Part One: The Tides
She giggles to herself in excitement, perfectly happy. The sun is warm, the wind is strong, pushing her hair out of her eyes, and her mother seems distracted enough staring across the sea to the island that Sookja might actually be able to accomplish her goal. When she’s done, she’s going to brag to all her friends, and her dad, and Uncle Yoongi. She slows, coming to a stop as the bubbling contentment in her stomach churns to something she doesn’t know. Something that the years of her life will layer within her, compounding, compressing together to pack more in. Something she will never learn how to put into words, but something she will understand nonetheless. Nostalgia, or melancholy. The bittersweet happy sadness of missing - a time, a place, a state of being, and in this case, a someone.
She won’t be able to tell Uncle Yoongi about her sand fort, or her adventures, or what joke her friend told her. She frowns at the sand, at the gradient of nearly white grains she’s disturbed, exposing the damp, darker granules underneath. She’s suddenly very sorry and regretful, but she’s not quite sure for what. For disrupting the peaceful, uniform beauty of the beach in her efforts, or for relinquishing her magic dandelion and sending Uncle Yoongi far, far away.
She leans forward and pulls the sand back into the small indent she’s managed to dig, trying to fix it. It’s too late, the damp granules have already churned to the surface. She can’t go back.
She stands, wiping the sand sticking uncomfortably to her hands on her dress. But just as she cannot erase the traces of her digging from the beach, she cannot remove the same traces from herself. Sand sticks between her fingers, under her nails. Particles so tiny, so numerous that several swipes of her hands against her dress does nothing to remove them all.
She stomps over to her mother, head down, eyes focused on her hands as she tries to pick each granule off one by one. She’s still deep into her task when she reaches her mother, glancing up briefly.
Her mother has been standing here, silent and unmoving since Uncle Yoongi left, her arms wrapped tightly around her own chest. She hadn’t even bothered to push back the chunk of hair that had escaped her braid, the dark strands dancing beautiful in the steady wind that comes off the sea. Her eyes look far away as they gaze across the beach, across the sea to the island with the lighthouse. Her jaw is clenched, just as unyielding as the rest of her, like she’s trying her best to hold something in. Like she’s afraid of what will happen when she relaxes.
Sookja stares for a moment at her mother before giving her hands one last swipe together and reaching out for her hand, tugging. “Mama,” she calls softly, hesitantly.
Her mother jerks, coming out of her semi trance, and peers down.
Sookja gives her hand a squeeze and shoots a bright smile up at her. “Mama, wanna bury me in the sand?” she asks, offering up to her mother the only idea her mind could settle on to bring her comfort. If she cannot tell Uncle Yoongi about her beach adventure, she’ll share it with her mother instead.
Her mother registers Sookja’s now grimy and messy state, consternation and amusement sparking life back into her eyes. “I should chuck you into the water to clean you up,” she says, voice teasing and light.
Her mother moves to grab Sookja and Sookja yelps, screaming in delight as she bolts away. Her feet kick up sand as her mother chases her, somehow never quite running fast enough to catch her, as they both lose their breath from laughing too much.
Sookja’s nostalgia melts away in the exhilaration, childish forgetfulness ushering her into a more pleasant state of mind. The bittersweet sadness will return many times over the years, for many different reasons as she ages. But the thought of a reunion, of 2018, of a someday far, far in the future, reminds her there is sweetness yet to come.
Part Two: Time
Yoongi breathes in, salt thick in the air.
He keeps his eyes closed, lifting his face up to the sun to feel its warmth, anything to keep his mind from overthinking.
He wonders if anything has changed yet. He can’t tell. His heart beats fast in his chest, though it feels like it’s in his throat. He doesn’t have another plan if this fails. All he wants is the future, the star that fell into his hands.
The waves break against the shore like they always do, the sound so commonplace to his ears that it blends into habit, like breathing, like blinking, like the fidgeting of his fingers against the empty wine bottle between his knees.
Nothing seems different, and his stomach feels like it’s suspended, about to drop.
