Gods cannot always keep the promises they make. Of course, Taehyung was not one of those gods, no matter how empty the promise.
“And what of the day we return to where we belong,” Jeongguk says, as Taehyung dozes beside him in bed. Jimin and Namjoon retired to their rooms hours before. Taehyung’s light is dimmer than ever before; the glitter in his irises is barely there when he blinks his eyes open at the sensation of Jeongguk’s fingers combing through his hair, tender and soothing. “What then?”
“We restore the order, of course.”
“The Night will still be just as dark and just as dangerous.”
“Do you suggest I remain in the sky for all Day and Night?” Taehyung jokes, tucking his head more securely under the curve of Jeongguk’s jaw. “Never just you and me, never a time where we can be together alone.”
“Is that so important to you?”
Taehyung opens his eyes in earnest at this, and Jeongguk nearly recoils at the severity in his gaze. “How could you suggest otherwise?” he says, voice a thunderclap in the stillness between them. “Is it not, to you?”
“No,” Jeongguk says. “Night is my favorite part of our lives.”
Taehyung drops his head back into the thin pillow, the fight gone out of him now. “How could you say such a thing,” he says weakly. “How could you even think that way.”
“Because you are the Sun,” Jeongguk says, and casts his eyes down. “You have never needed me the way I need you.”
Taehyung doesn’t speak right away, and pulls himself out of Jeongguk’s arms. “You think I don’t need you?”
“Why would you?” Jeongguk asks.
“Do you know what it was like without you, in here,” Taehyung asks, and there isn’t a hint of playfulness in his words. “Do you know what it was like for me to pass the days in this cell, knowing you thought I’d left you without a word?”
Jeongguk searches Taehyung’s face, eyes glowing cold and blue back into Taehyung’s warm yellow.
“You have light without a Moon,” he says, pragmatically, as he has this all figured out.
“Do I really?” Taehyung says, extending his arm out until his sleeve falls away. Sparks flicker across the pattern of his veins, hints of fish under streamwater. “Without you, do I really? No, Jeongguk, what you don’t understand is that without a Moon,” he brings his hand down until it cradles Jeongguk’s cheek, “there is no Sun.”
He can’t be sure if Jeongguk believes him, will ever believe him, but this time, Jeongguk doesn’t protest. His arm, instead, finds it place around Taehyung’s waist again to draw close until their foreheads rest together. The doubt furrows Jeongguk’s eyebrows, and Taehyung cranes his neck up to kiss the dimpled skin smooth.
Jeongguk opens his eyes in surprise at the touch of Taehyung’s lips, and yet--and yet, some part of him looks as if he’s been waiting for that touch for a long time. Too scared to wish for it.
“Taehyung,” he whispers.
Taehyung moves first, and Jeongguk, with the invariability of the Moon, follows him. Neither of them have ever kissed, not that they’ve ever had a chance to—not that they’d ever even believed it would be reciprocated if they did, and Jeongguk worries that his lips are clumsy. But the thought has barely formed before Taehyung leans back, and it might not have been anything more than the closest breath on each other’s lips.
Jeongguk is staring into Taehyung’s face already, but Taehyung is slower, dragging his gaze up from Jeongguk’s mouth until their eyes meet.
The air between them turns into a gasp when Jeongguk presses back. Taehyung sighs against Jeongguk’s mouth, as if he missed the taste of him in the seconds they were apart. He dips his tongue into Jeongguk’s mouth, but they’re not close enough, even with Jeongguk running his hands along the plane of Taehyung’s back.
“Jeongguk,” he repeats. It sounds different now, a little broken.
“Mm.” The bed creaks under as Jeongguk rolls them until his chest cages Taehyung in, and he rests all his weight on his elbows beside Taehyung’s head to kiss him deeper.
They can’t bring themselves to separate. It’s a new desperation that neither of them are familiar with, but it burns in Taehyung’s joints and spreads to the tips of his fingers, and that heat has been foreign to him since his plummet to Earth. It isn’t until he feels himself drifting off again, their kisses turning into little more than soft breathing into each other’s mouths, that Jeongguk’s warmth disappears.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Jeongguk says, and Taehyung has to smile at the hoarseness in his voice. “Where there is a Sun—”
“There is a Moon.”
“There is a me,” Jeongguk promises.
What must be many Days and many Nights come and go, and Taehyung does not get better.
If Jeongguk worries, he does not show it. If that feeling of unease grows in his belly like a parasite, he says nothing. He only smiles when Taehyung looks at him, holds him to his body, never leaves his side. The people that have come to know them—Jimin, Namjoon—have to watch as Taehyung slowly fades out in Jeongguk’s arms.
