The jagged shadows cast by the streetlamps the night before faded from his roman curtains, diluted by the onset of the morning daylight and the symphony of singing birds breaking the monotony of city traffic. Through the haziness of his vision, he can pinpoint the ragged outline of his dirty clothes accumulated on top of his dresser and he smells the faint aroma of coffee and burnt toast from the other residents. It’s cold too; his skin is ridden with goosebumps even though he’s burrowed into his thick blanket. His bones are stiff.
He feels tired yet wide awake at the same time, a kind of strained sensation that came along with restless and sleepless nights. Jimin stays there, chest rising and falling like the gentle recession of waves, motionless. There’s a crick in his neck. His chest perimeters between the line of vacancy, somewhat numb. He always awakes with a kind of numbness.
It isn’t until he sees the sun peeking through the curtains, brighter than before, does Jimin finally make an effort to sit up. And at the same time, Jimin hears the pitter patter of soft footsteps became audible through the halls, the sound of a door clicking shut echoing past it. They’re fierce footsteps despite its attempts at being stealthy. Jimin already knows who it is by the time the brunette peeks his head in between his door with a cheerful grin.
“Rise and shine, it’s time to wine!” Taehyung beams in all his blinding glory of an animated lark, too much enthusiastic for the pinnacle lingerings of the morning. He’s dressed in a weird combination of a graphic tie over a bright-coloured plaid shirt, accompanied with beige slacks. He’s got round, gold-tinted sunglasses perched on the top of his head and for a moment, Jimin admires how well he can pull off such a disastrous look. But admiration soon washes away after Taehyung insists that he gets out of bed.
Jimin expels a groan and pulls his blankets over his face, “Go away, Taehyung. It’s still too early.”
The brunette clicks his tongue with displeasure before he stomps over and seizes the blanket, yanking it out of Jimin’s possession before he throws it aside onto the floor, “It’s the planet Mercury transit viewing today and you promised you’d come along with me to watch it. Besides, I told the rest of the astronomy club I was gonna bring you there as a potential new member and what’s a great way to meet the squad than to observe the planet’s journey over the course of a few hours? Come on, up the fuck we must wake already!”
He looks up at Taehyung’s eager expression, the excitement he has brimming in his large, puppy eyes, and Jimin sighs with all the reluctance capable of being measured on his shoulders.
“Okay, okay, fine.” Jimin swings his legs over the bed and slips into his slippers, smiling at the way Taehyung’s face immediately lights up like a chandelier, “Let me go get ready.”
After throwing on some random mismatched outfit of an oversized hoodie and drawstring sweatpants in his half-asleep state, Taehyung was already zealously hopping out of the door. Jimin grabs his keys and phone. He looks back. Sometimes, he can hear the familiar ring of laughter linger behind him a voice he sometimes longed to hear. Wishful thinking, as always.
Jimin lets himself be dragged out of their shared apartment and suddenly across the front lawn of their campus by linked arms after a ten minute commute, Taehyung yapping away like an overexcited chickadee in the middle of a mating call.
Sunlight now rinses the blue skies, all scattered light that inhabited every crevice of land; ladders of wispy clouds with a pinkish glow as if painted by a celestial hand drifting about in tandem. The sun swells in the sky after rising from the ground, illuminating in the distance beyond the tall plexiglass buildings and reflecting against the trees that looked as though they were donning golden crowns in the spring. There’s a gentle breeze that lifts towards his vantage point, caressing his cheeks and softly blowing at the loose strands of his hair back. He inhales the crisp air of the beginnings of Autumn.
Jimin has heard lots about the astronomy club, especially since Taehyung was proudly a part of it. The astronomy and space club had been going rather strong for the first few years it had been recently established. From what Taehyung has told him, the club was cherished by the staff faculty and student union, thus financially supported and funded for proper equipment, as well as given the opportunity to cooperate with a nearby local Observatory to regularly observe stars and pulsars. The club was to foster an appreciation of astronomy as a natural science within the liberal arts community, but slowly enough, students began to lose interest and involvement in the club that resulted in a paltry number of space enthusiasts.
Jimin wonders about the cause of such regression, but perhaps they’ve lost the eager spark to investigate the wonder and beauty of the universe and the scintillating intricacies that make up the world as a whole, stargazing now a foreign phenomenon in a world of advanced technology and blue-screened interactions.
He didn’t have much interest in astronomy. To him, stars were just little dots that rarely appeared through the thick clouds that curled around the night sky. He didn’t think there was much profound significance behind them other than translating their celestial movements as horoscopes printed upon outdated newspapers. And even then, he thought they were inaccurate.
The planets were all unreachable except for the possible habitance of Mars and maybe a few more other exoplanets somewhere in the distance; black holes warranted death in both darkness and dimension; and there was too much mystery within the galaxies that Jimin didn’t nearly have enough patience to comprehend.
It's too messy, too muddled, too complicated. He likes simple and straightforward things, something like history-- all entrenched timelines and dates and conclusively proven facts.
However, the astronomy club is short of just one more member in order to keep the club going, otherwise, it would be faced with termination. And, considering himself to be Taehyung’s unfortunate best friend who’s malleable to all forms of persuasion and pleading puppy eyes, had conceded to check it out to see if it was in his area of interest despite knowing full well it isn’t. But it means a lot to Taehyung, so he’ll do it just for him.
Afar, Jimin notices a blue canopy tent set up along with a telescope in the distance, surrounded by two individuals as they approach closely to the scene, laughter filling in the craters of the quiet morning. There’s a lanky blonde wearing a pair of black sunglasses and a boy with a glowing smile reminiscent of mountains that would smile in sight of the sun. They must be early birds as well, considering how rowdy they are first thing in the morning whereas Jimin feels more like a walking dead man.
Jimin watches as Taehyung lets go of his arm and hops on over to where they're situated at, their expressions brightening at the sight of the brunette bounding towards him.
“Namjoon-hyung!” Taehyung beams. Namjoon has an endearing smile, Jimin notes, as well as a peculiar taste in fashion once he notices how the jean overalls over a neon pink t-shirt and striped socks matches unusually well with his oxford shoes.
Jimin knows him. Taehyung talks about him a lot. Even though Jimin hasn’t personally met them face-to-face until now, he feels as though he’s already familiar with them. It’s a bit intimidating, however, when they sound more interesting than Jimin himself and he can’t help but think of himself as boring compared to them. It perpetuates a bit of self-consciousness and Jimin stands back just slightly.
“Hey, Tae! You’re pretty early today,” His voice has a low timbre to it too, a semblance of grandiloquence in his poise as he speaks. Namjoon pats Taehyung on the back, expression soft and lingering with something else, before he glances down at his wristwatch, “The transit doesn’t officially start in half an hour. It’s only eight right now.”
“Would’ve been earlier if Jimin wasn’t such a slowpoke. Oh, speaking of the slowpoke,” Taehyung shows off his boxy grin and subsequently grabs Jimin by the arm and tugs him over, to which Jimin languidly shuffles with a demure wave to the cheerful duo, “Jimin, these are my fellow space enthusiasts! And guys, this is Jimin, my small and perpetually angry best friend who’s got a PhD in all things righteousness.” He jerks away dramatically and clutches his arm when Jimin punches him in profound disbelief and embarrassment, “Ouch. Okay and apparently, with some violent proclivities too.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you, Jimin,” Namjoon smiles, showing off his dimples as he shakes Jimin’s hand with unconfined confidence in his poise, “Glad to have you here! It’s an exciting day, isn’t it? The mercury transit is a fairly rare occurrence and it’s amazing to be able to witness its migration. The telescope has full-apertured protective solar filters so you don’t have to worry about damaging your eyes when you view it through the apparatus.”
“Cool,” Jimin replies succinctly even though he didn’t fully understand what Namjoon had said.
The other member, with broad shoulders and a youthful, innocent face and a dazzling smile, leans forward with much excitement and eagerness to his actions and exclaims near Jimin’s face, “Nice to meet you too. You can call me Jin, but real talk here. Do you still think Pluto is a real planet? Because I think NASA can go shove its Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph down its-- “
Namjoon interrupts by clearing his throat. He straightens up, folding his arms across his chest, “Actually, sorry to burst your bubble but whether you like to admit it or not, Pluto is no longer officially considered a planet.” He speaks with a highfalutin tone, chin slightly tilted upwards, “Even though it is round due to the force of its own gravity and it orbits around the sun, it does not follow the third rule to make it a full-fledged planet. Pluto does not dominate its neighborhood in space, thus demoted. Those are facts you cannot reject.”
“Well, facts were made to be proven wrong, Joonie.”
“No. No, they weren’t.”
“Here we go again,” Taehyung mutters underneath his breath as he goes to stand in between them.
Jimin watches with amusement as the two bicker, feeling a smile form on his face involuntarily. He can finally see what Taehyung means whenever he shared his stories about his pleasant experiences in the club; they possessed different colours to their personalities, all unique pieces to a complex puzzle that fit together like stars aligned in a constellation.
As Jimin stands back and leaves them to argue among themselves, he looks up at the sky and the revealing shade of crystalline blue that spread amongst the morning. He stretches his hand up to the sky and lets the soft topaz glow of the sun pour through his fingers and onto his upturned face, wondering how it’s a universal notion that when under the sun, they were all the same. They were all equal. And he finds the idea nice how that nobody can ever disappoint the sun that would keep on shining on them even in the darkest of times.
There’s a slight rustling behind him, the faint sound of pristine grass being stepped on by heavy boots and a prickling sensation akin to the suspicion of being stared at raising the hairs on the back of his neck. Jimin turns around and finds himself meeting a pair of solemn eyes belonging to a boy with a hard-edged face that looks inclined to turbulence. All sharp and cold features; dark, wavy hair and a stoic frown, as if he didn’t seem formidable enough with his leather jacket, his hefty amount of ear piercings that ran down his ears like a straight constellation and an eyebrow ring that glinted from the sun. Jimin didn’t notice his presence until now, and it looks like the others didn’t too. He doesn’t recall Taehyung mentioning anyone that fit his reticent description.
From how he was blatantly staring at him, Jimin believed that there might’ve been something incriminating on his face. He’s suddenly hyperaware of how sloppy he looks and regrets leaving his hair uncombed, and instantly lowers his hand from the sun in sheepishness, embarrassed at being caught. But he settles on a friendly smile to greet the stranger, but the mystery boy immediately looks away at the gesture and he turns towards the canopy tent, heading towards one of the chairs to take a seat. Jimin frowns at the show of a cold shoulder and huffs quietly. A stuck up kid with an inflated ego? Probably. Part of a motorcycle gang? Highly likely.
He turns around and settles down on the grass, adamant on showing the same response. Jimin returns his attention back to the lively bunch huddling around the telescope, with Namjoon nearly knocking it over in a clumsy stumble and the others panicking over it.
He sighs; another long day ahead of him.
The entire duration of his waiting time consists of Jimin listening to their excited ramblings once they discover that the transit has begun, half-screaming about being able to see the planet slowly appear. But Jimin is rather indifferent about it, eyes lingering about the campus grounds and how the students-- or lack thereof-- are sparsely encompassing the school grounds among the willow trees.
