Jimin is shaking under the covers.
It’s never because of the weather.
He can’t fall asleep or he’s going to wake up screaming and earn himself a beating… or worse.
But lying awake in the darkness was slowly throwing him into a panic attack.
His hands are cold, freezing cold and he can’t stop squirming.
Slowly but steadily, his heart started hammering into his chest, worryingly stronger and faster until Jimin was sure he was going to die.
And then, the door opened gently, quietly. It could have as well been the loudest noise he had ever heard, drowning the cacophony of his shaking bones and thundering heart.
Suhuwan met his eyes in the darkness and smiled gently at him.
He didn’t close the door behind him when he entered the bedroom and it somehow managed to calm Jimin a tiny bit.
The male walked up to him and bent down to give him a soft kiss on the lips.
“Goodnight, little one” The male said, brushing his disgustingly soft hands against Jimin’s sweat-drenched forehead.
Jimin’s hand is cramping badly, but he hasn’t dared as much as squeak as Suhwan guides him to the backyard. The old man didn’t say a word, simply wrapped his strong, bony hand around Jimin’s wrist and practically dragged him away from his cousin and the morning cartoons at the living room. The house was mostly empty, since all the adults were at the front yard, checking the cars were fully loaded for their weekend trip, nobody noticed his panicked look or the unnecessary strength behind Suhwan’s grip.
Suhwan walked them to the very edge of their backyard, close to the fence and carelessly threw Jimin to the floor, making the kid grit his teeth at the feeling of his bare knees making contact with pebbles and dirt and blood.
There was blood under his knees, blood under his palms from where he managed to catch himself before his face collided with the ground.
But the blood wasn’t his, Suhwan only drew blood from one place of his body and even then, it was never this much.
Not too many inches away from his hands, from his face, was a bloody patch of fur.
“NOOOOOO” Jimin cried out loud, hurting his throat in the process.
It was Bibi.
The collar around its neck was unmistakable, even if covered in tacky blood.
“BIBI!!!” He cried hysterically, attempting once to reach out for his beloved cat before Suhwan’s hand caught the back of his shirt’s neck and yanked him back, choking him in the process.
The old man settled him in his lap, hugging him close, closer.
So close, Jimin could feel his warm breath against his ear as he murmured.
“This is why we don’t call out for cousin Eunji when she’s on her way to the kitchen to get a midnight snack, hmm?”
Suhwan’s gentle pets on his head made him sob louder.
“Next time you don’t keep your mouth shut when I tell you so, it’s gonna be your fucking brother, understood?”
Jimin nodded against Suhwan’s shoulder, gripping the back of his shirt tightly to keep himself grounded.
“Understood?” Suhwan snarled, tugging on his hair so hard he thought chunks of it were going to come off.
Jimin cried and sobbed and wailed and puked.
But nobody came.
It was the perfect excuse.
Jimin had accidentally acquired a hobby that was going to make for such wonderful opportunities for him and Suhwan.
He started painting.
Mainly, he did landscapes.
Mom told Suhwan how Jimin and his dad went sightseeing in the city, sitting down and having quality time for hours while Jimin filled his sketchbooks with scenery.
Jimin hated that Suhwan knew about something that made him so happy.
He knew it wasn’t going to take the old man much to burn his joy into ashes.
“Do you, really? Finally a little artist in the family, huh?” Suhwan said joyously, patting him on the back in a friendly manner.
“Why don’t you show grandpa some of your work, honey?” His mom said, clearly proud of Jimin’s talent. Jimin could have hated her for insisting but… she simply didn’t know.
Jimin nodded, trying to will his hands to stop trembling as he dug his sketchbook out of his bag.
He handed him to Suhwan without making eye contact.
The old man brushed their fingers as he took the sketchbook from him.
Jimin wanted to claw his skin off.
Suhwan made appreciative grunts as he flipped the pages.
“Huh… it’s good. It’s very good, actually. Congratulations, Jimin!” Suhwan ruffled his hair and gave him a proud smile. Jimin remembered a time when those actually meant something.
