As long as he was in the same space as Song Juhan, He Gu felt as if the air had become thinner, making it difficult to breathe. With much difficulty, he forced himself to stay calm as he said in a deep voice, “How did you get in here?”
“I found someone to sneak me in, like a thief.” Song Juhan’s tone wasn’t very nice, a dark aura rolling off him in waves. It was as if there was something hidden within him and it was about to explode.
He Gu could understand where he was coming from. For someone as spoiled and pampered as Song Juhan - that had everything handed to him since birth - he must’ve never tasted defeat in his entire life. No wonder he was extremely angry.
But out of everyone involved in this incident, surely He Gu was the person most qualified to be angry? Yet in front of Song Juhan, he couldn’t seem to feel any anger. Instead he felt helpless; a deep and profound sense of helplessness, because even if he was angry, it wasn’t like Song Juhan would admit his mistakes, so what was the point in being angry?
Song Juhan noticed He Gu wasn’t saying anything, so he walked over and stretched out his hand instinctively.
In response, He Gu averted his face. “What are you doing here?”
Song Juhan stared at his hand frozen in mid-air as a look of annoyance flashed across his face. “What am I doing here? Of course I’m here to see you! The moment I stepped out of the detention centre, I was put into another prison. My dad kept me under house arrest. The only reason why I’m able to come see you today is because I made a deal with him to do the press conference.”
He Gu looked at him. “You’ve seen me. Now you can go.”
“He. Gu.” Song Juhan gritted his teeth and said, “I’ve never met someone with a temperament as stubborn as yours before.”
He Gu stayed silent.
Song Juhan stared straight into He Gu’s eyes as he said, “Why did you agree to take the fall for me? Are you stupid? Do you wanna go to jail?”
He Gu’s lips trembled as his fists clenched behind his back. He desperately wanted to come up with an excuse that would make him sound like less of a loser, but at that moment he couldn’t come up with anything.
Why? Why was he willing to admit to a crime he didn’t commit? Why was he willing to sacrifice everything to agree to such an outrageous request? How could He Gu possibly answer that? In the end, he could only answer, “No reason.”
Indeed, there was no specific reason. Because even if He Gu was given the same choice a thousand times over, his choice would still be the same.
The reason was simply - because it was Song Juhan.
“What the fuck do you mean, no reason?!” Song Juhan grabbed He Gu’s shoulders in a firm grip, looking directly at him with eyes that seemed to encompass the bottomless depth of the entire starry night. Song Juhan’s eyes seemed to have the power to penetrate through He Gu’s soul as he said, “He Gu, tell me the truth. Why?”
He Gu struggled for a moment, but couldn’t seem to break free. After one last violent push, He Gu roared in anger, “Let go of me!”
Song Juhan refused to let go of He Gu’s shoulder. Instead he pushed He Gu up against the wall and with emphasis on each word, he gritted out clearly, “Tell. Me. Why?!”
“Why?” He Gu’s eyes were bloodshot as he ground his molars together, staring straight at Song Juhan without any sign of backing down.
The two faced off in a state of mutual hostility until He Gu suddenly broke out in fits of laughter. Amongst the sound of his laughter, there was a sense of sadness mixed in.
Song Juhan fell silent, simply looking at the other man.
“Why? Hahaha, why indeed?” He Gu’s eyes started to glisten. “My name itself is ‘why*’. It seems I’m destined to have many unresolved problems in my life. Like why did I have to meet you? Why did I sleep with you for six years? Or why would I involve myself in your mess? Song Juhan, I want to ask you the same thing myself, but surely you already know. Are you honestly telling me you don’t know why?!”
*Just in case you all forgot, He Gu’s Chinese name uses the same characters as the common phrase ‘Why, oh why’.
Song Juhan’s breathing hitched, the look in his eyes as bright as a torch. “You like me, is that it? The question from that day, you still haven’t given me your answer. Do you like me?”
