Jimin is completely, absolutely, one-hundred percent positive that the apartment next door to his is haunted.
He’s not normally one to believe in the supernatural or anything like that, which is surprising considering how much he loves Halloween, adores haunted houses, and has a horror movie collection that could put the biggest movie buff to shame. But ever since he moved into his place he can’t shake the feeling that there’s something weird going on next door.
He’d moved in about ten months ago, smack dab in the middle of bitter cold December. It’s incredible that he’d found a place that checks all his boxes — close to work (within walking distance!) and affordable, with a beautiful open floor plan and large windows that face the sun during the day. When he’d filled out the application to move in, he didn’t think he would even get a call back. The complex is usually fully rented out with long-standing tenants, as once someone gets a place there they usually never leave. Every unit is full.
That is, except the apartment right next door.
He hadn’t thought much of it at first, assuming maybe it needed a remodel or good deep clean before being put up on the market. But the days turned into weeks and no one ever moved in, and not only that but Jimin never saw the landlord going in and out or anything. It was almost like the apartment didn’t even exist as far as anyone but him was concerned.
“Maybe it’s haunted,” Taehyung had said one evening in late spring, the two of them sitting on the floor together with two half-empty bottles of wine on the coffee table and a large spread of papers on the floor that Jimin needed to grade before spring break. Taehyung had come over under the pretense of helping him grade, but Jimin knew all along that just meant getting drunk and causing chaos.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Jimin murmurs, voice echoed inside his wine glass. “That’s not real.”
“I mean—just think about it though. When people die in houses and apartments and stuff, the landlord is required to tell the new tenant about it. Maybe someone got brutally murdered in there and now their ghost is eternally tied to the mortal plane. Or something.”
Jimin narrows his eyes over the top of a paper, setting his glass down on the coffee table beside him with a gentle clink. “Straight to eternal torment?”
“Do you have a better explanation for it being empty?” Taehyung asks, raising his eyebrows. His expression melts into a self-satisfied smirk when Jimin shrugs. “Oh! Maybe the reason your apartment was for sale is because the murderer lived here! And then he got caught and went to jail, and they’re still cleaning up the bloody mess in the place next door so—”
“Please stop,” Jimin says, sighing. “I want to get these graded in the next hour so I can spend the day tomorrow lying in bed and contemplating the life choices that led to us becoming friends.”
“Ha.” Taehyung says dryly, tipping the rest of his wine back and pulling himself to his feet. “Here, let me try something.”
Jimin does his best to ignore him— he’s used to his antics by now— and scribbles a grade at the top of the paper, tossing it aside into the finished pile before pulling up on his knees to pour himself another very large glass of wine. But whatever Taehyung is doing catches his interest anyway— he crosses the living room to the far wall that Jimin’s place shares with the unit next door, pressing his palms flat against the surface.
“Spirits,” Taehyung says, his voice dramatic and full of breath. “Make yourselves known.” He starts rubbing his palms in big circles over the wall as he speaks. “Tell us why you can’t move on to the other side.”
“Why would they tell you? They don’t even know you.”
Taehyung shoots a sharp glare over his shoulder. “They’ll trust me because I’m a believer, unlike you.”
“How is that a valid measure of trust? I could say I’m a believer even if I’m not, so—”
“Silence!” Taehyung snaps, whipping his head back around to face the wall. He forms his hands into claws and starts tapping the painted surface with his fingernails. “Spirits, please ignore Jimin and speak with me. Why are you trapped in the apartment next door?”
Jimin snorts into his wine glass.
This goes on for several more moments while Jimin does his best to tune him out, getting a whole two papers graded in that time (so what if he didn’t read them all the way, he swears it’s possible to tell if a paper is any good in the first two paragraphs anyway).
It seems like Taehyung is about to give up, probably in favor of getting another glass of wine (or raiding Jimin’s liquor cabinet, as he tends to do) when Jimin is startled by a harsh knock on the far wall, making him nearly jump out of his skin.
“Tae,” he scolds, frowning down at the drops of red wine he’d splattered on a student’s paper in his surprise. His boss probably won’t look kindly on that. “Don’t make too much noise. That apartment is empty but I have other neighbors, you know.”
Tae stands in front of the wall, staring at it with a blank look on his face. “Uh, I— I didn’t do that.”
Jimin blinks. “What?”
“I didn’t knock.” He takes one step back from the wall, turning to look Jimin in the eyes, skin at least a shade or two paler than it was a minute ago. “Someone knocked on the wall from the other side. Like, literally. But possibly also figuratively.”
Jimin rolls his eyes, plucking the pen he’d dropped from the carpet. “Stop trying to scare me.”
“I’m not, I swear, I didn’t knock.” He curls his hand into his sleeve. “Fuck, what the fuck, I didn’t really think—”
Jimin’s heart beats a little faster. Usually Taehyung wouldn’t drag out a prank this long. “Oh my god don’t tell me— you’re serious? Something really knocked? Kim Taehyung, did you just summon a ghost to my apartment?”
“I didn’t summon anything!” Taehyung shrieks. “It had to have already been there, I was just joking, I didn’t think—”
“Okay. Okay. Calm down.” Jimin pulls himself to his feet, draining his glass and setting it next to Taehyung’s. “Listen, I bet my landlord or maintenance is over there fixing up the apartment and they were just trying to get you to shut up and stop tapping on the wall. Let’s go over there and knock on the door and apologize.”
Taehyung wets his lips, eyes darting from the wall to the door. “I have to go too?”
Jimin scoffs. “Of course you have to go, you’re the one who angered it.”
Taehyung throws his hands in the air. “See! Why did you say it? Why didn’t you say them? or she? Because you know it’s a ghost. Oh my god. Oh my god, what have I done? What if it’s a demon, Jiminie, what if I summoned a demon and it attached itself to me and now it’s going to follow me home and watch me while I sleep and cast spells and tricks on me and, oh my god I can’t believe I’m haunted by a demon Jimin what am I going to do I’m only twenty-five and—”
Jimin chucks Taehyung’s coat at his face and Taehyung jumps, catching it right before it hits him. “Stop freaking out and let’s go. Everything is fine, I’ll show you.”
Taehyung blinks down at the jacket in his hands. He seems to be considering his options—and if Jimin knows his best friend that means he’s trying to decide whether he should suck it up and go next door or just leave and go back home, and he’s also trying to gauge just how angry Jimin will be if he goes with option two.
The answer is very angry.
He sighs, shrugging his coat on and following Jimin to the doorway, plucking the entire bottle of wine from the coffee table on the way.
Once they’re out in the hall Jimin raps on the neighboring door and then wraps his arms around himself to wait, tapping his foot. Taehyung isn’t even fully outside, choosing instead to cower halfway inside Jimin’s apartment with his head poking out the door and the bottle of wine clutched in both hands in front of his chest.
No one answers.
Jimin knocks again, louder this time, so loud the neighbor on the other side peers through her blinds to see what’s going on. Jimin gives her a sheepish wave and a little half-smile, making a mental note to bring her extra cookies next time he bakes for his unit.
“Maybe they’re listening to music,” Jimin says, stepping forward to cup his hands over the window so he can peer inside. Pitch black. “Are there like, blackout curtains on the windows or something? I should at least be able to see through the gaps in the blinds.”
Taehyung chugs some wine straight from the bottle and then pulls off with a pop, wiping the back of his mouth with his hand. “It’s because they don’t want anyone to see the murder scene. What if the body is still in there?”
Jimin scoffs, knocking on the window for good measure. “Why would the body still be in there?”
“A-ha!” Taehyung points the neck of the bottle at Jimin. “So you admit there’s a body.”
Jimin grumbles for him to shut up and pulls away from the window, casting one last look at the door before heading back to his own place to finish his grading and wine. Taehyung leaves shortly after, making some excuse about having to walk his dog. And, okay, maybe it freaked him out a tiny bit, and if he happened to finish a few more glasses of wine than he originally intended then that’s his business. But as far as he’s concerned, there’s no way the place next to him is haunted. That’s ridiculous.
