Jimin hovers above the young man, feet swiftly balanced on the top of the bed frame. He retreats his hand from his forehead and back to his side, blinking away the foggy vestiges of the lingering dream that left him in an inebriated state. His entire body feels so warm, as though he ingested the brilliant stars and let them melt and burn his insides until he could taste liquid gold on his tongue.
It is a whirlwind of the cosmos in the form of human pleasantries: the warmth of another hand, transparent streamers of stars streaked across face that left bright smiles to suspend like cirrus clouds, golden carousels and porcelain swan-shaped carriages, sticky cherry lollipops, tepid sweet milk with honey, gentle peppers of kisses on the nose and forehead, and laughter.
The dream is still vivid, and still so vividly warm. Discomfort gnaws in the root of his chest, and he flinches when the boy turns in his sleep. Daylight scatters the sky and paints rays of halos over the boy’s head from the window.
“Must be nice,” Jimin murmurs, looking at his hands and the phantom touch of being held. It wasn’t real, it wasn’t real, it wasn’t yours, “to have such nice dreams.”
After wandering among the earth, searching for fleeting dreams of humans to eat in the night, Jimin finally found a human whose dreams had a unique taste: antiquity. That is, by antiquity, he means that the boy’s dreams are like rose-coloured memories, rather than an absurd creation from the imagination. And it is because his dreams still stay the same, never straying off the path of rose gardens and sweet smiles, that Jimin comes back every night to eat his dreams.
There are risks pertaining to eating the dreams from the same human for months, but Jimin feels drawn in by the warmth of his dreams, which was a rare thing to come across in the dream universe.
There is a knock on a door, and Jimin hides in the shadow as he watches another young man with broad shoulders enter the room. He sits by his bedside and gives him a harsh shake by the shoulder.
“Jungkook,” he says, sounding rather exasperated, “wake up. You’re going to be late for your morning class. I’m not your babysitter, you know, so if you don’t wake up right now, I’m leaving you - with my car - so you’re gonna be stuck with transit and a whole lot of traffic.”
Jungkook, Jimin thinks as he watches him yawn and rub at his bleary eyes. He takes a long time to get up, and when he does, his hair is a mess. “I’m up, I’m up. Just - just wait a sec.”
“You better be ready in about ten minutes. I’m supposed to go in for office hours today.” He huffs, “Being a deep sleeper must be a blessing and a curse. Have a nice dream or something?”
Jungkook blinks blankly at his roommate, a frown tugging at the corners of his lips, “I don’t know, don't remember. Haven’t dreamed for months.”
“Normal. Now come on, get your ass outta bed already.”
Jungkook sighs, shooing his roommate away as he reluctantly gets out of bed. Jimin waits until they disappear into the hall before he slips through the walls and into the air, cradling the ghost of the candy-coated dream in the palms of his hands.
But for some reason, hesitation extends throughout his whole body, leaving his shoulders tense. Martyrdom and kindness wasn’t part of Jimin’s job contract, and it would be an absolute monstrosity to even think of sparing a human just because they are still young. Jimin does not believe in deep-seated golden hearts; he is an empty spirit with an empty mind. He eats past vulnerability in order to survive.
But just this once, Jimin lets himself be kind.
He lets his young companion dream of incomprehensible trinkets construed by starry musings, and disappears once dawn breaks.
He eats away at the laughter, the pain, the emotion that makes Jungkook human, until the remains of stars drips from his mouth and digs a deeper, emptier hole into his chest. Supernovas drill wistful longing into his heart, becoming black holes, and his mind buzzes with want, want, want until it becomes pitch black as the void.
Jungkook doesn’t care if he doesn’t dream, can’t dream, won’t dream, because dreaming is inconsequential to him in comparison to the world’s cages of priorities. But dreaming is all that Jimin has, and even that is temporary when allaying the loneliness that spreads incessantly throughout his flimsy soul.
He is supposed to feel empty, be empty, eat dreams to alleviate the hunger - a routine of rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Jimin is not supposed to feel anything but empty. He is not supposed to feel the want for human things a dream eater cannot have. Morpheus would not be proud of him.
But dreams instill hope, and Jimin hangs onto it, wondering if one day, he would be able to taste the sweetness of love he imagined it to be.
His expression is strained, forehead building up a line of perspiration. Brows furrowed. Lips pursed in a tight line. Rustling of the blankets, jerky movements. Shallow breathing.
Jimin lets his hand hover above Jungkook’s forehead. Heaviness permeates the space between them, and Jimin gently touches his head before he was sucked into a dreamscape that was draped in curtains of deep darkness, murky shadows warped into distorted faces and twisted smiles. There is an inundation of fear that Jimin can feel flood into his body.
He consumes the tall, elongated figures that prance around in its cultish formations; the wilted flowers that lead to a corpse that has decomposed into bone, swarmed with maggots and flies and vile creatures. He recognizes the facial structure of the skeleton, the wide berth of the pelvis. A man with black scribbles covering his face hovers over it. The black ground beneath him quivers, splitting into cracks as the earth’s core scald hotly in his eyes -
Something is ripping him from the inside out and Jimin tears his hand away as though he was burned, and collapses onto the floor in intangible pain. Coldness envelops his body as though icicles were being pierced right through his flesh more than a myriad of times; like an entire universe imploded within him and was screaming for a way out. He gasps for air, trembling on the floor as his vision wanes from black to white, to nothing, then to the blank ceiling again with swirling, shadowy dots.
His limbs prickle with numbness, stretching his left hand when he feels it cramp up from clenching it so tightly. All he can hear was the rapid hammering of his heartbeat, brutally pumping black blood that rushed to his ears. Jimin didn’t dare to move, fearing - fearing, of all things, that he would fall apart, like having been sucked right into a vacuum and being regurgitated back out, flimsily glued together again with cracks in the severed lines.
I have gotten weak, Jimin deduces blankly with a sharp intake of breath. Pleasant dreams are sweet and enticing, but repeatedly feeding off of the same human’s dreams can lead to limitations of growth and power of a dream eater. One must expand their breadth of targets to become malleable and accustomed to different kinds of sustenances, including haunted nightmares; the fact that Jimin is unable to properly handle the consumption of a nightmare is already a bad sign.
It takes a while, maybe half an hour, until Jimin has regained enough strength to get up from the floor. He shakes his arms, and then his legs to put back feeling into them, and rolls his shoulders, testing out the functionality of his body. Discomfort itches beneath his wan skin, but as he stands over Jungkook, he notices that the crease between his brow has smoothed down into a peaceful visage. The deep and calm oscillation of his chest indicates that he is no longer dreaming after Jimin had taken away his nightmare.
There is an inexplicable compulsion that makes Jimin brush away the stray strands of his hair, surprising himself as he softly murmurs, “I think she is still alive. Your mother, that is.”
Jimin wonders what it’s like to have one, though.
However, Jimin has forgotten how dreams can take an unexpected turn too, because one night, Jimin enters Jungkook’s dreamscape that was nothing but a blank space enclosed by four walls. His pitch black form was a stark contrast to the pure whiteness, until his surroundings became distorted into a blur and changed into a different scenery - a rooftop, where now, Jimin was by the ledge of the roof, staring out at the sunset and its cardinal, fiery hues that painted the sky ablaze.
This is different. Jimin can sense it, feel it; the simulacrum of plexiglass buildings and skyscrapers inundate the distance afar, casting smooth-edged shadows down on the ground, and that is when Jimin realized that he was high up in the air on a four-storey building. His neck prickles as though he was being watched and he freezes. He realizes that there is someone beside him, and he turns slowly and blinks. Jungkook blinks back.
His breath hitches. It’s like all the air inside him has been squeezed out, as though he’d been punched in the gut. Jimin would have never have expected this to happen at all, and wonders when he’d become so vulnerable to have exposed himself in such an amateurish way.
“Oh,” Jimin stumbles a bit in surprise, “you are lucid.”
“Who are you?” Jungkook warily eyes him, wrapping his arms around his torso. His eyes flicker back and forth between Jimin and the sunset, his teeth tugging nervously at his bottom lip as he subtly puts more distance between them. “I know I’m dreaming, I know this is my dream, but I don’t remember - I don’t - you’re not part of it. You’re not part of my dream, at least until now.”
Jimin’s mind is muddled from shock that he can’t bring himself to think clearly. He doesn’t know what was the right thing to do in this situation, and if Morpheus was watching over him with shrewd judgment and keen disappoint. He feels lost. Jimin doesn’t know if he should tread down the path of honesty. So, he opts for the latter while omitting a few truths instead, “It is hard to explain, but I assure you that I am not going to hurt you.”
Jungkook stares at him blankly. Blinks a few times. Then glances downwards, “That thing in your hands say so otherwise.”
Jimin is startled into looking down at his sleek black scythe in his grip, gracefully tall and airily cosmic in the way it reflects off of light. Unlike a reaper’s scythe, it bears no ominous haze and ill-willed intentions of taking souls. Dream eaters equip scythes for the sole purpose of breaking down large, intricate dreams in order to consume them more easily. Think of them like utensils humans use for eating, such as a knife and a fork.
“My apologies,” the scythe quickly vanishes, leaving behind a glimmering trace of collapsing stars in a dark cloud. “Now it is gone.”
Jungkook keeps his intense gaze on him, but ultimately sighs and sits down on the ledge of the roof, bringing his knees to his chest, “I haven’t dreamed since - well, since months. Almost a year, even, but when I do, all I get is a boring one with a weird, emo-looking rip off of the Grim Reaper who speaks without conjunctions. Great.”
Jimin raises his brows. The Grim Reaper is nowhere near close to looking like Jimin. She is much more scarier and stronger, a thanatoid that resembles more of a gothic skinhead. Jimin avoids any given possibility of meeting with her. He’s surprised Jungkook knows about her though.
Jimin sits down beside him, keeping in mind to leave a big space between them, and huffs, the closest sound he’ll ever get to laughing again, “You are very snarky for a child.”
“Well, this is a dream. I can speak my mind without fearing any consequences.” Jungkook shrugs, before he wrinkles his nose, “And I’m not a child. I’m almost twenty.”
“Still technically a child.”
“Yeah?” Jungkook demonstrates flimsy tenacity as he juts his chin out and crosses his arms, “And what about you, huh? You don’t look much older than me and - “ He abruptly pauses, expression flickering with puzzlement and uncertainty. He doesn’t seem like he’s going to continue, leaving his sentence hanging awkwardly like a wilted flower.
At the somewhat rhetorical question directed at his age, Jimin stills. His gaze slips back into the sunset, where the glowing sun sits above the line of the horizon, melting like liquid beyond the landscape. Wistfulness grows between the gaps of his ribcage, curling around his chest and his lungs like wildflowers blooming in the emptiest places of a grassfield, longing for sunlight in a rotunda of darkness.
Time is fluid and ceaseless. Jimin has lost his grip on time, and perhaps it had not been long ago, but to Jimin, it feels like centuries have passed. He stopped counting ever since he became a dream eater because it merely fueled his desire for the unattainable and unachievable that was life, that was living. He believed it would be easier for him to assimilate to this new world without any human distractions. And how pathetically he had failed.
How had his life been like before? Jimin doesn’t know how to tell Jungkook how empty he feels without making it sound so sad.
“I do not know how old I am now,” Jimin speaks slowly, carefully, testing the words out, “but when I became like - this, I had been twenty. That is all I allowed myself to remember.”
Jungkook studies him with a cursory gaze, whose mind is undoubtedly churning with a multitude of questions. Yet, he accepts Jimin’s answer as it is and shrugs, looking forward. “Do you not like being whatever you are right now?”
“Why would you say that?”
He shrugs again, restlessly this time. Jungkook lets his legs swing over the ledge, seemingly unafraid of the long way down, eyes fearless. “You’ve got that same look every adults have whenever they talk about their life. That - unsatisfaction.”
“You mean dissatisfaction?”
Jungkook wrinkles his nose, “Whatever. Same thing.”
Jimin nods, working his lips in thought. “Choices determine our destiny, but at least humans have the ability to change their life after the consequences has happened. For me, I am stuck like this. Possibly forever. I am unable to do anything about it.”
“When it comes to living, autonomy does not exist for creatures like me.”
Jungkook looks mildly concerned but emphatically more nonplussed. “I still don’t know who - what - you are. Are you part of me? Like, my subconscious? The embodiment of all my intricate emotional issues? But you don’t sound like a dream. You sound like you have a mind of your own.” His eyes are wide with bright percipience, holding his gaze as though he was searching the answers in his mind, until Jimin unnervingly looks away.
A belt of Venus emanates across the sky in a hazy glow of blushing hues. Jimin drops his gaze to the ground that seems small from up above, a tiny smile on his face that feels as foreign as it is unnatural.
“I think it is better for you to think of me as a dream.”
Jungkook falls quiet. He doesn’t reply.
Jimin can easily tear down the dream and consume it whole, erase it from Jungkook’s sentient mind and memories so that he would not remember meeting Jimin - the dream eater who has been eating all his dreams since he was a little kid. But it is because that he wants to be real, even if it is merely in another person’s memory, that Jimin sits on the roof in the quiet accompaniment of a real boy, and lets himself believe in the ephemeral moment that this mundaneness was something attainable and achievable in the long haul.
Just like Jungkook’s fundamental dream space before it willingly transforms into the illusion of his imagination, Jimin’s orbit of his disembodied mind was enclosed by walls of pitch black, adorned with nebulas and cosmic bodies that hung throughout the infinite space around him. Stars often get caught in between the strands of his hair, though Jimin cannot feel anything but the cold vastness. This is the emptiness all dream eaters possess.
Jimin looks up when the space before him distorts. A pair of arms appear past the distortion, until a head pops in along with its entire body. The distortion disperses after Yoongi settles beside Jimin, crossing his legs together. They lock pinky fingers in greeting.
“Morpheus expresses his concerns,” Yoongi says quietly, studying Jimin’s face. “He knows that you are aware of the long-term effects of feeding off of the dreams of the single person a repeated number of times. You have been feeding off of that boy’s dreams for - for almost a year. Why risk yourself, Jimin? A mere human is not worth turning into a renegade.”
“I am not a renegade,” Jimin defends himself quickly, but Yoongi doesn’t look convinced. He sighs, shaking his head with a look of resignation.
“But you are not doing your job properly, Jimin. There is a line we must draw between both of our worlds. We co-exist with them in secret, and we must maintain that anonymity. Why do you insist on threatening that barrier? What is it about that boy, and his dreams, that you have found something worth becoming attached to?”
Yoongi lowers his eyes to the floor. Or the sky. No one can tell where the floor began or where the sky ended. “I thought Morpheus scraped out the last bits of humanity from your soul.”
A sneer unconsciously forms across his lips, feeling twisted and all wrong on his face, “He can come find me Himself in lieu of sending His faithful messenger to discuss my wayward conduct of how I do my work.”
“Work?” Yoongi makes a sound reminiscent of a scoff, “Wishing for a pipedream is not work.”
“You don’t understand. Are you never curious?” Jimin swallows past the apprehension easing its way up his throat, “About your origins, your past life - everything that made you real before you became one of His handiworks? Are you never envious of the dreams you see? The dreams you take? The warmth, the love, the concept of family and friendship, and even the dreams itself? Have you never wanted to dream yourself?”
