.

Still, that wasn’t what made the café stand out nonetheless, not even that one picture that defied the photographer’s ‘café-indoor’ pattern. On every table lied a journal where you could draw or write down how you felt or what you were thinking. Most people took advantage of the anonymity thing and filled those journals as they sat drinking their coffee or eating some ‘heart treat.’ It was like a confess kind of game. The café was doing fairly well, especially with Seokjin supervising menu and experimenting with the recipes.

Sighing one last time, Jungkook tried not to meet Taehyung’s eyes much after they had sat down and ordered.

“What was that about the extra work you’d mentioned before?” Taehyung asked.

Jungkook squinted his eyes, computing.

“Oh, that!” he slapped his forehead with the back of his hand. “Lee-ssi has this group project featuring a variety of majors—theatre acting, film studies, photography, interior design, and literature. He told me he’s still picking ‘the team’—” Jungkook made air-quotations in the air, drawing a smile from Taehyung at the voice-imitation, “—but he wants me there. He considered calling you but I wonder what made him change his mind.” Jungkook smirked and Taehyung hit him with the menu, following up with a playful ‘ass’.

After dodging and laughing, Jungkook picked up his speech.

“I don't know the nature of the project yet, but he said it’ll boost up our scores and help with our portfolios. Probably something like a short film we’re writing, directing, and acting. I'm guessing he just wants to enhance teamwork and all the crap, you know.” Jungkook began pulling the journal closer to him. “Jaebum and Jinyoung are there. Jackson too. I think even Bambam will be there.”

He did his best impression of casual, hoping his voice didn’t betray him. It did nothing to the heavy silence sitting between the two of them after dropping Bambam’s name; and Jungkook pretended he didn’t know how Taehyung was looking at him.

“Pick a page.” Jungkook finally said, trying not to sound as uncomfortable as he felt. “I don’t have the time to go through that many journals and I'm not so shameless as to pry into people’s lives.”

There was game in Taehyung eyes. He was about to reply but Hoseok had their drinks arriving.

Jungkook admired the guy. He found it hard to keep up with his major, knowing how time-consuming being an art major was. Yet, there was Jung Hoseok, a dance major who worked at Seokjin’s and had a stable relation.

“It’s been a while since our holy trinity gathered here at the same time,” Hoseok said with a smile, holding the tray at his side. “To what do I atone?”

“Tae’s second dayversary attempting at abstaining,” Jungkook teased, already leaning away to avoid Taehyung’s punch. Hoseok laughed alright, but sadly, he wasn’t as evil as Jungkook so he didn’t take the joke further.

“I sacrifice so much for you, Kook,” Taehyung put on his best Saint face. “Having sex for the two us, I mean.”

“You have sex enough for the entire campus, Tae.” Hoseok offered. Jungkook's grin became wider as Taehyung tried to look offended. “Is that the journal that was on the table?” Hoseok asked after noticing what lied before Jungkook prying hands.

“Maybe.” Taehyung began sipping at his straw, playing innocent.

“If Yoongs saw you guys reading any of them, he’d give you an earful for life.” Hoseok chuckled as though revisiting a memory.

“Just this time, Hobi. Jungkookie here is having an artist-block.” Taehyung grinned.

Hoseok shrugged an ‘okay then’ and wheeled away, attending to an order.

“Who’s Yoongs?” Jungkook asked, sipping from his coffee and feathering through the journal.

When Taehyung didn’t reply and the silence became long, Jungkook had to look up from the journal. Taehyung was blinking at him as if he had just asked him who BigBang were or something.

“Seriously?” Taehyung leaned in on the table. “You’ve never met Min Yoongi, the co-founder? How long have you stayed away from this café, Kookie?”

Two years. Jungkook was glad it was a rhetorical question. He shrugged.

“Okay, so you’ve never met that short-ish guy who’s always with Jin-hyung. You know, black and white clothes, glasses, pale skin, small frame, intimidating at first but hella sweet?”

“You mean Jin-hyung’s boyfriend, the one with the camera and fierce expression?”

Taehyung almost spat his drink at Jungkook. “Eww, no! They’re like brothers, Jungkookie. That’d be like incest.”

Jungkook smiled, biting back a smart comment.

“Okay, guess I know who you’re talking about.” He vaguely did, but something caught his attention in one of the pages. If it weren’t for the stupid caption, Jungkook would have demanded meeting Min Yoongi that instant; he would have demanded meeting the brilliant photographer who could probably inspire him without Jungkook having to tread down humiliation-lane in the journals, possibly poking at an old scar or two.

“Plus, Yoongi-hyung is already seeing—”

“This is hopeless!” Jungkook cried out, frustrated. He closed the journal with a loud thump and blew out his cheeks. “It’s like everyone who goes to this café has been screwed over. Is there no intact heart in this world or what?!”

Taehyung mumbled something under his breath which Jungkook didn’t miss. He decided not to comment nonetheless; it wouldn’t be in his favour.

“I’ll just resort to plan B.” Jungkook was getting up.

“Finally taking that stripper job?” Taehyung deadpanned.

