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Scowl at the Moon

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It's hot. Searing hot, oven hot, drier and more dominating than any kind of summer Jungkook has ever been in. He checks the back of his arm to make sure he hadn't accidentally branded himself on the fire poker of a seatbelt buckle. He lets his head fall back against the headrest of the musty old Bronco, lulled by the bouncing of the rough highway and the blaring sunlight painting his eyelids red.

It's been three weeks since he was attacked. Three weeks since he woke up in the bloody ruins of a frat party, mangled bodies contorted around him, the stench of blood sickening. He'd run out of the house in the hushed dawn air, delirious and terrified. A tiny kernel of himself knew he wasn't acting right, stumbling and sprinting through the woods behind campus like a maniac but he had blamed it on panic and hysteria.

Maybe it had been hours later, maybe less. A particularly large tree root caught his foot and yanked him to the ground, and this time he stayed down. He lay there as the day heated up around him, staring at the blue sky with the dread, the knowing that it'd be the last time he ever saw it.

He was wrong, in a way, waking up hours later to two strange and concerned faces hovering above him. In another way, he was right. The Jungkook he was, lighthearted and playful died there on the floor of the forest. He might never be the same. How could he be?

The next couple days had been horrendous, probably, if he could remember more than vague flashes and the feverish itch. He'd had chicken pox in high school, old enough to know not to scratch and actually be able to hold himself back. The angry, incessant itch in his veins now was a hundred times worse, he could scratch all he wanted but nothing stopped it. Sleep only barely numbed it, bringing only dreams of the painful, restless sting and no rest.

There was a vague memory of a shredded mattress, bloodied fingernails, the satisfying crunch of a lamp thrown against the wall. A wail of pain or rage that seemed to be his. Other strangers trying to hold him down, long black hair that swept across his face like silk or seaweed, skinny wrists pinning his shoulders to the floor.

One morning, he woke up. Body and mind were at peace, comparatively. It was if he had visited hell, or hell had visited him, to be more accurate. His body was tired, so god damn tired, but also, …something else. Some kind of humming strength, like a little bit of hell had decided to stay and take up residence in his blood and muscles.

He stared at the blank wall, a pale blue marred with a long crack across the top corner. It wasn't a wall he knew. He didn't care. Tired, several layers down. He wasn't okay and it didn't matter. Nothing would be right anymore and he was too tired to care.

A stranger came into his room an hour later, a different stranger from the two faces in the woods, announcing that he had to leave now. He didn't even question it. Just allowed himself to be shuffled to his feet, fed leftover meatloaf and toast for breakfast with the strongest instant coffee he'd ever tasted.

When the woman fiddled with the ends of her long, black hair and explained that turned humans couldn't stay with her pack, especially a man, especially an alpha, he'd just nodded like it was reasonable. The most logical, understandable thing he'd ever heard.

She'd bit her lip and apologized. He'd apologized back, not knowing what the hell for.

A block and a half is as far as he got, shrugging against the too-small borrowed clothes and kicking at pebbles before the two faces from the woods reappeared.

“Hey!” a voice called from the window of a mud brown Bronco that had seen better days two decades ago.

Parked under a giant oak tree on a quiet street, it'd taken them two hours to convince him of what had happened in the last week of his life. His heart had sank when they first said it, “werewolves”.

Because he knew. He had no definitions, but deep down, he'd known it was something that bizarre, something that not right from the minute he woke up in a puddle of shredded bodies that morning.

Yuta, the one driving, had been the one to say it first. Jaehyun, the other, had been the one to repeat it, cautiously, at the utterly blank look on Jungkook's face.

He had no reaction to give. They explained slowly for nearly an hour, werewolves had attacked, a rogue pack, same ones that had bitten Jaehyun months before. They weren't supposed to. They probably hadn't meant to but, turning humans was strictly against the rules. Because monsters have rules, apparently.

“But, I don't feel any different,” was the only feeble argument he could come up with, and not even entirely true. He did feel different. The world was sharper, his body humming like an engine.
Jaehyun had given him a sympathetic smile. “I didn't either, not really, until after I...I shifted,” he explained delicately.

