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Our Lonely Lunar Views

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Why do people visit the planetarium if they can see the stars right outside anyway? I’m sure most of you have wondered this before coming to visit yourself. So many of us pass day after day—

The show hasn’t started yet and Taehyung is already winding around the introductory commentary in his head because he’s been here enough times to have it memorized already. The question always sticks in his head the longest, maybe it’s because it’s one that he’s thought of as well, on days when he’s staring out his window at the night sky and the few stars still visible through the city lights. He’s always asked himself this; why does he even visit the planetarium if he knows he can see the stars at night anyway?

The answer is always the same, even if it’s anything but satisfactory. He just does it because the stars are so much lovelier inside the planetarium than when he’s looking at the sky from the rooftop of his small, three person apartment in Seoul. It’s his fifth time here and he supposes he should have asked his mother for permission before taking the bus all the way to the other end of the city, up the hills and into the planetarium with the little money he had.

He’s only fifteen, barely old enough to go around travelling through the city like he owns it, but Taehyung has always been one for adventure, even if his definition of adventure is currently limited to sitting in the back of the auditorium, eyes plastered to the spherical ceiling above him, the paintings of stars and the moon so realistic that he can almost imagine himself drowning in the sight. The show hasn’t started yet but there’s barely anyone coming and going, just him and a couple of tourists who are speaking in a language that Taehyung barely understands.

His foot taps a rhythm against the foot of his seat and he wonders if it’s loud. The only other sounds are that of the tourists and they really are making Taehyung feel a little at edge. He’s always liked being in places that are mysterious, different from the hustle and bustle of the city and the quiet always reminds him of the strawberry farms his grandmother owns even if this auditorium makes him feel just a little scared.

He wonders if it’s the night sky back there that he misses—in winters with his grandmother sitting right next to him as he ate strawberries so fresh that the juice dripped down his fingers in pink streaks. He wonders if it’s just that the sky reminds him of that, strawberries and the warm, spreading happiness inside his chest every time he looked up and listened to the stories his grandmother tell him while pointing towards the stars.

It’s always like this when Taehyung is inside the auditorium, eyes directed upwards and feet tapping a rhythm against the seats, it’s always like this with his thoughts becoming a large and altogether difficult series of progressions caught up in each other like yarn tangled up and indeterminate. Taehyung’s thoughts are often like that and his friends used to tease him when the words wouldn’t come out of his mouth just right because his thoughts were so much faster than his tongue.

He thought of that for a while, about how it had happened again today when he had been at school and how it had stung just a little even when his grandmother had told him so many times that it was fine to be a thinker because not all people were born thinkers. Maybe that’s why Taehyung had ended up at the planetarium again today even if it was miles and miles away from home and the bus fare was just enough to get him back home if he didn’t get lost on the way.

The speakers began to crackle in the familiar way they always did before the age old recording started to play and the lights above him dimmed. The quality is horrible and Taehyung barely understands what the speaker is trying to say half the time but he still looks up at the ceiling regardless. If he had a way with it, he would have asked the management to get a new recording perhaps, but it’s not really his business so he just shuts his mouth, pushes all his thoughts away and looks up. It’s not really the commentary he’s here for, but the stars.

---

“Oh, you’re back again?” says the receptionist when Taehyung comes walking into the planetarium, looking around at the painted ceiling, the cherubs and the chandelier that looks like it’s minutes away from falling to its doom on the polished marble floor “You really love this place, don’t you?”

Taehyung waves at him in greeting and grins. It’s always the same receptionist here every time he comes, a young man barely in his twenties with round, plump lips and hair that are always a different color—it’s pink now, and definitely looks good on him— when he visits.

“Hello, Seokjin-hyung,” he says “I missed your face so I just had to come.”

“It is a rather nice face to look at isn’t it?” the receptionist says and Taehyung nods solemnly “But really, don’t you get bored of the star show?”

“Don’t you?” Taehyung counters “You’re the only receptionist here.”

“It’s a nice job. I get to see my face in the glass booth and I get to see you.”

Taehyung flushes just a little and the thought crosses his mind that Seokjin really is attractive. He might only be a sixteen year old with an inexplicable urge to visit the planetarium every weekend but he knows this much.

“You’re smooth, hyung,” he says “I bet your girlfriend loves it.”

“My only girlfriend so far has been this place,” Seokjin laughs “But it looks like I have competition now.”

Taehyung snorts “What does that mean?”

Seokjin hums “Tell me, Taehyungie,” he says and the name sounds sweet when Seokjin says it like that “What are you looking for, exactly?”

Taehyung stares at his hands, and then at the ticket that Seokjin carefully slides from across the glass panel. It’s the same kind of ticket every time, dull brown and crisp like a five thousand won note fresh from the mint. He really doesn’t know why he visits the place; just that it’s the one place in the entire city that feels like home.

He shrugs. “It’s just a place I like,” he says “I’m not looking for anything.”

Somehow, the words sound like a lie and Seokjin has known him long enough to see right through him. He only hums in reply though, pursing his lip in the thoughtful manner Taehyung has seen a few times before when Taehyung is trying to lie his way through their conversations without quite knowing why.

“Well,” Seokjin says instead “How about a job here?”

---

The music isn’t particularly loud, just loud enough that it’s starting to hurt Taehyung’s ears because of how repetitive it is. He wishes they could change the person responsible for the music playing at the reception and get someone with actual decent taste in music—a lover of neo soul, preferably—but he supposes it makes sense for the music to be like this, boring and dull. Sometimes there are portions of saxophone in between the dull melodies and those moments have been the highlight of his days, lately. The reception desk is boring and he’s been standing here for an hour now without issuing a single ticket.

“Slow work again?” Jimin asks when Taehyung decides to call him.

Taehyung lets out a barely audible sigh. He hopes his coworkers aren’t looking “When is it not?”                                    

“You’re the one who wanted to work here,” Jimin laughs “And you’re always calling me, doesn’t your boss mind?”

“I don’t even know who my boss is,” Taehyung says, like he’s said a hundred times before “If I did, I would have just asked him to give me a better job.”

“You should have been more specific when you’d—Ah, Yoongi-hyung is here,” Jimin says, voice suddenly turning just a little high pitched. Taehyung rolls his eyes because of course it’s Yoongi “I’ll call you back later, alright? Don’t die on me, Taehyungie.”

“I won’t,” Taehyung laughs “Tell Yoongi-hyung you like him already and I’ll get you a dinner here for free.”

“Aish, you’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?” and with that, he’s hanging up the call.

