"On October 13 at 8:13 PM, don't go out of your house." The strange guy is telling him, right in the middle of his art class. He looks quite disturbed. His hair is a bird's nest and his skin is pale. He's wearing a black coat which seems thin and doesn't really look appropriate for the cold weather.
October 13, that's exactly 30 days from now. And also his birthday. Jimin doesn't know how to respond, or if he even needs to answer. He's also dying to leave this person who excused him a while ago for a moment and go back to teaching the kids inside. Between painting childish things and listening to a madman rambling, he sure would go bankrupt for the first.
"I'm sorry, I think you got the wrong person." Jimin says, already turning around.
"Jimin, please. Just don't go outside."
The persistence of the stranger makes him backtrack in curiosity but when he turns around again, the strange guy is gone.
October 13, 20**
For Kim Taehyung, time is the only thing he's plenty of. Going back in time is as easy as closing his eyes and reciting the national anthem.
He could be eating his toast and eggs, peacefully reading the news while waiting for Jung Hoseok to arrive in their studio, and suddenly remember he hasn't put together the portfolio the guy has asked him to. With a few seconds in his pockets, he would just have to close his eyes and will himself to go back. Like jumping off a train, only less dangerous. His past self will of course see him, choke in his toast then realize what has happened. Problem solved.
He's a Time Traveler, an individual who has the ability to create rifts in time and cross over. There are others like him, he knows one— his mentor from the 1960s.
Traveling in time is illegal as one action taken in the past by a traveler can alter the timeline. Those who intentionally create ripples in the timeline are called Time Renegades. A secret society, only known by a few in the government, is dedicated in incarcerating renegades caught creating a riff. This society manages the Time Wardens, the only ones who can legally go back and forth to catch renegades. They swore an oath to protect the timeline.
To Taehyung, creating riffs is legal unless caught. That's the principle he's trying to live by. Because he can't afford to look the other way when he has this ability, an ability to find the truth.
A patch of grass at the corner of the lawn is smoking. The sun overhead glares of disapproval, hiding behind thick clouds, the heat pricks Taehyung's skin. Sweat is beading on his forehead, he wipes it with a handkerchief he fishes out of his pocket. He doesn't waste any more time in the open.
Taehyung walks across the street, then into the shopping center overhead, casually as if he didn't just pop out of thin air. Irritation starts to crawl in like an unwelcome guest as Taehyung starts to see the crowd in the shopping center. It's five in the afternoon, people have just left their works and schools. Crossing through riffs is nauseating enough, he didn't really like the idea of dodging his way across a thick crowd of bodies.
Taehyung fishes out a black mask, puts it on and covers his mouth and nose just in time as he passes by a cosmetics shop. He then walks briskly to the escalator and climbs the length, walking past the idle shoppers. He quickly shuffles off and joins a group of young men jostling each other like good friends would. He split up from the group when he reaches a vape shop then rounds a deserted corner to a line of clothing stores. There, at the other end of the hallway, a man clad in black is standing still. It didn't take a second look for Taehyung to recognize who it was. He approaches the man in black.
"Hyung." He calls the man's attention.
A pale faced young man looks up at him under his black baseball cap, his arms crossed over his chest. His eyes are feline-like, black pupils and round. Like Taehyung, he's also wearing a black mask.
"Are you being followed?" The man in black asks, his eyes looking back the way Taehyung came from.
Taehyung shakes his head and says, "I managed to shake them off."
The man nods once and starts walking. Taehyung follows suit. Their strides are long and quick, wasting no time at all. As they walk side by side, the man taps Taehyung's chest with the back of his left hand.
"Long time no see, by the way." He says.
Taehyung chuckles and replies, "have you been doing well?"
"Of course. Were you worried?" They turn a corner more deserted than the last.
Taehyung absentmindedly fiddles with his coat's button. He says, "The last time looked impossible, hyung. Were there twenty?"
"Twenty five. I still managed to escape though." That’s a veteran for you.
Taehyung shakes his head in disbelief. He then says, "When the day comes when I finally don't see you in the same spot, I'll be lonely."
"Hey, who do you think I am? Look lively, brat."
"We don't know what's going to happen." Taehyung says seriously.
"I'm Min Yoongi. Do you know what that means?"
Min Yoongi. His mentor from the 1960s, also a wanted Time Renegade with a large sum of bounty on his head. He's been on the run for five years.
"Maybe I should take you in. I can use the bounty to buy an island somewhere far from this country."
"I know you can't do that. Not now, not ever." Yoongi says, a matter of fact.
"You trust me too much, hyung."
"It's not you, punk. I trust your heart."
Taehyung has nothing more to say.
They reach the last turn of their trip around the shopping center. At the end of the hallway, there's a secluded store selling antiques. The shop sign read: Nowhere. The exterior of the store is nothing special, it's identical to the others so far. Only this one has its glass tinted, like a vape shop or a dental clinic, so that whatever is inside won't be seen from the outside. Your reflection will only look back at you. What makes it different is the interior.
Inside, as soon as you enter the glass double doors and the chimes have greeted you, you will see a vast collection of old things each having their own stories to tell. From books to clothing, everything is here. There are shelves and shelves of hardbound books, dusty and old with age, lined up against the four corners. These shelves are behind glass counters, each filled with unorganized objects of curiosity. At the middle of the room are more shelves overflowing with more things. On the floor, all around the place, vases and figurines are standing still. Yoongi is sure on his feet as he makes his way across the sea of ancient secrets. He approaches the counter at the far end of the room. He rings a doorbell.
An old man passes through a door Taehyung doesn't realize is even there. It's right in front where Yoongi is standing, camouflaged by the black walls and the darkness in the other room. The old man is bald, with a few strands of white hair dotting his chin. A pair of reading glasses sits on his nose, he has a mean look on his eyes.
"What do you need?"
"A pair of scissors. And a purple candle." Yoongi replies.
It doesn't make sense to Taehyung why they need a pair of scissors and a candle but the old man sure seems to have understood. He goes back the way he came from.
As they wait, Taehyung asks, "What was that?"
"It's the code my contact gave to me for picking up the parcel."
"A secret code?"
Yoongi nods as he looks around the shop. He then asks, "You want to look around? You might find something you like."
Taehyung accepts the invitation since his curiosity has been bugging him. He leaves Yoongi at the counter and starts looking to his right. He goes shelf by shelf, picking up things and returning them afterwards. When he's at the last shelf, something catches his attention unlike any other.
It's a pocket watch, a locket of gold and silver which is small enough to fit in his palms. When he opens it, the clockwork is visible as the hands of the clock spins round and round. He snaps it shut and brings it to the counter.
"I'd like to buy this." He tells the shopkeeper.
The old man eyes him for a moment, then takes the watch from him and puts it inside a box then in a glass case behind him. The man says, "It's not for sale."
"What? Why is it on display then? I want it." Taehyung doesn't understand why he's being stubborn over a watch. He just knows that he has to buy it, that it's his.
"Taehyung, it's just a watch."
"No, I want it." Taehyung demands.
"How much are you willing to pay for it?" The old man taunts.
Without any doubts, Taehyung says, "how about an information from the future?"
"I see, a renegade." The old man sneers. He then turns around to get the locket back. He slides the box to Taehyung and says, "very well, you can get it for free."
"What?" Taehyung isn’t sure why the old man is suddenly willing to give it away.
"I don't want anything to do with the future, boy." The old man waves them away, saying, "Now get out."
"Are you out of your mind? What if it was an innocent person?" Yoongi scolds him as soon as they get out.
"No way will that happen. I knew he was aware or you wouldn't even dare to transact with him." Taehyung says smugly, his hands playing with the locket.
"That stupid pocket watch."
The cafe is deserted. Still, the two are sitting on a corner table, far from peering eyes and listening ears. They sit huddled over a red velvet box. A soft melody is playing in the background.
"Will that be enough?" Yoongi asks. Taehyung stares at the crimson gem sitting on the box. Under the fluorescent lights, it gleams beautifully. He can only imagine how it would look when exposed to actual daylight.
He finally answers, "I hope it is."
"If you need more we can borrow from a museum." Yoongi shrugs.
Taehyung laughs lightly at his friend's indifference. Is he really that far in the other side that robbing a museum is no big deal?
"Be careful, hyung. Don't speak it into existence."
"Anyway, you owe me a favor. I've been keeping a low profile since the last chase so you better help out a grandpa. I'm getting old." To prove his point, Yoongi does some stretching then groans.
Taehyung clicks his tongue as he says, "fine, fine. Call me whenever you need help."
"Mental note pinned." Yoongi raises his right fist, which Taehyung bumps with his own.
Yoongi stands up and leaves the cafe.
Taehyung always walks around before jumping back to his present. But this time, as he is near a shopping center and he hates the crowd, he decides to just skip his ritual.
The traffic light changes to red. Taehyung goes with the flow of people crossing the road to the other side. There are more vehicles tonight because apparently there was a collision at the intersection, so the traffic is jammed. Therefore more people. Unfortunately, he's heading to the most crowded place in the vicinity.
Sirens turn the night sky a dark shade of red. The crowd thickens as Taehyung shoulders his way into the middle of the scene. The scent of sweat and perfume makes him nauseous. The buzz of people speaking all at once doesn't help with the hammering in his head. But having no other choice as he has to return to the place where he appeared to come back home, to lessen traces of him, he has to bear it all.
Bodies start to squeeze closer as he goes deeper into the crowd. He overhears the situation. According to witnesses, a taxi rammed against a delivery truck. The accident killed the driver and a passenger on the spot. The delivery truck's driver was badly injured.
If he tiptoes, Taehyung can already see what they're talking about. The impact shredded the taxi's hood, it's almost reduced to half and is almost beyond recognition. The left side of the truck is dented. Bits and pieces of the shattered windows are scattered all over the place for at least fifteen feet.
"I know the passenger. He was my son's art teacher." A man tells his company.
"He was just 22 years old, I heard." One woman shares.
"Goodness gracious! So young." Another woman shakes his head.
Another man says, "I know him too! He buys vegetable from my store every Thursday. A good kid."
Taehyung feels bad listening. It's as if he's eavesdropping on the life of a stranger. He can only imagine what the strange would feel if he heard all these people talking about him.
Suddenly, he feels chills running down his spine as if someone's walking on his grave. The air smells of burning incense, like there's already a funeral for the dead. Taehyung feels lightheaded and he finds it hard to swallow. Finally, he decides to leave the place as quick as possible.
No matter what it is, Taehyung is sure he felt this sensation once before.
September 4, 2016
"You're saying that the gem, which I helped you to get on October 13, didn't work?" Taehyung can't put it into words better. The gem was supposed to take him back to 2001 but it only made a riff to 2012. Right now, he's back to 2016 and is talking to a month younger Yoongi.
"Yeah. Are you sure about that gem?"
"I don't know. I'm not the same Yoongi who searched for it. According to your story, I would only start the hunt on September 21." He raises his hands in surrender.
"Oh god." Taehyung covers his eyes with his wrists in frustration.
"Can't you find me on October 13?"
"That's the problem!" Taehyung yells animatedly. He adds, "I can't find you on the same spot. I even met my other self!"
"Now that's awkward."
"You probably went back and did something which changed the timeline. Think, hyung. What could it be? Where's your other self?" Taehyung asks desperately.
"I don't know. You're worrying me. Do you think I'll be caught?" But he doesn't look worried at all.
"You! I thought you're confident you won't get caught?!" Taehyung yells in frustration. Yoongi just gives him the cold shoulder, his hands busy arranging tapes in his drawers. Taehyung picks up the closest tape his hand can get and throws it down again.
"What's your problem?" Yoongi whines as he picks up the tape and wipes it with a white cloth.
"You and your ridiculous tapes."
Yoongi waves the cloth in front of Taehyung as he says, "these tapes are important! They help me remember how many Yoongis are in one place. For example, I know that a Yoongi from 2022 will come here two hours from now. And one Yoongi from, I forgot if it's 2013 or 1994, is at the museum."
"Hyung, how do you do that? Keeping track of all your versions. Doesn't it drive you crazy?"
"No. It will drive me crazier if I don't. It's weird to keep these tapes, alright. After all, it's not like these tapes can make things right. But we're not normal, Taehyung. Our abilities are the weirdest things we could ever get. And if I can at least organize my thoughts, track myself and everything I do, I guess it's the most normal I can get." Yoongi explains.
"There are about infinite millions of versions of us in this world, all existing in their own nanosecond. If I travel now to a minute ago, I'll see the version of myself from that minute ago. And when the time catches up, this version of myself will disappear. I don't know what's going to happen if that happens. So I keep track. Because I don't want to risk it, I don't want to run out of time." Yoongi says, his hands absentmindedly wiping an old tape.
"But why tapes?"
"I don't know. It seems aesthetically pleasing."
Taehyung scoffs and says, "oh god."
"Do you want to sit with me and check if the Yoongi who gave you that gem added something?" Yoongi starts to rummage in his boxes for something.
Annoyed, Taehyung hits a box then yells, "forget it! I'm leaving."
"Hey! Come back! A Taehyung from 2018 will appear this afternoon! He's bringing pizza!" Yoongi calls from behind.
Taehyung slams the door and disappears into the throng of people out on the streets.
Jimin is sitting across the man named Kim Taehyung, the same person who bothered him three days ago during his art class. They're in the cafe right in front of Jimin's studio, just across the road.
About an hour ago, just as when Jimin was about to close the studio for the day, he found the man waiting at the lobby. He was hunched over as he sat there all alone, his face hidden behind his long fingers. His figure looked so sad and broken and the scene somehow gave Jimin the image of a person waiting outside a morgue.
He knew he should not approach the stranger, for his actions three days ago were beyond what's decent given the relation between them as strangers. But a small voice in his head convinced him not to call the police yet. Instead, against his better judgment, Jimin approached the man.
His light footsteps didn't alert the man, who was still sulking with his head bowed low. It took Jimin one embarrassing second, clearing his throat, to make the guy look up. There was an undecipherable expression on the stranger's face, as if he was just about to cry.
"We're closed for the day." Jimin hesitantly said.
Snapping back to reality, the guy stood up quickly and hurriedly said, "hi, I just want to apologize about what happened last time, I was intoxicated and I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't mean to offend you in any way."
"What's your name?" Jimin found himself asking.
"Kim Taehyung." The guy answered softly.
Jimin smiled a little then tries the name, as if trying how it would sound with his own voice and how it would feel in his tongue, "Kim Taehyung. Huh."
"Yeah." There was a sad look on Kim Taehyung's face.
Intrigued by everything, he dared to ask, "Well, Kim Taehyung. Do you like coffee?"
That's how Jimin ended up drinking coffee with a complete stranger in a cafe. Now that he's looking at the guy up close, at Kim Taehyung, he can't help but notice how good-looking the person is. He has the looks of a model, if only the dark circles under his eyes don't exist. His face is angular and his skin looks so soft even though it's pale from exhaustion no doubt. His hair is thick and long, he's growing it to a mullet. He's wearing a brown overcoat and a blue plaid hoodie underneath.
Kim Taehyung is slouching, as if just sitting there is making him tired. His hands are wrapped around the mug of hot coffee before him. He's staring at nothing.
"So, Kim Taehyung. You're saying that you were drunk." Jimin's attempt to a conversation. The guy simply nods, looking at everything but Jimin. Jimin adds, "How did you know my name?"
"What?" Taehyung looks at him for the first time.
"You called me by my name. You know my name. And I'm sure it isn't plastered somewhere in the streets. How did you know my name?"
He stares at Jimin, as if his brain has been toast and is going haywire, and a shadow passes by his handsome face. Jimin must've stepped on a landmine, a topic which Taehyung neither wants to share nor remember.
Finally, he draws a sigh and starts, "I'm a detective."
Jimin can't help but raise an eyebrow at this sudden confession. He crosses his arms, confused as to where the unsure Taehyung went. He tries the word in his tongue, "a detective."
"Where's your badge?" Jimin challenges.
Taehyung shrugs his shoulders and says, "I don't have it."
Jimin scoffs at the obvious lie. He says, "A detective doesn't have his badge?"
"I left it back home."
"Okay. Let's say you're really a detective—"
"I am a detective."
"Badge or you're lying." Jimin flashes a smile when he sees irritation sit on the man's face. He then continues, "If you're really a detective, Kim Taehyung, that doesn't really explain why you know me."
"Park Jimin." Beat. Jimin is taken aback. This is the first time he hears his name said by the man today. It's as if a spell is casted on him, he's drawn to the brown eyes of this stranger.
Is he going to confess something? Is he going to say he's a spy?
"What if I can't tell you how I knew you?" He asks, a serious look is on his face.
A small voice is telling him that this is a bad idea, that he's crazy, but he shuts off the nagging voice, hiding it in a shelf somewhere at the back of his mind. He says, "You're really frustrating, you know that?"
"You told me that already." A nostalgic smile appears on Kim Taehyung's face.
"When?" Did he? Jimin doesn't remember.
The guy shrugs and takes a long sip of his coffee. A comfortable silence sits in the air, as if the two have always been friends.
"Thank you for the coffee." Jimin says.
The sun has already set. What's remaining of the light of the day is now disappearing over the horizon, far from sight and the two are now standing at a crossroad.
Kim Taehyung puts his hands in his coat pocket. He smiles lightly and says, "Pleasure’s all mine."
"When can I see your badge?" Jimin blurts out before he can even change his mind.
Taehyung looks at him in confusion, "Huh?"
"You didn't tell me how you knew my name. At least show me your badge." Jimin says.
A smile tugs at Kim Taehyung's lips. He cocks his head once and says, "Okay."
"I'll find you." Taehyung says.
Jimin smiles as he nods once. Then, he shoulders his messenger bag and flits his fingers to say goodbye. He starts walking backwards, light on his feet. One step. Two. He turns around but still keeps glancing back, Taehyung is standing still looking at him. A meter. Then two.
"That's a promise." Jimin says a little louder as he's already a few feet away.
Taehyung chuckles and waves his right hand, "I wouldn't miss that invitation for the world, Jimin."
Beat. The endearing tone tugs at the pit of Jimin's stomach, sending a smile to his lips. He feels light all of a sudden as he completely turns and walks away.
Maybe he's really gone crazy. Because more than the badge or the reason why Kim Taehyung knew him, he wants to see him again. He secretly hopes it'll be sooner than later.
Taehyung is running for his life, literally.
Just a few hours ago, he made the mistake of running across a Time Warden. It was really unexpected, therefore Taehyung didn't really have time to prepare.
He received a text message from Min Yoongi in the morning, it said: Come to my hideout, 2017. 3 PM, don't be late. Then Taehyung resumed his chores just like how he always did, which means in 2018 and his present day, while waiting for the agreed time.
A few minutes before three o'clock in the afternoon, Taehyung left his house and immediately went to the closed down power plant near the elementary school, found the right spot and created a riff to the 5th of January 2017— the only day in 2017 he ever visited. It was a very dizzying jump, which was happening often lately.
Where there were empty can containers, now stood tall shelves of boxes and tapes. A long table filled with junk and two computer monitors lined the wall to his left. On his right was Min Yoongi's car, a restored black Barracuda covered by a grey plastic. Taehyung realized he's standing on Yoongi's recliner, which annoyed him.
Stepping down the recliner, he whirled around calling Yoongi's name. But he came face to face with someone else. One look at the stranger and Taehyung knew he was screwed.