There’s a sigh behind him. Taehyung sits down beside Jimin, who was plucking at the blades of grass absentmindedly. “C’mon, Jimin, it’s the coolest shit ever and you gotta see it. I swear it’s more exciting than playing with a bunch of dead grass.”
“What’s so exciting about a planet moving?” Jimin mumbles, throwing a few blades of grass at him, to which Taehyung whines. “It’s not like there’s a meteor plummeting down towards our imminent death. Unless that happens, my interest isn’t exactly piqued.”
“Uh, morbid much?” Taehyung scoffs in disbelief. “Maybe lay off Edgar Allan Poe’s complete works for a bit because dude, the Transit of Mercury is rare compared to the Transit of Venus. Don’t you think it’s hella awesome that Mercury passes directly between the sun and another planet and we, mere corporeal human beings, get to witness it?”
Jimin thinks over it for a bit. He hums noncommittally, “I guess so.”
“Exactly, so go give it a try instead of just moping around here,” It isn’t until Taehyung nudges him towards the telescope does Jimin finally comply. He gets up and dusts the back of his sweatpants before he approaches the apparatus. He slightly bends down and aligns himself against the eyepiece, peeking into it.
What he doesn’t expect is to feel his breath hitch at the otherworldly sight: a mere black dot inching across a gigantic and bright, yellow orb, yet the thought of its wondrous uniformity and symmetry captivated him. It’s a rare, silent phenomenon indeed, a quiet kind of discovery Jimin didn’t think would intrigue him, but it did. It’s his first time witnessing something like this and it’s strange how something so big can be so small in entirety. An inexplicable feeling courses through his body, faintly thrumming in the back of his mind. He doesn’t know how long he stands there gawking at it until he senses someone stand beside him and hover, casting a shadow in his periphery.
“Are you done yet?”
Jimin jumps and quickly stands up. It’s the mystery boy Jimin feels tempted to call “Mr. Too Cool for School”, but his voice is off puttingly soft and not as harsh as he would expect it to be. But his eyes are cold and sharp and Jimin doesn’t like how aloof they seem. He gives off the impression of someone who isn’t afraid to go for the kill; who isn’t afraid of leaving people behind.
“Yeah,” Jimin clears his throat and with an arm, motions at the space between the boy and the telescope, “it’s all yours.”
He turns around when simultaneously, he hears Jin address the mystery boy as-- “Jungkook,”-- before it was accompanied by Jin’s squeaky laughter to some inside joke. Jungkook, Jimin repeats the name in his head. He doesn’t know why. Taehyung hasn’t mentioned him before during the recapitulation of his stories.
“Cool, isn’t it?” Taehyung grins as Jimin returns back to his original seat. Jimin settles beside him and his hands immediately find its way back towards the blade of grass, spirits lifting as he recalls the vivid sight of the planet Mercury, tiny in shape, substantially different in size against the sun in all its grandiosity. Jimin smiles and nods, and Taehyung visibly brightens at the sight of Jimin’s reciprocated enthusiasm. “I told you it’d be awesome. Is it a good enough incentive for you to join?” He wiggles his brows at him.
“Well, I heard that you get to see the Milky Way when you’re in New Zealand,” Jimin says in wonder. “Does that also apply here?”
“I don’t have some astral manipulation of the galaxy or enough money to send you to New Zealand, c’mon,” Taehyung grumbles, shaking his shoulder. Jimin laughs a bubbly sound and Taehyung gives him a toothy grin, “So, how do you like the club so far? I guarantee you that we do a lot more cool things than just watch a planet move across the sun, although that alone itself is already the coolest shit ever.”
As Jimin hums in thought, his eyes wander back towards him-- Jungkook, who’s viewing the transit through the telescope. He hears Jin’s animated voice blend with the mid-morning rush and Namjoon’s low, long-suffering voice as the two exchange rebuttals about something trivial. But what stilts his heart is when Jungkook leans back from the telescope and Jimin catches his face, his expression, and the awe and wonder and adoration written all over his countenance; where his once withdrawn eyes now holds clusters of fascination in the deep pools of them. Jimin feels himself gravitate towards him, mind and soul.
Taehyung gazes at him expectantly as Jimin keeps his eyes on the smile on Jungkook’s face, “It’s interesting.”
-- ☾ --
“You’ve never talked about him before.”
Taehyung looks up with a large question mark floating above his head. They’re taking their usual seats in the lounge area of the student union building later in the day after they’ve gotten their routinely coffees, either about to tackle their readings or merely procrastinate until their late afternoon classes start. Jimin thinks it’ll be the latter.
“Who?” Taehyung kicks his legs up in the air to rest his feet on the table and Jimin shoos him away. “Oh, you mean Jungkook? Tall-ish quiet guy who wears too much denim and leather and looks a little scary with all the metal?”
Jimin snorts a bit at his description, and keeps his eyes down on his coffee to appear nonchalant, “Yeah.”
“Ah,” Taehyung makes a noise of understanding, sagely nodding his head as he cups his chin with a hand, “he’s a freshman. A spring chicken. He hasn’t really opened up to us yet. Whenever I try to talk to him, it’s like talking to a brick wall. Plus, he’s, uh. Kinda hard to approach. And intimidating.”
“Kim Taehyung, you’re afraid of a freshman?” Jimin can’t help but laugh as Taehyung sputters in denial.
“No,” Taehyung huffs adamantly, “He’s just way too muscle-y to be a freshman. He's got a fucking eyebrow ring-- that shit looks like it hardcore hurts even though it's fucking hot. And the dude doesn’t even smile, okay? He looks like he can crush my head in between his sinewy thighs. Not that I’d mind, by the way, but I want my brain to be intact.” He ignores the way Jimin nearly chokes on his sip of coffee, burning his tongue in the process at the lewd comment, “He’s like the personification of ‘if looks could kill’. I’d stay away from him until the very day I see him actually show signs of human contentment inhabiting that cold vessel of a body. But yeah. Why do you ask?”
Jimin shrugs indifferently, placing his coffee cup down to reach for his bag. “Nothing.”
Taehyung narrows his eyes at him in suspicion, obviously not persuaded by his act of indifference, but ends up not prodding, understanding that if Jimin wants to talk, he’ll talk. He then goes off on a tangent about Namjoon and how his unintentional destructive tendencies had caused both grief and indignation when he broke the high-tech camera that was able to zoom in on the moon. There’s fondness in his voice, though, how that bright and dazzling smile never left Taehyung’s face as he complains with an underlying emotion of something else.
As Jimin intently listens, he shoves the memory of Jungkook’s smile full of wonderment that seemed to fit perfectly on his stoic face, the way his eyes crinkled in contrast to his icy disposition, out from his orbit of concentration in order to focus on other things.
After all, they met the way comets pass by planets; seen once and then, maybe, never again.
-- ☾ --
At least, that’s what he thought, because Jimin ends up joining the club anyways.
(More like Taehyung dragging him to one of their meetings. Jimin didn’t struggle-- it was inevitable and futile to fight against him.)
Their weekly meetings are often held at sporadic timings, including the evenings, which is convenient enough since the buildings are still open due to night school and Jimin would be done with his lectures, and can get a headstart on his work. Taehyung mentioned that most of the club meetings consisted of trying out new equipment and having discussions that would often digress into debates, but other than that, they also travelled to the observatory as field trips and collectively stargazed on certain nights where the sky was said to be clear.
That is how Jimin finds himself seated at one of the desks when he reluctantly attends a meeting for the first time, listening quietly as he watches Jin and Taehyung exchange animated arguments back and forth. To Jimin, it looks more like an incoherent squabble between Tweedledee and Tweedledum about something trivial-- something about not putting the proper star charts back into the filing cabinets-- and Jimin frankly finds it quite amusing to watch, like some form of reality entertainment.
However, most of the time, they talk about space exploration and if it’s really worth spending money on it. It’s an issue that’s been brought into light a few times, even recently, and as they talk among themselves, Jimin notices Jungkook sitting in the same disposition as well, fidgeting with the sleeves of his coat as he intently listens to the others. His expressions hardly alter, variating from being solemn or blank, a few frowns and a twitch of a pierced brow here and there.
His gaze wanders before Jungkook can catch him staring. Jimin had a bad habit of staring. He notices a small rack of books placed between dividers in the corner of the counter near the window. It looks out of place from the whole interior of the classroom and its simple decor, jarring in the mass of maps hung up beyond the chalkboards and the walls. The others are too invested in their discussion to notice Jimin and ask for his input, but he supposes he prefers it this way.
The sky isn’t clear today so the meeting ends on a cheerful note, with Namjoon closing the conversation with a last ment in hopes that other days would have clearer skies to look at the stars. The chairs scrape against the linoleum floor as Jimin watches them leave. Jungkook moves slowly and gets up from his seat. Jimin doesn’t move until Taehyung nudges his shoulder.
“Namjoon and I are planning to get sushi for dinner. Gotta get my Teriyaki Tuesday on,” Taehyung grins widely, “Wanna come? We can tell you more about the ropes of the club, although it does seem like you fitted right in today with absolutely no problem.”
Jimin thinks over it. It’ll be nice to sit with them and chat. There’s a lot of things Taehyung has told Jimin about Namjoon and he wants to see such endearing qualities himself, but he also didn’t want to intrude. Taehyung is wearing his dangling, silver earring today, and he only wears that piece of sterling jewelry when he’s trying to impress or court someone. Though Taehyung hasn’t mentioned anything about it and will outright deny anything concerning matters of the heart whenever Jimin tries to bring up the possibilities with Namjoon, Jimin was shrewd-- not to mention how much of an open book Taehyung is. He underestimates Jimin’s ability to notice things sometimes.
“It’s okay,” Jimin smiles in declination, “I think I’ll just go home today. Bring me food later, though.”
“Will do, sir!”
Jimin slips his arms into the sleeves of his coat and throws his leather bag over his shoulder, watching them file out of the door. He sees the back of Jungkook’s leather jacket by the threshold of the room before Jimin turns around. He approaches the small book rack, almost like a tiny library-- running his fingers over the spines of the laminated covers before a title catches his eye. It’s a vivid encyclopedia about the planets, stars and galaxies, with full illustrations and photography, which is enticing enough for Jimin to pull it out of its place in the row of thick volumes. Incongruous things often spark his curiosity.
He lays it flat on the counter, flipping through the pages and skimming past the contents along the lines of the new solar system including dwarf planets Pluto, Ceres, and Eris; the latest developments in space exploration, science, and research; how a star born and dies and other things.
He continues with muted interest before Jimin lands on a page where the entire solar system in vivid illustration takes up two whole pages. The planets are accurately presented, although Jimin is somewhat ashamed that he can’t recognize some of the planets shown on the diagram. He knew the names but he isn’t exactly space savvy; he never really bothered to familiarize himself with how all of them looked like. There were so many.
“Mercury,” He mumbles to himself, his finger dragging across the shiny page as he tries to correctly name them, “Venus. Jupiter?” Then he lands on a planet of a beige-ish colour adorned with a plenitude of beautiful ringlets and hums, unable to remember the name. Jimin finds it a bit sad as he racks his mind for one, wondering if he should even be accepted to such a club when he can’t even name one of the planets of their solar system. Someone might as well kick his ass out and scold him on how ashamed he should be of himself. Jimin sighs, scratching his forehead, and--
Jimin nearly jumps out of his own skin as he whirls around to a quiet voice, in which Jimin realizes it belonged to Jungkook, who came out of thin air and stood close to him and kept his eyes pointedly at the page. He catches a faint whiff of his musky cologne, delicately fragrant, but he can’t bring himself to say anything when Jimin feels his face slightly burn in embarrassment at the fact that he’s caught not knowing their own goddamn solar system. Jimin does step away from Jungkook, though, to allow some space between them, but Jungkook doesn’t seem to notice-- not when his eyes are sparkling at the page in such a way that it looks as though the page was the only thing that existed right at this moment.
