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silent treatment

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Standing in the middle of his bedroom, Haechan holds a camera, fiddling with the settings before turning it around in his hands. Flipping the LCD display, he adjusts the focus and takes a moment to inspect his appearance. The angle captures him from the shoulders up, showing the striped red shirt he’s wearing, a ghost of his right collarbone peeking from the stretched neckline. He has his glasses on today instead of the usual contacts, but the frame was thin enough to still have his constellation of facial moles on display. It doesn’t take him more than a few seconds before he nods to himself, satisfied, and presses the record button.

“Hi guys! Welcome back to your favorite channel with 37.5% viewer ratings, Haechan Cam! You haven’t seen me in a while, huh?” It’s been months since he last filmed a video, but with the way he speaks with ease, it’s like he never missed a day. The built–in microphone catches the sound of his bare feet tapping against the wooden floor as he shuffles towards the corner of his room near the window. He didn’t bother setting up any fancy equipment today, so the room light and sunshine pouring in will have to do.

“If you’ve seen my posts, I took a break because of an unfortunate leg injury from my last video, but I’m all fixed up now and I am finally, gladly back on my bullshit.” He snickers right after the word leaves his mouth, the camera shaking on beat with his boyish laughter. I’ll have to censor that later, he thinks. He has yet to upload a video without the frequent beeps and blurs, but his viewers seem to love that casualness. Someone even uploaded a compilation of all his censored moments with the bleeps remixed into a lo fi trap instrumental, racking up views almost rivaling his own. “Because of the last incident, I won’t be doing anything dangerous today. Well, at least not physically dangerous.”

“You guys know my girlfriend.” The corner of his lips turn up at the mention of you. You were together long before he started on Youtube. In fact, you were the one to suggest it, seeing as he loved to pull shit on you and his friends. He might as well get something out of it, right? You quickly regretted that when you woke up the next day to see that every single item in your bedroom had googly eyes glued on, exceptionally horrified when you pulled your drawer open and every pair of underwear stared back at you. Even days after that you were still digging up things in your room that had the beady eyes. You knew it was all in good fun though, and you were and still are supportive of his antics, so long as it didn’t harm anyone or himself. You made sure to ingrain that into his memory after his accident. Like a walking paradox, you were always scolding him while also being exceptionally attentive and dotingly tending to his injury. He only whined at your reminders, keeping secret the way his heart swelled twice its size every time you told him to “Please be more careful,” because “I love you and when you’re hurt, I’m hurt too.”

“She’s coming over today, and since she has no idea that I’m making videos again I think it’s the perfect time to do the challenge where I ignore my girlfriend for 24 hours.” A mischievous smile breaks out on his face, his nose scrunching up a little at the excitement mixed in with a bit of fear. “Or however long I can manage!” He quickly adds. Obviously, he isn’t planning on dragging it out until it does any irreversible damage. “I’m pretty sure I can do better than Jaemin, though. He only got to, what? Three minutes?” He snorts, recalling how his friend wanted to try something new on his daily vlog channel and utterly failed. The video whipped into the opposite direction, with 90% of the content just Jaemin apologizing and being all cuddly and cute with his girlfriend.

“So the rules are simple–no talking, no reciprocating affection, not even looking,” he added that last rule himself, knowing he doesn’t have it in him to disregard your puppy eyes. “I am going to basically ignore her existence.” He visibly winces at the wording, sucking in a breath through his teeth. “Yeah, I’m digging my own grave, aren’t I?” With that, he hears his phone ring from the bedside table. Still holding the camera, he stands over to the side of the bed. A smile blooms on his face when he sees the screen light up with ‘Baby,’ but he purses his lips a second later, realizing he can’t be his usual cheery self with you. He picks up the phone and shows it on camera, catching the contact name on screen before answering the call and putting you on speaker. 

“Hello?” His voice is flat, but you don’t seem to catch on yet.

