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Adrenaline Dynamite (Touch Me to Ignite)

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Yixing could hear the cheering, loud and deafening, while he walked through the abandoned building. He'd not been there before but he had been told to follow the sounds, the loud yells of adrenaline filled people and, as he moved closer, the noises of flesh hitting forcefully on flesh. There was a doorless archway where he could see the start of the bundles of people, the atmosphere growing tenser and bound as he pushed through the less interested patrons.

Being just small enough to push his way to the front, coming to a stop when he saw a barrier before looking down. It was an empty swimming pool, the blue square tiles sat unblemished, save for the blood splatters that made his stomach turn a little. His gaze was drawn from the makeshift arena to the fighters; they differed in size and stature. It looked unfair, initially, until Yixing realised that the smaller male was faster and more agile on his feet, where the taller was visibly stronger and powerful. It looked brutal, no punches pulled or kicks held back; each one was echoing through the empty pool, deep thuds of heels hitting cheeks. Yixing was enticed into not taking his eyes away.

The smaller fighter was tenacious, his moves all connecting with unrefined technique but each was being landed. The taller male was shirtless, his upper half covered in bruises, gouges and cuts, old and new. Tattoos spread out, dark and deep across the plains of skin and sinew. His body shifted with more precision, more power and accuracy. His blows looked to do more damage but only ever countered what the other was doing, his punches moving in different sequences but all appeared rehearsed, practised to the death.

Yixing wasn't sure what happened when the lights dimmed, the crowd somehow roared at an ear splitting volume until white light flashed. Yixing's eyes zeroed in on the fighters, picking up on the fact they now both had daggers and arm guards. They fought for almost two minutes using only their weapons; each cut made on each other had Yixing's heart beating with anticipation. The smaller suddenly lunged forward sloppily, his knife grazing over the taller's forearm block and that left the side of his face open. Anybody could see that, especially the taller fighter, his long leg rounding around to make the sole of his foot jam against his opponent's temple.

The crowd went wild as the struck opponent fell easily and Yixing expected the fight to end there but the adrenaline in his body was still just beneath the top layer of skin. His teeth catching his bottom lip as the taller fighter continued his assault, kicks smashing into the limp man's stomach until blood was showing through his shirt. There seemed to be a choking convulsion in his body, blood pouring out of his mouth and the standing male looked up at the audience, his eyes meeting somebody who nodded.

The fighter took off his guards and discarded his knife, his foot pressing down on the man on the ground's windpipe long enough to make him pass out. It didn't apply enough pressure to break anything but Yixing's breath still caught in his throat, a burning sensation curling around it as he watched the survivor walk to the shallow end, his bruise and blood coated arms lifting him out effortlessly.

Yixing was mesmerised by the back that was retreating through the forest of people, each step making a cut on the left shoulder blade dribble out a little more blood. His eyes finally finding where the fighters' names were displayed, the winner's name flashing as 'Duizhang' and those letters burned into his mind with each bright beam.


###


Yixing wakes, far more tired than he's been in months, and his muscles creak beneath his skin while he stretches out. Feeling the tension left by the fluid adrenaline, a constant contraction in his normally flexible limbs and he struggles to throw his arm out to shut off his buzzing alarm clock. He barely ever slept in late or failed to want to get out of bed, no matter how tired or stressed he had previously been, he was always able to wake up with no qualms. Except for the odd stiff neck he got every so often.

Like clockwork, there was a soft knock on the door and Yixing was scrambling to stand up from his bed, the male servant letting himself into the room with a short bow to Yixing, "Would you like to take your breakfast in here or in the dining room?"

Yixing looked over at the clock, the one which had only been beeping its life away a minute before and sighed, "No, leave it by the front door; I'm going to be late."

The nod the man gave was short and, as soon as he shut the door, Yixing leapt into action. He bounded over to his wardrobe and pulled out two random items of clothing. It wasn't like he was particularly fashion conscious or that anybody in his finance classes would care about whether or not he had matched the blues of his jeans and his sweater. Nobody really took notice of each other in the school, all keeping to themselves having been taught wariness of others by their parents from a young age. Yixing would like to tell his own parents each day that he had a collective of friends to speak of, that he was constantly invited to brunches and dinners by the heir of that company they really admired. But he couldn't, not when each person in his life had their defences built so high that Yixing couldn't even peek over. He had a handful of friends at university and those were all from the arts based minors he took with his finance major. It wasn't that his parents didn't approve of that, they loved that Yixing had an outlet for the things that business matters couldn't fulfil.

But that's all it was, an outlet. Yixing couldn't follow his passion for art and the aesthetically finer things in life; he had to stick to the hard rigid monotony of plodding through life with the blinkers his parents had placed around his eyes.

Maybe that's why he jumped at the opportunity to gain access to an element of life that he never expected to exist. It was true, Yixing did have a little bit of what people would describe as ‘caged bird syndrome', but he had never minded that. Sometimes he felt like clipped wings were meant for some people, most people had to do things they didn't love. It's what makes the world go around on its axis. Complacency wasn't happiness, it was logical and what would keep his parents from thinking that he was a disappointment.

It was a rush to get ready, to have his breakfast collected and books gathered in his bag before he could go outside, venturing out to where Yixing's parents' driver was waiting for him. He opened the door up for himself, before the chauffer could even see him approach and slid into the back seat.

The driver didn't speak to Yixing, he never did and it irked Yixing how a man would probably know so much about him and Yixing knew nothing. His curiosity and thirst for knowledge was a trait inherited from his mother, but whenever he spoke to the driver, he only got a quick glance in the rear view mirror. It helped that his morning commute was short, that it was only fifteen minutes between each destination. As he was certain that the awkward silence would kill him one day.

As per usual, he arrived early with a quick thank you to the chauffeur, his legs carrying him from the vehicle to the main entranceway of his built up university. It had been a real shock when Yixing was told by his parents that they had paid their way to get him into a private university, rather than just allowing him to follow his school friends in their pursuit of community colleges. Yixing knew that the course would almost be identical between both places and that it was only the monthly payment amount that would be the major difference. Yixing's parents were shelling out a ridiculous amount of money for a nametag, not the education.

Keeping his head low, his eyes scoured the floor to look out for objects in his way, allowing his body to run on autopilot and take him to the first lecture hall of the day. His grip on his bag tightened as he walked through the threshold, hopping down the steps to the eighth row and threw himself into his seat. It was there that he allowed his back to slink, relaxing with each pleasing click his spine made and he rolled his shoulders as the other students filled in around him. There was very quiet chatter, those who were friends communicating softly about events that had unfolded and things they had seen. It was impossible to believe that the small talk Yixing had found so mundane in his high school years had become something that he missed, that he longed to plainly talk for hours about nothing.

Nevertheless, silence descended when the lecturer entered and her shrill voice began the class immediately. Yixing took notes diligently, his mind not as attuned to finance as his classmates' and he knew he would have to work harder to be able to get his degree by the end of the final term. He hadn't wanted to spend the past three and a half years on a degree he was never going to do well in.

His concentration was broken when something thin and white was brandished in his line of view, his calm hands taking the piece of paper to unfold and read, as soon as it resonated with him what it was.

‘Did you go?' The note read and Yixing knew who it was immediately, scribbling out his fast positive response, pushing the slip of paper over to his left immediately.

‘Like it?’

Yixing pondered his reply; he wasn't sure if he enjoyed it per se, but more that he felt thrilled by it. It exhilarated him to see people so fired up to do something, to feel the excitement bubbling in the air as people cheered for their favoured fighter and it had his adrenaline ebullient beneath his skin. It was hair raising, a spectacle one could never forget and Yixing turned his head to the side. There was a soft whisper that left his lips that only his seat neighbour could hear, "Yes."

"Really?" Came the sceptical voice beside him, his eyes flicking up to see the amused expression of his desk mate. "Not many silver spoon-ers would like that kind of thing, you know?"

"Your parents' financial status has nothing to do with what you like and what you do," Yixing pointed back, his gaze settling fully on the man beside him. "It was like nothing I've ever seen before; there was this one fighter that made it look as if fighting was like breathing for him."

There was a soft smirk on his desk mate's lips, a flicker of recognition in his eyes, "You got to see Duizhang fight then?"

"The tall one with the dark look and the tattoos?" Yixing asked, his stomach tightened with nerves as the question bubbled up to the surface.

"Sounds like him," the other confirmed, making Yixing resist the urge to bite on his own lip as the name was paired with a handsome face in his mind, "He's a major spectacle on the nights that he fights, and he’s got a real nothing–to–lose attitude to things. It's refreshing. I'm sure you'd agree with that, after seeing him."

Yixing pondered the comment, he hadn't thought much of the fighter's style because of his lack of fighting knowledge, but watching Duizhang fight was like witnessing the release of a caged bird. The boldness with which the wings flutter and flap, the confidence it has to take to the air after being held captive for so long and Yixing couldn't help but be drawn to it, sucked in by the mere fact that somebody was so self–assured that putting their body, their life, on the line in such a way.

"Do you promote him? You speak so admirably," Yixing's hushed query made the man beside him laugh loudly, enough to draw the attention of the lecturer.

"No, he's part of another house."

Yixing frowned, his brow creasing easily, "House?"

"It's a bit like how gladiators in the Roman era were owned by a powerful family; they would fight under the name of the house they were slaves to. It had the name of Familia Gladitorium." He said after a moment of thinking, drawing Yixing's attention deeper for the next sentence, "It's a similar thing but the house deals more with training, money and promoting their fighters, it is a more commercial thing now than it was back then. My job is to make sure my fighters get the crowds they deserve and the fights they should."

Yixing nodded, allowing his focus to drift back to the woman at the front of the room, her laser pointer showing how different profit graphs correlate. Yixing took no more notice of the person beside him and allowed his mind to be trained solely on getting what he needed written down. At least, he tried to but struggled to eradicate the image of a cocky smile, fiery eyes and blood dappled skin.

Maybe that's why, as soon as his lesson ended, he found himself speaking quickly, "Bai-ge!" Yixing's desk-mate looked up at the call of his name, his brows shifting in surprise at the fact that Yixing actually initiated conversation with him first. "I just wanted to know when Duizhang's next fight is?"

"He's actually fighting one of my guys on Thursday, same place as last night and it will be one of the early fights, so get there before eleven, okay?"

"I'll see you there," Yixing bit his lip, pushing all of his belongings into his bag to take to his next class, the aches in his muscles lining themselves with anticipation.


###


Yixing turned up at the fight venue at ten to eleven, his fingers drumming on his thighs as he walked through the people stood around. He could tell that there was a fight going on already but he needed something to drink before he threw himself into another late night. He ordered quickly, using the bills in his pocket to pay before retreating to the outer edges of the room to take on the role of a wallflower. He wanted to be able to fully recognise the room and understand why it was so primed for these events, that it wasn't just the sunken arena that was already there creating a colosseum effect that made it so efficient. He knew the acoustics were unrivalled from his first venture into the underbelly of the city's society, each voice echoing off the high ceilings and bouncing on the tiled walls all around. It seemed as though everything had been temporarily repurposed to suit the night, the equipment centre made way for a makeshift bar, the spectator levels giving way to announcers and people who looked like officials. Yixing could only guess that they were the house owners. Most of the men and women sat on the mezzanine appeared unfamiliar but one, Yixing was almost certain that the Chief of Police was there but out of his uniform.

He guessed that he was the reason why the fight nights hadn't been stopped, especially when they seemed to have a lingering sense of something darker looming over them. Yixing had heard rumours from other spectators of how at least one of the fights in a night ended in somebody dying, the payout for a death being much higher than a knockout, and if somebody was desperate enough then the option was open to them. It was an intense thought but it wasn't surprising, Yixing could have guessed as much by the way people bayed for blood during the fights. It should have disturbed him how easily these people could accept something close to murder as a sport, but he guessed that was the progression of everything. A bit like addiction, he could see how people would need more to sate that craving for the fights.

