Chapter 1: Flash Part 1
Flash (lighthouse): A light characteristic in which the period of light is significantly shorter than the period of darkness.
Seokjin glances up to see Jimin staring at him with narrowed eyes and his lips pressed firmly together, a tick in his jaw from the pressure. The second most terrifying sight to an author is their editor realizing they're stuck in the hell that is writer's block.
Seokjin smiles charmingly and flaps his hand up and down in Jimin's direction as if to dispel any remnant of his words. "Never mind, just thinking. Go back to your work. You have another meeting soon, right?"
Jimin's eyes don't leave Seokjin's, understanding morphing into horror, finally taking form into righteous anger. "You're blocked?"
Seokjin scoffs. "I'm not blocked," he lies easily.
"You are blocked," Jimin accuses, turning fully in his chair to face Seokjin directly, shoving his own laptop away from him as he inches closer to Seokjin threateningly.
"Yah!" Seokjin yells, angling his chin up so he can look down pointedly at Jimin, a false sense of indignation at his editor's accusation making him defensive. "I have written three best-selling novels in as many years. Worldwide successes, translated into ten languages, a film deal underway. I'm a half-a-million book seller. I know when I'm blocked." He thrusts his index finger into Jimin's face. "I'm not blocked," he finishes, breathless from the rant. He thinks his face is probably red from the exertion.
Jimin remains silent for several long moments, unflinching, that tick in his jaw more pronounced as he draws in a deep breath. "Hyung," he says, smiling with acidic sweetness, malicious intent in the stretch of his lips. "How much have you written?"
Seokjin purses his lips, caught. "Eleven," he says confidently, jutting his chin out even more. He's not blocked, he tells himself. It's only a temporary break.
Jimin gapes at him. "You told me you started working a month ago and you only have eleven pages?"
Seokjin sniffs and shifts in his chair. "Words," he corrects, his ears going red.
Jimin freezes and blinks at him. "Excuse me?"
"Eleven words," Seokjin repeats. Technically it's a lie since he didn't type out the sentence but he thinks he can count it. It's a start.
"That's not funny."
"It's not a joke."
"Why the fuck has Jungkookie been telling me you've been pulling all-nighters? Did the words run away in the middle of the night?" He whips his head over to Jungkook on his other side, opposite Seokjin at the conference table. "What the hell were you doing?"
"We've been playing video games," Jungkook answers.
Seokjin scowls and reminds himself that Jungkook has always been dangerously honest. He sends him a sharp glare.
Jungkook blinks wide, innocent eyes at Seokjin. "It's true," he defends to Seokjin before glancing back to Jimin. He jolts and inches his chair away at the deadly set of Jimin's jaw.
"'We'?" Jimin repeats, the sound slipping through gritted teeth.
"He," Jungkook quickly corrects. He points his finger at Seokjin. "He's been playing video games. I've been working."
"Liar," Seokjin counters. They die together, he thinks. With honor.
"I have seventy-three manuscript pages," Jungkook says, raising his hands, palms facing Jimin in a gesture of surrender. "Seventy-three really good pages."
Jimin turns his attention back to Seokjin, but Seokjin's eyes are still on Jungkook. "How the fuck did you get seventy-three pages?" he asks, incredulous and a little jealous.
Jimin lunges over the conference table in Seokjin's direction, making him skid away in his chair, heart leaping to his throat.
"We gave you an advance," Jimin spits out. "I put my neck on the line to get you that advance without even a synopsis and you're blocked?"
"I just need a little time – "
"You took four months off!" Jimin explodes. He covers his face with his hands and makes a low, keening noise of despair. "I'm ruined."
"You still have me, hyung," Jungkook says, leaning down on the table to try to peek at Jimin.
"You can't help me with fifty-three pages," Jimin laments.
"Seventy-three," Jungkook corrects quietly.
Seokjin glances towards the door as it opens, latch clicking as the knob turns. Hoseok leans into the room with his hand on the doorjamb, smiling.
"Hi, sorry to interrupt, but we got an appointment." He nods to Jimin, unconcerned that Jimin's head is still buried in his hands. "You ready to go? We have to be downtown in twenty minutes."
Jimin drops his hands from his face and says urgently to Hoseok, "Hyung, please give me Namjoon-hyungnim,
Hoseok blinks, his lips pursing as suspicion falls over his features. "What do I get in return?" he asks slowly.
Jimin gestures dramatically to Seokjin, index finger pointed. "That hyung."
Hoseok flicks his gaze over to Seokjin. He holds his eyes for two beats before realization lights his expression. "You're blocked," he whispers, almost like an accusation, horror in his tone.
Seokjin scrunches his nose. "My productivity could be better," he starts.
Hoseok jerks away from the door, backing into the hallway. "Don't go near Namjoonie," he shouts.
"Writer's block isn't contagious!" Seokjin shouts back.
"It is! Jimin, let's go," Hoseok bellows as he scurries out of sight.
Jimin stands, sighing. "This isn't over," he warns darkly as he follows Hoseok into the hallway.
Seokjin makes a face, glancing back to Jungkook. "How did you get seventy-three pages?"
Jungkook shrugs. "I'm not blocked."
"Neither am I!" Seokjin snaps.
Jungkook raises his eyebrows, unconvinced, but remains silent.
Seokjin shuts his laptop closed with a frustrated sigh and stands. "No more video game nights," he says to Jungkook. He gathers his things. "I'm going to get through this."
"Good luck, hyung," Jungkook calls out cheerfully as Seokjin leaves. There is an unspoken You'll need it, tacked onto the end of his sentence that Seokjin ignores.
He'll be fine, he just needs to focus, he tells himself. There's a story in his head somewhere. He just needs the time to find it.
"Taehyung," he starts, glancing over to him, arresting Taehyung in a vain attempt to escape unscathed. Taehyung clears his throat and clasps his hands behind his back, pretending he wasn't making a silent dash to the exit. "Last time I checked, you worked for me." Seokjin gestures to his couch in the living room where Jimin is currently unpacking his very large luggage. "Not him."
Taehyung smiles sheepishly. "It's sort of a dual employment. Mutual dependency."
"As your agent," Taehyung continues, though Seokjin notes his foot has shifted back towards the exit one step, "it's in my best interests if you do produce another novel." His other foot follows, shifting Taehyung back two steps. "I'm sure it will be brilliant. Jimin is just here to help you."
"He's here to nag me."
"I'm here to secure my investment," Jimin calls from the couch, arranging a plethora of skin care and hair products on Seokjin's once-pristine coffee table. "I'll be gone when you have fifty manuscript pages."
"See?" Taehyung grins, laughing anxiously. "Only fifty pages and Jiminie will be out of here. No biggie."
"It shouldn't be a problem if you're not blocked," Jimin snips, glancing up to smile at Seokjin, sickly sweet and insincere. "Right, hyung?"
Seokjin points his finger at Jimin. "Don't get comfortable. You'll be gone in two days."
"Good." Jimin pulls out a pile of what probably once was neatly folded clothes and dumps it onto the arm of the couch. "Until then, I need some counter space in the bathroom."
Seokjin scowls and glances back to his side to scold Taehyung some more. He exhales sharply and throws his arm in the air in a petulant flail when he sees that Taehyung has successfully escaped during his temporary lapse of attention. He never should have hired such a wily agent.
"Two days," he repeats as he heads to his bedroom in search of his laptop. He can get fifty manuscript pages done in two days and finally he can have some peace again.
It's a terrifying thought, losing what he's spent years nurturing and forming, losing what he based his life around. Losing what he thought he was, the source of his pride, the root of his enjoyment. Now he's a writer who doesn't write. He doesn't want to think about what that means.
Instead, he focuses his mind onto something more tangible. Like how much he cannot stand living with Park Jimin and the growing clutter of said man's belongings creating an uncontrollable mess in his home. The living room was first, and Seokjin could almost ignore it. Until the chaos spread like a flood into the bathroom and the dining table and the space by the apartment door. The kitchen is Seokjin's breaking point.
"Namjoon, you have to help hyungie," Seokjin pleads into his phone. He leans on his balcony rail and peers through the sliding glass doors leading back to his apartment. He sees Jimin in the living room, supposedly "cleaning" his clothes. It looks more like he's shifting it around into new assortments of chaos. "I can't live like this."
"Jimin's sweet," Namjoon says, disbelieving.
"Jimin's sweet but I can't see my coffee table anymore. I'm starting to think he's replaced it with laundry and lotion bottles."
Namjoon laughs. "What do you expect me to do?"
"That's why I'm calling you," Seokjin huffs. "Aren't you the one with all the answers?"
"I actually have more questions than answers most of the time."
"Namjoon," Seokjin says, displeased at Namjoon's lack of concern.
"You know, Hoseok told me not to talk to you," Namjoon quips, amusement heavy in his voice.
Seokjin sighs and squeezes his eyes shut. "Writer's block isn't contagious."
"No, it's not," Namjoon concedes. There is silence for a moment and Seokjin swears he can hear Namjoon's mind, an internal debate of if he should voice a thought or not. Seokjin waits as he always does with Namjoon. He trusts the other enough that he knows not to press.
"Hyung," Namjoon finally says quietly. "Have you considered that maybe you're tired? You wrote a lot over the last few years."
"That's why I took four months off."
Namjoon makes a sound in disagreement. "Did you really?"
Seokjin blinks, frowning. He shifts away from the rail, turning to look out onto the street below, cars jerking in stop-and-start traffic as they try to maneuver the narrow road. "What do you mean?"
"You finalized the film deal," Namjoon starts, "helped with the first draft of the screenplay. You've been doing promotions, too. You might not have been writing, but you've been working non-stop."
Seokjin remains silent, watching the cars start and stop and start again in a slow crawl out of his neighborhood.
"Look, hyung, I know what it's like. You work yourself to the bone to get the words out, to keep productivity up, and then eventually you wake up and all your sentences are wrong. And you don't know what you want to say anymore."
Seokjin's frown deepens, the truth in Namjoon's words hitting hard.
"I was there before. What worked for me was going away. That's when I went on that trip to the mountain for a few months. Remember?"
Seokjin snorts. "Hoseok thought you'd get eaten by a bear."
Namjoon chuckles. "My suggestion to you is to take some time just for yourself. Enjoy nature. Forget deadlines. Find a place where time doesn't exist."
Seokjin's lips quirk into a smile. "What if a bear eats me?"
"Go to the sea, then. I hear Busan is nice this time of year."
Seokjin scrunches his nose and turns back to look into his apartment. Jimin is standing with his hands on his hips, staring at Seokjin, eyebrows raised in that way he only gets when he's preparing to scold someone. That someone being Seokjin, presumably for talking on the phone for longer than three minutes when he could be writing.
"Not Busan," he says quickly. He's fairly certain Jimin would follow him there under the guise of visiting his family. "Thanks, Namjoon."
"Don't mention it," Namjoon says. "Especially not to Hoseok. He'll take my phone away if he knows I talked to you."
Seokjin snorts and ends the call just as Jimin slides the balcony door open. He pokes his head out of the apartment, his lips pressed firmly together. "Hyung – "
"I'm going away for the summer," Seokjin announces boldly.
Jimin's eyebrows twitch. "You think I'm dumb? You're going to skip town with the advance and think I'll just let you go?"
"I'm not skipping town," Seokjin defends. "I need time. And peace. I need to just...have a place to think." Jimin's lips tighten. "And write!" Seokjin adds quickly. "No distractions. No video games. Limited internet access. Back to the basics."
There's a hesitation in Jimin's eyes and Seokjin swallows down a triumphant smile. He has Jimin convinced, whether the other realizes it yet or not.
He inhales deeply, the air hazy, the artificial scent of the city subtle but still present. He can't wait for the salt of the sea, the gale coming off the coast. Just him and the open sky and the sea, lost to time.
When he runs across an advertisement for a small cottage in a tiny coastal village close to Yeosu, he thinks he's found his haven. When he sees the unusually low price listed to rent the space for the summer, he thinks it's too good to be true. There must be something wrong with the place to be so cheap. It's dilapidated or haunted. Or the whole thing is a scam.
He calls the number provided with heavy suspicion and perhaps too much hope that the cottage really is all it's presented to be. The contact person turns out to be a local real estate broker in Yeosu.
"There isn't anything...wrong with it, is there?" Seokjin asks tentatively after the formal introductions are made.
The realtor laughs. "It's really cheap, right?"
Seokjin smiles and huffs out a sheepish laugh. "Something like that."
"The grandmother who owns it started renting it out twenty years ago. She hasn't changed the price since, no matter how much we try to convince her. She says she doesn't need the money, she just wants someone to appreciate the house."
Seokjin makes a noise in acknowledgement.
"It might be cheap," the realtor continues, "but it's not easy to rent. Mrs. Kang has final say on which application she accepts. I just want to prepare your expectations. She usually rejects everyone until July."
"Oh." Seokjin frowns, disappointment a little stronger than he'd anticipated. He's only seen photos of the cottage online. He doesn't know why his heart seems to be set on it.
"I'll put your application through, though. You never know. Maybe you'll be lucky."
"Thank you. I hope to hear back from you," Seokjin says before he hangs up. He places his phone on the desk and shakes his head. Maybe he should try the mountains after all, he thinks, turning back to his computer to search for another place to rent.
He makes a few more inquiries to places he just isn't that enthusiastic about and is almost ready to stop for the day when his phone lights up with the realtor's number.
"She said yes," the realtor says, tone laced with disbelief. "As soon as I told her your name, she said yes. It's bizarre. You must be very lucky."
"Not usually," Seokjin says, grinning as excitement spreads in his chest.
"Huh. Well, maybe your luck has turned."
Seokjin isn't sure if it has, but he knows his adventure has begun.
He has a brief, meandering thought, wondering what else would fall from his mind, what other weight would drop away from his chest if he reached a higher speed. What he would lose at the speed of sound, or the speed of light.
His lips quirk into a small smile. Time, he answers himself. If the scientists are right. He would lose time itself at the speed of light. He lets the idea rattle through his head, fanciful and obscure, and tries to imagine what would remain of himself after he becomes timeless.
His fingers itch for his laptop, a hundred thoughts conglomerating into sentences, connecting into concepts and stories. His smile widens and he shifts in the driver's seat, anticipation sweet in his lungs.
Eventually, the expressway south empties, cars taking exits as they near the end of their journey while Seokjin continues on. The expressway shrinks as he navigates to Yeosu, wide lanes ebbing into single lane roads for brief stretches, like a forgotten patchwork of asphalt between cities. A connection built and never revisited, simple and bare as necessity prompted only existence and nothing more.
It's just past noon, the sun high and blinding through his windshield, when the road widens into an expressway again and the city of Yeosu emerges from the sprawling farmland. Nestled between towering mountains and the vast sea, Yeosu feels almost magical to Seokjin, like a secret place only the sojourners will discover.
He rolls down his window, breathing in the salty sea air, smiling as his fingers tap against the steering wheel. He has a strong desire to keep driving to the deep blue sea that he can see on the horizon, but he dismisses the thought from his mind. He navigates through the city to find the realtor's office, certain there will be time enough for the sea later.
Once he finds the office, the realtor hands over the keys to the cottage and gives Seokjin directions.
"The navigation systems usually drop off by the time you reach the island," the realtor explains. "But it's a small island, don't worry. If you get lost, just keep walking along the shore. You'll circle back around soon enough.
"There are quite a few fishermen on the island, you'll be able to buy fresh seafood off of them directly. Most have a small farm, too, so you can get vegetables. But I'd suggest stocking up in Yeosu while you're here. There is a village market on the mainland right before the bridge, too. They host a farmer's market three times a month. I'd definitely recommend attending. The local produce is amazing. Especially the cherries."
Seokjin smiles in gratitude. "Thank you. I'll check it out." He steps back to leave but pauses when the realtor calls out to him.
"Ah, one more thing. The grandmother who owns the cottage wanted to meet you." He scratches his head and sighs, bemused. "It's strange, she's never cared before about the tenants. But she might stop by one day." He smiles apologetically. "You'll have to forgive her for imposing. I couldn't talk her out of it."
Seokjin shakes his head. "No, it's okay. She's welcome anytime." He bows in farewell and heads back to his car. There is a vague sense of curiosity about the owner of the cottage in the back of his mind. The grandmother who never rents the cottage until July but made an exception for Seokjin. The grandmother who never visits her tenants, but wants to meet him.
The curiosity, however, is dull and weak, fading from his mind as he arrives at the grocery store, intent on stocking up on enough food for a couple weeks.
It takes another forty-five minutes to drive from Yeosu to the very end of the southern coast, and this time it really does feel like Seokjin is driving straight into the sea. He can see the deep blue water to his left, stretching far beyond the horizon, endless and vast, reflecting the bright sun off its surface like a mirror. He keeps his window rolled down, lets the salt rich air make a mess of his hair, strands twisting and flowing as he sings along to the radio, a giant, cheek-aching grin on his lips.
He passes through lush green mountains and spanning farmlands before a scatter of buildings start to emerge, growing in density as he continues on. This must be the village, he realizes, slowing his car down and glancing around to familiarize himself with the layout. It's quaint and small, exactly as he thinks it should be. A group of children yell as he passes them, waving and smiling at the strange car that's suddenly appeared in this place that only sees change slowly. Time works differently here, he thinks.
The bridge he has to cross to the island is simple and deceivingly unimposing. It is two lanes in the midst of an expanding ocean, the sun reflecting so brightly off the sea that Seokjin has a fanciful idea that there is a star trapped beneath the water, pressing up to the surface, seeking escape.
It takes just under ten minutes for Seokjin to find the cottage once he's off the bridge, the directions from the realtor accurate and precise. He first passes a cluster of houses with colorful roofs, presumably the few people who actually call the island home. There is a scattered collection of storehouses as he turns back to the coastline and the road thins from one lane asphalt to dirt, packed unevenly in the shape of tire tracks.
His car jostles a little but the slope up the hill is gentle and the road shortly gives way to the summit, the cottage he's only seen in photos appearing before his eyes. He brings his car to a stop by a lone, massive maple tree, the branches stretching across the sky in a network of intertwining and overlapping arms. There are a few bright green leaves breaking free from winter on the tips of the branches nearest the sky. Seokjin hops out of his car and takes a moment to stare up as the late afternoon sun filters through, casting patterns of shadows on the ground.
He lets his gaze fall to the small cottage a skip away. Built in the sixties, it stands at a single storey of height, cozy and inviting. There's peeling white paint on the wooden paneling, worn down by sea winds and the glaring sun. It is the very picture of quaint.
He unloads his luggage from the car and rolls it across the grass to the house. The lock is stiff as he turns the key but the door opens easily. There is a faint scent of stale dust from months of disuse. Seokjin sets his luggage by the door and slips off his shoes, taking a moment to explore the space.
There's a small kitchen with a window facing the great maple tree outside. The appliances are fairly new, a tiny laundry machine but no dishwasher set up under the counter. By the window, there's a seemingly handcrafted dining table with a chair on all four edges. He runs his hand over the top of one chair and peers at the empty vase in the center of the table. It looks sadly lonely. He should find some flowers to fill it, he thinks.
The kitchen has a small pantry room attached to it, wooden shelves empty for now. He glances briefly into the room before turning to explore the rest of the house.
The bedroom does not have a bed, but holds a cupboard that stores a futon to sleep. He lays it out to air and opens the double window in the room. Peering out, he sees a low wooden fence and a gravel pathway where the grass fades away.
At the back of the house there is a sitting room, furnished with a couch and two loveseats facing a series of large windows that look out to the beach. He grins, watching the waves in the distance, a sense of peace and relief in his chest.
He unpacks his groceries and his luggage, settling in as quickly as he can. When he's satisfied he is set up, he finally allows himself to grab a can of beer from the now stocked fridge and make his way outside.
He leaves through the backdoor and hops over the low fence to the gravel pathway, his feet crunching with every step he takes toward the sea. It's almost a melodic precursor, the theme song to the summer that awaits him.
The sun is dulling, sinking into another horizon somewhere west by the time he skids down the slope to the beach, feet slipping on the half-grass, half-sand.
He sits close to the waves, arms resting on his knees as he stares across the water. The waves are healing, patching him back together in places he didn't even know were fraying, the salt air refreshing as the wind cascades over him.
He lets his mind rest and thinks about absolutely nothing, a luxury he hasn't allowed himself in far too long. As the sun rolls over the edge of the horizon and the line between the sky and sea blurs to almost indistinguishable, Seokjin looks up and sees a galaxy of stars he's only ever known in books. Their number and brilliance is dim in the city, bright artificial lights drowning their very luminance until they're lost.
His breath catches in his throat as he tries to count the stars that spill across the dark sky. He realizes what he's been feeling since he started this journey all the way back in Seoul, that feeling that's intensified as he passed over the bridge of underwater stars and up the uneven dirt road.
It feels like he's finding something he didn't know he lost.
Yoongi isn't quite sure if he believes them or not, but when Bonghee speaks, there's a gravity in her voice that leaves little doubt in his mind. What she says is true; Yoongi was born out of time.
He doesn't know what that means. He had asked her but she shook her head apologetically, her shoulders shrugging up, and told him she didn't know either. "It is as the sea says. Only time will reveal."
Time has been steadily silent.
Yoongi's eyes catch the first line of dawn, a faint distinguishable plane emerging on the horizon to separate sea and sky. The sun is still half an hour away but Yoongi's work has ended for now. He leans against the iron railing of the gallery, face out to the sea, a gentle breeze keeping his fringe from his eyes. He purses his lips and watches the sky lighten as the sun creeps slowly, slowly up, wondering why the memory struck him suddenly again.
Maybe it's the rhythmic clanking of the lighthouse gears turning the lens in the lantern room that reminds him of the ticking of clockwork. He frowns, unconvinced of his own thought. He hears the same sound every night, the clank-clank-clank against a backdrop of waves breaking on the shore far below. It's more than noise that makes his mind wander.
It's the restlessness he's known from the first day he can remember, forgotten for a span but ever growing in the spaces between his ribs. It's pulling him away from here, from the place he's laid his head for years, to somewhere unknown again. With no family, no debts, no love, there's nothing to hold onto Yoongi, make him stay and rest and plant his feet, to see if roots can grow at the base of his soles.
He's homesick without a home, an aching in his bones that yearns for a belonging.
From Daegu to Pohang, up the coast and west to Seoul, down again to Busan and Yeosu, he's been everywhere he can, searching, seeking and never finding. Four years ago, he set himself further south, looking for the edge of the world. He stumbled on a village without a lightkeeper and a lighthouse in desperate need of repairs.
Days spent putting the lighthouse back together and nights spent winding the clockwork weight and keeping watch over the endless sea have occupied him long enough to make him forget. He thought he had finally settled. He bought a small plot of land at the northern point of the island, started a garden. He thought he had found a place to rest and live and be. A place where time can wash over him like the waves on the shore, breaking him down gently into sand.
He's afraid he was wrong.
His eyes catch the first glimmer of the sun as it breaks over the horizon. He wonders if he's meant to chase the light, always moving, always changing.
The sea told Bonghee that he was born outside of time, and he thinks she must be right. He still doesn't feel like he belongs any place this world has to offer. An outsider no matter where his feet take him.
He steps back from the railing and shakes the thoughts from his mind. The night is over but his work is not done. He climbs the wooden stairs from the watch room to the lantern room, the uppermost point of the tower. He laid down every step himself, new wood where splintered once lay. His hands have touched every inch of this lighthouse and yet his heart tells him it's not home. It is a garden he tends, that he will not harvest from.
He waits for the clockwork weight to reach the bottom of the lighthouse, the spinning stopped and silent, before he starts cleaning the glass, polishing it free of dust and debris. The wind kicks up, tugging at his hair. He can smell the salt from the water and it helps to keep him aware, the weariness of another night dragging at his eyes. He'll finish up the lens and head back down to his room to sleep until midday, he decides. The rest of his chores can wait a few hours.
Yoongi is nearly done when he hears the unmistakable rumble of the village head's motorboat, sputtering and uneven despite the latter's many attempts to fix it. He wipes his hands down on the rag and descends the stairs to the watch room, moving out onto the gallery overlooking the shore. He spots the boat quickly, recognizing the village head, tanned and wrinkled face distinguishable even from this distance. Oddly, he carries a passenger with him, dressed in what appears to be expensive clothes, probably from the best tailors in Yeosu.
The boat docks by a collection of flat rocks, a kind of small natural harbor that Yoongi uses whenever he brings back supplies from the mainland. He has a vague idea that he should build a true dock there this summer.
The stranger emerges from the boat and Yoongi arches a brow, the stranger obviously unused to the rocks and the sway of the water, struggling to find his footing in shoes and clothes ill-suited for the trek up to the lighthouse. A city man, he supposes, wondering what business he could possibly have with him.
He places his hands on the iron rail of the gallery and leans over to shout down to the base of the lighthouse. "Hyungnim!"
The village head looks up and waves his arm at Yoongi. The stranger peers up as well, a hand shielding his eyes from the sun, casting a dark shadow ominously over his features.
"Morning!" the village head bellows, cupping his hands around his mouth to project his voice across the distance.
"I'll come down," Yoongi shouts over the railing before stepping back and making his way down the lighthouse. The stairs spiral around the outer wall in a seemingly endless descent, past the watch room where he winds the clockwork weight, past his quarters with his humble cot and a window that faces the sea, past his small kitchen stocked with rice and the vegetables he grows in his garden. The lower levels of the lighthouse hold supplies and tools, whatever he needs to keep the structure functioning. The stairs transition from wood to brick as he nears the base, the sound of his feet against the steps shifting to a hollow echo.
When he took possession of the tower four years ago, this descent left him dizzy and out of breath. It is as easy as opening his eyes now, every step familiar, his feet certain with every landing.
The stranger and the village head have made it up the grassy hill by the time Yoongi reaches them, stepping out to join them, the earth soft against his soles through his shoes.
"Yoongi," the village head says, smiling tensely, and Yoongi immediately knows this will not be a pleasant visit.
He bows in greeting, lips tight and eyes focused and wary on the stranger from the city currently inspecting the lighthouse grounds as if he even knows what he's seeing.
"Yoongi, this is Mr. Choi," the village head says. "He's from the Busan government office."
Yoongi's shoulders stiffen and his lips tilt into a deep frown, defensive. There is little trust to be had in whatever they call the government these days. The village head gives him a sharp glare, most likely to warn Yoongi to behave himself and keep them off any government radar.
The stranger, Choi, finally turns to glance at Yoongi. His hair is perfectly slicked back, clothes somehow still immaculate even after the journey over. He's older than Yoongi but not by much from appearances. It's his eyes that are disconcerting, calculating and scrutinizing as they look Yoongi up and down, a cloud of dismissal and disregard falling over his face. "You're the lightkeeper."
Yoongi nods tersely. "Yes."
Choi steps closer to Yoongi. "How long have you been the lightkeeper?"
"So you know this shore fairly well."
Yoongi shrugs. "I guess."
Choi tilts his head up to peer at the lighthouse, eyes traveling the tower to the pinnacle. "Must have a nice view from up there. See quite a bit."
Yoongi schools his features into nonchalant neutrality. He knows exactly what the man from Busan is here for. "I see a lot of stars," he answers.
Choi glances back to Yoongi, his lips tipping into a disbelieving smile. "I thought the purpose of a lightkeeper was to watch the sea."
"The sea is dark," Yoongi says, matching Choi's smirk. "That's why there's a lighthouse."
Choi holds his gaze for a moment, studying him. "I'm sure you've heard about the smugglers in these waters."
"Mm. I've heard rumors. Strange that a government man all the way from Busan is concerned about our little village."
"When the Busan citizens who own the land in your little village aren't receiving their full harvest, it becomes my concern."
Yoongi resists the urge to clench his jaw and stares impassively at Choi.
"Our investigations point to this island," Choi continues, eyeing Yoongi sharply.
"You should send out patrols," Yoongi suggests coolly.
"We have. Somehow, we never seem to catch them."
Yoongi shrugs and bites down a smile. "They must be lucky."
"I don't believe in luck, Mr. Min." Choi turns to the village head. "We'll be sending out more patrols until we catch the culprit." He shifts his gaze back to Yoongi. "All the culprits. I suggest you keep your eyes on the water. You might see something. I'd hate to have to replace you with someone who has better eyesight."
Yoongi's jaw clicks but he manages a tight smile.
Choi nods to the village head. "Let's go."
The village head pauses and waits for Choi to step down the hill and out of earshot before he places a hand on Yoongi's shoulder. "Be careful, kid. They're going to be watching you," he warns, eyes intent. "I won't be able to save you if they decide to take the lighthouse from you. It belongs to them, you know."
Yoongi curls his hand into a fist but shrugs, outwardly dismissive. "The lighthouse belongs to the sea."
The village head steps back, shaking his head. "Stay out of trouble, Yoongi."
Yoongi smiles. "Nothing every happens around here. I couldn't get in trouble if I tried."
True, he doesn't hear any of that now. But the seaside is not a void. Not in the least.
He must be the only person in the world that doesn't find the crash of waves hitting the sandy shore lulling. It's nice during the day, he thinks, but the sound grows and morphs when he's lying on his futon, trying to drift off to sleep. It becomes a roar, alarming and unwelcome, his eyes flying open and his heart pounding against his chest as he jolts in surprise. Then there's the endless cascade of crickets chirping at volumes he doesn't think they should be capable of.
IF it were only the crickets and the waves, he would be able to fight his instincts and fall into slumber, but he swears there's an entire community of mice right outside his window, plotting to steal his food. Possibly kidnap him as well.
His first night in the cottage is, understandably, fitful. He wakes up still feeling groggy but unable to fall back to sleep with the sun bright and shining through the window. He gives up any ambition of sleeping longer and stumbles through his morning routine, washing his face and throwing on a clean outfit. He makes his way into the kitchen and puts a pot of water on the stove to boil for coffee. He stares at the pot and wonders if he should grab an electric kettle next time he's in Yeosu. He should write a list. Electric kettle, right below earplugs.
He sees the first tiny bubble in the water when he hears a small commotion outside. He cranes his neck to the front door, frowning, and steps toward the noise. The scene that greets him as he opens the front door is surprising but not immediately terrifying. Seokjin counts this as a plus.
Parked beside his car is a dirt-splashed jeep, the driver's seat unoccupied and the passenger's door open where a young woman is attempting to help what appears to be her grandmother down.
"Gran Gran, just let me – " the woman starts, securing her hand under her grandmother's elbow.
The elderly woman slaps at her hand and scowls, the wrinkles in her forehead and around her lips deepening with the action. "I'm old, not feeble."
"No one said you're feeble," the woman sighs, the words weary as if she's said them a hundred times before.
"I'm as spry as a spring chicken," the older woman says, hobbling down from the jeep, her feet planting solidly into the grass. "Ha! See?"
The woman smiles indulgently. "Yes, I see, Gran Gran."
Seokjin steps forward, smiling politely, his head tilted in curiosity. "Hello," he greets, bowing.
The two glance toward him. The younger woman bows in greeting and says, "Ah, hello."
The older woman's eyes brighten with something that looks like recognition. She advances over to Seokjin, her back slightly hunched steps small but quick. "Let me take a look at you," she says, peering up at him when she reaches Seokjin. "Come down here, my eyes aren't what they used to be," she grouses, waving her hand to beckon him down.
Seokjin bends obediently and she squints her eyes, studying him. She tilts her head back and forth to peer at him from all angles and Seokjin smiles in bemusement.
She finally grins and pats Seokjin's arm. "Yes, that's it. That's it."
"Gran Gran," the young woman says, mildly reproachful as she steps next to her grandmother. "At least introduce yourself before you bother your tenant."
"I'm not bothering him." She looks back to Seokjin. "I'm not bothering you."
He straightens and shakes his head. "No, you're not bothering me."
"We don't need introductions either," she continues, a glint of secretive humor in her eyes.
He smiles. "I don't think so, Mrs. Kang," he says, recalling the cottage owner's name and the warning from the realtor.
She grins. "Call me Gran Gran. Everyone does. Once you pass a certain age, you become everyone's grandmother." She laughs, a faint, wheezing sound, her lungs attempting to replicate a noise it can no longer carry. Seokjin thinks he can imagine what it used to sound like years ago, chortling and deep and joyful.
"I'm Kim Jiyoung," the young woman says, introducing herself. She smiles sheepishly. "Sorry, Gran Gran usually doesn't take an interest in her tenants but she insisted on visiting."
"It's okay, I like company." Seokjin gestures to the cottage. "I was just making coffee. Would you like a cup?"
Mrs. Kang beams at Seokjin. "That sounds lovely."
They settle around the small table in the kitchen as Seokjin brews three cups of coffee.
"Did you used to live here?" Seokjin asks as he uses the pour-over he brought with him from his apartment.
"I never lived on the island," Mrs. Kang answers. "We lived across the bridge in the village. My father would ferry people over in his boat when he wasn't fishing. My mother did it after he moved to Busan for work." She smiles, the wrinkles around her lips lifting up. "That was before they built a bridge. No one crosses over by boat anymore."
"Ah." Seokjin sets the first two mugs of coffee on the table for his guests. "Cream?"
Jiyoung shakes her head. "No, we're good with black coffee."
Seokjin nods and returns to the counter to retrieve his cup before he settles a the table with them. "So how did this cottage come to be?"
"My uncle gave me the property when he left us," Mrs. Kang says, her eyes wandering around the kitchen a little wistfully. "Back then, it was just a lot of land with a small garden." She chuckles and leans close to Seokjin conspiratorially. "And a secret."
Seokjin blinks and tilts his head. "Secret?"
"There's a hidden storage room at the edge of the property," Jiyoung explains. "Gran Gran keeps her moonshine there."
"It's not my moonshine," Mrs. Kang interjects. She turns to Seokjin. "My mother used to make it. Best cherry wine in the world. I'll show you."
Seokjin smiles. "I'd love to see it."
"Hmm." Mrs. Kang takes a sip of her coffee and sighs, looking over the space again. "I think my uncle would like this house. I tried to make it as close to his style as I could." She places her cup on the table. "You should always leave a place better than you found it. He gave me the land. I gave him the house."
"I'm sure he would love it," Seokjin comments.
Mrs. Kang hums.
Jiyoung explains about the island as they drink their coffee. Mrs. Kang used to take her grandchildren with her from Busan to visit every summer at her cousins' place. "They still have a small shop in the village. You'll probably run into them if you go over for supplies. Their family name is Joo. From Gran Gran's mother's side."
"Ah, I'll look out for them," Seokjin assures, and commits their name to memory.
Seokjin hasn't finished his coffee yet when Mrs. Kang places her hands on the table and slowly hefts herself back into a standing position.
"Seokjin, let's go. I want to show you the storage room."
Seokjin blinks and sets his cup down, a little surprised at the abruptness but more than willing to comply.
They make their way outside, Jiyoung leading the way as Seokjin supports Mrs. Kang with an arm around her shoulders. They turn away from the gravel pathway that Seokjin took last night to the beach and walk the property parallel to the shore. Seokjin had not realized how vast the property was until now.
He comments about it to Mrs. Kang and she cackles.
"No one lives on this island," she says. "Who would buy the excess space even if I put it up for sale? Besides. I think my uncle would be sad if I got rid of it." She leans up and whispers loudly, "He used the storage room to stash smuggled goods. That's how he made his money."
Seokjin's eyes widen, fascinated. "Really?"
"I wouldn't lie," she says. "Ah, there's where the garden used to be." She points to a patch of untended land, weeds and grass overgrowing. The only indication that a garden once stood is the line of rocks around the edges. She sighs. "I am sorry I couldn't keep it up. My uncle would grow such lovely things."
Seokjin frowns, Mrs. Kang's sadness touching his heart. "Couldn't the tenants keep it up?"
She sighs again. "No one wants to tend a garden that isn't theirs, Seokjin."
"Found it!" Jiyoung calls from the distance, waving at them. "It's here."
The storage room turns out to be an underground cellar with a large wooden covering. There are wooden steps leading down into a small, cool space with a dirt floor. The walls of the cellar are lined with shelves filled with dusty bottles of varying shapes and sizes, all with a slightly pink hue.
Seokjin helps Mrs. Kang down and she smiles when she looks around. "It's been so long." She hobbles over to peer at the bottles. "My mother left me these. She made a special batch every year." She beckons Seokjin over.
Seokjin obeys her command and steps next to her, his eyes roaming over the neat line of moonshine. They're all labeled in the same handwriting with simply the year. It starts at 1915 and ends at 1940. "Oh. 1923 is missing," he says, tapping the space between 1922 and 1924.
"I took that one," Mrs. Kang says. "It's from the year before I was born." She smiles sadly. "I wish I could still remember the taste."
Seokjin peers curiously at her but she shakes her head.
"You take one, Seokjin," she says, gesturing to the shelf.
Seokjin blinks in surprise. "I couldn't."
"It's your mother's wine," Seokjin says, shaking his head.
"Take it. I'll be personally insulted if you don't." She looks over to Jiyoung. "Tell him."
Jiyoung laughs and shrugs at Seokjin. "She'll be very offended and we'll never hear the end of it. Take one and spare us all."
Seokjin still hesitates, glancing between Mrs. Kang and the shelves of wine.
"We all get one," Mrs. Kang says. "Only one. Never take more." She pats insistently at Seokjin. "Choose."
Seokjin presses his lips together before he sighs and reaches for a bottle labeled 1933, the liquid a deep, rich pink, flower petals laying peacefully at the bottom. The bottle feels strangely heavy in his hands, the glass weightier than he thinks it possibly should be. He loses a few moments staring at the liquid, jolted out of his semi-trance when Mrs. Kang speaks again.
"Fine choice. I was nine. It was a good year."
"Thank you," Seokjin says. "I'll make sure to enjoy this well."
Mrs. Kang's smile turns wistful before she turns to her granddaughter. "Jiyoung dear, I'm growing tired. Let's go home."
Jiyoung shuffles over to her grandmother, slinging her arm around her waist. "Of course." She smiles at Seokjin. "Thank you for having us."
"Of course. Come by anytime you'd like," Seokjin says.
He follows them out and walks with them back to their jeep. He helps to settle Mrs. Kang into the passenger's seat. He moves to step back when she's buckled in but she stops him with a hand on his arm. He looks up at her curiously.
"It's a first and a last," she tells him. She moves her hand to lightly pat his cheek in affection. "A farewell and a see you again."
Seokjin's lips purses in confusion. Before he can ask anything, Jiyoung settles into the driver's seat and leans over, waving at him.
"Thanks again for indulging us," she says as she starts up the jeep.
Seokjin steps back and waves, still caught in bemusement, puzzling over Mrs. Kang's words and the entire visit as a whole.
It's curious, he thinks as he watches them drive off, the bottle of wine heavy in his hand, pulling him with far more gravity than it should. Very curious.
He spends time on the beach, playing in the sand like he used to as a child, running along the shore and chasing waves. It's refreshing, healing.
He walks the circumference of the island one day, setting out just as the dawn breaks on the horizon. It's just like the realtor told him; keep walking and eventually you'll find your way back home. That's a nice thought, he decides. That one can become lost on this island, but never stay that way if they keep moving.
About halfway around the island from his cottage, a little over an hour into his trek, he stumbles onto a lighthouse situated on the top of a hill, overlooking the sea. There is a long paved pathway up the hill to the lighthouse, wide enough for three people to walk abreast. Seokjin starts up the trail, hand brushing over the metal railing, tapping every post as he passes.
The lighthouse towers several storeys high and Seokjin has to crane his neck to catch a glimpse of the top as he approaches it. The interlaced brickwork is painted white until the bottom where a large slash of red coats the structure. There seems to be a wide balcony at the space right before the light, and second, smaller balcony above it.
His legs are protesting by the time he reaches the steps to the door of the tower. Curious, he reaches forward to try it but finds it locked, the door clanking against the hinges as he tries to pull it open. He lets out a short huff of breath and shrugs. He should have known. It's probably out of service by now. From the looks of it, the lighthouse seems to be quite old, constructed in a traditional style, different from the modern lighthouses he's seen before.
He walks around the base of the structure to the edge of the hill, looking out to the vast sea. To his left is a steep but walkable descent to a rocky shore, the waves lapping gently against a small wooden dock. There's a foot trodden path leading down the hill, soil packed hard in a thin line where feet have fallen countless times before. He wishes he brought his fishing hear suddenly. The dock looks like the perfect place to spend an afternoon catching fish.
To the right is a gentle grassy slope leading a long way down to a beach, the sand eventually seeping in between blades of grass until the green disappears and all that remains is the white grains and blue water. It is the very picture of serene.
Seokjin doesn't tarry long at the lighthouse, eager to explore more. He makes a promise to himself to return again soon and sets off down the winding pathway again.
He starts writing again, a few hours in the morning, in the afternoon, at night. It's just snippets so far, disjointed and hazy. They are pretty words on short strings that Seokjin hasn't quite figured out how to weave together yet, pattern and texture still uncertain.
It's better than nothing, he thinks, and allows himself to feel satisfied with his progress. He actually kind of likes what he's written so far. He's going to hold onto that feeling.
He's still sleeping fitfully. He thought by the end of the week he would be accustomed to the sounds of the island at night. And in a sense he is used to them. They don't startle him anymore. They are almost a welcoming ambience. Yet somehow, as he lies on his futon and shuts his eyes, the singing crickets make his feet fidget and the crashing waves inject a restlessness in his chest. It feels like he's waiting, searching for something as far away as the stars that blanket the sky.
He sighs and hefts himself up from his futon, kicking the covers off. The floor is cold on the soles of his feet as he stands and he exclaims in surprise, hopping back to the warmth of the futon. He doesn't think the floor should be so cold at the end of April, even if it is the middle of the night. He makes a face at the offending hardwood and grabs a pair of socks, slipping them on before he ventures out again, shuffling quickly to the kitchen.
He doesn't bother turning on the light. The moon is full and bright, shining like a small sun through the windows. It's still astounding to Seokjin how brilliant the light from the sky is at night. They lost that in the city, street lamps and advertising billboards replacing the stars, dimming the moon.
He makes his way over to the pantry, the space pitch dark where the moonlight fails to reach. He steps in and grabs for the soju he knows he lined up on the shelves. One bottle should help him sleep.
His fingers close around the neck of the bottle, the glass smooth and cool against his skin. It isn't until he slides the bottle off the shelf that he notices its weight, heavy and pulling like gravity. He frowns, confused, and steps back into the kitchen, turning to the window and the moonlight.
"Ah," he says, realization hitting him as he peers at the bottle. It's the cherry win from Mrs. Kang, the liquid a vibrant purple in the bluish hue of the dim room. The petals at the bottom of the glass float upward, disturbed from their rest by Seokjin's jostling. It's almost hypnotizing, watching the graceful movement.
He purses his lips. Well, moonshine might work just as well as soju. He sets the bottle on the counter and reaches into the cupboard for a cup. He selects a clear glass cup amongst the mismatched assortment.
He has a brief thought that uncorking a bottle that has been sealed shut for over eighty years will be difficult. Surprisingly the bottle opens with relative ease, as if it had waited anxiously for this moment.
The very first impression that hits Seokjin is the scent, strong and slightly sweet, enticing and inviting.
He's mildly wary of the homemade concoction so he pours just a small amount into his cup before he sets the bottle aside. He stares at the purplish liquid for a moment and finally takes a cautious sip.
It's tart and sweet at the same time, a taste that lingers on his tongue like a ghost, haunting.
He finishes the rest in one more swallow and sets his glass in the sink. He shuffles back to the bedroom and settles back under the covers on the futon, turning to his side. He lets out a tired sigh and closes his eyes, hopeful that sleep will deign to grace him.
He must have fallen asleep. He must have, because he wakes with a jolt and a hammering heart. He's cold. No, he's freezing, limbs shivering. Consciousness filters in quickly, a flood of observations that leave him panicked and unsettled.
