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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.

 

*

 

Chapter Text

*****

 

The open barbecue is a neighbourhood thing which all the packs in their hometown love—all meat and juicy flesh for the carnivorous wolf bellies, and an abundance of fresh vegetables from their backyards reserved for their omnivorous human side.

Like every year, they would hang fairy lights and lanterns over the old trees preserved from centuries back, making the whole town look like they are celebrating a big-scale meat fest in the moonlight. Later in the night they would light up lanterns and float them off the open fields, and some would do so at the lake. Some, like Jungkook and his brothers, used to do so at the beach when they were much younger.

Jungkook loved it, he used to eat everything without much hesitation, mouth gobbling up everything offered on the long feast table.

Lamb, rabbits, and beef—throw them all out to Jungkook and he would munch everything up with his human incisors. He loved the fest because everyone he loves would meet and laugh out loud in the open. The young Jungkook who was normally shy and introverted would be goofing off and dancing to songs blasting from a speaker which would usually be dangling off his neck. Anything to please his brothers.

A lot of times Jimin would end up on his laps, drunk of meat and alcohol—and mostly of laughter, at everything Jungkook did.

The omega would smell like sweat and sweet rice wine, his fresh scent further accentuated by the gathering of the wolves, smelling like forests in spring bloom. Jungkook would hold him in his arms all night, scenting him and making sure he did not stray too far from sight or hold.

That was then.

These days, this year—tonight especially, the barbecue feels like a chore.

He dreads it, the sight of meat on open grills. There are too many scents of wolf intermingling among each other, now that alcohol is consumed by the gallons, inebriation takes over and the lines separating human and wolf become blurry.

Nobody ever runs amok over here, the peaceful town that is. But Jungkook feels anxiety and fear running along the veins in his body, making him stay on high alert all night. He watches everybody like a hawk, his wolf on high alert.

Jimin is still grilling meat on one of the grills with Taehyung, laughing at whatever the man is talking about. Jungkook's stare does not leave the men much, guarding them from afar.

Out here closer to his house and the trees, Jungkook stays seated on the small wooden steps with Seokjin, a little bit farther away from everyone. He has not chatted with Seokjin in awhile, and tonight Seokjin feels like a good companion, a brother he had missed for a long time.

The man had left for a different base near his own a year before he did, and returned a year after he had left. When they finally met the week before this gathering, Jungkook felt himself finding a small bit of ease in Seokjin’s arms.

Nobody would get him like Seokjin does, and even then, the man would probably not feel things the way Jungkook does. Seokjin is always strong, always laughing at everything. He finds humour in the smallest of things, always the big brother everyone seek for in difficult times. When they were younger, Seokjin would be the one coddling and rolling around with Jungkook when they felt like wasting energy and sweating it out.

Jungkook thinks Seokjin has everything it takes to survive the worst of wars, the worst of humanity. Seokjin finds rationale in everything; he has a way of seeing things from a perspective which has helped him navigate through life so far.

Or so he thought.

Seokjin is quieter now. Jungkook notices; how his usually loud voice has mellowed out, his laughter turning a little softer, a little guarded. He works at the town library, and Jungkook thinks it is the best place a war veteran could work at.

There is something dead, something lost in Seokjin’s eyes that Jungkook feels would be something everyone else sees in his too. 

“Kook."

Seokjin speaks so softly, Jungkook almost misses his words if he is not looking at the older man sitting next to him on the steps.

"Sometimes I think about... you know? What would have happened if I stayed? Would I be dead?”

Jungkook takes another sip of his beer as he turns his gaze to the distance, trying to not think too much about the implications.

“You’d live, hyung. You’re stronger than I am.”

“Says the youngest sergeant of his troop.”

Jungkook bends forward a bit, a small smile hidden as he takes another swig of the light alcohol. His eyes never leave Jimin or his family members, watching him from afar like a lifeline. Jimin looks so happy tonight, hair fluffed up by his constant movements. He is always the happiest around people, and Jungkook is sated just from watching him from afar.

Occasionally his gaze would stray to look at Hoseok sitting at a different table with Namjoon, both looking lost in their private moments. Jungkook watches as Hoseok laughs out loud at his boyfriend’s jokes, tossing his body around like Jimin does. Namjoon is smitten with Hoseok, and everyone can see that. His hand never left the man’s body all night, his smile stretching his skinny face wide. Jungkook feels calm knowing his brother is happy and loved, Hoseok deserves it.

“Yoongi hyung isn’t here?”

Seokjin shakes his head at that. “Nope, he went back earlier with the pup. He wanted to sleep, but he blamed it on Ara.”

“Classic Yoongi hyung.”

“Real him.”

Seokjin heaves a huge sigh next, and Jungkook hears the wet, nasal tones in his voice as he speaks.

“I wonder sometimes. How he would have lived if I didn’t return. Would he raise our pup well? I know he will. Would he be happy? Would he find someone else? Would he love someone else?”

“Hyung.”

“There’s something about those places that just kills you, isn’t it? You’ve been there longer than I was, it gotta kill you more. Your area was pretty fucked up, still is.”

Jungkook does not reply, hands twisting the beer can around as he tries to read the ingredients, forget any mental image of a distant place. Seokjin says his words so carefully, eyes flicking to Jungkook’s face every now and then.

“I still dream about that place, Jungkook.”

Jungkook turns his head to look at the older alpha, feeling especially curious. He has been dying to know if Seokjin would get what he is feeling, if he is not alone in this.

“What do you dream about?”

“Everything."

Seokjin replies briefly, a small smile up on his face. "Those heavy kevlar vests, the scent of tar and oil. Earth, sand, and snow on my skin. The beach."

Jungkook does not like to remember beaches.

"Mortars, them militants love to throw them out in the wee hours, didn't they? Nobody could forget the mortars. And then the food! The food was horrible, we keep having ghee and potatoes for weeks. But on good days these wild, veteran Deltas would go out and hunt and get rare meat! We had wilderbeests and kudus! Man I love those vets!”

Jungkook laughs and nods with the man, finding himself transported back to those times. Among the bad and worst days, the good ones are those which keep him remembering. Jungkook had joined several hunts too, running around the wild with his teammates to find meat to make up for the dry chicken from the kitchen.

Seokjin’s glassy eyes look especially red now when they both stop laughing. Out in the distance, some of the townspeople are releasing the lanterns now, their wishes written on the thin paper.

"Do you think about the- the people you ki- shot?"

The older inhales heavily at the question, nodding his head almost instantaneously.

"Yeah. We didn't have many missions, not like your troop. But I do remember their faces a lot. Young men, old men. They all looked like easy targets when they're running, the enemy. It's either gonna be me or them. But when they're dead, I realised they're just like us." 

Jungkook remembers not having it much easier even with the months passing, even when the enemy was aiming their gun straight at him. He was not meant to kill. Even when he was up on the .50 calibre machine gun, body exposed on the top of the humvees, the turret between his hands, Jungkook knew a long time ago it was not going to be easy. 

"Man aren't born to kill each other. We shouldn't learn how in the first place."

Seokjin gulps the last bit of his beer before continuing. "I dream of my teammates a lot. My brothers in war. Great men."

Jungkook does not say a word, only nodding and smiling to the older alpha as he continues speaking about his dreams.

"I don't get those dreams as much these days, but on some days, they'd come and visit me in my dreams. Sometimes I see them in their camo, when we're goofing around base. Sometimes, I see them in their last moments."

Jungkook understands that part a lot, and he feels his chest constricting, heavy with a shared melancholy. "The last moments are the most difficult to forget."

"The last moments are the most difficult to forget." Seokjin agrees, saying Jungkook's words out loud like he wants to remind himself. He wipes a stray tear from the corner of an eye. "I visit their graves when I can, but some of them came from cities far away. I can only send prayers. Some... don't have a grave. So, yeah.”

Jungkook feels a little bit cold now, the autumn breeze chilling his skin and the unshed tears stinging his eyes. “Hyung, when will the dreams stop?”

“They don’t. They'll come back at times, but you'll manage. You'll heal."

Seokjin almost sounds apologetic now, but he has his arm around Jungkook's back in support and in empathy. "Unless you learn to let go, forgive yourself, and hold on to something else. Find help, Jungkook.”

Jungkook takes a few minutes to think. “Will they call me crazy, hyung?”

“No. But we’re all a little crazy, anyway. ‘Crazy’ is better than ‘dead’.”

Jungkook brushes the fringe of his forehead next, feeling the length going back to his usual haircut before military. It feels a little bit hot in these weather as his hair is always thick, but at least he gets to cover the scars on his head.

“If you don't, you're gonna either hurt yourself or hurt Jimin. Your future pups."

Jungkook chances another glance at Jimin, watching as the older is prancing around with a baby in his arms. Jimin is always fond of children, a natural at everything living and non-living, big or small.

"I was so affected by it, I was losing myself, Jungkook. Yoongi, he- he had the worst. My parents weren't understanding and I couldn't really blame them. Tae had to pick me up a lot and explain to our family why I was always missing. Or drunk outta my ass. It was so painful, I don't really know what made Yoongi stay. The pup was too small, but I hope she doesn’t remember anything.”

When Jungkook does not speak, Seokjin continues. “Don’t take too long, Kook. It will eat you up from inside, and one day it might take over you.”

Jungkook nods a few times, trying to tell the man he will find help, even if it is not going to be now. Jungkook does not feel like meeting a shrink or talking to anyone he has not talked to.

“Do you feel like yourself more now, hyung?”

“Yes. And no. There’s always gonna be a part of me which I left over there. I learnt to let go, things just can’t be the same.”

Seokjin rises to his feet next, slapping Jungkook’s body as the man follows him. “I’m going home Jungkook, that’s where I learn to heal most. Also, your Yoongi hyung needs his human heater.”

Jungkook watches as Seokjin leaves, a business card of a psychotherapist in his hand which the man promptly slips into his grip when they hugged. He feels a little bit drowsy from the beer and the dropping temperature of the cooling autumn night. He keeps the card in his pocket, and promises to himself that he would look at it soon.

The mid-autumn weather leaves his nose on a perennial sniffle, and he feels like a headache is close.

When he turns to see Jimin again, the man is still chatting excitedly with Taehyung over something, a pup still in his arms as Jimin tries to feed him something. Jimin looks at him for one moment when he notices Jungkook staring, smiles ever so sweetly, and Jungkook feels himself smiling back.

Then he turns around and goes back towards the direction of his house, bone weary from the crowd—or simply running away from it, and decides to take a nap on their bed.

 

“Kook, you okay buddy? C’mon!”

There were ringing in his ears and a throbbing in his head, a coil like rotation moving around in his skull as he tried to gather the Colt in his hand. The impact from the rocket had left them rolling on the ground, blanking them all for a few seconds.

Yunho was shooting on his side to cover his spot, alongside Minjae who was hoisting his body up. Jungkook snapped his head up at a close bullet whizzing past just next to his ear. 

"Shit!"

Minjae made sure Jungkook was alright before taking back his original position, aiming his rifle at a running man-wolf. Only half a second would pass before a stray bullet passed straight through the broken cockpit frame to reach Minjae’s lower jaw, piercing his neck.

“Fuck! Fuck!”

The man was sent sprawling on the ground as he screamed with his hand covering the wound. Blood was spurting everywhere like a champagne popped open.

"Fuck Jae!" Yunho looked aghast, eyes frowning in fear for their friend, his longtime bestfriend. "Son of a bitch!"

Yunho did not stop with his shots as Jungkook crawled over to Minjae, sweat intermingling with his tears, holding the injured part with his dislocated hand.

“No, hyung. No, God—“

He scrambled for the mouthpiece in his helmet and spoke loudly into it, in his calmest voice possible. “C2, this is Kilo 12, come in. We need a medevac now! Man down! Sergeant Park shot. Over.”

He had to turn back and continue aiming his CAR-15 even then, unable to help as the running mob got a little bit too close. They seemed to multiply in numbers, and for every shot they released, more people seemed to come out. 

“C2, come in. Fuck come in!” Jungkook did not have to hide his shiver, his voice trembling in both fear and anger. Overwhelming fear.

“Roger Kilo 12.”

“Kilo 12 to C2! Sergeant Park Minjae is injured! Medic now! Over.”

The voice still remained emotionless, standard operation. “Roger that Kilo 12, humvees are on their way. ETA 7 minutes.”

"C2, We don't have 7 minutes!"

Jungkook turned to Minjae next, who was sputtering blood from his mouth, eyes shifting left and right as he began to lose consciousness. “Hyung, hang in there, hyung. Just a bit more. They're coming."

Minjae simply nodded mindlessly, unable to think beyond the fatal wound on his neck.

Jungkook kept on shooting as he sat on Minjae's side, noticing the number of the militias growing even when they have been shooting non stop. He had thrown a number of hand grenades and they were now running out of magazines.

“Kilo 12. Help is on its way. We can’t-”

 Jungkook did not hear the rest of it as Minjae sputtered out more blood from his mouth, the neck wound oozing more blood when he coughed.

“C2. We’re running low of ammo, we need-”

"Kook."

Minjae held out a hand to Jungkook’s shaking body. Next to them, Yunho was still shooting at running targets with his lolling hand, cursing and screaming out loud.

“Kook, get your claws out.”

 

Seokjin was right. It never leaves. Jungkook can never let go.

Jungkook wakes up, wiping away his tears on his cheeks, accidentally nicking a cheek with his extended claws. He winces, forgot about the sharp little things, and keeps his hands away from his body. There are tears and sweat mixed on the warmth of his skin.

Outside the house, people are still gathering around the grill in the spirit of fall. The lanterns and fairy lights create familiar and nostalgic shadows on their bedroom windows, but Jungkook can barely appreciate anything aesthetic at the moment.

He can feel his insides curl, feeling the need to quash everything inside by shifting into a full wolf and running through their neighbourhood woods like when he was a pup, or by downing alcohol and letting everything drown in delirium. Anything, to keep the bad images away.

When he feels the claws retracting back into his skin, he quickly rises and checks himself in the vanity.

Jungkook still finds the ghost of a man in white shirt which hangs too large on his skinny body. It does not look right, but he has to make do with this for now. It is the only Jungkook he knows.

Jungkook reaches for the wooden bedroom door, opening it as he takes stealthy steps towards the kitchen. He needs a glass of water, or probably a bit of rice wine. Vodka. Sleeping pills.

Then he hears the voices.

He tiptoes in the darkness of the corridor and everywhere else in the house, lights out to leave only the kitchen bright in orange lights. Jimin is in the kitchen, drinking a bottle of rice wine as he packs several leftover meats in food containers. Hoseok stands next to him, doing the same with the rest of the unfinished platters.

“I told him that, Jimin! Can you believe me when he said ‘No! I don’t trust you!’ in his teacher voice?”

Jungkook watches as his husband tosses his body around, laughing at Hoseok’s words and a particular story the older man is telling.

Jungkook scents the air and feels Hoseok’s alpha scents getting too particularly heady, probably since they were out with the rest of the man-wolves, and his sweat and pheromones are coming out in buckets now in a battle of possessiveness.

Jungkook would know, he had been in the forces with wolves of different ranks. When they were out training, everything else would drown out in their scents. Omegas, betas, alphas, everyone would be drowning in each other's scents that sometimes they forget their own.

But he does not feel good. Hoseok is his pack brother, but he does not feel good.

Jimin is laughing on the man’s shoulder, putting his nose on the man’s neck. Hoseok looks like he does not care a bit with the familiar gesture, his hand holding the swaying Jimin on his hip. Jimin looks drunk, cheeks flushed and eyes sharp even when they are glassy and wide open. A drunk Jimin is a touchy Jimin, and a normal Jimin is already very touchy.

“Hyung, you didn’t exactly give him much to imagine, you know?”

Jimin continues next as he saunters over to the tupperwares where they keep the leftover meats. He closes some of the lids with the push of his body, and they close with a pop. “You have to show him your soft side sometimes. You keep getting on that alpha mode when he’s around, it’s making him nervous.”

“He’s an alpha too, Jimin! What do you even mean?” Hoseok is barking at Jimin with his lips downturned. 

“Yeah, but I mean. He’s real soft. You need to be softer with him, he’s already head over heels with you.”

Jimin keeps two tupperwares inside the fridge, and takes out three paper bags from the drawers to fit the rest of the tupperwares in. Jungkook watches as Hoseok stands on one side, downing his soda before picking up a wine cup on the kitchen counter and smelling it.

“I mean you have to show your sexy side too. You know? That’s mine by the way, hyung.” Jimin goes over to fetch the wine glass from Hoseok’s hand, drinking the whole glass in one motion. “Oh, that’s real smooth. He knows some good wines.”

“Yah Jiminie stop drinking, you drank too much tonight. Okay you were saying-“

Jimin puts the glass in the sink and turns to Hoseok again as he sways his hips in an attempt to look adorable and charming, and probably sexy at the same time.

“I mean you have to latch onto him like you did to the rest of us. Get your scent on him.”

Hoseok laughs loudly at Jimin’s antics, and as the man goes over to curl his arms on Hoseok’s neck next, looking like they belong together, Jungkook feels himself burning up.

“Oi stop it! It tickles!”

He is used to this, Hoseok does this to everyone. Jimin does this to Hoseok.

Jimin and Hoseok grew up together, sharing the same room for years, and have always planned to work together until they are old. They are practically siblings more than pack brothers. Even when Jimin is grinding in faux seduction and Hoseok is laughing himself off, Jungkook knows it is nothing.

Even when Jimin puts his nose on Hoseok’s neck, and Hoseok is laughing again because it tickles him. Jungkook knows it is all fun.

Even when he imagines Jimin kissing Hoseok on the counter, doing things out of bounds, looking so perfect for each other, Jungkook knows it is all him. His paranoia is getting the best of him, even to the extend of imagining stuff about his husband and their brother.

But when Hoseok grabs Jimin’s neck to make him stop as the man giggles, the older alpha's fingers holding his mate by his mating mark on the neck, Jungkook loses control.

He growls, and before the two stop moving at the sudden sound, Jungkook flees to their bedroom, opening the window before climbing out. Jimin would reach the spot he had left just now merely seconds after, as he checks the house, but nobody is around.

Jungkook runs.

He does not know where to go, and the tears are clouding his eyes as he shifts, but he runs.

 

****

 

Jimin returns home early that evening, wishing he would see his husband somewhere in the house. At the dinner table, in the kitchen, or sitting by the couch like he usually does as he stares blankly at a switched off television set.

Outside the wooden cottage, the autumn wind is harsh and biting, wet leaves carried away from their piles to scatter on the stone footsteps. Everything looks dreary in the backdrop of fall even with the vivid colours, people returning to the warmth of their homes and loved ones and leaving their frontyards empty.

The house was cold and dark when he returned, nothing looks different than when he had left for work in the morning.

Jimin knows he is being irrational, but Jungkook does not give him much room to think otherwise.

Jungkook has been spending time away even when he is home, it is like he is not home at all. Sometimes Jungkook would leave early for his office, and Jimin knows he does not need to get there as early as he usually does. No engineer works at six in the morning when he is at his desk most of the times.

He sleeps on the couch every night, leaving Jimin alone on their bed halfway through the night. He goes back home late, goes missing on the weekends. When he does go back early, he skips dinner on the pretense of a nap. When he does eat with Jimin, he stays quiet most of the times. 

Jungkook makes an effort to stay and talk even when he seems uncomfortable, and Jimin is grateful for that, but it does not take long for the man to stare off into space and leave Jimin talking to himself.

After half a month of something similar, Jimin is no longer bothered to hold him tightly to himself at night, in a futile effort to keep the man’s body close to him.

It has been close to two months now since his return, and Jimin still wakes to Jungkook sprawled on the couch in the morning, a sight which stings his eyes and pushes at his chest.

In more than a decade-long relationship where love was always easy, Jungkook suddenly turned into a foreign entity. A future ghost of his past.

Jimin is walking towards the kitchen when he stops by a photo frame among the many they hang on the wall. There are photos of everyone they love, their families, wolf brothers. There were baby photos of both Jimin and Jungkook, and graduation ones.

A photo of their wedding fits at the center of it all, one where Jimin was smiling to the camera so widely that his eyes closed. Jungkook was on his side with his face turned to show his sharp side profile, his arm holding Jimin close as he smiled so hard it brought out the wrinkles at the edges of his eyes. He was looking at Jimin and Jimin alone, in what would be silent words spoken in love and warmth, a promise of a lifetime. 

A bigger version of this photo is hung in their room, next to another where Jimin was laughing with his mouth open as Jungkook hugged him from behind.

Young Jungkook loved him so much.

He can see it, in every photo hung in their house, the furniture built by the young alpha, the memories of his touch on Jimin's skin, the mating mark on Jimin's neck.

Like an outsider peering in, Jimin feels envy at a much younger Jimin and Jungkook who were so in love and sure of life. He is jealous at a younger Jimin, who got to go home to man who loved him so well, who filled him in all the right ways possible. A younger Jungkook was so eager to please in everything he does, so passionate in learning and working, and loving him.

That Jungkook, brawn and tall, strong in all the ways possible, would hold Jimin close to him as he kissed Jimin silly, unwilling to let go of his body everytime they made love. He would mark Jimin in all places, thrust deep inside him like he knew all the crevices and curves of Jimin's body. And then, he would fall asleep in Jimin's arms, holding him close.

Jimin would wake up to his beautiful face, healthy and glowing on his pillow, on his chest, on his tummy. Jimin loves, and has always loved his sleeping face.

That Jungkook is missing, and Jimin wants to take away all the photo frames and keep them under his bed so that nothing reminds him of what he is missing out.

The current Jungkook is missing too. 

He was not home last night. Jimin had seen him walking back to their home in the middle of the fest, and even checked on him when he was asleep. But when he returned to bed at midnight, only the shape of Jungkook's body was left on the bed. The bedroom window was left opened.

He waited, waited until the wee morning and the sun would rise. Jungkook did not return. When he left for work Jungkook was somewhere else, somewhere Jimin could not reach.

Even when he is beside him, Jungkook is so far away and Jimin could not have it in him to find him anymore.

Upon reaching the kitchen, he takes out two bottles of rice wine, a bottle of mineral water from the fridge, and a box of medication from a small box. His heat is coming soon, and while he had anticipated Jungkook coming back to finally spend it with his husband, Jimin does not think it is right to do it now. Nothing is right.

He waited and still nothing is right.

A drop or two of tears falls on the back of his hand as he opens the box and pops open the last two pills from the silver row of medications. Swallowing them in huge gulps, Jimin does not move. He stays, sits himself at the dinner table, and cries until his tears come out in painful streaks.

He cries quietly until the medicine settles in his stomach, and he is ready for a round of alcohol.

Jimin has always loved alcohol, and Jungkook learnt it from him.

He remembers being there when the younger had his first sip, barely eighteen when he told Jimin he wanted to taste a bit of beer, a bit of rice wine, a bit of wine. A bit of everything, because Jimin has always been fond of all.

Jimin had prepared it all, all taken from his parents’ stash. He watched as the younger cringed on the first sip of everything, because he disliked everything sour and bitter. He got a bit tipsy after that, curling close to Jimin’s body, nosing his way onto Jimin’s neck.

He has always loved Jimin’s neck, and even then when Jungkook was heavy and always growing, Jimin relented to the weight on his chest, and the tip of his nose on his neck.

He remembers Jungkook whispering to him, tipsy and young, “Jimin hyung, I like your face a lot. Wait until I get old enough to drink as well as you do.”

Jimin heaves at the memory, unwilling to remember the years that follow. The lovely years of courting, of falling deeper. The painful years of waiting.

He cries and he drinks again, the rush of cold wine rushing through his throat a replacement for the tears coming out in streams and wetting his cheeks. He remembers the good things, the bad things, eyes gazing at the photo frames on the wall.

An hour would pass, an hour before midnight when Jungkook returns.

He is in his work clothes, which hang off his body like laundry on a windy day. Nothing looks like Jungkook these days, nothing fits, and Jimin drinks again. It is his loyal companion for all these lonely years.

“You’re not asleep yet, baby?”

Jimin does not look up when he answers, pulling open the lid of another bottle with a twist of his finger. “Why, you want me to be asleep?”

Jungkook does not answer to that. “I’m sorry, hyung. I- I had work.”

“From last night? Sure.”

Jungkook clenches his jaw from where he stands, taking off his coat as he inches closer. Jimin tries to sniff for any scents of any wolves around Jungkook—any omega, any alpha or beta which could have taken his husband away from the warmth of his bed, from Jimin. His intoxicated state makes it difficult for him to scent anything, so Jimin gives up.

“Next time you’re going to leave, tell me Jungkook. Tell me so I can be ready.”

“Be ready for what?” Jungkook’s voice is small, and Jimin wants to scoff so hard.

He gulps another swish of alcohol, feeling the sting in his eyes. “For anything. Divorce? I don’t know?”

Jungkook’s face looks paler now in the darkness of the living room. “What? What are you saying, hyung?”

“I don’t know Jungkook. You tell me. I don’t know what’s going on with you or with us.”

Jungkook huffs at that, looking pained but at the same time frustrated.

He walks off to the bedroom, hanging his coat somewhere. When he walks out next, he quickly heads for the fridge to take out a bottle of mineral water. Jimin notices the sag in his walk, the deepening circles under his eyes.

“I don't know too. But Hoseok hyung seems to know a lot.” Jungkook's voice sounds off when he says that, something rebellious and vile crawling out to snag at Jimin's skin on intention.

Jimin tilts his head at that, not really getting the implication of anything. “What does Hoseok hyung has to do with this? Don’t drag anyone else into our problem, Jungkook.”

Jungkook seems lost at that, eyes weary and cheeks dry. He twists the mineral bottle in his hold, getting the lid opened quickly. “I don’t know. There’s always someone else in our life, isn’t it? I wasn’t always around, how would I know?”

“Excuse me?”

Jungkook stays quiet at that, standing like a frozen totem pole next to the fridge, face taut and unfeeling. Jimin does not feel ready for an argument, feeling his temper bursting and disappointment brimming, waiting for him to dig it out.

He walks over to the fridge to toss the box back inside the medication box, as Jungkook watches his every move.

The younger grabs the box before the fridge door closes, eyebrows frowning as he turns to Jimin.

“What’s this, Jimin?”

Jimin looks tired, as he bins the two empty bottles of rice wine into the recycling container. He replies lazily, unwilling to be more angry. “Heat suppressants. I’ve had it for years. The best in the market.”

“Why would you need heat suppressants? I’m here now, Jimin.”

“Well, are you?”

Jimin washes his hands at the sink, casually looking to Jungkook like the statement does not matter to him, does not hurt him one bit. He does not even flinch when Jungkook crushes the box quietly in his grip, looking down at his socked feet with his eyes watering.

“You should’ve talked to me. We could've discussed this.”

Jimin scoffs again, a wry smile on his face. “You don’t even talk to me, Kook. How would we even discuss anything?”

“I came back for you, Jimin. Why are you doing this to me?”

“Why am I-“ Jimin tosses away a hand rag. “Jungkook, I’ve taken these for years. There’s no reason to stop now. You haven’t given me a reason to stop taking this!”

“Do you have someone else? Be honest Jimin.” Jungkook asks, lips trembling as he speaks, unable to look up. “I won’t be angry, just tell me. Baby, please.”

“What? Are you even listeni-“

“You don’t want my pup, is that it? Is there any other alph-“

Jimin snatches the box away from Jungkook’s grasp, tears now wetting his cheeks in full capacity.

“How dare you, Jungkook? How dare you? I waited for you! I’ve been right here for you, Jungkook. All these times. I gave years of my life waiting for you, not knowing where you were! If you’re dead or alive? Tonight, I waited. I’m still waiting! You came back but you’re not here. You don't even touch me anymore! What do you want me to do Jungkook? How dare you say I’m fucking someone else behind your back?"

Jungkook stays quiet at his outburst, breathing loudly as he clenches his jaw. "I don't- I thought you wanted children!"

"I still want them! But we can’t have it now, you know it more than I do! Not with you like this! You're not even here, Jungkook!”

“I’m here now, goddamn it!” Jungkook half-yells from where he is standing, fists trying to control his claws from coming out. “I’m here and you don’t want me? You don’t want my pup anymore? I’m not your alpha?”

“You’re not. You’re not my Jungkook. Give me back my Jungkook.”

His words break everything, and Jimin knows Jungkook's heart breaks at that, his face contorting in pain. He cares, he cares so much but he needs to let it out. The dull ache in his chest has turned into a monstrous pressure, killing him bit by bit as he feels Jungkook slowly leaving him.

“How could you say that, Jimin?” Jungkook's voice is small, shaking as he stares at Jimin with tears in his eyes.

They might be staring at each other now, eyes glassy and hurt. Jimin however cannot fathom the pain and desperation that comes from rejecting his alpha, and another heat without an alpha. He is a full grown omega with a mate, and everytime he goes on heat without help, it burdens his body like earth in a drought.

“Well, I said it.”

“Jimin. I did everything for you.”

“Do you ever think about me, Jungkook? Don’t you ever think I did everything for you too? I still do! Don't you think that I have needs and dreams? That I want a man to make me happy and laugh, and smile again? Do you know how pathetic I am? I can’t even carve your face on clay because it fucking hurts!"

Jimin is screaming now.

"It hurts to remember you! You’re everywhere in this house. When they told me you’re dead I wanted to burn the house! But what did I do? I waited, because you are my husband and I love you. You’re gonna come back to me, you promised. Because you're my husband!”

Jungkook can only stare at Jimin as the man screams to him in agony, face contorted in anger and pain. Tears are streaming down his face, and for a moment when everything is silent, Jimin can hear his heart breaking at his husband’s helpless face.

Jimin is already halfway out of the kitchen when he turns and speaks not more than a whisper, his body still shaking in sobs. “My heat starts on Thursday probably, so you can sleep over at the workshop or wherever it is you’ve been sleeping over at. I’ve taken meds so it’ll only be for a day, at most. Night, Jungkook.”