He’s clenching his fists so tight that his knuckles turn white, and he forcibly relaxes them to stop the trembling in his arms. “Why must we live off of the dreams of humans if it cannot help us dream ourselves? Why must we live our lives in isolation, in loneliness that we are unaware of, in our empty minds up in space, if our existence is so - worthless? Nothing about our lives matter. It never does in the end. You have seen it before - you know what happens and -”
He forces himself to stop, because he sees the hurt flash across Yoongi’s face, an ounce of sentiment and emotion still present in his soul, and Jimin can't continue. He leaves crescent marks on his palms, looking at the transient hue of red that appears as fast as it's gone. How truly pathetic it was, to embody the essence and physical being of a human, but to not be an actual human at all.
“I don't know,” Yoongi says after a heavy silence, his posture stiff and his words stilted, “I cannot answer that for you. I have never questioned the reason of my existence. I have never paid any mind to the fact that I led a human life before my death. Living as I was and doing my job - it all made indubitable, inherent sense that I had no qualms about my own life. But you are the first person to ever let curiosity eat you up. And for that, I am unsure if it is stupid or plain admirable.
But longing for things you cannot have anymore - that is a downfall you are bringing upon yourself. You know that you cannot be human anymore, Jimin. You live a different life from him."
"Can't I live vicariously through his dreams?" Jimin smiles, all bittersweet in the feel and the taste that trickles down his throat and encompasses his chest, "Be real in something that isn't real?"
"It will do you more harm than good."
"I know." Then, Jimin runs a hand through his hair, tugging at it with restless fingers as he closes his eyes. "I know."
Yoongi looks at him with something along the lines of pity and sympathy, and he heaves a great sigh. "You are tired and hungry. Come here, Jimin."
He places a gentle hand over Jimin's nape, and lightly tugs him closer to his own face. Jimin looks up, exhaustion seeping through every limb as Yoongi presses his forehead against his, and lets him consume a dream that is not as sweet and warm as Jungkook's, but it assuages his hunger.
"Rest." Yoongi leaves a light peck on his forehead before he pulls away and stands up. "We will see each other soon. You are more than welcome to find me if you seek any kind of assistance. But please, be careful and mindful of what you do."
"I will," Jimin nods, hoping that the smile on his face is enough to convey his gratitude, "thank you."
Yoongi leaves through a distorted wormhole, and as soon as he is alone again, Jimin lies down flat on his back and contemplates the 8th Wonder of the World that is the dreamscape of Jungkook's mind.
Jimin settles beside him on the ledge of the roof, watching the same sunset descend and leaving behind a warm, pinkish afterglow in its midst. Jungkook eyes him warily, the sky painting variegated colours across his outfit that consisted of all white - a pointed contrast to the entirety of black Jimin wore, a pitch black cloak over a pitch black suit; black hair, sharp eyes lined with kohl, and his irises as dark as the deep-seated strip of outer space.
And here, underneath the dreamland's cotton-candy firmament, is the illusion of permanence.
"Evidently, I am." Jimin says, "And you are lucid again."
“I haven’t seen you in a while. You’re only here when I’m lucid dreaming, but even then, I don’t dream at all unless it’s a lucky night.” Jungkook eyes him with the same, heavy inquisitive look.
It’s true. Jimin enters his dreamscape and eats away his dreams, but when he’s lucid dreaming, Jimin leaves it be. He’s aware that it was a risky thing to do, letting Jungkook remember him after he wakes up, but he can’t bring himself to consume the dreams with remnants of himself in it. It’s become a cherished thing for him, something he can look forward to, even if lucid dreaming is erratic and inconsistent. It has been a few months since Jimin was able to interact with him again.
“Perhaps it is a lucky night for both of us.”
Jungkook side-eyes him in surprise, but he doesn't say anything, looking forward again. He kicks his legs back and forth, a peaceful silence extending between them as they watch the sun's gradual farewell. Jimin glances down at the ground. His heart lurches at the high drop. He wonders if if he jumps and hits the ground, would he feel anything? Pain? Agony? Fear? Jimin has forgotten what it's like to feel the physicality of what makes humans human.
When he looks back up, he realizes that Jungkook has been staring at him the entire time. His expression is unreadable, eyes glimmering with a certain disparity of life among the emptiness.
"I don't think you're an embodiment of my subconsciousness." Jungkook's brow twitches when Jimin stills, mouth still closed. "You're not denying it."
"It is only a dream, Jungkook." Jimin's gaze flickers to the side, "There is not much to deny when nothing is real here."
"And that is it. You are the only one who is real here."
“Don’t lie to me. I’m not stupid.” Jungkook says, impatience wearing thin on his tone, “I know you told me to treat you like a dream, but that was months ago. I can only remember my dreams if you’re in them, but never anything else. The fact that you've been consistently present in my lucid dreams is a clear indicator that you're more than just a dream.”
“No.” The word leaves his mouth in an unintentional harsh tone. He stares hard at the asphalt ledge of the roof. The sunset seems to wobble for a moment, like a frenzy blip that makes the entire landscape glitch, and the buildings start to crumble and fall over. He swallows, “I cannot - I am not allowed to tell you. Either way, you won’t understand. It is more complex than you can ever apprehend.”
“Don’t treat me like a kid,” Jungkook snaps, and Jimin doesn’t understand why there’s anger brimming in his eyes. “I’m not a child. I’m nineteen, and you are twenty. Or twenty-one now. Or maybe even older. Or - fuck, I don’t fucking know - but I know this. You are not a dream if you have a life of your own.”
We must coexist with humans, He can hear Morpheus’s voice in his head, reciting the first speech he had given when Jimin became a Dream Eater, We must never let them know of our constitution. Our universe is destined to be separated from theirs.
Jungkook is more perceptive and clever than he lets on. It was Jimin’s fault - he had been so stupid, so caught up in his longing for a taste of real life. But no drop from a four-storey building can ever outrival the feeling of fear that Jimin feels from being so exposed, so stripped bare, left speechless in trepidation and hesitation.
Jungkook stares directly at him in the eye, unnerving every bone and conditioned principle to remain untethered to humans in his body with the gripping urge for honesty, and Jimin panics. And when he panics, he doesn't think, and when he doesn’t think, he becomes impulsive; he lets his scythe materialize in his hands and tears the dream down. He tunes out Jungkook's yelling in the background, and as he rips the dream apart, he lets it all float in shredded pieces. He doesn't eat it.
Instead, he jumps off the roof and disappears.
With a gasp, Jimin jolts away from Jungkook's forehead. He gulps for air as though he had been drowning and had barely make it up for air. His consciousness teeters for a split second, the strength in his muscles becoming minimal, which was no doubt the consequence from his lack of dream consumption lately due to sparing Jungkook from being dreamless. His fingers prickle with numbness, but he shakes the sensation away, and covers his face with his hands as he inhales deeply through his nose and out through his mouth.
He'd panicked. Jimin hadn’t known what to do. He couldn't bring himself to lie, because lies aren't real and Jimin wants to be real. He wants to be a truth in a world, even if it may only be in Jungkook's dreams.
But Jungkook is starting to catch on. Even if he may not be aware of the complex essence and knowledge of Dream Eaters, he’s become suspicious of Jimin’s identity and presence in his dream realm. And like many misguided endeavors he’s come across, Jimin doesn’t know what to do.
Jimin doesn’t bother to move when Jungkook begins to stir, waking up from his sleep. He’s still on the headboard, hovering over him, although Jungkook can’t see him. Jungkook brings his hands to his eyes and rubs them, blinking blearily, expression as blank as a white canvas. There is a heaviness to his eyes, to the way he exhales, and to the way he slowly and lethargically gets up from bed.
Jungkook is still ever so quiet. He moves in a perfunctory manner, and Jimin wishes that he could hear his thoughts. And how unfair it was, that Jungkook will never see or hear him.
Jimin sinks to the floor and disappears, cowardice draining every candor left in his heart.
They’re at a beach this time.
Jimin stands at the shore of the ocean, the sand soft beneath his feet. The turquoise water is gentle, gleaming faintly underneath what seems to be the morning light, the golden sun twisted between the waves. The sounds of children’s laughter fills the vicinity, the chatter of families walking around the beach, some situated by the dock with boats. There are people swimming in the ocean now. The sun burns.
The beach, the ocean, this particular view of the sky, and the buildings and trees afar - they all seem oddly familiar.
Jimin whirls around, and Jungkook is standing there beside him, lucid and vividly aware. His expression is pinched and there is a tight line across his lips, looking more agitated than distraught.
“You came back.”
“You ripped - “ Jungkook’s breath catches, as though he was still in disbelief, “it apart - my dream - with your scythe.”
Jimin shuts his eyes, gritting his teeth, “Yes.”
Jungkook sits down and crosses his legs. Jimin follows after him in the same fashion, his back straight and shoulders stiff, contrasting the slouch in Jungkook’s posture. He’s quiet. A sort of gentle and contemplative silence surrounds him quite gracefully, until Jungkook speaks up in the same tone. “Please tell me who you are.”
And Jimin doesn’t know if he’s imagining it, but there is fatigue that weighs down on his limbs. He feels exhaustion seep through every bone of his, and he knows that he looks like it too, more tired than usual.
And right here, right at this very moment, does Jimin feel the cumbersome entirety of his fears, his anxieties, his burdens and responsibilities, his loneliness - everything, fall on his shoulders and smother him until he can’t breathe. His shoulders slump and his head falls.
He is going against his principles and the laws of the universe. But he chose this path of a renegade, and it is too late to back out.
“I am a Dream Eater,” Jimin says tentatively, truthfully, “and I am the Dream Eater that has been eating all of your dreams.”
Confusion turns into gradual realization, and he lets out a soft ‘oh’ as he slowly blinks. “You - my dreams - you are the reason I don’t dream anymore.”
Jimin nods, biting the inside of his mouth, “Yes, I enter your dreams, tear it down, and eat them. You are unable to remember the fact that you even dream, except the ones where you are lucid and pointedly aware that you are dreaming, and have complete control over your dreamscape.”
More silence. Jimin can see the cogs turn in Jungkook’s brain as he processes all this information. “Why do you let me keep the dreams with you in it?”
What surprises the both of them is that Jimin laughs, and it is not a pleasant laugh; it is sharp and ugly and twisted, and the rumble in his chest feels wrong, “Would it be rather selfish of me to say it is because I want to be remembered? Hypocritical, isn’t it? How I am the one to eat all your dreams, yet I - “ He breaks off with a ragged choke, a ragged laugh, and maybe if it wasn’t for Jimin’s limited range of emotional capabilities, he would start to cry, because he feels so pathetic.
Before he knows it, the ground beneath him shifts. The beach, the ocean, the gentle sky - it all crumbles down, as though it was a skin that was being shed, revealing a room of white space. Everything was white. There was no beginning or end to the walls, to the ceiling, to the floor - it resembled Jimin’s orbit, only white and empty but warm.
Jimin looks up, and to his surprise, he sees no ounce of anger or disbelief in Jungkook’s expression. Instead, his gaze is hard set on the wall in front of him, eyes in ponderous thought. He always seems to be thinking, always in deep reverie. A frown tugs at his lips.
“What’s your name?” Jungkook glances at him, his question innocent.
Jimin stares at him. “Excuse me?”
“Dream Eaters have names, don’t they?”
“I - yes, but - “
Jimin recognizes the look in his eyes. Acceptance.
“My name is Jimin,” he says. He says it again, more to himself. Mouths it and feels the weight of it on his tongue. Enunciates it, stretches his mouth. Jimin.
He feels a little bit more real.
“Jimin.” Jungkook murmurs, and Jimin likes the sound of him saying his name. There’s a tiny smile on his face, “Nice to meet you, Jimin. I’m Jungkook.”
“You are not afraid? Or angry? Or distressed?”
“Well - shock, that’s for sure. I really - I’ll need time to wrap my mind around the fact that creatures like you exist, but I’m not afraid. Or angry. Or upset. Dream Eaters are called that for a reason, aren’t they? What happens if you don’t eat dreams?”
“We get hungry, and then we die from that hunger.”
“Die?” Jungkook looks slightly alarmed.
“We cease to exist. We just… perish.” Jimin says numbly, eyes tracing the blankness of the space around them. “But first we let our hunger ransack our body. We become like ravenous beasts, scratching at anything, at ourselves, to be fed. But if we were to feed off of a human’s dreams in that state, it would be dangerous, because our hunger would proliferate and we would want more. We become greedy. And if worse comes to worse, we would end up consuming the human’s mind - tear them apart from the inside out. We… become like demons. Like nightmares.”
Jimin shuts his eyes, and tries to block out that memory of a tormented soul. “In the last stage, we let the hunger drain our energy, our vigor, and let our psyche crumble. We become like hollow vessels. Then we would just… die. Our soul disappears. The reapers take our soul away and leave it to disintegrate in the void. And we disappear as though we have never existed.”
“That's fucking terrifying,” Jungkook murmurs, gaze distant. He runs his thumb across his own knuckles, “I don't blame you for eating my dreams.”
Jimin tries to contain his surprise, but fails to do so when he stares at him bug-eyed, “Truly?”
“Why are you always so skeptical whenever you receive some tiny form of leniency?” Jungkook mutters to the off side before he shrugs. “Anyways, I really don’t. I mean, I guess I can understand. We do things for survival. Sometimes, there are people who will go past their morals to achieve that. At the end of the day, nothing is black and white. Everything is subjective. Besides, eating dreams doesn’t hurt the person, does it?”
“No. It does no physical or mental harm to the individual. Perhaps some sadness, if they are the type to feel melancholy for being unable to remember their dream.”
“So, kinda like commensalism?” Jungkook says, and nervously smiles when all he receives is a blank look from Jimin, “Um, you know - it’s a type of symbiosis. Two organisms interact with each other and one benefits while the other does not benefit but neither is it harmed.”
Jimin tilts his head consideration, “It sounds like an accurate summation of our coexistence.”
The scenery changes again. They’re back on the roof with the sunset, but now, instead of buildings, there was a body of water that stretched endlessly towards the sky. He feels a gentle breeze and inhales the scent of brine.
“Can you tell me about it? About the Dream Eaters, I mean.” Jungkook folds his hands underneath his legs, the warm colours of the persimmon sun reflecting off of his face, making his features glow. Jimin wonders if the sun is as warm as it looks. Jungkook looks warm, with the oranges and reds scattered across his white clothes and golden complexion. Jimin thinks Jungkook would be warm. Terribly warm.
“I’ve got time,” He continues when he sees Jimin open his mouth, undoubtedly about to decline, “I want to hear about the Dream Eaters. In here, time is infinite, so don’t worry about it. I’ve got time. Tell me.”
So, Jimin does.
It begins with a star thousands of eons ago that had plummeted down to the terrains of Earth, an abstract yet cosmical entity that sprouted to life with horned wings and an ivory box from a mere poppy seed gifted by a sleeping God above. With a shifting form and illusory commandment over the sleeper’s imagination, the winged entity became known as the God of Dreams, Morpheus.
In that age, humans were easily swayed by what they saw in their slumber. Ethereal dreams that made their happiness skyrocket; carnal dreams that instigated bouts of lust and greed; and nightmares, that indubitably affected the psyches of humans. It was a chaotic time; there was no control over what they saw in their dreams, save for the rare occurrences of lucidity, but even then, many people saw it as a message from Morpheus himself to do as what the dream had portrayed. They saw it as a sign of a higher being, a Seraphim, one that would guide them towards the path of Paradise, but things became dark and twisted quickly as humans prospered in the death of others.