He Gu bit his lips in an attempt to numb himself with the pain and hold back his tears. It would be too shameful for him to break down in tears again.
He Gu had thought that as long as he didn’t say anything and Song Juhan didn’t say anything, he would be able to bid farewell to Song Juhan and take this secret to his grave. But deep down, he had always suspected - does Song Juhan really not know?
Song Juhan used his thumb to force open He Gu’s clenched teeth, then gently rubbed his fingertips over the soft trembling lips. A moment later, Song Juhan couldn’t seem to hold back anymore as he leaned down to kiss He Gu whilst whispering, “Why didn’t you say anything? After all these years, why didn’t you say anything?”
Every word from Song Juhan felt like a sharp knife piercing directly into He Gu’s heart. His voice shook as he said, “Say something? Do you not remember what you told me when I questioned you six years ago? You laughed at me as you said I couldn’t afford to play around with you.”
A frown marred Song Juhan’s features. “Back then I… I was still young, and I didn’t expect you to be serious…”
“You didn’t expect someone who you’d met only two or three times, and would sleep with you after just one song, would really like you, right?” He Gu had a sudden realisation - no one in this world was as self-harming as he was. He remembered every word and every detail from all those years ago. He knew what he was walking into and could see Song Juhan’s disdain towards him. But even though he understood everything clearly, he couldn’t walk away from it.
Yes, Song Juhan was just nineteen-years-old back then - an age where he didn’t even know how to hide his blatant cruelty.
Song Juhan fell silent for a while. “I admit in the beginning, my reasons for approaching you were not pure, but after all these years, you’ve become more and more important to me. I really can’t get used to not having you around.”
This was the first time Song Juhan had ever spoken such sweet and coaxing words, but for some reason He Gu couldn’t seem to feel any joy from them. All he felt was his cheeks burning up as if someone had slapped him hard across the face. After all these years of staying by Song Juhan’s side, He Gu finally made an impact on his life - he was his habit. Indeed, Song Juhan was used to him being on call at all times, an obedient, patient and fuckable man at his side. At the same time, He Gu had also gotten used to this kind of life. To the point he started to get confused - he couldn’t even tell whether it was losing his love or simply a break from habit that was the most painful thing to him.
“You’ll get used to it sooner or later. Let go of me now. Please, just go,” mumbled He Gu in a low voice.
“Can’t we just go back to how things were in the past? Didn’t I treat you well before?” Song Juhan started to feel anxious. He wasn’t used to being rejected over and over again by He Gu. With each rejection, his initial anger had gradually turned into panic. He never imagined that one day He Gu would want to leave him.
A life without He Gu by his side? How could that possibly be?! Song Juhan couldn’t even begin to imagine it.
He Gu’s heart ached painfully as his voice trembled uncontrollably, “Song Juhan, do you even know what it is to like someone?”
Song Juhan froze, utterly speechless.
“Liking someone… I don’t even know what that is, but at least I know this much. I definitely can’t watch you sleep with others without reacting. You want us to return to how things were in the past?” Every word that came out of He Gu’s mouth was excruciatingly painful for him. “You know that I… I like you, and yet you want us to return to how things were, you want me to continue watching you sleep with this and that?” He Gu might’ve been able to do it in the past, but he couldn’t do it now. Since he found out that Song Juhan was just using him to get back at Feng Zheng, he really couldn’t bring himself to do it anymore.
He Gu thought that after Song Juhan found out about his ‘feelings’, Song Juhan would at least feel a little touched by the thought. But in the end, his ‘feelings’ were worthless to Song Juhan. In fact, the revelation barely caused a ripple before it disappeared in the vast waters.
“You want me to stop sleeping with other people?” Song Juhan looked steadily at He Gu as he asked, “Is that what love is?”
He Gu felt the blood boiling in his chest as his breathing became harder and harder. Eventually, he couldn’t hold it back any longer and choked out, “Song Juhan, do you even have a heart?”