Jimin leaves Jungkook shivering in the kitchen, the lone figure standing erect and immobile for minutes after.

He finds himself trembling in tears and anger and so much sadness as he cries on Jungkook's pillow, missing the man, but finds sleep easy with the intoxication.

By morning, Jungkook is gone.

 

***

 

Hoseok waits a little bit, waits until Jungkook looks ready to settle into the office before he finishes his work.

He tries to find stuff to look busy with, shifting files here and there, unfinished pots here and there. 

Right about now, he should have been home, cooking dinner for himself and occasionally Namjoon, but Jungkook came a little late today—way after Jimin left, as the omega left early for his heat. Hoseok could not find it in himself to leave the young alpha alone.

He had look distraught when he came in, shirt disheveled, and cheeks sunken. Hoseok is not a stupid man.

He knows trouble when he sees one—knows when a man, a war veteran comes home with too much baggage on his back and only bones on skin. He had seen it on Seokjin when the older returned, saw it on Jungkook’s frail body. He saw it in both of their eyes, and the long scars on their arms. He still sees it. 

Hoseok is sure Jungkook had seen stuff he is sure no one would want to go through; and along with the experience, the younger might have lost himself in the process. Jimin looks more than affected by his husband’s return—more lost than actually happy, looking paler and skinnier than in all the years he had known the man.

Despite everything, Hoseok is not one willing to push anyone out of their limits of comfort, so he waits. Like tonight, he waits until the younger speaks to him.

“Hyung, I’m sleeping here tonight. Jimin hyung’s office bed.”

“I know. I can see that.”

Hoseok gestures to the man’s shirt, something different from the workwear he usually wears when he would come over to fetch Jimin or to help out around the workshop. “It’s getting really cold out here. This year’s fall is intense. Might want to bundle up.”

Jungkook hums in answer, reaching into his bagpack to grab a sweater out.

“Jimin is in heat, isn’t he? Well, shortened heat.”

Jungkook flinches at that, a frown coming up as soon as he heard that. Hoseok notices the spike in the scent, something triggering in the younger’s alpha scent.

“How do you know, hyung?”

Hoseok knows something is off, but it still intrigues him. Jungkook has shown a trait of possessiveness during all these years, with his brothers and especially Jimin of course, but he always knew boundaries. Even when he joked around, he was gentle and soft with his touches, alpha pheromones only reserved specifically for gym, or training. This Jungkook bristles easily.

“Of course I would, Kook. He’s my brother. I lived with him for years.”

Jungkook tilts his head at that, tongue pushing a cheek out as he seems to get his mind in check. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean it like that, hyung. I’m just-”

“He waited for you, Kook.”

“I know.”

Hoseok is beyond frustrated now, not knowing the beginning and the end of this problem. He wants to reach out and help but he does not want to meddle.

“Years. I don’t know how many times he sculpted your face and not finish any of it.”

Jungkook raises his head at that, probably surprised at the new information. Jimin has never shown him anything he did in regards to Jungkook, except for impersonal mugs and bowls he makes pretty easily.

“When they told us you could be dead, he smashed everything, everything he made to remind him of you. Then, they told us you’re safe, and he cried so hard. It broke us, seeing him like that.”

Jungkook rubs his head at that, brushing his hair back and looking like he is close to crying. He has gained back a bit of pounds since he returned but his face remains a skeleton of what he was—a younger, healthier Jungkook. A happier Jungkook.

“I know you’re angry, and you don’t understand why he’s suppressing his heat. Heats aren’t easy on omegas, I know you know that? He waited for you to come back to have it. If he's suppressing it now, it means you both are not ready. He would know his body more than anyone. But, he waited for you, Kook.”

“Then why doesn’t he want to spend it with me?” Jungkook almost whines at that, face a painful expression as he looks up to Hoseok. “I’m here now, am I?

“I don’t know, Kook. Jimin doesn't tell me everything, especially not about you."

Hoseok sighs as he tries to think of a reason, an excuse. He has one in his head, something he knows Jimin would likely be thinking of, but it is not his place to say it.

"You left just over three months after you mated, and he never had one with you. At least when you’re away his body wasn’t attuned to your presence, your pheromones. But now, you’re everywhere. He’s probably in a lot of pain as we speak, knowing his alpha is around but he couldn’t have you.”

“I want to be there.” Jungkook speaks into the hands palming his face, trying to wipe away the regrets and the sadness. A desperation at knowing he cannot take care of his omega in his most vulnerable state.

Hoseok does not wait as he rises to his legs, lifting his bag in one swift movement. Jungkook looks up as the older alpha switches the lights off, face confused and scared.

“Then why are you still here?”

 

 

Fall nights are always cold and calming, winds rattling the windows attached to their wooden walls like a mild earthquake. Through his blurry vision Jimin sees the clock pushing towards midnight.

Even with the cold of the dropping temperature, there is a fire burning through his veins, coiling at his guts and pressing on different spots inside and outside of his body. Sweat collects on all the possible curves and caves of his body, the drying cum and slick damp and sticky on his skin.

The comforter is already off the bed hours ago, kicked away by his limbs as he tried to cool his body temperature down.

Even with his heat suppressed, Jimin can still feel everything—can still feel a more subdued throbbing in his lower tummy which calls for release. His behind is wet with slick, and Jimin refuses to reach for Jungkook’s pillow on top of his head. He needs the alpha’s scent for release and he knows it, as his right hand works quickly to twist his pulsating cock up and down. His left hand stays limp on his behind, fingers slowly rubbing the inside of his ass, flooded by the slick.

It is not enough, it was never enough.

He reminds himself he does not need Jungkook, his wolf does not too—even when all parts of himself are whimpering in pain.

There are traces of Jungkook everywhere, and in heat his wolf smells everything.

Jungkook’s mild floral perfume, his used laundry, his used boxers. He smells Jungkook’s hair on the pillow, and the scent of his aftershave. It hurts him so bad to have his husband so close yet far away, and Jimin cries again, feeling vulnerable and fragile. His incessant tears wet the bedsheet like his cum and slick did.

And then it hits him, a fresh and raw scent of Jungkook—of midnight woods and hilly air, a dark shadow standing at the threshold of their bedroom.

“Jimin.”

Jimin knows Jungkook can see his nude silhouette in the dark, the one writhing on the bed pathetically. He is as naked as a baby, back facing Jungkook, and body facing the windows. He can see the shape of the moon, feels the calming illumination on his face, as he tries to find the point for release. With Jungkook around, it is far easier to do so, but Jimin does not want him to know that. 

“What are you doing here?”

Jimin does not turn as he speaks, trying not to speak in high whines even when it is difficult. He stops the movements of his hands, trying to find somewhere to hide his body from Jungkook’s stare. He knows Jungkook is staring.

“I told you to come back tomorrow.”

Jimin’s voice is sultry but in pain, and he knows Jungkook could catch his moans and groans, the scent of his cum hitting his head. The alpha is growling, a deep hum reverberating in his chest at the overpowering scent of his aroused mated omega in the room. Jungkook must have incredible strength to hold it in and not pound on the naked omega.

“Don’t come near, Jungkook.”

Jungkook halts in his walk, unable to do much but wait.

Both of their wolves whimper in pain at the sight of a man writhing in pain, and the husband unable to reach out. Jimin knows Jungkook would never do anything without his permission or consent, but he feels his mind not quite sound yet. He needs Jungkook more than ever, but is not sure he wants the man close when he does not even know whether the man still loves him.

“Let me help you, Jimin.”

“No. It’s just- I’m okay.”

"Jimin, I'm sorry."

Jimin does not know what hits him so hard—the words, or the scent and warmth of Jungkook’s body suddenly lying behind him, his usual spot. He waited so long to have these moments with Jungkook, and the thought of going through these times with Jungkook had kept him going.

He wanted Jungkook so bad, and he still wants him.

Now that his hopes are shattered and Jungkook is slipping away from his grasp, Jimin feels sad. He feels devastated, and his heat is taking everything out and pushing everything to his face.

"I'm sorry, baby. Please."

Jimin begins to cry at the weak sound of Jungkook's voice, both hands raised to cover his face even in the midst of chasing after release. He cries into his wet palms, curling into a ball away from Jungkook’s stiff body.

Jimin knows Jungkook is crying too. He hears the sniffs and the sobs, but he does not dare turn around.

He hears Jungkook’s shivering breath as the man wraps around him from the back, strong arms holding his torso close to his own. Jungkook is still in his sweater, and Jimin misses him. Jimin misses the scent and the feel of his skin on his, he misses his strong hands.

“Baby.”

“No.”

Jimin’s negative answer is slow and insincere, body naturally moulding against the figure behind him like wet clay in the palm of a warm hand. He feels the outline of Jungkook semi-hardened cock, awake at the overwhelming scent of his aroused omega. Even when they are both crying, Jungkook’s wet nose wetting his neck, Jimin feels feverish.

“No knots. We can’t.”

Jimin wants him so bad, but he does not want to turn around and see Jungkook, lest he loses control and jumps the man like he knows he could. They have not had sex in years, and Jimin is starved. He does not want Jungkook to see him like this, or see Jungkook in this state either.

Jungkook hugs Jimin’s tightly, nosing his nose towards the older man’s neck trying to placate him as the omega arches his back.

Jimin loves the feel of Jungkook’s thick nose on his skin, nosing around his skin. He loves the man’s breath released by his lips, as he kisses Jimin’s jaw and shoulders slowly, afraid to hurt the man more than what he already did.

When Jimin finds himself reaching back, and wrapping an arm around Jungkook’s back to keep their body grinding close as they cry, he can feel Jungkook sliding his hand downwards towards his crotch. Jungkook’s slender and bony fingers wrap around his cock next, and Jimin almost cums. He misses Jungkook's dexterous fingers, and he cries harder as he moans at the sensation of his pull and tug. Jungkook always knows him best, knows his body best.

“Jungkookie.” Jimin can only whisper in his state, losing his voice to the ascending sensation of arousal and release.

“Baby, cum for me.”

Jungkook kisses Jimin’s neck with his trembling lips, gently nipping his jaw as the man groans in his embrace, not really turning around as he cums and cries. His bony hand is wet from Jimin's cum but he does not let go.

Jungkook does not stop twisting the cock gently but sturdily, even when Jimin’s body shakes with overstimulation, only releasing when Jimin holds his hand in his because he is too sensitive.

Jimin breathes and heaves, feeling Jungkook’s wet eyelashes on his cheeks, and his kisses on his shoulders. Jungkook does not leave marks like he did in the past, like what he used to, careful with Jimin’s wants. 

Jimin has always loved Jungkook so much for that, for knowing him, for respecting his space.

He closes his eyes as he feels another wave of tears coming, another rush of heat pooling in his stomach, slick oozing out of his behind as he feels Jungkook’s cock grinding on him from underneath his sweatpants.

“Jiminie, let me. Please. For you?”

Jimin stays silent at Jungkook's breathy whisper on his ear, not knowing what to answer as his cock twitches again in anticipation. Jungkook's fingers are still intertwining tightly with his own, as he holds them close to his chest. They have not even kissed, yet he has cummed once.

“For me, for us. No knots. Jiminie, let me take care of you.”

He nods, and does not turn as Jungkook kisses the broad of his chiseled back, following the trail of his protruding spine with his soft lips and wet tongue.

Jungkook stops for a few seconds to undress, keeping only his pants on. He dives in quickly after that, nipping gently at some areas, and Jimin moans in pleasure. Jungkook's strong arm still holds Jimin’s body close to his, and another roams lower to reach his ass.

When he feels two fingers teasing on his rim, Jimin whimpers, body falling half on the bed, further opening his legs for Jungkook. He can hear the younger man breathing heavily, his scent overpowering. Jimin can feel more slick coming out from the sound of Jungkook breathing alone. 

“You’ve always looked beautiful, hyung. My baby.”

Jimin moans more at the words, and mewls at the sudden feel of Jungkook’s mouth on his asscheeks, kissing and licking on them each as if they are his balls of candy to lick and suck at.

"You smell so good, Jiminie. My Jiminie."

Jimin knows it is going to happen, but he still jolts when he feels Jungkook's wet and warm tongue on his entrance. The sensation is a long lost one, marked by years of waiting and Jungkook’s absence. He shudders when Jungkook opens up the hole a bit farther, and gently licks it and kisses the rim next. The sound is erotic, Jungkook's hungrily licking into it as if the slick will run out if he does not. 

“Does it feel good, baby?”

Jimin does not answer or turn around, but his hand reaches behind to card through Jungkook’s short hair and that is enough.

Jungkook continues on licking the hole, as slick pours out in reaction to the stimulant, putting two of his fingers in to Jimin jolting forward. He almost climbs the bed at the intrusion, though gentle and welcomed. When he moves, Jungkook takes the chance to open up his cheeks even more, diving in instantaneously with his hands holding the ass cheeks open and Jimin's body close to him. 

“Kookie. Ah-” Jimin is drooling off the bed now, eyes closed, Jungkook expert tongue and fingers making him delirious.

“I miss you so much, Jimin.”

Jungkook sucks a bit more at the rim, hardening his tongue and pushing it all the way in with his fingers trying to find the bundle of nerves at the edge of his hole. Jimin is whimpering now, exhausted from so much feeling and from the heightened state of arousal.

When he finds it and Jimin’s toes curl in ecstacy, Jungkook pushes forward a bit more, now kneeling and pushing the man’s ass to grind it harder on his face. He sneaks his hand beneath Jimin’s limb to find the man’s hard cock, and twists it alongside the plunge of his tongue. The wet sound of slick against spit is erotic and dirty, and Jimin can feel himself losing his mind at the incessant push and suck of Jungkook’s expert tongue.

He hums as he coaxes Jimin to cum, and the vibration sends waves of pleasure into Jimin’s body as he keens and cums again, arching his body to fit into Jungkook’s warm mouth. Jungkook licks everything that comes out of Jimin’s hole, taking his time to lick his wet thighs and his balls, but he never forces Jimin to turn around.

When his body has stopped convulsing from the intense orgasm, Jimin turns his body a bit, slowly repositioning his sore limbs. He feels extremely sleepy and sated, limbs twitching at the waves of pleasure, and upon seeing his husband's wet face, cannot help but smiles shyly in his tired state.

Even when his heart hurts so bad, he is still so in love with Jungkook. He loves him so bad that it hurts.

“Your knot, Kookie?”

“Don’t worry hyung. It’ll go away. I won’t-“

Jungkook speaks as he resettles his spot behind Jimin, pulling the man’s body flush against him. Jimin would have cried again at the gentle gesture, feeling tired and sad, and very sure that their issue is not settled, but the sleep beckons him in.

Jungkook’s scent of midnight woods calms him down, his mated husband’s hold tight on his scorching hot body. Jungkook hugs him like he would never let go, legs wrapping around Jimin in a tight wrap. Skin to skin, except for Jungkook's pants. Jimin feels safe, feels cradled in his husband's arms once again.

Even if it is just for one night, Jimin would like to pretend everything is okay, even when he could not turn around knowing he would cry in an instant at the sight of the man's face.

Once or twice more in the night, Jimin would wake up, cock hard and ass grinding against Jungkook.

He mewls for the alpha, and bites his lips everytime Jungkook responds almost immediately. They do not kiss on the lips, even when they both want it so bad, even when Jungkook kisses everywhere else, spit trailing down his cheeks. Jimin does not turn around.

Jungkook’s cock is hard everytime, but he does not want to do anything that Jimin does not want, even when the man is rubbing his bare ass on the man’s clothed appendage. Jimin holds back so much, slick oozing out at the scent of his alpha, but he does not ask for the man’s cock.

With Jungkook’s fingers inside, his lips attached to Jimin’s neck and cheeks, on his clenching hole, Jimin cums again and again.

 

The morning comes, and Jimin is gone, leaving behind the bedsheets which smell like him and a bit of Jungkook—all fresh forest in the morning, and Jungkook’s midnight wood. Jungkook turns to inhale more of his husband’s immaculate scent, feeling his cock twitching at the ambience from dried slick and cum.

He got his release early this morning after Jimin’s last and final orgasm, the man asleep as he worked on his own aching cock in the toilet, knot not fully forming in absence of the omega. Jungkook had used every will and energy he had to stave off his hunger during the night, cock searching for Jimin's pretty hole on instinct. His pants were his only protection—Jimin did not want his knot, or Jungkook inside him, and he respected that request. 

Last night was only for Jimin, and Jungkook had been so selfish for years. He can do with more nights and years treating Jimin well.

Right now, he rubs another off, still remembering Jimin’s warm and baby-soft pale skin on his own roughened one. He remembers the taste of Jimin’s slick, raw and sweet—the clench of the older man’s hole when he sucked his juice dry with his tongue. Jimin's moans are illegal, something Jungkook would like to keep for himself.

He remembers his hand on Jimin’s tummy, the tight grip he had on it as he grind his clothed cock in between Jimin’s plush ass. Jungkook loves his ass, the cinch of his hips, the muscular thighs which gripped his legs. Jimin’s cock is veiny and heavy in his hand, and when he remembers how Jimin arched his slender body and bit into his hand when he released for the last time, Jungkook finally cums.

He feels sleepy and sated now, but calmed.  

Last night, with the intoxicating scents of Jungkook and Jimin mixing together as they writhed on their shared bed in silence, Jungkook fell asleep and did not dream of anything. No nightmares had been rude enough to intrude, his thoughts clouded by his husband.

When he turns to his side to look at the time, Jungkook finds a glass of water left on the bedside table next to a sleeping light shaped like a cat. Jimin usually says thank you loudly, but this time there are two slices of egg sandwiches and a small note on which he wrote a short thank you with. Something for his 'Jungkookie' written in cursive letters.

Jungkook knows it is enough. It is enough for now.

 

***

 

The previous class had truly worn him out, primary school children who are perpetually too eager for the class or for anything they could get their tiny hands on.

Jimin loves them a lot, the ones giving him the most laughter throughout these lonely years.

The autumn dusk has turned for the night, and Jimin knows he should be home now, but does not quite move from where he is seated on the small wooden stool in his workshop.

Out there in the horizons, the birds have flown away from where they would hang around on the powerlines every sunset, finding their way home after seeing the best time of the day.

Jimin wants to find his way home too, to his husband's arms.

His heat and their intimate love-making may have been only a week ago, but Jungkook is slowly warming up to him afterwards, finding gentle touches easy and needed. While Jungkook's words had hurt him good, Jimin knew he is not one free from blame either. 

Jungkook initiates more kisses these days, and Jimin slowly accepts them, willing himself to be more hopeful but still fearful, lest things would not change soon. 

He turns back his attention to the clay thrown on the cardboard in front of him, a bosom of a man, chest up. The face is slowly becoming one with the image he has in his mind. The thinner upper lip and thicker bottom lip, the thick nose, the big eyes unseen behind closed eyelids.

Like this the face appears like he is asleep in peace, a face he remembers so fondly.

The clayman’s cheeks are full, and his jaw is strong. He looks like a Greek God, curly hair framing his forehead. Jimin imagines a small mole on the bottom of his lower lip, something he would put on with clay dye. The man's chest, only half of it, shows strong clavicles, taut muscles. 

He uses the potter’s needle to correct the thick eyebrows, unsure if he is getting the right amount of thickness.

“You’re still around, Jimin?”

Hoseok peeks his upper body into the room, his bagpack slung on his back. “I’m going. Jungkook is coming in, I saw him parking the car just now.”

"Oh?" Jimin turns to the older man at the words, finding himself mildly surprised at the notion that Jungkook is coming. The younger is making effort to spend more time, and Jimin appreciates it a lot. A good dinner spent together should be nice, they have not had many since his homecoming.

Hoseok takes a few steps in when he sees what Jimin is doing.

“Oh? You’re finished with his sculpture? Wow final—“

Hoseok’s smile drops a bit once he sees the sculpture, but then he continues on smiling like nothing is bothering him. “Good job, Min. Looks good.”

Jimin would have beamed just as widely if he did not miss the flicker of doubt crossing the older man’s face. “Hyung, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Why?”

“Hyung.”

Hoseok decides to drop the pretense. “Jimin, I'm sorry but this is supposed to be Jungkook right?”

Jimin nods, face looking confused and a bit worn out. He thought he had everything covered to the detail. Jimin always does everything meticulously, and he does not tolerate errors in his works.

“Which Jungkook is this? Which year? Which one?”

The question hits him like an epiphany, as Jimin stares in horror at the face he had lovingly carved out for days. He is so smitten with it, with every touch he lends to the clay and every little bit of water he brushed onto the clay face. Sometimes, Jimin wants to kiss the cold clay and bring him to life.

“Hyung, I didn’t mean to— Oh my god. I-“

Hoseok is looking at Jimin sympathetically, a small bittersweet smile etched on his lips. “We all miss him. I know. You’d miss him the most. You can’t hold on to that person anymore, Jimin. it’s been years. People change. I’m sorry, Jimin.”

Jimin stays in silence at that, his dirty hands feeling itchy and his eyes feel wet. He feels vile, feels evil. Hoseok caresses his hair gently, and Jimin realises now why it had hurt so much. Why he keeps on hurting.

He keeps waiting for the wrong person.

“Let’s not let Jungkook see that—“

“See what, hyung?”

Jungkook walks into the workshop next, his workshirt still tucked in neatly into his slacks. He has his jacket on instead of his suit, the night too chilly for his thin body.

“Oh you’re here, Kook. I was about to leave.”

Hoseok laughs instead, acting like nothing is bothering them both as he welcomes the younger one in. Jimin turns to Hoseok when the older man nudges him if he needs him to stay, but Jimin just smiles back at him in reassurance.

When Hoseok leaves, Jungkook takes more tentative steps towards Jimin who is now standing up, lifting the clay sculpture away from the table. Jungkook walks over to help.

“Jimin hyung, I’m sorry for coming without notice. I was thinking of—of getting home with you and grabbing dinner—”

Jungkook’s words stop as he sees the face.

Jimin panics, but he knows there is no way to hide this. Jimin knows from the looks of Jungkook’s face that he has seen the unfinished one before, and sees now that Jimin was carving his face.

A younger version of Jungkook, someone he misses, someone who left years before.

“Jungkook, I’m—“

“It’s me, right. Hyung?”

Jimin finally finds bravery to look up at Jungkook's face, who is now looking at the sculpture with no expression on his face. He does not know what is going on in the younger’s head, does not know what his face says anymore.

“Yeah, it’s you.”

“Is that how you remember me like?”

Jungkook turns to Jimin next, his face calmer than expected. Jimin does not know what to say to that, so he nods. He feels guilt and fear rushing through his veins, and a lot of confusion.

“I was very chubby am I? Grubby. Very strong. You used to bite my cheeks and hang off me.”

Jungkook is smiling as he says that, a hint of nostalgia etched on the corner of his smiles.

“Can I touch it, hyung?”

When Jimin quietly answers a positive, Jungkook holds out a tentative hand to carefully touch the wet clay. His fingertips roam the smooth clay of his own face, feeling the cold clay on his skin.

“You’re a true artist, hyung. It really looks like me. A sleeping Jungkook.”

Jungkook closes his eyes next when he touches the face, and Jimin almost wants him to stop.

“I love how cold and smooth clay feels on your skin. It’s really calming.”

Jimin finally finds the courage to speak up. “Yeah, it’s really good. If you want, you can come over sometimes? I can teach you?”

“Really?”

“Yes. You’ve been here almost as long as I have, and you’d never learn how to throw a pot. There’s probably a thing or two you could learn. It could help you out, with your- uh- stress.”

Jungkook smiles sincerely at that, showing his teeth out when he smiles at the older man.

“Will you be teaching me, hyung?”

“Yes, personally.”

Jimin does not know why, but he extends a hand out for Jungkook and holds his hand tentatively as the younger thank him and hold on to his hand tighter.

When Jimin leaves to wash his hands, he misses the way Jungkook looks at the sculpture, a forlorn look etched on his face.

They leave the workshop shortly after, still awkward around each other even after years together, but Jungkook’s arm is on his waist. So Jimin forgets about the sculpture, stays focused on the the tight hold of Jungkook’s hand around his as his husband drives them both home.

He forgets that the face he carved is not this Jungkook.

 

**

 

He almost falls asleep again, only jolted awake by a colleague walking past his desk.

The whole office is quiet at these times of the day, engineers and technicians pouring their attention into manuals and project files on their desks. A lot of them are typing words into their personal computers, finishing a presentation or probably chatting with their friends on social media, Jungkook would not know.

Jungkook loathes looking at the computer screen all day, something he is expected to do these days.

It is either this or attending to the technicians at the site which he likes doing more than this, but he figures they could do a little break. Everyone works a little harder when he is around, the famous war veteran of the honorable family.

They call him the war hero, the survivor. Jungkook wants to break skin at that, wants to tell everyone he is not.

“Go home, Kook. You look like you should take a nap,” a senior officer shares her words of wisdom as she passes by.

He bows in respect, feeling embarrassed that people are catching on. He looks around at the other cubicles, and catches less than three heads at their computers. Halfway across the office, the door to his father’s office is already shut tight, the man must have left for home early today.

Jungkook relents, as he packs up everything. There is another hour left before he could clock out. With everything packed, Jungkook decides to take a nap.

He has been feeling a little hot these days, a little giddy, and a little anxious. After the heat incident, they remain civil around each other, and Jungkook almost feels safe again.

Jimin speaks to him like always, but there is a certain softness in his eyes, and Jungkook would like to think there is a part of him that Jimin still love, still find to be the same. He cannot find that Jungkook anymore, but if there is a part that Jimin can cling on, he would be that person. So he tries.

The sculpture hit him hard.

It looks like him, but not quite him. It is a different Jungkook, someone he could not find anymore. It breaks his heart that Jimin misses that person instead of him, it breaks Jungkook's heart that he himself misses that person too.

Somewhere in years past, a funny and carefree Jungkook would have laughed around and be brave with his words and his touches. That Jungkook was confident and strong, willing to brave anything for anyone he loves.

The dreams come less now, and he does not wake up with claws anymore at least. He sleeps on the couch early without the pretense of sleeping next to Jimin, and almost like a routine, his husband accepts that.

A part of Jungkook screams at himself for doing this to himself and Jimin, but a part of him is scared he would get those dreams and claws at Jimin’s skin.

Then with his head resting on his office chair, he falls asleep.

 

“Kook. Get your claws out.”

Jungkook was heaving now, his rifle and 9 mm both running out of magazines and his claws were out. Beside him, Minjae was trying to breathe through his open wounds, stifled by the bullet lodged in it.

The mob began to come too close and Jungkook had to make the first kill.

He slashed the man’s neck before one could rip his neck out. A gunshot was released and even when he was still wearing his kevlar vest, Jungkook evaded, but it hit through his shoulders, sending him on his knees.

"Fuck!"

Three men jumped near the cockpit next and Jungkook growled, fangs out. He tried his best to protect Minjae who was still writhing in pain, and the corpses of his dead friends.

There is no telling what these mobs do with dead or injured soliders, but Jungkook had seen footages of the militants desecrating corpses of their enemies. He would not have any of that for his brothers, his teammates, his friends.

Yunho smacked a man’s head against dirt, feet crushing another person’s neck.

When the men retreated a bit, Jungkook ran back to Minjae, trying to check on his condition.

The man was gone.

His eyes were staring at the sky above the opened middle-pit, as if waiting for the sight of the black bird, trying to find his ways home, even if it was too late. Jungkook did not have time to cry, fangs almost ripping his mouth open.

“C2, come in,” Jungkook radioed in next, trying to stay calm as he relayed the news. “We have a KIA Sergeant Park Minjae. Over.”

“Roger that. Humvees are delayed, there’s been a ground attack. A CSAR bird will pick you up. Secure the perimeter off RPGs. Over."

“Roger that.”

Jungkook found a new resolve in that, claws out ready to stab through the man-wolves’ heart. He broke rogue, sharp claws on clean skin. His combat knife remained sturdy on his leg, the claws easier to navigate now that he had shifted.

Yunho was wincing as he fought next to Jungkook, his face had been slashed by claws of the militants.

He tossed a loaded M-16 to Jungkook for the younger to kill the men leading the rocket launcher on the jeeps, Minjae's rifle. Jungkook had shot off the ones with AK-47, but most of them hid themselves behind the stone pillars. 

It was a clean shot, one in the head and two in the chest. Everyone near the vehicle got it.

The sound of the rotor of the black hawk was powerful, a beacon of hope for the exhausted officers. Their magazines were out, and the mobs were now throwing rocks at the two men. Jungkook finished all the rounds in his Beretta, not saving any for another day.  

One wolf went really close and hit Jungkook on his head with the back of his rifle, before Jungkook roared and bit his neck. He bit the head off, keeping everyone away from him for awhile.

When the big black bird finally arrived, the rattling shooting of the mini machine guns scared everybody off to hide in their buildings for awhile. They landed well, and the bleeding Jungkook was already on his knees.

A Delta ran off to fetch him, but Jungkook showed them the way to Yunho first, who was crawling on his knees. He was crawling away from a pool of blood, and Jungkook was not sure if it was his or his kills. Yunho was safely transferred to the backpit.

Jungkook turned back towards the cockpit, carefully lifting Minjae’s dead body and using the amount of strength left to lift him up onto the back of the helicopter. The other officers tried to dislodge the pilots next, quick hands in so little time.

Out here, the black bird was hot and an easy target.

The militants had their machine guns by a multiple now, easily shooting off the officers at the site with the rain of bullets. The sound of bullets ricocheting when they hit the rotor was loud. One of the two rescue officers was shot in the head on the spot, trying to lift the pilots back towards the black bird.

"68, you need to evacuate the crash site now. We can't risk another bird."

"Copy that."

An officer pulled Jungkook away while the man screamed, his arms too weak to drag Minjae's body to the helicopter.

