Today is the beginning of this year’s Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week. As an aro-ace author I have been trying to bring some awareness to both asexuality and aromanticism by writing stories featuring aro and ace characters in prominent roles and publishing them as my participation for the awareness weeks in February and October respectively since my coming out on October 20th, 2019.
“Just Listen to Your Heart” is a short story I wrote for the Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week 2020 and that I am now making public for everyone after it was exclusively available on Patreon and subsequently Amazon before. It is a story about questioning and coming to terms with one’s identity, as well as being in a relationship despite that.
For the most part, JLYH is inspired by my own journey of discovering my romantic orientation at the far edge of the spectrum so it naturally can’t speak for all aromantic people. I hope that in the future, there will be many more stories with aromantic characters on the forefront and that I will be able to add a few to that mix as well. For now, I’m wishing you lots of fun reading this one!Author’s Note
The uniform footsteps of the soldiers and the sound of hooves hitting the ground in a regular manner rang out from behind the walls of the capital city. The people rushed out onto the streets and their balconies, craning their necks to be able to catch a glimpse of their Xian country’s heroes even a moment sooner.
The guards on duty opened the gates and with the sun glinting on his armor, Sang Yu rode into the city. A few scratches marred the surface of the golden plates and the dust of the road clung to his boots but it couldn’t detract from his majestic bearing.
The people cheered for him, as well as for his Generals and soldiers following him into the city.
Sang Yu gave them a smile, pausing a small ways from the gates. He motioned for the people to quiet down and his mellow voice rang out in the street that was holding its breath. “The war has been won. Our Xian kingdom has once again been victorious. Today, everyone will be able to celebrate.”
His people cheered again, some of the women nearby throwing flowers from the balconies while the ones further away waved their colorful handkerchiefs, making the street seem like a forest in spring.
Sang Yu waved at them and then spurred on his horse. His black hair danced in the breeze and the dark cloak billowed behind him. Yes, everyone should celebrate their victory. As for him … There was only one way he wanted to celebrate.
He sped up the road, urging his horse to go faster. He didn’t look at the people at the side of the road and didn’t listen to the ones calling out from above. He only fixed his gaze on the palace that could be seen in the distance.
The gates finally came into view and with them the person that stood in front of them. He had his hands folded in front of his body while he looked down the street. There was a focused expression on his face as if he was intently listening for the cheering from the edge of the city and the sound of hooves that slowly got closer.
Their gazes met and a smile lit up his face. He stepped forward, waiting for Sang Yu to reach him.
With a light yell, Sang Yu urged on his horse for the last time before stopping in front of his husband. “Ru Shen.”
Ru Shen lowered his head and bowed. “Welcome back, my Lord.”
Sang Yu got down from the horse and reached out, taking Ru Shen’s hand. “Your Lord has returned victorious. Shouldn’t you give him a reward?” He gazed at him with narrowed eyes, a peculiar glint showing in them.
Ru Shen couldn’t help but smile. “Is my Lord sure that he wants to be handed his reward here?” He glanced at the men that had followed Sang Yu before he looked back at him.
“Well, for now, collecting the interest might be enough.” Sang Yu raised Ru Shen’s hand to his mouth and lightly brushed his lips against the soft skin. “How have you been holding up?”
The skin around Ru Shen’s eyes crinkled in amusement. “My Lord’s worry warms my heart. However I have been holding up, I could never be as weary as my Lord must be from all the fighting and the long journey. Why don’t I accompany you inside and help you take off your armor now that you are back?”
Sang Yu smiled and squeezed Ru Shen’s hand. “Your care brightens my day, my dear.” He turned to the men behind him, motioning back to the city. “You should also go and spend some time with your lovers and spouses. Rest well. I will let the servants prepare a feast for tonight. None of you will be able to return before the wee hours of the morning.” He laughed and pulled Ru Shen closer to his side.
The Generals acknowledged his command and bowed before they left.
Sang Yu turned to look at his husband. “Let’s go.”
Ru Shen nodded and followed him into the palace. Sang Yu handed the reins of his horse to a servant and gave his instructions for the celebration. Finally, the two of them returned to Sang Yu’s quarters that they hadn’t set foot into for several months.
