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Love Beyond Death

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The haunting did not start on a gloomy, dark Halloween night, as it did in the stories people read or wrote; it began on a sunny day in the middle of August, when Jungkook woke up late and lazily because it was his summer break between semesters.

 

It started in a fairly normal way, with Jungkook rolling out of his bed in a cocoon of sheets, the fan facing toward him and whirring with energy. He got up, decided to take a shower to take the edge of rank smell off being too lazy to shower the day before off. Steam rose up in the bathroom, the curtain pulled closed as he hummed a bit.

 

Meanwhile, Seokjin came to be there.

 

Seokjin came into consciousness slowly. It was a bit like having fainted, and coming back into awareness in a jarring and unusual way. The mind was not aware of how it had gone from blackness to suddenly standing in a strange bathroom at eleven o'clock in the morning, but it had. Everyone got pulled through like cloth through the small opening between the slats on a footboard on a bed, and then suddenly the distortion cleared, and there he was.

 

He stood for a long moment, wondering how his legs were even functioning when he could not remember getting here in the first place, could not remember how to walk with them anyways.

 

The humming from inside the shower continued, and Seokjin somehow knew before he could see him that the person inside was his . Well, insofar as one could be anyone else's. But he knew.

 

"Hello?" he called out, but no answer came. His voice seemed to echo inside a black hole, the sound being sucked up and washed down the drain. A head poked out from behind the shower curtain, and he saw the wet dripping head of a young man he knew that he had seen somewhere before. The feeling of deja vu was thick, making his head spin. The man bent down, grabbing a bottle of cheap shampoo, and then disappeared behind the curtain again. Seokjin tried to pull the curtain aside, but he could not. His hand seemed invisible, it seemed to pass through the curtain strangely, and he shivered at the weird sticky feeling it gave him when he tried to put his hand against the curtain.

 

"Where am I?" he called out. "Can you see me? Can you hear me? What the hell is going on?!"

 

No answer came, and the duration of the man's shower was spent with Seokjin yelling at him, trying to be heard. But each word fell unheard upon the air. Growing in desperation, Seokjin managed to move a bit, away from the shower but toward the mirror that was covered in a thick layer of steam. Seokjin stuck out his finger, although he could not see it, and pressed his hand up against the mirror.

 

The strange, sticky feeling of the shower curtain was not like this. The steam felt as it should, wet and familiar. The mirror, however, felt like a greyness, like a painful slash across his fingertips. He withdrew, cursing, but he could see no hand, no wound to speak of. The pain instantly vanished. But when he looked up, he could see the very lightest of handprints against the steam.

 

He did not understand it, but it was all he had.

 

Seokjin reached out his hand, painstakingly writing out a single word on the mirror. The lines were very light, as though he did not have the right body temperature to break through the steam itself in this whatever-form he was in. But he managed it anyway, and he kept re-writing it, tracing the lines carefully through the stinging sensation, until the man finished his shower.

 

Re-lining it one more time before the shower curtain was drawn aside, Seokjin turned.

 

The man, utterly naked, stepped out of the shower and pulled a towel around himself. He turned toward the mirror absentmindedly, finding something written there. Seokjin could tell he could see it, due to the comical double-take.

 

Hello

 

The man screamed. And so the haunting began.

 

👻

 

Seokjin wished he could say the rest of the day was spent productively figuring out any powers he might have had. But the truth was, he still couldn't figure out how to get out of the bathroom. The man (named Jungkook) freaked out over the mirror-message, running to get his cell phone and taking a photo of it as evidence before he hid in his room and called someone. Seokjin could only see him as he had left the bathroom door askew, still just wrapped in a towel and dripping wet, as he curled up in a rolling computer chair and clutched his cell phone to his ear. His eyes were trained on the bathroom mirror, even though the steam had already lightened, the message vanishing.

 

"I'm telling you, I saw it! No, I'm not fucking high . I swear to god. Look at the photo! Yes, I'll wait."

 

Seokjin didn't really care if Jungkook's friend or whoever they were believed him. He just wanted to be able to move from his spot in the bathroom. He tired to step forward as he felt he should be able to, and nothing happened.

 

Jungkook was still talking on the phone, "I swear to god I thought someone had broken in. But the door's still locked and it's a one-bedroom apartment, for fuck's sake. Yes, I checked the windows! It's the fourth floor!"

 

"Stop getting your knickers in a whirl," Seokjin said, even though he knew that Jungkook couldn't hear him. "It's not like you were held at gunpoint. I simply said hello."

 

"Well, what should I do? What if they - or it - comes back!? What if they try to kill me!?"

 

He tried to grab onto the door jamb, attempting to pull himself even as he felt the weird, unexpected moistness of the door handle. It was as if he could feel through the wood somehow. He pulled, and was finally able to move an inch forward. Success!

 

Jungkook's face scrunched up in distaste. "Don't make fun of me! You would have pissed yourself if you'd seen it, it's not normal." He then begged into the phone. "Can I...stay at your place? Just for a night or two?" A pause. "Stop laughing at me!"

 

"No, don't go!" Seokjin begged. When Jungkook stood up and dumped out his school backpack, freeing it of its books in favor of shoving some sweatpants into the depths of the bag, Seokjin started to panic. What if he was left here, alone, for days?! In his desperacy, he reached out for the bathroom door handle, to try and use it as leverage to pull himself forward along with the door jamb side.

 

He wasn't sure if it was due to his panic, or if it was just chance luck, but suddenly the door heeded to his will, whipping him backwards and slamming the bathroom door shut with a loud bang. He heard Jungkook scream again, and he must have thrown something at the door, for it thunked heavily with the weight of something - perhaps his backpack.

 

The bathroom door was dark, and empty, and Seokjin was stuck in there. He could hear Jungkook pack and quickly leave the apartment.

 

And he remained there for two days.

