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The Midnight Bus

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The lights flicker.

Yoongi, with a frown, turns to look at the ceiling, eyes tracing the hairline fractures in the plaster, catching on the light that blinks in and out obnoxiously, before turning back to gently place a bouquet of flowers next to his grandmother’s urn- smoothing the petals into place and bowing deeply.

With the strong scent of the incense wafting into the room from down the hallway of the memorial hall, and the humid summer air breezing in through the open windows, Yoongi finds himself feeling a little stifled, clammy and uncomfortable, and even as he stands up from his bow and smiles fondly at the photo of his grandma, plucking an old petal from the corner of the display, that feeling doesn’t ease.

“Hey Ji,” a voice calls softly, and Yoongi blinks rapidly out of his thoughts as a girl stills a few rows down from him, places her bag by her feet and pulls out a bouquet of flowers.

“It’s been a while-” she whispers, almost conspiratorially, as if sharing a joke with someone tangible and real.

Yoongi looks away, trying to give her the privacy she needs in her mourning but as the girl lets out a quivering breath Yoongi finds himself glancing at her surreptitiously, trying to be discreet in his curiosity about the flowers she places under the photo in her cabinet- a small bunch of tiny blue forget me nots and white chrysanthemums, all bound in a purple-pink ribbon.

Forget me nots; meaningful, he thinks. But almost out of place next to all of the white and black in the room, almost too colourful. Yoongi can't tear his eyes away.

“He was my cousin,” the girl whispers, and when Yoongi glances away from the flowers, his gaze catches on her fingers- trembling as she reaches out and touches the name on the urn gently- a barely there smile pulling at her lips. “Usually his brother does this, but..”

She sighs, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear before turning to him and bowing deeply. “I’m very sorry for interrupting you.”

Yoongi bows back. “Not at all, it's good to talk about it sometimes.”

The girls smiles, and Yoongi finds himself returning it, although he’s a little hesitant, a little bit heavy; and then with her shaking hands, she pulls a cap from her bag and steps outside into the warm late afternoon, and Yoongi is once again, alone.

“Sir, we’re turning the lights off soon.” A voice says behind him, and Yoongi nods even as the footsteps disappear.

He thinks of the flickering light, the boy in the photo, and almost unconsciously he drops his hand into his pocket, lets the pad of his thumb swipe over the characters on the keyboard of his phone, before he presses it to his ear.

“Hey Joon- yeah, the last song in the album… I have a title.”

 

- and -

 

It could be worse.

It could be so much worse.

But whether or not it could be , doesn't change the fact that standing there, an hour away from his apartment and waiting for a bus that may well not arrive, snow seeping into the fabric of his canvas shoes and breeze scattering flakes of it into his face like he’s the statuette inside of a snow globe, he thinks that it still sucks now.

With numb fingers and a soft sigh, Yoongi pulls his phone out and checks the time.

12:13.

Damnit.

The thought that ‘perhaps, it would have been better to skip the studio tonight’ runs through his head in a persistent, irritating pattern.

At this time in the morning, engulfed in the unforgiving chill of winter, he’s slow and sluggish; mind a thick soup, churning with half thoughts and observations as the snow falls in soft, petal-like flakes onto the ground. There’s a strange silence to the world at this time, as if the snow has become cotton wool, muffling the noises around him, stilling the rustle of bare twigs in the breeze.

It’s nice, he thinks, but it’s also a little jarring.

Pulling his coat tighter around himself to shield from the chill of the early morning air, Yoongi watches his breath as it appears in soft clouds in front of him and mourns for the upteenth time the fact that he could be asleep in bed by now.

The lights flicker, once, twice; the bus pulls around the corner.

With a barely audible sigh, Yoongi tightens the bag on his shoulder and when the door of the bus opens, steps inside into the warm air, making his way towards the driver’s window. “One trip, please.”

The driver holds out his hand expectantly as Yoongi rifles through his pocket to pull out the the 1,300 won for the fare, coins clinking together loudly in the silence of the bus.

One trip. Another midnight collected.

“Thank you.”

As if in answer, the engine hums to life quietly; handle straps swaying as the bus pulls away from the stop, leaving Yoongi standing dangerously unbalanced in the aisle. Yoongi grips the handles a little tighter and raises his head, catching sight of a familiar head of dark hair, shining an odd pink under the strawberry coloured neon Light and starts making his way forwards

He looks the same as always- sitting with better posture than Yoongi could ever hope for- wearing the same combination of clothes he always does, though this time he’s actually wearing his jacket instead of letting it sit wrapped around his waist, thanks to the cold of the night air.

Jimin taps away at his phone (which Yoongi knows has absolutely no texting or internet capability- because, as Jimin had explained, it’s old and hates me and I was going to replace it but the universe hates me too) , playing some sort of game that he’s probably beat his high score in multiple times over. Whatever he’s doing, it distracts him until Yoongi is standing right next to him, and without warning he swings his bag right on top of Jimin’s lap.

Oof.”

Yoongi quirks an eyebrow, teases, “you look bored,” and Jimin grumbles.

“I am,” he readjusts the bag, “I’ve been here most of the day- not many other places to go.”

Yoongi’s heart twinges a little at the comment, something unnameable and heavy settling in his chest as he falls down into the seat beside him.

“There are so many places to go.” Yoongi states, and then lowers his voice and whispers conspiratorially, “technically, you could sit on the roof.”

Jimin blinks for a moment, blinks again and then snorts, swatting lamely at Yoongi’s arm. “Well, I’m too tame for that kind of rebellion. You know me.”

“Yeah.” Yoongi sighs, a smile tugging at his lips. “Unfortunately I do.”

Jimin groans, nose scrunched up in fake annoyance. The bus turns the corner and Jimin leans slightly into him; his shoulder brushing against Yoongi’s gently, before he pulls away.

“Corners,” he mumbles quickly, cheeks tinged pink and he jolts his body away from Yoongi’s. Yoongi huffs but doesn’t say anything else, doesn't feel the need.

“Oh? Where’d I put my phone?”

Yoongi snorts, and points to Jimin’s phone which is resting on Yoongi’s bag on the floor. “You just can’t keep track of it can you?”

Jimin balks, and scowls, “it’s not my fault! And you can’t talk, you can’t even keep track of me!”

Indignant, Yoongi shouts back “not my fault!”

Right at that moment, the bus swerves around another corner, the driver having underestimating his momentum, sending Jimin sprawling forward, phone clutched in his hand and eyes going wide in shock as the bus suddenly screeches with the force of the brakes.

Jimin yelps, expecting the make contact with the floor, but right before he totally loses balance, he feels arms wrap around his waist.

Yoongi grins, and straightens back into the seat, gently pulling Jimin along with him, hands sliding down a little as Jimin pushes himself up using the chair in front of him. “Lemme go hyung, I can do it myself.”

“Sure thing, Jiminnie,” he says, and holds on tighter as the bus rounds another corner with too much speed, steadily beginning a jolty crawl uphill.

With a sigh and a small grumble, Jimin bats Yoongi’s hands away and says, “You’re so pushy hyung.”

And Yoongi would probably take offense, but Jimin’s secret little smile reflected in the glass of the window is indicator enough to Yoongi that he isn't all that angry.

It's one of the things that Yoongi has picked up on, learned about the younger in the time he’s known him; Jimin may pretend to be annoyed, tease and joke and call Yoongi out as if he’s actually bothered, but Yoongi knows it's his way of showing affection- the bantering and teasing.

He learns enough about Jimin.

He learns that Jimin hates it when Yoongi has one headphone in but doesn’t share the other, that when Jimin stands across from Yoongi to talk with him, he’ll instinctively move his feet into first position. He learns that Jimin absolutely despises Yoongi’s snack choice and has threatened to fight him over the fact more than once. He learns that Jimin’s hair used to be a purply-silver, but as time went on, the colour faded back to black, and that confuses Yoongi’s theory that he may be a ghost.

He learns in observation, and more often than not, what he observes leaves him lost. And that's the thing about Jimin; he seems to be just as los-

-oongi! Hello earth to Yoongi?” Jimin laughs, and Yoongi, startled out of his thoughts, blinks rapidly at him.

“Hello. Nice to see you back in the land of the- uh… living.”

He grins triumphantly and Yoongi scoffs, prompting Jimin to coo and press his finger to the faint frown line etched between Yoongi’s brows. Yoongi bats his hand away embarrassedly, suddenly announcing “you should visit one day, you know.”

Jimin sits back, raising an eyebrow and letting out a gentle hum, “visit the land of the living? You’re too kind Yoongi, but alas, I’m stuck here.”

One day, then. I’d wait for you, I promise.” Yoongi argues, trying his hardest not to roll his eyes at Jimins antics; specifically not commenting (never commenting) on Jimin’s blatant admittance that he isn’t quite there with Yoongi.

Jimin smiles gently, nose crinkling in amusement, and then his face falls.

Yoongi doesn’t know exactly what flashes through Jimin’s eyes in the moment that he stares at him, but for a second they seem to light up with something happy- relieved, maybe- and then he recognizes the wistful look that glasses them over, picks up on the calming breath he sucks in.

Jimin’s smile drops, and he sighs, turning to face the window, but not really looking at anything passing by. “Soon you’ll forget you even made that promise, Yoongi.”

Yoongi opens his mouth to argue, an angry snap running through his body as his shoulders square, but the words die weakly on his tongue before he can so much as growl in disagreement.

Jimin is right (in that sad, heartbreaking way he usually is when it comes to these things) and Yoongi knows that no matter how many times they argue the point, how many heated disagreements turn into ignoring each other and sitting on the opposite seat in the aisle; it won’t change that the memory of those arguments, of those moments shared together and filled with anger, laughter, teasing or tears, would be gone from Yoongi’s mind mere moments after the bus pulled away from the curb.

“Not that one,” Yoongi argues defeatedly and slouches back into his seat.

With a sad smile, Jimin replies, “even that one Yoongs.”

And Yoongi doesn’t really have the heart to argue it- remembers so many hours wasted on the same debate- hours that have spanned over the last few years, but that Yoongi forgets moments after stepping out of the bus landing. It’s like a horrible cycle really. One that Yoongi doesn’t know how to stop, no matter how many ghost-guides he reads, or documentaries about spirits and religion he may watch.

Jimin will win this argument, he always does.

The bus jolts again, and Yoongi grimaces, but Jimin suddenly perks up and gets right into his space, pointing an accusatory finger right at Yoongi’s face, causing him to stare cross eyed at the digit. “Ah! You still have my phone!”

Yoongi blinks and then processing Jimin’s words, rolls his eyes. “Get it then, Jimbles.”

“I will.” And he does.

Jimin twists around and reaches over to stretch down towards Yoongi’s bag, the collar of his shirt dropping, exposing the little mole on his collarbone. Yoongi lets out a soft exhale, suddenly realising that he already knew that mole existed, knew it as automatically as he knew Jimin’s name every time he’s seen him on the bus, despite every weird and supernatural force in the universe making sure that any trace of Jimin was cleared from his memory when he steps off the vehicle.

For a second, that realisation strikes him still.

It’s funny, he thinks, still watching as Jimin shuffles around and huffs in a teasing grump, pushing himself up again by a hand on Yoongi’s seat, right in his space. It’s funny that that memory comes as easily as the story for Jimin’s slightly puffier eye, where he got stitches when he was younger. “Yoongi-” in fact it’s funny that there are lots of things that come back to Yoongi’s mind when he thinks about all he knows of Jimin.

