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alone with the stars in your eyes

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As we near the anniversary of the first expedition to Luna, consider our achievements throughout the last two centuries of space travel and expansion. Since launch of the first Interstellar Community station, it has become easier than ever for people from all planets and systems to seek their fortune among the stars - and yet, there is always more to be done.

The Federation Cadet Program offers the wonders of the galaxy, now made available for you to explore and make your own. Apply at your local Academy branch, or via comm uplink and wake up, Hoseok, come on, I’ve been out here for like ten minutes--”

Hoseok blinks, and his ceiling comes slowly into focus. He can already feel the edges of his dream slipping away from him, scared off by consciousness - or by the voice nearly echoing around his room. Namjoon must have overridden the volume control on his door comm. Again.

“I’m up,” Hoseok grunts, rubbing his eyes. “What do you want?”

“Finally,” Namjoon says, his voice filtering into the room through the small panel by the door. Hoseok can picture him rolling his eyes. “You missed breakfast hours already, but a little bird told me Seokjin has coffee waiting.”

Hoseok scrubs a hand over his face. “Just coffee, or does he also have an assignment to hand out?”

“What do you think?” Namjoon laughs. “Put some pants on and get out here.”

The door comm beeps, signalling that Namjoon has left him alone for the time being. Hoseok sighs at his ceiling and pulls his sheets back. If Seokjin really does have coffee, it won’t stay warm for long.

His unit has a tiny bathroom attached, with an even tinier shower stall that he barely has room to scrub in. The water is still somehow at an ideal pressure, despite how old his unit is - he could probably upgrade if he asked, considering he’s been living in the same one since he was a cadet. Namjoon has even been asking about it lately, hinting that the two of them and Yoongi could get a unit together, but…

Hoseok turns off the water and shakes the drops out of his bangs. It’s not a decision he wants to think about yet. He towels off and shuffles into the first pair of pants he finds, then pulls on an only-slightly-wrinkled tank and slings his uniform jacket over his shoulder.

Namjoon is still in the hall when Hoseok finally slides the door open, a familiar grin on his face. “Morning, sunshine,” he greets, raising an eyebrow as he looks him up and down. “You sure you’re awake?”

“You rushed me,” Hoseok says with a shrug, and Namjoon snickers before pushing off the wall to lead the way down the corridor. Hoseok follows, easily catching up and falling into step with him. “Are you getting assigned today too?”

“Yeah, I’m stoked about it,” Namjoon says, rubbing his hands together. “Seokjin said he’s got some farspace missions to give out, and Yoongi and I haven’t been past Lacaille in ages.” He gives an exaggerated sigh, then bounces right back to bump shoulders with Hoseok. “Hey, maybe we’ll even be headed to the same place. The whole gang back together, you know?”

He smiles as he says it, but his eyes are careful, scanning Hoseok’s face for a reaction. Hoseok makes himself laugh. “Yeah, maybe.”

Apparently satisfied, Namjoon grins at him. “It’d be awesome, right? Man, if only we could get Seokjin to come along on a mission some time.”

“In farspace?” Hoseok scoffs. “Good luck.”

“He went with me to Neptune one time,” Namjoon insists. “I could tell him it’s a date like that, and then we all go to, like, Aldebaran or something.”

“And it’ll be the last date you two ever go on,” Hoseok says, nodding sagely. Namjoon shoves him with his shoulder.

Seokjin is waiting when they reach his office, and he welcomes them both inside with the promised cups of coffee before handing out datapads. Their assignment briefs are already open on the screens, with important details highlighted. Hoseok looks his over quickly - a satellite dropped out of orbit near the star Denebola, probably collided with something foreign and made a mess. A few days there and back. Standard.

“Sound good?” Seokjin asks, leaning back against his desk. “There’s another assignment available, out near Antares, if you’re interested. I was going to offer it to the Exodus, but I’ll give you first dibs.”

“Denebola is fine,” Hoseok says, pressing his fingertip to the print scanner at the bottom of the document. A confirmation pops up on the screen. “Thanks, though.”

“You don’t give me first dibs on assignments,” Namjoon grumbles, pouting playfully at Seokjin.

Seokjin pats his arm. “You can only take on missions that are suited to crewed vessel. Hoseok has more options because his ship is more versatile.” Namjoon keeps pouting, so Seokjin rolls his eyes and pecks him on the cheek. “Don’t act like you don’t already get enough favoritism from me. Now get out of my office, I have work to do.”

He shoos them both out. Namjoon has a dreamy smile on his face all the way to the end of the hall.

Once they turn the corner, he shakes himself a little, then leans over to look at Hoseok’s datapad. “Denebola, huh?” he hums. “I’m headed in the opposite direction. Fomalhaut.” He sighs, then smiles. “Next time, I guess.”

“We’ll see,” Hoseok says absentmindedly, scrolling through the assignment. Namjoon punches him in the arm. “Ow! What?”

“Don’t sound so relieved,” Namjoon scolds. “I’m not joking. We really miss you on the Cypher.”

Ah, the Cypher rig - the creaking, half-scrap scout vessel that Hoseok had spent three years learning all the ins and outs of. He has fond memories of the worn pilot seat, the ticking of settling metal when they were mid-warp, the 16-step start up sequence complete with the sweet-spot kick to the base of the control panel when the display got fuzzy-- that one is a little blurrier in Hoseok’s mind, though, and a familiar pit begins to take root in his stomach. He isn’t sure if he’d remember exactly how to do it anymore, the start up. He doesn’t really want to go on board to find out.

“I miss you guys, too,” he manages, swallowing hard. “And I appreciate the updates. Whether they’re about the ship and where you’re taking her, or... whatever you and Yoongi get up to.”

“It’s no problem, man. We wanna keep you informed.” Namjoon grins and slings his arm over Hoseok’s shoulders. “Speaking of, you should meet these two cadets we brought on - specifically the one Yoongi thinks I don’t notice him checking out.”

Hoseok laughs, and the pit dislodges some. “Min Yoongi, resident everything-tech specialist, voted ‘Most Likely to Marry A Computer’ in our class - interested in a cadet? There’s no way.”

“I’m serious, dude. You should see how he gets--” Namjoon clears his throat and furrows his brow, hunching his shoulders in what Hoseok supposes is an accurate impression of Yoongi. “‘I’m showing Jimin how to change routes on the navigator’ - yeah right, he just wants an excuse for Jimin to lean over on his desk.”

“And the other cadet?” Hoseok asks.

Namjoon clasps his free hand over his heart. “Jeongguk is just a baby, he shouldn’t have to see stuff like that. I’m this close to telling them to get a room.” He and pats Hoseok’s shoulder before taking his arm back. “Don’t worry, though, I won’t let them use yours.”

They both laugh as they turn the last corner before Hoseok’s unit, and Namjoon leans against the doorframe while Hoseok punches in his code on the lockpad.

“Well, thanks for waking me up,” Hoseok says as the door slides open, lifting his coffee in a half-salute.

Namjoon shrugs it off with a smile and looks about to leave - but he touches Hoseok’s arm just before he heads inside, making him turn back. He looks serious, and that more than anything makes Hoseok pause. “What?”

