Pairing: Sehun/Lu Han
Genre: angst, romance; college!au
Summary: They had known from the beginning that this couldn't last forever. Lu Han was only in Korea to study for a year. They knew that, they both knew, but the draw had been inescapable. Ever since Lu Han had asked if he could sit down at Sehun's table in that overcrowded coffee shop -- attraction, a spark that caught, and then they were stealing kisses in the library and walking to class with their fingers laced together.
But he had to go.
a/n: Inspired by Sunggyu's Shine, because it's perfect and he's perfect and my feels are all over everything. ㅠㅠ
Your voice, your eyes, your touch...I can't forget any of those things.
You're so clear, it seems like we can touch when I hold out my hand.
I miss you.
"We should probably just make a clean break, huh?"
He felt Sehun's eyes on him, but Lu Han kept his gaze focused determinedly on his bubble tea. He'd gotten the strawberry milk kind today -- Sehun's favorite, and it was sweet and sat heavy on his tongue and in the pit of his stomach.
"If that's what you want," Sehun said finally, and Lu Han nodded without lifting his head.
"Yeah...I think it'll be easier this way."
Sehun's grip tightened slightly on Lu Han's hand, but Lu Han didn't make any move to pull away. He watched Sehun wet his lips with his tongue - nervous habit - and then he gave a tight nod.
They had known from the beginning that this couldn't last forever. Lu Han was only in Korea to study for a year. They knew that, they both knew, but the draw had been inescapable. Ever since Lu Han had asked if he could sit down at Sehun's table in that overcrowded coffee shop -- attraction, a spark that caught, and then they were stealing kisses in the library and walking to class with their fingers laced together.
Sehun was his safety net in this unfamiliar place, and he -- he was Sehun's smile.
But he had to go.
He had to go back to China, graduate, get a job somewhere closer to his family to make his mom happy. He had to go.
They both knew that, but that didn't make it any easier, when Sehun kissed him softly in the doorway and said "goodbye".
Lu Han didn't cry until the door clicked shut behind him, but once he started he couldn't stop.
He was sick at the airport the next morning. He rinsed out his mouth in the washroom, and his phone vibrated in his pocket.
A text, from Sehun.
get home safe, hyung
And it wasn't enough, it wasn't damn near enough, but all he could send back was
before he forced himself to turn off his phone.
China was just as he'd left it. A bit more attention from his mom, from his friends, for the first week or so, but everything else was more or less the same. He was finally back in his home country, speaking a language his tongue didn't trip over, but he felt more disoriented and alone than ever. He kept catching himself checking his phone, his email, hoping -- but no, a clean break meant no contact, and Sehun had never been much for rule-breaking. He sort of hated that about him, now.
Lu Han checked his phone first thing every morning, last thing every night -- and finally he got sick of himself and deleted Sehun from his contacts.
But that broke him.
The tears came so fast he almost choked on them. His chest hurt, he couldn't breathe. His contacts list looked wrong without "Sehunnie~<3" listed there, first on his speed dial. It was just a name. Just a stupid pet name and a number, a number he wasn't allowed to use anymore.
But he needed it.
Even if he never used it, he needed it to be there.
His hands were shaking, but he got them to cooperate enough to add Sehun's number back in from memory.
Thank god he'd memorized it.
He spent his summer interning at a marketing agency. It was pretty easy work, he was good at it, and there was a lot to be done. His coworkers were nice. One of the older secretaries liked to sneak him homemade treats and told him he should smile more, while he was still young, and he just nodded and said "okay".
When his supervisor asked him why he was working so much overtime, he just flashed that smile he'd been practicing and said he wanted the experience.
The walls of his bedroom were his favorite shade of blue, but he missed the cracking paint of Sehun's dorm room.
He lasted weeks before he finally told Yixing. All Yixing had said was "what's up?" and Lu Han hadn't slept the night before, he'd been stuck thinking circles about the upcoming school year, about going to university every day and not seeing Sehun there, and he couldn't stand it. It poured out of his mouth in a rush of languages mixing at the memories, and they were in public and he was crying but Yixing listened anyway, without interrupting.
Sehun would be going back to school soon, too. Lu Han hadn't heard anything from him since that text at the airport, and he felt like he was going crazy. He wanted to call him so badly, he wanted to hear his voice. He wanted to know if Sehun missed him, because fuck, he missed Sehun so badly it scared him.
"So why don't you call?"
