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Tears to the Tide

Chapter Text

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“Let go, Jungkook.”

Jungkook held on tighter to the man's wet palms, the claws cutting through his wrist and the edges of his hands.

His dislocated shoulder felt weak, his hold on the black hawk's handle slowly slipping off. The other Deltas were struggling to hold on to the metal frame while the pilot maneuvered the rotating helicopter to hold it in its place.

“No hyung— no! Don't let go!”

“Let go." The man smiled briefly in his grimace, showing a hint of bloodied teeth and fangs. "Live.”

Jungkook can feel the slide of the rough skin on his palms which now hover on air, reaching out for the disappearing dot in the sea.

Out here in the vastness of the ocean and the emptiness of air, Jungkook did not feel free.

Out here, his tears evaporated in the heat of desert skies, long before they would reach the ocean, nowhere near the fallen body of a dead man sinking deep in the bottom where nobody would find him.

Out here, Jungkook died while he was still alive.

 

While it may have taken him quite awhile to fall asleep on the six hour train ride back from the capital city to his hometown, of early summer green meadows and faded paints, Jungkook still finds himself waking up very easily, bones ready and eyes wide for the destination.

Every inch of his skin tingles with what would be both hesitation and exhilaration, fear and euphoria, at seeing his hometown all over again. His jeans-clad legs move forward as if on auto, taking him through familiar streets facing friendly neighbourhood stores and new, foreign ones.

Little has changed, Jungkook notices; from where he first stepped down at the town’s train station, all the way to the town center.

In a little big town like this, small malls and playgrounds stand next to each other like old friends; like would schools to worship places, the town’s public hospital and swimming pools. Children run around in colourful shorts with ice creams dripping down their small sticky hands, little heads which bump into Jungkook occasionally when they forget how to use their wolfish nose to smell and see.

A child bumps into his waist next, the third in line as they play Blind Pups. He tries to sniff Jungkook as the man stands still, opening his eyes when the man remains quiet.

“You smell weird. You're not from here, Uncle?”

While looking at the boy sends something painful into his guts, Jungkook smiles almost instantly; patting the boy’s head as the child squints his eyes to see Jungkook better with the sun as the backlight. 

“I’m from here. I just haven't been home in awhile.”

The boy smiles up at him, showing rows of small teeth and flushed cheeks from the play session. Half a second would pass before his friends start yelling for him to continue the game, shouting and calling for him loudly from the other side of the playground. The boy quickly turns around to make his way back to his friends.

“Welcome home, Uncle!”

Jungkook watches as the boy’s short legs bring him back to his troupe of friends, and it does not take long for him to be overflooded with memories from his own childhood. The boy reminds him so much of himself as a child, once so little and so free. 

He takes another look around him as he continues walking, passing by grandmothers sitting on a medium-sized soapbox, peeling what would be beansprouts and spinach as they laugh among each other, gossips keeping them up and healthy.

Everything is built in a scattering harmony, a result of centuries of history and a harmonious community brought together by unity and a progressive spirit of change. Wolf-people live in ceremonious peace, wolf-children sniffing around each other like they would in the woods, and packs merge regardless of class. In a world like this, nobody feels ready to leave.

Jungkook was not ready to leave, but he did anyway, not quite three and a half years ago.

It was as much duty as it was an ambition; a longtime wish and tradition of his family. His great grandparents have roamed the world with their claws out and a rifle on their back and a knife slotted into their boots. His grandfather followed suit, then his father, and then his brother. Jungkook has finished his. Soon his children would probably follow his footsteps.

Jungkook has not made his mind on that.

Wartimes have long ceased for many decades, so the trips were always shorter for the younger generations, though one could not say the same for Jungkook. His turn came at a volatile time, and the current times meant permanent tumult, constant chaos. Regardless of the impending danger, the family has donned the badges on their uniforms for many years, and Jungkook was not one to stray from traditions. Even if the paradise of a hometown beckoned for him to stay, Jungkook left anyway.

Even if paradise came in the form of a soulmate, a love long left waiting, but never forgotten, Jungkook left.

Jungkook breathes in the air of the hometown's summer a little bit more, careful not to sniff too much lest he smells the inappropriate—of the things people hide underneath their clothes, inside their pockets, and beneath their walls. He is trained to have the ability at a maximum and also how not to overuse it, and Jungkook is not keen to smell other people’s dirty laundry either.

What he is keen to smell is the smell of home; of the roadside florist and the forgotten sand castle on the playground. He does not miss the opportunity to sniff the scent of meat stewed in ginger and chili, the brewing barley tea, the kimchi being squashed between gloved hands.

As he walks past the town dwellers he does not miss the omnipresent scent of green tea and jasmine which permeates through all the walls of the town. The years out there in the emptiness of deserts and oceans have left his nose dry and sensitive to anything else which smell unlike sea-salt and burnt sand.

Despite such control, he unwillingly catches the whiff of the closest beach to the town, the one he grew up swimming in. Jungkook does not miss it as much, not willing to be near any open waters any soon.

He certainly does not skip sniffing the earthy scent of clay, the scent which beckons him home for years—thousand miles away from where he once left the town for, and a careful thirty minute walk from the train station.

When he arrives at the workshop, nobody is loitering around in the heat.

The small workshop stays hidden in the corner of the shop lots, overlooking a small hill and a large meadow of dried grass and long, wild weeds.

Summer sun is scorching hot in all its glory, and faraway in the backdrop the telecommunication tower stands proud with all its cables and power lines connecting the town to faraway lands, none of Jungkook would like to think about. Right now he is here, and he wants his thoughts to stay here.

On the very front entrance of the small workshop are clutters of clay sculptures, a head of Buddha, and a medium-sized burgundy coloured clay bowl filled with water to the brim. A lone lotus sits floating on it with its leaves and roots invisible, a promise of ombre pink and purple in the drab background.

Out here in the corner lot store overlooking the hill, everything is earth-coloured and dull—grey asphalts against brown sand, and faded yellow walls.

The pop of magenta remains the only thing vivid in this part of town, aside from the workshop’s nameplate. On it are some old Chinese characters Jungkook knows would indicate the name of the current owner’s father.

Jungkook does not enter from the front door, and instead trudges to the back of the workshop. His bagpack perches heavy on his shoulders, a black cap protecting his eyes from the blare of the sun. Jungkook silently curses his choice of a black sweater for the sweltering weather, a good absorbent of heat. He feels like a walking tar.

Within the small grounds of the gated back porch of the workshop, the kilns and the firing ovens are placed next to one another, medium-sized and big-sized fireplaces all organised in a professional manner. The whole place is left vacant as the owners are most probably inside, doing wonders with their hands.

Putting his bag down on one of the stools near the gated doors, Jungkook takes familiar steps in.

The workshop did not change much from the last time he left, last time he saw it.

Slabs of clay left to dry for future processes are arranged neatly in one spot, while in another corner the monthly clutter of broken claypots and cups sit uncollected. He knows this is where they dump all the broken artworks by the students, all the reject products unfit for sales.

A loud voice beckons him to walk further into a small room overlooking the lobby.

A lanky man is standing in front of his desk, facing a female client whose hands are caressing a medium-sized, traditionally-made clay bowl which Jungkook assumes would be made into a sink. Jungkook has not stopped smiling from the minute he entered the premise, and now he smiles a bit wider, recognising the older man talking in an instant.

“We’ve checked for cracks and leaks multiple times, but you can try it again before and after installing. It’s pretty solid.”

The man is still standing with his back to Jungkook as he inspects the sink over and over again.

The lady beams as she looks up, looking eager to bring it home more than anything. “I love it, will get back to you after installing. Thank you, Hoseok.”

The man, Hoseok smiles just as wide, Jungkook can see the way his cheeks bunch up from the back. “No problem, Ms. Kim. Let me send this over to your car after I get this safely wrapped up. You can wait in there. It’s pretty hot, isn’t it?”

As the woman agrees and leaves for her car, it does not take long for Hoseok to notice Jungkook’s presence at the threshold of the door when he turns around. The man’s eyes widen, and a smile forms easily to show his perfect set of teeth, metaphorically as wide as the diameter of the sink.

“Oh my God! Jungkook!”

“Hyung!”

Jungkook does not wait to hug the man as they both cross the room to meet each other halfway. Like years before, Hoseok feels light and bony, muscle on bones holding him tight as he laughs carelessly in Jungkook's ears. He can feel the older slapping his body three times before they break the tight hug apart.

Jungkook misses his scent a lot—of clay and lavender, something reminiscent of the flowers in the arboretum near Hoseok’s house.

“Wow Jungkook. Wow. My goodness.”

“Yes, hyung.” Jungkook beams so wide he feels his teeth falling off if he does not stop any soon.

Hoseok’s eyes water in an instant, his face getting red with so much emotions. “We missed you so much, Kook. So much. When we heard about the—”

Hoseok stops speaking for a moment, and Jungkook watches as the man’s adam’s apple bobs up and down as he gulps back spit, or tears. “When they told us you’re safe, we were crying in joy. I’m glad you’re home.”

Hoseok hugs him again, and Jungkook feels a sting in his nose, but the older man breaks the hug fast.

“Hold on Kook, I have so much to say. We have so much to talk about. I’ve to send this to the customer first. I thought you’re coming back in a month?”