Taehyung heaves another sigh because the call had been so short and barely five minutes had passed. He thinks of Yoongi, the upperclassman at their college and Jimin’s rather obvious crush on him. Taehyung thinks it’s only a matter of time before things work out between the two of them and Taehyung is left behind like always, smiling happily for his friends but feeling just a little empty. Taehyung tries to tell himself that he isn’t jealous, but sometimes he is.

The grandfather clock at the end of the hall— golden and always chiming after every hour that passes— barely shows any movement on the longer hand and the hall is still just as empty as it had been. Sighing, Taehyung picks up the book that Namjoon had given to him more than a month ago, still only half read, and wonders if life is really supposed to be as boring as it is lately.

“Um,” a voice calls out, soft and hesitant. Taehyung quickly puts his book to the side and sits a little straighter on his seat. The glass of the reception booth is a pale brown, scratched and weary but clean enough, and he can see the boy standing on the opposite end easily. “I’d like a ticket for the star show.”

Taehyung sizes him up, trying not to be too obvious about it. The boy looks about his age, but his round eyes are dewy and brown, and maybe he’s a little younger. He grins immediately and nods, opening his notebook and picking out the page with the latest entries. Why the auditorium still has exactly zero computers is a mystery to him, but he supposes computers would look odd in a place as antique looking as this.

“One ticket then?” he asks “Or will there be more people coming in?”

The boy shakes his head. “Just me,” and Taehyung wants to heave a sad little sigh when the boy says it like that. He glances towards the clock and notes the time.

“There’s still fifteen minutes till the next show,” he says, not looking up from the register as he quickly notes down the details and begins looking for the ticket book. The boy’s hand rests on the small gap in the glass from where Taehyung will slide him the ticket and he focuses on his fingernails. Short and bitten clean. “There’s not much to do around here until then.”

The boy shrugs. “It’s fine,” he says “I’ll just sit in the hall.”

Taehyung smiles at that “It’s always fun waiting in the hall, isn’t it?” he asks “I used to sit there all the time when I used to visit.”

He slides him the ticket and the boy hands him the money, the precise amount like he’s a regular visitor. The prices on the posters at the entrance are all outdated and he’s gone to the offices upstairs to remind them at least three times but nothing has changed so far. The boy might be a regular, or he might just have gotten lucky with the money. Either way, it’s the first time Taehyung has seen him and the boy looks like he really isn’t in the mood to talk. Taehyung thinks he can understand a little.

“Have a nice visit,” he says, customary and practiced. The boy nods in return.

---

When Taehyung had first decided to start working at the planetarium, he’d thought he would be spending a lot of time watching the star show but really, it’s only the last show an hour past midnight that he gets to watch properly. He supposes he could just sneak out from the booth and catch a few minutes of break in the auditorium but he’s always been far too anxious about people coming in right at that time only to find the reception booth empty.

He’d called Seokjin once, who works at the restaurant on the second floor now, to complain about this and had learnt a secret in return. There was a door to the right of the hall, partially hidden behind a replica painting of The Lament for Icarus that led to a terrace that was barely ever used. Taehyung had huffed out a huge sigh, a little sour that Seokjin had kept it from him for this long, and had proceeded to cut the call right after.

He sat there now, looking down at the few cars parked right below and the trees all across the hill on which the building stood. The trees were thick on all sides save for the road that led directly to the planetarium and the adjacent shops and restaurants. Traffic is always slow in this part of the city and it’s usually only the daytime tourist buses and the occasional school trips that are anything interesting to look at. Taehyung’s learnt to guess which of the cars have visitors for the planetarium and which ones have customers for the star café right above the auditorium.

There’s an orange colored Camaro driving up the hill now and Taehyung is surprised it’s even working with the way its entire body is shaking and the side door is dented enough that it looks like it probably wouldn’t even open all the way through. The smoke it chugs out is enough to almost hide the bicycle just a few feet behind it, fast enough that Taehyung thinks it could have driven past the car if the person riding it had wanted. Taehyung squints, trying to work out who in their right mind would cycle up such a steep hill and feels just a little sorry because of all the smoke they probably had to breathe in.

The car is definitely here for the café, he thinks. But the bicycle. Maybe the boy—Taehyung can make out this much now, strong legs and a white T-shirt—is here for the star show. He sits and eats his cupcake for a few minutes longer before sliding out of the cramped little balcony and heading back to the booth.

Sure enough a few minutes later, once Taehyung is finally seated comfortably on his bench, the boy comes striding in. Taehyung quirks an eyebrow when their eyes meet because it’s the same boy who had come to visit a few weeks ago. His T-shirt is all wet, clinging to his body because of the sweat and Taehyung really does start wondering if the boy is a little crazy.

“Did you cycle all the way up here?” he asks, even though he’s well aware.

The boy flushes in reply and looks away, pointedly staring at the painting that hides the door. Taehyung finds it just a little endearing but quickly pushes the thought aside.

“That’s the cheapest way to get up here,” he says, surprisingly. Taehyung had almost thought the boy would just shrug and ask for a ticket “And the buses were all out for today.”

Taehyung nods. He’d always had to run up the hill when he came around a little too late for the buses. “Yeah it always happened to me too,” he says “I didn’t really have a bicycle so I just had to walk.”

The boy stares at Taehyung then, a funny look on his face—half narrowed eyes and lips on the verge of a pout. Taehyung’s seen that look before and it’s never meant anything good, only words to make fun of how strange he is, usually.

“Walking up must take a lot out of you,” he says, and Taehyung feels a little relieved for reasons he can’t explain to himself just yet. Maybe it’s just the fact that a cute looking boy didn’t judge him too harshly “Did you visit the café after that?”

Taehyung laughs. “Didn’t have the money for that,” he says, watching the way the boy fumbles with the pocket of his jeans, trying to get out his wallet “I just came for the star show. The receptionist sometimes gave me a discount.”

“You walked all the way up here just for that?” the boy laughs, and Taehyung loves the way his teeth poke out just a little like a baby rabbit’s. It makes his face look softer and Taehyung is caught by how young he is. Barely any older than him. “Strange.”

“Don’t you cycle all the way up here just for the star show too?” Taehyung points out, handing him the ticket even before the boy gives him the money.

The boy nods solemnly, staring at his ticket. “I guess I do,” he says.

“Strange,” Taehyung echoes.