He was lost in his own little world when somebody came up beside him, lips skirting around his earlobe and heat right next to his body. "You don't belong here, Zhang Yixing."

Yixing gaped, his blood turning cold at being found out, of being caught in a place that people would equate to death and debauchery. It made him nervous to turn around, to look at his captor in the eye. But, when he did, he didn't regret it. Right before him was the man with the coined name ofDuizhang. He couldn't breathe or speak as that impenetrable dark gaze was set upon his face, boring into his soul to seek out truth and Yixing felt naked, despite all his clothing. He couldn't fathom as to why, or how, Duizhang would know who he was.

"I'm serious," the fighter spoke, his firm voice making Yixing shiver. "Do you realise what would happen if you got caught here? The shitstorm that would create?" Yixing didn't feel as though he was feeling anything wrong by being there, that his mere presence wouldn't be the downfall of this underground empire but he could see the genuine concern resonating through the fighter's eyes. It was as if he was worried about how Yixing would be perceived if people were to know he was there. "Why are you here?"

He knew what the man said was a question, that it would need an answer but his mind was a foggy cloud trying to pluck out an appropriate response. At least he tried before he dumbly blurted out a: "I'm here to watch you."

"Me? As in, specifically me?" The fighter sounded sceptical and Yixing nodded as his starstruck haze wouldn't release him. "You know who I am?"

"You're Duizhang," there was an intense moment when the other was staring at him, scrutinising everything before stepping back away from Yixing. He scanned over the room before blocking the rest of the view out.

"Well, you can go home now; I've already had my fight tonight."

Yixing felt his mood plummet when he realised he wouldn't get to see Duizhang fight, his grip on his drink tightening before he sighed in despair, but not defeat. "I wanted to stay, I don't get to do this sort of thing and I just want to stay a little longer. Live another life for a short while."

The fighter seemed to cave a little as Yixing said the first eloquent thing that evening; it was like the tall man was considering Yixing's ask to stay put.

It was his turn to sigh, his eyes rolling and lips muttering, which told Yixing he had been successful.

"Stick by me and I'll make sure nobody finds out who you are, or who your parents are," the fighter looked behind him once again, scanning the crowds of people before using a firm hand on Yixing's lower back to guide him away from the wall and down to a busier part of the crowd. "Don't single yourself out, people on their own stick out more in empty spaces than in crowded places. You really should not be here though. I don’t want to argue with you but you have no idea how stupid you are being just by standing here. Not everybody here would think favourably of you attending these fights. Keep a low profile, don’t place bets or stand out too much, who knows what would happen then..."

Yixing nodded, allowing himself to be malleable to what the fighter was telling him, both attracting and sparking fear within him and he found the combination made him lightheaded. The world was spinning until they stopped moving, the man's hand remaining where it was and making Yixing feel a little bit cocooned in.

"I'm Yifan, by the way."

Yixing could finally put a name to a face, a name that he liked to a face that he liked even more. It was the perfect concoction to have him blushing whenever the tall man looked at him and stuttering when he asked him basic questions. It was thrilling to have another human being impact him in that way.


The tri–weekly fights that Yixing attended from that point on, of which he was discreetly chaperoned by Yifan at, had the fighter drawing in closer to Yixing with each passing time. Sometimes Yifan would convince him to leave the abandoned swimming centre alone after his fights and follow him out for some late night street food, each thing bought with a circle bundle of money Yifan had tucked into his gym bag every night. It was obvious that the roll of notes were his winnings from the night. If it was anybody else, Yixing would have been apprehensive over them carrying quite so much money around with them. But, he knew Yifan could defend himself, defend them both, if it really came down to it and Yixing could only appreciate that in such unfamiliar territory.

Easily put, Yifan made Yixing feel safe while treating him as though he was special. It was far easier for him to develop a substantial crush within two weeks. Yifan was different. He was nowhere near as domineering or straight set as he expected him to be. Yifan could be silly, act stupidly in hopes of making Yixing laugh. Though, many of Yixing's playful teasing went over his head, a frown placing itself in his forehead and on his lips when Yixing did something he didn't understand. Yet, it wasn't frustrating or annoying, it was refreshing. The younger was used to playful banter between friends but it seemed, Yifan was not. This wasn’t entirely surprising as he appeared to spend much of his other time training or fighting. It was as though Yixing was a pocket of air under pack ice for Yifan, much as the other was for him. They were that difference, the meeting of light and dark that they both needed in their lives.

He could only beam when Yifan would blush shyly when their hands slipped together, their fingers locking in the street lamp lined streets and Yixing could only hope that he wasn't the only one who wanted to never let go. It was always a little saddening when Yifan would tell Yixing it was time to go home, that the night had crawled over them too quickly and they were closer to the sunrise than the sunset. It was easy to see that Yixing made the fighter nervous, his head dipping down to hide blushes and cover timid smiles but Yixing could often see that Duizhang attitude. Yifan could change in moments, it was intriguing, to say the least.

Yifan's arm would grip possessively at Yixing's hip if they passed anybody in the street; he could flirt shamelessly with the smaller male and could let his hand rest too far down Yixing's spine for it to be anything but platonic. It was as though the fighter could initiate things but could never deal with somebody pushing right back. Yifan handled pressing his lips onto Yixing's dimple, pushing Yixing's hair out of his eyes when the wind would blow it out of its styled placement and touch his way up Yixing's arms in a gentle caress. But it was when Yixing would kiss a bruised cheek; touch up Yifan's back to where his deltoids would meet his trapezius in a defined ripple or when his fingers would trace over the tattoos covering scars on Yifan's bare arms. They both coaxed and tugged each other out of their comfort zones, not once letting the other retreat into themselves.

It was almost effortless to find himself plunging into having feelings for Yifan; the fighter appealed to the side of Yixing that wanted to be pushed to the limit and coaxed out of his shell while fully protected. The shyer, more retiring edge of Yifan's character let Yixing feel adored, as if he was all soft flesh and molten eyes. The student could fall for either part of Yifan but, both in conjunction, had Yixing spiralling straight out of normalcy and right into love so much faster than he ever thought possible.


###


Yixing was sat at the edge of the empty pool, his legs dangling over the edge as Yifan warmed up in front of him on the small blue tiles. It was mesmerising to watch, each movement Yifan made and each thing he blocked from his trainer was calculated and calm. It was as though he could pre-empt every move, his brain working faster than his opponent's actions ever could. He had his shirt on, which disappointed Yixing to a degree, but his sweat was making it cling attractively to the powerful lines of his body. Yixing could see every dip and curve of Yifan's abs, the second skin that his compression shirt was being, to his triceps and the way his back would curl like a snake as he twisted his hips around to land kicks on hand pads.

Once the trainer had called time on the pre-fight session, he leaves the fighter to walk up to the shallow end where Yixing was waiting for him. Yifan didn't even look tired, his chest moving as though he had been lying down for the past half hour, rather than sparring. "You're early."

"You said you were getting here at around eight and I finished my homework, so I thought I would come down," Yixing looked down at Yifan shyly, the fighter's physical prowess evident in front of him but it was the fact that Yifan had threaded their fingers together discretely by Yixing's side. "Is that not okay?"

"It's great," Yifan ensures Yixing, his fingers squeezing around Yixing's as the room is silent around them. "I'm glad you're here so early. I think it's nice to be able to see you without everybody else around."

Yixing didn't say anything but Yifan brought his free hand up to rest on his knee, the fingers tightening and loosening around the joint and Yixing could see the bindings on Yifan's wrist clearly. They were woven in an intricate detail with what looked like denser material than bandage and Yixing wondered what kind of damage that helped to lessen, as he was sure a few millimetres of cloth couldn't stop a blow from hurting somebody. He thumbed over the fabric in the hand that was in his own, feeling how it was the softest kind of coarse that he could possibly think of. It felt right to be under the skin of his fingers, not around them but something for him to run the tips beneath his nails over. He thought back to the times he had seen Yifan wearing them before, how the knuckles were covered in the blood and skin flakes of his opponents and he found it wondrous to see when they were still crisply white. Yifan's hand slipped down from his knee, fingers teasing over the back of Yixing's calves until it came to where his ankles were peeking out above his shoes, his ankle socks not reaching that far up his leg. The taller’s fingers began to run lightly over the uncovered skin, the nature of his touch was something Yixing could only relish in and hope would last for far longer than should be allowed. Yifan's fingers began to creep up the thin bone at the back of his ankle, his middle and forefinger running either side of it to make the younger shiver as Yifan stepped between his slightly parted legs. Yifan was resting on the pool wall, Yixing's legs framing his thighs and Yixing could feel his breaths shortening into little puffs of air that expelled between them.

Yifan's eyes were burning intensely but it was a fire completely different to what he showed his opponents in the ring, it was more than that. It was molten, thrilling to look into, rather than striking terror within him. It was easy to see how Yifan shifted into his Duizhang side as his fingers began to drag in an enticing graze down Yixing's tender skin on his leg, his lip drawing up into his teeth for them to abuse under Yifan's heated gaze. The younger wasn't sure as to why that habit had developed since he had first seen Yifan, he wished he could say it was because he was nervous but that would be a lie.

Whenever they drew closer like that, Yixing couldn't help but want to kiss Yifan, to submit to his commanding lips and whimper into submission to the far stronger man. But, something within him told him that their first kiss wouldn't be driven by those lust filled thoughts and that Yifan wouldn't let that happen, despite the fact that he teased Yixing with it every time they came together. Yixing knew it shouldn't affect him so much, that it shouldn't dictate his thoughts as he thought of their lingering gazes and how Yifan's hands would wander whenever and wherever they liked. It wasn't like he didn't know that he was like prey being lured straight into the hunter's den, he knew from the first moment Yifan had stepped into his personal space and placed his lips at his ear that something would happen between them. Whether it was a sex driven one night stand or the slow burn motions they were going through. Yixing was tempted in by a man who could make the most righteous stray off their path and he was going more than willingly.

He was well aware of the fact that he was falling in love with Yifan and that it would be the kind of love that would seep into all of your crack and crevices, freeze up and expand until you break, completely open to the other person. It was going to be the kind of love that would be assimilated to things like fire or ice, that they would have the rawest and most intense kind of love. Yixing knew that if he let himself fall deeper then he would never stop falling, he would always be plummeting and that was completely okay with him.

It was then that Yifan moved forward enough for their lips to almost touch, to be in the closest possible vicinity without actually connecting but it was then that one of the side doors slammed against the back wall. Yifan leapt away from Yixing, his hands coming up to hit the sides of his temples, as though he was clearing the idea of kissing Yixing out of his head. That didn't matter to Yixing when he could still feel the molten remnants of Yifan's touch on his skin, burning hot and white.

Yifan walked to the other side of the drained pool, jumping out of it and taking himself forward to go through the door that had been opened. Those who had come out didn't even spare Yixing a glance, their eyes focused on each other as they talked about money and betting. He guessed that they were the bookies of the events, the ones who swindled people out of their money by selling them false hope. He could only feel bad for those who ever bet against Yifan. He could never imagine the tall fighter losing, not when everything seemed so natural for him.

It was with that confidence that Yixing let himself get lost in thought, his eyes glazing over as he looked out to the other edge of the pool and it shocked him when somebody placed something frozen cold against his face. He felt his heart jump and muscles constrict as he registered that something had touched him, his gaze snapping up to the person behind him and he felt himself smiling as he saw who the culprit was, "Yang Bai-ge."

"I didn't expect to see you here so early, the fights don't start for another two hours," Bai looked at his watch, passing a can of lemonade in Yixing's direction.

"I thought I would come and see Yifan before he fights," Yixing smiled shyly, his other hand dropping down to touch his ankle before righting himself to see an amused expression on Bai's face. "What?"

