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yoongi narrows his eyes at the screen, typing a few more commands before he hits enter. he does one last check of all of it—the lines and lines of coding, commands and traits, two months’ worth of carefully constructed synapses and neurons. everything human but not quite. once he’s satisfied with what he sees, yoongi takes a deep breath, mouse hovering over the last button he has to press to bring his creation to life. it’s hardly his first invention, hardly the first thing he’s built, but this is at least a little more personal. he wants to get it right.

after another moment of hesitation, yoongi presses the button: activate. then he turns in his chair, facing his project seated across from him, perfectly still. he’s sitting upright, donning the clothes he’ll be wearing for the foreseeable future, matching yoongi’s: black pants, white lab coat. his eyes are closed, eyelashes fanning his smooth cheekbones, hair lying carefully across his forehead.

the android is—perfect. or as near to perfect as yoongi could manage: incredibly intelligent, innovative, and adaptive. he can take orders without question but has enough drive to make his own decisions, better ones if yoongi’s own human faults get in the way. he will be yoongi’s perfect creation, his perfect assistant.

he lacks everything that made all of the humans yoongi interviewed for the job the wrong fit. it had been months of it—interviewing candidates, looking over applications, meeting with bright-eyed scientists who wanted nothing more than to take part in yoongi’s research at HDF, the first company to begin work on 140503, the latest in a long string of planets to be discovered in the nemesis galaxy.

yoongi has been fortunate to move his way into one of the head research positions within the company, and was offered the task of traveling to 140503 to research minerals discovered deep within the planet’s core. he’s always worked best alone, but recognized—and was pushed by his colleagues—to find an assistant to help with the work. researchers and scientists, some working in the field for as long as yoongi has been alive and some fresh out of university, lined up to interview for the job, wanting to be on the front lines of discovery and innovation, wanting to be part of a team that might discover new minerals and elements altogether, might learn how to harvest and use these minerals, might be on the cutting edge of changing lives and science itself.

but they had one fatal flaw, yoongi discovered: they were all human.

all of them were extremely intelligent, determined, driven. all of them were passionate about their work and wanted more than anything to discover something new. they were all willing to work long and tedious hours of testing and retesting minerals, maybe with little reward, as yoongi is sure the work will entail. but yoongi found that no one could offer him the true kind of dedication he needs for the project—almost complete isolation other than being with yoongi himself, considering they’ll be living and working on a completely uninhabited planet save for the few other HDF researchers spread out across it; very rare opportunities to visit friends or family, or even return to their home planets, considering the cost and time it takes to get to 140503 in the first place; leaving their homes and everything they know to live, work, and breathe their jobs for an undetermined amount of time, maybe years. maybe decades. all they’ll know is this: this work, this desire for something more.

everyone was willing to work, but when push came to shove, yoongi could never settle for any of them—they’d miss their families too much, wouldn’t be able to handle the isolation, couldn’t fathom leaving for a planet with nothing and no one on it for a huge part of their lives, maybe. yoongi doesn’t fault them; he and his colleagues often wonder what it says about them that they are able to have that kind of thoughtless dedication. if yoongi had a chance to do his life over, he might choose to stay right where he was before he joined HDF with all of those stars in his eyes, knowing the kinds of opportunities and the life he’s given up to be able to say he’s part of something more.

but he couldn’t take any of them on as his assistant. they’re too emotional, have too many ties to other humans and other planets, have too many hesitations. they get tired, need food, need connection with other humans. all of those things stand in the way of the work yoongi is trying to do.

so he decided to find an assistant with none of those things: no prior connections, no family, no home to miss. no need to eat or sleep, no desire for anything but work and knowledge and progress. no overbearing emotions that yoongi will resent in one, two, three months.

so he decided to make an assistant—one that isn’t human at all.

yoongi watches as the android takes a breath—unneeded, considering he’s all metal and electricity, although built to look exactly like a human, but yoongi had felt strange not making him look and behave much like a human, just without the overabundant emotion. for a time, the android just sits there, eyes closed. it looks as though he’s sleeping, peaceful, careful.

and then, between one breath and the next, the android opens his eyes. for a moment, they stare somewhere near yoongi’s chin, and then they flicker up to his eyes, something vaguely mechanical about the way they focus—irises shifting smaller, then larger again. for just a moment, yoongi admires the android’s face; he’d been able to design it himself, and although yoongi will never admit it, let alone to his colleagues that called once in a while to check on his progress, he spent countless hours constructing it, making it as perfect as his mind.

or—as perfect to yoongi as his mind. big eyes, big nose, lips a warm shade of pink. his front teeth are a little bigger than the rest, eyebrows carefully shaped over his eyes. even then, his hair covers them—black to contrast yoongi’s own blonde, an undercut and carefully swooping over his forehead. yoongi gave him earrings, just for a bit of a human touch. yoongi wouldn’t say he has a type, wouldn’t say he’s thought about the kind of person he would want to spend the rest of his life with for a long, long time—not since he got this job, not since he ran from his own planet on the first ship out—but maybe some subconscious part of himself considered it when given the blank canvas of his android. maybe if he might be spending years with his own creation, yoongi wanted to create him just like this:

jeon jeongguk. yoongi’s perfect assistant.

“hey,” says yoongi after a second, recognizing the thrill of nerves shooting up his spine; he wants this to go right after months of work, of preparation. “jeongguk.”

“hyung,” says jeongguk, voice—warm and gentle, relieved. yoongi grins, glad at the recognition; he’d imprinted his own dna within jeongguk’s coding to expediate the process of beginning their work. jeongguk has woken up knowing him, meaning they don’t have to worry about becoming comfortable with each other before they begin working. it also conveniently means that jeongguk knows plenty about him—knows yoongi’s habits, his likes and dislikes, anything that can help make them a perfectly compatible pair for working together.

and—even if jeongguk isn’t alive, technically, yoongi designed him to look in his late twenties to yoongi’s early thirties. (he doesn’t have a type. but maybe he kind of misses having friends around to call him hyung.)

“hi,” says yoongi. “are you—”

jeongguk reaches forward suddenly, cutting him off by taking yoongi’s face in both of his hands. yoongi hadn’t programmed him to be touchy, figuring this first meeting would be a good way to make sure jeongguk is working properly and hash out the plans for their work before making any necessary readjustments in jeongguk’s coding. but he’s suddenly forgotten what he wanted to say as jeongguk leans forward, faces moving closer and closer.

he stops inches away, eyes moving over every part of yoongi’s face. he tilts yoongi’s face left and right, up and down, seeming to inspect him as though jeongguk is the creator and yoongi is the android. this close, yoongi finds it hard to breathe, allowing himself to examine jeongguk’s face, too, admiring his own creation. for all intents and purposes, jeongguk does look human, no sign of wires or metal underneath it all. his skin feels like skin, his breath ghosting across yoongi’s skin like breath.

it’s been so long. yoongi has built jeongguk from the ground up, starting with but one line of code until he became this: a living, breathing being, making his own decisions, having his own thoughts. to see jeongguk like this is almost surreal.

“you have beautiful eyes,” murmurs jeongguk.

yoongi blinks. “i’m… sorry?”

“your eyes,” repeats jeongguk, tilting yoongi’s face down until he can lean forward, their eyes meeting. he lifts one of his hands, gently thumbing at the corners of yoongi’s eyes. “like a… cat.”

yoongi doesn’t know what to say to that. doesn’t know what to say at all, unsure why jeongguk is commenting on his eyes to begin with. that’s the sort of thing he worked hard to make sure jeongguk doesn’t feel the urge to say.

“and your nose,” says jeongguk, voice almost breathy, in awe. he pokes yoongi’s nose, making him jerk back slightly.

“what about my nose?” asks yoongi.

“and your lips,” whispers jeongguk. he stares at them, and yoongi begins to feel increasingly unsure about the situation, at least when jeongguk catches his eye again, grins at him all fond and soft. “yoongi-hyung,” he says again, lets out a little sigh as if to say, oh. there you are.

and then he leans forward, still holding yoongi’s face—closes his eyes, tilts his head, and yoongi realizes, a split second before they get close enough, that jeongguk is going to kiss him.

with an uncharacteristic shriek, yoongi shoves jeongguk as hard as he can. their chairs roll from each other, a look of hurt flashing in jeongguk’s eyes before yoongi slams his hand down on his keyboard, still hovered over the activate button, and watches as jeongguk immediately deactivates, reverting to his peaceful slumber in an instant.

yoongi breathes heavily, heart pounding in his ears as he stares at the android—now thankfully unable to move or think. or try to kiss him.

“what the fuck,” yoongi whispers. that was far from what was supposed to happen. he worked tirelessly to ensure that jeongguk would be human without the emotional side, no need for emotional connection or well-being, no ability to feel upset or guilty or even happy. something has gone horribly, horribly wrong with the android.

yoongi turns back to his screens, rapidly shifting through the endless lines of coding and programming to find the fault. all of jeongguk’s mental faculties are in order, just as yoongi wanted them, and he begins to think it wasn’t his doing at all, until—he gets to the little part where he imprinted his own dna into jeongguk for their compatibility’s sake.

finally, he finds it: a crossed wire, an unanticipated consequence of allowing jeongguk to know him the moment he wakes up. adding his own human dna into jeongguk has managed to override all of the coding that should prevent jeongguk from being able to feel emotion. and what’s worse—not only can jeongguk feel emotion, but all of his emotion is specifically centered around yoongi.

yoongi… has accidentally programmed jeongguk to love him. to be in love with him.

he calls namjoon.

“hyung,” says namjoon as he answers the call, the image of his lab appearing on one of yoongi’s screens—no namjoon in sight, though. “to what do i owe the pleasure?”

“what are you doing?” yoongi asks.

namjoon finally pops into view, hopping around near the door as he pulls on his boots. he’s suited up to go outside, yoongi realizes; being part of the same company, namjoon is thankfully on 140503 at the moment, although thousands of miles away—he and jimin are researching the plant life on the planet, so have been stationed near one of the largest forests on the planet.

“going to collect data,” says namjoon. “but i have time to talk, don’t worry. what’s up?”

yoongi winces, glancing sideways at jeongguk—still sitting peacefully, eyes closed, not breathing. months of yoongi’s hard work right there, the android that yoongi had envisioned. he’s always thought it would be neat to have an android for an assistant, and now it’s all gone horribly wrong in one moment.

“namjoon-ah,” says yoongi, dropping his face into his hands. “i think i accidentally invented a boyfriend.”

a beat—“pardon?”