Jungkook faked a grimace. “Sadly, I already gave them your number.”

He grabbed his bag while Taehyung grabbed his hand.

“You're legit going to get out your journal? Is the world ending tonight?” Perhaps Taehyung wasn’t being sarcastic, but to Jungkook the subject was a bit thorny.

“It’s not a journal.” He didn’t intend to sound this defensive.

Taehyung lifted both hands up in the air in a surrender motion.

“Fine. Your diary. Whatever gets you through the night, buddy.”

Jungkook huffed.

“I’ll meet you in the truck.” He said, slinging his bag on his shoulder and turning around. “Take your time, I’ll explore around with my camera. I like the lack of light-pollution around here.”

“Sixty-nine.” Taehyung called after him. Jungkook froze, feeling all seven pairs of eyes boring at the back of his head.

He was already at the door but he turned to Taehyung all the same. He could clearly hear Hoseok laughing, muttering something about thinking Jungkook and Taehyung were just friends. Jungkook folded his arms and gave Taehyung a dead stare after sparing an old couple a glare.

“Sorry, Tae, no can do. I just washed my mouth.”

Taehyung laughed.

“I meant the page. You asked me to choose and I choose page sixty-nine in your journal. Whatever it has, you work on it.” He shrugged and Jungkook cocked an eyebrow at the confident tone. “I'm pretty sure all your material is more than good if you're so protective over it.”

Jungkook shook his head and headed for their pickup truck. He wondered if Taehyung could have possibly found—and read—that journal. Taehyung, of all people, wouldn’t miss the ‘personal’ element tinting one of the pages.

He didn’t call shotgun. He threw his bag in the bed of the truck and jumped next to it. He got out his phone and started warming up, experimenting with the adjustments before he started filming the scenery. Jeon Jungkook wasn’t a big fan of filming humans. He could only film Taehyung but the latter barely qualified as one.

The dark expanses of the sky stretched on endlessly, a continuous flow glittering with the twinkling stars—varying in size and in brightness, scattered in such a haphazard way that could make order out of chaos. It should look the same. Yet Jungkook always found something new to marvel at. The most tragic thing to ever exist, how the brightest of stars meant they were moments away from exploding—from dying; how only the brightest stars caught your attention and you never spared a second glance at them once they burnt away.

That was people glorified, the beauty of the star, unaware of the stories it never got to tell. Perhaps they didn’t care; as long as it looked beautiful it didn’t matter what tragedy it awaited to unfold.

He always found it funny how all people looked at the same night sky—the stars and galaxies existed all ways—but not everyone could see them. Not everyone could feel the chain of illuminations passing through them. This was the tragedy of our infinity.

Something glinted in the darkness; Jungkook didn’t shift his camera. He liked the stars and the moon too much to be bothered but he looked away from the screen. After a few beats of deadly silence, someone started walking to the café, the moonlight catching his silhouette as he approached closer and closer.

Jungkook might not have been able to make out the face, but the hair was strikingly eye-catching. Even in the darkness, the guy’s silver hair stood out. It reflected a continuous quiet, an unfading light. It reminded Jungkook of the moon; of moonlight streaks reflecting off the surface of rippling water—so much put-out-of-comfort as the air bullied them into dispersion.

The guy halted at the door. He pulled up his hoodie and turned around, as though sensing someone were looking at him. Jungkook caught his eyes.

As the two strangers locked eyes, Jungkook slipped into a niche between moments that time seemed to rush past them. He was looking at the silver-haired stranger but he couldn’t see him. And if said stranger could lock eyes with Jungkook—if he could see him, then where was the crack-a-smile-for-the-stranger-you-meet that was part of the social-contract? It was replaced with a look—a spark in his eyes under the arctic starlight—that seemed integral to something bigger, as was a star to the cosmos.

Jungkook didn’t snap back to reality till the guy had entered the café. Only then did he notice that his phone had been redirected. Jungkook collapsed on his rump on the bed of the pickup truck and checked the video. It didn’t catch the guy; it was angled too low to get the face. In a way, it seemed to have deliberately been positioned to capture the guy’s tentative hand ghosting over the doorknob.

He decided not to dwell on it for long; he needn't more headache. After all, he knew how painful a trip going through his very own journal would be.

Jungkook fished the journal out of his bag. He thought maybe Taehyung had done him a favour by choosing the page; this way he wouldn’t have to go through it page-by-page himself. It was going to get personal all ways, might as well end the torture quickly.

He had barely looked at the Polaroid photo and the scribbling beneath it than he closed the journal altogether and lolled his head back, shutting his eyes. There it was—the tightness in chest he had been working to unknot for years now.

Sixty-nine was not his lucky number.

As the memories came rushing back, images of bittersweet reminiscences crowded his mind, causing him to live the familiar barrage of memories at the sight—to relive the same darkness in his mind.

He didn’t know how long he remained a prisoner to time, stuck in the nothingness separating two seconds. It shouldn’t be called emotional-hell; it should be called emotional-purgatory. Hell was a place; limbo was in-between.

Jungkook had never been happier to hear Taehyung telling him to get in the car, making him emerge from the memories at last.