"Yifan, huh?" He had one eyebrow quirked and Yixing's face went a deep shade of red, his only reprieve being that he could distract himself from the teasing stare by opening his can quickly. He gulped down the cold liquid and willed it to go straight to his cheeks to cool them down.

"He's nice," Yixing knew that Bai could pick up the fact that he was downplaying how wonderful he thought Yifan really was but didn't say anything about it, his face pulling into a genuine smile before he ruffled Yixing's hair.

"Don't go falling for the big bad dragon; you know how they are with pretty things, Yixing."

Yixing was going to ask what he meant but it was too late, Bai had already begun to walk away and was talking to one of his fighters intensely. He could only gather that it was important with how serious his expression had become and it irked Yixing to see that change. He always knew Yang Bai to be the cheerfully bright man in his twenties that had no worries about him, but seeing him in the fighting setting made him see the difference. He suddenly looked like the type who would be ruthless, to seek his end goal while eradicating everything in his way.

The college student could only be glad that he saw the side of Bai that came about outside of the fighting circuit.

Time passed slowly from that point on, Yixing's anticipation simmering up to a boil within his gut and he tapped his fingers until more people began to filter in through the venue doors. A few people looked high or drunk, or even both, but a lot of other people appeared wired. It was like they knew something about this fight night that Yixing didn't but he wasn't one to care much, he was new to the scene and didn't know what half of the things meant. He still didn't know how these people all knew about these fights when Yixing hadn't known a thing until four months prior. It was a strange thought that there could be two worlds running in tandem, sharing longitude and latitude but never meeting. He could only ever describe it as an alternate universe to lose himself in. It was somewhat ridiculous to feel that way but he couldn't help it.

The first round of bouts was announced at exactly ten, a minor fight of those who were up–and–coming and Yixing could see that these people had to be around his age. It struck him that Yifan was always fighting people slightly older than himself that he wasn't just starting out, like most other twenty-four year-olds, but was fully established. Revered, even.

Yixing could only squint in dismay as the two men in the ring looked stilted as they held punches back from one another and their kicks didn't pack the conviction Yixing was used to seeing. If he was honest, it looked utterly amateurish, he couldn't help the smile from creeping across his lips as he thought of how Yifan was leagues above so many of the others in the circles he ran in. It was easy to imagine why Yifan was as cocky as he was when he was fighting, that the way he held himself had gravitas because he was just that good.

If Yixing was completely honest, it actually turned him on to see Yifan smirking as he knew he had the upper hand of a situation, his appearance taunting because he knew other people couldn't touch him and Yixing liked it. He found it attractive to see Yifan pick at his opponents until they broke down, he always wanted to watch Yifan know that he would win and do so by a wide margin. Yixing had even found himself in the shower with his hand firmly jerking his inexplicably hard cock over the image of Yifan being physically dominant in one of the most primal of ways. He'd even considered whether he could see that smirking arrogance above him as he writhed in pleasure beneath.

To save from public embarrassment, Yixing cleared those thoughts from his head and focused on the two men, who looked more like children playing fisticuffs in a playground. The fight served it's purpose, it primed him for the main event that he knew would come in the next few hours.

He had to sit through four more of the slightly disappointing fights until things began to get interesting, the fights became more feral and Yixing could see how small pools of blood formed in the dips of the tiles. It was amusing to watch as the fighters panicked when the knife round began with a roar from the crowds around, the aggressive screams of men and women alike as they watched the fighters start to tear into each other with their blades and try to protect themselves with their arm guards. There were a few blows that made Yixing cringe and a few people titter about how they heard something crack with that last kick. It was safe to say that the audience were in a state of crazed delirium as Yifan stepped out from one of the back rooms, his opponent joining him at the edge of the pool soon after. Yixing stood up from the disused water drain, his legs ached a little but, as the adrenaline pumped through, that quickly went.

His heart was thumping away, almost drowning out those around him and he could feel the vibrations of the yells beside, but his eyes were only on Yifan. It was consuming to see Yifan looking so dark and something sparked within him as the tall fighter turned his head and searched the crowd. His eyes stopped scouring when he found Yixing, a smooth wink flitting in Yixing's direction before he was focused again. Yifan was calm as he stepped down into the drained pool, his knife and guards in his hands and he left them at the edge. It was deadly quiet in the crowd for the first time that night and it had Yixing waiting in bated breath as time moved forward slowly. Yifan's opponent seemed to constantly be one step behind him and it made Yixing smile, Yifan was clearly sure of himself in this fight to live up to the title he had. It seemed only natural that he would lead the other man through the steps and be waiting, poised and primed, for him dead centre in the empty ring. Yixing didn't mind that Yifan had his back to him; he knew Yifan's opener was to walk in a predatory circle as they assessed each other's stances to look for weaknesses.

Yixing could feel the tension boiling up in the air and flowing around them, a call that the fight had started made his hands fist at his sides. It was as if he was watching life in slow motion as Yifan waited for the man to approach him, as he knew he would and Yixing could only think of him as coiled viper. Nobody knew when he would strike and the only way to beat him would to be make the first deadly hit. It was like something about Yifan's technique was new each time, his foot was the only part of him to move as the other advanced on him, his foot hooking to jab at the man's ribs while the opponent tried to parry, driving himself directly into the flat plain of Yifan's bare foot.

The rest of the fight was high intensity, Yifan being dealt as good as he was giving and at times, Yixing had his thumb nervously between his teeth. It made him gasp when the lights blew out, the cheering reaching a crescendo in his ears and heels leaning forward as the room brightened again, Yifan's knife blade shined almost directly into Yixing's eyes. It was hard not to watch as each man was pushing forward and slicing with their knives, one clean sweep hitting Yifan on the brow and the blood came flowing out immediately. Yixing would have been nervous about that if it was anybody else, but he knew Yifan could do this blind and wouldn't be hindered by the impairment of one of his eyes. His opponent clearly thought otherwise as he rolled back onto his heels and left his body unguarded for a second. Which was just a second too long because the butt of Yifan's knife was driven directly into him with enough force to throw the man off balance. Yifan's leg came around in a fluid movement, landing directly on his solar plexus and knocking him down, the force in which he hit the floor was enough for a cringe worthy crackle around them. Yixing felt sick as the man's head fell lax on the tiles. Yifan only stepped over the other, his foot coming to roll the opponent over, his body lifting up to fall into the recovery position with a natural tip downwards.

It was only when Yifan was out of the pitted arena that he turned to gain Yixing's attention, his head nodding towards the side door that he had entered through and Yixing understood the silent question. He pushed his way through the crowd, using Yifan's height as a beacon to guide him. They both got to the door at the same time. Yifan walked through first, Yixing following closely and nervously while he watched Yifan's body display the dark flourishes of fighting. It was cooler in the back rooms, music thumping through the hallways and Yifan opened the door to somewhere that looked like an old office. There was a man waiting in there for him, a first aid kit in his hands and Yifan went straight to him.

Yixing was watching in the corner of the darkened room as the man washed out the cuts and small gashes on Yifan's upper body, small apostrophes of open flesh covering the skin of the tall fighter. He wasn't queasy, by any means, but something was offsetting about how Yifan didn't flinch as the disinfectant was applied. Yixing knew from his own childhood scrapes, the sting of the alcohol in the fluid entering the wound and clearing it out until it was clean. Maybe it was the fact that Yixing had to avoid as much physical harm as he could, his haemophilia making it next to impossible to heal as fast as Yifan could. It may also be the fact that Yixing would never willingly allow anybody to use a knife against him; the idea was foreign to him.

"I really need to go now," the man stood next to Yifan said, his voice clear in the quiet room and Yifan murmured something in response, his hands accepting the clear bottle of fluid and gauze. "I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"

Yifan nodded before turning completely to Yixing, the man leaving past the spectator with a slight nod of his head, "Would you mind?"

Yixing had wanted to say no, he wasn't sure if he could deal with being so near a man who he shouldn't want to get close to, but he did what he felt was right. He accepted the antiseptic readily, pouring it on the gauze Yifan was twiddling in his fingers. The fighter gave up possession of the white medical cloth, his hands shaking slightly as he held it to a cut on Yifan's hip that still had a steady stream of blood pouring out of it.

"You need to press harder, Yixing," Yifan's calm voice advised, his hands covered in his blooded boxing bindings, both coming over Yixing's to make him push harder against the raw flesh. "Like this, okay?"

Yixing only nodded, his mouth going dry at the contact he and Yifan were sharing, it was enough to have his palms clamming up and breathing jolting harshly in his nose. The rush from seeing Yifan fight had died in his veins, only replaced by nerves and uncertainty. He felt tentative, no confidence in his bones as he smelt the more salty notes of Yifan's natural scent and felt the heat radiating off his skin. He could feel his hands trying to tremble under Yifan's fingers but the firm hold was impossible to shirk out of. The tips of Yifan's fingers were cooled by sweat but his body that was pearling with the saline fluid still radiated with heat. Maybe Yixing was overwhelmed by Yifan, by the strength and power in one person, but he was sure it was in the delicate way that Yifan actually held his hands. The pressure was unavoidable but all the pain was flowing into the fighter, dulling it for the student, and it was soft in the way the bandages acted like a shield to the calluses Yixing knew was there.

The taller moved their connected hands to each raw slit on Yifan's skin, the purpling bruises looked like colour to fill the outlined tattoos, the shades of blue and red crossing to span the spectrum of cool hues. Yixing couldn't see them as anything but flowers. They were like the fully bloomed buds of hydrangeas and chrysanthemums that lined the gated entrance of Yixing's outer city home, the combining of cold with warm that had Yixing thinking of home as his hands skirted over the ripening flesh. Yixing found it easier to bear when he thought of Yifan's injuries being floral beauties rather than the pieces of pain that they were.

"Are you okay?" Yifan asked and Yixing looked up from the taller's torso, his eyes wide as he looked at Yifan's face. He could see the cut that jutted across his forehead, just missing one of the eye darkening eyebrow by a millimetre. "Yixing?"

The smaller shook his head to clear it before coughing awkwardly to clear his throat, "Yes, just a little tired now."

He wasn't lying when he said it, he was suddenly exhausted and being close to Yifan didn't help his body from crumbling around him, he wished he could slump forward into Yifan and rest there. He knew the elder would catch him and be able to support his weight fully but there was no chance to do that.

Yifan's hands slipped away from Yixing's, the soft warmth disappearing with it and Yixing felt the bindings on his face, his chin being pushed up by the heels of Yifan's hands. "You should go home."

There was a delicate look in Yifan's eyes, the sight filtering through Yixing's sleepily lidded gaze and he felt his chest tick overtime, the muscle constricting and slowing as Yifan blinked. It was fast yet relaxing to feel himself fall in love but that didn't bother him at all.

There was a passing of silence between them as Yixing dabbed delicately at the cut on Yifan's face, the superficial wound wouldn't scar or do any damage. Though, that didn't quash Yixing's desire to not hurt Yifan. Maybe his initial fear of the elder was that he could hurt Yixing with a flick of a knife but that had melted away like ice would on the tongue. Yifan's hands settled on his hips, a support to keep them both steady and the touch helped to ground him.

His face flared as Yifan's stare lingered on his eyes, only looking at Yixing and it made him concentrate harder on the now completely clean injury. Yixing didn't want to step away from Yifan's hands because he knew he would look into those burning pupils. He could feel Yifan moving in closer, their heads starting to brush as the taller leaned down and Yixing's hand fell down to his side, abandoning its post on Yifan's forehead. Yixing had been kissed before, slowly and quickly, both had never really affected him.

But then there was Yifan, his slow approach was a tentative ask for consent, which had his hands flicking with nerves and stomach furling up into itself as it churned in anticipation. Yixing's eyes slipped shut, nature taking its course and flowing through each little capillary. With a slow brush, their noses tipped at each other and there was a few beats, when they were just breathing against the lips in front of them. The puffs of air were coaxing and harmonious, the soft mix of carbon dioxide and oxygen blew between them. Yixing wanted to count the seconds that they stood in anticipation but he couldn't bring himself to. It must have spanned to nearly twenty seconds before their lips clipped each other, the tingling spanning up to Yixing's cheeks then he pushed forward a little.