He's outside. It's dark and cold, the ocean breeze a chill on his arms where his t-shirt fails to cover his skin. He sits up and tries to make sense of it all. His breath comes in quick pants as adrenaline courses through his veins. He is alert to every sound, every sight. He glances up, searching for the nearly full moon from before.
It's all in vain. All he can see if a small sliver of a waning moon and a sky cloudy with a thousand stars.
He must have sleepwalked. It's bizarre to think. In his twenty-seven years, he's never had an issue with sleepwalking before. He sighs and hefts up to stand, brushing grass from his pyjama pants. That's an issue to worry over later. For now, he's lost with no cell phone, no shoes, no idea how to get back to the cottage, and only the shimmer of light from the waning moon.
He ventures a few steps forward to a tree, a maple just like the one he's parked his car next to. Except his car isn't here and the tree is significantly smaller than his tree. He pats the bark are he passes, intend on walking until he hopefully stumbles upon a house or road. He's suddenly very grateful he put on a pair of socks earlier, even the thin barrier between his feet and the ground a small blessing.
He turns in a full circle, peering in all directions, trying to discern his location. His eyes widen when he catches a beacon of light in the distance. The lighthouse. He had thought it was inactive.
He smiles in relief and sets off toward the light, careful of his steps as he treads. It took him two hours to circle the island before and he'd much rather not do it again in the dark. But the lighthouse is a familiar structure, a beacon, and hopefully there will be a helpful lightkeeper with a car to drive him back to the cottage.
He's not lost anymore, he tells himself, eyes steady on the light. Just a little far from home.
An uncountable number of sailors have cast their eyes on his light and found safety and comfort in the dark night. But sitting up here and looking out to the water, Yoongi can't help the prevailing feeling of loneliness. He can imagine himself as the only person in the world from up here, solitary and unknown. A star without a satellite, no moons or planets to pull into his gravity.
His eyes catch the boat he's been watching for, a tiny thing in the vast sea, barely detectable if not for his expectation and experience. He pulls his legs back in and stands, reaching for the large blanket he brought up with him. He shakes it open and tosses it over the lens with practiced ease, blocking the beacon and plunging everything into darkness. He pulls the blanket off with a sharp tug and repeats the move once more.
It's the signal he's established with Gwangok and Sang. Blacking out the lighthouse beacon once means it is not safe to land. Blacking out twice means it is safe.
Despite Choi from Busan's warning, the sea is clear of patrols tonight. Yoongi smirks and tugs the blanket off the lens again, folding it back up as he descends to the watch room. He places the now folded blanket to the side and rolls up his sleeves. He has to wind the clockwork weight back up to the top of the lighthouse. He has two and a half hours from the uppermost position until it reaches the bottom and the lens stops turning.
The crank is difficult and taxing, the muscles in his arms and chest still protesting as he turns it slowly, even after all these years. He controls his breathing and steadily pushes through the pain, sweat breaking out on his brow. The weight tries to resist but he succeeds in the end, just as he does every night. When he hears it clank to the top, he releases the crank and shakes his arms out, taking in several deep gulps of air.
Once he's recovered sufficiently, he skips down the steps and outside. He grabs his bicycle from against the base of the lighthouse and speeds down the pathway. It is tricky to navigate when the moon is waning but he knows the island well enough to travel it with his eyes closed.
It takes twenty minutes by bicycle to reach his plot of land where Gwangok and Sang will be unloading their goods smuggled in from Busan. They make the trip once or twice a month, collecting rice from the tenant farmers for a low price and smuggling it to Busan, where they gather goods that are nearly impossible to obtain this far south. Yoongi allows them to use his land as a landing space and intermittent storage. He carved out a hidden room underground for the sole purpose of hiding smuggled goods.
By the time he reaches the sandy shoreline near his property, Gwangok and Sang have already unloaded their goods and are trudging it up the slope to the storage room.
"Hyung," he greets quietly as he approaches them, laying his bicycle down.
Gwangok glances over at him and smiles, waving. "Yah, Yoongi, how are you? Carry this bag for me, will you?" He shoves a weighted bag into Yoongi's hands.
Yoongi hefts the bag over his shoulder and follows after Sang's footsteps, the other already making his way to the storage room. The small lantern in Sang's hand almost seems like a miniature lighthouse to Yoongi, guiding his steps.
"How's life going?" Gwangok asks cheerfully, not minding the volume of his voice as he walks up with Yoongi.
"A man from Busan came around the other day to warn me about smugglers," Yoongi says in a lower tone.
Gwangok laughs, seemingly amused and unconcerned. "Really?"
"You should probably be a cautious, at least for the moment," Yoongi continues. "They'll be watching the island for a while, I think."
Gwangok shrugs, dismissive. "Eh, they've been trying to catch us for years. We're too smart." Yoongi raises his eyebrows and Gwangok shrugs again. "Well. At least Sang is too smart." He looks up to Sang several steps ahead of them. "Right, hyungnim?" he nearly yells.
Sang shifts his head to look back at them. "If you don't shut the fuck up yourself, I will do it for you."
Gwangok makes a face and looks back to Yoongi. "He's a pain, Yoongi. It's a wonder how I don't kill him on that boat."
Sang stops as he reaches the secret room. He bends to brush the foliage off the wooden covering and unlocks the padlock with his key. "If one of us is dying, it's you." He pushes the cover up and starts the descent down.
They make quick work of unloading the haul, organizing the items on the shelves. Gwangok shoves a small bag into Yoongi's hands as they finish. "Here. This one's for the shaman."
"Bonghee's not a shaman," Sang says dully as he folds up the sacks.
Gwangok glares at Sang. "She does magic."
Sang sniffs. "It's not magic."
"You always contradict what I say."
Sang pauses, looking up at Gwangok before he says, "No, I don't."
Gwangok sneers. "I hate you so much, you know that?"
"I don't really care," Sang replies. He pulls a small satchel from his jacket and tosses it to Yoongi. "Your fee."
Yoongi catches the bag and immediately opens it, counting the coins.
"Do you have to count that here?" Gwangok asks petulantly. "It seems like you don't trust us."
Yoongi shrugs, still counting. "The world is full of cheaters."
"He's right," Sang echoes.
Gwangok sighs and starts stomping up the stairs. "I'm going back to the boat."
"Good luck finding it without the lantern," Sang says.
"I know this island like I know my own wife!" Gwangok shouts back as he reaches the top step. There's a loud noise as he stumbles, followed by his muttered cursing. Yoongi presses his lips together to keep from laughing.
"Thanks for the warning," Sang says to Yoongi, grabbing his attention again.
Yoongi looks at him and blinks. "Hmm?"
"About the patrols."
"Ah. Well, you get caught, I get caught." Yoongi smiles, crooked and amused. "So don't get caught."
Sang's lips almost twitch in the closest thing to emotion that Yoongi has ever seen on his face. "We'll do our best." He pats Yoongi's shoulder and picks up the lantern. "Let's go."
Yoongi follows Sang back to the beach and says goodbye before he retrieves his bicycle. He ties the sack for Bonghee to the handle bars and sets off back to the lighthouse, letting the light guide his way. He still has plenty of time before the gear weight reaches the bottom of the tower and he's weary from the exertion of helping Gwangok and Sang unload their goods. He keeps his pace slow and relaxed as he cycles through the familiar route.
He's halfway home when he notices something - someone - ahead of him, treading carefully, each step cautious and deliberate. It's hard to make out who it is. It's hard to even imagine who it could be. The few residents of the island are fishermen and their families. They live by the sun, rising with it at dawn and settling down at night with it at dusk. He's the only breathing creature that keeps the waking hours in the dead of the night.
He can decipher an outline in the faint glow of the moonlight. The person is tall and lean with wide shoulders. He frowns as he hears the stranger mutter to himself in a voice Yoongi doesn't recognize. The stranger is not from this island, Yoongi is certain. He straightens in his seat, alert as his mind races with possibilities. He wonders if this man has been sent by Choi, an agent placed here to spy on Yoongi and catch the smugglers.
It would probably be best to avoid him, Yoongi decides. He still has Bonghee's package tied to the handlebar of his bicycle. He doesn't have a viable excuse as to why he's abandoned his post at the lighthouse. He should stay out of trouble.
The stranger missteps and shouts in alarm, hissing at the impact of running his foot into a protruding rock. He curses fluidly and vividly and Yoongi's lips twitch.
Without voluntary thought, Yoongi pushes the pedals of his bicycle and moves forward to the stranger, pulled towards him like the pull of gravity sending him into orbit.
"Excuse me," he starts as he nears the stranger.
The man yells loudly in alarm and stumbles back, his feet tripping under him with the momentum as he tumbles down to the ground.
Yoongi quickly hops off his bicycle. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." The stranger huffs out a breath and stands back to his feet, recovering quickly. "You scared me." He steps forward closer to Yoongi. "I'm glad I stumbled on you. It's a long story, but I'm a little lost."
Yoongi can discern in the faint light that the stranger doesn't have any shoes on, his shirt sleeves short and exposing his skin to the chilled night air. He frowns, a sudden thump of concern in his chest.
"I'm staying at the Kang place, on the northeast part of the island. Do you know which way I should head?"
Yoongi blinks, his brow furrowing. "There's no Kangs on the island," he says.
"I'm renting it," the stranger explains. "It's like five minutes from the bridge."
Yoongi shakes his head. This is too strange, he thinks. No one new comes onto the island without everyone finding out. There are no houses on the northeast side of the island. "There's no bridge," he says, glancing back to the stranger's eyes, gleaming in the glowing moonlight. Maybe he's an apparition, come to lure Yoongi away. Somehow, Yoongi thinks he wouldn't quite mind.
The stranger snorts. "Look, I know I'm new, but I drove over that bridge like a week ago. You can trick me just because I'm not a local."
Yoongi sighs and looks up to the beacon of his lighthouse. He's running out of time, the weight nearing the bottom. He can't let the lens stop turning. He has faithfully kept it going every night for four years. He glances back to the stranger, making a quick decision. He can use a little trouble, he thinks. "I don't know where you're trying to go, but I'm heading to the lighthouse over there. You can come with me, wait out the night. We can search for your place in the morning."
"That would be amazing, thank you so much," the stranger exclaims. Yoongi can't quite see his smile but he can hear it in the way his voice lifts. Yoongi can feel his own lips twitch into an answering smile.
He steps back and retrieves his bicycle. "Hop onto the back, I'll give you a ride," he says as he settles on the seat.
The stranger readily obeys, shifting onto the small board at the back of the bicycle that Yoongi uses to haul supplies. The stranger reaches his hands around Yoongi's waist to hold on. It's just a light hold, as polite and reserved as possible, but somehow the touch is still warm. Yoongi's heart beats faster and he swallows hard, clearing his throat. He pushes his feet on the pedals and drives forward, shaking his head.
"My name's Kim Seokjin," the stranger says behind him, conversationally.
"I'm Min Yoongi," Yoongi answers, navigating through the dark landscape on the familiar route.
"Nice to meet you, Min Yoongi. Are you the lightkeeper?"
Yoongi makes a noise in affirmation.
"That must be a nice occupation. There aren't many left."
Yoongi frowns. "How so?"
Seokjin hums in thought. "Most lighthouses are run by the coastguard. No one lives in them anymore, right?"
Yoongi snorts. Everything Seokjin says is strange. "Where would we live if not the lighthouse?"
"Maybe back in the day." Seokjin's hands tighten around Yoongi's waist as Yoongi runs over dip, jostling them.
Yoongi presses his lips together and wishes stupidly that Seokjin's hands would stay like that, tight against his stomach, directing the butterflies that flutter under his skin.
"I thought the lighthouse was out of commission, to be honest," Seokjin continues. "I didn't see the light until tonight." He laughs, the sound hiccuping and far too pleasant in Yoongi's ears. "Maybe because I wasn't lost until now? A magic light that appears when I need a guide."
Yoongi smiles. "I suppose you could say it that way."
Seokjin hums in agreement. They lapse into silence, the crash of the waves against the shore growing louder as Yoongi nears the coast again, almost to the lighthouse.
"What, uh," Yoongi starts, wanting to hear more of Seokjin's voice, a strange sort of comfort in the sound. Maybe he's just starved for company, or maybe there's something wondrous about Seokjin's voice that latches onto his heart, soothes his mind. He licks his lips and tries again. "What do you do?"
"Hmm? For work?"
Yoongi nods, realizing belatedly that Seokjin might not be able to see. "Yeah."
"I'm a writer. Maybe you heard of me? My last three novels have been really popular."
"We don't get many books around here," Yoongi answers regretfully.
"I'll bring them by later," Seokjin promises. "As payment for the ride."
Yoongi smiles. "Sure. That'd be nice." He waits a moment before asking, "What do you write about?"
Seokjin sighs, his fingers flexing against Yoongi's stomach. "Lonely people."
"Is there enough to say about lonely people for three books?"
Seokjin hums. "There's enough to say for a lifetime."
Yoongi blinks, the thought striking him as sadly true. They lapse back into silence the rest of the way as Yoongi bikes up the hill to the lighthouse.
"Sorry, I don't have a lantern down here," Yoongi says as they disembark. "It's usually just me." He opens the door to the lighthouse and holds out his hand to Seokjin. "Hold my hand, I'll guide you up."
Seokjin laughs and reaches forward, clasping his fingers around Yoongi's. "Are you sure you're the lightkeeper and not the light, Min Yoongi?"
Yoongi can feel his face heat and he's glad for the pitch darkness of the stairwell. He scoffs and gently pulls Seokjin behind him. "This isn't one of your novels."
Their steps echo against the brick walls as they climb the stairs. It's odd, Yoongi thinks, Seokjin's hand wrapped around his. He's so used to the isolation of this space, the solitude, that hearing a set of footsteps that aren't his own makes it feel like a dream, hazy and disjointed.
He kept the lantern burn in his quarters before he left earlier and as the light spills into the stairway, Seokjin's fingers slip from Yoongi's hand. He licks his lips and tries not to feel disappointed. He's being ridiculous, he scolds himself.
"This is my quarters," he says as he reaches the landing. He gestures to the cot by the window. "You can sleep here." He turns around, his voice trailing off, mouth falling open.
Seokjin looks around the room, curious. It's the first time Yoongi has seen him clearly, the room still dim but with enough light to make out colors and shapes and details. And Seokjin's colors and shapes and details are the most beautiful Yoongi has ever seen. His hair is a rich brunet, a soft and silky chestnut hue that shines even in the small flame of the lantern. His lips are plumb and deep pink, his nose long, his eyes gleaming and bright. And there's something more, something Yoongi can't quite think succinctly, a fleeting idea that skitters away as he tries to grab hold of it. Something that draws him in and arrests him, a gravity, unseen but forceful.
Seokjin looks back to Yoongi and smiles, cheeks puffing out. "Thank you so much. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this."
Yoongi shifts his eyes away and nods, a hand reaching up to scratch at his ear. "Yeah, no problem. I, uh." He moves to the stairwell again. "I have to keep watch," he says. "Make yourself at home. I'll just be up there if you need me."
Yoongi nods and starts up the stairs, resisting the urge to look back to Seokjin as he ascends. His heart beats too fast in his chest, and he knows it has nothing to do with the physical demands of the steps. He makes his way up to the watch room and opens the door to the gallery, moving out into the cold night air. He sucks in a deep breath, lungs filling with fresh air. He closes his eyes and slowly exhales.
It's ridiculous and fanciful and stupid. But his head feels light and his chest feels warm. He wonders again if Seokjin is some celestial creature, a fairy or apparition here to lure him away. He wonders again why it feels like Seokjin is leading him to a place he's never known.
A place that feels strangely like what he's been searching for all his life.
He licks his lips, remembering Seokjin's silly joke as they climbed the stairs. He might be the lightkeeper, but it feels like Seokjin is the light.
His brow furrows as his muscles protest, aching and uncomfortable. His eyes shoot open and he sucks in another breath in alarm. Gone are the soft covers and the warm futon, replaced by a hard wooden floor. He bolts into an upright position and blinks rapidly, trying to clear his vision. He's not in the cottage anymore.
He stands, limbs shaking as adrenaline starts flowing through his veins. The room he's found himself in is small and circular, a hardwood floor empty and dusty, the air stale and stuffy. A staircase built into the side of the room circles up and down to places unknown.
He rushes to the window, trying to get his bearings. His eyes widen as he spots the shoreline several storeys below the room.
He's in the lighthouse, he realizes, backing away from the window. He shakes his head and squeezes his eyes shut, a headache starting in his temples. He can't remember anything after he drank that moonshine and settled back to sleep. He reaches a hand up to card through his hair. He must have sleep walked.
It's bizarre to think. In his twenty-seven years, he's never had an issue with sleep walking before.
He sighs and moves to the staircase, heading down the creaky old steps. Maybe that moonshine had been a little too strong. He can deal with it when he gets back to the cottage. For now, he's in his pyjama pants with no shoes and no cell phone. He's thankful at least the sun is up to light his way.
He carefully makes his way down the stairs, hand trailing on the brick wall for safety. He wishes he had a railing. Or a hand to guide him.
He stops, right foot on the step ahead of his left, and frowns. There's something, something familiar about that thought, but he can't quite figure out why. It's faded and far away, like a dream slipping from his consciousness. Maybe it had been a dream.
He blinks and forces his feet to keep moving.
He wonders what kind of dream it had been, that would make his heart feel so unreasonably sad to forget.
Chapter 2: Flash Part 2
Sorry it's been so long ;;;; Lots of irl stuff happened in May. I'm hoping the next chapter won't take so long. Thank you for the support! I'm so eternally grateful.
eup is similar to a town
si is similar to a city
There is no sun on the horizon as dawn breaks, just a blanket of clouds that gradually lightens from black to hues of grey, far-reaching and all-encompassing, stretching beyond what Yoongi can see, even from his vantage point on the gallery. He had seen the clouds roll in halfway through his watch, wisping trails that built and overlapped until the small sliver of moon was blotted from the sky, and the innumerable stars had vanished.
It will rain today. Yoongi can feel it in the air, the humidity sticky against the back of his neck that even the cool morning breeze cannot dispel. It's heavy and pressing, and makes Yoongi feel like the clouds are closing in on the island, vainly trying to swallow them up where the sea has failed. In the distance, there's a darker patch of grey, rolling slowly forward with promises of a downpour.
It isn't the rainy season yet, but nature never pays much heed to time.
Yoongi frowns, elbows dropping to rest on the railing of the gallery. It won't be impossible but it will certainly be much less pleasant to search the island for his visitor's missing lodgings in the rain. A brief imagination of Kim Seokjin with rain-drenched hair and clothes sticking to his skin flashes through Yoongi's mind and he shifts back suddenly from the railing, an uncomfortable heat crawling up his chest. He clears his throat and turns to enter the watch room, scolding himself for unnecessary thoughts.
He had checked in on the strange visitor twice during the night, descending to his quarters silently to find Seokjin still peacefully asleep, his face relaxed and Yoongi's thin blanket slipping off his broad shoulders. Yoongi had successfully resisted the urge to linger and study Seokjin, the symmetrical planes and bold features of his face, the perfect proportions of his frame. Yoongi has never seen anyone with such a striking beauty before, far beyond handsome.
Otherworldly, Yoongi's mind helpfully supplies. Kim Seokjin is otherworldly, too stunning to possibly be from this universe. It's a fanciful, silly idea. Creatures from the folk tales don't exist, and if they did, they would have no purpose with Yoongi anyway.
He stays in the watch room until the clouds reach a light grey and he knows his duties are done. The clockwork gears still tick as the weight continues down to the bottom of the lighthouse. It will be another twenty minutes before the lens comes to a complete halt.
He hovers by the staircase, wondering if he should wake up his guest or let the man sleep longer. It occurs to him that he has kept such a unique schedule that he hardly knows how long people tend to sleep for. The fishermen will be up and already on their boats by now, but Seokjin didn't seem like a fisherman to Yoongi. Probably from Seoul, though his accent had been strange. Similar enough to Seoul but off somehow. Altered, like the foundation of a Seoul dialect was in the undertone but the flow was new and unfamiliar.
Yoongi's lips twitch. New and unfamiliar seems to describe everything about Seokjin.
He starts down the staircase and decides he should at least make breakfast for Seokjin, some fortitude for their trek around the island. He bounds down the steps two at a time, his feet thudding loudly on the wood before he catches himself, hands gripping the railing on his left side to stop from tipping down with the suddenly halted momentum. He's not used to sharing his space with another living soul, one that might not appreciate being awoken by loud, pounding footsteps in a strange place.
He resumes his steps slowly and carefully now, feet tapping softly to allow Seokjin to sleep longer.
He intends to continue spiralling past his quarters and into the kitchen but he pauses as his eyes catch sight of his cot, sheets rumpled and completely empty. He thumps the rest of the way to the landing of his quarters.
"Seokjin?" he calls out, circling the thin metal pillar that runs vertically through the center of the lighthouse, the protective casing for the clockwork weight. He scans his small room quickly. "Kim Seokjin?"
His own voice ricochets off the brick walls back to him, hollow.
All his belongings are exactly where he left them. The air is still, silent, sticking to his skin as the humidity seeps through the open window above his cot.
He skips down to the kitchen, similarly empty, and the storage room. He descends the entire lighthouse, calling out Seokjin's name until he reaches the bottom, stepping outside. His bicycle is still leaned against the base of the tower. He circles around to face the coastline, but there are no tracks in the sand and the water laps at the shore as it always does.
Yoongi doesn't know if he expected the waves to behave differently.
Seokjin has vanished, like the sliver of moon last night. But Yoongi knows the moon will appear again tonight. The clouds will part and night will return and the moon will be back in the sky where he can always see it. Seokjin is not the moon.
Yoongi frowns as suspicion settles in his chest. Perhaps Seokjin is a spy, sent by Choi to gather evidence against him.
Possible but unlikely, Yoongi reasons. He keeps the lighthouse void of any smuggled items or materials that would suggest his illegal activities. They're all kept strictly on his plot of land at the northern edge of the island. He can explain away being out on his bicycle in the middle of the night with a well-placed lie. No, he's safe. There's only –
His eyes widen. Bonghee's satchel. With questionable origins and items that cannot be easily acquired in the area.
He races up the lighthouse again, huffing in his haste as he reaches his quarters once again. The plain sackcloth satchel is exactly where he left it, under a desk he made for himself from scrap wood panels. He pulls the satchel out and checks the top, still tied the way he secured it last night. All the contents are still there, seemingly undisturbed, and he breathes out a sigh of relief, or exhaustion, he doesn't know which.
If Seokjin is a spy and he did see the contents of the satchel, he only has his word, that Yoongi can and will easily deny. Choi was already quite certain of Yoongi's guilt. Suspicion doesn't frighten Yoongi.
He replaces the satchel and glances around the small room again, as if he'd somehow missed Seokjin in some hidden spot, his eyes tired and overlooking an entire human being.
Seokjin stayed the night and probably left at first light, either ungrateful or embarrassed. He's probably wandering around the island right now, looking for a place that doesn't exist. Yoongi is certain he will hear of it later. Strangers don't go unnoticed.
His logic does nothing to soothe the unreasonable disappointment in Yoongi's stomach. He stares out the window over his cot, its rumpled sheets the only evidence that he didn't dream Seokjin up. The sky and sea are competing shades of grey, dull overcast and the vibrant rolling storm that approaches from the distance.
That fanciful thought flickers through his mind again, that perhaps Seokjin had been a mythical being, who stayed the night and vanished with the stars. He indulges the idea for a moment, and wonders idly where Seokjin was trying to lure him.
The clockwork gears clank loudly as the weight reaches the very end of its journey, and the constant tick-tick-tick stops. Silence floods into the room and Yoongi's ears ring as they try to adjust. It feels like time itself halts and he's suspended in the moment. Somehow, he seems to be caught outside of time again.
Time slowly seeps in again, with the sound of the seagulls and the brush of wind coming through the window. Yoongi clears his throat and stands, brushing his knees and moving back to the watch room.
With Seokjin gone, he can focus on his chores, and hopefully finish up before the rain hits.
He isn't at all concerned that the other will be caught in the storm, drenched by the approaching downpour.
He hisses as the soles of his feet hit the scalding water, gripping his hands tight on the tub edge. He holds his feet above the water, hovering and balanced precariously from his seat on the edge. He makes a face at the tub and tries again, yelping loudly but forcing his feet to submerge up past his ankles. He sighs and closes his eyes briefly as, finally, relief eases through his soles and the water soothes away the ache.
He could have at least put on a pair of house slippers before he decided to sleepwalk across half the island. He supposes he should be grateful for the socks he had worn, though he still feels more whiny than thankful.
When the pain in his feet ebbs away and he finally settles down, back home, safe and warm, he sets his mind to the problem that caused everything to begin with. He dries his feet off quickly and heads to his bedroom to find his phone. He tries to search "causes of sleepwalking" several times growing more frustrated with every attempt that fails to load. He hadn't lied to Jimin – there really isn't much internet to be had in this secluded cottage in the middle of almost nowhere.
He attempts to connect to the internet on his laptop but it is futile. The connection is too weak, cutting out before any pages can be loaded. He briefly entertains the thought of driving up to Yeosu, but he isn't due to restock on groceries for another few days and he has to go later in the week anyway for a scheduled check-in with Jimin.
Inertia, as usual, wins in the end. Sleepwalking is perfectly natural, he reasons. And he doubts there will be a repeat performance, at least not until he can get to Yeosu in a few days. He decides that he is fine, backed solely with the willpower that there is nothing wrong with him because it would be a major inconvenience.
With that settled in his mind, Seokjin makes himself breakfast and starts to get some work done.
Tries to get some work done.
Tries really, really, really hard to get something that could be possibly called productive done and grows increasingly concerned that he's wasting his time.
He has ideas, flitting little thoughts that sparkle and beckon him to entertain them. But as soon as he grasps them, he finds them trite, or hollow, or partial pieces of a whole he cannot understand. He feels like he's wasting his time, like he's missing the one story he should be penning while floundering in the darkness of clichés and overdone tropes that his mind provides him.
After an hour of pretending to work, he sighs and leans back in his chair, staring up at the ceiling and trying to make pictures out of the wood grain patterns. What does he even write, anyway, he wonders. What is it that he spins into stories.
It bounces through his mind, a memory, his own voice, the faint ache of a smile on his lips, his hands laced together to hold something he can't recall. He writes about lonely people.
He writes about himself.
He sighs again and stands, stretching the stiffness from his body, no doubt from the uncomfortable floor of the lighthouse he had slept on last night. He needs fresh air.
He cleans up his dishes from breakfast and changes his clothes, pulling on a comfortable pair of jeans and a checkered button up.
He's almost at the door when he pauses and spins around on his heel. "Ah," he says, swinging his keys around his finger and tracking back to his room to shuffle through his luggage. He knows he always has a couple with him, he thinks as he sorts through the items. He smiles when he finds it. "Found you," he sing-songs, pulling a copy of his first novel out. He looks at it fondly for a moment before he stands and makes his way back to the door.
He had promised the farmer who gave him a ride a copy of his novel as payment. He might as well drop it off on his walk.
The sun is bright and strong, baking the earth with a heat that feels more like the middle of summer than late spring. The sky is clear, no clouds but the few specks Seokjin thinks he might see in the far distance, days away. There's a light breeze, whispering across his exposed skin. It's hardly strong enough to jostle the strands of his hair. He smiles and takes a deep breath as he sets forward. This is exactly the weather he loves, hot and bright.
The farmer's place isn't far, an easy ten minute walk south from his cottage that feels more familiar than it should. Perhaps it's because he just drove past this way heading back home only a few hours ago, or maybe it's that this entire island looks the same. He doesn't think much of it, however, the thought dropping away as he spots the farmer in an open field.
Seokjin calls out and waves, jogging closer.
"Eh, Seokjin, was it?" the farmer greets when Seokjin reaches him. His face is etched in wrinkles as he smiles, and he tips his straw hat up to look closer at Seokjin. "Did you find your shoes?" He cackles, amused at his own joke.
Seokjin laughs and feels his ears go red. "Lucky me, I found two of them," he replies easily. He holds out the novel to the farmer. "Here, I promised I would bring one of my books by as payment."
The farmer's eyes squint and he tilts his head in confusion. "I didn't know you were a writer. Figured you were a film star hiding out from the press." He chuckles again and shrugs. "I'll gladly take it, though. Could use for a good read."
Seokjin frowns even as the farmer accepts the book from him. He bows as he leaves, his brow still furrowed.
He was certain.
He had been certain he had told the farmer he wrote novels. He had promised to come back with one of them in exchange for the ride.
He had been sure, but now that he's trying to grasp the memory, it fades, hazy, morphing and dimming and blurring at the edges. Maybe he'd dreamt it up.
He tilts his head, his feet moving without thought on the gravel road, the soft crunch of the pebbles beneath his feet sounding in his ears. It was probably a dream, shadowy and faraway, a memory he cannot have that will fade to nothingness with time.
The north bank of the island feels vastly different from his spot at the lighthouse. Instead of sea and sky, he can see the rolling hills of the mainland, deep green unsullied by the dim clouds above. The waters tend to be calmer here, and the vastness of the sea is diminished, the horizon limited with solid boundaries. There is the sea, and there it ends, with the sandy beach and the engulfing green of the mainland. Waters that seem eternal by the lighthouse come to an abrupt end here.
It shouldn't, but Yoongi sometimes feels a twinge of sadness when he comes to the north shore. He's sorry to see the end of anything.
Yoongi tilts his head against the bark of the tree he's leaning against, his eyes catching a glimpse of the boat he's been waiting for. He had been unsure if Bonghee would make the trip from the mainland village to the island this week, but he's glad to see her familiar vessel approach the dock.
Bonghee brings the boat to the pier with practiced ease. The boat had belonged to her father years ago, and she had continued to use it even after she married, preferring the small but reliable vessel over her husband's. She doesn't fish anymore. It's too hard to keep a living on the meagre profits she could bring in. After her husband went to Busan to find work, she started ferrying passengers to and from the mainland for a small fee.
It's enough to survive, paired with her husband's earnings at the factory in Busan, and the homemade wine she sells through Sang and Gwangok. Yoongi is more than happy to help facilitate the transaction.
He waits for her passengers to disembark, just two from what Yoongi can see. Old man Kim back from Yeosu, and what appears to be the Park's daughter-in-law. Before he can even kick off the tree to approach, Bonghee's daughter Sookja tumbles excitedly from the boat and sprints down the pier, heading directly to Yoongi.
"Uncle!" she yells with the boisterous voice all nine-year-olds seem to possess, at least from the few nine-year-olds Yoongi has met in his life. She hops from the wooden planks of the pier and skips over the grass, her dark curly hair messily escaping her braid. "Do you have a present for me?" she asks, out of breath as she skids to a stop in front of Yoongi, craning her head to look up at him. She's lost a tooth since the last time Yoongi saw her, her smile full of gaps but just as bright as always.
Yoongi purses his lips and shrugs. "Why would I have that?" he answers, retrieving his satchel from the ground. He starts towards Bonghee, still on her boat, pushing past Sookja.
"Uncle!" Sookja whines, scrambling to catch him again. She cuts in front and spins around to face him, walking backwards. "You always have something for me."
Yoongi shrugs again and bites back a smile. "Life is full of disappointments, kid."
Sookja makes a face and stomps, holding out her arms wide in an attempt to block Yoongi. "Uncle!"
Yoongi presses his lips together tightly and barely manages to keep his expression neutral. He crouches before her and slides his hand into his jacket pocket, sighing forlornly. "I really don't have anything this time."
Sookja's lips crease into a deep frown and she blinks seriously at him, as if trying to determine whether to trust his words or not.
Yoongi pulls his hand out of his pocket, a small black feather held loosely between his fingers. He had found it by the lens at the lighthouse that morning and thought Sookja might enjoy it. He tuts Sookja on the nose with the feather. "You'll just have to settle for this."
Her eyes widen and she grins, drawing in a long breath in an extended gasp. She grabs the feather quickly, eyes focused on it, Yoongi entirely forgotten.
"Sookja, say thank you," Bonghee calls from the boat.
"Thanks, Uncle!" Sookja says, still focused on the feather, flipping it in her hand over and over.
He snorts and stands, nodding to Bonghee. "Didn't know if you'd make the journey today. The waters were okay?"
"The waters don't change," she answers, sniffing. She's wearing her usual work hanbok, her hair in a braid similar to Sookja's, only hers is still neat despite the wind. She removes a tarp covering an open crate packed with glass bottles of varying shapes and sizes, all filled with light pink liquid. "Only our perceptions change."
Yoongi hums and hops into the boat. He hands Bonghee the satchel from Sang and Gwangok before gesturing to the crate. "These ones?"
Bonghee nods. "Yes, the first batch of wine this summer. It should be a good year, I think. The cherries are perfect."
Yoongi hefts the crate up, grunting with the weight, and sets it onto the dock.
"Sookja," Bonghee calls, leaning over to beckon her daughter back. "Come on, we're leaving."
Sookja glances up, pouting, and shakes her head vigorously, more strands of hair falling loose from her braid. "I wanted to see the lighthouse, Mama!" she yells.
"Now, Sookja. We don't have passengers to bring back," Bonghee says firmly.
"He did no such thing," Bonghee counters, eyes narrowing as her daughter stalls on the pier.
Bonghee's expression hardens and she sends her daughter a sharp look.
Sookja sighs, hanging her head, and tromps forward slowly.
"Next time, kiddo," Yoongi tells her as she passes.
She harrumphs and plops into the boat, sitting cross-legged and refusing to face either of them.
Yoongi snorts and hops out of the boat onto the pier, crouching down by the crate.
"Thank you, Yoongi," Bonghee says, smiling. "We appreciate all you do for us."
Yoongi makes a face and shrugs.
"Help yourself to some of the wine. I think you'll like it." She starts to untie from the dock.
"Ah, wait," Yoongi says. Bonghee pauses, glancing back at him curiously. Yoongi purses his lips and shifts his eyes from hers. "Did you, ah, ferry over a passenger a couple of days ago? A stranger?"
If Seokjin had come over, most likely Bonghee brought him. Besides the personal vessels from the few fishermen on the island, Bonghee is the only means of transportation from the mainland. He's just curious, is all. Just wants to know if Seokjin found his way safely back home.
"I haven't," Bonghee answers slowly, her voice dropping into a lower register. He can feel her gaze on him, weighted like when he first met her, when she told him "You were born outside time."
He looks back to her, frowning. Seokjin had said he was staying at the Kang place. Bonghee's husband is the only Kang he knows south of Seoul. "You didn't have a visitor or anything? A friend of your husband?"
Bonghee's eyes flicker as she peers closer at Yoongi, and for a moment he thinks he sees in them a flash of teal green, like the sea on a clear day. "There has been no one," she finally starts and Yoongi releases a breath he didn't know he had been holding. "Perhaps the sea brought you a gift."
Yoongi's lips tilt into a smirk and he lets out a small laugh, deliberately dismissive. "The sea took it back, then."
Bonghee hums. "The sea understands the tides, Yoongi. It takes only what it will return." Yoongi blinks and Bonghee laughs, shaking her head at him. "Stop over thinking things, Yoongi. Enjoy your present." She unties the boat and shoves back from the pier. "Take care!"
She's wrong, he thinks as he watches her sail away. He stands and retrieves the crate.
Nothing returns once it's been lost. He knows this much, at least. Nothing returns.
The most bizarre part is that he had somehow picked the lock. The lighthouse had been sealed tight before. He remembers trying the door when he first explored the island. Maybe his curiosity had propelled him back there. It seems reasonable, or at least as reasonable as the entire situation can possibly be.
Except that he's never picked a lock in his life.
And he didn't have any tools. No pins, no credit cards. Nothing he assumes he would need to break into the lighthouse.
It's not a surprise, then, that Seokjin finds himself back at the enigmatic location, compelled here a second time.
He follows the curving walkway as it slopes up towards the peak of the hill where the lighthouse stands, tall and sturdy, brick and mortar that has weathered countless storms over the years. He keeps his eyes steady on the structure, squinting against the bright sun, and tries to analyze and understand exactly what he's feeling. An attempt to uncover why his unconscious mind and body took him here. Why, in a land of dreams, he transported to the lighthouse. And maybe, if he's observant enough, he can find what he seemed to be searching for.
He feels the mild curiosity he has for everything on the island – new, exciting, unfamiliar and yet still ordinary. He walks a new path, but it's just like any other, dirt and gravel and a bordering wooden fence, like the ones at home and halfway across the world. The lighthouse is new and strange, but it's still just stone and wood faded paint.
He feels the fondness he has for anything idyllic – a quaint aesthetic of dulled white and red, the soothing sound of waves and seagulls, the brush of wind sweeping through his hair. It is a pretty picture, a postcard moment, one he knows he will try to recreate through words and never quite manage to entirely reiterate.
He feels a comfort, too, and it almost feels misplaced, unwarranted. Logically, he should be uneasy here, the lighthouse and his actions around it shrouded in mystery. Emotions have nothing to do with logic, he learnt this long ago, and he lets the feeling of relief and safety flow through him. Maybe it's because the lighthouse is, at its core, a haven, a shelter in a storm, a guiding light where there is only darkness and perilous dangers.
The door to the lighthouse is still unlocked from when he let himself out the other day. It creaks loudly as he opens it, hinges protesting and in dire need of new oil. As Seokjin steps inside, he's hit by the stale, musty scent he recalls from before. There are no lights but a few small windows in the brick walls let in enough light that he can see his way. He cranes his neck to look up at the wooden staircase that spirals along the outer wall.
He claps his hands together and sets off to climb to the top of the lighthouse. The stairs are old and in need of maintenance, but still sturdy, built to last centuries. He alternates between peering up at the small column in the middle of every room that seems to run the length of the lighthouse, and the steps that his feet trod upon. There's a thick layer of dust on each step from years of abandonment, disturbed only from the impression of his own feet as he left that morning. He tilts his head curiously at the imprint of his own soles leading down and tries to shake the feeling that he's looking at the remains of a ghost, a being lost to time.
It isn't until he nearly reaches the room where he awoke the other morning that his feet stop and alarm rings through his head. He wraps his hand around the staircase railing and carefully peers over his shoulder behind him at the steps with one set of footprints going down and one coming up. He looks back in front of him and breathes out slowly at the remaining steps in front of him, steps with one set of footprints going down.
And none leading up.
He takes a deep breath in, blinking hard as if trying to clear his vision. It's not possible, and yet it's the reality, unexplained and frightening. Somehow, he made it up here, unconscious and without a trace. He has the uneasy thought that maybe he really is the ghost.
On feet that are a little more shaky than before, he continues up to the room where he slept. It's barren, dusty and empty, with no answers to the questions that are rapidly multiplying in his head. He circles it slowly twice but finds nothing. He doesn't even know what he's searching for, only acting on the inexplicable knowledge that something is missing.
He circles the room slowly twice, searching for something, a hint, a clue, anything to explain the impossibility he faces. But the room is silent and there is no one to give him any answers. He sighs and looks up. Maybe there are explanations at the top of the lighthouse.
He carefully travels up the steps, watching as his feet make marks on what was once a pristine, thick coat of dust, settled over many years of abandonment. He didn't venture up here while he was sleepwalking, it seems. He frowns, brow furrowing as he tries in vain to draw up the memory.
His eyes squint and adjust suddenly as he reaches the landing to the next room, bright rays of sunshine lighting the space. The room is smaller than the others, tapering as the tower climbs into the sky. The room is lined not with brick walls but large windows, murky with years-old dirt but still somehow ushering the sun in like an honored guest.
In the middle of the room is a large crank that looks like it connects whatever is in the column that runs the length of the lighthouse to the very top of the tower. Seokjin tries to turn the crank out of curiosity, but it's stiff and heavy, unbudging in his hands.
He abandons the crank in favor of peering out onto the island. The view is stunning. He feels like he can see almost every road, every house, every inhabitant of the island. A man who dwells here must be a man who believes he rules the world. Seokjin thinks he understands the appeal of towers from all the fairy tales he used to read.
He glances out to the sea and his breath catches in his throat. As much as peering out onto the land makes him feel all-knowing, looking out into the sea reminds him of his size, the scale of this world. The water sparkles with trapped stars as far as he can see, bending past the horizon, endless.
He shifts his eyes around the room again, noting a door that leads out to a circular balcony lined with iron railing. Seokjin hesitates at the lock on the door for a moment before he remembers he has already broken into the lighthouse twice now. He might as well break into the gallery.
Like everything else in the lighthouse, the door is stiff from disuse, but it opens with far less squeaky protests than the entrance down at the base of the tower. As soon as Seokjin steps out onto the gallery, wind billows around him, buffeting his hair in all directions. He brings a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun and breathes deeply, air rich with salt, cleansing his lungs from the stale dust inside.
Up here, staring at the galaxies shining underneath the surface of the sea, the sky a brilliant blue and stretching across the horizon, Seokjin cannot ignore the feeling that he's found something quite extraordinary.
And yet, at the same time, it feels like he's still waiting for something to appear, the missing part of this incredible mystery.
When he returns to the cottage, with no answers and more questions than when he began, he opens his laptop and starts to write. He writes what he thinks might be a cohesive story, about a young girl who followed a star all the way to the ocean.
Once the initial shock of sleepwalking has finally worn off, Seokjin finds he is less concerned about the whole wandering around alone at night and the strange non-existent footprints in the lighthouse, and more concerned at the thought that alcohol induced this. That there exists an alcohol in the world that can effect him so greatly. That he, Kim Seokjin, who has always, always been able to hold his liquor, was reduced to what is essentially a blackout from half a cup of moonshine.
It honestly hurts his pride.
Every time he passes through the kitchen, his eyes catch sight of the bottle, still on the counter, mocking him silently. Taunting him. Lording over him that yes, it is better than him, bested him at one of his most prized skills.
It won't be tolerated.
He probably should have emptied the bottle into the kitchen sink and watched it swirl down the drain but somehow that feels like losing. He probably shouldn't have accepted homemade, decades-old moonshine to begin with.
He sits cross-legged on the floor in the middle of the living room, facing the beach. His fingers play idly with the frayed patchy hole over his knee where his jeans rip, catching the edges and no doubt making them bigger. His eyes are focused on the bottle of moonshine, placed an arms-length away on the floor in front of him. Pretty pale pink liquid stares back at him in the waning late sunlight that streams through the windows. His brows furrow and lips purse. It isn't that scary. Just cherry wine.
It's not scary, it's cherry. He laughs as he repeats the rhyme in his head, his tensions easing.
He cannot let some cherry wine ruin an entire adulthood of impeccable alcohol tolerance.
Decided, he nods to himself and reaches forward for the moonshine. He pours it into the glass he prepared until it is half full, a little more than last time when he woke up in the lighthouse. Half a glass of wine just before the sun sets, his stomach full from dinner. It is optimal drinking conditions.
The wine is sweeter than he remembers, a light sugary hint of honey on his tongue, the tart cherry taste muted. He finished the cup in three measured sips and places it by his left knee on the floor, fingers lingering on the edge for a moment. The sweetness is still clinging to his tongue but he resists the urge to pour more for a second taste. Half a glass is what he had decided, to replicate the other night.
He doesn't feel any different. This amount of alcohol shouldn't be enough to even make him tipsy, let alone blackout drunk. He shifts his gaze to the beach outside, watches as the sun dips lower behind his viewpoint and shadows deepen along the sand and grass. The sky grows dimmer, less brilliant blue and more kaleidoscopic, red bleeding into the horizon and morphing into purple, dulling into grey as he feels time passing.
