Warning(s): mentions of sexual happenings, softcore angst, gross metaphorical astronomy references, very brief mention of daddy kink
Zitao goes on vacation to escape the stress of art school, to draw galaxies and paint constellations. Joonmyun is there to teach him how.
I just have a lot of feelings about stars, okay? Written for taobeis My first sutao~ [A magical playlist]
What is art?
Some say it’s something definite; something that is concrete, learned. Something that has limitations, boundaries, rules; something that can be packaged, sold, taught in schools. Something that has lost its true value, to be frowned upon by scholar and business persons, something that is seen a lesser career, and yet is ravenously consumed by the masses.
Some argue that the public view on art is ruining it, destroying its base integrity, making it lose everything its come thousands of years in the making. Some say that art is not creativity but mimesis; beauty, truth, good, something far higher than just creativity, than just something to look at, to enjoy, to take in. Some say that art has no rules, no boundaries, no walls to climb.
Everything is art, they say; because everything created has a beauty to it. To some, an abstract painting of flower pots is not art, is not something they look at and think valuable, but a well put-together spreadsheet may seem beautiful.
Zitao is the latter of these opinions, constantly searching for what he believes in, constantly looking to expand, to learn, to bring his own form of art across genres, across countries. He has ambition, diversity, talent. He can rap, dance, sing, draw, paint. He can do a lot of things most people can't, but he still struggles.
Being an art student is not without its downfalls. It's not the easy way out for those who can't do Science, and it's not some school where everyone just smokes a lot of weed and naps on the tables.
It's hard work, and it's constricting, forcing students into roles, into categories and sections. Draw your faces a certain way, sing a certain way.
"No that's not proper art, Zitao. If you want to draw galaxies you'll have to become an astronomer."
And Zitao hates it. Hates every second of it. Hates using a ruler for his lines, hates being told his voice isn't strong enough, doesn't come from the right place. He hates the exams where he's forced to dance a style he's not good at, hates sitting in a classroom and being forced to paint landscapes he doesn't care about, faces he will never remember.
Zitao wants to draw galaxies, wants to make the colours shine, wants to learn the constellations and map them into art, into his art. And no, Zitao doesn't want to become an astronomer, for he has no interest in how the stars work, has no interest in the fancy names that make up galaxies, in the scientific formulas that discuss how a star is formed.
Zitao just wants to see the stars. He wants to touch them, hold them, drag them across paper and tack them to his wall. And that's what he does too, dorm room covered in scribbled papers, things that might look like a mess of colour and lines to some, but art to him. It's art in his purest form, he argues. It's art because he created it, because he wanted to create it, and fuck you for not understanding.
Sehun, his roommate, just thinks Zitao is a little quirky. The shy, yet confidant dance major with his strange habits and soft spoken praises. Zitao is intelligent, has his ambitions in check, has an entire life set up for himself, and yet it's not enough.
"Why aren't you majoring in rap and acrylics if that's what you're so passionate about them?" Sehun had asked, curious as to why Zitao chooses to hide his paintings, chooses to take only one spoken word class a semester.
"Dance looks better than rap in the long run." Zitao had muttered, eyes not on Sehun, but far away somewhere else, something not unusual for him. Sehun had just hummed, rolling his eyes and leaving the room, and Zitao had stayed still.
Something about Sehun's words stays with Zitao however, in the back of mind, reaching the front every once in a while to whisper into his ear, to wonder why Zitao can't just chase his dreams, why he hides.
And Zitao wonders what he can possibly do now, what he can possibly change in his life to achieve his galaxies, to find the stars and sleep among them.
The answer comes in the form of Sehun – once again -- when the other boy hands him a brochure. A small country town, known for its tourist destinations and stargazing. It offers cheap housing -- only 50$ every week -- for two months, offers peace, quiet, solitude, a chance for Zitao to take his time off in between the semesters and breathe.
"You can draw your starry skies, and your galaxies, and you won't have to hide them under your bed." Sehun says, voice muffled around the straw of a smoothie. "Minseok and Lu Han went there last summer. They said the food is good and the tour guides are amazing."
"Why should I trust somewhere those two went?" Zitao mutters, reading the packet carefully, turning it over in his hands, scepticism across his face. "How do I know I won't end up in some sketchy love motel in the middle of the desert?"