 

♥♥♥

 

Apparently—also shockingly—Jungkook had interrupted Taehyung at an important point last time they were at Empty Heart's Treat. Apparently Jung Hoseok was none but the proud boyfriend of Min Yoongi.

Jungkook wouldn’t be proud to admit sometimes he was just not so bright. Taehyung wasn’t there to save his ass—to nudge Jungkook or clear his throat snapping Jungkook back or anything. Jungkook was left with his jaw half-dropped at seeing the couple make out by the counter while Seokjin ran an episode of Hell Kitchen featuring a slacking chef a few meters away.

He wasn’t even sure what he was doing 11 A.M. alone on an October night at Empty Heart's Treat, but something about the pictures on the wall made him want to talk to Yoongi.

“Can I help you?” Yoongi called out through the distance, noticing Jungkook's stunned expression and immobile-and-rudely-staring state.

Jungkook had honestly expected something more passive-aggressive, having based his first impression of Yoongi on his conversations with Taehyung; something along the lines ‘would you want a framed picture of my boyfriend and I kissing signed and sent to your dorm?’ or something. But then again, Taehyung had said Yoongi was sweet. Jungkook’d better soon let go of his prejudice against photographers.

He finally gulped and shut his mouth; Hoseok was quicker to react though. “Jungkook-ah!” he cried, already letting go of Yoongi’s waist and heading towards Jungkook.

“Sorry, I'm not usually this rude.” Jungkook managed a chuckle and a polite bow when Yoongi was standing before him, very unintimidating. “I'm Jeon Jungkook. I might be a film major but I highly admire your work.”

Yoongi was smiling when Jungkook straightened up; he gave a slight nod.

“Min Yoongi, the photographer who is trying not to fail Jin-hyung and his business.”

Hoseok said something in Love-Speak to Yoongi about shutting up because ‘your work is inspirational—brilliant.’ Jungkook wondered how he hadn’t connected the dots sooner, how Hoseok had been so keen on keeping this job, how happier he had become months ago after finally getting into a relationship—after finally being tied down—that Jung Hoseok!

Hoseok had to leave to attend to some customers and in a way Jungkook was glad he was alone with Yoongi.

“Can I call you hyung or it’d be too wei—” Jungkook stopped midway when he saw Yoongi’s cordial nod. Yoongi had a tender eye-smile; Jungkook would have never guessed.

“So, I was wondering about one of the pictures you'd taken,” Jungkook began. Yoongi gestured for them to walk—to have Jungkook show him the picture in question.

Jungkook stopped at the picture that didn’t follow the pattern; Yoongi smiled.

“Did you take this one too?” he asked.

Yoongi chuckled quietly. “You have a sharp eye, Jeon Jungkookie.”

Jungkook smiled, keening into the nickname already. The picture was a blur of lights, not particularly clear—a landscape merging with the skyline, perhaps there existed a tall building enhancing the fit of merged colours. It was snapped as if the camera was grabbed mid-shot, a beat too late to not capturing it, but also a beat too fast to fully conveying the scene. Jungkook found solace in that in-between; he almost thought the motif was deliberate. But there was more to the story; probably the part only three people knew. And one of them was the person who took that picture.

He couldn’t help but think back to the day he was rejected in Namjoon’s office—to the pictures he had shamelessly called second-rate when his heart had reacted to them in a manner that said something quite different.

At night, those photographs fucked him up the most—being very three-dimensional and most alive. Over a month later and still the pictures kept flickering in his mind—of faceless people mingling with nature, of backs belonging to people facing the unknown, of colourful shape-shifting smoke exhibiting loneliness, of empty rooftops grey as a whisper of the night, of dangling feet on dangerous ledges, of crackling fires fluctuating in colour and temperature as the flames danced to the quiet hymns of the night. Albeit there wasn’t a single face in any of them, the photos were alive; Jungkook could hear them—see them.

“I can't tell you who took that picture,” Jungkook shot Yoongi an inquiring look; Yoongi shook his head, still admiring the picture. “Not because I don’t want to, but because I can only guess.”

Yoongi bit his lip, halfway smirking amusedly. Jungkook ventured a guess: Yoongi might only be able to guess but said guess was dead-on.

“So what’s your project about?” he turned to Jungkook, offering half a smile, half a smirk. It seemed to fit those delicate features, keeping the soft tones but not taming the fire Jungkook was sure in Yoongi’s spirit.

“It’s that obvious?” He laughed and sat down, having followed Yoongi. “I don’t have a theme yet but I might have a thing or two in mind.” Jungkook suddenly stopped, focusing his attention on Yoongi’s knowing smile, countering with a challenging one of his own. He decided to play ball. “I might have a title tho. A Clean Death in Love, it should breed the theme.

He didn’t even have to let that sink; Yoongi had already burst out laughing. Despite Jungkook's crooked smile, he knew he had scored.

“You must be a friend of Taehyung’s.” Yoongi said. “In fact, you must be that friend of Taehyung’s.”

Jungkook was smiling from ear-to-ear now. “I'd say I'm flattered but that ass never says anything good about me.”