“my android,” says yoongi, looking up again. “i was building an android to fill my assistant position, right? i imprinted my dna in him so he would know me when he woke up and we wouldn’t have to do awkward first introductions and everything—”

“yeah, because you’re lazy and have terrible interpersonal skills since you never work with other humans—”

“shut up,” snaps yoongi. “the point is, my dna must have done something to his coding, because i activated him and he—he tried to kiss me! i looked at his programming and i think… oh god. joon, i think he’s in love with me.”

namjoon starts laughing.

namjoon,” groans yoongi. “this isn’t funny! i’ve been working on him for months and now he’s not going to do any work because he’s… he’s infatuated with me! this was the exact reason i wanted to build an android assistant in the first place.”

namjoon doesn’t stop laughing. in fact, his laughing seems to alert jimin, whom yoongi can hear calling out, “hyung! what’s so funny?”

through his laughter, namjoon calls back, “yoongi-hyung built himself a boyfriend.”

“yoongi-hyung,” says jimin, wandering into the frame as well. “i mean, i can’t blame you, since there aren’t a lot of options out here, but i’m sure if you asked, taehyung or hoseok or maybe even seokjin-hyung would say yes.”

“oh my god, no,” huffs yoongi. “i didn’t mean to.”

“can’t you just change the coding?” namjoon asks, joining jimin near the camera. “if it’s just a problem with that part of his coding, you should just be able to rework it, right?”

“it’s not that simple,” says yoongi. “it’s not just coding that’s causing the problem. it’s my dna in his coding that is doing it, and it’s almost impossible to extract my dna from him, especially because it looks like it’s managed to spread to all of his coding. if i want to rework it, i’d basically have to start over and rebuild another android entirely.” he looks at jeongguk again, realizing what few options he has now; he spent months of his precious time on this planet building jeongguk, so he doesn’t have the time to start over. his company was already less than happy with him wasting months of interviewing assistants only to spend more time building his own rather than just working.

he groans, rubbing at his face. “i think i have to keep him,” says yoongi.

“maybe it’ll be good in the end,” says jimin. “you know, having someone around who cares about you.”

“it won’t be good if he tries kissing me all the time.”

“then set some ground rules,” says namjoon. “if he’s as smart as you programmed him to be, i’m sure he’ll be able to set aside whatever emotions he has to work well. and if you don’t really have another choice, then you just have to deal with it.”

“you’ll be fine, yoongi-hyung,” says jimin. “just remember what you’re here to do and it’ll be okay.”

yoongi sighs. “thanks,” he mutters.

“oh, and if you get married,” adds jimin. “i call best man!”

before yoongi can yell at them, namjoon gives him an apologetic smile and a wave, tells him good luck, and then ends the call, leaving yoongi and his perfect creation behind. yoongi and his… android assistant boyfriend, apparently. but—jimin and namjoon have a point. they’re here to research and none of jeongguk’s intelligence or drive for working have been compromised by his apparent love for yoongi. realistically, they should still be able to do the same work. it’s just… everything else that he has to worry about.

when he activates jeongguk again—after doing as much as he can to tamp down the emotion and love part of jeongguk’s coding, although it’s not much—he watches as the android opens his eyes again, gaze focusing on yoongi. this time, yoongi looks for it—sees the relieved sort of recognition in jeongguk’s eyes when he sees yoongi, the tiniest upturn of his lips. he’s not sure anyone has looked like that upon seeing yoongi.

“hyung,” says jeongguk.

“we need to set some ground rules,” says yoongi. “i know you’re—you like me, right? but as i’m sure you’re aware, we’re here to do research. so… that’s what we’re going to do. when we’re working, you have to set aside whatever you feel for me and actually do work, okay?”

jeongguk blinks, head tilting. “of course,” he says.

“okay,” says yoongi, nervously picking at his thumbnail. “and no—no kissing me, okay? it makes me uncomfortable.”

“what about holding hands?”

“why would you want to hold my hand?”

“you have nice hands,” says jeongguk, reaching for them. yoongi pulls away, just enough for jeongguk to get the message.

“how about just… not too much touching,” says yoongi. “you’re my assistant, jeongguk. so that means we have to maintain a professional relationship.” he didn’t think he would need to have this conversation with an android, but he’s done weirder things.

surprisingly, jeongguk just nods. “okay,” he says.

“okay,” says yoongi. this doesn’t have to be different from what he expected it to be, as long as jeongguk works well—and considering yoongi programmed him to be even more intelligent than yoongi himself, he has no doubts about that. he doesn’t know how working and living in close quarters for the foreseeable future will affect jeongguk’s feelings for him, but they don’t have another option.

so yoongi takes a deep breath. he reaches out to fix jeongguk’s hair and then stops, remembering that jeongguk is awake now, can do it himself. might not appreciate yoongi telling him they can’t touch and then immediately breaking that rule—but it’s hard to forget that jeongguk is his creation but has his own agency now, doesn’t need yoongi to dote on him the way he did for months while creating jeongguk. yoongi just drops his hand, nods to himself. says, “alright. let’s get started on our research.”

at first, yoongi is still nervous that the arrangement won’t work out with jeongguk being horribly in love with yoongi. but just as his friends suggested, it works out—he and jeongguk work remarkably well together, which was the whole point of imprinting his dna in jeongguk’s coding. it’s as though they’ve been partners for years already, and jeongguk is ridiculously good at his work since yoongi wired him with knowledge of the planet, equipment, and procedures for doing their research. they immediately set to work with the samples of minerals that have been sent to them by the company—extracted by seokjin, working miles and miles underground to mine the planet’s core with all of the toys he’s built to replace humans.

the first week is somewhat exciting; yoongi has been working in research with HDF since he was sixteen years old, but being the first to get his hands on these minerals has him vaguely giddy. they don’t glean much information in that first week, although yoongi expected that it would take months before they made any sort of breakthrough. and jeongguk doesn’t complain about it, which is the point. he merely does what he can with the minerals, following yoongi’s orders when needed or working alongside him. even when yoongi takes breaks to eat, jeongguk can keep working. even when yoongi has to sleep, bundled up in a bed in another room in the lab, jeongguk can continue working if he feels it’s needed. sometimes yoongi will wake up to find jeongguk has made more progress than yoongi did in the entire previous day, and jeongguk always shows him with both pride of his work and a vague look of desperation in his eyes, like he wants yoongi to be proud of him.

but either way, the emotions don’t get in the way. jeongguk follows the rules that yoongi set for him—no touching, no trying to kiss him, nothing outside of work. for that first week that bleeds into two weeks, into three, yoongi realizes he had nothing to worry about, not when jeongguk is a hard worker and inhumanly intelligent and able to put aside the faulty part of his coding.

and then—things begin to change, just a little.

it’s subtle at first. yoongi has been examining a tiny sample he thinks might be some kind of gem, having sat in the same chair for hours on end as he stares at it through a microscope, when he notices that there’s a suspicious lack of noise from the other side of the lab, where jeongguk works. jeongguk is always muttering to himself, something that yoongi didn’t add into his code but finds to be a welcome trait, anyway—although he’s used to working alone, in often complete silence, there’s something reassuring about knowing someone else is on the other side of the lab, doing work with him—but now there’s nothing.

yoongi looks up from the mineral sample to find jeongguk isn’t working, instead watching him from his own work station.

he hesitates, unsure if it’s a sign that something is wrong with jeongguk or not—yoongi has asked constant questions about jeongguk’s functioning and done routine check-ups on his programming in case he needs to tweak anything, but jeongguk has been running in perfect condition since he was activated, so.

“hello?” yoongi asks. “do you need something?”

“no,” says jeongguk.

yoongi glances at his station before looking back at jeongguk. “okay,” he says. “are you... going to keep working or just stare at me?”

“i like watching you work,” says jeongguk. “it’s fascinating.”

“we’re doing the same thing,” says yoongi. “what makes it different when i do it?”

jeongguk shrugs a little, teeth catching on his lower lip. it’s a strangely human thing to do—although yoongi made sure that jeongguk has human habits, attributes, behaviours. it’s so easy to forget that he’s not human. “i just like when you do it,” says jeongguk. “i like watching you do anything.”

for some reason, that comment has heat rising to yoongi’s cheeks. he wonders how many times he’s been so immersed in his work that he’s missed jeongguk watching him from across the lab—and then he thinks about jeongguk watching him while he sleeps and gets sufficiently creeped out, bringing him back to the present. “okay,” he says. “do you want to… come over here and get a better look? there’s some stuff you could help me with, anyway.”

jeongguk perks up at that, an easy grin curling on his lips as he scoots his chair across the lab and comes to a stop at yoongi’s table, right next to him. “you’re really good at this,” he says.

“you don’t have anyone to compare me to,” says yoongi.

“i know you, min yoongi,” says jeongguk, grinning as he taps his temple. “you put your dna in me, remember? i know how hard you work.” suddenly, that aspect unnerves yoongi. they haven’t done much talking outside of work, so yoongi hasn’t told jeongguk much about himself—but it’s true that jeongguk just knows things about yoongi, inherently.

yoongi swallows, turning back to his work. “well,” he says. “thank you, then.” he looks through the microscope again, studying the mineral underneath it for a moment. “you’re good at this, too, by the way,” he adds as an afterthought. “i mean, i built you for that, but it’s really nice to have someone who knows what they’re doing. you make things easier.”

jeongguk makes a pleased sound in the back of his throat. he shouldn’t need compliments or praise, but yoongi still isn’t sure just how far his emotional coding goes anymore. all he can hope is that jeongguk won’t start wanting to leave this little lab, considering there is nowhere else to go—for either of them.

“can you hand me the pick?” yoongi asks, holding out his hand but continuing to examine the gem.

nothing happens.

“jeongguk?” yoongi asks, finally looking up to find that—jeongguk is still just staring at him, a look of awe on his face. a look of… love. yoongi looks away quickly, ignoring the heat that rises to his cheeks again. “never mind,” he mutters, reaching across jeongguk to grab the tool he wants, quickly returning to his work so he won’t have to acknowledge how jeongguk looks at him—and has been looking at him this whole time. but that’s easy to ignore. jeongguk looking at yoongi like he created this entire planet and everything on it won’t interfere with their work—at least for now.

but it doesn’t stop with the looks. jeongguk still does his work well, the two of them making progress—albeit slow progress. but then jeongguk starts making little comments here and there, ones that somehow manage to fluster yoongi despite his insistence that their relationship is a strictly professional one.

yoongi will wander into the lab after a short night of sleep, still half-asleep and badly needing coffee, and jeongguk will look over at him from his station and say, “your hair looks cute like that.” despite himself, yoongi will feel his cheeks go pink before he glances in a reflective surface and see his hair is sticking up on one side, squished flat from sleep, and he’ll rapidly pat it down even as jeongguk giggles at him.

or he and jeongguk will sit just outside of the lab, watching the sunset as yoongi munches on some food, and jeongguk will say, “you know, we’re basically the only two people on this entire planet. we could start our own colony.”

and yoongi will hesitate with his spoon halfway to his mouth, looking over at jeongguk awash in pinks and oranges from the setting sun, looking for all intents and purposes like he’s imagined a proper life for them together, and he’ll say, “i don’t know where to begin with how wrong that statement is.”

