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His apartment is tiny.

Jungkook doesn't have much place for anything in it - but it doesn't matter, he doesn't own much stuff. He keeps his roll out mattress out on the floor at all times, never bothering to put it away. There's a table in one corner for his stove, with his set of three pans and a plate and one set of cutlery arranged neatly in the cupboard. There are no cobwebs right now - Jungkook cleaned them up this morning - but there are still spiders, lounging around darkly, probably cursing the air Jungkook breathes for having cleaned up their little homes.

Jungkook doesn't mind spiders. He lives alongside them with this weird understanding that he's going to destroy their webs every morning and that they're still not going to leave. It's the cockroaches that he can't stand. And the rats. He's lived here for six months and spent half his salary on pesticides.

It's a one storey apartment and just about cheap enough for him to afford - his income has not been great lately. The mechanic shop he works at pays, but it doesn't pay well, and on too many nights Jungkook forgoes his dinner and pretends that it's because he isn't hungry and not for anything else.

It's eight in the morning when he slips his black mask easily over his face, hiding everything under his eyes. He locks up his house and pockets his keys. The sky is gray and unassuming. It's another day all over again.

In the apartment next to him, one of his neighbours is already outside. He looks happy - Kim Taehyung is the only person Jungkook knows who looks happy even when he's all by himself. His hair is a bright, fiery red - almost as autumn as the rest of the world, and he's humming to himself and carefully setting a couple of wrapped bouquets on the back of his bike.

"Good morning!" he says, when he sees Jungkook there.

"Good morning," Jungkook says, through his mask. He wonders if good morning is a judge of the morning so far or a hope that sometime it'll turn out to be.

He goes down the three steps leading to his house and heads off in the direction of his work. He shouldn't be having a full time job - it wasn't what he'd had planned for his life at all - but shit happens. Things go wrong. And now here he is, with half of an arts degree that accounts for nothing, and no one to blame but himself.

Taehyung's bike whirrs to life, and he speeds ahead in front of him. He must be delivering to someone - something that Jungkook always finds odd, because for as long as he can remember there's been a very clear sign on his neighbour's door:

Min Yoongi. Florist. We don't do deliveries.

The sign is ugly - in black and white, with a clip art picture of a flower printed half heartedly on the side. It's a far cry from what Jungkook has seen of their backyard - a garden so beautiful, so otherworldly that he can't help but stare at it through his window. Flowers of every colour and creepers twisting around them, and a camellia tree standing above it all, strong and delicate at the same time. There are so many plants that they spill onto each other, entwine together, and they grow almost like magic. Almost like the occupants of the house have given them a little bit of their own lives.

Jungkook's own backyard is dead soil, cracked ground, and some bugs that find their way in anyway.

The mechanic shop he works at is small, hidden behind other, better stores. He nods a bit to greet the guy who doesn't work here lounging in front - he's watching some video on his phone and doesn't see him. He's barely entered when he hears his boss' voice from the inside -

"Jeon Jungkook!"

I just got here, Jungkook wants to say. I couldn't have done anything wrong yet.

He heads inside quietly, looking around to see where his boss could be. Seokjin isn't a bad man - in fact, he's one of the best people Jungkook knows. But he's also easy to piss off, especially in the mornings, and Jungkook doesn't feel like spending an entire day on his bad side.

There's a car drawn out in the middle of the shop, in a broken state of affairs, and a pair of legs peaking out from under its body. Jungkook assumes it's Seokjin. There are some other people around, tinkering away at their own devices - he doesn't give them a second glance.

"Hyung?" he tries.

There's a shuffling under the car and then Seokjin rolls out, covered in oil and grime and nothing good. He pats absently next to him until he finds a piece of cloth and wipes his face on it, streaking himself with even more oil. "I need you to man the shop," he says, nodding vaguely back towards the way Jungkook had come. It puts something ugly in Jungkook's stomach. "Just for a couple of hours - I'll be back when I'm done with this."

Jungkook wants to argue. He isn't the best at manning the shop, there's a reason that's Seokjin's job - but it's early in the morning, and Seokjin already looks tired, and he doesn't want to piss him off even more. So he mumbles his assent and turns back, back to where the guy who's name he still isn't sure of is playing on his phone. He doesn't work here, Jungkook knows that much. He's some friend of Seokjin's who just hangs around to make a nuisance of himself.

He's barely settled at the front desk, starting to clear the place of the mess of catalogues Seokjin has made, when he spots someone familiar rolling his bike up to the shop. Jungkook stills.

When Taehyung finally makes it to the shop, looking exhausted but still in okay spirits, he stills as well.

"Jungkook?" he says, surprised. "You work here?"

Jungkook nods. He sees Taehyung's gaze shift slightly towards his mask, and then shift just as easily back before he can ask questions.

"What's wrong, Taehyung-ssi?" he asks, looking to his bike.

Taehyung looks sheepish. "I was hoping you could tell me," he says. "It just stopped in the middle of nowhere."

Jungkook stands, taking the bike from him and rolling it into the shop interior. He'll do the customary check and if things don't look good he'll hand it off to someone else. Taehyung follows after him quietly.

"I never knew you were a mechanic," Taehyung continues, sounding a bit awed. Jungkook doesn't know why - his job is about as boring as they get. "Isn't it so weird? To run into your neighbour in a completely different area?"

It isn't a completely different area, Jungkook wants to tell him. It's a fifteen minute walk from their own houses. But he shrugs, because after Seokjin, Taehyung is the nicest person he knows, and leaves it at that.

Taehyung doesn't want to leave it like that, though, because he doesn't stop talking for a single second while Jungkook does his tests. He tells Jungkook about how he was going to deliver flowers for someone's first date and another bouquet for someone's mother, about how carnations are the best flowers to get your family, Jungkook, don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. He talks and talks and Seokjin peeks out from under the car once, confused at who the hell he's talking to.

Jungkook can't help but think of how out of place he looks in this grubby little shop. Too colourful, too soft. His fiery hair standing out against the drab grays, his voice too clear against the sounds of metal on metal.

"Isn't it funny?" Taehyung says at one point, when Jungkook has confirmed that there isn't anything wrong with Taehyung's bike and that there was just too much ash in one of the pipes. He's wiping it clean when Taehyung's statement stops him, because he doesn't find anything funny. Except maybe the ugly green of Taehyung's bike.

"Huh?"

"We live right next door and yet this is the longest conversation we've had."

It's said with a smile, but Jungkook swallows. Thinks, it's not. It's not funny at all.

But he shrugs and wipes dust away with his cloth.

