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jung hoseok [3:22]
jungkook got into a car accident that night
 
jung hoseok [3:23]
he doesnt remember anything.

 

/

 

“what happened that night?”

even if yoongi knew what happened that night, even if he could understand it well enough to put it into words, he wouldn’t know how to talk about it. he flicks the lighter, lets the flame burn for a while. lets it go.

“a lot,” is the best answer he can muster.

yeon let herself in again. there’s the tap tap tap of her feet as she moves across the floor, and the occasional clink as she picks up another empty bottle and collects it into a plastic bag. yoongi didn’t tell her to do that.

he briefly entertains the thought of asking her why she keeps coming here, or just telling her not to come, but he knows how that conversation would go. she would say: someone needs to check to see if you’re alive. or: stop pushing people away. he flicks the lighter, lets it burn.

he’s only known her for a couple of months, although she acts as if they are lifelong friends. he doesn’t remember telling her about that night, or the people he last saw then, although he must have; he’s sure there are lots of things he’s done, drunk, that he doesn’t remember and doesn’t particularly want to.

“you’re watching the flame like you’re waiting for someone to blow it out.”

he furrows his brow, almost glares. she’s really saying: you’re waiting for someone. he secures the lighter in his fist, says,

“why do you still come here? it’s obviously not for the company.”

he hears her exasperated breath.

“i wish you’d stop pushing away those who love you.”

called it, yoongi thinks, and ignores the nagging voice in his brain that’s telling him she’s not talking about herself. he reaches for the pack of cigarettes on top of the piano, works a cigarette out of the pack, but as soon as he sets it between his lips, yeon tugs it away in a manner that’s very similar to how someone else used to do it. when she does it, though, it only works up a mild irritation.

“stop smoking those,” she says, “and go to him.”

 

/

 

“i’m going to miss this place,” jungkook told him, and yoongi wasn’t sure if he meant the shitty motel room or the streets with over-priced shops and too-bright neon signs or something they had in this creaky bed. or something else. or all of it.

still, he produced a choked laugh, and asked, “why.”

“i just get attached easily.” jungkook said this while nosing at his shoulder; a habit, so achingly sweet it was almost unbearable. yoongi’s arm around him was impossibly careful like jungkook was something fragile, even though yoongi knew he was anything but. “when the time comes to leave, i feel... a bit sad.”

in a way, yoongi couldn’t understand because he never cared enough to get attached to the motel rooms they never occupied for more than a week at a time. maybe the ruins of a factory near the train tracks. maybe the seashore, a little bit. but that has more to do with the moment than the place. it has more to do with the people. going to the sea alone, now, he would just look at it and think: it’s too vast and there’s sand in my shoes.

there’s probably a reason why yoongi is thinking about this now. why he suddenly remembered jungkook’s words in that motel bed, said into his skin and under the pink hue of the neon sign outside the window that blinked on and off.

the studio apartment yoongi now occupies was supposed to be theirs. at least in theory, at least in some tentative plans they made sat at the piano.

(“what if we lived here.”)

maybe it was because jungkook wanted to stop feeling sad about places, wanted somewhere to come back to. maybe it was about something else. doesn’t really matter now. now it’s just a room to hold the piano and the man who plays the piano, plays melodies that aren’t just his, that aren’t just melodies but something closer to memories.

every sound yoongi draws out of the piano is sorrowful, and he hates that his heart is laid bare like that, but can’t help it.

(“with you, anywhere.”)

 

/

 

eventually -

he does go. sort of.

the horrible yellow steel bench down the corridor outside his room is the farthest he gets. he never actually sees him, but jungkook is there, behind just a couple of walls, and yoongi can’t make sense of the events of that night but he knows he’s part of the reason jungkook’s now here.

his door is mostly closed. sometimes a nurse goes in and out. she asks yoongi if he’s here to see someone. yoongi shakes his head.

there’s not much to do sitting out here, but at least being here is keeping him from doing something else. at least he is closer than he’s been in months, without getting close enough to fuck anything else up, without - having to see jungkook look at him like a complete stranger. sometimes, when he leans back against the wall and closes his eyes, listens to the low electric hum and the distant sounds of machines, he can almost hear a voice. singing, always. but he knows he’s imagining it.

a part of yoongi wonders if jungkook somehow knows he’s here. or knows there’s a man who just sits out in the corridor most days. wonders if jungkook gets this itching feeling like it’s someone he knows. knew.

wonders if he knows it’s someone who was in love with him. is.

tenses are confusing, but also very simple in a way. jungkook is his past, present, and future. even now and no matter what happens from here on out. even if he didn’t want to. even if he isn’t jungkook’s.

 

/

 

when jungkook said, i’m going to miss this place, the thought that crossed yoongi’s mind was that with jungkook, no place is just a place, it’s something more, the way jungkook makes everything into something more. makes yoongi into something more.

the piano is not just a piano. it’s a meeting point, it’s a point where two different souls meet and merge and entangle. the studio apartment is not just an apartment. or it is. but it could’ve been a home.

 

/

 

he’s not all that surprised when he sees namjoon. it’s only surprising that it didn’t happen sooner.

it could’ve been any of them; but maybe it’s only right that namjoon is the first one. years ago. namjoon was the first one he saw then, too. it’s sort of jarring, how similar this actually is. how completely different, at the same time. like a different version of the same story.

it’s been - months. the last time yoongi saw him, his hands were bleeding and he was calling out taehyung’s name like an apology, like a plead, like everything.

did you ever find him, yoongi almost wants to ask, and then almost laughs because despite the actual gravity of the question, despite how absolutely fucking unfunny it is, it would sound so much like a bad joke.

namjoon doesn’t look surprised to see him, either, or at least he doesn’t show it. he merely sits down next to yoongi. like this isn’t the first time they’re meeting after everything happened. like they’ve been here before. it’s déjà-vu, a strange one because if yoongi can trust his brain at all, which... is debatable, granted, but if he can, he’s pretty sure they’ve never been at the hospital together.

“have you gone in?” yoongi asks, and is at the same time telling namjoon he hasn’t. namjoon looks at him for a long while.

