“I don’t know, Asahi, I’m still suspicious about getting this place so cheap,” Suga says, leaning down to let a box slide out of his hands. “But you were right that it’s too perfect a location to pass up.”
Asahi stops next to him to plop their own box down. “Don’t be a worrywart, Koushi, that’s my job,” he says, grinning at the little laugh they get out of their partner. “Besides, a cheap haunted apartment is a trope that only works when people are stupid. I’ll ward this place up; nothing will be able to get through.”
Suga wraps his arms around Asahi’s neck and plants a small kiss on his cheek, smiling at the blush that still blooms there. “You know that stuff mostly goes over my head, but I trust you to do it.”
Asahi ducks his head and smiles. “I’ll get the catching jar, the nails, and the horseshoes.” Asahi favors cold iron and salt when it comes to protecting what’s theirs.
Suga goes back to unpacking, stopping a few minutes later when Asahi holds a jar in front of his face.
“Spit in this,” Asahi says.
“Would you prefer to piss in it?” A smile dances on Asahi’s face, relishing the rare moment of them making Suga uncomfortable instead of the other way around.
“That’s absolutely disgusting.”
Asahi shrugs. “Witchcraft isn’t all pretty crystals and woo-woo.”
“Woo-woo?” Suga says, raising an eyebrow.
Asahi blushes. “It’s a word! It’s on the Internet.”
“Oh, well if the Internet says it, it must be true.” Suga smirks.
“Just spit in the jar already,” Asahi says.
Suga rolls his eyes and complies. “Are you happy now?” His nose crinkles up with residual disgust.
Asahi grins. “Very! Now I can turn this into a proper catching jar.”
“Please don’t pee in it,” Suga says, his nose crinkling even further.
“Koushi, listen. I’m the most likely one for ghosts to target--”
“Are you saying I’m not appealing enough to get haunted?” Suga raises both eyebrows this time.
“I’m saying that I produce the most spiritual energy due to the whole ‘spent years training it’ thing, and therefore I’m the most likely one to get targeted by ghosts. So I should use the most effective method instead of just spit and vinegar.”
“I liked blushing Asahi better than whatever this is,” Suga says, the sparkle in his eyes making it clear that he’s kidding.
“You won’t see it anyway. It’s going under the bed.” Asahi offers a reconciliatory smile.
“It’s going under our bed?” Suga squawks.
Suga trudges up the walk to the new apartment, bag precariously close to slipping off his shoulder. He unlocks the door and steps inside, but as he moves to take off his shoes he freezes.
It looks like someone’s ransacked the apartment. Drawers are flung open, cabinet doors standing wide, contents strewn about. There are books and papers pulled off of shelves, a couple more delicate decorations shattered on the floor. Suga’s bag slips down, jolting him back to awareness when it pulls at his arm. He pulls it back up and steps back into the doorway, shock warring with horror at the state of the place. He takes a hesitant step back into the entryway when he hears movement back in the bedroom. He’s about to call out but stops, terror building in his gut. Someone broke into their apartment and they’re still inside .
Suga turns around and bolts. He’s several blocks away when the panic cools enough to let him form some coherent thoughts again. He immediately calls Asahi.
The line rings and Suga clutches at his phone as he waits, heart rate still elevated, hands shaking. He didn’t even realize he’d teared up.
Finally, an answer. “Koushi?”
“Asahi,” Suga chokes out through a throat tight with anxiety and tears.
He hears rustling on the other side. “Koushi, sweetheart, I’m leaving now. What’s happened? What’s wrong?”
“Someone broke into the apartment,” Suga says. “I just got home from class and everything is a mess. I think I heard someone in the bedroom, I-I panicked and left.”
“Good, I’m glad you’re okay,” Asahi says, voice low and comforting. Suga notices that his legs had taken him back to campus. “Find somewhere to sit and get something to drink, okay? I’ll come to you. Do you want to call the police or do you want me to?”
“I’m back on campus,” Suga tells them. “I’ll go back to the complex and wait on the police if you call them?”
“Are you sure you’re okay with that?” Asahi asks softly.
Suga takes a deep breath. “Yeah, I’ve calmed down. I’m sorry to scare you.”
“I’m glad you called me. I’ll be there in less than twenty, okay?”
“Okay. See you soon.”
Suga’s sitting in the open doorway when Asahi gets there. He all but throws himself at his partner, but Asahi has a similar idea and pulls him as close as they can.
“The police are going through everything now,” Suga says, voice muffled from where he’s pressed into Asahi’s chest. “There’s no sign of forced entry, though, so there isn’t much they can do.”
“Nothing they can do? That’s ridiculous!” Asahi says, arms curling tighter around Suga.
Suga lifts his head to look at them and frowns. “I know, I know. But they said there’s no proof we didn’t just trash it ourselves.”
Asahi stiffens, and Suga can feel their heartbeat speed up. “For what? A laugh? You’re scared half to death!” They shake their head. “Maybe we should move. This was supposed to be a safe area.”
“We’re not going to move after one incident,” Suga says.
“But now I’m going to be worried about leaving you alone,” Asahi says. They press a kiss to the top of Suga’s head. “I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“We’ll get a deadbolt, maybe security cameras, okay?” Suga says, laying his head back down to Asahi’s chest. “This really is a good apartment for us. I don’t want it ruined already.”
Asahi’s frown deepens, but they nod. “I’m off tomorrow, so I’ll get a few locks, and put longer screws in the strike plate we have already.”
