White. Everything is white.
So the clichés were right. Heaven, hell or in between – wherever it is that he finds himself right now, it’s too damn bright, with a soft hum in the background that sounds almost like a distant tune with too much static. It makes him think of a childhood playing around by himself in the backyard with the radio noise as his soundtrack.
He remembers what happened clearly before everything became white: the fright, fear spreading through every inch of his body before the unavoidable collision; the loud sound of the crash, and the pull that lurched his body forward. He didn’t black out immediately, feeling everything as the car rolled over once, twice, three times.
Then, all he remembers is darkness, and a metallic taste on his tongue.
“Jesus, Kim, you could have at least showered.” Everyone around the brave boy who just implied he stinks laugh and scrunch their noses in distaste.
Kim Taehyung smiles brightly as he drops his backpack on the table and sits down to wait for the astrophysics professor, running a hand through the light brown locks of his short and curly hair, and smirking.
“I did shower. This exquisite essence that you’re smelling is the garlic!” He pulls the necklace from the inside of his loose tee, proudly showing off his hard work. This was a really hard artifact to put together, knitting all those garlic heads with his huge hands? Not in any way an easy feat, although a possible one (with the amazing help of his even more amazing grandmother, but his classmates don’t need to know that bit).
“Isn’t garlic supposed to cast away vampires or something?” Another boy asks, almost sounding curious, but then, realizing his mistake, he adds a scoff for good measure.
Everyone else scoffs like it’s a cult or something, and Taehyung chuckles a little, his big and round glasses sliding down the bridge of his nose. He quickly fixes them, unbothered. “Well, I’ve been trying some heavy stuff and it’s better to be safe than sorry, right? Can’t risk getting a ghoul chasing me or something.”
“Nerd.” A girl spits like it’s venom, but the effect is lost in the way she dramatically rolls her eyes.
“You’ve been watching too many movies, Kim Taehyung.” The first boy says, disapprovingly, like it’s his damn business. “Or was it anime, you weeb?”
Taehyung simply shrugs, a carelessness to his action that seems to irk everyone else a lot more than the words they used against him irked him.
As the professor joins the class and asks for everyone’s attention, he grabs the notebook and pencil case inside his bag before carefully throwing it around his seat, and opens the pages without any real intention of taking notes.
The pencil on his fingers is only for distraction, or help him to focus on what really matters. The scribbles on his notebook are everywhere, it’s his stream of consciousness so maybe it can be confusing to some, but it makes complete sense to him.
This is a good one, Taehyung feels it in his bones. The research took him to the coolest places in his hometown, hidden and mysterious and everything that made his eyes shine and his heartbeat peak.
Old books and even older notebooks, everything that he could put his eyes and hands on, even if only for an evening, pointed to this.
This would work. He would finally make contact with the other side.
You can say he had already tried out everything out there, even some stuff with blood – even though he never used his own blood, no, that couldn’t do any good to anyone, but especially not to himself. And even though most things did nothing, Taehyung could still feel it. He knew when his research resulted in complete bullshit, and when it didn’t. He knew one day he’d get it right.
There was a lot to prepare, he would check and double check, but maybe, before the end of the month… Yeah, who’s he kidding, until the end of the week he could easily do it. Yeah. Only, this could work a lot better if he went to the beach.
Moon energy. The sea waves. Saltwater.
Taehyung drops the pen and gapes.
He could visit Busan on the weekend.
With him, that’s usually how it goes. Once an idea is born, there’s no amount of strength that can push it away. So, by Friday night, he has a backpack ready, lots of sandwiches and fruits packed by his granny, and a train ticket to Busan already in hands.
“You’re going to be extra careful, do you hear me, Taehyungie?”
“Don’t do anything before…?”
“The moon is way up in the sky and there are no clouds around, I know.”
His grandmother nods and fixes his oversized hoodie. She’s not a practicant, really, at least not that he’s aware of. But she sure has a good knowledge of this stuff. Maybe because she always helped him with research, taking him everywhere when he was too young to go alone.
Taehyung suspects of a Wicca past.
He’s twenty-two now, and she’s not in the best condition to follow him around as she used to, but Taehyung knows she would go with him if he asked her to. “I’m gonna bring you tons of photos and seashells, ‘ma!”
She pets his hair and rubs his ear for good luck.
“You beautiful boy. Now go! Have a nice trip.”
He’s buzzing with energy and no matter how many times he tells himself that he could wait for tomorrow, he knows all too well that, in fact, he can’t. And so, as soon as he arrives in Busan, Taehyung hops off the train and basically runs to the beach – a well illuminated and peaceful seashore greeting him with an autumn breeze. The beautiful sight grabs his attention for a few minutes, but he soon remembers the things he needs to gather before starting what he came here to do.
No sightseeing, this time.
He lets his heart choose the best rocks to form a sanctuary, the talisman weighing heavily inside his jacket’s pocket. It takes longer because his heart decides he wants round stones, but soon enough he has all the rocks he needs and the sky is clear anyway, he won’t have any problem with the moon tonight.
Taehyung texts his grandmother just that, and takes a last look at his notes, despite having them memorized on the back of his head, while he slips off his shoes and socks. He’s wearing shorts for this, light and easy to dry, and he slips off his jacket as well, taking the talisman before dropping it near his other things.
In between the rocky part of the seashore, he finds a small pond. It’s perfect, the moonlight reflecting beautifully on it, and he forms a ring of rocks there. Then he sits and sets the candles, gets the incense and light it all up.
Taehyung starts a small breathing exercise, trying to calm down his own energies.
When he feels calm enough – his body would disagree with his judgment, still buzzing –, he throws the talisman on the pond and watches the small waves it makes.
He doesn’t use words, he’s not a believer in them. Instead, Taehyung hums, dragging his fingers across the surface and feeling. Everything, all at once. What he is, what he wants to be. If he’s to summon a soul, it’ll be one that can relate to him, so they’ll understand each other. So they can communicate perfectly.
The wind gets a little stronger, and he regrets taking off the jacket but it’s too late now. He focuses harder, both hands on the water now, fingertips dipping inside the small pond. When he opens his eyes and sees his reflection, bright eyes and golden skin looking almost ethereal in the moonlight.
He’s fading. Whatever this place is, it’s not eternal.
There’s a pull; something strong drawing him, and something heavy settles on the back of his neck. It feels like the air was knocked out of his lungs, which is funny, because he wasn’t even breathing in the first place.
He knows this because when he pressed a finger under his nose, there wasn’t any air coming out of it. Breathing is involuntary, an act of costume, he can’t avoid it. But there’s no air coming in or out of his lungs, and that thought alone is weird enough.
The second pull is so strong he’s forced to close his eyes, and when they open again, everything is dark. Instead of white, he finds black. Only, as the seconds pass, it looks less and less like black. Dark blue, maybe?
He squints, trying to focus better, still dizzy, and the discomfort in his neck worsens. As his eyes clear, he notices his ears were kind of fuzzy too, blocking out the sounds of water hitting the seashore. It’s soothing and he can almost taste the summer nights on the tip of his tongue. If he could cry, that’s when he would. A wail leaves his lips as he falls on his knees, suddenly overwhelmingly sad.
He’s never going to feel that again, right? There’s a constant smell of alcohol and things that don’t match the sea at all. Is that how afterlife will always be like?
He hates it, hates it, hates it.
It’s not until he opens his eyes that he notices there’s sand. He can’t feel it, but it’s definitely there. His hands are sinking into it, as are his knees. A sob gets stuck in his throat, and he feels his cheeks wet but the tears never hit the white and gleaming sand.
He cleans the palm of his hands on his pants – black leather, it’s the same shit he was wearing when the accident happened – before raising it to his face, but there’s nothing there. No sign of the tears he feels on his cheek, on his eyes, anywhere.
He looks up, finding a starry night sky, and a full moon. He looks down, and sees the seashore. It looks like… home. He stands on wobbly legs, unsure, and tries to walk to it, maybe never stop walking at all. He doesn’t need to breathe, anyway, going underwater and staying there might not be a problem.
It’s stupid, but he never gets to try it anyway because a few steps in and there it is again, that pull. It’s not as strong as the second time, but it makes him fall on his ass. The boy blinks a few times, eyes wide and scared. What does it mean? What does it all mean?
He takes one deep breath, looking to his leather pants and furrowing his eyebrows. Accident. He was in an accident. His name is Jeongguk, and he’s twenty years old. He lives in Busan, is friends with… Jimin?
He likes to… dance? Photograph?
His parents are…
His parents’ names are…
The pull drags him again, this time literally dragging his body through the sand as if he wasn’t even there in the first place. Jeongguk awkwardly stands up, and starts walking in the direction of the pull until it quiets down, but every time he slows his steps or stops – it doesn’t take long before that pull is back again, forcing him to move, walk, run.
So he runs.
Taehyung has never felt this bad before.
He’s really disappointed, this time, and when frustration swells him up, the best thing to do is sleep.
He had felt so much during the ritual. The wind blowing, bringing a faint smell of a strong chemical, maybe iodoform, before the air was completely knocked out of his lungs. A tickling feeling that traveled through his whole body and settled around his left wrist, so strong he had to remove his hands from the pond to actually brush the skin of his wrist with his wet fingertips. Even the sea tide seemed to be louder in his ears, like he was listening to it twice.
And still, that was all. No voice, no apparition, nothing else.
Maybe he should try again before heading back to Daegu. Yeah, maybe he’d use some words this time around. It’s not because he doesn’t trust them that he didn’t know them. His studies were never half-assed.
And Taehyung was never an easy quitter.
Of course, at times like these, he takes forever to finally close his eyes.
No one ever tells you when is the right time to introduce yourself to a human when you’re, well, dead.
It was awkward enough to introduce himself when Jeongguk was alive, never being sure if people even cared about who he was in the first place. Also, when you’re dead, what’s really the point of introducing yourself? He wasn’t even sure if this living breathing boy would be able to see him, but he couldn’t just turn his back and leave – literally couldn’t, he was being forced to stay close by, following the boy around like a lost puppy.
Jeongguk kind of felt like a lost puppy, so, at least there was that.
The boy had caramel hair, a light brown with messy curly strands, skin tanned and some moles here and there. Jeongguk couldn’t see it, from afar, but looking up close he had some light freckles on his cheeks as well, a little sunburn on his nose – overall, it looked like a boy who enjoyed staying outside too much, and didn’t wear enough sunscreen in compensation.
He doesn’t know how to say “Hey, apparently I’m bonded to you or something, and by the way, I’m dead”, so, instead, he only followed the boy around, keeping his head low, hiding inside his cap. (Why is he wearing a freaking cap?) Until, of course, said boy walks into a Hotel.
The boy had looked thoughtful, lost inside his own thoughts, getting himself a key and moving into one of the rooms as if he did it on a daily basis. So he’s not from around here, and that’s an understatement because Jeongguk already knows in his heart he’s never seen this boy around his hometown.
Even if he can’t remember much about his past life.
Jeongguk kicks a few rocks, watching them roll around the pavement. Could he sleep if he tried? He’s not sure if he wants to try that, even if the pavement doesn’t feel as bad as he expects it when he sits down. The pavement feels like nothing, actually, because Jeongguk can’t feel in the first place. But his memory remembers, faintly, and that’s enough. The wind is strong, too, and that he can feel. He knows it must be cold, because the other boy had been clutching into his jacket, warming his arms, blowing hot breaths into his hands. It’s not really cold yet, they’re in the middle of autumn but the boy is wearing shorts and Jeongguk remember how the nights in Busan can be, and if he closes his eyes – it’s enough not to want to be left outside, and he stands up to walk to the boy’s Hotel room and maybe knock on the door.
Or maybe just go in. He can do that, can’t him? That would solve at least the “how to tell him I’m dead” part. Maybe it’d give him a little scare, as well, but that could be fun to watch.
Jeongguk scrunches his nose when he thinks he might have turned into one of those booing movie ghosts. That’s not how he planned his life to turn out at twenty years old.
He could be a better ghost than that. (Although scaring people did sound at least a little fun.)
He stops at the doorstep, and coughs. “Hmm. Hi?” Coughs again. “Hello? Is someone there?”
But there’s no answer. So he takes another deep breath – for no reason – and steps in, surprisingly getting through the door without any resistance.
Of course. What was he expecting?
There is a heavy pang inside his chest, but Jeongguk pushes it aside.
The freckled boy is already sound asleep. Jeongguk sits beside his bed and wonders if he would be able to see him. He hopes the answer is yes, unable to imagine how it would feel to be attached to someone that wouldn’t even be able to see him.
Lost in thought, he doesn’t notice when the sunlight peeks through the curtains, announcing a new day, despite seeing clearly how good it looked on tanned skin, making the sleeping boy’s features clearer and brighter as well.
Picture this: a boy wearing black leather from head to toes, sitting on the floor right beside your bed, legs crossed and chin propped on both hands, looking pensive while looking at you.
That’s what the freckled boy sees right at the moment he slowly opens his eyes. He blinks a few times before bluntly screaming, no previous warning given, startling Jeongguk and sending him to the other side of the room in a blink. “What are you doing inside of my room?!”
The boy sits up, eyes wide and eyebrows raised accusingly as he points to Jeongguk.
“You can see me?” Jeongguk asks, not even noticing how fast he just reached the extreme opposite of the room.
Or how his feet aren’t touching the ground at all.
“Of fucking course I can see you, that doesn’t answer why you’re inside my hotel room!” The boy’s voice pitches higher, giving away how scared he is.
But Jeongguk is too busy with other things to think about that. “Huh. I thought people wouldn’t see me or something.”
“What, you a Ninja?”
“No. I’m a dead.”
They face each other for a long moment, and then the boy cocks his head to the right.
“Oh, I mean I’m dead. Like, deceased. I died.”
Thinking better, maybe that wasn’t the right thing to say. But the conversation happened too fast, both boys shooting the words at each other defensively and now it was too late, Jeongguk prepares himself to be thrown out or scrutinized.
Only, the freckled boy lowers his eyes and then shoots them up again, his expression melting into everything Jeongguk didn’t expect: happiness.
“OH MY FUCKING GODS! You’re a ghost?!”
Jeongguk looks down, wondering what gave him away – or rather, what made the boy believe him saying he was dead so damn fast, since he looked pretty human and alive as far as he could tell – and notices there’s a good distance between his feet and the floor. Oh. Oh. He kind of can float now, can’t he? He forgot about that.
Jeongguk tentatively tries to float a little higher, managing it with utmost ease and gasping in surprise.
The other boy laughs, sounding amused, and Jeongguk fixes him an annoyed look. “I’m new to this ghost thing.”
“I could never tell.” The boy replies cheekily, and Jeongguk knows he’s blushing but he prays it doesn’t show; that would be the second nice thing in being a ghost, right after being able to fucking fly – or float, whatever. The other boy blinks sheepishly, though, maybe trying to look apologetic. “Sorry, I sounded like a jerk just now, did you just, umm, turn into a ghost… recently? Oh, fuck, my brain is too sleepy for this, just please don’t leave.”
“I can’t.” Jeongguk blurts, again, not really mad because, well, the boy is reacting surprisingly well to the whole thing, really.
“I can’t leave, I mean. That’s why I’m here.”
Taehyung’s hand falls to the mattress, the look on his face being of utter confusion. “You’re stuck in this room? Is this a haunted hotel, are there more ghosts?!”
He looks like he’s about to jump off the bed and run, either from the Hotel or to the other rooms, and both are bad – so Jeongguk waves his hands in the air almost desperately.
“Other mystical beings, then?”
“No, not the hotel! I’m stuck with you!”
The boy takes a few seconds to blink in silence, and then he pouts. “Ouch, that’s a mean way to tell me that. I’m not that bad.” He pouts more, rubbing his eyes and yawning adorably. “I’m Taehyung, by the way. Nice to meet you…”
“Jeongguk.” He supplies with a relieved (and again, unnecessary) breath.
Taehyung proceeds to stretch his lips into the biggest rectangular smile ever, and Jeongguk gapes unintentionally.
The sunlight on his curly strands isn’t helping the image, either.
“Nice to meet you, Jeongguk!”
“Y-yeah, you too. Uh–” Here’s another thing they never prepare you for. What’s he supposed to say now? Is he supposed to make small talk? Is he supposed to stay quiet? Well, maybe promising not to bother the guy would be a good start. “I’m very sorry, I don’t plan to make your life a burden. I seriously don’t know how this happened.”
Taehyung watches him with an amused everything. It’s like his whole being beams at Jeongguk, or maybe it’s the sunlight effect. Either way, Jeongguk is confused.
“Don’t worry about it, Jeongguk! It’ll be my pleasure to help you.”
Jeongguk stills at that. “H-help me?”
“Yes! There’s gotta be a reason behind all this, and we’ll find out together!” He sounds too eager, too happy about the whole ordeal, and something about it makes Jeongguk feel a little uneasy. Taehyung seems to notice that, and fidgets with the hem of his white – and huge – tee. “I mean, you’re stuck with me anyway, right? I’m sure I can help, I’ve read a lot about that stuff.”
“What stuff?” He asks, cocking his head to the right and floating into Taehyung’s direction without really meaning to.
The boy laughs, eyes closing in crescents and all his teeth on display.
“We have a lot to talk about, Jeonggukie! But first…” His stomach growls, and Jeongguk eyes it with furrowed eyebrows. Right. Feeling hungry. Taehyung must be starving. He laughs a little awkwardly, scratching the nape of his neck. “ I really need to eat.”
He jumps out of bed and grabs his backpack, making a beeline to the bathroom and leaving Jeongguk alone in the bedroom. He distracts himself testing his newfound floating skill, but Taehyung is talking to him almost as soon as the faucet is open inside of the bathroom.
Spit. “What’s your age, Jeongguk!”
He stops and takes too long to answer.
“I don’t know how long I’ve been… like this.”
“Oh.” Taehyung stays quiet – too quiet, apparently not even breathing for a whole ten seconds – and then he says with a kinder tone, “How old were you, do you remember that?”
