10 and Saeyoung if that's okay, thank you! 💕
Thank you for this request, darling anon! And I am so so sorry, but I have written a reset theory fic. I never do this! Really! But this prompt was screaming at me, and I just had to. If you don’t mind a bit of pain, I hope you enjoy this. It’s the good kind of pain, I promise. ♡
i can feel you even now
Saeyoung X Reader, T (cw: reset theory, angst), words: 2223
There is an indent in the pillow where you used to sleep, and he isn’t smoothing it out.
It has been eleven hours, forty-two minutes, and seventeen seconds since you were here—which means, Saeyoung thinks (drumming his fingers impatiently on his desk, averting his eyes from his work phone, which is buzzing insistently), that he may get to talk to you again very soon.
He doesn’t know for sure that you’ll be back tonight. But lately, you haven’t been waiting long.
He spins around aimlessly in his chair. Checks the clock. Eleven hours, forty-two minutes, and fifty seconds.
The first time you left him, you were gone for weeks, and he nearly gave up altogether. He ignored his agency; he spurned his friends. He stopped checked the messenger; he didn’t pick up his work phone. It was a miracle that he survived those few weeks—a miracle he opened the messenger when he did (feeling a tingling in his fingers that told him, inexplicably, that you had returned).
And when you didn’t remember him, he felt sick to his stomach. His head pounded; his vision went fuzzy, like he, too, was fading out of existence. But he held on, somehow, for you: went through the motions the way he always had, because he didn’t know what else to do. Because you’d want him to. Because he knew, somehow, that you would find your way back to him.
And you did. And it was different—and it was the same. You loved him every bit as fiercely as before, though the way you told him was different, and though your eyes were softer. Almost as if you knew that you had been here before.
And the more he looked at you, the hazier his memories became—till he wasn’t even sure what was past or present; till he could no longer remember how you had been before you had left him for the first time.
It all come rushing back when you disappeared again. You left—you returned. You left again. You came back.
He never got used to it. But he knows, now, what to expect.
He knows what time of day you usually slip back into his world—unnoticed, unseen, a tiny blip in the fabric that holds the universes together. He knows how you will behave when you want him—knows what you will say when you don’t. You don’t always choose him—and when you don’t, his heart arches like it has been submerged in a noxious liquid: burning, melting.
But most of the time, you choose him.
Most of the time, you make your wandering way back to him—different and the same, nostalgic and new—and his photographic memory can’t manage it, somehow, and all the moments of your past and present and tenuous future blur together into a mess of touches and delight, terror and devotion.
He tucks his legs up into his chair: a physical manifestation of the anxiety knotting in his chest. He looks at his phone.
Eleven hours, forty-six minutes, and twelve seconds.
You were with him longer, this time, than ever before.
He doesn’t check if the pictures of you are still saved on his phone. He knows they are gone—they always are.
But he doesn’t need them: your face is fixed in his mind like it has been carved by a hot knife into smoldering metal. He closes his eyes, his head pounding, and can see the shadows your eyelashes cast on your cheeks. He can see your jaw when it is lit by sparkling sun, as you sit in the passenger seat of his car; he can see the way your shoulders shake when he makes you laugh. He almost believes that if he stretches out his weary hand, he will touch your arm: find it soft and warm; feel your hands curling around his, the way they always do. He can hear the way you breathe when you’re sleeping; he can hear you calling his name.
Who is he, he thinks, without you?
With you, he is Saeyoung, and Saeyoung is someone who is soft and scarred and shifting. And loved; Saeyoung is loved. But without you, he is only Seven, and Seven is no one at all.
Ah: he feels sick again.
His work phone buzzes itself off the desk, and he doesn’t bother to pick it up. He digs his palms into his closed eyes and sees shades of purple and red; his office is dark, because it’s late and he hasn’t turned on any lights.
When you are here, the house is always full of light. He laughed—just yesterday (a lifetime ago), telling you that you were going to run up his electricity bill. You had lights on in the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom, the bathroom—as though determined to flood his sad, underground home with brightness. You giggled and kissed the tip of his nose.
“You can afford it,” you told him.
You padded around his home barefoot. You left your socks everywhere—and you were so clean otherwise, but in this one way, you were messy (just like him).
“I like that it looks like I live here,” you told him once—not recently, but two returns ago. “It makes me happy to know I belong.”
His other phone lights up: the messenger. But it is not midnight yet, so he turns the phone over. It can’t be you. If you are coming at all, you won’t be here yet.
The gaps have gotten shorter lately. Sometimes you are gone for only a day or two; last time, it was just twelve hours.
But he doesn’t tell you.
He wants to—oh, how he wants to whisper yes, I know when you tell him you love him for what you think is the first time. But he can’t, because when you look at him like that he is incapacitated; but he can’t, because he fears that if you know the truth, you won’t ever come back.
Saeyoung doesn’t know if time itself is repeating, or if he alone is stuck—fated to loop forever and ever around the moment in his life that means the most. He doesn’t know where you go when you leave his side—doesn’t know if there is another life you’re returning to.