Jungkook speaks vehemently, precise and confident words tumbling out of his mouth, “It’s Saturn. It’s the second biggest planet in our solar system and it’s known for its beautiful rings being made out of chunks of rock and ice, but it’s more intricate than that. It’s less dense than water and it’s a giant ball of hydrogen and helium, like Jupiter, but it still remains a huge mystery as a magnificent source of scientific discovery. It’s got nine contingent moons-- the most prominent one, Titan, is filled with methane smog. Speaking of Titan, the discussion we just had about space exploration would definitely be useful for humankind. Titan has enough lakes and oceans of natural gas on it to allow humanity to function for thousands of years with new technology. Plus, space exploration also creates lots of green technology, so that we may never need to use the resources on the moon. Pretty fucking spectacular, if you ask me.”
“Uh,” Jimin blinks in mild surprise. Much surprise, actually, at how his manner of speech and the level of excitement in his tone discrepantly opposes his tough demeanor. The childlike elation in his expression and the slight quirk of his lips that gradually pulled into a smile is off putting and yet it’s endearing, in a way. Shocking for the most part, but endearing. “Cool. I, uh-- ”
“You got the other two mixed up, by the way. This isn’t Venus, it’s Mercury.” Jungkook points at the error Jimin had made at labelling one of the planets. He makes a sound of acknowledgement though it sounds more like a croak, but he didn’t want to interrupt Jungkook’s tangent when he sounds so passionate, brimming with energy at this point, “Mercury is a small planet and resembles more of the moon. It’s really close to the sun and I assume you know about the transits since you went to it last week. It’s got the shortest orbital period too.”
“Oh,” is all Jimin can say to reciprocate the same fervor due to his lack of coherency at the moment, feeling a little embarrassed and a whole lot dumb, but his heart sinks at the sight of Jungkook’s smile dropping almost immediately, as though he jerked out of a trance.
“Sorry,” Jungkook quickly steps back, shoulders hunching along the way as he shoved his hands into his pockets, eyes eluding to the side, “I-- I just left my pen here and I saw you labelling them wrong and I couldn’t help myself. I-- yeah, sorry.” Jimin didn’t like the fact that it was because of him Jungkook looked relatively ashamed and embarrassed, but from what? There’s nothing to be apologetic about, especially when it came to expressing passion and excitement about something one loves. Jimin feels a bit guilty, seeing how fast it took for Jungkook to become guarded and aloof again.
He was fidgeting around, visibly uncomfortable, and looked as though he’s about to leave when Jimin opens his mouth hoping for a stream of courage to come out, “Cronus.”
Jungkook stops, tilts his head a bit questioningly. Jimin takes that as a sign to continue on, fingers playing with the edges of the page, “Cronus is the Greek equivalent of Saturn, the Roman deity of sowing, seed and liberation who the planet was named after. When he was exiled from Olympus by Zeus, he ruled over Latium-- which was an ancient area in west Italy that became the capital city of the Roman Empire-- and taught his people agriculture and other peaceful arts. It was the Golden Age, during his reign, where everything was peaceful and happy. Everyone loved him, even though he was a shit parent.”
Jungkook looks at him now with curiosity and Jimin shrugs, smiling faintly, “I think it’s interesting how there’s completely different histories attached to these planets, depending on the view you’re studying them from.”
“Do you like mythology?” Jungkook asks quietly. He seems less uncomfortable, now that Jimin’s made it clear he didn’t mind and was unfazed by his spontaneous and out-of-the-blue ramble about the planets.
“I have to, to a certain degree,” Jimin laughs lightly, “I’m a Classical Studies major. And you?”
“I wouldn’t have guessed.”
That elicits a shy-- a shy chuckle from him at his good-natured sarcasm and Jimin nearly chokes on his own spit from the unanticipated soft sound. Jimin didn’t think anything gentle sounding could have been made from someone who looks as though he could lift a hundred pounds of weights and also did hippie graffiti art over abandoned buildings during a midnight stroll among the city. But there he is, a small smile on his face, large eyes crinkling and sparkling, looking more innocent than the piercings and leather painted him out to be. Jungkook, as a whole, is in short: a walking contradiction.
“Hey, how about this?” Jimin points at the encyclopedia on the counter as an idea manifests in his head, unsure of where this sudden bout of bravery has suddenly compelled him to reach out for the boy, but his heart seems to know which direction it was taking, as though Jungkook was a planet himself and the force of gravity was pulling Jimin in towards his orbit, “What about an exchange of knowledge? Tell me something about our planets, our galaxy and whatnot, and in return, I’ll tell you something about them in Greek and Roman mythological narratives. Or just random facts, if I run out of information. What’dya say?”
Jimin can see the conspicuous light flicker in Jungkook’s eyes, a spark of excitement at the mention of sharing knowledge of their specialties. He would have never expected a side like this-- all modest and passionate and talkative, from a boy with such cold eyes and a quiet disposition. It makes Jimin feel a little bad for a moment, for assuming how his character is based on outer appearances.
Then, his lips pull into a mild, easy smile, and it fills Jimin’s heart with a certain warmth of victory, “Sure.”
They spend the evening talking, exchanging fact after fact and sharing awkward silences here and there. However, instead of playing some dreaded icebreaker game, Jimin lets nature take its course and does his best to let the conversation flow comfortably for the both of them.
Soon after, it was just Jungkook talking when Jimin runs out of things to say about how much of an asshole Zeus was. For someone whose presence was most often last acknowledged, Jungkook talked the most passionately when it came to space, forgetting about his inhibitions and shyness.
Jungkook mentions how astronomers are searching outside of their solar system for terrestrial planets located in the goldilocks zone, which is a zone located not too far from their nearby star with ideal temperature, thus containing possible habitable planets. He also focuses on the orbital periods of the planets, as well as their distinctive characteristics that either make them uninhabitable or a significantly valuable source for research, and their moons. Many moons, apparently, not just the one earth has.
It’s both fascinating and a little bit scary at the same time, how excruciatingly vast the universe was, and the fact that humans have yet to venture throughout the entirety of space is alarmingly eerie.
It’s a strange thing it is. Jimin is always intimately surrounded by distance and space, whether he’s aware of it or not.
“Sorry,” Jungkook’s apology snaps Jimin out of his deep reverie-- he makes a mental note to seriously stop daydreaming-- and he’s got this earnest expression of bashfulness, contrasting the silver hooked around his brow, “I’m talking a lot, aren’t I? Sorry. I, um. This is the most I’ve talked in my entire life, and it’s weird, but I just-- “ His eyes fall down onto his lap where his hands are fumbling with the holes of his black, tight jeans, “really like astronomy.”
Jimin blinks in slight surprise, but then again, Jungkook was full of infinite surprises. “No, you shouldn’t feel inclined to apologize at all, Jungkook. I should be the one apologizing-- it’s been a bit of a long day but I swear I was paying attention!” He adamantly affirms, but Jungkook is staring at him, frowning.
“How did you know my name?”
Jimin freezes, curses his slip-up, but then his mind quickly thaws in time to throw out an answer that was a mixed variation of the truth, because he’s sure it’ll no doubt be strange and creepy to outrightly tell Jungkook that he overheard his conversation with Jin, which in hindsight, seemed like an unpalatable option to Jimin, “From-- from Taehyung. He talks a lot about the club and mentioned you briefly, and you were easy to distinguish from the others, so.” He nervously laughs, shrugging to appear indifferent.
Jungkook raises his eyebrows. Jimin notices how large and doe-like his eyes are, “I didn’t know he talked about me.”
“He talks about a lot of things, trust me.”
“Oh. Okay,” Jungkook folds his lips, tongue-in-cheek, before he glances up at Jimin, “well, what’s your name, then?”
He straightens his back and sticks out his hand towards him, smiling warmly, “I’m Jimin. Nice to personally meet you, Jungkook.”
He stares at his extended hand for a considerably long moment, studying it as though he’s contemplating the realness of the gesture, before Jungkook finally takes his hand and huffs a quiet, wry chuckle, “You too.”
Jimin wonders why he looks so genuinely surprised by Jimin’s indication of friendliness. And like space being a big blob of mystery to Jimin, Jungkook is too, a mystery-- an enigma that held the stars of wonder in his eyes.
It’s odd how Jimin can see a universe in him; he doesn’t know why, but he can’t explain what he saw in him either. Perhaps it’s the way Jungkook speaks so lovingly, so powerfully about the celestial world that exists beyond earth, the way his eyes instantly sparkle and his voice raises a pitch higher out of excitement, how he’s all soft inside but perpetuating a tough impression on the outside. All of that makes things easier, more comfortable, to immerse oneself into the conversation.
Jimin wonders if he, himself, will ever be as endless and infinite too-- if the universe he has inside of him is clothed in light or is merely a bleak, dismal galaxy full of dark matter, of dark things. Sometimes he feels as though he has nothing inside him, just the void.
“It’s getting a bit late, actually, and I do have to take care of some things before the day fully ends.” Jimin stands up, adjusting the bag on his shoulder he’d taken off earlier. Jungkooks looks faintly conflicted, as if he didn’t know whether to do the same, until he settles on a stiff nod.
“Yeah, okay. I’ll just-- I’ll just stay here and uh, go through more books,” Jungkook motions at the small collection of encyclopedias with an awkward sweeping motion of his arm.
Jimin smiles in response, offering him a wave of a hand as he approaches the door, “See you around, Jungkook.”
When he turns around, he doesn’t see Jungkook wave back this time.
The velvet, night sky is overcast and starless. There’s a waxing crescent moon peeking between thick clouds that twists like the last of dirty dish water going down the drain, stretching across the sky, leaving a hazy, silver afterglow. Jimin can see his own breath billow out into a puff of smoke, chasing the silhouettes cast by streetlamps. He sees beyond the horizon the fading colours of blue, the sun no longer seen.
It’s a quiet and short walk home, but whenever Jimin looks up at the night sky, he wonders if someone is looking back.
When he returns to his apartment, it’s dark. The lights aren’t turned on and Taehyung’s sneakers aren’t by the doormat, meaning that he hasn’t returned home yet. Jimin doesn’t bother to turn on the lights as he treks past the adjacent kitchen and the small living room space before he reaches his bedroom.
Jimin puts his things down and treks towards the balcony, sliding the door open and closed behind him, and he takes a seat on the old, secondhand LaZBoy left behind by its previous owner. He sees the faint, golden lamplights glow from inside the windows of the complex building across from him, some flickering open and some flickering closed.
It is cold and his lips turn a bit pale, but he watches the night sky darken the city into a pitch black curtain, like a film noir draping over a bright screen, until the city lights brighten the distant skyline.
He puts in his earphones and for the rest of the night outside, he stays.
