Heechul has been staring at his phone for at least fifteen minutes now, has memorized the message sent to him, and has identified the emotions hidden behind it.
Chul, are you coming over tonight?
He flinched when his phone suddenly rang, signaling an incoming call. He took a deep breath before answering it.
“Hm?” He hummed as a way of answering.
“You haven’t answered my message. Wait, are you currently on the road?”
“Not yet, but I’m already inside my car.”
“Hm, okay okay. So?”
“Ah yes about that,” he started, pretending to forgot about the message. “No, Soo. I think I’m gonna go straight to my apartment tonight. You know, long day at work, I think I wanna rest earlier tonight.”
“Oh, okay then. Take care on your way home, Heechul. I love you.”
“Thanks Soo, I will. I love you too.”
He heard the other line beep, indicating that Jungsoo had ended the call. Only until then had he heaved out a relieved sigh.
It had been almost a month since the phone call exchange and they hadn't met even once. Sure, they call each other at night at least thrice a week, but they only last twenty minutes, and that is the longest one. They also exchange messages on a daily basis, but they usually are just How are yous and Have you eatens and exchanges of I love yous. Their usual flirting and telling the other about what happened on their day was completely gone, and what replaced it were long minutes of silence in their phone calls and short replies in their messages.
Heechul doesn’t know when it started, but gradually, as years pass by in their relationship, he gets tired and tired. They’ve been together for six years now, a few months short of their seventh year, and he wonders if they will even reach it at this point.
He loves Jungsoo, he really does. He loves him more than he has ever loved anyone else, and that love keeps growing each day that passes. And he knows Jungsoo feels the same way towards him.
So this slump in their relationship, it’s just a bump on the road on their journey together… right? They would go through it together, wouldn’t they?
Heechul could only heave out a deep sigh at that thought. He no longer knows what will happen in their relationship anymore.
It was Friday night and they’re currently on the road, going somewhere out of town. It will be a pretty long ride, approximately six to seven hour-drive from the city where they live. Siwon had planned this getaway, as a celebration for his and Hyukjae’s birthday, and his and Jungsoo’s seventh anniversary.
They were the only ones inside the car, as everyone had decided. The ride towards the beach house they rented for the long weekend was quiet, the music playing on the car stereo the only sound that could be heard. Heechul was looking outside, facing the window as Jungsoo drove, focused on the road ahead.
It was the first time that they have been eaten by an awkward and uncomfortable silence in their entire relationship. Heechul has been itching to break it, only because it makes him find it harder to breathe the longer the silence permeates in the air.
In a lousy attempt to break it, he said, “So, uhm, how’s work lately? Are the kids doing fine?”
Jungsoo smiled a little at the mention of the kids. “It’s fine. It’s stressful, but you already know that, you’ve even witnessed how stressful it is.” He chuckled. “And the kids, hmm, yeah, they are. They actually miss you, they’re wondering when will they be able to see their Mr. Pretty teacher again.”
Heechul smiled at that. Remembering the time when he showed up at Jungsoo’s workplace just as he wrapped up his class for the day and seeing the kids for the first time, he can’t help but miss them, too.
“Have you never got tired of teaching them, Soo? I mean, they’re not your regular kids. They require special attention, not to mention you don’t just deal with kids with a specific disorder, you deal with a variety of them.”
“Chul, if I got tired, I would have given up already and changed careers. Sure, each of the kids require special attention and it gets tiring physically, but whenever I see them laugh their hearts out and hear them shout in gibberish that is probably from something they watched over and over, I was reminded why I chose to teach them instead of normal kids.”
Heechul was staring at Jungsoo as he said those words, seeing the passion in his boyfriend’s eyes as he talked about his work.
“Have you never got tired, Chul?”
“Of my work?”
Jungsoo shook his head slightly. “No, Chul. Of us. Of this relationship.”
Heechul could only avert his gaze from Jungsoo and stared at his hands on his lap instead. Another long silence followed shortly after.
“Soo, can we not talk about it this time?” He said, biting his lips.
The other man only sighed. “Okay.” A few heartbeats of silence passed. “But we will, Chul. We can’t drag this for too long.”
Minutes had passed, and they were back with that silence once again. It was broken by Jungsoo this time.
“Go and try to sleep, Chullie. We still got a few hours until we reach the destination. Take some rest, I know you’re tired from working today.”
He could only nod and utter a silent, “Okay. Drive safely, Soo.” as he finds a comfortable position to take a nap.
Is he getting tired? He most definitely is. But he loves Jungsoo, and he doesn’t know how he will go on with his life without him.