“This can’t be right,” Jimin says one night. He’s already in his shift for bed, but Namjoon had come in earlier unable to sleep for the same reason. “Gods don’t wither away slowly like we do. There’s nothing we can even do to help, I hate it. I feel so hopeless every time I look at him, there’s so much life in Taehyung and all he can do is sleep curled up against Jeongguk’s body—which you’d think should be helping, but it’s not.”
Namjoon sinks his fingers into his hair, resting his head in his hands. “If we don’t get them back home,” he says, “the fall of humanity is on us, Jimin-ah.”
“You can’t say that, hyung.” Jimin sits down beside him at the table. “You know it’s not your fault.”
“Can you really say that?” Namjoon asks. “Can you really say it’s not my fault, for not trying, the way my sister would have?”
Jimin’s face shutters closed. “Hyung, what happened to your sister wasn’t something you could have prevented.”
“So what do I do? Sit back and let my father do what she predicted years ago? Let him tear this world down? You’ve been getting correspondance now as far as the Middle East, Jimin-ah. Letters of panic and calls to unify and mobilize against an enemy that’s not even human.”
“I know,” Jimin says. “I know, we—it’s a lost cause to fight monsters with humans.”
“And the only god that can is dying in our dungeons,” Namjoon groans into his hands.
They sit in grim silence, the lamplight flickering on the table.
“Didn’t you say,” Jimin says slowly, “that Jeongguk saved you in the forest?”
“What if it’s not the Sun we need,” Jimin says, words coming together faster as the idea solidifies. “What if it’s the Moon?”
They stare at each other, before clambering out of their chairs and running for the dungeons. It is frightening, with only the guidance of a lamp to get them there, but when they do—
“Wait,” Jimin stops dead. “Where are they?”
Namjoon holds the light up to the cell, and it illuminates the empty bed, messy in the way that someone had just vacated it. Jimin whirls, searching the space around them and knowing he’ll find nothing.
“—where are you going?”
The answer, if Taehyung is honest, is that he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know where he’s going, but someone had shouted into his ear as he was sleeping, and the sound of it had echoed in his brain. A voice he didn’t recognize. Taehyung could not ignore it, sitting up arrow-straight in bed to Jeongguk’s alarm.
It wasn’t that someone was calling him, a call he could ignore—no, whether it be by ritual or by curse, someone was summoning him.
“This way!” he shouts over his shoulder. Branches claw at his robes and roots snap at his ankles as he runs blindly through the forests outside the palace, and it takes everything not to trip when the voice rings through his ears again. Sun god! it shouts, and Taehyung gnashes his teeth together in pain as the words throb in his temples.
Then something white, with blue streaming out behind it, dashes by Taehyung’s feet. Jeongguk, as the Jade Rabbit, spins to a stop before him and sits back on his heels, blocking his way.
“Jeongguk, you have to let me go,” Taehyung says. “You know it is against the law of gods for me to disregard summons.”
But Jeongguk does not move, peering up into Taehyung’s face. Taehyung sighs, and sidesteps him, picking up his run again. It is coming from deep inside the forest, the summons, and Taehyung thinks he must be nearly upon it when he trips in earnest this time. Hard-packed dirt fills his mouth as he hits the ground, and something shifts in the forest.
“Look what we have here,” comes a snide, leering female voice. A face, haunting and beautiful, looms up in his. “The god of the Sun himself. What a catch this is.” Her head doesn’t seem to be connected to a body, and it’s strange that she is as low to the ground as Taehyung is. Then she turns her face, and he sees her neck covered in rotting scales, so long that it vanishes into the darkness. “Wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes,” and this voice is pitched ever so slightly lower. Another head, identical to the first, appears to sneer in Taehyung’s face. “A god. What a kill for our record.”
They pull back, laughing, and then what sounds like a very heavy body slithers across the dirt. Taehyung can just make out an outline of a enormous serpentine creature with the body of a basilisk and dozens upon dozens of heads when there’s a burst of light behind him.
There is a symphony of a horrible, inhuman screeching. Taehyung throws his hand over his ears, looking up to see Jeongguk’s glowing, human form with his arms thrown out wide to shield Taehyung. The cacophony disappears into the Night, eventually, and Jeongguk’s light fades. His shoulders heave as he struggles for breath.
“Jeongguk,” Taehyung says, standing up on shaky legs. “Jeongguk, you—you have your own light.”
Jeongguk shakes his head. “No, it’s yours,” he says, and takes Taehyung’s hands into his to steady him. “I took it from you. You’re not strong enough to use it on your own.”
Taehyung looks past Jeongguk’s shoulder, then back at him. “You can banish the Nightcreatures,” he says, words laced with disbelieving wonder.
“I did it once for Namjoon daegun,” Jeongguk says, “and I would do it a thousand times for you.”
They jump at the words, and Jeongguk shoves Taehyung behind him. A soft yellow firelight appears in the darkness, illuminating a thin, soot-ashen face.
“Who are you,” Jeongguk demands.