Morpheus found it to be spectacularly dire. The influence of the dreams and nightmares humans have experienced had caused downfalls of civilizations, of corruption of human life, of sins that were repeatedly cycled throughout history. Morpheus could not make himself appear in every human’s dream to deliver a message of repentance and safekeeping, of forgiveness and civility to stop the murders, the arsons, the violence - even to the kings and heroes, who did not listen to his prophecies and went to rage wars. His siblings were not much of help either: Phobetor, the bringer of nightmares, and Phantasos, the bringing of surreality, thought Morpheus was a fool who had gotten soft and sentimental over the mundanes.
Morpheus brought the duty upon himself to change these misfortunes. He is a powerful God despite misconceptions, and he slaughtered his siblings so that Phobetor may not bring upon nightmares, and that Phantasos may not plant inexplicable ideas into the heads of humans, albeit both siblings had left vestiges of their power behind out of spite when they had died, so that humans will still suffer from them during their most vulnerable times.
Morpheus took the form of a human being with white wings, wearing a black trenchcoat, in both dreams and reality to conduct his work. He extricated the souls of humans who have suffered torment and an unconventional death, and turned them into disarming creatures - into his own messengers, to which we call them the Dream Eaters. Thus, humans may not constantly indulge themselves in pleasant and carnal dreams with liberty, may not be influenced by the evils and despair of nightmares; to allow space and a time of peace for the humans to merely rest from the graveness of the world.
“And that,” Jimin says, “is how we were born.”
Jungkook has been listening intently to him, his eyes never trailing off from Jimin’s face. He nods from time to time to convey his understanding, and when Jimin finishes his speech, Jungkook wastes no time asking a question about something he seemed to have immediately latched onto in the middle of his explanation. “You were human?”
Jimin starts at the unexpected question, momentarily losing his voice for a moment. “I - well, yes. I was.”
“And - you died? And then He - I mean, Morpheus, turned you into one of his creatures?”
“Yes.” Jimin nods confirmation. When he notices the confusion in Jungkook’s pinched expression, no doubt biting his tongue from asking a variety of questions, Jimin further elaborates on his nature to assuage his curiosity, “He takes our souls and eliminates the essences of what had once made us human, such as the wide extremity of our emotions and our desires, so that we do not go wayward and rebellious. We are loyal to Him and Him only. We think of our duty only, and nothing else.”
He uses his fingers to trace a box in the air, “Morpheus also locks away our memories so that we may not remember our past life, and only He has the key to them. Oh, but He will give you to them in your last moments, when you wish to relinquish your soul to the void - like a parting gift.” He smiles apologetically for the non sequitur and continues, “Then, we become creatures that live in between the line of immortality and spirit-like form with the only purpose of consuming the dreams of humans to keep the balance of a cohesive civilization. We are unseen to the human eye, but naked in front of the universe.”
“But you - this - doesn’t this go against - “
“Yes.” Jimin says. “I am breaking the dream universe’s law.”
A silent question hangs in the air: is it worth it? Thankfully, Jungkook doesn’t ask, because Jimin wouldn’t know the answer to it either.
“So you don’t… remember? Anything?” Jungkook frowns, “Not even how you died?”
He stares blankly at the sunset, and the word tastes like lead in his mouth, “Trauma.”
“Because when he locks away our memories, he locks away our trauma.”
Jimin blinks away the fuzzy sight of Yoongi’s aghast expression in the back of his eyes. Maybe he should get that memory locked away too. He turns, and Jungkook looks at him weirdly, looks at him with something like understanding in his eyes.
“Do you want to remember?” He asks quietly.
“Yes,” Jimin says, “I do.”
“I see.” Jungkook looks little pale. Subsequently, he winces, “I’m still - just, give me a minute. I need to - yeah.”
He stands up and jumps off the ledge. Jungkook turns around and walks off to the side until he was a few feet away from Jimin. He has his hands over his face, chest rising and falling with laboured breaths. Jimin looks away, traces his eyes back to the sky to give Jungkook privacy.
The sun never seems to move. It’s at a standstill, stuck at the golden hour, and Jimin lifts his hand. The sun, the ocean, the sky - they all seemed so small within the space of his hand, giving off the illusion of being able to reach for it and flick at the sun, wondering if it would ricochet like the yolk of an egg. But in reality, it was far away, distant, out of his reach; an unattainable beauty Jimin is in awe of. Perhaps there was something about the unreachable that Jimin feels drawn to.
After what feels like an hour, Jungkook returns. He takes his usual seat beside Jimin, runs his hands through his hair in a haphazard mess, and seems to have taken a calm disposition after taking the time to acquiesce all the information.
“Why my dreams?”
Jimin is beginning to think that he cannot grasp the recurrent nuances of Jungkook’s character. He is too unpredictable, reacting and asking questions that catch Jimin off guard. But this is the hour of honesty, the hour of the golden sun and the golden sea, so he pushes all his inhibitions and fears away in favour of winning Jungkook’s trust. “They are… warm. Very warm; very nostalgic and sweet, too. You dream a lot about your childhood. Your dreams make me happy, even if it may make me rather wistful too.”
“Are you always there with me?” Jungkook asks, “Outside the dreaming, I mean. I just can’t see you?”
“Correct. We are unseeable. I only appear during the hours of your sleep.”
“So, does this mean you’ve seen me rush around like a fucking, clobbering dinosaur with two left feet early in the morning because I’m always late?”
Jimin blinks, “Yes.”
“Well, great. That’s embarrassing.” Jungkook groans, absently scratching his ear. And as though struck by a sudden thought, he looks at Jimin with a gleam in his eyes, one that spoke of gentle wonders, “That’s… cool, though.. It’s kinda like - I’ve had this unknown and invisible friend all this time, y’know? Weird, even though said friend is clearly infatuated with my dreams rather than the actual person, but I’ll take what I can get.”
Jimin stares in wonder, in question, in pleasant puzzlement. His chest suddenly fills with unfamiliar warmth, itching underneath his skin from his sternum to his ribcage, but he doesn’t particularly dislike it. It’s rather… nice. “Friend?”
“Yeah!” Jungkook exclaims, “You’re kinda like a guardian too, protecting me from bad dreams and all, even if you eat the good ones too. I don’t mind if I don’t remember my dreams. I like these ones, the ones with you in it, because I don’t feel particularly lonely.”
Jimin didn’t think of himself as a guardian before. “Are you lonely outside this dream world?”
Jungkook shrugs, pursing his lips, as he taps his fingers against the ledge. He fidgets a lot when he’s reluctant to speak. “It’s not that I’m lonely. I have a roommate and I have people I can hang out with and have fun. I guess I just - I really haven’t found someone I can really talk to. Like, in a genuine way. And I - I guess I’ve got some issues I still need to sort out.” He laughs self-deprecatingly, but abruptly stops, scrunching up his brows, “Huh. Guess I am a bit lonely after all.”
“What about your mother?”
He notices the flinch Jungkook barely holds back. “Do I dream about her a lot?”
Jimin muses over the dreams he has eaten over time. He remembers vividly the dream where little Jungkook held hands with his mother as they crossed the street, her gentle voice reminding him to look both sides of the street before crossing; colourful ice-cream cones in their hands as they walked around the malls, the fairs, the amusement parks - lots of laughing and smiling and fond kisses. There is another memory of his mother waking him up gently, running her hand through his hair, jostling him out of a deep sleep that seemed to have carried all the way to his adulthood. Many of his dreams were like memories. Many of his nightmares too.
“You do.” Jimin says, and hesitates, “I am sorry. Would you like me to leave the dreams with her in it alone?”
“No, no - “ Jungkook shakes his head, “it’s better if you just… um, take them. Eat them, or something.”
“Are you sure - “
“I think I’m waking up soon.” Jungkook stands up and turns to him, “Will I see you again?”
His avoidance on the subject of his mother rouses curiosity, but Jimin files it away for later. “Of - definitely.”
“You couldn’t decide between using ‘of course’ and ‘definitely’?” He laughs, and it’s tender and heartfelt, and it reminds Jimin of the sound of beech-leaves rustling in the autumnal wind, or the sound of a spirited fountain running in a hollow cave. It’s disorientating and pleasant at the same time, a kind of sensation that fills his lungs with lavender and lilacs, and he inhales it all at once so that he may never forget it and the tinkling sound of his laughter.
“I am rather indecisive.”
“I can see that.” Jungkook smiles, “Thank you for telling me about yourself, about Morpheus - about everything. Maybe I’ll be able to give something back to you the next time we meet, but until then, I’ll see you soon, Jimin.”
The dream world around them dissolves into white, and Jimin wakes up.
“Why did you call that popsicle an ‘antagonizing fucker’?”
“First of all,” Jungkook raises a finger, tilting a brow up, “this is not a popsicle. This is a yogurt bar - a dream yogurt bar, to be specific. Second of all,” He raises another finger, now wearing a frown, “it stained my shirt. It deserves to be called that, like - why does it even melt so fast? It’s not even hot.” He glares at the popsicle in his hand, “Bastard.”
“A yogurt bar.” Jimin deadpans, studying it in his hands. He hasn’t tasted human food for so long; he’s only been accustomed to the taste of stardust and moonbeams in the dreams that he consumes. But Jungkook nudges his arm as an encouraging gesture, so Jimin relents with a sigh and takes a tentative lick. Jimin blinks in surprise at the mildly sweet flavour. The taste ebbs away quickly, but it lingers in his palate, striking him as familiar, because it tastes like - “Berries.”
Jungkook hums in agreement, “Yup! Blueberries and blackberries, to be exact. These are my favourite. I buy them all the time when I can, although I kinda spend most of my money on coffee and videogames. And adult stuff, like rent. I didn’t think they’d taste as good in a dream as they do in real life. That’s pretty rad.”
“I’ve forgotten what berries taste like.” Jimin says quietly, bringing the yogurt bar back to his lips. “Weird.”
A pause. Then he looks up, “Are all frozen sweets on a stick supposed to be shaped like a phallus?”
Jungkook sputters and chokes, his free hand balled into a fist to thump at his chest while he wheezes away the remains of his maturity. He slowly becomes red and teary-eyed, and while Jimin watches with ongoing curiosity, the yogurt bar in his hand suddenly morphs in to a PB&J sandwich.
“Thanks for ruining that, man,” Jungkook coughs, and takes an aggressive bite out of his sandwich, “Yogurt bars no longer have a special place in my heart. It’s peanut butter and jelly now.”
Jimin frowns. He lets the yogurt bar disappear in his hands, since he won’t be matching with Jungkook. “What’s wrong with yogurt bars? I merely asked a simple question.”
“That’s because you’re immune to dirty jokes. You have no sense of shame, do you?”
“The only shame I possess is the shame of watching you eat like an infant.” Jimin points at the big glob of blueberry jam on Jungkook’s white shirt, “Even in dreams, your dining manners are horrendous.”
“Oh, fuck off,” Jungkook groans, materializing a napkin out of thin air and using it to scrub helplessly at the new, dark stain on his shirt.
Jimin feels the edges of his mouth quirk up into a small smile, and it surprises him at first, because he can’t remember the last time he smiled out of delight, and not from internalized bitterness and the inklings of self-deprecation. He quickly shields it behind a hand, but Jungkook is already staring at him, the napkin in his hands blotted with jam suspended in midair. His brown eyes look gold in the sunlight.
Jimin turns away, and so does Jungkook as he resumes back to eating his sandwich, chewing thoughtfully until he finally speaks up, “Your smile is pretty.”
He can tell that Jungkook is feigning nonchalance, from the waver in his cool voice and the rise of pink appearing on his cheeks. Or perhaps that was the glow of the warm skies scrawled over his face, but it fills Jimin’s chest with a fluttering warmth he’s never experienced before. It’s disconcerting, and he places a hand lightly over his chest, finding his own heartbeat that pulses with a mettlesome lullaby.
“It is warm here,” He murmurs.
Jungkook stares him briefly. He places a hand over his own chest, his lips stretching into a wide, kind smile that makes his dimples appear and the stars in his eyes shine brighter, “Mine too.”
And in the back of Jimin’s head, a voice whispers to him that this is dangerous, but he likes Jungkook’s smile, because if Jungkook finds Jimin’s smile pretty, then Jimin finds Jungkook’s smile beautiful. He wants to see his smile all the time.
The blue mountains beyond the sunset turns pink, matching the colour of Jungkook’s cheeks, and Jimin drinks in the sight.
There are many things Jimin has never heard about, or have forgotten about, but he learns something new every dream. Their last conversation comprised of Jungkook vehemently teaching him the importance of biodiversity when it comes to global issues. Fascinating.
Jimin also learns a lot about him - the university he attends to, his vague end goal of his academic career, his passion for video games and caffeine; everything about him emanates simplicity, a contrast to the complexity of Jimin’s life, where there was no beginning and no end, but Jungkook had the moon to guide him home and the morning star to guide him through the day. He lives an ordinary life, and Jimin finds himself grasping at the edges of it with eager fingers.
(One time, Jungkook had dreamed up a calico cat, a graceful little creature that curled up on his lap. Jimin had hesitated on running his fingers through her colourful fur, but after Jungkook’s persistent encouragement, he finally did so, and became fond of her almost instantly.
“Name her,” Jungkook nudged him with an elbow.
“Of course you have the honours. You probably never named a cat, have you?”
Jimin frowned. “Why would I?”
“Just name her, dude.” Jungkook sighs, halfheartedly rolling his eyes.
Slightly perturbed, Jimin studies her round, golden eyes and the patchy patterns of her fur. She reciprocates the dutiful gaze, pointed ears twitching. A random name with no explanation of its origins suddenly popped up in his head, as though it’d been buried deep in the recesses of his mind and was sprung up by a switch he’d accidentally pressed.
“Licorice,” Jimin finally answers him. Jungkook glances at him and smiles, before he looks down at the cat and scratches behind her ears.
And dream after dream, night after night, the butterflies in his stomach turns into vultures, and the tiny stars he once overlooked in the sky now resembled little droplets of light in a white canvas, infinitesimal and inconsequential but woven together to create something vast yet stunning. He sees pinks and purples and reds, the colours of summer flowers that reminded Jimin of Jungkook’s gentle smile.
“Do you and other Dream Eaters hang out and stuff?” Jungkook asks one time as they lounge at the beach, an arm propped on the sand as he leans the side of his face on his palm, “Aside from hunting for dreams to eat, I guess.”
Jimin tilts his head to the side, “What brought about this question?”
“I dunno. Just curious. There doesn’t seem like there’s a lot to do for a Dream Eater, so it must be kinda boring, isn’t it? I was wondering if you guys ever hang out like uh, normal people do, to pass time and all.”
Jimin hums in contemplation, swaying his feet gently side to side as he informs him, “There are Dream Eaters who do pass time, but not in the way you think we do. You know, when Morpheus created us, he allowed us to also be able to experience physical stimulation, so even though we will not form any emotional attachment, our needs will still be met. It is convenient after one consumes a rather carnal dream, because depending on the sensitivity of the Dream Eater, they may experience concupiscence and be sexually propelled to - “
“Pass, pass, pass!” Jungkook throws his hands up, stopping Jimin from continuing his monotonous explanation. “I do not need to hear how you guys do the do. And I meant like - you know, friend stuff! Like, going shopping or some shit, not do - you know, that. Jeez.”
“Friend stuff,” Jimin repeats, and considers it. “We are friends, are we not?”
“Well, duh. But I’m not a Dream Eater.”
