TITLE: Me Without You
LENGTH: 10,475 words
WARNINGS: foul language
SUMMARY: Luhan hadn't exactly been the ideal boyfriend. Just when he's finally gotten his life back together, it all seems meaningless, because he's already lost the most important person in his life, Yixing. There's no one to blame but himself, for Yixing has given him one chance too many. Or has he?
FINAL NOTES: A huge thank you to my wonderful recipient for a wonderful prompt! ^-^
|Luhan peered into the deep abyss below in which the casket was being lowered into. Once upon a time, he could have very well been the one in that coffin. The more he thought about it, he should have been the one in it now. With all of his past transgressions, he didn’t believe that he deserved the amount of second chances he had received.
Now, he gripped the umbrella tightly in one hand. He had never liked the rain, and the hazy charcoal sky had finally stopped spewing sheets upon sheets of the dreaded water from up above. The downpour had slowed to a mere drizzle.
Luhan could only think of how unfair it was for an innocent life to be taken. He had been a good kid, unlike himself. He had been soft spoken, kind, responsible. All the things that Luhan hadn’t been. And yet here fate was playing its constant tricks in life, taking away someone, who was loved by so many, in a nasty car accident. Luhan still wasn’t completely sure if the wetness on his cheeks was from the weather or from his own tears. He didn’t deserve to die.
When it came time, everyone who was present threw their flowers into the depth in the ground, before the dirt would be replaced and everything would return to how it had been before. Life moved on, whether you wanted it to or not. They were mostly brightly colored flowers, happy flowers. But among them was a single white rose. Luhan had picked it out carefully. Usually a white rose symbolized beginnings, but it was also a fitting honor to a friend or loved one as a farewell, too.
Innocence. Purity. Respect. Hope for the future. Luhan’s heart clenched briefly as he recalled the words that his first, and only, love had spoken to him upon giving him a white rose during their final farewell. Back in his apartment, Luhan still had that rose, pressed between the pages of a book that he had never bothered to read. He would save it for as long as he could. A constant reminder of what could’ve been.
Caught up in his own thoughts, he failed to pay attention to the funeral’s conclusion. He only realized that the other mourners were starting to leave when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He had to brush a bit of his damp auburn fringe away from his eyes to clearly see the person who had brought him from his musings back to reality.
“Joonmyun?” Luhan stared incredulously. Besides a change of hair color from a dark brown to blond, the other man had not changed much since the last time they had met. Had it really been six months already? Joonmyun extended his one hand that wasn’t holding the umbrella. Luhan shook it with little confidence.
“It’s nice to see you again,” Joonmyun said with a genuine smile. He had always been the cheery type, and it was difficult for Luhan to dislike him, even though he had reason to.
“Yeah, I guess.” The blond merely raised a brow.
“You’re not going to ask me why I’m here?” Luhan shook his head in response.
“Why would I? You loved him, too, didn’t you?” Joonmyun had expected such a response, and smirked. Luhan felt his hands clench into fists by his sides. He hated being mocked.
“Ah, I suppose so. Although perhaps not in the way that you think. But that’s besides the matter, there’s actually someone I wanted to introduce you to.” The younger male turned, and Luhan took the opportunity to look at the person walking towards them. She looked rather young, and she was pretty. She might have been the type of girl Luhan would’ve liked. If he had been into girls, that is.
“Your sister?” Joonmyun snorted at Luhan’s guess.
“No, you idiot. We don’t even look alike.” Luhan only noticed the truth to Joonmyun’s words when she drew nearer to them. She was shy, and politely greeted him in a bit of awkward Chinese. He mustered a half-hearted response.
“Soah, this is my friend, Luhan. Luhan, meet my fiancée.”
There was a brief silence followed by a choking sound. It was Luhan. Suddenly, none of the past six months made sense anymore. His single-worded response came out in a whisper.
“Wonderful,” Yixing muttered as he felt the first few drops of rain beginning to hit the top of his head. He pulled out his umbrella, continuing to grumble as he walked back towards his dorm room from the library.
Perhaps deciding to go to university in Beijing was not a wise choice after all. Although his grades were superb, he had made few friends, always feeling like an outsider. And while grades were important, Yixing cherished friendships and relationships very much. The constant loneliness was starting to take a toll on him, whether he denied it or not. Wrapped up in his miserable thoughts, he only barely managed to hear the harsh curses coming from the mouth of a nearby stranger.
“Fucking hate rain,” the voice snarled for the billionth time. Yixing dared to take a glance at the angry stranger. He almost had to do a double take. The potty mouth belonged to a boy with the face of an angel, his messy blond hair poking out from underneath a drenched black hoodie.
Perhaps the other boy’s looks had made an impression on him. Perhaps it was fate. Whatever it was, however, Yixing found himself compelled to approach the person, tapping gently on his shoulder. He was almost rewarded with a black eye, as the boy viciously lashed out at him, startled and annoyed. Luckily, Yixing was blessed with fast reflexes.
“What the fuck do you want?” Despite being taken aback by his harshness, Yixing still held out his umbrella, a half-smile forming on his lips.
“Here. You don’t like the rain, right?” The other boy gawked at him incredulously for a few seconds, before snatching the umbrella and quickly walking off. Yixing was dumbfounded for a moment. He had meant to share it, being the kind person that he was. Then again, perhaps he had been too hopeful, too desperate to make a friend out of someone who clearly was not great friend material.
He sighed, pulling his arms out from his backpack to shelter himself from the rain once more. He felt a little better by making someone else’s day a little brighter. Well, he at least hoped that he had made the other boy’s day better. Humming to himself, he continued the long walk to his destination. But fate was not done with him yet.
“Hey dumbass,” a voice called out to him, only a few paces in front of him. Yixing looked back up from the ground into the dark, gleaming eyes of the stranger one more time. It was his turn to be shocked now, for he had sworn that the kid had disappeared mere moments before.
“You were supposed to keep up, you know.” The other boy took the backpack from Yixing’s hands, putting it on himself, before holding the umbrella back out, so that it was covering both of them this time. Still, it was not a large umbrella, and the pair had to stick close together in order to make it work. Not that either boy minded much.
