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There was a certain peace to being dead... at least there was once you got over the fact that you couldn’t go back to living. You could mourn all you wanted, but you were still dead as a doornail.  But Yoongi hadn’t mourned excessively; in fact, he’d found death more peaceful than life had ever been.  

He had been anticipating death, so the transition wasn’t especially traumatic or grief-filled. His family cleaned out his apartment with some tears, plenty of hugs, and comforting affirmations. If he had 1,000 won for every mourner who said ‘he’s in a better place now,’ he wouldn’t be able to buy anything, because he was dead—there was no way to get around that.

The one thing he’d change about his afterlife, however, was his sentence: over a hundred years in the shell of his old apartment. Sure, he could read all the books his heart desired and dabble in hobbies he hadn’t gotten the chance to do in life, but the place got boring fast

Messing with the living residents could only take him so far; the first girl that moved in after his death had only lasted two weeks. Yoongi regretted making her teapot levitate off of the stove for a laugh, because she’d done the opposite: huge tears tracked down her cheeks as she fled the apartment in her pajamas. He toned down his house-haunting from that point onwards, partially because he felt so bad, and partially because Jimin had appeared at the front door to scold him in record time.

The second resident in Yoongi’s apartment was an older man. Yoongi was thankful he left before dying, because his interests and conversations were shockingly boring: model train building, endless whining on the phone about his medical conditions, and a penchant for haranguing the neighbours when they made too much noise. A hundred years with the man would’ve gotten old fast. 

The next residents were a couple who lived there for ten years of their relationship. Yoongi grew accustomed to them, verging on fondness as time wore on. He liked their ginger cat, too, cuddling it on the sofa long after the living occupants of the apartment went to sleep for the night.  After them, there were a slew of singletons, another couple, a throuple, and a series of short-term stays that annoyed Yoongi.

And then, finally, Seokjin.

The first time Seokjin came to the apartment, he was visiting with a real estate agent, closely inspecting every aspect of the space with a scrutinising little furrow of his brows.  He was ridiculously handsome, tall and broad-shouldered, a pair of round glasses obscuring his big, brown eyes. Yoongi watched as Seokjin’s glasses slid down his nose, unrelenting in their stubborn desire to fall off, and Seokjin’s resulting little wrist flick before he righted them.  Seokjin was well-dressed, polite to the realtor, and had a terrible sense of humour.

Yoongi had never wanted someone to move in as badly as he wanted Seokjin to move in.

Seokjin was back again at the apartment a week later, this time with the realtor and his cousin, Taehyung.  Yoongi followed them around from room to room as Seokjin gesticulated wildly at different areas and described his vision. Taehyung looked mildly amused, like he was used to his cousin’s outlandish ideas.  That was the day that, after receiving Taehyung’s enthusiastic approval, Seokjin put a down payment on the apartment.

Over the next couple of months, Seokjin returned to the apartment sporadically. Sometimes he was accompanied by Taehyung, sometimes by one of his friends, and often he was alone.  He painted rooms, tore up carpeting to reveal hardwood floors, redid the backsplash in the kitchen, re-grouted the bathroom tiles, and more. Yoongi remembered him painting the living room, singing along to a song on the radio with such dramatic flair that he ended up splattering paint across his entire chest.

“‘Nice apartment, Seokjin, I love the backsplash and the feature wall.’ Why, thank you, I did it myself,” Seokjin said, acting out both parts of the conversation himself upon admiring his handiwork on a Sunday night.  

Yoongi couldn’t help but laugh (not that Seokjin could hear it).  The backsplash looked like shit, but Yoongi admired his perseverance and willingness to give it a try. And by the end of Seokjin’s renovations, Yoongi had developed a ridiculously big crush on him. More than he should have—he knew better than to fall for someone who was still alive. But whenever Seokjin walked in the door, Yoongi would put down whatever he was doing to follow him around the apartment like a puppy.

Seokjin moved in on Friday, the 13 th of May, and Yoongi observed. He observed Seokjin making sure the throw pillows on his velvet sofa were strewn just right, then observed him hanging up prints of impressionist art, photographs of himself with his friends, a stupid-big poster of Peach’s castle from Super Mario 64. The house was furnished and hospitable in a matter of days, like the warmth had never left with the last tenants.  Seokjin seemed to have that effect: making a place feel right.

Yoongi observed Seokjin going to his mundane job.  It had taken Yoongi almost a year to figure out that he worked in HR because of how little he talked about it. It had come out on one pathetic night where Seokjin drank himself to intoxication on peach-flavoured soju.  He had a full-blown discussion with himself about whether he should quit the dead-end job.  Yoongi liked to think they were talking it through together, and he answered Seokjin out loud whenever he posed a rhetorical question.  A few times, something passed over Seokjin’s face that made Yoongi think he could hear into whatever dimension he existed in, but it wasn’t possible.

He observed Seokjin partaking in his passions: graphic novels, video games, singing when nobody was around to hear him, cooking accompanied with little dances in the kitchen when he taste-tested his creations. He watched Seokjin tuck his friends into a blanket on the couch when they slept over after drinking too much, and then waking them up in the morning with clattering in the kitchen and a too-loud morning voice.

Occasionally, he observed Seokjin dog-sitting for Taehyung. Taehyung’s dog, Yeontan, resembled a fluffy tan-and-black mop. Seokjin was undeniably an animal person: giving Yeontan treats, cuddling him in bed, on the sofa, cooing at him whenever he did something cute. Yoongi remembered the first instance when Taehyung was going out of town, dropping Yeontan off on his way.  The dog had sat in the centre of the kitchen and watched as Yoongi sat on the counter, their eyes locked in a standoff of sorts.  Seokjin watched the dog, perplexed as to what he was staring at, and almost jumped out of his skin when Yoongi began to talk to the dog, eliciting a series of tail wags and head tilts.

“Who’s a good pup?” Yoongi cooed, and Yeontan’s tongue lolled from his mouth, head tilting to the side.

“What are you seeing?” Seokjin asked, walking to where Yoongi was and waving his hand through Yoongi’s chest.  It had felt a bit strange, but Yoongi knew it was strange for Seokjin too; his hand had whipped back, clutched to his chest as he visibly shivered.

But Yeontan’s strange behaviour was the only indicator of Yoongi’s existence. Other than that, Seokjin went about his daily life and Yoongi observed in peace. It was… good. As good as the afterlife got. The ensuing year and a half had Yoongi feeling nothing short of happy. He liked when Seokjin came home from a hard day of work and put a special bath together for himself, the scent of lavender permeating every room of the apartment. He liked it when Seokjin called his friends and whined on the phone about his family, his job. He liked when Seokjin watched a sappy movie and cried over a bowl of gourmet popcorn (his favourite was cinnamon and sugar—Yoongi liked when some cinnamon would get stuck on his lip and he’d lick it off. It bordered on pornographic.). There was an undeniable pleasure in watching Seokjin experience life.

Two months before Seokjin’s 28 th birthday, they woke to a cold, rainy day. Seokjin was a morning person, and that day was no exception; it was a Friday like any other.

That night, Yoongi had slept hovering a foot away from the bed, and he stepped to the ground after a groan and a stretch. Sleep in the afterlife was something akin to a record player hitting the end of an LP: spinning, spinning, crackling occasionally, soundless. It was a dreamless stasis where consciousness stopped wherever Yoongi decided to sit, stand, lay, or occasionally hover. He didn’t often let himself hover next to Seokjin’s bed, but there was something remarkably human about waking up and seeing Seokjin’s peaceful expression as he dreamed. It tickled Yoongi. A secret little pleasure he indulged in when he felt like it.

Seokjin left the bedroom five minutes before he usually did, humming to himself and banging his elbow on the doorframe on the way out. He left with a huffed curse (but never actual curse words, always fork or shirt). The door shut, and Seokjin’s work day began while Yoongi’s existence continued.

Yoongi opened his book where he left off, a chapter where the heroine of the story had flipped the novel on its head and was chasing the killer—a cathartic twist for the ending.  He couldn’t interact with technology, but he was able to read to his heart’s content. After tearing through novel after novel, he would trade with Jimin, always coming away with something unique from Jimin’s corner of their dimension.

Without fatigue, without hunger, without the human need to use the bathroom, Yoongi found days passed in a slow rush. He focused entirely on what he wanted to do, not having to slave away at a job like the living did. He hadn’t had a single vapid, meaningless conversation about the weather since dying, which suited him just fine. This October day passed quickly, devoid of distraction and without much to do.

At exactly half past six, Seokjin came back to the apartment, his mail clutched in one hand, keys in the other.  He made himself dinner while listening to a podcast about a show that he often wasted entire days watching.  Yoongi had started watching the show out of curiosity, and now liked the podcast. They both laughed at the same moments, and Yoongi would look fondly as Seokjin smiled to himself. Towards the end of the evening, while he played video games and drank his nightly decaffeinated tea, Seokjin rubbed a hand at the back of his head.

“Aish, headache,” Seokjin complained, rising from the sofa to turn the video game off and retire into his bedroom for the night.

Yoongi moved between the rooms—literally, since he had no need to obey the physical laws that humans did, walking or floating through walls and closed doors as he pleased. He had to be careful not to walk into Seokjin, however. It had happened a few times over the years, and Seokjin had gotten a taste of it when he’d put his hand into Yoongi. Humans always had a visceral reaction to walking through a ghost. A sudden chill would freeze them from the inside out, and it had once made a past tenant flee the apartment in terror.

In the bedroom, Seokjin slid between the sheets, taking a last moment to pick up his phone and set his alarm.  He typically spent a few minutes at the end of the night responding to messages or scrolling through social media.  Yoongi always sat across from him while he did it.  Yoongi could identify the furrow of Seokjin’s brow as something deeper, always aimed at perfectly curated pictures of people laughing, happy couples, someone wielding a new baby or new car.  

It was something like loneliness.