“It’s going to be okay,” Suga says, stretching up to kiss them. “I promise.”
“I should be the one comforting you,” Asahi says, shoulders drooping.
“You’re doing just fine.” Suga kisses the tip of their nose. “You’re just worried about me.”
“I am so worried about you.” They hold Suga a little tighter. “Our apartment just got broken into and you’re so calm!”
“The police checked it out and no one is there. I don’t think anything was even stolen.”
“That’s not comforting me,” Asahi says. “What if they just broke in to murder us?”
“If I was going to get murdered, it would’ve been while I was in the apartment alone with whoever broke in. But they didn’t come after me at all.” Suga breathes in deep. “I had my panic. I’m tired; I’ve moved on to a more practical state of mind. We can’t afford to move again right now.” He gives Asahi a squeeze. “Places rarely get broken into more than once, right? We’ll take some precautions. It’ll be okay.”
It’s after a late night at the library when Suga returns home. The apartment greets him with strategic lights left on and dinner wrapped up waiting for him on the table. He listens to Asahi’s soft snores drifting in from the bedroom as he eats, then packs the leftovers into the fridge. He stops dead in his tracks and watches one of the drawers slowly pull open on its own. It thunks at the end of its track.
Suga backs away slowly as another drawer starts to open. He forgets about the chair, though, and it grates against the floor with a jarring sound when he bumps into it. Suga jumps, and he hears Asahi‘s snores stop as the drawer stops, too. He scurries into the bedroom and shakes Asahi the rest of the way to awake.
“Wha… Koushi?” Their sleepy attitude is endearing and Suga usually loves it, but fear is spiking in his gut again. When Asahi sees the look on his face, the sleep haze disappears and they sit up. “Koushi?”
Suga points back out into the main room. His hands are shaking. “The drawers, in the kitchen,” he says, voice tight.
Asahi pushes the comforter away and stands, giving Suga’s hands a comforting squeeze on his way by. Suga follows him out into the kitchen, but — the drawers aren’t pulled out. Everything is where it should be, even Suga’s chair. Asahi turns to him, concern clear on his face.
Suga runs his hands through his hair and then rubs his face. “I watched them open,” he mutters. Louder, he continues. “I’m sorry, Asahi. I’m just tired and probably still a little on edge from the break-in.” He gives a little laugh, unconvincing to his own ears.
Asahi steps back towards him and takes his hands. “No, Koushi, I believe you. If you say you saw something, then it happened. If there is a ghost in this apartment,” they continue, lifting their head to address the apartment at large, “It’s gonna pay for scaring you.” They squint accusingly into the dark, and Suga chuckles for real this time.
Asahi sighs. “Well, now I’m awake, thanks to the spectral menace that’s decided to infringe on my territory,” and here they aim another glare into the dark. “So I might as well brew up a cleansing spray to get rid of this thing. Sweetheart, could you get out the big pot and fill it with water while I grab some herbs?”
Suga nods, letting Asahi take over. “How full do you want it?” he asks, pulling it out of a lower cupboard with a clang. He follows Asahi’s directions, thankful for the chance to let his mind rest and just listen to what he’s told to do.
After about half an hour of simmering, they have a pot full of what Asahi would describe as a cleansing spray, and what Suga would describe as very nasty tea.
“Let’s let that cool and then I’ll spray everything down tomorrow, okay? I doubt it will have enough energy to pull anything overnight,” Asahi says, knocking wood as they speak.
Suga hums and nods, his own energy gone.
“My poor baby,” Asahi says, looking at the way Suga’s eyelids and shoulders droop. “Let’s get you some sleep.” They take Suga’s hand and pull him into the bedroom, gently stripping off his jeans and t-shirt. Asahi hands Suga a sleep shirt, one of their old ones that Suga’s appropriated because he likes the way it hangs loose and is soft from years of wear. “You’re so brave,” they say, punctuating the statement with a kiss to Suga’s hair.
Once Suga is dressed in his sleep shirt, he climbs into bed, patting the mattress next to him to signal to Asahi to come to bed. Asahi happily obliges, settling in before pulling Suga to rest on his chest.
“I’ll take care of everything tomorrow,” they say, “I promise.”
“I trust you,” Suga says, reaching over to turn out the light. “Sleep time now?”
“Sweet dreams, Koushi,” Asahi says, reaching to hold Suga’s hand.
Suga squeezes their hand. “Sweet dreams, Asahi.”
There’s been no more activity since Asahi sprayed down the apartment and salted the doors and windows. They finally have a day off together since they moved, and they’re spending it with take out and movies, curled up together on the couch. Suga fell asleep towards the end of the last one, but rouses when a knock on the door announces the arrival of lunch. Asahi smiles at him when he sits up, and goes to answer the door. Suga stretches lazily, extracts himself from the blanket, and makes a quick stop to the bathroom. When he comes back, Asahi already has plates set up for them on the coffee table and Suga hears them back in the kitchen, glass clinking. He smiles and starts walking around the couch to settle back in for another couple of hours when something catches his eye. He leans to see back into the hallway.
“Asahi?” He calls. He hears his partner enter the room. “Why is there half a handsome man in our hallway?”
Asahi sighs. “You’re telling me that the last round of cleansings didn’t take care of it?” They pause, processing Suga’s last statement. “Wait, handsome?”
Suga points, and the man -- did he startle ?