Ru Shen walked close to Sang Yu, his gaze trained on that handsome profile. He had missed him. Far more than he was able to express with words. If he could, he would beg him not to leave again but he knew that that was impossible.
Sang Yu had founded this kingdom. He had swung his sword hundreds of times already to defeat those standing against him, both the ones that had wanted to keep their people and their Xian country down and the ones who had wanted to benefit and take over when they were finally thriving.
Sang Yu was the origin of this country, its hope. Naturally, he would have to go and fight once again if the need arose. Nothing could be done about that and it would be selfish to expect anything else.
Sang Yu closed the door behind them, not caring that the one doing this should have been Ru Shen. He turned to his husband and cupped his cheeks. “Let me take a look at you.”
Ru Shen smiled. “Didn’t my Lord already do so outside?”
“Mn, I looked. But not long enough and not deeply enough either.” He raised one hand and brushed Ru Shen’s forehead. “I will only be satisfied when I can say whether there are any new wrinkles here.”
Ru Shen laughed in response. “My Lord is teasing me again. I thought that after you were gone for so long, you would only say sweet things for a while. Who knew my Lord would greet me with something like this?”
Sang Yu didn’t reply immediately. Instead, he indeed just looked at him, gazing into his eyes deeply, examining his face. It was as if he had decided to commit every single detail to memory down to every hair of his brows. Eventually, he sighed. “It is not sweet. It is bittersweet. For both of us. I managed to secure peace and gain some new territories but we had to separate for many moons. Every single wrinkle you gained is proof of the worries you had while I was gone. That is my fault. Not only did I leave you despite swearing that I would stay with you for the rest of your life, no, I also had you take on my tasks here in the palace. Say, do you resent me for that, Ah Shen?”
Ru Shen shook his head. “I am honored that my Lord trusts me enough to entrust these tasks to me. And I am glad that I am able to share at least one burden with my husband.” He reached out and touched Sang Yu’s chest, his fingertips tracing one of the shallow scratches right above his heart. “Were you hurt?”
Sang Yu nodded. “I would lie if I said I wasn’t. But it’s not too bad. Nothing that won’t be healed in a few weeks.”
“Then you’ll need a lot of rest and nourishing food. How about I help you out of the armor first?”
“Mn. I would be grateful if you did.”
Ru Shen nodded and then went to work. He removed the pieces of armor as gently as possible, his fingertips only lightly grazing his husband’s body in fear of aggravating any wounds.
Sang Yu laughed after a while, glancing over his shoulder when Ru Shen went to drape the armor over the stand to the side. “You must think your husband is fragile.”
Ru Shen gave the armor a last tug to make sure it was displayed well before he turned back to his husband. “My husband is certainly not fragile.” He walked back over, brushing the simple robe Sang Yu had worn below the armor. “I am just afraid he is hurt. If by taking off his armor I was to make him feel pain accidentally, my own heart would hurt as well. So maybe I am a coward who just fears pain.”
Sang Yu leaned down, grabbing his husband around the waist and pulling him up against his body. “Are you saying that your Lord is a coward?”
“Why? Are you also afraid to be hurt?”
“Afraid for you to be hurt.” Sang Yu kissed his cheek, his lips lingering on his skin a moment longer. “I missed you. And I always feared that somebody would be up to no good and start something in the capital.”
Ru Shen reached up, his fingers caressing Sang Yu’s neck. “The Xian kingdom should come first.”
“I know.” Sang Yu closed his eyes and hugged Ru Shen tighter. “But you are my most important person. How could I lose you? If I did … my heart might never be able to find rest knowing that I was the one who condemned you to that end.” He tilted his head and their lips met halfway.
A satisfied sigh escaped Sang Yu’s lips when they separated and the skin around his eyes crinkled when he smiled. “I missed that as well.”
Ru Shen’s gaze was hot on his skin and Sang Yu gave a low chuckle in response. “Not just that.” He leaned down once more, claiming ownership of that sweet mouth. His hands roamed over his husband’s back, slowly igniting a fire, and he pushed him toward the bed. He would have liked to pick him up and carry him over but after so many months of campaigning outside, he felt indeed somewhat weary. And if he strained one of his wounds, Ru Shen would be distraught.
