It’s freezing at the platform, fitting for the beginning of January and the end of Christmas break, and Taehyung is shivering in his winter coat. He’s under the porch roof, which at least shields him from the snow, but the wind still blows right through all of his clothes. It’s horrible and Taehyung doesn’t even have any decisions to regret, because this is the warmest coat he owns.
He’s on his way back from his parents’ house in the inner neighbourhoods of Daegu, where he’s spent most of the holiday. He hadn’t seen them or his siblings in while, the last time being his little brother’s birthday. He hadn’t realised how much he actually missed them when he was away, but seeing them again brought it all back. He should be used to living on his own now, being 21 and having done so for two years already, but it’s still hard to say ‘bye’ and ‘see you at Mom’s birthday!’. Most days are easier than today, but he definitely loves being around his parents and little brother and sister more than he likes living alone.
It’s a few days before school starts again and Taehyung’s at the train station to get back to his small apartment just outside the campus of Daegu University. He isn’t particularly looking forward to it, but he also knows it’ll get better once he can go back to his classes.
Or at least, so he hopes.
There’s no one else at his platform yet, which Taehyung supposes is because dinner will be served soon in most houses. Most sane people probably decided to stay where they are, especially with the crazy cold weather going on. However, he doesn’t mind being alone as much as he usually would. Even though he loves his family a lot, he isn’t used to the noise his siblings make when they’re really excited (which tends to happen quite frequently around Christmas) anymore and it has tired him out.
Of course, his parents had invited him to stay for dinner as well, but he had decided to follow his original plans and politely refused. If his train won’t be delayed, he can still be in time for a late dinner at the cafeteria of the university and unpack his bags after having eaten. It’s a little risky, because he’s in the middle of a heavy snowfall and the chances of his train being delayed are actually pretty high.
He’s just out here hoping for the best.
According to the screen hanging above the platform, he has ten more minutes to kill before his train arrives, so he digs up his mobile phone to take a quick picture for his parents. It isn’t his best or even anywhere close, but it’s only to show he’s arrived at the station safely despite the snow. They get worried quickly, but Taehyung thinks of it as a sign that they care.
There’s something beautiful about photographing landscapes in the middle of a snowstorm, even if the white blanket is already broken at several places by footsteps or cars. He doesn’t have his camera with him, had considered it too big of a risk that it’d break either during the journey or with his siblings around. Still, he takes a few other pictures with the camera on his phone, but the quality is a lot worse than what he’s used to. Hopefully he can remember enough of what the snow looks like right now that, combined with the shitty pictures, it’ll be good enough to draw the scene when he’s back in his apartment.
In the distance, there’s the sound of a train getting closer, but it isn’t until the little bells at the level-crossing tingle that he realises it’s heading for his platform. Another quick look at the screen tells him there’s no other train scheduled between now and the arrival of the train to Hayang Station, so Taehyung guesses this will be the one he needs to get on, even if it’s a little early. Well, at least it isn’t delayed , Taehyung thinks.
The train passes by too quickly to see if there’s anyone in the front, but when it slows down, Taehyung can see the latter coupés are entirely empty, which is a little unsettling. Even though it might be Sunday and around time for dinner, there should still be some people in the train, right? There’s always people on whatever train he’s ever been on in his life, being alone on public transport is just not something that happens.
He looks around, but there’s no one getting on or off the train whom he can ask if this really is the train to Hayang Station and since the screen is still stubbornly telling him that it will leave in 7 minutes, he decides to just get on. If it turns out to be a wrong one, he can always get off at the next station and figure out what to do from there. There’s no point in worrying when it probably won’t even happen.
His bags are too heavy to get up and into the metal racks above the seats. There’s no one in the coupé who’s going to be bothered by them anyway, so Taehyung just dumps them on the seat next to him. He’ll move them to the ground or ask for some help if the train gets busy during his journey.
As soon as he’s seated, he can hear the hiss of the doors closing and the train starts to move, leaving the Dongdaegu Station behind. Taehyung feels a little sad to leave the neighbourhood he grew up in behind, but he tries not to linger in the feeling. His life is at the university now, even if it has yet to become how he dreamed of it. He knows he can’t have everything in life and majoring in art with a specialisation in photography is already a dream come true, but he can’t help but feel like it isn’t entirely what he wants to do with his life. His only problem is that he doesn’t know what is missing - if there is anything at all and he’s not just being stupid.
