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It feels like a bullet grazing the edge of a cheek. A cold and hard ‘no’ spoken into the night air. The force of it blowing out the last light of the fire, leaving us still and smoking. Jinki lights his last cigarette and holds it to his mouth for a long drag, hands shaking. His nails split down the middle, one strand of hair falling into his tired eyes, the rest pushed back out of his face, soaking from the heavy rain. As he drags on it it feels like he’s pulling away more than usual. Taking everything and keeping it to himself for once. Bloodshot eyes catch his in the mirror and he blinks slow. Still coming down.

 

He always finds him at his lowest. Leaves out some bread and water on the street for him like he’s a stray, but, Jinki supposes, he really is. Jonghyun is too kind, and every time Jinki says ‘okay,’ he takes away a little more of that. Keeps it for himself. He can tell when he sees the tired in Jonghyun’s face when he answers the door. When questions turned into sighs over time and now just solemn glances. But he also sees a bowl of food knocked over the edge of the kitchen counter and a bruise on his cheek and he knows not everything is about himself after all. Jonghyun will count up bad things on his fingers and let them get to ten before he’ll do anything about it. Jinki snaps before they even get to one. Knuckles already aching too much to stretch out fully.

 

The corner of his lip burns, dried blood stinging against sensitive skin. He presses his tongue to it and tries to lick it away, but it’s been sitting too long and all it does is give him a bitter taste in his mouth.

 

The bed is close to the floor, but not quite there. Twin size mattress, but big enough for two people. Holding on tightly, thunderstorm outside. Yelling in the apartment next door and a tight grip on his hand. Yelling down at the figure sitting at the edge, praying something in him would quieten soon. A flinch and a gun, bullet grazing the edge of his cheek, settle back down and talk it out. Pop something in the bathroom before an apology. To make everything quiet.

 

Jinki takes a deep breath. He stays in the same room still, despite the constant replaying of old memories. Maybe it’s so he doesn’t lose when things were good, so he can keep it close to him. Hands chapped from the cold held in his own and head laying on his chest, singing soft melodies as the room changed colors. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to forget anything. Fists pounding against his chest and crying and apologizing, so much apologizing. Maybe he wants to pretend he’s still there over where he is now, dragging himself to his ex-boyfriend’s house at 2 AM for . . . something. He doesn’t know what. But with just a glance and without ever asking, Jonghyun gives it to him. He should be out of everything to give by now, but somehow he still does. Somehow he still smiles when he sees Jinki, like meeting an old friend.

 

Maybe they are old, old friends. Tired old people with nothing left to do but be. Sit on a dirty old mattress and let the rest of things go by. But that’s all Jinki’s ever done, his whole life. One dirty mattress to the next. One cut, one line, one broken capsule. Broken sighs sound heavy and broken commitment. Mattress stained a rusty brown all over, in the shape of a sleeping child. How long did he have to lay curled before that was the only position he could live in? How long sitting up could ever wear that out? Is he to blame for all the consequences, when he can’t even get up?

 

Yes. Jinki knows he is. He meets his eyes in the mirror one last time before he puts out his cigarette and turns over onto his side. He closes his eyes and thinks of days when everything was warm and bright, vividly bright. Jonghyun’s there, with a flower behind his ear and a wide smile. Others too, hands held out to Jinki in forgiveness. And everything is okay. He lets himself be pulled into dreams as someone in a neighboring apartment turns up their radio, soft violin piercing his skin, almost hard enough to leave a mark. But he won’t see it in the morning.