“You can see me?” the man says. He smiles and it’s radiant and Asahi is not for a moment fooled.
Asahi draws themself up to their full height. “Get out of our apartment. You’re not welcome here among the living. I’d have been willing to hear you out, but then you kept scaring Koushi. Your intentions clearly are malicious.”
“Asahi, wait. Maybe we should listen to him,” Suga says, laying a hand on their arm.
“The devil appears as a beautiful man too, Koushi,” Asahi says.
“I can promise that I’m not the devil,” the admittedly very handsome man says. “I used to live here before I died. Look it up--Sawamura Daichi.”
“That’s probably not his real name,” Asahi mutters to Suga. “There might be a Sawamura who used to live here, but his spirit is probably long gone and this is something trying to trick us.”
“I’m sorry I scared you,” Daichi says. “I was trying to figure out how to manifest.”
“You could’ve done it without scaring poor Koushi half to death,” Asahi says. They glare at the spirit.
“Fine,” Daichi says, glaring right back. “Try to exorcise me all you want; it hasn’t worked yet. I didn’t mean to scare anybody, okay? I was just trying to signal to him that I was here. You try being alone and unable to contact anybody for a few years and see how that treats you.” He turns to Suga. “Koushi, is it?”
“Suga,” Suga corrects him. “Koushi is my first name.”
“Suga,” Daichi repeats. “I’m sorry I scared you. I don’t exactly have a handle on how I manifest yet; this is the first time it’s actually worked.”
“There’s only half of you,” Suga points out helpfully.
Daichi looks down at his missing legs and sighs. “Great. At least I got the important half?”
Suga hums. “Asahi? What do we do?” His voice and face are calm, but this is so far out of his depth. The only experience he has with ghosts are reality-tv ghost hunters. It’s fair to say he’s panicking on the inside.
“We have a couple of options,” Asahi says. “First of all, we can go nuclear with the wards. Now that I know what kind of apparition I’m looking at, and what’s more know its name , or at least something it goes by, it should be at least possible to exorcise it.”
“Please don’t,” Daichi says. “I’m just lonely. I swear I won’t scare you again now that I know how to manifest.”
“You kind of know how to manifest,” Asahi says. “Even taking you at your word, how do we know you won’t lose control and wreck our brand new apartment?”
Suga frowns. “He’s a person, Asahi.”
“He might not be,” Asahi says.
“What’s our other option?”
“I draw up a spirit companion contract and he either agrees or gets banished.”
“Spirit companion?” Daichi says.
“I’ve dabbled in spirit work before,” Asahi says. “I’ve never had a companion of my own, but if you’re dead set on haunting this apartment, you might as well make yourself useful.”
“To be fair, I know very little about how to be a ghost,” Daichi says. “I don’t want to get banished when you find out I don’t have access to the astral plane or whatever.”
“If I actually get to trusting you, you’d be able to be really helpful with energy work. See, you can see my aura now, can’t you?”
Daichi nods. “If I try. It’s blue.”
Koushi smiles and nods. Asahi has talked to him a million times about his aura, comparing it to a crackling fire. He’s still nervous, though, despite how disarming the apparition has turned out to be.
“Asahi, are you sure you can make it safe?”
“I’ll banish literally everything but a human ghost, just in case of the not-so-unbelievable event that he’s lying. But, if I’m being honest? If he were malicious, he probably would have ended up in the catching jar.”
“Ew, the jar of piss?” Daichi says. “I have at least some dignity.”
“See, I told you it was gross,” Suga says.
“I never said it wasn’t!” Asahi shrugs. “But if he meant us any malice, it should have caught him.”
“So he’s a person?” Suga asks, for clarification. Just for clarification, not for ribbing purposes, of course.
“He’s probably a person,” Asahi says. “We can’t be sure until I banish everything but people, but chances are, he’s either telling the truth or he’s something very high-level.” He looks at Suga and frowns. “Sawamura, could you give us some space? Go and don’t wreck the bedroom or something.”
Daichi obediently floats off, probably on his best behavior in fear of banishment. Asahi can only guess that all the warding has weakened him, because his activity level has gone down sharply, from wrecking the entire apartment to opening a few drawers to just showing up halfway-manifested.
Suga turns sad eyes to them, empathy in full gear. “Asahi, if it turns out he is a person… what happened to him? Has he really been alone for years ?”
“If he’s just now figuring out how to manifest…” Asahi sighs, caught up in Suga’s emotion. “It’s true that he could have spent years just watching people and occasionally slamming some drawers.”
“We can’t just leave him alone!” Suga says.
“Koushi, are you okay? I can tell you’re shaken up.” Asahi reaches for Suga’s hand and squeezes it.
“I can definitively say that this isn’t what I expected when I got up this morning!” Suga says. “Here, c’mere.” He pulls Asahi close, wrapping him in strong arms. “You’re shaking. I thought you ate ghosts for breakfast, babe.”
“I’m. I can when it’s just me.” Asahi sighs again, longer and louder, slumping into their partner’s grasp. “I couldn’t live with myself if he hurt you. If it were just me, I’d keep him around. But you’re there.”
“And I don’t want him to be alone for years again,” Suga says. “I’m an adult. I can choose the risk I take on. He hasn’t tried to hurt me yet. I don’t think he will now that we’ve actually seen him.”
Asahi slips an arm free and tips Suga’s chin up with gentle fingers. “Are you sure, darling?”