Hoseok continues the work from earlier like he was not almost crying just seconds before, packing the sink with a wrapping paper. While the clay sink looks heavy Hoseok maneuvers it pretty easily. The alpha’s strength is nothing like what he looks like.

“Does Jimin know? He’s been really… He couldn’t wait to see you.”

Jungkook stays quiet at Hoseok’s question, feeling both his wolf and his conscience rolling around each other in joy and anxiety. “No, hyung. I wanted to surprise him.”

“Make it good, Jungkook. He waited too long. He’s in class, but he should be finished by now.” Hoseok lifts the clay sink and carries it with all the strength of his body, turning to Jungkook once again before he leaves. “Good to see you back, Kook. We miss you.”

Jungkook does not wait long before Hoseok leaves, a huge smile still on his face, before he marches out towards another extension of the building.

There are a couple of workshops, but one is empty, and another is filled with about eleven people, all dressed in aprons with white and grey smears on it. Some look young, but another half are adult students who look as old as he is. All of them are focused on moulding something in their hands, wet clay everywhere.

The scent is welcoming, and Jungkook can almost imagine the touch of clay in his hand. Wet clay is always cold and refreshing to touch. 

While everyone is sitting on the benches around the worktables, a lone man in white shirt stands and walks around confidently. He looks almost as tall as Jungkook is, but appears to be younger in so many ways, even when Jungkook personally knows the man is older.

Occasionally the man would stop by one of the students, gently taking the wet clay from their hands. He would close his eyes as he pinches and touches, before pointing out something to the creator privately.

The room is filled with a clean kind of brightness of grey and whites—the grey clay and the man's gossamer-light white shirt, all glass windows slid open to let the summer breeze waft in alongside the stark brightness. The fan is operating on full volume regardless, and everything light flutters with the movement of the wind.

The man’s fluffy black hair is ruffled messily by the rush of the afternoon breeze as he passes by one of the many open windows, and for a few seconds his eyes flutter close. Then he opens them again as he walks to the next student, a small smile etched on his pale skin.

Jungkook’s heart jolts in euphoria.

Here is the home he left—a home built on the beautiful smile etched on the spread of pale skin, attached to the softness of ebony hair, and Jungkook wants to reach out to touch it.

But he hides instead, wedged beneath the two opened windows on the inside of the building, a silent wolf stalking its prey. Jungkook feels himself being preyed upon, breath quickening at the sight of the older man, and his scent which Jungkook can always differentiate from among the seas of scents.

He looks around the workshop, takes notice of the clutter of tools, of clay pots and mugs everywhere. At a spot by the window facing the powerlines which Jungkook knows the man likes to sit on, Jungkook spots his mug of tea. An unfinished face sculpture lies next to it, a half face of a man and his bosom, showing only distorted lips and a delicately sculpted strong neck. 

He watches next as the man takes a small bowl from a young lady who laughs sheepishly with her friends, especially when the man points to a weird curve of the cup. He laughs with them too.

“Remember, when you do this technique," the man holds the cup expertly as he speaks, kind eyes looking at each of the clients but never the wet clay, which stays snug in his hands. His voice is nothing but a soft summer breeze, a deep timbre in a high tone. “—you have to feel it with your fingers. Don’t look at it, or else you’ll be obsessed with how it looks like, instead of how it should feel like.”

“It’s difficult, Sir!”

A young lady chimes in, sticking her nose up in the air as she tries not to look at the cup in her hand which looks pretty distorted, the opening becoming too wide to be a small cup. Jungkook knows from experience that it is going to be a plate soon. “I want to see how it looks like.”

The man does not lose the smile as he licks his bottom lip, nodding in understanding.

“The philosophy behind this traditional technique is to get to know how you react to earth in its most basic form. Earth is creations. You learn where to touch right, how much pressure to give, how much is too much. You learn to not depend on appearances, on things you see with the naked eye.”

The man continues speaking again as he passes the cup back to the lady, and takes another from a friend by her side, observing it as he feels it with his nimble fingers.

“For example this one, it looks pretty fine, but there's a little bit too much pressure at times and too little at another, and now the wall is uneven. You won’t really know unless you hold it, so you have to feel it with your touch.”

When he hands it back, they are looking at him in awe—of how much he says with something very technical, of how good he looks in the afternoon light. Of how soothing his voice is in the midst of summer heat, like iced honey on dry throats.

Jungkook was parched, and now he is sated.

“Think you got it. Good job! This is only the second class, so we’ll do more.” The man moves towards the next tables after leaving the ladies a few words of encouragement, getting them to finish the last bits of their activity.

Jungkook hides a bit more, not wanting his presence to be known as the man walks towards the front of the class, his dirty black apron almost a costume with his thin white shirt. He talks as he walks, handing out wooden blocks which act as trays for the students who are ready to submit their artwork.

“You can put the finished and decorated ones on the wooden block, and we’ll dry them out before firing them. You can see them in our next class.”

He stops by a man who looks really tall even when he is sitting. The teacher looks at one cup attentively before slapping the man's back slowly, a smile easy on his lips. The tall man smells like an alpha and Jungkook squints harder.

Jungkook catches the word ‘good job’ forming on the teacher’s mouth, as he leaves three trays for the table’s occupants.

He feels a shudder running through his vein and filling in his flesh at the smile the older man gives openly, a touch of jealousy that leaves as quickly as it comes. He controls himself, as the man now stands at the very frontmost of the classroom overlooking everyone who is now looking at him in attention.

“We’ll do a lot more in the next class, we'll do other techniques like coil and slab, and then we'll go for the potter's wheel. You’ve learnt how to prepare clay, how to knead normal clay and kaolin, and you’ve picked your favourites. You learnt how to pinch pots right too!”

The man beams as he speaks, and Jungkook wants to touch his lips and his smile with his fingertips, with his lips.

“The clay is you, the earth is you. Once you’ve learnt to be one with the clay, you’ll learn a lot about yourself too. You can see your products now, and there should be as much of you on them, like your soul inside your physical body.”

Jungkook listens to everything, breathing in the words straight to his lungs and his heart, the voice a soothing breeze on a warm afternoon.

He waits a bit more, waits as the students take their time cleaning their hands at the room’s sink and returning their aprons. A few of them stay to talk to the teacher, leaving the room one by one once they feel ready to part with their finished creations.

The man stays as the room is vacated; apron still attached to his front, his loose work jeans looking washed out with dry clay smeared everywhere.

Jungkook loves him like this—all dirty and messy, clay smeared on every part of his skin. Jungkook loves him in every way.

With the crowd gone, Jungkook finds the missing bravery to walk into the room as the man scrapes a table off wet clay, putting them in a tiny hill of misshaped clay from students’ practice.

The man’s wolf might not be awake enough to notice a different scent coming in as he scrapes the clay off the surfaces—or probably he is too unguarded, surrounded by the element of safe and home that he does not notice a foreign scent coming from Jungkook’s sweaty body.

Or probably he is too used to the scent of home that even when it has left him for years, it sticks to him and embraces him in a hug too tight he does not even bother too look. Jungkook would like to think he is still someone else’s home. The man's home.

“Jimin.”

The breeze is one with the sway of trees outside, the fan loud and dizzying in the absence of students, but Jungkook’s voice is clear even in its softness.

The man—Jimin stops, quickly standing erect as he turns, dirty hands covered in clay; a hand hovering in air and a scraper in the clutch of another. Eyes wide, and lips half-open, Jungkook catches the words in slow motion as he crosses the threshold to reach the man.

“Jungkook. God. Jungkookie.”

Jimin tosses away the scraper as he wipes his hands slowly on his apron. His eyes do not leave Jungkook’s face even when his face contorts to show a smile, and a tearful smile next.

“You’re here. I thought- a month- you're here.”

Jungkook smiles easily, unwilling to waste a moment not showing the man how happy he feels in his presence. He moves closer, now only a step farther from the man. This is the closest they have been in three years and a half, and to be honest Jungkook is lost.

He takes off his cap, hands shaking as he tosses it on the nearest table, ruffling his short hair. He wants to look good for the man.

“You’re home.”

"I'm home."

When he nods next, Jungkook catches the sight of the man’s eyes which have now begin to water. Even when he smiles so wide, his eyes are scrunched up in two perfect curves to hide the welling pools of tears. Regardless, a tear rolls down his cheek so easily, drawing a line through a smear of clay which has dried, leaving him looking ashy on one cheek.

Jungkook holds out a hand to reach Jimin's face to wipe it clean, excited at the thought of having the man's skin on his fingertips again. At the touch of the man’s skin, soft clay against his dry one, Jungkook breathes easy.

He wants to hug Jimin so much at this moment, at every moment that has led to this second, but right now the feelings are overwhelming.

Jungkook could not quite move. There is the constant fear lingering within him for months; the suppressed paranoia which keeps on creeping out from its roots even after months in the hospital. He fears Jimin would reject his touch. He fears a lot of things. 

“I’m home, Jimin hyung. I missed you so much.”

He misses a lot of things being away.

Jungkook misses home, his two parents aging with time and grandchildren, the scent from a giant magnolia tree in their house garden. He misses the brothers he grew up with in his pack, the small wolf-children at the playground. He misses the skies and the fields, the rivercreeks and the jungles where he runs free.

