Jeon Jungkook gazed unblinkingly out of the taxi window, his eyes wide in an unblinking stare as he watched the lights of Seoul stream past. He was transfixed by sparkling lights, flashing and blinking from where they were sprinkled and scattered across the darkened city skyline. Red and yellow blurs streaked past his window as they raced through the rush of evening traffic, the streets filled with the sounds of a bustling city. He sighed softly and let himself fall back into his seat as they continued their way through the busy streets of Gangnam-gu.
It was a Saturday evening, Jungkook had spent the majority of his day working at a local bookstore stocking shelves, operating the till, assisting customers and doing a handful of other odd jobs that needed doing before finally being allowed to lock up and leave. It was already past ten and being on his feet for most of the day had left Jungkook utterly drained.
He didn't particularly enjoy his job but it at least paid decently. He needed the money to cover his expenses as a student, which despite having a scholarship where still reasonably expensive in the city. He was a student at the Hanyang University in Seong-dong-gu, which is where the taxi was currently heading as he lived on campus in one of the student residential halls. He was was one of the top students in his major, engineering, and had earned himself a scholarship with his outstanding matric results. His parents had been ecstatic the day he had received the letter granting him a scholarship, saying over and over how proud they were of their beloved son. His mother had even offered to cover all the extra expenses, allowing him to focus solely on his studies without having to spend evenings and weekends working part time jobs but Jungkook had refused. He felt that since he’d entered university it should now be up to him to earn the money he needed.
Jungkook had grown up in Gwacheon-si, a smaller city near Seoul, where he had attended high school and spent most of his childhood years. He had lived with both his parents and his one elder sister who, to his knowledge, was still living at home. As opposed to Jungkook who had always brought home good reports and never got into trouble, his sister was the complete polar opposite. During her high school years their parents frequently received letters regarding her disruptive behaviour, failing grades and a considerably large number of absentees. At one point she had gotten mixed up in a bad group of friends, landing her in a spot of trouble with the local police department. This is where Jungkooks parents had drawn the line, and threatened that if she didn't get her act together they'd send her to boarding school. But Jungkook's mother and father were very loving parents and despite his sisters troubles they still cared greatly for her.
Jungkook's mother and father ran a small yet well frequented restaurant, earning them a moderate yet steady flow of income. Jungkook was too stubborn to accept any of the financial support they offered him. It wasn't as if they didn't have the means to support him but he was adamant that since he no longer lived at home it was now his responsibility to earn his own money and not become the family's financial burden.
He was like that at school too, prefering to take up as little space as possible, dodging unnecessary conversations or social interaction in an attempt to avoid burdening those around him. He disliked inconveniencing others for his sake.
At university Jungkook was the typical shy, quiet student who spent his friday nights withdrawn in the school library studying, constantly to be seen with his nose in a book. His freetime was spent attending extra classes and going around seeking additional credit from his professors. When he wasn't studying he was working at one of his various part time jobs to try and keep up with the expenses of living as a student in the city. It was an exhausting lifestyle but this was how it had to be if he wanted to be financially self reliant as well as remain to top student in his major. Jungkook often wondered how his peers managed to balance a social life with the demanding classes and long study hours. He personally had no friends, only a roommate with whom he was on friendly terms but no one he truly considered a friend. However, Jungkook wasn't particularly bothered by his social situation, having been bullied and picked on from a young age he'd gotten used to being friendless. Throughout the years he’d somehow learnt to keep himself entertained, becoming in some odd way his own and only friend.
Jungkook was still engrossed in his daydream when the taxi started approaching the Seongsu bridge that would let them cross the Han river. His eyes sparkled with wonder as he sat, goggling in admiration toward the constant flow of city lights that endlessly streamed by his window. “Sir,” the taxi driver spoke. Jungkook, having been thoroughly absorbed in his thoughts, startled somewhat. “I expect we'll be arriving soon.” At the announcement of their expected arrival time Jungkook turned to face the driver, throwing a glance out of the window as he did so. Just in time to catch sight of the raging drunk speeding towards them.