"No! We can't leave them- we can't!"

"C'mon!"

"We can't!"

"Follow your orders, Jeon! We can't risk everyone!"

Jungkook was shoved onto the middle-pit with Yunho, as the black hawk lifted on the spot, bullets still raining at them.

As the bird ascended, Jungkook could only look down at the heads of the man-wolves as they ripped apart Minjae's body in half, and tossed his limbs around in celebration. The pilots and the rescuer were nowhere to be seen, most probably paraded somewhere else with Daehyul's long fallen body

Jungkook heaved, feeling cold fear, anger, and sadness rushing through his veins.

In the hollowed walls of the black hawk, they were finally safe again.

But when Jungkook turned to Yunho, he looked far from safe.

The older officer had lost too much blood, face pale and drained from the injuries. Jungkook knew they were getting close to the base now, as they made their way across the ocean, getting out of the village heading for the hangar. The medics would be able to save him there.

"Kook..."

“Don’t speak, hyung. Save your energy.”

“Kook! I just need- need- you - just in case.” Yunho spoke in blood sputters, but he was cursing all the same. “Fuck it hurts! Tell my girls I did good. Just in case.”

Jungkook nodded.

Half a second would pass when the JOC Base radioed in again. “Super 68, an RPG is aimed your way. Check your six.”

The paratrooper at the gunner position was already shooting everything he could see in the bird's path with the minigun, clearing off the men trying to launch the RPG from the buildings. He missed one at the back, hidden beneath walls.

At the hit which missed, the helicopter swerved, saved by the pilot’s maneuvering as they crossed the ocean. But they spinned so hard, and Jungkook could not imagine falling twice on one day as he held tightly to the helicopter's frame.

Yunho slid off his hold at the sudden rotation and swerving, and Jungkook screamed as the man slipped from his hold and into the wide open door of the black hawk.

"Fuck! No!

He screamed as the man dangled off his hand, the claws piercing through his skin. Yunho looked up at him in confusion, from where he dangled off the bird.

“Jungkook. Let go.”

 

The day feels scorching, despite the fact that the rain is heavy and a storm might be coming. While night times remain cold and windy as the weather shifts from autumn to winter, the days remain mild and easy. But not today.

A drop of sweat goes into his eyes, and Jungkook feels the sting from the sudden intrusion, feels pain in his back.

He has been lifting bags of wet clay for awhile, and pieces of ceramics for a client. His back feels like it is about to break, like those porous claypots Jimin left in the backyard near the kiln.

The nightmare was too intense, hit too close to home that Jungkook drove all the way to the workshop in the torrential rain.

He wants Jimin, he wants to drown in Jimin.

The man had been in the class then up till now, and Jungkook was torn between running in or running away. So he did what he had to do, he lifts the bags of clay, to sweat everything out. Hoseok only stared at him when he asked about things he could do.

“Kook. You alright?”

Hoseok walks in with a huge box next, the scent of his sweat reeking the room with his alpha pheromones. Jungkook nods, and immediately lifts the huge clay block they fired the day before, falling back a step as he does. The statue almost breaks, but Hoseok is there to catch it.

“Hey, hey Kook. Slow down. You sure you’re alright?”

Hoseok is next to him in a moment, and Jungkook feels suffocated by the scent. He wants to fight for dominance. He feels his wolf telling him that it is Hoseok, a brother in his pack, but his mind is telling him it is a threat. He feels like a liar and a pretender, different voices telling him this and that.

“I’m fine, hyung. I‘ll just send this to the back. You wanted the finished bowl right?”

Hoseok does not get to answer, hands hovering in worry. Jungkook simply wants to leave.

Jungkook leaves next, lifting the statue on his shoulders, feeling everything magnified twice intense. He passes by Jimin’s classroom which would have looked vacant if not for the four people still in the class. They are learning the potter's wheels today, something Jungkook has always wanted to try but never thought he would be able to do. His touch is destructive and strong, something which could shatter instead of create.

But Jimin has promised him a personal lesson, and Jungkook mostly wants to spend time with his husband.

He sees Jimin walking around to help the students out, and feels himself calming down, strutting his way to the back of the workshop.

Once he keeps the statue in a storage set and cleans a bit of the kiln area, Jungkook searches for the cooled bowl, something similar to large sized flower pot. He carries the bowl back the way he comes, passing by Jimin’s classroom again.

Jimin’s giggles and chatters could be heard wafting through the open windows, reaching his ears before he even gets to the threshold.

The sound, which used to placate him and soothe his soul now becomes a source of hurt. It pains him, hurts him that he is not the one it is for.

Jungkook misses that, he misses that laugh a lot. Jimin has not laughed once with him ever since he returned. He used to make Jimin laugh all the time, and now all he does is make Jimin sad.

When he passes by the room, just like before it appears vacant. The people have left, but Namjoon is still sitting at the potter’s wheel.

With their backs turned, Jungkook could not see much that is happening, but Jimin is laughing with all his heart, and Namjoon takes another distorted cold clay away from where it is spinning on the wheel. 

Only a slob of clay is left, and Jimin laughs harder as Namjoon giggles at the weird shapes he made on the wheels. 

"Hyung! Why are you so bad at this! Hoseok-"

Jimin does not get to finish as Namjoon ruins another mold, right after throwing it at the center of the moving wheels. They laugh harder now, Jimin tossing his body around, hair fluffed up. He looks so beautiful like this, laughing his heart out in his space, like he has never cried before.

Something in Jungkook breaks.

His heart breaks, the grey lines which divide his rationality, wolf-human break—and then he breaks character.

So he breaks it, the sink, as he tosses it aside and feels his wolf rising and taking control. The two almost jump at that, immediately turning around as Jungkook walks in.

“Jungkook? You’re here?” Jimin looks more surprised than scared. “What happene-“

Jimin does not get to continue when he notices Jungkook shifting, long claws coming out and his teeth elongating. His brown eyes turn amber with the afternoon light, bulging in strength. He growls with every breath, heavy and unreleased, eyes heavy as they twitch between Jimin and Namjoon.

“Jungkook…”

Jimin is walking towards him slowly, face a mix of worry and fear, of unnecessary pity. Jungkook hates it, he feels suffocated. 

"Jungkook, what's wrong?"

The scent of another alpha in the room suffocates him even more, he can feel it wrapping around Jimin even when the omega smells like clay and himself.

“Why did you do this to me Jimin?”

“Jungkook-“

Jungkook tosses away all the clay bowls and cups he finds in his way, breaking everything into pieces. Jimin watches in horror, as he picks up a long metal rod at the side of the classroom they use in firing, and hits the frontmost windows.

Jungkook finally roars.

“How could you fucking do this to me Jimin?! The things I did to come back to you!”

Jungkook breaks another tableful of bowls recently fired by Jimin’s students, as the man stands still in his spot. Namjoon steps forward to cover Jimin who does not cower in fear, but is breaking into tears at seeing Jungkook in this state.

"Kookie, what are you talking about? Calm down, baby please."

Jimin cries a lot after Jungkook returns, and he hates that. Namjoon is not supposed to be here even when Jungkook’s wolf is telling him that the man is safe, is a friend, but Jungkook’s human mind rejects it.

“You two,” Jungkook breaks another window. “—behind my back?”

“Stop it, Jungkook! I didn’t do anything! You know that!” Jimin argues now, stepping forward from where Namjoon is shielding him.

Namjoon inches forward to reach Jungkook, and he almost hits him with the rod. Jimin intercepts swiftly with his own arms, catching Jungkook lifted arm away from the man.

“No Jungkook, listen baby.” Jimin speaks in whispers now, a voice pleading to the man whose eyes are shifting between wild and man. He can feel the tremble of Jimin’s strong hold on his arm.

“I’m here. I didn’t do anything. I waited for you. I love you. You know how much I love you.”

“You lied!”

Jungkook breaks free of himself from Jimin's hold, growing steadily drowsy with the rush of emotions and wolf pheromones. His mind is everywhere and nowhere, all he sees is blankness, like he is plunged deep into the ocean.

“You know I didn’t! It's Namjoon hyung for God's sake!”

There is a clay pot Jimin just baked near the instructor’s table which Jungkook hits with one swing.

Hoseok runs in next, face surprised and in shock as he stands behind the roaring alpha.

“My God! Jungkook! Stop!”

Jungkook growls at him, another alpha he does not want near him or his omega. Hoseok's scent is cloying, a threat, and he does not want him close. His mind is clouded with pain and wrath. So he turns back to Jimin.

“You don’t want my pup, Jimin? You don’t want me?”

Jungkook kicks off a chair.

“Do you know how much I love you, Jimin? Fuck!”

Jungkook roars again, tears pouring out like a broken dam, sending a wooden stool flying towards a nearby glass window with his super-strength.

“I love you so much Jimin! I came back for you! How could you do this to me?!”

In a second, he sees the sculpture of his face next to the window which Jimin just finished sculpting—the one which breaks his heart, a reminder of the missing years. That Jungkook is sleeping, face calm and beautiful, and strong.

Everything Jimin wants and loves, but that Jungkook is not him.

“You love that, don’t you Jimin? That Jungkook?”

“Jungkook please no— I’m sorry baby please!”

“You love him, do you?”

Jungkook picks the sculpture up and throws it on the ground, smashing it everywhere. He steps on it next. “He’s dead Jimin! You don’t have him anymore, you only have me!”

“Calm down, Kook. That’s not how it is.” Hoseok is too close and Jungkook almost bites his neck.

“No! This man, this fucking Jungkook!”

Jungkook turns as he steps his shoes on the broken clay. “You fucking son of a bitch! How could you steal my husband! You’re dead!”

“Jungkookie, please. I love you! This is not you!”

“Who am I, Jimin? I don’t know who I am anymore!"

Namjoon still stands in his place, strong eyes gazing straight at Jungkook. He has not spoken a word, face looking worried but calm. Jungkook can feel his alpha pheromones reacting to Jungkook’s spike. And then he speaks.

“Jungkook, Jimin is your husband. I’m with Hoseok. I thought you know that.”

For a moment, Jungkook’s mind reels back in to tell him that he is doing a mistake, but he refuses to understand it. His mind is a battlefield of exploding mortars, of fallen helicopters, and paraded bodies.

“No you’re not. You’re just doing it to get to Jimin. My omega! My husband!”

Jungkook is roaring now and for a moment he could have lurched at Namjoon, who, in his mind is snickering at him. But Jimin is there in a second, and the claws almost hit his beautiful face. Jungkook lifts his other arm to protect him, to have his own claw digging into his own arm.

He growls in pain, as Jimin falls on the floor pushed by Jungkook’s arm trying to keep him away from his claws. The metal rod slips from his grasp while he heaves in pain at his pierced arms.

“Jungkook!”

Jungkook’s eyes bulge at the sight of Jimin on the floor, but is now scrambling to his feet. Jimin is fine but he is crying quietly, that is all he does when Jungkook is around. Jungkook's voice breaks again, just like his heart is. Shattered and missing.

“Do you hate me that much? You said I’ve changed Jimin? You don’t want me anymore?”

“Jungkook, no no no—”

Jungkook raises his claws next to the mating mark, close to the carotid artery, the one that signs his matrimony, his life or death. The bite that Jimin gave him on their first night together and the one that made him Jimin’s, and Jimin his.

But Jimin is not his. His wolf whines in pain, in denial, and Jungkook cries harder.

“You don’t want me anymore, Jimin?”

A pair of his claws begin to cut the skin close to the artery, a sting which does not feel foreign anymore with everything else hurting.

Jungkook feels himself losing reason. He cannot live without Jimin, and to lose the mating mark means to lose his life too. He cannot live without himself as well, and Jungkook does not know where he is. The dreams do not stop, he wants them to stop.

“Jungkook no!”

Jimin cries harder as he screamed in a stern voice, sharp eyes wide in plea and desperation, at the sight of blood coming out of his neck.

“Don’t do that baby, no. Listen to me, Jungkook.” 

Hoseok is speaking in a half-yell, frantic as tears smear his face. “Kook, you’re my brother Kook. You’re a part of us. Don’t do this, Kook!”

“I can’t- hyung. I can’t live.”

With the words out, Jungkook can only cry, his mind finally finding moments for calm. His claws push deeper into his neck, and the blood spurts out as they reach the edge of the mating bite.

“Jungkook!”

“Jungkook stop it! You came back for Jimin! You’re gonna live!” Hoseok’s voice rings deep in his ears, as loud as Jimin’s soft whisper of a plea.

“Kookie… I love you. Don’t leave me. I can't live without you.”

Jungkook chokes in his sobs, shifty wolf eyes looking left and right, trying to find Jimin’s scent and his own. Looking up, his vision clears one second and blurs next, and he sees Jimin now crying his heart out at his state. He slowly lowers his claws away from his bleeding neck.

“Ji—Jimin…” Jungkook tries to speak slowly through his fangs, hands covered in blood. “I can’t breathe."

Jimin swallows a huge sob, keeping his voice a mere whisper. "Jungkook..."

"I’m drowning, Jimin.”

Jimin is close now, taking tentative steps towards the man as he controls his own tears. “I know, baby.”

Jungkook does not realise it, but he feels the wetness between his thighs, the stench of urine not able to penetrate the thickness of his scent.

“Save me, hyung.”

The three other men can only watch, trying their best to stay sane at Jungkook falling into pieces like the clay of his face he destroyed not a few minutes before.

Jimin walks slowly to the man, as he heaves in his stand, a throb of migraine hitting his head and getting him swaying. Blood comes spurting out at this rate, enough to make him dizzy again. Last time he saw this much blood was at the place he wants to forget so much.

“I peed, Jimin.”

“Don’t worry Kookie, I got you.” Jimin cries in his shoulders now, as Jungkook whimpers in his hold. He feels weak.

Jimin does not let go, and Jungkook feels anchored, body falling on the older man’s tight hold, head lolling on Jimin's shoulder.

Jungkook’s claws are still out so his bleeding hands stay limp on his thighs. He feels consciousness leaving him as Jimin’s voice coaxes him to calm.

And then he closes his eyes, hoping for a dreamless sleep. 

“I got you, Kookie. I got you. I'll never leave you. You're safe now.”

 

Out there in the coldness of the ocean in the summer heat, faraway in a land where hot earth meets the sea, a younger Jungkook breathes again, finding himself the lifeline he needed.

He may find a longer time to find his way home, adrift in the cold water, but he is no longer at the bottom of the ocean. He opens his eyes, and he inhales.

He breathes.

 

*

 

Chapter Text

*******

 

“Jungkook—“

“No- no hyung! Don’t, please don't!”

Jungkook was not only crying, he was heaving and hyperventilating.

Every single rise and fall of his chest was a test to his pain threshold, excruciating agony muddling his mind and blurring his vision. His fangs were ripping his lips open as he sobbed loudly, eyes almost squeezing close; face wet with blood, tears and snot. The popping veins marked the outline of his face as they bulge from his temples, flushed red from pain and sorrow.

Both of his injured hands were shaking with the weight of the dangling man as the helicopter attempted to stabilise from the impact. Yunho’s claws were digging down to his bones, puncturing and slashing his flesh open. His other dislocated shoulder, now bleeding from a shot was shaking as it attempted to hold on to the bird’s body to keep himself steady.

The black hawk swerved like a toy plane hanging on top of baby cribs, as the pilot screamed out for them to hang on tight. The metalframe shook from the recoil from the mini gun shooting off all the rooftop shooters.

Jungkook’s grip on the metal frame began to loosen as his shoulder weakened, sliding them forward a bit more. He glanced worriedly at his boots as they struggled to hold on to the rigged tarmac floor edge, the only thing other than his loose arms keeping both men hooked to the bird.

“Hang in there!” The pilot yelled from the cockpit, hands maneuvering the control wheel and throttle lever as they attempted to stabilise again, to get the bird to flip back to its original flying position.

Jungkook’s torso began to slide down, and Yunho was slipping away from his hold. The older man looked up at him, eyes unable to open anymore with how much injuries he sustained.

“I’m dyin—dying Kook. It's okay."

“No!”

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 off, 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 spinning helicopter.

“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.”

 

The earthy scent of clay, water on earth hits him firstbefore his other senses are awakened, eyelids still glued shut. The autumn rain is heavy on the wet grounds like pestle on mortar, dead leaves pounced to be one again with the wet soil. 

With his heightened senses, Jungkook could even smell the water-fresh scent of the single lotus floating in the bowl in front of the workshop, pleasant and heady but never overpowering. Lotuses sleep at night and bloom in the morning, the flower of rebirth and resurrection.

Like petals of a lotus at dawn, Jungkook’s eyelids finally flutter open to a room where the light has been dimmed, high wooden beams lining the ceiling. The white smoke of sleepiness sheathing his eyes begins to clear, as he squeezes and blinks them open a few times to take in the surrounding low light of the room.

He is in Jimin’s small single office, lying on the single bed Jimin usually sleeps on whenever he needs to take a nap break at the school.

Last time he laid here years back and not just a couple of weeks ago running away from Jimin’s heat, he was breathing heavily on top of Jimin as they made love in the moonlight; surrounded by the heavy scent of earth, and the stiffness of the old wooden bed creaking to the rhythm of his deep thrusts.

Their limbs were tangled tight, and Jungkook had his arms wrapped around the older man to keep them both afloat the tiny boat of a bed, their connected hips keeping them together as they rocked with the tides of the night. Jimin’s eyelashes were butterfly kisses on his cheeks, sweaty skin on skin, as he moaned and whispered Jungkook’s name to the man’s ears like prayer chants to the gods.

Nothing else makes a sound now other than the sharp rain on dirt.

Not even Jimin who is sleeping by his side; curled up like a tiny kitten, to fit the mould of Jungkook’s body lying on his back. He breathes like he does not breathe, shallow breaths leaving little warmth on Jungkook’s side.

Outside, a distant thunderstorm rumbles, the rain intensifies. The shuttered windows and shut door lend somewhat an echo of vacuum to the small quiet space, a gnat or two flying around trying to find escape. 

Inside, everything and everywhere hurts.

The young alpha raises his arm next, the throbbing a mere dull ache now, and meticulously observes the clean bandage gauze wrapping around the injury from his own claws, which surprisingly are no longer extended out even with such a tragedy and the heavy nightmare which followed. Jungkook reckons his body is too exhausted to respond to his fears anymore.

A pin keeps the bandage cloth intact and tight, thick layers keeping it blood-free, not allowing Jungkook to see the damage he caused himself. This is a work of a professional, and Jungkook silently wonders who stitched him up when they are not at the hospital. Yoongi comes to mind, the ER nurse and resident healer of their group.

He knows his neck is bandaged too, can feel the rough gauze patching up the back of his mating mark and pushing where his claws might have dig in too far. It stings when he so much as moves, but Jungkook knows he did not take it that far to make it a fatal wound.

He is wearing Jimin’s white shirt left opened a few buttons up, the collars softly smelling like nothing but the omega’s forest scent and woody perfume. There are honeysuckle and wet earth, wild jasmines and grand woods. Jungkook steals a sniff a bit more, feeling calmed by the mere act of smelling his husband.

Jungkook remembers his soiled pants, and upon glancing down beneath the thin fleece blanket, notices he is wearing Jimin’s boxers too. He feels wrapped and coddled by everything Jimin, and Jungkook has very little to complain.

He turns his face slightly at the slow release of breaths coming from his side, the scent of forests and florals overpowering everything else weak and distant. Even the scent of the heavy rain outside is losing out to the heavy sillage of wet woods coming from the form of a sleeping man.

Jimin is asleep, cheeks puffed up and lips slightly open. His eyes look as swollen as his lips, cheeks flushed crimson red as if he just ran a mile. There is a smear of dried blood on Jimin’s cheek, and Jungkook is positive it is his.

At a small movement of his hips, Jungkook can feel the aches in his nerves coming alive and easing off again, body throbbing in dull thuds. He turns on his side anyway, now facing the man on the small bed quietly as the bed creaks.

Jungkook raises a hand, notices the sore in his muscle and the tremble in his fingers. The inside of his nails are covered in dried blood, but his hands look clean. With his trembling fingers, Jungkook reaches for Jimin’s face only an inch or two from his own.

He softly wipes the dried blood away, traces the lines outlining the smears of tears on the soft skin, curious where they fell on and how long did it take for them to dry up. His fingers feel rough on Jimin’s smooth skin, and Jungkook wonders quietly if Jimin cares that his skin feels like sandpaper, roughened by years away in extreme heat and cold.

As his bony fingers meticulously caress and card through the man’s hair, feeling the soft fluffy hair slipping in between like waterfall beneath rocks, Jimin finally stirs. His mushed up cheeks begin to stiffen as he blinks his eyes open.

“Jungkook?”

Jungkook can only stare at him in the dim of the room, not quite catching the brown in Jimin’s eyes as he stays loyal to the silent sound of their heartbeats.

“Jungkook, you’re awake.”

Jungkook’s fingertips reach his face again, humming a positive. When he speaks next, his throat hurts and his voice remains small. Croaky.

“How long did I pass out?”

Jimin lifts his head a bit to look at a wall clock, squinting his eyes to see the dials in the low lights.

“Six hours. Yoongi hyung stitched you up after I cleaned you. I’m sorry I have to tell him and Seokjin hyung. We couldn’t take you to the hospital. I wanted to, but Hoseok hyung and Yoongi hyung said everybody’s going—”

“Hey hey baby. It’s alright.” Jungkook cuts Jimin off when he feels the man is losing his breath from just explaining, body horizontal and all. “I understand.”

“You need to go to the hospital, Jungkook. You don’t know how scared I was. I’m still scared.”

Outside, the rain is still falling in sharp rivulets against the wet leaves, no sign of stopping any soon.

Deep in the villages, parents have long since tucked their children to bed, some now awake with coffee by their side and a book on their laps. The gossiping grandmothers are long gone to sleep alongside their grandchildren, years-weary bones easing to the cold of the night. 

Jimin no longer cries now like he did a few hours back, but Jungkook traces his eyebrows and his eyelids with his fingers, shutting the man’s eyes close everytime he blinks them open.

Jimin opens his mouth a few times in the silence, but Jungkook’s dried lips have little to no words to say. There is a lot he wants to, but right now Jimin is a grounding presence that makes him want to be quiet. He wants to be swallowed by earth, by Jimin’s arms, inside Jimin’s existence.

“Jungkookie.”

His fingers reach the plump lips half-opened to let out his name in a gentle whisper. He feels the plump softness with his hand, a grand touch to his tips. The raindrops are merely a fading soundtrack of their quiet yet heavy inhales and exhales.

“Jimin.”

Jimin simply hums in answer, eyes staring right into Jungkook’s as the man speaks slowly it could almost pass as a mere whisper. Living with Jimin has made Jungkook quite a whisperer.

“What do I do now?”

At the silent question from his husband, Jimin closes his eyes as he tips his head forward, meeting forehead to forehead, then nose to nose—eyes still closed, before he gently raises his hands to pull Jungkook’s face to his chest.

When his nose fits into the mould of Jimin’s body, sheathed by his white button up, Jungkook begins to wrap his arms around Jimin’s back, pulling the man closer. He can feel Jimin’s hands carding through his hair, and the man’s sharp chin on his head.

“I can’t forget. What should I do, Jimin?”

This time, Jungkook does not roar nor growl. He does not run amok in overwhelming sadness and pain.

This time Jungkook cries silently.

He does not sob nor heave either, and his tears fall down in one drop and two at a time. He cries quietly like the way he breathes, easy and light. His tears feel silk-soft on his skin as if they are not salty—as if his body has run out of everything salty and sad with the breakdown.

With his eyes closed, the memories flitter past his mind in faded, smoky sepia like old film reels displayed for a single audience. Jungkook sits at the forefront of the show, where he revisits the last look in his friends’ eyes, the child who he could not save, his staggering fears of falling down from the sky. He remembers the sight of Jimin crying, flashes of knife on his wrist, mutilated limbs, the look on the people he killed, blood on his claws.

So Jungkook keeps his eyes open, and even when it hurts as he cries silently, he blinks them open.

“Let’s save you. Let’s do what we can. Let’s heal, baby. We’ll make you alright again.”

Jimin’s words feel warm as they are spoken on his scalp, in between his kisses. Occasionally Jungkook feels the wetness of his husband’s tears, as he pulls Jimin closer in his quiet reply.

“I’m sorry, Jungkook.”

Jungkook raises his head up at the apology, looking up into Jimin’s eyes in the darkness. In the absence of artificial lights inside the room, Jimin’s face is casted orange from the outside lightbulbs; looking like earth and clay, and the colour of his fur which Jungkook has not seen in years.

“I’m sorry I didn’t know how much pain you’re going through… and how I—I left you drowning alone. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I let you go through everything alone even when I’m with you.”

Jimin’s hands are now cupped around his chin and his head, and Jungkook stays still as if he is kneeling before a deity, looking up to his god's face, asking for penance.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for hurting you. I‘m sorry we hurt each other. Jungkookie, don’t leave me. I can’t live without you. No matter how hard it is, let me stay and help you. Don’t leave me.”

Jimin’s fingertips are gently brushing against the injured part of his neck, as if trying to undo the hurt Jungkook caused himself. Jungkook raises his hand from Jimin’s back and touches Jimin’s lips, both shaking from silent tears and fears.

In a second he rises to Jimin's level and kisses Jimin briefly on his lips, a mere soft meeting of two pair of lips, as if trying to tell the man his promise is sealed with the touch of their lips, that his apology is accepted. 

Jungkook can feel Jimin’s hand still on his hair, as he begins to shift closer, his eyes not leaving the older man’s face as Jimin scrunches his eyes shut so tight it looks like it would hurt. Jungkook holds out a hand to cup Jimin’s face as he shifts his position too, letting the tip of his nose hit Jimin’s nose.

Jimin opens his eyes at that, two crescent moons watering in pools of tears, looking every bit in pain as he holds everything in. Jungkook speaks at the sight, voice remaining a simple hush and croak.

“I keep making you wait, hyung. I'm sorry for saying those words. I’m sorry that I changed, and I did that to you, your workshop. I'm so scared of losing you and I know you didn't do any of it, but I couldn't I—I couldn’t control myself. My mind. That wasn’t me hyung, I swear that wasn’t me, I would never hurt you. I swear—”

“No Kook—"

“Hyung,” Jungkook tightens his hold on Jimin’s face. “There’s a lot I’m sorry for, and we’re gonna talk about that all our life together. But I’m sorry I made you sad the most. I’m sorry I hurt you, that I didn’t do what I promised. I’m sorry that I scared you.”

Jungkook’s voice breaks to a mere whine at the last line, an invinsible force pressing down on his chest. “I’m sorry I came back, broken and shattered. I’m sorry I didn’t hold you like I did, that I let go but still cling to you. I love you so much but I don’t know… I don’t know who I am anymore, Jimin. It hurts to be awake, to be alive.”

Jimin, the ever-patient sage, only stares at Jungkook as the man speaks, eyes roaming around Jungkook’s face as the latter tries to pick the right words to say.

“It’s difficult, Jimin. I’m—I’m not good at words. I want to tell you so much but it doesn’t—doesn’t come out right. I’m scared of so many things. I’m so scared, Jimin.”

Jimin’s fingers are gentle on his face, as if he is touching a freshly-thrown cup, cold in his warm palms. His question comes out in a fleeting whisper. “What are you scared of the most, Kookie?”

“I’m scared of myself.”

There are tears threatening to fall on the outer edges of the older man’s eyes while he nods, his face scrunched up in pain as he ingests everything in, chatoyant eyes loyal to Jungkook’s face.

Jungkook finally closes his eyes longer than a few seconds, sniffling loudly as his tears become stinging and painful. He whimpers in silence, and flashes of their faces begin to flitter over his closed eyes again.

He sees every single face of them before they passed, Minjae’s opened eyes. Yunho’s hand on his. Daehyul's last words. The last moments are the hardest to forget. He sees the falling helicopter, his dead friends as they were shot point blank.

He sees the child he somehow accidentally killed, someone else’s child exploding to flesh and blood. Countless women and children being shot and bitten to death when he was on sniper duty and was not allowed to intervene whenever a village was running amok. He sees the eyes of the man whose head he snapped out of its socket.

Jungkook remembers everything from the very beginning, the suppressed memories he keeps behind. He remembers the severed heads of his friends, the dead women in the villages they could not protect.

Jungkook sees himself, eyes open and a hand extended forward as if calling for help, drowning at the bottom of the ocean floor.

Before he could open his eyes in another attempt to escape, Jungkook feels his husband’s soft lips on his eyelids—two wet petals of soft skin kissing them open like dews on a blooming flower.

“Jimin….” Jungkook licks his dry lips as he tries, feels his chest constricting with the rush of waterworks. “I couldn’t save them, hyung. I couldn- I should’ve tried harder. I killed people—“

Jungkook feels a literal chill running down his spine at a mere retelling of the story. Every word weighs heavy on his tongue, a word vomit of every single memory he wants to keep suppressed. Of his sins and his mistakes, of deaths in a distant land. Saying it makes everything loud and clear, how his survivor’s guilt is choking him from inside and keeping him from living.

Jimin is still holding him close, glassy eyes wider now in reassurance and love, in patience and tender care.

“Jungkook. Baby. It’s okay you don’t have to tell me now—”

“They keep coming back in my dreams, Jimin. They come all the time. I see them all the time. It hurts, it hurts.”

Jungkook feels his throat drying up but continues still. “And my claws- claws they would just come out. I almost killed you once—I swear I didn’t mean to, everytime I dream they would come out. I’m sorry I didn’t mean—”

Jimin nods his head at that, trying to let Jungkook take his time to talk without pushing him. His fingers stay in a habitual caress of Jungkook’s face, and Jungkook feels cradled even when his breath feels shortened.

“I should’ve died, hyung. Out there, with them. I should’ve died.”

Jimin widens his eyes at that, keeps quiet as he lets Jungkook continue.