Occasionally he would miss the beach because he has good memories there, but not so much now. He misses their house he had bought and build with Jimin, the one he had left too soon, unable to enjoy the fresh scent of oak walls and fresh clay.

There are too many memories from building it with Jimin alone—of sweaty days fixing roofs and electricity, building furniture, that finally living in it afterwards seemed like a gift.

In everything else Jungkook misses, at the center of it all, there is Jimin. He misses Jimin like he misses his world, his home. He misses Jimin like he misses himself.

With a hand cupped around Jimin’s cheek tentatively, Jungkook can only stand and stare at the man, having no words to express his feelings. Jimin raises a dirty hand to clutch it next, and Jungkook almost closes his eyes at the touch of gentle skin now roughened by the dry clay. Jimin feels like a grounding presence, everything he has missed, everything he needs.

The older man's ring finger steers free of a wedding band out of work requirements and convenience, but Jungkook knows it is hanging on the necklace he wears around his neck, the one Jungkook gifted with the ring.

“I missed you, too. Too much.”

Jimin might have cried first, but Jungkook is already trying to restrain his sniffles. He knows he would be the one crying more than Jimin soon, it has always been like that.

Jimin raises a hand to touch his face next, eyes roaming around Jungkook’s face as if to remind him that this is not an image he sees in his dreams, and this is not a dream. Jungkook feels his soft caresses at every corner of his face which mirror his stare.

“Jungkook, you look so… different. Are you alright? Are you eating well? They told me your injuries healed. I wanted to go but—”

Jungkook shakes his head at that. “I’m okay, Jimin. I just…”

Jungkook feels fear gripping his heart, a certain kind of uncertainty settling deep within his bones now, etching a frown on his face and a downturn of his lips. “You don’t like me—the way I look now?”

“No!” Jimin replies quickly, the hand on Jungkook’s face gripping it tightly. “I’m just worried, Jungkook.”

“Then-“ Jungkook almost cries now, feels a whine lining his voice like a child with a fallen popsicle. “Why haven’t you hold me?”

He knows he is acting juvenile, but Jungkook has not felt like himself in months, in years. It is getting to him, everything is getting to him. This small physical distance between himself and Jimin now is getting to him, after years of oceans-wide distance.

Jimin looks up at him in surprise at his complaint, out of words, before he grabs Jungkook by his neck and hugs him tight—so tight that his body hangs off Jungkook’s body like a dead weight. Jungkook hugs him just as tight if not more, arms holding the body as if it is an extension of himself, as if they are one body and one soul.

He slots his face into the man’s neck, nose seeking the mating mark and the soft skin, damp from sweat and reeking of home. There is a scent that he does not quite get anywhere, the scent of Jimin—of the forest in the morning, and the woods after rain, of the flowers at sunrise hours. He smells like fresh laundry, and new buds at the start of spring, everything Jungkook likes in the world. His hand grapples with the older’s hair, as he scents the man even further, feeling Jimin doing the same as his arms tighten around his neck.

Once they break apart their hug, there is a peck on his cheek—soft lips which feel like love and warmth. Then he gets another on his other cheek, his forehead, his nose. But once Jimin’s nose pecks his own as their faces close the distance, there is a few seconds of doubts, of fear and insecurity which takes over Jungkook’s mind again.

He can smell nothing but Jimin now, and as the man breathes in his space, Jungkook feels suffocated. He has missed this moment, this man for years, but is everything the same?

Jimin keeps his eyes closed, but Jungkook keeps his open, observing the man’s face in this closeness. He captures everything, every dot on Jimin’s cheeks, the paleness bringing out the red and blue of his blood. The delicate nose. Jimin’s eyelashes flutter with every breath he releases, his pout more prominent. There are soft wrinkles now on the edge of Jimin’s eyes, signs of the passing years.

Jungkook missed the lips, the boundless lips which he once owned albeit briefly, the ones that keep his passion alight. He misses how like right now, Jimin’s tongue would instinctively come out and lick the bottom one, wetting it and pouting both even more.

When Jimin finally opens his eyes as the seconds passed too long, going for the long-awaited kiss, a sharp stench of a foreign alpha suddenly hits Jungkook’s nose. It smells of something foreign and looming, a threat. He turns his head to the source of the scent, nose twitching, and feels his claws ready to go out.

Then he growls.

Jungkook growls without much care, and growling is not something people do in this town. Not here, where almost everyone is family and nobody is a threat. People growl in the small faraway land he was sent to serve, but not here.

“Jimin I left- Oh my goodness! I’m sorry!”

The tall man, the one Jungkook recognises as the tall student from earlier now stands at the threshold of the door. He looks shocked and embarrassed—alarmed at one point as Jungkook's growls become loud. The man's eyes shift left and right at the sight of his teacher in another’s arms. Jungkook’s arms.

Jungkook feels Jimin’s arms loosening around him at the sight of the sudden intruder, but he does not quite get off his hold on Jungkook's body. He can feel Jimin’s fingers caressing his skin, probably surprised at Jungkook’s behavior and trying to calm him down.

Jimin turns to the man next, and Jungkook knows he can feel Jungkook’s arms tightening around his slim waist. “Namjoon hyung, it’s okay. What did you leave behind?”

“I- I forgot. What was it?” The man suddenly blanks out, cheeks pink and ready to run from the scene. The soft blue shirt he wears is just as cottony soft as his voice. “Oh, my glasses. Over there. I’m sorry. Please continue.”

“How can we continue?” Jimin laughs at that, a giggle which is both honest and sincere, something between a laugh and a small snigger, which Jungkook misses but now feels quite enraged by. He does not like anyone else listening to it. Not this man, this alpha especially.

“Oh Namjoon hyung, this is my husband, Jeon Jungkook. Jungkook, this is our student, Kim Namjoon. Namjoon hyung. He’s a teacher at your mother’s school, Jungkook. Tae's colleague.”

Jimin ushers Jungkook close to Namjoon, loosening the hug forcefully to approach Namjoon who has now quickly retrieved the glasses, the wide glass rectangles now perched on his nose. The man extends a hand towards Jungkook, who quickly holds his hand out too for a sturdy shake.

“Nice to meet you, hyung.”

Jungkook bows respectfully and so does Namjoon, but Jungkook does not miss the odd look on Namjoon’s face, of fear and something else. Every other day, Jungkook would love making friends like Namjoon who looks kind and warm, but on one of these days, he wants to create a territory. Mark his territory.

He does not like this alpha in his space. Near his family. Near his omega.

“I’ve heard of you plenty, Jungkook! Jimin talks about you a lot,” the man says good-naturedly, his oily face sweating from the hot afternoon, making his dimples appear deeper than it should be. He is effortlessly handsome and dashing, hair coiffed back to show his forehead. Jungkook wonders why he tries so hard to look good just to attend a pottery class. “He couldn’t wait for you to get home.”

Jungkook nods a few times not quite knowing what to say to that.

Questions begin to form in his head—of Jimin talking about him, of the man seeing Jimin a lot, to have to talk about him a lot. There are a lot of things he wants to question now, like the knowing smiles on Jimin’s and Namjoon’s face, and why he does not feel apart of it all.

“He just returned from the mission, hyung? You know? The one, I told you before.” Jimin hesitates as he speaks, turning to Jungkook once again, whose jaw is now clenched in pain at a sudden hit of a blinding headache.

There is a throbbing in his head which sends his visions rolling, gets him swaying in his stand. Jungkook feels the vertigo from the overwhelming emotions of finally coming home and meeting Jimin again in the flesh, the complex emotions oozing out at the sight of the older man. The day is stifling and hot. Meeting a stranger which he does not welcome does not help the situation. Jungkook feels out of control.

“Oh? The one that got-“

The headache now feels like a sharp icicle on his temple, drilling in and making Jungkook groan loudly as he loses vision, and his grimace is clear as Jimin cuts Namjoon’s words off in panic. “Jungkook, baby, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Just a migraine. It’s too hot.”

Jimin quickly unlatches his arms away from Jungkook, now untying the apron from the back of his neck and his waist, throwing it away on a distant table.

“Let’s get you home, Jungkook.”

Jungkook could not quite see where he is going, but he feels Jimin’s body pushing him forward, the voice guiding him on. Jimin’s arms are holding him close to his, and Jungkook hangs on to what he can.

“Joon hyung, Hoseok hyung is in the next room. Can you tell him I’m sending Jungkook home? I’ll come back for the next class.”

Jungkook does not quite catch the reply as his head throbs with so much pain, bells ringing in his ears, and his arm are flailing for support from Jimin’s body.

When they leave the workshop next in Jimin’s truck—the one Jimin has driven for years, with his backpack lying in the backseat, Jungkook feels a bit at ease. Jimin had the windows rolled down so that the heat leaves and goes easily without the compressed pressure of the air conditioner.

Jungkook finds himself lullabied by the scent of his husband, the comfort of his voice, the touch of his skin. He breathes better.

“Let’s go home, baby.”

 

***

 

The small space at the back of the helicopter was small, just a tad larger than the cockpit, and it was hot, and Jungkook was thirsty.

He remembered the coke bottles he kept in the cooler near his bunk back at the hangar. By now he should have been back gulping the whole bottle down, and crushing ice cubes beneath his incisors. The whole battalion would be rolling around the cooler cement floor, shirts raised to bare their torsos to let the light afternoon sea breeze cool them down.

