Jung Kook grows up in a small town near the ocean side. The waves crash against the shores and the stars shine clearly in the inky, black sky. There isn’t much to do in this small town, so all he has are his friends.
The oldest is Seokjin, and he takes his role as the eldest very seriously. He's always scolding and lecturing them. Yoongi is only a few months younger than Seokjin, but so much calmer and laid back. Hoseok smiles too much and laughs at anything remotely funny. Namjoon is born in the same year as Hoseok, but acts as if he's a millennium older. Jimin dyes his hair ridiculous colours on whim; he cries too much and laughs too loudly. Lastly, there is Taehyung, his next door neighbour who holds Jung Kook’s hand and does stupid things that make him giggle.
Jung Kook is six when they make the promise. They're spending the day by the ocean, collecting sea glass in a plastic bucket.
“We have to promise to watch out for each other," Seokjin says.
“What do you mean?” Hoseok asks, head tilted to the side in confusion. Taehyung takes this as an opportunity to jump onto the older’s back, causing both Hoseok and Taehyung to collapse into the water with a splash.
“Guys, listen,” Seokjin whines, the way he always does when he wants them to pay attention.
“Everyone, listen to Jin hyung,” Namjoon snaps. He’s always been the most obedient.
“Listen to your father, kids,” Yoongi drawls lazily. He’s floating on his back, eyes focused on the clear, blue sky. Yoongi always calls Seokjin the “mom” of the group and Namjoon the “dad”. Jung Kook finds it funny because that means he’s one of the kids of this metaphorical family.
“Why do we have to watch out for one another? Is someone after us?” Fear bleeds into Jimin's trembling voice.
“Jimin hyung is a scaredy cat,” Jung Kook teases, dodging when Jimin tries to jab him in the side.
“Pay attention, everyone,” Seokjin huffs. “It’s not that anyone is after us, it’s just that friends are supposed to look out for each other. If we’re all looking out for one another, then we can’t get hurt, right?”
“Oh, that makes sense,” Jung Kook admits.
“So cheesy,” Yoongi snorts. Hoseok sneaks up from underneath him and drags him down into the ocean. “You're stupid,” Yoongi mutters, shaking droplets of water from his hair. Hoseok just laughs.
They visit the nice woman who own the local convenience store on the way home. She always gives them bread that she wasn't able to sell that day, free of charge. She smiles at them and gently ruffles their hair.
“Why can’t all boys be nice like you?” she asks while patting Hoseok’s cheek and grinning at Jung Kook.
“We’re the bestest and you can’t beat the bestest,” Jung Kook points out.
“That’s not grammatically correct,” Seokjin whispers to Jung Kook, but the elder is smiling down at him.
The woman just laughs and shoos them off with arms full of warm bread.
Taehyung hugs her before they leave. None of them notice her wincing because of the bruises hidden underneath her clothing. None of them notice that her husband isn't home either.
They're too young to know that all boys really aren't as nice as them.
Days, weeks, months, and years pass, and the memories of them seem to blur together. Everything changes, but Jung Kook doesn't notice. Jimin stops crying as much, but the elder is still the same snivelling kid he used to be. Namjoon grows taller than the rest, but, since they’re always together, Jung Kook doesn’t realize how much he towers over them. Hoseok grows muscles. Taehyung’s voice lowers into a deep rumble, and Jin’s shoulders get wider and broad. But to Jung Kook, his friends are still the same. Hoseok still laughs at corny jokes and smiles with his whole face. Yoongi still complains about moving, Seokjin still scolds them and Taehyung still spouts nonsensical facts. Nothing changes, not to Jung Kook.
Nothing changes, not to Jung Kook.
The summer before Jung Kook enters high school is his sharpest memory. Especially the first day of summer, where they all gather at Yoongi’s house for a sleepover. They push couches out of the way and pile their sleeping bags into a cozy little ring. Yoongi has to stop his mother from trying to take pictures of them with her phone.
“You’d think that once your son was entering his senior year, you’d stop trying to take photos."
“It’s cute,” Hoseok coos, rolling on top of an annoyed Yoongi.
“Careful, hyung. You might just squash him. He's like a hobbit,” Jung Kook can’t help but remark. He laughs as Yoongi lets loose a string of obscenities.
“Watch your language in front of the children,” Seokjin sighs, shaking his head in disapproval.
