He’s really not expecting it to happen the way it does, but he supposes it makes sense in a sort of grander scheme.
Jungkook’s spent the past week trying to prepare himself for rehabilitating Taehyung after his being in prison for the whole psychotic breakdown he had a year ago. It’s not like he’s exactly in the best state to be taking care of anyone, either, but then who is there left to take care of Taehyung if not him?
His parents, as Jungkook recalls, disowned him. And as for friends- well. Not many are still around to take him in.
Jungkook can’t judge; he doesn’t really have friends at all, and he didn’t even go to prison for trying to kill someone. Taehyung is what he has left, he supposes.
He’s probably mildly fucking terrified of seeing him again. Whatever. He can’t do much about it.
He doesn’t have a car. He’s got a shitty scooter. He’s not sure if it’s protocol to allow psychotic prison rescapees to drive on scooters, but, like. What do they want him to do, get a taxi? He’s not made of money.
The air is cool, snowflakes falling gently as Jungkook pulls up his turtleneck and stares at the grey walls of the prison. He’s never been here before- never visited, never spoke to Taehyung since the trial.
It strikes him as really fucked up that there’s an abandoned funfair next to the prison. Like, whose idea was that?
Taehyung is a lucky bastard. The real reason he got hauled in is because he went batshit and tried to literally murder someone, but seeing as no one told the cops that, he got battery charges instead. All thanks to Jin not being a snitch. Or- none of them being a snitch, he guesses.
His head hurts. He’s done- not well, but as much as he could, to put the past away, to forget all the crazy fucked up things and crazier more fucked up people that had been his life two years ago. And yet the past seems to never want to die quietly.
The therapist his parents bought had literally told him one month ago he seemed to be, what was it? “Readjusting”. Like he was some poor asshole out of a war zone, not barely twenty and suffering from little more than his own psyche. Two goddamn weeks later, and Kim fucking Taehyung’s lawyer is hitting him up saying does he remember their agreement and blah blah blah good behaviour, long story not so short Jungkook better move his ass over and pick him up.
God. He’s going to have to stop seeing that therapist. No, he won’t, it keeps his parents off his back and also they have sex once in a while.
He looks back at the grim walls. There’s no sign of life, apart from the guard in his booth, who looks suicidally bored. Jungkook wishes even that didn’t send him right down memory lane. Boredom- that had been their worst fucking nightmare. They’d have done anything not to be bored.
The heat of booze, the sting of weed, blaring horns and raucous laughter, overdoses and fistfights. It always hits him like one big inhale of memories, the distant clicking of old tape rolls, one vignette at a time.
It’s snowing harder. Jungkook feels none of the cold, feels instead stickiness from last night’s party, the taste of pills and confetti in his mouth, the gut-punch exhilaration of jumping from carriage to carriage just a little more recklessly each time.
“Jeon Jungkook,” a voice calls, in a grating mix of high and low, making Jungkook’s whole skin feel too tight. His eyes snap back down from where he was blanking at the sky, find Kim Taehyung in slacks and a t-shirt grinning at him while a guy Jungkook assumes is his lawyer seems to be a step away from strangling him.
Jungkook can’t believe he’s grinning at him like that, like the last time they spoke didn’t include screaming and a promise never to speak again. The same pretty face, the same model build.
“Taehyung,” he says. His voice sounds distant to his own ears. His therapist will not be happy to know his dissociation is constant again. Honestly, he can’t remember how he lived when he wasn’t forever zoning out into traumatic flashbacks.
“Mr. Kim,” lawyer guy is saying, “Your belongings- Mr. Jeon, would you sign this- Mr. Kim, the terms of your release are listed here- Mr. Jeon, you are of course aware that…”
He signs distractedly; the lawyer eyes Taehyung like he’s the devil and retreats, leaving them face to face, Taehyung still grinning and Jungkook still blank.
“Do you not have a coat?”
“They gave me back my clothes,” Taehyung shrugs. “From when I came in. It was hot.”
Jungkook hesitates, because he really wants to let him freeze, just so he can see something other than simple joie de vivre on his moronic fucking face, but he can’t do it. It’s too much like what they would have done then, let someone freeze for a laugh, just for a laugh.
“Here,” he sighs, and passes him his coat. With only a sweater on he’s cold as shit. Taehyung’s smile falters for an instant, then returns full force.
“Thanks, Kookie! Is that your scooter? It’s so ugly! I love it.”
Jungkook’s head spins. They climb on the bike silently, and the whole drive back he says exactly nothing, while Taehyung fucking babbles happily all the way up the stairs, all the way into his flat, at which point Jungkook loses his cool and excuses himself to go puke his guts out in the bathroom.
It doesn’t help. He remembers other times he was on his knees by a toilet like this, remembers not being alone for them. It makes him retch harder.
“I thought you weren’t the bulimic one,” Taehyung comments, munching on an apple from next to his sink. “Woah, is that what I look like?! Kook, we need to go to a hairdresser, please.”
Jungkook retches for a couple of minutes. When he gets back up and splashes his face, Taehyung is pulling faces at himself in the mirror.
“You don’t have any money.”
“Your parents kicked you out, right?” Jungkook shrugs, combing his hair back. “And you don’t have a job. Didn’t you blow your account?”
“Fuck you,” Taehyung says, voice shaky, and exits the bathroom. Jungkook exhales longly and stares at himself in the mirror. He’s stronger, taller, handsomer maybe- but his eyes, his eyes are still the same, the same open books. He thought that kid was gone.
He actually doesn’t see Taehyung until like, late that night, by which point he’s starting to hopefully believe he hallucinated him getting out of jail. Good. Great. Jungkook has this essay to write, he can’t afford to drop out of college, even if he doesn’t care at all about his business degree.
The door bursts open at eleven sharp, making Jungkook snap his pencil, and Taehyung surges triumphantly into the room, his hair this weird pastel red orange pink colour that actually relieves Jungkook somehow because the dark brown he’d been sporting looked way too much like his hair from when he still had highlights.
“My account was just frozen! My grandma left me all her money!”
“Your grandma died?” Jungkook asks. Taehyung’s energy literally black holes into nothingness.
“No one even told me,” he says. He looks like he’s about to fucking cry. Jungkook feels real fear rise in his chest.
His phone buzzes, thank god. He turns away from Taehyung.
FROM: JIMIN: i heard v is ou t o fprison ?? what the fuck
FROM: JIMIN: hes AT YOURS
FROM: JIMIN: . . .
FROM: JIMIN: jungkookiekook answer me
FROM: JIMIN: i&m coming to urs and literally razorbladng your neck ANSWEr me
His migraine intensifies. Right. It’s not the complete truth that he doesn’t speak to anyone from back then anymore- Jimin he definitely sees more than accidentally, but it’s not like they’re actual friends anymore. Or maybe they are. He always gets the feeling Jimin hates him, or he hates Jimin. They can’t both hate each other or they wouldn’t talk so much.
Jimin is, in Jungkook’s defence, usually the one to begin relentlessly contacting him no matter the time of day, but then Jungkook is the one who never lets him leave. So it’s like- equal parts their fault.
To: JIMIN: Yeah he’s here.
To: JIMIN: You could have fucking taken him in if you care so much.
To: JIMIN: I want to kill myself.
“Who are you texting?” Taehyung demands.
FROM: JIMIN: i dont Care??!??!?! wtf im in SHOCK
FROM: JIMIN: is he still isane
To: JIMIN: Insane.
FROM: JIMIN: he si??
FROM: JIMIN: is
To: JIMIN: No you made a typo.
To: JIMIN: But since you want to know why don’t you watch him while I’m at work tomorrow.
FROM: JIMIN: fuck u jungkook
FROM: JIMIN: how fast did yu throw ur guts up anyway
“You talk to Jimin?” Taehyung asks, shrill. Jungkook thought he’d put his phone away fast enough. Apparently not.
“He talks to me.”
Taehyung stares at him like this is an unexpected reveal, like Jungkook and Jimin weren’t allowed to stay friends while he, Taehyung, was out of the world.
Jungkook wants to tell him he’s coming over tomorrow, then decides to actually give him no warning at all. Taehyung deserves it, for ruining his life for the next foreseeable period of time.
“Wanna get stoned?” Taehyung asks. Jungkook pinches his nose.
“I need to finish my essay.”
“You know I’m still your hyung, right? Like, you still gotta call me that.”
“Hyung is a sign of respect,” Jungkook says, flatly.
“If you don’t call me hyung,” Taehyung says, opens his mouth wide and innocent like a kid, “I’m gonna call you oppa. In public.”
Jungkook feels the blood drain from his face.
“Oppa-ah,” Taehyung sing-songs, batting his long lashes.
“Hyung,” Jungkook grits out. “Let me finish my essay.”
“Since when are you such a buzzkill, Kookie?” Taehyung huffs, flinging himself down on his couch. “I bet you hate what you’re studying. Let me see- oh, business? Yeah, you definitely hate it. I think you should drop out.”
“You just came out of prison,” Jungkook snaps back, yanking his essay out of reach. “I don’t particularly want to listen to your advice. Hyung.”
Taehyung’s expression smooths out into neutrality, then he slaps his smile back on.
“Ah, my Jungkookie, you’re so grumpy. It hurts when I’m right, doesn’t it?”
“You should start looking for a job,” Jungkook says. “Unless you want to pay me rent, you should move out soon.”
That actually shuts him up just long enough that Jungkook locks himself into his shitty bedroom and shoves his headphones on.
It’s past midnight when he finally sends the email off, blinking against the pale light, and deigns to register the continuous thumping against his door.
“What,” he says, once he’s wrenched it open. Taehyung wraps himself around him like a limpet, and his heartbeat stutters, mind racing back to old memories he was meant to be over and done with.
“You can’t let me sleep alone. You can’t.”
“I can and I will,” Jungkook says, wrenching him off. His palms are sweating. He wants to puke again. “Sleep on the floor, on the couch, with my neighbour, I don’t care.”
“I’ve been alone for a year,” Taehyung says, eyes welling up. “I didn’t even have a real pillow. I couldn’t sleep. You can’t let me. You won’t.”
Jungkook wishes he didn’t know Taehyung can barely sleep without holding something. He wishes he hadn’t spent weeks sleeping on floors with nothing else to cushion his head but Taehyung’s chest.
“Either we sleep together or we sleep together,” he manages, eventually. “One or the other. I don’t care. Not both.”
Taehyung, for the first time, registers the ultimatum, fixes him with something other than mild hysteria or vicious energy.
“You’ve changed, Kookie.”
“One or the other, Taehyung.”
Taehyung licks his lips indecisively for a long moment, and Jungkook feels his resolve crumbling under the weight of his old self, naive and cocky and drowning, always drowning.
“Sleep,” Taehyung says, which- he doesn’t know if he’d expected. It disappoints him and relieves him at the same time. He feels like he wants to hit him. “I want- sleep.”
“Okay,” Jungkook answers. He’s so tired. “Okay. I’ve- there’s. Spare clothes.”
He showers in cold water, brushes his teeth, gets dressed with his hair still clammy and wet. Taehyung is onto him the moment he lies down, limbs tangling irresistibly with his, head pressed tightly into his chest, like he’s going to run off on him.
He might have once. Jungkook’s not been any good at running for a long time now.
They don’t say anything. Jungkook’s whole body feels exhausted enough that he doesn’t even act upon his nausea, just lets himself slowly sink into unconsciousness.
“I missed you,” Taehyung whispers, feverishly, just about when he begins to fall asleep. “I missed you, I missed you, I missed you, I missed you.”
It’s a good thing he falls asleep. He has nothing to say.
He runs into Jimin on his way to work. It feels like it warrants a comment. Back then he’d have smirked, teased, lightly stepped around him. Now he just stares him down, feeling knowing and unhappy.
“Oh, you actually have work,” Jimin says, by way of greeting. “I thought you were just being an asshole.”
“You know I have two jobs, right?” Jungkook asks. It’s a genuine question.
“Yeah, but you keep getting fired from one,” Jimin shrugs. His eyes are cloudy with mixed emotions, and he keeps glancing around like he’s being followed. Jungkook can relate, in the sense that he feels followed, albeit by his own self. Which doesn’t sound particularly relatable now that he thinks about it.
“I locked Taehyung in,” Jungkook says. “Don’t let him out.”
Jimin eyes him, flips his hair back. It’s a nervous habit. Jungkook picked it up from him. “Who says I’m even going to yours?”
“I’m going to be late, hyung,” Jungkook sighs. He doesn’t have the time to play games. He doesn’t have the time for any of this, actually, but the universe doesn’t seem to care. “Don’t set anything on fire.”
“That was long ago, Jungkook,” Jimin calls, to his retreating back. It’s one of the rare signs he honestly knows what Jungkook has in his head on repeat. Most of the time they mutually ignore the fact they happen to have the same select fuck-ups in their history.
Work is mind-numbingly redundant, just a bunch of IT work Jungkook would rather die than continue doing forever, and it kills the hysterical urge to swallow too many pills he got last week from some guy at a party and get high off his fucking face, but does nothing for the overall itch.
Why is Taehyung back? Why couldn’t he have stayed locked up in a safe contained box out of Jungkook’s life? Worst of all, why is he a time capsule determined to sabotage Jungkook’s miserable struggle towards normalcy?
The fucking lowpoint is that he slept like a baby. Only once he’d missed his first alarm did he awaken, Taehyung still fast asleep, and then the anxiety had hit him like a freight-train and he had to pathetically scream into his fists for a while to shake it off.
Lunch break comes and goes with no sign of life from Jimin or Taehyung, who admittedly doesn’t have a phone right now seeing as the one he gave in was broken beyond repair. Jungkook chews his pen until it breaks.
Once he gets off he heads straight back home, foot tapping annoyingly the whole subway ride. He casts half-dazed apologetic looks towards the people around him and honestly doesn’t know why. It used to annoy someone, the foot tapping. He’s out of it.
He doesn’t know why he’s even getting so panicky about everything, but it doesn’t stop him from sprinting back to his flat, fumbling with the lock until the door slams open and his eyes scan the room.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Taehyung stutters, from the floor where he’s propped up against the couch, Jimin’s taut back muscles from where he’s pressing into him all indication that they’ve even heard him come in. “Hey, Kookie-oh, shit-”
“Shut the fuck up,” Jimin snaps, sounding like he wants nothing more than to fling himself and Taehyung into the nearest volcano. “Shut the fuck up, you exhibitionist, fuck you-”
Jungkook zones out for one long moment, eyes distractedly on the bright spot of Taehyung’s hair where it clings stickily to his face, then walks right back out.
He’ll go to the gym.
Because this is his life now, he sees Hoseok there. Hoseok doesn’t see him, or at least doesn’t register him. Jungkook sits down on a bench and closes his eyes very tightly.
If he was denying the fact he and Jimin still see each other, the same cannot be said of Hoseok. Jungkook literally doesn’t know the last time they saw each other. Before the Taehyung incident, for sure- Hoseok was actually one of the first to clear out, after what happened with- but Jungkook never knew why, or what became of him.
He knew from Namjoon he was, like, alive. Namjoon is good at doing that, these very sudden updates that tell you just too little for you to go berserk. It’s all he really does for Jungkook, these days, although beyond Jimin Namjoon is the only one he ever talks to point blank.
Their conversations are always… Different.
He wonders if he blames Namjoon, for the way it all went down, in the end. If their rag-tag group ever had a leader, it was him. Jungkook would have hung the fucking moon for him. He’d always seemed just detached enough from the crazy that it was under control, but obviously that had gone down the drain, hadn’t it.
No, he can’t say he blames him more than he blames anyone else. Taehyung is batshit crazy, for sure, but Jungkook thinks it’s more an accessory fact than the cause of the rest. Jimin remains the constant enabler. If Jungkook were to point the blame it would be at their elders, but there it becomes a mess. Namjoon for walking them down that path, for never ever saying stop when he was the only one who could have? Hoseok for his fun little pills and big little dares and constant badly disguised escapism? Jin for the mood swings and paranoia, the final fallout that shattered them for good?
Wait, no, Jungkook knows exactly who he blames.
Hoseok has noticed him. Jungkook is frankly surprised he’s chosen not to vanish without addressing him.
“Wow,” Hoseok says, light. “It’s been ages. You’re so tall!”
“Yeah,” Jungkook says. He doesn’t want to do this. Hoseok’s smile doesn’t come close to reaching his eyes.
“How are things? Still working on your music?”
“I’m doing a business degree.”
“Ah, right! Namjoon said something like that.”
Of course Namjoon did. Jungkook casts an eye towards the nearest bathroom. Too far.
“Well,” Hoseok says, after a pregnant pause. He’s jumpy, shoulders twitching. Jungkook wonders if he’s off the LSD. “It’s been nice catching up.”
“Did you know Taehyung’s out of jail?” Jungkook blurts, out of spite or desperation or something he doesn’t know.
Hoseok’s smile stiffens so solidly it seems to hurt.
“He’s staying at mine,” Jungkook says. The reminder of just how unfair that is bubbles in his chest, urging him on. “But now that I’ve seen you again, I can just give him your address, right? You’ll be better than I am for this sort of thing.”
“I don’t have my own apartment right now,” Hoseok says, smooth. Like he saw it coming. His smile survives. “Once my roommate is out, sure.”
“I’ll keep you updated,” Jungkook manages. His head is ringing with bass, stumbling feet and spilling vodka from cheap IKEA cups. “Excuse me.”