The stranger was a man, probably in his twenties. He was wearing a black suit complete with a necktie. He was tall and lithe with brown hair and a really intimidating aura. He looked like an FBI agent, to be honest. He was wide eyed and staring at Taehyung. The surprise wiped off of his face in a matter of seconds. A smile crept up his handsome face. He opened his mouth to say, "A renegade."
Taehyung, completely frustrated of himself, shrugged his shoulders and said, "I prefer tourist."
"I won't give you time to run." The man told him icily.
Taehyung didn't waste any time at all. He snapped to action, running the opposite direction and busting out of the power plant the way Yoongi taught him. He ran faster than he ever did before, not even looking back to make sure the man wasn't close.
Of all people, why was it a Time Warden?
Now, the same person is chasing him to the gates of hell. And it seems that it'll be tough to shake him off. They're now in the shopping center near Park Jimin's old studio.
Taehyung runs inside a clothing store, grabs a baseball cap and a brown coat then he pays for them immediately. He wastes no time putting them on, leaving his own coat at the counter of the store. He steps out of the store, cautiously checking his surroundings and slowly walking toward the edge of the railings. Then he sees the warden looking around one floor down. Luckily, he's wearing a black suit which sets him apart from everybody else, making him easier to point out in crowds. The man seems to have lost him.
Taehyung starts to devise a plan of escape. He's done a simulation so many times before but he never imagined a day would come when he would be busted and on the run. This is all Min Yoongi's fault. There's not even time to worry about the older guy, Taehyung has to save himself first.
Taehyung decides to go up another floor, cautiously taking steps while looking around. In his head, he has played about ten simulations of how he can escape. One, involves him going up and hiding where nobody can see him to create another rift. Another is just basically running away, hiding when necessary. And as crazy as it seems, as if a Time Warden isn't on his heels, Taehyung considers the first.
In the meantime, he climbs another level. Then he finds the fire exit, where nobody can disturb him. He sits there for a moment, catching his breath. Suddenly, he wants to see Jimin's face. How long has it been, anyways? Taehyung hasn't visited him for almost four days.
Taehyung meant to see him the day after they ate dinner but something was stopping him. He couldn't face Jimin for some reason, so he just stood quietly outside the studio, listening to Jimin's voice as he talked and laughed with the kids. Taehyung loved his voice the most, it's the embodiment of warmth and safety. So even though he didn't see Jimin, he was warm for a few days.
Taehyung doesn't realize he's already crossing a rift, a travel back home.
Jimin's days lazily passed by. It's already about time for the kids' showcase. The atmosphere inside his studio is rather lively, filled with nervous and elated bunch of kids shuffling around to complete their works in time for the exhibit. There's a boy who hasn't painted anything on his canvas. One had a long strip of red paint on his. A little girl has painted a yellow circle with flames— which Jimin guesses as the sun— with eyes and a red nose, typical children's imagination, and to be honest it's really making Jimin proud.
"Slow down, everyone! You still have a month!" Jimin's futile attempt to calm everybody down. Nobody hears his words.
A boy yells, "I'm out of paint, teacher!"
"Teacher, I lost a brush!"
Jimin jumps into action, sweeping around the room like a tornado. He pours red, blue, yellow and white paint to the paint tub of the boys named In Ho and Jin Bae. He gathers another set of brush from the workshop and gives it to the little girl named Eun Tak.
This is Jimin's everyday life and he likes it the way it is. He's always been good with kids, always the favorite of his little cousins in family gatherings. He even used to babysit his neighbor's kids back in Busan, before he moved to Seoul to study. Teaching kids about the thing he loves the most is the life he never saw himself living but now that it is here, he couldn't be more contented. But even though he's always been so enthusiastic about it, he can't stop feeling listless today. Or the past few days. Ever since the night he met Kim Taehyung in the cafe across the studio.
He doesn't understand many things and here's to name a few: Why he's so affected, what part of the coffee break made him so interested in Kim Taehyung and why is he feeling so unmotivated. Sure they talked about other things like painting, which is talking about Jimin's whole life actually, and life in Busan which is, according to the guy, Kim Taehyung's favorite place. They shared an hour or so together, only talking about what's up and everything under the sun. Why is he so enamored with a person he just met?
Now that he puts some thoughts into it, he realizes that he only ever talked about himself. Kim Taehyung didn't say anything, as if his interest is only on Jimin. Everybody likes to talk about themselves but not him. He just sat there that afternoon, listening to Jimin's words and sipping his second cup of coffee. That's Kim Taehyung, quiet and mysterious. At least so far.
Later in the afternoon, as the last student is picked up by his father and Jimin is cleaning up his studio, a knock on the door startles him. When he looks up from wiping a smudged paint off the wooden floor, he sees a man standing at the threshold. A rather surprising sight greets him, the object of his thoughts for the past few days gives him a crooked smile.
He flourishes something in the air, some sort of a wallet which he fished out of his back pocket. Something glimmers on it, something metal. Maybe Jimin is excited. He drops the pink rag right there and then, not caring when it splats on the floor with a loud wet sound. He covers the distance between him and Taehyung then reaches for the wallet in the air.
"You're really a detective, huh?" Jimin asks incredulously.
A badge now sits on his small palm, the edges of it glint as if mocking him. Jimin even feels the carved surface of the metal.
There's an air of smugness around him as Taehyung raises his chin as he says, "I told you, didn't I?"
"Okay, now I believe you."
"That's it? You just confirm my identity then what? What now? Do I have to go?" Maybe it's Jimin's imagination but he picks up uneasiness in Taehyung's voice, like he's not looking forward at all.
Jimin suddenly feels pleasant. He says, "how about we go grab some drinks?"
A smirk plasters itself on Kim Taehyung's face. He crosses his arms then says, "How does dinner sound to you? My treat."
Jimin perks up, "sounds good, deal."
They agree to eat pork belly as they're both starving. While grilling the pork, Jimin realizes it's the first time he's eating dinner in months. There's this diet he's trying to follow, a strict one which includes just a cup of yogurt for dinner, but now he's turning his back on it. His subconscious glares at him in disgust.
"Eat well, Jimin. I'm only treating you tonight so take advantage of it." Kim Taehyung picks up strips of pork with his chopsticks and puts them one by one on Jimin's plate.
Jimin watches his every move and wonders where Kim Taehyung's sense of familiarity is coming from. Finally, he dares to ask, "Do you have a sibling? Or a girlfriend?"
Taehyung suddenly chokes on the meat he just popped in his mouth. He struggles between fits of cough to drink water from his glass. When he's finally relieved, he looks at Jimin and replies, "why are you suddenly asking?"
"Chill. I'm just curious. You take care of me so well. Maybe you had experience and you're unconsciously doing it to me too." Jimin props his elbow on the table.
Taehyung shrugs and says, "I have siblings."
"What about a girlfriend?" Jimin hopes not, actually.
Taehyung puts another set of pork strips on Jimin's plate. He answers while grilling new ones, "nope, I'm not interested."
"In dating?" Jimin internally deflates.
Taehyung puts down the thong and continues eating again. He then replies, "In girls."
It's Jimin's time to choke. Taehyung hurriedly passes him a glass of water, which he gulps down immediately. His eyes have tears in them and his air tract feels uncomfortable. This night couldn't get any better.
"So, Detective Kim. How does that work?" Jimin asks. They're now sitting idly, watching people come and go. They also have had drinks.
"Can you be a little specific?"
"What do you do exactly? Investigate cases? Catch murderers?" Jimin is having a good time.
Taehyung gulps his soju and says, "Rescue cats from trees."
Jimin chuckles and says, "Really? Cats?"
"I'm a dog type person so it's a tough job." Taehyung laughs lightly. He's turning his shot glass round and round, round and round. He then adds, "When I'm not rescuing feline creatures, that's like seldom since these kids in my neighborhood keep calling me out, yeah I'm investigating stuff."
"I've only watched detectives from movies. Are they convincing, coming from a real detective?" Jimin props his elbow on the table and leans the right side of his face on it.
"Some are convincing. Others are just cliché. I mean, I personally don't threaten suspects." Taehyung says. He picks up his shot glass which Jimin fills with soju then drinks it, "wait, I did it once actually. There was this one time I caught a suspect for robbery. He kept denying it and granted, we didn't have enough evidence so we had to let him go after forty eight hours. He was being an asshole about it and I just wanted to punch his face but I couldn't. So I told him, ‘I know you did it and I'm going to bring you back in, permanently.’ One month later he was caught red-handed."
Jimin isn't sure he's listening anymore. The way Taehyung talks is just mesmerizing. He has these minimal gestures while speaking and he has so much expressions on his face that's endearing. He looks at something from far away like he's reading something off of it. You can tell he's an open book as much as he is a close one. Or maybe it's just the alcohol talking.
Before he can even think about his next words, they're out, "I like your lips when you talk. I hope you'd talk more."
Taehyung stares back at him, his face a storm of emotions. Finally, he sets down his drink and says, "Should we call it a day? You look quite drunk."
"I'm not drunk," Jimin straightens up his posture, stretching for a moment. His eyes are starting to droop.
Taehyung initiates to call the aunt keeping the shop. He pays their food with a card and gathers Jimin's things. When the aunt is back to return his receipt and card, they're ready to go.
Jimin is walking beside Taehyung whose hands are supporting him. Everything else happens in a blur. The cars speed by and disappear, the lights blink on and off, people are walking home and there's Kim Taehyung with his warm hands protectively holding Jimin.
At one point Jimin asks Taehyung about other things, the latter answers obediently. But there are still things he doesn't want to talk about, like how he knew Jimin before. It frustrates Jimin but he can't do anything about it. Instead, he talks about other things.
Jimin thinks they're now in his neighborhood. He hears the familiar bark of dogs, the aunt living next door greeting him and Taehyung fondly scolding him for drinking too much. Jimin thinks he retorted by saying Taehyung let him. They enter a brown gate, it's Jimin's house.
Taehyung rummages for the keys, Jimin jokes about him being a thief. Finally, Taehyung unlocks the door and even seems to know where he's going. He brings Jimin with him, who is now feeling dizzy as sleep tries to take him. He struggles to stay awake though. The two climb up a flight of stairs, one step at a time. They enter the first room, Jimin's.
"Let's get you to bed, troublemaker." Taehyung groans as he picks up Jimin bridal style.
Jimin feels himself being put down on a soft surface. He tries to wrap his arms around Taehyung tighter, not wanting to let go. But sleep sounds good too.
"Kim Taehyung, talk more? I like your lips. I want to kiss you." Jimin thinks he said.
He hears a soft chuckle and a warm hand on his face. Taehyung quietly says, "Kiss me when you're not drunk."
Everything fades to black.
June 13, 2014
"Hyung! Please, I need your help. Help me, I'm begging you." Taehyung barges in Yoongi's hideout, looking agitated and scared.
He stumbles inside and almost falls to the floor, barely able to balance himself. When Yoongi, surprised and confused, rushes to help him stand up, he clutches the older guy's sleeves. His tear stained face is contorted with so much sadness and fear. It's when Yoongi knows something must've happened, something terrible.
"Calm down, Taehyung. What is it?" Yoongi leads Taehyung to his recliner. He crouches down in front of Taehyung.
Taehyung looks anxious as he fumbles for the right words to say. Finally, he stammers, "Park Jimin died again. He died in 2016. Again."
"I knew. I was right there I was prepared but it still happened and I saw everything and oh god—" Taehyung breaks down into a sob.
Yoongi falls down with a thud. He then asks, "what help do you want from me?"
"Hyung, I can't watch him die again. Please, I need to stop it. I just can't watch it again and feel helpless as he dies in that car all alone. Please." Taehyung has never looked this devastated. His hair sticks on his forehead due to sweat. His face is wet with tears.
Yoongi wipes his face in agitation. He knows Jimin, had met the guy once. Even he felt sad when he heard of the younger's sudden death so he helped Taehyung to change the timeline. But now that they know it still can't be changed, even after a lot of preparations in Taehyung's side, what else can they do?
"We need a new plan." Yoongi stands up and rushes to his desk. Taehyung follows suit. Yoongi grabs a notepad and pen then starts asking, "Tell me exactly how it happened, in detail. And please sit down, I don't want you falling again."
The sun is already high up. Already, there are people bustling up and down the avenue. The month of September is usually this busy, as the holiday season is drawing closer every day, add the fact that school went back already. Early in the morning the shopping centers are expecting first hour shoppers, students throng the line of cafes for their morning coffee top up and vehicles are congested in terminals.
Jimin is pacing across his studio, oblivious of the busy movement outside the four walls of the studio. He came in earlier than usual, as he woke up earlier than usual too. With no memory of how he got home last night, he is now trying his best to retrace his steps.
He knows he went to drink with Kim Taehyung. He thinks he had so much to drink and must've passed out. It's actually not the how's that is bothering him, it's more like what’s. What did he do this time? What embarrassing thing did he do in front of Kim Taehyung? More than how he got home safe and sound, he is worried he might've done something to scare Taehyung away. He can't let that happen so he needs to know, so he can apologize the next time.
Jimin halts and chews the inside of his cheeks, something he does when agitated. He's about to start biting his nails when a knock disturbs his train of thought. He whirls around and is quite disappointed when he sees someone else standing at the doorway.
The man has black hair and is wearing a black coat over his black and white plaid shirt and jeans. Jimin notes it's something Taehyung would never wear. It reeks of jerk energy.
"What do you want?" Jimin groans as he sits on a stool.
The man walks inside and looks at the blank canvas in front of Jimin. He then says, "Art block? You're in a ditch, hyung! I pity you."
"Jeon Jungkook, I think I don't need to hear that from you." Jimin dryly answers.
The younger guy laughs wholeheartedly then says, "I take from you."
"What, still can't write anything?"
"Yeah. It's been six months, I'm tired." Jungkook groans as he sits on a stool near Jimin.
Jimin picks up his pallete and starts mixing colors. He then says, "Sit straight. Or pose any way you want. I'll paint you for a minimum fee."
"Make it for free, hyung. I still haven't sold any of my works." Jungkook whines.
Jimin doesn't hold back a roll of his eyes, he even emphasizes it. He then says, "Pay me by installment."
"Whatever. Just hurry up!"
Jungkook starts thinking of a pose, each time the next is worse than the first. In the end, Jimin tells him to just sit still. Then Jimin starts putting paint on the canvas, experimenting with colors and hues until he gets the desired effect.
"Hyung, why don't you go abroad?" Jungkook asks suddenly.
"Don't talk. I'm drawing your lips now." He can paint things by memory, he just wants Jungkook to shut up.
"But hyung, you're really talented. You're a good painter." Jungkook struggles speaking with his lips half closed, his words a little incomprehensible.
Jimin doesn't look at him and focuses on the detail he's putting on the lips. He says, "We talked about this already."
"I know, but—"
"Why did you come here? I'm sure you didn't pay a visit just to look at my work." Jimin distracts Jungkook.
"Oh, yeah. I want to give you something. I have tickets for Not BTS. But sadly, I need to work that night. So you want to come instead?" Jungkook asks.
"Jungkook, I'll give you this painting for free."
"Yes! I knew you would say that. Anyways, I'm giving you two since my friend doesn't want to go without me. You can ask someone to go with you. Isn't that fantastic?" Jungkook says proudly.
Jimin only shakes his head, for he already has someone in mind. He hopes that it's enough for an apology for whatever he did he's not sure about.
October 10, 2013
Yoongi is pacing back and forth, his footsteps heavy and agitated. Taehyung watches him quietly as he sits on the recliner. They haven't said a single word after Taehyung relied what has been happening lately, Yoongi's disappearance three days from now and the gem not working when it should have.
Finally, Yoongi halts and asks, for the nth time, "Are you sure about this? Because I haven't done anything to change the timeline. I've been really careful."
"I wouldn't be here if I'm wrong, hyungnim."
"You're right." Yoongi continues pacing.
Tired of everything, Taehyung leans back on the recliner and closes his eyes. He thought he was close, he thought he could finally rest at ease. Turns out, he'll be having even more headache than he already had.
"What about the gem, hyung?"
"It's the right one, I'm sure. The day of the robbery, it was one of the displays. It should've brought you directly there." Yoongi crosses his arms.
There's one more rule in time travelling to the past. When creating a new rift to a date a traveler has never visited before and is far from his present, he needs to have something which has a strong connection to that date— an object present in that time or a person.
For years, Taehyung has been searching for the right object which can connect him to May 9, 2001. But all these years, his search has been in vain. It's a tough task, after all. He's not just looking for a simple thing present in that time, it also has to have some sort of an imprint, a significance in that time period. They believed the ruby has that significance, a gem which used to be on display in the museum. But when Taehyung ended up in the right place at the wrong time, he knew they were wrong all this time. Just thinking of it hurts his head.
"Anyway, hyung. Don't do anything that might really change the timeline. Listen to your tapes or whatever. Just make sure you'll be there when I look for you, October 13. Got it?" Taehyung stands up and pats down his jeans.
Yoongi brushes up his black hair and nods as he says, "I'll definitely see you there."
Taehyung taps his hyung's shoulder then waves goodbye. He walks to the door and outside the old power plant.
The air is chillier than usual. Taehyung's scarf and coat did little to shelter him from the bitter cold. According to the news, there's going to be a storm. The afternoon will be wet and windy, something Taehyung never really liked. Wrapping up his scarf over his mouth, Taehyung joins the sea of people in the streets away from the old industrial area.
"How old are you, though?" Jimin asks as he walks side by side with Taehyung, his hands buried in popcorn. They're on their way to the arena where Not BTS is performing.
Taehyung is sipping on a cup of coke, his free hand inside his coat pocket. He answers, "I'm 24."
"Really? You're my hyung then!" Jimin says, his pitch higher than usual because he's a little too excited.
Taehyung chuckles and says, "I'm not. In 2018, you'll be 24 too."
"And you'll be 26. Accept it, you're my hyung." Jimin nudges Taehyung with his elbow.
Taehyung gives him a mischievous smile, as if he knows a funny secret that he will never tell Jimin. He then says, "Call me hyung, then."
Jimin refuses though, as he doesn't like giving Taehyung the authority. He then jokes, "That’s why you're taller than me."
"Isn't it because you're really short for your age?"
"I'm not short! You're just tall." Jimin pouts.
Taehyung puts his hand on top of Jimin's head and ruffles his hair. He teases, "Okay, you're not that short. It's probably just a few centimeters. Cheer up."
The concert will be held in the Jamsil Stadium. Already, the crowd is getting thicker every second as it's only a few hours before the concert starts. It gets even more crowded as they walk closer to the entrance. There are people in queue to get inside, some are just passing by and there are others who are selling extra tickets. Excited, Jimin walks ahead of Taehyung.
Suddenly, a crippling fear gets hold of Taehyung. It grows bigger as he sees Jimin disappearing among the sea of people. He tries to call out but his voice is lost among the collective noise in the venue. His insides are in a chaos, there's a lump in his throat that he can't swallow no matter how hard he tries to. His heart is beating too fast, his tear ducts sting with tears threatening to fall.
He remembers this feeling too well. It's the same when he saw Jimin's lifeless body inside the ruined car for the first time and the long days which followed, when he stood in front of the wreckage so helpless and lost and walked aimlessly around until the reality sunk in. This is his very own, customized phobia. He's sure that it will haunt him every time he loses Jimin, temporarily or for good.