For Yixing, it was the first time in a very long time that he had been in such close contact with another person. The rain had created a chill, and Yixing’s bare arms were speckled with goose bumps. It wasn’t long before his new companion noticed, throwing his arm around Yixing’s shoulder and pulling him closer. It didn’t exactly help much, but the boy knew his body heat was better than nothing.
“Next time, you should wear more than just a flimsy t-shirt when you know it’s going to rain.” Yixing nodded silently, still too overwhelmed by the rash actions of his acquaintance to form an actual sentence. By the time they had reached the dorms, Yixing was almost sad that his encounter was ending, for he was sure that this would be the last interaction he had with someone for a long time. Awkwardly, he tried to make the moment last.
“You didn’t have to come back for me,” he said quietly.
“And how exactly would I have returned this to you then?” The other boy glared at him questioningly, holding out the umbrella. Yixing shrugged and motioned to take it with an open hand, but to his surprise, he was pulled forward into an odd embrace. He was quickly shoved back however, but only after the other had reached into his back pocket. Yixing watched as the kid typed into his phone, handing it back along with the umbrella for good this time.
“My number,” the not-quite stranger mumbled in reference to what he had typed. Yixing stared blankly at the lit screen of his phone, unsure of what to think. When he looked up again, the other boy had already begun walking away. He turned back, though, and Yixing thought he saw a ghost of a smile form on his lips.
“Oh, and by the way, my name is Luhan.”
It had been a mistake. Luhan knew it had been a mistake. He should never have given the boy with the umbrella his number. With one look, he’d known instantly that the younger boy, Yixing, was too kind. Too nice. Too…perfect. All things that Luhan decidedly wasn’t. And yet he had given it anyways. Out of selfishness? Perhaps.
He was a bad influence, but he didn’t care. He continued his rampage of self-destructive behavior even though he was well aware that it was detrimental to his future. What future? Words he used to spat at his father. Words that he still spat at his father.
He wondered what he was still doing at the university, getting a degree in business that he didn’t even want. It wasn’t that he wasn’t good at it—he had an almost-perfect grade point average despite his lack of attending classes. There was just something in his guts that pointed him elsewhere in life. But the problem was that he didn’t know where elsewhere was.
He should’ve known that this would not be the case with Yixing. Of course it wasn’t the case. Yixing had his life planned out to a T, wanting to open up his own line of small, but tasteful coffee shops. And he was hardworking, too, never skipping classes or failing assignments. He had the exact entrepreneurial spirit that Luhan’s father wished his son had, but didn’t. Luhan wondered if it was fate trying to spit in his face again, because what were the odds that he would fall for someone that was a reminder of everything he should’ve been?
Luhan continued to lie on his bed, staring at the ceiling while thinking. For the past month now, he had grown closer and closer to the boy from Changsha. Yixing himself had told him that he was his only friend here in Beijing. That thought alone was enough to send shivers down Luhan’s spine. Because, for the first time in his life, Luhan was actually afraid.
He was afraid of the feelings he had developed for his friend. He was afraid of getting rejected if he ever mustered up the courage to let his friend know. He was afraid of what his father would say if he found out, for he knew how his father was when it came to the subject of his sexuality. But most of all, he was afraid of himself, of how he could potentially be the downfall of his friend’s happiness.
And such were the fears that had led him to attempt to push Yixing away, after he had so unfairly pulled him into his messy life. Luhan had started with the parties. He knew Yixing was not the party type. But the quiet, shy boy had not been fazed by the loud rambunctiousness of Luhan’s “friends”, though he had seemed slightly displeased by Luhan’s choice of acquaintances.
Next had been the drinking, as he had brought his friend to the various clubs and bars he frequented. Luhan had somehow managed to have been blessed with a good liver, as he seemed to be able to drink as much as he wanted with only rarely getting drunk. Once again, although he hadn’t touched even a drop of alcohol, Yixing hadn’t been intimidated in the slightest.
It drove Luhan crazy. He wanted the other boy to realize that he wasn’t a good friend, that he would never be a good friend. But Yixing only managed to stick by his side even more. It was absolutely maddening for the Beijing native. Because the closer that Yixing got, the harder he found it was to control himself.
He cursed himself for letting his feelings get the better of him. If it had been any other boy, Luhan would’ve merely avoided him. He would’ve cut off contact and not leave a trace behind. But unfortunately, he had a soft spot for Yixing, not just because he was selfish and wanted the boy for himself. It was also because he was almost afraid of what it would do to Yixing, knowing very well that being his only friend meant that Yixing was having a tough time being alone in such a big city.
Luhan sighed and closed his eyes. His head was starting to hurt, and when his phone screen lit up with a new message, from none other than Yixing himself, he suddenly didn’t want to think anymore.
Yixing didn’t know why he allowed Luhan to bring him to all the parties and clubs. He didn’t know why he felt so comfortable being next to Luhan, despite the fact that the settings were not exactly his cup of tea. Most of all, he didn’t know why he found Luhan so intriguing.
Actually, he did. He just didn't want to admit it. At least not to Luhan himself. Not yet, anyways. He wasn't ready, he was too shy. Too afraid of what his new friend's reaction would be. Yixing wasn't ready to lose a friend yet, especially one he had just made. Even if Luhan wasn't exactly Yixing’s exact ideal when it came to a friend, Yixing enjoyed his company nonetheless.
Naturally, it was no surprise to Yixing when Luhan asked him to go to yet another club that Saturday night. The answer was an automatic 'yes'. But this time, Yixing had known something was different. Luhan was on edge, he was upset about something. This was not the first time Yixing had seen him this way. He had done his best to lift Luhan’s spirits before, to no avail. The elder boy would merely wave him off, mumbling incoherent things about his father and how it wasn't important anyways. Yixing had decided not to pry. He could tell that Luhan wouldn't like prying. Besides, he knew that one day, if Luhan was ready to do so, he would tell him.