 

👻

 

By the time Jungkook came back, Seokjin was determined to get more control over his movements. He had managed to semi-consistently be able to open and shut the bathroom door, which Jungkook eventually wrote off as a problem with an uneven doorjamb, thanks to a suggestion from one of his friends. Seokjin liked to wait until Jungkook was sitting at his desk on a video call, the bathroom door visible over the man's shoulder, and then start opening it and closing it as deftly as he could, until inevitably Jungkook had to glance over his shoulder, then explain that it was nothing.

 

Jungkook only sounded so casual about it, so sure of himself, because he had spent the first hundred times the door moved searching everywhere for signs of life, his hands shaking as he checked behind the shower curtain every time he entered the bathroom, expecting to see some sort of monster there. Seokjin had laughed at him every time.

 

It was frustrating, to not be able to connect with him beyond the door. He knew Jungkook still suspected something was off, but when he spoke to anyone about it, he downplayed the little things Seokjin managed to do, until Seokjin wanted to scream.

 

Despite it taking several weeks, he did manage to figure out how to walk around, although it seemed as if it was extremely different to how he remembered doing it a long time ago. He could not explain this if he tried. But either way, it worked, and once Seokjin was able to move about more freely, he was happy to make much higher-quality chaos for Jungkook.

 

He would start by writing messages to him in the bathroom mirror again, usually one-word phrases like "Morning" or "Goodnight." He would slam the door a few times for good measure. He then started opening the microwave randomly, since it was a one-button push and it was sensitive enough that he seemed able to move it with some consistency. He then upgraded to turning the television on and off, and his favorite time to do it was at four in the morning when Jungkook was fast asleep.

 

Rather than getting more scared, Jungkook somehow became more inclined to be irritated. Perhaps it was the innocuous nature of Seokjin's little pranks (which Seokjin himself called his 'cries for help'), or perhaps it was that long documentary he had watched about poltergeists and how they were often quite harmless, but Jungkook instead just started talking to Seokjin, as if he knew Seokjin could hear him.

 

"If you're not going to be helpful," Jungkook would snap when the microwave opened in middle of Jungkook making some popcorn, "Then shut the fuck up."

 

Seokjin huffed in discontentment. He turned the TV off and on several times while Jungkook was playing a video game. Jungkook cursed. 

 

"What, you all pissed off because you don't know how to play video games?" Jungkook scoffed, swearing as his digital car crashed once again because of Seokjin's shenanigans.

 

"No!" Seokjin yelled at him, standing between Jungkook and the television, even though his form caused no blockage to Jungkook's vision. "I just want you to pay attention to me, you brat!" He reached over, tugging on the power control for the console, and yanked as hard as he could manage. The plug didn't come fully out of the wall, but it tilted out enough that the game shut off, and Jungkook started cursing up a storm.

 

"You brat!" Jungkook shrieked, "Go pick on someone else!"

 

"No!" Seokjin shouted back, into emptiness and silence.

 

"God, you're so annoying," Jungkook continued to grumble. He plugged the video game back in, then flopped backward onto his bed, pulling the covers over his head in defeat. Seokjin felt a little bit sad for being obnoxious to the man, but also, he had just wanted some acknowledgement of his existence. He hated being there without Jungkook seeing him.

 

Seokjin knelt beside the bed, folding his arms in front of him and staring at the place where Jungkook head rested, below the comforter.

 

"You're still here, aren't you?" the muffled voice of Jungkook grouched out. Seokjin smiled.

 

"Yes, I'm still here."

 

"Fine." It was an answer as if he had heard Seokjin's voice, even though he knew for sure that Jungkook had not. They fell into silence, with Seokjin watching Jungkook, who remained beneath the comforters. It wasn't as though Seokjin wanted to pick on Jungkook specifically. But he seemed to be the only one Seokjin could get the attention of. It was like Jungkook knew when he was there and when he wasn't, even if he hadn't managed to move anything. He seemed to understand Seokjin's presence, even though they had never really communicated properly.

 

"I wish I knew what was going on," Seokjin sighed. "I wish I knew why I was here."

 

"I just.." Jungkook cut him off unknowingly, talking to the empty room. "I wish I knew why you're here, bugging me, of all people. I haven't done anything worthy of getting cursed. I'm a homebody, I don't go anywhere."

 

"I know," Seokjin mumbled. He reached out, trying to draw the blanket away from Jungkook's face, wanting to see him. But his hand just went right through it all. He could feel for a moment the sensation of the fluffiness of the blanket, the heat of Jungkook's cheek. Instantly, Jungkook shuddered, as though chilled to the bone. Seokjin withdrew his hand in a flash, apologizing to a person who could not hear him no matter how hard they tried.

 

The next week, Jungkook seemed to be in a better mood. He invited friends over, he went out to dinner and visited his mother for an afternoon. Seokjin wished he knew how he could go with him, because at least hovering around Jungkook was better than sitting in the annoying and boring silence of the room.

 

It was almost the end of the week when Seokjin had noticed a change in himself. He was reaching out to draw an obscene image in the dust on one of Jungkook's shelves when he realized that he could see a faint outline of his own hand. He stared at it for a long time, flexing the fingers and watching the way his knuckles bent. It was a bit bigger than he expected, somehow, and he remembered them looking a little different. Or maybe he just didn't remember things at all anymore.

 

When Jungkook came back to the apartment that day, Seokjin was waiting like a lost puppy, sitting on the end of his bed and watching for when the door handle would turn. As soon as the handle turned, Jungkook glanced around the room, as if he expected something, and greeted to the emptiness, "Hello, ghost! Did you miss me?"

 

In response, Seokjin knew he had to give Jungkook some sort of a sign, even though he was a little too proud to admit openly that yes, he had missed him. So Seokjin opted to signal Jungkook by flipping the laptop on. It booted up with a whirring sound, and Jungkook smiled when the television flickered to life as well.

