20: the end
A patch of bright crimson stained the lapping shore next to his torso. It was a vivid splotch of colour amidst the pastel scenery. Jungkook, in his haze of pain, couldn’t tell if it was his, or --
A few meters to his left, Jimin’s.
He wasn’t supposed to be there. Jungkook was supposed to have done it alone. Ragged breaths escaped Jungkook’s bloodstained lips, and crooked tear tracks streamed down his cheeks and mixed in with the salt of the ocean.
Jimin’s suit was torn down to shreds, caked with mud and doused with grains of white sand and splotches of the same crimson. His eyes were firmly shut, and his lips parted just slightly.
Breathing hurt, and moving hurt even more. But Jungkook still attempted to lift his hand and reached it with trembling fingers towards the boy. Jungkook could only produce a croak. “J-Jimin.”
As if he’d heard him, Jimin’s eyelashes flickered weakly, revealing the warm brown eyes that Jungkook had feared he wouldn’t get the chance to see again -- he wanted to memorize the shade right then so that no matter where they ended up, Jungkook would be able to find him again. Maybe in their next life, they would be more fortunate. Maybe their neighbourhood would reflect a beautifully painted rainbow instead of a melancholy blue. Maybe Jimin could fall for someone other than Jungkook, someone who would treat him well. That was his wish.
Jimin tried to turn his head, but screamed in pain, as a fresh stream of blood stained the breast of his dress shirt.
Jungkook’s mouth went dry. He managed to crawl onto his front, biting onto his lip so hard he drew even more blood. Slowly, he made his way over to Jimin, and collapsed next to his side. Jungkook lifted a hand, stained with blood and sand and placed it gently onto Jimin’s cheek. It was cold to touch.
“Jimin…” Jungkook whimpered, watching over Jimin’s ruined body. It was all Jungkook’s fault. All his fucking fault. “Why? Why did you --”
Jimin smiled through the pain, lips tinged blue. His eyes were nearing vacant, staring up at the cloud-littered, sun-baked sky instead of at Jungkook. “For… You…”
“No.” Jungkook shook his head, his head hurting like it was about to burst. His tears fell as violently as the waves shattered against the barnacle encrusted boulders. He pulled his hand out from beneath him and held onto Jimin’s hand, already slackened. Jungkook’s heart sunk like an anchor, and he began to sob. “I’m sorry.”
It wasn’t enough. Apologizing wouldn’t be enough to excuse all the atrocities he had committed due to his own fear, his own selfish fear. Nothing would.
“I’m so sorry.” Jungkook held onto Jimin’s hand tight, trying to bring warmth back into his frosted skin. “You’re so stupid. I’m so sorry… You should have let me go, you should have -- left me, and went to live your life, and I’m sorry --”
Jimin tried once again, to turn his head towards Jungkook. Despite the pain he was experiencing, he finally met Jungkook’s eyes. There was no sign of resentment or anger, instead, there was large swell of affection. “I… Love you. Jeon Jungkook.” His voice sounded as faint as the air.
“No, you shouldn’t love me.” Jungkook snapped, frantic. “You should hate me.”
“Say you… you love me.” Jimin blinked his eyes slowly. He moved his hand towards his pant pocket, reaching in and taking out a crumpled packet of paper, cut unevenly and stabled together. On top, wrote to my best friend, Park Jimin in messy print. Jungkook recognized it immediately. “Once.”
“Why?” Jungkook panicked. Jimin pushed the paper towards Jungkook, hand trembling. “I’ll say it a thousand times, Jimin, I will --”
“Once is… enough.” Jimin sighed. “Once is all we have.”
Jungkook’s hand tightened against Jimin’s. He picked up the packet and a wave of nows came crashing -- Jungkook writing this one night and thinking about how he and Jimin would be together forever and ever, and in a way, it had come true. But it wasn’t what he had wanted. Jungkook dropped his head. He bowed, having failed life’s tests, and committed to pay the consequences. But not in this way, not that it would take someone else and not him. He would do anything to turn back time, and if not, transfer his own bank of heartbeats and lungful of breaths to Jimin. But life was cruel.
“I love you.” Jungkook finally blurted. Saying it was the easiest thing he’d ever done. His words echoed off the edge of the cliff, slowly resonating into nothing.
Jimin smiled subtly. His eyes formed into little crescents, and his nose scrunched up -- Jungkook loved this smile of his, but this time, it made him cry even more uncontrollably. “Clumsy idiot.”
“Yeah?” Jungkook answered to the title. He flipped open the packet and read i will grant your wish.
“Thank you for loving me.” Jungkook didn’t expect these words to have been Jimin’s last. Because with them, Jimin’s hand fell limp in Jungkook’s grasp, and his head lolled to the side. Jimin was gone.
Jungkook’s first reaction was a subtle one, holding his breath until his lungs hurt, because if he didn’t breath, it meant that time had stopped, right? And if time stopped, Jimin wouldn’t be dead, and dead because of him.
But when he was forced to exhale, and with that Jungkook’s mind cleared. He acknowledged the frightening reality. As well, he understood it was one he couldn’t escape. He interlocked their fingers together and set his head next to Jimin’s neck, reminiscing the first time they had slept together.
And as he felt himself slipping away, Jungkook whispered to the wind.
“I love you.”
will you echo that nine hundred and ninety-nine times for me?
Too many broken promises, he had to keep this one.
He thought he heard the wind respond sure
thank you And with that, he slept.
At age eight, Jimin knew close to nothing. He understood to an even lesser degree. Of course, there were the few facts he was fairly certain about – he lived in a house with a glass balcony overlooking a pastel coastline and a sun that dissolved in salt every night. If he exited his back door and traversed approximately eighty steps forwards, he would enter a forest under the alias of a park.
His dad mainly looked after him, as his mother worked as a makeup artist, travelling the world for a good chunk of the three hundred and sixty-five days in a year. She seldom returned home except for Christmases and birthdays, bringing exotic gifts with no particular use and phrases in foreign languages she’d learnt in order to bring fragments of the vast world to Jimin. His mother always left early at dawn for flights, almost as if she was avoiding saying farewell to Jimin. Jimin also knew and understood the love and dependence he felt for his father.
Jimin understood the concept of school and the need for success – he would have to become excellent in order to lead a life as fulfilled and prideful as that of his mother. He knew it was his responsibility to finish his homework and to wash his hair every other day and to turn off his reading light at ten o’clock precisely.
He understood those particular areas well. Adults often commended him for his responsible nature. They ruffled his hair and offered him lollipops.
There was one thing he failed to understand, and would fail to understand for the years to come. In fact, he might never figure it out after all.
His neighborhood was below a suburban one, but consisted of a good number families gathered in a warm community. Among the community, there were a handful of children around his age. Jimin knew the names of all of them, was friends with over half of them, and had visited most of their homes for tea.
But as Jimin walked up to the beach where their annual barbecue get-together was held, he looked for one face. One face only.
While scanning the crowd, he found him.
“Jimin!” A bright cheery voice said. Protruding front teeth and round eyes marked his best, best friend in the entire universe. And to Jimin, even if the universe were to began again, he and the boy would undisputedly find each other against all odds and the inconceivable largeness of chance and coincidence. There was no hesitation in this belief of his. The boy waved frantically, running and tripping over a bottle of aerosol, and proceeding to land flat on his face.
“Jungkook, are you okay?” Jimin rushed over to his friend, kicking sand into his sandals. He lifted up Jungkook’s head by his jaw and examined his cheeks for blemishes. Brushing off the coating of white sand, he saw that Jungkook had mildly scratched up his left cheek. “Clumsy idiot.”
“It’s your fault.” Jungkook pouted, squirming out of Jimin’s hands. His hair was standing up in all directions. In this particular light, Jungkook resembled a disoriented bunny. A clumsy one. “I fell because I saw you.”
Jimin crossed his arms and stood up, puffing his chest. He would refuse to help Jungkook get up to his feet, because Jimin was angry.
“Sheesh.” Jungkook chuckled, and got up as well, a good few inches shorter than Jimin. Jungkook punched Jimin lightly in the bicep, and Jimin began to walk away. Behind him, Jungkook shouted. “You didn’t have to get mad.”
He kept walking. Towards the rest of the group of children.
“You still have to kiss it better.” Jungkook complained. His voice suddenly dropped. “My mommy isn’t here, so you need to do it.”
Jimin hesitated in his steps. Sighing dramatically, he turned around and began to make his way back. Jungkook squeezed his eyes shut and turned his scuffed cheek towards Jimin. He was wearing a particularly smug smile. Jimin secretly liked that smile.
But he puckered his lips and squeezed his eyes shut. With that, Jimin leaned and kissed Jungkook’s cheek, tasting Jungkook’s tender, subtly salty skin against his lips.
He immediately jerked away, extorting a purposeful look of disgust.
But Jungkook was noticeably happier than previously. He patted his cheek. “See? All better.”
“That’s because of me.”
“Yes, you.” Jungkook said. “Only you.”
That was when.
Jimin’s confusion usually began at this point of their interaction. Jimin could lie and claim he understood his and Jungkook’s friendship, but he had been taught against lying all his life.
When Jungkook said things like that, Jimin’s heart would react. It would beat very, very fast and his cheeks would blossom like the roses his mother brought back from her travels and he would experience an indescribable light fluttery feeling at the extremities of his toes and his fingertips. And even after he and Jungkook parted ways at the intersection leading to their respective houses, the feeling didn’t leave him alone. It lingered in his body, buried in his nerves and in his mind just until he fell asleep late at night, having switched between laying on his back and his sides a couple dozen times.
And sometimes, Jungkook even showed up in his dreams.
His confusion was a result of no one having talked to him about a very vague and complicated concept, far beyond his extent of comprehension named love.
Not just typical love, no.
Special love, so exclusive that only select individuals could begin to grasp, much less accept, that was what Jimin was experiencing.
He just needed time.
But simultaneously, time was his biggest enemy.
Before Jungkook could fully reach the three steps that would seal his fate,
He heard a faint voice calling his name.
“Jungkook…” The voice was familiar, and rasping, as if the person was having trouble breathing. “What are you doing?”
I honestly don’t know.
And Jungkook took yet another step forwards. Just one more left.
“Jungkook, everyone’s been looking for you.” The voice panted. Jungkook suddenly recognized it -- Jimin. And he whipped his head back to look -- just to meet Jimin sprinting his way, dress shirt untucked and gelled hair sticking up in all directions and appearing afraid. “Jungkook, stop. Don’t move --”
His words were a split millisecond too late. Jungkook’s foot tread over the edge, and the sight of Jimin and the field littered with erect grey stones slipped beneath his field of vision. It was replaced by a subdued blue sky.
This all happened within following millisecond.
The wind gave up on cushioning him, and allowed him plummet freely.
The scenery surrounding him was reduced to a dopple of watercolour paint gently swished in a rinse bowl.
And back at the cliff’s edge, Jimin jumped after him.
It was a hazy summer afternoon, and a ten-year-old Jimin was touching ripples in the water with his toes. The ripples were pretty, much like spiderwebs, but Jungkook would dare to disagree. His friend hated spiders, and whenever he spotted one, he would scream ‘like a girl’, as would Taehyung, another neighbourhood friend, described.
“Are you going to get in?” Jungkook’s loud voice sounded in his ear. Jimin winced and turned around to punch him. He missed.
“Don’t scare me like that. I almost fell in.” Jimin complained.
“So you’re not getting in?” Jungkook lifted an eyebrow. Jimin shook his head defiantly. He hated water, even if it was the temperature-regulated, disinfected, stillwater swimming pool in his backyard, which he still refused to swim in. “Come on. The water’s nice and warm today. It’ll be nice.”
“No.” Jimin shook his head.
Jungkook pouted, but gave up once he figured out Jimin wasn’t going to change his mind. “I’m going to swim. You stay put.” He patted the top of Jimin’s head, to which Jimin made a noise of indignation.
Jimin watched the sun beginning to take its daily dip down the horizon, and listened to the squeaking of the dock beneath Jungkook’s feet as he stepped backwards to build running momentum. Jungkook dropped his t-shirt over Jimin’s head, causing him to throw it off with annoyance. Jungkook was really a pain when he wanted to be.
“I’m going!” Jungkook shouted, running across dock and diving in with an artillery-like splash. Excess drops of seawater sprinkled onto Jimin’s shirt.
After a few moments, Jimin decided to look over to his left, towards Jungkook’s imbecilic swimming. But he saw nothing. The waters were still, and Jungkook seemed to be submerged beneath the surface.