“Hey dumbass! I’m at your door.” He simply hums as a response, although he’s smiling from the sweet sound of your voice with the venomless nickname. It’s silent on the other line until you realize he isn’t going to say anything back. “Babe? You the–”

“Yeah,” he cuts you off, ending the call abruptly. He faces the camera, openly grimacing at what he just did. “Fuck, this is gonna be hard. Well, she’s here. I already have a camera set up in the living room, so I just need to hide this one,” he says while walking over to his work desk, cluttered as always. He sets the camera down, a little hidden behind his huge desktop monitor, checking the display to make sure it’s capturing the bed area before flipping it closed. He grabs the hoodie that was flung over the back of his chair and places it over the camera, careful not to cover the lens. He slouches a little, looks into the camera and winks before whispering “Wish me luck,” and heading out of his room.

“Hi,” you greet him softly when he opens the front door. “Took you a little while,” you mutter as you make your way to hug him. Before you could snake your arms around his waist, he quickly sidesteps to his right, leaving you in an awkward stance with your arms half extended before you. He was actually just fixing his blocking, wanting to make sure he wasn’t obstructing the hidden camera’s view of you. He realizes what it must have looked like though, so he acts quick and turns his back on you, walking towards his room. A little flustered, you opened your mouth to speak but decided against it, rushing to follow him into the room instead.

You walk in to find him already lying down in bed, and the sight of him momentarily brushes off the memory of what just happened in the living room. He’s on his stomach, lying across the mattress with his feet up and crossed at the ankles. The blue light from his phone screen reflects on his glasses, and you smile at the messy tufts of light hair you’re sure he didn’t bother brushing. You walk over to the side of the bed, crouching down so that you are eye level with him, resting your elbows on the edge before cradling your face in your hands. “What are you doing?” You ask him. He doesn’t look up from his screen, and from his glasses you could see that he’s quickly scrolling through Twitter, not actually bothering to read anything judging from his speed. He could see you in his periphery, the proximity of your face to his making him control his breathing, as if breathing quietly would keep him from breaking the façade. Seconds feel like minutes to him, and when you start to inch closer he scoots away, lying down vertically on the bed and rolling over to his back. You climb up and sit down cross legged on the freed space, grabbing a pillow to your lap and drumming your fingers on it while you let the silence simmer. You aren’t a stranger to your boyfriend’s mood swings, and by now you already know to give him a little space whenever he’s acting distant. Heaving a purposefully loud sigh, you dig up your own phone from your pocket and start mindlessly scrolling as well.

After 20 minutes and eight games of go fish on your phone, you decide to finally slice through the quiet. You put your phone back in your pocket and turn to your boyfriend who is now holding his phone across with both hands, the loud tapping sounds of his thumbs telling you he’s in the middle of a game. “Were you ever planning on saying hello or should I just leave now?” You declare more than ask, voice low and calm. His eyebrows furrowed closer, making him look annoyed when he’s actually tensing up from your threat. As always, when his girlfriend hits first, she hits strong. The tension quickly dissipates into his natural competitiveness though, and he bites on his tongue to keep himself from saying anything. His tapping sounds grow louder while your annoyance grows bigger. “Uh, hello? Talk to me?” He could detect the raise in your voice as you waved a hand in front of him. “Haechan? Seriously. What’s up?” His urge to look at you is almost unbearable, making him turn on his side to look away from you. You scoff loudly, and he feels your side of the bed rise from where your weight sat. 

Within seconds, he sees you standing behind his phone, hands on your hips. Never a good sign, he thinks. “Baby. Talk to me, please.” Your soft voice is a sharp contrast to your strong stance. “We promised to communicate, not shut each other out. Remember?” He does remember, and he feels a stirring in his chest at the reminder of your first big fight and how you made up the same night, whispering apologies and promises until you fell asleep next to each other. His thumb scrolls down the top of his screen to check the time. It’s only been 30 minutes. He doesn’t budge. You crouch down and place a hand on his elbow, shaking it lightly. He silently hopes you don’t feel the goosebumps from where your hand is touching his skin. “Donghyuck, what’s wrong? Is it me? Did I do something wrong?” His thumbs faltered slightly at the sound of his real name rolling off your tongue. You gave him the nickname Haechan when he started his channel, and you both liked it so much it just stuck. You used his real name for more intimate or serious moments, and depending on the type of situation it either gave him the good or bad kind of tingles. Right now, it’s more of the latter. 