---

Taehyung thinks he understand Seokjin a little better now. Every time he would visit the planetarium, he was always a little surprised that the good looking young receptionist would be very curious about him. For the fifteen year old Taehyung, that had been a little surprising and—Taehyung would not admit this to himself on most days—a little flattering.

It might be simply because Seokjin had been bored—Taehyung tells himself that it’s because he’s bored that he’s so eager to see the boy in the white shirt again. The clock chimes twelve times, loud and somewhat eerie and Taehyung thinks that he should have picked better hours for his part time job. His mother is always worried and he’s always a little sleepy in class and really, Taehyung isn’t even sure why he’s working here in the first place. Only because of the late night star show that he gets to watch because no one ever really watches that one.

He’s about the close the counter and head for the auditorium when the front door creaks open and Taehyung snaps his attention towards the door. There are two guards always posted at the bottom of the hill and he’s used to the quiet but sometimes he still feels on edge.

“Oh, hello there,” Taehyung says, sighing in relief when it’s just the boy with the white shirt again. Except this time he’s actually wearing black and his hair is hidden under a red beanie that should by all means look hideous on him but doesn’t really. “You’re almost in time for the last show.”

“I know,” the boy says, walking quickly and taking out his wallet to give Taehyung the money.

Taehyung works fast on the register so he can give the boy his ticket and let him be on his merry way. The last show is always the highlight of Taehyung’s day and he really doesn’t want to miss it even for the cute boy who barely makes eye contact with him.

“Here you go,” Taehyung says, handing him the ticket and making a show of sitting back peacefully at the counter, waiting for the rest of the imaginary customers that are in line.

“Thank you,” the boy says and walks away. Taehyung leans his head against the side of the booth and closes his eyes, waiting for the light sound of footsteps—just like the boy’s voice, always soft as if he’s afraid to disturb the air around him—fades.

He waits another ten minutes, just to be sure and it does take the life out of him to miss the opening parts of the show where the recording begins and the lights dim, washing away the color of the domed ceiling and leaving behind only the stars and the planets. It’s always the same thing but Taehyung still rushes out of the booth, making sure to lock it up before he does. His boots are loud against the marble.

The show’s already started, of course, and the entire hall is empty save for the boy in the white—black, he reminds himself—shirt. Taehyung has seen him before, and it’s always at the same spot, at the far end of the hall to the right just below the speakers so that the sound of his recorded voice (because of course Taehyung had complained about the horrible audio until they’d finally let him record it himself) is nearly deafening. Taehyung never really understood why anyone would willingly choose to sit at that spot but there he is, head resting against the wall and eyes directed upwards.

Taehyung quietly closes the door behind him and sits downs on the stairs, making himself as small as possible so that the boy doesn’t catch him watching. It’s never really good for the employees to sneak in free shows even if Seokjin had almost always been right there when Taehyung used to make it in time for the last show. Think of it as a treat after all the hard work, he’d always tell him, you can tell the stars all about your day and they won’t even mind!

Taehyung always thinks of his grandmother and how she would have said the same thing too if Taehyung had mentioned the planetarium to her. It’s just nice enough to look up at the swirling mass of stars and planets—the entire solar system that he’d memorized back in elementary school, only without the visuals to really make them appealing, and the constellations that his grandmother always liked to point out and tell stories about. The seats are empty and the light from the projector reflects a little on them so that there are always specks and stars glittering right on the fabric there and Taehyung really does feel like he’s in space, another star in a universe crammed full of them.

The boy is still looking up and Taehyung casts a glance in his direction. There’s the same kind of awe in his eyes that Taehyung imagines he had when he’d first started to come here, and he wonders if it’s only because of routine that he does this or if he still loves it like he had once. And yet, despite the look of wonder in the boy’s eyes, there’s always something lonely too. Maybe it’s just because he’s sitting alone at night when the auditorium should be closed, maybe it’s because of the way he holds himself so still as if he’s barely there at all. Taehyung wonders if he’s just imagining him, a boy with dark hair and a horribly bright beanie.

When the show ends, Taehyung gets out first and the door to the auditorium doesn’t open again until he’s about to leave, clicking all the lights shut and making sure the doors are all locked.

Strange, he thinks to himself when he finally sees him leave, nodding to each other when their eyes meet. What a strange, strange boy.

---

It’s around the fifth time that the boy visits that Taehyung finally gathers the courage to ask his name. He’s here again, in another white shirt that looks just as untouched as the previous one had and he really is starting to wonder if the boy has an entire stash of similar looking shirts. He looks just as nice as he had the previous times. His dark hair is matted to his forehead, a bit too long and covering half his eye like lead singers from the rock bands that Jimin had pretended to like to impress Yoongi (it was only after they’d learnt that Yoongi was actually a classical piano student in college with a penchant for rapping that Taehyung’s ears had finally gotten a rest from the horrible music).

“Can I ask you something?” Taehyung says the moment their eyes meet and the boy raises a quiet hand in greeting. He’s prepared himself for this, to ask the boy his name, but what comes out instead is this: “How many of those shirts do you even have?”

The boy looks caught off guard by that, eyes going wide and lips parting open. His lips are awfully pink, a part of him thinks and he quickly pretends to himself that he hadn’t.

“Uh,” the boy looks like he’s actually counting, gaze intently focused on his hands “Twenty three? Twenty four?”

Taehyung stares. “You’re joking,” he says “I sincerely hope you’re joking.”

The boy looks a little offended at that and Taehyung can’t help but burst into a laugh. “What? I just like them and they’re the cheapest,” he says, voice going softer than it already is.

Taehyung doesn’t know why, but he’s incredibly endeared by the way the boy pouts “They look soft.”

The boy nods, the tips of his ears turning just a little red, and the hall lapses back into quiet. It’s the same music playing again, the one that Taehyung has grown somewhat immune to over the year he’s been working here, and it’s startlingly loud to him all of a sudden. There’s something about the way the quiet always envelopes them when the boy doesn’t speak, almost like he’s trying very hard to just escape unnoticed.

Taehyung hums along to the music, trying to pretend he isn’t a little flustered at the way the boy refuses to look at him.

“One ticket just for you, then?” he asks even though he’s already opened his register and started writing on it.

“Nope,” he says “I have a date today.”

Taehyung snaps his head up, “Really?” he asks, voice a little too loud, a little too surprised “You really have a date?”

The boy stares at him, and then back down at his feet. He wrings his hands a little and huffs out a laugh.

“I was kidding,” he says “It’s just me. Again.”

“Right,” Taehyung says, letting out an irritated sigh “You’re having fun joking around today, aren’t you?”

