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the gravity that pulls me (i can’t look away)

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“Well, there are three things that can happen. We can either make it to our destination at the base in Seoul and be stranded for four months, or the engine can die and we’ll be stranded in buttfuck nowhere space for who knows how long until the station figures out a way to rescue us, probably starving to death beforehand and becoming a tragic sob story that they tell all the new recruits so they take their job and the risk of it seriously.”

“You forgot the third option, Joon-ah.”

“Oh. Yeah. We can explode.”

Seokjin sighed, closing his eyes for a few seconds before glaring at Namjoon with a look of disdain. Namjoon grinned sheepishly at him from where he was sitting, on Seokjin’s chair, and pointed his thumb over his shoulder to where the stats of the engine were flashing on the dashboard. “Sorry. I know you don’t like that one. Only a zero point zero zero three percent chance of the third option happening, though, if that makes you feel any better, hyung.”

Seokjin crossed his arms over his chest, closing his eyes as if that would do anything to alleviate the headache pulsating through his veins, throbbing in his ears, and tried to think of a way to get Namjoon quiet without being too rude or cruel. “Joon-ah, please shut up. And you know better than to call me hyung.”

“Aw, c’mon. What better way to spend our time together than to discuss our potential impending doom?”

“I currently have a plethora of options in my head, actually. I’m giving you ten seconds before I do something we’ll both regret. Get out of my chair, too.”

“Alright, alright, shutting up, getting up.”

Seokjin thumped Namjoon on the back of his head as he stood up and sauntered over to his own chair, a few yards away from where Seokjin’s was situated in front of their ship’s primary databoard, the curve of the legs bending into the white linoleum floor. “You already sent in the morning report to the station, right?”

“Mmm. They said the same thing they said last week, they’ll have those spots for us on that ship in four months. I told them we’d be landing tomorrow and all Commander Shah said was to keep the station updated so they can give us a proper plan for potential salvation.”

“Okay,” Seokjin said as he rubbed his hands up and down the armrests of his chair. The metal underneath his hands cooled to accommodate an even temperature with his overly warm body on top of it. “You’re annoying, you know that? My chair was already the perfect temperature and you come here with your...less hot body and screw me over.”

Namjoon snorted as he leaned forward on his chair to grab a visor, it’s metallic coat shining under the overhead lights, slipping it over his eyes. “I’m going to read and pretend I can’t hear you trying to say you don’t love me.”

Seokjin rolled his eyes, laughing under his breath instead of responding as Namjoon’s visor started to shine a baby blue, indicating it was in use. He had been working on an older epic for the better part of a week now, something Seokjin had been wanting to read but didn’t in favor of rereading Shakespearian poetry and fables of the twenty eighth century. They had already been on this voyage for a little under five months, and Seokjin had already reread his favorite current day novels and old classics that he didn’t appreciate enough when he was in school, branching out into genres that he would have never touched back home.

Seokjin scanned his fingerprint in the reader to ensure the system that he was aware of the engine issues before leaning back in his chair, folding his hands over his chest. He gazed out into the eternity of black, speckled by the occasional white and yellow and blue of stars and satellites, smiling to himself. This was only their second mission since they were transferred to the fieldwork division, and they were already experiencing life threatening ordeals. Just their luck.

Their first mission was on one of their moons, a two week tour that involved mostly recording temperatures and celestial storms in relation to storms on the new planet. That had gone relatively smoothly, as their data matched up with another pair of rangers that had made the tour the previous year. Not to mention the fact that their ship had no engine issues and they managed to make it back home in one piece.

For the first three years that they were rangers, they kept in the labs at home base, testing a thesis on oxygen levels on the planet and the potential relation to the effects of the nuclear fallout decades ago on a close planet’s moon on their own stratosphere. They had only recently been upgraded to fieldwork, and Seokjin didn’t want to mess it up for the universe. He loved it, and he knew Namjoon did as well, probably more than Seokjin did.

Seokjin sighed, closing his eyes and rubbing at his temples. The engine seemed to be capable of lasting until their landing tomorrow, and that was all that mattered to Seokjin. The hardest thing was going to be surviving for the four months it was going to take for that seven-seated ship to bring them back. Seokjin had an idea that he wasn’t going to be able to work out as much as he liked to in the next few months, given the decrease in calories his diet was going to suffer with. His mood soured, lips downturning in a scowl.

His eyes slowly opened when the dashboard started to blink, the navy blue reading off the approximate time of their landing. Ten to twelve hours, and the destination they’d been trying to get to for the past five months would finally be under their feet.

