If Yoongi had to name the place, he’d call it a parking lot. It’s not a parking lot, but at the same time it is. There are car-sized squares painted on asphalt, for example, which points to it being a parking lot, and the ground is lit by a row of streetlights that creates a pool of light about the size of eight cars; a dull-looking four-by-two grid for him to examine.
Yoongi sits cross-legged in the middle of a parking spot and ponders the mystery of his surroundings.
It’s too quiet out here. No cars come and go, and aside from that one row of streetlights the lot is veiled in darkness. Perhaps it goes on forever outside the sphere of light but at the same time it feels as if everything stops existing where the light ends. The air is still, unmoving, and far above, small twinkling lights dance in slow rotation. They kind of look like stars in the night sky, but they’re just a little bit off.
Everything about the place is a bit off, to be honest. It’s as if someone took all the elements that make up a parking lot and stacked them together, but it was done from a reference picture, by someone who’s actually never been to a parking lot. The surroundings remain static: the day never comes, no cars arrive, the tiny lights never flicker out of existence.
Yoongi doesn’t know why he’s in this place, but it looks like he can’t leave either. He’s tried to walk past the edge of the lit area, but somehow, he always ends up in the spot where he started. He’s tried calling out to someone, anyone, but no sound comes out of his mouth.
At first it was scary, but it’s been so long that by now it’s starting to get a bit dull, even if he has no way of telling how much time has passed.
The most interesting detail about the not-quite-a-parking-lot is the one thing that occasionally does change—a person sometimes joins him.
Yoongi doesn’t know his name or who he is, but he’s nicknamed him the storyteller.
When he’s there, Yoongi can just see him in his peripheral vision, a figure clothed in light blue. For some reason, Yoongi can’t look straight at him. He’s tried, but it’s like his gaze slides off the edges, can’t grasp the visual details. Yoongi only knows two things he can connect to the storyteller: the color blue and his voice.
Oh, his voice.
It’s rich and deep, warm like honeyed tea.
The storyteller talks to him about a fantastical distant country and someone called the Wind Prince, who is currently on the run from the authorities. He’s not actually a prince, this Wind Prince, but a very clever thief who gets out of trouble just as easily as he gets into it. The storyteller’s voice is warm when he talks about the Wind Prince, like the thief is a fumbling little brother who keeps getting himself in tricky situations.
Whenever the storyteller’s words fade, Yoongi wants to shout after him, ask for more details, but his voice doesn’t cooperate. So he’s left alone in the parking lot, with a million twinkling fake stars and painted parking spots with edges that are a bit too crisp to be real.
Aside from the storyteller, at times the silence gets broken by beeping sounds, regular like a clockwork. Sometimes they’re faint, almost indistinguishable from the surrounding silence—sometimes loud, like they’re right next to him.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
“I don’t think I ever told you the story of how the Wind Prince got his nickname?”
Yoongi startles. His surroundings flicker for a brief moment and the beeping noise grows stronger—then everything settles back to how it always is: twinkling lights, parking spaces and asphalt that doesn’t feel real beneath his fingers. But the storyteller is with him now, a soft shape just at the edge of Yoongi’s vision.
The storyteller has this strange aura around him. It looks like a halo of light, and if Yoongi believed in angels, he’d think the storyteller belonged among them.
“See, there was this strange city he traveled to, it was way up on a mountain, all carved into the mountainside. The emperor who ruled there had a precious dagger which he kept in his palace that sat above the rest of the city. Our trickster thief had heard of the dagger and wanted to steal it, but there was only one problem: the road up to the city was narrow and winding like a serpent, and it had guards posted at every bend. It was the only way in and out of the city, so stealing anything and getting away would be impossible, right?”
Yoongi smiles. He tries to reach out to the storyteller, but his fingers won’t move. He tries to swallow the lump in his throat so he can say something, but like before, the words don’t come out.
The storyteller chuckles, soft under his breath. “So anyway, being a clever thief, he came up with a crazy plan. Once in the city, he bought tightly-woven fabric from a local seamstress, and asked her to sew it into wings that would attach to his arms. He said it was for a performance he was preparing in honor of the emperor.”
This thief sounds like a nutjob if Yoongi’s ever heard of one. He wants to laugh, but no sound comes out. He tries to cough, groan, or make some kind of a sound, but his throat refuses to cooperate, and so he’s left waiting until the storyteller continues.