“don’t you think it would be nice, hyung?” jeongguk will ask, grinning at him.

“we’re here to work, jeongguk.”

“yeah but… we’ll finish one day, right?”

and yoongi doesn’t like thinking about that—what happens after. as far as he’s concerned, this project could take years and years. research for this planet is never going to finish, at least. they might do all the work they can on researching the minerals in the planet’s core, but after that, there’s so much more. hoseok and taehyung are researching animal life. jimin and namjoon are researching plant life. seokjin is working in the core. there is still so much to do—climate, weather, what it would look like to actually start a colony. but yoongi has no idea what will become of jeongguk in the midst of that, so he tries not to think about it.

and he tries not to think about what it means that jeongguk is thinking about a future with him at all.

so he’ll say, “not if we keep watching sunsets instead of actually working,” and get up from his chair, nudging jeongguk with his foot before heading back inside. “seokjin-hyung sent a new batch of samples this morning, so you should get working on those.” and jeongguk will smile at him—because jeongguk always smiles at him, always happy to be in his presence, to work with him no matter what they’re doing—and do as he says.

soon, almost anything yoongi does is met with a comment from jeongguk about how cute he is, or something similar. he manages to say something that flusters yoongi almost every day—about his work, about jeongguk’s own feelings. apparently jeongguk has no shame or filter whatsoever, unafraid to be frank about his feelings. it makes sense, since yoongi gave him no emotion that would prohibit him from saying those kinds of things, but he’s not entirely sure what to do with that kind of boldness, with how forward jeongguk is.

“can you—” begins yoongi once it becomes too much, only a month or two after they began their work. “can you not say things like that?” he’s still red in the face from jeongguk asking why yoongi gave him a dick if he wasn’t planning on doing anything with it. (and the truth is that—yoongi doesn’t really know why. it was just a natural part of the design, maybe. he doesn’t like being called out on it, at least).

jeongguk looks up at him from the report he’s writing, eyes wide and horribly innocent considering the content of their conversation. “things like what?”

“jeongguk,” mutters yoongi, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“why are your cheeks red?” jeongguk asks, scooting closer and reaching out to poke one of yoongi’s cheeks. “i thought you said it was fine as long as my feelings don’t get in the way of our work. and i’ll have you know i’ve done very good work today. probably more than you.”

“that’s the problem,” yoongi mutters, closing his eyes and trying to muster up the courage to say it. “your feelings are getting in the way of my work.”

“oh,” says jeongguk, although—he doesn’t sound apologetic at all. in fact, it sounds like he’s grinning, and when yoongi glances sideways, he sees that jeongguk is indeed smiling, looking all sorts of pleased.

yoongi huffs. “shut up,” he says. “do your work.”

“i didn’t say anything,” says jeongguk.

“you were thinking it,” says yoongi. “seriously, you need to finish that report. my boss has been hounding me for some substantial progress with this so you need to make it look really good.”

“i fluster you, don’t i?” asks jeongguk, giggling as yoongi gives him a sharp glare and then turns back to his own work of cross-referencing the data they’ve found in the past few weeks with what they discovered earlier. recently, jeongguk’s comments have taken on a teasing tone as he’s seemingly gotten more comfortable with yoongi. it’s not changed his work at all, but apparently he’s decided that yoongi’s warning when he was first activated that he can’t let his feelings get in the way can be ignored just a little—enough to tease yoongi, to watch him work all of the time, to make comments that make yoongi go red from top to toe. yoongi can’t decide what it means that he kind of lets it happen.

when yoongi doesn’t respond, jeongguk leans closer. “hyung,” whispers jeongguk. “yoongi-hyung.”

“i’ll deactivate you,” says yoongi. “don’t think i won’t. or i’ll change your coding and make you look really stupid.”

“that won’t change the fact that you like me more than you let on.”

yoongi glares at him. “work.

jeongguk just winks, rolling back over to his report to continue working on it. but is it true, he wonders? does he like jeongguk more than he thinks he does? not that it matters—either way, jeongguk is still his assistant. and they’re still just working together.

》 》 》

a few weeks later, yoongi and jeongguk head out to collect some mineral samples for themselves. although they’re working mainly with minerals found within the planet’s core, there are plenty of minerals on the planet’s surface that might aid in their understanding. on a bright and sunny morning, they suit up for exploration outside of the lab—donning what are essentially tracksuits with face masks and backpacks filled with supplies and food. the planet has an atmosphere that allows them to breathe without help and the wildlife appears to be almost entirely harmless, at least to humans. still, yoongi can’t help but worry.

jeongguk is the opposite, though; he looks more excited than yoongi has ever seen him to venture away from the lab, exploring the rocky area that they’ve been stationed near. as they explore the area, he asks countless questions about the planet and yoongi tries to provide the information that he knows.

they hike up a large rocky hill a mile from their lab, one that overlooks the valley and surrounding area that they’ve been stationed in. from here, they can see the nearest forest and a large lake that sits a few miles away, other hills and mountains that rise up to meet them in the distance. it’s not the first time yoongi has been here for explored outside of the lab, but it’s not often that he does—and being up here is strange, to realize that this is a new planet, one that only a few have ever seen. although he spends so much time cooped up in his lab, yoongi realizes just how lucky he is to be here.

then he feels jeongguk’s fingers on his, threading them together.

“what are you doing?” yoongi asks, turning to look at jeongguk. his eyes are wide and bright, watching the view.

“i’m holding your hand,” says jeongguk, like it’s obvious. and it is, but—still.

“what’s the first rule about working together?”

“hyung, we’re not working right now,” protests jeongguk. “i just—i wanna hold your hand for a second. all of this is really amazing and i want to enjoy it. with you.” he glances at yoongi, pleading in his eyes, and yoongi realizes—just because jeongguk has put aside his feelings for yoongi, that doesn’t mean they’ve changed. his love for yoongi is literally in his coding, unable to stop himself from feeling what he does for yoongi. it’s been a few months since they started working together, and for this entire time, jeongguk has stilled loved him. he’s just worked not to show it too greatly, worked not to act on those emotions.

it’s been a long time since yoongi has loved someone has more than a friend, but even then—he thinks of what he does when he’s finally around his friends, thinks of how he always wants to take care of them, make sure that they’re eating well and happy. when the six of them arrived on 140503, starting out in the same place before they spread out over the planet, they had had these exact moments—looking out at the planet they were going to learn about, grow within, discover. he loves them, maybe not like jeongguk loves him, but… it’s still love.

and jeongguk has been suppressing that this whole time.

so—yoongi just gives a little nod. he turns back to the landscape, watching how the light dances across the lake in the distance, how the trees rustle in the wind. he turns his hand so jeongguk can better hold it, squeezing jeongguk’s fingers once to let him know it’s alright—just this once. he can practically hear jeongguk’s grin from here, having memorized it already in the few short months that they’ve known each other.

for years before this, yoongi was adamant that working with another person would only slow him down, hinder his progress, stand in the way of the method he’s developed for himself. it’s just easier to be on his own, to do things the way he wants them. but standing on that hill with jeongguk holding his hand, yoongi realizes—maybe it’s not so bad to have someone else with him. maybe it’s not so bad with jeongguk.

》 》 》

yoongi mutters to himself as he works, rapidly writing down data as he searches through the records laid out on the lab table. lately, he’s been working with minerals that appear at first to closely resemble known minerals from other parts of the galaxy—even original minerals that were discovered on earth thousands of years ago. but he always runs into little hiccups when categorizing them, realizing that just one small property of each element is off; it doesn’t react the way the existing minerals do to certain temperatures, or when put into water, or when mixed with another mineral. they appear to mimic minerals that have already been discovered save for a few key things that throw yoongi through a loop in trying to categorize them.

but that makes something about his research exciting—trying to decide what makes these minerals different, trying to understand why they’re so similar but still aren’t the same. he’s made a breakthrough in his research today—or yesterday, maybe; yoongi hasn’t gotten up from this chair in hours and hours, determined to see this portion of research through to the end. he’s on a roll with it, not wanting to stop lest he lose momentum or in case he’s on the verge of something and just needs one more minute to figure it out.

of course, he hasn’t slept or eaten for a day or two, but that’s what this job requires. he knew before he arrived on 140503 that there would come times when he would be putting his job above his well-being, and this is just one instance. it’s happened before. it’ll happen again.

but—this time, he’s not alone.

yoongi looks up from his work only when there’s a soft knock on the door and he turns toward it; it’s the door that separates the lab from the living quarters of the building, and yoongi sees jeongguk peeking his head through the open door before the rest of his body joins. he’s carrying a tray of food, steaming.

“hyung,” says jeongguk as yoongi turns back to his papers, flipping through them quickly to find what he wants. “hyung.

“i’m busy, jeongguk,” says yoongi. a few seconds later, he hears jeongguk set down the tray on the table, far enough away from the samples and papers not to risk anything being contaminated.

“i brought you food,” says jeongguk. “you haven’t eaten in… nine hours and thirty-six minutes.” a long pause—“thirty-seven minutes.”

“you’re keeping track?” yoongi asks, looking up at him again.

“not consciously,” says jeongguk with a shrug. “but it’s the truth. you need to eat.”

“i’ll eat in a few minutes,” says yoongi, nodding to the door. “you can go. but thank you.”

he tries turning back to his work, but his chair is suddenly being turned and he’s forced to look up at jeongguk, who has a hand on the back of yoongi’s chair and a vaguely murderous look on his face. “min yoongi,” he says, voice low. “you need to take a break. you haven’t eaten in almost nine hours and you haven’t slept in over twenty-four. might i remind that you i’m the android between us and you need to eat and sleep? it will seriously inhibit your ability to work and concentrate, and if you don’t eat, you’ll begin to—”

“i know what happens if someone doesn’t eat, jeongguk,” says yoongi. “i’m not going to starve myself. i’m in the middle of something, so give me five minutes.”

jeongguk’s eyes narrow. “no,” he says.

