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a verse to the stars

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“You and me, right, Gukkie?”

“Till the end, hyung. Hell, even after the end.”

“Forever. We’ll love each other forever.”

“All the angels in heaven got nothing on us.”

I.

Hell shouldn’t be this vibrant.

Streaks of saturated light stain the 3AM sky, smear neon lines of color where the paths of orbit lie, and dirty the canvas with splotches of radiant beings—the constellations must be scars, Jeongguk thinks.

Jeongguk’s never really thought much about the orbit of the planets, about the lifespan of stars—that’s always been Taehyung’s thing. Never his.

(Taehyung’s a dreamer, a stargazer, and Jeongguk was always just along for the ride. Jeongguk was.)

The 3AM sky doesn’t look so lonely anymore, with seven lines of colored light streaking the blackness up above—one faint band of radiance for Pluto. It’s a blaze of brilliance, eight of them really, up there. Hell is vibrant, but it shouldn’t be. (Hell is colorful.)

At least, Jeongguk thinks that this is hell.

The sky wasn’t like that, wasn’t so beautiful, before tonight, he wonders. The sky wasn’t like that at all.

His chest hurts—hurts a lot. For a second, it’s all encompassing, all consuming and—god—it hurts. He clutches at his chest, but it’s gone in a breath. His heart feels weak, weak as ever as it pumps in faint arrhythmias, faint like the line of Pluto above. Clumping the grass below him, wet with dew, into a hand, he breathes with heavy gasps, grounding himself in the earth—if this even is Earth.

If it is, Hell is a lot like Earth.

Jeongguk looks up again, sees the same sky, the same light-streaked sky, galaxies clear and bright, dotted and splattered as if it were a pointillist work over a black blueprint of the universe.

(Taehyung likes art.)

The thought whooshes past him like a meteor.

His breath is taken, just a bit, by this hell—until he stares a little too long and starts to hear a shout—

Oh. Oh it’s Taehyung. Jeongguk must be dreaming this. Am I allowed to dream in Hell—? he wonders.

Jeongguk doesn’t really know where he is, but he doesn’t suppose that it matters, matters at all. Hell is Hell and dreams are just that—dreams.

But in this Hell, in this starry dream, Jeongguk has trouble focusing on the shouting, on the noises all around him. He thinks he hears the seashore also, maybe rain up above—but then the shouting turns into crying and the tender crash of the waves turns into a goddamn tempest, and the rain into thunder.

(It’s a nightmare, but it’s not his.)

Where is he?

Where is Taehyung?

Jeongguk turns around in a panic to see a house. Has he been sitting in someone’s front lawn all this time? Standing up, Jeongguk wipes the dew off his hands and goes to knock on the front door, but it’s open. (It’s open only to him.) When he walks in, he feels that pain in his chest again, he feels his heart beating in arrhythmias, and he can only pray that it stops as easily as it bad before. It’s hard not to fall to the ground, clutching at his chest, he finds—but the sobbing gets louder and Jeongguk can’t stop.

Oh, oh Taehyung.

Taehyung isn’t hard to find, sobbing at the foot of the staircase, holding something. Jeongguk can’t see what it is. He goes to reach out, goes to give Taehyung a hug and ask him why he’s crying but his body won’t move, his mouth won’t open. Oh.

This is their house, isn’t it?

(It’s Taehyung’s nightmare, not his.)

Taehyung’s sobbing his heart out. It’s the heavy, disgusting sort of crying, snotty and gross and he looks miserable, sounds like he can’t breathe, like breathing isn’t easy and weeping is and Jeongguk wants to cry with him but he can’t—he physically can’t and he doesn’t know what the hell is wrong with him, standing at the fucking door, unmoving like he’s a goddamn ghost.

Ghost.

This is Hell. This is definitely Hell, being forced to watch Taehyung sob his eyes out and do nothing about it, being forced to watch the love of your life weep and yell and scream until his throat bleeds.

