“Our roots are in the dark; the earth is our country. Why did we look up for blessing -- instead of around, and down?
What hope we have lies there. [...] Not from above, but from below.
Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourishes, where human beings grow human souls.”
Ursula K. Le Guin
When Taehyung exhales, his breath comes out in a mist, curling around the steam rising from his mug.
It’s his favorite - Namjoon had given it to him on his birthday the year before, and it keeps his chamomile tea warm longer than any other mug he owns. Namjoon had told him that it was because the cup was magic, smiling like it was a funny joke only he was privy to.
Taehyung had said thank you, I love it, and smiled back, and pretended he didn’t notice when all the plants in the house swayed in welcome when Namjoon walked past them, like he was an old friend. If Namjoon had anything to tell him, it would come in due time.
The mug, magic or not, is a lovely gift. It’s cream white, with delicate flowers painted around the rim and on the bottom, and when Taehyung’s cold fingers wrap around it, it warms them right up.
Outside, there’s a thunderstorm.
Taehyung stands in front of the open window, his knit yellow blanket wrapped around his shoulders. It’s so late in the night it might as well be morning and, not for the first time, Taehyung wishes he had someone to come back to bed to. Maybe that wouldn’t help him sleep either, but he could spend the time awake listening to the rise and fall of someone else’s breathing instead of his own.
Taehyung isn’t always alone.
He has Seokjin and Yoongi and Namjoon and their bakery, and Hoseok and Jungkook and their florist shop down at the village, and he’s not alone. He knows all of them would drop everything if he as much said please and come down to his house near the strawberry field. It’s happened before, and Yoongi always takes Taehyung’s hands between his and Seokjin always asks have you been sleeping, Taehyung-ah, and Namjoon smiles, and keeps his arm around Taehyung’s shoulders even as they pull him towards the couch and hold him. Sometimes, Taehyung is sleepy enough to fall asleep like that, his head on Seokjin’s shoulder, and blinks into unconsciousness while Yoongi chuckles a soft are you tired, little guy? into his ear.
Taehyung is lonely, though, in the way that makes it a little harder for him to breathe, and go through the motions of setting the table for one at lunch, and dinner, and breakfast the next day, when his friends go back to their homes and he’s far away from the village, separated by dirt roads and rows of trees and the rice fields. He doesn’t want to leave the strawberry farm, and the house. He wants someone to share it with, like his grandparents had - like his grandma did with him, before everything.
He tugs the blanket higher on his shoulders, and thinks about how he’d stared, years before, entranced by the quick movements of his grandmother’s fingers as she knit the blanket for him as a gift.
Right now, Taehyung can only hear Ella Fitzgerald sing stars shining bright above you, night breezes seem to whisper "I love you", from his gramophone. There aren’t any stars to be seen, covered by the clouds. The storm is coming to an end, with no lighting brightening up the horizon, and the rain is slowly letting up, downpour turning into a slight drizzle. There’s only blue, and grey, and no rumble of energy hiding within - just like how Taehyung feels, sometimes.
Blue and grey, high chance of rain.
There’s no way to know if anyone else feels like that, too. Not even in the same shades, just - on that same wavelength, that intersection of sadness and the ache for something, but Taehyung is tired of it.
I’m longing to linger ‘til dawn, dear, the song goes on, and Taehyung wishes there were any stars to wish upon. He knows they’re there , hidden behind the thick layer of clouds, and he knows they’re made of water and air, but they might as well be made of lead, like a metal lid on the sky.
Last week, Namjoon had read a book about astronomy out loud under the apple tree in Taehyung’s yard while Yoongi and Jungkook took a nap, resting their head on one of Namjoon’s thighs each.
Namjoon’s voice had drifted in from the open windows to the kitchen, where Taehyung was busy setting the table while Seokjin and Hoseok cooked, and through the clinking of pans and plates Taehyung could hear - the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.
If that was true for humans, it would only make sense for it to be true for everything, and Taehyung wonders if the forest around him counts.
He clenches his hands against the mug, still warm, and thinks about how maybe his bones would be happier floating in space - maybe the feeling he gets in his chest sometimes is just longing for home. If it was true for humans -
Taehyung stares through the glass at the forest that has always been there outside his window, dark and steadfast through all of his life, thunderstorms and sunny days alike, thick branches and thicker roots grounding it to the earth below.
He makes a wish, and hopes it counts.
Outside, right as Taehyung slips into bed and closes his eyes, a ray of white cuts through the clouds. The sky opens up.
Through the rift, something falls, light as the rain, and lands among the wildflowers.
Whatever has just come down, it doesn’t stir - just curls on the grass, and sleeps.
Inside, as the sun starts to rise, Taehyung sleeps too.
For the past year, Taehyung’s mornings have started out with the patter of small paws clicking on the wooden floor as Yeontan tried to wake him up to go out on his morning walk.
Kim Yeontan had been a surprise birthday gift from Hoseok and Jungkook, and Taehyung had taken one look at the puppy - he was so small, could fit in one of his hands, and he looked like he had little furry eyebrows, and his eyes were so big - and he’d fallen in love immediately.
This morning is no different. Taehyung pushes his face harder into the pillow for just a moment, biting back a yawn, and he sits up on his mattress right on time for Yeontan to fall into his lap after climbing the little wooden steps Yoongi had put together just so he could come nap on the bed whenever he wanted.
“Hello, baby,” he whispers, his voice still a little rough from sleep, and hugs Yeontan close to his chest, dropping a kiss between his ears as the puppy yaps excitedly. He knows Taehyung getting up means they’ll go outside, right after Taehyung manages to slide his feet into a pair of slippers and make the trek down the stairs and out the front door of the two-story house.
He only puts him down when it’s time to open the door and let him out into the front yard, while Taehyung is still yawning. It’s a cloudy morning, still a little chilly from the storm of the night before, the ground wet and muddy, but Taehyung doesn’t mind. Even if it’s threatening rain again, the cold is helping him wake up, chase away the sleep still clinging to his eyes like a blanket.
Yeontan sprints down the front steps and then immediately back in, his tongue out and trying to cling to Taehyung’s pajama pants, as if to say Hello! Please come play!
Taehyung laughs, taking a few steps outside, his smile getting bigger as Yeontan runs in circles around him and then darts right past, where the stone of the footpath leading to his front door stops at a wooden fence with a small gate.
That’s when Taehyung raises his gaze to look at the patch of wildflowers right next to the entrance to his yard, confident he’s gonna see Yeontan dive through them soon. His eyes land on something else, instead.
There’s someone in his yard, curled up like they’re asleep, and in a fraction of a second - Taehyung blinks, and sees a comet.
The next moment he starts running, immediately dropping to his knees next to the stranger - he takes a deep breath, remembers when Hoseok had told him about what they’d taught him at that one first aid course, and tries to gently shake them awake.
“Hello? Hey, can you hear me?”
The man is dressed in white, in a shirt with sleeves that reach well beyond his hands and almost cover the tip of his fingers, and flowing pants that reveal thin ankles and his bare feet. The fabric seems to glow in the muted light of the clouded morning, and yet - the stranger doesn’t stir.
He’s breathing, Taehyung is sure, and he tries to grip his shoulders again, this time a little more firmly.
Yeontan runs around them, his barking now more frantic, his little tail waving in the air in excitement at seeing someone he doesn’t know. He jumps closer to the stranger’s face to give his cheek an excited lick, uncaring of Taehyung’s soft “Tannie, no -”
The stranger opens his eyes as soon as Yeontan drags his nose away from his face. His eyelashes flutter slowly, and Taehyung can’t move. His fingers curl around his shirt.