But Lu Han shook his head and buried himself in the hood of his sweatshirt.
Because he didn't deserve to.
"Because I'm the one who left."
The summer ended and the marketing agency offered him a job for after he graduated the following spring, and he promised to think about it.
He should have probably deleted their pictures together, or at least the ones of just Sehun from off of his phone, but he couldn't. He'd finally changed his background from the picture of Sehun smiling at him all soft and beautiful, that day they'd skipped class in favor of spending the day in bed with a stack of movies and more junk food than they'd been able to eat. Now it was just the generic background the phone had come with, empty and blue. It was safer that way.
But the picture was still there, saved to his phone with all the others. Sehun laughing at a stupid joke he'd told, Sehun's face when he was sleeping all curled up on his side with his mouth partway open, Sehun with his arms around him from behind, leaning his chin on his shoulder...
The oldest one, he'd taken the day they'd met in the coffee shop, when Sehun was getting up to leave. Lu Han had said "wait!" and snapped it the second Sehun had turned, so he looked surprised and a little confused -- but Lu Han hadn't wanted to forget his face. The face of the first person he'd met in Korea who he hadn't been too afraid to talk to.
It was funny, now. He'd taken that picture to remember, and now he couldn't possibly forget.
University was the same as he remembered it. The classes seemed boring and easy, now that he'd muddled through an entire year in a foreign language, but at least there was Yixing. They had a couple of classes together, and Yixing finally convinced him to start going with him to dance again.
It hurt, at first, because Sehun was a dancer, too. But it hurt in a way that felt okay. Because at least they still had this in common.
He hoped Sehun was still dancing, too.
Lu Han counted down the days without thinking too much about it. January, February, March... This, his brain wouldn't let him forget.
On April 11, 11:00pm, he bit his lip and hit 'send'.
And then he panicked, because that had been a mistake, hadn't it? A clean break, he'd said. But it was just a birthday text...it wasn't anything too meaningful, too personal. He'd edited out all he'd really wanted to say and condensed it into two words, and he hoped it was okay. They'd had no contact whatsoever for 302 days, so it was probably safe, right?
Probably not, since he was still counting days like they were hours.
46 minutes later, his phone buzzed with a new text message. He dove for it, where he had shoved it under his pillow in an attempt to make himself forget his own stupid need, his blind hope that Sehun wouldn't be too pissed to talk to him for bending his own rule, his fingers fumbling in desperation.
It felt like all the air was going out of his lungs. He couldn't breathe, and his phone slipped from his hands.
I miss you.
He'd made a mistake.
Lu Han agonized over it for days.
"That's what you wanted to know though, right?" Yixing asked, elbowing him where he was slumped across the table.
But Lu Han shook his head. He'd thought it was, but it sent sharp pain through his chest and made him feel empty all over again, because it meant that Sehun was hurting, too. Sehun was hurting, and it was his fault for leaving. He'd probably ruined Sehun's whole birthday with that stupid, shallow text message. He shouldn't have sent it. He shouldn't have tried.
"Did you text him anything back?"
"No," and Lu Han's smile was watery. "I couldn't. I can't."
Yixing made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat and ordered more hot chocolate for both of them.
A clean break... Lu Han remembered now why he'd wanted that.
It would have been easier that way, if it were possible. If he had just resisted that stupid temptation and swallowed his feelings down even though they burned, it would have been better. They would forget each other eventually, right? That was what people were supposed to do. That was how relationships really ended -- not in breaking up, but in forgetting.
But he couldn't forget Sehun. Sehun's smile was in the morning sun, his skin was in the silk of his sheets. His heartbeat was in Lu Han's bloodstream.
They'd spent so much time together. Stayed up late studying for exams, walked along the Han river with bubble tea in one hand and Sehun's in the other. More nights in Sehun's room than in his own, by the end of it, and his clothes in Sehun's closet. Sehun's lisp, his habit of licking his lips whenever he was nervous or thinking hard. The way Sehun's breathing deepened as he fell asleep. How was Lu Han supposed to forget any of that, to forget those things that meant everything?
He couldn't. He couldn't, but he hoped Sehun could.
Sehun deserved someone who would never leave him alone.
On April 20, 12:00am, Lu Han's phone went off.
He knew who it was from without looking at the screen, and he bit his lip and opened the message.
hyung, happy birthday!