Wordlessly, Song Juhan watched the other man. His heart clenched at the look of extreme sadness and aggrievedness in He Gu’s features.
The moment Song Juhan found out He Gu was willing to take the risk of going to prison to save him, he was really touched. Since he was born, there had been plenty of people coming and going around him, but no one had ever treated him the way He Gu did. Although he never said anything outwardly, He Gu was always willing to do anything for him. No one could compare to He Gu - just by looking at him, holding him, or even just being around him, Song Juhan would feel at peace.
To Song Juhan, He Gu was someone he could always return to when he was tired; even his own home couldn’t give him such a sense of belonging. Song Juhan simply couldn’t let He Gu go. Just the thought of He Gu being intimate with someone else, or being nice to them, made him want to kill someone.
When they first met, Song Juhan really didn’t take this person seriously. Yet as time passed… he wasn’t even sure when, but somehow he started to feel that this person was born to be his, and his alone. Song Juhan paused before he said very clearly, “I promise you, He Gu. I promise I won’t touch anyone else. Stay with me. This time it’ll be for real and not playing around anymore.”
He Gu stared at Song Juhan in disbelief.
Song Juhan held tightly onto He Gu’s waist as he pressed his forehead against He Gu’s forehead, then said in a gentle voice, “I promise you... anything you want. Just stop being angry with me, I really miss you.
He Gu stiffened. Not only was his body as rigid as iron, but his brain seemed to stop working as well.
What did Song Juhan just promise me?
Song Juhan lightly kissed his lips, “Don’t you like me? Just keep liking me. I promise I’ll be good to you and I won’t mess around with anyone else again. Let’s really be together this time.”
He Gu came back to his senses, his eyes widened as he suddenly pushed Song Juhan away fiercely.
A moment ago, Song Juhan was still looking tenderly at the other man. In the blink of an eye, he was pushed back without warning, stumbling back a few steps and nearly tumbling to the floor. Irritation vibrated through his veins as he felt his passion from a second ago doused in chilling cold water. Coupled with the constant verbal abuse and criticism he had been suffering during this period, this final push was simply adding fuel to the fire. Song Juhan clenched his fists and stared at He Gu with humiliation and resentment.
On the other hand, He Gu stood on shaky legs, barely supporting himself against the wall. For a long while, he stared unblinkingly at Song Juhan before he said with a tremble in his voice, “Song Juhan, do you even know what you’re saying right now?”
Song Juhan shouted angrily, “Of course I know. Didn’t you say you liked me? Didn’t you say you wanted to be with me?”
There wasn’t a single day He Gu didn’t want that.
In fact, for the last two thousand days and nights, He Gu imagined it countless times. He dreamt of Song Juhan growing to love him with time; he dreamt of Song Juhan loving him, and only him. But the one thing he never imagined was that this relationship would run its course and exhaust itself to the state it was today. And when he finally heard the words he had been dreaming for, he was so tired, he no longer wanted anything anymore.
He thought he would be ecstatic. He thought he would be weeping bitter tears. But there was nothing - nothing at all. The only thing he felt was an empty hollowness inside. He Gu looked at Song Juhan. The man before him felt both familiar, yet like a stranger at the same time.
Holding back his temper, Song Juhan sighed heavily as he said, “He Gu, I know you’ve always been good to me. I’ve said this once before - as long as you say it, I’ll give you anything. You don’t want me to mess around with others? I promise you I won’t, so please stop making things difficult, okay?”
With a bitter smile, He Gu said, “You think I’m just being difficult? Being unreasonable?”
“Then what else is it?” Song Juhan’s breathing became unsteady, “You said you wanted to break up with me… then why did you agree to take the fall for me? If it wasn’t for me stubbornly disagreeing with my dad , you would’ve really gone to jail!”
“So you’re saying I should thank you now?” asked He Gu in a quiet voice. “You brought those people over to my house, ruined my reputation, and caused all my personal details to be exposed online. Now you want me to thank you for not agreeing to allow me to take the fall, is that right?”