“Come on, Hyuck. Are you mad at me? What did I do? Please talk to me.” You shake your hold on him harder than before, making him slip up on the game and lose. He makes a show of poking his tongue at his cheek, still not sparing you a glance as he locks his phone and throws it behind him on the bed. He sits up and grabs the TV remote from the bedside table behind you, his arm going over your head without regard for your existence. You watch him with a frown as he turns on the TV and switches through the channels, folding one leg up and relaxing his back onto the pillows stacked up behind him. Your irritation stews up within you, but more than that you start to feel the anxiousness creeping in. What did I do to upset him this much? Your thoughts run a million miles an hour, scurrying through memories. You weigh what might happen by the end of the day–is he not going to talk to you for the rest of it? Will he keep giving you the silent treatment until tomorrow? Is he going to break up with–

You lightly slap yourself on the cheek for thinking such things, the sound nearly making Haechan glance at you before he caught himself, resting a hand to the side of his neck as if scolding it for almost giving in. No one’s breaking up today, you think. You stand up and sit on the bed in front of him, blocking his view of the TV. You hear the narrator behind you crooning in a soft voice about a pudu in its natural habitat. He’s watching Animal Planet, and you can’t believe how he’s acting so invested in the show, scooching a little and leaning over to his side to keep watching. “At least look at me, babe,” you groan, letting a bit of your frustration seep out. “At least tell me what I did so I can apologize,” you place both hands on his knee as you mumbled. He raises a hand and places it on top of yours, giving you a little relief, only to grab at them and pull them off of him, laying them on the sheets instead. Your eyes widen and your eyebrows raise of their own accord, your jaw dropping and your heart breaking a little at his unwillingness to reconcile. He doesn’t even want you to touch him. You stay like that in silence, just staring at him for what seems like forever. Your chest feels heavier by the second, the hurt manifesting in a palpable heat rising up from your chest to your throat.

A gurgling sound catches your attention, and you think it was one of the animals on TV before you hear it again, the sound clearly coming from your boyfriend’s stomach although his face shows no signs of hunger or discomfort. You jump at the chance to turn the tide of the one-sided discussion. “You hungry? Have you eaten yet?” You know the answer is no since you’re supposed to eat lunch together, but you’re pulling all the stops just to try and get him to talk. “I’ll order food for us, what do you want?” You start, pulling your phone up and getting your delivery apps at the ready. He makes no move and speaks no word, but his gut betrays him as it rips out a prolonged rumble. You give options to entice him, “Hmm. Tteokbokki, sundae, deep fried squid…” Haechan feels his pupils shake at the mention of food. You just have this magical ability of guessing whatever he’s craving at the moment. When he doesn’t respond, you shrug your shoulders. “I’ll just buy them all, we can finish it together.” There. You’ve planted the seed. Surely he wouldn’t ignore food when he’s this hungry?

You couldn’t be more wrong. When the food arrived, you picked it up and set it down on Haechan’s foldable overbed table. You waited for him to jump on it, knowing how he couldn’t resist when the delicious scents reached his senses, but it was to no avail. You even tried feeding him yourself, only for him to dodge your attempts with a flick of his neck and an annoyed look every time. Now, you’re still sitting with the mini table between you, you looking right at him but him looking straight past you. You stare down at the food that’s going cold. Haechan takes the risk of glancing at you when he notices your head bow down a little. He sees you carelessly playing with the food between your utensils, the sight making his heart wrench a little, and then a lot more when he realizes that you haven’t eaten a single bite yourself. He quickly shifts his eyes upwards as your head bobs up. You look at the clock hung on his wall. It’s been nearly two hours since you got here. Not a single word from him. Not one look. You feel defeated, to say the least. Your heart hurts like never before, and you muster up a small smile to your face as you look at him. “I wasn’t hungry, anyways. I’ll put these in your fridge. Just heat them up when you feel like eating.” At that, you quietly clean up the area and close the containers, taking the food with you outside.