“i have. he’s recovering,” he says. yoongi hears the but even before he says it. “but he doesn’t remember.”

is at the same time saying, i’m sorry.

“i know,” yoongi says, and his hands make fists around the steel armrests. maybe he was hoping. maybe not. he doesn’t know what he’s feeling at this point. if uncomfortable yellow hospital bench was an emotion. that would probably be it.

 

/

 

he leaves the hospital long enough to have a drink with namjoon across the street. needed this, namjoon says. there’s a scar on his knuckle, a line of white standing out against tan skin. a reminder, like the piano is for yoongi. yoongi stares at it when namjoon closes his hand around the glass. if namjoon notices, he doesn’t say anything.

they don’t talk much. don’t even ask each other how they’re doing. maybe it’s strange, considering. maybe it’s not. yoongi supposes there isn’t really a need to ask. considering.

“have you seen the others,” yoongi does ask, leaves the here unsaid.

“they’ve all visited,” namjoon tells him, “one by one. never together, except for hoseok and jimin.”

how they stuck together, yoongi couldn’t venture a guess and doesn’t ask.

outside the bar, yoongi misses his cigarettes. he pats at his pockets absently, out of habit, even though he knows he doesn’t have them with him, and he probably wouldn’t light one even if he did. namjoon taps at his shoulder, once, and when yoongi turns, he’s holding a lollipop at him. this, too, seems familiar, and yoongi thinks this has happened before... maybe the other way around. but namjoon never smoked. it’s all getting mixed up in his brain, and he just sighs, kind of resignedly takes the lollipop.

 

/

 

if he never remembers me again -

then what?

- then maybe it’s better that way.

“for who,” yeon asks. yoongi toys with the lighter. “yoongi. you’re always going to be waiting for someone to blow out the flame.”

well - yeah. he knows and he’s living with that. sort of.

 

/

 

if they could go back to one moment in time - where would they even go? back to the moment before taehyung picked up the empty beer bottle? before seokjin threw the first punch? back to that day at the sea, the moment that still stands out in yoongi’s memory persistently, perhaps gilded by time some but still what yoongi first thinks of when he thinks happiness? would it really fix any of it?

to really fix any of it, yoongi thinks, they’d have to go back further.

back to years ago, back to those train tracks off the ruins of the factory that would become the start of it, that would become their place. at least for a while. back to before fingers reached out to pluck the unlit cigarette from between yoongi’s lips in an act of bizarre and unexpected boldness, and yoongi turned to see a boy with a too-wide grin, too-big eyes, too captivating in every way, holding the cigarette between his index and thumb. it wasn’t the first time he saw him, but the first time they talked.

“smoking is bad for you,” jungkook said, and the way his eyes were shining when he said it still has yoongi convinced he was really saying something else.

“name one thing here that isn’t bad for you,” yoongi scoffed, and already couldn’t take his eyes away.

months into the future, jungkook would hold yoongi’s hand in his, fingers tracing the veins like rivers, and say: this.

right then, though, all he did was turn the cigarette in his fingers, eyes cast down like he’d suddenly lost his courage. but he seemed to gain some of it back, because his eyes jumped to yoongi’s face again. there was a contradiction somewhere in his slightly cocky smile and his eyes that were more nervous and hopeful. he said,

“fresh night air. without the smell of these things.”

yoongi breathed out in a semblance of a laugh. thought: what a brat. because this is genuinely what he thought, he had no idea why his heartbeat was suddenly faster or why he couldn’t look away or why he turned to the boy and said,

“my name is yoongi.”

back to before that moment.

 

/

 

weeks add up to months. he goes to the hospital, meets everyone, because that’s just bound to happen. one by one, never together, like namjoon said, except for hoseok and jimin. he still doesn’t ask about that, although he is curious. was it by choice, or did things just happen that way? does it hurt less this way, or more? do they talk about it to each other?

they go in. yoongi doesn’t.

they never say much. despite everything that happened, there isn’t a lot to say. not right now. but maybe again someday. maybe.

“namjoon is still looking for you,” he tells taehyung quietly, and doesn’t mean in the physical sense. isn’t completely certain himself how he means it, but taehyung’s expression flickers and he lowers his eyes like he knows.

“aren’t we all looking for something,” he says, and yoongi knows for a fact there was a time his smile wasn’t so sad, but doesn’t remember clearly enough to picture it.

another day, jimin gently inquires,

“do you want us to tell him about you?”

“tell him what?” yoongi stares at his hands on his thighs, fingers curling and uncurling. “that i’m someone who was something to him, once? that i fucked up and fucked us up, that i’m the reason he was out alone on that street that night?”

“that you loved him,” jimin says like it’s that simple. “that you still love him. that he made you happy, that you made him happy.”

if they could go back to one moment in time -

“no,” yoongi says, “don’t tell him about me.”

 

/

 

he sees each of them two, maybe three times, but he only sees seokjin once. he’s carrying flowers; pastel blue, and it’s not that yoongi thinks there’s a significance, but he starts counting them. one, two -

“i’m sorry,” seokjin says, and yoongi forgets where he was, looks up at him.

me too / not your fault / about what?

somehow none of these things come out of yoongi’s mouth. somehow he can only stare and swallow thickly as his heart drums against his ribcage, and he doesn’t know exactly what caused this new level of unease in his chest, just knows that it’s there.

everyone’s been apologizing. for jungkook not remembering, for what happened that night. but this is different, and yoongi can’t for the life of him tell why it feels like seokjin’s talking about something else.

seokjin looks down.

“at least we’re all alive,” he says, and he could be saying it more to himself than yoongi, but yoongi snaps.

the next second, he’s on his feet, his fist is in seokjin’s shirt front, and he’s backing him up to the opposite wall. seokjin’s back hits it with so much force the photo frame on the wall shakes.

“don’t give me that bullshit,” yoongi snarls, “don’t try to downplay it with at least he’s alive. he doesn’t remember.”

seokjin’s quiet, and it registers with yoongi that he didn’t even react. he barely blinked when yoongi shoved him against the wall. he didn’t even drop the flowers. he looks at yoongi, and just looks - tired. yoongi’s the one breathing hard, his fist still clenched in his shirt. seokjin blinks slowly.