The world outside the big Bronco is bright and cheery, summer in full swing. Shrieks of children at a nearby playground mingled with robins chirping in the trees. Jungkook felt ill. It's too much. Like he's been told he has some terminal illness that doctors don't believe in.

“Listen, I know this sounds insane, and you don't even know us, but, I think you should come with us. There's a pack out in Utah-”

“In Utah?!” he yelped.

“In Utah,” Yuta continued calmly. “They're sort of um, different. They could help us. Help you.”

“Can't I just...keep going to school?” he asked pitifully. “I have stuff going on, I have a whole fucking life I've been living, you know? I have an internship to apply for, classes start in a month, I haven't even unpacked my boxes at my dorm yet, I-!”

They let his rant run out of steam, infuriating with their understanding smiles and nods.

“I'm sorry,” Yuta said, and scratched at his ear as if he knew his next words were horribly unfair. “It's just... if you don't face what you are now... if you don't learn how to control it, you could become like the ones who did this to you. Probably. You're not... turned humans aren't- wolves are always in packs,” he explained. “They always have that support, that upbringing, at least.”

It's crazy, but he stayed. Didn't say a word more beyond, “can we get my stuff?”

“Yeah. Yeah, you can keep it at my place,” Yuta frowned. “It's not forever, you know? You can come back,” he added gently.

Jungkook nodded like he knew, but he didn't. Life stretched before him as a big blank, full of unknowns ready to leap up and rip his throat out.

 

“This is it?” Jaehyun says, incredulous in the front seat.

“Yup, this is it,” Yuta answers, pulling the Bronco neatly in line next to a rusted out white pickup truck. Not that it matters. The area they'd pulled up to was a few shabby houses scattered throughout a big open clearing, mostly reddish dust with patches of dry grass.

It's hot, the kind of oven blast that could bake the soul out of your bones, releasing you to fly free in the endless blue sky above. Jungkook squirms, wanting to take his shirt off but it didn't seem like the best first impression. And he wanted to make the best first impression. Always, but especially this time.

Hearing their truck pull up a half mile away in the open silence, someone stands up from the porch of one of the houses. Shirtless, skinny and strong, the guy saunters towards them. Brown tan and dirty blond hair, a friendly face and glint in his eye.

“Hey, I'm Hoseok,” he says, and Jungkook gets the feeling he's being sized up, as if he's a menace, one of those twitchy jocks itching to punch someone. He ducks his head and shuffles behind Jaehyun a little.

“I'm Yuta, we talked on the phone? This is Jaehyun, and this is Jungkook, he's the one we found, the-”

“Alpha. Yeah.”

A few others peaked their heads through doorways or peered through shadowy windows as they talked with Hoseok. All eyes are locked on him, Jungkook realizes, and hunches his shoulders smaller.

A gasp chokes on his throat when his eyes catch on a massive, tawny wolf sitting in the shade of a skinny pine tree, ice white eyes locked onto him.

It is the first time he's seen what turned him into the monster he supposedly is. This is what caused that massive pile of blood and ripped flesh he woke up in in that frat house, an unclear memory still.

He wants to look away so bad, but gazes connected, the sturdiest sense of calm falls onto to the panic and nauseous fear like two tons of cement smothering a fire.

With loathing or disinterest, the wolf growls a little and saunters away.

“He doesn't act like an alpha,” a new voice says, pulling Jungkook's gaze away from the empty dust where the wolf had disappeared around a boulder.

Hoseok chuckles a little. “Yeah well, that's why he's here, isn't it? Make sure he doesn't act like one.”

The guy looks thoroughly unconvinced.

“It's not his fault, Tae,” another guy says gently. “He didn't choose this.”

Tae snorts, but his face softens into a frown. “Never stopped any other alpha from taking advantage of it,” he mutters.

“I'm not, I don't-” Jungkook blushes under sun-flushed cheeks. “I appreciate you letting me come here,” he says quietly, willing himself to look all of them in the eye.