Taehyung’s hand opens weakly and Jeongguk only catches a gleam of what he’s holding—it’s his. It’s Jeongguk’s necklace, a knockoff gem from Hawaii, from when they’d gone on their fourth anniversary.

Jeongguk falls to his knees then. It’s the one thing he can do. His body feels heavy again, heavy for, for whatever he is. Jeongguk isn’t sure what he is.

Taehyung is a dreamer, a stargazer, alive.

And Jeongguk? All that Jeongguk knows is that he lives in Taehyung’s dreams, in his nightmares, and in his memories. The two things Jeongguk wanted were to live long in Taehyung’s future and to live in his heart, but—it’s all so fucking mangled now that he doesn't stand a chance. After all, dead bodies don’t stand a chance in the game of love (—and Jeongguk’s nothing more than a ghostly corpse).

After a forever (—it’s little moments like these that haunt Jeongguk into the next life, into eternity—) Taehyung stops crying, gets up from the floor and runs upstairs to the bathroom. Jeongguk follows.

Jeongguk follows, because he doesn’t know how to feel. He doesn’t know how long it’s been since he’s seen Taehyung, but he thinks that Taehyung is as beautiful as ever—more beautiful than the constellations that marr the orbit-streaked sky—because Taehyung was always breathtaking, and being in Hell doesn’t change that, not at all.

This is Hell, a personalized one for Jeongguk.

Taehyung was always the one to tell Jeongguk his eyes have stars in them, uncountable and infinite, but now, now Jeongguk thinks that it’s Taehyung—that Taehyung’s the one with the universe lying in his eyes, because the universe doesn’t favor boys like him, it never did, even when he was alive.

Everything but time moves too fast here and Jeongguk’s tired body (—his tired heart muscles—) can’t take this. 

Jeongguk’s memory is faded, so fucking faded. He can’t remember why Taehyung is crying. Jeongguk doesn’t know what’s happening—all he does know is that Taehyung is so, so beautiful, and he cannot, physically cannot, take his eyes off him.

He feels like a fucking idiot chasing after Taehyung when he can’t even speak—can’t even get close—and can’t even fucking remember why Taehyung is crying. He feels like shit, too lost in his goddamn thoughts to feel, to breathe, to fucking remember. 

He’s new here, a new arrival to Hell.

Running after Taehyung, Jeongguk stops when he makes it to the bathroom, stops when he hears a harsh sob, a pained gasp: “I miss you,” he hears.

I miss you too.

(Jeongguk is so averse to Taehyung crying, to the love of his fucking life being hurt, that he doesn’t even consider that Taehyung is crying because of him, that Taehyung is hurt because of him. That’s the last thing Jeongguk ever wanted.)

“I miss you so fucking much, Guk.”

Jeongguk doesn’t understand, but he misses him too. He thinks he misses him more than anything, thinks he’ll miss him forever and a forever beyond this, beyond this eternity with star-streaked skies—this eternity with weak hearts and crying boys and fuck, fuck does Jeongguk want to scream.

(He doesn’t want to come to terms with this Hell.)

It takes all Jeongguk has to get closer to Taehyung and sit down, kneel down and look at his love, look at the tear-flooded stars in his glossy, heartbroken eyes, lidded and puffy. Tears have dripped all over his face, cupid’s bow glimmering with leaked stars. Jeongguk wants to kiss him, wants to tell him that it’ll all be okay—but will it?

Jeongguk tries anyway, but something in his throat won’t let him speak, won’t let sound come out into the vacuum of empty space and fuck Hell, fuck this world and whatever it is that’s stopping him from telling Taehyung he loves him more than the world.

(But he blames himself more than he blames this world. He blames himself for what he’s done, for what he couldn’t do—for what he still can’t do.)

Knelt down like this on the dirty bathroom floor, he reaches out to hug Taehyung tight, to hold him and never let him go, but Jeongguk can’t—he can’t.

