Sehun’s eyes flit open and he blinks lethargically for a moment before he stiffens and recalls that he should be too scared to open his eyes. Thank God, it appears that what happened was all just Sehun’s hallucination, the spirit was clearly a figment of his imagination since he (it? Actually, it looked like a ‘she’.) is clearly nowhere to be seen now-
“Good grief! You were out for so long, I thought you were as dead as me!” A white grisly face pops out of the ceiling and shouts at Sehun, who’s still lying on the floor of his newly rented apartment.
Sehun faints again.
“Don’t you dare-“
Sehun flops over.
The ghost throws up his semi-transparent hands. “The living,” he grumbles judgingly under his breath.
A boy sits on his couch when Sehun regains consciousness once again. Considering what he has just been through, this seems so mundane that Sehun doesn’t even ask who the beautiful stranger is although he’s so pale, Death seems to be riding on his shoulders. But when the boy smiles in the next instance, his eyes burst into life and Sehun could almost see the fierce pink high on his white cheeks. He stares, transfixed by the heart-stopping smile, until the boy quirks an amused brow, clearly used to reactions like this. So Sehun drops his eyes to hide his fascination.
“People are so superficial. They never faint or scream when I put this face on,” the boy says with an exaggerated sigh.
“Where…” Sehun mutters uncertainly while he slowly gets up, but refuses to turn around for fear of what he might see.
The boy quips brightly, “Oh, this?” To Sehun’s horror, that adorable pixie face twists until he could no longer recognize it. Or he could; it’s the one that scared him into unconsciousness thrice. The top left of the boy’s head dents until his eyes almost bulge out, skin around the lower half of his face cracking and peeling like old paint on weathered walls to reveal black patches. The boy’s new face has jaws that seem unable to snap tight; they hang a little loose and Sehun could almost hear a bloodcurdling scream emitting from it, although silence reigns in the living room. But there’s no blood; it’s as if the red liquid has long oxidized into rust and flaked off. Sehun realizes then that the boy isn’t pale, he’s simply white all over.
He gives a sharp yell of shock and his legs go soft, tripping him to the floor. Sehun frantically scrambles to his legs and hands to push more distance between him and the apparition.
The ghost gives a long-suffering sigh and rolls his bulging eyes. “At least this one doesn’t seem to need an ambulance,” he concedes grudgingly to himself, like he’s putting down a point in his list of Pros and Cons of the Living. Then he runs a white hand over his ruined face, skin stitching closed and bones mending in its wake. The ghost reverts to the beautiful boy. “Keeping up appearances needs a lot of energy, you know,” he chastises Sehun.
In reply, Sehun screams.
“Urgh, stop it, I’m already dead,” the spirit grimaces and slaps his hands over his ears.
But, What happened to the one that needed an ambulance? Sehun thinks after he ceases screaming, wholly horrified.
“My name’s Lu Han,” the boy says, “was. Bad habit,” he shrugs, sounding far too cheerful for the dead to be and puts a hand out like he expects Sehun to just casually shake a ghost’s hand.
Sehun’s pretty sure he’s not that casual yet.
“Don’t hurt me,” he whispers in a small voice.
“Excuse you, I’m not like that little boy in Ju-on,” Lu Han looks offended. “Shake my hand, or else,” he threatens.
Sehun could see Lu Han’s porcelain skin begin to shrivel already so he whimpers and reaches a shivering hand out. But his touch merely dissolves Lu Han’s hand into shimmering dust before the sparkling particles gather to form a white hand again. Sehun flexes his fingers curiously; he could feel pins and needles on his own hand. Lu Han is electrifying.
“Gotcha,” Lu Han smiles with satisfaction and withdraws his hand, as if his death has all been a joke.
This is when it registers to Sehun. “Why do you have legs?” he asks Lu Han timidly.
“Only Japanese ghosts have no legs,” Lu Han replies easily, like it’s a fact he has known even when he was alive. “Right, Ryoda-san?” he looks to the right and smiles.
Slowly, Sehun’s head swivels to the right, but he sees nothing. He turns to look at Lu Han again with wide petrified eyes.
“Oh, he’s there; you can’t see him,” Lu Han assures him. “He was from World War II. Fucking grenade,” he shakes his head mournfully.
Sehun bites his lower lip and inches backwards again.
“Don’t be silly, you’ve been living with ghosts your entire life. That weird sound you hear at midnight but turn around to see no one behind you? Don’t turn back next time, we’re always there,” Lu Han leans down to whisper in Sehun’s ears. It doesn’t even tickle. Lu Han has no breath. He makes Sehun forget to breathe, too.
“You just can’t see us.”
“Unless we want you to,” Lu Han said so yesterday but he isn’t around when Sehun wakes up the next morning and he’s quick to declare himself sane again when a pair of feet suddenly drops down and hangs swaying from the kitchen’s ceiling. Sehun takes a deep breath and opens his mouth.
What Sehun has come to know as Lu Han’s ghostface appears beside the pair of feet and says serenely. Then, like an angel, Lu Han drifts down slowly from above and reveals his entire misty form that’s twisted at an impossible angle; he’s crumpled into an grotesque U shape, chest touching the back of his calves.
It’s a rather demanding request but that’s all right, Sehun is so freaked out he ends up not being able to make a sound.
“Ah, nothing feels better than a morning stretch!” Lu Han exclaims before righting himself when he lands beside Sehun. He unwinds himself with a 360 degree turn, molding his hips and torso into place as if he were made of plasticine. If he still had bones, they would surely be crushed like glass in that posture. He grins, eyes almost popping out and Sehun wheezes faintly, “You just want to scare me.”
Lu Han’s grin almost splits his face open (Sehun tries not to think about how true that literally is); he has the decency not to protest that. He runs a hand over his face and resumes being cute. “Missed me? I was just out for a bit because someone was asking for lottery numbers. Had to make a trip down to the nearest cemetery.” Sehun looks so unimpressed that Lu Han tuts.