 

"As I thought," Jungkook laughed. "Well, good for you, because I have nowhere to be for the next two days. It's great."

 

Jungkook flopped down onto the bed face-first, and he would have crashed right into Seokjin if he could have. A part of the ghost wished that he could have. He wanted to know what hooking his chin over Jungkook's shoulder would feel like. He wanted to know what it would have been like to curl under the covers with him, and touch his cold feet to Jungkook's leg and make him cry out in protest.

 

But none of that was possible, because Seokjin was pretty sure he wasn't real. Or at least, he wasn't real in the traditional sense. So instead, he sufficed to crawl into the bed beside Jungkook, not even able to clamber under the covers but at least able to pretend he was curled up against the man. They stayed that way for quite a while.

 

Seokjin managed to figure out the keys of Jungkook's laptop keyboard the next afternoon, even though typing on the keyboard made his fingertips feel like they had been shocked by tiny lightning bolts every time. To avoid the pain, he kept his messages brief, but still managed to do it regularly. Jungkook started leaving his laptop on at all times, a word document open and at the ready for whenever Seokjin wanted to say something.

 

Morning, Jungkook he sent one day. Jungkook wished him a good morning back, smiling as he ate his breakfast ramen.

 

Go hospital please he sent another day, when Jungkook had ended up in bed with the flu, his fever worsening over the weekend. "I'll be fine," Jungkook managed, his eyes puffy and his whole being looking completely miserable.

 

Don't forget! Meet Yoongi 3pm he wrote another day, and Jungkook hissed out a curse as he read the message, seeing that it was 2:00 already, and he rushed through getting ready, mumbled aloud to Seokjin about how he hoped the trains would be running a bit late today as his excuse. He slipped his shoes on and rushed out the door.

 

"Goodbye, Jungkook," Seokjin said quietly as the door slammed shut.

 

Seokjin settled in for the afternoon, waiting once again for Jungkook to come back. His hands were now quite visible to him, and it was much easier to touch things than it had been before. Seokjin had begun to work through a theory that it was Jungkook's belief, or confidence, or something like that, which gave Seokjin the ability to affect things around him more readily. Perhaps it was because they were connected somehow, through that feeling which for Seokjin was akin to deja vu, or perhaps Jungkook was simply more open to his mentally. There was also the possibility that Jungkook's physical self was helping Seokjin, who did not have a physical form. It was hard to tell.

 

The door handle eventually turned, the key jingling in the lock and making Seokjin sit up straighter. He smiled toward the door, relieved that Jungkook was finally home. In the next instant, his face fell, as he saw that Jungkook wasn't alone.

 

"This is the place," Jungkook chirruped. "It's small but it's home."

 

"Nice," Yoongi commented, giving the apartment a cursory glance. "It's a remodeled hotel, then?"

 

"Yeah, that's why the rooms are smaller than dorm rooms. But it's cheaper, in the end, and I don't have to have a roommate."

 

"Unless you count this ghost of yours," Yoongi teased. He leaned in to the laptop, which was set to remain permanently awake now, and he saw the message Seokjin had left there earlier that afternoon. "You sure you didn't just type this yourself?"

 

"Of course not," Jungkook huffed. "And it's a good thing he left the message, too, or I would have been really late to see you."

 

"So where is he, then? Or she?"

 

Jungkook stood up, looking around the room. His eyes flickered right over the spoke where Seokjin was still sitting on the end of the bed, watching them both with a defensiveness to his posture. Jungkook gave a tiny smile, then looked toward his friend. "He's in here, I can tell."

 

"Yeah, but can you prove that?" Yoongi pressed. Seokjin could tell it was only a half-serious remark, but he wanted to snap at Yoongi for being petulant, and he also wanted him to go away and leave them alone. Yoongi was lifting up a notebook of Jungkook's, peering absently through it as Jungkook hovered awkwardly behind him.

 

"I don't know," Jungkook said. "But he'll talk if he wants to. I think some days he's more tired than others."

 

"Yeah, because keeping up a conversation with you is exhausting," Seokjin snapped back, but silence hung in the air instead of his words.

 

"Hellooo ghostie," Yoongi called out. "Uh, thanks I guess, for reminding Jungkook to meet me today. I'm Yoongi. You wanna say hello?"

 

Seokjin crossed his arms, the mocking tone in Yoongi's voice making him cross. "Fuck no, I don't."

 

The two men looked around the room, waiting and watching for any sign. Seokjin, meanwhile, sat stubbornly on the bed.

 

"Maybe he wrote something on the mirror," Yoongi suggested, poking his head into the bathroom.

 

"There's no steam," Jungkook said back, sounding a little sad. He could tell Yoongi didn't believe him. "It's...it's easier for him with the steam. Let's just leave him alone and watch the movie."

 

"Sure," Yoongi shrugged, but he still checked the mirror. "It's no skin off my back."

 

Seokjin remained on the edge of the bed, but he watched as Jungkook very forlornly put the DVD into the player, while Yoongi made popcorn (with no interference from Seokjin this time). Seokjin watched Jungkook carefully, and realized that Jungkook was sad because no one believed him. It was painful to watch, and know that it was because Seokjin was here in the first place, and that he regularly wouldn't stay quiet, and that he was being stubbornly quiet now, that Jungkook was being mocked, even playfully, by his friend.

 

"Ready when you are," Yoongi said, dropping down onto the bed. Jungkook crawled up to sit beside him, and they shared the popcorn between them.

 

Neither of them could see Seokjin, sitting with his head between the screen and themselves. He frowned at Jungkook. "I'm sorry, Jungkook. I didn't mean to make you look crazy. But just this once, okay?"

 

Jungkook did not respond, because of course he didn't. But when the movie was about ten minutes in, Seokjin reached over, tucking his hand below the bowl of their popcorn, and tipped it up as violently as he could. The bowl had been in Yoongi's hand, but suddenly it tilted backwards, spilling popcorn all over their laps.

