Jin woke that morning to the sound of his mobile phone vibrating. The sound, though subtle, was enough to wake him, especially since he’s been having trouble sleeping the last few nights. Anxiety, his dad told him. And he nodded and went away, after listening to his various suggestions that ranged from relaxation techniques to the meaning of life, because just the idea of being anxious made him anxious, which was a problem in itself, and it reminded him of how when standing between two mirrors it seemed as if that tunnel into the world of reflections seemed to go on forever, to infinity, just around the bend. And if he could just step through – most importantly – he could escape, finally, to the Other Place, where he wouldn’t have to worry about his grades. Where his parents won’t walk in on him with his eyes closed while standing in the middle of the room, somehow preferring they caught him instead masturbating or looking at pictures of naked ladies. And most importantly where he wouldn’t be woken by his vibrating phone.
He looked at the notification. Yoonki had texted him good morning. He had started doing this when the others began to question whether he truly loved Jin, despite their mutual insistence that this was indeed the case (not a good sign when insistence comes into play at any point during a discussion about love). And Yoonki, to reassure Jin, and perhaps himself, began to text his boyfriend good night each evening after they spend their usual few hours after school texting and good morning at around six o’ clock in the morning, when he knew Jin would be up to take a shower. And it wasn’t as if Jin didn’t appreciate the gesture. He loathed to think of himself as ungrateful. But the messages were so perfunctory, so mechanical, that although alone they might have been considered at the very least thoughtful, when they served as the only purpose that he was woken when he preferred to sleep a bit longer, they became tedious, even ridiculous.
Still, he texted: “Good morning. :)”
Seokjin sat in bed. His room, although not big, was comfortably spacious. He tried to maintain a semblance of order and cleanliness, and considering the look of things that morning he determined it a moderate success.
When he went out for breakfast, his parents as usual were already bustling about their integrated dining room and kitchen. His mom was cooking, and his father was making himself a shake.
“There he is,” he manages to say, before pressing a button on the blender, turning it on and making a huge racket. The kind that intellectually should not fit into the atmosphere of the morning, but considering Murphy’s Law seemed only to make too much sense. “Shake?”
“No thank you,” said Jin, as he sat down. A bowl of milk was already waiting for him, next to a box of frosted flakes.
“How did you sleep, honey?” His mom always looked so alive and chipper in the morning that he often wondered where she got the energy. If only he knew, he’d go there more often.
“Did you do those breathing exercises I taught you?” his dad said, shouting over the noise of the blender.
“I tried. But I don’t get it. So, I stopped.” Now, he was shouting, too.
“Maybe you should take a break from the gadgets, honey.” His mom was shouting now, too. “Stop using your phone so much.”
“It has nothing to do with that.”
“What?” she said.
“The gadgets have nothing to do with it!”
“I can’t hear him, Boem,” he said, turning towards his dad. “For the love of God!”
His dad pressed the button again. The whirring stopped. He poured the green contents of the blender into a glass. “You do know that you can tell us anything, right, son?”
“Maybe he’d be able to tell us things,” said his mom, stirring the pan on the stove. “If you didn’t operate that stupid machine in the morning of all times.”
“I’m fine, dad, really,” said Jin.
“You were always a nervous child,” said his mother. “Boem, you remember Christmas of 1999?”
His dad laughed into his drink. He swallowed and said, with a smile, “I can’t ever forget Christmas of 1999.”
Jin was only beginning to check his to-do list on his phone. But he put it down and said, “What happened in Christmas of 1999?”
His mom delivered two bowls of hot soup and noodles to the table. “That was the Christmas when you didn’t know your Uncle Jae-gyu had visited.”
“Oh no…” Jin looked at his phone again, hoping somewhat quixotically that she would drop the subject.
“And he was supposed to play a little prank on you, remember?” she said, sitting down. His dad joined them at the table. “He jumped out from behind the couch,” she continued, “and you made poopie in your pants because you were so surprised.”
“Mom, please! I’m eating!”
“All I’m saying, honey, is that you have delicate nerves,” she said, her tone flat, her eyebrows raised. “And sometimes you can just get a little anxious, and I think resting a little more after school should relax you. That’s all you need.”
“And drink enough water.” His dad pointed his chopsticks at him while nodding knowingly. “People nowadays, they don’t stay hydrated enough. It causes all sorts of problems. I’m guessing about forty percent of all health issues today stem from dehydration.”