Sehun didn’t know ghosts could tut. He’s left feeling so stupefied and distracted and scared by his new supernatural roommate that Sehun doesn’t actually feel that terrible this morning.
Later that day, Sehun is lying on his bed staring at the ceiling when a voice startles him. He thought he has locked his door.
“What are you going to have for lunch?”
Sehun glances down and freaks out, legs kicking out in reflex, almost falling off the bed. His door is still closed but Lu Han now stands at the foot of his bed. He looked perfectly normal just a while ago but now has his ghostface on. Just half of it though, so Sehun could make a perfect comparison of his appearance before and after death. “Would you stop that!” he yells, shock making him forget for a moment, then he pauses. He has just gotten angry at a ghost. What happened to his life?
Lu Han clearly thinks the same. “Hey, show some respect for the dead, Sehun,” he scolds, reverting to his cute face.
Sehun is indignant beyond speech, torn between horror and irritation. Then a nonplussed look appears on his face, “How did you know my name?”
“I snooped through your belongings when you weren’t looking,” Lu Han answers honestly, crawling onto Sehun’s bed, as if he were a visiting friend.
Sehun’s jaw loosens with incredulity. He didn’t expect ghosts to behave like sneaky humans. Don’t they just become all-knowing by default when they become ghosts?
“So, lunch,” Lu Han asks again, making himself comfortable on Sehun’s bed by crossing his legs.
“You don’t eat, do you? Why do you care?” Sehun asks. Chris, he’s chatting with a ghost.
“Making conversation, you didn’t eat anything yesterday, don’t you get hungry? You’re so scrawny.” Then the truth slips out as Lu Han shrugs. “There’s not much to care about anymore.”
Sehun tries and fails to not feel apologetic. It’s just that when he’s not up to his ghostly acts, Lu Han behaves so much like any other person he knows.
Lu Han rolls his eyes at the sorry expression on Sehun’s face. Thing is, his eyes go round and round in their sockets until Sehun whimpers. Satisfied with his reaction, Lu Han stops his eye rolling antics and says, “Look, we should be friends,” he shrugs carelessly, “kills the time.” But Sehun thinks the ghost looks hopeful.
He’s not hungry, but Sehun hates to ruin that look on Lu Han’s face. He looks too young to die. “Maybe… tangsuyuk?”
“My favorite when I was alive,” Lu Han beams with approval.
Then he pesters Sehun to sit down and eat when the food delivery arrives, heckling him all the way through lunch.
Surprising himself, Sehun manages to finish half of his lunch. He has almost forgotten tangsuyuk tastes so good.
“I know you’re doing it again,” Sehun says dryly. It’s been only a month since he moved in, but Sehun is still amazed at the kind of things he can get used to once he has gained sufficient exposure. He’d rather curl up in bed like what he usually does, but Lu Han has taken to sticking himself onto the ceiling and staring back at Sehun when he does that; so he now spends his time in the living room.
“Hovering above my head, walking upside down on the ceiling,” Sehun says without moving his eyes away from the television.
Then very slowly, Lu Han crawls out of the television screen. His limbs twist and flex at impossible angles, making strange creaking sounds as he does that.
Sehun shrieks and scrambles as fast as he could away from the ghost, falling over the couch in panic.
Lu Han, however, just continues to pull his form out from the television. “I’ve always wanted to cosplay Sadako.”
“That’s not what friends do to each other!” Sehun yells at Lu Han when he gets up from the floor.
“Well, ok,” Lu Han says, placating Sehun. He glances over at the screen and throws his hands up as if to say, oh, what the heck. “Shall we watch the show together then? I’m pretty sure friends do that.”
And that’s how Sehun ends up making peace with a ghost by watching Choi Jiwoo’s latest drama together. It was uncomfortable at first, not just because of the obvious; Sehun cannot recall the last time he watched a show with another person, not even Jongdae. Then at one point, they squabble over the plot and Lu Han even sulks a little when he loses the argument. Gradually, it begins to feel like companionship.
It makes Sehun realize that he has been feeling lonely, too.
As incredulous as it sounds, Sehun gets used to living with a ghost. The apartment is lovely; the streets below lined with cafes are lovely; the amazingly low rent that started all this is lovely; the ghost is lovely, too. Oh, scratch that last one, maybe. After Lu Han realizes his ghostface could no longer shock Sehun – especially after that harrowing episode when Lu Han removed his own head with ghostly entrails dragged out from his being, trailing from his neck while Sehun was having a lunch of, hey, gopchang-gui, what a coincidence! - he simply goes around with that adorable face now.
Honestly, Sehun doesn’t know which face is better for him. While he no longer has to deal with screaming like a teenage girl confronted with her favorite Kpop idol every time Lu Han drifts into the bathroom with his ghostface on, he also finds himself staring at Lu Han’s perfect pale face from time to time. Is it ok to find a ghost attractive? Sehun thinks he might have even more issues than he thought.
He learns how Lu Han works. He can drift through walls and lift things but Lu Han cannot touch the living. When he touches Sehun’s physical body, Lu Han simply bursts into glittery dust that flits around playfully in the air, swimming and swarming and sparkling around Sehun who could only reach out and let the particles filter through his fingers in enchantment, before they merge once again to form Lu Han. He has always reminded Sehun more of a fairy tale than a horror story. Sehun hopes Lu Han never knows that expression on Sehun’s face whenever he turns into stardust. It’s embarrassing how amazed he is by Lu Han; Lu Han who’s breathtakingly beautiful even when he ceases to exist, even when he becomes something less than a spirit.