The moment you shut the door behind you, Haechan takes a deep breath and faces the hidden camera. He mouths a fuck before taking off his glasses and dragging his hands down his face, blinking rapidly as he tries to think of a way to break the news to you. This is getting too much for him, and obviously it was already too much for you. The prank has gone longer than he expected, and it’s honestly just because his mind kept blanking on how to tell you until it got to this point. “Fuck me. I missed my timing, didn’t I? Fuuuuuck me,” he mutters to himself, stringing up words in his head and practicing what to tell you when you get back. 

The food is already in the fridge, but you’re still in his kitchen, leaning against the island with your face buried in your hands. A few stray tears slip out despite you willing them to stay inside. You try to keep your sniffles as little as possible, your lip quivering and your knees shaking involuntarily, almost like your whole body was shouting at you to Please, let it out, it hurts. You drop your hands down to your chest, remembering to take deep breaths before you spiral out of control in the middle of Haechan’s kitchen. With your eyes closed, you try to clear out your mind and wait for your heart to stop racing. That’s it, you decide, this can’t go on any longer.

Haechan is still deep in his thoughts with his knees pressed up against him when you slam the door open. His eyes snap up to your form against his door frame. It takes him a few seconds to recognize that you were trembling, your hands bunched up into fists, your shoulders slightly raised and tensed. You stare at him with a burning look, and he gulps as he prepares for you to unleash your outrage on him. You take a few shaky but resolute steps towards him, stopping a foot away from his bed. From this distance he could hear your ragged breaths and see your reddened eyes clearly, tear stains still evident on your cheeks. The guilt eats him up and he twitches, about to stand up and hold you but halting when you start to shout.

“Fine! You don’t need to tell me why. I’m sorry, okay? I’m so fucking sorry.” Your voice starts strong, but you could only keep it from shaking so much. You couldn’t find a shit to give about how you sounded anymore, so you let your voice become higher and airy, cracking before every pause as the anxiousness and insecurity cloud over your anger. “Whatever I did, please forgive me and let me make it up to you, please. It hurts and I’m so sorry, Donghyuck. I’m sorry that I don’t know what I did and not knowing the reason makes it worse because I don’t even realize how I hurt you. I’m sorry for being a shit girlfriend. Please, please forgive me. I won’t hurt you ever again I swear–” your body doesn’t let you finish your rambling, racking up with sobs and going weak at the knees. You expect to drop on the floor, but instead you’re met with arms holding you up by the waist. You could feel Haechan invading your space, your knees knocked against his legs, his hand going to the back of your neck to rest your head on his shoulder, his lips pressing soft kisses to your hair. It isn’t until you hear him lightly shushing you that you realize you were still mumbling little Sorry’s against his skin in between sharp intakes of breath. He waits for you to calm down, just holding you against him, whispering It’s okay like a chant as your breaths slow down to a steady rhythm. 

When there’s nothing but your sniffles and hiccups left in the air, he settles both of you down on the bed and tries to crane your head up from his shoulder. You keep your gaze down, your hands shooting up to cover your face when he tilts your chin up. Haechan is beating himself up inside, guilt and anger at himself mixing into an ugly concoction that was eroding his heart. This was fucking stupid, I’m so fucking stupid, he thinks to himself as he mulls over at how this entire situation was uncalled for, and how he brought you to this state for no reason. “Baby,” he gently calls to you, surprising both of you at how hoarse his voice sounds. “I have to tell you something.” You slowly let your hands down, your eyes zeroing in on his wet lashes and the way he nibbles on his lower lip. “But you should know that it’s not your fault, that I didn’t mean for things to go this far, and that I’m seriously, so, so sorry.” You blink at his words, too tired and emptied of your emotions to say anything more, but your thoughts still race with the horrid possibilities of what those words seemed to imply. He closes his eyes for a second, taking a deep breath before continuing, “It’s a prank.”