Before Jungkook could clearly comprehend what he was seeing there was deafening crash, like the bang of a firecracker, as the approaching vehicle slammed into them. Brakes screeched but not soon enough. The two cars collided, the force so brutal that the drunks vehicle appeared to plough right through the other, scrunching it like a used candy wrapper. The complete right front of the taxi seemed to have disintegrated, remains of broken glass and torn up metal lay littering the road that they'd only a few second ago been driving along. The taxi driver had died right then and there, his mangled body now crushed among the crumpled remains of the car bonnet. Jungkook gasped in shock as his body was violently shaken in the impact. Airbags deployed and he was forced back into the seats upholstery, just as the car began to rebound, lurching backwards toward the railings. The car swerved and shook as it skidded across the lanes. Jungkook could hear the squeals in the background as surrounding drivers slammed their brakes and swerved their vehicles desperate to avoid the pileup.
The whole incident was taking place so quickly Jungkook didn't have any time to clearly grasp what was going on. For all his panic stiken mind knew the accident hadn't even taken place yet. One minute they'd been turning onto the bridge, next thing he knew his left arm was being painfully crushed by his denting car door as they flew into the side of the bridge, the bone most surly broken. The drunk had been driving with such speed that there was enough force to send the other car hurtling straight across the bridge and right over the railing. Jungkook could do nothing but suck in what he though would surely be his final breath as he felt the car tilt, and tumble right over the edge. Down, down, down they fell towards the steel grey water of the Han river laying in wait beneath. Tears glisend, suspended in the air before Jungkook, sparkling in their final moments before the vehicle made contact with the river. With a deafening splash, they hit the water. As the car broke the surface it began to sink, water gurgling and bubbling as it rushed through the wrangled car front and shattered windscreen. The water turned red, making Jungkook horribly aware of the no longer breathing driver that sat mutilated at his side. He was trembling with a mixture of shock, pain and freezing temperature of the rising water. Jungkook was only half conscious at this point, head spinning, concussion already taking over as they rapidly descended into the rivers depths. His arm pained, his head throbbed and a horrible stabbing pain in his lower back was causing him to give out yelping sobs. However his cries where soon muffled as the freezing water rose above his chin, swallowing him and sucking them beneath the surface into cold dark depths of the rushing river. Not long after going under Jungkooks body submitted to unconsciousness.
Sirens blared, light flashed, unfamiliar voices where yelling with urgency, and an obnoxiously loud chopping noise circled his swimming head making Jungkook feel nauseous as he regained a form of consciousness. Paramedics surrounded him as he was being hauled into a rescue helicopter after being successful dragged from the vehicle wreckage that now lay on the river bed. His hair was wet, his clothes were soaked and blood could be seen spreading through the damp fabrik. After being maneuvered onto a stretcher the team of paramedics instantly got to work. Someone bagan removing pieces of his clothing, presumably for better access to his wounds, while another bagan dabbing at the gash just above his brow. Jungkook's eyes briefly fluttered open as he felt himself being moved around with much deliberation, the paramedic doing their work with urgent speed. Someone was attempting to get him to say something, making frantic gestures before his half lidded eyes and seemingly repeating a question but everything was so foggy and muffled and Jungkook couldn't understand what they were saying. An oxygen mask was placed over his mouth. But it was all to much for Jungkook who was feeling terribly overwhelmed by all the comotion and he soon fell back into back blackness.