“A clean death in love, huh?” Yoongi started, shaking his head wistfully. “And I've spent years wondering who had ripped that page from that journal.”

“Guilty.” Jungkook scratched his nose.

“So you're intending on making a theme about love?”

Jungkook laughed coldly—as if.

“Is that what that picture in the ripped page instigates? Love?”

Yoongi shrugged, resting his head on his interlaced fingers on the table.

“What do you see in it then?”

He tried not to sneer, to maintain a straight face; Jungkook saw a lot of things in that picture—things that had nothing to do with love. Regardless of the scribbling written beneath the Polaroid photo, Bleeding Hearts: A clean death in love, Jungkook had long ago decided to linger most on the ‘bleeding’ part.

“Undecided yet.” Jungkook replied good-naturedly.

“Why that page specifically?” Yoongi got out his phone, typing something then looking back at Jungkook. “Were you the one who took that picture?”

Jungkook cocked an eyebrow. “Hyung,” he began, smiling down and trying not to be eaten by the image of page sixty-nine burning in his memory. “You and I both know I'm not. The person who took the picture in the page I ripped is the same person who took the one on the wall.”

Yoongi’s smile didn’t falter; the guy exuded confidence and self-assertiveness that almost overwhelmed Jungkook.

“You sound too confident, Jeon Jungkookie.”

“I don’t hear you denying.” Jungkook countered.

Yoongi knew how to tango. “I'm not confirming either.”

Jungkook sighed then checked the time. He had to go now; there was still a certain video he needed to shoot nearby. He had excused himself, promising Yoongi he would come back soon and getting an ‘I like your fire, Jeon Jungkookie’ from the elder.

Jungkook hadn’t taken the pickup truck; he preferred walking. He didn’t think black mixed well with the grey of that October night anyway.

He climbed the stairs of the high abandoned building facing Empty Heart's Treat and hoped to god he wouldn’t be mugged. For two reasons: One, Timberlands were great shoes until it came down to running; Two, if his bag was taken, he would be homeless for the next three years, drowning in student-debt as he struggled to replace his camera, his phone and his laptop, and probably his broken heart.

He was setting the tripod, scanning the people down there for something interesting. Same old story, lovers seemed to take over that time of night—Jungkook wasn’t interested in that. That side of love wasn’t ‘different.’

On the roof of Empty Heart's Treat, a silhouette disentangled itself from the night. Jungkook loved the lightening; he loved the effect of the moon, how a person was no more than a shaped figure—no features, no voice, no dimensions; just a shadow in a wake. As if the person sitting leisurely there were sculptured of the night; as if they were of the night—belonged to the night. He could see smoke; he could make out how that person was seated, painted in an array of blue hues by the moonlight. Albeit it was just a shadow, Jungkook found himself aware of every movement, every infinitesimal detail. Jungkook could guess the clothes; he could make up the face—it wouldn’t matter; he could see just what he needed.

Jungkook could finally tell it was a guy. He was content once he saw his camera didn’t fail to capture the way the wind disheveled his hair, painting dark strings illuminated white by the stars against the sky’s tapestry.

Smoking—vaping—high and beyond the moment of the here-and-now, he lolled his head to the back, slowly letting the smoke drag to the air. Jungkook zoomed in on the guy’s face, liking the way even the eyelashes were caught in a shadow against the flashing around. The guy had spared the smoke a few seconds of his time then lolled his head back again, shutting his eyes and Jungkook could imagine a tranquil smile spreading across his face. He couldn't help but find the tapering-off ringlets, in that light and against the sky’s inky canvas, captivating.

The guy had his legs crossed and his hands supporting him behind his back, the hand that didn’t hold the joint was running through his hair, slowly—catching in the knots, curling and vying to feel the inches of that scalp, of something more. Jungkook made sure to capture the hands, the fingers. Body language was far more expressive than what any words could say—almost as expressive as the eyes.

Jungkook wondered if the height didn’t scare him, if he didn’t care about falling. By the time the guy was walking on the roof—as if walking on a tightrope, with the joint resting comfortably between his fingers, and swaying left and right as though familiar with that path—Jungkook had established maybe he didn’t care about falling. This was someone who had mastered the art of self-destruction, the art of standing amidst ashes and rising above his former burnt-out self.

After nearly thirty minutes, Jungkook thought he had enough. He had the perfect background complementing the perfect shadow. So he wrapped up and left.

 

♥♥♥

 

Sometimes, Jungkook believed that the kind of stops one made on the road heading to their destination made a huge difference. Consider any of them having saved your life, saved you from a car-crash or something along those lines. Consider meeting someone on your way back and your presence at that time was of crucial importance. Perhaps you would save someone; perhaps someone would save you.

Still, it was almost impossible he was seeing the silver-haired half-stranger a few feet before him. He had just parked the pickup truck across the street he should be crossing so he would get a snack.

Jungkook studied the pair standing at the bus-stop. The silver-haired guy wasn’t alone; he was with some blond lithe tallish guy wearing a face-mask and a cap regardless of it being night. Jungkook thought the weird duo looked so off together, considering their contrasting clothing-style. His eyes lingered on how the shorter held the strap of his bag on his shoulder as if clutching for dear life.

