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Broken Records

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"It's a sunny morning in Chicago with partly cloudy skies, no need to expect rain today, although-"

Jaehyun turned off the clock radio and closed his eyes tightly, taking a deep breath. What time had he gone to bed last night? Too late. Too early, it was too early in the morning. Class. Gotta go to class today. He pushed himself halfway up into a sitting position and looked at his desk.

Two plates sat on the desk. One was clean, one contained three pizza crusts. There were two cans of soda; one was crumpled, one was undoubtedly still half full.

His best friend Johnny had been here last night. Johnny always left his pizza crusts on the plate, and he only laughed when Jaehyun scolded him for it.

Rustling blankets and a loud huff of breath directed Jaehyun's eyes to the couch.

Right. Johnny was still here.

"Good morning, bro," Jaehyun whispered, quietly enough that he would go unheard if the other was sleeping.

"Hey," his best friend's voice came out in a croak, and as he turned to face him he rubbed his eyes. They looked swollen. Just one more side effect Johnny's ex had left behind. Swollen eyelids. Half finished sodas. Avoidant laughs followed by admissions of sadness, followed by crying, so much crying. One fist balled up, gripping onto the front of Jaehyun's shirt.

He had never seen Johnny cry, not until KC had woken up one morning, packed a single backpack, and left her and Johnny's shared apartment. She left behind every gift that he had given her. Teddy bears, the stuffed giraffe, his favorite gray Chicago bears hoodie, fifteen pictures of them for each month that they were together, half a dozen mixtapes, and his broken heart.

It had been two weeks since then, and several times Johnny had come to Jaehyun's apartment in the morning before classes started and just never gone home. It's depressing to be in a room without two heartbeats after fifteen months of company.

Jaehyun doesn't say any of this. He doesn't ask Johnny how he's feeling today- he doesn't push him. He doesn't ask him when the last time he changed was (he was wearing his favorite gray Chicago Bears hoodie). He most certainly doesn't ask him how his grades are or whether he will go to all of his classes today.

No, he thought, our loved ones sometimes need their space more than they need our actions. They need to be allowed to exist without rebuke. When he speaks, all Jaehyun says is, "Let's have breakfast."

Johnny's head raised off of the couch hopefully. "I can make coffee."

Jaehyun smiled. "You better. My coffee isn't tasting right recently. At this rate I'll have to hire you as my live-in barista."

"Don't you mean, your live-in Johrista?"

Jaehyun narrowed his eyes at Johnny, who was now covering his mouth, trying not to dissolve into laughter at his own joke.

"Well, anyway, did you want to do something fun tonight?"

Johnny, who was measuring the coffee grounds and inhaling the familiar scent, raised his eyebrows. "Like what? Did you have something in mind? I mean when you say fun...do you mean listen to a record together and like eat snacks, or like go on a life-changing road trip that will test us and ultimately leave us as better friends?"

Jaehyun raised his eyebrows, the sheer duality of the question causing him to think seriously before responding. "Hm. I was thinking more like take a drive somewhere an hour or so out and eat some good food, but now the stakes have been raised. Are you feeling like taking some big adventure?"

Johnny sighed, pressing the brew button on the coffee machine. "Well, to be honest, your plans sound like the biggest adventure I have energy for right now." He paused before continuing, trying to cover up the anxiety he was feeling, "Anyone else going?"

Jaehyun replied in a soft, reassuring tone, "We could invite one or two friends. Not a big crowd, but it would be good to see someone other than me for a change right?"

"Is that a challenge? Because I'll have you know, I am incurably competitive."

"Oh, I know." Jaehyun agreed, accepting the coffee Johnny gave him. In his favorite light blue mug.

"I am prepared to spend the rest of my life only hanging out with you in order to show you that I'm right. And that's a lot of commitment. More than most people have in their whole body actually."

More than KC had in her body at least, Jaehyun thought. I wonder if he still blames himself.

Jaehyun took a deep breath and exhaled before looking straight at his friend. "Do you want to talk?"

Johnny walked toward the couch and slumped down into it, resting his head on the pillow from the night before. "Yeah."

Jaehyun walked over to the couch and sat next to him. Then he waited.