“I just, uh...” Namjoon trails off. He takes a breath and then looks up to meet Hoseok’s eyes. “It’s-- there’s always a space for you, if you ever want to transfer back to the Cypher. You know that, right?”

Just like that, the pit burrows a little deeper. “Yeah, I know,” Hoseok says, hoping it sounds sincere instead of weak. “Thanks.”

Namjoon gives him a familiar smile in return, and lets go of his arm. “And I’m not joking about our next assignments, okay?” he insists, backing down the hall. “I’ll make an official request with Seokjin if that’s what it takes. Jeongguk is great at bullshit, we’ll make it work.”

Hoseok forces one last laugh, waves him off, and once Namjoon is around the corner, heads into his unit. The door slides shut behind him and he lets his shoulders slump with a sigh. He drops the datapad on his desk to look over again later, but the movement lights up his personal pad underneath, blinking with a notification. Hoseok pauses, puts his coffee down, picks up the pad to take a look.

{Alarm: Reminder #0067 - JHS_transfer_applica…}
> Ignore / View document
>>View
{Opening JHS_transfer_application.2165.docxxx}

Applicant: JUNG HOSEOK
Current faction: FEDERATION ICS // SHUTTLE #009402 NEURON
Status: ACTIVE

Request: RELOCATION
Reason: CURRENT FACTION UNSUITABLE
Detail: requesting transfer from off-planet station to Federation Earth branch #87 S.KOREA

Personnel File attached. Submit to Head Office?
> Y / N

Hoseok stares at the blinking cursor for a few moments before dropping the datapad back on his desk. After this job, he tells himself, pulling out a small travel bag. After this last job, he’ll decide where he’s going.

He’s quick enough with packing his things that he can head to the main hangar almost immediately, and after double-checking the engines and warp drives, his ship is ready to set out within the hour. The Neuron is a labour shuttle, small enough for a one-man crew but equipped with its own small hangar and solo cruiser. Hoseok’s job is to locate the satellite and gather all the debris, using the cruiser for the bits and pieces and the main shuttle’s tractor beams for the bigger parts. It’s not easy, and it takes a while, but Hoseok doesn’t mind. The Neuron is his now, after all, and he has a lot more freedom with it than he ever had with the Cypher - or he tells himself that he does, at least. It’s the reason he gave Namjoon for wanting to leave, anyway. He’d been on that ship too long and needed a new challenge to learn his way around.

It hasn’t been too bad, with the Neuron. He’s nowhere near an expert yet, but he supposes that’s to be expected after transferring from a small-crew vessel to a solo ship. As it is, Hoseok knows enough to get undocked and up to warp speed without the onboard AI’s help, even if she is a sweetheart.

“Hani,” he calls once the ship is stable, and the comm screen by the front window flickers to life, showing a girl’s face with a friendly smile.

“Yes, Captain,” her computerized voice greets him.

Hoseok stands up from the pilot seat and heads out to the main deck, where the large viewing windows are and a map of the ship’s route is projected. Hani follows him out, appearing on the closest door comm instead. “Set up a sleep chamber, 70 hours duration.”

“Are you sure?” Hani asks. “We will arrive in the Denebola system in an estimated 72 hours. Manual sleep cycles are recommended for shorter journeys.”

Hoseok looks out at the passing blackness for a moment, then closes the shade on the viewing windows. “Yes, I’m sure.”

The door to the auto-sleep room hisses open, and Hani dims the deck lights as Hoseok enters.

The first time they took the Cypher to farspace, Hoseok would’ve rather died than sleep through the journey. He stayed up to stare out at the stars and planets and satellites they passed by, long after Yoongi and Namjoon went to bed. Everything held him in such awe - space, this deep, dark, silent infinity had so much beauty in her, and Hoseok couldn’t imagine ever getting tired of it.

But, he supposes, pulling his shirt off over his head, things change. He steps into the sleep chamber and sits down with a sigh, tapping the control panel and gathering the wired pads that will monitor his vitals while he sleeps.

Hani appears in the corner of the panel with another smile. “Are you ready?”

“Yeah,” Hoseok sighs again, sticking the last one over his heart and lying down. “Feel free to wake me up if we get there sooner.”

“Confirmed,” Hani chirps back at him, as the chamber lid slides into place. “Auto-pilot is engaged. Sleep well, Captain.”

--

For a 70 hour trip, it sure seems short when Hoseok opens his eyes again. The sleep chambers are supposed to have you feeling refreshed and awake upon opening, but Hoseok just feels like he didn't sleep at all.

Still, he clambers his way out of the chamber and stretches before heading to the shower. "Hani, system report."

"All systems normal," Hani answers promptly, her face flickering to life on the screen by the door. "Oxygen levels and artificial gravity are being monitored, and the cruiser is charged and waiting in the hangar whenever you're ready."

"Thanks," Hoseok says around a yawn. "I'll be piloting the shuttle remotely from the cruiser, so you can go into sleep mode."

Hani smiles and nods. "I'll come back online when you return to the shuttle," she says, and blips off as Hoseok steps into the shower.

The on-craft water pressure is always a little too high, but it gets rid of the weird stale feeling the sleep chambers leave on his skin. He actually feels awake by the time he steps out. He raises the window shade while he dries his hair, and sighs at the numerous pieces of what must be satellite floating in space outside. Gathering all the broken parts up is going to take a few hours, at least. He finishes drying off, changes into clean clothes, and closes the shade on his way to the hangar.

Launching the solo cruiser is easy enough, and he does a test lap of the shuttle to get his bearings before setting off in search of the biggest piece of satellite he can find. He spots it within a few minutes - it appears to be at least a third of the original structure. Hoseok lets himself relax a little. The satellite really did collide with something, rather than explode by itself, which would've broken it up even more. Still, the mess of satellite bits is strewn across the surrounding few kilometres, and it's time to get to work.

He engages the cruiser's main function - two mech arms that fold out from the frame. With those he can drag the large pieces just far enough so that the main shuttle can pick them up with a tractor beam, condensing the bent metal and bringing it into the hangar. Once all the biggest pieces are dealt with, he moves on to the smaller ones, which he can condense and carry back with just the cruiser.

It takes some time, but soon enough most of the surrounding space is clear. Hoseok does one last lap of the perimeter, making sure he picked up anything that could dent a potential ship in warp. Just as he’s about to head back to the shuttle, his radar blips around something new. Hoseok squints at the monitor and heads in the mystery object’s direction.

As he gets closer, the radar picks up more details. The shape looks smooth and streamlined, unlike the jagged metal he’s been picking up - and it’s only a little smaller than the cruiser. “Don’t tell me I missed something that big,” Hoseok mutters to himself. He speeds over the last couple kilometres and finds, at the very edge of the damage zone, a… ship.

A tiny, black, probably unmanned vessel, but a ship nonetheless. It’s not an Earth model, not a Federation model either, as far as Hoseok can tell. It’s barely bigger than a hovercar, and there’s nothing around here for light years except Hoseok’s own ship. How did this tiny thing get all the way out here?