There were no words exchanged during their trip to the club that night. Yixing rarely initiated the conversation, and Luhan was in no position to talk. The silence was nothing to Yixing, for he had lived inside of his own mind for so long already. It was only when they had finally reached their destination that Yixing’s irritation mounted ever so slightly. He found it difficult to get mad at Luhan, though the elder boy gave him many reasons to do so. But this time, he couldn’t bite it back. Luhan had bolted as soon as they had made it past the doorway, leaving him alone once more.
He sighed, not knowing what to do. He had never really gone clubbing back in Changsha. And he wasn’t very familiar with Luhan’s set of friends. He felt uneasy. Vulnerable. Yixing momentarily considered leaving the dreadful place, before remembering that he not only had no means of transportation since Luhan had given him a ride, but also that Luhan would probably rescind their friendship for all of eternity if he did. As it was, he ended up sitting all by his lonesome in a booth, not accepting drinks of any kind lest they be drugged. He wasn’t going to take any chances.
Many hours had passed before Yixing bolted upright in his seat, frantically checking his pockets to see if he had been mugged while he had fallen asleep. He mentally cursed himself for being so careless and irresponsible, though he uttered a small sigh of relief when he realized that all of his belongings remained untouched. He was met with a peal of laughter, and instantly, Yixing turned to see a tall male seated by his side. He must have made a face, for the stranger held his hands up defensively.
“Hey now, I’m not going to bite you,” the boy with cat-like eyes smiled. Yixing frowned and rubbed his eyes, still somewhat impaired by his unintentional slumber.
“Who are you?” He questioned innocently, and the other boy chuckled.
“Wahh, you really are a cute one aren’t you?” He extended his hand, and Yixing looked around cautiously before shaking it firmly. “I’m Tao, one of Luhan’s friends.” Yixing relaxed a bit at those words, although he wasn’t completely sure if the boy called Tao was lying to him or not. He stayed silent as the other boy eyed him carefully, only looking up again when he heard yet another voice. Yixing felt his discomfort rise. Where was Luhan anyways? He wanted to go back to his dorm. Go back and sleep. Or do…something productive. He really didn’t know anything besides the fact that he wanted out of the loud, crazy, booze-filled place he was currently at. Still, always the overly-kind type, he turned to the new face.
“I’m sorry, it seems my precious panda here has been bothering you.” This person was even taller, and slid into the booth next to Tao. “Tao, how many times have I told you not to bother Luhan’s friends. You know how he gets.” Tao merely rolled his eyes and snorted. Yixing waved it off.
“Really, Tao has been no bother, I’m glad he was here to watch out for me. I could’ve gotten robbed or something,” he mumbled sheepishly. With that, Tao stuck his tongue out at the newcomer.
“See, Yifan? I’m being a nice person.” Yifan. So that was the other boy’s name. Yifan scoffed at Tao as Yixing made mental notes of their names. He didn’t want to forget if he saw them in the future which he was almost certain would happen if he continued to hang around Luhan. He was about to introduce himself when Yifan interrupted, smiling.
“You’re Yixing, I know. You’re Luhan’s b—friend, you’re Luhan’s friend. He talks a lot about you.” Although he was a bit groggy still, Yixing did not fail to notice Yifan’s slip of tongue. Boyfriend? Had he meant to say boyfriend? And the fact that Luhan had talked about him…it was almost information overload for the tired Yixing. He rubbed his temples as Tao began to hit his friend.
“Aiya! Yifan, you’re such—ah forget it. Xing-ge, don’t mind him!” Yixing let a small smile grace his lips as Tao patted his shoulder.
“Whatever, you’ll see when Luhan gets here,” Yifan mumbled, getting up to find the said boy. Left alone with the chatty Tao once more, Yixing tried to be friendly.
“So you three know each other? Yifan, Luhan, and you, I mean.” Tao nodded.
“Yeah, our fathers all do business together. I heard you go to school with Luhan?” Yixing nodded, telling the other boy of his café plans. “Ah I see, impressive,” Tao replied as he looked off into the distance. Yixing craned his neck to see what Tao was looking at, but was held off, as the other boy swiftly put his arm around his shoulder and began to talk quickly again.
“Xing-ge, let’s take a selca, yes?” Yixing had no chance to respond or react, merely letting Tao do as he wished, smiling shyly into the phone camera held up before his face. Just like that, he was confused all over again. Tao managed to snap several pictures before a long rant of curses filled the pair’s ears. Yixing flinched, but Tao seemed to expect it.
“Huang Zitao, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?!” It was Luhan, drunk out of his mind, and being half supported by the lanky Yifan. Tao said nothing, smiling to himself and his phone screen. It was Yifan who responded.
“Being a troublemaker as always, no doubt. Anyways, Yixing, I think that it may be better if you drove tonight, seeing how Luhan is at the moment.” He held the keys out with his free hand, dropping them into Yixing’s hand.
The metal felt cold and numb against his fingers. He had little to say as Yifan and Tao helped Luhan out of the club and into the car. Yixing felt strange saying goodbye to his new ‘friends’ and driving off with Luhan in tow. It definitely was not how he had planned on spending his night. Occasionally, he would glance at the drunken Luhan in the seat next to him, wondering what had caused him to drink so rashly. He wanted to help, but how?
The drive back seemed eons shorter than the one to the club, and Yixing was thankful for it. Perhaps his nap had paid off, as he felt wide awake and strong enough to help Luhan up to his dorm room on his own. He had laid his friend down on the bed, sitting by his side and pondering whether or not he should stay and do something to help make him more comfortable or leave and let Luhan deal with his own consequences in the morning. Yixing was about to choose the latter when a hand tugged at his own.
“Yixing…” Luhan’s voice was weak and still tipsy. Yixing sighed, and turned to see his friend staring back at him with an intensity that made him feel as if he wasn’t drunk after all. “…don’t go, stay. Stay with me. Please.”
Yixing sighed, getting up from the bed anyways. He turned when he heard the loud thump behind him, followed by the foul language he was used to hearing from Luhan’s mouth. Luhan had tried to follow him, but had lost his balance, collapsing on the floor.
“For goodness’ sake, I’m not going anywhere, Luhan. Just go lie down,” he said impatiently, helping Luhan up. He proceeded to take a towel from the bathroom, rinsing it with warm water before returning to Luhan’s side. He wiped his friend’s face with the utmost care and gentleness. He did his best to ignore the heart beating rapidly in his chest as Luhan stared intently into his face.
