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*

 

 





i. first love 


 

 




*





 once upon a time, there was a boy who lived at the end of the universe.





*





the first time yoongi stumbles through a wormhole to the end of the universe, it is by accident. his ship comes out into the stillest space he's ever seen and he thinks for a moment he must have died and landed himself deep in purgatory. where other people picture the afterlife as reward or punishment, yoongi has always imagined it to be far less climactic -- just another part of the grind and why look forward to that? drifting without even the interior sounds is a surreal and not-quite-there experience. yoongi listens close because he's good at listening, and he watches because he knows the importance of being watchful, stares through the glass of his cockpit and zeroes in on a light brighter than the rest. when yoongi tilts his head, the light diamonds in; when he changes the angle yet again, it halos. something about all this luminary motion suggests music though he cannot say why, except that given enough focus maybe everything suggests music to yoongi who opted for space pirate but holds the piano close to his heart. 

when he sighs, the light blinks again, seems to say something about travel, about struggle, about safety.

and yoongi despite knowing he must have jumped several quadrants and has now no real idea of where he is, could just turn around, could plot out a course and take that in a basic direction: away.

what yoongi actually does: key in a path for the light.

whispers, "well why not," and means he has nothing much to lose.




*





within a certain proximity, yoongi's ship finds itself pulled in at a speed faster than yoongi thought his old ship was capable of. 



computer: we are crashing.




"you think?" yoongi deadpans and braces himself.

 

 

*

 

 

 

what yoongi expects: incineration, probably with a few wedges of metal thrust through his chest. what actually happens is rather different. everything just...stops. the ship, sound, everything except what yoongi can see. even his sense of touch is murky at best. 

"computer. analyze environment."

when silence greets him, yoongi arches a brow, gets up, and wanders toward the drop gate. long past bothering with a code, he raps his knuckles against one of seven vending slots near said gate. an air mask drops down, complete with a miniature vial of compressed oxygen that hooks into the mouthpiece. once tugged on, it looks almost no different from a surgical mask except 1. it's black; and 2. the structure is just a little too rigid, machine rather than hygienic practice. it suctions to his jaw, across the bridge of his nose, flush to the thin sharps of his cheeks that have seen better days as far as food goes. it always takes him back to before he started drifting. he used to wear these masks all the time, carried multiples on him to be safe because mining on semi toxic planets was a death wish at its most benign. he thinks about how dark it always was and despite living in space how rarely he got to see the stars. he thinks about namjoon.

namjoon.

a writer's hands and a lifelong love's heart. 

punching the switch to release the gate, yoongi blinks hard and stops his thoughts there.

 

 

*

 

outside has the same bizarre stillness in feeling but his eyes tell him different. all around yoongi: wisps of starlight. they remind yoongi of a holo he once saw describing a flower called 'dandelion' -- how people on planet earth would blow the still attached seedlings off the stem and make wishes on them. people back then made wishes on all kinds of things: flowers, pennies, stars, times of day. in all his life, yoongi doesn't know if he's particularly banked on wishing. it feels nebulous and yoongi likes concrete things. standing amidst feathered shimmers of light, watching the colors change how a moonstone might, he thinks if wishes take physical form perhaps this comes close. 

this stillness feels like dreams, he realizes as he takes a few more steps. underneath his black boots there is grass almost too blue to be green. like some kind of remnant sea the water left behind. the sky holds itself black indigo and midnight blue in shifting gradations suggestive of air mountains, no clouds; just these pieces of light -- the bigger ones sharp enough to throw yoongi's rundown reflection back at him. 

he walks deeper, comes to the edge of a forest whose roots disappear beneath water that has a ripple to it everywhere, but the movement is so slow it's barely there at all; it makes it look more like a painting than a reality, so much so that yoongi reaches out to press his callused hand against the smooth smooth silver-white of the tree. it feels new. and old. and neither. it also seems almost...to speak. closing his eyes he can feel it: how it hums with that hidden voice music has often had for him, resonant and open-minded. it's curious that even when he shuts his eyes, yoongi can see the stardust, wonders softly if any of it literally got caught in his eyes. 

perhaps he spaces out longer than he thinks.

"are you okay?"

second nature is a hard habit to kill. yoongi draws the gun he keeps in the holster under his jacket and aims it with less than a thought, but the owner of the voice is closer than he thinks. the barrel rests neatly between two wide eyes and yoongi thinks he's never seen eyelashes so long at the same time that he thinks: he's just a kid. 

"um."

having received danger enough from even less likely sources, yoongi lowers his gun but not his guard.

"what are you?"

the boy blinks, tilts his head. 

amidst the floating starshine, he almost glows, the dark of his eyes and his hair catching on all the light, warm and home.

"you're breathing without a support," yoongi clarifies, frowns, his own voice muffled and scratchy. 

the boy blinks again and then...laughs. when he steps closer, yoongi doesn't know why he lets him but he does; when he reaches out yoongi only flinches back slightly, cuts off his intention by wrapping his fingers tight around the boy's wrist -- hard enough to hold him there and not quite hard enough to bruise; by now he knows the difference.

"you don't need this either," the boy says, able to turn his wrist in yoongi's grasp upsidedown, able to dance his fingertips under yoongi's chin where the mask is water-tight to his skin. "not here."

call him a pessimist but yoongi's first thought is simple enough: "...am i dead?"

again the boy laughs. yoongi's brow knits tight. slightly annoyed. this beautiful weird dream of a painting keeps laughing at him and so far in his opinion hasn't given him any answers. 

"not at all," the boy says and then, more softly, "please let go." 

after a moment, yoongi does. his hand comes away coated with something like the stars -- opalescent, more lavender in a certain light, deeper in another, silvery or pinkish, but always bright. he looks up.

"what are you?" he repeats as the boy, turned away already, half turns back, stares at him over his white clad shoulder and says,

"jungkook."

yoongi's heartbeat picks up. he doesn't know why. but it seems polite to offer the same in return.

"yoongi," he says and almost returns jungkook's smile too.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 


he follows jungkook through the forest buried knee-deep in star water. it has a summer temperature -- the summer of the seventh month rather than the eighth or ninth when it might be too tepid. somehow the names of seasons from earth followed the human species to their other now many colonized planets. though based on his school lessons (so long ago it seems) yoongi thinks the sea on earth was never the color of the seas in these other star systems. he also thinks there is nothing wrong with that; different places should have different things or what's the point? the water parts for them like tall standing grains, like waves of air as much as liquid and yoongi would almost believe it was clouds instead of water, except when they emerge on the other side he's dripping. jungkook too is soaking on his lower legs and even the tail of his ridiculously oversized white shirt, the sleeves dripping a darker moon shade than the rest. 

"almost there," jungkook says.

"hn." yoongi says.

he doesn't know where 'there' even is, doesn't really know why jungkook bothers to tell him, watches as he comes parallel with him the soft flutter of his eyelashes, the catch of his teeth on his lower lip, the way his skin positively shimmers when he catches the light just so. around them the hanging starlight has taken on a more uniform glow -- blues predominantly overriding the pinks closer to where yoongi landed, where his ship remains open to any intruders but it's maybe too late to think about that. it feels, anyway, like it's just....jungkook here. jungkook and yoongi now. he doesn't know why that is but it's a strong feeling, a gut feeling; or a heart feeling. both of which tend to be right where yoongi is concerned. the teal grass underfoot is soft even through his shoes, somehow, and yoongi has a moment where he wonders if he ought to take them off. 

as if reading his thoughts, jungkook says, "the grass here doesn't mind."

the ground is flat for a long time, maybe thirty minutes. yoongi listens for other people or other anythings but all he picks up is the planet itself perhaps. water. a breeze. the impression that all the fragments of shimmer around them ought to have sounds too. music. yoongi's right hand twitches. it's been over a year since he touched a piano and a year to a life of many more is a fresh wound really, an ache slow to scar but very promising of it. yoongi stuffs both hands in his pockets.

throughout their walk, jungkook doesn't press him for information, is mostly silent except for here and there where he hums something soft and beautiful. fitting. yoongi almost asks him what song it is, then presses his mouth shut on it. 

it's not until the grassy field opens up onto what looks for all the worlds like an actual ocean, that yoongi says anything else.

"oh," he says and his heart is heavy with it, turns over, revolves around a feeling he refuses to name. 

he misses the sharp lilt of jungkook's eyes watching him, misses the longing there, misses this: how for a millisecond jungkook is see-through and all the lines connecting him look like old constellatory charts -- how his eyes are galaxies and the human reach of his hand to yoongi's jaw seems comprised wholly of colors that never stop changing. 

when he touches yoongi, yoongi looks over and things are as they were. where jungkook's fingertips graze yoongi's cheek before retracting, he leaves a trail of starlight. 

he doesn't have an explanation for why he does it. yoongi still has three reserve vials of oxygen for his mask. he doesn't have to be so dramatic, but he does it anyway: reaches behind his head to release the safety latch seamlessly woven into the strap. as it falls off it hits his clavicle heavy and loud with the small metal parts too industrial for these ethereal surroundings. yoongi himself fits that description of course, save for his hair -- a pale blue that plays with the stars quite nicely. 

a breath. two breaths. three. 

again, jungkook does that thing. he smiles.

yoongi, bemused, finally smiles back.

 

 

*

 

 

 

"here is the sea dragon," jungkook draws his fingertip through the air in the shape of a set of stars yoongi is unfamiliar with, yoongi who at this point has decided he must be dreaming. it's the only logical explanation. granted, his dreams tend to be darker creatures but weirder things have happened. so he leans back in the ridiculously clean sand, uncaring of how it immediately climbs down the back of his shirt and into his hair; he leans back and watches jungkook's light show, marvels at the ghost-like trail of light jungkook himself leaves behind whenever he moves a little too quickly. 

"what are you?" yoongi asks for the third time and when jungkook looks over, it makes it hard to breathe.

because something there is different. something there?

is sad.