How long had it been?
Jimin felt a sharp pang of fear and guilt closing in at his throat. He lifted his feet from the water and scrambled onto the slippery surface. And before fear could cloud his perception, Jimin threw off his own shirt and sprinted across the dock. He did it without thinking -- he jumped.
Ice-cold water went up his nose and burned his eyes. He didn’t know how to swim half as well as he would’ve wanted to, but he didn’t let it bother him. Jimin immediately began to search for Jungkook, submerging himself as well.
About a meter under, Jimin caught sight of Jungkook. He paddled weakly and awkwardly at the water until he reached him. Jimin hoisted his friend from the water and carried him to the surface. While he coughed the salt out of his lungs, Jungkook sprung to life.
“Boo!” Jungkook said, high-pitched and obnoxiously. He was laughing, not noticing that Jimin’s face had grown bright red in rage.
“You…” Jimin clenched his teeth. He took out his anger at the foolish prank by pushing Jungkook’s stomach, and then swimming clumsily to shore. Jimin felt equally embarrassed as angry. He didn’t bother to look back at Jungkook, and decided he wouldn’t care anymore even if he drowned. Pulling himself up the dock, Jimin used his both his and Jungkook’s shirts as towels.
“Hey, don’t leave.” Jungkook called from the water.
“I hate swimming.” Jimin huffed. “I hate you.”
He was met with Jungkook’s laughter once more. “Thank you for saving me.”
Jimin scoffed and walked towards shore. In his mind, however, the word hate felt slightly off.
He ____ Jungkook.
Now, what was the word he was looking for?
Wind bit Jungkook’s cheek like the teeth of a vicious animal that patrolled his fear. His suit was uncomfortably fitted, shoulder pads too stiff, and his tie, now loosened, was a few sizes too small, and was constantly on the verge of choking him. There was a white rose in his right hand. He held it by his fourth finger and thumb, trying to not let it prick him.
This, however, was irrelevant.
He’d left her by his aunts and uncles, and told her he would be back momentarily -- he simply had to present his condolences once more before he could fully be at ease. She hadn’t suspected anything.
He’d also left Jimin. In the middle of nowhere, alone. It was the single most difficult and simplest thing he had done in the entirety of his life. Difficult, because with the growing distance between their fingertips, he felt colder. He wondered how far he could run before the bite of the brisk wind gained unadulterated access to his heart. And simple, because it was easier to run than to stay.
Jungkook wasn’t entirely sure what had prompted him to make the decision.
Perhaps it was the buildup of events. Tragedy after tragedy after mistake. And perhaps it was a whim of the moment.
Even if it had been a good hour since he’d last touched Jimin, the boy’s caress was still ghosting over his cheek and sweeping across his chest. He was being haunted, and so he thought -- why not just join them?
Perhaps it was himself.
Jungkook looked outwards to the horizon, which severed the oceans and the heavens in once sharp swipe. The sunshine was likely bloodshed.
Here his thoughts began to crumble.
Jungkook missed Jimin, but he couldn’t even say it out loud, to himself, alone, facing the mirror. What had overcome of him -- Jungkook hated himself for it. Jungkook was once fearless and adventurous and cool as the neighbourhood kids entitled him. He’d been reduced, by a damn voice and hand into nothing but ashes blown into a silhouette of a person. There was no longer any reason for him to stay. Staying was pain and hurt, and Jungkook was tired of walking around being covered in thorns, pricking everyone who came close. Jungkook pitied Jimin for being so persistent, for believing in him so ardently.
Jungkook lo --
If he couldn’t even fucking repeat it in his mind, what was the point anymore?
He wanted Jimin’s hands around his and his lips against his and their hearts beating next to each other -- but he couldn’t even say he l --
He lo --
He love --
Amidst his delusion, Jungkook thought that maybe if he left, Jimin could let go and be happy.
And if happiness was all Jungkook could grant him, let it be.
He began to step forward, three steps until open air.
In school, Jimin was the studious one, and Jungkook was his ‘bad influence’. It was widely perceived in that way. Not in Jimin’s eyes though, not at all.
Jungkook was his gateway to everything he would’ve missed out on if he were alone.
Among his friends, Jungkook was the outgoing one with a million ideas for adventures they could embark on, dreams for which one of them would be the first to enter space as an astronaut, and which would delve beneath seas as a marine. And Jimin, was his reserved, soft-spoken sidekick. Not when they were alone, no.
Jimin dreamed on his own, very deeply and passionately, but Jungkook was the only one who listened to him.
“Have your pick of partners --”
“I’m taking Jimin.”
“But you guys are always together.” Pouted Hoseok, a normally bright boy. “It’s not fair, and you always win.”
Jungkook stuck out his tongue. “Too bad. Jimin’s mine.”
And Jimin was fine with not speaking. Because it was as if Jungkook had taken the words from his mouth and projected them loud enough for the rest of them to hear.
“Who are you going to invite to your birthday party?” Jungkook asked, a few days before Jimin’s eleventh birthday. He seemed to be genuinely curious.
Jimin squirmed in his desk seat. “I don’t want to have a party.” He disliked the idea of attention, especially if people he wasn’t the most comfortable with were constantly demanding for it.
“But you have to.”
“Why?” Jimin demanded.
“You’re alone too much.” Jungkook said. He cut off Jimin before he was started to defend himself. “With me doesn’t count. You’re always with me.”
Jimin thought this through and nodded his head, reluctantly. “Fine.”
“Okay?” Jungkook smiled and clapped his hands together excitedly. “Let’s blow up balloons together. Light blue, your favourite colour.”
On the day of Jimin’s birthday party, amidst the loud voices and the messy heap of snacks on his dining table, and the equally as messy pile of presents set out by the door, Jungkook came up to him individually.
He placed a birthday crown onto Jimin’s head and smiled at him.
“Happy birthday, Jiminnie.” Jungkook said, as he pulled out something from his pocket. It was a little booklet, cut unevenly and stapled multiple times, also in a crooked manner. He handed it to Jimin, looking just the slightest embarrassed. “This is your present, for now.”
Jimin felt warmth blossom in his chest, even if he had no idea what the paper in his hands was.
Jungkook looked at Jimin with fierce determination. “One day, I will become famous and rich and I’ll buy you everything you want. But for now, this is the best I can do..” Jungkook lifted a pinkie. “Pinkie promise. I won’t forget.”
Jimin looked down at the packet of papers in his hand, about the side of his palm.
“These are coupons.” Jungkook explained with a toothy smile. “They’re favours I will do for you when you want. There’s ten, and the code words are clumsy idiot. Call that, and I will come running.”
Jimin scoffed and punched Jungkook lightly in the shoulder. Jungkook smiled back at him, without the mischievous tint this time. That was how Jimin knew the smile was real and the happiness as well.
He tucked the precious pieces of paper into his front pocket and patted it three times for safekeeping and good luck. He wouldn’t ever lose them or fold them -- that was, because Jungkook had given them to him.
And the party went on. Jimin opened the rest of the presents. He was appreciative, and he showed it on the outside. But no other present, no matter how extravagant or expensive, caused the same happiness as Jungkook’s few pieces of paper had done.
Hey clumsy idiot.
Do me a favour and tell me what I’m feeling.
Walking away from the grave was a mixture of pain and relief. Along with the relief, came guilt, overwhelming waves of it. If he had been alive, he would’ve surely given Jungkook a good beating if he figured out where he was heading to. If he had been alive, Jungkook wouldn’t have been able to gather the courage to go in the first place. But he wasn’t there, anymore. Jungkook could see Jimin, touch him, invite him over without the fear of his father. It was as if chains had been unlocked from his ankles and his wrists and his heart, and he was allowed to run free. But simultaneously without the chains, he feared he would become lost.
Jungkook vaguely remembered where the boy had run off to, shortly after the eulogy was presented and the necessary drops of tears shed from the necessary people was witnessed.
Although winter was yet to arrive, the ground was frozen down to the roots. Jungkook stepped over its rugged surface, and then transferred onto the paved path, coated with a thin layer of frost.
Where was he?
Jungkook felt anticipation building up in his chest. It had been so long. After an umpteenth stray turn and multiple stridings over the grave of others’ loved ones, Jungkook found him.
He walked over silently, careful not to say anything -- he might ruin it by letting his tongue slip.
Jimin was sitting over a stone staircase, which lead to the graveyard’s exit, and then the parking lot. He faced away from Jungkook and towards the ocean.
Jungkook placed a hand hesitantly onto Jimin’s shoulder, and then flinched as Jimin reacted to his touch.
The surprise was replaced with instant hope -- an equal mixture of happiness and fear, in Jimin’s eyes.
“Jungkook.” Jimin said delicately, that if he spoke too harshly, the name would shatter in his hands. Jimin’s hand lifted to run up Jungkook’s jaw, and then rested at his cheek. Jimin looked as if he could cry. “Jungkook.”
Jungkook forced himself to meet Jimin’s eyes.
I’m sorry. It’s okay now.
“Anyways, I wanted to ask if you were okay.” Jimin muttered, stumbling over his words. “About your father, you know?”
Jungkook shook his head. Everything’s okay. He lifted his hand to meet Jimin’s and stroked down his forearm. Jungkook’s chest had begun to hurt by then -- it was beyond unbearable and he couldn’t keep it to himself anymore, he just couldn’t --
Jungkook let his body free, and threw his arms around Jimin so tightly he feared as if he might suffocate the boy. Jimin’s arms wrapped his arms around Jungkook’s waist, hugging him close. Jungkook laid his head on Jimin’s shoulder, allowing the boy to run his hands across his back, mapping all the locations he’s kissed and all those foreign, which he planned to conquer.
They exchanged no words, just influxes of suppressed emotion and longing and most importantly, love.
Jungkook heard his heart beat and felt his lungs intake oxygen, as if the past few months, he’d been slumbering between the dead and the living and he was being exhumed right then, right now. Next to Jimin.
This is where I belong --
But Jimin’s hold on him suddenly loosened, and he stepped away altogether.
Jungkook straightened and watched Jimin with confusion. Why --
But the apprehension in Jimin’s eyes explained, and with one flick to his right, Jungkook caught sight of her.
She was noticeably angry, face flushing red and hands held in fists to her sides. Her eyes switched from Jungkook to Jimin and then Jungkook again, as if she was choosing between whom she hated the most.
Jungkook began to panic.
Jimin had his head hung long, but eyes directed at Jungkook with a flicker of hope. In that spur of a moment, Jungkook concluded that Jimin was everything to him and maybe even more if that was possible within this world. Jimin was his choice, and he had made this choice just a mere million times in his mind when they were apart. Every pair of lips reminded him of Jimin, every voice, every morning when he woke to someone else’s calling, he secretly hoped it’d be Jimin’s melodic tone ringing in his hears. He’d lived half a life.
So why? He asked himself in that same spur of moment, did he walk away? Why did he make his way down the stairs and towards the girl, linking arms with her and promising that he would explain everything once they were alone and then walking with her towards their base and farther and farther away from the boy he loved -- he loved him, he loved him so much.
He was scared.
“You were rubbing up on him --”
“It wasn’t like that.” Jungkook defended, shoving infernos into his heart with every lie. “He was comforting me about my father. He’s just a childhood friend.”
She sighed, a smile creeping onto her lips. “Guess what, I believe you.” She stepped onto her tiptoes, and gave Jungkook a light peck on the lips.
The gesture made him want to throw up. He felt sick down to his bones, but he forced a smile and excused himself to the washroom. She told him to come back soon.
And Jungkook agreed.
However, somewhere in the back of his mind, he’d already decided he wouldn’t ever go back.
He walked to an empty area in the graveyard, surrounded by crosses and messages to deceased loved ones and he knelt down onto the dirt and began to cry.
It started to become clear one bright, warm autumn afternoon. A few days after school began, and in a whir of back-to-school shopping, Jimin had taken out a few precious hours to spend with Jungkook.
In a tree.
It was a maple tree, leaves already tinting crimson. Peppered in kisses by the wind.
Jimin was eleven years old. Jungkook had just turned ten.
Childhood still stained their laughter, but they now needed a reason to laugh, as opposed to the wild, uninhibited happiness along with immaturity that had begun to taper.
Climbing up the tree’s scaly trunk, littered with small clumps of syrupy sap, was easy enough for Jungkook. He scampered across the footholds and the branches as if he belonged with the wild ones. If only his features didn’t resemble those of a harmless angel.