Yoongi headed back out of the room, not wanting to intrude on Seokjin that night. He heard the lamp click off a few minutes later, and he shut his brain off for the night, sprawled on the spot where Seokjin had been sitting.  It had a residual warmth to it, and Yoongi fell asleep with a contented sigh.

~~~

Unlike other mornings, Yoongi awoke to a soft object colliding with his face. Not ideal. He jumped up to his feet, blinking his bleary eyes to try to determine the cause of the missile.  Before he could, a pillow hit him full in the chest.

Seokjin let out a startled yelp, chucking another pillow at Yoongi.

“Why are you in my house?” Seokjin demanded, a last pillow clutched between his hands like a shield.

Yoongi’s brain whirred back into action, and he could almost physically feel the gears start turning. 

Seokjin was looking at him. 

Seokjin was addressing him. 

Seokjin could—

“You can see me? How? Why?” Yoongi waved his hand in front of Seokjin, taking a step nearer to him and causing Seokjin to take a step back.

“You’re in my house! What do you mean ‘you can see me’?” Seokjin’s mocking of Yoongi’s voice had Yoongi crossing his arms. “Yes, I can clearly see the intruder in my living room!

“I do not sound like that.”

“Oh yes you do!” Seokjin backed out of the room, reaching behind him to fumble with the objects on the kitchen table. “I’m going to, um, call the police! Yes, I’m going to call the police.”

“Your phone is in the bedroom.”

“How do you know where my phone is?” Seokjin sounded annoyed and perhaps a bit terrified, and understandably so. Yoongi let the silence hang long enough for the ringing of Seokjin’s alarm to cut through the apartment. With one hand, Seokjin brandished the pillow at Yoongi like a soft, puffy threat. “You stay here. Don’t move. Seriously, don’t move.”

Yoongi felt remarkably like a dog. Then his brain, warmed up and ready to form cohesive thought, fully wrapped around the realisation. His stomach dropped.  

Seokjin could see him. 

Seokjin could see him.

“Wait—“

Yoongi’s protest was cut off by a horrified gasp. He hurried through the wall, entering the bedroom on a path that cut through Seokjin’s wardrobe, jostling the hanging garments as he passed. 

There was Seokjin, hand braced on his bedside table, knees buckling from the raw emotion. And there was Seokjin’s body, laid peacefully in the bed on his side, cuddling a plush toy. He looked younger, unbothered and cherubic, not to mention dead—so very dead

Pale and getting paler. 

Lifeless. 

Dead.

“Seokjin,” Yoongi started, his fingers itching to reach out and grab Seokjin before he fell to his knees beside the bed. 

He steeled  himself with his grip on the table, like it was his last grip on reality.  Tears filled his eyes, threatening to stream down his face. It was all wrong. Seokjin was supposed to be alive. He wasn’t sick or unhealthy. Sure, Yoongi thought he ate one too many bungeoppang in the winter time, but it wasn’t enough to kill him. And sure, he liked to sit on the sofa and play video games all weekend long instead of working out or seeing friends, but that wasn’t enough to kill him either.

“How do you know my name? Why do you know my name? Did you do this? Am I—oh, my god, I’m dead. Am I dead?” Seokjin’s voice was escalating in both pitch and volume, and he was slowly losing his grip on both the table and any ounce of mental stability he had.  He was moments away from what could be a panic attack. “Am I dead?!”

“Oh, uh, it’s okay—I live here too. Just sit down, come on, let’s go sit on the sofa.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you. I don’t even know you! Tell me what’s going on right now!”

“Just…” Yoongi made a noise of frustration, unable to express what he wanted to say. It was annoying to know Seokjin so well and be starting out at square one, and on the wrong foot at that. This was a giant trauma, one that was surprising Seokjin and Yoongi all at once, and there was no adequate way for a stranger to explain. “Just come—“

“No!” It was almost a scream, unyielding and distressed. Seokjin was moving rapidly between grief and shock and disbelief. He was hovering possessively close to his human form, still peaceful and getting colder by the minute. “I’m not leaving my… my… me! I’m sure I can get back in.”

Yoongi could only watch as Seokjin flopped onto the bed, laying himself down on his body. It wasn’t a perfect match—he couldn’t get the pose just right, like a Seokjin-echo atop the real thing. He popped his head up, looking at Yoongi again.

“Did it work?”

“No...”

“Fork!”

Seokjin scrambled off of the bed, reaching out for his corpse with his hands like he intended to shake it back to life.  Instead, his hands slipped through the shell of his body, giving the appearance that he was rooting around in his own guts.  Yoongi would have laughed under any other circumstance, but it was distressing. Disturbing and distressing.  He bit at the skin around his nail beds, watching in anxious horror.

“Wh-why isn’t it working?”

The tears had really started now, first a trickle as he frowned at the corpse and swatted it. Then, it was like someone had turned the tap on: fat, insistent streams pouring down his cheeks. He wiped at his face with the back of his hands, inspecting his skin to see that it was dry. Just another quirk of being a ghost—bodily fluids disappeared within moments.

Seokjin turned his attention to Yoongi, hands balled into fists at his sides.

“Why are you here?”

“Um, can we go sit down?”

“No, we can’t go sit down. I want you to tell me now.”

Yoongi changed nervous habits from biting at his own skin to scratching at a spot on his neck behind his ear, eyes searching the floor. He settled on staring at Seokjin’s fluffy bunny slippers, which had been a gift from one of his friends. They were non-threatening, and interesting enough to keep Yoongi’s attention. He couldn’t look at Seokjin’s face, puffy with tears, eyebrows furrowed into an angry, little pout.

“I, um, live here. My name is Yoongi. Well, I guess ‘live’ is a little oxymoronic. I… occupy this space.”

I live here.”

“We were coexisting pretty peacefully up until right now, actually.”

Yoongi snuck a peek at Seokjin and saw that he looked even more troubled at this information.

“For how long?”

“I died in... 1992. So, I’ve been here for, um, twenty eight years? It’s been a while.”

“Fork.” Seokjin’s voice was meek, like the realisation was finally hitting him.

“Look, it’s okay—“

“I’m dead! It is... v-very much... not okay!” His words were cut with stuttering sobs. By the end of the statement, his voice had died to a frightened cry, his shoulders shaking with the effort of it.  He covered his face with his hands for a moment, shielding himself from Yoongi before trying to school his expression to a hardened frown, tears still streaming.

“Why don’t we go and sit down? I’ve been doing this for a long time so I’ve got some afterlife knowledge.” Yoongi held a hand out, palms upturned like he was offering Seokjin a lifeline.

“Why don’t you go?” Seokjin huffed the question out in a single one of his wracking sobs. He had sunk down against the far wall, knees drawn to his chest, arms wrapped around them. Self-soothing. 

Yoongi recognised that pose. He’d done it himself when he’d first been diagnosed, rocking himself and repeating that he was okay (even though he was very much not okay). As much as he wanted to walk over to Seokjin—run his fingers through Seokjin’s aloe vera shampoo-scented hair, rub a hand over his back as he heaved with sobs—he thought Seokjin might be better off alone for the time being.

He may have spent the duration of Seokjin’s tenancy in the apartment falling in love with Seokjin, but to Seokjin, he was a stranger. It was day one in a new life—or death, for that matter. A death Seokjin didn’t ask for and didn’t want to be in.  To be frank, Yoongi didn’t want Seokjin in it either. Seokjin wasn’t meant to be dead. All at once, the anxiety that Yoongi had shed when he’d died was back with a vengeance.

With his eyes fixed to the floor, Yoongi exited the room.  He drifted through the wardrobe again, not even enjoying the scent of Seokjin’s clean laundry like he usually did. It just made him feel sad now, an echo of something Seokjin did when he was alive.  If it was a shock for Seokjin to be dead, it was the same for Yoongi.

As he paced the length of the living room for hours, Yoongi contemplated the ramifications of sharing his space with someone else for the foreseeable future, wondered when Seokjin’s sobbing would end, contemplated how he could help. Around the two hour mark, Seokjin’s crying turned into stilted sniffling and hiccuping, evolving at the three hour mark to occasional nose-blowing.  By mid-afternoon, Seokjin walked into the living room, shooting Yoongi a wary look full of ‘I still don’t trust that you’re not the killer’.

“Um, hi,” Yoongi said. He’d forgone the pacing for sitting on the sofa, legs crossed as he attempted to read his book.  Truthfully, he’d only gotten a few paragraphs past the last place he’d stopped reading, too lost in his own thoughts and worries to absorb any new information.

“Hi… Yoongi?”

Yoongi’s skin prickled into attentive goosebumps, riveted by the way his name sounded in Seokjin’s voice.  It sounded nicer than he thought it would, but worse in a way. It was said with that profound sadness, that suspicion and wariness Seokjin was holding close to his chest.

“Yeah. Min Yoongi.”

“I’m Kim Seokjin..”

I know, Yoongi wanted to say. Instead, he held it back, not wanting to seem any more invasive than he already was (which was pretty fucking invasive, if Seokjin’s reaction was anything to go off of).

Seokjin eyed the way Yoongi sat on the couch, tucked against the arm in Seokjin’s favourite spot. Yoongi knew how it must have looked: like he owned the place.  In this dimension, however, he did. He had years and years of history with the space to prove it, too.

“I’m assuming you have a lot of questions.”

Seokjin nodded, visibly swallowing as his eyes went to the floor. He looked like he was still struggling with the unreality of it all, the utterly surreal idea of waking up dead. 

“I can answer some, but I’m sure your caseworker will want to cover the rest.”

“‘Caseworker’?”

“Yeah, they help you navigate, um, being dead.”

Seokjin inhaled sharply, blinking several times in rapid succession. He was being presented directly with the information for the first time. It was happening. He was dead, and Yoongi knew the feeling all too well—a sinking in the pit of your stomach, a deep, internal panic, the life you’d curated for decades suddenly upside down.  Seokjin nodded again, like he was accepting it for the first time, and he hastily wiped the tears welled in his eyes.

“How do I talk to my… caseworker?”

“They’ll be here tomorrow. They like to let the dust settle before coming by.”

“Okay,” Seokjin said, sounding like he was telling himself it was alright more than confirming his understanding of Yoongi’s words.  He perched on the far side of the couch, barely half on the seat, looking ready to flee at any given moment.

“Why are you here? Shouldn’t it be just me?”

“I died here.”

“How?”

Yoongi shrugged his shoulders. “I was sick. I got sicker. Happens.”

“Oh.” Seokjin looked a bit taken aback.  Understandably so: Yoongi was only 17 when he’d been diagnosed, and just a young man when he’d taken his last breath, fresh out of his 26 th birthday. “That’s sad.” It looked like it had made Seokjin sadder; maybe it was the fact that he’d already spent some time crying, because his eyes were welling up again for someone who was virtually a stranger.

“It’s okay.”

“Is this… heaven?”

“Fuck no. If it was, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation.” Yoongi chuckled to himself, but Seokjin didn’t react at all. “I-I don’t mean that you don’t deserve to go to heaven or anything. It’s just that heaven is probably a little more entertaining than apartment 510.”

Seokjin paused as he considered this. “And we’re here for how long?”

“You’ll find out tomorrow. It depends.”

“On what?”

“How you were in life.”

Yoongi remembered when he had died.  He had been so ready to accept death, already tucked into one of the many novels adorning his bookshelf when Jimin knocked on the front door. Soon after was his first disappointment about the afterlife: as it turned out, all the asshole things he’d done in life would haunt him in death.  He regretted every candy bar he’d lifted from the store when he had to choose between eating and a bus fare, every girl- and boyfriend he’d simply stopped calling, the one heart he’d actually broken, all the calls from his mother that he’d blown off.

“You seemed like a pretty good guy. They might knock some time off,” Yoongi said, trying to be reassuring.

Seokjin looked far from reassured, shifting where he half-sat on the sofa cushion.

“Were you… um… watching me? The entire time I lived here?”

“Oh, no. Not the entire time. I sleep too.”

Seokjin’s brows crinkled, a few lines appearing between them with the force of the reaction. His eyes flitted to the bathroom and back to Yoongi.

“Oh. Oh. No, I did not watch you shower. Um, no. I wouldn’t—no. I didn’t do that.” Yoongi held his hands up in front of him, eager to dispel the idea.  

It had tempted him, sure, especially when Seokjin walked around the house with his wet hair combed back from his forehead, his towel slung dangerously low on his waist.  He’d been even more tempted other times: when Seokjin would go into his bedroom and jerk off, always a little loud when he came, even though he was alone.  Yoongi had accidentally drifted in during one of the sessions, a balmy summer day where Seokjin was laid bare on top of his sheets, one leg bent at the knee, his head tipped to the side against his pillows.  Yoongi’s brain could hardly register what he was seeing, mesmerised by the soft whimper caught in Seokjin’s throat, the beautiful, smooth expanse of his skin, his eyelashes fluttering over his cheeks.  In a flash, Yoongi retreated into the wardrobe, gripping one of Seokjin’s sweaters in his right hand to brace himself, growing hard in his pants and desperate to turn back for a better look.

Seokjin looked visibly relieved that Yoongi hadn’t seen him shower. Yoongi wouldn’t soon be disclosing that he’d seen Seokjin naked.

“You have a nice singing voice, though. It’s a shame that band with Taehyung’s friends never panned out.”

At that, Seokjin’s ears burned bright red, a beacon pointing to his embarrassment. Without realising it, Yoongi had provided a momentary distraction for Seokjin—something that wasn’t a signpost pointing to the fact that he was dead.  Half of his mouth turned up at Seokjin’s blushing, hopelessly endeared by the parts of him that still felt alive.

“You heard me singing?”

“I’m dead, not deaf.”

Most of Seokjin’s singing took place in the shower or while he cooked. Yoongi sang along when he knew the song—sometimes Seokjin would wheel out an oldie (or, as Yoongi knew them, a song, which proved that he was the oldie).

The distinctive sound of Seokjin’s phone buzzing in the other room disturbed their conversation, and Seokjin rose from the sofa to walk to it.  He returned a moment later, his fingers interlaced and wringing.

“It’s my coworker again.”

Yoongi nodded, his mouth stretched into a straight line.  Seokjin often texted and called Namjoon, the only coworker who mattered at the dead end HR job.  He’d been over a few times to hang out with Seokjin. They never talked about work when they were together, instead concentrating on their mutual interests (not that there were many, but they both enjoyed the same kinds of movies and mulling over the general trials and tribulations of life with some beers and snacks).

There were times when Seokjin invited Namjoon and Taehyung at the same time.  It was undeniable that Namjoon and Taehyung had more in common than Seokjin and Namjoon would ever have.  After one such hang out, Namjoon hung back to ask Seokjin if Taehyung was single. Seokjin laughed, said yes, and then told Namjoon that he’d eat his hat if Namjoon had the guts to actually make a move.  Namjoon crossed his arms over his chest and asked which hat Seokjin intended on eating.  Seokjin munched on a piece of tangerine and motioned to a beanie hung on the coat hooks by the front door.  Yoongi made a bet with himself that Namjoon would likely do it if Seokjin threw him and Taehyung together enough times.

There seemed to be no chance of that now unless they somehow bonded at Seokjin’s funeral. A morbid thought, but a truth.

Once Seokjin’s phone had given up on alerting him that it was time to wake up, it had started buzzing with calls—hours worth of them now.  It was unlike Seokjin to be late for work, let alone not turn up at all. Yoongi had seen him take a total of two sick days. He should have taken better care of his mental health, Yoongi noted, but Seokjin didn’t like letting people down. It was only a matter of hours before Namjoon would come looking for Seokjin.

The experience of waking up dead had been traumatising for Seokjin, but it was going to be life altering for Namjoon.

“I don’t think we should be here when he comes over,” Yoongi said, his voice quiet.

Seokjin looked paler than before, nodding. The tears were back in his eyes, and one ran down his cheek.

“Where do we go?”

Before Yoongi could stop him, Seokjin had turned towards the front door and opened it, peering outside.

“Seokjin!” Yoongi jumped to his feet, watching as Seokjin took a step out of the front door and disappeared entirely.

~~~

It took Seokjin a total of five and a half hours to find his way back to the apartment.  At that time, Namjoon had showed up and called for help after his three minutes of banging on the front door went unanswered. Seokjin’s body had been removed, the crew lifting it onto a stretcher and zipping it into a body bag with hushed comments of what a damn shame, he’s so young, that family is gonna be wrecked, has somebody called them?

By the time Seokjin stepped through the front door, Taehyung was at the apartment with Namjoon, both standing in the kitchen and looking dead themselves.

Yoongi jumped to his feet when he saw Seokjin, relieved that he’d finally found his way back.  Seokjin’s eyes were blank, shell-shocked and similar to the expression worn by his living friends. Everything beyond the front door was unpleasant, designed both to keep them inside and to deter them from making attempts to leave.

“What was out there?” Yoongi asked, and Seokjin shook his head.

“A forest.”

“Your, um—“ Yoongi motioned to the kitchen, where Taehyung had started to cry with his face in his hands, and Namjoon had boldly wrapped both arms around him.  His shoulders shook with the effort of crying, and Namjoon’s face distorted as he let out a sob of his own. Seokjin’s parents and brother had left a while ago, not looking too interested in being in the space that Seokjin had lived in only a short while ago. Yoongi was silently thankful that they had left before Seokjin came back.

Seokjin looked genuinely shocked.  If the realisation had hit him before, it was crashing into him now with enough force to send him to the floor, almost like he was collapsing in on himself. Defeated. He had to be understanding that this was it: no way to leave the space, body removed by a medical crew, friends and family grieving in the empty apartment.

“I’m dead, I really am dead, I-I’m dead—oh no, oh no, no—“ Seokjin muttered to himself, heels of his hands pressed to his eyes like he could physically stem the tears from their source.

Yoongi shifted on his feet, looking to the kitchen where Namjoon pressed his tear-soaked face into Taehyung’s shoulder.  Surrounded, Yoongi felt tears stinging at his eyes, a tingle in his nose where the first inkling of a sniffle threatened to break through. 

The last time Yoongi had cried, it had been at the hands of Louisa May Alcott, sadder than he ever thought he could be at a children’s coming-of-age novel. Jimin had patted a patronising hand against his back and made fun of him for crying before sheepishly admitting that he, too, had cried. It wasn’t like Yoongi was hardened to the world or unable to cry, it was just that nothing particularly bad or sad happened in the afterlife. He didn’t stub his toe, have his heart broken, or have loved ones to lose.