“Hello? Can you hear me?”
The stranger blinks once, twice, and then -
“I think I fell,” he says. The comet flashes past Taehyung’s eyes once again.
“Let me help,” Taehyung answers, and something tells him - this is the kind of falling he might not be able to help with.
“I’m Taehyung,” he adds as he pulls the stranger up to their feet, because there’s not much else he can give him right now except for his name. His hand is warm, and his clothes are dry, and he doesn’t look like he’s been lying in his yard under a storm, and Taehyung realizes - it’s not his clothes that glow. It’s his skin, and his silver hair, and his dark eyes that look like a patch of night sky without stars.
“Hello, Taehyung. My name is Jimin,” he answers. His voice rings clear, like a bell, or one of the windchimes Taehyung’s grandmother used to put on the porch.
Taehyung wants to ask so many questions, but - his hand is still holding Jimin’s, and then he feels a drop of water land on his shoulder, and then another, and then he’s pulling Jimin along by their interlocked fingers and calling for Yeontan to follow inside the house before the sky opens up above them like it had the night before.
It’s only once they’re past his front door that he looks back at Jimin. He seems to have taken this in stride, looking around the entrance to the house with a bright gaze, taking it all in.
Taehyung wants to ask so many questions, but what comes out is -
“Where did you fall from?”
Jimin looks back at him. He’s beautiful. Taehyung thinks he already knows the answer.
“I fell from the sky,” Jimin answers, like he’s announcing he’d like a cup of tea, or that outside it’s getting a little chilly.
Once, Taehyung’s high school math teacher had told him he needed to stop jumping to results. That just because his conclusion made sense, or he was actually right, he needed to prove it, show his work. Taehyung couldn’t explain to him that sometimes the solution was just there and no matter the missing pieces, it was clear as day, and sometimes there was just no way he could prove how he got to it - he was just sure that was it.
“You’re a star,” Taehyung breathes out, more sure of his words than he’s ever been in his twenty-three years of living. He’s standing right before his front door, surrounded by walls he’s known all his life, and it’s a cold April morning, and there’s a fallen star standing in front of him.
He’s never been a skeptic. His grandparents had raised him with stories of forest spirits and fairies, and he’s noticed the way Hoseok’s fingertips glow against his flowers in the shop, the way Namjoon’s eyes flicker honey gold in the right light - he does believe in magic, and things beyond his understanding.
This, however. This feels different. This feels like knowing, down to his bones, that what he’s just said is true, like the answer to a math problem he can’t explain how he’d solved.
Jimin looks up - up, because he stands poised and graceful and steady but he’s so much shorter than Taehyung - and cocks his head to the side, carefully considering his words. Then he nods, just once, seemingly satisfied with the way Taehyung has put it.
“Yes, I was a star,” he answers, “but I fell. I think I’m just Jimin, now.”
Jimin doesn’t seem upset, or sad, more like - thoughtful. Considering. Taehyung takes a deep breath, and lets his mouth fall open into what he hopes looks like a kind smile.
“Well, just Jimin - would you like some blueberry tea?”
Jimin likes the tea. He also likes the scones Seokjin had brought Taehyung the day before, and he spends a few minutes settling on the couch of Taehyung’s living room. Taehyung has a star sitting on his couch, gently scratching Yeontan behind his ears just how he likes it.
He feels more at peace with everything that’s happened than he thinks he should be, munching on a scone of his own as he tries to assess the situation in a way that helps him make sense of it.
First, Jimin is a fallen star. That alone should be earth-shattering, mind-blowing - it’s not.
He just knows it to be true, has accepted it since he’s looked into Jimin’s eyes.
Second, Jimin has nowhere to go. Taehyung doesn’t know if he wants to go back up , wherever his place in the sky was, but he’s here now, and Taehyung is alone in a big house, and his thoughts run faster than he can rein them in. Jimin could stay in one of the guest rooms.
He should be worried about the way he can picture Jimin doing just that, waking up to him standing in the living room, sharing milk with honey and the bread Yoongi makes on Sundays when Taehyung can’t fall asleep - but again: he’s not. Jimin feels like he already belongs, like there was a space already carved for him in the house that Taehyung just never noticed until he came down and filled it.
He should be worried, but instead he sits down next to Jimin on the couch, and their fingers brush against each other along Yeontan’s fur, and Jimin laughs when Yeontan tries to reach up to their hands only to fall on his butt and immediately get back up.
They haven’t said a word to each other for the entire time it took Taehyung to put the kettle on and wait for the water to boil, set out two mugs and take out the scones - and even after that, he had only said here you go, would you like some sugar, and Jimin had said yes, thank you like he knew exactly what Taehyung was offering and was happy about it.
Taehyung wonders if Jimin knows what he’s talking about, if he could see anything from up where he was in the sky, or if he just trusts Taehyung to not give him anything he wouldn’t like.
“Are you -” Taehyung starts, and stutters when Jimin immediately looks up at him in question. “Are you alright?”
Jimin looks away, and Taehyung can breathe a little easier.
“I am alright,” he answers. “It didn’t hurt like I thought it would, you know. Falling.”
Taehyung nods, like he has any idea what being a falling star feels like, but doesn’t interrupt him.
“I wanted to fall. I just didn’t think I would land in someone’s home,“ Jimin adds, and for the first time, he looks bashful. His cheeks are a little pink.
“Where did you think you would land?” Taehyung asks, in the gentlest way he can.
“I - didn’t plan that far ahead, actually,” Jimin says, still not looking at him, and there’s a little embarrassed smile on his face, and Taehyung can’t help it. He laughs, and Jimin looks shocked at the sound for all of a split second before he breaks out in a giggle, and the absurdity of the situation hits Taehyung all at once.
“You could stay here,” he says, when he’s done trying to hide his shaking shoulders and chuckles from a Jimin that’s just as amused as he is.
Jimin’s eyes widen, just slightly.
“If you want, of course. And if you don’t have anywhere else you want to be. I don’t know why you fell, but maybe there’s a reason why you fell here,” he adds.
As soon as the words leave his mouth, he remembers, suddenly: the forest, the storm, his wish the night before.
He’s about to tell Jimin that maybe it’s Taehyung’s fault he’d ended up there. He didn’t wish for someone, but he’d wished for something, for whatever the opposite of lonely is, and if the universe’s answer to that was Jimin -
“I think I would like to stay with you, if you’d let me,” Jimin says, and Taehyung bites back the words, bundles them up, stores them in a corner of his mind where he can take them out and give them to Jimin when the timing is better. Maybe his wish fell on deaf ears, but how can he be sure?
Before that, though.
Taehyung smiles at Jimin, takes their empty mugs back to the sink.
“Here, you can have your own room - let me show you,” he says, and holds out his hand at him for the second time that morning.
Jimin takes it, and gets up from the couch. He keeps holding on to Taehyung, their fingers intertwined, and follows him upstairs. Taehyung doesn’t let go.
Jungkook is the first to arrive, chaining his delivery bike to the fence that surrounds Taehyung’s house. He’s had it since he’d finished highschool and had gotten the job at Hoseok’s family’s flower shop, and he keeps ringing the bell all the way down the path before reaching the front gate.
He comes in without knocking through the unlocked door, and the first thing out of his mouth when he sees Jimin is - “Oh, so you weren’t kidding?”