He blinks, eyes growing heavy, and frowns, correcting his posture and refocusing. That moonshine is more effective than a sleeping pill, he thinks vaguely as his vision blurs and he sways from his upright position. He catches himself before he lies down, fingers tightening on his knees, but he allows his eyes to close, resting them for just a moment.
He really thought it had only been a moment, but when he opens his eyes again, he's outside. His breath catches in his throat and adrenaline starts flowing through his blood quickly as he looks around, trying to orient himself. He's sitting in tall, untamed grass, looking out to a beach. The sky is dark but not quite black yet, pale light indicating dusk.
His brow furrows. It can't be that long since he nodded off. He has no idea how he wandered so far already. He stands, sighing, and makes a slow circle. There's just wild grass and the beach and that tree that looks like his tree. The same as last time.
He freezes, eyes widening.
The same as last time.
It's hard to breathe suddenly as realization washes over him. He was here last time. He wandered a bit. Stumbled on the lighthouse keeper. Yoongi. Yes, Yoongi had been his name.
And Seokjin had forgotten it. All of it. The confusion and the relief finding Yoongi and the bicycle ride that gave more comfort for Seokjin's troubled mind than his aching feet.
He crouches back down to the ground, suddenly dizzy as his thoughts jumble, overwhelming him. This is more than sleepwalking. This is memory loss. Seokjin shakes his head. No, it's even more than that.
He had been to the lighthouse. Had explored it thoroughly. It was abandoned. It was completely empty and stale and old. It was a skeleton of the lighthouse Yoongi possesses, minimal but well maintained, pieces of life and living in every corner.
Seokjin tries to bring his thoughts back to reason and logic, but they keep leading to fantastical ideas with no basis but mystery and magic and the unexplained supernatural.
It could be a haunting, or he somehow slipped through dimensions. Seokjin glances up to the tree that looks so much like his tree, but smaller, younger, a tree from a century ago.
It could be time travel, he realizes, eyes widening.
A gust of wind kicks off the ocean and rushes past Seokjin. He shivers as the daytime heat dropping rapidly and stands again. He hunches his shoulders up and looks south, to where the beaming illumination of the lighthouse shines bright and beckoning. He presses his lips together and sets forward.
Whatever supernatural mess he's found himself in, he knows at the lighthouse he will find some warmth and respite.
And a soothing voice that can ease his troubled mind.
And a warmth to hold.
He reminds himself to find the good things, listing them in his head to distract himself from the ghostly call of a wild animal he hopes is friendly.
He's grateful he kept his jeans and sweatshirt on, a protection against the cool night air. He's grateful he still has his house slippers on, a vast improvement from the socks last time. Next time, he'll make sure to wear his sneakers.
He makes a face. If there is a next time. If he ever gets back to his universe or time or whatever.
He's grateful for the slice of moon and the innumerable stars in the clear sky, providing far more illumination than he thought heavenly bodies were capable of. It's different back in Seoul, where he hardly remembers the moon and the stars, long ago replaced with city lights. It's even different back in his universe, or time, or dimension, whatever, wherever his cottage exists.
He had thought he never saw the stars shine so brightly as they do on a clear evening at the cottage, a splattering of diamonds that are so strong, he can see them glitter. He couldn't even count how many of them he had never seen before, like a veil has parted in the sky, revealing invisible treasures.
Now, though, he realizes he was wrong. It's so much more than hidden stars. It's galaxies, clouds of color in the night sky of blue and purple and white. Galaxies are so much more than stars. They aren't a collection of tiny dots but a swirl of shifting light. It looks like the sea, he thinks. That sea with all the lost stars glittering on the surface. He can see the rushing current as constellation shifts to constellation.
He wonders if maybe he's stepped into opposite world, where the sea is up and the sky is down and deserted lighthouses glow with the brightest star he's ever seen.
Or possibly he's hallucinating.
He sighs and comes to a stop at the base of the lighthouse. His hallucinations seem to be very consistent, replicating the exact same bicycle Yoongi drove him on last time, leaned up against the brick structure. He shifts his gaze to the door. It seems rude to just walk in but it's not like there's a doorbell.
He moves back three steps, tilting his head as far back as he can to squint at the top at the lighthouse. He inhales and cups his hands around his mouth for amplification. "Excuse me!" he bellows, his voice reverberating in the empty night air. He waits for a moment, trying to discern if there is any movement on the gallery. "Hello?" he tries again.
He should have hallucinated Min Yoongi downstairs, he chides himself, waiting, neck starting to ache at the angle he holds it. He bends his neck back down, reaching a hand around to rub at the muscles.
"Who is it?"
Seokjin jumps at the voice, looking up, a wide smile breaking out onto his lips as he sees a speck of a person leaning over the gallery railing. Min Yoongi is a sight for weary eyes, Seokjin thinks, taking in a deep breath.
He raises his hand and says loudly to be heard over the crash of the waves, "Hi. Uh, I'm not sure if you remember me."
Yoongi leans further over the railing peering down at Seokjin. The light from the lantern is bright on Yoongi's figure, illuminating his wind-tousled hair and well-worn work clothes, but from this distance, Seokjin isn't able to read the expression on Yoongi's face clearly. Seokjin smiles again and hopes Yoongi can see it.
"A couple nights ago," he starts again.
"Kim Seokjin?" Yoongi calls down, incredulous.
"Yes!" Seokjin nods, relieved. "Can I come up?"
Yoongi pauses for a second before he pushes back from the railing. "I'll come down and get you," he calls out.
"It's okay, I can come up myself."
Yoongi shakes his head. "It's dark down there. Just wait a minute, I'll guide you up."
Yoongi disappears from view and Seokjin bends his neck back down, tilting it from side-to-side to ease the tension from the awkward angle. It will take at least a couple minutes for Yoongi to reach the base, if Seokjin's memory is correct. He's lived in apartments in Seoul without an elevator but at most it was five storeys high. This entire length of a lighthouse seems excessive by stairs. Yoongi should have an elevator.
If this is all a hallucination, maybe he can imagine one into existence. He smiles and closes his eyes, deciding where the elevator will be. Once satisfied, he opens his eyes again and glances around. He hadn't paid much attention to the area last time, too concerned over sleepwalking, too distracted by Yoongi's soothing voice to voice surroundings he thought he knew.
The lighthouse looks the same as his lighthouse. He tilts his head. Nearly the same. All the bricks are in the right place, but the paint is brighter, the mortar less weathered. It looks like his lighthouse, fifty years ago.
Time travel, he thinks, changing his mind again. At this point it feels like a game, unbelievable and outrageous. He should write fantasy novels like Jungkook.
The door bursts open and Yoongi stumbles outside, panting from the excursion of running the length of the tower. He keeps his hand on the inside doorknob, for balance or security, Seokjin cannot tell. Seokjin smiles without much conscious thought, an automatic response. Yes, this is Yoongi, floppy blank hair messed by the wind, sleeves rolled up to his forearms, face sheltered but eyes so deeply expressive.
Yoongi's eyes are not eyes he should forget. There's a speck of disappointment in Seokjin for the lapse of memory.
"Hi," Seokjin greets. He had thought there might be more words that follow, something to explain why he showed up here, at night, unannounced. His mouth struggles to expound on the short hi, his mind striving to even know where to start.
"Hi, so I'm pretty sure you're a ghost."
"Hi, I've fallen into another dimension."
"Hi, I don't know how I got here, how I'll get back, or what's happening, but this is the first place I thought of that seemed like home."
That last one doesn't sound too bad, actually.
Fortunately, Yoongi does not have this problem. He cocks his head slightly to the side and asks, "Did you lose your house again?"
Seokjin laughs, a short huff of air. It sounds ridiculous but essentially it's true. "It's kind of a funny story," he replies, smiling.
Yoongi's lips twitch and he steps back to make room for Seokjin to enter the lighthouse. "Well, come in."
Seokjin follows inside and notes with mild disappointment that his imagined elevator has not manifested. He's not sure if he can rule out hallucination as a possibility, but it drops to the bottom of his list. More disappointingly, he realizes he will have to climb to the top of the lighthouse again. His thighs are going to hate him so much in the morning.
The door closes behind them, shutting out the light from the moon and stars and the bright beam from the top of the tower. Seokjin blinks his eyes, trying to adjust.
"Take my hand," Yoongi says from somewhere in front of him, his voice low and soft in the quiet space.
Seokjin reaches forward blindly, waving his arm until he hits something warm. He wraps his hand around what he realizes is Yoongi's forearm. Yoongi chuckles and guides Seokjin's hand until their fingers clasp together. Once Yoongi is certain he has Seokjin secure, he tugs him forward.
"This is the first step," Yoongi says as he guides Seokjin up carefully.
Yoongi's fingers are long and warm and rough, calluses on the pads of his fingertips, but his grip is surprisingly gentle. A soft pressure, mindful, cautious. Their fingers are not intertwined and Seokjin finds he is oddly sad about that.
"You didn't have to leave so quickly last time," Yoongi says from in front of Seokjin. Seokjin's eyes are adjusting and he can see the outline of Yoongi's frame as they climb slowly. "Were you embarrassed?"
"Not exactly," Seokjin answers, squeezing Yoongi's hand as they reach the floor that Seokjin thinks is a storage room, bags of rice and boxes of fruit and vegetables lined up neatly.
"No one seems to know anything about the Kang place you're staying at," Yoongi continues, tone confused, not accusatory but curious.
"It's kind of a long story," Seokjin says, a little breathless from the climb. They're almost at Yoongi's quarters and his legs are very loudly whining for him to stop.
"I have time," Yoongi offers, also out of breath. Seokjin feels a smug satisfaction that the stairs are just as difficult for Yoongi.
"I don't really know the story yet," Seokjin replies, lips quirking, He doesn't know if it's a ghost story or fantasy, or something akin to science fiction. Science reality, he corrects himself, Yoongi's hand warm and solid and real in his grip.
Yoongi makes a deep noise from the back of his throat, a noncommittal acknowledgement of Seokjin's reluctance to expand on behavior even he knows must appear bizarre.
Yoongi tugs Seokjin onto a landing and retracts his hand from Seokjin's. It feels, for a brief moment, like Seokjin has lost something as Yoongi's hand slips away. "Wait here, I'll light a lantern," Yoongi instructs as he steps back.
The room is dimly lit in bluish hues, streams of moonlight coming through the window over the cot Seokjin slept in a few nights ago. There are in Yoongi's quarters, the small space filled with furniture and neat folded piles of clothes. The stark difference from the empty, dust-covered room Seokjin knows makes his lips tilt down into a deep frown.
Yoongi lights a lantern, casting the space in warm shades of yellow. He looks to Seokjin and his eyes widen in sudden shock. "Were you attacked?" he asks, rushing back to Seokjin, gaze falling away from Seokjin's face to his legs.
Seokjin looks down at his legs, wondering if he brushed by some thorns or something on the way over that broke his skin and made him bleed without knowing. All he sees is his jeans, not even stained with anything. He looks back to Yoongi, brow furrowing. "No?"
"Your pants are all ripped up," Yoongi says, frowning as he looks up.
Seokjin laughs. "That's the style."
Yoongi raises his eyebrows, incredulous.
"You know, fashion?"
"There are holes in your pants," Yoongi repeats slowly, as if Seokjin doesn't understand his words. "You need to sew them up if you can't afford new ones."
"You sound like a grandfather," Seokjin says, amused.
Yoongi shrugs and heads to a stack of clothing. "Why anyone would go around with holes in their clothes willingly." He grabs a pair of pants and holds them out to Seokjin. "Here. I'll lend you a new pair."
Seokjin smiles and takes the offered clothes. "Thank you," he says, catching Yoongi's eyes. He doesn't think Yoongi knows the depth of those words, more than gratitude for a pair of borrowed pants. It's gratitude for shelter, for kindness, for being a haven, a safe place to rest while Seokjin faces a daunting unknown.
Yoongi holds his gaze and time seems to stop, fading between them until Seokjin isn't even sure if either of them are still breathing, or if their hearts stopped, suspended like the seconds that do not pass.
Finally, Yoongi breaks the moment, looking away and clearing his throat, almost sheepish as his hand fiddles with his hair. "You can, ah, use my cot again to sleep." He doesn't look at Seokjin, eyes focused on every part of the room Seokjin is not in. "I'll just...." He gestures up. "Go back to work," he finishes, moving around Seokjin to the stairs.
He climbs two steps before he pauses and glances back down to Seokjin.
"Don't, um. Don't go before you say goodbye this time, okay?"
Seokjin lifts his lips into a smile he doesn't quite feel. He cannot promise anything here, displaced, with no control over his arrivals or departures. "Okay," he lies. Any guilt he feels is washed away by the answering smile on Yoongi's lips.
"Okay. Good. Sleep well."
Yoongi disappears up the stairs and Seokjin looks down at the dull grey pants in his hands. He doubts he'll be able to sleep at all tonight, despite Yoongi's sweet wish.
It's a thought that Yoongi cannot seem to shake, replaying Bonghee's words from before, the sea and the tides. "It takes only what it will return."
The tide has come in, and the sea has returned Kim Seokjin.
There are a thousand questions running through Yoongi's mind, one for every star in the sky tonight. Why's and where's and how's. Why had Seokjin left without a word. Where did he come from? How did he get here?
Yoongi turns his neck, away from the sea, away from his post, eyes drawn to the staircase that leads down from the watch room to his quarters.
And will Seokjin stay until morning light breaks on the horizon?
Yoongi blinks and forces his head to turn back to the shore, the water dark and empty, a now-familiar companion for the long nights. There's a nervous kind of anticipation in his stomach that he tries hard to squash. Seokjin is just a lost stranger, an enigma that tugs at Yoongi's curiosity. Somehow that should explain the patter of Yoongi's heart in his chest.
He hopes Seokjin will stay until morning, so this mystery can stop haunting him. He hopes he can ask some of his questions.
Where did you come from?
Why are you here?
How long will you stay?
Yoongi's eyes turn back to the watch room, past the crank on the lantern weight, to the staircase faintly lit by the light he gave Seokjin. The light flickers, casting warm shadows where darkness usually resides. There's a certain kind of comfort in the sight, to know he isn't alone. To know there's another heart, another soul one floor down. It's a simple and small thing, but it makes a world of difference to Yoongi.
Before he can make himself look away, back to his duties, to the sea and the tide that can never stay still, the shadows in the staircase shift and morph into a silhouette of a man coming up the steps. For a moment, just a moment, brief and quickly escaping, Yoongi wonders again if Seokjin is perhaps a ghost, or an enchantment come to life, a play of light and darkness, casting shadows in Yoongi's mind.
Seokjin appears on the landing, glancing around cautiously. He spots Yoongi out on the gallery and smiles, approaching him. "Hey," Seokjin says as he steps out onto the gallery. He's changed his pants into the ones Yoongi gave him, soft grey trousers that fit Seokjin surprisingly well given their height difference.
"I thought you'd be asleep by now," Yoongi says.
Seokjin shakes his head. "I don't think I can sleep tonight," he answers, eyes shifting up to the sky. His lips parting with an awed sigh and he steps up to the railing, bending his neck back for a better angle. "Wow. I thought the stars were amazing from the ground. This is incredible."
Yoongi looks up to the spill of stars and smiles fondly, nodding. "Yeah," he agrees. On long nights, when it's just him and the light from lantern, and an endless sea as far as he can see, he sometimes feels like the stars are his old friends, keeping him company. He glances back to Seokjin, eyes bright and shining like a reflection of the sky he sees. Yoongi wonders fancifully if maybe one of them fell down to meet him.
He clears his throat and shakes the silly thought from his head.
"Hey, um, Seokjin?" Yoongi starts, licking his lips nervously.
Seokjin turns his head to look at Yoongi, eyebrows raised in anticipation. "Hm?"
"I asked around before, just to be sure. There's no Kang place on the north side of the island. Or any side of the island." He tilts his head and presses forward. "I don't mean to pry, but." He grimaces. "I'd like to know where you're from, if you can tell me. I can help you find it. I know this whole province pretty well."
Seokjin's eyes shift, a subtle change in his demeanour, a mix of distress and cautiousness. "I wish I could tell you," Seokjin finally answers, apologetic. "It's sort of hard to explain."
Yoongi purses his lips. "Is it near Yeosu-eup?" he asks, naming the closest town around. "It's only half a day away by bicycle, I could take you back there when Bonghee-noona comes with her boat next time."
Seokjin's eyes widen, his lips parting as shock and realization paint his features. Yoongi brightens, wondering if Seokjin perhaps recognizes Bonghee's name. "What did you say?" Seokjin says quickly, stepping forward.
"When Bonghee-noona comes to ferry us –"
Seokjin shakes his head, waving his hands in dismissal. "No, no, before that."
Yoongi's brow furrows. "Before?"
"Half a day by bicycle. Where is that?"
"You don't mean Yeosu-si?" Seokjin presses, oddly insistent, eyes shifting quickly over Yoongi's face.
Yoongi frowns. "The closest city is Gwangju."
Seokjin lets out a long breath and steps back to look out over the sea, hands coming up to grip the railing tightly. "I can't believe this."
Yoongi stares at Seokjin, confused and unsure how to start unravelling the mess of questions in his head.
Seokjin inhales deeply and pushes back from the railing, turning to stare very seriously into Yoongi's eyes. "I'm going to ask you something strange," he says.
Yoongi's lips quirk into a lop-sided smirk. "Everything you say is strange," he replies, but the joke does not make Seokjin smile like he had hoped. His smirk fades and he waits for Seokjin to continue.
"What," Seokjin starts hesitantly, frowning before the rest of the words leave his lips, like he cannot quite bring himself to say them out loud. He starts again. "What year is it?"
Yoongi blinks, frowning. To be fair, Seokjin had warned him that it would be a strange question. "1933," he answers slowly.
"1933," Seokjin repeats, disbelieving, breathless.
"For about five months," Yoongi jokes again, trying to lighten whatever burden is pushing Seokjin's broad shoulders down. Seokjin doesn't react, in a daze that Yoongi doesn't think a simple answer to a strange question warrants.
Seokjin stares blankly out to sea again, blinking, unmoving except for the shiver of his shoulders as the wind cuts across the deck.
"Hey, ah, why don't we go inside?" Yoongi suggests, gesturing to the watch room. "Get some sleep."
Seokjin doesn't look at Yoongi, just wraps his arms around his chest and shakes his head. "I can't sleep tonight."
Yoongi watches Seokjin for a moment, concern churning in his stomach for what is practically a stranger. He shouldn't care so much. It doesn't matter that Seokjin is distressed over something. There's no logical reason for the heaviness in his own chest.
He presses his lips together tightly into a thin line. He shouldn't care but he does. He sighs, stepping back into the watch room, grabbing two blankets. He brings them back out to the gallery. He thrusts one into Seokjin's chest, forcing him to hold it.
Seokjin startles, catching the blanket before it drops as Yoongi steps away and moves toward the railing. He stares quizzically at Yoongi but Yoongi studiously ignores the heavy weight of his gaze, focused on his task. He opens the blanket and spreads it carefully by the railing, crouching to fix the sides and smooth out any folds.
When he's satisfied, he sits cross-legged on the thick wool, facing the ocean. He keeps his eyes trained on the sea, waiting. The waves crash against the shoreline and the wind gusts, tangling the strands of his hair, but Seokjin remains silent and unmoving.
"You can't sleep but you can sit," Yoongi finally says, glancing over his shoulder to Seokjin. He points to the empty spot beside him. "Here. If you want."
Seokjin stares at him, that lost look in his eyes melting, warming to something else. He smiles at Yoongi, brighter than the lantern in the room above them that casts its light across the sea. Yoongi looks away, back to the shoreline, his heart thumping loudly in his chest, drowning out the sound of the waves below.
"Why'd you bring two blankets?" Seokjin asks as he settles beside Yoongi, their knees knocking together as he adjusts comfortably. "We can both fit."
Yoongi shrugs. "You looked cold."
Seokjin is silent for a moment before Yoongi can see him unfold the blanket in his peripheral vision. Yoongi jerks, surprised, when Seokjin drapes the blanket over both their shoulders. Seokjin laughs. "It's cold for you, too," he explains.
Yoongi clears his throat, a hand coming up to wrap around the edge of the blanket, tugging it tight around his frame. They sit together, quietly, just watching the light from the lantern above them reflecting off the water. It's comfortable, in a way Yoongi isn't used to, a natural sort of fitting and slotting together. He glances to his side, eyes tracing over Seokjin's profile.
He turns his head back to the sea before Seokjin can catch him.
"Weren't you supposed to bring one of your novels?" Yoongi asks. "You still owe me for the ride last time."
Seokjin snorts and shifts, leaning his hands back behind him. "It seems like I couldn't take it with me," he says, a wry twist in his voice. "I have to travel light, I guess."
"Hm." Yoongi blinks, watching the water, still vast and empty. "You could tell me the story," he suggests. "It's a long night."
Seokjin doesn't answer immediately and Yoongi is about to shrug his shoulders and tell him not to bother when Seokjin says, "How about I tell you the one I'm working on now?"
Yoongi nods and glances briefly at Seokjin, leaned back, head tilted to watch the stars, as if he cannot look away, mesmerized. Yoongi presses his lips together and tells himself it's silly, to look at something so bright and so lovely and so far away. Still, it's like gravity, impossible to pull away.
"There's a girl," Seokjin starts, his voice melodic, entrancing, telling the story like a lullaby. "She's eleven years old, and all she's known of the world is her room, and her school, and the park by her apartment. Her world is small, and so she's small, because she's afraid to outgrow it.
"Her parents send her to her aunt and uncle's farm for the summer, and suddenly the world is big. Fields and animals and unknown people. She's scared, because the world is big and she's so small." Seokjin's lips spread into a soft smile. He lifts a hand from behind him and points up to the sky. "But at night, she sees a star that she never saw before, invisible in her old world. It's bright and twinkling and so small in the big, big sky. And she wants to ask the star how it does it."
"What happens next?" Yoongi asks when Seokjin doesn't continue.
Seokjin drops his hand and tilts his head to smile at Yoongi. "That's all I have so far." He leans closer and whispers conspiratorially, "I'm blocked."
Yoongi nods. "I hope I can hear the rest some day."
They lapse into silence again and Yoongi stretches his legs out, slotting his feet through the railing as he settles in for the night.
"Is it always like this up here?" Seokjin asks quietly, somehow not breaking the tranquil hush between them but altering it, still gentle, still soft.
Yoongi blinks and tilts his head to the side, considering. It isn't always like this. There isn't always this contentment. There isn't always this desire to just stay in the moment, for a little while, to slow the ticking of the world long enough to breathe in deeply, the salt and the pine and the remnants of a lullaby. He feels restless most of the time. The pull of the tides, a list of chores to accomplish, repairs to complete, patrols to evade. He realizes the agitation has faded, for a time, his shoulders eased from a pressure he hasn't acknowledged. "It's usually calm," he answers thoughtfully. "But not always peaceful."
"Why don't you tell me a story?" Seokjin suggests after a pause, tilting his head and smiling encouragingly.
Yoongi blinks, his eyes stinging at the glow of Seokjin's smile. Seokjin waits expectantly and Yoongi snaps out of his daze, realizing Seokjin is waiting for him to say something. "I don't have any stories," he answers finally.
Seokjin shakes his head, dissatisfied. "Everyone has a story. I'll help. Start from the beginning. Where were you born?"
Yoongi snorts. "You want to know my birth?"
"Mm! What year were you born?"
Yoongi's lips twitch into a wry smile. "I was born outside of time," he says, repeating Bonghee's words from long ago.
Seokjin's eyes spark with interest. "See, you have a story. Go on."
Yoongi shifts to stare up at the sky and starts to talk. About Daegu and the orphanage he grew up in. About his travels and the people he met in passing, their oddities, their quirks. About the burdens he carried and the ones he let go. He keeps his voice low, his intonations gentle, trying to lull whatever troubles Seokjin's mind away. It must work, because before he even has to wind the lens clockwork again, Seokjin's head drops to Yoongi's shoulder, eyes closed and breathing soft.
With great reluctance, Yoongi eases Seokjin off his shoulder, gently laying him down as he stands. The weight of the clockwork gears has almost reached the bottom of the lighthouse and the lantern lens will stop turning. As much as he would like to stay, staring up at the stars while Seokjin sleeps on his shoulder, he knows his duty. And the lantern has never known a night where it has stopped, not since Yoongi was given the lighthouse.
The tides and time and his light guiding sailors in the darkness, those are the only three constants in Yoongi's life. If one of them ceases, he's not certain if the others will continue.
He has a brief thought of bringing Seokjin back inside now that he's fallen asleep, but he dismisses it quickly. Yoongi isn't certain he could do it without jostling Seokjin awake again. Instead, he stakes his post on the gallery, seated on the cool hardwood, legs dangling through the railing while Seokjin lies sleeping on the blanket beside him.
It's not always like this, he thinks. It's not always this peaceful.
Seokjin isn't always here like this.
The night passes quickly, Yoongi winding the lens clockwork periodically, careful not to disturb Seokjin. The morning breaks, the sun not quite over the edge of the horizon yet but climbing, brightening the sky to hues of pink and yellow and blue. And all those feelings of calm and peace flee, vanishing like wisps of smoke in the wind. Because right in front of his eyes, no tricks of light deceiving him with a play of shadows, his visitor Seokjin disappears, gone like he never existed.
A ghost in the lighthouse.
Yoongi stares at the pile of blankets beside him, where Seokjin once lay, his mind a jumbled mess of uneasy alarm, of hauntings and impossibilities. And when his eyes finally turn back to the sea, his mind draws up Bonghee's words again. "The sea understands the tides, Yoongi. It takes only what it will return."
Yoongi stands, breath leaving his lungs rapidly as he stares out to the horizon.
The tide is out.
Chapter 3: Occult Part 1
I'm just so so so sorry about how long it's been to update this. :(
Occult (lighthouse): A light characteristic in which the period of light is significantly longer than the period of darkness.
There is nothing physically wrong about Seokjin. He knows this, but he has it confirmed by a doctor in Yeosu. He went to the city as quickly as he could when he woke up in the lighthouse. Again.
The doctor tells him irregular sleeping patterns, paired with strong alcohol, has been known to prompt sleepwalking in adults. He's prescribed sleeping pills and told to stay away from alcohol for a bit.
But it's not just sleepwalking. Seokjin knew that the moment he started back home from the lighthouse and glanced down at the pants he was wearing, dull grey and a style so outdated he thought they looked like the ones found in history textbooks or museums. Sleepwalking can possibly explain how he got to the lighthouse. He finds it difficult to believe he would change his clothing. He doesn't even know where they came from. And more disturbingly, he cannot find the jeans he had been wearing.
No. This isn't something physically wrong. This is something supernatural.
He supposes he should be surprised that he isn't terrified, packing up the cottage and leaving the island for good. More than frightened, he's frustrated that he can't remember, that he knows, somehow he knows he's forgetting something.
He calls Jimin from the grocery store, phone nestled between his shoulder and his ear as he holds up two packages of meat for comparison. If he's going to investigate paranormal activity, he's going to do it after he's eaten good, Korean beef.
"How many pages?" Jimin asks as soon as the preliminary greetings are over.
Seokjin puffs out his cheeks, trying to stall. The cuteness apparently does not translate well over the phone.
"How many pages, hyung?" Jimin repeats more forcefully, his voice deepening into that sharp, hard range where he's on the verge of terrifying.
"Twenty-three really good pages," Seokjin answers, embellishing only a little. It's more like nineteen and a half but exaggeration is expected, he reasons.
"You've been there for three weeks-"
"Two and a half," Seokjin corrects.
"What the hell have you been doing with your time?" Jimin asks, exasperated.
Seokjin sighs and tosses both packages of meat into his basket. "That's what I'm going to figure out."
"What does that even mean?"
"If I die, I want Namjoonie to write my obituary," Seokjin continues, perhaps a bit dramatically. He knows he won't die. The protagonist in the horror film never dies.
"If you die, it will be because I killed you," Jimin grits out. "Three weeks, hyung! I want a first draft in three weeks when I get down there."
"That's unreasonable," Seokjin starts, then stops in the middle of the aisle. "What do you mean, get down here?"
"You think you're off the hook for a full summer? I'll be down for a visit and to read something that somehow resembles a first draft."
Jimin hangs up and Seokjin sighs. There's no way he's getting a first draft done in time but at the moment, it isn't his highest concern.
He has a plan to unravel the mystery of the lighthouse.
Once at the mainland, he drags his boat far enough on shore that it will not be taken with the changing tide, and sets out to the only Kang residence he know.
Bonghee's house is on the outskirts of the village, in a large grouping of similar one-storey dwellings that the fishermen used to call home. With time and hardships, however, most have moved on to Busan to find work, like Bonghee's husband last summer. Yoongi wonders sometimes how long until Bonghee follows, finally leaving the coast she's known all her life.
It's quiet as he approaches, a strange and rate phenomenon. Even with most of the neighbours gone, Sookja makes enough noise to fill the space.
"Noona?" he calls out, glancing around, expecting Sookja to come out of a hidden spot and attempt to scare him. "Bonghee-noona."
He stops in front of the Kang house, an unimposing L-shaped joining of two rectangles with a bark roof and a pile of fire wood gathered near the door. There are large pots of different concoctions lined by the side of the house leading to where he knows Bonghee tends a moderate garden, and her prized cherry tree.
"Noona!" he calls again. This time he hears a rustling and Bonghee appears from around the back of the house.
She has her long hair tied back into a braid and has replaced her usual hanbok with her husband's old clothes, baggy and rolled up at her ankles and wrists. There's dirt smudged on her hands and clothes, the hair at her forehead frizzing from a mixture of sweat and heat. She rubs her hands on her sides, eyes widening in surprise. "Yoongi? What are you doing here?"
"I have some questions I think you can answer," he says.
She laughs, confused. "Questions that can't wait five more days?"
He nods and glances around again. "Where's Sookja?"
"She's playing with her friends by the beach," Bonghee replies, making a face. "Before finishing her chores. The brat."
Yoongi snorts. That doesn't surprise him much.
Bonghee moves to sit on the porch, grabbing a basket of taro root and placing it in front of her to start peeling. "Well, sit down, grab a knife," she tells Yoongi, gesturing to the extra knife and basket full of taro root beside her.
Yoongi readily complies, already used to the routine. It is the only payment Bonghee will take for anything to do with her otherworldly knowledge, refusing money or goods. "It is not for sale," she had told Yoongi. "It is a gift. Given to me to give to others."
Bonghee hooks a knee up and rests one of her elbows on it. "What is this question of yours that couldn't wait a few days?"
Yoongi frowns, picking up a taro root, bark rough against his grip. "I think I'm haunted."
Bonghee tosses a peeled root into the empty basket halfway between her and Yoongi. "That isn't a question."
Yoongi sighs, carefully peeling the bark off a root. "Am I haunted?" he revises.
Bonghee glances up at him, her eyes still and piercing, seeking. Yoongi straightens his spine under her gaze, feeling as if she's looking through him. Finally, she looks away and continues her task. "You're not."
Yoongi frowns. "I saw an apparition," he says.
"The gift from the sea?" Bonghee supplies, smiling in amusement.
Yoongi stares down at his basket, fingers stilling in their occupation. That doesn't seem quite right. Seokjin seems more heavenly than a gift from the waters. "Can the sea give you a gift from the sky?" he asks without thinking, the words slipping though his lips before he can call them back and swallow them down.
"The sea can give anything it finds, earthly or heavenly. Many things are lost in its depths," Bonghee muses. She glances back to Yoongi. "Why don't you start from the beginning so I can understand."
Yoongi recounts the strange circumstances to Bonghee, finding Seokjin in the middle of the night, his odd questions, the way Seokjin seems even more like a star now that he's saying everything out loud. Bonghee's eyebrows arch when Yoongi mentions the bright glow of Seokjin's eyes, like the detail is unnecessary, like he's said something that revealed more about his own feelings than he knows or recognizes yet. She remains silent, however, so Yoongi continues. It isn't until Yoongi explains how Seokjin didn't know what year it is that Bonghee's hands stop peeling and her eyes flash with realization.
He stops, frowning, and waits for whatever revelation Bonghee is forming behind her pursed lips.
Bonghee carefully pushes her basket to the side and shifts closer, leaning in to ask, "What did you say this man's name was?"
"Kim Seokjin," Yoongi answers, a nervous anticipation in his chest as Bonghee's eyes shift, thinking.
Before she can answer, they are interrupted by a loud, excited, piercing scream that Yoongi knows can only originate from Sookja.
"Uncle!" she yells as she bunches up her skirt in one hand and sprints toward them. She reaches Yoongi in the blink of an eye and starts to tug enthusiastically at his arm, trying to drag him up. "Uncle, I want to show you the bunnies!"
Yoongi's lips quirk into a smile. Sookja has been telling him stories of a family of rabbits she found, making him promise to come see them one day. He turns his gaze back to Bonghee, resisting Sookja's valiant attempt to overpower him. He still wants his answer.
Bonghee has shifted back, basket in front of her again, and that all-knowing spark in her eyes clouded, veiled as she buries it away.
"Noona?" he prompts, but disappointment sits at the back of his throat. Whatever she was going to say has vanished and he knows he will not get the answer he sought.
"What do you think is more powerful?" she asks, retrieving her knife and peeling again. Her voice is philosophical, abstract, a guise of idle thoughts to trick Yoongi, to make him think her words mean less than they do. "The tides, or time?"
Yoongi frowns, but Sookja is using her entire body weight to haul him up and he finally relents, standing. "I don't know."
Bonghee shrugs. "Neither do I." She throws a root into her basket and flicks her eyes back to Yoongi. "We'll just have to wait and see."
"Uncle, come on!" Sookja whines, tugging Yoongi away as he tries to decide which would be better. The tides that give and take in oscillation, or time, steady and constant and always moving forward.
His eyes flicker over the kitchen table in the cottage, stacked with maps and go-pro cameras and several power banks, all newly purchased from his daytrip. IT feels like he's being stubborn.
If he's being honest and objective with himself, an impartial reader flipping through the book of his life, he would be yelling in frustration at himself, the protagonist with questionable decision-making skills. He's willingly throwing himself into danger, into something he knows isn't exactly natural, without a safety net of any kind. It's stupid. He should just dump the moonshine down the drain, pack his bags, and go back to his tiny apartment in Seoul.
But if the protagonist leaves halfway through, there's no story to tell. And maybe that's been the problem all along, the reason for his block, the motivations behind Namjoon's advice to get away. Seokjin has been holed up in his teeny apartment, at his agent's, at his editor's, doing promotional shoots, all for far too long. He's been locked away writing about life and forgot to live it. He had no more stories to tell because he stopped living them. His world became small and stale and stagnant.
If he goes back to Seoul now, to his empty apartment and the empty sky, devoid of stars as city lights drown them out, he knows nothing will change. He needs something to change, so maybe he's being a little stubborn.
He unboxes the camera equipment, and finds every available outlet in the cottage to change them. While he waits, he makes dinner, and cleans the house, trying to decipher if the anticipation in his stomach is nervous or excited. He decides it's a healthy combination of both, the balance of danger and adventure.
The light of the day is waning by the time the cameras reach full battery, but sunset is still a few hours away. It's enough time for Seokjin's plan.
He takes two of the go-pro cameras he just maxed his credit card on and drives to the lighthouse. He climbs the steps that are becoming familiar to him now, the dust thinned and displaced, patchy where his feet have landed until he cannot distinguish the individual prints.
The dust coating the floor in the rooms is more intact, disturbed only briefly in his explorations. He stalls in the room with the window facing the sea. This is where he woke up the first time, the outline of his sleeping form still etched into the dust – stretched out on his back, one knee bent and leg extending out. The ghost of last week.
It occurs to Seokjin that he leaves similar traces of himself everywhere he goes, footprints in the beach, items in the market rearranged. There's an impact he leaves with every breath, they just aren't as visually apparent, no isolated, dusty lighthouse to take the impressions and frame them.
He fiddles with the camera, trying to decide where to set it up. He wants to capture the moment he enters the lighthouse, but he's woken up in a different location both times. Logically, he should put the camera at the base by the entrance doors, but logically there should have been a set of footprints leading up the steps from the first time. Nothing about this makes any sense.
He settles for placing the camera by the thin vertical pole that runs through the tower, facing it toward the window. At least inside here, it will be protected even if the clouds on the horizon roll in, bringing rain and wind with them. He sets the camera on the time lapse option. It should give him about twenty-four hours of footage. As far as he can tell, he's only been out for around eight hours before.
He keeps his car parked near the lighthouse when he leaves, opting to walk now rather than when he wakes up. He doesn't think much about the stark certainty he has that he will end up here again. The tides ebb and flow, time ticks forward, and he will always end up back at the lighthouse.
The sun sets as he reaches home, flaming yellow and cherry red, a fire in the clouds, shadowed splotches of bleeding ink spreading its reach, slowly swallowing the colors like ash in the aftermath.
He assembles his living room with everything he might need. The other go-pro camera, set to night vision just in case, placed within reaching distance. His phone in the pocket of his sweatpants, fully charged and ready to go. He's wearing his most comfortable sneakers and a light jacket in case he ends up outside somewhere in the night. And, of course, the star of this panoply, the bottle of moonshine and a clear glass, facing him on the living room floor, looking as if they were innocent, inanimate objects.
Before the anticipation in his stomach turns more nervous than excited, he reaches forward and pours himself a glass. The first time he drank, it held a balance of sweet and tart, cherry vivid on his tongue. The second time, it had been sweeter, the tart cherry more muted. He wonders if his palate is changing or if the wine's taste changes the longer it is exposed to oxygen. It's honey sweet now, the cherry not even an undertone, vanished, overpowered. There is no sourness on his tongue, just sugar and a vague hint of flowers.
He doesn't know how long it took him last time to blackout. Time stretched and condensed in odd ways, impossible to judge. He remembers nodding off and catching himself. He remembers nodding off again and the next thing he knows, he was on the gallery of the lighthouse. He finishes his drink but he doesn't feel any different. He's not sleep, his vision isn't blurring.
He takes a second glass of moonshine, just in case. And then another because the taste is addicting. He finally sets his glass upside-down when the bottle is one-third empty, cutting himself off. No need to get drunk.
He fidgets as he waits. Picking up his camera to adjust the settings, retying his laces, slipping his cell phone out of his pocket to check the time. His thumb presses the home screen, his phone lights up, and there's a sudden pounding pressure in his head. He squeezes his eyes shut and dips his head down against the pain. His phone drops from his hold and he takes three progressively longer breaths until the headache eases away as if it never happened.
He notices the breeze first, ticking his fringe against his forehead.
His eyes snap open, lungs faltering in their constant expand-constrict exercises to an abrupt stop and he remembers.
1933. Min Yoongi. The sea in the sky with its currents of stars.
He stands, spinning around. It makes so much sense, he thinks. That is his tree, and this is his beach. Just eighty-or-so years ago.
He's time-travelling, with the help of magical moonshine of questionable origins. This is probably the coolest thing he's ever done.
Seokjin glances around, taking in the surroundings. Where the cottage will one day reside, there is only tall wild grass, untamed and bending with the breeze. The tree he can see from the front door of the cottage is smaller, thinner, it's span shortened. He cannot make out too many details in the dark. The moon is waving and clouds drift over it, shielding and revealing in oscillation. He hopes he will stay long enough for the sun to rise, long enough to see the world of yesterday in the light of day.
He looks to the only bright light in the darkness, the steadily turning beam of the lighthouse, and sighs as he realizes he has to walk the length of the island again. At least he dressed appropriately.
He starts toward the now familiar path to the lighthouse, but pauses when he hears a clank and a muttered curse. He turns, squinting his eyes back to the beach, trying to make sense of the dull, shadowed forms the sparse moonlight reveals.
"Hyungnim! I think I broke my toe!" someone complains petulantly, his voice carried by the night air. There's a pause and presumably the man has a companion who speaks quietly because the man continues, indignant, "I really did!"
Seokjin steps toward the voice, treading carefully along the grass until the vague outlines become the silhouettes of two men. "Excuse me?" he says when he's close enough.
The two figures freeze, glancing toward him.
Seokjin smiles and hopes it looks friendly in the patchy moonlight. "Hi," he starts again.
"Who are you?" one of them asks, his voice unfamiliar and Seokjin assumes this is the quiet companion.
"My name is Kim Seokjin. I'm trying to get to the lighthouse-"
"Grab him," the quiet man says, hitting the loud man's arm.
Seokjin's eyes widen. "What?"
"What?" the loud man repeats, just as alarmed.
"He's Choi's spy," the quiet man says.
Seokjin starts backing away but it's too late. The quiet man takes four giant steps and easily apprehends him, securing Seokjin's hands behind his back. It's clear from this close distance and the strength of his grip that the man will not be letting Seokjin escape easily.
"Go forward," he says to Seokjin, pushing him towards a small enclave. Seokjin's eyes widen as he recognizes the hidden room in the ground where Mrs. Kang keeps her magic moonshine.
"You're the smugglers," he breaths, and that probably wasn't a smart move but he's only here because he drank sketchy alcohol and approached strangers in a strange land. Nothing about this entire endeavour has been smart.
"He knows!" the loud man says. "We have to kill him."
"Shut up. We're not going to kill him," the other says, already sounding exasperated.
They guide Seokjin down the steps and place him on the ground, trying his hands securely behind him.
Seokjin searches his head for a way out. Maybe if he falls asleep, he'll go back to his time. That seems to be the trigger.
"I've never killed anyone before," the loud man continues, completely ignoring his companion.
"You don't have to kill me. I haven't seen your faces," Seokjin says, placating, but the room flares to light as the loud man strikes a match and lights a lantern just as Seokjin speaks.
The loud man makes a sheepish face and glances between Seokjin and his companion. "Oh. Guess I shouldn't have lit the lantern."
The companion sighs heavily and rubs his temple. "You're an idiot."
"Hyungnim, that's cruel."
Seokjin blinks rapidly as his eyes adjust to the faint lighting, taking in his surroundings. The two men are both broad and muscled, the skin of their faces sun and salt weathered, presumably from a life spent at sea. They're both older than him, mid-forties from what Seokjin can tell.
The room is almost exactly the same as he remembers it with Mrs. Kang and her granddaughter. Except the shelves are newer and lined with other items besides varying shades of pink moonshine. There is an odd sense of comfort that washes over him when he spots a crate of the moonshine a few feet away, as if confirming that the room exists only to house the wine.
He hears the loud man say something about burying a body and turns his attention back to the smugglers. "Look, I'm not a spy," he says, imploring. "Do you know Min Yoongi? He can vouch for me."
The loud one sniffs. "Of course we know Min Yoongi. We're on his property."
The quiet one hits the other hard in the stomach, making him double over, groaning in pain. "Shut up, idiot."
"Hyungnim!" the other complains, clutching his midsection, still bent over. "Uncalled for!"
"How do you know Min Yoongi?" the quiet man asks, eyes narrowing.
"If you take me to the lighthouse, he'll tell you I'm not a spy," Seokjin says in his most convincing voice. He moves to get up but the man stops him with a pointed finger.
"You, stay." He turns to his companion. "You, go get Yoongi."
The loud one scoffs. "Yeah, sure."
His companion slaps the back of his head. "Now."
"Yoongi will kill me if I go anywhere near the lighthouse."
"I'll kill you if you don't."
The loud man makes a defiant face, tilting his chin up. "Why don't you go and I stay?"
"Because you'll murder our guest." He pushes the other up the stairs. "Go. And be quick, we can't be here when the sun rises."
"I hate you, hyungnim," the loud one yells even as he ascends, disappearing out of sight.
The quiet one doesn't react, just settles in a corner to sit comfortably, crossing his arms over his chest.
Seokjin wiggles his feet, tapping them together, the initial excitement of time travelling and kidnapping settling down. He probably should be worried, but he has an immovable trust in Yoongi. He's met him all of two times, but somehow Seokjin knows, he can rely on him.