It’s like having a roommate, just that he’s semi-transparent, doesn’t eat, and seems to really enjoy bickering with Sehun once he gets over the fact that he’s living with a ghost, Jesus Christ. Alright, maybe he’s never going to get over it. Lu Han seems to be around his age, perhaps younger when he… you know. And he acts like any one of Sehun’s friends. He likes pop music, he likes chatting, he likes television and Yoo Jaesuk and he likes talking about the kind of food he loved before he snuffed it. Thing is, he likes reminiscing about tangsuyuk when Sehun is having champong, or describing other out-of-reach desirable food that suddenly makes Sehun’s ordered-delivery-of-the-day look like crap in comparison. One time, Sehun throws some scallion at Lu Han to make him shut up about naengmyeon and it sails right through Lu Han’s transparent body. The ghost looks up with wide eyes, and there’s such naked fear and desolation in those soft eyes that Sehun is forced to remember that for someone who seems so alive, Lu Han sure is as dead as Death could be. Obviously, his death is a sensitive topic unless he’s the one who brings it up. Sehun wishes he wouldn’t make it a joke though.
Lu Han always disappears in the night and Sehun figures he’s up to ghostly things. As long as he doesn’t stand at the foot of his bed and watch him sleep, Sehun is fine with that. Sometimes, he also catches Lu Han at the window, staring in wonder at the outside world that he has left behind. Or should it be the other way around?
Sunlight filters through him, casting no shadow on the floor, and Sehun has to stop to savor that devastating moment of heartbreak because Lu Han is the most real existence in his life right now but there’s really nothing to prove it. He’s history, rainbow mist, intangible and disappears at will, but his companionship makes Sehun feels so normal. He hasn’t felt so in months. He could taste the irony in his mouth, pungent like blood.
How someone dead could make Sehun feel so alive.
“What?” Lu Han asks this morning when he looks over and catches Sehun gazing at him again.
Sobering up, Sehun says, “I, uh, I have a friend who’s coming over for a visit this afternoon.”
“You have friends?” Lu Han asks, sounding genuinely curious. “You never go out,” he says pointedly when Sehun appears to object to this. A lot of questions are left unanswered. Don’t you have school? Where’s your family? Where are you from? Why don’t you ever go out? But well, Sehun has never asked how Lu Han kicked the bucket either.
“Just stay away for the day,” Sehun warns Lu Han who briefly morphs into his ghostface to stick his tongue out at Sehun.
But Sehun does indeed have friends; Lu Han finds out when Jongdae appears at their doorstep in the afternoon. He saunters out in full view and causes Sehun to yelp in shock because he totally didn’t expect that.
Startled, Jongdae also lets out a shrill yip of his own. He wheels around but sees nothing to cause Sehun to generate such a reaction. “What the hell,” he demands of Sehun.
Sehun seethes when he realizes Lu Han has made himself invisible to Jongdae. “Nothing,” Sehun lies and lowers his voice to speak to Lu Han once Jongdae turns his back, “go away.”
“How are you?” Jongdae asks when he makes to sit on Sehun’s computer chair in his room. It’s the most insipid greeting but it grates Sehun’s nerves. This isn’t like Jongdae, who used to punch his shoulders in greeting. Now it’s as if Jongdae’s afraid Sehun would splinter if he touched him. Sehun takes a deep breath. It’s not Jongdae’s fault; Sehun often cannot decide if he’s fragile or not, too. Sometimes he’s all right, but there are also a few dark moments when he thinks he won’t ever be ok again. Everything in his life concentrates around these brief destructive periods, like even 99% of good couldn’t wipe out that 1% of bad feelings.
“I’m fine,” Sehun says, settling down at the foot of his bed to face Jongdae. And those agonizing thoughts in his brain never get translated into speech; imagine what a speech that would be. Instead, the gravity of his emotions remains imprisoned in those innocent little words and they are so ripe, so full to bursting, he’s shocked Jongdae doesn’t see right through his big fat lie and rip it apart. Sehun wants him to, but he also doesn’t. He is irritated when people think he’s ok; he’s also irritated when people think he’s not. He wanders between please care for me and don’t touch me. Sehun doesn’t know what he wants anymore.
Jongdae licks his lips, a little nervous, and Sehun pities him. He knows Jongdae is his kindest friend, honestly, it feels like he’s the only one sticking around these days. But he doesn’t know how to make himself feel better so that Jongdae could in turn feel better around him, too. He’d do it in a heartbeat if he could fix himself.
“I brought you this.” Jongdae opens his bag and pulls out a thick set of papers.
Sehun looks over. College application. “I can’t.” he refuses immediately, then at Jongdae’s frown, he amends his words, “Not yet.” Not yet, when he really means, never. But not yet would get Jongdae off his case.
Jongdae nods, then he looks down. Runs his fingers over Sehun’s desk before saying, “You should come out more often. Minji often talks about you - our Sehunnie this, our Sehunnie that, where’s the maknae - so annoying,” Jongdae wrinkles his nose and declares, acting like himself for a while. Then he carefully lifts his eyes to meet Sehun’s.
And Sehun hears those words Jongdae has said before, all at once. He no longer says them, he has learned that they make Sehun angry, but the explicit purpose of his every visit revolves around these unspoken words.
Please don’t be alone.
I don’t want you to be sad.
You still have me.
His friends have never left. It only feels like Jongdae is the only one because Sehun can no longer distance himself from his feelings and see for himself what things are really like. He has hung a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on his door and laments when people no longer ring his bell. But he doesn’t know what to do.
He doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t know what to do.
So he just stays here.
Time ignores him. The days gush through him and he didn’t mean to get left behind. But that’s exactly what he has allowed to happen.
“No,” Sehun says, “I have things to do.” He doesn’t want to meet his friends and witness how their lives are progressing. He doesn’t want to see how much his life has derailed and come to a complete standstill. He’s not ready to face failure yet. The bottom of the well is so far away from the top.
Jongdae is about to persuade him and Sehun can see it coming. It’s a ritual now, Sehun’s always so ready to be angry at his friend, but then Jongdae only stares at the door of Sehun’s bedroom with terrified eyes.
