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the castle on the hill

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“and max, the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”

— where the wild things are, maurice sendak

 

 

 

mom, dad, i'm sorry, but i've got to go.

 

 

seoul is big, in every sense of the word. jungkook's eyes try to tame its colors, all the neon brights and the polluted purples glistening on skyscrappers, but it's useless. colors go by too fast, he blinks and they're gone. the bus smells oddly of kimchi, the air sticky with grease and summer. people look displeased, tired, confined to the hot vehicle. the air conditioner seems to be broken, and the wind that blows in is tainted with heat. jungkook feels his forehead drips, hair sticking to it. busan isn't as hot. busan has the ocean to tame down the crippling summer.

he looks down at his bag, uncomfortable.

all he has, and all he doesn't have — in that torned backpack. jungkook's heart stings faintly, maybe with regret. he averts his thoughts away from it. it's just past five in the afternoon when he decides to jump out, the neighbourhood quiet, old, not very fancy looking. hello, my name's jeon jungkook, i'm looking for a job, is there anything i could do? the sentence is repeated at least twenty-three times before he's taken in consideration.

"you a student?" asks the owner of the empty bookshop around a corner, the books piling up around them with dust from being unread and untouched. jungkook realizes faintly he already forgot his name. he's older, middle-aged, and he looks mildy bored.

"no," jungkook shakes his head. lying would have been easier, maybe, but he doesn't want anything from busan to follow him there. it's a past life, and he severed the strings that kept him linked. "i — dropped out. i just arrived, from busan."

an eyebrow is raised. "— i see."

"i'm smart, though," he's fast to add. "i'm hardworking. i could help out."

"listen, kid—"

"please," there's a soft hint of desperation in jungkook's tone of voice, maybe because all his vowels and consonants come out stressed, probably because nighttime is starting to drip all over seoul in colors too dark and jungkook has no home. "— a place to crash, then. i promise, i'll pay you back when i can, and i'll be out in the morning."

the man sighs. sungjae, was that his name?  "how old are you, kid?"

"i'm about to turn eighteen," jungkook feels himself trying to get smaller, shoulders slouching the slightest.

"okay," the man (sungjae? sung—something?) half-shrugs, rolling his eyes. "i'm not about to put some kid out like that." jungkook's eyes lighten up immediately, a rush of gratefulness spreading around his body. he bows, twice, three times, words stumbling out, thank you, thank you, thank you. "say, there's a couch in the office, i guess you can stay there. and tomorrow — we'll see about the job."

the couch is small, his feet stick out, but jungkook doesn't complain. the office is stuffy, sort of cramped, forgotten, maybe. the bookshop lays quietly around him, breathing letters and huffing invisible sentences jungkook will probably never read. sleep doesn't come, not until too late. sungjae, and that's his name after all, opens the shop at a quarter to eight, two hours in jungkook's sleep. he blinks, somewhat confused, at the diffused white light that's coming through the blinds, dust swimming in it like glitter. he's sweaty, tired, in seoul. "morning, kid," the man calls. "my wife made me bring you food. you should come eat."

food is a couple of servings of omelet and rice, jungkook devours everything shamelessly. his last meal was a bag of chips and a can of warm coca-cola, anyway. "thank you," jungkook mumbles, mouth still full, cheeks red. "i'll leave soon."

"no, you can stay," sungjae shrugs. "you can sleep here in the office, and take care of the shop during the day, i guess. we don't get many clients, so it might be boring."

jungkook coughs, choking a bit. "i'm — thank you," he repeats. "i'll do my best."

"just — tell your parents you're okay, alright?" sungjae slides his phone on the table, until it touches jungkook's fingers. "don't let them hanging."

the phone sits idly beside his hand for good three seconds before jungkook finally touches it, a knot in his chest. mom, dad, i'm okay, i'm in seoul, i found a job — i'll be fine. no reply comes. sungjae leaves him with the bookshop keys, after explaining the few important things about it; there aren't many customers, there's not a lot of money to steal, so don't try it, and  if you do try it, just leave the keys, kid. jungkook doesn't intend to steal, but there's nothing to do, so he fixes things, observes people. seoul is just outside, its people pouring out from their homes, not glancing his way.

the day goes by slowly, jungkook dozes off a couple of times, head down on his arms. he stands up every other minute, going about the small shop, fingers grazing over spines of old and new books, famous and forgotten titles, peter pan, demian, navigating early, the body, the owl service. an older lady walks in, greets him, taking with her five different titles, all from the erotica session. jungkook blushes as he goes through them, she pretends not to see.

it's around three in the afternoon, and the sun is still burning outside, that jungkook notices the boy at the gas station across from the book store. he's smoking, right under a no smoking sign, sitting against the fuel pump as if it isn't dangerous. he counts money, sort of erractically flipping the bills on his fingers, and there aren't a lot of them, smoke curling around him. it's a detached scene from the working chaos around him. jungkook observes, intrigued. 

it's not longer after that another boy joins him, and his hair is the softest shade of pink, almost peach-like. they do some sort of hand shake, easy smiles on their faces. money is passed from and to, cigarettes as well, and they don't seem to talk a lot, their presence seemingly enough to each other. there's something between the pair that jungkook doesn't know just yet, the sort of intimacy he doesn't have with other people. he sits behind the balcony, eyes trained on them for too long of a time, so long he has to catch himself from doing it, red on his cheeks, confused.

"you're staring, jeon jungkook," he mutters to himself, looking the other way, fingers trying to find something to do. he hides among the back shelves, between horror and thriller, faking interest in stephen king and the monsters he comes up with. the front door bell chirps, as someone comes in. "hello, how can i ," his voice sort of dies, as the boy from across the street looks right at him, light hair hidden under a cap with the gas station logo on it. his clothes aren't pristine, there are holes where there shouldn't be, and he smells of gasoline and cigarettes. "— help?"

"ah, i'm just browsing, but thanks."

they don't speak anymore. jungkook tries not to watch too closely, not to pay attention to the books the boy seems to like, eyes roaming about. finally, he picks up charles dickens, whose name is unknown to jungkook, and pays quietly, with the bills traded just a few minutes ago. when he leaves, the other boy is waiting out, a cigarette between his lips, and there's just a hint of a moment there — just before the door closes — that his eyes meet jungkook's through the crack. it's lightning fast, a flickering thing of a glance through the smoke, and then the door closes.

 

 

it carries on, that sort of strange fascination. there are other boys — all with patched-up clothes and battered sneakers, all stray looking, like him, vagrant souls in a city made of cement and glass. they're colorful against it, blotches of color in their dyed hair, and in the blues and yellows of their shirts. lost boys.

the gas station boy sometimes walks in, sometimes purchase something with folded bills, sometimes leaves before jungkook muster up the courage to initiate conversation. this time is different, because this time the boy looks at him for longer than a second, from under his cap and heavy eyelids. "you stare a whole lot," he says, hands in his pockets. "we can see you, you know. from across the street."

jungkook chokes on his spit, feeling his whole neck stain with redness. he wishes for a second he could hide behind the balcony never to be seen again. but never to be seen again implies never seeing them again, so he just swallows, face bright red. "i — i didn't mean to—"

"i'm namjoon," he offers a hand. it takes jungkook a couple of seconds to hold it, a shy hold. "you have a name?"

"jungkook."

"you from here?"

"no," he shakes his head, dropping namjoon's hand as the moment dragged too long. "busan."

"ah," namjoon smiles, eyes wandering about. "never been."

"— you're not missing much," jungkook tries, as namjoon steps towards the bookshelves, and he sounds just slightly out of breath, as if his lungs are overwhelmed by the attention. it is only then he notices the figure by the window, his back to jungkook, the boy with the strands of watery magenta, all that smoke around him. he gulps, looking back to namjoon. "are you looking for something?"

"not really," namjoon shrugs. "just passing the time."

and time passes, and jungkook tries not to stare too much. namjoon eventually chooses a book, lovely bones, the cover a pretty blue like the sky outside. he pays for it with another set of crinkled bills, jungkook fiddles with the cash register. "you're a shitty shop attendant," namjoon comments, smiling, taking the plastic bag from jungkook's hands. "do you want to come out?" jungkook looks up, confused. "— outside? we've got spirits. cigs."

his eyes wander over namjoon's shoulders, to the boys waiting, plural now, their laughter carried through the walls. then he looks back at namjoon. "yes." jungkook tries not to sound too eager, but he does, he is. he doesn't know many people his age. he doesn't know many people, period. so he steps out, the light blinding him for a moment, and he hangs a sign that says out for lunch on the door. when he turns, pairs of colored eyes stare at him.

"— hey," he mumbles.

"this is jungkook," namjoon introduces him rather vaguely, patting his back. "he'll hang out with us today."

"isn't he too young—"

"how old are you, kid?" an arm slings over his shoulder, the boy has a sunny smile, the kind jungkook won't ever get himself, he reckons. he looks down, blushing.

"seventeen."

there's a cacophony of voices then, as the boys talk over themselves. he's too young, you were doing far worse things at seventeen, he's cute, if we get in trouble—, we're always in trouble, hyung. their voices clash, like a mismatched song, and jungkook observes, enthralled by what they have. they finally settle down, dragging jungkook along, despite his age and the alcohol they're carrying in their backpacks. "i'm hoseok," the boy who looks like the sun finally says, arm still around jungkook. "the grump is yoongi. hyung, be nice and say hello." hyung.

yoongi turns, looking over his shoulder, nonchalant, seemingly bored. his bomber jacket reads failure on the back. "hey."

"hi," jungkook finds himself saying. they walk together, jungkook adjusts his steps to fall with hoseok's. yoongi lights another cigarette, and he smells mint in the smoke. finally, the boys take a turn, towards an alleyway full of garbage, metal staircases serving as benches. they sit around each other, bodies touching careslessly, jungkook stands for too long, unsure of where he fits (he doesn't, maybe, not yet). he ends up being put in front of yoongi's legs, feelings his knees against his back, boney, sitting beside hoseok.

namjoon rolls a cigarette, and maybe it's weed, jungkook doesn't know. hoseok takes a couple of bottles of rum from his backpack. "here," yoongi offers him his cigarette over his shoulder, and jungkook takes it, awkwardly. "are you a smoke virgin?" the words make jungkook cough, red on his cheeks. "here, i'll teach you."

apparently, it isn't common for yoongi to be so welcoming, because hoseok laughs, high-pitched and sunshines, and it echoes on the tall, grimmy walls around them. "taehyung was ignored for three months before yoongi-hyung even ackowledged his presence," he pokes jungkook's side, making him squirm just a little. "you must be golden, jungkookie."

"he's a kid," yoongi shrugs, and jungkook passes him the cigarette again, ashes falling on his sweater.

"i'm not — i'm not a kid," jungkook tries. he has his back to yoongi, but he can feel him staring. namjoon smiles at him. "i'll be eighteen soon."

"so that's settled," hoseok grins, patting jungkook's back too many times to count. he takes the cigarette from yoongi's fingers, sliding his body closer to jungkook's until all their sides are touching, and jungkook wonders for a minute if they're that afraid of loneliness that they don't need space. "i'm a good teacher, pay attention, class." hoseok takes a flamboyant, dramatic drag, only to cough his lungs out. both namjoon and yoongi laugh, clashes of round open sounds with hiccupy, low ones. jungkook joins them weakly.

"shitty teacher," yoongi sneers, and his drag is much more controlled, smoke coming out of his flared nostrils. "see? you just hold the smoke in your mouth for a few, then inhale it. it'll come out when you breathe."

the cigarette is offered again — the same one hoseok and yoongi took their drags. it's smaller now, almost at the filter. jungkook holds it clumsily. the first try burns his throat, he coughs copiously, lungs smokey, the mint gone amidst the taste of coal. the second time is less ridiculous, but he doesn't inhale anything. "— i don't think i'm really good at this," he says, slightly embarrassed.

"you don't have to smoke if you don't like it," yoongi says, taking the cigarette from his fingers, and his touch is somewhat gentle for someone who looks so sharp.

"ah," jungkook shrugs. "i just — never tried before, that's all."

namjoon opens the rum, and from backpacks they pull out red plastic cups, the cheapest kind, some obviously already in use for a couple of shots, and yoongi produces a bag of chips, and hoseok somehow has marshmallows. jungkook observes, almost a wallflower, as what seems like routine goes on. they drink, passing cups back and forth, both rolled and industrialized cigs being exchanged, hoseok tells anecdotes of his crappy supermarket job, yoongi says he's been writing a couple of things, we should get together, work on those beats, they throw chips at each other — it's chaos, boyish, childish chaos. jungkook's eyes sting from the smoke, and his need to belong makes him try a couple of more times, lungs complaining. the rum tastes bittersweet, fiery as it goes down his throat.

"you from where?" hoseok asks him at some point, as jungkook wonders how much time has passed since he hanged the sign on the door of the shop. "you got a bit of an accent."

"busan," he replies, shortly.

"you're far from home."

"it isn't — it isn't home," jungkook shrugs, feeling his ears heating up. the collar of his too well-kept sweater feels itchy against the skin of his neck.

"why?"

he opens his mouth to reply, but the words never really quite make it out. there's not a lot to say. i don't belong there. i don't know where i belong. i need to find it — home. namjoon seems to sense his discomfort, because he clears his throat, offering jungkook the cup of rum again. "drink it up, kiddo."

jungkook's too out of it, his own thoughts triggering. home. the rum doesn't wash the nasty taste on his tongue, and when jungkook stands, he almost misses a step. the others become quiet, staring at him. "i need to go," he finally says, words just a bit slurred. "i left the shop unnatended. thank you for inviting me out."

there are no farewells, because jungkook doesn't allow those. he jumps from the stairwell, as carefully as he can, walking quickly away, anxious to disappear, not really looking back — it's something he's done too much. the boys don't call him back, and jungkook knows it's because he's not theirs. the shop's walls and shelves engulf him as soon as he walks him, the friendly names of dead writers keeping him company for the rest of the draggy afternoon. namjoon waves at him weakly when he passes by, alone this time, and jungkook ultimately tries to raise his hand, only to find out it's too heavy.

 

 

 

"any new titles?"

jungkook pretends to be busy at the back, looking at namjoon through the overcrowded shelves. it's been days since they last talked, in the alleyway that smelled of grease and hopelessness. "there's a new gillian flynn."

"who the fuck is gillian flynn?" namjoon scoffs. his tone makes jungkook smile. he doesn't know who the fuck is gillian flynn either. "i guess i'll just have to make do with a classic."

"you read that fast?" jungkook wonders, but the words come out out loud. he walks towards the front shelves, hands holding a small pile of books that need to be sorted.

"i guess."

"— i don't like books that much." the pile grows on the counter, unwanted books that belong to dust-covered shelves, and namjoon helps, fingers grazing the covers kindly, as if each book needs some degree of respect. "i can't imagine things in my head."

"well, that's bullshit," they work together, titles being organized in alphabetical order. "close your eyes, think of the sunset." jungkook does as he told, and somehow the darkness behind his eyelids has blurry, yellow phosphenes swimming in it. a sunset comes to his mind, but it's cloudy, unseen. he tries harder. namjoon's voice startles him, after a minute: "what color do you see?"

it takes him a moment to reply, consonants being held back, unsure. "pink." sunsets aren't often pink, not really. namjoon is frowning when he opens his eyes, but it goes away fairly quick as he finds interest in a jane austen title. the conversation dies, then, silence once again settling in, and jungkook moves quietly, pushing and pulling books, sniffing, the dust bothering his eyes. when all the books have been organized, namjoon slides him sense and sensibility, the cover a bucolic shade of green. a question stumbles out of his mouth as he fiddles with the money. "— are you guys going out today?"

"yeah," namjoon nods, expression unchanging. "want to come?"

yes. "ah, i don't know what time i'll be done," he answers, chest filling up with want. he wants to go out — he wants to be friends with those boys so badly it consumes him.

"give me your phone." namjoon taps his number onto jungkook's old phone, the one sungjae got him so he could speak to his family eventually, the screen split from the numerous falls it suffered the past weeks. nobody ever called him on that phone, there are no numbers listed in — namjoon doesn't comment on that. "text me when you're done, i'll pick you up."

"you don't have to—"

"you're a nice kid, i don't mind," namjoon smiles. "you look sorta lonely."

am i lonely? no (yes). jungkook forces a smile, one that tries to convey some sort of self-confidence. namjoon nods, leaving with not much more than a see you later, waving a hand, bleached hair silvery under the sun outside. jungkook looks down at his phone, and at the contact list that now has a name. namjoon-hyung.

— he waits then, patiently. only two other people come in the shop, none buy anything. jungkook wonders if they'd attract more clients if the bookstore had air conditioning. the old fan hardly makes any difference, blowing warm air all over him. by the time the clock hits six, jungkook's sweaty (and messy, both inside and out). he goes upstairs to sungjae's apartment to take a shower, trying not to mind the small little homely details, the photographs of happy people, the smell of homemade food. it reminds him of busan and the things he left behind.

hey, i'm done with work.

the text goes unread for a while, jungkook sits on the curb in front of the closed shop. his leg moves, shaky, anxious. finally a reply comes, an empty ok, nothing else attached to it. jungkook's heart knots in his chest, and he looks around the half-empty street, the dirty cement hot under his old converse shoes. it's only when he decides waiting is stupid, almost thirty-five minutes later, thirty-two to be exact, that someone shows up — not namjoon, but yoongi, bomber jacket and reckless smoking. "namjoon told me to pick you up on my way," he says flatly when jungkook stands up to greet him with a weak smile, almost missing his step on the sidewalk. "you dressed up."

jungkook looks down at his clothes, neck heating up. his jeans are ripped in poorly structured patterns, and not because he bought them like that. "i —," he starts, scratching the back of his head.

"i'm joking," yoongi laughs weakly, smoke coming out of his smile. jungkook is vaguely enthralled by the way it spirals around his hair — under the lower sun, it looks faded, soft. "come on, they're waiting."

"where are we going?" jungkook asks after a couple of blocks. he's been watching yoongi with the corner of his eye, the nonchalant way he walks, his boots dirty from use, jeans stained. he looks up now, and his eyes meet yoongi's briefly. jungkook blinks, focusing on something else.

"to get food," is the answer. "liquor."

"you drink a lot?"

yoongi scoffs. "you don't?"

"— no," jungkook holds the cigarette that is offered to him, and this time he doesn't cough. his lungs burn a little, his mouth gets dry, but he doesn't cough. it makes him smile, surprinsingly. yoongi watches him. "i never — i don't really drink."

"i hope we don't ruin you too much," yoongi comments after a moment of silence, staring at him. jungkook feels himself sweat. "you seem like a nice kid." you're a nice kid, i don't mind. he doesn't know if they are right. nice kids don't leave their lives behind with nothing but a backpack full of chips and old clothes on their backs.

this time he doesn't shy away when his eyes meet yoongi's, but blood pools on his cheeks nonetheless. jungkook opens his mouth to say something, anything, really, his mind gone blank for a moment, but yoongi looks away, the watercolor in his hair changing hues under the city lights as if the strands are magic. they have arrived at the foul-smelling diner, the sort of vintage americana style rather tacky, red paint on the booths already chipped. jungkook feels anxiety pulling at his heartstrings as he steps in after yoongi.

all the boys are there this time, all the boys he's seen from inside the bookstore. hoseok smiles brightly, namjoon has ketchup on his left cheek, fingers full of salt from eating french fries. "you started eating before us, rude assholes," yoongi says, shoving a boy's shoulder until he can sit, and they laugh together, the sound mashing somehow fittingly. jungkook stands, again, unsure of where he fits. it feels like déjà vu.

"well, sit, kid," namjoon voices, mouth full of cheeseburger. jungkook sits, body to close to a boy he doesn't know, and they're all proximity again. namjoon points as he speaks. "jimin, taehyung, and seokjin-hyung." the now named boys smile at him behind their food, seokjin behind a camera.