“I—It’s a little annoying when you ask me about the tickets,” he says, frowning a little “Of course it’s just me every time.”

“I wouldn’t have been surprised if you’d brought a date with you,” he says, even if the thought seems like an abstract one. Somehow, Taehyung can only think of the boy and how he’s always seated at the far end of the auditorium, eyes directed towards the starry night sky, head touching the side of the wall as if he just wants to sleep right there. “My hyung always used to tease me about it too when I’d come here alone.”

“Well,” he says, and Taehyung hands him the ticket even though he doesn’t want the conversation to end just yet “You’re turning out to be just like your hyung then.”

“Alright, alright,” Taehyung pouts “I won’t tease you again. But you have to promise to let me know how many shirts you actually have. No lies.”

At this, the boy finally laughs. “I’ll let you know the next time I come. Do you want to make a guess though?”

Taehyung makes a show of thinking about it. But really, all he’s really thinking of is how soft those white shirts look and how he’d maybe like to touch them if he could. That’s about as much he allows his imagination to wander because he knows nothing good comes out of thinking about boys who are far too good looking for their age, doe eyes, pouty lips and all.

“Twenty three?” he says, and the boy’s eyes crinkle in silent laughter as he takes the ticket and turns around. 

Taehyung watches him go, feeling a little too cheery because this is maybe the first time he’s actually had such a decent conversation with the boy before he remembers. He’s still feeling confident enough, so he calls out.

“Hey!” he says, eyes darting towards the grandfather clock. There’s still a minute until the show starts. But Taehyung is sure the boy has memorized it too, by now. It’s never the show they’re here for, always something else. Unknowable. “We’ve talked so much but you never told me your name.”

The boy turns around and Taehyung is sure his cheeks are just a little redder than he’d last seen them. It could just be because of the heat, he muses.

“Jeon Jeongguk,” he says.

“Hello then, Jeon Jeongguk!” Taehyung calls out, laughing “My name is Kim Taehyung.”

“I know,” says Jeongguk, and Taehyung keeps running the name in his head the same way he does when he tries to learn the names of the stars. He’s fascinated, so of course he won’t forget.

“How?” Taehyung asks, heart racing just a little.

Jeongguk just laughs in reply and gestures towards his chest. Taehyung glances down to look at his ugly, red uniform and the nametag right above his breast pocket.

---

Taehyung really does try to be discreet about how he enters the hall but Jeongguk must have eyes attached to the back of his head because the minute he enters, his head snaps to the side and he’s staring right at him.

“Taehyung?” he calls out, voice loud over the recording that both of them have memorized by now.

And here we have Mercury, the smallest and innermost planet in the Solar System. It’s the closest planet to the sun and…

Taehyung stares back at him, a little surprised to hear a voice that’s not his own. He spots Jeongguk sitting right where he usually sits and immediately feels a little guilty that he already knew where he’d be seated. The hall is bright as the projector shows a gigantic red orb right above them, swirling and massive but nothing in comparison to what they’ll see in a few minutes. Jeongguk’s face is an odd shade of orange and yellow and it makes Taehyung look at him funny.

“That’s hyung to you,” he says, walking towards him because there really is no point in hiding on the stairs anymore now that he’s been spotted.

Jeongguk turns his head back up and lets its rest against the wall. Taehyung hovers a few feet away from his seat, unsure.

“If you’re going to sit, please do it before I decide against it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Taehyung huffs, “I can sit wherever I want. I have the keys to the hall, did you know?”

Jeongguk sighs, not bothering to look at Taehyung. Taehyung takes that as invitation to sit next to Jeongguk, only noting for the first time that the seats are really close together. He’s never really seen the halls when they’re full and he’s never sat beside someone else on days when he could avoid it, so he’d forgotten. Their elbows brush when he sits down and Jeongguk slowly shifts to the side, letting his hands rest in his lap.

“See, that’s Uranus over there,” he points out at the speck that’s slowly growing in size as the commentary turns to focus on the planet and all its craters and rings “It’s all blue because of the gases.”

Jeongguk nods shortly. Taehyung already knows that Jeongguk knows, because it’s his voice that’s about to say the same things on the speakers again if a bit more formally.

“Can I ask you something?” Jeongguk says after a while, and Taehyung had been more focused on the odd spot of warmth on his elbow than the constellations above. “Hyung?”

“Hmm? What is it?” he turns his attention back up, spotting all the constellations that make up the summer sky.

“Is that your voice in the recording?”

“Yup. It’s funny sounding, isn’t it?” he says, laughing it off because it’s easier that way. Recording had been fun but hearing it is still a little odd. Taehyung doesn’t think his voice is particularly good and his childhood dreams of being a singer—or worse yet, an idol—seem light years away now.

Jeongguk just shakes his head and it might be the first time that Taehyung has seen him lower his head away from the projections so that he’s just looking at his hands. And then at Taehyung.

“I like your voice,” he says “It’s really—it’s really warm.”

It might be the lighting of the dust pillars, golden and red, that make Jeongguk’s face seem brighter than it was before, but Taehyung thinks it’s something else. It’s summer and both of them are wearing cotton T-shirts but Taehyung still feels unbearably warm—he wonders if this is what a supernova must be like, imploding into itself with something  heavy and burning.

“Want to hear more of it?” Taehyung says, winking at him in the only way he knows. Both his eyes end up squinting shut and he’s sure that it’s Jeongguk laughing at him that he feels against his side.

“I think we can make do with just the recording for now.”

“For now,” Taehyung says “What does that mean?”

“It means that I’m trying to watch the show and you’re being loud.” Jeongguk says and Taehyung finds himself hopelessly enamored by the boy, his white T-shirt and his bunny teeth.

“You’re kinda rude, aren’t you?” Taehyung says instead, because telling him he finds him cute is far too dangerous a thing to do.

---

A few weeks pass and Taehyung tells himself that he isn’t waiting for a certain boy to show up for the star show. Every day, after the clock chimes twelve, he begins to feel something knotting inside his stomach like a tight coil that makes it hard for him to breathe. He’s always anxious for the last show and he tells himself it’s only because he’s so eager to watch it and then head home, into the warmth of his bed.

A part of him that sounds suspiciously like Jimin knows that he’s just avoiding the truth but he won’t give it the satisfaction just yet.