"Minseok said it's a very respectable place." Sehun pouts, throwing an arm around Zitao's shoulders. "I told him you were going crazy and needed a faraway vacation and this was the first place he suggested. They know how much you love painting the sky."
"I don't want to paint the sky," Zitao says cryptically. He's staring at the brochure intently, a small smile forming on his lips. "I want to look beyond it and paint the reflection of the universe as it stares back at me."
"You sound like a stoner."
“I sound like a poet,” Zitao says dreamily, but his eyes narrow and he gives Sehun a look. “I’ll think about it. I planned on spending my summer with my parents.”
“You spent the last few holidays with them,” Sehun points out, but he pats Zitao’s knee consolingly, gives him a kind of smile, one that looks more like a grimace.
"You're right," Zitao sighs, letting him slump into Sehun, eyes gazing up on the art on his ceiling, the carefully painted solar system. "I'll think about it."
Thinking about it ends up being useless.
It's Minseok who shows up at their dorm building with his boyfriend and Sehun in tow. Sehun looks smug, disappearing into their shared shower to leave Minseok and Lu Han with ZItao.
They convince him pretty easily, Zitao not being able to handle their double stares.
"I'll go," He says, pouting slightly. "I can't promise to have fun though."
"I had fun last time," Lu Han says with a smirk, patting Zitao's knee much in the same way Sehun had, except this time it feels more condescending and less reassuring.
"Ge," Zitao whines, pushing his hand away, frown deepening. "I'm single you know."
"Maybe you'll find love," Lu Han singsongs, wiggling his eyebrows and leaning into Minseok's side. "You never know."
Zitao drags them out of his room and threatens to call to his RA, pushing them into the elevator with muttered promises that he'll order tickets, fly out to the middle of nowhere, enjoy himself maybe.
Zitao doesn't get to leave right away. There's still half a semester, still months of dancing, of composing, of going to his compulsory math course and resting his head on the desk as the numbers swim.
The all-inclusive ticket stays attached to his bulletin board, taped down with colourful owl stickers, glaring at him. Money spent that could have been spent on clothes, on food, on... Anything really.
He just hopes he has fun.
The day arrives quite fast, final exams, final projects, final everything coming and going, leaving Zitao with a few packed bags, a wheeled suitcase, brand new sunglasses, celebrity airport fashion in check as he nervously boards the plane, nervously sits down near a window, nervously frets.
He hadn't really thought about that part, had been so focused on the getaway aspect, the excitement and also wariness of the quiet of a vacation, that Zitao has forgotten that he was going alone.
He's not one to go anywhere alone really, always dragging Sehun, Minseok, Lu Han, Yixing, sometimes Baekhyun when he can get him alone and without prior commitments. Zitao likes company, like that metaphorical hand to hold, likes to have some confidence at his side when he does something new, goes somewhere new, tries something new.
And yet here he is, stumbling from a foreign airport, reading the instructions Minseok had scribbled in messy hangul, lips forming the words as he struggles to even remember Korean over the pounding of his heart.
The hotel isn't far, just a bit of a walk, but Zitao gets lost anyways, finds himself standing awkwardly at the edge of the town, trees in front of him rather than houses. He stares a little, looks into the darkness of a thick forest and back to the directions, frowning to himself, luggage heavy and eyelids drooping.
He's startled by a voice behind him, calling out softly in accented Korean; the kind of accent that develops from living too long in the country. It reminds him of Yixing's accent in a way, kind of drawling, but crisp, gentle.
"Are you lost?"
Zitao turns , paper falling from his hands when he trips over the suitcase he's dropped on the ground, cheeks flushing from the embarrassing squeak he lets out.
"Just a little," Zitao admits, and he smiles shyly, tries not to look directly at the boy standing in front of him. He can't be that much older than Zitao himself, youthful and good-looking, but with a sense of maturity around him, the heavy air of someone with responsibility. "I'm looking for the Kim Bed and Breakfast Hotel?"
"Oh!" The boy exclaims, reaching for Zitao's fallen luggage and paper directions without needing to, beaming up at him. "That's my grandparent’s hotel. I'm staying there right now and I can show you where it is."
"I'm Joonmyun," The boy tells him as they walk, as Zitao struggles to keep up with his brisk pace. "What brings you around these parts?"