"jungkook," he says, and somebody pushes him food, maybe hoseok. he doesn't eat, because there's not enough money on his pocket to pay for it.

"i'm from busan, too," jimin says, chewing, black hair falling on his eyes. he's got small hands and pretty features, the kind from the magazines, the kind that doesn't fit the wreckage of youth, maybe. jungkook likes him immediately. "we moved here last year." he understands that we means family, and jungkook nods, not really looking forward answering questions on the topic.

the flash of the camera blinds jungkook for a moment, then, and he shuts his eyes, seeing blotches of red. "we're fucking eating, hyung," yoongi mumbles, throwing seokjin a couple of french fries, and the ketchup stains the jeans jacket he's wearing, but none of them seem to mind.

"jungkook looks cute," seokjin ignores yoongi, eating the french fries that were tossed in his direction, flapping the polaroid between thin fingers. jungkook makes up his face on it, his eyes big and white, messy brown hair sort of blending with the dirty, old background. the picture gets passed on, taehyung draws a mustache on him, and he seems to keep sharpies of every color in his pockets, his fingers stained from it. there are other photos on the table already, all scribbled on. namjoon as a pirate, hoseok with cheeseburgers in front of his eyes, taehyung's fox-like smile — jungkook's fingers graze over them, picking them up carefully, as if they precious.

around them, the boys thrive in their chaos. food somehow is always finding a way to be tossed around. ketchup and mustard stain the sleeves of their clothes. hoseok adds cheap whiskey to their plastic coca-cola cups under the table. jungkook observes them, a dull sort of pain in his chest. "your turn, jungkookie," taehyung elbows him, the coca-cola cup on his hand. it's been passing around, jungkook had hoped they'd ignore him. they don't. it both overwhelms and scares him.

he takes the cup nonetheless, heart beating in disarray now. the coke is warm already, sweet like syrup, the added alcohol making it burn as it goes down his throat. he coughs, choking for a minute, and taehyung pats his back. it feels warm all over, tingly, his cheeks flush entirely. "— you're too young, you shouldn't," yoongi says then, reaching for the cup. jungkook holds it away from him, the others let out howls, excited about that small act of rebelliousness. somehow the drink made jungkook daring, bold, even though he's pretty sure it doesn't work that fast. jungkook takes another big gulp, hearing cheers all around him. somebody pats his back a little too harshly, and the oddly sweet combination drips down his chin. when he opens his eyes, they meet yoongi's. "i won't hold your hair when you throw up."

"i didn't eat anything," jungkook points out, voice stingy.

"and that's stupid," yoongi grabs the cup then, obviously annoyed, but the others are smiling, and jungkook is smiling, too, a smug sort of smile full of pretend boldness. it's flimsy, see-through, and it will wash out as soon as his head clears. yoongi can tell. "eat, now."

"i'm not hungry." i don't have any money, that's the right answer. the money he gets from sungjae only makes up for his meals, and whatever's left he keeps in hopes of renting a room somewhere. yoongi opens his mouth to say something, but taehyung is already pulling on jungkook's sleeve, grabbing his attention, and suddenly jungkook is part of it, part of the laughter, the inside jokes he doesn't quite get yet, the rounds of coca-cola and whiskey. yoongi stands and leaves for a while, jungkook doesn't look his way.

he learns jimin's family runs a small noodle shop, but he wants to do ballet, and hoseok, his hands always finding a way to touch jimin's shoulders in delicate ways, jungkook notices, works at a busy supermarket downtown, to pay for his college classes. namjoon works at the gas station, but tries to earn a few bucks in underground rings of rap alongside yoongi. taehyung hates his father, seokjin doesn't. they're all mismatched personalities, but somehow they all fit together, like jagged edges of puzzle pieces, voices talking over each other, hands touching, bodies close — they're a unit. jungkook blurts out about his running away, and it gets approving nods. "we shouldn't be forced to follow what society imposes to us," namjoon is saying, slurring his words just the slightest. they're all a bit tipsy already. "otherwise we lose ourselves in this fucked up world."

"you sound like that guy from v for vendetta, hyung," jimin comments, and it makes taehyung laugh.

yoongi returns, plastic tray in his hand, and he slides it over to jungkook. "eat." jungkook's stomach is already complaining, so he doesn't waste time wondering if he should accept the free meal.

"— oh shit, did you really buy him food, hyung?" hoseok smirks, but yoongi just shrugs. jungkook feels himself blush, but maybe he was already blushing, he can't tell anymore. his body feels feverish, feels good.

"i buy you food, too, dumbass," yoongi says, but hoseok is still smiling, so yoongi does too, it's like a domino effect. jungkook smiles too, with some delay. he feels sort of slow. 

"you work?" he asks, looking at yoongi.

"part-time," yoongi replies, straw between his lips, and jungkook notices briefly they're almost the same color. then he averts his eyes, trying to find focus on something else, cheeks still hot. yoongi's shirt reads shine on you crazy diamond, in pink like his hair, and lips, and the straw of his drink (remember when you were young? you shone like the sun, now there's a look in your eyes like black holes in the sky, you were caught in the crossfire of childhood and stardom, the melody sings, reverbing inside jungkook's head, his father used to listen to that).

"i'll pay you back," jungkook tells him, the tray full of greasy wrapping paper, food's gone. he doesn't even remember what he ate, and it took him less than three minutes to do so. "i get paid next tuesday—"

"no need."

"i want to."

an answer doesn't come, because namjoon grabs a hold of jungkook's arm, shaking lightly, and jungkook's attention gets tossed somewhere else. more coca-cola gets shoved in between his fingers, jungkook finds himself laughing more easily. they're loud, so loud their voices rattle against the stained walls of the diner, and they get nasty looks from the people around them. they look like the youth jungkook sees in movies, the kind of youth he hungers for. when he laughs again, it's real.

"let's go somewhere—" somebody suggests, maybe seokjin, maybe taehyung, voices blending, like the arms that mingle, pushing and pulling, and jungkook is suddenly outside, the sidewalk flickers in front of his eyes. he laughs again. some alleyway rooms them once more, the metal stairs creaking under their weight, and jungkook sits rather uncomfortably, but cigarettes are passed, drinks are passed, and there's just a brief, thin moment where he thinks he should stop. don't stop.

"this city is ours—!" taehyung screams at some point, arms in the air, and the others shout, howling as if they're a pack of wolves. namjoon tosses taehyung a can of paint, welcome to ma city, they write, in ugly english, and namjoon goes back to correct taehyung's ma, with a big red y. jungkook drinks some more —

— it gets weird. slow motion, sick. he recognizes voices, but can't name them. i'll take him home, where do you live?, throw up, kiddo. there's darkness, darkness, darkness, darkness, and then his eyes see clearly, finally, the buzz in his ears die, the boys are gone, nighttime has consumed the city. he's sitting at the curb, there's a hand pressing firmly on his shoulder, and there's vomit all over his pants, the smell degrading. "we ruined you," the voice comments weakly, and jungkook recognizes the faint condescending tone of yoongi's voice. he looks over his shoulder, and tired eyes meet his. "you okay?"

"yeah," jungkook coughs, looking away, suddenly nervous. his stomach growls, revolted. "maybe, i don't know."

"you drank too much," yoongi tells him. "you passed out."

"— i passed out?"

"for a few seconds, taehyung wanted to draw a dick on your face," jungkook can tell yoongi is smiling, he hears it through his tone. "namjoon and i brought you here, but he had to leave first, he had some shit with his father, or something."

"here—," they're in front of the bookstore, the lights are out, the sign omnious. "shit."

"it's okay, i'll take you home," yoongi pats him. jungkook feels himself getting warmer, ears burning, stomach painful, throat dry.

"i don't —," he mumbles, shaking his head. "i'm sleeping in the back of the shop. sungjae-hyung has a couch. it's okay, you can go—"

"what, wait," yoongi's fingers press more urgently on his shoulder, and then he sits next to him on the curb, despite the vomit that pools around jungkook's dirty shoes. he feels embarrassed all of a sudden. "you've been sleeping on a rusty couch, is that it?"

jungkook shrugs, trying to sit further away. he doesn't smell the nicest. "yeah."

"are you okay to walk?"

"i think so — why?"

"i'm not about to let a drunk teenager pass out on a couch alone."

yoongi sounds resolute, and he tugs at jungkook's sleeve when he stands, helping him up. his movements are delicate, and he's helpful. it's a strange contrast to what he seems to be, or what jungkook made him up to be in his mind. "you talk as if you're an old ahjussi," the words are out before jungkook has the thought of stopping them. he regrets, lowering his eyes.

"— well, i'm older than you, you punk," yoongi sighs, and they start walking. jungkook looks over his shoulder, to the eerie bookstore. his home, or not really. "we'll have to take the train. you won't throw up on me, will you?"

"i don't know."

"well, that's great."

two blocks, and jungkook throws up on both of their pants, this time. yoongi makes a face, pushing jungkook down on the curb again, holding him still despite his obvious disgust. he leaves only for a moment, and comes back with water. jungkook drinks the whole bottle, gasping at the end, inhaling sharply. "i'm sorry," he mutters, and suddenly he wants to cry. the feeling overwhelms him.

"shit, don't cry, hold it in," yoongi tells him, but ultimately lets him sob for a while, before they can get walking again. jungkook doesn't really know why he is crying, but it feels better when he does it.

the train ride is a mess of flashing lights that make jungkook's head hurt. he closes his eyes, head falling to meet yoongi's shoulder in a way that is too intimate for two people who haven't been friends for that long of a time. yoongi talks to hoseok on the phone, his voice is low, raspy, jungkook notices. he doesn't smell of vomit, miraculously. "hoseok will come over," he tells jungkook, at some point. "i have to go to work later."

"you work at night?"

"yeah, at a bar," yoongi scoffs. "i deal with crying drunks like you all the time."

"i stopped crying already."

he doesn't get to hear yoongi's retort, maybe because he shuts down again, and wakes up only by violent shakes, his head bobbing. yoongi is saying something about them missing their station. jungkook stands up, but it feels odd, and he maybe says something, his brain can't recall very clearly, his foggy actions quickly being forgotten, but yoongi has an arm around his waist, keeping him up.

it's not a long walk to yoongi's flat, and jungkook throws up on the elevator, but not much comes out this time. yoongi's place smells like vanilla, weirdly (or not, he himself doesn't smell bad, jungkook's brain chats away, he can't seem to stop blabbing, the headache grows stronger), he's pushed inside a bathtub, and the water runs cold at first, then warm, then hot, then painful. yoongi adjusts it, until it doesn't hurt anymore. he's still wearing clothes. "sit, take off your clothes, you can soak in there for a while," yoongi says. "i won't close the door. if you feel weird, call me."

jungkook doesn't call him, not for — some time. the tub doesn't fill with enough water to kill him if he drowns, so jungkook allows himself to close his eyes, feeling as if the earth is moving under the bathtub. time, maybe, it passes. he feels weird. "yoongi—" his voice sounds hoarse.

"— that was fast," yoongi comments somewhere in the living room, but not to jungkook, to hoseok, apparently, doors open and close. "i'm not going, i called them already."

"jungkook," hoseok's head appears on the door frame not a minute later, an apologetic look on his face. "i brought you some haejangguk." he sounds bright, clear, as if he didn't drink earlier. yoongi sounds just fine, too, albeit a bit annoyed. "you're feeling better?"

"— i feel a bit weird."

a blink is the time it takes for yoongi to get inside the bathroom, stumbling over hoseok, who also walks in, and they're both say things jungkook can't hear, because it's suddenly very difficult to—

 

(he dreams of empty basketball courts, and everything is colored pink.)

 

— "jungkook?"

wet, that's the first thing he feels when he blinks, eyes heavy. he's still wet, from head to toes, the clothes he didn't remove earlier (earlier?) soaked, clinging to his body. there's something cold against his neck, his mouth tastes funny. yoongi is staring at him. hoseok isn't there. "you passed out."

"again?"

"yeah," yoongi is sitted by the bathtub, jungkook realizes, but the water is gone. he's holding the soup hoseok brought. the cold against his neck is an ice-patch. "for about twenty minutes — maybe you slept, i don't know. hoseok went home, it's getting late. he wants you to know that if you don't eat the entire soup he'll come back for your ass." his flat tone makes jungkook huff, smiling, despite the pain on his head. "you drank too much for a first time."

"— how old are you?"

the question is random, but jungkook is suddenly curious. yoongi shifts, stretching his back. he looks tired. "twenty-two."

"ah," he nods, movements small, pain on his frontal lobe and behind his eyes. he forces his eyes closed. "four years."

"you need to eat," yoongi goes on, ignoring his remark, or their age gap. "come on."

"okay." yoongi doesn't spoon feeds him, but holds the bowl for him anyway. the soup is cold, but it tastes good. jungkook feels a bit better once half of it finds its way into his stomach. "i feel — better, i guess."

"namjoon called you about thirty times," yoongi shakes his head, smiling, putting the bowl down. "he tends to do that — picking up strays as he goes."

"— were you a stray?"

he doesn't get an answer, instead, only a flat take a shower. towels and spare clothes are left on the toilet, yoongi disappears behind the door, which remains ajar just in case you nap again, he says. shower does jungkook good, he feels more like a person and less like he's wearing his soul out. yoongi's clothes are a bit small for him, his ankles showing up just the slightest under the sweatpants, but they're clean, at least. "it's not much better than a couch, but at least it isn't a fucking couch," yoongi is saying by the time he steps out of the bathroom. yoongi's bedroom is small, his bed taking up most of the space, but somehow he made room for a makeshift bed by his own, duvets piling up into a mattress.

"that's — i can go home," jungkook offers, watching yoongi work, helplessly. "i don't have to stay here."

"bullshit," yoongi points vaguely to his bedside table. "take those, for your head." jungkook does as he told, because anything that can stop the dull pain ramming his forehead is welcomed. not only the pills, but yoongi silently gives him a spare toothbrush too, and leaves water next to the bed he made, and he waits until jungkook's lying down to turn off the lights. for a while, jungkook lies there alone, hearing the water run in the bathroom. the door is left ajar as well. then yoongi is back, a whiff of shampoo smell following, peachy. they can hear the train running, not too far, the sort of steel-on-steel noise gritting. "next time you eat first, okay?"

"okay."

"— are you comfortable?"

"yes," he nods, even though yoongi can't see him. the next words come out small, embarrassed. "thank you. i don't know why you are—"

"it doesn't matter." but it does, jungkook wants to say. "shut up and go to sleep."

and as if yoongi's words are magic, jungkook falls into slumber (falls, and falls, everything falls—).

 

 

even before opening his eyes, jungkook notices the smell. it smells homely where he is, waffles and coffee and clean linen and peach shampoo, and he hears dishes being washed somewhere close. his head pounds, there's an awful taste on his tongue. he's parched, his cell phone rings, he recognizes the ringtone. someone else picks up, voice low. "— he's still sleeping," they (he? yoongi?) says, and then hums. "i'll take you the keys. i'm sorry about that." jungkook doesn't move. he hears footsteps all around, light and careful when closer, then keys, then a door closing, then silence. he finally opens his eyes.

it replays like a damaged movie in his head, the night before. too many things missing, empty holes full of darkness and questions blotching his vision. standing up is a hard task — he has to force his body to cooperate. yoongi's aparment has washed out walls and dust on the furniture. his bed is unmade, jungkook touches the sheets softly, before walking out. there's not much. a small living room, an even smaller kitchen, a balcony with a view to anoter ugly set of buildings. on the coffee table in front of the television, yoongi left a note. his handwriting is pretty. your boss needs the shop keys, i'm going there. there's food in the kitchen, and coffee. i want both gone if you wake up before i come back. namjoon might come over, too.  then there's something scribbled, a mistake, but jungkook can still make up the words. i hope you're feeling better. underneath, a much less warm headache pills inside the bathroom cabinet. see you later, kid.

jungkook finds waffles and coffee waiting for him, indeed. they're still hot. he takes a waffle and the mug with him as he walks through the apartment, munching and eyeing the objects around him. yoongi doesn't own much — a tv, an old playstation 2, a small couch, posters on the wall of people jungkook doesn't know, a dusty keyboard. polaroid pictures pile next to the television, we stole a car, says one of them, jimin piercing his ears, he cried TT, yoongi by a fire, his eyes alight, inhumanly yellow, namjoon blowing smoke at whoever took the picture. the knot in jungkook's heart gets tighter.

his phone rings again, startling him. namjoon-hyung, reads the screen. "hello?"

"finally, i thought we had killed you," namjoon laughs, weakly, and there's noise around him, cars and people and life. "listen, i'm sorry—"

"i feel better, it's nothing," he is quick to say, words mashing together as he chews. "i just never drank before, i guess."

"next time we go for beers, and not straight up whiskey." they both laugh, and jungkook's heartbeat races. next time — there will be a next time. the thought itself makes his smile grow. "is yoongi-hyung there?"

"no, he left for a while."

"i'll be there later today," jungkook nods, and then he hums, because he remembers namjoon can't see him. "see you, then?"

"yeah, see you — hyung."

namjoon doesn't oppose the word, and jungkook sits on the couch, starry-eyed, strangely ebullient, despite the biting headache. both the waffles and coffee are gone by the time yoongi comes back, one or two or three hours later, and jungkook sits up straight on the couch he's been lounging, suddenly worried the television is too loud, or that he touched things he shouldn't. "you look better," yoongi points out, holding plastic bags on both his hands, and jungkook notices the bruises on his knees through the rips on his jeans. "no vomit on your pants. well, not recent, at least."

he blushes, looking away. "is sungjae-hyung—"

"he's not mad or anything," yoongi waves a hand. "he just thought you bolted with his keys."

"i need to go to work," jungkook swallows, worried, face red, standing up. "i need to go."

yoongi puts the bags on the table, and it seems like he needs to keep himself busy, jungkook thinks. he starts unpacking, movements somewhat slow, controlled. "at least wait for namjoon to take you home."

"no, it's okay, i can find my way back," jungkook feels nervous, jittery all of a sudden. "you've helped me enough already."

their eyes meet. jungkook feels himself shrink, embarrassed. he made a fool of himself, he threw up on yoongi, he passed out in front of all the others — he can't seem to look him in the eye for that long of a time, so he doesn't, looking away. yoongi stops, hands on the table. "do you have any money at least?"

his cheeks feel too hot. money. jungkook involuntarily touch the back pockets of his dirty jeans, but there's nothing there. "no, but—"

"wait for namjoon, then," yoongi's voice has an imposing tone, as if he's talking to a very small child that needs a stronger, unwavering voice. jungkook feels worse. the next sentence is said much more casually, almost mumbled. "i brought food, anyway."

jungkook shifts on his weight, helpless. "— okay."

yoongi looks his way, and his eyes wander about him. "take off your pants," he says finally, some pink from his hair sort of blending with his face. jungkook watches him, tongue dry. "i have a washing machine."

"ah— thanks." he's back into yoongi's clothes again, the plaid shirt warm, the sweatpants short. yoongi is already cooking by the time he comes back into the living room, so jungkook puts his clothes to wash (and yoongi's, too, they were there, anyway). it feels odd, the mood. not bad odd, just — odd. jungkook feels strangely at home, when he shouldn't. "do you need any help?"

"chop those, i guess."

they work in silence, tip-toeing around in each other in the small kitchen. sometimes their elbows touch, sometimes yoongi gets close enough jungkook can smell peach on him, sometimes their eyes meet halfway. a couple of times he opens his mouth, wanting to start a conversation, only to end up eating his syllables, unsure of what to say. "— are you always this quiet?"

jungkook inhales, ears burning. "i'm just — embarrassed."

"of getting wasted?" yoongi laughs. "you're not the first to throw up on my pants."

"— do you bring them home, too?"

somehow the question doesn't come out the way jungkook intends, it implies more — just more. yoongi looks at him over his shoulder and through pink strands of messy hair, eyebrows raised. "no," he replies, then, voice uneven. "i never bring people home."