Thanks to many hours of explanation from Yuta on their road trip, he knew it was a big deal that they were letting him, an alpha, come to their pack. The first one they ever allowed. He knew in theory what an alpha is, the way that he knows that Neptune is a gas planet and JFK was a president. But it means nothing to him, feels nothing to him besides a weird fact come to life in his body.

“I know it's a big deal, I really do appreciate it,” he reiterates. Tae rolls his eyes a little, but Hoseok and the other one at least attempt a warm smile.

It was weird, no one seemed like wolves, besides that one literal wolf who had been sitting under the tree. Then again, he didn't feel like a wolf himself, so. There was just the fiery tightness in his veins, like he was suffering from heartburn in his entire body. Hell, maybe it was just a bad case of heartburn and all these people were crazy.

“Jin here will show you two to where you're gonna stay, show you what kind of work you can do around here, or jobs in town, if you want.”

Hoseok claps a hand to Jungkook's shoulder. “And you are gonna stay with me tonight, and I'll take you over to Joonie bright and early tomorrow.”

A little bit more panic rises up in his chest. He has no idea what's going to happen with him, only an inkling of what has happened to him. “Joonie?” he asks.

“Yeah. Sorry in advance,” Hoseok chuckles.

Jungkook tries to laugh with him, but he catches Yuta's eye, a big unspoken plea. Yuta just smiles at him, probably meant to be encouraging but it just looks like an apology. Jaehyun pulls him in for a big hug, annoyingly tight and swings him back and forth until Jungkook finally laughs.

“You'll be fine,” he says with a soft punch to Jungkook's shoulder.

 

 

In the morning, he woke abruptly to the gentle sounds of Hoseok clanging pans and glasses in his tiny kitchen, clearly trying not to make noise and failing. After the discomfort of not knowing the room he woke in passes, he stretches and pads into the kitchen.

"Sorry, did I wake you up? I'm making eggs and bacon, and there's cereal if you want." Hoseok cracks a few eggs on the counter and empties them into a bowl.

In truth, Jungkook is more queasy than hungry, a rare state for him. It wasn't like him to be afraid of any one person, but the way Hoseok spoke of Namjoon last night had him feeling like he was sitting down for breakfast before marching into the gates of hell.

Still, he doesn't want to make Hoseok feel bad, so he scarfs down the eggs and bacon and drinks more coffee than he normally would.

"Honestly, I don't know what kind of....training or whatever Joon has planned for you. But, it's sure to be some kinda rugged survival bullshit." Hoseok gulps down the rest of his orange juice. "I mean, don't get me wrong, it is important, for us in general and especially if you're gonna be living out here, but Namjoon tends to take his outdoorsman shit pretty seriously. Which is pretty amazing, if you knew the clumsy book nerd Joon of days past," Hoseok chuckles and takes their plates, waving away Jungkook's offers to help clean.

He showers and dresses and sits on Hoseok's couch, tv on mute. Remote in hand, he stares out the window, a square of blinding sunlight, and listens to Hoseok singing along to the radio in the shower.
The longer he sits, the more nervous he becomes. It's like the anticipation that turns a little sickening the longer you wait backstage before a performance, except Jungkook hasn't gotten stage fright in years.

"Ready?" Hoseok says as he pops out of the bathroom in a t-shirt and shorts. He flops into the arm chair and gives Jungkook this look and smile like he can smell how nervous Jungkook is.

Oh. He probably can, Jungkook realizes. It's nice of him not to make fun.

It's quiet and Jungkook braces himself as Hoseok is clearly trying carefully to choose his words. "Look I... I know, we all seem very anti-alpha. Especially Joon will, I'm sure, but... no one is gonna hurt you here, I want you to at least feel safe here. And you can feel confident in being yourself here, okay?” The way Hoseok says it seems a bit more like a hope than a truth.

“Don't feel like you have to apologize for being an alpha. Like Jin said yesterday, you didn't choose it. Namjoon... has his reasons, and honestly, I don't blame him at all. Hell, I left with him because I felt like he was justified.” Hoseok shakes his head and leans forward.

“But that's a whole other can of worms, and doesn't have anything to do with you personally. Just, just remember that, okay? We came here originally because I wanted to make a safe place for Joon, but I want this to be safe for anyone."