He drifts around it and finds some damage - part of the hull torn away, deep cracks along one side. It must have been on a pre-programmed course, then hit something and shut off. Still, Hoseok wonders where it came from in the first place. Would someone be out looking for it?

The dashboard beeps at him and he glances down. All debris stored on SHUTTLE // Warp READY. He flicks the notification away, but another pops up in its place. CRUISER POWER LOW. RECHARGE NEEDED.

Hoseok huffs and stares out at the damaged vessel again. Getting stranded in space is undesirable to say the least, but he doesn’t want to just leave this thing here…

After a moment of hesitation, he engages the cruiser’s arms again and begins to pull the mystery vessel back towards the shuttle. It’s slow going, and by the time he gets it into the hangar, he’s sure the cruiser’s batteries are going to die any minute. Luckily, he gets it docked before it decides to shut down on him.

“Hani,” Hoseok calls as he climbs out of the cruiser, hopping down to the hangar floor and taking off his pilot suit. “We’re done here, set course back to HQ.”

Hani chirps confirmation back to him, and he sets off deeper into the hangar. He passes the mess of debris he brought in before stopping in front of the mystery vessel. Hoseok had thought he would recognize its design once it was under the lights, but it still just looks like a black shape to him. Yoongi would know, if he were here. Yoongi knew every design of every Federation vessel - but then again, this probably isn’t one.

There’s a dim light flashing inside, Hoseok suddenly notices. Just as he steps forward for a closer look, the front of the vessel splits open with a hiss, and red smoke comes billowing out. He jumps back, eyes wide as the two halves fold back and a new shape rises from the smoke.

Hoseok immediately regrets not having his blaster on him - but the figure that coughs its way out of the vessel and sets two wobbly legs down on the floor doesn’t seem… hostile. It looks human, in fact, like a teenage boy with short dark hair falling into his eyes. He’s wearing some black uniform that’s tight to his skin, like an Earth-style diving suit, with blue lights down the neck and chest that match the flashing ones inside the damaged vessel.

After another cough, he takes a confused look around the hangar before finally settling his eyes on Hoseok and blinking a few times - with three eyelids, the third sliding vertically across his irises. Not human, then.

“What planet is this?” the alien boy asks, starting Hoseok. He didn’t expect some farspace alien to know Federation Standard - and his voice is surprisingly deep.

“It’s not a planet,” Hoseok manages. “You’re on board the Neuron, a registered Federation vessel.”

The alien boy just blinks at him again. Hoseok clears his throat and gestures at the smoking cruiser the alien stepped out of. “I found your ship, damaged in a debris cloud.”

Eyebrows furrowing, the alien boy turns back to look at the cruiser, which is flashing a little weaker now. “Debris?”

“Yeah, uh-- a satellite was hit by something. Made a big mess.”

“Oh.” He turns to stare at Hoseok again. “That was me.”

“What was-- You mean you hit the satellite?” Hoseok asks, incredulous. “In that thing? The satellite was practically shattered, how did you do so much damage with such a small vessel?”

The alien shrugs. “I was going fast.”

Hoseok doesn’t bother trying for a clearer answer. “Look, your ship is busted. You hit the satellite hard enough that the Federation hired a clean-up crew - me. I don’t think you can use it to fly out of here. That’s the bad news.”

The alien takes one last forlorn look at his damaged ship, then turns away to look around the hangar again. “What’s the good news?” he asks.

“For you, it’s that I haven’t logged this yet.” Hoseok steps closer to the damaged spacecraft to get a better look. “HQ won’t suspect a ship of this size for all the damage… if I leave you out of my report.”

The alien gives him a confused expression. “Why would you do that?”

Hoseok shrugs, smiling wryly. “Let’s just say I don’t care for this job very much.”

“Being… clean-up crew?”

“Yeah. And besides, you seem like you travel light - how many credits do you have on you?”

Humming, the alien extends his forearm. He taps the wrist of his suit and a tiny hologram screen flickers to life above his palm. “Twelve, I think.”

“Yeah, not quite enough to cover damages to Federation equipment,” Hoseok says dryly. “Where were you headed? This ship is en route back to a Federation outpost, but I can program a stop along the way.”

Alien boy tilts his head. “Do you have a map?”

Ignoring his better judgement - and also protocol - Hoseok leads the alien boy out of the hangar and onto the main deck. He taps the control panel to bring up the map, and lets alien boy stare at it in awe for a few seconds before clearing his throat.

“This is where we are,” Hoseok says, pointing to their position on the map. “The Denebola system, about 35 light years from the closest Federation outpost.”

Alien boy squints at the route. “Hmm.”

Hoseok waits for him to say something else, but eventually starts to suspect that that’s the end of it. “You can come back to the station with me, if you’re not sure,” he says slowly. “The journey isn’t that long, and we have resources on board. I’ll just tell HQ that you were stranded somewhere and I gave you a lift. How’s that sound?”

Somewhat hesitantly, the alien boy nods. He looks a little overwhelmed now, staring at the huge map, so Hoseok closes it and leads him over to the kitchenette. The viewing window is just beside it, although covered by a shade, but there’s a couch underneath. He sits the alien down on it, then sits beside him.

“I probably should’ve asked earlier,” Hoseok says, a little sheepish. “What’s your name?”

The alien seems surprised at the question, but he manages to smile. “Taehyung.”

“Ah. I’m Hoseok.” He extends a hand, and Taehyung stares at it for a moment before covering it with his own. Like a strange slow-motion low-five. Hoseok snorts and takes his hand back, but Taehyung seems satisfied.

“We’re gonna be together for a while, so you might as well settle in,” Hoseok tells him. “I have some spare clothes you could borrow, if you want to get out of your…” He gestures at Taehyung’s skin-tight uniform. “... that.”

Taehyung nods, tugging at the high neckline with a grimace. “It gets uncomfortable after a hundred light years or so.”

Hoseok snickers and gets up to go retrieve the clothes. He picks out a threadbare Federation logo tee and, after a moment of consideration, the soft pair of sweatpants he had stashed in the bottom of his travel bag. Taehyung needs them more than he does right now, anyway.

He heads back out to the main deck and finds Taehyung standing up with his back to him, halfway through peeling his uniform off. Hoseok’s brain freezes just long enough for Taehyung to start pushing the fabric over his hips before he snaps back to himself. “H-hey, hold on, you don’t have to get changed out here!”

Taehyung pauses and turns around, eyebrows raised. “Oh. I don’t mind,” he says, taking the spare clothes from him with a smile. “Thank you, Hoseok.”

Before Hoseok can protest, he slips the shirt on and goes back to the fabric bunched around his waist. Hoseok quickly averts his eyes before he gets it past his hips.

He busies himself in the kitchenette, making instant fruit drinks for them both and only glancing over his shoulder at Taehyung once. He could easily pass for human, Hoseok thinks to himself, mushing protein powder and pushing the image out of his head, if not for the faint lavender tint under his skin where humans are supposed to flush pink. The third eyelid is also probably a deal-breaker.