He glances to the smuggler, tilting his head. "Want to hear a joke?" he asks, hoping to pass the time pleasantly while they wait.
He takes the other's silence as a yes.
And once the visitor reaches the watch room, withering in physical agony, they're going to regret their journey even more as Yoongi terrifies their very life force out of them. There is absolutely no one who should be here, at this time of night, bounding up the steps like a ghost is chasing them.
His eyes flicker to the gallery, to the very spot where he watched Seokjin disappear into thin air. He frowns. Maybe a ghost is chasing them. Or a gasin. Possibly a dokkaebi. Yoongi tilts his head in thought. No, Seokjin seems more like a heavenly fairy descended to earth, a star fallen from the sky.
The pounding on the stairs has stopped, groans of pain and heavy, slow thumps replacing the sounds of haste. Yoongi arches a brow again. His visitor has entered their first stage of regret.
Yoongi had planned to greet his guest while standing, stance wide, arms crossed over his chest, looming over the stairwell in a show of intimidation. But he waits and waits and eventually tires, taking a chair and tipping it back in a cooler show of intimidation.
It seems to take forever, and Yoongi is starting to wonder if he'll have to wind the lantern weight before he sees any sign of the intruder. But, finally, a dark shadow appears in the stairwell, trudging painfully up until Gwangok's head becomes visible. He clings desperately to the railing as if it is the only thing holding him upright. Yoongi tilts his head, eyes flickering over Gwangok. Semi-upright, Yoongi corrects himself, Gwangok's form hunched and curled into itself.
He makes loud, whining, pained noises, huffs and pants and vivid curses, and comes to a stop, gulping in breath as he looks up at Yoongi from six steps below the landing. "Hey, Yoongi," he wheezes, weakly lifting a hand to wave.
Yoongi scowls. "What are you doing here?" he demands, fighting off his agitation. "You aren't supposed to come to the lighthouse, that was the deal."
Gwangok huffs, gulping in air and slowly lowers himself to sit on one of the steps. "Was an emergency," he says, groaning. "Why is this place so tall? It's unnatural to be this high."
Yoongi tips his chair forward to the floor, sliding out of the seat as soon as he is upright. "I don't care if you're on fire, you don't come here."
Gwangok makes a disgusted face. "Why would I climb three thousand steps if I was on fire when the sea is right there?" he grouses, exaggerating.
Yoongi breathes out slowly through his nose. "Choi's men are watching, do you understand this could compromise us?"
"That!" Gwangok says loudly, pointing at Yoongi, almost triumphant. "That's is why I'm here."
Yoongi blinks, his frown deepening. He takes five steps down the stairwell and crouches, still on stair above Gwangok. "What do you mean?" he asks slowly, mind rapidly trying to make contingency planes with his very limited knowledge. He has a small boat, he can escape to the mainland at least. He has no where to go, but that's nothing new to him. He's never had a place to go.
"We caught a spy when we were loading," Gwangok says, smiling smugly.
"You what?" Panic temporarily arrests Yoongi's ability to think, stuck in a loop of this is bad.
"Hyungnim wanted to kill him, but I said no, no. Let's be merciful." Gwangok grins and cocks his head to the side. "We've got him tied up in the hidden room. Hyungnim is keeping guard."
Yoongi runs a hand over his face and up through his hair, eyes shifting quickly, trying to think his way out of this. "Did you tell him about me?"
Gwangok rolls his eyes. "No! Of course not," he nearly shouts defensively. Yoongi narrows his eyes and stares at him. Gwangok shifts his gaze to avoid Yoongi and says reluctantly, "The guy already knew who you were, so it may have come up in conversation that we were on your property."
Yoongi hangs his head heavily and groans. "Fuck."
"Do we have to kill him?" Gwangok asks.
"No," Yoongi answers quickly, head coming back up to glare at Gwangok. "Did you grab his name?" Maybe it's a local that can be easily persuaded to forget with the help of a heavy purse.
Gwangok sniffs loudly. "He said his name is Kim Seokjin."
Yoongi's eyes widen and blood rushes from his head to the tips of his limbs, fingers and toes tingling. He stands before he's even thought it, blood rushing through his veins faster than his mind can think. He bolts down the stairs, barely registering Gwangok's loud protests.
He's dizzy as he reaches the base of the lighthouse and steps outside. He doesn't know if it's from his spiralling, rushing descent or because his blood still tingles at the tips of his fingers. His heart beats too fast, and this he knows has less to do with the physical exertion and more to do with excitement.
He should be wary of whatever Seokjin is, the disappearing stranger, a dangerous unknown. But the sea is also vast and perilous, with hidden depths and deceiving currents. And he is a light keeper, the sole inhabitant of the lighthouse, standing to face the sea in respect, in awe, in mutual understanding. The juxtaposition of refuge and peril. Danger is not to be feared. Danger is to be acknowledged and faced, with caution, but without hesitation.
He grabs his bicycle from its spot leaning on the wall of the lighthouse and takes off, building momentum as he rides down the slope of the hill. He pedals fast, breezing over a familiar path despite the blanketing darkness. His mind is only concerned with its goal - the north shore, and the returning tide.
He reaches his plot of land quickly and sets his bicycle flat on the ground amongst the tall wild grass. He walks carefully to where he knows the hidden room lies under the earth, mindful of uneven dirt and sudden jutting rocks. The moon gives only the barest light, covered in thick, shifting clouds, and he purposely leaves this area untended to obscure the opening to the hidden room.
There's a weak flicker of light from the opening in the ground, a lantern illumination the steps down into the space. Yoongi pauses, eyes widening in equal parts shock and fear at the sound overlaying the crash of the waves and the rustle of wind in the grass. It is a sound he has never heard, and its strangeness alarms him. Coming from the enclave is the deep, rumbling sound of Sang laughing.
Yoongi slowly steps down the stairs, brow furrowed as he sees Sang wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. He flicks his gaze to Seokjin, sitting with his legs extended in front of him, tapping his feet together. He's laughing as well, open-mouthed, eyes crinkled, but the expression softens into something like delight and fondness when he notices Yoongi.
Seokjin raises a hand and waves. "Hi."
Sang sobers when he sees Yoongi, face hard and stern once more. Yoongi wants to tease him but his eyes and his mind and possibly his heart keep focusing back on Seokjin, here, returned with the tides.
"Yoongi, this fellow says he knows you," Sang says.
"I know him," Yoongi confirms, his voice distant in his own ears, eyes unwavering on Seokjin. "He's my cousin," Yoongi says, grasping for a believable story. He isn't sure why, exactly, he wants to shield Seokjin from suspicion, but he feels compelled to do so.
"From Seoul," Seokjin supplies helpfully. "My mother is his mother's sister."
"He's visiting for the summer," Yoongi adds.
"I got lost so I ended up here." Seokjin smiles at Sang. "Sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt your smuggling." He laughs a little, amused.
Sang looks unsure if he should believe them, but Yoongi just gestures to Seokjin. "Come on, Jin," he says, creating a nickname to appear close to Seokjin. "I'll give you a ride back to the lighthouse."
Seokjin grins and stands, brushing dirt off his pants. Pants, Yoongi notes, that do not have any holes in them. He's weirdly disappointed.
"Sorry to bother you, Yoongi," Sang says as Seokjin climbs the stairs.
Yoongi shakes his head. "It's fine. But you should hurry. Choi's patrols are out tonight. If you stay too long, you'll be caught."
Sang nods. "We'll be out as soon as Gwangok gets back." He pauses and flicks his eyes up the stairs. "Where is Gwangok?"
Yoongi clears his throat and turns around to start up the stairs, feeling slightly sheepish only now for abandoning Gwangok at the lighthouse in his haste. "He's coming," he says, thumping up the steps into the night air again.
Seokjin is glancing around with his hands clasped behind his back, spinning on his heel to make a full circle. His eyes are scanning, fascinated, mouth parted in awe. Yoongi frowns, not sure what about this dull plot of land captivates Seokjin so much.
Yoongi bends, picking his bicycle up from the ground and calls over to Seokjin. "Seokjin." He waits for Seokjin's eyes to fall back to him, still mesmerized, shining even in the pale light from the moon behind shifting clouds. Yoongi licks his lips. "Hop on," he says, climbing onto his bicycle and waiting for Seokjin.
He hears the rustle of Seokjin's feet as he approaches, he sees the blurred, vague outline of his shadow as he comes to a stop behind Yoongi, but Yoongi stares straight ahead, resolutely nonchalant. It isn't until Seokjin climbs on behind Yoongi, hands arms coming around to hold his stomach, that Yoongi's fingers clench tightly to his handle bars, his blank exterior threatening to crack.
"Ready?" he asks, resisting the urge to glance over his shoulder at Seokjin. Seokjin's chest hovers lightly against Yoongi's back, his arms snug against Yoongi's waist, and somehow it just feels right, like he had been missing this nearness for the past few weeks.
"I'm ready," Seokjin says quietly, voice rustling past Yoongi's ears, pinpricks of sensation traveling unbidden down Yoongi's spine.
Yoongi bites his lower lip and pushes forward, trekking back onto the path towards the lighthouse. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore fades as they head further south, more inland than shoreline, but the buzzing in Yoongi's head remains. A hundred questions forming and melting and reforming, fragmented, amorphous. What happened? Who are you? Why are you here?
And still, the only one that has any sort of clarity, the only question that clings and spins in Yoongi's mind again and again. How long will you stay?
"Are you going to ask me what happened?" Seokjin finally says, voice breaking through the deafening crackle in Yoongi's head.
"Do you want to tell me?" Yoongi asks. The only sound for a moment is the rustle of the dirt against the press of Yoongi's bicycle wheels, the rush of a gust of wind, and then Seokjin's low hum.
"It's hard to explain, but yeah. I think I'd like to."
"Not here," Yoongi says quickly, glancing around. He doesn't think anyone is up, let alone listening to them, but he is cautious. Choi's men are everywhere and their voices carry far in the still air. "Wait until we get to the lighthouse."
Seokjin hums again in agreement, and Yoongi can feel him relax, chest leaning further against Yoongi's back.
"Just," Yoongi starts, feels Seokjin shift.
Yoongi purses his lips. "You're not a Dokkaebi, are you? Because if you are, I have to tell you, my biggest fear is money. Lots and lots of money."
Seokjin bursts out into laughter behind him, vibrating, hiccupping, and Yoongi smiles, stupidly proud. "I am not," Seokjin manages to say in between laughs.
Yoongi sighs. "Too bad."
Seokjin laughs again and Yoongi sits a little straighter, chest puffed up, a smug tilt to his lips.
The journey back to the lighthouse feels shorter than usual. Before long, Yoongi comes to a stop at the base of the tower and Seokjin's hands around Yoongi's stomach unclasp. For a moment, Yoongi realizes how chilled the night air is against his skin, Seokjin's warmth removed.
He frowns at himself and leans the bicycle in its place against the lighthouse. "Let's-" he starts, but stops as his eyes catch sight of Seokjin waiting patiently by the entrance door, arm extended and fingers splayed. He blinks, eyes still stuck on Seokjin's hand as he wiggles his fingers.
"Hand," Seokjin prompts and when Yoongi's eyes finally trail up to Seokjin's face, he can see an amused expectancy in the set of his features. He waits, hand outstretched, until finally Yoongi reaches forward, clasping their hands together, slotting like two puzzle pieces. A perfect fit.
Gwangok left sometime while Yoongi was gone. Every floor is empty, all the way to the watch room, and Yoongi breathes a sigh of relief. He doesn't have the energy to fabricate a story that would satisfy Gwangok's level of curiosity.
They settle in the watch room, the light from the lighthouse lantern casting illumination into the small space, scattering deep shadows on the wood floor. Yoongi offers Seokjin the sole chair but he declines, opting to sit cross-legged on a blanket he lays out. Yoongi hesitates for one moment before he forgoes the chair and joins Seokjin on the blanket, facing him.
Seokjin's foot shakes nervously even as he smiles calmly, beguiling Yoongi with a sense of tranquility. "So," he starts, trailing off.
Yoongi raises his eyebrows and repeats, more firmly, "So."
Seokjin nods, fingers now tapping nervously along with his foot. "So."
Yoongi blinks, waits.
"This is going to sound very strange and unbelievable."
Yoongi's lips twitch into a smile. "Seokjin," he says, recapturing Seokjin's wandering gaze. "I watched you disappear into thin air with my own eyes. I'll believe anything you tell me."
Seokjin's foot stop tapping and his shoulders loosen, relax, his smile brightening in relief. Yoongi's fingers and toes tingle again, like Seokjin's smile is some kind of magic, or poison. At this point, Yoongi doesn't think it matters which one it is. Seokjin leans forward, unaware or unconcerned about the blood circulating strangely through Yoongi's extremities and says carefully, "I'm time travelling."
Yoongi stares, mind blanking.
"You said last time it's 1933." Seokjin points to himself. "I come from 2018."
Yoongi's lips move, mouthing 2018, the numbers strange, alien in their order. He furrows his brow. "How?"
Seokjin shuffles forward slightly, inching closer to Yoongi on the blanket, excited. "There's this cherry win," Seokjin continues and Yoongi jolts slightly, mind immediately flashing to Bonghee's moonshine. "Whenever I drink it, I end up here." He gestures around the room.
Bonghee's words crash like waves in Yoongi's remembrance.
"The sea understands the tides, Yoongi. It takes only what it will return."
"What do you think is more powerful? The tides, or time?"
He suddenly has a strong desire to know which is stronger.
"You don't believe me," Seokjin says, frowning at Yoongi's silence.
Yoongi flicks his gaze back to Seokjin, mouth parting in surprise. He shakes his head. "No, no, I do believe you. That's the problem." He sighs. "What will you do? All your friends, your family will be worried." Seokjin doesn't belong here, he's known it from the beginning. Seokjin could never belong here and his ridiculous imaginations won't do anything but disappoint him in the end.
Time. Time rules the tides, after all.
Seokjin smiles, relieved, and waves his hand in dismissal of Yoongi's concerns. "I go back to my time as soon as I fall asleep. That's why you can't let me sleep tonight," he adds sternly. "I want to explore the island tomorrow in the daylight."
Yoongi wonders how long Seokjin will stay with him. Twelve hours. Eighteen. Twenty if luck is with them. It's more than he should have, however short. Time separates them and the tides, in their mischievous rebellion, has broken the barrier for a moment.
"I can take you around," Yoongi offers. "On my bicycle. You can see more."
Seokjin's smile softens. "That would be great."
Yoongi nods and shifts his eyes away from Seokjin. He taps his hands on his knees and purses his lips. "So. What do you want to do all night? I have to stay to tend the lantern."
"Hmm. Tell me about your life," Seokjin suggests.
Yoongi snorts. "You fell asleep last time I did that."
Seokjin makes a face, apologetic. "Sorry, my bad. I'll listen more attentively this time." He straightens his posture and focuses his eyes on Yoongi, rapt.
Yoongi laughs. "How about you tell me about you this time?"
Seokjin frowns. "I don't really do much of anything. That's why I write." He brightens and settles back comfortably against the wall. "I'll tell you the story of my first published novel."
Yoongi hums in agreement, satisfied with the arrangement, and leans back to listen to Seokjin and the constant lap of waves pulsing in the backdrop.
Seokjin wonders, sometime when the sun rays start to break over the horizon, how it is that he's had trouble sleeping for weeks, but Yoongi's presence seems to lull him. Like the air around Yoongi brings stillness. It's not that Seokjin's thoughts disappear, but they halt, fading, his mind resting finally for a moment. Time suspends with Yoongi, which is almost too fitting in Seokjin's opinion. Maybe it's his superpower, Yoongi's hidden talent. He was born outside of time, he had said. Maybe Seokjin can exist outside time with him, for a little bit.
Before they head out for the day, Yoongi hands Seokjin a neatly folded stack of clothes. "You should change," he says when Seokjin eyes him questioningly. "There aren't many people on the island but there are some. Your outfit is...." He pauses eyes flickering down Seokjin's form.
Seokjin arches his brows, waiting.
"Strange," Yoongi finally finishes, glancing back to Seokjin's eyes. His lips quirk and he tilts his head. "But at least there are no holes this time."
Seokjin looks down at the Mario characters on his hoodie and nods. That's fair, he thinks, and suddenly wishes he could look up when Mario was created. His hand reaches for his phone out of habit, eyes widening when he feels his empty pocket. He had been holding it and then....
He focuses on the memory. It's in the field. He draws in a sharp breath. He doesn't know much about time travel but there is one consistency in all the films he's seen about it - never leave a trace of the future in the past. He needs to get his phone back.
"I'll, ah, I'll change right now," Seokjin says and Yoongi nods, heading down the stairwell.
"I'll meet you at the bottom," Yoongi calls, feet thumping rhythmically on the steps.
Seokjin changes quickly, folding his discarded clothes up neatly and placing them on the only chair in the room before he bounds down the stairs. It's amazing what a little daylight can do, he realizes. Each level of the lighthouse is fitted with a small window, too minuscule to catch the light from the moon but wide enough to brighten the winding stairwell with sunlight. It looks a lot like the lighthouse in his time. Less dusty, in much better repair, and with signs of life that can only be noted when Seokjin remembers the absence in his time. His steps slow and he frowns. He wonders when life left the lighthouse.
He presses his lips together and decides that probably isn't something he should think about. The burden of time travel is knowing not of a vague possibility, but the assured fact of the end. Seokjin hurries the rest of the way down, eager to shake off the sudden ache of sadness in his chest.
The wind has blown away most of the clouds in the night and it's clear and stunningly bright when Seokjin steps outside. A chill is in the air but the strength of the sun promises heat before too long, burning off the remnants of night. Wind kicks around him, gusts tugging at his clothes and hair in a rambunctious greeting.
Seokjin shields his eyes from the sun with a hand on his brow and spots Yoongi, waiting with his bicycle upright, hands gripping the handlebars loosely. It occurs to Seokjin that he has never seen Yoongi in the daylight before. He's only seen Yoongi in the moonlight - pale, hidden, a ghostly memory. He's only seen Yoongi in the incandesce of lantern light - deeply shadowed, and warmly golden hued. He's only seen Yoongi in the light of the lighthouse - a glow in the endless dark, the haven on the horizon with a firm hand to guide him.
In the daylight, Yoongi is striking. Shorter than Seokjin but somehow not smaller. Chest thick and arms firm with muscles visible even under the bagginess is of his clothes. His hair is a dark mop of wayward strands, locks whipped to-and-fro in the wind, jet black a sharp contrast to pale smooth skin. There's a faint dusting of red on the tip of his nose, sun-kissed, warming his complexion. Seokjin cannot make out any details of Yoongi's eyes from this distance. He can't confirm if they're as dark and deep as they seemed in the night, intelligent and absorbing, electric in their gaze.
Seokjin steps closer, compelled to know, and Yoongi notices him. His mouth stretches into a smile, teeth and gums and pale pink lips that Seokjin somehow knows taste like sugar.
Yoongi in the moonlight is enticing and Yoongi in the lantern light is a soft place to take shelter. But Yoongi in the daylight, unshadowed, illuminated, this Yoongi is dangerously endearing and attractive, an anchor that's trying to latch onto Seokjin's heart and drag him into the depths of unknown waters.
The life will eventually leave the lighthouse, Seokjin reminds himself. This is borrowed time. This is a glimpse, a book that caught him by surprise in its prose and flow, words seducing him, but the pages eventually dwindle. Attraction, interest, that precipice of I wonder must be contained and restricted.
Seokjin inhales deeply and closes the distance to Yoongi.
"Ready?" Yoongi asks.
"Ready," Seokjin confirms, and hopes it is not a sanguine lie.
He turns his attention to his surroundings, drinking in the stark contrasts to his time, and the delightfully surprising similarities. The roads are not roads, no pavement carving out paths. It is only well-worn trails, hard lines for walking and some indentations from the wheels of carts passing through. With the absence of pavement comes the absence of cars, the space void of the rumbling sounds of engines struggling to turn over, squeaking brakes in need of replacement, and the hundred other sounds of modern life that he's grown to accept as baseline. It's not quiet, though, to Seokjin's surprise. It's still loud, with the sharp win, and the call of birds, and the constant lap of water at the shore. He supposes those sounds still exist in his time, only drowned out by the heavy presence of machines and inorganic progression, masked like city lights mask the stars. A treasure forgotten in the march forward of life.
Vegetation is wild in most areas, untamed, natural growth of thick greens and spots of wildflowers. The buildings are sparse but there are some old houses in the distance. Old is subjective, Seokjin thinks. Those houses are still on the island, ancient, part of the earth, rooted. But now, in Yoongi's time, they are new, bold, seedling introduced to dig into the soil and stay.
It's all a lot less, and a lot more. A shifting of the balance, but the sum stays the same. More wild berries, less lampposts, still the same space of the round island.
Yoongi effortlessly guides them around a sharp bend and Seokjin's hands tighten over Yoongi's stomach to keep steady, his own interlaced fingers finding Yoongi soft under layers of clothes. He straightens and blinks, mind casting for a distraction from the warmth pulsing off Yoongi's back.
"So did you buy the land to smuggle, or do you smuggle because you have the land?" Seokjin starts lightly.
"I don't smuggle," Yoongi clarifies. "That's Gwangok and Sang. I'm more of a...landlord. I let them use the land, facilitate their comings and goings, and they pay me a fee." He glances over his shoulder at Seokjin. "I'm saving up."
"A home," Yoongi answers, turning back to face in front of him, large hands tightening over the handle bars.
Mrs. Kang said he had built the house, long after her uncle left. Seokjin frowns. One day the streets will be paved with tarmac, those new houses in the distance will be historical landmarks, and life will leave the lighthouse.
"What if you don't get to build your home?" Seokjin asks, staring at the curve of Yoongi's hands on the handlebars, skin tanned golden from the sun.
"I don't want to build a home," Yoongi answers. "I want to find one."
Before Seokjin can ask more, can search for clarification in the set of Yoongi's shoulders, they come to a smooth stop and Seokjin glances around. They've arrived.
It's funny how sure Seokjin is of their location when he has very few landmarks to confirm. There's only the tree that will one day be a mighty king of overarching branches, and the haphazard trail left in the tall wild grass by his slightly disoriented wandering.
He hops off the bicycle and keeps his eyes to the ground, looking for a flash of metal and plastic, hoping an animal didn't tug the phone away yesterday. Or worse, a human.
Yoongi is clearly confused at his behaviour and after a minute of futile searching, finally calls, "What are you looking for?"
Seokjin wrinkles his nose and glances at Yoongi. "It's hard to explain if you don't know what it is," he says. He holds up his hand, thumb and forefinger stretched as if holding an invisible phone. "It's this big, and black. Made of metal and glass and plastic." He pauses, blinking. "Do you have plastic yet in 1933?"
Yoongi scowls and just says, "What does it do?"
Seokjin looks back to the ground, searching. "Absolutely everything."
"That's not really descriptive," Yoongi complains.
"It's true, though," Seokjin replies.
He can hear Yoongi sighs before he says, "I'll go look by the dig out."
Seokjin makes a vague noise acknowledging him, crouching down to shift some tall grass, wondering where he could have dropped his phone. Everything had been so dark last night.
It takes a few minutes of looking and crouching and intense scrutiny, but Seokjin finally finds his phone. He grins and lets out a victorious whoop, hitting the home button. It still works but the battery is almost gone. He'll have to charge it when he gets back to his time.
He pauses, a thought shuttering in his mind, darkening. He won't remember this back home. He forgets everything from this place. Borrowed time, not stolen. He must return it when he leaves.
He unlocks the screen and pulls up his camera, hoping he has enough battery left for a video.
"It's time travel!" he says excitedly to his camera as soon as it starts recording. "The moonshine. It's 1933-"
"Seokjin, did you find it?" Yoongi shouts from across the field.
Seokjin looks over to Yoongi and smiles, nodding. "Found it!" Yoongi starts toward him again and Seokjin glances at his phone. The screen is black, buttons unresponsive. No power left. He hopes the video saved. Otherwise, present him will be convinced something ghostly and terrifying is happening, waking up a third time in a strange location when he finally returns.
"That does everything?" Yoongi asks doubtfully when he reaches Seokjin, eyeing the phone with bored disbelief.
"It dies easily, though," Seokjin says regretfully.
Yoongi's eyebrows arch and he flicks his gaze to Seokjin. "Why only have one if it dies so easily?"
Seokjin's lips tilt into an amused smile and he tips his head slightly to the side. "It comes back to life."
Yoongi's mouth opens to question Seokjin more, but Seokjin slips his arm through Yoongi's elbow and urges him back to the bicycle.
"Come on, show me around and I'll tell you everything that's changed."
Early morning shifts to afternoon, following the path of the sun, and his time with Seokjin comes to an end. Everything ends eventually, time moving forward without a hitch in its journey.
They make their way back to the lighthouse and Yoongi keeps his face carefully blank, desperate to conceal the bubblings of regret in his stomach. Not regret for anything they've done, or a wish to change any words or actions. Just regret that there will be no more, possibilities rapidly evaporating and leaving behind the residual sadness of the end.
It is late afternoon by the time Yoongi leads Seokjin back to his quarters and the cot just under the window. Seokjin doesn't want to wake up just as the night descends on him, and Yoongi's sleeping schedule is regulated to hours when the sun starts to curve away, the sun bright and strong but waning. Fatigue tugs at both their bodies, weighting their eyelids. Yoongi out of habit and Seokjin out of maxed limits.
"Thank you for everything," Seokjin says, smiling brightly, the star that dropped out of the sky to light up the lighthouse.
"It's nothing," Yoongi tells Seokjin and tries unsuccessfully to match Seokjin's smile. He is not a star, though. He only knows how to gaze at them from far, far away. He doesn't quite understand why Seokjin's departure weighs so heavily in his stomach. He's met the man all of three times. But understanding has little to do with feeling.
"Are you sure it's okay for me to take your bed?" Seokjin asks, gesturing to the cot. "I won't even be using it for long."
Yoongi shakes his head. "I've slept in worse places in the watch room. Take it." He presses his lips into a thin line, a pressure that keeps him grounded. "Goodbye, Seokjin."
Seokjin smiles, and perhaps he means to say something, but Yoongi is already moving to the stairwell to climb to the watch room. Forward, just like time.
One of Yoongi's talents is the ability to sleep anywhere, at any time, and he uses it to great effect now. He spreads out the blanket from last night and cocoons under another, a quilt worn thin with years of use. He closes his eyes, hands pillowed under his head, and sighs once before he falls into unconsciousness.
It's unnaturally quiet when he drifts back awake, leaving behind rapidly fading dreams he hasn't even begun to understand. He feels suspended, the waves too quiet on the shore to reach him, the wind hushed, nearly nonexistent. There's not even the call of seagulls, only the sound of his own breath and the beat of his own heart - singular, alone.
He stays coddled in his blanket, curled up in the fetal position on his side, his hands clutched under his chin. He blinks slowly, eyes open for a moment, then closed again for longer, like the flash of a lighthouse beam. He breathes deeply through his nose. His lighthouse isn't a flash, though, but an occult. The light lasts longer than the darkness, an arbitrary decision made decades before he arrived here, but somehow a fact that's impressed into his head, and his heart.
The light lasts longer than the darkness and Yoongi breathes in deeply, rolling over to shift up into a sitting position. He yawns and runs a hand through his hair, messing the sleep-matted locks. He has a lot to do. His adventures with Seokjin set him behind schedule. He still has to wipe down the windows of the lantern room. He still has to sweep the entire tower. He didn't get to start the small pier he needs to build for the lighthouse boat, but he knows that most certainly has to wait for tomorrow. He glances out to the shoreline. He has one, maybe one and a half hours before dusk.
He forces himself up and grabs his cleaning gear, heading up to the lantern room first. He manages to finish just as the sun wanes over the horizon. He skips down the stairs to the watch room, hastily setting down the rags and making his way over to the crank that winds the lantern.
He places both hands on the metal and turns, the muscles in his arms and chest and back singing with the effort. A loud groan, a clank, and the tick-tick-tick of the clockwork gears sounds as the weight ascends from the bottom of the lighthouse. It's a noisy affair which is probably why he doesn't hear the slightly panicked approach of his guest, nor notice his presence until Yoongi's task is done.
Yoongi finishes winding the weight and looks across the room, jolting when he finds Seokjin staring back at him, wide-eyed, hair flat with sleep, dressed in the clothes he appeared in last night. They stare at each other, both confused and surprised. Yoongi is certain his face reflects Seokjin's, mouth parted, brow raised in alarm, eyes searching for an answer the other cannot give.
Yoongi is the first to break, finally saying quietly, "You came back?" A question, unsure. The tides don't work this fast, returning what was lost before he can even miss it.
That's a lie, he thinks, honest to a fault in his own mind. He missed Seokjin the moment he stepped on the first stair up to the watch room.
"I never left," Seokjin says, sounding lost, not quite scared but edging there, on a precipice of doubt.
Yoongi blinks, both of them still unmoving, still staring at each other in arrested confusion. "Did you sleep?" he asks, dull, a silly question.
"Of course I slept," Seokjin replies, consternation in his tone and shifting in his features, melting the shock from his face. He moves, a hand squeezing into a fist by his side, stepping closer to Yoongi, and it's like Yoongi is released, able to move as well. "What if I'm stuck here, Yoongi?"
It's a dangerous thought, what if Seokjin stays. What if Seokjin doesn't leave. What if the tides and time stop and Seokjin stays. It's tempting, precariously addicting to imagine, but the distress in Seokjin's voice shakes the thought away. Seokjin doesn't belong here.
Yoongi knows what it feels like to not belong, detached, wandering. Eternally lost.
"Tomorrow," Yoongi starts, catching Seokjin's gaze and holding it, trying to smile reassuringly. "Tomorrow, we'll go over to the mainland. There's a woman I know, Joo Bonghee. I think she'll be able to help."
Seokjin doesn't seem convinced, but there's a spark of hope in his eyes. "How can she help?" he asks warily.
"Wait here," Yoongi says before he rushes down the stairs to his quarters. A visual explanation would work better than verbal, he thinks, quickly retrieving the cherry wine Bonghee had given him recently. He's breathless when he makes it back to the watch room, but he smiles and holds the bottle out to Seokjin. "Because Bonghee-noona made this."
Seokjin's eyes flash and he steps forward, grabbing the bottle from Yoongi's hands, examining it closely. "This is...."
Yoongi rocks back on his heels. His hunch is right. Bonghee is somehow involved in the magical moonshine. It doesn't surprise him.
Seokjin glances back up to Yoongi, gaze shifting over him, puzzling something together, slotting together bits of information that Yoongi cannot understand.
"Does she...." Seokjin starts, frowning as he trails off. "Does she happen to have a daughter?" he finishes, eyes intent on Yoongi.
Yoongi's eyes widen in surprise. "How did you know?"
Seokjin smiles patronizingly. "I'm from the future, remember?"
Yoongi scoffs at his smugness, but there is relief in his chest that the worry seems to have faded from Seokjin's eyes.
Yoongi offers Seokjin his cot again, but Seokjin decliners, fully rested and bursting with energy. When Yoongi tries to excuse himself to complete his chores – already so far behind schedule – Seokjin offers to help. Yoongi has never had anyone help with the lighthouse before. He did the repairs himself, the upgrades himself, swept and washed and protected in perfect solitude. He doesn't even have the capacity to split the work. He has one broom, one chair, one of everything, a reflection of his life.
Seokjin finds a way in, just like he found a way into the steadfast routine of Yoongi's life. He insists on washing the windows of the watch room as Yoongi sweeps down the tower. Yoongi has little choice in the matter and finally relents.
Somehow, even though Yoongi is the only one with a broom, it seems like his task goes quicker, knowing that Seokjin is bearing part of the load.
Seokjin has finished by the time Yoongi returns to the watch room. He's inspecting the crank to the clockwork gears curiously. He glances to Yoongi briefly when he hears him enter before returned his focus to the gear. "I've been wanting to ask. What does this do?"
Yoongi sets the broom by the wall. "It winds the weight up."
Seokjin sends him an unimpressed look, huffing out a sigh. "A little more detail. We don't have manned lighthouses in my time, everything is automated."
Yoongi mouths the last word Seokjin said, a strange, foreign descriptor he has not heard before. "Automated?" he repeats slowly, brows furrowed.
"Ah," Seokjin says, somewhat sheepishly. "Sorry, my bad. Um, do you have electricity yet? Power?"
"In the city," Yoongi answers.
Seokjin smiles, encouraged. "Well, in my day, it's everywhere and it does" – he gestures to the crank – "anything hard."
Yoongi can't fathom how they could get electricity to the island, just like he cannot fathom a road to connect the mainland to the island. Everything Seokjin says is strange and yet somehow he still trusts him implicitly.
"So, how does it work without electricity?" Seokjin prompts.
"The crank winds a weight that runs the length of the lighthouse," Yoongi says, smiling a little at Seokjin's perseverance. He tries not to flush under the rapt attention Seokjin gives him as he explains. No one has ever cared about how the lighthouse works, not like he does. No one has never cared about this place like Yoongi. It's surprisingly pleasant to share the knowledge with someone. "The weight connects to a series of clockwork gears up there." Yoongi points above them to the lantern room. "Do you still have clockwork gears?" he asks, the thought suddenly occurring to him that watches might also be automated.
Seokjin's lips quirk. "Oddly enough, we do. Not a lot, but yeah. I know what that is."
Yoongi hums, pleased there's still some things he has in common with Seokjin. Clockwork gears, and the ocean too. He has a brief idea that both he and Seokjin could make a list. Things in 1933. Things in 2018. And the commonalities between the two would be those things that have achieved eternity.
"The weight moves the clockwork, and the clockwork moves the lantern lens," Yoongi continues.
Seokjin glances up to the ceiling curiously.
"Would you like to see it?" Yoongi ventures and is rewarded by an excited smile from Seokjin. His lips twitch in response. "This way."
Yoongi leads Seokjin up to the lantern room and they settle on the small gallery up there, Seokjin cross-legged and Yoongi with his feet dangling through the railing bars. He explains how the lens creates the light characteristic, distinguishing his lighthouse from the many others along the coastline. A period of light followed by a brief period of darkness before the light returns. He talks about the light itself, a gas light, burning fire contained in glass and how it's controlled by a sun valve that stops and starts the flame.
Seokjin's interest doesn't waver and it makes Yoongi think he's saying something more fascinating than he is. He looks up to the sky and a world of stars, night fallen and the sun long disappeared over the edge of the world. Somehow it's duller than looking at Seokjin, the other blinding and making Yoongi's chest squeeze too tightly around his heart.
"You know a lot," Seokjin says when Yoongi stops talking.
Yoongi shrugs. "I've been here four years. I should."
"And it's still not a home?"
Yoongi blinks, eyes flickering back to Seokjin, mouth parted.
"You said you were looking for a home, earlier," Seokjin clarifies, his voice soft like gentle waves against the shore of Yoongi's ears. "This isn't a home after four years?"
Yoongi still stares blankly at Seokjin, his mouth moving slightly as he tries to get it to work again. "I tried," he confesses. "I put my sweat and toil into it and never left it any night. Still...."
Seokjin hums in acknowledgement. "I think I know."
Yoongi tilts his head slightly in question.
"Home is where your bridges connect," Seokjin explains, smiling softly. "Your family, your friends, your pets. Those few things in life you hold dear, passions and dreams. Home is where all those branches of yourself connect. It's hard to find that."
Yoongi nods, gaze focused on Seokjin and the galaxies in his eyes. "Do you have that? In your time?"
Seokjin brightens and looks up to the stars, sighing as he leans back against the windowpane. "I do. It took leaving it for a bit for me to remember, but yeah. I have a home."
It occurs to Yoongi suddenly, eyes still on Seokjin's profile, that Seokjin keeps ascending. Yoongi's quarters the first night. The watch room the second and third. And now, the lantern room. He wonders if Seokjin will ascend higher, to the sky, to his home among the stars.
Yoongi wonders if he can follow Seokjin, or if this is where they part, Yoongi standing on the top of the lighthouse as Seokjin rejoin the heavens.
He glances out to the sea and watches as the sun shines brightly on the water, creating the illusionary stars trapped under the surface. They are constellations in the midst of a bright blue ocean masquerading as a sky. It's all a fanciful imagination, but Seokjin is familiar with those, has made his living off of a talent of penning imaginations into words. And he knows, wrapped up in all those made up ideas and narrations, there's always some truth, hidden and understood long after the story ends.
Falling stars have to land somewhere, he thinks, smiling, his grip on the side of the boat loosening without conscious thought.
Yoongi cuts the motor and rows into a beach until the oars hit sand. He places the oars back into the boat and nods to Seokjin. "We'll have to wade from here," he says, already climbing out, the water splashing around him as his feet sink to the bottom.
Despite rolling his pants up as far as they will go on his legs, Seokjin still gets water soaked in his clothes. The clothing sticks to his thighs, uncomfortable and strange as he helps Yoongi tug the boat ashore.
Seokjin complains about it to Yoongi, asking why a dock hasn't been built yet. He's seen the pier on the island, he knows they have the technology.
"It's not a necessity," Yoongi says, grunting with the effort to pull the boat across wet sand, the water coming in shallow waves as they make it up to the beach. "We'll dry soon."
It's true, Seokjin realizes. The sun is already hot, already pulling the heavy water from the threads of his pants. It occurs to Seokjin that the feeling is strange because he's never had soaking wet clothes on before. He swims in swim trunks, and uses an umbrella in the rain. Everyone does, or nearly everyone. The question of why never crossed his mind before.
He supposes it's for the discomfort, to avoid ruining a carpet, or because it seems easier. He wonders how many other things he has never felt, never lived for the sole sake of comfort.
They climb for about ten minutes up a densely vegetated hill, bushes and trees scattered about wildly. They are wild, Seokjin thinks, smiling. Before housing developments and intricately designed parks and gardens.
There's a clearing and then Seokjin spots a house that looks like something out of the history books, a Joseon-era dwelling he might have made a play-dough model of in elementary school. It's low and L-shaped, bark shingles on the roof, a low, minimalistic porch-like structure running along the front of the space. There are large ceramic canisters lines in a row around the corner to the back part of the house. Seokjin feels like he's stepped into a traditional village, but one that was less concerned about looking clean and neat for the visitors and more concerned about a functionally operating community.
"Noona!" Yoongi calls out. "Bonghee-noona."
There's a rustle inside the house before the door opens and a woman steps out, smiling quizzically. She has a round face and small dark eyes, nose slightly crooked and lips wide. Her thick black hair is expertly collected into a long braid running down her back. She's wearing a plain hanbok, the colors faded from sun and washing. She looks quite ordinary, nothing at all like a shaman.
"Yoongi," she says, surprise evident in her tone, but a warmth of familiarity underlining the words. "I didn't think I'd see you again so soon." She glances to Seokjin, stilling, eyes flickering over him, settling back on his face. She stares at him, quiet and unmoving.
"Noona, this is, uh. Kim Seokjin," Yoongi starts, gesturing to Seokjin. "He's...." He purses his lips, words faltering, looking to Seokjin for help.
Seokjin inhales and smiles benignly. "I'm from the future," he says, the sentence bizarre even to his own ears. It was different telling Yoongi. Somehow he feels like he could tell Yoongi anything, any strange, out-of-this-world smattering of words, and Yoongi would believe him.
Bonghee nods dully. "Yes, I can see that," she says quietly, eyes still unwavering on Seokjin. Seokjin shifts under her gaze but keeps his eyes level on hers.
"Yoongi," Bonghee finally says, inhaling sharply and turning her eyes to him. Seokjin exhales, like he's been holding his breath this whole time, a tightness in the air broken. "Please give us a moment of privacy," she orders, kindly but firmly.
Yoongi frowns, brows lowering, mouth opening as if to protest.
Bonghee shakes her head at him. "Seokjin will be free to share whatever I tell him with you. But it will be his choice, and his alone." She gestures with her hand, tilting her head to the side, directing Yoongi away from the house. "Privacy, please."
Yoongi looks to Seokjin, eyebrows raised as if to ask for permission, or perhaps just a subtle reassurance that he will do as Seokjin wishes. Seokjin gives him a slight nod, and Yoongi slips his hands into his pockets, wandering back in the direction they came until he is out of earshot, crouching down to inspect a blade of grass.
"Come sit down, Seokjin," Bonghee invites as she settles on the porch-like structure.
Seokjin joins her, tentatively sitting a few feet apart. Now that he's up close to her and can see her eyes clearly, he realizes he was mistaken. She looks every bit a shaman. It's the flecks in her eyes, like waves of the sea.
Bonghee smiles warmly and says, "You said you're from the future."
Seokjin nods. "Yes."
"2018," Seokjin answers and smiles when Bonghee blinks in surprise.
"That's much further in the future than I expected," she says.
Seokjin laughs lightly. "None of this is expected to me."
Bonghee purses her lips, realization shifting in her eyes. "You didn't know," she says, a statement rather than a question.
Seokjin shakes his head. "I was given a bottle of cherry wine. The label said 1933, but I never thought – "
Bonghee shifts closer to him. "Who gave you the wine?"
"A grandmother. I only know her as Mrs. Kang."
Bonghee scowls and mutters under her breath, "That little troublemaker."
Ah, Seokjin thinks, confirming his suspicions. "Your daughter?"
"The wine is not supposed to be given outside of the family. I apologize on her behalf," Bonghee says.
"No, it's been a fun adventure, I'm happy to experience. Just." Seokjin pauses, frowning. "Just, I usually go back to my time when I sleep. But I'm still here."
"How many times have you traveled?"
"This is my third."
Bonghee nods. "How much wine did you drink?"
Seokjin's eyes widen. "Does the amount determine how long I stay?"
"Clever boy." Bonghee smiles appreciatively.
"I drank about a third of the bottle," Seokjin says, leaning forward. "How long is that?"
"Depending on how your body reacts, about two weeks. Maybe three. The bottle will give you a total of two months." She tilts her head. "Usually, the entirety is consumed at once, but I suppose you didn't know. Sookja must have been very mischievous indeed."
Seokjin pauses. He doesn't think it was a mischievousness in Mrs. Kang's eyes that day. It was something else, something he still can't quite pinpoint. "There were shelves of bottles," he says, gesturing with his hand, trailing across the imaginary shelf. "From 1915 to 1940."
"I know," she says, sighing. "I was told 1940 is the last batch I make." She smirks when she sees Seokjin's expression, curious and hesitant. "You want to know how I make them?" She shakes her head and laughs. "The process is much like any other wine, but with a splash of magic. Since I was a girl, I've produced one bottle for each other, like my mother before me. And her mother before her." Her smile softens. "It ends with me. Sookja is her father's daughter. No magic whatsoever. Much to my relief."
She sighs and leans back, looking out to the field and Yoongi who is trying to appear like he isn't watching them.
"You'll be back in your time within two weeks, don't worry. Now!" She reaches over and pats Seokjin's knee. "You have more questions tossing about in that head of yours. What are they?"
Seokjin glances out to Yoongi, catches his eye before Yoongi looks away quickly, fascinated by the dirt suddenly. He furrows his brow and says slowly, "When I'm back in my time, I don't remember this. Any of this, where I've been, how I got here."
"You're not meant to remember," Bonghee answers easily.
Seokjin presses his lips together. "That doesn't seem right."
Bonghee smiles. "You don't remember when you learned to walk, yet your feet know the way. You don't remember when you learned to talk, and yet words form in your mouth. We do not need to remember to have a time shape us. Sometimes we aren't meant to know. We're only meant to experience."
Seokjin watches the way the sunlight shines on Yoongi's jet black hair, the strands highlighted in silky sections. Seokjin wants to know if they feel as soft as they look. "Does Yoongi remember me when I leave?"