 

"Woah, hey!" Yoongi called out. When Jungkook looked down at the popcorn in confusion, Yoongi's eyes narrowed. "What did you do that for?"

 

"I...I didn't..." Jungkook mumbled. "You were holding it."

 

"Don't fuck with me, Jungkook, that's not funny. Now help me clean it up." Yoongi was trying to sound brusque, but Seokjin could see the panic starting to be sketched throughout his posture. He was starting to wonder.

 

"I'm...I'm not..." Jungkook said quietly.

 

While they were picking up the popcorn, Seokjin looked around the room, trying to find the next thing to mess with to help Jungkook convince his friend that Seokjin was there. He went to the microwave, and did his best to punch in some of the numbers. He only managed to put in twenty seconds, and it took awhile for him to punch the start button properly, but when he managed it, the microwave started to whir on its own, causing the two men to sit up in confusion.

 

"What's that noise?" Yoongi asked.

 

Jungkook craned his neck over, "Oh, it's just the microwave going off."

 

"But I..." Yoongi paused, setting his feet on the ground and staring at the electronic in confusion. Seokjin knew he was the last one to touch the microwave. He would have known if there were extra seconds left on the timer, if the door had been properly closed. But he seemed to hesitate, still unsure. Seokjin moved over to the laptop, hunching over the desk as he started to type. Jungkook paused the movie while Yoongi had started to move over toward the microwave, still watching the glow of the internal light bulb as the tray inside spun. When the microwave beeped and went off, Yoongi could hear the keys clacking away slowly, and he whipped his head around to look at the computer.

 

Hello Yoongi

 

"What the fuck?!" Yoongi leaned down, staring at the keys in wonder. After a few moments, he turned toward Jungkook, his hands gripping the back of the computer chair as he watched Seokjin type out a simple smiley face with painstaking effort. "Jungkook..."

 

"I know," Jungkook said quietly, munching on his popcorn with casual sort of air. "He likes the computer, I think. So I leave it open for him."

 

"No, Jungkook, listen." Yoongi sat back onto the bed, grabbing Jungkook by the shoulders. "You're being fucking haunted . You gotta do something about this!"

 

"Like what? It's not like he's just gonna leave me," Jungkook rolled his eyes. "Besides, he doesn't do me any harm."

 

"Jungkook, listen. You gotta figure out what's going on here. Maybe he seems friendly and funny right now, but you need to get to the bottom of this. You have to figure out why he's here, and why he's stuck with you."

 

The young man looked up, then glanced over at the computer chair. Seokjin felt a weird rush, wondering if suddenly Jungkook could see him casually sitting in the chair as he was, but he knew that was a lie.

 

"Okay," Jungkook said at last.




👻

 

Yoongi and him spent the next few days researching people who could speak to the dead. They found one, a pretty young guy who had been on Youtube specials and on the local news, who was known for speaking with dead relatives and such.

 

Seokjin hovered over their shoulders, watching the screen as they watched videos and read reviews. He sounded like a hoax, but a lot of his past customers seemed pretty convinced. Seokjin wasn't sure what he was hoping - for truth or for fraud. Either way, he wasn't sure how this was going to work, if he was still not good at leaving the apartment with Jungkook.

 

He decided that whatever was going to happen, would happen, so he had to prepare himself to at least be a fairly helpful ghost or spirit, either way. The next few times Jungkook left the apartment for anything, Seokjin tried to simply follow him, but he felt a strange sense of uneasiness, as if he was being stretched out oddly. He knew it was weird of him, but the only way he felt comfortable going outside was when he sort of wrapped his existence around Jungkook like a scarf, which always made the young man shiver, and wasn't exactly the easiest way for either of them to travel, but it was better than feeling detached from whatever it was about Jungkook that felt like home.

 

It was also nice to be with him more hours of the day. They were in a grocery store together, Seokjin wrapped around Jungkook snugly until the man scratched absently at his neck, as though he could feel the ghost's presence there. Seokjin could tell Jungkook noticed him following, because when Seokjin was there, he would start to talk to himself more.

 

"God, these look expired," Jungkook would whisper under his breath at the selection of meat. Or, "I wonder if I should get more snacks than this..."

 

Seokjin could never answer, but he would hold more tightly to Jungkook anyways, as that was where he wanted to be more than anything. He was afraid of what would happen, when they went to the appointment.

 

Eventually, the day came, and Yoongi accompanied Jungkook from his apartment onward. It was raining heavily, and Seokjin felt a little bad that he would be wrapped around Jungkook and making him cold. Jungkook was wrapped in a thick jacket but still he gave a few sniffles as they walked to the bus stop.

 

"Has he done anything new lately?" Yoongi asked quietly while they waited beneath the glass awning. Jungkook shook his head.

 

"He's been pretty quiet lately, actually."

 

"Is he..." Yoongi's mouth worked. "Is he here now?"

 

Jungkook hesitated, then touched a hand to his neck. "I think so. It feels like it."

 

"It's so weird that you can sense him. He doesn't do anything weird to you, does he?" Yoongi narrowed his eyes, as if sending Seokjin himself a suspicious look. Seokjin puffed up his essence in petulance, insulted that Yoongi was even insinuating such a thing.

 

Although he had to admit, he had been company to a few sightings of Jungkook in various levels of undress. But that was to expected if two people lived together in a one-bedroom, right?

 

"No, he doesn't do anything weird," Jungkook reassured him. "If anything, I think I'm the weird roommate."

 

"No, you're not," Seokjin said quietly, even though Jungkook would not hear his reassurance. He hoped he would feel it through the way he held him tightly. "You're a good roommate."

 

"I think 'ghost boy' beats 'gamer boy' any day," Yoongi snorted. "Besides, I'm sure you're a good roommate."

 

"That's what I said!" Seokjin snapped, glaring over at Yoongi. They stepped up onto the bus, and re-situated themselves in one of the benches.