Seokjin had always dreamed of visiting Earth, wanting to see the old planet ever since he was a young boy, hearing stories from parents and grandparents about what life was like and the disparity on it that led the majority of the human race to the new planet.

He had had plenty of conversations about the history behind the planet with Namjoon, who was just as excited as Seokjin was to visit Earth for the first time. It almost seemed like a distant reality, not something that was mere hours away. Anxiety spread through his chest at the thought and he took a minute to breathe, a shaky smile on his lips.

Five months later, and they were finally arriving at the place so many people on the new planet still duly recounted as their first home.

 

“Preparing for landing in t-minus three minutes and fifty-nine seconds…”

Seokjin tightened the straps around Namjoon’s chest, Namjoon cursing under his breath as he straightened his back, double checking all of the buckles and shields and oxygen tanks and glass objects around him were safely fastened where they needed to be so they wouldn’t fly and hurt either of them upon landing.

“You okay?”

Namjoon smiled at him from where he was buckled up, standing up straight against the wall in his capsule. The blue light shining down from the roof of the capsule illuminated his face from the top down, making him look almost sinister in a comical way. It was cute, like a puppy growling at you, but Seokjin didn’t have much time to think about it when the system was reminding him that he only had two minutes to get in his capsule before risking injury. “Yeah. Kinda wished we had a higher tech ship, though. Did you know Jackson’s doesn’t require loading pods even thought it’s a two-seater? Those ships are secure enough to go into the station without the rangers having to go into these damn things.”

Seokjin gave Namjoon a silent look before retreating to his capsule, right next to Namjoon’s, buckling himself up with ease. Namjoon’s was always a little more difficult, since he couldn’t do it himself without pinching his palm or forgetting one of the straps around his thigh or torso. Seokjin supposed that was why they tested as compatible partners all those years ago.

The system started to beep as the doors to their capsules lowered, shutting off the entrance so they couldn’t leave at any time during the landing, a safety instruction video displayed on the foggy glass. Seokjin rested his head against the plush backing and closed his eyes, praying for it to get over with already. If there was one thing he hated most after being in space for so long it was the landings-

The ship shook violently as it passed through the layers of the atmosphere, Seokjin forcing himself to keep his eyes closed so he wouldn’t have to read the patronizing reminders about staying calm that were being projected on the door. It was hard enough to keep calm with the ship being jarred about as it was, but with the mocking font of the safety instructions and breathing exercises flashing in front of him, Seokjin felt dizzy.

It felt like they were being pushed through the atmosphere for an eternity before the system started to speak, announcing their proximity to the landing portal and the current temperature of Seoul. Seokjin’s heart plummeted in his chest at the thought of going out in burning weather, though thanking his and Namjoon’s luck that they weren’t assigned to an area like Cuba or Mozambique, their request to research at the base stationed by the capital city of their grandparent’s and parent’s country before the migration.

“T-minus ten seconds….nine…”

Seokjin took a deep breath as he braced himself, curling his fingers around the bars on either side of him. Lights were flashing, strong enough that he could see the bursts behind closed lids, and he could only pray that they weren’t signalling a failed engine. Considering no system announcement of engine failure had gone off, Seokjin doubted that anything drastic was going to happen, but damn Namjoon with his zero point zero zero three percent chance of explosion.

Seokjin didn’t let go of the bars until the ship slid into the portal, the safety instructions of clothing and what to do in situations of rapid temperature change flashing against his capsule door as it slowly slid open. He didn’t let go of the bars until he heard Namjoon’s excited laughter next to him, struggling to undo himself from all the restraints Seokjin had double, triple checked before leaving him to his own devices. He didn’t let go until Namjoon called for help, a sigh of relief releasing the built up tension and anxiety from his shoulders and back as he settled against the plush lining of the capsule.

“I’m coming, Joon-ah, don’t worry,” he said as he unlatched the restraints around his chest, working his way down until he pulled off the last strap over his left foot.

Namjoon was waiting patiently for him, eyes closed and lips parted a little as he relaxed in his capsule. He almost looked like he was sleeping, but Seokjin knew better than anyone what Namjoon looked like when he was asleep. The fact that he wasn’t snoring was hint number one that he was wide awake, and Seokjin tapped him on the cheek with his knuckles before starting to undo his restraints.

“Pretty decent landing, huh, hyung?”

“That’s so old fashioned,” Seokjin muttered as he loosened the strap around Namjoon’s stomach before unhooking it and letting it dangle to the side as he started to work on another one. For some reason, whenever he did Namjoon’s restraints they always took so much longer than doing his own. “I’ve been telling you for years not to call me hyung, when will you listen?”