He can’t touch Taehyung. He can’t even get close.

Oh god. Oh fucking god.

Taehyung’s voice is hollow, heartbroken, and raspy from sobbing. “Why did you have to die so early?”

He’s a ghost. He’s a goddamn ghost, isn’t he—?

(Jeongguk had years to come to terms with death, with dying so young, but he now he has an eternity to come to terms with what happens after.)

II.

Ghost world, as Jeongguk has termed it, sucks.

It’s different—but not so different—than Earth, than the world of the living, than where Taehyung is and he isn’t. In addition to the blinking stars and the full moon, there are those streaks of light outlining the planets’ paths of orbit (—but only during the night). During the day, sunlight gets caught in those paths of orbit, reflecting and refracting and it’s a mess of light—seven bands of radiance and a faint glow for Pluto block the sunlight from shining properly, and colors get caught up like that. Light drips between those paths of light, those streaks of orbit and it’s a perpetual rainbow up there, up there between the planets, behind the clouds.

Its beauty is perhaps the only thing Jeongguk can admire about it. He thinks it’s a mirror dimension of the real world, of Taehyung’s world. It has to be.

He hasn’t done much but stay inside or stay on the front steps of his and Taehyung’s house. Jeongguk doesn’t want to be away from Taehyung, especially here, especially now that he remembers (—or, at least, recollects some of it, but not nearly enough).

Taehyung hasn’t done much either, holed up in his bedroom or the bathroom crying his eyes out while Jeongguk watches, tries to put the pieces together, watches as Taehyung falls apart and wishes dearly that he could put him back together. But he can’t.

Ghost world sucks.

Time seems to pass slower, but Jeongguk doesn’t feel it—doesn’t feel the weary effects of time in his heart, on his body.

Three days after Jeongguk appears in ghost world (—god he feels like a dumbass calling it that—) he finds that all those twenty-five years he spent alive were nothing compared to these few days alone—all he could do was watch Taehyung mourn.

(Sounds are magnified in this afterlife—all that he’s done is listen to Taehyung’s heartbroken sobbing.)

Three nights after he wakes up in medias res with a faded mind and an aching chest, someone new comes into play, comes into their home. Jeongguk feels like he hasn’t seen him in forever, in so much longer than forever.

He missed Jimin.

Jeongguk thinks that Jimin visited him a lot in the hospital—at least as much as Taehyung—but his heart only throbs inside his dead, his ghostly body. Thinking about being in the hospital hurts him too much, so Jeongguk stops thinking about it for now.

He missed Jimin a lot. So much, so so much.

So Jeongguk watches from the top of the stairs as Jimin and Taehyung meet, for the first time in days, by the door, Jimin gasping as he sees Taehyung—

Taehyung with his puffy eyes and his bitten lips, all broken in every way imaginable. Jeongguk hates that it was him—it was him who made him so sad, who made him so broken. He never thought that it would be him to break Taehyung like this.

Jimin pulls Taehyung into an embrace, suffocating just like Taehyung absolutely needs right now—like Jeongguk needs right now, but what he can’t have.

Jeongguk misses Jimin’s hugs so much.

“Taehyung, Taehyung please,” Jimin rasps. “You—you have to eat and you have to sleep, you—” his voice breaks here into a quiet sob, “—you have to take care of yourself. You have to live, Taehyung.”

“Don’t wanna,” he whispers gravely, clutching onto Jimin’s dress shirt, sniffling and shaking in his hold like he’ll never have to let go.

Jimin tugs him closer, holds him even tighter. “Oh, oh god. Taehyung. Taehyung please. You have to.”

“Says who?”

Me, Jeongguk wants to say. I did.

“Jeongguk. Jeongguk did,” Jimin answers, ignoring the utterly heartstopping way that Taehyung begins to cry. “Remember? Do you remember?”

Taehyung doesn’t respond.

