forever rain | knj | m
Being dead isn't anything exciting. Just a lot of walking the same halls of the same apartment day after day after day. Things change when the new tennant arrives, though. Kim Namjoon isn't anything you could have expected; not the way he's so careful and gentle with his plants because he breaks so many other things, not the way his friends joke that he's psychic because you refuse to let him get in the face one time, and certainly not the way he comes home after literal months spent moving things away from table edges for him and announces that he knows he's being haunted and he has some questions for you. You didn't know ghosts could fall in love, but he makes you feel alive again, like you're standing in the rain while thunder crashes around you. You should've known nothing good would come of falling in love with someone living, though. You should've known that heartbreak was the only way this could end...that the rain doesn't last forever.
part of the Love Yourself Collab, please please please go check out the other fics. Everyone involved is so freaking talented and I have been vibrating out of my skin with how excited I’ve been to read all of these.
pairing | kim namjoon x reader (unspecified gender, even!)
word count | 18.8k | cross posted to ao3
genre/warnings | ghost!reader, slight fluff, hard angst, literally the most angst ever it gets fluffy for a bit but litERALLY this is an angst fic, major character death, unprotected sex (idk what the etiquette for ghost sex is but you should still wrap it before you tap it fam), depictions of terminal illness (v mild), mentions of blood (several, but not graphic), major character death, allusions to violence, namjoon is a klutz whats new, depictions of terminal illness, major character death, i added that tag three times pls dont read this if you aren’t comf with mcd bc i literally tagged it three times so y’all would definitely see it, also probably have some tissues ready bc i cried while writing it so
a/n | this is, to date, the saddest thing i have ever written in my entire fucking life. formal apologies to this joon bc oh my god you poor soul. i’m not kidding when i say you might cry, because i’m a big baby wuss and cried while writing the fucking outline when i first decided to write this for the collab so like......rip my own heart. i was really honored when i was approached about the LYA collab, bc like,,,,,mE? WHAT? and i was really nervous because i’ve never been part of any collabs in any fandom ever, and to have to do something like forever rain and mono as a whole justice, like,,,,,,, *screaming* y’know?? so i went on mono lockdown and just had the whole thing on repeat and was like “alright. what emotions does this make me feel.” and i eventually settled on the loneliness and isolation that he expresses, and feeling like no one understands what you’re going through, but that ultimately the album as a whole and forever rain give off this feeling of like. things get better, you’re not as alone as you feel, and you just gotta get through the bad stuff to find the good stuff. basically i just got really in my feels about it and was like ‘lets make myself cry ahahaha’ and,,,i dID i cried several times while planning and writing and editing bc im a Soft Bitch and don’t read much angst for that exact reason lmao. so buckle tf up y’all, this a helluva ride!!
Of all the things you'd heard about death, all the different possibilities that existed in the world, the one thing you hadn't been prepared for was the boredom. You hadn't been prepared for any of it, really, too surprised by your own demise to plan at all, but even if you'd been able to, you don't think that this is what you would've counted on. An eternity - or however long ghosts existed - of being stuck in the same studio apartment you'd lived in when you died. The same walls, the same floor, the same view out the only window of the alley beside the building. It's boring and lonely and boring.
You've found more creative ways to entertain yourself as time passes. First, you started by figuring out just what being a ghost meant. You can't really communicate with anyone, haven't figured out how to make sure everything you say is heard, but you can manipulate objects pretty easily these days. The most difficult thing is becoming fully corporeal - completely visible and able to interact with things at the same time. It's hard enough to be visible, and you aren't really sure what the point of it would be when it would just scare whoever's living in your apartment; that's the last thing you want to do, run them off when they're the best source of amusement you've found.
You won't lie, you were a little offended when the first tenants moved in after you. It was difficult to watch your things get packed up and moved out by your friends, hard to lose all of the little things you loved in your apartment, like the shitty bead curtain you'd gotten as a gag gift or the photo collage of all of your loved ones. It's frustrating to not know how they're all doing these days; the one time you got brave enough to fuck with a laptop to check on them, you nearly broke the thing, and you haven't tried since. Still, it seemed cathartic for them to clear out your apartment, and it was a bittersweet sight, but you tried to focus on the positive side of it.
And then the couple moved in.
Not only did they fuck like rabbits - which is something you're going to stay pissed about, because there's no satisfaction to be had by you anymore, and it's the one thing you can think of that would be endlessly entertaining - but the couple was also grossly obnoxious. They had zero respect for your apartment , or you, and while one could argue that they didn't actually know you were there, it still made the sting of losing your entire life that much worse. You spent you don't know how many nights hovering awkwardly in the bathroom while they fucked, would constantly wander in to see them going at it on the kitchen counter at ass o'clock in the morning, and once you came in to see them tossing actual literal eggs at the ceiling like the absolute fucking weirdos they were.
So, naturally, you got a little mad. How dare they treat your apartment like that? They had no respect, but they were going to learn it real quick if they were going to live there with you, whether they wanted to or not.
They didn't last long after the first night of slamming cabinets and squealing hinges, but the thrown picture frame of their family was the conclusive end to their stay.
There have been others, since then. They haven't all been terrible, not like that first couple, but most of them have been sub-par roommates, and if you decided early on that if the rest of your immortal life is going to be locked in one shitty apartment with the absolute worst view in the city - because no one wants to see the drunken hookups and potential body dumps that take place in that alley - then you're at least going to share said apartment with someone nice to exist with.
You release a heavy sigh, staring at where your hand disappears through the shower wall. You've taken to testing the boundaries of the apartment again; you already know what the result will be, learned in the first few hours that you're stuck here, but you can't help trying when you get really bored. You just got distracted fucking around with the pipes in the meantime, because you're literally too bored to even focus. It's part of why you miss the last tenants so much, because you weren't ever really bored with them around.
A single mother and her two kids, crammed into a much-too-small apartment because it was all they could afford, and they were the light of your un-life. One a budding teenager that wrote angsty poetry who loved your trick of making things float around, and one an adorable toddler who adored playing peekaboo with you and coloring, and a mom that was too busy to notice anything out of the ordinary. It was like having a family again, made you feel useful when you could pull the meat out of the freezer for her to make dinner with or scratch a quick 'do your homework' on a steamy bathroom mirror. It was fun and it made being dead that much more bearable.
You really should've known that letting the toddler draw the two of you would be a bad idea, especially since there were several artistic liberties taken. It's not your fault the kid thought you'd look cool with fangs and bloody holes instead of eyes and claws that reached the floor. It was art, it was supposed to be a little different from reality. Still, you can't blame her for seeing the picture of her kid and 'my new best friend' and immediately calling the landlord. And a priest.
So, perhaps you gave the apartment a bit of a reputation. Maybe it's been a couple of months since the mom moved out and took your two buds with her. There might be the possibility that you've been the slightest bit salty about losing your friends and you've been extra-ghost-y whenever someone comes by to view the place in an attempt to make yourself feel a little better. Can you really be blamed for that? You just want a decent damn roommate for your life after death, and if that means putting the potentials through a little bit of a test, then so be it. You only feel a little bit bad for the landlord.
The creak of the front door pulls you from your thoughts, and the echo of a voice makes you narrow your eyes. Your first instinct is to slam some windows to scare off whoever's in your apartment, but you repress the urge. You'd die of boredom if you could die again, and whoever this is could provide a few hours' entertainment at the least.
You pop your head through the bathroom wall to see what's going on, and wow , who let an actual giant into your apartment? Fucking with the pipes could definitely wait for this guy.
"I know it's last minute, yeah," He says into the phone that's held carefully between his cheek and shoulder. His arms are loaded down with boxes and he's angled away from you just enough that you can't see his face, but he's tall and broad and wearing what looks like the world's comfiest sweater, and you want to badly to wrap yourself up in him. "But you know Joon needs the help. Don't pretend you aren't constantly willing to put off your thesis, I know for a fact that you went out to look at stationery with Tae last week, and everyone knows that's the most boring thing on the planet."
He's quiet, listening to the soft crackle of a voice from the other end. You slide through the wall completely, hovering as close as you dare to try and hear what the other person is saying. Tall, Broad, and Comfy scoffs.
"He can stare at one sheet of paper for at least ten minutes, Yoongi. Do I need to remind you of the time he spent an entire fucking hour debating which set of holiday scrapbook to buy because, and I quote, 'this one has the really nice rose pattern on it that would look great with the invitations, but, oh, look at the pinstripes in this one!'" His voice morphs into what you guess is an approximation of whoever Tae is, and you laugh at the high-pitched, nasally tone.
Tall and Broad spins, eyes narrowing as he looks around the room, and fuck , he's literally gorgeous. You've never seen someone more attractive in your life or your death and it would probably knock the wind out of you if you actually had breath. Comfy McGorgeous turns back around and sets the stack of boxes in the corner, continuing his tirade about Tae and stationery while simultaneously trying to talk Yoongi into coming, you assume, to help Joon move. You don't know who any of these people are, but they're already proving to be the most entertaining bunch that's ever graced these walls.
The door to your apartment flies open, making both you and Boyfriend Material whip your head around.
"Christ, Jin, you couldn't hold the fucking door open for us?" Someone grunts. Beauty Von Softness - or, Jin, as you should probably refer to him - winces and strides over to do just that as two more guys stagger in with a couch suspended between them. The second they're in the door they drop it to the ground and flop onto it, panting and sweaty.
"Listen, I was busy trying to get our resident hermit out of his cave to help us carry some of this shit," Jin spits back. "And you all know what it's like getting him out and about."
"Did you tell him that there's pizza after we're done? Because I've found that food is the best motivator for him," the guy closest to the door says. His hair is soft-looking and long and you wish you could pet it.
The other guy, the one who cursed Jin out and has the softest pink hair you've ever seen, laughs. "Jeongguk, you always think the best motivator is food."
"Well, yeah, because it is."
"For you, maybe. Other people require actual rewards."
"But food is a reward," Jeongguk mutters into the fabric of the couch. Jin tsks and smacks As Yet Unnamed on the back of the head.
"You're lucky I hung up on him when you bombarded your way into this place, or he'd definitely not come help us," Jin says as he leans against the back of the couch.
Unnamed starts to say something else but is cut off by someone running straight into the end of the couch. They all shoot to their feet, spouting apologies as the three of them maneuver the couch into the apartment properly.
"Sorry, sorry, Jimin distracted us from properly finishing our job," Jeongguk says quickly. He looks to the stranger with a small apologetic smile, and you're pretty sure if it were humanly possible, there would be actual literal stars in his eyes.