"i can't answer that," he says and it sounds like 'i'm sorry'. sitting up, yoongi dusts himself off before coming to stand in front of jungkook, jungkook who stares down at their feet and still hasn't dried out from their trek through the water wood. 

"well," yoongi says, reaches out and runs his fingers through jungkook's hair soft soft soft. "never mind."

 

 

*

 

 

 

"you better go," jungkook says. it has been an hour, two hours, a day, two days. yoongi has no idea. 

"where'm i going to go?" yoongi squints. 

"back," jungkook smiles his sad smile. yoongi frowns.

"and you?" it's just a dream, he reminds himself. though jungkook feels very real when he leans in almost close enough for their noses to touch, almost, and says,

"another time."

 

 

*

 

 

 

yoongi doesn't remember getting back to his ship, doesn't indeed remember taking off nor launching back into space. but he finds himself on a cleanly plotted route through a familiar quadrant, almost as if he had never left nor gone toward a warm white light that seemed to sing to him. a dream, he reaffirms to himself.

but when he looks down at his hands he finds a familiar sheen of opalescent light and when he looks in the glass he sees that same crystalline dust arrowed across his cheek where a fingertip touched just lightly. there is sand down the back of his shirt and in his hair, and his heart...

his heart aches.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

his own flight history proves unhelpful. everywhere in it seems familiar, which means it's wrong.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

computer: incoming message -- jung hoseok.

 


"accept."

a fuzzy image at best, hoseok's smile still glints through bright and sun strong. 

"hey you never call me back," he says and doesn't mean any harm, just means: i was worried.

yoongi scratches the back of his neck. "sorry. i got...distracted."

"for three weeks?" 

"i guess."

"what with? do you need help?"

when hoseok and yoongi were in school together it was yoongi who helped hoseok, yoongi who looked out for him. in their adult lives their roles have reversed a little, hoseok the one to pursue yoongi's semi hermit reminiscent self across ridiculous distances and windows of time, just to make sure he's okay. if yoongi listens closely enough he can hear noise in the background, probably hoseok's husband -- seokjin who yoongi recalls first because he's probably the most handsome man he's ever met, and second because he is probably the only reason yoongi knows what non-replicator food tastes like. he slouches in his pilot's chair.

"not...really."

hoseok's eyes narrow. 

"it's not something...anyone can help with," yoongi tries again.

"yoongi..."

"don't worry though."

"you know that's not how it works."

at that, yoongi's laugh chuffs out unbidden as he tucks his chin down, stares at his starless hands and mumbles, "yeah...i know."

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

the second time yoongi gets dragged through a wormhole to the end of the universe, he's running away from bounty hunters. again he thinks: we are going to crash, even as his computer informs him of the same thing. again, however, they don't. the atmosphere of cloudy starlight gives way to a buoyant brand of gravity, suspending yoongi's ship in a physical pause before lowering it to the ground. glancing across the glass of the front of his ship are what yoongi has come to think of as dandelion stardusts, the feathered shimmers rather than the pinpoints of light, and he smiles. something giddy has taken over him. he feels sort of childish, scrambling out of his seat to run down the hall and down the gate out into the teal green field where, sure enough, a boy waits for him.

"hi," jungkook says.

yoongi stops less than a foot in front of him, looks that slight difference up at jungkook and says, "hi."

 

 

*

 

 

between yoongi's first visit and his second, he thought about jungkook a lot. he thought about all the things he would have liked to know about him, and planned what he might ask him if he got the opportunity. 

sitting diagonal from each other in a tree full of moon fruit -- each glowing orb slightly different from the rest, at different phases of light or shadow -- yoongi peers down at jungkook who is gently turning one fruit to the right, half his face deep in the moon's shadow, the other half shockingly bright, all of him painstakingly compelling. because even not knowing much, yoongi knows this: there are worlds in jungkook, jungkook who won't tell him what he is but will tell him what he likes, what he dislikes, and once, what he dreams.

swinging his bare feet back and forth -- shoes thrown back onboard his ship before they set off this particular trip -- ankles bare beneath the frayed ends of his pants, yoongi feels young and then strange. 

"i dream mostly about the sea," jungkook says. yoongi asked him probably an hour ago but he doesn't mind. an answer is an answer. jungkook kisses the dark side of the moon he's holding, whispers something in a language yoongi doesn't recognize, and adds, "i dream about my friends too." something in his tone has yoongi leaning down to meet his gaze as close as their separate branches will allow. for a second, when he looks at jungkook, he sees four seasons, he sees a falling star, he sees songs that have not yet been written; he sees in all directions. it's beautiful. and vast. and lonely. he half climbs half staggers down from his higher branch to crawl out onto jungkook's where the boy's face suggests an intention to run. so yoongi pauses mid-reach, hands curled on the branch and eyes never leaving jungkook's as he says,

"i dream about you."

it's not romantic, or at least it's not supposed to be. which is perhaps what makes it too much. there isn't a word for this: for being real.

jungkook's voice breaks on a non-word as he smiles and manages not to cry.

just barely.

says,

"i hope they're good dreams."

when yoongi reaches the rest of the way, he reaches for jungkook's hand.

jungkook lets him.

 

 

 

 


*

 

 

 

 

walking through the moon orchard, they come across a tree whose moons are all dark. yoongi tilts his head, feels jungkook's hand tremble in his own; laces their fingers.

holds on tight.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

at a lake that looks to be made of sky, yoongi shows jungkook how to skip stones. jungkook ends up being better at it than yoongi who laughs and shakes his head and curls his hand at the back of jungkook's neck, like some kind of memory.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

"you should go," jungkook says, takes his hand back so stealthily that yoongi grasps at empty air for more than a second. 

"why?"

"look," jungkook says, raises yoongi's hand to his own and yoongi stares. he can see right through his hand to jungkook's palm, to the starlight inherent in his veins, the moon shimmer of his skin. he wonders for the billionth time: what are you?

says,

"guess i better."

this time yoongi remembers lifting off, remembers staring down at jungkook as his ship rises up through the clouds and jungkook goes from being a shimmering heartbeat to an obscured star. yoongi does not remember leaving the atmosphere entirely, nor how he gets to the part of space he was in before he went through that bridge of time. what he does remember: that it took a wormhole to get there, that indeed that was how it was the first time; and yoongi is nothing if not a man of practicality. he starts a map of places he is near when he remembers having gone to see jungkook, marks each set of coordinates with a star pin and writes below them:

1. not a dream.
2. golden

in his notebook, handwritten despite this being a more or less dead art form, yoongi has other things jotted: time limit, stardust, moon orchard, time continuum discrepancy, familiar but no memory, airless yet breathable, sea, lake, mangrove - sort of, doesn't seem to need to eat, no particular evidence of a conventional sun.

so on. so forth.

and very small in the corner of one page closer to the front:

beautiful.

 

 

*

 

 

 


even through their worse than usual connection, yoongi can see the worry in hoseok's expression. it makes him feel guilty.

"you're on a one-man mission to find every wormhole possible because of something that sounds seriously like some kind of hallucination. it's not okay!" hoseok's voice is its most distressing when he's quiet. he's almost whispering now, maybe to control himself and maybe also because he can barely get the words out. 

it's been months and given yoongi's one-track mind, it's starting to show. 

"you're not eating enough," hoseok says.

"i am," yoongi pauses. "it is 'enough'. i could eat more," because he has to be fair, because he doesn't want to have this argument when it's completely unnecessary. "i have to see him again."

"and if you don't find him? how long will you look?"

"i..."

in his room yoongi has a hundred holo screens still open all maps all different points of focus worth investigating where he has not yet been. he has half a tube of food supplement that he's been nursing for a couple days on and off more out of anxiety than actual hunger. his eyes are inhumanly dry and he definitely needs a shower. 

"listen." the way hoseok stops is enough to tell yoongi what he's going to say before he says it, so yoongi sits up straight and looks him dead in the eye, ignores his direction, says,

"no."

"yoongi..."

"this isn't about joon."

"it isn't?"

and it's not that hoseok doesn't believe him so much as it is a problem of being unable to figure out what else it might be. the yoongi hoseok remembers at his happiest was a yoongi with a dimpled young man at his side, a long arm over his shoulders, and the kind of mental connection a person could never pay for -- that singularity of 'getting' each other. that was namjoon. that was yoongi. that was, hoseok thinks even now: their brightest days -- hoseok and seokjin, namjoon and yoongi. and later, jimin and taehyung. together. until they weren't. 

"it honestly isn't," yoongi says. hoseok sighs. in the end, he cannot dredge up the subject of namjoon further than that. it's never been in him to cause harm to the people he loves and he knows yoongi well enough to recognize when he's telling the truth. the difficulty comes when the truth isn't all there is to a situation. but they agreed a long time ago to be there for each other in a lot of ways: on call, in person...and the trust of space -- that sometimes taking care of one another amounts to just being quiet.

not distant. not ignorant. patient maybe.

love, maybe.

shifting in his own chair, hoseok leans his elbows on his knees.

"if you need anything from me...from us...just...please."

if they were in the same room, yoongi knows hoseok would frame his face with both his hands -- always warm, always sunlit -- knows hoseok would lean their foreheads together, breathe in the same space as him, and just stand like that for a while. and it occurs to him the way our subtler truths tend to occur to us -- sudden and bone deep and still dream soft: how much he misses him. half smiling, he reaches out to the projected image as if hoseok is really there and says,

"pinky promise." 

laughing, hoseok raises his right pinky finger in response. it's not a happy laugh but it's honest; it's hope. 

perhaps, that has to be enough.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

a year and a little more puts yoongi at the same place it always puts him: on one of the poorest space colonies remaining. the streets are run down, the buildings are run down, but the people...

"yoongi!" a boxy grin greets him as well as a scarf and a laugh like a hundred petaled flower. "you never dress warm enough."

catching the scarf in one hand, yoongi waves with the other. "don't tell me what to do." he snuggles deep into the curve of it anyway, wrapping it three times around until only his eyes are visible. 