It was only when he had finished, and Luhan began to rest his chin on Yixing’s shoulder, that Yixing could stand it no longer. “Luhan, I—”
“I think…I think I like you Yixing. A lot,” Luhan blurted out unexpectedly, cutting off Yixing’s train of thought. The pounding in Yixing’s chest intensified.
“I like you…more than just as a friend. But…I’m just going to end up hurting you. You’re going to hate me.” Yixing took a long look at Luhan, whose eyes were closed. “You’re going to hate me, because I’m a horrible person who doesn’t know how to get a grip on his life. You’re going to hate me, because my father will do everything and anything to keep us apart because he’s a selfish bastard who can’t get over the fact that his son likes guys and doesn’t want to be a businessman like him. You’re going to hate me, because…well, even I hate myself.”
Right then and there, Yixing knew that things were not going to be easy. But he had accepted his feelings for Luhan long ago, and to hear that Luhan felt the same, even if he had to hear them while Luhan was in such a wretched state, was a blessing to him. Whatever fate had in store for them, he would at least give it his best, because that was the kind of person he was.
“I’m never going to hate you, okay?”
Luhan could only think of one thing when he got the phone call from his father. It had been almost two and a half years after meeting Yixing on that rainy day, and they had been doing well as a couple, albeit a secretive one. It wasn’t that either boy cared whether their relationship was out in the public or not, as most of their friends were quite accepting of their situation. Luhan could only chuckle to himself when thinking about how Yixing had later been surprised to find out that Yifan and Tao had been dating for quite a few years. No, it was because Luhan was troubled of his father finding out.
It wasn’t as if Luhan’s father didn’t already know that his son preferred men to women when it came to relationships. He knew. He just refused to accept it. And now that he was actually in a relationship, Luhan was concerned that his father would do something to hurt Yixing, whether it be mentally or physically. The elder Lu was not the least bit afraid of exercising his power, especially if it meant harming others.
Luhan knew that fact all too well. His mother had left because of his father’s abusiveness. He himself had felt the sting of his father’s beatings when he was younger. And the last thing he wanted was for Yixing to experience the wrath of his father. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. Luhan should’ve known. Things had been going well. Almost too well.
Naturally, when the phone call came and his father requested to see him immediately, Luhan could only think of Yixing. The entire hour of driving, he could only think of Yixing. One memory in particular was burned into the back of his mind. After his drunken ‘confession’, the pair had been more at ease with each other. Going out alone together was no longer awkward or tense, but relaxing. Fun, almost. Their outings weren’t exactly dates, more like the two felt the need to keep one another company. To fend off the loneliness, the depression, the fears.
It had been spring time when Luhan had taken Yixing to his mother’s favorite park in Beijing, the same park where she had brought him as a child. Those had been the last of Luhan’s days of happiness. Now, he could barely remember his mother’s face, the smile that used to light up his childhood days.
For over a decade now, he had relied on the faded, worn photograph that resided in his bedside drawer to help him remember. Even then, Luhan had a hard time remembering. It was if the time had washed his memories away, leaving behind only cloudy fragments of his innocence. The park was his only solace. When he was there, he could almost hear her laughter, her voice telling him how much she loved him. How much she would always love him. It was a place that kept him sane, but the relief it brought him also came with much bitterness.
That was, until Yixing had come along. And now that Yixing was by his side, Luhan felt almost whole again. The empty place in his heart was beginning to heal and fill itself in again. It may not have exactly been his mother’s love, but it was love all the same, and Luhan wouldn’t have wanted it to be anyone other than Yixing by his side.
Yixing seemed to understand the profoundness of Luhan’s gesture when he had explained the importance of the place to him. Of course, Yixing always managed to understand him. Luhan only wished that he could do the same, that he could look deeper into Yixing’s feelings and appreciate him the way he deserved. But Luhan was a coward. Though he appeared to be the tougher one in the relationship, it was always Yixing who was the bolder one. And it was Yixing who had brought a gift for Luhan with him the day that he had taken him to the park.
They had just had a quiet lunch together, lying down and relaxing on the grass beneath the shade of what appeared to be an ancient oak tree. Few words had been spoken, as always. It had been Yixing who had broken the silence, nudging Luhan, whose eyes were closed, with his elbow. Luhan had smiled at the younger boy, propping himself up on one arm to face him properly. Yixing had blushed, but continued on, presenting a single white rose from behind his back. Luhan had taken it with ease, careful not to prick his finger on any of the thorns, before inhaling its faint, but sweet fragrance. Just as sweet as Yixing himself.
“My grandmother used to plant white roses in her garden all the time,” the younger boy began to explain. “She would give me one for my birthday each year, telling me that they would help me keep my innocence and purity.” Luhan listened intently as Yixing’s expression darkened ever so slightly. It was rare for Yixing to talk about his family.
“But cancer took her away right before my eighth birthday. She forgot to tell me how cruel the outside world could be, how innocence and purity can never last, never win in this world.” Yixing sighed, and Luhan could not help but put his arm around the other’s shoulder, pulling him close, nestling his nose in the softness of Yixing’s hair.
“Before she passed, she had asked me to take care of her roses if anything ever happened to her. At first, I hated them because they reminded me of her too much. It wasn’t until my seventeenth birthday that my mother gave me a letter from her. That’s when I learned that the white roses were a form of respect as well, a sign of hope for the future.” Yixing paused, the tears beginning to pool in his eyes as his breathing became a little raspy. Luhan’s lips easily found their way to brush against Yixing’s temple, a small, but comforting gesture.
“When I first came here to Beijing, I thought I was going to be happier. I was wrong. I felt alone all over again, just as resentful as when my grandmother had just passed away. But then you came along. You gave me respect as a human being, you gave me hope. That’s why I want to give you the rose, Luhan. Because I want to hope for our future, no matter how many obstacles we need to overcome.”
