Bam was dead.
“Were you eaten by a fish?” It was an inane question. It didn’t matter.
He answered though. “The bull.”
He was there, soft and quiet, the night visible through him, some property of shinsu or lifeforce now, and Khun shouldn’t be able to see him, but he could.
“Khun?” Those soft, questioning eyes like he’d always had in life.
For once, Khun’s plan had gone unquestionably, utterly wrong. And Bam wouldn’t tell him why.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked, not yet willing to say he’d planned to take Rachel up in Bam’s place. Not when Bam wouldn’t say what happened.
Bam stared at him, mouth open slightly, eyes wide, then came closer—cautiously. As if Khun were afraid of ghosts.
Khun met him halfway, reaching a hand out to gently touch his friend’s face, to feel something insubstantial but real, very much in the way shinsu was real. Shinsu could be handled, could be touched. “Bam.” More boldly, he drew close enough to enclose him in arms that had wanted longer to learn to hold on, had wanted more than this.
Nothing in life was fair. Nothing in the Tower was anything less than brutal and ruthless, and Khun had understood that from a very young age, but this— This was wrong, and someone was going to pay.
He didn’t appear to anyone else, and Khun selfishly, jealously guarded that knowledge. He stopped asking Bam what happened and did what he always did best, plotted and schemed and connived her way up the Tower, flinching whenever she claimed she’d seen Bam, relaxing when she said it was a dream.
Khun had heard of ghosts, heard there were ways to let them move on, to deal with their unfinished business, but Bam was volunteering how to solve his, so Khun would do it in his own way. The only worry he had was that one day, Rachel would reach the top of the Tower, Khun would destroy her dreams, and Bam would disappear—without him. It troubled him but he didn’t stop.
Didn’t stop talking to the ghost of his best friend late at night, didn’t stop planning for a future, knowing he only cared about this one part of it, didn’t stop experimenting with how far one could touch a person who shouldn’t be here at all.
Bam was curious the first time Khun kissed his cheek, those golden eyes wide. Khun did it very lightly, always careful not to push through the insubstantial image of Bam’s person.
Bam’s hand flew up to touch where Khun’s mouth had been, his own mouth opening for just a moment, then narrowing in determination. He leaned up and kissed Khun back, not on the cheek, on the mouth.
It should have been warm and tasted like Bam, but it was cool and salty and tasted like the tang of electricity.
Khun wanted to cry, wanted to enfold Bam in his arms, and say this should have been them in five, ten years, when Bam had grown and they were both men, alive and climbing and ranking higher.
He didn’t cry. He’d stopped crying when he was still a child and had learned what all Khun children knew, you weren’t family until you’d fought and killed and conquered your way into the name.
He kissed Bam again and again, whispering softly, “Bam,” feeling something break inside but not willing to give it the time of day, because Bam was kissing him back, trembling like they were both on the verge of something they could have been if Rachel had never pushed him, if they had never lost.
He touched gently, uncertainly, testing his ability to move Bam’s clothing, to push his frame onto the bed, careful every step of the way to not lose or disturb his ghost. Bam was far less cautious, kissing with abandon, pushing with the strength of high density shinsu against Khun’s resistance, and just about blasting the buttons off his shirt.
Khun laughed. “I need those later.”
“I don’t care,” Bam answered stubbornly.
He didn’t. They didn’t. They took and took every second they’d been given, tasted every kiss, every inch of uncovered skin, then got hung up trying to figure out how to actually have sex when one of you didn’t really have a proper body.
“You do it,” Khun finally said. “I’d be worried I’ll break you.”
But Bam took the instruction with a fierce look of concentration and wandered chilly fingers over Khun’s erection, then back around and fingered gently around his rim. It made Khun shiver with want and cold and waiting, until Bam had finally explored to his satisfaction and figured out what to do.
They didn’t use lube, didn’t need it. Khun hissed at the chill of Bam entering him, the feeling of both firmness and something with far too much give. He tried not to clench too hard, but the sounds Bam made were so far from pain or discomfort and every moan of pleasure was driving Khun mad.
“Bam,” he whispered. No other words could say what he wanted—more, less, be careful, don’t ever leave me again. “Bam.”
Bam panted at his neck, kissed his ear, and bit around the earrings, then finally began to move. It was impossible, the most intense thing Khun had ever felt. It was perfect.
He woke up sore and wondering whether he’d dreamed it. He woke up ready to do what he’d always done. He woke up expecting Bam’s unfinished business had been Rachel.
But he never saw Bam again.0