But that wasn’t what was most concerning about the scene. They were clearly fighting. The silver-haired guy was facing the other direction, as if having walked out on the other. Something in Jungkook called out to him to go walk to the bus-stop. He plugged in his earphones but didn’t put anything on play, and walked till he was sitting on the bench, more than fully aware of the scene unravelling.

“Just because I'm breathing, it doesn't mean I'm alive.” He dropped his bag and looked defiantly, with the force of his hostility, at the blond—voice emotional, borderline hissing. “Just because I exist, it doesn't mean I'm living.”

The silver-haired guy looked so heated, so frustrated. Jungkook never would have thought the latter could get that angry.

After looking to either side and on checking their surroundings, the taller guy approached him and spoke quietly, as if trying to contain the scene.

“It’ll pass. You don’t have to react this way.”

“So just because it'll pass I should just shut down?” He was hissing a few words ago; now he was shrugging. “Hell, maybe I should just lie down on the road and wait for the bus to run me over. I mean it'll pass, won't it!”

“Please stop overreacting. Stop making such a scene.” The other tried to reason, oblivious to how that wasn’t how you calmed someone—no smiles, no reassuring words, no hands touching, nothing. “People are staring.”

“Well newsflash, Taemin.” It seemed like that was the last straw. “People can't have everything they want in life. Not even you can.”

Jungkook was still pretending he was scrolling through his playlist, pretending he didn’t see that scene. He thought it was an overstatement of that guy named Taemin since only one guy (raven hair, dimpled) and a primary-school kid (with a Mark name-tag dangling off his neck) were at the bus stop. So much for 'people.'

Jungkook had missed what the blond had said once the bus stopped before them, being too focused on the once-over that dimpled guy gave his half-stranger.

“Piss off.” He jerked Taemin's hand away sharply, lifted up his bag and started moving towards the bus. “And don’t even think about following me.”

Jungkook wasn’t sure what to make of the scene but what he was sure of was how he wanted that Taemin away from the silver-haired guy. And so, even though he didn’t plan on taking the bus, he had walked (a bit drunkly, putting on an act) and bumped into the blond, holding to his shoulder as he pretended to fall, smiling while apologizing.

“I'm sorry. I should have watched where I was going.” Jungkook said, half-politely, half-flirtily, so no one would hold anything against him.

The blond looked at him then stole a glance at the bus that the silver-haired guy had just disappeared into. Jungkook straightened up and turned around as the blond guy brushed it off, trying to pass him by. He took his sweet time, hindering Taemin as he lingered before the bus’s door—making sure he would only get on the bus on the last second so no one else would, namely Taemin.

Jungkook thought he could set his alarm early so he would get back and get Taehyung’s truck if he didn’t have a death wish. Or maybe he could get off after the silver-haired guy got off—after making sure he was free of any further harassment.

By some miracle (some miracle that had something to do with the door closing on him because the bus had already moved but Jungkook was adamant on getting in), he was on the bus, barely registering the conductor’s words inquiring about his safety, or the latter’s half-apologies, half-reproaches.

But he didn’t care; he moved to the back of the bus and took one of the last seats, making sure he had a clear view of the silver-haired guy who had his head propped against the window four seats before Jungkook.

Much to Jungkook's chagrin, he had been correct about being wary of the dimpled man. After a particularly wolfish gaze, the guy had got up, eyeing the silver-haired guy like a prey. Jungkook was quick on his feet, casually slipping in the seat next to the silver-haired guy and glaring at the dimpled man. The latter seemed to have caught on, but Jungkook was sure he looked dangerous enough that the other wouldn’t dare a move. And if it came down to a fight, it would be an easy win.

At last, the man returned to his seat, clearly dissatisfied. Jungkook looked to his side to realize his makeshift companion was asleep, with his head leaning against the window and his big bag in his lap. Jungkook's eyes lingered on how he had pulled down his sweater to cover most of his hands; he had noted how small the guy’s hands were. The artist within him found something eye-catchy about the way the other’s hand was curled so protectively on his bag.

So much Jungkook wanted to offer his shoulder instead, saving him the rough ride and inevitable bumps.

Jungkook was watching the clock change minutes, then he wasn’t sure what happened. But he was coming to, the conductor tapping his shoulder while Sir’ing him, telling him they had reached the end of the line.

And of course no one else was on the bus.

Jungkook ran his palm all over his face, clearing his head as he fended off the drowsiness. It was going to be a long trip to get the black pickup truck, especially what the weight of what he had seen.

 

♥♥♥

 

It had been over two weeks yet Jungkook only dared to address his journal now (if that little incident at Empty Heart's Treat was struck out) when and where he was free of Taehyung—of the one person he couldn’t bullshit. It had been a week of him struggling. Struggling to be on time for lectures, to brainstorm for his projects, to work on that group project Lee-ssi had assigned them, to keep his art from getting rusty by filming things and people in their natural habitat every now and then.