When he woke the second time it was a lot slower. He was no longer surrounded by blaring sirens, hooting cars or yells of frantic paramedics. Instead there was a gentle buzz of various sounds; hustled voices, shuffling of footsteps, beeping of machines and other soft background noises. It took Jungkook awhile to regain consciousness and at first all he could hear where foggy noises in the distance. For a while he just lay there, dozed and disoriented, his brain still lagging and unable to make sense of much. Confused and still half asleep he opened his eyes a fraction but hurriedly shut them again with a whimper as a bright light blinded him causing little black spots to appear across his blurry vision. The sudden light had sent a bout of pain shooting through Jungkook's head and for a moment he simply lay groaning until the ache subdued to a dull throbbing. Jungkook felt a sense of confusion, not really sure where he was but feeling uncomfortable at the prospect of having woken up in an unfamiliar environment. Once most of the dizziness had left him he opened his eyes again, scrunching up his face at the light but able to make out his surroundings. The first thing he saw was the ceiling. After studying the white plaster for a minute, he realized that he didn't recognize it, thus concluding that he was not in his dorm. Cautiously he lifted his head from the pillow it had been resting on, ignoring the headache that was causing his vision to blur at the edges. He observed the room, eyes sliding from the dazzlingly bright window to the door that stood half open across the room. Through the gap could see part of a hallway and a continuous flow of people passing by. After watching several people in what appeared to be doctors coats or nurses uniforms walking past, Jungkook concluded he must be in a hospital. His brain was going at snails pace and seemed to be lacking all memory of how he'd gotten here. Jungkook’s dazed mind was taking a while to catch up and the disorientation of it all was making him rather uneasy. Jungkook began to feel distressed.
He turned his head little too fast. Pain went shooting through his head and Jungkook let slip a small moan as tears pricked at the corners of his eyes. He lifted his arm to wipe them away only to realise he was wearing a cast. It dawned on him that he wasn't even aware of what injuries he’d sustained in the first place, never mind how he got them. Jungkook peered down at himself. He lay in a standard white hospital bed, dressed in light blue pajamas pants and a bare torso, a thick roll of bandages wrapped tightly around his middle. The sight brought on an awareness of previously ignored feelings, making Jungkook notice and for the first time since waking up, the stinging and bruising sensation resonating uncomfortably from his lower back. The next thing Jungkook took note of was the IV drip attached to his right arm. Looking over his arms Jungkook took in an array of small scrapes and cuts, as well as a few minor bruises he wasn't previously aware of. Examining himself further he saw a handful of other similar afflictions littering the bare skin of his torso. Further baffled by his current condition Jungkook's tension continued to rise, his insides tightening with every discovery. Despite the sight of the wounds his brain still had not produced any relevant memories to explain them. It was disturbing to the stressing boy. Wanting answers, Jungkook decided to go seek help from a nurse or doctor who could fill in him on his seemingly missing memories. Having had a moment to gather his courage, Jungkook made to swing his legs over the side of the bed. When he gave his legs the command to move he expected them to do so, so when Jungkooks legs remained motionless beneath the sheets he was rather alarmed. He tried again but in vain. No matter how many attempts he made at commanding his limbs to move they simply would not budge. He froze for a second, perplexed. After a short while of confused contemplation he was struck by an alarming thought: whats if he was paralyzed? As he sat there bewildered another realization crossed his mind: he couldn't actually feel his legs. There was a pause as everything seemed to hang before him in suspense. Ever so tentatively he reached to shift the thin hospital blanket that covered his legs, his heart pounding in apprehension. Jungkook was expecting some sort of horrific sight, something that would justify all the emotions currently flooding his veins. Both legs in casts, a mountain of blood stained bandages, the remains of his limbs, all tangled in a mangled knot, broken and deformed, or perhaps, no limbs at all in the case that they'd been amputated. That's why Jungkook let out a breath of surprise when he was greeted by the sight of two rather normal looking legs, aside from a few cuts and scrapes similar those covering the rest of his body. Hesitantly Jungkook reached out with his unbroken arm. Slowly he laid his trembling hand across his blue clad thigh, holding his breath as he did. He couldn't feel the hand that settled there. A moment of eerie suspense seemed to pass, right before a tremendous bout of emotion landed on Jungkook's chest. Reality seemed to crash around him, sinking deep into his bones with a retching sort of twisted pain. Completely overwhelmed the flood gates opened and tears began to flow. Not pretty little tears of sadness dripping slowly down his cheeks, but rather huge agonizing sobs of desperation wracking his entire frame causing every inch of him to shake and shudder.