 

Yoongi kept glancing sideways at Jungkook, as though he wanted to ask something. Eventually, Jungkook looked his way as well, and that was when Yoongi stared with feigned focus on the illuminated marquee which listed where the next bus stop was.

 

Seokjin felt a sense of unease floating in the air, as though he could touch upon their anxieties, their unfiltered emotions that each had their own barometric pressure in the evanescent fields of Seokjin's presence.

 

He fretted, and he worried.

 

It wasn't long before they were before a very common looking door in a very ordinary-looking personal home. There was a sign out front with the name "Mr. Caractacus" out front. There was a little gate out front which was easy to bypass, and when they rang the doorbell, they could hear a very mellow chime echo inside. After but a moment, the door was opened, and a very young man with a bright smile that almost seemed too upbeat to exist sincerely was there to greet them.

 

"Ah, welcome! You must be Jungkook!" the man said, reaching out to draw them inside. "Such an honor to meet you, I'm Caractacus. Welcome to my home. Make yourself comfortable in here."

 

They were soon swept into what appeared to be a very skillfully decorated living room, with plush couches and chairs. There was a mantelpiece, and below, one of those modern electric fireplaces which emanated heat and backlit a few pieces of fake logs. Seokjin stared at this while Yoongi and Jungkook made introductions and awkward small talk.

 

"And who is your friend, here?" Caracactus suddenly said, smiling even more broadly and gesturing toward Jungkook's neck, where Seokjin was still sulkily wrapped.

 

"What?" Yoongi asked, confused until he saw Jungkook recoil, flushing a little with embarrassment as he rubbed at the fabric around his neck.

 

"Uh, he's the ghost that haunts my apartment. I figured he was here, I think he comes out with me sometimes. I'm afraid I don't know his name, though." "I'm sensing... it starts with an S," Caracactus said merrily, closing his eyes for a long moment before nodding. "Yes, an S sounds right." Yoongi frowned, looking over at Jungkook with skeptism evident in every movement and gesture. Seokjin, however, was blinking in surprise at the man who seemed able to look right at him.

 

"Now, before we get too into things, although I feel as if this spirit has a lot to say to you, Jungkook," Caracactus continued, "I want to just explain a few things. I'll use a pretty holistic approach to communicating with this spirit that seems to have gotten very attached to you, and we'll kind of explore what's going on. I generally like to have a pad and pen with me when I speak with them, as it kind of helps get things moving in a more palpable manner. Some of it will just be nonsense doodles, or we may get more of an energy reading from it, who knows!" He shrugged, and Seokjin wondered how one personage could bear so much daisy-like optimism in a single vessel. "Any questions before we start?"

 

"Uh..." Jungkook hesitated.

 

"Is communicating with it bringing on any sort of risks or dangers?" Yoongi jumped in. "I don't want to make matters worse, opening a Pandora's box or something like that."

"That's a very common question actually, and of course I cannot predict everything that could possibly happen," the man said breezily. "But I have done hundreds of these interviews, and I must say, there have been no major repercussions. Usually this allows a communicative pathway for the dead and the living to speak, and since everything is connected, we can rest assured that as long as you do not bring malicious intent into the interview, malicious intent will not find its way back to you."

 

Yoongi frowned deeper, seeming to be dissatisfied by this, but he sat back and was quiet.

 

"Now, Jungkook, are you ready?" the man asked, setting a large pad of paper on his lap and setting his pen at the ready. Jungkook nodded. The pen scratched against the paper, and Caracactus smiled and shut his eyes as he drew, letting out occasional little sounds of interest.

 

"Wow, this is someone who really cares about you a lot, Jungkook," he began. Seokjin felt himself feeling flushed, and he tightened his hold on Jungkook. "He's very protective of you, definitely a masculine energy for sure... I think he's known you a very long time, actually..." The man paused, his smile fading a bit, and then he drew for a bit longer. Weird, intricate shapes. Seokjin loosened his hold on Jungkook just enough that he could lean over and see the strange markings on the man's page. They looked like strange, abstract drawings of circles and triangles which intertwined, and one looked a bit like a planet of some kind, with little moons around it. Seokjin frowned, confused at to the meaning.

 

"Oh, I think he's known you a very long time, Jungkook...." Caracactus gasped. "This man knew you before you were born, actually. When you lived some kind of past life, through metempsychosis."

 

"You mean like a reincarnation?" Jungkook asked, bemused. "Then why is he a ghost in this life?"

 

Caracactus frowned, closing his eyes. Deep, dark, heavy lines scratched across the page, and Seokjin felt uneasy looking at it. He started to understand. He was supposed to be with Jungkook, yes, but not like this.

 

"I'm...just give me a moment, please..." Caracactus fumbled. He looked concerned, and continued to draw out onto the pad. That was when Seokjin felt it, a touch upon somewhere in the vicinity of his skull. He could feel Caracactus pressing against him, pushing in gently, like a soft nudge, and asking for an answer.

 

Seokjin did not have the words to communicate it with him, but the realization was settling inside of him, making him more mournful than he had ever conceived he would be.

 

Silence lingered on, and Caracactus sighed forlornly. "Oh, Jungkook..." The man opened his eyes, seeing a very worried-looking Jungkook, who seemed to be shrinking into the couch. Seokjin moved back over to him, wrapping himself around the man's neck.

 

"What?" 

 

"Oh, Jungkook," the man continued. "This ghost is not just any ghost. This is your soulmate, your other half. You are destined to be together. But... something has happened, a twist of fate, as it were... and you were reincarnated, but Seokjin was not." 

 

Jungkook blinked, looking at the floor and then back up at Caracactus. "S-Seokjin?" 

 

"Yes..." The man leaned forward, laying a gentle hand on Jungkook's, squeezing it and giving him a sympathetic smile. "He loved you, very very much, Jungkook. So much so, that his soul couldn't be parted from you, even if it was not to be." 