“Wait up… Jungkook.” Jimin struggled, a meter off the ground. He was beginning to regret ever agreeing to Jungkook’s rash ideas to kill time. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Jimin was convinced it wasn’t time Jungkook wanted to kill. It was Jimin.
“No longer a clumsy idiot, am I?” Jungkook teased. His legs dangled off the highest branch. The sun was shining from an angle that illuminated the contours of Jungkook’s jaw and nose, making him appear older than he actually was. His oversized t-shirt billowed in the gentle gusts of wind. Meanwhile, Jimin struggled to reach the next branch, his arm a few inches too short. “Hurry up. There’s something I want to show you.”
Jimin groaned. “I can’t… Climb anymore.”
His shoulders burned and his knees shook, and if it were anyone else but his Jungkook, then Jimin would be too embarrassed to show his face. But it was Jungkook, so Jimin scowled freely.
“Come on.” Jungkook said with a singsong voice. Jimin was growing impatient. “Jiminnie --”
“Don’t call me that.” Jimin slumped against the branch. “I’m older than you, you should respect me --”
Jimin’s foot slipped off of the knot in the trunk he was perched on, and he momentarily lost balance.
A wave of panic washed over him, as he began to fall.
But a hand held onto his and lifted his entire weight up the remainder of the branch.
And when Jimin’s eyes opened, he was staring straight into Jungkook’s eyes.
“Clumsy idiot.” Jungkook said with amusement, taking Jimin’s plump cheeks in his hands. “You’re such rich family boy. Who doesn’t know how to climb a tree?”
“My family’s not rich --”
“Then does that make me a poor family boy?” Jungkook lifted an eyebrow, but some of the mischievous air drained from his smile. Jimin felt his own frustration deplete -- this wasn’t something they talked about often, and there was a reason Jimin chose to avoid the topic.
To his relief, a few of their neighbourhood friends interrupted the tension between them.
Below, a girl with frizzy hair shouted with her squeaky voice, “Jiminnie and Jungkookie, sitting on a tree.” Beside her, was a boy with fair skin and a gummy smile. He began to sing along.
“Minah, shut up!” Jimin grumbled. His cheeks immediately reverted to red.
She shrugged her shoulders. “You two are in a tree together. You have to kiss.”
“Says who?” Jimin threw back. He considered hiding his face, because it felt almost as hot as the sunlight that was searing the top of his head. Jimin didn’t understand why he was feeling this way -- flushed and embarrassed when there was absolutely nothing new about this kind of teasing. Minah made sure to bother them as often as she could -- it was like doing so was her duty.
She stuck out her tongue. “You have to. The song said so.”
Jimin broke off a nearby twig and was about to launch it at her head, but Jungkook stopped him. He took the twig out of Jimin’s hand and watched him carefully. Jungkook tilted his head, gaze travelling down below Jimin’s eyes, and rested at his lips. He shrugged. “Why not?”
Jimin’s eyes widened. “Because, well.”
Jimin had no answer.
And then Jungkook, with his hands cupped around Jimin’s cheeks, leaned in while puckering his lips.
Jimin squirmed, but was unable to escape, so he shut his eyes in compliance.
And then Jungkook kissed him, on the lips.
It was barely a graze and lasted for less than a full two seconds, but their two friends at the base of the tree roared with laughter.
“You should get married.” Minah shouted, giggling so hard she fell onto her butt. Yoongi, the other slightly older boy, watched them with sly amusement. “But then, who’s going to be the bride?”
However, Jimin and Jungkook’s expressions were stark contrasts.
Jimin was caught in between a frown and surprise unable to take his eyes off Jungkook, while Jungkook’s eyes flitted around, focusing on anything but Jimin.
What is this?
The fluttery feeling was back, but this time, multiplied by a number Jimin still struggled to recite off multiplication table. As if he’d swallowed an entire kaleidoscope of butterflies, and they were circulating through his veins and being pumped through his heart instead of blood. It was unlike anything he’d ever felt before, and it made him want to laugh and cry at the same time.
It didn’t make sense.
The only thought Jimin could isolate in his muddled collection of thoughts was:
He wanted Jungkook to kiss him, again.
And never stop.
Jungkook knew his father’s condition wasn’t optimal. Jungkook blamed it on his drinking and his father blamed it on his mother’s death -- what had caused his drinking in the first place. But there wasn’t anything Jungkook could do, from his position. His father had always been a sensitive man, prone to blowing up if the same words he’d said countless times before were arranged differently.
However, he didn’t expect his sudden stroke, which led to cardiac arrest, in a shopping centre where no one was able to save him in time.
Jungkook heard the news over the phone while he was trying to sort through. They told him his whereabouts, and then Jungkook was out the door, having totally forgotten his date with his girlfriend later that day.
He rushed to the hospital, and then with a signature, his father was sent to a place that would have his funeral arranged. It all happened too fast. Too sudden, and Jungkook couldn’t bring himself to cope.
After that day, he was officially listed as an orphan. He would have to manage on his own, or be sent to a foster family -- neither life did he want to choose. He was mailed a packet of pages that described the details of his bleak future. Jungkook would have to switch schools and move out of his neighbourhood if he chose foster, which he was fine with, except for one person.
He had ruined everything beyond salvageable, but he didn’t have the heart to leave.
His aunts and uncles flew in from their respective cities, and his girlfriend left during the middle of a volleyball competition to comfort him. They cried together, but Jungkook felt his own tears only semi-transparent, semi-real.
“You must’ve loved him so much.” His aunt sobbed into Jungkook’s shoulder.
Jungkook hated his father. But not exactly -- he couldn’t hate his father no matter how much he wanted to. His father had ruined his life and the possibility of his happiness, and broke him, both emotionally and physically. The idea of ‘home’ to him was distorted, because he was forced to fear his own. He feared the knife-like words and the fists and the drunken, slurred speeches listing the reasons he was a disappointment every single time he walked through the doors to his house.
“Y-Yeah.” Jungkook said in between her sobs. “I did.”
But Jungkook couldn’t say it. Maybe because his father had been his only hope for closeness, for family, and for security. And hope was as inevitable as love.
While on the train of thought, Jungkook wondered of the possibility Jimin could become that person for him. Jimin could be his security and his family and the one to share his heart. Jungkook wished greatly upon that possibility, but somewhere in the back of his head, a voice laughed at him -- mocked him.
Told him to stop being a kid. And to grow up.
And he almost believed it.
He wasn’t supposed to invite Jimin. It had been a good few months since Jungkook had last spoken to him, and Jungkook’s girlfriend would be there. But his family members had insisted.
He dialed the familiar number on his cellphone. His hands were trembling. He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed Jimin. Throughout the past few months, Jungkook had stopped himself from thinking about Jimin. Jimin usually flooded his mind a few hours after midnight, when he laid wide awake, his heartbeat refusing to slow, and eyes refusing to close. Images of Jimin’s face so vivid he had to force himself asleep in order to escape them.
The phone rang once, twice, thrice --
Jungkook considered hanging up, but then he picked up. Jungkook stopped breathing altogether.
“Hello?” Jimin said over the line. His voice was as melodic as every, carrying a sweet tune even as he spoke.
“I --” Jungkook couldn’t bring himself to speak. But he heard a quiet gasp over the phone line.
“Jungkook?” Jimin’s voice was quiet and hesitant. “Is that you?”
“Yes.” Jungkook barely said. “It’s… It’s me.”
A few moments passed before Jimin gave a response. “Jungkook, I’m sorry about your father. How are you?” That was what he chose to say.
Jungkook’s chest caved in -- the pressure was as if he was pinned underneath a landslide. Jimin didn’t show any hint of resentment or anger, at least through his voice. And here was Jungkook, struggling to utter a single word. How in the world was Jimin so strong? Even after all Jungkook had done.
“Is there a…” Jimin trailed off. “A reason why you called?”
They didn’t need a reason before. Before, it could’ve been four in the morning, on a school day when Jungkook was experiencing insomnia, that he called Jimin, and he wouldn’t question anything at all. Jungkook was bitter and guilty -- he’d created the problem himself. This was his fault, and yet he felt angry.
Jungkook cleared his throat. “Funeral. Could you come?” He felt like slapping himself for his lack of articulation.
“Definitely. Just get the details to me when you can. Once again, I’m sorry about your father.” Jimin answered. Jungkook picked sounds of Jimin about to hang up, and a momentary dread filled his mind.
“Wait.” Jungkook practically screamed into the phone. He hadn’t even noticed he’d stood up from his sitting position.
Jungkook hadn’t thought this out very well -- he didn’t know what to say. “I…”
miss you. love you. am sorry.
He simply couldn’t. Jungkook let his head drop. “Thank you.” And then he hung up.
On the day of the funeral, Jungkook dressed in the suit his aunt had bought for him. Black tie and slacks and shoes, and Jungkook was almost equivalent to night personified. He was handed a bouquet of white roses, and led out of the black van they had rented just for the occasion.
The turnout was better than Jungkook had expected, mostly because he knew his dad’s behaviours drove away any and all offers of friendship. People dressed in black milled around the area, looking confused and sad, almost in coordination.
The location was bleak and dusty, perfectly suitable for a burial. The stretch of land was perched on the overhang of a cliff overlooking the ocean. The sounds of waves trying to consume its shore echoed in the background, accompanied by his aunts’ weeping.
Jungkook’s girlfriend was holding his hand, but Jungkook searched the crowd for one person, one person only.
Park Jimin. And he found him, standing away from the general crowd, almost awkwardly. He was dressed in an ebony suit that complimented his eyes and hugged his body tight. Jungkook wanted to throw away his girlfriend’s hand, ignore everyone around him, and run over Jimin and do something as rash as to kiss him.
But he didn’t.
The funeral began, and a hired religious figure read from notes written on a wrinkled piece of paper, and Jungkook assumed the funeral had begun right then.
Jungkook felt sadness, but it didn’t bring him to tears. He felt bitterness, but not enough to admit out loud. And throughout the readings and the eulogies, Jungkook couldn’t focus. Instead, he directed his gaze towards Jimin, who watched the tomb with genuine despair. Jimin was beautiful. But Jungkook had long established, ever since he was very little, that Jimin was a beautiful person both inside and outside.
Jimin was kind and compassionate, much more than Jungkook could ever dream to be. He was selfless and considerate and forgiving. This was the main reason why Jungkook fell in love. On top of this beauty, was Park Jimin’s physical beauty. Jimin’s eyes said more than he ever said, and Jungkook felt fortunate to be able to read them so well. And Jimin’s touch, no matter how faint, could always stir up tremendous amounts of emotion within Jungkook.
But that wasn’t the reality. This was. The old man was reading prayers. His girlfriend leaning against his shoulder, Jimin a good ten feet away,
A distance Jungkook feared he would never be able to close.
Jimin confirmed his thoughts at one forty-seven in the morning, well into his fourteenth year, just as the first storm of winter swept into their neighbourhood, with Jungkook tucked against his body.
For some reason, he just knew.
It wasn’t right, according to the perfect people on television, and the chapter books he took out of the library and the adults he saw walking around, one man and one woman. But why did it feel so right?
Jimin was studying, or trying to study for the science test he had the morning after. It wasn’t that he procrastinated, but he mother had come back the day before, but this time, without any gifts or warm hugs. Instead, she had worn a bleak smile and refused to speak to neither Jimin or his father.
This frustrated Jimin, and he didn’t know how to deal with whatever his mother was going through. That explained his studying session at one o’clock in the morning.
He was going through stages of trying to keep his eyes open and his head upright, as he recited the process of mitosis beneath his breath.
It was stupid, and he began to hate it, all of it. School and responsibilities, and he admitted there were times he wanted to run away. And he would have done so already, if not for the ties that held him down.
And then he was jolted awake by a knocking sound coming from… not his door, but his window.
Jimin, frightened at first, walked over to the window cautiously.
“Hello?” Jimin asked, voice shaking. “Who’s there?”
After a few moments, “Jungkook.”
Jimin pulled the blinds up in record time, clicking open the latches on his windowsill and letting the boy in, in less than five seconds. As soon as he saw Jungkook, like really looked at him, Jimin’s face fell.
There were sickly purple bruises bruises scattered down Jungkook’s jaw and all across his otherwise soft features. One of which caused one of his large eyes to swell, and another looked like it was inflicted by a sharp object, and ran across his cheek down to his lip, which bled. Jungkook refused to look Jimin in the eye, redirecting his gaze down at Jimin’s lap.
A breath of hot anger swelled in Jimin’s chest. He knew very well where the bruises had come from.