He knows that- “Yoongi?”- Jimin holds himself the same way Hoseok does, posture relaxed but structured at the same time, feet often coming to rest in first position (though Yoongi can’t tell if it’s coincidence or habit or something else all together) and is almost convinced that Jimin could hold his own againsts Hoseok on a stage, or better yet, alongside him. It’s little things, like the fact that he still has flappy bird on his phone and refuses to delete the damn thing even though he’s almost launched his phone out the window enough times to warrant it (the little things like the fact that Jimin didn’t even know the app was removed from the app store; that his confusion manifests in the form of pouted lips and a slightly blank expression). “Yoongi, what’s-”

And his pout; Yoongi lets his eyes trail down to Jimin’s lips, soft and pillowy and puckered out almost comically, a sign that he’s playfully whining, and Yoongi forces himself to divert his eyes, instead focussing on Jimin’s hands, one clasping his phone, the other resting innocently right next to Yoongi’s thigh.

Yoongi! ” Jimin claps his hands in the air in front of Yoongi’s face, and he jolts backwards, neck heating up with the embarrassment of being caught a second time.

“Wha-”

“Your stop is here, Yoongi.”

“Right,” he breathes out, and blinks, trying to pull his gaze away from Jimin (and his moles and his lips and his eye smile). “Right.”

Jimin tips his head downwards, blushing softly as a smile plays at his lips; leaving Yoongi to vaguely entertain the thought, somewhere deep within his sleep heavy mind, that maybe there’s an entire story behind that one small motion.

After a few more moments of silence between them, Jimin shoves at him gently and whispers, “go on, hyung, it’s already ridiculously late”, and he finally pulls himself from his stupor.

Yoongi nods. It is late, and his body is aching from his feet to his neck, everything stiff from hours composing in the small campus studio, his fingers dancing across his keyboard, eyes straining and staring at his screen, beats and melodies repeating over and over like a broken, jumpy record.

“Alright, alright, I’m leaving.” He surrenders, letting his body move on automatic out of the seat and down the aisle, bag slung lazily over one shoulder, avoiding the woman in red as he passes her by.

He mumbles a quick thanks once he reaches the driver’s window, and then, he looks back.

It’s a peculiar thought that passes, a question that’s been growing in the back of his mind, nagging irritably like a caged animal, scratching and growling- untamed.

What if Jimin wasn't there tomorrow? What if Jimin were to stop appearing all together- would he simply cease to exist in Yoongi’s memories and become just another face in a dream?

It’s a scary thought, one that Yoongi doesn’t know how to address, feels overcome by; knows that it’s entirely likely to happen and has almost happened before, Yoongi taking a different bus at a different time and forgetting Jimin for the span of weeks. He wants to run back, get back into his seat next to Jimin and stay with him just a little longer.

He wants to, but he doesn't.

The bus driver clears his throat, and once more, startled and thoroughly mortified, Yoongi apologizes. But when he’s almost out the door he pauses and calls back.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Park Jimin.”

Jimin sends him a lopsided grin, but his smile is fond and his next words are soft. “Goodbye, Min Yoongi.”

Which is followed by a less gentle, “bring snacks next time!”

Yoongi huffs out a laugh and steps out into the cold, sending Jimin a quick wave and a half cut-off promise, one that almost sounds cruel when Yoongi thinks back to it, “if I remember.”

And; standing under the streetlights as the bus pulls away, Yoongi learns that when the moonlight spills through the windows of the bus, Jimin's hair shines the same brilliant silver that it must have before they met, once upon a time.

 

- and -

 

“Ignore him-”

You always do anyways!”

“I do not!”

“You did when we first met-”

“That was years ago!” Jungkook whines, giving up on the ramen cup he’s been trying to finish for a good half hour, ducking his head and covering his face with his hands. “I was just shy.”

“Shy Jungkookie became muscle-pig Jungkook pretty quick!”

With a not-at-all-exaggerated groan, Jungkook flings himself back against Namjoon and Seokjin’s couch, head colliding loudly with a section of the wooden frame poking through the threadbare fabric. “Ouch!”

Seokjin snickers at the younger’s pain, wandering out of the room casually as Hoseok pets Jungkook’s head in a small comforting gesture and rolls back to his phone.

Jungkook whines. “Why, Tae- why do you say that like I’ve betrayed you?”

It takes Taehyung all of a moment to level Jungkook with a matter-of-fact look, raising an arm lamely as if to demonstrate his point, and he opens his mouth to retort, but Jungkook beats him to it and launches an empty bottle at his head. “Taehyung!”

Yoongi feels a moment of amused affection for the pair, watching as their tussling becomes overenthusiastic-wrestling and they fall in a mess of limbs, nearly taking out Seokjin’s coffee table in the process of trying to gain the upper hand.

“Aren’t you two meant to be in the honeymoon phase or something?”

“Honeymoon my ass!” Jungkook rebuffs, and Taehyung, with a slight blush, practically screams, “I would if you weren't such a muscle-pig!”

Hoseok snickers and Jungkook goes red. “I hate this- I hate you all.”

Yoongi, not looking up for a moment, snorts and mumbles ‘sure’ from where he’s curled around his laptop on the couch- gaze fixated on his screen as he taps absently at the keyboard- and the others burst out into guffaws and laughter.

With twilight settling over the city in a slow steady haze and the street lights blinking to life quietly, Yoongi is left with flashes of memories that keep darting through his thoughts. It’s almost infuriating, as though he’s in a game of blind tag, able to hear the rustle of leaves and snapping twigs, quiet teasing laughter, but only ever able to reach out and grasp empty air.

He almost wants to scream in frustration, staring at the characters ‘dream’ and ‘red?’, burning starkly against the white of the page.

“I’m serious!”

“Taehyung, you could just come to the gym with me every once in awhile!”

“Are you kidding, no way! It always smells and the locker rooms are freaky unless you’re there with like, your best friend or something.”

Jungkook raises an eyebrow and his lips split wide in a smile as he falls back onto the floor in laughter. “You sure are picky about the smell for someone who’s admitted many times to never having gone to a gym.”

Taehyung gasps dramatically and begins to bicker with Jungkook again, and one by one, each of them turn their attention towards each other, amused, and Yoongi closes his laptop with a sigh.

“What even set those two off?” Seokjin asks as Yoongi shucks his laptop under the couch with his foot, giving up on figuring the words out. “What did Tae do?”

Taehyung lets out an indignant squawk, looking up at the rest of them with an expression of pure betrayal that startles everyone in the room and even scares Yoongi a little. Only a little.

“Nothing! I did nothing, you bastards!”

“What did you say, then?” Namjoon asks, pushing himself up from the floor and making eyes at the couch.

With only a second of hesitation, Yoongi huffs and pulls his legs close to his chest, the motion invitation enough for Namjoon to get up and plop himself on the couch. He reaches over to steal half of Seokjin’s least favourite patchwork-knit blanket from Yoongi, pulling the predominantly mustard coloured side over his legs, and Yoongi grumbles, shuffling to get back into a comfortable position with half of the blanket now stretched over the other.

“Taehyung was talking about soulmates,” Jungkook starts, and Taehyung gasps from next to him, leaving Yoongi to briefly wonder how he isn't dizzy from a lack of oxygen by now.

“Not just soulmates, I’m talking about the legend of Yīnyuán hóngxiàn, or in Korean; The Red String of Fate.”

“And why were you talking about that?” Yoongi asks.

Jungkook sighs regretfully and looks to the ceiling for moral support, “we watched Kimi No Na Wa the other day-”

“And Spirited Away, it was also Spirited Away that got me thinking.”

“Spirits? True love? Amnesia and destiny?” Hoseok marvels out loud, clutching his chest and practically singing the words. “Any Red Crowned Cranes?”

With a startle that sends him stumbling, Yoongi looks wide eyed at Hoseok, lips pulling in a thin, threatening line, “don’t you dare, or I swear to-”

“Hoseok-hyung have you ever seen either of those movies?” Taehyung interrupts, effectively cutting Yoonig’s threat halfway.

“Well no, but whatever, whatever.” He waves flippantly, and Yoongi hopes as the room settles into a comfortable silence, that that’s the last of it. Then Hoseok continues, “you went so soft for him.”

Briefly, Yoongi wonders whether the punishment for manslaughter would really be so horrible, and he groans before hiding his head in his hands.

“The idiot nearly drowned, trying to save a-” he lowers his voice and angrily mutters, “it was just a bird for fuc-”

“Red Crowned Crane.” Jin interjects, and Yoongi’s scowl deepens, his cheeks going red as it becomes increasingly clear that they aren't going to let up.

Hoseok grins and asks with faux-innocence, “what’s the significance of the Red Crowned Crane, again?”

Yoongi remains stubbornly silent.

“Longevity, purity and peace, as they’re said to live a thousand years,” Namjoon recites, almost wisely. Jin raises an eyebrow at him affectionately.

“And?” Hoseok prompts, leaning in eagerly.

“Uh- Cranes are said to grant favours in return for acts of sacrifice, and oh- also, they’re monogamous, therefore are often used as symbols in wedding decor.”

“There we go!”

Yoongi sighs and the snickers around him meld into laughter, and while Yoongi knows it is kind of funny, his chest feels strangely hollow; a sudden and overwhelming feeling of loneliness coming over him.

Namjoon hums, and Yoongi braces himself… but instead of a tease or a joke, he simply turns to Yoongi while the others are distracted and says quietly, “you say you think he was an idiot, but… Yoongs, you definitely care. He was only- what… six at the time? If you hadn't been at the reserve on holiday, he could have died.”

Yoongi startles.

“Of course I care, Joon, are you crazy?” But there’s no real heat to the comment and Namjoon knows it, shrugs innocently and leans back, watching as Yoongi frowns, eyes glazing over with a memory from a long time ago- from days of cicadas and picnics and lazy afternoons in the sun- when his world was both much bigger and much smaller at the same time.

Yoongi shivers. It’s a strangely clear memory given how long ago it happened; Yoongi can almost feel the icy touch of the water on his skin again, feel the sensation of slimy reeds brushing against his legs, twisting around his feet, like hands reaching up to grab him.

Even now, he recalls that from the moment he had dived into the water after seeing the boy playing on the bank start to sink as he’d rescued a Crane from the reeds it had gotten caught in, that its dark surface- engulfing him as he swam into the blue-green depths, black sand transforming it into a strangely still void- he’d been overcome with the sensation of being in another world.

He can remember that the only thing that had kept him from losing his orientation at the time, from getting lost in the still lake, had been that head of dark hair, hair that even years down the track has left an impact on his memory, and the hands reaching up to grab his and flailing desperately in the depths of the water.

He never remembers exactly how they got out of the water- it may have been one of his aunts, or maybe his mother, or his older brother- but whatever the case, he can remember just one more thing; hugging the boy tightly as they had collapsed on the sandbank, both coughing water out from their lungs as the cranes lingering around them took off and disappeared across the lake in a great flock of beating wings and frenzied cawing.

You know … it's such a shame you don't remember his name, I mean if you ever met him again-”

Yoongi blinks at Hoseok incredulously, “he was six-”

“And you were eight, so he’d be like, twenty-two now, the perfect wooing age.”

Yoongi chokes, “w-who said anything about wooing?”

Five pairs if eyes turn to look at him and he finds himself scowling, “-what?”