Jimin raises a hand, waves hello. Jungkook looks a little dazed, which is understandable. Outside, the sky is still overcast, but Jimin glows, like a firefly, a stark contrast to the dim light of the morning.
“I was not,” Taehyung deadpans, and hangs up Jungkook’s jacket near the door for him.
The rest of them tumble through the entrance barely half an hour later - they walk into Jungkook chasing Yeontan around the room with Jimin, while Taehyung tries to film as much of it as he can on his old, battered phone.
Jungkook had forgotten how to be shy around Jimin the second the latter had picked up Yeontan in his arms like he’d known him for years and not hours, and Taehyung could only go along with it. He doesn’t want to lie to himself and say Jimin feels like a stranger, and he doesn’t know if it’s because Jimin is a star, or because Jimin is Jimin .
The thought flies out of his mind before he can turn it over and inspect it, and then Hoseok coos out loud and Taehyung takes his eyes away from the tiny Jimin on his phone screen to welcome the rest of his friends.
Namjoon is hopping in place to take his shoes off, balancing himself with a hand on Seokjin’s shoulder, but his eyes are on Jimin and Jungkook, who have stopped in their tracks and are both smiling shyly.
Hoseok doesn’t bother with greetings - he coos again and immediately walks up to Yeontan to pet him and kiss him behind his ears.
The only one who actually says hello first is Yoongi, blinking from under his bucket hat.
“Hello - Jimin, right?”
Jimin raises his gaze, and nods.
“Hello,” he answers, his voice soft, and he wrings his hands together in front of him. He’s nervous - Taehyung can tell, and he resists the irrational urge to walk up to him and cover Jimin’s hands with his own, just to comfort him.
Yoongi’s face softens in a smile, and pulls Namjoon and Seokjin to sit on Taehyung’s couch.
Hoseok settles on the carpet, Yeontan still in his arms.
“So, that’s Yoongi,” Taehyung starts, pointing at each of his friends in order. “And Namjoon, Seokjin, and Hoseok.”
“Hello, Jimin,” Seokjin speaks up, and Namjoon and Hoseok follow suit.
“Taehyung has explained - or tried to. I don’t think most of us were taking him seriously,” Namjoon keeps going, with a pointed look at Yoongi and Seokjin.
“I’m just saying, I thought he was taking some poetic liberties in describing the stranger sleeping in his yard,” Seokjin cuts in, and Yoongi huffs out a laugh at his indignant expression. Namjoon tries to bite back a smile himself, but doesn’t otherwise respond - he just turns his attention to Jimin.
“This hyung should know better by now, shouldn’t he? But anyway, Jimin-ssi - Taehyung told us what happened ever since he woke up. Would you like to tell us what happened on your side?”
Namjoon is leaning over with his elbows on his knees, his expression open even as he looks at Jimin, holding eye contact. Taehyung can see when Jimin’s shoulders drop, and he relaxes, curling into himself to sit cross-legged on the carpet.
“How much do you know about stars?”
“In the astronomical sense? The basics, really. Gas burning at extremely high temperatures,” Yoongi intervenes, and Jimin nods.
“Yeah, some - some of us are like that. And some of us are like me,” he says.
“I don’t think I was always a star. I don’t remember a before, but to be fair - I don’t remember a lot. I was always just up there, you know, and I think I’ve been there for a long time,” and he’s looking down at his hands. Taehyung sits down next to him, without touching him, trying to let him know he’s there.
"And sometimes I could hear something from down here, and then -”
He stops in his tracks, closes his mouth. Taehyung gives up, and reaches out to rest a hand on Jimin’s shoulder. It’s the third time they touch today - they held hands walking into the house, and then again when Taehyung showed Jimin the guest room, and now this. Jimin looks up, and something in his eyes makes Taehyung want to stay rooted in place.
“And then you fell,” Seokjin concludes.
“Did - did it hurt?” Jungkook asks, and six heads turn towards him..
“When he fell from heaven?” snorts Seokjin, and the tension breaks, just a little. Namjoon snorts, too, and hides his face in Seokjin’s shoulder, and Jungkook goes red up to his ears.
“I didn’t mean it like that -” he tries to defend himself, while Hoseok snickers.
“Please don’t mind them, they’re all twelve,” Yoongi says, doing a terrible job of pretending he doesn’t have a smile on his face himself. “You don’t have to tell us anymore than that, Jimin-ssi,” he adds, and Jimin relaxes once again. “But can I ask - you could hear something from here?”
Jimin nods again, and this time he looks more excited.
“I heard - songs? Music? And maybe - birds, I think. And whales. And people laughing. One of them sounded like Jungkook… Ssi? Is it Jungkook-ssi, like you called me?”
“You could hear radio transmissions from Earth. Like, the ones they’ve sent out? To check for other sentient life in the universe? The Arecibo message, and all that?”
Yoongi’s eyes are wide - Namjoon’s are too, and they stare at each other for a moment, before their attention goes back to Jimin.
Taehyung thinks about Jimin the star, up there and listening to messages from planet Earth. He thinks about when Namjoon and Yoongi had told him about the golden disks in the Voyager probe, and wonders if it flew past Jimin’s spot in the sky.
“I could see things too, sometimes. It’s like - if you hold up your hands in front of you, like this,” Jimin answers, doing just that. He puts them close to his face, peeking from between his fingers. “You can only see if you don’t move, or put your fingers together.”
Namjoon nods, thoughtful.
“Do you know how - how long you were there?” Taehyung asks, before he can stop himself.
Jimin shakes his head.
“I don’t think time passed quite the same way as it does for you,” Jimin answers, his eyes on the floor.
Taehyung can see out of the corner of his eye Yoongi nodding, biting at the skin around his fingernails.
“Well, Jimin-ssi, unless you’ve somehow managed to roll around in that bioluminescent plankton Namjoonie likes to go on about -”
“It was one time -”
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t believe you when you’re glowing like a nightlight,” Seokjin concludes, a smile on his face, before Namjoon can reply to Yoongi’s teasing.
Jimin lets out an obviously relieved breath.
“I already told Taehyung - I don’t know why I fell here, of all places. Or why everything I’ve seen feels so familiar, or -”
“Why you can understand us, and we can understand you?” Jungkook chimes in, decidedly less red than he was before, from his spot perched on one of the couch armrests.
“Yes,” Jimin adds. His eyes go around the room, facing each of Taehyung’s friends, before ultimately setting on Taehyung himself.
"And I’m sorry,” he adds on.
Taehyung’s hand had never left his shoulder. He squeezes, gently, and smiles at him.
“Jimin, it’s okay. I told you - you can stay,” he replies, and when Jimin smiles back at him, something in Taehyung settles.
"And we’re staying for lunch,” Yoongi adds. “You woke us up early on a Saturday, and we brought fresh bread, and I know you haven’t been down to the village for groceries but I’m sure we can find at least some rice here somewhere, so we’re staying for lunch.”
Taehyung chuckles as Yoongi gets up, walks past him and ruffles his hair, his hand wrapped around Seokjin’s as he pulls him into Taehyung’s kitchen.
Hoseok lets Yeontan run free with one last kiss on his little head, and heads over to help - Namjoon does too, ready to set the table.
Taehyung lets the soft sounds of a full house wash over him, and catches Jimin’s eyes once again. He can feel his smile still stretch along his face, and when he finally replies to Yoongi, a beat too late, he’s still looking at Jimin.
“Alright, alright, hyung. Make yourself at home.”