He doesn’t even manage to throw up his lunch, just clutches the ceramic and dry heaves for a while.
Fireworks and graffiti and hands pressing him up against the shitty outside of a record shop. Broken hand. Donuts in the tunnel. Screaming, shouting, overflowing bathtubs.
He wants to scream so badly. He can’t allow himself to do that. No more breakdowns in public places.
He clenches his jaw. Sparklers dance in the air; he can smell them.
“Oh, fuck,” maybe Hoseok says, very very faraway. “Oh, fuck, Jungkook, breathe. Breathe.”
His head is wrenched back from the seat, and he physically feels the phantom grip of someone deader than this past do the same, just past two years ago.
It takes Hoseok a long while to snap him out of it.
“What,” Jungkook croaks, mouth dry, when he comes to. He doesn’t remember being moved to this stall, or being given water. His mouth is- bloody?
“You bit your tongue and started choking on your own blood,” Hoseok says. Jungkook finds him leaning against the door of the stall, eyes shut and legs crossed. His sleeves are rolled up, he looks somehow sunken.
“Right,” Jungkook says. Wipes his mouth. Swallows some water. The bottle emerges tinted a little pink.
“So Taehyung is out of prison,” Hoseok says. He’s not smiling at all.
“They never got him for attempted murder, just battery,” Jungkook recites. “Good behaviour. Got out early.”
“Do you think Jin knows?”
Good fucking question. Jungkook hasn’t even thought about that yet.
“Who’d have told him? I didn’t know until Taehyung’s shitty lawyers called me.”
“His lawyers,” Hoseok says, again. “Jesus. What the fuck.”
Hoseok takes him for coffee. Jungkook doesn’t protest or try to pay. He didn’t even have money on him when he left the house, just his ID and gym card.
“I never actually saw you, before the Taehyung stuff.”
Hoseok shrugs. “I had things to do.”
Jungkook looks up sharply at that, wants to say liar but doesn’t. Things to do. For all that he always ran away, Hoseok had tried the longest to preserve the crumbling pretence that things were still going just fine.
“Jimin and Taehyung are fucking again,” he says instead.
“Now?” Hoseok asks. He’s maybe a little disbelieving. “I thought Jimin hated him.”
Jungkook feels an irrational burst of jealousy, because Jimin isn’t meant to be talking to Hoseok still and Hoseok hasn’t even spoken to Jungkook in two years.
“I guess you misjudged him, then. Wouldn’t be the first time.”
Hoseok either flinches or stiffens, and Jungkook takes a big burning gulp of coffee to avoid seeing his face.
“I went to rehab,” Hoseok says. Suddenly his voice is tired, really tired, the way Jungkook feels tired.
“Before it all went down. I overdosed. My professor sent me to rehab.”
Jungkook doesn’t know what to make of that. If it’s honesty it’s too little too late, but at the same time it makes sense, and also says things about Hoseok Jungkook doesn’t know how to feel about.
“No,” Hoseok sighs. “It was an accident.”
He doesn’t know if he believes him. Hoseok and Taehyung always jumped too high too fast.
“And, now, what, you’re clean?”
“More or less.”
“What does that even mean?”
“All I do is pot.”
“I swear. Ask Namjoon.”
“I’ve started dancing again,” Hoseok says. Jungkook knew already, from the poise in his body.
“Why are you telling me all of this?”
Shrug. “Your business degree doesn’t seem to be making you happy.”
“And this will make me happy?”
“Maybe you need some change.”
“I already have a shrink, thanks,” Jungkook retorts, nasty. He can’t believe this conversation is even happening. “Is this your belated guilt-trip, because you’re the one who gave us those pills to pop?”
“That’s my own business,” Hoseok replies, flat. Then his expression shifts, and he reaches for his arm. “I don’t want you to be this miserable, Kook.”
“Don’t touch me,” Jungkook says, instinctively. His pulse is going crazy again. “What the fuck do you know about me being miserable? We haven’t spoken in two years. Two years. They have phones in rehab, don’t they?”
“I asked Namjoon about-“
“Namjoon, Namjoon! You could have asked me!” Jungkook says, loud even to his own ears before he gets a grip and quietens. “You could have. But you didn’t.”
“I’m sorry, Jungkook.”
“Fuck you,” Jungkook manages, as he stumbles out of the café, bile rising in his throat.
Sorry? Sorry? None of them are sorry. None of them do sorry. None of them have ever acknowledged there is anything to be sorry for. If Jung Hoseok thinks he can march his now sane ass into Jungkook’s life and pretend like he’s all better and before was all bad, like he wasn’t the Hoseok whooping at the top of his lungs every night-
He heads to college. He has evening classes.
He gets full points on his essay, and his professor congratulates him in front of the whole class, leading the guy next to him to nudge him with a wry smile.
“Seriously, Jeon, is there anything you can’t do?”
Jungkook flatly doesn’t answer him. He’s not in the mood.
Jimin is (long?) gone when he gets back, which is probably good. Taehyung is sitting on a kitchen stool with his long noodle legs brought up to his chin, and his nose is bleeding slightly. Jungkook hopes it’s not from coke.
“Wow, you look like shit,” Taehyung says, cheerily. “We’re out of milk.”
He pops a lollipop into his mouth. Jungkook doesn’t even own lollipops.
“Hey,” Taehyung garbles, over the lollipop. “Do you have Overwatch? It’s all I was allowed to play inside.”
Something in his deadening eyes must have given him away, which is just great because he thought he was better at covering that up now- but then Taehyung has always been able to read him at a glance. He’s forgotten.
They play long enough that the tension eases from his shoulders and his throbbing headache recedes, which was obviously the point. He can’t bring himself to be mad about it, that Taehyung can still play him so easily. He’s doing something nice, isn’t he?
Taehyung hasn’t been nice in a long, long time. Not really.
“You should clean your face,” Jungkook says, after they’ve stopped playing, somewhere near two in the morning, strewn over the couch.
“Yeah,” Taehyung says, and makes no move to do so. Jungkook shuffles upwards a little.
“Seriously. You still have blood all over your nose.”
“Yeah,” Taehyung says again, but his face is twitching a little. He kind of makes an aborted gesture to wipe it away, and his fingers spasm.
He used to like being roughed up, Jungkook thinks, quizzical. Then he puts two and two together, and he and Taehyung look at each other for a long moment, the latter’s face steely even as his bottom lip trembles, Jungkook’s thoughts slow to reorganise themselves.
Somehow he’s not even considered that Taehyung may be fucked up by the attempted murder. Like it’s actually slipped his mind.
“Get over yourself,” Jungkook grumbles, trying for harsh. It doesn’t work because he’s already reaching over to grab a tissue, spitting on it before holding Taehyung’s face by the chin and scrubbing at the blood. Taehyung jitters in his grasp, and Jungkook grabs his face more roughly, impatient, then feels bad and meets his eyes.
Taehyung looks like he’s seconds away from bawling. Jungkook looks away furiously and throws the tissue away.
They’re still sitting too close.
“What are all the pills in your cabinet for,” Taehyung asks. Jungkook’s ears burn.
“Medication. From the accident.”
“That’s a lot of pills, Kookie.”
He hates that name.
“I lost the use of my legs, hyung.”
Taehyung says nothing for a while, then his voice comes out strained, airy. “I want some.”
“No,” Jungkook says, immediately, like it chokes him. “No, no way.”
“I need some, Kook,” Taehyung wheedles, hands coming up to grasp at his shirt. “It won’t be a lot, just a little bit, just for fun, you know I won’t take much, I promise-“
“NO!” Jungkook shouts, pushing him back. Taehyung’s back thuds against the edge of the couch; Jungkook’s chest rises and falls urgently. No, no. He can’t let the pill era come back. He can’t.
“You can’t ask me for that! If you- if you want pills that bad go back to the fucking slums, but don’t stay here!”
Taehyung’s eyes are wide.
“I really need it, Kook,” he says, eventually. It’s monotone; almost an admission.
“No,” Jungkook repeats. Like a mantra. He hates that he’s this worked up about it, but he knows he’ll go into a full-blown panic attack if he so much as lets Taehyung touch a pill. “No. No pills.”
Taehyung shivers, closes his eyes. Jungkook waits for him to get up and slide out of the door, then come crawling back in two weeks’ time high out of his mind and starving for company.
“Okay,” Taehyung grits out, instead. His eyes are still shut. He sounds dangerous. “No pills.”
Jungkook’s stomach flips.
“But then,” Taehyung says, eyes opening, piercing like they rarely are. “You lay off them too.”
“I need them,” Jungkook says, automatically. “It’s for my legs. My doctor says-“
“That was more than a year ago,” Taehyung answers, a low murmur. “Your legs don’t need them.”
Jungkook opens and closes his mouth. He wants to fling him off the couch.
“You can sleep here tonight,” he says instead. Taehyung’s eyes glint madly for a moment, but Jungkook gets up without looking back, stumbles into his room and collapses on his bed.
He wakes up with Taehyung clinging to his torso, cheeks still wet with tears.
Work starts in ten minutes. He’s missed his alarm again.
Jimin shows up around a week later when they’re both in, which is the first time the three of them have been in the same room since… God, since when? Jungkook doesn’t even fucking remember. To be fair he doesn’t remember a lot of those last desperate days, just hazes of drugs and whatever else.
“I didn’t think you were in,” Jimin says, to Jungkook. He’s literally not looking at Taehyung. Jungkook remembers a time where he couldn’t ever stop looking at him. “How’s revisions?”
“Okay,” Jungkook says. It’s the only thing that’s going okay, uni. And it’s the thing he gives the absolute least shits about. “I reckon I’ll pass easily.”
“Good,” Jimin nods, takes a seat by the kitchen table. Jungkook can feel Taehyung’s eyes flit from the one to the other of them, pressing. “That’s good, Kookie. Hey, listen, if you don’t have plans for Christmas, I’m sort of hosting something.”
“I have plans,” Jungkook lies. Jimin pulls a face at him.
“No you don’t.”
“I do. My parents want to see me.”
“Yeah, and you’ve blown them off the past three years,” Jimin snorts. “Not gonna change this year. You should come.”
“What kind of thing,” Jungkook asks, reluctantly.
“Just, like, a normal fucking party, I don’t know,” Jimin groans. He’s messing with his hair again. “Not- look, are you coming?”
“Maybe,” Jungkook sighs.
“Then you can bring champagne,” Jimin says, slapping his legs. “You’ve got the best job between us, so, like.”
“I didn’t even say I was coming,” Jungkook protests.
“Am I invited?” Taehyung asks, loudly, shattering the illusion of normalcy. Jungkook shifts to look at him, at the messy smile he’s got on, the unhealthy glow of his eyes.
“Anyway,” Jimin says, very very carefully. “Two bottles should be enough.”
Taehyung’s eyes literally switch shades for a second. Jungkook looks back to Jimin.
“Am I invited, Jimin-ah?” Taehyung asks, again. Jimin’s eyes narrow to slits.
“Don’t bring anything weird. I wanna keep the mess to a minimum.”
Jungkook winces. Taehyung only bounces back, gets up from the couch and crowds Jimin’s personal space as Jimin glares at him.
“I don’t wanna be alone for Christmas,” Taehyung says, light. It drops to a threat in a second. “You don’t wanna leave me alone for Christmas. I’d go crazy cooped up, Jimin-ah.”
Jungkook inhales longly. Jimin’s whole body is tense like a rope pulled too taut.
“Fine,” Jimin spits. “Come, then. But don’t think anyone wants you there.”
“It’ll be fun!” Taehyung crows, smile back. “Christmas in the snow.”
It’s obvious what’s coming, but it doesn’t make it any less awful when he says it.
“Just like old times, no?”
FROM: J.H. : Im sorry 4 our talk the other day Jk
FROM: J.H. : Idk Im bad with this kind of thing
FROM: J.H. : I probably used 2 b better which is like, ironic
FROM: J.H. :
FROM: J.H. : It was fucked up ok
FROM: J.H. : It was all rly fucked up but it was also the best time of my life & I dont spend a day w/o wanting it back someway which is a joke bc honestly I dont even know how much I can remember given I was literally tripping 70% of the time
FROM: J.H. : U were like 17
FROM: J.H. : We rly fucked up with u
FROM: J.H. : I shouldnt have run away after but I thought it wud b better if u never saw me again or sm
He doesn’t answer any of Hoseok’s texts. He doesn’t know what he’d even say. He doesn’t know how he feels about them at all.
“You look stressed,” his therapist says, clicking her pen. She’s wearing the shoes that indicate she’s up for meeting later. Jungkook thinks it’s pretty clear he isn’t up for anything.
“I guess it’s the two jobs,” he says.
“College isn’t stressful.”
“Jungkook, you were doing well, last time I saw you. What’s going on?”
He wasn’t doing well at all, last time she saw him. He was just doing better at repressing things. He hates therapists.
“I guess I always get worse around Christmas.”
Predictably, she loves that.
“Ah, a resurgence in your sensory trauma.”
“Well, I can increase your dose, if you think it would help.”
She sighs. Probably because she knows their rendezvous is decisively cancelled.
“Are you doing anything for the holidays, Mr. Jeon?”
“Seeing some friends,” Jungkook says, looking out of the window. “Nothing much.”
“Well. That’s good. Socializing will do you well, I’ve told you that.”
He’s been fired from his retail job again, so it’s unusually nice on the universe’s part that he gets promoted at his shitty IT job. He doesn’t know why the fuck they would promote him, considering all of his experience comes from gaming and bootlegs, but apparently he’s good at it.
“We need someone with your quick learning on the team,” his chain-smoking boss tells him. “I know it’s not in your field of expertise, but you’ll pick up soon enough. Just Youtube it or something.”
“What am I going to be doing?”
“Setting up a system for some musician or something. I don’t know. Do you know much about music?”
“A little,” Jungkook lies.
“Perfect,” his boss says, clapping his hands. “The job is yours. You start Monday. I’ll email you the details.”
In other words, he’ll get an email Sunday night at the earliest. Jungkook nods mutely.
For a moment sympathy flickers through the older man’s eyes.
“At least you’ll have something else to do than sort files.”
The Christmas party is coming up. Jungkook doesn’t know if he’s capable of going.
FROM: JIMIN: jungkook
FROM: JIMIN: are yu free after work??
FROM: JIMIN: actually nvrmind
TO: JIMIN: What.
TO: JIMIN: Is something going on.
FROM: JIMIN: no!!
FROM: JIMIN: !
FROM: JIMIN: ignore that last one
FROM: JIMIN: im downstairs
“What’s going on,” Jungkook asks, when he finds Jimin waiting outside the building, exhaling clouds of cold air. His scarf is tatty.
“We’re going to yours,” Jimin says. “We’re throwing out your pills.”
The world spins upside down.
“No,” Jungkook chokes out, fear clawing at his insides. Then, suddenly furious: “Taehyung tatted?”
“He did,” Jungkook laughs, incredulously. His nerves are raw. “He told you. Have you guys kissed and made up, then? All’s well ends well? Wanna move into mine, as well? Really, I can move into my parents’ place, it’s no worry-”
“No, we haven’t!” Jimin snaps, stops walking. Jungkook towers over him, face to face. “You know damn well we haven’t, I told you he didn’t tell me shit.”
“I don’t know anything,” Jungkook retorts. “You two fuck when I’m not around and god knows what else.”
“That is all, Jeon Jungkook,” Jimin fires back, before dragging a hand over his face. His roots are growing back in. “All we do. Okay?”
For a moment Jungkook sees the pooling hurt in his eyes, and pauses.
“How do you know then. Hyung.”
“I’m not blind,” Jimin snorts, humourlessly. “Come on, Kook, how many times have I seen your bathroom?”
“Then why now?”
“Why do you think?” Jimin asks, like he should know better, and Jungkook feels like an idiot. “Because Kim Taehyung is living in your apartment like we’ve turned back time, and he’ll kill your soul.”
I didn’t know you still cared, Jungkook thinks, then quashes the thought.
“God knows he’s killing mine,” Jimin says, quiet like it’s not meant to be heard. He won’t meet Jungkook’s eyes after that, not for the whole walk back.
They clear the cabinet, and then it gets hard. Jungkook physically can’t bring himself to pour out the bottles; Jimin methodically uncaps them, one after the other, pours them down the toilet, flushes. They go through two, four, ten, twelve sets, and Jimin’s eyes grow heavier on him every time more comes out.
The flushing sounds like the walls are collapsing. He feels like the walls are collapsing. So many pills. So many days he’s going to have to live in full. He can’t even wrap his mind around the loss.
Maybe he has a problem. So fucking what? Is it so terrible to let him numb his brain before he goes psychotic like Taehyung did?
“Under your bed, really?” Jimin says, and Jungkook cracks, turns and launches himself at him.
“I need those! Those are for this month, those are from my therapist, you can’t throw those out, I need them for now-”
“Get off me, you’re going to break my arm, Jungkook-“
“Give them BACK!”
Jimin struggles like a bitch, and Jungkook almost has him in a choke-hold, Jimin’s shoulders bruising from the grip he has on him, when he suddenly folds in half and kicks Jungkook hard, hard enough that Jungkook stumbles and Jimin shoots out of his grip.
The pills go flying out of the bathroom window.
Jungkook’s jaw trembles. He wants to cry, or break someone’s ribs.
“This is going to suck for you,” Jimin says, and carefully puts an arm around his shoulders. Jungkook is so upset he can’t move, which is probably what Jimin is counting on. “But you can’t rot your brain like this.”