"I'm Zitao," He answers, fumbling over his syllables, flustered for no apparent reason. "My friends, they said this would be a good place for a vacation so I could work on my art."
"Art!" Joonmyun says in a curious voice, dust floating in the air as his shoes scuff across the gravel road. "What kind of art?"
"I do a lot of art things," Zitao says, voice stiff and accent noticeable, the stumbling Korean that he develops when nervous. "I go to an art school, but mostly painting. I like the sky."
"The sky is beautiful isn't it?" Joonmyun nods, hums to himself and glances back at Zitao with a twinkle in his eye, too friendly for strangers, but somehow okay. "It's nicer at night though. You can't paint the true sky until you've the stars in a rural light."
"This is my first time being to the country," Zitao admits as they climb the steps of an older building, more of a small mansion than a hotel, but he's not in the city anymore, not surrounded by modernized buildings.
"You'll love it," Joonmyun assures him, signing Zitao in at the front desk himself, grinning when he realizes what vacation packet Zitao has; the full seasonal package. "You're going to be here for quite a while?"
"All summer," Zitao mutters, just the tiniest hint of bitterness in his voice. "I wasn't given a choice."
Joonmyun looks concerned for a moment, as if Zitao had just said he'd been kidnapped and tossed here, but the look fades away to be replaced with an amiable smile.
"If you get lonely you could always hangout with me," Joonmyun grins, patting Zitao on the shoulder as if they've known each for years. He pauses and looks at Zitao curiously. "That is unless you're not actually alone."
"I'm alone," Zitao says, much too quickly. It almost feels like Joonmyun is hitting on him, asking him if he's here alone, a wink and a nudge with a greasy smile, but Joonmyun just nods, pats him on the shoulder again, helps him bring his luggage up the second floor.
It's not a large hotel.
It only has eight rooms, two of them occupied by the owners and by Joonmyun, who tells Zitao with excitement that his window is the best one in the entire building for stargazing.
"That is aside from the roof," He says jokingly, eyes crinkling. "But that doesn't really count as a room."
"You really like the stars...?" Zitao asks, question trailing off as he stands awkwardly in the door of Joonmyun's room, gazes past him to the window in question, where the sunlight streams directly inside, shining from the west.
"I majored in astronomy in college," Joonmyun says, closing his door, fingers closing around the handle of Zitao's suitcase, rolling it down the hall towards another door. "I'll give you the second best room. That way the sun can rise in your room and set in mine."
"Majored?" Zitao says in surprise, ignoring the strangeness of what Joonmyun has just said. "You've graduated?"
"Yes," Joonmyun laughs. "Three years ago now. I'm twenty-six."
"Oh," Zitao says, eyes widening in shock. "You're older than me. I haven't even been using honorifics."
"I do look younger, don't I?" Joonmyun asks, waving off Zitao's shock. "How old are you? You can call me hyung if you want."
"Only if I want?" Zitao says cheekily, catching onto Joonmyun's humour, to his sunny personality. "I'm twenty-one."
"Only if you want," Joonmyun says with a grin. "Though I could use the ego inflation all summer."
"Just for that, I'm not calling you hyung," Zitao snorts, and it's only then he's realized that Joonmyun is standing in his new room, leaning on the dresser and looking content staying there. Maybe Zitao won't have to be alone this vacation.
Zitao meets Joonmyun's grandparents over dinner, awkwardly joining them at a table in the dining room when he ventures downstairs, waved over by Joonmyun. There are a few guests here and there -- literally a few, the hotel is tiny - and they glace curiously at Zitao as he sits down for food, shyly looking down at the worn wood of the table, and not at the people talking to him.
He doesn't know why he's so shy, thought he'd gotten over that in the tail end of high school, but here he is, tips if his ears turning red, lopsided and nervous grin plastered on his face.
Joonmyun's grandparents are nice, and so is Joonmyun, referring to Zitao as his new friend for the summer, jokingly saying that Zitao can carry his equipment up to the hill when he charts constellations. Zitao doesn't say much, but he silently agrees to just that, drawn in by the way Joonmyun's eyes light up and his body shakes with laughter at his own, lame jokes.
He's cute. Zitao can admit that right away, mature with a round face, pretty eyes, a near perfect mouth. Zitao came here to paint though, so he ignores the blooming attraction that's already threatening to distract him.