“Did he hit you again?” Jimin said, carefully setting a finger against Jungkook’s chin. Jungkook winced, and Jimin quickly pulled his finger back. Jungkook nodded slowly and reluctantly. “Do you want me to clean them for you --”
“I…” Jungkook choked on his words, something he seldom did usually. He took in a deep breath. “Can you hold me?”
Jimin was temporarily taken aback. “What do you mean?”
Jungkook shut his eye that wasn’t swollen, and walked towards Jimin with his arms held up weakly at his sides. And then he pulled Jimin into an embrace, burrowing his head in the crook of Jimin’s neck. Ever since Jungkook’s last growth spurt, he had gained at least one or two inches over Jimin.
Jungkook’s body slackened and Jimin felt a sob shake his frame.
“Jungkook…” Jimin said, wrapping his arms around Jungkook’s waist. It was a strange feat -- in all the years Jimin had been Jungkook’s friend, never had they ever properly hugged. “I’m sorry.”
Jungkook’s legs began trembling, so Jimin tried to maneuver them to the bed.
“Let’s lie down, alright?” Jimin coaxed. Jimin could feel Jungkook’s chest against his own, and he could hear Jungkook’s rapid heartbeat counting cadences. Jimin began to move backwards towards the edge of his mattress. “Be careful, this might hurt.”
Once Jungkook was curled up on top of his bed, with the covers pulled up to his shoulders, Jimin walked back to his desk. He just had to finish studying -- it would take twenty minutes at most, and then he would further tend to Jungkook’s bruises.
“Don’t…” Jungkook whispered, grabbing onto Jimin’s sleeve. “Stay with me. Please.”
Jimin’s heart caved in. The slight movement revealed yet more bruises littered on Jungkook’s neck, and then a dark, more severe looking abrasion above his collarbone. It was staining Jungkook’s white t-shirt with a bright, ugly maroon.
“Hold me, Jimin.”
And this was enough for Jimin to crawl onto the bed as well. His desk lamp was lit, and his window half opened, but Jimin fit himself next to Jungkook. He gently laced an arm over Jungkook’s battered body and with the other, he reached for Jungkook’s hand, which he held tightly, squeezing every once in awhile to remind him that he was still there.
“Shh.” Jimin hugged Jungkook close. “Go to sleep.”
Not after very long, Jungkook’s breathing had steadied and slowed.
And that’s when Jimin finally understood.
He wouldn’t dare call it an epiphany, because it came gradually, very much like a wave to shore. As if Jimin’s mind was a desert, and was experiencing its first ephemeral rainfall. Droplets of liquid gold sinking beneath his thirsty dunes and quenching his desire for something he had never experienced ever before. And he was awakening, all seeds of life waiting patiently underneath his lands exhuming like the ghosts to their new human identities.
He was in love with Jungkook.
He knew this because of his stubborn, unresponsive heart.
He knew this because eyes were the filters to lies, leaving only raw, crude honesty, some of which the bearer wouldn’t previously be aware. And when he looked at Jungkook, he couldn’t muster lies. It was all silent, longing truth.
“I think I love you, Jungkook.” Jimin whispered against Jungkook’s ear, trying hard not to wake him. Half of Jimin wanted him to hear, and the other was stricken with fear in response the ‘what if he actually did’. What would Jungkook’s reaction to his confession be?
Jimin was in love with Jungkook. At fourteen, he was far from knowing everything, very far. But knowing this was enough to satisfy him --
The next morning when Jimin awoke, Jungkook had already left. He had scribbled a thanks Jimin (hyung) i owe you one on a sheet of lined paper on his desk. The window was closed.
Jimin aced his science test despite the studying he missed out on the night before.
But he didn’t care.
Because when Jimin saw Jungkook playing soccer despite his serious injuries through the classroom window, and felt his heart swell.
He finally knew why.
“You, should find a girl.” His father had suggested one afternoon when Jungkook was studying in his room. “A nice and pretty one.”
His immediate answer was no. Never. In his head, of course. He couldn’t admit he didn’t like them -- hadn’t liked them ever in his entire life. No matter how beautiful, how charming and kind, he couldn’t see past anything but friends. But on the other hand, he didn’t feel attraction for anyone besides --
Jungkook couldn’t bear to say his name. It was too soon, too sensitive a wound that he himself had punctured.
But a girlfriend was what would make him typical. He could walk on the streets with a girlfriend. Visit a restaurant and order a single serving and share, and have no one glance a second time. He could go to the movies holding hands, fall asleep on shoulders and kiss underneath a tree in the park and not have passersby on bikes or walking their dogs shoot him with looks of utter disgust. And they would finally leave him alone.
He wanted that. He wanted normal, more than almost everything.
But he also wanted him. Choose he was taught since he was young. Choose between your mother and me. Choose between X’s and O’s. Choose between love and belonging.
“Yeah.” Jungkook said, balancing his pen on his index finger. “I think I will.”
It was roughly at that point he began feeling sick to the core. His stomach churned and he felt constant bile, sour at the back of his throat. But he couldn’t throw up. It was that kind of feeling.
It wasn’t that difficult, finding a girlfriend. The neighbourhood was milling with girls his age. They willingly agreed to everything and anything he proposed, after glancing up and down his body, possibly evaluating his appearance. He didn’t find it any more difficult to leave them after one date -- it wasn’t that he cared for them in any way.
His goal was to find someone tolerable. Someone who he could put up with until university applications and acceptances rolled around the corner and he could take one as a freeway ticket out of his rundown neighbourhood once and for all. That was all he hoped for.
And so he did. A girl not yet a year younger than him who went to a school across town, so they didn’t have any mutual friends. She had long, wavy black hair and pale skin, almost as if she’d never seen the sun, even for a second. Jungkook imagined she was ideal, for someone who could appreciate her. She had a submissive personality, and seldom talked unless necessary. Her voice was soft, but not as soft as…
Jungkook did this very often. They would be holding hands and suddenly he would forget that it wasn’t -- next to him, but a girl -- her name was Halla. She had large eyes and a long, lithe fingers. He found it helpful to picture the differences.
So he wouldn’t miss him too much.
“Do you want to go to the park?” Jungkook asked, only halfheartedly. “The sun’s nice today. I hear starting tomorrow, it’s going to rain.”
She hummed next to him, hair billowing in the wind. “Sure.”
Jungkook managed a sweet smile and grabbed onto her hand, pulling her gently towards the park. Once they arrived, Jungkook offered to have her sit on his jacket -- she wore white jeans. She blushed slightly and took his offer.
“How long have you lived here?” Halla asked him. She was pretty. She was pretty, Jungkook tried to convince himself.
“Just all my life.” Jungkook chuckled. It was hard to imagine. “You?”
“Only two years. I moved here when my dad got a new job.” Halla explained. “It’s really nice here, and I love the gatherings.”
That basically explained how they met: Jungkook was at a soccer playoff, a real casual one when he spotted Halla on the bleachers. Everything built off there, the greetings, and then the labelling.
“That’s great.” Jungkook answered, out of things to say.
In the distance a young bird seemed to be attempting to fly for the first time, wobbling on a slightly elevated tree branch. It marched with its little talons up the slope, but before could begin to flap its wings, it tipped to the side and fell off.
Halla, who was watching as well, giggled lightly. “Poor bird. So clumsy.”
Jungkook wasn’t sure what overcame him, but he stood up abruptly. He felt sick, suddenly, and sick enough he felt like he could pass out -- it wasn’t nausea, and it wasn’t a headache, but something in between. He doubled over, squeezing his eyes shut in pain.
Halla rushed to his side. “Jungkook, are you okay?”
He managed to nod. “I’m okay.”
“What’s wrong?” Her hand rubbed his back gently, but it only made him feel worse.
Everything was wrong.
His girlfriend got him a birthday gift -- he turned seventeen a few days ago, tired of everything, tired of school and of his father and the recurring nauseousness in his stomach that didn’t seem to want to go away no matter what medicine he took and how many nights he spent twisting and turning in his bed willing for sleep to come.
He’d opened the gift, wrapped simply and crisply, but when he saw the contents, his hands slackened and he dropped it on the ground.
“Do you not like it?”
“No, no…” Jungkook hurriedly picked it up and faked a smile, lips hurting and face feeling like plastic. He waved his hands. “I love it.”
Inside was a shirt -- identical to Jimin’s. The one at the back of his closet he’d refrained from seeing, from remembering, from hurting, it was in his hands.
“Yeah.” Jungkook’s voice broke.
The next day, he wore the shirt. Not the one his girlfriend gave him, no.
He wore Jimin’s.
They were walking out on the streets one day. Halla had a pottery class, and had invited Jungkook to come along. Just to escape his own cocoon of feelings, he’d agreed.
It wasn’t Jungkook’s intention.
They were walking towards the part of town that consisted of all the art boutiques, quirky little shops that sold handmade delicacies, whether it was edible or for pure aesthetic purposes. Jungkook held Halla’s hand in his because he felt like it was what he should do, now that Halla was his girlfriend.
The sidewalk was narrow. But it wasn’t Jungkook’s intention.
He didn’t mean it.
To have run into Jimin.
Jimin was wearing his usual grey coloured hoodie, with its hood pulled over his head as if he wanted to hide his face -- Jungkook remembered telling him to take it off, and then when he refused, taking it off for him and telling him that he had a face the world should get to see. His hands were shoved in his pockets, and it was Jungkook who noticed him first.
They were a good five meters apart.
Jungkook felt the same nausea again, except in smaller bouts at a time. And it was then he knew Jimin -- or even the thought of Jimin was causing it. Jimin was yet to lift his head.
“Hey Jungkook.” His girlfriend said at the exact moment. And caused Jimin to lift his head. Jungkook immediately turned away, to face Halla, pretending as if he was interested in what she had to say.
“Hm?” Jungkook asked. “What is it?”
Jimin had definitely seen Jungkook by then. In the corner of his eye, Jungkook saw that Jimin was staring straight at the two of them.
“I was just wondering if you wanted to eat with a friend of mine later.” Halla smiled and her eyes lit up. “There’s this place I’ve really wanted to visit.”
“Sure.” Jungkook nodded his head. He was so scared to look forward.
But when he did, he didn’t look at him. He forced himself not to. There was a tree in the background, and he focused on that instead. In his peripheral vision, Jungkook saw Jimin’s eyes flick from Jungkook and then to Halla, and at their intertwined hands, and then watched his face fall.
It was painful. He hated it. He hated seeing Jimin like this -- but this had been his choice.
A second passed, and they were practically face to face. The sidewalk was narrow. Jungkook and Halla took up its entire width. It wasn’t Jungkook’s intention.
Halla noticed Jimin and sidestepped. “Sorry for blocking the way.” She apologized, bowing slightly.
Jimin said nothing, glanced up at Jungkook once more with so much hurt, it looked as if Jungkook was torturing him, hitting him, betraying him, leaving him.
And it was true, Jungkook did all those things.
Jimin bowed stoutly in return, and walked past them without a single word.
It wasn’t his intention.
But in a way, it was.
Jimin was certainly old enough to have stopped believing in fairy tales and miracles, but not yet old enough to expel the idea of true love. He was living proof of it.
As well, at fifteen, Jimin considered himself practically an adult.
It had been a year or so since his mother stopped coming back from her travels. Phone calls no longer rang in their houses, once, twice, before an ecstatic Jimin came sprinting from another floor to pick it up. His mother’s presents were set up in a dusty corner of their attic, as Jimin no longer had to hug one of them in order to fall asleep. His mother’s photos were taken off their walls, and her smell washed out of their bedsheets and vacuumed out of their carpets and her expensive perfumes dumped into the drain. His father had gone through an entire expatriating process a few days after her last departure, and Jimin was forced to help.
Jimin understood why. It made him sad, but if that was the price that came along with maturation, Jimin willingly accepted it.
Meanwhile, Jimin’s feelings for Jungkook persisted and increased by each day.
He saw absolutely nothing in anyone else -- it was only Jungkook. Girls that started to show interest in him, he rejected without a second thought.
“You like someone else, don’t you?” Asked Hayoung skeptically. She narrowed her eyes. “That’s why you can’t like me back.”
“You do.” Hayoung scoffed. “I’m going to find her and tell her that you’re mine and to back off.”
Jimin was always known for not expressing his feelings very well. He knew that if he didn’t forwardly confess to Jungkook, he would never know of Jimin’s feelings. Jimin planned for a confession, but he could never find the right time.