“What-” Sehun begins but the question dies in his throat when he looks behind and sees Lu Han clutching the doorknob and swinging the door on its hinges. The ghost looks extremely bored. Then Sehun remembers Jongdae can’t see Lu Han and he lets out a loud shout of laughter. The laughter burns his throat; it sounds rusty, like the creak of a treasure box that has stayed undiscovered for far too long.
“It’s just the wind?” Sehun attempts an explanation but it ends up sounding horribly like a question.
As a reply, Jongdae nervously eyes the window in Sehun’s bedroom. They are shut tight, just like Sehun.
“Pressure difference?” Sehun says weakly. But a heavy dull clinking sound diverts his attention and he swivels around to look behind him again. He sees nothing and ventures out.
“Don’t go!” Jongdae pleads and grabs the tail of his shirt. He’s petrified.
Sehun says with a straight face, “Don’t worry, you’ll be safe here. I think the ghost is outside.” Hey, it’s the truth.
When Sehun walks into the living room, he sees Lu Han dragging a rusty chain as he walks restlessly around in circles.
“There are too many mortals around, my ghost instincts are acting up,” Lu Han whispers to him. “It’s an obligation. Do I look like I enjoy this?” Then he grins when he sees that Sehun is enjoying this instead of being annoyed. He has never seen Sehun smile before. He didn’t know Sehun’s eyes would be like crescent moons when he’s happy. The look suits him.
“Your ghost tricks are so clichéd,” Sehun whispers back.
“Classic,” Lu Han corrects Sehun.
They hear a whimper and Lu Han drops his chain in shock. But the sight of a chain hanging mid-air and suddenly dropping only freaks Jongdae out even more. He doesn’t know he’s just scared a ghost.
Sehun twirls around to see Jongdae clutching his heart. “I can explain,” Sehun says automatically before he realizes, uh, no, can’t do that.
Jongdae helps him by scampering to the door. Before he could get out, Sehun grabs him by his hood. “Jongdae, hey!”
His friend turns around with wide frightened eyes and Sehun’s heart melts. He knows Jongdae will turn up uninvited like today, again and again, regardless of haunted apartments and cold rejections. Just this thought makes him surrender. He gives in and drags his friend into a hug. Embarrassed, he buries his face into the neckline of Jongdae’s hoodie so they could avoid eye contact. Sehun sniffs and the familiar scent floods his eyes with a hot sting. Nostalgia overcomes him; he misses Jongdae so much. Sehun has a best friend, why does he choose to be lonely? Jongdae is still wearing the cologne Sehun got him on his last birthday. He remembers this. He remembers them being happy. He remembers being happy.
He still knows what it’s like to wake up and not think about how horrible his life is, how everything is out of his control. He wants his old self back.
Sehun’s cloud of pessimism lifts a little and a bit of positivity filters in. No matter if Sehun’s ten years old or twenty, Jongdae will always be good for him.
“I will be ok,” he consoles Jongdae. Sehun will give Jongdae his best friend back.
Jongdae hesitates before hugging Sehun back fiercely. He doesn’t say a word, but his grip is unrelenting as if he’s afraid to lose Sehun. It’s not Jongdae’s fault that he doesn’t know how to save his friend, but he finds it hard to forgive himself.
This feels so much like how they used to be, Sehun almost cries again. But he knows it’s really not.
They’ve been best friends for ten years but they’ve never hugged before.
After Sehun bid Jongdae farewell, he heads back into the apartment and sees Lu Han putting the chain back into storage. He laughs at the sight of the ghost squatting down to peer into the bottom drawer of the cabinet. Lu Han looks and acts so mortal, it’s ridiculous. He’s not a ghost; he just has a second shot at living. Why don’t they all come back? This is so unfair.
At first, Lu Han laughs along with him. But Sehun can’t seem to stop. He hasn’t laughed for six months and now it’s the only thing he could do. He laughs so hard, the tears suddenly come.
Abruptly, Lu Han stops laughing. His large eyes glaze over with concern and he looks so worried that Sehun’s words just spill forth.
“I did go out. I visited her grave at night, did you know? Several times. But she, she didn’t return like you did. I checked,” Sehun says softly.
Stunned, Lu Han shakes his head. No, he doesn’t know. Sehun has forgotten he’s never around at night. He feels bad for haunting this apartment, feels bad that he gets to come back and someone else didn’t; whoever ‘she ‘ might be, she has made Sehun sad for such a long time.
“When I saw you, I thought- but, yeah,” Sehun shakes his head. “She’s really gone.” Sehun’s lower lip sticks up and he flattens his upper lip. He’s whining, he knows it and he doesn’t care. The person he loves the most is dead. It hurts so much, Sehun wants to curl up and whimper. He wants to lie in the bottom of that well forever. “She’s gone, Lu Han.” He could never have her back.
And Sehun just loses it; he starts crying like a child.
His weeping sounds so helpless, like a final strand of hope snapping that Lu Han is prepared to say whatever he could to comfort Sehun. “That’s a good thing, you know. You loved her so much she went without regrets; that’s why she didn’t come back.”
“Is it?” Sehun gasps mid-sob, but it sounds like he’s begging instead. He stares into Lu Han’s eyes.
Lu Han doesn’t know better, but he nods, with the most unconvincing look on his face. “Yes.”
Sehun smiles. The relief in that smile is heartbreaking and Lu Han is glad he lied. “That’s good.” But the corners of his mouth turn down in the next second and break the arch of his smile. “That’s good,” Sehun repeats hoarsely, even though that’s just the best possibility for the most terrible thing that has ever happened to Sehun. He lowers his head, covering his face with both his hands. A tear seeps through the cracks between his fingers. Sehun trembles all over.
Lu Han makes a sound of dismay and reaches out but his hand just shatters into rainbow mist upon contact with Sehun’s shoulders. He stares at his hand with disappointed disbelief, closing his fist and clutching emptiness.
Lu Han ends up sitting quietly beside Sehun on the floor, watching him cry all day, arms folded snug against his chest instead of where he wants them - wrapping tight around a person.