The words seem to be suspended in the air, refusing to land on you. You stare at each other, him searching your eyes for any sign of a reaction. Your lips part slightly when it finally, slowly begins to register in your mind. “A… prank,” you repeat, barely over a whisper, sounding like it was the first time you ever encountered the word. Your boyfriend nods, hand resting on your shoulder and rubbing reassuringly as he looks at your dazed expression. “So you’re not mad at me,” you continue, voice gaining a bit of stability. He nods. “And I didn’t do anything wrong.” He nods. “And I screamed, cried, and had a mental breakdown… over nothing.” His wince doesn’t escape your notice. Still, he nods. You nod back, not quite finding it in yourself to pile up the anger just yet. “Where is it?” You suddenly ask, your eyes scanning around the room. “What?” “The camera, Haechan.” The nickname slips back again, and he feels slightly relieved but also ashamed at himself for how attentive you still were despite everything–that instead of bursting out at him upon realizing this was all for a video, your first reaction was to be thoughtful enough to shift back to his online persona.

He retrieves the camera from its hiding spot, now clutched in his hand and pointed towards you. You give it a smile, which is ridiculous considering you must look like utter shit and miles away from happy right now, but you even throw in a weak wave of the hand to match. “Can you stop recording now?” You ask softly, motioning for Haechan to sit as you pat the space beside you. He complies wordlessly, clicking it off and taking it with him as he sits. You stretch an open palm out, and he hands the camera over to you. You turn it back on, immediately pressing on playback. Hi guys! Welcome back to your favorite channel with 37.5% viewer ratings, Haechan Cam! In spite of all the turmoil, you couldn’t help but chuckle at the cheerful voice of that familiar intro. That doesn’t mean you’ve forgiven it all, though. You look up to your boyfriend with a sweet, unexpected smile. You wait for him to smile back, and just as he does, you decide to drop the bomb. “I’m gonna break your camera into a million pieces.”

As expected, you see fear flashing before his eyes, giving you a tingly satisfaction at the pit of your stomach. What you don’t expect is for him to nod eagerly right after, “Sure. Please do. I deserve that much.” You frown at his small voice, your revenge not tasting as sweet as you hoped it to be.

“I was kidding,” you tell him, placing the camera down on the bed and pulling him closer by the neck before kissing his forehead.

He slouches into your touch and whines, “Why are you so nice to me?”

“I know, right? Opposites do attract, you meanie.” He cages you in a loose embrace before he pulls you in and lifts your legs over his lap.

His head is hidden in the crook of your neck as he speaks, “Don’t call yourself a shit girlfriend ever again.” You nod. “I love you more than anything in this world.” You nod. “And I’m really, really sorry.”

You nod before whispering, “I know.” It’s comforting, but not quite the words he needed to hear from you.

He lifts his head and pouts at you. “Am I forgiven?”

You smile at how cute he looks, running a hand through his hair before shaking your head, “Not yet.” He pouts even more, but nods his head nonetheless before burrowing back to your neck, sighing.

“I can wait,” he whispers, hugging you a little tighter. You bring a hand up to the back of his head, playing with his hair soothingly. I want to stay just like this, you think. It’s sweet–a little broken, but it’s just another injury on the mend.

You don’t stay like that for long though, as Haechan’s tummy growls loudly against you. You laugh loudly, your boyfriend breaking apart from you at the rough sound of your voice. He rushes to soothe your throat, rubbing light circles that don’t do much to help, but you appreciate the loving gesture all the more. “You should’ve eaten earlier,” he mutters at you.

You shoot him an incredulous look. “Are you kidding? Did you hear your stomach just now? You should’ve eaten!” He doesn’t respond to that, just smiling as he looks into your eyes.

“Wanna do a mukbang instead?” He asks tentatively. You squint your eyes at him, pretending to think hard before nodding enthusiastically. His smile grows even wider as he lifts your legs from him and sets them down before helping you up. 

“You’re heating the food up, though,” you order him pointedly.

“Yes, baby.” Your nose scrunches at the sickeningly sweet tone of his voice as he opens the door for you.

“And I’m ordering more food.”

“Yes, princess.”

“And you’re paying for it.”

“Yes, love.”

“And you can’t eat any of it.” A beat.


“Oh my god, I was kidding!”