“I hate you,” Jungkook spits, and means it, the vitriol sincere. Jimin closes his eyes for a second, like he’s been slapped, then exhales.
“Maybe. But that’s not gonna stop me.”
He gets the email from his boss on Tuesday, saying that the project has been delayed because the artist had a personal issue or whatever the hell, and he’ll be starting after Christmas. Which is a bit of a problem considering he’s meant to buy fucking champagne on his shit budget, but who cares, right.
His business prof commends him on his excellent work this semester, and Jungkook politely and blandly takes the praise, smiling when expected. He used to starve for any morsel of approval- this shower passes him over like he can’t even hear it.
“Mr. Jeon, I worry you have no passion for the subject.”
What? He blinks awake, and his professor is frowning at him.
“Do you want me to work harder, sir?” Jungkook asks, hurried. “I can do extra-curricular, please don’t kick me out of the course.”
The older man shakes his head. “No, no- your work reflects no such flaw, Mr. Jeon. You yourself, however, I can’t help but feel as though… Is business your calling?”
Jungkook looks at the ceiling. There’s a smudge that sort of looks like a rabbit.
“Yeah,” he says. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
His professor sighs, quiet, then smiles at him.
“Enjoy your holidays.”
“Thank you, sir, you too,” Jungkook says, and bows on his way out.
He’s barely out of the building when Taehyung bounds towards him, hair a halo of pink against the sludge of downtrodden snow.
“KOOKIE!”“What are you doing here,” Jungkook hisses, frozen with fear. “How did you know I went here, what-“
“Relax, Kook,” Taehyung smiles. His eyes scan the building. “You left your student ID on the table.”
Jungkook shakes him off. “You’re not supposed to leave the apartment.”
Taehyung rolls his eyes. “I’ve been in prison, Kook. I’m out, now, remember.”
“I don’t want you hanging around campus,” Jungkook says. “You’ve already invaded my flat. Can’t you make your own life?”
It’s unduly harsh, but he’s still recovering from the panic, and Taehyung deserves it, anyways.
“Grumpy,” Taehyung chides, but he’s lost the giddiness. “I was just coming to check you remembered to get everything for the party.”
“I have the champagne,” Jungkook says, gestures to his backpack. “Jimin didn’t ask for anything else.”
“Okay, whatever, I was coming to make sure you came,” Taehyung scoffs. “I know you were gonna try to flake.”
For a moment he sounds- reasonable. Jungkook bites his lip hard.
“Taehyung, what do you and Jimin even say to each other, when-”
“Voyeur,” Taehyung laughs, interrupting him, but Jungkook knows the tactic.
“Have you actually spoken a word to each other?”
His oldest friend turns his head away, up to the sky. They’ve left the campus, and all there is to see is the long stretch of the railroad. It’s started to snow again, softly.
“You know, when you press your ear to the rails, you can hear the trains, even far away.”
“Don’t change the subject,” Jungkook starts, but Taehyung shakes his head.
“I was lying on them earlier, when you were still in there. I stayed really really still. And I could hear far down, all the way to back then.”
He doesn’t want to know, now, but he can’t seem to open his mouth to say that.
“It’s true,” Taehyung says. He sounds convinced. “Hoseok was running on the tracks, and I was egging him on, and the carriage was moving just a little faster than him. Namjoon was singing. Badly.”
“You can’t hear people from traintracks.”
“Jimin was laughing,” Taehyung continues, faraway. His eyes are older than they’ve ever seemed, in this light.
For a moment Jungkook sees it, the sunset and their young voices, Jimin’s eyes crinkled, with that green sweater he wore until there were patches on the patches, his giggling floating high above them.
He looks at Taehyung, finds an overgrown teenager with strange moods and a fragile, twisted heart, and finds he forgives him, just for this second. It’s funny. He didn’t think he’d be able to, not even for this long.
“You’re in love with him,” Jungkook says, and starts walking again.
“I’m in love with him just as much as I’m in love with everything,” Taehyung answers, easily. “I love and hate the whole world, Kookie. Have you forgotten already?”
Taehyung’s gleaming eyes, an out-stretched hand.
“No, you just love it,” Jungkook replies, shaking it off. It comes naturally, almost confidently. “But you hate yourself. That’s why you’re a piece of shit.”
Taehyung doesn’t answer that one, stung perhaps. Jungkook doesn’t look back for him.
“I’m not in love with Jimin,” he says, eventually, appearing next to Jungkook as they wind down towards Jimin’s complex. “We died, back when love was around.”
“Seem pretty alive to me,” Jungkook points out. He’s lost his taste for poetry.
“Not love. That was only there for that part.”
“Well, you tell me, then, when have you felt love since we died?”
“No one died,” Jungkook sighs, pointlessly. No thanks to you, he adds mentally.
“When, Kook?” Taehyung asks, suddenly in his space. “Come on, give me a time. Love. When’s it been alive?”
It hasn’t, Jungkook thinks. It hasn’t. Neither has he, really. Maybe they did die.
“Who’s to say I felt it back then, hyung?”
He shoves past Taehyung and into the building. Good for him if it hurts.
For some fucking reason, Namjoon is at the party. Jungkook doesn’t catch him until it’s truly late into the whole affair, shitty pop music blaring from the speakers, some EDM thing where the chorus goes round and round and round, and the lights are colouring the room red or maybe yellow as smoke filters in from the balcony.
Jungkook is doing ok. Jimin wasn’t lying about it not being that kind of party- there’s only been one or two people who crawled into his lap and tried to pass him a pill, and he’s just about not accepted anything “fun” from anyone. Instead it’s just- empty.
There’s a shitload of people here. Most of them are probably great. He doesn’t want to speak to a single one.
He knows more than he’d have liked to that he was addicted to his pills, and it’s been taking its toll. Probably Jimin was right to take them away, but he’s been insufferable in refusing to let Jungkook relapse- keeping him under constant supervision, physically pinning him down when Jungkook is having a fit, and even threatening Taehyung into not providing him with anything whatsoever.
Jungkook is getting better at not needing them so much, but it’s hard.
Everyone is dancing or talking, so he ends up in Jimin’s room, locks the door. It’s not really running away if he’s still in the apartment, he rationalises.
Someone slams into the door, and Jungkook opens it on instinct, awaiting blood or a pissed off Jimin, maybe. Instead Kim Namjoon is cussing and holding his elbow gingerly.
“Hyung,” Jungkook says. He can’t believe Namjoon is at a party.
“Jungkook,” Namjoon says, equally surprised. He blinks past Jungkook, at the bedroom. Jungkook’s ears go red.
“I was just,” Jungkook falters. “Clearing my head.”
“Right,” Namjoon answers. He looks at him hard for a moment. “Mind if I come in?”
Jungkook shakes his head no. Namjoon smiles his thanks and pushes past him into the room. They close the door.
“How’s class?” Namjoon asks.
“Still seeing the therapist?”
“Does it help?”
They’re always stilted like this, Namjoon’s eyes reading his and Jungkook awkward, feeling guilty somehow.
“I got my philosophy degree,” Namjoon says. “And a bit of a music gig. Writing a track for this movie. I don’t know. They might not use it.”
“That’s really good,” Jungkook tells him. His chest hurts a little. “Congratulations, hyung.”
“I saw Hoseok, the other day,” Namjoon adds, delicately. Jungkook’s mouth feels dry. “Apparently he’s been texting you.”
“Changed my phone.”
“Jungkook,” Namjoon sighs.
“Fine,” Jungkook says, that same anger from the day with Hoseok threatening to manifest itself. “I read his texts, and I have nothing to say. He told me he was sorry, and some bullshit. You going to take turns, now? Should I wait for one from Jin hyung next?”
“That’s not what Hoseok meant.”
“Yeah, and who are you, his personal translator?” Jungkook exclaims, wanting to laugh somehow. “This is a cosmic joke. We were- we were what we were, and we fucking, I don’t know, we exploded into ugly little shards, and it’s been that way ever since and now you guys stuck some polish on and want to come play doctor? What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Namjoon looks like he wants to argue, and Jungkook’s chest heaves, ready for it, until the Seoul native sags, face slackening.
“You’re right. You’re- completely right. Forget I said anything.”
He hesitates, eyes flicking towards Jungkook, then shakes his head.
“We’re just fooling ourselves, aren’t we.”
“Yes,” Jungkook says, fiercely, because he better be.
Namjoon inhales long and hard, rubbing at his eyes.
“And you’re doing okay, right? It’s good that we leave you alone? You’re- you’re over us?”
He sounds so hopeful it stops the automatic reply Jungkook had ready.
“I,” he starts. Something in the way Namjoon is sitting, back curved and currently peach-blonde hair catching the flashing lights from outside, brings the smell of smoke to his nose.
It’s okay, right? It’s good, isn’t it? Isn’t it fucking good?
Oh, of course.
“No,” Jungkook blurts, before his brain catches up to his heart. “No, it’s not good, it’s not okay, I can’t live like this.”
Then he stares in horror at Namjoon, who’s as pale as the ugly beige wall behind him.
“I’m leaving,” Jungkook manages, like he’s chewing cotton, and stumbles to the door before Namjoon can unfreeze.
“JUNGKOOK!” Namjoon calls, frantic, as he plows into the sea of dancing bodies. He needs to get out, he needs to get out, he needs to get away. He needs his pills, which he doesn’t have, he needs his punching bag, which Taehyung broke, he needs out of here.
He actually gets lost in the crowd, ends up in the kitchen, where Taehyung and Jimin are screaming at each other at the top of their lungs.
“We’re going,” he hacks out, in Taehyung’s direction.
“You’ll be dead when the new year comes around,” Taehyung shouts, towards Jimin, practically snarling as Jungkook grabs him robotically and drags him out. “Won’t you, you better be, you better better be-“
“Oh, are you going to kill me?” Jimin throws back, mocking but so angry it almost doesn’t sound it. “Gonna go back to prison for real this time? “
The sound of Taehyung’s reply is drowned in the music, even if he doesn’t stop shouting until he’s hoarse, long since they’ve left the building.
“He’s awful,” he keeps saying, as Jungkook tries not to pass out before he unlocks the door. “He’s so awful, why do you talk to him still, Kook, he’s so awful, he hurts so much-”
“I know,” Jungkook mumbles, seeing double then triple. The key slips from his hands. “So much.”
“I need drugs,” Taehyung says, teeth chattering. “I’ll find some, I’ve still got contacts, it’ll be easy, it’ll be nice.”
“Nice,” Jungkook agrees. Then he collapses.
When he wakes up he’s in a hospital bed, and for a moment he has this terrible idea that he’s back after the accident, that he’s going to have to relive the next year and a half, and he wants to die.
“Ah, Mr. Jeon,” a nurse says, and he realises he can feels his legs. “Merry Christmas.”
“You had a bit of a breakdown,” the nurse says, kindly. “Your blood pressure didn’t handle it well.”
“But I’m fine now, right?” Jungkook asks. “I can go home now? I’m okay?”
“Well, yes,” the woman smiles. She’s sort of cute. “I expect your brother will be glad to hear it.”
“The young man with the pink hair?”
“Oh, Taehyung…” Jungkook can’t imagine how anyone can look at them and think brother. “He’s not my- we’re…”
He doesn’t think he can properly say friends.
“Oh,” the nurse says, and blushes. Which is not what he meant either. “Of course, yes.”
The neons hurt his head, but he feels okay, walking out. Probably the medicine, or whatever they gave him.
“Jungkook,” Taehyung exhales, the moment he sees him. He’s been crying. Strangely he doesn’t immediately jump on him, hovers instead. “You’re okay?”
“Jungkook-ah,” Taehyung starts, apologetically, and Jungkook reels back violently.
“Please don’t call me that, hyung.”
“Sorry,” Taehyung says, not an ounce of humour to it. His eyes are wide. “Sorry, I didn’t- I wasn’t thinking.”
Taehyung wraps an arm around his shoulder, and Jungkook slowly lets his head rest against Taehyung’s, because he needs it. He really needs it.
It’s Taehyung who puts him in bed, changes him, brushes out his hair with his fingers. When Jungkook’s eyes begin to flutter shut he hesitates.
“You can come,” Jungkook mumbles. “It’s ok.”
“Merry Christmas,” Taehyung says, soft, once they’re both in bed. “Merry Christmas, Kookie.”
The next morning Taehyung trashes the apartment.
Jungkook hears nothing back from his boss, so he has to go to his parents’ and ask them for money awaiting his promotion. He stresses the promotion bit enough that he catches them exchanging hopeful glances. It’s making him tick, twitching from phantom pains and the throbbing want to calm it with his old friendly pills.
“Ah, Jungkook, things are going well now, yes?”
“Yes, mama. Much better.”
“And- your studies are okay?”
“They’re okay, mama. I do well.”
“And you, you’re happy?”
“Yes, mama. I’m happy.”
“Good, good,” his mother says, toying with her pearls anxiously. “That’s very good.”
They give him the money.
He goes to buy groceries, has to drag himself out of a pharmacy, and then notes what area he’s in and remembers he hasn’t seen Jimin in about a week.
TO: JIMIN: Anything you need to stock up on, hyung.
TO: JIMIN: I’m at the store near your station.
Jimin doesn’t answer. Jungkook frowns at his screen. Jimin’s always on his phone.
He checks Facebook. Active three hours ago. Checks Snapchat, next. Jimin’s Bitmoji is in his house.
Home but not on his phone. It’s past four, not a time where he would be asleep. Nothing good on the TV. And he always has his phone on when he watches TV anyways. Having sex, maybe? Jungkook would think yes if he didn’t know Jimin well enough to know the return of Taehyung has fucked that up, and since Christmas two weeks back neither have interacted.
He doesn’t like this.
Jimin has spare keys to Jungkook’s flat, because he came with the day Jungkook got the keys and the woman assumed things. Jungkook doesn’t have keys to Jimin’s, but he knows where Jimin leaves his spare, and he knows the door is often jammed just a little open, the way it is now when he shoulders it.
There’s a weird rustling noise, and then Jimin’s voice wavers over, high and thin.
“Don’t come in!”
“What’s going on?” Jungkook asks, immediately on high alert.
“Nothing, I’m coming, just wait there,” Jimin yells. There’s the sound of splashing.
Jungkook’s blood runs cold, and he drops the groceries to rush to the bathroom, slamming the door open full-force to find Jimin struggling out of the tub, clothes soaked.
“I swear it’s not what it looks like,” Jimin says. He’s ice cold; his lips are faintly blue. “I swear, Jungkook, it’s not what it looks like.”
“Hyung,” Jungkook says, difficultly.
“I wasn’t,” Jimin repeats. “I wasn’t. I was just- I was thinking. I needed to clear my head. It’s not like last time.”
“Promise,” Jungkook swallows, eyes burning. A stupid demand, a child’s question. Jimin nods feverishly.
“I promise. I promise, Kook, I wouldn’t leave you.”
Jungkook’s mouth pulls, but he keeps it shut, and grabs a towel, wraps it around him, rubs it so he stops shivering. Then he pulls the plug on the bathtub, watches the water swirl away.
“I’ll make us tea,” he says. Jimin meets his eyes in the foggy mirror.
They sit side by side, Jimin dry and dressed but still cold, holding the mugs to their chests like it fills a silence.
“Are you,” Jungkook tries. “Okay?”
“No,” Jimin admits. Flat.
Jungkook nods. Slow. “It’s Taehyung, isn’t it?”
“It’s not always about Taehyung,” Jimin sighs. “But no, he’s not helping.”
“Can I... Can I help?”
Jimin looks up, and to their dual surprise his eyes well up.
“I-“ Jimin says. He blinks, but the tears are still there. “I just want it all to end, Kook. Not to live with ghosts.”
Jungkook doesn’t have anything to make that go away, so he tentatively opens his arms. Jimin sets down his tea sloppily and climbs into the hug, small hands digging into Jungkook’s back like a kid as his shoulders shake.
They stay like that for what feels like forever. Jungkook’s heart aches. Not in the way it does when he wants to throw up, but in another way, more forgotten. His eyes are closed, head nestled against Jimin’s.
Jimin says a lot of things into his chest, while he cries. How badly it’s messed him up, how much he remembers, how much he forgot, how much he misses them, how he wants them back, how much he wants them gone. It sounds like Jungkook’s ugly little outburst from the party, but it’s not ugly when Jimin’s the one saying it, just sad.
When Jimin’s sobs have turned to sniffs, Jungkook hears himself say “Taehyung thinks you two died, back then.”
Jimin inhales wetly. “Maybe so.”
“He said love died with you.”
“He said that,” Jimin repeats. “Love?”
“I can’t give him a second chance, hyung. If anyone can make him right it’s you.”
Jimin smiles wryly as he meets his eyes, his eyes sad but kind somehow.
“You already have, Kook. And he’s changing for you.”
“Not for me.”
“For himself, maybe,” Jimin says, thoughtful. “If we’re stupid enough to hope.”
“Hyung, please don’t go on like this,” Jungkook says, because he needs it off his chest, and it scares him, what they’re doing to each other. “You’re hurting yourself and you’re making it easy for him to keep pretending.”
“We scare you,” Jimin reads, brow dipping. “Ah, Kookie...This was never what I wanted.”
Jungkook has run out of words, so he just stays there, lets Jimin stay behind the confines of his arms until the sun goes down. Either he’s done something right or something terribly wrong.