Jeongguk swallows the lump in his throat slowly. “T-twenty, I think.”
There’s a small cheer from the bathroom, and Jeongguk only fully understands what just happened when Taehyung comes out of the door with a grin plastered on his face and grabs him by the wrist, saying “Don’t worry, Gukkie, I’ll take good care of you! I’ll be the best hyung you’ve ever had! You can trust me.”
And out of the bedroom they go, Taehyung simply dragging the floating ghost as if he did that every day, and Jeongguk– Jeongguk goes with wide doe eyes, mute, and lacking any other reaction because he felt that.
The tingling feeling of Taehyung’s hand around his wrist is there, it’s real. It feels real. He feels it.
He can’t feel anything else, but can feel Taehyung’s touch.
Taehyung considers the fact that maybe he finally became everything that everyone had always seemed to think about him. Completely crazy. Because Jeongguk is too quiet, he doesn’t even breathe, for fuck's sake, how was he supposed to believe he was with a real ghost, walking around the streets of Busan searching for a morning meal, when the said ghost wouldn’t make his presence known?
Maybe he was inside Taehyung’s head. Maybe his brain had finally snapped after so many unsuccessful tries.
He stops on his heels and swirls around, bumping into Jeongguk.
Yep, real enough for him.
The younger sputters nonsense before managing a sorry, but his regretful expression melts away as soon as Taehyung can’t hold back his giggles.
“What did you do that for, anyway?” The ghost tries to look mad, massaging his cheekbone, where Taehyung hit him with his forehead, since he wasn’t standing straight when he turned around.
They’re the same height, or at least it looks like it.
“Oh, did I hurt you, Gukkie? I’m sorry.” He raises his hand but Jeongguk takes a scared step back, and Taehyung smoothly – not – pretends he was going to actually comb his own hair with it all along.
“It’s nothing. Just…”
“Just?” Taehyung presses, curiosity biting his ass.
“Nothing. Caught me by surprise, that’s all. Anyway, I don’t have to be so close to you, you can let me go.”
“Oh.” Taehyung loosens the hold of his other hand around Jeongguk’s wrist, letting it fall off his grip. He didn’t even realize he was doing it. “Of course, sorry.”
Jeongguk keeps his eyes trained away from Taehyung. “No problem. I can stay outside, too, while you eat.”
Taehyung scoffs at that. “Pff, that’s ridiculous. We have a lot to talk about, I already said it.”
The ghost is mindlessly worrying his lower lip, clearly struggling with something.
“What if someone sees me?”
“I hope they do!” There’s a little jump of excitement he can’t contain, and Jeongguk’s eyes make him an open book. “What’s the fun if they don’t?”
He ends up dragging the ghost inside a restaurant, completely forgetting he had just let Jeongguk’s wrist go.
This time he feels Jeongguk’s presence beside him because the younger is clearly trying to look composed and unbothered. It’s kind of cute, really, and Taehyung takes a moment to appreciate his work.
Getting himself bonded with a cute – and honestly, really hot – ghost? His age? Fuck yes. Worth the wait. He couldn’t wait to show Jeongguk the fuck off to everyone back in Daegu.
They get a table on the far corner of the restaurant, both catching up on the fact that Jeongguk’s skin looks almost normal in the sunlight. He has a glow to him, be there sunlight or not, so the sun helps to mask the ethereal quality that there is to him.
He looks stunning both ways, and noticing it makes Taehyung a little breathless, but just for a moment. He blames it on his fascination for the supernatural. Of course he’d find a ghost breathtakingly beautiful.
“You’re staring,” Jeongguk states, shifting uncomfortably in his seat right across Taehyung on the round table.
“Did not,” Taehyung replies quickly, opening the menu and pretending interest in it. Nothing else looks interesting when there’s a ghost sitting across from you on a restaurant table, but he tries.
And stopping Jeongguk with his mouth parted and ready to reply again, a waitress with her eyes glued to the notepad on her hands approaches the table and asks, “What can I get you, boys?”
Taehyung gasps and Jeongguk simply gapes, unable to close his mouth for more than a millisecond.
The waitress raises an eyebrow without taking her eyes off the notepad.
“You can see him?” Taehyung asks, and now Jeongguk does something – kicks his shin under the table, with too much strength especially for a ghost. “Ouch!”
“... Yes, I can?” She answers with a questioning intonation, probably considering to call the cops on them because they’re acting weird, or something.
Taehyung whoops his hand in the air, nonetheless, feeling too much like he’s just won the lottery – and looking like it – to care about anything else.
The waitress coughs, eyebrows furrowed. “The order, boys?”
“Oh, bibimbap for me. Gukkie?”
Jeongguk sighs, half in frustration and half in relief, because at least the question makes it sound as if he’s human.
“Yeah, just water. Thank you.”
As soon as she walks away – still a little suspicious, and too stiff – Taehyung pouts.
“That hurt! Are you even supposed to be this strong when you’re a–”
Jeongguk’s hand flies so fast to shut him up that Taehyung thinks for a moment that it might have detached itself from Jeongguk’s wrist.
“ Don’t! ”
“ Why? ” Taehyung asks, even though Jeongguk’s hands are still pressing against his mouth.
For a moment it looks like he’s going to answer, but then Jeongguk ticks his tongue and breaks the eye contact, pulling away and sitting down again.
“ Fine.” Taehyung sounds every little bit not fine, eyebrows coming together in the middle of his forehead, and his nose wrinkled in distaste. “Anyway, everybody can see you, then!”
Jeongguk stays silent, looking out the window and apparently thinking about it – certainly thinking about something.
“Yeah, I guess they can.”
“And you look almost… you know. In the daylight.”
“Not really. I guess she didn’t pay enough attention. That’s what people do, right? People have to really look to be able to see. She didn’t.”
It almost sounds like an edgy adolescent talking, but Taehyung understands what he’s trying to say behind the edgy words.
“Huh. You have a point. We might check that later.”
His eyes get ridiculously round and wide. “Why?”
“ For science, Jeongguk.” Taehyung shakes his head dismissively, but his smile is wide. “So, we can do this like a game, then it won’t feel like you’re being questioned or something. I offer you something about me, you tell me something about yourself.” Jeongguk parts his lips, but Taehyung beats him to it. “And before you ask me why again, it’s because it’s important. To find out why you’re here and what we have to do to free you.”
He blinks too many times, faster each time.
“Yeah, well, I wouldn’t mind having you around forever but I guess that’s not how you want to spend your afterlife? Is it? If it is, well, then… Although you probably should deal with whatever it is that’s keeping you stuck in here you know, for your own good. Peace of mind, I suppose.”
Taehyung watches with fascinating curiosity as the ghost drags his tongue through his lower lip, cocks his head to the left and a few dark brown hair strands fall to the side, exposing more of his forehead and thick eyebrows.
Yes, indeed a fucking gorgeous ghost.
“And you’re going to help me with all that?” He asks, sounding skeptical.
“Yes!” Taehyung answers promptly, and with vitality.
“Just because we’re… locked together or something?”
“No!” He shakes his head negatively. “Because I want to. I really do!”
The ghost hums, his tone heavier than Taehyung knew it could be. Jeongguk had a really sweet voice, it wasn’t as deep as Taehyung’s. To be really honest, it was a beautiful voice. Not disturbingly high pitched, neither low and raspy, but when he spoke lower – yeah, it sounded great.
“Fine. So where you’re from?”
Taehyung tries his best not to jump in victory because Jeongguk just accepted his proposal.
“Here.” There’s a tiny smile on the corner of his lips that almost looks like a cocky attitude. “What are you doing here, if you’re from Daegu?”
“I came to try out a ritual.”
Jeongguk chokes, which is funny because he’s a ghost. Taehyung chuckles and receives an unamused look from the younger.
“I… I don’t know what’s my unfinished business or whatever, but I was in a car crash. My last memory is from it, so I guess– that’s when– yeah.” Jeongguk shrugs, faking nonchalant very badly, and Taehyung nods despite the sudden urge to coo and protect the younger boy. “Anyway, what ritual?”
Taehyung props his chin on his hand, smiling sideways and winking at Jeongguk. “Probably the one which attached us together. I’m not sure, though, I’m always trying new things and some work but never once it worked like this. I think… You must have been lost or something. Between the realms or whatever, and I anchored you. That’s my best guess, and trust me I’m experienced in these things.”
Jeongguk squints his eyes, probably trying to catch if Taehyung is lying or being serious right now. It’s a good reaction – anything different than dumb scoffs is a good reaction in Taehyung’s humble opinion. His experience wasn’t a great one.
Everyone has the right to believe in what they want, but making fun of others and feeling superior because of it? Nope. Not cool.
“So you’re experienced? How, if I may ask?”
“Your turn first, Jeonggukie. Remember, it’s the only rule here.” Taehyung smiles kindly, as the ghost shuffles on his seat awkwardly.
“I– uhm, I felt like I was disappearing before getting anchored by you or whatever happened. I do feel like anchored is a good term, to be honest…” He scratches the back of his head, apparently thinking too hard again. “When I was… before, I don’t remember much. Just white, I guess? And a static noise.”
Now they were getting somewhere, and pretty quick, actually. Taehyung nods excitedly, letting his hand fall to the table and startling the younger a little.
“Right? I could feel it too. I thought the ritual had gone wrong, and it never upsets me but this time it did. It did because I could feel it working.”
“How did it feel like to you, Taehyung?” Jeongguk asks, so focused he forgets to breathe even though he was unconsciously and unnecessarily doing it all the time, enough for Taehyung to notice it.
“A tingling, I guess? All over my body, running to the same place.”
Jeongguk hums, “Where?”
“My left wrist.”
His eyes trail to Taehyung’s arm stretched on the table, stopping just above his hand, on his thin wrist.
“I did, too.” He confesses, whispering. “Around my neck.”
They gravitate towards each other without really noticing, holding their breaths in a new kind of excitement.
It’s when Jeongguk reaches for his wrist, barely reaching enough to touch the skin with the pad of his fingers, that the tingling rushes back.
There’s a faint chain around Taehyung’s wrist, and one around Jeongguk’s neck too. They look the same – just as ethereal as Jeongguk, too. Jeongguk reaches around his neck and feels the cold iron, eyes wide, as Taehyung does the same to the bracelet one around his right wrist.
“Huh.” Taehyung raises his eyes to Jeongguk’s neck, fingers resting on the bracelet.
“Yeah.” Jeongguk agrees.
“This is actually nice,” Taehyung says, tilting his head, eyes still on Jeongguk’s neck.
It makes his skin prickle.
“I can’t see mine but I’m betting on borderline fetish,” Jeongguk says, sounding like he’s making a joke.
Taehyung bursts into laughter, covering his mouth and then biting his fist too because they’re getting a few bothered looks now, but Jeongguk doesn’t shrink at the attention this time. He laughs a little, too, looking even as far as proud of himself. “Did I get it right?”
“Kinda, Jeonggukie. Wanna check on my phone? The front camera is shitty but it’ll do the work.”
His lips jut into a small pout as he nods, “Yup.”
Taehyung pulls his phone from his jeans and unlocks it, opening the camera app and turning it to Jeongguk. The younger’s eyebrows immediately shoot up, and he reaches for the phone, taking it with one hand as the other traces the “necklace” around his neck like a choker.
“Hecking kinky, but I look fucking good?” Despite his words, he looks anything but pretentious, disbelief coloring his words.
“It actually suits you, Gukkie. You’re really pulling off the cute look.”
Jeongguk huffs at that, putting the phone on the table and experiencedly sliding it back to Taehyung. “It’s like a choker, hyung.”
He tries not to coo at the ‘hyung’, although his face gets warm along with his heart. “You’d look cute in those, too.”
Jeongguk looks away in disbelief but Taehyung can tell he’s affected by the words. Almost embarrassed.
He takes a mental note to call the ghost cute more times, just to get these lowkey flustered reactions out of him.
“Anyway,” Jeongguk coughs, seeing the waitress coming back their way with Taehyung’s bibimbap and Jeongguk’s water. “If you just came here to do that ritual thing… When you’re going back to Daegu?”
“Tonight!” Taehyung answers just as excited as ever, truly anxious to get back home with a freaking ghost. Ha!
Jeongguk seems surprised and even shocked by that. “Huh?!”
“You’re getting a free visit to Daegu town, Busan boy!” Taehyung winks again and this time Jeongguk simply stares.
The bibimbap keeps his mouth busy, and he ends up drinking the water which Jeongguk ordered – and maybe, Taehyung thinks, the younger had ordered the water for him anyway.
He’d get along well with Taehyung’s grandmother.
Jeongguk learns that Taehyung studies Physics, plays saxophone and enjoys art. Even when Jeongguk offers the silliest details he can remember – “I guess I really liked white tees,” and the past tense doesn’t make him as sad as he expects it anymore, but maybe because Taehyung is there, and Taehyung feels like an unending source of happiness and good feelings –, Taehyung keeps giving him details and curiosities of his Daegu Life, as he himself calls it.
Taehyung talks about things with an unending passion, and Jeongguk sees himself living vicariously through his words, even when they barely make sense to him – vampires, ghouls, fairies; there’s nothing too absurd for Taehyung’s mind.
It’s curious but also kind of beautiful. Jeongguk is here now, anyway. He himself is proof that there’s at least something supernatural in this world, so who is he to say anything against that, now?
They end up setting a plan; it looks simple enough, really. Taehyung needs to gather information about Jeongguk. He also needs to do that from Daegu, because he has a life to live.
Jeongguk doesn’t really have anything else to do, and he’s chained to Taehyung anyway. He’s not, in any way, super looking forward to it, but he guesses it could be worse. He could be still stuck into that white whatever he was before. He could’ve actually faded, like he felt he was doing right before Taehyung anchored him.
If they ever need to come back to Busan, they will. Taehyung pinky promises, which could be ridiculous but ends up being comfortably innocent and therefore honest enough. It seems like a great plan or at least a reasonably entertaining one until they reach the ticketing boot of the train station and the cashier decides to charge Jeongguk’s ticket, that is.
Taehyung opens his mouth and Jeongguk freezes.
“You cannot make him pay for a ticket, he’s–”
Jeongguk fastly shoves his cap on Taehyung’s mouth, smiling apologetically at the cashier and dragging Taehyung away under the suspicious eyes of another woman.
He should probably be careful with those, they seemed to catch up on the weird aura around him a lot faster than everyone else. And Taehyung seemed to be really clueless around them, too.
“Don’t go around telling people I’m a ghost, fucking hell.”
“Shit.” Jeongguk spits, lacking the bite and fighting back a smile.
He’s not finding this funny nor amusing in any way. No.
“She can’t charge a ticket for you! You’re dead!”
“Are you really going to tell her that?”
“Can’t she see it?”
“People chose to believe what’s easier, I already said that.” Jeongguk sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose, shoulders falling. “Even you said I look normal, remember? How will they know?”
The older boy dead-ass coos at him, pinching his cheeks and Jeongguk can’t find it in himself to scold Taehyung because he feels it. Taehyung pinches his cheeks and Jeongguk feels it.
It’s probably something to do with how they’re kind of bonded or whatever now, but still.
It’s a blessing he can’t blush anymore. Taehyung wouldn’t let him hear the end of it if he did, probably. He checks his reflection anyway, satisfactorily finding that he’s just as pale as before.
So, floating and never blushing again? Afterlife is rad.
“Well, if I’m paying your ticket god knows when we’ll have money to come back to Busan. That’s the problem. Maybe it’s worth to at least try–”
“Taehyung, seriously. She’s kicking us both out of here if you walk back there and tell her I’m a ghost. Even if she believes you, what makes you think she’ll be okay with the fact I am a ghost? Please. Think.” He takes that deep breath he doesn’t physically need, but emotionally lacks. “They’re never willingly letting a ghost aboard their train.”
Taehyung pouts. “Ugh, people are so petty.”
“I’m not sure that’s the right expression…”
“I said what I said.”
“... Anyway,” Jeongguk bites another smile, aware that he’s doing an awful job at that. “I can float after you or something. Maybe walk in through the car walls, you know? And disappear when they come to check the tickets or something.”
Taehyung’s lips are curled down, and he blinks a few times before voicing his thoughts.
“I was going to curse you because what kind of shitty idea is floating after a fucking train but then you majestically saved your own ass. That’s actually a good plan. The second part, obviously. The first one is just dumb, let’s pretend like you never said that. Let’s do it!”
“ Language.” Jeongguk repeats, mimicking Taehyung’s deep voice mockingly, which the older boy dismisses with a genuine laugh.
Jeongguk laughs too.
He feels five years old again when they manage to, together, fool every single person inside of the train to Daegu.
Luckily enough, they’re basically alone in the train car, Taehyung wittingly charming the cashier into giving him an isolated seat so he could “take a nap”.
They’re even giggling like five-year-olds and there’s not an ounce of regret in both of them, not even if you count them together. Jeongguk learns a lot about his new self during this trip, too.
For example, he kind of can morph into anything. He does it to Taehyung, once, but the feeling is too weird because of their connection, he guesses, and teasing Taehyung isn’t worth that much.
Morphing into the seat is fine, though, and the train workers keep looking weirdly at Taehyung when they come and see him alone, because this boy is being really fucking loud for someone who’s alone.
Taehyung nonchalantly scrolls through his phone, pretending that that’s what’s keeping him entertained. He laughs at a joke and pretends to send an audio to a friend – he sends it to his older brother, Yoongi, who’ll probably just roll his eyes and ignore the weird and unexpected audio, already used to Taehyung’s dynamics.
Jeongguk holds his laughter from the safety of the seat – if that laughter escaped, now that would be something.
A laughing seat. How would they explain that? He conveys the thought to Taehyung later and there are tears in the other boy’s eyes as he doubles down in laughter one more time.
The ride to Daegu isn’t very long, even though they take the slowest of the trains – also known as the cheapest, the Mugunghwa –, it’s still way faster than the buses and they manage to distract themselves all too well.