The next morning when Lu Han returns, he finds Sehun still on the floor of the living room, lying motionless and staring blankly at the ceiling. Despite himself, Lu Han allows a reluctant smile. Sehun is in the exact same position he was in when he fainted from the sight of Lu Han the first time they met.
Sehun meets Lu Han’s eyes. He reciprocates with a smile, looking so peaceful and at ease that the smile on Lu Han’s face slips away. This is a lie. Sehun cannot possibly be all right.
“She is- was my mother,” Sehun says tiredly even as his smile grows. “Bad habit,” he throws Lu Han’s words back at him.
He watches Lu Han walk up to him before laying his semi-transparent form onto the floor as well. He turns to lie on his side and looks at Sehun, waiting for him to continue his story. Sehun peers deeply into Lu Han’s eyes. They speak of empathy, kindness, and grief. How could Lu Han possibly be dead? Why do they have to take the good ones?
“Is,” Lu Han corrects Sehun. “She’s still here.” Lu Han points a finger at Sehun’s heart but he doesn’t touch him. Lu Han doesn’t want to disappear.
Sehun nods. A tear forms in his eye at the same time Sehun’s lips curl. This time, Lu Han knows the smile is genuine.
Six months ago, when the bus Sehun’s mom was in collided with the truck on the expressway, the accident made it to the headlines. Fourteen dead, six critically injured, one left in a vegetative state. The accident took Sehun away too, but the papers never reported it. His grief was tremendous but so quiet that when Jongdae finally found out, it has already torn Sehun up from within.
Gradually, Sehun found it harder and harder to get out of bed for anything. He could barely muster the enthusiasm for things he used to love doing, and eventually he had to quit college. He holed up in his old apartment that was scattered with reminders of his mother until he couldn’t endure it anymore, Sehun neither wanted to forget or remember her. Either would make him very sad. So, with the money his mother left him, Sehun found a new apartment.
In reality, all he did is shift his misery somewhere else. Nothing changed.
“I feel better, really, I do now,” Sehun insists to Lu Han. “The past three months, I even feel like how I used to. I feel like my old self when I’m,” he pauses, flipping onto his side to face Lu Han, “with you,” he admits, softly and gently. A lock of hair falls across Sehun’s forehead and into his eye as he confesses his feelings.
But Lu Han is left gasping with pain after Sehun’s words. It hurts everywhere. Stop, he wants to says, stop this sadness. The emotions claw at his throat and the words don’t come. You are still alive, you shouldn’t live like this. Do you even know how much I wish I were alive? Do you realize just how precious you are? He desperately wants to grab Sehun and hold him, pushing out all the bad feelings and thoughts inside of him. Driving it all out of him so he could be happy and safe again. Sehun deserves a better life, he deserves to be happy. Don’t cry anymore. Lu Han wishes he were solid, heavy and whole, so he could press frantic fingers over Sehun’s eyes and stop the tears. Don’t become like me. If Lu Han were still alive, he would-
This is sheer agony; Lu Han wants to scream.
He is just a ghost. He could never do that.
The truth is, when they touch, Lu Han becomes nothingness.
The thought of it destroys him. It makes him want to become something even less than a ghost, to vanish wholly. Sehun’s sadness is so tangible, it seems to make the air heavy with it. Lu Han could stand it no longer. He could no longer tolerate the darkness that always seems to envelop Sehun’s form. Sometimes Lu Han can’t tell who the ghost is around here. He simply couldn’t bear this anymore. He couldn’t.
Sehun is still talking, “I think I-”
Lu Han’s eyes drift shut. He rolls over onto Sehun and explodes into rainbow light.
Dumbfounded, Sehun stops speaking. He doesn’t move. Lu Han is gone, in his place is a stream of glitter. Shimmery stardust floats around him as he lies on the floor. One lands on the back of his hand and Sehun watches the afternoon light turn the speck red before it sparkles green again.
After a moment, he spreads and raises his hands slowly and the glimmering mist follows. It envelops his entire being and feels like a warm shower, like he’s drenched in good feelings. It lights him up from within the core, banishing all the darkness inside Sehun so he could blossom and shine just as brightly as it does. This could only be magic. Sehun smiles. Lu Han doesn’t disappear when he touches Sehun, he simply becomes a part of him.
In reality, all he did is shift his misery somewhere else. Nothing changed.
It’s Lu Han who has changed him.
Sehun has been finding it so difficult to get out of bed but Lu Han drives him out of his room; Lu Han doesn’t think he’s so fragile that he can’t withstand a scare or two; Lu Han bickers with him during lunch and makes it fun; Lu Han, who has no idea that lunch is actually something Sehun stopped having six months ago before he moved in; Lu Han reminds Sehun of his life before it all fell apart. When Sehun was broken, when he thought it was all over, Lu Han ran through him in rainbow colors and became the gold that melded all of Sehun’s pieces together to hold him up and help him become an even more precious person than he was before.
He makes Sehun feel incredibly, incredibly loved.
That year Sehun met Lu Han, he was as dark as Lu Han was white.
Then Lu Han colored him red, blue, green and yellow.
They get closer after that episode. They don’t even talk about it. But it’s there, small and discreet, a faint wisp of rainbow after a thunderstorm. Sehun is used to being the one looking over, but when he turns around now, he finds Lu Han glancing away. It happens once, twice, and the third time it occurs, Lu Han doesn’t look away. But Sehun does. He has to duck his head and blush for a bit, flustered beyond words, unsure how to handle reciprocation. Then slowly, cautiously, he lifts his eyes back up and they lock onto Lu Han’s once again.
And Sehun mirrors his smile.
Sehun and Lu Han are squabbling over lunch, which is unfair because whatever it is that Sehun decides to have, he’s pretty sure it’s none of Lu Han’s business. Sehun just swats at Lu Han’s body every time he opens his mouth to retaliate, so that he’d dissolve into colorful particles and be unable to properly engage in verbal warfare.