“And the other sixty percent?” said Jin.
“The Oedipus Complex.”
“Of course,” said Jin.
St. Borahae High School, like all high schools, was a delicate ecosystem always on the verge of catastrophic collapse, had it not been for the regular extinction of one generation and the subsequent introduction of another. That morning, as every morning, the migration of students began, the halls filling up gradually before the assembly, the sound of chatter rising slowly like a tide. Lights one by one turning on in the buildings that compose the campus. Teachers gathering in the break room, dreading the day just as badly as the students, although in a different way, in a more sophisticated and subtle way brought about by age, and by the fact that they too once were the migratory creatures of the weekday morning – and now, they’re part of the environment, like trees, mountain ridges, canyons.
Jin walked up the steps to the main hall that led to the assembly hall, occasionally nodding his head when he came across someone he knew, but most of the time still in the midst of his waking haze. He went through the open double doors of the assembly hall and made his way to the usual spot, where his group of friends gathered. Everyone had groups; and they all had a place where they gathered, a kind of habitat.
When he got there, Yoonki was lying on a bleacher, his hands on his stomach, his head supported by his backpack. He was asleep. Something about the structure of his face made him look angry while asleep, and the few times that they have slept together on the same bed he woke in the middle of the night to see him gritting his teeth, his face in a barely detectable but definitely present scowl. Jin sat down midway across his body and looked at him, his face inches only from Yoonki’s. Hobi, seated one row behind them, lowered his book to see the commotion that was going to take place.
Jin blew gently towards Yoonki’s nose. It crinkled, the way a rabbit’s would. Jin and Hobi laughed quietly. Jin blew again, only a little harder. His boyfriend’s nose crinkled in a more agitated manner, and he rubbed it with his right hand. Jin blew for a third time.
“I’m going to punch you,” Yoonki murmured.
Hobi and Jin erupted in laughter.
Jin leaned in and kissed Yoonki on the forehead. “How was your social studies project? Did you finish it in time?”
Yoonki reluctantly opened his eyes and spoke as if he remained in a stupor. “No. Later I’m going to tell Leeteuk to meet me outside so I can kick his ass.”
“He didn’t help you at all?”
“Not at fucking all.”
“Some people have said that he’s a freeloader,” said Jin. “I mean, I don’t want to gossip. But they do say that. As a matter of fact.”
“Yeah, well, I’m saying it, too.” Yoonki pointed at something behind him with his thumb. Sitting next to Hobi was a small diorama of a Joseon-era house, including miniature foliage, painted with meticulous detail. There was even a small pond made, Jin guessed, with resin. “I bought that thing from the internet. Thank god it arrived on time.”
“And you don’t think that your teacher will know it’s not your work? No offense, but that thing is nice enough to be in a museum or something.”
“What’s offensive about that?”
“The offensive part is you couldn’t have done anything like that.”
“Hey, you don’t know what I’m capable of Kim Seokjin,” said Yoonki, with a wry smile. “And more importantly neither does Mr. Cheong.”
“Just don’t fail, please?” Jin placed a hand on Yoonki’s arm and squeezed. “Otherwise, you won’t graduate. And that’s just going to be a mess.”
“I thought you liked me because you loved messes.”
“I hate messes,” said Jin. “You’re the only exception.”
Yoonki smiled his gummy smile. A crumpled ball of paper fell on his face. Jin saw Hobi laughing, the book pressed directly against his face as his body jolted in spurts.
“Ah…!” Yoonki took the same ball and threw it at Hobi.
Jin was laughing as well. “Stop it! That’s littering!” he managed to say.
Yoonki and Hobi began tossing the same ball of paper at each other back and forth, Jin stuck in a refrain of asking them to stop between fits of laughter.
As he did so, his eyes happened upon the people entering the assembly hall. And someone knew caught his eye. Throughout four years that he’s been a student, he more or less had an idea of the four-hundred or so people who came to the school. But a new student with blue hair came in, eyes around him within a twelve feet radius swiveling in his direction as they were drawn towards him like compasses towards true north.
“Who’s the new guy?” said Jin.
Hobi looked where everyone was looking, and Yoonki settled down again to sleep.
“They said there’s going to be a new student, moved up,” said Hobi. “He’s back from some internship in Japan.”
“He’s also good looking, isn’t he?” Jin said, almost surprised that he said it out loud.
