Warnings: highlight to view suicide
Summary: And it was only then that Baekhyun had seen him. He'd blinked slowly and shook his head, and then his lips had twitched like they wanted to smile but got confused partway through and turned down instead, and instead of "hello" he'd said "Chanyeol's gone".
"What's what like?"
"Christ, Baekhyun, don't say it like that."
"Why not? That's what you're asking, isn't it? That's what you want to know? What it feels like to be like this, to want to die?"
He laughed, and the sound was sudden and jarring, when the rest of the world was asleep and covered in a soft blanket of snow. He laughed as if it hurt, and maybe it did, his grin more a gash than an expression of joy as he gripped the railing and leaned out over the edge.
"Don't jump?" His eyes were very focused, then, as they narrowed in on Jongin's face, took in everything from his wide eyes to the way his lips were trembling. He wasn't smiling, now. "Don't worry," he said, and his eyes flickered back over the edge. "I won't do it now. I won't make you watch when it happens."
"When?" Jongin's hands were shaking, too, and he wanted to reach out but was afraid to. "You mean if."
"Baekhyun." He wouldn't turn his head or lift his gaze. He wouldn't look at him. "You mean if, Baekhyun."
Jongin's hand on his shoulder, gripping so tightly it hurt, finally got him to turn his head, just the slightest bit. "It's nice that you sound so sure."
Jongin was afraid to leave his side, because he didn't know what Baekhyun would do if he was left alone. He didn't know what to say, so usually he didn't say anything. He just followed, quietly. Near enough to touch, if that was what Baekhyun wanted, but he usually didn't, anymore. He used to, used to always have his fingers laced through someone's, his head resting on one shoulder or another. But now he flinched away, no matter who it was who reached first, and Jongin got used to curling his fingers in his own pockets instead.
It was strange, how fine he was in front of other people. How fine he seemed. His laugh sounded so real, so light and happy and familiar that Jongin almost believed it, for a little while. He wanted so badly to believe it, to believe that Baekhyun was okay. That he was getting better. That a few months was enough time for a heart to heal over, for him to start to forget.
It was easier when there were other people around. Not easier for Baekhyun, probably, but easier for Jongin. Because he really would start to forget how broken Baekhyun was, after a while. That smile blinded him, blinded everyone and hid from them the parts that Baekhyun didn't want anyone to see.
Jongin was the only one who knew. Chanyeol might have had some idea, too, but it was hard to say for sure, since they didn't ever see him anymore. Their friends were good about that, good about planning things so that the two of them never had to cross paths anymore. They all knew what it was like, they said. They knew how hard breakups could be. They were there for him.
But Baekhyun didn't like to talk about it, with them. He didn't want to, so he would just smile and laugh it off, telling them that they worried too much and that he was fine.
Jongin was the only one who knew how much it hurt him to pretend, who saw how many pieces he fell into when the door closed and the two of them were alone.
It was easier, though. For Jongin. So he coaxed Baekhyun into accepting as many invitations out as he could, because that was all he knew how to do. Maybe if Baekhyun pretended for long enough that he was okay, he really would be.
"He's a fucking bastard."
Baekhyun didn't look up. He continued to sip at his soda, his feet tapping softly to the beat of the pop song playing overhead, but Jongin's hands were shaking.
"Chanyeol is a real fucking bastard, and if he doesn't feel like shit over this then I swear to god--"
Baekhyun's voice was sharp, even though his face was not, and he swirled his straw in his drink. He didn't look up.
Jongin slammed his cup down, furious and fuming, but Baekhyun didn't even flinch. "How can you say that? How can you say that after all the shit he did to you? He made you this way, and you can't even--"
"He didn't." Baekhyun's eyes were focused on the rim of his cup, and he traced it with a fingertip as he spoke. Softly, but carefully, so that Jongin could hear every word. "He didn't do anything to me. It just didn't work out. That happens, sometimes." He smiled, but there was no joy there, and all Jongin felt when their eyes met was cold. "It's my fault. He said some things, and I thought I...I believed him. But things like forever aren't real." He tilted his head. "You know that, right, Jongin? Forever isn't real."