“Wait,” Taehyung says, stepping out from Jeongguk’s back. “He’s—”
“Sun god,” says the figure, a young man dressed in peasant’s clothes. His eyes dart to Taehyung’s face. “You heard me?”
“Of course I heard you,” Taehyung says. “What is your name? How did you summon me, what do you need me for?”
“My name is Jung Hoseok,” he says. “I was once a high priest. Namjoon daegun and the palace are in danger.”
Despite being good news himself, Hoseok is not a harbinger of good fortune.
“The Sun god does not have much time left,” Hoseok says, hidden away in Namjoon’s personal sleeping chambers. “Do any of you have a clue what ails him?”
Namjoon and Jimin both shake their heads.
Hoseok heaves a sigh. Though bathed and clothed in robes that Namjoon unearthed from the bottom of his drawers, he still looks gaunt and sallow where the candlelight carves into the hollows of his cheeks.
“You were looking for me that night, weren’t you,” Hoseok says, after a pause. Namjoon looks up to meet his gaze. “The night the Moon god chased away the Nightcreature for the first time. There wasn’t any reason for you to be so close to the land of exile.”
“I was,” Namjoon says. “I wanted to find you and ask if you knew a way to summon the Moon god from the sky.”
“And what for?”
“You already know,” Namjoon laces his fingers together. “The Sun god was dying.”
“Is dying,” Hoseok corrects. “I’ve never seen a god so close to becoming mortal.”
“Still?” Jimin asks. “He shouldn’t be anymore. He’s been recovering for all this time, with Jeongguk beside him.”
“I’ll talk to them when it’s safe to go down to the dungeons,” Hoseok says. “But you both said you were looking for Jeongguk in the time that he and Taehyung ran into the forest to find me. Can I ask why?”
“Oh,” Jimin says. “We were looking for him because we had an idea.”
“You saw the way he saved me and the Sun god from the Nightcreatures,” Namjoon says. “And we realized that perhaps it isn’t the Sun that they’re afraid of.”
Hoseok doesn’t say anything. Namjoon takes a breath and forges on.
“The Night is a time of fear and terror for us all. Only in the Day are we safe—but imagine if we had light in both Night and Day.”
“You propose,” Hoseok says, “to separate the two gods that have known the same skies since the dawn of time?”
“I propose the only way I know how to preserve life on this Earth,” Namjoon says evenly. “In the end, it isn’t my decision. It is theirs, and there can’t be any harm in at least suggesting it to them. What is the worst that could happen? They say no.”
Hoseok purses his lips. “I don’t like that idea.”
“I didn’t say it was a good one. But it might be our only one.”
“You’ll have to get the Sun to agree to it,” Hoseok says. “The Moon will follow where the Sun goes.”
“I’ll tell him,” Jimin says, softly, and they turn to him with a touch of surprise. “He’s my friend, I think. I will tell him.”
In the cover of night, the three of them make for a sad funeral procession. Hoseok shuffles along at Jimin’s side with his face down, with Namjoon leading the way. The dungeons are far out enough that no one will catch them.
“Taehyung?” Jimin calls, voice echoing in the long hallway.
“There’s someone who wants to see you.”
“Hoseok,” Taehyung says. He stands behind the cell bars, with Jeongguk at his back.
“Wait,” Hoseok bends down, reaching for the tray of food still left out in the corner where Jimin always slide it in. “Who gave you this?”
“Jimin,” Taehyung says. “Why?”
“No, who made this,” Hoseok turns, holding up the crumbling almond biscuit. “Who made these?”
“The cooks,” Jimin says. “What’s going on, Hoseok?”
“Who ordered these for him? Did he ask for them?”
“N-no, the emperor—”
Hoseok sweeps his gaze down, tosses the biscuit onto the floor in the way of a mouse nosing its way along the wall; it takes a curious sniff of it and nibbles into it. At first, neither Jimin nor Namjoon understand the point Hoseok is trying to make—until the mouse seizes, convulses, and rolls onto its side where it moves no more.
He looks at them. Jimin’s face is contorted with horror, and Namjoon’s face is stricken, fighting back the same expression.
“What happened to it?” Taehyung asks. “Why did you kill it?”
“It’s poisoned,” Jeongguk says first. His words are hollow. “All that food you ate was poisoned.”
“And of course he would not die, like mortal things do,” Hoseok says. “The emperor has kept you weak so that you cannot leave, Taehyung.”
The murmur of firelight punctuates the thick, somber silence.
“What do I do,” Taehyung asks. “I cannot stop eating or he will know we’ve figured it out.”
“That’s what I came here to ask you about,” Jimin says. “We—”
“Jeongguk,” Namjoon interrupts him, “can I talk to you?”
“It won’t take long.”
Taehyung nudges him, nodding in Namjoon’s direction. “Let me talk to Jimin,” he says, and only then does Jeongguk follow Namjoon out of the dungeons.