“Tae—remember when we were all at the hospital together two weeks ago? You, me, and Jeongguk? We walked in and found Guk cuddling that stupid Iron Man plushie you got him for your anniversary and you started crying and you wouldn’t stop until Jeongguk pulled you into his lap and you guys got tangled up in his IV? And you told Jeongguk that you couldn’t live without him and he told you that you had to, that you had to live no matter what?”

“For him,” Taehyung utters. “I had to live for him.”

Jimin pulls back and tippy-toes as tall as he can to kiss Taehyung on his forehead—and, really, it isn’t as hard as it seems, what with Taehyung hunched over Jimin and barely standing for himself. “Yeah. For him. For Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk wants to cry, but he doesn’t think he can for what he is—doesn’t know if ghosts are allowed the right to cry over humans, over the living.

(He can cry, but—the thing is, he doesn’t think he’s allowed to mourn, doesn’t think he’s allowed to let himself feel angry, seeing Taehyung in pain. It was him who caused it, after all. So he buries it deep.) 

Jimin keeps whispering to Taehyung, telling him he has to take care of himself, telling him that it’s okay to mourn—but that it isn’t okay for him to give up—and that Jeongguk wouldn’t want to see the love of his life broken like this. (Jimin is right about that.)

“You think he’s happy up there—with the angels?” Taehyung speaks with such gravity but with such lightness that perhaps Jeongguk falls in love one last time. “I always thought that he was too good for me, that a human like me didn’t deserve such an angel like him. You think he’s happy?”

With a sad smile, Jimin breathes, “I think he is.”

Oh, how wrong they are.

Jeongguk is the furthest thing from an angel, in the farthest place from Heaven, and the furthest thing from happy.

III.

A week passes and Taehyung begins to act human again, going to work on the weekdays, hanging out with Jimin on the weekends—like he’s supposed to do. Jeongguk wants him to heal, but he knows that Taehyung’s nowhere close. (Neither is Jeongguk.) Taehyung arrives home each night and cries both his eyes out, clutching that gem necklace tight and clawing at his own skin, and Jeongguk watches as he breaks himself down. He watches as Taehyung breaks himself down with no one to build him back up. That’s all he can do.

Taehyung is just a human—so utterly human.

Jeongguk remembers asking Jimin about the stars in the sky—asking about the constellations so that he could impress Taehyung the first time they’d go stargazing together. Remembers how much Jimin had teased him for trying so hard.

(“Hyung!” Jeongguk whined. “Please don’t tell—”

Jimin just rolled his eyes. “I won’t, Guk. Just know that he absolutely adores you no matter what you do,” he said, poking Jeongguk’s warm cheek and booping his nose with his fingertip. “You guys are best friends who’ve been stupidly in love with each other for years, after all, so . . . ”

Jeongguk blushed bright like the sun. “Shut up.”)

The two of them were doomed from the start.

Even after his health started to go to shit and the doctors said five to ten years—it was three, three live fast die young years—the older boy tried just as hard as he did in the beginning, just as hard to make Jeongguk happy, to make those three short live fast die young years a happy forever.

Jeongguk thinks back to Taehyung surprising him with two tickets to Japan a few months ago. It was perfect timing—in retrospect—and he’s grateful for that, so fucking thankful that he and Taehyung had those three weeks together. He thinks back to how much he’d scolded Taehyung at first.

(Jeongguk gasped, “No, you—we can’t afford this.”

Taehyung smiled, kissed Jeongguk’s cheek. “Guk, baby, c’mon. You always said you’ve wanted to go to Japan since we were kids.”

“We don’t have the money, hyung.”

And that’s when Taehyung had kissed him square on the lips and said, “I worked some double shifts this month, and the guys pitched in money so that we could do this. My boss is fine with it too.”

“Hyung, we can’t—”

Taehyung laughed. “Think of it as an early birthday gift, Guk,” he remarked, kissing the boy one more to stop another word of protest. “Just, you know, a couple months in advance.”