"who's th-- yoongi!" another voice, another familiar face. yoongi finds himself in the middle of two people who hug him so close it almost seems like they are just trying to hug each other. he rolls tired eyes.

"i can't breathe," he deadpans and then ruins it by laughing, his smile wide behind the scarf. "how've you been?" 

"we're okay," the first says, folding his hand with the other's as they step back. 

"nice lights," yoongi says, nodding at the seven long strands of white lights hanging around the edge of their windows and door. 

"tae's idea."

"jimin helped!"

"by what? saying yes?"

tugging the scarf down enough to speak more clearly, yoongi interrupts them before they get too carried away. "i'm heading to joon's. but i wanted to say hi first."

at this, both taehyung and jimin sober a little. taehyung looks like he wants to say something but can't find the words. jimin's hand tightens around his. 

"we went yesterday," jimin says and yoongi nods.

"i'll return this on my way back," yoongi pulls at the scarf and taehyung shakes his head.

"i made it for you." at that, yoongi can't help but stare. "what?" tae slips his hand from jimin's so he can reach out with both to fix the scarf. says, "you come every year. so." the way he ruffles yoongi's hair is love and apology all in one. when yoongi exhales, his breath hangs in the cold air, a cottony cloud of warmth.

"thanks."

walking away, yoongi can feel two thoughtful sets of eyes on him. he feels them all the way into the fog, typical of this low-lying colony's botched weather system.

 

 

*

 

 

 

this particular colony has one waterway that runs the length of it, polluted and grimy and full of ghosts. the fog that hangs near the water makes it dangerous but yoongi knows these streets and walks with his eyes closed -- the way namjoon knew them too. he drags his feet along the degenerating stonework, coughs dry hacking sounds into the scarf, takes his time. eventually the walk opens up on his left to a bridge, which takes yoongi to a bunch of abandoned buildings. in amongst them, there is one with a battered couch and a few even more battered arm chairs. he drops himself onto the couch and sinks back. it's stiff and crackly with age yet no one gets rid of it. no one comes here of course. except yoongi. once every year.

"i missed you."

around him he feels what he always feels: absence.

"i met someone." pause. "i think," yoongi bites his tongue until it bleeds, and his voice comes out hoarse when he says, "i think you'd like him."

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

at the end of the universe, a boy sings a song from a life he has already left behind. a boy tends to the moons of various worlds. a boy...waits.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

"welcome back," jungkook says the third time yoongi visits him, opens his arms wide and lets the blue haired boy collapse into him like a midnight rain.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

yoongi opens his eyes to stars traveling overhead like clouds. the sky is on fire but it looks as though it would still be cool to the touch. 

"you look older," jungkook smiles sadly into yoongi's shoulder, both of them languid human shapes in the soft soft grass. 

"you don't," yoongi says and it's also sad, also a smile, almost...knowing. almost.

"well," jungkook says and nothing else.

"well," yoongi says and nothing else.

after a few minutes of star gazing, yoongi turns on his side so that he can face jungkook, jungkook who is already staring at him, already angling even closer until their noses touch. 

"why do you feel so familiar?" yoongi finally asks the thing he's been wondering for so many months. 

"yoongi."

"jungkook."

a kiss is a physical thing but it's also more than that, sometimes. yoongi tangles his fingers in jungkook's hair to bring him that much nearer, kisses him closemouthed kisses him openmouthed kisses him kisses him kisses him, and jungkook's giggle is starsong when he leans back and uses yoongi's own fingertips to trace along his lower lip. they come away shimmering; they come away...life.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

"what are you?" yoongi asks, knee deep in water and watching jungkook fish for lost stars. they fall from the trees here -- the ones yoongi first passed through so long ago -- and it's jungkook's job, one of them, to save as many as he can. 

with his hands cupped around water that glows, incandescent with the star breathing inside it, jungkook glances over, tilts his head and says simply, "yours."

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

yoongi watches him hang that star back in the eaves of one of the taller trees, watches jungkook kiss it along one of its stronger arcs of light, watches jungkook seem to breathe his own life into it and it's that same thing that happened before. because yoongi is seeing jungkook but he's seeing jungkook different when the light shifts -- flashes of what might be lives already run through.

young forever.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

"what happened to him?" jungkook asks.

yoongi turns his face against jungkook's starlit palm and mumbles inarticulately, his breath a shivering ache, a cold that contrasts with the warmth of his tears. and jungkook doesn't ask what he can do to help; he can't raise the dead and wouldn't if he could because those kinds of things come with prices too high to pay. what jungkook does: kiss yoongi under his eyes, kiss his mouth, kiss the tip of his chin where the trickle of so much loss never really goes away, down along his throat, leaves glances of stars along his already moon pale skin and whispers,

"i'm so sorry."

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

it was widely believed kim namjoon would be the youngest captain in the history of the star fleet and this probably would have been true if not for a mission gone horribly wrong in their senior year of academy. namjoon will be remembered always; and for some people that is good enough but for the people who really knew him, really loved him, that will never be the case. for yoongi who woke up for a full year reaching for someone who wasn't there, in the dark. for taehyung who almost lost his mind talking to walls instead of his dear friend. for jimin who went to all of kim namjoon's favorite places trying to keep part of him alive. for seokjin who shouldered the responsibility of a memorial so that they would have somewhere to go when they needed to see him anyway, here or not anyway. for hoseok who cried almost as much as yoongi, hoseok who had plenty of promise too and dropped out without even graduating to pursue something completely different, because a starship future without namjoon wouldn't be what he'd wanted.

yoongi thinks of namjoon every day because that's how it is with the people who matter. you're never too busy and you're never too tired; you're never too sad or too happy for that matter, to think of those specific people. namjoon shows up in yoongi's life where he expects him to -- the sky, poetry, good music -- and where he doesn't expect him to -- the curious bursts of worlds happening in jungkook's eyes, the way jungkook's voice cradles namjoon's name like some kind of love song for strangers. 

but at one point, yoongi deep in sleep, jungkook wide awake, the latter whispers something important into the bare skin of his neck, says,

"i miss him too."

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

in the center of this planet which is not a planet, is in truth only an edge, jungkook fell once. the darkness gasped back to life and lights came home one by one by one. moon fruit grew. falling stars hovered. and worlds all across time learned about second chances, their cracks imperfections but not death sentences. 

jungkook remembers speaking the language of the things here as easily as breathing, remembers the music of it woven deep in his silver-white blood as he sang it back and a breeze carded through the grass, the water, the sky the sky the sky.

he remembers and so remembering knows how lucky he has been despite not knowing all of the rules.

the deal he made back then was simple. he thinks given the chance to change his mind, he wouldn't.

because jungkook watches yoongi sleep, noses along his jaw and into his hair, slips his arms around him and feels gratified when yoongi's sleeping arms respond naturally to do the same. jungkook listens to yoongi's even, home-warm exhales and thinks:

to live forever is cruel, but to live never?

worse by far.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

a few times in his guardianship, jungkook has left this kingdom. once he was just a boy who made mistakes, who had star shine in his joy and the smoke of a fire in his sadness. yoongi was there. namjoon. all of them. he remembers another life where they were all together too -- traveling planet earth singing and dancing and no matter where they were as long as they were together...home. jungkook knows once yoongi was a king and he barely saw him that time, which was a shame but never a waste; because jungkook doesn't get to choose his respites. they happen when they happen, a cosmic luck of kinds. and his memory, being quite good, never fails him. when yoongi was king, jungkook played the role of a servant to a neighboring monarch who visited yoongi's court only a few times. jungkook recalls how yoongi looked then: hair night dark and the crown on his head worn more like iron than the silver it was, a cat-like slit to his expression that gave him a veil for his soft heart. thinking of yoongi when they were just runaways -- yoongi with green hair then and almost always a few lollipops in his pockets despite his rugged expression -- jungkook supposes that much tends to be the same. but it's been a long time since he was allowed to leave the end of the universe and it is the first time yoongi has come to him.

it makes jungkook wonder what is changing, if anything.

if he needs to be worried.

if it would make a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

"yoongi."

"five more minutes."

"yoongi you have to wake up," jungkook's voice teems with worry, so yoongi wakes up, tries to rub the crust out of his eyes and...can't. his own hand goes right through his own face, which is alarming but the shock factor wins out. yoongi stares. his hand is barely there, a ghost of a thing. "you better go," jungkook says and he's biting the inside of his cheek, he's doing his best but yoongi sees it and feels it clear anyway: how sad he is, how desperate to not let this happen. standing up is a feat and yoongi's form goes in and out of visibility all the way back to his ship. once his feet touch the gate's ramp, he gets a little more solid, in touch with something of his real time and jungkook swallows a sharp feeling. his toes are just shy of the ramp's end and for good reason. 

"i don't want to go," yoongi says, angles across the unwritten threshold and kisses jungkook right between his eyes.

"well you have to."

and that's that really. 

jungkook almost tells him: it's never happened like this before. i'm afraid i'll never see you again. i'm afraid.

"see you soon," yoongi says, and wants it to be true.

"soon," jungkook says, and hopes it is. 

 

 

 


*

 

 

 

their space system's largest archive is accessible remotely but some of its contents may only be viewed in the archive itself, security coded finer than any bank because information is currency. yoongi shadows into said city one day and looks up every single thing he can on time from scientific research to mystical lore, makes a compendium of data that he keeps open to notate in deck after deck of holos on his ship. 
 
jungkook won't tell him 'what' he is but yoongi has a better guess these days. 

he thinks about how jungkook hasn't aged a second since he met him, looks at the changes in his own face and thinks about how he starts to disappear when he's been with him for too long. 

one story tells about time as a metaphor, which yoongi does not feel is particularly helpful when time for him is very much solid. many involve machines, but jungkook he knows is very much flesh and blood of a kind, despite his tendencies to send anyone who touches him away with stardust in their eyes. one day jungkook played some unnamed song across yoongi's shoulder, down his arm all the way to his fingertips and it looked like a small stardust cat had tread all over him.

most information sources don't help but yoongi keeps looking. 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

he even goes back to the hyyh colony to a place he said he'd never go again -- lets himself into namjoon's apartment with the code that still works and does his best to hold himself together. he talks himself through it.