 

/

 

Their entire street is a quiet, sleepy sort of place. Most people don't know each other - it isn't right to say hi on the streets. His neighbours are all wary and suspicious of each other - even more so of him, with his shady black mask that covers up till his eyes and thick Busan accent that he could never get rid of - and Jungkook is likewise suspicious of them. He always locks his door twice, puts up all the bolts. Shuts the windows even in the summer.

But Yoongi and Taehyung - they seem to have their own little world, away from the rest of them. Jungkook has seen them outside in the garden well past midnight, and at absurd hours of the morning. Their windows are never shut and there's always a light on inside, and Taehyung actually smiles at Jungkook when he sees him. Yoongi never smiles, but he does nod - and that recognition is something impossible to get in this neighbourhood.

They don't belong here, is what Jungkook thinks, over and over. Every time he looks at their garden, compares it to his own dead soil, he thinks they don't belong here, they belong some place better.

It's a horrible place to have a flower shop, really, in a street that has probably never known love.

Their business itself seems rather odd. Jungkook doesn't know where their customers even come from - how would they know to come to this ugly looking sign on someone's front door? But they seem to be doing well, and Taehyung seems to be making deliveries despite what their sign says, so Jungkook assumes all is good.

He's sitting outside, on the back porch, scrolling through his phone. His apartment stinks of pesticides after today's cleaning spree, and he needs the fresh air. On the other side of the shared fence is Taehyung, knees deep in the soil, mumbling something to his plants as he carefully trickles water into their pots. Jungkook tries not to overhear, feeling like he's intruding, but Taehyung's voice drifts too easily.

He's telling the plants stories of sorts, of their ancestors and their cultures. He whispers words of encouragement and asks them if they've slept, if they've eaten, demands to know why they look so terrible if they did both. It's easily the oddest conversation Jungkook has heard in his life. He scrolls through his phone and tries not to look up.

Until Taehyung's face appears over the fence. "Hey," he says.

Jungkook starts. "Hey?"

Taehyung holds his hands up, a clump of mud held carefully between them and a small mushroom nestled in it. "Want one?"

"Want what?"

"A mushroom," Taehyung explains, holding it up again. "They grow easily - you barely have to care for it. Just put some mud in a pot and you're good to go." He looks back at Jungkook's yard, and Jungkook almost feels like he's being judged, like he's the reason the soil is so dead. "Your yard looks a bit lonely, so," he says at last, gesturing for Jungkook to come closer. "Here."

He places the mud carefully in Jungkook's hands. It's damp and a bit cold, as are Taehyung's fingers when they brush against his. The mushroom is a little yellow, a little ugly, but it's alive, and Jungkook has never been trusted with something alive before. He's barely been able to take care of himself - caring for anything else has always been too much for him to handle.

"They aren't edible," Taehyung warns suddenly. "They're poisonous. So don't try to eat them."

Jungkook tilts his head, confused. "But you're growing them," he points out.

"Just because it's poisonous doesn't mean it shouldn't grow," Taehyung says, like this is one of those facts of life that everyone agrees on. "Take care of it, okay?"

He smiles, and Jungkook smiles back, holding the mushroom to his chest. Taehyung can't see it through the mask, but he thinks he gets it anyway.

 

/

 

Jungkook doesn't own a flower pot.

The closest thing he has to it is an old ceramic bowl that he's been using to cover up the drain in the sink while he sleeps, so that no more cockroaches come out. He takes that and cleans it off a bit, fills it with clumps of soil that he breaks down with his fingers. And then he plants the mushroom right in the middle.

It's misshapen, somewhat ugly, but Jungkook stares at it in awe. He places it next to the windowsill, where it can still get light, and still sort of be his only friend in this world.

Surprisingly, the mushrooms multiply fast. New stools shoot up on every side, all misshapen in their own special ways, and - he spends too much time watching them. Taehyung asks him about them every time they cross paths, like they're an old friend that he hasn't seen in a while, and Jungkook tells them that they're fine, doing great, just fine, and he can't decide if all of this is too weird or not.

And then he runs into Min Yoongi.

He doesn't...run into him, not exactly. Yoongi is out in his garden, tending to his plants with a giant pair of garden scissors. He's playing soft music to them while he's at it, music that Jungkook can just about make out through his open window, and he has to admit that Yoongi has good taste. He may not know how to smile but Jungkook is no king of smiling either - so at least Yoongi has good music taste.

Jungkook is trying to cook himself a meal, rice and bean sprouts, because Seokjin gave him free bean sprouts for no reason - when he feels the tell tale feeling of someone watching him. His eyes shoot up to the window, and sure enough, Yoongi is staring straight at him. By reflex Jungkook's hand goes to his face, making sure his mask is still there. It is.

He looks away, hoping Yoongi will, too. When he doesn't, he looks back.

Yoongi nods towards his windowsill. "You have poisonous mushrooms," he deadpans.

Jungkook stares at the ceramic bowl, like do I, I must have forgotten.

"Yeah," he says at last.

Yoongi gives him a strange expression, a bit amused, a bit disbelieving. He has pale, dirty blonde hair and sharp eyes, and Jungkook has never felt at ease around him, always too sure that he knows everything that Jungkook doesn't. A part of him wants to shut the window and get it over with, but he can't do that to Min Yoongi. Can't do that to someone who nods at him in the streets.

Yoongi gestures for him to come outside. Jungkook hesitates, looking back to the food on the stove, but then he turns it off, straightens his mask, and goes. He stands awkwardly in the doorway, one hand on the doorframe. Yoongi's back is to him - he's carefully clipping at a vine wound around the trunk of the camellia, unwinding it gently. Jungkook wonders how he can be so gentle and still be unable to smile.

He doesn't seem to notice that Jungkook is here. Jungkook thinks he should call out, or that maybe he's made a mistake, but then Yoongi turns back to him, cradling the vine carefully in his hands.

"Here you go," he says, holding it out over the fence. Jungkook's heart stops. "Taehyung gave you the mushrooms, right? They're...okay, but this guy will be easier to handle. You can wind it around your fence."

Jungkook takes it from him, a bit confused, a bit grateful. Their fingers don't touch.  "I can have this?" he asks, just to make sure.

"They're weeds," Yoongi says, a bit amused. "Of course you can have them. Just don't put them anywhere near my fence."

"Thanks," he manages, unsure of what's happening. "Thanks, Yoongi-ssi."

Yoongi blinks once, like he doesn't know how Jungkook knows his name. But then that moment is gone.

"Anytime, kid," he says, and he still isn't smiling - but now Jungkook can imagine what it would be like if he did.

 

/

 

Taehyung, Jungkook comes to realize, talks a lot.

