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you know i love you so

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the name throws her off course, into the depth of memories she never thought she’d be stepping into again. laughs, smiles, late night walks, cuddling. no . tzuyu slams the shutters down on the rewinding tape.

she despises the two words.

im nayeon is printed at the front of the script she’s currently holding and tzuyu would much rather burn this paper to the ground. she closes her eyes, taking in a deep breath. one, two, three .

“i can’t do this.”

tzuyu turns to her manager with a frown etched between her brows. she can’t do this, co-work with her ex-girlfriend as the leading actress. the one who would be her wife in this movie. she doesn’t think she has the capability to separate her heart and mind when they fight against each other to do what is right. she knows it’ll be detrimental to her own career if she says no to this offer.

partnering with nayeon is what her mind is screaming but tzuyu’s heart is only thinking of the pain of the break-up that shattered her, a piece of her heart leaving with nayeon.

“you know well that the company wouldn’t side with your decision.” tzuyu’s manager sighs heavily as she responds to tzuyu’s statement. “i know you don’t want to be here and you would choose any other script for a movie but the media want this. not to mention there’s extra pressure from the company because this is good publicity. i wish i could do something tzuyu, but it’s out of my hands right now.”

“i’m terrified. i don’t know if i can separate my mind and my heart. what if i screw this up because of that?” tzuyu’s insecurities wash over her, taking the reins of her decisions.

“listen to me. you’ve been doing a wonderful job in everything you step foot in. i have faith in you, your friends have faith in you, the acting industry has faith in you. you can do it and you’ll do it damn well.” she shuts off tzuyu’s rambling.

“but momo–”

“no. i’m not hearing another doubtful comment out of your mouth. you have what it takes and i’m going to smack your head if you continue.” momo pinches the side of tzuyu’s waist.

“i have regrets hiring a friend as a manager.” tzuyu mumbles under her breath. “look at this physical abuse.”

momo rolls her eyes, ignoring the harmful comment. tzuyu is guided towards the script reading room. she draws in a deep breath. her hands are shaking and her feelings are a mess of tangled cords. the thought of seeing nayeon when she opens the door scares her, scares her mind too. it clogs her throat, manifests her whole body. fright bubbles in her chest and her palms clam up. tzuyu breaths out.

she’s okay.

(she will try to be)

tzuyu walks through the doors, dispersing ripples of confidence and poise that leaves everyone staring at her, mouths hanging open. no one would be able to guess that she almost had a breakdown over walking inside merely moments before.

the room is full and two spots remain. one for tzuyu, the other for momo.

and they happen to be next to im nayeon.

it’s as if momo reads her mind before she speaks. she smiles at tzuyu and steals the spot behind tzuyu’s, leaving the perfect spot next to nayeon for tzuyu to sit in. she glares at her manager, but knows very well she wouldn’t be able to sit there anyway. her breathing picks up when she feels the familiar gaze on her. don’t look .

“hello, i’m chou tzuyu. please take care of me.” tzuyu bows to the staff and fellow co-workers.

her eyes lock onto nayeon’s and she’s surprised to see the disbelief in them. it quickly shifts and she offers tzuyu a smile – one she doesn’t quite return wholeheartedly.

tzuyu pretends to be unaffected by the disappointment on nayeon’s face when she sits down. she’s not putting her heart out there to be broken again. the thoughts of nayeon scatter as the director begins talking. tzuyu puts nayeon at the back of her mind.

(it lasts a few moments only)

when the time for lunch break rolls around, tzuyu bolts out of the room with newly found energy. the whole session had been draining. her mind kept wandering off to the person behind her, a lot of what-could-have-been situations and tzuyu’s concentration had taken a nosedive. she shouldn’t be hoping for anything , but her heart screws her over every time.

momo catches up to her a few seconds later, giving her space. the concern is screaming in her eyes and tzuyu hates that she’s worried her friend. she feels selfish. this isn’t meant to be about her. there are more people involved.

“i’m sorry. i just… it’s so difficult to be around her.” tzuyu thinks her apology is weak as she finishes. she wishes she could say more, justify her actions, her poor practice session.