A warm hand touches his own, zapping him back to his body. Jimin is looking up at him, worry is etched on his small face.
"Taehyung. Are you okay? Do you feel nauseous?" Jimin asks, concern laced his words.
Taehyung struggles to smile but only manages a faint one. He blinks the tears away. He then takes Jimin's hand which is still holding his, intertwines their fingers and smiles again. He says, "Don’t go anywhere."
Jimin smiles, the kind which brightens up his face and the world itself. He nods and says, "I won't. Let's go."
"They did so well! J-hope is the best! But Suga killed me with his tongue technology. And Jin! Oh my god, I won't be able to sleep. Did you enjoy it?"
The concert is finally over and people are now leaving the stadium. Everyone is filled with high spirits after the show, the air is almost electric. Like the others, Jimin is visibly ecstatic. He's like a kid when excited, jumping around and clenching his fist and basically being an adorable twenty year old.
Taehyung can't help but smile. He says, "The guy called V is good. And RM."
"I know! Did you see V harmonize with Jin, Christian and Justin? They're like angels singing praise. I think I'm going to cry." Jimin wipes some tears from his eyes.
"Do you want to go next time too? They said they're coming back soon."
Jimin claps his hands rather cutely then says, "of course! We'll go, okay? You can't say no, you can't bail out!"
"Of course. But in the meantime, should we eat something?"
"Now that you mention it, I'm starving." Jimin joins Taehyung on a walk.
Taehyung checks his wristwatch then says, "how about meat? I know a place."
The two walk side by side, occasionally asking each other things and casually talking about everything. That's the thing with Jimin. He's always been easy to talk to. He doesn't push, he patiently waits for people to open up for him while pouring himself out for the other person to feel comfortable. It's one of the most endearing things about him, also one of the many reasons why Taehyung is so bewitched by him. When he's with Jimin, he's not in much hurry.
"Taehyung. You see, I don't remember what happened when I got drunk last time. Did I do something remotely embarrassing?" Jimin opens up as he watches Taehyung grill meat.
Taehyung stays silent, worrying Jimin even more. Then, as if unbothered, Taehyung answers, "you kept saying my lips are nice and that you want to kiss me."
Blood rushes up Jimin's head, his face turns beet red. He then stammers, "Did I, really?"
"You won't shut up about it." Taehyung is now cutting meat with a pair of scissors.
"I'm sorry, I was drunk. But don't get me wrong! It's true. I mean, it's not like it was a lie, just, I would have said that even when I'm not drunk and oh my god, I'm making things worse, right?" Jimin blurts out, stammering due to embarrassment.
Finally, Taehyung chuckles and says, "I get it, I get it. Now eat your food before it gets cold. We'll talk about kissing later."
Jimin shuts his mouth and looks the other way, his neck red from all the embarrassing things he said. Sometimes, he just hates his mouth.
Jimin, now that he knows what happened, can't stop thinking about it or the possibilities which lay before him like a vast field of green. He barely knows Kim Taehyung, only shared a few meals and coffee with him. But he wonders why it's so easy to be comfortable around the guy, what exactly about Taehyung puts him at ease? Why does he like Taehyung already? He hopes he's not being easy.
Jimin watches Taehyung cook the remaining meat, a shot glass of soju in his hand. Taehyung is straightforward, his interest doesn't wane and he has so much patience. He's sincere.
There's something melancholic about Kim Taehyung though. His eyes are always warm and glassy as if at the verge of tears. His figure is slouching as if weary and spent and his voice? It's always so soft and often shaky. But then he always catches himself doing it, being so vulnerable, and he composes himself. He straightens up his posture and maybe pretends to be perfectly fine. But still, the melancholy in his eyes can't be faked. Jimin is a good observant and this is what he realized after watching Taehyung closely.
Jimin wonders what scares Taehyung, what throws this steadfast man off-guard. Jimin aches to know his secrets. Jimin wants to know it all. He wants to unravel Kim Taehyung. He wants to kiss him.
And no, it's not the alcohol talking this time.
September 10, 2016
There are three things Taehyung hates about Yoongi. One, the older guy doesn't have respect for privacy. Two, he sleeps like a bear hibernating. And three, he nags. Like, a lot. Yoongi is such a mom whenever he finds out Taehyung did something, wrong or just plain inconvenient for them. Like what he's doing now, he hovers annoyingly until he proves his point.
Taehyung plops down on the leather couch and hides his face under his left arm, trying to dodge Yoongi's attacks. But then, he can't filter what he hears. Yoongi is saying, "How many times do I have to tell you that you can't keep meeting someone from the past!"
"I heard you, hyung. Please drop it."
"What? Drop it?"
Taehyung sighs in frustration, then argues, "Yeah, I won't listen anyway."
"Ouch, my chest. I think I'm having a heart attack."
Taehyung drops his arm and stares at the ceiling, not even feeling annoyed anymore. He just stares. Then he starts saying, "do you remember what you told me about your tapes? And how recording them, keeping them and tracking your jumps, makes this abnormal ability manageable? It's as much normal as you can get. Seeing this person is like recording your tapes, hyung."
"What are you trying to say?"
Taehyung finally looks at Yoongi, who is now sitting on his recliner just a few feet away from the leather couch. He says, "Whenever I come to see him, it's as if I'm in my present. Like I'm part of his timeline. It feels normal."
Yoongi opens his mouth to say something but closes them again. He watches Taehyung for a while, who also looks at him. They look at each other for what seems like a long time but actually, it only stretched for five seconds. A mutual understanding passes between them, quiet yet so sure.
Then, Yoongi changes the subject. Maybe it's one thing which makes it up to all the three things Taehyung hates. He's considerate once you prove your point.
Yoongi says, "what about that other thing you're working hard for? Any updates?"
"I'm thinking maybe I should let it go."
"What? All of the times we risked our lives, you're throwing all of those away?" Yoongi doesn't sound angry. He just can't believe what he's hearing.
"I'm sorry. But the gem we found was the last straw. I guess I returned to September 4 to tell you that." Taehyung sits up and ruffles his hair.
"Okay, do what you want. I just can't believe you're letting it go just like this." Yoongi shrugs.
"I'm sure that if I am meant to know what I want to know, it'll come around. Right?" Taehyung taps his legs then stands up. He adds, "I'll get going now. I promised to meet him today."
"You jerk." Yoongi shakes his head in amazement. Is this really his friend who used to hate human interaction?
"See you later."
"Wait, you haven't told me his name!" Yoongi calls Taehyung who is almost gone.
Taehyung looks back and says, "Park Jimin."
The face Taehyung had that day would forever be tattooed on Yoongi's mind. For the first time since he met the guy, he looked alive.
"You had a sugar daddy?" The words sound a thousand more absurd aloud. Now that's a first, this is new information for Taehyung as someone who's meeting Jimin for the third rewind.
Jimin shrugs, licking ice cream off his small fingers. He then adds, "two, actually."
Taehyung feels headache coming as he remembers the time some middle aged man approached Jimin, back during their very first interactions. He had denied knowing the man back then.
"Do you mean, why did I need a sugar daddy or why I don't have one now?" Jimin asks. Taehyung just shrugs as a reply, allowing Jimin to continue, "to answer the first question: I was curious. And a little foolish. I was eighteen and I needed money to pay rent and because I didn't want to ask my parents since I ran away in the first place, I took part-time jobs. It was enough, thank god. But a friend mentioned an easy way to get some cash: Befriend a rich man and milk him. No pun intended. I wasn't really in desperate need of money since I already paid my rent. So I was just curious. 'How reliable is this method?' and 'Did I really have to work my ass off?' I told my friend I would try it, then he introduced me to a rich man around forties. It was fun at first. Then it got boring. So I quit."
"Just like that?"
"Yeah. What, did you think I'd lost a toe? No, I got out of it whole. And with a few Gucci outfits in my wardrobe." Jimin chuckles, still licking his ice cream cone. Taehyung, though, doesn't buy it.
"What about the second one?"
"The second..." Jimin is about to say something when he suddenly halts and scrutinizes Taehyung. He looks at Taehyung through slit eyes and says, "You’re taking advantage of me right now just because I've got some drinks."
"You initiated the talk, Park Jimin." Taehyung raises his hands in mock surrender.
"I swear I'm not drunk." Jimin throws the cone to a trash bin then starts walking again. He continues, "The second sugaring was on purpose. It's about two years ago? Yeah, I think I'm right. Well, the studio was about to close up because I can't afford the rent—" he stretches his hands wide open— "I was at the edge of the world, broke as hell and too young and inexperienced to get a decent permanent job. And believe me, when you're at the edge of the world, nothing seems to scare you—" he climbs up a bench and jumps off— "you feel like you can do everything right that moment. Because nothing can break you more than how you're already broken. Nothing can make you happy, ever. Nothing is holding you back, anchoring you to the world—" he skips with his hands flailing, Taehyung struggles to keep up—" When you're at the edge of everything, you feel invisible. It only lasts for a moment, though—" he finally stops, his back facing Taehyung— "because right after comes the peace. Literally, nothing is in your head. Nothing. The universe mutes out. You're atomic. So fearless and numb that you don't realize you're pressing a blade against your bare skin and the next time you open your eyes, you're in a hospital room and homeless."
Taehyung realizes Jimin's shoulders are shaking. He thinks he heard a sob. Unable to listen further, Taehyung pulls Jimin's wrist from behind, turning Jimin in one swift motion. Sure enough, he has tears running down his face. It breaks Taehyung to see him this vulnerable, to know pain has been inflicted on this small boy. Jimin struggles to breathe in between hiccups building up.
Taehyung says, "Stop. You don't have to talk."
"No," Jimin tries to compose himself, to control the overwhelming emotions trying to take over him. He's done this a thousand times and won a thousand times. He shakes free from Taehyung's hold on his face and wipes his tears himself. He adds, "He was a gentle man, had one kid about my age. I met him in the hospital. He took care of my bills and even saved the studio. Then he died from cancer six months later. You can say what we had was platonic. I guess that answers the second question. I couldn't bring myself to use someone else right after the last one saved me."
Is this why you have cuts under your sleeves? Is this why you always tug your sleeves down? Because you're hiding your scars? Taehyung wants to ask because he never knew, not when they first met and not even the second. Suddenly, he feels so small and the world is so big.
"I'm sorry for asking." Taehyung really feels horrible. How can he be so insensitive? He even thought the idea is absurd. He just wants to hit himself against a rock or something.
Jimin shakes his head and says, "don't. I'm glad I told you. Does it bother you though? Me having past relationships with old men?"
“No. I don’t feel bothered at all. Actually, I am impressed right now. Not everyone can go through the same struggles in life and talk about it. You’re brave, Jimin.”
“I’m scared of frogs, just so you know.”
Taehyung stops dead in his tracks as he realizes a lot of things have changed. It's like he's meeting Jimin for the first time again, like it's all brand new. He actually meant to rush things when he showed up in front of Jimin that day but now, he thinks taking time is as sure as going along with the plan. Because this is all new to Jimin and is beginning to become new to him too.
Taehyung watches Jimin's back as the latter keeps walking. His figure still looks small from this vantage point, something Taehyung always found endearing. His curves are well defined by the black turtleneck tucked in the black jeans that he's wearing, flaunting his slim body. Jimin crosses his arms, the strap of his messenger bag falling loosely over his shoulder. His steps are small and light, matching the beat of the music from the cafe whose doors just swung open. Taehyung also notices the good old tilting of head Jimin does when he hears music.
Taehyung can't help but smile at these little things. He feels his heart calm down, like it's finally settling down after all the heartaches and fear. Jimin can still make him feel this way, huh? Maybe some things will never really change.
Taehyung jogs to catch up with Jimin. Then he gently pulls Jimin to a stop, who then turns around confused. Taehyung smiles and proceeds to take off his overcoat. Before Jimin can even refuse, he quickly puts it over Jimin's shoulders as he says, "you're wearing close to nothing. I'm afraid you'll catch a cold."
"What about you?" Jimin is looking at him.
Taehyung tugs at the collar of his hoodie and says, "I still have this. Let's just hurry up and go home."
"Where do you live?" Jimin suddenly asks as they start walking again, wrapping the coat around his shoulders tightly.
Taehyung fights the urge to say the truth that he, or rather the Taehyung from 2016, doesn't live here but in Japan. He simply answers, "Somewhere nice."
"Is it far?" Jimin wonders aloud.
"Would you like to sleep at my house?"
Jimin's house is exactly how Taehyung remembers it. The front door is made of wood and painted with brown varnish, hanging on its frame are vines of some kind of a flower. The small porch is adorned with small pots of plants, some are flowering and some are greens. From outside, you can see that the window sills are decorated with succulents. There's a rag by the door with the words: Welcome, you are with family. Taehyung secretly smiles at the memory of why it's Jimin's rag, when he lives alone.
The interior of the house is also the same from Taehyung's memory. From the door, you'll see the stairs at the other side of the room. The living room is a mess of blank and painted canvases, some easels lined the walls, paint cans are piled at one side and a wooden table is placed in the middle with tons and tons of brushes. Right beside the stairs is another door, which he remembers goes to the kitchen. He knows the kitchen is nothing less than untidy.
"I didn't have time to clean up," Jimin is obviously embarrassed of all his mess. He then adds, "There’s an unused room upstairs. If you want to take a rest immediately. The bathroom is in the kitchen down there. Make yourself at home."
The atmosphere is silent, as if the house is bracing itself. Taehyung just nods as Jimin climbs up the stairs and disappears up the threshold, letting go of the coat Taehyung lent to him on the stair's railings. Alone, Taehyung decides to look around.
The smell of dried paint fills Taehyung with nostalgia. He remembers how he stood right where he's standing now in a different timeline and he wonders why it feels like it was all just a dream. He starts thinking of so many things at the moment, he thinks of Jimin from all three timelines and he wills himself to think of the accident. Because he can't afford to be fooled that Jimin will be okay, that everything was just a nightmare. It wasn't just a dream, he tells himself.
Suddenly, Taehyung can't swallow. Fear is starting to eat him whole again. The room seems to squeeze in, the walls are drawing closer. He forces himself to stay upright as he stumbles to the stairs and up. He knows he has to see Jimin.
Taehyung even with the panic attack still manages to have some decency and knock on the door. His third knock is cut when the door swings open, revealing Jimin still wearing his turtleneck. Jimin is looking at him with concern in his big eyes.
Embarrassed, Taehyung leans on the door's frame to calm down. He then says, without looking at Jimin, "I'm going home, after all."
Something crosses Jimin's face. Disappointment? Taehyung hopes so. He then shrugs, "okay."
"See you later. Good night." Taehyung turns around to leave but is stopped when Jimin shots out a hand and grabs his arm.
"Taehyung!" Jimin hurriedly says. When Taehyung looks back, Jimin is looking away. He slowly continues, "Will you at least stay until I fall asleep?"
"How would I know you're asleep?"
"Watch over me, I guess." Jimin is almost fusing with the door frame. He's grateful of the darkness because he's sure his face looks like a tomato when under the light.
Taehyung just says, "Okay."
Jimin leads Taehyung to his double sized bed, kicking a swivel chair out of the way while he's at it. The only light in the room is from the small window right above Jimin's bed, it did little to shine light into the dark room. But Taehyung doesn't even need to look around the room, or have a need for any light source, since he still remembers it like the back of his hand. If blessed with the right skills, he can draw it with his eyes closed.
In the darkness, it's like his eyes can see the wooden dresser next to Jimin's bed and the brown shiny cabinet a few feet away from the bed's foot. He's also sure there will be a full-body sized mirror just beside the door if ever light shines in the room. But despite of the room being devoid of light, Taehyung still looks at the painting just above the window, or at least seeks for it where he knows it will be like reflex. Obviously, the darkness is too deep he can only make up the edges of the frame.
Jimin is already laying down on his bed, a blanket is draped over him. Unsure of what to do, Taehyung hesitantly sits at the edge of the bed. The metal brace creaks in protest as Taehyung shifts to find a comfortable position then finally settles down with his legs crossed and him putting weight on his left hand.
The moonlight shines a sapphire-like tint on Jimin's otherwise honey colored skin. His eyes, droopy from all the activities they've done for the day, are shining as they pin themselves on Taehyung. His hair sticking up and a mess. Taehyung suddenly feels the strong urge to ruffle Jimin's hair, to touch Jimin's cheek and to kiss his forehead but he's been fighting urges for far too long that he's become an expert at it. He just wills himself not to do it. He's learned to shut it out.
Jimin rolls to his side and stares at the clenched hand of his company inches from his nose. Jimin whispers in the dark, "You have huge hands."
Taehyung cocks an eyebrow as he unclenches his hand to see but is surprised when Jimin snatches it, intertwines their hands and tucks it under his chin. He smiles contently and says, "I like it."
"It feels familiar. Like I've been holding it since forever. Weird, right?" Jimin's thumb is tracing circles on Taehyung's knuckle, making Taehyung chuckle at a memory yet again.
"Not at all. I feel the same." Is what he tells Jimin. Because he's a time traveler and he's really been holding Jimin's hand for forever, is what he doesn't.
"Kim Taehyung. Tell me one thing and please be honest, yeah?"
"Okay. I'll try."
"Should I trust you?" Jimin asks. His eyes a bit glassy as they watch his fingers tracing circles.
Taehyung takes a moment to answer. He weighs his options, as if Jimin's question wants him to seriously do so, and is suddenly caught between telling Jimin the truth and going for a white lie. It's the nature of humans, to always find themselves in a crossroad and to always create a crossroad. But humans always try to lie.
Taehyung clears his throat and answers, "I want you to trust me completely."
"Okay. I'll trust you then." Suddenly, Jimin is sitting up.
The next thing Taehyung knows, Jimin is on his lap straddling him. His arms are wrapped around Taehyung's neck and he's kissing Taehyung. Lips against lips. They're kissing. Or rather Taehyung is still as a stone as Jimin kisses him.
A lot of thoughts wreak havoc in Taehyung's head, most are about how happy he feels at the moment. Some are more logical, worrying and nagging about the future. But he decides to focus on just one thing, the overwhelming emotions trying to break free through tears. His body suddenly has a mind of its own.
Succumbing to the sadness and longing that's been eating him, Taehyung kisses Jimin back. His hand slides up to Jimin's nape, the other on the small of his back. Jimin's hands are now clutching the sleeves of Taehyung's hoodie. Taehyung feels like he's burning, like wildfire. Suddenly, his heart which is mourning until a minute ago because of Jimin's deaths seems to have been appeased. He feels blood coursing through his veins again, his world is not crumbling and the stars in the universe existing again and a little bit aligned.
Jimin on the other hand feels lightheaded. He feels soft lips against his, hot breath on his skin and the stars inside him aligning like it's forming a new constellation just for them. It sounds cliché but that's what the kiss feels like. It's gentle, warm and sweet. Then it becomes more intense, maybe needy is the term. Passionate. Hungry.
The kiss deepens, as if it's seeking something. A release. Jimin feels it as he wounds his arms around Taehyung's neck. He feels fear, not his but Taehyung's. Pent-up rage, sadness and raw pain is pouring out. He struggles to answer, to wrap Taehyung in a tight embrace, to protect him.
Taehyung is the first to break the kiss, only to close the gap again. This time, he kisses Jimin softly. He tries to, at least.