“i didn’t mean it like that,” he says, and sounds genuinely apologetic. “i’m sorry.”

he doesn’t attempt to detach himself from the wall, just waits for yoongi to step away. yoongi’s shoulders droop. his hand falls out of seokjin’s shirt.

“i know,” he mumbles, “just... my nerves are shot. sorry.”

he’s not looking at seokjin, but he can feel the other looking at him. then seokjin moves his arm, lifts the flowers to his waist level, and yoongi’s eyes are drawn to them again.

“will you come in with me?” seokjin asks.

yoongi’s chest feels tight. he swallows.

“i can’t.”

seokjin doesn’t pressure, just accepts it. he takes a step towards the door, and yoongi moves out of his way.

“i’ll make sure he knows he’s loved,” seokjin says, and yoongi turns in time to see his broad shoulders, him opening the door. he leaves it ajar. yoongi can just barely hear him talking to the person inside.

he doesn’t stick around to hear jungkook’s voice. he spins around and walks away, past an alarmed nurse who witnessed everything that happened just now and was probably considering calling security. he walks all the way down the corridor, distantly wondering if he’s panicking, if that’s what this is, his lungs feeling like they’re not filling out even though he’s breathing. there’s an elevator up ahead, and he jabs his finger at the button, rides it to the bottom floor. his throat burns and he’s about to either throw up or cry. isn’t sure which.

he walks out the main entrance, then walks some more, until the burning in his throat eases. he feels his pockets, reflexively. the only thing in them is the fucking lollipop namjoon gave him. his fingers curl around it like it’s a token to remind him this is not a dream.

by the time he rides the elevator back up, the door is closed again and seokjin is gone. for a long while, he doesn’t see him again. the remnants of the unease he felt linger in his chest, and he wonders what it was about seokjin. why it felt like he changed more than the rest of them in the same amount of time. wonders if he even wants to know.

 

/

 

the first time jungkook told him he loved him was under an overpass, breathless and high on adrenaline. they’d been running for a long time, separated from the others at the first intersection.

“i love you,” he said, panted it into his mouth, his fingers caught in yoongi’s jacket and his back digging into the damp wall, “i love you so much.”

yoongi felt a terrifying happiness. he reminded himself that this is just something you say when you’re breathless and high on adrenaline.

but then jungkook told him again, hours later in their motel room, after stealing yoongi away in some sort of spontaneous slow dance - they definitely weren’t breathless from running then, it was a different sort of sweet, dizzying feeling caused by jungkook’s fingers in the spaces between his own, his scent, pine soap and light sweat and a hint of yoongi’s cologne too, and his mouth that somehow always tasted a little bit sweet.

jungkook told him again, and yoongi realized he meant it. realized that the first time he had looked at jungkook and thought, i’m in love with you - well, it had been months ago.

 

/

 

“why do you go,” yeon shakes her head, “if you’re not going to -“

“he doesn’t remember,” yoongi says, the words clawing their way out of his throat for the second time that week, and he doesn’t want to keep repeating the obvious, but yeon keeps asking. “he doesn’t remember me, okay? that’s it. that’s all there is to it. why hurt all of us even more?”

with a forceful swing of his arm, he shoves the musical sheets off the rack. they fall silently, scatter all over the floor. yoongi keeps exploding and no one’s exploding back and it’s frustrating.

(maybe he should ask: who am i hurting now?)

“then,” yeon says quietly, “why do you go? what do you think is going to happen? what do you want to happen?”

yoongi sinks his teeth into his bottom lip so hard he draws blood.

i want - i want.

if they could go back to any moment in time, yoongi would go back to before he talked to jungkook at those train tracks. before the fingers reached out to steal the cigarette from his lips, and yoongi let his heart run away. (let - like he stood a chance.) he would go to that moment, for both selfish and unselfish reasons: he’d get to see jungkook, just once more. see him like he was that day, before everything happened, before yoongi happened to him. before they learned how the other looks after they’ve run themselves breathless, or with blood on their faces, or falling apart in the sheets in a dingy motel room.

he would like to think he didn’t only give jungkook unhappiness. would like to think that he could’ve made him happy. here. it would’ve been nice to call this place home.

but with people like them, it’s always going to end in broken glass and blood on the asphalt. and jungkook deserves a different kind of ending. a better one. yoongi would see him, just once more. and then he would walk away.

it’s not what he wants, but it’s what he would do.

take any one of them out of the equation, things wouldn’t have happened the way they did. they wouldn’t have the seashore, yes; but they also wouldn’t have anything that followed. seven minus one is zero.

he goes because he got attached to jungkook the way jungkook got attached to places. he goes because he doesn’t know how not to.

that’s it. that’s all there is to it.

 

/

 

weeks add up to months, add up to more months. and then -

yoongi goes to the hospital, and the door is open. the window in the room is open, too, the white curtains blowing in the wind. the bed is empty. made.

there are petals, on the bedside table. pastel blue. not that there’s a significance. but he starts counting them. one, two -

the wind blows them into the air, into the air, and away. blue petals strewn across the floor is somehow a jarringly familiar sight, and yoongi cocks his head, thinks that there were probably flowers that night. or not. this has been happening a lot lately.

jungkook’s voice rings through his mind, and it would be a lie to say it ever really left.

i’m going to miss this place -

- when the time comes to leave, i feel... a bit sad.

i miss you, yoongi thinks into the empty hospital room. for a while, it’s that simple. he allows himself to feel this way, and just stays for a moment, in the doorway with the petals on the floor and the curtains blowing.

“excuse me,” he asks a nurse walking by, “where’s the boy who occupied this room?”

“you’re just a bit too late,” the nurse gives him a busy smile, “he was released not long ago.”

and, well, yoongi is more than a bit too late. but:

he’s okay. yoongi either says this out loud or not. he’s okay. he doesn’t remember, maybe he never would, but he’d be okay.

now - what now? yoongi isn’t sure. now it’s more of the same thing as before, he supposes. more waking up and feeling like he has too much empty space. in his apartment, in his chest, in everything he does. more melodies his fingers won’t forget even if he wanted to. more playing like he’s chasing something, a memory, a past, a boy, a love. chasing or trying to hold onto. or trying to let go.

right now, he doesn’t exist to jungkook. jungkook doesn’t have the seashore or the overpass or the motel rooms they slow danced in but he also doesn’t have anything that followed. this, in a way, could be considered a mercy.

it’s the chance to walk away that he wanted. a chance to do something right, for once.

who am i hurting now? no one. or: no one but myself, but it’s close enough.

it feels like the time has come to leave. and yoongi does feel sad. he thinks he understands.