“I’ll see you,” Jimin says, when he leaves. Jungkook would have stayed, but he insisted. He looks so small, standing in the doorframe- Jungkook hesitates.
He waits for the thanks he knows is coming.
“I love you,” Jimin says instead, simple. Jungkook misses a step.
“Okay,” he says. Because what can he say to that, really.
It sticks to his mind the whole way back. I love you. And Taehyung, insidious: Tell me when.
Maybe he never stopped, Jungkook thinks, blindsided. Maybe he’s loved Jimin this whole time, even when he hated him, because they’re what they are and they take care of each other. Maybe he loves Taehyung still, even if Taehyung tries his best to make him hate him for good. Maybe he loves all of them, and that’s what part of what eats him up like that.
That’s Jimin’s go-to word, for this kind of thing. Maybe.
“What happened?” Taehyung asks, once he comes inside. “You’re late, you said we’d watch a movie, you lied.”
“Jimin, bathtub,” Jungkook says, and it comes out hoarse. It’s cruel but he needs to see.
It takes a short instant for the words to sink in, but when they do, he sees it. Taehyung staggers, one, two steps backwards, his posture inverting from demanding to defensive; his eyes are blank with anticipation.
“What, wh- is he ali- where is he?”
“That’s what you want to know, really?”
“Jungkook, tell me!” Taehyung yells, shaky and miserable and why is Jungkook doing this to him? He’s gotten his answers.
“Home,” he says. “In bed. He said it wasn’t like last time.”
Taehyung sags. He doesn’t even look relieved, just shattered.
“I’m getting us pizza,” Jungkook says. This isn’t something he can help with.
“He cried,” Taehyung mumbles. “Didn’t he?”
“That’s not really your business.”
“It’s my fault.”
“I ruined his Christmas.”
“And the previous year of our lives, yeah.”
Taehyung gives him a frantic look. “Why do you KEEP me here, Kook? Why do you never just throw me away? You know damn well any sane person would!”
“Because I,” Jungkook begins, before realising there’s no way he can say that. He’s not Jimin. “Because you’re my- you’re my best friend.”
Taehyung makes a strangled noise.
“I was, maybe.”
“No,” Jungkook says. “You are.”
TO: HOSEOK: I don’t know what to tell you.
TO: HOSEOK: I forgive you, I guess, if that’s what you want, to move on.
TO: HOSEOK: Please leave me alone from now on.
He knows in his gut it’s going to be a bad day when he leaves for work, because Taehyung woke up to say something like “January is the spring of winter” and it’s been sitting in his head since as eerie somehow.
He’s supposed to be excited to meet his current boss slash business partner. His boss finally got around to emailing him about one single day before he was supposed to have half the work ready. Having spent the night cramming to get the work done, he’s not exactly radiating youthful energy.
He’s probably overreacting. This is a good job, more interesting, better pay- and it’s in music, too; he would be jumping for joy normally.
An assistant ushers him in disapprovingly, unloading him of the boxes he’s been dragging after him and pointing him to a cramped little office.
“Oh!” a handsome thirty something says, upon seeing him there. He puts down a tablet before extending his hand. “Jeon Jungkook?”
“Sir,” Jungkook says, shaking. This could be an okay boss, he can impress this guy, if he tries- “It’s good to be here.”
“I’m Park Dowoon. Manager.”
Right. His vague hope simmers down.
“Nice to meet you. Am I early?”
“No, my client is late, I’m afraid. He should have been here ten minutes ago. Matter of fact, I’m going to go call him now, if you’ll excuse me. This is poor etiquette on his behalf.”
“Of course,” Jungkook says, steps aside to let him out. Maybe the guy will be gone long enough that he can take a nap, standing up. Regain some colour in his cheeks. He can see himself reflected in the window, pale and drawn.
The man is barely gone long enough for Jungkook to squint at the room when there are suddenly voices in the other hallway, one belonging to a woman, likely the assistant, one to a man, low enough he can’t catch what he’s saying. Jungkook frowns.
There’s something about it that’s nagging him. His stomach is taut with an almost excited tension.
“-Yeah, I’ll tell him,” low voice guy says, head still turned to the assistant as he opens the door. “Bye.”
He turns, and Jungkook’s bag drops off his shoulder with a tremendous crash.
His hair is no longer mint green and his face is a little clearer, but unless he’s hallucinating there’s no one but Min Yoongi who could be standing in front of him.
“J-“ Yoongi says, then stops. His eyes are wide, his face pale with shock.
Something that’s been closed for two years inside Jungkook snaps open with a vengeance, and his hands find Yoongi’s shirt, legs moving without a thought to slam him up agains the wall, blind hatred screaming in his ears.
“Jungkook,” Yoongi chokes out, dazed, and Jungkook practically snarls at him, teeth bared and fists shaking madly.
“YOU RUINED MY LIFE!” Jungkook spits out, feeling more coherent than he has in months as he pins him down. “YOU RUINED ME! WHY AREN’T YOU GONE?”
His voice breaks on the last segment, and Yoongi is just saying- nothing, doing nothing, just staring at him with these big eyes, and Jungkook absolutely wants to kill him.
The door crashes open, and the manager plus like two security guys descend upon them, hauling Jungkook off as he kicks and screams, and distantly he hears Yoongi saying something like put him down but he doesn’t even make out the words, only his voice.
The guys throw him out, and he crashes onto the pavement with his stomach churning and adrenaline coursing through his veins. He should have hit him. He should have snapped his neck. He can’t believe this just happened.
He doesn’t even have his bike.
He needs to get out of here.
He calls Jimin.
“Hyung, you need to come pick me up.”
It comes out a barely comprehensible stream of sounds. Jimin sounds irate.
“I’m in class, Jungkook, I know you literally have no respect for the fact that I too work several jobs-“
“You need to come pick me up now.”
“Are you crying?” Jimin demands, and then says a whole lot of panicked whatever as Jungkook slowly touches his face.
Hot tears continue to roll down his cheeks. He’d forgotten what that feels like.
TO: NAMJOON: You didnt tell me
TO: NAMJOON: Hes back and you didnt tell me
FROM: NAMJOON: Jungkook........he never left.
When they get back Jimin shoves the door open and Taehyung jumps up like a deer caught in headlights, scrambling for something to say, until Jimin drags Jungkook inside and his priorities change.
It’d be funny how seamlessly they work, to get Jungkook to the couch and back to life. It’d be funny if it was different.
“What happened?” Taehyung asks, low as he can go, which is still loud, once Jungkook is half-asleep in Jimin’s lap.
“I’m not sure,” Jimin says, slowly. Jungkook wonders if it’s the first time they talk normally since Taehyung got locked up. “But I’m pretty sure he saw Yoongi.”
His voice falters on the name, and Taehyung jolts- Jungkook feels him do it.
“Yoongi? Min Yoongi?”
“Oh, motherfuck. How the hell did that... Oh, Jungkook.”
“I know,” Jimin says. His tone is calm but his voice is small.
“He’ll be okay,” Taehyung rushes. “He’ll be fine, right? We’ll make him be fine. Won’t we?”
“We will,” Jimin swallows. His hand traces Jungkook’s face softly. “We will.”
In the next week, he loses his grip on time. First, there’s the issue of staying in bed for several days, disorientating him, and then there’s the slight other issue of him slipping into half vivid memories of two years ago that make him forget he’s alive now.
He’s not even really ill. He’s more- he doesn’t know what it is. There’s this part of him that he forgot had ever existed that’s suddenly overtaken his body, vivid and loud and intransigent.
Four days after the incident he finds himself functional and calls his boss, apologises for the whole fiasco, and finds the man confused.
“What are you blabbing on about, Jeon? Min Yoongi? He said he’d emailed you some things and you were working from home.”
“Oh,” Jungkook says. “Of course. I was just worried you thought I was flaking.”
“Get your head outta the clouds, kid.”
There are emails from the music company in his inbox, as it turns out. They’re all empty, but they look official enough.
His hair is black. It’s sticking to him, that his hair is black. He never knew Yoongi with natural hair- that bright, mint green that glowed neon against the pale white of his skin, that’s what he remembers, fading to soapy turquoise when Yoongi kept putting off redoing it, but never far from renewal.
He’s never seen his hair black. Not even in old pictures. Yoongi didn’t have old pictures. Hoseok had some, and Namjoon, but they weren’t old enough that his hair was natural- it was sort of a soft grey when Hoseok’s hair was orange, and in the rare photo Namjoon had, a mixed pink.
He doesn’t know why it bothers him so much, why he remembers the hair so clearly but not the rest of their run-in. He thinks it’s because he’s always sort of thought he would spot him from miles away, if they ever crossed paths- that he’d see the flash of colour and run.
He’s going to have to find a new job again. He’s short enough on money as it is.
How is he supposed to handle Yoongi being there? Two years he hasn’t known if he was alive. More than that since they talked properly. And so much of those two years have been the shitshow they’ve been because of fucking Yoongi, because of the fight, because of the fire.
God, it keeps coming back. Not the way everything usually comes back, more than that, like he’s fresh out of there, fresh out of all of it. It’s mixing things- mixing campfires by the sea and gasoline by the tracks, and throwing Jungkook’s mind into disarray.
Trust Yoongi to collapse his systems even now.
Taehyung finds him up and about and winces almost audibly.
“I thought you’d be asleep.”
“No,” Jungkook says, barely moving in response to his added presence. His eyes are intent on the screen, focused on evading the Hanzo on his tail.
“You won’t tell Jimin I was out, right? I really only went for ten minutes, honestly,” Taehyung babbles, perching on the couch.
“Sure,” Jungkook says, then blinks a little. “Jimin put you on watch duty?”
“He does have classes, you know,” Taheyung says, all-knowing, which just makes Jungkook’s head hurt. “I’m capable of keeping an eye on you.”
“Then why were you out?” Jungkook asks, pointedly. His Genji flips over an attack with graceful ease and punches the air.
Taehyung grumbles something or other he doesn’t catch. Jungkook nods absently.
“That’s what I thought.”
“Look, seriously, don’t tell him,” Taehyung whines. “Please. I didn’t leave long at all.”
Jungkook shrugs. “Whatever, hyung.”
“You’re the best, Kook,” Taehyung sighs, relieved. “The bestest.”
“Yeah,” Jungkook agrees, having stopped listening mid-phrase. “Absolutely.”
Words are so overrated. They never manage to really say what your head is saying, and they’re completely useless at translating your heart.
Taehyung taps on his phone next to him for a good couple of hours. His phone, he registers eventually. He can’t be bothered to take it from him. It’s probably not urgent.
Even if it was he’s not in a state to fix it, right now.
“Jimin wants to tell us something,” Taehyung says, sometime when Jungkook’s eyes have started hurting from staring at the screen too long. “He’s coming over.”
Jungkook blinks when the TV suddenly turns off, and finds an unusually nervy Taehyung chewing his lip next to him.
“Nothing,” Taehyung answers, too fast. “I’m gonna, uh- go paint my nails.”
“I don’t have nail varnish,” Jungkook says, as Taehyung vanishes out of the room. He’s got a sinking feeling in his gut.
Jimin arrives about fifteen minutes later, looking small and weary in his thick coat and ratty scarf. Not for the first time Jungkook thinks he should buy him a new one.
“Your roots are coming in, hyung.”
“I’ve been busy,” Jimin retorts. He looks conflicted, though- relieved, when he gazes in his direction, but also like he’s steeling himself for something. “Have you eating anything? Where’s Taehyung?”
“I think we had waffles,” Jungkook says, glancing at the empty plate next to him. “He’s painting his nails.”
“Right,” Jimin says, and hovers, before dropping to sit down on the coffee table.
“Taehyung,” Jungkook calls. “Jimin’s here.”
Taehyung reappears, flits about, settles next to Jungkook, perched on the couch with their legs touching. Jungkook wonders how they’ve been surviving this, working together.
“Okay,” Jimin starts, and scrubs at his nose. “I can’t sugarcoat this. I think we should- have a group meeting.”
“We’re having one right now,” Taehyung interrupts, because that’s the way he is, before clamping his mouth shut, fingers twitching anxiously. Jungkook feels a little bad for him, and doesn’t know what for.
“No,” Jimin says, and clears his throat like it’s dried up. “No, with the rest of the group.”
A pin could drop in the ensuing silence. Taehyung isn’t even twitching.
“Hoseok, Namjoon, Seokjin hyungs,” Jimin continues, although his voice is a little strained as he does so. “The group.”
Jungkook knows one brief moment of respite where Yoongi’s name is not mentioned, then jerks away, his breathing difficult. Seokjin- and all six of them together. A year and half has passed since that.
Taehyung, by his side, is immobile.
“I know,” Jimin says, before they can even get a word out. “I know, okay? But you know as well as I do it was a collective thing, and no one ever wanted to say so, so now we’re all splintered off like this, and- it’s never going to let us get away.”
“You think we should, what, all just start where we left off?” Jungkook hears himself ask, grating and hostile.
“No,” Jimin bites out. “But we can at least get some fucking closure.” And, possibly in response to the glow in Jungkook’s eyes: “Jungkook, this isn’t what they want either, remember? They want to pretend it never fucking went happened, or whatever the hell they’re doing, and I won’t let them.”
Jungkook thinks of Hoseok’s apologies and Namjoon’s quiet little breakdown, and knows that’s half true and half not, but the thought stills his panic a little. It’s not just them.
“And they said yes?”
Jimin smiles humorlessly. “Do they have the choice?”
“I won’t go,” Taehyung says, reminding Jungkook abruptly that he’s still there. It’s a rare feat, to forget about Taehyung. “Not if he’s going.”
Jungkook expected something defiant, petulant, but Taehyung’s voice is very small, and when he looks sideways he finds his eyes hollow and his expression almost ashamed.
“You have to,” Jimin says. It’s not harsh, funnily. Just a fact. Just that.
“I can’t,” Taehyung says. Maybe pleads. Jungkook can’t remember when he’s last seen him this- frightened? No, not quite. His eyes are skirting around Jimin without being able to look at him. “I can’t, I really can’t.”
“Yes, you can,” Jimin answers. He looks torn, like he’s trying something very hard. “You’re not going in alone. Jungkook will be there.” He pauses, doesn’t look at them when he concedes: “I’ll be there.”
“No,” Taehyung says, and shakes his head jerkily just the one. “I’m sorry, Jimin. I can’t.”
He stumbles out of the room, and Jungkook watches him go with his heartbeat thumping painfully slow, unsure, wondering.
“He won’t be able to go,” he finds himself saying, despite himself. “To see Seokjin-hyung? Are you crazy, Jimin? How do you expect that to go down?”
“He has to,” Jimin says, tired. “He’s only just starting not to dance out of reach whenever he needs to be honest with himself. And Jin needs to do this, too. We can’t survive like this, Jungkookie.”
“I don’t understand,” Jungkook retorts, somehow defensive, somehow more angry that shocked. “Why now? Why all of this? We were fine, before, when it was just you and me, you and him aren’t trying to kill each other anymore, it’s fine, why are we opening all this up again?”
“Because we never closed it!” Jimin exclaims. “And neither of us was doing fine before, Jungkook, unless you’re delusional. You know damn well your therapist has done nothing for you but keep you docile for over a year, and you think not emoting is the same as doing well.”
“Shut up,” Jungkook manages, reeling. “Shut up, what are you saying-”
“The truth! And if you’re that way it’s because of how it happened, okay? That’s why we need to understand, because I can’t keep picking you up from hospitals, Jungkook, I really can’t.”
His voice cracks on the last part, and for a fleeting instant Jungkook imagines life in Jimin’s shoes for the past year, sees his relentless effort to stay in Jungkook’s life and keep him sane, sees himself through his eyes.
“I thought I was doing better,” Jimin mumbles. “I thought you were doing better. And Taehyung comes out of prison and like always I see exactly how wrong I am. And I can’t do last year again, Jungkook. None of it. I’m not strong enough.”
They look at each other for a telling minute, Jungkook at a loss for words, wishing he was an ounce of the friend Jimin was, and then Taehyung steps into the doorframe, clutching his arm.
He’s looking at his feet. Jimin’s face does this indescribable twist that Jungkook feels bad for witnessing.
The eldest member of their trio swallows, flexes his small hands.
Taehyung’s pale cheeks colour.
FROM: NAMJOON: Will Th actually be OK?
FROM: NAMJOON: Not in the murder sense, I mean like himself
TO: NAMJOON: Idk.
TO: NAMJOON: He’s doing it 4 Jimin.
FROM: NAMJOON: That’s as good as we’ll get, isn’t it.
TO: NAMJOON: This isn’t gonna end well.
Jungkook returns to week absolutely wrecked with nerves, but there’s no sign of Yoongi- his manager says his assistant is taking over for him for the moment, which is just fine. The work he gets to do is suspiciously useless, but then he’s grateful for it, because he has an inkling he doesn’t want to know what kind of music Yoongi makes.
Taehyung’s hair is growing long, fluffy. He’s regained some weight, and some colour, out of prison for a over month now. Jungkook wonders how long he’ll have to stay paying rent and meals for two people on the budget of one. There’s no way he can tell his parents who’s moved back in.
Jimin is over more often, nowadays. It’s either because he doesn’t trust Jungkook not to freak or because he and Taehyung are now cautiously able to exist in the same room without jumping each other one way or another.
“This is the literal worst idea ever,” Jimin says, the day Taehyung suggests they take a day off and go to the beach. “It’s in the middle of winter. It’s below freezing.”