Most recently, Jungkook had gone through many physical changes. Jungkook had grown from a skinny kid to a tall boy with wide shoulders and a formidable strength. His hair had been trimmed slightly neater than the mop he had as a child, his face was chiseled sharp and mature, but his eyes remained as round and bright and mesmerizing as they ever were.
Jungkook’s personality was as it always had been. He liked to take risks, often taking Jimin along his adventures, and chose to avoid the consequences unless they were staring him in the face. He liked to talk, unless it was with strangers, then he reverted to a shy persona who stumbled on a simple greeting.
The slight dilemma here was that to the girls, Jungkook had become attractive. They liked his absentminded attention and spontaneous, impulsive air, so they fought for the seat across from him in the cafeteria and in the bus.
However, “Jimin, over here!”
Jimin smiled to himself.
That seat was always reserved for Jimin.
Jimin didn’t feel possessiveness very often, mostly because he wasn’t as outspoken as any of the girls that crushed on Jungkook. But he couldn’t help feeling slightly uneasy whenever Jungkook agreed to a go out with someone when asked.
During those hours on the weekend, he comforted himself by reminding himself that he was the only one who had access to Jungkook’s room without his permission, and had seem him shirtless more than he would’ve liked to, actually, and he knew that he loved Jungkook more than the rest of them could fathom.
It didn’t help that his heart broke when Jungkook and the nameless girl returned from their lunch date. They held hands and walked side to side, and Jimin almost couldn’t lift his head from where he was waiting.
Jimin kicked the bike pedal distraitly, as the two approached.
“Didn’t I look pretty in that dress?” The girl coaxed sweetly, latching further onto Jungkook’s arm.
He nodded with a charming half smile, causing the girl to blush.
That was before Jungkook noticed Jimin a few meters away. His half smile transformed into a bright, toothy smile, illuminated by what seemed like pure happiness. He whispered something to the girl without taking his eyes off Jimin. The girl pouted, but eventually let go of him. Before she left, Jungkook leaned down and quickly kissed her on the cheek. Once she was out of sight, Jungkook jogged towards Jimin.
Jungkook was dressed in an oversized white t-shirt, tight-fitting jeans, and a pair of boots for convenience. Simple, but so characteristically fitting, Jimin couldn’t help but smile as well. Jungkook diverted his gaze slightly downwards to accommodate their height and reached for Jimin’s bike.
“Can we both fit onto this thing?” Jungkook asked him, swiping at the kickstand.
Jimin frowned. “Maybe, but --”
Jungkook cut him off. “Maybe is good enough. Get on.”
Jimin did as Jungkook told him, not leaving a complaint about how this was going to get them killed, again. Jimin’s bike was a high end brand, and had a narrow seat over the back wheel over which he sat, while Jungkook took the main seat. As he began to ride, Jimin almost fell on backwards. He shouted for Jungkook to stop.
“What’s the hurry?” Jimin protested. “You’re really going to --”
“Kill the both of us, I know.” Jungkook smiled mischievously. He reached for both of Jimin’s arms and brought them to his waist. “Just hold onto me. Don’t worry about choking me, you don’t have enough strength for that.”
“Yeah, I do…” Jimin grumbled, as he held onto Jungkook. They sped away, out of the city center and towards the park that him and Jungkook spent most of their time. Jimin wanted to remind him that they had a project due the next day, and neither of them had started, but the summer wind was comfortably warm, billowing against his skin and and having Jungkook so close to him felt even better, so Jimin decided to forget about it all. He asked again, “How was your… date?”
Jungkook shook his head. “Didn’t like her.”
Jimin felt a spark of happiness and then immediate guilt for feeling happy. He tried to hide it. “Really?”
“Out of all of them, I thought she’d be a bit better.” Jungkook took a turn into the forestry. “But guess I was mistaken. I don’t like any of them.”
Jimin nodded, his chin against Jungkook’s back .
Jungkook turned his head around. “If only I could date you.”
Jimin’s body tensed for a moment, before he felt the slight shaking of Jungkook’s body -- it was a joke. He began to laugh as well, trying to hide his hurt. “If only.” But then Jungkook almost rammed straight into car bumper and Jimin began screaming again.
Three things hurt.
One were Jungkook’s eyes.
The second, Jungkook’s throat.
And the last, was his heart, of course.
Jungkook eyes hurt, not from crying, but from not crying. The night after, he’d sat on his bed running the horrible lines he’d said to him earlier that day, and then regretting it, and then not regretting it, but then feeling so much guilt overcome him that he couldn’t breathe. He’d tried to cry, but the tears didn’t come out.
Jungkook didn’t get a wink of sleep that night. He kept his eyes wide open, staring into an empty spot on his ceiling, trying to figure out why he couldn’t cry.
It was only the morning after that he actually figured it out. He stared at the mirror, as if his dark circles would go away if he looked at them for long enough. And it made sense.
He had cried all night. But his tears had simply fallen the wrong way.
His throat hurt from the screaming match he’d had with his father, and then at strangers on the streets who’d tried to comfort him after he’d run away, and then finally, when he’d shouted at Jimin.
Jungkook picked up the photo Jimin had dropped before he left. It was a photo of Jungkook, about a year ago when he was still all smiles and wide, curious eyes, staring boldly and lovingly at Jimin, who had taken the photo. Jungkook, out of frustration and repent, wanted to rip the photo into shreds, but he couldn’t bring himself to. Instead, he slid it between two books in his bookshelf, promising to never look at it again.
It wasn’t really that bad, considering the words he’d said -- they were no different from knives.
His heart hurt because he didn’t want to believe it. He didn’t have feelings for Jimin, he tried to make himself believe. Only then, would Jungkook be able to live normally -- he’d experienced the wretched isolation of listening to his heart and he hated it. He hated the threats, he hated his father’s drunken, slurred insults calling him names that sounded worse than those one would label a devil. And Jungkook hadn’t done anything wrong -- it wasn’t his fault, and he was being punished for it.
He saw a solution, and he saw an escape. And selfishly, Jungkook took it.
It’s Jimin’s fault. That was the only way Jungkook could live, if he believed this. It’s not my fault.
They were fine as they were -- best friends who depended on each other, and that was it. But somehow, things had elevated, and Jimin’s presence had stripped Jungkook bare and touched him, changed him, and Jungkook couldn’t revert back anymore.
His heart told him that Jimin was beautiful, naked in his arms, face illuminated by the dim light of the moon. His heart told him Jimin was perfect, his voice, his eyes, his compassion and his love for Jungkook -- it was the closest a person could get, and how fucking lucky Jungkook was to have met him. His heart told him that Jimin wasn’t going to leave him, ever, and that Jungkook would be making the worst mistake of his life leaving the only person in the world who chose to stay with him unconditionally. His heart told him to stop it.
But they told him go.
But they told him it wasn’t normal, loving a boy.
They told him it was wrong and disgusting, and that he was a disgrace for committing such a crime. Jungkook decided, inevitably, to believe them rather than his heart, because in comparison, his heart was overruled.
Because they were louder than his heartbeat.
His father began acting like a father afterwards.
“Son, meet me outside.” His father said one morning across the table. Jungkook was breaking off crumbs from his burnt toast. “Bring your work clothes.”
Jungkook did what he was asked. His father was waiting outside in their weed infested yard, with a rickety sail boat propped onto its side. He leaned against the mud caked hull with a variety of tools in his hands and a pail of water next to his feet.
When Jungkook walked up to his father, anticipating a slap or a stream of words that he would have to endure. But instead, his father patted him on the back, not too hard, but almost affectionately, handed him a sponge.
His father smiled. It was an unfamiliar sight, and Jungkook almost had to pinch himself to see if he was genuinely awake, but it was true.
They spoke no words, but cleaned the boat in silence. While muddy water dripped down the sides of the hull and sunk into ground, Jungkook couldn’t help but realize that he’d traded his love for Jimin, for the love of his father.
He wondered if it was worth it.
They had sleepovers so often they were almost considered ritualistic. Since Jimin’s house was bigger and his bed could fit two people, Jungkook usually arrived at his doorstep by five, having gone home and confirmed with his father that he would be staying over.
All Jungkook brought to sleepovers was a toothbrush. Everything else, him and Jimin shared comfortably, and Jungkook usually slept shirtless anyways, so a change of clothes wasn’t necessary.
Jimin had thought that at seventeen, and with Jungkook at sixteen, sleepovers wouldn’t be suitable anymore. But with Jungkook’s pestering, he’d agreed to this one, in the middle of winter when the winds howled so loudly Jimin feared the tree in his backyard would be blown onto his roof.
“Such a worrywart.” Jungkook said with a mouth full of chips. They were watching a movie playing on Jimin’s laptop, but only halfheartedly. The movie was cheap action, with a script entirely composed of cars, busses, houses, and people blowing up in the most extravagant ways thinkable. He stuffed a chip in Jimin’s mouth. “If that tree falls, you can count on me to save you.”
“As if…” Jimin scoffed, chewing. “You’d probably go off running by yourself and leave me to die.”
Jungkook appeared offended. “Dude. I’m Superman. And you’re my Lois. Saving you is practically my job.”
Jimin nodded in false agreement. Just to shut him up. “Sure.”
Jungkook smiled and Jimin felt a sense of accomplishment. He still felt it, the tingling feeling he’d entitled ‘butterflies’, but he didn’t want his emotions tampering with their friendship.
After the movie credits came rolling, Jungkook threw the empty chip bag in the trash and snuggled in Jimin’s covers, squeezing his eyes shut like a baby. Jimin sighed. “Tired already? You’re usually the one waking me up at five to watch something funny you found on the internet.”
“Got in a fight with my dad.” Jungkook said with a hint of real weariness in his voice. “Had to wrestle him to get here. No more energy.”
“Ah.” Jimin shut the computer and cleaned the crumbs off the bed. He took this as a sign to not push any further. Just before he flicked the light switch, Jungkook made a sound of indignation.
“Keep the lights on, I’m afraid of the dark.”
“Since when?” But Jimin kept the light on.
And Jimin rolled his eyes, but decided to stop arguing. He walked over to his bed and laid next to Jungkook, trying to steal some of his blanket back, which Jungkook was hogging. His attempts were unsuccessful. He hit Jungkook’s back.
“Superman’s going to let Lois freeze.” Jimin said. “Very heroic of him, hm?”
“Yup.” Jungkook tightened his blanket burrito.
“Goddammit.” Jimin said before he pounced. Jimin grabbed onto Jungkook and tried to unroll him, but Jungkook was too heavy and too strong and didn’t budge. Second attempt, Jimin jumped onto Jungkook and pried at Jungkook’s hands until he let go.
Once he did, Jimin slipped into the blanket and tried to push Jungkook out from within. From the outside, Jimin imagined they looked childish and violent, but really, Jungkook was trying hard not to laugh.
They fumbled until they were both panting and out of breath, and then stopped altogether.
“Now, was that really worth it --” Jungkook began to say, but then he noticed their positions.
Jungkook was kneeling over Jimin’s hips and his hands were posted on either sides of Jimin’s head. Jimin looked up to Jungkook, finding that his expression had changed. Jimin struggled to keep the ‘butterflies’ from making him blush, but they were so close, too close, so Jimin’s face went hot.
Jungkook’s expression was vague and Jimin couldn’t make out what the boy was feeling.
Heat was travelling down his body and pooling in his abdomen -- Jimin was seventeen, and he knew his body well; this wasn’t new to him. He knew the reason and the uncertain outcome, and suddenly, Jimin was compelled to say, “Kiss me.”
Jungkook blinked incredulously at him, and Jimin regretted it right away.
But after a couple of moments, “why not?”
Before Jimin could contemplate if he’d heard him correctly, Jungkook leaned down and kissed him on the mouth.
Jimin gasped the moment their lips touched.
And when Jungkook kissed him, Jimin let his eyes close on their own and slid a hand up Jungkook’s jaw, and then cupping his cheek.
Jimin didn’t really understand what had happened, but he knew that blood was thrumming violently through his veins and that this feeling, was one he had never felt before.
Jimin sighed against Jungkook’s lips, but Jungkook fit their mouths back together as soon as he was able to catch his breath. Jungkook tilted his head slightly to the side and parted his lips -- this wasn’t the first time he’d done something like this, Jimin was sure. But he had no consciousness left to think, every single nerve in his body was on fire, and the kiss had long matured from their peck on the tree a few short years ago.
Finally, Jungkook’s arms gave out, and he sunk his weight onto Jimin. With the sudden pressure, Jimin let out a soft moan. He immediately clamped his hand onto his mouth, face flushing bright red. He looked away.