Taehyung sings the school trip’s songs and Jeongguk corrects them as he remembers from his time in Busan’s Elementary School, fighting playfully about who’s singing it wrong or right.
He’s never been to Daegu – well, he’s never really left Busan, only travelling to nearby cities and mainly to their beaches, since Busan people don’t seem to think it’s fit to go to Busan’s beaches when summer vacation arrives –, and the landscapes are mostly farms with various plantations, mountains and never-ending green. Busan is only really colorful at night, but Daegu somehow looks colorful even through the train window.
By the time they arrive at Taehyung’s house a few minutes before the night dawns, he’s actually glad he was anchored to someone like Taehyung. In the span of one day, they actually managed to connect, and Jeongguk knows he could’ve done worse – he’s not so sure he could’ve done better.
Taehyung is quick to disappear inside of the small house in the middle of the city, shouting:
“Grandma! Grandma! I met a ghost!”
If Jeongguk could choke, he would.
Fortunately for the both of them, Taehyung’s grandma isn’t afraid of ghosts, per se, or that introduction could’ve been catastrophic. As it is, Jeongguk only hears her laugh, and when she appears at the door and finds him stuck there, there’s only kindness in her eyes.
They look like Taehyung’s, even though they’re not the same. It’s probably the same kindness inside of them, Jeongguk thinks.
“So you made friends with him, Taetae?” She asks, eyes kind but alert.
“Yes! Jeonggukie, this is my grandma, Chaewon!”
“Chaewon-ssi, I’m sorry for the intrusion–”
“Any friend of Taetae is welcomed here, darling. Come in.” Despite interrupting him, her tone is warm and welcoming, and she motions for him to actually come in.
That’s how they end up in the kitchen, Chaewon forcing something into Taehyung’s mouth even though the boy can’t seem to keep himself from talking, telling everything about his adventure to his – very willing to listen – grandmother.
Jeongguk learns that Taehyung lives alone in the city with Chaewon, his grandfather and parents living in rural Daegu, where they take care of the family farm. They have strawberries, and those are Taehyung’s favorites – probably his favorite place on the whole planet as well. He learns that Taehyung likes to escape to the strawberry greenhouses on the farm to spend the day collecting the fruits and, mostly, eating them. Taehyung promises to take him there one day, soon.
That’s when Chaewon’s seems to shift a little – her posture becoming straighter, her features more serious.
“So you’re helping him solve whatever it is that Jeongguk has too, Taetae?”
Taehyung looks like a deer caught in the headlights.
“Yes! But it might be a little while until we figure it out, because Jeonggukie lost most of his memories… Sometimes he remembers stuff, so I guess we’ll just have to walk around and research a lot to bring as many memories as we can back.”
“You could start with news online, right? Maybe whatever happened to him was reported somewhere.”
Taehyung nods, but he seems to catch on Jeongguk’s discomfort right away.
Jeongguk himself doesn’t know why he feels weird hearing it, but he’s glad Taehyung changes topic and soon enough excuses himself to his bedroom, Jeongguk bowing to Chaewon and quickly following him.
“Sorry about that, Gukkie.”
Taehyung has the kindest smile Jeongguk has ever seen.
“We’ll do whatever you feel like doing, whenever you feel like doing it. Okay? We don’t have to rush anything, or do things you’re uncomfortable with.”
Jeongguk nods, too caught up to give a proper answer, and he knows there would be tears wetting his cheeks if he could cry.
“So, this is my bedroom!” Taehyung cheerfully shouts, turning on his heels and throwing his hands up in the air. “And from now on, it’ll be our bedroom. That means you get to use everything inside of it as you’d like, and I mean it!” Taehyung grabs a towel and a few clothes before stopping in front of him and showing off all his teeth in a boxy smile. “Make yourself at home, Gukkie!”
“Thanks.” He manages, it sounds a little choked up but he hopes his smile conveys how true his gratefulness is.
Taehyung’s bedroom is small, but comfortable. There’s a small bed on one corner, right beside the window, and a desk on the opposite wall. There are drawings and stickers everywhere on the walls, even some posters – everything from planets to constellations, he’s clearly an astronomy enthusiast.
Apart from a video game and a laptop, everything else inside his bedroom is really simple, even the clothes in his wardrobe are all from nameless brands, so it’s clear where Taehyung’s priorities lie.
On PlayStation, that’s where.
Jeongguk finds out with a pleased hum that he can turn the device on, and play just as he used to do when he was alive. Oh, he realizes with content. He used to do that, a lot. Playing games was one of his first passions, he even dreamed of designing games for awhile, before realizing he could never afford to study that, because… Because… No, that was as far as he could go.
He tells Taehyung nonetheless, as soon as the older boy steps into his room again, fresh and clean, toweling his still wet hair.
“You can play video games!” Taehyung practically shouts, instantly covering his mouth and looking behind him as if his grandmother would suddenly appear inside the bedroom and scold him.
“Of course I can play video games, I loved playing video games, I just told you that I’m fucking great at it.”
That makes Taehyung stop staring at the door, laughing and turning back to Jeongguk again. “I mean it as… you, a ghost, can play it! Gukkie, it means we can play together! Now!”
And it almost looks as if it’s the first time Taehyung has a friend over to play video games with him, but Jeongguk can’t say he’s bothered to be in this position at all. “Oh. Yeah, yeah we can.”
Taehyung beams at him.
“Sure, why not?”
Taehyung had evaded his grandma saying he had to sleep early, but they end up playing video games the night in, only stopping when Taehyung is literally falling on Jeongguk’s shoulder, fighting off sleep but obviously losing to it.
Jeongguk could go on forever, but he turns off the PlayStation and pokes Taehyung until he’s up and scrambling to lie down on his bed, falling into sleep so fast he barely has time to mutter “Good night, Gukkie” before his breathing evens out.
There’s no need for him to lie down, although it wouldn’t be too bad, but Jeongguk feels warmer when he’s closer to Taehyung, and that warmth is somehow comforting – so he stays close by, sitting on the bed with one of Taehyung’s notepads at hands, scribbling and doodling more than actually reading what’s in there, although the content doesn’t look like personal stuff, and more like Taehyung’s researchers, therefore it would be completely okay for him to read.
He doesn’t, because it feels like he’s thinking about too many things already.
The next morning, he hears Chaewon mildly scolding Taehyung – something about getting attached, which Taehyung playfully dismisses saying they are literally attached already. Chained together, so there’s no getting attached.
Jeongguk unconsciously touches the chain around his neck, the action almost affectionate.
Somehow, it makes Jeongguk’s chest warm to hear that Taehyung only wants to help him as best as he can, and he’s not going to rush it. A part of him knows that Taehyung has no motives to rush it, in truth – he seems too happy to have a lost soul chained to him –, but still, it makes him feel a little better with the whole situation.
He makes a mental note to apologize to Chaewon for the inconvenience, anyway. It’s not because Taehyung is okay with it that everyone else will be, too, and Chaewon is obviously someone who’s affected by it.
“Gukkie, I saw you scribbled some stuff on my journal, so I had an idea!” Taehyung tells him on the way to his University. “I’m getting you a journal, so you can write the things you want on it! Like your memories, or anything you want, really. What do you think about that?”
Jeongguk learns fast, therefore he already knows he can’t really say no. Taehyung has already decided that he’s going to buy Jeongguk a journal, therefore, Taehyung is buying him a journal.
However, the idea is actually a good one. Doodling on Taehyung’s journal, Jeongguk got a few other details of his life back. Drawing with crayons in the backyard of his grandparents, trying out charcoals for the first time, doodling all over his friends' notebooks and school material.
“Yeah, that’d be nice. Thanks, Tae.”
“I don’t really have classes until later, so we can walk around town for a bit. I do that a lot, actually. Maybe you want to go to a mall? Or meet the campus, it’s pretty big in there.”
“Meet the campus,” he answers in a beat, not really ready to face a mall.
With the way Taehyung looks excited to show him around, god knows what would happen on a mall.
So, first, they head to a stationary store, and Taehyung insists that Jeongguk picks a notebook he likes and also a pen for himself, “It’s a gift, Gukkie, and you can’t really say it’s not because you don’t remember your birthday!”
“But then you should choose it, hyung…”
Taehyung, very maturely, sticks out his tongue.
Jeongguk can’t help but laugh.
The campus of Daegu University is indeed big, a little remote from the town’s center for obvious reasons, and Jeongguk thinks he remembers tiny bits of his own University by looking around the campus, which ends up in them sitting under a tree as he doodles what he can remember on his brand new journal, and Taehyung watches him like he couldn’t be anywhere else doing anything better.
It takes a while for Jeongguk to notice, but when he does, he’s once again glad he can’t really blush.
“You’re an artist, Gukkie!”
It’s average at best, the places common looking and it could be literally almost every University out there – it turns out more of a drawing practice than anything useful to their quest after Jeongguk’s past –, but Taehyung still praises him for it.
After all, he’s remembering something. He tries to be as positive as Taehyung, but maybe that’s not something he was ever good at.
He doodles a cup half-empty, making a small and symbolic note that, if Taehyung notices, he makes no comment on it.
They’re having a good time – great, actually, and Taehyung thinks back to what his grandmother said.
He’s a little sad he didn’t meet Jeongguk before, yes, but would they even have met if it wasn’t for his condition? It’s a little sad, yes, and Taehyung will undeniably get emotionally attached, but that doesn’t change the fact that he wants to help Jeongguk as best as he can.
He’s glad they met, no matter the circumstances.
“Oh, look, Taehyung found himself another creep to be his friend.”
He sees Jeongguk’s hand tightening around the pen first, his doodling coming to an automatic stop, and only then Taehyung looks up, lips already curved down.
But then he remembers – oh yeah, who kept saying there were no such things as ghosts? Exactly. The idiot who was right in front of him and a ghost now.
“Hey Sungmin, guess what? This is Jeongguk, and he’s a ghost.”
Jeongguk’s eyes widen, but Taehyung smiles openly to him, nudging his side.
“So guess who’s the loser, Sungmin? Not me. I got linked to a real ghost, and a freaking cute one at that.”
Sungmin scoffs, probably ready to give some form of comeback, but Taehyung isn’t really looking at him. The ghost by his side does something unexpected – he hides his face behind his hands, in the cutest way possible.
Taehyung wants to pinch his cheeks until they’re actually pink, even if that’s impossible.
“You can’t blush, silly!” He scolds, only because Jeongguk’s reaction is making things to his feelings.
“I’m still fucking embarrassed anyway, idiot,” Jeongguk mumbles behind his hands.
“Why? Because I said you’re–”
“Boys,” there’s a sneering tone to his voice that automatically makes Taehyung mentally rolls his eyes. “I don’t mean to intrude, but– a ghost? So you’re both nuts, for real?”
Jeongguk finally drags his eyes up, lowering his hands and sighing. “Record it, Tae.”
It’s barely a whisper, but Taehyung listens and obeys, even though he has no idea what Jeongguk is planning.
He wordlessly stares at Sungmin, who probably thinks this is a staring contest until they notice his body isn’t touching the grass anymore. Jeongguk is floating, effortlessly holding the same position as before.
Taehyung doubles down in laughter as Sungmin face pales, and his eyes look like they’re about to jump off his face.
Jeongguk pops his lips open, in a perfect circle, and says: “Boo.”
Taehyung thinks he’s going to die laughing and join Jeongguk as a fucking ghost, because the way Sungmin screams and runs for it isn’t something he’s going to forget anytime soon. And even if he does forget – Jeongguk made sure he was recording the whole thing, for fuck's sake. His camera is shitty, but it’s enough to refresh his memory forever.
“Did you see his fa–” Taehyung tries to speak, but he’s breathless.
Jeongguk is laughing too, looking almost smug. “Fucking jerk. Is he your classmate?”
“Unfortunately. Not that I mind him, no. I was just going to tell him off, you didn’t have to prove anything, Gukkie.”
Jeongguk shrugs. “Wanted to.”
They watch the video Taehyung recorded and laugh a bit more, but then they go back to the comfortable silence they were before, as Jeongguk goes back to drawing and Taehyung scribbles a few notes on his own notebook.
He eventually nudges Jeongguk and says “Thanks.”
Jeongguk looks away fast, but his eyes crinkle and there’s a smile Taehyung can see on the corner of his lips.
It’s easy to fall into a rhythm, Jeongguk quickly adapting to his routine and Taehyung quickly adapting to him as well, to the point it feels weird when Jeongguk disappears, because he really can’t be that far from Taehyung anyway. People in his class stop bothering him at all, and Jeongguk doesn’t care about the stares, and even glares, that he gets – outside of the lectures, people can barely tell he isn’t as solid as he should be, at least not until the ghost clings to Taehyung without him even realizing it, resulting into him effortlessly walking around giving a piggyback ride to a boy his size, which people can’t help but find at least a little curious, which makes them look twice, and then notice that boy is kind of ethereal? And glowing? Is he translucent?
“Guk? Where are you?” Taehyung asks the first time it happens, after looking around and not seeing the ghost anywhere near.
He was too enthralled on his phone, searching up a few books he wishes to buy.
“Literally here.” Jeongguk’s voice comes right into his left ear.
A hand shakes right in front of him. “Look at the coffee window.”
He does. And he sees Jeongguk wrapped around his back, chin propped on top of his head, arms loosely around his neck.
“How even… You weight nothing!”
“Well, perks of being a ghost, I guess… I got tired of following you around. This is easier.”
It still sounds as if Jeongguk isn’t being totally honest, so Taehyung pushes his luck. “Hmm… Just that, Gukkie?”
The ghost fiddles a bit, and this time Taehyung notices when a weight drops down on his left shoulder, although it’s more like a presence than real weight. He looks a bit to the side and sees Jeongguk with a small pout.
“You feel warm. It’s comfortable.”
He knows Jeongguk doesn’t feel most of the things, so Taehyung accepts the answers with gratitude, not probing any further.
“... Anyway, a coffee shop! Nice. I might need that.”
Still, no one seems to want to bother them. For some reason. (It’s highly likely that everyone inside the University already knows about the Physics student and his ghost friend.)
This time, Jeongguk doesn’t even blink when Taehyung introduces him as a ghost – “She was staring! She must have been so confused…”
“Yes, because explaining I’m a ghost must’ve been a lot less confusing to her, hyung…” – and if that’s not the best proof that they’re getting extremely well along, then what is?
They recover its and bits of Jeongguk’s memories, but he can’t remember faces and names, which makes everything a lot harder. However, Taehyung remains optimistic. They’re making progress, and that’s what matters.
Sometimes, Taehyung doesn’t even bother to pretend like he has a real plan – he just turns around to face Jeongguk and says:
“I’m going to take you to visit Dalseong Park today!”
And Jeongguk nods.
Dalseong Park is a really nice place to spend the day, and even though Jeongguk doesn’t remember visiting many parks – almost no memories are brought back, so he must’ve been a pretty indoors kind of guy. That or Busan was lacking parks like the ones Daegu had –, he thinks he should’ve done this more.
He has a great time walking around the park, seeing the animals and even sitting on a bench and just talking – but that’s probably Taehyung’s fault.
They stop at a street market and Taehyung buys himself a hot dog – Jeongguk remembers living of those, to his mother’s dismay, and then Jeongguk remembers his mother is a doctor. Taehyung checks hospital names in Busan, but none of them sound familiar nor trigger any other memory in him.
Other times, Taehyung takes him to a Library, or an old bookshop with piles and more piles of old dusty books, with the excuse of research and science, and Jeongguk remembers being very allergic – rhinitis, he thinks, so being a ghost gets another great advantage: no more sneezing around all the damn time, no more swellings!
They eventually start to dig up things only, but with only his name and Busan – and, eventually, as Jeongguk feels comfortable with it, died, accident, and things like that – as keywords for the search, it’s hard to find articles that are really useful – most don’t have photos, or aren’t really trustworthy, and it’s more hard work than gain, but he constantly sees Taehyung skimming through search pages anyway.
He’s really grateful.
“I think we should take a break tomorrow.” Taehyung declares, on a Tuesday night, when they’re safely back home and Jeongguk is going through his magazines lying down on the bed by his side.
Jeongguk raises his eyebrows, eyes turning almost completely round, and Taehyung can’t help the laugh that bubbles up his chest.
“What do you mean?”
“Tomorrow night we shouldn’t do anything related to finding out about your past. If you remember something, cool, but we should just chill.”
Taehyung is silently daring Jeongguk to say that that’s just what they’ve been doing so far, he’s sure of it. Only because it kind of is, but just kind of. So yeah, maybe he’s been trying to get Jeongguk to have a little fun, and it’s the first time the boy visits Daegu so hey, why not?
Jeongguk takes a moment to decide on his reaction, but he ends up shrugging and clearly faking nonchalant as he says “Sure, hyung.”
And so, on a Friday night Taehyung takes him to Daegu’s 83 Tower, and this time – with his grandmother’s help – he actually pays for both tickets, for once not trying to convince the cashier to let Jeongguk go in for free because he’s a ghost.
(Although it would be easier now to convince them that Jeongguk is indeed a ghost because during the night he has a different glow to his skin, that makes him really ethereal. Taehyung is a bit afraid they wouldn’t let him go up if they believed Jeongguk is a ghost, anyway.)
Jeongguk looks badly impressed, and although he squints a bit at the price, he keeps his mouth shut about it not to hurt Taehyung’s pride, only thanking him later as they walk to the elevator that will take them up to the observatory.
“This looks… really date-ish,” are the first words that leave Jeongguk’s lips as soon as they get off the elevator.
Taehyung chokes, his cheeks completely capable of blushing – unfortunately for him.
He looks around to avoid Jeongguk’s inquiring gaze, and only sees couples walking around the tower.
“Who said that?” He stubbornly asks, pretending not to see the couples nor the romantic lighting of the place. And the hearts everywhere.
In fact, he can’t remember the last time he was here, but he was a kid and his parents brought the whole family to the tower – so the place was anything but date-ish in his memories.