Yifan pressed a little more, his mouth clasping at Yixing's lips and there was a tip of a tongue that peeked out from Yifan's lips, it didn't force its way forward. The tongue only teased at Yixing's sensitive flesh, not dabbing or jabbing, only whispering against it.

The kiss was more than Yixing had ever had, in terms of a physical response, but it was easily the shortest he'd shared. Yifan pulled away and it took a couple of seconds for Yixing to withdraw and open his eyes, taking in immediately the tender look layered over Yifan's dark features.

Yixing would have said something, whispered for Yifan to kiss him again but a loud bang and a quick shout ricocheted through the hallway to the room they were residing in. The yell had Yifan tensed up, stumbling away from Yixing as he untwisted the bindings on his hand and turned around to grab the shirt that was draped over Yifan's bag. He was fast in bringing the black t-shirt over his head, his hands reaching for the leather straps of his carrier and that was looped over his shoulders. Yixing hadn't moved from his spot at the middle of the room until Yifan reached out for him. Yixing let his hand lift up to grasp at Yifan's, allowing himself to be quickly pulled and guided through the dark building.

There was so much noise as they stepped out into the main floor, people cheering and goading something on but Yixing didn't realise anything was wrong until Yifan swore in English, his voice a deep hiss. "What is it?" Yixing asked, tightening his hold in Yifan's hand.

"Just don't look, close your eyes and I'll get you out," Yifan's voice was serious, people not taking any notice of the rushing duo who were making for the front exit. "Yixing, close your eyes."

Yixing did as he was told, his legs taking him faster to remain close enough to Yifan to clutch at his wrist with both hands. He was about to ask why they were leaving, why they were rushing like they were running for their lives but all of Yixing's thoughts left his head as he heard five clear words.

Somebody get a body bag.

Yifan started to run, Yixing's legs turning gelatinous as he stumbled forward and it seemed like they didn't stop moving until they had been outdoors for a few minutes. It was a struggle to keep his breath even but his eyes were firmly shut, as he didn't know if there were tears there if he reopened them. The only comfort he had was when Yifan stopped them, dragging Yixing into his body and holding him close, and he was whispering a string of soothing words in his ear.

Yixing wanted to say that he was fine, that he could handle the idea of death but that would be a lie. He couldn't handle it, not with the thought that one day, that could be Yifan. Not if it was the man he was falling quickly for. That was the trigger Yixing needed, his body finally caved into Yifan's and he unleashed small sobs. He had been tired beforehand but now there was a sense of terror in his veins, layering it all with dread.

He was still lucid as Yifan laced their fingers together, his hand a stable presence as Yixing's fingers tingled with mild shock, and he was being pulled in the same direction again. Things were slower, as though Yifan knew that Yixing was weakened by everything and they moved more into the city lights with every step. The orange beams from the street lamps made Yixing feel warmer, some of the shock seeping out of his body and into the hand beside his. It was weird how quickly Yifan had become a grounding point for him; a gentle brush over the knuckle by Yifan's thumb had him spiralling deeper into the ocean of love around him. Only after making numerous right and left turns did Yixing realise that he had no idea where he was in a city he had lived his whole life in, the areas he had been told to avoid by his parents when he was a child, never even existed in his mind anymore. Yixing worried over how well Yifan knew his way around, his confident strides as they crossed roads and walked their way through alleyways.

It was weird how walking through the boarded up buildings with gang signs scrawled on every surface didn't intimidate him, or even scare him, to any degree. While they set their relaxed pace, Yifan made Yixing feel safe. Maybe it was because he felt as though he needed that comforting touch or it was because he knew Yifan wouldn't let anything hurt him.

They made their way through the dark streets then came to a sudden halt at the dark entrance of an alleyway; Yixing wasn't sure whether to be surprised at the fact that there was a car parked there. The black paint only showing itself in a glow of greys and soft yellows as the surrounding lights bounced off of it. Yixing had seen cars like it in films, the traditional shaping of a muscle car silhouetted against the red brickwork behind, Yifan was comfortable as he drove the key into the passenger door, twisting it sideways to unhinge the lock and open the door for Yixing to enter through.

Yixing was guided in once Yifan had released his hand, the feeling of large palms on his shoulder and head pushing him onto leather seats was the most delicate of touches. He felt the safety belt be pulled across his waist and into the lock by the edge of his hip; it was nothing more than a gesture of kindness and safeguarding but Yixing felt better once it had been done. The seatbelt kept him from crumbling; it held him upright and rigid as Yifan closed the passenger door. The elder walked around the car and got into his own seat, a quiet cough erupting as he brought the key into the ignition. Yixing was sure that Yifan had turned to look at him, that those dark eyes were gazing past his veneer of shock and into the darkest corners of his mind. There were tears filling his lower eyelid within seconds, reality catching up to him and Yifan was there, his hand on Yixing's jaw was there and his lips were there.

He kissed Yixing softly, a gentle reminder that he was still by his side while his weaknesses were showing, and Yixing was chasing after Yifan's lips each time. Yifan twisted himself around; his upper body was pulled by Yixing almost completely over the centre console while their lips pressed together more firmly. Yixing loved the pressure Yifan was applying, the strong taste of mint beneath the sheen of disinfectant that was still there and the gentle sucking of Yixing's lips between his own. It was soothing but it made Yixing feel as though he could think again, that the idea of somebody calling out because Yifan had been killed in one of his fights ebbed away as Yifan's other hand came to cradle his face. Yixing was ready to push back, to allow some of his own kisses to come first but Yifan pulled away as he plucked the courage to do just that.

"I'm sorry about the mess," Yifan mumbled against his lips, Yixing's eyes skirting around the car and he smiled as he saw random clutter everything. There were empty packs of bandages, blankets, clothes and even the odd old takeout box in the footwells. "Other people aren't usually in my car."

"I don't mind a bit of mess," Yixing assured, his feet wriggling in whatever Yifan had stowed away down there, but that didn't stop Yifan sheepishly trying to collect up the items he had scattered around as fast as he could.

Yixing could see signs that Yifan's car was well used and lived in, the seats were worn out from overuse and Yifan's scent seemed to saturate every surface. Yixing knew a car shouldn't look lived in, that it should remain looking more like a car than a home on wheels. Yixing didn't want to assume, but he only could, and he returned his eyes to Yifan to place a butterfly kiss on his lips.

"I'll take you home now," Yifan started the car, moving into his own seat to place both feet on the appropriate pedals and one of his hands moving to the gearstick to put it into first. "I guess you live in one of those houses out of the city, right?"

"Yeah, I'll direct you," Yixing smiled and blushed slightly as Yifan grabbed his hand, placing it beneath his larger one on the gearshift. "At least, when I actually know where we are.”

 

###

 

Champagne flutes, tight shirt collars and blindingly shined shoes were never three of Yixing's favourite things, they never would be. But, living the life he did, it was a must. Especially since he was supposed to be networking for when his father finally unleashed him on the outer world as Zhang Yixing and not just the Zhang heir.

He probably would have been able to deal with the numerous social leeches if the gala didn't overlap with one of Yifan's fights and it wasn't like he had Yifan's number to tell him that he wouldn't be attending, that he couldn't go. Yifan's fight was going to be the highlight of his weekend, to see the taller fighter win another set of bouts to remain victorious in his skill bracket. It was just that Yixing hadn't missed a fight since his first night, there was nothing that could compare to the thrill, nothing that could compare to seeing Yifan and nothing that could compare to the number of times Yifan had pressed him into surfaces to kiss him until Yixing felt like he was going to pass out.

It had been three weeks since their first kiss and it seemed as though neither of them could stop once they were alone, their mouths connecting and not parting until somebody was there or Yixing had to breathe. It wasn't difficult to fall in love with Yifan's kisses; his lips were both skilful while holding the dominant power between them. Yixing could hear the beat and pulse of his heart far stronger than ever before when Yifan started leaning in, his height meaning that Yixing could rise up on his toes to get closer and he knew the taller appreciated that. However, their goodbye kisses are what had Yixing blushing as he laid across his bed, the fact he was often pushed down onto the hood of Yifan's car with large hands skirting up his ribs beneath his shirt. It was as though the way Yixing's body stuttered beneath Yifan was a drug he was addicted to, the elder picking up on where and how to touch him to elicit small moans from his mouth. Yixing had expected that kissing Yifan would be like a seesaw, the two sides of Yifan colliding and conflicting when their mouths met but he was wrong. It seemed as though Yifan's mouth was exactly what Yixing needed whenever he wanted to be kissed. A slow and affection filled drag of lips when Yixing was worried that the new cut on Yifan's shoulder would impair his movement and slow him down during fights, leaving him vulnerable to counter attacks. Then when Yixing felt as though there was a dragon breathing fire in his veins when he watched Yifan throw cocky simpering looks at his opponents, Yifan's mouth would be all passion and force.

Yixing felt as though that was the reason why everything was so mundane when he didn't attend the fights, that his lips felt cooler than when he was around Yifan or that his heart didn't thump excitedly around other people any more. It was all placating, a gentle hum under the surface when his nights at the fights were raging storms that went right into the pits of his soul. He just couldn't enjoy watching his parents gloat about how well he did in his classes or the fact that Yixing would never stray from the path of being a filial son. The latter would always make him flinch in more recent events, in light of the fact that he was sneaking out against their wishes to do something that went against their idea of right and wrong. But, it wasn't like he could stay away; he had been drawn in too deep and had grown attached to the secret part of his life.

It was a struggle for the student to siphon his attention into the room filled with men in black tie and women in cocktail dresses when it was constantly drifting off to what could be happening across town. He's sure that his mother gossiping with her friends over how the son of the Li family hasn't been seen at events recently, how he had always been a little off and that they wouldn't be surprised if the heir to the Li Empire had finally gone off the rails and was in some rehab centre in the country. Yixing wasn't pulled into the conversation until his mother brought up the fact that he would never end up like the Li son. Yixing was too good for that.

It never failed to surprise Yixing into wanting to laugh incredulously when his mother and her friends suddenly changed their tone when they were actually around the Li couple. They sang their praises; they practically bowed down in inferiority and said nothing of how they expected that it was the parents who had driven their son away.

While Yixing was taught, almost trained, to hate those who broke the norm, he felt a little envious of the Li heir. He had escaped a life Yixing relied on, the life that put the roof over his head, lined his bank account and filled his stomach. It was easy to talk about wanting a different life, for things to shift course and, to Yixing's knowledge, the Li son was the only one who had done such a thing.

Yixing wished he could liberate himself from a life he hated and only put himself through for his parents.

That's why, the next morning, he sat in his finance lesson with less motivation than normal. He sat and waited as people flitted around him, barely even noticing as Bai took his usual seat beside him and the lecturer came in with a large smile on her face. Yixing was disinterested, he wanted out from the pressure in his life, he wanted to lose himself in something and just live in a bubble of happiness that nothing could pop. It was difficult to shake the mental image of Yifan smiling when he thought of finding a place to really belong in. He loved how mismatched Yifan's face looked when he smiled, especially when Yixing had seen him last with his busted lip and gummy grin. It was impossible for him to not feel as though he had missed his capsule of bliss by adhering to his parents’ wishes of attending the event for a charity that they didn't even care about.

He was only shaken from this long period of spacing out when Bai called his name, making him jump up in his seat and grow flustered because he had been caught daydreaming.

"Huh? What did you say?" Yixing whispered, his eyes focusing on where the teacher was babbling on about something he was now completely behind with.

"I was saying that I didn't see you last night," he repeated and Yixing nodded, looking down at the unused pen in his hand. "It seemed as though I wasn't the only one who noticed though."

