“I know I always fuck things up,” Mark said quietly running a hand through thick black locks “But was it my fucking fault this time?” he stared up at Jeno with all the desperation of a dying man seeking absolution and forgiveness.
Jeno prays that maybe one day god will forgive him for the things he is about to say. “When is it never Mark? All you ever do is fuck things up.” Jeno’s screaming now “Everything you touch crumbles underneath your grip, because nobody could ever love you-,” Jeno spills each and every insecurity and secret Mark has ever trusted him with “-maybe that's why your father left and your mother fucking hates you.”
Jeno pauses chest heaving as he tries to catch his breath. Mark is still as a statue and unmoving as he sits there considering Jeno’s words.
“Was it all a lie?” Mark asked quietly.
“Not in the beginning, I think I loved you then.”
Jeno wants nothing more than to cry, when he sees that broken look in Mark's eyes. He wants to throw himself to the floor and beg for forgiveness.
Mark seems so resigned as if he had been expecting this, waiting for himself to break the only person who had ever loved him.
“Goodbye, Lee Jeno,” those are the last words Jeno hears before Mark leaves his room. Jeno collapses to the floor, staring at the dark and empty doorway in hopes that Mark would come back.
Lee Jeno is a coward.
“Sweetheart,” the sound of his mom’s voice pulls him out of his spiraling thoughts “Are you okay?” she kneels down next to him a hand stroking his hair carefully.
“I broke up with him.” The confession rolls off his tongue with disgusting ease.
“I’m proud of you Jeno, that boy was no good. Nothing but trouble,” She tutts softly “Don’t even get me started on his mother,”
Jeno flinches underneath her touch, “I loved him.” he whimpers as he places his head into her lap.
“Oh sweetie, he’s just your first love , you're only eighteen,” his mothers tone drips condescension.
Lee Jeno is a coward because he succumbs to the pressure around him far too easily. He hits Mark in the places where he knows it’ll hurt the most because he’s too afraid to admit that he cares a little too much about what people say and think about him.
Mark struggles with burdens he shouldn’t have, his mind has been poisoned by his own mother into believing that he is unlovable, that everything he touches will crumble into pieces.
Mark doesn’t trust probably because nobody stays around in his life long enough, Mark believes that he is broken, that he is undeserving of even the slightest inkling of basic human decency.
Jeno made a promise under the stars that he would never leave Mark, that he would love him with every inch of his being to make up for all that Mark had lost.
Jeno breaks that promise.
As much as Jeno’s parents pretend he knows that deep down they hate the idea of him with another boy. They smile and pretend that they support him but it's in the thinly veiled comments and the carefully hidden barbs that warn Jeno.
Jeno’s mother leaves him lying on the floor, his heart shattered to pieces by his own volition. He lies there sobbing his eyes out, fingers clenched around an old pocket watch. A gift from Mark.
“This was my fathers, it was passed down in his family,” Mark smiled softly at Jeno “I want you to have it,”
“Mark , I can’t accept that it's a family heirloom, ” Jeno protested.
Mark snickered softly “Trust me, it’d be a lot safer in your hands.”
The watch is all Jeno has to remember Mark by.
The passive aggressive comments from his parents slowly dwindle down into nothing. The stares from his classmates are gone now, it feels nice Jeno supposes to not feel like you have spotlight on you 24/7.
Mark stops coming to school one day and Jeno buries his head into studies in an attempt to ignore the feeling that twists around in his gut.
Jeno moves on in life a hole still sits in his heart, a hole made just for Mark.
He’s twenty-eight now, married to a lovely man named Jaemin, they’ve adopted two children one named Shotaro , who is currently eight and another a year month old baby named Jisung. Jeno is bustling around the grocery store Jisung rests in the cart while Shotaro plods along looking distinctly bored.
Jeno sees him sitting on the edge of a bin of oranges fingers trailing around him as he hum softly to himself.
Jeno see’s Mark Lee.
Mark hasn’t aged a day, he sits there in those beat up black converses of his, black ripped skinny jeans and the oversized hoodie. He is unbearably familiar from his mannerisms to the way he dresses. Jeno remembers that outfit with clarity.
He’s fifteen, and probably one of the only openly gay kids in his class That makes him a target for bullying. He’s being pushed to the ground, he remembers the sting of their punches and the bite of their kicks. All he can do is curl up in the hopes that they’ll leave him alone soon.
The names, the slurs that they call dig deep into his skin like barbed wire.
“What the fuck do you think your doing?” The voice is lazy as if the speaker doesn’t have a care in the world.
“Fuck off you stupid bastard,” the leaders voice calls out. “Go run home to your whore mother.”
They boys laugh as if it's the funniest thing they’ve ever heard. Jeno whimpers as they resume their beating, he can feel his lip tear apart blood trickling from it as a boot connects to his face.
A shout fills the air, replacing the grunts and thuds.
“Leave him the fuck alone.” the voice repeats softly.
The sound is wavering, Jeno can only pick up snippets of what is happening. He crawls out of his fetal position to watch as a figure gets socked in the face. The bullies are screaming obscenities and slurs, spittle flying from their mouths as they attack his would be savior with reckless abandon.
The figure is a boy with thick black hair, Mark Lee, one of if not the most notorious boys in the school well known for his reputation. His father knocked up his mother leaving her and Mark at the age of two, Mark's mother was the town drunk.
Mark was a figure of mystery, shrouded with rumors of violence, the ever growing number of bruises on his body. Mark was bad news.
Mark goes down with the blow blood dripping from his mouth, a smile plays across his bloody lips as he comes up swinging. Mark gives back as much as he takes from the bullies.
Jeno’s eye has swollen shut and he has managed to prop himself up against the brick wall of the alleyway. He can see black scuffed converses approaching him.
“Are you okay?” Mark's voice is kind.
Mark is dressed the same way when he and Jeno first met, yet he looks eighteen, with a crown of daisies perched upon his head. Mark hums twirling around the store, in and out of the isles he spins. Bruises cover his face and Jeno can only imagine what the rest of Mark must look like.
Jeno knows the reason behind the bruises even if Mark would never admit it to him. Jeno watches the ghost of his first love twirl away from him. Jeno makes a promise to love his children the way Mark's mother never did, to protect them in the way his parents never could.
He may have failed Mark but he will never fail his children.
As Jeno watches the ghost of Mark twirl around, his hands clasp around the pocket watch. The saddest thing is Mark was right, Jeno thought to himself Nobody ever stays around. Perhaps that's why he gave me his fathers watch, maybe it was to help pass it down the line.
What hurts Jeno the most even after all these years is the fact that despite all of the promises Jeno made to stay is that Mark never believed them. How it must have hurt Mark to sit there and know deep down that all of this was temporary, all of the kisses and the promises were fleeting.
I promise to never fail again.
Jeno’s ringing phone startles him out of his thoughts, keeping a careful eye on Jisung and Shotaro he answers it.
“Hey Jaemin, what's up?
“Just wondering when your going to be home,”
“I’m almost done, i’m about to get into line”
“Great and thanks again for taking Shotaro and Jisung with you,”
“It was no problem, you deserved the break,’
“Thanks babe, I’ll let you go know,”
Jeno hangs up, he turns around pushing the cart in the direction of the checkout line. He looks back one last time to watch Mark twirl around the store in apparent delight. A sad smile spreads across Jeno’s face.
Goodbye Mark Lee.
Fingers clasped around Mark's fathers pocket watch, Jeno turns his back on last time on Mark.