“What children? We’re all in high school now, hyung. Even Kookie is a freshman year this upcoming semester,” Taehyung argues.
Jung Kook remembers everything about that night. He remembers laughing at Hoseok's dancing and giggling at Yoongi's stories. He remembers Jimin and Hoseok cowering beside each other when Namjoon recites a scary myth. He remembers falling asleep to snoring.
He has to remember because Hoseok goes missing the next day.
“Your name is?”
“Kim Seokjin, sir.”
“Where was the last time you saw Jung Hoseok?”
“When we spent the night at Yoongi’s...er Min Yoongi’s house.”
“You saw him the following morning, correct?”
“Yes. We all woke up, got ready, and walked home. Hoseok’s house is in the opposite direction of mine, so I didn’t walk with him.”
Hoseok didn’t come home after the sleepover, he didn't call home, either. None of them have seen him since Yoongi’s, so the police are called in. Hoseok's backpack is found near the sea shore, dumped there to hide the evidence. And it becomes despairingly clear that Jung Hoseok did not run away. The people who took Hoseok aren't smart, they should have hidden his bag elsewhere. They should have known that everything tossed out into the sea eventually washes back onto the shore.
Jung Hoseok is officially declared a missing person.
“Who do you think took him?” Jimin asks when they meet by the ocean side. Hoseok really likes the beach, he’s always pushing them to visit the ocean, even when they’ve lived near it all their lives. Maybe Hoseok will come running here, to meet them and have fun again.
“I don’t know,” Seokjin whispers, voice wavering. Namjoon notices and puts an arm around Seokjin's shoulder. Jung Kook would have made fun of the gesture if the situation wasn’t so bleak.
“They say kidnapping cases are hopeless after the first week. They say that the chances of finding victims alive are close to zero,” Yoongi mutters. The silence that follows his statement is deafening. Jung Kook can hear his own breathing.
“Why would you say that?” Namjoon hisses.
“Because it’s true. Because having a shattered reality is better than having false hope,” Yoongi snaps back, frustrated.
“It’s like you don’t want him to be alive,” Taehyung warbles, and Jung Kook has never seen him look so upset.
“Of course I want him to be alive! I’d chop off all my limbs to see him alive. I’d die just so I could change things. So I could fucking go back in time and offer to walk him home!”
Yoongi sounds angrier at himself than at Taehyung.
“Your name is?”
“Do you know anywhere that Hoseok would have gone, if not home?”
“Hobi….Hoseok liked to wander. He could have visited the beach, the bookstore, the library...he just liked to walk around alone sometimes.”
They visit the convenience store lady on the way home and Jung Kook’s heart breaks at the display case. There are little dolphin plushies on sale, Hoseok loves things like that. He's so fond of stuffed animals; he would have been squealing in joy
The lady gives them sympathetic looks and tells them to pick out a treat, free of charge. Hoseok would have liked that. He would have picked out a chocolate ice cream, his favourite flavour. No one says anything, but they end up getting identical chocolate ice creams despite the chill outside.
The lady pretends that she doesn’t notice the missing boy amongst their group. In turn, they pretend they don’t notice that her husband isn’t home. Her husband is never home, after all.
They say a tragedy brings people together, but Jung Kook thinks it tears people apart. He thinks this because he can’t look at Yoongi without remembering how Hoseok liked to play with his hair. He can’t look at Jimin without remembering how fond Hoseok was of him. Being with his friends reminds Jung Kook that Hoseok is probably dead, laying in a ditch somewhere, covered in mounds of dirt.
The others probably think this too because there is an inevitable drift between them. Everything hurts, and everything links back to Hoseok.
Seokjin goes away to camp for the rest of the summer, his parents trying to get their droopy son back on his feet. Namjoon is sent to the city, to visit his cousins. Jimin is kept under house arrest, his overprotective parents worried that their son will meet a fate like Hoseok. Yoongi doesn’t come outside anymore. The elder sits in his room, composing melodies that bang and crash.
In the end, it’s just Taehyung and Jung Kook left to wander the lonely streets of their town. Jung Kook doesn’t mind because he’s not alone, and Taehyung always holds his hand now, sweaty fingers interlocked with Jung Kook’s.
“So we don’t lose each other,” Taehyung says.
They play a game every time they meet up, it’s probably morbid in manner, but it’s the only way they know how to cope. They call it “Where’s Hobi”.