It was then that Luhan finally leaned over, letting the rose drop softly to the grass and bringing his other hand up to cup Yixing’s cheek, letting his heart finally get the better of him as his lips lightly found Yixing’s own. The other boy did not resist in the slightest; in fact, Luhan felt Yixing’s fingers curl around his sides, clinging to his shirt urgently as he pulled him in closer. What started as a chaste display of affection soon turned into a desperate plea of raw emotion, as each boy drew the other in as close as they could.
It had been Luhan who parted Yixing’s lips with his own, it had been Luhan who had taken the opportunity to gently slip his tongue inside Yixing’s mouth. And Yixing had not protested, welcoming the action by kissing back breathlessly. But it was also Luhan who had stopped almost as soon as they had started. It was Luhan who pulled away first, taking the chance to look into Yixing’s eyes.
They reflected only pure bliss, and the thought alone that he could make another person that delighted made Luhan feel almost invincible. For the first time in his life, he had been able to make someone else truly happy. For the first time in his life, he didn’t feel worthless. He had surprised Yixing, and himself as well, when he whispered the next three words.
“I love you.”
Yixing had said nothing, too overcome by his feelings, but Luhan knew that he was loved in return.
There had been many moments of many days that had followed, filled with laughter and smiles in addition to kisses. But it was that day and that moment that Luhan always found himself thinking back to. And it was that day and that moment that he was thinking of when he pulled into the driveway of the house that he used to call home.
Yixing didn’t know where he had gone wrong, or more specifically, where they had gone wrong. Of course, when he had first met Luhan during his first year in college, he had expected that their relationship would not exactly be the easy type. The older boy may have looked innocent, but it was well known that he was more of a bad boy, always getting into trouble. Yixing had never really been into bad boys.
But Luhan was different, or so he had thought. While their first weeks of acquaintance had been somewhat rocky, the next few years had been more than kind to them, filled with pleasant memories that could always grace a smile to Yixing’s lips when he thought of them. He had been introduced to a kinder Luhan, one who cared far more than he let on. Yixing had been more than certain that Luhan had changed for the better.
Now, he wasn’t so sure. In the last few weeks, his boyfriend had seemed to regress. Staying out late, drinking even more than he had before they had gotten together, cursing after every other word. But even all of that was not what had bothered him. It was the fact that Luhan had begun to ignore him.
It wasn’t about the calls and texts, either. There had been a time where Luhan was open with him, talking freely, even about his family. Now, the pair barely exchanged more than two or three words when they saw one another, which was not often anymore. Yixing wasn’t the jealous type, nor did he think Luhan was seeing someone else behind his back. Whatever it was, he could tell it was eating away at Luhan’s soul. Yixing wished he could help, but what could he do when Luhan refused to let him do so? All he could do was sit back and watch knowing simply that something was wrong.
They had been together for almost three years when the phone call came. Yixing had been alone in his dorm room, studying for some quiz when his phone screen lit up with the unfamiliar number. There was a tiny part of him that dared to hope that it was Luhan, calling to ask if he wanted to take a late night stroll in the park, or grab a warm cup of coffee. Like all the times before. But that was all in the past now, he just didn’t know it yet.
What he had gotten instead was a nightmare. What he had gotten instead was the stoic, flat voice of a nurse who worked in a hospital in Beijing, a hospital with a name he would never want to remember. What he had gotten instead were the words that Luhan had wrapped his car around some tree due to excessive speeding and that he was currently in critical condition.
As Luhan’s emergency contact, he had been the first to be notified. And without a hint of hesitation, he had rushed to the hospital, Tao and Yifan by his side. He had been the first to be at Luhan’s bedside, horrified at the sight of his lover wrapped in numerous bandages and hooked up to so many tubes that Yixing could barely recognize him.
He didn’t know when he had started crying. He didn’t know how to calm the sobs that racked his frame from head to toe, draining him of all energy. He barely understood the doctors telling him that there was severe damage to several internal organs, as well a potentially life-threatening concussion.
It was if time had slowed to a crawl and he was holding onto his sanity by a mere thread.
Five weeks. Yixing stayed by Luhan’s bedside for five weeks as the constant rounds of doctors and surgeons did their best to ensure that Luhan would recover. Though the initial prognosis had been grim, they had managed to defy the odds. Or, as Yixing liked to think, Luhan had managed to defy the odds.
After class, Yixing would always return to his spot in the hospital, so often that everyone there knew his name within a matter of a few days. He studied there, ate there, even slept there, right by Luhan’s side. At the time, he had thought that the reason the medical staff were so concerned over saving Luhan had been out of the compassion necessary for their profession. He wanted to believe that, he wanted to continue to be naïve.
But Yixing’s worst fears were confirmed in due time. He had just gotten out of class for the day, entering Luhan’s room as he always did. It had become a habit, he no longer had to think about it, his feet just naturally carried him there. He had been surprised at first to see another person that wasn’t a doctor or nurse in the room before him. He was always the only one to visit so early in the day. Besides, Luhan had few real friends; only Yifan and Tao came to occasionally visit.
“Zhang Yixing,” the person had called out to him without even turning around. His voice was sharp and demanding, making Yixing’s skin crawl. He said nothing, freezing in his tracks as the older man turned to face him.
“You know, this is the first time we’ve met, but truth be told, you’ve been a nuisance to me for quite some time now.” Yixing was perplexed until the man continued.
“I’ve never once been fond of your so-called ‘relationship’ with my son, and I believe it’s gone on long enough. Too long, to be exact,” he said in an almost mocking tone. Yixing realized then. Luhan’s father.
Luhan had warned him from the very beginning that his father was like this, but seeing him in person was a whole other story. Although Yixing was not one to back down against adversity, he could not say truthfully that the elder Lu did not scare him just a bit. And right now, he could barely move a muscle, continuing to look down at his shoes without saying a word.
“No words? Nothing to say for yourself?” Yixing heard the older man scoff, not giving him a chance to respond. “It doesn’t matter anyways. Because from this moment on, you will cease seeing my son.”
It was then that Yixing raised his head to lock stares with Luhan’s father. He successfully pushed back the tears forming at the rims of his eyes and swallowed the acidic taste in his throat. The other man’s laugh was toxic to his ears, vile and livid.