“I’m nothing. I live but I don’t— I can’t live. I couldn’t save them, and I can’t save me. I can’t take care of you. I’m nothing.”

“You’re Jungkook.” Jimin finally speaks, voice stern now as if making a statement, before it softens to another one of his whispers. “You’re not nothing. You’re my Jungkook. You’re your Jungkook. Always.”

Jungkook sobs so hard at that, heaving into Jimin’s face, tears falling and mixing with the man’s tears on his cheeks. His eyelashes are wet as he bends forward on the pillow, now letting Jimin see only the bridge of his nose and the tremble of his lips.

“I’m scared, hyung if—if you’d hate me, if-if I tell you. I already hate myself, I can’t if you hate—“

Jimin kisses Jungkook’s lips at that, a mere collision of lips which lingers softly as the older tries to silence the younger’s words.

“I would never hate you.”

Jungkook only stays in silence at that, unable to continue his words which have no beginning and ending, middle or peak. Jimin’s words are the only ones caressing the dryness of his lips.

“We’ve loved each other for a long time, Jungkookie. If you’re broken, I am too. We’re each other’s mirror. That’s what you told me when you gave me that mirror, remember? I broke myself, and you broke yourself too. I need to save you as much as I need you saving me. We’re gonna save each other, alright?”

Jimin smiles at Jungkook next, and although Jungkook still feels fear gripping his spine, he attempts a smile back at Jimin. It does not last long, but Jungkook tries.   

“What am I supposed to do now, hyung? How do I live? How do we live?” Jungkook whispers the question to Jimin, as his thumb fiddles with Jimin’s cheek.

“Day by day. We try to live each day, as difficult and as good each one is. You’re here now. It means you’re meant to live, meant to live with me.”

Jimin remains silent, swallowing his sobs as he stares down at Jungkook.

“We will live, you will live. Slowly but surely. For future Jungkook, for past Jungkook. You will live for yourself first before anyone else. If you can’t find that anymore, live for me. Live for all the Jimin you know.”

“It’ll be difficult, Jimin. I will be difficult. Living with me will be difficult.”

“Fucking difficult.” Jimin speaks so surely, Jungkook is silenced. “Nothing is easy. But life's like that, baby. We choose what we want to be tired for, what we want to fight for. You’re a strong person Jungkookie, you’re meant to have more than one battle, war after war. This time I’ll be here with you, I’ll fight with you. Don’t let go of me.”

“Jimin.” Jungkook feels his shoulder lightened, his clogged chest moving easier with his lover’s word. Fear is gripping his veins, but alongside it is love and thankfulness, of hope. When he speaks next, his voice is small.

“I love you so much. I hope you know, hyung.”

“Jungkook.”

“I love you so much that even when I tried to kill my— many times. I remember you and you bring me back. Everytime. Don’t leave me Jimin.”

Jimin reaches out for Jungkook’s head, slotting the man’s face into his own neck. The scent soothes him and Jungkook shows it as he breathes easy, feeling his body moulding to Jimin like nothing else. He can feel the outline of his husband's wedding ring hanging from the necklace on Jimin's clothed chest, rising to touch Jungkook bared one with every breath.

Jimin holds onto his body so tightly, and Jungkook lifts his legs to wrap around the man’s lower body to keep him closer.

“Jungkookie.” Jimin speaks from where he has Jungkook’s face in his neck, his words a passing breeze in Jungkook’s ear.

“I love you when you were younger, I love you when you’re older. I love every version of Jungkook I know. Sometimes I let my insecurities get the best of me, but do know, in every Jimin I’ve been, there’s always a Jungkook that he loves so much, loves so much it hurts.”

Jungkook closes his eyes at that, feeling the most extreme of his feelings swelling inside his chest, overpowering his senses. When they break apart next, Jimin wipes his wet face, and presses his forehead onto Jungkook once again. They are breathing into the same space, and Jungkook can smell the bond that ties them together, man to man, wolf to wolf.

“We promised a lot of things, didn’t we?”

Jungkook nods to that.

“Let’s make a new promise.”

Jungkook raises his face at Jimin’s words into his mouth, breath mingling in their space alone.

“Let’s live our best, together. Let’s love how we know best.”

Jungkook nods a few times.

“Let’s grow together again. I’ll speak for you when you can’t, and you’ll do it for me when I can’t.”

Jimin raises his body a bit when Jungkook nods, an elbow propped up next to Jungkook’s head. He smiles at Jungkook so sweetly—Jungkook’s ever-sweet Jimin, and then he dives down, slotting his wet lips first into Jungkook’s own. Jungkook can feel the saltiness of his tears, the softness of his lips, and his own blood on his injured bottom lip.

The kiss is one that begins like a sensitive caress of the lips, but continues to one which is almost rough but is instead full of passion—one that is spoken in the mould of their lips and tongue rolling beneath each other. One that is not reminiscent of any other before. Jungkook can feel the drops of Jimin’s tears on his cheeks mixing with his own, and the soft sobs which the both of them swallow at every break of air.

Jungkook raises a hand to pull Jimin’s face close so they would not part, an arm holding Jimin close on his shoulder. He can feel Jimin’s tongue softly licking around in his mouth as if coddling him, and he lets his mouth gape open so the older man can do what he wants with it.

Jimin kisses him like a man who loves, and Jungkook kisses him back like a man who finally lives. They may kiss for longer after that, sharing words in between the rolls of tongue, exchanging spit and tears. But they never let go yet, like the kiss is holding them to the earth.

This one speaks of love and pain, battles and scars, sadness and healing, and mostly of a young love which has stuck through the years of good and bad, and matured into one that is yet to be in its best version. It speaks of a love Jungkook wants to treasure for many lives—one of his grandest, one that breathes life into him everytime he dies.

It is the first real kiss they have had in years. And it is the best one yet.

 

******

 

“Teacher Park! This uncle is doing it wrong.”

Jimin turns to look at the boy yelling for his attention from where he stands next to a table, faraway at the front of the classroom; looking curiously at the small chubby hands gesturing towards Jungkook’s direction. The boy's index finger is pointing at Jungkook’s face accusatorily; chubby cute face scrunched up in frustration.

Jungkook is muttering something to the boy, while the children around him giggle in response to his words and the boy’s back and forth banter.

“He won’t listen to me, Teacher! He’s so weird!”

It is one of the most adorable scenes Jimin has seen yet, the wolf children gathering around the tall man as he kneads the clay dough with his hands, lips moving non-stop while the children question him excitedly about everything, legs dangling from the tall stools.

Everytime he animatedly replies and laughs with the children, small wrinkles would form on the margins of his sharp face, less gaunt now in the afternoon winter lights. All around them coldness is lifted with the heater switched on to full power, but Jimin feels warmed by Jungkook’s mere presence in the room.

The posture is off—back too straight, and legs standing too close to one another. Jimin knows Jungkook is bound to lose energy fast if he keeps on doing it like that, but he silently watches from where he stands, still helping a girl stamp designs on her cup, just wanting the scene to last a bit longer in his head.

Jungkook looks healthier now, face still skinny and jaw razor-sharp, but he eats better.

He fills in his clothes better now than a few months back, but the veins still coil around his temples and his hands like vines on rusty walls, evidence of his immaculate strength and years of hard work. His well-sculpted face, though hardened by the difficult years, still looks beautiful—most beautiful to Jimin; and everytime he smiles so cheekily, eyes closed to reveal deep wrinkles on the outset of his eyes, Jimin still sees young Jungkook in him.

Jungkook is still very young, and he has so many years and so many things to live for. To see his youthful glow find its place on his once-sunken face gets Jimin teary-eyed.

The alpha has been coming often to his classes especially the children’s ones, finding himself more comfortable around children than adults as time passes, now that he is given more leeway with his work hours.

His family accepts the news quite well, war veterans who have seen it all—even when they cry in silence in knowing what they already knew. The hugs were long and tight in shared grief for the painful years the youngest son had to go through, in apology for the everlasting family tradition.

Jungkook’s father offered him full medical leaves, but Jungkook wants to work while getting treatment so that he could try to live as normally as he could. Jimin would not take away the man’s power to choose and decide what he wants.

It has not always been easy, and they already knew it from the very beginning.

Being with children has either helped or unnerved Jungkook at times, especially in the very beginning. Jimin never specifically invited him to the children’s classes, but Jungkook wanted in. For the first few classes he stood loitering around the back of the classroom nervously, and Jimin would go and check on him a lot to find the man’s eyes shifty as he stared at a child each.

One time, a child broke a pot and hurt his finger picking up a broken piece. Jungkook had gone missing then.

After patching up the boy’s wound and getting Hoseok to watch over the class, Jimin found his husband outside; sweating nervously as he held his head in his hands trying to stop the shaking. For minutes after, they sat on the stone benches overlooking the dead foliage of the meadows, the powerlines in the distance; Jungkook shaking in his arms until he finally breathed easy.

Jimin still remembers Jungkook’s words that night as the man recalled the death of a boy he kept remembering, the child stuck in the middle of a difficult war.

Jungkook cried as he repeated his apology to Jimin’s neck, eyes scrunched up close as he coiled around Jimin’s body. Jimin held him all night, telling him that there was no saving, that Jungkook had tried his hardest, and that the death was painful but have to be let go. It was an injustice, severely unfair for a child to be groomed to die in the war of the adults. No child deserves a life expecting death and torture.

Both Jungkook and the child were stuck fighting a war that was not theirs; Jungkook with a rifle and the boy with a rock. The boy died before time. It was a brutal atrocity, but there was very little Jungkook could do about it. He has no control over which war would break out, which helicopter would crash, who dies in the heat of a battle.

While they were powerless about that, Jimin reminded Jungkook that they will try to do their best for the future, so no more children will be stuck closing their ears to the sound of bullets and exploding rockets. Not their children.

They will try, so they can be a part of what makes the world better. Jungkook breathed better at that, and fell asleep in seconds, lulled by his grief, exhaustion, and hope for atonement of his sins.

Over time, Jungkook finds his ground.

He can talk to a child without getting jumpy, sees himself in the moment instead of getting transported back to an earlier time by his flashbulb memories. Like the boy who fell asleep to an eternal slumber at the battlefields, Jungkook slowly learns to let go of a death he cannot help with, wishing for better dreams.

On days he goes for therapy, Jungkook would have it worst.

Sometimes, he would go back from a session and sleep for hours, sometimes he would be quiet for half a day. Most of the times Jimin decided to send and pick him up from the session, the ride home would be quiet and Jungkook’s hand in his would be clammy, his hold tight and borderline painful.

Sometimes Jimin would be waking up to Jungkook crying on his side, curling up in a foetal position as he heaves in pain.

Those nights, Jimin knows better than to turn his body around and force him to do what he is not ready for, so what he does is kiss his husband’s sweaty back, careful not to let his own tears wet it. He would rub his back softly until Jungkook finally falls asleep in exhaustion and sadness—and Jimin too, hands still holding his husband close.

Sometimes he would turn Jungkook towards him, and lets his husband fall asleep lulled by the rising motion of his chest, keeping the man breathing in the rhythm of his own. Sometimes Jungkook would keep his hands away as his claws are out, the length reaches half a finger. These days they stay inside his scarred skin.

But it has not always been difficult either.

The easy days are more rewarding now that Jimin knows Jungkook is here, Jungkook is alive and trying.

Waking up to Jungkook has been easy, even on nights he would wake up with nightmares. Easy mornings, difficult mornings, Jungkook does not leave anymore.

Jimin would hold him at times he needs it, and lets him go when he needs space. Sometimes Jungkook would leave for the bathroom for minutes, and Jimin would knock softly until Jungkook opens it, and then the latter would sleep again in his arms. Sometimes he would be there patting Jungkook’s back softly as the man vomits into the toilet bowl, throwing up the meals he had for the day and bawling his eyes out at the pain.

Jungkook looks less gaunt now, and he eats better, sometimes fed by Jimin himself. They kiss more, and touch each other more, and even when Jungkook is fatigued and exhausted, he makes sure he kisses Jimin goodnight before falling asleep mid-conversation.

Today is easy.

Jungkook smiles easy today, like he does often now, gaunt face now brightened up with a toothy smile more fitting for his handsome face. His hair is longer, always thick from his younger years, and Jimin loves to combs his fringe aside everytime he kisses the man’s forehead. Today, Jungkook finds his happiness in the children, and Jimin finds his happiness in Jungkook’s carefree smile.

Jimin is lost in his thoughts, a second-hand kind of happiness etched on his face until the man of his thoughts finally turns to Jimin with a pleading look, something similar to a face he likes to pull when he is in a desperate need for help.

He frowns when Jimin finally reaches him in giggles, confused as to what is funny when he is struggling with the clay dough and the chatty children surrounding him.

“I keep telling him, Teacher. He won’t listen to me.” Sungmin babbles on the side, flinching when Jungkook bops his head gently with a fist.

“What are you reporting to him for?”

Jimin takes over the kneading quietly, a smile etched on his face, looking at the dried up slob of clay before adding a bit more water from a pail to the dough. Jungkook is actually bickering with ten year-olds next to him now, comparing hand sizes with them.

“Baby, let’s do it again.”

Jimin pulls Jungkook’s arm as the man bickers with the children who are calling him the petname now, getting him to stand where he stood at just a few seconds ago. When Jungkook takes his position, Jimin stands behind him, and bends his left leg forward with a knee, sliding Jungkook’s right leg to the back.

“Like this, Jungkook. You have to use your upper body strength and not your arms’. Or else you'll get tired quickly.”

Jimin demonstrates a few times, before taking back his spot behind Jungkook, chest to back. His hands stay close to Jungkook’s hips, and once in a while as the man kneads, he would join the kneading.

By now, the children have long left all their drying clay cups to hover around the men, finding the scene far more interesting to watch.

“Oh my god! This is straight out of a drama scene!”

Jimin is still kneading, eyes focused on the clay as he speaks to one of the giggling boys. “Junsu, I thought your parents said no TV.”

“Oh I watch it on Kibum’s phone.” The boy replies nonchalantly. “You both look like drama actors, doing this like that!”

“They do. So romantic! I don’t know how Teacher Park likes Uncle Jungkook though. He’s so weird—”

“Oi!” Jungkook almost stops kneading but Jimin pushes his hand to continue. “You brat! I bought you ice cream the other day and this is how you pay me back?”

The boy only laughs, red-cheeked and cheeky in response to the man's scolding. Jungkook tries so hard to contain his own laughter, keeping his face stoic in fake frustration which spurs the children more. Jimin only watches from the side while his husband argues back and forth with the child.

“Usually after people do this, they will hold hands!”

"And then they will kiss!"

The children are laughing in reckless abandon now, and while Jimin appreciates the ambience, and Jungkook’s own small giggle in front of him, he holds his smile in and turns to glare at the little brats.

"You want to go back late today?"

Even with such a dead stare, the children are still laughing as they start scrambling for their stools around their designated wooden tables, well aware of their teacher’s soft spot.

When he turns to his husband, Jimin finds himself smiling effortlessly as Jungkook laughs at the little menaces, the wrinkles on the edges of his eyes folding like crumpled laundry. He looks so happy, and Jimin feels light.

As he kneads the clay, Jungkook turns to watch Jimin who is still watching him over his shoulders. He watches as sweat rolls down Jimin’s cheeks to reach his neck, the man’s shiny face a reflection of his glimmering eyes as he turns to stare at Jungkook next.

“Hi, Teacher Park. I didn’t get to say hi.”

Jimin smiles shyly, and even after years and halfway around the world, what Jimin does not know is that Jungkook still finds his smile the prettiest he has seen in the world.

“Hi, Mr. Jeon. How was work today?”

“Boring. I don’t like going to sites that much these days.”

Jungkook turns back to the clay, and Jimin can tell that Jungkook is feeling the strain in his arms from the kneading. The clay cannot have pockets of air or else it will explode in the kiln, so they have to fold it properly.

“I’d rather do this with you.”

Jimin giggles from where he now has his cheek on Jungkook’s shoulder, the only thing other than his feet which is not dangling. “You say that now, but I’ve been kneading half a sack of clay for these kids and I kind of want to die.”

Jimin shows Jungkook his limp hands, veiny and strong, delicate and pretty in all the right ways. There is so much Jimin can create and mould with his hands, and Jungkook loves kissing them the most. So he does it, Jimin dodging by saying they are dirty.

“I’ll massage them for you when we get home. You always massage me before sleep.”

“It’s okay Jungkook, you’re tired too." Jimin turns to peck on Jungkook’s cheek, only the second for the day as the man was still sleeping when he left for work. "And I like massaging you.”

“Jimin. We’re okay, right?”

Jimin lifts his cheek from Jungkook’s shoulder at the sudden question, now putting his chin on the man’s shoulder. From this distance, Jimin can count his eyelashes, trace the outline of his fading scars, draw more wrinkles to frame his large doe eyes.

“We’re okay. You’re okay. I’m okay.”

Jimin’s voice remains a whisper as he speaks the answer, simple words which might not fully explain the complexity of the situation, of how much they are trying, but just enough to sum it all up. Jimin does not want to lie, so he only speaks of things he can speak surely, the truth.

Even if they are not okay sometimes and it gets hard, they are always working to be okay.

Jimin knows the war is still hot and running, and Jungkook has a long battle to fight, but they will try to be okay. Together.

 

*****

 

Early winter lights are bright and gauzy, the chill overpowering to the senses. The snow has yet to fall but the temperature has dropped significantly, keeping the townspeople curled up in the warmth of their homes.

Fresh air soaks the wet from the dead leaves and the scent from damp woods, easing Jungkook in both mind and soul, bones heavy from a long day at work. He came straight to the workshop from the site, and his head is a mess of structures from manuals, steels and bolts. The sight of nature is a gift for his tired mind.

As he stands on the small patch in the workshop’s backyard waiting for Namjoon to come back from a toilet break, Jungkook can see the dead foliage in the distant, devoid of colours from their decaying leaves, flowers, and fruits. He spots the steel beams and cables, the powerlines standing strong in the distance, the only constant in the everchanging backdrop of seasons and weathers.

Jungkook heaves a huge breath in, sniffles his sensitive nose in the process. He feels a pull in his hurt arm, the one he no longer wears a bandage on but a long stretch of cloth gauze which Jimin replaces everyday.

The incident still sits heavy in his conscience even after a month plus.

The moments bear witness to the breakdown of his character, the meltdown of his emotions. Everytime he remembers the words he hurled out, the things he did the moment it happened, the emotions which brought him to that state, Jungkook feels himself ready to curl and cry.

He has apologized to everyone who had to watch him broke character, found himself a couple of days after in the arms of Hoseok, as his brother cried and held him tight. Namjoon gripped his hand so hard when Jungkook came over to see him at his office, and the older alpha told him he understands. He has not been through what Jungkook did, but he understands, and that he is there too like the rest of Jungkook’s brothers, even when they have not known each other long, known each other well. They will have years to do so.

It has not been easy.

They all agreed that they need to work on it, that Jungkook would get help, but nothing is ever easy. Jungkook finds his weekly meeting with the psychotherapist difficult and painful, finding getting the words out easier said than done. Most of the times, he would bawl eyes out, chest constricting everytime they revisit moments he tries so hard to forget, or finds himself having excruciating migraines after.

Dr. Im lets him choose his method of treatment, and that eases Jungkook a lot. His dreams cease at times, and come back on days he feels particularly stressed, and Jungkook is still learning the ways to deal with it. Sometimes his claws would come out, but oftentimes, they do not anymore; staying hidden underneath his healing skin.

But Jimin. Jimin is there through it all.

He does not attend the sessions on Jungkook’s request, and Jimin himself never forced himself into his space. The space is needed. There are spaces meant for individuals, and for them as husbands, and for them as mates. Jungkook needs to mend as an individual, and Jimin would be there through it all, holding his hand. 

Healing with Jimin is something else. Now allowed more leeway with work hours on medical reasons, Jungkook still attends his classes with Jimin, able to spend more hours in the pottery shop.

The first time he returned back to Jimin’s classroom, seeing most of the effects of destruction was hard on him.

They hugged for a long time then, Jungkook whispering his apologies to Jimin’s ear as the man coaxed him to calm. Jimin had finished cleaning the broken clay and crocks by that time. He had replaced some of the windows himself, fixed the dented furniture. So all Jungkook had to do was help fix the chairs, the broken tools. He fixed the broken windowsills, and was reminded of how by the windows was one sculpture Jimin did which he devastatingly broke, and felt his guilt multiply.

But Jimin was quick to sense everything, and everytime Jungkook stood staring for too long at a spot, the man would come over and pull him back to earth, to him. Jimin is Jungkook’s earth. 

In the quiet silence of the workshops, Hoseok’s voice ringing loud in the class next door, Jungkook and Jimin stayed for hours and learnt how to fix things together. This was the place he broke character, and this is supposed to be where he begins to pick up the pieces again.

And at nighttimes, he begins to learn again the mould of Jimin’s body, holding him close to his like a lifeline.

They do not do much, their emotions still raw, but Jungkook loves putting his nose on the crevice of Jimin’s neck as he curls in foetal position; and sleeps on Jimin’s chest like a newborn baby. In a way he is. Deep in the cradle of his husband’s existence, he does not need to feel like an alpha in charge, a war hero, a failure of a husband, or a lost boy. 

Beneath Jimin’s arms, listening to the beat of his heart, Jungkook learns how to be human again, learns to be him once again.

When the clock strikes halfway between the cold long hours of night and morning, Jungkook learns not to leave even when the dreams hit too hard at home at times. Sometimes he would turn his back to Jimin and curl the other way around so the man would not feel him shaking, grimacing in his sleep. He does not want the man to wake up with his sweat clinging around him. And then he would fall asleep like that.

Oftentimes, Jimin would wake up anyway, the light sleeper he is.

He would be pulling Jungkook close, bringing him back into his arms. Sometimes, Jimin would wrap his arms around Jungkook’s middle and whispers words of love into his ears, kissing the lines of his protruding spine. At other times, Jungkook can feel Jimin’s breath on his back as he rubs his back gently, feel his soft kisses as Jungkook keeps his own tear-stricken face in his hands.

On difficult days when the dreams get too vivid, fear and nausea punching him in the guts, Jungkook would vomit his stomach out into the toilet bowl. Jimin is there through it all, kneeling with him on the cold bathroom door, or patting Jungkook’s back before carrying him back to bed.

But Jungkook does not leave.

Like Jimin who waits, Jungkook no longer leaves. Throughout all the worst nightmares and dry heaves, he stays. And because of that, he gets to see Jimin in the morning again, the most basic form of the man he loves.

He gets to see Jimin in his most beautiful state; limbs stretched out, face carefree, legs sometimes tangled with his. Pouty lips open, skin pure, eyes glued shut. Smooth skin, soft flesh, jutting clavicles. And then he would kiss the man on the corner of his lips, on all parts of his face, and Jungkook feels more than happiness in the wake of his despair. He is in love.

They are learning how to love again, and like always he is falling hard for Jimin, as he always does.

Jungkook smiles softly as he sips his tea, remembering their kiss from this morning.

It was a prolonged one, one that tasted of cum and spit, as Jimin had worked on him from beneath the comforter minutes before that, sucking on his cock like he was made for it. He had woken up to a toothy Jimin smiling at him, before he took Jungkook’s woken up member wholly in his pretty mouth and sucked it until he came. They might have kissed for hours after that, before Hoseok called for Jimin to confirm their classes for the day, and the man had to leave first.

Loving Jimin is always easy. Kissing Jimin is a God’s gift.

Namjoon’s slap on his back wakes him back to the present, the man gesturing with a lift of his chin to his smitten smile. The man is probably curious as to why Jungkook is smiling to himself in the cold of the winter, not knowing inside him a whole spring is in full bloom, all thanks to a beautiful man sitting somewhere in the warmth of the workshop.

“I’ve never tasted this tea before, hyung. Thank you,” Jungkook says his thanks sheepishly, swirling the peculiar earthy taste of the imported tea around his oral cavity for a nice wash of his mouth. Something sweet lingers in the aftertaste, urging him to have another sip. He tries to push the image of Jimin’s naked body away from his mind, or even his plush lips, trying to focus on the tall man standing beside him.

“No problem, Jungkook. Pu’er tea and jujube is good for your tummy, reduces stress.”

Namjoon smiles as he takes another sip, a leg extended out on the granite bench facing away from a small table as they watch the dusklights crisscrossing on the distant skies, a different kind of panorama to the powerlines. A little farther off, the clouds have begun to disperse and fade into the incoming darkness. 

“I was the one who made the tea, say thanks to me. He only knows how to buy them,” Hoseok speaks from the table behind them where the teapot and cups are put, pouring the tea out into two cups he brought outside just now, probably for himself and Jimin.

Jimin is still inside, trying to finish a set of ceramics for a wealthy client with the alpha. Jungkook takes notice of the drying clay on Hoseok’s arm.

“Babe, wait for me. We're finishing up. We still have—” Hoseok sounds breathless as he checks the digital watch on his hand. “Thirty minutes before the reservation. Right? Wait for me.”

Namjoon turns his body a bit at Hoseok’s softened tone, and Jungkook sees the man’s deep dimples from his peripherals.

“Sure, love. Take your time.”

Jungkook does not even have to turn around to visualise Hoseok’s smiling face, the one which pulls his cheeks up and shows his perfect row of teeth. Hoseok only uses that kind of smile for the one he loves, and lately mostly for Namjoon.

Jungkook finds it incredible how people can love easy and hard, can find love easy and hard.

“Is it difficult, hyung?”

Namjoon sips the tea from his mug another three times before looking back at Jungkook. “What is, Jungkook?”

“You and Hoseok hyung.”

Namjoon does not take much time to contemplate, his face showing sheer satisfaction and contentment in every line of his wrinkles. There is so much to talk about when the scents are not what guide Jungkook on. Namjoon is a good man to talk to. He is wise beyond his years, and speaking to him feels like talking to a stranger who knows but not knows, one who will not be quick to judge.

The man turns to him as he speaks, light voice in deep timbre. “It depends on what you feel is difficult. Loving Hoseok is easy, and loving me is difficult, I think. I can’t even love myself properly at times. I’m a terribly flawed human, a dysfunctional alpha by societal standards.”

Jungkook chuckles at that, Namjoon’s humility despite his wisdom is his best bit.

“But Hoseok never views me as just that. He loves me for, and despite everything. I love him the same way too. I think that’s the best part about love, or learning how to love. To love with sincerity, to love with the consequences, to love without a reason, to love despite it all.”

“Wow.”

Jungkook tries to see if he can understand everything Namjoon said all at once, but finds himself only trying to remember it for later so he can ask Jimin about it, mumbling the words back to himself. He thinks he understands a bit of that, but cannot fully speak it out loud like Namjoon eloquently puts them out.

Namjoon laughs at his own words, as if he just spouted the things he teaches in class by accident, and is now trying to explain it. Namjoon teaches History and Literature, so Jungkook is not surprised if the things he says can appear out of reach, out of times sometimes.

“What I meant to say is, if you’re talking about how alpha-alpha relationship works from a perspective of an outsider, yes it would be difficult. Alphas are known to be this and that. But we don’t let anyone else decide for us, we decide our own experience. How we want to view it, how we want to live it. How we view ourselves as mates or as individuals.”

Namjoon pours out another mugful of tea as he speaks, and Jungkook watches as the winter wind ruffles the fringe away from his forehead.

“I don’t believe in labels for one, I don’t believe in setting everyone apart so that we can stay true to our colours, so that we can create more rifts. Biology is biology, we’re born to have different biology but that’s just that. We stay true to ourselves when we understand who we are, who we want to be, the good things we want to do. We’re both alphas, but what we do defines who we are more than our biology will.”

Namjoon’s voice is a bit quiet when he speaks next. “I'd like people to know me by what I do than what I define myself as. I may see myself as weak, but what I define myself as, how I see myself like, would change over the years. It’s what I do, not what I say I am, which truly means something, truly create changes. So I try to do my best at everything I do.”

Jungkook takes a moment to consider his own experience, his own perceptions of love and relationships. He tries to see how he views himself everyday, over the years, and it strikes him how much self-hatred he has for himself now. How much he considers himself a faulty alpha for not being able to constantly be the source of protection and strength for his omega. How weak he feels as a human being.

Jungkook tries to revisit everything he was taught about alphas, and how expectations have broken him bit by bit, a nagging at his conscience that told him he cannot be weak, that he is supposed to self-repair and reset without help, like a machine he learnt how to set up in engineering school.

“I think of myself like that too, hyung. A faulty alpha, by default. Factory setting.”

Namjoon giggles adorably, and Jungkook laughs earnestly as he looks at the man.

“Don’t worry, Kook. I think to achieve perfection is an illusion. We define perfection when we look back, not when we look forward. If you can look back and view something as perfect, then that’s how it is.”

There is a lot to take from Namjoon’s little sharing session, that Jungkook has to contemplate about in his recovery and learning of himself. There is a lot to discover about him and Jimin too.

“Sometimes when I think about myself… I can’t help but wonder if Jimin deserves someone else. He’s—” Jungkook looks down on his thumb circling on the rim of the mug. “He’s wonderful. He’s the best person I know, he’s got the best of me and the worst too. That kinda sucks.”

“I think about that too Jungkook, I mean with me and Hoseok.” Namjoon cuts his words with a small laugh, and takes him back a moment. “Hoseok does everything with precision you know? He’s careful and sensitive, and he does everything so meticulously. I mean, I can watch him do anything for hours. He just... he touches everything in his presence just by breathing. Man, so much power in one person!”

Jungkook laughs a bit at Namjoon’s words, silently agreeing with his words on Hoseok, the brother he has known for half a life now. Hoseok is kind and beautiful, ever-present, the bright white in a dark room. He is a malleable clay which bends and curves in the presence of the one he loves, someone fierce in loving. He hardly breaks because he was born taught to be soft and strong, the pillar for someone to lean on.