“I bet Hobi hyung ran away to Hollywood. He’s always been a good dancer, I bet he’s trying to sneak into the same entertainment company as Beyonce.” Taehyung smiles, kicking sand as they walk along the seashore.
“I bet Hobi hyung is in L.A, learning to rap with the big names,” Jung Kook counters, grinning at the image.
“I bet Hobi hyung is groaning at all the missing person reports of him on T.V. I bet he’s whining about how they used his school ID picture, you know how much he hated that photo.”
Jung Kook laughs at this because he does remember. He remembers how Hoseok complained all day, how he shoved his photo ID into Jung Kook’s face saying ‘Kookie, look how horrible I came out. I look like some smiley psychopath’.
It’s a stupid game. Jung Kook and Taehyung know that Hoseok isn’t in Hollywood or L.A. They know full well that he probably died in fear, surrounded by horrible people and dumped carelessly in a hastily dug hole. They know. But playing the game relaxes Jung Kook because he can imagine a happier future for Hoseok; one where Hoseok is laughing and smiling. One where he isn’t dead.
It’s the third week of summer when Jung Kook hears tapping on his window. It’s 3 in the morning. Grouchily, he stomps to the window and opens it to find Taehyung grinning up at him. There are pebbles in Taehyung's right hand which the elder probably used to make the tapping sounds.
“Kookie, let’s take a walk!”
“Hyung, it’s 3 in the morning.”
“I hate you.”
“So you’ll still come down, right?”
He has never been able to say no to Taehyung, so he does sneak outside, creeping softly so his parents don't hear. Taehyung grins at him when he walks out. His neighbour takes Jung Kook's hand and starts running.
Taehyung is idiotic for wanting to wander the streets of their town at night; the streets where Hoseok disappeared from. But Taehyung has always been impulsive and spontaneous. He's never been one to think about the consequences of his actions.
“Where are we going, hyung?” Jung Kook gasps, struggling to keep up with the quick pace.
“To see the stars!”
“Hoseok hyung loved the stars!”
Taehyung takes them to the sea shore and Jung Kook audibly gasps. The stars are dazzling and the still ocean reflects every gem in the sky. It’s like there are two skies, one above their heads and one near their feet. Jung Kook wonders why he’s never seen this. He’s lived in town all his life, but he’d never thought to come out to the sea shore at night.
“Hoseok hyung really likes stars,” Taehyung whispers, turning to grin at Jung Kook. There are stars in Taehyung’s eyes. “He told me about the sea shore at night once, he said it was the most beautiful thing in the world.”
Jung Kook can imagine Hoseok sneaking out of his house in the wee hours of the morning, just to see the night sky. Hoseok was always like that, spending hours looking at nothing, and daydreaming about the silliest things. It’s probably what got him taken away.
“I hopes this was the last thing hyung saw,” Jung Kook sighs. Taehyung turns to look at him quizzically. “I hope that before he died, Hoseok hyung looked up and saw the stars. Saw them shine just like this.”
“He could still be alive."
But there isn't any hope. Jung Kook thinks Taehyung starts crying at some point, but he can’t tell through the tears leaking from his own eyes.
The stars really are beautiful.
“Your name is?”
“Kim Taehyung. Have you found Hobi hyung, yet?”
“We’re still looking. You can help us find him, though. Did Hoseok have any enemies? Someone who would want to hurt him?”
“No one really dislikes Hoseok hyung, you can’t dislike someone who smiles like he does.”
“Was there anything different about Hoseok? Anything from the way he talked, to the things he liked?”
“Hoseok hyung is really perceptive. He stops to watch the leaves fall, he wakes up early to see the sun rise, and sleeps late to watch the stars. Does that count?”
Jung Kook loves Taehyung, he really does, but he misses his other friends. Taehyung seems to notice how upset Jung Kook is because he suggests they visit Yoongi. They run all the way there, since walking is too slow.
Yoongi’s older brother opens the door, he must be home from university for the summer. He ushers them in and the cool gust of air conditioning is a welcome change from the scorching summer heat.
“How have you been?”
“Ok.” Taehyung shrugs, and Yoongi’s brother gives them a sympathetic look. He sends them upstairs without another word.
The room has always been a mess, but it seems like Yoongi has given up any attempt to clean; his room is trashed. Yoongi is awake, surprisingly, and is sitting on his bed playing music when they walk in. The beat is happy, it’s jumpy and full of sunshine. It's surprising, to say the least.