He was sitting in a table at the furthest corner of the cafeteria, reviewing the videos he had taken throughout the last month. It was a stupid thing to do—so much like trying to get somewhere when you didn’t have a destination—considering he didn’t have a theme for his project yet. Or maybe Jungkook did have a theme; he just decided he could put addressing the problem on hold till… what? As far as he was concerned, nothing he had run from was ever later addressed.

He looked up when some laughs from two tables to his right called him back to the moment.

Jeon Jungkook wasn’t a big fan of Coincidences, capital C; and he sure as hell didn’t believe in Fate. capital F. Still, there he was looking at Hoseok sitting with the silver-haired guy Jungkook had seen at Seokjin’s two weeks ago—the guy he didn’t talk to at the bus-stop. They were laughing as though they had been friends forever—as though they had grown up together and known each other like the back of their respective hand.

It was such a contrast between that laughing guy who had such a dazzling smile, and the guy who couldn’t even smile at a stranger. Even the clothing style differed. The guy was now dressed in a hippie-gypsy hybrid style, somewhere between black bohemian pants and excessive number of leather wrist-bands, and a half-sleeve grey plain tee with a sleeveless brown jacket on top of it. He even topped it off with a hat.

“Don’t even think about it.” Taehyung had casually taken a seat across the table, setting his satchel beside him.

Jungkook averted his eyes from Hoseok and his friend. He had overslept so he missed Taehyung this morning. Taehyung looked good—model-good—in even the most homeless of clothes. But still, Jungkook thought there was Extra Effort. Taehyung didn’t pull off the skater boy look for nothing.

“Who is he?” Jungkook asked casually, giving Taehyung and his worn-backwards baseball cap his undivided attention.

He is out of your league.” Taehyung emphasized, stealing a chip from Jungkook's tray. “He is too much drama.”

“I asked for a name, not a biography, Tae.”

“I'm giving you facts.”

“You're giving me opinions.” Jungkook had been around Taehyung all his life; it was easy to skirt around his antics without putting effort into coming up with a retort.

“Park Jimin.” Taehyung divulged after munching on another chip. And Jungkook thought back on hearing the name, whispered with an ominous ring to it, around campus. “I know he’s handsome but, again, Kook, he’s too much.”

Jungkook looked over his shoulder. He had a handful of adjectives to describe the face that now had a name; and ‘handsome’ would indeed be one of them. But that wasn’t what called out to Jungkook the most; not so far at least.

After all, his heart neither quickened nor fluttered; there was only an overwhelming sense of unease that coated his heart—an inscrutable type of restlessness. And it was for those two reasons that Jungkook should start feeling alarmed.

No trouble ever started with ‘weak in the knees’; trouble manifested in the ‘calm before the storm’. The heart was no exception; and it always experienced the worst of storms.

Something was wrong about Park Jimin. That was what called to Jungkook most loudly. Jungkook knew for a fact, that that night he couldn’t see Jimin, it was for a reason that far transcended the darkness that was swallowing the whole scene.

Jimin was still talking with Hoseok. Jungkook knew Hoseok was soothing to be around; he often put others at ease. But somehow, it seemed like a two-way road when it came down to that sunshine duo, seeing how both of them were laughing like there were no care in the world.

“How do you know so much?” Jungkook asked at last.

“People talk.” Taehyung shrugged noncommittally. “I'm assuming you can still hear the things circulated on campus while running late to class every morning.”

Jungkook started staring, waiting for Taehyung to cave in under that keen gaze.

Taehyung sighed. He leaned closer on the table, motioning for Jungkook to follow suit.

“Listen, he’s not a bad guy, I can tell you such. I wish you could be friends, but I know one of you would soon cross to the other side of the line, Kook. So all I'm telling you is don’t get too close. He’s not the kind of guys you'd want to get involved with.”

“Why are you so wary?” Jungkook rested back his back and studied Taehyung closely. “I didn’t even say anything and you're talking as if I'm handing you a wedding invitation.”

Taehyung deadpanned.

“I know you, Jungkook.” He let that sink in. “They say he skips from one person to the other the same way he changes jewelry.”

Jungkook clicked his tongue; Taehyung flinched. Enough was enough.

“Now you're going to believe what ‘they say’, Tae, really?” he gave Taehyung a meaningful look. Jungkook wasn’t trying to be mean. But Taehyung of all people knew better than to follow the herd-mentality of paying heeds to potential rumors.

Taehyung’s petty ass was saved by his phone.

Jungkook finished his chips as he kept his narrowed eyes fixed on Taehyung, the latter’s reaction to Jimin was even more intriguing than Jimin himself.

“Naah, I'm not gonna be there, you're stuck with Youngjae and Jackson.” Taehyung was laughing. “For a week you'll be on your own, man. I told you that.”

Again Taehyung paused to listen to what Jaebum (Jungkook guessed) was saying and laugh. It hit Jungkook then and he threw the question at Taehyung as soon as the latter hung up.

“Wait, you're not going to the recital in two days?” Maybe Jungkook felt a bit hurt that Jaebum knew and he didn’t.