“jeongguk, you’re my assistant. you can’t tell me what to do.”

“i also care about you,” says jeongguk. “a lot. and i’m telling you, not as your assistant but as someone who cares about you, that you need to take a break.” they engage in a staring contest for a minute, yoongi still determined to go back to his work and jeongguk still determined to make him take a break. they could do this all day, he knows; he gave jeongguk all sorts of stubborn attributes in hopes that making him determined and driven would make for a good assistant that would want to accomplish many tasks in a short amount of time. but it also means that he’s not afraid to argue with yoongi until high hell if it means getting what he wants.

“also, i made your favourite,” jeongguk adds as an afterthought, a little softer. yoongi leans sideways until he can actually see the food, somewhat surprised to find that jeongguk is right.

“how do you know what my favourite food is?” he asks.

“i know you, remember?” jeongguk asks, tapping the middle of his chest. “you gave me part of you. besides, i pay attention to you. you eat that a lot. it’s not hard to figure out what you like and don’t like.”

something about that finally pushes yoongi into concession, eyebrows furrowing as he leans back in his chair and watches jeongguk curiously. the truth is that over the past few months, he’s mostly focused on his own research and work. of course, jeongguk has done the same, but yoongi hadn’t considered what jeongguk does in the meantime. yoongi tries to take at least a few hours every day not working, if only for his own sanity, but since jeongguk doesn’t have to sleep or eat, he has plenty of time to do other things. and it’s not like they haven’t had regular conversations, but the majority of their time spent together has either been in silence or talking about their research so…

“is that so?” yoongi asks. “what else do you know about me? purely from an observational standpoint, i mean.”

jeongguk grins, knowing he’s won. he finally lets go of yoongi, grabbing the tray of food again and leading the way out of the lab and into the living quarters. yoongi follows him, collapsing on the sofa as jeongguk passes him the bowl of food.

“i know you love coffee,” says jeongguk, “and that you can’t start work until you’ve had at least two, if not three cups. you prefer it iced, but you’ll drink it hot if you’re in a pinch.” yoongi raises an eyebrow, although doesn’t comment. he’s not wrong, after all. “you’re very organized and everything in your life has its own place. stacks of papers, records, and books always go on the left side of your station, samples on the right. you cross your right leg over your left. when you’re focusing, you spin your pen between your fingers without noticing. sometimes you talk in your sleep.”

“i do not,” protests yoongi.

jeongguk giggles. “alright, only a few times,” he says. “you talk about namjoon-hyung sometimes, or… athea. that’s your home planet, right?”

yoongi freezes, staring into his bowl. he hasn’t spoken much about personal things with jeongguk, trying to keep their relationship strictly professional. but they’re still living together and have been for months. and he can tell that jeongguk is trying with him—trying to make him open up just a little, trying to know more. it’s not like jeongguk has any of yoongi’s background. even if he looks human, acts human, thinks like a human most of the time—he’s not. sometimes yoongi wonders if he wishes he were.

so—“yeah,” he finally says. “yeah, i was born on athea.”

jeongguk hums, pulling his feet onto the sofa and tucking his knees into his chest. “what’s it like?”

“there’s a lot of water,” says yoongi. “almost all of our cities are built on the water and we travel by boats or ships most of the time. if you don’t learn how to swim by the time you’re a toddler, you’re kind of doomed.” he laughs, shaking his head. “although, to be honest… i haven’t seen it in about fifteen years, so something might have changed.”

“really?” asks jeongguk. “why not?”

yoongi sighs, tempted to give him some half-ass answer—the same answer he’s been giving since he left home. but something tells him jeongguk would see through it, and maybe he doesn’t deserve that, anyway.

“i ran away,” he admits. “growing up, i always wanted to leave—not because i didn’t like athea, but because i wanted to explore, wanted to know what was out here. my dad told me i could do whatever i wanted, said he would pay to put me through school so i could join some company doing exploration. my mom hated the idea, though… she wanted me to stay on athea. i used to hate her for it, but i guess i can understand now. if you have a child, you just want to keep them safe.”

“not when keeping them safe means forcing them to give up their dreams, though,” says jeongguk.

“yeah,” laughs yoongi. “that’s how i felt at the time. my parents would fight about it all the time as i grew up; once my dad took me a secret trip to a nearby planet without telling my mom and she almost divorced him on the spot because of it. but my dad told me that no matter what, he would always fight to make sure that i could do what i wanted. and then… when i was sixteen, he died.”

“oh,” says jeongguk. “hyung, i’m so sorry.”

“it’s okay,” says yoongi, “it was a long time ago. it was really hard, but more than that… i realized that with him gone, i’d never had a chance to leave athea. my dad was the only person in my family who believed in my dreams and wanted to make them a reality, and with him gone, i knew my mom would do everything in her power to keep me on the ground.”

“so you ran away?”

“i searched for a way out for months, knowing i couldn’t just go without having a plan. i’d already graduated high school and was supposed to start university the next year, but i didn’t want to do it on athea. then i saw this ad for HDF.” he grins, remembering it as though it was yesterday. “they were looking for young research assistants on a different planet not far from athea, and part of the agreement was that they would put their assistants through university as payment, plus guarantee a job after graduation. i didn’t know shit about research or science, but i honestly didn’t care. it was a way out, you know? so i applied and they accepted me. i didn’t even tell my mom i was leaving, and… here i am.”

when he looks at jeongguk, there’s a sad sort of look on the android’s face. it’s not the happiest story, yoongi will admit—but what matters is that he got to live his dream and now he’s one of the head researchers in the company.

“do you ever miss it?” jeongguk asks. “athea, i mean. or… your mom.”

yoongi sighs. “i used to,” he says. “all the time. when i first left—i mean, i was sixteen. i hadn’t been given a lot of independence and then suddenly i was living, working, and going to school on a whole new planet hundreds of light years away from my home. but i dunno. you learn how to shut down those feelings after a while. and without doing that, i wouldn’t be here. so it was worth it in the end.”

jeongguk hums, sliding down the sofa so he can lay his head on yoongi’s shoulder. “is that why you don’t like working with other people?”

“what?”

“you like being alone,” says jeongguk. “jimin-hyung told me.”

“when did you talk to jimin?”

“are you afraid of what will happen if you let someone in? if you let yourself feel something for someone? it’s okay, you know. to miss home, or your mom. even if it wasn’t the best place in the world.”

“i just like working alone,” says yoongi, frowning. “it’s easier. as for emotion… i don’t not feel things. i’m still human. but those things usually get in the way of work, so there’s no point in giving into them. i have a job to do.”

“you can do your job and have feelings at the same time,” says jeongguk. “aren’t i proof of that?”

yoongi—stops. it’s strange, he thinks, how he created jeongguk solely so that he wouldn’t have to work with someone who tried to do their job and have feelings at the same time. but in the end, jeongguk has ended up the exact opposite of that. and to yoongi’s dismay, he realizes jeongguk is right—they’ve been doing really great work together, and jeongguk’s feelings for him haven’t gotten in the way. maybe they’ve annoyed yoongi once in a while, but jeongguk has been able to integrate those two parts of himself seamlessly. as expected of an android, of course.

anyway, yoongi goes back to his food. after a second, jeongguk just giggles, looping one of his arms through yoongi’s. again, he’s won. but he doesn’t comment on it, thankfully. “i think it would be fun to go to another planet,” says jeongguk instead. “140503 is pretty cool, but i wonder about that sometimes. when i look up at the stars, i have to wonder what’s out there.”

“you’re not thinking about leaving, are you?” asks yoongi.

“i couldn’t even if i wanted to,” laughs jeongguk. “i was created specifically for this project. so don’t worry, hyung. i’m not running away.”

“i wasn’t worried about that, jeongguk-ah.”

jeongguk makes a noise, one of contentment. when yoongi glances at him, his eyes are closed, a small grin playing on his lips.

“what?” yoongi asks, carefully eating another spoonful of his food.

“i like when you call me that,” says jeongguk.

“jeongguk-ah?” asks yoongi.

“yeah. or other things. like—guk-ah. or just guk. makes me all warm and tingly.”

“you don’t even have nerves,” says yoongi. “that’s impossible.”

“it does,” says jeongguk, pinching his arm. “it proves that you like me as more than just your assistant. i know you’ve been insisting on us having a purely professional relationship, but i think you like me as a friend, too.”

yoongi snorts, although that makes him feel a little warm and tingly; it’s been something like three or four months since they started working together, and if he thinks about it, he does like having jeongguk around. it’s been subtle and gradual, the way jeongguk has slipped into all of the crevices his life. he’s been so used to working alone that he was worried it would be too hard to work with someone else, but he likes knowing jeongguk is there. he likes having someone to help him, likes having a second opinion on decisions. and more than that—he likes having someone on the other side of the table when he eats, even if jeongguk isn’t eating with him. he likes having someone to say goodnight to, even if jeongguk doesn’t sleep.

it’s been so long since yoongi has had to exist with someone else in close quarters, but there are things he didn’t even know he was missing. he was so adamant about having an assistant who doesn’t need human connection or emotional nourishment that he didn’t stop to consider that maybe he would need those—after so long of denying himself, after so long of telling him that he doesn’t need it.

yoongi has been lonely for so long that he forgot what it was like to have someone else around, someone who cares for him just like this—bringing him food when he hasn’t eaten, wanting to know more about him, wanting to be cared for in return.

he doesn’t know what to do about that.

“alright,” says yoongi, ignoring how breathy his voice is. “maybe i like you as a friend. but that doesn’t mean you can pull me away from my work all of the time.”

“just say thank you for making sure you stay alive to actually do your work,” says jeongguk. “and you know, if you ever want to talk about stuff other than work, that would be okay. i might be an android, but i know stuff. and i’m good at listening. and i like you, so.” he looks up at yoongi, grinning at him. for the first time, yoongi considers that he probably shouldn’t have given jeongguk the face he did. shouldn’t have put so much work into him, shouldn’t have made him caring and easy to talk to and so, so fucking beautiful.

but there’s nothing he can do about that now.

》 》 》

“hyung,” says jeongguk, a slight whine in his voice. yoongi looks up from the book he’s reading—one of the few leisurely activities he does outside of working. he’s currently reading a trilogy about a cyborg that falls in love with the prince of a planet in the far reaches of the milky way, but he’s not sure if he’s sold on it just yet. peering over the top of his glasses, he watches jeongguk approach his bed, at eye level above the sofa.