“Baby—”

“Nope.”

Taehyung kept kissing him until he sighed into the kiss, giving up and grinning as he uttered, “Fine—happy twenty-sixth birthday to me, then, I guess.”)

Jeongguk never made it to twenty-six.

They really were doomed from the fucking start.

Jeongguk wonders if he’ll always be like this, if it’ll end when Taehyung dies, or even a little sooner—or if it never will. But the thought of not being with Taehyung into eternity is too somber for him, even now, because they promised. Jeongguk wonders if being like this, being here, being a goddamn ghost in Taehyung’s universe was a blessing or a fucking punishment, a game for the angels up in heaven.

Taehyung is with him, but he isn’t with Taehyung.

(“Hey, Taehyungie—?” Jeongguk croaked out, the hospital bed creaking loud when he turned to look at Taehyung for one of the last times.

And Taehyung, he looked so gentle, looked almost as fragile as Jeongguk, the IV dripping life into his body just as Jeongguk drips life into Taehyung. He wondered what would happen with IV drip.

“Hm, Jeongguk?” Taehyung whispered back, hand on the boy’s stomach—drawing stars and painting planets where there aren’t for Jeongguk to keep.

“If—” Jeongguk stopped himself. Ifs have become whens and they were both so terribly heartbroken. “When, when I, y’know, when I d—”

“Jeongguk, no,” Taehyung said, “no, please no.”

But Jeongguk only smiled. “Hyung, we both know that it’s gonna happen soon. We’re—running out of time. The doctors said it’s a week max before I—”

“Baby, baby—please,” Taehyung uttered, reaching for Jeongguk’s hand to hold, to hold onto so tight—

“Taehyung, we need to talk about this.”

“Not now. Please, not now, Jeongguk.”

Body weak, Jeongguk tried his hardest to kiss his boyfriend on the cheek, mouth sticky with lip balm Taehyung had helped him apply. “Hyung, I know, I know you don’t wanna talk about it or think about it but I don’t have much longer with you—”

“Jeongguk, baby, we—” Taehyung struggled to get the words out, breathing heavily like he’s having a panic attack, so Jeongguk holds his hand through it all. “We have all of eternity together. We have so much more time together, even if—” he choked up a bit here, “—even if we have to wait a little longer to be together again.”

Oh, Jeongguk’s heart could’ve just stopped.

“Promise?”

Taehyung smiled, but it was like Venus without her golden tresses or Cupid without his bow. Taehyung smiled without suns wedged in his cheeks, without roses in his bleached hair, without stars in his eyes and Jeongguk wanted to keep faith, hold hope that Taehyung wouldn’t lose himself forever because of him. Taehyung smiled and said, “I promise.”)

That was as close to goodbye as they got.

He thought that Taehyung was his forever, and the thought of this world being forever is soul crushing.

Even then, even when he was in the hospital until the very end, Jeongguk never thought of a forever without Taehyung and he knows Taehyung thought the same, knows that Taehyung wanted him too. It was always unfair to Jeongguk that someone as lovely, someone as promising as Taehyung had to fall for a boy, for a goddamn loser in love with an expiration date tattooed over his heart—a fucking fool like him with a ticking time bomb in his chest.

And so—

He tries to follow Taehyung wherever he goes, but it’s tiring, and Jeongguk is tired. Ghosts don’t sleep very well, he’s found. When Jeongguk gets tired of watching Taehyung sleep (—few nights he does—) he slips outside to stargaze, to planet gaze. Other nights, when Taehyung comes back late, much too late and much too drunk, Jeongguk lies in bed with him, lies on the right side of the bed like he used to do, and pretends like he’s holding Taehyung tight.

But one night, one night Taehyung wakes up with a gasping sob, a sob much like Jeongguk had heard his first night as a ghost. Jeongguk’s outside when he hears it, trying to remember Taehyung’s favorite constellations, trying to find them in the new sky—bands of star clouds shine so bright, but Jeongguk can’t remember their names.