Once Taehyung has pants on, Hoseok hands him his fruit drink and lets him wander around the deck. He watches for a few minutes, as Taehyung stares at everything from the safety instructions on the walls to the hangar door they just came through. It’s probably good to give him some space, he decides, and pulls up his report on the control panel.

He adds in some details from the clean up and marks it completed, then presses his fingertip to the scanner to confirm it before it gets sent off. Nothing left to do now, Hoseok sighs, except--

“Captain,” Hani calls, popping up in the corner of the screen. “Now that we are en route to the station, would you like me to prepare a sleep chamber?”

Hoseok looks across the deck to where Taehyung is sitting on the couch again, his empty cup forgotten on the floor and his nose pressed to the sliver of window uncovered by the shade. “No, you can disengage it.”

“Confirmed,” Hani blips, and Hoseok minimizes the map.

He crosses the deck and presses the strip beside the viewing window to raise the shade. Taehyung’s jaw practically drops once the full view is revealed. “Ahh, it’s so beautiful,” he exclaims, pressing even closer to the window. “Why do you keep it covered?”

“Habit, I guess,” Hoseok answers, glancing out at the planet they’re passing.

Taehyung oohs and ahhs until it’s out of sight. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” he says afterwards, awe in his voice.

“Really? I thought you were some farspace traveller,” Hoseok says, and Taehyung frowns up at him.

“Yeah, but I’ve never been here.”

He has a point, Hoseok supposes. Taehyung turns back to the window and Hoseok watches his eyes rove over the line of distant planets. He doesn’t quite remember what it was like to see the Denebola system for the first time himself - he hasn’t been here very often, but often enough for it to have all blended together into background scenery in his mind. Like everything else has.

He pushes those thoughts away and comes back to himself, only to realize that Taehyung is frowning at him again. “What?”

“I asked where you’re from.”

“Oh. Earth.”

Taehyung blinks. “Never heard of it.”

“Never?” Hoseok asks, surprised. “You must be from pretty far away, then. What’s your home planet?”

Brow furrowing, Taehyung hesitates for a moment before opening his mouth, and closes it again with a hum.

Hoseok watches in disbelief. “...You don’t know?”

“I don’t remember,” Taehyung says sheepishly. “It’s been a long time since I left, and I’ve been to a lot of places since. I lose track all the time.” He leans back in his seat with a shrug. “It doesn’t really matter, though. It’s not really my home planet so much as... my first planet.”

“Huh.” Hoseok smiles and sits down beside him. “So what is your home planet? Like, which planet was your favourite?”

Taehyung thinks about it for a moment. “I don’t think I have a favourite. I liked almost every planet I’ve been to.” He looks up at Hoseok again. “Is Earth your home planet?”

Hoseok nods. “Of all the planets I’ve set foot on, Earth is the one I like most, yeah.”

“What’s it like?” Taehyung asks, eyes wide with wonder.

“It’s, uh.” Hoseok scratches his head. “Well, it’s… mostly water. It’s not very big, compared to some other planets. It’s… warm…?” He trails off, but Taehyung still looks interested, like he’s hanging onto every word. “There’s a lot of people there. Sometimes we think we don’t have enough room for all of them.”

“They should all come out here,” Taehyung says. “There’s plenty of room in space.”

Hoseok snickers. “Not everyone wants to go to space. My dad wanted to stay. He told me it was because he wanted to see sunsets from our porch, not from way out here. He said it’s more beautiful at home.”

“Is it?”

Shrugging one shoulder, Hoseok glances out the window and then back at Taehyung. “Depends on your point of view.”

“What was your house like?” Taehyung asks, still curious. Hoseok is a little relieved at the change in subject.

“Ah, it was small. Simple. Made of wood. Most people live in really tall buildings, made of metal and plastic.” Taehyung oohs again, and Hoseok smiles. “There were roads crisscrossing everywhere, and huge malls with a thousand shops, and at night the whole city was lit up in different colours. And there was the beach, with just water and the horizon out as far as you could see.”

“Sounds nice,” Taehyung says with a wistful sigh.

“It is,” Hoseok says, then shrugs again. “As a whole, Earth is alright, I mean, for a--” He breaks off into a yawn, and Taehyung perks up immediately.

“Oh, are you tired?”

“Yeah,” Hoseok sighs, stretching his arms above his head. “Sorry. It’s been a long day.”

“That’s okay,” Taehyung says, then leans forward a bit, looking interested. “How do you-- uh, recharge?”

“Like, regain energy? Humans sleep.”

“Ah, I do too!” Taehyung exclaims with a grin. “Our biology must be similar. Do you hibernate, or…?”

Hoseok snickers. “Nah, nowhere near that long. I knock out for a few hours every day.”

Taehyung gapes at him. “Every single day? Whoa. If I sleep for a while, I don’t get tired again for a few days, at least.”

“If only,” Hoseok laughs, and yawns again. “Alright, I gotta take a nap.” He stands up and looks at Taehyung. “How are you feeling? Tired?”

Taehyung shakes his head. “I slept a lot while I was in my ship. I won’t be tired for a long time.”

Hoseok shrugs. “Well, have fun being awake forever. You can ask Hani if you need anything.” He turns away to head to the bedroom, but Taehyung stands up and follows him over.

“One time,” Taehyung says, nearly stepping on Hoseok’s heels, “I went to this planet where everyone got energy from electrical storms. They had to, like, stand out in the middle of it and get shocked. It seemed like a lot of effort to go through when you’re tired.”

Hoseok laughs as the door hisses open. “Yeah, humans must be nice and simple in comparison, huh?”

There isn’t much inside the room; a desk, bed with a shaded window above it, and Hoseok’s bag of clothes on the floor where he left it. Hoseok takes a few steps in and pauses. Is Taehyung just going to hang out in here while he sleeps, he wonders, or...? Would it be rude to tell the guest alien to go back out to the main deck? But Taehyung speaks up before Hoseok can say anything.

“Is that your bed?” he asks excitedly, crossing the small room to flop onto the blankets. “Ah, it’s so soft! Humans are good at this.”

Hoseok snickers at him. “I know, I know, we’re great. Now get off, I’m the one who needs to use the bed.”

Taehyung rolls over from where he sprawled out in the centre of the bed, shifting himself to take up only one side of it instead. “I’ve met a lot of aliens that share sleeping spaces,” he says. “Is it common for humans, too?”

“I… guess it is,” Hoseok says slowly. “But I thought you weren’t tired.”

Taehyung smiles sheepishly and curls up a little. “I could sleep,” he says, a little muffled by the blankets.

He even closes his eyes. Hoseok stares at him for a long moment before deciding he’s too tired to fight about it, and kicks off his boots to climb onto the bed beside Taehyung.

Even as he’s pulling the blankets up around them, though, he feels a little strange about the situation. He’s not entirely sure why - he’s shared beds with Namjoon and Yoongi before. Smaller beds than this, even. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is probably the actual alien dropping off to sleep beside him, but the bed is very soft and Hoseok is very tired. He falls asleep with one last vague thought about the sound of Taehyung’s slowing breaths - so much for not being tired, alien boy.

--

Hoseok wakes up to a bright light shining across his face. He squints around until he spots Taehyung, sitting up and staring out the window at whatever they’re passing - a star, if the light is anything to judge by.