“It’ll be fun?” Taehyung pleads, towards Jungkook. They both do that when they’re arguing but not seriously, as if to make sure the other doesn’t take it personally. It’s ridiculous. “And it’ll be pretty, with the empty beaches.”
“Don’t look at me,” Jungkook sighs. “I wanted to stay in and game.”
Jimin rolls his eyes. “Wow, groundbreaking. Jeon Jungkook has no life, who’d have guessed.”
“He has all of two friends,” Taehyung says. “Which is us. If we don’t take him out who will?”
Jimin glares, half-heartedly. “So now I’m obliged to drag Jungkook’s bodybuilding ass out because you’re peer pressuring me into it?”
“I am by far the most sociable person here,” Taehyung states, tapping his nose. “For instance, all of your neighbours love me and don’t like you.”
“Hey,” Jungkook protests. “That’s only because you slept with half of them in your first week here.”
“Did you now.”
Taehyung grins with an almost apologetic air. “I wouldn’t say half, Jungkookie. Honestly, you just scare off the kids with that mean mug.”
“That I can believe,” Jimin smirks. “Jungkook the little virgin and his demon expression.”
“I’m not a virgin,” Jungkook groans, although his cheeks are flushing in embarrassment. “You guys are just sluts.”
“That’s no way to address your elders, asshole,” Jimin says, kicking him hard from where he’s sitting. “God.”
“Yeah, Kook,” Taehyung snickers. He’s barely the same age as Jimin, the dickhead. “More respect, please.”
“It’s not slander if it’s true,” Jungkook mutters. “Who was it who once got off from the vibrations of the train tracks?”
“I’m a growing young man with needs,” Taehyung defends, unfazed. “I will not be shamed.”
“Jungkookie is unnecessarily rude.”
“You’re unnecessary. Hyung.”
They get the train, which is not grimy and filled with crates but still makes Jungkook feel strange, when sitting next to Jimin with Taehyung’s face pressed to the window like a kid. The city falls away, and the countryside grows colder, calmer, the kind of place Jungkook has never lived in and never will.
“The sea,” Taehyung breathes, after a small infinity of Jungkook zoning out to Justin Bieber. His voice is a little reverent.
“The sea,” Jimin agrees, eyes reflecting the waves. For all his complaining his smile his broad.
Jungkook looks at the sea, and remembers a dock with seagulls and pale hands dirty with sand as they sat and looked up, up, up. Remembers digging elbows into Hoseok as he complained and making giddy eye contact across him, feeling unstoppable.
“The sea,” he says.
It’s cold; Taehyung kicks off his shoes on the beach anyways like there isn’t snow lying everywhere, and Jungkook feels some of that old irresistible pull, to give chase and tackle him into the sand. He doesn’t- of course he doesn’t- but he smiles a bit, and feels rusty doing so.
Jimin’s got shorts on somehow, blue sweater pale against the wind, and he’s staring off at trees, minding nothing. Jungkook hunches down, runs his fingers through the sand, feels it crunch as he does so. He’s always liked the sand, coarse and rough and infinite, but he’s gone by it many times, for the sake of others, spent the day at the beach without touching the sand.
“Jungkookie, come on!” Taehyung calls, whoops contagiously. Suddenly he’s running, and Jungkook instinctively runs after him, shoes loud on the beach as he speeds up, hair whipping around his face. Something is irresistibly pulling him in, chasing the rolling of the water.
He’s fit from the gym, Taehyung isn’t, so he catches up fast, but he miscalculates Taehyung because when he grabs hold of him they both go tumbling down the dune, sand going everywhere as Taehyung screeches. It knocks the breath out of them, the cold ground and the double hit. For a moment Jungkook stays down, sand in his mouth and scrapes on his hand, and feels his heartbeat loud and present.
“Eww, Kook,” Taehyung whines. “My Gucci shoes are gonna be soiled, get off, you’re so heavy.”
“Your own fault for wearing Gucci to the beach, hyung,” Jungkook retorts, lightly, sitting up. “Seriously, how reckless.”
“You two will catch your deaths,” Jimin says, crossed arms, from nearby. “Rolling around near the water like that.”
“You’re in shorts, hyung.”
“Jiminie, why do you dress down so badly?” Taehyung demands, struggling upright. “Is the temptation to hoe too strong? We can’t have you frozen to death!”
“Yeah, turn on me, why don’t you,” Jimin mutters. “Assholes.”
They stand there for a while, the three of them, side by side on the sand. Jungkook listens to the wind whistling and thinks of music for the first time in years. Spring coming in winter. Missing a friend.
“Did you notice,” Jimin says, as they climb back up the beach, “There are shoes tied to the tree?”
“Shoes?” Taehyung asks, glancing back.
“Sneakers,” Jimin says, lost in thought.
They sit in silence at the bus stop; Jungkook watches Taehyung toy with the strings of his hat and thinks that objectively speaking they still have their whole lives ahead of them.
The sun is setting, in pinks and blues. For some reason his mind goes to Hoseok, folding paper planes out of restaurant guides.
The day of the reunion is set. It’s a Monday night, for some fucking reason, because their schedules somehow aligned for a Monday. Jungkook is increasingly nervy and increasingly dickish, to the extent that he realises it and it annoys him even more.
He has a therapist appointment on Saturday, which is just superb. He’s thrilled. No better time.
“Jungkook,” she says, with a smile. “You’re looking a little under the weather. Flu?”
“Uh?” Jungkook answers, eloquently. “Sure.”
“How were the holidays?”
He shrugs. “Busy. Saw some people. Got promoted. Organised some stuff.”
“People I know?”
“Park Jimin, for example? He’s not still in your life, is he? I’m rather sure you promised to stop seeing him. He was a very unhealthy influence.”
She nods patiently. “We’ve been over this, Jungkook. He let you use him as an emotional crutch, and in return continued to drown you in his own issues. As I recall you were friends around the time of the incident, no?”
Jungkook sets his jaw. “He had nothing to do with that.”
She sighs. “Jungkook, you’re hiding things from me. I can’t help you if you’re not honest.”
“I am honest.”
“So you’ve stopped seeing Park Jimin? And you didn’t stop your medication?”
He looks up in surprise at that, and she shakes her head in disappointment.
“So you have.”
“I’ve been detoxing. The pills weren’t good for me.”
“They kept your mood swings moderate, Jungkook. I got a hospital report from Christmas day.”
He feels a little sick. “That wasn’t- I didn’t-“
“Who took you in? Were you doing drugs?”
“No,” Jungkook manages. “No. I ran into some people I didn’t want to see.”
“Park Jimin was involved, I presume?”
He hates how she says his name, like she can possibly understand. She doesn’t, she has the wrong idea, all of it is wrong, and whatever he says she won’t believe. It’s always like this with doctors.
“No, he wasn’t.”
“Then who took you to the hospital? Please be honest.”
“It was- you don’t know him, it’s not Jimin,” he tries, feeling feverish and trapped.
“Of course not.”
He can’t take the knowing look in her eyes; his knee jumps.
“Fine! Fine, you want to know who it was? Kim Taehyung.”
Her eyes go wide. “The one who tried to-”
“Yeah, my batshit crazy best friend who got locked up for a year! And guess what, Hyuna, it’s been fucking awful having him back because now we’re all together everything keeps happening like it used to, and I keep remembering everything the way it was, and as it turns out I’m definitely not over it, no matter what your reports say, okay?”
“Jungkook, sit down, please.”
“No!” Jungkook exclaims. “I’m done with this circus act- it’s done literally nothing for me the past year except keep me doped up enough to numb every human emotion I can experience.”
“That’s not true at all-”
“It is! Because as fucked up as all my friends are, they’ve gotten me better over the past two months than this ever has in over a year, and that’s just because they care. So you’re wrong if you think I was better when I was calm- I didn’t feel anything. I won’t be trying it again.”
“And what do you expect me to tell your parents?”
“Whatever you like,” Jungkook says, chest heaving. “I don’t care. But try and get them on my back and I’ll tell a lawyer we’ve been fucking.”
Her face goes pale and angry.
“Are you threatening me?”
“Maybe you should have thought twice before fucking your underage manic patient,” Jungkook says, almost amiably as he shrugs his coat on. “Happy new year.”
He’s in an okay mood when he leaves. It’s a little- he doesn’t know, he’s never been the best with flowery vocabulary. The word cathartic crosses his mind, but he knows exactly where he got that one from, and he can’t think about him right now, not when he feels okay.
Sunday is a tense day. Taehyung keeps getting himself in trouble, and Jungkook has to come pick him up from some club where he’s stolen the disco ball from before the cops come over. Taehyung looks good like this, eyes wild and shirt sticking to his chest, but he doesn’t look healthy. Jungkook wonders when he started being able to tell.
“You better tell your friend to calm the fuck down,” the bouncer says, with little sympathy. “I know his type.”
“You don’t know me!” Taehyung replies, outraged. “You w-wish you knew me, you poor discontented Elvis wannabe.”
“Noted,” Jungkook tells the bouncer. “He’s stressed about meeting his ex.”
“Liar, liar, liar,” Taehyung harmonizes, loud and dissonant. Jungkook’s knuckles are a little bruised, he doesn’t know from where. He’s been slacking on the gym a little, stupidly.
“We’re going, Tae.”
The streets are lined with ice, and Taehyung is too drunk for a straight line. He lets him skid for a while before he stops to pick him up.
“You used to sing,” Taehyung slurs into his ear, as Jungkook piggy-backs him back home, slowly. “When we had to- when we got out. You used to- run. Throw me ‘round.”
“You’re heavier now.”
“No,” Taehyung says, grudgingly. “You’re just dead inside.”
“I could have told you that.”
“No, dead for real. Only a little bit alive sometimes.” And, abruptly changing tone: “I’m sad, Kookie. I’m sad all the time. You make me sad too.”
“I want you to sing again,” Taehyung sighs, and then slaps his back urgently, eyes wide. “Oh, I’m gonna puke.”
Jungkook barely throws him off in time.
Monday morning he develops a sudden really bad craving for his pills, the kind he hasn’t felt since the first week off them. He lies curled in a ball on the floor and punches Taehyung in the shins whenever he comes closer, hard.
He's got voices in his head. Vignettes, over and over.
“Want one, hyung?” Body buzzing and grin easy, a sweaty hand extended to offer the goods. “Hoseok’s got a new haul.”
He’d tilted his head, met none of the indulgence he wanted.
“I think they’re great,” Jungkook had said, drawing out the r and laughing to himself. “They make you really… full, you know?”
Yoongi’s eyes were sullen, heavy. “Hoseok takes too many pills.”
“And you drink too much,” Jungkook threw back, settling next to him on the ratty couch. “And pierce without sanitiser, and fuck people you hate, and get yourself in fights.”
“So stop being judge-judge…”
“Yes,” Jungkook had agreed, nodding. “That. You’re a hypocrite.”
“What’s it to you? You’re a kid.”
His own expression soured. “M not a kid.”
“Yes, you are.”
“Well, you’re an old asshole.”
“Go talk to Taehyung or Jimin or someone your level,” Yoongi had retorted, snide. “If it’s too much for you.”
Jimin’s laughter, high and drunken, filtering up to them from the living room. Yoongi’s lip was split again. Jungkook wanted to- it didn’t matter.
“But I wanna talk to you,” Jungkook had replied, kicking his legs up into Yoongi’s lap and ignoring the dirty look he got. “Even if you suck.”
“And swallow,” Yoongi had allowed, with half a smirk, relenting. Jungkook had grinned wide and pleased, even as his cheeks flushed.
It went to his head when they talked like this. Taehyung and Jimin always ratted him about it, but fuck them if they just got jealous.
“You sure for the pills, Yoongi? I’m gonna have them all for myself otherwise.”
A raised eyebrow.
“What, no sharing with the others?”
“The others,” Jungkook had laughed, “Can get fucked.”
Yoongi had laughed, hoarse. “You’ve got that right, Jungkook-ah.”
“Get up from the floor.”
“We’re going soon.”
Sudden proximity to Jimin’s face. Jungkook always forgets he’s shredded until he’s being lifted by someone half his size.
He feels less dazed now, anyways. Might as well.
“Can we get McDonalds before we go?”
“There’s no McDonalds near you.”
“There’s a Burger King,” Taehyung supplies, chewing on his sweatshirt string.
“Can we get Burger King before we go?”
“Fucking fine,” Jimin groans. “But get dressed.”
“I am dressed.”
“You’ve been wearing this white t-shirt for two weeks.”
“No, this is a different one,” Taehyung says. “See, there’s a little tear near the collar.”
Sometimes Taehyung is useful. Jimin throws his hands in the air.
They pick up Burger King. Taehyung puts the crown on his own head, firmly, and people in the street give them weird looks, three twenty-something year olds in completely mismatched outfits eating Burger King and looking close to death.
“Where are we going?” Jungkook asks, in the Uber. God, he hates that he’s someone who uses Uber.
“Namjoon’s flat,” Jimin answers. He at least seems to feel guilt for his choice of transportation, although Jungkook suspects that may not be what he’s guilting about.
It’s funny how close to them Namjoon actually lives. It feels wrong, like he should have been as far as he felt, but it makes sense, really. None of them even moved far out from where they’d lived, except their eldest friends, and those had just vanished.
When they get out of the car Taehyung grabs his hand, all of a sudden, long fingers clutching his hand so hard it feels like he’s cutting off circulation. Jungkook should protest, but Taehyung’s face is that of someone on the verge of passing out, and besides Jungkook is fucking petrified in his own right.
Jimin’s the one who walks alone. Jungkook almost feels like he should tell him to hang back and stay with him, but he can’t manage the effort.
“Hi,” Namjoon says, quiet, when he sees them. He seems not far off from what Jungkook saw last time- exhausted, trying to hold it together for someone else’s sake. “Been a while.”
“Hi, hyung,” Jimin says. They look at each other for a beat, where Jungkook somehow wishes they would hug, and then Namjoon looks up past him and stills, looking right into them.
Taehyung nods jerkily. “Namjoon.”
Something in Namjoon’s expression changes a little, and he sounds less awful when he claps him on the shoulder.
“Good to have you back.”
They go inside and Jungkook wants to retch, has to keep inhaling not to bend double and puke. Hoseok is inside the living room, hair a dark red and hands always on the move, and so is-
“Jin-hyung,” Jimin manages, very strained. Jin’s big bambi eyes are wide on them, his hair black where it used to be brown, but he looks unchanged- the same smooth face, the same broad shoulders. It’s been- god, it’s been forever. Jungkook’s hands shake reflexively, trying to figure out what he feels like, and he realises Taehyung has seized up completely.
Jin’s eyes go to Namjoon for a moment, seeking god knows what, then go straight back to them, as if he can’t believe they’re really there.
Out of literally fucking nowhere Jungkook remembers the two dogs that used to run around their part of the railways and wonders if they’re dead. He’s so busy thinking about the damn dogs that he doesn’t even slightly take in whatever is being said. There was a white one and a brown one, with curly hair, and Namjoon always got rejected by the brown one, and Taehyung had named the white one but Hoseok had named it something else so in the end it stayed unnamed.
Shit, what was that dog called? He can’t remember. He feels like someone took one of them in. The brown one. Maybe the white one is dead. They always used to think they’d been hit by a train, and then the dogs would show up out of nowhere, two weeks later.
He zones back in because Taehyung is jerking out of his grasp, and Jin looks upset and what Jungkook can see of Taehyung’s face looks terrified.
“Leave them their space,” Namjoon says, and Taehyung jerks his head no and grabs Jungkook’s hand harder.
“Jungkook,” Jimin says, and Jungkook glances at Taehyung with actual reluctance.
He pulls his hand free slowly, grabs on to Jimin where he appears by his side, and gets dragged out of the room one step at a time, unable to look away from the look on Taehyung’s face.
They step out onto the balcony.
“If Jin does anything,” Jimin says, fierce, “Anything at all that’s not squeaky clean? I’ll kill all of you myself.”
Hoseok, for some reason, cracks a smile at that, involuntary.
“I missed you, Jiminie.”
Jimin blinks, frowns, looks at his feet.
“Jin won’t,” Namjoon says. “He’s spent a year and a half guilting over you guys. Especially Taehyung. Who do you think paid for his lawyers?”
“That’s one thing,” Jimin says, still not softened. “But if he thinks he can show up after ditching us then and play the forgiver, he can think again.”
Jungkook is immensely fond of Jimin.
“It’s not you guys who need forgiveness, Jimin,” Namjoon sighs, so tired, so softly. “It’s never been you.”
“I don’t get,” Jungkook finds himself saying. Everyone looks up at him. “Why you’re doing this now. I thought- I know it went from bad to worse, but you all… I mean, you all left. One by one, vanished. I never even thought there was something to be sorry about. Now I guess I do. But why did you leave us to flounder for a year- for two? You realise it made it worse, right?”
He sounds dumb, trying to piece it together out loud, cringes at the sound of his own voice. He’s never had it on his side, language, always needs something else to help him through- dance, or music, once upon a time, now… Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it.
Hoseok looks like he wants to say something, but stops half way there. It’s Namjoon who picks up the thread of the conversation, licking his lips.
“You all- even now, you all think there’s something more to us, like we knew what we were doing. But I never did, Kook. I wish I had, okay? But I didn’t. We started getting worse and I didn’t know what to do. Yoongi burnt the warehouse down and tried to take himself with it and I didn’t know what to do. Hoseok overdosed and I didn’t know what do to. Jin lost it and I didn’t know what to do. Taehyung cracked and I didn’t know what to do. Jimin went under and I didn’t know what to do. You got hit by a car and I didn’t know what to do.“
It’s quiet, on the balcony. Jungkook is seeing it all flash in front of him, and his mind is sticking to something but can’t process what.
