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love me (if that’s what you wanna do).

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minho is twenty when he decides to come home for the summer. his head is numb and his suitcase is a dead weight against his legs. the bus keeps moving, and minho opens his eyes. his earpods are old and the sound is fuzzy, but he’s still able to hear the soft melody. it was dawn when he arrived at the airport — it’s early afternoon now, sunlight breaking through the smudged and dusty glass of the window. outside, the sky is a pale blue.

 

the world seems to be holding its breath.

 

minho exhales first, watching the little particles in the atmosphere dance wildly. it’s been a long two years, with too much and too little happening in between short trips home. the universe kept expanding; stars kept burning. minho knew everyone a little less each time he returned.

 

he promises himself this time will be different. this time, he will stay for the whole summer. the feeling of permanence will not be a threat, will not bully him away, will not deter him.

 

the bus slows down. stops.

 

the cafe by the bus depot needs painted again. the blue paint on the door is cracked — the colour peels away and curls like ocean waves. beside that, the record store lies dormant as it always has. only the faint cloud of smoke from the rebellious teenagers at the door alerts minho to its ‘open’ status. light bounces off the broken bottles on the pavement, which he easily sidesteps.

 

he walks past the screaming children at the park, the women gossiping outside the (much classier) cafe downtown, the men crowding around a pub window to catch a glimpse of the sport playing on the television inside.

 

do you miss it?

 

the question is unwanted. it sneaks through the walls minho has built around himself and blocks his path.

 

the answer is softer, more subdued in its presence.

 

yes.

 

nobody pays attention to the boy with the earring and sandy hair when he stops walking and lets his suitcase fall. nobody comments on how his hands shake when he picks it up, or on how the rings he wears click awkwardly when he clutches the handle a little too tightly.

 

nobody he recognises, anyway.

 

his house hasn’t changed. no, wait — instead of two cars outside, there’s just one. minho squints at the scene in front of him; it feels like he’s playing spot-the-difference with only one image. the front door isn’t red anymore, it’s green. in his opinion, the dark green clashes with the (unchanged) red window sills.

 

but, he reminds himself, he wasn’t there when the decision was made.

 

there’s no sign of life beyond the bees buzzing around the rainbow of flowers along the pavement. the whole street is hushed. distantly, he hears bike bells chirping and lawnmowers humming. his home, however, is as still as death. none of the lights are on inside, and all curtains except the living room ones are shut —

 

and then everything explodes to life.

 

“welcome home!” his mother cheers, throwing open the stupidly green door, “hurry, hurry, come in!”

 

there’s a sizeable crowd of people behind her — minho can see them over her shoulder — and his stomach clenches at the thought of reintroductions and explanations and all the fucking questions . he can feel the lump form in his throat again, can feel his hands growing clammy.

 

breathe.

 

in.

 

out.

 

this is fine. this will be fine. you will be fine.

 

he plasters a grin across his cheeks and rushes over to hug the woman at the door, suitcase clunking after him awkwardly. his urge to run , to just get away, has faded from a raging inferno to a mere spark. he can breathe.

 

eventually, minho finds himself seeking sanctuary in his old room. the overhead fan is dusty with disuse, and the small bed is still made up from the last time he’d left. all his belongings — the trinkets he couldn’t bring himself to remove — are tucked away in various nooks and crannies. it’s so impersonal that it scares him . has it been so long?

 

“is this — oh, shit, sorry,” a voice yelps from somewhere behind him.

 

minho whirls round to face a blue-haired, band t-shirt clad boy who he knew all too well.

 

(he’s vaguely reminded of the last time they’d both been in his room and suppresses the bittersweet memory).

 

he gives himself a split second to look jisung over. jisung’s hair is… long , for lack of a better descriptor. it flopped over his eyes in an odd side-parting, but it didn’t look bad. jisung had never looked bad. both ears were littered with various piercings. minho didn’t need to be a genius to know jisung was going through a rebellious phase.

 

the concept was enough for the corner of minho’s mouth to curl up into a sardonic smirk.

 

“no need to apologise,” he hums in a pathetic display of false nonchalance, “are you looking for the bathroom?”

 

“wh — oh. no. i wasn’t. i was looking for you. i just — i didn’t want to seem like i was looking for you. would’ve sounded, y’know, weird. ‘cause, like, it’s been a while.”

 

jisung is fidgeting with one of the many bracelets adorning his wrists, glancing everywhere except minho. his gaze eventually lands on a spot just over minho’s shoulder and minho knows there isn’t anything interesting to look at because he was never allowed to stick things on the walls. but, that’s beside the point.

 

“i tried to call.”

 

his voice is soft. timid. in this room, he’s not lee minho, star student, dance prodigy, only son. he’s just minho. the minho who spills his guts at the worst times and covers up the revelations with flimsy cartoon bandaids.

 

“...i know. i’m not — i didn’t mean to make it seem like you didn’t try. i didn’t try. well, i did, but —”

 

“jisung.”

 

“right. sorry. what were you saying?”

 

(what was he saying? this whole thing was going wildly off script which was bad because there never even was a script — )

 

“uh, how have you been?” minho manages to stammer out, grimacing at the weakness of it all. stupid. stupid. stupid.

 

“not bad, i guess…? like, everything’s a little confusing at the moment. with, um, leaving school and all that shit. it’s not bad, though. i’m thinking of — of going to university.”

