He's cold. He's so cold that his teeth are going to start chattering soon. He hugs his knees closer to his chest. The blanket he'd found in the charity bin is already tucked around him as close as possible. But out here in the open, in the heart of winter, he wonders if he's going to make it. Summer seems so far away. Feels impossible. He drops his head onto his knees. He's shivering now, the wind has picked up. But he's grateful that it is not raining. Hard to find a shelter to keep dry, not with so many of them crowding the city like it can save them.
He lifts his head. Hoseok is there, leaning over him and a worried frown on his face.
Hoseok crouches in front of him. Jimin already feels warm, partly because of hyung's body heat but mostly because every time hyung leaves there is a twist in Jimin's chest that doesn't ease until he comes back.
"I found us a place."
Hoseok smiles and nods.
"There are few other guys there but I know them so it'll be alright."
Hoseok gets to his feet and Jimin lets him pull him to his feet. Hoseok puts himself between Jimin and the wind to tug the blanket around him warmly. Jimin smiles and sticks close to hyung all the way.
Three months ago, he would never have seen himself here. Homeless.
Without anyone and no one to turn to. His grandmother had passed away and the bank had taken the house. Suddenly he'd been standing outside the house that had been his home for so many years with a backpack on his back and nothing else. Nothing.
He'd spent the first night at the train station. Locked himself in a stall in the toilets and let himself cry. He'd cried until he was numb, until he realised there was a way to get out of it, this terrible place he'd found himself at. A way to stop the pain and the fear.
So he'd found himself at the bridge. The bridge. He'd always passed it. Seen the words inscribed into the concrete and never let himself think about it much. But standing there, he'd understood why. Why people came there. Why they chose the intangible darkness waiting for them below.
It's half a double story building, the place Hoseok had found. Half because it looks like construction had been abandoned halfway. There is no roof on the top floor. The only shelter is the ground floor and when they arrive there are already few guys there.
The two guys who are awake, because one is asleep curled up beside them, don't look perturbed when they come in. Hoseok must have met them already. Jimin goes about setting up their squat in a corner while Hoseok walks over to the two guys.
He unties their cardboard and lays the pieces on the ground. As he is spreading the blankets over them Hoseok calls him.
"Jiminie, come over."
He walks over to the two strangers.
One of them has long dark hair tied up in to a knot at the top of his head. There is a half healed cut on his forehead. But it takes nothing away from how beautiful he is. He smiles at Jimin so sweetly.
"Hi, Jimin. I'm Jin, it's good to meet you."
Jimin just nods, fighting back against the tears that had suddenly sprung up. Strangers haven't been kind. No one sure as hell ever said it was nice to meet him.
The other half of the duo, because he can tell that they are just by the way they are sitting together, in each other's space like it is the only way to be, introduces himself as Namjoon. Namjoon has really short dark hair. The lack of hair only serves to make his face seem bony and angular. But Namjoon smiles too and Jimin finally manages a soft 'hello'.
"You can meet Yoongi tomorrow when he's awake," Jin tells him, indicating the blond haired guy asleep on the ground beside them.
Next morning he realises he'd thought wrong last night. They are not a duo but a trio. It is stark as day as they pack up the sleeping things and they move together as if they've been together for a long time. The sleeping guy, Yoongi, is small. Probably smaller than Jimin. But there is a fierceness to him that makes Jimin wonder how long he'd been surviving the streets. He nods to Hoseok and glances at Jimin but says nothing. And when they leave, Jin waves at him with a smile.
"See you later, Jimin."
Namjoon nods to him, and Yoongi ignores him completely.
"They're the lucky ones. Got jobs and all," Hoseok tells him, munching on half an energy bar. Jimin eats his half slowly to make it last.
"They have jobs?"
Hoseok shrugs. "Pays shit 'cos it's not exactly legal to hire homeless kids but yeah. Jin hyung washes dishes at a Chinese takeaway shop down by the bus depot. Namjoon works at the petrol station across the bridge and Yoongi hyung is a bouncer at a club down by the old wharf."
Yoongi, that tiny skinny guy, is a bouncer?
Hoseok chuckles at the expression on his face.
"I know he doesn't look like much but that guy can fight like the nastiest bastard you've ever met."
"So Jiminie, where do we go to dazzle the general populace today?" Hoseok asks, getting to his feet and holding a hand down to him.
Jimin smiles up at him.
"Wherever you want, hyung."
His fingers tighten on the railing. The water is a dark abyss below him.
"It's damn cold down there, you know. Gonna hurt like a bitch."