"He does," she confirms.
"Why?" he asks, because he can't think of another way to say it, the thoughts jumbled and flitting. Why, if he can't stay. Why, if he can't hold onto it. Why, if Yoongi can only wonder where he's disappeared to.
"We leave an impact on others' lives, whether we know it or not. Each wave does not remember each grain of sand it dislodges and carries and tosses about. But the sand moves, because the sea moves."
Seokjin frowns, and Yoongi shifts his head, eyes locking with his again. Seokjin closes his fingers into a loose fist and exhales. "What happens when I finish the bottle?" he asks, still focused on Yoongi in the distance.
"Then time continues. And you go back to your life."
Seokjin's fist closes a little more tightly, thumb pressing hard against his fingers. "What if I drank from the next bottle? 1934? Could I come back?"
"Don't," Bonghee says, her tone suddenly harsh and authoritative. "You must never have more than one."
"We all get one," Mrs. Kang had said. "Only one. Never take more."
And there it is, again, the certainty of an end, and the sadness that accompanies the knowledge.
Bonghee made the magical moonshine, he can assume this much. She has the sea in her eyes and her ears, and time in her fingertips.
" What do you think is more powerful? The tides, or time?"
Seokjin is quiet when he finally rejoins Yoongi, eyes lost in thought. Yoongi resigns himself to the silence and they cross back to the island without a word, just the sound of the motor and the wind, and the splash of water against the boat sides.
They dock by the flat rocks just below the lighthouse and Yoongi alights, securing the boat to a jutted out rock with a rope. Seokjin stays seated in the boat, rocking with the lapping waves.
Yoongi shifts, waiting, but it seems Seokjin is still lost in his thoughts. Finally, he takes a breath and says, "Seokjin?"
Seokjin jolts, looking at Yoongi, eyes clearing from whatever had been spinning in his head.
"Ah." Seokjin nods and stands, climbing out and onto the rocks. "Sorry, I was thinking."
They fall into step as they climb up to the lighthouse. "Bonghee-noona tends to do that to a person," Yoongi muses, lips quirking up into a smile.
Seokjin snaps his head in Yoongi's direction, suddenly animated. "Right? How does she do that? Look at you like she can see your future? Like she knows the whole universe and is only telling you about it in riddles."
Yoongi snorts. "Yeah. That's a fair description." He licks his lips and asks as casually as he can," Did she tell you how to get back to your time?"
Seokjin hums. "Time."
"You're going to wait eighty years?"
Seokjin laughs suddenly and hits Yoongi's shoulder. "No. The amount of the wine I drank determines how long I stay. I'm stuck here for two weeks."
Yoongi pauses, eyes flickering over Seokjin as his breathing jumps unevenly. "Two weeks?" he repeats, something like happiness tugging at his lips.
Seokjin shrugs. "Give or take a day." He spins on his heel to stand directly in front of Yoongi. "So. Mind a roommate for a little longer?"
Yoongi blinks, pulling back an emphatic yes from his tongue. He purses his lips. "What's a roommate?"
Seokjin smiles. "Ah. It's when two people share a place to live together." He leans forward and says secretively, "It's really hard to find a good one."
Yoongi smirks. "Sure. We can be roommates. But you have to help with the chores. I hate doing the dishes."
"Call!" Seokjin says happily, starting back up the hill.
Two weeks, Yoongi thinks as he follows Seokjin. It's more than he'd ever expected. Two weeks with Seokjin.
There's a thump in his chest, one that feels like anticipation, or maybe foreboding. He cannot distinguish the difference anymore.
He writes because he lives, because he enjoys it, just as he enjoys good food, good company, and good days playing.
The disconnect from his time, the slight reprieve, seems to have rebooted him.
Yoongi teaches Seokjin the daily chores. How to do the laundry without a machine, how to tend the small vegetable garden. They even start building a deck for Yoongi's boat by the lighthouse. The tasks seem to ground Seokjin, giving him better focus, more inspiration. It's ordinary but not mundane, like stripping away all the trivialities of life and remembering what it's like to breathe again.
Yoongi is the strangest part of the past, in that he isn't strange. Everything else retains its novelty – fetching water from a well, doing chores by hand without the aid of machines, lighting rooms with lanterns. The differences are stark and a constant reminder that this is an age long gone, historical, an echo that has faded by the turn of the century. But Yoongi doesn't feel like the past at all. Yoongi feels vivid and real and enthralling.
Yoongi is cute when he doesn't realize he's pouting or shy. Yoongi listens intently, does things with purpose and confidence. He's slyly funny and quick-witted, with a mastery of words that makes the writer in Seokjin both awed and jealous. Yoongi feels like home, and the thought is alarming enough that it arrests Seokjin.
If this was his time, if he was in his world, he would have asked Yoongi out already, would have taken him to a concert or for a hike or to night market where they'd scoop out the best venders and eat mangos, laughing, holding hands.
But everything around Seokjin reminds him that this isn't his world. This is the past, and he's just a visitor. He cannot fall for Yoongi like this.
Especially not when he knows he won't have any recollection of Yoonig's gummy smile, or his low laughter, or the way he touches his lips when he's nervous. It's not fair, not to him, not to Yoongi, so Seokjin pulls himself from the brink of falling and reminds himself that he is a tourist.
And tourists want to have fun.
"Again?" Yoongi says, slightly exasperated, turning his head from his task to peer at Seokjin sitting cross-legged on the cot. "Don't you think it's excessive by now? We've gone every day for a week."
Seokjin lets his eyes linger on Yoongi's hands for just a moment, fixing or checking or doing something to the weight that runs along the length of the lighthouse, the thin pole opened at a small hatch he built specifically for maintenance. It's just a tiny door, really, and makes Yoongi's already large hands seem larger, the length of his digits emphasize against the space. Seokjin clears his throat and pretends the redness he feels in his ears is from the heat of the early afternoon sun.
"It's hot and it's literally just outside. I don't know why you haven't taken advantage of this by now. You live right on the beach and no one is here. This would cost a large fortune in my time," Seokjin grouses. "And you don't have anything else to do after" - he waves his hand in Yoongi's general direction - "that."
Yoongi sighs, turning back to his task. "Fine," he relents.
Seokjin grins, swinging his legs down to thump his feet against the side of the cot as he waits for Yoongi to finish. His eyes wander over Yoongi's hands again, and the length of his forearm, exposed where Yoongi rolled his sleeves up earlier. He's a tourist, he tells himself, and tourists are allowed to look.
Seokjin grabs the blanket and Yoongi takes the wide-rimmed straw hat he uses when he's gardening, and they make their way down the winding steps to the bottom of the lighthouse. Seokjin lets his hand trail on the wall as he leads the way, futilely memorizing the inconsistencies in the stonework. He won't retain any of this knowledge, won't know about the nick on the fourth landing, won't recall the way the wall thickens on the second floor. And still, his hand will have felt it.
And still, he wants to know it.
Seokjin yells happily when they emerge from the lighthouse. He runs down to the beach like it's his first time, yelling about the sea and the sand, spinning around to grin at Yoongi. Yoongi sighs and tries to look very put-upon and grumpy and does a terrible job convincing Seokjin. He can see the smile on Yoongi's lips, the way his eyes soften in fondness.
Seokjin lays out the blanket and immediately strips down to his boxers, folding his clothes neatly and laying the pile on a corner. "Come on!" he yells, running into the water. He immediately regrets his decision, because despite the oppressive heat of the air, the water retains an icy-coldness that has him yelping and running back to the fire-hot sand.
Yoongi laughs, mouth open and gums showing, his eyes crinkling. Breathtaking. "You do that every time!" he shouts, toeing off his shoes and pulling his shirt over his head.
Seokjin's eyes flicker to Yoongi's chest, down to his slim but surprisingly soft stomach, before he catches himself. He walks backwards into the water again, cautiously. "I always think it won't be that bad."
Yoongi snorts and jogs up to Seokjin to stand just where the waves hit the sand. "You should have learnt by now," he chides, teasing.
Seokjin hums, backing up one step into deeper water, hands clasped behind him. He pulls his leg back as subtly as he can before kicking forward, spraying Yoongi with cold sea water up to his stomach, laughing hysterically as Yoongi shrieks. Seokjin backs up again, braving the icy water as Yoongi advances, threatening retribution. Seokjin tries to stop laughing, but Yoongi looks so adorably pouty and the sun is warm and it's just them, Yoongi and Seokjin, on a beach that could be called paradise.
The sea floor is uneven, and Seokjin is still shaking with suppressed laughter, walking backwards. It's no wonder he loses his footing, feet sweeping out from under him. He lands with a large splash on the ground, a shock of icy cold water up to his stomach as he sits, laughing again.
He glances up and sees Yoongi didn't fair well with the splash, either, his hair soaked, water running in rivets down his pale chest and the sides of his arms. "How is it, I didn't fall but your hair is still dry?" he complains, running a hand through his fringe to toss it off his forehead.
Seokjin tries to sober but just smiles and says, "Sorry." He reaches a hand up to Yoongi. "Help me up?"
Yoongi arches a brow, lips pursed. He crouches and Seokjin blinks in confusion for a moment before he recognizes the smirk growing on Yoongi's lips. It's too late, because in the next moment he's splashed with a tremendous amount of water, drenching his hair and down his neck. He shuts his eyes against the onslaught and laughs, the water salty in his mouth.
He rubs his eyes, blinking them open, giggles subsiding. Yoongi's close, still crouched in front of him and grinning, water forming beads on his cheeks and his eyelashes and on the bow of his upper lip. His eyes are a deep brown, intoxicating at this distance. Seokjin thinks this is his favourite of all the shades of Yoongi, in the light of the too-hot sun, water glistening on his skin, his cheeks tinted a soft pink, dark hair in wet locks haphazardly tossed about.
He leans forward before he remembers he's only supposed to look. Tourists aren't supposed to touch, no matter the magnetic pull of their host.
Yoongi's lips are soft, warm, and taste like sea salt. Seokjin's eyes drift closed as he presses gently against Yoongi's mouth, slowly sliding their lips together. He can hear the hitch in Yoongi's breathing, feels him exhale slowly against him. The waves push against his back and Seokjin wishes the tides would stop, for just a moment. He doesn't want to move, doesn't want to break this moment, not even to take in another breath.
Because when he finally pulls back, he knows he won't be able to pretend anymore that he hasn't fallen for Yoongi.
And he won't remember any of it when he returns to his time.
Yoongi squints his eyes, face hidden under his straw hat, light filtered warm and orange in the small hollow. He's lying with his arm pillowed behind his head, stretched out on the blanket, drying off in the hot afternoon sun. He sits up on his elbows, his hat sliding off his face onto his chest, the material of his shirt no longer clinging tightly to him, left over sea water dried off his skin.
He looks over to Seokjin, sitting with his arms resting on his bent knees, eyes focused on the push of waves on the shore. After their kiss, they didn't say much, just pulled each other out of the water and made their way back to the blanket to dry off. There isn't much to say, Yoongi thinks. They both know Seokjin's time here is rushing away, time that won't turn back.
Seokjin peeks over his shoulder at Yoongi's continued silence, arching his brows in question.
Yoongi frowns, glancing out to the sea. "I didn't think about it. It's not like I don't see the water from the lighthouse."
"You never go swimming?" Seokjin asks, not quite frowning, but almost.
Yoongi shrugs. "It's different alone."
Seokjin presses his lips together tightly and looks back to the sea. Yoongi thinks he saw a fleck of sadness in his eyes. It upsets him more than it shoulder.
Yoongi shifts to sit next to Seokjin, leaning back on his hands, extending his legs in front of him and crossing them at the ankle. "Tell me about your time," he requests, wanting the spark of happiness back in Seokjin's voice, wanting his lips to curve back into a smile.
"What do you want to know?"
Yoongi lulls his head and hums. "Anything."
"People dye their hair all sorts of colors."
Yoongi's lips quirk in amusement. "Like what?"
He snorts, trying to imagine it. "You're trying to fool me."
"I'm not!" Seokjin says, indignant, looking back to Yoongi. "Really, they have pink hair."
Yoongi smiles at the animation in Seokjin's voice. "What else do you have in the future?"
Seokjin purses his lips. "I don't think there's a way to describe the internet to you. It's like, people from all over the world can talk to each other in real time."
"There's a thing called a microwave that heats your food almost instantly," Seokjin continues, shifting a little to face Yoongi. "They sent a spaceship to the moon." He glances up, lips melting into the sad smile Yoongi was trying to avoid. "We lost the stars in the city."
Yoongi furrows his brow. "How can you lose the stars. They're always up there."
Seokjin ignores Yoongi's question, glancing back to him. "I don't remember you when I go back to my time," Seokjin confesses suddenly, regret heavy in his voice. "When I wake up, I don't remember any of this."
The revelation is a sharp, painful blow, though logically Yoongi knows it shouldn't matter. Seokjin doesn't belong here anyway. He knew he couldn't keep him. But the thought that this isn't a shared experience, that Yoongi will be remembering alone, makes his chest ache.
It's not the same alone.
"Why?" he asks, quietly, not confident in the sound of his own voice.
"Bonghee-noona said there are things we don't need to remember." Seokjin frowns. "I'm sorry."
"You can't help it," Yoongi says, glancing away, to the sea that brought Seokjin with its tides, that will take him back and wash away any trace of this place from his mind.
"I'm still sorry."
Yoongi presses his lips together. "Me too."
Chapter 4: Occult Part 2
Rating went up for a small part. It's very vague but it is smut.
There's something achingly painful about waking up, a dull sort of pining that roots into his heart as Seokjin's eyes blink open. The air is hot, oppressive and humid, sticking to his skin, clinging too close. Even the slight breeze does nothing to ease his discomfort. He stares for a few more moments, blinking and struggling to orient himself. He's at the lighthouse, the shoreline familiar by now. He's outside, he finally registers, and looks at his hands curled around the railing. His eyes widen.
He's outside and standing and most certainly did not just wake up from a deep slumber. There's no way he would sleep standing upright, hands on the railing where one wrong slip would send him hurtling towards the ground.
He inhales sharply and releases his grip, backing away as his legs start to wobble. Another surprise, he thinks forlornly, his back immediately hitting a window pane. He yelps and throws his arms up to protect his face in alarm. This gallery is much smaller than the one he knows. He peeks over his shoulder, eyes catching sight of a massive glass lantern surrounded on all sides with clear floor to ceiling windows. He's somehow found his way up to the very top of he lighthouse, where once a light would have shone bright and strong, a beacon.
For a moment, he is sure of how that beam would have glowed, like a star, twinkling, bright, then dark for a moment before it returns again. A moment of absence that promises a return.
He clears his throat, the ache in his chest pulsing with misplaced sadness, a loss he does not understand. Perhaps it is the last tendrils of his dream vanishing, erasing, a place where he wanted to languish becoming a nothingness he can't even recall.
Seokjin leans his head back on the window pane and watches the blue in the sky dim, oranges and pinks staining the horizon. The sea reflects the colors until it's not stars trapped under its depths, but precious gems, ambers and garnets, sunken treasures stolen and now lost.
He exhales and thinks dully that he's watching time in reverse, the sunrise rewinding as he travels backwards in time.
Somehow it seems right to him, even as he realizes he's watching the sunset, not the sunrise. Something in his chest, tangled into the aching pull at his heart, tells him the reversal of time is right.
He pushes away from the window pane and shakes his head, moving to descend the stairs. He wants a shower and supper and to review all his camera footage. He pulls out his phone from his pocket and finds the battery dead. The go-pro camera set up in the room downstairs is similarly drained of battery. He's been gone for a day, he thinks as he drives back to the cottage, thankful he left his car parked at the lighthouse this time.
When he reaches the cottage, he finds the other go-pro has also run out of battery, as he expected. He plugs everything in to charge, a row of white cords tangling together on the living room floor. He has a brief thought to turn the devices on first before his stomach growls in protest, prompting him to the kitchen.
Food first, curiosity second, he decides. He opens the refrigerator and freezes, his brow furrowing at the sight. There is mold on the strawberries, and a wet softness in the zucchini. He scans the contents quickly. All the produce has gone bad. All of it.
His hand shakes on the handle of the refrigerator. He's been gone for longer than a day.
He runs back to the living room, feet thudding loudly on the floor, skidding to a stop as he reaches his phone. He powers it on, breath coming in sharp huffs as he waits impatiently for the screen to light up. He shifts his weight on his heels restlessly, seesawing until finally, finally the phone loads.
He nearly drops it.
He's been gone two full weeks.
He doesn't recall any of it. Everything that transpired since he sat in this living room and drank the moonshine is gone, vanished like his dreams, fog that faded into the day.
He carefully lowers himself to the floor, curling his hands tight around his phone, his hunger forgotten for the moment. He grabs the go-pro camera that filmed him, powering it on and waiting until he can replay the video.
The tiny image is pixely and green fro the night vision. He watches the past Seokjin pour himself a drink again and again, fiddling with his phone and the camera. Until there's a static glitch in the playback and suddenly his image is gone, the living room empty except for the bottle of moonshine, just how he found it when he returned.
He doesn't realize how long he spends, sitting there on the floor, replaying the moment of his disappearance over and over. Eventually his shock eases and he comes back to himself, mind kicking into overdrive as he tries to understand the impossible. But it must be possible, he thinks, because it happened.
He watches the entirety of the recording, fast forwarding, careful to look for a reappearance. Of course there is none. All he sees is an empty room, the only movement the shifting shadows as the sun rises the next day. The other camera he had set up at the lighthouse lends similar slim offerings, a freeze frame with only the passing of morning to break its stillness.
He takes one, two, three deep breaths, fear and wonder mingling in his blood. He presses his lips together and grabs the bottle of moonshine, standing abruptly and walking quickly to the kitchen. He makes his way to the kitchen sink and starts to upend the bottle, intent on pouring out the liquid and removing this mysterious, frightening impossibility from his life. He wants to forget this ever happened, pretend he didn't disappear, pretend everything is fine and normal and possible.
The first drop of pink moonshine thuds on the metal of the sink, a hollow echo, and suddenly he feels sick. His hand tightens over the bottle and he corrects it, lifting it upright again as regret and a desperate yearning seize his chest and mind. No, no, no, resonates in him, deep-rooted, harsh in its conviction even as the source grows hazy and fades.
There's an impression, somewhere, when he tries not to think, when he doesn't try to remember and instead just feels. The touch of a hand, the taste of salt, the knowledge of just being, happy, accepted, adored. He reaches for it, hand stretching to the shining star-like memory, but it slips from his grasp like water.
All he finds is himself, lost, alone, gripping the bottle of moonshine in the middle of his kitchen like it's the only tether left to whatever his heart wants. And maybe it is.
He eases a breath through his lungs and sets the moonshine safely back onto the counter.
He doesn't know what to do.
Seokjin is the lucky one. He gets to forget it all and move along, no memories and wishes and longing pulling him back to a dream he cannot relive.
Contrasts are deadly, the juxtaposition making the sweetness all the more pure, and the bitterness all the more harsh, changing it to acid on his tongue. He was fine before Seokjin. He was alone, just him and the sea and the stars at night, and he was fine. A little restless. Little tired of the humdrum of life. His feelings a little dulled and dimmed and numbed, but fine.
Then a star fell and light flooded him. Seokjin brought with him anticipation, and happiness, and laughter. And Yoongi felts love, and love, and love.
Contrasts are deadly, Yoongi thinks again, tilting his head, the sun creeping higher, higher, a light he does not see, a warmth he does not feel. The lighthouse is the same. He should be still the same. A little restless, a little tired. His feelings a little dulled. But there's a void now. A constant, pulsing, loud awareness of Seokjin's absence. Seokjin's feet no longer patter above him. Seokjin's singing no longer cascades down the stairwell. Seokjin's soft, strong hands no longer reach for his. Yoongi's hands and bed and space are empty. And his heart is full of longing.
He sighs and pushes himself up to his feet. It's enough, he tells himself. Enough pining and wishing, enough longing after a dream. That's all it was. Seokjin was a dream, a delightful interlude, a star that couldn't stay. Yoongi's arms are tired from reaching to the sky, trying to bring him back in vain. It's time for rain, clouds that block the night sky, and remove any remnant of the stars.
He thumps down the stairs to his quarters and grabs the sole piece of evidence that Seokjin was real, was here, held his hand and placed a sea-salty kiss on his lips. He folds Seokjin's ripped "fashionable" jeans carefully, struggling as the material loses shape by the numerous holes. Once satisfied it somewhat resembles a neat bundle, he places it carefully into a cloth bag and heads down the lighthouse.
He grabs his bicycle from its place beside the tower and settles onto it, deliberately pushing aside thoughts that it feels too light, too cool now, the ghost of Seokjin's chest to his back as he drove them around the island haunting him. He grips the handlebars a little tighter and pedals a little harder, the ache in his muscles from the extra exertion emptying his mind.
He skids to a stop near the secret underground room near his garden. He knows he should burn the jeans, reduce Seokjin's visit to dust and ash, irretrievable. And maybe he will, one day. But for now, he cannot bring himself to discard them. If he really thinks, honestly and clearly, he's holding onto them as if they'll somehow call Seokjin back.
He glances around carefully before he descends into the hidden room, only a dim scattering of sunlight filtering into the space to light his way. He crouches and feels against the cool wall he built himself until his fingers catch on a subtle edge, the secret compartment to a secret room. Only he knows it exists, built on a whim to secure the small fortune he's been saving.
He stares at the cloth bag for a moment, pressing his lips together, and envisions Seokjin. The way his eyes crinkle when he laughs at his own jokes, the way he would hold his hand out patiently waiting for Yoongi to clasp, the way he made Yoongi think that maybe home isn't a place. Yoongi inhales deeply and slowly places the bag into the hidden compartment, placing all his memories of Seokjin with it, symbolically locking them away.
He straightens up again and nods to himself. That's an end. It always had to come, sooner or later.
He stays standing there, staring at the innocuous shelf, spotted with sacks of rice and bottles of Bonghee's moonshine. He's done his chore, but his feet are planted, spreading roots down into the ground, unable to move. He wants to linger here, reluctant to call it an end, to face his decision to forget.
With a concentrated force of will, Yoongi successfully orders his feet to move and he leaves, ignoring the pull on his heart. He secures the padlock on the door to the room and conceals the entrance more meticulously then he usually does. He tries not to feel like he's left a part of himself in that dark space as he pedals away, steering his bicycle down a well-worn path to the lighthouse.
The journey back is longer and more tedious than he remembers, the greenery dull, the sun stinging his eyes, the dirt path dusty and clogging his lungs. His muscles ache with the exertion to climb the hill to the tower, his brow sticky with sweat. Everything just seems more difficult, more cumbersome, less pleasant now.
He's already in a bad mood by the time he spots the uniformed soldier standing guard at the door to the lighthouse. His frown deepens and his eyes narrow, mood slipping from bad to worse.
"What's this?" he demands, letting his bicycle drop to the ground and approaching the solider.
The solider flinches before straightening, his chin jutting out in fake confidence. "Who are you?"
"That's my question." Yoongi points at the lighthouse. "I'm the lightkeeper."
The solider blinks and clears his throat, still holding his spine rigid and shoulders tense with great effort. "Choi-ssi is performing a search – "
"Fucker," Yoongi seethes, pushing past the soldier and bounding up the steps, two at a time. His breathing is labored and hard by the time he reaches his quarters. His lips curl in disdain as he spots Choi flipping through a pile of paperwork. "What the fuck do you think you're doing here?"
Choi glances at Yoongi, disgustingly calm and unsurprised. He smiles, sly, cold, a calculated twist of lips. "Min-ssi, so good of you to finally grace us with your presence. Where were you?"
Yoongi crosses his arms. "It's not night. I have no pressing duties at this hour. I can be anywhere I want."
Choi hums, mildly dissatisfied. "True."
"Why the fuck are you here?"
Choi picks up a bundle of papers – a record of expenses for the lighthouse that Yoongi keeps – and exams them with dull interest. "We've received reports that you're harboring a fugitive." He glances up again. "Tall man. Odd clothing. You've been spotted with him around the island."
Yoongi manages to keep his expression blank, his shoulders relaxed, brow raised in faux innocent confusion, even as alarm spikes through his blood.
"Sound familiar?" Choi prompts, turning his full attention to Yoongi, scrutinizing.
"I don't know what stories you've been listening to, but as you can see, I'm alone here. I don't play well with others." He gestures around the room. "Or did you find a ghost? Maybe I keep companionship with a mouse?"
Choi's lips tighten and he places the papers back onto Yoongi's desk. "I'm going to catch you, Min-ssi. I've got my eyes focused solely on you."
Yoongi smirks. "You must have excellent eyesight, to see me all the way from Busan."
Choi's eyes narrow and he starts to speak, but whatever he meant to say is lost when footsteps thump down the stairs and an uniformed officer appears.
"Nothing upstairs, sir," he says to Choi.
Yoongi's smirk widens. "What a surprise. Nothing."
Choi inhales, gathering himself again. "Let's go," he tells the officer. His gaze flicks to Yoongi. "Just remember, I can see with eyes that are not my own."
Yoongi shrugs arrogantly. "Enjoy the show."
He waits in his quarters as Choi and the officer leave. He listens to the descending steps, waiting until he hears the rumble of Choi's boat leaving before his breath releases in a rush from his chest, relief making him dizzy.
If Seokjin had stayed just a few more days, there would have been unimaginable trouble. They're lucky, he supposes.
They're very lucky, he repeats to himself. It just doesn't feel like it yet.
He picks up his story where he left off two week ago, a two weeks that feels like yesterday. The girl from a small world with a small sky. He writes about the big, big horizon she finds, and the star so far away that seems to see her, despite the vastness that threatens to swallow her up. She follows the star all the way to the ocean, asking how it shines so bright, in such a dark sky. There is no reply, so she tries again, and again, and again, until night passes. She comes back the next day to no avail. And a third time. But on the fourth night, just as she drifts, exhausted, into sleep, the star finally leans down. Further, further it leans, and finally it tumbles from its place, hurtling to earth, diving into the sea -
After five days of nearly constant writing, Seokjin is no closer to even a hint of clarity than when he began. All he knows is that he's searching, searching for something far away.
He doesn't complete the first draft but he has enough that Jimin won't kill him when he arrives. That's close enough to a triumph for now, he concludes, backing up his file before he powers his laptop down. Enough for a breather, and a small celebration of the end of his block.
Night has fallen sometime since the last time Seokjin left his makeshift work desk on the kitchen table. He sighs, stretching his arms high above his head, tilting his neck to slowly draw out the stiffness, the ache in his back already easing as soon as he straightens. He wants some fresh air and a strong drink.
His eyes fall to the bottle of moonshine, still sitting innocently by the sink, pinkish purple liquid that caused too much trouble than it should.
He wants to take another taste of it, and that's exactly what scares him the most. His head can list out every possible reason to throw it away, to never go near it again and forget this glitch in the matrix. His head knows he should put this strangeness behind him. It's his heart that keeps the bottle safe, that sends his eyes lingering to the liquid, that urges him. Just a sip, another small taste of sweetness.
Just one more taste.
Just one more day with –
And there his thoughts block, barricaded, a pained non-remembrance. He presses his lips together, breathing out slowly through his nose, frustration bubbling under his skin. There is something important in those memories that buried itself in the dark, locked corners of his mind. Something important, something that belongs in his heart. And it is as unattainable and invisible as the stars in the polluted city night.
He stomps past the counter and into the pantry, selecting a small bottle of soju. He grabs his hoodie, shrugging it on as he leaves the cottage, cool salty air a welcome freshness greeting him. He takes a deep breath, and then another, clearing the knots and tangles that thread around his chest, his throat, threatening to choke the peace from his mind.
He intends to head down to the beach, sit by the waves, let their unchanging rhythm soothe him as he tries to count the innumerable stars. But when he places one foot in front of the other, he finds himself headed in an entirely different direction. He walks south, toward the impression of a light that no longer shines, to the lighthouse long abandoned and yet alive, pulsing. It's magnetic, a pull on his heart, orbital gravity gently guiding him nearer, nearer, tugging him like the moon tugs at the tides.
His steps are quiet on the pavement beneath him, but he can still hear the soft rustle of his feet. It's wrong in some way, his ears trying to pick up another sound, a whirring buzz, the metal spokes of a wheel turning quickly. He misses it, a phantom noise. He's forgetting something important.
There is no sign of life at the lighthouse when he arrives, as he expected. Still, disappointment shifts in his chest, as if he were looking for something. Whatever it is, it's too far away now.
As quiet and isolated as the lighthouse feels during the day, it is even more desolate at night, blanketed in encompassing darkness. There is a faint illumination of a half moon, casting the tower in tones of dark, and darker, and shadow. It occurs to Seokjin that he's never been here at night before. Never seen the lighthouse framed against the sea of stars above.
It should be bright, he thinks, an impression of the same place in a different time, hovering just behind his eyes. There should be a bright, beckoning light, calling adventurers to safety. Calling them home.
There is no light in the lighthouse anymore, and it cannot guide anyone home. It's just dark, and lifeless, and shrouding something that belongs to Seokjin, something he cannot reach.
He sighs, and walks around the base to the other side of the tower, facing the ocean, moonlight spilling like a lake on the surface of the water. He shifts to sit, cross-legged, back leaning against the cool surface of the painted brick. He twists the top off his soju bottle and takes a slow sip.
He doesn't like the lighthouse at night, he decides when he's nearly done the bottle. It's dark, and cold, and empty. It's hiding something important from him. He frowns down at his hands by his sides, curled in the untamed grass and the dandelions that have invaded the grounds. He frowns at them. It's sad how neglected the area has become, he thinks, pulling a dandelion out and idly slipping it into his hoodie pocket. He pulls another, and a third before he gives up, eyes flicking around him. There's too many. It's no use.
He nods to himself. That's right. It's no use, so leave it behind him and press forward. He stands slowly, stretching the stiffness out of his legs.
There are some things he is not meant to remember, he supposes. Some mysteries never to be solved, some stories never to be known.
He slides his hands into the back pockets of his jeans and starts the journey back to the cottage, his mind settled.
He laughs, squeezing Jimin back in return. "Nice to see you again, too."
"How many pages do you have for me?" Jimin mumbles, cheek pressed against Seokjin's chest, arms still wrapped like a vise around him. "Don't lie to me, I can monitor your heartbeat from here."
Seokjin snorts. "I have about half the novel done." Jimin snaps his head back, already scowling in disapproval. Seokjin smiles charmingly. "Don't worry, it's really good."
Jimin looks unconvinced. He steps back and holds his hands out, palms flat. "Laptop, please."
With more than a bit of trepidation, Seokjin relinquishes his laptop into Jimin's hands and sets him up in the living room. He tries to busy himself elsewhere while Jimin reads, but he finds himself straining to catch any sound Jimin makes. The thoughtful hum, the uncertain tsk, the short huff of amusement. But soon enough, Jimin descends into silence, stony-faced as his eyes move quickly through the document.
The high noon sun eases to late afternoon before Jimin finally sighs and pushes the laptop away, leaning back against the couch cushions. Seokjin stops pretending he is busy and looks expectantly at his editor.
"Well?" he prompts.
"It needs a lot of work," Jimin starts.
"It always does."
"And it's incomplete."
"Halfway," Jimin corrects.
"Nearly done," Seokjin repeats. "The beginning and middle are always the hardest parts."
"Last time you told me the ending was the hardest part."
Seokjin waves his hand impatiently. "What did you think?"
Jimin's lips break into a smile. "It's really good, hyung."
Relief tinged with a spark of pride rolls off Seokjin's shoulders. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." Jimin's smile widens. "My favorite you've written."
Seokjin smiles, his ear heating with the praise, and moves to the kitchen. "Should we have a drink? How long are you staying?"
He hears Jimin stand and follow him. "I have to get back to Seoul early tomorrow for a meeting, but I can stay the night."
Seokjin hums, stepping into the pantry to retrieve a bottle of vodka. "Good. Want to grab a couple of glasses? There's snacks in the fridge, too."
Seokjin hears several cabinets open and close before Jimin says, "Ah, found them!" There is a clink of glass on the counter before Jimin says curiously, "Oh, what's this? Cherry wine?"
Seokjin scrambles out of the pantry. "Don't touch it!" he says quickly, fear evident in his tone.
Jimin holds his hands up and takes a step back from the counter. "Okay."
Seokjin lets out a slow breath and tries to shake the panic from his blood. "Sorry, it's just. You just shouldn't drink that. Trust me." He holds up the bottle of vodka. "Let's have this. We can go out by the beach."
Thankfully, Jimin agrees readily, and Seokjin can pretend he didn't feel a sudden and wrenching pain in his chest at the thought that he might lose the moonshine. That he might never have another chance.
That it might be over. It can't be over. Not yet.
Yoongi stretches his legs out in front of him, leaning back on his hands, sand coarse against his skin. The breeze is gentle and cool, rustling his hair enough to tickle at his forehead, not strong enough to dislodge the locks.
He tips his head up, craning his neck to stare up at the sky. There are no stars, no moon, just a suffocating wall of thick cloud, stifling the light he can only remember. His fingers curl in the sand. He remembers the light of the stars, a star. It feels so dim without it.
He never used to come down to the beach. It's lonely, he had told Seokjin, before. When Seokjin had been here. When Yoongi's lips had tasted the salty-sweet flavor of Seokjin and seawater, the start of a dream that could not continue.
It's still lonely here, he thinks, in a different way. There's a hollow ache now, a certainty of loss where there was only a supposition. But there's also a comfort, an ebbing in the flow of longing, for a moment, suspended in time. There is a remembrance here. The water cresting in waves knew Seokjin. The coarse sand under his fingers knew Seokjin. The wind in his hair had once touched Seokjin's, an indirect connection, fragile, delicate, and all that's left.
He won't forget Seokjin. He knows this for certain now. He tried, and determined, and failed. Because Seokjin was a solace he didn't think he was looking for. Because Seokjin more like a home than any he's ever known. Because Seokjin was the light he wanted to keep.
He wants to call him back.
The light from the lighthouse turns its constant pattern, an occult, light, light, light, then dark. No matter how long the light lasts, darkness also returns, casting a complete blackness around him. In that moment everything disappears. The waves, the sand, the image of his own feet before him.
Constant. Like the pull of the tides receding when they once brought new life. Constant like time, undaunted by the mechanisms of men.
Yoongi stands slowly, laboriously shaking the sand from his pants and hands. The lighthouse lantern will need to be wound momentarily.
The rolling crash of the waves dulls as he enters the tower, replaced by the steady tick-tick-tick of the lantern weight journeying down.
Yoongi climbs the steps slowly, tapping his fingers against the railing in a syncopating rhythm against the clockwork gears. It's trivial, but it stupidly feels like his own rebellion. Like he's making his own time, his own measure of seconds and days, and rearranging the years as he'd like. How lovely it would be, to circumvent tomorrow, to replace 1934 with 2018, and he could be the one to discover Seokjin.
He makes it to the watch room and his crank just in time. His foot hits the landing as the last slow tick of the clockwork gears sounds, and the lantern stops rotating. The light shines, beaming and unmoving out across the water, solitary.
Yoongi's ears buzz at the sudden silence, his breathing the only sound in the room. He stays frozen in place, staring out at the light beaming into the darkness. He almost thinks time has stopped, that somehow he has managed to halt its steady march. And in that moment, he thinks maybe he can call Seokjin back. If he just stays here, suspended. Time and the lighthouse and the tides could all wait for a little bit, wait for Seokjin.
Time bent for them before. Time could bend for them again.
He knows it's foolish and dangerous. He knows Choi's patrols are waiting for him to slip up. If they saw this, the lighthouse light solid and unmoving, they could report him, say he's neglected his duties. They could remove him and he could lose the lighthouse, and all the years and effort he buried into its structure.
Yoongi's lungs shudder on a breath.
He wants to linger here a bit longer, in this timeless place, despite the consequences.
He leaves it at that, afraid to finish his thought, afraid of hope pushing him too high, plummeting him too far below.
He listens to the seagulls gossip outside as Jimin relays his feedback on the novel. Seokjin retains absolutely none of it, but nods and dutifully replies, "I understand."
Jimin doesn't look convinced and slides a handful of papers towards, his feedback written in his neat script for when Seokjin is a little more awake.
Jimin stands from the table and moves to the sink, pouring out his unfinished cup of coffee. "I've got to get going if I want to beat the traffic back to Seoul."
Seokjin nods. "Drive safe."
"Hmm." Jimin moves to grab his bag. "Try not to go radio silent, huh? Two weeks without a word is too much. You've got to go to Yeosu at least once a week. Just drop me an email while you're there."
Seokjin makes himself smile, a shifting hollowness in his stomach. "Yeah, my bad. Sorry."
Jimin shrugs. "Finish the book, hyung. It's really good."
"Yeah. Thanks." Seokjin stands and follows Jimin out to his car. He waves as Jimin backs out and onto the road, watching until he disappears from sight.
Awake now, Seokjin inhales deeply and clasps his hands behind his back. He turns on his heel, meandering down the gravel path to the beach. There's a satisfying crunch with every step he takes, pebbles and jagged rocks shifting under his feet.
The sun has woken up, too, he sees. A pastel spill of soft pink and pale yellow washes through the sky, the air warming as night fades. He reaches into his hoodie pocket for his phone, frowning when he feels something soft against the metal.
Ah, the dandelion from the other night. It's still in there. He'll have to remember to place it in the compost later.
He slips his phone out and wonders if his camera is capable of capturing the changing masterpiece in the sky. He thumbs open the camera and raises the phone with both hands to find a good angle.
He stills, brow furrowing and a slight frown turning down the corners of his lips. In his camera roll preview, there's an image of his face that he doesn't recall taking.
His arms lower, fingers deftly flipping the phone vertical again, and taps the selca.
Not a selca. A video.
With increasingly shaky fingers, he hits the play button. The volume of his phone is too low, seagulls and wind and rolling waves muffling the words from his image's mouth. His past self is speaking excitedly, eyes wide, a smile of amazement on his lips. He's distracted by something, looking away, the camera dropping slightly, and that's where the video ends.
All of Seokjin's breath leaves his chest in one fell swoop, emptying and dizzying. He grips his phone and starts to run back to the cottage for his earphones. He doesn't remember taking this video. This is from the lost time. He must have left himself a clue, an explanation. Something.
"That's right, Seokjin-ah," he says to himself as he sprints through the cottage and into his room. "You wouldn't let me down. Smart, Seokjin-ah."
He thankfully finds his earpods without any difficulty, still lying by his pillow. He can't connect them fast enough, excitement and a desperate need to know pulsing urgently through his fingers. Finally, he hits the play button again, breath frozen in his lungs so that even the sound of his own exhales won't interfere.
"It's time travel!" his past self says quickly, excitement pitching his voice higher. "The moonshine. It's 1933 – "
"Seokjin, did you find it?"
The video ends and Seokjin stumbles back three steps, his phone falling from his hands. There's a brilliant flash in his head, a shooting pain, too bright, too much. For a split second, just the barest fraction of a moment, he knows it all, and then it wipes away again, hollowing so quickly that it feels like pieces of himself are being ripped away with it.
"Seokjin, did you find it?"
It's him. His voice. Him.
That's what Seokjin forgot.
"Seokjin, did you find it?"
As if compelled by that voice, echoing in his ears, Seokjin jogs to the kitchen, heading straight for the bottle of moonshine. The liquid stares innocently back at him, pinkish purple cherry wine, bits of flower petals floating on the top, about two-thirds up. The faded, dusty label reads 1933 in neat handwriting.
Time travel. 1933.
He draws in a shuddering breath.
And a voice he desperately wants to hear again, calling to him from a past he should not know. Maybe it's an illusion, like the stars that sparkle under the surface of the sea.
He wants to reach out, stretch his fingers forward, and know what the fire of a star feels like.
He presses his lips together.
With calm, deliberate movement, he removes the earpods from his ears and sets them on the counter. Decision made, his heartbeat has settled, the shaking in his limbs eased as he focuses on his goal.
He forgoes a glass this time, fingers curling around the neck of the bottle, tipping it directly to his lips to drink. It's honey sticky-sweet on his tongue like he remembers, but there's a sourness after he swallows that's new, a mournful lingering as the sugar melts from his mouth.
He drinks, and waits, and drinks, and wait, and waits, and waits. His fingers start to tap anxiously against the counter, waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen. It doesn't feel like time is changing. It doesn't feel like anything. No dizziness, no shifting ground. Only a taste on his tongue that's growing more and more bitter with accumulation.
Unsure, wondering if the moonshine only works when the subject is unaware of its effects, he keeps drinking until he has to tip his head back, bottle upended, the last drop falling unceremoniously into his mouth.
He places the bottle back on the counter, eyes narrowing as he licks his lips. Perhaps he has wasted the last of the precious liquid, he starts to think, regretful and frustrated.
His thoughts come to an abrupt stop when the ground shifts beneath his feet, sending him stumbling backward. A searing pain courses through his head, his vision blurring for a moment.
He bends at the waist, bracing his hands on his thighs, determinedly controling his breathing. Deep slow inhale, smooth exhale.
The small vegetable garden.
The brilliant light of the lighthouse.
And Min Yoongi, hands hardened with calluses, a smile that can easily be coaxed into a grin, and lips that taste like sea salt.
He straightens, a wide smile straining his cheeks, a bubble of a happy sigh in his lungs as he looks around. He recognizes the field as the one where the cottage will one day stand. Where Yoongi keeps innumerable items rooted underground – his garden, his clandestine spoils of smuggling, and one day, the moonshine, the key to beckoning Seokjin here.
His movements falter. He wasn't supposed to come back. It's not fair to either of them, this impression of something they cannot hold onto, the touch of water as it passes through cupped hands. He shouldn't have come back. He shouldn't make it harder for Yoongi, coming and going like a wind that will not be able to return.
He turns his gaze south, to where he knows the lighthouse stands tall and strong, a haven, calling him.
He wants to reach out, still. For as brief as it may be. It would still be, once. A happenstance that he would live, no matter if all memory fade. Bonghee said there are things one is not meant to remember, but they still exist as part of him. He walks, and he talks, not recalling the moment he learnt either skill.
Yoongi is like that, he thinks. A part of him, that changes how he lives.
He inhales and sets off down a path he knows well, one he knows will fade eventually. But for now, it's here, clearly marked by footsteps that have come before him.
Yoongi does a quick bit of tidying in the lighthouse before he descends the tower. He wants to prepare the items for Gwangok and Sang, it make easier to load and get them out before they can be caught.
He attaches a basket to his bicycle and packs a set of gloves and garden shears as a plausible pretext for this unusual journey. He's just tending his garden, he can explain easily. There is someone on the island with wide eyes and a wider mouth, he reminds himself. Someone that saw Seokjin, and decided to let Choi know about it. There's an uneasiness that creeps down his spine when he thinks about it. He's being watched, reported on. It is becoming more and more clear to him that this island is not a home. Never has been, and probably never will be.
Seokjin was home, his heart thumps unhelpfully. In Seokjin he felt safe, and happy. Seokjin was what he's been seeking for so, so long.
Yoongi frowns and tightens the basket to his bicycle. And Seokjin exists in the future, too far way like stars in the sky.
He swings a leg over and settles in his seat, giving himself a kick start. The wheels of the bike spin, a satisfying whir as he careens down the hill onto the well-worn path, a path he knows so well, he could travel it with his eyes closed. He resolutely sets his mind away from Seokjin, and the sky, and the tides, focusing only on what is in front of him. The trees, the grass, the wild rabbits, the dirt-packed path.
He skids to an abrupt stop, bicycle tires burning against the dirt, a plume of dust kicking up around him. He loses his balance but manages to jump off his bicycle before he crashes under it, wobbling on his feet. There's a rush of everything and too much going through his blood, making him feel shaky. When he rights himself and looks up, Seokjin is still there, not a daydream, not a trick of light.