Jeongguk runs inside as soon as he hears it.

Taehyung isn’t healing. Taehyung isn’t even close.

When Jeongguk finds him, knees to his chest and sobbing on the bed, he sees Taehyung clutching a small, velvet box. Is that—?

“I should’ve proposed. I should’ve married you,” he speaks out loud, he speaks for no one but himself. (A part of Jeongguk wonders if Taehyung can feel his presence in the room—but he knows it’s just a dumb daydream.) “I should’ve, I should’ve asked.”

Taehyung is speaking to him but Taehyung doesn’t know he’s there, doesn’t know he’s listening and—

God, god does this hurt, hurt so fucking much.

“I was gonna propose to you when we were at the top of Tokyo Tower, as stupid as it seems. But—I chickened out. I was too afraid you’d say no, that you’d say no because you didn’t—didn’t think you would live long enough to marry me.”

You were going to propose?

(The sad thing is: Jeongguk would’ve said yes.)

“We should’ve gotten married,” Taehyung whispers hoarsely. “We could’ve had a little ceremony in the hospital and all. Jimin could’ve done your makeup, even though you were already so pretty without it. We could’ve just reworn our tuxes from Yoongi and Hoseok’s wedding, gotten Namjoon and Seokjin to pick out flowers to decorate the hospital room. We could’ve strung up the pink fairy lights you liked so much. The vows would’ve been easy too. I mean, I loved you much and I still love you and, and—” He gasps for a breath, hiccuping until he can whimper, “We could’ve, we could’ve been happy together.”

You wanted to marry me?

(But Jeongguk knows that even if they had gotten married, the honeymoon bliss wouldn’t last forever, wouldn’t have lasted half as long as they would’ve liked. They’re too greedy for anything but eternity.)

“I wanted kids with you so bad, Guk. I, I wanted to be a father with you. I, I wanted a family with you.”

I wanted that too, Taehyung.

(Taehyung always wanted kids.)

“I wanted to grow old with you.”

Nothing Taehyung says after that is coherent.

Jeongguk thinks Taehyung cries himself to sleep, thinks he cries until he passes out, until he’s tired of it all—until he’s too tired to breathe.

(He has always wanted to grow old with Taehyung, but not like this. Jeongguk supposes that this must be some sort of dramatic irony, because he will—in the cruelest of ways, he will.)

IV.

Four months after Jeongguk arrives in this afterlife, one hundred and twenty-three days after he found Taehyung crying at the stairway of their old house—the house that they were supposed to raise their kids in), Taehyung brings someone home.

And the thing is—

Taehyung’s never been without Jeongguk.

They were childhood best friends, then high school sweethearts, and then college lovers who bought a house together fresh out of graduation.

Jeongguk’s never been without Taehyung.

(They’ve never been with anyone but each other.)

They were each other’s first and only kisses, first  and only boyfriends, first and only loves. Nothing will compare—at least, Jeongguk selfishly hopes. He was always selfish when it came to Taehyung, because Taehyung would give him the world and Jeongguk would take it—would take anything he would give, all the stars and all the planets alike.

But—now? Now . . . Jeongguk can’t take anything, and Taehyung has nothing to offer. Jeongguk was always worried about Taehyung moving on, but—it never occurred to him that he’d need to as well.

Taehyung seems a bit drunk (—a little out of it?—) as he kisses the boy Jeongguk doesn’t know. The boy holds Taehyung’s hand through the kiss and a part of Jeongguk rages because that’s their thing, and kissing is their thing—but then he remembers he doesn’t have the right to be angry, not anymore. Jeongguk will always be Taehyung’s and his soul will always be tied to the boy in front of him, but he has to wonder whether it’ll go both ways.

God, it feels like Taehyung’s cheating—but what is he cheating on? A fucking ghost, a fucking corpse?