Yixing frowned, finally pulling the cap off of the biro to reveal the inked nib, "I don't understand."

"Duizhang didn't win," Bai murmured and Yixing felt his blood turning cold, his pen beginning to rattle as his fingers trembled. "It wasn't a complete loss, neither fighter got a knockout, or a kill, and it was too close to call the winner. So they're having their punishments tomorrow night."

"Punishments?" Yixing gaped, his head looking to face brown eyes of his desk-mate. "What do you mean?"

"Duizhang didn't tell you?" He was frowning as he whispered the question and Yixing shook his head, "Fighters have to go through punishments because there isn't any profit made for the houses if they draw but people pay to see fighters get punished, it's one of the biggest nights when fighters likeDuizhang are said to be at the physical mercy of their house."

Yixing wanted to comment on how barbaric the whole situation was that things shouldn't be like that because they were real people who put themselves on the line purely for entertainment. Yet, a part of him nagged that things probably wouldn't change because that's how things were. The fighters aimed to harm, maim and kill one another; it would only be natural if their management lived by the same rules. Fighters were cogs on a machine that never stopped turning and that meant that those, like Yifan, were mere parts of a bigger scheme. It was just that, parts could be so easily replaced and that terrified Yixing to the core. It made him worry about Yifan, the fact that he had got himself embroiled in such a mess, though Yixing could only guess as to the reasons why. He was already almost completely certain that Yifan lived in his car, that he didn't have his own home and maybe fighting was the only thing he knew.

"When is it? His punishment, when is it?" Yixing's breath rushed out to ask, his eyes falling to the desk and Bai looked at his watch.

"They start early, to not disrupt fights that happen after," the promoter pulled out a sheet of paper and plucked the pen from between Yixing's fingers, instantly scribbling something down. "But, the venue has changed, so get to this address for nine and take money with you, the entrance fee will be high to see Duizhang get his punishment. Though, I'm sure you can afford it."

Yixing nodded and accepted the sheet of paper from Bai, slipping it into his phone case and keeping that clutched in his hand for the rest of the lesson. He knew he would be on edge for the rest of the day and probably wouldn't get much sleep that night. He was contemplating going home after his class had ended, as he knew he wouldn't concentrate for the rest of the day. But as he walked out of the door, moving to head towards the exit, a hand caught his wrist.

"Duizhang is dangerous, Yixing," Bai said quietly, his voice a whisper against Yixing's ear as he turned to leave, "Remember that."


###


Yixing got to the unfamiliar venue with little time to spare before the clock struck nine, his lacking sense of direction taking him across the city and to the completely wrong place before he resorted to using an online map on his phone. He even withheld a gasp when he heard just how much money he would have to pay to see Yifan, it made his nerves fray as he saw more people around than at a Friday night fight, each of them were pushing and shoving to get closer to the front and Yixing knew he would never be able to get there before things started. He wasn't exactly sure what the punishment would entail or how long it would last but he knew it must be somewhat of a spectacle to make the atmosphere so palpable.

He vaguely registered that it looked like an abandoned slaughterhouse, one that was still equipped with the anchor shaped hooks dangling from the ceiling but most of the machinery had been taken out to create a flat floor that surrounded an unobstructed plinth, which must have once been the control centre. He could see what looked to be two men, both in well-tailored suits, looking down at a coldly metallic table in the far corner of the platform. Yixing would have stayed where he was, acting more like the other spectators than somebody who was becoming emotionally involved with one of the fighter's, that was until a hand tapped his shoulder. He could recognise it to be the man who would clean Yifan's wounds and he beckoned for Yixing to follow him. While he had never spoken to the man, he knew he must be somebody in which Yixing could trust because of how comfortable Yifan was around him. He trailed behind him through the crowd, leaving through a side door and walking up a steady but slight incline, coming to an emptier area with fewer people around. He recognised most of them as fighters that Yifan had pointed out belonged to the house he did, it made Yixing think that he had been pulled into something similar to a VIP box at a football game. Yixing only took a few moments to take in the room but when he turned to speak to the man who had guided him there, he was gone.

Another turn of his head showed him that he'd risen up to a mid-floor that looked directly onto the platform that the two suited men were on and Yixing could hear the tittering of the excited crowd grow louder. There were a few seconds when Yixing was lost, unknowing of why the people were reacting in such a way up until he saw two figures walk up onto the platform. One of them was Yifan, he could recognise the silhouette he had memorised in the past few months but he had no knowledge of the other. Not that he cared much about the second man, he never did. His focus was on Yifan and Yifan only. His concern not settling as he took in the calm expression on the fighter's face, he hated the idea of Yifan being unnecessarily hurt. Yixing could handle injuries from fights; they were always bound to happen, no matter how good Yifan was. It was the public shaming process that he couldn't wrap his head around, surely the humiliation was enough of a punishment.

Yixing was watching as Yifan began to strip off his shirt, each tattoo being unfolded before his very eyes and he had to look down at the ground to avoid gaping. He let himself take a few deep breaths in before returning his eyes back up to Yifan, it was then that Yixing saw the man who had led him up to the secluded room say something to Yifan. The fighter's gaze was immediately on him. It burned through his memory, that momentary flicker of relief before the proud expression that defined Duizhang's physical presence in a room.

The darkened look on Yifan's face was enough to have Yixing's bones turning to a weak and flimsy state, his weight swaying from side to side as the elder's eyes penetrated in through the translucent windows of his soul. A quick whip of Yifan's tongue across his bottom lip had Yixing letting out a shaky gasp, a frail puff of air that reflected the weakness he felt whenever Yifan gave him that look. He looked on as one of the suited men gripped Yifan's shoulder tightly, pushing his body down to his knees but his stare didn't waver. If anything, it grew deeper. A bolder shade of black that he had never seen before, a pitless swirl of something he tried to figure out. The fighter's eyes looked obsidian beside the small slivers of white that lined the irises and Yixing couldn't help the shudder that undulated down his spine in a slow crawl. Yifan looked deadly; the provoking tilt of his head had Yixing biting his lips.

He should not have been so easily turned on by Yifan. He should not have felt arousal coursing through his veins from a single look. He should not have been so affected by the man stood in the room he was staring into. Yet, he was.

The only time their eye contact broke was when a gut wrenching cry erupted from the man kneeling beside Yifan; the other fighter had his head dipped down and his jaw clenched hard. Yixing couldn't believe the sounds that were emanating from him and his fear for Yifan skyrocketed to a stratospheric level. He wasn't sure if he could watch Yifan go through that much pain without his own eyes filling with tears, he had a feeling that he'd crumble completely under the weight of Yifan's torment. Nevertheless, his eyes focused on what was making the man sound so feral, his stomach churning as he watched a blade trail down the man's spine in three four inch long slices. There were six in total, half going either side and he could only describe them as tramlines. Tracks that traced the curve of his body and delved under the skin of the fighter and Yixing slipped his gaze back to Yifan.

The taller was still locked on him, like a fighter pilot in the cockpit of a jet, the user of a primed killing machine but Yixing could see hints of reassurance in Yifan's swollen pupils, even from that distance. He held his breath as the knife used on the first fighter was replaced with another, one that glinted more under the floodlight bright bulbs and the suited man behind Yifan knelt down. Yixing could see the pointed tip breaking the skin and running down, a small dribble of something darker flowing out around it. However, what surprised Yixing was not the smoothness in which that cut happened, it was the fact that Yifan’s expression didn't change for a second. He didn't flinch or struggle against the force of the knife. He only looked at Yixing, the eyes pushing in through his consciousness and into that primitive part of his brain that drove his attraction, his body reacting positively to the fact that Yifan was able to fight the urge to escape the blade in his skin. He was just kneeling as though Yixing was the only thing in the world and the younger was sinking into the feeling that Yifan was still so enticing when something so horrible was happening to him.

Yixing was surprised that he wanted to go to Yifan, that he wanted to be touched by Yifan, not that he wanted to take him away from the damage that was being done to his body. He thought of how rough those hands, which hung loosely at Yifan's sides, would feel pushing and pulling at his body. He could imagine those fingers bruising marks into his skin out of pleasure, not harm. It was ridiculous that Yixing was thinking about how it would feel to have Yifan fuck him, imagining the strength Yifan would use to turn him into a whining and whimpering bundle of oversensitivity. Yixing felt his eyes go out of focus and that snapped him from his stupor, his orbs focusing back on Yifan who was getting the final of his half dozen cuts, the crowd cheering as he took it with no argument. It was the opposite that could be said of the man who was curled forward and sobbing to his left.

Yixing watched as Yifan jumped up as soon as the knife was pulled away, the suited man ruffling his hair and smiling for the first time that night. Yifan didn't seem to react to that but just accepted it and moved on, his back covered completely in blood and they were framed by evenly sized and spaced carvings that were spewing blood constantly. Yixing stumbled to get out of the room and back through the crowd of people who had turned up to watch the punishments, not caring that he was shoving people harshly to follow where Yifan was disappearing off to. He lets his legs run through the forest of bodies, each ram of the heels of his hands taking him forward through the people with pushes at their shoulders and he barrelled through the door that was in his way.

He could see Yifan bending down and cursing whenever a drop of blood hit his bag, it was ridiculous that he was more bothered by the fact that his blood was getting on his bag and not the fact he was bleeding as much as he was. It frustrated Yixing that Yifan didn't have any problems with being injured, he had such little care over his body and that made his arousal slip on to the back burner to allow his anger to come forward.

"What the fuck was that?" Yixing yelled, making Yifan stand up so quickly that he surely would have had head rush. Yixing walked forward to him and looked him in the eye, "You stupid idiot, why didn't you win? You should have beaten him."

"It's okay–"

"It's not okay, you've got blood everywhere and your back is slashed open," Yixing cried out, his hands pushing on Yifan's chest but the taller man didn't budge as he shoved. "How can you let people do that to you?"

"It's okay, I'm used to it."

"You shouldn't be used to it," Yixing growled out, his hands opening up and fingers tracing around Yifan's body, halting when he felt something thick and sticky under his touch. "This shouldn't be normal, Yifan, this isn't normal. It's unhealthy."

Yifan stepped forward to Yixing, enveloping him in his arms and kissing his hair as softly as he could. It was then that Yixing allowed himself let out a small sob, his fingers not pressing into the blood but fisting up by Yifan's neck. "It's normal for the life I have chosen to be a part of and it isn't like this happens often, it's only something I go through once every eight months or so. I'll be healed soon, Yixing, they look worse than they feel."

"I don't want you to get hurt like this," Yixing mumbled, Yifan sighing into his hair and adjusting his arms. Though, he says nothing more, only holding the smaller male closer to him and comforting him silently. "Come home with me."

"I don't think that's okay," Yifan laughs humourlessly, his chest bouncing Yixing's head up and down. "You shouldn't be seen with me."

"Then let me stay with you," Yixing asked, his voice hopeful with echoes of curiosity.

"That really is impossible," Yifan mutters, his head tilting to the side to softly kiss Yixing's ear. "We could go to a hotel; I've got money in my bag."

"I don't think we can turn up at a hotel with you looking like you've been mauled by an animal. Just come home with me."

Yifan laughed normally then, his chest vibrating happily rather than shifting uncomfortably, "I would love to Yixing, but it's best if I don't."

"No, what's best is if you let me look after you," Yixing peered up at the taller, his shy smile coming into Yifan's view. "There's a side door that leads almost indirectly to my bedroom, nobody would even see you. I won't be able to sleep if I don't know if you're okay."

"Yixing, I've been doing this for almost eight years, I am sure I would be fine on my own," Yifan let go of the younger's body, the two of them shuffling back to look at each other properly and Yixing could see his own frown in the reflection of Yifan's eyes.