“Hey- Oy! Oh! That is so rude, oh my God,” Lu Han tuts in annoyance, glaring at Sehun while he gathers his mist together with both hands, patting them onto himself so he could quickly build himself whole again. “You little brat.” Lu Han flings his hands out to fish for those rainbow particles and slaps them onto himself. “I’d show you. Scare you so hard you’d never been able to watch another horror film.”
Grinning, Sehun just walks right through Lu Han, scattering him all over the room and laughing when a white hand first forms out of the mist and grapples at thin air to grab more of that bright dust. Then he sobers up and stares gravely at that hand walking on the floor like Thing in The Addams Family. He should be scared out of his wits but he isn’t sure what normalcy is anymore. To further prove this, Sehun gathers up Lu Han’s stardust like it’s sand and watches a white foot form out of it. Nothing is more romantic than bringing the one you love back to life.
When Lu Han manifests, he sulks. “You weren’t like this when we first met.”
Startled, Sehun stares at Lu Han with wide eyes. “What?” Lu Han quips lightly, grabbing a gleaming cloud that’s floating past him and patting it over his chest.
“That’s because I wasn’t like myself when we first met.”
Lu Han stops fiddling with himself and turns around to face Sehun. There’s a tiny, tiny smile on Sehun’s face but it’s enough to bend his eyes into tiny, tiny crescents, and it fills Lu Han up with a yearning so intense, he almost bursts into stardust again. He loves Sehun’s smile so much. It’s so warm and precious. Lu Han wants to see Sehun smile all the time.
“You make me feel like I’m myself again,” Sehun says quietly.
However, Lu Han just looks at Sehun until the smile slips off his face. And Lu Han feels a sense of loss for that. But he also thinks there’s not much to be happy about.
“Sehun,” Lu Han says kindly. “I’m… dead,” and then he just sounds sad, looking even sadder. There’s a glimmer in his soft eyes but ghosts cannot cry.
Immediately, Sehun puts up his hands, palms facing out. “I know,” Sehun says defensively. “I know,” he repeats and his eyes are suddenly bright and fierce. “I’m not crazy, really, I’m not, you know, I’m just,” he says, blinking and babbling and then he surrenders. Sehun heaves a heavy sigh, shoulders sagging with defeat. “Please, I’m not crazy,” he pleads.
Then he stops and stares at Lu Han, catching his breath, and his words are so slow, Lu Han couldn’t even mishear him. Sincerity hangs over his words, as heavy as gold but priceless. “I know you are dead, I know you are a ghost. But Lu Han, you are real,” Sehun says gently and Lu Han wishes he could cry, too. He didn’t think he was real anymore. “And the things you make me feel are real. You’re not just a ghost; you are someone important to me. It was so hard,” he pauses to swallow, “It was so hard, I almost gave up, but I met you and you made me feel-” And Sehun loses all his words for a moment as he recollects all that Lu Han has done for him, the memories accumulating into a small smile on his face.
Lu Han allows himself a moment of victory. He put that smile on Sehun’s face.
“I wasn’t ok for a long time,” Sehun whispers, and the tears come so quick, “here,” he places a hand over his heart, “but I think I’m finally going to be all right soon.” Sehun gives Lu Han another small smile. “Thank you.”
“Thank you for saving me.”
Miracles don’t exist, Sehun thinks, but then Lu Han drifts by serenely and he throws that thought right out the window. Miracles exist, but that’s just Lu Han. Sehun isn’t a miracle, although he has mistakenly thought he could be, with the help of Lu Han. That was his thought at his peak, but there are also valleys. The path to recovery is scattered with them.
It turns out to be an excruciatingly slow process after all. He thought it would take a month. But somehow, there’s simply no good time. It’s somehow always a day that’s too hot or too cold, and flipping a coin doesn’t help when he always decides it’s a bad throw when the coin lands on the side he didn’t want it to. Sometimes, the day morphs into night before he could make up his mind.
It is just so difficult to step out of the house.
In fact, it isn’t until the days line themselves up into months and the blue summer skies fade to autumn grey that one day, Sehun announces he needs to go out and buy some new clothes. He invites Lu Han along but he just points to the sun and says, “I hate to be such a clichéd ghost but I really hate the sun.” When Sehun peers out of the window though, he only finds a dull October afternoon. It seems like a perfect excuse not to go out again, he should use it and spend the day curled up in bed. But Sehun forces himself to the door.
Lu Han pretends it’s not a big deal, but when Sehun put on his shoes, the spirit loiters in the doorway, pacing anxiously until Sehun finally stops pulling on his laces and admits in a small voice, “I don’t want to go.”
The pacing comes to a sudden stop. “No,” Lu Han declares flippantly, “you have to go, I need a snapback. Get it for me.”
Sehun looks dubiously at Lu Han. His question - Why do ghosts need snapbacks? - hangs over his head, and Lu Han gets the message loud and clear but chooses to ignore it. He points to the door and lifts a brow.
Sehun gets up and takes a step towards the door. Then he stops.
Lu Han pretends it doesn’t hurt him like how it’s hurting Sehun. “You have to go,” he says softly.
Sehun nods once, then his face falls, lips trembling.
“No,” Lu Han says, sounding distressed. He tries to touch Sehun’s cheek, but his fingers go right through skin and bones. He withdraws his hand slowly, drawing white fingers closed into a fist before loosening them. They still feel real but he could no longer hold another person in his arms. Lu Han is dead. He keeps forgetting this fact nowadays. He feels mortal now; he feels greedy. He wants to live.
When he feels the rainbow dust tickle his cheek however, Sehun sniffs and turns around with a large smile. “I’m going.” His eyes twinkle with moisture. He looks very brave. Lu Han is so proud of him.
Sehun reaches out and strokes Lu Han’s cheek, watching his pale skin dissipate into sparkling ashes beneath his thumb. “Thank you for worrying about me,” he whispers softly to Lu Han as a goodbye of sorts.