Over the coming months, though, Jimin would begin hearing many creepy noises coming from the unit next door. The worst thing about it is that it would usually happen in the dead of night, sometimes so loud that he’d jolt from a dead sleep and he’d then lay awake, doing whatever he could to drown out the sound of footsteps through the wall, clear as day. He even started hearing voices, and on more than one occasion he’d hear really creepy tinkling piano music. On those days he gave up on sleep altogether and would go spend the rest of the night dozing in front of the television in the living room as he waited for the sun to come up.
Sometimes when he got fed up he’d trudge over in the morning and bang on the door, peeking in the windows to see if maybe there’s some sort of explanation. No one ever answered.
It really started getting to him.
In fact, he began feeling like he was going crazy— his google search history slowly filled with all kinds of questions like how to prevent spirits from entering your home and differences between ghosts, spirits, and demons. He even started sprinkling salt over his doorway and burning incense in his bedroom in the evening. Every single time he saw his landlord to pay his rent he’d contemplate asking her what was up with the apartment next to his, but he always chickened out and bit his tongue every time, deciding maybe he didn’t want to know.
So, yeah. Jimin is completely, absolutely, one-hundred percent positive that the apartment next door to his is haunted.
That’s why it comes at quite a shock when one day on a crisp autumn morning (September 30th, to be exact), Jimin trudges up the stairs to his apartment with his arms full of Halloween decorations and baking supplies and sees someone standing in front of said apartment.
He’s so surprised, in fact, that he pauses and watches as the man balances a large cardboard box on one knee with a single arm and digs through his pocket with the other hand, eventually producing a key identical to Jimin’s own.
He slides it into the lock. Turns it. The door pops open and he tosses the box inside, wiping sweat from his brow with the sleeve hanging over his hand before disappearing inside and snapping the door shut behind him.
Jimin blinks, cocking his head. A lock of hair falls in his eyes but he’s too shocked to consider moving it. His thoughts are threefold:
- He has a new neighbor.
- His new neighbor is very, very attractive. Very. Attractive. Easily one of the most attractive men he's ever seen in his life, and his best friend is Kim Taehyung, so that's a pretty impossible standard to live up to.
- He needs to warn him immediately about his haunted murder apartment.
Jeongguk is exhausted.
Not only has he been worked to the bone with deadline after deadline after deadline, his clients lately have been particularly obnoxious, nitpicking every single little detail and forcing him to change things that are core parts of his design philosophy, and it’s really starting to grate on him. Not only that, but he hadn’t heard the postman come because he was working with his noise-cancelling headphones when he’d knocked, so he had to go all the way to the post office to go get his package. Which— it’s no big deal, it’s not like Jeongguk is a vampire (although he kinda wishes he was because then he wouldn’t have to sleep), but he’d prefer to not have to go out during the day. His internal clock is naturally synced to night rather than day, which isn’t an issue usually because he works from home and quite frankly he doesn’t have anywhere important to be.
Having to wait until the office opened at ten meant he didn’t get back until nearly noon and he’s running on twenty-four hours without sleep, so the first thing he does when he gets home is take a long, hot shower and change into the first clothes he pulls out of his drawer (spoiler alert: it’s a long-sleeved t-shirt and joggers. Everything he owns is a long sleeved t-shirt and joggers). He settles into his comforters and after spending some time watching videos and browsing his social media for a while he closes his eyes and begins drifting off to sleep.
Knock, knock, knock.
His eyes snap open. Someone is knocking at his door.
No one ever knocks at his door.
He paws at the nightstand to check if he has any missed texts from Yoongi declaring that he’s coming over but there’s nothing. Yoongi knows better than to come over unannounced in the middle of the day anyway, being all-too familiar with Jeongguk’s nocturnal sleep schedule because of their time as roommates in college.
He decides if it isn’t Yoongi it isn’t important. He closes his eyes again.
The last one is so loud Jeongguk swears he feels his walls shake a little bit and he groans, wrapping his blankets tighter around himself and burying his face in his pillow. He has his rent on autopay so it can’t be his landlord, he doesn’t have any requests in with maintenance, and he was just at the post office to get his package. So why would someone be knocking at this time of day?
And, fine. Maybe one p.m. is a normal time of day for most people, but not for him. It’s practically the middle of the night.
“Hello?” a voice calls, followed by another series of knocks. Clearly, ignoring whoever is there won’t get him out of this one, so he flings his blankets off and slides out of bed, padding back across his apartment to the front door.
A quick look through the peephole shows nothing but a person with a bright shock of orange hair standing in front of his door. They appear to be kind of short, at least shorter than Jeongguk, and there’s some kind of large round platter in their hands. He pokes his tongue in his cheek as he pulls back. He didn’t think it was Girl Scout season anymore, so there’s no real reason for a tiny cookie-peddler to be outside. Maybe they go around in the fall, now, too— but no matter what he needs to make it very clear that he doesn’t want it to happen again.
He slides the deadbolt free and then flings the door open, already opening his mouth to speak, but it turns out the two of them speak at the same time:
“Hello! I’m your new neighbor—”
“I’m not interested in buying any Girl Scout cookies—”
They both pause, blinking at each other. It gives Jeongguk a second to get a good look at who he’s talking to.
His first realization is that this is actually a man, not a child— he appears to be around his age, maybe even older. He’s also not much shorter than him, as the peephole had implied, just a few inches.
His second realization is that this is the most beautiful man he has ever seen.
The man— Jeongguk doesn’t know his name but his mop of bright orange hair makes him think of a pumpkin— blinks at him, plump raspberry lips parted around the sentence he never finished. The cookies in his hands waver like he forgot he’s even holding them, and for a moment Jeongguk is flattered that he seems to be at a loss for words. He did a jojoba oil treatment on his hair last night, so he’s admittedly looking pretty damn good.
“Did you… did you just call me a Girl Scout?” Pumpkin asks incredulously. His eyelashes are long and spindly, catching the high September sun when he blinks. They look like threads of gold. Jeongguk is in love.
“Yes,” he says, wrapping his arms around his middle and leaning against the doorframe. “You looked like one through the peephole.”
Pumpkin’s grip tightens on the platter but if he’s angry his expression doesn’t show it. Jeongguk affectionately notes that the platter is Nightmare Before Christmas themed, so not only is Pumpkin beautiful but he also has amazing taste in movies. The cutest part, however, is that the plate is filled to heaping with delicious-smelling rolled sugar cookies, cut into pumpkin shapes and painstakingly decorated with bright royal icing that matches his hair.
“I’m…” Pumpkin takes a deep breath. “I’m a twenty-five year old man.”
“You’re my hyung, then,” Jeongguk says sweetly, leaning forward to inspect the cookies close-up, long hair falling over his eyes. “Are these for me?”
Pumpkin steps back, pulling the cookies closer to his chest. “Yes. My name is Jimin and I’m your new neighbor, so I wanted to bring these over and introduce myself.”
Jimin. It’s a nice name. Jeongguk still thinks Pumpkin suits him better, but oh well. He’s surprised he managed to miss someone moving onto his floor, though— tenants don’t come and go very often, and the last move-in he remembers was almost a year ago. They still haven’t crossed paths, though, because Jeongguk is a night owl and he doesn’t have any interest in making small talk with his neighbors.
“Jeongguk,” he replies, plucking a cookie from the top of the stack and taking a big bite.
He can’t even hide his surprise— these are the best cookies he’s ever had in his life, soft with the richness of fresh vanilla and brown butter. In fact, they’re so incredible that his eyes flutter shut and he makes an involuntary noise in the back of his throat, savoring the taste.
When he opens his eyes again Jimin is visibly preening, clearly pleased by Jeongguk’s reaction. Jeongguk instantly forces his expression to melt away. He clears his throat, letting the hand holding the cookie drop to his side despite desperately wanting to take another bite or three.
“They’re fine,” he says impassively.
Jimin’s smug expression falls and his jaw tightens and Jeongguk finds it unbelievably endearing. He watches as Jimin shamelessly shifts onto one foot and cranes his neck to peer past Jeongguk into his apartment, which is pitch black from his blackout curtains except for the slice of sunlight filtering past him into the entryway. He lets him look for a moment, knowing there’s not really anything interesting to look at in there unless Jimin is interested in movie posters and an unreasonable amount of dust-collecting cooking gadgets.
“So,” Jeongguk says. Jimin’s attention snaps back to him. “When did you move in?”
“Uh.” Jimin blinks. “About… ten months ago?”