-- ☾ --
The sun barely rises beyond the horizon and fills the sky with a hazy, peach-pink among the dark blues, when Jimin finds himself sitting at a table in a pancake house not too far from their college apartment, the streets still complacent among the quiet hours.
Taehyung is seated across from him, drowning his pancakes in a sickly puddle of maple syrup and powdered sugar, and Jimin can feel himself become nauseous at the sight. Taehyung had forgotten to bring him back food last night so he made it up to Jimin by treating him to breakfast instead-- and that meant waking up at the ass crack of dawn just to take him out for pancakes. Jimin starts to reevaluate his life choices of rooming together with an early bird.
“You’re a total slob,” Jimin comments flatly as he watches Taehyung cut off a large piece and plops it into his mouth, chewed contents showing through his bright-eyed grin. It’s a funny sight, frankly, for a pair of total opposites to be seen together; where Jimin’s movements were slow and groggy from a restless night, Taehyung has a candid spirit and energy that most sad and poor college students don’t have.
“I’m your favourite slob.”
“Unfortunately.” Jimin rolls his eyes as he pokes at the berries on his plate with a fork, “But anyways. How was your date with Namjoon?”
He watches with amusement as Taehyung chokes on the pancake he had in his mouth, sputtering as Jimin tries to dodge the flying pieces that came hurling out of his mouth, “It wasn’t a date, it was just a friendly dinner! Where’d you even get that from?”
Jimin shrugs, holding back laughter as he calmly steals a piece of pancake from Taehyung’s plate, “Just a hunch. Also, you’re really obvious. You talk about him at least ninety-nine percent of the time, like ‘Namjoon is so smart! He can tell between a triangle and a square!’ and ‘he’s simultaneously the cutest and hottest person I’ve ever met on this universe!’ and ‘I’d take his clothes off at the speed of li-- “ He abruptly yells when Taehyung threatens to dump a load of salt over his plate from the condiments. Jimin takes his plate far away from the devil, frowning at him.
“I don’t talk about him like that,” Taehyung grumbles, nearly pouting, “but he really is smart.”
“I know. I’m just messing with you,” Jimin laughs, placing his plate back down on the table once he makes sure his pancake will be salt free. “Honesty goes a long way though, if you ask me.”
“Please, I don’t need to hear that from you,” He huffs, jutting his chin upwards. Sometimes, Taehyung reminds Jimin of a pretentious heir to some rich, family business who spends his free time drinking cabernet sauvignon from a fancy flute and reading Oscar Wilde in a candle lit bath with scattered rose petals. It’s amusing but in all honesty, overbearing. He keeps the wry thought to himself, though.
Jimin merely shrugs, sticking a strawberry in his mouth and humming contentedly to spite him. But they exchange laughter afterwards, still able to find lightness and joviality in the little things-- even after they’ve lost the missing piece to their trio.
They spend the rest of their morning in the pancake house. They’re the kind to talk until they lose track of time, whether it was late at night or in the brink of morning, but Jimin finds it heartwarming and fulfilling that past all the surface-level banter they goodnaturedly have, they could slip into a serious conversation at any time. Detecting the solemnity of the atmosphere between them is a perk after having been friends for so long.
Jimin can still see the daytime moon peeking beyond the clarity of the blue skies, slowly fading away from the onslaught of the sun’s brilliance as they make their way to campus.
Rows of poplar trees are aligned along the concrete sidewalk, gently swaying in the movement of the winds as the warm tapestry of spring foliage coloured the pathways. Past the plaza square of the west side, where a large water fountain was placed in the center of the marble ground, Jimin sees a figure clothed in jet-black and well-equipped with exuding intimidation sitting at the fountain. He’s got a beanie pulled over his head this time, long, dark bangs nearly covering his doe-like eyes. Taeyhyung’s yapping away beside him, but in that moment, a sort of impulsive spark reaches his brain and without thinking, Jimin opens his mouth.
Jimin is unabashedly loud, especially as he throws an arm up and waves at the boy, and Jungkook is startled into almost dropping whatever it was in his hands. Jungkook looks like a deer caught in the headlights even in the near distance, visibly spooked.
After a moment of Jungkook just staring at Jimin as though he didn’t expect him to acknowledge him in broad daylight, Jungkook gives a quick, awkward and stiff nod before he jumps up from the fountain and leaves, speed walking towards the opposite direction he and Taehyung were heading to. Jimin deflates at the reserved response, half-expecting and hoping for the same, zealous enthusiasm he’d witnessed and experienced yesterday.
Meanwhile, Taehyung is staring at Jimin with a quirked eyebrow and an elevated level of complete puzzlement. After Jimin tears his gaze away from where Jungkook had disappeared to, he almost winces at the expression Taehyung has on his face directed at him. “What?”
“Since when were you friends with Jungkook?” Taehyung asks suspiciously, eyes narrowed. “Since when was he even-- friendable? Since when were you guys even on a talking basis? I’ve never even seen you two interact at all.”
Flustered from all the questions and the way Taehyung was looking at him, Jimin shrugs noncommittally and continues his way towards the liberal arts building, quickening his pace, “He’s a nice guy, Tae, if you look past all the metal and the leather. He’s really passionate.”
“He looks like those wannabe alternative poets who deal drugs and has an aesthetic for dark, misty forests and like-- fuckin’, I don’t know, abandoned warehouses near a train track in the middle of nowhere. He looks like he listens to Guns ‘N Roses twenty-four seven and he might even have an armful of tattoos underneath his jacket that could possibly be a symbol of his membership in some motorcycle gang, okay, and what? He didn’t snap at you? Didn’t threaten to cut off your balls or some shit like that? What did you guys even talk about?” Taehyung hooks an arm around around his own to slow him down, and Jimin sighs, relenting. “C’mon, you can’t just keep this away from your best pal!”
Jimin side-eyes him disapprovingly as they approach the building, “Has anyone ever told you that you make ridiculous, stereotypical assumptions of people based on appearances?”
“Yes,” Taehyung deadpans, “you just did.”
“Fuckin’ wise ass,” Jimin mumbles underneath his breath, and heaves an other sigh that was of defeat this time. When they enter the building, a rush of warmth embraces him as they escape the chilly air of the spring morning. “Okay, okay, jeez. Calm down. We’ve only talked once and that was yesterday. Long story short: I stayed behind a bit to look at that your guys space books and he caught me making a fool of myself, not knowing the difference between Venus and Mercury and unable to name Saturn-- “
He ignores Taehyung’s exaggerated and genuinely offended gasp, “and, uh. Yeah. Just talked about space. Jungkook did most of the talking, actually. You should see the way his eyes sparkle when he speaks about it-- his entire face lights up like a kid on Christmas and you completely forget how intimidating he initially seems.”
Taehyung seems incredulous, “Really? ‘Cause most of the time, he looks like he wants to bash my head into the wall.”
Jimin frowns, thinking about Jungkook’s tendency to uphold an intense gaze. “You’re just exaggerating.”
“I won’t believe that he’s not out to collect my organs until I see his so-called sparkly eyes,” Taehyung shrugs, adamant on the belief. “But I do believe that he genuinely loves astronomy. He is the one that contributed all those books to make a little library for our club after all, which at first, was hard to believe, but one day he’d just showed up carrying a mountain of them in his arms and they’ve been with us since.”
That, for one, piques his interest. Jimin almost laughs at the thought of imagining Jungkook carrying all those thick books in his arms one day and the surprised look on each and every one of them. And concurrently, it’s endearing, the level of adoration and passion Jungkook has for the subject to build up a little library for the club despite it having gone downhill over the years.
“Huh, that’s nice,” Jimin comments belatedly. Taehyung shoots him a quirked eyebrow.
“What?” Jimin can hear the teasing tone in his voice, “You interested?”
“In being friends? Yeah.”
Taehyung frowns. He looks as though he’s about to make another teasing remark when his eyes soften in the same manner it does whenever he talks about him, always about him, lingering behind their heads, “That’s good. It’s good that you want to get to know someone new again.”
But Jimin doesn’t want to talk about him anymore. That’s all that’s ever become of them ever since. All Jimin can do is nod quietly, teeth grazing his bottom lip as he keeps his eyes up ahead, focused on nothing.
Their classes were on different floors, which marked the end of their conversation when Taehyung waved goodbye and headed up the stairs of the building. As Jimin watches him leave, he wonders if the rain cloud that hovered above their heads has disappeared yet.
-- ☾ --
Jimin was passing by the garden arbor, the sky dipped in a mirage of violet that waned into a vermillion orange in the horizon, when it was half past seven. He felt weary from the two-hour lecture he had about Aristophanes and how in the Symposium, he mentions how Zeus had cut humankind in half that coined the concept revolving around ‘soulmates’. His veins buzz with caffeine.
He finds himself approaching the water fountain near the heart of the campus after he passes the quad, the plexiglass buildings reflecting off the hazy sunset, and again, Jimin spots a familiar figure dressed in all black, outlined by the descending sun’s beauty, sitting by the fountain with what seems to be his wallet in his hands. It isn’t until he inches closer that he realizes that he was throwing pennies into the water.
It’s a little strange, how someone who looks like they could be part of a motorcycle gang was dropping pennies and making wishes without a care in the world. It strikes Jimin as something funny. Maybe it’s because of solemnity in Jungkook’s features that contrasts the haphazardness of his movements. Plus, no one makes wishes anymore, especially not by throwing small copper coins into the water.
That is what propels him to pivot from his path and change direction, heading towards where Jungkook sat. Perhaps Jimin was contradicting himself but he argues to himself that this was mere harmless curiosity. Making water fountain wishes-- it’s childlike, almost. Jungkook doesn’t seem to harbor that kind of trait.
He seems to fail to hear his footsteps when Jimin steps up towards him, standing there behind the boy for a silent moment waiting to be seen. And when he doesn’t, Jimin speaks up first, “What are you wishing for?”
His reaction is almost theatrical as Jungkook springs from his seat and nearly topples into the water out of complete shock. He manages to balance himself in the nick of time, whirling around in both perplexity and confusion until his face attempts to smooth into that of regained composure. Instead of answering, Jungkook regards Jimin with an indecipherable stare, before he slowly sits back down.
At first, Jimin thinks he’s ignoring him and it leaves him a bit embarrassed. Maybe Jungkook doesn’t want to be seen with him, or talk to him again. Jimin doesn’t blame him-- Jimin wasn’t the kind of person to be memorable or interesting for that matter. But then Jungkook clears his throat and does a weird jerky shrug, voice low,
“For the sky to be clear.” He sounds embarrassed.
“Why?” Jimin shifts so that he can see his face, but Jungkook keeps his head turned towards the fountain as he fumbles with the stray threads of his wallet.
Jungkook doesn’t say anything but Jimin does manage to catch a look of his face, and he can’t tell if it was the orange sky or not that’s casting a faint, coral pink across his cheeks. Jungkook was full of surprises.
He picks a penny out from the pocket of his wallet and drops it into the scintillating water, a light ripple undulating from the tiny impact, “So I can see the stars tonight.”
Jimin blinks, “Oh.”
He peeks over the water fountain and at the pile of pennies dispersed across the tiled floor of the fountain, noting casually, “You sure do have a lot of pennies. Maybe the sky will be in your favour today.”