Moments later, they remain in each other's personal space, simply holding each other. Jimin's hands are on Taehyung's arms and his head sleepily laying on Taehyung's shoulder. Taehyung's arms are locked around Jimin's slim waist, his head leaning on the other's shoulder.
Outside the window, the sky is dark and sprinkled with bright stars, the moon is suddenly nowhere to be found. Jimin finally sits up straight, he looks at Taehyung in the shadows. In the darkness, Taehyung can barely make up Jimin's face so he tries to trace it with his fingers. It sends shivers down Jimin's spine.
"Jimin." Taehyung whispers, his breath touching Jimin's face.
Jimin smiles and whispers back, "yeah?"
"Park Jimin." Taehyung simply answers.
Jimin can't help but giggle as he asks again, "what?"
"I can't lose you again. Not again." Taehyung's voice sounds so sad and broken, like he's about to cry.
Worried, Jimin says, "but I never went anywhere. And I'm not going anywhere."
Taehyung doesn't say anything. He just pulls Jimin closer, burying his head on Jimin's chest. He tries to listen to Jimin's heartbeat, prays to the heavens that it will not stop this time and hopes that this timeline will be a little kinder to them.
A single tear escapes his eye.
September 16, 2016 | First Timeline
Park Jimin is a beautiful anomaly, a wrench in the system. It's wrong and not ideal to associate himself with a fragment of the past, not certain what he's altering in the future. But Park Jimin makes Kim Taehyung feel perfect in his own imperfections, he's the pin Taehyung will always look for on the incomplete map. Like what he said to Yoongi, Park Jimin is his own dose of normal.
He is pretty much the only thing keeping Taehyung from hating this freaky ability. Park Jimin is his own customized pocket watch with all its clockwork and whenever he wills to, he feels time stop.
Taehyung never thought he'd stumble across the Time Warden, again.
He was just admiring the night skyline of the city one evening, perched on the hospital's rooftop like some sort of a bird, when the hair on his nape started to tingle. He felt the air in an empty space just a few feet away from him warping, distorting around a certain place and meeting again on the other side—a sign of a rift being cut through.
Taehyung should've bolted but he didn't think it was someone uninvited because after all, he was meeting Yoongi right there. So he waited and it was already too late when a man wearing a black suit passed through. It was the Time Warden tracking Taehyung down since they encountered two weeks ago.
Now, the man is looking at him with pure delight on his face. His eyes are glinting under the moonlight. He starts pacing back and forth and says, "What a pleasant surprise. A fine night, is it not?"
"And you had to ruin it."
"Aren't you curious as to why I am here? Or 'how' I am here?" His hands are clasped in from of him.
"You're a horrible friend, Kim Taehyung." The warden muses. He clucks his tongue and says, "Min Yoongi will be very displeased."
"I have no time to worry about some grandpa. Just know that you, on the other hand, should have enough time if you stop the chitchat now." Taehyung says.
"Time for what?" The man cocks his head to the side.
Taehyung gives him a sinister smile. The Time Warden understands too late. Just as he is taking a step forward, Taehyung jumps into the air and off the building. He's free falling.
The look on the warden's face is crestfallen as he has nothing else to do but peek over the ledge of the rooftop and watch as Kim Taehyung falls down a 65 floor building.
"What an imbecile." The Time Warden, whose name is Kim Seokjin, mutters under his breath.
November **, 2018 | Present Day
It was a close call. Taehyung almost didn't manage to warp through time when he jumped off the rooftop. He remembers almost peeing his pants when he realized he'd already passed by half of the building, his ears popping due to the air pressure and his senses going overdrive. He thought he was going to smash against concrete in the end, his face unrecognizable and his brain scattered. But fortunately for him, this is no horror movie.
Taehyung was able to create a rift back to 2018, to his present day. He just wished he didn't fall on a picnic table outside a 90s style restaurant, right where people could see him and wonder where the heck he came from.
Now, Taehyung is heading back home. He takes the bus at the station and sits right at the back, where a whole line of empty seats is waiting for him. And as if angels in the skies announced his arrival, his phone rings. Jung Hoseok is calling.
"What?" Kim Taehyung listlessly answers the phone.
"Taehyungie, where are you?"
Taehyung leans back and closes his eyes. He answers, "On my way home. Why?"
"Great! Then you can drop by the convenience store and grab some—"
"Hyung, it might only have been a few hours since we last saw each other for you but that's not the case for me. I lived four days straight without taking a wink. I'm tired and I'm sleepy. Okay?" Taehyung pleads in between groans as he massages his hips which took the brunt of the fall.
There's a laugh at the other side. Hoseok then says, "I get it, I get it. Just go home safely then. Food is waiting for you."
Hoseok hangs up without further questions. He's that hyung, the one who doesn't ask and just nods and looks the other way. For the past two years that they've known each other, he never really asked. The little things he now knows are just what Taehyung willingly tells him, things that get to squeeze themselves between casual conversations. Taehyung hopes he would be curious though because it's unfair that he just chooses to understand when he has the right to be frustrated with being kept in the dark.
Jung Hoseok knows Taehyung's ability, he thinks it's cool but bothersome. He knows Taehyung is always meeting a person from the past but doesn't know that it's already the third timeline that Taehyung is changing. He knows how time traveling works but still pretends he doesn't as if it normalizes everything. In short, Jung Hoseok sticks to the norm. Not because he's in denial. It's just that sometimes, when you can't do anything other than watch, it's better to just close your eyes.
Time travelling is like going against the flow of a river, by doing so you're creating a rift in the water and you slide in to a different part. This phenomena alters the water behind you, changing it forever. Jung Hoseok understands that and he only has one wish for Kim Taehyung— when something that needs to be done will change the course of the river, he must always make sure they will meet. No matter what.
Taehyung has his eyes closed the whole bus trip. The chill of mid-November touches his cheeks, a promise of a cold holiday season. There's nothing much to anticipate when December is drawing near, it's just a month filled with jingling of bells and Santa Claus decorations which is something Taehyung never really liked. He prefers the silence and calm it brings though, as if the world has decided to be kind to each other for a moment.
As if a thought woken by the idea of festivities getting closer, Taehyung suddenly thinks of D-day. October 13. He thinks of pale skin, crimson red blood, pale cheeks which used to be so pink the color itself is ashamed, and the smell of burning asphalt. He feels his chest ache, figurative hands crushing it. The world may want the time to tick faster, for December to arrive already, but Taehyung dreads it.
You're not gonna make it. He will die, a venomous voice purrs in his head, spitting acid and licking his gut.
He won't, is what he tells it. The voice cackles in derision, yet withdraws into the depths of his consciousness.
Their plan this time is foolproof. Taehyung has played a thousand scenarios in his head that it's already etched permanently there, like a book ready to be read in just a flip of a page. There are times that he wakes up and instantly replays it like some part of a morning routine he won't miss. He has done it for months that he's started calling it the Jimin routine to Yoongi's distaste.
Sometimes he would get caught spacing out, his consciousness wandering around this small corner in his head, a corner where he set up his own stage where he reenacts everything he has to do. He's more there than in his physical body.
Often times, at the edge of a breakdown, he lulls himself back to composure by thinking of the plan. Nothing will go wrong, he will say. Jimin will live, he will pray.
But kissing Jimin isn't part of the plan, not even close. Now he's troubled, scared even. He let himself lose sight of it, got swayed by his desire to touch Jimin like he always did, and now who's suffering?
Taehyung hasn't seen Jimin for four days. He made sure of that, even though he knows Jimin is probably worried nuts about him not showing up and even if it meant his heart choking him every second of every day.
This is the right thing to do. Taehyung recites this like a mantra. Each utterance fainter than the last.
But his mind is a jerk. It always finds a way to pull out the memory of Jimin's lips on his, even during irrelevant moments. Sometimes, in the fleeting lull of a lazy afternoon, he surrenders and lets himself think of it, of Jimin entirely.
Taehyung thinks of Jimin's pink plump lips, the dusting of pink across his cheeks and his big eyes and his personal brand of warmth the kind which you'd only find in him. There's something about him which dulls his surroundings, making the beholder only see him. This realization hurts Taehyung almost physically, knowing that Jimin is still dead in this time. There's no Jimin with his pink cheeks, no Jimin with the warmth of all the stars in the sky and no Jimin with his eyes which always sees the beauty in all things.
There have been close calls, nagging voices— unreasonable surges of longing and sadness, of a want so aggressive it almost hurts to rationalize and to not run back to Jimin and just hold him close until his love alone can keep him safe. For four days, he's managed to control himself.
Yoongi had asked him once these exact words, "What are you afraid of?"
"What do you mean?" He asked back.
Yoongi stared at him, not blinking at all. Then he finally sighed and said, "You kissed. Big deal."
"You don't know what you're talking about. It's more than just a kiss." Taehyung said, no tone of annoyance was laced in his words. His day had been really long and dragging he didn't really feel anything at all.
"Yeah? Tell me what else was there other than your tongues embracing each other like heated dogs in summer." Yoongi cocked an eyebrow. Taehyung sank deeper in the recliner, a sigh escaping his mouth. Normally he would've retaliated with words equally disgusting but this time, he didn't.
"Do you know what it feels like to write a bullet journal so organized that you just want to follow the damned thing but then something happens, something unforeseen and completely unconventional has to be added in between two entries, which ruins the whole plan? Suddenly, you don't want to do it anymore." Taehyung asked listlessly, his mind starting to drift away.
"Taehyung," Yoongi called, his voice gentler this time. He then added, "You never used journals."
"You always find a way to ruin the moment which isn't surprising anymore." Taehyung found himself smiling a little. He then got serious again as he continued, "Yes, I'm afraid. Of what? Of throwing the whole plan to chaos. What if from here on, if I listen to what my heart is telling me, the plan gets ruined?"
"But you're hurting Jimin. By not showing up at all, you're already hurting him."
"I know." Taehyung groaned in remorse.
"I haven't even met him. Or he hasn't even met me. Whatever."
"Taehyung, what day is it now?" Yoongi asked.
Taehyung had to count in his fingers before saying, "it's the 21st."
"In the second timeline, what happened in the 21st?"
Taehyung wasn't sure he remembered completely but there was a faint memory of Jimin and him, together with Jeon Jungkook, taking a stroll around the park near the intersection. He relied this to Yoongi, who then nodded thoughtfully.
"If you don't show up now, this Jeon Jungkook guy would take him away from you. And then he won't trust you anymore. Tell me, what do you think will you accomplish if that happens?" Taehyung looked at him, wide eyed. Yoongi just looked back, smug and proud of himself. He then adds, "Sometimes, you have to overcome fear with another fear. It doesn't matter if you kiss Jimin a thousand times, Taehyung. We're still going to save him. So go."
Jimin meant to slap Kim Taehyung. Slap him hard. Slap him like he's slapping him back to Joseon dynasty. He just didn't know when he would get the chance, he just knew he would do it. Until the asshole showed up in front of him with a hugeass bouquet of pink tulips, wearing a nice trench coat over a white dress shirt and black trousers with pencil-thin lines. He was wearing a necktie. He looked so damn good. Jimin meant to slap him.
But why are his legs so weak? Like his kneecaps have been swapped with jelly.
Kim Taehyung stares at him as he shifts from foot to foot at the door of the studio. He didn't think Yoongi would be able to convince him to do this but he was grateful all the same. He immediately went home that day, when he suddenly thought of Yoongi's advice on the bus home, took a shower and put on the best clothes he could find.
At the sight of Jimin standing in the middle of his studio, his heart leaps in delight and relief. Screw the impending punishment, staying away from Jimin was torture enough. Masochistic or whatever, Taehyung would take the brunt of Jimin's wrath any day.
Outside, a sheet of rain has started to pour. The sidewalk is wet and the glass windows of the studio are pelted with drops of water. The sound of the rain remains in the background, lulling Taehyung in a state of complete calmness and contentment.
Jimin cocks his head and crosses his arms. He says, "We’re closed for the day, mister."
"I know." Taehyung says meekly.
"Why are you here then?"
"Are you mad?" Of course, dumbass.
Jimin scoffs in disbelief as he says, "I'm not mad."
Taehyung wonders what it is with I'm not mad that makes a person seem mad.
"I'm sorry, Jimin."
"Don't, please. It makes me want to hit you more." Jimin clenches his fists.
Taehyung walks over to him, stopping only two steps away from Jimin. He says, "Hit me."
"Where were you? I've been—" Jimin pauses, trying to make sense of his own feelings as if they're not his own. He tends to do this, his pauses seem long and he seems distracted. Maybe because he has so much thoughts to think of, so much things that he must put in order. Maybe his thoughts come faster than his words. Finally, he stammers, "You know what, it doesn't matter. Forget whatever happened—"
"I don't want to do that." Taehyung says, a little frustrated with himself more than anything else. Jimin is lost, his eyes are starting to sting with impending tears.
"You don't mean that. You were gone for days. I don't—" Jimin almost throws his hands up but looks down instead. He murmurs, "I don't think you see me the way I see you, Kim Taehyung. So it shouldn't bother you."
Taehyung almost wants to jump off a cliff. Yoongi was right. If he didn't come to see Jimin sooner, it would've been too late.
Taehyung thinks of an approach, something which won't come across as half-assed and there's only one way he sees. He brandishes the bouquet in front of him and says, "Jimin, do you know what this color reminds me of? Your cheeks. I've been wanting to tell you that you have the pinkest cheeks I've ever seen. And it's beautiful."
There it is, the dusting of pink across his cheeks. Jimin looks away, his eyes looking at anything except Taehyung.
"You were gone. For days."
"I'm sorry." He really is.
"You should've stopped me before I did that, you know. If you're just going to ignore me—"
"I couldn't have done it, Jimin." Taehyung says tenderly, his insides tied in a knot. He steps closer as he says, "I would've done it myself if you hadn't."
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean."
"I don't. Tell me."
"I would've kissed you anyways." I would kiss you now.
Taehyung knows it's true. That night, he had been rendered so weak he would've ripped their clothes off if encouraged. He almost smiles at how animal he had become.
"You know why."
Jimin looks at Taehyung intently, his eyes almost bloodshot from holding back tears. He says, "Tell me."
"I admire you." He doesn't say anything more than that, he chooses not to.
"Then why did you not come? I was waiting." Jimin is at the verge of tears.
Taehyung steps closer, "I know. I'm sorry. I was trying to make sense of my feelings, to be honest."
"You're not sure?"
"I am now. And I'm sorry if I ever was doubtful." He wasn't. It is half lie. He was just scared. But he can't tell Jimin that, can he?
"Don't. I would've smacked you. I don't want to force you into something."
Taehyung does what he's been thinking of since the moment he arrived. He reaches up to touch Jimin's cheeks. He marvels at its ability to calm him, to put his heart at ease. He wonders if it will ever stop doing that. He's sure it's a no.
"You're really warm. I want to wrap myself in you." Taehyung suddenly says. It surprises him, as if he never really gave it much thought. Jimin is now as red as a tomato. Taehyung doesn't stop a chuckle, he gleefully lets it out. He then gestures towards the flowers and says, "Flowers?"
Taehyung always knew Jimin likes to paint portraits. It's quite endearing if he thinks about it. Jimin is the best at taking in detail, transforming emotions and senses into a burst of colors on a blank canvas and showing how he sees the object. It's like photography but more personal.
And like always, Jimin refuses to paint Taehyung. He already knows why but since he's already starting everything from scratch, he wants to share this conversation with Jimin. He just doesn't want everything to be as they used to, he wants more.
"You've painted your friends a dozen times. Why not me?" He sounds a little jealous, if he's being honest. Towards Jeon Jungkook, the friend he is yet to meet in this timeline.
Jimin had started a new piece just a moment ago. Taehyung resorted in sitting beside Jimin, watching his hand and his brush strokes closely. There's something special with seeing an artist's work in progress, the unfurling of an idea with a blast of pigments and imagination.
"You're not my friend so." Jimin cocks his head with a pause. He's doing it again, talking in intervals and tearing his words as if a thousand thoughts are happening in his head that he can't keep up. Finally, he says, "I don't want to paint you before I get the feeling that I really want to paint you. I want it to be special."
There. Delivered the way Taehyung remembers it. He internally smiles at the remembrance. He hopes that this time, they will get the chance to just sit across each other and look at each other as Jimin paints him and he admires the look in Jimin's eyes.
"When is the exhibit of your students?" He doesn't really need to ask though. He remembers.
"The exhibit? It's on October 13. You'll be there, right?" Jimin looks up from his painting.
Taehyung tastes something bitter in his mouth. He swallows it, hopes he didn't grimace, and says, "of course. I won't miss it for the world."
He thinks of it throughout the night, on the way to dinner and even on their way to Jimin's house. He thinks of it now that he's not with Jimin and he will think of it as he lay on his bed back in 2018. It's like a plague, no matter where he is he can't run from it.
He gets the urge to meet Yoongi, whichever Yoongi is available. And since he still doesn't know what happened to Yoongi in 2017, when the Time Warden barged in while Taehyung was waiting for Yoongi, he decides to meet the one in September 11, 2016.
A blink of an eye, a moment of pause and silence, then he's in the hideout. The warehouse is bursting with activity. There's a hum of a machinery, an indication that Yoongi is doing something again by the 3D printer. His car is sitting right where it should be, covered lazily by the same grey plastic. And for the nth time, Taehyung is standing on the recliner.
Sometimes, he finds it hard to warp. When this happens, he has to find a connection between the two dates which often happens to be the exact place itself. Taehyung can warp to Yoongi's hideout easily, during his best days at least.
"Hyung!" Taehyung calls out as he walks towards the noise.
Yoongi's head pops up behind a huge work table. His face is beaded with sweat and a look of frustration adorns his otherwise calm face.
"Taehyung. Why? I thought you're not going here until 4 in the afternoon. Wait, who am I talking to?"
"Kim Taehyung of November 12, 2018." Kim Taehyung answers as he walks to a stool and takes a sit.
"Oh, hi. Come give me a hand here."
Taehyung raises both hands as if to surrender. He says, "No. You look like a mess. I don't want to soil my clothes."
"Hyung, I have something to tell you."
"What?" Yoongi grumbles as he puts a stone under the table of the printer. He puts another to balance the table.
"Park Jimin died. In October 13."
There's a pause. Yoongi stops what he's doing for a second enough for the stone under the table to skid away. He finally gives up as he flops down on the ground.
Yoongi says, "what?"
"He died. I guess you don't know."
"Yeah, I haven't played my tapes for a week and as you can see I have too many." Yoongi answers, still surprised. He then snaps into focus and asks, "What happened?"
"Car accident. Both timelines."
"Wait, both timelines?"
"Yeah. I tried to save him once." Taehyung says.
"Jeez. Are you okay?"
Strange enough, Taehyung doesn't cry. He just feels the same aching in his chest, the kind where it seems like hands are crushing his heart.
"I'm working on it."
"What do you mean?"
Taehyung considers for a second. Then he answers, "I'm saving him again."
"That's fucked up."
"Do you need help?" Yoongi offers.
Taehyung shrugs and says, "Do you know how to stop a car accident, hyung? The first time, Jimin was a passenger of a cab which collided with a truck. The second, he was hit by the same cab."
"You have to find a way to stop that cab from killing him?"
"Why not keep him indoors, Taehyung?"
Taehyung rubs his face and says, "I've tried. I think I messed it up. I'm trying again this time but I'm not sure if it'll work the way I want it to."