“The point is,” Namjoon says, voice more sure. “None of this was on purpose. I don’t- you can ask the others why they did and didn’t do things right. But- and I’m not using this as an excuse, I’m just saying- I took the year away because I felt like I’d done nothing but stand by and watch you all fuck each other up when I should have been doing something, and I’m the one who got you all together in the first place, so I just figured if I was gone you’d be able to go back somehow. If I removed myself the threads would unravel. But I left you when you needed someone to look over you, and for that I’m sorry. To all of you. I’m sorry I did this to you.”
“It was never your fault,” Hoseok whispers, hand on his elbow. “Namjoon-”
“No, it was,” Namjoon interrupts, shakes his head. “Everything has a beginning. I was ours. I should have been a better ending.”
Jimin’s not looking at any of them, but Jungkook knows the twist of his mouth and sees the unshed tears in it. Namjoon looks like he would be crying too if he had the energy.
“I don’t think,” Jungkook hears, and realises it’s his own mouth that’s speaking, “This is a story that has an ending, hyung.”
Three pairs of eyes go to him. He holds it difficultly.
“That’s where you went wrong. All of you. You shouldn’t have ended it. Just- made it better. And maybe you’re… I don’t know, maybe you’re better now.”
“Jungkook,” Jimin manages, wet but trying to brush it off. “What are you even saying, you dork.”
“I’m saying… I’m saying if I’m not dead in some ditch it’s thanks to you. And we hated each other sometimes or maybe still do, but we’re better now. You and me. And that’s because you stayed with me. Thick and thin, right?”
“Dumbass,” Jimin sniffles. “As if I could let you look after yourself.”
“You’ve grown up, Jungkook,” Namjoon says, and Jungkook feels a sharp pain in his chest at the pride he’d forgotten the sound of. “Better than us.”
Jungkook shrugs. “You didn’t have the people I did.”
Hoseok lets out a quick little “tch”, scrubs his nose. His eyes are dark with things like guilt and shame and Jungkook doesn’t find it fair anymore. Why, in the end, should they take the blame? Jungkook hurt his fair share of them back then, did the same shitty things they did back then. And he’s got his issues but he’s never really felt like he was carrying that burden on him alone, the responsibility. If there’s one thing the elders seem to share it’s the idea this was on them somehow.
He clears his throat, looks at Jimin, who seems to read immediately what he wants, even though Jungkook himself isn’t sure.
“If you- if you’d want to,” Jimin says, tentative, like he’s asking himself as well as the others, “We can- do this more. I- we… It’s not that it doesn’t matter or it can’t repeat itself. But it’s not worth ruining… us for.”
“We’d like that,” Namjoon breathes, bites his lip and looks up and away. “Very much.”
“Ah, Jimin,” Hoseok laughs, emotional, and Jimin kind of pops into his space to hug his side really hard before he jumps back, an echo of them back then, the two of them poking at each other incessantly. “Ah, really. You and your crazy plans.”
“Not so crazy, hyung.”
Through the curtains he sees movement, squints into the room to see Jin let go of Taehyung, face a little blotchy with emotion, and feels his heart rate settle a bit.
The door opens, and Taehyung’s eyes are puffy from crying, and Jin is composing himself with this disbelieving little smile like he can’t imagine this is all happening. Hoseok one-arm hugs him, tight, and Jungkook looks to Taehyung to see if he should do the same only to find Jimin’s already laced their fingers together, his hand so tiny against Taehyung’s.
Taehyung’s frozen in surprise, looking at Jimin, and Jimin’s not looking back, but Jungkook finds himself smiling, almost teasing, which is something he can’t remember doing in… Long.
“Wow, we’re embarrassing, standing on this balcony like dipshits,” Hoseok says, nasally, and Namjoon laughs a little guiltily and Jimin follows, and they’re all laughing a bit hysterically on Namjoon’s balcony for a while and it doesn’t send Jungkook back in time.
It’s only later when everyone is inside and just a little buzzed and just a little comfortable that he suddenly and acutely misses the feeling of fingers running through his hair and has to excuse himself for a moment.
He doesn’t puke, though. It means- something.
Day by day their patchwork works itself together again. It’s very slow and very cautious, and often one of them will get a bit overemotional and everyone comes to a halt, terrified of going too far back, but it’s definitely- happening.
None of them are, like, good. Or maybe even good people. But they’re all trying, and that’s the difference, because before no one was. So if Taehyung throws insecurities in the air or Jimin digs where it hurts or Hoseok dares too far, well, it’s still okay, but it’s stopped as soon as someone remembers they’re not doing this anymore.
He and Hoseok run into each other in the gym again and Hoseok tells him about a dance studio as they run on the treadmills, and Jungkook says maybe and goes anyways. It’s… Good. He hates himself but it feels good, dancing again, just a little.
Jin starts sending him bad jokes. Jungkook tells him every time he’ll block him for real but never does. It’s good for making him smile dumbly for a couple of seconds.
Namjoon’s music is good. Jungkook listens and drifts away, remembers the hero-worship from back then and doesn’t quite fight it when it seeps back into him. He’s missed Namjoon so much, the words of wisdom and the clumsiness, the leader who never ceased being just part of the team.
He’s missed them all, if he’s honest. So much. And he’d never let himself see it until they were back.
It’s not the same, but it’s not bad. He emotes a lot more, and it scares him at points and then he shuts down hard, but often he finds himself emoting without it hurting real hard, and that makes it easier to push on, ignore the panic.
Jimin smiles a lot more. Jungkook’s not gonna tell him he missed that, but he does find himself smiling back, too, bantering more where it used to be just plain mean.
Taehyung and Jin’s conversation, whatever it did, doesn’t seem to have changed Taehyung, but he’s different all the same. It’s like some stunted part of him is cautiously growing up.
Of course, the rest of life goes on too. College is still a joke, but there was only so long he could go without the rest falling through.
“Face to face?” he asks, for the second time, as his boss rolls his eyes.
“Yeah. Your work should have been done ages ago, but as it appears your email correspondence got wiped off Min’s computer by a nasty virus, his team has settled for you coming in and recreating your little fixes. Shouldn’t be hard, if you’ve already done it.”
“Course not,” Jungkook nods. “When?”
“I don’t- tomorrow, or something?”
“Right,” Jungkook says.
Should he quit? It feels like the easiest thing to do. It’s just that his job was getting- okay, and it’s the only real income he has.
He can’t see Yoongi again, though. Obviously. That’s just not an option.
He walks in on Namjoon and Taehyung talking, stands in silence when he hears his name.
“Is it fucked up I really miss him?”
“No,” Namjoon says, calm. “Of course not. I missed him like hell, and I was ready to kill him.”
“I know that feeling,” Taehyung laughs, weakly.
“Yoongi is a fascinating person, and a fierce friend. I couldn’t stop caring about him if I tried.”
“Did you try?”
Taehyung stays quiet for a while, and Jungkook considers stepping in right until he speaks again, less airy suddenly. “He was awful, though. To everyone. And he smashed Kook’s heart to pieces. I don’t forgive him for that.”
Namjoon exhales. “Yoongi hated himself very much, when we were starting to derail. You know how he is, he never wanted to say, and we never… Wanted to notice. He was the worst on Jungkook because it was the hardest for him to do.”
“Still makes him an asshole.”
“Yeah,” Namjoon says, non-committal. “When he set fire to the warehouse, he was inside. Did you know that?”
“No,” Taehyung breathes. “What?”
“I didn’t- I didn’t think he was going to make it, for a while.”
“In hospital? You- he was in hospital, after the fire?”
“Passed out from the smoke. Barely survived.”
Taehyung falls silent again, and then: “What then? What’s he- what did he do after?”
“Broke out of the institution, of course. Went ghost on me for a while. Showed up on my birthday with a high fever, a broken jaw, and a mixtape for me.” Namjoon audibly shifts. “Then Jungkook got hit by a car. He went back to Daegu. Got a shitty job at a radio station. Worked his way up. Producer now, and working on his music.”
“But what- how is he like?”
“Hard to explain. Less angry and hell-bent on watching the world go down in flames, himself included. Quieter.”
“I can’t imagine that.”
“It’s been a long two years for us two, fixing our relationship. It’s- good, now, but, you know. There’s a lot of things to work on. He’s… Unhappy, still. Very. And it’s healthier now, the way he copes, his music, his dog. But I wish I could make him understand that he’s not the person he thinks he is.”
“You care a lot about him, huh.”
“He’s my best friend. Always has been, always will be. Even when I wished he would die.”
“You think, maybe, if the rest of us patch it up…”
“I don’t know. I don’t know if we’re ready. Or if he’ll ever be.”
“I tried to kill Jin-hyung,” Taehyung states, hollow but calm. “He didn’t do worse than that.”
“Maybe you should talk to him,” Namjoon says, pensive. “If you could.”
“Maybe,” Taehyung says, unsure. “I could- try.”
Jungkook, stupid fucking idiot that he is, doesn’t quit his job.
New, same old Yoongi walks into the room and very slowly breathes out when they make eye contact. He clearly wasn’t expecting to see him. Not in real life. Jungkook can’t speak, looks at his hands.
“Look,” Yoongi says, after an eternity. “I don’t want your job to… I’ve spoken to- we’ll be trading artists. You can work with someone else.”
Jungkook nods stiffly.
Yoongi hovers, leans against the wall. Jungkook keeps glancing at him against his better judgment, finds the same sleek build and cat-eyes, only his eyebags are deeper and his hair is curlier, natural. His leather jacket, too, is gone, replaced by a large black sweater.
Jungkook hurts, looking at him. He hurts but he can’t look away.
“We’re friends again,” he says. Doesn’t know why. Yoongi’s eyes flicker up. “With the others. Badly, but we’re- talking again.”
He doesn’t look at him after that, but his mind’s eye paints Yoongi swallowing, closing his eyes, flexing his fingers. He has such nice fingers.
“It took Taehyung getting out of jail,” Jungkook says. It’s like he can’t stop himself, now. “It hurt us enough we got a grip. I think he and Jimin are in love. I don’t know. I feel like if I try to do something I’ll break it.”
What the fuck is he doing, his brain demands. He hasn’t even said these kinds of things to himself. It’s not like they’re at a stage where they update each other on things. The last time Jungkook tried to choke him out. Even now he wants to claw at his face.
Yoongi says nothing. When he dares to look up he finds his eyes planted firmly on his face, Yoongi’s lip maybe bleeding from how hard he’s biting it.
“I wish we’d never seen each other again.”
It slaps him through the face, which he wasn’t expecting, but Yoongi continues, seemingly against his own will.
“I never wanted you to remember me. I wanted- I burnt it all away.”
“Badly,” Jungkook says, automatic. “You- left all kinds of shit behind.”
“I didn’t think anything would be left behind,” Yoongi says, with a humourless smile. Jungkook wonders how close he was to choking for good, when the firemen got to him, how long he stayed there inhaling the growing burn.
“You left me behind,” Jungkook says. Ridiculously there are tears prickling in his eyes. “Never thought of that, right?”
Yoongi’s eyes widen, and he looks away with his mouth pulled in a tight line.
“Of course not,” Jungkook smiles, bitterly. He’s drained again. “Why would you have.”
“I wasn’t-“ Yoongi balls his hands into fists. Jungkook gives him no remorse, eyes staying flatly on him as Yoongi forces it out. “I wasn’t meant to matter. You were all- you should have hated me.”
“Hated you?” Jungkook asks, disbelieving. “The only time I hated you was for leaving, what the fuck is wrong with- HATED you?”
“You were supposed to,” Yoongi defends, squeezing his eyes shut. “I was spiteful, I was- I brought everything down with me, I punched you in the face.”
“I punched you first,” Jungkook exhales, bordering on hysteria. Yoongi can’t possibly have been so- so stupid. Have understood so little.
“Because I deserved it!” Yoongi exclaims. “Because I made you!”
“Are you insane? You think that’s why I hit you?” Jungkook demands, balling his fists in his hair. His cheeks are turning pink with emotion. Everything is off.
“Why else would you have, Jungkook? It was supposed to break us for you,” Yoongi laughs, unhappily. “It was- you weren’t supposed to hurt when I was gone.”
“I hit you because I loved you!” Jungkook says, loud and unavoidable. “I hit you because I couldn’t stand you wrecking yourself to pieces, Yoongi, what the fuck do you think? We were all pretending, and I wanted you to stop, and instead you burnt yourself out of my- our life!”
Yoongi stares at him like he’s seeing another man crawl out of his skin. Jungkook’s vision is blurring like he’s a fucking infant.
“I’d have rather you set us both on fire than just yourself,” he slurs out. “You selfish motherfucker. Have you never thought of anyone but yourself in your whole life? Do you know how bad you fucked us up?”
God, he can’t look at him. He presses his palms into his eyes hard, but there’s a wetness under them he can’t seem to erase, and his whole body is seized up with emotion.
“I,” Yoongi says, and his voice still does that, does that to Jungkook, makes him listen, makes him wait. “I’m sorry.”
He’s never apologised for anything in his life, Yoongi. It doesn’t matter.
“But what for?” Jungkook hisses, demanding. “What are you sorry for?”
“Everything,” Yoongi scoffs, although there’s a pull to his voice that makes Jungkook suspect a terrible thing. “God. What the fuck can I start with? Most of all though, I’m sorry for-“
He cuts himself off, and Jungkook forces himself to look, finds Yoongi biting back tears, unforgiving.
“Sorry for what?” Jungkook repeats, voice shaky.
“You,” Yoongi says, closing his eyes. “I wanted you to be safe, away.”
“I didn’t want to be away!”
“I was too weak. I was too selfish.”
Jungkook inhales wetly, desperately. He hates that all this time has passed and he can’t even act like he’s aged.
“I’m sorry,” Yoongi says, eyes shiny in the light, “That I ever let you close enough to get hurt. I’m sorry I kept you there. I’m sorry even now I can’t let you walk away.”
What is he saying, Jungkook’s brain asks, anxious and on repeat. What is he saying, what is he saying, why does it hurt?
“But I never wanted to.”
“All I ever did was hurt you, Jungkook.”
“No,” Jungkook protests, tears burning his eyes. “No, you’re hurting me now, you hurt me when you left, you hurt when you did this. You can’t do that to me again. I won’t let you.”
Yoongi is still, alarmed. “You have to let me-“
“No! No, you can’t,” Jungkook retorts, and neglects his eyes to stalk closer, to grab Yoongi’s shoulders. “If you’re really sorry, if you’re really better, then you won’t hurt people through yourself anymore!”
“You don’t understand,” Yoongi spits, shaking, “It’s what I deserve, it’s not on you-“
“Then be selfless for once and stop thinking about yourself! Think about us instead- think about ME! I don’t give a fuck what you think you deserve, I never wanted you to punish yourself, I just wanted you to be there!”
Yoongi sways in his grip.
“Please,” Jungkook says, softer, more tired. “Don’t. Don’t go again. Stay for them, I don’t know. Just don’t run again.”
Yoongi starts crying, silent, stoic, but crying nonetheless. His face crumples and his shoulders shake and Jungkook’s very soul is ripped to shreds, fear and guilt and inexperience combined as he stays stock still. They stand there for who knows how long, Yoongi crying without making a sound and Jungkook holding his shoulders and unable to breathe.
“I can’t have you,” Yoongi says, through the crying, the words sharp and audible. “It’s not- I’m not allowed to, after the shit I pulled. Don’t you see that?”
“You’ll always have us,” Jungkook says, and finds it believable, obvious. “It’s only fair we have you too.”
“I’m so fucking sorry,” Yoongi says, and loses his words again.
This time Jungkook can’t hold it off and presses into him, breathes in his hair for as long as he can in case he loses his grip on him again, tries not to dig in too deep when the shape of him returns to his mind. Yoongi doesn’t hug him back, just stands there crying, but he lets him, is the thing, and Jungkook can hardly process his own thoughts but can’t let go.
He can’t let go. Not again. Not ever.
He makes him swear, on anything, on his life, makes him promise, and it almost scares him how he’s given up all pretences so fast, just to make sure, how he dropped all the acts he’s perfected just to get to Yoongi, but at the same time his chest hurts with hope. He works on autopilot, doesn’t stop touching him until he has to, just to be sure, just to know.
On the bus back he sits stiff and dazed, staring at his phone. Waiting.
It buzzes half an hour late.
FROM: UNKNOWN: theres so much better you should be doing
TO: YOONGI: I don’t want better.
FROM: YOONGI: fuck, jungkook
FROM: YOONGI: i cant face you
TO: YOONGI: You promised
TO: YOONGI: You promised you can’t go back on it
FROM: YOONGI: i cant change your mind for you
FROM: YOONGI: but youre wrong
TO: YOONGI: So what
TO: YOONGI: If before was right it sucked dick.
Yoongi doesn’t answer. Jungkook gets home like someone drunk.
“Where have you been?” Jimin demands, jumping up the moment he walks in. “You told us you were going to- why are your eyes red- what happened, Jungkook?”
“Work,” Jungkook manages. Both his friends exchange fearful looks.
“I told him the truth,” Jungkook says. “I didn’t think it was even an option. It just came out of me.”
“Oh, Kook,” Taehyung winces.