“Hey,” Yoongi says, voice hoarse from disuse.
“You don’t come outside anymore,” Taehyung accuses, skipping formalities. Jung Kook climbs onto the bed and makes himself comfortable.
“There isn’t any point. Jin and Namjoon are out of town, and Jimin is on lock down. Plus, I don’t want to be the third wheel to your crazy, little friendship."
“You’d never be the third wheel. If anything, that would be Taehyung,” Jung Kook argues, and Taehyung grunts in offence while taking a seat on the floor.
Yoongi has been avoiding them, not since he would be intruding, but because they remind him of Hoseok. Hoseok always liked the two of them, he called them the “young'uns”. ‘You young'uns are so cute! Hobi hyung is going to just eat you all up’ the elder would coo while chasing them around.
‘You young'uns are so cute! Hobi hyung is going to just eat you all up’ the elder would coo while chasing them around.
Jung Kook thinks the beat that Yoongi is playing reminds him of Hoseok, reminds him of better days. It’s much too happy to have come from Yoongi alone; he only makes beats that grind and smash and shatter. He'd never made something like this.
“Hoseok hyung helped you compose this song,” Taehyung says. It’s not a question, but a statement.
“The last composition we made together.”
It’s sad that Yoongi is staying holed up in his room like this, replaying the same tune over and over. It's sad how he's reliving memories that won’t ever come back. Maybe his and Taehyung’s “Where’s Hobi” game is a little messed up, but at least they’re trying to move on. Yoongi, it seems, is content to stay in the past.
Jung Kook rests his head on Yoongi’s shoulder.
“It’ll get better,” he whispers.
“Well, it can’t get any worse,” Taehyung mutters, eyes trained on the ceiling.
“You know, I haven’t been in my living room since Hoseok’s disappearance. I can’t go there because it’s the last place I ever saw him.”
Taehyung reaches for Jung Kook’s hand at this time.
They’re walking home when Taehyung says it.
“I love you, Jung Kook, you know that, right?” Jung Kook blushes because he’s never heard those words before, not from his friends. They’ve known each other for so long, but they’ve never actually said it to one another. It is something that doesn't need to be said. Love can be felt in Seokjin’s stern scoldings, in Yoongi's eye rolls, in Namjoon’s hair ruffles and Hoseok’s smile. Love oozes from Jimin’s laughter and Taehyung’s hugs.
“What the hell, hyung!” Jung Kook pushes Taehyung jokingly with his right hand. He feels himself going red.
“I just don’t want to die without telling you that.”
“You mean without telling all our friends that, right?”
“No, I mean you.”
Jung Kook doesn’t know what to make of this. He doesn’t say I love you back, though.
“Your name is?”
“Did Hoseok have any love interests? Anyone who saw him in a romantic way?”
“Namjoon-shi, I know this may seem a little intruding, but any hints would help us find Hoseok.”
“Ok…..Hoseok..he..he really liked Yoongi. As more than a friend, you know? And Yoongi….Yoongi really liked Hoseok too.”
“Were they in a relationship?”
“No. They never got to admit it to one another. The only one who knows is probably me.”
Jung Kook thinks a lot about Taehyung’s words over the next couple of days. He thinks about it when Taehyung holds his hand and when he rests his head on Jung Kook’s shoulder. The words blare in his mind when Taehyung leans in close to whisper jokes and witty remarks.
I love you.
Does Taehyung understand what he said? Does he understand the depth of those words?
He wants an explanation. He wants to understand what Taehyung meant. It bothers him for days, and Taehyung eventually catches on. They’re sitting outside the convenience store, chomping on popsicles.
“What’s been bothering you?”
“What do you mean, hyung?”
“Your mind isn’t here right now!"
“That’s just stupid.” Taehyung won’t relent. “Hyung, you just can’t tell someone ‘I love you’ like that.”
“You can’t just say it out of the blue! You have to save it for someone you truly love, not friends and-”
Taehyung kisses his cheek and Jung Kook jumps in surprise.
“I really do love you!” Taehyung is grinning and Jung Kook’s cheek is sticky with popsicle syrup.
For just a second, Jung Kook wishes that Taehyung’s lips had pressed just a few inches over and made contact with his lips instead of his cheek.
Jung Kook is startled when his cellphone rings one night and Jimin’s number pops up.