In fact, Sang Yu was thinking too much. Just as he had missed Ru Shen in the hours when he was lying awake in camp, listening for any sounds outside, Ru Shen had missed him as well when he tried to rest in his chambers but couldn’t find peace of mind with that warm body next to his missing.
Now that they were finally together, the previous solitude and fear bubbled up again, making Ru Shen desperate to make sure that his husband had indeed returned unharmed. He reached for Sang Yu’s face, his fingers tracing the familiar lines, his eyes full of his most beloved person.
The two of them reached the bed and Sang Yu pushed Ru Shen down, hovering above him. His lips parted but, in the end, he didn’t say anything. He shook his head and then leaned down, his lips meeting Ru Shen’s while his fingers started to untie the knot holding his belt in place.
“Sang Yu.” Ru Shen closed his eyes and gave himself to his lover’s touch. The familiar sensation brought tears to his eyes and he couldn’t help but reach up, encircle his neck and cling to him, letting the tears fall silently. “Sang Yu …”
Sang Yu stopped in the motion. He sighed and then held him gently, burying his face in his hair. “I’m sorry.”
“I was afraid I’d lose you.”
“You won’t lose me. Don’t you trust in your husband’s might at all?” He chuckled and then kissed Ru Shen’s neck. His lips lingered and he trailed the crook of his neck, peeling the robe off his shoulders while he was at it, finally laying his torso bare.
He leaned away, gazing at the familiar body in front of him and then raising his gaze to Ru Shen’s eyes. “You will never lose me.” He leaned back down, pulling the robe out below Ru Shen’s body and throwing it aside. His fingers brushed the pale skin, his breath quickening.
He wanted to reach for his own belt but a pair of slender fingers was faster and soon, the fabric fell onto the bed, sliding down when Sang Yu eagerly brushed the robe off his shoulders and threw it away as well.
With nothing but their pants separating them, their skin heated up and their gazes were ignited, the flames of lust burning them from inside.
Sang Yu took a deep breath, trying not to lose his mind. He had waited so long. Back at the camp, he had fantasized about this. He had imagined how Ru Shen’s pale skin would look like satin in the dimmed glow of the torches that fell in from outside the tent, how his eyes would sparkle like the night sky lit with a million stars, how his body would writhe in pleasure below him, that sweet voice beckoning him, begging him for more.
Now, with just one step separating him from making these fantasies come true, he could hardly hold back. But he did not want this to be over too soon. He wanted to take his time, to take his husband slowly, to make love to him the whole day and night to reassure him that he had truly returned and that he would stay, spending each day with him like this.
Ru Shen gazed at the man kneeling above him with anticipation coloring his eyes. He gulped and finally turned his body slightly, moving into a sitting position. “My Lord …” He leaned forward, his lips touching Sang Yu’s chest. He kissed him and his fingers started to caress his husband’s back.
Sang Yu gave a low murmur and then reached down, pulling down his pants before he turned to take off Ru Shen’s as well. He pushed him back down even though he enjoyed the gentle treatment. Unfortunately, it was not enough anymore. As much as he wanted to take his time, he could not do so. He needed more.
He once again took possession of Ru Shen’s lips, sating the hunger they had both felt in the previous months. His hands roamed over that slender body, leaving a hot trail on the skin.
Ru Shen took a ragged breath and reached up, his hands brushing Sang Yu’s shoulders, feeling the small elevations of the scars he had gained in this past war and the ones before.
“Ah Shen.” Sang Yu sighed his name, his hand massaging Ru Shen’s leg to relax him.
His husband took in a surprised breath when the rough skin touched his. It had been too long. “Sang Yu …”
Sang Yu didn’t reply. He gave a grunt and impatiently grabbed Ru Shen’s manhood. He rubbed and caressed while his lips returned to suck on Ru Shen’s, filling their bedchamber with ambiguous sounds.
Ru Shen pushed his heels into the mattress, his fingers grabbing harder onto his husband’s shoulders. He squirmed under his touch, a moan escaping his lips between two kisses. He closed his eyes and tried to take a deep breath but it got stuck in his throat, letting him only choke out a sob of ecstasy. Sang Yu smiled in return, his lips leaving Ru Shen’s and instead turning to his ear, biting the sensitive earlobe and making him shudder. He spread his husband’s legs further apart, his other hand rubbing the soft skin while he continued to fondle his manhood.