On one of the Saturdays when there’s a surprisingly large number of people visiting the planetarium, Taehyung is distracted enough that he doesn’t think about the boy in the white T-shirts at all. He happily passes his day smiling at all the lovely families that come to get their tickets and all the old couples holding hands and walking into the hall—their own special little date with the stars and the sky. Taehyung has always enjoyed people watching because it gives him an excuse to think about how other people live their lives, how they go about their days and how, in the end, they somehow stumble upon this old little building with its projected stars and planets. He always likes to wonder about the reason they hold the stars so dear, or if they do at all.

“Have a nice day!” Taehyung says to one of the older couples that come in, arm in arm “I hope you’ll enjoy the star show.”

“Indeed we will,” says the sweet looking aunt and Taehyung feels warm inside from that.

The ticket in her hands is crinkled already and Taehyung thinks it’s a lovely thing to see the paper like that, a mark to show that someone held it. The night show never leaves any ticket stubs, just the one ticket that Jeongguk likes to carefully fold and place on his seat.

Taehyung still has a few of them in his pocket, all of them in the shape of little origami stars that Taehyung is still trying to replicate. They’re a galaxy of their own, one that Taehyung keeps in his pocket for the days when Jeon Jeongguk does not visit. Taehyung tells himself it’s only because he wants to gather the courage and ask him how he makes them, but he knows it’s not just that. He has the internet for that, if he really wants to try.

Sometimes, when his pocket feels like it’s slowly burning with the stars it holds, Taehyung feels just a little afraid. On those days, he’s glad he doesn’t have to watch the star show with the boy sitting only a few seats away.

---

Taehyung’s cart is halfway through the race track and his car is finally at the lead when Jimin speaks up from where he’s sprawled on the couch and the words are so odd that Taehyung has to take a few seconds to register them and then stares, dumbfounded, at him.

“You’re suffering,” Jimin had said.

Taehyung squints “What does that mean?”

“Ah, you’re always like this when it happens to you,” Jimin says, clicking his tongue like his mother sometimes does when Taehyung pretends he can’t understand what she’s saying “And you used to tease me about Yoongi-hyung.”

“What does Yoongi-hyung have to do with this?” Taehyung asks. He thinks he sort of understands where the conversation is headed and it makes his stomach swirl in a mess of nervousness “I’m not suffering.”

“You’ve been looking kinda constipated, Taehyungie. It was the same when you liked that receptionist.”

“I did not like Seokjin-hyung! That’s nasty, Jimin.”

Jimin rolls his eyes “You definitely had a crush on him. And now you like that other guy don’t you? What was his name?” he fumbles for a moment before remembering that Taehyung had only ever mentioned him in passing “The one with a ton of white shirts.”

“Can you believe he actually has twenty four white shirts?” says Taehyung, feigning a smile.

Jimin groans and Taehyung feels just a little bad. “You’re changing the topic. Doesn’t that make you feel bad?”

“Why would I feel bad? I’m not really thinking about it so it’s fine.”

“Does not thinking help? Your grandmother always did say—”

“That I’m a thinker, yeah,” he looks away when he says that. He’s already losing the game but he still makes a show of playing it anyway. He tries not to think but his head has been full of cotton again lately and how he feels like such a mess. “Thinking never does anyone any good.”

“Avoiding things doesn’t help either,” Jimin sighs, takes the controller away from Taehyung’s hands and watches the car crash against the fence “You’ll regret it later.”

“He’s going to stop showing up some day,” Taehyung says, not even bothering to protest about the game. He was going to lose anyway “It’ll all be the same if we’d met or if we hadn’t anyway.”

“There’s always the what-if. It never hurts to try, Taehyung.”

Taehyung frowns “You can say that because Yoongi-hyung already liked you,” he says “It’s not always that simple for the rest of us.”

Jimin gives him a look, one that Taehyung has known since his childhood and it’s one that he never likes on his face. He’s barely a few seconds away from saying something caustic enough to make Taehyung regret ever speaking in the first place.

“Say that again, Taehyungie,” Jimin says, voice soft enough that Taehyung has to strain his ear to listen over the loud, 8-bit music “And I’ll make sure Yoongi-hyung writes a song about you for his next mixtape.”

Taehyung wants to laugh at that, he really does, but he just nods quickly instead.

“I—” he says, falters a little. His face feels hot “I think I’d like to get to know him better first.”

Jimin hums in reply “That’s always the first step.”

---

Two weeks later, when Jeongguk finally shows up, face half buried in the thick, white scarf he’s wrapped around his neck, Taehyung feels far too happy for him to pretend that he isn’t a little bit in like with him. As soon as the boy walks over to the booth, Taehyung is pushing open the door and walking out, grinning so wide that he thinks his cheeks will start to hurt soon.

“You’re here!” he exclaims, rushing forward to grab both of Jeongguk’s hands in his. They’re cold, but Taehyung has always been warm enough for two people.

“Uh,” Jeongguk stares at Taehyung’s hand in his and then back at Taehyung who is standing maybe a little too close to him. “Hello, hyung.”

“I’ve been bored silly, you know,” Taehyung says, and he’s a little surprised at himself for being honest about this “I thought you’d stopped coming for good.”

Jeongguk looks at him and Taehyung tries to ignore the way something behind his ribcage presses ever so tightly. He’s smiling, and it’s a barely there kind of smile, full of something almost like wonder.

“I had exams,” Jeongguk says, voice soft “I wanted to come but I didn’t want to fail.”

“You look like a smart kid,” Taehyung says past his relief that Jeongguk really wasn’t planning on abandoning the planetarium—and him, his heart supplies. “I doubt you would have failed.”

“I still need to study to get into college. I bet you don’t have to worry about that anymore, hyung.”

Taehyung laughs. “You’re right. Sometimes I forget you’re still in high school,” he says “But you’re not here to talk about that, are you?”

“Kinda came to get away from that, actually.”

“Well, you’re in luck. This is the perfect way to forget about your worries,” Taehyung chirps, voice lapsing into his customer service tone, eyes sparkling when Jeongguk nods along like a curious guest “We have the star show in just a few minutes and the star café upstairs in case you’re feeling hungry.”

“I think I’ll get a ticket for the star show,” Jeongguk hums thoughtfully “I would quite like to see the constellations.”

“Of course, sir,” Taehyung gestures with a flourish towards the booth but then thinks better of it. Jeongguk is playing along and Taehyung feels bold “But might I interest you in another, more exclusive attraction since we’re on the topic anyway?”

Jeongguk is curious, Taehyung can tell just by the way his lips quirk upwards, all mischief. “Oh? I’d love to know if you’d be so kind.”