They both waited. They drank their coffee, inhaled, exhaled. Johnny stared at the ceiling and collected his thoughts which were swirling endlessly like his hand which pet the blanket next to him over and over. And over.

Maybe we should visit the animal shelter sometime this week, Jaehyun thought.

"I just." Johnny hesitated, his voice croaking from sheer lack of use. "I just keep thinking about what I could have done differently, you know?"

"Yeah."

"I tried to be the most supportive, most comfortable, most caring person I could be. I tried to be different too, spontaneous. I tried to be everything for her."

"Right."

"And," Johnny hesitated, blinking hard to stay tear-free for the moment. "And I wonder if she got bored because I'm a boring person to be with. And I wonder when she got bored, you know? What if I was the only one in love and she just spent the majority of the time wondering if she should find someone else?"

"You're not boring," Jaehyun replied, simply. It was the only thing he could think of to say that held any meaning. Actually, Jaehyun thought, I'm pretty damn boring. That would be a stupid reason to leave.

Johnny misinterpreted the silence as Jaehyun's anger. "Are you still mad at her?"

He scoffed, ruffling his hair quickly and roughly. "Yeah. I know you don't want me to be, but. Yeah, I'm still mad." Being mad is okay. Feeling bored is okay. But leaving is….

Johnny took a deep breath, the signs of tears starting to gather in his throat. He cleared it. "It's not her fault. You shouldn't stay with someone you don't want to be with."

Jaehyun began to concentrate on remaining calm. "You shouldn't leave a fifteenth month relationship without an explanation."

"Hey." Johnny nudged Jaehyun's arm, which was squeezing the life out of a pillow. "Maybe she didn't think there was anything left to say."

Jaehyun relaxed his grip on the pillow and closed his eyes. "Maybe. But that doesn't mean she should just leave like that. Has she tried to talk to you since?"

"Not at all," he sighed. "But I'm glad. I don't think I could handle that."

"Would you take her back?" Jaehyun asked, not opening his eyes.

"Yeah."

He opened his eyes. "But she left you."

"Yeah."

Jaehyun sat up suddenly, glaring at Johnny. "She left like she never even cared."

Johnny looked at him, eyes flashing. "I. Know. But there must have been a reason that she left. I would give anything to know what that is. What happened." Where did I go wrong? No, no, maybe it wasn't that. She didn't love me anymore. She probably doesn't miss me. Do I miss her? Do I….

Jaehyun moved to sit on the floor, leaning his head against the sofa. "You didn't do anything. She left because she's a terrible person."

Johnny shook his head excessively. "You don't know her like I do."

Jaehyun turned to stare at him, eyebrows furrowed.

Johnny sighed deeply. "Like I thought I did. I know she's not a terrible person."

"I think I understand what you're saying," Jaehyun said, resigned to the differences in their outlook toward the breakup.

They sat in tense silence for a little while. It amazed Jaehyun how long they could be quiet, whether uncomfortably so or in a more calming way. "Hey," he nudged Johnny's leg. "You do know you're a wonderful friend, right? And that you were the best boyfriend that you could have possibly been?"

Johnny blinked. "Maybe. I'll have to think about that one and let you know." He stared into his empty coffee mug and then seemed to remember something somewhat important. "Don't you have class to get ready for?"

"SHIT. I have a presentation today!" Jaehyun jumped up and ran toward his closet while Johnny just stared blankly at him.

"Bro," Jaehyun said seriously as he tried to find his least-distressed dress shirt in a sea of black tees, "Go to class with me?"

Johnny sat for a while, staring at nothing, thinking, considering getting up with the weight of the last two weeks on him. "Yeah. Yeah, I'll go."

Jaehyun finished buttoning his nice shirt for his presentation and looked at Johnny's stationary figure. "You gonna get ready?"

Johnny picked up his backpack, which was nearly empty, the lack of books evident. "Ready."

Sighing, Jaehyun walked toward the door and shoved his shoes on. "Somehow I already know we'll stay in tonight."

Johnny lightly tapped him on the back and said, "We can call our friends over anyway and make it a halfway adventure. Just don't let Donghyuck near caffeine, alcohol, or a karaoke machine or it'll be more than we bargained for."

Jaehyun remembered that he had made a bet with Donghyuck to see who could win the most rounds of Uno in a row. This is gonna be a long day.