The boy found an empty seat among the bleachers in the front row and sat down, pretending that he hadn’t notice everyone ogling him in increasingly conspicuous ways. He puckered his lips and bit them nervously, his tongue that was only very slightly peeking out from between them curling and flickering as he pretended to read something on a single piece of paper.
“If he’s that talented, don’t you think we should invite him to the Anything Club?” said Jin. “Seems like he has a lot of interesting things to say.”
“Probably,” said Hobi. “If he even cares about that stuff.”
“Of course he cares about that stuff,” said Jin. “You can’t have blue hair and not care about art, right?”
The boy, whose name was Taehyung, did care about art. And had he been given the chance, he would have instead taken up a vocational course in Paris, becoming a painter, or a restorer, or a curator – that was the only thing he ever found himself caring about. He remembered the first time he saw a Basquiat, as a print in an art store, and he stood there for maybe half an hour, transfixed and fascinated and feeling as if he had until that moment never quite ever seen anything before, had looked but never seen, much less indulged in the pleasure of seeing. He knew, from the moment that he saw it, that he was looking at the visage of eternity.
He wanted to reach through it and take whatever essence it attempted to embody, and yet embodied so perfectly. Whatever it was, he then considered himself to be its servant. He left the store without buying it, fearing that should he be able to see it everyday, he would not treasure it the way he did just then. But he knew that for the rest of his life he would be thinking about that particular painting, longing for it so long as he remembers it exists, so long as he remembers how he felt to behold such a thing.
He looked around him. Heads turned in the other direction. But not fast enough, and he saw that they were looking at him, chatting about him. He expected it. And maybe enjoyed it. A little.
Taehyung turned towards the voice. A student bowed at him. “You’re new.”
“I am,” he said, standing up. He bowed in turn. “Taehyung.”
“Jimin. Nice to meet you.” He motioned to the bleachers again, and they both sat down. “I know how hard it is to be in a place where you don’t know anyone, so I thought I’d approach you. And maybe be your first friend.”
Taehyung smiled. “Thank you. I was nervous, actually. But now that I’ve found a friend, I’m not so nervous.”
From the other side of the hall, Jin was saying, “Jimin approached him.”
“Who?” said Yoonki.
“Park Jimin. The dancer.”
Yoonki grunted, which could have meant a multitude of things.
Then, the crowds parted again, this time for someone Jin was familiar with – the boy walked in carrying a bag over his shoulder, his eyes fixed ahead of him, in a detached, almost dreamy way. From Jin’s angle, his aquiline nose, the slender profile of his body… One might have a difficult time comprehending it all, had he not observed him from afar for years.
Across the court, Taehyung also noticed that the crowd was parting to let the boy through. Jimin saw that he was distracted.
“That’s Jungkook,” said Jimin. “He’s just in his first year, but he’s already the most popular student in Borahae.”
Taehyung nodded, and he wanted to say something, to acknowledge Jimin, but he couldn’t stop looking at Jungkook. When he finally settled at the far end of the bleachers on the opposite side, took out his phone from his bag, and leaned against the wall, the light from the screen gave his face a kind of angelic glow, and as with the Basquiat… He recognized him from the moment he saw him.
Namjoon arrived only a minute before the doors were closed. They were asked to prepare for the flag ceremony that was going to take place in the field. As usual, he was carrying more books that any of them ever had to carry in a day. Or a week.
Hoseok wrapped his arm around him. “How are you this morning, Joonie?”
“I just came back from Bang’s office,” he said. “He’s going to disband our club.”
“What?” Jin said, turning around. “Why?”
“We don’t have enough members, apparently,” he said. “And he doesn’t want us to take up space during the recruitment drive, so he’s disbanding it before then.”
“That sounds a bit unfair, doesn’t it?” said Hoseok. “Why can’t he do that if we don’t get enough members this year?”
“We didn’t have enough members last year, either,” said Namjoon. “He already relaxed the rules for us then.”
“How many members do we need?” said Jin.
“We need at least ten members,” said Namjoon. “Right now, it’s only the four of us.”
“What do you mean?” said Hoseok. “What about Seungri?”
“Seungri doesn’t study here anymore,” Yoonki abruptly said, his eyes still closed.
“Why?” said Jin. “What happened to him?”
“Sex and drugs,” said Yoonki.
“Well, damn,” said Namjoon. “At least, he’s happy.”
Hoseok burst out laughing.