Lu Han makes a grab for Sehun’s wrist without thinking and makes a sound of frustration when his hand simply evaporates before the bright dust binds together to form his ghastly white hand again. So he curves his palm into a shape that would fit the slope of Sehun’s jaw then and holds it against his face, careful not to touch Sehun, no matter how much he yearns to.
“Remember to come home,” Lu Han says quietly, his voice doting but full of resignation. And Sehun realizes this is the first time they’ve ever had to part.
“I’ll always return,” Sehun promises. He couldn’t resist, tilting his head to the right to lean into Lu Han’s touch, feeling the warmth from Lu Han seep into him, watching his promise bring a touch of smile to Lu Han’s lips.
Words that people who are left behind want to hear.
The first thing Sehun notices is how bright it is outside. Then he enters the subway station and the dull background noise sounds like a roar in his ears. Sehun realizes he doesn’t actually know how to buy a subway ticket since he usually used his pass but lost it when he shifted apartment, so he gets anxious and fumbles a bit at the ticketing machine. On the train, he stands as there are no seats available. His heartbeat starts to pick up a little when he looks at the people around him, feeling surreal that no one knows what he’s going through. No one knows it’s been months since he last stepped outside his apartment in broad daylight when it’s crowded everywhere. Then he arrives at his station and alights. He feels calm again. Ok, he’s all right. Sehun expected difficulties, as if Seoul has become as difficult as he has. He thought everything would be strange and different. Instead, Dongdaemun looks almost the same as it was a year ago. Why did it take him months to finally decide to do this?
He buys a pair of skinny jeans, two jackets, and a pair of sneakers. The salesgirl cajoles him to buy a clutch too, but Sehun is disinterested. Then he sits down at one of the stone seats outside Doota shopping mall and eats a matcha ice cream cone. All of a sudden, it strikes him.
He’s sitting outside Doota shopping mall eating an ice-cream cone.
No one even notices that, the world walks by him. This is so mundane, something Sehun used to do almost everyday when he was in school. But that was probably also the last time Sehun did something like this. It feels like a lifetime ago. He once thought he would never be able to do something as ordinary as eating ice-cream and shopping in Dongdaemum again. The poignancy of the moment hits Sehun so hard he could only stare at his melting cone and clench his jaw tight. He truly thought he would never be all right again. He really, really once thought so. But look where he is now.
This is so wonderful it makes Sehun’s heart clench painfully. He licks the cone and the burst of sweetness in his mouth is accompanied by the bitterness of tears. It feels so good to be alive.
Nothing in this world lasts forever; there is no such thing as everlasting sadness. You just don’t know it yet. But one day, you will.
Lu Han wears the blue snapback Sehun got for him all day. It’s the only burst of color on his pale form. Sehun twists his cap around and beams when Lu Han tuts at him.
“I made it.”
Lu Han nods and adjusts his hat. “Anytime you feel like you can’t do anything again, you must always remember today. Ok?”
Sehun smiles. He’s taking life lessons from a spirit. “Ok.”
“Yup, you don’t recognize my voice anymore?”
“No, it’s just- hey. I just- yeah- it said ‘The Maknae’ on my phone when it was ringing but-” But I wasn’t sure because it’s been ages since your last call. But Jongdae doesn’t want to spoil this conversation so he just says, “Hey, I missed talking to you.”
Sehun sniffs. “Yeah, me too.” This is too mushy but Sehun is surprised at how true his words are. “Why weren’t you sure? Did you get a new maknae or what?” he jests and hears Jongdae laugh in relief. Sehun knows he hasn’t joked around for a long time.
“Our group will always have just one maknae,” Jongdae says fondly and Sehun is quiet for a bit. He lets the sweet words mellow him out and bring warmth to his eyes.
“So I was just thinking,” Sehun lies; the idea has been constantly on his mind for the past month. “How about I make a trip down to the university sometime this week and check out how things are? I don’t know if I could-, but, anyway, which day is a good day for you?” Sehun is still unsure, but uncertainty is a vast improvement from a flat no.
It’s Jongdae’s turn to keep his silence. When he next speaks, Sehun pretends he doesn’t notice the note of gruffness in Jongdae’s voice. “Any day is a good day for that,” he says and Sehun smiles. He wants to keep Jongdae forever.
Then, “Actually I’m pretty free right now!” Jongdae continues brightly, “you should come! Now!”
Sehun laughs. Jongdae is the best. “Jongdae,” he says.
“What? Are you coming?” Jongdae demands.
There’s a long pause of silence again and Sehun could almost hear all of Jongdae’s words running through his head, then Jongdae says the most unexpected thing. “Sehun-ah, I’m so sorry.”
“What for?” Sehun frowns.
“I didn’t do enough.”
Sehun’s heart soften at Jongdae’s admission. He didn’t mean to make him feel that way. He knows it has been hard for his friends as well; those who wanted to stay friends. “No, you did your best for me,” he soothes Jongdae, “like how you always have.”
“Did I?” Jongade sounds very doubtful.
“It’s not you, it’s me,” Sehun tries to pass it off as a joke, instead it turns out horribly bittersweet. “You don’t have to feel guilty,” he says softly, and he feels old, years of friendship and fond memories etched in his voice. “I am so lucky to have you as a friend,” Sehun repeats, “so lucky.”
There’s silence for a bit, then, “I was as lonely as you were,” Jongdae admits. Sehun wishes there was rebuke in Jongdae’s voice, instead, he just sounds incredibly sad.
Sehun is caught between happiness and sadness. He was so caught up with his own feelings that he had neglected Jongdae’s. “I’m sorry.”
Jongdae is quiet for a while. Then he says, with just a tinge of sorrow in his voice, because there was a period of time when he knew Sehun didn’t believe in this, “No matter what happens, you still have me. You know that, right?”
Sehun doesn’t even smile. “We will always have each other.”