He stops by at the mechanic shop sometimes while Jungkook is working, and although Jungkook doesn't usually work at the shop front and is more used to tinkering away at the back, Taehyung asks specifically to see him so Seokjin has no choice but to call him out. Seokjin doesn't mind - if anything he finds it amazing that Jungkook's made a friend. The only thing he says is chat for too long and I'll take it out of your break time.

Jungkook also comes to realize that there's a great many thing's wrong with Taehyung's bike - namely, that it's old. Parts are creaking and rusting, and the thing as a whole is probably missing pollution standards by a long shot. Each time something falls apart Taehyung is back, and at one point Jungkook just has to ask -

"Doesn't your sign say you don't do deliveries?"

Taehyung tilts his head. "Does it?"

And Jungkook decides to drop it.

Another thing about Taehyung is that he loves telling stories. He tells Jungkook about all of the orders he takes out in a day, what each of the bouquets mean, what each individual flower means. He talks about the meaning of flowers like he was brought up by the flowers themselves, like each time one sprang to life it told him what it wanted to say to the world and asked him to make sure those words got across.

Greek myths are his favourite. They're Jungkook's favourite too. Each of those stories seem to end with someone dying and the flowers sprouting from their pool of blood, and that fascinates Jungkook to infinite degrees, that people can look at something so beautiful and insist it came from the worst things that the world can think of. That something so pure could come from so much misery.

As it turns out, a lot of flowers are about death.

It's Yoongi who explains that to him, not Taehyung. They're both in the garden at the same time, Taehyung cracking jokes and Yoongi telling him to shut up, Jungkook sitting quietly on his own side of the fence and scrolling through his phone. He isn't a part of the conversation but he feels calmed by it anyway, sort of like listening to a nice music track in the background. Seokjin kept him late today, since there was more rush than usual and he was getting frantic about it - he apologized to Jungkook multiple times afterwards and even gave him a slice of cake for it. He doesn't know when Seokjin gets time to bake when his head is often not on his own neck, and when he gets the time to bake things that are so good.

He's only eaten half of it, saving the rest for later when he feels lower down. He doesn't have a refrigerator but he's wrapped it up carefully and put it in his cupboard. He'll have to get to it before the cockroaches do.

He's thinking about this so hard that he jumps when Taehyung calls his name. "Kook-ah!"

The nickname is new. Even Seokjin never shortens his name, never shortens anyone's - he says it isn't professional, like anything else that happens in the mechanic shop is. Every time Jungkook calls him Jin hyung by mistake he comes at him with his spanner. It's an awful experience every time.

"Yeah, hyung?" he says.

Taehyung is pointing at a delicate, purplish inflorescence. "These are the flowers I was talking about today," he says. "Hyacinthus."

I forgive you, Jungkook recalls. Flowers of forgiveness, which came from the blood of Hyacinthus after Apollo killed him by mistake. It was a terrible way to go - being killed by mistake, by someone who loved you no less, but somehow Jungkook thinks it fits a bit with the way things in life usually are.

"A lot of flowers are about death," he says, and for a moment he thinks his voice doesn't carry.

But then Yoongi turns to him, an oddly thoughtful expression on his face. "They are," he agrees. "Think about it this way. You only ever buy flowers because there's someone you love, or because there's someone who's dead. So that's basically what all the meanings come down to." He pauses. "No one is going to say you really piss me off, so here, have a bouquet of pretty flowers that I freaking paid for."

That makes sense, Jungkook thinks. It's also the longest thing Yoongi has ever said to him, and Jungkook doesn't know how to react. He nods, ducks his head, and tries not to look up again.

It doesn't work out. His eyes flit back, away, back, and away, until Taehyung catches him staring and smiles, saying nothing to make him uncomfortable.

 

/

 

His mushrooms are multiplying so fast that they're getting cramped together in the ceramic bowl - and Jungkook doesn't think it's a problem, he's never seen mushrooms grow very spread out - but he's starting to wonder what he'll do when there's too many of them, when the bowl isn't enough. Will they die? He doesn't know. He doesn't want to risk it. They're worthless and they're poisonous but they deserve love - he won't go against Taehyung's words, ever.

So one Sunday, when Jungkook has the day off - he carefully counts out the money in his wallet, carefully calculates what he'll need for the rest of the month, and stuffs the rest in his pocket as he heads for the shopping streets.

It takes him a while to find what he's looking for - Jungkook has never really roamed through these areas. His shopping is limited to the supermarket near his street, and he's been to a couple of automobile shops when Seokjin sends him, but apart from that he barely ever steps foot out of his house. He sometimes forgets how big Seoul is, how brightly lit up - how it's everything that he wanted to be a part of when he was younger and how he lost the chance when he had it.

He ends that spiral before it starts - he didn't finish his degree, the end. If he lets himself think about it he won't sleep, he won't eat, and Jungkook doesn't want to ruin things right now, when he's on his way to making his home life a little bit better.

He blends right into the crowd on the streets, with so many of them having masks on because of the dust. No one looks twice at him, no one thinks it's suspicious. He finally finds a plant store near the corner of a street, and he shifts his mask a bit higher and enters.

The place is quiet, with no customers. There's one man near the cash register, looking through his phone. When he hears the door open he straightens, pocketing his phone quickly.

"How can I help you?" the man asks, smile bright.

And Jungkook doesn't know, doesn't have an honest idea of what he's here for, so he mumbles something like "I think I need a tray?" and the man, thank the gods, understands. He finds him what he's looking for in less than a minute - a wide, brown plastic tray, about two inches deep. Jungkook buys it and leaves with a smile, not that the man can see it.

When he gets home, he takes the tray and the ceramic bowl of mushrooms and heads out into the garden to get more soil. He stops in the doorway, still holding the doorknob, when he sees that Yoongi is already outside.

He's playing soft music in the background, sort of dark and classical - not the kind of music Jungkook would expect someone to be playing their plants. He looks up at Jungkook when the door opens, stares at the items in his hand for a moment, and puts two and two together scarily fast.

"Sheesh," he says, in mild amusement, mild alarm, "You're one sad kid, aren't you."

Jungkook looks away, uncomfortable. Why anyone would say that when they know it's probably true.

He knows what people think of him. He's heard the whispers from the back of the store while he's working, about who he must be, what he must be hiding. The people he lives around narrow their eyes at him every time he passes by. He's a mystery to be solved to some, a threat to the rest. People don't think Jungkook is normal.

And here he is, proving it, by spending money he should be saving up to plant poisonous mushrooms.

"Hey," Yoongi says, and his voice is quiet, guilty. "I didn't mean to be rude, shit. I just thought - you should buy some more plants. Maybe cheer yourself up a bit. It'll feel a bit better than cultivating fungi."

