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burned out fairy lights

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it’s not that jinyoung didn’t love jaebeom.

he used to be so in love with him – so feverishly, so madly – but in that moment, as he spent the night in the same café they always went to, talking about the same few topics they had discussed over and over in the past, ordering the same desserts they knew were never out of stock—he didn’t want to be there. bored out of his mind, to the point jaebeom’s voice had become just a low background mumble to his persistently growing impatience, he would have rather stayed home: anywhere but here, anywhere but here, anywhere but here was the mantra his mind seemed to be screaming, and he was so ready to give in.

“are you okay, babe?”, asked jaebeom, which effectively brought jinyoung’s mind back to planet earth.

“huh? yeah, yeah, just a bit tired”, lied jinyoung easily. he was getting used to not saying things to his best friend-turned-boyfriend and the guilt he had felt overridden by at first had gradually frayed away. in the name of self-preservation, he tried to justify himself, but deep down he knew there was nothing but boredom able to explain his slow but stubborn detaching. he didn’t mean to hurt jaebeom, he would have never wanted to. though, whenever his brain bypassed the words the other was speaking and could only take in the stupid way he smiled, the ungraceful way he ate, the ever-present fucking cat hairs on his clothes, he felt like maybe he could hurt him a little bit if just to get rid of him for good.

“i was saying,” – tried jaebeom for what seemed to be not the first time as he reached out to carefully put his hand over jinyoung’s – “if you’re tired, we can just go back. it’s pretty late for us old souls anyway”

when he softly snorted at his own cheesy wording, the only language he seemed to remember around jinyoung, the younger just felt like retracting his hand abruptly from where it laid hidden under his. he held himself back, though, and only grimaced slightly at the sickeningly sweet display of affection. he was quite the romantic type and he had discovered jaebeom was too when he was serious about whomever he was courting, but, after all those years spent together, even those small gestures he used to find endearing simply annoyed him. he hadn’t changed a bit, he wasn’t giving jinyoung anything new and jinyoung was tired—in a non-physical, non-conveyable sort of way.

as they got up to leave, he remembered how jackson had suggested he saw a third person with jaebeom’s approval and how youngjae had intervened saying they should try something different together. but jaebeom was the jealous type, jinyoung knew he wouldn’t have accepted, and sex really was the least of his worries, considering they didn’t even have much of it anyway. “that’s part of the problem”, had commented bambam, helpful as ever, earning a smack from yugyeom. jinyoung didn’t know if any of them was right, but he surely felt as if something had to be done— he had to make up his mind, also for jaebeom’s sake.

the thing was, he really didn’t know what else he wanted. he knew what he did not want, at least that much was clear, but what should he have gone looking for? he was so viscerally discouraged and defeated by the circumstances that the ennuit caging his relationship extended like a post-meridiem shadow on the sidewalk. with all new experiences being engulfed into the thick mist of his present situation, he felt more at a loss than he would have ever admitted to his friends.

although, in all honesty, mark knew what was going on inside his head better than him. he had always been the most perceiving, the most intuitive in his group, but the great advantage he had was knowing both jinyoung and jaebeom like the back of his hands. and he had advised talking it out, above all else. as if it could solve anything, had scoffed the younger every time. it wouldn’t have, he knew for a fact. because there was nothing someone as sweet and caring and wonderful – jinyoung was so tired of hearing that from everyone – as jaebeom could do to be a better boyfriend: he was already perfect. and maybe he was, he could admit with ease, but not for him.

some people like steady, he reasoned when he thought the matter over, and some people like rollercoasters. intellectually and emotionally speaking, the younger was incapable of staying in the same condition for too long. he didn’t like commitment when it involved fossilising. so jaebeom might have been perfect, but he was the bench in front of the craziest attraction in the entire park and jinyoung felt stuck there like a vandal’s chewing gum when he so wanted to have a ride.

“are you sure nothing’s wrong? you look a bit off”, asked jaebeom as he started the car. he had been asking that same question for months on end, never stopping even as the younger always replied in variations of the same stretched-thin i’m fine. he must have sensed something, after all, he wasn’t dumb. but jinyoung was a great actor and he prided himself especially with his ability in hiding the ugly sides of himself. so what if the older knew already and was trying to keep intact their hearts meant to break—either apart or away?

“you know i love you more than my own life, right?”, mumbled jaebeom, focusing on the road in front of him and nothing else. he always said that slowly, savoured the taste in his own mouth before pouring it into jinyoung’s, as if to test whether it was good enough to be worthy of his boyfriend. it was something nobody could possibly not be in love with and the latter’s heart, too, suddenly forgot the ungracefulness, the cats, the boredom and latched onto sun-kissed memories of pepper kisses, loud laughter, secrets only the other knew, and love, so much love; his brain replayed them so that his heart could feel the intensity again, as if to say: do not forget he’s your lifeline. but we never listen to our hearts when it really matters, do we?

“yeah, i know”, replied jinyoung in a small voice. nothing else was said during the journey.

nor when they got back home, changed into their pyjamas, got into the same bed. nor when they knew the other was still awake, restless, the need to say something lingering at the back of their throats and not finding any output to its potential; like burned out fairy lights. they could have used some magic, probably. the spark that had drawn them to each other was something many of their college mates had been jealous of since the beginning, something unrepeatable — “you only get this kind of match once in life, you know”, had said mark the first time the younger had expressed his doubts about his relationship with jaebeom. jinyoung wondered if that was the case because, once it drained up, there was nothing left in neither of the two to give anyone else.

jaebeom shifted the way he did when he couldn’t sleep and the younger sympathised with him since not even looking in the direction of the window was helping lull him to dreamland that night. his boyfriend usually kept completely still when he slept. it used to comfort jinyoung not feeling seasick in his own bed, but on some more recent nights he had started despising that, too. even though there was no good reason for that, he had felt multiple times the desire to shake him awake seep through his bones. maybe what he really wanted was to wake the both of them up. after all, weren’t they just walking through two different versions of the same dream? oh, if only it were as easy as finding their way back to the light together. he felt the other shift again and sighed quietly before forcing his eyes closed.

jinyoung had been sleeping not facing jaebeom for a while. they used to hug in their sleep, but every touch had started feeling out of place, so it had to be studied more accurately before happening. the younger knew it was his fault, but he couldn’t help it. he reminded himself again he had to make a decision and that it was only going to get worse and worse if he kept stalling. there was something he needed to say, though, before he cut the strings and let jaebeom go — before he decided he wanted to let him go. if it were just the memories keeping him from parting ways, then he would have understood the painful fluttering of his heart every time he thought about it, but there was something else, something more binding him. jaebeom had once meant the world to him: where had all that gone?

“jinyoung?”, called the older in a small voice. the night makes you more afraid, but also more sincere. the younger wasn’t ready to face jaebeom’s bare heart: there was too much of his own self inside. so he pretended to be asleep, like he had done too many times lately, and focused on what to tell him when the sun would have come up again: “it’s not your fault”, or “i made you some coffee”, or “i wish i didn’t feel like i do”. he squeezed his eyes shut more insistently to prevent himself from crying: jaebeom was weak to his tears and not being able to tell him they were for him was going to make it unbearable.

he brought his attention to brighter dunes. he felt the idea of being free to explore new scenarios and personalities crawl into his mind, filling it with curiosity about new possibilities and lifting a weight off his stomach. he saw the person he could become if he just left the past behind and moved on – if he just allowed himself to experience whatever was waiting for him outside, from where spring blew a gentle breeze on his eyelids and lips, kissing him reborn.

it’s not that jinyoung didn’t love jaebeom.

it’s just that he didn’t love him anymore.