He doesn't much know what he's talking about, but Jungkook nods and whispers a thanks. Hoseok is trying to make him feel better but honestly he's just making him more nervous. But he smiles back anyway and they head for the door.

There's a smattering of little houses with peeled off paint or whitewashed brick with sheds or horse corrals in the area. One or two tall trees crowd near the little houses like they're lonely in the flat desert expanse.

They walk down the dusty road lined with sagebrush and the occasional cactus until they pass all the little turn offs for houses, and keep walking. Hoseok is explaining something about the pack that Jungkook can't quite focus on past the nerves thrumming blood past his ear drums.

Ten minutes later, down a little hill and and around a sudden massive outcrop of rock and down again, they come upon a little wooden cabin nestled between a tall cottonwood tree and a huge towering wall of crumbly red rock.

Suddenly, Jungkook's heart is in his throat. It's not intentional, but he slows, trailing a bit behind Hoseok. There's the house where lives a person who, guaranteed, dislikes him, does not want to see him. Hoseok is about to knock on the door and that person will come out and look at him with some kind of hatred and everything he's been nervous about for the last day will be happening instead of anticipated.

Hoseok knocks and looks over his shoulder. He wouldn't even have to smell his fear to know it, what with the way Jungkook is shrinking into himself, hand holding tightly to his own wrist. He gives a small smile of encouragement and pats his shoulder.

For some reason, the weight of Hoseok's hand gripping his shoulder when the door starts to open helps a tiny bit. He terrified to see what kind of physical menace Namjoon is, what a face of hatred looks like. But he can't look away, feeling like fate itself is pulling the cabin door open.

“Hey Joon.” Hoseok gives a good attempt at a lighthearted greeting.

He's there, and he's... unexpected. Jungkook can't look away. Namjoon looks... soft. No, not quite soft; he's lean hard muscle, deep tan, a strong browbone and tall. But his eyes, sharp and wary, dreamy like the stars are always above him, a deep brown, right iris speckled ice blue. There's a deep scar that runs jaw to hairline below his right eye as well, old but a bit painful to look at still.

The longer Namjoon stares back at him, the taller he seems. His jaw clenches, nostrils flare, dreamy eyes hardening. “No.”

“Joon-”

“Hell no.”

Why he should be so hurt by the opinion of a stranger, Jungkook doesn't know, but the humiliation stings. Hoseok glances at Jungkook shrinking even more into himself and tightens his grip on his shoulder.“Joon we talked about-”

“Hoseok no, I'm not gonna let some alpha who wants to fuck me live with me.”

Jungkook could physically feel the anger from Namjoon. It peals up against his own shock at the accusation like a wave hitting cliffs. “Wha- no, I- I don't want to- I wouldn't- I- I don't wanna fuck you!” he stutters, stomach sick with embarrassment and eggs eaten too fast.

Namjoon doesn't laugh but Hoseok does. “Ah...yeah you do, buddy. We can smell it.” Hoseok claps Jungkook on the shoulder good-naturedly when Jungkook's face falls and he stares at his shoes. “But Joon here will teach you how control that some.” He gently pushes Jungkook forward a little.

“The fuck Joon will,” Namjoon yells back, crossing his tan arms across his chest. “Teach an alpha to control himself,” he snorts, muttering under his breath. “I'll just teach my cat to fucking read Dickens and cure cancer while I'm at it.”

“Joon, we talked about this,” Hoseok says softly, a firm plea. Joon's hard gaze holds his for a moment, before it goes soft and he looks away, a bit guilty. A hot breeze gusts through, wafting sage scents through their hair as they both recall whatever they spoke of before.

“I don't want him here.” It comes out a little whiny but it makes Jungkook feel like shit anyway.

“Don't be a dick,” Hoseok laughs. “His name is Jungkook, he's really nice. We talked about this, but just let me remind you, he was bitten, not even a month ago. Bitten, Joon. Normal guy, here. Super clueless.”

Jungkook is too far deep in anxiety and humiliation to be even a little offended. He chews his lip and fights the urge to run back to- to what? To nothing. The problem is in himself, in his blood.