"I don't make much money," Jungkook admits, but Yoongi is right. He shouldn't have bought a tray, he should have bought a plant. But with a plant - a plant that he actually has to take care of, comes responsibilities for a life, and Jungkook shouldn't be trusted with such a thing. He wouldn't know how to deal with it, or forgive himself if something went wrong.

Yoongi straightens. His hair is growing out a bit, light brown roots showing underneath all the blonde. "Tell you what," he says, casting a look around his own garden. "I'll give you something to take care of, and I'll take it back if I need to sell it. How's that?"

He doesn't - he doesn't know why these people are nice to him. It hurts every time it happens, the way it hurts when Seokjin gives him a day off, or when Taehyung stops by his shop just to say hi, because Jungkook doesn't deserve it. He shouldn't deserve it. "I - " he starts. "I'm not good at taking care of things."

Don't be nice to me, is what he means. I don't - I can't do this.

"Huh," Yoongi says, like he isn't surprised at all. "I have just the thing."

He holds up a finger for Jungkook to wait and heads back inside. Comes back out with a small pot in his hands. He pushes it towards Jungkook, into his shaking fingers, oblivious as to the mess inside his head.

"A cactus," he says easily. "Simple maintenance. Give him a bottle cap of water every day and he'll be fine."

It's a small, potted, indoor sort of thing, sort of adorable in its own misshapen way. Jungkook cradles it to his chest and thanks Yoongi profusely, locks the door behind him and sits against it, leaning back.

He's breathing too hard for the situation, and he sort of wants to cry, so he fumbles with the window to get it shut. And then he pulls his mask off for the first time in hours and lets himself breathe.

That night he puts the cactus next to his pillow as he settles down to sleep. He tries out different names for it, from the Greek heroes that Taehyung tells him about to the kids he knew when he was younger. Nothing fits, nothing's right.

He falls asleep like that, whispering different names into the quiet, never taking his eyes off the spikes in the cactus' side until exhaustion wins him over.

 

/

 

Jungkook thinks Yoongi still doesn't know his name.

He isn't sure if that's it, or if he just prefers not to use it. It doesn't even strike him that he's never called him by his name until Yoongi turns up at the mechanic shop one day, wheeling the bike that Jungkook sees Taehyung drive next to him. He's dressed neater than usual, with his hair swept to one side and actual shoes on, and when he sees Jungkook his eyes don't widen as much as they should if he didn't know that he was working here already.

It's odd to see Yoongi anywhere besides the street they live in - he looks even more out of place than Taehyung does. It's such a jar from reality that Jungkook forgets to greet him for a moment. Seokjin is at the shop front, Jungkook is meddling with the stack of tools behind him looking for a proper screwdriver.

"I get the feeling I've seen this bike before," Seokjin is muttering to himself, as he surveys the damage, and Jungkook wants to tell him that he's right, that he's seen way too much of that bike and that it really can't take much more, but Yoongi beats him to it by turning to him instead.

"Poisonous mushrooms," he says, in lieu of a greeting.

Jungkook fumbles with the screw driver, drops it, and looks up at him like what the hell. "...Yoongi-ssi."

Seokjin looks at Yoongi, at Jungkook, back to Yoongi again, and then figures out what the hell is happening. "Ah," he says. "It's that bike. I knew I'd seen it before. Jungkook!"

"Hyung?"

"Help your friend out."

Jungkook obligingly shuts the box of tools and stands, wheeling Yoongi's bike into the shop interior. Yoongi follows after him like he sort of doesn't want to be here, and Jungkook can relate - he's never met anyone who wants to be in this shop and he works here. The city around here is too bright, the air too stale. There are no hints of autumn except for some special offer flyers pasted on the shop windows. For someone like Yoongi it's probably a room of hell.

Jungkook voices none of this. "You guys should get a new bike," he says instead, voice barely there over the sounds of the tinkering going on.

Yoongi tilts his head to one side, shaking it to show he hasn't heard.

"Your bike is too old," Jungkook repeats, a bit louder. It's always odd talking loudly in the store, whenever he does it he's sure that all the sounds are going to stop halfway through his sentence and he's going to be left shouting too loud. "You need a new one."

"It's a sentiment thing," Yoongi says. He isn't looking at Jungkook, instead watching the state of affairs of the shop with some degree of interest. "I bought it with my first salary."

Jungkook freezes. "It's yours?"

Yoongi looks offended. "Yes."

"But it's - it's - " green, a horrid shade of green, the kind that Jungkook thought only Taehyung was capable of looking at with a straight face. He'd thought Yoongi was the kind of person who'd get a bike in sleek black or a pristine blue. He bites his lip and keeps all those thoughts inside, leaving them in an awkward state where Yoongi is staring at him waiting for answers and Jungkook has none.

"You need to take better care of it," Jungkook says abruptly, changing the topic, as he starts his customary checks again. He thinks he knows what the problem is already when he looks at the radiator. "At this rate it won't last long."

Yoongi's mouth twitches upwards, barely. "I need to take better care of it," he agrees, and Jungkook can't tell what's funny at all. He frowns, turning back to the bike, wondering how anyone could treat a vehicle quite so badly, especially when they were so good at treating other things with care.

Yoongi is still holding a bouquet, wrapped in plastic - the bike must have broken down while he was still on the job. Jungkook eyes it curiously, trying to figure out what flowers they are. They strike him as familiar - he's never seen a bouquet of them but he remembers Taehyung pointing them out to him, saying something about them. They're white, perfectly shaped, but somehow give him the feeling that they weren't meant to be in a bouquet.

"It's for some couple's anniversary," Yoongi explains, when he sees Jungkook looking. "They mean eternal love."

Jungkook frowns. Eternal love. That's not what he remembers.

Yoongi isn't like Taehyung - he doesn't talk much while Jungkook works. He watches what he's doing with sharp eyes, and watches everyone else in the room as well. It's hard for Jungkook to work with him at his shoulder - his fingers slip too often on things that should be easy for him, and his mask doesn't make breathing much easier.

When it's finally over, and the bike whirrs to life, if a bit sadly - Yoongi hands over a bunch of crumpled notes. "When does your shift end?" he asks.

"In a few hours."

Yoongi frowns. "Can't wait that long. I thought I could take you home."

"Ah, there's no need!" Jungkook says immediately, waving his hands in a blatant no. He's touched that Yoongi even though of it - but he's more worried that Yoongi thinks his death trap of a bike can carry two people. "You should take better care of it," he says again, just in case Yoongi might listen this time.

Yoongi looks amused. "Okay."

It's only long, long after he leaves, when Seokjin is screaming at someone for spilling oil all over the floor and Jungkook is the one wiping it up - that he realizes. The flowers didn't mean eternal love.