“Hey, hyung. Um, how are you?”
“I’m good. Sorry I can’t come out anymore, my parents have always been a little over the top with the protective stuff. I hope you can understand.”
“I do, hyung.”
Jimin could have called and invited them over if he really wanted to see him. Jimin’s parents don’t want him leaving the house, but they don’t mind people coming over. He knows why Jimin’s been cutting them off. It’s because they’re just a reminder that Hoseok is gone. Because Jung Kook’s snide remarks and Taehyung’s voice will bring back the memories that Jimin is trying to bury deep. Yoongi is stuck in the past while Jimin is refusing to accept the present, and Jung Kook doesn’t know what’s worse.
“I really want to see you and Tae and Yoongi hyung.” Jung Kook is hit by how much he wants to see Jimin too. It’s barely been a month, but he misses his red haired hyung and his timid nature. He misses Jimin calling him a brat and jabbing him in the side.
He and Taehyung do visit Jimin the next day, but they don’t bother to ask Yoongi. Jimin opens the door and ushers them inside, no one is home.
“My parents went to the grocery store,” Jimin explains, smiling.
Taehyung hugs Jimin, whispering about how much he’s missed him. The red head ruffles Jung Kook’s hair after Taehyung breaks away.
Jimin’s living room seems empty somehow, as if there are supposed to be more people in it. Jung Kook realizes that he’s never actually been in Jimin’s house without Yoongi’s complaints echoing in the air or Namjoon’s laugh or Seokjin’s lectures or Hoseok’s screaming. Has the room always been this empty? This large?
“How...how are things?” Jimin asks tentatively.
“Well, you would know how things were if you bothered to pick up my calls,” Taehyung snorts. Jung Kook didn't know that Taehyung had been calling Jimin, he should have figured, though. The two were awfully close.
“I’m sorry, Tae, I just needed...some space. Some time.”
“You weren’t the only one who loved Hobi hyung, we all loved him,” Taehyung whispers quietly.
“Don’t use past tense,” Jimin mutters, eyebrows drawn together in a frustrated line.
“No, just don’t. I know you both think he’s dead, you two were always more prone to seeing things in a cynical light. I’m going to believe that he’s alive unless..unless proven otherwise,” Jimin snaps.
“You can’t possibly believe that, Minnie. It’s been a month,” Taehyung sighs. The boy would never be this forward with anyone but Jimin.
The red-haired elder doesn’t say much else, but Jung Kook notices his watery eyes. He wonders how much time Jimin spent crying alone in his house, crying for a hyung he can’t possibly give up on. Refusing a truth that would break what little hope he'd built up.
“W-Where’s Yoongi hyung?”
“Locked in his room probably. He hasn’t...he hasn’t been taking the news well."
They leave after Jimin’s parents come home, not wanting to disrupt the family. Jung Kook thinks about Jimin, how he’s grieving after Hoseok in such a sad way. Jung Kook doesn’t want his friends to do that if he ever goes missing, doesn’t want them to fall apart. Especially not Taehyung whose kisses leave popsicle stains on Jung Kook’s cheeks and whose palms are sweaty and warm.
“If I ever go missing, don’t you dare give up on life, ok? Don’t forget to live your own life just because mine has ended.”
“Kookie, don’t talk like that. You won’t ever go missing.” Taehyung looks serious for once, lips pressed together.
“I love you too.”
“Your name is?”
“Was Hoseok acting odd the last day you saw him? Did he seem afraid or hesitant in a way?”
“No. Hoseok hyung was the same. He was smiling, always smiling.”
Jung Kook falls in love without knowing it, and by the time he realizes, it’s already too late. He falls in love with the way Taehyung never smiles for himself, but for others. He likes the way Taehyung insists on holding hands and never minds that Taehyung’s palms are sticky from the summer heat. He loves Taehyung’s strange words, how he talks about things that no one else does, and how he paints pictures in Jung Kook’s mind.
He falls in love with Taehyung because Taehyung is the future. He isn’t grieving over the past like red haired Jimin, or replaying history over and over again like Yoongi. He isn't running away like Seokjin or Namjoon. Whenever Jung Kook is with Taehyung, he thinks that maybe, just maybe, they’ll be ok.
He falls in love with Taehyung because being with Taehyung is like basking in sunlight; he is warm, happy, and familiar. Jung Kook thinks that maybe he’s always liked Taehyung, it just took a tragedy to make him realize it.