Suga sets his jaw. “I’m sure.”
They lean down and press their lips to Suga’s, soft and sweet. “Then I trust you.”
“And I trust you,” Suga says, smiling.
Asahi savors the moment, but eventually steps away and rummages through the desk in the corner.
“What’re you looking for?” Suga asks.
“I know it’s in here somewh--a-ha!” Asahi holds up their book of shadows triumphantly. “I have some spirit companion base rules in here.” They flip through the book till they find them.
Asahi raises their voice. “Sawamura, you can come back in.”
“What did you decide?” Daichi asks, floating back in from the bedroom.
“I need to lay out some ground rules,” Asahi says. “First. You will not harm, scare, or do anything malicious to Koushi, me, or our guests. If you do something scary on accident, first, manifest and apologize, and second, clean up after yourself. I don’t intend to clean another wrecked apartment.”
Daichi nods. “I can handle that.”
“Second. You will never interfere with the free will of another unless they’re an intruder or to otherwise protect us and our household.”
“I don’t think I even know how to do that,” Daichi says.
“If you really are just a human ghost, you may never learn. But better safe than sorry.” Asahi looked so in-control when they were doing witch stuff. It was similar to the way they got on the volleyball court. Suga sat down on the arm of the couch and watched the two of them.
“You will stay out of the bathroom when anyone is in it. You will stay out of our bedroom while anyone is sleeping, changing, or naked.”
“So no being a creeper. Got it.”
“You will give us privacy when we are talking about serious topics unless we specifically call for you. You will give us privacy when we’re kissing or--” their cheeks start to flame. “Basically, don’t be a creeper,” they say, echoing Daichi’s words. Asahi continues. “You will not appear in frightening forms to anyone but me, unless it is to protect me, Koushi, or our apartment.”
“I don’t think I even have any frightening forms,” Daichi says.
“Half a guy isn’t exactly reassuring,” Suga chips in. “Imagine if you’d shown up as just a floating head!”
“I won’t show up as anything frightening on purpose,” Daichi says. “Assuming bits and pieces of myself don’t count as frightening.”
“Just attempt to manifest as fully as possible,” Asahi says. “You will not lie to or purposefully mislead Koushi or me. Be honest.”
“Got it,” Daichi says. “Anything else?”
Asahi smiles. “If you need help, ask me, okay? No more wrecking our house to get our attention. Just ask for what you need. Koushi would kill me if I let you keep being miserable.”
Daichi straightens up with a start. He’d expected just more rules, not Asahi offering what was essentially an olive branch.
“I thought you didn’t trust me,” Daichi says.
“I don’t. But that doesn’t mean I will mistreat you, or that I won’t give you help if it’s within my abilities.”
Daichi nods. “That’s probably the nicest thing anybody’s said to me in, oh, how long have I been dead?”
Suga frowns. “You poor thing.”
“Well,” Daichi says, awkward in the face of Suga‘s sympathy, “I’m not alone now. So.”
Suga nods decisively. “You’ve got me and Asahi now.”
Suga would be lying if he said it wasn’t weird, having a ghostly roommate. But it was nice to have someone extra to look after the place. And helpful, too.
“Thank you, Daichi,” Suga says sweetly as the oven door falls open for him. Daichi tends to help out when his hands are full, which is incredibly handy and widely appreciated. “I’ll make sure to tell Asahi you helped with his surprise-I’m-home-early brownies.”
“All I did was move some stuff around for you,” he answers from somewhere over Suga‘s shoulder, which, yeah, still weird to hear a voice not attached to a person, but he was working on it.
“Yeah, that’s helping!” Suga insists, smiling. “I’m gonna change out of these clothes. Keep an eye on them for me!”
Suga finds something relatively nice and less covered in baking ingredients to throw on and heads back into the kitchen. He has to admit, it’s really nice to not be alone in the apartment, even if the other party isn’t always physically there.
He stops in the doorway. “Uh, Daichi, what’re you doing with that knife?”
The butter knife in question jolts and clatters to the countertop. “I was going to offer to cut and plate them,” comes Daichi’s voice, sheepish. “But I didn’t know if I could even do it.”
“Oh! That’s sweet of you,” Suga says, smiling.
“What, did you think I was gonna stab you?” Daichi asks. “Because if I were going to, I would at least have the presence of mind to use an actually sharp knife.”
“No, I don’t think I actually expected you to stab me.” Suga rolls his eyes. “You’ve lost the whole ‘menacing spirit’ touch.”
“Oh dear,” Daichi says. “I’ll have to start building it back up from scratch.”
Suga giggles. “Because you were so good at it before!”
“Oh, you mean I didn’t scare the pants off of you before? Or, well, skirt?” he amends awkwardly in the face of Suga’s outfit change.
“Do you like it?” Suga asks, playful. “Sometimes different things suit me on different days. Don’t be surprised if I ask you to use different pronouns day-to-day!”
Daichi clears his nonexistent throat. “Noted. Now?”
“‘He’ is still fine!” Suga says with a vague hand wave. “Most days I’m fine with most pronouns.”
“‘Most pronouns’?” Daichi repeats.
“Oh, is gender too complicated for your poor ghost brain to grasp?” Suga teases.
“Only your gender, or lack thereof,” Daichi returns, smile obvious in his voice. “You’re complicated.”
“But you like me anyway!”