A month later, Sehun and Lu Han find themselves on the couch in front of the television watching a Korean drama. On the screen, college kids are pouring out of lecture halls and the two leads are bickering in the canteen.
“You know, they look like they’re having a lot of fun. You’d probably enjoy school, too,” Lu Han says pointedly, tilting his chin in the direction of the television. He’s really bad at hinting.
Sehun shakes his head at Lu Han with an all-knowingly look on his face, like, ’oh, this naïve ghost.’
Lu Han imitates him mockingly, except his head seems to be lolling at an unnatural angle.
“Put your head back on,” Sehun scowls and Lu Han grins mischievously. He rights his head extra primly, looking very superior.
“That’s just make-believe,” Sehun corrects Lu Han. “There’s so much reading to do, and it isn’t even interesting reading material. Imagine an atheist having to finish reading all the Bible, the Quran, and the Buddhist scriptures,” he pauses for effect, ”overnight.” Sehun widens his eyes for dramatic effect and Lu Han’s own eyeballs shrink in their sockets quite literally when he takes in the message. Sehun cringes; that isn’t the effect he was looking for.
“Those books sound really scary,” Lu Han whispers in a small voice. He’s pretty sure he’d end up getting exorcised if he read them. “Living is so hard.”
“I know, I’m not looking forward to it,” Sehun sighs.
“Looking forward to what,” Lu Han stills and asks.
Sehun deliberately turns to look at Lu Han. For what feels like an extremely hard decision to make, his way of breaking the news is astonishingly unremarkable. “School,” Sehun says simply. Then he watches the way the surprise causes Lu Han’s jaw to drop, but instead of smiling, a fierce look takes over his face. Lu Han’s arms are flung up and out in an open loop, but just as he’s about to lunge forward, he stops. The bright glint in his eyes gives way to bewilderment. For someone so sure a second ago, Lu Han seems suddenly at a loss for what to do.
He looks so stupefied that Sehun immediately shifts forward to close the distance between them. “Why? What’s wrong?”
Lu Han looks up, blinking rapidly. “I just wanted to do this.” He puts a white arm around Sehun’s shoulders and both of them watch Lu Han’s arm disappear in a burst of color. Lu Han smiles, but Sehun wishes he hadn’t done that, not when it’s so blatant that it’s the last thing he wants to do. “But then I forgot,” Lu Han mumbles, looking flustered and dropping his eyes. “I keep forgetting it lately.” He looks embarrassed.
Sehun’s heart aches all over. He reaches out and touches Lu Han’s fingertips, watching the swirling mist turn his hand into gold. “We hug in a different way,” Sehun explains kindly with a smile that he hopes doesn’t appear as sad as he feels. “Have I ever told you?” Sehun starts, feeling Lu Han envelop his hand. “When we do this,” he flicks his wrist and the brilliant particles follow, flowing over the curves and angles of Sehun’s hand, “you make me feel incredibly warm, and happy, and strong.” Sehun inches closer. “I would never trade you for a hug. This,” he tightens his hand into a fist and grabs a handful of colorful dust, then he loosens his fingers and the dust flits around on his palm, “this is good.”
Sehun’s eyes brighten, and his next words, that reverent look on his face, the earnest quality in his voice, they all make Lu Han want to turn around and hide the expression on his own face. It’s too telling. He feels shy and happy and sad.
“You are the best thing to ever happen to me.”
In this instance, Lu Han realizes Sehun loves him.
There are still a few weeks before school resumes for Sehun and they spend most of their time together.
During the day, Sehun and Lu Han often play their harmless little games. Lu Han would say something like, “Can you please stop staring at me?”
And Sehun would retort with, “How would you know if I was staring at you if you weren’t staring at me in the first place?”
“I only stare at you because you are staring at me,” Lu Han says, but the stupid grin is beginning to blossom on his face.
“Like what you see?” Sehun asks with a smile of his own.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Lu Han pretends not to care and walks dramatically through the wall.
Then there are quiet times when Sehun would sit beside Lu Han, playing with twinkling stardust at his fingertips, sunlight warm in his hair, the atmosphere as subtle as a dream. They’d share a secret smile and make little moments as precious as forever.
But now it’s night and Sehun is in bed when he hears a noise. Lu Han isn’t around; m-maybe Ryoda-san is real? Sehun swallows. He isn’t sure he’s ready to get acquainted with another ghost. He hopes he won’t fall for this one, too.
He gets out of bed to investigate with a torchlight, wandering into the storeroom at one point, and when the noise happens again, he freezes, heart thumping a furious beat in his chest. He thought he’d be over this already but when he hears someone speak, fear streaks through his mind, blanking it out.
“Don’t be scared.”
Sehun jumps and his movement sends light flickering into the pitch black storeroom. He nearly screams at the sight. A black gaping mouth, a white face filled with cracks and black patches all over, a strange dent on the top left of its head. His legs give way and Sehun crashes to the floor. His torchlight rolls away from his hand and casts eerie shapes on the walls until the light falls unmoving onto the ceiling, shedding just enough light for Sehun to see the ghost’s wide smile.
“It’s me,” it says.
“Lu Han?” Sehun breathes heavily.
Lu Han giggles and the sound sends goosebumps bursting all over Sehun’s body. It’s been so long since he last saw it. Lu Han’s ghostly appearance. He sits on top of an old cabinet, smile dying when Sehun just continues staring at him. “I’m scaring you,” Lu Han says, voice stark empty, there’s nothing in it.
Sehun blinks, chest still heaving. He doesn’t bother refuting Lu Han, not when it’s a fact. “What are you doing here?”
Lu Han widens his eyes and tilts his head at an impossible angle. His face is too freaky. Sehun’s heart begins pounding again. “I’m here every night, Sehun. It happened at night.”
Sehun isn’t aware he is holding his breath. “What happened at night?” he asks carefully.
Lu Han blinks at him with bulging eyes. “Whatever made me this.”