Nodding slowly, Jimin thinks about it for a moment. He ,em>does come across plenty of his comrades, but they merely greet and lock pinkies, and never do anything more than that. Jimin has never initiated any contact with them too. Dream Eaters are all independent, solitary creatures, only seeking the company of each other if their needs are to be met, and if they are to deliver a holy message from their God. Companionship is a faraway concept for them all, and that’s what Jimin comes to the conclusion of, until the shadows cast by the umbrellas reminds him of someone.
“I think I have someone like that,” Jimin recalls quietly, and Jungkook visibly perks up. “A friend, as you would call it. Although we do not go shopping together, he visits me from time to time to check up on my wellbeing. We talk sometimes. And if he has fallen ill, I would collect a handful of dreams and feed them to him. We - are close, compared to the other Dream Eaters. He is also quite favoured by Morpheus. His name is Yoongi.”
“That’s nice to hear,” Jungkook smiles, and for an inexplicable reason, he looks relieved as well, “he must be a great friend, huh? I didn’t know Dream Eaters could get sick though.”
Jimin bites his lip. “The illness I speak of is… different, for Yoongi. He has… flashbacks on unpredictable days, and he does not leave his orbit for a very long time.”
“Of someone who had been close to him. He was our other friend.” Jimin blinks away the haziness in his vision, the dim flare of the sun blinding him for a second, “We watched him die.”
There’s rustling and heavy movement, and Jungkook is sitting up now. Jimin mirrors him, dusting off the sand that clings to his clothes. Jungkook reaches over to brush away the sand from his shoulders, and Jimin smiles at him.
“I’m sorry.” Jungkook murmurs.
“For what, silly?” He says, almost laughing, but he holds it back, because he fears that it will sound unnatural and cold. “It was something the both of us could not control. He… wanted it, but he didn’t want to be alone when it happened, so we stayed with him. We cannot die by a measly stab wound, or poison, or a pierce through the heart. The only way to death is starvation and the phases that follow. He was miserable, and did not want to eat dreams anymore, so he went.”
Jimin cannot hold eye contact with Jungkook, not when his eyes are so tender, so Jimin looks away, far into the distance of the tall trees that surround them. He listens to the singing of birds that weave between the branches high up in the air. There is a catch of breath.
“I… understand, in way. Loss, and grief, and - and I guess, living with the ghost of them. You’re not the same anymore after they’re gone.” Jungkook says, his voice subdued.
“Grief is infinite for creatures like us, I suppose.” Jimin twiddles with a leaf in his hands, crushes it in his palms, and watches the remains flutter towards the ground in a distorted whorl. “We dream of endings, but never of new beginnings.”
“Is it hard for you?”
“Perhaps so, but it is hard for everyone, for humans too. Nothing is ever easy. Just being is never easy. But what would life be if we did not struggle?” Jimin looks over to him in thought, “But as of late, I find myself looking forward to tomorrow when I know you are here waiting for me.”
They are merely honest words, a genesis of the simple truth, so he doesn’t know why Jungkook looks at him as though the stars are on him and that he hung the silver moon. And Jimin doesn’t know what to do when he’s being looked at in such a way when he’s done nothing to garner such warmth like the flames Prometheus stole, but this is Jungkook, and he is frank and sincere in how he presents himself. And when he smiles, it reminds Jimin of a laughing dream.
“Me too, Jimin.”
Oh, Jimin thinks to himself as the world around them collapses into a stark white, I’m falling.
Jimin eyes the parcel suspiciously before he takes a sheet of palimpsest out, unrolls it, and reads the symbols belonging to a dead language that is summoning him to His chamber at dusk. He glances up at Yoongi, who returns the look with a tense frown.
“He did not look angry, if it is of any help.” Yoongi says, “He had a look of faraway rumination. But you should still be careful, because all dreamers are liars. He can be a tricky God, especially when it comes to negotiations.”
Jimin shoves the palimpsest back into the parcel, hands minutely trembling. He saw this coming; it was an inevitable fate of his. He wanted to tell Yoongi that he did not want to be a pawn of the God of Dreams, that this kind of living was not living at all. The euphoria that comes with pleasant dreams is temporary, yet the nightmares they consume are eternally present in their minds. All they ever do is suffer, but Jimin wants to feel alive.
But that would mean Jimin has adopted the views of an iconoclast, and Yoongi will no doubt be disappointed in him for deviating away from the universe’s conformities.
He will think that this rebellion is all because of that human, that boy, but since when did Jimin go against his nature’s intrinsic beliefs because of Jungkook? Perhaps, yes, Jungkook has become part of the reasons why, but he is not the entire reason why Jimin went against the laws of the dream universe in the first place. No, Jimin wants to be alive for himself; to feel the genuine scent of sea salt air, the zephyrs of the ocean breeze, to eat actual yogurt bars and taste wonderful things he has forgotten about, to be able to feel and understand and sit on real rooftops with Jungkook and watch a real sunset, and many other human things.
He wonders if he had been like this when he had been human - wanting things he cannot obtain. But perhaps he had been a dreamer at heart from human to dream eater, something that is embedded deep into his soul that will never change.
Deep in thought, he almost misses Yoongi’s question, “Jimin? Are you alright?” A pause. “Would you like me to accompany you? I am sure He would be less harsh if he knows I am with you.”
“It is fine,” Jimin shakes his head, and gives him a reassuring smile, though it feels more shaky and unconfident on his face.
“I will be fine.”
(He wonders if he had been a liar in his past life too.)
Morpheus is a rather minimalistic, simple man, who revels in the beauty of all things naked and stripped to its bare foundation. Perhaps His chamber reflects His mind and soul; all black with rays of light peeking through - vacant, but not quite. In fact, maybe deceivingly simple, but entirely cosmic.
Jimin walks through a labyrinth-like vestibule until he spots a gilded throne atop a dais before him. And then, a strong, all-encompassing voice thunders above him,
He immediately gets down on a knee, discerning movements in the periphery of his vision. A tall, looming figure appears on the dais, and Jimin allows himself to marvel at the sight of His subliminal wings of an ivory hue that expand in the air, tiny glisters of stars caught in the majestic plumes that sparkle like gold. His black trench coat ripples behind him as he takes long, graceful strides towards him, and Jimin immediately lets his gaze fall towards the ground.
Before Jimin can utter a mere, respectful greeting, Morpheus speaks again.
"Why are you on the ground?" He places His hands on Jimin's arms and guides him up until he stands. "You don’t need to bow before me."
"I," Jimin sputters, suddenly lost for words as he gazes into His eyes that were uncannily human, "I am below you, my Deus."
“It’s true that I am somewhat taller than you, but you are one of my creations, and I respect you as I respect the other Gods. And please, just call me by my preferred name."
Jimin didn't know what to say in response to that, too startled at His prosaic way of speech and casual inflection. He didn’t know how this man, with a dimpled smile right here, could be the deity of dreams when He spoke so mundane, so casual. But Morpheus bore no mind to it and continued, relaxed in all dispositions that was disarmingly too close to comfort for a God who can easily tear his soul apart, "I assume you know why I wanted to meet you?"
He tentatively nods, "Yes."
"Your disregard to the laws of the dream universe is very uncharacteristic of your nature, and as far as what I’ve seen, it seems as though you have become attached to the boy himself now, rather than just his dreams.”
Morpheus smiles at him as He takes a step closer to Jimin, placing a finger on the left side of his chest, a golden ring undulating beneath his feather-light touch. "It seems as though you have grown a heart, which should be considered inconceivable. You are one of my first creations to ever defy my rules.”
Jimin can’t speak. His throat feels parched. All he can think to do is apologize, and his mouth hangs open with an apology sitting at the top of his tongue, but Morpheus silences him by covering his mouth with His hand.
"Oh, darling," He drawls, His smile growing cold and cruel. "Have you, perhaps, fallen in love with that human?"
He has practiced the muse of schooling his expressions into that of indifference, to show no bias and ounce of emotion to accommodate his nature, but Jimin knows that he has failed, because he feels his eyes minutely widen in astonishment at the accusation. A stone drops into the pit of his stomach, freezing him all over, and his throat closes up. He's underwater, sinking with an anchor tied to his ankle; his chest hurts and burns, and he can't -
"Breathe, Jimin, just like how I have taught you." Morpheus's commanding voice pierces through the ringing in his ears, "Breathe."
And he does, repeating the instructions in his head like a mantra: in for four, wait for seven, out for eight, until the flames in his chest are put out and begins to rise steadily like the breaths that escape him. He gradually calms down, sucking in deep breaths to mollify his nerves.
Morpheus steps away, inspecting him studiously, and Jimin wonders if it is melancholy that he sees in His eyes.
"I have seen love in all kinds of forms." He says, "It is a complex human emotion and desire that can cause upheaval and wars, because it makes them selfish. I have seen love tear countries apart; I have seen love tear humans apart. And when I watch all this destruction be caused by this love these mortals seem to hunt for, I realize that humans love in order to lose themselves. And nothing more."
Morpheus lifts up a hand and the chamber surrounding them disintegrates into a white space. Their environment morphs into a familiar room with cream-coloured walls and hard, wooden floors; a living room. A man sits at a chair near the kitchen, and Jimin immediately recognizes the young man as Jungkook's broad-shouldered roommate by the name of Seokjin. He is speaking on the phone, and Jimin's heart clamors in alarm.
"Why are we here?" Jimin quietly asks.
Morpheus places a finger over His curved lips, and His eyes flicker back to Seokjin, who was speaking quietly to the phone with a frantic undertone while cradling a bottle of Michelob in his free hand.
"I'm worried about him, alright? He's been acting strange lately. No, him binge playing video games is normal behavior, but he's - he's not even doing that anymore. Jungkook sleeps so much nowadays, and his mind is always somewhere else. It's like, he's physically here, but his mind is completely stuck in some other place, and he doesn't even get out of bed anymore unless I drag him out with my own hands. And his sleeping habits are worrying. It's like he's - he's losing interest in life itself, you know? And would rather sleep it all away."
Seokjin harshly sighs, massaging his nose bridge, “I don’t - I don’t know. I’m not a doctor and I sure as hell am not a psychologist. I just - all I know is that maybe he’s… feeling a lot more depressed lately. What? Look, of of course I know - I mean, who wants to wake up and remember that we killed the trees and destroyed the oceans? But don’t tell me I’m overreacting, Taehyung, because you know this happened before when - “
“Why did you bring me here?” Jimin turns to Morpheus, dread filling his voice, “What is wrong with him?”
Morpheus offers a silent, omniscient smile, “He is losing himself.”
Jimin blinks at him once in confusion, and then twice in patent realization, but it merely makes him more confused. He shakes his head in disbelief, steadfast that this must be all wrong, “That is impossible. He - He can’t. Why would he - “
The question hangs abruptly in the air, and Morpheus looks at him with a gaze so full of light that it’s almost pitying, almost mocking, “First, you’ve grown selfish, and now you think you are able to dictate how he feels. You are so adamant in this routine of eating his dreams and only his dreams, visiting him in his dreams when he is lucid, and befriending him of all things - yet, the moment you are given the possibility that this nonsense is reciprocated, you usurp your nature that you have thrown away. My, my, my - creatures like you can’t be fickle, Jimin.”
Morpheus tsks disapprovingly, and the scenery around them changes once more, and now they’re in a bedroom that Jimin can immediately recognize. The blue walls adorned with posters, the curtains with embroidered stars, the boyish decorations that flood the shelves; he sees Jungkook sleeping soundlessly in his bed, blankets pulled up to his chest. And Jimin is seized with that fear again - that fear that Jungkook can only make him feel.
“What a peaceful look, don’t you think? He’s waiting for you,” Morpheus stands beside him, their shoulders touching. He is cold. “But he’s always waiting for you, and waiting for you has become his new life. Don’t you see it yet, Jimin? How they all lose themselves in this domino effect of a single emotion Eros has damnedly created. And you are the reason why, for eating the apple of Eve.”
He leans forward, hands hovering above Jungkook’s head, and dismissively tuts, “Look at what you’ve done to the poor boy. Oh, Jimin. How will you fix this?”
Morpheus is looking at him expectantly, brows drawn in a relaxed yet mocking curve, lips pulled into a taut smile. And Jimin’s mind has gone static, and he doesn’t - he doesn’t - he can’t - “Please, I - I don’t know. I didn’t think it would turn out like this.” He squeezes his eyes shut, speaking his next words through gritted teeth, “I didn’t know he would feel the same way.”
“Why not?” Morpheus presses, “Did you think that you were unworthy of his love? That you didn’t deserve it? How maudlin! Well, you’ve already thrown your life away, disobeying my precepts, so why stop there?”
“No! That’s not it. I - “ Jimin digs his palms into his eyes in frustration, biting the inside of his lip until he tastes blood, “I am just a dream creature. I am not human, and I cannot give him human things. He has a real life outside of me, so why would he - “
“But he makes you feel human things, doesn’t he?” Morpheus cups Jungkook by the side of his face, and Jimin freezes in uneasiness. “When I made my Dream Eaters, I tweaked their souls. I did not want them to be overwhelmed by such feelings, because feelings makes all beings do stupid things. But you’ve grown attached to his rather interesting boy, and because of that, you have developed a few facets that would be namely impossible to ever have again, such as a heart.” He stands up, clasping His hands behind him as He shrugs, “Well, figuratively, at least.”
Jimin’s hand unconsciously comes to rest on his chest, eyes slanted to the side, “He is my friend.”
“Is that all?” Morpheus smiles, and claps His hands together in a delightful manner, “Well, why don’t you show me, then?”
Jimin’s question doesn’t make it out of his mouth when Morpheus grabs his hand and the world around him turns black. Dread encompasses over the presentiments that flood throughout his body, and when he blinks, he sees the familiar sunset that never seems to descend beyond the line of the horizon, flickering like a fireplace by a hearth, and then he sees the beach that is left deserted.
However, the difference is that he is suspended up in the air and not by the shore, and he is being held up by Morpheus who was carrying him in His graceful arms. His ivory wings that flutter lightly behind Him scintillate in the sun, the light hitting against the outline of His figure that renders Him in a hazy glow.
He smiles down at Jimin, and his heart seizes in panic. He doesn’t want to know what they’re doing in Jungkook’s dreams.
“Let’s play a little game, shall we? Show me just how special he is to you.” His sonorous voice reverberates across the vastness of the waters, “I’m sure you know that human life is so easily filched. Try to keep him alive, will you?”
“No - “ His yell is cut off by his throat closing in distress when Morpheus lets go of him, sending him plummeting down into the depths of the ocean. Coldness and disorientation surrounds his senses once he hits the waters and is deeply submerged, arms flailing about in fright. He should not feel anything, not pain nor fright, but he does, and he can feel the sting of water in his eyes as he keeps them open and the sharp pang in his chest as he frantically holds his breath in.
The distorted, orange light of the sunset scatters across the surface of the waters, and Jimin would have stared at it in wonder at how distantly beautiful it was to look through the ocean from underneath rather than above, when he notices a shadow in his periphery that was not too far from him. And as a thin ray of muted light hits the silhouette, Jimin refrains himself from gasping once he sees Jungkook’s lifeless form sinking slowly.
Try to keep him alive, will you?
Jimin desperately swims towards him, snatching Jungkook by the arms and pulling him up. It’s an arduous task from the extra body mass weighing him down, but he manages to break free of the surface with a gasp, sucking in deep breaths as he sputters and coughs. He gets water in his eyes and he squeezes them shut until the burning sensation subsides, but when he opens his eyes again, they are not in the ocean anymore. They are in a bathtub.