“you have nothing to apologise for.” momo holds tzuyu’s hands.

tzuyu’s façade cracks and the emotions overwhelm her, stirring up a pot of feelings she would have rather let untouched. she breaks. momo wraps her arms around tzuyu, hugging her tightly, protecting her fragile state. it hurts her to see tzuyu like this when she's always been so strong.

they don’t realise another person’s heart is hurting, staring at the two of them.

--

nayeon has regrets. but she would say losing chou tzuyu is her biggest one.

it tore her heart to end their relationship years ago, and it tears her heart now, seeing her in the arms of another person. maybe it’s what she deserves. the pain in tzuyu’s eyes is something she’s never erased since the day they broke-up. she jumped into the distraction of work, taking advantage of her busy schedules to keep tzuyu out of her mind. and it had worked well. worked very well until today.

she’s been saying yes to all of her offers without much of a need of checking the cast she’ll be working with and now nayeon wishes she did. it would’ve saved them both the awkwardness of acting together, and this heartache. she’d been extensively avoiding tzuyu, only for their situation to turn against them, the director wanting the two of them to act together only.

after all she’s done for them, nayeon’s company is still no different from all those years ago, ruining her completely.

nayeon backs away from the scene she’d just experienced. she is the stranger, the onlooker who has no right to put herself in tzuyu’s line of sight. from the outside looking in, nayeon knows chou tzuyu is out of her reach.

“nayeon, there you are. where have you been- wait, are you crying?” a pair of hands cup nayeon’s cheeks, wiping away the tears falling freely. “is it tzuyu? did she say something?”

“she would never. you know that sana.” nayeon sighs defeatedly. her manager knows of the past and her struggles, a disclaimer she provided her with when she was hired. “we need to go back to the lunch anyway. let’s go.” she composes herself as quickly as she’d broken down.

she watches sana’s gaze flick behind her and the puff of exasperation that leaves her lips as she takes in the sight. nayeon refuses to look back, to cave into her heart’s wishes of being in tzuyu’s arms again. the warmth, the comfort, the happiness that only ever peaked when she was beside her. the love that they shared.

nayeon hates that she can never have that again.

--

the first scene is scheduled to be shot at the end of the week. tzuyu rehearses it so much that she memorises her lines after the first day. it gives her an extra boost of confidence, knowing nothing can throw her off or make her susceptible to failing. but, momo has had enough of her repetitive lines, choosing to blast music over the sound of tzuyu speaking again and again. it gives tzuyu an opportunity to let loose a little bit though and she’s reminded once again why her manager is the best one in the world.

“thank you. for always knowing what i need. for being there.” tzuyu speaks from the bottom of her heart. her gratitude for momo’s existence is more than she can express with words. her kindness wrapped itself around tzuyu, a warm coat amidst the harshness of the people that surround her.

“if i’m not here, where else would i be?” momo pats tzuyu’s head, walking out to their car. “what people would pay to see this soft side of you.”

tzuyu chases after her, throwing her arms around her neck. “who else would i ever show it to?”

//

it’s cosy. tranquil. home.

tzuyu yawns widely, smiling as she feels a pair of arms around her waist. she kisses the girl’s palms, the tips of her fingers, the spans of her skin. she doesn’t leave a single inch go unmissed.

“tzuyu-ah, it’s still too early. let me sleep some more.” nayeon whines, snuggling deeper against tzuyu’s back.

she laughs, but turns around, admiring the masterpiece that rests in her arms. nayeon’s hair is mussed up from moving around so much in her sleep. her shirt has ridden off the side of her shoulder, exposing it to tzuyu’s eyes. tzuyu leans in, plants a gentle kiss on her neck, a few more on her shoulder. nayeon whines again, grumbling about her warmth disappearing. it earns another laugh from tzuyu, but this time, she tugs nayeon to her, wrapping her arms around nayeon’s neck. she draws her in, letting nayeon nestle against her and tzuyu hooks her chin over her head.

tzuyu loves mornings like this; calm and just them.