"But you're not alone now," Yixing mumbled as softly as his lips barely moved and he saw Yifan's eyebrows soften in their sharpness a little. "You've got me to look after you and I want to do that now. Please Yifan, let me take care of you, I know about these things. I can help you."

Yifan didn't looked utterly convinced but he was swayed, teetering on the verge of agreeing with Yixing and the smaller knew exactly how to entice the fighter in. He pressed a quick but hard kiss on his lips, "Or maybe you don't want to spend the night with me..."

Yifan's mouth chased after Yixing's, his lips striking as he muttered a quiet all right.

Yixing did a quick clean up of Yifan's back, swiping with antiseptic wipes and wrapping it as fast as he could around the lean torso in front of him. Yifan took his hand, kissing it softly before tugging him through the room and out a fire exit to what appeared to be a makeshift parking lot. He saw Yifan's car parked close by and was going to say something about Yifan not driving due to blood loss, but Yixing didn't even know how the pedals in a car worked. Though, he knew Yifan wouldn't let anything happen to either of them while in the car, and in general. It was like a slow burning under his skin when he considered how much he trusted the fighter and allowed himself to act almost irrationally because Yifan was there. He kept a close eye on Yifan, searching for any signs of discomfort or displeasure but didn't see any, not even when Yifan rested fully on his back. The elder started driving the car, one of his hands reaching open palmed for Yixing and he accepted it gladly, his fingers toying with the skin around his nails. It was peaceful. Yixing was still frustrated with Yifan and the fact that he still wanted to tell Yifan to pull over so he could climb onto his lap.

He hated that he lived so far from everything in Yifan's life. Most nights that meant Yixing could spend more time alone with Yifan as they drove through the deserted streets and out of the city. But that night, the drive was keeping Yixing from Yifan and he just wanted to get home. He wanted to be there as soon as he could, to wrap himself in a protective layer around Yifan until he healed.

Yixing directed Yifan to a place where he could park his car without being seen by his parents or neighbours, fidgeting in anticipation for when he could get out and finally take Yifan indoors. He all but leapt from the car once the ignition key was drawn out, his legs taking him to Yifan's side of the car. He dragged the older boy up and past the outer gate, his fingers punching in the code mindlessly and he immediately started to cut across the grass. He could see the small outdoor light that he had left on before he had decided to leave to see Yifan, his fingers tapping in the second round of key codes to get into the house and he heard Yifan's apprehensive inhale behind him. Yixing only offered a quick squeeze of his hand as a comfort before tugging him through the mahogany detailed hallway; he took a sharp left and waited as he heard people walk past the top of the stairway, his small tugs pulling Yifan closer to his body. Once the coast was clear, he guided Yifan up the steps and through the handful of corridors to where his room was.

Yixing unlocked his door, pulling Yifan in and then making sure it was secure before turning to look at the taller boy in his room. It was easy to say that Yifan looked incredibly uncomfortable, he was shifting from foot to foot as he took in Yixing's bedroom, the expensive furnishings contrasting with the well worn clothing on Yifan's body, the light flooring splattering with the small droplets of blood that were seeping out from under Yifan's shirt.

"I think I should shower," Yifan whispered, his eyes downcast like he didn't want to see his surroundings, it was easy to say that Yifan stuck out like a sore thumb and Yixing wouldn't be lying if he did, but Yifan, somehow fit. He was in the right place in the eye of Yixing's mind. "I don't want to get anything dirty."

"Through that door, I've got black and red towels that I think would be best to use," Yixing walked into the room he indicated, revealing to Yifan a white and slate bathroom, which came complete with waterfall shower. He wanted to laugh at how much of a hotel his own bedroom looked, when he thought about it but only went to one of the drawers and pulled out a bundle of towels. "Get in the shower and we can try to get everything clean and washed out. I think those bandages will unravel pretty quickly, as I didn't tie them too tightly. "

Yixing watched as Yifan pulled off his shirt, his shorts and then the younger was snapping his sight to the floor. He could hear the soft thuds of fabric on tiles and he had to breathe in deeply through his nose, his weak attempt to not take a peek at Yifan's body. His mouth went dry when he heard the water's fall pattern was disrupted, the pitter-patters bouncing off skin and not the slate flooring. To distract himself, he picked up the clothes Yifan had stripped off from his body and bundled them up in his arms to place in the sink, which he was swiftly filling with cold water. He needed to stop the blood from staining.

"Yixing, I'm going to need a hand," Yifan didn't sound sure of himself, which set off alarm bells in Yixing's head. Yifan was always sure of himself; it irked the younger to hear nerves in the normally confident voice. "Could you just wipe my back down a little?"

Yixing didn't let himself over think anything, his hand plucking out a black towel and he walks to the entrance of the shower and came to face Yifan's bare back. It was nothing he hadn't done before, only this time, he could slip his eyes downwards and see the parts of Yifan he hadn't ever before. When Yixing allowed himself a little more peeking room, he could see that Yifan's hips were clustered with tattoos that flowed down onto his thighs and they were all predatory creatures. A prowling tiger, a hunting wolf and a roaring lion all joined in together with intricate dot work. Yixing was shaking, in both breath and touch, as he finally started to dab at the crusting bits of blood. He had always expected himself to dread the sight of so much blood, as those kinds of things would be fatal for himself but on Yifan, it felt like it was normal. As if he should be dappled in broken skin and dark smudges of bruises,

Yixing hoped he only thought that way because it was how he knew Yifan; it was the way he had seen him first and would probably always see him.

He didn't mind so much that the arms of his jacket and shirt got wet, the water flowing directly onto them as he wrung out the blood from the towel. He was still nervous, his body telling him that he should be more careful with Yifan, that the elder needed tender attention and he couldn't help but kiss at his shoulders when they flowed over with crystal clear water. Yifan's head looked over his shoulder, eyes settling on Yixing and the younger smiled up at him, his bashfulness displaying on his cheeks and Yifan only smiled at him widely. It was a comfort to see those perfectly straight teeth and those pale pink gums, Yixing missed it in the days they had spent apart. He hadn't realised how much of a profound impact one’s facial expression could make on his mood until he saw Yifan smile. He knew he was in a little too deep and he could only hope that his dimple had the same effect on Yifan, as his gums did on him.

Yixing liked that both of their smiles were unique, both sharing a different quality that set them apart and he found it endearing to be in love with the way Yifan smiled. It was such a simple thing, a basic human response to something, yet when he saw it, he felt as though the pressure in his life lifted for a moment. He felt a barrage of butterflies in his stomach, hundreds of them fitting into that fist sized space and fluttering around to help him be ever more drawn to Yifan.

"Hello," Yifan whispered, the water dripping down his face and into his mouth, hanging precariously off his chin, "I'm sorry if you find this awkward."

"You're shirtless almost every time I see you, this is just a minor upgrade," Yixing joked and he saw Yifan's gaze turn a little fuzzy around the edges.

"I'm sorry about my body," Yifan murmured over the sound of the shower running, "I'm sorry that it's not as good as you would probably want in somebody. I know that scars aren't that attractive, hence the tattoos, but please don't let them make you feel uncomfortable."

Yixing froze, his mouth open unattractively and the older male was looking at him as though he was about to destroy his whole world with the next thing he said, "Yifan, you have one of the best bodies I think I will ever see in my life, you're perfectly in proportion, to the point where I am almost certain that a higher being created you in its own image, and I think you forget that your scars are only skin deep. The deeper you go down, the less you see and the less they mean."

The taller man froze, standing almost awkwardly in front of Yixing and they were submersed in a quiet that he hoped would allow Yifan to filter in what he had said. It was mollifying for the younger, letting him fully register that Yifan would be okay, that he would care for him and not just let Yifan be the one to protect. Yixing didn't even mind that they hadn't defined their relationship; he figured that it was what it was. Nothing more, nothing less.

"I'll finish up and let you shower in peace," Yixing watched Yifan nod before stroking at his back with the sodden towel, he made sure to not touch the open wounds that gradually stopped bleeding, he didn't want to aggravate them again. "Make sure you don't get any soap on your back, wait until you get out and I'll put some ointment on them."

Yifan, again, didn't answer verbally but nodded and Yixing slipped out of the shower. He left the bathroom quietly and could hear a slight hum from Yifan as the water splattered more harshly as he moved to wash his hair, Yixing going to his dresser to pick out some pyjamas for himself. He contemplated trying to find something for Yifan but he had nothing that would possibly fit him, Yixing just had to hope that the other would be okay with sleeping in his shorts.

That was his reasoning for entering the bathroom again, not fully realising that the water had stopped running and that the occupant had probably left the confines of the glass doors. Yixing was heading straight for the sink, his body stumbling backwards as an embarrassed squeak left his mouth. There, dripping wet and very naked was Yifan. The taller male's eyes widened in momentary shock before his expression immediately evolved to one of sultry teasing, his body moving in a way that made his muscles ripple and shift appealingly. Yixing panicked and covered his eyes with both his hands, louder than Yixing's scandalised squeals was Yifan's laughter. The smaller wanted to watch his eyes crease into curves, his cheeks puffing out as his lips opened to reveal his wondrous smile. Yixing, in thought of that face, was smiling under his hands.

"Yixing," Yifan's voice called far closer than he expected and laced with chuckles, "Yixing."

Large fingers curled around his wrist softly, tugging slightly in a way that made Yixing start laughing while he shook his head, "Yifan, no, you're naked.'

"Not anymore, I've got a towel."

"I don't believe you," Yixing giggled, Yifan's fingers plucking away at the younger’s to show where his eyes were screwed shut. He could feel the shudders of Yifan's laughter in his light grip, making Yixing actually feel happy, putting him in that bubble he wanted.

"You'll never know until you look," Yifan teased, making Yixing roll his eyes under his closed eyelids. "Or, you could touch?"

"Yifan, if this is your roundabout way of trying to get me to feel you up, then I won't do it," Yixing was snorting, his laugh opening him up to let Yifan pull his hands down to his side. "I won't open my eyes."

Yifan placed Yixing's hands on his ribs, letting him feel the odd bumps of his scars before moving them slowly down, Yixing didn't even peek and just let himself feel down Yifan's sides until his touch met something soft and fluffy. The towel, Yixing guessed, was sat higher on Yifan's hips than he expected and he let himself finally look down with wide open eyes, Yifan's lower half was covered completely with red cotton and Yixing sighed out in relief.

"Do you want me to turn around to do this?" Yifan asked and Yixing gulped loudly, the audible click of his throat making Yifan tilt his head questioningly, "For the ointment."

A nervous laugh crawled up his throat, and he nodded while Yifan turned his body to show his back with complete, clean lacerations, which were far smaller and thinner than he expected. It seemed as though they were superficial cuts, not breaking in through the muscle or delving in deep enough to do permanent damage, which was a relief for the student. He leaned past Yifan and opened his bathroom cupboard, showing numerous bottles of pills and creams that were meant for cuts and scrapes. He heard Yifan make a questioning noise but ignored it when he reached for a certain tube. Yixing twisted off the cap and started to squirt single small stripes onto his fingers and rubbed the three longest digits of either hand together until it was an almost clear sheen. It was only then that he started to rub it on Yifan's cuts, the taller man didn't flinch, which Yixing now came to expect. It was more like he was massaging Yifan from the small noises of pleasure that were coming from his mouth.

Yixing worked in spite of those little groans, his fingers moving expertly to cover every inch of raw flesh with the cream and he didn't even withdraw after he had finished applying it. He loved how Yifan's skin felt. The small, paler lines of his scars, often covered with thick black outlines of tattoos, reminded Yixing of Braille, each rise and fall being a new letter in the story told on Yifan's flesh. It was as if all of his history was imprinted directly onto his skin and they trailed the whole way down his body. It wouldn't surprise Yixing if Yifan had those marring marks on his ankles and feet. Not that he would care anyway; he wasn't put off by them.

"I think I'm done now," Yixing whispered, making Yifan turn around and step closer to him.