"oh."

yoongi puts down the spoon he's holding, a tired sigh escaping his lips. he opens his mouth to say something, but the doorbell buzzes, harsh on their ears, and they both stare at the door, unmoving, startled, as if caught red handed doing something they shouldn't. finally, yoongi moves to open it. namjoon brought food, too, but junk shit, potato chips and soda. "you look good," namjoon smiles at jungkook, who can't help but smile back. then he pats yoongi's back, a quick thing of a touch, but jungkook doesn't miss how his fingers press just the slightest against yoongi's shoulderblade. intimacy, he reckons, and looks away. "you look like you haven't slept."

"i didn't," yoongi shrugs. "i'm not used to having people around."

"i know," namjoon smirks, casually scooping up a spoon of whatever yoongi is cooking. it smells good. jungkook feels suddenly too out of place.

"i'm sorry, i can go—"

"shut up," both namjoon and yoongi say, but only yoongi follows, pointing chopsticks at him. "you can go once you've eaten."

namjoon scoffs, and yoongi glares at him under his short eyelashes. jungkook is bewitched by the way they move and talk and are around each other — as if they've known each other for such a time there's nothing left to hide, or nothing else to be except themselves. the transparency bothers him, even, because he often wraps himself in protective layers. yoongi turns off the stove, the pans clank against each other, namjoon grabs plates from the cubboard over yoongi's head, obviously familiared with yoongi's kitchen organization.

"carbonara," yoongi says, holding the plate in front of jungkook.

"it looks awful," namjoon comments, and jungkook breaks into a smile, because it does resemble all the puke on his jeans. then he raises an apologetic hand, mouth full, chopsticks dirty with sauce. "it's delicious awful, though, hyung. just buy some goddamn forks, ok?"

"forks are for the weak," yoongi tells him, flatly.

the pasta is good, true, and jungkook finds out he's too hungry for his own good. he eats three servings, and by the second yoongi has stopped eating, pushing the pan towards him. jungkook offers to wash the dishes, none of them oppose. through the water running he can still hear the conversation happening a few steps from him. yoongi's voice is raspy, namjoon's voice is smooth — both intentionally low, but jungkook can still make up bits of it. i'm surprised you brought him over, he's a kid, he isn't a kid, hyung, he looks like one, yeah, but—, the sound of wrapping paper muffles the sounds for a while, jungkook washes the dishes slowly, stalling. his clothes spin on the washing machine. — barely know him, he reminds me of you, hyung, yeah — he kind of does remind me of myself, too, we can keep him, he's not a dog, namjoon, i didn't mean it like that, dumbass, hey, watch it —. jungkook turns off the water when there's nothing left to wash, the conversation dies down.

"i think the clothes are done," he comments, blush still clinging to his cheeks, not really looking at any of them. we can keep him. what messes him up the most is that he wants to be kept. "i'll just—"

"i don't have a dryer, so you just go with my clothes," yoongi shrugs, standing, disappearing behind the door of his room. when he comes back, he's holding a sweatshirt of the warmest red. he puts it down in front of jungkook, and there's blush on his cheeks too, surprisingly. "it's raining a bit."

"— thanks."

his wet clothes are shoved into plastic bags, and he mutters a couple of other thanks on his way out, until he stands outside on the cold corridor, looking behind him, and yoongi drags his feet on the carpet, staring. jungkook only remembers to look away when namjoon taps his arm, and they go down the stairs quietly. namjoon ows a car, an old thing of a 1996 hyundai falling to pieces, but it takes jungkook home quicker than the train. they drive alongside the tracks on the motorway, in silence. sometimes namjoon looks at him, but jungkook's staring outside the window, to the blocks of apartament, all ugly, colored of soot and suburbia.

"— are you really living at the bookstore?" namjoon asks, after what it seems like a long time, by the time they're driving past more familiar streets.

"yeah, it's alright," he replies.

"i'd offer you my couch, but i don't think it'd be that much comfortable."

"you don't have to," jungkook shakes his head. "i'm okay."

"yoongi-hyung— has space." namjoon implies. "i'm sure you could—"

"no," the thought is alluring, but jungkook can't afford it. "i'm alright where i am."

namjoon parks at the gas station. the book store is open, jungkook can make up sungjae through the window, eyes following letters on a book. it's a clear view, he realizes. the boys could really seem him from there, all the way from across the street. "— take care, then, kid," namjoon says, when jungkook opens the door.

"thank you for taking me home."

"that couch — it doesn't have to be your home."

"i'm alright. hyung." once again, the word comes out chopped, strange. namjoon doesn't seem to mind it.

"okay, okay," he shrugs. "see you."

jungkook waves, crossing the street, hearing the rattling of namjoon's car disappearing into a corner. his heart feels heavy, and he inhales sharply before going in the book store, the smell of paper and its familiar sentences and fantasy characters calming him down. the bell on top of the door rings, sungjae looks up. jungkook doesn't feel home at all.

 

 

"you went all pale and then you just died," taehyung laughs, sat by a pile of books for sale, hands holding the hunger games upside down. it's weeks later, maybe less, maybe more, jungkook has lost track of the time. they keep coming back for him — most of them — sitting with him during long afternoons, stopping by to drop him food. yoongi hasn't been around, jungkook only catching flickers of hues of magenta outside, but it's never him. jimin shakes his head, elbowing taehyung's side, making him squirm.

"let it go, it's been ages," he warns, rolling his eyes. jungkook smiles, despite his awkwardness. jimin clears his throat. "we're going out later, you should come this time."

"ah," jungkook nods. "i think i'll pass."

"no, you're going," taehyung throws him a book, but jungkook catches mid-flight, and both jimin and taehyung jeer. "— freaking golden maknae."

"we won't let you get wasted this time."

"or we will," jimin slaps his arm, shoving him against the books, which scatter around, muffled thuds against the wooden floor. taehyung whines. "— what, it was funny!"

"thank you, but—"

"we're going to the castle," jungkook raises his eyebrows at that, but jimin carries on, unconcerned. "it's our place."

"the castle?"

"you'll see."

jungkook shakes his head, closing the cash drawer, writing down the money on the notebook next to it. he managed to sell five books — it was a good day. "i don't think it's a good idea."

"why not?" both jmin and taehyung stare at him, eyes curious. they're not much older than him, maybe a year or two, and they seem to be an intricate unit, much like namjoon and yoongi, their edges matching, their souls alike. there are far too many layers between them — things unseen, but noticed by careful, prying eyes.

"i'm not —," jungkook mumbles, shrugging. "i'm not part of it, am i?"

taehyung huffs. "part of what?"

"part of — you, i guess," the pen he's holding slips through his fingers, and jungkook messily tries to hold it. he smiles, trying to pretend some sort of easiness. "you haven't known me for that long, anyway, you don't have to—"

"and then he gives me a smile that just seems so genuinely sweet with just the right touch of shyness that unexpected warmth rushes through me," taehyung says, suddenly, and both jimin and jungkook look at him. he raises the book, the pages flapping. it's still upside down "katniss everdeen, the girl on fire. quite literally."

there's a second of silence before jungkook feels himself breaking into laughter. it flows through him, shaking his bones. jimin laughs too, shoving taehyung again, and the sounds of it rattle the books, shaking dead authors asleep on their shelves. "you should come with us," jimin finally says, running a hand through the dark of his hair. taehyung pushes the book into a random shelf, and jungkook makes a mental note to put it back in place. "you will eventually, i guess. why not now?"

"i'll — think about it, i guess."

"you should," jimin smiles, his smile enough to lit up the room. they both get up, stretching their limbs, jimin's short ones, taehyung's lanky ones. "we'll see you, then. have a nice day, kook."

the shortening of his name makes him smile. jungkook still doesn't know what they do — taehyung seems to always appear with black eyes from nights out, while jimin smells of japchae, probably from his family's restaurant. their lives are just as mysterious as those of characters jungkook will never read. he knows them only in the bubble he's been put in. "yeah, sure."

when they're gone, jungkook sighs, walking over to the shelf taehyung shoved the hunger games in, but the book escapes his fingers, and when he picks it up from the floor, his eyes find a sentence at random, kind people have a way of working their way inside me and rooting there. he stares at it for a whole good minute, and it stings how much he relates. he keeps the book, the cover an omnious black and golden, thinking he should start reading, too.

his phone stirs, a message chiming in.

hey, this is yoongi. i asked namjoon for your number, i hope that's okay.

jungkook thinks he replies too fast. it's alright. then he adds: hi. he bites down on his lip, staring at the screen too intensely. yoongi types, and it takes a while for something to come through.

he told me to pick you up when you're done. we're going somewhere. is that okay with you?

can't i go with him?

  1. but it's okay if you don't want to come with me.

i didn't mean it like that. but he erases, suddenly too self-aware of how his words might have sounded, or sound. i can go with you. namjoon lives by the trains, too, at a rooftop apartment, from what he heard. taehyung commented it is a dump, and that sometimes his father shows up, drunk and asking for money (and at this taehyung's voice got sharp, so sharp it could cut). taehyung also has a father who gets home drunk, but when that happens, they all know, because it shows on his face. they don't talk about it, not out loud.

a chime comes through, startling him. good. i'll see you soon. jungkook sends an okay as a reply, and the screen is about to go off, but another message pops in, tone less formal. take a jacket, it gets chilly there. he smiles, for no good reason, or for reasons he can't understand.

it doesn't take long this time — the day doesn't drag. yoongi walks in when jungkook is finishing closing up, hair still wet from his quick shower, stomach full of the leftovers sungjae's wife offered him. yoongi looks off amidst all the books, as if he just came out of one of them, some dystopic world by his ripped jeans and cheap boots, or a contemporary romance, by the pink of his roots. the summer sun, already descending in the sky, colors his edges warmly through the window. "hey."

"hi."

yoongi pushes his hands into his pockets, looking around. "no wonder namjoon loves this place," he mutters, a crooked sort of smile on his face. "it's dusty."

"we can go in a minute, i just need to — finish here," jungkook comments, feeling water dripping from his hair and into the collar of his shirt. yoongi hums, walking around, eyes wandering. jungkook observes him through the cracks in between the shelves, much like he does with namjoon. but while namjoon looks so calm there, yoongi just looks opressed. he can't help but wonder. "you don't like books?"

"no," he stops, picking up a copy of a dictionary, instead. "i like words, though."

"that's a fallacy, isn't it?"

no reply comes, just a shrug. he understands yoongi doesn't want to talk about it, the conversation not really welcomed. jungkook stumbles on his feet as he closes the door to the office, his couch being left behind. he almost hopes he doesn't get to come back that night. "you can sleep at my place," yoongi offers, as if he can read his thoughts all the way from the threshold, as he holds the door open. jungkook shakes his head, joining him.

"— no, i can come back home."

"okay, then."

they walk for a while, they catch the subway at some point. jungkook took enough money from his savings to avoid the embarrassement of not having any again. yoongi doesn't offer to pay, this time. the subway ride is long, they change lines a couple of times, and jungkook wonders how big seoul is and if he'll ever see all of it. probably not. at some point, yoongi nods off, head sort of falling sideways, against jungkook's shoulder. he stills, unsure, heart trembling. "yoongi-ssi—" he calls. yoongi hums. "which station are we supposed to go off?"

"the last," yoongi mumbles, reaching closer. "your shoulder is bony, like namjoon's."

jungkook looks down at their knees touching, cheeks hot. "i'll — wake you up, then."

he has to shake yoongi awake when the train comes to a stop at the last station, platform eerie and empty, not many people on board anymore. they are already at the outskirts of the city, where industries stain the air brown, and highrises are uglier, older, lacking the pretty modern glass that reflects the night. the sun has set, it is almost half past nine, jungkook notices. he shudders a bit, the breeze somewhat chilly. yoongi looks at him as they walk out of the station, into the sidewalk of yet a motorway. seoul seems to be made of those, and jungkook muses they might look like arteries from the sky. "you didn't a bring a jacket."

"ah — i forgot, i guess." yoongi clicks his tongue, but doesn't say anything else. "where is it? the castle, i mean."

"not too far now."

they take a turn through small, coble streets, until yoongi just enters a patio, the grass so high he almost disappears in it. their phones work as lanterns, there's a sign reading for sale stabbed in the ground, graffiti staining the contacts of whoever owns the piece of land. they go uphill, jungkook breathes somewhat sharply. once his feet fails him, and he slips, and his hand involuntarily hold onto yoongi's jacket for support, fingers pressing against the small of his back. yoongi doesn't turn, seemingly unaffected. finally, jungkook sees the bones of an old construction, and then voices carried with the wind.

"welcome to the castle," yoongi smiles, pulling him up a particularly steep hill, hand grabbing at the skin of his arm.

the castle isn't a castle, but a house — it would have been big, spacious, if ever finished. some walls remained, some furniture even, tables of expensive wood rotting under the influence of time. a naked chandelier hangs from the ceiling of the first floor, the crystals gone. the second floor never got entirely built. they cross what was once a foyer, dirty sheets covering ghosts of past objects. the voices grow louder as they reach the other side of the house — the pool, an empty square of dirt, is alight with a bonfire, old couches and armchairs and car seats around it, boys throwing fire dust in it, watching the flames glow different colors, and the low riffs of wish you were here float around them. they're magic; jungkook's heart beats in disarray.

"— seems like yoongi managed to get jungkook to come," seokjin says when they reach the edge of the pool, raising a bottle of beer, and the others turn, their faces full of angled shadows from the fire. yoongi jumps in, landing with a huff, and jungkook stands there, for a whole good second, afraid of the fall. it's only when yoongi looks up at him that he holds his breath, letting himself take the jump, too. "you're late."

"i'm—"

"it's my fault, i had stuff to do at the bar," yoongi cuts in, already grabbing a bottle of whatever they're drinking, flames painting his hair darker, almost brown. jungkook sits next to him on a couch that smells of rain water and old age. yoongi pushes him closer to the fire, mumbling, low enough to be maybe missed by the others. "don't be cold."

"here," hoseok holds a bottle for him, grinning. "it's only beer, not whiskey."

the beer is stingy on his tongue, bitter pale ale. it isn't cold, not enough to taste good, but he drinks anyway, as if to keep himself busy. the boys settle back to their routine, clicking together as they do when close to each other, jungkook still more like a watcher than a participant, a wallflower, smiling sometimes, eyes observing their faces, heart beating and beating and beating, relentlessly. conversation is mundane, namjoon discusses random politics with an unimpressed seokjin, taehyung is telling hoseok about the dancers he'd seen at a mall jungkook doesn't know, jimin chooses the next song on his phone. "— what do you think of the castle?" yoongi asks him after a while, in that tone that doesn't leave room to invite anyone else to join them.

"i like it," jungkook nods, looking at him sideways. yoongi's profile is symmetrical, charming, he thinks briefly, feeling hot. "who found it?"

"seokjin-hyung, a couple of years ago."

he takes another sip of the beer. "how long — have you been friends?"

yoongi seems to think for a while, nose scrunching in sort of an endearing, childish way. "a while now," it's his answer, and he looks at jungkook this time, and jungkook realizes they're sitting too close, once again. "— you look cold."

"i'm not," he shakes his head. yoongi stares for a moment, before looking away, down at his pockets until he finds a cigarette pack. he lights one quickly, nostrils flaring with smoke, smelling minty. he offers the cigarette to jungkook, silently, not a new one from his full pack, but the one he's smoking. jungkook tries, coughing less. they pass the cigarette between them until it's over, yoongi's fingers are warm, contrasting against jungkook's cold ones.

"you two," taehyung calls to them, and jungkook blushes, remembering the others are there. somehow his mind got lost on the way yoongi holds the cigarette, how his fingers fold almost graciously. "we're playing a game, care to join?"

"which game?"

"spin the bottle," taehyung grins, holding up a bottle of cheap, brandless absinthe. jungkook swallows, suddenly nervous. still, he nods, feigning lack of interest, or fear. the bottle is put just at the center of their small circle, and conversations end slowly, anxiously, until they're all paying attention to it and how the fire dances on the green inside the glass. taehyung clears his throat. "you know the rules. bottom chooses truth or dare. if none is accomplished, you drink," he stops, probably for effect. taehyung is a good actor — when he speaks next, it is in english, thick accent lingering at the corner of his words, voice high, and it echoes faintly. the others sneer. "may the odds be ever in your favor."

"you're such a nerd," namjoon shakes his head, smiling.

the bottle is spun, jungkook feels as if his heart will stop beating. seokjin and jimin both look at each other when the bottle draws the line. the game does start tame. stupid little questions that jungkook doesn't mind answering, stupid little dares no one minds doing, even yoongi, who seems the most uncomfortable amongst them. it starts getting more personal as it goes on, and jungkook drinks for four rounds straight, the absinthe sweet and bitter at the same time (he can't recall the questions later, their words mashing up together in his brain). "truth, i guess," he says, once again, the bottle pointing at taehyung, who has the most horrible, evil smile on his face the moment the last syllable comes off his mouth. regret stains jungkook's mind at once.

"how was your first kiss?"

the spotlight that is put on him bothers, and he shrivels, face probably red. "i haven't — had a first kiss yet." he's looking down, and the only thing he notices is yoongi's hand curling into a fist, his knuckles pale. the others hoot, shoving his shoulder, laughing. jungkook puts on a smile.

"an actual virgin," taehyung comments, voice loud.

"as if you're not," jimin rolls his eyes, but he's laughing too, his shoulders shaking. taehyung pushes him out of the couch, until jimin has to go sit with hoseok, their limbs fiddling together easily.

"you're young," namjoon says, as if it means to lessen his embarrassement. it doesn't, really, but jungkook is grateful nonetheless. "you'll get to—"

he doesn't hear the rest of the sentence, not really. jungkook isn't expecting to be grabbed, but he is, taehyung's hands on the side of his face not really gently, nails grazing his skin. he presses their lips together, and jungkook shuts his eyes closed, flustered, holding onto taehyung's wrists. it lasts nothing, just a flicker of a touch. the other boys scream around them, and jungkook feels lightheaded. "there, now you've kissed someone," taehyung says, patting his arm.

jungkook blinks, aghast, lips parted, tingly.

"— that's a shitty kiss," hoseok points out, rolling his eyes, arms around jimin's waist in a way that implies another level of intimacy. "there were no feelings."

"i don't fucking like him, hyung," taehyung makes a face, sitting back. jungkook's heart is still messed up, he hopes the others can't hear. taehyung clears his throat, expression changing. the bottle is spun, destiny laying a hand to taehyung, as the bottom of bottle points to hoseok. "show us, then."

"— show what?"

"kiss jungkook. with feelings. it's a dare."

jungkook's eyes widen, his body feeling so wired he thinks he'll throw up. hoseok raises his eyebrows, but then shrugs, standing up. "i'll show you, then." jungkook wants to say something to stop him, but he finds out he's curious for the sensation again — the itching that spread over his lips, the shakyness on his limbs. his body anticipates contact, starved for it. it doesn't mean anything, he tells himself. kissing doesn't mean anything (kissing boys does, some part of his brain say, stern). it's different when hoseok kisses him, less sloppy, but it also doesn't last. still, jungkook almost gasps when he feels hoseok's tongue against his bottom lip, just a brush of a touch. it doesn't go much further, and it doesn't feel like anything, after all. "see?" hoseok says, looking at taehyung with victory. "he's even trembling."

"i'm not trembling," he feels entitled to say, swallowing. "just cold."

"this is a fucked up game," yoongi comments, and jungkook doesn't know if his face is red or it is just the fire. his eyes are filled with bitterness when he looks at jungkook, taking his jacket off, pushing it onto jungkook's chest. "you should put it on."

"here, another kiss for you, jk," seokjin rambles on, as they all ignore yoongi's annoyance. jungkook almost holds his breath, but seokjin sends him a dramatic flying kiss from the other side of the fire, before getting shoved by an embarrassed namjoon. jungkook laughs, and the others do too, even yoongi smiles just the slightest, a huff of a thing, too close to jungkook.