Namjoon continues his words when he has stopped giggling, looking at Jungkook with his sharp eyes. “Sometimes I do wonder if, let’s say, we’re in a different universe, a different timeline, would I be able to meet Hoseok? Would I be miles away and miss him by a few years? Would I be an old, dying tree and would he be the cutter? I’d function more as a tree anyway.”

They laugh at the image but the implication is heavy, Jungkook knows from the frown in between Namjoon’s eyebrows.

“And then I think about now, and how in everything I do within this timeline, I still have him in my arms. This Namjoon, and this Hoseok belong to each other, and I’m grateful for what I can have in this life.”

Jungkook feels his eyes welling at that, feels happy for both Namjoon and Hoseok. There is so much love unspoken in between the pauses of Namjoon’s beautiful words, and in the distance between his dimples, the length of his smile.

Namjoon turns to him again as if understanding his thoughts. “In another story, a different kind of Jungkook would love a different kind of Jimin. They will be perfect for each other in that timeline, and they might have it easier, or not. You deserve the Jimin in this timeline, all the scars you carry and all the time he had to wait. You deserve each other.”

Jungkook rubs his face at that, wiping his tears away all at once. Namjoon shuffles closer, slapping his back a few times before looking back at the horizon.

“You know those powerlines, Jungkook?”

“Yeah?” Jungkook answers, albeit nasally, now that his tears are lodged deep in his throat.

“We kids of this town all grow up watching these powerlines. We all love looking at them, don't we?”

Jungkook hums in agreement, finding himself sharing the same sentiment. They are after all born in the same place albeit in different packs, wolf-children of the meadows and powerlines.

“When I was a child I kept feeling sorry for those lines, y’know? They stay in the same place all their life. Must be a boring life.”

Namjoon giggles as he turns to Jungkook. “But after years of travelling, I came back and looked at them again, and I had this epiphany, how sometimes freedom isn’t always being up there in the air, or far away in places I’ve never been to. It’s about being where you want to be. Watching over home, looking at the best times of the day, the changing seasons.”

They can hear footsteps coming close, Hoseok and Jimin laughing as they dry their hands on a similar towel. Jungkook watches as Jimin smiles wider at him, Namjoon’s words loud in his ears.

He nods to Namjoon as he speaks next in answer to the older man’s words, a smile on his face.

“Looking at the things you love.”

"Looking at the things you love," Namjoon repeats back Jungkook’s words in agreement, eyes glassy as he peers into the dark coiling lines outlining the dusk lights.

Behind them, Jimin is holding in his laughter as his cheeks bulge, trying to finish a pot of tea which he drinks from the spout in one gulp. He looks at Jungkook next and shows his bulging cheeks, and Jungkook cannot help but laugh at the adorable sight. When Jungkook speaks next, his eyes are still fixed on his husband’s face.

“Looking at the people you love.”

 

****

 

With the classes cut short in the winter, the workshop looks and feels a bit lonely and dreary.

Out here in the outskirts where people do not loiter, the workshop's area almost looks desolate and singled out, but Jimin loves it. Jimin loves feeling like he is home, but home in the middle of nowhere. Like he is lost but not really lost.

From where Jimin is seated at his favourite spot in the classroom, close to the windows with a mug of hot tea in his hands, Jimin can see the faraway lands. His line of sight covers the silhouettes of dark mountains and the powerlines in the horizon, the backdrop of the greyish skies behind them. With the winter sun shielded by the heavy clouds, the weak shadows formed by the roofs and the wooden pillars cast a faded gloom to the surrounding yard.

Small trees which line the path to the meadow of dead grass now lay aslant, bared to their barks, leafless. Over a few miles, Jimin could no longer see the rest of them as they vanish in the mist.

He lets out a heavy sniffle, breath warmed up by the taste of sweet tea on his tongue.

Today the first snow of the year might fall, and Jimin has always loved the first snow. His bones feel achy in winter and his skin is stretched taut, and the only day Jimin feels like getting out of a warm room is on the day the first snow would drop and touch the earth. Fresh snow petals feel soft on his skin, on his lips like a kiss to flower petals in the morning.

Other than those days, all he wants to do is sleep in and cuddle to the warmth of his pillows. Or now that Jungkook is back, he would love to cuddle up to his husband’s body, something his body has found a home and a nest in.

Earlier on, Jimin would have dozed to sleep if not for the call from Jungkook telling him to wait for the younger to pick him up. All is left to do now is leave for home in Jungkook’s car, a mere fifteen minutes away from the workshop, as Jimin is already bundled up in his windbreakers and scarf.

Jimin glances a look at the spot where he once put sculptures of Jungkook’s face on, the tiny and medium ones, all smashed to pieces when they had contacted him about the fallen black hawk and the long hours they took to rescue him. He remembers the one he had made of Jungkook’s face which unintentionally hurt the man tremendously, which Jungkook broke himself, and feels regret seeping through his vein.

Jimin does not know when exactly he could forgive himself for that, even if Jungkook has forgiven him—Jungkook always forgives him, but figures it will come with time.

He loves Jungkook, all the Jungkook he knows, all the time.

As he washes the mug clean at the sink once he finished his tea, Jimin thinks about how people can love so much and still do so in flawed ways. He might have loved Jungkook so much that it turned him selfish for expecting Jungkook to be a constant, when human beings grow and change over the years.

“Hyung? Are you ready?”

Jimin turns to the tall man standing at the threshold of the classroom, smiling widely as he walks in towards himself. Jungkook looks so radiant in the dimmed winter lights, red beanie on his head and all black jacket downwards.

“Let’s get you bundled up, Jiminie.”

“What for? We’re getting home, aren’t we?” Jimin questions as Jungkook takes out another red beanie which he puts on Jimin’s head, identical to his own. Like this—red-headed and red-nosed, Jimin thinks they look silly and young, both are actual truths.

“Yes, we are but it could take awhile,” Jungkook answers simply as he takes out a heating pad from his pocket and puts it inside Jimin’s jacket pocket. He takes away Jimin’s bagpack from his shoulder, and slings it on his own arm.

Jimin could only watch as the man inspects his look from top to bottom, before kissing his forehead and his lips, and smiling to him as he murmurs words to himself, something which sounds like ‘my cute baby’.

After saying goodbye to both Namjoon and Hoseok in the backroom, Jungkook pulls Jimin towards the lobby, looking too eager for the ride home. Jimin can only laugh at his husband’s antics, feeling weirdly nostalgic with this giddy Jungkook.

“Why are you so excited, Kookie?”

“Quick, hyung. We can’t miss the first snow, you love the first snow.”

Jungkook pulls him out from the workshop next, and what Jimin sees next is not what he expected.

So he asks. “We’re going home on that?”

Jungkook nods his head excitedly, huge clouds of breath forming and dispersing in front of his mouth as he laughs excitedly. Then he quickly hops on the seat of the bicycle, adjusting his position by wiggling around.

“Yes! You used to carry me on your bike all the time. Let me take you on a ride, baby!”

People have always said Jimin is an easy laugher, but if you get a husband like Jungkook like he does, no one can blame him really. When Jungkook begins ringing the bicycle's tinkling bell, Jimin laughs so loud his body shakes, bending forward as Jungkook laughs back at him.

The bicycle is medium-sized, vivid colours of yellow and red reminiscent of Jungkook’s favourite colours. There is a small rattan basket at the front, where Jungkook puts Jimin’s bagpack in.

“It’s so cold Kookie! We’re gonna freeze before we get home! When did you even buy this?”

“I ordered it like two weeks ago,” Jungkook pulls Jimin’s hands so that the older would sit on the seat behind him, his body weakened from the overpowering mirth. “Quick, hyung!”

“Okay, okay!”

“Hang on tight, Jiminie!”

With a push of his leg, Jungkook begins cycling them both away from the workshop to the main street entering the small town to get to their home.

Jimin holds both sides of Jungkook’s hips tightly as he peeks at the street in front of him from behind the man's body. The streetside is wet and damp from the dropping temperature. The asphalt looks wet and splashy, the walls dry and grey. With the beanie tight on his head keeping his hair in, Jimin’s forehead is free from his hair and open to the cold winds.

Jungkook sounds breathless when he speaks next, legs pedaling speedily on the bicycle. “Are you having fun, hyung?”

Jimin can only laugh as he answers a yes, legs dangling out and hands waving to the kids jumping on the pavement as Jungkook cycles past them, the two silly lovers. A war hero and the potter, the two husbands finding their way home. Jimin wonders why the children are out playing in the cold, but figures they themselves are no different with the children, cycling through the cold winds of winter like this.

“Whoops!”

Jungkook swerves past a water puddle and they almost fall before he maneuvers it back to stability, Jimin controlling his giggles from getting him to fall on the wet road.

“Careful, Kookie!”

“Sorry! Sorry!” Jungkook laughs as he stabilises the bike, pushing forward again with his strong legs.

All around them, people laugh and wave at them, the old townspeople who know them all their lives. Bright decorations are up, fairy-lights and lanterns, red and green socks covering the stores in vivid colours to make up for the bleak colours of the season.

“Hyung, do you remember? We used to hang out at the park behind the playground?” Jungkook asks from where he does not turn, voice loud to fight the surrounding sound. Festive songs of the seasons are blaring out from some of the shops' external stereos, filling the street with a jovial kind of chaos. “Then we’d go eat some hot fishcakes. You’d buy me spicy rice cakes!”

Jimin nods and answers loudly to Jungkook's words. “I do! You used to bump rides from me all the time, Jungkook. Back then you didn’t even talk to me much, but you still sat on my bike everytime, not even Jin hyung’s. You'd chase me around when I didn't!”

Jungkook giggles at that, and Jimin steals a peek to see his laughter. He looks so happy and Jimin’s heart flutters. “Yes, I wanted to talk to you but I didn’t know how. I’m always bad with words, hyung!”

They are almost at the end of the town street when they pass by the century-old town library, the place where young Jimin and Jungkook always found themselves hanging out in whenever they had free time. The building has always looked majestic and rusty even years back, an old church turned into a worship house of books, white walls covered in molds and dead vines everywhere one would turn.

If they would stop now and go in, Seokjin might be somewhere behind a desk or standing in between old book racks.

“Hyung! Your favourite place!”

It is Jimin’s favourite place, and back then when he had more time than he does now, Jimin would hang out for hours at the old place. Reading has always been his first love, and being surrounded by the musty scent of old books is similar to being surrounded by the smell of clay at the workshop.

Years back, young Jungkook did not read much, but Jimin often found himself lying down on the couch areas with Jungkook’s head on his tummy. The younger would ask him everything and nothing, about characters he read in the comics and whatnot, and Jimin would just play along. Young Jungkook had peculiar ways to show his admiration, and young Jimin was just happy to have all.

“You used to hang out at the library for hours just reading, hyung. What a nerd!”

Jimin slaps Jungkook’s ass at that as the man giggles. “You were with me too, you brat.”

“I had to! How else could I see you?”

Jimin smiles softly at that, a blush forming on his already reddening cheeks. They exit the town next, leaving behind the memories of their younger years in the old town, young Jimin and Jungkook that they both missed, and ready for a new one.

Now they are cycling past meadows and dead trees of the vacant town road, and out here the forest smell thick and fresh, something like the both of them. There are cedar wood and pine, wild flowers. Mossy rock bottoms, dead leaves on the forest floor, decaying away from the lights filtering beneath the trees. Jimin also smells the mossy scent of wild mushrooms growing on a longleaf pine. They smell like him, smell like Jungkook too.

Jimin closes his eyes to inhale more of the scents when he feels the first snow touching his skin, a wet feather of ice getting his goosebumps up.

“It’s snowing! Jungkookie!”

At his words, Jungkook lifts his face up to the skies before yelling out in excitement. “See? I got the perfect timing!”

The petals fall sparsely at first, before they begin to rain down at a constant rate. It feels like they are two tiny ants cycling under a pouring cup of sugar, as whiteness begin to fill the thick air and melt on their thick jackets. Jimin cannot truly feel his face nor his lips in the chill, but he has his hands extended out to feel the fallen snow on his skin and on his face.

The cold winter wind bites straight to his bones but Jimin does not care, does not care a bit as his husband cycles them home. With his arms and legs out on the vacant roadside, eyes shut, Jimin feels free and weightless, as light as the snow petal. Jungkook’s scent envelops him in a protective cocoon as he carries them home, forest within forest, and Jimin feels lulled and saved.

Out here he does not age, and Jungkook does not age. Out here they are just living and breathing.

“Jimin!”

Jimin merely hums in answer as he opens his eyes and grips Jungkook’s hips once again, trying to see the distance from where he sits. They are close to home now, a half kilometer before they exit the forest area.

“You used to carry me around all the time, take me places.” Jungkook stops talking for awhile as he grits his teeth in the chill, lips frozen now. His legs never stop pedaling. “Let me take you places now. Let me carry you home.”

Jimin can only watch from below him, in the backdrop of the fallen snow how Jungkook’s face is frozen pale in the weather. There are snow petals on his beanie, and on his wide shoulder, melting easily like the tears deep in Jimin’s chest. Jungkook's lips are red-kissed, chapped but flushed, a contrast to his pale skin.

Jimin wraps his arms around Jungkook as he kisses the man’s back, unable to answer with frozen lips and a clogged up chest.

“Thank you for everything hyung. Fall in love with me again, please? This Jungkook?”

Jungkook lets off a hand from the handle and holds Jimin’s hand on his middle, intertwining their fingers. Jungkook’s fingers are bony and strong beneath his own chubby ones, and Jimin feels anchored, feels home again.

“All Jungkook. Always.”

Jimin does not miss the look on Jungkook’s face, a wide smile that speaks of pride and happiness, and one who always fights. Jungkook may be scarred now but his scars are beautiful, and if Jimin can take a lifetime to show him how beautiful they are to him, he would do it.

“Jiminie!”

Their private moment is broken by Jungkook’s sudden scream in the vacant silence, out here where everyone is warm in their homes, and animals sleep in the cocoon of their nests. In five minutes they will leave the scattering meadows into their neighbourhood, and Jimin cannot wait to cuddle up to Jungkook’s warmth.

The streetlights are switched on as darkness begins to fall where the sun finally sets, and two lovers are out here screaming at each other with their laughter roaring just as loud.

“Jiminie!”

“Yeah!” Jimin shouts out his answer in giggles at Jungkook’s sudden yell.

“You’re heavy! Why are you so heavy?”

Jungkook almost has them both falling into the ditch as he evades Jimin’s slap on both of his ass, laughing as he cycles harder.

“Jiminie!”

“What!” Jimin has to yell now that his husband is trying to race with the harsh wind, and Jungkook is laughing too excitedly as he cycles hard.

“I like you! You’re so heavy and I like you a lot!”

Jimin can only laugh, his grips tightening on the alpha’s waist. Jimin wants to answer that, but knows that Jungkook wants to say it for him, for him to have his moment. His answer is not needed, because Jungkook would always know.

They might take awhile to get home on the bicycle, and when they get home Jungkook might have hyperventilated a bit from exhaustion and the chill, and they might have not spoken any word as their lips tremble in cold.

At least not until Jimin heats up a pot of tea for them both and get themselves cozy on the couch with a blanket and the fireplace lit up. But afterwards they spend the rest of the day watching the first snow, and as Jungkook falls asleep on Jimin’s laps again like on one of those days at the library, Jimin knows Jungkook has returned.

Jimin would close his eyes sometimes as he traces the lines that make up Jungkook’s face as he ages, the ones he should draw on Jungkook’s sculpture if he ever makes a new one. He caresses the scars on Jungkook’s temple and his cheek, and the slope of Jungkook’s sharper jaw and cheekbones.

This Jungkook is older and scarred, the one who suffered and returned, the one who fought and lost, and is still fighting again. He does not look similar with the Jungkook in their photos, not from his wedding days.

This Jungkook might not laugh as carefree as he once did, take more time to share his thoughts, careful in his words, and would sometimes get lost in his own thoughts. This Jungkook might shake at night, or cry in his arms, but it is the same person. He is the Jungkook he has grown into, body and soul, as he grows like the trees he smells like, like the ever-green forest which has lived and thrived for centuries. The one that returned to Jimin.

The one he is always in love with, the one home.

Even when he left, Jungkook is always home. Jimin never let him leave.

 

***

 

Jungkook finished work early today, and did not feel like returning to an empty home. Wintertimes are cold and biting, and going home for an hour to wait for Jimin to return seems futile.

So here he sits on a small stool, back stiff and covered still in his work shirt. A black apron covers his front, but his sleeves are folded up to his elbows.

Like one of their prolonged quiet sessions in the workshop, Jungkook learns how to master his craft—the first technique of pottery, pot-pinching.

Jimin stays on the other side of the table a little farther away, carving designs on stamp pieces his students requested for him to make. Jungkook spots the different stamps the man made earlier, of maple leaves, paws, even pancakes and burgers. He wonders why anyone would want the shapes of hamburgers on their cups and bowls, but is reminded again that he loves those shapes too.

With his hand still moving, Jungkook glances a look at his husband.

Jimin looks best like this; thick black hair disheveled after a long day, face glowing in the evening light, colours blending in with the rest of the furniture.

His sweater is dirty from the day’s work, his favourite black apron now ditched elsewhere. Under the table, his tattered work jeans would look bleached and dirty, but something very Jimin.

And his face, Jungkook loves his face the most. Beneath the low winter lights, Jimin’s face looks subdued and warm, a face made for all seasons. His pretty delicate nose almost covers his pouty lips as he bends forward doing his craft, so Jungkook tilts his head a bit to catch the sight of the fat flesh.

When focused or in idle, Jimin would subconsciously jut his plump lips out as if he is pouting in a delicate kiss, and Jungkook loves looking at him when he does that. He does that a lot.

“You’re staring again.”

Jungkook turns back to the fifth cup he made of kaolin, feeling a blush forming on his cheeks. He also feels a sheer satisfaction with the shape of the cup in his hand. “You told me I can’t look at it while I pinch. So I’m looking elsewhere.”

Jimin smiles from where he has not lifted his face up even once. “You think you’re ready for the potter’s wheel, Jungkook?”

“I’m always ready.”

Jungkook feels excited for that. He has always watched Jimin and his students do it, and quite frankly his fingers and wrist feel tired from kneading and pinching all the time.

“Hold on, let me check your cups. You’ve done like twenty.” Jimin stands up from his stool and walks over to Jungkook, sitting next to him. “You’ve designed everything? Paint, put your stamps and all?”

Jungkook shakes his head, and then nods, Jimin lifting an eyebrow at his uncertainty. “With some, I did. But the rest of them, I want them to be plain.”

Jimin picks up two cups carefully, and Jungkook feels nervous. Jimin closes his eyes next, pinching the walls of the cups, one by one. “Good.”

He keeps muttering out words, and Jungkook watches him do everything with fascination. He does that thing with his lips again and Jungkook wants to touch them so bad. The older man, oblivious to Jungkook's private thoughts does not open his eyes next when he speaks.

“Jungkook do you know why this is the second lesson after kneading?”

Jungkook answers a negative, and Jimin continues.

“Pot-pinching is the oldest form of pottery, the most unique one. It's primal, ancient, basic. Touching is the most basic form of human interaction. Human beings, wolves, trees all of us are made of clay, we all came from earth. How you feel and touch clay is basically how you touch nature, another human being.”

Jimin opens his eyes at that, deft fingers still softly pinching the walls of the remaining cups. “Some touches are too strong and you might break it, and some too soft, that they don’t change the shape at all. Can you feel the difference?”

Jimin presses two of his fingers on the back of Jungkook’s hand, soft pressures varying in intensity. Jungkook simply nods in understanding, and in return presses two fingers on Jimin’s too.

“With some cups, the walls are thick and uneven, probably some of the first ones you did. Cups with thick walls are good too, some people like them, especially men. There’s even a study done on that, you know?”

Jungkook widens his eyes at that, and nods. “I agree, I like thick cups.”

“Me too. But with uneven walls, it’s a little different. It means the touch is unsure, or you’re tired. So you push a little harder at some, and push a little too soft at some. It’s still good, but it’s uneven. The cups you make by pinching tell a lot about you.”

“Can you tell what kind of person I am by these cups?” Jungkook suddenly feels nervous and anxious, checking the cups he makes for weird dents, stuck dirt or anything else. He would not want Jimin to see him as anything less.

Jimin tilts his head a bit as he speaks. “I can tell that you’re tired of kneading and you want to kick my ass for making you knead those clay doughs for weeks.”

“More like kiss your ass—“

Jimin slaps Jungkook with a free hand, cheeks reddening in the cold weather.

Outside, the freeze is ever lasting, only the quiet hum of the heater is breaking the whir of the winter winds. Darkness falls where the stars end, and automated streetlights are set to switch on early to make up for the early loss of lights during these times.

“Other than that, no, not really. My teacher used to tell me and Hoseok hyung that a lot, but I don’t think I ever learnt how to. I wasn’t that keen to, I don’t think I want to.”

“You mean how to tell people by the cups?” Jungkook asks Jimin, and the man nods in reply before answering.

“Yeah. I think there are days when the cups you make will look odd, and the pots explode in the kiln. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t mean that the person is broken all the time. Some days have to be bad, for the rest of the days to be good. Like cups. As long as they can be useful, can be filled up with something, they’re good. People are not pots, we all came from earth but we’re not made the same way. We try to be good, and do good, it doesn’t matter how people read us.”

Jimin casually shrugs as he speaks, lifting a small cup Jungkook made and pretending as if he is drinking rice wine from it.

Jungkook laughs as he watches his husband play around with his cups, then realises he falls in love a lot, and falling in love with Jimin has always been easy.

“I think it doesn’t matter how I see it, this cup, as long as the creator of the cup gains something from the experience. Happiness, release, contentment. Love. What really matters is how much he learns from touching the clay, and that the clay has touched him too.”

Jungkook stays silent as he listens. Around the workshop, the snow fills in every slope of the hilly sides, filling in the vacant spaces left behind by force of nature. Roadsides are wet from the melting ice, and cars and houses are mere behemoths of white fur as the snow begin to blanket everything in its embrace.

“What matters is that, he understands the clay is himself. Your creation, your space are an extension of yourself. And as much as he loves his creations, that’s exactly how much his creations love him too. He is always loved.”

Jimin does not get to speak the last word right, as Jungkook dives in and kisses him at the very moment, feeling overwhelming love and passion for the man he has loved for a long time. He feels Jimin’s fingers cupping his face gently once the man gets over his surprise, a contrast to his sturdy hold on Jimin’s neck.

Like clay and everything else he has touched this evening, Jimin’s lips are soft; his top one moulding to Jungkook’s as the younger slips his tongue in. Jungkook feels breathless a bit, releasing his lips from Jimin once in a while to let the man breathe.

When they break apart, Jimin smiles up to him so sweetly as Jungkook brushes his hair away from his face. Even as they breathe in each other’s space, the scent of pheromones thickening, Jungkook knows better than to rush. He wants to love Jimin slowly as he heals, learns to navigate his body slowly like the way he touches his creation.

Jimin may not be his creation, but there is a whole wonder of a universe he wants to create for the both of them. Jungkook wants to learn how to do it well, Jungkook wants to touch him well, in all the right ways possible.

“I think I’m ready for the potter’s wheel.”

 

**

 

Winter nights might be cold and cozy for a long night sleep, but the ever-running heater keeps Jimin thirsty.

January nights are almost as cold as December, if not colder. Even when he is bundled up in a thick blanket and a human heater next to him, Jimin still feels greedy for any kind of heat—holding his hand out to feel the faux warmth from the light of the full moon filtering in from beneath the bamboo blinds.

He was woken a few minutes before to a parched throat and a weight of something heavy on his breast; and upon looking down, finds Jungkook’s hand lying limp on his chest. He keeps Jimin close even in his sleep, the knight of the faraway lands guarding his home.

The man is sleeping on his side, peaceful face mushed on a pillow. Jimin smiles before rising up to a sitting position, kissing the man’s forehead before waking up to exit the bed.

Jimin had came home today to Jungkook who looked utterly drained.

He ate little, and spoke little when they ate the dinner the younger had cooked earlier for the both of them. Cleaning up was quiet too, but Jungkook hovered around him and did not leave him much. He was clingy as always and then some—but all in silence, only falling asleep as soon as Jimin held him in his arms. It must be one of those difficult days, Jimin thinks—a trying therapy session, or a hard day at work.

Jimin quickly strolls to the kitchen to get a glass of cold water from the water dispenser, drinking a whole glass before refilling another glassful. He turns around and observes the outside lights from the window, cheeks puffed up from the water in his mouth.

In the dim of the living room, his eyes catch sight of the metallic audio recorder on the coffee table.

Jungkook’s audio recorder.

Jungkook is doing prolonged exposure therapy with his psychotherapist now, and the effects are immense and powerful, yet excruciating. From what he gathers from Jungkook's retelling, they are revisiting a lot of painful memories, and like today, Jungkook often comes home tired out of his wits. His psychotherapist has him recording every session so he can listen to it when he gets home—as many times as he could, in an effort to get him to not avoid the memories. He has to face his fears in order to heal, has to face himself.

It sounds intense to Jimin, and from the looks of Jungkook’s swollen face and limp body whenever he returns, Jimin can imagine how hard it is for his husband.

Jungkook has told him to listen to it when he can, when he is ready. Circumstances has Jimin stalling unintentionally, as his work and directly helping Jungkook assume importance and his time. He is tired too, but Jimin knows one of these days he has to listen to it. No matter how painful it is, he has to, for the sake of Jungkook. If he wants to help, he has to listen to everything.

Jimin reaches for the recorder as he takes a seat on the couch, putting it on low volume as he clicks it to play. He chances a glance at the room, sees Jungkook in the same position like when he left earlier. 

The audio begins mid-session, and Jimin is sure Jungkook has been listening to this before he got home for dinner.

Jimin waits, registering the voice of Dr. Im, Jungkook’s psychotherapist as it comes on the recorded audio.

“—recall your memories of the trauma. You will need to recall the painful memories, everything you remember in detail. We will need you to tell the story to me not in past tense, but rather in the present, as if it is happening right now, as if you are there now. I would suggest for you to close your eyes to limit the distractions. We’re going to work on this together, okay Jungkook?”

There is a muted silence for a few seconds before Jungkook replies a small okay. Jimin’s chest feels heavy as he listens to the usually mellifluous voice of his husband turns deeper, like he was nervous. Jimin is sure he was nervous. The doctor continued his instruction.

“If you start to feel uncomfortable, and you need to run or leave, try staying with the images. We’re recording this, so you can listen to it at home. It’s part of the therapy.”

“Alright, Dr.”

“Okay, so once in a while as you tell the story, every five minutes or so, I will be asking you about your anxiety level on the zero to one hundred SUD scale. Remember the scale? The one we talked about before? Then I’ll ask how vivid your experience is on the same scale. If you say zero it means you can’t see anything clearly, and with hundred it’s almost like it’s happening again, very vivid memories. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“When you’re done, I will ask you to start the story all over again. No pause. This is imperative for your progress because we're trying to get you to not push the memories away even when they're really painful. If you feel like talking about something else, we will do that after the session. Focus on the story throughout the whole time.”

Jimin cannot imagine how it would be like to have Jungkook do that, and with the silence that came with the instruction, he knows how heavy it was on Jungkook’s mind too. But the man still answered a positive.

“Do you have any question, Jungkook? Before we start?”

“No.”

“Okay, please close your eyes. You can begin with the most vivid thing you remember when you're ready.”

Jimin inhales deeply, drinking the whole glass in one gulp as he holds the recorder close to his chest. When Jungkook spoke again in his usual murmurous speech, his voice was deep but clear.

“It was—it’s really… a really hot day. I’m on sniper duty, with my team members. We’re tasked to do sniper air cover, you know? Provide air surveillance for any of our officers on ground. Sometimes we would be tasked to guard the UN trucks when they gave out food to the villagers, or the Red Cross. That day we're tasked to monitor the food distribution at a remote militant village. My helmet was—is stifling. I’m with Minjae hyung, Yunho hyung, Daehyul hyung on the mini guns. We're all paratroopers, Delta assaulters. Minjae hyung and Yunho hyung, these two are legends. They traveled the world together, they’re bestfriends. All of them are so good to me. Sohyun hyung and Yoosang are our pilots, the best pilots I know. I’m the youngest."

Jungkook stopped for awhile, coughing away a phantom phlegm before he began talking again, in a clearer voice.

"We’ve done this dozens of times, on the task force’s previous missions. The tarmac was hot, you know the floor of the black hawk? We’re sweating with these heavy body armor and gear, big black flak vest, gloves and all. Usually we would do a rotation or twice, before going back to base for refueling, and another team would take over.”

Jimin hears the sudden silence, bites his nails while waiting. He imagines Jungkook doing the same in the static silence before the man spoke again.

“It might seem audacious to fly low above the villages but we’ve done this a lot. The whole time I’m watching the people below, I have the base in my mind. I remember the cold drinks, the meat we’d have for dinner. I think about the letter my husband sent to me which I read earlier, I miss him a lot. It doesn’t mean I’m not nervous. I’m nervous as fuck. The week before—I mean last week, a couple of humvees were attacked in broad daylight, so we had these extra ammos, magazines and grenades, bayonets in our harnesses and boots. But I mean, we're born to do this. It's both exciting and scary."

The windows are frosting now, the panes almost always dimmed by the frost. Moonlight flitters through the open curtains, casting effervescent lights in the darkened living room furniture. Jimin takes notice of the echo of silence in both the audio and in the current, as Jungkook tried to gather his thoughts and Jimin holds his breath in.