Seokjin had given him something to cry about. Yoongi swiped at his eyes with the back of his hand, and cleared his throat. He shifted on his feet again, unsure of what to say. Instead of saying anything, he moved towards Seokjin, squatting down a foot away from him to place a tentative hand on his back. He’d been wondering what it would be like to touch Seokjin for quite some time, but this wasn’t the circumstance he wanted to do so in.

This was dark. Too dark.

~~~

Namjoon and Taehyung stayed for the night, drinking two bottles of wine between them and getting absolutely toasted.

“I was saving that wine for my birthday,” Seokjin said.

“Now you get to watch them get shellacked. Isn’t real joy witnessing the joy of others?” Yoongi’s voice was flat, a deadpan joke that Seokjin snorted at.

“No. I could be enjoying that wine if my stupid body hadn’t stupid died.

“I miss wine.”

They were sitting on the couch, Seokjin curled towards the arm of it and huddled in on himself.  He might have calmed down, but he still seemed wary of Yoongi. It made sense: Yoongi knew so much about him already, but Yoongi was a stranger. It must have been a difficult double-pill to swallow, waking up dead and then realising you were stuck with a strange man for the foreseeable future.

A meeting with a caseworker might be just what Seokjin needed. Yoongi found that things were more digestible when they were fully explained, and hoped Seokjin might feel the same. Besides, a trip out of the apartment was always a breath of fresh air.  Yoongi wondered if he could tag along. It had been a while since he’d been to the headquarters, which existed somewhere in the interdimensional fold they inhabited, quite like whatever was on the other side of the front door.

“Wasn’t it enough that I died young? Now I have to be stuck in this apartment without alcohol or video games? What gives?”

“Yeah, sorry you have to be stuck with me. That’s a bummer.”

A peal of laughter cut through their conversation, Taehyung nearly doubled over as he howled with it. Namjoon was doing a Seokjin impression, his face falling mid-way through the bit as realisation seemed to pass over him again. He began to cry, and Taehyung looked up from his laughter to a much more somber atmosphere. They’d been doing their share of storytelling, interspersed with every possible human emotion.

“—mind.”

Yoongi snapped out of his thoughts, tearing his eyes away from the living to look at Seokjin.

“What?”

“I said I don’t really mind. This would probably be a lot harder if I was alone. I don’t know how you managed it for so long.”

“I like being alone. Plus the living make it plenty entertaining.”

“Was I entertaining?”

Yoongi looked away, certain that his face would give him up: he wanted to say yes, I think I fell in love with you, I could watch you exist for all of eternity. He settled for: “Yeah, especially when you dance in the kitchen. You’ve got incredible moves.”

“Shut up,” Seokjin said, cracking the first smile Yoongi had seen that day. Yoongi couldn’t help but smile back.

“You think I’m joking? That level of flailing takes a lot of time to achieve, Seokjin-ssi. You should be proud.”

Seokjin reached out and shoved at Yoongi’s shoulder, playful and light, bordering on flirtatious.

Namjoon and Taehyung moved into the bedroom at that point.

“Do you think this is going to be a thing?”

“It better be. I’ve been waiting for months.”

“Me too. Ever since that time—“

“Namjoon remembered Taehyung’s favourite artists and bought him the framed print?”

“Yeah, what the fuck was that? How have they not gotten together?” Yoongi let out a quiet laugh, and Seokjin joined in.

“If they do anything in my bed, I’m going to be so mad.”

“I hope they change the sheets first. You died on that bed today.”

“Ew.” Seokjin made a face.

After the sound of Taehyung’s crying gave way to the even breathing of sleep, Seokjin stretched out on the couch to sleep, and Yoongi laid on the floor. Yoongi drifted off to the comforting idea that Seokjin would be there when he awoke, and not as someone who couldn’t see or hear him.

~~~

Jung Hoseok opened the door of their apartment early the next morning with a single, perfunctory knock of warning before barging in. He had a gigantic smile on his face, a well-used notebook in his right hand, and a book in the left.

“Kim Seokjin? I’m Jung Hoseok. Hoseok will be fine. I’m your caseworker.” Hoseok bowed, and Seokjin followed suit, just as polite as he was when he was living.

“Is that for me?” Yoongi asked, motioning to the book in Hoseok’s hand.

“Yes, from your caseworker, it’s the—“

“Newest Stephen King book.” Yoongi greedily reached out and snatched the book from Hoseok, examining the front and back cover. “God bless you, Park Jimin.”

“Well, shall we step into my office?” Hoseok asked, motioning to their front door.

Seokjin frowned, taking a step towards the door as Hoseok went to it and swung it open.  There, beyond the threshold of the apartment, was a nondescript little office, a wooden rolling chair behind a wooden desk. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be placed in the middle of a beach bathed in golden sunlight, the huge window next to the desk thrown open to the sounds of seagulls and waves crashing.

“Can Yoongi come with us?” Seokjin said the sentence hastily, the words almost jumbled together.  He sounded immensely nervous to enter Hoseok’s serene office. It was nicer than Jimin’s office by far—Jimin’s was over a posh nightclub, and the music was never fully masked. It said a lot about Jimin that the place he designed for himself was near a bustling atmosphere full of life.

“Sure, if he wants.”

Hoseok motioned for them to enter the room, and Seokjin looked over his shoulder at Yoongi, his eyes as wide as dinner plates. It was puppy-like and innocent, and Yoongi could never say no.  He shuffled inside after them.

“Why did this turn into your office instead of the forest?”

“Oh, the labyrinth is designed to deter you from leaving the flat. I have the power to open your door straight to HQ, though.”

“Why don’t we have that power?”

The three took seats around Hoseok’s desk, and Hoseok produced a small manual from his desk, placing it in front of Seokjin.

“I’ve already spent my time on Earth and moved on, so I’ve got all the power.”

“And with that power you’ve decided to… work an office job?”

“You’d be surprised at how many people find everything after moving on to be boring. So we return to work. Helping with the transition is one job that always needs doing.”

“How boring does it have to be for someone to want to work again?” Seokjin looked disturbed at the idea.

“I know, right?” Yoongi agreed.

Hoseok just laughed, an infectiously joyful sound. Seokjin reached out for the handbook and flipped the front cover open.

“So… what’s this?”

“Your handbook.”

Indeed, the cover said ‘KIM SEOKJIN’ in gold, embossed letters. Yoongi’s was somewhere in the apartment, having not been touched in well over a decade.

“There’s some more related information in here, but I’ve got the important knowledge.” Hoseok tapped a finger to his temple as he said this, motioning directly to the aforementioned omnipotence that every caseworker seemed to possess. “Shall we start with your time on Earth?”

“Um, sure.”

“As part of your transition to the afterlife, you’ll spend a total of 100 years on Earth.”

100 years?” Seokjin’s voice went high-pitched and squeaky in disbelief.

“Well, Seokjin, fret not.” Hoseok spun in his desk chair to face the wall behind him, a projection appearing on it like it was a giant screen. “You’ve done some very good deeds in life, so we’ll be able to take… thirteen years and forty three days off your time on Earth—yay!”

“‘Yay’?” Seokjin repeated the phrase, incredulous. Yoongi tried not to laugh, always amused when Seokjin was riled up enough to go tomato red and start ranting. “That’s still an incredibly long time! Like, that’s still… 70 years!”

“Actually, it’s 86 years and 322 days.”

Seokjin threw his hands up, letting them fall onto his thighs with a smack as he leaned back in the chair. “Might as well just round it up to 365 days!”

“That can be arranged—“

“I was joking!”

The rest of the talk seemed to go better than that, probably because everything else was positive in comparison to the revelation that you’re stuck in one place for a long time.  Seokjin learned that he’d be able to attend his funeral, that he could manipulate things in the physical world if he needed to, and that there were a variety of biological changes he could read about in his handbook.

Less than an hour later, they were back in the apartment, alone now that Taehyung and Namjoon had dispersed.  It was strangely silent, looking like it was untouched save for the two bottles of wine now missing from Seokjin’s countertop.

“How many years do you have left?”

“Um, 85? I think.”

Seokjin paused, looking like he was doing the mental math.

“I kind of… got time added on.”

Seokjin narrowed his eyes.

“Don’t worry, I didn’t hurt anyone or anything like that. Just set some stuff on fire, no big deal.”

“No big deal? I haven’t set anything on fire.”

“I bet you’re regretting that right now, aren’t you?”

Seokjin threw himself onto the sofa, opening the handbook. “Kind of.”

Yoongi opened his own book, taking a seat at the little table in the kitchen. He felt an immense sense of satisfaction at quietly coexisting in the apartment, and was once again glad to have Seokjin there. Not only that, but Seokjin had dropped the subject of arson alarmingly fast. It’s like he knew exactly how much he could get from Yoongi before he was pushing.

After an hour of silent reading, Yoongi heard the sound of Seokjin sniffling in the other room. He padded in, his book discarded on the kitchen table.

“Hey.”

“Hi.” Seokjin wiped at his entire face with his hands, his eyes already starting to get puffy from crying.  It didn’t take much.

“Do you want some company?”

Seokjin shrugged, motioning to the empty place on the sofa next to him, and Yoongi joined him on it. A fresh wave of tears hit his eyes, and he was quick to wipe them away.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I feel kind of stupid that I’ve been here a day and still can’t stop crying.”

“Seokjin, you cried at the finale of Dawson’s Creek for three days.”

“It was sad!”

“I know, I watched it with you.”

Yoongi remembered when Seokjin had finished it. He called Taehyung the next day and started crying again. The following day when he was brushing his teeth, he let out a wail of ‘Jen’ and wiped away tears.  From Yoongi’s foggy memory of the day, he had laughed, but thought Seokjin was so unbearably cute at that moment.

Seokjin’s hands fell away from his eyes, looking at Yoongi with an expression that Yoongi couldn’t place—something between confusion, curiosity, interest.

“It’s going to take a little while for you to feel alright about this. It’s okay.”

With another sniff, Seokjin looked at his palms. “I’m not bothering you?”

“No.” Yoongi shook his head. Seokjin nodded. They were silent for a few moments before Yoongi spoke up. “So… do you want to talk about it?”

It looked like talking about it was a risk of Seokjin’s dignity entirely—his chin quivered, fresh tears leaking from his eyes. After a moment, he shook his head, rubbing at his eyes again.

“Do you want me to leave you alone?”

Seokjin shook his head again.  Yoongi nodded. He picked up one of the sofa’s throw pillows and placed it on Seokjin’s lap. Seokjin picked it up and clutched it to his chest, and Yoongi threw the little throw blanket around his shoulders.  The look Seokjin gave him was like a kicked puppy: wide, teary eyes, nose red. It took every bit of Yoongi’s emotional strength to not reach out and smooth down his hair, or wipe away the tears tracking down his cheeks.

“It’s okay. I... um, I’m here,” Yoongi said, tentatively reaching out to put his hand on Seokjin’s back.

Instead of recoiling, Seokjin wiped his eyes and hiccupped out a little laugh. “Isn’t it strange that you know me and I don’t know you?”

“It’s not strange for me, but it must be fuckin’ wild for you.”

Seokjin laughed again.