Will we ever get through this slump in our relationship? Heechul has been pondering about this before he willed himself to submit to sleeping.
Most of the day was spent lazing around, as they don’t really have a particular schedule of things to do, aside from the barbecue party tonight. Half of them went to the beach to have some fun, while the rest remained inside the house to finally catch up with the sleep they deserve. Heechul was one of them, staying inside the room he and Jungsoo shared. As much as he wants to refuse Siwon’s offer of them having a room of their own, he knows he can’t and neither can Jungsoo, especially that their friends have no knowledge of what was happening between the two of them.
He just woke up from a nap and was just scrolling on his phone when the door to their room was opened. Whoever this person is, he didn’t even have the decency to knock. And only one person could do it.
He looked up from his phone and saw Kyuhyun, Hyukjae, and Yesung. The first one was holding the knob, and was probably the one to open it without even knocking.
“What do you three want?"
The three went to sit on the bed where he was lying down.
“For you to tell us what is happening between you and Teuk hyung.”
He glared at Hyuk. “Nothing’s happening between us. We’re okay, we’re fine.”
“You’re fooling no one, Heenim. We’re not blind and insensitive, we could tell everything’s not going well with you two.”
He sighed deeply, sat up on the bed and looked at them. “Who else noticed?”
The three exchanged glances, as if asking each other. In the end, it was Yesung who answered. “No one, as far as we know. The others don't seem to notice it yet.”
Heechul could only sigh in relief. “Good, good.” He looked at his lap and played with his hands before pushing further and answering their unspoken question.
“I don’t know. Honestly, there are a lot of things that I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening between us, I don’t know if he also shares the same sentiments as me—but he probably doesn’t, I don’t know if we will be able to reach our seventh anniversary, which is by the way, in two days. What I know is that I’m getting tired. Not of him, but of this relationship.”
A heavy silence filled the room, and he felt guilty unloading it on his friends. He can’t bring himself to look them in the eyes and thus resort to biting his lips.
“I shouldn’t have told you about this, not now when we’re in the middle of a getaway. I’d probably just spoil it for you guys.”
He felt the bed shift beside him and Yesung’s arm was around him in an instant. The hug was unnecessary, but it wasn’t unwelcome either.
“Don’t say that. You clearly have been burdened by this for too long, we can tell.”
“Is Teuk hyung aware of this, hyung?”
Heechul looked at Hyukjae and shook his head. “He doesn’t, we haven’t talked about it.”
“But you still love him, don’t you?”
“I do, so much. God knows how much I love him and that it never changed.”
Heechul sniffed. He wasn’t aware that he started crying until he felt tears spring from his eyes. “Aish, this is embarrassing.”
“Hyung,” he looked at Kyuhyun when he called him. “Talk it out with Teuk hyung. No matter what happens and what your decision will be, we won’t leave and we’ll support you, okay?”
“Stop talking as if my lifeline depends on it.” He answered, but they all know those words don’t hold any bite in it. “Thank you, seriously.”
“We know, hyung. Now stop crying. Won’t let you show up to the barbecue party with puffy eyes. You will look ugly and Teuk hyung will break up with you for sure if he sees you’re ugly.” Yesung said jokingly, arms still wrapped around him, and he pushed him lightly at those words.
“Fine, fine. Now get out of this room in an instant. I won’t forget how you just barged in here without knocking like it’s your room.” The three stood up and left the room but not without saying encouraging words to him.
Talk it out with him. Yeah, we really should have done that long ago. Heechul thought to himself.
It’s just another day to take a rest for them. Most of them woke up late due to the barbecue party they had last night, Heechul, Hyukjae, Kyuhyun, and even Ryeowook stayed up longer than the others drinking by the beach though they didn’t let themselves get drunk too much.
Now, he and Jungsoo were walking along the shore of the beach, looking for a spot a few meters away from the house so as not to be disturbed and spied on by their friends. Sitting down once they found a good spot, together, they watched as the sun set on the horizon, tinting the surroundings in golden orange.
“I missed this. When was the last time we watched the sunset together?” Jungsoo said after a few minutes of silence between them, the sound of waves crashing and the faint sound of their friends being loud from afar were the only sounds that could be heard.
“Probably last year? I don’t recall either.” Heechul put his head on the other man’s shoulder. “Me too, Soo. I missed this too.”
He felt his boyfriend put his arm around his waist as they continued to look at the scene in front of them. Another day is ending, will their relationship end too?
“The sunset is just so beautiful, isn’t it? Just another proof that some endings could be beautiful too.”
He bit his lips, the question lingers at the back of his throat, wanting to be said out loud and end his agony.