“Well I mean you did say that-”

They all pause as the bell rings, Taehyung getting cut off as Hoseok jumps up and bounds over to the door, opening it and greeting a young woman with pink cheeks and nose, and a big coat clearly branded with the pizza company’s logo. She brushes some snow off of her helmet and asks, “um, is this the Kim residence?”

Hoseok nods eagerly, and though a little rushed and seemingly unexpectedly excited, he says, “yeah that’s us! Oh- wait, has this all been paid for already- do you know?”

The delivery girl looks a bit taken aback, and breathes out an “um”, before fishing into her pocket for what must be a receipt, leaving Hoseok standing there awkwardly, arms outstretched and half holding the boxes as the girl wobbles.

Right at the moment the girl goes to start searching through her other pocket, Jin calls through the apartment and saves her from having to. “Online payments exist this century, Hobi-ah! We paid, don’t worry.”

Hoseok turns a bright shade of pink and bows quickly, the girl returning the action, looking a little nervous but otherwise genuine in her smile, and almost teasingly salutes before running down the stairs to the motorbike parked in their small courtyard.

When Hoseok wanders back into the main room, Jungkook turns to stare at him blankly, taking big mouthfuls of the he’d started over an hour ago, sending Namjoon and Seokjin into a fit of giggles as they mutter ‘he looks blank- a goldfish’, while the others snicker and re-enact Hoseok’s awkward pizza juggle.

Hoseok whines, and drops the boxes to the floor. “Shut up all of you.”

They all cheer and Seokjin starts looking through the boxes, seemingly satisfied that they’ve all arrived alright. “Alright. someone needs to get plates.”

Jungkook pipes up from his spot cross legged on the floor. “It’s just pizza though?”

“Yeah well, our landlord wants to look at the apartment in a few days so if you get it messy, you’re cleaning it up and covering any costs involved.” Seokjin warns.

Oh no, Yoongi thinks, feeling something in the air shift, Jungkook looking Seokjin dead in the eye. This is not good.

“Don’t you trust me, hyung?” He asks, bratty smirk on his lips as he takes the biggest mouthful of noodles possible to his lips, and slurps them into his mouth in a great, messy clump, sending sauce flinging out in multiple directions as he swallows them down with a resonating gulp.

They all look at the damage, and see that the broth has landed on the well-positioned coffee table beneath him.

Yoongi, in a moment of preemptive self-preservation, slides off the couch and announces that he’ll grab some plates, watching as Seokjin’s expression twists in a combination of amusement and justified fury.

“I’ll help you, hyung!” Taehyung calls, and bolts after him, right as Seokjin shouts a loud ‘Jungkook, do you want to die?!’

Yoongi laughs quietly to himself as Taehyung skids into the kitchen behind him, right into the bench where one of Seokjin’s succulents sits.

“You just betrayed your boyfriend,” Yoongi wheezes, smile gummy and wide. Taehyung sighs mournfully.

“Jungkook… He died for a noble cause.”

In the other room, Jungkook calls out a strained ‘I’m not dead! But you will be soon, traitor!’ and then carries on bickering with Jin, repeating something in an exaggerated accent, and a soft thwack that sounds close enough to a slap, resounds loudly through the apartment, only to be smothered shortly thereafter as Hoseok attempts to calm down the crazy pair.

Taehyung turns to look Yoongi dead in the eye, a stray crocodile tear rolling down his cheek, and Yoongi balks at the dedication. “Sometimes I can still hear his voice.”

“No-” Yoongi groans, hanging his head in his hands, letting out a hissing sound as if he's in actual, serious pain, and Taehyung’s laughter rumbles deeply through the kitchen as he goes about opening the cupboard and reaching in to grab a handful of plates.

“I got hyung to laugh and I call that a success.” He says, and Yoongi rolls his eyes.

“I laugh all the time Taehyung, but only at good jokes.”

And it’s true! He doesn’t know where so many of his other acquaintances got off on the idea that his sense of humour is limited to wisecracks about sleep, rocks and the crushing stupidity of their capitalist, commercialist society; although he kind of can, because he remembers that with most other people he’s usually only able to speak to them after long nights in the studio, and it’s only really his closest friends who have seen his more energetic, comfortable side.

Taehyung’s eyes shine with mirth and he shakes his head, “you like Seokjin’s jokes, though-”

Kim Taehyung are you bad mouthing my jokes?!”

The pair startles and Taehyung drops the plates on the bench, arguing back- “not at all! I’m defending them!”

There's a snort from the other room but the talking resumes back to normal, and Yoongi wanders how it is that they all became close enough for their friendship to be like this.

He wonders how they can bicker and argue and almost kill each other regularly, but also all come together as family the way that they do- even with the younger two still studying full time, Hoseok balancing his final year and the job that he earned as a part time teacher of street dance at a new studio in the city. How even though Yoongi doesn't really see many people, he’ll still go out of his way to see them; even as he finishes off his final year spending most days and nights in the university studio with Namjoon who’s finishing a double degree, both under the supervision of their aging professor (though truly they doesn't see much of him except when he wanders by to ask how they’re going and if they need help).

He wanders how their group of friends met in the first place.

(An image of soft orange, fluttering hands, a wide grin as the tension slowly leaves their eyes and they all greet each other-)

“Anyways,” Taehyung says suddenly, sifting through the other cabinets in the kitchen as he looks for a couple of extra plates, startling Yoongi who follows suit. “What got me about the myth of the red string of fate, was that in those movies, The String didn’t have to be a string you know? That is, the connection didn’t manifest as something physical.”

He turns to look at Yoongi, contemplative, eyes far away, somewhere else. “Haku and Chihiro found each other again despite one not even remembering one other. And in Kimi No Na Wa, they couldn’t figure out what was happening at first, but just knew when they met each other again that they would know.”

“My point isn’t all true love and ya-da-ya-da , because that’s something that doesn’t happen immediately, it grows from knowing someone and being yourself with them and just being, together, it’s that- well it’s that we’re all connected- and soulmates may not be real in the way we expect… b-but I thought… well , maybe the universe does this thing- where sometimes it finds a way to keep you connected. Even if it’s just best friends, family, completely platonic, maybe the universe- in any universe- will always pull the strings needed to keep people together?”

Yoongi blinks for a few seconds, processing Taehyung’s words and letting them sink in, and then he opens his mouth, and the words that tumble out are unexpected, to both of them.

“Jimin would… I think he’d agree.”

Taehyung stumbles, expression suddenly overcome with bewilderment, and he opens his mouth a few times, before finally choking out a forceful, wait- Jimin?”

Yoongi’s eyebrows raise, “y-yeah?”

And then, with the words slipping automatically from his lips, elaborates, “he catches my bus.”

It shocks him a little, to suddenly have the memory of Jimin jolt back, and he almost expects Taehyung to raise his eyebrows- to make a ridiculous crack about the nature of their friendship, teasingly call them bus-buddies or something cute and dumb and of that nature, and maybe then the weird tension in the air will dissipate. But instead, Taehyung just looks at him strangely, face going pale.

Yoongi lets out a small exhale, realising that Taehyung’s hands are shaking.

“Taehyung, did you... do you know hi-”

And despite the million things that seem to pass through Taehyung’s eyes at once- pain, sadness and a strange frustrated anger, twisting his expression into one that Yoongi can only describe as anguish- Taehyung just says, “It's a common name Yoongi.”

Something crashes in the other room.

Board games! ” Someone calls and Taehyung bolts, tearing his gaze away from Yoongi and running away with all the subtlety of a brick to the head, calling “I vote we play Monopoly!”

Yoongi frowns, scooping his own stack of plates up into his arms; lets Taehyung go without much of a fight, confused as to why he ran out looking so spooked, but figures that the younger will explain soon enough, because Taehyung isn’t that good at hiding when something’s upset him.

When he steps back into the lounge room, Taehyung is laying on his back with his hands folded over his midsection, Jungkook patting his hair fondly, while Jin pulls out a Tokaido board, and begins setting it up as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening.

Yoongi raises a confused eyebrow, and settles back onto the couch after passing the plates over to Hoseok who casts him a strangely contemplative look.

He goes to ask what’s bothering the younger, but Hoseok turns away, and instead Yoongi asks as if the whole not-monopoly-board isn't obvious enough, “so I guess Taehyung was outvoted on Monopoly?”

“We are abso-fucking-lutely never playing that game again.” Seokjin says, smiling.

Yoongi grimaces.

 

A few hours later finds the Tokaido board and pizza boxes discarded in a pile in the corner, Jungkook scowling at Taehyung from the opposite side of the room, Namjoon beaming at everyone from behind his red hotels, while Jin wonders how he can possess the IQ of a certified genius and still manage to flick the dice into the tv screen across the room, and Yoongi and Hoseok watch from the couch, comfortable with the two hotels that their combined forces have earned; any earlier tensions between Taehyung and him have been totally discarded in favour of the animosity fostered by the game.

Yoongi sighs. Even though things are totally normal between him and Taehyung again, it doesn’t mean that any of them are actually totally calm around each other, because none of them are against stooping to cheap tricks to win.

Especially not when they have a gamer and a genius in their midst (as well as their boyfriends)

“What are you thinking about, Yoongi?” Namjoon asks when he finishes taking another hotel from the bank, smiling wickedly, about to pass the dice over.

Yoongi scowls ready to respond something along the lines of ‘how good it’ll feel to kick your ass’, but right at that moment Namjoon shifts, rearranging his legs to get closer and drop the die on the board in front of Yoongi, but somehow managing to kick him in the stomach with his sock clad foot and enough force to knock the wind out of him, sending him lurching forward and clutching his torso in pain.

“Ow!”

Namjoon yelps, and screams curse filled apologies, much to Jin’s horror and Hoseok’s concern, and all Jungkook contributes is muffled guffawing from his spot on the floor surrounded by multiple property cards that are useless on their own except for preventing the rest of them from getting hotels. “Namjoon are you fucking kidding me?”

“Sorry!” He shouts, legs twisting in the blanket with his fumbling attempts to comfort Yoongi (or whatever it is that his hands are trying to do as they hover uncertainly above Yoongi’s hunched back). “Is it really bad? Do you need a doctor?”

“Wow,” Jungkook whistles, “Namjoon-hyung, you really are amazing.”

Namjoon whines pitifully, and Yoongi agrees.

“I-”, Jin sighs, and pinches the bridge of his nose. “We’re so lucky we haven’t been kicked out of this place for disruption to the neighbours.”

And that’s one that they all agree to.

Once they settle, Hoseok turns on his stomach to look at Yoongi, gaze boring into him innocuously. And then he props himself up on his elbows and rests his head in his hands, grinning.

“Hyung, what are you thinking about?”

Yoongi widens his eyes in shock, and looking at Hoseok, realises that he wouldn’t be surprised if he started kicking his legs in the air like a stereotypical teenage girl, making the same faces he uses on Mijin and Jaeun and the other kids he teaches, just to annoy him into answering. “Come on, tell me, what is it?”

Yoongi huffs, “no one.”

Hoseok’s hands slip and he jolts forward, and on the floor, Taehyung and Jungkook stop reaching over to reorder each others cards, the both of them opening their mouths in wide gasps. The room goes silent.

“Hyung… I asked what, not who.”