The increased beeping of the heart rate monitor had obviously alerted the nurses station as a uniformed woman soon came rushing through the door. She hurried in to find Jungkook a crying shaking mess sitting up right in his hospital bed. In his emotional state Jungkook hadn't noticed her enter his room so when there was suddenly a strange person kneeling before him he jumped in fright. The nurse, noticing the shock her sudden appearance had caused, tried to reassure him. “Mr Jeon? It’s alright, please try to calm yourself.” She reached out for his arm in a seemingly comforting gesture, but Jungkook yelped, scrunching his nose and drawing away from her, his sobs violently echoing around the room. Her face fell, brows furrowing in surprise. She had a kind face with caring intentions but Jungkook didn't want her to come any closer. In his eyes she was a stranger, unfamiliar and unwelcome, and he didn't want her near him. “If you don't calm down you'll only worsen your condition” the nurse spoke firmly, desperate for her patient to stop crying before he choked on his own tears. She had meant well but in his addled state Jungkook had interpreted her stern tone as a scolding. He cried harder. He was beyond thinking logically, his emotions being full control, everything just felt big and scary and he was alone and confused. It was all too much for the boys fragile being to deal with all at once. His throat tightened, constricting his ragged breath as he battle hopelessly against the onslaught of emotion that consumed him. When the nurse tried for a second time to reach her hand towards him, he began screaming. Deciding the situation was too much for her to manage, she left the room in search of a doctor, giving Jungkook another pitiful glance as she fled the room.
A few minutes later the nurse reappeared, followed by a man in a white coat, presumably a doctor. Jungkook quitend for a moment, hiccupping a little as he observed the new comer. There was something soothing about the man's aura and it made Jungkook feel a little more at ease than the nurse had. The man was short, even by Korean standards, but he had a lean figure prominent even beneath the fabric of his coat. His facial features were handsome with an added feminine touch that reminded Jungkook a little of his mother. He had had a soft face with rosy cheeks and plump lips and eyes in a deep brown that stood out even from Jungkook's place across the room. Strong browns and a sharp jaw gave a more masculine contrast to the otherwise delicate features. The thing that caught Jungkook's attention was his hair, hanging in fluffy cotton candy pink tufts across his forehead. Jungkook stared at it with a perplexed expression, seemingly fascinated. The man eyed Jungkook with a gentle expression, their gazes locking. The youngers eyes still shimmered with tears but since the elder had entered the room their flow had ceased. Noticing Jungkook's calm toward the man, the nurse decided to leave, giving the two some space. The nurse left, shutting the door behind herself as she went.
For a moment the two continued to regard each other, Jungkook's previously frightened expression now displaying hints of curiosity towards the other. Seeing the youngers panic beginning to fade, the pink haired man let a small smile grace his lips. “Hi,” he smiled reassuringly as Jungkook continued to observe him “I’m Dr Park, the hospital psychologist but if you like you can call me Jimin.” Jungkook didn't say anything as he continued staring, hesitant to trust the stranger. Still heavily contemplating he blinked up at Jimin, eyes glittering with the tears that previously had been flowing rather rapidly down his pale cheeks. “May I come a little closer?” Jimin thought it would be a good idea to make sure first as not to startle the seemingly anxious and likely distressed younger that sat on the bed. He’d noticed the way the boy had tensed tremendously when the nurse had gotten too near and didn't want to risk scaring him. Receiving no answer to his question Jimin decided to try his luck and took a tentative step forward, making sure to keep a close watch on Jungkook for any sort of reaction. Slowly he approached the bed, keeping his eyes constantly trained on Jungkook's, checking for even the slightest sign of discomfort at his advances. It was important to be overly cautious toward the patient as he was most likely in an overly sensitive state and Jimin didn't know what might trigger him. But Jungkook's dark eyes simply continued to follow him with their gaze. As Jimin slowly reached the side of the hospital bed he decided to try an ask some questions as to try and gain a better understanding of Jungkook's mental state.