They meant isolation.

 

/

 

It's Seokjin who gives him the idea, without even meaning to. Jungkook is staring into space, zoning out to the sound of one of his co-workers drilling a hole in something. He's finished all his work for the day and now he's just trying to pass the time until Seokjin dismisses him.

And Seokjin does dismiss him, with a pat on his head and a plastic bag deposited in his lap. Jungkook blinks at it, already sort of sure of what it is.

He peeks inside - a small, tupperware box. Probably something delicious and handmade because Seokjin is wasting his life in this hell hole of a shop and should honestly own a cafe.

He hopes it's cake.

"For calling you in early this morning," Seokjin says, apologetic. "Eat well."

Jungkook has long since learnt to stop saying you don't need to to his boss, so instead he just says thank you. He wonders how Seokjin even had the time to cook in the morning when he called Jungkook in early, and wonders a bit if his boss ever sleeps at all - it would explain a lot if he doesn't.

Out of nowhere, he thinks of Taehyung, and thinks that he must really like cake. Jungkook knows nothing about either of his neighbours' tastes, but somehow Taehyung just looks like the sort of person who'd love cake and vanilla and ice cream. Yoongi looks like he'd drink his coffee bitter and grind pepper into all his food, but secretly have a sweet tooth anyway.

He should get them something, as a small thank you for the stuff they've done for him. Maybe some cake. He'll stop by the bakery on the way home.

Stop by implies that the bakery is on the way, but in reality Jungkook has to wander off in the opposite direction. The lady at the bakery doesn't seem impressed by his appearance - his clothes are damp with the sweat that come with working in closed quarters all day and he's stained his shirt with too many things - with the mask on top of it all he looks like he's been working in dungeons or something. He buys a quarter of a kilogram of butter cake, gets so overwhelmed by the smell that he buys some more, and then he carefully places the package in the plastic cover Seokjin gave him. He'll stop by Yoongi's house on his way home.

On second thought, considering how much he stinks - maybe he'll head home first.

He finally knocks on their door, about an hour later, freshly showered and hair still damp. He's never actually seen inside their house before, he's never even stepped foot on their doorstep. From up close, the Min Yoongi, Florist, We don't do deliveries sign looks even more ridiculous, and Jungkook sort of wants to pull it down before anyone sees him.

No one opens the door.

He's debating whether or not he should knock again or just leave the cake out here, when Yoongi's voice rings out, muffled by the door and decidedly unamused -

"Taehyung, go open the door."

And then Taehyung's voice, indignant, "You go open the door."

"I opened it last week."

"...hyung, do you even know what you just said."

The muffled argument continues, and Jungkook is getting really close to just leaving the food on the doorstep. Maybe they'll find it someday. Maybe next year, when one of them finally opens the door.

There's a vague thump from inside, some muffled cursing, and then footsteps approaching. Finally the door opens, and Taehyung stands in the doorway, looking completely unpissed despite the chaos that Jungkook could overhear. He's startled when he sees Jungkook but it shows only for a split second, and then he's grinning, too wide for his face. "Jungkookie, hi!"

"Hey, hyung," Jungkook offer back, trying for a smile. He holds up the package of cake towards him, and Taehyung glances at it in confusion.

"What's this?"

"Cake," Jungkook says. Taehyung looks even more confused, like Jungkook has dropped the cake on his head or something. "As a thank you," he tries, to maybe make things more clear.

"For?" Taehyung asks, looking more confused by the second. But he takes the parcel from Jungkook's hands carefully, his fingers warm to the touch.

Jungkook doesn't know what to say, because honestly for a weed, a fungus, and a cactus doesn't sound all that great - doesn't sound nearly as incredible as it should. So he shakes his head, shrugs a bit, and then starts to wave good bye.

Taehyung catches his wrist mid wave in a loose hold. "What? You're leaving?"

"...yes?"

"No you aren't," Taehyung decides for him. He tugs Jungkook inside by the wrist, his grip still carefully loose, like he's saying you can pull away at any time. "Come on, let's eat cake together."

Jungkook stops.

He doesn't eat with other people. Ever. It's not a negotiable thing. He doesn't take the mask off, can't take it off, can't risk it like that.

"I should go back," Jungkook says, trying to pull his wrist gently out of Taehyung's grasp. "And the cake is for you, hyung."

"Cake needs to be shared," Taehyung insists. He wanders into the house, dragging Jungkook behind him. Jungkook follows, his footing clumsy. They pass Yoongi in the living room, watching a sit com, and he gives Jungkook a surprised look when he sees him go by. He's curled up with his feet pulled up on the couch, a mug of something in his hands that he's blowing steam off of.

"Are you being kidnapped?" he asks mildly, as Taehyung drags Jungkook into the kitchen, still telling him something about how there's a reason people have cake on birthdays, how it's a sharing thing, doesn't he know, and so on and so forth. Jungkook gives Yoongi an embarrassed smile, hoping it translates into something understandable. Taehyung finally drops Jungkook's wrist as he pushes him into a chair and then goes off wandering in search of plates, still telling him stories of the different shapes cakes come in and how the ones that are easier to divide are the most popular.

Jungkook needs to get out of this mess.

The place is so bright, and it smells so clean. There are some indoor plants climbing up the walls and just chilling out on table tops. The place smells vaguely of a fragile scent of perfume that Jungkook can't decide on the origin of - he can't tell if it's just the flowers or if it's actual artificial perfume. In any case it smells wonderful, and a little sleepy, peaceful. Jungkook's apartment always smells of disinfectant.

"I don't - " Jungkook starts. Unsure of how to phrase this. "I don't eat much."

Around other people, he tries to imply.

Taehyung stops, frozen for a split second. It's like something seems to crash land on his head, some form of realization, and a moment later he's putting the plate back up in the shelf. "That's okay," he says easily, like nothing went wrong at all. "That's okay, we can do other stuff. " And he plops into the seat across from Jungkook and doesn't glance at his mask even once, even though Jungkook is sure he wants to ask. Everyone always wants to ask.

It's a measure of how long his friendships last - how long it takes for them to ask him what's up with the mask. Usually people switch off when he refuses to tell them. The standard exception being Seokjin, who asked him in the first hour they met and shrugged when Jungkook said it was nothing and has left him to it ever since.

He knows Taehyung won't - judge him. There isn't a place in his heart to be cruel. Even now, even after all the awkwardness, he's sitting in front of Jungkook at the table in his night clothes and telling him wide eyed stories about the dogs he used to raise back in Daegu. The TV is still on in the other room and the place is so bright, so beautiful, so strangely domestic, and that - that's what he's afraid of. Of how beautiful it is. How untainted in a world that exists to destroy, of how there isn't a single scar or imperfection within these four walls.