"Taehyung, what if he's meant to die? Some things can't be changed." Yoongi asks reluctantly.
"You have no idea how many times you've told me that." Taehyung says.
"I don't know, Tae."
Taehyung doesn't want to hear that. He doesn't like it when Yoongi doesn't know.
September 4, 2016 | First Timeline
Taehyung is aimlessly walking around a cluster of shops near the shopping center when he stumbles upon an interesting store. It is set apart from everything else by its vintage exterior: The front windows, where a few paintings are displayed on easels, are made of glass, yes, but everything else is of varnished wood planks. The door is also made of strong wood, probably oak and the sign above the doorway reads Chroma in Hanja.
His interest piqued, he pushes the door open and goes inside revealing a small art gallery. The interior is much like the exterior, with lighter painted wood planks for walls and smooth marble for floor. On each face of the wall are five paintings hanged every two feet interval. There's a wooden bench at the farthest side to the left, right next to a counter with a small potted succulent placed close to the edge. On the ceiling, a black fan is spinning.
To his right, a door leads to an inner chamber. He takes a peek inside the room where it's bursting with activity. Kids of all ages are seated in front of easels, paint palettes and paint brushes in their small hands, as they listen to a guy standing in front.
The guy looks young, probably in his early twenties. He has brown hair which is swept downwards, giving him the innocent look. His skin is fair, with specks of pink on his cheeks. He's wearing a white apron over his black turtleneck but a few stray paints have already soiled his jeans. He speaks in snatches, often trips on his own words as he endearingly talks to the children. He's gorgeous, to say the least.
Suddenly, there's silence in the room and Taehyung realizes the guy is staring right back at him. The kids have also settled down and are watching him and their teacher. Taehyung feels his heart in his throat.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" The guy asks as he puts down his own pallete and walks over to Taehyung.
He stammers, "I just want to look around."
"Oh, I see."
"Is this your studio?" Taehyung finds himself asking.
"Yes, it is. I teach painting here. Do you have a kid you'd like to enroll to my class? Some parents find it beneficial." The guy asks, a friendly smile is etched on his pretty face.
"Oh, I don't. Not a parent yet or an uncle." Taehyung politely declines. He then adds, "Do you sell paintings too?"
"Not at the moment."
"Why? These pieces are beautiful." Taehyung gestures around the gallery. Then, he starts to think he's been overstaying his welcome. He says, "I must be bothering your class. I guess I'll be going now."
"Okay. See you around then."
"What's your name?"
Taehyung doesn't know what's gotten into him to ask such a personal question. The surprise is evident on the painter's face. To save his own, he smoothly says, "I have to know just in case I suddenly have a kid."
"Nice try." The guy smiles and then adds, "Park Jimin. And you are?"
"Well, I have to know the names of my students' parents." Jimin smirks.
Taehyung chuckles at this comeback. He replies, "Kim Taehyung."
"Nice to make your acquaintance, Kim Taehyung."
Damn, his smile is contagious.
Sometimes, Yoongi hits his head so hard he loses his rational thinking.
Taehyung decides to look for Yoongi, since his frequent disappearances have been troubling him lately. Freeing himself of all arrangements, he heads to Yoongi's hideout in the year 2017. Expectant, he's not disappointed when he finds the older guy in the warehouse.
Yoongi looks troubled than usual. He's already pacing back and forth when Taehyung arrives, not even noticing his company.
"Hyung." Yoongi jumps in surprise then eases up when he realizes it's just Taehyung. Taehyung frowns as he says, "you look bad."
"Yeah," Yoongi even acknowledges.
Taehyung scoffs and starts, "where were you anyway? You've been gone for, like, days!"
"Huh?" Yoongi asks absentmindedly. He adds, "I was just. Busy."
"Don't do that again, at least tell me if you can't make it to our meetings." Taehyung punches his shoulder. Then, he hears it. A soft, muffled sound. He asks, "Do we have company?"
"What? No. Why?"
"I can hear something." Taehyung says as he starts walking around the warehouse.
Yoongi sighs and says, "We do have company."
Yoongi motions for him to follow as he walks to the back of the warehouse. As they walk closer to the back, the sound grows louder. Yoongi stops by a curtain covering the corner near his 3D printers then draws it.
Taehyung gasps so loud he's sure he almost screamed. There is indeed a man with them in the hideout, a very dangerous and unfriendly man. It also doesn't help that Taehyung knows him. He's tied with ropes and his mouth taped close. His black suit is dusty and his necktie crooked. His eyes speak of murder.
"Meet my guest."
"Guest? You call him guest? When he looks like some kidnapping victim?" Taehyung yells in exasperation.
"He was trying to kill me."
"You don't kidnap a Time Warden, Min Yoongi. You just don't." Taehyung says incredulously.
"Can we just go past the lectures? Thank me instead. I found this bastard outside the studio." Yoongi crosses his arms as he looks at his captive with suspicious eyes. Taehyung looks at the warden, then back to Yoongi. Hesitantly, he sits down and reaches out to peel the duct tape off the man's face. Yoongi says, "I don't think that's a good i—"
"Let me go, you bastards! Sons of a b—" Taehyung sticks back the tape, cutting the warden's words. He keeps whimpering and groaning as he tries to head-butt Taehyung.
"How did you manage to kidnap this guy? He has shoulders double your size." Taehyung looks at the man and emphasizes next, "and a really loud mouth."
"I Tased him." Yoongi replies nonchalantly.
Yoongi cocks his head towards his workshop littered with disassembled Taser guns. He shrugs and says, "Tasers are pretty handy."
Taehyung chuckles in disbelief. He stands up, the warden on the ground forgotten. He muses, "And they call us criminals."
"Well, I tried to shoot a warden once. With a real gun."
"What are we going to do with him?" Taehyung asks.
"I think we should skin him alive until he talks."
To the warden's disbelief, his two captors just turn around and start walking away. His muffled yells of distaste remain unheard by these bastards. With all his being, he promises to drag these two back with him, one way or another.
"But hyung, can't he warp?" Taehyung asks as he sits down on the recliner.
Yoongi fishes out a golden pocket watch. It gleams under the fluorescent lights as Yoongi shows it in the open. He says, "Time Wardens are legal because they can be controlled and monitored, their ability is kept inside an inanimate object like this one so it can be confiscated when they break policies and rules. Without this thing, they're stuck where they are. They're good as dead."
"We have to know why he was out there."
"Why else? He must've tracked you down. Do you know him?"
Taehyung feels an urge to roll his eyes. He says, "I stumbled across him."
"You should've been more careful!"
"Whose fault do you think that is?" Taehyung glares at Yoongi in exasperation. He then starts telling Yoongi how it happened, from Yoongi's absence when he was the one who told Taehyung to meet him up to the point where he was running for his dear life. He also relied their second encounter on the rooftop, which raised Taehyung's suspicion that something happened to Yoongi.
Yoongi just chuckles and says, "I will explain. I couldn't meet you in my hideout because I couldn't warp out of 2008. And I arrived at the rooftop but you weren't there."
"Are you telling the truth? Because I still don't know how he found me during those two circumstances."
Yoongi had the urge to laugh. He scoffs in disbelief and says, "Are you doubting me?"
"If only you didn't tell me to meet you that time, I wouldn't have stumbled across that guy." Taehyung gestures his hands towards the back of the warehouse.
"I'm a wanted renegade! Why would I associate myself with a motherfucking warden?" Yoongi says in vehement denial.
Taehyung feels bad all of a sudden. He sinks into the recliner, curling into a ball until his thighs are pressed against his chest. He says, "I'm sorry. I'm just frustrated."
"I understand. Even I'm uneasy about this." Silence settles in as the two retire to their own thoughts.
Taehyung thinks of Jimin, as always, his big bright eyes and pink cheeks, the studio and October 13. He visited the cemetery yesterday and the niche which serves as Park Jimin's grave is still there, untouched and intact for two years. Nothing has changed, Taehyung already expected this but to be proven right is something else. It just leaves a hollow feeling in his chest.
Since the first timeline with Park Jimin, Taehyung would visit the grave every day that he could. Once, a day or two after Jimin's first death, Taehyung stayed by his grave for a week. He was just there, silently weeping on the newly excavated land, one with the dead and would never be with the living again. He only left when he thought he had cried all the tears that he could.
This dedication was temporarily diminished, when Taehyung set out to save Jimin for the first time. But it seemed to have doubled when again, Jimin died.
"That guy is a creep. Are they all like that?" Taehyung asks as he looks at the drawn curtain at the other end of the warehouse, as if he can somehow see the captive behind it.
"I don't want to find out."
"How long are you going to keep him here?"
Yoongi shrugs and says, "For as long as necessary. Wardens are really useful, Taehyung. We might find a use for him in the future."
October 5, 2016 | First Timeline
Jimin has so many things keeping him awake. There's the constant thrum of the refrigerator in the kitchen which shouldn't have reached his ears had he slept in the bedroom instead. His paintings are lined against the walls, the portraits darker and ominous in their own creepy way. It feels like eyes are watching him. Aside from these disturbing things, his thoughts are keeping him from closing his eyes.
Jimin thinks of the upcoming exhibit. His studio is a small one where he provides lessons for kids during the weekdays and accepts older students every weekend. It's not a bigshot studio but he always makes sure he can do small exhibits for the benefit of the kids. He just likes it when everyone can show their work to more people, it gives him a sense of pride he can only find in the smiles of the little ones. Though the exhibit this time is extra special.
Jimin stares at the ceiling, through layers of wood and metal until he can see the stars in his mind. He thinks of Kim Taehyung, where he is right now, what he's doing, who he's with, what he's thinking of at this moment. Is he working? Reading one of those old newspapers he likes to bring around sometimes? Or is he about to sleep too? Is he thinking of me too?
Jimin turns the thoughts round and round up his head. He keeps asking, knowing his mysterious friend might not show up for the next few days and his questions will be left for his imagination to answer, even though there's no point in it until being unanswered tires him both mentally and physically and the silence and emptiness that comes after every question is louder for him to hear his own thoughts. Only then will he fall asleep.
Jimin has so many things keeping him awake. Most of them thoughts about Kim Taehyung.
Yoongi hasn't slept for days. Dark circles rim his bloodshot eyes, his skin is paler than usual. Even the aunt running his favorite soondae shop thought he doesn't eat with much gusto as he used to. How can he sleep when he's been constantly fumbling for answers? How can he eat when he's been completely useless these days? He ought to just walk straight to jail.
Taehyung might say he's given up the matter with his father but Yoongi knows his complacence is nothing but forced. The younger boy used to want nothing other than knowing the answers to his questions and Yoongi will make sure it'll be delivered.
Yoongi is walking around purposely, his strides strong with conviction as he heads to the museum. The eerie atmosphere might be from the weather but Yoongi can't shake a feeling that he's being watched as soon as he stepped his foot in the threshold. He's always hated museums, rooms filled with ancient things which remind him of his own ancientness.
Yoongi ran away from the 1960s, something he's not proud of. He's chosen to never set foot on that year again no matter what. It's more like a matter of self-preservation for his pride. But being in the museum, where old things are forced to spend their time ageing, Yoongi can't help but feel nostalgic. All these things went through the passing of time and there he is in the middle of it all, young and free from the shackles of time.
A man approaches Yoongi and seeing the insignia embroidered on his shirt's cuff links which he seems to display for everyone to see, Yoongi already knows his contact has arrived. The man is the curator of this museum and a very important connection of renegades as well as the wardens. He's an information broker, one of the few in Seoul.
"Park Bo Gum."
"I'm a hyung, Yoongi." The man smiles, his teeth disgustingly white and pretty.
Yoongi feels like rolling his eyes and because he's Min Yoongi, he does it willingly. He then says, "Have you found something?"
"In fact, yes I have." Park Bo Gum smiles confidently. He then leads Yoongi to another section of the museum. He says, "It's a gold ring. And it matches your description as well as your preference. Something from May 9, 2001 and isn't here anymore but can be found easily, right?"
Park Bo Gum halts in front of a glass case. Inside is a huge picture of a gold ring adorned with a gem so red it's like real blood is inside it. The switch is flipped and suddenly, Bo Gum is acting like a tour guide. He's saying, "It’s one of the oldest pieces of one of the oldest houses of jewelers in the country. Once part of a collection. This has a twin and according to the archive, it's been stolen the day of the robbery. Nobody knows where that other one is."
"Where is this now?"
"Beaulaires." Park Bo Gum says.
At the mention of the antique shop, Yoongi can't help but frown and ask, "again? Why? How? Beaulaires always gets the gems."
Yoongi pins a mental note, check first before giving it to Taehyung. He doesn't want to disappoint Taehyung again.
"Two years ago, it was lost. The curator back then was suspected to have stolen it. But having not enough evidence, he was proven innocent. I was a curator of an art gallery in Seoul then and he tried to sell it to me. As an esteemed curator among my people, I couldn't be found with an expensive piece so I suggested he sell it to Beaulaires." Bo Gum says nonchalantly.
Yoongi shake his head and chides, "you're the worst."
Bo Gum shrugs at Yoongi's incredulity and says, "I've already pulled some strings and confirmed that it's still there. You only need to pick it up. Stream Trivia: Seesaw for clear skin."
"I always hated your secret messages."
"Now, go. A Time Warden is almost here to meet me." Bo Gum says as they reach the exit.
Yoongi's news detonated like a nuclear bomb.
The night they were supposed to meet, Yoongi had been from all over the place. He had been going around finding answers and to his complete disappointment and dread, he found something he wasn't even looking for. He knew it would break Taehyung, possibly even kill him, so he tried to hide it. Be the antagonist.
But his conscience and fondness of his friend wouldn't let him sleep. The thought of watching his one and only friend succumb into a life of torture and pain was enough to convince him against his better judgment. It took him a week to muster his courage. He would meet Taehyung in October 1, 2016.
Before the date, Taehyung had been spending time with Jimin doing absolutely nothing. He didn't even realize when nothing had started meaning everything. It just happened, in between stolen moments, as he laid beside Jimin and watched as the latter peacefully slept or as he watched Jimin light up in the presence of his favorite food. These little things meant so much more than they should.
Once, during the lazy hours of the afternoon as they cuddled together on Jimin's bed, in passing and perhaps without giving it much thought, Jimin said I like you. Taehyung wanted to answer but the words stuck in his tongue, the menacing voice taunting him again and again. In the end, he just kissed Jimin's forehead.
Taehyung thought of telling Jimin the truth, the whole of it. He wanted to tell Jimin how deep his affection went, that this moment between them was more than a momentary thing. But he decided in the end that it would be insanity. Because he couldn't hurt him that way, he wouldn't. So he was back in the starting line, worrying about the future alongside keeping the truth from Jimin. He had become a good liar because of it.
Jimin, despite of being kept in the dark, still would notice the deep lines etched on Taehyung's forehead. There was a stiffness in Taehyung's muscles that Jimin would feel when he was deep in thought. He figured it was something serious, really troublesome, and fearing it might have something to do with them he decided to not ask. He learned how to be contented, to persuade himself he couldn't ask for more than the moments they share whenever they could.
Everyone is an antagonist, in their own little ways. Yoongi, because he thought to hide what he found. Taehyung, because he is hiding what he knows. Jimin, also, because he knows something is wrong but still won't ask for fear of losing what he has.
The first to unravel is Yoongi's resolve to not tell Taehyung of what he learned. Taehyung meets him on October 1, 2016, at the most unusual yet fitting place to have a conversation.
The sky is blue, so blue that you won't know when it starts and the sea ends. The waves crash against rocks and wash to the shore then pull away again. The sun is glaring but doesn't sting. Seagulls caw to each other.
When Yoongi asked to meet at the beach, Taehyung knew something was wrong. Now, as the two sit silently next to each other the growing uneasiness starts to choke him. But he doesn't ease it. He's grateful for any small delay of the impending revelation.
"I learned something." Yoongi starts, his face a mask of unpredictability.
Clearing his throat, Taehyung looks away and asks, "what is it that we have to go out here?"
Yoongi isn't about to say how long he kept it away from Taehyung. He just can't bear to anger his friend. Selfish, you may call him but Taehyung is the only friend he's ever had. And he's not going to lose him.
"Taehyung." Yoongi is threading through thin ice.
"We can't save Park Jimin."
"What do you mean?" He had expected something bad but not this. Just not this.
Yoongi is looking far away, he seems far away too. He opens his mouth then closes it again. Then finally, with great difficulty, he says, "no matter what we do, he's going to die."
There, it's now out in the breadth of space between them, snarling and barring its fangs. The menacing voice cackles in Taehyung's head, it seems to claim victory.
See? He's gonna die in the end.
"Hyung, please. It doesn't make sense." Taehyung's voice crack. He's looking at Yoongi but not exactly looking, it's like Yoongi isn't even there.
"I went around looking at things, Taehyung. I was—I find it strange that we couldn't save him the first time. We had so much time to prepare, we had a good plan. And yet—" Yoongi sighs—"yet."
"Are you saying it could be a loop?"
A loop is an event which can never be changed, a never ending cycle that could never be altered. In simple words, it's something Taehyung dreads. His heart aches just by hearing it.
"Nothing was sure. So I looked around. I found some useful information, things that we had overlooked the first time, but I couldn't piece them all together. Why they're all relevant. Then I went to October 13 and saw it with my own eyes. Nothing has changed, Taehyung." Yoongi seems hopeless, a mirror of Taehyung as he sits there unable to look away.
"Of course nothing has changed. Yet. I will keep Jimin in the studio during the exhibit. The timeline will change only then." Taehyung says, frustration and anxiety lick his spine.
"Yes. You will be in the studio. But I'm sure about this, Taehyung." There's conviction laced in his words, his eyes are sharp as they drill a hole on Taehyung's.
"How?" Taehyung chokes the next words out, "how will he die?"
"He will get shot."
He thinks he heard something break. He realizes it's his heart. Taehyung turns the piece of information in his head, round and round. Then, with great difficulty, he says, "that doesn't make sense. Why?"
"You want to know why? Because there's a bastard out there set on inflicting pain on Jimin. It's all more than an accident. It's evil intent."
"Who? I want a name."
"What are you going to do? Kill him?"
Taehyung lashes out, each word delivered with pressure, "he's killed Jimin twice now, hyung. If I get rid of him before October 13, he won't be there to hurt Jimin."
"That's the worst thing a Time Renegade can do, Taehyung. Are you crazy?"
"Then what would you have me do, huh?" Taehyung realizes tears are running down his face. He sobs against his arms, he's curved in a ball, "hyung, please. Help me."
"I'll do what I can, Taehyung. But please, for your and Jimin's sake. Don't do something I would do."
"Who is this man?"
"Do you know he was seeing someone almost two years ago?"
"Ah. The sugar daddy."
The sun hides behind a cloud, dimming the sky and enveloping the land with a temporary sheet. The world continues to revolve, unaffected by what transpired this afternoon, there in that one short stretch of the shore.
The voice inside Taehyung's head is louder, more menacing than ever. You are never going to save the person you love, Taehyung.
For the first time, he has no reply. Taehyung listens, grieves even, as the voice cackles in derision.
Taehyung can still remember how it all happened, he can still see in his mind the memory of the commotion, smell the burnt asphalt and the metallic tang of blood and feel the cold skin against his touch.