“Right behind that lovely painting you’ll see at the back,” Taehyung points towards The Lament for Icarus and the door hidden in its wake “We have a lovely little view that we like to keep for special guests only.”

“I’m afraid I hardly qualify as a special guest,” Jeongguk is barely holding back his laughter now and Taehyung is impressed that it’s taken this long. In another life, maybe Taehyung could have been an actor, and Jeongguk could be the friend he’d practice his skits with.

“But sir, isn’t the very fact that I’m telling you about the show mean that you’re a special guest?” he bows once and puts his hand in front of Jeongguk.

Jeongguk lightly rests his fingers on Taehyung’s outstretched palm and taps it once. Taehyung takes that as a sign for them to move, and the room suddenly feels quiet again. Taehyung can feel his heart in its new home inside his throat, thrumming lightly with the feeling of Jeongguk’s fingertips on Taehyung’s palm and the way he doesn’t retract them. It’s always the smallest of things, Jimin had said, that make one feel so, so at a loss.

“Is it behind the painting?” Jeongguk asks, disbelieving.

“Yup,” Taehyung simply says, a little sad that he has to let go of Jeongguk’s hand in order to push the painting to the side. The door is a simple one, made of wood that seems to be falling apart with age. The brown paint is cracking at the sides and a few splinters cut their way out in some parts.

“How do I know you’re not going to just—” he pauses to think about it “I don’t know. Throw me off the building?”

Taehyung snorts. “If I’d wanted to throw you off the building I’d take you to star café first. That place is even higher up. And colder.”

“At least I know I’m in safe hands then.”

“For now,” Taehyung says, pushing the door open and jumping out into the balcony.

It’s only when Jeongguk steps in beside him that Taehyung realizes his mistake. Sitting alone, it’s easy to make space for yourself by huddling in one corner and peering out from between the stone railings, but with two people, it’s a little difficult to navigate.

“I—might have miscalculated a little,” he mumbles, not sure if he wants Jeongguk to hear “The balcony is tiny.”

Jeongguk shrugs “We’ll manage,” he says and shuffles to the side so that their arms aren’t fully touching anymore. But even when he crouches down and tries to sit on the floor, their legs end up knocking against each other’s, thighs touching far too much for Taehyung’s liking. He might have told Jimin that he’d try to get closer to Jeongguk, but touching thighs was a step too forward for now.

“Well!” Taehyung says, trying to speak against the hotness of his cheeks. The cold winter wind feels good against his skin “This is the exclusive, one of a kind view that no other planetarium has to offer. What do you think, sir?”

“It’s nice,” Jeongguk says, a little at a loss “I thought we were out here to see stars?”

“Not many stars to see out here, sir,” he says gravely and then, pointing towards the cars down on the web of roads far ahead. “But I like to pretend that it’s all stars that we see on the roads.”

Jeongguk cranes his neck, shifting a little so that their thighs are touching even more—Taehyung is starting to think it might just be on purpose—and lets out a soft little sound at the back of his throat.  

“They do sort of look like stars,” Jeongguk says after a few moments, a little of that same look of awe back in his eyes “Hyung, look over there.”

Taehyung turns to where Jeongguk is pointing to the far right. There’s a cluster of cars all speeding away from the hills and down to the cityscape below, moving so that the headlights aligned together almost look like a familiar constellation.

“Aquarius,” both of them end up saying at the same time and Taehyung feels a swell of warmth at that. Jeongguk laughs, still pointing to the Aquarius-shaped cluster of lights.

“It looks more like a plastic bag flying to its doom,” Taehyung muses after a while and Jeongguk snorts. It’s such an endearing sound even if it should be anything but, and Taehyung thinks to himself that he might as well be the one flying to his doom at the speed of light.

The two of them watch the cars move until the plastic bag is no more. Taehyung hums a tune to himself to keep the silence at bay. From the corner of his eye, he tries to be sneaky and looks at Jeongguk—there’s a frown on his face again, the kind that Taehyung still can’t understand even after all these months.

“What’re you thinking about, Jeongguk-ah?” he asks, voice soft so that Jeongguk doesn’t startle.

Sometimes, despite how sturdy and strong Jeongguk normally looks, he has an air of something intangible about him. As if touching him will break the illusion between them and Jeongguk will fade away like snowflakes in the palm of his hand, there but not really.

Jeongguk is slow to reply, eyes not looking up at the sky and the few stars littered there like a halfhearted attempt at decorating it.

“I cycle all the way up this hill,” he says, and looking at it from up here, the hill really is tall “Just to see a star show that I’ve memorized by now.”

Taehyung nods in sympathy. He waits for Jeongguk to say more and let the words tumble out of his mouth because he looks clammed up. Constipated, as Jimin would have eloquently put it.

“I’ve been thinking about it lately,” Jeongguk says after a few moments of quietly gathering his thoughts into words. Taehyung likes that careful way about him, choosing each word he says before letting it out for the world to pick at “There are stars in the sky but I still come all the way up here anyway. Why is that, do you think?”

Taehyung tries to be like Jeongguk, picking out his words carefully when his thoughts race faster than he can grasp them. He’s always practiced this answer, because it’s the one question all employees have to know the answer to.

“Well, isn’t it because the night sky is far too polluted to give us a true view of what lies out there?” even saying it feels heavy and ugly on his tongue. Jeongguk just shakes his head, a little disappointed.

“Hyung,” he says “Is that really what you think?”

Taehyung swallows. “I don’t know,” he tries, playing with his hands so he doesn’t have to look Jeongguk in the eye “I think it’s a little silly.”

“Try me.”

“I guess it’s different for everyone, why we look at the stars,” he says and through the chilly wind and the puffs of their cold breath in the air, Taehyung sees a few constellations here and there, comforting him just a little “It just reminds me of home. Not my home here, even though I do like that one as well.”

“You’re not a city kid are you?” Jeongguk says, and it’s spoken in such clear satoori that Taehyung has to wonder why he’d never caught it in his voice before “Neither am I.”

Taehyung leans back and rests his head against the back of the door. Jeongguk shifts too, until he’s facing Taehyung, arms curled around his thick legs so he almost looks like a child listening to a story. Taehyung is glad for the cover of the night because his face is warm and he’s always been an easy blusher. 

“I used in live in Daegu with my grandmother,” he tells him, “We had a strawberry farm and she’d tell me all kinds of stories at night. We used to look at the stars.”

Jeongguk smiles. “Sounds like a happy childhood.”

“You get a childhood as happy as mine and you start wondering if you’ll ever be as happy again in life,” Taehyung muses “I keep thinking of that time as my home, I guess.”