They sat like that for a while, Yoongi’s hand on Seokjin’s back, patting him or rubbing a small circle on his shoulder blade.

~~~

Two days later, Namjoon and Taehyung came back to the apartment.  This time, they’d brought their own alcohol and supplies for what looked like packing. Seokjin stood near the front door as they entered, wringing his hands together, a little crease between his eyebrows.

It had been a difficult two days; Yoongi once woke up to Seokjin stomping around the kitchen, slamming the cabinets.  Yoongi thought it would have been a haunting visual if anyone had walked into the apartment, but had left him alone to experience his rage.  The next day, he’d cried to Yoongi about the unfairness of death, how his cousin shouldn’t be subject to his less-than-warm family, how he’d had so much life left to live. 

Seokjin was having a hard time accepting his new way of existing, and understandably so.  But moving on wasn’t meant to be rushed. Yoongi gave him grace, being quietly there when he was needed. But oh god, the pain of watching Seokjin suffer and not being able to hug him, to hold him, to wipe his tears and assure him everything would be alright—it frustrated Yoongi endlessly. 

But Seokjin wasn’t his to hold.

So when Taehyung and Namjoon came back with supplies, Yoongi worried he was due for a whole new wave of emotion: Seokjin realising he was being cleared away from existence. How would that hurt him? Would he turn to Yoongi for support or keep it all hidden away?

“Are they packing up my apartment?”

“I think so.”

At first, Namjoon and Taehyung placed their things around the kitchen table, and then they were embracing, a tight hug that showed neither was ready to undertake the task of clearing Seokjin’s things away.  It was a shame to see the task relegated to the one family member Seokjin seemed closest to; part of Seokjin’s deepest grief was mourning the loss of his relationship with Taehyung. Yoongi couldn’t help but wonder what Seokjin’s brother thought.

Yoongi remembered how his own brother was in the wake of Yoongi’s death: sadder than any other family member had been.  It made sense; his brother was the only one who understood Yoongi’s innermost workings, from his insatiable desire for answers and knowledge to his unwavering creative energy.  He and his brother had been partners in crime—two against the rest of the family.  Yoongi wondered if Seokjin felt the same about his brother, but had a sneaking suspicion that Taehyung was filling the hole where a close sibling would be.

Seokjin watched them, looking sadder than he’d been when he’d woken up that morning. As a result, he followed them around the apartment, watching them take personal effects and fit them into boxes. He watched the video game collection slip into a box Taehyung labeled “stuff Seokjin definitely wanted me to have” in permanent marker.

“Just in case he’s watching us somewhere. I know he’d appreciate the joke.”

“Yoongi-yah! He’s going to take my favourite sweater! He’s been after it for so long!” 

Seokjin raged while Namjoon and Taehyung looked to the ceiling. Yoongi guessed it was a heaven thing, but imagined Seokjin hovering disapprovingly in the corner of the room, watching Taehyung steal his favourite sweater.

“So what? You have no use for it now.” Yoongi shrugged, watching as Taehyung carefully folded away some of Seokjin’s other garments, the rest being put into a box labelled “Donations”.

“You don’t know that,” Seokjin muttered, arms crossed over his chest.

Seokjin scurried around after them, squatting down next to Taehyung as he cleared out shelves of collectable video game items, standing over his shoulder as he shoved stuffed animals into boxes to donate.  Taehyung and Seokjin both sniffled and wiped at their eyes when Taehyung stumbled upon some photo albums and trinket boxes, stuffed with memories of Seokjin’s life.  Yoongi left them alone, thinking that Seokjin deserved a good, hard look at all of the relics—he’d never be able to see them again.  It was a new kind of mourning: saying goodbye to the past, which felt so very different from saying goodbye to a future.

After a while, their crying stopped and Taehyung plodded into the kitchen, muttering to himself that pots and pans would hurt much less. Yoongi agreed, unless they were dropped upon a toe or the unsuspecting head of a cartoon character.

Namjoon had gotten distracted halfway through the living room with the bookshelf, sitting on the floor with a book in his hands.

“What’s he doing?” Seokjin asked, drifting into the room along with Taehyung.

“He’s enjoying some of the dazzling, informative literature from your bottom bookshelf,” Yoongi said, sitting on the couch with a book in his hand. He flicked his eyes up to see Seokjin turning a brilliant shade of red.

“How do you know about the bottom shelf?” Seokjin narrowed his eyes at Yoongi.

“I live here, too.” Yoongi looked back down at his book, pointedly flipping a page and smirking as he heard Seokjin make a strangled noise.

Taehyung was sitting on the floor next to Namjoon, giggling behind his hand.

“I always knew he was a freak, but this… wow.“ Taehyung flipped to one of the tabbed pages in A Complete Guide to BDSM and his mouth dramatically fell open, eyes wide, a cartoonish display of genuine shock.

Seokjin disappeared into the bedroom. After a good fifteen minutes of childlike giggling and flipping through pages from Namjoon and Taehyung, they both returned to their tasks.  Taehyung left many of the items in the kitchen, taking only the food with short shelf lives.  Yoongi watched him, eyebrows furrowed.

“I think they’re going to rent the apartment out,” Yoongi called into the bedroom, where Seokjin was supervising Namjoon’s clear out of his intimates drawer (Yoongi only knew this because Seokjin made a pained groan when Namjoon started).

“Hyung has lacy panties in here! And a... corset!

Yoongi felt his own cheeks heating. He’d seen Seokjin wear the delicate underwear around the flat a couple of times, once taking pictures of himself on the living room sofa. Yoongi had respected him too much to stand and watch, instead stopping at the room’s threshold and shouting ‘You’re too hot to be sending nudes to guys on dating websites, Seokjin, get it together’ before floating away—the ghost equivalent of stomping away.

What Yoongi hadn’t seen, however, was the corset.

He was interested. 

Very interested. 

He started to drift towards the bedroom, and Seokjin appeared in the doorway, holding his hands up.

“Huge mess in there. What were you saying about, um, the thing?” Seokjin was still the same shade of red, mostly concentrated in the tips of his ears and the bit of his chest that peeked through his v-neck shirt.  “The, uh, rent?”

“The rent?”

“You know, the rent.” Seokjin flapped his hand at Yoongi, eyes squinted.

“Watch out.” Yoongi put a hand on Seokjin’s upper arm, steering him out of the doorway just as Namjoon walked through it. “Being walked through feels weird, and feels even weirder for them.”

Seokjin looked grateful to be out of the way, his eyes flicking from Yoongi’s hand on his arm and back to Yoongi’s eyes. “Thank y—hey!”

Namjoon was brandishing the corset, and Yoongi followed him before Seokjin could finish his sentence.

“Do you think hyung really wore this?” Namjoon held up the corset—black, strapless, silken with garter straps dangling from the bottom.

“I hope so,” Taehyung said, only peeking over his shoulder from the kitchen counter. “He really needed to get laid.”

Yoongi chortled and felt himself bodily wheeled around, pulled back towards the living room by Seokjin’s hand clasped around his. “Yoongi-ah, please help with… uh, something.”

“Hyung, did you really wear that?”

“That isn’t important,” Seokjin responded cooly, perching on the edge of the sofa. He looked at the boxes, then back to Yoongi. “Why are you calling me hyung? Aren’t you old as dirt?”

“Rude. I died at 26, remember?”

“Yeah, in the 90’s. That was a long time ago.”

“Now you’re just calling yourself old.”

Seokjin huffed, looking away from Yoongi. He slumped back into the sofa, looking utterly exhausted, like he was the one who had done the moving.  Having someone pick through your personal belongings was one thing, but having your good friend and a family member do it while a complete stranger watched was a different beast entirely.  Yoongi could imagine hating that, so he went and sat on the sofa next to Seokjin instead of watching Namjoon put the corset on over his t-shirt in the kitchen (even if Yoongi was sure it would make his tits look fantastic—Namjoon worked out, after all).

“How are you feeling?”

“Eh.”

“If it makes you feel any better, my parents found my enormous stash of weed when they cleaned out my place, and then they smoked it in the living room.” Yoongi looked at Seokjin, and he didn’t appear to be placated by it. “And, uh, a fuck load of lube and like, zero condoms because I was not getting laid.”

That made Seokjin snort out a laugh, eyes squinting shut and broad, close-lipped smile across his face.

“That’s depressing.”

“Hey—you weren’t really getting laid either,” Yoongi remarked.

“You’ve got me there,” Seokjin said. “At least I tried.”

“Can’t say as much for myself.”

“Why not? You’re cute, Yoongi-yah. You could have found someone to date.”

Yoongi shifted on the sofa, pulling his legs up towards his chest, biting his bottom lip between his teeth to keep from smiling at the compliment. Nestled before it was Seokjin asking for one of his biggest secrets, if it could even be called that.  Was it a secret if you’d had nobody to disclose it to for years and years? Sure, he’d told Seokjin how much he liked him at least a dozen times since Seokjin had moved in, but Seokjin had never actually heard him.  This was a different type of secret, one that had required decades of self-reflection to even come to terms with.

“You really want to know?”

“Sure.”

“It’s kind of sad.”

“Try me. Everything is ‘kind of sad’ right now.”

“I guess I didn’t want anyone to have to deal with the fact that I was sick. Plus, how do you start off that date? ‘Hi, I’m dying, nice to meet you’?” Yoongi shrugged, and when he glanced at Seokjin again, Seokjin’s expression had softened. Any hint of humour in their previous conversation had gone out of Seokjin along with the blush in his ears. He looked worried, but if it was for Yoongi or for himself, he didn’t know. 

“That is kind of sad.”

“Yeah.”

They watched as Namjoon and Taehyung waltzed by the doorway, Namjoon in Seokjin’s corset and Taehyung with a pair of lacy underwear over his trousers. Seokjin groaned again, covering his face with his hands.

~~~

The funeral approached quickly, and each day leading up to it was marked by more and more items disappearing from the apartment.  As Yoongi expected, the furniture was staying: Seokjin’s coffee table, his sofa and armchair, his bed, his little kitchen nook, all of the pots, pans, utensils, and more.  The night before the funeral, Taehyung and Namjoon were back in the apartment, looking through the last echoes of Seokjin’s life like the shoeboxes from under Seokjin’s bed that contained photographs and trinkets.

Yoongi and Seokjin sat on a stretch of kitchen counter that was just big enough for the two of them, watching as Namjoon and Taehyung poured over the boxes. Every once in a while, one of them would hold up a picture and tell a story to the other. Usually it was Taehyung, bursting with stories about Seokjin in childhood, as a teenager, blooming into a man, navigating his way through adulthood. It sounded more and more to Yoongi that Taehyung admired Seokjin and would miss him immensely.

From Yoongi’s side, Seokjin sniffed, hurriedly wiping at his eyes. It felt like he was actively trying to hide his crying spells from Yoongi now. Yoongi couldn’t begin to surmise the reason: maybe he didn’t want to burden Yoongi, or maybe he thought it was too weak to cry so much.

Wordlessly, Yoongi reached around Seokjin, giving him a squeeze from the side with his hand cupped around Seokjin’s ribcage. He felt small in Yoongi’s grasp, despite the fact that he was indeed taller and broader than Yoongi was. Maybe it was how he cowered down into himself for a second, letting out a little sob in response to the side-hug.

“Sorry, sorry, I—“ Seokjin straightened up, attempting to collect himself, and Yoongi squeezed him again.

“It’s alright. Do you want me to leave you alone?”

Yoongi felt Seokjin’s face turn towards his shoulder, a few stray tears wetting the fabric of Yoongi’s shirt.

“Okay.  Don’t worry. I won’t leave. I’m here.”

After they’d looked through the last of Seokjin’s things, Namjoon and Taehyung locked up the apartment with the shoeboxes of memories consolidated into one box in Namjoon’s backpack.  Yoongi and Seokjin stood in the kitchen, eyeing the barrenness of the few rooms around them, now suited perfectly for someone who wanted a mostly-furnished apartment.

“I guess that’s that,” Seokjin said. “Just the funeral tomorrow.”

“Yeah.”

“Listen, I, um, don’t know if it’s…” Seokjin looked to the ground, hand grabbing at his elbow like he was partially shielding himself from Yoongi. “I just didn’t know if there was a way you could come with me tomorrow. Or if you even wanted to, that is. No pressure.”

“You want me to come to your funeral?” Yoongi asked, frowning.

“I knew it was a stupid idea—don’t worry about it, really.” Seokjin pinched the bridge of his nose with his free hand like he was attempting to stifle his emotions physically. When he pulled his hand away, he gave a watery smile that looked like it was meant to be reassuring. It was like an ice pick to Yoongi’s heart.

“No, hyung, I didn’t mean it like that… I just didn’t think you’d want me to come. I’m, like, a stranger. This is your last chance to say goodbye to your friends and family, you know? Of course I’ll come if you want me to come.”

Seokjin let out a little huff of a cry at the mention of saying goodbye. His hand went back to his face, bowing his head under the weight of the thought alone. Yoongi might have been a stranger, but he was all Seokjin had at this moment; Seokjin hadn’t even needed to say it for Yoongi to understand.

“I’ll be there, Seokjin. Don’t worry.” Yoongi closed the small distance between them and tentatively put his arms around Seokjin, not sure how he would respond.

With both arms, Seokjin engulfed Yoongi, his forehead on Yoongi’s shoulder.

“Okay? I’ll be there.” Yoongi gave him a little squeeze, and felt Seokjin nodding. “You should sleep now so you’re well-rested for tomorrow.”

Seokjin nodded again and let himself be led into the bedroom, laying down on the unmade bed, head on the uncovered pillows.  Yoongi drug the duvet over him, leaning down so they were eye-level.

“Are you alright or do you want me to stay?”

“I’m alright.” Seokjin let out a big sigh, a tear tracking down his cheek as he smiled. A sad smile.  He looked so profoundly upset, like he was on the eve of facing the most important day of his life. It wasn’t too far from the truth: tomorrow would be the big goodbye.  A symbolic ending. Yoongi smiled back, holding himself back from running his hand reassuringly through Seokjin’s mussed hair.

“You could stay? In the chair?” Seokjin motioned to the chair in the corner of his room, which usually held garments when they weren’t dirty but deemed unworthy for the day.  Sometimes the chair held Taehyung while Seokjin tried on outfits before they went to the bar, or Namjoon when they smoked pot and lounged while listening to music.

Yoongi glanced at the chair, empty and covered with a sheet, looking like the ghost that haunted the apartment.  He nodded.  “Okay.”

And when he looked back to Seokjin, he was greeted with an innocent, open smile, placated—even if it was only a small comfort.  Yoongi wanted to stay on the bed with him.  Instead, he stood abruptly, unable to take the way Seokjin’s lips were swollen from crying, wanting to kiss away the last tear that fell down his cheek. 

It wasn’t Yoongi’s place to comfort him, and if he just took Seokjin in his arms for a minute, he wouldn’t be able to walk away. Not what Seokjin needed—a guy with a huge crush on him acting on it on the eve of his funeral. Facing your funeral was a fucked up scenario without the crush. With someone else’s feelings to consider? Even worse.

Instead of sleeping, Yoongi sat in the armchair for hours, petrified by his own thoughts. He was starting to like Seokjin more now that he could hug him, and could make him smile. 

He was stuck with Seokjin for a long time.

Oh god, what if he told Seokjin his feelings and Seokjin didn’t reciprocate? A humiliation worse than tripping up the bleachers in fifth period gym class when he was eleven and bloodying his nose. A humiliation he’d have to cohabitate with for over eighty years.

He knew what he had to do. His crush could take a backseat to being a good friend. 

It had to.

~~~

“Are you ready?” Yoongi asked, knocking on the bathroom door again. The water had been running for what seemed like an eternity (or at least five whole minutes).

The tap abruptly shut off, and Seokjin swung the door open. Yoongi noted that he wasn’t wet, probably due to the fact that water tended to go right through them. Seokjin’s eyes welled at the sight of Yoongi, his face red and puffy from crying.

“I can’t even splash water on my face,” Seokjin moaned, shuffling out of the door.  Yoongi hadn’t been aware that ghosts could shuffle.

“It’s alright. Here.” Yoongi pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, handing it to Seokjin.

Seokjin dabbed tears from his face, and Yoongi took the handkerchief back despite Seokjin’s insistence that it was ‘so gross’. They stood at the front door, righting their outfits. With one hand, Seokjin smoothed his hair to the side.

“Don’t know why I’m bothering. Nobody can see me.”

“I can see you,” Yoongi said, pressing a hand to Seokjin’s back. “And you look like shit.”

Seokjin reached out to the door, twisting the knob before looking at Yoongi. “Hey, wait. Before we go...” 

“Yeah?”

“About that handkerchief—the 16 th century called and they want their accessory back.”

Yoongi nudged him with an elbow, and they shared a smile.

“You still used it,” Yoongi argued as they opened the door.

Seokjin looked like he wanted to protest, but his attention was taken by what was behind the front door: a funeral parlour, dimmed lighting and curtains drawn.  A coffin laid in the front of the room, attendees filing in to say their condolences to their family.  A large number of the people looked to be around Seokjin’s age—Yoongi always thought that funerals for young people attracted the most attendees. Death when someone was young was shocking, like a spectacle for many. A chance to watch the mourning family and say ‘thank god it’s not me’.

Seokjin grasped Yoongi's hand, squeezing.  It wasn’t romantic, just there. A way for Seokjin to have a little physical support and comfort.

Yoongi squeezed back.

They went.