"he's got this smile, joon." he says while rifling through namjoon's books -- relics by today's standard but they were both beyond old fashioned that way, keeping written records of the things that seemed important. "it makes me feel good again...you know, and it's different from how we were. but i get this feeling like, like you'd get along. he has an amazing voice. and he's so..." yoongi trails off, sits back and coughs as dust flies up everywhere, his hands gray with the disrepair of this place instead of silver with jungkook's starlight; and it's not fair. the dust is no indication of how namjoon was to him. namjoon was a glow the color blue, the color safe, the color warm. jungkook is almost fire, almost too much but still just right. "he's..." yoongi coughs again. "i really like him. i hardly know him and i think i even love him. i mean," he laughs but it's dry and full of self-loathing. an old part of him that still rises up sometimes, still lives inside because bad parts don't leave; they just get better -- here and there, off and on. "i mean what an idiot. right?" he says to a ghost, says to his adolescence, says to kim namjoon's books which all get poured into yoongi's knapsack. "god you wrote a lot," yoongi says and it's supposed to be a complaint as he shoulders the bag awkwardly, but all it really sounds is what it means: fond, love, true.

as yoongi turns to look into the apartment before shutting the door, he says all gentleness and borrowed strength, "thank you." pause. "for this....for everything." the door is almost closed when he adds in a whisper, "i'm keeping my promise."

 

 

 


*

 

 

 

 

a lot of namjoon's writing has no titles or subjects, and the ones that do aren't especially telling because everything namjoon wrote meant more than one kind of thing. yoongi flips through a short story about a whalien and knows it's a story about namjoon himself. yoongi reads a septet of poems front to back, back to front several times over and garners that it's seven people, which would make sense if namjoon had known jungkook but he didn't.

right?

yoongi reads them again, makes an invisible line with his fingertip under a verse that says nothing and everything, says:

time doesn't work the way we think it does.

the thing is, he swears jungkook told him this too. 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

at the end of the universe, jungkook is a star that never stops falling. 

and falling means many things but mostly the kind of falling he does is the same.

in love.

in love.

in love.

no matter how long it takes.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

by the seventh time yoongi visits jungkook, yoongi is old enough to be showing some of his age and young enough to arguably disregard it. jungkook, being jungkook, is old and young enough to say what he means to say.

"it's always you."

and means: it always will be.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

log 393
subject: jungkook

i don't think i could ever forget you but i'm writing this down because you told me i will. and i hate that you think that. i hate that you believe i would forget the scrunch of your nose when you laugh, how you throw your head back when it's something that makes you happy from the inside-out. i can't believe it. but i believe you? i guess. you talk like you know. and i know a few things too. i'm looking older and you're not. it bothers me. but anyway this is about you right. you love the moon orchard. i think we spend the most time there even though you say you love the sea and the lake and the star river equally. i guess it's true. you wouldn't lie about that. you take care of it all don't you? you're like a star to me but every time i say that you laugh at me. why? it's true. you're so bright. jungkook. jungkook. jungkook. if i forget you i want to have this. i want to read this and know i fucking cared enough to write it all down. i haven't cared about writing things down since my academy days. 

oh also about jungkook: i love him. you. him. i guess if i'm reading this to myself it sounds weird to keep saying 'you' but it's hard to write to myself. 

you know that thing you told me about time? i wish you could tell me more. i wish a lot of things. like i won't forget you, for one. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

"your hair is so long," jungkook giggles, pushes both hand back through the evening star blue and relishes how soft it is. "soft," he voices and adds, "i like it."

self-conscious, yoongi's eyes stay downcast even while he feels strong. that's what love does and he thinks for the thousandth time about how jungkook has warned him he'll forget, how jungkook has said it like he knows because it's already happened. 

"yoongi," jungkook hums and yoongi looks up, sees his wide eyes full of so many iterations of stars and just says,

"yeah." when he kisses jungkook he can feel his trust in how his body gravitates close, goes pliant and all his. 

like some kind of gift yoongi doesn't think he deserves but embraces anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

the first time yoongi sees jungkook harvest the moon fruit is also something he cannot imagine forgetting.

he watches him for what must be several days and nights, singing moon after moon down into his waiting arms -- one at a time, precious and careful. unlike fruit yoongi is familiar with, the moons neither get consumed nor planted. instead jungkook carries each one to the starry sea and sets them afloat like small boats made of light. to each moon he gives a kiss at the end of his song and watches until it sails into the stardust clouds.

"where is it going?" yoongi asks after jungkook sends the last of them, slides his arms around jungkook's tapered waist and presses his mouth to jungkook's nape, feels him sigh.

"home."

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

things yoongi enjoys: kissing each of jungkook's moles and calling them stars; making a constellation of him, giving him everything he has.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

things jungkook enjoys: yoongi telling him about his life, yoongi holding his hand, yoongi just being with him...as long as he can.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

one morning, memorizing yoongi's almost transparent shape, jungkook kisses his temple and says, "find me again, okay?"

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 


when yoongi wakes up slumped in his piloting chair, he rubs the sleep out of his eyes, wonders why he's so sore and seems to carry the smell of distant oceans and skies with him. yoongi wakes up, fails to get his bearings, and sets his coordinates for the nearest familiar station. 

in days to come, he tries to figure out what he's been up to for the past couple of years and fights down a panic attack when he can't remember. he goes to hoseok and seokjin who have a memory of him being largely out of contact but welcome him in because as hoseok puts it, "why wouldn't you be welcome here?"

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

the bag he carries with him is still full of namjoon's writing, which likewise he does not remember going to retrieve but if he went it must have been important. yoongi reads everything, and for a while, not remembering is scary. then it's frustrating. then it's almost...angering. because whatever he's missing, whatever goes in all of yoongi's negative spaces that no longer Is...he still considers his. 

he knows he sounds crazy when he talks about it, is well aware his friends are doing their best to do more than just humor him.

but if sounding insane had been a reason to stop before, yoongi wouldn't be alive now so that's not the issue.

the problem: yoongi isn't sure what the issue actually Is. he reads things, thinks they must mean something but can't put his finger on precisely what that might be. rereads. dutifully does not rip all of his hair out. rinse. repeat. 

curled on his side on the couch, he relays this to seokjin who extends one long leg just to shove yoongi's still booted feet off of his couch.

"shoes off," he says. "and maybe you're trying too hard."

yoongi lifts his head while also toeing his shoes off, lets them hit the floor with heavy thuds. "what d'you mean by that?" 

"exactly what i said. maybe you're trying too hard. what if you can't force...whatever this is?" 

"but i can't do nothing," yoongi frowns. 

"i'm saying do other things." when yoongi opens his mouth to argue, seokjin raises a hand. "no. listen. i'm telling you maybe doing things that aren't related to your genuinely worrying two-year case of selective memory...would help." at the last bit his brows rise pointedly and yoongi shuts his mouth, flops back down on the couch, and scowls. seokjin's advice isn't bad; it's just not yoongi's ideal method, but since yoongi's method isn't working he hardly has an argument for it. "and if you sigh one more time i'm kicking you out."

mid-sigh, yoongi coughs to backtrack.

 

 

*

 

 

 

all of the holos yoongi had up when he stopped off for his several month impromptu stay with hoseok and seokjin are still up. his computer greets him with as much sass as a computer program is probably capable of, reminds him duly of running schematics and basic flush programs to make sure everything is in tiptop shape before they zoom off to the next great mystery in space. not that yoongi remembers the first. 

he's sorting through the holos when he comes across a log. the label gets him to watch it.

jungkook?

who's that?

to listen to himself he sounds like he was in love with him but yoongi not only fails to recognize the name but can't remember a face to go with said name either. when he thinks of love, it hurts but he thinks this is because of namjoon; and of course that hurts, won't ever stop hurting....and yet...because yoongi knows that particular pain so well by now, he realizes listening to the log again: it's different.

if namjoon's ghost keeps a clean cage in yoongi's heart, this new old pain spills over.

like starlight through his fingers.

 

 

 

 


*

 

 

 

there are other logs. there are, to be exact, ninety seven logs labeled with jungkook's name. a lot of them are short -- not even a couple of minutes in total. a fair lot of them take up a good half hour. and several are somewhere in the middle; these are the less organized of the logs, the stream of consciousness ones where yoongi thinks he looks fairly bad, looks scared, and it takes getting to the ninety-first log to understand why. 

"i'm afraid," he says on the screen. yoongi stares at himself, waits. "he just..." it's annoying to watch oneself. yoongi finds himself irritated with how much he pauses and how much he hums nonsensical sounds to fill the empty space but he has no choice to listen to all of it, lest he miss some crucial point, some special thing that he has no way of knowing otherwise. "....i hate when he's sad. i'm afraid he feels like that a lot."

in the log, yoongi doesn't explain 'when' but yoongi in the present gets the gist, gets that his self from months prior probably means: sad and...alone.

sad.

and alone.