“I’ve been telling you for years that I love calling you hyung. It’s too late, I’m going to call you that forever. It’s called conditioning,” Namjoon said, a grin causing his dimple to break out in glee. “Anyways, you didn’t answer my question. You okay?”

“Ah, I forgot, you’re a dog. Condoning is acceptance in your eyes. I’m fine,” Seokjin sighed, tapping Namjoon’s calf once the last restraint around his foot was safely off. “I was a little freaked out, but that’s the usual. You know, all those percentages and probabilities you tell me are truly detrimental to my health.”

“Aw, hyung, c’mon, you can’t blame this on me. You hated landing simulations even when we were in training.” Namjoon paused. “You’re okay, though, right?”

Seokjin gave him a look. “I’m fine. And I’m going to absolutely blame this on you. Now come on, we need to get dressed so we can unload.” He paused, glancing down at his hands. “You know. I haven’t seen the sky in a long, long time. I’m kind of excited, even if it isn’t the sky we’re accustomed to.”

Namjoon smiled, a quick upturn of his lips, waiting for Seokjin to step out of the capsule before following, stretching his arms above his head. “You’ve always wanted to see Earth’s sky. What was the weather again? One hundred and ninety-four degrees Fahrenheit and ninety degrees Celsius?”

“Mm, approximately. Estimated to peak in a few hours before plummeting towards nightfall.”

“Ah, shit. Nighttime and daytime. That’s something y’don’t have to deal with up in space.”

“Theoretically, Joon.”

“Okay, theoretically, time wasn’t something we had to deal with over the past five months. This is going to be...weird. Adjusting and all. Going outside- oh, fuck. We have to go outside.”

“Just get dressed, okay?”

 

Seokjin ran his fingers over the white ammo belt with a small frown, opening up the individual compartments and seeing the small bottles of insect repellant, anti allergy medication, antibiotics, empty vials for sampling. The entire outfit was stark white, built to keep their bodies cool with the rapidly inflating temperature and humidity, lined with a new material that was recently invented over the past thirty years called frigoplex.

They wouldn’t be going out to the city for today, the base located on the outskirts, so Seokjin didn’t have to worry about slipping a knife into the thin band around his thigh or making sure there was ammo in one of his belt pockets, instead focusing on pulling his thin, translucent gloves over his aching fingers. He wanted nothing more than to put on comfortable clothes, but he was to inspect all aspects of the base before proceeding with the landing report, in case something was wrong since they were the only ones currently there. Considering the faulty engine he and Namjoon had to deal with, Seokjin wouldn’t put anything past his luck.

He found the material around his neck to be soft, the hood resting nicely on his shoulders and pressing against the back of his nape, as he tugged the suit over his torso, zipping it up to his chin. The circle resting above his left pectoral read his ID number, 1306, above a small insignia of the government space program.

“Hey- hyung!”

Seokjin took a deep breath before exhaling, grabbing the backpack that correlated with this uniform and slipping it over his head until the straps rested comfortably across his chest and over his shoulders, and exited his chamber, seeing Namjoon across the hallway in his own chamber trying to configure the temperature reader disk on the back of his backpack. Seokjin’s backpack had the same thing on it, a white disk that read the approximate time before a major temperature shift would occur in a blue light.

“This damn thing isn’t working for me, and I see yours isn’t on either. Can I see your settings?” Namjoon looked up with his brows furrowed, lips downturned. Seokjin laughed a little under his breath as he walked into Namjoon’s chamber, setting his backpack down on the floor next to Namjoon’s.

“Did you reset the system and calibrate it? I haven’t touched mine.”

Namjoon shrugged his shoulders, unzipping Seokjin’s backpack and unattaching the velcro that hid the back of the disk, scrolling through the small screen to read the settings. “I might’ve forgotten to calibrate it. But our settings were different, anyways, so…”

Seokjin rolled his eyes, poking the side of Namjoon’s head with his knuckles. “Hurry up, Joon, I want to see our home for the next four months.”

Namjoon huffed, readjusting the settings on both of the disks until they booted up to show the correct countdown time, before zipping up both of their backpacks and standing up. “Fine, fine, I’m coming.”