“Sadly, I’m missing out.” Taehyung’s expression didn’t really convey the ‘sadly’ part. “Bogum invited me to stay the week, maybe the one following too—depends—at his place. You know, till the movie premieres. So I'm leaving this hell-hole, thankfully.” He punctuated his words with triumphant laugh. “But you go, Kook. The aesthetic hoe within you would find so many things to be turned on at.”

Jungkook groaned.

“Okay, great. Guess I won't be attending either.”

“As I said, go.” Taehyung got up. “Who knows, maybe you'll actually get lucky.”

“You're such an ass, Tae. I'm always wondering why we’re friends.”

“Because I'm the only person who really knows you and still wants to be friends with your melodramatic ass.” Taehyung replied simply. “Plus, you just said you're not going.”

“I'm not the one who promised Hobi I'd go. Plus,” Jungkook imitated Taehyung, coaxing a snort from the latter. “I have things to do.”

“Right,” Taehyung clasped both hands together in mockery. “Important things to do being a creep-ass who takes stealthy videos of people. You could be sued for this, Kook.”

“You're the worst.” Jungkook said, unhappy about the lack of presence of anything to throw at Taehyung.

“Shut up! You know you love me.” Taehyung countered, taking his cap off briefly and running his hand through his hair. “I gotta go now. Don’t do anything I'd not approve of.” He shouted from over his shoulder as he jogged the distance, leaving the cafeteria.

Jungkook wanted to laugh. As if there were anything Taehyung wouldn’t approve of. And so, he got out his sketch and started drafting his project. Kim-ssi needed the movie conceptualized by November, leaving Jungkook about two weeks. He had to think about his painting project too, but Jungkook would rather focus on the main issue first.

He soon lost track of his thoughts and started doodling on the page, ‘A Clean Death in Love’ with all its connotations causing a ruckus in the avenues of his memory. He hadn’t noticed how engrossed he had been till he heard a camera snap—till he saw a flash.

He looked up from his work, wearing a taken-aback expression yet smiling. He spotted the photographer, the corner furthest to him: it was Jimin. He lowered his camera and smiled at Jungkook, his cheeks bunching up, making the skin around the corners of his eyes crinkle like a leaf held to flame.

Jungkook didn’t know how to react; Jimin was still smiling.

He should be wondering what Jimin was doing with a camera; he should be wondering what major Jimin was. Those two musings seemed insignificant as Jungkook's mind seemed to muse over Jimin's silver hair, over the eyes that beckoned him forth. He found himself nodding at Jimin, as though greeting him. It astonished Jungkook that Jimin was sitting alone; he still had to establish exactly how people on campus dealt with Jimin. Jungkook was about to get up, join Jimin when the latter was already on his feet, grabbing his bag and leaving the cafeteria.

Maybe he should be grateful he didn’t get to talk to that Park Jimin.

 

He hadn’t gone back to the dorm until it was almost midnight. An hour ago, he had been eager to leave the theatre, to escape facing the project’s ‘Identity’-theme and go to his dorm. Now, he was missing Jaebum and Youngjae’s PDA, and almost wishing Jackson would be here to keep babbling nonsense so the noises would drown. The noises coming from the person next door guaranteed either no sleep, or wet dreams. Jungkook had twice had rough sex, but never in his life would he have thought he could get this … rough with his partner.

It should disturb him that he wasn’t totally against those half-screams, half-moans.

Really though, Jungkook didn’t know whether the moans got him riled up in an irritated kind-of-way, or in a turned-on kind-of-way, phrased as Taehyung would kindly offer.

 

♥♥♥

 

With Taehyung gone – eighth day so far – Jungkook decided to make good use of the room. ‘Good use’ to Jungkook meant something along the lines of shamelessly fucking someone without caring about Taehyung walking on him. It happened once; Jungkook spent two weeks trying to convince the staring-slash-impressed Taehyung that his face wasn’t in his crotch.

He was usually sensible when it came down to his sex-drive. But he hadn’t had a good lay since the start of the semester (a guy was worse than a quickie, and two girls were just meh) and the next-door moans every night had apparently built him up. And so, he had Hyeri barely capable of standing, almost hitting third-base before they even got to bed. He was pressing her against the wall, his mouth eager and not giving her any chance to talk—Jungkook did not want to talk.

“Leave the lights turned off.” He whispered when her hand fumbled for the light-switch.

Jungkook had his reasons for wanting to numb one of the senses. He had run into Jimin in the cafeteria that evening and like hell he hated that look in the blackish-brown pair. It had been days—every fucking time they saw each other, and it was still the same: Jimin would be giving him that weird look. It was almost funny how Jimin was usually all smiling, laughing and getting touchy with everyone but whenever their eyes caught, an expression Jungkook couldn’t quite interpret would overshadow his face.

The more he tried to look away—to shut his eyes tighter—the more the look would burn against his eyelids. Jimin's eyes would seem as if they were beseeching something in Jungkook. A silent gaze—of familiarity, of keening into the look, of words vying to be set free. He would look like a long-lost memory appealing to a forgetting heart, begging to be remembered. He would flash Jungkook a smile that smiles could disown—that should be re-categorized into something more … blue.