He moves to tap the wine bottle again, and the movement jars him, his fingers meeting empty air. He freezes, an inhale cutting off, his throat closing as he swallows.
He strains to listen, keeping his eyes closed as hope flutters around his heart. The waves still break against the shore, the sun is still warm on his face.
Disappointment is swift and bitter, and it almost fools him. Until hope snatches his mind back, replays the voice that just called for him. The words - Uncle Yoongi - familiar, but the voice not.
His eyes snap open and he glances around until he spots an eldery woman, her stature hunched, her hair a stark white, but her eyes….
He swallows, daring to hope. Her eyes shine just like a child he knows, with frizzing hair and mischievous delight always bubbling in her voice. He stands from the sand slowly, hands wiping against his jeans, fingers catching on the outrageous holes Seokjin had assured him were fashionable.
He stares at the old woman for too long, unmoving, his heart beating frantically in his chest. He’s scared to confirm it, scared to know if the wine worked. Scared to know it didn’t.
The old woman shuffles closer to him, her eyes glistening in the sun, unshed tears gathering. “Uncle,” she says, half a whisper, half a question.
Yoongi clenches his hand into a fist, listens to the break of the waves against the shore, the cry of a seagull overhead, the almost thundering boom of the wind as it rushes past him. He gathers the last bit of courage he has in his bones and asks softly, his voice breaking on the syllables, “Sookja?”
She nods her head yes and moves forward, enveloping Yoongi into a tight hug. Yoongi breathes for what feels like the first time since Seokjin returned to his time, wrapping his arms around the woman he once knew as a girl.
“I have so much to tell you,” Sookja says into his shoulder, still squeezing him tight.
“Mn,” he hums, patting her back. He has so much to catch up on, so much to know. But for now, he can breathe. For now, the stars are within reach if he has the courage to stretch out his hand.
He’s having a hard time reconciling a lot of things. He’s missed almost eighty years of history, catastrophes this generation somehow accepts as a story of long long ago, and tarnished hard-fought victories that echo silently in the survivors of another era. It boggles his mind. It feels more like five hundred years than seventy-some.
Sookja smiles at him when he complains, a little amused, a little saddened.
“Time,” she tells him, “has no regard for our feelings. It keeps going, dragging us along. Even when we’ve left something behind.”
For a moment, Yoongi thinks he sees a reflection of Bonghee in her eyes, the spark of a green ocean, a trick of the light. He wonders how much Sookja has left behind as time dragged her forward. Her parents. Her friends. A lover, maybe two? Her dreams, her youth, the person she thought she would be.
He thinks about what he’s left behind, not dragged by time but hijacking it, leaping across decades. He finds he cannot regret any of it. He searches in his mind, in his heart, but any homesickness has been burned out of him with just the thought of meeting Seokjin again. No matter the new technology, the new history, the new people and culture. No matter how much he’ll struggle to adjust, he knows it will be worth it, just for the possibility of seeing Seokjin.
He’s still a lightkeeper, after all. And Seokjin has become his light.
The phone has several numbers programmed into it, but there is one of particular interest.
Yoongi has read Seokjin’s number in his phone’s contact list so many times, he has it memorized. He recites it in his mind to every song he hears, writes it with his finger on fogged up window panes, and nearly dials it ten times a day. But he doesn't. Not yet.
He didn't think much before he came to 2018, too focused to get to Seokjin. Sometime between Busan and Seoul, on that long train ride north, Yoongi realized he's not entirely certain the moonshine will keep him here, in this time, in this place. Seokjin had to go back to his time after the effects wore off. Bonghee had told Yoongi he was born out of time. He should be fine.
It's that small, quiet doubt of what if that stills him.
If he only has three months here, he wants to spend them with Seokjin, absorbing as many memories as he can, hoarding them for the long life of solitude he has ahead of him. But Seokjin is different. Seokjin doesn't have memories that haunt him, simultaneously a torture and a comfort, the sickness and the cure. Seokjin can move on with his life if he never sees Yoongi again. Yoongi isn't even sure how much Seokjin knows about him, whether he ever found that book. Whether he even knows his name.