Jungkook finally looks up at him, the harsh features of his face blending into something feathery and warm, round eyes dark but infinitesimal and full of wonder, childlike wonder. His voice has a gentle quality to it, different from the aloofness his tone had possessed in the beginning, “What makes you think that?”
Jimin shrugs, “Well. If you think about it, the universe works in mysterious ways. The heavens shift so that certain planets may briefly align only once in a lifetime. Something could be made of the same celestial material but their trajectories could be taking them somewhere else. From all that, I don’t see why the sky can’t be clear tonight if so much magic appears to happen outside of our reach.”
Jungkook stares at him with an inexplicable look, eyes trodden with a veil of mystery despite the softness of them. He wonders how many times people have assumed the worst of him based on his appearance. He wonders if Jungkook ever cares about what other people think of him. Jimin wants to be like that-- to not care. To not care at all.
Jimin sticks out a hand, asking with a smile, “May I?”
A short pause. “Sure.”
Jungkook places a penny into his palm and Jimin closes his eyes, conjuring his wish into an image before his eyelids, and subsequently drops the copper coin into the water. He watches it ripple gently before sinking down towards the surface of the fountain in a crystalline distortion.
“What did you wish for?” Jungkook asks him lowly, hesitantly, a little inquisitively.
“For the sky to be clear.“ He says with a nonchalant smile, “So you can see the stars tonight.”
Jimin gets up from the fountain, patting his jeans from the dust it may have collected, and flashes a playful smile towards Jungkook who was staring at him in surprise, “Well, I should get going now, but I hope your wish comes true. Hopefully all those pennies don’t go to waste.”
“Yeah,” Jungkook nods, but then he smiles-- a small, fleeting quirk of the lips, unexpectedly bashful as he says his farewell, and it’s not supposed to make Jimin’s chest suddenly flicker with an indescribable warmth, but it does, and Jimin doesn’t know why-- doesn’t want to know why. “Thanks.”
Later that night, when Jimin looks out the window in the midst of listening to the static silence through his earbuds, he notices the tiny and faint, twinkling dots that emerged through the cloudless sky.
It was a clear night and, without a doubt, infinitely beautiful.
-- ☾ --
The next time Jimin sees Jungkook in the meeting, he pushes past his inhibitions and sits right next to him, shooting him a smile when Jungkook stares at him quizzically. Maybe Jimin isn’t the only one with the staring problem. But Jungkook nods in greeting, gaze flickering between his face and the desk, as though he was unsure of which to look at.
This time, the meeting was about recent discoveries, such as the first-ever direct detection of gravitational waves from the LIGO. Jimin had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Most of them seem to be excited about such a discovery, but Jimin lacked the necessary information and prior knowledge to understand the monumentality of it. He wishes he could share the same enthusiasm as the others, especially with Taehyung yapping non stop about the matter.
So, clueless and at a loss, he turns towards Jungkook who was quietly in his own thoughts, and he looks up in surprise when Jimin taps him on the shoulder and frowns, “I don’t get what they’re talking about. What’s so significant about detecting gravitational waves in space?”
“Um,” Jungkook sits up from his slouched form, leaning towards Jimin slightly as he keeps his voice low, “you see, gravitational waves are ripples in spacetime. This recent discovery can be important because it opens up an entire new realm for astronomy because gravitational waves carry information about the objects and events that create them. It could open up new doors about space we’ve never discovered before.”
Jimin hums in thought, brows furrowing, “Don’t scientists already study the universe by collecting light from distant objects?”
“Yeah, but gravitational waves aren’t created by the same properties that create light.” There’s a gleam in Jungkook’s eyes as he leans closer, whispering more ardently than before, “Because they were able to detect the gravitational waves, they were also able to pick up on two black holes swirling around each other and colliding. The collision would have been invisible if it weren’t for the waves. Who knows what other cosmic treasures this could uncover for us? Possibly a whole new breakthrough!”
“Like what?” Jimin wryly says, “Another doomsday? A black hole coming to swallow up the entire planet?”
Jungkook blinks at him, “Wow. You are one bleak individual.”
“Okay, hate to break you two lovebirds apart--” Taehyung’s sonorous voice booms past them, leaving Jungkook sputtering and blushing in attempts to deny the ‘lovebirds’ claim while Jimin indifferently looks over to Taehyung with an unamused expression, “but at least try and contribute whatever you’re whispering about there to this discussion too, okay?”
Jungkook ducks his head down as he stares at the desk, coral faintly dusting his cheeks, feathery black hair framing his flustered expression that was a strange juxtaposition to all the piercings he donned that made him look so wayward. Rather, Jungkook is the complete opposite of wayward. Jimin supposes the common phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is appropriate enough to apply to him in this kind of situation. It’s kind of cute.
The rest of the meeting goes by in a blur, and in conclusion, Namjoon announces the date of their trip to the nearby public observatory to stargaze, if the weather permits. Jimin has never gone to an observatory before, so he surprises himself by feeling excited about it, looking forward to the club trip next week.
When the meeting ends, he watches with confusion as Taehyung grabs his things and pulls Jimin aside. Before Taehyung can begin to open his mouth and form his words, Jimin already predicts what was going to come out of his mouth with high probable accuracy, “Let me guess, you want to take a rain check on our lunch date because you’re going to go study with Namjoon. Or something. Whatever you nerds do.”
“Okay, um. I prefer erudites, you uncultured swine.”
Jimin’s shoulders deflate a bit, a little pouty, and he glances towards where Namjoon was standing by the door side, animatedly chit chatting with Jin. He can’t bring himself to feel a little annoyed, not when Namjoon seems to harbor such a kind, harmless soul who merely wants to spend time with his best friend, even if it means stealing his own time with him. So, he sighs, and nods, “Okay, fine. Rain check. You’re paying, though.”
“You’re a leech,” Taehyung merely huffs, but his mouth is stretched into a wide and grateful grin. Jimin can’t help but smile as he watches his friend bound towards the taller male, both of their faces illuminating at the sight of each other.
“He’s such an idiot.” Jimin mumbles, watching as they leave the room. He realizes that it was empty except for him and Jungkook, who came to shuffle beside him, hands curling around the straps of his backpack that was over his shoulders.
He asks curiously, “Who’s an idiot?”
They end up walking alongside together out of the room and down the hall. It surprises Jimin, but he can clearly see Jungkook’s efforts in genuinely wanting to keep the conversation going. “Tae is. I don’t see why he dances around the guy he likes when it’s clearly mutual.”
“You mean Namjoon?”
Jimin regards him with puzzlement, “You know?”
“Well, it’s not easy to miss the way they look at each other, so,” Jungkook shrugs, offering a tiny a smile. “Hopefully they get their feelings across sooner or later.”
Jimin hums in agreement, nodding. He still feels a little dull in terms of spirit, still half-asleep and perpetually tired, so as they descend down the stairs, he nudges Jungkook with an elbow, “Hey, wanna stop by the cafe and get some coffee? I could use a boost right now. Plus, if I’m being honest, I still don’t understand the significance behind the whole discovery of gravitational waves-- if you don’t have any classes to go to right now, of course.”
Jungkook laughs, a gentle and shy sound that leaves Jimin a little captivated, as they enter the main floor of the building, students permeating the hall in the midday rush of afternoon classes. “Sure, my astrophysics class doesn’t start until later in the afternoon. But are you sure you want to listen to me ramble endlessly about it?”
“I don’t mind. I like listening to you talk,” Jimin says without much thought, flashing him a friendly smile, “reminds me of when I was young too and still full of passion.”
There’s pink colouring his cheeks, the same kind of shade when Jungkook had hid his face when Taehyung embarrassed them, “You talk as though you’re centuries older than me.”
“But I feel old.”
“I’m pretty sure your face reflects the way you feel too.”
Jimin gawks at him in disbelief, about to chase him out of the building when Jungkook heartily laughs and nearly rushes way to run from Jimin’s predetermined wrath at the subversive jab. A brat, Jimin thinks, as if he didn’t deal with childishness enough already with Taehyung as his best friend.
He smiles; but Jungkook was a cute brat, so he’ll let it go-- just this once.
Soon after Jimin gets his dark roast coffee and is ultimately re-energized by the caffeine boost, they take a seat at one of the tall chairs and round table by the window. Jungkook ended up ordering a french vanilla, hands cupped around the cardboard sleeve. He has pretty hands; dainty long fingers and smooth skin. Jimin looks down at his own hands, at the frayed skin below his fingernails. He pulls his sleeves down lower.
“So,” Jimin cushions a cheek with his palm as he asks with mild interest, “why astronomy?”
“It’s fascinating.” Jungkook answers easily, though he ponders more intently afterwards in search for a better reply, “I mean-- as a kid, I’ve always loved to learn about it and stargaze. The fixation stuck with me since then, although I didn’t think it’d involve so much math.” He grumbles about the last part and Jimin laughs in amusement at his distraught expression. Jungkook smiles.
The conversation subsequently continues smoothly after that-- unraveling facts about each other and learning new, simple things, the atmosphere free and uninhibited. From the things Jimin has learned about him, such as his interests in photography and films and love for dogs, as well as his good relationship with his family and their hometowns-- it accentuated his down to earth nature and humility, which decimated the prior image Jimin had had of him.
And Jimin. He didn’t have much to say about himself; nothing interesting, to say the least. A little disillusioned, a little lost without direction, takes care of a cold-hardy succulent and likes the sound of the flickering firewood in a fireplace and the smell of jasmine, can never fall asleep before four in the morning, and maybe a bit jealous of the incessant enthusiasm Jungkook has for his sustained passions. Jimin wishes he had the same degree of enthusiasm for his own passions too.
But Jungkook listens to him, places Jimin as the focal point he concentrates on for the duration of their time together as he blurs out everything else. He never once wavered, looked away, or became distracted and distant; his measureless eyes never once left his face. He listens with the same kind of enthusiasm, the same kind of radiance he reserves only for the universe.
And most of all, Jungkook looks at him the same way he looks at the stars and the planets, and Jimin tries not to notice it.
-- ☾ --
Jimin finds himself falling in love with space slowly, bit by bit, as soon as their trip to the observatory comes to the end.
From the public lectures on pulsars, which were spherical, compact objects that contained more mass than the sun and can help with detecting collisions of black holes, and other things such as neutron stars and magnetars, and the visual presentations of two narrow beams of light in opposite directions with pulsars appearing to flicker from earth due to spinning, captured by satellites, Jimin finds himself more enraptured than before.
And, once the lectures and presentations were done, they were taken back out into where the large telescopes were, the night sky towering over them, feet laundering across the metallic mesh floors. Jimin’s never seen the inside of an observatory before-- always on the outside, wondering about the interior of the domes and its expansive breadth that can hold such large apparatuses. It was a breathtaking experience to be able to witness the intricate details of the cosmos and the objects that suspend there through the slits of the dome. It reminds Jimin of a few lost dreams, stuck up in the sky where the stars flicker like a dim flame wisping away.
While the others were scattered around, Jimin wanders around the gift and book shop by the exhibit hall, where the store offered a cosmic array of Observatory insignia items, as well as astronomy-related and space-themed books, gifts, clothing and other items. He’s looking at a cup with a space pun on it when he notices Jungkook gaping at a packaged box in his hands, turning it around enthusiastically.