“yeah, guk?” he asks; since jeongguk mentioned he likes the pet names, yoongi makes sure to slip them into his speech as often as possible.

jeongguk reaches the bed, hanging onto the end of it and peering up at yoongi. “i think my eyes are malfunctioning,” he says. “everything keeps going a little blurry when i look at a light for a few seconds and it’s annoying.”

yoongi sighs, putting his book down before hopping off of the bed and leading the way into the lab again. jeongguk takes a seat next to his computer, scooting closer and waiting for yoongi to begin working on him. by now, it’s routine; yoongi has done check-ups on jeongguk’s systems at least once every month, if not bi-weekly. lately, though, jeongguk has been complaining about malfunctions a lot—too often, frankly, considering there was nothing wrong with him for six months and now suddenly something is going wrong with him every other day.

yoongi can’t tell him he’s lying, though, because there could be something wrong. even if he drags jeongguk to the lab and runs a diagnostic check that turns back nothing, he does have to do it. the last thing he wants is to ignore a malfunction that could lead to serious consequences.

still. it’s suspicious.

he boots up the systems, though, pulling up the programs for jeongguk’s programming and turning to the android, who is sitting awfully close. “your eyes?” yoongi asks. jeongguk nods, leaning even closer until their faces are only inches apart, blinking his eyes owlishly at yoongi.

“yeah,” he says. “like i said, i’m seeing little spots in my vision.”

“i thought you said everything was blurry when you look at lights.”

“that’s what i meant,” says jeongguk, not even bothering to blush at that. yoongi eyes him, knowing he should just call jeongguk out on it, but—jeongguk will call him a terrible scientist for not listening to his complaints. so yoongi doesn’t say anything, instead reaching over to grab one of the little scanners, a round disk only a centimeter wide. he returns to jeongguk’s face, gently sticking it to jeongguk’s temple and letting it run its scanner on the wiring there, knowing it’ll flag any problems with jeongguk’s vision.

“you’ve been malfunctioning an awful lot lately,” yoongi murmurs.

even though he doesn’t need to be so close, jeongguk doesn’t move back. “isn’t that what happens as technology gets older?” he asks.

“you’re an android. generally, your kind doesn’t start malfunctioning badly for several years. if you’re well-made, it could take decades.” yoongi narrows his eyes slightly. “and i made you very, very well.”

jeongguk hums. “i guess not as well as you thought.” it’s a challenge, almost—between yoongi calling jeongguk a liar and risking the fallout or just doing the damn tests every few days. and jeongguk is grinning at him, something shit-eating because they both know it’s all a load of bullshit. but yoongi still grabs jeongguk’s chin, tilting it up to force him to look at the lights overhead.

after a few seconds, he tilts jeongguk’s face downward again, watching as jeongguk’s irises slowly and mechanically adjust. “what do you see?” he murmurs.

“the love of my life,” says jeongguk.

“that’s not what i meant,” says yoongi, cheeks colouring. “i meant, is it blurry?”

“n—yes,” says jeongguk. “you better take a closer look.”

yoongi licks his lips. he shouldn’t indulge this kind of behaviour, but it’s not like it’s cutting into their work, so technically there’s nothing wrong with it. so he leans forward, gently taking hold of jeongguk’s face. he presses his thumb into the soft skin beneath jeongguk’s right eye, pulling down slightly to take a good look at his eye; jeongguk stares at him, iris widening just slightly. for the first time in a long time, yoongi just… admires his eyes—the brown of his irises, the shape of his lids, the curve of his eyebrows. his eyes are the only real part of jeongguk that looks a little less human than the rest of him, betraying the metal he’s made of. but they still hold every single star in the nemesis galaxy, somehow, and they’re not mechanical, not really. when yoongi created them, they were dull and lifeless. but when jeongguk looks at him, they’re suddenly filled with so much—joy and hope and want. and love.

yoongi exhales slowly, letting go of jeongguk’s skin to move to the other eye. he repeats the process of examining his eye, searching for anything amiss from the outside.

“hyung,” breathes jeongguk.

“what?” asks yoongi.

“do you ever wonder what would happen if we broke the rules?”

yoongi drops his eyes, landing on jeongguk’s lips. he was tempted, once, before jeongguk awoke, to kiss him—just to see what it would be like, just to wonder if it would feel like a real human’s. it’s been a long time since yoongi has been with anyone, but he couldn’t stop himself from wondering. and there are rules now that jeongguk is awake; yoongi made them so long ago, but he’s stuck by them.

still. he looks back up to jeongguk’s eyes, feeling jeongguk’s gentle breath across his mouth. it would be so easy to just lean forward, to just—

the computer beeps loudly, making yoongi jerk back. a glance sideways confirms that the scanner has found nothing wrong with jeongguk’s wiring, no coding that he has to fix. no malfunction.

yoongi is sweating for some reason.

“so?” asks jeongguk, although yoongi isn’t sure if he’s seeking an answer for his original question or wondering about the results of the scan.

either way—“there’s nothing wrong with your vision,” says yoongi, rolling his chair back a foot to keep himself from doing something he’ll regret. he doesn’t know why he had that urge, suddenly—jeongguk is his assistant, nothing more. they’re friends, if anything. they’ve just spent too much time in close proximity.

“oh,” says jeongguk. “well, maybe i was just staring at too many lights. thanks for checking it out anyway, yoongi-hyung.”

yoongi keeps his eyes trained on the screen. he knows jeongguk will come back in a few days complaining about a different malfunction—something within him is overheating or his fingers keep twitching uncontrollably or he can’t focus on his work. and he’ll sit just like this, knees slotted between yoongi’s, close enough to see every lack of imperfection on his face. he’ll make it hard for yoongi to breathe just to have an excuse to be close like this, toeing the line of the boundaries yoongi set for them.

the truth is that yoongi didn’t say jeongguk couldn’t be in love with him. it wouldn’t be possible—if it’s in his coding. it might be dangerous, but jeongguk is simply doing what he can to get close, to get what he wants without pushing too far and compromising their work.

anyway, maybe it’s yoongi that they need to be worried about.

jeongguk gets up from the chair, but he doesn’t leave. then, at the last second, he leans down and presses a kiss to yoongi’s cheek, making yoongi suck in a breath of surprise before he saunters out of the room.

》 》 》

something—changes. just a little, just a bit at a time. the next time jeongguk reaches for his hand, when they’re in the middle of organizing and labeling samples, yoongi lets him. yoongi lets him do everything, noticing now the way that jeongguk constantly reaches for him, brushing a hand across the small of yoongi’s back or squeezing his knee or fixing his hair when he’s in the middle of peering through a microscope. he notices how jeongguk watches him, always with a tiny smile on his lips, like he can’t believe that he gets to sit there day in and day out, watching yoongi work. watching his mind turn, hearing him rant about samples and problems, seeing him get excited about progress.

yoongi notices the little ways jeongguk loves him. and has been loving him since the very beginning, months and months ago. jeongguk—takes care of him. if he doesn’t bring food for yoongi when he notices that it’s been long enough since he last ate, jeongguk leaves food out for him. he has a hot pot of coffee ready before yoongi even wanders into the kitchen when waking up, and constantly refills yoongi’s mug when he runs out during the day. he does good work the way yoongi wants it and only offers his own insights when he knows that yoongi is in a good mood, which means he watches, means he knows the signs that yoongi is frustrated with their work. on those days, he’ll do the tasks that he knows yoongi hates so that yoongi won’t have to. he leaves yoongi little presents, mostly things he finds outside when he goes exploring or things made with origami. he ushers yoongi to bed when he’s been working for too long, forcing him out of the lab when jeongguk knows yoongi is on the verge of a breakdown.

for months, yoongi brushed these things off, took them for granted. thought they were just things jeongguk did, because he’s been programmed to care. but when yoongi looks closer, he sees that all of jeongguk’s caring is catered toward him. he realizes that all of the ground rules yoongi set don’t allow jeongguk to love him loudly, the way he probably wants to, so—he’s making do. he’s loving yoongi in the little things, in the quiet ways. he’s loving yoongi anyway, because he can’t help it.

slowly, bit by bit, yoongi allows it. lets jeongguk touch him constantly, bring him food, give him flustering compliments. maybe it just bothers him less, maybe yoongi just doesn’t mind. maybe he doesn’t want to mind.

the next time they go out collecting samples for themselves, jeongguk easily slips his hand into yoongi’s as they trek across rocky ground, not even bothering to claim it’s so neither of them falls.

kicking a few pebbles on the path they walk, jeongguk says, “this is a pretty good date.”

“it’s not a date,” says yoongi immediately.

“yes, it is.”

“you don’t even know what a date is, wall-e.”

“then you should show me, space man.” when yoongi looks at him, jeongguk is grinning that shit-eating grin again, swinging their hands between him.

yoongi doesn’t entertain him with an answer, instead tugging jeongguk a little harder down the path. jeongguk laughs at him.

maybe yoongi wouldn’t mind if it was a date. he’s not sure about that yet.

》 》 》

yoongi wakes to his name being called softly, and he grunts before rolling over, blinking through the darkness toward the rest of the room. it’s too early to start work—although he has no trouble with sacrificing sleep for work. instead, through the grogginess of just waking up and the haze in his mind, he can make out two faintly glowing eyes over the end of his bed. for a second, he panics, and then—remembers that he gave jeongguk night vision and thought it would be funny to give him glowing eyes as part of it. he knew it would come back and bite him in the ass.

“yoongi-hyung,” jeongguk whispers again, and as yoongi’s eyes begin to adjust to the darkness, he sees jeongguk holding into the edge of the bed, peering up at him.

“hm?” yoongi asks, unable to form words just yet.

“i can’t sleep,” jeongguk whispers.

yoongi rubs at his eyes, blinking a few times before, in his groggy and sleep-addled mind, he figures there’s only one solution to that. he shuffles over, lightly patting the space he’s created on the other side of the bed and mumbles, “c’mere, then.” he’s already closed his eyes and is intending to go back to sleep as jeongguk hauls himself up onto the bed without using the little ladder, squeezing onto the bed beside yoongi despite the little space available.

too interested in sleep and not nearly awake enough to make good decisions, yoongi just lifts his arm and lets jeongguk snuggle in close, legs tangling together and jeongguk’s nose pressed into the hollow of yoongi’s throat. for the first time, yoongi realizes that jeongguk’s body isn’t really warm. there’s no need for it when he’s made of metal, but it’s the first thought that occurs to him.

lazily, his mind works through it. jeongguk isn’t warm because he’s made of metal, because he’s an android. he doesn’t have an internal temperature. he doesn’t have organs. he doesn’t have a heart or a human brain.

he… doesn’t need to sleep.

it takes a full three minutes for yoongi to come to that realization, and then he shifts his face so that his chin is on top of jeongguk’s head, opening his eyes in the darkness. “jeongguk,” he says.