"Oh, it's okay, Jeonggukkie. I should've been looking where I was going." New Challenger walks straight towards where you stand, and you realize seconds before it's too late that he is not aware there is a massive stack of boxes in his path. Instinctively, you shove them to the side with your foot. Tall And Oblivious sets his boxes down without any trouble, none the wiser about any of it, and the three near the couch are too busy bickering in hushed whispers to have noticed you doing anything.
The newcomer straightens and turns to look at them all with a bright smile, and you think you might actually see The Light in the way his cheeks dimple. If you thought the other three were beautiful - which they are, no doubt about that, you're seriously wondering why the hell a bunch of supermodels are moving stuff into your apartment - then this guy is easily an Actual Fucking God or something. His brown hair is soft and shiny, his smile is warmer than the sun, and you're fairly positive that for the first time since you died, you feel goosebumps along your arms.
"Seriously, Namjoon, we should've realized you'd be up soon. You stay, start unpacking while we go get the rest of the furniture." Jimin shoves Jeongguk out the door while he's speaking, ignoring the taller's complaints, and Jin just shakes his head at the sight.
"Yoongi'll be here soon, he's finishing up another draft of his thesis. Hobi and Tae are stopping to get the pizzas and then they'll be here, too." Jin's voice is calmer than it was Jimin and Jeongguk, more soothing, and it makes you curious. Not only because of the tone change, but because you know Hobi, he owns the building and is the one who rented you the apartment when you first moved in. One of your favorite things to do is scare him when he comes by to make sure everything’s ready for a viewing.
"What? No, I said I was gonna pay for pizzas!" Namjoon looks distinctly more upset about this than someone should over not having to pay for pizza, at least in your mind, and it only makes you more curious.
"Yeah, but you also just moved out of your old apartment because it was too expensive, and had like an hour to load everything into a truck, so you're gonna let their trust fund asses pay for pizzas. We're seven adult men, and Guk could eat an entire horse and still be hungry. I'm not letting you pay for that."
Silence hangs in the apartment for a while before Namjoon gives a soft thanks to Jin. They share a smile before Jin makes his way back out. You follow each step, shadowing him all the way to the door before you're stopped. You lean your entire body forward, struggling against the invisible barrier keeping you inside, and the force of it nearly slams you back into the wall when you sag in defeat.
You aren't sure why you try anymore, but you know yourself well enough to admit that you're not going to stop until you can at least make it to the hallway.
Whatever you expected Namjoon to be like as a roommate, however unknowing he is about the situation, you don't think you could've guessed what he's actually like.
Out of the seven boys you saw the day he moved in, he's the only one living there. Not a complete surprise, considering it's a studio apartment, but you remember when there were nine people living there at one point, and there was barely room for anyone to breathe even if it had been pretty consistently amusing. Still, for one person, he's got a ton of stuff, and it's a shock it all fits. His bed is massive and comfortable and the best place to lay during the day because it's shoved between the brick half-wall and the large windows that take up one wall. The area's supposed to be for a dining table, you think, but you'd had your bed there, too, and the familiarity is nice.
His couch is small and old but manages to fit five of them, and it's a pleasantly jarring difference from the coffee table that looks like - and might actually be - an old steamer trunk. The exposed brick wall you love holds his mounted TV, a feat that took Jeongguk and Yoongi a solid hour and a half because they kept stripping the screws, and it's got one of those 8-cubicle bookshelf things under it that stores a frankly obnoxious amount of books.
He's got mugs for days, an adorable if odd collection of figurines and mini-statues scattered around the apartment, a strange obsession with some reclaimed wood shelf he's got hanging above his bed, but the absolute highlight of it all is The Wall.
It took them three hours to get it installed and set up the way he wanted, between the placements and the thick wooden shelf they’re perched on with supports and a small safety bar along the edge to keep them from falling off, but along the entire windowed wall and partway after it turns the corner runs a long shelf absolutely covered in plants. There are some elsewhere, like the one he keeps hanging from the bathroom ceiling and the couple in the kitchen, but most are on The Wall. Each one is in its own special pot, each a unique color with a name painted carefully along it, and most of them look half-dead. They're all distinct and unique from each other and they all surely have different needs and ideal conditions, but you'd never guess because Namjoon is so wholly committed to them all. He takes time every day to water them and prune them if he needs to, he checks on them constantly. He even reinforced the safety bar for the ones that sit beside his bed, so there was less chance he'd accidentally knock them around while sleeping.
It's fascinating, watching him tend to them. He's so careful and gentle, with absolute precision in every moment. He cares for his plants the way some people would care for a pet or a child. He doesn’t believe any of them are past caring for, slowly nurses all of them back to health and frequently turns up with more he’s saved from some department store. The most endearing thing, though, you decide as you sit curled among the haphazard blankets of his bed and watch, is the talking. It's every day, for as long as it takes him to care for the plants, and it's the cutest thing in the world. He's talking to some succulent as you just stare at him, filling the comfortable silence of the apartment with his soft, soothing voice, and you wish he could hear you when you talk back to him.
"I know they mean well, but at some point, I've just gotta live my own life, y'know? I can't study something just because everyone expects me to, and I can't pursue some dream just because people think I'd be good at it. I've gotta do what's right for me, don't I?" His tone is positive and bright, a contrast to the gloomy sky that casts shadows across the apartment.
You float over, hovering beside him to look at the plant he's lovingly stroking with his thumb. It's in a pretty periwinkle pot, with the name 'Mang' painted in careful but shaky black handwriting. It's not your favorite - that's the one in the bathroom that hangs over its light blue bowl, a quickly scrawled 'Koya' on the bottom - but it seems to be one of Namjoon's personal favorites based on how often he talks to it specifically.
"I think it's nice you do things for yourself," You tell him. He doesn't react, unable to hear you, but it's nice to hear your own voice after so long. You slide one of the plants - Chim, in a small yellow bowl - to the side and away from his elbow, and he doesn't notice. "You know yourself better than they do. You should trust yourself."
He keeps mumbling to Mang, something about everyone following their own dreams and doing what they need over what people want or expect, when you lay your hand over his.
Thunder cracks through the sky and the first raindrops hits the window as your non-existent skin hits his, and it's the most real thing you've felt in a long time. It's as if the scent of ozone and electricity is in the apartment itself, crackling in your hair and filling your nose with the overpowering scent of the sweet summer rain. You can almost feel the water hit your skin, the way the wind whips at your hair, and it's so intoxicating that you almost miss the sharp inhale from the man beside you.
He's not looking at his plant when you look up, but instead at the window in front of the two of you. You glance at it, and for a fraction of a second, you can see yourself in the reflection. The glimpse has you jerking towards it before you can stop yourself, desperate to know if something has changed. You haven't seen your reflection since you died, not in the mirror or the window or the toaster, and maybe, just maybe, it means something's changed.
Your hand stops against the glass of the window as you reach forward. You can't feel the cool of it under your palm, but it's no less a barrier for you as it would be for Namjoon. Something in you breaks as you watch the raindrops race each other to the ground.
"Ah, I forgot the forecast called for rain today," he mutters, eyes focused on the lightning that streaks by. He doesn't react when your fist slams against the glass, nor when you let out the scream that's been building in you for however long it's been since you died. You're so close, not even a hair's breadth from feeling something new yet familiar for the first time in so long, and you can't. You're still stuck in these four walls, unable to even reach the air outside.
You just want to feel the rain again.
You move dejectedly away from the window, ignoring the way Namjoon shivers as you pass. The temperature in the apartment has dropped considerably, you think, between the storm and your own mood. You can't tell, really. You haven't felt warm or cold or hungry or anything since you died that isn't the oppressive loneliness of life after death.
A dry sob tears itself from your throat and you hurry to hide in the bathroom as Namjoon turns to look around him. He mumbles something you can't hear and after a few minutes, he returns to tending to his plants, leaving you to your tear-less cries in peace.
It becomes quickly apparent to you that Namjoon should really have a roommate, if only to save him from himself. It takes a few weeks for you to realize this, but luckily he seems to narrate his life as he goes through it - which is overwhelmingly adorable to you, and you refuse to acknowledge that - and that means that you hear it every time he goes, "Ah, Namjoon, be more careful next time," or "Oh, shoot, that's not, fuck, I gotta buy more eggs now." It's painful to watch, even for you, and at some point, you just couldn't take it anymore. No one else is around to help, but someone needs to you, and clearly the universe means for you to be that someone.
It's a full-time job, protecting him from himself. You've saved countless mugs, pushing them farther away from the edges of counters and tables, and been just in time to shove bowls or vases an inch over so that his elbows glide harmlessly past them. It's almost exhausting, if you could get tired you would, but it's worth it, you think, as you catch the bookshelf under the TV as it tilts. You slide it gently to the floor, glad that Namjoon is distracted by how close he came to losing a toe to notice.
Because that's the other thing about this tree of a man: he's the most oblivious person you've ever fucking seen. It doesn't matter what it is you do, whether it's bouncing his spray bottle of water so it doesn't break on the hard floor or shake the counters so that the knife he's about to drop on his fucking hand falls the other way, he doesn't see a single fucking thing. You'd think he was blind if he wasn't so attentive to the way his plants grow. He notices nothing and you're glad for it because you really aren't sure what he would do if he knew you were going around haunting him just to keep him alive. You just want to help, want to keep the soft smile he wears more often around for as long as possible.
You don't dare to look into why you want that, too afraid of what you might find there.
It's also just fun to watch him and his friends, relaxed and unreserved. You never had many friends when you were alive, just a small handful that you really truly loved and whom you miss every day. Watching these seven boys fills you with nostalgia and a strange sense of joy because they really are some of the funniest people you've ever been around.
Like now, with four of them sprawled on the couch while Jeongguk and Hoseok make themselves comfortable leaning against the bookshelf under the TV - which has been bolted to the wall since it almost broke Namjoon's foot - and Namjoon watches them all from his bed since it's the only other place to sit. There are beer bottles scattered around and decorating the half-wall that separates the bed from the room proper, everyone is varying levels of drunk, and you're curled up close to Namjoon, leaning against the wall so you can stop him from knocking over any of the bottles nearby because you know him too well at this point.
"I'm just saying, I don't understand why they made him so over-powered in the new movies, because he's supposed to be some kid from Brooklyn! Giving him the high-tech suit essentially strips him of the friendly neighborhood persona that he's always relied on!" Jeongguk has been ranting for a while about the newest release in the Spiderman franchise - apparently, he's part of the actual Avengers now, which is a shock to you since the last thing you heard before you died was that the franchise was canceled until further notice or something.