 

/

 

the last time jungkook told him he loved him was on that night, some hours before the accident, though yoongi obviously didn’t know this until later. there were adrenaline and lack of breath then, too, but in a different, more terrible way.

he had his fists in yoongi’s shirt and his forehead pushed against his chest, and yoongi remembers thinking he just wanted to get out of there, because he loved jungkook so, so much, and couldn’t bear to see him hurting, couldn’t bear to be the one making him hurt. he told him that, said: let me go. but jungkook held on tighter, and yoongi shoved at him, hoping he’d give up. jungkook didn’t.

he told yoongi he loved him and then he punched him in the face, and yoongi only deserved one of those gestures.

 

/

 

although yoongi was always looking for his cigarettes, he hasn’t smoked in weeks. he could lie to himself and pretend there’s another reason for it, but the truth of it is that jungkook hated the smell and it didn’t feel right going to the hospital with cigarette stench clinging to his clothes. doesn’t matter anymore, does it, yoongi thinks, and his chest feels hollow but it’s the truth. he reaches for the pack on top of the piano, brings a cigarette to his lips, but can’t find his lighter.

around that time, a knock on his door. yoongi almost doesn’t open it, because while yeon rarely knocks, she’s the only one who comes here, so it’s got to be either her or a door-to-door salesman, and yoongi isn’t in the mood for either. whoever’s knocking won’t stop, however, so yoongi gives up looking for his lighter and irritably stomps to the door, the cigarette still dangling from his lips.

it’s not yeon. or a salesman. the cigarette almost drops, but fingers reach out, save it from between his lips.

it’s been months. it’s been - a lifetime.

jungkook stares at the cigarette between his index and thumb. like he doesn’t know why he reached out for it. like it was some kind of muscle memory. like this has happened before.

then he looks up at yoongi, and just for a second yoongi thinks: maybe. thinks: please. but he can tell almost instantly from the look in his eyes that he doesn’t remember.

“you,” jungkook says, quiet and soft, and just like the voice that won’t stop haunting yoongi, “you were at the hospital.”

 

/

 

the floor is still strewn with sheet music. the scarce furniture is out of place. there’s a collection of empty bottles under the table, all too telling. it’s a mess. it was a mess the last time jungkook was here, too. taped-over windows and dusty floors, rubbish no one had cleaned up yet.

jungkook walks across the room, steps so careful like he’s expecting the floor to give in. his gaze slides over every corner, and yoongi’s is only on him. just like when they first met and ever since then, yoongi can’t take his eyes away. he stands still while jungkook moves carefully around the room. not knowing what to do with his hands. not knowing what to do with his heart, which feels like it’s running.

maybe he should be thinking this is a different person, isn’t the boy he shared countless of motel rooms with, who knew him more intimately than anyone, who’s the reason he plays the piano. but the thing is: jungkook is jungkook is yoongi’s place he’s attached to, and yoongi can’t think otherwise.

yoongi looks at him and sees the boy who used to trace his freckles and call them stars, who first kissed him in the ruins shyly and clumsily and sincerely. and it aches in a way yoongi’s never felt before.

“i’ve been here before,” jungkook says, a little bit unsure, but still more a statement than a question.

yoongi closes his eyes momentarily. when he opens them, jungkook is looking back at him.

“yes,” he whispers.

jungkook bites at his lip, looks at yoongi, desperately searching. that’s how he’s been looking at yoongi since he came. like he doesn’t quite know him, and... it breaks his heart even more than he imagined.

“i’ve been here before with you,” he presses, like he knows he’s touching on something.

yoongi’s breath shakes. his heart against his ribs is relentless.

“yes,” he says, and his voice breaks a little bit.

the memories are flowing through his mind ceaselessly now, like a dam has been broken, and yoongi wishes it would stop, because the way jungkook looks at him now is different but not different enough for him not to feel a persistent, torturous spark of hope.

jungkook slips his hand into the pocket of his jeans. when he pulls it out, he’s holding a lighter. hesitantly, he stretches his arm toward yoongi.

“this is yours,” he says, “isn’t it? there was a note with an address. this address.”

yoongi thinks: yeon. she’s the only one who had access to it, who had his address.

“keep it,” yoongi finds himself saying, and doesn’t know if there’s any sense to that call. but jungkook pulls his hand back, the lighter cradled in his palm, and looks down at it like it’s not just a lighter.

yoongi wonders... wonders. if jungkook has some kind of a memory - an out-of-place image, the remnants of a smell, maybe - of him blowing out the flame like he used to do when yoongi got restless. he doesn’t know, jungkook doesn’t say. when jungkook next lifts his eyes, they land on the piano.

yoongi watches him walk to it slowly, and ever so carefully caress the wood with his fingertips. he turns to yoongi, his eyes with stars in them, and he looks so, so sad.

“please,” he says, “play for me. please.”

jungkook sits down next to him on the stool, and it’s - god. both different and same at once. same, same, same.

yoongi takes a shaky breath, and then he plays. the melody that isn’t just his but the boy’s sitting next to him. the melody that’s more like a memory. a third hand hovers over the keys. then the fingers press down, and jungkook adds a part, his part, just a bit of it, a bar, but it’s enough to make yoongi’s breath catch in his throat. the hand retreats silently after that bar, and somehow yoongi keeps playing.

he - well. he plays for as long as he can. until his vision blurs so badly he can’t see the keys. that’s when he stops playing, hands lifting off the piano so he can bury his face in them. he slouches forward, elbows on his thighs, and cries. he’s cried before. but never like this.

there’s a hand on his shoulder, somehow careful and firm at the same time.