He leans his head back against the seat, closing his eyes and letting himself float on the music playing from his earphones for a minute.
Or so he thinks, because when he opens his eyes again, the fields outside don’t look like the ones around Daegu at all. He must’ve fallen asleep for who knows how long, but before he can start to stress about it-
“Yoongi,” a voice says and Taehyung looks up, meeting the eyes of a small, brown-haired boy in the door opening to the next coupé, who’s staring back at him in surprise. “He’s new, isn’t he?”
Another boy appears, almost as small as the first one but with black-hair, and Taehyung can see his eyes move around the coupé before landing on him. He cocks his head a little to the side, taking Taehyung in with interest, and nods. “I think so. Are you new?”
Taehyung pulls out one of his earphones and turns the volume of his music down. “How do you mean, ‘new’?”
The brown-haired boy gestures around. “To this, the train. Did you just get on?”
“I got in at Dongdaegu Station,” Taehyung says. “I fell asleep though, so I don’t know how long ago that was. We aren’t at Hayang yet, are we?”
“I’ll get the others to our coupé,” the second boy says, either getting over his surprise a lot quicker or hiding it a lot better than the first one does. “I suppose we aren’t eating in the dinner room tonight, are we?”
The first boy gives him a thankful smile. “I think not. What’s your name? We’re not in… Not there yet, by the way.”
The boy is still smiling, although a little smaller than when it was aimed at the other boy. It still makes him seem gentle, nice to have a conversation with. Taehyung doesn’t think anyone with a smile like his could ever harm someone, it wouldn’t fit. “Taehyung. Yours?”
“I’m Jimin and that was Yoongi.” Jimin gestures to where the second boy has disappeared off to. “Are you hungry? You can eat with us, if you want.”
“I planned on buying dinner when I’m back home, so I didn’t bring anything, sorry.”
Jimin’s smile turns up again, his eyes forming little crescents behind his cheeks. “That’s no problem, we’re used to sharing it between five people, no one will mind a plus one. Besides, I think Yoongi will bring extra for you.”
Taehyung raises his eyebrows at that. “You’re getting your food on the train?”
Jimin nods. “It’s… a bit difficult to explain, but you’ll find out. Namjoon is better at telling the story than I am - it never makes sense when I try - so I’ll let him do it. Our coupé should be the next one, are you coming?”
Taehyung nods happily, tiredness momentarily forgotten and feeling excited that he doesn’t have to make the train journey on his own. Jimin seems kind enough, so maybe Taehyung will even make friends. The other is behaving a little weird, but people have said the same thing about Taehyung himself, so he isn’t one to judge. He pulls up his bags, smiling gratefully at Jimin when he takes one from him, and he follows him through the door on the other side of the coupé.
When Taehyung steps inside the next coupé, there’s is a room that doesn’t look like a train coupé at all, but more like a messy living room combined with an even messier bedroom. There are comfortable looking chairs, poufs and pillows everywhere and two giant king size beds pushed against each other in the corner. It’s all coloured in pastels, giving it a soft, warm feeling that almost feels like a hug, if a room could hug.
“Sorry about the mess,” Jimin apologizes with a sheepish smile and he throws a few pillows on the beds to make space for Taehyung’s bags. “You can throw the pillows on the bed if they’re in your way and the chairs and poufs can be shoved aside. I’d say it usually isn’t such a mess, but…”
“It is?” Taehyung asks with a grin on his face. He doesn’t mind the mess at all, it actually feels quite homey.
“Yeah,” Jimin laughs. “Just make yourself at home. The others will be here soon.”
And indeed, a few minutes later four boys including Yoongi stumble in, bringing plastic bags and the smell of food with them. Taehyung feels a little awkward when the first one stops to stare at him, but Yoongi pushes him forward impatiently. “I told you we had a new one, Hobi, will you walk in now?”
The boy does as told, but he doesn’t take his eyes away from Taehyung. “Who’re you? My name is Hoseok, by the way!”