But here lied Jungkook, hiding underneath the collapsed metal body of the fallen helicopter, hidden beneath the rubble, the fallen bricks of the collapsing building they had hit upon impact. His heart was still beating hard from fear and pain from the crash, which was violent and massive, sending their bodies flying from their original spots.

Jungkook had thought he was dead, before Minjae lifted him up, and got them to safety. 

It was supposed to be a normal day of duty, Jungkook's routine sniper air cover surveillance in a long stretch of torturous years of guarding this other side of the world. They were supposed to be back at the base by now, the old hangar transformed into a base for the wolf soldiers.

Jungkook could already see the hangar by the sea, the beautiful beach lining that safe UN jurisdiction area.

They were on low orbit, speed between sixty to seventy knots as they passed through the militants' village, when an RPG had hit the tail rotor first.

The whole bird had started to spin as it lost stability, the turnabout violent. There were long range rifle shots fired from the highest building as they swirled in air, piercing through Yunho's arm and passing through Daehyul’s head before the latter fell off the open doors.

Jungkook could only watch, heart jumping in shock and despair at his dead friend, as the pilots reminded them to hang on tight. The impact could crush the snipers' spines as there were no protection in the back, compared to the cockpit.

Thirty seconds from impact, and Jungkook prayed he could survive, fear gripping his spine like vines on rusty walls. He felt his head overheating with the stifling helmet, his claws ready to get out. The pilots, Sohyun and Yoosang had tried their best to maneuver the falling bird, crashing into sides of building as they rotate mid-air, as they began countdown to brace for impact.

And then they had hit the ground.

It was loud, as loud as the terror which choked Jungkook's breath and sent him to minutes of coma from the violent impact. The earth seemed like it was shaking when the metal body fell on dirt, clouds of dust filling in everything which did not smell like spilled diesel and burnt steel.

The pilots had their necks broken and died immediately upon impact, bodies strapped onto the seats. Jungkook had been the one to check on them when he had found strength to get up. Their heads lolled to the side, held by the skin of their necks, and Jungkook had to stifle his sobs as he searched the cockpit for guns and rifles and full magazines. The minigun would not work now that the electricity operated by the engines was out.

They had radioed the JOC Base on the situation, and rescue would be on their way.

Out here in the open, in the middle of the enemy territory, they were mere sitting ducks.

Jungkook blinked his eyes hard as he stood guard against any threat coming from the distance. The silence was unnerving, nothing is good when the whole village is quiet—the calm before the storm. The crash was loud and huge, and initiated by the militias themselves with their loaded rifles and rocket launchers. They planned this.

They were coming, armed and loaded.

 

 

When he comes to, the room is dimmed dark, his own hands invisible to his eyes except for the veiny lines which mark where his blood comes and goes.

Horizontal white lights from the outside streetlights, which enter through the half opened blinds leave lines of white among the darkness of the shadows on the bedsheet, giving Jungkook some room to adjust his sight.

Summer evenings may be hot and clammy, but when Jimin left earlier he had the room chilled to a cooler one reminiscent of early spring.

Jungkook sweats like he is still in the middle of a hot land surrounded by a vast ocean and its hot oceanic air, body reeking of pheromones and condensation. The white shirt he wore to sleep now lies limp like crumpled up paper on the floor. The blanket Jimin covered him up with earlier ends up halfway down the bed.

Jungkook thought they would stop. He is home, he has Jimin now. They do not.

The dreams do not stop.

Brushing his hair to the back, a short fringe not quite a quarter of his forehead, Jungkook feels more than unhealthy. He feels sick, and before a minute passes, hastily jumps and runs towards the attached bathroom.

Nothing comes out when he heaves into the toilet bowl, throat constricting and tongue lolling. His face scrunches up in pain as the veins pop out from his skin, and Jungkook wants to cry. It hurts. It hurts a lot.

His claws are still out; something familiar on nights like these when good dreams are his nemesis, his nightmares the only solid companion.

He wants Jimin home.

He tries again to vomit, stomach lurching for release, but his breakfast stays inside. They were the only food he had for the day; a packet of crackers and an apple he had on the train. It is already past dinnertime.

Breathing heavily on the floor, Jungkook finally tries his best to stand up, facing the long toilet mirror which covers his body from the pubic area to his head.

The frame is one made of maple wood, and on the top part of the mirror is a small engraving of the letters ‘JM & JK’, something he had made from leftover pieces of wood when they first moved in. Jungkook smiles briefly at the memory, something sweet in the bitterness of bile in his mouth, and lowers his sight for the reflection.

Inside the mirror is a reflection of his body, torso up. It is him, but not quite him.

There is a man inside looking back at him, a man who appears like skins on bones.

The man’s clavicles are protruding beneath the missing flesh, and the coming of the ribs is prominent. He feels his hands roaming the man’s body, bony digits which reach up to the face. There are a lot of scars, some on his arms, his hands, on his back.

Jungkook has always had large eyes, whites which appear at the top and the bottom of his eyes whenever he enlarges them—ones he used to tease Jimin with or those which come out naturally when he is surprised. Jimin always mentioned Jungkook staring as his weakest point; says because the alpha's eyes are so big he felt like he was being swallowed by his eyeballs.

This man has wide eyes too, but they bulge too much, showing his whites with the lack of flesh on his face.

Underneath the eyes, dark circles resemble somewhat of a black hammock hanging from his eyeballs. His cheekbones appear prominent and sickly above the hollowing cheeks, droopy and dragging everything down. The man looks a bit tanned than Jungkook, but pale in different areas. There is a small scar on his cheek, a graze of wire from his first year on the field.

This man looks like Jungkook, but not quite.

A hand runs over his face, pulling his cheeks down for a few seconds or so once he realised his claws have retracted into his skins, and his normal nails are uncovered. Like monsters his eyes bulge out and his bones appear steel-like, and for a second he wants to run away.

“Jungkookie? Kookie?”

Jungkook hears the voice first, before registering the sound of footsteps coming towards the bedroom.

“You awake?”

He almost wants to hide for no reason, but remembers this is their home. His home. “Here, Jimin hyung.”

Jimin finally walks into the dimmed bedroom, switching on the lights next. It does not take long for him to reach the bathroom, still wearing the same shirt Jungkook saw him wearing this afternoon. If he feels tired, and he looks like he is, Jimin does not show with his usual smiley face.

“Hey, you’re awake? I bought dinner! I didn’t have time to cook today, I’m sorry. I would’ve cooked for you if I knew you’re coming back today. You want to have it now?”

Jungkook stands awkwardly at the sink even when Jimin is already walking in, questions upon questions coming out from his pretty mouth. Jimin’s sweaty body is overwhelming in scent and warmth, and Jungkook feels weak. He wants to cower and please, but he also feels sensitive.

“You- you don’t like me coming back today?”

Jimin quickly turns to him at his words, face a mix of surprise and worry.

“No! No- Jungkook. I meant I would’ve prepared a lot more if I knew you’re coming back today. I would’ve taken a leave and cooked you a lot. Cleaned the house.”

Jungkook nods at that, feeling the roots of his fear growing in and out again, but at the touch of Jimin’s skin on his face he feels comforted. Jimin is ever wonderful, the only constant in his life.

“You want to shower first? You just woke up didn’t you?” Jimin smiles again, a soft smile reserved for Jungkook as he wipes the traces of sleep from Jungkook’s eyes. “You want me to draw you a bath?”

Jungkook stays still at that, still feeling insecure in his barenaked torso, especially when Jimin chances a glance at it. He does not look affected by it, but Jungkook knows Jimin is good at hiding his feelings, his thoughts. “Sure, hyung. But can-can you stay with me?”

Jimin does not take long to peck him on his lips, the first lip kiss they have had in a long while, even when it is merely a touch of dry lips to another. “Sure, Kookie. You can wait in the bedroom while I run the bath.”

 

It takes another twenty minutes for everything to be ready, a greyish clay tub of three-quarter filled water smelling like green tea and wood flowers ready to soak their skins till they prune. The water is mouldy green, and feels warm to his fingers as he dips them in. Jimin had made the tub himself from scratch years back, and he once told Jungkook he had made it this size so they can both soak in it together a lot.

It has been awhile since they last did that.

It has been awhile since he last seen Jimin naked, and it has not been a day since he returned.

The sight welcomes him in some sort of like a glimmering sepia; of the toned muscles on lean body, his hairless cock, the smooth ass. Jimin is the epitome of a modern-day Adonis, a delicate and strong man wolf of an omega. He was the finest man of his squadron back in his military service, and his strong arms and taut legs prove that. Jimin walks around naked without much worry, it is his home after all. And he never left, so it is more his home than Jungkook’s.

But Jungkook is all skins on bones, insecure at the sight of his handsome husband, so he undresses quickly and almost splashes the water when he sits quickly inside.

Jimin walks in, a hand holding a towel which covers just a small bit of his cock, smiling sheepishly to Jungkook before he steps inside and twists his body to sit on the other side when he notices Jungkook looking away in embarrassment.

It has been awhile and Jungkook misses him. And even when he sits with his knees close to his chest, staring at Jungkook without a hint of expression on his face, Jungkook misses him.

“Why do you look at me like that, hyung?”