He wipes the back of his hand over his eyes and turns.
There are two guys a few feet away. One of them is frowning. The other one is watching him with a hungry grin on his face.
Jimin presses back against the railing.
"Nothing is worth dying for, kid," the guy with the frown says.
Jimin wants to laugh. Nothing is exactly why he wants to die.
"Leave me alone," he says. He doesn't want to be saved. Not like this. Not by anyone. Especially not by these strange looking guys.
"If you jump I jump," says the grinning guy.
Jimin blinks. "What?"
"That's what Jack said to Rose. 'If you jump, I jump'".
The frowning guy smiles.
"I'm Hoseok," he says, "this is Taehyung aka Jack."
Taehyung waves at him cheerily.
"What do you want?" Jimin asks.
"Why don't you come grab a bite to eat with us? Maybe we can help you sort out a few things," Hoseok says.
Jimin look back down at the churning water down below.
"There's nothing to sort out," he whispers.
"Hey-" the next thing he knows, the strange smiling guy, Taehyung aka Jack, is right next to him, leaning right over the railing as if there is something interesting down there. Jimin pulls him back and pushes him away.
"What the hell? You'll fall!" He cries.
Taehyung smiles at him, sweetly and so innocently that for a moment Jimin can only stare.
"Don't jump," Taehyung tells him softly.
Jimin doesn't try to fight it when the tears escape.
"You don't understand- you don't know- there is nothing. I don’t know what to do."
Taehyung jumps forward and hugs him with enough force to push him back against the railing. Taehyung's hair brushes against his face and he smells a little like sweat and a little like candy and he holds him so tightly.
"Don't jump," Taehyung whispers into his ear.
His heart is beating so fast. He is scared. Terrified. And nothing is sorted. But maybe the water is cold. Maybe it can't have him just yet. Jimin brings up his hands and wraps them around Taehyung.
Taehyung's arms tighten around him in response.
They dance on the streets, Hoseok and him. Hyung is a brilliant dancer. He can do things with his body that seem impossible and makes Jimin envious. But he knows they match well together. He'd been learning contemporary dance until he couldn't anymore. Hoseok choreographs their routines to fit well with him. It's good. People like them and on good days they usually make enough money to pay for food. Timing and location are the most important things, Hoseok had told him when he'd first joined. Target audience. Young enough to appreciate their dance but with enough money to spare a little for them. On week days they usually work in the evenings when students are out of school and people come out to play after work. In the weekends they choose few spots and move around the city.
Jimin likes it. He doesn't think about the 'what could have beens' anymore. When he sees the gaggles of students on the streets, laughing and happy, going back to their warm homes and loving families, he's learnt to snuff the pang in his chest. It's okay if he can't have that. It's okay to live like this. It is better than nothing. And he has Hoseok who loves him.
They take their positions for the next routine. There is a ring of people gathered around them. Hoseok hyung meets his eyes and winks. Jimin smiles.
Turns out Taehyung had run away from home. And from what he gathers from what Hoseok says, hyung had always lived on the streets. Hoseok had found Taehyung in the rain.
"And we found you on a bridge," Taehyung says happily, taking a moment from demolishing his burger.
Jimin who had taken a bite from his' out of sheer hunger, pauses.
"I can't- I can't pay you back," he says softly, looking down at his hands.
"We'd never ask you to," Hoseok tells him. Jimin looks up at him.
"But you'll stay with us, right?" Taehyung abandons his meal and clings on to his arm. "He can stay with us, right hyung?" Taehyung asks Hoseok.
"It's up to Jiminie if he wants to stay with us."
Jiminie. His grandmother used to call him that.
Taehyung turns to him with bright smile.
"You can dance with us, Jiminie!" Taehyung says happily.
Jimin looks at him, then at Hoseok.
"Do you want to dance with us, Jimin?"
An hour ago he'd had nothing.
Jin and Namjoon are already there when they get back to their squat. They have started a fire in a garbage barrel and its warmth has spread through the room.
"Hoseok, Jimin, come join us," Jin calls.
There are containers filled with food on the floor.
"Jin hyung's got dinner," Namjoon says, shifting closer to Jin to make space for them.
"Where's Yoongi hyung?" Jimin asks, following Hoseok and squatting down on the ground.
"He's working tonight. He'll be back in the morning," Jin tells him, handing over a carton filled with food. His stomach growls just at the delicious smell.
Jin grins at him. "Eat. There was a lot of left overs tonight because we had less customers."
He looks at Hoseok who winks at him before digging in.