“i’m sorry,” jungkook’s saying, “i’m sorry, i’m sorry -“

fingers curl in the fabric of yoongi’s shirt. yoongi still has his face in his hands, but he shakes his head, violent, jerky movements.

“don’t be,” he says, voice ugly and thick, “you have nothing to be sorry for.”

he hears jungkook inhale.

“i know this melody,” he says, “i know it, and i know this place, and i... i know you. i know that i know you. i kept drawing a face at the hospital. it was yours.”

yoongi tries his best to pull himself together, to wipe at his face with his palms but it’s useless. he just gets his entire face wet, his hands wet.

he turns to jungkook, still so close on the stool, and sees his eyes are full of tears, too, that haven’t fallen yet but that he isn’t trying to blink away.

“why does it feel so...” jungkook doesn’t finish. his hand on his own chest makes a fist in his shirt. “why does it feel like this?”

a laugh escapes yoongi’s throat, a hoarse, raw sound that’s actually barely a laugh because he’s still crying, not because anything’s funny, but because:

“even when you don’t know me, i still make you cry.”

when jungkook blinks, the tears fall. when the tears fall, they don’t stop falling. yoongi can see an almost-recognition, so painfully close to it but not quite, behind his eyes.

“i loved you,” jungkook says in between sobs, and he’s asking: didn’t i? didn’t i?

the past tense feels like a knife twisting in his heart. yoongi closes his eyes once more, his head falling forward.

this is how it goes. this is just... how it goes.

you did, yoongi thinks, didn’t you? i both wanted you to and wanted you not to, couldn’t decide most of the time, but none of that mattered in the end, because you did, anyway. he doesn’t answer, doesn’t need to. jungkook is crying, quiet, heartwrenching sobs.

eventually. when he can lift his face and look into jungkook’s red-rimmed eyes, tear-tracked face. even now, he’s beautiful.

“i loved you, too,” he says, but it’s not true. he did a lot of things, but he never lied to jungkook. so he corrects: “i love you, still.”

 

/

 

jungkook doesn’t even remember his name, but he says:

“i loved you. i will love you again.”

and yoongi makes the same fucking mistake all over again. he doesn’t tell him to stay away.

“i hurt you,” he says, but it’s not the same thing. it’s a weak, watered down version that means he’s really hoping for jungkook to say it doesn’t matter. is hoping he’ll stay.

“then, this time,” jungkook says, eyelashes cast down, and touches the back of yoongi’s hand. fingers on the veins like rivers. different but same. yoongi aches, aches. “don’t do it.”

“i made you unhappy,” yoongi says closed-eyed, and when jungkook’s fingers are on him it’s the only thing he can focus on.

“you also made me happy,” jungkook says, and yoongi opens his eyes at that, because jungkook doesn’t remember, how could he know - “i know it. because this. right now. is the happiest i’ve been since i woke up. i can’t explain it. don’t really know why. it’s just... the feeling of you.”

“how does it feel,” yoongi whispers. jungkook licks his lips.

“like home,” he says.

 

/

 

jungkook stays. he stays because he wants to and because yoongi can’t make himself push him away. because he still hasn’t, after all this time, learned how not to be selfish. he had his chance to walk away, he tried to walk away, but jungkook, like always, stubbornly, relentlessly, held on, and now - now.

jungkook goes for half a day, and comes back with a rucksack full of clothes. they sleep in yoongi’s rickety queen bed and it’s different but same. yoongi presses himself as close to the wall as possible to avoid touching. different. he ends up not being able to sleep and just watching jungkook a lot of the time not quite believing he’s here... different and same. they sort of gravitate towards each other anyway and wake up with their limbs tangled. same.

jungkook knows his name, but he can’t be sure if he remembered it on his own, or if he saw it on the bills scattered on the kitchen table.

at one point, it sort of felt like they might never see each other again; all of them. but then they do, and yoongi wonders if it’s somehow because of jungkook. they don’t plan it, it just happens, like they all just thought of the ruins at the exact same time. he walks along the train tracks with jungkook and jungkook holds his hand so gently it’s almost painful, palm against palm. he likes holding yoongi’s hand; spends minutes sometimes just studying it, turning it between his own, tracing the veins and the lines on his palm with his fingers, and yoongi lets him do whatever he wants. he’s not sure if it’s helping him remember something. maybe. maybe not.

jungkook has glimpses. places, mostly. he remembers the ruins of a factory and the sea.

“you always did get attached to places,” yoongi says. the way jungkook looks at him still says: i know you. i know that i know you. he looks like he’s trying so hard, and yoongi wants to tell him it’s okay even though he’s not sure how okay it actually is.

and maybe he’d never remember completely. he’s taking the pieces of memories he has and combining them with his observations and stories he hears to make complete pictures. more complete. maybe that, in the end, would be as good as remembering. maybe.

the bonfire has already been made. they see the glow from the ruins in the darkening evening. jungkook holds onto his hand a little bit tighter, and yoongi lets him.

it’s almost like everyone was waiting for them to come and complete the circle; maybe they were. stranger things have happened, yoongi supposes. a lot stranger.

it’s different than before. how could it not be. they are different people, slightly older and more scarred. some of them physically. for some of them, possibly all of them, yoongi doesn’t doubt - it goes deeper than that. these are people who have witnessed each other at their worst, and yoongi is not sure where to go from here. not yet.

jungkook lets go of his hand as they sit down - the ratty couch that used to be here is gone, the place looks a little bit different all around, so they just sit wherever, the ground, pieces of concrete - but he stays huddled close, like yoongi is something safe.

yoongi is starting to think that not only are they not talking about the events of that night, they are very intentionally avoiding talking about it. maybe none of them can make sense of it any more than yoongi can. maybe everyone is sort of scared deep down of what exactly they might uncover if they think about that night too closely. and somehow it feels okay, like this. right now, they need time to settle, to know themselves and each other again. to forgive themselves and each other. and move on. together, if possible.

they talk about other things. namjoon quit his job at the gas station. jimin and hoseok live together above a dance studio. taehyung got arrested for graffiti again. seokjin says: nothing really happened to me. they exchange looks, and yoongi can tell everyone’s thinking it’s a lie, but no one says anything. seokjin’s forgiven his outburst at the hospital. not that he was ever mad about it in the first place.