Take me with you, he thinks. I’ll live there too.
He flips his phone back over again to check the time.
Eleven hours, fifty-two minutes, and thirty-three seconds.
You left at exactly noon. He knew it was coming—had feared, for days, that it would happen at any moment. The world was letting him have this for too long, he thought—so many nights in a row with you in his arms.
He often wonders if the circling of time is divine punishment for the person he used to be. But with you, he is becoming someone else—a person you can be proud of.
But he understands that he doesn’t get forever with you.
He knew, earlier today, that the time was drawing near, and so he tried not to leave your side. He has never seen the way you leave: never understood if you walk out a door and faded away, or simply disappear right where you are standing. No matter how hard he looks, how closely he watches—it always happens when his back is turned.
This time, you left him for a moment only. You slept in that day; it was late morning, and he was in the kitchen watching you make coffee. He was smiling at the way your hair kept falling into your eyes.
“Be right back,” you said cheerily. You went to the pantry for the jar of unground coffee.
“I’ll come with you,” he started to say—but the words died on his lips as you turned the corner.
Oh, he thought. This is it.
You didn’t come back.
He waited—perched on the counter, frozen in place—until his legs cramped up and his head started to ache. At last, he checked the coffee maker: empty, though you’d filled the canister with water just before you left. He didn’t retrace your steps—didn’t go to the pantry to see the spot where you’d vanished.
He’d tried that before. It had been excruciating.
He gets up from his desk, now—walks aimlessly down the hall, returns to the bedroom. He turns on the light—winces as it burns his eyes.
And there is the indent in the pillow: just the shape of your head. The objects you leave behind disappear, but the marks you leave linger. And he made the bed that morning, before you left—but he didn’t smooth out your pillow. He never does.
Just in case.
He sits carefully on the edge of the bed—feeling, for some reason, that he shouldn’t wrinkle the sheets (though he doesn’t know quite why he bothers). Even if you return tonight—even if you return at all—it will be weeks before you are back in this house.
He tries to swallow, and finds it difficult.
He’s not sure he’ll be able to sleep in this bed while you’re gone.
Often, after you’ve left, he sleeps at his desk—as he sometimes used to before you appeared in his life. Sometimes he sleeps in the living room, with all the lights on so he doesn’t have to see how dark it is in here, without the glowing stars he has on the ceiling of his bedroom. And sometimes he does come back to his bed: is thankful, at least, that no one can see him as he presses his face into the pillow that used to be yours and fights with his stinging eyes.
He paces the room. He feels something—not the emptiness he is used to, but something new. Like fire.
Ah—he knows this feeling. He is angry.
He hates the universe, he thinks, for cursing him the way it has—hates the other place you go, for taking you away from him. Hates you, for appearing in his life against all odds and putting the pieces of him together, then leaving him half-complete and longing to hold you.
No—he doesn’t hate you. He hates the way his chest feels, like it’s caving in; hates the fear that claws at his stomach as he waits for you. But there is not one single thing about you that he doesn’t love.
You are good—too good, to care for someone like him. You are kind; you are forgiving. You are resilient.
You keep coming back.
Saeyoung flips the lights off, not allowing himself a last glance at the pillow. He makes his way back down the hall.
He steps on something.
And before he has stooped to pick it up, he knows—knows, in the part of his heart that always waits for your return; knows, in the tips of his fingers that remember how it feels to touch your cheek. His heart is in his throat.
He bends down. It is a sock.
Oh, and it’s a small sock, smaller than his—and it is short and brightly colored, and it has been left here all on its own, its partner discarded carelessly in another room.
Breathlessly, he says your name. The air seems to shimmer in the wake of his voice.
Because always, when you leave, the signs of you go too: the coffee maker is empty, the shoes are gone from the entryway, your clothes are no longer in his closet. The socks disappear from the halls.
Saeyoung is used to the way things are. But this—this is something new.
He stumbles mindlessly back to his office, the sock in his shaky hand. Breaking, he thinks wildly—shifting. Whatever strange twist of fate is taking you from him again and again is falling apart—or the walls between his world and yours are crumbling—or he misses you enough that you just can’t quite leave him behind.
It’s changing, he thinks—with a certainty he didn’t know he had.
He sinks into his chair. Eleven hours, fifty-nine minutes, and seven seconds. His head is spinning. Something has shifted in the very fabric of the universe. Something is falling apart. Something is being born anew.
For the first time in eleven hours, fifty-nine minutes, and fifty-five seconds, he feels a tiny flickering in his chest: a little fluttery thing. Less familiar.
He opens the messenger. There are five people logged in. He closes his eyes. He tries to breathe.
Three, two, one…
He opens his eyes.
Six: there are six people now.
His fingers shake as he pulls up the users on his computer: and there you are. Not here, beside him, but in this world—one step closer to falling right back into his arms.
His dark office feels brighter, all of a sudden. He whispers your name again: intones it, like a prayer, into the still air.
This time will be different, he thinks—not with his mind, but with his whole aching, beating, longing heart.
This time, I’m not letting you go.
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