Joonmyun has potential to be great company, and he has potential to teach Zitao, show him accurate constellations, teach him to paint the galaxies and swirl his colours into nebulas.
Joonmyun drags Zitao out the next evening, grumbling about the weather; it had stormed all day, trapping them indoors, Zitao hiding in his room half asleep in bed until Joonmyun had burst, had whined, had demanded that Zitao as the only one even near his age needed to play cards with him.
Now they're trekking into the forest Zitao had gotten lost at the edge of the day before, Joonmyun carrying a telescope, some papers, a rolled up blanket, Zitao carrying a small dinner for them, containers of food, a sketchbook; for ideas.
He doesn't like painting right away, prefers to visit his locations, his inspirations multiple times before, likes to sketch the sky, the trees, the lines where they meet before solidifying them forever with paint, before carefully stacking them, sliding them under his bed.
Zitao usually doesn't sketch with others around him, rarely paints under the watchful gaze of a friend. It's one of the few things he does do alone, one of the few times his loud laughter and excited babbling voice cease to exist.
Joonmyun however, had insisted, and within one day Zitao is already whipped, already agreeing, already following, smitten and ashamed of himself.
But Joonmyun is good company, explaining how his telescope works as he sets it up, tells Zitao to turn the knob this way and that until he yells "there!" to signal that its in focus, that it can make out the stars.
And Joonmyun had been right, that one can never properly see stars until they leave the city. It's beautiful, a scattered display of light across a clear sky, grass under neath them still slightly damp from the storm, blanket providing a tiny barrier.
The blanket's small -- the size of a beach towel really -- and Zitao feels apprehensive, nervous, wonders if it's okay to be so close, knees pressed together when they barely know each other.
Joonmyun doesn't even seem to notice, pointing to random places in the sky and spewing facts, answers to questions Zitao hasn't even had the chance to ask yet. He asks Zitao's zodiac sign, humming appreciatively but then sadly.
"We can't see that constellation from this part of the sky, but when we have internet back at the hotel I'll show you," Joonmyun says with a grin. "I have an app that shows you the constellations wherever you are in the world."
"I want to paint my constellation," Zitao says suddenly, breaking the silence he'd been under , breaking the spell that Joonmyun's calming voice had cast over him.
"Not yet," Joonmyun tells him. "You're not allowed to paint your sign until you understand it, until you know the history and the meaning and you can feel it, can feel the colours you're going to put into it."
"And what if I don't want to add colour?" Zitao asks, nose bumping off the telescope as he attempts to gaze inside, attempts to find the stars Joonmyun had told him to find, attempting to piece them together.
It makes no sense to him right now, just a pretty sky illuminated and magnified through a glass, but to Joonmyun this means something, and Zitao can already catch on to how much, can already see the way Joonmyun's heart is on display, a set of doors swung open at the word "astronomy."
They go home late. Zitao isn't sure what time it is, just knows that they've been outside for a while, the feel of fresh air in his lungs invigorating, spirits soft, light as they walk back through the quiet, the complete darkness that only the country can really create.
It's a nice first day, and Zitao finds himself looking forward to the rest of it, fingers tracing the outlines of grey shaded trees, starry sky above them.
Zitao isn't sure what he expects out of vacationing in a small town alone, but it definitely isn't the days he spends with Joonmyun.
It's exhilarating in a way, uplifting; the attention Joonmyun gives him, the kind, gentle way in which he leads him, Zitao following his every subtle, unspoken command like a well-trained puppy.
And it's incredible really, how quickly they fall into this pattern, how quickly they grow to know each other, to be around each other.
How quickly Joonmyun becomes a fixture in Zitao's caged life.
He teaches him.
Galaxies, nebulas, how a black-hole really works.
And he shows him.
How to put stories behind his art, how to translate thoughts into strokes, hand on Zitao's knee and voice in his ear, too close, but not close enough, comfortable, welcomed.
Zitao is smitten -- just slightly, just a little -- and he's not someone to deny things to himself, not someone to step in front of a mirror and speak lies to his own reflection. He's reckless yes, impulsive yet shy, but Zitao is honest.
It happens on one of their nights out, the hill that overlooks the sea, Zitao's long legs thrown over Joonmyun's own petite ones.