//

throughout the traveling distance from her apartment to the movie location, nayeon’s mind is a mess of a lot of things and coincidentally, they all start with the letter t and end with the letter u. ever since meeting tzuyu the day before, regardless of not even exchanging a single word, tzuyu has overtaken nayeon’s mind and held it hostage.

well, it’s not like nayeon minds. but she needs to focus on the scene they’ll be shooting today and if she continuously daydreams about tzuyu, where will that leave her? she’ll never hear the end of it from the staff around her.

“are you thinking about her again?” sana cuts into nayeon’s pep-talk. silence means yes and sana sighs when nayeon looks out of the window. “there’s a lot riding on this, you know. if you really don’t think you’ll be able to do it, maybe i can pull some strings.”

nayeon stays silent. she doesn’t quite know what she wants. on one hand, she’s grateful that this movie allows them to meet again but on the other hand, at what cost? if this is going to be the film that ruins tzuyu’s career because of nayeon’s acting and inability to keep her feelings in check, she’d rather not do it. anything is better than having the weight of sabotaging tzuyu’s career on her own shoulders.

“i’m conflicted. she deserves better.” nayeon sighs, disappointment making her heart ache. “this is always what she’s wanted, to make a name for herself and be the rising star. i’m not good to boost her career when i’m in shambles.”

“say she deserves better. who are you to decide that? you’re here, wanting to sacrifice this movie for her sake. and i get it. we have to make decisions like this to move further in this industry. but don’t forget that you made a sacrifice once already. it cost you a lot. who’s to say that this choice of yours won’t make things worse?” sana counters nayeon’s words, providing her with an alternative point of view. “what if, this whole time, tzuyu wanted to walk this path with you.”

//

“what’s something you see in the future? something you want to see.” nayeon faces tzuyu as they lie down on the towels on the sand.

“you.” tzuyu grins, not even taking a second to reply.

“me?” nayeon tilts her head in confusion.

“i can’t imagine a future where you’re not in it with me.” tzuyu declares. her gaze softens, teeming with the love of a thousand lives spent together.

//

tzuyu guzzles down an entire bottle of water as she reaches the location. it keeps her mind off nayeon, she rationalises. she’s incessantly drumming her fingers against the wood of the table, pretending not to stick her head out each time she hears voices nearing her room. she hates that she’s still anxiously waiting for nayeon to arrive.

there’s a knock on the door and tzuyu’s shoulders immediately sag when she notices that it’s just momo. tzuyu returns to her task of playing this new game on her phone, disregarding momo’s appearance.

“nayeon has been waiting for ten minutes outside.” momo taps tzuyu’s shoulder.

she jumps up immediately, scrambling to leave the room. “why didn’t you tell me before?!”

“you muted my notifications, probably.” momo rolls her eyes, helping tzuyu out of the room as she scrolls through her phone. she laughs when she hears tzuyu curse under her breath too. the joys of being tzuyu’s manager are way too satisfying sometimes.

nayeon is in her own world when tzuyu arrives, back turned away and rehearsing her lines. the director smiles at her and she’s quickly ushered to her spot.

“alright, ladies and gentlemen. let’s begin. starting from the top, take one, scene one.” the director announces, clapping his hands. the crowd disperses, moving to their respective stations.

tzuyu shakes her hands and looks up, immediately locking eyes with nayeon. the confidence isn’t in her eyes like usual and a part of her worries for her. she shouldn’t be caring. tzuyu withdraws herself from that blackhole, facing the director.

if she’d been looking towards nayeon, she would pick up on the way her face fell at the treatment again.

“action!” the director shouts.

they look at each other in the eyes, thinking of beginning their dialogue. but, instead, they both freeze, forgetting to speak and the director immediately cuts off the scene. they run it again, and this time, nayeon’s confident voice bounces off the walls of the studio. it lasts well – nayeon looks at the surroundings. she looks everywhere but at tzuyu.

it’s a terrible scene.