“You shouldn’t stare right at it,” Hoseok mumbles, making Taehyung jump a little. “It’s bad for your eyes.”

“Maybe for your eyes,” Taehyung quips, but he lowers the shade anyway, and turns around to grin down at Hoseok. “Did you dream?”

Hoseok sits up with a yawn. “I don’t remember. Did you?”

Taehyung nods vigorously. “I dreamt about the food you gave me before.”

“That protein shake?” Hoseok laughs, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and standing up. “Do you want another one? We’ll call it breakfast.”

“Breakfast,” Taehyung repeats, wonder in his voice, and follows Hoseok out of the bedroom.

Two fruit smoothies later, Hoseok leaves Taehyung to his own devices by the viewing window while he checks his datapad messages. There’s a standard daily report from the station, and a short update from Namjoon (‘in the 25lys btwn the station & fomalhaut, yoongi smiled at jimin like 6 times B) i’ll keep u in the loop’) but nothing much else. The reminder about his application pops up for a moment, but he swipes it away as soon as Taehyung speaks up.

“Hoseok,” he calls to him, leaning over the back of the couch to look out the window. “Can you tell me about Earth again?”

“There’s not much more to tell,” Hoseok says. He puts down the datapad and heads over to the couch. “It’s a big ball of water and rock with a bunch of humans living on it.”

Taehyung frowns at him, and Hoseok relents. “Okay, okay. Cool Earth facts. Got it.” He tips his head back against the window and hums. “Did I tell you it’s mostly water?”

“Yes,” Taehyung sighs.

“Alright. What about the temperature?”

“You said it’s warm.”

“Okay, cool Earth fact number one: It’s not always warm.” Taehyung looks skeptical, but Hoseok goes on. “There’s four seasons every year. The specifics depend on where you live, but usually one is warm, one is hot, one is cold and one is really cold.”

“So the whole planet changes temperatures?” Taehyung asks, interested now.

“Uh, sort of. When it’s hot on one side of the world, it’ll be really cold on the other.”

Taehyung narrows his eyes. “Are you making this up?”

Hoseok shakes his head, laughing. “No, it’s real! When one side is facing the Sun--”

“The Sun?”

“Oh, that’s-- the star in Earth’s system,” Hoseok explains. “It’s called the Sun. And our moon is called the Moon.”

“What are the other ones called?” Taehyung asks.

“There aren’t any other ones,” Hoseok says with a snicker. “Earth only has one moon.”

Taehyung furrows his brow. “Really? Just one?” Hoseok nods, and Taehyung looks back out the window with a huff. “Weird.”

“Yeah, well.” Shrugging, Hoseok follows his gaze and then glances away. “It’s home.”

Taehyung hums and goes quiet for a moment. “I want to go to Earth next,” he suddenly announces.

Hoseok laughs. “Are you sure? You’ve only just heard of it.”

“So?” Taehyung counters. “Usually I land somewhere first and learn about it later.”

“You do you, I guess,” Hoseok snickers. “You’ve travelled around a lot, huh? You said earlier than you’ve been to a lot of different places.”

“From Asmidiske to Zeta Persei,” Taehyung says proudly.

“Why did you leave your first planet?” Hoseok asks, tapping the seat of the couch. “I mean, you never went back, did you?”

Taehyung pulls a face. “No, it’s boring there. I was tired of it. And I always knew there was more to see out in space, so I just went.” He looks back out the window, tracing shapes on the glass with his fingertip. “I flew around from place to place for a long time. Whenever I started to get bored again, I’d head somewhere new.”

“Like some farspace vagabond,” Hoseok says with a smile, shaking his head in disbelief. “How did you end up all the way out here?”

“I wanted to see how far I could go,” Taehyung says with a shrug. “So I got in my ship and just… went. As far as it could take me. Until I hit something.”

“The satellite,” Hoseok supplies.

“Ah, yeah. That.” Taehyung laughs. “Sorry. I really hope your… HQ understands.”

“I told you already, I’m not putting you in my report,” Hoseok reminds him, leaning back in his seat. “Worst-case scenario, we’ll tell Headquarters that the satellite got in the way when you were on autopilot, or something.”

“But my ship doesn’t have autopilot,” Taehyung says with a frown.

Hoseok smirks, shrugging one shoulder. “HQ doesn’t need to know that.”

Taehyung just laughs, and Hoseok can’t help grinning right back at him.

They spend the day together in the hangar, looking over Taehyung’s ship and determining just how broken it is. Taehyung looks a little more disheartened with every problem they find, but Hoseok insists they can find someone who can repair it.

He’s pretty sure they can, anyway. Yoongi has never been one to back down from a challenge, after all.

They pass quite a few hours with the ship, and by the time they get back to the main deck, Taehyung’s stomach is growling. Hoseok sends him to sit by the viewing window while he finds protein nibs and instant rice.

They sit by the window to eat because it’s the only place Taehyung will sit still - his favourite activity seems to be staring out and gasping at everything he sees. Hoseok has seen everything they pass enough times for it to no longer seem special, but he has to admit that Taehyung’s enthusiasm is growing on him, a little.

“What’s that?” Taehyung asks, pointing out at something. “A ship? Are there more people?”

Hoseok leans over to follow his gaze. “It’s just a satellite. Like the one you flew into, but in one piece.”

Taehyung pouts at him for a moment, then looks right back out the window. “What else is out here?”

“Let’s see.” Hoseok taps the edge of the window, and a small map pops up with the shuttle in the centre. He scrolls around the surrounding area with his fingertip, humming. “Proxima Leonis should be coming up soon. It’s kinda dim for a star, but it’ll seem bright when we’re close… and Gilese 436 is around here, too.”

“What about right now?” Taehyung presses his face against the glass. “What’s that one?”

Hoseok closes the map and looks through the window at the massive planet before them, white and cloudy with a faint glow. “It’s an ice giant,” he says, a little awed himself. “Look, you can see two of its moons over there - they look like they’re covered in frost.”

He glances at Taehyung, whose mouth is hanging open a little. “The surface is all ice and rock, but the core is boiling. All the inhabitants live underground and only go up to hunt.”

“How cold does it get?” Taehyung asks, cupping his hands around his eyes as if making himself binoculars. “Why’s it glowing?”

“Well below Standard Zero, I imagine,” Hoseok answers, holding back laughter. “And it’s not really glowing, it’s just a cloud layer.”

Taehyung oohs quietly. “How do you know all that?”

“I’ve been past here before.” Hoseok sits up a little, trying to see further out beyond the ship. “If we’re where I think we are, then we’re about to pass-- there, see?”

A vast, imposing ship comes into view, quietly suspended in space, unlit and unmoving. It’s covered in a coat of frost, and the windows are full of spidery cracks.

“What is that,” Taehyung whispers, nearly vibrating with excitement.

“A ghost ship,” Hoseok tells him. “It was a Wem vessel, but they got caught in orbit and froze. The ship drifted out eventually and now it just… hangs there.”

Taehyung shivers. “I hope the Wem got out.”