"Don't say that name." Baekhyun had finished his soda, and he threw the empty cup in the bin. "I don't want to hear it."
It was an accident, really. That Jongin had been the first one to find out, after it happened. It should have been Sehun, maybe, or Tao -- but Jongin had gone over for something dumb, to borrow a movie or something, and had found Baekhyun on the floor and known instantly that something was very wrong. It had been so dark, only one light on in the living room, and Baekhyun had looked so tiny with his knees tucked to his chest and his hands and face white, so white that Jongin had startled as if he'd seen a ghost. And it was only then that Baekhyun had seen him. He'd blinked slowly and shook his head, and then his lips had twitched like they wanted to smile but got confused partway through and turned down instead, and instead of "hello" he'd said "Chanyeol's gone".
And the world had come crashing down.
"When do I start to feel better?"
Baekhyun had stopped suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk, and Jongin walked right into him. He was worried for a second that he had hurt him, but the hollow pain in Baekhyun's eyes was of a different kind, one that made him small and scared, and for once his hands curled desperately in the front of Jongin's coat.
"When do I get over it, Jongin? When do I start to feel better? It's been so long and I still, I can't..."
And that was it. The first time Jongin saw Baekhyun cry. The tears came up so fast Baekhyun choked on them, and Jongin held him tight as if he could hold all the jagged pieces of him together as the snow fell soft upon their heads.
Jongin knew without Baekhyun saying anything. He knew not to tell, and so he hadn't. Honestly, it wasn't any of his business, anyway.
Jongin didn't know how to ask what had happened. He didn't know how to even begin to talk about these things, to wonder aloud how two people who had been inseparable since the first time they'd made eye contact across the room could break apart in a single night, and break so completely. Or maybe that was the problem -- maybe it had been a slow collapse, a slow-motion shatter behind closed doors and blinding smiles, and maybe things were never as perfect up close as they seemed from far away.
Jongin...really didn't know.
But Jongin did know how to be there, at least. That much, even if it wasn't much at all...that much, he could do. So he made up excuses to come over, to bum a meal or bother Baekhyun for help with his coursework, and he set his alarm an hour earlier to make sure he had time to walk Baekhyun to class and shove coffee and pieces of toast down his throat, on the off chance that it would help.
He knew that it would only be a matter of time, before Baekhyun had no choice but to let him in. And he was right.
Jongin hadn't known it would begin with words like "I don't want to be here anymore."
"Do you still want to know?"
Jongin looked up from his phone, where he'd been answering a text from Sehun (you haven't been home in days are you okay? / with baekhyun don't worry). "Hmm?"
"Do you still want to know what it feels like to be like this?" Baekhyun's lips curved like a smile, and he beckoned Jongin closer with a tilt of his head. Jongin's mouth went dry, but he swallowed and forced himself to nod his head. It was the most morbid curiosity that held him there, almost alone with Baekhyun on the subway platform, standing close but not touching, as Baekhyun stared straight ahead and Jongin stared at the back of his head as if that would help him to see inside.
"It feels so empty, Jongin. All of this. Everything. I already feel the disconnect, like I'm already gone -- so what point is there in staying?"
Jongin was scared, so he took a step forward and gripped Baekhyun's hand so tightly that it had to hurt, but Baekhyun didn't complain. Jongin's hands were shaking, but Baekhyun's was cool and dry. "But you're right here. You're here with me right now. You can feel this, right?" He squeezed Baekhyun's hand tighter in his, but Baekhyun didn't acknowledge him at all. His eyes were still fixed straight ahead, and he sighed softly to himself.