Why is a person harder to beat than time which has no physical embodiment?
October 13, 2016 | First Timeline
Kim Taehyung will meet Jimin at 7 PM across the street just in front the studio and they will arrive together in the exhibit. For the occasion, Taehyung dressed handsomely.
Taehyung is wearing a white dress shirt with black buttons and matched with a black tie. He's wearing trousers with pencil-thin lines from top to the bottom ends. A black trench coat is hanging on his left arm. He also polished his old black shoes straight out of his closet. Taehyung never really dressed to impress so when Jung Hoseok noticed his appearance, the older guy kept teasing him obnoxiously.
The night is warm, much to Taehyung's satisfaction. Already, the studio across the street is lit from the inside. People seem to flock the entrance along with some kids who Taehyung recognizes as Jimin's students. Fortunately, Taehyung had suggested earlier to rent the empty space beside the studio. The two spaces are connected by a huge double door which locks and opens from both side. Taehyung can always count on his instincts, time travelling to the future aside, and earlier that week he thought it was best if Jimin expands the exhibit venue even for just the night. He's never wrong, as more people than expected seem to have come. Jimin will be ecstatic.
The clock hits 7 o'clock in the evening and yet, Jimin is nowhere to be found. Jimin is always punctual so this is really unusual. Over the din in the street, Taehyung tiptoes to see beyond the wall of bodies working to and fro. Once, he thinks he saw Jimin's face among the crowd only to be disappointed by a complete stranger. The atmosphere also starts getting colder as the night goes deeper.
Taehyung, not standing the uneasiness creeping up his spine, shrugs his trench coat on and fishes out his phone from the pocket. He sends Jimin a text message.
Jiminie, where are you? You're late. (
He stares at the little yellow character frowning displayed on his screen. Jimin always misunderstands his tone if he doesn't put an emoji. In hindsight, Jimin is more technology oriented than anyone Taehyung knows in his present day.
Everything else happens too fast. The sudden commotion and the flow of the crowds abruptly shifting to somewhere take Taehyung by surprise. He overhears a group of middle aged women talking about an accident as they shuffle along with the crowd.
A faint memory intrudes his train of thought, he remembers an accident. Since he has no interest in things like this, he decides to ignore it and move out of everyone's way. Taehyung looks at his phone one more time, wondering if Jimin would respond with a cute apology saying he's almost there. No reply came.
As he waited longer, sirens start to sound over the din. He can't help but overhear someone again. And again. And again.
"I know the passenger. He was my son's art teacher. They actually have an exhibit across here." A man tells his company as they hurry away from the scene.
"He was just 22 years old, I heard." One woman shares.
"Goodness gracious! So young." Another woman shakes her head.
Another man says, "I know him too! He buys vegetable from my store every Thursday. A good kid."
Taehyung, with dread licking his spine and wrenching his gut out, recognizes the group one by one. He knows them because of Jimin. With great difficulty, his mind processes the words they just said. He can't hear the noise of the busy street over the beating of his own heart and the screaming voice in his head.
Then he breaks into a run, his thoughts quicker than his strides. He keeps running, pushing his way through the thick crowd of eager people and navigating around the cars halted by the traffic.
Jimin. Jimin. Jimin. Jimin.
Taehyung arrives at the scene. He pushes some more until he's in the front of the spectators, right next to the police line. Before him is a scene of utter destruction.
A white taxi is rammed against the side of a delivery truck, its bloodied hood crumpled like paper and its windshield missing. The delivery truck is also ruined by the blunt force of the collision, its metal container is dented and charred and the windshield is cracked. Shards of glass and metal are littered on the ground. The air smells like burning asphalt and fuel, dark smoke billows from the collision.
There are firefighters stationed near the scene, police cars are everywhere. Officers are trying to maintain public order as medical teams do their work. Then, something catches Taehyung's eye— a stretcher being wheeled slowly towards an ambulance. He starts.
It takes Taehyung all his strength to overpower the officers stopping him. There's only one thing in his mind as he squirms, punches and elbows his away from everyone's hold. Finally, after so much struggle he wrenches himself free and stumbles across the remaining distance between him and the ambulance. The medical aide pushing the stretcher tries to stop him but Taehyung pushes him aside too, nothing is stopping him.
With trembling hands, he peels the bloodstained white cloth draped over the stretcher. A hollow and cold feeling drapes over him immediately, his heart breaks at what he sees, and his legs buckle as the realization hits him like a train.
Though blood is making it hard to recognize the person, Taehyung only needs a glance to know who it is. His eyes are closed for forever. His skin, once pink and flush, is now so pale in contrast with the crimson blood. His white dress shirt is soiled by blood too, with no exception.
Taehyung lets out an agonizing cry. He feels warm tears running down his face in rivulets. His legs have turned to jelly, weak and tired. His heart feels as though it's been wrenched out of his chest, his body numbs.
In the verge of collapse, Taehyung lays his hands flat on the stretcher on each side.
"Jimin?" Taehyung whispers, his face only inches from Jimin's.
He doesn't answer.
"Jimin, please." Taehyung tries again with every ounce of hope and prayer he can muster.
His beautiful Jimin remains lifeless on the stretcher, blood pooling under his head, his skin pale and cold. He feels his own heart lurching to a stop, his world is crumbling and the stars in the universe are gone.
You let this happen. A voice starts to bloom from a hollow pit in his head, its menace and cold tongue lick his sanity. Maybe it’s right. Maybe his insistence to be with Jimin brought upon this horrible end.
Taehyung lets out a whimper, a silent scream of pain and suffering, as he leans his forehead on the stretcher beside Jimin's head.
So close yet so far.
Because Jimin's attention to detail is extraordinary, it doesn't miss his notice that Taehyung has been languid lately. Jimin notices a lot of things, he notices that Taehyung keeps sighing in random intervals, that Taehyung is often out of focus and is spacing out. It's like the distressed stranger from days ago is back, with dark circles under his eyes and pale skin and ruffled hair.
Jimin ought to ask in worry but he chooses not to, afraid he'd be overstepping his limits. He thinks he's not in the right position, hopes Taehyung would give him the right soon because it's just frustrating him to watch silently as the guy he likes is troubled.
Jimin likes Taehyung, he confesses. He still hasn't figured out to what extent though, hesitant to do so since they've only known each other for three weeks. But he likes Taehyung. So much that it's embarrassing.
Yes, they've only known each other for a short period of time but it really feels like it's already been forever. Jimin feels heard when Taehyung listens to him talk, safe when Taehyung touches him even for a brief moment, adored when Taehyung stares into his eyes. Every moment with Taehyung is spontaneous and every second of it gradually turning out beautifully.
Taehyung always manages to take his breath away, to render him weak and unable to do anything and as much as it scares him, he also can't shake the euphoric feeling he gets when he's beside Taehyung. Jimin can't help but feel like he was designed to be with him, each part of him compatible with every curve and turns and slopes of Jimin and his chaotic mind and heart. Nobody has ever made him feel like this.
Kiss him again.
"Let's go often here, Jimin." Taehyung says, his thumb tracing circles on Jimin's knuckle.
Jimin's sense of touch is heightened as he thinks of their hand, intertwined inside Taehyung's coat pocket. He manages to say, "Here? Sure."
Even though he can't hear the waves over the loud beating of his heart, he's still looking forward to see the horizon again. The sky has turned a gradient of pinks and blues as the sun sets unseen behind the mountains. It's quite hard to point out where the water ends and the mountains start, as the sea has taken a dark shade of blue as it goes farther from the shore. The water laps against the breakwater, making sea foam on the surface.
"But tomorrow, let's go somewhere else." Taehyung says again after a moment of companionable silence.
Today is a Saturday. One thing Jimin likes about his job in the studio and weekends is that he gets the whole afternoons all for himself. The classes end during the morning and if he doesn't have any arrangements for the rest of the day, he can go wherever he wants. For three consecutive weekends, wherever Taehyung goes is where Jimin wants to go.
"Where are we going?" Jimin looks up at Taehyung.
"Wherever we can." His profile is beautiful, Jimin suddenly thinks. Melancholic still, but beautiful all the same.
Jimin smiles at himself. He then says, "Taehyung, I think I finally want to paint you. Soon."
"Really?" Taehyung perks up. He turns to face Jimin and asks, "all of a sudden?"
Everything about Taehyung is spontaneous. Having coffee with him the second time they met, his sudden appearances during days Jimin doesn't expect, the unplanned dates they go to, the gentle touches of hands and the strong flitting urge to kiss him again and again. Right now, he thinks he has found Taehyung's perfect portrait. Spontaneously, like it's all part of a serendipity.
Taehyung is aware he's been inattentive these days. As October 13 draws closer, so does his time run out and his anxiety worsen. He's never imagined this will ever happen to him until now, like he's been taking it for granted all this time, and because of this he feels so lost.
He spends time with Jimin as much as he can, tries to be with him every moment of every day. Some nights, Taehyung stays with Jimin to the latter's surprise. He stands too close to Jimin, breathes the same air and lives in his very own personal space. Taehyung does all this with great desperation, like clinging to the spider web he's unsure can save him. Save Jimin.
A sickening feeling has taken hold of him, rendering him powerless to the point of exhaustion. His heart throbs when he looks at Jimin who remains innocent and unaware of what's about to transpire. His upbeat personality and the warmth of his presence can only do little to calm Taehyung down, to show him some sense and inspire him to do something. They haven't lost the battle, not yet.
Maybe if he sacrifices a few hours of sleep and a few meals, look around some more, he can find a way to break this loop. So when he feels like he's overstayed his welcome, he goes around instead. If he's being generous to himself, he will take a short rest wherever he is. Then he comes back to Jimin's side.
Yoongi had been keeping him updated with their warden kidnapping situation. The guy hasn't said anything other than his name, Kim Seokjin, and to be honest, Taehyung has been feeling a little agitated about him lately. Once, he grabbed the guy by his throat to force information out of him. He only got a smirk. The bastard.
Today, Taehyung intends to try again. If force won't work, maybe some honesty will, albeit desperate. But he chooses not to expect because after all, Time Wardens are never the sympathetic bunch.
Taehyung arrives on time and Yoongi has already started the interrogation. The warden is in the same condition as when Taehyung left him, shackled on an iron pole and sitting on the ground. His legs are tied together with thick rope. The precautions are really necessary, since he's almost escaped once had Yoongi kept the pocket watch somewhere it can easily be found.
"I told you, with me dead you're dead too. Even if you flip this place upside down, you won't find it." Yoongi is saying when Taehyung approaches.
"Oh, you're here." Yoongi looks up at Taehyung. He gestures to their friend and says, "Still won't talk."
"Let me take it from here."
"Ha, you're dead for real." Yoongi tells the warden.
Kim Seokjin is sitting with confidence, if that's even possible. His whole posture reeks of arrogance, despite his current situation. His chin is jutted out, an eyebrow raised. He still has that smirk on his face.
"How are you? I hope Yoongi-hyung hasn't tried anything." Taehyung says as he crouches on the low stool in front of the warden.
"He's been really charming." The warden says nonchalantly.
He looks at the guy and asks, "You know, it's time to gloat about finding me in that studio. Why are you still not talking?"
"Because you need me to talk and I want to annoy you as long as I can." There it is again, that damned smirk. Taehyung just wants to wipe it off that pretty face.
"Kim Seokjin, I'm not in the mood to chitchat. I don't even care how you've been finding me at all. I just need something." Taehyung says, his voice dripping with desperation.
"I know what you need. That person is going to die, right?"
"I know where to find you and that bastard. I know who you are and what you want. It's easy to know your plans." Seokjin rolls his eyes at Taehyung.
"What should I do to make you talk?"
Taehyung feels an outburst incoming. He clenches his teeth and fists in anger. His voice is deadly when he says, each word dripping with poison, "Look, Mr. Time Warden. I'm a renegade, I confess. If he dies again this time, I'm gonna be all sorts of criminal and I will kill you and rid this world of your pristine ass faster than you can warp."
"Why are you doing this?" Seokjin asks.
"Because I love him." Taehyung answers, meaning it every second time passes.
Seokjin scoffs at him. He looks away and says, "Love isn't enough, you know."
They sit there for a moment, until Taehyung realizes Seokjin has no plans to talk. He sighs in defeat, stands up and leaves the makeshift prison. Behind the curtain, Yoongi is waiting. He doesn't say anything too, as if he knows Taehyung needs some peace and quiet. Little does he know the voice in Taehyung's head has made him deaf.
You're running out of time. The voice croons.
September 4, 2016 | Second Timeline
It takes him every ounce of his self-control to not tackle Park Jimin, the Jimin who doesn't know him yet. Jimin's death has given him permanent heartaches, the ones which throb endlessly, so even though his heart is soaring right now in the sight of his little euphoria, he still can't shake the pain in his chest. It's going to haunt him forever, beyond this time and farther into the future.
Taehyung has lost something else other than Park Jimin. He's lost his sense of normalcy, the one he's been searching for and only found in Jimin. He's thrown back in warping, with no end in sight and no help in mind. But something remains, Park Jimin will always be the present he will long for.
Sometimes, he would warp smack in the middle of their acquaintance just to see Jimin and maybe change the outcome right there. But he ends up not touching that timeline though, stopped by his own self. Seeing his own face with Jimin will always wake him up. He gets a tingling feeling, a sense of protectiveness for his self whose smile used to be his. Then he would warp back to September 4, over and over. Until he finds an answer.
Warping really complicates things, especially when a person keeps travelling to the same time. Taehyung sometimes loses track of time, blanks out and forgets. It's a side effect, according to Yoongi, and he will keep having these surges along the way.
Taehyung will save Jimin, he always tells himself. The voice in his head will always cackle when he does, taunting him more and more each day until his patience can bear no longer and when that happens, he ends up seeing Jimin. He's learning to shut it out though, by pulling out memories.
Taehyung thinks of Jimin, obviously. When does he not do that anyway? But when he's in a state of lucidity, his thoughts are louder and more alive. He thinks of Jimin's voice, his soft skin and lips, his eye-smiles and contagious laughter. Then it starts to feel like it's been long ago as the realization hits him, that Jimin died. Then the ever taunting voice is back when all the thinking is supposed to shut it off. It's a cycle, never ending. He realizes he's not learning at all.
He goes through this torture until he's emotionally and mentally drained, until he's cried more than he can manage, until his heart can take no more of the pain. Sometimes, this helps him fall asleep. Sometimes, he stays awake through it.
Jimin. Park Jimin. I can't lose you again.
Oh, you will.
"I read this book back in highschool. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. Have you heard of it?" Jimin asks as he plays with Taehyung's hair.
Taehyung is staring deep into Jimin's face, as if memorizing every feature of it. He says without looking away, "Tell me about it."
Taehyung pulls Jimin closer, until Jimin is almost wedged against his chest as he sits inside Taehyung's legs, his feet dangling on Taehyung's right thigh. They've never been this intimate in public but the sea is deserted and it's such a waste if they don't make use of it.
The sky is in gradient of orange and red as the sun shines over the mountains right ahead. The wind brings the scent of sea mist, revitalizing and really calming. The water is calmly pushing and pulling from the shore, washing away shells and pebbles. The two are sitting in a safe distance.
"It's about this place called Omelas, a utopian society where everything is beautiful. No corruption, hunger, war, sickness. None of that." Jimin keeps twirling Taehyung's sideburns.
"Is that even possible?"
"In that place it is. They were just celebrating a festival and it was so beautiful."
"What's the catch?"
"There's a small boy they hide in a basement with no windows. Their happiness depends on the suffering of that little kid." Jimin simply says.
"Hm. They treat the child unfairly. They don't give him enough food, thirsts him to death, and never bathes him. And there's a rule that no-one can be nice to the boy." Jimin says, almost as if he's talking about something so sad that he witnessed himself.
Taehyung nuzzles Jimin's ears and asks, "Then?"
"There are people who don't care about the boy, or at least pretends that they don't care. They live as happily as they could, despite the unease that keeps nagging at them. But there are the ones who can't bear it, whose unease won't let them sleep at night. So they walk away, they leave the place." Jimin leans on Taehyung, his ear pressed against Taehyung's chest.
"That book is a bit morbid for a recreational activity." Taehyung locks his arms around Jimin's waist, kissing the top of Jimin's head.
"It is." There's a smile in his voice before he adds, "I used to think that maybe the boy in the basement really exists in all of us. In the name of everyone else's happiness, some part of each of us is sacrificed. Because of that, we are always bothered by a constant unease, we can never be truly happy."
"If that's true, then I want nothing more than to be the reason of your happiness. I won't hold it against you, so live happily." Taehyung says.
Taehyung doesn't hold back. Not anymore.
These past few days have been really stressful. As promised, Taehyung would bring Jimin everywhere during his breaks. It didn't matter where, they just went to wherever they wanted. Once, Jimin pleaded to go to an amusement park. Twice, they went to an art gallery. The list goes on and on, from a pottery class to a shooting range. It almost seems like they can fit all kinds of activities in just one day.
Because Jimin has regular classes from Mondays to Fridays, they only have the night to spend together. During weekends though, they can meet before lunch. Sometimes, Taehyung would sit-in and watch Jimin teach a bunch of kids. He even managed to trick the kids into leaving him alone to his photography job.
All the activities left no time for Taehyung to take a rest. He's constantly warping, between spending time with Jimin and finding another way to save him. Despite all his struggles, sadly, he still doesn't have a single clue to break the loop, not like anyone has done it before. Yoongi said it's impossible, Seokjin won't confirm if it's plausible. And so, days pass by in a blur of Jimin's bright face and the memories of his pale skin. Taehyung's anxiety is heightened each day.
These past few days have been really stressful but still worth it.
"Taehyung, I really didn't want to overstep my boundaries but it's been bothering me."
"What is it?"
"Is something wrong? Is there something you're not telling me? Are you okay?" Jimin's face is contorted with worry. There are frown lines between his eyebrows and his lips are pouting.
Taehyung lets out a sigh and leans his head against Jimin's shoulder. He murmurs, "I'm sorry."
"For what? Is there really something wrong?"
"I don't want to worry you but it seems like I'm doing it anyway." Taehyung says, his hand gently clawing on Jimin's back.
"You can tell me, Taehyung. I might not look like it but I'm a good listener."
"I know, Jimin. But will you trust me?" Finally, he looks up and meets Jimin's eyes. At first, Jimin just looks back with concern and just as when Taehyung's about to take it back, he nods.
"I will. But please, tell me when it's too much."
"I promise. And you're not overstepping anything, Jimin."
"Now tell me about your job." Jimin suddenly changes the subject.
Glad of the distraction, Taehyung starts saying, "I'm actually out of service."
"What? Do you mean retired? Aren't you too young to be retired?" Jimin asks in confusion.
"No, more like suspended until further notice."
"Geez, isn't that the same with being fired?"
Taehyung chuckles and says, "Yes."
"So that's why you're always tailing me." Jimin nods at himself.
This line makes Taehyung laugh. In disbelief, he asks, "I'm tailing you? Always?"
"Admit it, you're my stalker." Jimin giggles. Then he says, "So I'm dating an unemployed 24 year old."
"Why, you don't like it?"
"Hm," Jimin acts like he's thinking about it seriously then he finally says with a giggle, "I like you."
"I thought you'd never say that."
"But why are you suspended?" Jimin asks.
And this is where Taehyung tells the pathetic story of his sacking in the future.