It is strange to be alone with Namjoon, and just as strange for Namjoon to be alone with Jeongguk. Taehyung had always been there to buffer with his laughter.
“I never had a chance to properly thank you for saving my life,” Namjoon says. “So, thank you.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess.”
“I only did because I knew you had information about the Sun,” Jeongguk says gruffly. “But you are welcome.”
“I know. But you still did, and for that, I believe some gratitude is in order.”
“Ah,” Jeongguk says. “Taehyung would have wanted me to.” He casts Namjoon a sideways glance. “Why were you looking for Hoseok, anyway? And what was he doing all the way out there?”
“He was exiled for trying to protect my sister.”
“You have a sister?”
“Had,” Namjoon says. “Princess Jansil.”
“What,” Jeongguk turns to look at Namjoon. “What happened?”
“She was beheaded.”
“Oh.” Jeongguk clears his throat. “I’m sorry.”
“You know, Jeongguk,” says Namjoon, “I don’t believe the emperor likes you very much.”
“That’s lovely to know,” Jeongguk says dryly. “I suppose I should consider myself lucky that I can’t be beheaded.”
Namjoon sighs. “My father planted evidence against her that made my sister look a traitor to the crown.”
“Your father, the emperor,” Jeongguk asks, incredulous, “murdered his own daughter?”
“He probably wants, or wanted, me dead, too,” Namjoon says. “Which is why I say his feelings towards you are not the best.”
Jeongguk blinks dumbly at this information.
“She was smart, and she had a big mouth,” Namjoon says. His shoulders are slouched, like it pains him to recall this. It must, and Jeongguk is stuck between patting his shoulder and standing where he is. “She knew what it was like outside these walls. Never sat still, never paid attention to her lessons. I guess in that way she knew more than I did. She knew people lived in poverty and died in droves to the Nightcreatures. It was so easy for them to say she was conspiring to kill our father, with the help of his chancellor and head general.” He scoffs. “Well, my father was one third right, his head chancellor had ulterior motives to seize the throne, but he wanted to eliminate any opposition at all. The only reason Hoseok is still alive is that my father was too afraid to murder a priest.”
“So General Seokjin, and Hoseok, and Jimin—?”
“Why do you think the other two are so young?” Namjoon says. “They were both their master’s respective apprentices at the time, and the only people fit to the take up the positions after they were all executed right in the courtyard. Humans are fragile, a blade to the neck. My father never leaves the safety of this palace, and anyone that ventures into the Night is taking a gamble on their life.” He smiles, and it’s sad and grim. “We are not gods like you, Jeongguk.”
“I’m sorry about your sister.” Jeongguk does reach forward now, putting a hand on Namjoon’s shoulder. “I’m sorry you lost her so unjustly.”
“It’s okay,” Namjoon says. “It’s been two years, so it has been a while.”
“Not so long,” Jeongguk says. He gives Namjoon a faint smile. “Two years is just a moment in time when you have forever.”
“Two years is a long time for someone like me, who won’t live past sixty at best.”
“Namjoon daegun,” Jeongguk says, and there is a knowing glint in his eyes that reminds Namjoon that he is talking to a god. “When a human has a request for the gods, that request is not granted free of charge.”
There’s no way Jeongguk could have known. Namjoon stares at him, wants to ask, but an unearthly scream pierces the air and they startle.
“Nightcreature!” come screams from the palace, and Namjoon flinches as the ground rumbles. The sound of rubble crashing onto stone reaches his ears, as if the palace walls had been demolished.
“They’re here,” Namjoon says, mostly to himself. “We’re out of time.” The Sun and the Moon are still grounded in this world.
Taehyung is standing at the mouth of the dungeon, hair whipping across his forehead as another winged Nightcreature swoops overhead, then dodges them when it comes too close.
“Jeongguk, you’re the one they’re afraid of,” Taehyung says.
“I am not saving the life of the person who brought you here and sought to keep you here,” Jeongguk hisses.
“Jeongguk, please,” Taehyung says. “They have such short lives—”
It is the emperor, dangling from the mouth of the many-headed snake creature. Blood drips from his feet where he hangs, screaming. “Namjoon daegun, tell the Sun to use his power!”
“How can you save the mortal who almost killed you?” Jeongguk demands.
“Because if I let him die, what sets me apart from that mortal?”
“Namjoon daegun, command the Sun to stop this!”
Namjoon steps forward, looking up hundreds of feet into the faces of the Nightcreature.
“I’m sorry, father,” he says, “But I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“How—of course you can, you are—”
“A human,” Namjoon says. “And you’ve forgotten that you are playing in a land of gods and monsters, father.”