Seokjin grabbed his backpack and nudged Namjoon’s thigh with his boot before walking out, going into his quarters one last time to drag his suitcases out before trudging down the hallway towards the exit of the ship. The door slid open to reveal the interior of the base, the ceiling was at least twenty feet up with windows lining the roof, angled in an upward arch. The sides of the roof were lined with multitudes of solar panels before sloping, which generated most of the energy that was used in the base, their translucency reflecting waves of rainbows down onto the white flooring. The unloading station was fairly barren, with their ship taking up one of the three docks, a few metal boxes full of supplies scattered around.

Other than those, the only other thing in the room was a white sliding door that led to the rest of the base. Seokjin urged Namjoon forward with his fingers as he walked towards it, taking no interest in anything else in the unloading station. He could already tell that the air was more dense than what they were used to- he wasn’t sure he wanted to know how much different it was going to be when they went outside.

“I wonder how old astronauts dealt with the whole...gravity difference. Must’ve been quite the conundrum the first couple of times, huh hyung?”

“Mhm,” Seokjin hummed as he pressed his fingertips to the scanner in front of him, Namjoon doing the same to the scanner adjacent. The system beeped in recognition, flashing their profiles on the pale green screen before lifting up the door. “Quite the conundrum indeed.”

“Hyung.”

“Namjoon.”

Hyung.”

Namjoon wrapped his fingers around Seokjin’s arm in a tight circle, squeezing in a way that made Seokjin turn his head, a singular eyebrow quirked up as Namjoon huffed at him. It wasn’t a face Seokjin saw often- the last time he saw such a peculiar expression on Namjoon’s face was the day of their graduation from the Ranger Academy. Namjoon would later claim it was indigestion, Seokjin knew it was nerves.

“We, um,” Namjoon coughed out, looking sheepish for a moment as he tugged his bottom lip between his teeth, “I just wanted to say we made it. Yay?”

Seokjin snorted through his nostrils, reaching up to flick a piece of stray hair away from Namjoon’s forehead. They took their places next to each other on top of the labelled mats after shoving their bags on a conveyor that would inspect them and bring them inside the base, allowing the roaming scanner to beep out a little warning against any movement as it circled around their feet. Namjoon flashed him a stellar smile before staring at the white wall in front of them and Seokjin followed his lead, closing his eyes as the scanner began to rise up from the small propellers underneath it, different variations of beeps sounding as it recorded their body stats. “Yeah. We made it.”

 

Seokjin pushed his suitcases underneath his bunk, making a mental note of which order to unpack them later on after the debriefing with the main station, shoulders hunched over as he rested his forehead against the side of the mattress. Namjoon had offered to check out the engine while Seokjin unloaded, and it was almost strange to not be confined to a ship one tenth of the size of the base they were staying at. Namjoon was no longer going to be a glance away, and the change of privacy was almost alarming to Seokjin.

There was something in the air that was inherently different than how it was on the ship, and it was making him finally feel the exhaustion. This had happened back during their first mission, and Seokjin supposed that no matter how many times he travelled through space, the journey would always tucker him out.

“Hyung.”

Seokjin pushed his head away from the mattress and tilted his head towards the door, humming as he saw Namjoon standing there with his hands clasped in front of him. “Your bed is in the room across the hall. Just like how it was on the ship.”

“Yeah,” Namjoon breathed, pushing his tongue in between the tight space between his front teeth and his upper lip before glancing around the room. He seemed nervous, so Seokjin stood up and made his way over, placing a hand on Namjoon’s shoulder to ground him as best as he could.

“How was the engine?” Seokjin kept his voice level as he squeezed Namjoon’s shoulder through the thin material of his shirt, knowing that when Namjoon was like this it was easy to confuse him, his brain roaming at the speed of light while his mouth struggled to keep up.

“It’s a miracle we didn’t explode.” Namjoon’s brow furrowed as he shook his head, aggravation clear in voice as he wrapped his fingers around Seokjin’s elbow. Seokjin resisted the urge to smile, instead sighing and pressing his fingers into the curve of Namjoon’s arm socket. “I think that engine was faulty, there was a blowout in a lower compartment that was spreading out to the main proponents. A few of the wires were melted together and sparking, it seemed like a week longer and we wouldn’t have made it.”

“Joonie,” Seokjin started, pressing his thumb against a soft dip in Namjoon’s shoulder. Namjoon pursed his lips. “We’re fine. We made it, and the ship we’re going to make it back on is going to be fine. It was a case of bad luck, but we made it out alright, didn’t we?”

“Yeah, but what if we hadn’t?” Namjoon said back, his cheeks flushed. “What if the engine died? What if we starved? If we fucking exploded, hyung?”