It's not that Taehyung will judge him - it's that Jungkook can't bear to stand next to his perfection when he's so - 

-so -

-not.

Yoongi wanders into the room at one point, the TV left on, to drop his mug into the sink. He stares a bit at the pile of dishes in the sink and then quietly rolls up his sleeves, picks up the scrubber and starts at them.

The flowers, Jungkook remembers suddenly. The flowers of isolation.

"Those flowers," he says out of nowhere, because he's as articulate as ever. "The flowers you brought to the shop, hyung, you said they were for a couple?"

Yoongi doesn't slow his scrubbing, grunting in acknowledgement.

"He said they were for a couple," he tells Taehyung again. "But they, um. They looked like something you'd shown me before, for isolation."

"Huh," Taehyung says, not surprised in the slightest. "Happens sometimes. Hyung is getting old I think."

Yoongi snorts, then tries to cover it up with a cough. Jungkook gets infinitely more suspicious, though he has no hell of a clue as to what he's suspicious of anymore.

 

/

 

Jungkook wakes up to the sound of shouting.

He sits up abruptly, blinking in the dark. A glance at his phone tells him it's 2AM, far too early for anyone in this sleepy neighbourhood to be awake. Maybe one of his neighbours is drunk and wreaking havoc.

It doesn't concern him, even if it scares him a bit - there are never fights near his house. People keep their negativity to themselves. He listens in the silence, tries to see if he recognizes the voice, and - it's Yoongi's.

It's hard to make out, overshadowed by someone else, but it's there - low, sharp. Before Jungkook is aware of what he's doing he's reaching for his mask and slipping it over his face and then he's at the door. It takes him a while to get all the bolts open - during which he can hear the argument a bit better, words like liar and humiliated and long streams of swear words - and then finally he pulls it open.

Yoongi is standing outside his own door, tense - still in his shorts, like he's been woken up from sleep. There's a man Jungkook can't recognize in front of him, holding his fists up threateningly. There's an ugly bruise on Yoongi's face, and -

Jungkook stops. Stops. Grip tightened on the doorframe, frozen in place.

Yoongi doesn't seem to be panicking - his gaze is scarily level as he stares the man down, but he's gripping the door handle tightly behind him. Like he's trying hard to hold it closed, to protect the person inside.

"She laughed at me," the other man is shouting, still waving his fists around dangerously. Yoongi doesn't even flinch. "She frickin - laughed, and threw your damned flowers in my face, because they were funeral  flowers, she said. For frickin dead people. And you gave them to me for my blasted date."

"I'm sorry, sir," Yoongi says, careful, level. "There must have been some sort of mistake - "

"Bullshit," the man snaps, lunging for Yoongi again, grabbing him by his collar, and Jungkook can't - can't think, can't see anything besides blood, blood, blood -

"Hyung!" he shouts, and he's too loud, he knows it - feels the both of them turn to him, the man's look of anger and Yoongi's look of horror, like he can't believe that Jungkook is here and doesn't want him to be here at all, and Jungkook thinks of fists flying and screams that go unheard and blood blood blood and - "Hyung, hyung, Yoongi-hyung!"

"Who the hell are you?" the other man shouts, dropping Yoongi's collar, taking a step towards Jungkook. Jungkook doesn't know where to look, his senses overloading all at once - there's too much sound, too much of everything, and Yoongi is staring at him like he's almost afraid and the man is stepping closer, and -

"Get inside!" Yoongi shouts. "You fool, get inside!"

-and there are too many memories all at once, of things hurting and crashing and a hand flying for his face, flying for his face-

He shuts the door with a slam and falls against it, the man still far away. Yoongi still outside, where he could get hurt or worse. His struggles to get his mask off, struggles to breathe, fingers getting caught on the fabric and twisting it.

One.

Two.

Three.

He can hear Yoongi shouting outside, all attempts at being civilized forgotten, threatening to call the police, and the man shouting back, shouting nasty words, ugly threats, things that Yoongi shouldn't have to hear. Not Yoongi. Not Taehyung. Not people who -

-aren't like Jungkook.

It takes too long, but finally, finally - there's the tell tale sound of a car being revved to life and driven away, and Jungkook knows that it's over.

There's a horrible silence left over, his harsh breathing the only sound. He presses a hand against his face, trying to calm down. It's over. It's over.

There's a soft knock on his door.

"Jungkook?"

He doesn't move. Yoongi is safe. He's safe. Everything is okay. He needs to stop shaking.

"Jungkook, are you there?"

He reaches for his mask, fingers trembling, and slips it back over his face. And then he crawls up to his knees and opens the door.

Yoongi stands in the doorway, worried and exhausted and angry. He looks a mess, honestly He shuts the door behind him, almost like he expects the man to come back.

For a moment neither of them speak. Yoongi stares at the floor, hard, his expression terrifying.

And then: "The hell were you thinking."

It comes out harsh, flat. Jungkook feels something in him sink.

"Do you have any idea how stupid that was?" Yoongi snaps. "You know just how badly it could have ended?"

"He hit you," Jungkook says quietly, glancing at the bruise on his face, and away just as quickly. It's swollen and ugly, and it looks like it hurts like hell.

"And he would have hit you too," Yoongi says.  "I couldn't have - I can't have - " he stops, takes a deep breath, pressing his hand to his face. "You are so lucky he got scared by the police. So lucky. I'm so lucky. Shit, don't ever do that again."

His hands  are shaking, Jungkook realizes. He must have been scared out of his mind. For all that Yoongi seems indestructible and like no one can knock him down, the other man was simply stronger, larger, and was driven by a terrifying need to hurt. And Yoongi was trying to deal with it all alone.

He has a sudden urge to reach out, to try to stop the man's hands from shaking, but he doesn't think it would be appreciated. And there's something lurking in the back of his mind, something demanding attention -

Funeral flowers, the man had said. Yoongi had sold him funeral flowers for a date.

"You sold him the wrong flowers," Jungkook says.

Yoongi's eyes snap to his. "What?"

"On purpose," Jungkook is starting to realize. "You sold him the wrong flowers on purpose."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"You never make mistakes, hyung," Jungkook says, because he doesn't - and neither does Taehyung. They both  know the meanings of flowers like they know their own names, and such an obvious mishap that even Jungkook could catch - they would have never let it slip by. "It was - it was on purpose."

Yoongi stares at him for a moment like he can't believe he's real - like he's honestly stumped by the nonsense that Jungkook insist on spouting. Too many moment pass, and it's starting to get awkward, and  Jungkook is starting to regret everything - and Yoongi still doesn't speak a word.