Jimin shrugs, face indifferent, but his expression softens as he rests his chin on his knees. When he speaks next, his voice is muffled by the squished lips on knees. “I can’t believe you’re here, Kookie. I waited so long for you. Feels like a dream.”

“Me too. I’m here, baby.”

Jimin holds out a hand next, which Jungkook reaches for, effectively pulling the man towards Jimin, who has now opened his legs to accept the man in between his embrace. Jungkook twists his body around naturally, settling down in the bracket of Jimin’s hold, the man’s lips close to his ears.

Jimin feels so warm like this, like a heated comforter, soft skin on his rough ones. Jungkook closes his eyes and finally breathes.

“You went through so much, Jungkook. You don’t know how happy I am that you’re here now, with me.” With both of his arms, Jimin wraps himself around Jungkook’s bony shoulders tightly, a hand on his deflated tummy. His cheek is rubbing Jungkook’s undercut above his nape gently, and Jungkook quietly wonders if it tickles. “You’re okay, Jungkook? Do you feel okay?”

Jungkook nods a bit, unsure what to say, his hands trailing the thickness of Jimin’s thighs beneath the water. Jimin’s muscles feel taut and tight, strong legs he used to manhandle so well. He was always bigger than Jimin—all muscles and flesh, but right now Jimin’s body wraps around him perfectly in its entirety. He can feel Jimin’s soft cock on his back.

“Your last letter was very sad. Are you feeling better, Kookie? Do you still get those dreams?”

Jimin traces the scars on his shoulders with his plump lips, and if Jungkook is not that anxious and nervous, he would have been turned on. He can feel Jimin’s nose on the mating mark on his neck, scenting him to get him to ease, and he is always eased by anything Jimin does.

“Yes, but I’m okay, hyung. I just need time.”

Jungkook turns his body a bit, sloshing the water around with his movement. He bravely gazes up to Jimin’s hooded eyes. “I have you now.”

“You have me.”

Jimin smiles at him, and Jungkook has never felt this overwhelming warmth this close for years, as he kisses Jimin’s jaw and his lips briefly, and hugs him from the front. He feels the anxiety from his bones fluctuating from being eased to being riled up again, but Jimin is good with his hands. He massages Jungkook’s back, and he wants to moan at how good he feels.

"Baby, you went through so much. I don't know how to help you. I want to."

Jungkook feels Jimin kissing a particularly long scar on his arm, his lips gliding on the wet skin.

"These scars, they break my heart."

“There’s so much to talk about, Jimin. So much I want to tell you.” Jungkook's voice is muffled by Jimin's skin on his cracked lips.

Jimin whispers into his ears in reply, and his voice feels almost like a subconscious, a second voice speaking to Jungkook in his head. “We have all the time in the world now. You’re not going back, are you?”

Jungkook shakes his head at the question. “I don’t think so. I don’t want to. I don’t know.”

He hugs Jimin tightly as he speaks, splashing some of the water to the wall as he holds onto the man like a child hanging on to his mother. Jimin kisses his cheeks, his head, his ears as he holds him closer. Then Jimin kisses his lips, a smooth and gentle touch of lips, kitten tongue on his own hungry one.

“Then we’ll take our time, and we’ll tell each other all.”

Jungkook almost cries at that. He feels lucky Jimin does not forget that words do not come easy to him—not at all, and hugs the man with all his strength, nosing around to find the scent in his neck.

He feels tired quickly, and after washing up—Jimin doing the brunt of it, the omega ushers him out of the bath, and shuffles him back to bed with fresh clothes. Jimin might have told him to wait for ten minutes while he reheats dinner, but Jungkook sleeps.

He sleeps without much care, now that he has Jimin’s scent in his body, and around him. He sleeps and he expects nothing less.

 

The CAR-15 felt heavy on Jungkook’s shoulder, a familiar side he usually puts it on was dislocated when they had hit the ground and Jungkook had hit the roof of the black bird. He had a Beretta 9 mm close to his side, full magazines near his knees.

Next to him, Yunho was breathing heavily, the heat and the pain from the earlier fall and his injury getting to him. His claws were out in one hand, the bullet hitting one of the major veins and distorting the control of his wolf. He had tried earlier to retract it back but felt so much pain, and Jungkook had to stop him from trying in fear of the older losing too much blood.

“C2, this is Kilo 12. Perimeter secured. We’re locked and loaded. No sign of civilians or militias. Won’t take long before they come. Over.”

The voice in static was calm and emotionless as it replied. “Roger. Sit tight.”

Yunho scoffed from his side. “Sit tight, my ass.”

“Spot anything, Kook?” Minjae spoke from where he was positioned, lying flat on his tummy on the other side.

Minjae was clean off injury from the impact, brawn and tough, a senior officer in Jungkook’s team who he respected so much. The forty year old officer had been out here for almost two decades, and he was used to these kinds of situations. Jungkook held on to him for strength.

“No, hyung.”

Yunho whimpered again, finding difficulty in holding his rifle with the claws out, finding the side of his body getting numbed from multiple penetrative bullet wounds.

Minjae turned to Yunho and held out his hand. “Hold on Yun, they’re coming. The humvees are coming.”

Yunho simply nodded, trying his best to focus.

Jungkook held the man’s good hand too before turning back to peer at the distance. A sweat or two rolled into his eyes, blurring his vision, but Jungkook blinked them away, willing himself to stay focus. Like these they were exposed at every corner, and in the city of rogue wolves and organised militias, small villages can be violent.

A sound of static came on, their commander radioing from the base. “Kilo 12, humvees and CSAR birds are on their way. Ready for extraction. ETA fifteen minutes.”

Minjae answered the call, and turned to Yunho next, beaming at the man. “They’re coming for us, Yun. We can go back now. Final mission.”

“Fuck, yeah. Final mission. I’m going home, man. I miss football.” Yunho heaved from his side as he spoke, and Jungkook forced out a small laughter. He felt a rush of adrenaline replacing the rush of fear at the previous fall. 

“Kook, when you get home, you gotta work on that.” Yunho spoke drunkenly on his side like he always did even with zero alcohol in his body, his heavy accent making everything difficult to understand.

“Work on what, hyung?”

“On getting pups. They’re the best.” Yunho laughed next, and Minjae joined the chorus. “Oh God I miss my wife.”

Jungkook would have laughed together with them if he did not feel grim, if he did not feel sad at the sight of the dead pilots, his friends in front of them. If he did not feel sad for  his friends who were bombed and gunned down on their surveillance trips in the previous weeks’ missions, Jungkook would have laughed out loud.

Minjae and Yunho were experienced field men, and they handled everything well, but Jungkook was not meant for this. He never asked for this. In battlefields and hot missions, one has to push feelings aside to survive and Jungkook felt himself sucked dry as he tried to focus.

He was not meant for years of killing, of witnessing his friends die. Of witnessing people die.

“You gotta get back to Jimin, I can hear you crying every night, Kook.” Yunho drawled out next among his hisses, and let out a huge sigh. “I’m so sick of this weather, man. Of this beach. Fuck this.”

Jungkook wanted to reply to that when the officer from the JOC Base radioed in again.

“Kilo 12. Indigenous personnel approaching crash site. Please be armed. Ready for combat. Shoot on sight.”

“Fuck!”

Jungkook did not catch the instructions given for the humvees and the helicopters to get ahead of time, as he prepared his position, reloading his magazine. Minjae was already ready with his standard issue rifle at the opposite side, eyes fixed on the running target he was aiming at through the ironsight.

“Fuck! Fuck! Man I hate this place!” Yunho spoke again as he took the rear, claws out to hold the Colt in between his injured hands.

Jungkook waited. One person would come, then two, a woman and a child running.

“Woman and child! Hold!”

Then another one, and another, and then a crowd came running.

Shifted men wolves with Soviet AK-47 and American M-249 and their claws out started running toward them in mobs now, and Jungkook felt raw fear running down his spine. Mobs of men on pajeros and jeeps began to drive closer to the site. In their hands were rocket launchers, bullets worn across their bodies like a scout’s badge.

Jungkook was scared. There was fear of death, fear of pain looming in his eyes, and at the sight of the men with their claws out, half-wolves with their guns out, Jungkook was close to peeing.

There was nothing as loud and distinctive, quite like an AK-47, and at the first hit of bullets on the frame of the fallen helicopter, Jungkook got his rifle up, ironsight aiming at the militia.

“Shit! They’re coming!”

 

 

Jungkook wakes, feels his ears ringing with the sound of AK-47 in the background. Nobody forgets the sound once they have heard it.

He steals glances at the wall clock, the dials indicating something close to four in the morning. He had slept through dinner, out cold from the warm bath and his husband’s comforting scent.

The said man, Jimin is curled up on his body like a small cat, even when Jungkook is sweating in buckets and his body is shaking in tremors. His head moves with the deep rise and fall of Jungkook’s chest, eyes glued shut and lips half open. Like this his cheeks are bunched up on his skin, pouting his lips even more.

Jimin is lovely.

One of Jungkook's arms is curled up around the older man’s shoulders, a stray hand on his neck. Jungkook feels a line of cold fear running down his spine, something needle-like and thin, something he usually feels a second before something bad would actually happen. 

He heaves, and braves his eyes down.

His claws are out, each of his digits poking into Jimin’s neck, close to their mating mark. On top of his carotid artery.