Jeongguk thinks he must have heard him wrong. He cocks his head. “Sorry, what?”
“You said you’ve lived here for ten months.”
“I mean… yes? The leases are for twelve months. Why do you find that strange?”
Jeongguk can’t help but feel like he’s missing something.
“But… how are you a new neighbor if you’ve lived here for ten months?”
“I— what does that have to do with anything?” Jimin looks just as puzzled as he is, and all that does is confuse him even more.
“Okay. Let’s straighten this out. You brought cookies. To introduce yourself as my new neighbor. Right?”
“But you’ve lived here for ten months.”
Jimin huffs. “Why do you keep saying that?”
Jeongguk scrubs his hand over his face. Clearly this approach isn’t getting him anywhere. “Forget it,” he says. “Thanks for bringing these over. I appreciate it.”
Jimin nods, waving his hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah. Anyways, to be honest I mostly came over here because I have something important to tell you.” He hands the platter over to Jeongguk, who takes it happily. He could eat these cookies for the rest of his life. “I need to warn you about your place.”
Jeongguk raises his eyebrows. “Warn me?”
“It’s not easy for me to say this, but… your place is haunted,” Jimin says, very somberly. “I know it sounds ridiculous— it sounds stupid to me, too, because I normally don’t believe in that kind of thing but ever since I moved in I’ve been hearing all kinds of creepy noises in the middle of the night. Footsteps, laughter, sometimes even music. But no one lived here! And I know if it were me, I would want to know if the place I just moved into is haunted, so. I’m telling you. If that doesn’t bother you, then fine, but—”
The part Jeongguk was missing slides right into place.
“You think I just moved in?”
Jimin stops mid-sentence. “Um,” he says. “You did just move in.”
Jeongguk resists the urge to laugh, forcing away the smile that curls its way to the corners of his lips. He wouldn’t want the cute Pumpkin-Jimin to think he’s making fun of him, because honestly, Jeongguk doesn’t blame him for not realizing. Jeongguk is a self-proclaimed hermit, choosing to stay at his own place as much as possible, and the times when he does go out are usually in the middle of the night.
He does have one regret, though: if he’d known a long time ago that his neighbor is this cute, he probably would have tried to go out during the day a lot more.
Spurred on by the warm, bubbly feeling in his chest, Jeongguk masks his amusement with a look of fake concern. “This place is really haunted?” he asks. Pumpkin-Jimin nods. “You heard footsteps in the middle of the night?”
“And creepy piano music!” Jimin exclaims.
Jeongguk almost snorts. He often plays piano playlists to help himself relax when he’s working.
“Wow,” he says, tightening his arms around his middle. “Did you warn the landlord?”
“Ah… no. I thought maybe she knew…” Jimin mumbles, eyes locked on the ground. “I know it sounds really stupid, but. Either way, welcome to the building. If you decide to stay then good luck. If you don’t have any groceries yet I have enough dinner for two over at my place, so just let me know if you’re hungry. We’re neighbors, after all.”
As much as Jeongguk wants to take advantage of Jimin’s dinner invitation so he can spend more time with him, he already feels bad for letting the joke go on for so long. “I have plenty of groceries,” he says. “But I don’t think there’s a ghost living in this apartment.”
Jimin clears his throat, tipping his chin defiantly. “Like I said, I know it sounds ridiculous, but trust me, okay? Don’t you think I would know better than you? I’ve lived here for ten months and I’ve been hearing creepy noises the entire time I’ve been here. How long have you been here, anyway?”
“Hm…” Jeongguk makes a show of thinking it over, tapping his finger against his lips and staring thoughtfully at a spot above Jimin’s shoulder. “About… three years?”
Jimin’s lips pop open in surprise. “What?”
“Give or take.” Jeongguk shrugs, bringing the cookie back to his lips and taking a big bite.
He can practically see the gears turning in Jimin’s head— it’s pretty funny to watch, even if he does feel a little bit bad for bursting his bubble. A few moments pass as Jimin processes what Jeongguk just said, slaw-jawed and wide-eyed. Jeongguk happily finishes the first cookie and immediately takes another one from the stack, reminding himself that he needs to add a little more time to his workout later to make up for the unexpected treat.
Jimin appears to cycle through a range of emotions, but he finally settles on annoyance. His gaze hardens and he takes a step backwards, staring daggers down at the cookie platter.
“Well,” he says, wrapping both hands around the plate and jerking it free from Jeongguk’s grip. “If you’re not new to the building then I suppose that means you don’t need these. Have a nice day.”
He turns on his heel, whipping his head around with an over-exaggerated huff. It seems like he’s about to storm off, but then he hesitates, glancing back at Jeongguk and then to the cookie still in his hand, hovering just a few inches from his lips. Before Jeongguk can register what’s happening, Jimin snatches the half-eaten cookie from his grip, drops it on top of the pristine ones, and then turns away again and stalks down the corridor.
But what he obviously intended to be a dramatic exit turns rather comical— Jeongguk watches with a mixture of confusion, amusement and fondness as Jimin stops not even five feet away at the door right next to Jeongguk’s own, throws it open, shoots one last icy glare over his shoulder at Jeongguk, and then slams it shut behind him.
Once Jimin is out of sight Jeongguk can’t help himself and he bubbles over with the laughter he’s been holding in the entire time as he retreats back inside his own place, laughing and smiling until his jaw starts to hurt and he’s curled back in bed feeling much lighter than he had earlier. It’s like his one tiny interaction with Jimin has melted away his stress just like that.
As he drifts off to sleep, he decides that maybe getting to know his neighbors isn’t such a bad idea.
“There’s only, like, two explanations,” Jimin says, climbing back up the ladder with a string of candy-corn shaped fairy lights draped over his arm. “He’s either a ghost—”
“He’s not a ghost,” Hoseok says around a mouthful of cookie from where he’s sat on Jimin’s kitchen counter. “You handed him a plate of cookies, Jimin, he’s not a ghost.”
“I thought you didn’t even believe in ghosts,” Taehyung says, passing the hammer and nails up to Jimin and stepping back to help him guide where the lights should go.
“Okay, well, maybe I do a little bit,” Jimin says, glancing at the line of salt in his doorway. He needs to sweep it up. “And how do you know ghosts can’t hold plates? Are you two ghost experts or something?”
“No,” Hoseok says.
“Yes,” Taehyung says.
Jimin sighs. “Whatever. If he’s not a ghost then he’s just a hermit or something who never leaves his house which is just as weird. A ghost in theory and not in practice. He said he’s lived here for three years but I’ve been here since December and I’ve literally never seen him. Seriously, what the fuck?”
“I don’t think it’s that weird.” Hoseok shrugs. “Maybe you two just have opposite schedules.”
“I’m a teacher!” Jimin says, holding the strand of lights in place above his door and hammering them down when Taehyung gives him the green light for placement. “I don’t have to work for the entire two months of summer break! I go outside every single day. I have a flower garden in my windowsill. How have I never seen him? Tell me. I really want to know. How. How?”
“Maybe don’t wave dangerous blunt objects around when you’re in this kind of mood,” Taehyung says, getting up on his tiptoes to pull the hammer loose from Jimin’s fingers. “Did you ask him why you two have never crossed paths before?”
Jimin hops down from the ladder and stoops to plug in the lights. The little candy-corns bathe his entryway in a soft orange glow. “Well… no.”
“I think you should probably start there.”
“Don’t want to talk to him,” Jimin says, returning to his bag of decorations and pulling a black flowered wreath with glitter and little plastic crows from it. “I’ll just go back to pretending no one lives there, except now I don’t have to be afraid in my own home anymore. Whatever.”
“It definitely seemed like you didn’t want to talk to him last night after you met him for the first time,” Hoseok teases, sliding off the counter and brushing the crumbs off his lap. “If the texts you sent in the group chat are any indicator—”
“Don’t!” Jimin snips, grip tightening on the wreath until he hears the snap of a twig and glances down at it in alarm. Thankfully nothing is broken. He’d spent nearly a week’s salary on these decorations. “It was a moment of weakness. He’s my enemy. My arch nemesis. Delete those if you know what’s good for you.”