“nayeon, i love your dialogue. but i need you to look at tzuyu when you talk. let’s try that again.” the director suggests.

tzuyu watches her change her posture. she takes in a deep breath and closes her eyes, relaxing herself.

//

“what are you doing?” tzuyu walks in on nayeon sitting cross-legged in the middle of the living room, eyes closed.

nayeon opens one eye and smiles before resuming her activity. she breaths in deeply and exhales. tzuyu feels drawn to the movement and follows her girlfriend, repeating what she just did.

“feel good?” nayeon pulls tzuyu with her to the carpet. they become a tangled mess and giggle, minds lightening up from the meditation.

“that’s amazing. when did you learn that?” tzuyu’s excitement is adorable and nayeon can’t help but pinch her cheeks, ignoring her whines.

“it helps me when i’m nervous. it calms me down. keep it a secret for me.” nayeon grins, receiving a kiss from tzuyu.

“you’re nervous? why?” the shift to concern is evident as tzuyu frowns.

“the next film is a new genre i’ve never done before. i don’t think i can–”

“i know you can. you’ll be amazing.”

“how can you possibly know that?”

“because, i know you. and that’s enough for me.”

//

tzuyu doesn’t know why nayeon is nervous but it throws her off. the fact that she still picks up on nayeon’s little tells affects her mindset, distracts her from her dialogue and makes her lose courage to look into nayeon’s eyes like she’s supposed to.

they’re both doing an awful job and the frustration is starting to show on the two of them as well as the rest of the staff. tzuyu calls for a break, hoping that it will fix things when they resume their session afterwards.

it doesn’t work.

the director ends the shooting right then. they can’t continue when the leads can’t even look at each other properly.

she’s disappointed in herself and she knows nayeon feels the same. tzuyu glances over to her – nayeon is calming herself down again.

for a moment, she feels like she should say something. something like you worked hard or don’t give up but she doesn’t have the heart to do it. tzuyu turns around and walks away, picking up her courage she seemed to drop earlier.

--

it’s been a week since then and they’ve had one more practice session that went as poorly as the first. the director is furious with the awkwardness surrounding the two of them and has chosen to halt all production until they sort things out.

here lies the problem.

no one wants to reach out first.

(at least, that’s what tzuyu thinks)

actually, nayeon is on the brink of choosing to pull out. it’s too hard to deal with tzuyu’s presence and she’d rather lose money, her status and her popularity, than make her relationship with tzuyu any worse than it already is. it sounds impossible, but nayeon would deal with anything if it meant that tzuyu is happy, smiling. not like the shell of who she once was.

yes, she’s making another sacrifice. yes, it doesn’t sound ideal. yes, she should probably talk to tzuyu about it.

but nothing has sounded ideal to nayeon ever since her happiness was stolen from her by her company. nothing has been the same since they forced her to break up with her girlfriend. nothing can change her mind.

by the following hour, nayeon sends her final decision in to sana, telling her to finish up everything in the next few days. she throws in her resignation from the company too. nayeon is spammed with a dozen or so messages about her choice but she ignores them all. she’s following her heart this time, not her mind. it won’t be a choice she regrets, but rather, a choice she knows is the right one.

her mind dwells on what this movie could have been. to think that her name would be on a poster next to tzuyu’s. their faces plastered on building walls. trailers playing in cinemas and on television. she loses all of this.

would she do it again?

yes, she would.

nayeon is ripped away from her fantasy world when she hears someone running outside. she really didn’t think it would take her wanting to quit for tzuyu to burst inside her dressing room to talk to her for the first time in years.

“you’re quitting?” tzuyu is breathless as she jumps right into it. nayeon glances over at her, trying to ignore the way her heart is hammering against her chest at the sight before her.

“yes. it’s not working out.” nayeon looks behind tzuyu and fists her hands, hoping it will give her enough courage to finish this conversation. she can’t be rash, even if she wants to.

tzuyu scoffs and nayeon’s eyes land on her once again. she’s shaking her head and it stirs a thousand and more questions in her mind. that distress in tzuyu’s eyes, it’s been there before, directed at nayeon then too.