Namjoon rolls his eyes and stares out at the sky beyond Hoseok's shoulder, “he's an alpha,” muttered quietly under his breath, but there's a bit of something you could almost, almost call sympathy on his face. Finally, he furrows his brows and nods.

“Are you gonna be civil?” Hoseok jokes. Or not. It seems like a reasonable question at this point.

“I'm always civil,” Namjoon spits out, moving back to let them inside.

Despite the glare and cuts and scabs on Namjoon's arms, Jungkook thinks he sees just a hint of a flash of softness that's gone in a quarter of a second. Like when your eyes catch on a pretty sparkle, but when you look again, there's nothing but rocks.

Hoseok motions for Jungkook to sit at the little table by the window as he heads for Namjoon's fridge. Namjoon, however, does not sit, opting to stand with his back to the wall.

He jerks up out of his seat halfway but Hoseok waves him down. He finally settles for perching on the edge of the rickety wooden chair.

Hoseok grabs a beer out of Namjoon's fridge for himself and one for Jungkook, since Namjoon was clearly determined to do the least possible.

“Thanks, ah- thanks,” he says to Hoseok, then Namjoon as he takes a few gulps of wonderfully cold beer.

“Gonna get his alpha smell all over my shit,' Namjoon mutters.

Jungkook resists the urge to sniff himself. He just showered. Wolves have this whole thing with scent that he doesn't quite get. Yes, everything smelled stronger, more to him now, but that was it. Yuta had theorized that his sense of smell might get sharper after he shifts for the first time. Jungkook didn't even want to think about that.

“Quit scaring the shit out of him and his scent might calm down,” Hoseok chuckles, taking a swig of beer and handing it to Namjoon.

“Please,” Namjoon snorts. “He's not afraid of me,” he argues, but there's a glint of satisfaction in his eye.

“Yes I am,” Jungkook whispers, but they don't hear him over the sound of Hoseok dragging out a chair to sit in.

“So, Joon. How long do you think, a month? For a whole moon cycle? It'll be getting cold up in the hills in a month anyway.”

Namjoon sighs and Jungkook sits up, rigid. “A month?” he whispers. A month with this guy who can't stand him?

To his amazement, Namjoon nods reluctantly. “A month would be ideal, yeah. Especially if he hasn't shifted, like you said.”

They keep talking about him instead of to him, like he's a child at a parent-teacher meeting.

“What-what are we gonna be doing?” he speaks up.

Namjoon scowls, as if angry that he's being forced to speak directly to him finally. “Lots.”

Hoseok rolls his eyes in such an exaggerated motion Jungkook wonders if it hurt. “You'll be camping a lot. Joon can teach you a lot about the land and your wolf instincts.”

The searching look of sympathy Hoseok gives him is nice, even if it doesn't solve a damn thing. “I'll teach you something before I go.”

Panic spikes in his chest at the notion of Hoseok leaving him here alone. “Betas have the ability to sort of... chill people the fuck out. Helps the pack dynamic a lot. Alphas, and Omegas,” he says with a pointed look at Namjoon, “tend to get emotional.”

“You're an Omega?” he asks Namjoon.

“You can't tell?” he scowls, incredulous.

Jungkook shakes his head. “I don't know anything,” he says quietly to the floor.

“Anyway,” Hoseok says loudly, hand resting gentle on Jungkook's arm. “I'm gonna use it now, see if you notice a difference.”

“A difference in wha- oh.” Such an interesting feeling. If he hadn't been told before hand, he'd think his mood had just changed on his own, that he'd finally managed to wrangle in the anxiety that he was struggling to shove back down his throat.

“Cool,” he says, making Hoseok smile. “Why aren't betas always pack leaders, then? Wouldn't it be better for a leader to be able to keep everyone like...rational and stuff?”

A giant smile breaks across Hoseok's face, smug at the unintended compliment. “ You, I like you. I like this kid, Joon,” he announces, getting an eye roll in return.

“Welp. I should go, gotta make sure Yuta and Jae...Jaehyun? Are doing alright.”

Hoseok stands and Jungkook's panic surges again at the impending awkwardness of being alone with Namjoon.