“See something you like?” Jimin asks as he approaches him, curiously looking over his shoulder. The sparkles in his eyes never once faltered throughout the whole tour-- he had on the most fascinated expression out of all five of them, always first in line with incoherent sounds of awe. It was endearing to watch the way he followed after the volunteer quite eagerly.
Jungkook turns around, smiling a bit. He’s become more comfortable around Jimin now, after they’ve gotten to know each other a bit more over coffee and idle conversations whenever they were lost in their own worlds during the meetings. They’ve even exchanged phone numbers too (though Jungkook has often kept him up late with conspiracy theories about aliens). “Yeah, it’s a planetarium projector. I didn’t know that they sold these here-- most of them you have to look online. It’s so cool!”
Jimin eyes the box, glimpsing at the galactic designs over the packaging. He returns the smile, “You should get it then. It’ll be like a souvenir from your first college field trip down to the observatory.”
Jungkook turns the box to its side and shows Jimin the price, frowning. Jimin ogles at the price with wide eyes, “Holy shit. That’s expensive as fuck.”
Jungkook nods sadly, sighing, “Exactly. Maybe I’ll find a cheaper one online, but it’d still be really cool to buy one from an actual observatory.” There’s disappointed underlying in his tone as Jungkook puts the box back to its place, staring at it longingly with a distant gaze.
“How about buying a t-shirt?” Jimin points at the rotund rack of t-shirts hanging from it.
“But there’s no white ones.”
“Why white?” Jimin scans him from head to toe, “You only hear black anyways.”
“I do wear white!” Jungkook adamantly says and lifts up his black sweater, revealing a form-fitting white t-shirt that underneath. “See?”
“As if anyone can see that,” Jimin mutters, unsure of why his face feels a bit warm. Maybe it’s just that he wasn’t expecting to see the way the shirt clung to him so tightly, outlining the toned curves of his waist. He shakes away the strange thought as Jungkook huffs and lets his sweater back down, his cheeks puffing up in displeasure. Jimin can’t help but laugh as he nudges him towards the door, patting him consolingly on the back, “Maybe next time, Jungkookie.”
“Yeah,” Jungkook mumbles halfheartedly, “maybe.”
They meet up with the others huddling around the exit. As soon as they approach, however, Jin throws an arm around Jungkook and drags him forward, speaking animatedly to him about something. Namjoon follows after them, throwing in a few comments here and there, laughing at the way Jin gets worked up over their disagreements.
Taehyung falls beside Jimin, a smug grin on his face, “I see you’re getting along with Jungkook.”
“And you can see by now that he’s not as intimidating as you think.”
“Okay, okay!” Taehyung exclaims, “rub it in, why don’t you? But look, even though he owns a jeep and not a motorcycle, he could be part of the-- I dunno, the jeep gang or something.”
“Tae,” Jimin stares at him, voice lacking any variation of pitch, “he literally hopped around in excitement as soon as they uncovered the ceiling of the dome to show the sky. You saw the sparkles in his eyes and he-- he squealed. Squealed.”
Taehyung purses his lips, brows furring, before he throws his hands up in defeat, “Okay, I can’t really argue with that.”
Jimin smirks, content, while scanning their surroundings as they walk to the parking lot. The chilly autumn breeze billowed past them, the sidewalk wet with dead, riot-coloured leaves beneath their feet and the threat of rain looming in the evenings. The air is cool, gelid, with a tincture of earthiness. Jimin brings his scarf closer to his face to cover most of it from the wind.
“You know,” Taehyung speaks up more quietly this time, more mellow, “he’s never really spoken up in our discussions before. Well, he never really talked to us in general but he’s opening up lately, and it’s nice to see that. I swear to God I thought I was going to get beat up by a freshman this year.”
Jimin laughs in disbelief, “Seriously? You’re so dramatic.”
“I have my moments, okay?” Taehyung’s eyes soften, boxy grin bright, “But I just wanted to say thanks. He’s become less cold around us ever since you started to cling-- I mean, hang around him,” He changes his choice of words after he sees the way Jimin glare at him, “I feel like we’re all becoming like an actual club with fortified members. It’s a great semester this year, I’m feelingl it!”
Jimin shrugs, “I didn’t really do anything. A person needs to time to open up-- like a flower needs time to bloom. He’s just shy, you know?”
“But he forgets that he’s shy around you.”
Taehyung continues with a deep sigh, “I just wish he didn’t dress like he was going to go beat up some punks or something in the middle of an alleyway.”
Jimin manages to laugh at that. Taehyung throws an arm around his shoulder and jostles him gently, “I’m happy you’re happy, Jimin. He would be happy too.”
He looks ahead at the three who were growing boisterous in the sidewalk. Jimin watches as Taehyung catches up to join them, hooking his hand around Namjoon’s arm. Jungkook turns his head slightly, glancing behind him to where Jimin lingers, and Jimin sees his eyes-- how they are a star so far across the universe, his heart that had once stopped beating for intimacy now suddenly longing to touch the glowing starlight.
Spending time with Jungkook made Jimin remember about all the lost dreams he had, about the passions he’s forgotten, and it makes warmth stir in the mantelpiece of his chest, like rekindling dying embers. And maybe he didn’t see stars, or galaxies, or the entire universe in his eyes, but rather, he saw dimensions-- things Jimin have fallen in love before through time and space, beyond the clouds that hover across the pewter mountains.
And he fears that the parallels in the flickering lights of Jungkook’s eyes would be one of the things Jimin would fall in love too.
-- ☾ --
Jimin seems to learn new things about Jungkook everyday.
Jimin catches a glimpse of it, the W-shaped mark, when Jungkook rolls up the sleeves of his large hoodie he was drowning in, making him look softer than usual while he noncommittally complained about studying. It was cram week before final exams and Jungkook’s been following him around in the library, in the cafeteria and even into his own apartment, persistently defending himself that he can only focus and study in the accompaniment of another person. Jimin finds himself leniently believing the blatant lie anyways.
Jungkook looks a little bit like the embodiment of Death and sleep deprivation as he languidly flips through the pages of his textbook, and Jimin asks with a faint gesture towards his arm, “You have a tattoo.”
“Huh? Oh-- yeah,” Jungkook perks up, blinking away his sleepiness as he sits up. He glances at the tattoo with a little smile, ears becoming a bit red, “I got it last year, when I turned eighteen. It’s the constellation of Cassiopeia.”
“I think it’s nice. There’s a whole myth behind Cassiopeia, and it’s fitting-- a constant reminder of strength and pride.” Jimin smiles fondly as he runs a finger across the ink etched on his skin. “I’ve always wanted a tattoo before.”
“Why don’t you?” Jungkook asks, “Get one, I mean. You only live once, right?”
“Right,” Jimin regards him wryly, but fondly, when Jungkook smiles big at him. He traces the constellation gently, noticing the way Jungkook faintly shivers from the touch. “I had plans for a tattoo once, actually. But I abandoned it.”
“How come?” He quickly backtracks, “I mean, you don’t have to tell me if it’s too personal.”
It’s a little surprising how Taehyung hasn’t accidentally mentioned it yet in his absence, being a proponent of conquering grief and his serious tendency of being a blabber mouth. It should be easier to speak about it now, but Jimin’s throat still tighten at the thought. How, in the silence that fills all the empty spaces and stretches from corner to corner, it is a constant reminder that he’s gone.
“It’s nothing personal, really. I was just a little bit too eager, you know? Thought it’d be cool to leave a long-lasting mark, a symbol and a story, on my skin. But I didn’t see a point in it anymore when a close friend mine--” He pauses, trying to find the right word, “left.”
“Oh,” Guilt wasn’t a good look on Jungkook’s face as he shrinks back, voice quiet, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to open up old wounds.”
“You didn’t. Besides, it’s not a wound but more like a scar that’s healed.” Jimin shrugs, giving him a reassuring smile, “It’s okay, I promise. It was years ago and I guess sometimes, you can’t help but think about now and then. And there are some things that I’ve forgotten ever since then. I find it a little nostalgic to be reminded of them now.”
Jungkook licks his lips, a hesitant movement. Maybe Jimin shouldn’t have mentioned it after all. Talking about this often led to strained silences and Jimin didn’t want to deal with silence anymore when it comes to him. He wanted it to be free.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” Jungkook speaks up rather meekly, but there is wonder in his eyes, “what was your friend like?”
And here, there is someone Jimin can talk to about the good memories-- the ones that restored warmth in his chest that’s been left in a blank slate. Jimin won’t see Taehyung look back at him sadly anymore whenever he brings him up into their conversations, “He was a dancer.”
Textbooks and scattered notes left forgotten, Jimin reminisces about buried spring days and laughter spun from sunshine that’s followed him all the way from high school to college. And there is melancholy rooted in those memories, but as Jimin speaks about it and sees the fondness in Jungkook’s eyes, there is that kind of healing pain and closure that came along with growth.
Jimin thinks Jungkook would have gotten along with him, like a golden duo of stars that shined the brightest out of all of them.
-- ☾ --
Later that night, when Jimin tells Taehyung that he talked about him today, Taehyung bumps their head together and tells Jimin that he’s proud of him.
“I’m okay,” Jimin insists.
“I know, but sometimes, you just aren’t. And I think that’s okay too.”
Taehyung grins and Jimin can’t help but smile along, “Never been better.”
And Jimin thinks about what Jungkook had told him once, how souls of past loved ones live in the stars and is never really gone for real. That they are always present in the sky watching over you, like tiny guardian angels, reminding Jimin that there is a strength that came with moving on, just like how the stars never stop moving across the spinning Earth. And Jimin can always feel him watching over him, smiling, giving him the courage of the stars to hold.
-- ☾ --
“Why is space black and not another colour?”
Jungkook stares at him quizzically from his nonchalant question, while Jimin played Candy Crush on his phone out in the open. The other members talked animatedly about something else that was related to more space exploration, but at this point, the both of them aren’t paying attention from how often the group digressed from the actual topic.
Jimin is grateful that Jungkook still treats him the same because Jimin didn’t want to be remembered as the friend who’s been struck with this existential dullness caused by the longing for a past friend. Jimin wanted to be remembered and known as the friend who gets back up and keeps on trying again and again. Always trying.
Jungkook discreetly scoots his chair closer to Jimin, leaning closer until their shoulders touched and Jimin can feel his breath on his cheek as he whispers, “Uh, well. The black color usually signals the absence of light, and most of the universe is empty, so the outer space looks black. There’s some theories of paradoxes out there, but from what I’ve read, the lack of light and colour is due to the light source moving away from us.”
“You see,” Jimin scrunches up his nose in slight displeasure, “I joined this club hoping that I’d get to at least stargaze the old fashion way and like, maybe learn a little bit about the stars and constellations, but astrophysics was something I did not sign up for. Gravitational waves, white holes, the quantum vacuum-- I’m a liberal arts major for a reason.”
“Hey, it’s interesting,” Jungkook counters, then he pauses, eyes widening with realization, “wa-- wait, you’ve never stargazed before? Like, sit down somewhere underneath the night sky and just-- stargaze?”
“I mean, as a kid I did. I didn’t really see anything, though. There was too much pollution that night.” Jimin says thoughtfully, trying to match the blue striped candies. He can feel Jungkook’s gaze boring holes into the side of his head, and when Jimin loses the level, he glances up to see that Jungkook is still staring at him with a unidentifiable look on his face, as though he was planning something in his head.