 

 

 

 


*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

log 489
subject: jungkook

on the off chance you find this somehow and not me, i want you to know -- you, being jungkook i mean, well...yeah. i want you to know i plan on remembering you. if it's happened before that i didn't, i'm sorry. you deserve better. but i'm not actually that selfless. i was thinking about the night you sent all those moons away and i was thinking: i bet they remember you. i bet every moon you've ever held remembers you: your song, your light...your love. and it's not fair if i don't get to remember too. you called me your moon the other day and you know what? it made me happy...and i want you to know for sure is all. you made me happy.

you make me happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

"you really rubbed off on me," yoongi murmurs even though he's the only one onboard, his fingers absently moving back and forth along an open page in one of namjoon's books. his laugh is a little wet as he adds, "what a sap." he pauses. "thanks for that." 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 when a star falls a deal is made: to live unending or die unending. jungkook is the first of his kind to make his deal for the former. keeping the garden of time and space whole makes for a very full schedule and his grace periods of humanity are blinks of the eye. sometimes jungkook sits in the orchard, reclines cat-like on a branch, holds his hand up splayed wide and watches stars dance across his skin like old friends. he's no longer one of them, not the way he was, and it shows in everything from his form to his thought. he thinks most often of a boy with blue hair (this same boy he has met before with mint hair, with blonde hair, with hair the same silver as the moon) and a pink smile and space dark eyes. jungkook thinks of how his hands are always the same -- whatever age, whatever life; and he thinks about yoongi's voice whispering low warm safety close to the shell of his ear, or, sometimes, right over the beat of his heart. 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

"is it like mine?" yoongi asks, covered in stardust from touching jungkook all over, his ear currently pressed to his chest where he can hear a cadence real as his own.

"kind of?" jungkook says and laughs at yoongi's attempted glare, prods him on the forehead and says, "but you know what they say about the heart of a star." when yoongi just stares dumbly at him, jungkook rolls his eyes. somehow even that is charming and yoongi has a moment to consider how in love he is before jungkook continues speaking. "it can make you immortal." again, yoongi frowns, this time at some unidentifiable thing in the distance as he sits up, running a hand back through his hair. 

"that's just a you thing then, i guess," he says. 

"any star would do, really."

"no."

jungkook arches a brow.

"i mean for me....it has to be you." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

a year passes. two years. three. seven. ten. twelve. 

and yoongi is human, not a star or a moon technically, so he gets older.

he takes on an apprentice of sorts who's more along for the ride as a mechanic than a pilot but sees the pros of being fluent in both respects. his name is jihoon and whenever he and yoongi go places together, people ask them if they are related. 

"none of their business, even if we were," jihoon glares at a shot communication board and tosses it aside before getting to work on a new one. 

"are you rewriting my construct?" yoongi couldn't be dryer if he tried.

"slight adjustments," jihoon says without looking at him. knowing full well that jihoon is more than capable, yoongi leaves him to it, retreats to the common bay where he has a holo deck open to the notes he transcribed from all of namjoon's books and journals regarding time and the mechanism of it; also in some of the holos: compressed data of different star systems, hundreds up to thousands of pictures that yoongi has this habit of scrolling through until he passes out. this is how jihoon finds him several hours later, smeared in engine grease himself as he pads over to yoongi who has fallen asleep in a chair jihoon means to fix but never remembers until someone's already in it. shaking his head, he doesn't wake him, knows how little he sleeps and instead grabs a blanket to throw over him, the corners trailing over his shoulders. 

when he goes to collapse the holo deck, he pauses, eying the two parallel images glowing in the half-dark of their ship.

one is a drawing of stars jihoon isn't familiar with -- a constellation. the other is a densely packed wall of text hypothesizing about the emergences of moons. 

in the end, he leaves them up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

"why didn't i at least take a picture?" yoongi has his face pressed into his arms, leaning over on the table. they've docked their ship at a rest port they find themselves at often enough that the personnel all recognize them. yoongi sighs.

"i don't know. why didn't you?" jihoon tugs a sweatshirt on over his other two shirts, shivering. space is always cold but the repairs they have yet to make on the ship cause it to feel even more so. 

"i thought..." the way yoongi trails off, jihoon thinks he's done, but he has only taken two steps away when yoongi's voice, muffled and small treads up behind him, leans the way sad aching things do, says, "i thought i had more time."

pursing his lips, jihoon considers his words carefully, looks at min yoongi and sees a lot of things, not the least of which is the one person in this star system he had any interest in following. he read up on him in school and he tracked him down to a no-name diner on the corner of a dying colony and said: i'm here to be your apprentice. if he's honest, he did not expect that to work. he still doesn't know why it did, or rather...hasn't. until just right now. because right now, to look at yoongi who could rewrite an entire starship's programming blindfolded, who could code a new trap door in the side of a state-of-the-art alarm guard with no prior notice, to look at him now jihoon sees someone both different and the same from that: a man who is good at so many things but maybe not this one thing he cannot stop thinking about.

a man in love.

it looks like it hurts.

"i'm going to go check where that hunter's ship clipped us. should be fine but, you know."

yoongi waves a hand dismissively. "good, good."

only once he's out of sight does jihoon tap into their com link, says without preamble, "i hope you find him one day, boss." it's a joking terminology, unnecessary; but it gets him the reply he hopes for -- a stumbling chuckle. 

"well thanks."

"for?"

"hoping."

a beat. two beats.

heartbeats.

"any time."

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

as a kid yoongi daydreamed a lot. he made up stories that seemed better than his reality and then he made stories the more people he met worth making them with. if he looks back on their youth it's dangerous because reminiscing on happiness has a bad collateral damage of often convincing the subject he'll never be that happy again. except that can't be true. in yoongi's logs he speaks of the one at the end of the universe the way he only ever really spoke of his best friend -- more than best friend. he thinks to talk about someone like that, a person like him has to have experienced joy with them -- to have laughed, to have been quiet, to have dreamed. he thinks -- knows this must be so. but no amount of 'learning' about jungkook helps him remember. he wonders why.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

but sometimes, deep asleep, yoongi's body remembers how to hold someone who isn't there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

"well i don't really exist. do i?" jungkook chaperones a smaller moon than its brethren out into the sea, walks until he's shoulder deep in liquid stars and whispers. "but i did." once. twice. three times. 

when jungkook cries his tears are just stars in trails of prism light. they drip down his cheeks, his jaw, his neck, make bursts of shine where they touch his shirt. at the end of the universe, jungkook climbs out of the water and he's the stars but he's also time and the space between them.

jungkook falls back into teal green grass, drags his soft palm where another body used to lay beside him and dreams he's coming back.

"you never know," he tells himself and tries to believe it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

over a decade ago in this lifeline, jungkook met a young man named kim namjoon. he knows this namjoon is also yoongi's namjoon, thinks: that makes sense because it has been true before -- will probably be true again. this time, he met him as he moved between lives, opened his arms because that seemed the thing to do for a life cut short so bright and sharp. he held kim namjoon close, threaded starlight through his hair and told him he was glad to meet him. didn't say: again. meant: always. and: anytime.

he keeps close to him too all the stories yoongi told him about the others, holds them in his hands like numbered days that all embody the color of the setting sun.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

given his post as guardian, jungkook rarely sleeps but when he does he sleeps one of two places: in the trustworthy arms of a moon tree or curled in the sea green grass of the end of the world. his body makes the faintest of crescents and while he sleeps all the floating wisps of stardust and shine coalesce around him whispering their golden lullaby. they make faint bursts of starlight under his closed eyes, the backs of his hands, the nails of his fingers, the clean arches of his feet, the sharps of his ankles and wrists -- anywhere he will have them, which is everywhere. revered but never loved, not until jungkook himself, the stars have learned over centuries about that word, have done it themselves, little by little done what humankind does: have fallen in love.

we want to see you happy,
 they whisper into jungkook's dreams, and jungkook smiles unconsciously. happy sad. sad happy.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

jungkook is carefully pruning one of the moon trees, saving each leaf and branch to rebuild when he has the chance, when a glimmer unlike the others catches his eye. it hovers in front of his nose like a confused star, and jungkook thinks it might be quite young given its shine. he means to ask the star if it is lost when it flits away, leaves a path of almost invisible sparkles in its wake and it doesn't take star language or any language to understand. slipping out of the tree, bright as a star, silent as a shadow, jungkook does what seems right: he follows.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

"are you safe here?" yoongi asks him once and jungkook looks so confused that yoongi clarifies, "it's just...you're all alone out here." 

burying his toes in the sand, jungkook shrugs, looks down at where the star waves lap up the shoreline and says, "i'm safe." pauses. "no one knows i'm here. that's all the safety i need, isn't it?"

the way yoongi looks at him suggests that way of thinking is seriously flawed but yoongi doesn't actually say so. instead he inches his right hand closer to jungkook's left -- close, closer, and finally over it, thumbs the back of it.

stays as long as he can.

 

 

*

 

 

 

the soft silver-blue glow leads jungkook into the water. it leads him until he's up to his chin and then deeper but jungkook knows he has to keep going. beneath the surface is similar to above: glittering with stars and impressions of heavenly bodies from different worlds and different lifetimes. unlike in the air, jungkook can see more. he sees people he's never met in the passing blinks of windows shot through with light, and he sees old friends. he sees, most shocking of all, himself too. but he never pauses, keeps following, only realizes once he has walked into a vast emptiness that things are dark save for the ocean floor -- glass blue instead of star blue, breakable. as if synchronized with his thoughts, his next step causes a fracture. the uneven line lets a pink light through and jungkook thinks it feels warm. he pauses, watches the little star ahead curve and expand and narrow and then grow even bigger, colors streaking out of it the way he remembers a thing called a 'firework' does -- brilliant, varied, temporary. except this star stays glowing, hangs conspicuous and bursting in the ocean's wide darkness.

"where did all the stars go?" he asks, glowing bubbles trickling from his mouth with each word.

we are here.

the star in front of him, jungkook realizes, is all of the stars. if he looks closer he can see moons; can see worlds; can see forever.

and it's changing. 