Oh god oh god oh god, he's leaving, he panics as Hoseok waves from the open door, demanding that Namjoon teach him well and not be a dick.

“I only agreed to the teaching part,” Namjoon retorts, but the look Hoseok holds him in softens him a bit.

“I'm here if you need me,” Hoseok tells him gently, squeezing Namjoon's arm. “You too,” he calls to Jungkook before waving once more and shutting the door. They both stare at the door Hoseok left from as if they could summon him back through it. A suffocating silence. Apparently, Namjoon isn't even trying for a pretense of sociable.

The awkwardness settles in, filling the room like incense. Namjoon turns from the door finally, filling up a tea kettle with water from the sink. He puts it on the little stove and stands there, back to Jungkook, hands gripping the kitchen counter.

A fake smile, small talk would have been enough, would've been all Jungkook needed, but Namjoon gave him nothing.

He stared at the strong, pretty slope of Namjoon's shoulders, the soft fluffy hair and the cute way his ears stuck out a little. He jerked his eyes away, terrified that his body was betraying him, that Namjoon would know he was thinking about how pretty he is.

The silence is too much, tightening around his lungs. “Um-” Jungkook begins, not sure where he's going with it.

Namjoon cuts him off in a quiet, low voice. “I just want you to know, if you touch me, if you even try to touch me-”

“I would never,” Jungkook says passionately. “Please, I-I would never,” he ends dumbly.

Namjoon frowns and marches toward him and for a second Jungkook is terrified. But Namjoon stalks past him and throws the window open. “You smell so god damn strong,” he grumbles, crossing the room to open the other window.

“I'm sorry,” Jungkook whispers, squeezing his body tighter as if he could reel his scent back in. “Smell like what?” he asks, sniffing himself again.

“Like alpha.” Namjoon answers, going back to his tea kettle.

“Sorry,” he whispers again.

Pulling a tea bag from its pouch, Namjoon takes a loud, slow inhale and exhale as if to steady himself but chokes on the scent in the room. “Jesus, come on, come outside.”

They sit on a smooth log that Namjoon had rolled beside the tiny stream near his cabin, barely as wide as a book now in the dead of summer. Tea mug gripped in hand, Namjoon motioned toward a little cluster of orange flowers. “Do you know what those are?”

Jungkook shakes his head, points nervously toward the bushes nearby. “I know that's sagebrush and um... that's a pine tree?”

Namjoon frowns and nods. “Red Pine.”

“I was pre-med,” Jungkook explains, as if he totally would know every variation of pine tree, if he hadn't been focused on anatomy and biochem.

“Have you been camping before?”

Jungkook nods and plucks a blade of dry grass to tear apart. “When I was a kid.”

A wholly unsatisfactory answer, going by Namjoon's eyeroll. “Well, we're leaving tomorrow. See that ridge, way over there? That’s as far as we’re going, this time. I’ve got roosts I need to check and fix there. Shouldn't take more than three or four days. Five, maybe. Depends.”


Depends on how much of a fuck up I am, Jungkook reads from it. A thousand questions race through his head and stick at the back of his throat. He doesn't know how many more eyerolls and thin sighs he can stand today, so he just nods, letting the bits of leaf fall from his hands.

Namjoon sets his empty mug down on the sun-bleached log and stood. “I'm going out. I'll be back tonight. You can eat whatever's in there,” he says, nodding toward his cabin. “Stay off my bed. Leave the windows open.” And with that he's gone, stalking off into the giant boulders and underbrush.

Namjoon's cabin is nothing special, but it was clean and cozy. The walls and floor are the same dark, warm wood, the ceiling high exposed beams. There’s a big bed in the corner, cream linen sheets that match the little sofa. A little desk and computer, a little table, kitchen on one wall, little bathroom the only other room.

It's really not much, but it's nice. There are charcoal and pencil sketches framed on the wall, and everything smells nice, like ripe peaches and the salty twinge of ocean water.

He wasn't sure what to do all day. Too afraid to touch anything, he sits on the edge of the wooden chair and finishes off his beer.