Hoseok nods in agreement. “It’s creepy, right? I remember the first time I saw it, I--”

He cuts off, and Taehyung tears his eyes away from the ghost ship to raise his eyebrows at him. “You what?”

“Sorry, I… I haven’t thought about it in a long time,” Hoseok says, pushing away the strange floundering feeling that’s suddenly growing in his chest. “The first time I saw it, I was on a different ship.

“It was just me and two others, Namjoon and Yoongi. We went past here and saw the Wem ship and freaked each other out - Yoongi wanted to go out and see if there were bodies inside, but Namjoon talked him out of it.” Hoseok smiles a little, remembering his rousing speech about it. “When we passed this planet on the way back, we were all worried that our engines would fail and we’d be stuck, too. It didn’t happen, obviously, but we were so scared...”

He snickers, shaking his head at the embarrassing memory. “Every time we came past here from then on, we’d always laugh about that first time - but I’m pretty sure we all secretly checked the engine power, just to make sure they wouldn’t shut off.”

Hoseok looks away from the window as the Wem vessel starts to slide out of view. He almost can’t believe he’d gone so long without thinking about it. Although, he supposes, he probably just never looked out the windows enough to notice he was passing it.

Either way, it’s a nice memory. Hoseok hopes Namjoon and Yoongi think of it too, whenever they pass by here, and reminisce about the good time they had together.

The thought sends a prickle of discomfort through him. What if at this point, they only remember how sullen he was at the end of things? How he always kept the window shades down?

Taehyung sighs, bringing Hoseok back to himself for a moment. “It must be so cool, seeing this stuff all the time,” he says, leaning his elbows on the window ledge.

Hoseok’s stomach twists. He makes himself shrug when Taehyung glances at him.

Satisfied, Taehyung turns back to the window, but Hoseok feels words bubbling up from where he’s pushed them down inside himself. After a few seconds of silence, he can’t hold them back.

“I’m thinking of transferring out.”

Taehyung whips around to stare at him, incredulous. “You’re what?”

“Transferring,” Hoseok repeats, getting the word off his tongue as fast as he can. “Heading back to Earth. I mean, I’ve been out here for a while now, and… I don’t know. Maybe off-planet work isn’t for me--”

“You mean you-- you’d give this up?” Taehyung cuts him off. He glances out the window a little frantically, as if he’s worried the view outside will disappear. “You want to give this up?”

“So what if I do?” Hoseok growls, suddenly impatient. Taehyung flinches back, but Hoseok can’t bring himself to care. “Maybe on Earth I can do something actually worthwhile.”

“But--”

“There’s nothing out here for me,” Hoseok spits, and gets up to storm across the deck to the bedroom. He leaves Taehyung by the window, and doesn’t look back when he calls after him.

--

Hoseok tries, for a few long hours, to sleep, but it won’t come to him.

He’s too angry, too restless. He wants to close the shade of the window above the bed, put the room into total darkness so he can maybe convince himself he’s tired - but whenever he reaches up to do it, he can’t stop thinking about Taehyung’s hurt expression, as if Hoseok wanting to quit had caused him some sort of pain.

He rolls over for what must be the hundredth time, trying to push it out of his mind. Why did he even tell Taehyung? He hasn’t even told Namjoon. He doesn’t know how he’s going to tell Namjoon, let alone Yoongi, or Seokjin.

Part of him just wants to send off the form and leave without telling anyone. It’d be easier on them all if he just disappeared, wouldn’t it?

He glances at his datapad on the bedside table. After a moment of hesitation, he picks it up and taps the screen, which lights up on the page he left open.

{Viewing JHS_transfer_application.2165.docxxx}
Personnel File attached. Submit to Head Office?

> Y / N

Hoseok takes a deep breath, his fingers hovering over the screen-- but then the bedroom door hisses open, bringing him out of his thoughts.

He doesn’t get up, but Taehyung appears in his line of vision, and comes to sit on the bed beside him. Hoseok drops the datapad down on the sheets, and the screen goes dark again.

“Hey,” Taehyung says quietly, after a moment. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Hoseok says, eventually. “Just. Thinking about old friends.”

Taehyung tilts his head. “You mean Namjoon? Yoongi? Aren’t they still your friends?”

Hoseok sighs and rolls over on his side. “I don’t know. I’ve been doing a bang-up job of pushing them away, recently.”

Taehyung goes quiet, the silence stretching into minutes. Hoseok is about to ask if he’s alright when he moves, suddenly, picking up Hoseok’s datapad and putting it on the desk before climbing back onto the bed and lying down, face to face with him. “Is that why you want to leave?” he asks.

Hoseok searches the concerned expression on his face, and takes a deep breath. “That’s… part of it.

“When you apply for off-planet work, the Federation emphasizes how many options you have. Everyone talks about all these possibilities, all these wonders out there, and it really makes you feel like you can come out here and do… anything.

“For a while, I thought I could. I met Namjoon and Yoongi, we had the Cypher, it was great. I really thought I could make something for myself, way out here. I had a spark.” He smiles for a moment, but it slides off his face. “But after a while, that feeling ebbed away. Everything that used to be so exciting and alluring passed the point of familiarity and became… not boring, but. Tiring.”

He rolls onto his back, staring up at the ceiling. “There were still possibilities. Space was still endless. But then that… that wonderment became an everyday thing, I lost sight of what I came out here for.”

“Is that why you always close the window shades?” Taehyung asks. “Because--”

“Because everything out there is just.. scenery, now.”

Taehyung furrows his brow. “You left the ship and your friends just because of that?”

“No,” Hoseok admits, after a long moment. “That’s the reason I gave them, when I left. Change of pace. But if it was just that, I would’ve stuck it out.” He lets out a long sigh, but doesn’t roll back over. It’s easier to say it to the ceiling than to Taehyung.

“I left the Cypher because… it was weighing on me. Everything lost its shine, and I was searching so hard for something that would make me feel like I did when I first got out here.” He reaches up, letting the dim light from the window paint lines on his arm. “But I couldn’t help thinking… what if there’s nothing like that to be found?” He swallows hard. “What if I’m never going to find anything? What if I’m stuck like this forever, burned out and tired of it and-- and what if the same thing happens to Namjoon and Yoongi, when they try to help?”

He drops his arm back to the bed. “I didn’t want them to worry about me - or worse, end up the same as me. With their sparks extinguished. So I left.”

After a long moment of quiet, Taehyung speaks up again. “I don’t think it’s extinguished.”

Hoseok rolls his eyes. “Look, you don’t need to try and make me feel better, or--”

“I’m not,” Taehyung cuts him off. “I mean it. When you were looking out at the ice planet and the Wem ship, talking about your friends - I could tell you still had a spark. Dimmed a little, maybe, but it’s there.”

Hoseok opens his mouth to argue, but Taehyung shushes him. “No, listen. Surely you have nice memories like that about other things you’ve seen?”

“Yeah, but they’re just that. Just memories.”

“So what?” Taehyung huffs, sitting up. “Memories don’t make things less good. Anything you see out here can be just as wonderful the tenth time you see it as it was the very first time. Even the hundredth time, or the thousandth--” He gets up on his knees to gesture out the window. “It’s still the same wonderful thing you have that happy memory about. And you can create more happy memories every time you see it.”