"And I'm saying that if they didn't give him the suit then it would've made no sense how he was able to do those things," Yoongi responds. You're pretty sure he's just arguing to be contrary at this point, because you remember him telling Namjoon the other day that he prefers DC over Marvel.
"Garfield's Spiderman could do those things," you mutter, "And he didn't have a fancy suit."
"Okay, then how do you explain Andrew Garfield's version being able to do that stuff? He doesn't need the suit, he never has!" You preen at the way Jeongguk echoes your thoughts. "I'm telling you, I don't care how good the relationship with Holland's Spidey and Iron Man is, by giving him the tech and the advancements they did, they've undermined everything that Spiderman is supposed to be about."
"Jeongguk come off it, everyone knows Garfield's Spidey was just all bad writing. I mean, what kind of person can do all that stuff, realistically? He's the one that really needed the Stark suit." Taehyung's voice is slurred and quiet, definitely as drunk as the rest of them.
"What-! No! I could do half of that without being bitten by a weird science spider!" Jin scoffs at Jeongguk's words.
"Yeah, sure, Guk. The same way you can do that bottlecap challenge."
"Bottle cap challenge, and yeah, I could!" The youngest stands and you don't bother to hide your grimace.
"This isn't going to end well, is it?" You ask. No one acknowledges you, too busy finding something Jeongguk can kick the cap off of as the boy readies himself. He's steady on his feet but his face is red and he can't seem to stop giggling.
"If I do this, you gotta call me SpiderGuk from now on, okay?" He says. No one agrees, but it doesn't stop him from laughing again and doing a couple of roundhouse kicks to warm up.
"Okay, okay, Joonie doesn't have any regular water bottles, but we found a screw-top beer in the fridge so ya gotta use that," Jimin says as he stumbles over with said bottle. Jeongguk just nods, an adorable focused expression on his face. Jimin holds the bottle in the air, and you can already tell his grip isn't tight enough to keep the bottle still when Jeongguk kicks it.
The next ten seconds happen in slow-motion. Jeongguk's leg flies out to kick but his drunken body isn't able to handle the sudden shift in balance, and he slips. His foot hits the bottle slightly too low, and it goes flying out of Jimin's weak grip into the air. Everyone in the room watches as it hurtles straight towards Namjoon's face, and you react out of habit and instinct, catching it in one hand before you even realize you've moved.
Everyone freezes, staring at where the bottle hovers in front of Namjoon's face. You're the only one able to see your fingers wrapped around it. A shock jolts through you at the realization of what you've done and you drop the bottle as if it burned you. Fuck, they were all going to freak, then Namjoon would move out and you'd be stuck alone once more. You should've just shoved him out of the way, what were you thinking, you're so fucking stupid-
"Dude," Hoseok mutters from where he's perched on the arm of the couch. "Holy shit, Joon, you're fucking telepathic."
Yoongi rolls his eyes and smacks his chest. "Telekinetic, you fucking-"
"Holy shit, you've got fucking superpowers!" Jeongguk squeaks. "Do it again!"
Namjoon isn't even able to get a word out before there's a book flying at his face, and you panic. You can't catch it, too rushed, but you manage to deflect it so it hits the bed with a soft thump instead of braining Namjoon straight in the nose.
"Woah, you really do have superpowers," Jimin whispers. He lobs a bottlecap at Namjoon, and you catch it in your palm before letting it drop onto the half-wall.
"I don't have...what the fuck you guys," Namjoon insists. His eyes are as wide as saucers behind the thick glasses he has on. He looks freaked out and you want nothing more than to hug him. Your hand reaches out of its own accord, halfway closing the distance to stroke his hair before you catch yourself.
"Hey, levitate your plants," Jin demands. Namjoon looks panicked as he glances at the wall of plants, and you heave a sigh. With any luck, they're so drunk that they'll remember this as a strange fever dream, but you can't just let them keep throwing things at him. You crawl over to the wall, avoiding Namjoon as you do, and grasp one of the plants tight. It's a white pot with red polka dots, a simple RJ on the side, and it's fucking heavy. You only get it a few inches off the shelf before you're forced to put it down.
"Oh my god, catch this!" Taehyung throws a coffee mug straight at Namjoon's head and you panic again. You catch it, and you've decided you're fucking sick of them throwing things at him, so you lob it back and dart across the room to bounce it safely to the counter before it can break.
Everyone in the room stares at the mug and then looks back at Namjoon, who hasn't moved from his spot on the bed.
"Oh my god, you're a superhero," Jeongguk whispers, awe in his eyes.
"That's fucked up," Yoongi mutters, wincing when Hoseok elbows him.
"Maybe we should get some sleep," Namjoon says quietly. The others look like they want to disagree with him, and you have no doubt they want to explore the newfound 'abilities' of their friend, but they still start gathering trash together before they head out.
Namjoon lays awake for a long time that night, glasses folded and sitting atop the half-wall beside you. He's oblivious to the way you watch him, too lost in thought to feel the weight of your stare or the chill in the air.
"I don't understand," He says after a while. "I really don't, but there's got to be a reason for it." He doesn't elaborate, merely turns over and evens his breathing out until he starts snoring, but you watch him for most of the night. He's fascinating, this human, and you wonder what makes him so different from the others you've met.
He apparently decides to experiment. You've known Namjoon is intelligent since he first moved in and you saw his collectible encyclopedias, but you hadn't realized just what it would be like in actuality.
It starts simple. He'll toss something in the air and let it clatter to the ground. Nothing big, just little things like pencils or bottlecaps, and not far, just enough that his eyes narrow as he apparently tries to use his telekinetic abilities to manipulate them.
It slowly graduates from there. Next comes the way he stares at something across the room, hyper-focused on whatever it is until you notice and move it around for him. It's a guessing game, sometimes, trying to figure out just what he wants to move or how he wants to move it, but each time you're successful, he smiles so brightly, dimples on full display. Who wouldn't want to make him smile like that?
It's hit or miss, sometimes. You're only so strong, and while you've had a lot of practice, you still get tired. You lifted his bookshelf almost a full inch before blacking out. Next thing you knew, a couple of days had passed and Namjoon was staring at a coffee mug. That was a significantly less fun day; between losing time and having to catch coffee mug after coffee mug, you were exhausted and a little shaken.
So when he stops staring at things for extended periods of time, when he starts to go back to reading and scrolling the internet and bingeing all the completed shows that Netflix and Amazon had to offer, you're grateful for it. He still occasionally tests it out; he's always subtle about it, choosing to stare quietly until you notice and make whatever it is float around for a minute. Once you wandered around looking for him - a feat in a studio apartment - and found him just sitting on the bathroom floor, staring at a shampoo bottle.
You'd like to say that you don't move things entirely because he wants you to. It's a good test of your abilities and how far you can push yourself until it becomes too much, and it's always nice to have actual evidence that you still exist - in some form, at least - in the world. The validation that comes from seeing him smile every time you lift a pencil or slide a coffee mug to the side, it's not for any reason but the satisfaction of knowing that you have some kind of existence. Some kind of impact on the world, even if you can't be seen and can't leave the apartment.
It's part of why you start moving things around yourself more often; you're hoping he just blames it on his overactive 'abilities' if he notices because you really aren't sure what he would think otherwise. But you also know for a fact that just seeing that you have some kind of sway over the world still - over the things inside this tiny apartment - makes you feel just that bit better about being dead.
Which is why it's such a fucking shock when the door to the apartment slams open one evening just for Namjoon to slam it closed again and announce into the air, "So I know you're haunting me, please don't try to deny it, I only want to talk to you."
You freeze where you are, halfway through the closet door from where you were reorganizing his clothes because they made no sense and you were bored. He's looking around the apartment, almost desperate in the way he's searching, and you can't bring yourself to move. It's obvious he can't see you, and you aren't even sure if he's being serious, but the way he huffs and clenches his jaw before moving into the kitchen tells you that he probably is.
You follow him, curious, and watch as he pulls a small package out of his bag and starts ripping it open. You float the remains of what looks like gift wrap over to the trashcan, because you know Namjoon will forget, before going back to watching him. He's only a little careful as he cracks something in his hands and then slaps it onto the fridge, and you peek around him to see that it's some kind of words or something. There’s a wide variety, with no clear theme to them, as well as at least one of each letter of the alphabet. It's then you remember the throwaway comment Yoongi made during that night - "You need, like, poetry stuff, like those magnets that go on the fridge that people write that deep shit with, y'know? I'm gonna buy you one," - and realize that he'd followed through on his vow.
"Alright," Namjoon says, leaning against his kitchen counter and staring at the magnets. "First and foremost, am I really being haunted or is this some kind of hallucination?" His gaze never falters, doesn’t ever drift from the magnetic words now spread across his fridge doors. It takes several minutes to build up the energy and the courage to move closer to the fridge.
You don't look at him as you move the words around, but you can hear the sharp intake of breath. That's likely all the confirmation that he needs, but still you clear a spot and let the words ' I am here ' sit where he can see them clearly. You wrinkle your nose, disliking how formal it sounds, but you have to make do, you suppose.
"Okay," Namjoon breathes. "Okay, prove it. My brain could work this into a hallucination. How do I know you're really a ghost?"
"Seriously?" You huff. "What the fuck am I supposed to do that wouldn't work into a hallucination, dude?"
He gets fidgety in the few minutes that you spend wondering how the fuck you're going to prove that you're a real actual ghost to someone who clearly doesn't believe in them. His foot taps at the floor and he scratches at his hand, which only makes you want to wrap your own hands around his until he stops, much like your best friend used to lay her legs across your lap to get you to stop shaking your knee.
The realization comes in a flash, and you're moving letters around before you can stop yourself.
Face book, Park Jihyo, best friend.
Namjoon stares at it for a long while before he brings his phone out of his pocket and begins to tap at the screen. You don't get too close; you've got a history with shorting out electronics, and you aren't sure you want to know what your best friend is up to without you there with her.
"Okay," Namjoon says. "Okay, I've never seen her before, so I don't think my brain could work her into a hallucination. Okay. Alright. I'm being haunted. This is fine."
"Calm down, I'm haunting the apartment, not you." He doesn't react to your words, as usual, but it still makes you feel the slightest bit better. He stares at his phone for a little longer, and the curiosity burns under your skin, but you resist. You know from experience that if you try to get too close, his phone will stop working. Just like TV, the stereo, the laptops, everything. You've had enough experience with that kind of thing to know what will happen.