“So that’s what the stars are for? To remind you of home?”

“Grandmother always used to tell me the North Star would guide me back,” he sees it in the distance, one of the brighter stars even on dull nights like this “I kept looking for it when I first came here.”

“That’s a little sad,” Jeongguk says and his hands are on the floor, fingers brushing against Taehyung’s where they had been resting on his lap before. Taehyung lets the touch linger, it’s all he’ll allow himself to think of, for now “Feeling like you’re not home at all.”

Taehyung shrugs “We’re all a little lost sometimes.”

Jeongguk lets out a sigh and it’s enough for Taehyung to just sit in silence for now. Words have never been Taehyung’s forte and Jeongguk is always so understanding.

“We’ve ended up talking about me but you never told me about yourself,” he says after a while “What’s your reason for coming here, white shirt guy.”

“White shirt guy?” Jeongguk’s laughter rings softly and Taehyung feels warm.

“You have to answer me,” Taehyung pouts “No running away from this.”

“I won’t, I won’t,” Jeongguk says, an edge of laughter still in his voice  “How about I tell you if you let me hear some of those stories your grandmother used to tell you?”

“About the stars? You’re in for a ride, Jeongukkie.”

Jeongguk’s eyes sparkle. “Another special show for a special guest?”

“You can think of it like that.”

---

Taehyung does tell Jeongguk some of the stories his grandmother used to tell him, on nights when neither of them are in the mood to listen to the same old speech that Taehyung had recorded so long ago. Taehyung is always surprised at how easy it is to just slide into the seat right next to Jeongguk’s, put his hand on the armrest and pretend he doesn’t enjoy the way their arms touch, and talk.

Normally, talking had been such a difficult thing to do, but when Jeongguk listens to him like he’d visited the planetarium just to hear Taehyung’s voice, it’s a lot easier to do. Somehow, the ever burning stars in his pocket are not as scary as they used to be anymore, just a reminder of the gentle thrumming of his heartbeat and the fact that Jeongguk is sitting right next to him, looking at the stars and seeing the world that his grandmother had once painted for him with her sweet, sweet voice.

---

The planetarium is old; an antique among the buildings around it, and Taehyung thinks it was inevitable that this would happen. It’s a lazy Thursday afternoon when the machinery at the projector room starts acting up and the shows for most of the day get canceled. Taehyung is a little disappointed but not entirely surprised—the audio system had been problematic even on the better days and he supposes it’s good that they might finally get a replacement system for it soon. The projectors are still working, all five of them, but there isn’t much point to having a show when there’s no sound to go with it.

Taehyung had suggested just narrating the entire thing to the audience but the idea had been struck down because his voice would have just given out by the end of it. He’s still sitting in the projector room though, because the tech department is working on the speakers and Taehyung wants to know if they’re going to keep the planetarium open for the next day.

“I think there’s someone at the booth,” one of the technicians says after a moment, pointing down the glass window that shows a brief view of the entrance. “Didn’t the guards close the gates yet?”

“There are no gates,” Taehyung supplies, peering out of the window to catch a good view of who it could be. He can’t really see, but a quick glance at his wristwatch gives him something of an idea. “I’ll go check” he says, trying for all he can to sound calm.

The technicians grunt in reply, clearly not interested and Taehyung all but dashes out of the room and towards the booth where a certain Jeon Jeongguk is waiting, a little confused, hands shoved in his pockets.

“Oh, hyung,” Jeongguk says, visibly brightening when he looks at him. “What’s up with the sign?”

“We’re not having any shows today. The speakers all fizzled out, apparently.”

Jeongguk frowns and Taehyung notes the way he’s still panting a little from the ride up the hill. Taehyung feels a little sorry for him because he hadn’t known he’d be coming.

“Do you think they’ll fix the sound soon? I don’t want to come up here just to see it closed again the next time.”

“It should be fixed in a few days. They’re working on it right now.” Taehyung says apologetically, patting Jeongguk’s arm “I’m sorry you had to come all the way up here for nothing.”

Jeongguk shakes his head. “It’s fine,” he says, looking at his shoes as if they hold the secrets to the universe all of a sudden “I still got to see you.”

Taehyung flushes. “That’s really sweet of you. Are you really Jeon Jeongguk?”

Jeongguk coughs, the tips of his ears turning red. “I’ll—I think I’ll head back now.”

Taehyung is still trying to calm the fluttering inside his chest when Jeongguk turns to leave, hands raised in a silent goodbye. Taehyung doesn’t really think about it but his hand flies to grab hold of Jeongguk’s wrist anyway, because he hadn’t really been waiting for Jeongguk today but now that he’s here it’s far too early for him to leave.

“We can have a show,” he says quickly, trying to get him to stay “It’ll be quiet but it’s better than nothing.”

Taehyung hopes that Jeongguk can see the words behind it. Don’t go just yet. From the way his face softens when he looks at him and the way he lets Taehyung’s fingers stay where they are, curled lightly over his wrist, Taehyung thinks that he does.

Jeongguk nods “Are the projectors still running?”

Taehyung shakes his head, lets go of Jeongguk’s wrist and catches the way Jeongguk’s eyes flit to that spot right after, just a little mournful. Something hopeful blooms inside his chest but he doesn’t know what to do with the feeling just yet.

“I’ll go tell the tech guys to get it running,” he says, “You go and get yourself a seat until then.”

“Sure,” Jeongguk says and turns for the auditorium. Taehyung walks back to the projector room, face hot, and asks one of the technicians to let him run the machinery.

“Didn’t they say there weren’t any shows?” one of them asks.

“They did,” Taehyung says, looking down at his hands.

“Then why do you need to turn them on?” the guy asks and Taehyung really does want to hide because it’s a little embarrassing to ask in the first place.

“He’s got a date, you dumbass,” the other guy says and Taehyung simultaneously wants to thank the man and also cry “Just turn the damn thing on and let him be.”

“Oh,” he says “Good luck then.”

Taehyung is glad he’s already looking down. He bows quickly in thanks and runs out, hoping that they’ll turn the projectors on before he gets to the hall.

When he gets there, the first thing he notes is that it’s quiet. The second is that the projectors are running now and the stars are back where they’re supposed to be—on the ceiling and the walls, on the soft padding of the seats. The third is that there is no Jeongguk anywhere in sight.

“Jeongguk-ah?” he calls out and his voice is loud in the hall.

“I’m here, hyung,” comes the answering call. “At the back.”