Jungkook is not in his arms.
No, Jungkook is a kid again, and he is choking and crying and vehemently thrashing around as a man, whose face is covered with black scribbles, pushes his head down underneath the bathtub water, screaming incoherently at him.
“Stop,” Jimin weakly croaks, and raises his voice as he grabs at the man’s hand, “Stop, stop, stop - “ But his hands go through the man like a transparent entity, as though he was a ghost despite his concrete figure, and Jimin cries with him.
And then he sees Jungkook’s mother appear by the door, bags hooked around her arms as she screams, “What are you doing to our - “
Jimin falls, and the world turns black, and then the world becomes grey.
His surroundings settle groggily before him; the rooftop, Jimin recognizes, but the sunset is not there. The sky is a cinereal ladder, gloomy and dark with thunder clouds rolling by like lone travelers. But what stops him in his steps is Jungkook, who is standing on the ledge of the rooftop, dangerously close to the end. His white clothes are smudged with flecks of dirt and dried blood, and his dark hair sticks to his empty eyes.
“Jungkook, what are you - “ His voice comes out weak and tinny, and he reaches for him, but hesitates when Jungkook edges closer, “what are you doing?”
“Don’t look,” is all he says.
“Jungkook, please - “
“Don’t look,” he says, and he blinks, “didn’t I tell you not to look?”
Jungkook turns around, and Jimin latches himself onto him in that split second of him being distracted, and drags him down until the both of them hit the floor of the roof. Pain shoots up Jimin’s spine as he hisses in pain with multicoloured stars dotting his vision. But then the weight of Jungkook on top of him disappears, and the fuzziness in his vision fades, and the world around him turns bright.
The rooftop is gone. Now, there are children running around the playground, kicking at the wood chips and yelling playfully as some descend down the slide and others hang off the monkey bars. Jimin tries to calm down the erratic hammering of his heart, propelling his nerves to go haywire as he stands up on wobbly legs, eyes frantically in search.
And he sees him - Jungkook - his little self, sitting at a bench with his hands balled into small fists rubbing at his eyes. Jimin knows that he will not be seen, but he approaches him anyways, watching helplessly as he quietly cries and feeling more useless the more the tears spill onto his cheeks. But then another little boy, whose face is blocked out by black scribbles again, plops down beside him on the bench.
“Jungkookie,” he says, and Jimin wonders why his voice sounds uncomfortably familiar, “what’s wrong?”
Jungkook sniffles, keeping his eyes downwards, “Dowoon won’t let me play with him. And - and he pushed me off the slide when I caught him when we were playing tag. He’s just a sore loser! And really mean. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
The boy hums, sounding as though he was frowning, “Did’ja tell Miss Im?”
“I did! But she just told me to, mm, ignore him.”
“Do you want me to beat him up?”
“What?” Jungkook shrieks, “No! That’s bad. And you’ll get in trouble - big trouble - because you’re older than me, and older students aren’t allowed to bully the younger students.”
“So I’m allowed to bully students who are in my grade?” He tilts his head.
“Hey, you know what I mean!” Jungkook exclaims, but he’s smiling now as he scrubs away the tears on his red face. “But seriously, it’s okay. Please don’t beat Dowoon up. You can just - I dunno - spill milk in his undies, but no beating up people!”
The little boy laughs, throwing his head back, “You got it, Jungkookie! Let’s conspire together and see what to do to get back at evil Dowoon. In the meantime, you can play with me! We can go bug hunting. There are a lot of ladybugs in this kinda season. Whaddya say?”
Jungkook springs up from his seat, any trace of sadness left in his eyes disappearing into excited sparkles, “Okay!”
He runs off, the little boy watching after him, but then he does something Jimin least expects him to.
He turns to Jimin, and says, “Why are you here?”
The playground suddenly becomes eerily quiet.
His mouth opens and closes, and he glances around. Everyone with their scribbled out faces has turned to look at Jimin, standing stock still.
“Don’t look,” the little boy says.
The world around him turns black again, and Jimin falls.
A railroad is the first thing he sees.
“Jimin,” Jungkook shouts, and Jimin shakes away the foggy blur in his vision and turns his head towards his voice, finding him struggling with his leg stuck in the train tracks. He was situated right in the middle, and in the distance, Jimin can feel the faint vibrations of the train’s imminent approach as it screeched against the fixed rails.
He sprints towards him, skidding onto his knees as he tries to tug at Jungkook’s leg that got caught in between the rails. It was jammed in tight, and Jimin isn’t sure how this even happened, but he doesn’t need to ask to know the answer. Morpheus was manipulating these dreams, purposely tormenting Jimin with these trials. Everytime Jimin saves Jungkook from his death, he’s teleported into another setting that feels reminiscent of a memory being played right before his eyes in vivid, tangible form.
In this dreamscape, where Morpheus’s potent manipulation is physically present, death is existent. It is not avoidable. Jungkook will not wake up if he is run over by the train in this dream, because Morpheus will make sure that this dream will cross over into reality.
“Hurry,” Jungkook pleads, snatching Jimin by his sleeve as he nervously looks over his shoulder. The sounds of the train becomes more clear each passing minute. Jimin forcefully yanks his leg as hard as he can, but it’s stuck - fucking stuck - and no matter how hard Jimin pulls at his leg, it won’t budge.
“Fuck, Jimin, I can - it’s coming, fuck, please - “ Jungkook continues to attempt to wrench his leg out, eyes struck with fear and panic. He can hear the train approaching with brisk pace, mocking his life with its mechanical cries. The ground shakes underneath him. His back faces the train and he throws his arms around Jungkook, shielding him tightly from the inevitable impact, because at least he’ll be the bearer of the brunt force in the beginning. And the train charges towards him, gathering gusts of wind to blow past their faces, and the jarring screech of rusty metal against metal is the last thing he hears when -
“Mom, where are you?”
Jungkook is not little, but rather a teenager, and he’s talking on the phone. Jimin blinks away the fogginess in his vision, hearing the beat of his heart from the vestiges of adrenaline. He takes in the bedroom of a typical fourteen year old while listening in on his conversation.
“Are you okay? You sound a little off. What? A cold? Jeez, you have a worse immune system than I do. But can you buy me some strawberry pudding too, please? Since you’re already there. Awesome. Ugh, fine. I’ll do the laundry too. Be careful on your way home, okay? I love you too.”
Jungkook leaves the room. He does the laundry, makes himself a bowl of ramen, and goes back to his room. The sun is starting to set, and he makes unanswered phone calls. When night falls, Jungkook sits alone in the dark, wondering where his mother was.
The scene shifts, and now there is a sixteen year old Jungkook sitting in a bedroom - a different bedroom. He’s hugging a pillow to his chest, face buried deep into his blankets.
A woman with a scribbled face Jimin doesn’t recognize knocked and came in. She sits by his bedside, speaking softly. Jungkook shakes his head, and when he looks up, his eyes are red.
His smile looks twisted, like those empty-eyed ghosts in his nightmares, “I reminded her too much of him, didn’t I?”
“Oh,” Jimin breathes.
“You remind me of someone.”
Jimin jolts into consciousness, lifting his head up from the ground he found himself lying face down. He’s in an unfamiliar environment, with large buildings are spread across green fields and pavement roads. Laughter fills the boulevards from clusters of people hanging about with bags over their shoulders, but he jerks his head towards the nearby voices that snap him out of his reverie. There was Jungkook, looking the same as he is now - perhaps a bit younger, and another young man, who sits beside him on the bench. His face was scribbled out too.
“Oh. Um, really?” Jungkook blinks in surprise. His smile didn’t reach his eyes, “What part of me?”
“The passion, that’s for sure. I mean, you’re one of the top students in this whole institution in the natural sciences. Nobody else could be in your spot without the same level of passion and dedication.” The young man says. There is a familiarity to his voice too; the timbre and tone of it. Not the child from the playground, but… relative.
Jungkook’s expression falters just for a moment in uncertainty, expelling an awkward laugh. He waves a dismissive hand, clearly fake in the smile of his. Jimin doesn’t think the forced curve of his lips fits right on his face, “It’s - I don’t know, it’s nothing exceptional. I bet the person who I reminded you of is way more passionate than I am. Who did I remind you of, by the way?”
He shrugs, and although his face was covered in black scribbles, Jimin can still detect the hint of wistfulness in his voice, “My brother.”
“Yeah,” the young man huffs a dry laugh, “He’s two years older than me.”
Jungkook smiles, brows curving in discomfort at the unexpected show of bitterness. He shifts in his seat, intertwining his hands in between his legs, “Ah, I’m honoured. Where is he now?”
The young man stares at Jungkook for a moment, before he slowly turns his head and faces Jimin.
The air is knocked right out of Jimin’s lungs, and he’s falling again.
The ocean - he’s back in the ocean, blinking his eyes wide open as the salt stings his eyes. He’s startled enough that he loses the breath he was unknowingly holding in, and helplessly swims up to the surface, sucking in deep breaths once he does. He sputters and chokes, coughing out the discomfort after accidentally inhaling the water. And as he does so, shaking his wet hair out his eyes, he sees a body floating among the transparent waves. He immediately recognizes the black hair, and alarm bell rings in his ears.
He swims towards Jungkook and snatches him by his clothes, dragging him closer until Jimin has an arm around his torso. With a grueling effort, he takes the both of them to shore that was in the distance; they were far out in the ocean than Jimin had expected. He doesn’t know how long it takes, but he knows that his limbs are burning and threatening to fall right off by the time he reaches the sandy shore, out of breath and lightheaded. Jimin drags Jungkook out of the waters, and as soon as they’re out of reach from the ebb and flow of the tides, he drops to his knees and begins to do chest compressions on Jungkook.
He tilts his chin back, pinches his nose, and blows air into Jungkook’s mouth twice, and repeats the chest compressions when he receives no sign of life. And Jimin does it again, and again, all with more haste and force each time the resuscitation fails, and whenever it fails, panic begins to rapidly swell inside of him. There’s no response; Jungkook is just a limp ragdoll with sand clinging to his wet body, and Jimin is the fool who believed he could save him from everything.
“Come on, Jungkook,” Jimin frantically whispers, seizing Jungkook by the shoulder and giving him a hard shake, “wake up, wake up.“
Jimin hears a sharp crack underneath his hands that causes Jimin to flinch. He must have fractured something, but Jimin continues until his arms bleed, and blows air into his lungs until he turns blue. Jungkook still didn’t wake up.
“Stop it, Jungkook. Please, just wake up,” His voice cracks at every edge of his words, pounding his fists against his chest in frustration. “Wake the fuck up, Jungkook. Come on, just - just open your eyes. Do not die in a dream that does not even belong to you. Please, please, please - “
His chest hurts with every, strangled breath he inhales, his vision becoming blurry until something wet drips from his eyes, and continues to spill. Everything hurts, as though his own ribs has fractured and his heart has twisted until it became a bruised, bleeding fist that will not stop bleeding. His arms tremble as he puts as much weight and force behind each compression, but nothing is fucking working, and he hasn’t felt so useless and helpless and exhausted in so long and he doesn’t know what to do when everything is his fault and he can’t fix it he can’t fix it he can’t save -
A hand rests atop of his. Jimin stops and looks up, chest heaving with ragged breaths, and feels his stomach bottom out.
“Why are you trying so hard? It is just a mere dream.” Morpheus tilts His head in earnest inquiry as He catches a tear that falls from Jimin’s chin.
“But you said - “
“I know what I said. But I thought that you, of all Dream Eaters, would know that - ” Morpheus smiles as He holds his face gently in His hands, “dreamers often lie.”
Morpheus’s voice sounds far away as the world around him turns white, “So, tell me, Jimin. What will you give me?”
Give you what?
But his mouth won’t move. Jimin falls, and doesn’t stop falling this time.
“Here, I’ll pick her up. Put your hand out, Jungkookie, and - there she goes! A beauty, isn’t she? She’s got a spot that looks like a heart.”
“She’s so pretty! Can I name her?”
“Sure, but I dunno if you can keep her. She’ll probably fly away by the time recess is done.”
“That’s okay. What’s important is about living in the moment, isn’t it? Hm… oh, I got it! Her name will be Licorice.”
“Like the candy?”
“Yup! Oh, what about the ladybug on your hand? What will you call yours, Ji - “
“ - min?”
Jimin gasps awake and finds himself looking up into a familiar pair of vast eyes; he was hovering above him, hands brushing away the stray, damp strands of his hair that was sticking to his skin. He blinks rapidly, wondering if this was a mere illusion - another manipulated dream within a dream, as though Morpheus did not have enough fun watching his tormented state. But Jungkook’s touch feels real, and he is alive. He can feel Jungkook’s warm breath against his skin, and the smell of citrus and sandalwood that Jimin didn’t know he missed until now.
“Um, are you okay?” Jungkook asks, hands gently tapping his forehead. He blinks, “Okay, well, you definitely do not have a fever. You’re always so cold. Then again, you can’t really get sick in a dream can you? Actually, don’t answer that. You can’t get sick in a dream. Wow, I’m rambling. Sorry. Are you okay? I found you unconscious when I got here. It seemed like you were having a bad dream.”
Jimin missed his voice too.
He sucks in a deep breath, blinking away the bleariness in his eyes as he slowly turns his head. He recognized the structure of the roof, but they’re not facing the sunset. White fabric sits underneath him, and it only takes a second for it to click that Jimin was resting his head on top of Jungkook’s legs. Jungkook was resting his back against the roof ledge.
He didn’t know he was reaching for Jungkook until his hands stopped right before the sides of his face, his fingers trembling. He can’t touch him, but Jimin wants to. He wants to feel the tangibility of him, to know that he’s real, and to feel the warm underneath his fingertips. His fingers hover unsurely above his face, undeserving of this sort of intimacy. But Jungkook gently wraps his hands around Jimin’s wrists and brings his hands to his face until his hands press against his skin with a feather light touch. His cheeks are soft beneath the pads of his fingers, and his eyes are so warm.
Jimin doesn’t know why his heart hurts so much.
“You’re real,” He croaks, holding his face with a stronger grasp. He runs his thumbs over his cheeks, underneath his eyes, and brushes through his bangs, “you are alive. You are not - you’re not dead, you’re here, and I - why can’t I - “
Jungkook stares at him with puzzlement in his wide eyes, his hands tightening around Jimin’s wrists. “Deep breaths, Jimin. I’m right here, okay? I’m real. I don’t know what happened, but you’re not there - wherever you were - anymore.”
His entire body feels bruised and battered, but he keeps his eyes open and gazes skywards at Jungkook, taking in the gentle lines of his features and the soft curves of his eyes and lips. And how cruel and selfish Jimin has become, wanting and wishing and taking like a human when the lines have been blurred. He should know this, that Jungkook is different from Jimin; he is a human and he knows what it is to be alive. He has a concrete life outside of this temporary dreamland. Jimin is temporary.
He didn’t know he could feel this way. Same with Yoongi, Jimin believed that Morpheus had scraped away any bits of humanity left away, so that he was a vessel with some semblance of emotion, but not enough to make him a wayward. Perhaps Jimin is a lone defect, a pariah among the other Dream Eaters who were able to carry out their duties precisely. Perhaps he brought this all upon himself, when he first let his curiosity and selfish longing consume him.
Because Jimin has always been in love with Jungkook’s dreams, but Jimin didn’t know when he fell in love with the dreamer himself.