"I'm so tired, Jongin. Existence is tiring." He closed his eyes, and Jongin wondered for a moment if he was going to cry -- but he just drew in a slow, shaky breath and opened them again with a little smile. "It would just take one step, you know. Just one, off the edge of the platform, right as the train was pulling up. It would all be over so fast, I bet it wouldn't even hurt."
Baekhyun leaned his head back with a sigh and rested it, just barely, on Jongin's shoulder, and it barely seemed to weigh anything at all. "I won't. Not right now. I told you, I won't make you watch." The train was coming, and Baekhyun slipped his hand out of Jongin's grip and moved away, and Jongin panicked -- but the train pulled to a stop, and Baekhyun smiled at him over his shoulder as the doors slid open. "Are you coming?"
There were a lot of empty days. Jongin had run out of excuses to come over, but Baekhyun had stopped asking questions and had stopped lying about being okay. Jongin would spread his homework out on the floor, and Baekhyun would curl into the corner of the couch and Jongin would try to be discrete about watching him. Sometimes he was afraid to look away, because he didn't know if Baekhyun would still be there when he looked back.
Once, Baekhyun sat first and patted the space next to him until Jongin sank into it, and Baekhyun curled his fingers around Jongin's wrist.
"Would you let me use you?" He tipped his head, and it was almost innocent and playful, almost the Baekhyun that Jongin remembered from before -- but the fingers around his wrist tightened until it hurt, and Jongin forced himself to take a breath.
He opened his mouth, but he was afraid to give the wrong answer to that question. He was afraid of a lot of things, these days.
"You would." It wasn't quite a smile on Baekhyun's face, as he let go with a sigh. "That's no good."
"Why not?" And Jongin was a little scared by how desperate he sounded. Desperate and demanding. But Baekhyun looked off to the window and was quiet a long moment, his mouth set in a line.
Then, "You can't keep doing this, Jongin. You can't do all this for me." A smile, one completely devoid of happiness. "I don't deserve it."
"But you do, you-"
"Besides, I won't be here for much longer."
You deserve the world.
Sehun slid into the chair next to him in the very last row of the lecture hall, and Jongin looked up when he settled a hand on his shoulder. "What?"
"Is everything okay?" Sehun asked, and it sounded like concern. "You haven't been home in days."
"Been staying with Baekhyun," Jongin said, and he shrugged Sehun's hand off and cracked open his textbook. His highlighter marks from the night before cut off in the middle of the sentence, because Baekhyun had wandered out of his room and Jongin had been scared, but no -- Baekhyun had gone for a glass of water and then straight back to bed. He hadn't slept, Jongin could tell from the bruising beneath his eyes, but he was still there in the morning. At least he was still there.
"How is he?"
Jongin's mouth went dry, because Sehun's gaze was piercing, and he wasn't supposed to tell. His heart had leapt up into his throat and choked him, but he gulped it down and made himself nod. "Yeah."
"Mm." Sehun's lips were pursed, and his face was blank but Jongin knew him well enough to know he didn't believe it for a second, and Jongin wondered again if Sehun should've been the one to know, if this situation should have been reversed, if that would have been better for everyone. Because Sehun was perceptive in a way that he could never be, and maybe Sehun could make Baekhyun okay. All Jongin could do was watch him break in slow motion and pray there would be something left in the end.
"How high up do you think you have to be?" Baekhyun asked suddenly, his palm pressed against the glass of the living room window. Jongin was on his feet in an instant, and he wrenched him away, even though his hands were shaking and he could barely breathe. Baekhyun just tilted his head up and smiled that smile that looked right but felt wrong, and Jongin was scared. "Two stories probably isn't enough, right? So how many? Three? Four?"
"Don't talk about that," Jongin said, and he meant to snap but it only came out as a whisper. Pleading, and weak. "Baekhyun. Please."