“How are you feeling?” Jungkook continued to gaze at him unmovingly and ignored the question. Jimin decided to try reach for Jungkook's hand, wondering if perhaps physical contact would spark a response. Jimin kept his movements slow and deliberate as not to startle the traumatized boy and reached out for his hand. But as his hand began to near Jungkook's the younger pulled his own away. It was the first movement he’d made since Jimin had entered his hospital suite. Jimin paused to look Jungkook in the eye, checking for any signs of further panic or emotional discomfort. He was a little surprised to see Jungkook's undamaged arm reaching out towards him, his gaze fixed just above Jimin's eye brows, seemingly towards the mop of cotton candy pink hair that hung about his forehead. Puzzled yet amused Jimin lowered himself onto the edge of the bed, putting himself within reach of the boys outstretched hand. It was a strange gesture, almost childlike. Jimin let out a surprised chuckle as Jungkook's hand reached up to his head, latching itself onto a tuft of fluffy cotton candy pink hair. Jimin remained silent, watching in amusement as Jungkook's fingers laced through the strand of hair he held in his hand. Jimin used the distraction as an opportunity to study the emotions playing out across Jungkook’s face. All prior panic and distress seemed to have dissolved, now replaced utmost fascination and a glowing sense of childish curiosity. Jungkook seemed completely captivated as he twirled the silken lock between his fingers, marveling at the colours shifting in the light.
“Mr Jeon?” Jungkook's eyes darted upwards “May I call you Jungkook?” After a lengthy pause in which Jungkook seemed to contemplate this question rather thoroughly, he nodded ever so slightly. Jimin smiled, relieved that Jungkook was beginning to trust him. As Jungkook continued to play with the psychologist’s hair, Jimin decided to pose another question, “Do want to tell me why you were so upset?” Jungkook's grip on the hair slackend and he stared down at his knees, silence filling the room. Jimin was beginning to think he wouldn't answer, but he did. Not verbally but the meaning was clear. With a pained expression Jungkook lifted his bandaged arm and gestured meekly toward his legs.
Jimin sighed, expression saddening. He had reviewed the patient's file that his college, Dr Kim Taehyung, had put together upon Jungkook's arrival in the emergency room a few days prior. At the time the boy had been in critical condition and was rushed straight into surgery, performed by Dr Kim, a specialist in spinal injuries. He was a well renowned doctor, one of the best in his field and through his skill and dedication Jungkook had survived. The file contained all key information and related paperwork regarding Jungkook's condition, the most significant of which were mild head trauma and concussion, a broken left arm and a spinal injury resulting in the loss of the use of both of his legs. Jungkook had to be placed in a drug induced coma for three days following the surgery, constantly under the watchful eye of of various doctors and nurses as they monitored his recovery. A metal fracture had lodged itself into Jungkook's back during the crash, causing a minor tear in the spinal tissue. But even the most minor of spinal injuries can have detrimental effects and Jungkook now suffered the loss of movement in both his legs. Dr Kim had requested Jimin make himself familiar with Jungkook's file as it was common for those who suffered a severe accident to experience some form of emotional trauma, especially if they had attained a serious injury. In Jungkook's case, losing the use of his limbs would be a detrimental and life changing consequence and would most certainly take an emotional toll on the boy.
“Jungkook?” He continued gazing at his numb legs, a tear slipping from his cheek and landing on the bedding, soaking into the sheets. Jimin didn't want to beat around the bush, so, despite his reluctance, he said it straight. With a heavy, somewhat fearful sigh he spoke, “You’re paralyzed. You were in a car accident.” Jimin's heart broke a little as he said it, it was always hard delivering this sort of news and to see the responses. He tried his best to speak slowly and softly, but the weight of the previous statement was no less impactful.