Taehyung, the traitor that he is, already has his own phone in his hand and the group chat open. “I just met my neighbor,” he recites. “I think my soul left my body. I’ve never seen anyone like him in my life. He has long hair and tattoos on his knuckles. Tattoos. Holy fuck, I want him to take those tattooed hands and—”
“Delete. Those. Texts,” Jimin says, hanging the wreath on the front door and fluffing it out with his hands. “I was drunk.”
“It was at one in the afternoon.”
“Yeah, well, I had a cocktail with lunch, okay?” He pulls the wreath free. “This would look better outside, I think,” he mumbles, twisting his doorknob and pulling his door open—
Only to be face to face with none other than his neighbor.
“Oh!” Jimin exclaims, jumping in surprise. Ten months without ever seeing him once and now this is the second time in forty-eight hours. His cheeks flood hot when he realizes Jeongguk could probably hear their conversation through the door. “What are you doing?”
Jeongguk is standing just a foot or two away, a small parcel clutched in his hands. He startles, meeting Jimin’s gaze with big, bright eyes and parted lips.
“Um,” Jeongguk says, glancing down at the package. “This is yours, I think.”
Jimin narrows his eyes. “Why do you have my package?”
“I didn’t want it to get lost so I was going to knock and give it to you.”
Taehyung and Hoseok crowd behind Jimin in the doorway.
“Oh wow,” Taehyung whispers breathlessly. “Wow.”
“I understand the texts now,” Hoseok says, a little bit too loudly.
Jimin shushes them.
“Hi,” Jeongguk says, waving at them. “I’m Jeongguk.”
Taehyung snorts. “Oh, we know who you a—”
“Okay!” Jimin shouts. “My package. Thanks for bringing it. Did they deliver it to the wrong address or something?
Jeongguk shifts. “Um… well, no.”
“So… where was it?”
Jeongguk’s fingers loosen around the parcel. “It was, um… here.”
“Oh my god,” Taehyung whispers. “This is a trainwreck. I can’t not look at it.”
“This is the worst mating dance I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Hoseok says.
“Sorry, are you two talking to me?” Jeongguk asks, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Both of them scatter in opposite directions.
“So… it was here. Sitting outside my door. As in, where it’s supposed to go?”
“Yeah, but you know. It could get rained on or something. So I thought you might want to know it’s out here. Better safe than sorry.”
Jimin looks up at the sky. It’s clear blue with fluffy white clouds. Looks back at Jeongguk. Raises his eyebrows. “Right.”
“Well, here,” he says, holding the package out for Jimin to take. “I should… go.”
Jimin hesitates but then takes it. “Thanks,” he says, already starting to retreat back into his apartment.
“Wait!” Jeongguk nearly shouts.
Jimin pokes his head back out. “What?”
“You like Halloween a lot, yeah?”
“I like Halloween a normal amount,” Jimin replies. He refuses to share weaknesses with enemies.
Taehyung breaks into uproarious laughter from deeper in the apartment. Jimin thinks maybe he’s let their friendship go on too long.
“I just figured since you’re decorating so early you must love it.”
“This isn’t early. It’s October 1st. I usually have my decorating done by September 30th so not a second of October is wasted, but I was busy last night and couldn’t finish. The only important thing about October is Halloween.” He pauses, considering. “Well, and my birthday, I guess.”
Jeongguk’s eyes light up. “Your birthday is this month?”
“Yep. The 13th. Anyways, gotta go.”
Jeongguk opens his mouth to say something else but Jimin slams the door.
“That’s so weird, right?” Jimin drops to his knees and picks at the tape on the edge of the box to pull it open, producing the little crystal orange and purple candy bowls he’d ordered online to fill with candy and place on his desk for his students. He holds them up to the light, admiring them. “I’ve lived here for almost a year and I’ve never seen him before, but now I saw him the day after we met for the first time? What are the odds?”
“Oh my god,” Taehyung says. “Do you seriously not realize what’s going on here?”
“I need more alcohol,” Hoseok says.
Jimin starts seeing Jeongguk every single day after that.
It’s like Jeongguk has somehow synced up to his schedule and Jimin can’t quite figure out how that happened. Ever since he moved in he follows a pretty strict routine: when he gets home from class he takes a hot shower to wash off the day, and then he puts something on the stove to simmer for dinner and sits down with papers to grade while his food is cooking. Once he’s done eating he goes out into the corridor to water the flowers in his windowsill planter. In his nearly-a-year of doing this at the same time every single day, he has never seen Jeongguk until this week.
Oh, Jimin, what a coincidence, Jeongguk always says. On the first day he claims he’s getting some fresh air. On the second day he’s putting up some Halloween decorations and wants Jimin’s advice (his advice is that no decorations will match up to his superior ones, so don’t bother). On the third day he’s calling a friend because the signal in his apartment is bad, but he hangs up the moment Jimin steps outside. On the fourth day he’s admiring Jimin’s flowers and mentions that he wants to start a little garden himself.
Jimin is predisposed to be annoyed because he feels like Jeongguk had been deceiving him by never introducing himself and letting him believe the unit next door was haunted for almost a year, but the more they chat the more he realizes that Jeongguk is kind-hearted and means well. Logically, Jimin knows he was only annoyed at him because of his own wild imagination and belief that the apartment was haunted (he blames Taehyung for that one). So he does his best to let it go and move on.
Of course, it’s pretty easy to stop being angry when said neighbor has a beautiful smile that makes his eyes sparkle and a sense of humor that regularly sends him into peals of bright laughter that make him go off-balance and out of breath.
Over the course of the week he starts looking forward to his little chats with Jeongguk more and more. He even finds himself making excuses to go outside more often than usual, like checking his mail one or two extra times even though he already got it and knows the postman’s shift is in the early morning.
However, no matter what Taehyung and Hoseok say, he’s absolutely not attracted to him. He’s just being a good neighbor. So what if Jimin talks about him a lot? He sees him a lot. It means nothing, okay?
“I don’t know how to ask him out,” Jeongguk groans, forehead pressed to his dining table.
Yoongi hums from where he’s sitting a little ways away, legs crossed at the knee. He thumbs at the petal of a little potted purple flower. Jeongguk had bought it to either give to Jimin or to use as an excuse to start his own garden. He doesn’t really care about planting flowers but Jimin clearly does and he’s getting desperate for something to talk about because he can only wait outside his apartment at six p.m. every day for a finite amount of reasons.
“Here’s a novel idea,” Yoongi says. “Just do it.”
“Yeah but… how.”
“Open your mouth. Say, hey Jimin, want to go out for coffee with me? Close mouth, await answer. Try not to word vomit a love confession. I know it’s difficult for you.”
“Look like fluffy pink clouds, for the love of god, I get it.”
Jeongguk presses his forehead further down into the wood. “He’ll say no. He hates me.”
Yoongi scoffs. “You think he hates you? Guk, I only saw him for two seconds the other day when I was leaving and he was making heart eyes at you the whole time. It’s almost sickening.”
“But what if he says no? Or even worse, what if we go on a date and it’s awkward and we end up hating each other and then we have to live next door to each other and it’s uncomfortable forever and then I have to move and…”
“You two have lived as next door neighbors for almost a year and neither of you knew the other one existed. I don’t think it will be a problem if things don’t work out. Why don’t you invite him over to your place for dinner or something? You’re neighbors, it’s not weird.”
Jeongguk slams his hand on the table, sitting up board-straight. “Hyung, you’re a genius.”
Yoongi leans back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “Finally. Please put me out of my misery and ask him out. Actually, scratch that— put everyone out of their misery. His friends are probably as tired as I am.”
On the fifth day, Jeongguk is waiting outside Jimin’s door with a little purple potted flower in his hands.
“Oh!” Jimin immediately stoops down and thumbs at the petal, delighted at how silky it feels under his fingers. “Is this for your garden? The one you wanted advice on?”
“Actually…” Jeongguk trails off, shifting from foot to foot. He seems nervous, though Jimin can’t imagine why. “It’s for you.”
Warmth blossoms in Jimin’s chest. “For me? Really?” He accepts the flower, squinting his eyes to inspect the tab stuck in the dirt. It’s a purple anemone, a type of flower he doesn’t yet have in his little windowsill planter.
“I noticed all the flowers you grow are orange and purple,” Jeongguk says, gesturing vaguely at Jimin’s windowsill while making eye contact with the floor. “I saw this and thought of you.”