Not everything he's told Jimin is a lie. For one, he's really a detective. Or at least would be. Taehyung had been in the 2020 once, long ago. There, he met his older self, a grumpy detective with no regards for self-care. If he thinks about it, he will realize it's his self who lived through the memory of Jimin's first death in 2016.
When Taehyung met him, he was already fired. Taehyung was glad to know that even though he changed for the worst, there was still humanity left in him. He had refused a politicians bribery and therefore earned himself everyone's negative opinion. He was then framed to have committed unlawful acts, which got him a suspension during the investigation. Since he seemed to have given up on life, he let it go and never came back to work.
The badge, which Taehyung showed Jimin, was in fact stolen from the drunk Kim Taehyung of 2020. Taehyung had snatched it once in frustration for his older self.
Taehyung omits things he can't say, including everything happening in 2020 and the existence of an older Taehyung, and only tells the story briefly. Either way, Jimin still laughs at his misfortune. Despite being the one whose misfortune is being laughed at, Taehyung can't help but smile.
He says, "Is that funny?"
"Yes, it is. Even though I would've done the same. I never thought it happens in real life, I only ever watched it from movies." Jimin is now rocking back and forth. Then he adds, "Maybe fairytales are real too."
"Jimin," Taehyung suddenly calls. There's solemnity in his voice, something deep, which makes Jimin instinctively swipe up his long fringe covering his eyes and surely there it is too, a melancholic look, the kind which tears bones and muscles and goes beyond the marrow.
Jimin is enamored by the man's ability to numb him, his hands placed on both Taehyung's cheeks. He looks back, seeking the reason of Taehyung's distress somewhere on his handsome face. Finally, he asks, "yes?"
"I love you." It's a declaration more powerful than his fears, an unwavering force from the depths of his heart. Now that it's out in the open, Taehyung can feel his steady resolve. And during the fleeting moments of courage, he suddenly knows what to do. There's an unfurling idea in the corner of his head, something that has been waiting for too long, one that's been stacked there subconsciously, one which will cost him greatly.
Looking at Jimin's big eyes wet with tears, Taehyung knows that whatever he decides to do will be worth it. He sincerely wants Jimin to live, hopes Jimin will be happy. Even though it's a life without him.
The warden is looking at him, his face devoid of any emotion befitting a human being. There's something about Seokjin's mood swings that makes Taehyung walk around him in caution, like he's threading over eggshells. One moment, he's being an ass ordering Yoongi around while using his captivity as an excuse to do so. The next, he's still being an ass but this time he's completely ignoring the two of them. It seems like now, he's developed another coping mechanism— to stare at anyone who asks him a question.
Taehyung rubs his face in agitation, feeling like his question has sense for Seokjin to act cautiously. Thinking he's onto something, he urges, "It's possible, right? Tell me, please."
"It's never been done before. That's all I will tell you." Seokjin looks away, shifting his weight to his left. He's still sitting on the floor, his hands bound to a pole.
"Look, I will give you anything. I'll even let you go. Just answer this one question, I'm begging you." Taehyung clasps his hands together as he crouches in front Seokjin. He then slowly continues, "do you think it's gonna work?"
"Mr. Kim, I'm really not the best person to ask that. I'm a warden and you're a renegade, a criminal that I must incarcerate."
"I'm telling you to help me and I will come with you willingly." Taehyung says, emphasizing each word.
Seokjin laughs mirthlessly and spits, "yeah, dumbass. Like you're planning to survive. I'm not bringing in a corpse, for your information."
"Do you really not want to go back?"
For a moment, Taehyung thinks he saw hesitation in every feature of the warden's body. His eyes and lips twitched, he also looked away. Then, he shuts off the conversation by saying, "I'll find another way."
Taehyung knows nothing's gonna work, he guesses he already knew that since before but was pretending he didn't. He lets himself fall to the floor, the thud and pain on his butt feel satisfying.
"I know you don't understand, Mr. Warden. You probably never had someone like Park Jimin. Yoongi-hyung said Time Wardens don't have anything, right?" Taehyung says listlessly as he stares at his shoes. He chuckles, "Park Jimin is everything to me. I will save him, no matter what. And I need a sure way to do that, if I were to kick the bucket. This is really frustrating."
Seokjin doesn't say anything. Taehyung lets the silence consume him. He lets his mind wander somewhere else, to someone. What would he be doing? Is he painting? Is he listening to the tape Taehyung left for him? Taehyung hopes Jimin will like it. He hopes Jimin will think of him when he hears the songs in it.
Taehyung hasn't given up, not yet. But he can't deny that the closer it gets to the day of the accident, the bigger his fear becomes. He has no other alternative in his arsenal, one wrong decision paired with a miscalculation will surely mean failure. He can't allow that. Yoongi will definitely pop a nerve when he hears about this.
Seokjin senses his agitation seeping through the cracks of his sanity. He watches silently as Taehyung rubs his face in frustration, his hands and lower lip trembling. He suddenly sees something in the renegade, someone he knew for a very long time. A question resurfaces in his mind, a memory of a long time ago which he tried to bury deep within: He sees a young man, a very special friend, carrying an unconscious man in his arms.
Time Wardens are detached from any human feelings. They understand what feelings are, they just don't feel it. For the first time, Seokjin thinks he's feeling something. But it's not really the first time he's felt it though, he has just forgotten.
After a while, when Taehyung still hasn't moved and is still leaning against the metal cabinet near him, Seokjin asks, "Hey, renegade. I have something to ask. What is this feeling?"
"It's like a long hunt without a kill." Seokjin murmurs.
Taehyung heard it. His senses have been heightened these days. He asks in confusion, "what?"
"Like something is not there."
"Are you talking about sadness?" Taehyung raises an eyebrow.
"No." Yes, actually. He just doesn't want to admit it.
On October 6, Park Jimin met Min Yoongi. He's a very mysterious man, even Taehyung pales in comparison. There's something in the manner he looks, as if he's tearing apart your skin and bones. First impressions are important and Park Jimin can't help but think Kim Taehyung has really weird friends.
Min Yoongi shook his hand once, holding on for a moment too long. Despite being acquainted for the first time though, Jimin felt a strange sense of familiarity, as if he was meeting an old friend from primary school.
"You paint, right?" Min Yoongi asks, his chin in his right hand.
They've decided to get some coffee in the same cafe across the street. The ambiance envelopes Jimin in calmness, the fragrance of coffee wharfs in the air and lingers flittingly. Piano music is playing in the background. As it is a Wednesday, the cafe is almost deserted. Seated right by the glass windows, Taehyung spaces out as he stares outside leaving the talking to Jimin.
"Yep," Jimin picks up his latte and takes a sip.
"No offense, but painting seems boring."
"And you have the most enjoyable profession." Jimin says, a hint of humor in his tone.
Yoongi leans back against his chair and yawns, saying, "$20 that's a yes."
"Make it $50."
"You two are really a match made in heaven." Yoongi suddenly says, making Jimin blush immediately.
Finally, Taehyung joins the conversation. He says, "Jimin, ignore this hyung. He hasn't taken his meds."
"On another note, why are you guys here?"
"Taehyung forced me to see your studio." Yoongi shrugs, earning a kick under the table from Taehyung. At the exclamation of pain, Taehyung grins satisfyingly.
"You said you need help redecorating for the exhibit. Two pairs of helping hands will come in handy."
"Is that a pun?"
"Anyway, I really can't say no. Though I'd like it if you'll let me just sleep on the wooden bench." Nobody takes notice of this slip-up, of the fact that Min Yoongi knows there's a wooden bench in the studio when it's the first time he's seeing it. In another timeline, he's been there a thousand times.
"Shall we go then?"
"Already?" Yoongi perks up.
"I only have a day to borrow your time." Jimin says, gathering his things and grabbing Taehyung's wrist.
The two leave Yoongi at the table, who is contemplating whether he made the right choice to tail these two lovebirds. He's sure this already happened before, it's now like one of those Deja Vus people talk about. Finding hilarity in all of these, Yoongi shakes his head in disbelief.
The first thing they shop for is a truckload of paint. Of course that's exaggerated but still, Yoongi thinks it's enough to repaint a whole damn house. Taehyung seems to be the mastermind of this, as if he signed up to carry it all on his own. Yoongi can't help but sigh dejectedly when Taehyung put half of the buckets of paint in his cart.
Yoongi only wanted to meet Jimin again. He insisted on this, saying he missed the younger's friendly manners and bright smile. For Yoongi, saying he wanted to meet someone is surprising already. But when he said his true reasons for wanting to meet Jimin, it just surprised the soul out of Taehyung.
"Kim Taehyung, I admit that this is not how I pictured our first meeting would be. But I like it." Yoongi tells Taehyung, when he thinks Jimin is too occupied looking around the DIY shop to hear a word.
"Tell me you didn't think I'll let you hug him."
"I am disappointed, actually."
"Hyung, you're a stranger. I can't let you hug Jimin like you used to." Taehyung murmurs, his eyes pinned on every move Jimin does.
Yoongi just shrugs.
"Have you found anything yet?" Taehyung suddenly asks.
"I'm sorry but no. I've been asking everyone I know. Nobody has an idea if it can be done." Yoongi doesn't like talking about this, he doesn't like deflating Taehyung's hopes by saying the truth.
Breaking a loop has never been done before, ever. It's one of the most serious offenses a time traveler can commit since loops carry with them a string of events in the future. Breaking one means altering a great deal of the course of time. Yoongi knows Taehyung is ready to be the person who sets an example for everyone else, blindly accepting the consequences which come with it. He's foolish like that, yes, but Yoongi can't deny he would do the same too.
Yoongi watches as Taehyung approach Jimin, himself fading into the background. He sees how Taehyung yearn for Jimin each day and even though they're together now, Yoongi knows the longing will only fade if Taehyung manages to save Jimin. Because whatever time they have right now is just stolen, borrowed.
Yoongi is willing to give his own time for these two. If only it's been done before.
October 13, 2016 | Third Timeline
In less than ten hours, whatever needs to happen will happen. Taehyung's hands are clammy, he constantly breaks out into cold sweat as the clock ticks and tocks. He feels like he's having a very serious case of constipation.
The three pulled an all-nighter to finish the decoration of the studio and although Yoongi was very listless to lift a finger, their work turned out decent. They had peeled off the old paint on the walls and painted it white. The workshop was also stripped bare, all the things like easels and paint buckets were thrown into the storage. It was a good thing they started seven days earlier because if they hadn't, Taehyung is sure they wouldn't have done anything.
The day is cold and wet as it had rained during the waking hours of the day. The atmosphere is rather calm though, the only turbulence is in Taehyung's heart. There's a crippling fear gnawing on his guts, licking his spine and taunting him. In contrast with the tranquility the quiet and drawling day brought, a storm is raging inside him.
Taehyung personally investigated Jimin's murderer. It's a forty year old businessman, or atleast was. A year after Jimin quit, he's been obsessively following Jimin. After a series of events and partly due to his psychotic behavior, he lost everything and filed bankruptcy. Still, he remained as a lowlife stalker, as if this is his one last purpose in life. He's been everywhere ever since, whether Jimin was alone or with Taehyung. Just thinking of it made Taehyung sick.
The murderer originally planned to pose as a taxi driver and pick Jimin up from his home. The accident wouldn't happen until they had reached the intersection near Jimin's studio, probably because the murderer insanely hoped Jimin would return to him.
"Kim Taehyung!" Taehyung's train of thought is interrupted by Jimin, who is looking up at him with concern after being ignored all throughout his monologue. He realizes he's idly standing by the door of the studio.
"What were you saying again?"
"You keep spacing out! I'm not repeating myself." Jimin whines
"I'm sorry." Taehyung admits.
Jimin jumps up to his feet and hops towards Taehyung, leaving whatever he's doing on the floor. He wraps his arms around Taehyung's neck and asks, "what's wrong?"
"Nothing." Taehyung puts his hands on Jimin's small waist.
"Nothing, my ass. You weren't listening."
To avoid a confrontation, Taehyung pulls Jimin in a hug, resting his head on the smaller boy's shoulder. He's taller than Jimin by only a small margin but it's enough to effortlessly carry him and spin him around, whilst still hugging him.
"I'm just thinking."
"Of what?" Jimin giggles despite knowing it's more than just thinking.
"Of you." Taehyung starts rocking them back and forth.
Jimin gently pushes Taehyung away, his hand remains on Taehyung's chest as he skeptically says, "really?"
"Hm." Taehyung starts touching Jimin's hair.
"Why are you thinking of me when I'm right in front of you?"
Jimin pouts and says, "you're unfair. You never answer my questions."
Taehyung smiles a little as he answers, "whenever I close my eyes, I forget what you look like. I'm thinking why."
"Now I realize, it's because I keep missing you. I always want to see you like this."
Jimin still blushes at every sincere thing he says. His cheeks turn pink every time. It's beautiful and painful at the same time.
Jimin hits his chest with a small fist, making Taehyung laugh uncontrollably. He whines, "that's not fair! Stop making me flustered."
Taehyung remembers the object in his pocket. If it didn't start weighing heavier, as if life has suddenly possessed it, he would have forgotten it. So careless!
Without letting go of Jimin, he fishes it out and says, "I have something for you."
In the small space between them, Taehyung dangles a golden locket about the size of a ping-pong ball. Under the fluorescent lights, it glints. Inspecting it closer, it reveals silver linings and an intricate carving in the middle. There's a name on it: Taehyung.
Taehyung places it on Jimin's small hand, a smile on his face as he watches Jimin look at it in awe. Jimin flips it open, revealing a clock. Its clockwork visibly spins as the second hand rotates.
"You're giving this to me?" Jimin wonders aloud, turning the piece round and round with his little fingers.
Taehyung says, "yeah. Do you like it?"
"Do I like it? I fucking love it."
For a moment, they silently watch the clock as its hands spin. The room suddenly grows quiet, allowing peace settle in while the world outside wilts away. Nothing else matters, everything Taehyung ever wanted is right there in that little space of Jimin's world. He's almost having second thoughts but before he can even do so, he shuts it out.
Taehyung knows too well, mutual happiness is impossible for the both of them. There's only Jimin in Taehyung's eyes and his happiness will always be his happiness, even if it means he'll be far and gone before he knows it.
Kim Seokjin eyes him with disapproval. Despite his current condition, his limbs still bound and his once pristine suit in shambles, he still looked intimidating. It also doesn't help that in just a short period of time, he's already managed to utter almost all the possible curses at his two kidnappers.
"If looks could kill, Yoongi-hyung would be digging my grave."
Suddenly, his hostility melts away. His face though remains expressionless.
Kim Seokjin says, "I really can't convince you to repent, can I?"
"You know, you have a future as a clergyman."
"This won't end well for you."
"What, fortune-telling is your hobby?"
"Nothing will end well."
"You definitely know something." Taehyung pulls a metal chair in front the prisoner. Swinging his leg to sit on it astride, he places his arms on the back plate. Then he adds, "Or you wouldn't be a breathing, walking embodiment of pessimism."
"It's strange that I know you do but I won't ask anymore."
"You've given up?" Seokjin raises an eyebrow.
"Partly. I've only given up on begging you. It doesn't look cool." Taehyung smiles confidently for the first time. He then adds, "But I'll win anyways."
"What exactly is winning for you?"
"His happiness, with enough dash of sadness of course, anger, faith, hope, love. Basically a long, long life full of all things human."
"Kim Taehyung. Will you let me meet this Park Jimin if I ask?"
This stuns Taehyung to silence but only for a brief moment. Recovering, Taehyung raises his eyebrows and says, "Have you lost your mind in this place? Is Yoongi-hyung torturing you?"
"I want to know what kind of a person is making you throw away everything."
Taehyung actually considered, as stupid as it sounds. And while still convincing himself, with great difficulty, Taehyung leads, or rather brings, Kim Seokjin to 2016. It's dangerous and he is crazy to even fall for it but with Seokjin's pocket watch still in Yoongi's hands, Taehyung is hoping nothing will go wrong.
Wardens can hitch a ride through time. It's a very convenient yet biased plot hole for a novel. Taehyung can only shrug his disdain for this.
They leap through time and appear in a narrow room which looks like a basement. The ceiling is low and there's a dimly lit bulb at the middle. Stacks and stacks of boxes, all varying in sizes, litter the floor along the walls. The space is too small for two people, let alone two men with hulking figures. Taehyung and Seokjin can't move without butting heads and bumping shoulders.
"Curse your wideass shoulders!" Taehyung pushes Seokjin against a pile of boxes.
"Who brought me in this cramped up space, huh?"
"Shut the fuck up and stop pushing me!"
"That's obviously my line!"
After a moment, Taehyung manages to squeeze his way through and open the door. The doorway leads to a flight of stairs which then, when followed, exits to a deserted corridor. Taehyung climbs up, Seokjin following suit.
The long balcony is overlooking a dark sky, through the open space at the top of the stairs, the wind carries a cold and ominous atmosphere. Taehyung swears it's all the effect of what is to come.
The building is located at the back of the complex where the studio is. If they just round up the corner, they'll find a line of stationery and novelty shops. The studio is only a few more steps from the first store.
"Try running away and you won't see your pocket watch again."
"Look, if I really want to run away I would've done so already."
Taehyung scoffs, not believing any word his company says. After all, it's easy to find a fellow warden in this year. There's an abundance of wardens lately, making life harder for renegades.
They walk across the corridor in haste and already, they reach the elevator at the end of the hall. The building is an apartment complex with eight floors and an underground parking lot. It only takes a few seconds to get in the elevator, push a button and finally reach the ground floor. The two haven't met anyone so far.
Taehyung and Seokjin can finally see the studio, they remain discrete as they stand a few feet away from the windows. Silently, Seokjin hovers behind Taehyung. It's hard to tell what goes on in the warden's head as he maintains an expressionless face.
"I'll give you five minutes. Look as much as you can." Taehyung says.
Seokjin doesn't need encouragement though. Due to reasons only he knows, he's eager to see this Park Jimin one more time. He's seen him before and if only Min Yoongi didn't catch him, he surely would've even met the kid.
At the same moment Taehyung spoke, a brown haired guy exits the studio. Seokjin recognizes the guy before Taehyung can even point it out. It's really the same Park Jimin. Not only did Taehyung's recognition give it away but the same gentle and friendly appearance made such an impression in him that he'd recognize that face anywhere.
It really is him. Chimchim.
Suddenly, he's overcome with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. How long has it been? Is it even proper to ask that, knowing time just started over for him? How are you, Chimmy?
And then it's there, an absurd urge to rush out of their hiding place. Knowing he won't be able to stop himself, he chooses to turn around.
Memories are indeed a curse but still, Seokjin doesn't want to forget. Even though he's the only one who remembers.
March **, **** | Timeline Not Found
Kim Namjoon is never late. Only now.
Seokjin taps his right foot expectantly on the pavement, his self obscured by the shadows from the busy crowd outside the alley he's hiding in. The night is chilly, causing goosebumps all over his skin. Thinking to himself, Seokjin swears he will leave immediately if Namjoon doesn't show up in five more minutes.
"Jesus Christ!" Seokjin almost jumps out of his skin.
He whirls around and sees that tall figure is standing behind him, hidden by the shadows as if his long coat isn't enough. He's grinning at Seokjin as he takes off his hood. Seokjin looks at him incredulously.
"Am I late?"