Hoseok stares at him, feeling a little stunned. Taehyung looks adamantly out the window for a few seconds before he glances at Hoseok and deflates. “Sorry,” he mumbles, ducking his head. “Maybe that was too much.”

“N-no, it’s okay,” Hoseok says quickly. Taehyung looks up at him with a frown, blinking at him with all three eyelids. Without thinking, Hoseok reaches out to touch his cheek. “It’s okay,” he repeats, then, after a pause, “thank you.”

Taehyung sniffles a little, and lies back down beside Hoseok. “Are you really going to go back to Earth?” he whispers.

“I… don’t know,” Hoseok tells him honestly. “I’ll figure it out. Try to sleep, okay?”

After a moment, Taehyung nods. He shifts a little closer to Hoseok, nearly closing the gap between them, and closes his eyes. Within a few minutes he drops off to sleep, and Hoseok sits up.

He doesn’t lie back down for a long time. He sits with his datapad in his hands, long gone to sleep mode, looking out the window at the stars in the distant blackness - like something out there will give him an answer. When he’s finally tired enough that sleep seems plausible, Hoseok reaches up to the window shade, but glances down and hesitates.

Taehyung looks peaceful, curled up beside him. The lines of his face are soft in the dim light of far stars. Hoseok wonders what he did right to have the universe let him cross paths with this farspace traveller.

Maybe, he supposes, Taehyung is right. Maybe he does still have a spark.

Maybe he wants to go back to seeing as much of outer space as he possibly can, just to think about Taehyung’s enthusiasm and remember what he himself first loved about all this. And maybe he can see all those far stars up close.

He lowers his hand from the window and picks up his datapad instead.

Submit to Head Office?
> Y / N
>>N

Delete JHS_transfer_application.2165.docxxx?

Hoseok takes a deep breath and taps the screen, then tosses the datapad away before he can try to regret it. Fatigue hits him all at once, and he lays down beside Taehyung, feeling… hopeful, almost.

He closes his eyes, listens to Taehyung’s slow breathing, and eventually drifts off.

--

When he wakes up, he’s alone in the bed. It’s not entirely surprising, Hoseok supposes as he stands up to stretch. They did leave things a little weird before they went to sleep, so maybe Taehyung was uncomfortable. Hoseok certainly wouldn’t blame him.

He looks down at his datapad on the floor where he had thrown it, and decides not to deal with it just yet. He steps over it and gets dressed before heading out to the main deck.

Taehyung looks up when the bedroom door hisses open, and smiles at Hoseok around his mouthful of dried fruit. Hoseok immediately relaxes, smiling back, and heads over to make coffee.

After a few minutes of chewing and swallowing, Taehyung speaks up. “We’ll reach the station today, right?” he asks, as Hoseok is pouring a cup.

“Yeah. You can pull up the map, if you want.”

Taehyung just hums. “How long ‘til we get there?”

“Probably about twelve hours, give or take?” Hoseok guesses. “Why, are you getting bored?”

He means it as a joke, but can’t really bring himself to laugh. Of course Taehyung would be bored here, if he’s used to moving around from planet to planet whenever he feels like it. When he glances over at Taehyung, though, he’s surprised to see him frowning. “What?”

“That’s not what I meant,” Taehyung says, standing up. “I’m not getting bored. I mean, I thought I would be, but--”

Hoseok snorts and moves to step past him, but Taehyung catches his arm, surprising him. “Hey, listen to me. I’m not bored.” He pauses, seeming to struggle with words for a moment. Hoseok puts his cup down and waits for him to go on.

“I thought I would be,” Taehyung repeats, “but I’m not. The ship is interesting, the view is awesome, and there’s… you.”

Hoseok almost laughs, but Taehyung seems sincere, smiling a little sheepishly. There’s even a flush of lavender in his cheeks. “I mean it! You’re friendly and kind and you’ve shown me so much, and I - I’ve always travelled alone, but being with you is… nice.”

He’s really blushing now, the colour sweeping down his neck, and he ducks his head in embarrassment. Hoseok is pretty sure he’s turning a little red as well.

“At first, I didn’t know why I wanted to get so far away from all the places I’d been,” Taehyung admits, twisting his fingers together. “But I… I think I was lonely.”

“Oh, Taehyung--”

“I think I wanted to go as far as I could to get away from that feeling. Then I ended up here with you, and... I’m not lonely anymore.” He looks up again, catching and holding Hoseok’s gaze. “If I could, I want to stay.”

Hoseok blinks at him. “You mean stay here? On this ship? Or at the station?”

Taehyung deflates a little. “I-I meant… stay with you.”

He ducks again and waves his hands, starting to babble and explanation, but Hoseok only catches the end of it over the sudden rush of his heart pounding in his ears.

“--I’m just not very good at keeping things secret, I know it’s only been a short time but I wanted to say something? Sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have--”

“No, it’s--” Hoseok cuts him off. “It’s fine, don’t worry. It’s... I…”

He thinks, suddenly, about how Taehyung looks when he’s staring out at the endless space around them. About Taehyung’s smile when Hoseok shares obscure space trivia, or a story about Namjoon and Yoongi.

What’s long been nothing special to Hoseok seems awe-inspiring to Taehyung. He sees beauty in the oldest stars and hope even in someone as burned out as Hoseok is.

He thinks about how all the windows on the ship are uncovered for the first time since he came aboard.

“I want you to stay,” Hoseok says firmly. He hasn’t felt so sure of anything in a long time, and his certainty only grows when Taehyung breaks into a smile.

“Ah, good,” he squeaks, nearly bouncing on the spot. He looks like he’s struggling with words again, unsure how to express himself aside from his huge grin. He grabs Hoseok’s hands and squeezes. “I’m so--!! Happy, more than happy, thank you--”

“You don’t need to thank me,” Hoseok laughs, pulling him a little closer so he can’t bounce away. “Maybe I should be thanking you, though.”

“For wanting to stay?” Taehyung asks, pausing in his excitement to tilt his head.

“For... a lot of things.”

Taehyung stares at him for a moment longer, then steps even closer. “There’s one thing that I do remember about my first planet,” he says, looking down at Hoseok’s hands clasped in his. “It’s a ritual for when you’re happy with another person. You both-- ah, can I show you?”

“Go for it,” Hoseok says slowly, unsure if he should brace himself - but Taehyung leans in before he can react, and nuzzles their noses together.

He turns a truly embarrassing shade of red when Taehyung pulls away, considering how innocent an act the ‘ritual’ was. Taehyung squeezes his hands again, smiling shyly at him, and Hoseok can’t help smiling back.

“Captain,” Hani calls suddenly, projected on the viewing window. “In order for you to be fully awake and in optimal condition upon arrival at the station, it is recommended that you rest for the next few hours.”

“We will,” Hoseok tells her, not looking away from Taehyung. “Set an alarm for when we pass the first security outpost.”

“Confirmed,” Hani chirps. “Will your passenger be needing a separate alarm?”