“A penny for your thoughts?” Jimin raises his brows, nudging his arm with an amused expression when Jungkook leans back to his space, a little flustered.
Jungkook’s mouth open and closes, hesitation conspicuous through the pauses, and he shakes his head, “Nothing.”
Jimin regards him curiously, but nods, leaving it at that. For the rest of the time, Jimin covertly plays on his phone unless he hears something enticing enough to draw his attention. Other than that, once the meeting ends, they pack up their things. It’s become a familiar routine for him and Jungkook-- something that slowly slipped into the consistency of their fixed schedule-- to walk down together, since often times Taehyung leaves with Namjoon and Jin heads out on his own to attend class located all the way in the Science and Tech building.
But Jimin notices that Jungkook has gotten close to the others as well; he even sparks a close friendship with Tae, after having bonded over games and the same enthusiasm he shared about the stars with the rest of the members.
So, while he reciprocates the bright wave with Taehyung, he turns to find Jungkook absentmindedly playing with the silver, captive bead ring in his eyebrow, eyes fixated on the windows and the frost that’s began to spread across the vitreous panes. The burnt sienna leaves tumble to life by brisk autumnal notes that stirred them from slumber, requesting a last wistful dance before a wintry embrace would claim them. Autumn is waning, replaced by the oncoming winter landscape.
“Thinking hard about something?”
Jungkook lets his hand fall back to his side. He shakes his head and demurely smiles, “Just thinking about the sky as usual.”
And Jimin realizes that no matter where he is, whether in a little room full of thoughts, or in this endless universe of stars and mountains, Jungkook will always be in his mind.
-- ☾ --
It’s 12:17AM on a cold, Friday morning, when Jungkook shows up at his doorstep wanting to take him somewhere.
Jimin watches as the silhouettes of tall, bare trees towering over the earth pass by in a blurry orbit down the quiet road underneath the clear, evening sky, intermingling blues lingering in the dark canvas. The wrangler jerks as Jungkook drives over a few declines in the tarmac road and Jimin can no longer see the vast campus lit up by streetlamps and golden, interior lighting of the plexiglass buildings, the city now reduced to ascending figures of buildings and twinkling lights from afar.
They’re going somewhere far and open; liberating, even, despite the wintry weather. The interior of the car emanated warmth, thawing the stiffness of his limbs even though Jimin was bundled up in endless layers and a thick, checkered scarf.
“Where are we heading?” Jimin asks, his gentle voice dispersing the silence hanging between them.
He watches as Jungkook gives a one-shouldered shrug, a mysterious smile ghosting his lips and Jimin finds himself staring at the curvature of them, “You’ll see.”
Jimin quirks an eyebrow, “You can’t just abduct me in the dead of the night of winter and not tell me where we’re going and what we’re doing. This is kidnapping, Jungkook.”
“Hey, you’re the one who went voluntarily without the need for an explanation in the beginning.” Jungkook fires back, half-laughing and snorting, and Jimin compares him to the abominable snowman with his large, puffy jacket, “Hardly counts as kidnapping. Besides, you never sleep this early.”
Jimin grunts, flippantly waving at him, “Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say, wiseass. This better be good, though.”
He catches a glimmer in Jungkook’s eyes through the waning shadows, “It is.”
After a few minutes pass, Jungkook pulls up to a rocky path and enters a grassy field with sheer whiteness, frozen by the cold, parking before a slight ascending slope. Jimin eyes the view outside warily: a billowy hill with a pristine field that was massively vast in its solitude. It felt like they were passing another dimension even though it was merely a quiet, long drive. It was a strange place and Jimin is thankful there was no snow fall yet.
“Come on,” Jungkook nudges him before he throws the car door open. Jimin stays still for a moment before he follows suit. He watches as Jungkook goes towards the back of the wrangler and two, large folded blankets underneath his arm.
“The forecast said it would be a cloudless night. The sky is often clear during the winter too.” Jungkook says as Jimin trails after him up past the modest hill. It’s a short and quick walk before they arrive at the flatter part of earth, the frigid grass snapping underneath their feet. Jungkook tosses the blankets to Jimin, to which he catches it with clumsy hands as he fumbles with it out of surprise.
“Kinda hard to be cloudless, isn’t it?” Jimin retorts, unfolding one of the blankets and undulating it gently to smooth it out as Jungkook scans the vicinity. Jimin places it on the ground evenly afterwards, “With all the smog and pollution in the air, I haven’t seen the stars in clarity since I was a little kid.”
“Oh, really?” There’s a tone in his voice that makes Jimin stop what he’s doing. “Look up, then.”
Quizzically, he does as he’s told. What he sees makes him pause and renders him speechless: the pitch-black curtain draping over the sky, a myriad of sequin-silver stars scattered around like embers of a ebbing flame. No smog, no thick and heavy clouds to drift about to cover the beauty; it was out in the open and vast in nature, inexplicably cosmic. Jimin looks at the waning moon, hanging like a great, hunter's horn high overhead. All this, framed by the dark shapes of towering forestries.
Jimin is about say something in awe when he glances down at Jungkook, who stands there in front of him, the outline of his figure illuminated by the moonlight in the distance that casts a hazy shadow over his sharp features. But his eyes can be seen-- glinting with something akin to mischief and faint tenderness that leaves Jimin slightly agog, heart stuttering at the sight, and the words die at the tip of his tongue.
Jungkook looks as though he is one with the shadows, a dreamlike glow to the crescent of his face. Jimin is reminded of something then-- chiaroscuro, is it? It’s fitting; Jungkook looks like a painting, all soft but defined lines.
“Nice, isn’t it?” His lips split into a boyish grin. Jungkook settles down onto the blanket and Jimin snaps out of his reverie, doing the same after a moment of hesitation. The other blanket is spread over them and their puffy winter coats and thick scarves as a way to keep warm, and it does more than keep Jimin warm at the notion of sharing it.
“Yeah,” Jimin says quietly, glancing at him in the corner of his eye, “really nice.”
Jungkook hums contentedly at the answer. His round eyes seem to reflect off of the starry sky, visible in the depths of his irises. It’s enticing and Jimin can’t seem to take his eyes off of him, not when Jungkook looks so enamored with what was hanging above him.
“How did you even find this place? It’s in the middle of nowhere out of the city.”
“Well, I couldn’t sleep one night so I went out and drove aimlessly. I stumbled upon this field when I realized how the sky opens up just at this very spot and it’s been a special place since. It’s the perfect clearing to stargaze, don’t you think? The sky is translucent enough for you to be able to make out the constellations even without the help of binoculars, but I think it’ll be a cooler sight if you did use it.” He speaks with an underlying excitement thrumming in his voice and Jimin can detect that he was holding back his eagerness. His expressive eyes gave it all away even if his voice didn’t.
“When I come here and look up at the stars and the planets and the moon, it grounds me. It reminds me of how small and infinitesimal we truly are, you know? But that’s the thing-- beyond what we see from earth are more discoveries yet to be made. Space is vast and mysterious and so full of riddles waiting to be solved.” Jungkook’s lips stretches into a wide, uninhibited grin, and he tilts his head to the side to look at Jimin, “Fascinating, isn’t it?”
“You know, most of the time when people realize how tiny they are like a speck of dust compared to the grand universe, they feel more terrible than fascinated.” Jimin notes dryly.
Jungkook snorts, turning his attention back at the stars, “Yeah? Well, for me, realizing how small I really am makes me feel alive. It’s always associated as being insignificant or something negative, but the thing is-- understanding the universe’s handiwork and knowing that the earth is merely a dot in the galaxy, it reminds you to be humble.”
Jimin considers his words, a low hum escaping his lips. Then he blurts out, “You’re a total nerd.”
Jungkook falters, “Excuse me?”
“You totally are.” A grin grows on his face, “I initially thought you were some delinquent who beat up his enemies as a pastime but you literally squeal over stars.” He laughs slightly, “It’s cute.”
“Hey, I am not--”
“So what do I even look for?” Jimin sits up and ignores Jungkook’s adamant protests. He cards his eyes across the sky, the sea of stars that appeared when they were miles away from the neon lights of the city, “I have zero knowledge about celestial objects. Except, well, the moon but that's a given. All the stars look like tiny white lights.”
There’s a sigh of defeat. Jungkook sits up as well and is beside him-- a little too close, now that Jimin is micro-aware of their proximity. Their knees touch as well.
“I always like to look for Ursa Major first,” Jungkook says, voice low. “As an entire constellation, it’s called the ‘Great Bear’ even though it looks more like a ladle. Oh,” He points up at a particular part of the sky, but all Jimin can see are shapeless bright dots, “there’s Big Dipper. It’s got two parts. You see that kind of bowl shape those aligning stars make? ”
“All I see are tiny holographic dots, Jungkook,” Jimin frowns, following Jungkook’s finger and squinting to no avail.
Jungkook chuckles and extends his hand towards him, “Can I?”
With a pause, he studies his hand for a considerable moment before he nods and takes his hand, trying to steady the sudden, accelerating pace of his heartbeat. It’s foolish that Jimin can’t control his heart that's always in constant battle with his mind. If only his heart could listen to his brain, yet it seems as though it’s got a brain of its own, beating like a hummingbird’s wings even at the slightest touch. He tries not to notice how his hand fits perfectly in Jungkook’s, whose hand is bigger; broader, warmer. Different.
Jungkook brings their hands together towards the sky and traces the simple pattern of the Big Dipper amidst the intricate tapestry of bright asterisks, “You see here? This is the bowl and this is the handle. This is the Big Dipper.” He moves their hands to the inside of the bowl, “The two outer stars here are called Dubhe and Merak. They’re called Pointers and,” He draws an imaginary line through the front two stars and lands on the tip of the Little Dipper, and Jimin lets out a sound of awe, “this is the North Star, Polaris. You should be familiar with that, right? It’s useful to find for celestial navigation.”
“How can you even tell? That’s amazing,” Jimin says incredulously as Jungkook helps him trace out the constellation of Ursa Minor.
Jungkook shrugs, a bashful grin on his face, “It’s-- It’s not that great of a feat. I’ve been familiar with it since I was a kid. I used star charts a lot and I guess I ended up memorizing the basic ones.”
“ ‘Not that great’ is a fucking understatement,” Jimin bumps their shoulders together, beaming, “it’s a goddamn amazing feat. I can’t even remember the recipe for, like, a fucking Italian omelette and here you are, deciphering constellations without the help of a chart.” He turns his attention back to the stars, missing the peculiar, prolonged way Jungkook looks at him.
The entire sight reminds Jimin of when he’d been a child. As a kid, he would hike up to the highest hill near his neighborhood during the night to look up at them. Though all he saw were just tiny modicums that glistened at times, unable to cartograph the shapes of the constellations in the muddled sky, he was fascinated by it and the endless mystery of the world itself; the unsolved and the unexplored riddles left pending for answers.
But like all growing children, the wonders and curiosity one had felt soon disappeared as fast as a dewdrop in a spring midday, leaving a hefty stagnation in between his dreams that rendered him more dull than a flat knife. And sometimes, even though he’s been told that they were made out of stardust, born from the stars, he wondered why his skin often felt like dirt.