 

"What do you mean, not to be? Aren't we destined to be together?" Caracactus frowned, and it truly altered the man's entire consciousness for a moment before he recollected himself, pulling that smile back to his lips. 

 

"Yes, and no. You see, the universe is all interconnected, and sometimes strings of fate get a little...tangled. He is with you, but he never reincarnated. Otherwise, his soul would have been born into a new life and he would be with you. But as it is... I don't think you will be together in this life, I'm afraid."

 

Jungkook's hands started to tremble a little, and Seokjin held him tighter, even though Jungkook could not feel him. He wanted to weep, but he was just a spirit... he wasn't even alive. He wasn't even supposed to be here, but he had to be.

 

"B-but I want us to be together," Jungkook said. "What can I do to fix it?"

 

The man kept his smile on this time, but then he shook his head, and squeezed Jungkook's hand all the more firmly. "I don't think you can, sweetheart. I'm sorry. You may sense his presence, you may feel like you can connect with him more in some ways than not... but the fact remains that he is a soul unattached."

 

"Then... will we at least meet in the next life? When I get reincarnated, too?" Jungkook pressed.

 

Caracactus' smile twitched. "I... I don't know, Jungkook. I honestly don't know, I'm sorry."

 

👻

 

They stood out in the rain, just beneath the awning outside of Jungkook's apartment building. Yoongi was waiting patiently for Jungkook to pull out his keys, and the young man was standing with eyes glazed over and expression blank, and staring at the rain.

 

"I think that guy was full of shit," Yoongi mumbled at last, his tone gentle despite his choice of words. "He could have been making all of that up."

 

Jungkook looked up at Yoongi, and shook his head. He sniffed, wiping at his nose, and coughed. Seokjin wanted to hold onto him, even though he knew he was sending a chill through Jungkook's bones.

 

"He wasn't. I'll show you when we get upstairs." Jungkook stared out across the street, watching people walk by, most of them hidden under their umbrellas, footsteps clacking merrily despite the greyness of the day. "It's not fair..." he said at last. "It's not fair because he's right here . I can feel him."

 

Yoongi's expression fell, and he reached out to take gentle hold of Jungkook's arm. After a moment, Jungkook rushed into Yoongi's arms, pushing himself into an embrace and clutching onto Yoongi for a long moment. Seokjin could not see the tears, but he felt them.

 

"I know, I know," Yoongi said quietly. "It's shitty. It's real shitty."

 

They stayed that way for quite awhile, until Seokjiin wasn't sure how much longer he could cling onto Jungkook. Eventually, they made their way upstairs, and Seokjin noticed that Yoongi continued to silently hold Jungkook's hand, as if to reassure him.

 

He wasn't sure why, but it made an ache start to grow in his heart.

 

"Look," Jungkook said, pulling out one of the drawers in his desk and unburying a sketchpad in its depths. "I drew this a few months ago, before the ghost arrived. Look."

 

Seokjin slowly unfurled himself from Jungkook's shoulders, coming to stand over the back of the computer chair, looking down at a drawing that was...of himself. It was not an exact replica of his face, but it was fairly close to what he knew it must have been before. In the corner of the page, Jungkook had written a name. Seokjin?

 

"I did this long ago. What are the odds? I don't even name my sketches, much less pick one name out of the millions on the earth. It's him . I just know it, Yoongi. This isn't some crackpot telling me what I want to hear. There was no way he could have known about this drawing. It's not posted anywhere. It's real. It's him." Jungkook's voice gradually broke down, until he was gasping for breath. "He's right here and I can't even talk to him!"

 

He crumpled, and Yoongi wrapped his arms around the man again, holding him close and making shushing sounds to try and comfort him as he cried. Seokjin, just as devastated but unable to reach out and be held, just sat on the bed, experiencing heartbreak silently.

 

It wasn't fair that they were so close, and yet so distant from each other. He hated that he could not comfort Jungkook, could not hold him when he cried.

 

But there was nothing to do but to sit there, and exist, his soul determined to be bound to Jungkook's presence, to his essence, as much as possible, even through death.

 

After awhile, Yoongi had to go home, but he left Jungkook with the promise of checking back in on him, maybe taking him for a coffee or a movie sometime to take his mind off of things. Jungkook thanked him kindly, and Seokjin felt a little sorry for his previous bitterness at the man. Just because he was jealous of all the things Yoongi could do, being alive, was no reason to hate him on its own.

 

Time passed and soon Jungkook had relinquished himself to blessed sleep. Seokjin, meanwhile, fiddled with random objects in the room, from pencils to curtains, trying to keep himself preoccupied with some activity.

 

Eventually, though, he found himself sitting in the computer chair, knowing he took up no actual weight on it, and he stared at Jungkook's sleeping form. It was a difficult thing, to have realized what he had done, what rules he must have broken in the whole shebang of the fucking entire universe. But it didn't matter that much now, as it hadn't worked.

 

He leaned over the laptop, carefully and quietly typing out the longest message he had yet.

 

Jungkook, this is Seokjin. I'm so sorry for what happened. I'm sorry, but I love you, so much that even my soul couldn't leave you. I love you.

 

He stared at this message for a long time, and rewrote it a hundred times in his head, but it always sounded wrong, and selfish to him. As if he wanted pity from the man he loved, rather than wishing he could be with him properly, or that he had never come here in the first place.

 

He regretted the message, he feared that addressing it directly with Jungkook would only serve to make him feel worse. He reached down, holding down the backspace key for along, agonizing moment. His fingers still stung from the effort of making near-atomic contact with the keys, and it was only a few seconds before he felt as though the pad of his finger was burning off. He released the key, jolting up from the chair, blowing on his fingers and cursing.

 

"FUCK!" he yelled out loudly into the darkness.

 

The sound echoed strangely this time, almost sounding like a proper noise, and then he realized that Jungkook had jolted up out of bed, looking confused in the darkness. He was staring right at Seokjin, as if he could see him.