Living with Jimin feels familiar like a sweater, new like spring flowers - the first morning after his fall, Taehyung had woken up to a tinkling laugh coming from downstairs and could only curl up into himself, remembering how his grandmother had sounded when she walked around her kitchen.
She had left that kitchen to him, though, like the strawberry field and everything else, and Taehyung had gotten up and walked downstairs and found Jimin trying to turn the stove on while keeping Yeontan from nipping at his pants.
“I wanted to make you tea, like you did. As a thank you,” Jimin had said first thing, with a sheepish smile on his face, and he looked bright and soft in a pair of borrowed pajamas, standing in front of Taehyung, the kettle in one hand.
It had been still a little early for words, so Taehyung had gently pried it from Jimin’s hands and put it on the stove himself, a yawn coming out of him as he took out mugs and teaspoons.
“I’ve heard this sound before,” Jimin had whispered above the tinkling of the metal spoons against ceramic.
“Do you like it?” Taehyung had asked, his voice soft. The morning had been stretching delicately over them both, the first rays of sunlight streaming through the open kitchen window.
“I do,” Jimin had answered, just as softly. “Feels like a song.”
They had spent that first morning listening to the sounds the house made - when breeze blew through the curtains, when birds started chirping, when Yeontan scratched the door to be let outside. Jimin had recognized some, marvelled over others, and Taehyung had wanted to help him find them all.
It’s been weeks, since that first morning. April had turned into May, and May is about to become June, and just like Taehyung had pictured he would, Jimin fits into Taehyung’s routine like he’s always been there.
He doesn’t have time to wonder, once again, if he should be worried about it - about how easy it is, to have Jimin with him, playing with Yeontan in the morning, setting the table for two at lunch and dinner. The thought barely crosses his mind once, or twice, but it still fades as soon as he realizes that it’s no use. It feels good, to have Jimin there, and to see him settle into Taehyung’s life.
Jimin sits with him in the garden, does chores with him, asks questions about how everything works. He reads - a lot, everything Namjoon and Hoseok bring him, and helps Taehyung tend to the trees in his yard and the strawberry field. And if Taehyung’s breath gets knocked out of his chest, sometimes, when Jimin squints under the summer sun, still impossibly glowing, reminding Taehyung he’s not completely human - that’s neither here nor there.
Not when Taehyung hasn’t felt alone in a while, Jimin always a breath away. Not when now, when he can’t sleep, he can go knock on Jimin’s bedroom door and find him awake, because stars do not need to rest, reading, or looking out through the window at the sky above.
They lie down together on the bed, and sometimes they don’t say a word all night. Sometimes they talk, until the early hours.
Jimin tells him about how he feels like he had been a human, once. Just from the way he knows things before Taehyung explains them to him, how he feels like he’s not a stranger there - Taehyung doesn’t tell him about how sometimes he does feel like a stranger, like this was the wrong planet for him to be born on, but he offers back his thoughts on his paintings, his books, everything Jimin wants to know.
Jimin is kind, and quick to laugh, and they pull their heads close together to whisper like they’re little kids sharing secrets, like someone is going to come in and tell them come on, you two, it’s time for bed, please turn off the light. Taehyung always falls asleep before morning comes.
He tries to tell himself that nothing much has changed, and in a way it’s true. He still does what he would have done if he’d been alone: he takes care of the strawberry fields, and works on the few commissions he’d gotten for paintings, and tries not to think about the canvas he’s started working on, the one where he’d been trying to capture at least a fraction of Jimin’s entire being, but.
Everything has changed, because the same old things are remade anew by Jimin simply being there, and Taehyung doesn’t know how to think about it in a way that doesn’t ache, just a little, right in the center of his chest - the kind that comes from settling into something comfortable, like muscles protesting after a day of work even as you put yourself to bed.
He doesn’t want to question it, the pull he feels towards him. He can just feel himself falling, little by little, with every smile Jimin shares with him, every movie they watch together - every afternoon Jimin spends watching him paint, humming along to one of Taehyung’s vinyls, spinning barefoot on the wooden floors in his best attempt at dance steps.
Taehyung lets himself fall, week by week, like a planet into orbit, and before he knows it June comes, with bright sunshine and the promise of a good year for strawberries.
The rain in April hadn’t bothered them, and Taehyung had spent the whole of May tending to the bright green patches with Jimin, showing him how to care for the plants like Taehyung’s grandmother had taught him as a kid.
He’d gotten up early to check on them in the morning, and was greeted by bright red peeking between the leaves. The first strawberries of the season were ready, and Taehyung smiles as he pulls out two baskets from the cupboard, making too much noise for the early hour.
Jimin walks into the kitchen right on time at the commotion, coming down from his room, but Taehyung doesn’t give him time to ask - just hands him a basket and turns his smile towards him.
“Jimin! Jimin-ah, the strawberries are ready,” he explains. It’s his favorite moment of the year, picking the first strawberries, filling up a basket with red, sharing them with his friends, and now he wants to share all of it with Jimin.
In front of him, Jimin blinks, a little dazed - then he smiles back, and grips the basket tighter.
“What are we waiting for, then?”
They all but run out the door, both of them still wearing their sleep clothes, too excited to really care.
It’s quick work, gathering the first strawberries. Taehyung explains to him how to tell which ones are ripe enough to take, snapping one off the stem, and Jimin nods, careful and attentive. Taehyung sees him going through the rows of plants, a concentrated frown on his face, and feels warm.
They gather a basket full of strawberries between the two of them - they're back inside barely one hour later, and Taehyung leaves the basket in the sink and opens up the windows while Jimin puts the kettle on, turning on the stove like Taehyung had taught him to.
They walk around each other in the kitchen like a practiced dance, their soundtrack the sound of running water from the sink as Taehyung washes the strawberries and takes out the stem to put them in a glass bowl, and the kettle boiling.
Jimin takes out their mugs, and spoons, and lays them all on the dark wooden table - next it’s Seokjin’s honey cookies, and a rice cake for the two of them to split, and when Taehyung turns around, he already finds him sitting down, one hand on his chin, looking right back at him.
Taehyung smiles at him, sits down at the table, takes a strawberry from the bowl, cuts it in two. He hands one half to Jimin, and he takes it, smiling back as they share the first one.
Breakfast between them is usually a quiet thing, and today is no exception. Every time Taehyung meets Jimin’s eyes above his mug, he cuts another strawberry, and they keep sharing like that, one half each, holding their hands out to each other. Jimin’s skin glows even in the bright light of the morning, and he smiles like the sun.
Taehyung’s chest feels sticky sweet, like strawberries on his tongue.
It’s Seokjin that brings it up first, sitting up on the couch and going “Oh, look at this,” waving his phone in Taehyung’s face.
He’s lying down with his head on Seokjin’s thigh, so he half expects the motion - he tries to focus on the screen, open on a Naver page with an article open that reads June meteor shower expected in a week: keep your eyes up!
Jimin hums his interest from his spot on the wicker chair. He’s curled up, like a cat, seemingly unaffected by the heat wave that just hit. Taehyung really misses the winter.
“A meteor shower, next week,” Taehyung reads out loud, a yawn interrupting him halfway through, and Namjoon and Yoongi perk up from their spot where they’re sitting in front of the fan, cold beer in their hands.
“I didn’t know you were interested in astronomy, hyung,” Jimin replies. The hyung was an addiction to his vocabulary that had slipped in almost seamlessly, as he took in how Taehyung interacted with the rest of them. Even though Jimin didn’t really know how old he was - he just called all of them hyung, except for Jungkook, and for Taehyung, whose name he kept free of honorifics.