"I'm just thinking out loud." And Baekhyun shrugged his shoulders. "If you don't want to hear it, you can go. I never asked you to stay with me." He tugged him arm free, but Jongin just grabbed both of his hands instead, because he was afraid Baekhyun would slip away from him right now if he let him go. "Go home, Jongin. This isn't good for you."
"No. I'm staying."
"Why?" And suddenly it was anger, that crackled in Baekhyun's eyes and made him dig his nails into Jongin's palms, but Jongin just held on tighter because that was all he knew how to do. "Why are you doing this, Jongin? You won't leave me alone for one second, and I feel like I'm losing my mind! I'm not a child, okay? I'm not a child. I don't need you to babysit me."
"Will you do it?"
Baekhyun's eyes widened, and it was only then that Jongin realized he had slammed him back against the wall, and for a moment Baekhyun looked every bit as scared as Jongin felt -- felt, and had been feeling, for weeks and months on end now. Jongin's heart was pounding so hard he could barely hear himself think, but he leaned a little closer and forced himself to keep going. "You promised...not to do it in front of me. But if I leave, what's stopping you? Would you do it, if I wasn't here?" He was close, so close, and he searched Baekhyun's face as if he might be able to read something there, just once -- but it was too close, too much, and Baekhyun pushed him off and away. He wouldn't look at him, and Jongin wondered if he had made a mistake and broken him further. The silence was oppressive and heavy, but Jongin was too afraid to say any more when Baekhyun looked so small and fragile, staring down at his socks.
But then he tipped his head up, and his lips quirked in one of those smiles that didn't reach his eyes.
"Your apartment is on the eighth floor, isn't it?"
And Jongin's blood ran cold.
The next day, Sehun dropped a note on top of Jongin's textbook. A single piece of notebook paper, folded in the center, with his name printed on the front in familiar handwriting that made his heart start pounding out of control. "Baekhyun asked me to deliver that," Sehun was saying, but Jongin could barely hear him over the rushing in his own ears. "I don't know why he didn't just wait to see you himself."
He unfolded the note with shaking hands, and there, directly in the center line where the fold had cut the words in half -- Baekhyun.
I'm sorry for letting you down.
And Jongin was on his feet so fast he knocked his chair over and almost Sehun's, too, but he didn't care because he was already running -- out of the lecture hall, out of the building, out of control and into the cold winter air that bit at his skin, because he'd forgotten his jacket but he couldn't really feel it, anyway. He turned in a wild, desperate circle, completely disoriented because he knew he needed to go but he didn't know where, but then he remembered --
"Your apartment is on the eighth floor, isn't it?"
Desperation rose in Jongin's throat like bile, but he choked it back and took off again. His apartment building. That was where Baekhyun would be.
It wasn't far, but each block seemed as if it stretched for miles and maybe the bus would've been faster, but he knew that if he stopped moving for even one second his thoughts would catch up with him, and he was afraid of what might happen then. His legs and lungs burned and his chest was so heavy that he could barely breathe, but he had to keep going and finally, finally, he turned the corner.
The ambulance was already there, but as he fought his way through the gathering crowd, he knew that it was too late.
He was too late.
He was too late, and the body they were loading onto the cart, that tiny, pale thing couldn't be him, right?
It couldn't be.
It couldn't be.
He'd only looked away for a moment.
After weeks...months of staying at his side every waking minute...he'd only looked away for a moment.
And in that moment, Baekhyun had taken one step and slipped away.
Jongin didn't remember fainting, didn't remember shouting in the street and throwing down anyone who got between him and the ambulance, didn't remember how he got scrapes and bruises all over his face and arms, but they told him what they could, when he woke up in the hospital. He dimly registered Sehun sitting at his bedside, holding his hand so tightly it should've hurt but didn't, and maybe it was the medication in his veins, but he smiled a smile that didn't reach his eyes.
Later, they would go for a walk along the bridge, and snow would fall softly on their heads.
"What's it like?"
"What's what like?"
"Christ, Jongin, don't say it like that."
I'm sorry for letting you down.