It started with a coffee.
Or perhaps, it started with a half-formed apology.
Meng Yao was the one who interrupted. "I can't apologize for what I did to you," he said, "and I have no forgiveness to offer."
"But still, I am sorry," Nie MingJue had said.
Nie MingJue's presence in his life was a scab peeled open. An old wound that refuses to heal. And yet...
"How is it going, moving on?" He asked one day. That was the reason they were meeting like this, in hope that they'll one day be able to move on.
"On most days, I'm not angry at you anymore," Nie MingJue said.
"Should we stop, then? I don't want to be holding you back from your life this time," Meng Yao said, and coldness crawls from his spine like when they first met. Because deep down, he's been terrified that Nie MingJue would --could-- move on before him.
"No," Nie MingJue said firmly. He gave no explanation but his hand reached across the table, and stopped when Meng Yao flinched. His lips settled in a frown. His hand hung in the air.
It was involuntary. He didn't mean to flinch.
"Meng Yao..." Nie MingJue seemed to struggle, "does it pain you to see me?"
"Yes," Meng Yao answered despite himself, only because there was no point hiding it.
"Then let's stop," Nie MingJue said.
"No." It was Meng Yao who reached out this time, hand firm on Nie MingJue's, a slight urgency in his calm voice.
"No, we don't have to," he added, forcing a soft smile. An open wound.
Meng Yao didn't flinch this time when Nie MingJue reached across the table and laid a hand on his shoulder. He had missed the weight of it.
Perhaps neither of them were capable of letting go.