And he doesn’t know what to do.
He needs to leave.
(He doesn’t want to.)
He grits his teeth as he sits up, swallowing down the bile that threatens to push past his throat. He can feel the ghost of Jungkook’s hand as he tries to help him. “I’m sorry,” Jimin whispers, and Jungkook looks more confused than worried.
Jimin wasn’t supposed to fall.
“What - “
Jimin grabs him by his collar and roughly shakes him, his voice growing harsher with each word he painfully spits out, “Listen to me, okay? You cannot stay here forever, Jungkook. Please, you - you can’t keep coming here, sleeping your life away because - because of me. I am not worth it. You are still alive and you can - you can do so much more, so stop it. You have to wake up.“
He lets go of him, feeling more wretched when all Jungkook does is stare at him. Jimin can’t read his expression, can’t tell what he’s thinking or feeling, and he hates that. Jimin hates how his diluted emotions that were bursting open like a dam into a river limited him from being able to put himself into his shoes and understand.
“Why?” Jungkook finally asks, quietly.
“Do you not understand?” Jimin shoves at him, trying to make himself unpleasant to make this easier, “We will not be happy. You are not meant for this world, and you will not understand no matter how much you spend your time in here, just like how I will not be able to understand the intricacies of your world. Not anymore. Because don’t you see, Jungkook? You are alive - alive. You can eat yogurt bars all you want, take care of real cats, hold hands and laugh with real people, and be the other people. You can dream and live. You - you can love and be loved.”
“And you can’t?” Jungkook shoots back, “You’re as real as reality can get Jimin, whether or not you live on fucking Earth as a person. Not being human doesn’t make you unreal. Yeah, you’re a dream creature, but you exist because you do things to survive, and you feel things even though you’re oblivious as fuck. So guess what, asshole? I like being with you, and talking to you, because I like you as a person and as a friend and - “ He abruptly clamps his mouth shut, pursing his lips in debate, “- and you must be out of your damn mind if you think you can dictate how I feel, and what I can and can’t do.”
“I am not - “ Jimin tenses, recalling Morpheus’s same words, and he folds his arms against his chest. Taking a deep breath, he weakly says, “I cannot give you what you want.”
“So what? You’re just going to leave? You’re just going to leave and give up on me? You won’t even try?” His voice cracks, and Jimin looks up from the ground to see the hurt written across his face. The memory of fourteen-year old Jungkook sitting alone in the dark, waiting for a mother who never came back from supposed grocery shopping, flickers before Jimin’s eyes, and he realizes his mistake when the sky above them begins to split in half.
“No, that is not what I - “
“I don’t care about what you can’t give me, okay? You don’t have to give me anything, Jimin. I - I never asked for anything, that’s why I didn’t say how I felt in the first place. Being here, and being able to talk to you even if other people can’t know about you is what makes me happy, so why does it matter if - if this isn’t normal? We’re happy now, aren’t we? Isn’t - what’s important is about living in the moment, isn’t it?”
The phrase rings familiarity in his ears, and his breath stutters. Something nags in the back of his head, pulsing and pushing into a territory that was locked from his own consciousness. But Jimin doesn’t know what it is that’s threatening to flood the gate of his mind. He knows that everything about this place, about Jungkook, is so familiar. It’s just right underneath his skin but he can never pinpoint it.
He catches the sight of Jungkook’s brimstone eyes, and Jimin doesn’t know what it is about him that makes him wish for so many selfish things. “But you have friends outside of these dreams, Jungkook, and they are worried about you. Do not forget about them too.”
At the mention of his friends, his glassy eyes widen ever so slightly before Jungkook bites his lip, averting his gaze. He looks guilty, as though he was being caught doing something wrong, and sits down on the roof ledge, running his hands down his face. He’s silent for a while, and Jimin takes the time to look up at the sky. The firmament has stitched itself back up again into a whole, but the sun blips and glitches uncontrollably.
Jimin snaps his head towards him and his weary eyes.
“Yes,” Jimin says. He tries to smile a bit, “Your roommate looked as though he was about to have an aneurysm from overwhelming concern.”
“Sounds like him.” Jungkook huffs a single, wry laugh at that. “I just - I dunno. I forget that sometimes… there are people who, um. Really care about me. So I just do whatever I want, you know? Because no one really sticks around that long.”
Jimin wonders if it is because of his mother, and he feels fury drip from his chest at the recollection of what he saw. But then that anger is then replaced with guilt, for seeing such intimate and lugubrious moments that were not meant to be seen by him.
Perhaps Jungkook is not as simple as Jimin had perceived him as; he is a universe composed of different, intricately woven parts that make up the constitution of his mind and his heart. And he is one who feels so much, whose warmth and smiles are so contagious, that Jimin feels breathless at the influence Jungkook has on him.
“I know what you’re trying to say, Jimin, that I shouldn’t throw my life away. You think I don’t know that? I just - sometimes, it’s so much easier to just escape. It’s so - it’s so easy. Because I feel happy here. There’s a happiness I can feel of being okay in a dream. And I want to stay here, Jimin,” Jungkook sounds so small, just like his little self when Dowoon wouldn’t play with him, “I want to stay here with you. But I know I can’t.”
Jimin murmurs, unsure of what else to say, “I want for many unattainable things too, but it hurt me more than it made me happy.”
“Sounds like the entirety of my life summed up in one whole sentence.” He bitterly smiles.
Jimin sits down beside him on the ledge, and holds out his right hand as he extends his pinky. All he got was a questioning look from Jungkook.
“We lock pinkies as a greeting,” Jimin explains, “but it can also be an act of… comfort.”
Jungkook blinks owlishly. He locks his own picky around his, and they settle their hands down on the ledge in the space between them. The fight in Jimin leaves him, rendering him more tired and worn out than he remembered. Jimin is obstinate, but so is Jungkook. Having a contretemps about this would go nowhere when two bulls butt heads. The quiet feels like the morning of after the storm.
Even though Jungkook is so warm, Jimin feels like he is in the wrong place, as if comfort is only meant for others. Jungkook is like the only water in a desert, and all Jimin can do is stand still and watch, tempted but paralyzed.
“I am sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Jungkook shakes his head, “you’ll make it even harder.”
Jimin glances down at their hands, how Jungkook’s pinky tightened around his. “I saw your memories.”
He launches into a brief explanation of what happened, careful with his words as he keeps his gaze ahead to avoid Jungkook’s stunned face. He feels the need to tell him, because memories are like deep-seated secrets kept in a vault that only the person knows the code to. Though unwillingly, Jimin had nonetheless witnessed them, and this he acknowledges was not right to keep as a secret. And maybe, Jungkook will hate him for it, and if that hatred extends all the way to their linked pinkies and hanging threads, Jungkook will never want to see him again and exile him from his dreams.
But Jungkook is always full of surprises, because after a long silence, he startles him by saying, “No offense, but Morpheus sounds like a total pretentious douchebag.”
Jimin stares, “You’re not angry?”
“Well, angry at him, but not really at you. You didn’t search for my memories. It was his idea, and he must have thought it would be nice to exploit me while making you suffer. That’s - that’s why you woke up like that, right? So it’s not your fault,” Jungkook dryly laughs, “but I guess now you know all about where my issues stemmed from, huh? How embarrassing.”
Jimin frowns, but his eyes are brought ahead to the sunset that turns red - a shade of red that strikes him as uncannily familiar. The same shade of red that would be on the wings of a little, spotted bug. The same shade of blood, and the same shade of blush. And in the corner of his eye, he notices something small flutter about. Jimin watches the ladybug flitter in its haphazard trail, and as it flies closer to his face, Jimin catches the sight of a peculiar, unique mark on its wings.
A heart-shaped spot.
“Oh,” Jimin whispers, heart ricocheting against his ribcage, “oh.”
It hits him right in the face and steals all the air from his lungs. He suddenly knows why Morpheus showed him all of those clear-edged memories when he subjected him into playing that game, knows why the ocean view looks so familiar and so faraway at the same time. He turns around to look at Jungkook, whose face was obscured by his hair. And oh, how cruel fate was. How cruel the world was.
The ladybug perches herself on Jungkook’s shoulders, and Jimin’s nose prickles uncomfortably. He tugs at Jungkook’s pinky.
“Licorice,” Jimin says.
He grits his teeth. He doesn’t know why his vision is blurring as he picks up the ladybug and puts her on his hand, and shows her to Jungkook as he weakly rasps, “Licorice. Her name is Licorice.”
Jungkook is staring at him as though he’s never seen him before. Something spills down onto Jimin’s cheeks as his face contorts, “You named her Licorice the day you caught her.”
The ladybug escapes from his palms and flies away, merging with the sunset that twisted like a malfunction. Realization slowly settles into Jungkook’s eyes, and the movement of his tongue gliding over his dry lips catches Jimin’s eye.
“I - how, what - how do you know that?“ Jungkook grimaces as he stumbles over his words, a sequence of unreadable emotions flashing across his face, but his voice softens, “Why are you crying, Jimin?”
Nonplussed when Jimin doesn’t answer, Jungkook swings one of his legs over so that the ledge was in between his legs. He lets go of Jimin’s pinky but takes his hand instead, holding it closely to his chest. Spots of where his tears fall darken on the ledge, and Jimin can’t wrap his mind around this implausible phenomenon.
He doesn’t know why Jimin remembers this single memory that is so clearly an artifact of his past life when all his memories were locked away forever in an ivory box. He doesn’t remember Morpheus giving him the key for them, so why is Jimin the exception to this?
Why is he able to remember catching ladybugs with Jungkook on the grassy field near their elementary school’s playground, smiling and laughing with him as they wandered around in their own world, their own adventure, as they chased away bugs and named them carelessly? Why is he able to remember Jungkook’s red cheeks as Jimin led him around with their intertwined hands, poking at fences with thin tree branches, and the impromptu sword fights they would have with them? Why, why, why -
“Was that one of the memories you saw?” Jungkook asks, attentively searching his face.
“No,” he says, almost a whisper, “it’s because I named mine Cherry.”
Like a meteor opening up the darkness, a bright light of gradual realization glints in his eyes, and Jimin can hear the understanding in his silent voice. Jungkook’s mouth hangs open like a ventriloquist doll, and the glitching of the sun spreads to the ocean and the sky. The buildings around them tilt.
And Jimin? Jimin laughs. It tickles his chest and spills out of his mouth, contrasting the tears on his face, and he laughs hysterically until his stomach hurts and it becomes hard to breathe. He laughs until laughter dies down into a choked sob as he pulls Jungkook’s hands to his own chest, and says,
“We could have met. If I had still been alive, we could have met again.”
All he sees is Jungkook’s face crumple, trembling lips forming inaudible words, before the world around them vanishes into pure, empty white.
Jimin falls, wakes up, and disappears like a passing gleam.
Or the next.
“Why do you do this to yourself?” He asks quietly.
Jimin is deep in thought - has been, for the past few days. Weeks. He’s remembering slowly of the things he had been shown before in Jungkook’s memories. He limbs feel rigid from being immobile for so long. His heart feels like clay, dried up and heavy with cracks.
“I had a younger brother,” he whispers, “and in his eyes, after my death, I had been reduced to just someone who had been ready to die rather than somebody ready to live.”
Jimin looks up at Yoongi, conflicted, “I do not understand. I long to live, to be and feel alive. But why had I been so adamant to - to throw my life away when I had been human? When in this life, I long for it so much? Why - why did I - “
“Hey, hey, love. It’s alright.” He calms him down with a gentle voice, and asks, “Morpheus bestowed upon you your memories back?”
“Not all of them.”
Unsure, Yoongi reaches for his hand and locks pinkies with him. “I believe you should go discuss matters with Him, Jimin, instead of rotting away in your orbit with your own thoughts.”
“He has not summoned me.” Jimin shakes his head, “He will not see me unless He has any intention to.”
“Would you like me to send Him a message?”
He shakes his head again.
“Please, Jimin. Do not do this to yourself. If you are not willing to talk to me, at least talk to that boy of yours again. Seeing you lose yourself in this misery, I - “ his voice quiets, “I do not want to lose you either.”
He’s met with guilt once more. He hasn’t thought about how Yoongi must have been feeling, watching Jimin wither away like a summer flower dying at the arrival of winter. But still, Jimin cannot find the courage from within himself to confront Jungkook. Perhaps he’s already given up on Jimin. If only he did. It would make things easier. “I do not know what to do, Yoongi. I am terrified at the prospect of him accepting me despite our circumstances because he is too kind to push me away. I do not deserve his warmth, or - or his love. And for me to feel this way - it must be treason. Morpheus will not let me go easily.”
“If it had been treason, Morpheus would have hunted you down and executed you already.” Yoongi sighs, rubbing soothing circles on his back, “Why must you be so hard on yourself? I admit that to reciprocate a human’s feelings is unheard of in the dream universe, but that does not mean you do not deserve it. Is it not tiring always running away? You will only end up where you started.”
He brushes away his stray locks, solemn in disposition but so gentle in touch, “Perhaps there is a reason Morpheus has let this happen. So, talk to him, Jimin. To your friend, because nothing haunts us like the things we do not say.”
In this vast darkness of space Jimin lingers about, Yoongi’s words travels towards him like a meteor strike that lands on his heart. His eyes finds Yoongi’s gaze, and he sees depth and understanding in them, as though his words had been spoken from his experience. And he is filled with gratitude for Yoongi’s endless support, even if all that Jimin does is cause concern and exasperation.
“Even if I am not human?” He whispers.
“You are more human than the rest of us will ever be.”
His breath stutters, “Thank you.”
“No,” Yoongi waves him off, “thank you. You have allowed me to see the world in a different lens after your curiosity has affected me too. I have much to think about, now. If only you can see yourself the way you see the world.” He smiles, “All in dreamlike colours.”
And even in the dark, there is something about it that makes Jimin feel braver. He waits for dusk, and leaves when the earthshine of the moon can be seen from above.
Jimin knows that he harbors qualities of a craven. It is laughable, to think that Jimin has displayed behaviour that is contradictory of a Dream Eater, yet when he is faced with the things he has been longing and wishing for secretly in his heart and mind - all these saccharine dreams and the warm lining of skin - he runs away. He pushes like a force to be reckon with, because he is unable to handle the overwhelming feelings that come with grasping at the threads of his own dreams. Like a tomcat, wanting the warmth of another being and to so desperately hold the sun in his palms, yet running away at any chance presented to him.
The ingrained principal like muscle memory reminds Jimin that he is supposed to be empty. He is only supposed to be filled to the brim with dreams he has consumed in the night, with stardust dripping from his mouth and starlight dimming in his chest.
But now, Jimin is filled with long-lost memories of his human childhood, and starbursts in his chest that linger all day and night whenever his mind is consumed with a boy whose eyes shine like white citrus. He is filled with more wistful dreams and selfish wants, the wings of a ladybug leaving behind flowers in his throat. And it’s scary. Terrifying. This sudden whirlwind of change and unfamiliar emotions had scared him away.
Because things that fall are flower petals, rain, leaves, teardrops, stars, the moon, and smiles; not him for Jungkook.
But Jungkook has let him see the wonders and beauties of the world Jimin has all but forgotten. He is a lightning storm, a meadow of sunflowers, the sunset behind an ocean - so boundless and vast that is so terrifying in the way from how he makes Jimin feel things he has long forgotten, but it is because of him that makes Jimin want to face the entire universe and his inevitable fate.