Ru Shen quivered more strongly, his eyes turning misty in the fire’s glow. “Sang Yu.” He took another ragged breath, moving his body to let Sang Yu touch him more easily.
Sang Yu turned to suck at his neck, leaving wet traces all over his skin while the rubbing of his hands turned more urgent. He could hardly hold back his own excitement but after years of living together, he knew that Ru Shen would be more at ease when he pleasured him before taking him.
Ru Shen’s breathing quickened further until he finally came with a drawn-out moan. His chest heaved up and down and he clung to Sang Yu’s shoulders to try and find back his bearing. Before he could make sense of anything that happened, Sang Yu reached between his legs, his fingers caressing the hidden entrance.
“Ah, Sang Yu, not yet. The —”
“Sh. I know.” Sang Yu kissed his throat and then took the small jar of oil that still stood at the head of the bed from before he had left for the campaign. He poured some of it onto his hand, rubbing his palms together to warm it before he smeared it onto Ru Shen’s entrance. “Relax.” He only whispered the word but his breath hit Ru Shen’s skin that was still wet from the previous kisses, making him shudder.
Sang Yu laughed when he saw him like this. Even though he hadn’t been able to release yet, he already felt more grounded than before. He had returned. Ru Shen was still there. Things were just like before. Regardless of what happened, they would always return to being like this.
Ru Shen moaned at his touch and unwittingly reached for Sang Yu’s arms, his fingers brushing over his skin, unsure whether he should pull him closer and urge him to be more daring or push him away to escape this sweet torture.
Sang Yu glanced up at his face and his gaze darkened with lust when he saw his expression tinged with pleasure. He grabbed Ru Shen’s hands and pushed them above his head, keeping his legs apart with his knees. He fiercely kissed him on the mouth and sped up his efforts to prepare his entrance for him to enter.
Ru Shen closed his eyes. He felt that he needed to calm himself or he would not be able to last long enough for his husband to enjoy himself. Unfortunately, that was a pipe dream. With his eyes closed, the sensation seemed only stronger. Each time Sang Yu’s fingers entered him and rubbed his insides, pleasure welled up inside him. He twisted to dispel the unbearable feelings but Sang Yu pushed him back.
“Don’t. You’re making me go crazy. Open your eyes, Ru Shen. Let me look at you.”
Sang Yu’s voice was hoarse and alluring, making Ru Shen comply without a second thought. He opened his eyes and their gazes met, the lust in both of them spiking.
“How do you feel?” Sang Yu’s manhood throbbed and he gritted his teeth in a last attempt to control himself. He could hardly hold back but he did not want to hurt his husband either.
Ru Shen looked up, worry and understanding mixed in his gaze. After several months of separation, he also wasn’t sure if he would be able to take Sang Yu just yet but he could see that his husband had already reached his limit. “Do it.” Anyway, after the initial pain was gone, the pleasure would drown out everything else.
Sang Yu nodded and retracted his fingers, taking a last look at his husband’s face. Ru Shen’s cheeks were flushed, his eyes misty from the pleasure, his lips still parted to accommodate his heightened need of air. He seemed … sufficiently aroused. It should be alright to enter him.
Sang Yu took a deep breath to make sure he would not charge ahead thoughtlessly and hurt him by accident. He pushed the tip of his manhood against Ru Shen’s entrance, keeping his gaze trained on his face to watch out for any changes. Slowly, he pushed into him.
The skin stretched taut, hugging his manhood tightly as if to hold it in place. Sang Yu took another deep breath and pushed further. The oil made it easier to enter but maybe his estimate of how much he should take had suffered from the lessened practice these past months. It did not go quite as smoothly as usual.
Sang Yu gasped, unwilling to pull back but also unwilling to go forward. The slightly rough feeling was arousing for him but might become unbearable for his husband when he thrust in completely and took him. “Ru Shen …”
“Go ahead. Just do it.” Ru Shen wanted to reach up and touch him but Sang Yu was still holding his hands above his head. He wriggled to free them but he only managed to make Sang Yu shift slightly inside his body.