Namjoon is shoved out of the way, and he nearly faceplants on the cement, but he catches his balance at the last moment to see Jeongguk’s body explode into light for what he believe will be the last time. The emperor screams as the Nightcreature releases him, recoiling in the pulsing glow—it’s stronger than the time Namjoon saw it. He hears the emperor’s head crack against the ground and winces, not opening his eyes until he senses the light fading out behind his eyelids.
“Begone,” Jeongguk says, out of breath, “stay gone.”
No one will say aloud that the palace rejoices at the news of the emperor’s gruesome death, but it certainly is the most festive funeral that any of them have ever been guest to.
Namjoon’s coronation is swift. The first thing he does is toss out all his father’s unethical written laws. During the feast of the night of his crowning, the people of the palace can finally say that they have dined with gods.
They retire early. Cutting all the poisoned food has seen Taehyung’s explosive recovery—on some days, Jimin has to remind him to tone it down so that any of them can look at him without needing to squint. It makes Jeongguk laugh every time, where his mouth is pressed against Taehyung’s temple or his hair.
“I don’t know about you,” Jeongguk says, taking Taehyung’s hand in the serene quiet of the courtyard on the way to their personal chambers. Namjoon had ordered his sister’s old room to be cleared out for them to stay in. The building had been left untouched since her death. “But I’m ready to go home.”
“Mhmm,” Taehyung says as he leans in to brush his lips over Jeongguk’s cheek, smiling when Jeongguk turns his face so that their mouths come together in a kiss. “I am too.”
“You seemed distracted all through the dinner,” Jeongguk says, running his thumb over the mountains and valleys of Taehyung’s knuckles. Sparks jump from the friction. “There can’t be something wrong now?”
It’s not until they make it into their room, the doors closed behind them, with Taehyung sinking into the bed on the floor that he speaks.
“I’m ready to go home,” he says, as Jeongguk sits down with him. “But I’m not ready for the way it will be.”
The noise in Jeongguk’s throat is confused. “And what is wrong with the way it will be?”
“We can’t go back together.”
Jeongguk’s mouth pulls down into a frown. “What are you talking about, of course we can,” Jeongguk says. “Why wouldn’t we?”
“Jeongguk, you know if we go back together, and Night returns to the the same way it was as it’s always been, life here in this world will be wiped out in no time.” Taehyung smooths his thumb across the hem threads in his sleeve. “You know we can’t let that happen.”
“What’s wrong with the way things have always been?” Jeongguk’s frown deepens. “They have lived well in the way it’s always been.”
“Yes, it was okay, even good, with things the way they’ve always been,” Taehyung says. “But unless something changes, nothing will get better. Nothing will move forward.”
“What are you saying?”
“This world is the only one in our system that supports life.” Taehyung draws his palm across the empty space between himself and Jeongguk, and a tiny, floating model of their galaxy takes shape. “These are the gas giants, these are small and rocky and harbor nothing but toxic fumes. This world alone,” Taehyung cups his palm under the bottom of Earth, as the rest of the planets crumble away, “is one that needs both of us to survive.”
“And both of us they will have.”
Taehyung shakes his head, and drops his hand as Earth, too, fades into dust. “They need someone to guard the Night,” he says. “Someone Nightcreatures fear.”
Jeongguk doesn’t immediately reply, his expression puzzled as Taehyung watches the cogs turn in his head. More than anything, it seems that Jeongguk already understands his words, and doesn’t want to hear the meaning behind them.
“No,” he says faintly. “How could you suggest that?”
“If it means the survival of this world, how could I not?”
“You’re a god,” Jeongguk says. “We are gods. We do not owe these humans anything.”
Taehyung takes Jeongguk’s face in his hands, stroking fingertips over Jeongguk’s cheekbones. There’s a thick, cloudy sadness in Jeongguk’s eyes, for the moment Taehyung has made a decision, he won’t be able to change his mind.
“Yes, you and I are gods,” Taehyung says, and Jeongguk reaches up to curl his own hands over Taehyung’s wrists, gripping tightly to ground himself. “Yes, you and I have decades, centuries, millennia to live. You and I have eternity. They have a few dozen years at best. They do not deserve to live all of them in fear.”
“That is the way of the universe, Taehyung.”
“Are we not part of that universe?” Taehyung reaches to intertwine their fingers, lowers them into their laps. “A universe that you and I have the duties of protecting?”
“You and I will see different skies for eternity,” Jeongguk says, and the words catch in his throat. “We will always be apart.”
“Not always,” Taehyung says. “Some days you will stand between the world and I, and we will be together.”
“Some days become many days in an eternity.”
“And you will take this,” Jeongguk says, and tears streak down his cheeks now, glistening and opalescent. “You will take many days instead of the eternity we were supposed to have?”
Taehyung leans in until his lips brush over the dampness of Jeongguk’s eyes, soft kisses to his lashes where the tears cling. “Maybe we weren’t meant for eternity. Not in the way we knew it.”