“Soo, do you want us to end?”
“I don’t know, Chul. Do you want us to end?”
“It’s our seventh anniversary tomorrow.” He sat up straight and faced the other man, reaching out to hold both his hands. Jungsoo looks so ethereally beautiful under the glow of the sunset, where he was painted in golden light. “Seven years, Jungsoo.”
“Are you getting tired, Heechul? Of us?” The other man asked him while putting his locks behind his ear, tears slowly forming in his eyes and he knew he was the same.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes before nodding, too coward to say that one word.
“Chul, look at me.” He felt the other’s thumbs brushing his tears away, and he opened his eyes and bore them into the other’s, which were mirroring the same emotion his eyes held—sadness, longing, pain, fear, and love mixed together.
“It’s been seven years, Chul. I would be lying if I say I’m not getting tired. I am, Chul, believe me. And I could feel that you also do, too.”
“I love you, Jungsoo. So much.” He sobbed out in desperation.
The other man smiled sadly at him. “I know, and I love you too, Heechul, so much. But our love is no longer enough for the both of us to stay in this relationship, not when the only thing we want is to get away from each other.”
The sun continues to set on the horizon, it’s faint glow was slowly being swallowed by the darkness of the early night. The two remained in their position on the sand while crying their hearts out, their sobs being the only sound to be heard along with the waves in the quiet of the night.
“Can we hold out our break up until the day after our anniversary? Just… let us pretend everything is going well until tomorrow, like our love for each other is enough. Let’s celebrate our love for the last time, Jungsoo.”
The other man nodded. “Okay. Okay, Heechul. Let’s do that.”
The two shared one of their last kisses, a kiss that was both hopeful and painful at the same time. The kiss was salty with their tears continuously streaming down their faces. They poured all the love they feel for each other on that kiss, knowing that their hours left together is counted and is slowly winding down.
When they pulled apart to catch their breaths, pressing their foreheads together, the tears just continue to come out. Heechul embraced Jungsoo and sobbed, and whispered “I love you so much, Jungsoo.” and the other did the same, hugging him tightly and saying back the words, “I love you too, Heechul. I love you so much.”
The two stayed that way for a while, the sun has completely set and the full moon illuminating the ocean and the surroundings, making the night more melancholic.
The celebration for Hyukjae and Siwon’s birthday, and him and Jungsoo’s anniversary was held that night. It’s just a simple celebration, with everyone’s favorite food and of course, cakes for each event. It was a rather quiet dinner compared to last night’s.
As the night progresses, the others all kicked out both Jungsoo and Heechul, saying that they should welcome their anniversary with a bang, in which both of them could only chuckle, but also went with what their friends said and called it a night.
And now as they both lay down on their shared bed, with him using Jungsoo’s chest as his pillow and the two of them cuddling while looking at the full moon outside, Heechul asked suddenly, “Should we forget that we’re breaking up after tomorrow and pretend that we won’t?”
Instead of answering with words, Heechul put his lips on Jungsoo and kissed him, the other kissing him back in a heartbeat. In no time, their kisses went from soft to something involving their tongues, and in between their make-out session, clothes were strewn on the floor, and Heechul was now on top of Jungsoo, tasting the expanse of skin underneath him, giving pleasure to the man beneath him.
For the last time, the two of them made love. It was painful, it was heartbreaking, and it was beautiful—all at once. Their bodies become one in a room where the only illumination was coming from the moon outside, which only highlighted the emotions they felt. Underneath the moans and cries of pleasure and the screaming of their names lies the unspoken pain and hurt that they are feeling.
And once they came and the ecstasy from their lovemaking was gone, they found themselves whispering I love you to each other once again, along with the shattering of their hearts.
Their last day on the beach house was their seventh anniversary, and they both acted like everything was going well in their relationship and that they are not breaking up once tomorrow comes. It’s actually easy, though. After all, they still love each other and pretending they still want to be together has never been easier.
Now they are once on the road again, not yet ready to go back to reality where they need to go back to their respective works tomorrow, and that they have to live without each other by their side anymore, and worse, in their lives, if only for the meantime.
This time, it was Heechul who was driving, and they were back with the awkward and uncomfortable silence like what they had a few nights ago. Heechul stopped at a red light and reached out to hold Jungsoo’s hand and kissed it. He remained holding it even after the light had turned to green and he was back to driving.
When they were halfway through the drive, Jungsoo insisted that they exchange positions now and that he drive the rest of the way instead. He agreed with it because one, it was tiring to drive for hours like that, and two, he didn’t wanna argue with Jungsoo.