Jungkook feels more than fear now. He feels terror running down his spine in hives, as the man shifts to hold him tighter. He can feel his claws breaking Jimin’s skin, a mere centimeter away from the point. One slash and Jimin can die, Jungkook could have killed him in his sleep.

No. No.

Fear and anxiety rush through his veins and cloud his mind and eyes with white smoke. He can feel himself trembling, still in control, as he hovers his hand away from the man. He does not want Jimin to wake up.

Jungkook gently breathes in and out, trying to retract back his claws, keeping his fingers away from Jimin’s body. He cries slowly in the silence of the night, trying to drown his tears as his teeth bite into his bottom lip and tear into it.

When he feels the claws curling back into his hands after tens of minutes of labored breathing, Jungkook shifts Jimin’s body to sleep on his side. The man curls again on the other side, searching for warmth from a pillow. Jungkook covers him with the blanket, careful not to wake him up.

He leaves the bedroom and sits on a long couch in the darkened living room, clammy hands on his face. Outside, a calming summer rain is falling, easing the townspeople of their worry and exhaustion of the day and the season, cooling the temperature of the ground.

Jungkook sits awake, and he can feel himself shivering, white shirt clinging to his body as he sweats more and more with the passing hours. His body shakes out of innate fear, instead of the cold of the living room which comes with the heavy rain. He hits his head with his hands next, trying to get the tears to not fall with the heels of his palms pushing his eyelids till the point it hurts.

He keeps remembering their faces, and his claws on Jimin’s neck. What if he had not woken up in time? Would he had slashed Jimin’s neck on his own?

Jungkook cries harder at that, voice muffled by his palms as he lies on the couch, curled up into a foetal position. He loses track of the time as he cries himself to sleep, cheeks wet with the waves of tears washing his face and falling off the sharp slopes of his jaw.

 

When Jimin wakes up next morning, and notices the lost of a human shape of a husband next to him, and soon finds it curled up on the couch next, he stays quiet. Jungkook’s eyes are puffy, and his cheeks are sunken, and Jimin wonders quietly what is wrong.

He makes coffee after putting a blanket on his husband’s waifish body, trying to push negative thoughts away as he gets ready for the day. Jungkook will tell, and as Jimin has always done all these years, he waits.

He always waits.

 

***

 

The stew is simmering hot when Jimin switches off the knob of the stove, carefully lifting the lid open to dip a wooden spatula in for a taste. The stew tastes good as always, Jungkook’s mother’s recipe has always been wonderful.

“Jimin, is the soup ready?”

Jimin rushes to find a hand rag at his mother’s call, holding the holders carefully. “Yes, one moment please!”

He carries the pot of the stew to the table, carefully telling people to stay out of his way as he lifts the cover of the lid to reveal the seafood stew in all its glory. Everybody almost screams in delight at that, and Jimin can only giggle, eyes instantly searching for Jungkook.

Jungkook is staring at him, face looking panicked and restless. Their fathers are seated close nearby, both laughing at something, and for a second or two Jungkook would smile briefly at their words which appear to be directed at him.

For a moment, Jimin wants to rush to his side, grab his hands and take him home. They might be at Jungkook’s parents home for the family gathering, but Jungkook's home is no longer here.

He does not get to do anything though, as his mother requests for the glass noodles which he had forgotten, and Jimin has to return to the kitchen to get that ready.

He quickly stirs the noodles inside the pot with his gloved hands, glancing every now and then at Jungkook looking too small for the wooden chair. He used to fill every space he is in, but now he shrinks—as if he is moulding himself to the shape of the chair.

Jimin knows something is wrong, something is awfully wrong.

From the minute the man returned, and took small, tentative steps towards him in the workshop, Jimin knew there were a lot of things Jungkook did not write in his letters home.

In his tear-stained letters which would arrive home every two weeks, Jungkook skipped a lot of things, probably not articulate with his thoughts spoken or written out loud. Jungkook has always been like that, the man who does, not the man who speaks.

For one, he lost a lot of weight, evident of years out in the heat and cold of the faraway place across oceans, in the deserts, and in the mountains. His wide eyes now appear larger than life, staring at Jimin longer than he usually did in the past, and Jungkook has always been quite a starer.

Jungkook stares at him a lot, and Jimin is used to it, even when it scares him a bit these days.

Back when they were still pups, when Jungkook first hung around Jimin as he followed his pack brother Seokjin around, Jimin was not used to it. The teen wolf stared at him with such an angry stare, mouth always kept mum. Jimin had thought Jungkook was angry, or his pre-pubescent omega scent was cloying to the baby alpha.

Over the years, he did not lose the trait.

He stared at Jimin more as he grew bigger, taller than Jimin. He began to grow into his muscles, into his bones, a perfect alpha. He still did not speak much in school and the beginning of college, but he spoke more to Jimin. He did not push Jimin away or growled when the older touched him, and he had also begun to initiate the touches himself.

Jungkook stared at him a lot, even when they were in military service, separated by a different squadron. He stared at Jimin when he laughed too loud, or when he rolled around with his team members. One day he even stared at Jimin as they showered together in the communal bathrooms.

It was both funny and unnerving, until one day Jungkook had kissed him, after staring at him for minutes in the dim of the workshop.

They were each nineteen and twenty-one, and Jimin was sitting on his father's stool, after a whole day of lifting bags of clay around. Jungkook had came over to hang around like he always did, not really learning anything as he hung around the older man, and just staring at everything he did.

Jungkook had told him he was going away for the engineering school in the next state, somewhere farther away than Jimin’s School of Arts in a city nearby. Jimin almost broke in sobs, but he was so happy for the younger he held it in.

And then Jungkook had kissed him. Inexperienced, but passionate. Jungkook knows Jimin’s lips the most anyway, having stared at them a lot. Even when their teeth met and Jimin was laughing in happiness, Jungkook kept on kissing. When Jimin opened his eyes, Jungkook was still staring at him.

“Wait for me, hyung,” Jungkook had said, kissing Jimin longer as if he was addicted to him, now that the man had returned his kiss. “I love you. You know how much I love you.”

And Jimin waited. Jimin waited for years, for Jungkook’s years in engineering school and for his own, for Jungkook’s enrollment to the army brigade as per his family tradition.

They got married when Jimin was twenty-seven, and had a good several months of young love.

They built a house for themselves, one they made passionate love in every space; the spaces and furniture all carved and cut by their own hands. Jimin remembers the love they made in the tub he had built himself with the finest clay, on the kitchen counter and bed Jungkook had built himself with oak wood. They were ready to settle down, ready to have a pup or two together, but Jungkook had to leave again. So he waited.

Now Jungkook is twenty-eight, home and ready to begin again. Jimin still waits. That is the only thing he knows.

One of these days Jimin even hears Jungkook growling in his sleep.

When it comes to sleeping, the arrangement is off. Jungkook sleeps in his arms, but when he wakes up, Jungkook is out in the living room, curling by himself on the couch. Something in Jimin, his wolf and his conscience whine at that—at the thought of himself not providing enough comfort for his husband, that he had to leave the warmth of his bed for something else.

Sex is out of the question, with how they barely kiss. They have not had a proper kiss yet, and with Jungkook more or less avoiding him, Jimin does not know what to think. Sometimes in the shower Jimin would smell himself, tries to see if his scent has soured or faded, tries to see if he is no longer lovable in Jungkook’s eyes.

There is something about Jungkook that is awfully wrong, and that is his tendency to hover around Jimin even when he gives less kisses. It is as if he is afraid to touch Jimin, or have the man touch him, yet wants Jimin within his sight at all times.

Jungkook's woody scent of the night forest have turned a spike higher at all times, released in weird intervals. Sometimes it suffocates Jimin, sometimes it makes him want to cry. Jungkook’s wolf and human side are unstable, and Jimin does not know what to do.

Jungkook stares a lot, and kisses Jimin sometimes, but never too long. He flinches at unwelcomed touches, and Jimin’s chest hurts.

Jimin wonders if Jungkook is out of it, out of love.

From where he is now serving the fresh glass noodles in vegetables on the other side of the table, Jimin could see how uncomfortable Jungkook looks with the increasing minute, still seated next to his father.

All around the table, the family members eat without much worry, too content with having the patriot home.

But Jungkook is sweating, his wide eyes engorging the food more than his pale lips do. Jimin feels his heart broken at the sight of his husband, his Jungkook, losing himself in front of him while he does not know what to do.

“Jimin, sit down honey. Eat first, I’ll take care of the rest,” Jungkook’s mother’s voice breaks his reveries, as the older woman stands up and pushes him to his seat. Jimin quickly takes his seat next to Jungkook, who now appears calmer at his presence.

He holds out a hand to touch Jungkook’s own underneath the table, and the younger quickly holds it in a death grip. Jimin quickly notices the clamminess and sweat in his fist, as they stare at one another.

When Jungkook smiles next, trying so hard to look fine when he is not, Jimin reaches over to peck on Jungkook’s cheek, feeling the dry skin on his lips.

“You don’t have to push yourself, baby. Eat what you can, okay?” Jimin whispers with his free hand massaging Jungkook’s nape, smiling to the man as he returns back his attention to the dinner table.

Jungkook only tightens his hold, and does not say anything else, and Jimin is not at peace.