“Well, anyway, with Seungri gone and the others having graduated,” continued Namjoon, “there’s not enough of us. I think if we find members today, and I submit the list to him, we can do something about it. Maybe.”
“Let’s try to recruit the newcomer,” said Jin. “The one with the blue hair.”
An announcement rang out across the building. All students were directed to the field for the flag ceremony.
“I’ll leave that to you,” said Namjoon, as they all stood up. “By the end of school today, hopefully we have enough people. You know how Principal Bang can be.”
Yoonki stood up, rubbing his eyes. “Boy, do I.”
“Good morning,” Hoseok said.
“Yup,” Yoonki replied.
During lunchtime, Yoonki and Jin sat at one table, and they arranged the food they brought with them on the table without so much as a word. This type of silence between them was something they cherished, a kind of living sign of their love for each other. Of the fact that what others needed through frivolous conversation and chatter, they had in silence. And though Jin was frequently assaulted in silence by all manner of worries and anxieties, when he was with Yoonki, he felt a relief he only ever experienced during orgasm – and whether that meant he found silence orgasmic or orgasms more akin to silence, he found a question so academic that he never felt he needed to answer it.
Although he did feel an awkwardness that wasn’t there before. He felt a sharpness in the ether, the way that one might experience the cold or a loss of balance. Ever since the party…
“Do you know what I mean?” said Jenny, who was seated beside him on the couch, but was sitting sideways so that she was facing him. One of her legs was on the couch. The fact that her shoe was on the cushion disturbed him, and he had turned it into a kind of game to not pay attention to it. He was losing the game.
“Definitely,” he said. He held his beer with both hands, between his legs. “I’m happy, though, with my relationship, even if it has its flaws. No relationship is perfect, anyway, right?”
“I’ve had the perfect relationship before,” she said. “Until he left for the United States. We tried it long distance but… Well, he cheated on me.”
“Doesn’t sound very perfect,” said Jin, “when you put it that way.”
Jenny had to think about this one. “Are you happy with the relationship you have now?” she finally said.
Jin nodded and sipped his beer. “Can’t complain. Yoonki and I… we understand each other.”
“Min Yoonki?” She seemed genuinely surprised.
“He has a boyfriend?”
Jin awkwardly raised his hand. “Me?”
“I mean,” Jin said, laughing awkwardly. “I think so too…”
Jenny smiled and nodded at him, before standing up and walking to the kitchen adjacent the living room where they were sitting. It was a small apartment, and it was packed with people. Jenny met with a group of girls talking there and whispered something in a girl’s ear. Seconds later, they were all looking at him. They were trying to not make it obvious, but it was obvious. And he knew that they reveled in that power – to stare at him, if they wanted, because of who they are. And they knew that he wasn’t able to do anything about it.
He just sat there drinking his beer. And though he wanted to get out of there, he knew that if he walked away that would mean defeat. Because it would mean that he let them get to him. Although he already had.
He was looking at the corner of the room when someone sat down beside him, falling directly and heavily on the couch. He turned, and it was Yoonki, one hand in the pocket of his jacket, and another holding a beer of his own.
“This party blows,” he said. “Let’s go home.”
Jin nodded. And despite himself a tear had formed in his eye. He tried to wipe it away.
Yoonki leaned in closer when he saw this. “Are you crying?”
“No,” he said. “I’m so tired. I just want to go home.”
“Why are you crying?”
“Let’s go home, Yoonki,” said Jin.
Yoonki looked around. He too found that the girls were looking at them. He turned back to Jin. “Are they bothering you?”
Before Jin could answer, Jenny sat back down on the far end of the couch. “Yoonki, do you know me?”
He blinked at her.
“Jin told me that you were gay,” she said, in a loud voice so that others around them could hear. “Is that true?”
The other girls were looked at them now, too, along with the other people nearby. Many were still turned towards each other, as if in conversation, so that it wouldn’t be obvious that they were listening. Others had turned towards them, wanting to know. Because in any case there had been rumors – that Yoonki was gay, and that he had a boyfriend. If they were confused, it wasn’t because Yoonki didn’t want anybody to know, but because he mostly kept to himself. Even after his mixtape was played on national radio, and people began to recognize him in the hallways. Which is why he was invited to these parties.
“We don’t have to deal with this,” Jin told him. “Let’s just go.”
He stood up and took a single step towards the door.