"what are you doing?"

don't you know what day it is, fallen star?

jungkook shakes his head.

laughter. song. and someone crying. these are the things jungkook hears as the waiting supernova exhales in perfect vacancy, arrows of light circling in towards him like visible whirls of wind and gratitude. 

thank you for loving us.

the someone crying is actually jungkook, jungkook who rubs his eyes fiercely, comes away sobbing stars and star shadows and star dreams, falls to his knees and is only vaguely aware of the cloud that kicks up around him from his impact, a fog of white sand studded with silver points all making one common constellation. at the center of it: jungkook. its heart: jungkook. 

it isn't that he doesn't want to go. if there is a chance jungkook can find yoongi and stay for real, he will take it. but the difference between his sometimes lives before was always the comfort of knowing he would have somewhere to go back to. he has taken care of the heavens across worlds for as long as he can remember. there is no way he would make a mistake. falling the rest of the way is something different though, something he thinks all but suggests room for errors -- for great sadness...and great joy. he thinks about how the boy named namjoon who became a series of stars in the sky, he thinks about telling yoongi how to find him and isn't jealous because the way he loves him isn't the same anyway. he thinks about the stars kissing along the instep of his wrist, up his forearm all the way to his shoulder, his neck, his cheek until he's absolutely covered -- a shimmer that goes head to toe in all the colors people expect starlight to be, and a hundred others they could never name. 

jungkook lights up, bows his head and says,

"always."

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

ii. so far away

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

"we're going to be late!" 

pulling his headphones off, yoongi pushes back from his desk and grabs his jacket. "okay okay. let's go."

the world weary look seokjin sends him is one yoongi just replies to with a smile. "i promised tae we would be early," seokjin half whines half pleads and without further ado drags yoongi forcibly out their front door by his collar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the art gallery taehyung works at is an armory center, a hub of activities for everyone from children to the elderly not in small part due to taehyung's efforts. tonight's charity exhibit includes a silent auction and a special section dedicated to an unnamed artist whose work has been showing up all over the city. 

"how'd he find him?" yoongi asks, looking over his shoulder as he pulls out. with seokjin's car in the repair shop, it's up to him to get them there in one piece. 

"tae says he found him actually," seokjin is more or less bouncing with excitement and yoongi can't help but smile again. the amount of sheer and unburdened love that his longtime flatmate has for taehyung is almost infectious. it makes him happy in a way that feels good even when it has nothing to do with him, and he supposes in this day and age that's a kind of magic. 

"weird," yoongi says and curses as a motorcycle speeds past them going well over the limit; yoongi knows because he himself is already casually cruising fifteen over. he scowls. "kids."

seokjin laughs a nervous sound, hands gripped tight on his knees.

"hey." he waits.

"yeah?"

"i won't let anything happen to you," yoongi says and it's familiar. it's old. he's said this to his friends in different situations many times over the years. where yoongi has shouldered more hilarious fears -- a complete sucker for jumpcut scares and bad halloween costumes and the like -- he's not found himself so easily unnerved by things that perhaps ought to truly frighten him. near traffic accidents. being beaten within an inch of his life when he was younger and almost letting it happen all the way before a kid one year his junior stepped in and made the choice for him. being alone. it comes first nature to yoongi who has a long reach as far as caring goes -- to look out for the people he's let in, to keep a certain steadiness afoot. 

he moves to the middle lane, lets the speed drop within ten of the limit and smiles softly when seokjin's posture relaxes just a little. 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

waiting outside, namjoon waves as yoongi trails behind a hurrying seokjin. 

"taehyung?" seokjin asks, the flowers in his hands doing nothing to obscure his nerves.

"already in there," jimin, snuggly pressed against namjoon's side says, jerking his head back toward the door. "go around though. there's an employee entrance. his code is your birthday." the smirk jimin wears is gentle, if such a thing is possible and seokjin flushes pink almost red as he dashes off with a sort of squeaky 'thanks'. namjoon laughs. yoongi shakes his head, hands deep in his pockets. "you couldn't wear something nicer?" jimin wrinkles his nose. 

"he literally dragged me out the front door," yoongi says.

"i think you look nice," namjoon says. jimin elbows him. 

"anyway," yoongi interrupts before they can degenerate into pushing each other, which inevitably will lead to kissing. not that he doesn't support his friends but some things are personal; and he can do without the rock sharp reminder of his own loneliness. "what's this mystery artist?" this appears to be the right way to go. 

namjoon gets so excited he needs both hands to gesture as he regales yoongi with the first sightings of this artist's work -- a mural somewhere uptown where the blocks of the city run comically opposite; which is to say, heinously wealthy or wretchedly not. yoongi is familiar, worked a job around the 'not' area for a year and a half but finally changed jobs when seokjin wouldn't stop begging him, worried because of the bar next door having been held at gunpoint not once, not twice, but three times that same year. namjoon says the word 'graffiti' doesn't do it justice, pulls up pictures on his phone -- also not good enough, he assures yoongi -- and shows him those. from what yoongi can tell, it is excellent work. the colors seem almost unreal and there's this deepseated sense of...well he's not sure.

it feels...he guesses, a little like the visualization of Wandering -- not aimless wandering though, like the depiction of Looking for something...looking for a very long time. 

"how many are there?" jimin hooks his chin on namjoon's shoulder. 

"six in different parts of the city, and supposedly there's a seventh that's going to be revealed tonight." 

"and the artist?"

"i couldn't get any information on that. even from tae," namjoon says and jimin nods. 

"me neither."

yoongi whistles. if anyone can get the extra details out of taehyung, it's the two men in front of him, which makes him even more curious. 

a glance beyond them shows some of the waiting crowd starting to filter in. yoongi taps his knuckles against namjoon's arm as he passes.

"let's go."

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

inside, hoseok flits from one person of import to the next. "thank you for coming," he says but he could probably say 'spaghetti muppet timeshare' and it wouldn't matter because what people tend to register above all are his smile and his overall presence -- a charisma that channeled into one thing or another becomes very powerful. for example right now: hoseok uses his personality not only to welcome people in but to make them feel special; they are going to remember this exhibit; they are going to tell their friends about it; they are going to give good reason for another to happen. and it's not a trick. it's just that particular caliber of enthusiasm that's so complete one cannot help but feel it too. 

where hoseok handles the business, taehyung finds their artists but tonight is an exception. 

"hey there," yoongi claps a hand on taehyung's shoulder, not missing the way he can't stop smiling nor the way he holds the flowers seokjin brought him gently gently gently...and close. "nice turnout."

"hobi's magic," taehyung grins. 

"and yours," seokjin says. taehyung blushes and looks away. 

"show me this seventh piece," yoongi says and the same thing that happened with namjoon happens with taehyung: he glows with excitement, to the point where yoongi can almost feel it on the physical plane, which is endearing at the same time that it throws him off. but then, art can have that effect. taehyung beckons them all to where a cluster of people has already begun to swarm and he frowns. 

"well."

"i'll wait," yoongi says, uninterested in fighting the throngs. namjoon fidgets, wanting to see it Now but also reluctant because the groups of people mostly all have wine glasses and knowing his own track record if he tries to subtly brush through, it won't be subtle at all. just noisy. 

"it's really something," taehyung says. he has that dreaming tone he gets when he's in love. yoongi has only ever heard it in regards to seokjin, art, and sometimes, taehyung's handful of deeply bound philosophies: magic, reincarnation, and extraterrestrial life. going up on his tiptoes, yoongi can see some of the painting but some is a poor excuse for a whole. his brow knits. 

"is the artist here?"

"he said he'd come," taehyung trails off.

"you don't think he will?"

"i hope he will," he pauses, runs his fingertips over some of the blue petals in the bouquet, misses entirely the smitten look seokjin cannot stop sending his way for one second, misses too how happy that makes the rest of them. "i scheduled this exhibit later than most, since i know he has insomnia and ends up sleeping a lot during the day."

"are you sure he's not a vampire?"

"definitely not a vampire," taehyung says in complete seriousness. "he's weird. but i guess...not weirder than me?" the way taehyung's voice goes up like a question is cute and young and seokjin hugs him from behind, which makes him laugh as he says, "i think crowds make him nervous too though, so. yeah."

relatable, yoongi thinks, already having edged into the nearest corner to wait for space to clear in front of the canvas. 

 

 

*

 

 

in fact, there isn't any room to view the one thing he's interested in looking at until the exhibit is over. being friends with the gallery owners helps though. as hoseok locks the door behind the last of the patrons, yoongi rouses himself from his lowkey stupor in the corner, sets his wine glass down and walks back to the arm of the gallery where the painting hangs. he takes his time. earlier namjoon and jimin had forced their way to the front because they had to leave at a reasonable time. yoongi had looked up, startled to see jimin rubbing his hand in wide firm circles against namjoon's back as they walked away from it, alarmed to see namjoon himself blinking hard the way one only does when forcing back tears.

presently, taehyung and hoseok are conferring close to the front, their voices echoing in the quiet space while seokjin arranges taehyung's flowers in a vase on the front desk; but all of that falls away when yoongi stops in front of the painting.

his mouth goes dry. his heartrate picks up. drops. picks up. stops. starts. 

he hovers his hand just shy of touching where the paint rises up in imperfect points. it feels as though they would part for him anyway, liquid down the sides of his arm, dripping sky onto the floor. it's the sea and it's hundreds of moons and trees and frayed lights that remind him of dandelions. except they aren't; he knows. he Knows. 

stardust, he thinks and looks down at his own fingertips, expecting them to be shimmering in the gallery light.

the canvas is massive, takes up nearly the whole wall. yoongi wonders how long it took them to finish, follows its breadth the way he would make his way through a forest or up a mountain, into the sea or out in the sky. yoongi takes in the teal green grass, the smooth silver bark of the trees, the river that meets a lake but also becomes the ocean where a fog has such presence he swears it's moving before his very eyes. it takes him a third pass to notice, farther back on the grassy plain: two shapes. one is startlingly bright despite his ink black hair that only makes a sharper backdrop for all the glimmering that emanates off this painting the way warmth reaches down from the sun; natural, inevitable, and true. his eyes. yoongi thinks they are familiar. the daring smile. his beautiful hands. oh. yoongi knows him. almost. almost and--

--and then there's the second figure.

pale blue hair. a sort of sleepy look, the bend of his body magnetized toward the other boy's like some kind of intimate gravity. 

me, yoongi thinks.

and then: no.

and then: but it is.

he's breathing a little too fast, that tension of something overwhelming crawling around in his chest up his throat almost sickening because he can't control it, and it doesn't occur to him to sit down so he falls. black spots become one smooth wave that pushes him down into unconsciousness, cottony and thick and formless. he has just enough awareness to feel someone catch him.

gentle hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

yoongi wakes up to hoseok turning a wet cloth over on his forehead. winces.