"Okay, Casper," Namjoon huffs out after several minutes of waiting. He looks up and his eyes dart around the apartment, and you wonder if he's just nervous or if he's trying to spot you. "Where are you right now? Can you make yourself visible? I mean, I know you're a ghost, but it feels rude not talking to you to your face."
You huff a laugh but reach for a coffee cup. You know you can't just make yourself visible at will; you've only done it a couple of times, to your knowledge, and none of them have been on purpose. It's even more difficult to make yourself corporeal and physical, harder than just manipulating objects, but you did it once. Back when the single mom still lived here, when her toddler was falling and you had no way to cushion the fall except with your own body; you still aren't sure how it happened, but you remember being able to feel the floor against your back and the warmth of the baby on top of you for a split second before you were gone again. You won't forget that any time soon.
You float the mug towards where you stand, holding it in front of your face long enough that when you pull it away, Namjoon's eyes don't follow it. It's a strange feeling; you know he can't see you, can tell by the way his brow furrows and his eyes slide around the space, but it feels like he's looking straight at you. It feels like you're being seen for the first time since you died.
"So, where are you from, Casper?" His tone is forcibly conversational, as if he's trying his best to keep himself calm. You roll your eyes and move the magnets to show ' here ' and he nods. "You're not gonna try to possess me, or kill me, or run me off, are you? No offense or anything. I figure you would've already at this point, but...cover my bases."
No. Am nice. I think.
"You think? You don't know if you're a nice ghost?"
Does anyone truly know if they are nice? You frown, trying to figure out how to say what you want to say with the limited words available. I can only try. It's still not perfect; there's more that you want to say, more that you want to be heard, but this has to do for now.
"I can accept that. Alright. Just talking to a ghost in my kitchen. Okay. This is totally normal." He rubs a hand over his face, and you're a little impressed. Everyone else that's lived here has freaked when presented with the knowledge that you're a ghost. Namjoon looks very much like his world is exploding, but he doesn't have the same fear and apprehension in his eyes. He's certainly coping better than the single mom.
"Are you the only ghost? Here, I mean, are you the only ghost here?" He breathes a sigh of relief at your 'yes.’ "Can you see other ghosts? Do you know any other ghosts?" The 'don't know, no' that you move around on your fridge seems to unsettle him a little, but there's a curiosity burning behind it that makes your skin tingle.
Can't leave, is what you say next, cutting off whatever question he was about to ask.
"You can't leave at all? The building, or the apartment?"
"Wow. You're really stuck here?" He looks around the apartment as if seeing it for the first time and sucks in a breath. "What do you do all day?"
Watch. He cocks a brow. You are... You hesitate. The word you need isn't there, everything that comes to you is too poetic or corny for you to actually say, but the weight of his eyes is heavy on your hands. Fun is what you settle on, but it's not right either. 'Interesting' isn't there, nor is 'fascinating' or 'lovely,' and you don't want to scare him off by telling him that part of the reason you watch him so much is that he's so full of life that you feel less dead when he's around.
He laughs at your words though and shakes his head ever so slightly. "Alright, well, I'm gonna shower, so just, don't...watch that?" You squawk at the insinuation that you would, quickly rearranging the letters to spell ' privacy' and making a large angry face out of the rest of the words. He's already turned away, though, and it makes you angrier.
You don't want him thinking that you would peep at him. You already make sure that you're facing the windows when he finishes showering, you've been determined to not be creepy since the day he moved in, and to have him think otherwise is like a slap in the face. You slam the mug against the counter and he startles, turning to gape at it. You carry it to where your words and make-do emoji sit waiting for him to notice them.
"Okay," He says quickly. "Okay, privacy, yeah, got it. You respect my privacy. Appreciated."
"How fucking rude," You mutter as you set the mug back down. You don't adjust the magnets as he disappears into the bathroom. You want him to see them, want him to be reminded of the fact that being dead doesn't mean you don't have basic decency.
You can't get him to shut up now that he knows you're there. He still forgets sometimes, mostly when he's talking to his plants or narrating the way he carefully constructs some origami creation, but more often than not, he's talking to thin air. He spends a lot of time perched on his counter, watching you move magnets around his fridge through the thick lenses of his glasses before he spouts off some other question for you to answer.
He covers the basics first: how old you were when you died, when your birthday is, your favorite color, what you were studying in school, and of course your name, though he insists on calling you Casper. You aren't sure why but you also don't get a chance to question it, because he hits you with more and more questions every day. Sometimes you don't answer because you can't, too limited by the poetry magnets to be able to really converse; sometimes you just don't have the energy to move the magnets around, but those are days are rare. The only times you use the tired magnet are when you find your limbs too heavy to move, weighed down with the memories of what it meant to be alive.
Those are the bad days, but his questions make them just a little easier.
"How do you move around? Do you just float everywhere?" Walking, but different. No weight. Soft.
"How are you able to manipulate things in my world? Are they different from things in your world?" Focus. Takes time. Same.
"Do you sleep at all? Do ghosts dream?" No sleep. Just existing.
"You don't eat, do you? Should I be stocking up on snacks for you?" No. Save your sustenance. "What was the last thing you ate?" Don't remember. "Huh. I hope it was something good." Same.
"Were you ever in a relationship?" Once. A long time before. "Do you miss them?" Not anymore.
"What did you do while you were alive?" School. "Oh, really? Do you remember what you studied?" Boring. Important then, but it made me forget to live. Not important now. Namjoon goes quiet for a long moment after this one, staring out the window at something you can't see. He nods but doesn't ask any more questions, and he reads for the rest of the night.
It only takes a couple of weeks for both you and Namjoon to get tired of standing in his kitchen fucking around on the fridge. His legs get tired and he gets distracted by his thoughts, and you can barely keep up with the rapid-fire questions you get.
So Namjoon buys one of those cheap cookie sheets with the slightest lip at the edge and dumps the magnets on that. He leaves it on the coffee table, usually, there for you to pick up if he asks something but out of the way for when he stretches out to nap lazily in the afternoon sun.
You like the cookie sheet more than the fridge. He watches you as you work out your responses, can see the way you start to move one word before moving another instead; it makes it feel more like a conversation.
It becomes a favorite pass-time of Namjoon's, curling on the couch and putting some sort of music on in the background and just talking to you. A lot of nights his questions stop with a lingering silence from one or both of you; yours because you don't have the ability to share the words running rampant through your mind, and his for reasons still unknown to you. Still, you've missed it. You've missed talking to someone, being heard when you speak, having someone ask how you are at the end of the day.
It's the little things.
"You said you can't leave, right, Casper?" Namjoon's curled up on his couch, tucked into the arm with a blanket thrown over his lap, a mug of something warm in his hands to combat the chill of the season, and some R&B track playing lightly from his phone. You knock your fist against the cookie once - a sign for yes that you'd both agreed on. "So, are you just always here then? You don't go anywhere else?"
"Fuck, how do I explain this?" You mutter. You stare at the magnets in front of you for a long time before rearranging them. Not always. Tired sometimes, disappear.
"Disappear?" He reads. "What do you mean? You just, what, stop existing?"
Don't know, you respond. Only happens when tired. When used too much of me. He hums an acknowledgment, eyes focused on where the cookie sheet sits on the couch between you. You? What entertains you?
"Everything," he answers without hesitation. "I'm trying to work through my stack of books I want to read and finish all the shows I'm interested in, but the guys would have my head if I didn't get out and do things like a normal person."
That's where you leave to?
"Yeah." He sets his mug - now empty - on the coffee table and settles into the blankets. He looks cozy and soft and you would wrap yourself up with him if you could. "I take a lot of walks, and bike rides. I like to see the river, the trees, all the animals that live there. The beach is always fun, I get to see all the crabs and whatnot that wander in and out of the ocean."
"I wish I could go with you," you whisper.
Fun is what you spell on your sheet.
"I guess," he mutters. "It's enjoyable, at least. I'll bring you some souvenirs, or pictures next time."
You let the sheet settle on the couch as he turns the TV on, setting up a drama that he's on recently. He doesn't say anything else for a few hours, waits until the sound of rain hits the windows and stifles the apartment in an otherworldly haze.
"How long have you been dead?" His voice lingers in the air. You've been expecting these questions, and you're honestly impressed he's held them back for as long as he has. That angsty teen hadn't hesitated a single second to start asking you questions.
A while. Years. I think .
"Do you ever get tired of being a ghost?" There's something in his voice that you can't place, something that tells you this is more than just his usual morbid curiosity. Every part of your soul - whatever's left of it, anyway - is screaming at you to lie to him, to tell him that no, being a ghost is great. You've never wished he could hear you more than this moment, when all you want to is wrap your arms around him and ask him why he looks so much older than he is.
Sometimes, you tell him. It is lonely here, and boring. Fun to be unseen, but unable to do much more.
He nods like that makes all the sense in the world to him, and he brings the blanket up around his shoulders. "Do you ever miss your friends, or your family?"
Would you not? He huffs out an unamused chuckle, nodding again.
"Yeah," He says softly. "Yeah, I would. Do you want me to help you check on them? See what they're up to?" The single knock that echoes in the room is deafening to you, filled with a hope that you haven't felt in years. You've never let yourself think about them for long; if you did, you don't think you'd be able to come back from whatever that place is that you disappear to when things become Too Much.
Namjoon pulls his phone closer and starts fiddling with it. He doesn't hesitate when he types in your name, and you feel an emotional blush fill you when you see that he doesn't even have to finish typing for your profile to pop up. You glance at him, the way his brows are furrowed behind his glasses and his tongue pokes into his cheek just a little while he concentrates, and you wonder how many times he's looked at the pictures of you when you were alive. How many times has he scrolled through, reading the words people shared after you were gone, scrolling through the grief and loss to get to the words you posted yourself, the little snippets of your daily life that you would give anything to be able to relive?
"Do I still look like that?" You wonder aloud. As expected, he doesn't react, just continues tapping at his phone.
You two spend the rest of the night like that, each curled at opposite ends of the couch while Namjoon slowly looks up your friends and family and updates you on each of them. Jihyo got married, to someone she'd gone on a date with a few weeks before you passed, and she's apparently trying to start having kids; Your mother and father aren't very active, but they never were. They both share pictures of you when you were a baby each year on your birthday, and more recent photos of you on the anniversary. They have a dog now. It's cute. You wonder if it helps them cope with the loss.
Your other friends are doing well, too; most of them are still figuring out their lives, but it seems like all of them are settling in their skin and finding comfort in who they are. They're out there, navigating the world and doing things they enjoy, meeting new friends and making new memories.
