the first wave was calm.
a sudden burst of light in the sky that spanned through most of the northern hemisphere, bright enough to be seen even on the sunniest day that then plunged the world into a haze of gray.
don’t panic! the government said in every news article. just stay home and stay calm. but no one knew what it was, no one understood what was happening. for weeks, the world held its breath as they waited for something more for the other shoe to drop. for something.
when nothing did, time resumed.
kids went to school, adults went to work. things went back to normal with no one really thinking about the grey sky.
the second wave was slower, building, and unnoticed until there was nothing to be done about it. until the only only thing to do was panic, and worry, and hide away.
people were getting sick.
the doctors had no explanation, and no understanding as to what was making them sick, or what was killing them. there was no pattern in who was getting sick. some groups would all be taken down by the new illness, and sometimes a person in an area there had never been a sick person would suddenly end up sick.
people were baffled, and scared, and once again the news shouted don’t panic! keep calm!
he was at home in his pajamas when the third wave hit.
and oh did it hit.
the earth shuddered under the impact, and xiao xingchen felt his breath catch as his room shook. the screen of his tv glitching and flickering, and then his power was out and he was left in a dark room.
he sat on his couch in the dark room almost holding his breath as he waited. afraid something more was going to happen, afraid that if he even so much as blinked his ceiling might just cave in. he sat, still and afraid, and wondered again if maybe this was all just a bad dream. that maybe he was imagining it all and he would wake up on an average thursday morning to find out he imagined everything.
that maybe he had just drank to much the night before and the last few weeks had been a fever dream of tequila and bad decisions.
his phones ringer went off, the light of his cell blindingly bright in the dark room and he almost jumped hard enough to fall off his cough when the sound thrilled through his room. shocking him back into reality and almost seeming to jumpstart his heart.
the name on his phone makes his heart skip a beat.
that painful feeling settling in his chest that he has ignored for months, that had finally started to subside and he could look at himself in the mirror and think yeah, i can make it. the ache in his chest that was once filled by the very person on the other end of the phone.
it’s been a whole year since the two of them have even stood in the same room.
there’s only a second of hesitation--so short it shouldn’t be counted, but he wants to hold on to some of his dignity--before he’s picking up the phone and hitting answer.
the voice on the other line hits him like a breath of fresh air. like someone had just placed an umbrella over his head on a rainy day, and the feeling in his chest feels like his heart was going to burst.
“xue yang.” he hears himself reply but really he feels like he’s underwater. his own voice sounding muffled to himself. he feels like maybe he had merely been floating on the surface of a lake and merely uttering that name sent him plunging into the deep dark cold.
he never wanted to let himself do this, to come back to the very person who had left him so many kinds of broken he’s sure his own mother wouldn’t have recognized him. the person he was when he left xue yang is not someone he ever wanted to be and xue yang was not someone he ever wanted to be with again.
he always thought himself stronger.
“thank god… are you okay? you’re not hurt right? are you home?” the younger sends questions at him in rapid fire and it’s so similar to how he was when they were together. when xingchen would go out with friends and xue yang would worry ( controlling ) for him. he use to think it so endearing. he use to think it was a clear sign that xue yang loved him.
“i..i’m okay--yeah, i’m okay. just shaken? i guess, i don’t know. my power went out and i’ve just been sitting here.” he heard himself explaining before his thoughts could catch up to his own mouth. the words leaving him easily, talking to xue yang had always been easy.
he’s always been funny, with a strange sense of humor and his charming way with words that always caused xingchen to quirk a smile even in the more serious of situations. the two of them getting in trouble quite often thanks to his boyfriends ( ex ) need to make a comment on everything. he use to find it so endearing how he talked so much, his words pouring over xingchen in a way that calmed him. comforted him even.
it’s been a year now and he thought he figured out how to think about xue yang without ripping his own heart out.
he thought he moved past the weak feeling where he just wants to go crawling back.
he knows they aren’t meant for forever.