Yoongi finds he isn't willing to leave Seokjin again, isn't willing to leave a scar on his soul like Seokjin has on his own.
If it will only end in a painful tearing apart, he would rather keep Seokjin whole.
So Yoongi decides to wait.
Shortly after he finds a place to stay in Seoul, he makes his way to a book shop. Perhaps his priority should have been grocery shopping, or exploring the city, or even figuring out the subway system. None of that seems important to him. He wants to find Seokjin's novels. He wants to know what kind of worlds Seokjin has shared, what kind of words he uses to comfort lonely people. He wants to reach out and connect, if even a little, to the person he calls home.
Pride blooms in his chest when he finds Seokjin's novels prominently displayed. He runs his fingers over the covers, tracing Seokjin's name. He's glad the world seems to recognize Seokjin's talent. He grabs all three novels, and picks up a stack of history texts in the non-fiction section while he's there.
Yoongi spends the next two days hardly sleeping, hardly eating, eagerly devouring Seokjin’s words. They’re a balm and a thorn. They’re a piercing knife to his heart, and a soothing hug. Yoongi misses him, misses him so terribly, a constant ache like a rotten tooth in the back of his mouth. He wants to see Seokjin’s eyes that sparkle with the purest light. He wants to hold Seokjin’s hand, grasp gentle, skin soft, featherlike and devastatingly fleeting.
Yoongi continues to wait. September turns to October and he buys bizarre articles of clothing. He gauges just how bizarre they truly are in this century by the reactions he receives while in public. The results are surprising, but he thinks he's getting the hang of it. He wonders if Seokjin would be proud of him, adapting so well, finding his own style, the Yoongi of 2018. He wonders if Seokjin even knows his name.
He doesn’t like wondering.
October turns to November, and he learns how to use modern devices and equipment, though he's not entirely sure he'll ever trust the microwave. It just seems too good to be true. His favorite modern invention is the internet. He creates a profile on twitter and follows Seokjin’s official account. There aren’t a lot of updates. Seokjin must be busy. But there is an announcement of a new novel releasing soon. A comforting sort of happiness settles in Yoongi. Seokjin must have conquered his block.
November turns to December, and he starts writing Seokjin letters. He doesn’t plan to send them, what a disaster that would be. Some strange, overly intimate letters from a stranger. No. But he has so many thoughts bubbling up within him that he needs to put them down, release the tension of his chest just a bit. He thinks he understands why Seokjin writes now. It’s about sharing, and it’s about urge, and it’s about finding clarity when he takes the wordless thoughts, abstract and formless, makes them solid, real. It’s about plucking the stars from the sky and holding the light in his hands.
December turns to January, and Yoongi counts the end of four months. Counts the end of what should be his wait. He's still here, permanently it seems.
But he dials and erases and dials and erases Seokjin's number in his phone, his fingers shaking with hesitation. He doesn't know how much Seokjin knows about him. He doesn't know if it's right for him to barge into Seokjin's life, demand a place by his side. Seokjin told him he doesn't remember anything about their time together. The months of waiting, the days and nights of separation has fed his doubts, the stubborn spaces of his mind that thinks it's too good to be true. The memory of Seokjin belongs to him, but the man might not. He's not even sure how he would start to explain to Seokjin. "Hi, my name is Min Yoongi, and once upon a time you loved me so well, so thoroughly, so intensely that I felt like I held the universe in my arms."
January turns to February, and Seokjin's new novel is released. Yoongi picks up his reserved copy at the book shop, and only makes it two steps outside the store before he cracks open the cover to the dedication page. He nearly drops the book, his breath caught in his throat, his heart thumping hard against his chest.
The dedication reads, "To the lightkeeper. Everyday I'm happy because of you. Everyday I miss you. Thank you."
Yoongi decides his waiting is over.
Part Three: And the Stars
Seokjin smiles, barely resisting the urge to reach out and brush Yoongi’s dark fringe off his forehead. He’s afraid he’ll wake Yoongi up from his desperately needed slumber, instead flicking his gaze back to the road ahead of him.