Jin sets a carton aside, which Jimin assumes must be for Yoongi, and sits down beside Jimin.
"How are you, Jimin?"
Jimin hurriedly swallows the mouthful of rice.
"I'm okay, hyung," he finally manages.
Feeling Jin's eyes on him, Jimin looks up.
"You're lucky to have Hoseok. He's a good guy."
"I first came to the city two years ago. I- it was so hard I thought I'd die," Jin sighs softly. Jimin shifts closer, leaning his shoulder against Jin's. Jin looks startled for a moment before relaxing. "But then I found Yoongi. Then Namjoon. And now I've found you and Hoseok. It's-"Jin's words are cut off when thunder cracks outside.
Namjoon swears, followed by Hoseok.
"You guys better move your things to this side if you don't want to get soaked."
Jimin is moving the last of the cardboard when he hears feet cuffing at the entrance and someone cursing in a low voice. He thinks it must be Yoongi at first but then a figure materialises that is too tall to be Yoongi. And too young.
Namjoon walks up, followed by Hoseok.
"Who the hell are you?" Namjoon asks, voice low and rough.
The newcomer shifts nervously.
"Sorry. I'm sorry for barging in. It's raining and I had-nowhere to go. But I'll-I'll go if you-" the boy's panting as if he'd been running and his nervous eyes dart around at them all.
"Come over to the fire," it's Jin who speaks. Namjoon and Hoseok turn around to look at him in surprise. But Jin's eyes are fixed on the boy.
The boy slowly walks over to the fire. Jimin sees him relax a little when Jin smiles at him.
The boy's name turns out to be Jungkook. Jungkook had had a fight with his mom and run off before he got caught up in the rain. Jungkook seems utterly impressed to find that they sleep there.
"I wish I could run away," Jungkook says, sounding excited at the prospect.
"Don't be a moron, kid," Hoseok tells him. "No one wishes for this."
Jimin looks at Hoseok and reaches out to hold his hand. Hoseok blinks and lets him.
"Your mom would miss you," Jin says softly.
"She wouldn't," Jungkook says but without any conviction.
Jungkook stays until the rain stops. Then Jin insists on walking him back home, which means Namjoon also goes with them.
Hoseok folds Jimin into his arms when they sleep. It is warm. The fire is still burning and even if it wasn't there, Hoseok has always been so warm.
"Hyung," he whispers into the space between Hoseok's collarbones. "Do you think Taehyung is okay?"
Hoseok's fingers slip through his hair.
Jimin closes his eyes.
"If he isn't he'd come back to us, won't he?"
Hoseok's hand pauses in his hair.
He's dozing with his head in Taehyung's lap when he feels Taehyung tense under him.
"Tae?" He asks, opening his eyes reluctantly. Taehyung's eyes are fixed somewhere above them. Jimin immediately sits up when a shadow falls across them and a scent that is not Hoseok's waft over him. The man is wearing a suit, perfectly tailored and immaculate. His dark hair sits neatly on his head and his dark eyes are fixed on Taehyung.
"Dad," Taehyung whispers. Jimin looks from Taehyung to the stranger and back. He can see the resemblance in the lines of their jaws and the shape of the eyes.
"Taehyung," the man breathes as if he cannot believe his eyes. He crouches before them, eyes flickering momentarily to Jimin before focussing back on his son.
"Dad, what-" he sees Taehyung throat working as he swallows.
"Your mom misses you," Taehyung's dad says softly, "and your brother misses you. And I-" Taehyung's dad clears his throat. "I miss you."
Taehyung drops his head and Jimin sees the tears that fall, perfect shining drops, and disappear into the grass.
"Come home, Taehyung."
When Taehyung turns to him, Jimin already sees his decision written on his face. Jimin pulls him into a hug and Taehyung holds onto him so tightly.
"I just want to see my mom. Tell Hoseok hyung," Taehyung whispers into his ear. "I'll come back."
Jimin doesn't know how he manages not to cry, how he keeps himself together as Taehyung untangles himself and walks away with his dad.
Taehyung keeps looking back over his dad's arm across his shoulders.
Jimin almost follows. Almost.
When Hoseok arrives with their dinner, it is over. Jimin buries his face in Hoseok's rigid shoulder and cries.
Yoongi comes back in the morning with a bloody face. He tries to wave their concern away, grunting at them to say he's fine. But one of his eyes are swollen shut and the graze on his cheek looks too painful to just ignore. Jin tries to get Yoongi to sit still so he can take a closer look.
"I'm fine, hyung," Yoongi says, trying to push past towards the pile of blankets.