Suga’s grinning, but their banter is interrupted by the beep of the oven timer. He pulls on the oven mitt and reaches through the blast of hot air to retrieve the brownies, a triumphant look on his face when he sees how well they turned out. He carefully places them on the counter and turns to vaguely where Daichi’s voice was coming from to gesture dramatically. Several things happen at once; Suga knocks his hand into the hot pan and yelps and the pan clatters off the countertop. It doesn’t hit the floor, saving Suga from having to clean up a mess, and Daichi‘s voice sounds very concerned .
“Suga! Are you okay?”
Suga has a knuckle in his mouth but pulls his hand away to show the spot to Daichi. “I’m fine!” he insists, and indeed the spot is barely pink.
The pan thunks back onto the counter and Suga can feel Daichi hovering. “Are you sure? You could’ve really burned yourself.”
“I barely touched it, it just surprised me is all. I promise, it doesn’t even hurt.” Suga smiles up at him, all warm gratitude. “Thanks for saving the brownies, Daichi.”
“Well, I, we did all that work, it would be a shame to ruin it,” Daichi says. Suga wonders if he’s imagining the fluster he hears.
Daichi is spared from Suga’s analyzation by the sound of Asahi unlocking the front door. Suga lights up but freezes in place and puts a finger in front of his mouth to indicate that they should be quiet. For maximum surprise.
Asahi’s confusion is all but tangible and it takes everything Suga has not to burst into uncontrollable giggles prematurely. He can practically hear Asahi sniffing, revels in the moments that hang there before Asahi figures out really the only reason they could be smelling brownies in what was supposed to be a temporarily Suga-less apartment. Suga gives it a few more seconds….
“Surprise!” he yells, throwing himself at his partner for messy kisses all over their face. “I got home early! Daichi helped me make brownies!”
“You’re my absolute favorite,” Asahi says, holding Suga’s face between their hands and giving enthusiastic kisses back.
“Wait,” he says after a moment, addressed into thin air. “Daichi, is it, like, a microaggression to make you help cook when you can’t eat?” Asahi asks.
“First of all, I didn’t make him do anything,” Suga says.
“You’ve probably been a witch longer than I’ve been a ghost. Shouldn’t you know?” Daichi says.
Asahi shrugs. “You’re my first ghost I’ve really worked with.”
They can hear the smirk in Daichi’s voice. “Awww, I’m your first time?”
“Shut up,” Asahi says, but there’s fondness in it. “Thank you for helping with the brownies.”
“You’re welcome,” Daichi says. There’s a proud smile in his voice.
“And thank you for the brownies,” Asahi says, lifting Suga up off the ground to kiss him again. Suga giggles and wraps his arms around their shoulders.
“You are very welcome,” Suga says, still wrapped in Asahi’s arms, feet dangling uselessly as he leans their foreheads together.
“Cute,” Daichi says, and there’s something in his voice Asahi can’t quite place.
“I’m glad we didn’t get a homophobic ghost,” Suga says.
Asahi sets him down. “Oh gross. That would be the worst.”
“Only ally ghosts in this house,” Suga proclaims.
“Actually I’m bi,” Daichi says. “Or, I was bi?”
“Only queer ghosts in this house!” Suga cheers. “Even better! Asahi, it’s the first ever queer ghost!”
“I’m sure there have been queer ghosts before, Koushi,” Asahi says. They smile warmly at the empty space that Daichi’s voice is coming from. “But I’m glad to hear you’re one of us.”
“Asahi, are you sure about this?” Daichi says, looking askance at him from where his head and shoulders have manifested. Suga was in class, and Asahi and Daichi figured now was the perfect time to start doing some energy work together, and hopefully see if they could help Daichi manifest more fully.
“Absolutely not!” Asahi says, and grins. “But do you trust me?”
Daichi sighs. “I do, but please try not to murder me. Again.”
“Wait,” Asahi said. “Were you really murdered?”
Daichi rolls his eyes. “Obviously not.”
“It’s not obvious,” Asahi protests. “You’ve never talked about how you died. Not…that you have to, of course. It’s not my job to make you feel like you have to give us more information than you’re comfortable giving.”
“No, it’s fine,” Daichi says. He shrugs, which looks a little weird considering his body terminates just below the shoulders. “I wasn’t murdered. See, the apartments have been really considerably remodeled since I was alive. There weren’t always so many windows, for one thing. And the heat wasn’t always this good. I’ve figured out from what the paramedics said when they took my body… It was an absolutely brutal winter, and I was running three space heaters to try to stay warm enough. It turned the apartment nice and toasty, and I had my own private paradise.”
Asahi nods, too afraid to break the moment to say anything.
“Apparently the batteries ran out on my carbon monoxide detector,” Daichi says. He stares at the ground, deliberately avoiding Asahi’s eyes. “I didn’t notice the buildup. I just fell asleep…”
“And you didn’t wake up,” Asahi finishes for him. “Daichi, I’m so sorry.”
“It wasn’t all bad,” Daichi says. He shrugs again, still looking at the ground. “I met you and Suga.”
Asahi blushes. “Daichi, that’s not worth dying for. We still might have met. We might even have still moved into this complex. We could’ve been neighbors.”
“I have to look at the bright side, Asahi,” Daichi says. He raises his head to look him in the eyes. “If I don’t, I’ll go crazy.”
“Well don’t go doing that,” Asahi says. He takes two steps forward and wraps his arms firmly around what little of Daichi is touchable. “You better not.”
Daichi half-smiles. “I won’t.”