"If you’ve seen the place, I think you’d know why we’re both scared and excited. It’s like a post-apocalyptic dystopia—mountains are either packed with trash, debris, carcasses. It's a beautiful place, but it looks like shit. You can see jackals and wilderbeests. Buildings are pock-marked with bullets. The villagers, they live in these dilapidated buildings, shacks, and barely have anything to eat. Even when they're holding guns while we fly above them, I’d never hate them. They’re victims of these warlords. I could never hate them. I wish they could live here, somewhere like my hometown.”

Jimin glances over to the bedroom, to see if Jungkook is awake, and lowers the volume a bit more when he sees Jungkook shifting in his sleep. He sleeps with his face facing the ceiling, a hand still extended out to Jimin's side. In the dim of the bedroom, he looks frailer now, skinny body trying to breathe through the cold.

“At an intersection, as we orbit above the village moving to the city where there are more buildings, there are people with guns—big guns. They have these Soviet guns, American, German guns, RPGs. We have a strict non-engagement rule, don’t shoot until shot upon, so we can’t do much. Opposite of me Minjae hyung is joking around with Yunho about his rifle, says his favourite rifle only works in World War II or something."

There was a small chuckle which Jimin recognises is distinctly Jungkook's, and he smiles at the sound. He can imagine Jungkook smiling with his teeth out.

"I’m talking to Daehyul hyung as we observe every single face in the crowd. The crowd likes to run below us, in parallel with the black hawk everytime, it’s like a national event or something. Everything’s okay, everything’s normal. And then suddenly we have these militias shooting at us from a blind spot on the rooftop. It hits some of us, hits Yunho hyung’s hand, and—and Daehyul hyung, he got shot in the head."

Jimin feels fear crawling down his spine, infesting within his belly.

"We’re just talking, he was just telling me about his children, and one second, he’s falling down. He falls down with the heli headset, ripping it from the board. It’s so quick. I couldn’t even reach out for him. Fuck, he's just there. One second, then he's dead."

Even when the audio recorder is put probably on a coffee table in the doctor’s room and would not be able to capture every sound which came from Jungkook, there is a hint that Jungkook’s breath was shortened, clipped. Jimin can imagine him hyperventilating, but the man continued talking still. Jimin fights the urge to run into the bedroom and hug the said man close to his body.

“It first feels like a hard jolt when the RPG hits us, then it starts spinning. We’re bouncing on the backpit. And then Sohyun hyung, he keeps telling us that it’s all good, even when we spin violently. A few seconds after, they’re telling us to brace for impact because the snipers don’t have any protection at the back, and the impact can crush our spines. We’re on our backs now, spread-eagled, so the impact can be spreaded out. I’m so scared, I'm so fucking scared. I don’t know what to do. There are weird noises and quick radio transmissions to the base but I’m panicking. We feel another hit as we lose the tail rotor, smoke all over smelling like burning diesel.”

He can feel his own anxiety rising at Jungkook's quick breaths.

"I'm so scared. I don't want to die, not out here. And everything is just so loud. We hit a rooftop, our bodies are hurled everywhere, and I hit my shoulder and head as we flip over. The helicopter dives nose first, falling on the side as it hit another building. It's like an earthquake, there's dust and dirt, everything hurts. Fuck, it's so... I thought I died. I really thought... I'm dead."

Jimin has his eyes closed the whole time he listens to the audio, and even as Jungkook continued his recollection and the doctor would stop every five minutes to collect his anxiety level, he still cannot bear to open them.

The doctor would tell Jungkook words of encouragement every time he heaved and his voice broke for a smaller one, and Jungkook would still continue.

“—isn’t breathing anymore. I know he’s not, there’s no way. No one can survive those many bullets, not a small boy. His body, it’s—it’s so small. Bullets, when they go through a human body, they just jolt the body, you know? And it's as if he’s jumping. He was crying when he died, but when he's just lying there, dead, his eyes are looking at me. He's waiting for me to save him."

Jimin holds in his tears, pauses the recorder.

He takes a moment to collect his breath, and walks slowly to the bedroom, peering at Jungkook’s body in the darkness. Jungkook sleeps so deeply in the cold of the night, the shadows of his eyelashes further casting darkness on his sunken cheeks, deepening eyebags. Jimin secretly wonders if Jungkook is seeing the boy in his dreams tonight. He picks up Jungkook’s sweater slung on the back of a chair and wears it.

When he goes back to listen to the recording again, Jimin takes the recorder outside, closing the door so he can sit on the small wooden walkway on the side of their house. It overlooks a clear field of snow, door facing the sastrugi, a good thirty steps before another house. The bamboo trees on the side of the house cover a small part of the backyard, keeping everything well shaded. 

In the spring, the small yard would be filled with green grass and little patches of wild flowers. The outside midnight air feels cold now that he has left the warmth of the heater, but Jimin finds warmth in Jungkook’s thick sweater. He plays the recorder again.

“—come back running and he’s dead. Minjae hyung, he’s dead. And his eyes, his eyes. They’re open, and I can’t close them. I can’t. He’s just lying there, in his blood. I radio his situation to the base commander, but it’s so difficult to talk. I’m so scared and angry. He was breathing just seconds ago, he was just laughing behind me. I can’t help thinking if he didn’t help me up when the RPG hit, that he’d be alive now. And these people, villagers. They look so angry, they're big. Monsters. But I don't wanna kill them, I swear I don't.”

The moon is full tonight, and on full moon nights, legends have it that wolves would turn into their full fur, beast more than man. Jimin does not remember the last time he shifted, even as he listens to Jungkook’s recollection of his shifting, claws and fangs out. The freeze helps dry his tears a bit, as he listens to the rest of the recording. Jungkook's voice is muffled by his sobs and sniffles. 

“—says ‘let go Kook, I’m dying’. And I can’t, I keep thinking about his wife and daughter, how they would be waiting for him, they’re in the photo he has in his jacket all the time. I don’t even feel pain when his claws cut me, and we’re sliding down. And then he just slips... he just slips through my fingers. I can’t even see him when he falls, we gain altitude then so we’re going up. I try so hard, and all I see is a dot, a splash of white. He’s dead. But I can’t. I couldn’t save him. I can’t. I can’t believe it. My heart is beating so fast but I feel dead. I'm dead.”

Jungkook was choking now, and Jimin contemplates stopping the audio.

"I should've died. Fuck I should've died with them."

From then onwards, Jungkook was sobbing in the audiotape and Jimin listens to everything. He listens to every single time the words are repeated, the same story over and over again. He listens to every whisper of anguish, every cry for help, and every single time Jungkook sobbed for mercy.

By the time the recording ends, Jimin is dry-cheeked but his chest feels weighty. The clock has turned for the darkest hours of the night, the moonlight hidden by the moving clouds. Jimin locks the door upon entering, a sniffle in his nose, a limp in his legs, a heart broken. He returns to the warmth of the bed and his husband after washing his face at the sink.

Jungkook is still asleep, eyebrows frowning and lips half-open in release of heavy breaths. 

Jimin does not take long before gathering him in his arms, putting Jungkook’s head on his heart, stifling his sobs inside his chest as he cries his silent tears onto Jungkook’s scalp. He wonders if Jungkook is flying free in his dreamscapes, if he is drowning, if he is seeing the child's eyes staring back at him. 

Jimin cannot save him from his dreams, there are places within Jungkook he cannot reach. Yet he prays to all the gods he knows, all the ancient and future deities, that his body and his soul are enough an offering, a hecatomb to have Jungkook saved from the ghosts of his past, the pain of his dreams.

At least for tonight, he wishes Jungkook is saved; dreamless, no longer drowning in the tides. 

 

*

 

Chapter Text

*******

 

The final weeks of winter are inky and dreary, wet grounds soaking the soles of shoes and boots leaving them on a permanent dampness. It is imperceptibly brighter in the west.

Jimin's workshop is in the east, where everything bright is veiled in the looming shadows of the faraway hills. The air is so frigid, crisp and cold; that one would often opt not to speak, as if able to keep the warmth inside with their mouths shut. Not even a blade of dead grass or the topmost of the trees stir in the dead of the winter, frosty leaves keeping them stark upright. 

In the coldness of the hilly sides, within the artificial warmth of the workshop, Jungkook stays later than late. 

He is on his third week on the potter’s wheel, coming here every other day after work. Sometimes he would come after the bi-weekly psychotherapist session to perfect his craft, on easy days that is. Sometimes he goes to Jimin’s, sometimes he would sneak his way into Hoseok’s advanced classes, watching the man teach his students how to sculpt clay into elaborate ceramics.

Jungkook has found himself falling more for the art, loving the feel of wet clay in his hands, finding more peace as he loses himself for hours trying to create something with the hands he used to hate so much.

Right now, only the both of them are left in the workshop as night falls. Hoseok is long gone home, leaving everywhere else darkened and solitary except for Jimin’s classroom. The said man sits patiently on his side, watches as Jungkook bends a cylinder into a nice bowl with his thumb on the potter's wheel.

“Mm, you’re doing good Kookie.”

Jimin’s words are a mere hush as he watches Jungkook handle the cold clay carefully, lips pursing in concentration. Jungkook carefully pulls up his thumb to get the wall to follow the shape and movement of his fingers.

He is almost done with the bowl when he accidentally indents a finger, and gets the wall all sloppy and irregular.

Jungkook loses more control of the wall and begins to giggle when the clay goes out of shape. He tries to fix it, but accidentally gets the wheels to turn faster, making the clay bend and flop, as it waddles left and right. On his side, Jimin is already laughing out loud, his laughter bouncing off the quiet walls of the classroom.

“Baby, stop laughing!”

Jimin is giggling with abandon, his body swaying around even when the potter’s wheel has stopped rotating, and Jungkook has cut the base of the clay with the cut-off wire to remove the slob of an odd-looking teapot, or an elaborate bowl away. He wipes the ghost of a sweat off his forehead, his face a picture of faux frustration.

“This is your fault, hyung! I was distracted! I can’t even do a bowl and it’s been more than two weeks.”

Jimin laughs again at Jungkook’s sulky confession, the younger's lips pursing in a pout. “You can do a bowl well, you’re just a perfectionist. Want me to show you again how to do it?”

Jungkook nods fervently, and scoots over as Jimin takes another stool to sit at the same spot, holding his legs open for the potter’s wheel to fit in between his thighs. Without waiting for much longer, Jungkook takes the opportunity to sit behind him, as if backhugging while watching.

“Baby, we’re not doing Ghost. How can you watch from the back? Sit in front of me.”

Following his instruction like an obedient child, Jungkook resettles in his new spot. Jimin is still smiling like a fool on his side, teeth out and lips wide. 

With a new clay in hand he has been smacking for awhile, Jimin throws the clay in the middle of the potter’s wheel. He continues smacking on the medium-sized lump of clay, strong hands sure and swift. Then he wets his hands a bit, dipping them in a bowl positioned on the small table next to them.

“Okay you’re ready?”

Jungkook nods, keen eyes on Jimin's hands.

As if on cue, Jimin quickly starts the potter’s wheel on medium speed, cupping the clay with both his hands gently.

The lump remains in the same shape for awhile until Jimin squeezes the clay with his left hand’s fingertips and the heel of his right palm, pulling it up. Like this his veiny, strong hands appear Herculean; indestructible, yet delicate in touch.

Jimin does it so easily that even as he speaks, he speaks with a perennial smile, as if he is not doing anything remotely intricate with his hands. “So, why are you making bowls, Kookoo? We have so many bowls?”

Jungkook shrugs from where he sits even when Jimin cannot really see him, eyes focused on the clay forming in his grip. “I like bowls, ramen bowls especially. And it’s the easiest. You make everything look easy, hyung.”

Jimin laughs at his response, cheeks bunching up to squeeze his eyes shut. “I learnt this for years, Jungkook. I teach this. I’m supposed to make it look easy.”

Jungkook watches attentively how Jimin's deft hands handle the cylindrical clay, as he carefully positions his thumb in the middle of the clay and presses down nicely. His right hand is positioned on top of his left thumb as a guide, act as a double manual press. The cylinder starts to taper down in height as his fingers get closer to the bottom of the bowl.

The man's fingers now stay on the side of the bowl, the heel of the hand staying on the same spot over the thumb, as he cleans the outside walls cleanly with his dainty fingers.

“When you want to push down to make the opening, you have to push real slow, like your hands are not really pushing. But they’re there. The clay will mould, it won’t stay the same even if your hands are not moving, so don’t worry.”

Jungkook nods and tries to emulate the form and shape of Jimin’s hands, practicing on air.

Dipping his hands in the water again, Jimin puts his wet fingertips in the middle of the rotating clay bowl, one hand on top of the other, as the bowl slowly curves and forms. He thins out the wall next with his fingers. One hand in, one hand out, Jimin eases off the pressure towards the rim, elongating the wall a bit more to form a larger, taller bowl.

A big ramen bowl.

He puts his fingers in to clean off the curve, expertly compressing the rim with a pinch between two fingers. Jimin is always meticulous with everything he does, and Jungkook knows how many hours, months and years he has spent to perfect his skills, be a master at his art.

Then Jimin takes an old business card and puts it inside the bowl, carefully easing towards the bottom to clean the edges off uneven surfaces. The bowl now appears clean and shiny, wet from the water but not too much.

Jimin takes a scraper next and puts the tip at the bottom of the bowl, the scraping sound distinct as he cleans the bottom off excess clay. Then he takes a cutting wire, pulling it taut before dexterously cutting the bottom up, as the bowl now rotates on slow speed.

He lifts it up for Jungkook to see with both of his hands, putting it on a tray next.

Jungkook watches everything Jimin does in awe, before speaking again with his hands on the tray, holding it close.

“This bowl is mine.”

Jimin laughs again as he wipes his wet hands on a piece of cloth, watching as Jungkook peppily peers into the bowl. It is almost the size of his face. “It’s yours, baby.”

“You’re amazing, Jiminie.”

Jimin smiles softly at the name, and at the sight of Jungkook smiling into the bowl, smiles even gentler.

“I don’t know how you know just how much pressure to put, where to press and stuff.”

“You’ll learn in time, Kookie. Sometimes it’s not about putting pressure or pushing for the clay to change shape, most of the times it’s about where you put your fingers and palms at. The clay will change shape according to that.”

Jungkook turns to look at Jimin who is now trying to scrape the excess clay off the potter’s wheel. The sweater he is wearing is Jungkook's, large in all possible ways, that it is almost like Jimin is walking around in a blanket.

“I've always known how smart you are, but I'd never have pegged you as the philosopher type, hyung.”

Jimin laughs out loud at that, hands still scraping the wet clay away. Jungkook extends his hand out to wipe a smear of clay on his soft cheek. 

“Really? I don't know I can talk philosophy.” Jimin's voice is cottony soft, words spoken beneath a shy smile before he continues. “I guess the wheel is like life, it spins the clay round and round and eventually it will change form, whether we like it or not.”

Jimin raises his eyes then, carefully looking at Jungkook as he speaks next. “What we can do is grow with the change, and accept it as a part of us. If you can’t change with the wheels, it’s going to collapse, or hurt. That’s what I learnt, and will keep on learning. I guess I’m still learning.”

Jimin carefully collects all the remaining clay into a tray, all the spoilt one he needs to process later. Jungkook helps out with a scraper, turning to the man as he speaks.

“Do you think you've changed?”

“I think so,” Jimin smiles at Jungkook as he speaks, a hint of something nostalgic in the corners of his smile. "I think I changed a lot, Jungkook. I don’t look the same, nor do I feel the same about a lot of stuff. I used to refuse to accept that or understand that. I hurt you by not accepting that, and by not accepting the fact that you needed to change too. I guess it hurts because we changed without each other for once. We used to grow together.”

“Like weeds.”

Jimin laughs at Jungkook's response, voice taking on a deeper tone as he stands up and head for the sink close to the teacher's desk.

“Like weeds, from our teenage days. And suddenly you’re gone for three years, and you came back. You had these painful years behind you, and I expected you to be the same, when I’m not. I’m sorry, Jungkook.”

Jungkook follows with his eyes every movement the man makes, finding himself washing his hands after Jimin did, while the man finds his seat on the teacher's desk. Once he has both of his hands clean, Jungkook takes a small stool and sits the opposite of him, like a student to a teacher, who is dangling his legs while inspecting his clean hands.

“You know that saying? The still point of the turning world?" Jimin murmurs as he studies Jungkook's pointy fingers, wiping off stubborn leftover clay with his fingers. "I saw you like that, and it’s wrong. You are my constant because I want you always, not because I want you to stay the same. People can’t stay the same, we’re apart of nature, and we grow like the seasons.”

The fondness is thick and the love is loud within Jungkook’s ears, so he reaches out to hold Jimin’s fingers beneath his, feeling the smaller fingers in between his own bony ones.

“I’m sorry for making you feel like you're not enough, Jungkook. You're always enough.”

Jimin smiles at him apologetically, and Jungkook wants to wipe that guilt off his face. He stands up and wiggles his way in between Jimin’s legs, entrapped by the man's robust thighs. Then Jungkook pecks his cheeks, his lips, and his forehead with his lips, careful about wanting more.

“That’s not your fault, Jimin. I came back and expected you to understand everything without telling. I left a human-sized void for you to fill with your thoughts of me, and of course you would fill it with everything you knew, everything we had before. I was so keen to believe that I’ve not changed at all, and that I’m still the Jungkook you know, because I thought that was the only one you love.”

Jimin shakes his head at that, and Jungkook touches his lips with his thumb, carefully feeling the slope of the soft flesh. In the winter where everything is bleak and pale like Jimin's skin, his thick lips are sunkissed and peach-red, always invigorating, inviting.

“I don’t blame you at all, hyung. I never blamed you. Those years were difficult, and I came back and I projected my hurt on you, because I see you as a constant too. I kept thinking you're better off with others, that I wouldn't be good for you now that I'm no longer who I was. I feel tainted, jaded. So I hurt you. That was wrong. What I did was wrong, I'm sorry.”

“Jungkook, it's okay.”

"My mind wasn't in the right place, Jimin. I don't know if it has found the right place, now. I still feel wacky at times." Jungkook laughs a bit as he says, that, but he does not feel bitter about it.

Jimin does not wait long, eyes on Jungkook as he replies. "It's okay baby, you're doing good."

In the midst of the soft smiles, Jungkook remembers Jimin’s tips about throwing a bowl, pushing but not really pushing. He presses the thumb on Jimin’s lips, eyes flittering up to the older man’s sharp eyes.

"You said we must push but not really push isn’t it.”

Jimin hums in answer.

“Well, is this-“ Jungkook kisses Jimin swiftly, nipping the familiar lips like how Jimin's expert fingers ripped excess clay from a thrown bowl previously, before pulling back. “Is this pushing it?”

“No.” Jimin pulls his head close, kissing him as he whispers in a soft smile, “This is how it’s supposed to be.”

Jungkook kisses him passionately after that, cupping Jimin’s face with one hand, and holding his hip with another as Jimin's thighs keep him squeezed between his limbs. Jungkook sucks Jimin's lower lip, slotting his tongue in the man's open mouth, and repeats that again and again with his upper lip. Jimin does not let go, relentless in his pursuit of Jungkook's tongue, only letting go when Jungkook kisses the corner of his mouth, his sharp jaw, his cheekbones.

He doesn’t get to break free when Jimin moans, pushing his face into the slope of his neck, wanting Jungkook to kiss and mark the places where he used to, where Jimin missed him the most.

Jungkook bites on the mating mark, slotting his teeth on the parts where it fits. He is brought back to the memories of their mating, but Jimin's soft voice brings him back to the present again. Jungkook lets go of the embrace to look at Jimin again.

“Will you begin with me again, Jimin?”

Jimin hugs him tightly in answer, chest to shoulders as he whispers into his ears. “We’ve already begun.”

 

******

 

It is one of those difficult days, one of those nights again, where they find themselves with a crowd of people.

Jungkook is seated near one end of the long rectangular table; bowls and plates he helped set up earlier are within his line of sight, as he waits for everybody to get ready for the party. Jimin is standing next to him as he fiddles around with the tongs, putting raw meat on the grill. As always, the omega has one of his hands in Jungkook’s.

Jungkook contemplated a lot on coming when they got the invitation, even when he knew he is doing okay. He was jittery when he discussed this with Jimin, who let him decide what he wants. The crowd will be small, so he eventually said yes, believing that the best place to begin recovery is always with his brothers, his husband by his side.

It is Seokjin and Yoongi’s daughter’s birthday, and they celebrate it at the couple's apartment a little twenty minutes away from Jungkook and Jimin's house. When they first arrived at the apartment an hour earlier, he found himself walking out and about, kitchen to living room, interior to balcony to see if he can calm his nerves with the chill of the winter winds. There are no strangers here, all familiar faces, but Jungkook is still trying hard to shake away the dark ominous thoughts in his mind whenever he is in a place with many people. 

Seokjin came to fetch him earlier when he was out staring at the snowy roads from the balcony, silently holding out an opened beer for him to drink from. Said it could help with the nerves. They spoke a bit about everything and nothing, and Seokjin actually managed to make him laugh with a joke or two.

Jungkook feels more eased now that everyone has settled in their seats and no one else is coming, except for Hoseok and Namjoon soon. It unnerves him a bit when he cannot control the situation, cannot assess any threat in a circumstance.

Jungkook watches from his seat as Seokjin mixes the glass noodles and vegetables in the kitchen when the doorbell rings, not able to leave to open the door with his gloved hands. Yoongi takes charge and flits out from the kitchen to open the door, his baby daughter running along with him excitedly.

“Hello hyung! Hello little Kim baby!” Hoseok barges in, hands already scrambling to take the child standing next to his father's legs at the door, gathering her into his arms. “We brought more rice wine. And chocolate for the good girl!”

Muffled sounds of kisses later, Namjoon and Hoseok slowly emerge from the entrance, shoes off and house slippers on, ready to join the party at the table. Everyone welcomes and bows to the new guests, hugging each other next. 

Taehyung is still fiddling with the setting of his Leica in between taking every shot he can get of the food on the table, the small chocolate cake Jimin baked earlier, and mostly of his little niece waddling about in her sky blue skirt. Jungkook avoids getting in the viewfinder, but oddly enough finds himself in various forced self-photos with both Jimin and Taehyung.

“I cooked this seafood stew, this pancake, that seaweed soup. Your Seokjin hyung is doing only that, and he’s taking so much time!”

Yoongi yells purposely to the kitchen before Seokjin yells back an answer, something along the line of how he is not going to grill meat for Yoongi soon.

Jimin still has his hands full, grilling meat on the small grill in the middle of the table, tongs in one hand and a chopstick in another. He tosses the cooked meat on plates, a double for Jungkook, whose hand is forever attached to the top of his hip.

While Jungkook finds himself out of words sometimes or appearing distant, he knows Jimin knows; knows their friends understand he is still slowly easing into everything.

He went to see Yoongi a few times to check on his injuries, and ended up getting a few short peptalk from the nurse. Taehyung does not force him to talk at all—always the gentlest of them all. On some days when his classes end early, he would come over to visit, and they would talk about the good old days from school. Seokjin would understand the most, himself battling the disease earlier than Jungkook does.

The said man arrives at the dining table soon enough to put the meal on the table, a nice huge platter of colourful vegetables. Ara, who sits comfortably beneath Hoseok’s arms, claps her small hands in excitement at his father's craft, making Seokjin beam so wide. Everybody coos to that, including Jimin who giggles uncontrollably, probably from the amount of alcohol and sweets he had been devouring from the minute they got into the house.

“This pup is going to be the death of me!” Hoseok yells before lifting her up, blowing raspberries on her tummy as she giggles cheerfully. On his side, Namjoon looks over lovingly, only his eyes are brave enough to touch the child, hands awkward on his laps.

While the rest of the table dwellers are busy exchanging food and bowls, Jungkook watches as Hoseok quietly offers Namjoon a chance to hold the girl, which the man accepts awkwardly. His large hands appear stiff as they hover on the child’s body, as if holding an agar. Hoseok fixes their position a few times, a soft laugh loyal on his lips.

There is so much love and understanding shared between those two, and Jungkook understands fully why Namjoon says it is always easy to love Hoseok, why it is easy to love when you want to. Jungkook watches as Hoseok keeps on making funny noises to get Ara to beam her small teeth to him, and ease on Namjoon’s laps.

Jimin, who is still standing, turns to Jungkook as he chats with Yoongi, not breaking conversation as he scoops a spoonful of glass noodles into Jungkook’s bowl. He only speaks to Jungkook once he puts a meat on top of it.

“Eat this please, Mr. Jeon. You didn’t eat much for breakfast, and I’m sure you skipped lunch too.”

Jungkook simply nods obediently, before Jimin pinches his cheek, bowing sideways to kiss the top of his head next.

All around the table everyone is seated and ready to devour the abundance of meat and vegetables, noodles and pastries all around; the prickling sound of the simmering stew and the tangy scent of chilli peppers making everything appear ten times more delicious.

Seokjin who has found his seat next to Jungkook hands him a bowl of side dish, which the man promptly takes. “How’s your treatment going, Kook?”

Jungkook turns to the man to answer, not expecting the question. “Good. Dr. Im is strong.”

Seokjin laughs a bit. “Yeah. He’s tough, the best man-wolf and doctor I know. You think you’re healing well?”

“Thanks to Im Jaebum, your Jin hyung doesn’t crush me in my sleep anymore.” Yoongi retorts and before the said man could reply, Yoongi shoves a half-cooled meat into his mouth. Seokjin simply chews at it as his hand reaches forward to gently tug at a protruding hair on the backside of Yoongi’s hair, in both an act of love and humour.

“You love it when I crush you, babe. Like last night.”

Taehyung screams from the other end of the table, a coke can in one hand. “Hey hey! We have a baby here, hyung!”

“He loves it when I crush him, Tae. What do I do?”

Before Seokjin could laugh like he always does, Yoongi is already shoving a medium-sized meat wrap in his mouth which the man accepts happily. He chews it for half a minute before saying a small thanks to Yoongi who answers in a grunt.

Jungkook watches every exchange in delight, feeling himself at ease more as the night ripens.

“Yes, we’re doing a lot. There’s a lot of progress. It's painful but it's good.”

Jungkook skips the difficult details, the things he thinks would not do anyone good if known. Jimin knows what he is going through and that is enough. And with a single glance at Seokjin's face, Jungkook knows Seokjin knows what they have to do in these therapies.

Seokjin nods knowingly to his replies, pouring out more rice wine into his glass. He looks more drunk now than anyone is. Yoongi, even as he eats and talks to everyone, watches his husband from the side. Seokjin is still healing too, and Jungkook is sure he is trying not to drink too much.

“Take your time Kook. I’ve never had a fear of anything before I left. The first few months I came back, I had a lot. Tae had to go with me everywhere. I couldn’t even drive.”

“Don’t worry, hyung. I got you,” Taehyung says casually, setting the candles on the birthday cake in the shape of number five.

Seokjin swallows a big chunk of meat, pouring some wine into a wine glass next. He hands over the wine glass to Yoongi as he speaks. “You’re the best bro I ever had, Tae.” 

“I’m the only bro you have.” Tae quips in reply. “But I get it. I’ll take it.”

Seokjin continues as he watches Yoongi drink the wine, smiling at the man. “I took it out on him and Yoongi. A lot.”

“I almost clawed his eyes out.” Yoongi replies nonchalantly, thin lips still red from the red wine.

“You didn’t babe.” Seokjin reaches for Yoongi’s head and kisses his temple, the man smiling softly as he looks away. “Thank you.”

Jungkook knows he has missed a lot not being here, but knows from now onwards that he wants to be here for everything. Seokjin and Yoongi have been through a lot together, and the thought of them always trying eases him. 

“I’m trying hard, hyung.”

“We know. It’s okay to take your time Jungkook. This is your home. We’re not going to push you, you’ve been through a lot. You’ve seen a lot. There’s a lot we don’t know. You don’t have to push yourself.”

Yoongi continues Seokjin’s words. “But we’re here.”

"We're here." Seokjin repeats his husband’s words, and adds a bit more. “We’re always here.”

Jungkook looks at Namjoon next who raises his head and smiles, nervously because in his arms is a small child and wrapped around him is the man he loves. Hoseok is fussing with Ara’s hair bow, making sure it is tied neatly, before turning to Namjoon’s hair which he styles with his fingers.

Seokjin is rearranging the meals around now that he has finished talking, Yoongi laughing at his husband’s clumsy fingers on the side. There is a long horizontal scar on Seokjin’s wrist, which Yoongi's long fingers subconsciously trace, as if reminding him of what he could have lost.

Around Jungkook are the people he loves and has loved, and they are all trying to live well. Jimin is now fussing over the lighter trying to light up the small candles, while Taehyung sets the camera on the tripod, getting it on timer.

Everyone is always trying, always doing something to try to live despite how difficult life is. 

“Okay we’re ready.”

As they sing the birthday song to the little girl in Namjoon’s lap, almost all eyes on her, Jungkook stares at the faces of everyone.

He is convinced he is at the right place, with Jimin’s scent all over him, Seokjin’s small pats on his back, and the voices of everyone chaining him back to earth whenever he feels like jumping to the bottom of the ocean.

 

*****

 

Jungkook leaves his office early after finishing a study of a manual, driving to the workshop with the windows rolled down.

Like this he can fully immerse himself in the scents of his hometown once again, this time with less self-restraint. He has been practicing self-control, with little to remind him of the place where everything smells like ocean salt and burning diesel, sand against water.

Trauma teaches him that even in peacetime, war times call for revisits.

Sometimes Jungkook would find himself getting startled by loud noises, other times a small thud. His mind strays a lot to those times, even when he drives past good neighbourhood with nobody holding a turret of a machine gun aiming at him. Rooftops mean pigeons and crows, not hidden snipers behind dried laundry. There is always a looming threat or something ominous in the clouds, like he is seconds away from disaster. Peace times means he is waiting for something to turn bad, a car to explode at a small pop, a child to get hurt.