It was late spring the first time he drove this way, bright sun and vivid colors of a coming summer promising adventure and discovery Seokjin couldn’t even fathom. It was early spring the second time he travelled so far south, the landscape frozen by winter slowly thawing, emerging with timid tendrils that could not touch Seokjin’s heavy heart.
This time, Seokjin drives the long, seemingly endless roads in the middle of winter, frost tinting everything in a fresh, bluish hue, remaking the far away mountains and fields into something from a fantasy or a painting. Seokjin has no adventure to journey through, nor any lost loves to mourn and cherish. All that lays ahead of him is a relaxing long weekend, a break for Yoongi from his university courses and Seokjin from his writing. The normalcy, the sheer ordinarity of it feels enormous. It’s a boon he knows he has no right to receive, an impossibility he could never have imagined.
He watches frosted landscape speed past and lets the sweet weight of his reality settle onto his shoulders. No matter what journey he takes, he knows Yoongi will be by his side.
He’s supposed to wake Yoongi up by the time they get to Jeonju. The only reason Yoongi had conceded to sleeping was the promise that he’d take over driving halfway down. But Seokjin can’t find it in himself to disturb Yoongi, especially when he knows how many all-nighters Yoongi has been pulling to finish his schoolwork.
He keeps driving, leaving Jeonju behind, Yeosu closer on the horizon, and with it the stress and exhaustion of daily life melting away like the now thawed frost. It’s cloudy, the sun seemingly erased, casting the world in a bluish grey tint. Seokjin has the thought they’ve traveled down the hues of blue, from blue-white, stark and bright and sparkling, to blue-grey, calm and cool and like the depths of the ocean.
Yoongi finally comes back to life just as Seokjin skirts around the edges of Yeosu, exiting the main expressway to the smaller two-lane road leading to the island.
Yoongi makes a disgruntled noise, like waking is a personal offense, shifting slowly, straightening his head from the window. Seokjin glances over at him and smiles when he sees Yoongi’s eyes still stubbornly shut tight, his nose scrunched up in disapproval.
“You’re up?” he says, reaching a hand out to rub at Yoongi’s neck.
“Mn,” Yoongi manages to sound, blinking and looking around. “Where are we?” he asks, his voice rumbling with disuse.
“Just passed Yeosu.”
Yoongi makes a displeased noise and looks at Seokjin, frowning. “You were supposed to let me drive at Jeonju.”
Seokjin shrugs, unperturbed. “I thought you should catch up on your sleep. You’ve been working hard lately.”
“You’ve been working hard, too,” Yoongi points out, clearly pouting.
Seokjin smiles. “Wah, such a caring boyfriend I have, I’m so lucky,” he praises.
Yoongi snorts. “I’ll drive us back on Sunday,” he decides.
Seokjin hums in agreement and moves his hand down in front of Yoongi. “Hand,” he says, somewhere between a request and a demand.
Yoongi places his own hand in Seokjin’s without hesitation, which makes Seokjin smile widen. It’s nearly instinct now. Seokjin thinks in about a year, all he’ll have to do is present his hand without a word and Yoongi will take it.
“You shouldn’t drive one-handed,” Yoongi says, though he doesn’t move to take his hand back.
“Don’t I look cool like this, though?” Seokjin tilts his head and winks at Yoongi.
“Look at the road,” Yoongi replies, deadpan, but Seokjin can see him smile.
Seokjin squeezes Yoongi’s hand and nods. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you there safe and sound.”
Yoongi shifts back to lay his head on the headrest. “It’s been a long time,” he says, changing topics.
“Two years,” Seokjin supplies.
Yoongi sighs. “Time goes by too quickly.”
Seokjin swallows. “Do you miss it?” It’s not the first time Seokjin has asked if Yoongi misses something from his past, from the 1930s and the world he grew up in. He doesn’t think he’ll ever stop, mindful of all Yoongi gave up to be with him. Mindful of just how much Seokjin is grateful for, too precious to ever take it for granted.
He hears Yoongi shake his head. “Not miss. Nostalgia, I guess?” He runs his thumb over Seokjin’s knuckles, a steady pace like clockwork. Back, forth, back, forth. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here.”