 

"What...?"

 

Seokjin's mouth fell agape, still holding his burned finger aloft as he froze next to Jungkook's desk. Eventually, he found his words once again, feeling now how different his voice sounded when he spoke this time, "J-Jungkook? You can see me?" 

 

"Oh my god..." Jungkook flew up out of the bed, opening his arms and rushing toward Seokjin, ready to embrace him.

 

And he went right through him, just as he would have before.

 

Their hearts fell simultaneously as they realized that apparitions, although sometimes more palpable, would always be apparitions.

 

"Oh no..." Jungkook said, sniffling once again as tears began to fill his eyes. "No...no..!"

 

"Jungkook, shh, no..." Seokjin reached out, placing his hands as if to cup Jungkook's cheeks, even though he still could not touch them. "It's okay. I'm still here, at least, right? You can at least see and hear me now, and that's amazing."

 

"But..." Jungkook's lip jutted out, and he did not think the young man realized he was doing so. Jungkook stood, looking still very small and alone in the middle of the room. "But what if you disappear again? What if we don't ever end up together again?" 

 

"We will, I know it," Seokjin lied. He needed lies, now. He needed lies and he needed the truth, too. He smiled. "God, I wanna kiss you."

 

Jungkook smiled. "How long have you been here? Did you know the whole time?" 

 

Seokjin shook his head. "The first time I remember is the day I wrote 'hello' on your mirror the first time. Everything was pretty fuzzy, then, but I knew I needed to be with you no matter what. Listen, Jungkook..." he tried once again, on instinct, to touch Jungkook, but there was nothing there for him to touch with. "I don't want you to put your life on hold for me, okay? I don't know how long I have to talk to you or if I’ll disappear again, but I need you to know that."

 

The young man met his eyes, silent for a long moment as though he was swimming in them, looking back and forth as if he needed to memorize every fleck of color, every detail.

 

"You won't leave me, will you?" he said quietly.

 

Seokjin smiled. "No, I won't leave you. But even if you can’t see me, you can’t go back to that Caracactus guy again. You have to live your life, do you hear me? I’m not alive, I can’t be with you.”

“No, don’t… Don’t say stuff like that,” Jungkook mumbled pitifully. “You said you won't leave me."

 

"And I won't. I promise." Seokjin stepped closer, until his face was near Jungkook's. He brushed the back of his knuckles along Jungkook's bangs, barely able to make them flutter, like he was but a random, gentle draft in the room. Jungkook's squeezes his eyes shut, biting his lip. 

 

"Jungkook," Seokjin said. The man's eyes flickered open, and his mouth fell slightly agape. "Promise me you won't wait for me?"

 

Instead of answering his question, Jungkook stared more intently into his face in awe. "I didn't know you would be quite this handsome," he murmured. 

 

Seokjin flushed, glancing away and moving to step back, when Jungkook leaned in, trying desperately to kiss him. Jungkook shivered involuntarily as his lips pressed onto the spot in the air where Seokjin's mouth rested. Other than that, Seokjin doubted the man could have felt him. But Seokjin felt it. He felt the softness, the heat, the taste of Jungkook's kiss. 

 

They withdrew, Jungkook standing with his neck jutted out forward, moving in toward a man that did not truly exist there. He sighed, finally resting back on his heels. 

 

"You're already beginning to fade," Jungkook told him, reaching out and tracing his hand right through Seokjin's. "You look more translucent than before."

 

"It’ll be okay,” Seokjin smiled. “I’m not shy, and I’ve seen you naked.”

 

Jungkook gave a little half-hearted laugh, thrown off by a ghost joke from his soulmate. He rolled his eyes, and Seokjin gave a bit of a laugh himself.

 

“You should go back to bed now, Jungkook,” Seokjin pressed. 

 

“But--”

“You won’t be able to stop it anyways. You lay down first.” Seokjin waited until Jungkook had made himself comfortable on the bed again before he crawled onto the bed next to him, curled up next to him. Jungkook shivered again, and Seokjin began to pull away, but Jungkook murmured a gentle, “Noo..” which brought him back in with a smile.

 

They laid there for a long moment, watching each other’s faces and enjoying the moment. Seokjin felt the strangeness of being looked at directly by Jungkook, of him actually being seen , and it felt strangely euphoric. He snorted with an awkward laugh.

 

“Why are you staring?” he asked.

 

Jungkook looked his face over yet again. “I wanted to memorize your face, so I won’t forget it.”

 

“Well, apparently it is a good one, so carry on as you were,” Seokjin joked.

 

The young man smiled, resting his cheek against his hand where it rested on the pillow and making his face squish up in a tender and endearing way. “Why are you staring?”

 

“Because you can see me.”

 

“How does this ghost thing even work?” Jungkook queried slowly. “Like..how can you lay on the bed or not go through the floor?”

“I think it’s because my soul remembers how floors work,” he said. “Like I could probably go through it if I really wanted to, but it’s like my brain is clinging onto that normalcy. I hated not being able to move the door.”

Jungkook’s brows crumpled. “Is it hard?”

“It was hell, it’s still hell,” Seokjin growled. His expression softened, then, and he laid back more easily against his side of the pillow. “But that’s okay. It got you to notice me, at least.”

 

They shared a demure smile, but Jungkook’s soon began to quiver a little. “You’re...you’re very faded now.”

“Shhh…” Seokjin soothed, “It’s gonna be okay.” Even though he did not know if this were true or not.

 

“You’re sure you won’t leave me?”

“I’m sure. I’ll leave you a sign. It’s just hard to, sometimes.”

 

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry that I reincarnated without you. It sucks.”

“It’s not your fault. To be honest, it was probably some dummy’s fault for doing our reincarnation paperwork wrong or something, you know how it goes. But they should have it all fixed up by the next time.” Seokjin knew that he was trying to be chipper and cheerful for Jungkook’s sake, but he also wanted to talk to him more. Selfishly, he wanted Jungkook to hear his voice, and to remember it. 