He laughed, but there were tears blurring his vision and his hands were shaking again. He wasn't sure what to call the feeling twisting in his gut -- like hope and relief and despair all at once, but he choked it down and hit 'reply'.
But that wasn't enough, so he hit 'reply' again and added
I miss you, too
Yixing bought him a cake and a new pair of shoes, and he slid a card across the table about halfway through dinner. Lu Han raised his eyebrows. "Don't you think you're overdoing it?" he teased, and Yixing just shrugged his shoulders.
"Okay, okay. Weirdo." The card's design was simple, but when he flipped it open, Lay's handwriting slanted across the page.
Happy birthday, Lu Han!
You're a year older, and hopefully a little smarter, too. Dumbass.
Stop getting in the way of your own happiness.
That's my wish for you this year.
PS: You're my best friend and I love you.
Lu Han just stared at him for a long moment as the words sank in. Then he shoved him, because really -- "You bought me this card just so you could scold me with it? Asshole!"
"Hey, didn't you read the last part? I said I love you, at least," Yixing deadpanned, and Lu Han burst out laughing, because this stupid guy was his best friend. His best friend who had suffered through 310 days of his sulking and had never complained once. His best friend who only wanted the best for him.
"You're an idiot."
"Whatever. So are you."
They finished up their meal and took turns kicking each other good-naturedly under the table. Yixing paid the bill and they parted ways -- but Lu Han called out after him, "Hey, Yixing! Thank you!" and Yixing just waved like it was nothing.
Lu Han had some thinking to do, and that knowledge that he could made him dizzy with possibilities.
Lu Han graduated, and his mom cried.
So did Yixing, which just made Lu Han laugh and shove his shoulder. "God, you're so embarrassing!"
"Whatever. Shut up."
His phone went off somewhere in the middle of it all, and a slow smile spread across his face, because he knew who it was from.
He made up his mind right there.
Lu Han called up the marketing agency he'd interned at the summer before and asked to speak to his boss.
"Lu Han! Glad you called! That job's still here waiting for you, if you want it."
"Actually, sir, I was wondering if you'd be willing to write me a recommendation...?"
"Ah, that's too bad... We could use a mind like yours." A pause, then, "You're not going to one of our competitors, are you?"
Lu Han laughed and shook his head. "No, no -- I promise I'm not!"
"All right, I guess I believe you. So, where are you headed, kid?"
Lu Han smiled and clutched the phone a little tighter. "To Seoul."
He got the job.
"Be safe, okay? Be happy," his mom said as she hugged him outside the gate.
He adjusted his bag over his shoulder and smiled at her, so thankful that she'd agreed to let him go. "Thanks, mom. I will be."
He was nervous and jittery the whole two hour flight.
Honestly, he had no idea what he was doing. He couldn't make sense of his own thoughts, they jumped so quickly between 'fly faster damn it' and 'oh god I'm making a horrible mistake' and stuck on Sehun in between, but he was every bit as hopeful as he was terrified.
He just hoped he wasn't too late.
Lu Han didn't really have a plan. He just had to move, had to go, so he collected his bag and got on the subway toward his old university.
Seoul was surreal. It was hot but beautiful, flowers hanging on to their last bit of vibrance before the rainy season washed them all away. The murmur of Korean on the train was soft and familiar, like he'd been dreaming about for months, and he had to pinch himself to make sure that this was real, this was happening.
He didn't know where he thought he was going or what he was doing, really -- only that this was where he was supposed to be. His feet took him toward the coffee shop all on their own. He didn't fight it. He broke into a run and only slowed down when he got to the corner, because there were butterflies in his stomach and nervous energy coursing through his blood and he needed to stop to breathe.
He probably should've called, texted, something -- but he didn't know how to, after all this time. It wouldn't be good enough, anyway. This, going back to where everything began, was all he could think of. He wanted to try again.
He pushed the door open.
Sehun was sitting right there, at the table where they'd first met with a book open in front of him, just like Lu Han had somehow known he would be. Same sleepy eyes, same mouth moving around the words as he read them, though his hair was longer now and he was so beautiful, god --
Lu Han took a deep breath and a slow step forward.
"Can I sit here?"
Sehun's gaze flickered up, and Lu Han saw him forget, for a second, how to breathe. He stood up so quickly he almost knocked his chair over, and then his arms were around him and Lu Han's bag was in the way but he didn't care, because Sehun smelled just the way he'd remembered, and for the first time in 446 days, he was home.