“But we didn’t,” Seokjin said, rubbing the palm of his hand against Namjoon’s shoulder in small circles. “We’re alive and we’re not going to starve and we’re going to report our landing to the station and create a gameplan and we’re going to be fine.”

Namjoon sighed, thumb tapping against Seokjin’s skin. The crease in his brow was still there, but Seokjin took pride in the fact that it hadn’t deepened since the beginning of their conversation like it tended to when Namjoon was left to his own devices. “Okay. Okay, you’re right. We’re fine. Yeah.”

Seokjin cupped Namjoon’s cheek with his other hand, smoothing his thumb over Namjoon’s skin. “Let’s go make our report, and then maybe we can eat. Rest up. Debrief me on the entirety of the engine’s problems so I know what to tell the Commander.”

Namjoon followed him to the main room while listing everything he found that was wrong with the engine, pressing their shoulders together as Seokjin mulled over how to formulate the meeting. It was likely that Namjoon and himself would be blamed for the engine, despite the engineers and new rangers maintaining the ships before missions. Still, they needed to develop a plan on how many supplies they would be taking from the rangers coming to the station within the next few months, and what their plan of action would be while they were staying at the station. Stranded at the station.

Seokjin inputted the code for the base when they reached the monitor, letting the system read his fingerprint. “I’ll do the talking, okay?”

“That’s fine, hyung.”

Seokjin gave him a little smile before turning his attention back to the monitor when it beeped, the face of the Commander showing pristinely. “Commander Shah.”

“Rangers,” Commander Shah replied, hands folded neatly on the desk in front of her, papers neatly stacked on either side of her. “I see you’ve made your journey safely.”

“Yes, Commander Shah. Continuing on the prior report about the engine, we searched it immediately upon landing and discovered several faults in a few of the wires as well as a misconnected port. There seemed to be a blowout as well, melting the encasings as well as destroying some of the communication devices linked to both our database and the main station’s, which is why we were unable to detect the problems until very recently. Despite these issues, we did manage to land today, October 11, 3012.”

Commander Shah’s lips drew into a thin line, eyes darting from Seokjin to Namjoon before settling on Seokjin once again. “I see. Are you telling me that our engineers were unable to detect any issues with the engine upon inspection before your departure? I assume you know the protocol, it is unlikely such negligence would occur, especially given towards a mission towards the old planet. It's a long journey, I'm sure precaution was taken.”

Seokjin felt Namjoon tense up next to him, but maintained a disposition of calm. “Yes, Commander, I understand that. Precautions were taken, as the inspection was performed approximately an hour before our departure, but I'm merely reporting what has happened now. Our engine is irreparable, as it seemed to have short circuited when we landed at the Seoul base. I apologize if I offend, but I believe there was a small bout of negligence upon the primary inspection.”

Commander Shah reached for a file, gray and sleek and translucent enough so that Seokjin could see the outline of a profile picture he knew to be his own. “So it appears. Disciplinary actions will have to wait until your return, but we will have a full report written up for you both to partake in when the time comes. As for now, we must discuss what you will be doing for the next four months until we are able to bring you back. Your mission was to record the temperatures and investigate storm patterns whilst identifying any flora or fauna still existing in the Seoul area for a time period of three weeks, correct?”

“Yes, that is correct, Commander Shah.”

“Continue to do that then. It might be more beneficial to investigate any long running patterns in the ecosystem. The base will assign other projects to rangers that will be participating in missions at the Seoul base. As for resources while you are stranded, I have sent over a list of rangers that will be boarding at the Seoul base as well as the specifics of what resources you may take from them. All have been notified.”

Seokjin pressed the small flashing icon on the databoard, reading over the list before nodding. “I understand, Commander.”

“May your next landing be safe.”

Seokjin and Namjoon both repeated the send-off, a habit drilled into them from when they were still in training, before the screen went black, returning to its stationary display of the main station’s logo after a few milliseconds.

“Well, that went greater than I imagined it would.”

“I’m not the only one who believes she was implying that we probably sabotaged ourselves, right?”

“She’s never liked me,” Namjoon huffed. “Ever since I made that comment about how the people on Earth should be treated with the same respect as us, back when we were in training and touring with the commanders before having to take our placement tests-”

“I know, I know. People can be biased, you know that, just...we have our mission, we know where we’ll be getting our resources. That’s all that matters. At least the beds here are nicer than the ones on the ship.”

Namjoon smiled, bumping their shoulders together before urging Seokjin to follow him to explore the base. “C’mon, hyung. Let’s go find out what we’re going to be dealing with over the next four months.”