“Mortals,” Jeongguk says, as if he can’t wrap his mind around it. “You will give up eternity for those who live mortal lives? Those who live mere seconds in our existence?”
“I am the bringer of Day,” Taehyung says. “I am a new beginning, the reminder that no matter how bad one day might have been, a new Dawn will come.” He squeezes Jeongguk’s hands. “And I need you to be the one to tell them that no matter how dark the Night, you will always be there to protect them. No matter how dark the Night, if there is a you, there will be a me.”
“I will rise at Night,” Jeongguk says, “and you, you will follow me with the Day.”
“Where there is a Sun—”
“There is a Moon.”
“There is a me.”
Jeongguk tips until his head is pressed into Taehyung’s chest, helplessly. It is a burden he never needed to bear but it is Taehyung’s, and what is Taehyung’s is Jeongguk’s. From the beginning, there has not been a way to take the Sun out of the Moon, or the Moon out of the Sun. From the beginning, until now, they have only known how to move when the other does.
People call it making love. Jeongguk has heard about it in the times he has been on this earth, how it’s different from simply having sex. It is slower, the way Taehyung brings their mouths together to kiss, the way Jeongguk runs his hands under the collar of Taehyung’s robes and tugs it open; it is softer, Jeongguk’s hands are so soft against Taehyung’s thighs and his mouth gentle on his skin, even where he leaves marks; it is sweeter, infinitely so, as Taehyung holds Jeongguk’s face in both of his head and tilts it to kiss him.
“Jeongguk,” Taehyung whispers, when Jeongguk is inside of him.
“Taehyung,” he answers.
“I love you.”
Jeongguk stills above him, draped in his silver-white robes. The fabric has been yanked away from his shoulders, pooling halfway down his back, tangled in Taehyung’s legs where they’re wrapped around Jeongguk’s waist.
“I love you,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung gasps as he shifts in him, and they move in tandem until Taehyung is seated in Jeongguk’s lap. He whimpers, barely able to kiss Jeongguk back as the new angle pushes Jeongguk deeper. “I love you,” he repeats, without elaborating. Jeongguk needs Taehyung to understand this without any embellishment, anything else to complicate the barest of his emotions.
Taehyung curls his body around his Moon. For the first and the last time, they will know each other like this, one night in a very long eternity.
It is Hoseok who, through divination, figures out the moment at which they must return. Even without knowing where the universe stands, Taehyung can tell it is what would be Night that they are scheduled for departure. As for now, he and Jeongguk sit in the doorway of their room, gazing out into the black beyond. With just a touch of imagination, it already feels like they’re home.
“I have a gift for you.”
Taehyung’s fingers are soft on Jeongguk’s hand. Jeongguk turns it over so that their fingers can lock together and smiles, a fractured upturn of lips.
“You have already given me everything.”
“This is the last thing I have for you,” says Taehyung, and he steps closer to bring his hands to Jeongguk’s face. Then he stills, staring.
“What is it?” Jeongguk whispers, unsettled by the intensity of Taehyung’s gaze.
Gently, Taehyung pulls his head down so that he can kiss Jeongguk’s forehead. At first, nothing happens, and Jeongguk holds himself as still as he can manage.
Then he feels a warmth spread through him, beginning at the crown of his head; it’s blurry in his field of view, but Jeongguk can distinctly see a streak of his hair, hanging over his eyes, turn a silvery blue. Taehyung runs his hands down his face now, stroking along the skin of his neck until they rest on his shoulders, and it takes everything in Jeongguk’s control not to startle when he feels the heat of flames simmer at Taehyung’s fingertips.
But he knows, feels it in his bones that will turn back into barren dust and rock, that Taehyung would never hurt him. Taehyung, the Sun, who has taken on this eternal responsibility to protect little people in a giant universe, could never dream of it.
The threads of Jeongguk’s robes do not fall away in ash, as he expects. Instead, where the fire burns, it spreads along the fabric and turns it into a midnight blue, weaved with studs of glittering silver to match the streaks in his hair. Taehyung doesn’t move to pull away until the color has spread down to the hems, and when it does, he releases Jeongguk with a rustle.
“They are called Stars,” Taehyung murmurs, fixing some nonexistent wrinkle in Jeongguk’s collar, and slides his hand down the plane of Jeongguk’s chest so that it rests over his heart. “This constellation will be named Heart, right where it should be. This one is Little Dipper,” Taehyung thumbs the pattern on Jeongguk’s shoulder, “this one is Wings,” he reaches with his other hand to Jeongguk’s back and spreads his palm in the warm space between Jeongguk’s shoulder blades.
They are nose to nose, and Jeongguk slips his hand between their bodies to hold Taehyung’s hand more securely where it rests against his chest. “Why?” He shakes his head, a tiny back and forth. “Why would you do this?”