“I’m… sorry.” Jimin shifted underneath Jungkook nervously, trying to move himself out of Jungkook’s weight, because it was almost unbearable, and Jimin was having a hard time keeping his breathing in order. “Let’s --”
“Does this feel good?” Jungkook said quietly, pulling Jimin’s face back center. He appeared to be serious, eyebrows pulled together and eyes unblinking. Jungkook lifted his hips, and rolled them down.
Jimin bit back down a whimper, choking in the process. He squeezed his eyes shut and nodded, trying to hide his embarrassment.
“Then,” Jungkook was also having trouble steadying his breathing. Jimin could hear it. Jungkook leaned down next to his ear and whispered. “Why not?”
With that, Jungkook moved again, and Jimin stopped holding back his moans. Jungkook leaned down to kiss him again -- but migrated down his neck and rested on his collarbone, mouthing at a sensitive spot Jimin didn’t know he had.
Jimin was appalled by Jungkook’s experience, but so glad, because Jungkook shoved his hands underneath Jimin’s t-shirt and smoothed across his stomach, and Jimin shivered. His pants suddenly felt a layer too tight and he acted involuntarily, bucking his hips upwards to meet Jungkook’s. He wanted friction, and he wanted skin.
It suddenly occurred to him that he was kissing Jungkook. The same Jungkook he’d grown up with, celebrated every single birthday with, and knew better than himself in some aspects. He was kissing and touching his friend, and it felt too foreign, too wrong.
So Jimin forced himself to stop. He pushed Jungkook harshly off him, and sat up on his own, facing away from Jungkook. He focused on calming himself, which seemed close to impossible -- his heartbeat was pounding in his ears, and his crotch pulsed so much it hurt.
“Stop.” Jimin cut him off, refusing to face Jungkook. He was too embarrassed and he’d made a mistake that could potentially ruin their longtime friendship, and if Jimin could’ve been just the slightest more careful. “I’m sorry. It wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“But, Jimin --”
Jimin buried his face in his hands. His cheeks were burning. “I… I meant to tell you. Not now, though, later. When the time is right.” Jimin referred to his feelings towards Jungkook, which all seemed pretty obvious then. He’d restrained himself all these years for the very reason he felt so horrible. “Not now.”
“Jimin.” Jungkook tried for the third time, and Jimin chose to keep quiet. “Three years ago, that time I came through your window, do you remember?”
Jimin lifted his head. He remembered that moment very well. “Yeah?”
Jungkook crawled over to him, across the bed, forcing him to turn around. He held a dubious curiosity in his eyes, Jungkook, and he scanned over Jimin’s face unlike he’d ever done before, as if he was catching every single detail and trying to piece them together into an algorithm that would decode Jimin’s heart.
“Yeah, well.” Jungkook said, voice soft. “I wasn’t asleep.”
Jimin frowned. “What do you mean?”
“What you said, I heard you then.” Jungkook said and Jimin suddenly understood. His words -- he had been waiting for the right time to confess, while all along, Jungkook had already known.
Jungkook cracked a smile. “Idiot.”
Jimin was reduced to scowling again. Jungkook always knew how to ruin the moment.
“Yeah, and I wanted to answer, but that would’ve made things weird, hm?” Jungkook reasoned, shrugging. “I dropped hints too, but you were too much of an idiot to notice them. Very Jimin of you.”
Jungkook put a hand on Jimin’s shoulder and stroked it up his neck and onto his cheek. Jimin tensed again, feeling unrelented tension in his body. “Hints to what?”
“I like you.” Jungkook said casually. “A bit more than I should, I know.”
Jimin’s eyes widened and he felt his heart lighten beneath his chest, like a balloon being pumped with helium, because this was Jungkook’s confession. Jungkook’s requited confession. And he was so happy, he couldn’t keep his smile hidden, and sudden he was grinning like an actual idiot, and simultaneously feeling as if he could cry. Jungkook must’ve found his reaction funny, because he began to smile as well, running his thumb under Jimin’s eye.
“So, do you want to continue?” Jungkook suggested, lifting an eyebrow. “What we started.”
The rational part of Jimin believed they should sort out some things first, which could involve Jimin confronting Jungkook about his involvement with girls, and why he’d been so stubborn as to not let Jimin know, leaving him to suffer in the dark. Maybe a better question would be ‘what where they now’, because best friends almost seemed insufficient.
But Jimin was very aware of his hard on, and Jungkook’s eyes were large and dark.
So he said, “fuck yes.”
“Your cheek. Are you okay --”
“You need to leave.” Jungkook said and the hurt in Jimin’s eyes immediately following his words almost made him want to cover it up with a joke. Make it all a mistake, fake, apologize with a cheeky smile. But this time, it wasn’t, he wasn’t -- joking. “Don’t come back.”
“What are you talking about?” Jimin walked towards Jungkook with his hands held out as if reaching for him. “Jungkook, yesterday --”
“I’m serious.” Jungkook stepped backwards, increasing the distance. And Jimin dropped his arms, despairingly. There was disbelief and hurt and anger kindling and about to erupt into a forest fire, in his eyes.
“Why?” Jimin asked quietly.
Jungkook bit onto the inside of his cheek and backed into his cramped bookshelf. He bit slightly too hard and tasted the metallic tang of blood over his tongue. He couldn’t back up anymore, this was as far as he could go. Why? Jungkook didn’t have a reason he could convey with words, because his vocabulary was limited, but language was finite as well, and also because he himself didn’t know. “Leave.” He said it with a tone so cold he couldn’t even recognize it as his own. It was foreign.
Jimin didn’t give up. He approached hesitantly Jungkook and reached for his hands, but Jungkook pulled them away, raising them up in the air as if he was surrendering to a crime. And when Jimin touched his cheek with a trembling hand, Jungkook flinched as if his touch hurt.
“Jungkook.” Jimin’s eyes teared up, and he stumbled backwards, tripping over his own feet. He shook his head, tears stinging his irises. “I don’t understand.”
“You don’t need to understand.” Jungkook straightened his back and lifted his chin. “You just need to leave.”
“Leave.” Jungkook practically screamed. Jimin shrunk down. Jungkook hated himself, so much. But his willpower wasn’t strong enough, and so, the monster controlled him. When Jimin refused to budge from his spot, Jungkook pointed at the open door. “I hate you. I’ve always hated you.”
Jimin focused his eyes on the ground, and breathed in sharply, as if breathing hurt.
With every word, every lie, a patch of Jungkook’s heart darkened. He could feel it -- it was excruciatingly painful for a moment, and then diminuated into nothing, like he was rotting away into bones and stone.
“You ruined my life.” Jungkook spat. “If you don’t get away from me, you’re going to make things worse than they already are.”
“I --” Jimin choked. “I love you.” Was what he said and Jungkook’s mouth went dry. He tasted bitterness in the back of his throat, and the bile of guilt.
You’re not supposed to say that. Then, I can’t let you go you fucking idiot --
“I don’t love you.” Jungkook said. And then he was greeted with silence. To his disbelief, Jimin intook a deep breath and nodded in agreement.
“Really?” His voice was broken, and he sounded as if he wanted Jungkook to fix it -- fix him.
“Yes.” Jungkook said, so definitely and certain, he almost fooled himself.
“Okay.” Jimin said, with more slightly strength than before. He regarded Jungkook once more, smiling just the slightest -- causing Jungkook’s heart to convulse and twist in agony. “I’ll leave. If that’s what you want.”
“It’s what I want.”
Jimin’s response was reaching into his pocket and taking out his wallet. He flipped it open and slipped out a picture, in its laminated case and with a date and a message scribbled on the back my Jungkook. He set it gently onto Jungkook’s bookshelf. And then Jimin was out of the door, curving left, marching stiffly across the sandy gravel and then onto the main street, cemented and damp from the last storm the night before.
And out of Jungkook’s view.
And out of Jungkook’s life.
Jimin was happy. For a while, not at all made him angry, nothing was devastating enough to cause sadness, and excitement filled every day. The catalyst for Jimin’s sudden over-optimistic view on life was the one and only, Jeon Jungkook.
Something magical had happened overnight. Jimin’s feelings towards Jungkook, though have been consistent and unrelenting the past ten years or so, rose beyond the elevation of Mount Everest and the distance from the ground to the outer atmosphere.
Jimin was positive someone had cast a spell over his senses -- butterflies were permanently being pumped by his heart, circulating through his body instead of blood. And Jimin felt like he could fly.
The morning after when he woke, he spent a good half hour of his Saturday morning looking over Jungkook’s sleeping figure.
Jimin took the time trying to remember the exact configuration of the fragmented sunrise over Jungkook’s features -- trying to memorize the number of strands of hair across his eyes and the fading scar over his left cheekbone he’d sustained when he was six, when him and Jimin were running across the shore, and he’d tripped and landed on a pile of sharp stones.
He was beautiful, and who Jimin loved so -- so much, he couldn’t imagine loving anyone else.
No one else.
With a flutter of eyelashes, Jungkook revealed deep brown eyes, mirroring the shade of a fire’s hearth. Warm and wild. He smiled drowsily. “Why are you up so early?”
Jimin shrugged, not sure himself. “Wanted to look at you.”
“Me?” Jungkook blushed, hiding himself underneath Jimin’s covers, and only letting his eyes poke out. “That’s not fair, you didn’t get my permission.”
“When did I ever need your permission?” Jimin rolled his eyes, pulling the blanket from Jungkook and draping it over his own bare back. It was a winter morning and Jimin was just the slightest chilly. Frost lined the windows and Jimin curled up against Jungkook.
Jungkook hummed mischievously. “Well, last night you asked for my permission when you --”
Jimin clamped a hand over his mouth, face reddening from the memory. “Okay, okay. I got it.” Jimin used Jungkook’s chest as a pill and intertwined their fingers, before bringing them up above them. Their hands cast a shadow over Jimin’s cheek the shape of a budding flower or a cloud, and Jimin sighed.
“Nothing. Just wondering why I waited basically ten years for this.” Jimin narrowed his eyes. “Now, was it really worth it…”
Jungkook looked over at Jimin defensively, acting offended. “Of course it is, you said it yourself --”
Jimin interrupted him with laughter. He leaned over to Jungkook, pulling their hands into his chest. “You dummy, I would’ve waited nine-hundred and ninety-nine years for you.” Jimin leaned in and kissed Jungkook on the lips, quickly pulling away before he was able to reciprocate.
Jungkook whined, and then mumbled a quick, “I still beat you.”
“How?” Jimin said, too happy to think straight. “Do you beat me?”
Jungkook looked down at their hands and said a simple confession. “I’d wait that extra day”
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” Jungkook asked one day, while the two of them were sitting in the old maple tree, which was starting to sprout. Both Jimin and Jungkook, but especially Jungkook had grown too big for the tree to encompass, but the sky was pretty that day and Jimin wanted to take pictures.
Snap. The sky was the colour of the ocean without its depth and the little tufts of clouds floated across the ocean like sailboats for the stars.
“I thought you wouldn’t like me back.” Jimin squinted his left eye and took another photo. Snap. This time, it was of a flower in the distance, still budding and tinged pink. “You did show interest in girls. What was I supposed to think?”
Jungkook leaned back against a large branch and the tree shook slightly. “I was just trying to cancel out all possibilities.”
“Of there being anyone else but you.” Jungkook said calmly and straightforwardly. It was rare for the boy to be so collected, and talking about his feelings so openly. Something that Jimin seldom did. “In my heart.”
Jimin took another photo, but it was blurry, because Jimin was smiling so widely. He turned to face Jungkook, with his camera pressed to his eye. He focused the lens and took a picture. Snap. Of Jungkook’s face, illuminated by the spring sunshine and shaded by the bundles of sprouting maple leaves.
“Hey, delete that.” Jungkook complained, pushing the camera away from Jimin’s face. “I don’t like pictures.”
Jungkook leaned fowards and pecked Jimin on the nose, causing him to blush yet again.
“Since now. I’d rather see things now than remember them later. Instead of memories, let’s call them nows.”
Jimin nodded. He put his camera back into his case, and dropped it in his backpack. “Then let’s make some nows.”
Jimin threw his arms around Jungkook’s neck and closed the distance between them, kissing him passionately. Jungkook reacted with a content hum and kissed him back with equal passion. The sun was warm, and Jungkook’s lips were fire.
K-I-S-S-I-N-G. The prophecy had come true.
Now, all Jimin waited for was for the rest of the song to play out.