Yoongi chokes, and it isn’t until the early hours of the next morning, when the soft orange light of the sun starts peeking through the city skyline, stars disappearing gently into the baby blue sky, that the laughter dies down and Yoongi is left alone to wonder at Hoseok’s question- wonders about who it was that he was so caught up in thinking about, wonders at the empty spot in the room that’s been there all night, glaring at him in the corner of his vision- at the laughter that he swore he could hear, could feel washing over him like a gentle wave, but that didn’t belong to any of his friends.

He wonders; who?

 

- and -

 

“One trip please,” Yoongi requests, passing his coins over and moving into the warmth of the bus quickly, trying to stop the full body shivers that tremble through from his feet to his teeth, which chatter uselessly into the quiet of the vehicle.

He casts a glance around, moving past the woman in red who is always there, and up towards the back, not really looking for anything, but noticing an (his) absence right away.

“No Jimin tonight.” He whispers, and sighs, suddenly feeling the shivering stop as it's replaced with something heavy and nostalgic.

It’s like this sometimes; Yoongi will get on the bus at his normal midnight time, and Jimin won’t be there, just a memory that Yoongi is overcome by. Other nights Yoongi may hop on and fall asleep, not remembering or thinking of Jimin at all. Occasionally there are also nights where he’ll stay in the studio later or leave earlier, and will go days without catching the bus at all, always feeling remorseful when he comes back and sees Jimin sitting there- remembering him as if he was never gone.

Whatever the case, whenever he sees Jimin’s face, his giddy smile, dark hair and darker eyes seeming to contain the entire universe within them, he remembers instantly.

At the moment, without Jimin there (which he assumes is what kick starts the memories; his presence) the memories are a little vague, but still, he finds himself thinking of the first night he had met Jimin.

It had been a night just like any other, the night they first met.

And almost insistently, he remembers that there had been nothing weird about it. But maybe that’s simply because the entire circumstance in itself was highly unusual, and therefore Yoongi couldn’t point out one thing that was stranger than the other.

It was a night like any other, and a night just like this one, Yoongi thinks, looking out into the snowy city; feeling the slow hum of the engine and the occasional thump of the vehicle hitting raised spots on the asphalt road.

The bus follows its route from outside the campus, through the city and to the outlying suburbs; passing shops closing down for the night, and couples walking hand in hand, giggling as they walk into the neon-lit bars and clubs, bass thumping quietly into the evening air.

It had been late winter then too, with spring rearing warmly around the corner and the last of the snow starting to fall, floating down on the city sporadically and for short bursts of time.

So yes, it had been spring; and Yoongi met Jimin because of Jimin’s phone.

A true modern romance, he snorts, and then shakes his head and asks aloud, “romance? Where on earth-”

Settling further into his seat, his eyes catch on the linoleum floor, gray with flashes of coloured confetti as part of it’s pattern, bearing the dust footprints of the passengers.

At that time, back when they had first met, a phone had skittered across that same worn linoleum floor, careening into Yoongi’s foot and startling him from his thoughts with a soft thwack.

Back then, as he’d looked up and the seats, it hadn’t really been a mystery who the phone belonged to.

He’d reached down to pick it up, a jolt of static had run through his fingers in a shock of electricity so sudden, that Yoongi had pulled his hand away as if he’d been burnt. He had considered leaving it, letting the kid up towards the back who'd dropped it, come down and get it himself. But he’d been raised better, and he’d want someone to do the same for him.

So he’d stumbled his way upwards, fighting the sway of the bus to keep steady.

“Hey, you dropped your phone.” Yoongi had grunted- voice rough with too many hours recording and rerecording, posture stiff and tense, but the boy hadn't even blinked- gaze caught somewhere through Yoongi- as if he was looking at something that didn’t quite exist.

“Hey-” Yoongi had sighed, waving the hand that still clutched the phone in front of his face, patience wearing thin, “hey.”

With the force behind Yoongi’s tone, the guy had snapped out of whatever trance he’d been in and, when his eyes raised to meet his, they'd lit up immediately.

“Hello!”

“I-I what-” Yoongi stuttered, blinking at the boy in front of him, who smiled back with his ridiculously gentle eye smile, face scrunching up amusedly the longer Yoongi stared. “Um, this is yours.”

The boy had looked down at the phone in Yoongi’s hand as if suddenly realising he’d lost it, making a low confused noise in his throat. The lights flicker again, but Yoongi stares as if transfixed, and he breathes a distressed little exhale through his nose.

At the time, as their hands met, Yoongi had been struck by how soft and warm his were, how small they seemed compared to his own, but it was nothing compared to the sound of his voice, gentle and warm with a distinct Busan lilt that made it all that much richer. At the time, Yoongi hadn't known what to do with that observation.

“Thank you.”

“It’s whatever.”

And then, he looked at Yoongi, eyes dancing with something indecipherable to Yoongi even now.

“My name’s Park Jimin.”

And even as the bus driver had cast a nervous glance back at him, and the woman in red smiled out into the dark of the night through the window, Yoongi paused, looked at Jimin’s smile, and decided to hell with it.

“I’m Yoongi, Min Yoongi.”

 

- and -

 

“Yoongi? Is there anything that you… I mean do you remember me at all…?”

“Hmm, well…. I do remember emotions…”

“You do?”

“Mhm- you know, irritation, suffering, the desire to beat my head against a-”

“Yoongi!”

A soft laugh, “sorry, sorry… I’m sorry, let me try again. Truthfully... I can remember feelings-  emotions, laughter, some sentences and words here and there. But there’s never any real context.”

“Oh?”

“It’s... think of it like this; it’s like trying to remember why you were so convinced when you were a child that the Bermuda Triangle would be a bigger deal in your life when you grew up than it actually is. Knowing for sure that you dwelled on it for days, nights- an overwhelming feeling of fear and curiosity weighing on you, but when you look back on it, find yourself having no idea exactly why it got to you so much.”

“I-”

“Its like, I know in the back of my mind that there’s something I’m missing; something that I…”

“You what, hyung?

“Just… just that I don’t want to forget, Jiminnie.”

(That I want to reach out for and grasp with both hands; keep safe. That I don't want to lose).

 

- and -

 

Jimin isn’t quite there- real but not at the same time. This is a fact.  

Yoongi hasn’t been able to place exactly what it is. It also occurs to him that he should be more concerned about Jimin's nature, whether he’s a ghost or a spirit or a demon, but he can’t find it in himself to care. He's made guesses, that much is for certain, but he always feels like it’s dangerous ground to touch on with Jimin; as though the illusion of a world that they've built around themselves, the bubble of safety that their midnight bus provides, would be shattered if he pushed it too much (if he made reference more than a few times to ghosts and spirits and dreams).

What’s also a fact though, as much as the fact that Jimin isn't quite there, is that Jimin doesn't really seem to know what he is either- nor how to measure himself.

On a lighter note in their situation though, Jimin isn’t the most covert at being whatever he is.

It’s- it’s not an insult. It’s a point of charm. Mostly.

For one, he makes too many subtle jokes about his non-existence and most of the time, it leaves Yoongi think in that he'd get right along with Seokjin, can imagine Jimin's full bodied laughter along with the windshield-like laughter that Seokjin can't help but make.

For another, he tends to move unrealistically- the most alarming example being the time he’d run after Yoongi to return his wallet to him, just before he’d stepped out of the bus, but had done so in the space of two seconds and had almost given the bus driver a heart attack when he’d appeared almost out of thin air right next to Yoongi at the driver’s window.

These things are things that Yoongi can mostly explain away to the driver, to the occasional drunken passengers, (and he doesn't even have to worry about the woman in red, because either she doesn't care, or doesnt even realize, and Yoongi finds that he can’t look at her for very long anyways, always naturally inching away, not quite ready to consider who or what she may be).

The flickering though; that’s a dead giveaway, something more obvious and glaring and Yoongi could almost laugh at the idea that Jimin is anything other than a human, except for that.

It hadn’t happened all that often the first year that Yoongi knew him- but on the three grand occasions that it had, Jimin had explained it away without too much thought.

The first time Yoongi chose to mention it, Jimin had spluttered confusedly and flat out denied that anything had happened at all, and even then, for whatever reason, Yoongi had chosen to believe him; although with no small amount of incredulity.

“Streetlights Yoongi.” Was his explanation the second time, and then the third time; “It’s an old bus.”

But even in spite of Jimin’s easy- if ridiculous - dismissal, it hadn’t taken Yoongi long to catch on, to realise that Jimin wasn’t quite… there.

In the past, Yoongi had only guessed at where Jimin came from, what world he had inhabited, what world he existed in that left him a phantom on a midnight bus.

The first time they'd met, Yoongi didn’t think anything of him, just assumed he was a student as well- not such a wild thought given that Jimin was always on the bus before him, even though Yoongi always hopped on at the first terminal- at the university.

But slowly the pool of guesses grew from none, he’s normal, to ghosts and spirits and demons and deities, even to the simple explanation that Jimin was just in his imagination.

Jimin doesn't remember much either, of course, which doesn’t help him with his research when Jimin falls asleep on his shoulder, or when Jimin takes to bothering the drunkards when Yoongi and him have had an argument.

( “I don't really think there's anyone out there to remember me.”

“I do sometimes-”

“But you don't, not really, you don't even know if I exist do you?”)

But they joke, and Yoongi often finds himself remembering the myths and legends and literature that Namjoon drawls on about during their lyrical sessions, the characters he re-imagines with words both hard and gentle and clever. He remembers the story of a ghost woman- Mae Nak Phra Khanong- who after dying, lingered to be with her loved one, until he discovered what she was and fled, leaving her to haunt her village until she was captured and exercised, and before passing on, assured she would see her beloved husband and son in her next life.

Those stories always make him wonder, if Jimin is a ghost, then why is he lingering?

Ultimately it makes more sense that Jimin is a spirit of sorts; and yet something in Yoongi’s chest always pangs with guilt when he discards the idea that Jimin could have lived once- because Jimin is oh-so human.

(“We could meet in the stars you know”, Jimin says one day, hand resting beside his thigh on the bus seat, a hair's breadth away from Yoongi’s own hand, which is holding the base of his broken headphones down so that neither ear drops out as they listen to the last few beats of a track Yoongi had started creating the day they met.

“You and I,” Jimin deepens his voice and sucks in a deep, dramatic breath; clutches his chest, “we could be like the lost lovers, who built the bridge every thousand years, never knowing what may happen in the time they spent apart, but bound to meet again.”

Yoongi laughs, and Jimin smiles at him, brushing a hand through his hair and laughing in delight when Yoongi snorts.

“Seriously though! We’re like that folktale, Yoongi!”)

And so cruelly, Jimin’s nature is left to his quirk of flickering.

Except that the flickering becomes more than a quirk, it becomes a strange, poignant reminder that Jimin wasn’t the same as Yoongi; and then it becomes terrifying.

“Jimin? Breathe, fuck, please just keep breathing okay?” Yoongi calls, hands flitting along the sides of Jimin’s arms anxiously as he flickers in and out of existence, the neon lights on the bus flickering at the same time, as though they’re connected, on a plane of existence of their own.

Under their feet, the bus is rumbling gently, but enough to set his nerves on edge, and Yoongi has to bite down on his tongue to fight the urge to call the bus to a stop right there and then.

He doesn't, but he wants to.

“I-I’m…” Jimin stutters, and finally his muscles stop seizing up as he relaxes against Yoongi’s chest, weakly pulls Yoongi’s jacket closer around his shoulders.