He will not run away this time. He will run towards.
There is no sunset when Jimin arrives. It is replaced by thick, rumbling clouds. It is grey and silver all around - there is no indication of time. Only grey. But the rooftop is still intact, lingering above an abandoned building amongst other buildings that seem more decrepit than usual. Within this dream lies a dead city, waiting to be revived.
And there, on the center of the rooftop ledge, Jimin sees him.
For a quick second, Jimin is brought back to the illusion of Jungkook standing on the ledge, blood stains smeared across his clothes and empty eyes tracing the fall down. And Jimin can see him turning again, one foot rising to step on an invisible surface in the air. And, without thinking, he bolts towards him and wraps his arms around Jungkook’s torso, pulling him down until he fell on top of Jimin with a yelp.
“Ow - holy fuck,” Jungkook groans, rolling off him while Jimin silently nurses his bruised tailbone, “is that your weird way of saying ‘hello’ now, Jimin? Jesus Christ, you scared the shit out of me.”
“You scared me too,” Jimin says, heart hammering against his chest, “I thought you were - I thought you were going to - “
A look of understanding is soon replaced with resignation as he quietly says, “I would never. And it’s just a dream, Jimin. If I did fall, all I would do is wake up.”
A dream. Right, it’s just a dream. Jungkook stands up, extending a hand towards him. Jimin stares up at the sky, wondering when he will be able to see the streaks of coral red again, when he takes Jungkook hand and lets him help him up from the ground. Jungkook dusts off the debris from his clothes and takes a seat on the ledge again, and after a moment of hesitation, Jimin does the same.
Silence falls upon them like a sirocco wind wading away into nothing, like Lethe’s gentle ebb and flow of its waters. There is nothing to watch before them. The sun is gone.
No - no, not gone. The sun is still here. Jimin turns to look at Jungkook. The sun is right here.
“Will you change the scenery?”
Jungkook glances at him, “Where to?”
He blinks with muted surprise, but he nods. Their surroundings fall down like collapsing walls, revealing a much more vibrant and colourful scene: the playground of their childhood, with he circular slide and the monkey bars, and the tall birch trees and green fences. They’re sitting on the grass field nearby, raucous and shrill laughter pervading the vicinity as children ran about, thrumming with energy. The sun hovers above them in the blue, blue sky, bright and powerful amidst the cirrus clouds.
Jimin turns and traces Jungkook’s side profile, how the sunlight hits his face in an angle that kindles a soft, warm glow that scintillates with a promise of hope and return. Brown eyes turned honey and gold. Blemishes, acne scars, a scar across his cheek, and a freckle from the sun and a mole on his chin - all so wonderfully, endearingly, immeasurably part of Jungkook. The sun is here.
“I didn’t know you were him.” Jungkook speaks up after a calm silence like a soul at rest, “It’s been so long. I didn’t remember how he - you - looked like as a kid. My childhood memories are fuzzy because I made myself unable to remember after my - yeah. But I - now that I think about it, there was something about your eyes. I’ve seen your eyes before, you know? As though we met in a dream.” He laughs, a wry edge to his face, “It’s ironic.”
Jimin smiles in the same wry manner, and holds courage to his chest as he finally speaks of a truth, “I’ve been remembering bits and pieces of my life, and my memories shared with you. Mostly of my childhood. I remember us… as children. I was older than you by a little bit. Two years, I believe. And I remember our adventures, and naming the bugs we would catch but let go after. I remember your face very clearly. Your cheeks were always pink, especially when we held hands. And then I was gone, and I don’t know why.”
“You moved.” Jungkook fills in for him, tugging at blades of grass, “I’ve remembered too, lately. You moved because your mother found a new job in the city that would sustain your family better. I never heard from you ever again.”
His mother. Jimin wonders what she was like. “I see. Were we good friends?”
“Yeah.” Jungkook smiles wistfully at the grass, “I liked you a lot.”
“Do you still like me?”
He turns around, disbelief in his eyes. His face varies from hurt and agitation, “Why would you ask me that? You know the answer to that already, don’t you? Of course I - fucking like you. I like you so much that I hate it.”
Jungkook crosses his arms, boring holes into the grass as he keeps his eyes downwards, “Why are you even here, Jimin? You were so adamant on leaving, on making me stop waiting for you, and I did, even though I couldn’t think clearly after what happened last time. And now you’re here and I don’t get you. What do you want me to do, Jimin? I like you, even though we can’t be together. I like you, even if we can’t do anything normal. I like you, even if you eat dreams to survive.”
“If you - if you tell me to give up on you, I will. I’ll try. If it means I can still see you, if it means it’ll make you happy, I’ll do it. I’m okay with just staying like this - like friends. So just tell me, please. What do you want me to do?”
His mouth turns dry. And here, Jimin realizes that love is plenty of things, and sacrifice is one of them - that Jungkook is the fire that makes him warm and also the fire that burns his heart; that humans make memories of the ones they love, and humans make history of the dreams they have. And how greedy it can make one be, and how breathless it makes Jimin feel. He feels so much, and all of these feelings can only be summed up into one, four-lettered word.
Jimin is a Dream Eater, who consumes dreams with warm linings and longs to dream himself, and Jimin is a Dream Eater, who is obstinate and persistent in wanting things he can never obtain.
But he wants anyways, because after all, he had always been a dreamer at heart.
“I cannot tell you what to do,” Jimin murmurs, and takes Jungkook hand in his and holds him close to his heart, “but I can tell you what I will do.”
The gate breaks loose.
“I am going to love you. You do not have to love me back. But I am going to love you with my entire heart. I will love you for me, not for you. It is a flower growing in my heart, and if my heart chooses to grow a flower for you, I will trust my heart. So I love you, even if you do not love me back.”
The anchor tied to his ankle is released, and Jimin can feel himself float up to the surface and finally breathe. He breathes in the scent of citrus and sandalwood, inhales the sight of wonderment and astonishment written over Jungkook’s wide-eyed expression, pink dusting his cheeks like it did when he was a child. He can feel his own hands tremble, or perhaps the trembling belonged to Jungkook, or perhaps it belonged to the both of them.
Jungkook takes in a shuddering breath, before he uses his other hand to run it over his face. He leans forward until his head almost touches the grass, and for a silent moment that stretches beyond the skyline, he is quiet. And then, “How - could you say that? With a stoic face, of all things. Fuck.”
“Say what?” Jimin frowns, clueless.
“That I don’t have to love you back,” Jungkook straightens up, but his hand is still obscuring his face. His voice is muffled behind his palm, “you’re so oblivious, God. Jimin, how could you still say that to me when it’s clear as fucking day that I’m already in love with you, dumbass?”
And behind his hand, Jimin can see the wide stretch of his mouth, and his hand falls to his lap, revealing a bright-eyed grin that has spread all the way to his dimpled cheeks, red with contentment. His eyes are brilliant and humid like the reflection of stars in a pond, like the shimmering of pearls, amidst the deep night of the desert skies.
Jungkook tugs at his hand, and brings it close to his smile. He peppers soft kisses across Jimin’s knuckles, before on the back of his hand, and oh, Jimin thinks to himself, feeling his own lips twitch, this is what it is like to fall deep.
Jimin glances up when the sky begins to lose its blue hue, receding back to white. He didn’t want the dream to end so quickly, not when things between them have just been established. But Jungkook doesn’t look bothered at all. Only fondness stays in his eyes and his gentle smile, even as part of the playground disappears. The sounds of children’s laughter echoes.
Jimin tightens his hand around Jungkook’s. “I will talk to him, Jungkook, I - I will talk to him and figure something out, so please wait for me until then.”
Jungkook huffs, bringing their foreheads together until they lightly touched, “You sure like to keep a guy waiting, don't cha?” He sighs, a fond smile on his face, “But another week or so wouldn’t hurt.”
He feel his lips twitch once more, and unable to hold back, he smiles with all the exhilaration flooding through him, smiles like the mountains would when spring arrives, until his cheeks aches. A fleeting thing it was, like a momentary flash of light, but he lets himself feel all the stars that glow within his body and burn vibrantly, and lets the stars keep on burning, even as the white washes over him in encompassing warmth and brings him back to his real senses.
But the warmth of the stars, of Jungkook’s feathery touch and his motley smile, stays with him throughout the cold.
Jimin first thought that it was Yoongi, but the fluttering of majestic, ivory wings in his dark orbit denotes otherwise. Jimin fights the instinct to fall down onto one knee to give his greeting for a higher being, but Morpheus’ distaste for unequal treatment due to the spectrum of their powers still rings strange for Jimin. Either way, turns out that Jimin didn’t have to look for Morpheus himself at all. Morpheus came to him.
“Jimin, darling,” His honeyed voice is sweetened with a dimpled smile, “you seem to be recovering well. How have you been?”
“Quite swell.” He can’t keep the sardonic inflection from his voice, but he only garners laughter from Morpheus. Jimin keeps a careful distance from Him, “It is a coincidence, because I have had the intention of requesting a symposium with you for a discussion.”
“No need for a symposium, dear. I already know why you wanted to look for me in the first place. You seem to forget that I have eyes everywhere, especially in dreams.” Morpheus flicks a feather off from His shoulder, and as He did so, the scene changes around them. Jimin is seized with panic, barreled with the assumption that Morpheus wants to play another game, but the panic quickly recedes once he sees where they are.
They are back in His chamber, but no throne and dais can be seen amidst the pitch black. Rather, there is a lone, candle lit table right in the middle in the vastness, armed with empty gilded plates and goblets. There’s a golden food dome covering one of them.
“Take a seat. We’ll have a chat right here. I feel rather hungry. Don’t you?”
Attempting to mask his confusion with a polite smile, Jimin does as he is told. Though, his actions are stiff and rickety, and he’s tense all over, Morpheus seems to dismiss his discomfort as He hums contentedly to Himself, unfolding a botanical linen dinner napkin and placing it across His lap. He brings the covered plate to the center and lifts the dome off. Jimin sees pearl-like, glowing little jewels in all colours of gold. Hovering slightly above the plate and flickering like a lens flare, he recognizes the burning hue that drips all over the porcelain.
“Stars?” Jimin flickers his eyes up.
“Dreams,” Morpheus says, “in the form of stars.”
“I have never seen them detached before.”
“Well, yes. They take up an intangible and amorphous shape when you ingest them from the dream itself, but once extracted and twiddled around a bit, they seize a more sustainable form, such as a star.” Morpheus nods, balancing one atop His palm. It flares like a flame, “Dreams are stars. Dreamers are the bringers of stars. What a comfortable relationship between our separate life forms.”
He can hear the suggestive lilt in his voice. “I do not regret it.” Jimin says as he eyes the dreams, keeping his hands tucked beneath his thighs, “I know I have sabotaged the invisibility of our existence, with my entanglement with a human, and I understand that. But I do not regret my choice.”
Morpheus smiles, but it is one without any odium. Rather, He looks a bit resigned, “I know you would say that, Jimin. Eat something first, before we talk.”
Still uneasy, Jimin nods. He takes a few stars of dreams and drinks them, blinking away the warm, fuzzy feelings that came along with it. The warmth pools down to his stomach and lingers, and Jimin isn’t sure if it was from the dreams or from the everlasting warmth Jungkook shared with him. He glances up, and Morpheus takes a graceful sip from His goblet. Whiskey flames mixed with rosewater wine.
Morpheus places His goblet down, and as He does so, His wings seem to furl a bit closer to His body. He looks at Jimin, and reads through him, “You want to be human.”
Jimin startles, clutching the table cloth. “How - ”
“Because you want to see the real ocean and the real sunset. You want to dream. You want all the things humans do so simply without a care in the world. And you want to be with him. Am I wrong?” Morpheus smiles, a rather wistfulness to the shape of it, “But you know that it is impossible, don’t you? Your soul has already been recycled into this state. I cannot rewind the doings to your soul and make you human, when you have already died.”
A pause, “But there is another similar option.” Gold mist swirls between his hands suspended in air, materializing a glassy image of Life and Death manipulating souls through infinity, before it wrinkles back into nothing. But Jimin knows it, recognizes the belief and possibility of such a method, and looks up at Morpheus in quiet surprise.
“Why?” Jimin asks, uncertainty laced in his voice, “Even after I have gone against your rules, and have done things a Dream Eater should never do, why would you do this for me?”
“Oh, well. Not for free, of course.” He chuckles, “But you see, Jimin. I have witnessed enough corruption to deem love as an incentive for humans to do horrible things. For Gods to do horrible things.”
He lifts up a hand, and the pitch blackness around them morphs into - memories. It reflects off from the walls and the ground, playing the same moving image over and over again: A golden apple flickering between the faces of Gods, of Zeus, of Paris of Troy and Menelaus’ wife, Helen of Sparta, eloping. Then, a raging battle against the city of Troy by the Greeks that led to the death of Achilles, an arrow to the heel. There are deaths of numerous faces Jimin cannot recognize, things he does not remember learning.
“It is an endless cycle of pain and torment. I don’t understand why anyone would give up their lives for a fleeting moment of a flimsy connection that can be so easily teared down.”
Jimin watches as Ajax impales himself with a sword. Jimin turns his head away when he sees blood.
“Love in all its form,” Morpheus says, “whether it be love for another, or love for a religion, or love for a certain political perspective of the world - can become so twisted within one’s mind. Love turns to passion, and passion turns to devotion, and devotion turns to obstinacy, and obstinacy turns to self-righteous beliefs, and self-righteous beliefs turns to disagreement with others, and disagreement with others turns to bloodshed. All these countless deaths, through countless of wars, despite my dreams for peace being unanswered. Cruel, isn’t it? Love of all kinds infects all, no matter who and what they are. And dreams of all kinds perpetually influence the worse.”
“Not all bad comes from them,” Jimin murmurs.
“So you say. Maybe I’ve become cynical, but you would too, if you have been alive for so long.” A small smile slowly spreads on his face, “But, perhaps, you have proved me wrong.”
Jimin is clueless as to what he’s talking about. The memories around them fall down and shatter into tiny glimmers.
“That boy you have feelings for - he’s an interesting one. I know his dreams, and of his memories, how heartache in all forms have caused darkness to swathe him. But even so, his soul still remains bright. So uncharacteristic of one who has seen the terrors of the mind. And this love he has for you, and you for him -” Morpheus swipes at the air above their plates, and Jimin glances down, eyes widening as he sees Jungkook through the gilded reflection.
He’s laughing, books tucked in his arms. He recognizes Seokjin throwing an arm around him and giving him a playful nudge. Jimin’s heart lifts - he’s laughing, he looks better, he’s happy.
“ - it’s pure.” Morpheus speaks softly, “Your love is pure.”
Jimin didn’t know he’d been twisting the napkin in his hands until Morpheus sighs, his wings shifting behind him. “I have not seen this kind of purity in so long. I do not remember it. It’s rather humbling, I suppose, that light still exists in a world so dark - that light still exists in the darkness of mere being.”
A question burns at the back of his throat. “Why did you give me back one of my memories?”
Morpheus picks up his goblet, swirling around the contents inside. As though in introspection, He speaks mildly with a thoughtful expression, “Your soul has always been a special one, Jimin. Even as a human, you have wielded compassion and love like a weapon against all odds. I should have known that a soul like yours could never be erased of that intrinsic quality.”
Morpheus stands up, and hastily, Jimin follows suit. He trails after the God, glancing behind him at the candle lit table abandoned in the middle of the vastness. “I did not expect you to find yourself attached to a human you have met before in your previous life - to someone you have loved, no less.”