“nothing really happened to me either,” yoongi shrugs when it’s his turn, and it’s more or less true, because the only thing that’s been happening to him is sitting next to him. well, he could say he’s been drinking too much, but he thinks it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t share that detail with them. jungkook’s eyes linger on each their faces, and yoongi pretends he doesn’t notice the way they stay on his profile longer than the rest of them.

someone brought beer. enough for all of them, which doesn’t surprise yoongi either. he goes to help namjoon with the cooler bag.

“he never forgot you,” namjoon says while handing him bottles, low enough for only yoongi to hear, “not completely. after everyone had been to see him, he asked me, ‘isn’t there someone else?’”

yoongi swallows. sees jungkook in his peripheral around the fire, listening to hoseok talk about something.

“but he doesn’t remember, either,” he says. “he knows that i’m someone who was with him, but he doesn’t know who that person is.”

what he thinks but doesn’t say:  what if he doesn’t fall in love with me this time.

“but even then,” namjoon says, “he found his way back to you.”

when yoongi looks up at him, he’s smiling, all dimples and shadows in the glow of the fire, sort of haunting.

“did you find taehyung?” yoongi asks before they rejoin the others, and it might sound like a stupid question outwardly because taehyung is sitting right there, poking at the fire with a twig and making sparks, but namjoon knows what he means.

namjoon steals a quick glance towards the fire.

“maybe,” he says, his smile small and hesitant but hopeful, “i’m... still finding my way.”

his scars match taehyung’s and somehow yoongi is convinced they’ll find each other again. it seems unavoidable.

jungkook was underage the first time they did this and now he’s not, and it never mattered anyway.

“you threw up by the train tracks,” jimin tells him in a reminiscence of that first time, his eyes glinting, “and after that, yoongi wouldn’t let you drink for a long time.”

“i don’t remember that, so it never happened,” jungkook flushes, tucks himself into yoongi’s side, and there’s something inherently unfunny about that sentence, but right now, they all laugh anyway. jungkook has grown into his grin, mostly, though the prominent front teeth will always be there. yoongi feels an ache in his heart that might be fondness, that might be, and is, a lot of things.

they kissed for the first time here, on a night not that different from this one except in every way. yoongi wonders if that’s the memory jungkook’s currently chasing; the way his gaze is sliding over their surroundings, lips parted slightly and eyes wide like he’s seeing something more than teared-down walls, is telling yoongi it’s something.

his hand finds yoongi’s again, holds it loosely, thumb trailing up and down the length of yoongi’s absentmindedly like he doesn’t even notice he’s doing it. on a whim, yoongi tightens his fingers around jungkook’s, brings his hand to his lips, presses a soft, fleeting kiss to the back of it. jungkook, slouching slightly against his shoulder, goes still for a moment; then he squeezes yoongi’s hand lightly and leans into him.

the fire is dying. taehyung stopped feeding it twigs and is now just staring at the embers. the chatter has died, too.

“shall we go?” seokjin asks, and none of them ask, where.

 

/

 

sometimes jungkook recites an event. then he asks:

“memory or dream?”

sometimes yoongi says, “dream.” because he doesn’t remember them ever having been in a blacked-out building during a thunderstorm while a painting burned.

sometimes he leans his cheek on his knee, looks at jungkook sideways, says, “memory.” and jungkook’s face brightens momentarily because he remembered something like spray paint stains on their hands and clothes or a candlelit motel room.

sometimes - sometimes yoongi isn’t entirely sure himself.

“all of us, in the back of a pick-up truck at the seashore?”

“memory.”

“a music store on fire?”

“dream.”

“a mirror shattering... us fighting.”

yoongi’s hands in the sheets curl, uncurl.

“memory,” he admits. rolls over to his side. jungkook is lying very still and looking at him. his eyes are a mystery after mystery.

“you left me,” jungkook says, and it’s not a question.

no almost rolls its way out of yoongi’s mouth, but it never makes a sound.

“i didn’t want to,” he says, because it’s the truth. jungkook turns his face into the pillow, half-hidden. yoongi wants to touch him so badly, card his fingers through his hair, brush the backs of his fingers down his cheek, but isn’t sure he has the right to.

“why didn’t you come to see me at the hospital,” jungkook asks, even smaller than before. yoongi’s heart clenches. “the others said there was someone else. but you never came.”

and yoongi doesn’t know how to explain that he thought it was for the best; that the way jungkook looks at him like he doesn’t know him kills him; that he was trying to give jungkook some sort of a chance to begin again without everything that followed the seashore.

“i never stopped loving you,” is what he ends up saying, and that’s... it, isn’t it. why he ultimately does anything.

jungkook’s eyes, endless stars, searching.

 

/

 

it’s dark by the time they get to the sea, but there’s the moon and the stars and the large body of water which reflects their light, so in the end, it’s not that dark at all. they pour out of seokjin’s car in a little more controlled manner than a year ago, but just a little. namjoon almost trips over his own feet but seokjin is there before it even happens, hand on his elbow.

the pier is still there, the ancient scaffolding. an image flashes through yoongi’s brain, someone climbing it all the way up, but he’s not sure if it’s a memory or... something else, and it’s gone as soon as it came, like some kind of a glitch.

jungkook’s fingers brush against his.

“ah,” jungkook says, “last time, it was sunny... right?”

yoongi offers a small smile.

“last time it was afternoon,” he confirms.

it doesn’t seem like jungkook remembers much beyond that. he hums, and yoongi focuses on his fingers between his own, the salty breeze on his face, the background noise compiled from the waves rolling to shore and his friends’ chatter, occasional laughter, feet on sand.

the dark sea glimmers on and on with the light of the stars, and yoongi has the sudden urge to compare jungkook’s eyes to it. he huffs out a laugh, and jungkook turns to him, asks, “what?”

yoongi just shakes his head. it’s the kind of cheesy poetry jungkook makes him write in his head a lot, that he rarely says out loud.

yoongi can’t tell if everything’s alright, if coming back here has fixed something; it probably hasn’t, entirely, not yet, but... it feels like the start of something. it feels like something good.