By the time they got to the city, it was already nighttime, already half past ten. They still have an hour and a half before this day ends, so they decided to drive around and kill their time before their anniversary ends. Before they break up.
They reminisce about their go-to places for their dates while they pass them by, they recall the nights they spent watching live concerts in bars and in open ground spaces. They talked about their happy memories together, of how they both pine for each other until the time they finally got together, of their first date, their first fight, and even the first time they had sex. When they noticed that it was already a quarter before midnight, Jungsoo drove him home. It was a good thing that their last place was just a few blocks away from his apartment and they reached it in no time.
11:55 p.m., the clock on the dashboard read. Few minutes left of their anniversary, a few minutes until they break up.
“Are we really doing this, Soo?”
Jungsoo reached out to hold his hand. “We may, we also may not. It’s up to us if we wanna go on with this relationship even if it takes a lot of toll on us emotionally and mentally, or we fix ourselves separately.”
“I love you, Park Jungsoo. That will never change even if we end it. You are and will always be the one I love. And I’m sorry that it’s not enough for me to stay with you in this relationship.” He said, tears already streaming down his face.
“Kim Heechul, I love you, always. And I’m sorry, too.”
For the last time, the two embraced each other while sharing a painful and long kiss, both of them making the other feel the amount of love they have for each other. When they pulled apart, Heechul placed a long kiss on Jungsoo’s forehead, as a way of saying goodbye.
“Thank you for everything, Jungsoo. I love you, and goodbye. I hope for nothing but happiness for you someday.”
Those were the last words he said before going out of Jungsoo’s car and collecting his baggage, heart completely shattered but he has never felt so relieved.
“Chul,” his ex-boyfriend called before he got inside his apartment. “What if we meet one day and we still feel the same, and this time, we are the better versions of ourselves? Will you give us a chance if that happens?”
He flashed him a small smile. “In a heartbeat, Soo. But right now, let’s focus on fixing and finding ourselves. I might sound a bit hopeless romantic, but the universe will find a way for us to get back together if it wants us to be together. So long and good night, Soo.”
Once he was inside his apartment, he bursted out into tears as he crouched down into the floor. He cried and cried for the tragedy that is him and Jungsoo, for the love they had for each other, which is, despairingly, no longer enough for them to stay together. He cried and cried, until the tears stopped coming out, and he just stared into the darkness of his apartment, silently crying on the inside.
Heechul busied himself with work and drowned himself in alcohol after their break-up. The first few weeks without Jungsoo were hell, he could barely function and was always eaten by the question, ‘Did we make the right decision?’ and he has been tempted to call Jungsoo and ask him that. He calls up Kyuhyun to drink with him almost every week, and at first the younger was totally fine with it since it means he gets to drink, but as weeks went by and it became a routine, even his friend seemed to give up with the drinking and opted out to just accompanying him during those nights instead.
The pain the break-up caused him had been too much that he requested for a few days off from work and he even pushed his luck and asked to be working from the comforts of his home when his vacation leave was done. Luckily enough, his boss agreed and granted him his request but only for two weeks. So for a month, he hasn’t left his house except for when he needs to fill up his fridge, or when he needs to bring his dirty laundry to the shop.
In the third month after their break-up, Heechul started to get back to his old routine and old self, meanwhile trying to do new things, waking up early morning during the weekends to take a walk along the park, or watching cooking videos and trying them out. He found himself doing the same things Jungsoo does, and he found comfort in it.
And now it has been almost a year, almost a year of no Jungsoo and his presence, his voice, his warm embrace, his kisses. And he still misses it greatly.
But Heechul knows that he still isn’t fine yet. No matter how much he misses Jungsoo, he doesn’t want to come crawling back to him only for them to fall apart worse than before. He promised Jungsoo he would only come back once he became a better version of himself, and clearly, he’s still not any better than before.
That’s why when he saw Jungsoo sitting at a table in Yesung’s café, he didn’t dare to come inside and just walked past it. He initially intended to visit it, but going inside meant meeting Jungsoo and the inevitability of him running into his arms. He had to stop himself from taking a step near the entrance of the café and instead walk away from it.
So instead, he sent Yesung a text message, apologizing to him for coming inside and leaving. He didn’t explain it further, for he knew Yesung could understand the reason why without him saying it. And he knows Yesung would tell Jungsoo about it, anyway, as what they have done before. It wasn’t the first time Jungsoo tried to reach out to him after their break-up, so it wasn’t the first time he turned him down like this.
He continued to walk away from the café, from the man he loves after all this time, the man who is already waiting for him to come back to him. He just hopes Jungsoo won’t get tired of waiting for him this time.