The last thread of reason broke and Sang Yu finally couldn’t hold back anymore.
He let go of his husband’s hands, grabbed him around the hips, and thrust his manhood deeper into Ru Shen’s body, widening him further while bringing both pain and pleasure.
They both gasped. Their gazes met and Sang Yu pushed the rest of the way inside with one powerful thrust. Ru Shen made a choked sound but soon, pleasure took over when Sang Yu started to rhythmically thrust in and out. Ru Shen’s eyes fell close once again, pleasure undulated inside him and his shallow breaths turned into moans that were soon smothered by Sang Yu’s fiery kisses until he was completely breathless.
Sang Yu picked up speed, conquering the body below him until he released with a cry. He shook and gasped, each breath bringing the scent of Ru Shen’s body and their sweat with it, almost making him hard again.
Sang Yu held back forcibly. He collapsed onto his husband’s body, holding him in his embrace, kissing his heated skin to turn the passion into gentle care. Only when their breaths returned to normal did he pull him onto his side, giving a small smile.
Ru Shen opened his eyes and the two of them gazed at each other without saying a word, basking in the afterglow of their first encounter after Sang Yu’s return.
Sang Yu eventually pulled his manhood out of Ru Shen’s body. It still hadn’t gone completely soft and he was sure that it would harden again at the slightest cause. Right now, he didn’t want to continue though. He wanted to enjoy this moment. This kind of intimacy was even better than having sex.
He leaned forward and kissed the top of Ru Shen’s head, sighing contentedly. “It’s been too long since the last time.”
“Was it though? You still seemed quite apt at it.”
Sang Yu laughed. “What? You thought your husband would lose his ability to pleasure you? No, rather than that … maybe it’s my imagination but you seemed more sensitive than before.”
Ru Shen lowered his gaze, not sure what he should say. He also felt that he might have reacted more strongly than usual. Well, they hadn’t seen each other for long and he had missed Sang Yu’s touch. Wasn’t it normal that he was more easily excitable at this moment?
He raised his head again and smiled. What reason was there to pretend otherwise? “Isn’t that just proof of how much I missed you? Having to live without you for so many months, naturally, the fondness will have grown.”
Sang Yu laughed. “Oh? That almost makes me want to go on another campaign. Who knows just how fond of me you’d have become afterward?”
Ru Shen reached out and placed his hand against Sang Yu’s chest, his fingers lightly caressing the scars on his lover’s skin. “There’s no need for that. I love you. I have for a long time and nothing will change about that.”
Sang Yu covered that slender hand with his calloused one and looked into his husband’s eyes. “You’re my most important person.” He leaned forward and kissed his forehead, satisfaction filling his heart.
This was what he had wished for: Returning from war, embracing his husband with passion and then spending some quiet hours together, just gazing into each other’s eyes, joking with each other and getting comfortable again while they returned to their everyday lives. And from now on, their days would be similar, just that the shadow of that war would become a distant memory with time.
Ru Shen didn’t say anything in response though. He just looked at his husband, waiting for him to continue. Unfortunately, Sang Yu didn’t. Ru Shen retracted his hand and sighed, leaving a feeling of emptiness behind. “I guess even after you came back from war, you can’t bring yourself to say ‘me too’ even a single time, hm?”
Sang Yu froze. His lips moved but he had no words to say. He licked his lower lip and then reached out, wanting to cup Ru Shen’s cheek and pacify him as usual but Ru Shen evaded his touch and sat up.
“Sang Yu … No, my Lord, I don’t expect anything from you. I already told you as much when we got married. If you need to go to war, then I will have your back. If it’s necessary to have a few women to sire children, then I will carry that decision with you and treat them just as I treat you. Even if you told me one day that my position as your adviser has to be revoked, I would be understanding. But all that is only under the assumption that you love me. Which … I am starting to realize, you may not.”
Ru Shen closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to hold back his tears. His whole life was bound to this man so why could he not reciprocate his feelings?
Sang Yu closed his eyes as well, his chest hurting. He sat up and moved closer, reaching out again. This time, Ru Shen didn’t evade him. Sang Yu grabbed him around the waist and pulled him up against his chest. “Ru Shen.” He closed his eyes again and leaned his head against his husband’s. “I … I can explain.”