Briefly, Hoseok wonders if she knows they’ve been sharing the bedroom. “No, we’ll wake up at the same time.”

Hani’s projected image smiles. “Sleep well,” she says, and blips out.

Taehyun giggles as Hoseok starts to tug him towards the bedroom door. “You only just woke up,” he points out, but follows him inside when the door hisses open.

“Sleep is good for you,” Hoseok says with a shrug. He lets go of Taehyung so he can clamber onto the bed first, but pauses before following him, looking down at the floor.

“What is it?” Taehyung asks, as Hoseok bends down to pick up his datapad.

“Nothing,” Hoseok says, sitting down on the edge of the bed with it and opening a new document. “I’ll just be a second.”

Request: RELOCATION
Reason: CURRENT FACTION UNSUITABLE
Detail: requesting transfer from SHUTTLE #009402 NEURON to S.V #001306 CYPHER

Personnel File attached. Submit to Head Office?
> Y / N

>>Y

--

Hours later, Hoseok blinks himself awake to find the space beside him cold and empty. He sits up in panic, only to see Taehyung crouched by the window, looking out.

Hoseok watches him with a smile. “Hey, you should be sleeping. We only have a few hours left.”

“I know,” Taehyung sighs, but he doesn’t move. “Just a couple more minutes.”

Rolling his eyes, Hoseok shuffles himself over to sit beside him, following his gaze out the window. There’s not much this close to a Federation base, but the stars still look nice from far away.

“All the stars look like that, on Earth,” Hoseok says quietly. “I remember looking up at the sky and thinking about how great it would be to go up and see them.”

“I did that too,” Taehyung admits. “On my first planet, before I left.”

Hoseok nudges his arm. “And here we both are. All the way up here.”

“Do you still want to go back?” Taehyung asks.

“To Earth?” Hoseok hesitates, then shakes his head. “I’m staying. There’s too much I haven’t seen yet.”

Taehyung grins at him, radiant even in the dim light. Hoseok wonders if he’ll ever find anything as brilliant, even way out here.

“Humans have a ritual too,” he says suddenly, and Taehyung tilts his head. “For when we’re happy with another person, like yours. Can I show you?”

Taehyung nods excitedly. Hoseok takes a deep breath, then leans across the gap between them.

He presses his lips against Taehyung’s, lingering for just a moment - and pulls back. In the dark, Taehyung’s blush nearly makes him glow.

“It’s called a ‘kiss’,” Hoseok tells him, resisting the urge to lick his lips.

“Can we do it again?” Taehyung asks, and Hoseok laughs before leaning in once more.

“We’re docking in a few hours,” Hoseok whispers when they break apart. “You should get a bit more sleep.”

Taehyung nods, somewhat reluctantly, and lies down again. When Hoseok settles down beside him, he surges forward to steal one more kiss before burrowing into the blankets. “Goodnight,” he says, muffled.

Hoseok tugs the blankets away from Taehyung’s face and leans over, brushing their noses together. “Sleep well.”

With a shy smile, Taehyung curls up against his side, and Hoseok holds him close. They leave the window shade open, and fall asleep with the cosmos filtering in.

-- one month later --

“Are we there yet,” Jeongguk groans, collapsing over the back of his chair.

“No, stop asking,” Yoongi grumbles back at him, flicking through maps on the navigation board. “It’s not going to make the warp drive work any faster.”

Beside Yoongi, Jimin hides a laugh behind his hand, and Jeongguk looks up to glare at him. Hoseok leans against the dashboard and pats his arm sympathetically. “If you think Aldebaran is far away, just wait ‘til we go to Winnecke,” he says. “Five days’ travel will seem like nothing.”

“We could’ve taken the mission to the Lacaille system,” Jeongguk huffs. “Why are you all so obsessed with farspace? 65 light years is too many.”

Yoongi turns in his chair to point a stern finger at Jeongguk. “The constellation of Taurus is vast and beautiful and you need these 65 light years to appreciate it properly.”

“Seokjin,” Namjoon sighs from across the room, tapping his chat uplink. “Your kids are fighting.”

“Past the security outpost, they’re your kids,” Seokjin quips back over the speaker.

Something beeps suddenly, and Hoseok glances over to his co-pilot screen where a notification is flashing. INCOMING CALL: EARTH

“Who’s calling you?” Jimin asks, leaning over for a closer look, but Hoseok quickly swipes the message away and picks up his datapad as the call transfers there. He’s already halfway to the door before the rest connect the dots.

“Oh, only one person can make him move that fast,” Namjoon laughs. Hoseok flips him off on his way out.

“Tell your boyfriend to stop calling you at work,” Yoongi yells after him, and the door hisses shut on the sound of the others’ laughter.

Hoseok connects the call as he slips into his bedroom. “Hey, sorry for the wait. You there?”

“I’m here,” Taehyung says, and his smiling face flickers into view on the datapad. His cheeks are a little flushed and his hair is a mess - he must be somewhere windy.

“How’ve you been?” Hoseok asks, unable to keep from smiling back at him.

“Good, I’m good - hey, guess where I am!” Taehyung turns around with his camera so that Hoseok can see the city lights behind him, stretching for what must be miles. “Neo Tokyo Tower! The very top!”

Hoseok whistles. “Can you see the ocean from up there?”

“Yeah, way off in the distance. And you know what else?” He tilts and flips the view straight up, showing Hoseok the stars. “I’m thinking of you,” he sing-songs.

Hoseok laughs, and Taehyung flips the view back to his beaming face. “Seriously, though. I miss you.”

“I miss you too,” Hoseok sighs, sitting down by the window. “When are you heading home?”

“Well, my parking meter has two more days left on it,” Taehyung hums, “but I think I’ll head out early. Tomorrow night, probably.” He grins at the camera again. “I’ll meet you on the way back from Aldebaran.”

Hoseok nods. “Alright, we’ll keep an eye out.”

Taehyung opens his mouth to say something else, but sees something past the camera and pauses. “Ah, I gotta go back down.” He waves to the camera with an exaggerated frown.

“Be careful,” Hoseok says, waving back at him. “Call me before you leave, okay?”

“Okay. See you soon!”

“Yeah, soon.” Hoseok smiles at him again, his heart clenching. “I love you.”

He’s worried, for a moment, that Taehyung won’t understand the human phrase - but Taehyung grins, and Hoseok can see the tint of lavender on his cheeks through the pixelated video feed.

“I love you, too!” he laughs, waving again, and the call cuts off.

Hoseok puts his datapad down but stays by the window, trying to calm the wiggly-warm feeling that’s started in his chest. He can’t go back to the main deck grinning like an idiot, the others would never let him live it down - although, letting them think he’s spending this long on the phone in his bedroom is probably also not the best idea.

He gets up and heads to the door - but pauses, looking back out the window. The stars, the passing planets, the space between him and Taehyung. He’ll be home soon enough, and they can look out together.

For the time being, Hoseok hurries back to the deck. The cadets have never been to Aldebaran, after all, and he has some stories to tell. He wonders if Namjoon and Yoongi remember the time they got lost flying past El Nath, and the shortcut they ended up finding…