“Just… very urban, don’t you agree?” He told his mother and Jimin’s stomach sank.
“Well, yeah! That’s what’s around, unfortunately. I’m sure Jimin would love to practice some nature as well, but with Jihyon’s job and mine…”
“You should have said something sooner!”
Jimin doesn’t remember ever hearing such a joyful tone come out of Suhwan’s mouth before.
“I have a cabin in the woods, near a lake where I used to take Jihyon to fish. He hated it” Suhwan admitted between laughs. “But he actually liked exploring the woods and starting campfires! So he coped with my fishing and I coped with my clothes reeking of smoke for days”
Jimin’s mom laughed while nodding, she clearly could picture his husband making a mess out of leaves and wood to catch on fire.
“What do you say, little guy? Would you like to go sightseeing with grandpa for a weekend?”
Suhwan squeezed his shoulder.
If only Jimin could show the bruising mark his strong hold was going to leave behind…
“I’d love to, Grandpa”
Jimin had said goodbye to his parents once the truck was loaded.
Mom gave him lots of kisses and hugs and Jimin almost broke down in front of them.
Dad gave him a new set of watercolors he had already packed with the rest of his art supplements.
He waved at them until they were nothing but little ants in the distance.
He sobbed the rest of the way as Suhwan placed his hand on his thigh.
They got there in the early evening, just as the sun was close to setting. Jimin couldn’t believe he wasn’t going to get even a minute of peace before his nightmare began.
“Unload our things” Suhwan ordered and smacked his butt when passing by.
Jimin bit his lip bloody and obeyed.
He put as much distance between himself and Suhwan as he could, exploring the woods, crushing a squirrel’s skull under the sole of his shoe for what must have been the hundredth time. There weren’t many squirrels in the city and he puked every time he saw an injured cat, so he made do with whatever was available.
But out here in the woods… he surely could find more than he had ever wished for.
And he would never get caught.
Suhwan called him over for dinner and they ate in silence.
The old man stood up and grabbed his cigars.
“I want you on your knees when I come back. Don’t wanna have to tell mommy you fell from a tree”
And out he went, without looking back at Jimin. Leaving him to rot in anxiety and disgust.
If only smoking one cigar took an eternity.
If only Suhwan could never come back.
Jimin stopped in his tracks.
Just as predicted, Suhwan was sat by the lake, cigar almost finished when Jimin found him.
“Grandpa?” He called softly, feeling something close to giddy when the old man startled.
Jimin saw rage pass by his eyes so he gently thrust the tray he had carried with him, towards Suhwan.
“I m-made you some tea…”
Suhwan’s face made something strange like he was caught off guard for the first time in his life. Finally, his expression softened and he sighed, patting the space next to him on the ground, signaling Jimin over.
He took the cup of tea from Jimin’s tray and kissed him on the forehead.
He drank in silence.
Jimin was so, so glad his grandpa hadn’t suspected anything, hadn’t smelled the tea, hadn’t tasted something bitter, hadn’t searched in his bag, had trusted him.
He knew, from a couple of experiences before, how to get blood out of cloth, so carrying the steaks there hadn’t been a problem.
The man on the rustic convenient store a couple of miles away had warned them of the sightings of mountain lions lately, being a friend of Suhwan, the man had even been kind enough to lend the old man a shotgun.
He thought of using it once but it was going to be way too obvious.
This… this was better.
He only regretted Suhwan was going to be unconscious for it.
“Jimin?! What’s wrong? Where are you calling me from, where’s grandpa?!”
“I-I don’t know!” Jimin wailed, desperately. “He left last night to smoke a cigar a-and told me to stay inside!! I walked to the nearest cabin t-to ask for help when he wasn’t there when I woke up!”
“Baby… don’t worry. I… -Yes darling, it’s Jimin, something’s wrong-… Baby, Dad and I are going to rush over there, okay? Don’t move and don’t let anyone touch you!”
Jimin sobbed harder.
Mom should have said that ages ago.