You stand by the window for a long time, cookie sheet of magnetized words pressed against your chest as if you can feel the cool of the metal against your skin, and watch rain drip down the panes as you imagine what your life could have been.
You can always hear Namjoon before you see him. He whistles as he walks down the sidewalk, his small way of letting you know he's on his way back from wherever he's gone that day, and today isn't an exception. Relief sags through you and you move away from the windows, let your fingers trail against the ceramic of the newest succulent he'd bought, and head towards the kitchen. The kettle is turned on and heating a few moments later while you pull a mug down from your cabinet and set it carefully on the counter where Namjoon will see it.
It's a regular routine, for the two of you. He heads out, usually in the early morning after turning on some music or a show for you, and when he comes back, you make sure there's hot water for his tea or cocoa or whatever he feels like drinking that day. The sound of his whistling gets louder the closer he gets, a simple way to let you know he's safe and he's home. You glance through the cabinets and quickly make a note on the fridge that he needs to buy more of his special tea blend soon.
The lock turns and you smile, waiting patiently as Namjoon saunters into the apartment. He sets something down on the kitchen counter just as the kettle starts to scream, and you wait while he pours the water and gets it ready.
"The cherry blossoms bloomed," He says. You grin. "They look great. I got some really nice pictures while I was there, I'll show you tonight. I was thinking we could try to finish Voltron tonight if you want. We'll have to go back an episode though, I think I fell asleep during the last one." You knock once against the counter beside you, and he turns with a wide grin to glance at the spot where you stand.
It's ridiculous for your heart to speed up in your chest, for the hair on the back of your neck to rise, for breath to catch in your throat; you don't have a heartbeat, you don't have breath, you're a shadow of the person you used to be, and yet...
And yet, seeing his dimpled smile focused so naturally on where you are, as if it's just second-nature, is like a breath of fresh air after years underwater. It smells like flowers, like dirt and earth and a new beginning. It feels like you're alive again, and you don't want it to end, but too soon he's turning away to finish steeping the tea. Something lingers in the air for a moment after but it's gone too soon for you to place it.
You both settle on the couch, Namjoon tucking whatever he brought home with him under his arm, between his body and the arm of his ratty old couch. Your cookie sheet is in its place on the coffee table, unneeded at the moment. You can't help the glare that you give it; the things you would give to be able to just speak and be heard are endless.
It rattles a little and you look away.
Namjoon is quiet as the show plays. He doesn't react when you move to turn the oven on, but he does laugh quietly and thank you for it when he goes to put his dinner in. He eats and you don't bother him, though the way he keeps his little package hidden away makes curiosity burn through you. Eventually, once he's eaten and washed his dishes and laughed at the way you rubbed them dry before setting them carefully in their places, he settles back into his blankets and turns on the music he loves so much.
He's got a book balanced in his hands and your cookie sheet rests on the coffee table, and you both just sit like that for a long while, enjoying existing.
"You remember your life, right Casper?" You thump lazily against the wall in response, eyes drawn from where you watch the gloomy sky slowly get lighter with the dawn. He isn't looking at his book anymore; he probably hasn't been for a while, based on the way the pages have migrated around his thumb, too busy staring at the wall across from him. "Do you remember your death?"
You hesitate. You've tiptoed around the subject before. He's always been too afraid to ask directly, and it's too painful for you to offer it freely. You thump against the wall once more, and he nods like he already knew the answer.
"Are they very different?" His glasses are falling down his nose and your fingers itch to push them up. Instead, you reach for your cookie sheet. He makes a sound in the back of his throat when he sees it moving, reaching under him for his package. "I forgot, I got you this. Thought it might be easier."
He sets it down and you slide the contents out of the wrapping easily. Inside is a small dry-erase board, complete with markers and eraser, small things that should be easy for you to manipulate. You beam at him; he can't see it, but you think he might be able to feel it because he perks up and smiles a little.
"You don't have to answer," He adds. "I was just curious to know if being dead is really as different as everyone makes it out to be." You nod and thump once against the board before you uncap a marker and start writing.
It's a bizarre feeling, after so long. The muscles in your hand don't ache, no matter how much you write, and you can't feel the smooth surface of the board under your fingers or the weight of the marker in your palm, but it glides against it cleanly and leaves a thick black streak behind.
It takes you a minute to write everything out, get it worded how you want. Namjoon doesn't interrupt you, just watches the marker move against the board and smiles every time you go to erase something that isn't right. Eventually you show it to him.
There are similarities. I'm still me, I still enjoy TV and music and books. Things are duller now, like there's a filter over them, and it's harder to do things. Like when you're in water, or mud, like that. Resistance.
"Oh," Namjoon replies, "That's not what I expected. It makes sense though I guess." His hand moves against his chest, rubbing lightly as he looks over your words again. "Is there anything you actually like about being a ghost?"
"Well, being invisible is pretty cool," You say, writing the words as you do. "And it's actually really fun being able to walk through walls and stuff, even if I can't go anywhere outside of the apartment."
"I'm sorry you're stuck here," Namjoon says. You startle a little, looking up at him. You think he actually heard you for a split second, but his eyes are locked on where you're writing your words out on the dry erase board.
"Yeah, me too," You tell him. He stares at the board for a long moment, chewing nervously on his bottom lip as he does. "Ask what you want to ask, Joon," You write as you say it.
"How did you die?" He blurts. You sigh and he jumps a little, looking fully at where you sit. You're shocked; you know that sometimes little noises cross over, like when Jin heard you laughing, but it's still rare. You can't figure out how it works, but you want to.
You write for a long time, letters small so they fit on the board. The whole thing is crowded together, looks like one long string of letters instead of the story it is.
There's a lot of violence in this neighborhood. You probably know that by now. People are always getting robbed or mugged or something around here. Someone tried to break into my apartment by banging the door down. It didn't work, luckily, but I got really paranoid afterwards. One night I was cooking, and someone's door slammed really hard. I spilled the water I was boiling, slipped. Blacked out after a while, and when I came to, there were police everywhere. I guess I hit my head harder than I thought, because they carted me away, and I couldn’t follow.
"I'm sorry," Namjoon says softly. "You deserved more time."
Yeah. The universe had a different plan, I guess. He smiles at that, and it settles the anxiety thrumming under your skin. Wouldn't have met you, so I guess that's a bonus. He rolls his eyes at you but he laughs softly, so you consider it a win. You doodle on the board then, simple little designs that don't mean anything beyond being able to see your effect on the world.
Namjoon sucks in a breath beside you and you look up at him. He's always been good about looking towards where you are, doing his best to make eye contact with someone he can't see, but he still always tends to look through you.
Not this time.
This time, electricity sings through the air as your eyes meet his. You don't know how, but you know he can see you. His eyes roam over you, taking in the crumpled sweater you were wearing with the stain you like to think is pasta sauce on the arm, the hair you can't ever really tame, the way you sit cross-legged on his old thread-bare couch with a dry erase board in your hands.
Neither of you moves. He looks torn between fear and amazement, every emotion in between flitting quickly over his features, and you're terrified that if you move, whatever spell that's been cast will fade. It had been so long since you talked to anyone when Namjoon slammed those magnets on the fridge, and the conversation has been a reprieve, but to be seen for the first time in years...
Watching Namjoon just look at you is something you won't ever forget, not for as long as you exist in the world. He looks at you like he's memorizing every detail, every hair and wrinkle and pore, and just knowing that he can see you fills you with something new.
"Namjoon...?" You call hesitantly. His eyes fall on your lips.
"Again," He says. Your brows must furrow, maybe you frown, you don't know because it's been so long since you've needed to pay attention to your facial expressions, but he notices your confusion. "Will you say something again?"
Breath you don't have catches in your throat, wraps itself around a heart that doesn't beat, but you smile a little. "I'm glad I met you."
Namjoon smiles. It's big and blinding and knocks everything out of you except for that emotion that's been sitting in your chest since the first time you watched him talk to his plants. You lean forward, and you can tell the exact moment you disappear, because his smile falls and his eyes unfocus. A whimper leaves your throat, but he doesn't react, and that may be the most painful thing that's ever happened to you.
"Can I feel you?" His voice is hushed but the words reverberate in your head. His eyes dart around, looking for any glimpse of you, and your hand trembles as you reach out.
Goosebumps raise on his cheek where your hand touches him and his breath stops for a moment, but he smiles again and leans into the chill. You bring your other hand up to cup his other cheek, your dry erase board lying forgotten on the ground, and Namjoon's eyes flutter closed.
"I think I might love you," You say quietly just before you press your lips to his. He doesn't react to your words, but he lets out a soft sigh at your kiss. Thunder cracks through the apartment, a torrent of rain unleashed on the windows, but you don't move.
The two of you sit like that for hours, until he starts shivering and his nose turns red, like it does when he forgets his scarf on the cold days, and his breath puffs in the air. When you finally pull away from him, he smiles, and the blush on his cheeks has nothing to do with the cold air that makes up your form.
"Yeah," He says softly, voice nearly drowned out by the storm raging outside. "Yeah, I can feel you."
If you expected things to change much after that, you were wrong. At least a little. Namjoon still disappears to go on his walks, you still start the kettle the second his whistles drift up to the apartment. He still asks you a million questions, but they're more normal now. Your favorite music, color, what you wished you'd done with your life, if you've been able to corporealize again recently, what you wanted to watch that night.
"Come on, Casper," Namjoon groans. "I promise you can do it." You huff and he smiles, clearly having heard it. You're tempted to just disappear somewhere, rattle some pipes in the bathroom or the kitchen so he thinks you're in there and leaves you alone, but he smiles at you again and you're weak for that dimple.
You grip the watering can again, doing your best to lift it and manipulate it the way you need to. It's heavy, and something about the metal makes your skin itch, but the more you struggle the more you're able to pour the slightest bit of water where RJ - a giant plant that you don't even know the name of - sits in the corner of the room across from Namjoon's bed. It's the twentieth-something time you've tried this today, and you're ten seconds from just giving up completely, but you can tell this is important to Namjoon.
He's been talking all week, between the late nights where you lay over his blanket-wrapped form and the mornings where he ducks out with a soft goodbye. He's told you everything about his plants that you think he possibly could, teaching you about them and showing you how to care for them. It's interesting, you won't lie, and it's always fun to see him light up when you recall something he's told you, but you're exhausted and every part of you is shaky, and you're more than a little worried of what might happen if you push too far again.
Still, Joon hasn't looked great lately, like he might be getting the flu, and you want to be able to help him with all the things he does in the house. You've already started doing the dishes and folding laundry, since those were the two things he was the absolute worst at, but you feel like you should be doing more.