"he's got three kisses, now," taehyung counts. "go, jimin."

"i don't—" jungkook starts, voice stammering. "i don't need—"

"i won't kiss you like that," jimin untangles himself from hoseok's lanky arms, reaching out to pull on jungkook's sleeve, and jungkook finds himself forcefully leaning on yoongi's lap, hearing his breath getting held in his lungs, feeling his fingers touching his sides as if to stop him. jimin lays down a kiss on jungkook's hair, ruffling it. there's a choir of taunts, syllables spreading around them like ghosts.

jungkook swallows, sitting back, muttering apologies to a sour looking yoongi. he's slightly overwhelmed, body somewhat jittery, breathing in despair. he doesn't want them to stop, and the thought feels shameful. "namjoon-hyung, you should kiss jungkook, too," taehyung pushes.

"no, that's— enough," jungkook pleads, voice small. "i'm—"

"embarrassed," namjoon helps him, nodding.

"hard, probably," taehyung whistles, opening the botle of absinthe. he offers namjoon the bottle. "kiss or drink, hyung."

"is this the game we're playing now? because i'm—" yoongi starts, standing up, and jungkook remembers he hasn't put on the jacket yet. it was a lie, after all. he isn't that cold. in fact, he's sweating.

the bottle is halfway empty already, glistening against the bonfire, they're all slightly lightheaded, visions blurring at the edges. jungkook wonders how he'll get home, and when he does so, the makeshift bed beside yoongi's come to mind. he erases it, just to find out the space where home was once is void. "— okay, then," he hears namjoon mumbles, and hears him getting up and getting closer (because he can't stand to look), and almost expects to get kissed again. yoongi huffs, then, walking away, and namjoon stands there, unmoving. they all watch yoongi disappear amidst the dark bones of the house. "fuck, i'll drink."

"let's all drink," seokjin tries, and they all nod, more quiet now, and jungkook wonders if yoongi walking away is something common. the bottle is passed on until namjoon has the last sip, and at that point, jungkook feels slow again, and maybe nauseous, and maybe incredibly infatuated with the way the flames change angles on the boys' faces. they're all beautiful, carved out of the shadows, lost boys, with neverland sleeping on their shoulders. jungkook breathes shallowly.

constellations, that's what they decide to do, then, or watch, a better choice of words. they push broken car seats and old couches away to lay on the floor, the flames now almost reduced to cinders, and the sky above them is alight, stars freckled on its vastness. jungkook feels small — feels transparent, surreal, even. "do you reckon there's people like us out there?" his question comes out loud, to his own surprise. jimin chuckles.

"what kind of bullshit question is that, jungkook," he laughs.

"maybe there are better versions of ourselves out there," namjoon comments, and he gets hums of agreement. "versions that are doing right."

"— what do you mean?" jungkook turns his head the slightest, staring at namjoon in the almost-dark. his eyes reflect the stars, the flames.

"versions of us that aren't lost, i guess."

jungkook doesn't know why he reaches for namjoon's hand, but he does. namjoon's hold on his fingers is weak, but caring enough. peter pan was also a lost boy, jungkook thinks. they lay there for a while, jungkook's head spins, namjoon lets go of his hand after a while, their palms sweaty. at some point, and the constellations are dancing inside his pupils and the flames are gone and jungkook hears the steady breathing of sleeping boys, at some point he sits up, yoongi's jacket rolling off his body. his phone, battery almost dead, tells him it's nearly two in the morning. a chilly, uncertain cold has fallen upon them. his steps falter when he walks, his head feels heavy, the fabric of the jacket cold against his fingers. the screen of his phone provides little to no light, and jungkook feels stupid walking inside the forgotten house alone, but he hears music. the piano is clear, emphatic against the brittle walls. jungkook follows it, drunk eyes almost blind in the dark.  

the lantern of yoongi's phone is on, giving him a ghostly, almost gauzy appearance. the piano sits in a room devoid of colors, and it's a rotting piece of wood. some of the keys don't work anymore, and the notes stutters, as if nervous. yoongi glances his way, and the song perishes, silence much more raw and tangible. he sighs, after a minute. "— are you going to be sick? you don't look too good."

"no," jungkook swallows, embarrassed. "i thought you left."

"just didn't feel like being there," yoongi shrugs, pressing a soundless key.

"i'm sorry."

"— why are you apologizing?"

"maybe i did something wrong."

"you didn't." jungkook watches him open his mouth, but nothing comes out. he waits, and yoongi adds, shaking his head, huffing. "i barely know you." the sentence seems to be said more to himself than to jungkook, and it does hurt the slightest, like a splinter digging in jungkook's skin (or heart) (his heart stings, too, oddly). yoongi pushes the bench away when he stands, the noise hurts jungkook's ears. he points vaguely to the jacket. "put that on."

jungkook doesn't move, but yoongi does, a heavy sigh escaping his lips, and jungkook coils when yoongi grabs his arms, pushing them inside the sleeves. "i'm not cold," he says, a bit dizzy.

"you're cold and you're drunk and you're stupid," yoongi lists, trying to hold onto the zipper as jungkook squirms.

"i'm not," but jungkook doesn't know which. he wants to say all, but it isn't the truth. yoongi tries to still him, but he coils away. "— hyung." maybe it is the use of a word jungkook isn't sure he has intimacy for, maybe it is the fact yoongi realizes he's stepping over lines. he takes a step back, blurry reds on his cheeks even in the faint light. they breathe odd, staring at each other.

"— did you want them to kiss you like that?" the question takes jungkook by surprise.

the pause lingers, jungkook presses his fingers against his palms, digging his nails in. "m—maybe," he stutters. he doesn't look away, even if his eyes start to tear up from trying not to blink. he's too scared he'll do it and the reality he built for himself will crumble in the dark, empty halls of the castle on the hill. "i was curious." something very hot spreads lower on his belly when yoongi's gaze falls to his lips for half a second before meeting his eyes again.

"you shouldn't let them—" it's a stupid idea to inch forward, it's a stupid idea to close his eyes, it's a stupid idea to press his lips against yoongi's just like taehyung did to him, it's a stupid idea to relish in the fact absinthe still coats his lips enough for yoongi to probably taste it. jungkook stumbles when he gets pushed away, but it doesn't hurt — not physically. yoongi looks disappointed, eyes dark. jungkook mumbles empty apologies. he has no excuses. he just wanted to know how it would feel. "when are you turning eighteen?"

another weird, pointless, maybe, question. "september first."

a bony, thin finger is pressed right in the middle of his chest. "you're not drinking anymore until then."

jungkook scoffs, and it startles himself. "you can't tell me what to do."

something of a shadow crosses yoongi's face. jungkook wants to kiss him again just because, but he holds his feet back, despite his feverishly rebellious mindset. "i guess not," yoongi finally says. he walks towards his phone, shutting off the lantern, and the silence in the room gets thousands of times more poignant as they're embraced by the dark. yoongi's voice breaks it, after a moment. "i'm going back."

"— home?"

"i'm already home," yoongi's voice is low, close, and jungkook feels him walking by, arm brushing against jungkook's. somehow it doesn't surprise jungkook when he feels the borderline gentle tug on the hem of the jacket, pulling him on. he follows, blindly, and they stumble together through empty, unfinished rooms.

the boys are still sleeping, piled on top of each other for body heat, the fire burning low. yoongi lights it up again, flames licking at logs and twigs and old newspaper. jungkook watches, sort of forlorn, as yoongi finds woollen blankets left behind around the pool, and when he jumps in again, he tosses one at jungkook, going around, tucking the boys in. namjoon raises his head at some point, blinking at yoongi, muttering a muffled go to sleep, hyung, and yoongi just nods, throwing the blanket over him and taehyung. when all the boys are wrapped in covers, he stops and turns, looking at jungkook. "where—" jungkook starts, but yoongi is already going towards the couch, patting the seat beside him, and jungkook's feet drag on the dirty floor of the pool as he walks closer.

they share the blanket, and it's uncomfortable to sleep sitting up. jungkook realizes he's tired, exhausted, even, the absinthe hindering his body, slowing his train of thought. yoongi lights up a cigarette. "sleep," he says, smoke lacing his words.

"it isn't very comfortable," jungkook sighs, eyes closed. he doesn't flinch when yoongi touches him, not this time, because his touch is so gentle it almost feels as if he's afraid of jungkook (and maybe he is, in a sense). yoongi brings him closer, until jungkook is pressed against his side, his chest as a pillow, his arm against jungkook's shoulder.

"better?"

jungkook's face burns entirely. "yeah — better."

"sleep, then."

"— when jimin and taehyung came around, you didn't talk to them," jungkook blurts out the knowledge passed on to him. he treats you different, taehyung had complained, words jealous, and jimin just shrugged, touching taehyung's neck delicately, tone mocking, maybe jungkook is easier to like. "why?"

"i don't like changes," yoongi replies after a moment, then he adds, just slightly bitter. "namjoon falls in love with people too easily. his heart is too big."

"i'm — sorry," jungkook listens to yoongi's heart beating, and it's calm, unlike the wirlwind inside his ribcage. he closes his eyes, voice starting to dwindle as sleep conquers him to itself. "for being another change." i'm sorry for kissing you when i shouldn't. i'm sorry, i'm sorry, i'm sorry. 

"you're," yoongi inhales, jungkook thinks he can hear all the oxygen pooling inside his lungs. he shift a bit, bringing himself closer, and yoongi's fingers touch his arm, almost like a soft caress. "you're different."

"i'm not different," he mumbles, words too loose on his tongue.

"just go to sleep," yoongi says, and jungkook breathes in his smell, of pine wood and burnt smoke and open rooms full of a nothingness too blatant, and drifts, drifts, easily, yoongi's fingers running up and down his arm kindly. you're different, too, it's his last thought, or at least one he can remember.

 

 

(this time he dreams of broken pianos, its song carried away by sunset-colored breeze, and kisses, too many of them, burning on his tongue.)

 

 

he isn't the first to wake up, but around him, jungkook feels as if the world has stopped. the fire is extinguished, sleepy boys roll on uncomfortable positions, and the sun has just risen, staining the sky shades of fading oranges. yoongi's asleep, deeply, jungkook can tell by his parted lip and steady breathing. they moved during the night, it seems, tangling into a mess of body parts. jungkook blushes, overwhelmed.

"you look — comfortable," seokjin's voice is still heavy with sleep, but he's standing a couple of feet away, a camera on his hand. he walks closer as jungkook tries to untangle himself, feeling his neck hot. seokjin hands him a polaroid. "here, keep it."

the polaroid is small, and jungkook waits a moment as the colors appear, intrinsic little patterns like long lost magic. yoongi's face is peaceful, his hair colored like nostalgia falling over his eyes, one arm firmly around jungkook's back. jungkook, on the other hand, looks troubled, waking up, head still using yoongi's chest as a pillow, arms beside their entwined bodies, fingers curled around the fabric of his sleeves. he stares at the picture for too long of a time, at the sheer intimacy of their slumber, and it affects him. when yoongi stirs, jungkook rushes up, fiddling with the jacket that isn't his, memories of a stolen kiss finding his way into his vision, painting it pink.

"hungry?" seokjin asks, blind to jungkook's inner turmoils. "we can wake up the rest of them and go out to eat."

"yeah, that's good."

"hyung," seokjin smiles at him. "that's good, hyung.

jungkook smiles, too, taking off yoongi's jacket, leaving it by the couch. the morning sun feels dry and hot already, burning his cheeks. "that's good, hyung," he repeats, and seokjin seems pleased. he takes another picture of jungkook, and jungkook thinks back on all the polaroids yoongi keeps by his television, all the moments frozen in time by seokjin, a time lord amongst forgotten boys.

they wake the others up, the whole army of sleepy soldiers, grumpy and mumbling about. taehyung wraps languid arms around jimin's waist, chin on his shoulder, eyes closed. hoseok pets his hair, smiling. namjoon and seokjin wake yoongi up, his eyes puffy and red. jungkook feels full — full of things he can't explain. the feelings are overwhelming, heart beating quicker, rattling his ribcage. he thinks for a moment he might have fallen in love with what they represent, but the thought scatters as he feels himself grow flustered. seokjin has a car — one of those big trucks from fancy households, and they all jump in once they're out of the woods that circle the castle, hungry and hangover, pulling and pushing jackets, ruffling hairs. they drive recklessly, jungkook holds on tight, laughing.

noodles are enough to feed them, the store owner sending them away with annoyed yells as soon as the first cigarette is lit in front of it, so they eat by the train tracks. jungkook doesn't know what time is it, phone dead. "slept well?" namjoon asks him at some point, elbowing his ribs. they're sitting at the top of one of the unused box cars, the city spreading around them, sun up high, burning.

"yeah," jungkook nods, looking at his hands, blood coloring his neck red. "i'm used to sleeping on couches, i guess."

"you don't have to," namjoon voice is low, maybe because he knows jungkook feels embarrassed about his current living situation. jungkook opens his mouth to retort, but namjoon raises apologetic hands. "i know — you don't want any help. i get that."

"i like the view here," jungkook comments, then, to change the topic. his ears are still red, and he avoids eye contact. "thank you."

"— what for?"

"for keeping me, i guess," he shrugs, stealing a glance. namjoon smiles at him, almost timidly.

"so you heard that conversation," they both laugh weakly. jungkook tries to pick up on the others' conversation, but he fails to pay enough attention, eyes focused on the patterns of namjoon's shirt so to not meet his eyes. "yoongi-hyung says you're not a dog to be kept." 

"you can still keep me," he blurts out, anxiously, needy. "please, hyung."

namjoon eyes him for a while, jungkook feels himself shrink. then he clears his throat, clapping his hands, and the boys look at him, frowns and raised eyebrows. "jungkookie here is ours now," he says, when curious silence consumes them. jungkook swallows, eyes wide, staring at nothing in particular. he pats jungkook's back hard enough for him to press his fingers against the edge of the box car, metal hurting his fingers. "we never walk alone, do we?"

"no," hoseok agrees, bringing jungkook into half a hug, arm hanging over his shoulder. "plus, we've kissed already."

"please don't remind me of that, hyung," taehyung says, a disgusted expression on his face, and they all laugh. jungkook looks up finally, feeling lighter than he'd ever been, and his eyes find yoongi's almost immediately, stumbling on the way their corners wrinkle when he laughs freely, pink hair tousled against the breeze. jungkook's heart skips a beat, and it spreads warmth all over his chest, seeping through his clothes, leaving a trail of cigarette smoke and pink sunsets on its wake.

he coils when namjoon gets closer, whispering in his ear words only he car hear. "thank you for making him laugh like that again," jungkook turns his head, face close to namjoon's, confused. "he's a tough one."

"i'm not doing anything—"

"yes, you are."

jungkook has a hard time keeping that out of his mind for the rest of the day. they run across the railways later, their howls loud and clear, spray paint on their hands, leaving handprints of their story in old forgotten, rusted box cars. the afternoon is a blur of shared cigarettes, gauzy smoke, loud music, snapped polaroids and hands that touch him every other time. they run, run, run, until their knees hurt, stumbling over their feet, young blood on their bruised legs, until they're spread across high grass again, the castle only barely visible in between the tall trees of the lonely hill.

i'm in love, jungkook thinks briefly, watching the sky change colors above them as nighttime starts its conquering. he's in love with all of them, the lost boys and their mismatched clothes, their boyish chaos, their accent, their smell of fresh paint and the blueberry lollipops stuck between their teeth. he allows himself to turn his head on the grass, just a bit, catching yoongi's profile beside him, close enough to touch. he looks happy. thank you for making him laugh like that again. jungkook feels the sort of exquiste pain that comes with staring at too beautiful of a thing. yoongi notices his stare, and when he turns his head, soft strands of magenta fall onto his eyes, touching his eyelashes. "what are you staring at, punk?" he asks, low and monotone.

"— are you happy?" he doesn't know why he asks. yoongi frowns. "right now. are you happy?"

"subjective," yoongi replies after a moment. then he sighs, blinking, and jungkook feels the heat of yoongi's breath as it reaches him. "why do you want to know?"

"just felt like asking," he shrugs, eyes tracing the features on yoongi's face, thick black eyebrows, his nose, the pout when he talks, air running out of his lungs. he averts his eyes quickly, blush all over his face. "you don't have to answer, i guess."

"do you want to go home?"

"—what?"

"i need a shower," yoongi sits up, stretching. "i smell like shit."

"i smell like flowers," hoseok comments, on the other side of jungkook. it's a lie, of course, they all do smell like shit. "you're taking jungkook home?" a choir of sneers follow, and jungkook shakes his head negatively. yoongi looks down at him, eyelids sleepy, eyes small. namjoon is sitting up, too, staring at the both of them.

"take him home, hyung," he says. a look is exchanged between yoongi and namjoon, one that jungkook doesn't understand.

jungkook wants to say no as he holds his body up by his elbows — he wants to say it's okay, he's got enough money for the train back, he'll find the way, he can always hitch-hike, but yoongi is standing already, and he offers jungkook his hand, bony, long fingers waiting for him, and jungkook feels as if his blood has turned into gasoline and yoongi has just tossed him his lighter. his nails are dirty, the tattoos jungkook never noticed on the side of his hand fading in the dimlight. jungkook takes his hand, and yoongi pulls him up.

they spread, silly goodbyes exchanged, to different parts of a lonely city, to homes and houses that pretend to be homes, souls never really leaving each other's. jungkook can still feel them as he follows yoongi wordlessly, and maybe that's their own very magic, the bond skin deep, bone deep, heart deep. yoongi falls asleep on the subway, head pending forward. jungkook remembers the way, shaking yoongi lightly when the station comes.

"i guess i'll see you, then," he says, as yoongi stands up.

"what are you doing?"

jungkook stares, unsure. "going home."

"home isn't a couch," yoongi grabs the sleeve of his shirt, pulling him through the doors that almost close on them, and jungkook stumbles on the platform, flustered. the lyrics of a muffled love of my life play around them through static-filled sound waves, love of my life, don't leave me."— look, jungkook—"

"you don't need to do this," he tells him, looking at their feet and how they stand too close. "i know namjoon-hyung asked, but—"

"he did," yoongi releases his sleeve, finally. "he's just worried."

"it's your house," jungkook tries to reason, too embarrassed. "you don't need to have me there."

"i don't," they're unmoving when the next train arrives, screaming at the tracks, sound gritty. people walk past them, unseen. to remind you how i still love you, i still love you. "you can pay me with chores, then. you can — fuck, i don't know, clean shit." back, hurry back.

jungkook breathes deeply, helpless. he wants to. his soul wants to, the atoms that make up his body stirring with the idea of having a home to go back to. "okay." yoongi seems to let go of all the air he's been holding, shoulders less tense. "i'll pay you as much as i can. cash."

"whatever makes you feel better," yoongi shrugs, and they finally start walking. jungkook recognizes faintly the way, some familiar buildings, the ugly blocks of concrete cheap and square. yoongi's aparment still smells of vanilla. "we can pick up your stuff tomorrow." 

"yeah, sure."

showers are taken, jungkook changes into yoongi's spare clothes, pants always smaller than his size. the television is on, some american 90s movie rerun, subtitles slightly delayed. yoongi cooks them dinner, spaghetti, and jungkook barely contains the pleased hums as he eats. they don't talk much, or at all, navigating around each other carefully. yoongi laughs sometimes at the movie, jungkook can't focus on it. it doesn't feel uncomfortable, just new. "can i use the bathroom?"

yoongi looks his way, eyebrows arched. "why are you asking?"