 

“Maybe…” Jungkook mumbled, uncertain. He hunched his shoulders, and Seokjin could tell he was even trying not to blink. “I’m going to miss you…”

Seokjin opened his mouth, wanting to spin another yarn of playfulness and light-heartedness to make the moment easier, but he found himself whispering the truth, instead. “I’ll miss you, too.”

“What?” Jungkook asked. “It’s hard to hear you.”

 

Taking a shaky breath, Seokjin repeated it, but louder. “I’ll miss you, too.”

He couldn’t tell if Jungkook heard him, but he knew he could no longer see him. Jungkook was staring ahead, and then sat up, looking around the room for him. Seokjin remained in the same spot that he was, watching Jungkook fidget around and wait, until he finally laid back down.

 

Seokjin curled himself around Jungkook, sending chills down the man’s spine, until he eventually fell asleep.



👻

 

Despite their hopes, Seokjin did not materialize, and Jungkook could no longer hear him. In a way, Seokjin was a little relieved. To be teased and strung along by wistful hopes and glimpses would have been far more painful. As it was, Seokjin painfully wrote out a Good morning on the bathroom mirror when Jungkook took a shower the next morning, making the man smile. 

 

Seokjin continued to watch Jungkook live his life, mostly waiting in his room, where Jungkook’s imprint and memories lay attached to every object in the room, and it was safer to wait for him to come home. The months went by, and then years. Then decades.

 

Yoongi finally got around to confessing his feelings for Jungkook, an “I love you” which was also laced with a forlorn “I’m sorry” as well, because no one else understood more than Yoongi what it meant for the two of them to have fallen in love. Seokjin watched, but he made sure not to give away his own heartbreak, leaving his scattered notes or flickering the lights on and off just as much as he always did, until Jungkook finally accepted Yoongi’s feelings, and admitted he felt the same.

 

They got married, and Seokjin did not attend the wedding. He waited in the house for Jungkook to come home, and he smiled when the two of them walked in, hands clasped.

 

It was, after all, what he had told Jungkook to do. To not wait for him. 

 

There were times when things got hard, and Jungkook would cry on his own and Seokjin would sit near him, try to comfort him by being close or creaking a door, tugging on a drape. 

 

For the most part, though, his life was happy. He followed his dreams of being a photographer. Yoongi was a gentle and supportive husband, if not a bit gruff-worded at times, and as they grew older and the house emptied and became quieter, they sat in their living room together and enjoyed each other’s company in simple ways.

 

And Seokjin was there. Because he had promised he always would be.

 

It was long after they had bought their first house that Seokjin realized he probably could have made himself visible to Jungkook again, if he had really, truly wanted to. But it would have only set him back on that path to living his life, and so he kept it to himself.

 

They got a couple of cats over the years, and Seokjin loved to playfully tease them, scaring the wits out of the fluffballs when he could. When little children came over for a visit, sometimes their uncle Yoongi would joke that Jungkook was haunted, and the children would wander around the house waiting for a sign of the fabled ghost. Seokjin felt too tired, some days. But when he could, he loved to slam a kitchen cabinet for them, or to arrange the magnet letters on the fridge to spell something amusing out for them to read, and it drove them wild. Jungkook would listen to them regale stories of the mischief the ghost had gotten up to that day, and he would smile warmly.

 

There was one night, when the two of them were sleeping in their beds, that Seokjin was wandering the house and happened to see that one of the electrical sockets where their bathroom heater was plugged in faulted, and sparked, starting a fire that was quickly growing in intensity. They had not changed the batteries in the smoke alarm for a long time, and had forgotten about it, but Seokjin woke them up by pressing as hard as he could on the test button, making it shriek until they woke up and got safely outside, calling the fire department. They spent that winter with family, and Seokjin was miserable.

 

More years passed, and the lines on Jungkook’s face were deepening, and he grew weaker, thinner, and much slower. It got harder and harder for him to move around, and the children got older, and Yoongi passed away during one cold winter, succumbing to heart failure.

 

Seokjin was waiting on the couch, just as he always had, when Jungkook came home from the hospital that day, his face drawn as he hung up his coat. That night, Seokjin laid behind him in the bed, while Jungkook wept quietly, coughing between sobs. 

 

It was three years later when Jungkook’s health took a turn for the worse, and they both knew that the end was coming soon. The nurses that came to visit all complained at one point or another of strange things happening in the house, but Jungkook just waved them off, smiling softly to himself.

 

It was not a gloomy, wintry day, when Jungkook’s body finally decided it was the right time to release him. It was yet another sunny, summery day, just as when they had met for the first time in this life. 

 

He was alone, but he was not. Seokjin was sitting on the bed next to him when Jungkook’s eyes managed to open, and he looked over. Their eyes met, and Jungkook smiled so warmly, it tore at Seokjin’s heart.

 

“There you are…” Jungkook whispered. “I thought I’d never see you again.”

“You kept your promise,” Seokjin said with a smile. “You did so well.”

“I still missed you,” the old man huffed. There were tears in his eyes. His words were so slow, so weak, and it took him a long time to manage saying anything. “We gonna be together now?”

Seokjin smiled, and nodded, even though he still did not know for sure, anymore than he had the last time they had spoken. “Of course we will be. I’ve just been waiting for you to come meet me.”

“Good…” Jungkook whispered. “Good…”

 

Seokjin leaned down, pressing a kiss to Jungkook’s forehead, and they waited until the last breath had left Jungkook’s body, when they could - hopefully - be released from a dreadful mistake of a turn the universe had given them, so many years before. Seokjin hoped that he could be released from his horrible, useless ghost form, and could finally be together with Jungkook, like they had been before.

 

Jungkook?

 

Jungkook?