“So what are we now?” Jimin asked Jungkook. It was his turn, and they were studying in the library, trying to study together.
Jungkook contemplated heavily for a moment or two. “Best friends.”
Jimin didn’t know how he felt about the answer. “But beyond that?”
“I don’t really know yet. You?”
Jimin took it to himself, trying to come up with a title and then realized they didn’t need one. “I don’t know either.”
Jungkook gazed at him fondly. “Let’s wait a bit. I’m sure it’ll come to us.”
Jimin stared at his textbook but absorbed absolutely nothing.
Jungkook came home expecting the worst. He expected screaming and the pain, but he didn’t expect the threat, no. That scared him.
Jungkook closed the door quietly behind him and walked into his room. It was empty and dusty and and cold as always, but he quickly shut the door behind him. It was only on his bed and clutching his pillow close to his chest could he finally breathe.
This was what he dreaded, why he’d been so unreasonable to Jimin, who had done nothing to deserve his behaviour.
But then he heard the footsteps. His father’s worker boots rattled the creaky floorboards, and they neared his bedroom. From the sounds of liquids sloshing in glass, Jungkook knew he had been drinking. And drinking made him dangerous.
Each footstep made his throat close up a millimeter more, and when they stopped in front of his door, Jungkook simply stopped breathing.
“Open the door.” His father said, a little more composed than he’d predicted. “Jeon Jungkook, open the door.”
Jungkook didn’t make a sound. He squeezed his eyes shut, hoping that if he waited, everything would go away.
A loud rapping noise against his door startled him. He hugged the pillow even closer. “Jungkook, you’d better open the door right now or you’ll regret it.”
And then his fear came back, a cold sweat broke throughout his body, and Jungkook couldn’t come up with a solution on how to escape, how to deal with him if his father managed to enter, and then suddenly, there was a loud cracking sound, and then several light sounds of nails hitting the ground, and his door was kicked open.
His father was angry, face flushed and empty alcohol bottle held in his left hand.
Jungkook did as he was told, dropping the pillow back onto his bed and stepped onto the ground. His legs shook.
“Look at me.” His father spat, as if Jungkook was an animal he was training. And when Jungkook hesitated, his father punched his fist into Jungkook’s stomach.
Jungkook was thrown back from the force, doubling over and clutching his stomach in shock and in pain.
His father asked again. “Look at me. Jeon Jungkook.”
And when Jungkook did, he saw something that hurt more than the pain radiating from his stomach. In his father’s drunken stare, Jungkook saw revulsion and absolute hatred, within the red veins riddling his eyes and the snarl in his lips. He experienced the process of being hated and rejected and he never wanted to experience it again -- it made Jungkook feel smaller, lose his posture and his confidence.
“You are a filthy human being.” His father spat.
Jungkook’s throat closed up. “I’m sorry --”
“Your mother died because she gave birth to you -- you monster, it was because of you, you killed her --” His father shouted, eyes reddening and face flushing as well. “And now you decide to fuck a male --”
“It’s Jimin,” Jungkook said shakily. It was Jimin, it wasn’t just a ‘male’. It was his Jimin. “And it’s not what you think.”
His father narrowed his eyes and advanced towards him, backing him up to a corner of the room. He jabbed a finger at his face. “Selfish, like always. Outside,” his father pointed out his window. “Every human being will hate you. They will reject you and torture you until you can screw your head on right -- what you’re doing is fucking disgusting and wrong. Fuck - I can’t believe you ended up as my son, I couldn’t have gotten a more damned life --”
Jungkook clenched his jaw and dug his fingers into his hands. The fear was building, but so was the anger. “Why did I get you as a father? You’ve done nothing for me --”
His father slammed his beer bottle onto a corner of Jungkook’s desk before he could finish. The bottle fractured into pieces and a shard cut into Jungkook’s cheekbone, deep enough to leave a scar. “Don’t you say that shit to me.”
“Why can’t I?” Jungkook asked, eyes opened wide. “When you hit me, those nights. When you purposely woke me to hit me and blame me for everything that’s wrong with you -- who was there? Jimin was there. And he’s the reason why I’m still alive.”
His father’s hand rose slow enough for Jungkook to notice, but not slow enough for him to react. And his father slapped him across the face, smudging the blood from his cut. Just before Jungkook could react, his father slapped him another time.
“If he’s back here again, I’ll kill both of you.”
Jungkook’s heart froze. “Fine. I won’t bring him back --”
“If you see him again, I’m throwing you on the streets.” His father threatened. “You’re never allowed to come back.”
“You’re no longer my son.” His dad rammed his knuckles into Jungkook’s ribs, causing him to crumple. His dad barked back at him, “my son isn’t a faggot.”
Hot tears stained the edges of Jungkook’s vision. “Please… Don’t --”
“My son was supposed to find a girl and be more successful than I ever was in my life.” His father shoved a knee into Jungkook’s stomach and watched him kneel against the shards of glass. Jungkook’s jeans tore and the glass dug into his skin. “My son isn’t a faggot.”
Jungkook lowered his head. The words hit him like daggers, drawing blood, but not enough to kill him.
“My son likes to ride bikes.” His father said bitterly. “He likes to climb trees. Not act as if he’s a girl and touch and kiss boys -- that’s not my son.”
“Cure yourself.” His father said, eerily calm. “You’re sick, and if you’re going to stay that way and be contagious, I never want to see you again.”
And with that, his father left his room, stepping on his door on the way out. Jungkook didn’t stand up -- he let his knees bleed and the hot tears to escape his irises and fall across his blood-smeared cheek, and then onto the ground where the glass shards arranged themselves like the inside of a kaleidoscope with only red as a tint.
And Jungkook was a coward, for cleaning up the remnants of the beer bottle and sweeping them up in a clean little pile as if it never happened. He was an idiot, for folding up Jimin’s shirt -- the one that still carried the scent of him from the night before, and shoved it in the farthest, deepest corner of his closet, determined to never see it again.
He was a fool.
A fool for loving him.
Happiness was only temporary. It fluctuated, as Jimin learned. Happiness was like a flower that bloomed on variable-intervals, but it carried through the entire life cycle with each blossom, including the wither.
Jimin decided to tell his father after a decent time passed. He and Jungkook had since resorted to late nights and silent cries and kisses in isolation where they could call each others’ names as loud as the waves broke and not fear that the moon was eavesdropping.
It was a secret. A beautiful, dangerous secret.
But Jimin was greedy, and he wanted the truth. Bold and resolute. He wanted the world to know he loved Jungkook.
So much that Jimin faced his father at the dinner table, the vegetables and delicacies in his plate untouched, but his father seldom said a word. Ever since his mother’s departure, his father had begun to return home late, and spending more time immersing himself in his line of work. Earning more valueless money, paper to stack up in the bank while his life drew away and his hair became peppered and he forgot about his son. Jimin understood this was a method of coping -- of distraction, but he wished his father would listen to him, even if just this once.
“Dad.” Jimin said, marking their first word of the day. “I have something to tell you.”
His dad looked up from his cellphone and grunted. “Say it.”
Jimin stuck his fork into the piece of salmon. “There’s someone… I’ve found someone.”
“A relationship?” His dad nodded. “You’re at that age. You have my permission.”
Jimin’s heart lightened, before he remembered the complication. His father probably thought it was a girl Jimin was talking about. He shoved a slice of salmon in his mouth and chewed in contemplation. “But dad,”
“Hm.” His dad didn’t even bother too look up from his phone. “What else? Quickly, I have work to do.”
“The thing is -- this person, it’s Jungkook, dad.” Jimin bit his lip. “I want to have a relationship with Jungkook. I hope that doesn’t make a difference --”
“Weren’t you two already good friends? Well, I’m not stopping you.”
“No.” Jimin sighed. “I meant… a romantic one.”
Silence. His father dropped his phone onto the glass table with a loud clink, causing Jimin to flinch. He anticipated his father’s response, and crossed his fingers in his mind hoping for a supportive one.
“You…” His father pushed up his glasses. “You mean with Jungkook, a male. You’re into men?”
“I,” Jimin willed himself to look into his father’s eyes. “I am.”
“No.” His father said, beginning to clear his plates. He gathered them into a pile and stood up. Jimin got up to his feet as well.
“What do you mean?”
“You don’t have my permission. It’s complicated, Jimin. You won’t understand. There are so many problems, and this isn’t one I’m letting you get involved in. You need to focus on your studies and not on this.”
“But I love him.” Jimin said, abruptly.
“It’s still a no.”
He and Jungkook were watching the night sky. The weather forecasted had predicted some rain, but due to Jungkook’s unceasing recklessness, they took the chance to see the stars and the full moon. And who knew, Jungkook had been right after all.
The stars were brilliant and captivating, but Jimin couldn’t focus with Jungkook next to him.
“When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut.” Jungkook mumbled, half asleep beside him. Their hands were intertwined, and the ground was warm from spring. “Just to reach those -- the stars.”
“Why did you stop?” Jimin asked, turning around to look at Jungkook. “Go for it. Your dreams.”
“You grow up and you figure things out.” Jungkook chuckled, chest rising and lowering. “It’s dangerous and it’s lonely, and I don’t like that.”
“When have you ever feared dangerous things?” Jimin joked, snuggling in closer, and Jungkook turned to face Jimin also. They stared into each others’ eyes. “And loneliness is kind of like a choice, isn’t it? You’re never lonely if you remember those that love you.”
“Sure, whatever you say.” Jungkook said, a sleepy smile painting across his features. “I’ll listen to you, only you.”
Jimin rolled his eyes with amusement and leaned in, taking Jungkook in for a kiss. Jungkook sighed into the kiss and pulled Jimin into him, rolling on top of him and holding him by the cheeks. Jimin tilted his chin upwards to catch Jungkook’s lips over and over again, until they were both frantic and eager and breathless and intoxicated with what Jimin believed to be love. It felt very different than what he’d expected -- it was almost painful. Jimin wanted to everything, but he could only have a fraction, maybe even less.
And when Jungkook began to untie his shirt, and then began to pull his pants down, Jimin just knew.
What did he know?
He knew that Jungkook was the one.
He would stay with Jungkook, no matter what it took. No matter who opposed him, who hated him, whom he had to leave, set aside, even if it meant his own father, who had refused his request ealier. He didn’t care. Maybe it was a part of the magic -- a part of the spell, Jimin was enchanted and cursed at the same time. He no longer saw anything else but the way Jungkook looked on top him, flustered and like a dream. He wanted nothing else but to wake up to the sight of Jungkook sleeping next to him, brighter than the morning sun. He needed nothing else but Jungkook by his side. Only then, did he believe he would forever be happy.
He would make Jungkook his.
Wild, young, and beautiful Jeon Jungkook.
Jimin arrived home a little later than midnight, all smiles and promises lingering on his lips, through his window. He closed it behind him and was about to start studying for his English quiz the next day, but instead, saw a white sheet of paper placed in the center of his desk.
It was blank on one side, so he flipped it over.
On top, in his father’s handwriting read,
If you love him.
And you KNOW he loves you.
Then you have my permission. Use it well.
It wasn’t very long before Jungkook started to feel uneasy. It began fairly subtly, and wouldn’t have noticed if Jimin hadn’t pointed it out first. And when Jungkook finally realized the impact of his own actions, he couldn’t make sense of them; he was unsure of what he was experiencing -- whether it was embarrassment or fear or something else he couldn’t identify.
He and Jimin were kissing behind an untended warehouse near the cutoff between the serene sea and the tumultous coast. Jungkook was pressing Jimin up against the rusted metal sheet, peeling off copper flakes and dropping them into Jimin’s hair as he ran his hands across Jimin’s body.
It was then that he heard a gasp. An old lady walking her dog was standing a few meters away from them, and had seen Jungkook and Jimin.
Jungkook pulled away abruptly faced away from Jimin, eyes trained onto the ground, until she chided with a rasp, “you kids these days,” and dragged her dog away.
“We should go somewhere else.” Jungkook said, still out of breath. And he began to pull Jimin along. Jimin, to Jungkook’s surprise, pulled his arm out from his grasp.
“It’s okay.” Jimin smiled. “It was just one person.”
“But we might get caught again.” Jungkook argued, ruffling his hair in frustration.
Jimin’s smile dropped slightly. “So what?”
And Jungkook didn’t want to admit that he didn’t have a good reason. It just didn’t feel right, when others saw. Almost as if Jungkook didn’t want to admit it to others. It was a secret, and secrets were meant to be kept, weren’t they?