Of course he notices everything.

There is something about leaving that changes people, and Jimin knows that. He left the city in his younger years for many things, some prolonged like university, and some for short ones like friendship trips. Everytime one leaves, there is nothing quite the same.

And Jungkook left for a difficult war, a difficult period of time which Jimin knows has taken away his husband from him at some point. There is something in Jungkook which has not returned—his mirth, his youth, his happiness.

Jimin does not expect Jungkook to stay the same over the years. Jungkook would have changed, and he accepts that. But sometimes he feels that his Jungkook has been replaced.

It has been over a week since his return, and Jimin does not feel familiar.

He does not remember this Jungkook, even when his hands memorise the touch of Jungkook’s hand holding his beneath the table. Jungkook always held his hand tightly everytime, and his thumb loved to caress and massage it intensely as if sending a message. There is a periodic push and pressure in which the Jungkook he knew loved to do, everytime they held hands before.

This one does the same, but does not feel the same. He does not look the same.

The first time Jimin saw him after three years at the workshop, he wanted to cry. Jungkook looked like a shell of the Jungkook he knows, left to a remnant of bones and skins on what once was a brawn man who ate too much. Jungkook who sits by him now, barely finishes half a bowl of rice.

This Jungkook does not speak, only stares at him like Jimin is the enemy, or a love he does not want to let go. At home, he stares at the switched off television set, at the closed windows, at the wall. 

“Kook, you barely ate. You alright? Did your superior release you from service with honour?”

Jimin is more surprised at the sudden question than Jungkook is, who now is smiling warmly to his brother. Like this he almost looks fine, shirt buttoned up to his neck and a neat number two buzzcut.

Junghyun smiles apologetically at the man, a tinge of pity familiar to everyone else’s crossing his face every now and then.

“Yes, hyung. I’m a war veteran now.”

Jungkook laughs at that, alongside his family who laughs quietly to break the somber and the voice of a man who has turned too quiet. Younger Jungkook, the one before the war was quiet but playful, always finding ways to tease in the ways he knew how. At dinner tables he was always the first to grab the food, the first to finish them.

Jimin knows everyone noticed the changes, but is trying hard not to acknowledge it, lest they hurt the said man.

“You’re a war hero!” His uncle yells from the other side of the table, a bit drunk off rice wine and full from the meat.

Jungkook’s voice is small when he speaks next. “I’m not a war hero, Uncle.”

“Why not? You fought hard for us!”

Jungkook grimaces from where he is spooning soup, as if he wants to shelter his ears from questions and barricades himself from other people. Jimin can feel his hand trembling, fingers constantly moving. His lips move as if mumbling something, and Jimin catches the same line he replied to his uncle before.

“So when are you going to start working at your dad’s office, Jungkook?” Jimin’s father voices next, mouth still munching on rice and fish. “You’re gonna do so much good for the town, Jungkook.”

“Ah, the day after tomorrow, father.” Jungkook answers politely, and both their fathers look excited at the prospect of having their sons close.

A small voice is heard from next to Jimin, Jungkook’s nephew, Jisoo, who asks his mother without hesitation. “Uncle Kookie doesn’t have to leave now? He doesn’t have to fight the bad guys anymore?”

His mother nods as she smiles, and Jimin answers on her behalf. “Yes Jisoo, he’s here. He’s gonna stay here with us, with you.”

The boy beams now, a bit embarrassed as he smiles at Jimin and Jungkook, and turns back to his bowl of rice.

“Yes! I’ll get a cousin now.”

Jimin halts his caressing hand on the boy’s hair, and the whole table roars in joyous laughter. Jimin can feel Jungkook’s hand tightening around his.

“He’s right, a cousin could come by soon.”

Jungkook smiles at his mother, albeit awkwardly, as he spoons some rice into his mouth. Jimin sees how he grimaces from his peripherals like the rice is salty and bland, and feels himself feeling the same way. Of course they had planned that, but Jungkook has not been here for any of his heats, he had left too soon for anything to happen.

Even when he is home now, Jimin is not entirely sure if it would happen soon. Jungkook is very ill, and Jimin does not know what it is and why. Jungkook would not tell him.

“Let’s not talk about that mom, I just came back.” Jungkook continues spooning rice into his mouth, as his hand tightens around Jimin's.

“What’s wrong with that? It’s been years since—“

“Mom.”

"C'mon honey-"

His fist bumps the table too loud it seems, and all the cutlery seems to jump from their original position, effectively silencing everyone.

“Mom, I said not now.”

Jimin is too afraid to look up now, but he imagines everyone feeling the same way. He turns to see Jungkook who at one second ago appeared like he was about to lurch at someone and choke them, but is now smiling mildly into his bowl, cheeks full as he munches on a fried fish.

“I love this stew mom, you cooked it so well. You too, baby.” He slurps from the bowl, and everyone returns to their meals, finding other topics to talk about, even when they are quite shaken from where they sit in agitation, stealing glances at Jungkook who seems to eat without much care.

Nobody knows how much Jungkook shivers in his hold, as Jimin grips harder.

Jimin knows something is wrong, something is awfully strong. But as the man holds his hand under the table, he lets everything pass, not quite sure where to look first.

Tonight he will hold Jungkook to sleep, even when the man will leave in the middle of the night, away from Jimin’s scent; and Jimin would still do it everytime.

 

**

 

“Kook, watch out!”

Jungkook did not get to blink before he felt a rock the size of a fist flying towards his head and hitting it point blank. It hurt like hell as he tried to gain his vision back, searching for the thrower, a boy running away.

In villagers like these, wolf children are groomed to be warriors. They are the bravest, and they come with rocks in their hands the size of their palms and they throw them out to enemies, or people they think are enemies.

Jungkook thought they are brave lots, these children. He would want to have pups like these too, but he would never groom them to be fighting in battlefields, like one the adults were doing.

“Loading!”

Minjae screamed from where he was now seated and covered by a fallen steel wall, reloading his M-16 before continuing his shots at the screaming mobs coming their way, fumbling with the rifle.

“RPG, Kook! On your three.”

Jungkook aimed his iron sight at the man loading a rocket launcher, an RPG. Two men helped the man-wolf as he lifted it up at on his shoulder, and Jungkook did not wait for the man to aim before shooting him, in the head and the shoulders. Then he shot the friends next.

The rocket launched anyway, and it passed through the broken rotors of the helicopter, plunging through the opposite buildings and sending everyone running. Debris and dust began to cover their eyesights as shootings began to get random among the mobs.

“Fuck! I can’t see. These motherfuckers-“ Yunho screamed from where he was seated now, claws still out, blood covering the entirety of his camouflage.

“C2. Come in! Come in!” Minjae screamed into the radio to get the help to hasten, screaming at every shot missing his head.

The shots did not stop, and they ricocheted the steel walls of the cockpit like pinball games. Jungkook did not wait, shooting without a tempo, eyesight blurred by the debris hurting his eyes. The debris finally cleared and he can see clearly half the men sprawled dead, and the rest hiding beneath the rubbles and their vehicles.

Jungkook turned back his attention to his almost empty CAR-15, preparing to load it, and aiming at anyone coming close. Amidst it all, the child, who had hit his head with a rock was sat crouching on the middle-ground of the battlefield, and Jungkook screamed for him to run.

“Jungkook, they’re loading the RPG-“ Yunho yelled from his side as he reloaded his rifle with much difficulty. “Quick!”

“Run! Run!”

Jungkook was still screaming at the boy who was in the middle of the cross fire, of his own bullets and the people of this village. The boy was crying and screaming and nobody was brave enough to get him back to the sides. Jungkook almost wanted to run and take the boy himself.

Behind the boy, the men on a truck were preparing to reload the rocket launcher.

Jungkook shot everywhere else far from the boy, but nobody in his village seemed to care much about the wolf-boy. They shot towards the direction of the wreckage like the boy was a doll, a young warrior destined to die in the battlefield crying with his ears covered.

“Quick, Kook!” Minjae was still aiming for enemies from the other side, and Jungkook panicked.

“Fuck, Kook! Shoot!”

Jungkook quickly aimed for the men holding the rocket, two in the chest and one in the head, and they fell off the jeep like heaps of fresh meat. Their AK-47s were shooting at random as their fingers were on the trigger when their body jerked and died, the stray bullets hitting the boy more than ten times as he fell on earth, no longer crying.

Before he could register what was happening, another man climbed up and raised the launcher again, the rocket aimed directly towards their position.

“God.” He heard Yunho’s voice on his side. Jungkook was too late.

“Incoming!”

 

It is half past four when Jungkook realises Jimin should be done with his class in the past fifteen minutes.

The sweltering heat of the late evenings has kept him glued to the chair in the workshop’s office, tie loosened and sleeves rolled to reveal his arms. Jimin should be here now, and Jungkook is getting fidgety with every second passing that the man does not show up.

He knows he has been keeping distance even when they are close now; even when he is home and they share a bed, for a few hours at least—something he never imagined he would have done after years of being away. In the morning Jimin leaves him a prepared breakfast, and Jungkook would wake up to rice and side dishes put together nicely on the table.

He cried a lot in the first few days of returning back, wanting to crawl back into Jimin’s arms but finding himself too scared to do that. There is so much fear from hurting Jimin to Jimin not wanting him. He knows he is projecting his hurt on Jimin but he has not learnt how to deal yet.