“this one,” seokjin says quietly, “maybe this one didn’t turn out so bad, after all.”

he’s looking out at the stretch of sand, at jimin dancing at the edge of the water, hoseok already up to his knees in it. namjoon and taehyung further up the shore, standing close and cradling something between their bodies, and yoongi was just wondering how they managed to catch crabs at this time of the night.

he takes in seokjin’s profile; he still gives yoongi a slightly weird, unsettling feeling, though it’s gradually easing. yoongi still can’t quite put his finger on it. he wonders again what happened to him during this time. decides seokjin will tell them, if and when the time comes.

“what do you mean,” he asks, and seokjin turns to him, smiles.

“i mean that maybe we can be happy.”

 

/

 

“i kissed you in the ruins. there was smoke... from the bonfire, not cigarettes.”

“memory.”

“i kissed you here, on this bed.”

“...dream.”

“no, it’s not.”

yoongi inhales sharply as jungkook drops onto his knees in front of him, facing him on the bed where he’s sitting cross-legged.

“jungkook,” he says, like a warning, maybe. maybe something else.

“hyung,” jungkook says, and his fingers find their way to yoongi’s knees, settle there tentatively. he licks his lips, and yoongi follows the movement involuntarily, despite himself. “i remember... kissing before. i remember... things. i... want to, hyung, will you let me?”

there’s a light flush on jungkook’s face. he’s looking at yoongi intently, still searching. yoongi secures a hand against his chest; not really pushing him away. jesus. he only knows how to push jungkook away when it leads to broken bones.

“i’m giving you an out, here,” yoongi says, can hear the desperation bleeding into his voice, “you don’t have to, just because we used to. i hurt you. if you leave, this time around, i won’t blame you.”

when jungkook groans, it sounds so, so familiar yoongi almost laughs, almost cries.

“i don’t want an out, hyung,” jungkook says, and his grip on yoongi’s knees gets surer. “i just want to remember.”

something about the way he says it: this is more and more and more the jungkook he knew. it always was, but... this is so completely heartwrenchingly close.

jungkook is leaning closer. yoongi’s hand on his chest is completely useless because he’s letting him.

“this won’t...” yoongi starts when jungkook is worryingly close. “you won’t just remember, automatically. this won’t fix anything.”

“do you really think that’s the only reason i want to kiss you?” jungkook bites at his lip, hard, looks like he’s in some sort of pain. they both are. jungkook covers yoongi’s hand with his own, slides both of them down his chest, until they rest over his heart. quietly, “feel my heartbeat, hyung.”

“it’s fast,” yoongi mumbles. what he thinks: alive. what he thinks: jungkook.

“it remembers,” jungkook says, and when yoongi looks up, jungkook’s eyes are wet, so bright, “it never forgot. yoongi -“

yoongi slides his hands up jungkook’s shoulders, his neck, to either side of his face, and kisses him.

jungkook breathes shakily, disjointedly against his lips, and somehow the thought filling yoongi’s head is: his scent. pine soap. a hint of yoongi’s cologne. how is it still the same. how is it still the same.

he stays still for a while. breathes. cradles his face, holds him like he always did: like he’s something fragile, even though he always was anything but. jungkook’s fingers dig into his flesh above his knees; he makes a noise, a whimper, and yoongi moves, carefully pries his lips apart with his own. kisses him slowly and tenderly like this is the first time, which it both is and isn’t. slow and careful as it is, it’s packed with so much tension, and yoongi feels like he might burst into flames any second now. he might be trembling. or it might be jungkook. or both of them.

jungkook shifts closer on the bed, and yoongi uncrosses his legs to make room for jungkook between them, lets jungkook press himself against him, fingers on yoongi’s shoulders, curling tightly in his shirt. yoongi pulls away for a while, doesn’t go far, couldn’t, his lips still grazing jungkook’s, hands still on his face, his jaw. when he kisses him the second time, it’s the way he still remembers jungkook likes to be kissed: slow, dragging, thorough. he licks into his mouth intently, meticulously, relearns the edges of it, the texture of his tongue. jungkook moans softly into the kiss. yoongi’s thumbs smooth over his wet cheekbones. yoongi might be crying, too. he isn’t sure.

several thoughts cross his mind. first: jungkook still tastes like something sweet. second: this feels like coming home. mostly: jungkook. jungkook. jungkook. 

 

/

 

yoongi won’t sleep with him - doesn’t feel comfortable doing it when jungkook still doesn’t remember, exactly, even though jungkook’s hands wander, even though he tells yoongi, we can, hyung, if you want to, i feel safe with you; and yoongi tells him, i always want you, means, but it would feel like taking something that isn’t mine - but he sleeps with him, not trying to melt into the wall but holding him close, chest to chest, jungkook’s breath on his neck.

“i love you,” yoongi tells him, failing to hold it back this time. jungkook raises his head, looks at him, eyes big and bottomless. he parts his lips, begins to take a breath, but yoongi shakes his head. “don’t say it back.” his throat feels tight. he swallows, smiles a little bit. “not when you don’t remember me. i just wanted you to know.”

jungkook blinks slowly. yoongi’s fingers play with his hair tenderly.

“i’m trying to remember,” he whispers, fingers pressing against yoongi’s ribs a little bit harder. yoongi cups the back of his head, gently pulls him closer, touches his lips to his hairline.

“it’s okay,” he says.

and it probably is.

 

/

 

jungkook is taking the pieces of memories he has, combining them with his observations and stories he hears to make more complete pictures, and maybe that would be enough.

maybe.

 

/

 

yeon stops coming now that jungkook’s here, and yoongi is not sure what that means. it could mean he finally made her happy. it could mean he’s finally making himself happy. an intrusive voice in yoongi’s head says: it could mean she was never real in the first place. it’s a weird thought, one that yoongi should be silencing with of course she was real, here’s the evidence, but the fucked up part is that it’s not entirely implausible and he has, ultimately, no evidence. no phone number, no pictures. (there’s more. like the fact that the number of empty bottles never got any smaller even though she kept taking them away in plastic bags.)

there was the deal with the lighter, how it ended up at the hospital along with his address, but when yoongi really thinks about it, it could be possible that seokjin took it out of his pocket when yoongi shoved him against the wall. he remembers feeling his pockets and finding nothing but the lollipop. it might be far-fetched - but then again, with the strange vibe seokjin gives off, like he knows more than the rest of them, yoongi wouldn’t even be surprised.

he should maybe be bothered by this. by his brain potentially making up an entire person. he is not.

jungkook stays, they sleep in yoongi’s bed, they play the piano. they make food in the tiny kitchen, jungkook tells him there’s this soybean paste stew recipe his mom taught him -

“i know,” yoongi says.

