69: What's Really Important

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The green and gold and vanilla room in the mansion house hasn't changed at all since you left.

It's still warm, forest-and-earth shaded comfort that smells like cinnamon rolls and love. Sunlight still streams in the same way through the window, glimmering on the splotches of gold that stitch through the bed's blankets.

In the midst of all these familiar surroundings, it's you who doesn't feel the same.

Idly, you trace a gold-veined thread in an uneven zigzag across the comforter with your finger; a lone, pale traveler traipsing down a razor-thin road.

Eventually, the road ends, diving into the depths of brown and green and cloth.

Your finger remains at the end of the gold thread, unsure of where to go next while the road before it dissolves into nothing.

You draw back your hand and clench it.

"Hey. Stop that."

The cracked door swings open, and Hoseok
bounces in.

His tattoos flow down his wrists and throat in the same way he moves; starkly and smoothly -a whopping, undeniable presence.

He throws himself onto the bed beside you and slaps your fisted hand.

You draw said hand back to your chest, wincing at the slight sting. "I'm not doing anything."

"Yes, you are," says Hoseok. He taps the end of your nose, like you're a misbehaving child. "You're worrying."

You purse your lips and turn your head away.

He's right.

You are worrying.

But how can you not?

In the aftermath of the hotel fight, the eight of you were lucky to escape as unscathed as you did.

Namjoon, with a broken left arm.

Yoongi and Jin and Hoseok and Jimin, scrapes and bruises and blood patching across every visible part of their skin.

You, too, have angry purple bruises that ring in large handprints around your throat; the indent of a dog collar that wrenched too tight for too long, and was finally removed.

But two were worse than the rest of you.

Taehyung, and Jungkook.

Down the hall and in a room to your left is where Taehyung is resting, sequestered in his room like a nocturnal animal hiding from the sun. Jimin is with him, and has been with him, and will be with him until his mental state is stable enough to return.

You visited once when Taehyung was sleeping.

Inside the dimness of his bedroom, he was nothing more than a tiny lump beneath a mountain of blankets, his arms wrapped tight around Jimin, who sat white-faced and solemn beside where he laid.

It's been three days, but Taehyung hasn't said a word to any of you.

"Is it..." You trail off, throat thick with the implications of his silence. "Did Jin find out about Tae? Did they...do something to him? So that he can't talk?"

Or is it that he just doesn't want to?

Hoseok shifts back, crossing one leg beneath him. "Jin hyung said his vocal chords look fine. His throat doesn't seem to have any damage - nothing that should be inhibiting his speech, anyway. It's all surface injuries. Except in here." Hoseok taps his head with one finger.

You look down. Your finger finds a new thread to follow. "And...Jungkook?"

Hoseok's eyes gentle, mellow into a soft darkness.

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