“Whatever,” said Yoonki, and he stood up and walked out the door first. Jin followed behind him. And there was only complete silence from everyone. He realized when he got out of the apartment that only the music was playing. When he took a few steps further, there was loud laughter and chatter.
Yoonki was sitting on the last step of the stairwell that led from the upper floor to the one they were on.
“Don’t mind them.”
Jin just stood there.
“You know that it doesn’t matter what they say. I love you, that’s what matters.”
Just stood in front of him. “You’re right. That’s all that matters.”
Yoonki wasn’t looking at him. “I know I’m not good at expressing it. And sometimes I make it seem as if I don’t love you at all. But I do, Seokjin.”
“Those people in there don’t know anything.”
Jin wiped his eyes. “Yeah. I know. We don’t have to keep talking about this.”
Yoonki stood up and took Jin’s hand, something that he rarely did. He intertwined their fingers, kissed the back of his hand, and walked down the stairs with him.
Ever since then, Yoonki had texted him at night and in the morning, occasionally during the weekends whenever they didn’t meet would ask if he had eaten his lunch or his dinner. Sometimes, he even told Jin how much he loved him. But it was so different from the Yoonki Jin knew that every time it happened it would only remind him of the party, and how the only time that he needed to know that he would be there for him, he wasn’t.
It had become so unbearable, and had caused him so much anxiety (on top of the generalized anxiety that he felt was like the static background to which he life was lived) that at one point he had written several paragraphs worth of questions and his feelings and his perspectives of what had happened and his qualms about Yoonki’s sudden change of behavior on his phone, his finger hovering on the send button. He dared himself to send it. But he was scared, and so he didn’t.
He had told no one about it. And though rumors were certainly a powerful force in Borahae, it functioned more as an undercurrent that influenced most interactions, as opposed to something visible. And this served to make it more difficult to counteract, more difficult to pinpoint and navigate. So, he didn’t know really who among the hundreds of students knew about what had happened, although once in a while he would catch girls looking at him while giggling among themselves. Or at least he thought so.
“Did you forget your lunch?” Yoonki was looking at him, confused. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Don’t worry. I’m just tired.”
“You’re always tired,” he said. “Do you want to go somewhere on Saturday? Let’s do something relaxing. I found my dad’s old Atari. Do you want to play the old games on it?”
“Our club meeting is on Saturday,” said Jin.
He had never asked such a thing before. And the few times that Jin had asked, he had been turned down on most occasions.
“Sure,” he said.
Yoonki nodded and began to eat from a bento his mother had prepared for him.
“There he is.” Jin spotted Taehyung among the students carrying their trays after purchasing a meal from the cafeteria. He appeared to be looking for a table. Jin waved at him and beckoned him to come, and he did.
“Are you looking for somewhere to sit?” said Jin.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m new.”
Jin motioned for him to sit.
“Thank you,” said Taehyung. “It’s tough being new. Everyone keeps staring at me.”
“It’s your hair,” offered Yoonki. “It’s not natural.”
“My name’s Jin, by the way.” He offered his hand.
Taehyung shook it and told him his name.
They both looked at Yoonki, waiting for him to introduce himself, and when he didn’t, Jin said, “This is Yoonki.”
“Nice to meet you,” said Taehyung.
“I’m his boyfriend,” said Yoonki, without looking up from his food. “I love him very much.”
Taehyung looked at him for a moment, confused, trying to determine why he was saying such a thing, but eventually he gave up and nodded.
“Do you like art?” said Jin.
Taehyung took apart the wooden, disposable chopsticks that came with his meal. “I do. I actually just came from France, where I was an intern at a small museum in Paris.”
“We’d love to have you in our club. We talk about art. Media. Culture. Anything, really. That’s why we call it the Anything Club. I’m sure your perspective would be so valuable.”
“I’d like that.” Taehyung smiled.
Of course, Yoonki loved Jin. At least, that’s how he would put it to himself now, especially when he was saw him. That’s the first thing he’d find himself saying: Of course, I love Jin. How could it be any other way – what is any other way? When he looked at him now, chatting with the ridiculous newcomer with the blue hair, he found in his simply being there a kind of respite from the world. But he did dwell on what had happened at the party. And he wanted to know what it meant, that he did such a thing.
He spoke to Namjoon about it. He had asked him to come over, so Namjoon could go over the lyrics he had written. Namjoon was one of the few people he respected, and one of the fewer he looked up to.