“Mmh… yeah, I’m really committed to my Halloween aesthetic,” Jimin says sheepishly, glancing over at his unit. It’s admittedly a bit gaudy, with purple, green and orange lights hanging in a curtain over his windows and black lace stretched over his front door. “Sorry if it’s kind of an eyesore.”
“No,” Jeongguk says, and the sincerity in his voice makes Jimin look up to meet his eyes. “It’s cool. I like it. It’s nice to see how passionate you are about it. Not enough people appreciate small joys like holidays.”
“Ah… thank you.” Jimin doesn’t know what else to say. Warmth settles under his ribcage. He’s far too used to being called obsessive or childish for his love of Halloween. “Let me run inside so I can grab soil to replant this, okay? Don’t go anywhere.”
“Wasn’t planning on it,” Jeongguk says sweetly, rocking forward on the balls of his feet with his hands stuffed in his pockets. Jimin notices for the first time that the way his long hair flops over his ears kind of makes him look like a puppy, and the thought stabs him straight in the heart and makes him feel a little bit like he can’t breathe.
“Right okay be right back,” Jimin says in one breath as he tugs the door open and slides inside, immediately slumping against his door and clutching his heart. He stares down at the flower, tiny and blooming bright purple. It’s the most adorable little flower he’s ever seen in his life.
“Oh no,” he murmurs to it, dropping his hand from his heart and stroking the petal. “I’m so fucked.”
Jimin is inside for so long Jeongguk thinks he’s never coming back out.
Maybe he came on too strong with the flower. He wanted it to say hey I kinda like you do you want to go on a date with me? but he’s worried it seemed a bit more like i’m a creepy stalker who pays attention to every little tiny thing about you even though we’ve only known each other for a week.
But Jimin had told him to not go anywhere, and that counts for something. He’s determined to ask him out on a real date today, like he’d been trying to do the past couple of days every since a talk he had with Yoongi hyung.
[“I’ll just get to know him a little bit better before I ask him out,” Jeongguk had said. “We’re neighbors, I can see him every day. I have plenty of time.”
Yoongi had looked at him with a shocked expression almost akin to horror. “Plenty of time? Have you ever seen Jimin? Have you ever met him? Because I did, once, for like twenty seconds. And I can say with confidence that if you don’t go for it, someone else will.”]
And… Yoongi is right.
Yoongi is always right.
Jimin is gorgeous, of course, but it’s not even just that— there’s just something about him, this natural charm that he’s somehow completely unaware of. From the moment they’d met, cookie snatching and door slamming and all, Jeongguk has been a goner.
Jimin returns a few moments later, though, with a tiny shovel (Jeongguk thinks he said it’s called a spade, but he knows nothing about gardening) and a small sack of soil.
“Do you want to help me plant it? I can show you just in case you decide to plant your own.”
Jeongguk nods, following Jimin’s gesture to step forward while handing him the spade. And just like that Jimin’s hand is over his, smaller but still enveloping his own and unbelievably, dizzyingly warm.
“It’s really easy… I don’t even know why I’m bothering to show you,” Jimin says with a breathless giggle. “But basically, all you do is…”
He guides Jeongguk’s hand to push away some of the soil.
“This won’t hurt any of the other flowers?” Jeongguk asks, hoping the tremor in his voice isn’t noticeable.
“As long as you don’t go too deep, no.” Jimin takes his free hand and pushes away a little bit more soil, gently pulling at a root with his index finger and thumb. The way he handles the flowers is so delicate, so gentle. “The new flower will eventually take root and thrive, too.”
He stoops down to pull the stem of the purple anemone loose from the plastic pot and then in one swift motion he deposits it into the soil and then packs new soil around it.
“All done,” he says, turning to Jeongguk with a bright smile that curls his eyes into little half-moons. “It’s easy, right?”
Jeongguk nods. “Easy,” he breathes.
Jimin pulls the spade free from Jeongguk’s hand and places it on the sill next to the flowers. The little anemone looks perfect amongst the flowers already there, like it was meant to be there all along.
“Do you know what anemones symbolize?” Jimin asks.
“No,” Jeongguk says, a little wave of panic roaring to life in his chest. Jimin even knows what flowers symbolize? He’d just picked one at random because he thought it was pretty, but now he’s second-guessing his choice. What if he’d just given Jimin a flower that means something really intense like eternal love or marriage or another very weird thing that would come on way too strong...
“Bad luck and ill omens,” Jimin says flatly.
Jeongguk’s mouth goes dry. He wipes his palms on his pants. “Wow,” he says. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to… is it really… I can take it back and get you a flower with a nicer meaning, I didn’t think…”
Jimin giggles, then, high and sweet. “No, no,” he says, batting his hand in Jeongguk’s direction. “It’s perfect. I love that kind of thing.”
They both stand around a little while longer like neither of them really want to go back inside, but the sky is dimming rapidly and the late fall breeze kicks up around them, raising goosebumps over their skin.
“See you tomorrow?” Jimin asks, already reaching for the doorknob.
“Wait—” Jeongguk says, his mouth moving before his brain can keep up.
Jimin pauses, raising his eyebrows. “Yeah?”
“I’m um. Having a get-together with my friends on Friday. Movies and stuff. Do you want to come?”
Jimin smiles, pushing his hair back off his forehead. “I’ll be there.”
Once he retreats back inside Jeongguk groans, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes. Convincing Yoongi to come over because he was too afraid to ask Jimin on a real date is going to be a nightmare.
Jeongguk and Jimin’s friends cannot figure out why they’re here.
There’s five of them total— on Jimin’s side it’s Hoseok, Taehyung, and Seokjin. On Jeongguk’s side it’s Namjoon and Yoongi.
“So, we were all just invited here as an excuse for these two to have a date, then?” Namjoon finally says when the five of them are seated around the dining table in Jeongguk’s apartment.
“Yep,” the other four say.
Jeongguk and Jimin are seated on the couch in the living room watching The Nightmare Before Christmas, but it’s not clear if they’re even aware of what they’re watching, considering how they haven’t taken their eyes off each other for seventeen and a half minutes (Taehyung has a timer going).
“Hit me,” Seokjin says, slapping a card down on the table.
Yoongi scrunches his nose. “We’re playing Go Fish.”
Seokjin shrugs. “I stopped paying attention a long time ago. Hey, when do you think we can leave?”
The five of them turn just in time to see Jeongguk feed Jimin a piece of candy, making Jimin giggle and bury his face in his hands.
“Now, please,” Taehyung says, already standing. “Wanna go get a burger or something?”
They all nod, stacking up the cards and grabbing their coats off the back of the chairs.
“See you guys,” Hoseok calls to the lovebirds as they exit. Neither of them turn around.
On Jimin’s birthday, he hasn’t seen Jeongguk for a few days.
Taehyung and Hoseok had dropped by earlier with a big, sickly-sweet birthday cake frosted in green and purple with little spiderwebs hand-drawn on it— Jimin had laughed, because it was quite frankly the ugliest cake he’s ever seen in his life, but it’s the thought that counts. Taehyung had brought him a big bottle of Irish whiskey, Jimin’s favorite that he knows costs a fortune to import, and Hoseok had bought him a sleek, pretty Chanel necklace that he’d never be able to afford on his own.
[“Do you think I scared him off?” Jimin asks them a while later, when they’re all sat down and getting ready to have some cake. Hoseok and Taehyung both look up at him in surprise.
“What do you mean?” Taehyung replies, slicing into the cake. It dips and collapses in the middle, more frosting than cake. “Scared who off?”
“Jeongguk. Who else?”
“Jiminie, I think you’d have to do something really bad to scare him off. Like, murder someone. Actually, he’s so whipped for you he would probably find that hot,” Hoseok says.
“I’m serious,” Jimin sighs. “I know we’ve only known each other for… two weeks? And it’s not like we’re dating or anything, but I really thought there was something between us, especially that night we were all over for movies.”
“I would hardly call that all of us over for movies,” Taehyung says. “We had some great burgers, though. Did you even notice when we left?”
Jimin wets his lips. “Yes?”
Taehyung rolls his eyes.
“Seriously though, Jiminie, why do you think you scared him off? Did he say something?”
