It’s slow, the way these things begin to crumble. He doesn’t really notice it at first - kind of just accepts it blindly, figures it’s always been that way. He’s a generally unhappy person (always has been) so it makes sense that his relationship is an unhappy one, (always has been? There’s still a question mark attached to that one.) too. So maybe it’s always been this way. Maybe he’s a better actor than he thought, and he tricked him into dating him, and now the poor kid’s trapped. Maybe he’s just too nice to say anything, waiting until they graduate so he can flee the state, the planet, the universe, whatever. He’d probably love to go explore the neighbouring galaxies - alone, of course.
And maybe Newt’s still a little too melodramatic for a seventeen year old. Sure, he’s definitely not his own biggest fan, but Thomas was, at one point at least. He’s not entirely dense. He knows that it wasn’t always like this, as much as he loves to - what, romanticize? catastrophize? dramatize? whatever - the situation. They were happy. They were happy for a long time. It must have happened gradually.
It’s nobody’s fault. Or at least that’s what Newt’s rational side tells him. Something just shifted, somewhere. It’s not something that can be pinpointed, but the difference is unmistakable. Newt thinks it was his attempt. Maybe. That’s his best guess, anyway. And maybe it was. Neither of them will ever really know. What they do know is that it’s over, and that there’s no way to deal with that.
What do you do when someone takes the moon out of the sky? You don’t panic, not at first. You assume it’s just a new moon, even if it was a waxing gibbous just a couple days ago. (Thomas pointed it out. He can always name the phase, no matter what.) You know this but you ignore it anyway, because the moon has to come back, right? It hides itself from you every once in a while but it never goes away forever.
“Did you know that we’re actually losing the moon?” Thomas asked him once, out of the blue, eyes all bright in that special way Newt had come to miss, lately. It ignites the laughter that bubbles out of him.
“And how do you figure that?”
That was back in the days before everything got confusing. Back when banter came easily and random space facts didn’t carry heavy hidden meanings. Looking back now, it’s almost funny, in that awful, bitter kind of way. Because of tidal forces, (another thing on the now very long list of things Newt doesn’t understand) the moon gets about 3.8 cm farther away from the earth every year. Y’see, it’s an insanely gradual thing, so slow you almost don’t notice it, but after a while the impacts literally change the world as we know it.
Sound familiar? Yeah. Yeah. It is what it is, he figures. If Newt is the Earth in this analogy (he’s always the sun. Newt the sun, Thomas the moon.) then he’s the one pushing the moon away. Maybe. It’s the tidal bulges of the oceans, right? But isn’t that caused by the moon’s force on the Earth, anyway? So is it more of a joint effort, then, their mutual drifting? Thomas was always better at celestial analogies, anyway. The point is that they’re fucking done for.
If he’s being completely honest, they’ve been like this for a while now. Unhappy. It’s really only a matter of time before their relationship goes completely down the drain, and neither of them are ready to let go. They’ve been a part of each other’s lives for as long as they can remember - neighbours at six, friends not long after. Best friends (officially) at nine, and boyfriends at fourteen. They were also briefly enemies for an entire four days at eleven, but that was mostly Minho’s fault, anyway. They grew up together and then they fell in love together. That’s supposed to be it. There’s not supposed to be a “next” after that.
But nothing ever really turns out like its supposed to, does it?
Because now there’s that big scary after approaching quickly on the horizon that they (perhaps naively, maybe hopefully) never thought they’d have to deal with. And you know they’re big babies so they’re avoiding it as long as possible, too. Because they’d rather stay unhappy and safe than try and navigate the world without each other.
“You two shanks ever have less than three points of contact?” Minho asked them once, announcing his arrival to Newt’s basement. Newt and Thomas were, of course, attached.
Thomas considered, briefly. “No, don’t think so.”
Minho hummed a response, then turned on the xbox, throwing controllers at them without a second thought.
Newt had a second thought, though, and it went like this: Thomas was right. He’d slept over the night before, and their morning had been nothing but lazy cuddling interspersed with making out up until Minho got there. There was something addictive about Thomas’ touch, his presence. His energy fuelled Newt, made him alert, alive.
His third thought: that probably wasn’t the most healthy thing to think.
His fourth thought: he didn’t care.
(It’s quite possible they don’t know how to be alone.)
Neither of them are ready.
But it never happens when you’re ready.
Maybe in some cosmic way they’re still intertwined, to some extent, because they both start avoiding each other at the exact same time when it comes down to the very end of it. Like they both know that it has to happen the next time they see each other.
And that happens at a seven eleven, of all places. Maybe it’s Newt’s fault for going to the one right behind Thomas’ house and maybe it’s Thomas’ fault for craving ice cream at 8pm but we’re all just particles, really. Newt’s going in to pay for his gas while Thomas is leaving with his fresh pint of half-baked and they lock eyes.
And Thomas’ face just fucking falls and it breaks Newt’s heart because, really, when did they get to this point? How did it all get like this? How did they go from ruling the solar system to seeing each other for the first time in a week by accident?
And so they kind of just stop and stare at each other for a second, soft and sad and bile rising up until Newt brushes past him, wordless, to get to the cashier, swallowing down tears. And so Thomas kind of just numbly shuffles outside, ending up somewhere near Newt’s car twisting the plastic bag handles around his fingers until he surely can’t feel them anymore.
They drive with the radio playing softly, silent otherwise.
They used to sing. Taylor Swift, showtunes, obscure indie crap. Anything, as long as they could turn it up loud and scream it out the windows. Even just a trip to the drugstore was a performance, for them. The sappy love ballads were Newt’s favourite. Ridiculous, but hey, he was in love. He was allowed.
