The Two Whales hasn’t changed a bit since they were kids. Except that now it looks far too crowded and tiny with all five of Jeongguk’s childhood friends squeezed between two booths in the corner.
They used to fit all in one, but now Hoseok and Seokjin have to sit in the next booth, looking over their seats so they can be part of the conversation. And Taehyung keeps elbowing Jeongguk in the ribs because they’re squeezed together like a sandwich.
Somehow, the moment feels perfect, and Jeongguk has a bad habit of not thinking things through.
“I can rewind time,” he tells his friends over eggs, bacon and coffee.
“Time isn’t real,” Namjoon deadpans and Seokjin rolls his eyes so far back Jeongguk is sure he gets whiplash.
The air outside still smells like salt, the food tastes just like he remembers, Seokjin still stuffs breakfast in his mouth like he’s stocking food for the upcoming winter and Yoongi still writes lyrics of whatever is in his mind in the walls and tables.
Arcadia Bay. Still the exact same. Except.
(“You’re made for the world,” Jimin had said before Jeongguk left. “This town is not big enough for you, Kookie.”)
“If you can rewind time,” Taehyung says and he’s bouncing on his seat. “Does that mean you can go back to last week so I can retake my biology exam? I think I failed.”
Seokjin reaches out from the other booth to slap Taehyung across the head.
“Of course he can’t rewind time, dumbass.”
“But if he could--“ Taehyung continues.
“That’s not how it works,” Jeongguk shakes his head. “I can go back a few minutes, but that’s it.”
“Wait,” Hoseok says halfway from a sip of his coke. “Are you serious?”
“No, he’s fucking with us,” Seokjin retorts.
Jeongguk laughs. “I’m serious,” and when his friends give him disbelieved, mildly concerned looks, he says: “I can prove it.”
Namjoon’s eyes narrow suspiciously.
“Are you high, kid?”
“I’m not! And don’t call me kid, I’m in college.”
“You’ll always be a kid to us,” Seokjin shrugs. “Sorry, kiddo.”
"He thinks he's all grown up now that he's at Blackwell Academy," Taehyung says offhandedly and pinches Jeongguk's cheek. "Cute."
Jeongguk slaps his hand away.
“Empty your pockets,” he orders, annoyed. His friends protest. “Empty your pockets, damn it.”
They obey, curiously placing their shit on the table. And Jeongguk stares like a man on a mission, committing everything to memory.
Jeongguk is not surprised Yoongi has a box of long burn matches and a lighter in his pockets. Taehyung has candy. Namjoon has three cigarettes left, Hoseok a couple of pennies and Seokjin a Polaroid picture of Jimin.
(Everyone goes very silent at the sight of the picture and Jeongguk helplessly watches as Yoongi’s jaw clenches and he adverts his eyes to the window. His insides clench a little too.)
Jeongguk raises his hand and watches time dance backwards in front of him.
Watches Yoongi’s jaw unclench, and the Polaroid picture go back to Seokjin’s pocket.
He lowers his hand, and Namjoon’s eyes are narrowed again.
“Are you high, kid?”
“I can tell what you guys have in your pockets,” Jeongguk says smugly.
“Bullshit,” it’s Yoongi who speaks and Jeongguk is startled for a second. It’s the first time he’s spoken since they arrived.
Yoongi used to speak a lot more when they were kids. These days he only talks to Jeongguk to remind him he left. Or when he’s drunk off his ass, and even then he only throws insults around.
“You got matches and a lighter,” Jeongguk says, and then points to Namjoon. “Three cigarettes on you. And Seokjin-hyung, you have a Polaroid of Jimin. Hoseok has twenty five cents, and Taehyung has candy -- a lollipop and two chewing gums.”
Slowly, his friends empty their pockets and Jeongguk takes great satisfaction in watching the horror in Hoseok’s eyes and the delight in Taehyung’s.
“Holy shit,” Taehyung is shaking him and Jeongguk can’t stop laughing. “How did you do that, Jeon Jeongguk, you brat!”
“Big deal,” Yoongi says dryly, and he’s looking at the picture in Seokjin’s hand with a void in his eyes that promises to swallow Arcadia Bay whole. Jeongguk’s laughter dies so quickly Taehyung places a comforting hand in his shoulder. “You can tell us what we have in our pockets, so what? Doesn’t prove you can rewind time.”
For a split second all Jeongguk sees is blood in bathroom tiles, and a gunshot rings in his ears.
(Yoongi falling, falling, falling. Blood, aqua green hair and Shi-woo’s pistol. An endless loop in his head, and in time itself.)
No rewind button can erase the sight of Yoongi’s lifeless body from Jeongguk’s eyelids.
“I watched you die,” Jeongguk is saying before he can think it through. “Shi-woo took the shot. You were dead in the bathroom floor.”
(Yoongi falling, falling, falling. The bathroom smelled like piss and blood.)
“And you saved me,” Yoongi guesses, his voice so cold it could freeze hell over. He doesn't sound like he believes it. Jeongguk swallows nothing but bile.
(So much fucking blood.)
“Where the fuck were you with your goddamn superpowers when Jimin disappeared then?”
And there it is.
An automatic apology is already out of Jeongguk’s lips, the guilty so heavy in his shoulders it threatens to crush him.
“That’s not fair,” Seokjin intervenes. “Jeongguk wasn’t even here when Jimin--“
Yoongi laughs. It’s biting, and dry and holds no humor to it. Jeongguk hates the sound of it.
“Exactly,” Yoongi says, and his sharp voice cuts right through Jeongguk. "You weren’t fucking here. Because you left us. All of us. And now Jimin is fucking gone.”
When the tears start stinging his eyes, Jeongguk raises his hand and smells blood.
(Rewind. They don’t need to know. Rewind.)
“Of course he can’t rewind time, dumbass.”
“But if he could--“
“I was kidding,” Jeongguk says and he hopes his tears are gone now. His head feels like it’s on fire. “Just fucking with you guys.”
“Yah, Jeongguk,” Hoseok says, and his eyes are huge. “Are you okay?”
“Then why the hell are you bleeding?” Seokjin snaps and he’s leaning forward, a napkin in hand, wiping Jeongguk’s nose before he can react.
Oh, Jeongguk thinks upon seeing the blood. Guess it was too much rewinding.
“I’m fine,” he says, because it sounds like the right thing to say so Seokjin won’t freak out on him.
He ignores Yoongi’s heavy stare. And the headache.
And if he feels time’s strain on him, he ignores that too.