He feels Jeongguk’s disbelief like it’s radiating out of him. “There are hearts everywhere, Taetae.”
“There’s a romantic tune in the background, the lighting is oddly suspicious, most of the place is a coffee shop, no one’s here beside the other two couples you just saw, and the hearts are really–”
“Shut up, okay, okay!” Taehyung finally locks eyes with Jeongguk, sighing. “It’s a great view of Daegu, it’s not my fault that a lot of couples come here and they capitalize on it! As my hyung would say, those are the negative sides of capitalism– why are you laughing, I’m being serious!”
Jeongguk takes a minute to control himself, and by then Taehyung has already pushed him off and walked away.
“What I’m saying is, it’s a cute place.” He whispers close to Taehyung, chin resting where it has become so familiar with. His left shoulder, a Jeongguk’s favorite.
“It’s the best night view of Daegu!” He points out, almost stubbornly.
“And that’s not romantic at all,” Jeongguk points out, deepening the blush of Taehyung’s cheeks, most definitely still there. “You say that to all of your dates, Tae?”
Jeongguk pulls away to face him, teasing smirk in place. “Then they look at you and say, yeah, it’s the most beautiful sight they’ve ever seen?”
It’s right then that Taehyung loses the ability to breathe, for real. His heart does crazy things inside of his chest, apparently not afraid to kill Taehyung in the process, because despite his smirk, Jeongguk is looking at him. Really looking at him.
And if he’s playing with Taehyung right now, he’s getting his ass whooped.
“Don’t do that!”
“What?” Jeongguk cocks his head to the left, faking innocence.
“I’ve never dated, you brat. Stop teasing me already! I didn’t bring you here for this.” He looks away, naming everything he can recognize on the city under them inside of his head, while he wills his heart to stop the somersaults.
When Jeongguk speaks again, it’s low and soft. “Thanks, hyung.”
Of course, his eyes trail back to the boy beside him, and it’s like Jeongguk never even stopped looking at him. Jeongguk’s smile is soft, too – everything is, at this point, even his crazed heart –, his slightly bigger front teeth peeking out and turning Taehyung’s insides into mush.
He looks away again, not needing to see those huge bunny teeth from this close. (It’s a lie, but a necessary one.)
Instead, he grumbles, “No need to thank me, I’m only showing off my beautiful city which you never even once visited, and I hope you’re regretting it now!”
The moment he finishes saying it, he’s already afraid the other will get hurt by his words. He exaggerated, but Jeongguk nudges him and there’s a smile on his lips while he looks out of the glass walls and the night lights dance inside of his dark irises.
“I do, but I’m glad you’re showing me around. I’m glad I get to see Daegu…” His words trail off, and he slowly takes his eyes to Taehyung, keeping his lips pressed into a small smile.
He opens his mouth, but if he was planning to say anything, it gets lost in his tongue as, at the very next second, Jeongguk is closing his eyes with too much strength, hands flying to his temples.
“Guk?!” Taehyung turns around, trying not to startle anyone. Jeongguk doesn’t look like he’s in pain, but it’s still unsettling.
Because he worries. He worries too damn much.
“Ah, it’s fine, I just– I almost saw it, I almost could see…”
“Someone. A boy? I think it was a boy. The place, it looked like here, when I looked at you… but it was different. I almost could see his face.”
Taehyung thinks hard, as Jeongguk’s painful expression dissolves and he looks a bit too anxious.
“Want to draw, Gukkie?” He asks, tone almost too caring.
They head to the tables on the back of the coffee and Taehyung thinks as Jeongguk tries to sketch what he saw. Taehyung buys himself a strawberry smoothie, just to give Jeongguk a bit of space.
He drops down at the chair by his side, carefully peeking at his drawing.
“Maybe it was Busan Tower that you saw. Or another tower, if you’ve been to other cities? Wait. Are we even sure you’re from Busan?”
Jeongguk laughs, but he nods, eyes glued to his journal. “That makes sense. And yes, I’m sure. I also don’t think I ever left Busan… Plus, the person I saw… it was a boy, I’m sure. Blond.”
“A boyfriend?” Taehyung asks, not because he isn’t thinking – he is, a lot, but he’s focused on other stuff.
However, Jeongguk stops sketching to stare at him, and so he realizes what he had just said. And what he implied by that.
“Oh, I mean, I don’t know? M-maybe it was a girl…”
Jeongguk chuckles, although it’s a small chuckle. “It was a boy, I’m sure.”
Taehyung isn’t sure what’s that supposed to mean, but Jeongguk goes back to sketching and he tries to keep his lips shut.
He obviously fails. “Do you think… Could it be a boyfriend? I mean, do you remember if you… liked any boy this way? Or girl, I don’t know, I’m just– you know, asking.”
Jeongguk doesn’t stop sketching, but Taehyung thinks he sees a smirk on the corner of his lips.
“I… don’t think it mattered to me? Sure doesn’t seem important now.”
Taehyung chuckles, “Oh, that’s good.”
He doesn’t think about the implications of what Jeongguk, or himself, said.
Now Jeongguk’s eyes leave the journal, a little sparkle of curiosity there. “Why?”
He pretends nonchalant as he answers “Oh, because, you know, me too. Doesn’t seem important to me.” But then he realizes he could have been right before. “Wait, so maybe the boy you saw was a boyfriend!”
“I don’t see how’s that relevant now.” Jeongguk juts his lips, looking away almost as if he’s bothered by the topic.
“Well, maybe your unfinished business is with him? Or, you know, a boyfriend would probably know a lot about you. He could be really helpful to us. A friend who happens to be a boy would, too.”
He’s biting his lips, a nervous habit that makes Taehyung almost take back whatever he said to cause it, but then Jeongguk speaks up.
“... It sounds mean, to ask for that of someone. I mean, if I had that with someone, which I don’t even remotely remember of, by the way… see me wouldn’t do them any good, now, would it?”
Taehyung laughs until he notices Jeongguk is being serious about it. “Gukkie, it’s literally the dream of most people? To get a chance to see their loved ones one more time?”
Jeongguk shrugs, eyes still fixed on the city under them. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
“Hey,” Taehyung nudges his side, as he knows the ghost appreciates. “If you’re not comfortable with it, I’ll keep your secret, yeah? You don’t have to see anyone from your past life. Unless it’s your unfinished business, of course, but if that’s the case we can work on it. Don’t stress.”
Jeongguk stops looking through the glass to look at Taehyung by his side, and his smile says everything.
“Trust me, Gukkie. I’m your hyung, remember? I got this.”
And if Jeongguk is laughing at him, his laugh is light and carefree, so Taehyung lets it slide.
“Next time we should go to Apsan Park! It’s a great view of the city during the day.”
On Taehyung’s billionth lose to Jeongguk at whatever game they are playing this time (it’s Tekken), he decides to look for a “Jeongguk” on every pro-gamers list he can find. Unfortunately, none of them looks the slightest like him.
“Why the hell weren’t you playing professionally? You’re like, mad good at this shit.”
Jeongguk laughs from the floor, head resting on Taehyung’s bed.
“I told you so. I don’t know, maybe there was something else I was better at.”
“ What? ” Taehyung sounds baffled, which only makes Jeongguk laugh more. “That’s impossible.”
He shrugs, because he really doesn’t know.
Taehyung’s grandmother comes in, a few biscuits in hand because if something Jeongguk has learned thus far is that she never misses an opportunity to feed her grandson. “Your brother is visiting tomorrow, dear. He’s taking us to the farm.”
Taehyung practically jumps out of the bed.
“Yoongi hyung is coming?!”
“Yes, he is. And I already told him about Jeongguk, so there’s nothing for you to worry about, dear.”
Jeongguk bows his head a little, really thankful for her help.
“Thank you, Chaewon-ssi.” He says, wondering why Taehyung isn’t doing the same.
Taehyung, however, looks more worried than grateful.
As soon as his grandmother leaves the bedroom, closing the door behind her, Taehyung lets out a long sigh.
“Hyung’s gonna beat my ass to dust. I forgot to tell him about you.” He reaches for his phone, and flinches as soon as the screen lights up.
We need to talk.
Jeongguk shuffles uncomfortably, standing straighter and looking up at Taehyung. “I don’t want to cause you any more trouble, Tae…”
“No, it’s nothing!! It’s not that. We’re just going to have one of those talks, you know? Just… don’t stay too close, I guess? His words are a little harsh sometimes, but his intentions are always good.” Taehyung smiles again, looking less pained. “Actually, he might be just the help that we need.”
“Really?” They haven’t made much progress, to be honest, and even though he doesn’t mention it to Taehyung because he doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, he thinks it’d be best if they solved it at once.
It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy being with Taehyung – it’s quite the opposite, and that’s the “problem”, isn’t it?
Walking around Daegu and visiting all those new places with Taehyung — it made him happy, yes, but also sad. There’s not much he remembers from his past life, but he’s sure there wasn’t anyone like Kim Taehyung in it.
Therefore, yes, he’s glad he got to meet Taehyung, but he also finds it unfair that he couldn’t have met him before. There’s something about Taehyung – his warmth, and how Jeongguk can almost feel like he’s alive when he’s close by – that keeps making him forget, for the briefest of the moments, of his actual condition.
It’s a conflicting feeling, and it doesn’t help that Taehyung is taking him out on dates everywhere.
“Yeah, he’s a genius. After talking my ears off, he’ll probably come up with a solution. Oh, have you ever heard Suran’s Wine?”
Jeongguk blinks twice. “I’m not sure…”
Taehyung is quick to find the song on his phone, shuffling closer and making Jeongguk’s skin prickle, his throat constrict, a ghost of a heartbeat thump louder in his ears. It might be all in his head, but fuck him if it doesn’t feel real.
Focusing on the song is harder when he’s this close and Jeongguk gets to map Taehyung’s face, numbering each of the moles and freckles on his sun-kissed skin without him even noticing.
And when he looks up, and catches Jeongguk staring, there’s nothing but a sweet smile on Taehyung’s purple lips.
Taehyung bumps Jeongguk’s nose with his index finger, laughing when he mumbles a noise of discontentment.
“He’s a producer. This is his most famous song, wasn’t even meant to be a hit.” Taehyung tells him, unable to know how Jeongguk’s whole face is on fire, or how he is, once again, holding the breath he doesn’t even need. “But that’s hyung to you. Everything he touches becomes gold, because he’s really passionate about what he does.”
Taehyung hums to the song, and it’s a comfortable low rumble, something Jeongguk could sleep to, even if he actually can’t, he feels his eyelids heavy, begging for rest.
He soon starts to hum along with the song and Taehyung, too. He would be able to appreciate the nice harmony of their voices together if it wasn’t for what happens almost immediately. It’s like stepping on a twig without knowing – something snaps inside of him.
“I think I liked singing.”
“Oh! Do you think you were a singer? Or maybe you posted covers online?” Taehyung scrambles to his laptop so fast he almost trips over his own feet.
“Hm… Maybe? I don’t know.”
Taehyung smiles sympathetically. “It’s okay, Jeonggukie, we can search. The wonders of the internet.”
And, despite his light and comical tone, Taehyung takes internet research really seriously – it’s past midnight when he shouts and startles a very bored Jeongguk, who was resting his head on Taehyung’s shoulder while sitting by his side (on thin air, because there isn’t another chair for him, but it’s not like he needs one).
“This YouTube video is promising!” He’s been saying this for the past half-hour, and Jeongguk instantly dismisses it, closing his eyes again even though he can’t sleep. “The title is singing with Busan’s sea, and it was uploaded by one jeongguk97. That’s your year, right? Ninety-seven?”
He opens his eyes at that. It looks like too many coincidences at once. “Yeah?”
Taehyung is buzzing beside him, turning up the volume of his laptop and waiting for the singing to start. A low rhythm starts, and the camera keeps recording the beach at night as a soft and melodic voice starts to sing to Lee Hi’s Breathe.
Taehyung gasps. “Gukkie, that has to be you!”
He’s too moved to say anything – listening to it, of course the memories flow back like a goddamn river. Gwangalli beach, and his night walks there. The lights of the faraway Bridge lighting up the sea under it, all the hotels and stores lighting up the streets across the shore. The sand under him, his feet sinking into it. And the waves, bringing beautiful seashells that he loved to collect, even though his parents pretended to disapprove the hobby (they loved it, in fact, and always helped to clean the sand off all of them).
Taehyung is enthralled, so much that he takes a few minutes to realize what’s happening beside him. It’s when he turns to Jeongguk to praise his singing that he sees – there are tears trailing down the younger boy cheeks.
Hands fly up and instantly cup Jeongguk’s face, as Taehyung carefully wipes the tears away. “Hey, wanna lay down? Wanna talk? Don’t feel overwhelmed, Gukkie, I’m sorry, I’ll stop the video…”
“It’s okay,” he rushes to say, voice a little strangled. “I just… remembered some stuff. A lot.”
“... Do you want to draw, then?”
“No. Lying down, that’s okay. I’ll- I will tell you.”
And so Taehyung lets the video end, and then they move to his bed, where they lie on their sides, facing each other, and Jeongguk tells him about his parents, and Gwangalli beach, until Jeongguk isn’t crying anymore and there’s a small smile on his lips, and Taehyung falls asleep.
Lying down with Taehyung isn’t the most clever of his ideas, but Jeongguk indulges himself anyway.
There’s not a real reason for him to move, right now – and all the reasons in the world for him to stay.
He remembers the tears looking unreal, but the moment he touches them – they’re there, and they’re wet, and Taehyung dries each one of them until Jeongguk stops crying.
His heart squeezes and aches, and maybe, just maybe, he’s thinking back to all the times he ignored books and articles on how to bring people back from the dead, because it sounded so wrong back then, and it still does now, but he can’t help wishing, wanting for things to be different.
Maybe a time machine could be invented in the meantime, if they took long enough to find out about Jeongguk’s past. Then, he wouldn’t have to move on. They wouldn’t have to part ways.
It’s egotistical, yes, so Taehyung keeps his lips shut tight and listens – falls asleep this way, listening Jeongguk describe Busan’s beach and his relationship with his parents, eyes focused on the jut of Jeongguk’s pink lips as his eyes widen with a new memory and he glows, not because of his ethereal form but because he was excited to tell Taehyung all that.
Happy with the memories, happy to remember them and maybe happy to share them with Taehyung, too.
Taehyung mimics his mannerism, already drifting to sleep, and Jeongguk’s eyes trail to his jutted lips. The ghost smiles softly, even chuckles, and whispers a “goodnight, Tae” – that’s all he remembers before effectively sleeping, longing and something else drowning his chest.
Waking up, the first thing he thinks is that talking with Yoongi won’t be any stroll in the park.
The second thing he thinks is that he’s cuddling something that isn’t his pillow. First, because it’s warm. Second, because it moves.
“Are you awake, Taetae?”
He grunts, burying his face deeper into – apparently – Jeongguk.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” his voice is almost a whisper, hand on Taehyung’s waist drawing soothing circles and Taehyung has no idea what got Jeongguk so soft but his face is burning up and he’s not moving anytime soon. “Because your grandma is already awake and she’ll probably come here at any minute now.”
Taehyung sinks further into him, feeling as if it’s another person beside him and not a damn ghost, not questioning how he can do it because he knows it’s their link thing weird way of working. “Don’t wanna.”
“I mean, I’m not complaining, but I don’t know what she’ll think when she walks in and see… us, and I’m sure she won’t be happy with it either way, because of my current status. Which is, just in case you forgot, dead.”
Taehyung pulls away, but only to drop heavily on top of Jeongguk, drawing an “oomph” from him.
“Don’t say that, Gukkie.” He whispers, closing his eyes tighter and fighting back tears. “Are we even really sure about that?”
There’s a moment of silence, Taehyung holding his breath as he regrets ever opening his mouth.
That’s why people out there don’t talk as soon as they wake up.
“Tae…” Jeongguk sounds breathless, which is stupid, but it only tightens the knot on Taehyung’s heart.
He sounds wrecked.
“I know, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” He pulls away, standing up and grabbing the first clothes he sees. “I’m gonna shower.”
“Tae.” Jeongguk repeats, sitting up and giving him pleading eyes like a damn puppy.
“It’s okay, Guk. I’ll be right back.” He forces a smile, and walks as fast as he can, away from Jeongguk’s sad expression and slumped shoulders.
Showering is always a good thing, and if he lets some tears escape no one will never know, his head safely under the spray of hot water. When he comes back into his room, he’s smiling for real, and Jeongguk closes his journal to listen to him rant about his older brother. Yoongi this, Yoongi that, you’re gonna love him, he’s amazing, I can’t wait for you to meet him, Gukkie! And we’ll see the strawberry greenhouse!
He thinks Jeongguk is smiling genuinely by the end of his monologue, and it’s a silent apology in a way.
Yoongi calls them a little after ten, saying he’s nearby, and they head out to wait for him.
Jeongguk is stiff at his side the whole time – from the moment they are waiting for Yoongi until they arrive at the farm, he barely moves, and Taehyung sees the glances that Yoongi steals his way, making sure to squeeze Jeongguk’s knee whenever he can get away with it.
They make small talk the whole way, Chaewon talking about the farm and her activities in the city, and Taehyung talks about his University and how he met Jeongguk – he thinks it’s safer telling Yoongi this way, in front of their granny while he drives – and Yoongi’s eyes are sharp, but he listens and makes innocent questions.
As soon as they arrive at the farm, however, Yoongi pulls him for a hug and whispers “We’re greeting everyone first, but then you and I talk.”
Taehyung nods, wordlessly.
Jeongguk is a little unsure about going in, but there’s no point in hiding him when he can’t afford to be more than a few steps away from Taehyung, and even though he can be invisible, Taehyung excitedly introduces him to his parents and grandfather, knowing fully well that his grandmother had told them everything already.
When Yoongi pulls him to the side, Jeongguk looks over worriedly, so Taehyung quickly tells Yoongi about the little impediment to them talking completely in private.