“Luhan probably told you already that I always get what I want. It’s all very simple. Money works wonders, you know.” Yixing felt his chest tighten. “In less than a month, you will graduate. You will move to Korea and start your line of cafés there, as I have already provided all of the necessary funding. You will never return to Beijing.” Luhan’s father approached him, putting a hand on his shoulder. Yixing wanted to scream.
“You understand, right? I hope you do, for the sake of your family, your friends.” Yixing looked into the man’s dark eyes, and all he could see was emptiness. Of course he understood. Luhan’s father was threatening him, forcing him to get out of Luhan’s life at the soonest convenience. There wasn’t much left to figure out.
Yixing wanted to think that he had a choice, that he could stay and fight for his love. But if it cost him the lives of others, was it really worth it? He wanted to think that he wasn’t giving up, and in all honesty, he wasn’t. He would never stop loving Luhan, even if he could no longer see him. The painful truth remained, though.
Still, Yixing was not going to let it all end without the last word, without his parting shot. For years to come, he would never understand how he managed to say every word with unwavering confidence.
“Then give me this last month. To take care of him, to say goodbye.” Luhan’s father was about to cut him off, but Yixing raised his hand defiantly. He had listened enough for one day; it was his time to speak.
“I will do as you say afterwards, I’ll leave the country and start my life elsewhere. But though you may think I am giving in, and that this will change our situation, you are very wrong. Distance may complicate things, but you will never be able to stop me from loving your son, nor can you stop him from loving me.” He paused as the other man’s expression darkened.
“Luhan rarely spoke of you. He only talked about how disappointed you are in him, that he is never good enough for you. But now that I’ve met you for myself, I see that you have taken things for granted. Luhan is very much your son. Perhaps he may not have the inclination towards business as you do, but that comes with time, with maturity. Yet, just like you, he always gets what he wants. Remember that.”
The older man set his jaw with a sneer. “One month, that’s all you get. You better wrap things up accordingly. Break his heart, even. I’d approve of that.” He turned on his heel, ready to leave, but Yixing put his arm out to stop him. He did not seem amused at the boldness of his son’s lover.
“If you ever harm my family or friends, I won’t hesitate to come after you. Your wealth and connections can go to hell for all I care. Speaking of which, when I move to Korea, I will do so on my own. I don’t need your filthy money.” Yixing withdrew his arm, and Luhan’s father merely shrugged as if to say ‘suit yourself’ before leaving the room of his son’s hospital bed.
Yixing exhaled sharply when it was all over, sinking into the chair by Luhan’s bedside and holding his head in his hands, weak and disheartened. He had only one month to make the most out of his life.
In retrospect, Luhan had been blindsided.
When he had finally come-to, he had remembered wrapping his car around a tree after taking a call from his father. He remembered a few groggy moments of looking into the eyes of several doctors, impaired by medications. He remembered the warmth of a hand in his, Yixing’s hand.
And afterwards, when he had been discharged from the hospital, he remembered the days of silence that passed between him and his boyfriend. Yixing had taken care of him as he recovered, until he was fine enough to do things on his own again. Still, Luhan had said nothing to him about his father’s constant nagging.
It seemed to pass by easily. Within a week, things had gone back to normal, whatever that was. Luhan cut back on his partying and drinking, and Yixing seemed pleased. Luhan noticed nothing out of the ordinary, until the day came where Yixing invited him to a party. Luhan wasn’t an idiot, he knew Yixing hated parties.
But he went along with it. After all, Yixing was graduating almost a year early, at the same time as Luhan himself, despite their age difference. He blew it off as nothing, thinking that after all his hard work, Yixing finally wanted to unwind a bit.
It wasn’t long before Luhan had found himself on a couch in one of his friends’ apartments, drink in hand, sitting side by side with Yixing. It felt oddly right, as if it was where he was meant to be. Just like that day his father had called him home, things felt too good to be true.
Minutes passed, then hours. Jokes were exchanged with Tao and Yifan. Laughter and smiles. Luhan felt high almost, high on his happiness, even if it came at a cost. But he failed to notice Yixing’s downturned lips, his furrowed brows. He failed to notice the way Yixing, who normally was the epitome of calm, was fidgeting.
Or maybe he hadn’t wanted to notice. Maybe he had wanted to live with his head in the sand for too long. He hadn’t once ever considered a future beyond college. He had stayed in his fantasy world for so long, that he had convinced himself that it was reality. But there comes a time when the façade shatters, and you are forced to face your worst enemy: yourself.
By the time the end of the night had drawn to a close and the wee hours of morning were just beginning, Yixing and Luhan had finally been left to themselves. Many of their friends had already left the party, the few that stayed were starting to go to sleep. The two of them had decided to sleep over as well. But Yixing was wide awake.
“Luhan,” he murmured. It was a firm acknowledgement, not slurred by any sort of alcoholic stupor.
“We graduate tomorrow.”
“I know,” Luhan replied with ease. He was happy to finally be out of school. He was aching to get out of Beijing, though he knew his father’s chokehold on him would never allow him to do so. “I can’t wait. You better be prepared to take a lot of photos with me.”
“I’m not going.” Luhan felt like time had stopped when Yixing uttered those words. He laughed nervously.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Xing. I know you’re shy, but I’m always here.” Luhan attempted to pull his boyfriend into a comforting hug, but the fast-reflexed Yixing pulled away faster. Luhan felt his heart rise up in his throat.
“I mean it. I’m not going…I—I’m actually leaving in a few hours.” Luhan shook his head and ruffled his hair, refusing to believe what he had just heard. It was all just a bad dream right?
“Yi—” But for once, Yixing cut him off. Yixing had never cut him off. Ever.
“How long did you think we were going to last, Luhan? How long were you going to stay in your dream world, thinking that we could get by? Have you ever even thought of our future?” Luhan’s silence allowed Yixing to continue. “You know your father would never give us peace, yet did you ever once think about how we would be able to get out of Beijing?”
Dead silence. Luhan had nothing to say. What could he say? Yixing had vocalized all of his worst fears. “I thought as much. I can’t stay here, Luhan. I need to start my business, I need to move on.”