He makes a mental note to remind himself everyday that that this is the better place, like his psychotherapist has taught him. He does not need his claws, nor the weight of a rifle on his shoulder, a 9 mm in his pocket. His eyes do not need to squint shut to aim at a running target, and the loudest sounds out here come from fireworks and roaring thunders in storms. When a child screams, it is usually because they are getting chased by their friends.

The workshop, especially, could be one of the safest places in the town. Jungkook has found himself another safe place in that space.

He arrives at the workshop shortly, but leaves the engine on idle. Jimin is still in class, but today Jungkook is not here for Jimin, in a way. He would fetch Jimin later when the older is finished with his classes, but right now he comes for something else.

Once he enters the threshold of the workshop, Jungkook quietly slips into Hoseok’s office after checking the empty hallways. He taps the older man twice on his shoulders, getting him to jump from where he is bending forward, reading an order form.

“Jungkook.”

“Can I look at it again, hyung?”

Hoseok rolls his eyes as he turns around, arms open and facing upwards as if he is holding a sermon. “How many times are you going to look at it, Kook?”

“I just want everything to look perfect. I want the best for him. You know that, hyung.”

Hoseok imitates the sound of vomit as he walks around cleaning stuff in the office. “Whatever you say, Kook. Where and when did you want me to put the damn thing again?”

“Hyung!”

Jungkook almost whines loudly, before realising he is here on a mission, and Jimin could hear his voice if he is not careful.

“Near his tea mug, by the window. His favourite spot. That one place he always sits at. I’ll text you when, but probably the first week of spring?”

“You’re whipped, Kook.” Hoseok imitates a sound of a whip, as he turns to the rack where he puts all his ongoing projects on. There are a lot of weird ceramics on it, some made for custom orders and some are Hoseok's personal creations. Jungkook wonders why Hoseok does not sell or exhibit some of his creations when they could be well displayed in an art gallery in the city. His designs are splendid and gorgeous.

"Oh, did I lose it or something? I can't seem to find it," Hoseok crouches in front of the rack, thinking out loud as he does so. "I think I broke it!"

"Hyung!" Jungkook feels his anxiety rising, quickly heading for the rack to look for it himself. There is no way Hoseok would have broken it, Jungkook had spent weeks doing it with the older man's help. 

Hoseok's laughs is shrilling as he raises his two eyebrows in a repetitive motion, and Jungkook almost wants to jump on him and muffle the voice with his large palms. But the man is quick to get the ceramic thing Jungkook wanted to look at, hidden in his other hand. He hands over the thing in a little stiff cardboard box, and Jungkook immediately feels better again.

Putting the box on the table, Jungkook quickly takes the ceramic out. It is the size of both of his hands combined, and feels heavy in his palms, a white ceramic which shines like the first snow. 

“Looks beautiful, hyung.”

“I’ve fired it twice, it’s glazeware now.”

Jungkook turns to Hoseok questioningly. “Oh I thought once is enough?”

Hoseok sits on his desk as he explains. “Bisqueware are not entirely waterproof. They’re rock hard, permanent but porous. They’re good but you need to fire twice with glaze to get it to shine like this. This one is strong.”

Jungkook nods a bit at the information, taking all the information in. Even after years loitering around the workshop, there is so much he has yet to learn. Hoseok only smiles at him from where he is standing looking at the younger alpha.

“How are you holding up, Kook?”

Jungkook looks up a bit. “Like bisqueware.”

Hoseok raises his eyebrows at that, but Jungkook is being honest. He does feel a bit like bisqueware, porous and non-waterpoof. He cries easily and breaks at times, but is no longer malleable. At least he feels stronger now, dried and fired up for life.

“Then you’re good. Nobody is ever a finished product, Kook. We’re always trying to be better. The more times you’re fired up, the stronger you are. The best thing about being complete is the process that you take to get to it, and nobody is ever complete. Not until death, at least. I guess.”

“I'm doing good?"

"You're doing good, Kook." Hoseok answers with a certainty, always the brother who tells the truth. Jungkook owes him many things, but Hoseok never allowed him to say thanks.

"Thank you for helping me make this, hyung,” Jungkook murmurs as he delicately holds the bowl with his hands. “I couldn’t have done this without you.”

“Anytime, Kook. You could’ve asked Jimin for help, but you just gotta, make everything difficult.” Hoseok clicks his tongue in fake annoyance, but his wide smile and deep dimples betray his look. Hoseok is never not kind, he scolds but never really scolds, the first to extend a help in any situation.

“I couldn’t ask him or else he would know, hyung.” Jungkook hands it over to Hoseok, who puts it inside a box which he keeps afterwards at the top of the rack.

Hoseok nods. “Why won’t you give it to him now? I have the flower ready.”

Jungkook almost panics now. “I’m bad at these things, hyung. I might cry if he doesn’t like it. I’m a soft person.”

“Get out, Kook!”

Hoseok laughs shrillingly as he always does, and Jungkook has the older alpha's neck in some sort of like a chokehold, closing the man's mouth with a palm. Hoseok laughs anyway, he and Jimin are the resident laughers of the group.

“I mean it! Get out before he sees you." Hoseok twists in Jungkook's hold and hands him another bowl, the one Jimin made for him. "Don’t forget your hugeass ramen bowl. You're obsessed, man.”

Jungkook keeps the bowl close to his chest as he prepares to exit the room, turning around to look at the older man again as the man smiles to him. There is something in the way Hoseok looks at him which reminds him of all things kind in the world.

"You're doing good, Kook. You're good."

Outside, the evening winter lights are still bright, the wind favourable. Spring is soon, and Jungkook has his gift ready for his husband. Right now, Hoseok has him in a tight hug which Jungkook finds solace in, and he knows they are all good. He is good.

 

****

 

After months of scheduled psychiatric treatment, Jungkook finds that he has grown rather familiar with the psychotherapist’s office.

He would not say it out loud, but he can feel a growing fondness for the cantaloupe melon and prime white combination in the furniture, the light white curtains billowing in late winter afternoon lights. Distant voices of laughing children and honks from the faraway highways would drift in at times when the doctor has the windows open. There are pots of growing flowers on tables and near doors, and in some corners air plants would dangle from a hanging rack. Something is always growing.

“Jungkook, we’ve been doing this for a few months. How do you feel so far?”

Dr. Im asks from where he is seated on a lone melony chair, an easy, soft smile etched on his handsome face. Jungkook watches the minute dial of the clock, the gears in his moving as the day shifts for hours of the evening. He tries to come up with the correct words for every single one of his emotions, trying to asses himself as he does so.

“I’m not sure. I think I feel better, happier. It’s easier to—” Jungkook stops talking for a moment, mind trying to find the right words. “—easier to feel more like myself.”

The psychotherapist jots down the notes on his board for a brief few seconds, then he looks up at Jungkook, a question ready at the tip of his tongue.

“Are the dreams still painful? You still get the same images?”

Jungkook nods almost instantly, eyes up as he tries to remember the recent dreams he has been having. “They don’t come as often. Most are the same, but recently I also have dreams of an earlier time, happier times. Times before the helicopter was shot down, time before I was sent out.”

"That's good." Dr. Im smiles at that, looking at him again after scribbling down his notes. “Have you gained gravity? The gravity to look at things from another point of view, other than your fixed one?”

Jungkook is unsure, and he shows it with his shifty eyes and fidgety fingers. The doctor is careful not to push him too much, and Jungkook appreciates it. After a few months doing treatment with the psychotherapist, their chemistry is good and balanced, and Jungkook is able to tackle a lot of his biggest fears and deepest sentiments.

“Your trauma will always be there, PTSD is the result of that. It’s our body’s way of handling trauma, something life-threatening. Something intense which we’re not used to. It makes you anxious in peace times, you're always expecting something bad to happen, something to go wrong.”

Dr. Im shifts his sitting position on the chair as he repeats again the same lines Jungkook heard the first time the doctor told him he has PTSD, after several meticulous psychiatric evaluations.

“Your memories are all kept in separate folders, like little bins you keep things of. There are folders for your family, your pet, the love of your life.”

Jungkook remembers one man in particular.

“When it comes to traumatic memories, they’re very intense that they’re not fitting in any folders you’ve constructed previously. So you have these memories popping up because you push them away and they don’t fit in any folders. Small triggers can bring them up again. Your survivor’s guilt. We’ve talked about that.”

“We did.”

Jungkook nods again, vividly remembering a few times the psychotherapist has talked about his inability to recuperate due to his immense guilt, survivor’s guilt. It keeps him chained to past memories, keeps him questioning his actions, destinies, death and life.

He keeps questioning his worth as the lone survivor of the crash, and feels unworthy of life. Sometimes he would spent hours retracing back his actions, the what ifs. Minjae would not have been shot to death if he had not helped Jungkook, or Yunho would not have died if he held on a bit tighter. The child would not have died if Jungkook had ran to get him. The helicopter would not have been shot down if Jungkook had seen the shooter, and had shot him first.

“What do you think about it now, Jungkook?”

Jungkook contemplates whether or not he should tell the doctor the truth, but then figures to who else can he tell this to. “I still think about the what-ifs. I know we’ve talked about it in details, how there’s little I could do. But, it’s kinda difficult to not think about it.”

“That’s understandable. I’m curious when you tell me about the what-ifs, how do you think you could have prevented that or should have prevented it?”

There is very little to look at when Jungkook has seen everything in the room, so he focuses on the glass of water in front of him, half filled with water. 

“I’m not sure. I think about properly watching the militias on the rooftop when they’re shooting at us. Then Daehyul hyung probably wouldn’t be dead now. We wouldn’t have been shot by an RPG, and nothing which happened would have happened. If the bird was meant to fall, I could’ve saved Minjae if I’d risen up earlier at the crash site. And the boy, I should’ve run to him. I shouldn’t have let Yunho hyung go, I could’ve pulled him up but I was crying. I shouldn’t have cried.”

The psychotherapist remains gentle as he speaks, eyes keen on Jungkook’s face. “Jungkook, you are thinking about the time when everything turned bad, before you turned powerless?"

Jungkook nods, reluctant at first, and more certain now when he sees what the doctor means.

“Right. So if you had seen everything which were coming, the helicopter wouldn’t have fallen down.”

Dr. Im writes everything in, his face stoic and professional as he continues his questions. “You could’ve saved your friends, saved the boy. If given you knew at that time what you could do then with all the information you have now, but not now, not a year after—but right there, a year ago, do you think you could have made a difference? What do you think you could have done to prevent the shooter from shooting at the helicopter?”

Jungkook takes a moment to gather his thoughts, and analyse the situation. “Maybe once I realised we’re orbiting too low, I could’ve focused more on the five and six o’clock, the blind spots. Maybe I could’ve been faster than the shooter.”

Dr. Im smiles next, and Jungkook feels calm so he smiles back.

“Let’s talk about that. You wish you could be faster than the shooter?”

“I do.”

“If you were faster, what could’ve happened?”

“I could’ve shot the shooter from my position even if it was on the other side.”

“But that would put you directly in the line of fire isn’t it? You mentioned multiple shooting positions?”

Jungkook takes a moment to remember. “Yes. I was covering the right side. He was on the left, back side of the bird, the buildings on the other side.”

“So one of the outcomes from the situation is that you could have been the one dead? You could have died.”

Jungkook remains quiet in the slow wake of epiphany, and the doctor does not wait. 

“Given the things you know now, but if you had known that then, you wish you could’ve spotted the shooters faster, even if it leads to a bad outcome. What else is it that you think you could have done?”

Jungkook has to speak the truth, even if it hurts. The epiphanies hurt, but truth is agony, and everytime he suppresses the truth they come back and bite at him.

“There’s nothing else. It was a blind spot.”

“Right, you wish you can prevent it, but not everything is preventable. You don’t know these things then, and even if you knew, most of the times it’s at the expense of your life. You could’ve run to save the boy, but you would be shot dead before you could even reach him. Your friends would be attacked earlier on.”  

Jungkook closes his eyes to this line of thought, feels the wake of tears filling everything in. He feels eased now, but feels guilty for feeling eased.

Dr. Im lets a few seconds to pass before he continues. “Would you feel better if you think about the things you could do to prevent it, a lot? Everyday?”

“I thought I would feel less guilty.”

“It doesn’t make you feel less guilty, does it?”

“No.” Jungkook shakes his head at that.

“A child’s death is very sad in all contexts, and to see one die in this situation is very sad and traumatising. You were a witness to his death and many others. Given the circumstances you were in, it’s very natural to have wishful thinking now. So, Jungkook, do you think you have the power to change the outcome? That you could’ve prevented things?”

“I couldn’t see it before, not as much. But I guess… I don’t have the power. It couldn’t have been different even if I were to go back. It’s sad but I understand.”

The doctor nods in understanding, jots down his notes before looking up again. “Have you thought about the things you could do to live with it over time? Survivor’s guilt, while painful and debilitating can be coped with the things you do. You talked about wanting to reach out to other war veterans?

“Yes. I want to talk to them, not just people from my base.” Jungkook feels more at ease now, that they are talking things they can do and not the things he cannot. “I think we all need help.”

“I think that’s good, Jungkook. You’re doing good for everyone. You’ve found another purpose, another reason to live.”

Jungkook smiles shyly at the doctor, who smiles back at him, his human fangs visible, before he continues.

“The only way to heal, like we’ve talked about, is to not avoid it. You’ve talked about a large chunk of your memories with me, and that’s why the dreams are probably less vivid. And Jungkook?”

“Yes?”

“Sometimes the dreams come because you don’t want to let go. You want to hold on to those memories because they help you remember them. The dreams are the only way you can let them live, live through you.”

Jungkook inhales deeply at that, knowing the truth in those words but never knowing how to put it well.

“Your mind is not able to carry their memories for long. Or else it would take away all the spaces you have for what is happening now, for the people living with you now. The only way for them to stop is to know you can let go. That’s why we’re doing this cognitive processing therapy after your prolonged exposure, but you can stop if you can’t handle it.”

“I want to do it.”

The doctors smiles again, a loyal hand on his writing board. “If time travelling is possible, would you want to go back to that time?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I miss them.” Jungkook breathes in a heavy sniffle, feeling a wetness in his nose.

Dr. Im smiles briefly, and like always, eloquent in his replies. “You could also miss what you’re living now. You’re here now. What you did lead you to here. You didn't do it wrong, you did right. It’s not all that bad, isn't it?”

Jungkook understands what the doctor is implying, and nods his head in appreciation as he repeats the man's words. “It’s not all that bad. It’s very good now.”

“Do you remember what you wanted the most when you were out there, Jungkook?”

Jungkook looks up once again, eyes fixed on the curtain billowing with the wistful gust of wind. The chill is ever-present but he feels warmer now with the shifting seasons. Outside, dwindling noises of his hometown keep everything feeling familiar, the breeze light and scented. Green tea and wild jasmine.

Away in the workshop, Jimin would be teaching a class of beginners again, repeating the things he says a thousand times, but always smiling, always patient. He would be fetching Jungkook in another hour, and Jungkook cannot wait.

He remembers his time at the base, where the sun was scorching hot at times, and the wind biting cold at others. The hangar's cement floor was the only place where the chill could stay at times, but even then where the afternoon lights hit, it was still as hot as desert sand.

Night-times were cold yet clammy, but they always had film nights, or just overall rolling around in their desert fatigues. On windy afternoons when he did not have training or routine surveillance, he would play football or volleyball with his team mates close to the beach, where the only threats were sharks in the deeper waters. He hated the stiff springbeds, the dry food, but his brothers made up for his loss of home. It is a place of the extremes, and back then, he would do all it takes to return home, and touch Jimin’s face once again.

“I wanted to go home. I still want to go home.”

The doctor questions with a smile, a hint of rhetoric at the end of his word. “You're home?”

“I’m home.”

 

 

Jimin waits in the truck in front of the center, eyes off to the horizons to the distant powerlines.

Even from the town center, the cables are still visible to the sight, truly one of the tallest peaks of the place. He loves those lines, the visible lines which line their town and the small city. He watches it all the time from his classroom windows, feeling close to one. Like the powerline, Jimin waits loyally through everything. Everytime he sees it, he gains a new strength, a new kind of appreciation for everything in life he has to wait for. 

Right now, he is waiting for Jungkook, and the said man is quick to find his way into the truck next.

Like after every session, the young alpha remains quiet, tired eyes flittering forward as he lets out a small sigh. It is a hard day, Jimin can tell, but one that Jungkook is braving through well. Jimin knows that from the dry cheeks and the small smile he has on his delicate, dry lips. He reaches out a hand, which Jungkook takes and squeezes in his hand.

“Jimin." 

Jimin answers with a hum, ready to shift the gear for the drive home. Jungkook takes his time, but Jimin waits. 

"Lets go to the beach.”

 

When they arrive at the beach, a short twenty minutes drive from the town center, and another ten from Jimin’s workshop, the last rays of dusk lights are glowing at the boundless horizon. The beach is solitary and lonely in the winter, half of the sky hidden by a lowering dark cloud. Much of the snow whirl about in the dead grass before the stretch of the sandy beach. 

Jungkook reaches out a hand for Jimin to hold when they leave the truck, guiding them both with careful steps on the rocky shores.

Jungkook has not been to the beach in awhile, Jimin knows from how he avoids any mentions of the oceans and the seas. The oceans remind him of another one so far away, the dark seas separating him and Jimin; himself and another part he left behind.

If it would have been summertime, Jimin would have taken off his shoes and toss them to the side. He would have them both walk barefoot, skittering on the edges of the water until it reaches half a shin. But this year's winter has been a dreadful freeze, and as they walk together along the shores, Jimin can feel himself shaking in Jungkook's hold.

His husband remains in a permanent quiet, some kind of solitude taking him away from Jimin at the moment. Probably it is his memories of a distant past, as he stares into the bulbous tangerine of the setting sun. Or thoughts of a distant future.

"Jimin, do you know what would be the best kind of war to ever exist?"

Jimin turns to the younger man, tilting his head in question. "Not sure. What is it?"

"One where no bullets are shot."

Jungkook's eyes are squinting at the faraway sun, making his usually large eyes appear like two crescents. Jimin is curious what is on the younger man's mind so he asks.

"You're thinking about wars?" Jimin's voice is almost swallowed by the loud tides, but Jungkook nods to his question so he continues. "Tell me what you think."

"I think war is futile. Inavoidable, but futile."

Jungkook always speaks with the simplest of words, but his words carry a deeper meaning to all the sentiments he keeps buried in his mind. Jimin lets him take his time speaking what he needs to.

"People die in wars, but I wouldn't say they died for nothing. Their deaths mean something to the people who live and survived."

"Jungkook."

The young alpha remains quiet at that, only turning to smile at Jimin in reassurance before looking back at the horizon. His thick hair is ruffled by the wind, covering his eyes at times.

“There’s so much to look forward to, and so much to forget," Jungkook finally speaks minutes after, the wind carrying his soft voice away with the tides. He finds a spot to sit on, on the elevation of the sandy beach away from the water. Jimin simply follows his trail.

"I think there’s a large chunk of me which I left over there, a part of me that died, and I don’t know whether I should be sad or not.”

“Do you miss that person?”

Jungkook turns a bit to look at Jimin, who crouches next to him, a stick in his hand. Jimin’s pants are folded a quarter up, in case they get wet from the high tides. Nobody ever goes to the beach in winter much, unless they are too sad or too happy. Jungkook and Jimin are neither.

“I do. But I don’t think I can become him again. Do you?”

Jimin tilts his head a bit to the side, eyelashes fluttering as he blinks a few times, the saltiness of air getting to his eyes. He tries to think of the passing months with this Jungkook, and the years he had with a younger version of this one in the past. “I do, but I miss all parts of you just the same. I miss you even when you’re next to me.”

Jungkook smiles at his answer, smiles at Jimin who smiles at him back.

"I think's normal to miss a person, to miss yourself. But I've let go of who I can't become anymore, who you can't be now. You can do that too, Kookie," Jimin is quick to add as Jungkook stares at him through his hooded eyelids.

“I want to. I just, I feel guilty about moving on, letting go. I think about their widows, their babies, their parents a lot.” Jungkook speaks up after a minute of silence, voice wavering in light of the coming tears. “Yunho hyung used to show me the photos of his baby daughter, and he- he loved her so much. And he's out there Jimin, buried somewhere we can't find.”

The water is rising, the waves violent. Jimin thinks about all the lost bodies in the depth of the oceans, and tries to conjure up images of the body being buried well to ease his own conscience.

Jungkook sniffles a sob, nose watering first before a single drop of tears rolls down onto his well-defined cheek, eyelashes heavy with unreleased tears. Within the vivid dusk lights, Jimin thinks Jungkook appears bright and young, like the setting sun is breathing life into him again.

“Minjae hyung wanted to build a new house for his parents once he gets back. There’s so much they wanted to do, Jimin.”

Jimin holds Jungkook’s head in the curves of his neck, careful not to muffle his voice. He is tentative with his touches, careful about suffocating the man even when the man is already chest deep in the water.

“I don’t know if I could live happily, knowing they could’ve lived like I do. They could've had someone they love in their arms too.”

A single tear from Jimin’s eyes fall on Jungkook’s cheeks, mixing together to form a river of tears in front of a massive ocean.

“Jungkook, they lived well. They’ve reached their purpose. You’re still here because you still have your purpose to fulfill. You have a family too, you have me. And our future children, and the people you’re going to help with these hands. You have to live well, so that you can tell your friends that when you meet.”

Jungkook slots his face deeper into Jimin’s neck, not a peep coming out from his lips. Jungkook is no longer crying, but Jimin still holds him tighter in his embrace, keeping him away from the cold ocean breeze and the heat of his burning memories.

“It’s how the universe works, how nature dictates it to be. They’re no longer in pain and worry, I’d like to believe they’re somewhere being wolves again, free from humanly troubles. The world hurts you, but once you’re free from your physical bodies, your souls are free. They’re heroes, free heroes.”

“They’re heroes.” Jungkook repeats the words from where he has his head on Jimin's chest.

“You are too, Jungkook. You have to accept that. There is a part of you which you’d want to forget, but will always be a part of you. It’ll remind you of the things you had to let go to be who you are today.”

Jungkook murmurs a small yes with a broken voice and Jimin’s heart breaks, but he knows the broken parts are needed before they can be fixed.

“They’re good people. You have to remember them in good ways. That would be what they deserve. That’s what you deserve.”

Jungkook remains quiet at that, his eyes looking straight into the breaking tides. Night is falling fast, for the moon and the stars and the nightly creatures to take their place, as the ones in the day find their moments of resurrection. It is another cycle of life Jimin and Jungkook are a part of.

“Let go of them slowly, Jungkook. Let go. Hold on to yourself, hold on to me.”

The sun would set again like every other day, but with this setting sun comes a new beginning. The night would come after, like a rule written in any ancient or future books, and Jungkook and Jimin would return back to their home, to each other’s embrace, limbs intertwining.

However a small part of Jungkook has healed, and ready to begin again, as he gives away his tears to the tide, and returns back to the warm embrace of the earth.

He returns to Jimin, and he is home again.

 

***

“Get your claws out, Kook.”

 

Jungkook wakes from the dream, heaving and breathless.

He can feel the tiny tremors in his arms as he raises his hands. The claws are half out from beneath his healing skin. It hurts.

It has been awhile since they last came out—awhile since he had dreams. Even when they are less vivid now, and all he heard was words, it still hurts.

Next to him Jimin is deep in sleep, two tired hands put on top of one another underneath his puffed up cheeks. Jungkook wants to wake Jimin up; staring at the older man in a silent plea, but cans the plan in mere seconds.

He does not need Jimin to see him like this, claws out and sweating in buckets.

Away in the deeper parts of the town, people are lost in their spring dreams; bundled up in their blankets and warmed by the arms of their loved ones. The clock remains at a standstill on early spring nights like these, fireflies up and about at a nearby swamp. The blossoming flower fields lend fragrance to the dewy night scent, but Jimin’s forest scent keeps Jungkook chained to reality.

Jungkook stares at his extended claws in the dim of the bedroom, trying to even his breath as he remembers faded flashes of Minjae’s face.

He remembers how the man’s eyes were looking up at the sky last, how his voice shook when he told Jungkook to get his claws out.

He remembers Minjae’s dismembered body parts as the militants throw him out and about. Jungkook closes his eyes at that, remembering Minjae’s last words.

Get your claws out, Kook.

“Kookie.”

Jungkook snaps his eyes open, turning to Jimin in an instant at the hushed whisper of his name, spoken in his husband's dulcet voice.

The overwhelming fear and anxiety from the dream are now heightened as he watches his husband stare at him in the dim of the bedroom. Jimin’s eyes look like two beads on a dollface in the dark, his thick dark hair covering every other part of his face.

Jimin raises a hand to reach out, but Jungkook is quick to snap.

“Don’t hyung I—I might hurt you!”

But the older man, stubborn as he always is, inches forward and reaches out to touch Jungkook’s face, wet from sweat. His fingers gently wipe the tears and sweat away from his face, soft skin on a two-day stubble.

“You’re sweating in early spring, Kookie.”

“Hyung.”

“I’m here.” Jimin reaches for his hands next, quick to grab both of his wrists when Jungkook dodges.

“Hyung—they’re sharp—“

“Baby, I have claws too.”

Jimin laughs a bit, mouth spread in a closed-lip smile. He looks so calm, eyes squeezed shut as he laughs, and Jungkook wants to cry.

“I haven’t seen mine in awhile though, I’ve forgotten how they look like. Reminds me of military service. We had to practice for hours to get them out and keep them in. I swear the sergeant was out to get us.”

Jungkook remains still as Jimin fully turns his body around to face him. His hands hover helplessly in Jimin's steel grip. The older man is trying to get him to relax by casual chitchat—Jungkook is well aware of that, but Jungkook does not feel safe if his claws are not inside his skin, especially not when Jimin is around.

“Let me see your claws, Kookie. A veteran’s claws are different.”

Jungkook releases his curling fingers which were pointed inwards, lets Jimin takes his shaky hands in his as the older man delicately observes every vein protruding on the back of his hands—his bony fingers, the sharp edges of his claws.

Compared to a civilian’s, a practiced army officer like Jungkook has his claws longer, wider, and sharper—trained to use maximum strength at all times. Their full claw-length is double to that of a normal civilian’s, even for those who goes through military service like Jimin did.

Some soldiers even choose to sharpen their claws even more, or by making a double tip so that when they slash, they could cut two points of an individual vein.

“They’re really long and big.” Jimin eyes them in concentration and awe, turning Jungkook’s hand around to see everything like it is a toy, not a beast’s hand. For a few seconds, Jungkook thinks Jimin would get his reading glass out to scrutinise every detail.

“Like the rest of you.”

Jimin winks next, and Jungkook huffs, face still pale in fear and exhaustion. The omega only laughs lightly and slowly, fearless and brave. Jimin is always brave.

“You’re not scared?”

Jimin does not let go of Jungkook’s hands at his timid question, instead has one pulled towards his face.

Jungkook almost jerks back in response, but Jimin’s hold is stronger. Jimin is very strong in his grips, hands dexterous and skilled, the hands of a potter. In a second he can feel his claws on Jimin’s face; shaking fingers, hard claws on soft skin.

Jungkook feels more than anxious. His hand shakes so bad that he can feel Jimin tightening his grip even more.

“Why would I? Your claws are a part of you, Jungkook. I love every part of you.”

Jimin kisses his clammy palm next, turning his face towards Jungkook’s trembling hand and closing one side of his face, one eye. Like this, Jungkook's wide and long claws, a good murder weapon, lie on the delicate expense of Jimin’s face close to the man’s eyes.

Everything seems surreal, the motion tipping between dangerous and safe. Jungkook does not know what to think, feels himself getting confused, and half-relies on Jimin to plan his movements.

Jimin kisses another hand, and Jungkook wants to scream at him for doing that. He could hurt him like that, rip apart his beautiful lips like that.

But Jimin takes his time to kiss every trembling finger, and when Jungkook feels his wet tongue out next, he almost jumps.

"Jimin."

“It’s one of those dreams again, baby?”

Jungkook hums, feeling Jimin’s thick lips and his kitten tongue in between his fingers.

“Did you hear those words again?”

Jungkook nods like a child entranced by the sight of candy canes in a candy store, eyes wide as Jimin licks his wrist next. The feel of spit on skin, and the sight of Jimin’s tongue on Jungkook’s wrist send waves of foreign pleasure into his body at such an odd times.

His claws are still out, even when they have retracted a bit, but Jimin does not relent.

“It was shorter but I heard—I heard the words again.”

“It’s okay baby, I’m here. You haven’t had those dreams in awhile. You’re okay. I’m here.” Jimin speaks in mere hushes, coaxing Jungkook with his touch in the form of his wet kisses, and his words spoken in gentle whispers. 

Jungkook’s hands are still hovering on air, gripped by Jimin’s strong hands when the man pulls it towards himself again. He raises his shirt to reveal his lean tummy, and puts Jungkook’s hand on it.

At the touch of Jimin’s smooth skin Jungkook feels both terrified and excited, more violent tremors running down every inch of his skin as he sees his claws threatening to break Jimin's soft tummy.

“One day, when we’re both ready, and the universe allow it, we’ll have someone in here. Someone very special, someone who will have the best of you and me. Do you want that, Kookie?”

His whispers, dulcet voice in timbre does something to Jungkook.

The question which conjure up images in his mind, does something to Jungkook. He either feels elated or calmed, or feels extremely excited. Jungkook merely answers in hums, unable to speak. His throat feels parched, he feels thirsty.

Jungkook can feel a deep rumbling in his own chest, a growl threatening to come out in his aroused state. He wonders how he can jump from one intense emotion to another, and then is reminded his husband is Jimin.

"You want to have children, with me, Jimin?"

Jimin does not wait to answer, eyes the smiling crescent moons of the spring. "Of course, Kookie. Our baby."