“I’m not that into it, really,” Seokjin answers, his attention back on his phone. “But they like this kind of stuff,” he adds on, tilting his head towards Namjoon and Yoongi’s direction, and they try to hide their twin pleased smiles as Seokjin’s ears get just a little red.
“You guys could all come here,” Taehyung cuts in, “We could watch the meteor shower together, if you want?”
“That would be nice,” Jimin nods.
That had been the beginning. Now, a week later, they’re all gathered in Taehyung’s yard, every light in the house turned off, sitting on blankets and lawn chairs as Jungkook gently strums on the guitar he’d brought along.
They’d had dinner outside, too - Yoongi had made fried chicken in Taehyung’s kitchen with Hoseok’s help, and Namjoon had brought along beers and soju. Taehyung had taken only one sip from Jimin’s bottle and that had been enough for him, the taste too bitter on his tongue, only sweetened by Jimin’s giggle at his grossed out face.
Taehyung’s eyes had adjusted to the dark a while ago, and now all that’s left to do is wait for the meteor shower to appear.
There are no lights to disturb the clear view of the sky, except for Yoongi’s phone, open on the article that told them the meteor shower was supposed to start in just a few minutes - and Jimin’s gentle glow. When they’d first met, Taehyung had thought oh, just like a firefly - it comes back to him now as he looks at him instead of the night sky, the fact that just a while ago, Jimin had been up there, and now he’s here, his shoulders covered by Taehyung’s yellow knit blanket, looking up at his old home.
Taehyung opens his mouth - to say what, he doesn’t know: he doesn’t get a chance to. Behind him, Jungkook gasps, and he knows before he hears the loud “ Look! ” that the meteor shower has started.
He catches the tail end of one before it blinks away into the vastness of space when he looks up, and then another. It’s beautiful, and he keeps his eyes on the sky to catch more, hears Hoseok’s quiet wow and Seokjin’s whispered look, Yoongi-yah, there’s another one.
Next to him, Jimin inhales sharply, and out of the corner of his eye, Taehyung sees the blanket around his shoulders fall to the ground as he gets up.
When he turns fully towards him, Jimin seems entranced - hypnotized, almost, by the lights in the night sky, and takes a few steps forward.
He’s glowing brighter, now, a halo of light surrounding him, but Taehyung can’t keep his eyes away, and he pays no mind to his friends’ sounds of confusion behind him: he just gets up, reaches for Jimin’s hand, worry swirling in his chest.
It’s warm under his fingertips, but Jimin doesn’t hold his hand back, too fixated on the sky above them, and Taehyung -
“Jimin,” he says, “Jimin-ah, please, are you okay?”
The please slips out before he can rein it in, but it doesn’t matter. Jimin turns towards him, and his eyes are bright, like the rest of him, but they look empty.
Taehyung feels his own face fall. He’s seen Jimin smiling, happy, deep in thought, and his eyes were always an open door, reflecting everything he was feeling. Right now, they’re the void of space, and he can only grip Jimin’s hand tighter.
He can tell Namjoon and Hoseok have gotten up, and are stepping closer, but they don’t try to touch Jimin, so he takes a deep breath. Tries again.
“Jimin? Can you hear me? It’s me - what’s going on?”
Jimin turns his gaze towards the sky, and when he takes another step, his fingers almost slip from Taehyung’s grip. The light from his skin is almost blinding, now, and Taehyung is so confused - there’s no space in his mind for that, though, not when Jimin looks like he’s so out of it, so completely different from the Jimin he’s used to seeing.
“Jimin, it’s Taehyung. Please,” he asks again, his voice trembling, “Please let me help,” and steps in front of him, the other hand on Jimin’s shoulders.
Jimin looks at him, unseeing, for just a moment, and if Taehyung’s hands weren’t on him, they would shake - and then he blinks, and it’s like a switch has been flipped.
He dims back to his usual, faint glow, and shakes his head, dazed. Taehyung exhales, but doesn’t dare take his hands off of him - and before he can ask, Jimin is looking up at the night sky again.
“What - what just happened?” asks Seokjin, but Taehyung doesn’t look at him. Jimin doesn’t either, and for one terrifying moment, Taehyung expects the light to engulf him once again. It doesn’t, and when Jimin answers Seokjin’s question, his hand grips Taehyung’s back.
“I think I was being called - home,” Jimin says, his voice hesitating, stuttering on the last word, and Taehyung’s chest is a black hole.
Jungkook lets out a quiet oh, and nothing else. Everyone else stays silent, taking it in.
"Do you want to go home?” Namjoon asks, in his softest voice, and Jimin turns to look right into Taehyung’s eyes.
Taehyung has no idea what his face is doing, his heart working double time - he can still feel the weight of Jimin’s small hand in his, though, and the now once again familiar sight of his dark eyes.
“I don’t think so,” he answers, and Taehyung doesn’t say anything. He just goes along with what he wants, for once - he pulls Jimin towards him in a hug, and feels his arms around him as they embrace. If he doesn’t think about the way he can feel the corners of his eyes burn, he doesn’t have to worry about it.
“I think I want to stay here, and stargaze a bit more,” Jimin whispers into his shoulders. Taehyung has no words to say. He just pulls his arms away, links Jimin’s pinky finger with his, and makes him sit down next to him.
As he covers Jimin’s shoulders with the blanket once again, his friends all inch closer. Taehyung feels Seokjin’s hand in his hair, at the nape of his neck, Jungkook’s arm over his shoulder - and above all, Jimin’s pinky against his, a single fixed point of contact.
They stare up at the sky until Hoseok starts yawning, and Yoongi follows suit. A sleepy-eyed Namjoon herds them both towards the house, Hoseok dragging Jungkook along by one of the sleeves of his hoodie.
Seokjin stays behind, just for a moment, and ruffles Taehyung’s hair once again before heading inside, too. He does the same to Jimin, whispering a quiet goodnight, come sleep soon, and they both hum in acknowledgement.
The lights inside of the house blink on. Taehyung can picture it perfectly - Jungkook opening the pull-out couch to share with Hoseok, Namjoon heading up to the second guest bedroom, the one with the king sized bed, to change the sheets while Yoongi and Seokjin and Hoseok clean what was left out of place in the kitchen from making dinner.
It barely takes a few minutes before everything is quiet again, and the lights are turned off. Jimin leans closer, just for a second, and Taehyung does too, their fingers still linked.
Taehyung doesn’t know how to say I would like you to stay here as long as you want, please stay as long as you want, so he doesn’t. They don’t say a word until the last meteor blinks out of the sky - and when Jimin pulls him up and inside, Taehyung doesn’t protest. When Jimin turns towards his room, though, Taehyung pulls him through their linked hands towards his own.
“Can you keep me company until I fall asleep?” Taehyung asks him, swallowing back how childish of a request it feels, feeling like a kid all over again - can you bring me a glass of water? Can you read me a story?
Jimin smiles, and says “Of course,” and lies down next to him on his bed, under the thin bed sheet Taehyung still uses in the summer, holding his hand. Taehyung starts drowsing off as soon as his head hits the pillow.
“Goodnight, Taehyung,” Jimin whispers, and leaves a kiss on Taehyung’s cheek he doesn’t feel.
The next morning, Taehyung wakes up too early.