“He got his wings, and then tricked his way into the palace, saying that he was a traveling magician and wanted to perform for the emperor. He was wearing his wings like a cape, and it looked ridiculous, so they thought: surely he must be a performer of some kind. So they took him to the great hall, a room on the upper floor of the palace that had a balcony overlooking the city. The emperor was there having dinner, with his precious dagger hanging off his belt, and our thief began performing little tricks he’d learned on his travels. Then, a bit into his performance, he asked to borrow the emperor’s dagger, for a trick.”
The storyteller pauses for effect, and Yoongi hears the regular beeps in the background, like beats to a song. They seem louder than before.
The storyteller’s deep voice goes up a few semitones as he imitates the voice of the Wind Prince. “‘I promise you, Your Highness, you’ve never seen a trick like this before,’ said the thief. The emperor hesitated, but eventually handed over his dagger. He knew that anyone trying to steal it would not get very far.”
The star-like lights above flicker and expand, and for a moment the asphalt beneath Yoongi’s fingers feels soft. It’s as if a slow exhale goes through the entire parking lot, bending reality in its wake. The beeping grows louder.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The storyteller falls silent, and his aura dims. For a moment Yoongi thinks he’s slipping away, so he turns to look at him—but as usual, he can’t focus his eyes, and his gaze slips past the edges of the storyteller’s figure.
The storyteller sighs, and Yoongi wants to ask him why he’s sad. He extends his hand to the side, and this time his fingers move but they slip past the glowing figure like he’s not really there. It’s infuriating.
“Anyway.” The storyteller clears his throat. “So the thief held the dagger up and made little gestures above it, like he was performing a magic trick. ‘Now watch me make this dagger disappear,’ he said. Then he shoved the dagger into a pouch hanging off his belt, and before anyone could stop him, he ran out to the balcony and jumped, spread his wings and glided down from the mountain, never to be seen again.”
The storyteller’s voice fills the parking lot with warmth. Yoongi wants to bask in it like a cat who has found a sunny spot.
“The people in the city said he saddled the wind and rode it down to the valley, and ever since he’s been called the Wind Prince, and all over the country people claim that whenever the emperor’s wrath almost catches up with him, he just flaps his wings and flies away.”
The storyteller laughs, and the sound is music to Yoongi’s ears. “So yeah. That’s how he became known as the Wind Prince, and he went on to have many more adventures.”
That sounds an awful lot like the story is finished. Almost immediately, the glowing aura in Yoongi’s peripheral vision grows dim. Yoongi reaches out, blindly, trying to grasp the retreating figure, but the storyteller fades out, gradually vanishing from sight.
The only thing that’s left is the never-changing tiny sphere of lights that is Yoongi’s world, accompanied by the clockwork-like noises in the background.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
They’re getting louder now. Closer.
The pain wakes him up.
His throat is sore. His muscles ache like every fiber within them is stretched beyond its limit. His head feels like it’s about to burst. The light in the ceiling burns his eyes when he tries to pry them open.
In short, everything fucking hurts.
A voice speaks from above. “Yoongi, can you open your eyes for me?”
The voice is unfamiliar, but it’s friendly and soothing. Yoongi manages to crack his eyes open. A blinding light flashes before his eyes, and he blinks, trying to get away from it.
“Good. Can you squeeze my hands?”
Cool hands clasp his, and Yoongi tries to make his muscles cooperate. He doesn’t know if the pathetic attempt really counts as squeezing, but the person holding his hands seems pleased.
The voice speaks to someone else in the room. “Jimin, take his socks off, I’ll check the plantar reflex and then he can sleep some more.”
A blanket is lifted off Yoongi, then gloved hands slide his socks off. The air in the room feels cool. Yoongi hates getting his feet cold, and he tries to tell them to put the socks back on, but his throat is dry like a fucking desert and he only manages to let out a pathetic little noise.
A new voice, higher in pitch, speaks up and a hand pats Yoongi’s shoulder. “Shh, it’s alright. We’re almost done.”
“Movement in the feet and toes, that’s good.” Something cool swipes the soles of his feet, one at a time. “Negative Babinski, both sides, good. Mark that on the chart.”