“Then you should do so, my Lord. Even though I swore that I would stand by you whatever happened, that was my oath as your loyal follower. Despite everything, I still have my honor. I refuse to … continue with this if … if you truly do not feel for me. So please, be honest with me. Otherwise …” He shook his head, unable to continue any longer. He refused to be just a plaything, especially if it was in plain sight of everyone. That humiliation he couldn’t bear.
“I cherish you, Ru Shen. I always have. I was awed when I heard you speak of your thoughts so I invited you to be my adviser. And then I saw your conduct and it fascinated me enough to want to have you as a friend as well. And with time, that bond between us grew stronger. I did not see you as just a subject and I hope that you did not see me as just your Lord.”
“I did. For a long time, I did.”
Sang Yu nodded. He knew. He knew very well how much Ru Shen had been torn over whether he should abandon the pure loyalty he had originally sworn to him and go beyond that. It was exactly that, what made him feel so guilty. “When I took you to bed for the first time, it was for your beauty just as much as it was because of the good feelings I held for you.
“I don’t need to tell you but there are … few people I can be myself with. And there is only a handful that I would entrust myself to in my most vulnerable moments. You are one of these people, you have been for a long time, and … I can safely say that among these people, you are the one that is the closest and the most important to me.”
Sang Yu brushed Ru Shen’s hair to the other side and grabbed his chin, making him face him. “Ah Shen, the feelings I hold for you … They are deep. It is just that I would be lying if I said it is the love that I have heard so many men speak of. That feeling is something I have never felt. If I could, I would start loving you instantly. If I had it in me, then you would be the love of my life. But … I cannot. As much as I regret that.”
Ru Shen looked at him. He was still agitated even though not as much as before. Right now, there was mostly a deep sense of disappointment.
He had loved Sang Yu for a long time and every single day until he finally agreed to share his bed with him had been pure agony. He had chastised himself for having these thoughts about his Lord and only when he abandoned those constraints and finally gave himself to this man he had admired for so long did he find peace of mind again.
But the closer they became, the more his worry grew as well. Having to watch Sang Yu marry somebody else and sire a child … even though he knew that it was the right thing to do, he couldn’t help but hurt. But what hurt the most was to never hear him say ‘I love you’.
He longed for these three words. He longed for them more than he wanted to admit. But Sang Yu refused to say them and the longer this remained the case, the more worried he grew.
Could it be that Sang Yu’s feelings were not the same as his? Could it be that for all these years, while Sang Yu had enjoyed himself in bed with him, his heart had never been there? Was he unable to fill that spot?
He did not want to think like this. He wanted to believe in his husband. He wanted to believe that this was about more than just plain pleasure. After all, Sang Yu had indeed always treated him different from others. It was just … if Sang Yu did love him, why couldn’t he just satisfy this one wish of his?
He had never asked for anything. He didn’t need to be his only spouse. He did not even need to be his first one. In fact, he might have been able to do without an official title altogether as long as he had Sang Yu’s love. So why could Sang Yu not give him that? Why could he not say the words he wanted to hear so badly? Why couldn’t he reciprocate his feelings?! He couldn’t understand!
Sang Yu observed Ru Shen’s expression and his heart twisted in pain. “Ah Shen …” He hugged him tightly, hoping to somehow dispel his sadness.
The physical closeness only made Ru Shen cry harder. “What did I do wrong?!” He clasped Sang Yu’s shoulders and buried his face in his hair, his own shoulders trembling. He felt pathetic. His husband had just returned from war and he had not suffered injuries. He should be happy and celebrate with him. Instead, he was making a scene because of something like this. So what if Sang Yu did not love him? He was his Lord. How could he expect him to fully give him his heart?
But even though he understood that when he thought about it logically, he still couldn’t help it. He had to make sure, he had to make a fuss. Because if he didn’t, his own heart might break someday soon.
Sang Yu took a shaky breath. “It’s not that. You did nothing wrong. You did everything right. It’s just that I … It’s me who’s different.” He sighed and brushed through Ru Shen’s hair. “I never talked about this because …” He paused and tried to sort his thoughts, eventually kissing Ru Shen’s temple to comfort him first. His voice turned softer as well, as if that alone could help him turn things around.