Worry fill Jeongguk’s heart with black arrhythmias, anger fills his heart with red gore, and the hand he was dealt with cuts deeper—fifty-two cards cutting deep into the open wound in his chest. Jeongguk’s lost count of how many goddamn times he’s been fucked over because of his stupid heart. And when they move up to their old bedroom, Jeongguk goes outside to count the goddamn stars because it’s all he has left at this point.

He tries not to think about Taehyung’s moans, how loud and deep and beautiful his voice would get as he fucks into Jeongguk, how breathy and whiny he can get when Jeongguk fucks into him, leaves him drooly and messy and the best part is the give, the take—everything about Kim Taehyung.

But Jeongguk does think about it—he thinks about how he misses the after the most, the after parts of sex because he would take care of Taehyung, and Taehyung would take care of him.

It’s all give and take, push and pull. It’s everything.

(It was everything.)

Jeongguk gazes up at the stars above and it’s like he’s looking into Taehyung’s eyes filled with clouds and faraway constellations. The cosmos shouldn’t be this bright, galaxies shouldn’t be this clear, and stars shouldn’t look like fragile glass or crystallized glitter in reach so close to the city, but it does.

Jeongguk doesn’t know what to think. His stream of consciousness fades and he just begins to feel, to feel the emptiness that fills the black medium of the gentle sky.

This night is the first one that passes quickly.

Passes so quickly that Jeongguk doesn’t even see that the boy has left the house, has passed by him not even an hour since he came. Passes so quick that Jeongguk doesn’t even blink, he doesn’t even breathe when Jimin rushes into their house.

Jeongguk thinks that he can hear them speaking even from outside because of these stupid fucking ghost powers. He thinks he hears Jimin say, “Tae. Baby, you—you have to learn to live without him.”

“I know, I know.”

Four short months have passed and Taehyung still doesn’t know how to breathe without Jeongguk (—it’s not like he’s ever had to, until now).

He hopes that Jimin is holding Taehyung’s hand.

Taehyung always liked his hand held when he was sad. Jeongguk always thought he could be the one to do it, thought he’d always be around.

“You can’t keep living here alone.”

“No, no, no, Jimin—” Taehyung’s voice cracks, and Jeongguk can only imagine the wet tears streaking his face, the way his irises, lovelorn and lovedrunk, shake as he speaks. “This is, this is our home.”

Jeongguk’s selfish heart beats at this, beats heavy like the bass on a speaker, like the clicking bass in the backtracks of all his favorite songs. He doesn’t want Taehyung to leave this house—their home.

Doesn’t want Taehyung to forget him.

“You brought, you brought him home because you were lonely here. Taehyung—baby—you’re alone.”

Please don’t go.

“I’m not, I’m not,” Taehyung voices. “I have—”

“Jeongguk?” Jimin asks. “Jeongguk is dead.”

Jeongguk stops listening and looks to the sky.

He shuts down.

He wants to heal, and he wants Taehyung to heal as well, but—he doesn’t know how. Doesn’t know what he’s gonna do. He has an eternity to figure it all out, but Taehyung can only go so long before it breaks him apart and kills him whole.

All Jeongguk knows is that he’ll follow Taehyung to the ends of the Earth (—wherever the hell that is), to wherever Taehyung will go.

“We were supposed to have forever, and—just like that the goddamn love of my fucking life is dead?”

Just like that.

Jeongguk and Taehyung had once thought that the angels would envy them, would envy the love they had for each other, but—they both realize that they were punished for that hubris.

The angels only pity them now.

“I’m sorry you two couldn’t have a happy ending.”