At a calmer release of Jungkook's breath, Jimin raises the alpha's hand to his nipple next, letting his shirt fall to cover it. Jungkook can feel the omega's nipples pebbling underneath the touch of his trembling fingers, can sense the rise of goosebumps on Jimin’s skin from his fingertips and sharp claws. 

“Touch me. You don’t have to see them. Touch me.”

Like the wet and damp clay he has learnt to mould and knead with his hands, Jungkook slowly closes his eye as he caresses Jimin’s skin, careful with his claws.

Nothing else comes close to the feel of Jimin's baby-soft skin, toned body carved to perfection. The gods took their time to create him in fur and in flesh, body a blossoming flower of the forest. His peaks and curves speak of a man in full maturity, the Adonis of Jungkook's dreams. Everytime his hand retraces Jimin's toned yet soft abs, thumb tracing his belly button, he feels the man's quickened breath.

Jimin does not look the least scared even as he stares at Jungkook’s face in the dark. He can hear Jimin’s breath hitching everytime he so much touches his nipples, too sensitive now.

Jungkook feels the convulsions running through the man’s body first before he moans, then feels his own cock getting hard at the sight and feel of Jimin’s body awakening before him. It feels so wrong and yet so erotic.

The older man takes his hand out of his shirt and Jungkook is scared for a moment, thinks he did something wrong.

But Jimin simply rises to his knees, takes off his shirt and pulls his boxers off next, unceremoniously kicking everything away. Jungkook does not get to enjoy the view, dark silhouette against the moonlight when Jimin lies back quickly on his bed, lithe body naked in its glory, except for the necklace which carries a single ring, his wedding band. He pulls Jungkook’s hand toward his mouth once again, kissing in between the digits, bringing back the dampness to the skin and spurring the precum on Jungkook’s crotch.

Jimin’s thick cock is semi-hard, pretty as it twitches awake and glistens with precum. Jungkook has a hard time looking away until the man brings his hand to his body once again. He walks Jungkook’s hand travelling the slope of his jaw and to his neck.

On the way down it cut a bit on his jaw, a nick of sharp tip which makes Jimin wince. Jungkook almost jumps on his back, ready to apologise. He can smell a tinge of blood on the small cut, something similar to a razor cut.

But Jimin is calm as he whispers, voice still thick with sleep. “Lick it clean, Jungkookie.”

Jungkook does not wait before lurching forward, lips sucking the part as if he is trying to suck all of Jimin’s blood dry. He feels hungry now that he gets to suck on Jimin’s skin in more than an act of apology, doing more than licking it clean. He leaves a mark close to that spot, nipping Jimin’s neck and jaw and making bruises he knows Jimin likes.

The man mewls as he feels Jungkook’s teeth on his soft skin, but does not stop letting Jungkook’s hand roam around his body, like a traveler on a hot desert. Jungkook’s hungry lips slowly inch forward to Jimin’s puffy fat lips, sucking all the way to the trail which leads to the wobbling bottom lip.

"Fuck. Jungkook."

Jimin moans when Jungkook finally sucks his bottom lip, and mewls when Jungkook inserts his tongue in, finally getting what he wants.

His arousal is so intense that Jungkook almost feels his fear being pushed aside in the wake of pheromones and sex, but not after he feels his hand on Jimin’s tummy again. A shot of anxiety begins to curl around his neck as he quickly glances down, before Jimin pulls him up again by the back of his hair, kissing his lips and speaking into his mouth breathily.

“Jungkook, don’t look. Feel. My body is awake for you.”

He kisses harder at that, feeling Jimin pulling his head close with a hand, another still busy guiding Jungkook’s hand everywhere. Jungkook's sweatpants feels tight on his hard cock, and Jungkook cannot wait to release it.

And then Jimin breaks free from their long kiss with a peck. He smiles mischievously, letting go of Jungkook’s face and hand as he turns around on the pillow to show his slender back to Jungkook.

Jungkook almost growls at the sight, which comes out as a groan instead, deep rumbles of cat-like purr inside his chest.

Jimin’s body is pure magic, like an open flower field to a lost butterfly, springtime in the equator. Skin smooth and fair, his back is lean and toned, cinched at the waist. There are many valleys and slopes Jungkook has yet to discover, but nothing beats the ascending slopes from Jimin’s back to his ass, the perky apex of his smooth globes. His Venusian dimples which dip just a bit below his hips, lining the topmost of his ass are deep and alluring, as if welcoming the two full bulbs of his heavenly behind.

Jimin arches his body up, scent of honeysuckle and pine curling around Jungkook's neck, easing off his anxiety. Jungkook remembers many lonely nights dreaming about this scent, this skin as he rubbed himself off to orgasm, far in a wretched place a thousand miles away. Those nights are no longer, Jungkook is here now. 

“Close your eyes, Jungkook. Touch me. It’s okay.”

Jungkook does as told, tentative but keen. His fingers roam the expense of Jimin’s back, tracing the curve of his spine, reaching the swell of his hips with his eyes fluttering close.

Everything feels gossamer light, warm and tender. He wonders how Jimin keeps his skin baby-soft like this as he ages, taut and tight in all the right ways.

Jungkook growls a bit as he reaches the bulbs of Jimin’s ass cheeks, holding himself back from squeezing them together.

“Jimin. Fuck.”

“More, Kookie.”

His hand reaches Jimin’s thighs, and Jungkook can feel the wetness of his liquidy slick. He groans at that, feeling the mixture of Jimin's raw scents particularly heady and scintillating. It takes all his might to not put his wet fingers into his mouth and rip it apart to suck everything in.

Jimin’s slick smells like the man, pine forest in the morning. Wild flowers, jasmine and honeysuckle. Dews on fresh buds. Jungkook feels thirsty to taste.

Opening his eyes a bit, Jungkook inches forward to kiss Jimin’s spine, feeling the man’s skin with his dry lips and the arch of his body against his mouth. His hand travels back to Jimin’s tummy as the man turns around, fingers swirling around the area as he imagines a whole new universe being created inside the man’s body.

Jungkook does not realise he has his claws fully in, not until Jimin pulls his hands up and sucks two of his fingers inside his warm mouth. He opens his eyes in a jolt, trying to pull back from ripping open the man's mouth, and quickly notices his claws missing.

Jimin releases his fingers with a pop, speaks with a whisper he usually does to rile Jungkook up. “Does it feel good, Kookie?”

“Feels— feels really good.”

Smiling as he raises Jungkook’s hand to his face, Jimin replies casually. “We just gave your claws new memories.”

Jungkook does not wait for more chatter, dives again to cover Jimin’s lips with his own hungrily, swallowing the man’s lips and tongue like the half-beast he is. Like a man starved, Jungkook kisses Jimin like he wants Jimin to live within him, as he sucks in the soul of the man. Here is a man who loves him despite it all, monster or human, beast or man, and Jungkook loves him so much.

Even when Jimin sounds like he is either writhing in pain or moaning in ecstasy as Jungkook sucks his tongue fervently, Jungkook knows he loves it. His hands are simultaneously pulling Jungkook by the hair and pushing his face close.

Without the restriction of his claws, Jungkook once again feels Jimin’s body with his fingers, like a potter to his creation—feeling Jimin arching and writhing with the touch of his hands. He pinches a nipple, and Jimin nips his bottom lip in reply.

Jimin’s arms wrap tightly around his back and neck, raising the shirt to feel his sweaty skin. He begins massaging it with his skillful fingers as he massages Jungkook’s tongue with his expert tongue.

“Make love to me, Jungkookie. I waited so long.” Jimin whispers into his mouth next, as he arches his body to grind his cock against Jungkook’s clothed cock. Jungkook’s hand has long reached his pretty cock, twisting it up and down as Jimin moans in pleasure.

“I want to feel you inside of me.”

"Fuck, baby." Jungkook groans at that, feels Jimin’s hands roaming inside his pants and squeezing his ass. He turns his head to suck a mark onto Jimin’s neck, feeling the man’s stuttered breath as he tries to get Jungkook’s shirt out of his neck.

Jungkook undresses quickly, diving in to suck a mark after an article each. His cock is fully hard now, hard for Jimin and Jimin alone. For Jimin’s words, Jimin’s skin, Jimin’s body, and Jimin’s love.

The said man smiles, and pulls him down for a long kiss, limbs tangling as he holds Jungkook close to his body. The wet kisses continue down to his body, to reach a nipple which Jungkook ardently sucks, eyes closed as his hands roam downwards from Jimin’s wet lips to reach his tummy and his cock.

He keeps Jimin’s arms up as he licks the man’s crevices; his neck, his nipple, sucking everything he gets his tongue on. By tomorrow, Jimin’s chest will be littered in bite marks and his spit. He even tickles Jimin’s armpits with his tongue as he licks a strip up, and the man’s giggles spur him on.

“Tickles, Kookie,” Jimin whines, and Jungkook kisses his lips once before he moves downwards, feeling too aroused for everything coming out of Jimin’s mouth.

“Kookie.”

Jimin moans again at the feel of Jungkook’s hand wrapping around his cock, wet from his own spit. Jungkook sucks a new hickey or two on his tummy, kisses his cock, before going downwards to reach his ass.

“Jimin. You're so beautiful.”

He licks Jimin’s cock once, licking the bulbous head inside his mouth, before mouthing his balls and going straight for his hole next. Jimin shudders at that, at the feel of Jungkook’s lips on his rim, leaving kisses on his most sacred point.

“Kookie..”

Jimin’s lisp is out in the clear when Jungkook pulls his cheeks apart and begins to plunge his tongue in, the man mewling with every flick and touch of his walls. He clenches so hard it makes Jungkook’s fully-hard cock twitch as he grinds it on the sheet.

When he puts two fingers in, Jimin is calmer now, watching as Jungkook’s eyebrows furrow in concentration.

“Baby.” Jimin lets out a small laughter next, his fluffy hair a crown on Jungkook’s pillow. “Look at you, always doing things seriously. My handsome baby.”

Jungkook cannot help but beam at the sight of his husband smiling so sweetly at him, even with his legs open wide obscenely, as if they are not doing anything remotely intimate right now. Even when Jimin is heaving, cock twitching at intervals. When Jungkook probes in a third finger, Jimin is still smiling, mouth open.

“I missed you so much, Jungkook.”

"I missed you too."

Jungkook is leaving a mark on his bent thighs, biting the soft flesh when he hears the whisper.

“I dream about this moment a lot. You inside me, in every way. You kissing me silly, kissing me hard. Your cock on my tongue, beneath my walls.”

Jungkook climbs up at that, and kisses Jimin long and hard, feeling the words in his tongue. His fingers run smooth, wet by Jimin’s slick, but he does not push hard, excited about edging this longer. 

“Jimin. I love you.”

Jimin’s breath stutters at that, and Jungkook knows the man is holding himself back. His hand travels down Jungkook's chest to his abs, tracing his lean Apollo's belt before he holds Jungkook's heavy cock in his grip. Jungkook inhales deeply at that, eyes shut tight as Jimin spreads his precum all over the shaft.

“Jungkook, let me take care of you. Please.”

As if they have learnt each other like a new world knowledge, like they know what every word mean, Jimin settles his body on top of Jungkook as the man lifts him on his body. Like this Jimin is sitting on him, grinding his cock on Jungkook’s toned tummy.

Jungkook can feel Jimin’s hand around his cock, extra wet now from the slick from Jimin’s behind, as he pumps it up while kissing Jungkook. Then he lifts his face up, and sits on Jungkook’s cock without putting it in, grinding back and forward on Jungkook's tummy to wet it.

Jungkook groans at the sensation, of his cock snagging Jimin’s rim every time the man moves his ass forward and back, further pushing his cock onto his tummy. His husband is so good at this, is so good at everything.

“Baby. You’re so wet.”

“For you.” Jimin answers in a second before he pushes his face forward on Jungkook’s neck, sucking a new mark on his neck, next to the mating mark. Jimin repeats the things Jungkook did to him but in softer motions, his warm tongue gentle as he licks the broad of Jungkook’s chest. When he laves on Jungkook’s sensitive nipples, the man can only answer in moans.

His ass does not stop moving, soft flesh on hard shaft, and Jungkook is a second away from coming when he feels Jimin swiftly taking the whole hardness into his hand.

“Let’s see if it can still fit.”

Jimin laughs breathlessly, as he slowly sits himself on it, turning his face a bit to watch his tight hole swallow Jungkook’s cock, slowly. They both groan loudly at the breach, feeling the pulsating thick organ inside tight walls, the head venturing into the depth of Jimin's inside.

Jungkook lets Jimin take control, lets him decide the pace, careful not to buck up into the comfortable wet of Jimin’s walls.

Jimin raises his ass a few times, inching down into the tightness every time he does so, a hand easing his ass cheeks open. Jungkook's hands loyally massage his hips, as he kisses the man's cheeks in attempt to soothe him, careful not to hurt the omega.

“You’re so long, and big. I almost forgot. God, baby.”

Jimin finally bottoms, ass on Jungkook's thighs, face on Jungkook’s neck as he eases from the pain from the intrusion. He has his eyes closed, lips nipping Jungkook’s neck softly. Jungkook wraps his arms around Jimin tightly, murmuring words of love into his ear in between kisses.

“Take your time, Jiminie. My Jiminie. You're so good.”

Jimin only breathes louder at that, nosing further into Jungkook’s neck, and Jungkook almost wants to flip them on Jimin’s back to ease the man, but Jimin suddenly grinds. He grinds his ass slowly, climbing up on Jungkook’s body as he does so.

His lips are half opened, but his eyes are keen as he gazes back and forth at Jungkook's cock getting swallowed by his ass and the younger's face. The sound of slicked ass meeting hips is obscene and erotic, and Jungkook tries so hard to not lift his legs up. Jimin's ass clenches on his cock so good that Jungkook feels his toes curling, hands gripping Jimin's hips tighter.

The omega raises his ass a few times to bounce on Jungkook’s cock, and the younger quickly raises his hip to meet him halfway. After awhile, Jungkook rises to a full sitting position so he could kiss his husband while they fuck, both fulfilling each other as Jimin bounces on Jungkook’s cock and grinds it next. He rearranges Jimin's limbs so they wrap around his body.

“Kookie, baby.” Jimin kisses his lips so clumsily he is actually eating Jungkook’s cheek. “Feels so good, baby.”

Jungkook cannot help but buck up at that, thrusting his cock deeper into Jimin’s clenching hole. Jimin keens, arms and legs curling around him tighter.

“Jungkook!”

He holds Jimin’s body tightly as he thrusts up, legs holding them both close and up as they bounce on the bed.

“Baby you’re so tight—fuck!“

For the first few minutes, it happens so quick, their starvation getting to them, but then Jimin begins slowing down his movements, looking into Jungkook’s eyes as he grinds and clenches slowly. They are edging with a reason, to have it as long as they can.

“Jungkook.” Jimin whispers with his eyes closed, a hand caressing down Jungkook's shoulders where a long scar lines his left clavicle. His fingers travel down to Jungkook's abs next, to cross over to his back, where more scars are protruding from his skin. “You’re so beautiful.”

Jimin moans as he clenches, and Jungkook holds his breath at that, hands wrapped around Jimin’s body, roaming downwards only to squeeze Jimin’s bouncy ass together.

“Kookie.”

Jungkook thrusts up again, hitting Jimin’s prostate and the man’s body shudders in his hold.

“Kookie, listen.” Jimin holds Jungkook’s face in his hands, trying to still his breath. “You’re so beautiful—Jungkook. I love you, I love your face.”

Jungkook almost giggles at Jimin’s random confession, if he is not trying to hold himself from bucking up into Jimin’s warmth.

“You’re so beautiful, it hurts. I love you so much, it hurts.”

Nothing holds himself back at that, as Jungkook kisses Jimin so hard the man almost falls back if not for Jungkook’s arms holding him tight and his cock inside him anchoring Jimin to himself. He thrusts up as Jimin bounces in his hold, feeling each other’s walls enveloping around them.

Like wet earth after a rainstorm, Jimin’s warm and wet walls clench around Jungkook’s cock each time they move, his slick wetting Jungkook’s thighs.

“Jungkook—ah! So good, Jungkook!”

“Jiminie,” Jungkook murmurs into Jimin’s ear as the man bites into his mating mark, holding himself from the feel of Jungkook’s cock grinding up. His knot is forming, and Jungkook can see Jimin’s eyes bulging from the enlarging size of the already full-sized penis.

“Baby, my knot.”

“It’s okay Kookie, slowly.”

Jungkook can feel Jimin’s hand holding the base of his cock as he eases slowly into the bulbous base, eyebrows frowning in both pleasure and pain. The younger can only rub his hips and help spread his asscheeks, to ease the penetration.

“So big, Kookie.” Jimin is mumbling incoherently now, and Jungkook kisses his open mouth, licking the stray of spit from Jimin’s bottom lip. “Feel so full.”

“Does it feel good, baby?” Jungkook stops moving as Jimin settles into the size, blinking his eyes open a few times to kiss Jungkook’s lips as he winces everytime he grinds. Jungkook groans everytime he does, feeling Jimin’s anal wall sucking him in good.

“Good. Your knot. It feels so good. Give me a moment.” Jimin smiles again, eyes still shut as he grinds slowly, an arm anchoring his body to Jungkook’s.

As Jimin’s grinding gets more violent in the coming minutes, Jungkook begins to thrust up again in the tight space, feeling the need to please both himself and the older man. Jimin can only whimper, now seems weakened by pleasure, legs bouncing with his body as he lets Jungkook handles him.

“I- are you coming?”

Jimin simply nods, biting harder into Jungkook’s neck before he moves a bit to the back to see Jungkook’s face.

“Let me see you, baby.”

Jungkook watches as Jimin closes his eyes at a sudden thrust, and Jungkook’s own hand wrapping around his cock. He bends forward, forehead to forehead, lips mushed on Jungkook’ nose as he mewls.

“Jungkook. I can’t-”

“I love you, Jiminie.”

Jungkook would not have missed it for the world, how Jimin’s body shakes and shudders around him, eyes staring right into Jungkook’s eyes as he cums, ass bouncing on Jungkook’s cock as they clench around it. He looks so beautiful, all sweaty and glistening in the moonlight, lips half-opened in Jungkook’s space.

Jimin's cum is warm on both their bodies, staining his ring, trapped cock softening between the tight hug of their moving torsos.

Not far from coming himself, Jungkook plants his two legs up, and thrusts up to Jimin’s warm hole as the man mewls in surprise, whispering to Jungkook’s mouth to cum.

“Kookie, come for me baby. I want your cum, baby please.”

Jimin's words are loud in his ears, as he finally cums so hard that his body twitches. Jungkook groans so loud, almost a half-yell, as Jimin holds his body up, cupping the man’s face with one hand and his body with another from falling on the bed.

He knows Jimin’s body is shuddering from the heavy load of cum he keeps shooting into the man’s hole, but Jungkook has no control over his knot this time. Jimin’s ass is milking it, and Jungkook can only keep giving it.

“Whoa.”

“You’re so good, baby. Always so good,” Jimin murmurs into his mouth, smiling as he nips Jungkook’s bottom lip. Jungkook can only smile sleepily, sated and exhausted, and a little bit proud he could make his husband come like that.

The omega resettles their spot, so that Jungkook could scoot back near the bed's headboard, knot still pouring cum into the omega’s stretched hole. Some of it leaks into both of their thighs, but neither of them pay any mind to their sticky bodies. Jimin stays on top of his torso, sprawled tired and tight around his body.

“You okay, hyung? Did I hurt you?”

Jungkook brushes away Jimin’s fringe as the man puts his cheeks on his chest, looking up at him sleepily.

“It hurts a bit, but a good hurt. We haven’t done it in awhile.”

“Then we must do it a lot.”

Jimin giggles as he nips his nipple playfully, Jungkook jolts, jostling with the knot and making Jimin wince.

“Ow. And yes.”

Jungkook’s hand strays to Jimin’s inflated tummy, feeling the rise and fall of the man’s breath as Jimin stares up at him.

“What do I do to deserve you, Jiminie?”

Jimin only smiles up at him sleepily, eyes roaming the expense of Jungkook’s face as he replies. “I ask myself that about you everyday.”

He holds Jimin closer then, as if there is any space left, as his seeds spill into Jimin’s body in intervals. He can feel Jimin falling asleep quick as the exhaustion from the intense love-making swallow them hole. Jungkook waits, caressing the man's hair and back, covering both their body with a comforter.

He watches as Jimin falls deeper into his sleep, breaths slowly losing out to the rise and fall of his chest. When he feels his knot flattens and deflates, Jungkook carefully lifts the man's body as he eases out, kissing Jimin's lips as he does so. The omega grimaces in his sleep, and Jungkook coaxes him with kisses and rubs to his hips as he positions his body on the bed in a comfortable position. Jimin is so tired he does not stir, face sated and flushed.

Jungkook rises next, naked as day, carefully making his way into the bathroom. He pees first, washing his lower torso and soiled cock with water before turning around to the mirror.

Like the first day he came back, Jungkook observes the man once again in the mirror.

In the bright lights of the bathroom, the man looks almost comparably similar to a few months back; skinny in some areas, muscular in some, gaunt cheeks. His hair is longer now but always thick, and around his neck where he usually wore his military dog tags are littered only by kisses and bitemarks from his husband. 

There is a long scar on his clavicle which Jimin traced with his tongue, one where he was slashed open by a claw in combat. It is on the same side as his dislocated shoulder, where a bullet pierced through his kevlar vest. A small three inch scar marks the beginning of his right hip, a scar from a knife. Near his temple, hidden by his thick hair is a scar from the back of rifle. Jungkook does not have to turn around to inspect the medium-sized scars of claws settling into his skin. 

His hand reaches up to his face as he washes it, eyes spotting the scars from Yunho' claws, running a small length of his arm. There are many others, but Jungkook has lost count. He does not want to count.

His eyes are wide, but they do not bulge in fear anymore. They widen in surprise, in euphoria, in curiosity, but Jungkook does not get scared often. Tonight's dream was an exception, and there will be many exceptions, but his eyes do not scare him anymore.

After some time, Jungkook recognises the man in the mirror as himself. When the man smiles, thin lips edged out in a soft smile, Jungkook feels genuine happiness for him, nothing secondhand. His feelings are authentic, not borrowed. 

The man looks like one Jungkook has grown into—an older, wiser, stronger Jungkook. He has more wrinkles now, more thoughts and more fears—and would probably appear jaded to some, but he knows pain and loneliness like a true friend. He understands pain, he understands the world better. 

Jungkook likes this man so he smiles at him.

When he returns to the bedroom next, Jungkook holds a wet cloth in his hand which he uses to wipe Jimin's tummy and chest with. He is careful with the sore back and reddened rims. After wiping the man clean, Jungkook covers them again with the blanket, turning around to sleep facing Jimin, who has long found his way to his dreamscapes.

Jungkook has many things to tell him about tomorrow, about the man in the mirror, the scars he has yet to discover, and the child they want to raise. He falls asleep slowly with that thought, the chill of the spring finally catching up to him. 

They would fall asleep like that for hours, until their bodies rise again, ready for another love making. Jimin may be on his back now as Jungkook thrusts up into him, laughing at times; but everytime they do, their eyes never leave each other for too long, arms holding each other close.

And Jungkook is saved again, breathed to life by Jimin’s skin on his body and his heart beating on his chest.

 

**

 

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

 

“Teacher Park, there’s something weird next to your mug.”

With a hand still holding a clump of clay shaped like a bird, Jimin turns his body towards the direction of the boy standing next to the sink two steps away from the window sill where his mug is usually is. A girl is looking up at him still from where she is sat on a stool, watching Jimin’s fingers expertly repair the shape of the small mockingbird, looking more bird-like than duck now.

“What is it, Hyunnie?”

“I’m not sure, Teacher. Looks like a bowl. Mm, there’s a flower in it.”

The day is sultry and breezy, clouds are packing in careful cotton bunches; a distant thunderstorm has been brewing since morning. But the workshop is far from the reach of the distant thunderstorms earlier to rain down in the next city, and Jimin expects tonight their town will be blessed with hefty spring rain.

With the bright lights still flitting through the windows, Jimin tries to see from where he stands what the child is pointing at before the boy loses interest in the thing, running back to his seat to continue his chatter with his peers.

He rushes off to where Jihyun was stood standing mere seconds ago, careful about bugs or animals that could crawl in these shifty weathers. In springtime bugs find home in the hidden crevices of the workshops, finding earth in sheltered places. Jimin has spent hours cleaning cobwebs in all the rooms.

What he spots next is not what he initially imagined it would be.

By the window sill, on the extended ledge where he puts displays of works, specifically next to the designated place of his mug which everyone would know by the stain of water on wood—lies a bowl.

A white bowl. A distorted pot.

It would have looked generic enough, could pass as a medium-sized glazeware which could fit in inside both of his hands or carry two packs of ramen, if not for the walls of the bowl itself.

Jimin would not call this a bowl, but a sculpture. Of a human face. It is a skull.

As Jimin picks the ceramic up, he is careful with the tiny lotus bud floating with the small amount of water filled inside the bowl. Chatters of the children in the background drown out the quickened beats of his heart, the sound of static in his brain. He missed his cup of tea this morning, rushing for work for an early morning class after sleeping in with Jungkook, an extension of the long weekend. Mondays mean he misses Jungkook’s body by an extra ounce, or a tonne. Hence why he had missed this earlier.

The sculpture is the shape of a half human head, like a face with an open brain. A small human bosom which extends from mid-chest until half of his forehead protrudes from the wall of the bowl. The lips are open—boundless, pouty lips which seem like they are mid-speak.

Like a sleeping child, the eyes of the sculpture are carved to show mere eyelids, tiny details of eyelashes keeping them tightly shut. The neck is taut, as the face is bent a bit, showing a clean neck of some sort, except indentations of dentures on one side. With its neck bared, Jimin takes note of the mating mark.

Jimin swallows a shudder which attempts to come out of his lips, an epiphany of some sort in the middle of spring. This sculpture is him.  

That is his face.

The bowl is heavy, all thick rims and thick wall, and as he turns it around, Jimin almost drops the bowl in a pleasant surprise; a serendipity in the place he has called home all his life.

On the other side is another face, a different bolder one with small delicate lips. Like the first one, it is showing half a bosom and a face. But this one has his eyes opened, as if on guard, as if he is unafraid. His strong nose protrudes further out, and from the side might have looked funny. There is a mating mark too on his neck.

It is beautiful, so beautiful that Jimin remains speechless for minutes after, throat clogged up in unshed tears and swelling gratitude.

Inside the small sculpture, the tiny lotus bud wobbles on the water surface, a flower so small Jimin wonders where he could find one. It is the same colour as the one he had in a bigger bowl in front of the workshop lobby, vivid magenta with a white base. Its petals are half-opened to reveal a yellow pistil surrounded by white and magenta, green petals lining the bottom stalk of the flower. The roots, the rhizomes are submerged in the soiled bottom, made of heavy organic soil.

Like this it almost looks like the lotus is growing from the two faces, roots reaching the pit of the bowl. It will have to find a new home soon as it grows, but the image is etched in Jimin’s mind, like old photos which do not decay with the passing seasons.

Nothing else tells the story of rebirth like a lotus flower would, the flower of resurrection.

At nighttime the tiny lotus will sleep through the dark of the nature up to a spot the stars would find light again—reminiscent of the bad times, dark times. As dawn breaks and day rises for a new one, it will emerge and live again, blooming in search of the sun. Lotuses only bloom in muddy water, finding strength in the dirt and decay of life as it grows to its purest form.

Like the tiny lotus trying to stay afloat in the bowl, his Jungkook went away to a difficult war, died, and found his way back into his arms once again. Jungkook waded through the murky water, braved against the tides, discovered pain in all its forms, and is now growing again from his strong roots—blooming and radiant in the backdrop of the dreary earth.

Just like his Jungkook, who stands outside in the gentle sun as he waits for Jimin to return to his arms when the day ends, curling roots keeping his lover close.

The man stands looking at the distant powerlines, unafraid of the rumbling thunderstorm as his strong legs chain him down to earth, and a strong heart breathing him back to life everytime the darkness gets to him a tad bit too much. 

His thick hair is ruffled by the wind, but he neither closes his eyes nor turns away. From where Jimin stands watching him with his glassy eyes; vision clouded by happy tears, he could see the lines that make up the man’s arms from beneath his folded sleeves, scars and veins which extended to where he has both his hands in his pants’ pocket.

He does not turn around nor realise Jimin is watching him, but Jimin knows Jungkook has his face scrunched up in a soft smile, eyes steady as he watches the dust of the field settle in between the foliage of trees. Jungkook has aged so much in a few years, wrinkles lining his beautiful face in strong bold lines, as if his strong jaws and sharp features need more emphasis.

In the distance, the thunderclouds look violent, and the leaves which were blown past Jimin’s windows earlier are now half a mile across where the rain has fallen down in the next city, flying aloft to where the wind guides them. The incoming deep rumbles of thunderstorms and dark ominous clouds are nothing more than a nature's call to seek shelter, and no longer a dark premonition or a battle cry.

The lotus still wobble around in the bowl when Jimin sets it down, the only vivid colour in this side of the town where clay meets water, earth meets the sun. Just like Jungkook, Jimin will bring it home and puts it next to where he sleeps, or the kitchen, or the living room; anywhere he can have it close. He will bear witness to its resurrection, a phoenix rising from the ashes, dusk turning to dawn, a man returning from war.

Just like Jungkook, the man who carries all the vivid colours of everything beautiful to the grey earth and sandy brown of Jimin’s workshop. He is the brightest and the darkest, the faded and the opaque, the full spectrum of hues in Jimin’s life. Like lotuses, his petals open one by one, as he discovers wisdom and transcendence in his sufferings.

Jimin might have been Jungkook’s earth; the cold clay, the sculpture that wraps around him and carry him all his life, but Jungkook will remain—rebirth after rebirth, his ever-beautiful lotus flower.

 

*