~~~

“—told my brother that he got fat. As if a funeral is the right time!” Seokjin paced along the floor of the apartment, gesticulating wildly as he ranted.

Yoongi had been subject to a string of rants from Seokjin about his family at the funeral, and they’d continued when they got home.  It was safe to assume that Seokjin was avoiding his feelings with humour, because he had gone to the bathroom and turned on the tap for fifteen minutes as soon as they were back in the apartment.  

Granted, the funeral had been strange, as observing someone else’s family often was. And Seokjin’s family was exceptionally strange, watching the funeral from start to finish with blank expressions, cold and unfeeling.  Seokjin’s brother had broken the mould, but only by the smallest amount: when he cried, it was quelled with a single, stern look from his parents. 

“Aish,” Seokjin had mumbled under his breath. Yoongi saw him gripping his hands into fists at his side, so profoundly angry that it wasn’t tears turning him beet red this time.

Namjoon and Taehyung had shown up together, hand-in-hand. Namjoon had managed to amicably brush off a comment about their dating—Yoongi was too far away to tell if it was a gay thing or a Namjoon-Isn’t-Good-Enough thing. Whatever it was, Yoongi knew they were wrong. Namjoon was probably the best person in the room. Taehyung played his part well: stoic and stern, not bristling at his relative’s rude comment. He seemed to only share his emotions when he felt safe.

No wonder Seokjin hadn’t dated anyone in life. It must have been like auditioning for a talent show and the only judge was fifteen Simon Cowells—a man Yoongi wished he had never seen before (which Seokjin’s penchant for shitty reality TV hadn’t helped). Yoongi knew plenty of people who’d lost faith in love after witnessing years and years of their parents in shitty relationships. This took the cake.

At the gravesite, Seokjin finally broke down, striding away from the coffin as his loved ones placed flowers atop it.  Yoongi followed slowly, letting him get a bit of distance.  He’d paused by a tree, one hand on it to brace himself, shoulders squared as he looked out on the rest of the cemetery.

“Hey,” Yoongi said, hands shoved in his pockets, taking one small step at a time towards Seokjin.

Seokjin looked over his shoulder, regarding Yoongi with a sad smile. “Hey.”

Yoongi stopped at his side, looking over the field of gravesites.  There was another fresh plot to their right, newly covered with dirt. It was sobering to think there were other people in the world experiencing loss. It was adjacent suffering.

“When do we have to go back?”

“We’ve got a little bit. Maybe a half an hour. We could walk around a bit more if you want—it’s kind of our last chance for a while.”

“This is fine.” Seokjin was frowning, but Yoongi had to admit that he looked gorgeous in the early afternoon sunlight. “Thank you for coming.”

“It’s not a problem. It rained on my funeral. Nice to get some sunshine while we can.” Yoongi cracked his knuckles and stretched his arms upwards, which Seokjin watched intently. “How are you feeling?”

“Shitty.” The word sounded strange coming from Seokjin, the self-appointed King of Mother Forking Gosh Darns.

Yoongi gave an exaggerated gasp, and Seokjin rolled his eyes. There was the slightest of smiles on his face, and it was genuine—brighter than the sun. “Hyung, cursing? For the first time ever? On this hallowed ground of all places?”

“First time for everything, and I’ve already attended my own funeral today. I’m going for a two-for-one on new experiences.”

“I’m kind of hoping this will be the only time you attend your own funeral but I guess we can see what shakes loose over the next 85 years.”

Seokjin laughed at this, and Yoongi smiled to himself, pleased with the reaction. When they were silent again, they fell back into the unsmiling silence, the inescapable seriousness.

“Really, hyung… are you alright?”

“Yeah, I think so. I feel sort of relieved now. Like I’ve gotten some closure.” Seokjin exhaled out of his nose, short and derisive. A fresh wave of tears had sprung up in his eyes. “But I’m still crying.”

“You’re going to have to give yourself some time,” Yoongi said, his voice low and somber. He put a reassuring hand on Seokjin’s shoulder.  Seokjin reached up and placed his own hand atop it like he was afraid to lose contact. They stayed like that for a few minutes, the cool, October breeze tousling their hair and filling their useless lungs. Yoongi cleared his throat, and Seokjin removed his hand.

“I guess we have to go soon.”

“Yeah.” Yoongi tucked his hands into his back pockets as he rocked on his heels, pulling one out to jerk a thumb over his shoulder. “Would you feel better if we went and fucked with some of your relatives before we go? That one uncle… woof.”

“I have a whole rant planned out for when we get home, but I think this would be a nice start to it.”

Home, Yoongi thought, feeling a warmth blooming in his chest. Home with Seokjin. Their home.

Back at the apartment, Seokjin was going on his seventh minute of ranting. It was immensely better than the crying he’d done at first, and it was a sight to see.  Yoongi observed from a spot at the kitchen table in silence, equally stunned and impressed. Seokjin barely breathed when he spoke, a master at saying as many words as possible with as little air as possible to fuel him.

“And he has no place to talk wearing that butt-ugly suit.”

“‘Butt-ugly’?”

“You heard me, Yoongi-yah. Ugly as butt.”

“Wow.” Yoongi nodded, mulling over the observation. Seokjin had paused, shoulders heaving like he’d just run a marathon (and won). “Well at least you have Taehyung. I feel like he’s your chosen family member.”

“You make it sound like I’m a cat.”

“You’re kind of like a cat.”

You’re kind of like a cat.”

“Was that an insult?”

Seokjin crossed his arms over his chest, biting his lip to hide the fact that he had started to smile a little bit. “Maybe.”

“That was a shit insult. Want to try again?”

“I’m too flustered for insults at the moment, so maybe later.” Seokjin slumped down at the table next to Yoongi, finally deflating a bit.  He rubbed a hand over his face, looking exhausted from the day. “So what now?”

“Um, existing.”

Seokjin groaned, slumping down on the table.

“That’s the spirit, hyung.”

~~~

After the funeral, each day was better—a little bit at a time, one step after another. Seokjin cried four or five times a day, then two or three times, then every other day. A month and a half into Seokjin’s afterlife and he’d moved from sadness to a listless acceptance, trying to carve out a place for himself in his new existence. 

Part of this involved lots of reading; it turned out that when Seokjin didn’t have video games, he was a voracious reader, tearing through books even faster than Yoongi did.  They’d been able to read a good chunk of the books that had been left in Seokjin’s apartment.

The other part of their cohabitation involved a deck of cards, which Yoongi could fish in his pocket for and produce at any time. Strangely, they didn’t exist when he wasn’t reaching for them, but he knew better than to question it. They played and played and played, usually with conversation sprinkled in. Each game emboldened Seokjin, and they went from so, where did you go to school? to what’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done in front of someone else? in a week’s time.

“Can I ask about the ‘setting things on fire’?”

“I can’t stop you from asking.”

Seokjin rearranged the cards in his hand, peering over them at Yoongi. He quirked an eyebrow up, then looked back at the cards, studying them. “So about you setting things on fire.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Care to elaborate?”

Yoongi shrugged.

Seokjin groaned, setting his cards face-down on the table. “Come on! I wanna know more about your life on Earth. The only things you’ve told me are your favourite books and what it’s like to be old!”

“Hey, talking about what life was like in the eighties is not talking about what it’s like to be old.”

“Fine.” Seokjin slowly moved his hand back towards the cards, watching Yoongi, waiting for him to provide more detail.

“You’re a pain in the ass.”

Seokjin smiled.

Yoongi huffed, setting his own cards down and crossing his arms. “I was pretty mad after I got sick so I destroyed some stuff. Abandoned buildings, stuff I found in the woods, big bonfires, people—“

People?” Seokjin balked, eyes wide.

“Well, not so much people as relationships, but now I know you are actually interested.” Yoongi smirked, and Seokjin rolled his eyes.

“Did you ever get caught?”

“Nope. I don’t think they expected the dying kid to be lighting shit on fire. But it caught up to me in the afterlife, so joke’s on me, I guess.”

“You’d think the system would be more lenient.”

“What do you mean?”

“You were clearly lighting stuff on fire because you were upset about things out of your control. That feels like something they could’ve excused.” Seokjin picked up his cards again, peeking up at Yoongi to gauge his reaction.

“Yeah, well, we don’t make the afterlife rules.” Yoongi picked up his cards as well, setting one down on the table face-up. “Besides, maybe I got extra time out of some kind of fucked up kismet. Now I’m going to be here to bug you almost the entire time you’re on Earth.”

A smile touched the corners of Seokjin’s mouth, unsure and shy. “I don’t mind.”

Yoongi’s head snapped up, watching as Seokjin carefully selected a card from his hand and placed it atop Yoongi’s. Seokjin’s skin was alight with a blush…

And Yoongi was so charmed. 

So charmed.

Seokjin shifted in his seat, playing another card that allowed him to sweep the entire pile into his hand. 

“Maybe you’ve got something to teach me,” Yoongi said, biting at his bottom lip as he played his card.

“Yeah, like how to play cards,” Seokjin said, setting down a number of cards from his hand—an instantaneous win.  Yoongi groaned, smacking his cards down on the table. “Pay up, Yoongi-yah.”

~~~

And then there were strange days. Days when Seokjin wanted to leave the apartment or didn’t want to talk to Yoongi. From what Yoongi could tell, those were the days when the reality of his situation was at his heels, threatening to overwhelm him. Most days, Seokjin was making the best of it to an almost alarming degree: he was so bright, excited to learn he could walk through solid objects or move the mat on the apartment’s doorstep to scare the neighbours. He was exactly the kind of person that pissed Yoongi off when he was alive—that amount of positivity would have irked Yoongi to no end.

But bad days continuously crept up, like an itch that couldn’t be scratched. One night Yoongi would leave Seokjin with a flirtatious remark about being able to spank him at more than just card games, and then the next morning Seokjin would be floating next to the windowsill for hours, looking woebegone and pallid. He’d be nearly transparent, almost away with his thoughts, forlornly gazing at the people milling about on the streets outside. 

Yoongi never knew what to do on those days except ask Seokjin a few times if he needed anything. It was a foreign concept to Yoongi: he wasn’t prone to melancholy in his lifetime, likely due to a hardened nothing-can-fuck-with-me-now attitude (that had caused more trouble than it was worth). Being sick couldn’t hurt him, dying couldn’t hurt him, failed relationships couldn’t hurt him if he gave no fucks. 

And now here was Seokjin, terminally hurt.  Yoongi felt older than ever, so far removed from how he was as a human, relearning what it meant to be a friend. It was as if his time in the apartment had softened him. 

Maybe a year of watching Seokjin live had softened him.

Today was one of those strange days.  It was sleeting outside: dismal, bleak, grey.  These were the kind of days when Yoongi wished he could curl up with a coffee and a book, or a mulled wine and Seokjin cuddled into his side. And maybe a cat on Seokjin’s lap. It was a nice thought, but far from the reality. He’d been trying to shake his feelings for Seokjin unsuccessfully: interacting with him was making it worse, if anything.

“Deep in thought?” Yoongi asked, tentatively approaching where Seokjin leaned against the window in the living room.

“Look at these people,” Seokjin said, motioning to a couple huddling under an umbrella, laughing despite their shivering. “The weather is terrible and they’re still happy.”

“Yeah. Love or whatever.” Yoongi pulled the curtain back to take a better look. The couple clung to each other, overcome by a fresh wave of giggles as they dashed across the street.

“Were you ever in love when you were alive?” Seokjin crossed his arms over his chest, hugging his cream-coloured sweater tighter around himself.

Yoongi took a deep breath, exhaling in a hum of thought. “Well, as you know, I wasn’t one for dating.  I was in love with a guy that worked at the movie theatre when I was 16, but it was unrequited. Other than that… nope.” He watched the couple disappear around a corner, almost sad to see them go. “How about you?”

They met each other’s gaze out of the corner of their eyes, and Seokjin tried to hide a sad smile.

“Don’t act like you didn’t observe my life for a year and a half.”

“Well you could’ve been in love before you moved here!” Yoongi protested. “You know, your book collection would suggest you’ve had plenty of interested suitors.”

This made Seokjin’s eyes widen comically, his cheeks flushing red.  “Listen,” he started, raising a finger to point at Yoongi. “Just because my interests are… teasingly diverse doesn’t mean I had suitors. In fact, I didn’t… wait, am I, like, defending how much of a loser I was? That’s… that’s so sad.”

“It’s not that bad. You had some dates.”

Yoongi remembered watching over Seokjin’s shoulder as he texted boys who said things like ‘u up?’ and ‘ur lips would look good around my dick’. Just the idea of Seokjin answering rubbed Yoongi the wrong way.  It was irrational, especially when Seokjin was handing them a steaming plate of rejection, but still. Yoongi would roll his eyes and tell Seokjin out loud to not answer, but Seokjin—unable to hear him and far too polite for his own good—always would.

“Unsuccessful dates, as you know,” Seokjin said. He seemed to be dipping back into his sombre, dark day, unable to sustain his mood on the banter with Yoongi. “I was never in love. Not even with a guy at a movie theatre. I always thought there’d be more time.”

Yoongi knew it was more; he’d seen Seokjin’s parents interact without a hint of love at the funeral, especially in their less than empathetic response to their remaining son.  Love was likely a behaviour Seokjin would have to learn later in life, not something that came naturally, and he’d missed the opportunity.