Jeongguk laughs, laughs at this cruel fucking fate and wonders if this life truly is forever. If anyone’s sorry, it’s him. Sorry that it all had to end like that, bedridden and sickly and hopeful of a miracle that never came, hopeful of a goddamn resolution that didn’t resolve anything. Sorry that he was so, so fuckin greedy, that he is greedy for wanting more than forever, for wanting Taehyung to remember him longer than forever, even if it causes him gut wrenching, heart aching pain. But most of all, he’s sorry that any ending they’ll ever have won’t ever be enough. Jeongguk and Taehyung really were too greedy, too selfish for anything but forever.

“I don’t want to forget him, Jimin.”

Jeongguk wants to stop listening to them, wants to stop hurting so much, wants the pain to go away, but the voices just keep playing loud and he knows it’s a goddamn punishment. It has to be.

Please don’t forget me, hyung.

Jimin chuckles softly. “I don’t think you could forget him even if you tried. It’s Jeon Jeongguk after all.”

Even though Jeongguk can hear Taehyung sniffing the tears away, he imagines that he’s also smiling, nodding his head and letting Jimin pull him into his chest, letting Jimin wipe his tears away. Jeongguk wants to kiss Taehyung’s forehead—wants to kiss all the tears away—but the pain in his chest is too unbearable and he lets out a little sob.

Taehyung was always the dreamer, the stargazer; even when they were children and even now he’s stayed a dreamer, stayed a stargazer. Jeongguk? Jeongguk was always just in love, so hopelessly in love with Taehyung from the start, but he began to dream and love the stars just as Taehyung did.

Jeongguk won’t ever forget Taehyung either.

“Jimin, I don’t want to move on. I don’t want, I, I—” Taehyung tries to control his breathing but it’s all messy sobs and miserable snuffles. “I don’t want to stop loving him. It’s, it’s so fucking stupid but it’s all I’m good at and it’s all I know—all I’ve known since I met him in that stupid fucking playground. Fuck, fuck, ever since we were kids I’ve only ever known how to love him, and he’s gone. I’m twenty-seven and, and I’ve loved him for twenty goddamn years and I don’t know what to do except keep on loving him. I don’t want to stop loving him. I never wanted to stop, but he’s gone.”

“Breathe, breathe,” Jimin whispers, so quiet that Jeongguk can barely hear it. “Just breathe, okay? That’s all you have to do tonight, breathe, Taetae. The hard parts can all come later. Just breathe for now. Just breathe. You can do all the rest later.”

“O—Okay. Okay.”

“Jeongguk is very loved thanks to you. You know that, Taehyung—?” Jimin asks. Taehyung doesn’t respond verbally, so Jeongguk supposes that he must’ve nodded his head. But Jimin goes on and says, “You don’t ever have to have to stop, okay? You’ve loved him all you can and even more than that. Jeongguk is a very loved person, as are you. You don’t ever have to stop loving him.” And then he adds, “Even now, I don’t think that Jeongguk’s ever stopped loving you with all his heart, so you don’t have to stop either. Just leave a little love for yourself when you hold Gukkie dear to your heart. Leave a little love for yourself.”

“I promised him I wouldn’t ever stop loving him.”

“Then just keep loving him, wherever he is now.”

I’m right here. I’ll always be right here.

“The rest can come later?” Taehyung sniffles.

“The rest can come later,” Jimin confirms tenderly.

The wind picks up a little bit, leaves rustling and Jeongguk focuses on that, focuses on the noisy whoosh of the wind and the loud crackling of the dry leaves—much too dry for July—instead of the gasps and sobs that come from inside the house. Barefoot, the moonlit grass between his toes and the breeze playing with his hair, Jeongguk doesn’t know what time it is, doesn’t know how long he’s been like this—his heart so full yet so empty, like the sky full of stars and empty with space. But the medium is bright like those stars, shining through the emptiness—and so is his heart, streaked with hues that come from loving Taehyung like he does. Like he always will. His heart will always go where Taehyung goes, wherever that is, tucked deep in Taehyung’s pockets amongst all the suns he hides.

Jeongguk supposes he can wait a little longer.

(“But what’s the rest?”

“You learn to live again.”

To live again, huh.)