“He promised,” Jungkook says. “He’s not going away.”
A pregnant pause.
“What?” Jimin asks, his voice punched out.
“He… Promised,” Jungkook mumbles. Gestures at his phone. “He’s not leaving now. He can’t.”
“Wait,” Taehyung says, reeling. “You- made up? He’s- staying?”
“I don’t know,” Jungkook answers. His mind is replaying their conversation over and over. “I guess.”
His phone buzzes.
FROM: YOONGI: the others don’t want me back do they
FROM: YOONGI: thats because theyre *right*
“Holy shit,” Taehyung says, dazed. “Yoongi.”
He and Jimin look at each other, communicating whatever they communicate when they do this exact series of facial twitches, and Jungkook pinches himself as hard as he can. It leaves an ugly red mark, which he runs his thumb over wonderingly. Not a dream. This has happened.
He can’t believe he made it happen.
For a long minute he sits lost in thought as Jimin and Taehyung register this, and then Taehyung clears his throat.
“So, like. Objectively. How hot is he now.”
It’s a miracle Jungkook or Jimin don’t actually fling him out of the window.
They come close to it, at least, to the point where the neighbors have some very wrong ideas about what goes on in flat 1b. Or maybe right ideas. He’s not sure.
(He tells them what happened, eventually, once he’s sort of recovered from the whiplash and Tae is recovering from his physical trauma.)
The first time they see each other face to face again is at Namjoon’s, where Jungkook is early and opens the door on them talking seriously against the counter. Namjoon spots him first, Yoongi following his gaze and paling.
“I should go,” Yoongi says, to Namjoon. “Sorry for overstaying.”
“Course, hyung,” Namjoon nods, eyes flicking to Jungkook.
“You can stay,” Jungkook says. “It’s okay. I’ll wait outside. I’m early anyways.”
He doesn’t recognize himself.
“Thanks,” Yoongi eventually answers, eyes heavy on him. “But I should get out before the others get in.”
Jungkook stops him when he brushes past, licks his lips.
“Taehyung wants to speak to you.”
He doesn’t, or he’s never said so. But he heard enough, the other day.
Yoongi shuts his eyes. “Does he now.”
“Jimin too, honestly. But I figured you might want to see Taehyung first.”
“Or neither,” Yoongi offers. “You wanting me around is my only excuse to be back. They haven’t called a similar plague upon themselves.”
“Taehyung literally tried to kill Jin,” Jungkook says. “Have you considered he might want to talk to you for his own sake?”
“I don’t think he needs that. He has you two.”
“Hyung,” Jungkook pleads. “At least call him.”
Yoongi sags, shakes him loose.
“I’ll get his number from Joon.”
Jungkook watches him leave, then turns to find Namjoon watching him. He can’t read the look in his eyes.
“That was okay, right? I didn’t do something bad?” It’s dumb to ask, but with Namjoon it always feels okay anyways.
“No, Jungkook. I think you’re doing something good,” Namjoon says, and cracks a smile. His dimples appear for a second, and somehow they’d slipped Jungkook’s mind. He smiles back instinctively.
FROM: YOONGI: jk i cant do this
TO: YOONGI: What
FROM: YOONGI: taehyung
TO: YOONGI: What did he do
TO: YOONGI: I thought he’d be ok
TO: YOONGI: Hyung??
FROM: YOONGI: hes solely communicating to me in emojis
FROM: YOONGI: this sounds like a joke but its not
FROM: YOONGI: i cant handle him
TO: YOONGI: Enjoy
FROM: YOONGI: how was i ever friends with this
Yoongi takes a lot of convincing to see any of them in a group. It’s got to do with the fact he and Taehyung are cautiously talking, he thinks. Yoongi and Taehyung never used to get along at all, but weirdly they seem to be talking up a storm now.
Jungkook is suprised and maybe a tiny bit jealous.
“What do you even talk about?” Jimin asks, also sour, when Taehyung smiles at his phone.
“I don’t know,” Taehyung shrugs. “Life. Dogs. I’ve been sending him selcas incessantly because I want him to send one back. Seeing as someone won’t let me cyberstalk him.”
“And you’re not at each other’s throats?”
“No,” Taehyung draws out, pensive. “Every time he disagrees with me he just backs down. It’s weird. And also cute. Sorry,” he adds apologetically towards Jungkook. “Is it weird if I say that?”
“It’s whatever,” Jungkook shrugs. Taehyung scrunches his nose.
“Now it’s only Jimin who’s gotta see him, and then he can come over all the time.”
“That’s not,” Jungkook starts, dismayed, even as Jimin shoves Taehyung off his chair.
“That’s not how it works!”
“Ow, ow,” Taehyung whines. “Why not? I wanna all be friends again.”
“You can’t just shove us all together and expect it to work out,” Jimin says, exasperated. “Nevermind the fact two weeks ago it was you refusing to meet the others.”
“It worked when I came back,” Taehyung protests. “Didn’t it?”
It’s a touchy subject, but he’s sort of right. Jungkook wants to say it’s not the same, but doesn’t really have a reason to say why.
“Who says I want to see Yoongi, anyways?” Jimin shrugs. “He’s a dick.”
“Please,” Taehyung snorts, which is brave on his part. “You guys were a terrible twosome back then. And you glare daggers at me whenever we text.”
Jungkook very nearly makes a comment about Jimin not glaring daggers because he’s jealous of Yoongi, but they’re not quite there yet.
“That’s- ugh, whatever. I don’t want to see him.”
“Unfortunate, because I told him to come over and that I was home alone,” Taehyung says. Jungkook and Jimin both stare at him like he’s lost it.
“Why the fuck would- then I’ll leave!” Jimin sputters, as Jungkook tries to stop sweating bullets.
“I texted him twenty minutes ago,” Taehyung says, smug. “You’ll run into him on the way out.”
“Kim Taehyung,” Jimin seethes, as Taehyung yelps and scrambles behind Jungkook, who does very little to help. He’s not particularly charmed at the prospect of Yoongi seeing him with dumb and dumber like this.
There’s a series of knocks on the door, hesitant.
“I’ll get it,” Jungkook says, fast, and scrambles away.
“Jungkook,” Yoongi blurts, upon seeing him. “Shit, Taehyung said he lived here, sorry, I must have-“
“Hi hyung!” Taehyung calls, loud. “Sorry, I may have lied a little!”
Yoongi blanks, and for one brilliant moment meets Jungkook’s eyes with deadpan irritation, before the grimness settles.
“Come in,” Jungkook manages, stepping aside.
Yoongi is barely through the door when he realizes Jimin is there too, and the two of them stare at each other like deer caught in headlights. For all his stunting Jimin’s face isn’t far off from how he looked when he saw Taehyung again, which means... Who knows. Yoongi’s more hard to read, but he looks a little sick.
“Min Yoongi,” Jimin says, strangled. Taehyung is starting to look like he regrets his choices in life.
Yoongi twitches his head in acknowledgment.
Jungkook sees it coming but moves too slow, and with a resounding smack Jimin’s hand flies through the air to slap Yoongi right across the face.
“JIMIN!” Jungkook shouts, stunned, just as Taehyung shrieks and moves towards them, but Yoongi barely has the time to touch his face before Jimin is on him again, pulling him into a bone-crushing hug.
Jungkook and Taehyung freeze. Yoongi’s eyes widen and then shut, Jimin’s face determinedly hidden as he squeezes the life out of him.
“Jackass,” Jimin says, muffled. “God.”
Cautiously, Yoongi’s arms rise to hug him back, and they stand there for a beat crushing each other, both of them so small it invokes an alarming urge to protect in Jungkook.
“You haven’t grown at all,” Yoongi says, thickly, after a moment. Jimin pushes him back, wipes at his eyes angrily.
“You’re the worst.”
Both of them are half-smiling, and Jungkook exhales a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding. Taehyung’s lips quirk upwards.
“Do I get a hug too, hyung?”
It kills the moment, but it makes it easier to breathe.
“No,” Yoongi says, with the ghost of a familiar scowl. “I’m blocking you. The fuck kind of idea was this.”
“Hyung!” Taehyung exclaims, horrified. “You can’t do that!”
“Watch me,” Yoongi mutters, making no move to do so. “Reckless fool.”
“Hyung, no fair,” Taehyung groans. “How come Jimin gets to slap you and still gets a hug?”
“None of your business,” Yoongi sniffs. “You have grown taller, you noodle. Stop overcompensating.”
“Maybe you shrank,” Taehyung grins, cheeky. “Isn’t that right, Jungkookie?”
“Taehyung,” Yoongi says. “Shut up.”
Jimin laughs, and Jungkook relaxes and closes the door. Maybe it’s okay.
FROM: HOSEOK: soperap.mp3
FROM: HOSEOK: Talent!!!!! XD
TO: HOSEOK: Literally what is this
TO: HOSEOK: Oh my god is that you and Yoongi hyung
FROM: HOSEOK: Prepare for art now were back on our a game jungkookie ;3
FROM: HOSEOK: ALSO calll me hyung too or ill Kick Your Ass
TO: HOSEOK: ...
TO: HOSEOK: That was shit, hyung.
FROM: HOSEOK: potentialcypher.mp4
FROM: HOSEOK: *eyebrow waggle*
TO: HOSEOK: ....
TO: HOSEOK: Is there a full version of this
FROM: HOSEOK: Bahahahahahahahah
FROM: HOSEOK: Thirsty
TO: HOSEOK: What?! No.
TO: HOSEOK: He raps well is all
TO: HOSEOK: Maybe you’re unfamiliar with the concept
FROM: HOSEOK: Ok thirsty boi
FROM: HOSEOK: closeupofagustdhandswhileheraps.mp4
TO: HOSEOK: HYUNG
FROM: HOSEOK: Lmfaaaaaooooo
He crams for his exams and sails through with an 75%. It’s a small miracle considering how many lectures he attends.
At work he has to listen to Yoongi in the studio now, fixing technical stuff as Yoongi does some improv runs, and it... Well. Okay. Jungkook maybe sort of respects all of his hyungs a lot, but Namjoon and Yoongi especially have always just been... Cool. He hates to be that kid again, but every time Yoongi starts spitting into the mic he gets distracted.
He’s so fucking cool in the booth. It makes Jungkook want to wear headphones to avoid staring at him like an idiot, or worse. One of the assistants walks in on him with a dopey impressed smile once and laughs at him. He’ll never live it down.
It’s complicated, him and Yoongi, but listening to his music is unchanged.
Yoongi’s awkward when he sees Jungkook watching, but once he gets into his music nothing can touch him, and Jungkook sits and listens well past his working hours, tries and fails to suppress the way he lights up.
Some of the songs are angry; some are sad. All of them, Jungkook realizes, are deeply personal- he thinks but doesn’t vocalise that there’s not many people allowed to listen yet.
“What did you think?” Yoongi asks him, abruptly, a week into this process. Jungkook jumps guiltily, so focused on the music he hadn’t registered Yoongi pulling off his headset.
“I, uh,” he sputters. “It was really cool, hyung.”
Yoongi’s expression softens a bit from the frown he has on, and he bites his lip.
“I meant if you can have the track working again.”
“Right!” Jungkook says, and blushes furiously. Goddamn, he’s lucky neither Jimin nor Taehyung ever see him alone with Yoongi. “Right, yeah, I fixed that after lunch.”
“After lunch,” Yoongi repeats. “It’s past six.”
“You stayed for six hours doing nothing?”
“I was listening,” Jungkook protests, then flushes again. He’s so lame.
“Listening,” Yoongi says. Jungkook fails to meet his eyes, but he seems to be slightly pink. “And you- liked it?”
“Of course I liked it,” Jungkook huffs, disbelieving. “Yoongi, you’re like crazy good. I can’t believe you write, rap, and produce these.”
“Oh,” Yoongi says. “I- thanks.”
Can he stop talking? He sounds like a cringey fanboy.
“Actually, Jungkook-ah,” Yoongi tries, not meeting his eyes as he fiddles with his headset. His hair is pushed back by his headband, and Jungkook isn’t coping very well with it. “I was- wondering. If, uh. You’d mind singing some vocals for one of my tracks.”
Jungkook’s eyes snap up, and Yoongi goes red, avoiding his eyes and talking very fast.
“Of course, it’s just a suggestion, like, if you can’t or don’t want to it’s not a big deal or whatever. I have other people and all, it’s not urgent or required, plus obviously why would you want to sing on a track like that-“
His Daegu accent is making him harder to understand, and Jungkook wants to punch a wall.
“Hyung, I’d love to.”
“Right, course, whatever,” Yoongi dismisses, quick, then blinks. “Wait, seriously?”
“Yeah,” Jungkook says, scuffing his shoes. “I mean, I haven’t sang since... In a while. I probably suck. There’s way better out there. But if you’re sure...”
“I’m sure,” Yoongi says, then rolls his shoulders uncomfortably. “I mean. If you really wouldn’t mind.”
“I really really wouldn’t.”
“Right,” Yoongi nods. He looks a little lost. “I- it’s... Here’s the sheets for it.”
The papers are thrust towards Jungkook, covered in Yoongi’s scrawling handwriting, and he grabs them hastily, careful not to smudge anything.
“Can’t find a good title,” Yoongi shrugs. “Half of it isn’t even ready, so don’t expect anything good, the whole chorus needs to be changed-“
“It’s really good,” Jungkook interrupts, flipping through it with an eye on the melody. “You want me to sing all of this? Just me?”
“Is it too much? I can crop it-“
“No, no, no, I just...” He bites his lip. “I’m gonna do my best for this, hyung.”
The lyrics start crawling out at him. Did you change? Or did I change? I hate even this moment that is passing. I guess we changed. I guess that’s how everything is.
His pulse goes weird.
“Anyways,” Yoongi says. “I better be going. I promised Jin we’d get dinner. You know how he is.”
“Course,” Jungkook nods, dumbly. They stand there not moving for a moment.
“Do you, like. Need a lift?”
“A lift would be nice,” Jungkook says, and cringes away. He doesn’t live anywhere near Jin.
In the car Yoongi’s eyes are lost in the horizon, and Jungkook flips through the sheet music again, absently hums it, trying it out.
Snowflakes are falling, getting farther away. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. How much more do I have to wait?
Yoongi inhales loudly, and Jungkook jumps guiltily.
“Still good at everything, I see,” Yoongi says, roughly, and Jungkook’s toes curl automatically.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize I was doing it out loud.”
“I forgot what you sounded like,” Yoongi says, falters. “Ah. I really missed you, Kook.”
Jungkook’s face burns. Yoongi is staring fixedly out of his window.
“I really missed you too, hyung.”
They pull up on Jungkook’s street without exchanging another word.
He climbs up to his flat, gets inside, and slides down against his door, face in his hands.
“Woah, Kook, the hell?” Taehyung asks, alarmed. “You okay?”
Jungkook groans and says nothing.
“Jungkook?” Taehyung asks, climbing onto his legs. “Jungkook, wh- hold up, are you crying or blushing?”
“Go away,” Jungkook whines.
“Omigod,” Taehyung rushes, obnoxiously. “Oh my god. Kookie! You’re so cute! Why are you blushing, you big baby? Is it Yoongi? I knew it! What is it?”
“Fuck off, you nosey asshole,” Jungkook snaps, fighting to hide his face.
“You’re so cute!” Taehyung sing-songs, laughing. “What is this? Holy fuck, is this a song? HE WROTE YOU A SONG?”
“No!” Jungkook yelps, dropping his face to grab the sheets back. “I’m just- I’m gonna do some vocals on it.”
“He’s letting you sing on his album,” Taehyung sighs, with exaggerated heart eyes. “When’s the wedding?”
“I hope you choke on a dick and die.”
“Died doing what I loved,” Taehyung nods, boxy smile and all. Jungkook hits his head against the door repeatedly.
“By the way,” Taehyung says, eventually, still sitting on Jungkook’s now numb legs. “I was gonna tell you, I, uh. I got an offer. For uni.”
“No shit?” Jungkook asks, stunned.
Taehyung nods bashfully. “Arts and languages.”
“Yah, hyung,” Jungkook says, at a loss for words. “Congratulations. I’m- proud of you.”
“Aw, Kook,” Taehyung says, scrubbing at his neck. “It’s nothing, really.”
“I didn’t even know you applied,” Jungkook says, still a little shocked. “Or that you were thinking of studying again.”
Taehyung goes a little pink. “I wanted to- I wanted to do something too. Not just... Leech off you guys. I’ve sent out a CV too.”
“You’ve done way enough, Kookie.”
“But it’s for yourself too, right?”
“Yeah,” Taehyung says, and is definitely shy now. “But I... I want you guys to be proud of me, you know? I want to be able to feel like I’m worth it for you.”
Jungkook holds his mouth for a moment and reads between the lines.
“Does Jimin know?”
Taehyung glares at him half-heartedly. “No.”
“Are you gonna tell him?”
“No,” Taehyung grumbles. “It’s not a big deal. He doesn’t care.”
Jungkook has seen more convincing acting from Hoseok.
“Okay,” he draws out. Then snatches Taehyung’s phone from his hands.
TO: JIMINIIIIEEEEE: Hey
TO: JIMINIIIIEEEEE: I have news for you!!
TO: JIMINIIIIEEEEE: Come over pslmssmmsssjsjskKsksk
“JEON JUNGKOOK, I SWEAR-“
FROM: JIMINIIIIEEEEE: wtf taehyung??