 

the last time they’d spoken about the future, minho had cradled jisung as the younger sobbed over not being good enough to go anyway, over the prospect of being stuck in this tiny town — not because he wanted to, but because he didn’t have another choice. minho couldn’t remember what he’d said, but he remembered jisung staring at him like he’d hung the stars in the sky and personally painted the sun outside jisung’s window.

 

so, against his will, minho breaks out into a wide smile.

 

“that’s great, jisung!”

 

i’m proud of you .

 

“... uh, where are you — where did you have in mind?”

 

jisung clams up at this, slender fingers curling around the hem of his worn-out band t-shirt. minho doesn’t push for a reply, just waits. he does that a lot around jisung. hmm.

 

“that’s… kinda why i was looking for you,” jisung laughs awkwardly, tension sneaking around his words and strangling them, “i wanted to ask you what your college was like.”

 

minho pauses. the chatter outside the safety of his room hasn’t subsided. the radio must have crackled to life, because he can hear the soft croon of børns, singing about past lives and present loves.

 

he glances back at jisung. he sits down.

 

and, for the first time in two years, he talks .

 

he talks about what he loves and what he hates and what he misses and jisung listens. minho isn’t sure what sticks in his head and what passes through as white noise, but his eyes are wide and his lips are slightly parted and minho realises three things at once:

 

one: the emptiness in his chest didn’t come from being away from home,

 

two: this is the liveliest he’s been for… months, really, and

 

three: he’s still very much in love with jisung.

 

it’s not like the love he felt when he was eighteen and looking at jisung made him feel like he’d just been shoved off a cliff and his heart was climbing out of his chest. no, this… love… is comforting and it has blue hair and feels like humid summers and it casts strips of light over the soft carpet of bedroom floors.

 

the epiphany knocks the wind out of minho’s lungs. he doesn’t mind.

 

two seconds have passed. it feels like two years.

 

jisung searches his gaze and minho, not for the first time, can’t read what’s behind the inquiring stare. it bothers him, a little, because minho isn’t sure whether he’s laid himself bare or just shuttered himself off for good.

 

the awkward silence is back. it creeps under the gap in the door, threatens to suffocate them once again.

 

jisung doesn’t let it.

 

“i, uh, i need to ask you about something else, actually. it’s not really a big deal , i guess, but it kinda keeps coming back to bother me. and, like, it’s better just to sort it out, you know? that’s what i’ve been told, anyway.”

 

something fills minho’s lungs. it’s not anxiety or panic, for once, so he lets it drown him.

 

“i came out last summer,” jisung continues, “though, i think you already knew that…?”

 

(minho did not. he stays quiet).

 

“...uh, it really made me think, you know? about feelings and all that gross stuff —”

 

he pulls a face at this and minho’s lips quirk up into a tiny smile. jisung takes this as encouragement — not that he needed it (he did) — and goes on.

 

“remember that day i came round, ‘cause it was illegally warm but we ended up just chilling in here? because your window is by a big ass tree, so it was the coolest room? and it was, like, absolute hell outside but we curled up on your bed, under the fan, just ‘cause we could.”

 

jisung’s eyes are wide. wider than minho remembers ever seeing them. he’s talking in a rush, like he’s on the verge of breaking down or exposing the secrets of the universe, and minho relates to that feeling more than he should. maybe he should stop him. stop him before it gets too intense and their fragile bubble pops under the duress of the amount of words .

 

he doesn’t stop him.

 

“you fell asleep. i know you fell asleep, because if you were awake, you definitely would’ve heard me and probably confronted me. you did that a lot. but, you didn’t. so, that was… yeah.”

 

where is he going with this? jisung, you beautiful idiot. what are you doing?

 

“i didn’t call you. i didn’t even try to talk to you, so, like, feel free to cut me off and tell me to get out. please. you really should, since this is totally out of left-field —”

 

“jisung,” minho exhales, brows furrowed and gaze oh-so-tired, “what are you saying?”

 

“okay, honestly? i was gonna say something like ‘i still love you’ but it kinda got lost. probably for the best, you know? it’s been, what, two years. you’re probably over it. i’ll just… go.”

 

it takes minho longer than it should to process this. it wasn’t that he didn’t expect it. it sounded ridiculous, but a part of him knew already. it was the same part of him which had driven him to confess two years ago. it was the part of him which he’d boxed up and given away before going to university. it was the part of him which, being true to himself, hadn’t gone anywhere.

 

“jisung,” he rasps out, grabbing the boy’s wrist before he can hightail it out of the room, “wait.”

 

minho has always waited for jisung. both of them are fully aware of this. it’s why jisung doesn’t protest. he swallows, staring at where minho’s hand rests against his bracelets. if this was an indie movie, the camera would hover right where they’re connected. maybe some cheesy, vaguely out-of-mainstream love song would play in the background.

 

this isn’t an indie movie. the only noise comes from the animated discussions going on outside the door.

 

minho is afraid of heights. he is afraid of falling. he is afraid of the helplessness.

 

he’s not afraid when he says, “i love you.”

 

it’s not the first time he’s said the words, but it’s the first time he’s certain of them. the first time he’s not afraid of the way the ground shifts beneath him and the stars explode and the safety locks crack and break away.

 

this isn’t an indie movie, but they kiss at the end anyway. god, it’s definitely not a movie, because it’s imperfect and messy. it’s alright, though, because it’s still a fucking happy ending.

 

minho knows that, if all else crashes and burns, they have this; this is what they deserve.

 

lost love is sweeter when it’s finally found.