“Talk to me?”

Yoongi stills, shivering at the sound of Jimin’s voice, weak and trembling. He pulls back a little so he isn’t crowding the younger, and Jimin, curious, looks up and into his eyes.

“Maybe,” Yoongi whispers, going for a distraction, “maybe you’re in a coma?”

Jimin hums. “A coma? Wouldn't I be haunting a hospital or something? Not a bus?”

Yoongi considers Jimin’s words and in his silence, the light seems to fade from Jimin’s eyes, and he lets out a small 'ha, told you'.

“Ah, I know,” Yoongi tries again, desperately trying to pull the younger from the darkness he’s built around himself. “You must be the spirit of the bus, come to life out of sheer boredom, just to haunt it’s passengers.”

This earns a soft snort from Jimin and Yoongi counts it as a success. Even as Jimin weakly pushes his head against Yoongi’s shoulder and grumbles.

“Easy, Jiminie. Bus spirits should be nice to passengers.” Yoongi whispers, pulling his jacket further over Jimin’s shoulders, averting his eyes when Jimin looks up at him, teeth showing in his smile as he flickers in and out once more.

Letting out a small sigh, Yoongi sinks back into his seat and consciously tries to distract himself from the way Jimin seems to phase in and out of existence, flickering along with the lights.

Or perhaps, it’s true that the lights are flickering along with him.

Jimin giggles and curious, Yoongi turns, only to have the question die on his lips and his frown easing.

“Yoongi,” Jimin whispers, eyes shining with something quiet, something that Yoongi can’t quite place. “Yoongi I have something to tell you.”

Swallowing down against the dryness in his throat, Yoongi’s cheeks burn warm as he realises how close they've gotten; Jimin’s hands clasping the fabric of Yoongi’s shirt, Yoongi’s arm wrapped around his shoulders and holding Jimin close to his side.

How hadn't he noticed that?

“Y-yeah? And what’s that?” He stutters, stiffening under Jimin’s watchful gaze.

A smile tugs gently at Jimin’s lips, and Yoongi wants to punch the window because whattheabsolutebloody-

“I like the mint you know- it’s very cute.”

And Yoongi’s never been excellent at talking when he’s flustered.

“Guess I’ll have to get rid of it then.”

It takes Jimin a good three seconds to register Yoongi’s words, and shocked, he lurches forward and covers his face with his hands, stifling laughter. “You- you can’t take the compliment can you, tough guy?”

Yoongi shrugs, a small but gummy grin growing on his face, watching as the boy next to him attempts to calm his breathing, only to immediately burst into another fit of giggles.

He huffs teasingly, “gotta’ maintain my image, Park Jiminie.”

“Of course.”

After that, they lapse into a comfortable silence, Jimin flickers wildly for a few minutes after their conversation dies, and the bus passes another few of stops, turning into the first of many quieter, more secluded streets that their route goes through.

Along the street, snow covers the thin spindly branches of the trees. Yoongi glances at Jimin, hyper aware of the quiet, trembling sigh that he lets out; of the fall of his shoulders; the slow, heartbreaking shift to the smaller, quieter version of himself that Yoongi only ever saw in the days before they had spoken their first words to each other.

The bus pauses at a stop, waiting idly as a few minutes pass, allowing the driver time to check his phone as he waits for the clock to match up to when the timetable says he’s meant to be at this stop.

Yoongi imagines for a second, just a second, how fun it might be for the both of them to just bolt, to run off the bus right here, into the park they're waiting by; like mischievous kids.

He purses his lips, glances at the ground and wonders, would it ever be possible? Would it be possible for Jimin to leave the bus with Yoongi- walk together with him into the cold morning, cheeks pink in the chill, their breaths dancing in the air in front of them as they bicker and argue and tease each other.

Would it be possible for Jimin to exist outside of the world that their bus has become?

“You know…” Jimin starts, startling Yoongi.

“I don’t know if I’m dead…” he laughs then, quietly, his smile not quite reaching his eyes, “and I don’t know why after all of these years I feel less here.”

Jimin looks out of the window, watching as the dense apartment blocks start appearing less and less to make way for parkland, the snow covered treeline passing them quietly, and Yoongi feels cold suddenly, surprised by the words; surprised at Jimin’s emotions suddenly lay bare in front of him in the quiet of the bus.

Jimin’s eyes are far away again, and Yoongi reaches out.

“What if all of this is a dream? What if I’m all that’s left of Jimin, and I’m too scared to let go?”

Yoongi’s hand falters, but it finds its way into Jimin’s nonetheless.

“Sometimes, Yoongi, I can’t even tell if any of this is real.”

 

- and -

 

Yoongi looks at his watch and frowns.

For whatever reason, sitting in the studio, at his usual time, with the usual cups of coffee littered around him, Namjoon next to him tapping away at his keyboard, his patience is running thin; sanity seeming to hang on a tiny thread, one that seems fit to break at any moment.

He can’t pin it down, the urgency he’s feeling, the need to remember something important. It’s something that Namjoon had commented on it earlier, called Yoongi distracted and said with all sincerity, “if there’s something on your mind, you can talk to me hyung.”

And Yoongi was grateful, but also so unbelievably overwhelmed, because he didn’t know what to say.

He has no idea what’s causing the anxiety to twist and build in his stomach, nor the goosebumps that form on his arms.

So he’d pushed away from his desk, grabbed his keys and explained softly that he was going to get something to drink, before bolting from the studio and down towards the university café, where Seokjin would be finishing his training.

As he passed by the stairs though, he got a vague, unnerving feeling of familiarity.

Gentle as a breeze of air, he thinks that he feels a hand brush against his, thinks that he feels warmth radiating from somewhere nearby; and as if it had been there all along, sees a figure standing just one step shy of the end of the stairway, smiling at him like a strange, gentle phantom, waving as his eyes crinkle into crescents. Yoongi swallows hard, and the lights in the hallway are flickering, flickering, flickering.

“Goodbye, Min Yoongi.”

Yoongi clenches his jaw, shakes his head furiously; the lights continue to stutter, but less often, only blinking in and out, and Yoongi wonders what he dreamt last night that left him so unsettled. He pushes forward, unblinking as he steps through the apparition, which is gone the moment his feet touch the bottom step. There is no clap of thunder nor echoing boom, no tearing in the atmosphere as the… ghost fades softly into nothingness.

The boy is gone, and the lights are still.

With no lack of panic, he runs through the building towards the cafeteria, gets gets Namjoon a coffee, chats briefly but distractedly with Seokjin and decides that he won’t be waiting around that night; once the professor dismisses Namjoon and himself, he locks the studio and makes his way directly to the stop.

Anticipation flutters in his stomach, and he taps his thigh nervously, fingers playing phantom melodies as he sits down on the lonely bench at the bus stop.

With snow drifting lightly in the air, landing in soft piles on the road and in the trees, Yoongi finds himself in an almost familiar place, as if he’s been here time and time again, waiting for someone to come.

He shudders at that thought, because the boy’s face comes to mind again, and he doesn’t know why he seems so familiar, so well known to him, even though he can't identify the bridge of his nose, the shape of his lips, the curve of his collarbone as his shirt dips low.

He sighs into the wind, and leans back, hands shoved firmly in his pockets, and at that moment, he notices her.

The woman sits a few feet away, but it’s close enough for Yoongi to tense apprehensive as she brushes her hair over her shoulder- smoothes down the red fabric of her coat- careful and almost soothing in her movements as Yoongi watches her absently from the corner of his peripheral vision.

“Yoongi, I think you know a spirit.”

Yoongi’s fingers still, rhythm dying into an empty nothingness. “Excuse me?”

She smiles, and the wind rustles, and finally, Yoongi turns to look at her directly; for the first time in years, face to face with a woman who Yoongi would consider an otherworldly being in her own right.

“Park Jimin,” she says simply, wide eyes glinting under the moonlight, and then with a softly amused lilt to her tone, “a spirit.”

Yoongi, in a moment of insanity, nods, as if her words make any sense to him at all. “Right. Jimin. The spirit.”

And they lapse into a silence.

The woman smiles almost absently out into the distance, tracing patterns on the snow on the bench while the lamp light shines down on them, and Yoongi is very aware of the board like stiffness of his spine, his fingers clenching nervously on his lap.

“I have a feeling you don't really know who I'm talking about, not at the moment anyways.”

Yoongi bites down on the retort that no, surprisingly I have no idea to whom you are referring and truthfully you scare me a little, and instead, he shakes his head almost too sharply.

“I’m really sorry, truly,” he starts, and suddenly the woman’s smile shifts, and instead she’s looking at him with a small frown, lips pulled into a contemplative line. “But I-I… I'm not sure exactly who you’re talking about.”

“Right,” she nods, almost unsurprised by his words, though Yoongi thinks unperturbed is a better description, and he leans backwards a little, further away. “Well, I suppose that was to be expected, all things considered.”

Her smile is sad when she draws her attention back to him and explains, “Jimin... is one of few exceptions I’ve ever granted.”

Yoongi blinks dumbly.

“He’s always been kind hearted- and though I love all my children equally, I’ve always had a soft spot for him- and his mother is a very kind woman. The day he was born… I was truly happy that day.”

And it clicks.

He whispers “Samshin Halmoni,” and the woman smiles, reaching out to take his hands in hers.

“Hello, Yoongi.”

Yoongi feels a snap of energy course through his body, shocking him into stillness as he takes in the knowledge that he’s looking at a deity, a goddess known well as the watcher and guardian of children, and as Yoongi looks into her eyes, the discomfort and aversion he’d felt to her presence all these years melts away into something else entirely, and he smiles. “Hello.”

The lapse into a moment of silence and a taxi passes by, the driver casting a glance over to him but looking back to the road and continuing on almost as soon as he spots Samshin next to him. She laughs, And Yoongi raises an eyebrow and smiles into the night air despite himself.

Yoongi startles, and wonders why he had such a wary feeling about her for so many years if she’s truly the spirit of childbirth and protection.

As if hearing his thoughts- “it’s nice to be a spirit when I can convince people that they don't want to approach me. It keeps life quiet when it needs to be.”

And Yoongi feels mildly embarrassed because she looks at him with a knowing smirk, and he realised that he wasn't wrong to avoid her but he also feels that he should have paid her more attention before now, can't believe a weird feeling caused him to never properly look at her for so many years.

“Jimin is different though, I'm sure you've noticed. His presence is warm to you, welcoming. But you’ve noticed that the driver can barely tell Jimin is there… So, maybe you're special,” she finishes with a wink.

Yoongi smiles at her exaggerated expression, the teasing glint to her eyes, and he leans back, presses his head against the metal of the shelter behind him.

“So-” he starts. “He’s definitely not… Then all this time… I had thought - I mean, I wasn't really sure- he’s a ghost, then?”

“Oh! You remember?”

Yoongi nods, the memories flooding to him within the span of a blink and he feels tears prickle at his eyes, happiness and pain swelling in his chest. “Yeah, yeah.”

Samshin turns to the ground with a sad, far away smile. “I'm sorry, Yoongi. He is a ghost. It’s part of who he is now, and why you can't remember him off the bus. He's bound to it and because of that, can't exist anywhere else. Even in memories.”

But I can remember him off the bus, Yoongi thinks confusedly, I did remember him.

“Will he always be? Bound to the bus, I mean.”

She presses her lips together and stares into his eyes, leaning in as if she's looking for something, an answer to a question maybe, or proof of something yet to be decided.