Yoongi sighs, massaging his temples. “I don’t understand how’s everyone dealing so well with this.”
“I don’t think they believe it, actually. Everyone besides grandma, I mean. How did you believe it so fast, though? He didn’t even float in front of you or anything.”
“Well, first, grandma told me. That’s enough, but also… I’ve seen some shit.”
Taehyung’s eyes widen in curiosity. “Oh?”
“Another time.” Yoongi waves his hand dismissively, looking away.
“You bet, you’re gonna tell me everything about Seoul! But, mom and dad, they will believe it if we stay until the sun sets, because then Gukkie’s glow will start showing.”
Yoongi’s eyes almost close at the moment Taehyung lets the nickname escape.
“ Gukkie can stay inside the bathroom, we’ll talk at the balcony. Is that close enough?” He adds the question, but it doesn’t really sound like he’s asking it.
“Yes.” Jeongguk nods, eyes wide in fear.
Taehyung would laugh if he didn’t sympathize so much.
Yoongi knows how to be scary, even though he’s mostly bark and no bite. They head to the balcony, dropping Jeongguk at the bathroom on the way – a hushed “Sorry, Gukkie.” whispered before he follows Yoongi –, and Taehyung gives up cracking a joke as soon as Yoongi turns to him and there’s worry written all over his face.
“I’ll make you some questions, and you’ll answer all of them.”
“Sure, hyung!” He promptly agrees, anything to take that expression off his brother’s face.
“Answer me fast or I won’t believe you.”
“O-okay.” He falters, coughing to hide the small slip.
Yoongi’s eyes sharpen, and he nods slowly. “So you can touch him?”
“Yes,” Taehyung answers in a beat, and then explains, “it’s something about the link we share. There’s literally a chain that keeps us connected.”
“Did you try breaking it?” Yoongi asks, not even blinking.
Taehyung can’t help but gasp.
“No! Why would I try that?”
“... because he’s dead, Taehyung. He’s a ghost. It’s almost as if he’s haunting you.”
He laughs, shaking his hand in the air. “No, you got it all wrong, I’m helping him…”
“Why are you helping him?”
Yoongi shakes his head negatively. “I said fast. Answer me fast, be honest with your brother, Taehyung.”
“Hyung,” he whines, feeling tired of their weird exchange. “I’ve always wanted to do this! You know that. Nothing ever worked! It was just… coincidence, it could be anyone, I’d be doing the same.”
“Do you really believe that? Think about what you just said, and answer me, Taehyungie. Honestly.”
Taehyung knows he’s screwed the moment he answers and it sounds like a question. “Yeah?”
Yoongi scoffs, plopping down into the armchair.
“So, you’d let anyone stick around for god knows how long it takes for you to find out how to help them move on?”
“And you’d really just let them stay in your house, with another member of your family, and take him around the city with you, everywhere? Places you didn’t even have to go? 83 Tower?”
“... Uh… Yeah, well, maybe his age is an important fact there, w-we have a lot in common, and–”
Yoongi cuts him, unmoved. “Have you kissed?”
“Have we what?!” Taehyung whispers-shout, feeling his cheeks already growing hot.
Yoongi rolls his eyes, impatiently. “I’m just accessing the damage, Taetae.”
He blinks, shaking his head from left to right enthusiastically. “No. I swear, we didn’t.”
“Do you want to? Did you think about it?”
“God,” Taehyung cries, embarrassed to the moon and back. “Why are you doing this to me … ”
Yoongi chuckles, expression softening. “I’m not gonna tell him or whatever, I just want to help you. Do you want hyung’s help, Taetae?”
“Then you know what you gotta do.” Yoongi sighs, but he adds, “I won’t judge you.”
Taehyung bites his lower lip, looks away, thinks, looks back at his brother and fights back the urge to cry because, holy fuck, yes.
“Hyungie, he’s the cutest person I’ve ever seen, and he’s so… god, he’s a brat, one time I locked the bathroom’s door when I was going to shower and he just went through the wall and asked me why did I do it when he could walk through things!” Taehyung sounds mad, but there’s a laugh hidden in his tone. “... but he’s actually so sweet! An idiot tried to mess with me the first time he came to University with me and ever since Jeongguk’s been pranking that guy. Making his pencil fall off his table the whole class, taking away his eraser… Also, he has the most kissable lips I’ve ever–”
Yoongi was actually listening to him with interest until the last part.
“And that’s enough, Taetae, thank you. I’m happy you’re being honest.” Yoongi takes a deep breath, and Taehyung waits for the scolding. “I’m proud you resisted so far, then. When grandma told me about him, she told me everything and it was alarming, Taetae. It’s easy to see how you feel about him. When we were small you told me you’d only go back to 83 Tower with the love of your life.”
Taehyung blushes a deep red, and Yoongi finally fully laughs, gummy smile and everything.
“Shut up, I was a kid back then!”
“Even so… You can understand why I worry, yeah?”
“Yeah… I’m sorry, hyung, I didn’t mean to worry you, or make you come all the way from Seoul…”
“Yah, I missed you all, that’s why I came. Now,” Yoongi sits straighter, and motions for Taehyung to come closer. “I know a guy who knows a guy, hm? I think he could help us.”
Us. Taehyung smiles widely.
He knew Yoongi would help them.
“Yeah. Best case scenario, he sends Jeongguk in peace right away. Worst case scenario, he finds out what you gotta do to help him move on.”
Taehyung can’t say he isn’t surprised. “He’s that good?”
Yoongi presses his lips together and the corners of his mouth slump down as he stares at the floor and widens his eyes.
“Unfortunately for him, yes.”
Taehyung knocks on the door, whispering a low “Guk?”, and waits for his permission to open it.
It should be ridiculous, but it makes Jeongguk’s chest feels full of appreciation and feelings. Still, he crosses the wall and pretends annoyance, muttering “When will you learn I don’t need the damn doors.”
He chuckles, which is such a welcomed reaction that Jeongguk’s mood lifts automatically.
Because it means that the conversation with Yoongi went well.
“It’s called education, you brat. I bet your parents gave you plenty of it, even though you act like they didn’t!” Taehyung pretends to be mad, but they’ve been together long enough for Jeongguk not to be fooled by it.
Jeongguk smiles, poking Taehyung’s ribs and shuffling his hair. “How was it? Was he mad? What did you tell him? Can he help us?”
Taehyung smiles closing his eyes and says, “It’s time to meet the greenhouses, Gukkie!”
And so, obviously, Jeongguk follows him.
He doesn’t think he ever paid strawberries much attention – they’re pretty, yes, but in a weird way. They’re a weird fruit with a weird taste, sometimes they can taste the sweetest but still surprise you in the end. Other times they really are sweet, but still look weird. It’s all the seeds on the outside, Jeongguk thinks. And the format, sometimes. Altogether, it really discouraged him to even look at them twice, much more to eat them.
However, Taehyung sure knows how to pick his strawberries.
He takes it as a challenge when Jeongguk says he doesn’t really like them, says he’ll find the tastiest and prettiest strawberries there are, and Jeongguk might not be able to eat them, but he will see them and give them grades.
It makes him wish he could eat them, and that a lot in itself. Maybe he will, one day.
That’s how their day flies out of the window, outside world forgot until Yoongi shows up to tell them that lunch is ready, and they have to set up the table.
Yoongi also tells them that they’ll leave to Seoul tomorrow morning. He talked with his friend and they’re going to help Jeongguk.
Taehyung’s voice takes him out of his trance. “What is it, Gukkie?”
“You look kinda lost. Worried. I don’t know.” Taehyung sits by his side, their knees bumping and thighs pressed together in a comforting way he knows Taehyung is doing on purpose.
They’re outside again, waiting for the sunset. It’s a clean view, nothing but mountains on the horizon, the farm at their backs.
“Didn’t find your dog?” He answers with another question, to which Taehyung narrows his eyes to.
Still, he answers. “Ah, Soonshim is afraid of you, I guess. And me, too. She eyed me suspiciously and went the other way. Never done this before, I guess dogs are really sensitive to these things. Hyung is still laughing. If you pay attention enough, you can hear him in the distance.” He adds dramatically, staring into the horizon.
Jeongguk drops his head on Taehyung’s shoulder, for no apparent reason nor warning, startling the older boy a little.
“I’m feeling weird,” he confesses, in a small voice. “I don’t know why, though.”
“It’s okay, Gukkie. I’m here. You just have to hold on a little longer, okay? We’re solving this.”
The sun starts to disappear behind a mountain, and Jeongguk whispers “Yeah. Okay.”
Taehyung’s childhood bedroom is probably the best part of their visit to the farm, even though the strawberries were a pleasant surprise to him.
Because Taehyung’s childhood bedroom looks like him – fun, interesting, warm, inviting. There are books, comics, notebooks and every other kind of paper in the world as well, along with photos, origamis, replicas… Things. His old bedroom is full of all kinds of things.
And Jeongguk wants to see it all.
“Go ahead. Look around all you want.” Taehyung allows, sitting on his bed and watching as Jeongguk starts to pull his bedroom apart.
“What is this one about, Tae?” He asks god knows how many hours later, about a book he just found under the desk. Taehyung doesn’t answer. “Tae?”
Of course he fell asleep still sitting, his neck in the wrongest position possible.
Jeongguk leaves the book on the table this time, instead of under it, and he heads to the bed, setting up everything and helping Taehyung to properly lie down.
He opens his eyes groggily a few times, clearly sleeping.
The bedroom door clicks, maybe closing itself or being closed by someone – either way, Jeongguk can’t see with Taehyung clinging to him.
So he lies down, too, and allows Taehyung to get comfortable.
“Hey, Tae.” He calls in a whisper when Taehyung stops moving his head around and settles with one arm around Jeongguk’s waist and their legs tangled.
“Thanks for all this. Everything you’re doing.”
He smiles softly, forcing his eyes open even though they insist on closing again and again. “It’s my pleasure, Gukkie. Thank me when I succeed, though.”
“As far as I’m concerned, you already did.”
Taehyung lets out a puff of air that maybe was intended to be a laugh, and Jeongguk acts before he stops himself.
There’s a small and soft sound when he presses his lips against Taehyung’s forehead, and Taehyung sighs contently, and sinks his face on Jeongguk’s neck.
The next day, it’s a long and tiring car ride to Seoul.
Somehow, the brothers together on the front seats make it fun and bearable, with a few stops along the way to stretch their legs – not that Jeongguk needs to, but even he would go crazy if he were to be forced to stay seated in a car for more than six hours straight.
Yoongi takes the opportunity to snaps some pictures, and Jeongguk remembers his own camera.
“Oh. I liked doing that too. It wasn’t as professional, though. But I really liked photography.”
Yoongi lets him watch closely while he snaps the pictures, and Taehyung seems to find that entertaining and cute.
They arrive in Seoul a little early for dinner, but both brothers are terribly hungry, so Yoongi treats Taehyung to burgers.
Jeongguk misses the food, but, in a way, he feels satisfied just to watch them eat. These feelings he sometimes gets make him wonder about the link he’s sharing with Taehyung, but he makes no comments on it.
“We’ll meet my friend tomorrow morning. He doesn’t want to do anything during the night.”
They exchange questioning glances, but make no attempt to voice those questions.
Yoongi sighs anyway, waving his hand and saying “He’s not really fond of his gift, but we’re working on it. You’ll understand tomorrow.”
Jung Hoseok arrives with sunglasses, jeans jacket, and his ears folded down by a beanie in a way that looks almost painful.
Taehyung wants to fix it, his hands flying up on their own accord, but he stops them and pretends to scratch his own chin every time instead.
Jeongguk isn’t much better at his side, constantly poking at his own ears. Eventually, Taehyung is doing it instead, poking Jeongguk’s ears as they watch Yoongi talk to Hoseok on the hall, because he doesn’t want to come in – apparently, the guy is afraid of ghosts.
“At least all the drama makes sense now,” Jeongguk whispers, shuffling closer to Taehyung on the couch. “Although I have no clue on how he’ll help me if he’s essentially afraid of, well, me.”
Taehyung chuckles, tickling Jeongguk’s ears. “He knew right away you were a ghost though, did you see his face?”
“I thought he was going to join me for a second.”
There’s a beat of silence. Then Taehyung barks out a laugh.
When they stop laughing and tickling each other – for some reason, they had to –, Yoongi and Hoseok are both inside the apartment, watching them in silence.
Hoseok speaks first.
“So you’re not haunting anyone.”
Jeongguk shakes his head. “No.”
He shrugs, but Taehyung scrambles to stand and starts explaining everything he did that day on Busan’s beach, when they got attached. His research, what took him there, how it felt; he keeps no details from them, even going as far as to tell how he could touch Jeongguk’s tears the other day.
Hoseok asks to talk to him privately – or as privately as they could –, and Yoongi agrees with a nod, taking them to his bedroom and closing the door as he left.
“Are you sure he’s not using you? Do you feel tired? Or anything weird at all?” Hoseok touches Taehyung’s forehead, arms, spinning him around like he expects something weird to stand out.
Taehyung laughs. “No, nothing like that.”
He’s not good for my heart, but that has nothing to do with being haunted by a ghost.
Hoseok doesn’t sound convinced at all.
“He’s really a nice person, Hoseok-ssi.”
“He’s a ghost, and I do have trust issues with those. Also, I’ve never seen one connected to a living human. I might look collected,” he really doesn’t, “but it’s kinda freaking me out.”
At that, Taehyung stops.
“Wait. So you’ve seen other ghosts before?”
Hoseok sighs, “Unfortunately. You probably did too, you just didn’t realize. I realize, every single time, and it’s awful.”
Taehyung clasps his hands together in excitement. “So you’re what… an empath?”
“I’m screwed, that’s what I am.” Hoseok sounds tired, he scratches the back of his head and nods. “Okay, I’m going to help you, but that ghost better behave. If he does any sudden moves I’ll– scream.”
Taehyung laughs, because he can tell Hoseok is being a hundred percent honest.
They shake hands on it before heading back to the living room, finding Jeongguk at the same place on the couch and Yoongi near a window, gazing out thoughtfully.
“So?” He asks, slowly turning to them, and Jeongguk follows the movement, looking a bit like a kicked puppy.
Taehyung fights, once again, the urge to coo and spoil him rotten.
“Yeah, I’ll see what I can do, but you have to behave, ghost. I don’t trust you.”
Jeongguk nods, wordlessly, but the hurt in his eyes almost makes Taehyung punch his brother’s friend.
“He has a name, Hoseok-ssi, please.” He says instead, surprising everyone inside of the room.
Hoseok glares at him for a moment, but then he sighs and his shoulders slump down.
“I’m sorry, I just– that was rude, I didn’t mean to. Jeongguk.” He adds, as an afterthought, which showcases how unprepared he is to deal with this.
“It’s okay, Hoseok-ssi. I’m the one who’s sorry.” Jeongguk’s voice sounds small and choked, and that seems to get Hoseok’s attention. “I’m sorry for all the trouble I’m causing you. All of you.”
Taehyung truly glares this time, waiting for Hoseok to answer. He’s considering leaving – he doesn’t need the help of a bully, thanks – when Hoseok sighs.
“It’s not your fault, kid. Let’s see if we can find out what happened, yeah?”
Jeongguk shyly nods, and after that, things seem to settle down. Taehyung sits back at his spot by Jeongguk’s side, and Hoseok sits on the opposite couch, using the table between them to lay his tarot.
Taehyung oozes excitement, straining his neck to take a better look at the deck of cards. “Okay, this is so cool, I’ve been to a few fortune tellers before, with grandma, and it’s always so thrilling…”
Yoongi scoffs, sitting by Hoseok’s side.
“Hoseok-ah isn’t really a fortune teller, at least not yet. He’s fighting it.”
“I’m not fighting it, I just don’t see the point in getting deeper into this.” Hoseok makes a disgusted face, eyes trained on what he’s doing.
“This?” Jeongguk asks, still a little cautious, but being his curious self again.
Hoseok takes a deep breath as he cuts the deck into half. “I have something, and it makes me see things.”
“The sight,” Yoongi explains, sounding exasperated. “Hoseok has the sight. And it’s ridiculous that I have accepted it before him.”
Hoseok only grumbles in response, focused on his tarot. “I’m not good at this yet, right? But since I have this thing, it might tell me something either way. You don’t remember much of your past, yeah?”
“I remembered a lot, actually,” Jeongguk shuffles, eyes roaming to Taehyung and then back. “Ever since Taehyung’s been helping me, I remembered quite a lot. But never faces or names, or how I– uh, how it happened.”
Hoseok hums, stopping for a second before raising the tarot deck in Jeongguk’s direction. “Blow, I guess.”
Taehyung looks at Yoongi a little unsure if this guy can really help them, but his brother’s gaze is fixed on Hoseok, and serious.
If Yoongi really trusts this can work, then there must be something to it. Even if it looks highly unlikely at Taehyung’s perspective.
Hoseok finally spreads the deck along the table, and it’s a little stiff and rough on the edges, showing his lack of practice, but he manages.
“Now, pick six cards, Jeongguk.”
Each card that Jeongguk picks, Hoseok takes and organizes in front of him, turning them up and watching in silence until Jeongguk is done.
Then, they stay in silence.
The first one to speak is, surprisingly, Yoongi.
“This doesn’t make any sense, where’s the manual?”
Hoseok points to the manual inside the tarot’s bag without taking his eyes off the cards, in silence, and Yoongi takes it, slumping down on the couch as he reads it with his eyebrows furrowed.
They spend a good minute in silence, Hoseok’s eyes burning holes into the spread.
Taehyung starts feeling restless, trying to peek into the cards even though they’re upside down for them. “Usually the cards represent someone, right? Or something like that.”
Jeongguk fiddles intensely at his side. “Is there any death card in there? Because I’m dead, so it’s probably me.”
“No, Gukkie, that’s not how it works.” He pats Jeongguk’s hair, comfortingly.
“Then how does it work, oh, wise Taehyung?”