"it's your house—"

"you don't have to ask for anything," yoongi says, the words sort of leaving his mouth unnatended, and maybe he realizes the weight of them, because his cheeks get pink like his hair. the rest of his sentence is a mumbled mess. "i mean, i won't control your pee."

there's a pause as they stare at each other, and it lasts half a second before yoongi cracks into laughter, and jungkook does too, and their shoulders shake together, ridiculously. the rest of the night follows less tense, jungkook washes the dishes, they make jungkook's bed together, and yoongi promises to find him a decent mattress at some point. jungkook falls asleep listening to yoongi scribble on dirty pieces of paper, lyrics pouring out of his head freely, pencil scratching and scratching, nonstop. it's a lullaby.

 

 

a month has passed, jungkook realizes a random, draggy wednesday evening. he's been paying yoongi weekly, even though it's always a small thing of a fight until he accepts the money. they go to the castle every other day, sometimes all of them, sometimes just some, and jungkook doesn't feel anything when he smokes now, lungs fully at peace with their doomed destiny. he doesn't drink, unless yoongi offers him, a knowing sort of look on his face. the boys still pile around the books he works with, taehyung quoting lines from young adult titles as if they're poetry, namjoon buying classics with crooked money. yoongi works at night, almost every night, and they meet whenever one is leaving and the other one is arriving. it's an arrangement that works. take offs and landings, namjoon commented once, i've lived like that before.

"i'm not working tonight," yoongi tells him, walking by, hair wet from shower, all that alluring smell of peach shampoo. "maybe we can order a pizza."

"— ah."

yoongi looks at him from over the mug of coffee he's drinking. "you don't want to?" he asks.

"no, just—"

"it's your birthday," it's finally said out loud. jungkook looks away quickly. september first came too fast. he's surprised yoongi remembers. the next few words are said in lower tone, shy around the edges. "— i thought you wouldn't like spending it alone."

"won't you miss work?"

"it's a night, only, and it's wednesday," yoongi shrugs. "look, if you don't want to—"

"i want to," jungkook cuts in, voice just a bit strained. "pizza, i mean. we can have some."

"good," yoongi tosses him his phone, and jungkook scrambles to grab it. "order some you like, i'll pay."

thirty-five minutes later, and they're stuffing themselves with two large pepperoni pizzas, and jungkook hums, content. some music comes out of yoongi's phone, and they're sitting on the floor in between the sofa and the coffee table, legs folded under them, shoulders touching. it feels — homely, jungkook wants to say, warmth spreading all over him, tingly sensation on the tip of his fingers. sometimes they talk, how was your day?, ah, well, didn't sell anything, well they're books, no one wants them, a lot of people want them, bullshit, people have tablets now, so?, so books are crap, hey!, okay, i'm sorry, i was being unfair, they're just slightly crap. it's easy, to talk. jungkook doesn't feel the pressure of being anything else but whatever's left of himself to be. "you don't call me hyung," yoongi says eventually, when they're tossing empty pizza boxes in the trash, feeling slow and full. jungkook blushes at once. "why?"

"i thought — you didn't like it," he replies, trying to keep his hands busy, hair falling on his eyes. yoongi stares as him, as if waiting. "i'll call you hyung, if you want."

"good. this is for you," yoongi opens a cupboard, the bottle of wine has a silly ribbon on it. jungkook touches the bow carefully, face so red it matches the wine. "you should get wasted when you turn eighteen."

"i don't think i want to get wasted again," he shakes his head, smiling. yoongi laughs.

"let's open it."

"— hyung," he calls, for the first time, or not really, but for the first time it means something. jungkook doesn't miss how yoongi's pupils blow. "thank you." their eyes meet halfway, and jungkook has trouble averting them. somehow he's reminded of how yoongi's lips felt when he kissed him, the memory like an ever present ghost, looming and haunting. there's nothing left of taehyung or hoseok's kisses, but yoongi's has stained his mind, blotches of pink on the ugly grays. he holds his breath when yoongi's eyes wander, but the buzz of the front door grounds them again.

"open up, hyung," jimin's voice is heard from the other side of the door, and jungkook raises his eyebrows. taehyung says something too muffled for them to understand, and hoseok laughs loudly, there's more banging on the door.

"— i told the others about your birthday," yoongi says, almost apologetically. "we can send them home." jungkook likes the sound of his we.

"no, i don't mind," he smiles.

once boys come stumbling in, the apartment becomes a mess of monopoly and bottles of assorted liquor and plastic cups on every surface and confetti and potato chips and marshmallows that seokjin ends up lighting on fire on the oven, just to let them drip all over the place, gooey and sticky. voices clash, bodies clash, hands clash, music is played too loud, the neighbours knock on walls every other time. jungkook laughs, and smokes and drinks, but only the wine yoongi bought him, and it's sweet.

at some point, and it's nearly three in the morning by then and not really his birthday anymore, namjoon comes up with a cake, and jungkook blows iron man candles, and cake gets all over his face, and he's got a crown on his head, prince jeon jungkook. at some point, watching the boys around him, jungkook thinks he's home, at last. at some point, and then it's four, the apartament gets quiet, finally, as boys pile around, falling into drunk slumber where they are. only the bed is left, bedsheets still undone, inviting.

"we can share," yoongi shrugs, pushing jungkook towards his bed, eyes heavy, hair messed up. they try not to step on the bodies asleep next to yoongi's bed, the light snoring and steady breathing a small orchestra. jungkook climbs the bed without seconds thoughts, knees feeling the softness of mattress, sluggishly. he's sleepy, his body feels feverish. "move," he feels his ribs being poked and moves a little, head finally on a pillow that smells so much of yoongi that it's overwhelming. he lets out a sound, involuntarily, as he breathes in, and his face grows hotter. yoongi turns off the lights, bed creaking under their combined weight.

"i have cake on my face," he mumbles, vision turvy in the dark, turning his head to stare at the contour of yoongi's body. "your bed—"

"you can wash the sheets tomorrow," yoongi says, and jungkook realizes they're close, by the way his breath reaches him, smelling of the sweetest wine and minty cigarettes. they lay in silence for a while, and then yoongi breaks it again, voice low, a murmur, almost. "they never slept here before. it feels weird."

"— not even namjoon-hyung?" it's a daring question.

"he — has," yoongi stirs a bit, and jungkook startles when he feels yoongi's fingers touching his stomach, maybe by mistake, because the touch ends too quickly. it leaves a burning sensation, anyway.

"in your bed?" the scorch on his skin is almost unbearable. jungkook inches closer.

"no, not in my bed."

"hyung," jungkook whispers, slow and wanting, except he doesn't know what he wants, or maybe he does, he does, he does. yoongi stills, breath hitching. "i'm hot."

"yeah, well— i'm broke, so no air conditioning," yoongi replies, and jungkook chuckles. "go to sleep, jungkook." for a moment nothing happens, jungkook's eyes strain to see yoongi's features in the dark, and his eyes don't close because jungkook catches the glimmer of outside's poor lights on them, dancing. he doesn't close his eyes, either. his body hurts all over, the type of pain too low, too dense. yoongi flinches just the slightest when jungkook touches his hipbone, fingers curling around the flimsy fabric of his shirt, and he doesn't back away when jungkook gets closer, leg sliding over yoongi's in a slow, careful movement. "— what are you doing?"

"i — don't know," the moment yoongi's thigh touches where jungkook feels the most needy, the air on his words becomes heavier. yoongi seems to swallow. "hyung." 

"you can't do that," yoongi mutters, and jungkook feels his body trembling. his grip on yoongi's hip tightens as jungkook moves closer, the soft friction allaying. "— you can't." he moves again, disobedient, and this time yoongi moves his leg up, maybe out of reflex, maybe because he wants to, pushing a hand over jungkook's mouth as noises try to come out. the sound of sheets rasping and the creaking of the old metal that make up the bed seems abbrasive in jungkook's ears. he breathes against yoongi's sweaty palms. "this isn't right."

he touches yoongi's wrist, pushing his hand away, breathing stuttery. jungkook wants to ask for things, mouth open, syllables ready, but words fail him as he moves his hips to find yoongi's thigh again, eyes fluttering closed as the sensation spreads, all that unbearable heat. yoongi does try to stop him, weakly, but as his own breath gets shallow, as he also moves against jungkook, urgency all over their bodies, jungkook burrows his face on the crook of yoongi's neck, and no sounds come out of yoongi's lips, either. they move unsteadily, jittery, hands clawing on each other's clothes and skin, and jungkook wants to whimper through yoongi's murmured this isn't right. it is only when his broken sentence becomes one airy that feels good, that jungkook loses the little control he's had over himself. he stills, a gap between his lips, eyes pressed closed so hard he sees brittle stars, limbs feeling suddenly like jell-o. yoongi moves against him, their hips meeting, jungkook coils, face red, burning, body too sensitive.

"shit," yoongi breathes, jungkook feels it against his neck. "shit, shit—"

jungkook feels too sleepy, too good to move. he hears more than sees yoongi stumbling out of bed, throwing him clean pants, maybe stepping on the boys around them before disappearing behind the bathroom's door. he lazily changes, or not, he can't remember, the sensation still heavy on his limbs, hindering his thoughts. he falls asleep listening to the water run, and it runs for a long time.

 

(he doesn't dream.)

      

exhaustion, that's the first thing he feels when wakes up. yoongi's there, deep into this slumber, clothes different from the night before, hair still lightly damp, which means he hasn't slept much. there's a gap between them, poignant. the apartment is quiet, too quiet. jungkook raises himself on the bed to realize the room is empty. he leaves yoongi sleeping, a constant blush on his cheeks, skin all prickly, to find the living room a mess. slowly but surely he picks up leftover food, cleans surfaces, vacuums crumbles, try his best to remove dry mustard from the television screen. dishes are washed, dried, put away. he does all in silence, teeth sinking on his bottom lips, head a mess.

don't think about it.

(that feels good.)

don't think about it.

(it isn't right.)

don't think—

"— you're awake," yoongi's voice sounds even raspier than usual, ruffled with sleep like his damp hair. jungkook turns his back at him immediately, nodding, occupying his hands with nonsense. there's nothing left to clean, so he stalls. shame, that's the second thing he feels that day, sinking in, pulling him down like pockets full of stones. "have you eaten anything?"

"not really."

"well, you should," yoongi huffs, walking closer, clicking his tongue. "you didn't have to clean all by yourself, jungkook."

he doesn't say anything back, head down, so fiercefully trying to keep his eyes on the ugly green linoleum of the kitchen. yoongi walks around him, grabbing food from different places, and the smell of instant coffee fills the air around them. he pushes a cup of milk towards jungkook. "hyung, i'm sorry." raising his eyes to face yoongi is almost painful. he's all crimson now, they both are, stained with all the wine they drank. "i fucked up."

"we just — don't talk about it," yoongi offers, stammering, soft lisp on his words. he's nervous. "let's not talk about it."

"i can move out," jungkook carries on anyway, finger touching the cold, wet surface of his cup. "i'll just move out."

"— what? don't be stupid."

"but—"

"i let you do it," yoongi sighs. "i didn't stop you, i — it's just fooling around, right? it isn't a big deal." it doesn't sound like it isn't, from his stressed tone, vowels rigid and uncomfortable. something hurts inside jungkook's body, thorny. "you kissed taehyung and hoseok before and it wasn't a big deal. this isn't, either." the words are supposed to sound resolute, but they're see-through, thin like paper and full of holes. yoongi shifts on his weight, hand gesturing vaguely. "drink your milk, you're pale." jungkook does as he's told, the cold milk welcomed, after all, almost alleviating. it drips down his chin, he runs a hand over it, embarrassed. yoongi clears his throat. "let's just not — repeat."

"okay," and jungkook tries not to sound disappointed. yoongi reaches out an uncertain hand, and it hovers his head for a second before touching jungkook's hair, softly, fingertips grazing the side of his neck, yoongi's eyes following it.

"yeah, right," yoongi mumbles, pulling his hand away briskly, red, all red, and jungkook gulps down his milk as if to appease the heat on his insides. "i'm going out to meet namjoon."

"— can i go?"

"i guess so, yeah."

it's quietly that they do so, awkwardly that they walk together, jungkook a step or two behind. once they stop by a particularly busy motorway, and yoongi's hand hold onto jungkook's wrist almost immediately, a low be careful said under the traffic sounds. jungkook pretends it's okay, pretends he doesn't feel anything when yoongi doesn't let go, not for a little while. by the time they get to a shady looking tattoo parlor, namjoon is already inside, half of his hands covered in ink, the buzz from the needle rattling, blood on his knucles. "that's looking neat," yoongi smiles at it, and the tattoo artist nods at him.

"you're two hours late," namjoon comments, eyeing the both of them, but smiling at jungkook nonetheless. "slept well last night?"

"— yes," jungkook steals a look at yoongi, who seems completely enthralled by the needle work. "you left early, hyung."

"yoongi-hyung hates guests sleeping around," at this yoongi flickers a finger on namjoon's forehead, earning himself a stream of polished curses, but they're both wearing the same grins. namjoon looks over at jungkook, again. "happy birthday again, by the way."

"thanks."

"how long until you're done?" yoongi asks.

"an hour, maybe more," the tattoo artist replies, absent-mindedly, eyes trained on the fine ink lines on namjoon's knuckles.

"help me choose a design," yoongi says then, pulling at jungkook's sleeve, and they sit at a stool, legs too close, but jungkook tells himself it's only because the folders full of prints are heavy. they flip the pages, yoongi seems undecided. after ten minutes he seems to have given up completely, and jungkook goes through the plastic pages by himself. he traces the thick lines of a butterfly drawing, all the oranges and reds violent against the white paper. "you like that one?"

"— yeah."

yoongi only hums, staring at the butterfly under jungkook's fingers. they look through other folders, yoongi starts yawning, and eventually he falls asleep, which doesn't surprise jungkook anymore. namjoon only raises his eyebrows when yoongi's head finds his way onto jungkook's shoulder. "i don't think he slept much," jungkook shrugs, trying to keep his voice down, big blotches of pink on his cheeks.

"he doesn't sleep well," namjoon says, wincing a bit when the needles get too skin deep. "ever, i guess."

"what are you getting?" jungkook asks, to change the topic, breathing through his mouth so to not smell yoongi's shampoo.

namjoon raises his free hand, plastic wrapped around it. it reads never mind, cursive letters jet black, knuckles reading save. "songs," namjoon explains, as jungkook raises his eyebrows. "yoongi-hyung wrote them."

"what's about?"

"— if you think you're going to crash, step on the pedal harder."

somehow, jungkook hears it in yoongi's raspy hues. "maybe you're going to make it one day, hyung," he tries, halfhearted smile on his face. he understands the struggle, after living with yoongi for a while. he's seen both namjoon and yoongi count too little money after a performance, and still praise each other for it. on a good day, they make enough to buy more expensive music apps on their phones, on a bad day, they celebrate with instant noodles and sweaty coca-colas.

"that's the plan," namjoon nods.

after that they don't talk anymore, maybe because yoongi touches the side of jungkook's hand ever so lightly and it triggers small seismic waves inside his body, maybe because namjoon looks away, to the flower being draw on his hand. yoongi wakes up when it's time for him to get inked. jungkook looks around the shop, the drawings on the walls, the grafitti, the piercings all lined up. yoongi has rings on his ears, black ones, thick. namjoon has them too, but in silver.

they go out to eat while yoongi is getting ready, namjoon buys him cheap cheeseburgers, and they talk about the books jungkook sells, the books namjoon reads, the castle, the boys, busan, trivial things that have no weight on jungkook's shoulder. they don't talk about yoongi, or songs they've written together, or things that happen when lights are off and wine coats their souls. yoongi looks untroubled by the pain when they arrive back, and his eyes are still sort of wounded-like, maybe from sleep, maybe from other things. jungkook catches a glimpse of his hand. "— you're getting the butterfly, hyung," he ackowledges, stunned.

yoongi doesn't blush, but he also doesn't look at jungkook. "yeah," he shrugs. "i liked it, too." the tattoo artist cleans the blood on yoongi's hand, it matches the color bright filling the blacks.

"you should get something, too," namjoon pokes jungkook's ribs, playfully. "at the high and mighty age of eighteen."

"maybe an earring," yoongi offers, draggy monotones careful, eyes finding jungkook's for a flickering moment. "less permanent."

"maybe," jungkook nods. "does it hurt?"

"if it doesn't hurt it doesn't mean anything."

so jungkook agrees to it, and he's put on a chair next to yoongi, and a girl with impressive body art does the job. he flinches when the steel gun goes off, shutting his eyes closed, and she holds his face kindly. it hurts for a moment, a small explosion of pain that runs through his body, and when it retreats, it feels good. "cute," she says, cheeky smile, when both the small black rings he'd chosen are in place, and jungkook is crimson red, because he liked the sensation too much.

he spends too much time stealing glances at the mirrors as they wait for yoongi to get ready. finally, it is done, and both namjoon and yoongi praise each other's tattoos, easy smiles forming on their lips, jungkook observing how fluid their movements are around each other, how intrinsic. when they walk, jungkook walks a couple of steps behind again, ears still burning, tingling, letting them be as they talk words and creation, eyes alight, plastic-wrapped hands finding body parts easily. namjoon leaves them at the subway station, ruffling jungkook's hair, patting yoongi's back. you take care, okay? you too, namjoonie.

"do you like it?" yoongi asks, as they're standing in front of each other, arms raised over their heads to hold themselves up in the crowded car. he offers his hand, fingers spread.

jungkook can't help but touch it, the plastic sort of soggish with blood. "it's pretty," he traces the ink again, and the colors are still violent against yoongi's skin. yoongi stares at him.

"you look good," he says, and jungkook looks up, eyes widening just the slightest. "with those."

"thanks."

"— do you want to go home?"

it's funny how home became tangible, jungkook thinks. "no," he shakes his head. "let's buy fireworks and go to the castle." yoongi smiles, then, eyes wrinkling at the corners, cut like half-moons, and jungkook is still holding onto his fingers, because he finds out he can't let go.

 

 

(fireworks are lit, smoke burning their eyes, the laughter of boys fill up the air, they're free, young, forever, castle walls holding them up. fireworks color them bright, and they sleep around a fire that dies through the night, and yoongi wraps jungkook in blankets that smell of woods and dust. fireworks hurt their ears, and they jump in rivers, and they run and run and run through the sleeping city, and they share grimmy souls, glued together, pieces of each other like mosaics, lost boys found, and they borrow each other's smiles, smell, clothes, lives, kisses, and it doesn't matter. fireworks make ashes snow around them, jungkook runs a hand through yoongi's hair, so pale now, i want to dye it green, i like the pink, hyung, and namjoon cuts all their hairs, the buzz of the machine over their voices, their colors fading with time. fireworks are what jungkook feels around yoongi, the brittle parts of his body shaking and shaking, heart stumbling on feelings he doesn't know how to name, and yoongi, fireworks in his eyes, looks at him as if he's made of gunpowder and pyrotechnic stars.

but fireworks are finite, and when they're over and done, all that is left is the smoke.)

 

 

"jungkook, wake up."

it's still dark when jungkook does so, and his vision has a hard time dealing with it. he can't see yoongi's face, even though he knows he's there, by the hand shaking him awake. "— what's wrong?"

"something happened," yoongi says.

jungkook sits up at once, yoongi still holding his arms. he doesn't like yoongi's voice and how it trembles, it fills him with sudden dread. "— what happened, hyung?" yoongi stands, mumbling don't worry, but jungkook reaches out, hand on the hem of his shirt, and yoongi stops, probably looking down at him. "what's wrong?"

"i don't know," yoongi finally replies, weakly. "namjoon said they're coming over."

"they?"

"him and taehyung."

fathers, it's first thought that crosses jungkook's mind. fathers and their ugly, dark souls. he follows yoongi out of the room, and the apartament is chilly. an unsettling cold has befallen seoul, and november wraps them in influenza and early nightfalls. yoongi doesn't sit, he makes coffee instead, eyes red. "were you sleeping, hyung?"

"i couldn't sleep," yoongi watches the kettle, a vague opaqueness on his stare. "are you hungry?"