 “It’s okay.” Yoongi genuinely believed that it would be okay for Seokjin. He wanted to make sure it would be okay. There would be more time for love, hopefully lots and lots of time for it wherever they went after this. He placed a reassuring hand on Seokjin’s shoulder, and Seokjin sighed. It wasn’t so sad anymore—maybe Seokjin believed it was okay, too. “There’s always more time.”

~~~

Jimin came over unexpectedly one night, cradling a stack of books piled over his head. If Yoongi wasn’t mistaken, they had been somehow magicked to not fall over, but still looked impressive nonetheless.

“Aren’t they going to notice the stack of new books?” Seokjin eyed the tower of books while Yoongi rushed to the front door to help. Yoongi knew who they were: it had been a month and a half since they’d last seen Taehyung and Namjoon, but he had heard Seokjin talk about them every few days without fail. He had been missing his friends.

“Nah, my sources tell me that your cousin and his new paramour have called your apartment a wash for the winter. I think you two should expect new roommates in, um, April, maybe? I think Hobi-hyung said April.” The stack in Jimin’s hands teetered as he talked, wobbling whenever he took a shuffling step further into the apartment. “It helps that you paid it off before you died. Now they don’t feel a rush to rent it out—it would be too hard for Taehyung to show it now.”

“How—“

“Don’t ask,” Yoongi warned. He’d learned to become content with non-answers in the afterlife.  There were some mysteries that couldn’t be unveiled until they moved on, and it had taken him at least two years to come to terms with it.

“You’ll find out one day,” Jimin said.

Seokjin just huffed, remaining in the kitchen while Yoongi accompanied Jimin to drop the books on the floor of the near-empty living room.

“Will you answer some of my other questions?” Seokjin asked, eyes squinted at Jimin when he sat at the kitchen table.  It was a wary, unsure eyeballing that made Yoongi think Seokjin was still questioning the fact that they blindly followed the all-powerful caseworkers.

“Maaaay-be,” Jimin answered in a sing-song tone.

Yoongi sat at the table, breaking out the deck of cards and beginning to shuffle. “Don’t expect too much, hyung. Jimin’s pretty useless.”

“Hey!” Jimin glared at Yoongi.

Seokjin ignored them both, looking like he was poised to ask as many questions as he could. “Why are we here for so long?”

“Didn’t Hoseok-hyung answer that for you?” Jimin frowned. “Your actions on Earth are tabulated—“

“No, I got that part. I want to know why we can’t just move on, you know? Why can’t we just be whatever you are?”

“Because I’ve already spent my time on Earth.” Jimin seemed puzzled, speaking slower and slower like he was addressing someone who was stupid.

“Yeah, I get that. I mean figuratively, what if we just moved on? No time on Earth, just straight to the after-afterlife.” Seokjin, on the other hand, was becoming exceedingly peeved to be misunderstood, as if Jimin was doing it on purpose. Knowing Jimin and his tendency towards mischievousness, it wouldn’t have surprised Yoongi.

“Stop being dumb and answer his question, Jimin,” Yoongi said, schooling his voice to sound as bored as possible. He would have gotten an olympic gold medal for bickering with Jimin if he could—they both enjoyed volleying annoying remarks at each other as much as possible. Yoongi thought it was their way of expressing fondness, and, indeed, he’d become quite fond of Jimin as a friend in the afterlife.

Jimin squinted his eyes at Yoongi, frowning with his entire face. “You’re dumb, hyung.”

“Great comeback. You know, if stupidity was punishable in death I’m sure you could score yourself some more time on Earth.” Yoongi wished he had a cup of tea that he could sip at Jimin.

“Yeah, well—“

“Back to my question,” Seokjin snapped, physically inserting himself back into the conversation, leaning further into the kitchen table to break their concentration. “Why do we have to spend time on Earth? I guess that’s really what I want to know.”

“Well, there’s never been a reason to do away with the Earth time. They find people are much happier with moving on once they’ve spent some time existing on Earth.  It helps a lot of people to think about what they’ve done. Self-reflection is good. There’s other parts, too—like seeing loved ones go through the rest of their lives and whatnot. Gives people closure.” Jimin picked up the hand of cards that Yoongi had doled out to him, studying them and rearranging them. 

“But we can’t even go and see our loved ones. We’re just stuck here,” Seokjin whined, pointedly ignoring his stack of cards even as Yoongi pushed them closer and closer to where he sat.

“Yeah, well, be thankful you didn’t die in Vatican City. They exorcise people there.”

Yoongi felt an involuntary shudder trail down his back. He’d heard Jimin complain about people who’d been exorcised out of the places they existed in. It made haunting people a much less enticing idea than it had initially been. Exorcism sounded unpleasant as it was, but when he’d heard of souls too lost to move on, it frightened him even more.

“It’s not fair that some people die in multi-million won mansions and yachts while other people have to exist where they died. What about murder victims? They can’t leave the places where they got killed? That’s… that’s…”

“Traumatic, fuck, Seokjin-hyung,” Yoongi said, stopping his incessant pushing of the cards to put a comforting hand on Seokjin’s arm.  Seokjin looked at Yoongi with sad eyes, and Yoongi wanted to cry right then and there.

“We have rules in place for cases like that,” Jimin said, playing his first card on the table. “We usually move them to neutral ground. The evil, displeased spirits you hear about on TV aren’t ghosts like you two. They’re demons. We don’t want people to be unhappy where they are.”

“That’s comforting,” Seokjin mumbled, finally picking up his cards. “So you move them away to avoid triggering their trauma?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, my death was pretty traumatic,” Seokjin reasoned, playing a card after Yoongi.

Jimin paused, regarding Seokjin with a cocked eyebrow, unsure of where the conversation was going. “I suppose it was. I’m sure we could consider moving you…”

Yoongi felt his stomach sink, the conversation taking an unexpected turn.  He could see his remaining time on earth laid out before him, and without Seokjin it looked… bleak. So fucking bleak. When he looked up from his cards, Seokjin was studying him, nibbling his bottom lip between his teeth.

“Yoongi was traumatised too.” They exchanged a secret, little smile.

“Oh you wanna move him too? That’s nice—tell me, who’s filing that paperwork? I’m not a miracle worker, I’m just a lowly afterlife pencil pusher. Tell you what, you give one inch and people ask for a mile.” Jimin rolled his eyes. “From ‘move me’ to ‘move my boyfriend too’.”

“Hey, we’re not—no, we’re not, um, dating.” Seokjin stuttered over the sentence, and Yoongi watched as his face went red and his eyes flew to his hand of cards.

“Sorry, what would you prefer? ‘Eternal roommates’? Pretty sure that’s how every famous gay couple has been immortalised in history books, but okay. Do you.”

Seokjin was going a deeper shade of crimson, and Yoongi shifted in his seat, trying not to stare at Seokjin to gauge his reaction but finding it immensely difficult to avoid.

“Play your card, dumbass,” Yoongi said, tapping a finger on Jimin’s cards and breaking the strange little bubble of tension.

~~~

“Hey, Yoongi-ssi.” Seokjin hovered in the entryway to the living room, shifting his weight between his bare feet.  He had a duvet wrapped around his shoulders and up over his head like a hood. The effect was childlike and innocent: a toddler who’d had a bad dream and came to find his parents.

“Hey,” Yoongi said, looking over his book to Seokjin’s rumpled hair and subtle pout.

“It’s kind of late.” Seokjin shifted again, from one foot to the other, a methodical display of his nervousness.

With a glance to the analog clock hanging above where the television once sat, Yoongi set his book down.

“Yeah, I guess it is.” A pause, more shifting from Seokjin. “Are you… alright?”

“Sure. I was just going to go to bed.” Seokjin tipped his head back towards the bedroom, almost dislodging the blanket from where it hung.

“Okay. See you in the morning?”

“I guess so.”

Another pause, this time with Seokjin turning towards the bedroom before he stopped and turned back.

“Hyung?” Yoongi asked, his voice pitched low with confusion.

“Do you want to maybe share the… the bed? I know you like the couch, but the bed is undeniably better and—“ Seokjin looked to the floor, the feet that had been firmly planted on the floorboards fading into a near-translucent nothingness. “And it would be nice.”

“You want me to share the bed with you?” Yoongi asked, watching as Seokjin’s form became more solid again, a flare of a blush on the tips of his ears. He nodded, and Yoongi’s stomach fluttered, an undeniably large pang of want coursing through him.  Surely it was just platonic, but Seokjin was asking, Seokjin was wanting just like he was. But in a different way—

It had to be a different way, right? He didn’t want Yoongi like Yoongi wanted him. Nope.

“Your silence is telling,” Seokjin said, looking lighter around the edges again, like he was fading back into whatever had prompted his query in the first place.

“I’m going to finish this chapter and then I’ll come in.” The sentence came out in a hurry, and Yoongi slowed it down mid-way—trying to remain cool despite his desperation to rectify the situation.  Even Seokjin thinking it was a rejection was bad.  Yoongi wanted to skywrite it: fuck yes, I want to share a bed with you.

Seokjin smiled, close-lipped and pleased with himself.  He drifted to the bedroom, and Yoongi picked up his book again to flick the pages and give the illusion of reading.  No longer coherent, logical Yoongi, he was now reduced to a bundle of nerves, approaching the bedroom and digesting every possible scenario.  

Would they cuddle? Would they lie across the bed from each other until six in the morning, talking about everything? Would they awkwardly climb into opposite sides of the bed to not touch, not talk, just exist in the same space? Seokjin said the bed was more comfortable—maybe that was all this was. A desire for someone else to be in the same space, benefiting from the same comfy bed.

Yoongi slipped through the bedroom door and found Seokjin in the dark, flat on his back, occupying his normal spot in bed.  The mattress barely shifted when Yoongi laid down, slipping himself under the duvet that Seokjin had been wearing. Yoongi wiggled around, getting comfortable and letting a pleasant shiver of anticipation and nervousness course through him.

As Yoongi shifted, Seokjin turned to his side—it did nothing for Yoongi’s nerves when he realised they were both laid face-to-face, a mere few inches apart.

“Um, hey,” Yoongi whispered.

“Why are you whispering?” Seokjin whispered back.

“Because it’s… nighttime. And we’re in bed. This is what people do at sleepovers and stuff, right? Whisper to each other in bed?”

“I guess. But this is our apartment; we can talk as loud as we want,” Seokjin said, his voice turning to a low-pitched, quieter version of how he normally spoke.  It was sexy: a deep bass tone that Yoongi could imagine his own name being said in.  Perhaps moaned, a sleepy-voiced Seokjin saying oh, Yoongi-yah, yes. A thought Yoongi knew he couldn’t dwell on while they were in bed together. Not under these circumstances.

He forced himself to say something, but his voice cracked on it. “Yeah, we can.”

Seokjin clutched the duvet in his hand, the moon playing off of his smooth skin and round eyes. Everything about him screamed soft.

“Are you okay?” Yoongi asked, wanting to reach out and brush back the comma of hair that laid across Seokjin’s forehead.  Seokjin brushed it back himself, but it spilled down again, and Yoongi swore his long-dead heart had started to thud in his chest.

“One of those days,” Seokjin said.  Yoongi nodded his understanding, and Seokjin sighed—an every-ounce-of-your-being, full-bodied sigh.

“Tomorrow’s a new day, though. We can learn a new game? Or I can do a dramatic reading of one of the books we have?”

Seokjin scoffed. “We both know my dramatic readings are leagues better than yours.”

“Yeah, I guess they are.” Yoongi couldn’t help but smile.

In the ensuing minutes, they existed in silence.  Yoongi at first thought that Seokjin had fallen asleep, but then he heaved another one of those dramatic sighs and flipped to his other side. A moment later, Seokjin had squirmed back until there was a couple of inches between them. 

Then further back.

Further still.

And then Yoongi could feel how close Seokjin was to him, almost pressed to Yoongi’s front.  If he cocked his hips forward or tipped his head, he’d be on Seokjin.  The last step of the bold tango was Yoongi’s to make: he became painfully aware of this as Seokjin’s breathing maintained it’s pace, content to lay and wait as time passed.  Yoongi raised his hand from where it was tucked under his pillow, reaching out hesitantly.

There, above Seokjin’s slim waist, Yoongi’s hand hovered.  Putting it down would be a blatant violation of his campaign to lose his feelings for Seokjin.  Putting it down would be an invitation for his feelings for Seokjin to blossom without any guarantee that Seokjin wanted the same in return.  Putting it down was risky—the wrong move would stick with him for decades to come.  But he had no choice but to let his hand softly rest over the dip of Seokjin’s waist, palm down against the soft fabric of his t-shirt.  Seokjin let out another sigh, but this time it was one of utter relief, a sigh that let the tension spill from his shoulders.

Like permission was granted, Seokjin scooted back the rest of the way, his back very much pressed to Yoongi’s front.  His hand grasped Yoongi’s in the dark, drawing it from where it nervously rested to pull it into a more comfortable position.  Yoongi adjusted, letting his arm be drawn further around Seokjin. They settled with Yoongi’s hand under Seokjin’s, pressed palm-down to the part of Seokjin’s chest that should have been alight with a heartbeat.

Yoongi felt like a kid again: too scared to say what he was feeling, letting their shared touches speak for them.  He adjusted his legs, shifting so one was hooked over Seokjin’s at the ankle, a minute change that felt soft and intimate and right. His knees were cocooned in the dip of Seokjin’s—two spoons in a drawer. Seokjin made a little hum deep in his chest, subtly squeezing Yoongi’s hand tighter to his chest.

While Yoongi should have slept—and could have slept, had he wanted to, what with their ability to shut down at will—he was too mesmerised by the way Seokjin’s hair somehow smelled of his aloe vera shampoo, like that would be part of him forever. It was the ghost of a scent, a memory of who Seokjin was when he was alive, the type of thing that remained long after life.  It was the smell of cigarettes lingering in the attic of an old house, the memory of someone’s essence. And all Yoongi needed to do was just… lean.

A bit further.

A minuscule amount…

Just a tad closer, and his nose prickled with how the hair at the nape of Seokjin’s neck tickled the tip of it. He inhaled, eyes closing at the comforting scent—

“Did you just sniff me?” Seokjin asked, a laugh bubbling under the surface of the question, a tease.