"congratulations, you're sick." hoseok informs him, lays a hand on yoongi's chest when yoongi tries to sit up, and shakes his head. "no. stay there. i'll get you some water." 

sighing, yoongi complies. he feels drained -- the ran a ten kilometer marathon then went to work and partied after that kind of drained. except he's not terribly prone to doing the first or the third and even the middle one has more to do with simply Not Leaving his apartment for weeks on end until a project is finished. but it has nothing to do with that. he's been conscious for less than a minute and he's crying, so when hoseok returns -- also under a minute -- he drops down to his knees sharply, rests his unoccupied hand at yoongi's wrist, says without saying aloud: i'm here. 

"we left you alone for literally five minutes then we go over and you're dead asleep. did you just sit down and pass out?" hoseok jokes but his eyes are worried. yoongi blinks so hard he sees spots. "yoongi...what's happening?"

bless hoseok. for not asking 'what's wrong' for not implying before it's already told that anything might be. it took yoongi years to stop being frustrated with people for these nitpicky things where their words would jar him, years to teach himself not to be so unforgiving just to protect himself. after one of their arguments when they were just kids, namjoon informed him that his main trial in life would probably just be being too sensitive; then yoongi said he'd know all about that, wouldn't he; and they laughed instead of crying, since that seemed stronger. now he's not sure which he wants to do but crying comes most natural. he has no idea why. it feels...almost not his own and yet completely his own.

yoongi thinks of the painting, of the boy who seemed more star than any star form in the canvas and...it hurts. he sobs. feels hoseok awkwardly cover his body with his own in a huddled version of an embrace and exhausts himself back to sleep like that, not fully realizing he's saying anything as he murmurs, "he was there."

watching yoongi settle back into fitful rest, hoseok, brushes his hair back and asks softly, "who?"

 

 

 

*

 

 

hoseok has yoongi stay with him for a few days, tells him it's for his own peace of mind and yoongi can never deny hoseok much of anything. he feels embarrassed but some of that is diluted by actually being sick. 

"just eat your soup, or seokjin'll be mad," hoseok instructs while he finishes some work on his laptop. yoongi grumbles and eats the soup, but he eats it while staring out hoseok's window. he does everything -- nearly -- staring out the window and it's only on the last night of his stay that hoseok tilts his head, looks up at him and says, "you said something the first night you were here. before you passed out again." yoongi turns, spoon sticking out of his mouth comically. 

"mm?"

hoseok gets up off the couch, stretching as he says, "you said 'he was there'."

yoongi's already pale complexion goes paler. 

"i don't remember that."

hoseok nods. "well."

"but it was just us wasn't it? in the gallery afterward?"

frowning, hoseok rubs the back of his neck. "i mean, as far as i know? we were still hoping the artist would show up but he never did."

"you and tae keep saying 'the artist'," yoongi pauses. "what's his actual name?"

shifting his weight, hoseok has the grace to look sheepish as he says, "he has a moniker but he wouldn't give us his real name."

the stare yoongi levels at him is warranted. hoseok holds up his hands.

"i know. it's stupid. but he seems like a nice kid and....i don't know. i didn't want to force it...and he seemed really invested in having us be the gallery to host his painting. beats me though. like. tons of other more reputable galleries were vying for it and they wouldn't've cared about his real name either. i-- yoongi?" hoseok tilts his head as yoongi paces like a caged thing, watches something radiate off of his friend he hasn't seen before -- an aura that happens when a person isn't just himself anymore; when a person is many things all at once.

"i want to meet him."

"yoongi..."

"please."

when yoongi stops pacing he faces hoseok, even keeled enough though hoseok can spot the subtle tremble in yoongi's hands a mile off; knows him. 

sighs.

"i'll see what i can do."

an old habit from childhood, yoongi steps forward and holds hoseok's hand.

says,

"thank you."

 

 

 

*

 

 

rumors spawn about the painting in the tata & mang gallery. 

 

-

 

 

"it changes."

"like harry potter?"

"no, like...i don't know. do paintings change in harry potter?"

"dude..."

"shut up. i'm just telling you what i heard."

"so...they like...move?"

"i guess."

 

-

 

 

"it's different. last time i saw it there wasn't anyone in it."

"maybe you just didn't notice."

"i notice everything."

"jihoon please."

"i'm serious."

"i know. i know."

 

 


-

 

 

"the boy on the riverbank. he's in the tree now -- one of those moon trees."

"there was a person in that painting?"

"there were two. do you need glasses?"

"i have glasses."

"stronger ones."

 

 

-

 

 

"i think it's darker."

"thematically?"

"no. i mean, i saw it when they first put it on display. i remember thinking: this is really bright even though it's obviously supposed to be a night scape. and now...it's...dark. i don't know."

"gallery lighting?"

a pause.

"no. it's...definitely the painting."

another pause.

"creepy."

"...yeah."

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

it's been a month when hoseok rings him up.

"shoot," yoongi says, typing so fast it sounds fabricated, phone on speaker.

"yoongi i've tried everything. he won't answer calls or e-mails, or he hasn't been. and when i tried calling today..."

that gets yoongi's attention, has him pausing and holding his breath until he realizes hoseok isn't going to say something else unless he does.

"you tried calling today and...?"

"the number's no good."

the hope yoongi has been nursing for weeks becomes a crushing sort of weight, knots in the center of yoongi's chest.

idles.

he tells himself: breathe. breathes. says, "...well. i appreciate you trying...it's not your fault that he...yeah whatever...it's...thanks."

he keeps his monotone disciplined and even but hoseok sighs.

"yoongi i'm really sorry."

"don't...it's seriously...not you."

"but," and yoongi can picture him screwing his face up, swallowing sadness because hoseok feels sadness as fully as he feels happiness -- more than the ordinary man's 100% -- "...it's important to you."

it's not quite a laugh, a choppy sound that escapes yoongi as he buries his face in his hands, muffles his own voice and says, "i know this is going to be really weird. and...stop me if it's out of line. i can't...tell anymore. but...do you have a picture of him?"

"oh, oh um..." shuffling noises abound. yoongi can hear hoseok shoving things aside and going through files.

"don't make such a mess," he teases. hoseok huffs.

"ah! i do. um. it's not very clear but..."

"can i...can i see it?" 

"yeah hold on."

a text comes through and yoongi spends an inordinate amount of time just building himself up. 

"yoongi? did you get it?"

"yeah...yeah thanks. um. i'll talk to you later..okay?"

the rearranging of things in the background pauses. "we're taking the painting down at the end of january. in case you want to see it again."

yoongi barely stops himself from asking how much it is, if in fact they can even sell it not being able to contact the creator. instead, he says, "thanks. i ...i will. probably."

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 


several hours later the full moon sits above yoongi's shoulder, yoongi who perches on the edge of his old apartment building despite the arctic chill of winter and his own inadequate layers. he holds his phone in his lap carefully and opens hoseok's text.

hoseok was right of course. the picture is not a good one. it is quite bad, actually. but it doesn't matter. 

this boy. the boy from the painting. the boy on the tip of yoongi's tongue every time he dreams something beautiful. 

"it's you," yoongi says. 

above him, the stars hum. yes, it's him.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 


yes. he's yours.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

on his way into the gallery yoongi avoids running into a gaggle of students rushing out. he sends a confused look at taehyung who waves him over.

"what was that about?"

"one of them got upset about the painting." no need at this point to say which one. yoongi stares. 

"why? did something happen?" his heart drops. "it wasn't stolen? vandalized?" his hands are in taehyung's collar but taehyung being taehyung doesn't fight him, just wraps his large hands around yoongi's wrists soft and kind and says,

"no. none of that. it's just...different." he sighs. "come see for yourself."

yoongi sees it the second he turns the corner. but this is not true for all people who see it. if one out of the nine students who left had a visceral reaction to how much the painting has changed, the other eight have no idea what disturbed her so deeply. they do not see what she saw, what yoongi sees, indeed what taehyung has been watching happen for weeks now. 

almost all of the moon trees are dark. 

it floods yoongi's senses with fear. cold fear. immobilizing fear. fear thick with sleep that need not let you go. 

his steps to the painting are clumsy. heavy. scared. 

"what is happening to you?" 

he sees the boy who he has decided is himself reaching down into the climbing dark water now up to the lower branches of the trees. his hand is outstretched, his body one long unhappy tension but yoongi cannot see what he's reaching for, can only guess and then confirm as he leans so close his eyelashes brush the paint. there: the smallest suggestion of a glow in the water right where the pale boy's hand does not quite touch. 

you're there, yoongi thinks. 

the tree still laden with moons showing light aches. yoongi cannot say why he knows; just feels it like he might be such a moon.

or once was.

"namjoon saw. says he thinks...he thinks we need to find him."

"aren't you worried we might all be losing our minds?" yoongi's joke falls flat.

"no," taehyung says and it's the same as his hands: careful and patient. "i think he's right."

yoongi nods. 

"yeah."

