When Jisung pushes his way past the dingy glass doors of the local video rental shop, the cashier at the counter twitches one of his ears and says, “What the hell are you even supposed to be?”
The store is stuffy, no doubt thanks to the boy behind the counter cranking up the thermostat to keep out the chilly autumn wind. It's empty in here too, save for cramped shelves of DVDs and a trio of girls huddled near the back. Jisung peers down at his flannel shirt and proceeds to T-pose, jutting his straw-lined wrist cuffs in front of Chenle’s face.
“I’m a scarecrow, duh.”
Chenle rolls his eyes. Leaning forward, he rests his elbows on the counter covered in peeling stickers, his head tilting to inspect Jisung’s costume. “Is that Donghyuck’s flannel?”
"Yes, but I stole it, so no," Jisung says, jumping onto the counter. He scoots to the side as the girls approach, their Mary Janes clicking in unison against the linoleum floor, seemingly having come to a consensus on which of the Twilight movies they want to rent out tonight. While Chenle rings them up, Jisung busies himself with the CD rack and mumbles a see you later as one of them waves at him on the way out.
He turns back to Chenle. "And what are you supposed to be?"
Chenle smiles and that's when Jisung sees it: the canines peeking out between his lips, shiny and plastic and sharp.
"You've got to be kidding me."
"Rawr. I'm you."
Jisung scoffs, his hand flying unconsciously to his mouth. "Really? Out of all the costumes?"
"Are you mad?" Chenle asks. He's tapping away at the register, closing things up, but his eyes are on Jisung. They’re luminescent, even under the fluorescent lights, and Jisung is reminded of a cooling cauldron he’d once seen at the apothecary shop, the dark surface of the potion it housed reflecting Jisung’s likeness. He could stare at Chenle’s eyes forever, but he doesn’t. Because that would be weird. Right?
Jisung shakes his head.
"Okay, I'm just gonna go to the break room to change out into my costume and throw on a jacket, I'll be back real quick."
Jisung watches as Chenle retreats behind the shelves, his tail slinking behind a display stand of Hallmark Christmas specials. Then Jisung slumps onto the counter and lets out a sigh.
To be honest, he’s still getting used to it. He doesn’t know where it started, can’t pinpoint the exact date, but somewhere along the span of the past year, he’d woken up and realized that he had changed. Everything is sharper now, the world narrowed to a pinpoint, and every time Chenle looks at him, he can feel the blood sing under his skin, in his veins where he knows it sits and pools and doesn’t move.
He parts his mouth and slips his thumb against his teeth, gliding it against the ridges until he can feel the sharp edge of a canine. Fangs. They were such a hassle when they first grew in, and even now, they sometimes snag on the inside of his cheeks when he talks too fast. He’s not as conscious about them as he used to be, but he’s still wary of them, like a teen with braces (which he was, just a few years ago. Ironic, isn’t it?)
From the back of the store, the break room door creaks on its hinges and Jisung jolts up. Chenle reappears a second later from the horror aisle, his hands shoved into the pockets of his windbreaker and— wait.
“Is that my jacket? That I’ve been looking for this entire week?”
Chenle feigns surprise, as if he’s seeing the tracksuit stripes and the name JISUNG PARK embroidered right above the heart for the first time. “Wow, who would’ve guessed?”
“Thief,” Jisung says, but there’s no bite. He slides off the counter, and Chenle’s standing close enough that their shoulders brush against each other, the polyester material of Chenle’s— Jisung’s—windbreaker skidding against his flannel.
“Ready to go?” Chenle asks him. He’s yanked the door open by its greasy handle. The wind flits through the store, cold and beckoning,
Jisung steps out onto the street, sucking in a lungful of the October air. Leaves crunch under his sneakers, a sign that Chenle had forgotten to sweep the storefront yet once again, but when he looks back at Chenle, his shoulders hunched as he wrestles with the lock, he holds back the snark, just this once.
“Ready,” he mumbles instead underneath his breath.
The walk is cold. Jisung is pretty immune to it, being undead and all, but Chenle shoves his hands deep into the windbreaker and puffs his cheeks, blowing pale white gusts into the darkening night. Halfway into the walk, he huddles against Jisung, and ironically, it’s Jisung who finds himself leaning further into the heat of Chenle’s body.
The coven house is only a handful of blocks away. Carved pumpkins line the pathway to the modest two-story, and the lawn is littered with plastic tombstones and cobwebs— a Party City imitation of the sprawling graveyard just beyond the backyard.
“Is that my shirt?” Donghyuck asks when he opens the door. He’s got one hand snaked around Renjun’s waist and the LED light strips Jaemin had pasted up on his living room walls against Doyoung’s best wishes pulse out between their frames. Jisung can’t help the way his eyes snag on the gesture, how Renjun’s head rests on Donghyuck’s shoulder and his pink cowboy hat sits at an askew angle to accommodate the position. He forces himself to peel his eyes away.
“No,” Jisung squeaks, just as Chenle says, “Yup.”
Donghyuck narrows his red eyes, but steps aside to let them past the fringes of his cape.
“What are you?” Renjun asks, pointing at Jisung.
“A scarecrow,” Jisung sighs. “Why does everyone ask me? And not Chenle?”
Chenle bares his plastic fangs, and Renjun just laughs, patting him on the shoulder.