“So, why don’t you just ask him how he feels about it?” Namjoon was seated at Yoonki’s desk.
He was lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling. “I don’t know. I can’t do it.”
“You can’t do what?”
“So, what are you doing now?”
“I mean talk to him about it,” he said. “It’s going to be so cringy.”
“How do you expect to know how he feels, then?”
“That’s why I’m asking you.”
Namjoon kept quiet for a while, to think about whether he had missed anything. “Well,” he said with his eyebrows furrowed. “My answer is that you two should talk about it. Honestly, I think you were just scared for people to see that something mattered to you for once.”
“Why is that scary?”
“Because when nothing matters to someone, that means nothing can hurt them. And the idea is – if you tell people you love Jin, that means Jin is your weakness.”
Yoonki was quiet for a long time.
Then, he said, “I don’t have a weakness. Jin is my strength.”
“Look at you, though,” said Namjoon. “You haven’t been out the entire weekend. You’re avoiding talking to the person you love most. This doesn’t feel like strength to me.”
“What do you think of my lyrics?”
“Let’s go out for dinner tonight,” said Namjoon. “Let’s invite Jin. And we can talk about what happened. Because I know it has bothered him.”
“What do you think of my lyrics?” he said again, a bit more forcefully. And Namjoon knew him enough not to push the issue further.
Jin was talking to Taehyung when the blue-haired boy spotted someone and waved at the person, trying to get their attention. The boy walked over and bowed.
“This is Jimin,” said Taehyung. “We met this morning. He’s the first friend I’ve made here.”
Jimin pointed at Yoonki. “I know you. You’re Min Yoonki, aren’t you? I listened to your mixtape.”
Yoonki nodded halfheartedly at him.
“And you’re Jin,” said Jimin. “You’re his boyfriend…? Those are the rumors anyway.”
“You don’t know who I am,” said Yoonki, his expression as neutral as possible, making his words all the more menacing. “You don’t know what anything is to me.”
Jin looked at the other two, who were just as surprised as him. “Don’t be like this,” he said. “Not now.”
“I’m sorry if I said anything inappropriate,” said Jimin, bowing. “I just heard these things. I thought they were common knowledge.”
Yoonki looked up at him with his eyes, sneering. “Someone like you shouldn’t bother with the idea of knowledge.”
Jin turned to face him. “Have you lost your mind?”
“I love you,” said Yoonki, looking at him so casually that he might as well have been talking about anything else. “I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you.”
Jin looked at the two, and they were just staring at them. Even when Jin was staring at them, they just looked back. And when he turned his head, he saw that other people were watching, too. He felt himself blush. He was going to say something to his boyfriend, but before he could say anything, he was talking again.
“And that night, I don’t know…”
“It’s okay. Really.”
“It’s not okay.” Yoonki looked into his eyes, and then took his bag and left, pushing through the few people who were watching them, and then through the dense crowd that always formed by the door during lunch time.
Jin looked at Jimin, and Jimin looked at him.
“I didn’t mean to do that,” said Jimin.
Jin looked at his hands. They were placed on the table, clenched tightly and shaking. He lowered them, trying to regain control. But he felt it within him, like a black hole, an all-consuming darkness that has overwhelmed him before. He breathed, like his dad taught him to. Deliberately. Slowly. “Imagine the light within,” he said. And he did.
“Are you okay?” Taehyung placed a hand on his shoulder.
Jin was staring straight ahead, his breathing becoming regular again after a moment.
And when he finally composed himself, he turned to Taehyung and said, “Yes. Sorry.”
Jimin was on his other side, his hand also on Jin’s shoulder. He looked worried at what he might have caused.
Jin looked up at him and said, “Join our club?”
“I’m sorry?” he said.
Hoseok basically dragged Jin to the infirmary after classes when he heard what had happened, and when Jin insisted with the nurse that nothing was wrong, Hoseok walked Jin himself to the row of beds and pushed him down on it.
“Really!” said Jin. “I’m alright!”
“Don’t lie to me.” He poured Jin a glass of water from a pitcher and offered it to him. “This has happened to you before, and I’m just thankful that it’s not as bad.”
Jin drank the water and before he could even place the glass on the nightstand, Hoseok took it from him and placed it there himself. “Well, what am I supposed to do now? Just lie here? Namjoon wants us to meet him.”