Song Juhan’s expression changed instantly, “I didn’t ask you to thank me.” He paused for a second before continuing, “Everyone that approaches me always wants something from me. You’re the only one that treats me genuinely. He Gu, I really do care for you. Let’s start over again. This time I’m serious.”
He Gu seemed to have completely lost the ability to think.
Song Juhan’s proposal was very tempting indeed, but he couldn’t seem to feel happy at all. He had been pursuing this for as long as he could remember, but it wasn’t until he stopped wishing for it that it suddenly fell into his lap. It seemed so frivolous and irreverent.
He Gu didn’t dare to reach out anymore since he was already covered from head to toe in cuts and wounds. Yet he couldn’t help but feel like if he didn’t take this opportunity, he would regret it someday. It was right in front of him - the one thing he had been dreaming for the last seven years was right within his reach. Wouldn’t it be a complete waste of his youth if he didn’t grasp it now?
“Care for you,” “Start over again,” “I’m serious,” He Gu had dreamt of hearing these phrases since forever. But when the words actually came out of Song Juhan’s mouth, he was at a loss.
Why did the fatal fruit of temptation have to appear now, when he had finally made up his mind to give up once and for all?
Taking advantage of He Gu’s dazed state, Song Juhan pulled the other man into his arms again. Then he buried his cheek in the warmth of He Gu’s neck and murmured, “I really missed you. Only you’re good to me.”
At that moment, He Gu could feel Song Juhan’s fragility and sadness. During this period, he must’ve been through a lot, and for someone like Song Juhan that valued his dignity above all else, it would’ve been a serious blow to his ego. Song Juhan wasn’t one to let his guard down or show any sign of weakness in front of others.
If that was the case, Song Juhan really did need him right now. And it’s only because he needed him that Song Juhan was so desperately trying to get back together with him.
After He Gu realised that point, he felt relieved, as there was now an explanation for all of Song Juhan’s odd behaviour. Obviously it was impossible for Song Juhan to suddenly fall in love with him. He was probably just momentarily moved by He Gu’s sacrifice. In this low period of Song Juhan’s life, the value of He Gu’s existence finally shone through.
Nothing more, and nothing less.
“I will compensate you.” Song Juhan paused, then continued, “I’ll compensate you for your losses. That job of yours doesn’t earn you much anyways, it doesn’t matter if you quit now. And the news will pass eventually, so no one will remember you soon. Don’t be afraid. I promise I’ll be good to you, I’ll give you anything you want.”
He Gu’s eyes looked past Song Juhan’s shoulders and stared blankly at the wall behind him. He couldn’t tell what he was feeling inside. After staying silent for a while, he slowly pushed Song Juhan away. “... Let me think about it. You should head back first.” He Gu couldn’t think straight anymore.
Song Juhan frowned. “It was so hard for me to get out of there, and now you want to chase me out?”
“When the sun comes up, my mom will come here.”
“So? What’s wrong if she comes? It’s not like she doesn’t know what’s going on between us.” Song Juhan dropped kisses on He Gu’s hair as he said, “He Gu, I really missed you. I want to hear your voice, I want you to comfort me, I want…”
He Gu turned away and said in a low voice, “My mom does know, but she doesn’t like you very much. You should really go.”
Song Juhan seemed displeased, “I don’t wanna go.”
He Gu looked straight at Song Juhan. After a long moment, he said with a blank expression, “You just want to have sex, don’t you?”
Song Juhan didn’t say anything, but the look in his eyes seemed to be stripping He Gu already.
He Gu couldn’t hold back a bitter chuckle, “You must’ve been suffocating for the last while, being locked up in a detention centre for over a week, and then kept on house arrest for another week. It must’ve been dangerous and inconvenient for you to seek out other people. I guess I’m still the most convenient option for you, right?” How could he have forgotten? Song Juhan really ‘needed’ him - he was a stunning beauty and famous celebrity, it must be a last resort for him to come crawling back to someone he’s already bored of just for a fuck.