“you still haven’t changed, all these years later.” it’s bitter, nayeon can hear the disappointment laced in tzuyu’s words. “selfish and thinking of your own gain.”

nayeon sucks in a breath. it hurts her that tzuyu would ever consider her as being selfish. it hurts her that she speaks with such venom in her voice and that it’s directed right at her. it hurts her that tzuyu hates her this much and it’s exactly what it is that breaks her.

she feels like she’s been digging herself deeper in this messy situation she’s put her heart into. if all those years back, nayeon hadn’t caved to her company’s wishes. if she’d just listened to her heart and not her mind. if she’d fought for what she wanted. if she’d stood by tzuyu’s side and seen her flourish into the beautiful and heart stopping woman she’s turned into today. if she’d showered tzuyu with the love she deserves.

all these ifs, things she could’ve witnessed, could’ve changed, yet that one choice she made ruined it all for her.

perhaps, she could have been the one who held tzuyu in her arms today.

“i’m not selfish.” nayeon’s voice is so weak, low, that it takes tzuyu by surprise. “i never wanted to do this.”

“you left me then for something better and you’re leaving me again for something better. so, tell me, how is that not selfish?” tzuyu’s words carve into nayeon’s heart.

“i didn’t leave for something better. i only left for something worse.” nayeon confesses. she wears her heart on her sleeve and she hopes tzuyu can see it. “i lost you.”

nayeon hears tzuyu breath in sharply.

“you chose to leave–”

“i was forced to leave.” nayeon stops tzuyu from finishing her sentence. “i let my company corner me and make a decision i never wanted to agree to. i let them take control of us. it’s the only mistake i regret until today.”

“what… what are you talking about?” tzuyu’s voice shakes as she turns to nayeon.

“i made a sacrifice.” nayeon plays with the hem of her shirt. “they told me if i broke up with you– if i broke up with you, they wouldn’t block you off getting your own acting contracts. they’d leave you alone and let you work your way up in the industry.” she pauses. “i felt like it was the right thing to do.”

“you sacrificed us to keep me happy.” tzuyu summarises nayeon’s actions in a sentence. “and, you’re about to do it again. sacrifice this. to make me happy?”

nayeon remains silent but tzuyu always reads her like an open book. she can’t believe this woman in front of her.

“are you, possibly the biggest idiot?” tzuyu growls, frustrated with nayeon’s thinking. “in what world would you want to sacrifice your happiness, our happiness, just for the sake of mine? that’s so thoughtless nayeon. i would much rather spend every moment with you. you are where my happiness resides. it’s always been, you.” she drops down to her knees, holding nayeon’s hands in her own. “all this time, i’ve been thinking all these horrible things about you–”

“it came with my decision. you hating me was a price i had to pay.” nayeon cracks. she tries to wipe away the stray tear that falls down her face before tzuyu notices. her, it’s tzuyu who catches it with the tip of her finger. it’s tzuyu who buries her head against nayeon’s shoulder, hugging her, holding onto her tightly.

“i told you, i don’t see a future without you. please, stop sacrificing your own happiness for what you think is mine.” tzuyu pleads, unable to stop crying either. “let’s walk on this path together.”

“together.” nayeon agrees.

“no more sacrifices for one another.” tzuyu glares at nayeon.

nayeon sports a sheepish smile, but she can’t resist. “none.”

“don’t push yourself away from me again.”

nayeon’s heart heals with tzuyu’s words.

tzuyu’s heart heals with nayeon’s explanation.

“let’s make up for the lost time.” tzuyu whispers, moving back to frame nayeon’s face within her palms.

nayeon nods, smiling through her tears. “ah, these tears aren’t stopping.”

“i think i remember a way to stop them.” the mischievous glint in tzuyu’s eye gives it away before nayeon can say anything.

tzuyu brushes her lips against nayeon’s slowly, carefully, testing the waters.

nayeon shakes as tzuyu kisses her once, softly. she fists tzuyu’s collar as she kisses her twice, tenderly. she gasps as tzuyu kisses her thrice, with her entire heart.