“hyung?” jeongguk asks, shifting a little closer. they’re practically pressed together so they can actually fit on the bed, jeongguk’s arms wrapped tightly around yoongi’s torso.

“you can’t sleep,” says yoongi.

“that’s what i said.”

“no. you can’t sleep. it’s literally impossible.”

there’s a moment where jeongguk doesn’t say anything, doesn’t move. doesn’t breathe. (doesn’t have to, although yoongi has gotten used to hearing it, seeing the gentle rise and fall of jeongguk’s chest when they’re next to each other. he likes it so much—likes to pretend that jeongguk is human, that yoongi didn’t agonize over creating him. it makes his confusing feelings a little less confusing.)

then jeongguk shifts, too, lifting his head. when yoongi looks down, he can see jeongguk’s eyes in the darkness, a faint blue. “don’t kick me out,” he whispers. “i’m already really comfy.”

“jeongguk—”

“hyung, please.”

something about the way he says it makes yoongi pause—the vague desperation of it. yoongi thinks of jeongguk being careful and silent, holding all of his love for yoongi in one fist, like he has a fucking chokehold on it. how many nights has he sat across the room and wanted to do this, wanted to be here with yoongi, but been too afraid to? been too unsure of what yoongi would do?

hesitantly, jeongguk adds, “i just wanted to know what it would feel like.”

and what is yoongi supposed to say to that?

“okay,” he whispers, carefully moving a few stray stands of jeongguk’s hair away from his eyes. “just once.”

once?” jeongguk asks.

“i don’t think you’ll like laying here and doing nothing for hours.”

“but i get to lay here and do nothing with you,” jeongguk says. “that’s like, the best thing i can think of.”

yoongi is glad for the darkness, hoping that jeongguk’s night vision can’t pick up on the way his cheeks go pink. in lieu of having anything to say, he just pushes jeongguk’s face back into his neck. “fine,” he says. “just close your eyes and pretend. i can’t sleep with you watching me.”

“you’ve done really well for the past nine months.”

jeongguk.

“sorry,” he giggles. he tightens his grip on yoongi again, making sure he’s as close as possible. yoongi’s heart pounds in his chest, feels like it’s going to burst right out into jeongguk’s hands. he can probably hear it—probably knows. for the first time, yoongi curses the fact that he programmed jeongguk to be extremely perceptive and clever, realizes everything that makes him the perfect scientist is now making him the worst person for yoongi to be near. quietly, jeongguk adds, “goodnight, hyung.”

“you better not make this a habit,” says yoongi.

“go to sleep, min yoongi.”

yoongi is halfway there, on the cusp of slipping into unconsciousness, when he feels what he thinks might be jeongguk giving his adam’s apple a very gentle kiss. or—maybe not. either way, he doesn’t hate it.

jeongguk makes it a habit.

he gives it a few nights, at least, bidding yoongi goodnight from the lab with a knowing look, but he stays there. he lets yoongi believe that he’ll actually listen, and then he wakes yoongi up again, complaining about being cold. yoongi can only mumble that jeongguk doesn’t have an internal temperature so that’s impossible, but jeongguk clambers into his bed anyway. then the next night, and the next—jeongguk always comes up with some bullshit excuse, claiming that he heard something outside and got scared (also impossible—jeongguk isn’t programmed to feel fear) or that he’s bored (which might actually be true, but yoongi still doesn’t think being trapped in yoongi’s grasp for hours is much more stimulating than whatever he could have been doing otherwise).

eventually, yoongi stops trying to protest. he’ll just open his arms and let jeongguk snuggle in close, not even exchanging words before he’s back asleep. he tells himself that it’s because there’s no point in arguing when jeongguk will just get into bed with him anyway, but then for a few nights, jeongguk doesn’t come at all, instead working through the night as they make a small breakthrough in their research. on those nights, yoongi doesn’t sleep well, constantly tossing and turning. he wakes more tired than he was when he fell asleep, realizing with some horror that he sleeps better with jeongguk—that he likes having jeongguk there, holding onto him, breathing against him, something solid to be with. jeongguk doesn’t make him warmer, doesn’t sing him lullabies to put him to sleep.

it’s just—jeongguk.

the first night jeongguk doesn’t have to work after yoongi heads to bed, yoongi hesitates after he’s brushed his teeth and changed into his sleeping clothes. jeongguk is still in the lab, albeit to watch some ancient videos of boybands back on earth, recently having gotten into them—wanting to know everything that came before him, wanting to learn what yoongi learned growing up. yoongi watches him for a time, the way jeongguk’s face is lit up before the holographic screens broadcasting the singing and dancing men. if he were human, maybe that’s what he would want to do. instead, he’s been created for the express purpose of helping with yoongi’s research. maybe some part of that is cruel.

they’ve been working together for about ten and a half months. it’s flown by and yet it feels as though yoongi’s life without jeongguk was centuries ago. he can’t remember what it’s like to be without jeongguk, to not have him working just across the lab, making him food, asking questions about the other planets yoongi has been to. slipping into his bed in the middle of the night. yoongi realizes he likes this much, much better, despite everything he’s said otherwise.

eventually, yoongi clears his throat. “i’m heading to sleep,” he says, jeongguk’s eyes flickering to his.

“okay,” says jeongguk. “goodnight.” he turns back to the screens, continuing to watch. yoongi continues to hesitate, worrying at the inside of his cheek before he figures he just has to bite the bullet. if he doesn’t say it now, he’ll lose what little confidence he’s managed to muster up in the face of jeongguk’s constant courage and boldness.

“do you…” he begins. “do you want to come with me?”

jeongguk immediately reaches out and pauses the video, leaning up in his chair as he stares at yoongi. there’s some surprise in his eyes, and yoongi waits for the teasing; after a month and a half of yoongi complaining about jeongguk sleeping with him, surely there will be some teasing. but maybe jeongguk realizes that this is momentous, despite being so simple. despite being just a question.

“really?” he asks, voice eager. “i mean, yeah. if—if you want.”

yoongi suddenly feels his cheeks burn, rubbing at the back of his neck as he mutters, “i don’t like when you’re not there. and i know you’re going to come anyway, so you might as well do it from the start instead of waking me up in a few hours. right?”

he catches jeongguk’s eye in time to see the bright smile on the android’s face. “okay,” he says, and yoongi retreats to his bed before he can second-guess it or see that elated look on jeongguk’s face for another moment.

after they’ve settled in yoongi’s bed, yoongi’s chest pressed to jeongguk’s back and yoongi’s nose pressed to jeongguk’s neck—jeongguk finally teases him. “took you long enough,” he says.

“shut up, r2-d2,” says yoongi. “i’ll kick you out.”

“you literally just said you don’t like when i’m not here.”

“don’t test me. i will sacrifice sleep just to spite you.”

jeongguk laughs, and despite himself, yoongi grins. over jeongguk’s chest, he threads their fingers together, squeezing yoongi’s hand. he doesn’t keep teasing, although yoongi figures he wouldn’t mind it. it’s one of the things that jeongguk has seemingly developed on his own without being programmed to do it, picking it up from yoongi himself and his experience, things he’s seen outside of their work. jeongguk is constantly surprising him, going above and beyond the programming that yoongi gave him, growing and evolving despite being an android.

he’s still an android. but yoongi realizes that he’s much, much more than that, too.

in the darkness, after they’ve settled into silence and stillness, jeongguk asks, “why did you make me like this?”

yoongi stiffens just slightly. “what do you mean?”

“i don’t know,” says jeongguk. “i’ve been thinking about it a lot. i mean, obviously i know that i’m not… alive. not quite like you. you made me exactly the way i am and gave me certain characteristics and strengths and whatever. and we’ve never really talked about that, so i was just… wondering.”

some days, yoongi forgets that he made jeongguk out of nothing. that at one point, jeongguk was just a vague idea in his mind, a vision that he brought to life. “well,” begins yoongi. “i made you to be my assistant. so all of the things i originally gave you were to do with our work. obviously you had to be able to do what we do, have the knowledge that you do, be hard-working and clever and all of that. i think most of your personality developed out of that.”

“right,” says jeongguk. “but you could have just… made me an assistant. you didn’t have to give me any other attributes. you didn’t even have to give me a face, right? if i was just for work.”

“i guess not,” says yoongi. “i never really thought about that. when i decided to make you, i wanted you to be more than just… that. it would have been weird to work every day with someone who didn’t have a face.”

“but you could have.”

yoongi doesn’t know what jeongguk is fishing for. “you’re right,” he says. “i could have. but i didn’t.”

“then why didn’t you?” jeongguk whispers. “why did you give me this face specifically? why did you—program me to… i dunno, like the outdoors? or give me the ability to develop interests, likes and dislikes? to have habits? normally, androids created for work don’t model humans so closely. right?”

“no,” admits yoongi. “you’re a special one, jeon jeongguk.” he sighs, setting his forehead against jeongguk’s neck. he really hadn’t thought much about it, just knew when he was creating jeongguk that he did want him like this—wanted him to have a human personality, wanted him to be more than just someone to work with. and it’s strange, maybe, that yoongi originally created jeongguk to be different from the humans who interviewed for the job, yet jeongguk might just be more human than all of them.

yoongi didn’t want him to have a home to miss, but he realizes now that this is jeongguk’s home. he didn’t want him to have people to love that he would want to be with instead of working, but yoongi is that to jeongguk. he didn’t want jeongguk to have emotions to get in the way of work, didn’t want him to be more, to mean more—in a way, maybe he didn’t want to have someone he could make a home out of, either.

but here he is.

here he is.

“i don’t think i did it consciously,” says yoongi. “i thought i was just creating the perfect assistant, but i guess… perfection can be subjective. so when i was giving you a personality or giving you a face—i just thought of someone i wouldn’t mind being with for… like, ever.” he huffs out a laugh, glad jeongguk is facing the other way and can’t see him. “i don’t know. i didn’t realize it at the time, but i think i was very lonely.”

“hyung—”

“it’s okay, jeongguk-ah,” says yoongi. “i’m not anymore, because you’re here. i do like working alone, because i rarely trust other people to do the work the right way—the way i want it. but that’s why i programmed you to do things perfectly and to listen to me when i want you to. once that was out of the way, i guess i just have to admit that it’s exhausting always running from other people. it’s exhausting not letting people in and claiming it’s because no one meets my standards.”