“No, it’s just that we had started a little routine of seeing each other every evening when I watered my flowers. He even brought me this pretty little anemone and helped me plant it, and… that’s beside the point. That night he walked me over to my door and I thought maybe he was going to kiss me but he didn’t, and then I went inside and I haven’t seen him since. I even gave him my number and he hasn’t texted me. It’s like he went back to being the ghost that lives next door. I keep thinking about that night and wondering if I said something wrong.”
Jimin frowns down at his coffee table. He didn’t realize how much it was affecting him until he said it out loud.
“Maybe he’s busy?”
“He works from home and he didn’t mention that he had anything coming up.”
Taehyung and Hoseok exchange a look and Jimin’s heart sinks.
“Ugh, I sound like some lovesick teenager,” Jimin says, waving his hand dismissively. “It’s fine, I’ll get over it.” He accepts the plate of cake that Taehyung passes him and scoops a pile of frosting onto his fork. “We’ll just go back to being strangers. It’s not like I lost anything.”]
The rest of his birthday goes well. Taehyung and Hoseok leave after a few hours of chatting and a few too many drinks, and although Jimin manages to forget about the whole Jeongguk situation for a while, after they leave he slips back into feeling a little bit sad as he starts his night time routine.
He truly believes what he’d said to his friends earlier— it’s not like he loses anything if Jeongguk ghosts him. They were neighbors for ten months without ever crossing paths, and it’ll probably turn back into more of the same. But Jimin very rarely meets someone who seems to fit with his personality so perfectly, someone so accepting of all his quirks and his Halloween obsession and the way he loves things way too much. It was nice to find someone who did, but maybe Jimin had just been imagining it.
He takes extra care washing his face before bed and puts on his favorite pjs made of soft flannel with little jack-o-lanterns on them. The whisky he’d indulged in earlier has him out in minutes.
He wakes a while later to the sound of knocking. He’s still a little groggy and disoriented, not sure if he’s still dreaming. A cursory glance at his alarm clock says it’s 11:52 p.m— the final stretch of his birthday.
“Just a minute!” he shouts as he shoves his feet into his house slippers and shuffles across the room, wiping the sleep from his eyes. He hasn’t been woken up in the middle of the night for almost two weeks— he suspects Jeongguk had started taking extra care to be quiet at night once he found out Jimin had been losing sleep over it.
And, speak of the devil, when Jimin opens his door and pokes his head out into the corridor, all squinted eyes and sleep-mussed hair, it’s none other than Jeon Jeongguk staring back at him.
“Hi,” Jeongguk breathes. He looks frazzled, like he’d just run to Jimin’s place even though he lives right next door.
“Hi,” Jimin parrots, looking him up and down. He’s wearing his normal clothes and his feet are bare, but the thing that catches his attention the most is a big box in his arms, wrapped with black paper and covered in little doodles that are hard to see in the low multicolored glow of his decorative lights. There’s a big orange ribbon stuck to the top, so big that Jeongguk has to tilt his head to the side a little bit to see past it.
“Happy birthday,” Jeongguk says, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. There’s a little flare of panic in his eyes. “I made it, right? What time is it?” He glances down at his wrist like he means to check the time but wrinkles his nose when he realizes he isn’t wearing his watch. Jimin wonders what has him so stressed out and flustered, but it’s actually quite cute. Jeongguk is cute.
“You remembered,” he says, smiling. The tiny little crack in his heart from Jeongguk’s absence over the last few days seals itself shut and warmth blooms through his blood from head to toe. Jeongguk hadn’t been ghosting him after all. “And no, you’re just on time. Only a few minutes left.”
“Oh, thank god,” Jeongguk says, letting out a long, relieved breath that makes his entire body shiver. It makes Jimin realize with a start that it’s really, really cold outside and Jeongguk is barefoot and dressed in a thin cotton shirt.
“I’m sorry!” Jimin squeaks, shuffling aside. “Come in. Sorry it’s chilly in here, I like to keep it cold while I sleep but I can turn the heater on if you’re freezing.”
Jeongguk shakes his head, hair flopping around his ears as he follows Jimin inside and over to the couch. “You don’t need to do all that,” he says, setting the present down on the table in front of Jimin. “I’m sorry I woke you up, I was hoping you’d still be awake but I know not everyone is a night owl like I am… I’ve been working on this nonstop the past few days and I lost track of time but I really wanted you to have it before your birthday.” He grimaces. “It’s a little messy and unfinished, so please don’t judge it too harshly.”
Jimin stares down at the box, thoughts racing through his head. He plucks at the edge of the big orange bow. Now that they’re inside, even though the lights are low he can see that the doodles on the paper are little jack-o-lanterns, flowers, and Jack Skellington faces that Jeongguk has drawn himself in metallic marker. “You made my gift?”
“Yeah. I’m a designer by trade and sometimes I design things like this but… ah, just open it and see, please don’t get your expectations up too high,” he says, gesturing toward the box. He looks nervous, sitting at the edge of the couch with his knees clamped together and his toes facing inward.
Jimin nods, heart beating hard in his chest. Little does Jeongguk know but even if the box is empty he’s already gone above and beyond his expectations. He peels the tape off delicately and sticks it on the edge of the table, pulling the hand-drawn wrapping paper away and smoothing it flat onto the surface.
“I want to save it,” Jimin says sheepishly when he catches Jeongguk's confused expression. “It’s pretty. You drew these?”
Jeongguk nods, clearing his throat. “Mmhm.”
The box is big and heavy when Jimin pulls it onto his lap to pull the flaps open, almost dizzy with nerves and excitement. It’s filled to the top with foam peanuts so he dives his hands in, eyebrows pinching together in confusion when his skin hits cool, hard glass.
Anticipation too high to care about making a mess, he grabs onto an edge toward the base of whatever this… thing is and pulls it free, scattering packing material all over the floor. Jeongguk leans over to pull the box from Jimin’s lap so he can replace it with the gift.
When he finally gets a good look at it, his mouth drops open in shock.
It’s a snowglobe— the dome is made of shined glass with a sheen of silver glitter sealed inside of it, and the base is surrounded by metal anemones, hand-painted in deep purple and red. But the most striking part is the scene in the middle, Jimin’s favorite scene from The Nightmare Before Christmas, of the curled, inky black spiral hill with Jack and Sally holding hands at the peak, a thick blanket of snow under their feet.
“Oh my god,” he breathes, turning it over in his hands and admiring all the little details. It was clearly handmade— it has small imperfections, like a few places where the paint is smudged (Jack’s smile is a little crooked, and some of the anemone’s colors are bleeding together). But Jimin thinks it only makes it even more perfect, if that’s even possible. Every single part of his body feels warm. “You… you made this?”
Jeongguk shifts. His shoulders are curled in and he picks at his sleeve, looking much smaller than usual. “Yeah, it’s… sorry, I’ve never actually made a snowglobe before. I usually just design pieces and someone else puts them together, but I didn’t have time so I had to assemble it myself and I’ve never done that before and I had to watch, like, a thousand videos online to even make it look presentable…” he trails off. “I hope it’s okay.”
Jimin holds it up to the lights above his door so it shines through, and he notes with delight that blending into the snow at the base of the hill is Jack’s dog Zero, connected to the mountain with a bit of thin wire so it looks like he’s floating.
And Jimin… Jimin hasn’t ever felt anything like this before.
No one has ever, ever done anything like this for him before.
Before he can stop himself his eyes start to well up with tears and he drops the globe into his lap, burying his face in his hands so Jeongguk can’t see him cry. He feels like he’s about to burst with an overwhelming cocktail of emotions, something like joy and relief and god only knows what else.
“Oh…” Jeongguk murmurs, and there’s a rustling sound at his right and then the couch dips beside him. Jeongguk’s fingers brush hesitantly over his lower back and when Jimin doesn’t shy away from his touch he sets it there fully, warm and heavy and comforting. “Hyung? Are you okay? Do you not like it? I’m sorry if it’s not any good, like I said I’m a designer and not a painter and I’m not very crafty, so…”
Jimin almost chokes around his own sob, wiping the tears roughly from his eyes and whipping his head around. Jeongguk’s eyes are wide and vulnerable when their gazes meet, lips parted. “I can’t believe… oh my god, Jeongguk, no, it’s perfect. Everything about it is perfect. You’re perfect. Thank you so much.” He breaks out into a watery laugh. “I’m sorry I’m just… I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to say. I love it.”