“What nonsense are you spouting?!” Song Juhan’s desire from a moment ago vanished in an instant as he said sternly, “I didn’t come here to fuck you, I came here because I was really worried about you!”
“Really? Well as you can see I’m fine, so you can go now.”
“I said I’m not going!” Song Juhan shouted angrily. “I’ve never lost face so much in my life, but I did all that just to come see you. How can you chase me away?!”
“Was it my fault you had to lose face? Then what about me? Who should I blame for losing everything?” asked He Gu indifferently.
“You…” Song Juhan’s voice froze over as he gritted his teeth, “What on earth must I do to make you reconcile with me? Didn’t you say you liked me? Then fucking show it!”
He Gu felt like he had been slapped in public as he listened to Song Juhan casually talk about the secret he had carefully kept hidden for the last six years. It was as if his most shameful secret had been laid out for all to see, and yet the other party was still joking around nonchalantly.
The feeling of helplessness was overwhelming. He Gu collapsed onto the sofa heavily and said, “I feel really confused right now. I’m begging you, can you please just leave.”
“I’m not going anywhere, unless you agree to be with me.” Song Juhan walked over and lowered to squat in front of him. With his pitch-black eyes, he stared unblinkingly at He Gu, revealing a hint of innocence as he said, “He Gu, I think I’ve really fallen for you, too. Let’s start over again, okay?”
He Gu looked deeply at him for a long while as a tingling pain pierced his heart. He couldn’t exactly describe what he was feeling at the moment, but it was as if the precious treasure he’d been pursuing was just handed to him by Song Juhan, given to him with the same indifferent and casual attitude as when he’d given him the car or the apartment. If he didn’t accept it, wouldn’t he be hypocritical? After all, that is what he wanted, wasn’t it?
Originally, He Gu thought ‘love’ was something equally precious to Song Juhan. That’s why it was reserved for his special someone and couldn’t be given to him. In the end, the feeling of ‘love’ was just as common and ordinary as any other emotion; it was neither special nor rare for Song Juhan. For the first time, He Gu realised that not everyone valued the pureness of ‘love’. All the years he spent suffering in silence meant nothing, since it was worthless to the likes of Song Juhan.
How was he supposed to explain to Song Juhan what he was feeling at the moment? Why he was hurting? Why he was hating? Or why he was rejecting him?
Song Juhan would never understand. Even if He Gu changed every word he’d said to countless lines of ‘like’ or even ‘love’, and poured out his heart to him, Song Juhan still wouldn’t understand.
Ironically, it turned out the uncrossable distance between them wasn’t because of external factors such as their family background, careers, or even social status. It was their heart.
In that instant, He Gu experienced what it felt like to be completely and depressingly powerless.
Why did he bother placing such importance on a feeling as feeble as ‘love’? And why should he ask others to place the same importance on it as he did? Just like how some would value money above all, why couldn’t others not care about something as ridiculous as ‘love’?
Song Juhan didn’t do anything wrong. All his life, he’d been showered with affection and the ‘love’ of many, so obviously he never learnt how to appreciate it.
If that was the case, why should he still struggle with this decision? All He Gu ever wanted was to monopolise Song Juhan. Now that it’s been offered to him, why should he bother refusing? Why bother being pretentious?
He Gu used everything in him to ‘love’ this one person; wasn’t this what he wanted? After all that, the result was that Song Juhan easily offered it to him.
In the end, all routes lead to the same destination*.
*殊途同归 - different means of achieving the same end (idiom)
It’s just that after overcoming all obstacles* and suffering through the pain of cuts and bruises, it turned out it was all for nothing. His will to not give up was to fight for a ‘love’ that Song Juhan simply didn’t care about. It was all a joke - a complete and utter joke.
*披荆斩棘 - lit. to cut one's way through thistles and thorns (idiom)