Duanmu Jian walked out of the examination room in a daze. The sounds of the other patients and the slightly hurried steps of the nurses seemed to come from far away as if they were separated by a wall.
In his mind, he still saw the medical report and heard the doctor’s voice. ‘If you don’t start the treatment soon, then I’m afraid … You won’t have more than five years left.’
Five years … Duanmu Jian continued to the waiting area and silently sat down next to his boyfriend. He didn’t speak up. He just didn’t know what to say. How could something like this be told to the person he loved?
Wei Li furrowed his brows when Duanmu Jian stayed silent. “It’s bad?” He had been afraid that this might be the result but he had hoped that he would be proven wrong. Now, it seemed that his fears had come true.
On the other hand, Duanmu Jian shook his head. How could this be called bad? Five years … That kind of time was really too short. And the doctor had said that even if he started the treatment immediately, there was no guarantee that he would be able to recover. Even if he recovered somewhat, he might never get back to full health.
That kind of condition … How could he burden somebody else with it?
He took a deep breath and turned to Wei Li, taking a deep look at that familiar face. They had spent so many years together already. He had been sure that there was nothing they wouldn’t be able to talk about but words still failed him. In the end, he could only force a smile.
Wei Li reached over and took his hand. “Let’s go home then. We can talk about everything slowly when we’re there.”
Duanmu Jian nodded and followed him to the carpark. Wei Li opened the door for him and waited until he was seated before he went over to the driver’s seat and sat down himself.
Duanmu Jian reached over when his boyfriend wanted to start the engine and stopped him. “Li, let’s break up.” He didn’t dare to look at him. In fact, he didn’t even dare to breathe. He never would have thought that he’d ever have to say these words.
Wei Li looked over incredulously. “What did you say?”
Duanmu Jian expelled the breath he had been holding and took his hand back, leaning against the seat and looking out of the window. “I said …” His heart twisted at the words but he forced himself to continue. “I said to break up.”
Wei Li gulped. He certainly hadn’t expected this. But if Duanmu Jian said something like this, then there had to be something wrong with what the doctor had said. “What’s the matter? Is it a grave issue?”
So far, Duanmu Jian had never told him what exactly was wrong. He had noticed that he acted differently since the first appointment but … he had thought it was just a harmless matter that would pass soon. He had only realized that it might be graver than that when several other appointments followed and Duanmu Jian became more nervous each time.
He still hadn’t thought it would be like this.
He did not believe for a single moment that Duanmu Jian would break up with him because he felt they weren’t compatible or that he would be better on his own. Never mind that the timing was much too conspicuous, there also had never been any indicator that they weren’t doing as well anymore as a couple. No, it could only be because of what had happened in that appointment.
Wei Li took a deep breath and forced himself to look out of the windshield so Duanmu Jian wouldn’t feel put on the spot. “What did the doctor say?”
“Nothing. It’s just —”
“Ah Jian.” Wei Li didn’t say anything else. The two of them knew each other well enough. After all, it had been eight years.
Duanmu Jian kept quiet for a moment and finally rubbed his brow. He did not want this. He didn’t want any of this. But what could he do? It would be stupid to hope to suddenly be cured and he also couldn’t hope that Wei Li would let it rest. That just wouldn’t happen. So in the end, he could only confess the truth. “Five years. Five years if I’m not treated or if the treatment isn’t successful. I shouldn’t tie you down for that amount of time if I know that I might not make it.”
Wei Li closed his eyes. Five years … So it was that bad. For a moment, he couldn’t say anything. It hurt just thinking about it. For the past eight years — for almost a decade — Duanmu Jian had been the most important person in his life. They had been living together for the past six years and spent almost every day and night together. They had confessed to each other when there was something troubling them, shared their joys and sorrows, and dreamed of a future where they would spend every single year from now on like that until their hair turned gray and their faces wrinkled and they were hardly able to walk a straight step and had to hold onto each other not just for emotional but also for physical support.
Now, Duanmu Jian had suddenly been told that he might never reach that age, that he might never have that future. This person that he treasured more than anybody else in the world … might disappear forever.
Wei Li opened his eyes again and reached over, taking his boyfriend’s hand, and squeezing it in comfort. “What are you even saying? It’s five years only in the worst case. Why would you expect that to happen? There is a treatment and it might very well be successful.”
Duanmu Jian looked at his hand lying in his boyfriend’s and his eyes turned hot. He took a shaky breath, making sure that he wouldn’t tear up. This was bad enough. He didn’t need to make an even bigger scene. “It’s easy to say that. The doctor said the odds might not be in my favor. This has been going on for longer than I realized and it took even more time to diagnose afterward. Only getting treatment now … This really doesn’t help.”
Wei Li glanced at him, silently asking him what exactly it was that the doctor had said. He wanted to know what was going on. Duanmu Jian kept quiet though. He just looked away again and even tried to pull back his hand. Wei Li didn’t let him though. He held onto his hand and even grasped it with his other hand as well.
“I will only believe it when I see it. And even if it doesn’t help and you don’t get better, I won’t leave you. We’ll stay together until the very end. You would do the same for me and I certainly won’t abandon you when you’re not doing well. I’ll stay with you.”
Duanmu Jian turned to look back at him and gave a weak smile. “Five years is neither long nor short. It’s too long to stay with a dying man and too short to enjoy life with somebody. It would be reasonable to break up. You’ve …” He took another shaky breath and this time, he really teared up. “You’ve already wasted eight years on me. Why would you add another five if we can’t have a future together? It’s just not reasonable.”
“Unfortunately, I’ve never been reasonable.” Wei Li leaned over and pulled him into a hug, refusing to let go when his boyfriend struggled. He buried his face at his shoulder and took a shaky breath as well, trying to calm down.
Duanmu Jian had to be even more devastated than him. How could he break down in front of him now? He had to stay strong. He had to prove to him that he would be able to depend on him in the future. Whether it was those five years or the many years he hoped to have with him.
He pulled back and cupped Duanmu Jian’s cheeks, looking into his eyes. “If it’s not because you’ve suddenly stop loving me, then I’ll stick with you until the very end no matter when that will come. You won’t be able to make me leave. Not in this life.”
“But I –”
Wei Li shook his head. “Don’t say anything more. You’re probably under shock right now. It’s understandable. Even if you suspected it was bad, you could have never known for sure. Getting your worst fears confirmed is something nobody could deal with easily.
“So, let’s go home first and then we can think about what to do. Let’s read up on that treatment you mentioned and then make another appointment with the doctor. After all, didn’t you say that would make your chances better? Even though we lost some time in fighting this, we can still give it our best shot from this moment forward. And the sooner we start, the sooner we’ll know if there’s a chance for you to make it through, right?
“Whatever it is, even if the chance is small, I’m willing to take it. I can’t call myself a man if I really left you because of something like this. A true man will fight for what he believes in. And I’ve always believed in us from the moment we went on our first date. You can’t make me give up on this.”
Duanmu Jian opened his mouth but finally just shook his head. Yes, there was no way to convince Wei Li to do anything else. This man wouldn’t listen to him. He might as well cling to him a while longer, even if it was only for five more years.
Five more years … Even though it wasn’t a long time, it was still not short if you only had this much. He should treasure every day of it.