"What the actual fuck are you wearing?" Seokjin pulls Namjoon's sleeves as he continues, "Are you going to Hogwarts or something?"
Namjoon's coat doesn't exactly look like the ones in Harry Potter but it's still long and eye-catching even without the exaggeration. It actually looks good on him which irritates Seokjin even more. Everything Namjoon wears looks good on him while Seokjin has to plan his attire, even though he only ever wears suits.
"Professor Dumbledore wants to see you." Namjoon says, satisfied as he taps his coat.
Seokjin shakes his head saying, "the human has tainted you."
"Hey, it's cool! Admit it, you're jealous!"
"What's wrong with you?" Seokjin shakes his head.
"He said it looks good, you know."
"That's what nice people would say. Come on. It feels cold."
Seokjin grabs Namjoon by his collar and drags him out of the alley, towards a bar lit from the inside with warm lights. Once inside, he pushes Namjoon to a seat along the bar. He orders his drink before finally looking at Namjoon.
"What's wrong? You're acting really grouchy today. Is it because I'm late? I'm sorry, okay?"
"That's not it, Kim Namjoon. Although I really want to strangle you right now for making me wait out in the cold." Seokjin rolls his eyes heavenwards.
Namjoon shakes his head and says, "Hey, who told you to stay out there? Has this senior not taught you anything at all?"
"Senior, my ass. Start acting like one and we'll talk, you fucker."
"Young’uns surprise me every day."
"Stop calling me that! I have tons of curses I want to hurl at you right now, I'm just starting."
Namjoon chuckles and says, "And you'll stop yourself, right? Because I'm your senior."
He's absolutely right. Even though Seokjin is older than him in terms of human age, Namjoon still became a Time Warden earlier than him. Namjoon is actually fifteen years his senior. To curse at Namjoon is not a serious thing taking their relationship into consideration but still, Seokjin can't lose face by disrespecting a senior.
"Why are you late? We have all the time in this world, Kim Namjoon." Seokjin whines.
"Exactly." Namjoon taps on the table as he talks to himself while reading the menu on the panel over their head, "what should we get, Namjoonie?"
Oh, what about that green substance, senior?
Seokjin can't hold back a roll of the eyes when Namjoon really ordered his usual. The bartender gives his own before doing Namjoon's.
They sit waiting for Namjoon's drink in silence. Even though they're in a bar, there's nobody else in here aside from a couple sitting at the other side of the store. The bartender is the owner of the shop and a close friend of the two.
They didn't have to wait long. In just a moment, Namjoon's drink and the snacks are served. Namjoon's is a half-filled goblet of an emerald liquid called Absinthe. Standing beside Seokjin's tall glass of chilled beer, Namjoon's Absinthe looked rather strange.
"Why did you suddenly want to meet?" Seokjin asks as they do a toast.
For a moment, Namjoon seems to be reluctant to answer. He takes a sip of his drink first then contemplates. Finally, he sets down his drink and rubs his palms together. He says, "I'm thinking of quitting."
"Quitting what, smoking?" Seokjin takes a swig of his own drink. The cold liquid smoothly goes down his throat, leaving a strong smell making him wrinkle his nose.
Namjoon's face crumples into a frown as he says whining, "I don't smoke. That box wasn't mine."
"Whatever." Seokjin rolls his eyes as he remembers the small box of cigarettes he once found in Namjoon's pocket.
He gives a sigh, "I'm talking about our job."
Seokjin wishes he heard wrong but he didn't. Dumbstruck, he almost snaps his neck as he turns to look at Namjoon. He seeks for a hint of humor in his friend's face but there's none. Namjoon never looked this serious.
Namjoon laughs and says, "yes, I am."
"Why? How? W— is that even possible? Wow. I have so many questions I don't even know where to start." Seokjin gulps down half of his drink.
"Calm down, okay? You might get a heart attack."
"Tell me why, Kim Namjoon!"
It really is unfathomable. Kim Namjoon has been a warden for thirty years, half of which he's Seokjin's partner. For fifteen years, Seokjin has been admiring his dedication to his job. Among Time Wardens, Kim Namjoon must be one of the most accomplished. To suddenly declare quitting surprises Seokjin so much.
"I finally found the life I want to live and it sure is not the one I'm leading right now."
Namjoon smiles and says, "It just happened."
"It just happened? It just happened? That's not a valid excuse." Seokjin says, questions pushing each other inside his head as he struggles to organize them.
Namjoon then says, "It's Park Jimin."
"Oh hell no." Seokjin feels himself visually deflate and Namjoon obviously knows how rattled he is with the way he looked disappointed.
"I want a life I can share with him." Namjoon says, as if it's a reason enough to explain the whole picture.
"But you're already doing that now, right? Why quit? What's the difference?"
"You know that mortals have this ritual thing called marriage." Namjoon smiles almost to himself.
You have got to be kidding.
"You want to marry him? Senior! You can't! You know that too well. Shit." Seokjin mutters the last word under his breath. Then, he starts rambling, "I knew this was gonna happen! I knew from the moment you said he was interesting and you like him. Oh god, I should've warned you!"
The desperation in his voice was like acid to Seokjin. He winces as he bites back a retort, his contempt melting at that one word. How many times had Namjoon called him hyung? And to hear him pleading, the world must've stopped turning.
It takes Seokjin a huge amount of courage to break his friend as he says, "No, Namjoon. I don't want to be the person to say this to you but for your sake, I'll be the villain. This can't be. You can fall in love with a mortal all you want, I won't stop you, but to actually think of abandoning your duty and interfering with reality? That's breaking the law of the universe. I don't want you to be the example of what happens when a Time Warden tips the scale."
"The law of the universe. The scale. I want to know who decided for us to be who we are." Seokjin feels his jaw drop to the bar floor. Who is this man before him? Namjoon keeps his eyes trained on his drink, watching the melting ice clink against the glass as he continues, "with nothing but our duty in our heads, we are like programmed robots. It's a sad life now that I think about it. We are detached from the mortal world, we are a myth."
Seokjin finally realizes something, an answer to a question he's been asking since the beginning. What happens when a Time Warden feels emotions akin to mortals?
This happens. This scary thing.
"Namjoon, I beg you. Stop this nonsense."
"For thirty years I willingly played my role. No complaints, hyung. Do I not deserve this?"
Seokjin doesn't hold back a derisive scoff as he says, "you deserve it so much that it makes me sick."
He means it and he hates that he does.
October 13, 2016 | Third Timeline
"What's up with you?" Yoongi eyes him with a suspicious glare.
Seokjin is back in his prison, tied up with the ropes he now treats as his friend. He didn't even protest when Kim Taehyung politely shoved the ropes in his hands, like a slave he willingly clasped his hands and submitted once again to the humiliation he's been experiencing.
"I'm not in the mood." Seokjin says.
"For what?" Yoongi lazily leans against the table cluttered with metal scraps and trash, crossed his arms and watches Kim Seokjin.
Seokjin trashes around, gesturing at the entirety of what's going on. "This."
"Let me go."
Yoongi just laughs and says, "yeah, not gonna happen."
"I'll help you."
"No thanks." Yoongi picks up a metal scrap and ignores Seokjin.
"I'll help Kim Taehyung."
"Forget i— wait, what?" Clang. The metal scrap hits the floor.
"Let me go first.”
"What are you up to?" Yoongi inches closer, is interest and curiosity piqued.
"You'll find out if you let me go." His gaze is more intense by the minute.
"I'm sorry but I can't trust you—"
"Kim Taehyung is about to do something." Yoongi falters, long enough for Kim Seokjin to deliver what he has to say. He continues, "You have to make up your mind. Stop him or let him."
"What do you mean?"
Suddenly, something clicks even before Seokjin can say something. These past few days, Taehyung had been acting strange. Yoongi had assumed it had something to do with today, that his friend was restless and lost, but right now he's not so sure anymore. For days they've been searching for answers, a way to save Jimin and stop the loop, but only now does it occur to Yoongi that Taehyung hasn't been planning with him. He's also grown secretive. Why is that?
He's found a way.
"It's not gonna end well for him, Min Yoongi." Seokjin says.
"What are you trying to say?"
Seokjin scoffs, shaking his head, "think. Breaking a loop has never been done before. Someone's death is a loop. But what if you die in that someone's place?"
Suddenly, Yoongi's stomach drops. It all makes sense now. All this time, while Yoongi was combing the surface of the earth for answers, Taehyung was planning on his own. And Taehyung, that bastard, would turn to suicide if it means saving Jimin.
"Judging by the look in your eyes, you figured it out?" Seokjin asks, his voice strained and grim.
"That bastard, really?"
"Yes." Seokjin answers, looking away.
Yoongi feels his stomach churn uncomfortably. He asks, every word dripping with poison, "what did you tell him?"
Yoongi crouches down and grabs Seokjin by the collar, he sneers, "What the fuck did you say to him?"
"Nothing. He's made up his mind all on his own. You never noticed? And you call yourself his friend?" Seokjin spits back.
Yoongi absentmindedly lets go of Seokjin and falls sprawling on the ground, his eyes blank. Silently, almost to himself, he says, "what do I do to save them?"
"Kim Taehyung will do anything. I've seen that fire in his eyes in someone else's. It cannot be extinguished." Seokjin says, leaning back on the pole. He adds, "You can at least try. But I doubt it will work."
"You said you've seen this before, when?"
"What he's trying to do, it's been done before. Once." Seokjin says, looking down.
Yoongi asks, tilting his head, "What happened?"
"We do have nothing, at first. But some of us eventually finds something. Someone." Seokjin says almost to himself.
"Oh my god, you fell in love?" Yoongi asks, mortified.
"Fuck you. No, it wasn't me." Seokjin says, his eyes sharp as knives, "I had a partner at work once. He was much older than me in terms of service. He fell in love with a normal man. Like Jimin, that man died in an accident. It was a loop. My partner had this obsession to save him. He tried to break it for fifteen times, you know. He watched him die for fifteen times. Until he decided he couldn't do it anymore. He was broken, in all aspects. He thought of this crazy idea, to just die with him if he couldn't save him. I tried to stop him but I couldn't, so I abandoned him."
"A few days later, I heard he was on trial. He was sentenced the maximum punishment. He ceased existing. That man he tried to save and protect forgot all about him because he never existed in the first place. Somehow, the man he loved survived the accident. I realized my partner must've died in his place." Seokjin says, his voice low and quiet.
"And you remember him? Everything?"
"I'm not human, Min Yoongi. Of course I do." Seokjin rolls his eyes. "It's a curse. I sometimes get all the timelines mixed up, it's maddening."
Silence settles in for a moment. There's too much information sitting in the space between the two, Yoongi is afraid to pick up anything. And then, he remembers. He needs to start moving if he is to save Taehyung.
"I'll try." Yoongi scrambles up and stands unsteadily. He's about to rush out when Seokjin calls out. He looks back, impatient, "what?"
"Save Park Jimin. It's what Kim Taehyung, your friend, wants."
That must be the most selfish thing Kim Seokjin has ever said. He knows. He also knows Yoongi is late. The clock has reached the end and he admits: He intentionally caused that delay.
There's an infinite chance things can go wrong. Taehyung is prepared, nonetheless. The gun in his bag pack feels heavier every second, the phone in his pocket becomes too still and each hour that passes feels like only a second. Already, it's near seven o'clock.
Taehyung thinks he has everything under control. The taxi with the same plate number picks him up from the coffee shop, the driver unsuspecting of what is about to transpire. Just as Taehyung planned. The driver now has no other option but to wait for later, he's gonna shoot Jimin.
During the trip, Taehyung finds himself staring at the driver. It takes all his will power to not slit the throat of the man before him. To calm his nerves, he decides to strike a conversation instead.
"Ahjussi, do you have a wife?" He asks listlessly.
The man seems distracted for a second then answers, "no."
"What about children, do you have any?" Taehyung asks, looking outside the window.
"Why? You seem old enough to have grandchildren." I want to kill you.
"No time." Maybe I can hit your head on the steering wheel.
Taehyung says, clasping and unclasping his hands, "That's a lie. Everyone has time. It's just up to them what to do with it."
And you chose to spend yours on young men and prey on their weaknesses, did you not?
Beat. What is he doing? Where did these thoughts come from?
A sudden realization occurs to Taehyung, one that is so loud and clear he almost laughs. All this time, he's been fooling himself. Only now does he recognize the leering voice that's always been there. He realizes it is his own— his insecure, doubtful and angry voice.
Taehyung fishes out his phone and opens up the messaging app. He composes a text message then sends it. For a moment, as the digital clock at the top of his phone screen ticks closer to 7 o'clock, he stares at the sent message.
I love you.
He's not expecting for a reply. He just did it to gather strength, to remind himself what he's doing this for.
"Ahjussi, I have a boyfriend. Are you surprised?" Taehyung puts his phone back to his pocket then looks straight to the front mirror, meeting the eyes of the driver for the first time. He sees nothing there, no conscience. No soul.
Taehyung chuckles mirthlessly and says, "Someone wants him dead and I can't just stand doing nothing. What do you think is my plan?"
Taehyung can tell that the man is finally suspicious but he doesn't stop talking, "I'm gonna kill him before he lays a hand on my boyfriend."
The man says nothing. The clock ticks to 7 o'clock.
Taehyung says for the last time, "Jimin says hi."
The man looks up, fear and madness mixed in his eyes.
Then the accident happens. There's a momentary silence before Taehyung tries to shove the driver off lane and succeeds, sending them hurtling across the road in full speed. They wrestle for the steering wheel, Taehyung elbowing the man on the face and him getting hit by a knee. Ahead, the traffic light is green. Taehyung exerts one last effort to keep the man from touching the wheel or the brakes.
The traffic light changes to yellow. Then to red. In a split second, Taehyung thinks he saw the same delivery truck. He knows he has succeeded.
Taehyung hears the horn before he felt the collision.
"Kim Namjoon, a Time Warden, you are guilty of many crimes which include: Conspiring with Time Renegades resulting to defection, direct interference with Time and alteration of the course of history. You are therefore sentenced the maximum punishment: To cease existing, you shall be erased from the course of all Time and the world itself. You never existed." The gravel is then pounded, its booming sound travels across the winding corridors of the Grand Clock.
Kim Seokjin, with a heavy heart, screws his eyes shut. He leans against one of the columns in the empty corridor. He doesn't cry, no tears came. But he feels something bloom inside him, a speck of something unfamiliar, one which he will remember for as long as he exists.
I will look after him, Namjoon. If it means I can keep your memory alive.
Days turn to months and finally, it's already autumn of 2018.
Park Jimin sits by his room's window, his eyes trained on the small children running around downstairs. The sun casts a friendly kind of heat through the leaves of the trees, the sky seems to be in a good mood. Lulled in between a state of lucidity and sleep, Jimin closes his eyes as he feels the warmth on his skin.
It's such a refreshing change of scenery in contrast with the din, which seems to always exist, in the streets and public places somewhere far from his neighborhood. Over the peace and quiet, Jimin's thoughts are louder than ever.
Jimin thinks of nothing in particular, whatever touches the rim of his mind is a subject he will mull over. He thinks of winter, the music box Min Yoongi gave him for his birthday last month, the paintings stuck in his living room and Kim Seokjin with his ridiculous stories about a guy who died two years ago.
Seokjin meets Jimin every time he can, when he's not busy doing things Jimin will never know, and tells him the story of his friend who saved the love of his life and perished in his shoes.
"He was an idiot. He even jumped off a rooftop once, can you believe it?" Seokjin once said, in his eyes were a look of endearment so vivid and sad that Jimin couldn't help but want to believe.
"You always have some bullshit to say, hyung. That's gotta be a made up story."
Seokjin chuckled, "If it is, then what a sad story."
"I have a picture. Taken days before he died. You wanna see?" Seokjin passed him a piece of paper, a Polaroid photo of two guys smiling at the camera and another who was tied up with ropes and gagged sitting in the middle of them. It looked hilarious to Jimin, little did he know that the picture had a darker meaning. Seokjin said, "He's the one on the right. The one with a mullet."
The stranger was looking up at him but was looking at nothing at the same time. His bright smile and youth was preserved by the picture and would surely stay that way for forever. Jimin always thought that there was something morbid about pictures, how they could save a memory, how even the dead could still look at you and how he posed for it not thinking they would die and the ones who were left would be haunted by your smiling face from the time you didn't know you would be dead.
"My friend was handsome, right?" Seokjin said, interrupting Jimin's train of thought.
Jimin took a moment to answer. He murmured almost to himself, "Yeah, he is."
Jimin couldn't help but wonder, what's with this person in the picture that makes his heart ache in places he didn't think existed? But it is there, a flutter and a flinch, as if pricked by a needle.
Seokjin himself was absorbed in his own thoughts. He thinks of the picture which should've disappeared when Kim Taehyung did but when he put his hand inside his pocket that day, he found the picture safe and intact. As if time showed a little mercy for the memory of this melancholic man who only ever wanted to save his beloved.
Jimin likes to walk home, no matter if the distance is quite far. Jimin likes his coffee iced, no matter if the weather is cold. Jimin likes to watch cartoon movies, no matter if it makes him look like a kid. Jimin likes going out with his friends, no matter if it's a weekday. Jimin likes to paint, no matter if it reminds him of his old studio. Jimin likes the pocket watch he always keeps with him, no matter if it doesn't work and looks old and ancient. Jimin likes so many things and he would like nothing more than for the unknown ache in his heart to go away, no matter if it makes him feel alive.
It comes unannounced, during moments when Jimin is feeling his best it crawls in and takes over his senses. It throbs in his chest, nominal at first, then it becomes too unbearable a sob seems like the only way to let it out. Jimin often finds himself a crying mess in his room, when he's relaxed only a minute ago and the neighborhood is asleep. The pain is unexplained, a very insistent intruder and he just wants a reason for all of it.
Seokjin has one in mind. A lament for something you've lost. That's the problem though, Jimin doesn't know what he lost or if there's really something missing. But it sounds more plausible than saying it's a random surge of emotions with no valid reason. Unless Jimin's a madman.
Yoongi's take of it is a different iteration of the same thing Seokjin has been saying, the heart remembers what the mind doesn't, like lost love.
Every passing day, the pain grows. Every passing moment, Jimin is more convinced there's really something missing. But every time, he doesn't know. He doesn't remember.
Nearing the end of November, Jimin receives a bouquet of flowers through delivery to his house. Confused, he still signed the papers by the delivery man's persuasion.
The bouquet is a lovely ensemble of pink and white tulips, covered with a thin transparent plastic to protect it from the harsh wind and heat. The wrapping paper used is a white rough sheet tied with a purple ribbon. It really is beautiful.
Jimin wonders who sent it and where in South Korea did it come from, since the weather isn't appropriate for tulips to be in abundance. He marvels at it, regardless. The pink bulbs are the pinkest he's ever seen and in complete happiness, Jimin immediately transfers the flowers to a vase he found laying around.
If it is a mistake, I'm not returning it. I do hope it is really for me though so I know someone out there is thinking of me.
Looking at the huge bulbs of pink and white, Jimin suddenly stumbles upon a memory, something more like a dream than a recollection. He smiles as he thinks of someone, whose face is a blur, telling him he has the pinkest cheeks.
That night, no pain disturbed Jimin. He found peace and solace in the dark of the night, as he gazed on the lovely bulbs of tulips sitting by his open window.