"Good job, baby, I'm proud of you!" You grunt and let the watering can fall back to the ground with a loud thump that almost definitely has the downstairs neighbors cursing Namjoon's name. "See, and now we're done for the day! C'mon, we can put on Sens8 and cuddle."
He's on the couch before you can stop him, wrapping himself in blankets except for one lone hand that sticks out, expectant. You roll your eyes and sit beside him, close enough that if you had a body you would be cuddling instead of just sitting awkwardly beside him.
You know that this is just going to make your hand all pink and gross, right?
He just smiles when the board flips around to reveal itself and wiggles his fingers. "It's worth it," He says. "I'd rather be pink and gross than never get to hold your hand at all."
You can't even feel my hand, Joon, there's literally no point to this. He huffs and wraps his hand around the marker in your hand, shivering at the chill that runs through him when he does. He grins and gestures down to where the tips of his fingers are already turning red.
"Clearly I can feel it, Casper."
You're glad he can't see you, that you don't have a heart that beats or blood that runs, because if you did, your face would no doubt be red. You have no doubts that Namjoon would tease you about it.
He's quiet as you both watch the show; he makes the odd comment here or there, but his mood seems to have calmed some. When he first got back from whatever place he visited that day, he'd been anxious and jumpy and entirely too on edge.
"Hey, Casper?" He asks quietly. You slide a hand against his cheek to let him know you're there, and he leans into the chill again. "What do you think about me?"
You don't move for several seconds, hand still poised around his cheek.
"Like, your feelings. What are they? Will you tell me?" You knock once on the wall behind the couch. Your hand stays poised over your board for long enough that Namjoon starts to get a little restless. Words refuse to come to you. Every time you start to think you have a way to describe to him what he means to you, they disappear as quick as fog on a summer's afternoon. Frustrated, you let the board fall to the couch and scrawl a quick 'hold on' so he knows you aren't just ignoring him.
It's been weeks since you've seen what you're looking for, your cookie sheet with the word magnets having been basically forgotten in lieu of the more personal and convenient dry-erase board, but right now you know that if words won't come to you, you'll have to go to them.
You finally find it, shoved under several encyclopedias and magazines, and the noise you make is so triumphant that even Namjoon hears it. You curl back up beside him, careful to make sure the blanket is wrapped tight around him, and make sure he can see the words as you move them. It still takes a long time, constantly changing and rearranging and stacking to make sure it conveys the things you need it to convey.
You are like music. A symphony of summer days and peach skies with soft rain. You are a storm in the moonlight. I'm not lonely when I have you pouring around me. You make me feel alive again.
Namjoon is silent for a long time, and you wonder if you've gone too far. It's more poetic than you'd like, too frilly and fancy and emotional than you usually are, but they're the only words you have.
After too long, he exhales. It's heavy and deep and it feels like he's trying to expel more than just air from his body.
"You make me feel alive, too," is all he says, whispered into the softness of his blanket in a voice too small for his long limbs. He shivers, and you hear him choke down a cough, and then he disappears into the bathroom for a long time. When he comes back out, he doesn't say anything, just slides into the mass of blankets on his bed and lays his arm out across the mattress. You spread out across from him, watching the rise and fall of his chest as he looks through you and out the window where the rain is letting up.
"Looks like the rainy season is gonna last longer than everyone thought." You slide your hands around one of his large ones and just hold them like that. His eyes sink closed and something like relief stands on his face for a moment before it's gone, swept away by the peace of sleep.
You wonder what it is that he sees when he looks out the window. If it's the plain brick wall and windows of the building next door, or something more.
You aren't sure you want to know.
Namjoon's flu only seems to get worse. He leaves early in the mornings, as if he thinks you might not notice the way he coughs into his scarf just because the sun hasn't risen fully yet. He stays gone most of the days, and even when he apologizes quietly during the twilight when he slinks back in to the sound of the kettle screeching on the stove and his tea already waiting to be steeped, he still doesn't stop.
You've taken to playing blues while he's gone, mostly the old school stuff, digging out the vintage record player he has buried in the closet and setting it up on the coffee table. It’s the only technology you can use without shorting it out. You don’t know why, but it makes you grateful the record collection Namjoon keeps tucked away inside the coffee table that you’ve learned is in fact an actual steamer trunk that he salvaged and restored himself.
The music fills the apartment, distracts you from the oppressive weight of his absence. He knows you wait at the window for him, you told him that back when the two of you were first getting to know each other.
You're so fragile, you had told him. He had laughed at you, quiet and fond, and waited for you to explain further. You're so full of life and breath and possibility, and the world is so big and so dangerous. I'm scared you won't come back.
"Of course I'm going to come back," he told you. You didn't even need to tell him that you're afraid of what being alone might do to you, now that you're so used to his presence. You're being heard again, sometimes even seen, and you don't know if you can go back to the stagnant depression of solitude. "I'll always come back to you."
That was the first time you thought you might love Namjoon. The feeling has only gotten stronger, and now that you wait at the window with your eyes focused on that tiny section of sidewalk you can see at the end of the alley, it threatens to consume you whole.
You wait at the window for hours. You know because you glance at the clock every minute and a half, mocking you with every tick as it hangs limply on the bathroom door. The sun sinks below the horizon, the moon rises to take its place, and they switch again while you wait. The dawn paints the sky in beautiful shades of pink and red and orange and the faintest purple, but you can't appreciate any of it, because you're too anxious.
He could be hurt. He could be gone, and you wouldn't ever know until his friends came to pack his things. He could have left, too; maybe he finally decided that living with a ghost was just too much for him and just ran. Maybe he figured out that you love him, that you would move heaven and earth if it meant he was safe forever if only you could leave this apartment, and it was too much for him.
What if he knows about how you lay beside him every night? How you tuck the blankets tighter around him, cover him in warmth and comfort before settling on top of them and closing your eyes and pretending that you can feel his arm draped over your waist and his breath on the back of your neck. What if he felt you, that night you wandered into the bathroom while he was showering to write on the steam-covered mirror that he needs to buy more eggs soon and got distracted by the way he looked stepping out of the shower? What if he knows your stomach flipped at the long limbs and the hidden muscles and the sheer size of him? What if he knows the real reason you were quiet that night, the way you kept replaying the moment in your mind and wishing you had a body so you could have just touched him, at least.
It's closer to noon than midnight when his whistle echoes up through the window.
"Hey, I'm home," He calls as he enters the empty apartment. You're upset, but you're more filled with relief than anything because at least he's safe and he's here now. He makes a beeline for where the kettle is just starting to whistle, already reaching for the honey and the tea you set out on the counter for him, and you do your best to calm the storm of emotions inside you.
Did you have fun, wherever you were? You ask him, floating the whiteboard in front of his face so he has to acknowledge it.
"Yeah, I did," he responds as he stirs his tea. "Jin invited everyone over for some end of summer thing. I didn't feel too great at the end of it, so I just spent the night there."
Don't party too hard, you might remember how to have fun, you joke. It falls a little flat based on the grim smile Namjoon gives you. Are they gonna come over here again anytime soon? I've missed scaring Hoseok.
He lets out a real laugh at that. "I don't know, maybe. My birthday's coming up, after Jeongguk's, so they could definitely be planning something. I'm heading over to Yoongi's later to help plan for Guk's party. I might stay there tonight, so try not to worry, Casper."
I'll try, you tell him. You both know you'll stand at the window every second he's gone, but you don't want to tell him why. You don't want to tell him that you love him through a dry erase board, or some fancy poetry magnets. It doesn't matter that you may as well have already said so by telling him that he makes you feel alive again; you haven't said the words to him, he hasn't seen 'I love you' in the messy scrawl that is your handwriting on some stupid board, and therefore he doesn't know.
You don't know if you want him to.
He stays gone that night, as he said he might, and reappears the next day to shower and change before he vanishes again. The next time he shows up, he takes a bag with him when he leaves, which only worsens your fears. He stays gone for three days this time, doesn't apologize when he turns up again and just mumbles a soft hello into the air before he makes tea and sags into his couch. He's asleep in seconds, and as much as you want to scream at him, you can't bring yourself to disrupt how peaceful he looks.
When he wakes, he takes a shower and ignores the ' can we talk ' you scrawled in the steam. He packs a bag of fresh clothes and doesn't say goodbye when he leaves, just disappears and leaves you standing at the window with the pail in your hand, caring for the plants he isn't. The slam of the door sounds like nails in a coffin and breaks what little was left of your soul.
He shows back up nearly a week later, and the relief at seeing him again is overridden by the sheer anger at being left in the first place. You don't start the kettle when you hear his whistle, the quiet and hoarse tune of a familiar song barely reaching the window, but there's plenty of noise when he enters.
The cabinet doors are quaking with your fury, the lights flicker and threaten to burst, and Namjoon just leans back against the door. He’s soaked from the storm thundering outside, even his jacket plastered to his skin, and he’s shivering slightly, but you can’t see anything past the rage.
"Where the fuck were you?" You demand; there's no point, it's not like he can hear you, but the way he sighs makes you feel like he can, so you continue anyway. "It's been almost a week, you didn't even think to stop by for ten seconds so I know you're okay? I thought you were dead somewhere, you could've been, like, shot, or something, I don't know, just bleeding out in some ditch, and I wouldn't know! And what about all the plants? I know how to take care of them, sure, but do you know how hard it is for me to do it?"
Namjoon sighs again, the breath catching in his throat and coming out in a cough, but you don't pay much attention to it.
"Why would you act like this, Namjoon? What did I do, is it because of the things I said? Do you not want me to feel like this about you? Because this a damn good way of making sure I don't, I assure you, so by all means, just keep disappearing and leave me alone with the plants you decided to rescue and save!"
His cough gets worse and he just shakes his head, covering his mouth and making his way towards the bathroom.
"If you want me to hate you, it's too fucking late, Joon!" The slam of the bathroom door punctuates your sentence, and you quiet at the sound of continued coughing. You knew his flu was getting worse, but it's never sounded like that. Even when you were alive, you knew that the wet sound that's muffled by the bathroom door isn't what a cough should sound like. The lock of the door clicks, and it shocks you into movement because he's never - never - locked you out of anywhere. He knows it wouldn't stop you, knows it as well as you know that you'd respect that boundary if he set it, and yet here he is, locking you out even as he coughs up what sounds like a lung in the other room.
You hesitate at the door, torn between respecting his boundaries and knowing what’s happening. You want him to trust you, always, and yet you find your hand disappearing through the door before you can stop it. You stand like that for a long moment, just listening to the sounds of his wracking coughs; the sound of a crash echoes through the apartment, though, and you’re through the door completely in the span of a heartbeat.