“I bet Hobi hyung is in France, reading those stupid romance novels he loves so much,” Taehyung sighs, walking down the roads of their town, fingers intertwined with Jung Kook’s.
“I bet Hobi hyung is in Alaska,” Jung Kook counters.
“Alaska is cold and Hobi hyung knows that a cold place is infinitely better than the heated hell we call home.” Taehyung grins at this and starts running, tugging Jung Kook along in the process.
Taehyung is always running, he never walks.
“Hyung, where are we going now?”
They go to the sea shore. Taehyung ignores Jung Kook’s pleading to stop by their houses and put on their swim trunks, and pulls Jung Kook into the cool, churning ocean. No one is at the seashore, which is understandable. Vacationers don’t travel here when they can easily go to Busan, or a more impressive beach. Local townsfolk, who’ve lived in town all their lives, find that the sea has lost its glamour.
Jung Kook is dripping wet and his clothes are hanging off his body in a soppy mess. His mother will be annoyed, but not mad. She doesn’t get mad at him anymore, probably worried that her son is emotionally unstable. Maybe he is.
“Hyung! What the hell?”
“Awh, Kookie, come on! Enjoy life a little, splash around and have fun!” Taehyung is grinning at him with his stupid boxy smile, eyes bright and happy.
Jung Kook jumps onto Taehyung’s back, dragging them both down into the salty ocean. Taehyung struggles, trying to shake him off, but it does little to nothing. It somehow ends with Jung Kook eventually being thrown off Taehyung’s back and Taehyung gloating at the victory. His face is right in front of Jung Kook’s. Maybe his neighbour's spontaneous actions have rubbed off on him, but he does something incredibly stupid.
He presses his mouth against Taehyung’s, a quick peck on salty lips. Jung Kook pulls away embarrassed, but Taehyung is smiling.
“Finally,” Taehyung whispers, eyes crinkling up into a smile.
“If you were waiting, why didn’t you kiss me first?”
“A gentleman always waits.”
Jung Kook is beginning to understand why Hoseok loves the seashore so much.
Jung Kook doesn't put a title on his relationship with Taehyung and neither does Taehyung. This suits them both fine because Taehyung giggles into their kisses and Jung Kook smiles right back. He doesn’t care what Taehyung calls him if he just continues to look and hold Jung Kook like he’s the most important thing in the world.
They go to the ocean a lot, the sea shore where they first kissed. They hold hands and splash each other in the water. The waves make watery sounds as it hits the sea shore and it sounds like Hoseok’s laughter.
Seokjin comes home near the end of the second month. He's tanned and well built, but his eyes are old and worn down.
Taehyung comes tearing into Jung Kook’s house and practically lugs him away with news that he saw Seokjin’s car pulling up into the driveway. They run all the way to the Kim residence and Jung Kook practically tackles Seokjin into a hug.
Seokjin is warm and he smells of peppermint, like he always does. Like he always used to.
“Jung Kook! Taehyung! It’s great to see you!”
Taehyung flings himself onto Seokjin too, once Jung Kook lets go, of course. Seokjin doesn’t ask about Hoseok, but Jung Kook thinks it’s more because Seokjin already knows the answers than because he isn't interested.
“Jimin and Yoongi aren’t with you?”
“It’s just been me and Kookie this summer. Yoongi hyung and Jimin don’t come out much anymore. Jimin’s parents are being really strict, but Yoongi hyung is just having a hard time...with, yeah."
Seokjin mutters something under his breath about how irresponsible Yoongi is, before giving them a soft smile. “How are you two?”
“We’re good, hyung, how are you?”
Jung Kook wants to ask why Seokjin never called, why he never sent a single email or letter. But Jung Kook doesn’t ask because he knows the answer. It’s the same reason as to why Jimin never answers Taehyung’s texts, why Namjoon hasn’t contacted them since summer started, and why Yoongi sits in his room pretending that he can bring the past back.
“Good. But we need to talk. All of us,” Seokjin sighs, shoulders sagging and smile faltering.
“Yeah," Taehyung hums.
Namjoon comes back to town the day the convenience store lady moves away. Jung Kook is sad to see her go. She, and her store, have been in the town since before Jung Kook was born.
Jung Kook and Taehyung pass by her and her husband loading boxes into the moving truck, they ask if the couple need any help.