Jungkook froze for a moment. He had not remembered any of the events when he'd first awoken but now as it was mentioned his mind began to recall the accident in vivid detail. He saw flashes of the accident, the car speeding toward them, the initial coalition, the forceful rebound that had sent them right over the edge of the bridge, the fall as they tumbled into the river, the blood of the mangled taxi driver who had died right next to him and the feeling of sinking, suffocating beneath the water before his memory went blank at the point when he had passed out. Jungkook’s gleaming eyes once more welled up. His grip went slack and he subconsciously released the strand of Jimins hair he'd been clutching, hand falling into his lap. He remembered the sounds, the horrible crunching as metal collided, followed by the clanging and clattering of broken car parts being strewn across the road. The terror rushed back in an instant, eyes brimming over once more as tears began to spill. Salty streaks slid steadily down his paling cheeks and proceeded to drip from his quivering chin. Before long Jungkook was bawling, utter despair manifesting itself in his chest making him sputter and choke as he continued to fall apart. Jungkook's breath sped up and his throat constricted, tightening until he had to gasp for air. “Shh, I’m sorry, you're ok now” Jimin tried reassuring him, voice barely reaching above a tentative whisper as he tried not to frighten the hysterical boy any further. Tentatively he leaned forward a little, hand reaching out toward a trembling Jungkook in attempt to sooth his anxiety. Jungkook had started to franticly claw at the skin on his knuckles, digging his nails into the flesh until the skin began to tear from the pressure. Jimin reached for his trembling hand, pulling them apart and placing them between his own to stop Jungkook's attempts at hurting himself. Instead of shying away like he had done with the nurse, Jungkook let himself be comforted. It didn't matter anymore that Jimin was a stranger, Jungkook just needed someone to take care of him, to stop the memories from consuming him and completely taking over. As Jimin's hands found his own he tilted his body forward, letting his head rest gently against Jimin's chest, leaning into the man sitting on his bedside. Jungkook's hand latched onto the fabric of Jimin's cream colored sweater and proceeded to bury his tear stained face into the soft fabric. Jungkook drew in a shaky breath, lungs filling with the smell of Jimin's perfume. It was a sweet aroma, floral with undertones of something that reminded Jungkook of strawberry candies. His sobs subsided until he was quivering silently in Jimins arms, only occasionally letting out a stifled whimper. In a subconscious need for comfort, Jungkook's hand instinctively formed a fist and stuck a thumb between his trembling lips. At first Jimin didn't notice this but as he brought his arms around Jungkook's trembling back to embrace him he heard the soft suckling sound accompanied by little sniffles. Confused, Jimin drew his head back just a little to see what was making the sounds and, needless to say, was a little surprised to see Jungkook, thumb in mouth, sucking like a baby would a pacifier.
Jimin had dealt with a lot trauma patients and many of them had developed different ways and behaviours to help them cope with the shock of whatever they had gone through but never had he come across something like this. He supposed in some ways it made sense, perhaps Jungkook had regressed his mental age in order to deal with the trauma of the accident? Jimin imagined that it was actually quite possible.
They sat like that until Jungkook had fallen asleep, Jimin gently rocking him as he continued to suck subconsciously at his thumb. Once his breath even out and Jimin was sure that the boy had fallen asleep and released him from his embrace and lay him back gently against the pillows. He sat for another minute or so, musing over his thoughts and watching Jungkook now peacefully sleeping, thumb still stuck between his lips.
After informing the nurse of his leave and briefing her on what happened, Jimin made his way down the hall to Dr Kim's office to inform his college that Jungkook had awoken from his coma as well as give a report on his current state. Jimin relayed what the nurse had told him about the panic attack Jungkook was in when he had awoken and skimmed over the details of his interaction with the boy. What Jimin felt a need to elaborate on and possibly discuss further was Jungkook's gravitation toward childlike behaviour, emphasizing the severity of the emotional damage there seemed to be.
“He seemed to trust me more than the nurse but still only hesitantly. When I tried asking him a question he didn't always respond and when he did it was only ever a non-verbal gesture. Of course I expected him to be in some way emotionally scared or even have PTSD but not like this, his whole demeanour was so childlike and he even began sucking his thumb at one point!” Jimin frowned, clearly concerned for his patient. He glanced up at Taehyung who sat across from him at his desk, “I mean it's not common, but I believe it's possible that Jungkook may be suffering from PTSD induced age regression.” Taehyung eyed his college with a raised eyebrow, considering the previous suggestion. “I think, if that is indeed the case,” Taehyung replied, “he's going to need someone to care for him fulltime, until he is mentally stable enough to care for himself, however long that might take.”
The hospital had of course contacted Jungkook's family on his admittance, as by standard procedure, but because they didn't live in the city they would not be able to take care of him. And since Jungkook had no other friends or relatives in the city the only option left was for him to be assigned a nurse or caretaker to look after him once he was discharged, at least until he was stable enough to do so himself. But in his fragile mindset Jungkook would need someone experienced, capable of caring for him until he had recovered from the worst of the trauma. Jimin already had someone in mind.