The grass makes my skin itchy, hyung.
He only calls Joonmyun hyung when he wants something really, when he's feeling especially brave, especially devious. And Joonmyun responds just how he always does, the same way each time, every day, over the span of the month they've known each other.
Joonmyun just smiles, tries to hide it -- the way Zitao's honorifics make him feel -- pats Zitao's shoulder just as he'd done that first day, laughs in a way that is stilted, just a little bit forced.
But Zitao is on a mission tonight, has been since Joonmyun tore open his door, supplies in hand and hair sticking up from sleep. He's in his pyjamas -- cute ones, raccoons littering a teal canvas -- and he looks adorable. Zitao is smitten, really. Far gone by this point, lips curling up into a grin as he throws a shirt on, pulls shorts over his boxers, doesn't miss the way Joonmyun's eyes follow, flicking to his exposed skin before recovering, grinning up at him.
Zitao's supplies are on the grass beside them, untouched. He'd planned on painting, grabbed his things, canvas paper, thin, clean brushes, unused yet. He'd wanted to make the change, had the feeling, go from sketchbook to the real thing tonight.
Joonmyun's are untouched also. Telescope folded and charts rolled up, still wound with an elastic band -- exactly four loops, as Joonmyun always does -- sitting, ruffling in the wind, but ignored.
Zitao thinks that this is the time, this is where it's going to happen, and he sits up, keeps his legs over Joonmyun's, ends up awkwardly half in his lap; half out. He wraps his arms around Joonmyun's neck, noses his way up, tickles his jaw.
Joonmyun doesn't say anything, just regards him with gentle eyes, ones that seem to sparkle in the moonlight that reflects from the water's surface, waves quiet tonight, calm even in the soft breeze.
And Zitao, he's honest, heart on his sleeve and feelings sure, always sure. He doesn't deny things to himself, and he can't deny them to Joonmyun, can't stop the soft flow of words, nervous, stuttered but honest.
Can't stop himself from tentatively moving forward, fingers curling around the nape of Joonmyun's neck, tugging forward, gentle like Joonmyun himself, loving in a way, though it's too early for that, too early for anything really.
But not really because lips are brushing against lips, unresponsive but then too responsive, overwhelming as Joonmyun takes control, pulls Zitao fully into his lap, maps out new constellations with his tongue, tracing the chemical make up of a star across his teeth.
Joonmyun pulls away first, and his eyes aren't gentle, fingers curling tight around Zitao's wrist as he drags him home, supplies forgotten on the hill. It's safe though he says, glancing back at Zitao with a smile -- a gentle one -- it's the country, a small town, he knows everyone. No one's going to steal their things.
In the end, back pressed to the mattress and filthy words on his tongue, praises, whines, needs, desperation in the form of his back arching off the bed, it's Joonmyun who ends up being the real thief.
The constellation of Gemini had always been known as a fickle one.
Zitao thinks, wonders, stares at the constellations, at the names that appear, disappear with the swipe of his fingers, with the turn of his phone. He wonders if Joonmyun thinks about him, wonders if he too stares at his star chart app, wonders how different the stars look on the other side of the world.
And that's the difficult part really, the part that eats away at Zitao's consciousness, the part that has him sighing into pillows, sighing into Sehun's shoulder, sighing over dinner with Lu Han and Yixing.
He doesn't text Joonmyun though, ignores the contact name in his phone, waits to see if Joonmyun will maybe text him.
Joonmyun doesn't. His name never flashes across Zitao's screen, never pops up with words and emoticons. ZItao takes it as a sign, doesn't try, doesn't text, goes back to school wishing he'd visited his parents, wishing that he'd just gone to China instead of some tiny town in the wilderness.
But Zitao doesn't regret it really, doesn't regret the feel of the cold grass tickling his skin, doesn't regret the sky as it had stared down at him, had told him stories and whispered in his ear. He doesn't regret Joonmyun, poking his head through Zitao's door, dragging him out at 3am with telescope in hand, charts upon charts, shoved into Zitao's hands as Joonmyun would chat excitedly.
He doesn't regret the nights spent in Joonmyun's room either, doesn't regret the times they were close -- too close -- and the times Joonmyun didn't pull back, the times he'd reached out, different look on his features, fingers splaying gently across Zitao's face, eyes warm, inviting.