He's there, dressed in a strange kind of grey jacket – almost a sweater but not quite, loose-fitting and draping. He smiles hesitantly at Yoongi, a little more sheepish than Yoongi's seen him before.
"Seokjin?" he hears himself say, brow furrowing in confusion, still hovering in disbelief.
Seokjin's smile strains and he takes one small step forward. "Hi."
Yoongi blinks and repeats back dully, "Hi." The shock is starting to fade, quickly replaced by a kind of happiness and relief that scares him. A kind of happiness he doesn't think he should have, too joyous, too liberating. Too much like he's found a haven.
"So, I'm back," Seokjin starts awkwardly.
Yoongi nods, still blank, jaw loose. "I see that."
Seokjin's cheeks and the shell of his ear starts to blush, rosy and spreading like ink on his skin. "I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't have come back." He pauses for a moment. "There was this video, and I heard your voice." He smiles again. "I didn't think, I just...I just came back."
Yoongi licks his lips. "I have no idea what that is. A, a what?"
Seokjin laughs suddenly, surprised, and somehow breaks the trance Yoongi is lost in. Seokjin is here, Seokjin came back. Seokjin heard his heart's plea and returned. "A video," Seokjin pronounces clearly. "It's –"
"How long will you stay?" Yoongi interrupts.
Seokjin quiets for a moment. "I don't know. Three, maybe four weeks?"
Yoongi nods. "I see."
"I." Seokjin stops, inhales for fortification. "I finished the moonshine. There's no more left." He presses his lips together and says softly, "I won't be able to come back after this."
It's funny, Yoongi thinks, how he can be caught in a whirl of unfamiliar happiness, and yet fully feel the sorrow of a loss not yet suffered. One does not diminish the other, and he is stuck in opposite spectrums, the oscillations of light and dark of his lighthouse rotating.
He smiles slowly at Seokjin and tilts his head to the left. "It'll be enough," he says. He bends to pick up his bicycle, walking it over to Seokjin until they stand face-to-face. "Three weeks, four weeks. However long. It'll be enough." He holds out his hand to Seokjin, palm up, waiting. "Welcome back."
When Seokjin's hand slides into his, fingers interlocked, smooth skin against his rough calluses, it feels more like welcome home.
Yoongi shakes his head from his position, crouched in the small gallery just outside the lantern room. "Not yet," he confirms, eyes locked out at sea, scanning and scrutinizing. It's amazing to Seokjin how Yoongi can spot anything out there in the pitch dark, the clouds covering the moon and stars. The only light is the steady beam of the lighthouse, turning in its constant oscillation.
Gwangok and Sang are expected to arrive soon, and once Seokjin had gleaned this precious piece of information from Yoongi, he had insisted that he get to help. "I want to be a smuggler, too, Seokjin had said, unashamed of the pout that formed on his lips. Unsurprisingly, Seokjin won in the end.
He shifts on his feet, nervous excitement building in his veins as the night wears on. He leans against the doorway of the lantern room that leads out onto the gallery, folding and unfolding the blanket. "So how did you even start doing this?" he asks Yoongi's back, tipping his head against the frame. "The whole smuggling thing. Have you always been a criminal mastermind?"
Yoongi snorts, eyes still focused on the black water. "I knew Sang from when I lived in Busan. He needed a place to store his goods. He knew I had land in a convenient spot." Yoongi shrugs. "He offered me money and we had a deal."
Seokjin curls his lips into a frown, disappointed. "That's lackluster."
Yoongi huffs out a laugh. "I told you, it's very boring. More manual labor than any mystery."
"You're ruining my dreams, Yoongi."
"Your imagination is too – " Yoongi stops abruptly, standing to his feet quickly, a gasp escaping his lips.
Seokjin's eyes widen, a kick of adrenaline spiking in his blood. He stretches his arms again, unfolding the blanket, breath caught in his lungs. "Now?" he asks, voice hushed but urgent.
Yoongi looks at him over his shoulder, a smile creeping over his mouth. "Not yet," he says, mirth in the undertones of his voice.
Seokjin makes a face. "Yah."
Yoongi snickers and crouches again, returning back to his post.
"You're not funny," Seokjin says, even as a smile belies his statement. He inhales and shifts back to lean on the doorframe again.
"Hmm," Yoongi hums, tilting his head. "I don't know. I think maybe I am."
"In the future you wouldn't be," Seokjin lies. "We have a sophisticated sense of humor in my time. Word play. I'm very good at it."
Yoongi peeks at him from over his shoulder again, his mouth obscured but eyes alight with amusement. "Oh really?"
Seokjin tilts his chin out in a show of confidence. "Really."
Yoongi looks back to the ocean. "Guess I'll take your word for it."
Seokjin's lips twitch. "That was a weak attempt," he mock scolds.
"Hmm. It's a hard thing to read," Yoongi continues, completely deadpan.
"Oh." Yoongi stands and turns to smile at Seokjin. "Now."
"Now?" Seokjin repeats, kicking away from the doorframe.
"Now," Yoongi confirms.
With great relish, Seokjin unfolds the blanket and tosses it over the lantern, casting them into pitch darkness. The air seems to still, and Seokjin can almost imagine everything has faded away, except for the rush of waves below them and the soft patter of Yoongi's feet as he navigates back into the lantern room.
"Count to thirty," Yoongi instructs. "Then take the blanket off and we can go."
Seokjin starts to count in his head, but he finds it isn't seconds he's ticking off in his head. It's Yoongi's footsteps as they draw nearer. Clack, one. Clack, two. Clack, three and Seokjin can almost feel Yoongi beside him now. Clack, four. Clack, five, and Yoongi's hand brushes Seokjin's side, gentle, accidental, sending goose bumps down Seokjin's neck and arms.
Yoongi retracts his hand quickly and mutters an embarrassed apology. Clack, six, and he's moving away. Seokjin swallows the sudden disappointment and sets his mind back on counting. Seven, eight.
He reaches thirty and, with a great flourish, tears the blanket away. Light floods the space and he squints his eyes against the immediate brightness. Yoongi takes the heavy material from Seokjin's hands, deftly folding it with practiced ease, fingers smoothing the edges with a quick flick before each flip.
"Let's go," Yoongi says once he finishes, placing the blanket back in its place.
The night air is slightly chilled when they emerge from the lighthouse, the heat of the day faded. Seokjin folds his arms around his chest, wishing he had taken his hoodie.
Yoongi grabs his bicycle and walks it over to Seokjin, climbing on and nodding at Seokjin. "Coming?"
Seokjin smiles and settles behind Yoongi, wrapping his arms tight around Yoongi's stomach, his chest to Yoongi's back. Warmth floods through him, radiating from Yoongi through his clothes, chasing away the chill and heating Seokjin's bones. Seokjin thinks Yoongi is like a campfire, flickering, crackling, a place where Seokjin wants to gather and stay.
Or maybe this is what stars are, a swirl of fire, their heat that cannot be felt from the endless distance.
They don't talk on the way across the island. It's dark, the clouds hiding any brilliance, and no matter how well Yoongi knows the way, Seokjin doesn't want to distract him as they navigate blindly. He doesn't mind much. Just the press of Yoongi's stomach against his clasped hands, of Yoongi's hair tickling his cheek, of his back against Seokjin's chest is enough. Their silences aren't difficult, Seokjin realizes. They're a different kind of happiness, a peaceful contentment.
He leans his chin on Yoongi's shoulder and lets himself just listen to the stillness. The whir of the bicycle wheels, the rustle of the trees, the steady, soft exchange of air in his own lungs, mirrored slightly quieter in Yoongi's breathing, a dulled echo in reply. He tries to commit this moment to memory, tries to imprint it into his chest so when his mind fails him, he will still know it when he takes in a slow, slow breath.
He wonders fancifully how much room he has to write Yoongi into his body, invisible ink on his skin and into his bones. Surely he isn't tall enough, wide enough, deep enough to explain all of Yoongi, to replicate all these fleeting seconds.
Seokjin knows they've arrived before Yoongi comes to a gentle stop, catching the sounds of hasty footsteps and the whisper-yell complaining of a voice he remembers. The loud one is Gwangok, Yoongi had told him earlier. The quiet one is Sang. Seokjin smiles and disembarks.
"Hey-yo, Yoongi, you came to help?" Gwangok calls out. He holds up a lantern to his face, illuminating his smile. He pauses and squints his eyes for a moment. "And Seokjin, was it?"
Yoongi nods in greeting. "Seokjin's going to help us out tonight."
"Great!" Gwangok puts his lantern down on the ground and moves up to them to shove a large, heavy crate into Seokjin's arms. "You can take these to the boat."
"Would you stop yelling, Gwangok?" Sang says as he suddenly appears. Seokjin yelps in surprise, the crate shaking in his arms, glass bottles clanking with the movement.
"Sorry," Seokjin says, quickly recovering himself. "I'll just." He moves to head to the shore where he assumes he will find the boat.
He can hear Yoongi trying to stifle his laughter, a low sort of cackling. He looks back to see Yoongi grab the lantern and shuffle after him. He waits until Yoongi catches up. "It's this way," Yoongi says, stepping in front of Seokjin to lead the way.
"Hey, shouldn't you be the one carrying this?" Seokjin asks, his arms starting to ache.
"I'm holding the light."
"We can switch."
Yoongi looks back at Seokjin and smirks. "I'm a lightkeeper, Seokjin. This is what I do."
Seokjin snorts and thinks it's more that Yoongi is a baby who doesn't like to carry anything. He shifts the crate against his chest. He doesn't much mind. It's kind of cute, in a way. Annoying, but cute.
It doesn't take long to load up the boat with the extra help, despite Yoongi's insistence that he's the lantern holder.
"That's the last one," Seokjin says, climbing into the boat with a relatively light sack.
Gwangok grabs the sack from Seokjin and smacks him hard on the back. "Thanks, Seokjin. You're a good kid. Sorry about tying you up last time."
Seokjin smiles and shakes his head. "Don't worry about it." He watches as Gwangok heads below deck and licks his lips, hesitating. He can see Yoongi's lantern light in his peripheral vision, waiting on the shoreline.
Sang stares at him, unblinking, expectantly waiting.
Seokjin smiles briefly. "So, I was wondering. Could you bring back a notebook for me from Busan?"
Sang remains unmoved, still just staring at him.
"Ah, do you have notebooks? Like, a bunch of papers bundled together with a cover? Even just a bunch of papers would do," Seokjin says, tilting his head.
"I know what a notebook is," Sang finally says, still unblinking. "Why do you need it?"
Seokjin's gaze turns to Yoongi on the shore, his frown illuminated by the lantern, watching with furrowed brows, waiting. "There's something I have to write," he says, more to himself than to Sang. There's so much he has to write, and he doesn't have enough bones in his body to hold it all.
"Hmm." Sang sniffs.
Gwangok ambles back up to the deck and waves at Seokjin as he hops down onto the shore. "You got to go, now, Seokjin. We're taking off." He walks around to the haul to start pushing the boat out into deeper water.
"Ah, right." Seokjin climbs over the edge of the boat, his feet splashing in the shallow water.
"I'll see what I can find," Sang calls to him over the edge of the boat.
Seokjin smiles gratefully. "Thank you." He turns to walk back to Yoongi, standing safely away from the lap of waves.
"What was that?" Yoongi asks when Seokjin reaches him.
Seokjin shrugs. "Just saying goodbye." He takes the lantern from Yoongi's loose grip. "Let's go back," he says, walking away, unwilling to elaborate. It's a foolhardy idea anyway, and he's not even certain Sang can secure the notebook. He will keep the thought to himself, for now, and explain it to Yoongi later, if it happens.
He hopes it does. Yoongi shouldn't be the only one who remembers.
Seokjin smiles back at him, pausing in his task. "How accurate are your predictions?" He tilts his neck, looking straight up to the sky. "In my time, we have meteorologists who give us the chances. Seventy percent. Ten percent." He looks at Yoongi. "Eighty percent?"
Yoongi frowns, unimpressed. "It either rains or it doesn't," he says, and points up at the clouds rolling in slowly. "You just look and know. It's going to rain today."
Seokjin looks across the water. "How can you be certain? Even out technology is wrong half the time."
Yoongi shrugs. "You just have to know, and trust that it's true. It's going to rain today," he repeats yet again.
Seokjin smiles up at the clouds, still crouched wrists resting on his knees. "Hmm."
They wait for a few more minutes until the sound of a boat motor cuts though. Yoongi kicks off the tree and Seokjin straightens to stand. He pockets his remaining rocks in his jacket – "hoodie". He called it a hoodie when Yoongi asked.
"Is that Bonghee-noona?" Seokjin asks when Yoongi reaches his side.
Yoongi nods, eyeing the boat as it approaches. He can only see Sookja at the helm with Bonghee, pretending to commandeer the vessel. "Doesn't look like she has any passengers today," he notes.
As the boat draws nearer, Sookja leaves her mother to navigate and runs excitedly to the front, waving at Yoongi with both arms over her head.
Yoongi snorts, amused, and lifts a hand to wave back at her. "That's Sookja, Bonghee-noona's daughter."
Seokjin's eyes flicker and an odd sort of ironic smile quirks his lips. "I see," he says, also lifting an arm to wave at her.
Sookja stops waving immediately, her arms dropping down to her sides abruptly, suspicion and distrust in the scrunch of her eyes as she evaluates Seokjin from afar.
Seokjin frowns. "What did I do?" he asks, affronted and incredulous.
Yoongi snickers from beside him but chooses not to reply. Sookja is a cold child. It took her three months before she would even acknowledge him.
The boat eases alongside the pier and Sookja clambers onto the dock before Bonghee even comes to a complete stop. She rolls off the edge of the boat onto the wood, landing on her stomach, and clumsily pushes herself up, wiping her hands on her sides. She takes two steps to turn herself around to face them, a scowl on her lips.
"Who're you?" she demands at Seokjin, eyes flicking up and down him.
Seokjin smiles at her and crouches to meet her eyes. "I'm Kim Seokjin."
She pinches her lips together. "Your name is weird."
"Sookja!" Bonghee scolds sharply, tying up the boat to the dock. "Apologize. Right now."
Sookja folds her arms over her puffed out chest. "Sorry your name is weird."
"Sookja," Bonghee repeats disapprovingly.
"I said sorry!" She side steps around a flustered and slightly offended Seokjin. Yoongi can see the tips of his ears burn red and has to press his lips tightly together to keep his composure. Sookja holds her palms out, cupped together, and says coolly to Yoongi, "I'll take my gift now, thank you." She obviously blames him for Seokjin's unwelcome presence.
Unable to resist, Yoongi forgoes the seashell in his pocket and points to Seokjin. "He's your present."
Her jaw drops, dismay comically overtaking her entire face. "Why? I can't take care of him!" She shoots her eyes to Seokjin. "I don't want you!"
Seokjin smiles, amused. "I'm a very good roommate. Right, Yoongi?"
Yoongi nods seriously. "Oh, yes. He's the best roommate I've ever had."
"I don't even know what that means," Sookja whines, stomping her foot. "I want a different present."
Bonghee finishes tying up the boat and approaches them. "Sookja, don't be rude."
Seokjin laughs and reaches into his pocket. "I think I have something you'll like," he says, appeasing. Yoongi expects Seokjin to pull out one of the skipping stones, but instead, firmly secured between his slender fingers, Seokjin holds a slightly wilted dandelion. He extends it to Sookja, tilting his head. "Hmm?"
Sookja sniffs, eyeing him coldly. "That's just a dumb dandelion, they're everywhere."
"Yah! Do you know where this is from?" Seokjin says. "You can't get this anywhere."
Sookja points behind them. "There's like a hundred right there!" she says loudly.
"Those are from now. This," he says dramatically, holding the weed up in pretend awe. "This is from the future."
Sookja's lips purse and she flicks her eyes over the dandelion, coolness melting as her interest piques. "The future?"
Seokjin leans closer and whispers loudly, "It's from 2018."
Sookja's eyes widen in amazement. "Really?"
Seokjin nods, then pauses. "Actually, I probably shouldn't give it away. Too precious."
"No, I want it, you said it's mine!" Sookja says quickly, holding her hands out eagerly.
"I don't know...."
"Please, please, please!" She taps her feet in anxious anticipation, left-right-left-right.
"Fine, you've convinced me." He drops the flower into her hands.
She clasps it gently, smiling at her new treasure.
"Sookja, say thank you," Bonghee reminds her.
"Thank you," she repeats diligently. She looks up excitedly. "Can I go to the lighthouse now?" she asks her mother.
"If it's okay with Yoongi," Bonghee replies.
Sookja turns wide, pleading eyes to Yoongi.
"It's okay," Yoongi answers, smiling.
She shouts in triumph and grabs Seokjin's hand, her approval of him now given, and tugs. "Let's go, uncle Seokjin. Tell me about the flower. Is it magical? Did a fairy give it to you?" She gasps. "Does this make me a fairy now?"
Seokjin sends Yoongi one helpless, bemused look before he lets Sookja drag him off the pier and onto the island.
Amused, he turns to smile at Bonghee. "Is there anything to unload today?" he asks.
She stares off at Seokjin and Sookja, brow furrowed. "He came back?" she asks, eyes still far away, focused on Seokjin.
Yoongi blinks, frowning. He licks his lips. "Yeah. He drank the rest of the bottle, he said." He inhales slowly and tries to sound natural. "He won't be back after this."
"No," Bonghee agrees, but that wrinkle between her brows still remains pinched in concern. "He knows this will be the last time, right? You must make it clear." She finally sets her eyes on Yoongi. "We all have one," she warns. "Never more. You must remind him before he leaves."
Yoongi's breath stills at the intensity of Bonghee's voice. "I will," he affirms.
She nods in acknowledgement, then claps her hands together and smiles. "Well. We should unload. I brought two crates today."
Yoongi clears his throat and tries to smile back, pushing the inevitability of Seokjin's departure to the back of his mind. "So many this time?"
Bonghee climbs down into the boat again. "I need to clear them out." She uncovers the open crates and hefts one up onto the pier. She considers it for a moment before she looks back at Yoongi. "We're leaving soon," she says. "Going to Busan to live with Sookja's father."
Yoongi feels a tinge of loss in his chest, the sadness of losing and losing, and losing, connections falling away, collapsing bridges. "How soon?" he asks around a lump in his throat.
"Soon enough." She moves to grab the other crate, sighing. "We don't want to go. It's just too hard to live here now."
Yoongi crouches, placing his hands on the wooden crate, and says sadly, "It's hard to live in the city, too."
"I know." Bonghee lifts the second crate onto the pier and locks eyes with Yoongi. "That's why we need to be together. When it's hard, we need each other most."
Yoongi shifts his gaze away, down to the glass bottles of cherry wine.
"You can come with us, Yoongi," Bonghee says gently. "You know you're almost like family."
He smiles and shakes his head. "There's nothing for me in Busan," he says.
"Is there anything for you here?" she prompts.
He glances back to the island in the direction where Sookja dragged Seokjin, a small image growing smaller as they walk further and further away. "For now, there is."
"And when he leaves?"
Yoongi shrugs and stands, leaning the crate on his chest. "And when he leaves, the lighthouse and the sand and the trees can remind me of when he was here. Let's go," he says, avoiding Bonghee's gaze and moving quickly off the pier. He wants to catch up before Seokjin disappears from sight.
Bonghee runs her hand over Sookja's messy hair. "We visited a long time. Uncle Yoongi has work to do."
Sookja pouts and stomps over to Seokjin, grabbing his hand. "Can we take Uncle Seokjin? Uncle Yoongi gave him to me."
Yoongi frowns, sulking. "You didn't want him, so he stays with me," he counters somewhat childishly.
Seokjin laughs. "I gave you a flower, remember?"
"Hmm." She sighs, resigned, and tilts her head all the way back to stare at Seokjin. "Can you come visit again and tell me if Mario finds the princess?"
"Of course," Seokjin answers, smiling.
"Okay." She releases his hand and climbs into the boat, tumbling into the hold. "'Bye uncles!"
Bonghee lingers for a moment, locking eyes with Seokjin. "Take care," she says, reaching a hand up to squeeze Seokjin's arm lightly. "If I don't see you again, remember what I told you last time."
Seokjin's smile wavers on his lips at Bonghee's reminder. There will be no next time once he leaves. "I know," he says seriously. These moments will need to be the lifetime with Yoongi he doesn't get to have.
She nods, satisfied, and climbs into the boat.
Seokjin and Yoongi stay on the pier until Bonghee and Sookja disappear in the distance, bother unspeaking. Bonghee's vague warning hangs heavy between them like the sticky pressure of humidity on their skin.
It's Seokjin who moves first, smiling widely and deliberately. "Should we go fishing?"
Yoongi glances at Seokjin, holding his gaze for a moment too long, thought filtering through his eyes – fondness, sadness, a magnetic kind of desire that pulls at Seokjin's chest and slips between his ribs, curling around the bones as it anchors its grip. He finally sniffs and shrugs, his gaze clearing. "It's going to rain soon," he says.
"So we'll fish by the lighthouse and go inside when it starts." Seokjin hooks a finger into Yoongi's elbow, tugging. "Come on, let's go."
Yoongi only has one fishing rod but he does have extra hooks and fishing line. Seokjin procures a stick and creates a makeshift rod for himself with little difficulty.
"I can't believe you made that," Yoongi says, eyeing the creation with equal parts awe and disdain.
Seokjin shrugs, bouncing his line in the water, feet dangling off the side of the unfinished dock. He's rolled his pants up to his calves and the water splashes on his exposed skin as small waves crest against the cove. "I can't believe you only have one fishing rod," he replies, turning his head to scowl at Yoongi.
Yoongi frowns and blinks, looking away from Seokjin to his own line, unmoving. "I only ever needed one before." His frown deepens and he sighs, shifting his crossed legs. "And I'll only need one. After."
Seokjin stills, a hollowing uneasiness in his stomach. His fingers flex around the fishing rod, back straightening up as he watches Yoongi carefully. "Is it too hard, having me here?"
Yoongi tilts his head, eyes focused on the lapping water, a deep grey-green abyss, dulled without the sun to put stars under its surface. "No," he finally says. "I called you back here. It's what I wanted." He shifts to glance at Seokjin, a small, shy smile tugging his lips. "It's what I want."
"You called me back here?" Seokjin repeats, arching a brow.
Seokjin snorts. "How did you do that?"
Yoongi smirks, one shoulder lifting coolly. "I stopped time."
"I did," Yoongi insist, tone light and humored.
Seokjin lifts his feet from the side of the dock, moving up to his knees, his fishing rod abandoned by his side. He leans forward and says teasingly, "Min Yoongi, did you miss me?"
Yoongi's eyes flicker and he pauses, hesitating. He licks his lips and Seokjin wonders what words are hovering there, tittering on a precipice of said and unsaid, real and imagined. He wonders what side he hopes they fall on. He stays still, eyes locked with Yoongi, breath held in his lungs. Yoongi's magnetism sinks past his ribcage, deeper, deeper still.
"I'm only going to say this because I know you won't remember," Yoongi says, voice rumbling softly, quiet.
The wind whips between them, threatening to steal the words as they leave Yoongi's mouth. Seokjin's hair brushes against his forehead but he ignores it, blinking the strands away, everything in him focusing on Yoongi in this moment.
"You are what I imagine home to be. And I feel like." He stops, exhales slowly through his mouth. "I feel like you've got a piece of me that I've been looking for." He brings a hand to his own chest, flattening his palm and pressing down into his ribs. "Here. It's full here when you're with me."
Yoongi lets out a sharp breath, embarrassed, his eyes dropping from Seokjin's. He clears his throat and frowns down at his hands. Seokjin's heart constricts, Yoongi surrounding and covering the still beating organ, seeping through to his bloodstream, coursing into his limbs. He doesn't know why, but time moved for them. Time moved for this moment, so that even when this all fades away to less than a dream, he'll still know. He'll still have Yoongi in his blood and written into the marrow of his bones. And it's changed him forever.
Words are tied up on his tongue, thick in his mouth, stuck in his throat. He doesn't think he can give sound to all that's swirling in his mind, in his chest. He does the only thing he can. He tips forward, hands landing just in front of Yoongi's knees, newly sanded wood smooth against his palms. Wind obscures his vision for a moment, but he can see Yoongi's chin lift, can see his eyes widen in surprise at Seokjin's sudden proximity. The skin at the back of Seokjin's neck tingles as the first cool raindrops hit, heavy and sliding down his back.
Seokjin holds Yoongi's eyes for a moment, two, three, enough for their hearts to sync, two waves amplifying before the inevitable break. Yoongi's lips part slightly, a shuddering breath passing between them.
Seokjin moves first, closing the distance until his lips press against Yoongi's, sinking into him. Yoongi's lips are firm against his, sugar sweet, like warmed honey. He brushes his lips over Yoongi's cupid's bow, drawing back slightly to dip back in, again, again, a slow, thorough exploration. He tilts his head, settling back to worry Yoongi's bottom lip between his softly, laving tentatively with the tip of his tongue.
Yoongi's breath catches in his throat in an aborted gasp. One hand comes up to hold his cheek, holding Seokjin in place, angling him as Yoongi pleases. Yoongi's other hand slides onto his shoulder, smoothing the fabric of Seokjin's shirt as his fingers journey up across Seokjin's neck, smearing raindrops into his skin.
Seokjin breathes in through his nose and deepens the kiss, Yoongi's short nails digging into the dip between his shoulder blades. His tongue slips past Yoongi's lips, slow and cautious even as he feels himself drowning in him. Yoongi tastes like burnt sugar, heavy and dark and carameled, a sense of sea salt lingering in the aftermath.
Yoongi makes a small, low sound, pulling back just enough that their lips break apart. Yoongi leans his forehead against Seokjin's, and he's suddenly aware that they are both wet from a rain Seokjin didn't notice, too lost in Yoongi's lips and tongue and fingers pressing insistently at the top of his spine.
Yoongi gulps in a large breath and smiles. "I told you it'd rain," he says, his fingers inching from Seokjin's cheek to bury into the wet locks of Seokjin's hair sticking together.
Seokjin's lips quirk in a fond curve. "So much for fishing."
Yoongi huffs out a laugh and pulls Seokjin back to him, their lips colliding with more force than their previous kiss, an urgency building like charging electricity.
"We should go inside," Yoongi says into Seokjin's mouth, transferring the words directly onto Seokjin's tongue.
Seokjin swallows. "Yeah," he agrees, grabbing a hold on Yoongi's hand and pulling him up, running from out of the rain into the lighthouse.
They make it as far as the second storey landing before Seokjin has Yoongi pushed up against the stairwell wall, hands on his chest, slinking down. Yoongi's shirt clings to him, moulding and sticking to Seokjin's fingertips. Yoongi presses insistent, open-mouthed kisses on Seokjin's neck, his breath hot and heady on Seokjin's skin.
Seokjin presses his palm down to the waistband of Yoongi's trousers. He dips his head to nuzzle into Yoongi's hair, breath releasing in pants. "Can I?" he asks.
Yoongi swallows, choking out an urgent, "Please, yes, please."
Seokjin dips his hand into Yoongi's trousers, pulling them down low enough to get a grip on Yoongi, wrapping his fingers around Yoongi's length.
"You, too," Yoongi groans into Seokjin's skin, the vibrations pulsing against his throat like a second heartbeat. "You, too."
Seokjin nods, breath catching in his throat. He keeps his right hand wrapped around Yoongi, stroking slowly, and tugs his own pants down quickly. He opens his fingers and leans into Yoongi, stepping closer until their legs bracket each other. He presses his own length to Yoongi's and strokes up, his thumb swiping over both their heads.
Yoongi moans, his fingers tightening in Seokjin's shirt, pulling it, trying to bring him even closer.
It's an awkward angle. Seokjin doesn't have much leverage, but they're both too far gone in each other for it to matter. It doesn't take long before Yoongi sucks in a sharp breath, shuddering against him, teeth scrapping over Seokjin's collarbone.
Seokjin finishes himself off quickly, Yoongi's scent in his lungs, Yoongi's groans in his ears, Yoongi in his ribs and buried under his heart to stay.
The rain in 1933 has Min Yoongi, curled up into his side as they share his cot, Yoongi's head on Seokjin's chest, his fingers flat where Seokjin's heart lays. Seokjin's arm squeezes around Yoongi's shoulder, drawing him minutely closer.
Yoongi inhales deeply, stirring, his feet wiggling against Seokjin's ankles. He lifts his head up to look at Seokjin.
"Sorry, did I wake you?" Seokjin asks softly.
Yoongi sighs and dips his head back down to rest on Seokjin again. "I wasn't sleeping."
Seokjin smirk, a fond tip of his lips upward. He reaches his hand to Yoongi's hair, rearranging the dried strands, smoothing out the flyaways. "It looks like you were."
"I wasn't," Yoongi says around a yawn, words muffled.
Seokjin hums, unconvinced and amused. Yoongi's dark locks seem even darker against his skin as he brushes through the hair. They remain like that for a while, listening to the rain that sounds so familiar but could never compare. Seokjin frowns, an uncomfortable thought nagging at him. He wonders if the rain will sounds different to Yoongi after he leaves.
"I called you back here. It's what I wanted.".
His fingers halt in Yoongi's hair. "Yoongi," he starts, voice a whisper, another small drop of rain in the onslaught of the downpour. "What will you do, when I leave?"
Yoongi tenses against him and Seokjin has a moment of regret that he even brought the subject up. But he has to know. He has to know that Yoongi will be okay. That the rain won't change, won't bring him sadness.
Yoongi shifts off Seokjin's chest and leans up on his elbow, eyes searching Seokjin's face intently, brow furrowed in concern. "What do you mean?"
Seokjin sighs lightly. "When I go away. What will you do? You have one fishing rod. One broom. One cot." He frowns. "It's lonely. I don't want you to be lonely."
Yoongi smiles dully, the action not quite reflecting in his eyes. "I've always been alone. I like it that way."
"That's a lie," Seokjin says, reaching over to brush Yoongi's fringe aside, fingers gently hovering over his brows. "Can you do me a favor?" he asks, smiling.
"When I'm gone, make sure you go to the beach often. Tell yourself a joke once a day, no matter how bad they seem. Can you handle that?"
Yoongi laughs, gums showing as his lips stretch wide. "I think I can handle that."
Seokjin's smile widens, satisfied. Even if the rain will be different, Yoongi will still smile, still laugh. "Good. Live a long and happy life, Yoongi. Can you do that, too?"
Yoongi hesitates for a moment, considering it seriously before he nods. "Yeah," he answers slowly. "I'll do that."
Content with Yoongi's promise, Seokjin leans back in the cot and pulls Yoongi down with him, closing his eyes. The patter of the rain against the lighthouse lulls them and Seokjin almost drifts off to sleep when Yoongi speaks up again,
"Seokjin?" he says, the inquiry a vibration against Seokjin's heart. "When you go back, forget this. Me, the lighthouse. Don't remember it." Yoongi's fingers curls in Seokjin's shirt, wrinkling the material.
Seokjin presses his lips together, unmoving and silent, pretending to be asleep.
"You'll be happier, then," Yoongi says, blowing out a soft breath. "Seokjin?"
Seokjin keeps his eyes closed, carefully controlling his breathing.
Yoongi sighs and shifts, settling back into sleep, much to Seokjin's relief.
He won't promise Yoongi something he has no intention to keep. Yoongi is already under his skin, and he won't do anything to change that.
Selfishly, Yoongi prefers it this way. Seokjin is leaving a trail of invisible handprints in every aspect of Yoongi's life, hidden memories Yoongi will be able to pull up and hold close when he's alone. The plants in the garden that were tended by Seokjin's hands. The planks on the dock they finish, placed and set by Seokjin. Yoongi can pick out every nail Seokjin embedded, cool metal he can skim his fingers over and remember it was real.
Seokjin keeps watch with him every night as the lighthouse shines its bright light across the sea, reflecting off the water like stars, from birth to death as they appear and fade with the lantern's rotation. They visit Bonghee and Sookja often, and each time Seokjin's fairy tale gets more and more bizarre. Evil turtles and mushroom people and a road made of rainbows that sounds terrifying. Sookja is enthralled though, and Yoongi likes to see Seokjin's eyes alight with excitement.
When Gwangok and Sang return from Busan, there's a strange exchange between Sang and Seokjin, a quiet passing of a satchel and a quick, relieved smile on Seokjin's face. Yoongi doesn't ask about it. He doesn't have to. He finds out soon enough that Seokjin has acquired a notebook, one that he write in for hours everyday.
Curiosity finally triumphs four days after Seokjin starts sliding his pen on the paper.
"What are you writing?" Yoongi asks, peeking out of the watch room door onto the gallery. Seokjin is sitting cross-legged by the door frame, early evening sun glistening off the silk of his deep brown hair, his skin glowing from all the time they've spent outside.
Seokjin's pen scrapes across the paper quickly, finishing a thought before he looks up, smiling. "My magnum opus." He laughs when Yoongi purses his lips, confused and dissatisfied with Seokjin's answer. "You. I'm writing about you."
Yoongi's lips part in surprise, a pleasant warmness in his cheeks. He clears his throat. "Why?"
"Because I'll forget you when I go back." Seokjin's smile remains stubbornly on his lips but the brightness fades.
Yoongi's hand curls into a fist by his side. He tries to laugh, tries to mirror a smile for Seokjin, tries to pretend a lightness neither of them feel. "Who will even give it to you in the future?" he asks, keeping his voice forcefully casual.
"I'll find it. I'll hide it somewhere and find it," Seokjin answers.
"You won't know where it is," he tries to tease, trailing off when he sees the stubborn set of Seokjin's mouth.
Seokjin places his pen by his side. He looks down, his fingers flipping the pages of the notebook gently backward to the beginning. He blinks, eyes scanning what he's already written, his lips pressing together. "When I go back, I'm going to look for you." He glances up at Yoongi, closing the notebook, an insistence in his voice, an entreaty in his gaze for Yoongi to listen, to know and believe. "I'll look for you and I won't be able to find you. But I'll find this." His fingers wrap securely around the spine of the black leather notebook. "I'll find this."
"You're supposed to forget me," Yoongi says dully, caught between despondency and comfort. That Seokjin will feel what he feels, that he won't be alone, not completely, that he'll be able to linger like a handprint on Seokjin's chest. "Didn't Bonghee-noona say there are things you aren't meant to remember?"
"I won't," Seokjin says, eyes still locked with Yoongi, voice soft, a gentle ebbing tide. "I won't remember you. But I'm still doing to know you."
Yoongi crouches down to Seokjin's level, frowning. "You'll miss me."
Seokjin tilts his head to the side leaning against the wall, his fringe shifting with the movement to obscure one brow. "You'll miss me, too."
Yoongi remains silent, unable to deny the statement.
"So, let's miss each other, and be happy while we do it," Seokjin says.
Yoongi scoffs. "I don't think that's possible."
Seokjin grins and shrugs his shoulder. "Time travel isn't possible either, but I still did it. We can be the first, you and me."
It's a fool's dream, but Yoongi wants to believe it. He wants to believe Seokjin.
He wants, and so he decides he will.
He will lose him.
He doesn't say it, but Seokjin feels it, too.
They bury Seokjin's notebook in Yoongi's garden, wrapped protectively in an old, threadbare blanket. Seokjin says it's incomplete, there's so much more he needs to pen, so many things he forgot to mention. But time marches steadily on, and Seokjin has to create an ending, premature and ambiguous.
Yoongi doesn't think he quite believes Seokjin will even find the notebook. He's not sure if it's relief or disappointment that churns in his stomach at the thought.
It's hard to sleep, wondering if he'll wake up alone, wondering if he'll miss those precious last few seconds with Seokjin. It's hard to sleep, but his body is exhausted, unconsciousness dragging and tugging and pulling him under into dreams that could never compare to reality. It's always fitful, and he always wakes up with a gasping start, but Seokjin is always still here, warm and solid under his fingertips.
Until he isn't.
Yoongi furrows his brow as hands come up to hold his face, framing his cheeks, brushing quickly into his hair.
"Live a long, happy life, Min Yoongi." There's a press of lips against the corner of Yoongi's mouth, and suddenly he knows, heart stopping in his chest, breath choking in his lungs.
His eyes fly open, he stretches his fingers up to grasp at anything he can find, nails scraping on Seokjin's neck. "Not yet," he pleads, foolishly, as if Seokjin could control any of this. As if either of them had any choice. If he did, Yoongi would choose to stay with Seokjin, into a future he doesn't belong to, a place he cannot reach.
Seokjin hovers over him, their limbs still tangled together in Yoongi's cot, the late afternoon sun casting deep shadows on the left side of his face. Seokjin grimaces, a phantom pain flitting across his features, but he manages to smile once again. "Be happy when you miss me," he says. "We promised."
Yoongi doesn't care what he promised, he just wants to pull Seokjin back to him, wants to tell him all the things he was afraid to say. His fingers tighten in Seokjin's shirt but he's losing his grip, and Seokjin is slipping away like water through his fingers.
"Seokjin, I – " he starts, stops. With one blink of his eyes, Seokjin is gone, vanished like the stars in the overpowering brilliance of the sun. His lungs heave on a wet breath, his eyes prickling, a sharp pang of loss coursing from his toes and fingers, up his limbs to constrict his heart. He shuts his eyes, his hands still above him where Seokjin was, just a moment before.
In the emptiness, he can hear the crash of waves against the shore, the call of seagulls, the rush of wind through his open window. The world pretends it is the same.
He curls up onto his side, pressing his cheek against the pillow that still smells like Seokjin.
Time marches steadily forward.
It has to.
It is the only thing that never ends.
Chapter 5: Fixed
This conclusion has been way, way too long in the making. Thank you so very much to those of you who have been patiently waiting. I love you, thank you ;;;;;
I won't ever say writing this fic has been easy, and I have some Feelings about it, but the comments I have received on it have sustained me in a way I cannot describe. You have absolutely no idea how much of a life preserver they have been when I felt like I was drowning trying to finish this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Fixed (lighthouse): A light characteristic in which the light is never interrupted by a period of darkness.
Seokjin, to his credit, does not flinch at the sharp, cutting edge to Jimin’s voice, even if he very much would like to. “Sorry,” he starts, but Jimin has only just begun his tirade.
“What did I say when I left? Keep in contact. Call me. Don’t go radio silent for two weeks like last time.”
Seokjin frowns at a row of ramen, pushing his shopping cart down the aisle. He’s survived the last five days on the ramen in his pantry, all the vegetables and fruit and, most sadly, the meat completely rotten by the time he returned. Four weeks later, just as Jimin’s still complaining about.
Four weeks, and not one hint or vague recollection of what happened, or who he was with, except for a deep-rooted, aching kind of pining, and a flash of something in that moment right before he drifts to sleep. Something he’s supposed to do, or find, something very important. There have been moments when he almost has it, as if he knows for a split second before it drops through his grasp, like water slipping through the gaps of his closed fingers.
He’s done something, left something, or misses someone, and all he has is a brief, badly recorded voice on his phone asking, “Seokjin, did you find it?”
He can recall the voice perfectly now, every rumble, inflection, the subtle lilt, an accent that doesn’t quite fit the island but isn’t quite Seoul based either. He’s replayed the clip over and over as if somehow that will bring clarity. As if his memory will miraculously return and he’ll know what his heart seems to reach for.
He tries to imagine what else that voice said, what words it imparted. What he heard that makes him hold on so tightly. But the memory remains stubbornly elusive and a part of Seokjin has accepted that it always will. He wonders why, then, if he can’t hold any of the time he spent in the past, why he was allowed to travel back. He hasn’t found an answer, and perhaps, he thinks, there is no why. Only is and was and now no longer.
“Hyung, are you even listening to me?” Jimin demands, jarring Seokjin and bringing him back to the present.
“Sorry, my bad,” Seokjin says, pushing his cart down the aisle, away from the ramen. “What did you say?”
“Did you finish the book?” Jimin repeats, his voice equal parts hopeful and pessimistic.
“I did,” Seokjin answers, less triumphantly than he would usually have announced. There is nothing victorious about finishing the novel. It was cathartic, compulsive. Inevitable. He wrote without rest for four days, chasing the ideas in his head, convinced that if he could only put it into words, he would know, he would unlock the key to his memories. If only his fingers could type fast enough, if only his mind could keep pace with his thoughts, if only he could break through the haze on a man’s blurred image in the peripherals of his dreams.
The novel ended, and Seokjin is no closer to the truth.
“Are you just saying that, or did you really finish it?” Jimin asks, suspicious.
“I really finished it,” Seokjin says, pausing in the aisle when he spots rows of alcohol. He reaches forward and grabs a bottle of vodka, slipping it into his cart before pushing off again.
“That’s great!” Jimin exclaims loudly, relief profound in his tone. “So when are you heading back to Seoul?”
Seokjin stops mid-step and blinks. He tilts his head and adjusts the phone in his hand. “I have the cottage until summer’s end,” he says dully.
“You rented the cottage to get over your writer’s block.”
“I was never blocked,” Seokjin protests.
“And now you have a complete first draft. We need you here to rewrite.”
Seokjin frowns. “But I have the cottage for another five weeks.”
“And you did amazing, hyung, finishing five weeks early. I have meetings this week but I’m free Saturday. I’ll drive down and help you pack and clean up.”
“No, I still have time,” Seokjin says, uneasiness bubbling in the pit of his stomach.
Jimin doesn’t pay any attention to Seokjin’s protests, announcing he will be down at the cottage sometime on Saturday before he hangs up.
He should still have time, Seokjin thinks, increasingly upset. He hasn’t remembered yet. He hasn’t found it yet.
He inhales sharply, a pain piercing through his head, his ears ringing as he hears the words in a voice that is not his own.
“Not yet,” uttered desperately, clinging, fingers pulling at his shirt.
Seokjin leans forward on the bar of his cart, gripping it with whitened knuckles, drawing in a labored breath as the pain radiates from the front to the back of his skull.
”We promised,” Seokjin had said.
He shakes his head, trying to bring it back to clarity. He promised, he promised something and he cannot remember. He squeezes his eyes shut, frustrated tears pricking under his lids.
The pain eases and with it, the brief glimpse of the memory fades and blurs.
Not yet, someone had said to him.
But time, like the endless waves, cannot be halted for anyone.
Or maybe it’s Yoongi who has dulled, desolate in the aftermath of catching a falling star, fire slipping from his grasp as easily as water.
He stops the lighthouse lantern twice, foolishly trying to call Seokjin back. Even though he knows it’s useless. Even though he knows it’s impossible.
He’s forgotten what makes an impossibility, can and cannot muddled, the lines between them drawn in sand and eroded by the waves. He can: flex his toes. He cannot: fly. He can: hold a fallen star in his arms. He cannot: sleep. He can: remember Seokjin.
He cannot: keep his promise to Seokjin.
He cannot: tell Seokjin he loves him.
He can: stop time.
And yet, Seokjin hasn’t returned.
On the sixth day after Seokjin leaves, Yoongi decides it’s enough. He needs to know what is possible again. There is only one person he knows who can tell him.
It’s a hot, humid day, the air sticking to his skin and wrapping tight around his form even from the first signs of dawn. It’s well into the morning by the time he finishes his chores and makes his way over to the mainland. The sun refuses to shine but a bright grey light penetrates through the thick cloud cover. He hopes it will rain later. He would like the rain, he thinks. A cooling. A release. A chance to catch the falling drops. Possibilities.
Yoongi is surprised to find Bonghee on the shoreline when he arrives. She’s taking slow steps along the beach, in that transitional spot where the water ebbs and swells, waves tugging at her bare ankles and splashing to cling on her rolled-up pants. She stops when she sees him in the distance, and stays still until he can moor his boat and wade through to the sand.