“No,” the husband answers gruffly. They've seen him a handful of times since he is rarely ever in town. He works as some sort of truck driver, if Jung Kook remembers correctly.
“We’ll miss you,” Jung Kook feels the need to say softly. The convenience store holds a lot of memories. The lady smiles and Jung Kook wonders why she looks so apologetic.
Namjoon’s hair is blond; Jung Kook get’s a shock as Namjoon opens the front door to his house.
“I like your hair, hyung."
The rest of the boys are already sitting in Namjoon’s living room when Jung Kook walks in. He doesn’t know how Seokjin managed to get both Yoongi and Jimin to come, but he’s not that surprised. Seokjin is good at fixing things.
“Not that it isn’t nice to see you guys, it is, but why are we here?” Yoongi asks, voice thin and bland.
“Because we need to fix this,” says Seokjin.
“There’s nothing to fix,” Yoongi argues gruffly.
“Yes there is. We’re a mess, guys,” Namjoon sighs, biting his bottom lip.
“You don’t get to talk Namjoon, you weren’t here for the whole summer."
“You didn’t exactly socialize much either, Yoongi hyung."
Jimin speaks up then. “None of us were very good friends.”
Taehyung reaches out and holds Jung Kook's hand. It’s not exactly a kiss, but it still ignites a small warmth from within.
“We need to talk about it,” Taehyung points out quietly. The room is silent and Jimin looks like he might start tearing up. No one needs to ask what the “it” is. The “it” is a smiling boy with infectious laughter. A boy that disappeared.
“Let’s go see the stars,” Jung Kook suggests.
The sea shore at night is just as Jung Kook remembers it to be, and Taehyung is by his side, yet again. This time, however, the others are here too. It doesn’t matter that they all had to sneak out because they’re here now. They’re at the sea shore- the one that Hoseok loves so much.
“It’s beautiful,” Seokjin whispers.
“It was Hoseok hyung’s favourite sight,” Jung Kook says, smiling.
The six of them, they’re not alright. Yoongi is watching the stars in contemplative silence. Jimin and Yoongi look close to tears, it's hard to tell in the dimness of the night. Jung Kook has no idea what happened to Seokjin and Namjoon outside of town, but he doubts they had a good summer.
The stars are still shining over their heads, though, and they promise a better tomorrow. Maybe they aren’t ok now, but someday, they’ll be alright.
For now, they stand together watching the stars reflect across the surface of the ocean. They stand on Hoseok's seashore.
"I love you, hyung," Jung Kook whispers to Taehyung, quietly so the others won't hear.
Hoseok whistles as he walks home, he's exited for the summer. The idea of doing absolutely nothing for days upon days and having no work to worry about is blissful.
He stops when he passes by the convenience store, the display case is what catches his eyes. Dozens of plush dolphins arranged in a neat row have him cooing at the glass. Maybe he should get one?
Screaming voices distract him and he frowns when he realizes that the yelling is coming from inside. With cautious steps, he shuffles in. The convenience store lady is screaming at a man that looks to be her husband, the man isn’t home most of the time. The brute is holding her arm in a death grip and she’s yelling at him to let go.
Hoseok rushes over without thinking, Yoongi always tells him that he’s tied with Taehyung at being the most compulsive person to exist.
“Stop! You’re hurting her!:
Three things happens just then. The man lets go of his wife and he pushes Hoseok away. The third thing is that Hoseok falls, hard. His head smashing against something solid on the way down, Hoseok thinks it may be glass because he hears shattering. Then everything is red and a coppery taste fills his mouth.
“Oh my god!”
“Fuck! What the hell?”
“We have to call an ambulance! I’ll call 911!”
“Are you fucking kidding me? They’ll fucking blame his death on me, think for once, you stupid woman!”
“He’s not dead yet! They can help him!”
“Look at that blood, he won’t make it to the hospital and they’ll blame it on me!”
“It wasn’t your fault, it was an accident, they’ll understand! Please, just let me call the ambulance!”
“All they'll fucking understand is that some kid is dead!”
Hoseok is facing upwards so all he sees is the brightly lit ceiling. Everything is tinged in red, and the arguing voices are getting farther and farther away.
He never got to tell Yoongi that he liked him, Hoseok finds it funny that he’s thinking about this as his eyes begin to close.
It’s a shame that he’s inside. He would do anything to see the stars one last time.