And there he was, his tongue down some girl’s throat, and hand up her dress, but Jimin’s expression stung in his memory—burning and almost stripping him of the sexual high.

Hyeri moaned something about wanting the lights on against his lips but Jungkook already had enough of the drama. So he lifted her, having her legs instantly wrap around his waist, and gently placed her on bed. He thought older women would be less of a pain in the ass; but maybe Jungkook was a drama-magnet.

By Jungkook's fifth thrust—by Hyeri’s almost painful nail-dig in his back—Jungkook was reviewing his life decisions. Being close to climaxing, he didn’t have much room for critical thinking—or feeling pain. But perhaps he should have opted for the less talkative of the two sexes for the night. Hyeri seemed like she didn’t quite grasp the mutual-benefit concept.

He felt her stiffen, after rocking three more times, she shuddered lightly. Two more thrusts and Jungkook pulled out, attaining the aspired-to satisfaction. Jungkook knew the drill: never ever lie beside your ‘good lay’ if it was a one-night-stand.

So he went to the bathroom to clean up, feeling the onslaught of prolactin making him drowsy. He got into a new pair of underwear and put on his sweats. Hyeri was asleep when he was back, face flushed with post-fuck colours. Her hand was curled near the pillow—holding on to something Jungkook couldn’t see. Some light crept inside for a brief second, illuminating Hyeri’s sleeping face then falling on him—like the headlights of a car driving by slowly.

Silently, Jungkook went to sleep on the couch.

 

He awoke to a small kiss on the mouth. Jungkook was too stunned and it was Hyeri—naturally. It wasn’t even dawn yet.

She smiled at his expression as he sat up. “I can imagine sleeping with that every night.”

Jungkook flashed a smile, hoping it wasn’t too charming but not too polite either. “Trust me, that’s the last thing you'd want.”

She gave him a confused look, putting on her tights. “No, Jungkook, you trust me. I can't trust anything that pretty mouth of yours says. Not when you're that lost.”

Maybe it showed too much.

Despite almost laughing, Jungkook sighed internally, his eyes following Hyeri’s hands—studying their delicate movements. “I'm seeing you with someone better than me, Hyeri.”

Hyeri heaved a dramatic sigh. He liked to maintain friendly terms with his hook-ups, even if he neither intended to call them back nor sleep with them again. That, of course, when they didn’t throw a tantrum, showering him with insults as if he hadn’t clearly stated it was just sex.

Her eyes lingered a bit on his left arm then she went on to fetch her dress.

She was giving him her back. He wished he could film the instant her hand lingered in the air, hesitating before reaching for her dress on the floor, almost half-turning to him as she crouched down, her hair curtaining her expression. He could clearly make out her lips in the dark, the way they seemed to bite back words. Again with those in-between moments—half-truths, withheld confessions, half-in, half-out, ajar doors, parted lips, avoidant eyes, fidgeting fingers—appealing to the melancholy artist within him.

Jungkook thought he should feel bad. Though, feeling bad had nothing to do with wanting to grab his phone. Art had to do nothing with rights and wrongs—with morals. Jeon Jungkook had his very own moral compass; as long as he didn’t violate that, he was good.

“What does your tattoo say?” she asked casually and Jungkook finally realized he wasn’t wearing his wrist-bands. Really though, what did sex have to do with taking them off? He should have learnt.

“Hyeri, listen, I appreciate the sex,” Jungkook treaded carefully, rubbing his temples, already tired with the direction of the conversation. “But I'm not hoping for more.”

Without averting her eyes, she shook her head, a small laugh escaping her lips. “I only asked about a tattoo, Jungkook.”

Jungkook tried not to deadpan. Asking someone about their tattoos was too personal and Jungkook didn’t want to get personal. He didn’t want to get anything.

“You’re impossible.” She got up and flipped her hair to one side, styling it a bit and smiling at Jungkook. “And there I thought we could actually be something.”

Jungkook let out a little helpless laugh.

“You're a nice person,” he started walking to the door—always such a gentleman. “I wish you all the best.” He gave a low bow after opening the door for her.

“Maybe we could try—”

“I'm gay.” Jungkook cut her short. He was already rolling his eyes internally. Next time he should feel horny, fuck wanting less marks on his body—fuck the softer curves. It wasn’t worth it.

She looked at him without the slightest hint of amusement.

“You weren’t gay a few hours ago.”

“Yea,” Jungkook smirked. “I just signed the forms before you woke up. They’d tax me if I back out now, especially that they gave me their rainbow unicorn and special glitter.”

She laughed, hair catching between her lips.

“And they said Taehyung is the worse between you.”

With a small smile, he shook his head.

“Goodbye, Hyeri. It was nice having sex with you.”

She was about to say something but gave up when Jungkook began closing the door. He sighed gravely and walked to the sofa. He held up his left wrist to the moonlight, cursive black letters glinting under the ivory light.

A clean death in love, huh? He thought wishfully; some faraway tangle of memories came unbidden and unrelenting. He contemplated getting out the journal and his camera, piecing his project together—establishing a preliminary profile at least. But naturally, Jungkook decided to avoid the problem so he went back to sleep.