Jeongguk’s concerned expression melts into something softer, then, a private smile playing at the corners of his lips that brings little wrinkles to the edges of his eyes. Jimin hadn’t realized before but they’re close together, closer than he’d realized, thighs pressed together and breaths mingling in the shared space.
Jeongguk’s eyes flit down to Jimin’s lips, almost imperceptibly quick, and Jimin’s hands tighten around his gift.
“I’m glad you love it,” Jeongguk says softly. “But I... I don’t know how you can say anything is perfect when... when you’re you.” His throat bobs so hard it’s like he’s trying to swallow the words back up. “You’re perfect,” he adds sheepishly, voice hardly a whisper.
Jimin blinks. A couple of the tears that were clinging to his eyelashes come loose and drip down his cheek— Jeongguk raises the hand not spread over Jimin’s lower back and thumbs them away, smile growing.
“God damn it,” Jimin mumbles, taking a deep, shaky breath. “Kiss me.”
They both move together, arms wrapping around waists and thrown around shoulders to press their lips hungrily together. Jeongguk tastes like bitter coffee and sweet vanilla, lips soft and pliant and so, so sweet. They kiss over and over, lips pulling apart and then coming back together with tips of their jaw and hurried gasps of air— after a few minutes Jimin shifts up on the couch to deepen it and Jeongguk’s arm slides to his upper back and wraps all the way around, pulling them impossibly closer. It’s not until they’re both dizzy and drunk and disoriented that they pull away to pant against each other’s lips.
“Wow,” Jeongguk breathes. “Wow, that was… even better than I imagined.” He brushes his lips over Jimin’s and then pauses to press a soft kiss to the corner of his mouth.
Jimin giggles, massaging the pads of his fingers into Jeongguk’s shoulders. “Oh yeah?” he teases. “You’ve imagined this?”
“More times than I feel comfortable admitting,” Jeongguk says, and they both break into a tiny fit of laughter, shifting closer so they can push their foreheads together. Jeongguk’s eyes are bright like clear pools filled with sincerity and affection and something else Jimin’ can’t place. Jeongguk is like an open book that he hasn’t yet learned how to read, but he looks forward to learning how.
Time slows down a little bit after that— Jimin trails the pads of his fingers over the back of Jeonnguk’s neck, threading them into the wavy strands that hang around his jaw and scratching his nails lightly against his nape. Jeongguk shivers, the hand around Jimin’s waist tightening, but he doesn’t blink as Jimin twists his strands of hair around his fingers, shifting his knee until he’s almost straddling Jeongguk’s leg.
It’s like something shifts in the atmosphere— they press their lips together again but this time it’s less breathless exploring and something with a bit more intent, less pliant and more chasing. Jeongguk slides his hands down to Jimin’s hips and wraps his hands around them, rubbing circles into his hip bones.
Jimin’s cock stirs the slightest bit and he arches his back, gasping into the kiss. “Feels good,” he gasps into Jeongguk’s mouth. “Your hands are so warm.”
Jeongguk takes a deep breath against Jimin’s lips, air rushing cold against his spit-slicked lips, and then he tightens his grip and lifts Jimin’s hips to pull him over until he's straddling his thighs.
Jimin arches his back and wiggles his hips to adjust, savoring the feeling of how strong and hard Jeongguk’s thighs feel under his own. Jeongguk hisses through his teeth when Jimin presses the swell of his ass down on his cock, which is already hardening in interest, and it makes Jimin feel strong, powerful. Jeongguk is so sensitive, already threaded around his fingers and so, so pliant— his knees jerk when Jimin runs his palm down his chest, pinky grazing over his nipple through his thin t-shirt. He presses his hips down with purpose, grinding slowly along Jeongguk’s length through his thin sweatpants. He feels his cock twitch and pulse with blood and it’s dizzying, knowing the effect he’s having on him from just a few small movements.
He grinds down particularly hard and Jeongguk moans, tipping his head back— Jimin takes advantage of it and curls his hand in his hair to pull him into a kiss, licking into his mouth and dragging the tip of his tongue over the roof of his mouth.
“Jimin,” Jeongguk sighs. “Jimin, you’re so…” his words trail off into a whine when Jimin slips his hand under Jeongguk’s shirt and drags his nails up his abdomen, hands chilly against his hot skin.
“I’m?” Jimin teases, dragging his teeth over Jeongguk’s bottom lip.
“I don’t— my brain is a mess,” Jeongguk admits, the end dissolving into a breathless laugh. “I think that says enough.”
Jimin smiles against his mouth, pressing one last kiss to his lips before pulling back, hands still tangled in his hair. Jeongguk’s lips are swollen and wet, shirt damp from where they were pressed together and chest heaving. He looks so pretty, desperate, and Jimin…
He pulls up on his knees and Jeongguk whines from lack of contact, cool air ghosting over their sweat-damp clothes. Jimin swallows the sound in another desperate kiss, all tongue and slick lips and need. Jeongguk’s hands slide to Jimin’s thighs and he presses down with his palms, arching his back in an attempt to press them back together but Jimin doesn’t relent, wrapping his hands around Jeongguk’s wrists, fever-hot, and dragging his lips down to his jaw to flick his tongue out and tease at the skin before pulls him back into another wet kiss, stretching sticky trails every time they pull apart. He squeezes Jeongguk’s wrists in his hands, pulse point beating under his fingertips.
“Want more,” Jimin murmurs. “Want— want you.”
“Anything,” Jeongguk gasps into his mouth, sliding his hands up to Jimin’s waist under his shirt, dragging his nails under his ribs in the same rhythm as their breathing, almost like he wants to scratch his way inside. “Anything you want.”
He drops Jeongguk’s wrists and winds his arms around his neck instead, pressing their chests flush together, and then he lowers his hips to grind them together. Jeongguk gasps into Jimin’s mouth and then groans, vibrating Jimin’s chest like he can’t tell where one of them stops and the other begins. They’re both fully hard now, cocks sliding hot together through the material of their too-thin pants and it's so overwhelming, building and building until Jimin is whining in frustration with the need to get off. Jeongguk plants his feet and pushes his hips up and Jimin gasps at the sensation, wondering how it would feel for Jeongguk to fuck him open like this; but he pushes that thought out of his mind, they can do that eventually, they can do everything, but for now just this is enough.
“Please,” Jeongguk pants into his mouth, breaths short, practically gasping. Wanting Jimin as much as Jimin wants him.
And Jimin can’t take it anymore, wants more, needs to feel him skin on skin on skin. He slides his palm down to Jeongguk's waistband, pausing with his fingers wrapped around the fabric to glance up and ask a silent question: is this okay, is this too far too fast?
Jeongguk looks like a dream; hazy and fucked-out even though they’ve hardly done anything, lips stained like cherry juice and long hair tangled and loose from Jimin’s fingers. He pushes his hips up into Jimin’s hand by way of saying yes, anything you want, touch me.
Jimin peels his sweats off his skin and his cock springs free; Jeongguk groans when it hits the cool air, throwing his head back against the couch and exposing the long, golden line of his throat, pulse point pounding under his sweat-damp skin. He looks so pretty under the warm orange lights, so delicious— Jimin dips forward after he gets Jeongguk’s pants around his knees and licks a stripe up the side of his neck, tasting salt and vanilla on his tongue.
He keeps one hand on Jeongguk’s thighs, fingertips and nails ghosting over his skin and dipping between his thighs, so, so close to where he wants to be touched the most but still so far away as he sucks a line of red wine bruises up his neck before dragging his teeth over his jawline. Jeongguk makes a pouty, needy noise in frustration after the third or fifth time Jimin grazes his nails featherlight over his balls and then pulls away and Jimin giggles, whispering cute against his skin.
“I didn’t know you were such a tease,” Jeongguk says through heaving breaths. “Do you know how beautiful you look like this, hyung? Do you know how pretty you are?” He wraps his hand around Jimin’s jaw and pulls him into a kiss, just a brush of lips and tease of tongue that feels far too tender for how worked up they both are. “You're so, so pretty. Pretty Jimin. Want you, want you so bad,” he babbles against his mouth, rutting his thighs up into thin air.