He shudders, feeling the weight of her gaze on him, through him, feeling the power that her words carry as they bleed from her red lips when, seemingly finding her answer, she pulls Yoongi into a hug and whispers something in his ear, something that Yoongi won't- can’t forget.

His reply is quiet, raspy and heartbroken, but she hears it nonetheless and smiles. “You’ll find an answer to that question. Trust me, you will.”

“But I-” Yoongi flinches, a clump of snow sliding off of a branch next to him and landing with a thwack on the pavement, and Samshin laughs; however it’s quiet, a little heartbroken in the silence of the morning, and when she looks up again, she looks directly into his eyes.

She catches him in a moment of tension, her words heavy and wise. “The last snowfall will be very soon.”

"Is… is that bad for Jimin?”

“No,” Samshin says, “no, not necessarily. But it’s time, I think, that he returns home.”

And where is that, he wonders. What home is left for Jimin to return to?

Her gaze moves to the lamp post above them; hair falling over her shoulders as her head tilts upwards and her red, painted lips pull into a soft but tired smile. “I might have broken too many rules for this one.”

And with a squeeze of his hand, she’s walking away.

Yoongi sits dumbly, heart beating fast and painfully in his chest, and after a few more seconds of bewilderment, he jumps up, opens his mouth to shout after her, and-

In the time between when she steps behind the treeline, and when he blinks, she's gone, a spirit disappearing in the wind.

The bus pulls up, empty, and for the first time Jimin truly feels like a ghost.

 

- and -

 

When Yoongi bursts into Taehyung and Jungkooks’ apartment the next day, shoulders tense and hair unkempt from a night without sleep, trying his hardest to place all the scattered memories, he’s only sort of surprised that Hoseok is there as well; the three of them curled up on the couch playing some sort of video game with too many gunshots and too many explosions for Yoongi to handle, anxiety building, and he barely waits for them to pause their round to say hello before he burst out, “who is Park Jimin?”

Hoseok’s smile dies on his lips, and Taehyung jolts forwards, eyes wide and mouth hanging open as though Yoongi’s words have physically struck him.

Sorry?

“I asked-”

“I know what you asked-” Hoseok cuts him off, shooting the younger two a worried look, finding them both as still as statues as they state wide eyed at Yoongi whose own eyes are wild, the perfect image of chaos.

“Yoongi, what the hell is this about?”

“I-”  he pauses. What's he going to say? I think he's a ghost and I want to try and find him while I can remember him? I think I knew him at some point in time but I'm not sure because of spirit magic? Whatever answer he has, it catches in his throat and as his shoulders start trembling, he thinks that he’s starting to hate the way Taehyung is looking at him. “Just please tell me, who is he? Park Jimin.”

“Yoongi…”

“Please, any of you, one of you must know-”

Yoongi,” Taehyung stresses, fingers clenching at the hem of his shirt, “the only Jimin I- we ever knew is dead.”

Yoongi falters, ankle rolling as he stumbles forward, knees hitting the floor with a rough thud, elbow colliding with Taehyung’s favourite, if slightly mismatched victorian-style loveseat; the loveseat he bought his first year of university, with a friend he can't remember no matter how many times they'd asked.

Jungkook lets out a small, horrified gasp, and Taehyung gulps.

“Yoongi- hyung, are you hurt?”

He is, his ankle is burning and he thinks he’d felt something click when he had fallen, and his arm feels like someone's taken a spiked bat to it, and apart from some swelling from the collision with the chair, he expects a fabric burn as well. But it's not really anything compared to the pressure inside his rib cage, the panic.

“Park…” he insists, “Jimin. Who is he?

Hyung, hyung whatever’s going on, please listen to me, he's dead. You know that…”

Yoongi tries to protest, to argue, no he's not, I was with him just the other day, that’s what I know; but Taehyung starts shaking like a leaf caught in a storm, eyes glazed as if his mind is somewhere else as well.

Jungkook quickly stands up, comes to sit in front of Taehyung, gently running his fingers along Taehyung’s knee, careful not to crowd or overwhelm him.

“Taehyung-ah, baby, come on, let’s get you out of here, breathe okay?”

Taehyung nods, and Jungkook smiles gratefully, careful when he helps Taehyung up by the arms, trying not to jostle or distress him, to not make him feel trapped.

“Come on, let's go to my room, okay?”

They make their way down the hallways, Taehyung unsteady and panicky, breathing hard, and when Jungkook’s door closes with a quiet click, Yoongi feels shame and anger burning in him. Guilty to have caused them to suffer.

Hoseok comes to his side, and gently, with more care than Yoongi really thinks he deserves, wraps his arm around Yoongi’s waist and hoists him up, helping him to rest on the arm of the loveseat, stepping back a few steps and looking down the hallway where he can hear Jungkook muttering gently.

“Would you-” Hoseok starts, turning back to Yoongi and clearing his throat, “would you like to see him- or, uh, see if the Jimin we know is the same?”

Truthfully? No.

He nods.

“In the kitchen, come on.”

The walk there is awkward, Hoseok’s gaze lowered until they get into the kitchen, to the fridge where Hoseok stops and huffs, standing up on his toes and reaching for a box that in all the time Yoongi has known Hoseok, he has never seen pulled from that spot.

Gently pushing bottles of soju and cans of other soft drinks to the side, the glass and aluminium clinking and clicking as they hit each other, Hoseok places the box down, and Yoongi takes in the yellowed and cracked newspaper that wraps around its exterior, noting the gilded pattern that peeks through a tear in the makeshift cover.

Hoseok sighs, runs his hand over the top of the box in a sweeping movement, sending a tiny storm of dust into the air. Lifting the newspaper wrapped lid away from the base, he meets Yoongi’s gaze and then looks down, and Yoongi takes it as permission to do the same.

It’s startling what he sees; envelopes, photos, handwritten notes on colourful slips of paper, thin ribbons and bells and nick-knacks from different decades. They’re all weathered differently, some yellow, some torn, others in a perfect and clean condition, barely crinkled, paper unblemished or softened in any corners.

Hoseok draws in a deep breath of air, reaches in and pulls out a polaroid, casting a quick pained glance over it before looking up at Yoongi.

“This is weird Yoongi, really weird.”

Yoongi fiddles with his earring, and while he wants to agree, to confide in Hoseok, the words stick to his throat, heavy and suffocating and instead Yoongi just reaches out, fingers jolting the moment they brush against the photo.

He turns it over in his palm, and he wishes he hadn’t said yes.

In the photo, sprawled on top of a Hoseok and Taehyung is a younger Jimin. Jimin with his eye smile, cheeks a little squishier, fluffy hair dyed a ridiculous tangerine orange, lips parted in a shy grin as his hand hovers a few centimetres away from his mouth, hiding what Yoongi knows is a boisterous laugh.

There are streamers everywhere, goofy American drinking cups littered over the floor with liquid staining the ground, but the boys in the photograph don’t seem to care. No, the three of them, laughing at whoever is taking the photo, just grin widely.

Yoongi would smile too, but he feels the blood in his veins go cold, his stomach sinking with something akin to dread, and he asks, as if it wasn’t already certain, “it was silver last, wasn’t it? His hair?”  

“S-silver.” And then Hoseok answers, a beat too slow, confused. “Yeah, I remember... now. Wow. Um, the the last time I saw him, his hair- he hadn’t even had it a full day.”

“Shit-

“I'm sorry, Yoongi. Jimin… he’s been gone for years, it must have been… I don't know, someone else...”

Jimin. Gone.

But then again, who's to say that his Jimin he was even there in the first place?

Fuck,” The curse falls from his lips in a quiet sob, and like a string is cut, Yoongi collapses back into the cabinets, sending the glasses on the top of the bench clattering down, the sharp smell of alcohol filling the room. Yoongi’s hands tremble around the photo, breath catching in his throat as his lungs constrict and-

 

-  and -

 

He knows in that moment, that in this story, Jimin’s happy ending is not one that he can intrude on.

 

- and -

 

 

“Yoongi?”

The lights are flickering again, but this time Yoongi thinks he’s ready. Yoongi is aware of the way he looks Jimin over, taking him in once, then twice, then finally feeling the blush in his cheeks. Jimin is wearing his sweater properly, despite not appearing to really feel the cold much at all.

Jimin smiles, pulls the sleeves of his sweater further into his hands, like he isn't really sure what else to do.

Yoongi sighs, and into the cold air of the night, he says: “Park Jimin, you're a liar and a thief.”

Although looking confused, Jimin flinches back, hurt flashing through his expression and Yoongi is careful, so careful when he reaches out to take Jimin’s hands in his own, pulling him in closer.

Jimin is looking at him like he’s lost, again. Like he doesn't quite understand what Yoongi is trying to do, but wants to help him nonetheless; Yoongi thinks that in a lot of ways Jimin is too precious for this world.

“Yoongi,” Jimin whispers, quiet but not sad, almost curious. “How am I a thief.”

Yoongi suppresses a shudder when Jimin moves to interlace their fingers, leaving him to wonder how a ghost can feel so warm and real but not at the same time. He thinks on Jimin's question for a moment, thinks on how to answer the best, and he finds himself rejecting every thought that pops into his mind.

(“You stole two years of memory, at least 1 hour a day just by existing, even though I’m not really mad about that.”

“You lied to that drunk man and told him that his dog had run away when he started crying that it had been run over, just so he’d calm down and not work himself into a panic. Truly deplorable.”

“Everyone steals something once in their life, you probably stole food from your friends or family.” )

Instead, he says, “you lied because even though we didn’t talk about it very often, you still didn’t tell me that you thought you may be a ghost. You let me accuse you of being the physical incarnation of the bus.”

It’s completely (mostly) bullshit and he almost expects Jimin to call him on it, but instead he blushes.

“W-well I mean, of course I’m a ghost of sorts-” Jimin stutters out, going red. “But your theories were really funny, and I really liked it when you guessed! It was really… really… fuck it was cute, okay.”

And it’s not really where Yoongi expected that to go but he’s just glad that his mouth didn’t screw anything up for him, and so he’ll happily settle for Jimin’s flushed expression, eyes crinkled in a shy crescented smile.

Except, as if sensing that Yoongi isn't likely say anything to relieve the awkwardness, Jimin starts stuttering out, “so then… you figured out why I- why I'm here… But how am I a thief?”

Now his turn to for embarrassment, Yoongi feels his face heating up and he looks away from Jimin quickly, schooling his expression as much as he can, ignoring Jimin as he steps closer, pulling the sleeves of his sweater even further down into his palms. “Tell me Yoongi, what did I steal?”

He flushes and fights the urge to turn tail and run, but Jimin sees his hesitancy and intertwines their fingers gently, stopping Yoongi from even thinking of escaping without an explanation.

(Stopping Yoongi from thinking, period).

“You-” he looks away- over to the trees lining the bus stop- at the streetlight lit buds that are sprouting along the branches. The first of spring; likely to die in the frost.

“You, Park Jimin...”

Yes?” Jimin presses, leaning closer, so close that Yoongi can feel the feather light brush of his breath against his nose. “-you stole my heart.”

Silence. Deafening silence engulfs him save for the sound of blood rushing past his ears- the soft gasp that Jimin lets out- and Yoongi’s heart leaps up into his throat.

“What?”