"Yoongi!" Jin snaps and everyone freezes. This is the first time Jimin has heard Jin raise his voice. "Sit down."
Yoongi does. Jimin watches as Jin crouch in front of Yoongi and take his face in both hands.
"I took the bastards down, hyung," Yoongi says as Jin probes his face with careful fingers. "You should have seen it, hyung. They know not to mess with me now."
"Namjoon," Jin looks up at Namjoon hovering over them. "I need some antiseptic and an ice pack."
"We'll get it," Hoseok hyung offers. "Come on, Jimin."
"No, hey-" Namjoon protests.
Hoseok puts up his hands. "Hey, man. It's the least we can do. We'll be right back."
The discount store is a few blocks away. The sky is dark with rain clouds. He walks close to Hoseok.
"Would have taken a lot to bloody Yoongi hyung like that. Fuck, he's the fiercest damn fighter I've ever seen. He nearly tore a guy's arm off last week for laying a hand on Jin."
"But he listens to Jin hyung though."
Hoseok hyung laughs, throwing a hand over his shoulders.
"That's different story, Jiminie. Yoongi and Namjoon, those two guys, Jin hyung is the only one they'd listen to. They'd be far worse off if Jin hyung hadn't been there. Jin is the one that made them get the jobs, they'd be in prison by now otherwise."
"I wouldn't be here if not for you, hyung."
Hosoek laughs and ruffles his hair.
"Aww our Jiminie. You're going to make hyung cry like that."
They run into Jungkook at the discount store. He is in his school uniform, eyeing the snacks on the shelves. The shopkeeper eyes them varily. Jimin has learnt to ignore the stares. People can think what they want but he is not a thief.
"Hey, kid," Hoseok calls and Jungkook smiles widely when he sees them.
"Shouldn't you be on your way to school?"Jimin asks.
"It's really boring, hyung. I need food to stay awake."
"Study well, punk," Hoseok tells him with grin.
Jungkook nods reluctantly. "Is Jin hyung-is he alright?"
"Yeah, kid," Hoseok says, "Jin hyung is alright."
"Hey, I met a friend of yours," Jungkook says excitedly.
Hoseok hyung tilts his head curiously.
"A friend of ours? Who?"
"Kim Taehyung. His mom is friends with my mom."
"Oh Taehyung," Hoseok says slowly as if Taehyung is already a faded memory. "How is that kid?"
"He's good. Says he misses you guys. Hey, he said you guys dance. Can I maybe join you sometimes? I love dance! It'll be awesome if I could."
Jimin barely hears Jungkook's words. He doesn't hear Hoseok's reply and just follows hyung as he picks up what they need.
When they're outside in the cold and freezing drops of rain soak into them, Hoseok turns to him.
"He's happy, Jiminie," Hoseok says softly. "He's with his family."
Jimin glares down at the wet ground, water puddling under his feet.
Hoseok pulls Jimin's hood over his head.
"Come on. Let's run before it really starts to pour."
Jin fixes up Yoongi's face before heading out to work. Namjoon follows on his heels. Hoseok disappears too and it's just Jimin and Yoongi, a small bundle of blankets, left.
Jimin sits down on the ground and watches the rain fall.
He startles at Yoongi's voice.
"Why the fuck are you so miserable?"
Jimin blinks. He hadn't thought Yoongi had noticed him let alone pay enough attention to know when he's unhappy.
"I'm okay, hyung."
He hears Yoongi chuckle.
"Come over here to the fire. If you're going to be miserable, at least be warm while you're at it."
Jimin crawls over to sit beside Yoongi. The warmth of the fire is nice. He feels rain evaporating from his clothes. He looks down at Yoongi. Only his white blond hair is visible.
"I miss my friend, hyung," he says softly. "I know it's really selfish but I -I miss him so much. I don't want him to come back. I want him to be happy with his family but I just - I want to see him."
"Fuck, kid," Yoongi grunts.
Jimin swallows. "I'm sorry, hyung."
Jimin thinks Yoongi has fallen asleep when Yoongi speaks again.
"Just go see him then. It's not bloody rocket science."
Hoseok comes back in the afternoon.
He's soaking wet.
"Hyung!" Jimin rushes to Hoseok.
"I'm fine. It's just a bit of rain," Hoseok protests as Jimin pulls him towards the fire.
"Hyung, what were you doing in the rain?" Jimin cries as Hoseok peels off his jumper.
"Here," Hoseok pulls out a piece of paper from inside of his clothes and holds it out towards him.
Jimin takes it and looks down at the words written on it in messy handwriting. It is an address.