"it's past three, hyung," jungkook sighs, noticing how small yoongi looks, how shrinked. he stirs, then, walking carefully towards yoongi as if he's a timebomb, all jittery, all triggered. yoongi doesn't move when jungkook wraps his arms around his arms, covering both of them with the blanket he's brought from the room, resting his head on yoongi's shoulder. he's grown slightly taller since leaving busan. "if you drink coffee, you won't sleep."

"i'm worried, i can't sleep," yoongi voices, breathy, and it's the first time they're this close since jungkook's birthday. jungkook holds him tighter, and they stumble forward together, yoongi's body pressed between the counter and jungkook, and there's no space, no space at all. jungkook wants all the spaces gone, anyway.

"they'll be fine, hyung."

"namjoon didn't sound fine," yoongi touches jungkook's hands, and their fingers fiddle with each other, entwining. when he speaks, his voice is laced with yearning. "that's enough, jungkook."

"it isn't," jungkook inhales yoongi's scent, hands grabbing at his shirt, pressing and pressing. "just a bit more."

"this isn't the time," yoongi lets his head fall forward, and jungkook can't help himself, can't stop, nose touching just the side of yoongi's jawline, its sharp cut, lips brushing against warm skin. it isn't that strange of a touch. he's been kissed by the others, stolen things when they're all too drunk to care, and they were all meaningless. it never happens with yoongi, because it isn't supposed to feel meaningless — it doesn't. jungkook doesn't know if his kisses feel like anything, but yoongi breathes sharply, and then he hastens, pushing jungkook away with a halfhearted shove. he stumbles on the blanket. "don't."

"i'm — i'm sorry," jungkook has his eyes down, somewhat teary, heartbeat scattering. the kettle beeps, fumes from the hot water blurring the air around them, yoongi turns. "i just—"

"fuck, i'm sorry," fingers touch his arm carefully, one step closer again, the small distance a black hole. another step, touches a bit more urgent on jungkook's sweater, up his arm, on the small patch of skin over his collar. "i'm an asshole, i'm sorry—"

someone bangs on the door, and jungkook startles, lungs poisoned by all the air he's held in. yoongi lets him go without another thought, and jungkook wonders, for the whole of the three seconds it takes for namjoon and taehyung to stumble in, if in another universe, in another dimension, there's a version of him that took the last step that separated them. he's a flustered mess when he looks at the broken boys coming in.

broken, that's what they are. there are cracks all over namjoon and taehyung, and they spill vicious things. taehyung has blood on his hands, on the side of his face, running from his nose, black under his eye. namjoon has blood on his clothes. "close the door," namjoon says, and jungkook realizes it's directed at him. he does so, locking it. when he speaks next, his voice is much gentler. "tae, sit, please."

taehyung doesn't look alright. jungkook's heart stings. "— what happened, hyung?"

no one answers. namjoon has his arms wrapped tightly around taehyung's body, rocking them both lightly, muttering words jungkook can't hear. yoongi kneels down in front of them, caring hands cleaning the blood on taehyung's cheeks with a tea towel taken from the kitchen, and jungkook realizes he has no space in that. fathers, he knows, fathers and their alcohol, and the sons they leave behind. yoongi seems to finally remember that jungkook is there at all, still frozen in the middle of the forgotten kitchen, and his eyes are so hurt jungkook's heart breaks entirely.

"come here," yoongi calls him softly, and jungkook finally moves. when he's close enough, yoongi holds his wrist kindly, tugging him to sit down next to taehyung. "keep him company, kook." you never called me that before.

yoongi and namjoon close themselves inside yoongi's bedroom, hushed voices, trembling hands. jungkook stares at the closed door for a while, before feeling taehyung stir. "what happened?"

"my father," taehyung shakes his head, staring at his still stained fingers. "fucking asshole."

"— did he hurt you?"

"no," and taehyung's eyes are crossed, mean. "i hurt him this time."

jungkook holds taehyung's hand, then, and it's sticky and clammy, but jungkook doesn't know what to do. at some point namjoon and yoongi come out, expressions somber, and taehyung looks up at them, as if waiting for the consequences of his act to be brought up. it's yoongi who lays it down. "we're calling the police."

taehyung sobs, for the first time. "— no, hyung, please—"

"they won't take you," namjoon grabs his shoulder. "eonjin will say so. we will testify, too, you won't be alone."

"they'll take me," taehyung cries, his tears smudging what's left of his father's blood, hold on jungkook's hand so tight it starts to hurt. "they won't care about what you say, they'll take me—"

"no one will take you," namjoon says, and jungkook can't help but think all the horrible what ifs. "i won't let them, tae. you're safe."

"please, hyung, don't—"

he lets go of jungkook's hand to grab at the namjoon's clothes, pleading and pleading and crying and crying. there's only the silence, then, corrupted with taehyung's ugly sobs and namjoon's caring words whispered to him. jungkook only moves when yoongi touches the back of his neck, a ghost of a touch. taehyung sleeps on yoongi's bed, but maybe he doesn't sleep, because jungkook can hear him crying throughout the night. namjoon lays with him. yoongi and jungkook share the couch, yoongi looking sickly, his cigarettes making him cough.

"maybe you shouldn't call the police," jungkook says, slowly. yoongi turns his head to stare at him. "they won't believe us. they never believe people like us."

"they have to."

"they won't."

"— what happened to you? in busan?"

jungkook looks up at him, and they're so close he can see the small blemishes on yoongi's skin, like the beauty mark on his cheek, a small scar on his forehead. he smells of coffee and his shampoo and soap and smoke and things jungkook has been starving for. "nothing happened, i just left, hyung," yoongi reaches out, touching jungkook's fingers. "i just needed to find whatever's missing."

"did you?"

it's quick, lightning-fast, and jungkook doesn't even close his eyes. he just inches forward, lips pressing against yoongi's, and he doesn't allow himself more because it doesn't feel fair. they stare at each other, eyes searching for things hidden in their pupils, for feelings or other things, until yoongi pulls on his clothes, bringing him closer, and jungkook wraps unsure arms around his frame, and taehyung's constant sobbing rocks them asleep like that, tangled, somehow hurt. "it found me."

 

 

community service, good seventy-five hours. that's what taehyung gets, and only because he had gotten filed a year back, grafitting with namjoon. his father gets stitches, and he is sent away.  it'll be alright now, namjoon tells him, whispers in his ears, hands never leaving taehyung's shoulder. you'll be fine. and while the words are set in resolute tone, taehyung is still engulfed in the sort of heartbreak that is hard to mend. they take turns, then, watching him work at public parks, picking up trash, keeping him company from affar. once he gets into a fight, and four more hours are added to his sentence. jungkook is watching him that day, by empty basketball courts, and it's cold, too cold to be out. december feels uninvited. holidays approach, and so do ghost pains to his core. he lights a cigarette from the pack he stole from yoongi, just to keep his hands from freezing.

he never gets to taste it, as swift fingers pull it away from him. "smoking alone at your age is depressing," yoongi comments, standing beside him by the metal fence, too many layers of clothes on his body, the cigarette now hanging between his teeth. "how is he?"

"he tried to kick a pidgeon about five minutes ago." they both grin. jungkook likes how yoongi's nose gets pink when he's cold.

"i guess he's slowly going back to normal, then." yoongi looks at him, and then down at his body, in that way that makes jungkook suddenly self-conscious. "it's -1ºC, jungkook."

jungkook can very much feel the icy air, his fingertips almost numb. "i'm not that cold," he lies, and yoongi rolls his eyes dramatically.

"your lips are purple," yoongi clicks his tongue, annoyed, grabbing both of his hands and tugging them until they're shoved inside the pockets of his windbreaker, and his fingers are pleasantly warm. jungkook reckons they might look stupid, but he doesn't care enough to stop it. "wear fucking gloves at least."

"forgot to buy them," he tries explaining, but yoongi doesn't seem to care, expression still sour. jungkook feels warm from the inside out, and it spreads, sweet like syrup. it always like this now. he keeps dripping all this sweetness, unrelenting, whenever around yoongi. yoongi doesn't pull away when jungkook moves around him, arms sliding around his waist instead, hands pushing into the pockets of his jacket again, chin on his shoulder. jungkook allows himself a content sigh.

smoke laces the frigid air as they watch over taehyung, who pretends to be clueless to their open spying, or they open cuddling. "do you want to go on a date?"

jungkook feels himself choke, and he coughs a few times, eyes getting teary, face red and hot. "—what?"

"a date," yoongi repeats, voice a bit more tense. he blows smoke through his nose. "i just — i got some good tips last night, thought i could use it for once."

"but, hyung—"

"you don't have to, i guess. it was just a thought."

there's a hue of disappointment in yoongi's voice, icing his consonants. he sniffs, probably because of the cold, looking away. jungkook brings him closer. "isn't that what you do with girls? dating, i mean."

"you can date girls, yeah." yoongi shrugs. "you can date whoever the hell you want."

"okay, then."

"— really?" jungkook doesn't miss the smile curling yoongi's lips, or how the cold breeze ruffles his hair, the muted pinks fading into sheer, bleached whites.

"yeah."

they wait until taehyung's done, and he halfheartedly waves at them from the other side of courts. take him home, yoongi textes namjoon, and his car shows up not too long later, the old thing ready to dismantle, to take him away. namjoon swings his arm around taehyung's shoulders, and taehyung's smile seems genuine, happy, even, if one isn't paying enough attention. then it's only jungkook, yoongi, basketball courts and hands inside pockets. finally, yoongi asks: "where do you want to go?"

the answer stumbles out of jungkook's tongue without a second thought. "to the castle."

yoongi buys them food — chips and cheeseburgers and slices of cake and doughnuts and instant noodles and beer and a bottle of a more expensive wine, just because it was on sale, i guess. it's more food than jungkook can eat, but it doesn't seem to stop yoongi. they don't talk much during the train ride, hands holding plastic bags, blushes on their cheeks. "why not a mall, with an escalator," yoongi complains, as they walk up hill, words breathy. jungkook laughs out loud, freely, and yoongi joins him a moment later, steam coming out of his mouth.

the castle is cold, colder than the city, colder than busan on its coldest days. jungkook shudders as they make a fire in one of the rooms with a resemblance of a ceiling, the omnious, naked chandelier above them, spider webs clinging to it. the piano, or just its contour, watches them. "when did you learn how to play?" jungkook asks when they have sat down on old rags and mattresses and pilows that don't match, facing each other, fire between them (in some ways or another).

"— my mom," yoongi scratches his nose, and jungkook has observed him enough to know the gesture means he's uncomfortable. "we had a piano at home."

it hits jungkook, rather shamefully, that he doesn't know all that much about yoongi. there are gaps to him, tears in the content of his soul. "where are you from, hyung?"

"daegu," yoongi smiles, looking down, fingers full of sticky sugar from the doughnut he's eating. "i ran away when i was fourteen. never went back there."

"would you like to?"

"i'm not something they're proud of," someone, no something, jungkook wants to correct him. you're someone, hyung. "— and you?"

jungkook nods, slowly. the flickering shadows of the flames dance on the walls around them, keeping the unyielding cold away. "i miss the sea."

"i've never seen it," yoongi reveals, and jungkook briefly loses all the attention on his words when yoongi licks the tips of his fingers, absent-mindedly. "— would like to."

"we can go," jungkook stammers, mind focusing on words again. "all of us."

"yeah, i guess." they eat in silence, their comfortable one, the one they usually share in the very early mornings they meet.  yoongi is always smelling of alcohol and smoke, and he makes himself coffee, and his hands touch jungkook's hair softly. once or twice, and those were hazy, sleep-laced scenes in jungkook's mind, hanging in dream-like state — once or twice yoongi kissed his forehead, or his hair, or his neck, before disappearing behind the door to his room. "hyung," jungkook calls, then. his heart is beating too hopeful. "can i sit next to you?"

yoongi seems just a bit flustered as he nods, sliding on the dirty old mattress to make room for jungkook. his chips are left forgotten, and yoongi's face is pretty and pink when jungkook lays down, instead, head on his lap, looking up. "you said sit," yoongi mumbles, pretending annoyance.

they stare at each other, jungkook doesn't want to look anywhere else. from that angle, every line on yoongi's face is sharp. yoongi breaks into a small smile, a scoff, maybe, huffing the air through his nose, a wayward strand of hair getting blown away from his eyes. it's rivetting. "— what?"

"you stare too much, punk."

"i like the way you look." the blush that creeps on his cheeks feels too hot. they both avert their eyes, yoongi clears his throat. still, word vomit keeps coming out, jungkook growing incapable of stopping himself. "you're just — like pretentious books you can't figure out on the first read. you're the sound and the fury and one hundred years of solitude, hyung."

yoongi breaks out in a fit of laughter, his body shaking. "i have no idea what the fuck you're talking about," jungkookg starts mumbling explanations, embarrassed. "you've been spending too much time in that bookstore with namjoon. the dust is frying your brain."

"— i'm sorry."

"i like it," yoongi shrugs, still smiling. "don't apologize." the touch on jungkook's hair is shy at first, but when it doesn't get stopped halfway, it gets more intimate, and yoongi tugs are brown hair, earning small hums of pleasure from jungkook. "well you — you just," jungkook stares, waiting. yoongi fidgets with the sleeves of his jacket.

"hyung," jungkook cuts in, because he can tell yoongi is struggling. he's good at words and sentences and inflections, but not good at saying them out loud when they mean something. "teach me how to play the piano."

they have to turn on their phones' lanterns to use the piano, moths circling them, and the bench is too small for the both of them, so they squish together. yoongi seems at ease with his fingers on keys, skillfully arranging songs from his mind, the notes echoing. "twinkle twinkle little star," yoongi grins at him, nudging his arm. "follow me."

while yoongi's notes are mastered to neat perfection, jungkook skips keys and messes up too many times in a row. yoongi grabs his hands at some point, urging him to play the correct tune. twinkle, twinkle, little star, how i wonder what you — wrong note. yoongi groans, too impatient, jungkook chuckles. they try happy birthday and row row row your boat, with equal failure. "i guess the piano might not be for you," yoongi says after a while, a resigned sigh. "he's been tortured enough."

"then play something good, hyung."

"okay. cut the shitty lights."

even with the malfunctioning notes and missing chords, yoongi's song is beautiful. jungkook closes his eyes, taken by it, feeling yoongi move his hands, breathing in the smell of his clothes. when yoongi finishes, their breathing sounds too harsh against the silence, too ugly, even. "what is it called?" jungkook asks, and the room is dim, the fire not close enough to provide light, so he can't read yoongi's expression.

"i need you," he replies, after a pause. jungkook swallows. "i don't usually make songs like this."

"does it have lyrics?"

"no," and jungkook thinks yoongi shakes his head, but can't see straight. "it's just — feelings turned into chords, i guess."

"hyung," he finds himself saying. "do you want to dance?"

yoongi doesn't answer, instead he just stands, going back towards the fire. jungkook follows, heart aching. "there's no music," he finally says, taking a swing of the wine, offering the bottle to jungkook. he drinks, too, and yoongi watches him. "we'd look stupid."

"there's no one else here," jungkook takes another big gulp. the wine is sweet, too sweet.

"i'm not dancing," yoongi shakes his head.

"do you know how to dance, hyung?" he reaches out, holding onto yoongi's wrists, pulling him closer. yoongi tries to free himself, but it's a halfhearted, flimsy attempt. "slow dancing."

"i don't want to dance," but yoongi doesn't really stop jungkook from holding onto his hips, swaying them in pace with his humming, and yoongi smiles, rolling his eyes. "— this is ridiculous."

"dates always end in dancing in the movies," jungkook comments, bold. then adds, looking away. "— and kissing, i guess."

"we're not in a movie," yoongi says, voice airy. they're still swaying softly, guided by jungkook's movements.

"put your hands on my shoulders."

"why am i the girl—"

"there's no girl, hyung." yoongi bites his lower lip, the gesture seemingly common, but it makes jungkook's heart beat faster. "just this once," he pleads, and yoongi's eyes are turvy. he finally gives in, hands firm on jungkook's shoulder, and jungkook smiles too wide, too giddy, bringing yoongi's body closer. "follow me."

their music is the crackling fire, the buzz of light-driven insects, the low rustling of the woods, the breeze against the ghost walls. they sway, and sway, and sway, inching closer as they do so. jungkook feels strangely elated. "— is this enough?" yoongi asks, too close to jungkook's neck. his breath is warm, probably sweet from the wine. yes, this is enough, he thinks, arms wrapped firmly around yoongi's frame, holding too tight, maybe, but yoongi doesn't seem to care.

"— hyung," he mutters, lowering his head to yoongi's ear, body warped. "can i kiss you?"

it takes a while until an answer comes, but yoongi's body reacts slightly to the request. he shivers, jungkook feels it as it runs through his body. it's an exquisite feeling. "i'm not a girl, jungkook," he says, again.

"i don't want to kiss a girl," at this jungkook takes a step back, violently red. "i want to kiss you."

maybe it's just the way yoongi is staring at him, but jungkook feels weak, the tension in the air heavy on his shoulders. it isn't disgust on yoongi's face, it's blatant yearning — the kind that runs between them as if it's electricity. "we're friends—" yoongi starts, red.

"friends kiss."

"you're eighteen."

"you're twenty-two."

"i don't think—" but they never get to the end of that sentence, as jungkook just leans in, and the paper-thin wall that yoongi has built around him sort of crumbles. it's somehow a slow kiss, less tepid than the movies jungkook thought of, experimental, maybe, as they both try each other's limits. yoongi takes control too soon, and they stumble together, fingers grabbing on clothes. jungkook lets him, lungs burning, head spinning. it's different than the first time jungkook kissed him, because yoongi kisses him back, and it all tastes of wine and doughnuts, so sweet it stings his teeth. yoongi lets out a stuttery sigh when they finally pull back, and jungkook feels hot in the wrong places. "— okay."

"okay?"

"we can kiss," yoongi nods, eyes still closed, and jungkook stares at his eyelashes instead, how short they are, how soft they probably feel. "sometimes."

"what else?"

yoongi opens his eyes. "what else what?"

"— what else can we do?" jungkook's breathy, and he pries his fingers on yoongi's skin, just over the band of his ripped jeans. "hyung, i want to—"

"you're too young," the words have less restraint than they should have, and jungkook feels how tense yoongi's body is, how his muscles seem just as wired, how his eyelids keep fluttering close as if to unsee what's happening.

"just like that time, hyung," he whispers, consonants laced with the boldness of alcohol, getting so close he can smell yoongi's scent, peaches and cream and woods and cigarettes.

"we're not doing that again," but yoongi's words are too weak. jungkook presses against him, and yoongi swallows, a strangled noise coming out of his throat. "not here."

not here. jungkook's heart skips a beat, too eager. "where?"

"fuck, i don't know," yoongi finally pushes him away, the space between them charged. "kissing is okay. this — this isn't."

"it felt good," jungkook reminds him, trying a step closer again. yoongi takes a step back, looking bothered and flustered. "you said so."

"it doesn't mean anything," he mumbles, crossing his arms as if to protect himself.