“We’re going to have to meet here,” said Hoseok. “I already texted him. He said he understood.”
Jin ran a hand down his face. “You know I hate being singled out like this. It’s embarrassing. I’m a little sick, I admit that. But I don’t like all this attention.”
Hoseok took a chair from the corner of the room and sat down with his legs crossed. He shrugged. “Fight me.”
Finding no other alternative, Jin relaxed, actually quite thankful that he was comfortable, and somewhere he could feel safe. Only then did he realize that he was grasping at the covers. He let go.
“What happened to Yoonki?” he said.
“He texted that he’s going to be here, so he seems fine.”
“Aren’t you afraid that he’s going to bring up what happened?”
Jin laughed. “No.”
Hoseok nodded and looked away.
“If you can count on anything with him, it’s that the things that we really need to talk about, we never really talk about. And I just kind of have to hope that it all works out.”
“Do you think it’ll always work out?”
With the same laugh as before, Jin said again, “No.”
The door opened, and somebody came in. Jin looked to see that Namjoon was at the foot of the bed.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” he said.
Jin was about to respond, but he noticed that Hoseok was bowing to someone behind Namjoon, one hand holding the backrest of the chair he was sitting on, and doing that half-standing, half-sitting pose when you had to bow while on a chair.
It was Jungkook. At the sight of him, Jin sat up, and when the young boy bowed deeply, he bowed in return.
“I found one member,” said Namjoon. “And I’m hoping that because Jungkook is now with us, others would follow. Did you guys find anyone?”
Before Jin could respond, Hoseok was bowing again. Jin looked towards the door, and it was Yoonki followed by their two recruits.
Jin motioned to them. “Two. The exchange student, Taehyung, and his friend, Jimin.”
The boys exchanged customary greetings and settled around Jin’s bed. Jin realized that it was as if everyone was visiting him while he was bedridden, and he began to hate the position he was in, although he knew that making a scene at this point would only make things worse.
“We’re still lacking members,” said Namjoon. “But I’ve been reading the school rule book, and I think I’ve found a way.”
“How?” said Hoseok.
“Why is your hair blue?” Yoonki asked Taehyung, just as he was brushing his hair back with his hand.
“I just thought it looked nice,” said Taehyung. “I wanted to stand out.”
“Clubs require a certain number of members to be considered clubs, that number being 15,” said Namjoon. “But there’s a loophole. The scouting clubs aren’t considered clubs, but are considered a category of their own. And since they only name a minimum number of members for clubs, and do not have a minimum number for scouting clubs, then we’re going to convert our club into a boy scout club.”
“That’s ridiculous,” said Yoonki.
“The plan or his hair?” said Jin.
“Both,” said Yoonki. “I can’t decide which is more ridiculous.”
“Remember that this is the only way we can keep our club, as far as I see,” said Namjoon. “And of course all the perks that come with a club… The field trips paid by the school. The subsidy money. Our own room.”
“I don’t want to give up our club room,” said Jin. “Too many memories.”
“I don’t want to carry our stuff out,” said Yoonki.
“Well, now that it’s settled…” Namjoon opened the plastic briefcase he was carrying and took out a form. “I’m just going to need the names of the new members, and our new name.”
“What’s wrong with the Anything Club?” said Yoonki.
“It needs to have boy scouts in the end,” said Namjoon. “Those are rules.”
“Aish…” Yoonki moaned. “This is such a bother…”
“Simple,” said Jin. “The Anything Boy Scouts.”
Taehyung raised his hand. “I’m sorry,” he said, in the most respectful way possible. “That name sounds awful.”
“What’s your suggestion, then?” said Namjoon.
“The Avengers,” said Taehyung.
“The Avengers Boy Scouts?” said Namjoon.
“No,” said Jin.
“That’s stupid,” said Yoonki.
“Bulletproof,” said Jungkook.
Everyone stared at him. It didn’t sound very good, either. And a bit of a non-sequitur. But they just met him, although they knew who he was, and what he has achieved, and that he had just appeared on television the night before, because he had just set a new track and field record. The idea of Jeon Jungkook having said anything to them was enough to give everyone pause.
Namjoon looked around for a moment and taking the silence as no objections, finding it in any case awkward to ask for any, said, “Bulletproof Boy Scouts. Sure.”
He wrote it down, and all seven of them from then on were bound to a name, and a pact, and a destiny.
“That sounds stupid, too,” said Yoonki.