"Okay," he says at last, when the room is too quiet. "I did it on purpose. "

Jungkook stills. He doesn't - understand. Everything seems too quiet in the darkness, like it means too much but Jungkook doesn't know what it is. "Why?" he manages. "Why would you do that?"

Why would you willingly ruin what could have been someone's perfect moment?

Yoongi shrugs. "Because he didn't care," he says. "He didn't care what they meant - none of them do. It only mattered to him that his girlfriend think it does - and that makes me mad. I don't know. It just makes me mad. "

 

/

 

He never completely understands what Yoongi means.

He asks Taehyung about it, first, because he's always easier to talk to. He's pulling dandelions out of the ground, barefoot with his jeans rolled up, while Jungkook sits on his own side of the fence, hoodie drawn low over his head. "I don't know, Jungkookie," he says. "I don't understand it either - I think he just does it when he doesn't like the customer. A way to piss them off, I guess."

And that's...honestly the best possible explanation, but Jungkook doesn't think that's it. He thinks there's a lot more to it.

So he asks Yoongi instead.

Yoongi isn't working in the garden for once, he's sitting on his doorsteps and scrolling through his phone, music playing quietly in the background. Jungkook stands on his own doorstep, watching him quietly, unsure of how to bring up the topic without it being awkward. Yoongi's music today is western classical, which Jungkook has heard makes plants a good deal smarter. He doesn't say that aloud because he's pretty sure Yoongi will laugh at him for it.

"Are you going to say something?" Yoongi asks at last, not looking up from his phone. "Or are you going to keep staring at me creepily?"

Jungkook jerks. So much for trying not to make it awkward - now it's hellishly awkward. He scratches at the elastic of his mask, looking away, searching for the first thing to blurt out to salvage the situation.

"I don't understand you, hyung," he says, and then sort of wants to smack himself.

Yoongi raises his eyebrows, locking his phone screen to look up at him. "Is that a problem?"

"No? I don't - I mean. I don't understand why you'd mess up people's orders."

Yoongi looks a bit amused. "Are we still on that? No one usually finds out, Jungkook. Don't worry."

"Not that," Jungkook says, shaking his head. The thing is - he doesn't think anyone goes into a flower shop and know what all the flowers symbolize. It's an endless story of fascination to anyone - you tell them a flower means love, they'll believe you. You say it means death, they'll believe that too. So Jungkook doesn't understand how Yoongi can take people apart and dub them as uncaring, for not knowing what something means - because he doesn't think any of Yoongi's customers do. "I mean, why? Why do you think some people don't deserve it - just because they don't know what they mean?"

Yoongi is quiet for a long moment. Jungkook almost thinks he's angry, that Jungkook keeps bringing this up and won't let it rest - but then he tilts his head, like he's just thinking hard. "It's not that they don't know," he says. "It's that knowing wouldn't make a difference to them. I'm not - I'm not trying to hurt anyone." He says it seriously, staring at Jungkook like he wants him to believe him. "But for people like that - the prettiest flower is enough. It doesn't have to mean anything, it'll get the job done anyway."

"But isn't it sad?" Jungkook tries.

"Hm?"

"Those flowers were meant to - to say something," he says, "But you don't let them. You make them say something else." He has no idea what he's saying, what he's on, and Yoongi probably thinks he's crazy at this point - but Jungkook still thinks this is wrong. He thinks once you hand someone a flower and lie about it a bit of it is going to die.

Yoongi shakes his head, stops, and then shakes it again. "Nah. I think they'd rather be loved for what they are than just because someone told them to."

And it doesn't make any sense. It makes no sense at all, but Jungkook is starting to think that Yoongi never does.

"A lot of flowers are pretty," Yoongi says, and he almost sounds like he's talking to himself. "They have to be, it's how they survive - it's how they've fought through evolution. But that's just it - the petals are just a lie. A way to attract, a way to defend. The thing about flowers is that their meanings aren't about looking at the truth - it's about understanding the lie. And figuring out what it wants hidden. What it's compensating for with it's colours."

He clicks his phone open again, locks it once more. Then he pockets it and stands, holding a finger towards Jungkook in an I'll be back sort of way.

Jungkook waits on the doorstep, alone and awkward, until Yoongi comes back out with a flower in his hand.

It's been cut just now, he can tell - the stem still fresh, the flower pale and bright and wonderful. It's a light blue, almost too large for the stem, beautiful in every way. Yoongi gestures for him to come to the fence and then presses it into his hands.

"They're all hiding something," he says, "All of them - and some people don't want to see it. Don't care to look past the petals. And I guess those are the people I don't like."

Jungkook stares at the flower in his hands, unsure of why he's holding it. "What is this for, hyung?"

There's a ghost of a smile on Yoongi's face, something almost like fondness. "I won't tell you," he says. "Keep it, see if you can figure it out. Just by looking at it."

It sounds like a challenge, and Jungkook has never dealt well with challenges, but at the same time - it sounds like something else. Like something that can't be said out loud, like something dangerous.

 

/

 

He keeps the flower on his windowsill, in a ceramic mug half filled with water. He has no idea what it means. It's been days and the petals are still fresh, and Jungkook is already terrified of the day that they wilt.

He reads about all the flowers that Taehyung has told him about on the internet. He reads about his cactus, and finds out that it means endurance and strength, which he supposes isn't hard to figure out. He wonders a bit if he thinks roses look like love because they look like love or because he's been told they do, and by the end of three days he has a minor headache and is no closer to finding Yoongi's flower.

The petals are large, the flower vaguely star shaped. It's beautiful, it looks like it's meant for someone incredible - but Jungkook can cook up an insane number of meanings for it. He calls it hope and it looks like hope, happiness and it looks like the sky. He wonders what reason in history someone would have to pick this flower and hand it to someone else, and all he can think of is - anything at all.

Someone must have picked it, and wanted to hand it to someone else, and to say for you. And beyond that - Jungkook is stumped.

The next time he sees Yoongi, he tells him as much - tells him that this is an impossible task and that Jungkook just isn't that smart, but Yoongi doesn't let up.

"It's only been three days," he says. "Give it time."

He says give it time like he's saying give it as much time as you want. Like he's saying you'll probably never figure it out. And Jungkook can't tell if Yoongi wants him to or not, if he's testing him or laughing at him, but he seems sincere. Seems honest. And there are better ways to make fun of Jungkook than going through all this trouble - for starters, he could just point at his face and laugh.

Every morning, when he wakes up, he catches sight of the flower at his windowsill, sunlight streaming through his window and casting it in an almost otherworldly light - the kind that has never entered Jungkook's apartment, never entered his life. Every morning, he thinks it looks like it doesn't belong, and every morning, he feels like maybe that's what the flower means.