Seokjin releases the breath he didn’t know he was holding and smiles again, reassured.
“Well,” Yoongi adds, “maybe I’d rather be in the driver’s seat.”
“Yah, I agreed to let you drive us back.”
“You used to let me drive you around on my bicycle,” Yoongi grouses. “What have we become, Seokjin?”
Seokjin laughs, pushing their linked hands against Yoongi’s knee.
The island is special to both of them, a safe harbor, the place where miracles happened. There’s no place more fitting for a quiet rest, a couple days where they can make their world just the two of them.
Seokjin finishes up in the bedroom and heads to the living room, coming to a stop at the large windows overlooking the beach. He closes his eyes, immersing himself in the sound of the ocean, still churning, always moving no matter the season. The tides and time have been the same, before Seokjin came to be, and they will continue after he is gone. But they stopped for a moment, just a moment, to teach Seokjin about impossibilities, and hope.
“Do you want dinner?” Yoongi asks, coming into the living room, cutting through the distant sound of the waves crashing on the shore.
Seokjin opens his eyes and peeks over his shoulder at Yoongi. “Let’s go for a walk. If we leave now, we might get to the lighthouse before it gets too dark.”
“I’ll grab our coats,” Yoongi says, agreeing immediately, like he always does. Yoongi indulges every one of Seokjin’s wishes without fuss. It’s a privilege Seokjin sometimes has a hard time reconciling with. It feels too big, too good, too precious, like everything else about Yoongi. But Seokjin decides to be a little shameless, accepting it and holding it close to his heart softly.
It’s strikingly cold when they get outside, the wind sharp and icy, whipping Seokjin’s hair around almost violently. Seokjin zips his coat up to his neck, buries one of his hands in his pocket, and presents the other hand to Yoongi.
“We really should wear gloves,” Yoongi says, already grabbing Seokjin’s hand, linking their fingers together before pulling their joined hands into his own pocket.
Seokjin leans against Yoongi’s side and shrugs. “I like your hand more.”
Yoongi turns his head away, but Seokjin catches his subtle blush and laughs.
They take the long way around, walking along the sandy shores, watching the sea approach and retreat in foaming waves. Occasionally Seokjin will break away from Yoongi, running with open arms towards the churning grey water before returning back to Yoongi, always returning, his hand slipping back into place in Yoongi’s. Seokjin can feel the tips of his nose and ears turn red even before Yoongi points it out.
“It’s cute,” Yoongi adds, like he always does, laughing quietly, contentedly.
There is no sunset, the brilliant colors of a crystallized pink and icy purple replaced with a thick blanket of clouds. The beach slowly gets dimmer and dimmer, grey to deeper grey. Yoongi pulls Seokjin closer to him as they arrive at the lighthouse, guiding Seokjin with expert ease up the pitch-black staircase of the lighthouse even after two years away. The wooden steps creak under their weight but hold firm, Yoongi’s workmanship still holding up even after nearly a century. Seokjin thinks whatever Yoongi puts out into the world will last forever. The stairs, the dock, his love.
Yoongi tugs Seokjin up to the gallery. Yoongi moves to the railing, leaning against it, face to the wind, eyes closed and hair a tangled mess from the wind, breathing in the salty air.
Min Yoongi. This is the man I love, Seokjin thinks, not for the first time, and certainly not for the last. It warms his chest, just like always, just like Seokjin knows the thought always will.
He doesn’t realize he’s staring until Yoongi opens his eyes and glances at him. “What?” he asks, sheepish.
Seokjin smiles and shakes his head, hooking his arm through Yoongi’s and leaning against Yoongi’s shoulder. “Just thinking.”
Yoongi hums, tilting his head against Seokjin’s side. “About what?”
Seokjin exhales. “Do you think it’ll snow?”
“It’s too warm.”
“It’s supposed to snow in Seoul tonight,” Seokjin adds.
“South Jeolla doesn’t get much snow,” Yoongi says, sniffing.