“I’m sorry to bring up bad old memories,” Asahi says, still holding Daichi.
“No, don’t…don’t be like that,” Daichi says. “Thank you.”
“Wait, what’d I do?” Asahi said.
“You’re the first person I’ve ever told about my death,” Daichi says. “And you listened, and you comforted me.”
“Well, yeah,” Asahi says. “I care about you.”
Daichi smiles. “I care about you too.”
There’s something hot and sweet and too-much-not-enough in the gaze that passes between them. Asahi can’t stand it any more, and looks down, breaking the moment.
“I should check the batteries in the carbon monoxide detectors,” Asahi says. “You’re amazing and all, but I don’t think Koushi and I are ready to join you just yet.”
Daichi shakes his head. “You don’t need to.”
“Oh?” Asahi raises his eyebrows.
“I do it every night while you sleep. Just in case.” Daichi offers a small, sad smile. “I don’t want you two to join me just yet either.”
“You’re good, did you know that?” Asahi says. “Like, really, genuinely a good person.”
Daichi blushes. “You’re not so bad yourself.” He jabs Asahi in the ribs, which is strange considering his arms aren’t visibly manifested. “Now, where were we?”
“We were working on basic principles of energy work,” Asahi says. “Now, I want you to focus on your hands.”
Two pale, transparent hands fuzz halfway into view. His body disappears below the neck, leaving just a floating head and two arms up to the wrists.
“If you look at them, can you see your aura?” Asahi focuses on Daichi hard. When they look at him just right, they can see his aura as an overlay, a haze of red draped over his translucent skin.
Daichi focuses hard, humming softly under his breath in concentration. “Is it...red?”
Asahi grins. “Got it in one!”
Daichi smiles. “Maybe I’m not hopeless at this after all.”
“It’s my turn to pick the movie!” Suga singsongs, voice echoing through the apartment. “Asahi! Are the snacks gathered and ready!”
“I have popcorn, I have hot cocoa, I have rice balls,” Asahi says. “Everything you need for a good movie night!”
Daichi floats in as just a pair of arms, holding a plate full of rice balls.
“These look delicious,” he says. “I wish I could eat them.”
Asahi walks in holding two mugs piled high with whipped cream and mini marshmallows, frowning.
“I’m sorry, Daichi.”
Daichi backtracks a little. “Ah, no, it’s fine.”
Suga frowns as well and bounces up off the couch to take the plate from Daichi’s hands. Once it’s placed on the coffee table, he takes one of Daichi’s disembodied hands, one of the hot chocolates, and leads the way back to the couch.
“Nope! It’s Beauty and the Beast time, not moping time!”
“He just likes it because it reminds him of us,” Asahi stage-whispers.
“You kidnapped his father and then kept him stored up in your castle when he agreed to take his father’s place? Asahi, how could you?” Daichi says in mock outrage. Suga giggles.
“No, no, it’s just that I’m a beast and he’s a beauty.”
“Asahi!” Suga complains. “You’re only a beast if you don’t get your beauty sleep.” He waggles his eyebrows suggestively.
“That’s not what everybody said in high school,” Asahi says.
“Hey, you couldn’t help that your beard game was stronger than any of them could hope for. They were just jealous.”
“Yeah, they were jealous because Sugawara Koushi wanted to date me , not because I had a beard,” Asahi returns. Suga rolls his eyes, smiling, this conversation one they’d thrown back and forth countless times. What’s different this time is the sound of Daichi’s muffled laughter.
“Okay you two, no more stalling! It’s movie time!” Suga settles in with Asahi in one side of him and Daichi pulled as close as he could figure out. He makes himself comfy with them, feeling like his world has clicked a little more surely into place.
The night is comfortably warm, a slight breeze blowing Suga’s skirt around his legs. He clasps Asahi’s hand tight, swinging his arms, smiling. Asahi’s hair is braided intricately, in a style that had required both Suga’s hands and Daichi’s. It’s not a special occasion, but they’d been planning this night for weeks, their first nice date out since they’d moved.
The walk isn’t long, but their full bellies and hearts make for a leisurely pace. They’re content, but also not, their minds on the roommate they’d gained unexpectedly. It’s almost weird, now, to do anything without Daichi.
“Tonight was wonderful,” Asahi says. “I can’t wait to get home, though.”
Suga squeezes their hand. “I miss him too.”
“I—I never—I didn’t mean!” Asahi splutters.
“You did and it’s fine,” Suga says. “I don’t mind it.”
“It’s just weird, being together without him there. That’s all,” Asahi says.
“You keep telling yourself that, love,” Suga says, and squeezes their hand again.
Their apartment comes into view and Suga unconsciously hurries a little, barely tugging Asahi along behind him as they speed up slightly, too. He stops dead, however, Asahi bumping gently into his back, when he sees that their door is slightly ajar.
Asahi swears. “We didn’t leave the door unlocked, did we?”
“I don’t think so? I distinctly remember you locking it.” Suga’s grip on Asahi’s hand goes whiteknuckle.
“Should we call the police?” Asahi asks, phone already in their hand.
“We’re not getting extra haunted, right?” Suga asks faintly, not sure what answer he prefers.
“Shit!” Asahi says. “Daichi’s in there!” They let go of Suga’s hand and barrel into the apartment.
“Asahi, wait,” Suga says, pulling out their phone and dialing the police. Asahi doesn’t wait, so Suga, knowing it’s a bad idea but wanting to protect his partner all the same, rushes in after them.