The second time it happened, was when Jimin and Jungkook were holding hands while crossing a sparsely populated region of town. Passing by a hat shop run they’d never seen opened. by an owner they had never seen present, Jimin jumped in front of Jungkook’s path, blocking him.
“Boo.” Jimin said, nose scrunched up cutely and eyes squeezed into crescents, and it made Jungkook’s insides squeeze and contract with overwhelming bursts of adoration. “Come and hug me.”
“Didn’t have to ask.” Jungkook chuckled, about to close in the distance.
But before he could do so, a deep voice called out from behind him, “hey Jungkook and Jimin, right?”
Jungkook stopped in his tracks and turned around to look behind him. It was a friend of theirs from elementary school -- his name was Taehyung from what Jungkook could recall. He’d grown up substantially since Jungkook had last seen him dangling off a set of monkey bars, head a few inches above the ground. He was dressed in a uniform of a sort, with what looked like snapbacks in a paper bag. Jungkook made the connection in his head that Taehyung probably worked in the seemingly deserted hat shop.
“Yes!” Taehyung smiled widely. He made a small, enthusiastic wave. “You still remember me, I didn’t expect that.”
Jungkook turned again to look at Jimin, who was still standing with his hands held out. He made an apologetic expression, and faced Taehyung.
Taehyung glanced at his watch and grimaced. “Ah, I’m late for work. Guess I’d better get going. See you two around?”
“Yeah, definitely.” Jungkook nodded, watching him turn the corner before the section of the sidewalk where Jungkook and Jimin were standing apart. Jungkook kept an eye on him just until he finally entered the hat shop and disappeared towards the back of the store.
“Still waiting on that hug.” Jimin said, mockingly dejected. His smile was still bright and warm, and Jungkook wanted so bad to wrap his arms around Jimin’s waist and to burrow his chin in his neck and to live by the timekeeper of his heartbeat and to remain there forever and ever and to not have any interruptions and no one following them and most importantly, judging them -- “Are you not --”
“Let’s go somewhere else.” Jungkook blurted, before he could stop himself. The hurt on Jimin’s face was evident, even when Jungkook tried hard to not notice. “Taehyung’s probably going to come out soon --”
“And that makes a difference?” Jimin demanded, putting his arms down. His oversized beige sweater dropped past his wrists and over his hands. “You’re not going to hug me?”
“I…” Jungkook stuttered, “not now.”
They walked side-to-side, but Jimin refused to hold Jungkook’s hand. Even after they were long past the hat shop and civilization, having entered an area of secluded marsh where mosquitoes swarmed in hundreds and muddy water rose to their ankles, Jimin didn’t voluntarily touch him.
Once they were completely hidden, Jungkook hugged Jimin, as he had planned to. As he’d planned to.
But Jimin didn’t hug back.
“You two spend way too much time together.”
“Do we?” Jungkook asked his friend in school, Hoseok. Jimin was home with the flu he’d contracted from his family’s annual skiing trip. Correction -- minus his mother this year.
Hoseok scoffed. “Practically married, if you ask me.”
“We’re just friends.” Jungkook defended, face reddening. “Good friends.”
“I can see that --”
And Jungkook couldn’t bring himself to visit Jimin that afternoon, after school, out of pure shame.
And then the third and final time, was when things got out of hand.
Jungkook and Jimin decided to stay over at Jungkook’s house, even when he was yet to tell his father about his and Jimin’s relationship. But Jimin didn’t know that -- Jimin was happy that he could finally escape the silence of his own home, Jimin believed his house was so accustomed to emptiness it couldn’t bear to contain their presence. Jungkook had been reluctant, but with one pout from Jimin, he couldn’t bring himself to refuse.
Jungkook’s house was small and run-down, its wooden walls eroded with age and coastline salt, and the grass in their backyard hadn’t been cut since a few summers ago, savagely growing in patches, and dried and sickly in others. He wasn’t particularly proud of his house -- compared to Jimin’s mansion-like, three-story, beach house, Jungkook was almost embarrassed to invite Jimin.
In the years they’d known each other, Jungkook remembered only a couple times where he’d let Jimin into his cramped little bedroom.
But Jimin didn’t seem to care about any of this. He was kind and saw only the best in Jungkook. It was as if his flaws were nonexistent, or rather, Jimin had chosen to overlook them.
“I failed my English test --”
“Don’t worry.” Jimin would answer every single time. “You’ll do better next time.”
“But what if I don’t?”
Jimin would give him a kiss on the lips. “Then you don’t. That’s okay.”
“I’ll love you either way.” … “And if anyone treats you badly, I’ll protect you.”
“What if I hurt you?” Jungkook would ask.
Jimin would snicker. “I’m a strong boy. You can’t break me that easily.”
“I love you, Jungkook.” Jimin said. “I love you so much it hurts here,” Jimin pointed a this temple. “Here,” his chest where his heart lay. “And of course, here,” a glance down his abdomen.
They hadn’t planned to have sex, but the leadup of events made it inevitable.
Jungkook’s bed was creaky with springs that had begun to poke through the mattress, and a headboard embellished with a myriad of shabby stickers of planes and the solar system he’d accumulated as a child, but never bothered to clean off. He had one pillow, but Jimin had expressed he was fine with using Jungkook’s arm instead.
Jungkook couldn’t help but notice that the look in Jimin’s eyes was far too dark for a simple homework session; his pupils were far too dilated and his lips were parted slightly and his hand was travelling up Jungkook’s thigh.
And everything beyond that became a blur.
Jungkook kissed Jimin as if it would be their last. He kissed Jimin breathless, and when Jimin could no longer breathe, Jungkook transferred sighs through their mouths, and they continued as if they were submerged beneath a great ocean. The currents were smooth and rough, and so were they. Jimin’s nails scratched tally lines across his back -- one for each hitch, each moan, each smile, and Jungkook fought viciously with Jimin’s pulse, leaving quaint smudges of red and purple across his neck. He was writing a message, an ephemeral love letter that Jimin’s body would read before his eyes.
Once Jungkook unbuttoned Jimin’s pants, his actions became frantic and desperate.
Jungkook pressed Jimin down onto his squeaky mattress, and slipped into Jimin, and the world exploded in screaming colour. With each thrust, Jimin’s eyes closed, and Jungkook swore it was electricity running through his veins and conducting from his heart.
He quickened his pace, and then finally, Jimin gave out beneath him, and Jungkook exhausted a few moments later. They laid, drained, against each other. A drop of Jungkook’s sweat ran across Jimin’s collar, and Jimin gave a weak smile.
Jungkook smiled back, small, but containing so much happiness he felt as if he could explode. But this moment, this exact moment.
Was when his father walked in.
Holding a six-pack of beer bottles, and a cigarette in another, his father pushed his door open, before Jungkook was able to hide Jimin, or even hide his own nakedness, or the fact that their clothes were thrown across the room, and the air was stuffy with perspiration.
His father’s eyes widened, and Jimin frantically pulled the blanket up over their bodies. He went red and looked down at his lap. All the while, Jungkook gaped at his father.
His father was more angry than he was shocked. With a sharp clink, the beer bottles fell onto the ground. Eyes hysterical with rage, his father jabbed a finger, not at Jungkook, but at Jimin.
“You.” His father’s teeth were clenched. “Get dressed and leave. Now.”
Jimin gave one last look at Jungkook and scrambled out of the bed. He put on his clothes at breakneck speed and bowed at Jungkook’s father, before darting out the door. Outside the window, Jungkook saw Jimin turn on the street, but not not going much farther.
Jungkook’s throat closed up just as he was about to speak --
“I don’t want to hear anything from you.” His father said, before leaving and slamming his door shut.
Jungkook spent the next twenty minutes trying to breathe again, overcome with so much fear he felt like he was being compressed into a single atom of existence. Afterwards, he looked out the window and saw that Jimin had left.
It was then that Jungkook realized love wasn’t really as powerful as he’d liked it to be.
It was fragile, delicate, in a rather violent world.
10: the beginning
Jimin liked the beach for three reasons, mainly.
Number one would have to be assigned to the sunsets and sunrises. They were beautiful in a way that made Jimin feel insignificant but at the same time, oh-so significant. He was but a single puff of breath within the single atmosphere, while beyond it, the galaxies breathed in dust and breathed out worlds. He was a single drop of moisture, while out there, was an ocean of light. Colours blended with emotions across the horizon, and then melted into either placid loneliness or a vibrant lustre, adorned with daubs of clouds and dollops of stars. It always seemed like the sky sympathized with Jimin.
The second one was the salty taste of the air.
It reminded him of his childhood, and prompted him to think about how much he’d miss it once university rolled around. It also reminded Jimin of his mother, when she would take him to the shoreline for him to soak in a ‘healthy’ amount of Vitamin D, because he was so pale looking. It tasted like home cooked meals; cozy winters, and budding springs. It also tasted like the past, whatever that was supposed to taste like.
And lastly, was because it was his and Jungkook’s meeting place.
With the news of his father’s approval, Jimin immediately called Jungkook.
“Meet me at the shoreline.”
“Now?” Jungkook said over the phone line.
And then in less than a few minutes, Jimin reached the shoreline, out of breath and with untied shoelaces. Jungkook was splayed across the sand. His arms and legs spread out and he resembled a starfish. Jimin decided to approach him as silently as possible; he tiptoed across the damp sand. Before he could reach the boy, he stepped on a piece of mussel shell.
“Jiminnie, stealth is not your thing.” Jungkook said. There were several grains of sand against his cheek. Jimin crouched down to wipe them off. “So.”
“Why did you call me here?”
“Because I figured you weren’t doing anything, and today’s probably the last sunny day before the rain.” Jimin reasoned. “And I missed you.”
“That’s it?” Jungkook said, but Jimin could hear the happiness in his voice.
“Is that not a big enough occasion?” Jimin sat down onto the sand and gazed out towards the horizon. Today, it was passionate and carefree. Just like Jungkook.
“Yours truly.” Jungkook squirmed over and wrapped his arms around Jimin’s waist, pulling him down onto the sand. “No, but I’m glad to see you.”
“I’m not leaving. You’ll be seeing me your entire life. I’ll follow you around like a stalker. How would you like that?”
“I would like it. Please do.”
Jimin took this as an indirect promise. He hoped Jungkook had meant it directly.
“Do you want to go swimming?”
But like every other instance, Jungkook seldom listened to Jimin – he did what he wished and took Jimin along.
When Jungkook pulled Jimin into the freezing cold ocean water, the sky began to descend, echoing gold in the rush of their hearts. Almost as if to say keep loving.
When Jimin screamed meaningless profanity at Jungkook for wetting his clothes and giving him a cold he would feel days later, flecks of leftover sunshine across the sky’s median congregated into a pale marigold. Almost as if to say keep dreaming.
When Jungkook laughed off Jimin’s insults and submerged beneath the salty currents to give him a surprise back hug, the clouds tie-dyed and transmuted into wisps of cotton candy. Almost as if to say keep living.
When Jimin kissed Jungkook, the sunset turned fiery red, casting a hued glow across their features. Almost as if to say keep going.
As their kiss deepened, the sunset progressed from plum violets to a royal blue, and then finally reached a solitary darkness, speckled with stars. There was but moonlight tracing the contours of Jungkook’s face as Jimin kissed him again. But it wasn’t as if Jimin needed light to see – he closed his eyes and pulled Jungkook into a hug. The oceanwater was up to his chest and was as cold as ice, sending shivers up his spine. But Jungkook’s touch was polarized – charging his nerves with hot energy.
The obscurity was perfect.
“I love you.” Jimin said again. He meant it more than he could confirm his own name. Jimin believed that love dominated all the senses but sight. You couldn’t see love, instead, you felt it, heard it, tasted it, smelled it, and right then love smelt of seawater and Jungkook’s orange zest shampoo.
When you couldn’t feel, hear, taste, and smell nothing else but them – that was love.
Sure, he and Jungkook were different. But love was love, between monsters and between men.
When they walked out of the ocean, teeth clacking and shoulders shaking, they ran towards the nearest shop still opened – a coffee shop already empty by the hour, where Jimin purchased two coffees as well as a comment about their preferences in leisure activities.
“I am so going to get a fever tomorrow.”
“Great.” Jungkook answered, and Jimin scowled. “I can take care of you, then.”
Jimin believed this was their beginning – their childhood, their immature words and promises were all prologues to their story, preludes to their song.
The beginning of a love story, and Jimin hoped fate would be kind to them as the author.
Write a different story, a good story.
And a happy ending, yes.
An epilogue as well.