Yoongi paused, eyes flicking back open. “Um, no, I was just taking a-a deep inhale to then be followed by an over-exaggerated exhale.”

“You mean a sigh?” The laugh was dangerously close to breaching the surface.

“Um, sure.”

There was a long, pregnant pause.

“Thank you,” Seokjin said, tightening his grip on Yoongi’s hand in another small squeeze.

“For… for sniffing you?”

“I thought you were deeply inhaling to then exhale dramatically.”

“I—“

“I’m just messing with you.” Seokjin’s breath huffed out in a quiet laugh, and then he was back to the serious tone he’d taken before. “Thank you for sleeping in the bed with me. I kind of… needed this. I, um, I kind of needed you.”

Yoongi felt alive, verging on drunk, hardly able to come to terms with the idea that Seokjin needed him.

“It’s no problem, hyung,” Yoongi said. He felt Seokjin’s breathing even out, deepen and slower. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Seokjin replied, his voice quiet and slurred with half-sleep. “Yoongichi.”

Yoongi smiled—a pet name? His internal temperature skyrocketed. Just a centimetre of movement and he could press his lips to Seokjin’s neck, and he was sure his long-deceased body would spark to life in its resting place. But instead, he settled back into the pillow. It was enough for then.

~~~

Seokjin stood in the entryway to the kitchen again, this time with his arms crossed and his brows pinched.  Yoongi peered over his book, eyeing Seokjin up-and-down, then back again.

“Can I help you?” Yoongi set the book down, leaning onto the kitchen table and trying to withhold his smile to the best of his ability.

“It’s bedtime.”

“Almost.”

With a huff, Seokjin let his arms drop, his expression turning into one of pleading.  “Will you just—“

“Will I just what?” Yoongi cocked his head to the side, raising his eyebrows.

“Read in the bedroom?”

“Hmm.” Yoongi leaned back in his chair until two of its legs were off of the ground. “What’s in it for me?”

Seokjin opened his mouth like he was about to list the many benefits but paused, considering. “You… you’ll go down in history as the best roommate of all time.”

“I’m dead, hyung. My ‘best of all time’ ships have sailed.”

“Then—please?” He clasped his hands in front of his chest.

They had been sleeping in the bed together for a few weeks.  Yoongi had lost track of time, as he often found himself wont to do in the afterlife.  It was easier still to lose track of time with Seokjin: every moment was good.  They’d stay up some nights talking, some nights they’d wordlessly collapse into immediate sleep, and some nights they’d unabashedly grip at each other with only a few words muttered between them.  Nothing was ever a discussion of feelings, and Yoongi was afraid doing so would break the happy bubble they existed in.

Fine,” Yoongi said, a sarcastic lilt to his voice as he let the chair snap back to the ground and moved towards the bedroom.

Seokjin slid between the sheets and waited for Yoongi to follow suit before situating himself.  He stopped moving once he was tucked into Yoongi’s side, Yoongi’s arm secured around his back while his free hand held the book fanned open to his page.

“You’re needier than the cat I had when I was alive,” Yoongi said, smoothing his fingers over the bare skin of Seokjin’s upper arm.

“Shut up,” Seokjin fired back, eyes shut to the light. “I just sleep better when you’re here.”

Yoongi wouldn’t say the obvious: they didn’t even sleep, didn’t need to sleep or have the ability to do so. He just hummed in response, feeling his stomach tighten with a feeling he recognised as incredible, overwhelming pleasure.

There were days when they woke up on opposite sides of the bed, days where they woke up with the sheet tangled around them, days when Yoongi shed his shirt to the floor in his sleep and Seokjin would greedily grasp at his bare skin.  

Most notably was the day that Yoongi woke up on his side, facing Seokjin, who was sleeping on his back.  Yoongi’s hand had been laid over Seokjin’s bare stomach, his ring and pinky finger dipped into the waistband of Seokjin’s boxer briefs sometime during the night—

His hand, closer and closer still to where Seokjin’s cock lay—so painfully hard that it had leaked a small, darkened splotch on the fabric of Seokjin’s underwear.  Yoongi slid his hand back, trying his best not to wake Seokjin but failing, failing terribly, and Seokjin was stirring, making a little ‘mmm’ sound as he roused from sleep. The furthest he got was out of Seokjin’s underwear, fingers now splayed completely over Seokjin’s stomach.  

Yoongi wanted to rub circles on Seokjin’s smooth skin, put his hand back where it was—lower, still, until he was touching Seokjin and stroking him awake. Instead, he took a few seconds of opportunity to shut his eyes again, parting his mouth slightly and trying to give his best impression of someone who was still very much asleep.  Outside, a bird called an early-morning bugle that matched perfect time with Seokjin’s full-bodied stretch and yawn.

There was a quiet, almost imperceptible—yet undeniably panicked—“fork” that Seokjin breathed out, then Yoongi was being rolled onto the bed. Seokjin’s side of the bed sprung back as his weight disappeared.  Although Seokjin’s departure wasn’t accompanied by the sound of footsteps on the floor, Yoongi heard the bathroom door shut.

After the bed was made, Yoongi dressed and sat in the living room, peering out of the window to watch their neighbours buzzing around outside. The normal crowds milled by: a string of young people who commuted around the same time with identical disposable coffee cups, a middle aged couple who traveled to work together with straight faces and clasped hands, a number of school kids goading each other into doing cartwheels along the sidewalk on their way to school.  It was pleasantly sunny, one of the first inklings of spring to come.  Yoongi supposed people would be coming to tour around the apartment soon, their perfectly-sculpted silence sullied with life breathed back into the space.

From the bathroom, there was a high-pitched shriek, and Yoongi sprung to his feet.  He zipped through the wall, pausing outside of the closed door.  Hesitantly, he raised his hand in a fist and rapped his knuckles against the door.

“Hyung? Are you okay? I, uh, heard a scream?”

Behind the door, there was clamouring followed by a thud, then it opened.

“Fine, I’m fine. Look, fine, see? I’m fine.” Seokjin’s voice rose over the course of the sentence, matching how flustered he already looked: his skin was bright red and splotchy, his eyes wide and terrified.

“I can tell you’re fine by the way your voice went all high and squeaky when you said “I’m fine,”” Yoongi said, imitating the high-pitched lilt of the words as they had come out of Seokjin’s mouth.

Seokjin’s shoulders slumped, his brow furrowing in displeasure. “Am I that transparent?”

Yoongi paused, opened his mouth.

“If you say something about us being ghosts…”

“I wasn’t going to!” Yoongi was definitely going to. “I was going to say that, uh, that you’re not transparent now but you might be later… because we’re ghosts.”

“Yoongi-yah!” Seokjin skirted around him, wringing his hands together.

“Why don’t you tell me what’s really wrong?” Yoongi asked.  He was beginning to put the pieces of the puzzle together: Seokjin’s maddeningly hard erection, the closed bathroom door, the scream.

Seokjin groaned, flopping onto the sofa.  Yoongi sat beside him, moving his legs to the side only for Seokjin to immediately drop them back down into Yoongi’s lap.

“I don’t think I can tell you. You know, you’re my... my…”

Friend? Roommate? Boyfriend? Love? Object of affections? Yoongi gave Seokjin room to finish the statement, but he just flapped his hand in the air like he didn’t know what to say.

“And you’ll never look at me the same way again.”

As if Seokjin had any idea how Yoongi looked at him in the first place.  The thought was laughable.  Nothing Seokjin could say would change his view.

“Hyung, you can tell me anything.”

There was a beat of silence, and Yoongi watched as Seokjin regarded him, contemplating if he should continue or not.  At long last, he sighed, and closed his eyes. “Okay but if you laugh, I’ll remind you of that really embarrassing story you told me every day for the rest of our time here.”

“I’m already terrified at the thought alone,” Yoongi deadpanned.

One of Seokjin’s eyes popped open to squint at Yoongi, then closed again. He put both hands over his face and spoke through them, like he couldn’t bear Yoongi looking at him while he spoke. “I—god, this is so embarrassing. I was just… um, you know…” Seokjin’s hand raised in the air in a circle, moving up and down in a distinct pantomime of jerking off.

“No, hyung… what do you mean?”

“Milking the cow?”

“I don’t follow…”

“Making the bed?”

“I did that this morning.”

“Waxing the pole?”

“None of those in the bathroom, as far as I remember—“

“I was…” Seokjin’s voice pitched low, like someone might overheard him. “Jerking off.

Yoongi let out a loud, exaggerated gasp. “My god, Seokjin-hyung, that’s so scandalous!”

Seokjin went three brighter shades of red, if that was possible.

“Ok, but really, it’s fine. How do you think I got through, like, decades of boredom? A quarter of the books Jimin brings me are super raunchy. He has terrible taste, by the way. Lots of forbidden romances… he’s literally printed off Harry Potter fan fiction that Hoseok wrote before to give to me.”

Seokjin’s hands fell back to his sides, and he sat up, removing his legs from Yoongi’s lap. “So you know then.”

“How to… jerk off? Yeah, hyung, I think we all figured it out around thirteen—“

“No, I mean about what happens now.”

It suddenly dawned on Yoongi. “Oh, did you skip over that chapter in the handbook?”

“I didn’t think I’d be needing the Sexual Relations chapter until I got over, you know, grieving my death!” Seokjin threw his hands up and let them fall to his thighs with a smack. “So what was that?”

“Um, ectoplasm,” Yoongi muttered, scratching the back of his head with two fingers and looking pointedly towards the floor. He remembered the first time he’d cum after dying, threads of cloudy, glowing liquid shooting from his cock like he’d cracked open a glow stick.

“It disappeared!

“Yeah.”

There was a long pause where Seokjin studied his hands like they were math equations that needed solving, and then he spoke again.

“This has been sufficiently awkward.”

“I agree.”

“Great, bye,” Seokjin said, getting up from the sofa. He drifted hastily into the bedroom and Yoongi watched him retreat with a shake of his head.

~~~

A few days later, the door to the apartment swung open soon after dawn. Seokjin shook Yoongi awake from a dreamless sleep with a hand clasped to his shoulder.

“Yoongi, wake up!” Seokjin whispered, his voice harsh. He sprung from the bed, heading for the main hall. “We put the blanket and pillows out!”

“Seokjin-hyung, fuck, it’s fine,” Yoongi said, taking his time to get out of the bed. “The worst that can happen is he calls the police to check the flat out for anyone squatting here.”

But over the next hour, Taehyung was far more preoccupied with making sure the boxes were all neatly stacked, the blanket spread over the bed instead of splayed haphazardly, the bathroom free of dust.

“There must be a viewing today,” Seokjin said, stretching from where he sat on the counter.

As if on cue, there was a shave-and-a-haircut knock at the front door, and Taehyung fussed with his hair before going to answer it.  He swung it open to find a man around his age there, light blonde hair curtaining either side of his face, and a shy little smile that charmed Yoongi immediately.  Taehyung looked flustered, hitting his own foot with the door when he opened it fully.

“Hi, I assume you’re…”

“Jeon Jungkook. It’s nice to meet you—Namjoon-hyung has told me so much about you.” The boy bowed low in greeting, still smiling when he looked back up to Taehyung.

“Oh my god, Yoongichi.” Seokjin tapped incessantly against Yoongi’s arm to get his attention. “That’s the guy Namjoon is in love with!”

“But… Taehyung?” Yoongi asked, and wracked his brain for the answer.  He dredged up a night that Namjoon had stayed over and drank with Seokjin, becoming flustered beyond belief when he revealed the huge crush he had on his neighbour.

“Think Taehyung might be in love with him too,” Seokjin muttered, sliding from the countertop to follow them into the bedroom at a distance.  Indeed, Taehyung laughed too loud at a remark Jungkook made about the wallpaper, a hand on his arm. He even reached up to touch a strand of Jungkook’s hair and remarked on how much he liked the colour.  Taehyung was shameless when he wanted something.

Jungkook politely followed Taehyung through the tour of the little apartment, stopping in the living room. He stood in the centre, frowning, sweeping his eyes over the boxes and surfaces.

“Is something wrong?” Taehyung asked, wringing his hands together.

“Yeah, someone died in here,” Seokjin said with a snort of laughter.

Yoongi felt his hand sweep backwards, catching Seokjin’s side and pressing him a step behind just as Jungkook’s eyes landed on them.  With a careful tuck of his hair behind one of his ears, Jungkook took a step forward, and Yoongi and Seokjin took one back.

“What the fork.”

“If there’s any time to use an actual curse, it’s now, hyung…”

“There’s something… something…” Jungkook started, frowning harder. “Someone, actually.”

“Someone?” Taehyung asked, straightening up with a shudder.  Yoongi recognised that reaction: the feeling as though someone has just walked over your grave—or in this case, someone had brought your cousin back from his.

“Oh, sorry—did Namjoon not tell you I’m a bit, um, how do I say this…” Jungkook looked at Taehyung with a sheepish smile. “I’m sensitive to… energy.”

“Like, ghosts?” Taehyung’s eyes bugged, undeniably spooked.

“Fuck, can he see us?”

“Have you ever encountered anyone like this before?” Seokjin asked, his voice in a low whisper.

“Once, a few tenants ago, they had a girlfriend who always complained it was cold when I was in the room,” Yoongi said, mirroring Seokjin’s tone.

“Yeah, like ghosts,” Jungkook said.

“Are there… are there ghosts here?” Taehyung’s voice quivered, his hand coming to his mouth.  Yoongi couldn’t tell if he looked terrified or excited.

Jungkook looked back to where Yoongi and Seokjin stood, nodding.

“Do I need to, like, get a priest?”

“No, they’re happy ghosts.”

Yoongi exhaled loudly.  Seokjin laid a hand on his shoulder, giving it a quick squeeze, thumb dipping under the collar of his shirt.  In life, Yoongi had found himself comforted by skin-to-skin contact, and it was no different in the afterlife: the swipe of Seokjin’s thumb against his skin felt reassuring. They were fine even if Jungkook had seen them.

“They’re happy?”

“Yeah.”