“i meet your standards,” says jeongguk. “you made me perfect. what you think is perfect.”

suddenly, yoongi wants to cry. “yeah,” he whispers. “yeah, i did. kind of shot myself in the foot with that one.”

“do you think it makes it less real?” asks jeongguk, voice just barely trembling.

yoongi squeezes his hand. “makes what less real?”

“me loving you. the fact that i’m programmed to do it. do you think that means—do you think that makes it fake? that i didn’t really have a choice.”

“i don’t know,” says yoongi. “i haven’t thought about it.”

jeongguk doesn’t respond to that. yoongi wishes he had something better to say, unsure if he should comfort jeongguk about it or not. it’s been a very long time since that first day when he activated jeongguk and crossed the wires within him, but they haven’t really spoken about it; yoongi has been too eager to push it aside, and jeongguk has been too accommodating to his wishes, not wanting to make yoongi uncomfortable. but suddenly, they’re so far beyond that—and maybe they should talk about it. but yoongi doesn’t know what to say.

finally jeongguk whispers, “i think i would have fallen in love with you anyway.”

all at once, yoongi realizes the truth of it all—that jeongguk loves him, and has for almost a year, and has grown so far beyond what yoongi created him for. that yoongi… yoongi loves him, too, unknowingly creating jeongguk to be his perfect downfall, his own happy fall. and that it’s easier not to think about what it means, or how strange all of it is. maybe he can just accept it, can just pull jeongguk a little closer and fall asleep—can wake up tomorrow and go back to work and love jeongguk there, too, day after day after day.

the way it’s always been. the way it might always be.

》 》 》

a familiar ringtone echoes through the lab, alerting yoongi to an incoming call. he heaves a groan, rubbing at his eyes as he wanders inside with a steaming mug of coffee in one hand. he spies namjoon’s name on one of the screens, having expected the call, and he collapses into his chair before swiping his hand through the air, accepting the call and watching the video of namjoon appear before him.

hyung,” says namjoon.

“kim namjoon,” says yoongi, propping his feet up on his desk and sipping at his coffee. “did you dye your hair?”

namjoon pulls at his hair, now a platinum blonde. “do you like it?”

“awfully familiar,” smirks yoongi. “are you copying me, joon-ah?”

“you haven’t had blonde hair for months,” scowls namjoon. “besides, jimin suggested it.”

yoongi snickers, sipping at his coffee again. over his mug, he sees namjoon’s cheeks darken. “hyung—”

“i didn’t say anything,” laughs yoongi. “it’s just interesting, is all. haven’t you been working on those flowers you suspect have aphrodisiac properties? what happens if you accidentally let the pollen loose in the lab?”

yoongi-hyung,” scolds namjoon, moving closer to the camera and lowering his voice, likely so jimin won’t hear wherever he is. “that’s completely unprofessional.”

“oh, come off it,” says yoongi. “i’m the one with an android assistant who has been programmed to be in love with me, so having a crush on your human co-worker is hardly going to scandalize the company.”

“how’s that going, by the way?”

yoongi wrinkles his nose, glancing toward the door out of the lab. jeongguk is out exploring anyway, having developed a habit of going for walks out to the nearest lake on select mornings when they don’t immediately begin working upon waking up. he can talk freely without worrying about jeongguk overhearing, but he still can’t help feeling shy about it. it’s been months since he realized his feelings, their time together tipping over into a year, but yoongi hasn’t said anything. he’s not sure what he would say after so long. in the meantime, he lets jeongguk crawl into bed with him, lets jeongguk hold his hand and fix his hair and make him coffee, goes soft at the best of times even when jeongguk teases him, pretends to malfunction even though he doesn’t need an excuse to be close anymore.

sometimes he’s tempted to admit the truth—to namjoon, at least, or maybe jimin, even one of the others that he talks to less regularly. but part of him is afraid of their reaction, afraid they would look at him strangely for being in love with an android, least of all one that he created. it’s just easier this way, he figures.

so—“it’s fine,” says yoongi, shrugging. “we do a lot of good work together, so i’m really not bothered by him loving me. to be honest… it’s kind of nice.”

“you’re a softie,” says namjoon.

“it’s been a long time since someone has loved me like that, joon,” laughs yoongi, shaking his head. “obviously you love me, and the rest of the guys, but it’s different, you know? having him here, at least. he takes care of me and i think i forgot what it felt like to rely on someone else. to let myself rely on someone else. it’s nice having him around.”

namjoon grins at him, almost knowing. yoongi wants to scowl at him, but thinking about jeongguk makes him feel—light. what are you gonna do when he’s not around, then?”

yoongi stalls, mug halfway to his mouth. “what do you mean?” he asks.

“well,” says namjoon. “you created him specifically for the project, right? so once you’re finished, you won’t really have a use for him anymore.”

“you think i’m going to deactivate him?” yoongi asks, taken aback. “why would i do that? i spent months creating him.”

“don’t get upset with me,” says namjoon. “i’m just asking. i kind of just assumed that was what you would do.”

“i mean, yeah, he was created for this project,” says yoongi. “but it’s not like he couldn’t do other work. besides, as far as i know, this project could go on for years and years, so i’m really not thinking that far in the future. i could deactivate him after, but depending on my next project, i could also rework some of his programming to tailor it toward that.”

“i don’t think the company would allow it, honestly,” says namjoon. “weren’t they pissed off that you took so much time and money to make him in the first place?”

“yeah, but—”

“i doubt they’d let you keep him on as an assistant. just thinking realistically, you know? they couldn’t afford the upkeep.”

“i don’t think that’s a decision they can make for me, considering he’s my creation,” argues yoongi.

“i agree with you,” says namjoon. “i’m just saying it’s something you should keep in mind. jeongguk is a great worker and everything, but androids have much shorter life spans than humans, and eventually, changing his coding and updating his parts is just going to cost more and be more work than making an entirely new android or, i dunno, getting a human assistant like you were supposed to in the first place. regardless of his feelings or how attached you are to him, hyung, he’s still a robot. there’s only so much you can do.”

“so i’ll shut him down?” snaps yoongi incredulously. “i’ll just say, hey, thanks for the years of devotion, jeongguk, but i’m going to click this button and turn you off forever because your worth is pinned entirely on how well you can function in a lab or how shiny your parts are. everything we’ve been through means nothing to me at all because you’re just a hunk of fucking metal.

“jesus, did i say you had to do that?”

“that’s what it so—” there’s a bang from his right and yoongi turns his head to see the door to the lab has been slid open several inches. the sliver he can see through it reveals the front door swinging open, ricocheted from when it was slammed shut. yoongi stares after it, a feeling of dread filling him before he mutters, “shit,” and vaults out of his chair, leaving namjoon as he hurries out of the lab and then out of the building entirely.

jeongguk is storming away, wind howling around them, and yoongi panics, taking off after him.

“jeongguk!” he calls, almost slipping on the rocky ground as he hurries after the android. “jeongguk!” jeongguk looks back at him, face construed in anger, and then turns back around, picking up the pace as he walks away from yoongi. and yoongi curses under his breath, picking over the rocks as he tries to catch up, finally making it as they crest the first rocky hill, reaching out for jeongguk’s arm. “guk-ah, hey—”

“no,” snaps jeongguk, yanking his arm away from yoongi and putting a few more feet between them. he stops running, though. “you have nothing to say to me.”

jeongguk,” yoongi sighs. “what did you hear?”

“enough,” says jeongguk. “i was going to give you some—fucking flowers i found, but i guess you don’t want them.” yoongi realizes jeongguk is holding flowers: pink and purple flowers, now ruffling in the wind.

“jeongguk, listen,” says yoongi. “whatever you heard, it’s not what you think.”

hey, thanks for the years of devotion, jeongguk, but i’m going to click this button and turn you off forever because your worth is pinned entirely on how well you can function in a lab or how shiny your parts are,” says jeongguk bitterly, voice low. “how is that not what i think? how am i meant to see that differently from what it is, yoongi?”

yoongi lets out a frustrated groan, trying to keep himself calm. clearly jeongguk didn’t hear the beginning of the conversation where yoongi was saying the exact opposite. “i was being sarcastic,” he says.

“sure didn’t sound like it,” says jeongguk. “am i just a hunk of fucking metal to you, hyung? i could understand—at the beginning, maybe. i know you created me for this job, but after a whole year? after everything, you’re just going to deactivate me when i’m no longer useful to you?”

no,” snaps yoongi. “jeongguk, no. i wouldn’t do that. that’s not what i meant.”

“then what did you mean?”

“namjoon—” yoongi exhales, then inhales, squeezing his eyes shut. “namjoon brought it up. he asked what i was going to do, and i got angry at him for even thinking like that, like i would just—just get rid of you, like you don’t mean more to me. because you do.

“then why would you fucking say that?” asks jeongguk. yoongi has never seen him so distraught, face contorted in anger and sadness. if he could, he might just be crying. and despite knowing it’s partially his own fault, yoongi muses that this is just why he tried to program jeongguk without emotion in the first place.

“i didn’t mean it,” says yoongi carefully. “jeongguk, i would never just deactivate you. i wouldn’t have done it at the beginning and i’m certainly not going to do it when we finish the project. you’re—fuck. jeongguk, you’re so much more than just an android to me, or an assistant, or whatever else.”

“you created me for work,” says jeongguk. “how do i know you won’t just shut me down after we’re done? i don’t want that, hyung. you gave me all of this emotion and wonder and love and even if it was an accident, i want—more.

“i know, jeongguk,” says yoongi, taking a step closer to him now, reaching out gingerly. “when have i ever treated you as less than an equal? when have i ever said your lifespan was the length of this project?”

“it’s not like you’ve said otherwise,” says jeongguk, watching his outstretched hand. he doesn’t take it, but yoongi doesn’t step away. “we’ve never talked about us, hyung. and i get it; i get that it—it wasn’t supposed to be like this. but it is. and i’m tired of never knowing.

“never knowing what?”

“anything!” exclaims jeongguk. “it’s always just work and work and work, and i know that’s what we’re here for, but i can’t help what i feel. i’ve done what you asked and not let it get in the way of anything, but i keep thinking maybe… i don’t know. you let me into your bed and you let me make you food and you’re always gentle with me. you fix me when i don’t even need it and you listen to my suggestions and you look at me sometimes like i—i don’t know. but then you turn around and tell namjoon you’re going to turn me off—

“i’m not going to turn you off, jeongguk!” says yoongi. “you are my assistant and you’re an android, but that doesn’t fucking matter to me anymore. i want you here with me. now, later, once we’re done. always, jeongguk-ah. okay?”