Sleep still weighs heavy on his eyes, and he almost turns around, settles into his pillow once again - and then the night before comes back to him, all at once. He lets out a deep breath when he remembers. Something called Jimin home. Jimin had decided to stay. For now, at least, his brain suggests, and after that he’s too awake to do anything else but yawn and get up and walk down the stairs.
Beside him, the mattress was empty, but he was expecting it - Jimin is a star, and doesn’t need to sleep.
He hears music as he comes down the steps, and then he finds Jimin with Hoseok in the middle of the living room, the couch moved out of the way as Jungkook fiddles with the old stereo. Hoseok is teaching him the steps to a ballroom dance - something that goes left forward, right forward, now left again, and then the other way around when Hoseok lets him lead.
Jimin laughs, and Taehyung thinks about never hearing that sound again. He shakes out of it when those eyes end up on him, and he immediately gets dragged into it, learning the steps along with Jimin, and for just a few minutes, he doesn’t think about it - and then the music stops, and Jungkook changes it to something more upbeat and pop, and Taehyung leaves Jimin and Hoseok in the living room to go into the kitchen.
The kettle is already hot, and he smiles despite himself as he pours some water in his mug. He barely hears Namjoon come in, focused as he is on his task, and finds him pulling out a chair to sit at the table when he turns his back to the stove.
“Nice mug,” Namjoon says, and Taehyung huffs out a laugh. It’s the one Namjoon had gifted him, like always.
He sits down too, and looks on as Seokjin walks in and pours a mug of tea for himself. They all trail inside the kitchen after that, one by one, and sit around Taehyung’s table.
Jungkook settles next to Seokjin, leaning on his shoulder, and Hoseok pulls one of his feet up on the chair, folding himself in half to sit comfortably - Yoongi is the last to arrive, and he sits down on one of Namjoon’s thighs instead of a chair, and Namjoon wraps his arm around him to balance him without skipping a beat.
Jimin sits on the opposite end of the table, and Taehyung meets his eyes above mugs and plates of leftovers from the day before. Despite how sleepy-eyed they all are, none of them manage to be quiet, and everything is more lively than any other breakfast they’ve had together, just the two of them - Seokjin chokes on a piece of fruit, and Jungkook slaps his back hard enough Taehyung winces, and Hoseok hovers worriedly until Seokjin stops coughing enough to try to retaliate. Jungkook runs to hide behind Namjoon, who’s very much laughing too, but still tries to pull Seokjin in so that he and Yoongi can kiss him, protecting the youngest from swift revenge.
Jimin’s laughter rings above everyone else’s, and once again, Taehyung wonders how temporary is it, really. The more he tries to enjoy the moment, the less he’s capable of letting the thought wash over him without affecting him, and he stirs the tea in his mug, his eyes fixated on the way it swirls, still steaming hot.
When he raises his gaze, he finds Seokjin’s eyes on him, eyebrows raised in question.
Nobody else notices, but Seokjin still puts a hand on his shoulder when he steps back into his seat, and nods in that way Taehyung knows it means is everything alright?
Nothing is wrong , it’s just Taehyung’s mind, conspiring against him - he smiles up at Seokjin, and hopes he lets it go. He knows he’s failed when breakfast is over, and Seokjin loudly proclaims that he’s seen Taehyung’s disaster of a laundry basket, so they’re going to empty his washing machine and they’re going to do another load or he won’t have any other spare socks, and immediately enlists Jimin’s help.
For his part, Jimin goes willingly, and he and Seokjin leave towards the washing machine in the bathroom. Taehyung doesn’t miss the way Seokjin leans his head towards him after catching Yoongi’s attention, and then he finds both his and Namjoon’s eyes on him, and he sighs.
“I’m not getting out of this one, am I,” he asks, as Yoongi gently takes his hand and pulls him towards the living room. Hoseok lets out an uh? Before he realizes what’s going on, and he and Jungkook follow them, still a little sleepy.
Jimin and Seokjin walk right past them, holding the basket with the load of Taehyung’s freshly washed sheets he’d put yesterday afternoon, paying them no mind, ready to hang them over the lines in Taehyung’s yard.
“Taehyung-ah, are you okay?” Yoongi asks, blunt, but not unkind.
Taehyung sits cross-legged on the carpet, and Hoseok settles next to him. From his little doggie bed, Yeontan sniffs the air and then walks over to sit in his lap, and Taehyung is thankful for the distraction as he pets his puppy between his ears.
“I was just thinking about yesterday,” he starts, and Jungkook hums, his eyebrows raised.
Namjoon pulls Yoongi closer as they sit on the pull-out couch, still open from the night before.
“You saw what happened. He felt - some kind of call for him to come back. I don’t want to keep him here, if he wants to be up there again,” he adds.
“He didn’t say that, though, did he? He said he wanted to stay,” Hoseok replies, putting his hand on Taehyung’s arm.
Taehyung keeps looking at Yeontan, feeling the rise and fall of his dog’s body under his hand.
“For how long, though? Maybe it’s going to get too strong to ignore, one day.”
“Oh, Taehyung,” Hoseok starts, but Taehyung doesn’t let him continue.
“And maybe he fell here because of me,” he goes on, the words now tumbling out of his mouth. “I - think he fell here because of me, because I made a wish the night before, and then I found him in the yard the next morning,” and then he feels Hoseok’s grip on his arm get tighter and his voice telling him “Whoa, Tae, slow down, take a deep breath.”
Taehyung hadn’t realized how quick his heartbeat had gotten. He listens to Hoseok, and exhales as slowly as possible.
“What did you mean, you made a wish?” Jungkook asks.
“Exactly that. The night before, it was raining, right? No stars at all. So I made a wish on the forest, because if there’s any magic to be found here, it’s there,” he answers, and doesn’t miss Namjoon’s small smile at the words, Yoongi’s eyes getting wide just for a moment.
“And because of what Namjoon-hyung read us in that book. How everything is made of elements found inside stars. That means it would count, right? It would be just like wishing on a shooting star, in a way - and then the next morning I found Jimin, and maybe those two things are connected, somehow.”
Namjoon and Yoongi nod at the same time, thoughtful. Hoseok is quiet, too.
“I don’t know if I’m the reason why he ended far away from home, but I don’t want to keep him away, either,” he concludes.
“It’s like Hoseok said, though. He said he wanted to stay. Maybe you just need to ask, and make sure he knows,” Yoongi replies.
Taehyung looks up, slightly confused.
“Knows what?” he asks. Yoongi raises his eyebrows at him, with a smile.
“That you’d like him to stay. Sometimes that’s enough, you know,” he answers.
Taehyung presses his lips together. He still feels like he’s done something to make Jimin fall, like some of it is somehow his fault, despite what Jimin had told him, that first day.
I wanted to fall. I just didn’t think I would land in someone’s home.
“Hyung. I think you might be going about this the long way,” Jungkook says, derailing his train of thought.
“The wrong way?”
“The long way. You’ve said it yourself, right? You didn’t wish on a star. You wished on the forest. And even if that made him land there, it doesn’t make it your fault. And you’re not keeping Jimin from going home. If space is home -” Jungkook keeps going, slipping an elastic off his wrist to tie his hair up. It’s long enough to curl on the back of his neck, now, and almost reaches his shoulders.
“If space is his home, then Earth is a part of it too, you know? Like you said, like the forest. And the village, and everything else. Namjoon-hyung’s pale blue dot. He’s heard greetings and whale songs all the way up there. Maybe - no, no maybe. I think he’d like to hear you ask him to stay.”