"like kissing."

the look yoongi gives him leaves jungkook breathless. and then he's beeing harshly pushed onto the mattress, and it does hurt the slightest when he falls, the ground too hard under it, and his hands are being held beside his head, and yoongi kisses him with the sort of desperation of a dying man. jungkook gasps against yoongi's mouth when a hand gets pushed down his pants, a hoarse thing of a cry, the kind of sound he didn't know he could make. but it feels good all over, too good. yoongi's touch is somewhat careful, but not slow. they breathe each other's air, foreheads touching. "ah, hyung," jungkook stammers, eyes pressed closed to the point he sees stars against his eyelids. yoongi groans, fingers doing too well. jungkook feels himself start sweating, amongst other things. "ah—"

it doesn't take much until jungkook comes, he's too young, too volatile, and his hips buckle, head thrown slightly back, a sound escaping his lip. they lay on the mattress, breathing heavily, the lingering shame and need still running between them. yoongi cleans his hand on an ugly, old sheet, skin hot. he tries his best not to look at jungkook. "we should go," he says, after a while, running a hand on his messed up hair, cigarette lit between his lips. jungkook hasn't moved. his body feels suddenly all too heavy. "it's late."

jungkook reaches a hand, fingers grabbing at the back of yoongi's jacket. "sleep here with me, hyung." yoongi sighs, tossing the cigarette into the fire, trying to voice out reasons why that is an awful idea, but jungkook pulls him stronger, and he just gives up again, allowing jungkook to wrap his body around him, tugging the blanket over their forms. jungkook slides lazy hands down yoongi's stomach, nuzzling at his neck, but yoongi holds his wrists. "you'll feel good," he offers, sleepy. the hold on his wrists gets loose. "it doesn't mean anything."

"i know," yoongi replies, and his body relaxes as jungkook touches him with more kindness than need. he doesn't know what to do, so he lets the sounds yoongi makes guide his inexperienced fingers. yoongi's breathing gets so hitched that jungkook feels hot again. his strokes are slow, so slow that yoongi finally grabs his hand, urging him. "jungkook — fuck—"

— at some point, they do sleep, so close entwined it's like they're one body. they don't go much further, falling into slumber instead, warm and mildly drunk of things they can't say. for a moment jungkook thinks of the meaning of those, or the lack thereof. he thinks of the after, the next, the near future that quickly approaches. somehow, it looks crooked.

 

 

(he dreams of thousands of broken mirrors, bleeding fingers and a love so great it spills like the ocean.)

 

 

"hey, loverboy."

taehyung's face is the first thing jungkook sees when he opens his eyes. he's smirking, his fox-like expression teasing, hair all over his eyes. "leave him alone, tae," jimin's voice says from somewhere else. jungkook tries to sit up, but finds out he's too tangled in bodies to move.

"yoongi-hyung," he calls, trying to look behind his shoulder, furiously blushing. it's daylight, and not much is left to hide the things they've done under the blankets.

"here," yoongi sounds annoyed. "currently being crushed by hoseok's weight. i might die."

"you're not dying," hoseok laughs, his arm sliding to tug jungkook into the awkward resemblance of a hug. "we're all living forever."

"that's improbable," namjoon points out.

"everything hoseok says is improbable," seokjin continues.

they're all there, jungkook realizes, all six of them, all the lost boys he's grown attached to. and while yoongi is the one holding his waist tightly under the blankets, body so close, he feels as if he could wake up like that everyday  — to the sound of their voices and their faces and their proximity. his heart beats faster, taehyung pokes his cheek. "you two shouldn't sleep here during winter," namjoon says, then. there's meaning to his underlines, but jungkook tries not to think about it. "it gets too cold."

"they've got body heat," taehyung sneers, and jungkook shoves him, laughing.

"if i could move, i'd punch you," yoongi warns, voice muffled by hoseok's body. "we were sleeping, asshole."

"yeah, sure, hyung," taehyung is laughing as jungkook slaps him weakly.

laughter sorts of consumes them, even yoongi, and they roll together, for a while rambling about ridiculous topics, jungkook's heart beating and beating, and taehyung smells of empty parks full of autumn leaves, hoseok's fingers pet his hair lightly, yoongi holds him tight, never letting go. jungkook feels overwhelmed. the banter continues for a while, but then they all grow quiet, the sounds of the castle their only company. jungkook watches as taehyung falls asleep, chest moving slowly. slumber welcomes them, jungkook's eyes feel heavy with sand. he lefts himself drift, yoongi's fingers massaging the knot on his chest, rubbing circles over his clothes. "are you sleeping?" he asks at some point, voice low. no one replies, so jungkook mutters a small no. yoongi moves just the slightest, lips brushing the soft skin over his collar. "we should wake them up, get going—"

"no, let them," jungkook cuts in. "let them sleep."

"on top of us," yoongi points out, with a sigh.

"yeah," jungkook smiles, following the sharp contours of taehyung's face. "i'm happy, hyung. right now."

"that's — good."

"do you think we will be together forever?" it's a silly question, he knows, but one that he desperately needs the answer to. yoongi seems to bring him even closer, as if it's possible. taehyung opens his eyes, and they're full of fumes, dark and always so heartbroken. he stares, jungkook can't look away. it's namjoon who replies, though. "we're staying together," he says, voice still laced with slumber.

fear suddenly consumes jungkook. it bites at his edges, unwelcomed. he shivers, and maybe yoongi feels it. "are you sure, hyung?"

hoseok pulls on him, until he has to turn over, and yoongi lets him go, his face close, questioning. "forever, kook," hoseok smiles, sunshines in his eyes, ruffling jungkook's hair, body completely on top of yoongi's.

no one points out how improbable that is this time, but they all sort of feel it, the current running through them as they clasp on arms and hands, entwining their bodies and souls, maybe, all that proximity full of abyss-like cracks, so deep they can't see the bottom. jungkook feels like crying, but the holds it it, sniffing.

"we should do something, i'm bored," taehyung complains after a while, poking the side of jungkook's body.

"we're not getting matching tattoos," seokjin replies playfully, and jungkook giggles. yoongi blinks, seemingly surprised, staring at him so intensely he blushes.

"i'm not going anywhere, i need a shower," yoongi mumbles, cheeks flushed, and jungkook swallows, looking away. taehyung mutters a cheeky i bet you do, but yoongi ignores him. "jungkook has to work."

"shit, work—" jungkook struggles to get up, taehyung trying to pull him down, hoseok curling his fingers on his clothes. he whines, finally crawling out of their reach and up. he feels like they all can see the things he and yoongi have done through the wrinkles of his clothes. "i can't lose my job."

"i can drive you," namjoon offers. "i need to go to work, too, anyway."

yoongi sits up, pushing hoseok away from him with one swift shove, and he looks uncomfortable in his own skin. jungkook watches him, the mess of his hair maybe another indication of their nightly activities. he looks down immediately, red, red, red, red. "see you at home, hyung."

"— yeah."

"i'll stop by later, jungkookie," jimin smiles, waving. jungkook waves back, turning his back at them, walking alone for a couple of steps before namjoon joins him on the way down. it's only when they're in the car that namjoon clears his throat, looking sideways at him.

"so," he starts, unsure. "you don't have to tell me about that hickey on your neck, but—"

"shit," jungkook's hands go to his neck at once, covering it the best he can, eyes closing in embarrassement. "it isn't— it doesn't—"

"yoongi nevers sleeps," namjoon comments, ignoring his distress. "but he sleeps with you."

"hyung—"

"he saw you first, did you know that?" jungkook doesn't try to speak anymore. namjoon holds the wheel with enough strenght to make his knuckles white. "he stared at you for so long, i should've seen it coming."

"— are you mad?"

"no," namjoon shakes his head, and there's some sort of smile on his face. "no, i just —" jungkook waits. the waiting is filled with namjoon's huffs and attempts to start a sentence. finally, he says: "i'm relieved." it isn't the adjective jungkook is waiting for, and it baffles him. "yoongi-hyung is — damaged. you're mending him."

"i'm not doing anything, hyung."

"he runs on gasoline, and you're like — fucking trisodium phosphate," he smirks, but jungkook just stares, frown in place. "you dropped out of school, that joke is pointless."

"it's just kissing," jungkook feels the need to repeat. "we didn't — i mean—"

"you don't have to tell me anything."

"can i ask you something then?"

namjoon shrugs. "sure."

"were you — his—?" jungkook finds out he doesn't know how to complete that sentence without letting out too much, exposing parts of himself that are still too blurry in his mind. so it just hangs there, incomplete, waiting for namjoon's answer.

"no, i was never his," there's nostalgia in namjoon's voice, and jungkook thinks if he could see it in a tangible way, it'd be colored the deepest blue. they're leaving the motorway by then, entering the smaller, fuller downtown streets, people overflowing the sidewalks. "whatever you mean by that."

"it's just that—"

"we're here." the car is parked in a rush, sort of gnarled by the sidewalk, namjoon not the best of the drivers, jungkook guesses. he moves to leave, fingers on the handle, and namjoon stops him. "it isn't always easy liking yoongi-hyung, kook. don't — just take care."

"i don't know if i like him," jungkook looks down, suddenly too interested in the rips of his jeans, brain screaming liar. "he's—"

"like fire," namjoon completes his sentence, and jungkook nods weakly, unsure, the words he wanted to say left forgotten. yoongi is fire, after all, and while jungkook knows touching him might hurt, he's a moth, too attracted to his flame. moths die fast and burning.  "go, now. see you later."

"yeah, okay, hyung."

 

 

a quietness settles between them, not the welcomed kind. yoongi cooks them italian food again, on a thursday so cold it seeps under the doors and windows. they only have one small heater in the bedroom, turned on only at minus degrees nights in order to save on the electricity bills. jungkook shivers, wearing too many layers of clothing, watching yoongi move his chopsticks around. it's his night off, and jungkook just got home, starving. i'll make you something, yoongi had slurred out, leaving the wine he was drinking by the counter. only lonely people drink alone, jungkook thinks.

"fettucine alfredo," yoongi says, putting the plate down in front of jungkook.

"it looks good," jungkook comments weakly. "thanks."

"it looks like cat vomit," he huffs, and jungkook smiles just a little. "i can't make pretty food."

"you can make good food, though, hyung," they finally look at each other, smiles on their faces, and yoongi has pasta sauce on the corner of his lips. he licks it, looking away. jungkook sighs, putting his chopsticks down, ears burning. "i'm sorry if i made it weird."

"we both made it weird," yoongi stuffs his mouth, chewing for a while before carrying on. "look, we have to talk, i guess. about what's — happening."

jungkook swallows, the food suddenly tasteless. "it's my fault," he says, feeling his neck hot.

"i like — kissing you," the words are said carefully, slowly, almost as if yoongi is afraid of them. their eyes meet again, and despite the counter between them, yoongi reaches out a hand, thumb rubbing against the side of jungkook's mouth tenderly. "but i don't think we should anymore."

"i like you." the silly, three-worded confession hangs between them, and the air feels heavy with antecipation, storm clouds full of static over their heads. yoongi doesn't look away, fingers still touching jungkook's jawline gently. "your company. i like it."

yoongi lets him go swiftly. "finish your food, kook," he utters, voice very weak, stuffing his mouth again. jungkook looks at his plate, hunger forgotten. they finish everything in bitter silence. jungkook starts washing the dishes. he can still feel yoongi close to him, fixing things that don't really need fixing. you're mending him.

he goes to sleep not much later on, claiming a tiredness that doesn't exist. it takes a long while until yoongi comes inside the room, feet heavy, dragging. yoongi doesn't fall asleep at all, tossing and turning every five minutes, sigh after sigh leaving his lips. jungkook hears when he lights a cigarette, the lighter clicking and clicking and clicking, a cacophony of fire. "hyung," jungkook calls. yoongi stops.

"i'm sorry," he says. "i didn't realize you were awake."

"i can't sleep."

"it's late, you should."

"— can i sleep on your bed?"

another sigh follows. "we need to get you a fucking mattress," he mumbles, before patting the bed. "come."

they don't touch, yoongi turns the other way as soon as jungkook slides under sheets that smell just like him. jungkook doesn't sleep, not even when he hears yoongi's breathing pattern change, as he finally gives in to slumber. he touches the cold surface of yoongi's lighter between them on the bed, and watches the flame dance in front of his eyes when he ignites it, its heat close. he realizes faintly he wants to burn down.

 

 

(he sleeps only when daylight is pouring in through cracks on the windows, and yoongi's stirless, and jungkook dreams of beds full of blue flowers, and they burn, and burn, and burn like forest fires.)

 

(life goes on, they sleep on the same bed, yoongi still cooks them italian, jungkook pays in small portions, sometimes they almost kiss, sometimes they almost touch, sometimes they look for each other on the empty rooms of the castle — but there's a wall between them now, even though both of them desperately want to break through.)

 

 

the kids aren't alright is blasting on taehyung's rattled iphone, and it echoes around the empty amusement park. it's late at night, two many months later, and winter is fading, but there's no one there — the attractions are run down, eaten by moss and time, in the industrial part of southern seoul. they all hold lanterns, jungkook stands besides jimin, eyes watching the merry-go-round. the skeleton of a roller-coaster grows around it, almost like their castle up the hill. it's unfinished, wry, out from a george orwell story, jungkook thinks.

"are you sure you can make it work, hyung?"

namjoon is on his knees with yoongi, both with wires on their hands and lanterns between their teeth. hoseok hovers them, unsure. "yeah," he says, more like a sound than a word. yoongi has a frown in place, concentrated, and jungkook stares at how the light reflects on his eyes, coloring it so bright, almost gray. the merry-go-round lets out a noise, then, and lights flicker on, just some of them, and the engine groans in ugly, distorted sounds. taehyung runs past them, hopping on the slowly moving horses, their paint all chipped.

"make it go faster, hyung—!" he shouts, and namjoon waves a hand, turning knobs and pushing buttons and the thing does picks up speed, creaking in a metallic cacophony, fur elise so mangled it sounds obscure. the horses spin faster now, some moving up and down with some difficulty. jungkook takes a step towards it, and then another, until he's waiting to hop in, too. taehyung offers him a hand when another turn comes along, and he takes it. "don't throw up, kook," he warns, laughing, and jungkook almost loses his balance, holding onto posts so dirty his hands come out darkened.

they spin, the others joining them, and seokjin stays outside to take silly pictures. laughter clashes against smells like teen spirit, until taehyung's phone falls and stops working all together, and then it's just the sounds they make, the music created by their laughter, the flashes of a camera, their clapping, the voices so loud over each other, the screams, the words scattered across ugly backdrops, and jungkook holds yoongi's hand, because he wants to, and yoongi lets him, smile so wide on his face jungkook thinks his heart is suddenly gone.

i like you.

i like you.

please, lke me back.

they spin, for what it seems forever, soaking in each other's souls, drenched in the things they all feel. there's no loneliness there, no fathers, no deformed sense of loss. it's like the world has stopped existing in that forgotten amusement park, and there's only the merry-go-round, the golds and reds faded with time, and yoongi's hand on his, and the clashing of their voices, lost boys, stuck in time, ageless, timeless, young, forever.

— they hear the sirens at some point, and they take off running, leaving pieces of themselves behind to be found, lanterns, jackets, things that do no matter. they laugh high and breathless as they run through maze-like, empty streets, and polaroids fall on the ground, all their memories coloring the soot. "we have to scatter," someone screams at some point, and they do, jungkook tugging at yoongi's hand, because he can't let go. then it's only the two of them, colored blue and red by police cars, until yoongi pulls them to an allley so dark they stumble over garbage. and then jungkook's back finds the wall of an old building, and yoongi kisses him so hard it prickles. his kiss tastes different now, it tastes the youth jungkook offers him so freely, and loss, and fear, and shame, and merry-go-rounds that won't stop spinning, and all the stained, gray-colored love in the world.

his fingers pry over the hem of yoongi's jeans, yearning. "hyung," he almost pleads, buzz in his ears, his neck so hot.

"have you ever had sex?" yoongi asks, lips against his, voice so raspy, and the heat down jungkook's belly stings painfully. he feels himself staring, even though he can't make up the features on yoongi's face. the word said out loud makes everything blunt.

"no," the hold on the sides of his face gets softer.

"i'm not a girl," yoongi says, maybe for once last time, one last chance for stepping away, but jungkook leans in, searching for his kiss in the dark.

"i don't want a girl, hyung," their kiss is less starved now, and when cars drive past, they press harder against the wall. i want you, you, you, you, all of you. something cracks inside jungkook's chest, and he hopes it isn't his heart, as it'd spill sweet, magenta love, all those hues of sunsets pink. he dares to carry on, canine ripping a small cut on his lip as he bites it down. "— sleep with me."

the motel they step in two blocks away is old and smells of hair spray. there's nothing in the room except a bed and ugly furniture, the light of the neon sign coloring the walls a faint red. jungkook is pushed on the bed, fingers curling around white sheets. something jazzy plays downstairs, they can hear it faintly through the walls; jungkook tries to stop noises from leaving his mouth. yoongi has crawled over him, knee between his legs. "this is a point of no return," he says, staring at jungkook. "you know that, right?"

"i know," jungkook nods, touching yoongi's hair, pushing it back as it fall towards him. he shivers when yoongi touches his stomach. "does it hurt?" it's a silly question, and he blushes as soon as he says it. yoongi's hungry expression falters, melts into a softer one, eyes filling with fondness.

"i guess a little," he says, leaning in to kiss jungkook's jawline. "if you're scared—"

"i'm not scared. just—" yoongi waits for whatever he wants to say. "nervous."

there's a pause before yoongi kisses him, in which their eyes search for each other's as if they're opposite sides of magnets. the kiss is languid, unhurried, almost slow. it calms jungkook down, his heart still beating fiercely in his chest, but in a better, less painful way. yoongi kisses him all over, his lips, his chin, his jawline, his eyelids, his hair, and jungkook smiles as it tingles. but then he reaches his neck, and the smile gets bitten down, breathy sounds escaping through it. his shirt gets removed, tossed out of bed swiftly, the plaid contrasting against the brown, old carpet. yoongi draws patterns on his chest, fingers and lips carrying out feelings that make jungkook squirm.

his pants are next, and yoongi tugs them down after complaining he hates jungkook's converses, they're fucking hard to take off, spreading his legs just enough so he can fit between then, and jungkook feels embarrassed, knees trying to find each other, but yoongi's hips are on the way. "— are you embarrassed?" yoongi asks, looking up at him, lips touching the tender skin of jungkook's chest.

"a bit," jungkook half-shrugs.

yoongi sits back, touching just under jungkook's thighs, and he shivers all over. he raises jungkook's legs just a little, kissing the side of his knees, and jungkook sighs. "it's okay." the kisses trace a line inwards, and jungkook feels his breathing hitch. the point of convergence has jungkook moaning. his underwear gets lost, too, and then yoongi's shirt and pants, and then there's only friction and the hushed sounds they make. jungkook gives himself away too quickly, starving for the wilderness under yoongi's skin.

"hyung, we don't have anything—" jungkook utters at some point, yoongi between his legs, and maybe that isn't what he should be thinking about. yoongi hums, jungkook's fingers pull on the sheets with a bit more force, vision blurred red by neon lights. "do that again." there's a hint of a laughter before yoongi does as he's asked, the vibrations on his throat spreading through jungkook's body — but then he's raising jungkook's legs again, and when his mouth touches places jungkook never thought could feel that good, he moans a bit too loudly at the sensation. still, shame gets the better hand. "— that's — ah — hyung, that's dirty—"

"i won't, then," yoongi says, weakly, voice too taken by lust. his fingers massage a patch of skin that has jungkook's toes curling, exquisite pain building up inside his body. "but i need to — i need to use my fingers. for a bit."

"o—okay."

they'll have to pay for the things they find in the drawer, the prices taped to the labels, but yoongi doesn't fuss. jungkook shivers, feeling himself grow hotter by the second. yoongi leans forward, fingers sticky. "i'm going to kiss you," he says, lips barely touching jungkook's. jungkook is too eager for it, yoongi pushes him down gently. "and if you don't like it, we don't have to—" jungkook doesn't let him finish his sentence.

they kiss for a while, until jungkook starts griding against yoongi, the need for contact too much to bear. yoongi's hand is on him, again, fingers gentle, caring, and it feels good. he gasps when one gets inside him, carefully, both wet and warm, and their teeth clash awkwardly as he stirs. yoongi stops, worried, but jungkook kisses him again, a wayfarer, eager to explore. one finger soon become two, and jungkook start seeeing past the pain and into things that push him almost over edges deep.