FROM: JIMINIIIIEEEEE: taehyunf
FROM: JIMINIIIIEEEEE: what are you dojng
Taehyung starts biting his arm, and Jungkook drops the phone.
Taehyung actually manages to dissuade Jimin from coming over, but Jungkook is sneakier than anyone gives him credit for. Taehyung may have blocked stolen his phone, but he has contacts.
“Yoongi-hyung, can I ask you for a favour?”
“It’s kind of dumb but it’s necessary.”
“Taehyung got into uni and stuff.”
“Wow, really? Good for him.”
“How do you sound so insincere when you’re being genuine?”
“Fuck off, Jungkook.”
He grins, ducks his head. “Sorry. Anyways. He basically did it all because he wants to be-“ Ew, too emotional . “Well, for Jimin.”
“Of course he did,” Yoongi shrugs. “Where do I come in? Do I need to fake kidnap one of them?”
“Why would I ever ask you to- what?”
“Invoke strong emotions and whatnot,” Yoongi says. “I know some people.”
“I don’t wanna know,” Jungkook decides. “No, hyung, Taehyung stole my phone and I can’t tell Jimin. Could you get him to come over?”
“Wow, is this an opportunity for revenge?” Yoongi asks, raising a brow. “Kim Taehyung forced to deal with his mushy feelings?”
“That’s exactly what this is.”
“I’m in,” Yoongi smirks. “This is why you’re my favorite.”
Jungkook reddens and punches his shoulder.
Yoongi kicks his feet up and dialls Jimin.
“Yah, Jimin-ah? This is Yoongi. Yeah, I know it’s on the screen, dumbass. What? No, what the fuck? Are you deranged?” A beat. “I don’t want to know. Anyways, Jimin. Sources tell me your boy is hiding secrets from you.”
Pause, and Yoongi winks at Jungkook, who grins back.
“What? What’s that? No, I suddenly have bad connection. All I know is Taehyung is currently alone and susceptible to telling the truth if pressed. Funny that, right?”
Jimin’s voice grows audible over the phone, demanding answers.
“Bye bye, Jimin,” Yoongi says, sweet and calm. “Talk to you later.”
“Thanks,” Jungkook smiles, once he sets his phone down. “They need a little push.”
“They need a kick to the ass, more like.”
“Shame we can’t see what happens.”
“I may have a security camera in the flat from the time the guy above me broke into the balcony.”
“Are you suggesting we violate their privacy and eavesdrop on a potentially very intimate moment?”
“Great. Get that screen up.”
It takes a while to connect, and a longer while for anything to happen. Taehyung flits onto the screen to grab food from the fridge and then vanishes again; Yoongi watches a timer on the side.
“Wow, the audio is shit.”
“Sorry for not buying my security camera from the fucking FBI, jeeze.”
“Watch your goddamn language.”
The doorbell rings. Both of them startle, and Taehyung hesitantly appears in the frame.
Loud knocking. Taehyung opens the door, grins in surprise when he sees Jimin.
“What are you hiding from me, you demon?”
“Cut the bullshit! Are you back on drugs? You swore you were done with that!”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about!” Taehyung sputters, eyes big as Jimin stomps into his space.
“You’re not hiding anything from me?”
Taehyung’s face suddenly alters in understanding. “Uh.”
“I,” Taehyung says. “I got into uni?”
Jimin stops. “What?”
“It’s not a big deal, it’s just the only secret I can think of- Jungkook’s been making a whole fuss out of it,” Taehyung babbles. “It’s whatever.”
“You got into- you applied to university?” Jimin swings his arms, confused. “You always said university was for sad conformist fucks.”
“Well,” Taehyung says, licks his lips. “That was back when I also said Uggs were in fashion.”
“You really wanna study?”
“I mean, yeah,” Taehyung squirms. “See what the fuss is about, I guess. And-“ His face twists a little. “You know. You’re there, and you’ve got two jobs, I’m here, I do jack shit.”
“Tae,” Jimin says, mouth open in shock. “That’s not- it doesn’t matter, what are you talking about?”
“It does, though. I wanna... I wanna give you something back.” Taehyung mumbles something else the audio doesn’t pick up on.
Taehyung nods jerkily.
“You can’t be thinking you’re not- It’s never been about being good enough-”
Taehyung inhales and says something low and earnest. For a moment there’s nothing but static.
“You idiot,” Jimin says, clear even through the screen, and surges up to kiss him. Jungkook gives Yoongi a wide-eyed look, and Yoongi grins at him, in disbelief. On-screen Taehyung windmills with his arms and goes pink, then melts completely.
Holy fucking hell. About time.
“This is getting maybe a little voyeuristic,” Yoongi says, clearing his throat in mock concern. “We should shut it off before it gets too R-rated for you.”
“I hate you,” Jungkook sighs, exiting the app nonetheless. He feels stupidly pleased.
“Wipe that dumb grin off your face,” Yoongi snorts, but his eyes are twinkling. Jungkook shakes his head.
“I can’t believe we’re gonna live in an age where they’re actually together for real.”
“Age of nightmares,” Yoongi says, sardonic. “You’re gonna be the eternal third-wheel now.”
“Hyung, I have always been the third-wheel to those two.”
“I’m glad for them,” Yoongi concedes, with a little shrug. His suppressed smile is fond, and Jungkook wants to hug him. “Dumb kids in love.”
Dumb kids in love indeed. Jungkook hugs his knees to his chest and glances at the window.
Outside, the tree is blossoming just a little.
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: saveme.jpeg
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: pda.jpeg
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: rightinfrontofmysalad.jpeg
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: I want to die.
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: its what u deserve
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: I’ve done nothing wrong in my life ever.
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: just cause youre cute doesnt mean youre not satan
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: ...
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: Et tu hyung
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: hoseok says youve left him on read for two weeks
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: actually jin is now adding that you leave him on read permanently too
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: Well I never use my phone.
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: I check when you text because it could be work related.
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: obviously
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: Obviously.
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: jhooooooope.mp3
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: Wow you guys are old and lame.
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: ill leave you to vmin then <3
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: Hyung no
They start hanging out as a group again, even through their packed schedules. Everyone is either studying or working or both, not to mention they seem to have packed social lives.
(Jungkook has no social life, but he’s got a solid Overwatch gaming group and that’s basically the same thing, okay.)
Everyone is kind of scared of organizing a party. Unsurprisingly, Taehyung and Hoseok are behind the first one. Namjoon group-texts them to ignore the broken front door and not ask questions.
“Jungkook, you’re not going to the party dressed like this?” Taehyung asks, critically. “It’s an actual party with real people. You’re in sweats and a white t-shirt, which admittedly make you look hung as hell, but that’s not party attire.”
“It’s just the guys,” Jungkook sighs.
“Okay, first of all, I look spectacularly good, Jimin is gonna look spectacularly good, Jin js gonna be dressed to the nines,” Taehyung lists. “Second, “the guys” includes the guy.”
“Oh my god, stop.”
“Yoongi is going to be there dressed in some killer black button-up and Rolex watches, and you’ll be a sad thirsty little child nowhere near his league.”
“On the other hand, you could wear the jeans that make your thigh-muscles stand out and your ass look great, potentially with that shirt with the rolled up sleeves.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Jungkook gripes, and leaves to get changed. Taehyung applauds enthusiastically.
“Wow, your ass looks good,” Jimin says, upon seeing him. “Hi, babe. I love the choker.”
“Thanks,” Taehyung grins. “I told him to wear them.”
“I never doubted that.”
“I love a supportive man.”
“I’m going to vomit on you,” Jungkook warns. “Can you keep it in your pants until we get to the damn party?”
Hoseok jumps them enthusiastically as he opens the (indeed busted) door, punching Jimin overzealously and slapping Jungkook’s ass.
“THE KIDS ARE HERE!”
“The kids have been here since you walked in,” Yoongi grouses, from nearby.
“Okay, grandpa, chill before your hairline fades.”
Jungkook laughs and follows the others inside, where Namjoon and Yoongi are poking around with a record player.
“Don’t ask,” Yoongi says, from behind Namjoon. “He doesn’t know how to operate a plug.”
“Thanks, man,” Namjoon says, rolling his eyes. “Hey guys.”
Yoongi stands up and dusts his hands. “Yeah, yeah, hello, been so long since we all saw each other like a day ago. I’m sure a lot has changed.”
Taehyung gives Jungkook a smug sideways look, and Jungkook trips him innocently. Yoongi does look good- black ensemble, silver necklace and the Rolex that makes his hands look veinier that unusual. Taehyung calls it the “choke me daddy” look. Jungkook grows closer to choking him every day.
Jungkook ends up with Jin for the first half of the evening, crying laughing at his godawful jokes. Jin is just immature enough that it makes Jungkook act his age, the both of them snickering at the whole group as everyone asks them to shut the fuck up.
“What did the evil cow say?”
“Suck on a cactus,” Yoongi calls from across the room.
“Moo-haha,” Jin exclaims, and cackles. Jungkook cry-laughs silently.
“Ah, man,” Jin says, as they sober up. “It’s good to see the group like this.”
Jungkook casts an eye around the room. Namjoon’s playlist is filtering casually through the conversation; Hoseok and Jimin are play-fighting as Taehyung cheers one or the other on, Namjoon and Yoongi are showing each other things on their phone with matching grins. Jungkook smiles.
“Yeah. It’s nice.”
“And you’re doing okay, Kook?”
“Yeah,” Jungkook says, considers it a little. “Yeah, I’m- good. Like, happier.”
“Not just here, though?”
“I like my job now, so.”
“Oh, I bet you do,” Jin smirks, as Jungkook stares at him in betrayal.
“Wh- no, hyung, I get to do music- oh, shut up.”
“I’m just saying,” Jin grins, innocently.
“Is this a conspiracy?”
“You’ll never know.”
Jungkook groans and lies back against the couch. Jin pats his leg sympathetically.
“I’m joking. I’m glad you’re enjoying the music.”
“However, I also recommend you get Yoongi a drink and make sure it’s from the lower bar.”
“That’s hyung to you.”
At some point a dance competition breaks out, and Jungkook is nothing if not competitive, so he finds himself next to Jimin intent on recreating the exact steps to Peekaboo. It’s a good thing he’s been going to the studio with Hoseok, because Jimin dances crazy well when he’s a little drunk.
“You’re so extra,” Taehyung hoots, at Jungkook’s extreme focus. Jimin is laughing and taking pauses whenever he looks at Jungkook, but that’s not what a winner does, okay, Jungkook is not playing games.
“Hey, guys, you should do Gashina!” Hoseok calls, from where he’s sitting with a drink in his hands examining them. “I know you know it.”
“Oh, no,” Jimin giggles. “I’m way too trashed to do sexy.”
Hoseok wrestles the speaker away from Yoongi, and Sunmi begins to play. Jimin, for all his laughing, flips immediately into dance mode, and Jungkook cocks an eyebrow towards him challengingly. Jimin winks back.
Gashina isn’t all that hard, but it’s got a lot of tonal shifts between clean lines and sultry curves, which is fun to keep track of. Jungkook and Jimin hip thrust and bodyroll their way through the choreography, the boys cheering overdramatically, and the song finishes with them sweaty and laughing a little, Jimin raising his hands in playful surrender as Jungkook relaxes his concentration.
“You’re the most attractive person known to mankind,” Taehyung says, pulling Jimin into his lap. Hoseok makes a loud whistling noise, and Yoongi throws a piece of bread at them.
“Gross, thanks,” Jungkook says, wiping the sweat from his forehead. Rolled up sleeves or not, he feels hot and sticky. “Now you guys know what my daily routine is like.”
“Jealous,” Jimin mutters, absently. They’re off in their own little world- no use trying to get them out.
Jungkook rolls his eyes and flings himself onto the couch, realising belatedly he’s now thrown his sweaty body right next to Yoongi.
“Your love for girl groups hasn’t changed,” Yoongi says. He’s looking everywhere but Jungkook, probably because he’s currently gross and sweaty and why did he ever decide to dance now?
“It was Hoseok who chose the song,” Jungkook argues lamely.
“Yeah, you’re more of an IU guy.”
Jungkook turns surprised eyes onto him. “Wh- how do you know that?”
“You told me,” Yoongi frowns, looking at him for a beat before abruptly looking away again, ears red. Jungkook’s heart skips a beat.
“What, like once two years ago?”
“Yes,” Yoongi mutters. He’s embarrassed. Jungkook’s insides are doing things they shouldn’t physically be able to do.
“Right,” Jungkook says. He knocks their legs together accidentally, forces himself not to jerk back.
Namjoon and Hoseok are snickering about some dumb shit next to them, and Yoongi and he sit side by side like that, knees pressed together. It’s funny- he feels somehow calm even through the emotional rollercoaster.
“Hyung,” Jungkook says. “I thought of a title for the song, the other day. It’s probably stupid.”
“Don’t knock yourself for no good reason, golden boy,” Yoongi squints. “What’s the title?”
Jungkook squirms. “Nevermind. It’s dumb.”
“Coyness is only cute when it leads to sex,” Yoongi says, flatly. Jungkook chokes on his own spit.
“I just- there’s winter, a lot in the song, and it’s metaphorical too, right? Like things have died and it seems like it will never get better, but in the end it sort of maybe will?”
“Yeah,” Yoongi nods, eyes interested as he observes him. “It maybe will.”
“So, like- I know it’s too simple, but what if you called it Spring Day?” His voice goes embarrassingly high on the last words. “You know, because...”
“Spring Day,” Yoongi says, tasting it. His eyes meet Jungkook’s, enthusiastic like they only ever are about music. “Spring Day. I like that.”
“Yeah,” Yoongi smiles, gums and all. “Thank you.”
“It’s nothing,” Jungkook stutters. “You’re welcome.”
“I love you guys!” Hoseok shouts, shattering the calm. “You’re all my favorite people except you, Yoongi!”
“No one likes you,” Yoongi grouses, as people laughingly reply. Jungkook smiles. Life is good.
Yoongi essentially steals him from his job and onto his team, in the following week, which Jungkook can’t say he’s sorry about. It gives him the bonus of a) doing interesting work and b) seeing Yoongi on a near daily basis. In denial though he tries to be, this is all good news in his books.
“Jungkook, you know he likes you too, right?” Jimin asks, over drinks. “Like, not as embarrassingly, obviously, you’re honestly so bad at this, but he clearly does.”
“Not this again.”
“Uh, party night? Did you see him? He was staring at you the entire time you were dancing and then couldn’t make eye contact once you sat down.”
“Because I was gross and sweaty!”
“No, because he would have jumped you otherwise, duh. Seriously, you need help.”
“Yoongi’s not Taehyung.”
“Somehow I noticed, Kook.”
“Everyone can see it but you two. It’s insufferable.”
“Oh my god, I had to put up with you and Taehyung for five years.”
“Well, I had to put up with you and Yoongi for four! You may be more awkward now than then, but nothing else has changed!”
“You’re talking out of your ass.”
“My ass speaks nothing but wisdom.”
Jimin and Taehyung he can ignore, but the fact that the older guys are also on his back about it makes him antsy. He knows he’s obvious, but Yoongi at least seems oblivious- either that or he feels bad for him and pretends not to notice. The idea that this is mutual, though? Jokes. He’s heard funnier from Jin.
In truth he sometimes has his hopeful doubts. Back then it had certainly been his end goal, whipped as he was- he finds it hard to see how Yoongi didn’t notice, given how he couldn’t keep his hands off him, how he found everything he did funny, how he stared at him in every picture. Yoongi’s a pretty smart guy- it’s weird he hasn’t shown any signs of having picked up on it.
If Jungkook allows himself to daydream
he likes to think the only reason you would ignore potential signs of interest is because you were busy dismissing them as you reading too much into it. Because if that’s the case, he can tell himself it totally makes sense Yoongi has never done anything to show he knows what’s up with him- and he can pretend a bunch of shit Yoongi does really means something else.
They’re fucked up, and there’s a lot of mess there, but they get along so well, the two of them. And Jungkook was always gonna love him, regardless of all the bullshit, so if he can at least love him while they’re friends again, well, it’s better than the alternative by a far stretch.
He’s getting too comfortable, though. Keeps slinging an arm around his shoulders and snickering at his dry humour long after everyone else has stopped, or getting visibly jealous when Yoongi is paying attention to someone else. It’s why everyone can rip into him so much, so easily. He’s been looking through pictures from the party, and he’s grinning like a kid every time Yoongi so much as pouts absently in his direction, on them. He didn’t think he could even look like that.
God, he’s such a mess.
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: hey why do i have several emails of lamb skewers in my work inbox you fucking weirdo
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: You suggested we go eat some!
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: wtf i ddint
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: Yeah you did
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: After we won Monopoly
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: Remember you kept cheating
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: ive never cheated in my life
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: cheater.jpeg
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: uno.jpeg
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: twister.jpeg
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: why do u hav so many pics of me cheating at boardgames saved tho
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: should i b worried
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: Don’t change the subject, cheater
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: ok but we only won bc i cheated
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: youre awful at monopoly
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: I am not
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: yes you r u refused to upgrade any of ur property bc ur too stingy
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: i cant believe you left me on read for two days you sensitive brat
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: jk the song is almost ready
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: I’ll have you know I was busy not offended
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: Seriously! That’s so exciting hyung wow
TO: YOONGI-HYUNG: Can I listen?
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: wow if i had never met you i might have believed that
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: samplesd.mp3
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: jk
FROM: YOONGI-HYUNG: are u ghosting me again