“I should have said something sooner but for a long time, I felt that something was wrong with me. When I heard the others talk about how they fell in love, how they were infatuated with this woman or that man … I could not understand. The feelings they described were foreign to me although I did at least understand the desire to share my bed with somebody. I just couldn’t follow these other feelings they described.”
Ru Shen looked up, his eyes still brimming with tears. “Then maybe you haven’t met the right one.”
Sang Yu laughed. “So? How long do you want me to wait? Ru Shen, I am already past thirty years. Up until now, I’ve never felt that … crush in my childhood or that blind passion when I was a youth, that urgency of needing to pursue somebody when I finally became a man. At this rate, I might wait until my death and never meet this ‘right person’. No. I have waited for that person long enough before I understood that there is no such thing for me.”
Ru Shen tried to pull out of his arms but Sang Yu pulled him back, cupping his cheeks.
“There isn’t that ‘right person’ that I can fall in love with. I simply … I simply do not have these feelings in me. But there is a right person to spend my life with and I have already found him. Don’t take that from me.”
Ru Shen looked down and bit his lip. “But you don’t love me. How can you want to spend your life with me?”
Sang Yu’s gaze flickered. He had no doubt about this but he understood that it would be hard for Ru Shen to understand. Once, he had already contemplated telling him about all this. About the doubts he had had for so long, about the realization that maybe he was different from other men and that he would indeed never fall in love. But he had held back in the end precisely because he had feared that this might happen. He had feared that his husband might misunderstand and be hurt and he wanted to prevent that at all costs.
Ru Shen loved him with all his heart. He was sure about that. He could see it in his eyes and hear it when he talked to him. It was in the way he touched him when they were alone and tried to hold back when there were others around.
He knew all of that. And that was exactly what made it so hard for him to admit his lack of … romantic feelings towards him. If he could, he would instantly fall in love. But unfortunately, the Heavens had not gifted him this ability.
That didn’t mean that he didn’t care about Ru Shen though. It was just that he cared about him in his own way and this was hard to make him realize. But he needed to explain it so that Ru Shen could understand or they would indeed break up. He didn’t want that.
Sang Yu furrowed his brows, thinking deeply. If he had known that this would happen, he would have taken more time back then to figure out how to put his feelings into words. Now, he had to rush to find a solution. After all, he could hardly tell Ru Shen to give him time to figure things out himself. If he did that, his husband would walk away without looking back and maybe just shed some tears because he had wasted the best years of his life on him.
Sang Yu looked at his husband who was still crying silently. He himself had been confused by this lack of romantic feelings and had needed years to accept it. He could hardly expect Ru Shen to be able to come to terms with it right away. The best way would probably be to liken it to something …
He pondered and finally, his face lit up. Right! There might be one experience from Ru Shen’s life that would make him understand that not loving him in a romantic way did not mean that he had no feelings for him at all.
He cleared his throat and then gently grabbed Ru Shen’s chin, tilting his head up so he had to look at him. “Ah Shen, let me ask you something. Before you met me, have you ever been in love with somebody else?”
Ru Shen gazed at his husband in confusion and wiped away his tears. “Why are you asking that? Aren’t we talking about us?”
“We are. But I don’t know how to make you understand otherwise. So … have you?”
“Yes. I have.” He shook his head. “A few times. You also know that.”
Sang Yu nodded. Yes, he knew indeed. When they met, Ru Shen had already been a young man. Naturally, there had been others before him. In fact, he had watched some of that. “Always other men?”
“So no woman?”
Ru Shen furrowed his brows. “Why are you asking what you already know? Sang Yu, are you not taking this serious at all?”
Sang Yu shook his head. “That’s not it. I would never make light of your feelings. I understand that this must have weighed on you for a long time. But that is precisely why I am asking. I am afraid I won’t be able to give you a good explanation but you’re important to me so I want you to understand. Alright?”
Ru Shen hesitated but eventually nodded. “Well, what did you want to say?”
“I remember … before the two of us became a couple, you were considering to marry Ru Xun. Obviously, from what you just said, you never loved her but you were still willing to marry her. Tell me, why was that?”
Ru Shen’s expression turned subtle. “That … she is my adoptive sister … and she always liked me. I knew that.”