There’s a second of silence, and then he answers, “I haven’t got a single clue.”
“This also doesn’t make sense,” Yoongi mumbles, sounding mad as his eyes avidly scam the manual.
Hoseok keeps quiet, which is, honestly, maddening.
So, Taehyung stands up to look at the spread properly.
“Oh, a Five of Pentacles.”
“What’s that?” Jeongguk asks from the other couch, hands gripping it like he wants so much to follow Taehyung but he’s too afraid to.
The poor baby is probably still worried about scaring Hoseok.
“Loss,” Yoongi answers. “Financial, like, poverty. Maybe you died of hunger, Jeongguk-ah.”
Taehyung looks at his brother with incredulity as Jeongguk blinks too many times. “I don’t remember being rich, but I guess we had plenty of food.”
“Ugh, wait, I’m gonna search online.” He grabs his phone on his back pocket, sighing. He reads a few explanations before speaking again. “I guess it could be, like, a situation of adversity. Not necessarily material, like poverty. Probably this one is about your passing, Gukkie. Tarot usually tells a story, right, Hoseok-ssi?”
Hoseok hums, and that’s it.
Taehyung looks at his brother a little nervous now.
“Give him time, brat,” Yoongi whispers, annoyed. Annoyed by the manual, though. “The other one is a Knight of Pentacles, and according to this, it’s for efficiency. I have no fucking clue of what’s been efficient so far in this whole mess.”
Taehyung lets out a gasp. “Listen, it’s been slow but we’re doing progress every day!”
Yoongi doesn’t look convinced, but he abides. He moves his right hand around, saying “Right. So… Jeongguk went through shit, but something worked out, or you’re helping him, and then… Six of Pentacles.”
Taehyung was already searching it, and he yelps when he finishes reading its meaning.
“Six of Pentacles is success! Does it mean we’re going to succeed? Or we’re doing it right? I… Dammit, this is confusing.” He looks at Hoseok, almost pleadingly.
Hoseok doesn’t even blink.
Taehyung reads more, just to keep his mind busy. “Then there’s this… The Chariot? Conquest… Does it mean we have to take Jeongguk somewhere? At least it looks like they are good cards, right? I mean, there’s victory everywhere. If you ignore the part something bad happened in the beginning, haha.”
Yoongi shouts, startling even Hoseok. “ Of course you’d pick that card, it explains everything!”
They all look at Yoongi with utter disbelief. “You were saying just a second ago that nothing makes sense,” Taehyung observes.
“Listen to me, okay? Disaster, but then something goes right, and you succeed. But you need to go somewhere, and… Well, I don’t really get what this one means, Page of Swords, but The Star is definitively hope. Which means there’s hope, obviously.”
Taehyung blinks an uncountable amount of times.
“What?” Jeongguk asks, sounding completely lost.
It’s very relatable.
Taehyung is already reading something on his phone again, and he quickly starts reading out loud “The Page of Swords reflects an abundance of energy, passion, and enthusiasm. You cannot wait to get started on a new project or an idea, and to share that with others. You start all new projects, ventures and journeys with a huge amount of energy and excitement. The challenge, however, is whether you can keep it up. As with all Pages, the beginning always looks promising but something else is needed in order to maintain the pace… Something else?”
As he speaks, Hoseok looks at the card differently. He draws it, eyebrows furrowing, but another silence falls.
Once again, he doesn’t say anything.
“Oh my God, for fuck’s sa–”
“Taehyung,” Yoongi warns, shutting him up effectively.
Taehyung grunts, but it’s silent.
“So… Maybe there’s someone else we need? Rather than something, it could be someone. To achieve the hopeful end, whatever that means?” Jeongguk asks, a little unsure, careful not to disturb Hoseok.
Taehyung thinks it makes sense, but before he can voice his thoughts, Hoseok drops the card like it had burned him.
They all stare in silence as Hoseok’s eyes blink too many times, as if he hasn’t blinked in ages.
“What is it, Hobi?” Yoongi asks, tenderly, hand resting on Hoseok’s shoulder.
“Uh, hm…” Hoseok gulps, trying to find his voice. “This was intense. Uh… Water?”
Yoongi’s eyes meet Taehyung’s and he gets the message, rushing to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water and bring it to Hoseok.
“Actually, that could have been harder,” Hoseok says, after emptying the water bottle.
“How?!” Yoongi asks, his tone pitching higher, and then he coughs. “I mean, yeah, sure. But please tell us what you saw?”
Taehyung chuckles, receiving a glare from his brother.
“I saw someone on The Page of Swords. Jeongguk, do you remember a Park Jimin?”
Everyone looks to Jeongguk, whose mouth drops open, wordlessly.
“I guess…” His forehead wrinkles as he thinks really hard about it. “I think so, the guy I remembered when we visited Daegu Tower… It’s him.”
He looks at Taehyung, who opens his mouth in surprise.
“Oh, your boyfriend?”
Hoseok and Yoongi both wipe their heads to look at Taehyung. “Boyfriend?” They ask at the same time.
“He’s not my boyfriend, hyung, I already said that.” Jeongguk almost whines, which makes Taehyung chuckle and whisper a sure.
“Oh, good, I was going to say I didn’t remember Jimin-ah talking about a boyfriend.” Hoseok laughs, and now everyone’s looking at him again. “Oh, yeah, uh, I know him too. That’s why I said it could have been harder. The Chariot,” Hoseok points to the card on the table. “That’s me, I guess. You need to get to him, and I’m taking you.”
They all sigh in relief.
“I knew it,” Yoongi says, gummy smile and all.
“Shut up, you just confused everything. More. ” Taehyung whines, a mild headache starting in his temples.
“I’m gonna try to contact him, but either way, I know where he lives… We should leave to Busan tomorrow morning.” Hoseok is looking at his tarot again, expression conflicted.
“Thank you, Hoseok-ssi. Really, thank you so much…” Jeongguk says, and Taehyung nods eagerly. They both bow a little, making Hoseok flustered.
“It’s really nothing, boys, ah…”
Yoongi clasps his hands together, smiling generously. “Hey, Taetae. Just grab a few wons on my wallet and go buy yourself ice cream, yeah?”
He’s not saying no to that. Taehyung quickly grabs Jeongguk’s hand and bolts out of the living room, excited to finally explore Seoul a little.
“Don’t get lost! And take your phone with you!” Yoongi adds, apparently already rethinking his decisions.
Before they leave, Taehyung overhears a bit of the conversation happening in the living room.
“Ugh, maybe I should really learn how to use this thing.” Hoseok is still looking at the cards, hand on his chin. “I can feel it’s trying to tell me something. I feel blind.”
“Well,” Yoongi sighs, but it’s light and he’s smiling too. “Joon said so.”
“I know, and you also know I’m too scared to do this. Even if Joon said so.”
Silence, a low chuckle, and “This was a good experience though, wasn’t it? Maybe it’s going to help you more than scare you, you know? Going with them will be a good thing for you.”
Taehyung tries to close the door behind them as silently as he can.
Jeongguk should know their little walk around wouldn’t end on the ice cream buying thing. As it happens, Yoongi’s place is really close to one of Seoul’s main attractions, Namsan Tower, and Taehyung brilliantly suggests that they should head there.
Maybe it will bring another memory back, maybe Jeongguk will remember being there before, but at least this time he admits that he’s just curious to visit the tower considering he’s never been there himself.
Jeongguk can’t say he isn’t curious, too, so he just keeps his lips shut tight and piggybacks all the way there.
Which ends up being a two hours long walk. (Taehyung needs to get his definition of closeness checked, that’s for sure.)
It’s a harsh climb, once they’re inside the park, and Jeongguk can’t help but laugh of how breathless Taehyung sounds – but that just seems to give him more energy to walk, and when they arrive at the Tower’s entrance, Jeongguk has to admit: it’s worth it.
Taehyung seems to think the same.
They sit around for awhile, and Taehyung grabs something to eat for lunch. The budget is low, but Taehyung makes sure to leave enough money for both their tickets. It’s funny how it all works, because when they’re actually on the line to go up the tower, it’s nearing the sunset and Jeongguk wonders where the time went, how did it pass so fast if they were doing literally nothing, just walking around and seeing the lockers people left everywhere with love promises – and the messages on the walls, from names to places and even some kpop groups scribbled with black ink.
It’s a little crowded, people obviously opting to be there at the exact time to see the sunset, but they actually just got lucky – the line took so long it’s already starting when they get to the top of the tower, and there aren’t words to describe what they see.
Both stay in silence as they find a spot to watch the sunset, and admire the colors it produces on the horizon, spreading all over Seoul city.
Seoul is obviously bigger than Daegu, with a completely different feeling to the buildings and everything that builds the scenario under them, but as the sun goes down and the lights are turned on, the difference is even more surprising.
It doesn’t make it more or less beautiful – it’s just different, astonishingly so.
When Taehyung manages to say something, it’s a whispered “wow” to which Jeongguk agrees with a chuckle.
“I’ve definitely never been here,” Jeongguk informs, no memories triggered by the place nor the view.
“Me too,” Taehyung replies automatically, still stunned.
He laughs when he notices what he’s said, and Jeongguk joins him.
The ride down is crowded, too, and Jeongguk wraps his arms around Taehyung’s waist, the slightest bit uncomfortable when people keep glancing his way, sinking his face on Taehyung’s nape as the older watches the projection going on at the elevator’s ceiling.
At least he’s not seeing people looking at them, or Taehyung would’ve already blurted that Jeongguk is a ghost like he always does.
“Let’s just sit around for a bit before going back?”
“Uh, sure. Just… somewhere with fewer people?” Jeongguk asks, not wanting to sound antisocial but neither on the mood to endure people’s glances because he’s kinda glowing.
“Oh,” Taehyung nods, looking around already searching for it. “Okay.”
Taehyung looks at him with a playful smirk, but he finds a quieter place anyway and Taehyung lays down on a bench to watch the stars.
Jeongguk knows he’s just trying to rest, although Seoul’s night sky is a pretty sight with the tower right above them and all that.
“Tomorrow we’re going back.” Taehyung whispers, eyes in the stars and the stars in his eyes.
“Yeah,” he answers a little breathless, dragging his eyes to the sky too.
“Are you afraid, Gukkie?”
Always. But he doesn’t want to burden Taehyung with that.
“I guess it’s hard not to be at least a little afraid, Tae.”
“We should be optimistic about it, I think.”
“Yeah. I mean, the tarot spread was really good. I guess.”
“You guess?” He asks with a chuckle, then properly laughs. “Yeah, I guess, too.”
“That first card… It means something happened to you. I wish we could find out what was it.”
“Maybe we will. Jimin must know.”
“Hey, Gukkie… We’re going to fix this.”
Jeongguk looks at Taehyung, maps his chin, lips, nose, and cheeks with his eyes. Sometimes he thinks Taehyung might have something like his ghost glow, because he seems to shine, too.
He looks ethereal, too.
“Whatever it was… I wish I could go back, before whatever it is that happened, and tell myself to go grab a train to Daegu instead. Visit Daegu.” Jeongguk voices his inner wishes without thinking.
Taehyung laughs, looking away and shaking his head from left to right, but there’s a blush on his cheeks.
“Yeah? And why? What would you do in Daegu of all places, huh?”
He shrugs, noncommittally.
“Visit their tower, I guess. It’s not a romantic spot at all, I was told, but maybe I could take a cute boy with me, I don’t know. Make it worth it.”
In all honesty, he thought Taehyung would push him away and complain about the whole romantic spot thing again, but Taehyung sits up and faces him, not a single trace of annoyance on his face.
“Would you kiss him?” He asks, innocently.
Jeongguk gulps, his imagination is everywhere but in essence, they’re not being really specific and it’s safe, he shouldn’t freak out. He should act naturally.
“Yeah, if not then what’s the point?” He laughs, but it’s weak because Taehyung bites his lip and he looks away, unsure.
He looks afraid.
“Uh, if I said, I– well, I guess I’m not as bold as you, huh?” Taehyung laughs, still avoiding his eyes, and if Jeongguk had a heart, it would have sunk to his feet.
Taehyung is saying what Jeongguk thinks he is saying, right?
He panics. So, of course, he makes a joke out of it.
“No, you just took a ghost with you. Maybe go for a living person next time, Tae.” Jeongguk winks, and he feels like punching himself, but it’s okay because Taehyung looks at him again and he’s smiling.
“It was a cute ghost though, Gukkie.”
“And I wouldn’t mind if he kissed me.”
A pause. Jeongguk is grateful he’s already a ghost, or he’d definitely have become one now.
“You’re not saying you want to kiss a ghost, are you? Yikes.”
Taehyung laughs and punches his arm lightly. “Don’t be stupid, we touch all the time and it feels the same as touching a person, there’s nothing different.”
“Still, yikes.” He’s only half teasing, the other half is him freaking out.
“Just a smooch, then?” Taehyung bravely insists, still smiling.
God. Is he really asking for it?
And still. Still, Jeongguk doesn’t know what will happen tomorrow. He can be gone in a blink of an eye, and it’ll be over. He’ll probably be okay or whatever, but Taehyung?
If Taehyung really wants it, he deserves at least that. Something to remember him by.
He must take Jeongguk’s hesitation as a refusal, because he starts apologizing – so Jeongguk reaches for his face, maps it with his hands as he holds back the sad feeling inside of him, a certain urge to cry, and gets closer. Slides his finger to Taehyung’s nape, brings Taehyung forward. Nuzzles him, which draws a chuckle, too, and then, smiling, he whispers.
“You’re weird, I don’t know why I like you.”
Taehyung bats his eyes, almost seductively. “Cuz I’m cute. You said so yourself, didn’t you?”
And Jeongguk kisses him, chaste and long, almost as if he’s trying to memorize it himself. Even if he’s going to forget. Even if he’s going to remember, and miss it dearly.
Taehyung presses into it, hands sliding down Jeongguk’s arms, resting on his waist, pressing. Almost as if he’s saying, more.
But Jeongguk pulls away.
It’s evident that he tries not to look disappointed, but Taehyung comes closer, hugs him and whispers “I’m weird, but I’m glad you’re kind of weird too.”
Jeongguk snorts. He wishes he had time to show Taehyung just how weird he can be.
They’re taken away from Namsan Tower by one very angry call from Yoongi, which miraculously seems to give Taehyung all the energy he needs to walk back to his brother’s house.
“Me feet hurts!” Taehyung whines for the millionth time.
Jeongguk lays his head on Taehyung’s shoulder, faking boredom. “Not my fault you chose the wrong shoes.”
“You agreed when I said the Tower was nearby!”
“I’m not tired at all.”
Taehyung tries to make him fall off his back, even though he’s a ghost. The loser.
“Jerk. I bet you’re making this harder for me.”
“I weight absolutely nothing.”
“Are you really sure about that?”
They bicker all the way to Yoongi’s, and their playful banter never once exhaust. Not that they are fooling anyone, especially not themselves. As Jeongguk’s face is resting on Taehyung’s neck and Taehyung’s fingers slide from his hand to Jeongguk’s hair, it’s not like they’re even trying to.
It’s not the most comfortable Hoseok has ever been in his life, but he guesses he could be worse.
Yoongi really talked him into it, didn’t he? Nothing really new here.
Plus, the Jeongguk kid isn’t that bad. Nothing like the past experiences that Hoseok had with screaming ghosts that would literally haunt him saying they needed help, when all they wanted was to draw energy from him.
Jeongguk did give him a different vibe. Maybe because he was attached to Taehyung, or whatever, even though that wasn’t draining Taehyung’s energy at all. Whatever Taehyung did that day at the beach – that was wild. Hoseok would make sure to never get near any of that, ever. Tarot was one thing, rituals were another.
They leave to Busan in the morning, and being a chauffeur isn’t really his favorite pastime, but he can tell neither of the boys is willing to part and sit separately. It’s kind of cute, and now he gets what Yoongi means.
Taehyung is too nice for his own good, but for once, at least it’s someone that deserves this kindness.
“I couldn’t contact Jimin, so we might have to drive around a little,” he tells them, watching Taehyung blink sleepily and nod.
“That’s okay, Hoseok-ssi.”
“We should probably discuss how we’re going to talk to him,” Jeongguk says, shuffling uncomfortably. “I… I don’t want him to see me.”
Taehyung immediately reaches for his hand. “Gukkie…”
“I can’t. I’m sorry, I know it makes things harder… But it also makes them easier, in a way. Right?”
Hoseok thinks for a moment. That’s not the worse thing that could happen to them, actually.
“I think that won’t be a problem, Jeongguk.”
Taehyung looks at him, half relieved and half worried. “But what will we tell him, then?”
He taps his fingers on the steering wheel.
“Give me a few minutes, I’ll think it through.”
They come up with a plan that’s simple enough – there’s no point in complicating things further, after all.
Taehyung is Jeongguk’s friend, and he’s looking for him because he hasn’t had news of Jeongguk for a while now. Jimin doesn’t need to know how Hoseok knows he’s friends with Jeongguk, too, they’ll entertain him on the story of how Taehyung visited his brother Yoongi in Seoul and met Hoseok, and then they tell him about their road trip to Busan to meet him.
Luckily, Jimin won’t question it. He does know that Hoseok has a funny thing going on, even though he never went as far as Yoongi to call it The Sight. Worst case scenario, Hoseok reminds him of that.
The sun is starting to set when they get on Jimin’s street, and he hopes that Jimin still lives there. Searching around town during the night wasn’t really how he wanted this to go.
“Wait,” Jeongguk suddenly shouts, agitated. “It’s that house. The one with the bike parked in the front.”
“Are you sure? I remember it being at the end of the street.”
“I’m sure,” he nods enthusiastically, shaking Taehyung at his side, too.
“Ah, is my memory that bad? Okay, I’m parking here then.”
“Are you sure you don’t wanna go, Gukkie?” Taehyung whispers, and Hoseok does his best to give them privacy, but he sees as Jeongguk nods sadly.