“I didn’t expect to meet you here,” he says, his smile a little more forced than it used to be, rusty and stiff. He realizes suddenly he hasn’t smiled since the day Seokjin left.
“But you expected to meet me somewhere,” Bonghee says, her expression neutral, her eyes difficult to read as they concentrate on him, looking, searching, arresting. She does not return his smile.
“I have something I’d like to ask you,” he says, coming to a stop, feet still in the water, toes sinking into the sand, lower, lower, swallowing him up.
He blinks. “You know?”
“I had a dream last night,” Bonghee explains. “So I came here to meet you halfway.”
“Oh,” Yoongi says dumbly. “What.” He pauses and clears his throat. “What did you dream?”
“I am not quite sure myself,” she says, gently apologetic. A smile finally graces her lips, soft, cautious. She lifts her chin and inhales. “You wanted to ask me a question?”
“Ah.” Yoongi gestures to the beach and steps one foot towards it, the sand melting away from his skin, clouding the clear water into a haze. “Should we sit down first?”
Bonghee does not move from her spot, turning her head to follow his movements. “Do you want to ask me about Seokjin?”
There’s a flutter in Yoongi’s chest at just the sound of Seokjin’s name, a small happiness that swells just a moment, crashing like the wave at his shins. “Yes,” he answers.
“Then we should stay here,” Bonghee says, bending low to trail her fingers into the cresting water. “I have never had any answers, only my own two ears to listen to the sea.” She looks up at Yoongi with a strange intensity, his breath caught in his lungs, stunned at the suddenness of it.
Her eyes seem to reflect greens and deep navy blues for a moment, and he’s reminded of the first moment he met her, four years ago on this same beach.
She told him he was born outside of time. Ridiculous, now that he thinks about it. He was born eight decades too early, in a time without Seokjin. Maybe fate thrust him into the world too soon, a cosmic mistake.
Bonghee’s eyes narrow, confusion and fear flashing over her face quickly before she shutters and stands, neutral and stony yet again. She looks at him expectantly, folding her hands together and holding them at her waist.
Yoongi licks his lips and asks, “Will Seokjin come back?”
She tilts her head. “If he drank the last of the wine, no. He cannot return.”
It’s what he knew but the answer still strikes like a blow to his stomach. “What if he had another bottle. Next year,” he says, desperation bleeding out with his words. It could work, he tells himself. “He could come back for another few weeks. And the year after that, too.” He can be content with two months a year. Two months to love and cherish and live how he wants to live.
“It cannot be,” Bonghee answers, sad but firm. “We are all given one chance. Only one. The magic will not work a second time.”
“Then can I go to him?” Yoongi asks, the idea he’s been too afraid to voice slipping free from his tongue as hopelessness encroaches around his chest.
Bonghee’s eyes widen in surprise, her fingers unlocking.
“If you can make a potion to bring Seokjin back in time, you can make one to throw me forward,” Yoongi says urgently.
“You would leave your home forever?” Bonghee asks, brow furrowing. “Your time?”
“I was born outside time,” Yoongi says, almost accusingly. “You said it yourself. And maybe I finally get it. Nothing has ever felt like home here. Only Seokjin.” His chest eases as he says the words, the truth of it resonating into his lungs. There is a comfort in saying it aloud. “Seokjin felt like home.”
Bonghee’s lips dip into a regretful frown, concern in her eyes. “I am sorry, Yoongi. It is not within my power to send you into the future. I would if I could. I hope you know that.”
The back of Yoongi’s eyes sting, like the sea has found its way into his body and pushes and pulls at him, demanding to be released. He knew it was impossible, but he had convinced himself that impossibilities are just inevitabilities that did not happen yet. He nods and looks down, away from Bonghee, pressing his lips together. His feet sink deeper into the sand, swallowing him grain by tiny grain, and still he does not move.
“Come with us to Busan,” Bonghee urges, reaching a hand out to touch his arm lightly. “The lighthouse doesn’t need you. And you have released it from your heart already. Come with us, do not stay here alone.”
He looks up and shakes his head. “No, I have to stay here. In case - “ He stops, breathing the words back into his throat. In case the impossible becomes inevitable and Seokjin returns.
“Do not hold onto an empty hope,” Bonghee tells him. “It is as dangerous as an unsheathed sword, and will cut you deeper.”
He tries to smile to reassure her but it falters on his lips. “I have to stay.”
Bonghee looks like she wants to say more but she clamps her mouth tightly shut and nods stiffly. “Very well.”
Yoongi inhales deeply, salt sticking in his lungs, clogging his throat. “I should go back.” He lifts his feet against the sand, grains falling away as if they never held onto him.
“Yoongi,” Bonghee says suddenly. “Do not stop the lighthouse light again.”
He freezes, glancing back to her. “You saw?”
“There has been talk in the village. And there are those who wish you no good. Do not give them a reason to use against you.”
He nods, bringing a hand up to rub his neck. “You’re right. It’s just….” He sighs and looks toward the island, to the lighthouse somewhere in the distance. “I wanted to stop time. I thought - “ He breaks off and looks back at Bonghee, smiling sadly. “I guess that’s impossible, too.”
“No,” Bonghee says, emerald and sapphire in her eyes, understanding and worry in the furrow of her brows. “You stopped time. It just wasn’t Seokjin’s. It was your own.”
Yoongi frowns, not understanding. “What does that mean?”
She shakes her head and shrugs. “I only repeat what the sea says. Only time will tell.”
The waves push at Yoongi’s shins, only to pull back at them a moment later, the water desperately trying to displace him, the sand trying to recapture him. He is caught in a dynamism he does not comprehend.
Two days later when Choi appears at the lighthouse, five uniformed soldiers accompanying him, Yoongi thinks he understands the sea’s riddle. His time here at the lighthouse has ended.
Choi says it with acidic happiness, smug and triumphant, though Yoongi thinks it’s an empty victory. They do not arrest him for smuggling, unable to prove that particular crime. Instead, they remove him from his position for dereliction of duty. The lighthouse lantern stopped and that is all they need to kick him out.
It hurts less than he anticipated. Four years he spent in the lighthouse, caring and repairing, reconstructing life back into the tower with every fixed stair, every polished window pane. He spent four years on the lighthouse, but he has already let it go in his heart.
There’s another light he wants to keep now, no matter how impossible.
For a moment he does think his search discovered something. The long, thin pole that runs through the center of the lighthouse has a small, nearly hidden panel, rusted over and stuck from years of disuse. A thin sheen of sweat covers his forehead with the effort to open it. Disappointment is swift and bitter when he finally succeeds, and finds only the rusted chains of the inner workings of the lighthouse.
He slams it shut in annoyance and finally accepts defeat, making his way down the steps he knows he’s traced countless times, each thump echoing in the empty space.
Despite the leaden weight in his stomach, he pulls out his suitcase as soon as he reaches the cottage. There is nothing to find, he tells himself. He just convinced himself there was, unhappy with the thought that there are parts of his life missing. Unhappy with the thought that he will never know, will never remember. Unhappy that he does not even have a ghost to haunt him.
He grabs one of his shirts from the small wardrobe and folds it in three precise motions before placing it into the suitcase.
“It’s for the best, Seokjinie,” he says outloud. “You should be happy you even came back in one piece.” He grabs a pair of pants and folds them neatly, arranging it in the suitcase.
He sighs heavily and glances around the small bedroom. He has a brief thought to search the cottage but dismisses it quickly. The cottage was built long after 1933. The only place he knows existed at that time is the lighthouse.
He stops abruptly, eyes widening, the shirt in his hands dropping mid-fold. No, not just the lighthouse. The storage room existed back then. Mrs. Kang told him her uncle had used it for smuggling. A secret, underground room. Exactly the kind of place he would hide something he is supposed to find.
He hastily shoves his feet into a pair of sneakers, the backs bending under his heel. He attempts to set off without bothering to properly slide into them but his steps are slow and uneven. He bends and quickly fixes the shoes before taking off in a sprint to the storage room.
He’s panting when he reaches the wood panel that protects the space but he doesn’t pause, hefting it open and stomping down the steps inside. He pulls his cell phone out and activates the flashlight to see in the small enclosure.
It looks just like he left it, the last time he stood here when Mrs. Kang had gifted him a magic wine.
"We all get one," she had told him. "Only one. Never take more. Choose."
His eyes follow the line of bottles on the shelves, tracking the years until he reaches 1932, and the empty spot beside it. He had chosen. And he had lived something important.
He rolls up his sleeves and nods to himself. “Now time to find something,” he says to himself.
Shelf by shelf, he removes the bottles and places them on the ground. He runs his hands down the wood of the shelves, and along the back of the walls, trying to discover a hidden panel. On the second to last bottom shelf, his fingers finally catch on an unevenness in the wall, a hidden compartment.
Excitement shudders through his chest and he shimmies the panel loose urgently, eyes wide and anticipation sweet in his mouth. He knew he would find something. He knew it.
The panel opens and he cranes his neck to peer into the small space. The light from his phone catches on something, the color dull and form unrecognizable. He reaches for it and carefully pulls it out.
He frowns as he feels the material. It’s a cloth bag, but from the weight of it, it’s empty. He reaches back into the compartment, running his hands along each edge carefully in case he missed something. Satisfied that he has discovered all the secrets of the storage room, he bundles the bag up and grabs his cell phone, ascending back into the waning daylight to have a better look at his treasure.
It’s just as he thought, a simple, old cloth bag. He opens it, and finds nothing. He turns it inside out, and finds nothing. He carefully inspects the seams, and scrunches the material in his hands, as if he will find a secret pocket. And finds nothing.
It’s not frustration that sours in his mouth. And it’s not disappointment that squeezes his chest. It’s a kind of helplessness that settles deep in his stomach, dragging his heart down with it. A helplessness of knowing but not knowing. Of realizing that there is a piece of himself he cannot retrieve. Of being forced to let go, when he has not even the memories to soothe him.
He somehow makes his feet move, trudging back to the cottage. He doesn’t care much where he steps, his eyes focused on the bag, his attention on the feel of the rough cloth against his hands. The bag has no answers for him, and he frowns petulantly at it.
“You probably held something, once,” he accuses. “I’m pretty sure it was mine. You should have held onto -”
His last word is cut off when his foot catches on a rock, tripping him. He flails, lurching forward to catch his balance. It takes two jolting steps, but he manages to remain upright. He huffs out a breath, adrenaline now in his veins from the near fall, and glances at his surroundings.
He’s standing in the middle of a weed infested patch, a series of rocks lining it into a rough rectangular shape. He sniffs at the rocks, the one responsible for his trip dislodged, opening a spot of fresh dirt.
This used to be a garden, he knows. Mrs. Kang had said her uncle kept a garden here. He can almost see the neat rows of vegetables, can feel the dirt under his fingernails from tending it, can hear the cackle of someone’s laugh.
His eyes widen and his hands start to shake as the brief memory fades. He was here. He was here with someone important.
He shuts his eyes and tries to bring the memory back, envisioning the garden, the way the stems of a carrot peeked out from the ground, the dirt stains on his hands. There’s a flash of something, of his own hands wrapped tight around a piece of cloth.
He frowns and shakes his head. No, that’s what he’s holding right now.
Except the cloth was wrapped around something solid and weighty.
A searing pain pierces through his head and he breathes in deeply to ease his way through it. The memory fades and his eyes finally open, a smile spreading on his lips.
He buried something here. With absolute certainty, he knows he buried something here.
There is a brief thought to head back to the cottage and find a shovel of some sort to help dig, but he dismisses it in his impatience. He grabs a rock from the patch and crouches until he loses his balance and his knees hit the dirt. He doesn’t even think about the stains that will surely ruin his pants, or that he cannot possibly dig up the entire plot with his hands and one rock. He doesn’t think at all, propelled by a knowing he realizes he doesn’t need to understand.
The sun starts to dip beyond the horizon, the light dimming and faltering, and still he continues. He moves one inch to the left, shifting his sore knees as he overturns more soil, looking, hoping.
His breath rushes out of his lungs as his rock hits stiff resistance, refusing to go deeper. His cramped fingers release it, throwing it to the side. He hurriedly swipes dirt away until he finally uncovers a rectangular shape, an earth-stained cloth protecting an unknown object.
Still breathless, he carefully extracts the item, lifting it free from its burial place. He holds it in his hands for a moment, its weight and shape and stiffness unmistakably a book.
It isn’t triumph he feels, or vindication, or even excitement. Relief is what floods through his veins, stark and overwhelming. Like finding a part of himself he thought he had lost, irreplaceable and irretrievable, and found again.
The sun is rapidly disappearing, a crescent moon appearing in the dusk sky to herald an end of one day and the beginning of another night. It’s late and he needs to go back to the cottage, needs to shower and attempt to save his clothes from permanent staining. Despite the fading light, and the cooling air that creeps from the shoreline, he still wants to sit here, in the upturned dirt, with night encroaching around him, and read whatever mysteries this book holds.
It is only the thought of spoiling the pages with his soiled hands that has Seokjin standing, stretching out his stiff muscles, and making his way back to the cottage, feet hurried, cloth-wrapped bundle secured tightly in his hands.
He forces himself to shower before he can open the package. He takes a quick rinse off and changes into a comfortable set of sweats and a t-shirt before he sits down at his kitchen table. He places his hands flat on the table, bracketing the still-wrapped bundle, and exhales slowly.
With delicate movements, he tentatively takes the cloth between two fingers and slowly, cautiously, carefully opens one fold. Dirt cracks off the material onto the table and he brushes it away before he proceeds, taking the other side and unfolding in the opposite direction.
The book, he finds once the cloth is laid flat and unwrapped, is a black, leather-bound notebook, rather ordinary in appearance. The material has aged well, perhaps due to being hidden away from the sun for many decades.
Seokjin’s fingers shake as he very gently eases the cover open, revealing the first page of dull beige paper. He’s not surprised to recognize his own writing, words he does not recall but knows absolutely that they are his.
His heart thumps painfully, laboriously against his chest as he reads the first few lines. There is no date, no title, just his handwriting in clear, neat rows, deliberately and mindfully produced.
“His name is Min Yoongi. The man you’re looking for. The one you’re missing. His name is Min Yoongi, and you love him.”
And to Min Yoongi, the man he does not know but somehow still holds deep in his heart.
There’s a foolish part of Seokjin that somehow hopes for a happy ending, the pages on the left side of the book growing higher with every turn. There is no happy ending, of course. He cannot expect one, when he already knows the result.
He’s returned to his time, alone, where Yoongi is not even a faded memory he can draw up for comfort.
He finishes the book too soon, time betraying him again, a sort of layered forsaking. Time was too swift with Yoongi, and time is again too swift as Seokjin reads it back. There aren’t enough pages, not nearly enough to satisfy Seokjin. He wants to know the hue of Yoongi’s eyes in the deep winter sun. He wants to know the textures of Yoongi’s skin as autumn winds send shivers down his arms. He wants to know how Yoongi will smile when spring awakens.
There is so much he doesn’t know, cannot know, will never know. It stings at him, somewhere deep inside aching, diffusing through his body so he cannot isolate the pain of it. It’s in his head and in his chest and sinking into his stomach. He feels it at the tips of his toes, in the heaviness of his limbs.
Seokjin presses his lips together and flips the book over, starting anew again, and somehow it eases the ache a bit, a degree less. The first ebbing effects of a pain reliever.
He reads the book a second time, slowly, laboriously. He ponders the words he chose, the way he phrased them. He re-reads sentences, his lips moving to breathe them out silently. Still, the book ends, no matter how cautiously he devours it.
He reads it a third time, trying to memorize it, trying to bring Yoongi up in his head. It’s a futile exercise, but he hopes that maybe memorization can replace memory in his heart.
He does not remember these events, but he knows them to be real. The lighthouse light shining across the shore. The mundane thrill of smuggling. And the safe, anchoring love he harbors for Yoongi. They are all as real as the floor beneath his feet and the air in his lungs.
He finishes the book a fourth time, finally easing it closed and glancing out at the breaking of a new dawn outside. His own final words ring through his head as he leans back in his chair, his eyes re-adjusting to the morning light.
Miss him happily, if you can. You made a promise. Miss him happily, so can he miss you happily as well.
His eyes sting against the sun rays streaming in and his chest shudders on a heavy sigh. There’s a twitch in his fingers to open the book again. A fifth read-through, to uncover something, some hidden message, some glimmer of information he may have missed. He needs to know how it ends.
He knows how it ends, he corrects himself, frowning. He’s just not satisfied. It’s too open, too ambiguous. Too many possibilities left unexplored.
That’s a lie, he thinks to himself, accusingly. There is only one possibility. Yoongi lived over eighty years ago. Yoongi probably passed away years ago. It’s not possible.
Seokjin presses his lips together and kicks out from the table, quickly grabbing his laptop and keys. Time travel is impossible, too, he thinks. And still, it happened.
He just has to know.
He drives up to Yeosu and stops at the first cafe he finds. The line inside is long with the early morning rush but most of the tables are free, the patrons in a hurry to get their caffeine fix and then get somewhere else. He slips into a seat and pulls out his laptop, leg bouncing anxiously as it connects to the internet.
He searches Yoongi’s name first, with little success. He finds a few Min Yoongi’s from local news articles, social media profiles, and businesses, but none of them match his Min Yoongi. There’s a lawyer in Incheon, and a model in Seoul, and a businessman in the United States. There are countless Min Yoongi’s, but no record of one who tended a lighthouse in the 1930s.
He searches for the lighthouse, but only finds basic information. It was built in the early 1900s. It was decommissioned twenty years ago. There is not one word of the lightkeepers, or when and how a particular one lived.
There’s a world of information at his fingertips, but still Seokjin cannot find what he truly, achingly needs to know.
He leaves the cafe two hours later, no closer to the answers he sought. He visits the realtor’s office where he picked up the keys to the cottage what seems like a lifetime ago. They are, unfortunately, just as ignorant as he is about the history of the island.
“There’s a little museum in the village, though,” one of them tells him. “Well, more like a collection of old trinkets that an ahjumma takes care of. But she might know some old stories.”
Seokjin thanks them and hurries back to his car, returning to the village.
The local museum in the village is run by a Mrs. Lee. She tells Seokjin quite proudly that she’s lived in the village her entire life, and her parents before her, and their parents before them. If there’s anything to know, she knows it.
She tells him all about the lighthouse, when it was built and who lit the first light, the last lightkeeper, the decision to decommission it.
“It was a hard job,” Mrs. Lee says. “Who wants to live up in a lighthouse, stay awake all night long in that dusty place? And eventually they decided it wasn’t worth the effort.” She shrugs. “Just as well. It’s not like the ships need it anymore, not with radar and all that new technology.”
Seokjin nods politely. “Of course.”
“Now,” she says, finally finished her spiel. She reaches over and taps Seokjin’s forearm. “What did you want to know?”
“Do you know anything about the lightkeeper from the 1930s?” Seokjin asks, a charming smile belying the intensity of his interest. “I’m doing research for a novel.”
“Oh, of course! Let’s see.” Mrs. Lee sits back in her kitchen chair and taps her fingers against the table. “If you’re thinking of the early 1930s, the name was Min.”
Seokjin’s eyes brighten and he leans forward slightly, nodding encouragingly at her. “How long did he tend the lighthouse?”
Mrs. Lee sighs and shakes her head sadly. “It’s a shame, really, his story. He was removed from his post not even five years into his tenure. Dereliction of duty, they said.” Mrs. Lee clicks her tongue, still shaking her head. “A shame.”
“Dereliction of duty?” Seokjin repeats, eyes widening, a sinking dread in his stomach.
“Hmm. Though the village head thought it was all just a ploy to get a military man into the position. It caused quite an upset in the village. My grandmother hated the man they put in his place. A dirty spy, she called him.” Mrs. Lee sniffs loudly in disapproval. “A traitor.”
“What happened to Min Yoongi?” Seokjin prompts, a bubble of what he thinks is hysteria in his throat. He swallows it down, pushing it into his stomach to mix with the dread.
“Oh, he died shortly after. Heartbreak, they said.” Mrs. Lee tilts her head. “He was very attached to the lighthouse.”
“No, that’s impossible,” Seokjin denies, refusing to believe it. Yoongi lived a long, happy life.
“Oh, yes, it’s sadly true,” Mrs. Lee affirms, heedless of Seokjin’s growing despair.
“Are you sure he didn’t just leave? Or maybe that happened later?” Seokjin suggests, hope bleeding through his voice, grating at his throat.
Mrs. Lee sniffs again, a stubborn tilt to her lips. “I’m absolutely certain. I know everything about this village.” She shifts forward and taps Seokjin’s arm again. “Now. Can I get you another cup of tea?”
“No, no, I….” Seokjin stands, a ringing in his ears. The world seems a little fuzzy, muffled. It’s hard to swallow suddenly. “I should get going.” He bows politely several times, and thanks Mrs. Lee for her time.
He doesn’t remember the drive across the bridge back to the cottage, but somehow he ends up back in the living room, staring blankly at the windows leading out to the beach.
Min Yoongi died.
Of course he died, Seokjin knew this. It doesn’t change anything if it happened one month or one century after Seokjin left. It shouldn’t change anything.
It shouldn’t, but it does, and it breaks the pieces of Seokjin’s heart into infinitely smaller shards, jagged and clanking against each other as he attempts to place them back together.
Seokjin has to go back. He has to warn Yoongi, somehow. Maybe this was the purpose of this entire thing.
He stalks to the kitchen, purpose in every step, and grabs the empty bottle of moonshine from the counter. He tips it carefully from side to side, examining through the glass to see if there is anything, even a drop. Five minutes. He just needs five minutes.
There is the smallest residue of liquid sliding between pink and purple flower petals plastered to the bottom of the glass. He can dilute it, he realizes, hastily placing the bottle back on the counter and heading to the pantry to retrieve his bottle of vodka. It won’t be a lot, and it will be weak, but it will be enough.
It has to be enough.
With deliberate, careful movements, he pours a small amount of vodka into the moonshine bottle and swirls the liquid around, coating the sides and shaking the petals loose again. He brings the bottle to his mouth and tips it back.
It’s an acrid, bitter taste this time, burning all the way down his throat as he swallows. There is no sweetness. It tastes like sadness and regret.
He drinks the rest of the bottle down and waits, closing his eyes tight. He takes a deep breath and holds it in his lungs, hoping, hoping.
Just five minutes.
Just five more minutes.
He opens his eyes. He’s back to his own time and somehow made his way outside near the hidden underground room. He inhales shakily and reaches for his phone from his pocket.
It’s the same day. Not more than twenty minutes have passed since he drank the diluted moonshine. It was enough. It had worked.
He blinks his eyes and stares out to the sea, the waves shifting, curling over each other in their haste to reach the shore.
He wonders if he found Yoongi, and if it changed anything.
His eyes sting, and there’s a taste of salt in his mouth more acrid than the moonshine. He exhales, air shuddering out of his lungs, and tries not to wonder why he’s crying.
Seokjin tries to go back again. He does not take defeat lightly, a steel determination coating his bones, keeping his spine straight and head held high. But no matter how much vodka he adds to the moonshine bottle, he remains stubbornly in 2018. There are some events that cannot be altered, no matter how badly he wishes.
The days melt together and eventually it’s time for him to leave the cottage, the island, and the brief spot of magic he cannot remember. He packs his belongings with a melancholy resignation. Each article of clothing he places in his suitcase reminds him of the end. Every window he locks and each cushion he stores away tell him it’s done, it’s over.
He’s a writer, he knows endings well. Every story must have a conclusion, good, or bad, or ambiguous. An open ending is still an ending.
He’s never hated them as much as he does now.
He takes one last walk around the island the day Jimin is supposed to come down and drag him back to Seoul. His bags are packed, the cottage is cleaned and secured, food cleared out, protective covers draped over the furniture. There’s a finality about it all. An end, no matter how he tries to fight it. The words in his adventure dwindle, with no space for the resolution he longs for, pages flipping dangerously close to the back cover.
It’s peaceful as he circles the island, choosing to stick close to the shoreline. There aren’t many around, though he can spot some fishing boats on the horizon, bobbing on a sea that reflects the sun too brightly in his eyes. He had thought fancifully that it had been stars under the surface. But that’s not right. Stars are fire, the sea would surely smother their light out.
His chest tightens and he flicks his gaze away from the water.
He finally stops when the lighthouse comes into view, towering above and overlooking the entire island. It looks too tall, Seokjin thinks. Too far way, out of reach. It is more a part of the sky than the earth, a star on a pedestal to be seen, but never touched.
He wishes he could remember what it looked like lit up in the black of night, shining and guiding.
He knows what it was like to see it. He’s read it a dozen times by now, and will read it a hundred more. Yet still he does not remember it. He never before knew there is such a stark difference between knowledge and memory. There’s a syncopation, a gap he cannot bridge, and it pangs through his chest.
The lighthouse seemed serene when he first saw it, and somehow it maintains that impression. It’s a bittersweet serenity, Seokjin thinks. A place of happiness that’s faded over time. There was love here, once. Just as there had been life.
Both have left with the steady passing of time, and now he must leave as well.
He doesn’t go into the lighthouse, just wishes it a silent farewell and steps one foot in front of the other. His feet sink into the sand and the waves crash over themselves, chasing him, entreating him to venture into their depths. He keeps walking, one step, two steps, the march of time heedless to the pull of the tides.
The cottage comes back into sight soon enough, and Seokjin remembers what the realtor had told him so many weeks ago. The island is small. If he gets lost, just keep walking and he’ll find his way back to the beginning.
He wishes that magic was true for time. If he could go back to the beginning, maybe he could change Yoongi’s fate. Maybe he could save him. If Seokjin never took that first offer of harbor for the night, and he didn’t fall for Yoongi, maybe Yoongi could have lived a long and happy life.
Seokjin falters in his steps, his thoughts crashing upon each other like the waves, pulling him into their depths. He would gladly undo everything, unfeel, unknow, unlove if it means Yoongi survives, and lives, and loves someone else, somewhere else in time.
If he could go back to the beginning.
His feet move without his explicit command, legs following his heart while his mind tries to catch up. He can’t go back to the start, but he can go back further.
It doesn’t take long to get to the underground storage room. He takes the steps down two at a time, leaving the door open to stream faint rays of light inside. He doesn’t even need to pull out his cell phone to find what he came for. He knows exactly where the bottle sits. 1932 beside a cool empty spot on the shelf where 1933 used to stand, years pressed into wine, a chronology of pink liquid and floating petals.
Before he can think twice, his fingers close around the glass neck and he jogs back up the steps.
The bottle is heavy, so impossibly heavy, pulling at his fingers to demand he release it from his grip. His fingers tighten, knuckles whitening as he goes forward, back to the cottage.
Mrs. Kang’s words ring in his head, alarm-like and wailing. "We all get one. Only one. Never take more."
Guilt creeps up from his stomach, churning even as he ignores it. This is different, he assures himself. He’s not taking the whole bottle. It’s for a good purpose. He just needs twenty minutes to find Yoongi, to tell him to keep riding past him that first fateful night. Don’t stop, don’t talk, don’t find a home in each other. He just needs twenty minutes to erase everything they could never become.
He walks faster, feet bring him to a sprint, afraid he will change his mind, afraid that in his selfishness, he’ll let Yoongi keep their memories.
He’s out of breath when he skids into the kitchen but he doesn’t stop to rest. He searches the cabinets for a small glass. He needs something to measure this precisely. He doesn’t trust himself not to drink more than he should, and linger in another dream he cannot keep.
He freezes when he hears the rumble of tires on gravel. He glances outside, sees Jimin’s car pull to a stop by the large tree. He curses and slams the cabinet shut. His breath is erratic now, uneven gulps of air that shift him closer to dread. He reaches restless fingers to the bottle, brushing past the neat writing of the label, his finger pads swiping the dust from the black ink of 1932.
Jimin’s car door shuts loudly, his cheerful voice calling out, “Hyung! I’m here.”
Seokjin holds his breath, twisting the cork out of the bottle. Just twenty minutes, to reverse everything. Just a borrowed taste of a dream. Just another chance, another chance, his heart greedily echoing, thumping the plea into his bloodstream.
”Only one. Never take more.”
The front door creaks open, Jimin’s footsteps tapping along the floor, and Seokjin brings the bottle to his lips. He closes his eyes and drinks.
It’s like glass in his mouth, the shattered pieces of his heart clambering up, tearing his throat to strips. He coughs, bending forward, his breath coming in short, desperate gasps. His fingers spasm, the bottle dropping from his grip, glass and moonshine exploding with a loud crash on the floor.
“Hyung!” Jimin’s voice sounds oddly muffled.
Seokjin gasps in another breath, coughs wracking his body. His vision dims, his knees buckle under his own weight. He feels the dull impression of arms catching him as he falls.
“Hyung!” Jimin’s voice is far away, desperate as Seokjin descends into a starless black.
Only one, Mrs. Kang had said.
There are no second chances.
Seokjin grins and slaps his hand on Taehyung’s shoulder, overly playful in a great show of carefree happiness, trying to shake the suspicions from Taehyung’s eyes. “I’ll be fine on my own. I just want a couple days by myself before the book tour.”
Taehyung’s brow furrows, eyes still steadily appraising Seokjin, unconvinced. “I think I should come.”
“You have work to do here.” Seokjin keeps his grin wide and bright. “It’s not a big deal, I’ll be back in five days.”
“Last time you were in Yeosu, you drank something weird and ended up in the hospital,” Taehyung reminds him.
“For like two days. I was out and back to normal in no time,” Seokjin counters.
“You weren’t normal,” Taehyung says quietly, his eyes locked on Seokjin, daring him to disagree, to lie. “You were miserable.”
The smile on Seokjin’s lips wavers. “I’m okay now.”
“You’re sad now.” Seokjin starts to protest but Taehyung preempts him with a raised hand. “No, no, I know. You’re happy and positive, but there are times I catch you staring off and you just….” Taehyung sighs and shrugs. “You look so lost.”
Seokjin’s smile eases off his lips finally, his eyes softening. “It’s not that I’m sad.”
Taehyung frowns, eyeing him dubiously.
“I’m not sad,” Seokjin repeats, laughing lightly at Taehyung. “I’m just.” He trails off and shrugs. “I’m just missing someone happily.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Taehyung protests, though the rebuff is weak.
“It doesn’t have to make sense.” Seokjin secures his trunk closed and smiles at Taehyung again, tapping his arm twice as he walks past him. “I’ll be back in five days, ready for the tour. I promise.”
Taehyung sighs, resigned. He steps back and yells, “Don’t drink anything weird this time! You could have died if Jiminie wasn’t there to save you.”
“I won’t drink anything weird,” Seokjin reassures, slipping into the car. He gives Taehyung one last wave before he pulls away, directing his car to the expressway.
The drive out of Seoul is achingly familiar, the memory of early summer overlaying the vision of the present. He can see the vivid colors of last summer, rich greens and blazing blues. He can feel the rising heat, the beaming sun that cast everything just a little brighter, the contrast between the shadows just a little deeper.
He blinks his eyes and tightens his fingers on the steering wheel. Early spring returns to his eyes, the bloom of the soft colors of March. Frost still paints the mountains in the distance but there’s a breath of new life in the air. Still cold, but a hope of warmth in the breeze.
Almost a year ago he drove these same roads, pavement racing under the tires of his car as he sped toward a beckoning unknown, toward the sea and all the seas lost under its surface. He’s a bit older now, a bit wiser. He knows what those stars under the water are, knows what he’s lost. They’re just a reflection of light, an illusion. A remembrance that’s not quite memory, the reflection of a dream.
He’s not quite certain if it’s a good idea, returning back to the island. The adventure is over, his time with Yoongi is through. He knew it as soon as he’d swallowed that first drop of wine from 1932. Mrs. Kang’s cautious words were not a warning, but a statement of fact. There is only one time, never more. And it’s enough, Seokjin decided long ago. It’s enough to have that briefness of love. It’s enough to hold Yoongi in his heart, still a blur, still unremembered, but known, in paper and ink by his own hand.
It’s enough to miss him happily. Grateful for the chance instead of sadness. Awe instead of regret.
He’s hesitant the first time he considers returning to the island, afraid that he’ll start reaching for stars too far away, but there’s still a pull on his heart. It’s the flow of the tides, urging him back. He hopes it’s the right decision, hopes his return can help build a bridge from his lost stars to his memories. He thinks he can draw up Yoongi’s smile at times, or the shade of his hair in the late afternoon sunlight. He doesn’t cling onto those brief visions anymore. They are water pulling away from the shoreline. They leave, yes, but they return again soon enough. There’s a soothing dynamism in their rhythm.
The expressway narrows to a two-lane road before it widens again and Yeosu appears from between the mountains, the sea shining on the horizon. Seokjin exits into town and heads to the realtor for the keys to the cottage.
“Ah, Seokjin-ssi!” the realtor greets when Seokjin enters the humble office. “Nice to see you again.”
He bows in greeting and presents his new book, freshly printed and released.
The realtor smiles. “What’s this?” he asks as he takes the book.
“It’s the novel I wrote while I was here last summer.” Seokjin taps the cover. “I signed it for you. It’s worth a lot.”
The realtor laughs, nodding as he places it on his desk. He grabs the keys to the cottage and hands them over to Seokjin. “Well, here you are. Lucky that you were able to get the cottage before the season starts. I thought it would be closed up for another few months but the owner assured me it was ready for you.”
Seokjin smiles. “Mrs. Kang is very kind.”
“Oh.” The realtor smiles and shakes his head. “Mrs. Kang doesn't own the cottage anymore. She transferred ownership of it late last year.”
“Oh.” Seokjin blinks in surprise.
The realtor nods. “We were a little surprised, but she is gaining in age. She must have felt it was better to liquidate.”
Seokjin smiles softly, oddly sad that the cottage changed hands. “Yes.” He takes a breath and moves his feet to leave. “I should get going.”
The realtor waves. “Enjoy the cottage,” he says, stepping back to sit at his desk.
Seokjin hesitates at the door, frowning, something nagging in his head, something that just doesn't fit. He turns back. “Who, ah, who owns the cottage now?” he asks.
“Hmm?” The realtor lifts his head. “I believe it’s some distant nephew of Mrs. Kang. Would you like me to find his contact information?”
Seokjin lets out a sigh and shakes his head. He’s being silly. “No, it’s fine. Thank you,” he says, pushing on the door and stepping back out to his car.
He slips into the driver’s seat, reaching one hand up to wrap around the steering wheel. The bright sun rays hit the metal of his watch, splaying reflections of a mini galaxy onto the dash and ceiling of the car. Seokjin freezes for a moment, his exhale easing out slowly, his fingers tightening. It feels like he could reach out and hold those tiny stars in his hand, like they found a way down from the heavens, up from the sea, across a journey of time and distance.
Like they found a way back to him.
It’s silly, but there’s a bubble of anticipation in Seokjin’s stomach, working its way to his heart.
He accepts his fate with a muted expectancy. It doesn't hurt much, just a sting from a mosquito, an itch he will heal from in a few days. He let go of the lighthouse long ago, and the lighthouse let go of him, too.
There really is nothing left for him here, but he knows there’s nothing in Busan, either. The only place he wants to be is not a place at all. It’s a time, and a person, and it’s his true home.
Seokjin had said home is where bridges connect. Yoongi wonders if he can build a bridge to the stars, to the light he wants to keep. He squashes the thought quickly. There are still some things that will remain impossible.
He is thankfully able to warn Gwangok and Sang about his demise before they are caught by the new lightkeeper. He’s not sure what they’ll do next. Sang suggested they all go to Shanghai, but Gwangok has a wife and children, and Yoongi has a memory and a hope that won’t let him wander too far away.
He helps Bonghee pack up a small collection of belongings for Busan, some clothes, some toys for Sookja, a few household items. After they are through, Bonghee hesitantly broaches the subject of her moonshine.
“I have many years, like the one Seokjin drank,” she explains to him. “I’ve made one a year since 1915. I was going to leave them here but I would prefer if they were hidden and locked away somewhere.”
“The underground storage room?” Yoongi prompts and she nods.
“If it’s no longer needed for Sang and Gwangok.”
Yoongi doesn’t have a reason to disagree, and so he doesn’t.
The bottles take up two crates, one for each of them to carry down to Yoongi’s boat. Bonghee had intended to accompany Yoongi over to the island to help him lock away the wine, but once the crates are placed securely in Yoongi’s boat, she steps back onto the beach, eyes lifted to the dark grey sky.
“It will rain,” she says, gaze still focused on the rolling clouds.
Yoongi glances up, frowning. “Maybe.”
“The rain brings a reflection of the sea.” She flicks her eyes to Yoongi. “You should go alone.”
Yoongi’s frown deepens. He wants to ask her what she means, but he knows the answer by now. ”I do not know, only time will tell.” He nods at Bonghee without another word and boards the boat, heading back to the island.
The journey is quick and strange. It’s partly a path he’s taken hundreds of times, and partly a new direction. He has to remind himself not to steer around the island to the lighthouse. Before he can think too much on it, he arrives on the north shore of the island, and makes his way to the underground room.
He supposes he could just dump the crates on the ground and be done with it, but it somehow doesn’t feel right. They deserve more respect than that. Meticulously, he removes each bottle and places them on the empty shelves, arranging them by year. He pauses when he holds the last bottle in his hands, Bonghee’s writing marking it clearly as 1933. His thumb runs along the label as he inspects the magic that will one day bring Seokjin to him. The magic that has already taken him back.
It’s a dull color in the room, grey light providing pitiful illumination. The liquid looks almost blue, the same shake of the sky as night and day trade places. A transitional hue, Yoongi thinks, watching the petals float like clouds. He wonders if it’s dusk or dawn, a beginning or an end.
It’s a bit of both, he supposes.
He clears his throat and carefully places the bottle on the shelf, twisting it until the label is perfectly centered.
Task complete, Yoongi bends to retrieve the empty crates and walks up the steps. The rain started sometime while Yoongi had been arranging the bottles, a heavy downpour that drenches him within seconds. He squints his eyes against the drops and secures the door to the room, covering it with foliage to hide it from view.
The crates drop from his hands and he turns around so fast he loses his footing, stumbling forward, closer to a voice he could never forget. The damn rain blurs his vision. He blinks rapidly to see clearer, to confirm Seokjin’s voice was not an apparition.
“Yoongi!” Seokjin calls again, and it is him, soaked and frantic and running towards him like a star hurtling from the sky, fire somehow not drenched by the rain.
Seokjin is back. Yoongi’s chest expands with relief and precious happiness, a grin so wide blooming on his lips that his cheeks ache. He sprints forward, meeting Seokjin halfway, reaching his hands out to him. But his hands falter before they hold Seokjin, fingers shaking as he finally registers the expressions flickering over Seokjin’s face - grief, anguish, the pain of regret.
“I don’t have much time,” Seokjin says through panting breaths, hands reaching out and clinging onto Yoongi’s forearms. His grip is ruthlessly tight, like he’s trying to entrench his own fingers into Yoongi’s bones. Yoongi doesn’t flinch. He would let Seokjin pierce through any bit of flesh he could, to keep another piece of him forever.
“How did you get here?” Yoongi asks.
Seokjin shakes his head. “I diluted the rest of the moonshine. I don’t have time. Yoongi, you died. You died before 1934.” Seokjin’s voice hitches on the last word, thick with grief. Rain streams down his face but Yoongi can see droplets falling from his eyes, too. “You’re supposed to live a long life!” Seokjin’s fingers clench tighter.
Yoongi reaches up, hands cupping Seokjin’s face, thumbs wiping away the rain from under Seokjin’s eyes. He’s cold to the touch, fire doused. “I’m okay. I’m here. Still alive,” he says, trying to smile, desperate to comfort Seokjin, to ease the heartbreak that resonates into Yoongi’s own chest.
“You have to live a long, happy life,” Seokjin pleads, a shudder in his voice, hot droplets of water falling onto Yoongi’s thumbs. “You promised.”
Yoongi nods, fingers curling into Seokjin’s hair. “I promised.”
“I want to take you home with me,” Seokjin confesses, bending his head forward to touch Yoongi’s forehead with his. His fingers clench and unclench, still clinging to Yoongi’s forearms. “I love you.”
The words strike right to Yoongi’s core, a storm surge that breaches all his best defenses and reasons and logic, flooding into every part of him. He doesn’t care about impossibilities anymore. He doesn’t care about can and cannot. He will break every law of man and nature, he promises himself. He will defy the tides and gravity, and he will return to Seokjin.
“Seokjin, listen to me,” he says, stepping closer into Seokjin until the rain cannot even separate them. “I’m promising you this. I will come to your time.”
Seokjin pulls his head back, shaking it from side to side, new, hot tears splashing on Yoongi’s thumbs. “You can’t.”
“I will,” Yoongi says firmly. “I will.” He pulls Seokjin down, craning his neck up until their lips meet, his eyes drifting shut as he breathes Seokjin in. It’s cool rain and shuddering breaths and the slight taste of salt on his tongue, much like their first kiss, and so different all at once.
His heart stops for a moment when Seokjin melts away, fading from his hold until all he feels is the piercing rain against his shivering body. Yoongi opens his eyes, sees the churning waves and the hazy rain, and the island that isn’t his home.
He can still feel the press of Seokjin’s fingers on his arms, the reminder that he didn’t dream Seokjin up. He’ll go back to Seokjin, he promises himself, before the impression fades. Possibilities be damned.
“No fair,” Sookja exclaims.
“Life isn’t fair,” Bonghee replies, smiling. They both turn to Yoongi when they hear him enter. “Ah, you got caught in the rain,” Bonghee notes. She places her hands on his knees and hoists herself up to stand. “I’ll get you some dry clothes.”
Yoongi shakes water from his hair, running his hand through the locks impatiently. “Noona, can you make me a bottle of your moonshine? One that takes me forward.”
Bonghee stops, her brows arching. She frowns, lips twisting down in disapproval. “You know it’s impossible.”
“I don’t know anything, except that I have to leave this place. Everything I want is in 2018.”
“That’s not the point of the magic, Yoongi,” Bonghee scolds. “It’s temporary. It has always been temporary.”
“Noona, please.” Yoongi steps forward, entreating, the urgency of his wish thickening in his throat, threatening to choke him. “Seokjin is the only place I’ve ever felt at home.” Bonghee’s eyes sadden, doubt furrowing her brow. “Please,” he pleads softly.
Bonghee shakes her head, regretful. “I cannot.”
Yoongi presses his lips tightly together, recalling the phantom touch of Seokjin’s mouth against his. He refuses to accept defeat. “Forget if it’s possible or not for a moment. How would you do it if you could?”
Bonghee sighs. “Yoongi, there’s no point.”
“Just, how would you do it?” Yoongi urges.
Her lips twist into a frown. She steps back to sit on the floor, drawing one knee up to rest her elbow on. “The moonshine is based in a specific time. I need an ingredient that was born, and lived, and died in that time. I use the cherries every year, but I could also use any fruit or flower. As long as they are from that year.” She arches her brow and tilts her chin up at him. “Do you have anything from 2018?”
Yoongi’s mind races, grasping onto the hope that’s all too rapidly fading. “He left a pair of pants,” he starts.
“It must have lived,” Bonghee says. “I’m sorry. It’s just not possible.”
Yoongi’s chest squeezes, his heart dropping to his stomach, loss and regret clambering up to the empty space between his ribs.
“Uncle,” Sookja starts. He glances at her, finds her large eyes wide and trained on him. Her face crinkles, pensive and uncertain. Her mouth sets in a deep frown. “Do you miss Uncle Seokjin very much?”
Yoongi smiles sadly and nods. “I do.”
Sookja tilts her head, still pensive. “I suppose you love him a lot, too,” she sighs, almost regretful.