If Yoongi was flushed before, he's beet red now; embarrassment at his own, stupid, dumb words warming his entire body. But Jimin laughs, and it's a warm sound, a sound that makes the bite of the evening air a little less fierce. A little less empty. “I stole your heart?”

Yoongi scowls, turning to glare at the ground as if it'll do him any good. “S-shut up. Forget it if it’s so-”

“Yoongi.” Jimin calls, slinging his arms around Yoongi’s neck happily, pressing forward so they’re lined up against each other, Yoongi’s hands automatically circling around his waist to steady them both. “If I stole your heart, then I think we’re both thieves-”

His heart rate spikes, and Jimin leans in, face flushed and only a few centimeters away from Yoongi’s. “Because you stole mine too.”

Warm, plush lips press against his, and it’s all Yoongi can do not to lose himself in the soft breathy sound that Jimin makes when, after a solid sever moments of complete dumbstruck stillness, Yoongi finally breaks out of his shocked stupor and returns the kiss; deepening it by pressing his own lips a little firmer against Jimin’s, pulling Jimin a little closer.

“Yoongi-” Jimin sighs, fingers curling at the base of Yoongi’s neck, tugging lightly at the hair there and then when they both pull away, finally giving in to their need to breathe, Jimin lets out a small laugh, taking in Yoongi’s dazed and flushed face.

“Well,” he says, still flushed, but looking determined,  leaning forward to stand up on his tiptoes.

“That-” he pecks Yoongi on the forehead- moves to peck Yoongi on the nose.

“Was-” he moves to Yoongi’s cheek, and Yoongi in a bold move, turns his head just in time for Jimin’s lips to land square on his.

“Surprising but absolutely mandatory?” Yoongi asks, pulling back for a moment before leaning forward to meet Jimin’s lips again, greedy and unapologetic.

Jimin smiles against his mouth and the warmth that builds in yoongi’s chest is the same warmth that’s always there when he’s with Jimin; only, when Jimin lets out a puff of air- giggling!- the warmth increases tenfold, and Yoongi is rendered helpless.

“Well,” Jimin teases, pulling back and playfully dancing a step backwards, “I've decided that you're definitely real.”

“Oh?”

Mhm, if you weren't real, then this wouldn't feel so-” he swoops in for another kiss and Yoongi- shyness finally overwhelming him- ducks his head and accidentally smacks his forehead against Jimin’s nose in the process.

Jimin pulls back with a gasp, and upon seeing Yoongi’s shocked and guilty expression, gives him the biggest and most gentle megawatt smile he can, flushed with happiness. “It wouldn't feel so nice.”

And oh bloody hell, Yoongi wants to argue, looking at the redness where he accidentally headbutted Jimin, but the thought stop being cute overcomes him and he hangs his head in his hands.

“Yoongi calm down, don't get shy because I’ll get shy and this is too much already. and let's face it we can’t continue on if-” his rambling trails off, and Yoongi, confused, looks up.

“I have to tell you something.”

“Yes?”

“I think- I think I love you.”

And then the lights flicker, but it isn't scary in that moment, instead it feels right, and when Jimin closes his eyes and presses his forehead to Yoongi’s, softly repeating I love you, I love you, I love you, under his breath; Yoongi swears that instead of disappearing, Jimin becomes more solid against him, as if his connection to the world is more tangible; real.

And then that moment is gone.

“Yoongi-” Jimin whispers, reaching out to grasp Yoongi’s hand again, horrified they both slip right through each other. “Yoongi- I think...”

It was all borrowed time, Yoongi realises numbly.

That’s exactly what Jimin was from the beginning, a spirit that was running on the time given to him by a goddess. Every night with Jimin could well have been their last, every flicker could have broken the younger, pushed him past a point of no return, but Yoongi knows that right now, this moment is the moment that they’ve been building up too.

That Jimin was never going to be able to stay for forever.

And fuck, if he isn't furious that their time is running out now. He knew it would… but he can’t help but feel cheated.

Something warm brushes against his cheek, and Yoongi is flooded with the sensation of cold everywhere else; and he knows suddenly, and with absolute utter surety, that it’s Jimin.

“I'm a spirit right?”

It’s Jimin and his words that drip with honey and cheerful kindness; always playful and excited even as he issues absurd challenges.

“A ghost.”

It’s how when Jimin’s attention is caught by something, eyes dancing excitedly and eagerly; it’s impossible not to wonder how he can be so sad yet so kind.

"Yoongi.”

Had they met under different circumstances; had Yoongi not been able to see Jimin’s spirit-

“I have to move on.”

Do you? “Yes.”

“Yoongi?”

“Yeah, Jimin?”

“What's the saddest day?”

Yoongi stays silent and Jimin smiles wryly, answering for him. “One day.”

“Then what’s the happiest day?”

One day.”

“I’m not saying this to make you sad, Yoongi. We’ll get a one day eventually, I know it. I'll be back one day, and… and I’ll beat you up for saying that I'm the conscience of the bus.”

Perfectly, awfully timed; the bus, clearly labelled N15 Night Service, pulls up a little bit past them, indicator lights flashing sharply in the darkness.

Jimin turns to watch it, watch the doors open and watch the drive return to his phone, waiting. Jimin looks away as though he’s expecting Yoongi to get up and leave and pretend that this isn't happening; he looks like it's exactly what he hopes Yoongi will do.

Yoongi doesn't.

But still, more moments pass and Jimin still looks like Yoongi is going to turn his back at any second.

Nervous, pulling harshly at the hem of his sweater, Jimin comments, “I think this is the first time it’s ever been on time.”

“Jimin… Don’t say that like this is goodbye. I’ll go with you until the last stop- I’ve never seen that part of the city, Jimin-ah, please.”

He smiles gently in return, and shakes his head, leaving Yoongi stumped.

“Yoongi?”

“Yeah?”

“You better eat more, and e-eat better too. Your snacks are- they’re fucking horrible.” Jimin laughs, tears gathering in the corners of his eyes, his teasing words starkly juxtaposed against the distress in his gaze.

“I'll go with you, like normal.” He pleads again, and Jimin grimaces.

What normal?-  Jimin looks like he wants to ask- but doesn't.

Yoongi’s mouth opens a little, as if he wants to say something but suddenly decides against it, and his shoulders sag. The bus driver doesn't seem to pay Yoongi any mind at all, scrolling through his phone absently, almost like he doesn't even realize they're there. Just waiting, as if it's automatic for him.

Yoongi frowns, tries to push the words out one more time, but instead all he can do is bite his lip and think about all the things he should do, all the things he could say (I love you) if he wasn’t too scared, too cowardly. Jimin reaches up and holds Yoongi’s face in his hands, moving tentatively at first, and then surely.

And there’s that fear again in Yoongi’s mind, the fear that inevitably he will forget.

Yoongi leans into the warmth, forcing himself to look into Jimin’s eyes, too scared that if he looks away, Jimin will vanish before he can commit every part of him to memory. “I'm afraid I can't let you come with me this time Yoongi. You can't come with me to the land of the non-living.”

Jimin-”

“So like always then?” The boy across from him smiles, and something shifts in his expression, something firm and certain. He places his hands on Yoongi’s shoulders, and pushes. “Goodbye, Min Yoongi.”

Yoongi stumbles down the steps, his feet hitting the pavement outside of the bus forcefully. He looks back as if to say something, but instead of someone standing there, arms outstretched as they’d pushed him, all he’s met with is the bus driver looking at him curiously, and he finds himself losing his trail of thought.

“Did you forget something, kid?”

Yoongi frowns, fishes into his pockets for his phone and wallet- turning it on and noting a few missed calls- then he looks back up at the driver and slowly, shakes his head. “No, no I don’t think I have.”

The bus driver nods, and Yoongi watches mutely as the now empty vehicle pulls away from the stop, leaving him standing alone under the unwavering gaze of the streetlights.

 

- and -

 

 

His heart is heavy, but his smile is warm as he looks at her photo, takes in her smiling expression as she leans against the piano that Yoongi considers his first love; it’s worn keys and many snapped and repaired strings, far left pedal sticky and clunky to push down, all part of a memory he ties back to her, to his parents who never really understood but through his grandmother's words of belief allowed him to play as much as he needed.

He picks up the chrysanthemums from his last visit, places the new bundle of white and dark pink roses in their place, and right as he steps back-

He sees a boy in a photo, and he recognises him.

He doesn't know how long he stands there, people coming in quietly behind him, making their offerings, mourning, coming in and going out. He doesn't know how long he stands there with his fingers clenching into a fist around the second bundle of flowers- soft blue forget me nots, wrapped in deep pink string- thinking about a boy in a hallway, soft and see through and waving at him, then the same boy sitting next to him, snorting in laughter and throwing himself sideways on top of Yoongi’s shoulder.

No, he's not sure how long he stands there, but he knows that it’s getting late when one of the staff, a girl with her purple-silver hair pulled in a ponytail, comes up beside him.

“They’re lovely flowers.” She says, and Yoongi’s fingers tighten around the bouquet that he doesn’t even remember picking up from the florist.

“They are.” He mumbles, distractedly.

“Who are they for?”

“They’re… Do you know what happened to the boy who’s urn was here?”

She hesitates to answer and without knowing why, Yoongi lies, “he was a close friend.”

She bites down on her lip and shifts the bucket of flowers in her arms, looking behind her uncertainly. “I um… The family, uh, stopped their payments, they asked that the memorial be removed.”

Yoongi tries to crush the hope that builds in his chest, but he doesn't step down on it quickly enough and he asks, “he’s, did they say… did they find him?”

With a grimace, the girl pulls the bucket closer to her chest and looks down, and her next words fall uncertain and apologetic from her lips, crushing his hope well enough without his help, “I think they said something about... that they found... that they found a bod-”

Yoongi takes in a sharp inhale of breath, and the girl clears her throat, quietly bowing and taking a few steps backwards. She pauses there for a moment though, frowning, and then suddenly with a much lighter voice, ask “um, by the way, I don't mean to be rude but are you Agust D by any chance? I mean, I’m uh-”

“Sorry, I have to go.” Yoongi cuts her off with a deep bow, and then, as politely as he can, runs past her, almost tripping on the laces of his shoes, her confused stuttering falling on deaf ears.

When he steps out into the early summer air, huffing heavy exhales, heart hammering in his chest, he stands still under the shade of a cherry tree and as his breath calms, he watches the sun sets below the horizon.

“What the hell, Yoongi?” He asks himself, wiping a stray tear from his cheek and scowling as he blinks to clear whatever’s irritating it.  

He turns to walk back home, distantly wondering why the lamplights do not turn on.

 

- and -

 

“So this is the one? Midnight?

Yoongi nods, chewing on his pen distractedly, leafing through the final proof of their lyrics, mentally running it against the piano composition he’d finally pulled together with sweat and coffee and late nights full of pulsing fluorescent lights, the shouts and giggles of drunken passerby's, and Namjoon and Hoseok’s constant checking in. “Midnight feels like the right name I think.”

Namjoon hums, scribbling something on his notebook and circling it.

“I mean it fits, and none of our other ideas matched the song quite as well.” Yoongi nods in agreement, because they hadn't.

“Alright then… I mean, I'm happy to finalise the name and submit it for the final review if you’re happy with that?”

Yoongi pauses for a moment, considers it one more time, going over every other name that had come to mind before this one moment- red, snowfall, amnesia. hell even a bus route, N15.

None of them quite matched, didn’t really fit the feel of the song, despite being meaningful enough in their own right.