Something that doesn't belong. Something that wants to, but can't. Maybe that's why Yoongi gave it to him.

And then every morning he gives up, and rolls over to water his cactus instead. His mushrooms are multiplying like crazy. Jungkook thinks he understands them way better - the desperation to grow, to hold on, to live where you can. He understands that a lot better than whatever else is sitting on his window sill.

A week passes, and the petal start to wilt. They curl inwards, drying and fraying at the edges, starting to lose shape. The only leaf has fallen off, into the tray of the mushrooms, where it will decay and get sucked up like everything else.

He isn't going to figure it out in time.

Then one day, he comes back from a long day of work, and finds the flower gone.

The ceramic mug is on the floor, in too many pieces. The tray of mushrooms has been upturned as well, soil spilled all over the ground and the spores burst open, fallen apart. They were delicate - he knew this the first day he held them in his hand - poisonous but so, so delicate, too easy to crumble in his hands. And now they're broken.

He doesn't realize his hands are shaking until he fumbles for the light switch. The dread in his chest, the sudden emptiness, the urge to tear his hair out because he thinks - he thinks this is a message. That this is what he deserves. That this is what he gets for thinking he could be normal and live with people like Taehyung and Yoongi and try to bring a bit of light into his own life.

He thinks of sharp edges, of hands that should have loved him but lunged for his face instead, of the cold sting of too much alcohol and how things always hurt, even when they shouldn't, of staring into the mirror every morning and hating hating hating and wanting to tear his face to shreds so that he'd never have to see it again, to get rid of the evidence that he could only ever hurt, and he -

-gives up, because there's nothing left to try.

He sits there, right at the door, letting his face fall into his hands and trying to stop the spiral. He can't think now, shouldn't. He can't let himself fall.

But why not, the voices in his head say. Why not, when there's nothing left.

He needs to stop, can't think of - of knives and fingernails and the laughter, the screams - his screams? - of don't and stop and it hurts -

"Jungkook?"

The door is open. He's left the door open. He doesn't look up, keeps his face hidden in his hands, doesn't want to see anyone right now.

There's a sharp intake of breath behind him - Yoongi is probably surveying the wreckage in front of them. Jungkook thinks it's the rats who did it - it's always the rats. Just when he thinks he's got rid of them they're always back with something worse to do, some other horrible way to tear Jungkook's home apart. He should spray himself with pesticides - maybe it's not the house, maybe it's just been him all along.

"Jungkook, shit, are you okay?"

He feels Yoongi crouching in front of him, and then there are careful hands on his shoulders. Jungkook shakes his head, trying to force out a laugh that doesn't come out right.

"I think the mushrooms are dead," he manages, voice cracking. "And your flower is gone."

Yoongi's grip on his shoulders tightens slightly, trying to pull him up.

"Hey, it's okay, I'll give you a new one. And mushrooms never give up, they'll spring back in no time."

I know, Jungkook thinks, and that should be enough - but the spiral has started and now it won't stop, and no matter how many times they spring back they're always going to go away, and -

He presses down on his ears, trying to stop all the noise. There's too much happening in his head all at once and Jungkook can't - can't -

"Jungkook. Jungkook. Look at me, you need to breathe."

He shuts his eyes tighter, clamps down on his ears, trying to block the entire world out. He can hear Yoongi saying something frantic and Jungkook can't figure out why he's here, what he's doing, why he's ever here -

He holds Jungkook's face in his hands, firm and gentle at the same time. His fingers are cold, grounding. It's getting harder to breathe, the mask in the way, and part of him wants to claw it off, and then claw his face off, and then just disappear. And stop. And disappear.

"Jungkook," Yoongi says, hesitant, urgent - and he sounds almost as terrified as Jungkook feels, his fingers pulling gently at the elastic of his mask, itching to remove it. "Jungkook, you need to breathe better, this isn't helping."

It isn't, the voices in Jungkook's head agree, and every part of him wants to feel a bit better, wants this damned life to just stop, so he squeezes his eyes shut tighter and nods.

Yoongi tenses, and then slowly, slowly, he drags the mask down. There are no sharp intakes of breath, no curses, nothing to show for what he's found underneath.

Because what Jungkook is underneath is - a mess. A crisscross of ugly scars and slashes, so many that he looks more like a net than a face, each of the jagged lines an ugly reminder of just how much he's been hated, how much his family wanted him gone. And now it's out there, for Yoongi to see, to feel disgusted by, to cringe away from.

There's a wetness on his cheeks, and Yoongi's fingers wipe at them carefully. He doesn't say anything at all, like he knows that nothing can fix all that Jungkook feels inside. He quietly strokes the edges of the scars, soft and careful, and says, voice low, over and over -

"It's okay. You can breathe. It'll be okay."

And Jungkook holds his wrists, almost scared that Yoongi will let go, and tries to believe him.

 

/

 

Hours later, when Jungkook has calmed down, they're sitting side by side against the wall, in complete silence. Jungkook's mask is wrapped around Yoongi's wrist, and he's tugging at it absently. It's cold, and Jungkook is half buried into his side, but neither of them feel up to getting up just yet.

Jungkook thinks he could stay here forever, in the dark, where they can pretend nothing outside exists.

"There was a man once," Yoongi whispers, and he sounds afraid - even though Jungkook is the one with all his scars exposed, every imperfection on display. "A long, long time ago. He fell in love with a girl who was stealing his flowers, and he made her the most beautiful flower ever. But - he was too scared to ever give it to her. Too scared of what he'd do if she didn't like him."

He twists the mask some more, the black a terrible contrast against his skin.

"And then, finally, when he got the courage to give her the flower- he found the girl dead. " He sounds strangely hollow, empty, and at the same time like he's filled with too much emotion. "That's the flower I gave you - it means a truth that could never be delivered, for fear of showing itself. It's a horrible story. I hated it so much, so much."

He reaches for Jungkook's hand, hesitantly linking their fingers together. For a moment neither of them speak.

"Don't - don't be like that, okay?" Yoongi says, quiet. "And I'll - I'll try, too. I know I'm not - good at these things, like Taehyung is - I'm not good at being myself. But I'll try, okay? So you try too."

And Jungkook thinks - he's known Yoongi for months and has never seen him smile. He thinks that the hand in his is so cold, but so careful. He thinks of pale blue stars that seemed to say everything and of red criss-crosses over his face, and he thinks - he thinks he understands.

"Okay," he says, into the dark. "Okay."

Yoongi grips his fingers tighter, and Jungkook hopes that they can both mean it.

 

/