They leave him on the car, and it’s a little nerve-wracking to ring the doorbell of a house you’re not even sure that belongs to the person you’re looking for, but Hoseok is sure that’s the least of Taehyung’s worries.
“Hey, kid.” Hoseok nudges him, and smile. “I know you’re worried, but I really have a good feeling about this. Whatever you’re doing, it’s the right thing. You’re really helping him.”
Taehyung seems to get a little less tense after that.
“Thank you, really. For everything.”
“Yeah, no problem. Also, do you think your brother is, by any chance, into me?”
That seems to end the deal, Taehyung bubbling up in laughter and covering his mouth with both hands, eyes wide in surprise.
“Really? Oh my god. Well, I don’t know, but I guess? What did he ever do to woo you, though? You’re too nice, Hoseok-ssi.”
Hoseok laughs, shaking his head. “I guess you can start calling me hyung, Taetae. And thanks, but he’s actually nicer. You know that, you’re his brother. But, it’s like, I don’t know, he’s really cute?”
Taehyung raises his eyebrows. “Are you asking me, hyung?”
“No. He’s definitely cute.” Hoseok aggressively nods, making Taehyung laugh again as they reach the house’s door.
“That’s a good sign, I think. He’s cute to the people he likes. So good luck! I guess.”
Hoseok scoffs. “So you approve?”
“Me? After everything he’s made you do, I think the least he could do was take you out on a date. And pay for everything. Also, give you the suck of a lifetime, after.”
Hoseok is still gasping for air when Taehyung takes a deep breath and rings the doorbell.
An old man appears at the door, a minute later, opening it and looking at them with surprise. “Yes?”
They both bow before Hoseok starts explaining.
“Hi, my name is Jung Hoseok and I’m an old friend of Park Jimin, this is his house, yes? I tried calling him but I guess his phone number must have changed.”
“Oh, wait a second.” The man vanishes, closing the door behind him.
“This means it’s the right house, yeah?” Taehyung asks, tapping his feet anxiously.
Hoseok shrugs, looking around and still feeling like his memory betrayed him. “I’d think so.”
A minute later, the door opens again to reveal a blond boy who looks very surprised to see him. Of course, he’d be the same if Park Jimin appeared at his doorstep in Seoul.
“It’s really you, Hoseok hyung!” First, the hugging. Then, the question. “What are you doing here? It’s been years!”
Hoseok laughs, and points to Taehyung. “Jimin-ah, this is Taehyung, he’s the younger brother of a friend of mine.”
“Oh, nice to meet you, Taehyung-ssi. What brings you both here, though? I’m just really confused.”
“Sorry about that, I tried reaching you but I couldn’t. The thing is, Taehyung here, he’s been looking for a friend for awhile, and I thought you might know him? We were just casually talking when he came to visit his brother at Seoul, and when he said his friend was from Busan I immediately thought of you.”
“Oh,” Jimin’s expression becomes serious, and he nods. “I’m sorry, yes, of course I can try to help you. What’s his name?”
Taehyung takes a deep breath before saying, “Jeongguk.”
It’s like Jimin stops breathing.
“Oh.” He laughs, then, but it lacks everything that a laugh should have. “Huh, what a coincidence.”
“Why? You know a Jeongguk? Maybe it’s him!” Hoseok talks energetically, but Jimin looks really sad.
He can feel Taehyung deflating by his side, too.
“I don’t know if it’s the same person, but I– know, a Jeongguk. A good friend, he– well, I guess I could show you a picture.” He takes his phone and unlocks it, opening the photo gallery and tapping on a selfie. “That’s him, my Jeongguk.”
Taehyung smiles, but there’s pain in it. Just like Jimin’s whole body language.
“Yes, that’s him. What– I’m sorry to ask this, but do you know where I can find him?”
Jimin nods, and he looks like he’s struggling to keep himself together.
“Yeah, I guess you could check the hospital. They’ll tell you what you need to know.”
Jimin types the address on Taehyung’s phone, along with Jeongguk’s full name – Jeon Jeongguk – and it’s really not that far. Hoseok offers to ride him there but Taehyung declines, bowing to Jimin and thanking him for the help, excusing himself before Hoseok even gets the chance to suggest anything else.
They watch as he power walks away, probably to cry, and Jimin sighs heavily.
“That tough?” He asks, carefully.
“Yeah.” Jimin sighs again, but then he gives Hoseok a small smile. “It’s good to see you, though. Anyway, how did they know each other? Jeongguk never mentioned a Taehyung to me, and we were really close. He joined the dance crew a little after you left for Seoul, hyung.”
“Oh! So he was a dancer too?”
“Taehyung didn’t know that?”
“He didn’t mention it to me,” Hoseok scratches the back of his neck, embarrassed.
“Well, want to come in? I was preparing dinner. Taehyung might take a little long to come back.”
“If it’s not a bother, I’d love to. Also… I hope you don’t mind me asking, but why? What… is he going to find at the hospital?”
Jimin smiles again, filled with longing. And then he starts to tell him.
Jeongguk isn’t in the car, but Taehyung already suspected it, so he keeps walking and waits until Jeongguk makes himself visible again.
Maybe he’s hiding his tears from Taehyung. Taehyung would sure do it if he could. Even though Jeongguk said that making himself invisible didn’t feel any good, he still did it a thousand times to bully Taehyung’s bullies. It wasn’t a surprise that he’d do it now, for a somewhat “selfish” reason for the first time.
As far as he knew, Jeongguk could have walked with them to Jimin’s house.
“This isn’t the worst case scenario, Gukkie. It isn’t.” He eventually says, eyes on the kakaomap app on his phone as he walks through Busan’s streets.
It takes him a few seconds, but Jeongguk eventually says:
“I’m afraid, Tae.”
Taehyung stops in his tracks, turning into the direction of the voice. He sounds more than afraid, he sounds frightened.
“I am, too, but I was so afraid he’d say you were buried somewhere. I’ve never been so afraid to listen to something, Gukkie.”
He comes into view at the same moment his arms wrap around Taehyung’s frame.
“Tae, I’m so sorry…”
Taehyung laughs, but it’s strangled. “It means your alive, silly. Let’s go.”
Jeongguk doesn’t move, arms locked around Taehyung’s waist.
“I– you saw him, Tae. This can’t be any good. What if, what if I only go there to… what if there’s no way...?”
“Stopping thinking about what-ifs, and let’s go!”
Jeongguk laugh sounds strangled too, and he hugs tighter before pulling away and kissing Taehyung’s forehead.
It kills him a little on the inside, but Taehyung likes to pull up a strong front. More than ever, he thinks Jeongguk needs it.
“Smooch me, you coward.” He teases, eyebrows knitted together as if he was mad.
Jeongguk indulges him, so everything’s okay.
His touch on Taehyung’s cheek lingers, as careful as if Taehyung was something he could break with a simple touch.
Taehyung is stronger than that, but the gesture makes his heart blooms.
(The smooches are okay, too.)
“You’re still a weirdo for wanting a ghost’s kiss,” Jeongguk comments as they resume their walk, a smug smile on his lips as he clings to Taehyung as usual.
“Well, it’s not my fault you’re like the cutest ghost ever. I’d be crazy not to.” He pinches Jeongguk’s nose, affectionately. “Take responsibility, Jeongguk.”
The mood is lighter, somehow, and Taehyung knows they’re both desperately clinging to the chance that they can fix it. The tarot and the hospital – everything is pointing to a best-case scenario, even if it could still be hard.
Taehyung is up for it. He’d do anything to help Jeongguk fix whatever happened to him.
“That’s it. This is the hospital.”
“I should probably avoid being seen. Someone might recognize me.”
Taehyung nods. “Yeah, wait for me here, I’ll go ask for you and see what I can find out, okay?”
Jeongguk pulls him into a hug instead of answering.
“Thanks for everything, Tae.”
He laughs, and this time it’s effortless. “I’d do it all again and more, Gukkie. I’m going to do more. Just wait a little, okay?”
This time, he’s the one kissing Jeongguk’s forehead.
The younger smiles sneakily and says, “Smooch me, you coward.”
He walks on wobbly legs to the hospital reception, yes, but Taehyung likes to think it doesn’t show. Despite his heart beating wildly inside his chest, he wants to know. He needs to know what happened so he can fix things. So he can help Jeongguk.
There’s no point in running away from this.
“Hi, I’d like to see Jeon Jeongguk.”
There’s only one person working at the receptionist desk – his name tag reads Ahn Jaehyo, and he looks up with a little bit of surprise.
“Hello, and your name is?”
“Kim Taehyung.” He answers promptly, trying a small smile.
“Visiting hours are over, Kim-ssi. We’re very sorry.” Jaehyo looks sympathetic, but Taehyung isn’t playing games.
“I know, I’m sorry, it’s just– I came from another city, they told me you could explain what happened to him? I don’t mind waiting. If I could just– see him, too…”
The receptionist looks around – the hospital is calm, almost empty. He seems to be considering Taehyung’s request.
“I know Jeongguk. His mother works here, great kid, great family.” He sighs. “They didn’t deserve this.”
Taehyung’s heart stubbornly sinks.
“I’m sorry to ask, but could you– I never met his family, that’s why– we were more like, internet buddies, because I’m from Daegu. I didn’t visit Busan much. So, I don’t know what happened at all.”
Jaehyo nods, understanding. “His mom used to complain about him using the computer too much. Who told you that he was here?”
“Park Jimin. I didn’t ask him for details because he seemed pretty hurt– it’s hard, I just– I can’t go back to Daegu and pretend like nothing happened.”
It’s the truth, Taehyung realizes. In a way, he’s telling Jaehyo the simple truth.
“Yeah, of course. It was a car accident– a crash. No one died, but the car Jeongguk was in was the one who took the most impact. His friends were hospitalized for a while, too, they just got discharged last week. Minghao and Mingyu, maybe you know them too?”
Taehyung shakes his head negatively. “Just by name,” he lies, not to sound too suspicious. “Thank you for telling me, Jaehyo-ssi. Could you… tell me the room he’s in, too? I’ll just wait in the corridor, I don’t have anywhere to be anyway.”
Jaehyo looks at his computer screen, and sighs. “Yeah, I guess. Just be quiet, yeah? His mom will probably stop by at nine. She could let you in.”
Taehyung nods enthusiastically. “Yes, thank you, thank you so much.”
“It’s nothing, kid. Just don’t be loud,” he smiles a little, and asks for Taehyung’s ID to give him the authorization to go in.
Taehyung almost runs back out, saying he’s just going to call a friend to let them know he’s staying at the hospital, but in truth, he’s just anxious to give Jeongguk the news. They can fix it, right?
Coma is something serious, yes, but god. They should be able to fix this. And it means…
“Guk? Gukkie, it’s me, where are you? Come out.” He laughs, unable to hold himself. He’s just bursting energy, needing to let it out somehow.
However, there’s no sign of Jeongguk. “Gukkie?” He tries again, a little louder.
Taehyung slowly starts to panic.
He looks for Jeongguk everywhere, and eventually, he’s screaming to an empty street and lamp posts. Where did he go? Why isn’t he answering? He couldn’t have gone too far, they’re attached – Taehyung checks his bracelet for assurance, and it’s still there.
His phone rings on his pocket.
“Taehyung, Jeongguk is in a coma!” Hoseok shouts from the other side of the line. “I mean, it’s a kind of coma, they’re not really sure, sometimes he has some reactions they can’t explain, but he’s been kept alive by machines. Jimin said they wanted his parents to give up, because he was in perfect conditions to come back but he still remained in a coma for a month. Taehyung, Jimin said he cried once, Jeongguk, didn’t you say you dried his tears once?”
“I- I know, but I’m not seeing him, Hoseo-” Taehyung sobs, but then coughs and tries again. “Could you come here, please?”
“I’m already on my way. I hope you don’t mind, but I told Jimin– told him about you finding Jeongguk and all that. Jimin wants to help, too.”
“I- I don’t know where he is, Hoseok-ssi. I went back for him to tell him where he was and- I couldn’t find him.”
“Oh god, Taetae, wait for us. Don’t move. Where are you?”
“I’m outside, but. I can’t see him, he’s– he’s not–”
“Go inside, Taetae. Sit down, wait for us. Okay?”
“Yeah, okay. I’ll be in his corridor, they said he’s in room 161. I’ll be there.”
“It’s gonna be okay, Taehyungie,” Hoseok says one last time before ending the call, and Taehyung wills himself not to cry.
It’s driving him insane. Maybe Jeongguk just doesn’t want to be seen, but that doesn’t feel right. It can’t be it.
He goes inside and focuses on finding the right room. Like most hospitals, every corridor looks the same – it gives him a suffocating feeling, but maybe it’s not the corridors’ fault.
Maybe he’s not ready to face Jeongguk, real Jeongguk, the one being kept alive by machines and god knows what else. But maybe that’s where his Jeongguk is – the soul attached to him, the bullies bully, nose scrunched, bunny teethed Jeongguk.
Taehyung walks with a strength he didn’t know he possessed.
Room 161 is closed, of course, and there’s a small window beside the door – curtain blocking most of the view, and the lights inside the room are off anyway. Taehyung walks closer, trying to see what’s inside better, and two table lamps light Jeongguk’s sleeping face.
He looks well, though, and Taehyung feels the urge to cry again. He looks well, so why isn’t he well?
“Gukkie, are you here?” He whispers against the glass, nose almost touching it. “Gukkie, do you hear me?”
A tear rolls down his cheek, despite all his effort to keep them all in – Taehyung wants to reach, wants to touch him, hug him, bring him back.
He wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye, would he?
Is that what happened? Jeongguk left, without telling him?
Another tear falls, and he sobs. “Gukkie, come back.” He pleads, knowing he’s being pathetic, but indulging himself for once. The bracelet is still there, so Jeongguk has to be too.
There’s a low beep inside the bedroom, or so he thinks that’s what he hears.
And then there’s another. And another. Suddenly, it looks like too many of them, and it feels like something is completely wrong.
Before Taehyung even moves, there’s the hospital crew running to him – to the bedroom’s door, really. It’s almost as if Taehyung isn’t there, no one pays him any mind, just rushing into the room shouting to one another and moving things around, some in and out, and Taehyung gets a better look at Jeongguk.
He looks different, somehow, but now the lights are all on.
Taehyung walks in, trying out his luck. What’s the worst that could happen? He just needs to touch him, tell him to come back.
Tell Jeongguk that he loves him.
“Gukkie, are you here?” He takes Jeongguk’s hand, careful not to take anything of their place. Taehyung kisses his forehead, holding his breath. People will notice he shouldn’t be there at any moment, so he waists none. “Come back. You can do this, Gukkie. I love you.”
Someone grabs his arm, and for a second he thinks it might be Jeongguk, the ghost, but it’s just a nurse.
“Sir, please leave the room. We’re taking care of it.”
“Him,” Taehyung stubbornly corrects, but regrets it automatically. “I’m sorry, I’ll leave. Please, please help him.”
The nurse nods before he leaves, tears flowing like the dam that was holding them in just broke.
Taehyung sits, and he waits. More people come, but they don’t know him, have no idea why he’s crying, until Hoseok arrives with Jimin and they both hug him, even though they’re not that close. Jimin barely knows him, but he knows the pain he’s feeling, so they cling to each other and wait.
Something happens, everyone kind of feels it. Be it for the sounds inside the hospital room, or for the chill that runs up one’s spine, everyone knows something happened.
Hoseok is the first to speak, pointing to Taehyung’s wrist and whispering.
“Your bracelet, Taetae. It’s gone.”
It’s that same funny feeling again. He was waiting for Taehyung, he was. After eavesdropping their talk with Jimin, Jeongguk decided he wouldn’t do it again. Whatever the receptionist told Taehyung, he’d find out through Taehyung later.
Only, there’s something stronger each second that he waits, almost as if it’s calling him. Drawing him in, lurking, luring.
He can’t move, can’t resist or ignore it. Then, it happens.
He’s back at that same whiteness, static noise in the background, but now it’s different. He can tell things apart.
Jeongguk can see.
He sees the table at the end of the bed, and the couch by the wall. Sees what must be his toes, under a thin blanket. Sees the machines and the cables connecting them to him. They’re just flashes, things you catch in a blink, but at least it isn’t just white anymore.
He listens, too. Feels a warm touch, first to his hand and then to his forehead. Listens a soft “Gukkie”, and knows the lips saying those syllables so carefully.
Wants to see him, but he can’t. Needs to see him again, crazily so. He doesn’t remember much, but doubts there was ever anything else he had wanted this much, anyway.
He wants to.
“You can do this, Gukkie.”
He can’t. He wants to, but how?
“I love you.”
He does, too.
(Tanabata Tree )
It’s hours later, but the crew eventually empties the bedroom, leaving nothing inside – nothing but Jeongguk, of course, and the basic machinery.
The same machines everyone inside the hospital have in their rooms, and nothing more.
And even though they don’t tell Taehyung anything, Jeongguk’s mom cries with a smile on her lips, and they let her in – that’s enough for them three.
That’s enough for everyone watching the scene.
It takes a good while, but Taehyung isn’t really keeping track. He just watches as people go in and people come out, and if there are tears they are happy ones.
Jeongguk’s older brother eventually comes to them, eyes curious and smiling.
“Jimin-ah, who are your friends?” He asks, and they all stand up to greet him.
Jimin quickly introduces them. “Guys, this is Junghyun, Jeongguk’s older brother. This is Taehyung and Hoseok, they are–”
“Oh, so you’re Taehyung.” Junghyun cuts him probably without realizing, eyes fixed on Taehyung now.
“Uh, yes?” Taehyung answers, not sounding pretty sure of himself. “I mean, yeah, I am… but how do you know about me?”
Junghyun laughs. “Apparently it was the first thing he said when he woke up. Jeongguk. Your name, Taehyung. That must be you, I suppose. Maybe it’s another Taehyung, but considering you’re the one who is here...”
Junghyun shrugs and they laugh a little, too.