“ah,” jungkook says, the faintest pink on his cheeks, and yoongi smiles, hopes it doesn’t look too sad. places a hand on his nape, a simple, reassuring touch, thumb rubbing slow circles.

they kiss, sometimes, against the kitchen counter or on the bed, and yoongi is always the first one to pull away. it’s not... what they used to have. but jungkook stayed, and yoongi is in no position to ask for more. having jungkook close again like this is more than yoongi deserves. it’s good enough.

 

/

 

yoongi plays; it’s still the same melody, the one jungkook remembers too, but he’s thinking he could write something new. they could.

rain beats the windows. it’s the end of summer, he supposes. around this time last year, he got the text from hoseok.

he feels jungkook at his side and shifts on the stool to make room for him. jungkook sits down but doesn’t play, just watches yoongi. yoongi plays until he feels a kiss on his shoulder, his bare skin where the stretched-out shirt is slipping down. something so familiarly sweet about the gesture. jungkook’s lips linger, and it’s into yoongi’s skin that he says,

“what if we lived here.”

yoongi’s fingers gently lift off the keys, and he turns to jungkook, who lifts his face, meets his eyes. a breath falls from yoongi’s lips. he’s not sure what changed. but something did. it’s been months. a lifetime. as if the words have been waiting ready in his mouth all this time, he replies,

“with you, anywhere.”

last time, he said it in a steady, even tone, but his voice can only carry a whisper right now. jungkook breathes in shakily.

“do you know why i said that, back then?” his fingers catch in yoongi’s shirt hem as if unconsciously. “not because i wanted a home. you were already my home.  this place... i wanted to wake up with you every morning and stay in bed just because we didn’t have to hurry to check out of a motel. i wanted to cook with you in our kitchen and i wanted you to make me pancakes because you said you were good at that. i wanted us to get a dog, maybe. or a cat, you can choose. i wanted to live with you.”

yoongi doesn’t have a chance to reply, because jungkook is already tipping forward, his lips finding yoongi’s. he might be crying again.

“yoongi,” he says, and he doesn’t say it like it’s just a name he saw on a bill, but like it has a history, like it means something, like it means everything. yoongi’s heart grows; beats, erratic, soars.

this time, it’s not painstakingly careful. it’s the cacophony of piano sounds as jungkook falls backwards into it, pulls yoongi with him, hands on every inch of his back under his shirt in an attempt to get close, closer. there’s a discorded sound every time yoongi moves against him, but even that sounds like the most beautiful music with jungkook’s small gasps and moans accompanying it.

bed, yoongi thinks he mumbles somewhere into jungkook’s skin at some point, if only as a reminder that they have a bed. but jungkook has no intention of moving anywhere, nor has he any intention of letting yoongi move anywhere from where he is flush against his chest, between his legs, and that’s totally, completely okay.

it’s hasty, impatient, the fact that they refuse to let go of each other making it hard, the fact that jungkook’s mostly sitting on top of the slippery keys making it hard, but it’s still better than perfect when yoongi takes him into his hand and jungkook clings to him, his voice in yoongi’s ear more beautiful than any song he’s ever written.

yoongi brings their mouths together, kisses him desperately, swallows the sounds that fall out of his mouth, and it’s all the months he missed, yearned, it’s every time he drew the sorrowful melody out of the piano, every minute he spent on the other side of the wall at the hospital.

when jungkook comes, it’s with his thighs trembling and his fingers digging into yoongi’s shoulder blades hard enough to bruise, and yoongi’s name falling from his lips like that could be the only thing yoongi hears for the rest of his life and he would be content.

 

/

 

later that night, when they’ve actually made it to the bed, they take their time. yoongi takes his time taking jungkook apart, the way he still, always, remembers how to best do that. jungkook shivers, writhes underneath him, and yoongi marvels, marvels at how beautiful, how ethereal he is all over again. he drags his lips down the inside of his thigh, not satisfied until he’s kissed every inch of his sweat-coated skin. curves his fingers inside him just so, and jungkook cries out, arches into his touch.

“yoongi,” jungkook breathes, hands reaching for him, and yoongi gladly lets himself be pulled down, kisses the sweetness of his mouth, his mind hazy, void of anything that isn’t jungkook.

when he’s finally buried inside jungkook, it feels like he might come apart right then; it’s been so long, and though yoongi never forgot, it’s overwhelming. the way jungkook’s heart is hammering against his and the gasps, the sounds he makes are telling yoongi he’s not the only one. but jungkook’s hands on the planes of his back are grounding, and yoongi breathes in the scent of pine soap, sweat, his cologne, jungkook. yoongi rocks into him slowly, stays deep within him, and jungkook moves with him, arms wrapped around him to keep him close, skin to skin. it’s perfect, it’s all there is.

some time later - hours or more hours, it could already be the next day, yoongi has no idea - they’re wrapped up in the sheets, tired and spent, but yoongi feels so - full, feels... happy. feels, honest to god, so in love he thinks he might burst.

“missed you,” jungkook whispers into his neck, while yoongi’s fingertips are feather-like on his shoulder, drawing abstract patterns.

“you didn’t remember to miss me,” yoongi says with a breathless laugh.

“i always remember to miss you,” jungkook says, nosing at his collarbone. yoongi closes his eyes, thinks: god. thinks: this time around. i’d do anything to have this with you, this time around.

how they finally got here. a little bit late and through a hundred obstacles and not how they intended. but they got here, and now - home, yoongi thinks. now it’s a home. now it’s all of them, moving forward. together... together.

trying to get it right, this time.

now: jungkook tells him he loves him, and it’s in present tense.