“Yeah?” Jimin whispers, brushing his nose over Jeongguk’s cheekbone and fluttering his eyelashes. “What do you want? Tell me, baby. Tell me what you want me to do.”
“Touch me,” Jeongguk says, no, pleas— “Touch me, touch me, t-touch me.”
“Whatever you want,” Jimin says, dipping to kiss the mole under Jeongguk’s lip and then bracing his palms against the couch on either side of his head. “Undress me.”
And Jeongguk sighs, a deep, deep breath that sucks and replenishes all the air in the room, like relief and anticipation all at once. He slides his hands to Jimin’s hips once more and thumbs at his waistband, pushing his fingers under the elastic and tugging the fabric down. The chilly air bites at the precum smeared over his cockhead and he jerks, hands falling to Jeongguk’s shoulders where he squeezes and digs his nails in. He’s suddenly all-too-aware that he’s wearing his silly flannel pajama set with a button up shirt and little cartoon jack-o-lanterns all over it, but from the way Jeongguk is looking at him like he’s carved from stone of spun from glass sucks all the insecurity away instantly. He makes Jimin feel so delicate yet strong, so pretty yet handsome, so wanted, so needed— no one has ever made him feel like this before, and he’s not sure if anyone ever will again. Not sure if he wants anyone else to try.
He kicks the leg of his pants off and presses their foreheads together. “Is this okay?” he asks, just to double check. His cock stands hard and heavy between his legs, inches from Jeongguk’s, so close he can feel the heat rolling off of it in waves.
“More than okay. M-more than okay, hyung, please,” Jeongguk says, cupping his jaw. "Keep going."
Jimin nods, wavering, suddenly nervous, but his need outweighs it so he swallows it down, slides forward and lowers his hips in one swift motion to press their cocks together.
It’s good. It’s too good, almost, for all it is, but it feels like fireworks exploding in his chest and his fingertips going numb and his brain firing off signals that fizzle out in his blood and make it boil. He grinds down experimentally, savoring the needy noises that spill from Jeongguk’s lips, taking in how his hips shake like he’s trying to stop himself from bucking them up against Jimin, forcing himself to stay steady so Jimin sets the pace, so he can keep control. He slides his hands over Jimin's body as a way to distract himself, fingers trailing through the lines and dips of his muscles like he's trying to memorize every inch of skin.
“I need…” Jimin starts but doesn’t know how to finish the sentence because he needs something but has no idea what, his brain all too overwhelmed by all the sensations. But Jeongguk seems to know better than him, because the second the words leave his lips he’s pulling Jimin down by the shoulders to press their chests together and kiss him again, kisses him like Jimin is the air he needs to breathe. It’s a mess, all clashing of teeth and drool dripping sticky down their chins but they both love it, swallowing down each other’s moans as their hips work into each other with more purpose, with more intent.
They pull away for air and Jeongguk brings his finger to Jimin’s lips, dragging his nail through the spit on his chin and then tracing them before replacing it with his thumb which he presses incessantly against his bottom lip. Jimin moans around it, parting them easily so Jeongguk can push it in deeper, savoring the vanilla and salt that Jimin already can’t get enough of. He flicks his tongue over Jeongguk’s fingertip and then closes his lips around it and sucks. Jeongguk shivers, gasping as he pushes his hips up further to chase more friction. It’s dizzying, almost too much, pleasure mounting as they start grinding their hips in messier, more frantic circles.
It’s hot. It’s too hot, the blood in his veins is singing and Jeongguk’s cock is a thousand and one degrees, every slide of it filling Jimin with more heat that pools in his groin, building, rising, hotter, and...
“Fuck,” Jimin gasps, muffled by Jeongguk’s thumb. "'M close, close."
“Me too, me too,” Jeongguk chants, pushing his thumb deeper, so deep the pad presses against the back of his tongue and he nearly gags but it somehow feels so good, overwhelming in the best way. He slides his hand between their bodies and wraps it around both of their cocks, jerking it in time with Jimin’s messy thrusts, pace quickening. He presses his lips to the base of Jimin's throat and whispers for him to come, Pumpkin, come for me, wanna hear you.
Jeongguk’s words are like a flip switching and all at once the pleasure reaches its peak and he tips over the edge, the blinding heat that’s been building and building spilling free with the warmth of Jeongguk's palm tugging his cock. The thumb in his mouth comes loose with a wet pop and their lips press hungrily together as they both come undone, swallowing down each other’s moans and pleas of each other's name, shared release spilling hot into Jeongguk's navel.
They gasp as they come down from their high, skin cooling rapidly and growing sticky. Jeongguk loosens his grip in Jimin’s hair and uses it to gently smooth the strands down instead, pulling Jimin into the crook of his neck. Jimin breathes him in, like musk and vanilla bean.
“Wow,” Jeongguk whispers.
“Wow,” Jimin agrees.
“I didn’t think the snowglobe would lead to this, by the way,” Jeongguk says. “Just so you don’t think I’m like, some snowglobe fiend who exchanges them for sexual favors.”
Jimin giggles into his neck. “Well, I didn’t think that, but now I do,” he says.
“Hey.” There’s a pout in Jeongguk’s voice. “Really though, I… I just wanted to tell you that I kinda like you and really want to go on a date with you. A real date that doesn’t involve inviting our friends to suffer while I make heart eyes at you all night. And I don’t want you to think me coming over to your apartment at midnight is me trying to get in your pants, because even though that was…” he pauses to take a deep breath. “Amazing. Like, amazing, fucking incredible, ten out of ten, I also really want to get to know you better. For real.”
Jimin’s smile is so wide he thinks his face might split right open. “I want that, too,” he says, nuzzling his nose deeper.
“Oh, thank god,” Jeongguk breathes, and Jimin dissolves into another fit of giggles.
“Oh! I almost forgot,” Jimin says, pulling back. “What did you call me at the end? Pumpkin?”
“Oh, um.” Jeongguk stares down at his lap, wetting his lips. “Yeah, I… when I first met you and saw… you know.” He plucks at a lock of Jimin’s hair. “I instantly thought of a pumpkin, and it kinda stuck. I never asked if it was okay to call you that, I’m sorry.”
Jimin feels absolutely euphoric. He’s not sure how Jeongguk can possibly get any better. It almost feels like he’s dreaming.
“I love it,” he says. “Plus, it’s fitting for me. Because I’m Jack and you’re Sally, so I’m the Pumpkin King.”
“Hey," Jeongguk whines. "How come you get to be Jack?”
“Because I’m Jack,” Jimin says matter-of-factly. “I even sign my name on all of my official documents with Jack’s face. Do you sign all of your official documents with Jack’s face?”
“Exactly,” Jimin says smugly. “Say I’m the Pumpkin King.”
Jeongguk scoffs. “No.”
“Absolutely not. I’m Jack and you’re —”
Jimin cuts him off by pressing their lips together in a chaste kiss. Jeongguk is still pouting when he pulls away.
“You’ll admit it some day,” he says. “Just wait.”
They attend Taehyung’s annual Halloween party two weeks later after a week-long battle over who gets to go as Jack and who gets to go as Sally. Jimin has to pull out his ID and passport several times to flash his Jack signature and prove to Jeongguk that he is, in fact, Jack, and Jeongguk can shove it.
“I’ll make a deal with you,” Jimin had said on the night before the party, once their costumes were already paid for and there was no changing the plan. “I’ll graciously let you be Jack next year if you admit that I’m the Pumpkin King.”
“Absolutely not,” Jeongguk had replied.
The cycle repeats year after year. Jimin is stubborn, but Jeongguk is more stubborn. Every year Jimin goes as Jack and Jeongguk puts on his stupid red wig and goes as Sally because he's not going to let Jimin win.
(It’s worth it for the beaming smile Jimin gets every time he puts the costume on. Jeongguk loves so, so much.)
[When they get married five years later, a Halloween wedding at night, Jeongguk addresses his vows to The Pumpkin King. The entire wedding party laughs. Jimin cries.
The next year, Jimin still goes as Jack and Jeongguk still goes as Sally.
“You said it yourself, I’m the Pumpkin King. Vows are eternal. Better luck next time.”]