Hoseok is off to his side, scraping a fresh clay moulded into a large vase. He has a small scraper made of steel the size of a business card in his hand which he uses to correct some areas. Jungkook wonders if Hoseok notices how different he is now.

He wonders if Hoseok still sees him as his brother. 

Hoseok has stayed the same even after years, one of his pack brothers which Jungkook loves in all possible ways. Even when the wrinkles have made their way to settle onto his tanned skin and handsome face, Hoseok still looks every bit the man Jungkook knew when they were little. Kind, compassionate, a giver. The best brother one could have.

“Hyung, how are you? I never really asked you that.”

Hoseok looks up for a few seconds from where he is super focused with his work, lips pursed and eyes wide. “Me? I’m good. Always good.”

“Jimin hyung told me you’re dating now.”

Hoseok smiles wider at that, hands still moving as he controls the potter’s wheel with his feet. A hand is holding the side of the vase, as another skillfully fiddles with a potter’s needle as he trims the edges. “Yeah Namjoon. I think you’ve met him. It’s been awhile actually.”

“There’s a lot that I missed, didn’t I?”

Hoseok dips a bit of his hands in the small pot of water, before continuing his work. A small yellow sponge floats in the murky water, like a ship in a storm. “Don’t worry about the things you missed. Start thinking about things you don’t want to miss out soon.”

“Does Namjoon hyung really love you?”

Hoseok slows down the wheel at that, the vase looking close to perfection to Jungkook when he can see it in its static position. “What do you mean, Kook?”

“You’re both alphas.”

“You never had problems before with this kind of stuff.” Hoseok is frowning now, even when his lips is upturned in a curious smile.

“I know. I’m just curious. Why isn’t he in your class?” Jungkook questions, finding a small clay to fiddle with while he unleashes his insecurity in the forms of incessant questions. The wet clay feels cold to his warm hands.

“He’s a beginner. He just started recently that’s why he’s in Jim-“ Hoseok stops for good. “This is about Jimin? He’s your husband, Kook.”

“I know.” Jungkook almost shivers at the alpha’s questioning tone, now feeling smaller at everything, at everyone who speaks to him.

“Jungkook, is everything alright?”

Jungkook smiles and shakes his head, saying a small sorry to Hoseok before standing up and making his way to find Jimin. He knows Hoseok is far from angry at his questions, but he cannot reason with himself to answer anything he cannot understand.

He walks and walks, shoes on wooden floor, as he makes his way to Jimin’s classroom.

Jimin is still in the middle of the class session with young learners—primary school students, small chubby little wolf children who ask too much and make too much mess. Jungkook is sure the older man did not plan to extend the time, looking at the chaos before him.

“No, Jisung. Don’t play with the scraper like that!”

Jimin is rushing everywhere with the kids punching and moulding their way with the clay. And although they look like they are eight to ten year olds, Jungkook knows they can be quite a handful. He chuckles from beneath the back door, watching as his husband shuffles around to check on everyone’s cups.

There is clay all over him, and on a closer squint, Jungkook can see the imprint of a child’s hand on the man’s face. Despite it all, Jimin looks so beautiful, light blue shirt the colour of summer skies hanging nicely from his lean body.

“Okay remember, you need to press the design stamp on the clay hard, but not too-“ Jimin stops when a student raises a half-torn clay cup. No one can salvage that one, and Jungkook laughs harder at that, alongside everyone else. “-hard, or else you’ll cut it in half like Soojin did.”

“Teacher Park, do we need to sign on the bottom of the cup?” A student asks among the chaotic mess that is the voices of the children speaking over one another.

“Yes please, so we would know which one is yours after I finish firing them.” Jimin hands over small stick pens for everyone to make their signature. “Don’t write funny stuff, Sungmin! They're gonna be on the cups forever!”

A boy laughs out loud from where he is sitting, clearly the most mischievous one out of the bunch.

Jungkook could not find it in himself to wait, finding his way in soon enough and appearing on Jimin’s side, who jolts in surprise at a poke on his hips. His eyes are mildly surprised, but Jimin smiles ever so sweetly when Jungkook leans in to kiss his cheek.

The children all turn to look at them for one second, before turning back to their work, their mouths still moving up and down like a chicken’s butts when it runs.

“Teacher Park, is that your Alpha?”

"He's tall!"

"Is that your husband?"

“Yes,” Jimin answers as he goes over to fetch trays for everyone. “He’s my husband. Call him Uncle Jungkook.”

The whole class greets him in a resonating welcoming greeting, and Jungkook beams at everyone shyly. He feels nervous, and a little bit unsettled at the sight of the children—easily reminded of something he tries to push away, of a boy in a distant place he could not quite save.

Nevertheless, Jimin’s voice keeps him from straying further and deeper into the pit of his memories.

“Is he that face on your clay board?”

"He's that sculpture!"

Jimin grows pink in the cheeks at the question, avoiding everyone's question and not looking at Jungkook too. “What face?”

“That unfinished face, Teacher!”

Jimin ignores the answer and Jungkook looks over to the other side of the class, trying to find that unfinished sculpture hidden behind a small potted tree. It looks more like a human face now, nose done and lips moulded into delicate perfection. It reminds him of someone, but he cannot quite remember.

“Is he your husband who went to war?”

Jimin nods and answers a positive, looking up at Jungkook once or twice as he arranges his students’ works on a tray.

“The war hero?”

Jimin does not get to answer before Jungkook speaks, the first words of his the students would hear. “No, not a war hero.”

The mischievous boy speaks from where he is seated, voice rising in an inquisitive tone. Jungkook feels sweaty and unready. “How come you're not a war hero? My dad said you're a hero.”

“Not everybody who goes to war is a war hero.”

“How come?”

“Not everybody who doesn’t die is a hero.”

Jimin quickly gets in the way of the questions, noticing the shift in Jungkook’s mood and the rise in his tones. Jungkook knows his eyes are shifty, and his alpha pheromones are oozing in gallons, but being around children is unnerving. He is reminded of a lot of things. He wants to protect them but also wants them to stay quiet.

“Everyone, pack up. You need to make sure your workstation is clean before you leave. Up up!”

Jimin glares at Jungkook once, and one look is enough to send the man shriveling in his stand. Jungkook stays to help out, and even answers some questions while he helps the students around, speaking as minimally as he can lest he scares the students off.

When they finally leave, Jimin making sure everyone is safely tucked into the small van which will send them home, Jungkook waits in the classroom. He waits, unbuttoning the first three of his upper buttons before deciding he should unbutton all, leaving it open to reveal a thin white shirt inside.

Everything feels stifling, and Jungkook feels himself burning in the chill of early autumn.

When Jimin walks in next without sparing a glance at him, Jungkook knows the man is angry.

The omega swiftly but gently gathers things in his arms, the small dangerous tools he had missed out while collecting just now, and does everything without a word or a sound. Jungkook collects the sponges and cut-off wires, feeling the tension radiating from Jimin’s body while he does so.

“Jimin hyung, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for scaring the kids off.”

Jimin turns to him for a moment, looking like he wants to say something else but holding it in as he tosses everything into a box. “It’s okay, Kook.”

“No, it’s not okay.”

“What do you want me to say, Jungkook?” Jimin does not turn around as he speaks, giving his back to Jungkook.

“The truth.”

“What do you mean?” He is frowning now as he unties the strings to his apron at the back of his waist.

“That I’ve changed. That you don’t like me anymore.” Jungkook feels the heat killing him, the small wooden clay scraper in his hand scraping his throat.

Jimin almost tosses the apron into the table, hands gripping the fabric tight almost like he wants to claw through it. For one second he looks like he would, and Jungkook almost wants to run away, but Jimin only folds the apron skillfully as he walks. “Don’t put words into my mouth Jungkook. Yes, you’ve changed. Yes, I notice that. You’re still my husband.”

“That’s the only reason isn’t it?”

Jimin finally snaps from his walk towards the teacher’s desk, turning around in an instant. His eyes harden now, and Jungkook almost shudders at the angry omega.

“Should there be anything else, Kook? Tell me, honestly. What do you want me to do? You’re not telling me anything, I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now around you.”

Jungkook feels the sadness emanating from Jimin's voice stabbing through his heart like a bullet on point blank. “I’m sorry, Jimin. I-I don’t know what I’m doing.”

"You have to start telling me, Jungkook. Tell me what hurt you. Tell me so I can be a part of you, so I can help you. We can go through this together."

Jimin stays rooted at his spot for a minute or two, just staring at him in a silent plea, and Jungkook loses it.

He feels the gap growing farther away and he does not know what to do about it. Almost like in their childhood games, Jungkook feels an imaginary larva pit is forming from where he is standing away from Jimin, and he has yet to have bravery to cross over. A much younger Jungkook would have leaped forward and held onto Jimin in a second, but an older Jungkook is a coward.

But his Jimin is always brave.

His Jimin crosses the room to hold him in his arms, cradles the head in his neck to let his heavenly scent soothes his husband. This time he does not say it is okay or it is fine, but he holds Jungkook's face close to his neck and lets his body speaks it.

Jungkook is saved for now, anchored by Jimin's touches and the small kisses he leaves on his skin—and occasionally his silent whispers, but Jungkook does not know for how long.

 

*