“My love for you,” Taehyung says, letting his eyes flutter shut and resting his forehead against Jeongguk’s. “It’s but a fraction of what I can give you, but. This way, I will pin back the Night with you so you do not have to carry all the darkness in the galaxy on your shoulders. No matter what different skies we see, I will always be with you.” He smiles, a small happiness that Jeongguk cannot even pretend to feel. “I love you forever, Moon of my life.”
“I love you forever,” Jeongguk echoes. “My Sun and Stars.”
He closes his eyes, too, feeling. Soon, when they go back to where they belong, it won’t be like this anymore. Jeongguk has never known a life where he didn’t feel Taehyung’s warmth on his body. From the very beginning of time, they have been together.
And now, until the end of time, they will be separated.
“I’ll miss you.”
They’re small words to hold all the weight in Jeongguk’s heart. Taehyung’s hand is warm against it.
“Are you sure about this?”
Jeongguk will always go where Taehyung does. After all, the moon alone has no light.
“I am sure if you are.”
“I’m sure,” Taehyung says with resolve. “I have to do this.”
Such is the fate of someone who falls in love with another who has nothing but unconditional love and light in him. Someone who will chase away the Nightcreatures. Someone who, for better or for worse, will always rise on a new day, for a new beginning, no matter how bad yesterday was.
Jeongguk pulls away, but Taehyung simply finds his hand in his robes and squeezes it. Jimin appears in the doorway, uncomfortable in the way that he knows he must have interrupted them. “Jeongguk.”
“It’s time?” asks Taehyung.
Jimin nods. “We’re ready.”
The courtyard is quiet. Save for Namjoon, Seokjin, Jimin, and the high priest Hoseok, there isn’t another living soul waiting. A vast circular foil spans across the stone ground, and Hoseok’s hands are powdery with the chalk he used to draw their map home.
“Taehyung,” he says, striding forward, and even now the smile has not left his face. “You will stand here. And Jeongguk, come with me.”
He positions them with gentle hands. Jeongguk looks down where his feet are planted on an innocuous white disc just barely big enough to fit him, then across the space to meet Taehyung’s eyes.
“Are you both ready?”
Jimin is a flash of red with arms outstretched to catch Taehyung in a hug, and they turn into a small sunburst of color when they meet. It has always been strange to see humans cry, Jeongguk thinks, but in this moment he thinks he understands—and he knows. In the time he had shone alone in that sky, waiting for Taehyung to return, Jimin must have been the only person that Taehyung had a friend in.
“Hey, Jeon Jeongguk.” Namjoon is beside him now, holding out his hand.
“Pretty careless way to talk to a god, Namjoon daegun.”
“And yet you still call me daegun.” A smile tugs at Namjoon’s mouth. “You may be a god but in the time that I’ve known you, you have been like the little brother I will never have.”
Jeongguk slips his hand into Namjoon’s, and inevitably find himself in a hug. Namjoon is warm, not in the same way Taehyung is, but Jeongguk thinks that in some other life, he could have been Namjoon’s friend.
When everyone steps back out of the circle, Taehyung takes one last, deep breath. His face is impossibly calm, a stark contrast to how Jeongguk feels. It isn’t so much resignation as it is a sad kind of peace, but the smile he gives Jeongguk quite literally glitters with gold.
Taehyung is the first to go.
His body turns into the same kind of pure light that Namjoon had first witnessed when Jeongguk had found him in the forest so many weeks ago, but his body is tinted a fiery red-orange instead of Jeongguk’s blue. The outline of his shape contorts, contracts, and spreads wings over the open space.
By the time they can see again, Namjoon can just barely discern the outline of a plumed phoenix taking to the air. He leaves a trail of sparks that stutter out behind him.
But Jeongguk’s chest is heaving with breath, like the crushing reality is too much to bear. His gaze is fixed upon the scorch on the ground where Taehyung had been standing. There’s something silver on his cheeks and the thought crosses Namjoon’s mind that he never knew gods could cry.
“Jeongguk you have to go, now!”
Hoseok is edging along the rim of the circle, and though Jeongguk looks right at him, he doesn’t appear to see him at all. Namjoon makes to step inside to put a hand on his shoulder, perhaps, where it quivers under the weight of his star-studded cloak. “Don’t move!” he shouts, and Namjoon freezes. “You’ll be destroyed by his energy, don’t touch him!”
And finally, Jeongguk begins glowing. His body, still wracked with the shivers of unshed tears, turns into familiar blue light and shrinks until he barely comes up to their knees. For one last breathless moment, he hesitates, and before his body has even faded Jeongguk leaps, taking some invisible stairs two at a time back home.
“Is that it?” Jimin whispers.
“No,” Hoseok says. “We will know when they make it back. It won’t be a quiet affair.”
And just as soon as the words leave Hoseok’s mouth, the skull of the sky seems to crack in half in the same way that this legend began.
The night before the dawn will always be darkest.
