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And All the Stars Above

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Jungkook walks to his apartment every day at 7:30 after his shift ends. Threadbare backpack hanging from one shoulder and a plastic bag heaving with his daily lot of groceries in hand as he twists the key to home at 8:45.
Sometimes his grocery bag is empty, just fluttering about in the wind with nothing holding it steady. The overused carrier knotted in his white-knuckle grip so his hands have something to do besides shake.

Earbuds dangle from his black hoodie, one in one out. Eyes dart from empty alleyway to moving shadows in the streetlight glow. Its the not so nice part of Seoul but he can't afford anything else but fear at this point. His run down studio apartment is ground floor with a communal bathroom down the hall for his midnight showers.

The walls are constantly damp making his chest rattle in the winter and air grow stale with heated mold in the summer. There a dirty and moth-eaten mattress in one corner and a sink in the other. Its small, cramped with just himself, and he probably could afford better if he searched for a roommate or took on another job.

But its the emptiness he can't stand anymore. On the bad days when his hand rattles inside dwindling supply of expired pain med, he sees the vastness of Namjoon's shelter filled to the brim with optimism and hears the echoes of their voices.

It's the days when the room is just too small but just as desolate as he feels. He'll find himself pressed into the spongy walls like it could swallow him whole and just focuses on how his inhaled air taste like mud and cigar smoke.

But no matter, it's just his past, present, and future, he accepted it a long time ago. It's as routine as his daily walks between the coffee shop and home.

His panic and mania fall right in step with the abandonment issues and trauma he's acquired like dusty trophies over on the years. It nearly makes him want to laugh at how ironically, the tables have turned.

Being part of the group, the Bullet Proof Boyscouts as Tae dubbed them, was something he was just sorta inducted into. There was no beginning just hazy memories of being part of something. Maybe it started with school and Jimin or perhaps street dance with Hobi.

Somehow, one way or another, the ragtag members adopted his 14-year-old self into the group like a mascot or something. The 'Golden Maknae' as Namjoon called him, the boy who didn't fit the broken mold like the rest. His scars were shallow compared to the others, light bruise stark against their broken bones and marred flesh.

He's walking down the familiar road at 7:41, 11 minutes after his shift ended, when he thinks about them again. No pills or alcohol to numb the pain when the wave of nostalgia hit him like the riptide. It's a train's whistle that crackles into the night on the first of a new month.

The schedule must have changed, he thinks dully

The sky's a deep blue with washed out stars when he looks up in hopes of steam wafting up to join the twinkling lights. He thinks of the paint Hobi used to buy him after an especially hefty payday. Fingers stirring the lustrous liquid and watching it drown out his tanned skin tone. The rich hue staining everything from Jimin's t-shirt to Namjoon's hair.

That one time. That one time. That one-

He's making a detour to an alleyway to upheave emptiness crawling out from the pit of his stomach because he's not drunk or high enough to be this sentimental.

Among the floating remnants of the past, alarms are blaring with forboding paranoia about what lurks in darknesses after sunset. The last time he was in an alley, two thugs left imprints on his ribs and his pupils dilated wide, he didn't even fight back. He didn't want to fight back.
In vivid techno colors like the movies projected onto Namjoon's shipping container, he remembers all of them before he can stop himself.

Apples roll across the rubbled concert, bruising even more than they already were. The banana milk carton bursts on impact and its sickly sweet scent mix with the acidic stench of vomit. The pale yellowing color streaks across the asphalt and the glossy fluid reflects back to the stars.
He spits onto the ground and takes a wavering breath before falling on his back.
The puddle of milk now swirling around the vomit to his left and his backpack barely touching his twitching fingers. Rocks indent onto his skin and remind him of the accident so long ago.

The scent of his flesh burning and the metal scrapping together in a despairingly useless attempt to brake. The whiplash leaving him breathless and flying through the air just before crashing to the ground. It was right after he peeled himself from the dirt floor where two strangers left him a bloodied mess of black and blue.