“So you were just doing it for her? You held no good feelings for her?”
“Of course, I did! But she was family. How could that compare to … to us?” He looked back down, furrowing his brows. He could somewhat understand where Sang Yu was coming from but wasn’t the situation completely different? He had grown up with Ru Xun. Naturally, there would be some good feelings.
“And what were we before our wedding day? You were my adviser, my best friend, the person I admired and shared my bed with. You are still all these things. And you are more in a way that nobody else is. You are all of that at the same time.
“Ru Shen, tell me, if you are willing to spend the rest of your life with your adoptive sister without loving her in a romantic way and see nothing wrong with that, then what is wrong about me wanting to be with you for the rest of our lives just because I cannot have those feelings for you?
“Please, don’t leave me. Not because of this. Not because of something I can’t control and that has been a part of me likely since the day I was born. I don’t love you that way and I understand that you are hurt because of that and might need time to come to terms with it. I’m willing to give you that time. Take as much as you need to think things through, to ask me about whatever you can’t understand. But don’t just leave. Give me a chance.”
Ru Shen closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It wasn’t that he wanted to but hearing Sang Yu admit that he had indeed never loved him the same way he had always loved him pained him and he didn’t know if he would be able to live with that pain for the rest of his life.
“Ah Shen.” Sang Yu cupped his cheeks again and leaned forward until their foreheads touched. “I know it’s hard to think about it like this but be honest: If you just listen to your heart, if you just look back at the time we spent together and don’t try to assign more meaning to me saying or not saying one sentence than to everything we’ve experienced together, then do you really think that I feel nothing for you? Is that really the case?”
Ru Shen’s brows furrowed. If he did not search for those words, if he just thought of their time together, of the way Sang Yu looked at him when they woke up in the morning, of how they ate together, talking about the things they had to do that day, of how they would separate to go about their own tasks up until they went to bed together in the evening, entangling with each other before they fell asleep …
If he only thought of that and did not think about these words Sang Yu might say or what he might feel toward him, there was nothing left to be desired. It was the kind of relationship he wanted. In fact, he likely would not miss anything if there weren’t others around he could compare their relationship to. When he saw other men hugging their wives and tell them that they loved them, he always felt a pang in his heart.
Just once. He wanted to experience that just once.
Ru Shen teared up once again but this time, he hugged Sang Yu of his own volition. “I’m sorry. I just … I’ve wanted to hear you say it just once. I imagined it, over and over again. But you never said a word. Can you understand that I’m disappointed?”
Sang Yu brushed through his husband’s hair and nodded. “I can. I …” He took a deep breath and cleared his throat. “I love you.”
Ru Shen laughed despite his tears. “You’re a terrible liar. You always were.”
“Only when it comes to you.” Sang Yu kissed his cheek again, wiping away the tears, and taking a long look at him until Ru Shen shifted uncomfortably. “I cherish you. More than anyone else in my life. It’s not love but … I hope it’ll be enough for us to last for the rest of our lives.”
Ru Shen sighed and nodded. This time, Sang Yu’s words had been sincere. Those were his true feelings. He could sense as much. “It’s my fault for asking in the first place. I might need some time to think it through and I’ll have more questions in the future but … I think I can accept it. Somewhat. Anyway, I would break my own heart if I left you. Why would I do something as stupid as that when you’ve given me no other cause?”
Sang Yu nodded. “Thank you. I know it’s hard for you so … it means a lot to me that you’re willing to stay with me.” He leaned over and kissed him, eventually motioning at the bed. “Anyway, why don’t we sleep for a bit? It’s still some time until the celebration and I think the two of us could use some rest after all this.”
Ru Shen nodded and laid back down, snuggling up against Sang Yu’s chest. Well, there was nothing he could do to change how things were. He could only try to understand and then learn to live with it.
Some things just were like that and in the end, life with Sang Yu was still what he had imagined it to be. It was just that after all these years, he had still found out something new about him. Maybe it was also his fault for not asking sooner and bringing up what bothered him.
Now that he knew, they could continue on together, just like before. Maybe that was more important than hearing those three words Sang Yu was unable to say. Maybe being cherished in Sang Yu’s own way was enough.