Hoseok leans over the fire as steam starts to rise off him.
"It's his address. Thought maybe you'd want to see him."
"Hyung," Jimin whispers as the letters blur in front of his eyes.
"Come on, Jiminie." Hoseok touches his face with freezing fingers. Jimin immediately reaches out to catch both of Hoseok's hands with his' and tries to warm them. "I hate seeing you miserable. The Jimin I know is like sunshine. So just go, get this sorted with Taehyung."
Jimin drops his head onto Hoseok's shoulder.
"You know that day on the bridge. Tae was the one that spotted you, he was the one who wanted to save you. No matter what, kid, don't forget that. He loves you right back."
The house is huge. Jimin peers at it from the sidewalk. He can see through the windows into the brightly lit living room. It looks luxurious and warm and perfect. Taehyung is there, sitting on the rug on the floor. He is playing with a white dog. He looks happy.
His hands clench on the iron bars of the fence.
He sighs. Of course he's happy. Taehyung is home. He should be happy. He should always be happy. Jimin would never want anything other than happiness for Taehyung.
Even if Hoseok was right, even if Taehyung does love him, even then, Jimin knows for certain that Taehyung doesn’t belong with him on the streets. Taehyung belongs here, at home, warm and safe and happy.
He turns away. Drops the crushed piece of paper with the address on it to the ground. He won't be coming back here again.
They don't dance that night. The rain is too strong, no one is going to give them the time of the day when they are just worried about getting out of the rain and the cold. Jin and Namjoon are back from work. He can smell the food as he reaches the entrance. Hoseok gets to his feet and walks over to him.
Jimin tries to smile. Hoseok simply pulls him in and folds his arms around him. He can hear the others talking in soft voices. The scent of smoke and takeaway is in the air. Hoseok is warm. He grips his hands in Hoseok's jumper, hangs on to him and breathes.
"I'm okay, hyung."
Hoseok sighs, warm breath stirring his hair.
The weather clears the next day. They dance and make enough money to buy dinner for everyone. Namjoon provides a six pack of beer and even Yoongi, who is not working tonight, is laughing at Hoseok's stories. Jin had insisted on trimming Jimin's hair so Jimin sits still under hyung' hands as tiny strands of hair fall to the ground around him. It feels amazing to have someone take care of him like this, and he is almost dozing off under the gentle care of Jin that he doesn't realise when conversation halts. Jin's hands pause in his hair and Jimin reluctantly opens his eyes.
Jungkook is at the entrance, flanked by the evening twilight and-
Jimin doesn't realise when he rises to his feet. He realises he must look pretty funny with only half a haircut. But-
"He wanted to know where you were and I thought-he said he was-" Jungkook pauses hesitantly.
"What are you doing here?" Jimin asks. Taehyung has a bag. He has a bag slung over his shoulder and he looks the same and he is looking at Jimin.
"I saw you," Taehyung says softly. Something twists in Jimin's chest because he has missed that voice so much. "I saw you at my house."
"So?" Jimin strides towards him furiously. "So what? You came here? Are you crazy?" He pushes Taehyung back. "Go home, Tae!"
Taehyung tries to catch his hands.
"Jimin. Jiminie. Please."
Jimin knows he's crying. But he doesn’t care. Because this boy in front of him is a fool.
"Why would you? Why would you leave your family? Why would you choose this?"
Taehyung smiles, bright and beautiful and perfect.
"You jump, I jump, right?"
Things get better as summer arrives. They begin entering dance competitions in the city after Jungkook joins them as the fourth dancer. Then they begin winning them and it is amazing because the prize money is more than what they'd make in a month dancing in the streets. Hoseok hyung tells him that it's only the start. You just watch, Jiminie, he says, we're going places. Then Yoongi hyung finds them a place to stay. A proper place, not a half a building but a basement of an ancient building that has moss growing on more than a few spots but it has four walls and a ceiling and doesn't flood. It even has a tiny kitchen and a tinier bathroom with a tap that leaks unless they twist the knob a certain way.
A whole year after he found himself on that bridge. For someone who had seen nothing in his future, now he has dreams. Now there are people filling up the empty spaces.
"Here," Taehyung plonks down a chocolate milk carton in front of him, already half way through his own strawberry milk. They are sitting on the steps of their building waiting for the others. Jimin looks at Taehyung, dutifully sucking the last of the milk from his carton. Feeling his gaze, Taehyung lifts his eyes and grins. Jimin smiles and leans a little closer. Taehyung knocks their shoulders together and they stay like that until the others arrive.