And Zitao had been so sure in that moment, had been so sure that the time they'd spent was that kind of time, that it had meant something, but Joonmyun's lips had been unresponsive, eyes sad as he'd pulled away, gentle smile coupled with a crippling rejection, a "Tao, I can't."
Zitao hadn’t understood, had stumbled backwards, breathing ragged and betrayal on his tongue. It had meant something, they had meant something. But Joonmyun had never said why, had pulled away that last time, still gentle. So fucking gentle.
It had been an awkward last week, an absence of Joonmyun's quiet knocks at his door, an absence of eating breakfast with Joonmyun sneaking away from the kitchen, apron on as he talks from across the table, hair messy and eyes bright.
But Zitao doesn't regret it, not really. He just wants - he just wants to know if there had been something, if Joonmyun had wanted to be his friend, wanted to be more, or if he had just wanted some kind of companionship, someone to toy with and spew nonsense about galaxies to for the summer.
And Zitao would like to regret it, would like to sit in his dorm, forget about Joonmyun and wait for classes to start, but here he is, redrawing his constellation chart, brush flying across the page with accuracy this time, an unfolded piece of paper in front of him as reference.
Joonmyun had told him to draw galaxies, to draw the constellations, had taught him what goes where, the meaning, the history behind each star, each set of stars that create a picture in his mind, a personality here and there.
The new chart, the new silver lines look beautiful on his ceiling, shine down where he's carefully the strung his fairylights across the dots, -- a silver light for each star, gold for others -- his name signed near the bottom, with a tiny thank you note underneath.
He's only numb for a while really -- turns on his theatrics in a way that would Baekhyun proud -- but ZItao recovers. It was just a few months, just a vacation, just a boy that had changed him, turned his passions, his paintings, his heart to tiny supernovas.
Maybe he'll go back next summer. Maybe he'll be more mature, better prepared, pretend that nothing had ever happened, skip into the hotel and singsong, "What's up Joonmyun?"
For now Zitao decides to sleep, crossing the room to curl up in Sehun's bed, smell his strange cologne lingering on his pillowcase, smile feline as he dozes.
They do see each other again.
It's nothing dramatic, but nothing casual ever, Zitao tripping over his own feet when he sees a familiar face on campus. Joonmyun looks good -- always looks good -- and Zitao can't figure out why he's here, even when Joonmyun tells him he's in the city to visit his mother, had wanted to stop by and see his favourite constellation.
It's bittersweet, those words. Bittersweet laughing along with Joonmyun, introducing him to Sehun, to Yixing, to the rest of them as his friend. Just his friend, nothing more, nothing less.
And even though it's been months -- three to be exact -- Joonmyun acts as if nothing happened, as if he's been texting Zitao, skyping him, keeping in touch like the lovely friends they are, the lovely friends they were, dancing to the tune of each other's bodies in a tiny hotel.
Joonmyun apologizes, and it's gentle, soft words, head hung low.
"I'm sorry," He tells Zitao, brushes his thumb across his bottom, looks at him with this sad smile, one that's heavy; with guilt, with regret, with something else Zitao can't quite pick out through his tears.
And Zitao, he never denies, is honest, opens the lock of his heart for Joonmyun -- has had it opened since he turned that first day to see his face -- lets him inside to make his home there.
"I only wanted to make sure-" Joonmyun starts, but he stops, fingers splayed across Zitao;s cheek, a single caress that mirrors the shattering of Zitao's heart. "You were only there for a few months, Tao. I couldn't just make promises I didn't know how to keep."
"And now you're here," Zitao says quietly, bitterly, nothing gentle in the spitefulness of his tone, the narrowing of his eyes. "Now you're here to remind me."
"Remind you of what?" Joonmyun asks, and his fingers fall from Zitao's face, body awkward as he takes a single step backward, nearly a half step. A hesitant one, an unsure one. Where is this going to lead us?
"Just because-" Zitao says, and he's choking up again, feels stupid -- so fucking stupid -- for all these feelings all this unnecessary angst pouring from his skin, his mouth, his eyes. He was only there for a two months. Only two months, and yet it's a life time. "Just because someone teaches you how-"
"How to what, Zitao?" And Joonmyun's tone is gentle, patient and he hates it, he fucking hates it. Hates when Joonmyun treats him like he's so young, so reckless. And he is, he fucking is, but that doesn't matter right now.