And so it was that the Sun and the Moon rose back up to their posts in the heavens. Upon their return to the skies, the people of the world rejoiced, yet crept wary of the Moon who wore a shadow of red upon its face. That was the first blood moon ever recorded.
But more curious was the splatter of light across the Night. It was no longer a pitch black, but a soft, eternal indigo with handfuls and handfuls of stars scattered across the distance. A curtain decorated with gemstones, it appeared, winking back like cat eyes where they pinned back the skies.
In time, people looked more and more to the heavens for answers. They’ve built telescopes so powerful they can see years into the past. They know, now, how long it takes to get to the Sun from Earth, how long to the Moon. Science has come in and told us that fairytales like this are just that, nothing but fairy tales.
But I disagree.
There is nothing science can explain about the reason people feel especially small and lonely at night, staring up at the Moon who, I can promise you, looks back at them and says, I know. I know. There is nothing science has against the feeling so many have that there is something out there for them, whether it be other living beings like us, or a home in that cold sky full of stars. Perhaps there is. After all, we look for homes in places of love. They are only places we can be ourselves for what we are. The last and only gift the Sun could ever give the Moon: a home, perhaps, where the Sun promised he would always be.
There are so many things that science can explain now. Why things happen, where they come from—but so many of those things come right from legend.
Solar eclipses are those small days that they have together, and the whole world seems to stop and stare. Meteor showers are nothing more than Jeongguk’s tears. Sunspots are nothing more than the marks Jeongguk left on Taehyung’s skin that last day. Taehyung made good on his promise, and sunsets have come to be some of the most breathtaking phenomena ever to be known. Not that I didn’t believe him, but it has been so many hundreds of thousands of years, and every day he continues to paint masterpieces, always different, never the same, for Jeongguk to see when he comes into the sky every Night. I don’t know if he misses Taehyung all the more, or is ever comforted by that show of color. I just hope he knows that the people like us, to this day and I’m sure for years to come, will never stop taking photos in hopes of capturing those sunsets.
And they say the universe gets bigger and bigger by the day. Astrophysicists could discover new stars for generations to come. They say they’re not sure exactly why, or where they come from.
But I think we already know the answer.
He must get tired. Jeongguk, that is. I think he does. Every month, he fades away, comes back. Fades away, comes back. He becomes a tiny slice of Moon, a slash of dimpled white. But he comes back, without fail, always returning to his full glory.
Nightcreatures, I believe, have all but died out. Some of them still lurk in the darkest, most desolate corners of this world. But most of them have become nothing but creatures that haunt dreams. We call them nightmares now, and with the day, they become harmless, laughable ghosts of what they used to be.
So do not fear the night. The night is filled with light you cannot see. It is something that the Moon and the Sun have made the ultimate sacrifice to give us, so that we will always be able to live under the light of the moon and the stars to guide our way.
It is true that the night is dark and full of secrets. It is true that the our cities have drowned out nearly every last star. But there is something to be said about the legend of the Sun and Moon and all the stars in the sky. So turn off your lights. Turn them all off, and look.
What do you see?
“The night before the dawn is always the darkest,” Yoongi says. “I should put that in a song.”
The wind, as predicted, is cruel now. Yoongi shivers a little against Namjoon’s body, but doesn’t move to shift closer, still rubbing the material of Namjoon’s jacket back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. The sound shk-shk-shk is the only one that punctuates the silence.
“That was a bullshit story,” Yoongi finally says, but there is no bite to his voice. Instead there is a quiet, smothered undertone to it, and Namjoon understands what he means. That was a sad story.
“I know,” Namjoon says. “It’s pretty bullshit, huh?”
“I thought fairy tales had happy endings.”
“Then you, I’m sorry to say, have not heard of many fairy tales.”
“Hmph.” Yoongi sits up. “Can we go home now? I’m about to freeze my ass off, and we’ve already seen what’s worth seeing.”
“Yeah.” Namjoon gets off, brushes off his pants. “It’s almost sunrise, anyway. We should probably get some sleep.”
“Nope, I’m going home and writing down this song the second I get my hands on pen and paper,” Yoongi says, bundling his scarf up tighter as he makes for the car down the path. “Then I’ll entertain the idea of sleep. I think I’ve already got most of it, actually, I just have to write it down before I forget…”
Yoongi hums to himself as he takes off at a power walk for the parking lot. Namjoon hangs back just for a moment, staring into the east where the sky is just barely beginning to turn a shade of a cold, cloudy blue. A promise of a new Day.
Where there is a Sun, there is a Moon. There is a me.
“Namjoon, come on!”
He shoves his hands in his pockets and hurries after Yoongi, leaving bits of stained moonlight in their wake.
• there are got quotes in this because i have no soul
• title from that song jeongguk kept singing in the osaka broadcast
• fff f f f f ffffffff fffff