Taehyung can only stare, as Jungkook’s cheeks get progressively pinker and he starts darting his eyes around to avoid meeting Taehyung’s gaze.
“Or you know, something like that,” Jungkook starts again, and Taehyung can only get up, raise his arms around Jungkook’s shoulders and pull him into a hug that he falls into willingly.
“Thank you, Jungkookie,” he whispers. “Aish, you’ve grown up so much while I wasn’t looking,” he goes on, after a beat or two. Jungkook huffs against his shoulders, pretending to be put-upon, but hugs him back and sways them in place, and when Taehyung raises his gaze - he can see Jimin and Seokjin through the window, hanging his sheets out to dry on the clotheslines.
With a laundry basket in his arms, Jimin looks so human. With a smile on his face, the one that shows all his teeth and makes his cheeks turn pink - he looks otherworldly.
Taehyung wants to hold his hand, and show him what the rest of planet Earth looks like up close, beyond his house and his strawberry field and the forest. He wants to show him his corner of the universe and hope it can measure up to the rest of it - he wants to relearn it himself, with Jimin by his side. He wants a lot of things, and maybe he can ask for a few of them.
“Jungkookie, Jungkook-ah, you’re gonna make hyung cry,” a voice rises up from the couch behind them.
“I am not gonna cry, Kim Namjoon, and you will stop that right now immediately if you know what’s good for you.”
Namjoon laughs, bright and amused, intertwining his fingers with Yoongi’s, and when he meets Taehyung’s eyes his smile becomes softer, a twin of Yoongi’s own fond expression as they both pull Jungkook towards them on the couch to ruffle his hair as soon as Taehyung frees him from his hold.
Hoseok joins in right after, dropping a kiss on Jungkook’s head, and Taehyung can’t do anything but sit down on the carpet, rest his head against one of Hoseok’s knobby knees, and start dozing off in the early afternoon haze as he basks in the sound of his favorite people.
When Seokjin and Jimin walk back in, they don’t hesitate to join them - Seokjin sits down next to Yoongi, reaching over to run his fingers against Namjoon’s cheek, just for a moment, poking his dimple. Jimin makes a beeline for the space under Taehyung’s arm, tipping his head on his shoulder, and Taehyung opens his eyes, just to see Jimin’s silver hair under his nose, then closes them again.
Sometimes, when he can’t sleep, he pretends he’s floating - on his back in a pool, in the middle of the ocean, in the vastness of space, untethered and unreachable. He’s read countless blog articles and message boards about remedies for insomnia, and someone had said it worked for them. It never did work for him, but sometimes it helped, just a little.
This time, when he pictures himself suspended in space, he’s hugging his very own star close to his chest.
A week later, Taehyung is standing in his kitchen again.
This time it’s empty, except for him, and Yeontan, napping in a patch of sunlight. Taheyung doesn’t mind - it’s early, and Jimin is on the couch of the living room, reading one of Taehyung’s comic books.
He hums along to Chuck Berry as he works, washing a whole basket of strawberries they’d picked together the day before. He rinses them under the water, and carefully cuts away the top and leaves, then puts them away, the motions in time with the song - little star above, my wish is of my only, only, only love, he sings, and smiles at the irony.
On the table, he already has the sugar out, alongside his grandmother’s favorite pan and lemon juice in a measuring glass. He only calls Jimin in when all the strawberries are ready and sitting in the biggest bowl he has in the kitchen.
Jimin peeks through the door barely a moment later, as Taehyung washes his hands, knowing perfectly well they’re gonna get sticky again.
“Wanna help me make strawberry jam?”
Jimin does want to help, and he nods. Taehyung looks for the potato masher in the wooden drawers and cupboards, trying to keep his hands busy while he starts speaking.
“We’re gonna use my grandmother’s recipe,” he begins, and out of the corner of his eye, he sees Jimin perk up.
He’s only mentioned her to Jimin once, when he couldn’t sleep. Just one off-handed comment about how she’d used to sing him to sleep, as a kid. Jimin hadn’t pried, but as he was drowsing off, that same night, he thought he’d heard him humming.
“We always made it together when I was little,” he continues, and his fingers finally close around the right handle. He takes out the masher out of the drawer he’d been digging in, and hands it to Jimin.
“First, we have to mash them. Not too thin, just enough so we can mix the sugar in,” and shows him how, his hand wrapping around Jimin’s for just a moment.
Jimin keeps going on his own, after that. He doesn’t speak, just waits for Taehyung to keep talking, like he knows he has more to say.
Taehyung puts the pan on the stove, carrying the bowl of sugar and the lemon juice over to the kitchen counter.
“You know I grew up here, right? I grew up with her and my grandpa, and I went to school in the village, and then - when I finished high school, it was just the two of us,” he keeps going, staring at the tiles on the wall.
It doesn’t really hurt anymore, talking about it. It just aches, a little, like melancholy so often does, and Taehyung keeps going.
"I was already friends with the hyungs - Yoongi and Hoseok, and I wanted to stay here, start working like they did. But she wanted me to go to university, and I also wanted to make her happy,” he says, with a smile.
Jimin hands him a bowl full of perfectly mashed fruit, and Taehyung turns his smile towards him as thanks.
“So I went to university for three years, started painting, got an art degree, and then I came back here to stay with her,” he says as he pours the strawberries in, then the sugar, and takes a wooden spoon he can use to stir. He turns the stove on low heat.
“I started getting commissions, but it doesn’t matter where you paint, as long as you do, and I couldn’t see myself doing it anywhere but here. She always liked it when I painted the farm, or the forest. She always told me it was magic,” he adds. Jimin nods, his expression thoughtful.
“Do you think that, too?” he asks.
Taehyung doesn’t look at him, his eyes on the pan. He does.
“I do. I think there’s always something more, you know. I would be silly not to, at this point,” he huffs out a laugh, glancing at him. Jimin seems to know exactly what he means, and laughs a little himself.
He puts the bowls in the sink, starts cleaning up while Taehyung keeps stirring. They’re going to be here a while, but the kitchen already smells like sugar and some of Taehyung’s fondest memories.
“I think there’s more - more around us that most people think about,” he goes on, and thinks about his friends. About Hoseok’s smile, and the way it could brighten up a room - about the way Namjoon could walk through his yard and have a bird land on his shoulder, like something out of a fairytale.
“You know,” Jimin says.
“I know there’s more,” Taehyung corrects himself. His grandma had raised him with stories about fairies and spirits and the people lucky enough to be called their friends, and when she had told him about how their town was magic, too, he’d never stopped believing her. He had no reason to, when nothing ever proved her wrong - not in the way she could tell every tree in the forest apart, or in how everything she set in the ground ended up bearing fruit.
They’re both silent for a while, the bubbling jam on the stove the only noise between them.
“Do you want them to tell you?” Jimin asks, and Taehyung doesn’t ask him to clarify what he’s talking about. He already knows.
“Would it make a difference?” he asks back, and means it. He knows they love him, and if they want to tell him what they really are - what Taehyung already suspects, from his grandmother’s folk tales and his own gut feeling - they will. For now, it’s enough, and Jimin seems to understand him. He nods again.
“So what’s the next step?” He asks.
“Now that it’s boiling,” Taehyung replies, “we add the lemon juice.”
He does exactly that, and stirs it in. “And then we keep doing this for - at least fifteen minutes. Do you wanna switch?”
Jimin nods, and takes the spoon when Taehyung hands it to him.