Then the voice speaks to him again. “Alright, Yoongi. All done for now, I’ll let you get some rest.”
The socks slip onto his feet and the blanket is hoisted back on top of him. The voice turns away and talks to someone in the room. Something about medication. Yoongi is too tired to care, so he slips into darkness.
This time, there’s no parking lot or twinkling lights. Only soothing darkness, warm and welcoming like a hug.
Next time Yoongi wakes up, he’s not in quite as much pain anymore. The lights above are dimmed and it’s very quiet.
Well, quiet aside from the familiar beeping noise. Yoongi blinks at the ceiling a few times, then turns his head to the side to locate the source of the sound. He spots several bags of liquid hanging off a metal pole, with tubes from the bags going under his blanket. He then focuses on the digital screen behind the pole, where a continuous line draws a repeating landscape of mountains and valleys—and every time it hits a mountaintop, it plays a tiny little electronic sound.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
A heart monitor. It’s a heart monitor, and the beeps are his own heartbeats.
Yoongi turns his head the other way. Another bed occupies half of the room, but it’s empty. Beyond the bed, there’s a window with blinds half-open. The world outside is dark, so it must be nighttime.
Yoongi tries to swallow, but his throat is too dry. Also, his nose is itchy as fuck, and he fumbles a hand out of the blankets.
There’s a tube taped to his nose. Yoongi frowns. His hand isn’t functioning properly, it’s all shaky and weird, but he manages to peel off the tape. When he tugs on the tube, he feels like gagging, because it goes all the way down his throat.
A shout from the door startles him.
“Oh, no no no, mister, we’re not doing that, alright?”
Yoongi turns his eyes toward the voice. It’s a man dressed in light blue scrubs and—Yoongi squints—with rosy pink hair.
He strides over to Yoongi and pries his fingers off the tube. “Please don’t touch that.”
Yoongi tries to speak, but his throat is dry and sore. He makes a face and points at his throat, shaking his head.
He receives a smile. “Yeah, your throat is probably still mad at us for the intubation tube. It should be fine in a few days now that you’re breathing on your own.”
Yoongi frowns. What? he mouths.
The man fixes the tube back to his nose. “Alright, now just let that be, okay? I know it’s super irritating, but it’s your feeding tube and if you pull it up you might get food goo into your lungs, and we don’t want that.” He grins. “I’m Jimin, by the way. How are you feeling?”
Like death, Yoongi wants to say, but his tongue isn’t having any of it. Water, he mouths. Seriously, his mouth is so dry it feels like his tongue has withered away and his gums are bleeding.
Jimin tilts his head and smiles, apologetic. “No can do, sorry, not before the doctor gives permission. But I can try to give you some moisture to get your salivary glands going again.”
Yoongi stares, uncomprehending, then gives up on trying to ask what that means. He nods instead, which is a mistake, because it makes the tube in his nose move just a bit, and god if that isn’t the most irritating thing in the world.
Jimin leaves the room, but he comes back after a moment with something that looks like a pack of oversized cotton swabs dipped in water. He sticks one in Yoongi’s mouth and twirls it around. It tastes like artificial lemon, but it seems to work, because it leaves Yoongi’s mouth feeling less like the driest place on planet Earth and more like something resembling a functioning mouth.
Yoongi swallows. His throat clicks painfully, but the lemon taste goes down. He can feel the damn tube when he swallows, but at least now he feels like he might be able to talk.
“What—?” His voice sounds like someone chainsawed his larynx into pieces and then glued them back together in the wrong order.
Jimin throws the lemon swab in the trash. “What happened?” he completes for Yoongi.
Jimin sighs. “You were in a car accident.” He purses his lips. “Or well, a hit-and-run, more like. You were crossing the street when a car hit you.”
Yoongi swallows again. “How long—?”
“Let’s see, you’ve been in a medically-induced coma for almost a week now. We had to keep you under to let you heal a bit.”
Yoongi wrinkles his brow. He vaguely remembers a place: a parking lot, and twinkling lights.
“That’s what the—?” A dry cough interrupts his sentence, and he gives up on trying to form the rest of the words. That’s what the parking lot was? A hallucinatory dream caused by medically-induced coma?