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

"excuse me. have you seen this person?" 

the days that follow bleed together. yoongi asks every single person in the city he sees, learns to say those few crucial words in an arsenal of languages he'll never use for anything else. the others get to work too, asking the same simple question. a lot of people run or hurry on, doing everything they can to avoid being approached by a stranger. some have pity and stop, tell him 'no sorry' and go on. one girl actually offers to help look, jokes that maybe her dog can help find him. then her sister swoops in and tells her not to talk to strangers, and, well, yoongi can hardly fault that. she's right. outside of his own experience, he would deem himself deranged at the kindest assessment, and whatever the case, best avoided. 

it's the first day of the new year and no one has seen the boy in the picture. but yoongi keeps asking.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

at the end of the last week, an unusually bad snow storm hits the city, sweeps it up into heavy winds and both hail and snow because why settle for just one?

yoongi finds himself wracked with nerves. what if the boy is out there? what if he's in trouble? and then he thinks worst of all: what if i'm too late? 

grabbing his heaviest coat and scarf and hat, yoongi goes out into the blinding white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

the winds have calmed a little, angry gales withered down to tired gasps of swaying snow and bitter cold. at the intersection closest to his apartment building, he yawns, rubbing his eyes and digging in his pocket for his keys with his other hand when he sees it. 

out ahead: a shadow.

he thinks...maybe he's imagining it. also it's night. the shadow could just be the oblong beginnings of where the streetlights cut out -- rundown part of town that it is. 

but no.

the shadow is not just an accident of the light. it is its own creature: obsidian and midnight threads festering together into a mutation that reads as shadow as cloud as... space.

blackhole, yoongi thinks and clutches at his heart when it screams with a pain sharp enough to bring him to his knees. his vision swims. the shadow, he thinks, does not move closer. hovers. is...trapped? he looks forward again.

are there points of light in that dark? 

a glow.

yoongi thinks of the painting.

it is impossible to stand, as though gravity has become exponential, presses down on every part of him. but he's too far.

so yoongi crawls. yoongi digs his hands in the ice crusted snow and forces himself forward. at some point his hands start to bleed, his well worn gloves no match for the repeated friction of ice and force and a certain violence laden in yoongi's motions, as if he's in some kind of fight; and maybe he is. he doesn't know how long it takes him -- too long -- to reach the foot of the shadow who looks nothing like the boy in his picture and yet yoongi knows.

he does.

sitting in the snow, yoongi feels lightheaded, thinks he has blood ringing in his ears as much as he has it staining his hands, thinks out loud, "what happened to you?"

my star.

my star.

my love.

what happened.

one bloodied hand reaches and the shadow trembles.

"i'm not going to hurt you," yoongi says and in the center of all this winter, something in his tone is spring. 

is a promise.

the shadow seems bigger than when yoongi began crawling to him, and while he knows this could be perspective, he doubts it. near enough to stare deeper into it, yoongi thinks he sees distances and falling stars, thinks he sees two boys on a teal green plain holding hands and naming constellations for the memories they hold most dear. he hears voices. feels years that he has not lived (yet has), tastes goodbyes he is so tired of saying. hand still hovering, yoongi blinks as he sees and feels something warm hit the first bend of his knuckles, watches it glisten brightest as it passes the base of his ring finger before disappearing into his blood entirely. he shivers and feels warm and then feels strange. floating. still -- all this at odds with how the clouded shadow spasms, convulses in a contained storm of what yoongi recognizes now as a struggle too. he wants to help, wants what he thinks the boy in the painting beneath the water deserves: not this, at least. not this. 

the voices yoongi heard before seem to come back a little louder.

you remember him, don't you? 

"i...."

you remember, the voices insist. yoongi senses desperation. 

"i'm trying," he says. 

the shadow takes up the entire street before him, blocks out the city and the sky, starts to seep around yoongi's silver glowing edges like dark water. yoongi closes his eyes, opens them, pinpoints that fading glow and does the only thing he can think of doing: tries to hold it. all around him the shadow screams, it writhes; its wiry tendrils snake around yoongi's legs and body at first like vines and then like molten quicksand made of night sluicing across his form with no room to spare. he has enough time to take one deep breath before it covers his face and then he can only go by the stinging feeling, how it crawls the length of his arm to where his hand curls tight around something warm and fluttering, beating strangely like a heart. 

what is his name?

i don't know! yoongi thinks, lungs on fire, body heavy.

you do. 

 

 

 

*

 

 

"and if i do forget you?" yoongi asks, hanging upside-down in their favorite moon tree. jungkook kisses him on the tip of his nose but that won't do, so yoongi curls his hand at the back of his neck, pulls him close to kiss him on the mouth and is only half listening, distracted by jungkook's softness as jungkook murmurs into the kiss,

"you will," a second kiss. a third. a fourth. then yoongi has to swing upright, delighted as jungkook half floats half pulls himself up to sit astride yoongi's lap and lean down for a fifth, whispering, "but i'm yours anyway."

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

you know what they say about the heart of a star.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

mine, yoongi thinks; yoongi believes more than anything.

yours, the voices agree; the stars converge.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

when yoongi's shaking hand pulls the light out from the shadow, the world destabilizes for a few seconds. the girl who cried in front of jungkook's painting notices. namjoon notices. taehyung notices. a boy studying abroad named jihoon notices. maybe twenty others, in all the whole wide world. 

namjoon is crossing a pedestrian raised walk when he sees the sky glitch; there is a better word for it, he supposes, but that's all he has at the time -- how it shimmers and then rejoins; underneath that motion, namjoon hears a song, feels a life he didn't finish and thinks: this time i'll make it. 

to the girl, it seems the sky opens up to show a hundred moons and she'll never tell anyone this but she will keep that memory for the rest of her life. 

taehyung watches, fascinated, as the blue flowers seokjin brought him become for an instant, white lilies and then revert, kisses the petals and murmurs low, "i like you either way." 

jihoon looks out into the atlantic ocean and sees constellations that make sounds similar to whales finding their way home. and it's brief. but it happens. the way magic does.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

as the shadow collapses, it bleeds down yoongi's face, his throat, the whole of his body just in time to let him breathe, choking gasping sounds that wrack his entire form but he doesn't let the glow in his hand go even for a second, only brings it close, holds it against where he can feel his own heart too quickly beating, and curls over it until his forehead touches the cold ground. said ground, strangely, has no snow, instead bears the shadow. no one passes by and they would not see what is really happening anyway probably: how yoongi kneels in an improbably flat spill of sky and stars, how the glow in his hand fairly sings and waits and breathes, how yoongi, kissing where the light shimmers sharpest, whispers one word.

the way the heart bursts is that of a star.

it falls in pieces, but yoongi remembers how stars work, connects them to make the constellation of the moon harvester.

a thing that does not exist in this reality but did in another and so, is still real.

"jungkook," yoongi says to the boy opening his eyes under yoongi's hands now shadowy with space, time, and rules remade.

"your hands," jungkook folds them in his own but they stay like that -- dark and prickled with light. jungkook himself has a subtle glow remaining in his eyes, reminiscent of moons, stars, and suns. 

"never mind," yoongi says, and leans down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

in the gallery, jungkook's painting changes one last time: an orchard of full moons shin deep in a sea of singing stars, soft green grass beneath the waves of light. one of the trees farther back in the forest is a little different; if the eye looks closely enough, it will see beneath the boughs of moonlight and silver leaves: two hands holding onto one another, a promise kept at the end of the universe.

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 


the morning taehyung goes to take the painting down, he stares for a long while.

and smiles.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

it takes a while for jungkook's body to become fully human and until then, it's painful. 

 "where does it hurt?" yoongi asks.

"here," jungkook points to his wrist, receives a kiss. "here," points to his heart, receives another. "here," points to his temple, receives another.  "here," points to his mouth... receives many.

of course, even long after he has fully assimilated, sometimes jungkook says "here" and yoongi never disappoints him.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

after january, yoongi wears gloves all the time, explains it as a skin sensitivity. 

"since when?" hoseok narrows his eyes. yoongi smiles serenely.

"i guess it's my old age."

hoseok throws the nearest not-truly-harmful thing he can at him; it happens to be a paperclip. 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

"i can't understand it," jungkook says, examining yoongi's hands where stars actually move, as though yoongi's hands reveal a certain depth of space.

"it's okay," yoongi says and when jungkook's pout becomes a frown he thumbs at his lower lip and says, "really." pauses. "i heard voices when i..." he can't quite say it: when i almost lost you. he clears his throat. "when...you were still in shadow." jungkook's eyes cant away, lashes long dark things against his glowing skin and yoongi has no idea how someone this beautiful can be real, has woken up every day since the end of january and touched jungkook all over just to know he's not dreaming. he wishes he could remember the things jungkook tells him about -- their other lives, or rather, yoongi's. but jungkook threads their fingers together, holds them tight and says,

"that's what the painting is for."

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

sometimes, when jungkook is so happy he seems to define the word, he shimmers. yoongi knows not everyone sees it, but one day namjoon leans down and whispers,

"you do see that. don't you?"

yoongi murmurs back, warm and at home, "of course."

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

yoongi only asks jungkook what the shadow was once. he asks and jungkook says some things aren't meant to be told. if anyone else said that to him, yoongi would be annoyed but with jungkook he finds he's just afraid. 

"could it happen again?" he asks.

jungkook folds his arms close to him like he's holding himself together, looks out at the city and says, "i don't think so."

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

take care of him, those voices from far away whisper in yoongi's sleep. take care of him the way he took care of us.

yoongi, deep in dreams, mumbles, "i will."

awake at his side, jungkook kisses his closed eyes.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

swinging his legs over the edge of the building, jungkook looks at home and yoongi supposes that makes sense; that jungkook would be at ease with heights. star things. and so on. sitting next to him, yoongi feels comfortable because he's been doing this for years, and tonight even more so as jungkook sings a melody yoongi almost knows. 

"what song is that?" 

"an old one," jungkook's smile gleams in the dark. yoongi stares, can't help it. they'll be gray and fragile one day, and he'll still be staring. because it's jungkook. because he's happy. 

because everything.

namjoon's words from some time ago come to him: the universe has moved for us.

yoongi looks at jungkook and sees stars, sees years, sees what he feels and that's--

--love.

"i like it," yoongi says, trails his dark starred hands down jungkook's bright star face and adds, "i like you."

it's dangerous, how jungkook scoots forward along the ledge only to curl around yoongi. a little too much weight to the side and they're bad news in the morning paper. but yoongi doesn't think of that; doesn't think much as he angles up to kiss the mole under jungkook's mouth and then jungkook's mouth, swallows up his joy the same as his song, the sound of rippling starlight.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the sound... of love.