“I think you’re supposed to use a thermometer, but she never did. She just went with what she felt was right, and - it always came out good,” Taehyung adds, watching over Jimin as he stirs the contents of the pan.
“I’m sure this will, too,” Jimin replies, and Taehyung can only smile at him.
When Jimin asks, “Will you tell me more about her?” Taehyung says yes, and he does - all throughout the strawberry jam thickening in the pan, when they turn the stove off, when they pour it, still boiling hot, into a few glass jars.
He tells him random bits - her favorite trot song, how she had hung up Taehyung’s first painting at the entrance, where it still stays, proudly displayed there. How she was a hard worker, and had taught him everything he needed to know about the farm, and Jimin smiles when he tells him how she had knit the yellow blanket, the one Jimin had kept using after that night, to wrap around himself when the evening turned chilly.
How she was always healthy, until one day she wasn’t, and then Taehyung was alone.
He doesn’t focus on the last part - that’s not the point, really. It’s still nice to feel Jimin’s hand slip in his, when his eyes start to burn and he blinks the ache away. He’s just done telling him about how she had loved Yeontan, and how he’d spend so long just curled up on her feet, sleeping, when they finish up fully.
The kitchen is clean, and there’s three glass jars of strawberry jam on the counter, and everything is tidied up and there’s nothing else to do except wait for it to cool.
“How long?” Jimin asks, and Taehyung laughs at the slightest hint of a pout on his face.
“Until it’s room temperature, at least, and then we can put it in the fridge. We could have some tonight, for dinner,” he replies, and Jimin perks up at his words.
He hums to himself, as if he’s considering something - and then he turns to Taehyung once again.
“We should have dinner outside, like we did last week. Stargaze again,” he says, and Taehyung is scared, for just a moment. The memory of what happened the week before is still fresh. It goes away as soon as he meets Jimin’s eyes and he remembers what Jungkook had told him - he only needs to ask, and then everything else can come later.
“Of course, Jimin-ah,” he says, and his reward is a blinding smile.
Jimin pulls him outside as soon as the sun sets, hours and hours later.
It’s barely past the hills, the sky still a beautiful pink, but it will still be a while before any stars show up. The moon is there already, though, a perfect half-circle, and Taehyung glances up at it before setting down one of the picnic blankets.
With it, he’s brought slices of fresh bread, and the strawberry jam they’ve made, carefully transferred into a glass jar - and of course, knives and napkins and two mugs, ready for Jimin to bring the kettle outside as soon as the water is done boiling.
They’d had a quick lunch, and their afternoon had gone by soft and quiet - Taehyung had stayed in his studio, working on a commission. Instead of one from his list of clients in Seoul, he had picked one of the requests from the village - Mrs. Park, the librarian, wanted a painting to hang above her desk, and had left him full creative freedom.
Taehyung’s choice had been the patch of wildflowers he’d found Jimin in, set against the backdrop of the fields around his home on a sunny morning. It’s coming along nicely, he thinks. He stares at the very same patch now, as Jimin sits down next to him, and they eat while waiting for night to fall around them.
Venus is the first to appear. After that, one by one, every other light up there shows up, shaping the night sky above their heads.
Jimin’s glow is softer, today. More warm, yellow light than the white halo Taehyung had gotten used to, and he steals glances at him whenever he can. As good as it is, he barely tastes the strawberry jam they’ve made, as his mind races trying to find a way to say all he had wanted to.
In the end, it’s Jimin who speaks first.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he asks, and Taehyung drags his eyes away from him to follow his gaze and look up at the sky.
When he was a kid, he could see the Milky Way perfectly, right above the roof. Now, with the rising levels of light pollution, it’s a little less evident, but still there.
“Yeah, it is,” he replies, because of course he agrees. Taehyung wonders if there’s really anyone who could look at the night sky without even a crumb of wonder for how big the universe is - how small they all are in comparison.
And yet, he thinks, a little deliriously, he still managed to sit next to a star, admiring all of it with him. He keeps his eyes up, his tongue heavy as he finally asks the question he’d been keeping in.
“Do you miss it?”
He doesn’t have it in him to look at Jimin. He still feels him shuffle closer, until their shoulders are pressed together.
“When I was up there, I couldn’t really - feel. I just existed, I think. I was there. And sometimes I got glimpses of something. Sometimes it was songs. Sometimes it was people. And they kept coming, and I kept wondering what it would be like to just - experience all of that, instead of being on the outside, looking in,” he trails off for a moment, with a sigh.
“And then I got my wish. I fell. And maybe if I had ended up anywhere else, I would have regretted it,” he keeps going, and Taehyung is a coward. Above them, a satellite runs across the sky, and he’s still not looking at Jimin.
“But I fell here. And I met you, and Yeontan, and the rest of the guys. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
Taehyung can feel Jimin’s small hand on his shoulder - and he needs to tell him. He needs to ask. His head still feels like a heavy burden to carry when he finally manages to lower his eyes and turn to look at Jimin.
They’re so close, the freckles on his nose look like stars. Taehyung breathes, in, out.
“Jimin-ah. I think it might be my fault you fell here,” he says, and Jimin cocks his head to the side, curious.
“What do you mean?”
“The night before you fell - I made a wish,” he starts, and this isn’t a conversation he’d wanted to stare into Jimin’s eyes for, but beggars can’t be choosers.
“I was lonely, and tired, and I wanted someone to just stay. And I didn’t wish on a star but maybe someone was listening anyway, because the next morning, there you were,” he finishes. A knot of worry twists in the pit of his stomach, and then - Jimin laughs.
He giggles, actually, bright and amused, and the knot tightens, just for a moment, only to disappear completely when Jimin pulls him towards him, gently, as if Taehyung would wish to be anywhere else.
“Taehyung - Taetae,” he says, the nickname sweet on his tongue, and Taehyung can’t do anything but listen.
“It’s not your fault. I had been falling for a while, because I wanted to. Well before you made that wish, Taehyung-ah, I’m sure. And even if it’s because of you I ended up here on my way down - maybe it’s because someone was listening,” Jimin adds, “And they knew it was a good idea to make me stop right next to you.”
Taehyung tries to breathe through his chest caving in, his head dizzy. He lets out a shaky exhale, and raises his hands to cup Jimin’s face between them. He thinks about Jimin’s portrait in his studio, every stroke of the brush a different wish, all different from the first.
“If you ever wanted to go back - up there, I would look for you every night just to say hello,” he starts. He tries to untangle his thoughts, one by one, and hopes they come out in the right order. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to stay. But if you want to - I want you to. I want to make you happy. I want to paint you again. I want to make you tea every morning, Jimin-ah.”
He doesn’t say I love you, but he doesn’t need to.
Jimin smiles, raising his own hands to cover Taehyung’s. He blinks, letting out a breath, and then - dims, little by little. There’s no glow surrounding his edges anymore, but Taehyung barely notices. He can only stare at the Milky Way above them reflected in Jimin’s eyes, and the way Jimin smiles, open and honest and brighter than ever.
“I want to stay, Taehyung,” answers Jimin, the words soft like they’re the most important he’s ever said, sweet like the way he holds Taehyung’s name on his tongue. It sounds like I love you, too, and Taehyung tries not to unravel.
When Jimin leans in slowly, like a planet turning on its axis, and kisses him, Taehyung closes his eyes. The comet blinks behind his eyelids again - this time, it bursts into color, painting the sky a kaleidoscope.
He just holds Jimin closer, and feels the universe come together.
"For small creatures such as we,
the vastness is bearable only through love."