He was sure Yifan was going to kiss him with the way he leaned down, his body turning to curve more towards Yixing's but only his fingers came forward. He took Yixing's right hand between one of his and used the other to pick up the cream he'd used to rub into Yifan's back, his eyes scanning over the writing on the tube.

He could see seriousness set in on Yifan's features and Yixing chewed his lip nervously, especially when Yifan's hand tightened on his a little bit more. Yifan turned from Yixing in a way that made the smaller worry that his back was going to split open again but that didn't happen, he could only watch as Yifan stretched out to inspect the bottles of tablets, "What are all of these for?"

"I'm haemophilic," Yixing whispered, his hand holding back with Yifan's. "I don't heal well."

"Oh."

Yifan placed the things back into the cupboard and pulled Yixing closer to himself; there was a long breath in beside Yixing's ear. There was a completely silent moment before Yifan's head turned, his lips pressing just below Yixing's attached lobe. "It's getting late; you should be going to sleep."

"I'm twenty three and you're trying to set me a bedtime on a Friday night," Yixing's faux shock making Yifan pull back to look at him with a large smile, his eyes light when he looked down at the smaller male. "I cannot believe you, Wu Yifan."

Yifan used both of his hands to shuffle Yixing around and push him in the direction of the bathroom, "I am trying to be a good boyfriend here."

Yixing stopped completely still, his grin halting in its growth as he heard those words and he slowly peered around to see Yifan stood, still holding him, with wide eyes.

"Boyfriend?"

Yifan withdrew his grip, hands dangling by his sides as he looked down at his feet, "I just assumed that we were– I'm sorry, if you don't think the same."

He blinked once, twice, three times, his body throwing itself forward to push fully against Yifan's half-naked one. Yixing didn't stop until their lips were joined, he opened his mouth quickly as an invitation for Yifan's tongue to delve in and taste him fully for the first time in a few days. The elder wasn't hesitant in accepting Yixing's offer and it had his eyes slipping almost instantly. It was difficult for Yixing to hold his own weight when Yifan let his hands coast down Yixing's body to rest his hands on the back of his thighs. It was a weird angle, Yifan's body hooking over Yixing's and his neck arching up to keep their mouths attached. He couldn't stop the short whimper from running past his lips when the elder's tongue flicked beneath his. It was him teasing at the sensitive parts of Yixing's mouth. The younger was unravelling slowly, his hands skirting down the sides of Yifan's body and toying over the edges of some of the biggest scars on Yifan's bare ribs, which made the tall male shudder slightly.

Yixing took that as his invitation to place his hands around his ribs fully, pulling him along the floor as he guided them to where he knew his bed was. He wasn't assuming that Yifan would want him like that but he knew that the fighter liked to kiss him almost to death while completely over him; it was just a shift from the bonnet of his car to Yixing's bed. Only a change in surface, not necessarily a change in intent.

That was until Yifan planted Yixing firmly in the middle of the bed and made sure that Yixing's legs were fully bent in line with the taller's hips, it pressed their torsos together and Yixing was sure that Yifan's hands were slipping down and around his thighs. He was certain of that fact when fingers brushed over the sensitive skin in the innermost point of his upper legs. His muscles tensed as he moaned quietly, the firm hands pushed one of his knees down, opening his body up and Yifan pulled away to look him in the eye.

"Is this okay?"

Yixing pulled him down by the neck, making their lips layer over each other and knock noses, "I would have stopped you if it wasn't."

"So, that's a yes to continuing?" Yifan mumbled with his lips brushing Yixing's as his mouth moved slightly.

"Please, Yifan, just carry on."

Yifan nodded, Yixing shifting to accommodate the body on his and he let his hands travel down to the bulging knot that kept Yifan's towel in place, slowly unfolding it until it was loose in his hands. He used his feet to push the towel down Yifan's body until he was entirely naked on top of him. That only left Yixing.

However, Yifan had other ideas as both of his hands were pulling Yixing's pyjama shirt over his head, stopping to admire his completely unblemished chest and Yixing watched as Yifan's face grew more delighted than lustful. "Jesus Christ, you're perfect. Why am I always the shirtless one when you look like this?"

Yixing was going to whine and complain about not being touched but he watched as Yifan's eyes grew slightly more predatory as his back naturally arched upwards. The elder dipped down and started to lap at where Yixing had semi-defined pectoral muscles, the goading tip of his tongue making his breath break up in his throat and push his chest out to aim the wet appendage at his nipple. His body was covering itself with gooseflesh and Yifan was relentless with his ministrations, he was never one to have a sensitive chest but he was writhing as Yifan moved to suck a mark on his sternum.

There was a thumb brushing, pressing harshly and hooking over one of his nipples, his moan coming out as a lengthy cry and Yifan's other hand was covering his mouth in moments. Yixing couldn't stop his moans as Yifan pinched and picked at one of the sensitive tip of chest. He found arousal sparking through every nerve of his body, his erection starting to curve upwards under his pyjama pants and Yifan's upper body was feeling that growing hardness. There was a soft groan from Yifan's mouth, his tongue sliding across to the nipple that wasn't being toyed with and Yixing's moan went octaves higher than he'd ever gone before, the sound being stifled by Yifan's hand. Though, it was clear that the fighter heard it as his lips curved to smirk against the younger's nipple in moments.

"If I take my hand away, will you be a good boy and not be too loud?" Yifan's deep voice made Yixing look down at him intensely, his neck making his head nod, even though he wasn't exactly sure if he could do as he said. "Good."

The fighter slipped down his body, hands removing themselves from his mouth and chest until they got to the elasticised top of his pants. There was a quiet moment before the tugging began, the material dragging down Yixing's legs to reveal his smooth skin and bare erection for Yifan to get a look at. He felt how Yifan's palms ran across the soft skin of his legs, taking in the velvety feeling under his touch and it made the smaller shiver in anticipation of how Yifan was going to touch him soon after that moment.

He should have been prepared for the hot, damp breath at the tip of his cock, the tongue following the side of the shaft as it bowed slightly to the right and the rogue finger that caressed over the flat flesh of his perineum. Yixing called out in a slight yell and he withered under the commanding glance that Yifan threw him, he took one of his own hands to his lips and the other laced in through the hair on the elder's head. When Yifan took the belled head of Yixing's cock past his mouth and came into contact with his tongue, the younger’s hooded eyes flew open. He bucked uncontrollably and harshly into Yifan's mouth. The fighter moved his hands to play across Yixing's inner thighs, pushing them down to control the younger's movements, which only drove to turn Yixing on more, his cock twitching in Yifan's mouth to hit at the edge of his cheek. He watched as it lewdly pushed out against the wall of flesh and whimpered at the sight.

He risked removing his hand, keeping his mouth locked tightly shut to delve around under his pillow for the slippery bottle he wanted to pass down to Yifan, the sucking on his cock pausing for the elder to open his hand out for the lube, his mouth returning as soon as the fingers on his right hand were adequately covered, the long and slow bobs of his head as he took Yixing into his oral cavity made short grunts and groans fill the air. It became whimpers once more as Yifan curled into Yixing's pink hole, his body lifting itself slightly to give Yifan more room to plunge it inside of him.

Once Yifan had slid the finger in, swirling and crooking to widen the younger's entrance for the second, Yixing couldn't help but slump down. The attention to his cock overriding the discomforting pressure in his ass, especially when finger number two breached, the scissoring push at his walls making him huff out and try to relax as best as he could by using the tongue running up and down his cock. There were noises of slurping and squelching as Yifan worked to rile Yixing up, which happened as soon as his finger grazed over the sensitive part inside the student.

It was a struggle to stay quiet; to remain firm in not alerting his parents and the staff of his house that he wasn't alone but Yifan seemed to touch all the right places, his whole body trembling under the elder's.

"Yifan," he whimpered, hoping the fighter would get the idea that he was asking for more, hoping to appease his own wants in a way that would please them both. "Yifan, please."

Yifan didn't reply, his only response being the firm drive in of his third finger and Yixing wants to thank god, because finally, he was getting what he had been wishing for since the first time he had seen Yifan fight. The three fingers moving in and out of him, each crooking in the right place to prod deliciously at Yixing's prostate and Yifan's mouth slipped away from his cock. It stopped his orgasm from hurtling too quickly to his balls and Yixing's eyes were fluttering open and close continually as he fucked back into the hand inside of him, his own fingers shaking as he grew ever more turned on by Yifan.

When the other withdrew his fingers, he quickly shifted up Yixing's body and kissed his cheek softly, coaxing his head into falling to the side easily. It was difficult to concentrate on Yifan’s hands, which were lubing up his fully erect cock with rapid but firm strokes, but Yixing could feel the anticipation climbing up in his veins. His heart was beating faster than it ever had, even more so than when he watched Yifan fight. He was so incredibly enraptured that he was certain he would fall into a bottomless abyss as soon as Yifan pushed into him, as soon as Yifan was seated inside of him and then as soon as Yifan would begin his thrusting assault.

He was not disappointed when the head of Yifan’s cock pressed its hot precum covered tip at his entrance, his universe shifted into a brighter light but Yixing didn’t have time to consider that too much, the discomfort had set in. Wary of himself, Yixing relaxed into the bed as much as he could, drawing in deep lungfuls of air before letting them escape from his mouth and he focused in on Yifan above him. The elder had a look of pleasure which was caged in by self-restraint, a glint in his eyes that was a window to the fire beneath. Yixing felt it inside of him, that bubbling rise of adrenaline that came when he watched Yifan fight but he knew it would explode in his veins that time around. He would get to his absolute peak and crash down in spectacular style; it was that driving want that made him nod his head to tell Yifan to begin.

Yifan's thrusts were controlled and deep, nothing of the riotous onslaught Yixing had imagined, with each push of hips getting somewhere unexplored within him. Yifan's cock pushing and stretching at Yixing's inner walls, the younger arching up from the bed into Yifan's chest with his neck completely open. Yixing felt breath on it before Yifan's lips connected, his sensitive throat making him cry out in spectacular fashion.

Yifan laughed lightly before shushing him quietly by his ear, the elder deemed it unsafe to abuse Yixing's neck with his mouth, the chances of them being caught fucking much higher if Yixing whimpered at every tongue flick. Yixing was relishing, bathing in heaven, when he felt Yifan's member catch inside of him, the shaft convulsing slightly to the left every so often. It was like Yifan's cock was created to stimulate and abuse Yixing's prostate, the hardness in the girth that would rub against it was so firm and hard that he couldn't hold back when he whimpered Yifan's name, gripping at the tattooed images on his shoulders and softly asking for more.

While he would have liked things to happen hard and fast, Yixing loved the way Yifan was moving and tried to meet every slip of hips in earnest. It only made things deeper, more drawn out between them, from moans to eye contact. Yixing felt one of Yifan's hands lace with his own and place it on the pillow beside the younger's head while another large palm, with equally large fingers, wrapped around his cock. Yifan flicked his wrist in time with his thrusts, the rhythm easy to follow and seemingly deadly for Yixing. It was difficult to not whine. His body fighting the heart thumping pleasure but Yixing could feel the tips of his nerves fray and see themselves open to be more receptive of stimulation.

He came suddenly, a series of fireworks going off in loud bangs through his whole body and relinquishing itself to the mercy of the fighter. Yixing could feel himself clenching around Yifan's cock, a lubricant slicked clasp on the older man's body, the older having visible trouble with keeping himself in check. Yixing felt the speed increase a little, his own cock weakly releasing cum as his high began to fade. Yifan came quickly after that, his ejaculate filling the inside of his walls and Yixing could feel through the power of it.

The fighter looked as though he'd managed to find his way into seventh heaven with his eyes flickering and mouth slackening; Yixing saw his name mouth its way out of Yifan in a quiet call. It was a bone softening end to the night, Yixing's body letting itself breath as his orgasm burned out in his veins. It was a pacifying end to feel Yifan pull out gently, the warmth coursing between them meaning the couple of inches between them were a heaven send in cooling off a little. Despite that, Yifan didn't let Yixing's hand go and lifted it to his lips to kiss lightly instead.