“Who could be happy to be dead?” Taehyung asked, a question that should have been rhetorical but came out sounding like something he needed answered.

“Maybe they’re in love,” Jungkook said, grinning a bunny-like smile at Taehyung, who returned it.

“That’s a romantic thought, Jungkook-ah.”

The pair walked to the kitchen, now back to chatting politely and ignoring the two awestruck ghosts standing in the living room.  Seokjin let out a nervous laugh, yanking his hand away from Yoongi’s shoulder like he’d been burnt. The living left soon afterwards, Jungkook asking Taehyung out for a coffee before they could part ways.

“I don’t really like coffee, but I’d like to… I’d like to buy you one, if you’re interested?”

Taehyung spent no time contemplating, hastily agreeing to the coffee date with an eager nod. Yoongi mourned their absence as soon as the front door closed, the silence in the apartment thicker than it had ever been before.  He and Seokjin did little more than coexist that day, sizing each other up from afar across the apartment, quiet until they’d gotten into the bed in the dark of the springtime eve.

“Yoongi-ssi,” Seokjin whispered, poking his finger into Yoongi’s bare shoulder.

“Yeah, hyung?” Yoongi asked, blinking his eyes open.  He could make out Seokjin’s face in the light of the full moon that spilled through the window above them.  In the soft darkness, Seokjin’s eyes were wide.

“What Jungkook said today about us?”

“What about it?”

“I think… I think I might be.”

“You’re what?”

Seokjin licked his lips, and Yoongi noticed how his eyes wandered, studying every aspect of Yoongi’s face.  “I’m not lonely like I was when I was alive. I’m feeling something new and kind of exciting and it… it feels good.” 

Yoongi remembered Seokjin chasing that feeling, sending those risqué pictures to strangers on the internet, desperate for connection, reaching his hand out and coming back with nothing.  He remembered Seokjin’s profound loneliness when he was alive—the nights he cried while clutching the giant, stuffed alpaca that Taehyung had gifted him.  There were bitter nights when Seokjin would make a cup of tea and Yoongi wondered if it was just to have something warm in his grasp, something that would heat him up the way a lover would: from the hollow space in your chest all the way to your fingertips.

“If I admit that I’m happy now I… it’s like… like putting the final nail in the coffin on living. It’s…”

“Moving on?”

“Yeah. We live the same day over and over again and as mundane as it should be, it’s kind of great, you know? But it’s only great because you’re here too. And I’m… I’m kind of afraid to say it, but I think you deserve to know that…” Seokjin paused, exhaling from his mouth and shutting his eyes. “That I’m in love with you.”

Yoongi felt his heart squeeze like it was waking up after a long nap, ready to pump blood through his body again. A great shiver ran over his skin, and he resisted his immediate urge to grab Seokjin and kiss him.

“Hyung, that’s—wow, really…”

“I knew it was a calculated risk but I’m really hoping this isn’t one of your long-winded ways of rejecting something.” Seokjin was going fuzzy around the edges in the moonlight, like he was ready to disappear into nothingness to escape his profound embarrassment.

“No! I mean, yes! I do—me too. Me too.” Yoongi reached out in the darkness, groping for Seokjin’s shoulder as his form solidified again. “For so fucking long, hyung.”

“For… for how long?” Seokjin asked, sliding closer to Yoongi, fitting a hand on the side of his neck, thumb pressed featherlight to his jaw.

“Since that time Taehyung got so drunk he couldn’t go home.  He was crying about that guy he was seeing. You stroked his hair until he fell asleep and tucked him in, then woke up before him the next day to make him breakfast.” Yoongi had never said anything with such conviction before, but he knew it was true: that had been the day he realised he was falling in love with Seokjin—caring, gorgeous, friendly, funny Seokjin. Alive, unattainable, on-another-planet Seokjin. And now here Seokjin was, sharing his bed, tilting Yoongi’s face up, giving him the gentlest of pecks on the side of his mouth.

“That was only a couple of months after I moved in,” Seokjin whispered, his lips ghosting over Yoongi’s as he spoke.

“Yeah, hyung, it was.”

Seokjin’s fingers dug into his skin, fitting their lips together after another hushed ‘Yoongichi’—a soft, singular confession of uncontainable fondness, a feeling neither could ever communicate with more words, but maybe with less.

~~~

Learning to coexist had been easy—they’d fit into each other’s afterlives with little issue.  Seokjin liked to go to sleep around the same time Yoongi did, their taste in books had quite a bit of overlap, they knew how to play similar card games and taught each other new ones.  Whenever the apartment got dusty, Seokjin would be swiping at it with an old sheet before Yoongi got the chance to comment on it. It was like going to the shoe store and finding your size in the first pair you tried on.

Learning to coexist as romantic partners proved to be difficult.  Seokjin kissed Yoongi’s forehead in the morning and became flustered when it roused Yoongi from sleep, usually too grumpy to function for the first hour of being awake.  Yoongi went in for a kiss and they both turned the same way at the same time, too embarrassed and sheepish to try it again.  

Much of the same existed for the first couple of weeks: an awkward contemplation of how to take Yoongi’s Afterlife and Seokjin’s Afterlife and turn it into Yoongi and Seokjin’s Afterlife. Yoongi figured part of their growing pains could be attributed to their complete and utter lack of experience in the romance department.

Once they got it, however, they had really gotten it. Yoongi remembered the exact moment: waking on a slow morning with the bed framed in streaks of sunlight, being held in Seokjin’s arms as his hands slowly roamed downwards, lips on Yoongi’s neck.

“Morning,” Yoongi groaned.  He was painfully awake now that Seokjin was grinding forward against his ass, sucking at the spot on his neck that made his brain short-circuit.

“Hey,” Seokjin said, barely enough time spent away from teasing Yoongi’s neck to get the words out.

Yoongi keened, back arching to press back against Seokjin, his arm coming up to thread through Seokjin’s hair.

“Hyung—“

Seokjin nipped Yoongi’s neck, hands gripping his hips in place as they rocked together. “Shall I fuck you, baby? Hmm?”

That curse word. That fucking curse word. Something so obscene coming from Seokjin’s mouth had driven Yoongi insane; they spent the morning and well into the afternoon rolling in the bedsheets, making inane conversation between sessions where Yoongi wasn’t sure who wanted to devour who whole. It was like Yoongi had imagined it, too: the high-pitched whine of his name from Seokjin's lips when he eased his cock in, the low-pitched groans of 'yes' and 'Yoongichi' when Seokjin scooped his hips up and into Yoongi as they moved in tandem. Being so weightless and untethered made for a new sexual experience that Yoongi hadn't experienced while he was living (they even broke into a spate of giggles upon realizing they were floating above the bed during their second round of the day).

“The last couple of decades would’ve gone by a hell of a lot faster if I’d had this to do,” Yoongi joked, propped on an elbow so he could push Seokjin’s hair from his forehead. “We could do this for the rest of our afterlives, hyung.”

“You overestimate my stamina. We can’t fuck for decades straight, Yoongichi.”

“Well we can try, can’t we?” Yoongi asked, hastily scrambling on top of Seokjin to fold his legs back towards his chest.  Seokjin broke into a spate of giggles, reaching for Yoongi’s hands.

“Yeah, I guess we can,” Seokjin said, his laughter turning into a gasping moan.

~~~

Namjoon bustled into the apartment in the beginning of June with a reusable shopping bag stuffed full of snack foods.  Taehyung appeared shortly after with a full backpack and a grocery bag clanging with bottles of beer and soju. They kissed in greeting and began to move around the apartment, wiping at the surfaces and changing the sheets on the bed.

“What do you think they’re doing?” Seokjin asked, frowning as Taehyung laid a blanket over the living room floor and pulled tapered candlesticks from his bag.

There was a knock on the front door, the same shave-and-a-haircut that Jungkook had knocked the last time he’d been over.  Taehyung and Namjoon exchanged a smile, and went to answer it. Sure enough, Jungkook was there clutching a bag in each hand—they were heavy enough to make his muscles pop, and Taehyung’s ogling was almost too apparent.

“They’re gonna spit roast your cousin,” Yoongi said.

“Yoongi-yah! Shut up!”

“Oh wait, I stand corrected…” Yoongi watched as Taehyung and Namjoon led Jungkook into the living room, all sitting cross-legged on the floor.  Taehyung and Namjoon looked like they were going to consume Jungkook, hungry eyes and lips licked as Jungkook spread a game board on the floor between them. “They’re going to spit roast the kid.”

Seokjin groaned, following Yoongi closely as they wandered into the living room to peek at the game.  Along the top of the board was the large branding of OUIJA, sandwiched between the words YES and NO, above an alphabet and a prominent GOODBYE!

“It’s a Ouija board,” Seokjin said, crouching down to peek over Taehyung’s shoulder.

The trio poured themselves little glasses of soju, each taking a shot of it before they placed the planchette on the board.

“Are we—are they…?”

“Is anyone here with us now?” Taehyung asked, his fingers lightly pressed to one side of the planchette, flanked by Namjoon on his left and Jungkook on his right.

“Shall we?” Yoongi asked, motioning to the empty space on the opposite side of the board.

Seokjin cracked his knuckles, flopping to the floor with a little smile.  He reached out, putting his fingers on one side of the planchette to quickly steer it towards NO, then YES.

Wh-what does that mean?” Namjoon whispered, pulling his fingers away to cradle his hands at chest-height.

“Keep your hand on it—they’re here.” Jungkook reached for Namjoon’s hand, gently placing it back on the planchette with a reassuring squeeze.

“Who are you?” Taehyung asked.

Yoongi plopped down next to Seokjin, putting his hand on the planchette.

W-O-U-L-D-N-T Y-O-U L-I-K-E T-O K-N-O-W

Taehyung huffed, narrowing his eyes when he glared across the circle. “That’s why I’m asking.”

“Ask if it’s hyung,” Namjoon said, looking at Taehyung.

“Are… are you…” Taehyung started, his expression softening as tears glistened in his eyes. Namjoon reached across Jungkook to place his free hand on Taehyung’s leg, smoothing down his trousers. Jungkook’s free hand went behind Taehyung’s back, roving aimlessly.

“It’s okay.”

“Are you Seokjin-hyung?” Taehyung’s voice had gone low, almost inaudible.

Seokjin looked at Yoongi, his eyes wide.

“Go on, hyung.”

Hand shaking, Seokjin reached out and steered the planchette towards a steady, unmovable YES.

“Wow,” Jungkook said, the word coming out as an exhale.

Taehyung’s eyes had gone wet, huge and saucer-like with surprise. His chin trembled with tears held in.

“Are we sure it’s him?”

Jungkook nodded firmly. “Yeah, it’s him.”

“Are you alone?” Namjoon asked. He was gnawing nervously on his lower lip, eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

NO.

“Do we ask who else is there?”

“Will he be able to answer that?”

“Does it even matter who else is there?”

They tittered amongst themselves for a minute as they decided what else to ask.  All the while, Yoongi rubbed a reassuring hand on Seokjin’s lower back, noting the way his eyes had welled when Taehyung’s had.

“Are you okay, hyung?” Taehyung asked, addressing Seokjin again.

YES.

“Are you… are you happy? Jungkook-ah said you’re happy.”

Seokjin yanked the planchette to YES again, circling the word over and over. A laugh bubbled from Taehyung’s throat, and he used his free hand to hastily wipe the tears that had spilled over to his cheeks.

“Told you so,” Jungkook said, chest puffed with pride. “They’re in love, I swear.”

“Highly doubt it, Seokjin was so bad at relationships when he was alive,” Namjoon muttered. He yanked his hand back from the planchette again when Seokjin swiped his fingers through it, clutching it to his chest like he’d been injured. In reality, he’d likely felt a piercing coldness on his skin, permeating through to his bones. “Ah, what the hell?!”

“Are you in love, Seokjin-hyung?” Taehyung asked, his fingers still firmly planted on the planchette.

Seokjin looked to Yoongi as he steered the planchette to a definitive YES.

With who?” Namjoon asked, sounding skeptical again.

Y-O-U-R M-O-M

“Really funny, Seokjin-hyung.” Namjoon narrowed his eyes at the space where Seokjin and Yoongi sat, laughing between themselves.

A-N-D Y-O-U-R D-A-D

Ha-ha,” Namjoon said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“They’re funny ghosts,” Jungkook whispered, looking endeared.

“I wish you had gotten the chance to meet him,” Taehyung said, taking his fingers off of the planchette. “And I hope this isn’t scaring you away from the apartment—“

“Not a chance!” Jungkook angled himself so he was facing Namjoon and Taehyung.  He reached out, one hand on each of their knees. “I want it even more now. We can’t let someone random move in when your hyung is still here. Plus, I think he’ll be a good roommate.”

I W-O-N-T

“They’re going to have so much sex in here, I can just tell,” Yoongi complained, and Seokjin continued to pluck out words on the board.

B-O-O

S-E-N-D N-U-D-E-S

S-E-N-D J-E-F-F B-E-Z-O-S

And by the end of the night, Seokjin and Yoongi were laid in the living room, hovering in the air and holding each other. Taehyung had stood in the living room for fifteen minutes waving at the air and saying ‘go away now, go do ghost stuff, hyung’.

It made sense when they realized Jungkook was soon after being spit roasted in the other room.

~~~

Jungkook moved in on a scorchingly hot Friday two weeks later, and Yoongi and Seokjin observed. They observed Taehyung helping him to unpack books, paintings, and utensils.  They observed Namjoon come over after work, shrugging his messenger bag to the floor and putting one arm around Jungkook’s waist and one around Taehyung’s to kiss them both on the cheek.  They observed the trio collapse on the couch after a long day of painting an accent wall, making the apartment into a home, observed them cuddling and softly kissing each other in the early evening light.

Together, they observed all they could while stuck in the walls of what was once Yoongi’s Seoul apartment, was once Seokjin’s Seoul apartment, was now Jungkook’s Seoul apartment. And that was the key to everything: being together.  As Yoongi looped his arms around Seokjin’s waist, kissing his neck, he reckoned that they’d spend the next decades happily stuck between those walls. As long as they had each other.