They find their way to the kitchen, where Jaemin stands in a white suit and garish red tie, doling out “blood punch” that’s really just jungle juice with extensive food coloring. (Jisung knows the real blood is in the back of the fridge, behind the jug of orange juice and containers of leftovers. For later.)
“Wait, let me guess,” Chenle says, sidling up to the counter with two red cups. “The KFC man?”
“This is like the 20th time tonight,” Jaemin grumbles. He ladles the punch into the cups and hands them back to Chenle, displeasure marring his face. “I’m Kaitou Kid? From Detective Conan? How is that not obvious?”
Jisung takes the cup that Chenle shoves at his chest, definitely not lingering on the way Chenle’s fingers graze against his. Warm, so warm. “I can see it,” Jisung says, and distracts himself in Jaemin’s self-satisfied grin.
The basement is hot. Chenle unzips the windbreaker and lets it bunch up at his elbows. His “costume” is a white button down splattered with red stains, the top few buttons popped to relieve him of the heat building under his collar.
Fickle cats and their fickle body temperature.
“We’re outnumbered,” Chenle says. Jisung scans the room, squinting at the corners where the disco light doesn’t reach. Shadows creep around the grainy perimeter, shifting, colliding against each other relentlessly— oh.
“Jesus, is that Mark? Sucking faces with Kunhang ?”
And yes, yes it is, even if Jisung would rather hit his head against the marble kitchen counters and see how well concussion-induced amnesia works out than have this image of Kunhang copping a feel of his cousin’s ass seared into his memory.
Nauseous, they edge out a spot on the couch, next Donghyuck and Renjun. For approximately ten minutes, Jisung figures that it’s fine. Chenle sits next to him, and their knees knock against each other, and Jisung falls into the rhythm of the banter between all of them, laughing as Donghyuck launches into an exaggerated imitation of Mark in the corner.
But eventually, the trap remix of a Top 40 song gives away to something slower, sultrier, and the conversation drifts off along with the meandering beat. And Renjun is whispering into Donghyuck’s ear, words that make Donghyuck tilt his neck back and wind his arms around Renjun’s torso, and it’s all too ironic, all these couples in Jisung’s periphery, wrapped up in each other’s presence, when these days, Jisung can barely make eye contact with his best friend and not feel like his (non) beating heart isn’t about to hanmer out of his chest.
He turns to Chenle, a question forming on his tongue. Of course, Chenle beats him to the punch, his fangs iridescent, neon glow.
“Wanna get out of here?”
The backyard is empty. Someone’s left on the patio lights, and the bulbs cast a sepia tint into the inky night, spilling down the porch steps and into the grassy field.
“Are you scared?” Chenle asks. He’s left the windbreaker on the couch, and now, seems to regret it, wrapping his arms around his knees as he stares off into the distance.
“No.” Before, definitely. When Jisung had first come to the coven house, he’d steered clear of the backyard and its open view of the graveyard. Even if they were far away, the tombstones dotting the hill terrified him in a way unfitting of an undead. (Technically, he isn’t dead. The dead are way creepier.)
But now, the graveyard is just that: the graveyard. The novelty’s worn off, traded for familiarity, as with most things in Jisung’s now immortal life.
“Good,” Chenle sniffs. “If there are evil spirits, I’ll push you their way.”
Rolling his eyes, Jisung takes another sip from his cup. He’s barely touched it since he’s gotten it, instead having opted to hold it like an accessory for the past half hour. The punch slides down his throat and burns in his stomach, leaving a sickly sweet aftertaste.
“Who let Jaemin make this.”
Chenle laughs, the sound high-pitched and echoing in the night. “Gross, right? I mean, I drank half of mine, but I couldn’t finish it.” His last syllables are eclipsed by a shiver and because it’s given, he leans closer, rests his head against Jisung’s shoulder. His ears graze against Jisung’s jaw, soft and warm.
“You’re the worst kind of space heater,” Chenle mumbles. “Not warm at all.” Still, Chenle doesn’t budge and a part (read: all of) Jisung is glad. So glad.
“Hey,” Jisung whispers. There’s no one out here but them, and maybe the ghosts, but Jisung can’t help himself. He doesn’t want this moment to break, no matter how many Olympic stunts his preserved digestive organs are performing right now. “Are you drunk?”
And he was right to worry, because the second the question leaves his mouth, Chenle is pulling away, squinting at Jisung with an indecipherable look in his eyes.
“No, I’m not drunk. Are you?”
“No.” He holds up his cup and gives it a light shake. “Not at all.”
“Oh,” Chenle says, softly. His eyebrows are no longer furrowed and for a second, Jisung thinks he can see it, the cogs turning round and round until the lightbulb sparks to life and really, he should say something to break up whatever this awkward lull is ballooning between them as a pulsing trail of bad EDM slips through the screen doors except—
Except Chenle is kissing him. On the mouth (duh, where else?), hard and fast before yanking away.
“What,” he blurts out. “What—”
“Be honest,” Chenle says. His voice is loud and crass, but Jisung can hear the fissure pop cracks between the shaking syllables, feel the lingering touch of Chenle’s hand on his shoulder. “Do you want to kiss me?”
This is a no-brainer (but to be fair, Jisung’s brain is still intact).
Chenle grins, and his fake fangs are so stupid, ill-fitting where they jut against his lips, but Jisung has misplaced his judgment somewhere in the span being young and alive and being young and undead, and this moment, underneath the full moon, kissing the boy of his dreams in the mouth of a graveyard?
This moment will never get old.