(He never thought those last two would ever remain in the past tense, but.)
The last time he can remember being in a silent car was the ride home from the hospital, that night in grade nine. Leg in a cast, drugged out of his mind. Wishing they’d given him too much, by accident or not he couldn’t care less.
He ended up being glad he stuck around long enough to learn how to drive, to learn how to memorize the exact tone of Tommy’s voice when it was belting out Love Story. Glad he would never have to worry about being in a silent car with Tommy, wishing we was dead.
Sitting in the parking lot of seven eleven, Newt almost - almost - laughs to himself. Irony, or something like that.
Naturally, it’s suffocating. He might have an anxiety attack if he wasn’t so fucking sad. Resigned. Defeated? Perhaps the universe had defeated them a long time ago. They’d been falling apart for a while, now. Seconds, on the scale of the universe.
To think they’d ever believed they were infinite.
Newt drives slowly, winding around their suburban streets, bathed in brilliant hues of sunset orange. This - this used to be their time. Dying sunlight, dying laughter. Everything was a little bit softer. That kind of lull where they could just be , together, before the stars hung overhead and the monsters crept back into Newt’s throat, fingers long and choking. Moonlight would spill into the car, the room, their souls, and they’d hold each other until the sun came up, hazy and full of promises. But before that? At 8:30 pm on a lazy June Tuesday?
That used to be theirs. Now, Newt just feels like an intruder, cruising the neighborhood at that magical time that certainly doesn’t belong to him anymore. Nothing really does, he supposes.
They end up at the park near Tommy’s house because of course they do. Their park, they called it, but, erm. Yeah.
Newt cuts the engine and lets out a breath he’d probably been holding the entire way. It feels wrong, just like everything else. He gets out of the car and walks toward the swing set, not daring to look back.
He doesn’t need to. By the time he’s sat comfortably (if you can call anything about Newt’s existence comfortable right now) on his favourite swing, Thomas is leaning his elbows against the side of the car, wringing his hands together. That’s a great sign.
Newt makes a mental note, just then, to fucking watch it. He’s starting to get snippy. And Thomas usually doesn’t respond well to that (insecure in his relationships) which usually leads Newt to get even more snippy (‘cause he’s a fucking dick that can’t control anything). This usually escalates, and is usually made worse if Thomas is particularly anxious, (which he is, currently) but hey, fuck, at least Newt is somewhat self aware now. Not enough to like, fix it or his relationship, clearly, but.
Also watching Thomas, now shuffling over to the swing set, hands shoved deep into his pockets. He takes a seat beside Newt, neither looking at nor saying anything to him. The sun dips behind one of the houses at their backs, leaving the park painted a cosmic sort of purple. There is no sound but the cars as they pass them by. Maybe in a different universe, they’d be in one of them, belting out the newest Chainsmokers single, and not like this. Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Maybe they were always destined to fall apart.
They prolong it until the air around them grows cold, stars twinkling above. Nothing about any of it feels familiar. Thomas takes his hands off the chains and settles them in his lap, finally, turning to look at Newt for the first time since they’d locked eyes in the gas station. If he were the sun, the radiation would be ripping Newt’s cells to shreds right now. But Thomas is the moon, which does not emit (anything). The moon sits there and gets cratered to fucking hell by random space shit, most of which is not unsignificantly sent its way by the Sun’s gravitational forces. Who’s the sun, again? Oh.
He feels himself ripping anyway, damning all the analogies to hell.
He forces himself to meet Thomas’ gaze, leaning back slightly into one of swing’s chains, letting it cut into his shoulder. He blinks, taking in the sight of the boy he loves for what is very well probably one of the last times. He’s hunched over himself, defeated. Hands still. And his eyes have moonlight (waning crescent, paper thin) reflected in them, because of course they fucking do.
And if he doesn’t do it now, he might spend the rest of his life (natural and otherwise) searching the cosmos of Thomas’ eyes for a way out. So, Newt opens his mouth, takes the dagger, and shoves it in his own goddamned chest:
“I guess this is just about where we end, isn’t it Tommy?”
There’s probably another galaxy out there, or maybe another universe entirely, where Newt didn’t say those words. There’s a place, or time, somewhere , that they cared more and got their fucking shit together and fought. For each other. A time where they used their own skin and bones the build a bridge over the chasm ripping them apart, throwing them out of orbit, and then never let go. There’s a universe where it never went to shit in the first place, where Newt isn’t quite as mean or maybe doesn’t want to kill himself all the time, where Thomas and Newt are just that: Thomas and Newt. Newt and Thomas. Happy, triumphant, together . They swing high where this version hangs dead, love in the eyes instead of pity and regret. There might even be a universe where forever was theirs. A place where, of course , of course they’re together. How could it ever be any other way? How could there be anything else? But, Newt knows. Thomas knows. Both of them know: this is not that .
“Yeah - yeah, I guess it is.”
And even though the final blow has been delivered, the heavy after sitting under their feet, Newt can still look at Thomas’ eyes, glassy and ready to burst - and hear him. They’ve always been able to do this, communicate lightyears across them, just through a single look.
And right then Tommy says I’m scared and he says I don’t want to want you to go and he says I’m sorry and he says just about every possible combination of words and feelings and colours and stars and it’s infinite (he always was, really) but none of those things are the one that comes out of his mouth: a small, ragged sigh.
He wishes so desperately that he could just. Pick it up and put it back. Rewind. See, time is relative. You can make it shrink and stretch, but you can’t go backwards.
So Newt nods, because he guesses that’s just what they’re gonna do now, and gets up. Walks over to his car, mulch crunching under his feet like gunshots.
And then: he leaves.