“There, now.” Jimin pulls the blanket up. “Try to get some more rest. You’ve been through quite the meatgrinder, but you pulled through. It’s gonna be fine, just you wait and see. Now that you’re awake, we’ll get you up and running in no time.” He smiles and pats Yoongi’s shoulder.
Up and running sounds like Yoongi’s worst nightmare, to be honest. He hates running even when he hasn’t been in a car accident, and he can’t imagine being hit by a car is going to change that.
Jimin leaves the room after one last warning to not touch any of the tubes, and Yoongi is left alone with his aching body and his hazy thoughts going in circles.
His body doesn’t feel tired—hell, he’s been sleeping for a week, and that’s the most rest he has probably gotten in years—but his mind is exhausted.
He falls back into a dreamless sleep with one question in his mind.
There was someone with him at times. A voice, telling him stories. Was that a figment of his imagination, a hallucination of medicated sleep? Or was it real?
Yoongi wakes up to someone gently touching his shoulder.
“Good morning, I heard you woke up yesterday.”
Yoongi struggles to surface from sleep. That voice. He knows that voice. It’s deep and warm, and it was keeping him company while he was confined in the most remote corners of his own mind.
He blinks open his eyes, then raises a hand to shield them from the light.
“Careful, now.” A warm hand grabs his wrist. “You’ve got all sorts of things poking out of you, don’t wanna knock those off.”
Yoongi allows his hand to be pulled off his face, and then he blinks at the source of the voice. A man stands by his bed, dressed in a blue outfit identical to the one that the other nurse—Jimin?—had last night. The brightness of the morning sun through the window forms a halo around his hair. His light blue hair, almost the same shade as his scrubs.
Yoongi squints. What is it with these nurses and pastel hair anyway?
Below the hair, two gorgeous brown eyes measure Yoongi. The gaze is followed by a smile that feels like a punch in the gut—it’s so wide and beautiful. “Hello there.”
Yoongi swallows. His throat is dry again. “Mh.”
“How are you feeling?”
Yoongi licks his lips. “‘m ‘kay?” he tries.
“That’s good to hear. I’m Taehyung. We should get you washed up and then see how well your head deals with sitting up.”
Taehyung. Taehyung was the one talking to him when he was unconscious, Yoongi is sure of it. He watches with tired eyes as Taehyung moves around the room, gathering supplies and bringing them over to Yoongi’s bed. He comes crashing back to reality when Taehyung flips the blanket aside and starts undoing the fastenings of Yoongi’s hospital gown with deft fingers.
Yoongi tries to protest and hold onto his clothes, although his movements are clumsy and weak. It’s embarrassing enough to have a feeding tube taped to his nose and god knows what else going in and coming out of his body, he doesn’t have to deal with this gorgeous man seeing all that.
Taehyung gives him an amused glance. “Look, I know this is probably kind of embarrassing to you, but I’m just doing my job here, don’t worry. I’ve seen it all and much worse. And as for you, I’ve done this quite a few times already, only you weren’t putting up quite as much of a fight.”
Great. Yoongi closes his eyes and exhales, going lax. Guess he’ll have to deal.
Embarrassment aside, once the hospital gown is gone, Yoongi is surprised to find just how many different shades of bruises the human skin can display. The nurse called Jimin said he’d been through quite the meatgrinder—looks like he wasn’t exaggerating. Wherever he looks, Yoongi finds yet another bruise or a scab.
He kind of expected to be worse off, though. There’s no gauze wraps or casts anywhere on his body. But there must be some hidden injuries somewhere, or else they wouldn’t have sedated him.
Hidden… or in a place he can’t see.
His head. Yoongi reaches up so quickly that the back of his hand stings, reminding him that there’s a needle in it.
Taehyung looks up from where he’s plucking off the pads of the now-quiet heart monitor. “Careful.” He doesn’t stop Yoongi’s prodding fingers, but he watches with a cautious expression as Yoongi feels around his face. There’s the annoying tube in his nose, something that feels like a scab on his cheekbone, another scab across his left eyebrow and then—
The left side of his head is shaved.
Taehyung steps closer. “There’s a wound about two centimeters above your ear.”
Yoongi stares at Taehyung. “What?” he whispers.
Taehyung sighs. “Subdural hematoma.”
That means absolutely nothing to Yoongi. He tilts his head, questioning. “Mh?”