“I wonder about this sometimes, but how come the night sky is dark if our universe is infinite?” Jimin asks as he brings his knees to his chest eyes wandering across the breadth, “How can there be spaces between the stars?”
Jungkook chuckles, “Funny, because my astronomy professor mentioned this a few lectures ago. She told me that the universe is finite. It’s still young and growing. There hasn’t been enough stars or galaxies created to fill up the entire sky yet. But that means that out there, a universe with a filled night sky exists-- maybe a sky that looks like a sparkling gem, flooded to the brim with stars, or maybe darkness is brightness in another older universe. It’s probably impossible but I hope that I get to live to see the day this night sky, right here with all the stars out in the open, will be able to be seen in the city too.”
“I think that’s beautiful,” Jimin murmurs. He thinks Jungkook is beautiful as endless too, a universe he was helpless in. All the stars in the sky could never hold a candle to his light.
“You think so?” Jungkook sheepishly smiles, warm eyes curving in accordance. “Not just a pipedream?”
“I think it’s good to dream,” Jimin quietly says, “And I think everyone needs to see the stars at some point, to be reminded that it’s okay to be nothing but a cosmic mess sometimes.”
They spend another hour or so stargazing, detecting Orion and faintly Taurus in the sky. After Jimin voices his concerns for their freezing hands, they finally get up to pack their things, and leave.
It’s a quiet drive back to the heart of the city. Jimin has his earphones in, head leaning against the glass window as he listens to the steady, cloudy breaths escaping past their lips, and his own calm heartbeat in the silence. Everything is a gaussian blur. His mind feels clearer and lighter, more awake.
“Do you want to get something to eat?” Jungkook speaks up after they’ve entered back to the city. “I know a place.”
“At one in the morning with our asses frozen to death already?” Jimin laughs, but he entertains the idea, “Sure.”
Jungkook grins and he makes a sharp turn to the left. After quick drive through the half-empty streets, Jimin realizes that Jungkook has taken them to a quaint diner. He finds himself sitting at one of the red-cushioned booths with retro-esque decor and neon lights outlining the counters, Jungkook sitting across from him and waving at one of the workers behind the till who sported bright, blue hair and a sleepy expression.
“I assume you come here a lot,” Jimin notes the familiarity Jungkook shows to have between the diner employees.
Jungkook nods, front teeth poking out in a smile he was trying to refrain, “I do. I go out for midnight drives sometimes and get the munchies. It’s really quiet and serene here. I like it.”
“The quiet leaves you susceptible to your own thoughts, though.” Jimin says.
“And I keep my thoughts positive.”
Jimin sighs, a bit of wryness in his voice, “What I would do for that kind of mental strength you have.”
“You have hope.”
“Hope dies, just like everything else here. Even the stars.”
“And just like stars, hope can be born again.”
Jungkook smiles and Jimin feels the tension leave his shoulders, returning the smile, “Fair enough.”
They end up getting milkshakes and spend the rest of the night chatting, surrounded by the quiet murmurs of the diner and the 2AM night sky, where half of the city was asleep and the two of them were awake to talk about the secrets of the universe in the meantime.
-- ☾ --
Of course, there’s always a tipping point.
Maybe it’s the fact that Jungkook memorizes his picky orders and brings him the right coffee every morning they meet, or the fact he never shuts up about space but will shut up when Jimin is talking, staring at him with wide eyes at full attention and nothing but attention that makes something inside his chest twist.
Maybe it’s how Jungkook trusts him enough to talk about his shortcomings, how he longs to be adamant in his beliefs and opinions and to be lionhearted, but his inhibitions make him cower instead. And he speaks of how he tries to be more assertive, always learning from the positive influences around him. He says Jimin is a positive influence. Jimin thinks that’s a lie, but Jungkook doesn’t lie.
But then again, maybe it’s how Jungkook is kind and humble, conveying a quiet confidence but never seeming pretentious; or perhaps, he’s just always there-- around Jimin, beside him, behind and in front of him, being the quiet pillar of support that he is when words fail him. And lately, Jungkook’s been having a bit of a staring problem that’s becoming more conspicuous than ever, gazes lingering on Jimin’s lips and hands and always flustered when caught.
Or maybe, it’s when Jimin starts to dream a little more and believe in himself a little more, with the strength he musters from within and from the strength everyone gives him, for the betterment of himself.
But as exams come to an end, so did the year. Taehyung ends up leaving for the holidays to visit his parents back at home, promising to come back with a gift, and he also hears from him that Namjoon and Jin had done the same. Jimin couldn’t exactly do the same since his parents are out of town, so he ends up spending most of his time listlessly cooped up in his own apartment binge watching dramas he’d left on hold from the start of the school year and with Jungkook, who didn’t go home either but ended up working a seasonal job at a gaming store.
(Jimin also goes to the Observatory alone too, coming back home with a box.)
It’s Christmas Eve and their day together was spent binge-watching and feeding off of takeout, uneventful but comforting in the presence of Jungkook’s company. Jimin ends up falling asleep at some point as well, only to wake up to a pitch-black sky and distant, vibrant sounds of sharp fireworks.
“It’s midnight,” Jungkook quietly says and Jimin can see the smile on his face, “Merry Christmas, Jimin.”
He rubs the sleepiness away from his eyes, vision adjusting to the dark, “Yeah. Merry Christmas to you too, Jungkook.”
“I have a gift for you, but it’s back in my dorms. I guarantee you that it will be the best Christmas gift you’ll ever received. Taehyung told me that he got you some expensive ass sweater last year but I think mine takes the cake.”
Gift. Jimin needs to give him his gift. “I’m glad to know that the basis of your friendship with Tae revolves around one-upping each other.”
“What do you mean each other?” Jungkook blinks, “I always one-up him.”
“Sure,” Jimin stands up, stretching his limbs from napping in a weird position, “speaking of gift, though, I have yours in my room right now.”
Jimin beckons Jungkook to follow him as he shuffles into his bedroom. He doesn’t bother to turn on the lights as Jungkook sits down on the ground beside his desk, and he grabs the wrapped present with a little bow on top for extra festivity from underneath his bed. Jimin eagerly sits across from Jungkook and hands him the present.
Jungkook lifts the box, querying, “what’s in here? It’s kinda heavy.”
“There’s a reason why it’s called a present, Jungkook, for you to actually unwrap it and see what the other person got you.”
“Okay, okay,” He huffs, “Keep the sass to yourself.”
Jungkook begins tearing away the red wrapping paper, and as soon as he sees the top of the box, Jimin feels a smile grow on his face at the sight of Jungkook’s bewildered expression.
“No fucking way.” Jungkook gingerly removes the rest of the paper and holds the planetarium celestial projector in his hands. He looks a little dumbfounded from the way he gapes at it wide-eyed, mouth left southbound. “Jimin, you didn’t--”
“Yes, I fucking did,” Jimin laughs a bit too giddily and waves at him, “C’mon, open it up! Let’s try it out.”
While Jungkook excitedly opens up the box and sets the projector up, fitting the rightful pieces together and the wires inside the apparatus, Jimin jumps up to his feet and closes the curtains to allow maximum darkness to inundate his room. He sits back down when Jungkook places the projector in the shape of a black pentagon in the space between them, marvelling at its structure.
“This makes my gift look subpar,” Jungkook quietly laments.
“What can I say? I’m the king of gift-giving.” He grins before he gestures at the power switch at the base of the projector’s body, “Go on, now.”
Jungkook scoots closer, places his finger on the button and flicks it open. At first, the light stutters into the blackness like an old movie reel but then the projector completely lights up with such brightness that it almost blinds him, and it illuminates his entire room in a myriad of brilliant, warm gilded stars. Jimin hears a faint gasp escape Jungkook’s mouth as he turns his head around to take in the starry sight; though a mere software imitation is nothing compared to a real sky full of stars, Jimin thinks it’s still beautiful. It’s possible to pinpoint the details such as the lighter patches, clusters of faint and bold light, and the constellations that is scattered across the walls.
Jimin recognizes Orion, outlined by four bright stars at the corners of an imaginary trapezoid. He sees Cassiopeia, the contours of a throned Queen, in the corner by his door and Cygnus, the faint shape of a swan in the center of the ceiling.
“Pretty cool, huh?” Jimin can’t but smile as he leans back on his palms and looks up at the scenery.
“That’s the understatement of the year. It’s beautiful,” Jungkook says and Jimin sees the golden flecks of the stars reflect off in his eyes, scattered across his face like luminescent freckles, his lips parted, “It’s really fucking beautiful. Thank you so much, Jimin. I-- I can’t believe you, seriously.”
Jimin laughs gently in amusement and he lifts his arms up in the air, embracing the starlit room, “Look at it this way, Jungkookie. You’ll always have the company of stars with you when the sky keeps them hidden on cloudy nights. You’ll have the galaxy right in your hands.”
Hands grasp the sides of his face and suddenly, Jungkook is right in front of him, their faces inches apart as the golden light glows between them. Jimin feels his breath hitch and eyes widen from the abrupt proximity, his own heart mirroring the expansion of the universe.
“I need to tell you something because I really can’t hide it anymore. But, um. In advance, please just let me down gently,” He could hear the sharp intake of breath.
“I like you,” Jungkook blurts, voice wavering as he did so. His gaze flickers to the side yet he’s still close, and Jimin can only think how if he leans forward just a bit more, their lips might touch. “I like you so much that I think my heart is going to burst.”
Jimin feels a bit dizzy. Maybe it’s because he’s forgotten to breathe.
Jungkook takes his hands back and covers his face, embarrassed, “It’-- It’s okay if you don’t feel the same way, Jimin. I just needed to tell you because you-- you say and do all these thoughtful things-- like this-- that make me seriously want to kiss you all the time, and it’s horrible, because I don’t know if you feel the same way because you’re kinda hard to read, you know? If you’re not making fun of my attachment for leather and calling me a wannabe hipster, you’re seeing the real me and not the rumors, not my depiction and not just as far as the eyes can see. It’s so easy to talk to you and get excited about the things people usually wouldn’t give two shits about and-- and, uh. You’re really pretty,” Jungkook rambles dumbly, blushing through his words when the dark hid his red face, “Like, really pretty. The kind of pretty that leaves you breathless, because you’re really pretty. I-- yeah. You’re pretty. I like you a lot. I said that already, didn’t I? God, take me now--”
“Jungkook,” Jimin takes his hands away from his face and grabs him by the cheeks, startling him as he leans forward, “shut up.”
Jungkook looks borderline offended but Jimin doesn’t see more than that when he closes his eyes and kisses him. It’s a gentle touch between lips, but Jimin can taste the courage of stars Jungkook had in them. Jungkook loosens underneath his touch and his eyes are sparkling once Jimin pulls away, shapes of golden constellations flickering across his face.
“I like you too, if that wasn’t obvious enough.” Jimin giggles at the starstruck face Jungkook has.
A smile slowly forms on his face as Jungkook breaks into a starry-eyed grin, and he gently wraps a hand around the back of Jimin’s neck and kisses him again like the universe is being swallowed by a black hole. Jimin wants to cartograph the map of flaws and imperfections that make up the constellations Jungkook has on his arms and backs, where comets bounce around his ribs and galaxies exist between his thighs. The universe feels so small compared to his heart, infinite as the universe he holds inside.
And maybe with astronomy in reverse, it was Jimin who was discovered.