“Daichi?” Asahi says as he gets into the apartment. “Daichi, are you okay?” He’s frantic. He’s clashed with a couple of witches online before; what if one of them decided to come mess with him and exorcise his spirit companion? Or what if something much bigger and nastier than Daichi has moved in? Daichi could get hurt, or worse. “Daichi, please be okay.”
He’s almost relieved when he sees the gun.
“ Asahi ,” Suga says, choking on the name halfway through as the gravity of the situation hits him. The cycle of Daichi-panic-normal-human-gun leaves him with adrenaline surging and nowhere to point it, frozen in place as he is.
“Don’t move!” the man with the gun says. “Put your hands up and sit down on the couch!”
Asahi complies, and Suga follows after. They’re both careful not to make any sudden movements. Suga wonders if he should say something, ask what he wants so they can give it to him and get him out, but the terror sinking into his gut stills his tongue. He casts his eyes around the room, trying to make it quick and as unnoticeable as possible. The apartment is just as torn up as it had been all those months ago, but this time the culprit is all human and certainly after something.
A second man comes out of the bedroom. He’s shorter than the first man, but built stockier. He looks like he works out religiously. He looks like he could do serious damage to Suga, who’s much smaller, and even to Asahi, who is taller but not quite as muscled, and unpracticed in fighting.
“Shit, they came home?” the shorter man asks.
“I’ve got it under control,” the man with the gun says.
“You don’t have it under control! They could ID us now!”
“What are you suggesting?” the man with the gun asks.
Suga and Asahi stay silent, barely daring to even breathe. They’re terrified that if they make any noise they’ll pay for it with a bullet. Asahi scoots a little closer to Suga, trying to comfort him with the brush of their shoulders, the touch of their knees. It’s not enough, never enough, but how could it be in a situation like this?
“I’m suggesting we get rid of the evidence,” the shorter man says, and pulls out a gun of his own from his waistband.
“Please, no,” Suga says, having passed the point of silent terror and tipped straight over into frenzied babbling. “Please, we’ll do anything you want, we won’t tell anyone, just please don’t hurt them!”
“Koushi, sweetheart, please,” Asahi whispers. “Don’t talk.”
The shorter man points his gun at Suga with a steady hand.
“No!” Asahi yells, and the man swivels the gun to point at them.
He pulls the trigger.
Asahi fixes their eyes on Suga, wanting the last thing he sees to be his love. But the bullet never comes.
“Get out, ” Daichi roars, standing between Asahi and Suga and the men. He floats a few inches off the ground, and he’s there, all of him, manifested fully for the first time. Energy crackles off him palpably, and there are sparks at the edge of his outline.
The men freeze.
“I said get out,” Daichi snarls. “Or I’ll tear you apart.”
The men look at each other and sprint out of the apartment, running for their lives.
Asahi realizes belatedly that he’s crying.
“Daichi,” he says, the name like a prayer on his lips.
“Daichi,” Suga repeats, jumping up to check him over.
“Are you okay?” Asahi says, joining Suga next to him.
“I’m a ghost, dumbass,” Daichi says. “They literally cannot hurt me.”
“You...you took a bullet for us.”
Daichi blushes. Asahi hadn’t known ghosts could blush, but it looks cute on him.
“It was nothing,” Daichi says.
“Daichi,” Asahi repeats. They take both of his hands in theirs. “You saved my life. Thank you.”
Daichi’s blush deepens. “I should be asking you two if you’re okay.”
“I’m alive,” Asahi says. “I’ll definitely have a panic attack about it later.”
“I think you have more than earned the right to call me Koushi,” Suga says. He laughs but there’s no real mirth in it. “I’m definitely having that panic attack sooner rather than later. I almost saw Asahi die. I would have if you hadn’t been there. I almost died, which honestly matters much less but—“
“Hey!” Asahi says. “Don’t you dare. I’m supposed to be the one with self worth issues around here.”
“My self worth is fine,” Suga says. “I just love you so much.”
Someone takes a step forward and then they’re all wrapped in each others’ arms, Daichi a pillar holding up Asahi and Suga as they slump into each other in relief. Asahi’s quiet tears turn to sobs. Suga is shaking.
“I should have been here sooner,” Daichi mutters.
“No, no, darling,” Asahi says. “You were right on time.”
“I was… I was too scared to figure out how to manifest. I tried so hard but I couldn’t push through the terror.”
“But then you did,” Suga says. He stretches up to kiss Daichi’s cheek.
“My fear just stopped mattering,” Daichi says. “Because you two needed me.”
“We always need you,” Asahi says, mirroring Suga with a kiss to Daichi’s other cheek.
“Don’t…” Daichi says. He trails off. “Don’t toy with me like that.”
“Daichi? What do you mean?” Suga says.
“Don’t pretend I can be part of this when I can’t,” he says, eyes closed, voice strained. “You two have each other, and one day you will move away from this place and you will be gone, and I will still be here, and I will still be dead.”
“I can bind you to an object,” Asahi protests. “Don’t think we’re letting you go that easily.”
“That’s not what I mean!” Daichi says. “You’re in love with each other and I’m just here! The dead one! Hopelessly in love with you.”
Asahi and Suga freeze.
“You’re...you’re in love with us?” Suga says, voice soft and reverent.
“Daichi?” Suga calls.
“Daichi!” Asahi says, voice authoritative.