“Essentially, you were bleeding inside your skull, and the blood clotted in the area between your brain and your skull. The surgeon had to drill a hole to relieve pressure and remove the clot, because it was pushing your brain to the side.”
Well that sounds nasty. “Ew,” Yoongi manages.
Taehyung smiles. “Yeah, that about sums it up. Aside from that, your shoulder was dislocated and your collarbone fractured, so I would be careful with those for a bit.”
Reflexively, Yoongi moves his shoulders and finds the left one is quite stiff when he lifts it. He doesn’t feel any pain from the shoulder or his collarbone, but he suspects he’s doped up on pain medication, so that may have something to do with it.
“Okay, so how about that wash now?” Taehyung says, holding up a washcloth.
Yoongi tries to keep a neutral face while Taehyung asks him to turn this way and that, then washes his skin with the cloth and puts a clean gown on him.
Yoongi would have never thought turning to his side could be so tiring, but he finds he’s fucking exhausted after rolling over a few times. This is ridiculous.
Taehyung leaves the room with the dirty laundry. Yoongi can hear him call out to someone in the hallway.
“Hobi, hyung! Can you come over and bring the BP meter?”
Another person joins them in the room. This one doesn’t have pastel hair. His hair is dark brown and shiny, and he flashes a wide smile as he and Taehyung approach the bed.
“Yoongi!” he greets like they’re old friends.
Yoongi has no idea who he is.
“Glad to see you up and about.”
Yoongi chuckles, dry in his throat. He’s hardly up and about. More like shot down and dying.
Taehyung slides a blood pressure cuff on Yoongi’s arm. “Hoseok is our ward’s physical therapist. As soon as you’re well enough to stand, he’s gonna make you run for your life.”
Yoongi’s eyes widen.
Hoseok snorts. “Tae, why do you keep telling the patients I’m here to torture them?”
“Because to most of them, I’m sure that’s what it feels like,” Taehyung says, laughing. His laughter fills the room like the most beautiful melody. Seriously, his voice is like fucking honey, soft and soothing.
Yoongi watches him as he puts the blood pressure meter on and the cuff around Yoongi’s arm tightens. Taehyung’s lips form a slight pout as he watches the numbers on the display. God, he’s so—
Yoongi averts his gaze when Taehyung looks up and rattles out a string of numbers while Hoseok taps them into a tablet.
“Alright, let’s see,” Hoseok says, setting the tablet on the bedside table. He pulls the blanket aside. “Can you wiggle your toes for me?”
Yoongi looks down. The hospital gown reaches mid-thigh, and below the hem his bare legs lie flat on the uncomfortable mattress. His legs have never been very defined, but now they look like two sticks, and aside from the fading bruises his skin is almost as pale as the white sheets beneath him. He wiggles his toes inside the loose hospital socks.
“Awesome. Now can you lift your leg up to here?” Hoseok hovers a hand above Yoongi’s ankle.
Hoseok has him perform a wide variety of circus tricks, where Yoongi has to lift his legs and arms and touch his left knee with his right foot and whatnot. Yoongi feels uncoordinated and clumsy, but Hoseok seems pleased with everything he does. Every now and then, the cuff around his arm tightens, and Taehyung calls out a new set of numbers. After they’re done, Hoseok raises his hand to a high five, and Yoongi feels oddly giddy when he manages to weakly slap his palm against Hoseok’s.
Baby steps, or something along those lines.
Hoseok rubs his hands together. “Alright. Time to sit up.”
“If you feel faint, let us know,” Taehyung says. “I’m going to hold onto you the entire time, no worries.”
Yoongi gives him an incredulous look. They’re talking about sitting up as if it’s a damn marathon.
He soon discovers it might just as well be.
Yoongi’s limbs feel like wet noodles and his torso weighs a ton, so instead of bouncing up from the bed like he intended, he needs to sit up at a glacial pace while Taehyung supports him and Hoseok calls out directions like it’s a dance routine: turn to your side, now hoist your feet over the edge of the bed, and uppp—
It’s a struggle, but eventually Yoongi finds himself sitting on the edge of the bed, his feet hanging just above the floor. Hoseok grabs a remote and lowers the bed until Yoongi’s feet hit the ground, and yeah, way to make him feel like the shortest person on the planet.
Taehyung’s hand rests on the small of his back, supporting him. His face is very close, and he studies Yoongi’s features. “How are you feeling?”