Yoongi huffs out a breath, almost a laugh if it didn’t strangle through his throat. “Yeah,” he confirms.
“Okay,” Sookja says, mournfully resigned. She rolls onto her feet and shuffles quickly to a cabinet. “I’ll be a nice person.”
Yoongi sends Bonghee a confused look, raising his eyebrows in question. Bonghee shrugs, also at a loss. Bonghee turns her gaze back to Sookja, watching her rummage through the cabinet. “Sooka, what are you doing?”
“Showing my gratitude!” Sookja yells, sulky and defiant. She pulls a small wooden box from the cabinet and steps up to Yoongi. “Mama says I’m not grateful enough for your hospital.”
“Hospitality,” Bonghee corrects.
Sookja sniffs. “For the stuff you give.” She thrusts the box at Yoongi. “We’re even now.”
Yoongi blinks, bewildered as he watches Sookja stomp over to her mother, plopping down to sit cross-legged beside her.
With slow movement, almost afraid to discover what is inside, Yoongi opens the box. His breath hitches in his throat as hope returns, leaving him light-headed and giddy. Laid carefully in the box rests the withered form of an ordinary dandelion, a gift Seokjin had brought back from his time. He looks back up to Sookja. “You’re giving this to me?”
She nods. “It’s from 2018. Uncle Seokjin said so.” She cranes her neck up to peer at her mother. “Uncle Yoongi can go see him now, right?”
Bonghee’s eyes flick from Yoongi to the box, doubtful. “It’s not that simple. The wine will only bring you to a time for a moment.” She locks eyes with Yoongi. “It’s the reason Seokjin went back to his era. Once the effects of the wine fade, you’re pulled back to the time you were born into - “ She stops short, a gasp cutting off her words. Her eyes widen, mouth falling open. “Oh,” she breathes. “Oh, is that what it means?” she mutters, more to herself than to Yoongi.
Yoongi’s brow furrows. “What?”
Her eyes flicker blue and green for a split second, the colors of the sea gone before Yoongi can be sure of them. “You were born outside of time,” she tells him, the echo of her words from years ago at their first meeting.
“Is it possible?” Yoongi asks with bated breath, fingers pressing firmly against the box, the grains in the wood indenting on his finger pads.
Bonghee purses her lips and says slowly, “It’s never been done before.” She runs a hand absently over Sookja’s hair, fixing the frizzing strands. “I don’t know, but I’ll try.”
Yoongi smiles, the pressure in his chest easing as his wishes resurrect to life again. Despite Bonghee’s uncertain tone, it feels like maybe the stars are not so out of reach after all.
It is a secret from the sea, she had told him. And a secret she must keep.
Yoongi tips his head further, studying the sky in an attempt to dispel the nervousness circling his throat and churning in his stomach. There is no certainty that this will work. And even if he manages to arrive in 2018, back to Seokjin, there is no guarantee that he can stay.
Yoongi tilts his head back to the beach at Sookja’s deafening cry, smiling when he sees her bounding over the rocks at an alarming speed. Sand kicks up around her feet once she clears the rocks, her arms flailing over her head excitedly.
“Uncle!” she screams again.
Yoongi can see Bonghee following behind Sookja, far more cautiously, a small bottle held close to her chest protectively. Yoongi inhales, nerves shooting through to his fingertips. He kicks away from the hull and walks to meet Sookja.
She barrels into him, throwing her arms around his legs in a hug, tipping her head back to grin at him. “We finished it!” she declares proudly. “Are you excited? I’m excited.”
He pats her head. “Something like that,” he answers truthfully. Excited and scared, but mostly determined and headstrong.
“Good.” Sookja steps back to run to Bonghee, yelling, “Mama, you’re too slow!”
Bonghee scowls at her daughter. “Watch your mouth,” Bonghee scolds, finally reaching them. The bottle in her hands is smaller than most of her wine, a pale almost clear liquid with a subtle hint of yellow.
Yoongi’s eyes flicker over the bottle. He presses his lips together tightly. “It’s not a lot,” he notes, glancing up to Bonghee.
Bonghee shakes her head. “There was only one flower. I didn’t want to risk diluting it too much.”
Yoongi nods. “Will it work?” he asks, the doubt that’s been plaguing him tumbling out of his mouth.
“I don’t know.” She sighs and holds the bottle out to Yoongi. “It’s never been done before,” she explains. “It could be dangerous.”
Yoongi’s fingers close around the bottle and he pulls it safely to his chest, feeling its weight in his hands. “Could be,” he agrees, thumb rubbing on the smooth glass.
“I’ll ask you one last time,” Bonghee says. “Come to Busan with us.”
Yoongi smiles, huffing out a short, cool laugh. “It’s not home,” he tells her.
She sighs, resigned, and nods. “Okay. Will you at least let us accompany you while you leave?” she asks.
Yoongi shakes his head. “I think it’s best to do our goodbyes here.”
Bonghee’s lips twist into a sardonic smile. “You’ve always been stubborn.”
Yoongi shrugs. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing.” He sniffs, his smile fading from his lips. “Thank you,” he says, voice quieting as gravity enters his tone. “For making this. For welcoming me here. For being a family to me.”
Bonghee sniffs and looks away to the sea, to Sookja laughing and chasing waves. “I’m not good with this kind of thing,” Bonghee says. “You’ll be missed,” she admits before straightening her shoulders and inhaling deeply.
That’s as much as a goodbye he will get from Bonghee, he knows. He smiles and nods. “Listen, there’s some money in the secret room,” he tells her. “If you ever need it - “
Bonghee scowls at him. “You’ll need it when you get to 2018.”
Yoongi smirks. “I don’t know. Maybe Seokjin will support me. He’s a famous author.”
Bonghee scoffs. She looks back to Sookja and yells, “Sookja! Come say goodbye to your uncle!”
Sookja looks at them and raises a hand to wave. “‘Bye!” she calls, unconcerned.
Bonghee frowns. “Sookja, come here.”
Sookja makes a face but obediently runs over until she slams into her mother’s legs. “What?”
Bonghee gestures at Yoongi. “Say a proper goodbye to Yoongi. He’s going away.”
Sookja looks at Yoongi, pursing her lips. “I’ll see him again, though,” she says to her mother.
Bonghee crouches to Sookja’s level and takes her hands in her own. “We talked about this, Sookja. Uncle Yoongi isn’t coming back. You won’t see him again.”
“He’s going to 2018,” Sookja says, her tone bored like the whole conversation was too mundane. “I’ll see him then.”
“That’s a very long time from now.”
Sookja shrugs. “I didn’t see Daddy for a very long time but I’ll see him again.” She looks at Yoongi and smiles. “It’s okay, I’m good at waiting. I’ll see you again, Uncle Yoongi. Say hi to Uncle Seokjin for me.” She flings herself at Yoongi for a moment for a brief hug before she skips away, back to chasing waves along the shore.
Bonghee stands, huffing out a disbelieving laugh. “She’s incorrigible,” she says.
Yoongi smiles. “That’s what makes her Sookja,” he says. He watches Sookja for a moment before turning back to Bonghee. “Goodbye,” he says, a simple word with too many roots, too many implications and consequences.
“Farewell,” Bonghee says, a wish. And her blessing.
He makes his way down to the secret room, sliding open the hidden compartment behind one shelf, and tugs out a pair of well worn, questionably fashionable pants. He changes into them, frowning as he tries not to stick his foot out of the various holes. It still seems like a silly garment, but he supposes he’ll get used to it eventually.
Redressed, he slinks out of the room, locking it up and making his way back to the beach. He positions himself facing the mainland, waves lapping just out of reach of his feet as he lowers to the sand to sit. Day has broken, the fire in the sky faded to another blue sky, sun already strong and blinding.
Yoongi sets the bottle of wine between his knees, sinking the glass into the sand, and takes one last opportunity to change his mind. He closes his eyes, listens to the churning crash of the sea and the rustle of the wind. Seokjin had said his time is noisy, blaring and fast, a cacophony of disjointed sounds. Seokjin had said his time lost the stars.
Yoongi’s eyes open, the answer he already knew repeating in his head. There’s only one star he wants.
He uncorks the bottle and brings it to his lips, tipping his head back to swallow it down. It’s sour, coating his tongue, but he forces past his throat it’s all gone. He sets the now empty bottle back between his knees in the sand and waits.
The sun is warm on the patches of skin showing through his jeans, the wind still cool from the night’s chill. He closes his eyes, fingers playing idly with the bottle, fingernails tapping along the side, clinks and tinks lost under the roll of waves breaking on the shore.
He waits, and waits, and time ticks on with the tap of his fingers on the bottle.
Time seems to stand still here, but he knows it’s an illusions, like the shimmer of sun on the surface of the water. The tree grows a little bigger, the stars dim a little more, and life rolls along, ebbing just a little further away.
It’s late afternoon dipping into evening by the time Seokjin unpacks his suitcase at the cottage. He tries to move slowly, elongating the hours, waiting for sunset before he sets out to the lighthouse. He’s anxious to see the stars again, and hopeful that the walk over to the lighthouse at night will help to trigger a flash of a memory.
He’s memorized his notebook by now, able to recite the passages with his eyes closed, and yet he still doesn’t have an impression of Yoongi’s face, doesn’t really know the feeling of their hands entwined. Maybe that explains his compulsion to come back to the island, seeking what he lost.
Despite his best efforts, Seokjin finishes at the cottage while the sun is still shining strong, day clinging with stubborn determination as his patience wanes. He accepts his fate and slips on a pair of shoes, heading out to journey to the lighthouse.
He takes the direct route through the middle of the island, exactly as he had explained in his notebook. The gravel crunches under his feet, accompanying the call of seagulls and rumble of the sea. It’s an appropriate lullaby, Seokjin thinks to himself. Like a constant white noise, time suspended as dreams approach.
He wishes it was as easy as playing the right notes, the right sounds to conjure up a dream.
Seokjin stops when he reaches the pathway up to the lighthouse, craning his neck up to look all the way to the top. The sun sinks down until it almost touches the top of the lighthouse perfectly, the lantern inside reflecting and splitting the rays, beaming and beckoning. For a split second, just a moment, Seokjin’s chest hitches and he believes that life has returned to the lighthouse, its lantern shining after decades of dormancy.
Seokjin’s heart skips a beat, then two, until he returns to himself. It’s a trick of the eyes, he realizes. The lantern remains unmoving, the sun slowly sinking further into the horizon. Time continues forward, always forward.
He clears his thoughts and pushes himself to move again, laboring up the hill to the base of the tower.
He doesn’t enter the lighthouse, choosing to circle around it first. The wind is picking up, whipping through his hair and tangling the locks together. The waves crash a little harder here. He can see them lapping against the dock he helped to build. The same place he got caught in the rain with Yoongi.
”You are what I imagine home to be,” Yoongi had said, according to Seokjin’s own hand.
Seokjin smiles as a pang of regret shoots from his stomach. He promised to be happy when he misses Yoongi, he reminds himself. He sighs, turning his attention away from the dock and to the beach where he shared his first kiss with Yoongi.
He pauses, blinking in surprise to find a figure standing on the beach, back turned to Seokjin as the man looks out to the sea. Seokjin cannot tell much about him from the distance, but he notes that the man has strikingly pink hair, the strands flying wildly in the strong wind.
Seokjin doesn’t know why he feels so disconcerted, his heart thumping too fast, restlessness in his fingers. He supposes he’s never seen anyone near the lighthouse before. It’s odd, to know he shares this space with others.
He frowns, not quite convinced by his own reasoning, and shakes his head. He turns on his heel and tries to clear the stranger from his mind, walking back to the lighthouse entrance.
He takes his time as he ascends the stairwell, letting his fingers trail along the cold stone wall. There is no dust on the steps this time around and it seems odd. Surely there should have been some dust built up over the last eight months. But the wood is clean as if newly swept, not even a sign of a cobweb.
There is a ghost of a presence here, he thinks, stepping up to the landing of what he know is the quarters. His feet clip on the wooden floor, the sound syncopating as he freezes, eyes widening.
Below the window on the bare floor lies a book, too familiar, unmistakable. It’s his new book, just released, the one he wrote when nothing else made any sense. The one he wrote when he was looking for Yoongi.
He lunges for it, fingers shaking as he grabs it, flipping it open. His mind races with jumbled thoughts that he cannot understand, too fast to process, too impossible to believe. In his haste, a folded piece of paper falls from between the pages, dropping to the floor.
He bends to retrieve it, unfolding the paper. His breath hitches in his throat on an aborted gasp, sucking air into his lungs as he reads the letter. He’s on his feet and sprinting down the steps before he can even read past the first line.
Seokjin, it reads, My name is Min Yoongi.
Impossible, he thinks, leaping down the steps three at a time. Absolutely impossible.
The handrail burns against the skin of his palm, skidding too hard, too fast against the surface, but still he doesn’t slow down. It’s a miracle he doesn’t trip over his own feet, barreling down flight after flight of stairs.
Impossible, he thinks again, though the word means less to him now, definition distorted. Impossible means soon, and almost, and have a little patience. It means not yet, but wait, just wait, it’ll happen.
He sprints out of the lighthouse, finally breaking out into the fresh air again, eyes scanning frantically to the beach where he had seen the stranger with the pink hair. He has no reason to believe it, but he knows, in the deepest part of his heart where he loves Yoongi, he knows.
The beach is empty now, just the sea and the setting sun glimmer off the surface of the water. He inhales, suddenly dizzy, the beginnings of a doubt eating away at his hope like acid. He saw a man here, he is certain.
The wind whips his fringe in front of his eyes and he turns his head away from the gust. His heart stops when he sees the man with the pink hair come from around the base of the lighthouse.
The man stops short when their eyes meet, a mixture of relief and happiness and hesitation flickering over his face.
Seokjin stares at him, unmoving, wind pushing at his back and pulling at his hair. The letter in his hand flutters violently but he curls his fingers tighter around the paper, holding it firmly and securely. “Are you,” he finally says, voice unexpectedly rough, “Yoongi?”
The man smiles sheepishly and nods, a hands coming up to move the hair from his forehead. “Yeah.”
“How,” Seokjin starts, shaking his head. “How did you come here? How long have you been here?”
Yoongi smiles, confused. “Did you read the letter?” he asks, gesturing to the paper in Seokjin’s hand.
“I read the first line,” he admits, eyes unblinking on Yoongi, disbelief making his words quieter than they should be. “Give me the Cliff Notes version.”
Yoongi frowns. “What’s Cliff Notes?”
Seokjin laughs suddenly, all his months of wishing and wondering and dreaming finally breaking with impossibilities come true. “A summary,” he amends. “Give me a summary.”
“Oh.” Yoongi shrugs. “Just. My name is Min Yoongi. I loved you a long time ago. And I know you don’t remember it, but.” He inhales, shrugging again as he pushes the words out. “If you’re okay with it, I’d like the chance to love you again.”
Seokjin nods, words choking in his throat as a hundred sentences fight each other to escape first. Yes and I love you and thank you for finding me. Instead, he settles for swallowing them all down and steps closer to Yoongi, reaching a hand out slowly to lightly tip Yoongi’s chin up.
He hesitates for a moment, eyes searching Yoongi’s. Yoongi’s mouth stretches into a smile and he takes one step closer to Seokjin. His hands circle around Seokjin’s waist, a welcome pressure anchoring Seokjin, reassuring him that this isn’t a dream, or a memory, or a flash of a vision. This is real, and happening, and his, to hold and keep and nurture.
Seokjin bends, eyes fluttering shut as his lips press against Yoongi’s, a sigh escaping from his mouth to Yoongi’s.
There’s a blazing happiness in his heart, warmer than the sun, stronger than the tides, all encompassing and ever growing like time building upon itself.
It is the first memory he keeps of Yoongi. The first of many to come.
“I hate this game,” Yoongi says when he notices Seokjin’s arrival.
Seokjin laughs and plops onto the couch beside Yoongi, slinking down until they are shoulder-to-shoulder. “You don’t have to play it, you know,” Seokjin reminds him.
Yoongi tosses the controller onto the coffee table, sighing. “But you like it.”
Seokjin shrugs. “Yeah.”
“So I want to play it with you.”
Seokjin’s heart swells, his smile widening. He lulls his head against the back of the couch and says a silent thanks to the universe that he gets to love this man.
“Besides,” Yoongi says, sniffing. “It made me rich. I should at least know how to play it.”
Seokjin snorts. “I can’t believe Sookja invested in Nintendo for you.”
“You’re the one that kept telling her stories from the ‘Kingdom of Nintendo’,” Yoongi says, lifting his fingers into air quotes. “I thought those were your own stories.”
Seokjin laughs at the look of betrayal on Yoongi’s faces. “Are you disillusioned?”
“Completely,” Yoongi affirms. He tilts his head to look at Seokjin, a soft, fond smile belying his words. “Are you hungry? Should I cook?”
Seokjin hums. “How about we go out?”
“Sounds good,” Yoongi agrees, already standing to grab his things.
They slip on their shoes and head out. Yoongi thumbs through his phone while they wait for the elevator, and it strikes Seokjin how well Yoongi has adapted to modern technology, easing into it a little more every day. He can still remember the first time Yoongi understood hashtags on Twitter, an important accomplishment to Yoongi, apparently.
“You know,” Yoongi says as the elevator arrives, pocketing his phone, “for all your advances, the moment I walk into an elevator, I lose my phone signal.”
Seokjin snorts. “Are you complaining at the limits of our technology?”
Yoongi shrugs. “You made it sounds like it was magic, but walk into a metal box and it’s like going back in time.”
“Says the man who doesn’t trust the microwave.”
Yoongi makes a face. “It’s dubious at best.”
The elevator dings and comes to a stop on the ground floor. Seokjin moves to leave, but pauses when he sees Yoongi’s hand held out expectantly.
“It’s dark outside,” Yoongi says, not quite meeting Seokjin’s eyes.
Seokjin smiles and slips his hand into Yoongi’s, closing securely. Yoongi smiles, smugly content.
The night is clear, the warmth of the day faded to a cool inbetween. They’re silent as they make their way to their favorite restaurant, fingers interlaced, arms brushing against each other.
Seokjin glances up to the sky and struggles to find the stars. There are specks of light in the darkness above, the tiniest spots that glimmer through the bright city lights.
“Do you miss it?” Seokjin asks suddenly, head still tipped up. “The stars?”
Yoongi looks up for a moment before his gaze falls on Seokjin. “No,” he answers simply, without hesitation.
Seokjin lowers his eyes from the sky to Yoongi. “Really?”
Yoongi nods. “Really.”
Yoongi contemplates Seokjin for a moment before shaking his head. “I’m not going to say it.”
Yoongi ignores him, focusing his gaze on his feet as he trudges forward.
“Yah, Yoongi, what were you going to say?” Seokjin demands, squeezing Yoongi’s hand in his.
“It’s too cheesy,” Yoongi answers.
“What if I promise to forget it?” Seokjin offers, smiling charmingly when Yoongi looks back to him with narrowed eyes.
“That doesn’t work anymore,” Yoongi points out.
“I promise to forget it,” Seokjin says.
Yoongi stops, Seokjin halting beside him as him. He frowns up at him, considering. “We won’t ever talk about it?” Yoongi asks, wavering.
“Deal,” Seokjin says quickly, triumph a rush in his head.
“I don’t miss the stars because I have the brightest one in front of me now,” Yoongi says. He clears his throat and looks away.
Seokjin’s lips part, love and giddy embarrassment warring within him. “I can’t believe you just called me a star,” he says.
Yoongi makes a face. “You’re not supposed to remember it, you promised.”
“Oh, no, Yoongi,” Seokjin says, grinning. “I don’t forget a thing about you anymore.”
Yoongi makes a loud sound, shy and sulky, and starts walking again.
“Hey, wait for your star,” Seokjin calls out, laughing when Yoongi makes another loud exclamation.
He loves this man, he thinks, grateful that he found out impossibilities can change with time.
Plugging my twitter since I tend to be more active there then here: jincerity
Chapter 6: Extra: Falling Stars
A small extra epilogue
So, hi. Bet you didn't think I'd ever come through with this extra. I didn't think I would either. But I promised a couple people when I was on twitter, so this is for you <3 I hope it lives up to the wait.
For clarity, this extra takes place in three times. The first part is right after Bonghee and Sookja said goodbye to Yoongi when he went to 2018. The second part takes place after Yoongi arrived in 2018 but before he reunited with Seokjin. And the last part is after the reunion <3
Part One: The Tides
She giggles to herself in excitement, perfectly happy. The sun is warm, the wind is strong, pushing her hair out of her eyes, and her mother seems distracted enough staring across the sea to the island that Sookja might actually be able to accomplish her goal. When she’s done, she’s going to brag to all her friends, and her dad, and Uncle Yoongi. She slows, coming to a stop as the bubbling contentment in her stomach churns to something she doesn’t know. Something that the years of her life will layer within her, compounding, compressing together to pack more in. Something she will never learn how to put into words, but something she will understand nonetheless. Nostalgia, or melancholy. The bittersweet happy sadness of missing - a time, a place, a state of being, and in this case, a someone.
She won’t be able to tell Uncle Yoongi about her sand fort, or her adventures, or what joke her friend told her. She frowns at the sand, at the gradient of nearly white grains she’s disturbed, exposing the damp, darker granules underneath. She’s suddenly very sorry and regretful, but she’s not quite sure for what. For disrupting the peaceful, uniform beauty of the beach in her efforts, or for relinquishing her magic dandelion and sending Uncle Yoongi far, far away.
She leans forward and pulls the sand back into the small indent she’s managed to dig, trying to fix it. It’s too late, the damp granules have already churned to the surface. She can’t go back.
She stands, wiping the sand sticking uncomfortably to her hands on her dress. But just as she cannot erase the traces of her digging from the beach, she cannot remove the same traces from herself. Sand sticks between her fingers, under her nails. Particles so tiny, so numerous that several swipes of her hands against her dress does nothing to remove them all.
She stomps over to her mother, head down, eyes focused on her hands as she tries to pick each granule off one by one. She’s still deep into her task when she reaches her mother, glancing up briefly.
Her mother has been standing here, silent and unmoving since Uncle Yoongi left, her arms wrapped tightly around her own chest. She hadn’t even bothered to push back the chunk of hair that had escaped her braid, the dark strands dancing beautiful in the steady wind that comes off the sea. Her eyes look far away as they gaze across the beach, across the sea to the island with the lighthouse. Her jaw is clenched, just as unyielding as the rest of her, like she’s trying her best to hold something in. Like she’s afraid of what will happen when she relaxes.
Sookja stares for a moment at her mother before giving her hands one last swipe together and reaching out for her hand, tugging. “Mama,” she calls softly, hesitantly.
Her mother jerks, coming out of her semi trance, and peers down.
Sookja gives her hand a squeeze and shoots a bright smile up at her. “Mama, wanna bury me in the sand?” she asks, offering up to her mother the only idea her mind could settle on to bring her comfort. If she cannot tell Uncle Yoongi about her beach adventure, she’ll share it with her mother instead.
Her mother registers Sookja’s now grimy and messy state, consternation and amusement sparking life back into her eyes. “I should chuck you into the water to clean you up,” she says, voice teasing and light.
Her mother moves to grab Sookja and Sookja yelps, screaming in delight as she bolts away. Her feet kick up sand as her mother chases her, somehow never quite running fast enough to catch her, as they both lose their breath from laughing too much.
Sookja’s nostalgia melts away in the exhilaration, childish forgetfulness ushering her into a more pleasant state of mind. The bittersweet sadness will return many times over the years, for many different reasons as she ages. But the thought of a reunion, of 2018, of a someday far, far in the future, reminds her there is sweetness yet to come.
Part Two: Time
Yoongi breathes in, salt thick in the air.
He keeps his eyes closed, lifting his face up to the sun to feel its warmth, anything to keep his mind from overthinking.
He wonders if anything has changed yet. He can’t tell. His heart beats fast in his chest, though it feels like it’s in his throat. He doesn’t have another plan if this fails. All he wants is the future, the star that fell into his hands.
The waves break against the shore like they always do, the sound so commonplace to his ears that it blends into habit, like breathing, like blinking, like the fidgeting of his fingers against the empty wine bottle between his knees.
Nothing seems different, and his stomach feels like it’s suspended, about to drop.
He moves to tap the wine bottle again, and the movement jars him, his fingers meeting empty air. He freezes, an inhale cutting off, his throat closing as he swallows.
He strains to listen, keeping his eyes closed as hope flutters around his heart. The waves still break against the shore, the sun is still warm on his face.
Disappointment is swift and bitter, and it almost fools him. Until hope snatches his mind back, replays the voice that just called for him. The words - Uncle Yoongi - familiar, but the voice not.
His eyes snap open and he glances around until he spots an eldery woman, her stature hunched, her hair a stark white, but her eyes….
He swallows, daring to hope. Her eyes shine just like a child he knows, with frizzing hair and mischievous delight always bubbling in her voice. He stands from the sand slowly, hands wiping against his jeans, fingers catching on the outrageous holes Seokjin had assured him were fashionable.
He stares at the old woman for too long, unmoving, his heart beating frantically in his chest. He’s scared to confirm it, scared to know if the wine worked. Scared to know it didn’t.
The old woman shuffles closer to him, her eyes glistening in the sun, unshed tears gathering. “Uncle,” she says, half a whisper, half a question.
Yoongi clenches his hand into a fist, listens to the break of the waves against the shore, the cry of a seagull overhead, the almost thundering boom of the wind as it rushes past him. He gathers the last bit of courage he has in his bones and asks softly, his voice breaking on the syllables, “Sookja?”
She nods her head yes and moves forward, enveloping Yoongi into a tight hug. Yoongi breathes for what feels like the first time since Seokjin returned to his time, wrapping his arms around the woman he once knew as a girl.
“I have so much to tell you,” Sookja says into his shoulder, still squeezing him tight.
“Mn,” he hums, patting her back. He has so much to catch up on, so much to know. But for now, he can breathe. For now, the stars are within reach if he has the courage to stretch out his hand.
He’s having a hard time reconciling a lot of things. He’s missed almost eighty years of history, catastrophes this generation somehow accepts as a story of long long ago, and tarnished hard-fought victories that echo silently in the survivors of another era. It boggles his mind. It feels more like five hundred years than seventy-some.
Sookja smiles at him when he complains, a little amused, a little saddened.
“Time,” she tells him, “has no regard for our feelings. It keeps going, dragging us along. Even when we’ve left something behind.”
For a moment, Yoongi thinks he sees a reflection of Bonghee in her eyes, the spark of a green ocean, a trick of the light. He wonders how much Sookja has left behind as time dragged her forward. Her parents. Her friends. A lover, maybe two? Her dreams, her youth, the person she thought she would be.
He thinks about what he’s left behind, not dragged by time but hijacking it, leaping across decades. He finds he cannot regret any of it. He searches in his mind, in his heart, but any homesickness has been burned out of him with just the thought of meeting Seokjin again. No matter the new technology, the new history, the new people and culture. No matter how much he’ll struggle to adjust, he knows it will be worth it, just for the possibility of seeing Seokjin.
He’s still a lightkeeper, after all. And Seokjin has become his light.
The phone has several numbers programmed into it, but there is one of particular interest.
Yoongi has read Seokjin’s number in his phone’s contact list so many times, he has it memorized. He recites it in his mind to every song he hears, writes it with his finger on fogged up window panes, and nearly dials it ten times a day. But he doesn't. Not yet.
He didn't think much before he came to 2018, too focused to get to Seokjin. Sometime between Busan and Seoul, on that long train ride north, Yoongi realized he's not entirely certain the moonshine will keep him here, in this time, in this place. Seokjin had to go back to his time after the effects wore off. Bonghee had told Yoongi he was born out of time. He should be fine.
It's that small, quiet doubt of what if that stills him.
If he only has three months here, he wants to spend them with Seokjin, absorbing as many memories as he can, hoarding them for the long life of solitude he has ahead of him. But Seokjin is different. Seokjin doesn't have memories that haunt him, simultaneously a torture and a comfort, the sickness and the cure. Seokjin can move on with his life if he never sees Yoongi again. Yoongi isn't even sure how much Seokjin knows about him, whether he ever found that book. Whether he even knows his name.
Yoongi finds he isn't willing to leave Seokjin again, isn't willing to leave a scar on his soul like Seokjin has on his own.
If it will only end in a painful tearing apart, he would rather keep Seokjin whole.
So Yoongi decides to wait.
Shortly after he finds a place to stay in Seoul, he makes his way to a book shop. Perhaps his priority should have been grocery shopping, or exploring the city, or even figuring out the subway system. None of that seems important to him. He wants to find Seokjin's novels. He wants to know what kind of worlds Seokjin has shared, what kind of words he uses to comfort lonely people. He wants to reach out and connect, if even a little, to the person he calls home.
Pride blooms in his chest when he finds Seokjin's novels prominently displayed. He runs his fingers over the covers, tracing Seokjin's name. He's glad the world seems to recognize Seokjin's talent. He grabs all three novels, and picks up a stack of history texts in the non-fiction section while he's there.
Yoongi spends the next two days hardly sleeping, hardly eating, eagerly devouring Seokjin’s words. They’re a balm and a thorn. They’re a piercing knife to his heart, and a soothing hug. Yoongi misses him, misses him so terribly, a constant ache like a rotten tooth in the back of his mouth. He wants to see Seokjin’s eyes that sparkle with the purest light. He wants to hold Seokjin’s hand, grasp gentle, skin soft, featherlike and devastatingly fleeting.
Yoongi continues to wait. September turns to October and he buys bizarre articles of clothing. He gauges just how bizarre they truly are in this century by the reactions he receives while in public. The results are surprising, but he thinks he's getting the hang of it. He wonders if Seokjin would be proud of him, adapting so well, finding his own style, the Yoongi of 2018. He wonders if Seokjin even knows his name.
He doesn’t like wondering.
October turns to November, and he learns how to use modern devices and equipment, though he's not entirely sure he'll ever trust the microwave. It just seems too good to be true. His favorite modern invention is the internet. He creates a profile on twitter and follows Seokjin’s official account. There aren’t a lot of updates. Seokjin must be busy. But there is an announcement of a new novel releasing soon. A comforting sort of happiness settles in Yoongi. Seokjin must have conquered his block.
November turns to December, and he starts writing Seokjin letters. He doesn’t plan to send them, what a disaster that would be. Some strange, overly intimate letters from a stranger. No. But he has so many thoughts bubbling up within him that he needs to put them down, release the tension of his chest just a bit. He thinks he understands why Seokjin writes now. It’s about sharing, and it’s about urge, and it’s about finding clarity when he takes the wordless thoughts, abstract and formless, makes them solid, real. It’s about plucking the stars from the sky and holding the light in his hands.
December turns to January, and Yoongi counts the end of four months. Counts the end of what should be his wait. He's still here, permanently it seems.
But he dials and erases and dials and erases Seokjin's number in his phone, his fingers shaking with hesitation. He doesn't know how much Seokjin knows about him. He doesn't know if it's right for him to barge into Seokjin's life, demand a place by his side. Seokjin told him he doesn't remember anything about their time together. The months of waiting, the days and nights of separation has fed his doubts, the stubborn spaces of his mind that thinks it's too good to be true. The memory of Seokjin belongs to him, but the man might not. He's not even sure how he would start to explain to Seokjin. "Hi, my name is Min Yoongi, and once upon a time you loved me so well, so thoroughly, so intensely that I felt like I held the universe in my arms."
January turns to February, and Seokjin's new novel is released. Yoongi picks up his reserved copy at the book shop, and only makes it two steps outside the store before he cracks open the cover to the dedication page. He nearly drops the book, his breath caught in his throat, his heart thumping hard against his chest.
The dedication reads, "To the lightkeeper. Everyday I'm happy because of you. Everyday I miss you. Thank you."
Yoongi decides his waiting is over.
Part Three: And the Stars
Seokjin smiles, barely resisting the urge to reach out and brush Yoongi’s dark fringe off his forehead. He’s afraid he’ll wake Yoongi up from his desperately needed slumber, instead flicking his gaze back to the road ahead of him.
It was late spring the first time he drove this way, bright sun and vivid colors of a coming summer promising adventure and discovery Seokjin couldn’t even fathom. It was early spring the second time he travelled so far south, the landscape frozen by winter slowly thawing, emerging with timid tendrils that could not touch Seokjin’s heavy heart.
This time, Seokjin drives the long, seemingly endless roads in the middle of winter, frost tinting everything in a fresh, bluish hue, remaking the far away mountains and fields into something from a fantasy or a painting. Seokjin has no adventure to journey through, nor any lost loves to mourn and cherish. All that lays ahead of him is a relaxing long weekend, a break for Yoongi from his university courses and Seokjin from his writing. The normalcy, the sheer ordinarity of it feels enormous. It’s a boon he knows he has no right to receive, an impossibility he could never have imagined.
He watches frosted landscape speed past and lets the sweet weight of his reality settle onto his shoulders. No matter what journey he takes, he knows Yoongi will be by his side.
He’s supposed to wake Yoongi up by the time they get to Jeonju. The only reason Yoongi had conceded to sleeping was the promise that he’d take over driving halfway down. But Seokjin can’t find it in himself to disturb Yoongi, especially when he knows how many all-nighters Yoongi has been pulling to finish his schoolwork.
He keeps driving, leaving Jeonju behind, Yeosu closer on the horizon, and with it the stress and exhaustion of daily life melting away like the now thawed frost. It’s cloudy, the sun seemingly erased, casting the world in a bluish grey tint. Seokjin has the thought they’ve traveled down the hues of blue, from blue-white, stark and bright and sparkling, to blue-grey, calm and cool and like the depths of the ocean.
Yoongi finally comes back to life just as Seokjin skirts around the edges of Yeosu, exiting the main expressway to the smaller two-lane road leading to the island.
Yoongi makes a disgruntled noise, like waking is a personal offense, shifting slowly, straightening his head from the window. Seokjin glances over at him and smiles when he sees Yoongi’s eyes still stubbornly shut tight, his nose scrunched up in disapproval.
“You’re up?” he says, reaching a hand out to rub at Yoongi’s neck.
“Mn,” Yoongi manages to sound, blinking and looking around. “Where are we?” he asks, his voice rumbling with disuse.
“Just passed Yeosu.”
Yoongi makes a displeased noise and looks at Seokjin, frowning. “You were supposed to let me drive at Jeonju.”
Seokjin shrugs, unperturbed. “I thought you should catch up on your sleep. You’ve been working hard lately.”
“You’ve been working hard, too,” Yoongi points out, clearly pouting.
Seokjin smiles. “Wah, such a caring boyfriend I have, I’m so lucky,” he praises.
Yoongi snorts. “I’ll drive us back on Sunday,” he decides.
Seokjin hums in agreement and moves his hand down in front of Yoongi. “Hand,” he says, somewhere between a request and a demand.
Yoongi places his own hand in Seokjin’s without hesitation, which makes Seokjin smile widen. It’s nearly instinct now. Seokjin thinks in about a year, all he’ll have to do is present his hand without a word and Yoongi will take it.
“You shouldn’t drive one-handed,” Yoongi says, though he doesn’t move to take his hand back.
“Don’t I look cool like this, though?” Seokjin tilts his head and winks at Yoongi.
“Look at the road,” Yoongi replies, deadpan, but Seokjin can see him smile.
Seokjin squeezes Yoongi’s hand and nods. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you there safe and sound.”
Yoongi shifts back to lay his head on the headrest. “It’s been a long time,” he says, changing topics.
“Two years,” Seokjin supplies.
Yoongi sighs. “Time goes by too quickly.”
Seokjin swallows. “Do you miss it?” It’s not the first time Seokjin has asked if Yoongi misses something from his past, from the 1930s and the world he grew up in. He doesn’t think he’ll ever stop, mindful of all Yoongi gave up to be with him. Mindful of just how much Seokjin is grateful for, too precious to ever take it for granted.
He hears Yoongi shake his head. “Not miss. Nostalgia, I guess?” He runs his thumb over Seokjin’s knuckles, a steady pace like clockwork. Back, forth, back, forth. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here.”
Seokjin releases the breath he didn’t know he was holding and smiles again, reassured.
“Well,” Yoongi adds, “maybe I’d rather be in the driver’s seat.”
“Yah, I agreed to let you drive us back.”
“You used to let me drive you around on my bicycle,” Yoongi grouses. “What have we become, Seokjin?”
Seokjin laughs, pushing their linked hands against Yoongi’s knee.
The island is special to both of them, a safe harbor, the place where miracles happened. There’s no place more fitting for a quiet rest, a couple days where they can make their world just the two of them.
Seokjin finishes up in the bedroom and heads to the living room, coming to a stop at the large windows overlooking the beach. He closes his eyes, immersing himself in the sound of the ocean, still churning, always moving no matter the season. The tides and time have been the same, before Seokjin came to be, and they will continue after he is gone. But they stopped for a moment, just a moment, to teach Seokjin about impossibilities, and hope.
“Do you want dinner?” Yoongi asks, coming into the living room, cutting through the distant sound of the waves crashing on the shore.
Seokjin opens his eyes and peeks over his shoulder at Yoongi. “Let’s go for a walk. If we leave now, we might get to the lighthouse before it gets too dark.”
“I’ll grab our coats,” Yoongi says, agreeing immediately, like he always does. Yoongi indulges every one of Seokjin’s wishes without fuss. It’s a privilege Seokjin sometimes has a hard time reconciling with. It feels too big, too good, too precious, like everything else about Yoongi. But Seokjin decides to be a little shameless, accepting it and holding it close to his heart softly.
It’s strikingly cold when they get outside, the wind sharp and icy, whipping Seokjin’s hair around almost violently. Seokjin zips his coat up to his neck, buries one of his hands in his pocket, and presents the other hand to Yoongi.
“We really should wear gloves,” Yoongi says, already grabbing Seokjin’s hand, linking their fingers together before pulling their joined hands into his own pocket.
Seokjin leans against Yoongi’s side and shrugs. “I like your hand more.”
Yoongi turns his head away, but Seokjin catches his subtle blush and laughs.
They take the long way around, walking along the sandy shores, watching the sea approach and retreat in foaming waves. Occasionally Seokjin will break away from Yoongi, running with open arms towards the churning grey water before returning back to Yoongi, always returning, his hand slipping back into place in Yoongi’s. Seokjin can feel the tips of his nose and ears turn red even before Yoongi points it out.
“It’s cute,” Yoongi adds, like he always does, laughing quietly, contentedly.
There is no sunset, the brilliant colors of a crystallized pink and icy purple replaced with a thick blanket of clouds. The beach slowly gets dimmer and dimmer, grey to deeper grey. Yoongi pulls Seokjin closer to him as they arrive at the lighthouse, guiding Seokjin with expert ease up the pitch-black staircase of the lighthouse even after two years away. The wooden steps creak under their weight but hold firm, Yoongi’s workmanship still holding up even after nearly a century. Seokjin thinks whatever Yoongi puts out into the world will last forever. The stairs, the dock, his love.
Yoongi tugs Seokjin up to the gallery. Yoongi moves to the railing, leaning against it, face to the wind, eyes closed and hair a tangled mess from the wind, breathing in the salty air.
Min Yoongi. This is the man I love, Seokjin thinks, not for the first time, and certainly not for the last. It warms his chest, just like always, just like Seokjin knows the thought always will.
He doesn’t realize he’s staring until Yoongi opens his eyes and glances at him. “What?” he asks, sheepish.
Seokjin smiles and shakes his head, hooking his arm through Yoongi’s and leaning against Yoongi’s shoulder. “Just thinking.”
Yoongi hums, tilting his head against Seokjin’s side. “About what?”
Seokjin exhales. “Do you think it’ll snow?”
“It’s too warm.”
“It’s supposed to snow in Seoul tonight,” Seokjin adds.
“South Jeolla doesn’t get much snow,” Yoongi says, sniffing.
“Stranger things have happened,” Seokjin counters.
Yoongi turns, moving his body to face Seokjin more directly. His deep brown eyes flick across Seokjin’s face, searching or memorizing, or indulging.
Seokjin clears his throat and smiles, about to make a joke, embarrassed even now at Yoongi’s undivided attention.
“Do you ever wonder,” Yoongi says, preempting whatever thing Seokjin was about to say, “what if you hadn’t taken Bonghee-noona’s moonshine? Or if you had taken another year?” Yoongi frowns, eyes growing distant. “Or if you never gave that dandelion to Sookja?”
Seokjin inhales deeply, slipping his arms around Yoongi’s torso, pulling him close until they’re chest-to-chest. “I think,” he starts, smiling down at Yoongi, “that everything that didn’t happen is just a story. And this, us, right here and now, is the only outcome that’s real.”
Yoongi’s eyes flicker over Seokjin’s face again until his features melt into a soft smile, eyes glowing with affection. “Thank goodness,” he finally says.
“Thank goodness,” Seokjin repeats in agreement. He leans down, places a quick, close-mouthed kiss to Yoongi’s lips.
He meant it to be a brief peck, but Yoongi curls his fingers into Seokjin’s parka and pulls him back down when Seokjin starts to retreat. Seokjin makes a small sound, acquiescence or pleasure, even he doesn’t know. He melts into Yoongi’s hold, follows when Yoongi angles his head, opening his lips and sighing into the kiss, allowing Yoongi to deepen their entanglement.
The wind is still whipping around them, icicles attempting to seep into their blood, but Yoongi’s mouth is hot and welcoming, encapsulating Seokjin.
Yoongi’s fingers inch around Seokjin’s waist, crunching the thick fabric. Seokjin knows it’s impossible but he could swear he can feel the heat of Yoongi’s touch on his skin through the layers.
Yoongi draws back, kissing the corner of Seokjin’s lips, his cheek, his jawline before he finally pulls away. “Should we head back?” he asks, voice thick again, like he’s woken from a particularly good dream.
Seokjin smiles softly and nods. “Mn.”
They take their time together at the cottage, peeling off clothes slowly, worshiping every sliver of new skin with hands and lips. And teeth in Seokjin’s case, biting just enough to sting, leaving a trail of pink marks on Yoongi’s pale skin. It’s slow, and deliberate. Magical even, if Seokjin allows himself to sink into flowery prose in his mind, a physical manifestation of their love and gratitude for each other.
It’s a reminder of how many what ifs and could have beens ended in sadness, and loss. It’s a reminder of how many impossibilities they’ve somehow overcome. Hands that grip a little too hard, breath that trembles with more than just arousal, and whispered I love yous that sound a little too ragged. All of it is Seokjin’s, now. Tomorrow. For as long as the tides return and time ticks by.
Mirabilia for him to unravel for the rest of his life.
It’s well into the night by the time Seokjin convinces Yoongi to make them a long overdue dinner of ramyun. He leaves Seokjin bundled under the covers, laughing and kissing his cheek before padding off to the kitchen.
Seokjin stretches, shifting carefully so the covers don’t dare to leave any inch of his body, and turns to glance out of the window. He blinks, brow furrowing for a moment. The stars are falling, he thinks bizarrely, watching as sparkling bits of light float down from the sky.
A lot of stars. The entire galaxy.
He sits up suddenly, throwing the covers off and quickly dressing. “Yoongi!” he shouts, suddenly energized again. “It’s snowing!”
Seokjin grabs his coat, shrugging it on while he hears Yoongi shuffle out of the kitchen.
“Huh?” Yoongi asks, a pair of chopsticks still in his hand.
Seokjin grins excitedly. “Snow!”
Yoongi snorts, laughing softly. “You’re like a kid,” he pouts, but he’s already taking his coat, slipping his arms through.
Seokjin knows the snow will disappear by morning. It is indeed too warm in South Jeolla for the phenomenon to last long. But for now, Seokjin is content to enjoy one more impossibility with Yoongi, watching the stars fall and melt on their joined hands.