He doesn’t show up.
Suga scrubs at his face angrily, mad that he’s still crying and shaking but not really able to stop. “Messed that one up, huh?” he mutters bitterly before raising his voice. “Daichi? I’m sorry, please come back.”
“Daichi, please,” Asahi says, tears coming faster. They look down at Suga. “Should we talk about this?”
Falling into the couch more than sitting, Suga nods hesitantly, but the sound of the police arriving interrupts. “Later,” he says, voice breaking.
Asahi plops down next to him, going boneless as they wrap their arms around Suga. “I love you,” they say, and let out a long sigh, letting their head fall onto Suga’s shoulder.
“I love you too,” Suga replies quietly. He curls into the embrace for a moment before facing the officers.
Apparently one of their neighbors heard the ruckus of the events and called the police. At least this time there are actual people involved that could be held responsible.
The whole process is exhausting. They have to go to the station, give their statements, get information on the men who broke in, their apartment is ransacked (again) for evidence, and when they’re finally allowed to come home again Suga and Asahi have barely enough energy to even make it to their bed, where they pass out still in their date outfits.
Neither of them sleep for very long. Light is just starting to peek through their blinds when Asahi startles from a bad dream.
“Koushi! Daichi!” they call out in their half-awake stupor, voice panicked.
“Hey, hey,” Suga says. “I’m right here. I’m okay.” He wraps one arm around them, and with his other hand wipes the tears from their eyes.
Asahi wraps their arms around him like a drowning man grasping at a life preserver. “I dreamed they killed you and exorcised Daichi. And I was alone.”
“Yeah,” Suga croaks. “Sounds familiar.” He leans his forehead onto Asahi’s chest, all but crawling on top of them for the comfort of body contact.
“If you die first, you’d better haunt me,” Asahi chokes out.
Suga’s responding laugh is a little wet, startled out of him. “As long as you promise to do the same.”
“Of course, sweetheart,” Asahi says, pressing a kiss to his hair. “You won’t get rid of me that easily.”
Suga takes a deep, shuddery breath and turns his head to the side, traces patterns into the sheet next to them. “What should we do, Asahi?”
“Koushi, please don’t hate me. You have to promise not to hate me, okay? I know it’s probably going to sound awful and like I’m betraying your trust, but I need you to know I love you so so much, more than anything on this stupid planet, except…” They trail off.
“Except for Daichi,” Suga finishes, nodding. “I’m not mad at you. I’d never be mad at you. I love you, and I think I love Daichi too.”
“What if he never comes back?” Asahi says, choking on a sob. “We can’t go back to just...not loving him.”
Suga buries his face into Asahi’s chest, shaking his head. “I don’t know.” His voice is muffled but the misery is clear. “He’s a ghost , Asahi, I didn’t know it was possible to get so attached to ghosts .”
“It’s not like he can even leave yet!” Asahi says. “What, is he just going to spend forever watching us and moping that we can’t love him when we clearly can?”
“I don’t want him to be alone,” Suga says. “I want him to know our feelings are real and mutual.”
“I know I’m not supposed to listen to private conversations…” Daichi’s voice says. “But hopefully you’ll forgive me just this once.”
“Daichi!!!” Suga and Asahi exclaim, their faces lighting up. Suga scrambles up off of Asahi to perch at the edge of the bed. “Yeah, so I think we’re going to have to throw out the old rules,” Asahi says, sitting up. “Maybe some new ones, like ‘no vanishing on us and breaking our hearts.’ You know. Boyfriend rules.”
“Boyfriend rules!” Suga echoes.
“You’d really want that with me?” Daichi says. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of dead.”
Suga grins. “Hurry up and manifest your lips so I can kiss you.”
Summer is beginning to slowly but surely tip over into fall. It took Asahi a handful of months to be really, truly sure about the spell, but they’ve finally cracked it. Daichi is tied to a silver heart-shaped locket that hangs around their neck. When it’s opened, three pictures fold out: one of Suga, one of Asahi, and one of Daichi that he helped Suga find from his old Facebook page.
“Look at the tortoises!” Suga says, bouncing on his toes. He leans over the fence as far as he can to get a better look.
“He’s so cute,” Daichi says in Asahi’s ear.
Asahi beams. “Isn’t he?” they whisper back.
“I love him so much,” Daichi says.
“Me too. You know who else I love?”
Daichi fake-gasps. “Is it me?”
“It’s you!” Asahi thinks back on how far Daichi has come in only a few months’ time, settling into their love and absolutely blooming in the light of it.
“What’re you two talking about?” Suga says, coming back and grabbing Asahi’s hand, leaving his other hand outstretched for Daichi’s invisible hand to grab.
“Oh, just how much we love you,” Daichi says.
Suga blushes. “I love you two too.” He swings his arms and his boyfriends’. “Where to next!”
“Wolves!” Daichi says at the same time that Asahi says “Big cats!” They look at each other and laugh.
“I think they’re right next to each other,” Suga says, peering at his zoo map. “Wolves look like they’re closest to us, so should we go there first?”
“Sounds good to me!” Asahi says.
“If you’re sure, Asahi?” Daichi asks.
“I’m sure.” Asahi flashes him a broad smile. “We’ll get to the tigers in due time.”
“Onward, ho!” Suga says, gesturing forward wildly with the zoo map.
“Onward!” Daichi cheers.
Suga grasps his boyfriends’ hands as they walk forward into their future.