Finally, Luhan’s vocal chords seem to function again. “Does... does this mean… we’re... done?” It was a cracked whisper, every fiber of pain weaved within it. He couldn’t come to terms with what was happening. Of all people, he had expected Yixing to stay with him, no matter what.
Luhan’s tears began to fall even before Yixing silently got up off the couch. His reaction was instinctual, grabbing onto Yixing’s wrist, trying to pull him back. “Xing, please... don’t go, stay. Stay with me. Please.” The desperation in his voice was evident, a cry of torment. But it no longer mattered. Yixing had already yanked his wrist free, continuing to leave him behind.
“Yixing don’t do this to me!” Luhan shouted, his face wet, expression contorted, vision blurred. He didn’t care if he woke anyone up. He followed his now ex-boyfriend, trying to grab a hold of him once more, but it was Yixing’s turn to lash out and yell.
“Stop it Luhan, JUST STOP IT ALREADY. WE. ARE. OVER!” Luhan felt the shove that came from the person whom he had invested all of his trust in. That was when he lost all hope. He felt used and betrayed. He felt weak. He could only watch helplessly as Yixing walked out of his life. He could only feel the agony that came with the knowledge that Yixing didn’t even bat an eyelash, let alone shed a tear, as he seamlessly went his separate way.
And though he knew that there was nothing he could do to stop him, Luhan still flung himself at Yixing, trying to block him once more. But a pair of strong arms grabbed ahold of Luhan’s shoulders, preventing him from moving forward. Yifan.
“Get off of me,” growled Luhan, struggling fruitlessly against the taller one’s grasp. Sobs racked his frame, and he watched as Tao led Yixing out, the door to the apartment closing with a resounding thud. At that moment, all was lost.
Yifan released him, mumbling softly as he did so.“Let him go, Luhan, let him go.”
Five years had passed since graduation. Yixing was content with how things had turned out. He had indeed lived up to his word. Though the first couple of years had been rocky, he had found his footing in Korea rather quickly. He diligently learned the language, and worked several part time jobs to save enough money to not only survive daily, but to start up his business as well.
Jangmi Café. Yixing owned an eighty five percent share of his now-successful chain. The other fifteen percent was owned by his partner in crime, Kim Joonmyun. He had met the other man by chance, running into him on a subway ride after a long night of work.
It had been a day of long hours, and when Yixing had entered the subway, he had found him bumping into a dark haired young man. A briefcase had fallen, papers strewn everywhere. Yixing had raced to pick them up, apologizing over and over again at his clumsiness. But Joonmyun had taken it well, noticing the other’s fatigue. He had even taken Yixing out for dinner that night.
And thus a new friendship had been formed. While Joonmyun learned of Yixing’s entrepreneurial skill and hard-working ethics, Yixing found out about Joonmyun’s family, wealthy and kind. It wasn’t long before Joonmyun had convinced his parents to invest in Yixing’s business ventures, so long as his family had a minor share in its ownership. To Yixing, such a small request was greatly outweighed by the amount of assistance he would receive. Still, he had his pride, vowing to pay the Kim family back for their help.
From then on, things went well for Yixing. His cafés were not exactly an instant hit, but they soon became popular, partially thanks to the good reputation associated with the Kim name. Of course, he could not deny that his tasteful menu, as well as the superb marketing efforts of Joonmyun’s good friend, Do Kyungsoo, also contributed to his rise to success. Things were good. Yixing considered himself blessed.
Currently, Yixing was celebrating his good fortune with none other than Joonmyun himself. The pair were relaxing and unwinding at their favorite restaurant and bar, as they always did on Friday nights. But this time, it was Joonmyun who had a favor to ask of Yixing.
“If I propose to Soah, would you be one of my bridegrooms?” He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, as if it was something to be embarrassed about. Yixing merely confirmed in glee, grilling his friend for further details. He was excited for Joonmyun, glad that he was finding happiness in life, just as when he had been there to see the birth of Kyungsoo’s first child, a daughter.
Yixing remembered such moments distinctly, as if they were burned into his mind. He loved thinking about happy events. But it was a double edged sword. While they comforted his occasional nostalgia, his memories of Luhan, they also made Yixing long for Luhan’s presence. It was an issue that plagued Yixing constantly, though he was good at managing his feelings.
Joonmyun knew of Yixing’s sexuality and his past relationship, as did Kyungsoo. His two friends did not judge whatsoever and often tried to set him up with people they knew. But Yixing refused every time. No one could replace Luhan.
“Yixing?” Joonmyun waved his hand in front of Yixing’s eyes. “You alright? You’re spacing out.” Yixing pursed his lips, but nodded.
“Of course, just...thinking.” Joonmyun did not ask. He knew it was better to leave Yixing alone with his thoughts. If he was needed, Yixing would let him know. The silence dragged for a bit while the two men sipped their drinks, and it wasn’t until Yixing sharply inhaled that Joonmyun looked up, brows furrowed.
He noticed that Yixing was looking past his shoulder, as if he had seen a ghost. Joonmyun made a motion to turn around, curious as to what was going on, but the quicker Yixing had suddenly grasped a hand at the base of his neck, pulling him into a kiss.
For Joonmyun, it was definitely awkward, though he tried not to struggle much. Being rational, he felt that Yixing had done so for a reason, one that had better be explained. But for Yixing, it was like swallowing acid. He had been careful to avoid physical contact with anyone since the breakup, and to kiss another guy that was not Luhan, especially his soon-to-be-engaged best friend, was like a hit to the face. Painful and torturous.
And just like that, it was over. Joonmyun watched as Yixing suddenly got up from his seat at the bar, racing to the exit furiously. Yixing himself was confused about his own actions. Hadn’t he just kissed his best friend to avoid this situation? So why was he chasing after the past?
It had been Luhan that he had seen in the bar. Despite the fact that his hair was now a deep auburn, Yixing recognized him immediately. It had been Luhan who Yixing had wanted to deceive, kissing Joonmyun in hopes to deter him. Or was he trying to deter himself? He had no idea. Yet here he was chasing after his ex-boyfriend, who had bolted the minute he had seen Yixing and Joonmyun kissing.