It was the day he showed up to the train car only to find it vacant and devoid of the only good thing he had his life at the time. The walls held trances of Yoogni's cologne and glitter from Taehyung confetti still stuck to the floor to serve as his own eviction notice.
His legs were wobbly from the sprint over after school and he found himself sliding down to the ground begging for them to come back. Wishing the walls could talk and let out all the happiness it had soaked up over the years, giving him one last taste of euphoria.
Then fists were plummeting him into an imbrued pulp on the ground of some back street where the streetlight flickered before the bulb finally shattered to the tune of departing footsteps.

Sooner than later, he was shuffling out into the street. The green light buzzing with fluorescent neon amongst the other lights in Seoul like the watercolored painting he created for Jin on his 19th birthday. Time was stopping, then speeding up as sirens blared and hands cupped his tear tracked cheek.

In legal jargon, he wasn't at fault and not medically deemed suicidal either. An unsolved hit and run to add to the overcrowded files of cases just like him. No one cared once he was released from the hospital and taken back to his foster family, the rightfully legal home he was confined to for another 2 years until he became of age.

Maybe, he thinks as the blinding lights above him weave into the paint colored sky, maybe that's why it's been so bad lately.

A cold shiver of sweat sheened onto his forehead and the nausea returns in a tenfold. Anxiety creeps up on him the same way Yoogni's music used to leave him uneasy and in fear of the darkness looming in his hyung's eyes. Its been over 2 years since the accident and a few weeks since he turned 19, he can leave now.

Rain starts to fall as he curls into a ball of chewed nerves and drug deprived thoughts. His birthday passed without fanfare and he had been sick with pneumonia for most of it. Only a week later, did he realize the gravity of his situation now. The freedom of adulthood, the freedom to leave the too big city that weights him down with too many memories. In all honesty, it terrified him to the point of panic. The bubbles of stress and gut retching feeling of 'I don't know what to do' make him reach for the clear orange pill bottles more often than not nowadays.

Nevermind that he's run out only a few days ago. Whatever hoarder's reservoir he had is now dried up and collecting dust on a rickety shelf behind a cracked bathroom mirror.
Some part of him knows exactly what's happening to his lithe body as his writhes in the mud.
It's not an overdose, he's too immune for that, it's a withdraw. With twisted hilarity, he still had another refill on it. The accident gave him physical scars to match the mental ones life left. Chronic headaches and a whole body ache on some occasions. When he first got out, he was given fentanyl for the pain, back when he was just as beaten as his discount apple now drowning in milk.

His foster parents never let him touch a single pill. Mrs. Kim had just given him a tight smile with glazed eyes as she moved the bottle to the top shelf

            "It's addictive Jungkook. I-...we are just trying to keep you safe."
That, along with the copy of the prescription, was the first thing he took with him when he left 4 months later. Based on its weight, he knew it was quite a few pills lighter than it should be. The childproof cap had become a scratched and mangled mess too. He'll probably never know if it was Mr. or Mrs. Kim who took his pills. For the first time in a long time, he muses that maybe it was both of them.

The moon's waxing in the sky when his eyes start to flutter shut. The constellations name are a muffled pulsation in his head as he racks his brain trying to recall what Jimin taught him. The elder used to drag him to the roof of his house and point to each star and tell a story. Sometimes it was mystical lore, other times it was whatever random tales he'd contrive just to make them both laugh.

The Pleiades, he thinks as his hand lazily stretches to touch the burning lights above.
The cloud wrings out rain and soon the white puffs move along to give him a clear look at the 6 stars clustered together.
7, he amends with a frown, there're 7 stars but you can't see the 7th
His coffee-colored eyes are closing but in his mind, the stars are burning even brighter. He holds on to the constellation like it a lifeline and it's been so long since he's put so much hope and passion in something.

The familiarity of alarms reverberate in his ears but it's like he's already drowning in the bile and milk and rain. Something soft is prying his eyes open and maybe it's God above him because whoever's there, they're beautiful.
There's a blinding light boring into his eyes and maybe if he wasn't still hallucinating luminescent blues and 6 stars blazing through his vision, he'd be nauseous by its intensity.
Someone's telling him to hold on but he's got only one thought coursing through his entire being like a prayer.

I wonder if that 7th star can see the other 6? I wonder if that 7th star ever gets lonely too.