“Is he… How is he, Junghyun-ssi?”
Jeongguk’s brother raises an eyebrow, smiling. “Wanna check for yourself?”
That’s not really a question, and they all know it. Visiting hours were over a long time ago, but due to everything that happened and Jeongguk’s mom being a doctor at duty as well, the hospital was allowing a brief exception.
Taehyung didn’t think he’d be a part of it.
It’s only Jeongguk’s parents inside of the room now, as Taehyung walks in and bows to them both before turning in the direction of the bed. Junghyun is right behind him, closing the door as Jeongguk’s smile stretches and reaches his eyes.
“Mom, dad, this is my friend, Taehyung. He helped me come back.”
If Taehyung sobs, it’s just from happiness. He wants to run and hug him, but stays in place like his legs completely forgot how to walk.
“Really, son?” His mom asks, and Jeongguk nods.
“Yeah, he’s a little weird, Taehyung lives in Daegu and he visited Busan once to try some supernatural ritual, but he ended up saving me. He got stuck with me too, for like a month, carrying me everywhere like I was a koala and not a ghost.” Jeongguk laughs, and Taehyung can see that his parents are a little confused. “I know it sounds unbelievable, but he’s here, isn’t he? And I’m back. That’s how we met, and he brought me back.”
The first person to speak is Junghyun.
“Thanks, man.” He pats Taehyung’s shoulder first, but then he’s hugging Taehyung. “Thank you, really.”
Jeongguk’s scoffs. “Let me hug him, damn it. It’s like I’ve been waiting for ages.”
Taehyung laughs, this time running to the bed and throwing himself into Jeongguk’s arms without hesitation, feeling Jeongguk’s chest moving as he laughs too, air hitting Taehyung’s neck and ear – Jeongguk’s breath.
He hides his face on Jeongguk’s shoulder, taking deep breaths. “We did it.”
“Yeah. We did it, Tae. Thank you.”
His mom steps in, looking at the clock. “You should really rest, son. And Taehyung should, too.”
“Can he stay?” Jeongguk asks, arms stubbornly keeping Taehyung where he is.
He sounds like a spoiled child, and Taehyung fights the urge to laugh, poking him instead.
It obviously turns the hug into a – small – tickling battle. Jeongguk is hospitalized, after all.
“You know he can’t.” His mother answers, but she’s laughing at their playful exchange.
Jeongguk shrugs, allowing Taehyung to sit straight. “Well, it didn’t hurt to ask.”
His family kisses him goodnight before leaving, and his mom says “I’ll give you a minute, but hurry, okay? You’ll be discharged soon, and then you’ll have all the time in the world.”
She smiles heartily before closing the door behind her.
“So…” Jeongguk starts, clearing his throat and smiling big. “As soon as I get discharged, we’re going out. I’m taking you to a few places. And I’m paying. Okay?”
Taehyung nods, words caught on his throat.
Jeongguk drops a kiss on his cheek. “See you later, Tae.”
“See you, Gukkie.”
Jeongguk holds his hand, pulling him back.
“Not gonna ask for a smooch now, huh? You coward.”
Taehyung blushes ten different shades of red.
“God. You’re insufferable.”
“Yeah. And you better get used to it.”
Taehyung chuckles, pinching his waist. “Already did. Just need to get used to you looking so real.”
Jeongguk’s brings him closer with his hand on the back of Taehyung’s head, just as carefully as ever, and he pecks Taehyung’s lips.
It’s over too soon, but it’s already more than Taehyung can take.
“Good night, Tae. Try not to miss me too much.”
“Same goes to you, Gukkie.”
(Tanabata Tree )
He remembers everything now.
The car crash, the rain that day, Mingyu losing control of the car – and everything before that. His memories are intact, names, faces, everything where they’re supposed to be.
His other memories too. Meeting Taehyung, walking around with him everywhere, talking to him about everything and nothing, staying close to him because of his warmth. The moles on his face, the freckles he could only see from up close, his eyelashes.
Now, he has a proper heart to beat faster, and to forget to beat as well. It’s a funny rhythm which his heart makes when Jeongguk thinks back to everything he did together with Taehyung.
The other friends who were in the accident come to visit him in the early morning, Mingyu and Minghao both arriving an hour before visiting hours started – it’s understandable, but they try to avoid more people visiting Jeongguk because he really wants to be discharged as soon as possible.
They bring chocolates, update him on what’s been going on, ask about the mysterious boy that helped him – Taehyung went home with Jimin, and he’s probably coming by soon. So, obviously, his friends stay to wait for Jeongguk’s Savior.
It’s a bit of a mess, people showing up despite everything, with flowers and presents, but he sees when Taehyung arrives, and his eyes keep focusing on him shyly standing by the door as chaos ensues inside of the room.
Taehyung is obviously wearing Jimin’s clothes – maybe not the jeans, but the t-shirt and the leather jacket sure are. They’re not simple clothes as well, Jeongguk being familiar enough with Jimin’s wardrobe to recognize his best items.
He really just wants to leave that place, and take Taehyung out. Explore Busan, maybe give him a piggyback ride for a change.
Luckily for Jeongguk, his discharge happens pretty soon – his mom has something to do with it, probably, but he only drops a kiss on her forehead and a rushed thanks before grabbing Taehyung by his hand and running out of the hospital as fast as he can, Taehyung’s laugh like a soundtrack to their lousy escape.
No one is judging him, though.
He was stuck in that damn bed for too long.
“Where are we going?”
“The beach, of course.”
Jeongguk dodges the question.
“I’m hungry, are you hungry?”
“You call it, Gukkie.” Taehyung answers, going extremely soft on him.
They don’t have any need to say it – they both know that they know.
It’s his first time eating with Taehyung, properly. Instead of watching, he’s reaching for things first and fighting for the food, being kicked under the table despite the smile that Taehyung can’t hide. He’s eating, the feeling almost foreign, and his hunger is probably equivalent to all days he didn’t get to do this.
Or at least that’s the excuse he’s using to justify the amount of food he’s ingesting.
“So, you’re saying Hoseok has a crush on your brother?”
“That is exactly what I’m telling you.” Taehyung nods, munching his bulgogi.
“Huh, now it makes sense. Poor guy, the things he did for your brother…”
“Right?! I’m gonna make hyung take him on a hundred dates.”
“Cool. That’s an awesome way of thanking Hoseok for everything, really.”
“Right? Totally cool.”
“This is totally a date, too, by the way.”
Taehyung coughs, grabbing his cup of water and draining it in a second, as Jeongguk laughs.
“Don’t say those things out of nowhere!”
“How could it be out of nowhere, we’re clearly–”
“Yeah, yeah, sure, just– god, I miss when you were a ghost already.”
Jeongguk throws a napkin at his face. “Liar.”
They eat in silence for a few seconds before Taehyung asks, “Hey, Guk… What do you think that happened?”
That’s the question, isn’t it?
“I don’t know, Tae… what I do know is that you probably saved my life. Like, ninety-eight percent chance that you saved my life. I’m positive.” He laughs, and Taehyung blushes.
“I remember feeling like I was disappearing. Vanishing, I don’t know, it was a weird feeling. But then there was a strong pull, a strong feeling running through my body and lighting me up. Then I was linked to you. That was you. I think… Whatever you did, helped me stay here, so I could go back to my body? Saying it out loud sounds even weirder, wow. No wonder my mom thought I was hallucinating.”
Taehyung, however, seems to get it.
They finish lunch, and Taehyung demands ice cream. It’s a pleasant day, and they walk by the shore of Haeundae Beach eating their ice creams until Jeongguk spots their second destination.
He really thought this through.
“Uh? Where are we going, Gukkie?”
He lets Taehyung see for himself.
Busan Aquarium is located right by the seashore. Taehyung whoops in the air like a little kid, an annoying song playing on loop everywhere around them, and before they reach the entrance Taehyung is already singing along to it – Jeongguk is sure the lyrics will be stuck in his brain for the rest of the week.
“Busan Aquarium, Guk! I can’t believe, this is so cheesy! And to think you teased me for Daegu Tower!”
“This is a date, Tae. Like, a romantic date. I’m not denying it, like you were.”
Suddenly, three kids pass through them. And then his parents, with more kids, and then the room is full of kids and their families.
Taehyung laughs. “Well… That’s actually the perfect romantic vibe to a date.”
“Oh, shut up.”
Jeongguk pays for their tickets, and buys Taehyung a tiara too – small cartoon sharks on the tip of the anthems and he knows they’ll look adorable on Taehyung.
His eyes shine when he sees the tiara, even though he tries to fake annoyance right after it. He wears the tiara, either way, wiggling his head so the antennas dance around, and a kid giggles behind them as they take the escalator down into the aquarium.
Colorful lights greet them, all over the water tanks with sea creatures and they head to one tank after the other, no stop, Taehyung’s nose almost touching the glass all the time.
“Those are piranhas, Gukkie! Oh my god. Look at them!”
“I like the warning. Don’t put your hand inside of the tank– I wouldn’t dream of it. Kind of makes me want to put something inside it, though.”
Maybe it’s a bit louder than Jeongguk would like, but Taehyung is just as loud as everyone else, running from one tank to another and shouting his name like a kid himself, and honestly, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Besides, all the kids fall in love with him so quick that there’s one who even wins a piggyback – and them, all the others want a piggyback too.
Jeongguk can relate. Taehyung’s piggybacks are indeed great.
They have fun with the kids especially inside of the tunnel that cuts through the biggest tank, where they can see the sharks and stingrays, and take photos with them. The parents allow Taehyung to play around with their kids so easily that Jeongguk gets a little stunned, but what really gets to him is a small girl that pulls his t-shirt to get his attention, and when Jeongguk kneels to talk to her she says:
“Your boyfriend is so cute, oppa! You look cute together.”
Jeongguk smiles shyly, his heart almost stopping inside of his chest.
He looks at Taehyung and can’t help but completely agree with what the little girl said.
The next stop is Busan’s Tower. It takes them a subway ride and a little walking, but nothing close to what Taehyung made them do back in Seoul. They manage to arrive a little before the sunset, finding a spot to sit by the glass wall.
“It’s more crowded!” Taehyung complains, like they didn’t visit freaking Namsan Tower just a few days back.
“At least it’s not a coffee shop, like some Towers out there.”
“I am insulted! That’s a great coffee shop you’re talking about, mister. They make the best strawberry smoothie in the world!”
“Wouldn’t know, I was a ghost back then. You’ll have to take me there again.”
“I sure will!!”
“As a date?”
“As a date!”
“Great.” Jeongguk snickers, Taehyung not even blinking until he notices what he’s said and his whole face goes red.
“Listen, we don't have much in Daegu, okay, it’s even a surprise they managed to have a tower and making it touristic enough, and sustainable at that…”
No matter how endearing it is to watch Taehyung rambling, Jeongguk prefers when he stutters. So he grins cheekily and interrupts the rambling session. “They have you.”
Taehyung stops with his mouth open and blurts a confused “What?”
“I said. Daegu has you.” Jeongguk shrugs. “Looks pretty rad to me.”
Taehyung mouths “pretty rad” and sure mumbles a lot of gibberish until he’s punching Jeongguk’s shoulder too aggressively.
It hurts. It’s amazing.
“It’s not the time to be smooth, Jeon Jeongguk, we’re having an important discussion right now!” The record playing inside the Tower starts its last language, which he can’t be sure because it really is a little crowded and people are louder than the kids in the aquarium, but it sure sounds like Chinese, and Jeongguk leads Taehyung to the best spot to watch the lighting show that will happen at one the glass wall of the Tower, without the older boy even noticing.
“It’s actually the right time, Tae.”
“What? No, it isn’t, I…”
Right on cue, the music starts and Jeongguk steps to the side, allowing Taehyung to see the first lights appearing on the windows in front of them. At the end of the lighting show, Busan Tower leaves a space for messages from their visitors, and Jeongguk sneakily slid one of his own to the workers.
When it appears, Taehyung’s mouth falls open.
I love you too.
The crowd watching the small show coos, a few curious eyes searching around for who might be Kim Taehyung, but soon the show ends and the crowd disperses again.
Jeongguk takes Taehyung’s hand and guides him back to the glass wall, so they can see Gwangandaegyo, the Diamond Bridge, as it changes colors and light up the waters under it.
“You heard it.” Taehyung whispers, shocked.
“Of course I did. Do you regret saying it?” He asks, intertwining their fingers.
“No! I wanted to. I’m just embarrassed. I, I meant it.”
“Good. I do, too.”
Taehyung looks down, biting his smile.
“Busan’s pretty rad too, Guk.”
“Yeah? You thinking about visiting it more often?”
“Maybe. You thinking about visiting Daegu?”
“If that’s where you are, then yes.”
When they take the elevator down, Jeongguk quickly assumes his dutiful place behind Taehyung, even though this time the elevator is empty – arms circling his waist, chin fitting his shoulder. It’s funny how it still feels comfortable, and even warmer in a way.
They step out, and the small area between the elevator and the burger joint – VIPS Burger, which makes Jeongguk instantly want to sing BIGBANG – is conveniently empty.
Jeongguk turns Taehyung around.
“Hey, Tae. Close your eyes.”
Taehyung complies, looking at Jeongguk’s smile as he closes his eyes. Jeongguk comes closer and cups his face, traces Taehyung’s jaw with the pads of his fingers, sinks them into Taehyung’s silky hair.
He finds the moles, then the faint freckles, admires the small blush high on Taehyung’s cheeks as he angles his head to kiss Taehyung’s lips.
This time, he allows himself to taste them, tongue swiping through the plump flesh and barging in, finding zero resistance from Taehyung’s side as he promptly pries his lips apart and allows Jeongguk in with a welcoming sigh.
All he can think about is finally, but it’s completely worth the wait.
(Wind Chime )
Taehyung never went home this fast – not even on the days he didn’t make any detours. He skips the end of the lecture, not even believing he went to University in the first place – who gives classes when there’s a whole winter holiday starting, anyway? He bikes home, at light speed – or the closest he can get to that.
He sure feels like he biked at light speed, though, as he takes a hot shower and feels his muscles cry.
“I was going to get you, Taetae.” Yoongi mumbles from their couch, looking even smaller with his legs pushed up under a huge blanket.
Daegu is really cold this time of the year. Taehyung just isn’t feeling it today. He’s too energetic to succumb to the winds of winter.
“Couldn’t wait! Gotta blast!” He answers already on his way out, checking if he sprayed deodorant before wearing his winter coat.
Yoongi grunts. There’s a chuckle from the kitchen, and Hoseok appears with a half-eaten sandwich.
“We can give you a ride, Taehyungie. Slow down.”
“There’s no need to! You’ll take too long. Yoongi is too slow, I’m already–”
“Jesus, I’m going to knock him off and wake him up only when his damn boyfriend arrives.” Yoongi throws the blanket away, standing up and fixing his clothes.
“Kids, no swearing!” Their grandmother shouts from her bedroom, sounding more entertained than mad.
“What’s the plan, anyway? We’re starting that schedule you showed us today? Tomorrow?” Hoseok side-hugs him, finishing his sandwich.
Taehyung huffs. “Listen, my boyfriend is a great kisser, so the first twenty-four hours are mine and mine alone. It’s been three months since he’s last been here, I miss his smooches!!”
Yoongi rolls his eyes.
“You were in Busan just last weekend.”
“It doesn’t count! That was before the exams, I don’t remember any of it.”
“Really now?” Yoongi raises his eyebrows. “Because I remember some of it. There was a visit to the supermarket, and it wasn’t for food if I’m not mistaken.”
“Shhhhh!” Taehyung’s eyes widen in panic. “Granny can hear you!”
Chaewon shouts from the bedroom again. “Oh, I’m definitely hearing you. There was something about a hotel room too! Late anniversary celebration, I bet. Or early?”
“That’s enough, I’m leaving! My boyfriend would never slander me this way! He’d smooch me!” He walks out of the house as fast as he can, hiding his flustered face.
Yoongi looks to his boyfriend, a confused expression with a pitch of disgust on his face.
“Leave him, babe. You’d miss my smooches too if we didn’t live in the same city. You practically beg to see me every day.”
Taehyung gasps, walking back into the house with wide eyes, and Yoongi wipes his head to face him and says, “No. He’s just being dramatic.”
“Am not. I got proof.” Hoseok takes his phone, but Yoongi quickly puts it away, a small pout on his pink lips.
“Shush, whatever, Taetae’s still disgusting. Let’s go!”
They arrive at Dongdaegu Station a few minutes before the train arrive.
“Why are you so pumped?”
“He never went to the farm again, Soonshim won’t hide this time! I picked strawberries for him myself, and this time he’ll eat them! And I gotta take him to the tower again, I worked my ass off to save some money so I could take him to the Amusement Park as well! There’s so much I want to d–”
Someone interrupts him. “I love you too, babe.”
Taehyung turns on his heels, yelping as he comes face to face with the combination he knows so well: crescent moon eyes wrinkled on the corners, scrunched nose, and bunny smile.
He jumps into his boyfriend, almost pushing them both to the ground, and after all the greetings are done, Hoseok and Yoongi help with his bags.
Jeongguk is pouting at him and Taehyung already knows what he wants. “Oh my god, Gukkie–”
“I missed you. So much.”
“Pleeeeeease, Taetae.” He blinks too many times, jutting his pink lips and of course Taehyung caves in.
“Hop up, bunny boy.”
Jeongguk laughs, wrapping his arms around Taehyung’s neck as Taehyung holds his legs in place.
“Hng. As comfy as ever.” He sinks his cold nose under Taehyung’s ear, making a shiver run down his spine.
“So many clothes in the way, god, it’s even harder. You’re too heavy, you muscle bunny.”
But Jeongguk is giggling right next to his ear, and the fact that Taehyung can feel Jeongguk’s weight on his back ends up actually being comforting. Even if it makes his leg muscles scream, and he’ll definitely have a back pain later, it’s all worth it, because Jeongguk is here.
(Love Letter )