He ran out of the restaurant and into the sidewalk, but Luhan was decidedly nowhere to be found. Yixing frantically scanned the surrounding area, not caring if passersby deemed him deranged or crazy. And sure enough, he spotted him. Luhan. Safely across the street. Without thinking, Yixing stepped off the edge of the curb.
The last thing he remembered before he hit the ground was a blinding light and the sound of blaring horns.
“Do you think we should tell him?” Tao whispered into Yifan’s ear. The pair was seated on a couch in Luhan’s living room. They were on a short vacation to visit him, now that Luhan had moved to Korea. He had made the move almost immediately after his father’s untimely passing from a heart attack a mere five years after Luhan had graduated.
Now that he was gone, Luhan had been free to do as he pleased. He had inherited the family company, and had managed it well, despite his father’s apprehensions that he would never make a good businessman. But as Yixing had said, Luhan had matured. He had stopped partying, stopped drinking like a madman. He had found his sense of responsibility. And now, he was successful.
Still, it did not change the fact that every day was a struggle for Luhan. His thoughts were always drifting to Yixing. When he got dressed, he wondered if Yixing would have found his outfit cute. When he ate, he wondered if Yixing would have found the meal delicious. And when he slept, he could only think of Yixing’s lips on his own. It was absolutely maddening.
“Shut up,” Yifan growled under his breath, quieting his boyfriend. Tao pouted, but complied. The two watched as Luhan sauntered over to his bookshelf, taking a small black book and opening it, looking intently at its contents.
“You two should go, I’ll catch up with you later, okay?” Luhan said it with a solemn tone. He wanted to be alone for a bit. Besides, Tao and Yifan were quite capable of navigating Seoul on their own and they probably wanted to sight see. He didn’t feel like being a third wheel today, not after what had happened a few weeks before.
“Of course. Just shoot us a message when you’re ready to meet up.” Yifan was the one to reply, forever the mature one, dragging a feisty and unwilling Tao out of Luhan’s place. Luhan merely nodded, not even bothering to turn around.
He stared at the dried white rose that had been pressed between the pages for years now. He had kept it from the moment Yixing had given it to him the day in the park. He would always remember what it stood for.
Luhan wanted to hope, he really had. The whole reason he had moved to Seoul was because he had heard that his ex-boyfriend had moved there. He had dared to hope to see Yixing again, even though Yifan had warned him that it was entirely possible that Yixing had found another love.
Luhan had remained hopeful, though. It wasn’t until he had seen Yixing kissing the dark haired man at the bar that he had officially given up. He wasn’t going to be the jealous type. He wasn’t going to be the one to try and drive them apart.
That didn’t mean it didn’t hurt, however. Luhan had felt like his heart was being torn to shreds, every last fiber ripped apart. It was why he had left right that instant. He didn’t want to see. He just hoped that Yixing would be happy with the man that Luhan would later find out was named Joonmyun. The last things that Luhan had remembered that night were the car horns and the lights. He had turned around just in time to see it happen.
Looking at the rose once more, he closed the book and returned it to its place on the shelf. He whispered to himself as he always did when thinking about Yixing,
“I love you.”
“One chai latte coming right up!” The barista beamed at Luhan, who had no choice but to offer a small smile back. He took a window seat at the Jangmi Café that was near his apartment. Though he had known that the chain belonged to Yixing before he had even moved to Korea, Luhan had refused to even set foot into one, not wanting to immerse himself in the past so soon.
But things had changed. After the funeral, Joonmyun had explained everything to him. How the kiss had been rashly staged. How he was getting married to the love of his life. How Yixing had always loved Luhan, and only Luhan. It had given Luhan a sense of peace, just knowing those little facts. Now, he was ready to face reality again, the first step being to enjoy Yixing’s success, even if Yixing himself would never see it.
He continued to look outside, watching as people passed by under the gray skies above. That was how life worked, it always kept moving, bustling along whether you wanted it to or not. His thoughts kept drifting to that night. He remembered how he had seen Yixing hit the pavement, pulled back forcefully by Joonmyun, who had raced after his friend just in time to stop him from stepping into the oncoming traffic.
At the time, Luhan had only thought of how selfless Joonmyun had been. He had thought that Joonmyun must have loved Yixing very much. But now, after all the explanations and revelations, he realized that Yixing had been the selfless one. Yixing, despite all these years apart, had been chasing after him, even to the point of risking his life without a second thought.
It was a slightly comforting thought, though he had not seen his former lover since the funeral of Yixing’s cousin, who also lived in Seoul. Since then, the hope in Luhan’s heart had been rekindled. He knew it would take time for Yixing to be ready to face the outside world again after his loss, but Luhan was willing to wait.
He sighed as little droplets began to hit the window. Some things never changed. He still hated the rain, and he had once again forgotten to bring an umbrella with him today. The barista set his drink on the table in front of him, and without looking up, Luhan brought the cup to his lips.
He was momentarily annoyed when the distinct taste of an Americano hit his tongue. He could’ve sworn he’d ordered a chai latte, Yixing’s favorite. Instead, he had received his own favorite drink. He was a bit puzzled, but said nothing. He wasn’t in the mood to argue to change his drink. He merely finished what he was given, leaving a generous tip behind.
Luhan contemplated waiting for the rain to pass, but the storm showed no signs of easing up. Nonetheless, he stepped outside, holding up his jacket to shield himself from the elements. He had just crossed the street when he suddenly noticed the shadow looming over him, the rain blocked from pelting him. He shivered, turning to face the kind stranger who had appeared with an umbrella. He opened his mouth to express his thanks, but no words came out.
It was Yixing.
“Long time no see,” the younger man began naturally as Luhan’s jaw dropped. “You know, you never liked chai lattes. I wonder why you even bothered ordering it,” he continued as Luhan wordlessly gaped at him.
“Wait,” Yixing held his other hand out, producing a single white rose from behind his back. Luhan could no longer remain expressionless, a smile beginning to form on his lips.
“Hope,” he whispered to Yixing, who nodded.
“Yes, hope. Here’s to us, Luhan. Here’s to our future.”