He stops before a wall - or what Jimin believes it to be a wall, and like a puddle, a ripple conjures beneath his lifted hand and the reflection of two kids appear. Jimin immediately recognizes the other kid as little Jungkook, chubby cheeks and all, and he and the other kid were perusing across the grassy field, bouquets of plucked wildflowers bunched up in their hands. The other kid, with a button nose and half-moon eyes, smiling like earthshine; the other kid, with features that are too familiar to be anyone else. The other kid, who had been -
“That’s me,” Jimin breathes. To someone you have loved, no less. The words churn around in his head, being picked apart by the cogs in his brain. And then, he remembers the beginning and how it was - with his hands on his shoulders, the jagged surface of the concrete pavements and the rough bark of wood. The sensation of the sun dancing around their backs; the budding feelings he felt for him that made his head spin, but was unspoken of, unrequited of. “I… loved him as a human too?”
Morpheus shoots him a knowing look, “It was too much of a coincidence to be mere chance. And I believe it is fate instead that brought you two together again, despite your circumstances. There, I thought - how beautiful it was, to fall in love with the same person in each and every, passing life,” He smiles, “like serendipity.”
“And so, it all comes down to this question: what will you give me in exchange? I gave you your youngest memories of a boy you continue to love. What will you give me for that? I gave you the autonomy to pursue a friendship with him, that led to something more. I gave you time, secrets, revelations. What will you give me for all of that?”
Morpheus intertwines His hands behind His back as He turns to face Jimin. “The reason for my leniency on you is because of the love you share is pure. When I saw your ardent efforts in saving that boy in the dreams I have sent you in, I saw how much you cared for him. It instilled hope within me that this is still possible for humanity, for deities such as myself, if it is possible between a human and a Dream Eater. But even a God cannot grant your wishes without something being offered as well. You know what you want, but do you know what you will give me?”
Jimin stares at Him, breath stuttering in his chest. And he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what he possesses that can be much use to a God, of all things. He merely eats dreams. How useful can that be, when He has millions of other Dream Eaters who do the same?
He searches through his heart and navigates through the intricate cobwebs. Jimin cannot be with Jungkook as he is; he remembers the ephemeral sight of his smile, the sight of his laughter, and he doesn’t want that to disappear from the reality he truly belongs in. At the end of the day, Jimin understands his worth, and though he may be somebody whom Jungkook loves, Jimin is not real in his world. He is a dream in the eyes of others. That is why Jimin believes the option he is given will be right. It is the only option, after all, that will guarantee a happy ending for the both of them.
He pushes past the hanging threads that drip blood and lost stars, time travelers in their own riptide, and glances down at his hands. Jimin can feel the phantom weight of Jungkook’s hand in his, the ghost of his feathery touch that grace the sides of his face; he can taste the sweetness and bitterness of the diaphanous memories that linger above his tongue like a daydream.
Jimin blinks in a ripple of realization. Memories. Jimin thinks back to the pieces of his childhood memories; Morpheus’ memories of the Trojan War that jumped abruptly from one to the next in confusing order, as though it was missing certain fragments; the company of million of memories He has probably seen through while he plucked away the humanity of those souls. Jimin remembers his wistful smile when he talked about love, the wobbly fluttering of his grand, ivory wings, and why Yoongi often visits Him as both a faithful messenger and a faithful companion.
What is the second most valuable thing to the God of Dreams?
(Jimin did not know a God can be lonely.)
Morpheus must have seen a flicker of epiphany cross his face. “Have you thought of an answer?”
Jimin looks down at his hands. He clenches them into fists, wondering how long it would be until he becomes another being in another life. He looks up at Morpheus, and minutely nods.
There’s a bee on a clover. A cool breeze billows by, bringing along the wildflowers and long strands of grass to prance in its direction. They’re in an infinite meadow surrounded by bright forsythias underneath the warm sun, and Jimin can see the blue sky - wondering, if he swallows it, if his mouth would become blue too.
Jungkook picks up a daisy, twirling it around in his fingers as he glances at him quizzically, “Well. Yeah, of course I do. It’s like, one of the most common tropes - uh, which I love - in media.”
Jimin didn’t understand a single thing. “A fish?”
“What? No - no, not trout. I mean trope. You know - okay, nevermind.” Jungkook exhales through his mouth, “Anyways, what about them?”
“Do you know the story behind soulmates?” Jimin asks, and when he receives a shake of the head from Jungkook, he continues. “Aristophanes brought about the story of Zeus cutting humankind in half, and because Zeus felt threatened by their brilliance and ingenuity, he condemned them into searching for their other half. Love is simply the name of for the desire and pursuit of the whole.”
“Wow, and just when I thought Morpheus was a hoity-toity asshole.”
“He can probably hear you.” Jimin sighs, “As I was saying, in the beginning, there were three planets: the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth. From the sun came the man; from earth, the woman; from moon, the androgyne. They possessed four limbs of each and were double-faced. So, the Gods cut the creatures into man-man, woman-woman, and man-woman halves. Those who had been double women before sought out women; those who had been androgynous sought out members of the opposite sex; and those who had been double men sought out the company of men. It is so that they could become whole again by being rejoined with their soulmates.”
Jimin follows a ladybug flying past them, watching as it lands on his knee, “Morpheus believes we are one of the Suns.”
“He thinks we’re - ?” He lets the question hang in the air as he motions between them.
“Do you believe in it?”
Jungkook hums, pressing his lips together in thought. He leans back with his palms on the ground, eyes skirting across the glaucous sky. He turns his head and considers Jimin briefly from head to toe, and laughs, “Nah. Honestly, that’d be weird. And like, for starters, you’re way too smart to have been a part of me before. Besides, I think it is fate that brought us together. But like, in the way a bell chimes once you’ve met the right person, not because Zeus was a fuckin’ pussy.”
Jimin can’t help but laugh even if he shouldn’t, since Jungkook has the unfiltered propensity of slandering the Gods, “Fate?
“Yeah.” Jungkook smiles, a wide one, “The fate of the stars.”
Jimin drinks in the way the sunlight curves around his face, his eyes catching the flecks of gold. He would miss this sight, miss him, and as though Jungkook has read his mind, his smile falls and is replaced with a look of solemnity. His eyes avert to the side, and they sit in silence, admiring the beauty of the tranquil meadows and the vernal firmament, careholder of the heavens.
“So,” Jungkook drawls, twiddling with the blades of grass, “reincarnation.”
Jimin nods, mirroring him with the grass. “When you die, Morpheus would take our souls and send them off to Death and Life. They will make sure we will meet again in the next life.”
“But - what’s the point, though, if we won’t have any memories of each other when we’re reincarnated?” He gnaws at his lower lip. He’s been biting it every so often that it’s become red now, “I won’t remember you.”
“We will know once we cross paths. And though we may not have memories of each other, we can make new ones to cherish. It will not be the end. The world is infinite. We will continue to live. We will continue to love, even if it is in different ways.”
Reluctance permeates his expression, but Jungkook gives a curt nod anyways. It would settle into his point of acceptance soon anyways, because if Jungkook was anything, he was patience and understanding wrapped in a bundle of starshine.
Jungkook asks, “And you?”
“I gave him my memories to keep,” his hand snakes across the grass as he wraps his pinky around Jungkook’s own, “so that when my soul is relinquished, I will not remember anything of my past life in those last moments.”
“But didn’t you say that you wanted to remember?”
“Yes,” Jimin reassures him with a smile, “but it is worth sacrificing.”
The reassurance seems to work, because the burden is lifted off from Jungkook’s shoulders and his face lights up with a brighter smile of his own. His gaze trails ahead, “What else?”
“I devote my utmost loyalty to him. I cannot not wander off my path as a Dream Eater this time if I want our reincarnation to be guaranteed. I will carry out my duties and collect dreams to eat and give to Him. And at last, I will help him search for his lost memories, when half of them had been scattered across the universe from his father’s fury when he found out that he had killed his siblings.”
Jungkook lets out a low whistle, “Sounds like a reality TV show I’d watch.”
“Suits your strange taste in entertainment.” Jimin snorts.
“So, um. Does that mean we won’t be seeing each other anymore?” Jungkook tentatively asks, “Since you have promises to uphold to him.”
And though he hates to say this, “Yes, I - cannot visit you anymore, nor take your dreams. But he has granted me the permission to visit you once every year on the date of your birth.”
Jungkook is quiet. “That’s so long.”
Jimin swallows the lump in his throat. “But it is better than nothing.”
“So this is it? This is goodbye? I won’t see you until next year, watching myself grow old while you don’t?”
Jimin cups his face gently in his hands, wanting to smooth away the crumple in his expression. Misty-eyed and slightly sniffling, Jungkook heaves a great sigh as he drops his gaze. Jimin can see his wispy eyelashes flutter downward. He wonders if he’s able to count them all. But there is still a furrow to his brow and the obvious downward tilt to his lips, so Jimin tugs him closer until his lips could reach, and he lands a soft peck to his forehead. When Jimin leans back, Jungkook is blinking widely at him, conspicuously taken aback.
“You always have a flair for the dramatics, don’t you?” Jimin smiles at him fondly, “It is not goodbye. It is merely the beginning. And I have always been a bit on the selfish side, Jungkook, so I want you to live your life to the fullest. Live until you are old and wrinkly and retired, feeding koi fishes in a pond you keep in the backyard of your cottage. Love your own infinity and become more comfortable in the void of your own existence. I want you to be happy, in your own life, even if - I may not be part of it. And I am okay with that. You can shine just as bright as you did when you were a child.”
Jungkook squeezes his eyes shut, lightly headbutting Jimin as his trembling fingers come to wrap around his wrists. He can feel his breath against his cheek, hearing ocean waves in the way he his words hitch in the back of his throat. And as Jimin waits for him to speak, there suddenly came a flash of determination in his eyes, and he leans forward and plants his lips against his closed mouth.
It is a quick and succinct kiss; firm but always gentle, and it is over before Jimin can even process it. His lips tingle with lingering warmth that travels all throughout his body, leaving behind petals of cherry blossoms that tickle his insides, and he looks up to see Jungkook somewhat flushed and somewhat enamored.
Jimin places a finger to his lips, tracing the shape of Jungkook’s mouth that had been on his for a fleeting moment, “What was that for?”
“I didn't know what to say,” Jungkook admits sheepishly, “You're like the cheesiest person I have ever met. I was flustered!”
“You are very red.”
“Can you, like, not say that with a stone face? I can't tell whether you're teasing me or just being uppity about it.”
Jimin laughs into a hand, and Jungkook cracks a shy smile. The sun wavers for a moment, and so does the smile in his eyes. It's jarring how in this illusion of permanence, like a whole other world, could present the facade of a different time - slow time. But all that is inside is nothing but ephemeral.
“I'll wait for you.” Jungkook says, “I've waited for so long. I can wait for another hundred years or so. But do the same for me too, Jimin. Live to the fullest, because you are real. Always have been.”
“Okay,” Jimin quietly answers. The grass loses its colour.
Slowly, the world around them strips of its prismatic colours as stark white begins to corrode them. Jimin smiles, and it is one born of joy and trust and poignancy, full of feelings he can't put into words, “Thank you, Jungkook. For being my day one.”
“Shut up, you sappy bastard,” Jungkook laughs wetly, and grabs his hand as tightly as he could. “I'll see you soon, Jimin. Don't stop dreaming.”
Jimin feels his smile widen and says to him, “Don't stop living.”
He watches the twinkle in his eye gleam last once, before white washes over him. He falls, lingers with longing and subdued sadness, but he has promises to keep and a wish that must be granted at the end of life, and shakes it away with steel courage.
He glances down at sleeping Jungkook, about to rouse from his slumber, and he hopes that there will be Dream Eaters out there who will eat his nightmares away, so that he may sleep peacefully. But Jimin has faith that the sun will continue to shine on him with ringlets of star-speckled dreams.
Hopeful, Jimin turns and finally, he goes.
But Jimin believes that the end is never really the end. Nothing really ends. It is a ceaseless and constant continuation of living, and how we conduct our life is our own, autonomous choice. How flowers peel back their petals in full bloom through different seasons, the essence of life can be seen as the same, growing and receding and blooming in a completely different manner underneath a shed of light.
And, like fables and stories, the end is merely the beginning.
When Jungkook turns twenty-two, Jimin gifts him an opal egg.
He had asked, “What does this mean?”
“The universe,” Jimin replied back, “you will hold the entire universe in your hands.”
(It appears in Jungkook’s hand when he wakes up.)
When Jungkook turns twenty-three, he looks at Jimin and says with a sad smile, “You would have been twenty-five.”
When Jungkook turns thirty, he is still handsome and youthful and perhaps a bit jaded, and they spend their time in companionable silence as the sunset before the ocean waves glimmer gold in the distance.
When Jungkook turns forty, he holds Jimin’s hand and says, ”I want to write a book about you.”
When Jungkook turns fifty, Jimin kisses the furrow away from his brow. “You may be wrinkly, but I still love you just the same.”
Jungkook had laughed, “Fuck off.”
Throughout it all, Jimin keeps his promises. He eats dreams from different humans, tasting the sweet and sourness of them all, inhaling the nightmares that prickle his chest with viscous darkness but builds the strength and endurance of his constitution. He collects dreams, feeding them to Yoongi in his bouts of despondency, but Yoongi is healing and growing and smiling more; Jimin gives the rest of the dreams to Morpheus, to which he uses to feed his dream plants.
He wanders across the earth, gathering lost, infinitesimal shards of celestial memories to piece back together like a labyrinthine puzzle. He even says hello to the Grim Reaper, when he crosses paths with her whenever a dream he finishes eating is forever the last of the human’s.
And every so often, his heart will feel heavy. He will find himself longing for warm touches and wordless understanding, but Jimin has been forgoing the cowardice he once possessed with impassioned determination to bring alive his desire of a new life in the next. And though he may not age, may not garner new wrinkles and laugh lines like Jungkook does, Jimin thinks he has grown too - in a way that cannot be seen but can be felt.
So, when Jungkook goes peacefully, Jimin does not cry.
One night, after he is full to the brim with warm dreams, he wanders across the roofs of suburban houses. He can see tiny stars peak out beyond the thin clouds like a fresh glass of champagne, and the moon hangs from the sky in all its radiant glory. It would be his time to leave this world soon as well and have his soul fitted right next to Jungkook’s waiting one, but first, he revels in his heart’s solitude like the wide space between the stars, and wonders of his next life.
In another universe, they don’t exist. They don’t cross paths, they don’t leave lingering kisses or hold hands, and they never fall in love. They never meet. They don’t exist.
In another universe, Jungkook does not exist. Jimin holds hands with another girl, kisses another boy, dreams of a face he cannot see. Jungkook does not exist.
In another universe, they meet, but not as lovers. They are members of a band that is taking the world by storm, linking arms with budding friendship and perhaps something more that is left unexplored out of fear and hesitation. They sing in harmonies, they dance like the flow of gilded rivers, and ignore the pull of each other’s souls.
In another universe, they meet as children in a town that is against them. But they fall in love, a pessimist and an optimist; rose-coloured boys. They separate and unite. They grow old together.
And in this universe, Jimin is sure that they will meet again in the next life, and there will be no tragedies. He smiles up at the sky, inhaling the lingering taste of citrus and wispy dreams.
And, oh - how love truly is just as sweet as he had imagined it to be.