“how do i know that?” jeongguk asks again, voice bordering on desperate.

yoongi just looks at him. thinks about the past year, thinks about what he should have told namjoon but couldn’t, thinks of the truth—why he won’t deactivate jeongguk, why the very thought pains him more than he can put into words.

“because,” he sighs, closing his eyes. “because, jeongguk, i love you.”

finally, his words are met with silence. when he opens his eyes, jeongguk is staring at him with something akin to fear in his eyes, and yoongi finds the courage to rush on. “i have for a while,” he says. “i didn’t say anything because i was scared, i guess. i don’t know. i didn’t want to love you because you were just my assistant in the beginning and your feelings for me were an inconvenient obstacle to overcome for our work. but over the past year…” yoongi shakes his head. “i don’t know. i stopped disliking you touching me and complimenting me. i wanted you to do those things, wanted you to make excuses to be close to me. your feelings stopped being an inconvenience and started being—nice, i guess.”

jeongguk blinks at him. yoongi’s hands are sweating. “you asked me a few months ago if i thought the fact that you were programmed to love me makes the love less real,” he adds. “the answer is no. because i feel your love for me, jeongguk, and it’s the realer than anything else on this stupid planet. you make me less alone. you reminded me the good in letting someone care for me.” yoongi suddenly feels his eyes sting with tears. “for years, i’ve only cared about my work because it was easier. and i like what i do, and i think what i do is good work. i want to change this universe one research project at a time. but i kind of lost a lot of stuff along the way, including the desire to be loved at all. and maybe it’s really cheesy and stupid, but you make me want to be loved. and it’s been a long time since i felt that.”

he’s not sure what else to say. it’s all the truth, though—he does love jeongguk. and he does want him around, for as long as jeongguk wants to be around. he’ll keep fixing jeongguk’s programming, replacing his old parts, until yoongi is too old to go on. and even then, he’ll still want jeongguk around—on this planet, on any planet.

and it’s strange, because yoongi doesn’t have to worry about his feelings not being reciprocated. but there are still nerves wringing in his gut, almost too much to bear. “please say something,” yoongi finally whispers.

“why didn’t you tell me?” jeongguk asks. “you knew—you know how i feel about you. why were you afraid?”

“i don’t know,” says yoongi. “it’s just—a lot, you know? and i felt stupid after so many months of refuting you and trying to ignore your feelings only to realize i had fallen in love with you anyway. i didn’t want my friends to think it was weird. i didn’t want to swallow my own pride, honestly. but it’s the truth, anyway. i do love you.”

jeongguk lets out a breath, sounds like a sigh of relief. “i’ve waited so long to hear you say that,” he says.

“i want you with me,” says yoongi. “i promise i won’t let you go anywhere—i mean, unless you want to. maybe once we’re done, you’ll want to start your own research, get a job somewhere else. you’re not mine in the sense that i own you and you have to stay with me. but if you want to stay with me… i would like that. a lot. i’m not going to shut you down. even if we’re just… well, whatever we are. even if i didn’t love you, i’d want you around. you deserve that.”

“oh,” says jeongguk.

yoongi sighs, feeling lighter after the confession. “yeah,” he says.

“you know i love you, right?” asks jeongguk. “even if i didn’t have to, i would.”

“i know,” says yoongi. “you don’t have to hide it anymore.”

jeongguk laughs, finally. “i wasn’t really trying in the first place,” he admits. “but yeah. that will be nice.”

“and you—you believe me?” asks yoongi. “about not shutting you down?”

“you really weren’t saying it seriously?” asks jeongguk.

“i really wasn’t,” nods yoongi. “i wouldn’t do that to you. and i’m really sorry i said it in the first place, because i should have been more careful with my words. and i’ll… make it up to you. however you want.” even if he didn’t mean for jeongguk to misconstrue his words, it still happened, and he never wants jeongguk to feel like yoongi would shut him down once the project is done. a love confession is only the beginning of proving the truth to him.

but jeongguk watches him, lips curling into the tiniest grin so a faint dimple appears in one of his cheeks. sometimes yoongi forgets he gave jeongguk that little detail. even though yoongi created him, carefully laid out each tiny detail, yoongi tends to forget. he ends up falling in love with every part of jeongguk all over again as though it’s the first time he’s seen it all.

“however i want?” jeongguk asks, that mischievous spark in his eye already.

yoongi narrows his eyes. “within reason—”

“how about a kiss?” asks jeongguk. “i’ve wanted to kiss you for a very long time, so if you… wouldn’t mind, obviously. since you love me and all. i would appreciate it.” for a moment, he looks less bold than he usually does, like he’s second-guessing the request. but yoongi just looks at him, dark hair blowing in his eyes, wanting. jeongguk has been wanting for a year, has been waiting. yoongi can’t imagine it, but here it is: all of that yearning, all of that patience.

so yoongi holds out his hand, wiggling his fingers until jeongguk gets the idea and takes it, stepping closer when yoongi tugs on his hand. “getting shy on me now, astro boy?” he asks.

“i don’t understand that reference.”

“we’ll watch every robot movie ever to make up for that, then,” laughs yoongi, tugging jeongguk even closer—who giggles with him, their bodies bumping together.

“date ideas?” he asks.

yoongi reaches up up up, tucking jeongguk’s hair behind his ear before trailing his thumb over his cheek, unable to stop grinning. “one thing at a time,” he says, and realizes just how long he’s waited for this, too—not as long as jeongguk, but. maybe neither of them has to deny themselves what they want anymore.

he cups jeongguk’s cheek properly, leans in, and finally, finally kisses him.

jeongguk’s lips are a little cold, and he tastes like—nothing. he’s inexperienced, unsure of himself and letting yoongi lead. but it’s perfectly jeongguk: eager and careful and gentle, so full of love in kissing yoongi that he could almost cry. it’s a kiss that was a year in the making, wrapped up in countless cups of coffee and shared frustrations over work, in sleeping in the same bed and waiting, watching, wanting. and yoongi loves him—yoongi loves him in ways he didn’t even know was possible, with more than he thought he could possibly feel. he wants it to be perfect for jeongguk—dear, sweet jeongguk, whose heart has been trained solely on yoongi since the very beginning, who could be anything he wanted with the brain that yoongi gave him but only wants to be with yoongi, because he’s chosen that.

he’s chosen this.

and yoongi is more than happy to choose it with him.

》 》 》

“ah, hyung,” calls jeongguk; yoongi looks up from the samples he’s currently studying, blinking as jeongguk spins around in his chair. his own work is behind him, dozens upon dozens of maps and drawings, all carefully drawn by his own hand. “i think i’m malfunctioning again.”

yoongi sighs, putting down his pencil. “i knew that memory booster thing wasn’t going to mesh well with your current programming,” he says, shifting over to his computer systems so he can search for the most recent changes he made to jeongguk’s programming. they’ve been messing around with a lot of things lately, mostly at jeongguk’s request, but not everything ends up working out. (he thinks both fondly and disdainfully of the time jeongguk begged yoongi to give him coding that would allow him to shoot lasers out of his eyes like a character from an old movie they had watched. thankfully they only tried it outside, but yoongi had liked some of the trees near the lab.)

jeongguk joins him, chairs bumping together. “it’s not that,” he says. “it’s like—physical stuff?”

“like what?” yoongi asks, pausing to look over at jeongguk with furrowed brows. he looks fine, although yoongi did have to replace part of his internal structure a few months ago and he’s been doing regular check-ups to make sure he’s still working fine. any time jeongguk alerts yoongi to a malfunction, yoongi can’t help panicking, if only for a moment. he knows he can fix it, but it’s just another reminder that jeongguk isn’t built like him. technology might one day fail the both of them.

“like my mouth,” says jeongguk. yoongi narrows his eyes. “specifically my lips. are… very cold.”

“jeongguk,” says yoongi.

“isn’t there something you could do, hyung?”

“you can’t get cold.”

“are you saying i’m lying?

“i’m saying your jokes aren’t funny,” says yoongi, but he’s laughing anyway, and he leans in anyway, jeongguk already meeting him halfway in a kiss. it’s not like jeongguk has to ask—not anymore. and yoongi thinks of himself from years ago, when all of this was still new and strange, when they had to figure out how to balance their purpose on this planet and their all-consuming need to be together as more. thinks of the rules he set at the very beginning, claiming that jeongguk’s feelings weren’t allowed to get in the way of work. it turns out to be much harder when he’s the one with feelings, too.

but—yoongi likes to think they have it figured out. he likes to think they’ve had the time—fumbled with it enough to navigate the right path, done all they could to ensure their own happiness out here in their own little world. yoongi still works on their original project, although they long finished the bulk of the work and no longer require two pairs of hands, so for the past few years, jeongguk has taken his love of exploration and converted it into becoming a cartographer of the planet—bit by sprawling bit, sometimes disappearing for days at a time as he explores their world, always keeping in contact with yoongi.

on those days, yoongi often falls asleep to the sound of jeongguk carefully explaining what he’s seeing, or something new that he’s discovered, or anything at all. namjoon was right, in the end—HDF couldn’t afford to keep jeongguk on as an asset, so he’s doing his own work, knowing someone will want a damn map of the place eventually. besides, yoongi takes care of him. yoongi loves him. jeongguk does whatever the fuck he wants most of the time, but he always, always comes back.

he always come home—to yoongi.

“i’m trying to work, you know,” yoongi adds almost as an afterthought, when jeongguk has kissed him warm and distracted, and jeongguk laughs, like he always does.

“i could tell you were getting antsy,” says jeongguk.

“watching me instead of doing your work again, are you?”

“you’re prettier and more interesting than this whole planet,” jeongguk tells him, kissing his nose. “i’m thinking of starting a new project where i explore you instead. i’ll make a whole book of maps of min yoongi… i could make a fortune.”

“i’ll be your only customer,” laughs yoongi. “and i can only pay you in all of my love and affection, unfortunately.”

“that’s all i want, anyway,” says jeongguk, and despite himself, yoongi almost blushes. even after all this time, jeongguk still manages to make him feel the way he did in those first months, like this world was made just for them, like they can just love and love and love, and there’s no need to think about what comes next.

yoongi used to run to new planets in order to get away from the old ones, in order to put behind him everything that had hurt or disappointed him. but yoongi doesn’t want to run from this one—not unless jeongguk is running with him. once, yoongi accidentally invented a boyfriend. but some accidents are happier than others.