Nearly everything that had been on the counter is scattered on the ground, Namjoon himself gripping the sides of the toilet as if he would fall apart otherwise. A single glance tells you that the crash happened as he turned from the sink to the toilet, and if his jolting shoulders didn’t tell you why, the sounds of his retching would. That isn’t what fills you with dread though; the disorientation, the vomiting, all of it comes with being sick sometimes, but the red staining the bathroom sink?
That’s not normal, and you know with every part of you that it’s the reason he’s been gone so much.
The temperature in the apartment drops with the sun, but your arms surround Namjoon as best they can. Goosebumps break out on his arms, shivers run down his back, but you don’t move away from him; he doesn’t say anything, just sits there with his forehead pressed against the cool of the porcelain. He stands eventually, ignores the way he passes completely through your body to rinse the sink and brush his teeth.
You let him stay quiet until you’re both on his bed; you’re pressed up against his side and running your hands along his forearms, idly wondering if you would be able to feel his heartbeat if you were alive.
“It’s not...it’s not gonna get better,” He says eventually. “There’s not a cure, just some things to draw it out and give me a little bit longer even if they come with more pain. I go once a week to see if it’s gotten worse, check how much longer I have. It’s why Hobi let me move in here rent-free. He pays the bills, says it’s the least he can do. I wanted to be closer to him anyway, so that’s a bonus, I guess.”
“I’m so sorry, Joon,” you whisper. Your board lies forgotten, somewhere on the couch maybe, you aren’t sure and can’t be bothered to pull yourself away from him long enough to find it. You don’t need it right now, though; he knows what you mean by the way the cold presses against his bicep with your palm.
“I didn’t want you to know.” You’re not exactly surprised at that; you’d figured as much. You just don’t understand his reasoning. “I didn’t want you worrying about me, or anything like that, like the guys do. They always look at me and it’s all they can see. Like they’re already mourning me, even though I’m still here. I didn’t want to feel like that with you.”
“I know,” you say. You don’t, not really. Your own death was sudden, a shock to everyone you knew; you didn’t get the luxury of saying goodbye, didn’t have the burden of knowing you would be gone soon.
The two of you sit in silence for a while, until you can feel Namjoon’s chest quivering under your palm. When you look up, he looks at you, really and truly at you , and he has tears in his eyes.
“I don’t want to die, Casper,” He whispers. You suck in a breath because he can see you, and you don’t even know why, but you don’t want to lose this moment. “I don’t want to leave all of this behind. I don’t want to leave you.”
“It’ll be okay,” you say softly. His brow furrows and a tear slides down his cheek. “I promise you it will be okay, Namjoon. It gets easier, and people remember but they aren’t stuck forever. And I…” You falter, and it takes his eyes meeting yours to make you realize he can hear you. And there’s only one thing you’ve ever needed him to hear.
“I love you,” You tell him. “I love you, and I will never forget you.”
He surges forward, lips meeting yours in a rush of air. You moan at the feeling of him against you, realizing that for the first time since you died, you can feel something under your fingers. His skin is warm against your fingers, his lips soft against your own, and when he reaches up to cup your jaw with his hand, he doesn’t pass through your form. Instead his hand settles heavy against you, and he moves your head to lick into your mouth.
Tears that won’t fall prickle at the back of your eyes and you climb into his lap before he can stop you. He’s still crying so you wipe away the tears before they can fall, pressing soft kisses to his cheeks, his dimples, his nose, every bit you can reach. A question sits at the back of your mind, and you can see it lingering in his eyes, but neither of you asks it.
“You’re so cold.” His whisper is nearly lost amidst the thunder that shakes the apartment, but it makes you smile a little.
“Warm me up?”
His chest is still quivering with unspoken sobs, but he nods. “Always,” he tells you. “I’m always going to be here.” It doesn’t take long to pry him out of his clothes, takes even less time for him to sink into you. It feels just like it did when you were alive, only magnified; you can feel him hot and warm inside you, can feel the beat of his heart in the firm muscle under your hands. His moans are quiet and hoarse but you wouldn’t have it any other way.
He keeps one hand on your waist and the other on your neck, holding you close enough that he can kiss whenever he wants. “You’re beautiful,” He whispers. “The most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.” You just press another kiss to his chapped lips and let him dig his fingers in hard enough that it would bruise if it could. When he’s close to his peak, he stops thrusting, just sits inside you as he grinds your hips down to his, and presses his forehead against yours.
“I love you,” He tells you, lightning casting his shadow across the wall for a brief moment. “I love you, I do, I wish-”
“I know,” you tell him before he can continue. “I know, Namjoon, I know, and I do, too. I love you, too.” He comes a few seconds later, the warm seed soaking into his sheets because it has nowhere to go. His warmth disappears from under your hands and his arms fall to his lap when the only thing holding them up is gone. All you can hear is your quiet sobs mixed with his and the rain against the window, and for the first time since you came back, you really, truly, wish you had died. There’s no point in being a ghost when you can still feel your heart breaking in your chest.
“Casper, are you ever scared?”
It’s the middle of the afternoon. Namjoon is sprawled across the couch wrapped in blankets while Lucifer plays in the background and you doodle aimlessly on your board. You don’t need it as often now; you’ve gotten better at focusing your energy into being heard, though being corporeal still eludes you. You don’t know how you did it that night, but you’re grateful for it.
“Of what?” You ask, looking towards him. He’s not looking at you or watching the show, just staring at the ceiling. He focuses at your words, lifts himself up into a sitting position. A shiver runs through him when his legs move through you, and you settle a weightless hand against his knee out of habit.
“I don’t know,” He replies. “Just...whatever comes next. If there’s something that comes next. Being forgotten. Being stuck here forever.”
You aren’t stupid; you know why he’s asking. The question lingers in the air, colors all of your conversations now, but the truth is that neither of you has the strength to ask it and neither of you knows the answer.
“Sometimes,” You tell him. “Sometimes I wonder what Jihyo is doing, if she ever had a baby like she wanted to. I wonder if my parents are still alive, and what they say if they visit my grave, what they tell me now that I can’t respond to them.”
Namjoon nods like he’s already thought of that, and he probably has.
“Most of the time I try not to focus on it, though. It’s not helpful, it only upsets me, and I don’t…” You trail off, unsure of how to word your thoughts. “I don’t know what might happen if I only focus on the negative. I don’t know anything about what’s true about ghosts and what isn’t beyond that I exist now, and I can’t risk becoming something bad. So I try not to focus on it. It’s easier when you’re here.”
He grins and blows a kiss in your general direction, and you pretend not to notice the blood on his cracked lips. He’s quiet for the rest of the episode of half of another.
“Have you ever seen a light?”
“What?” He doesn’t seem to hear you, and you repeat your question on your board for him.
“A light,” He echoes. “Like, the light.Y’know, the light at the end of the tunnel, ‘don’t go into the light,’ that thing.”
You hesitate at that. You knew what he meant, what he actually wants to know here. He’s easier to read now than he was in the beginning.
You watch him as he watches the space where you sit, curled up beside him on his couch. He can’t see you, of course, but he can see where the board rests in your hands. His gaze is heavier than it was when he first moved in; his cheeks are hollower, skin more gaunt with a grey tint that’s only made worse by the constant rain. The sun is just starting to break through the clouds, a brief reprieve after weeks of the dreary stone-colored clouds. It casts shadows along the walls, reflects off something in the window across the alley, and backlights Namjoon beautifully, casts a halo of light around the brittle brown hair you love.
Once, you tell him. Just once.
“Why didn’t you go to it?”
There are so many things you could tell him, so many different ways to answer such a simple question, but you find yourself lingering on the one thing you know is the ultimate truth.
Because I love you.
September comes with even more rain and a bittersweet atmosphere. Jeongguk spends his birthday at Namjoon’s apartment and then comes back a little over a week later, surrounded by the other guys and carrying enough food to last a few months. You stay curled on the bed, one of the only safe places for you to not mess with anyone or anything. Your board is tucked into the blankets, ready to be used but hidden from view just in case. You watch as Namjoon sits on the couch, tucked between Taehyung and Yoongi with both of them leaning into him as much as possible, Yoongi’s hands wrapped in one of his and Tae’s head on his shoulder.
The other’s aren’t far, leaning against the back of the couch and on beanbags they’d brought with them, all laughing as Hoseok does his best to act out whatever he’d been given in charades. He’s not bad at it - you’ve guessed the last few he’s done - but he is utterly ridiculous in his mannerisms. You know why; it’s the same reason everyone kept smiling when Namjoon refused all of the food he was offered, why Seokjin would crack a terrible joke whenever it got too quiet for too long, why everyone is resolutely ignoring the growing pile of tissues on the table.
It keeps a smile on Namjoon’s face, though, and a laugh in his eyes, and you can’t ever be anything but grateful for that.
Hoseok stumbles, nearly falling and whirling his arms to catch himself before eventually falling anyway. You laugh along with the others, grinning at the way Hobi pouts and rubs at his hip. You’re focused on the way Joon laughs, the way it lights up his face and brightens the entire room, which is why you see it first.
The tickle at the back of his throat quickly becomes a cough, wet and wheezing and enough to make him throw the blankets from his lap and stumble to the bathroom.
You’re there before he is, helping him slide the door closed and locking it behind him as he bends over the toilet again. The six of them are quiet in the main room, speaking in hushed whispers that neither you nor Namjoon wants to hear. You turn the knob on the sink, wetting a towel while you drown out the sound of voices, and letting a hand run over Namjoon’s back.
“I’m okay,” he mutters. You ignore the way his voice shakes, the way his lips are redder than before, the way this happens more often than before. Instead, you just press the damp rag to his neck and watch his eyes close in relief. When he stands and flushes the evidence away, you already have his toothbrush ready and waiting, and you stay as close to him as you can until he takes a deep breath.
“I’m okay,” He repeats. “I’m okay. It’s my birthday, and I’m okay.”
He goes back out with a smile on his face and a laugh in his voice, teasing Hoseok about the way he fell and reenacting it, even. When he settles on the couch, he urges the others to continue the game. There’s a brief moment of hesitation before Jimin declares that he’s next and pulls something from the bowl on the table.
You know you aren’t the only one that notices the way Namjoon’s eyes linger on the six men around him, but you are the only one that notices the way they also linger on his steamer trunk, the shelf with his books, the TV, the record player, the scrapbook of his life that they all worked on and Taehyung pieced together over the months, the plants on the wall that he had cared for. He looks around his apartment as if he’s looking at it for the last time.