“Yeah, I'm happy with that, Joon.”

At that moment, the studio door clicks open, and Hoseok comes in with his dance bag slung over his shoulder and a tray of coffee in his hands. He pauses at the door, and even though he’s fairly far away. notices the penned circle around a few characters on Namjoons’ notepad.

Wow - you figured it out?”

Proceeding to dump the bags, Hoseok walks up behind Namjoon and leans down on the back of his chair, whistling lowly and grinning. “I’m a bit disappointed that you decided against my far superior name.”

Namjoon snorts. “We both know that you just wanted to call it Red Crowned Crane to fuck with Yoongi.”

“Aish, it’s a cute story” Hoseok argues, but it’s lighthearted and his smile is softer than it has been in months, and he looks less worried as he eyes the empty coffee cups on the studio desk- probably because of the empty lunch boxes next to them, or the water bottles in the bin. Whatever the case, his sigh sounds relieved, and he moves over to squeeze Yoongi’s shoulder.

Yoongi hums. “It isn't that cute. But just a stroke of luck. Besides, last I heard, the kid moved back to Busan, we were going to talk but lost contact when he left.”

Hoseok hums but seems distracted anyways, and reaches over to grab Namjoon’s notes. “So you're ready to submit the full album then, once you record this last one?”

“Yeah, I reckon we’ll be ready for final submission in a few days, just this one now.”

The room lapses into a relaxed silence, Hoseok nodding happily before silently passing the coffee out, taking a seat on the worn leather couch in the corner of the room. “By the way, Jungkook and Taehyung told me that the university is pulling down the campus bus terminal for remodeling, so because all of the bus stops through the lane are out of commission, they won’t be able to get here as often. They did ask to be here for your final recording though, you know how excited they get.”

Yoongi stills, coffee cup hovering a few centimeters away from his lips. “The bus terminal, huh?”

Namjoon and Hoseok exchange a glance which Yoongi doesn’t see as he tracks his pen along the page of his notebook, following an invisible but automatic trail.

“Yeah Yoongs… Your old route too.”

Yoongi’s expression stutters for a moment, betraying his calm demeanor, and he asks, throat a little tight, “it’s good we got hired and have a decent studio and car park, don't you think?”

They nod in response, and slowly Hoseok asks Namjoon about the mystery track that took so long for them to finish.

Their voices fade in the background, Namjoon muttering something a little awkwardly about how the final track had been in work for the longest amount of time in the album; Hoseok responding excitedly, this is it? Years in the making? Midnight is the track?

And he knows at some point their conversation fades off, but he finds himself stuck somewhere else- some time else; remembering a head of ever changing hair, catching flashes of a smile.

He knows that they’re still worried about him; worried because after his breakdown at Taehyung and Jungkook's apartment, things had gotten murky for a few months, almost a year, and even to this day, each time a bus passes him by, Yoongi imagines footsteps, and talks about someone sometimes as if he’s an old friend.

They think he's depressed, possibly a little delirious. 

( They slowly forget what it was that Yoongi came into their apartment for that night all those months ago- and whatever proof Yoongi tried to find, pointing at the box on Hoseok's fridge, recalling details of a face and a figure all too familiar but also all too fuzzy, like a dream- doesn't seem to exist, or fades away).

And Yoongi isn't so sure that it wasn't just a dream, anymore.

Hoseok places a hand on his shoulder, breaks him from his thoughts with a nervous smile.

“I was really worried about you- we all were… I mean, for months you wouldn’t even…”

Yoongi nods, squeezes Hoseok’s hand and allows himself one more moment to think about the certain stillness that came over the midnight bus the very last time he caught it; its slow, steady, nightly rhythm having become flat, no longer pulsing with life beneath his feet, becoming a shell which lost a little of what kept it alive. 

He smiles weakly. “Let's finish this?”

 

 

- and -

 

“Spirits are bastards- tricky business- especially when it comes to their gifts. With curses, It’s straightforward, and they make sense… But their gifts? They never work the way you expect them to.”

Yoongi furrows his brows but otherwise remains quiet, watching as Samshin glares out into the darkness.

“Cranes, you see, are said to grant favours in return for acts of-”

“-Sacrifice.”

Oh god, he thinks, and then with dawning horror, a lot of things click into place that had never made much sense before.

And she must realize this. Samshin- who shifts and leans closer to him, hand coming to rest briefly and comfortingly over his- must realize exactly what revelation he’s come to.

“He’s a kind hearted soul, and it seems only fitting that among the many people he’d helped, a spirit was one of them."

Samshin's eyes shine with something again, and Yoongi would sigh at the ridiculousness of it all, except he stills feels overwhelmingly that she knows more than she lets on, and he finds himself soaking up her words without a shred of doubt. 

“Several years ago I found Jimin sitting at a bus stop, barely a shadow of a person, and so, bound him to the bus to maintain his connection to this world. It’s a second chance for him. But Yoongi, you must know- all spirits have some kind of attachment to the world- reasons they hang around a place, things they represent and appear in. Jimin is a human spirit, who for now is attached to the bus.”

“Will he always be?”

“It's up to you to decide that one.”

 

- and -

 

 

“Yoongi, come on.”

Once their car pulls up to the curb outside of House of Cards, Hoseok throws a black mask towards Yoongi, who pulls it over his face with shaky hands and a quick nod of his head in thanks, knowing that even though the club is low key enough, it’s also known to frequent idols and artists, and they've had more and more keen fans since their latest album release landed them amongst other bigger companies on the charts.

When they've all stepped out of the car, trying their best to not step in front of the people bustling around with phones and video cameras, in outfits that don't quite match the cool air of the Spring night.

In the club line, someone waves over at them, and Hoseok beams, quickly patting Yoongi on the back and announcing, “there are a few people I want to greet, so I might go and meet them first, but I happen to know quite a few of the staff personally and I'm pretty sure that a few of Taehyung’s friends are wondering around, so I’ll find you soon.”

Yoongi fiddles with the lobe of his ear, gently tugging at one of his newer piercings, before brushing his hand through his hair- black again and thankfully much less painful on his scalp- and nods. “We’ll be inside.”

 

Hours have probably passed, the morning crowd swaying and converging and twisting in a mass of limbs and a flurry of smells and sounds. Yoongi feels almost overwhelmingly fidgety with anxiety, bass thumping under his feet, vibrations dancing on the surface of the drinks on the bar.

To make things worse, he feels a creeping panic rising in his chest, the room weirdly too warm and too loud and too much, and he just wants to leave.

“I got us some more drinks!” Hoseok shouts right by his ear, startling him out of his thoughts and almost sending his stumbling from the booth he’s claimed as his, a comfortable distance away from the chaos of the dance floor. “It’s one of Wheein’s experiments, but its delicious!”

At that moment, Seokjin and Namjoon both appear from seemingly nowhere, stumbling and laughing and in their own world- and they crash right into Hoseok.

“Hey, you too-!” Hoseok whines when Seokjin has to steady himself against the table so that he doesn't fall, and by doing so, sacrificing one of the glasses to the sticky floor. Namjoon lets out a half laugh, half gasp, looking gleeful despite half the glass having landed on his foot, and Seokjin shouts an apology over the chaos of the club still moving on around them.

With a sigh, too put upon for a twenty-something year old, Hoseok turns to Yoongi and shouts over Seokjin and Namjoon’s shouting. “Don't worry Yoongi I'll get you another.”

Yoongi takes one look at the blue, ice filled liquid, Hoseok is safeguarding in his hand, and sucks in a breath of air through his teeth. “Thanks... but I’m- I’m going to head out.”

Yoongi pulls away from them and Hoseok shoots him a confused look before Seokjin shouts a loud ‘time to dance anyways!’ and is being swept along by a very drunk Seokjin, shepherded by Namjoon whose expression is pinched as though he’s in actual physical pain. “Why can't we sit down now though- too much dancing.”

Heading to the cloak room, Yoongi finds himself barricaded in and waiting behind a young couple who are waiting to move out of the cloak room as well, when the DJ starts playing something that everyone feels decides that they should start a conga line to, and Yoongi sighs, feeling a crick in his neck and a light throbbing build in his temple.

After a few minutes of eyeing the blonde irritably as he’s joked with what must be his girlfriend- ducking his head shyly and waving his hands around in disagreement as she teases him for his determination to bus his way around the city- Yoongi thinks that he’s reached his limit of patience and he curses himself inwardly for being such a dick and not knowing why.

“Ryujin…” blondie whines, doubling over in laughter as she deepens her voice and copies him. “Ah seriously, I'm older, respect me!”

The way he says it is light, and Yoongi takes pause for a moment, watching as his hands- dwarfed by the sleeves of his sweater? In a club?- come up to cover his mouth as he doubles over again, letting the girl, Ryujin, continue her teasing.

Finally, irritation overcoming manners (because he just wants to leave) Yoongi pushes past them, bumping the boy's shoulder as he does, sending him stumbling forward a little on unsteady feet.

With a wide eyed expression, the girl stares after Yoongi, stabilizing the blonde guy by his shirt, and Yoongi huffs- bows his head as apologetically as he can muster at 2am with people pushing past him. “My bad.”

For a moment- only a moment - which passes by without much significance, the lights flicker in and out, and Yoongi feels the dull throbbing in his temple blossom into a sharp headache, his breath hitching in pain.

Yoongi bumps through the current of people, getting a few less than pleased scowls as he brushes against their shoulders and elbows a few people as they sway and mingle and crash into him.

“Hey!” The boy calls, and Yoongi ignores him. Ignores his alarmed, “wait!”

When he finally pushes out of the club doors and through the intoxicated crowd milling outside, he finds himself shrugging his jacket on and following the road towards the bus terminals almost automatically. And despite being dead tired, his feet dragging on the ground, world spinning a little, he remembers days during university when he would catch the midnight bus home most nights, and he feels a little nostalgic for the gentle hum of the engine under his feet, the sway of the handles, the few random travellers either drunk or slightly mysterious under the pink neon and gentle white moon.

“Damn it,” he curses, and jolts out of the way after almost running straight into a post. “Fucking-”

He sighs, and takes a deep, calming breath, looking down and studying the grey paint splatters that dot the ground around the metal beams at the bus stop.

And he feels foolish- but for a moment he imagines footsteps and the screech of a break, the hiss of doors opening; he can picture warm purple-pink neon against glass and a city passing by.

A car horn sounds and Yoongi scowls. Right.

It’s three am, and he’s sitting at a bus terminal, and even though he waves the taxi driver off with a small ‘thank you, I’m fine’, the man inside raises his middle finger and curses him and all the drunkards of the world, taking off at a breakneck speed; leaving Yoongi to roll his eyes at the normalcy of it.

Asshole, he thinks, and then turns and notices the skid marks left behind on the asphalt, the track of rubber on the bottom of the dark river that the road has become with the melting of the snow, illuminated by the moon.

Weird, he thinks, feeling a vaguely familiar feeling of heartache press against his chest.

Confusion creeps over him, and not for the first time in the last couple of years, his heart starts beating fast; except this time it’s gentle, and he can hear the blood pumping through his body, past his ears, in his fingertips, to his cheeks.

A wave of calm washes over him, and for a brief, fleeting moment, he thinks that the moonlight looks almost surreal shining on the road. Ghostly.

Footsteps approach behind him, and a voice calls, "hey- you dropped your phone."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then, the lights flicker.