"you okay?" yoongi asks, staring at him. "you look —"

"fuck, hyung," he mumbles incoherent thoughts, a stream of clashing vowels and consonants and swear words that, if put together, wouldn't make sense out loud. yoongi chuckles, the sound almost a pur.

after that, jungkook loses his mind layer by layer, pain and yearning, panting and panting, endless panting, and he can't tear his eyes away from yoongi's and the flickering flames inside them, the darkness he tries to tame, the raw need. yoongi drips gasoline, and jungkook soaks in it, mindless sobbing and weak moans staining the air around them, sticky with sweat already. everything yoongi does shoots opium through jungkook's veins, and it hurts in such good ways he cries, needy, begging, writhing. "are you okay?" yoongi asks again, hoarse.

"stop asking," jungkook manages to say. "— ah— hyung—"

"—a bit more," yoongi breathes against his mouth.

they go on a bit more, until they can't go no longer, bodies too exhausted, movements turning lazy, heads too light, skin sensitive to the touch. and jungkook watches as yoongi falls asleep faster than ever before, hair damp against his sweaty forehead—

 

— jungkook wakes up first, body sore, muscles strained. he groans when he moves, yoongi's arm heavy on top of him. "hyung," he calls, turning his head to stare at the beautiful chaos that is yoongi. he's mildly aware it's daylight, and maybe too many hours have gone by as they slept, taking for the yellow and gold hues on the shadows around them. yoongi's eyes flutter open, drowsy, full of the sands of sleep, and jungkook thinks he can see them like glitter on his eyelids. his chest fills up with unnamed feelings. he almost smiles, but yoongi scrambles up, shit, shit, shit, shit being uttered as if it's a rap verse, fast and sharp, stabbing. it hurts.

he notices jungkook's expression, pants over his legs already, and stops, zipper undone, messy hair. "jungkook," his voice is tarnished with heartbreak, like taehyung's. "— i'm sorry."

"please stay," jungkook blurts out, sitting up. "hyung, you can't leave."

"we both need to leave," he grabs jungkook's shirt and pants, tossing it at him. "we need to— we need to go."

yoongi's jittery, nervous in a way jungkook hasn't seen him before. they get dressed, jungkook ignores the stains on the sheets, or the smell on his skin that doesn't really belong to him, or how his muscles feel all weird, his body exhausted as if he'd run for days. the girl at the lobby eyes him when yoongi pays, cheshire cat smile on her face. the concept of walk of shame was one jungkook never grasped, until he walked out to a crowded street, sun revealing too much. they walk fast. there's no money left in their pockets, so they jump the turnstile at the subway station and hope to not get caught. they don't.

"are you hungry?" yoongi asks, sitting next to him on the train car.

"yeah," jungkook nods.

"we can eat something before going home."

"okay."

it's a common conversatin, but it doesn't feel common. it feels veered. lines are changed, all the primary colors jungkook has come to learn. yoongi stops by an atm machine, and cashes out all what's left of his money, which isn't much but i'll get paid today, it's okay. they sit at a starbucks, where food is a bit overpriced, but yoongi pays anyway. jungkook bites on the straw of his americano, two habits he got from yoongi himself, watching him and his nervousness, waiting. at last, their eyes meet awkwardly, blushes spreading like a disease. "fucking changes things," yoongi uses blunt words, maybe to scare him, jungkook doesn't know. he chokes on his drink a bit, coughing. yoongi puts his plastic cup down without drinking.

jungkook feels himself grow redder. "i'm sorry i wasn't good—"

"shut it, you were—" yoongi seems to realize his words, cheeks flushing. he averts his eyes, grabbing the straw with his teeth as if to buy himself time. finally, resigned, he sighs. jungkook notices the faint bruises on his neck, and can't remember when he did that. "you were good, kook."

"there's a but, isn't there?" jungkook can almost hear it. you're eighteen.

however, yoongi laughs weakly, the sound hoarse and low. "if seokjin-hyung were here he'd have made the most ridiculous pun," he shakes his head, and jungkook laughs too. laughter seems to lift a bit of the hefty weight surrouding them. yoongi finally sips his coffee.

"you don't feel anything for me, i'm young, it was only one time," jungkook allows himself to say, immitating yoongi's tone, his short syllables, his lisp. yoongi stares at him, seemingly dumbfounded. jungkook tries to appear calm, collected, even though his heart has cracks, and pitch drips from it. "that's what you're going to say, isn't it, hyung?"

"no — maybe, shit, no," yoongi tentatively touches jungkook's hand, so lightly he can't really feel it. "you're young, that's true," he swallows, nervous. "i'm just worried."

"about what?"

"what it means."

they finish their meal in silence, then. croissants that don't really taste good, watery coffee with too much ice in it, a waste of money, jungkook thinks, wishing they had just gone home but realizing that maybe yoongi's scared to take him there, because then it's only them and the bed they sleep on and the walls that close around their feelings. eventually, though, they do get home. yoongi tells him to shower first, but jungkook vaguely makes an excuse, folding dirty laundry that doesn't need to be fold. then the water runs, and jungkook sits at the edge of the bed, heart hurting, a small pile of clothes around him, unwashed, unfolded. he inhales, and it stutters.

he feels ashamed, wronged, in some ways, void. his chest cavity leaks all his yearning, staining yoongi's bedsheets. what does it mean? maybe it doesn't mean anything. he should shower, and then help yoongi around the house. they'd talk, watch cheesy movies, and namjoon would come over, and toss popcorn at them, and taehyung would laugh and call jungkook loverboy again, and when they had left yoongi would kiss him, and they'd sleep, holding onto each other — jungkook sniffs, eyes burning.

it's just wishful thinking. 

the few clothes he owns get stuffed back into his ripped backpack, alongside stale chips and a bottle of wine. the water is still running when he leaves.

 

 

sungjae offers him the sofa back without too many questions (he does slide him a book, muttering something about loss, and jungkook pretends not to hear, fingers holding onto tell the wolves i'm home). jungkook turns off his phone, pushing it inside a drawer to be forgotten. no one comes for him the day he leaves yoongi's apartament, but namjoon stands in front of the door as soon as jungkook leaves the office the next morning, back hurting from the couch, heart hurting from the things he's read overnight (maybe i was destined to forever fall in love with people i couldn't have. maybe there's a whole assortment of impossible people waiting for me to find them. waiting to make me feel the same impossibility over and over again—) (he stopped reading, then).

"you left," namjoon points out when the door is unlocked.

"i'm sorry," it's all jungkook can say.

"he's worried," yoongi's name isn't spoken out loud. "you don't pick up your phone."

"it died," he lies, looking away, going behind the counter. "i don't think it's a good idea to be there, that's all. i'm alright here."

"— you like him?"

jungkook shrugs, confused, and he doesn't have enough willpower to stop from blushing so openly. "i don't know, hyung."

namjoon sighs, shoving his hands on his pockets. "i'm not the person you should be having this conversation with," he mumbles, shifting on his weight. "just promise me you won't avoid us. we'd miss you. all of us."

"i won't. i just — i need some time, hyung."

time is given to him. the boys — their bond so deep they can feel the ugly current of emotions seeping from one to another — come by every other time. come to the castle, jimin pleads, arms firmly around jungkook's waist as he organizes books. maybe another day, hyung. time doesn't really heal shit, he thinks, bitter, and his heart hurts whenever yoongi comes to see namjoon, their money exchanged, and he watches as if it is a window for a time where jungkook wasn't — in love, heartbroken, maybe, he doesn't know. yoongi's hair fades from sunset pinks to a washed-out greens. sometimes he looks jungkook's way, and sometimes jungkook thinks their eyes meet, but most times he lets it go.

 

(too long of a time passes, bitterly. jungkook sinks into loneliness deep, adrift.)

 

when he hears yoongi's voice again, and how it's filled with sadness, he's startled. "i thought you didn't come here anymore," yoongi says, and jungkook turns, the chandelier over them creaking as it moves in the breeze. he thought no one would be at the castle as he rode the trains alone, staring as the landscapes change, seeing them for the first time. yoongi's there — and jungkook's heart skips beats, too many of them.

"i just—" he starts, not knowing what to say. "i've been busy."

"books to sell. right," yoongi smiles weakly, but his tone is ironic.

"yeah, books to sell, hyung." his eyes wander about yoongi, finding a bottle of vodka on his hand, half of the liquid gone. jungkook walks over to him, taking the bottle, its cold surface unsettling. yoongi doesn't try to stop him, staring. they stand in front of each other, close enough to see patterns of blemishes and eyelashes and jungkook stops breathing.

"you have to breathe," yoongi reminds him, eyes lingering on the features of his face.

"— i miss you, hyung." the words come out airy as he exhales.

"why did you leave, jungkook?"

"because," jungkook hisses, pain spreading all over his body. "i like you."

"that's not why—"

"but it is, hyung," he knows his voice is strained and filled with sudden anger, but he can't help it. "and you don't like me. not in the same way—"

"we — we can't, jungkook," yoongi sounds exasperated. "you'll just get hurt."

"you wouldn't hurt me."

"i wouldn't, but others would," and jungkook understands. yoongi is afraid of people. boys aren't meant to fall for each other — i'm not a girl, jungkook, yoongi had warned him too many times. shame is heavy and it colors them just like the grime on the sidewalks. "i don't want that to happen to you."

"i'm not afraid, hyung." 

yoongi opens his mouth to say something, expression faltering. jungkook kisses him instead, their lips clashing painfully, teeth and noses on the way, but he doesn't care. yoongi kisses him back for only a moment, and then he gets shoved away, so harshly he stumbles back. "fuck you," yoongi almost seethes, eyes dark. jungkook takes a step closer again, and he gets shoved again. "stop it."

"it won't change, hyung, no matter how many times you push me away."

"you walked away first—"

"because i was embarrassed—!"

"you should've stayed."

their voices are too loud now, echoing just like the melody of yoongi's song did all those months ago, and their arms both push and pull at each other, as if they want distance but can't really let go. jungkook isn't sure what they're fighting about anymore. he breathes sharply, air feeling stingy inside his lungs. "if i had stayed, would you have loved me back?" yoongi runs a hand over his hair, face red. "because i — i love you," the words come out crooked, yoongi looks away, his chest rising and falling in strange patterns. "but you don't—"

"i—"

"you wouldn't have, hyung," jungkook feels like crying, his voice comes out throaty, his tongue dry. "you're too much of a coward."

the first punch surprises him, the second not so much, and he stumbles again, back finding a wall, feeling blood on his mouth, metallic and vicious. he stares at the ground, hot tears pooling at the corner of his eyes. yoongi's breathing is knife-sharp. "— fuck, i'm sorry," he utters, at once, walking over, reaching out to touch him. jungkook is the one who pushes him away this time. "jungkook."

"i still love you," tears do fall down his face now, unwelcomed and pointless, and he sniffs, lips bloody. "hitting me won't fix me, hyung."

"i'm so sorry," yoongi mutters, consonants dripping with regret, and he tries again, inching closer, and jungkook lets him touch him this time, thumb running over his lip gently. they stare at each other. "i just—"

"you can't love me back. i get it."

his face is held, softly, and yoongi's fingers tremble as if he's cold, touching his neck. "i fucking love you." jungkook holds his breath in. "i just — i don't know how to love you without hurting you." somehow words pour out of his lips through gritted teeth, and yoongi's face is red and sad and chaotic, fingers laced with jungkook's blood. 

"then don't, hyung. don't hurt me."

their touches are tentative at first, so careful it's like they're roses full of thorns. their foreheads touch, their arms touch, bringing each other closer. the kiss tastes of salty water, and blood and ruin and love, gray-colored love. jungkook's jaw hurts, his eyes prickle, and yoongi is wildfire, burning him down to ashes. it's a parting kiss, shared between lovers who go to war to die and never see each other again. don't hurt me, don't leave, don't leave me alone, jungkook pleads, and yoongi holds him, i'm so lonely, hyung, i'm so, so lonely.

(mom, dad, i'm sorry, but i've got to go.)

somehow, it isn't anymore about the things he feels for yoongi, but the things he keeps bottled up, and maybe pain just made it worse, spilling everything like river water over a broken dam. he cries for too long of a time, and at some point other arms hold him as he sits on hard ground, face buried on his hands, feeling hands hold onto him tight. "you don't have to feel that way, kook," someone says, hands on his hair, hands on his clothes, tugging and pressing and comforting. "we'll be with you."

(i need to find home. i know you'll understand.)

"i won't let you go," yoongi's voice is close, so close, and he smells of vanilla. home isn't a place, jungkook thinks, fingers curled around the fabric of his clothes. he can feel taehyung pressed against him, too, and namjoon, and seokjin, and jimin, and hoseok, and their smell, and their souls, crooked, jagged edges, entwined. home is the people around him. "we won't ever let you go."

(one day i'll go back, and i'll tell you about it. wait for me.)

 

 

time passes like chapters of a book, jungkook flipping through them, sometimes slowly, sometimes fast. it stretches like a river, sometimes calm, sometimes turvy. it's a mess of secrets exposed and fathers and spirits, both liquid and immaterial. pictures are taken, and seokjin colors the colorless walls of the castle with them. a year passes, at last, season upon season because those always end, autumn, winter, spring and summer, wash, rinse, repeat.

"i don't have work today, i can pick you up," yoongi is saying, hair devoid of colors, with lingering shades of gray. jungkook chews on a toast, still a bit sleepy. "or you can call in sick, and we can do something." he nods eagerly, mouth full, and yoongi smiles, the sort of smile that make his eyes look like crinkled half-moons. "— we should go to the beach." jungkook swallows, looking away, and there's a blunt pause in their dialogue. "you don't want to go home?"

"home isn't busan," he replies. "home is you."

"— okay," yoongi blushes the slightest, still smiling. "but don't you miss the sea? you said that once."

"i guess." 

"i want to take you there," he leans forward, pressing a kiss on jungkook's forehead. they've become routine, part of who they are — forehead kisses, chaste and sweet, and kisses at the side of lips, and over closed eyelids when the other asleep, and kisses over bruised knuckles from fights picked on empty streets, and kisses on ribs, on scapulas, on necks. jungkook thinks he'll never get enough of them. "there's a train leaving for busan at ten. i might have bought tickets."

jungkook smiles, nodding, cheeks hot. "okay, then. let's go to busan, hyung."

the train leaves at ten, and jungkook feels strangely calm. the platform is full, but jungkook is alone. it's the end of summer again, he realizes faintly, staring at the tracks that disappear into the horizon. he turned nineteen, cake on his cheeks, smile on his face. he's read twenty-two different books. he's kissed yoongi too many times to count. moon river plays on the speakers, we're after the same rainbow's end, just around the bend, and fingers curl around his, my huckleberry friend, yoongi has a pretty smile on his face, his hair ruffled by the wind, eyes small, moon river and me.

"i hope you don't mind," yoongi starts, biting on his bottom lip. "that we go together. all of us." jungkook can hear taehyung's laughter before yoongi finishes his sentence. his smile widens.

(five hours, they sit on a semi-crowded car, and jungkook stares outside as the sight starts to blur in front of his eyes, and jimin talks about a book he's reading and namjoon replies, it isn't a book that jungkook knows. four hours, and jungkook drifts for about twenty minutes, head on yoongi's shoulder, swaying with the soft movements of the train, yoongi's scent all over him, peach, and vanilla, and the fabric softner jungkook recently bought. three hours, and they play silly guessing games, and when they guess wrong, they take vodka shots from taehyung's plastic water bottle, laughing at the small rebellious act. two hours, and jungkook listens to yoongi talk about music with namjoon and hoseok, the words sticking to his mind, lyrics and poems written in old notebooks with grease stains, and namjoon urges him to sing verses, and he does so, i need your love before i fall, fall,  and yoongi looks at him in a way that sets unyielding fires in his chest. one hour, sixty minutes, jungkook reads out loud, yoongi listens to him, head against him, and the easy sounds of sleep fill the car.)

jungkook smells ocean air even before leaving the train. they walk a long time, run down streets most of them don't know, jimin points at familiar buildings, jungkook feels his heart knot. finally, after what it feels like a lifetime, and maybe it was, his feet find patches of sand. bodies collide with his, stumbling over each other, and for a moment they all stop, vaguely in awe upon seeing the ocean. "it goes forever," hoseok comments. "where does it end?"

"north america?" taehyung tries, cheeky. they snicker, their fractured laughter taken away by the wind.

"— you mean japan, right?" namjoon chuckles.

"shut it, hyung."

"okay, last pays for the food?" hoseok smirks, elbowing jungkook and taehyung. he takes off running, then, and they all follow, screaming, and jungkook wins, because you're freaking golden, namjoon shoves him, and yoongi comes last, because i don't feel like fucking running, but jungkook knows it's because he doesn't mind paying for the food (they all pitch in anyway, coins falling from yoongi's hands on the way). they play around as if they're back at being children, the water cold and restless, and their pants get wet to the knees. words are written on the soggy sand, whole messages to possible ufos or lonely whales that might come ashore. we're here, we exist, we found each other, we're not lost. yoongi buys them cheeseburgers and fries, they stay at the beach until the sky starts changing colors, the blue giving in to burning pinks and muted oranges, which then are consumed slowly by darker hues. they watch day turn into night, side by side.

much like at the castle, they fall asleep on top of each other, keeping the warmth in, by a fire they all helped to build, all the stars of the entire universe stretched above them, constellations watching them from futures unknown.

 

(he dreams of boys, bruised knees, polaroids, sand and waves, and yoongi, hair wet, clothes clinging to his body, and a kiss that tastes like saltwater.)

 

"do you want to go meet my parents?" jungkook asks, the morning next, as they sit side by side under a sun that burns their skin, chewing on cold, stale french fries. yoongi turns his head to look at him.

"— your parents?"

"yeah," he shrugs. "i'm going to see them today."

for a moment, jungkook believes yoongi will say no, but he only nods, a small sure voiced out, and jungkook smiles. when he feels he can go, when his soul feels light enough, he goes, and yoongi follows him wordlessly, and the others, too. it takes them a bus ride, a long one, almost two hours, and some more walking uphill. they carry plastic bags full of cold, sweating sodas and leftover fries and burgers. "they're there," jungkook points, sad smile coloring his face. the boys are quiet, apprehensive. "let me introduce you."

"— jungkookie," namjoon starts, holding his wrist. "we're really sorry."

the gravesite is a plot of land, grass very green all above it. jungkook shakes his head. "it's okay," he kneels to pick up dead leaves and flowers from the grave, fussing about with the weed, talking. "hi, mom, hi, dad." a short pause. "i miss you." yoongi kneels beside him, hands starting to help. "i'm not alone anymore."

they all pay their respects, and then they sit around the grave, eating and tossing food about, and telling stories to thin air, where jungkook hopes his parents can hear ("they can hear you all the way in seoul, kook," jimin says, clinging to his back, a hand softly petting  his hair). they soak up in the sun, the air heavy with humidity, and after some time, they say their goodbyes. as the boys start walking away, jungkook stays behind, yoongi holding his hand tenderly, the butterfly tattoo somehow alight. they have left all the polaroids seokjin took behind, memorabilia of a present past, to keep them company in the dark. "i guess i will always miss them," he breathes.

"you will," yoongi nods. "but that means you won't forget them, i guess."

"yeah," he looks at yoongi, and for a second there, he dreads. "don't leave, hyung."

it seems wrong to kiss, maybe, because yoongi doesn't kiss him. instead, he wraps him into a hug. "i won't."

"— hey, loverboys!" they hear the shouts, and the others are waiting for them meters ahead, waving their hands. jungkook heart skips a beat, just like it does when yoongi kisses him. in one way or another, he's a little bit in love with each one of them, their bond laced around his fingers like red strings of fate. yoongi swears loudly, and then apologizes, blushing, and jungkook laughs, and they start to walk, joining the others as they walk down the hill, the strings knotted all around them, to fingers and wrists and ankles, keeping them together with invisible ties, soulmates, lost, but found.

jungkook just looks over his shoulder once, and he smiles.