"Just because someone teaches you how to paint galaxies doesn't mean you should," Zitao says furiously, gets his sentence out and doesn't even cringe at his own dramatics, doesn't care. "Art is a toy to you, is it not? A tool? You didn't want a companion, you just wanted in my pants. And when the time was up you sent me away."
"I was scared, Tao," Joonmyun says quietly, and his lips quirk up into some kind of twisted smirk, a grimace really. It looks pained, straining against his features, ugly, raw. "You showed up in town on some impulse vacation to paint stars and i fell, I fell so fucking hard and didn't think of the consequences."
"There shouldn't be consequences," Zitao spits out. "Why should there have been?"
"You're young," Joonmyun starts, but pauses, licks his lips, and his voice is still gentle, but strained, a hint of nervousness pushing through, a lack of his amiability, of the crinkle before he teases. "Long distance... It's not easy you know."
"No shit," Zitao says, and he's laughing now, a short kind of giggle, maniacal almost. "But you could have texted me, at least. Even just as a friend."
"We don't have to be friends," Joonmyun murmurs, and his finger traces Zitao's cheek again, eyes burning in the low light of the room -- Joonmyun's hotel room this time -- fingertips hot, scarring, tracing comets across skin.
"And when you're far away?" Zitao asks. "When you're with your grandparents or in your other small town, the one you work in?"
"That's why I'm here right now," Joonmyun says quietly, and his smile, it's not a grimace now, but the smile he'd given Zitao that first night, sitting on the blanket, knees pressed together and facts spilling from knowledgeable lips. "I live in the city now. We could -- we could start over -- be something more, something better. Not just a summer fling."
"How long?" Zitao asks suddenly, and he's thinking of that question, that thought in his mind.
What is art? His thoughts whisper, and then they answer, breathe, starry across his vision. Joonmyun, that's art.
Zitao's thoughts, they're usually right, because he doesn't deny, doesn't lie, looks Joonmyun in the eye and grins through his tears, realizes the promise, the boldness, the sheer courage of Joonmyun's words.
"How long?" Joonmyun echoes, and his hold on Zitao falters slightly, prize slipping from his hands, little town blooming, crawling into view.
"You once told me, on the hill," Zitao says, and he remembers it well. "Right before I kissed you, you told me that everything has a star life. That everyone is born and explodes into matter, into supernovas that burst and are reborn."
"I did," Joonmyun says, and he's smiling softly -- gentle -- now. "And I will always believe that."
"How long is our star life?" Zitao asks, and his accent is growing thicker, palms clammy and heart thundering, tiny bursts of sound in his chest. "How long before we hit our peak, before we explode -- or implode -- into the night sky."
"I only look at the stars," Joonmyun says, and it's cheesy, but that's what Zitao likes, always a sucker for poetry, always a sucker for each bit of art that's thrown his way, brought out into the light and dusted off, not hidden under a dorm room bed. "I look at them, map them, remember them. You're the one who paints their stories. You have the canvas."
"It's up to you, how long we last."
What is art?
Art is pure, created by the way Joonmyun forms the syllables of an apology, created with the touch of Joonmyun's fingertips, the digging of nails into Zitao's hips, the body shaking thrusts and the trembling aftercare.
Art is the way in which Joonmyun holds Zitao, firm in his arms and points out the few stars they can see from their high up balcony in the city, the way Zitao's hands, equipped with a brush fly across canvas. Portraits, Joonmyun with stars for eyes, smoky comet trails circling his arms.
Art is subjective, different to each who comes upon, to each person that interacts, that thinks, or doesn't think. Art is universal beautiful, the spattering of silver on canvas, or in the sky.
Art is the "I love you" Joonmyun whispers, tongue tracing the shell of Zitao's ear, unnoticed by Joonmyun's grandparents who chat happily across the table, pleased to have Zitao back in town, to have the sunshine boy they’re so fond of keeping Joonmyun company as he works.
And Art, art is the "daddy" that later falls from Zitao's lips, dripping with promise, pleading, gorgeous, the constellation of Taurus the bruises that cover his body, hickeys and love bites, Joonmyun between his legs.
Art is never definite, not something picked out easily, but it means something.
They mean something.