“Stranger things have happened,” Seokjin counters.
Yoongi turns, moving his body to face Seokjin more directly. His deep brown eyes flick across Seokjin’s face, searching or memorizing, or indulging.
Seokjin clears his throat and smiles, about to make a joke, embarrassed even now at Yoongi’s undivided attention.
“Do you ever wonder,” Yoongi says, preempting whatever thing Seokjin was about to say, “what if you hadn’t taken Bonghee-noona’s moonshine? Or if you had taken another year?” Yoongi frowns, eyes growing distant. “Or if you never gave that dandelion to Sookja?”
Seokjin inhales deeply, slipping his arms around Yoongi’s torso, pulling him close until they’re chest-to-chest. “I think,” he starts, smiling down at Yoongi, “that everything that didn’t happen is just a story. And this, us, right here and now, is the only outcome that’s real.”
Yoongi’s eyes flicker over Seokjin’s face again until his features melt into a soft smile, eyes glowing with affection. “Thank goodness,” he finally says.
“Thank goodness,” Seokjin repeats in agreement. He leans down, places a quick, close-mouthed kiss to Yoongi’s lips.
He meant it to be a brief peck, but Yoongi curls his fingers into Seokjin’s parka and pulls him back down when Seokjin starts to retreat. Seokjin makes a small sound, acquiescence or pleasure, even he doesn’t know. He melts into Yoongi’s hold, follows when Yoongi angles his head, opening his lips and sighing into the kiss, allowing Yoongi to deepen their entanglement.
The wind is still whipping around them, icicles attempting to seep into their blood, but Yoongi’s mouth is hot and welcoming, encapsulating Seokjin.
Yoongi’s fingers inch around Seokjin’s waist, crunching the thick fabric. Seokjin knows it’s impossible but he could swear he can feel the heat of Yoongi’s touch on his skin through the layers.
Yoongi draws back, kissing the corner of Seokjin’s lips, his cheek, his jawline before he finally pulls away. “Should we head back?” he asks, voice thick again, like he’s woken from a particularly good dream.
Seokjin smiles softly and nods. “Mn.”
They take their time together at the cottage, peeling off clothes slowly, worshiping every sliver of new skin with hands and lips. And teeth in Seokjin’s case, biting just enough to sting, leaving a trail of pink marks on Yoongi’s pale skin. It’s slow, and deliberate. Magical even, if Seokjin allows himself to sink into flowery prose in his mind, a physical manifestation of their love and gratitude for each other.
It’s a reminder of how many what ifs and could have beens ended in sadness, and loss. It’s a reminder of how many impossibilities they’ve somehow overcome. Hands that grip a little too hard, breath that trembles with more than just arousal, and whispered I love yous that sound a little too ragged. All of it is Seokjin’s, now. Tomorrow. For as long as the tides return and time ticks by.
Mirabilia for him to unravel for the rest of his life.
It’s well into the night by the time Seokjin convinces Yoongi to make them a long overdue dinner of ramyun. He leaves Seokjin bundled under the covers, laughing and kissing his cheek before padding off to the kitchen.
Seokjin stretches, shifting carefully so the covers don’t dare to leave any inch of his body, and turns to glance out of the window. He blinks, brow furrowing for a moment. The stars are falling, he thinks bizarrely, watching as sparkling bits of light float down from the sky.
A lot of stars. The entire galaxy.
He sits up suddenly, throwing the covers off and quickly dressing. “Yoongi!” he shouts, suddenly energized again. “It’s snowing!”
Seokjin grabs his coat, shrugging it on while he hears Yoongi shuffle out of the kitchen.
“Huh?” Yoongi asks, a pair of chopsticks still in his hand.
Seokjin grins excitedly. “Snow!”
Yoongi snorts, laughing softly. “You’re like a kid,” he pouts, but he’s already taking his coat, slipping his arms through.
Seokjin knows the snow will disappear by morning. It is indeed too warm in South Jeolla for the phenomenon to last long. But for now, Seokjin is content to enjoy one more impossibility with Yoongi, watching the stars fall and melt on their joined hands.