Like the world just tilted on its axis. Like someone started rotating the room around him. Like he’s about to keel over. The spinning sensation fades soon, but Yoongi feels like he’s about to throw up. Too bad he can only express himself with an eloquent, “Yuck.”
Taehyung chuckles. “Nauseous? Yeah, that’s pretty common around here.”
The cuff around Yoongi’s arm tightens again.
“Alright, blood pressure is holding up pretty nice,” Hoseok says from behind Yoongi. “Also, if you need to hurl, please use this.”
A bean-shaped papery dish plops on the bed beside Yoongi, and Taehyung grabs it, holding it up to Yoongi’s face.
Yoongi wills his stomach to hold onto whatever is down there, because Taehyung has already seen pretty much every disgusting detail there is to see about him, so Yoongi prays to any higher powers that he can keep Taehyung from witnessing this as well. Damn stupid hospitals, hiring these stupidly gorgeous nurses and making everyone’s life more difficult.
Yoongi swallows a few times, and the worst nausea passes. “I’m okay,” he rasps, pushing the dish away from his face.
Taehyung’s hand touches his cheek. “He’s a bit clammy, let’s put him back to bed now.”
“You did amazing, Yoongi,” Hoseok tells him.
Yoongi lets out a snort, unsure if the remark is sarcastic or not. Moving his legs and arms a bit and sitting up with someone else’s support hardly falls under the category of amazing, but he’ll take the praise if it’s offered.
They put him back to bed in a half-sitting position. Yoongi feels like he’s done a whole triathlon, and he closes his eyes while Hoseok and Taehyung talk in low voices by the door. Then Hoseok’s voice retreats down the hallway, but Taehyung steps closer, makes a fuss about putting another pillow to support Yoongi.
“Oh, right,” Taehyung says like he forgot something. “Dr. Seokjin said after you sit up we can try drinking some water. I mean, you seem to swallow just fine.”
Yoongi stares at him, blinks, and then tries to hide his grin.
“Oh, sh—” Taehyung covers his mouth and laughs. “Okay, that definitely came out, uh, not the way I intended. I meant that you’re not drooling on your shirt when you sit up, so your, uh, swallowing reflexes are working.” He looks a bit flustered as he walks over to the sink and fills up a cup halfway with water, then mixes in some white powder. He looks over his shoulder at Yoongi. “Just in case, this water is a bit thicker than usual. The consistency is—umm, not great, but if it goes down well, we can drop the thickening agent.”
The consistency is, decidedly, not great at all. It’s like drinking water-pudding or slurping down a damn jellyfish. Yoongi takes a sip from the cup when Taehyung holds it to his mouth, then makes a face. “Ew.”
“Like I said, not great. Drink this, and the next cup will be pure water, promise. Can you hold the cup yourself?”
Taehyung hands the cup to him, then watches as Yoongi slowly downs the rest of the jellyfish slime water. Disgusting as it is, it does help lessen the dry desert-sensation inside his mouth.
“Done,” Yoongi says, handing the cup back with a shaky hand. “I’m—” he swallows and grimaces, “not doing that again.” Well, at least his voice sounds a bit better now, not so much like his throat was hacked to pieces anymore.
Taehyung smiles. “No need. I’ll let you get some rest now. If you need anything, press this button.” He shows Yoongi a remote with a big red button, hanging off the bedframe right beside his pillow. “I’ll be just down the hall, alright?”
“Thanks.” Yoongi watches Taehyung cross the room, and he wants to ask—the voice, the stories, they’re a bit blurry in his memory, but he’s sure it was Taehyung.
Taehyung is at the door when Yoongi manages to find his voice. “Wind Prince,” he says.
Taehyung stops dead and then turns slowly. “What?”
“You—you talked to me about—the Wind Prince, right?”
Taehyung’s mouth opens and closes, and he shakes his head as if embarrassed. “You heard me.”
“I heard… your voice, telling me stories.”
Taehyung looks down and huffs out a breath. “I didn’t think you’d remember—they’re just… these silly kids’ stories I came up with, I—I used to tell them to my siblings as bedtime stories.”
Yoongi wants to say it wasn’t silly at all—that it was soothing to have someone with him in the vast emptiness—but Taehyung is already hurrying out of the room.