As if he’s already planning who’s going to get what.
He finally asks the question you both have been thinking about, nearly two months later. His breathing comes in ragged pants, his lips stay chapped, and he keeps several blankets around him at all times to try to hide the shaking of his body. Your soft sobs echo through the apartment constantly; while you reheat the tea he doesn’t drink for the millionth time, while you quietly water and prune the plants he’s saved from death the way you wish you could save him, while you sit curled around him as he sleeps, soothing his coughs with quiet whispers.
Night has just begun to fall, the rain of the day turning into a soft drizzle, and you stare at him blankly, unsure how to process what you’ve just heard.
“Do you think I’ll come back?” He asks again, slightly louder. As if you hadn’t heard his shaky voice the first time. It’s not the question that floors you. You’ve been expecting this for weeks, months even. You’ve wondered it yourself as you prepare tea and ignore the sounds of him vomiting blood in the bathroom, as he disappears to the hospital and returns with a worse prognosis than before, as you’ve adjusted to the idea that you are dead and he is dying and you cannot do anything to help him.
You never would have expected the hope that his words carry though.
“Why does it sound like you want to?” You ask. Your voice is clear in the air and you’re glad for it, because this isn’t something you want to talk about through your board.
“Because I do?” His response is delayed and sounds more like a question than a real answer.
“Why?!” You demand.
“Are you serious, Casper?” His brow is furrowed as he sits up and lets the blankets fall away to sit haphazardly off the couch.
“Are you? Joon, why would you want to come back?”
“You’re seriously asking me that question? Why would I not? I’ve got so much I still want to do, I never thought I’d get the chance to after I got the diagnosis and now I might be able to. Why wouldn’t I want that?”
“Because it doesn’t work like that! You don’t get to just wander the world and fuck around, Joon, you’re dead.”
“Yeah, but you can still read and write and everything. I’d have all the time in the world to read the books I want to read, watch the shows I want to watch, write the music and stories and lyrics that I want to write.”
“Yeah, so long as it all stays in this apartment!” The light in the room flickers slightly with the force of your irritation. “You can’t do anything that isn’t in this room, Namjoon, you can’t use any of the electronics, you can’t read a book unless it’s here, you can’t write music unless it’s on actual paper, you can’t do anything.”
“Yeah, and I could make that work. Why are you so upset about this? I thought you’d be happy.”
“Happy? You think I’d be happy that you’d be stuck in these four walls forever, too? Why would that make me happy?” Namjoon stands, running a hand through his hair and shaking his head.
“Because I’d be with you! We’d be together, forever! Do you not want to be with me?”
“Of course I want to be with you, Joon, but not at the cost of you being stuck here. I don’t want that for anyone, certainly not the man I love.”
“And what if that’s what I want? What if I want to spend the rest of time with you? I’m already spending the rest of my life with you, I’m in love with you, I don’t want to leave you.”
“And I don’t want you to go, but Joon, why would I want you stuck here, too? This isn’t something fun. This isn’t anything that I enjoy.”
“Oh, so you regret it all then?”
“I didn’t say that, I just don’t want you to be stuck in a shitty studio apartment for who knows how long when you can’t fucking do half of the things you love! You wouldn’t go on walks, Namjoon, you wouldn’t go with Guk and Jimin to the movies, you wouldn’t get visits from Hobi, you wouldn’t get to shop with Taehyung or Jin, you wouldn’t get to drag Yoongi away from his thesis or celebrate with them when he finishes it! It’s not like being alive, Namjoon, you’d be dead and alone and in hell!”
“Whatever,” He mutters, shoving his arms into his coat. “Why can’t you understand for one fucking second that it wouldn’t be like that with you? I’d rather be stuck here forever than have to die in some shitty apartment and not even be able to touch the person I love.”
“Why can’t you understand that it’s still death? You’d be dead, Joon, your friends would go to your funeral and disappear from your life, and you’d be stuck staring out that window at that shitty alley for the rest of time. You don’t get it, you don’t how terrible it is to be stuck here and watch life pass you by.”
“Then why the fuck are you still here?” He asks. The door slams behind him before you can answer him, and your scream shakes everything in the room. You just barely catch one of the plants in the kitchen, a brown-potted one with ‘Shooky’ scrawled in Yoongi’s familiar handwriting, before it crashes to the ground. You return it to its place gently and huff another frustrated groan.
You wish you could explain it better, but you know he wouldn’t get it even if you could. He doesn’t understand what it’s like to be trapped between four walls and unable to do anything without massive amounts of effort. And he won’t, not unless he experiences it himself.
You’ve already watched him wither away. You’ve watched him become thin and sallow and a shadow of the Namjoon who first moved in, and you don’t know what you would do if he came back. You wouldn’t be alone anymore, of course, and you’d have him here with you, but at what cost? Namjoon was built for cherry blossoms and sunshine and the riverside. He would hate being trapped here even more than you do.
Still, you could have been more understanding of his view. You can admit that even being stuck in a shitty apartment wasn’t so terrible when you had Namjoon there to make you laugh or watch TV or read to you. It may even get better if he turned into a ghost; maybe you could hold his hands in yours, could feel him wrap his arms around you, could press kisses to his skin again.
You move to the window and stand there waiting. It’s not good for him to be out, even if the rain had stopped a few days ago and the forecasters promised it was the end of the downpours. He was still weak, you’d be surprised he even went anywhere to begin with but you know he likes to walk to calm himself down.
You worry for what feels like hours. You can’t focus on anything, not the way the sun starts to set, not the sound of cars passing or the neighbor leaving. You’ve worked yourself into knots by the time you hear his whistle echo up through the streets, nearly lost in the sound of some argument in the alley below you. You catch a brief view of his coat and smile when you see that he’s got some half-dead plant tucked under an arm. There’s the briefest glimpse of what looks like a Ca scrawled onto it, and your heart jumps in your throat.
You make your way to the stove, turning the heat up slightly too high so that it’ll be ready when he comes in. The arguing outside gets louder but you pay it no mind, pulling the honey out and setting it next to his favorite mug. You’re reaching for the tea when you hear something else. It definitely sounds like Namjoon’s voice, but it’s not in the hall or at the door like usual. It’s raised, like he’s yelling at someone, like it was just a while ago when he was fighting with you. A crash startles you and before you can even reach the window to see what’s going on, there’s a deafening bang.
You slam your fist against the window, watch the red mix with dirt, and the kettle isn't that only thing that screams.
“I think that’s the last of it,” Jeongguk says. His voice is scratchy and quiet, but it’s deafening in the silence of the apartment.
“Yeah,” Hoseok replies. His eyes are rimmed with red and his hands shake as he slides the last mug into a box. “Thanks for the help, Guk. I don’t, um.” He sniffles. “I don’t think I could’ve done it myself, y’know?”
“I know,” Jeongguk agrees. They’re quiet again, adjusting the things they’ve boxed and avoiding finishing what they’re doing.
“Oh, can you get that?” You don’t have to look to know what Hoseok is talking about. Jeongguk grunts an affirmation and makes his way over. It’s a strange feeling, having someone pass through you again for the first time since. His hands fly into the air as he tries to lift, clearly not having expected it to weigh anything.
His reflection in the window frowns, and he tries again, tugging on the pot.
“I can’t get it,” He says. “Do you think he glued these things down or something?”
“No,” Hoseok replies as he wanders over as well. “He used to pick them up to re-pot them, remember? And the others came up with no problem.”
“Well it’s stuck or something, you try.”
Hobi takes Jeongguk’s place and pulls hard at the plot, but your grip doesn’t waver. He huffs and disappears. When he returns, he’s got a butter knife in one hand that he does his best to slip under the pot. He tries hard to pry it up, so hard that you almost want to give in. You don’t though.
The knife clatters to the floor with as much force as Hoseok can put behind it, a curse following quickly behind it.
“Fuck it,” Hoseok says. His voice is shaky and you know he’s near tears again. “Just fuck it.”
“But that was-”
“You can try if you want, Guk, but I just-” He chokes back a sob, shaking his head and moving to pick up the boxes he’d set down. “I just can’t, okay?” He disappears out the door in a hurry, and you wish you could follow after him.
Jeongguk looks down at the small plant, with its painted periwinkle pot and soft leaves. He runs a quivering finger over the leaf and sniffles. He doesn’t try to lift it again, just stands and lets his tear soak into the soil.
“I wish you could come back to us,” He whispers. “We thought...we expected more time. It’s not...it’s not really fair, y’know? So if you can hear me, if you can come back to us, please do. Please.”
He turns and leaves, the apartment door slamming behind him like the lid of a casket. Your grip on Mang loosens now that you know no one’s going to try to take it. You’d watched them pack everything else up; you’d let them take the steamer trunk full of records, the shelf full of books and movies, the collection of mugs, the soft blankets, the ratty couch, the rest of the plants he’d cared for so tenderly.
Piece by piece they had packed Namjoon up and walked him out of the apartment, but this was the one piece they couldn’t have. This was his favorite and none of them knew how to care for it like you did, and you had to. You owed it to him. He deserved to come back to at least one familiar thing, never mind that you woke up not even a day later and it’s now been weeks. If there was one thing you wanted him to see when he got back, it was his favorite of his plants.
The sun glares into your eyes from where it shines down on the city. It reflects off something in the window from across the alley, would be blinding if you actually had eyes. You pay it no mind, focused instead on the remains of the broken brown pot down in the alley, the way you’ve pieced them together in your head a thousand times just to trace the word Casper with your eyes. You can almost hear his voice saying it, even now.
You whip around, eyes darting through the empty space of the apartment as your hands tighten around Mang.
All that rests there is empty space, mocking in its loneliness. You remember when he moved in, remember how it felt to test the boundaries of the apartment and wish you were free. The want is still there, to leave and never think of it again, never think of him. You know better, though. You could never escape the memory of him, the way he laughed and smiled and spoke. You could never abandon Mang. Not when he said he’d always come back to you.
You turn back to the window, cursing the sunlight with every other breath. It fades, slowly, into the black of night, before returning again, and again, and again. Days pass, each one feeling like years. Hoseok doesn’t appear to show the apartment, no one comes to collect the small periwinkle pot between your palms, and the ghost of his laugh echoes around you.
The sun blinds you again. You don’t even know how long it’s been, just that you’ve yet to move. Light glints off whatever hangs in the window across the alley. That's when you see it, a vague reflection in the weathered glass of a dimple and a grin, and warmth surrounds you.
“I told you I’d always come back, Casper.”
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