His enthusiasm and the brightness he seems to radiate immediately make Taehyung like him. Like Jimin, he can’t imagine this boy, Hoseok, being unkind, not with how bright and welcoming his grin is. “I’m Taehyung.”
Luckily the other two don’t stare at him so openly, although Taehyung doesn’t miss the subtle glances they cast at him while dragging poufs over or sitting down on the ground, all of them forming a circle around the plastic bags with food. He wonders briefly if this is something they’ve done before, even if he’s never heard of a train that also offers meals. They, however, seem to think nothing weird of it and immediately adjust to the space they’re in.
When everyone is seated, Jimin speaks up. “Alright everyone, this is Taehyung. Taehyung, you already know Yoongi and Hoseok has just introduced himself, so that leaves Namjoon and Seokjin.”
Both boys wave a little when Jimin says their name and Namjoon gives him a smile. “Where are you from, Taehyung?”
“I grew up in the centre of Daegu, but I live close to the university campus now, which is where I’m heading.”
Hoseok digs into one of the bags and offers him some fries, which is how Taehyung misses the glance between Namjoon and Jimin and Jimin’s small shake of his head.
Taehyung isn’t feeling particularly hungry, so all he takes are the few fries Hoseok gave him and a small bowl of rice with some vegetables and meat. He mostly spends his time watching the others as they talk over dinner, because they already seem like the kind of people he isn’t able to find at his university. People who he feels like he could be friends - maybe even for life - with. Jimin glances at him from time to time, checking if he’s okay, and Taehyung gives him a reassuring smile and says he’s a bit tired when Seokjin asks if there’s anything bothering him.
“He can sleep in the spare room, we have an extra bed there,” Namjoon says. “We’ll explain everything tomorrow morning, Taehyung, when you’ve rested.”
“But we’ll be at Hayang Station any moment now, I can’t miss my stop,” Taehyung protests. He doesn’t want to seem impolite and a bed really does sound nice, but he needs to get home as soon as he can and get some sleep there, now that he still can before classes start again.
It’s quiet for a few moments before Yoongi speaks, his voice soft and gentle. “We probably won’t get there for a while, so it’s better if you sleep here. We’ll tell you everything tomorrow, okay? Uni can wait until then.”
Taehyung isn’t sure it can, but if Yoongi says it’s okay to sleep here, then he might as well do so until the train stops at his destination. He’s gotten used to falling asleep next to his siblings during the week at his parents’ and if he’s being one hundred percent honest with himself, he isn’t looking forward to sleeping alone. The offer to sleep here, with these people he just met next door, sounds too good to refuse. They might be practically strangers, but Taehyung thinks he likes them.
“Okay,” he surrenders. “Could you wake me up if we arrive at Hayang while I’m still asleep?”
“Of course,” Jimin promises, offering his hand to pull Taehyung upright. “Come on, I’ll show you the bed.”
Now that sleep has gotten onto Taehyung’s mind, he definitely feels more asleep than awake and he stumbles after Jimin to a little room that indeed has a bed on its side pushed up against the wall.
“There’s blankets and clothes in the closet, you can pick anything you like,” Jimin tells him as he pulls the bed back into its proper position. There’s no dust coming from the mattress as it falls into place, even though it looks like it hasn’t been used in years.
Taehyung is too tired to care about pyjamas or blankets, so he just picks the first things that looks comfortable enough; an oversized white T-shirt and a worn out but still very soft blanket that smells like how his own did when he was younger. He immediately wraps it around himself.
When Jimin turns around and looks down at the shirt, his smile falters a little before nodding. “You can get cleaned up at the sink, there should be a clean toothbrush there. If you need anything else, we’re right outside. Don’t hesitate to wake us up if there’s anything, okay?”
Taehyung nods, shooting him a grateful smile. “Thank you.”
“It’s no problem. I’ll come wake you up in the morning for breakfast if we don’t get to Hayang during the night, so sleep well.”
Taehyung nods again, almost too sleepy to mumble a response, but he thinks he manages in the end. Getting out of his clothes is an even bigger struggle than answering Jimin’s goodnight and he doesn’t even manage to drag himself to the sink, but falls down on the bed as soon as he’s out of his own clothes and has pulled the T-shirt over his head.
That night, he sleeps so deeply he doesn’t dream at all.