“are you okay?” he finds himself asking in the breath between his own words before xue yang could reply. concern getting the best of him.
( the sound of sirens and people yelling that he could hear from his cracked window let him know that he wasn’t the only one losing his mind right now )
“i’m fine! i’m on the --fuck-- i’m on the road from work.” he could hear the sound of tires screeching for a moment, and he knew the younger was probably speeding. xue yang always drove like he had no care for a single law in the world and honestly, he probably didn’t.
“everyone is losing it out here, not a single fucking person can drive!” the road rage was so familiar to hear that his body was relaxing into the cushions of his couch before he even really understood what he was doing. his body reacting before his mind could catch up and gosh he wants to be mad at himself. he wasn’t to be disappointed in himself.
he isn’t the only one though… xue yang was the one to call him and as much as he wants that to justify the fact he’s so happy to hear from his ex right now… he knows… he knows.
( we aren’t meant for each other, and its fine )
“you’ll come over , right?” xingchen spoke those four words into the microphone of his phone and it was like the world froze. his body tensing, his mind running on fumes as if he had melted out his last bit of brain cell with how fast he gave into his traitor heart. “since the world is ending, you’ll come right?” he repeats, adding the first as if trying to justify this to himself.
or maybe he’s setting up a barrier for xue yang, telling him that he only wants this because things are going to hell and he doesn’t know what to do. or maybe it’s what he’ll say when the world does end and he finds himself facing some higher power who is going to judge him for his choices in life and he’ll have to shrug and say the world was ending.
and maybe, just maybe, he was hoping xue yang would be the one to remind him that they aren’t supposed to do this. that he can’t relapse like this just because things are looking bleek. he was hoping for the younger to tell him no, i can’t -- we can’t. he was hoping that maybe the world would just end before he could ever hear a reply because maybe that would be easier on his heart. the very heart that for a long time beat only for the love given to him and the love he gave to the very person on the phone.
there’s so many maybes and so many things he wants to take back when he hears a yes on the other end of the phone. when xue yang says he’ll be there as soon as possible xiao xingchen allows himself a moment to hope.
the time it took xue yang to get to him from where he was took longer than he thought and in that time he found himself pacing the living room of his apartment until he’s sure that his floor was going to have a dent in it from where he walked. his slippers would be run right through and soon enough he’s sure he would have paced himself thought the entire floor into the apartment below him.
his fingers itched to type in another familiar number, someone good who would stop xingchen from--from whatever this is.. his legs ached to just run away before xue yang could get here and he was able to make another mistake.
he wondered if it was too late to text xue yang and tell him not to come.
he wondered if he really wanted that.
three heavy knocks to his door had him moving swiftly to open it without even pausing to think it might not be xue yang on the other end. the door flying open and there he was.
the year had done nothing to change him, those eyes bright and full of life and humor and that unconcealed cockiness that had originally been what got xingchens attention. he recalled the younger hitting on him a few times and failing but boy he had been persistent. uncaring of the cold shoulder, so eager to get to know xingchen--so confident that he would win him over.
his arms are around the youngers shoulders before he could make a coherent thought. an he felt strong arms wrap around his waist, the other lifting him just slightly off the floor as the hugged.
how long has it been since he’s felt this safe? the warmth and comfort of the others embrace seeps into his very soul and xingchen finds himself relaxing into it--into him. seeking out the safety of xue yang as if it had merely been a day. as if they hadn’t broken up a year ago. hateful words thrown between each other until one left in tears, and one left in anger.
he sinks into the deep, dark abyss. body numb and no longer cold, allowing him to fool himself into thinking he’s okay. to make himself believe he isn’t drowning, that he isn’t the one who just threw himself overboard.
the ceiling could cave in over their heads and xingchen would still probably think nothing is wrong so long as he could stay here.
( they say the devils smile is more charming than the potential of walking a golden road. xingchen thinks if this is what makes a sinner from a saint then maybe he’d never been a saint at all )
i loved you, i still love you.