“How come you changed your seat?” he asks, already stepping up the stairs to the part of the hall without any seats, just an open spot for people to stand at, undisturbed.

“Got bored waiting for you so I decided to look around,” he says, grinning when Taehyung finally spots him lying on the carpeted floor, eyes not looking at the stars but right at him “This is a nice spot.”

Taehyung would have told Jeongguk that lying on the auditorium floor is not allowed but he looks so comfortable and at ease there—such a stark difference from all the times he’s seen him curled into himself one his favorite seat underneath the speakers—that he can’t even protest. Instead, he walks over to him and sits down right next to him, glad for the fact that the floor is not cold at all.

“It’s a little different without the sounds,” Jeongguk says and his voice seems loud for once, in the dead quiet.

“Do you miss my voice that much?”

“It sounds better in person anyway.” And if it hadn’t been for the dark, Taehyung might have seen the light flush on Jeongguk’s cheeks as he’d said it.

Taehyung laughs, wondering for a few moments if Jeongguk can hear the way his heart sometimes stops completely inside his chest and then picks up again, faster and louder. “You’re the only person who says that.”

“No one else has ears, then,” Jeongguk replies, indignant, and Taehyung can’t help but laugh.

“I feel like I have no ears right now,” Taehyung points towards the stars above and the very surprising fact that there is no commentary accompanying it.

“It does feel a little like that. I don’t know why we came here.”

“The technicians asked me if it was for a date,” Taehyung says, and if his heart had been beating fast before, it’s nothing compared to the war raging inside his chest right now. Take a chance, he tells himself, let yourself feel this. “I didn’t know what to tell them so I just nodded.”

Jeongguk’s hands stop their rhythmic tapping against the floor and he looks at him, eyes barely meeting his “Is this a date?”

Taehyung stares at his hands. “I haven’t even asked you out yet.”

“Are you waiting for something?” Jeongguk asks, and he sounds so concerned when he says it that Taehyung’s chest feels tight with something. His pocket burns hot with the paper stars that he still keeps with him and he wonders if he could catch fire with just this.

“Nothing,” Taehyung says, trying to put it into words “Why are we here, Jeongguk-ah? I want to know you more.”

“Is it that kind of date?” Jeongguk says, trying for a laugh that barely makes it out of his throat “I think we’ve known each other enough.”

“I know, it’s just—” He begins, fumbles with his words and stops. Instead, he just lies down on the floor, letting his head touch the side of Jeongguk’s shoulder.

Jeongguk lets out a sigh and his hands are right next to Taehyung’s, close enough that if Taehyung had asked, they could have held them. “You’re scared?”

“Aren’t you?”

“All the time,” Jeongguk laughs, rueful. The planets revolve above them, zooming out until there’s only a cluster of them at the far end of the hall and all they can see now is the constellations, the Milky Way. “I’ve—I have no experience with this.”

“You and me both then,” he says, letting Jeongguk inch his hand closer until their fingertips touch “Feelings are scary.”

Jeongguk hums “You asked me why I came here once,” he says, voice so odd, hesitant “It’s because the stars burn so bright.”

Taehyung turns to look at Jeongguk, and like this he can see the side of Jeongguk’s face, the way his nose curves, the way he can see a scar on his cheek glow when the light hits it just right, the way his brown eyes are so round and vulnerable.

“Bright?”

“They always burn so bright. Isn’t that beautiful?” he says, and Taehyung lets himself take a leap of faith. Lets his hands slowly close the distance between them until they’re intertwined, fingers curled into each other’s “Even when they’re dying, they don’t go out without a fight.”

Taehyung thinks of the supernovas, imploding into themselves and casting light for all of heaven to see. He feels a little like that when he’s with Jeongguk, feeling so much that it’s almost impossible for him to contain. He wonders if the world can see it too, just how much of his feelings are always visible on his face.

“Like supernovas?” Taehyung asks, and Jeongguk’s hand is warm. The feeling of his thumb caressing the soft skin between Taehyung’s fingers is dizzying.

“Like you,” he says “I’ve always found them beautiful. I’ve always thought that if I have to live, shouldn’t it be a little like that?”

“Is that why you look at them?”

Jeongguk nods “On days that aren’t so good, it helps,” he says and Taehyung thinks of all the times Jeongguk had looked so alone, fighting a war all on his own “I—I like to think that feeling things is fine. Even if it’s good. Even if it’s bad.”

“That’s a brave way of living.”

“I’d want to be brave.”

“So would I,” he says and the way the light catches on Jeongguk’s face makes him feel brave. “Maybe this—maybe this is a step in that direction?”

“I’d think so.” Jeongguk says, smiling in a way that breaks Taehyung’s heart. “I hope it is.”

He never wants to see Jeongguk look as uncertain as he does right now and so he swallows past his fears and inches closer to Jeongguk. They’re turned towards each other so that their intertwined hands rest between them and the sound of both their beating hearts is loud is the empty space. If Taehyung had been an astronaut, he thinks it might have felt a little like this, suspended in a moment of weightlessness.

“I know it is,” he says and the words are so loud in the quiet space between them. Jeongguk shivers when Taehyung lets a hand come to rest over his jaw, fingers hesitant. “We can be brave together.”

Taehyung thinks it takes an infinity before Jeongguk answers him, with his mouth rather than with words, but he can’t be sure. Lying underneath the stars with their bodies close enough to touch, Taehyung had felt for a while that just looking at him was a little like kissing, but when they their lips do touch, Taehyung finally understands. There’s always something he had wanted when he’d looked at Jeongguk—the vulnerable young boy with a penchant for wearing white shirts and torn up jeans—and Taehyung might still be a little lost about how to put his thoughts into words but he knows this. Jeongguk’s hands are warm and so, so hesitant around his neck, and his lips are tender, soft just the way he had thought they would be on nights when he’d been a little more honest with himself.

Kissing Jeongguk is a little like finding the north star when he’d been so lost and unable to understand what home was—it’s the same feeling of warmth and happiness he gets every time he bites down on a strawberry and looks up at the sky.

“You’re so warm,” Jeongguk says in between, when their mouths are close enough to touch but far apart that they can breathe. His hands are restless, caressing Taehyung’s face, every mole on his eye, nose, lips, curling around the hair at the back of his neck. “It’s like you’re burning.”

Taehyung just laughs and pulls him close again, breathing in the happiness floating right at the corners of Jeongguk’s mouth.

“Like a star?” Taehyung says against Jeongguk’s mouth, all smiles.

“Like something even better.”