Finally working up the courage, he plucks a book from the giant bookshelf and gingerly sits on the sofa. 'Wildflowers of the Western Desert: A Guide.' Sorted by color, so it was easy to find the little orange flowers Namjoon pointed to earlier, Globemallow.

He doesn't remember falling asleep, but suddenly he's waking up.

The sun is wispy line of orange fading into the purple-grey night sky. Namjoon is back, reclined on his bed, typing on his laptop, scowling or focusing. Both, probably.

"Hi," Jungkook breathes, groggy and trying not to be.

Namjoon eyes him over the laptop. "Did you sleep all day?"

"I guess," he answers. "I learned about some flowers," he offers, holding the book up. “Globemallow, right? The orange flowers?"

Based on their rapport so far, there's no reason why he should expect Namjoon to be impressed or pleased but his heart sinks a little at the lack of response anyway.

"And I think the red ones by the river are Paintbrush flowers?" he tries again.

With a sigh, Namjoon gives a terse nod and slaps his laptop shut. "You should pack your backpack. Bring a jacket but don't bother with extra clothes, we can just wash them in the river. I have an extra sleeping bag. That's all you need really."

After a solid afternoon of napping and the sheer tension of Namjoon asleep nearby, he lays in the dark long into the night. Big eyes on the ceiling, he worries about the days to come. A fitful sleep finally takes him, full of blood, teeth and flowers.

 

 

The morning rises, and though he'd been awake half the night, when he wakes Namjoon is already up and dressed. Sleep seems to have quenched Namjoon's indignant rage to a quieter, more solid loathing. He seems to have accepted that to teach Jungkook, they'd have to speak to each other.

He watches Jungkook worry over the contents of his backpack with impatience. "You won't need much, we're just going a few days out and coming back."

They set off with little ceremony, nothing more than Namjoon jiggling the lock to his front door to check it and veering off to the right without a word.

An hour later, the trail has petered out, leaving them to shuffle and slip down the gravelly slope. This is past the point sensible people would go, he thinks. He finds himself sliding and catching himself a lot more than Namjoon, but it's comforting all the same to see Namjoon jerking back to recover his footing.

Across the sky, a bird catches his eye, a massive black hawk perched on the sharp point of a boulder. In the one second he has his eyes off the ground, his foot lands on a tiny piece of shale, sending him forward like a stone sled. He lands hard on his hip and collides with Namjoon, both of them yelping with the weight of Namjoon landing mostly on his stomach.

"Sorry!" Jungkook is already apologizing, knowing Namjoon is angry and they haven't even stopped sliding down the hill yet.

By some kind of luck, there aren't any cactus between them and where the ground levels out. Namjoon shoves himself up off of Jungkook, dust and sharp rock bits stuck to his hands. "I told you to watch where you're stepping!" he barks at Jungkook, rearranging his backpack on his shoulders.

"Sorry," he repeats. "Just taking the fast way down?" he tries to joke, and immediately regrets it.

"Wouldn't be saying that with a cactus in your dumb ass," Namjoon mutters, stalking forward.

So far, his “training” seems to be a lot of walking around in uncomfortable silence. They walked and walked, calves tinted brown from all the dust that kicked up. The sun was so overbearing Jungkook swore he could literally hear it.

The first day ends in Namjoon grumbling for Jungkook to find some sticks to use as firewood and being clearly displeased with his selection.

“That's it?” he asks when Jungkook comes back with an armful of twigs. “More, we need more, there's no proper logs out here so- nevermind.” He stalks off into the dusk and comes back in twenty minutes with double the amount Jungkook gathered, somehow managing to find good, thick branches of some kind of shrub.

Namjoon makes a fire, and Jungkook watches carefully, in case he's expected to know how to do it later on. They eat, in silence. They lay out their sleeping bags, in silence.

In silence, Jungkook sees the glittering band of the milky way for the first time in his life. Eyes wide, he mouths a soundless “wow” at the sky. Excitement and awe accentuate the loneliness, wishing desperately he could turn and say his “wow” out loud to someone, to Namjoon, and have him smile back.

Bone tired from the day's hike, he falls asleep too fast to let the tears fall, blurred stars in his eyes as he gives in to dreams.