"Are you okay?" Yifan whispered, his exhale brushing over the back of Yixing's hand hotly.

"More than okay," Yixing smiled up at him but as Yifan moved from being on top of him, he saw the small cuts on his back once again. "What about you? Does your back hurt?"

"No, it's fine, I hardly felt it," Yifan placated, his head leaning forward to kiss Yixing’s forehead. “It's difficult to feel much else other than you.”

Yixing didn't know whether or not Yifan was making a crude comment but laughed at it nonetheless. He felt the elder roll off of him to lay down the bed on his front, giving Yixing a full and close view of the tattoos on his back. The student was mesmerised by the bold lines and tones that covered paler strips of scars, the shiny healed skin making the dim light bounce off in a cream line, despite the dark tones of each piece of art. He used his index finger to coast over the scars, purposely avoiding the fresh wounds, and he felt Yifan shudder beneath his touch. He could see the very pink slash that reeled from his nape to the edge of his shoulder, a newer scar that had not yet been tattooed over. He let his finger pause on that one, feeling the way it was smoother than the rest of Yifan's skin and the way it rose up in a small ridge. As somebody with the blood condition that he had, he had never found scars beautiful or particularly interesting, but there was a way in which they littered Yifan's flesh with a sense of darkness that wasn't reflected in the way they seemed so light, that had Yixing admiring them.

He wanted to say something about them, tell Yifan about how they made him look more real, more human in his eyes but the way the fighter seemed to be shying away from the touches had Yixing biting his tongue. It wasn't like he didn't understand that Yifan may not agree with him in their beauty but there was something about them that he needed to point out to Yifan, that he needed to ensure him that Yixing found them to be like flourishes of real life. It stopped Yifan from being indestructible, it made him just like Yixing in the way that he bled and scarred, they just did it a little differently to one another.

He let his middle finger and ring finger join the other on the risen flesh, each digit feeling something a little differently to the others, like the way the mark bulged out where the cut was slightly jagged. He needed to show Yifan the beauty in what his body was but in a way that wouldn't make him feel uncomfortable, and he bit his lip as an idea flew into his head, eyes scanning across the room for the items he would need. "Can I draw on your shoulder? On the scar?"

Yifan lifted his head up from where it had been resting on the pillow by Yixing's neck, "Why would you want to do that?"

"Like a temporary tattoo," he explained, letting go of the shoulder and Yifan's hand simultaneously to edge across his room to where he had a box of fine liners on his desk. He moved as fast as he could with the aching sensation building up from the base of his spine, purely because of his nakedness making him feel a little more shy than he had been during sex. "I'll only do something quick."

"If you want to," Yifan sighed, the tell-tale sounds of rustling coming from behind him as he picked up the container had him thinking of Yifan nuzzling deeper into the soft pillows.

Yixing moved straight back to the mattress, delving beneath the duvet that stretched awkwardly as Yifan lay out on top of it, his bare body covering the full length of the bed. "Do you want to move so that your other shoulder is on my lap?"

Yifan rolled over and sat up at the suggestion, shifting so that the scarred shoulder was facing up to the ceiling and his head laid across Yixing's legs. It wasn't unpleasant to have the elder draped across him, it made him feel as though he was caring for Yifan and that was all he'd wanted since he saw how much blood was coming out of the superficial wounds on top of his skin. He didn't say a thing as he scribbled down the outline of something that he thought would look beautiful on Yifan's skin, the delicate strokes of the nib of his pen dragging the black ink across and he lined and cross-hatched all his shading quickly. The elder drew in a breath when the first line crossed over the scar, almost as though he couldn't believe that Yixing was doing that for him and he was in a quiet state of shock. That didn't deter the younger in any way, it made him urge himself on to complete his drawing and do so a little more intricately, as if Yifan really was getting a tattoo. It was difficult for him to concentrate at times, as the fighter's breath kept brushing past the skin of his stomach that the duvet didn't cover.

"You know, I didn’t expect you to be like this," Yifan said quietly, his nose nudging against Yixing softly. "I guess I have this vision of the rich being so uptight and having this air of entitlement surrounding them but you're not, you've actually got a sense of humility and I really didn't anticipate that."

Yixing pondered the thought, thinking back to the numerous people he had met at social events and other functions to scroll through the list of names he knew would fit into the former category Yifan had set up. Yixing laughed a little when he realised that his mother definitely slipped under the bracket of being rich, entitled and uptight. He knew that his mother would be mortified to the core if she knew Yixing saw the fights, that Yixing had had sex with one of the fighters under her own roof. He imagined her reaction wouldn't be pleasant for either himself or Yifan.

Yixing was loving, in nature, that was a trait he'd picked up more from his grandparents, as they were raised in a different era, one where money wasn't everything to a person. Yixing knew that material things didn't matter to them and they didn't matter to him either. He imagined that Yifan wouldn't be much different, his car seemingly being the only expensive item he owned. Yixing was half sure that Yifan didn't even have a phone to his name, that there was no other way of getting hold of him than face to face contact. Which wasn't a bad thing, Yixing thought.

He was glad that Yifan felt he was different and he knew, somewhere not too deep down, that Yifan was different too. Not just in the way he fought, enjoyment marring his features rather than desperation, like most of the other fighters, but in his character too. He was soft, so much more gentle beneath the surface than Yixing ever expected from somebody who earned their money doing something quite so illegal and dangerous. He imagined that Yifan's cut of the money that he got wasn't too large, as the fighting houses seemed to be run by rich men who wouldn't look out of place at Yixing's father's office. In his mind, those who ran the night fixtures were those who were unwilling to get their hands dirty but would rather watch others do it themselves.

He let his pen draw, swirling where needed and adding little details to make the whole piece look complete, and a little splash of drawn beauty across the skin of a man who deserved it in his life. Yixing wanted to shower Yifan in everything he could, raining down in the affection that would coax out the softer inside of Yifan and the care that would build up his tough outer shell.

"I think it's good to be different," Yixing finally replied, his voice so much more gentle than it was before, "It's good to break a mould and be yourself, to go after what you love and want without using other people to do so. I want to be the kind of person that people think back to and say that they did things for the better."

Yifan's eyes moved up, gazing intently at Yixing as he smiled while drawing, "You are different, in every perfect way possible."

"As are you," Yixing responded, feeling the snorted laugh that the elder let out on his stomach. "I'm being serious, you are the breath of fresh air that I really needed before I snapped. It's a bit like I was a frozen rubber band, if I was stretched too far then I'd easily break, but you're like these big, warm hands that made the cold dissipate and I can go further." Yixing let himself finish before giggling loudly, enough to make his stomach shake against Yifan's nose, "That was an awful analogy."

"There's a reason why you don't study literature, Yixing," Yifan joked, making Yixing gasp out in faux shock, the mood between them lightening as Yixing finished up his drawing.

"You can't look until tomorrow," he mumbled, popping the cap on the pen and placing it in with all the others, "I want it to be a surprise for when you wake up."

Yifan touched over the scar lightly with his own hand as he pulled away, Yixing averting his eyes when he realised how naked Yifan was laying across the bed. The elder crawled up the bed and pulled the comforter back, letting his body slip beneath and he relaxed onto his front. Yixing settled himself down after turning off the light, edging closer to Yifan cautiously until the fighter pushed his arm out and draped it over Yixing's hips, creating warmth that burned slowly beneath Yixing's skin.

"Thank you for looking after me," Yifan whispered as he turned his head to face Yixing, "You really didn't have to do that."

"I did, Yifan," Yixing turned completely onto his right side to be face on with his boyfriend, "You need somebody to look after you and I want to be that person."

They looked at each other for a few more moments, the darkness blanketing over Yifan attractively as it complimented the sharpness of his features. Yixing was fast to press his forehead against Yifan's, "Thank you for coming home with me."

"Don't say that too soon," Yifan quipped, his smiling mouth pushing his cheeks up for Yixing to see at such close proximity, "I'm a real duvet hogger."

Yixing only hummed, his eyes closing as Yifan relaxed into his touch.

###

 

Yifan's fight was a three round affair, his opponent being better at his attack than the other's Yixing had seen but Yifan seemed to pick up on the fact that his defence was a little below par. It was the first fight that Yixing saw Yifan take the offensive in, the tall male had made rapid hits look like air blowing over water, and it was strange to watch. However, Yixing still had those burning feelings deep down in his gut whenever he saw Yifan grow more confident in himself, in his fighting. It was attractive, many of the women around him commenting so and he couldn't help but grin because it was him that Yifan looked for at the start and end of every fight, often just to wink or nod. It didn't help that Yifan had something covering his shoulder, almost like a large band aid, though that didn't restrain him in anyway. It made Yixing worry that his boyfriend had picked up an injury in the short days they had apart, Yifan having to focus on training himself in ways that let his back heal nicely.

It made Yixing worry to see the marks that had scabbed over, the redness around them having gone down and they looked more like they were actually drawn on with a pen. It was weird watching the six lines curve and move with Yifan's body without tearing open, but Yixing had been assured by his boyfriend in the couple of seconds they had together just before the fight that things would be fine, that they were cinched together in a way that wouldn't split.

That didn't stop Yixing from thoroughly inspecting his boyfriend's back once he came out of the venue with his shirt on, Yixing was certain that a few of the fighters from Yifan's house had seen him corner the tall male to yank his shirt up his back to make sure there was no new blood from the older wounds. Yifan only laughed off his worries as he wrapped his arms around the fully concentrated student.

"Trust me when I tell you that I'm fine, okay?" Yifan had said once Yixing stopped fretting over infection and the risks of being cut with an unclean knife. "I've been looked over by a doctor; it was the first thing I did after I left your house. I'm completely fine, I've just got to be a little more careful in training for the next few days then I'll be as good as new."

Yixing wanted to ask Yifan if he was sure but it wasn't long until Yifan was pulling him towards his car, opening up the passenger door for Yixing to settle himself in. The vehicle was noticeably cleaner than before, no more food packets or items of clothing laid across surfaces.

"Where are we going?" Yixing asked, buckling himself in and frowning when he saw Yifan not bother with his own seatbelt, he wanted to say something but as soon as he opened his mouth, the car started to move.

"You, mister Zhang," Yifan said, glancing over at him quickly, "are going home, because I know for a fact that you have morning classes tomorrow."

Yixing's mouth fell open, his boyfriend's seriousness taking him by surprise, "How did you know that? And I'm an adult; I can be out for however long I want to be."

"Yixing, your classes are important and I know the last year is important, so you really have to pay attention," Yifan replied so quickly that he was sure that the elder had run through the conversation multiple times before. "I just don't want to be the reason why you slip behind on everything."

"But I want to spend time with you," Yixing argued, his face falling because he could vaguely recognise the route back to his home that Yifan was taking. "Can we stop for a while then? I've not seen you since the other night and I want to make–"

"Yixing, how about this, you go home tonight and I'll pick you up once your classes have finished and we can go out somewhere together."

"But you'll have training after my lectures end," Yixing was pouting, the sound of it clear in his voice and Yifan shifted a hand from the gear stick onto Yixing's thigh to give it a soft squeeze.

"I'm not training tomorrow, it's a rest day."

"You have rest days?" Yixing felt shocked by that revelation, his lips opening into a wide gape as he registered the fact that he could see Yifan in the daylight for once.

"Well, yeah, it's pretty counter-productive to be worked every day with such high intensity, everybody needs a break, Xing," Yifan stopped the car at a red light, "I just usually use my days off to sleep and eat, but I guess that if you make the effort to come and see me when you should be sleeping, then I see no problem in doing it myself."

"Can you put your belt on please? It's making me nervous that you aren't wearing one," Yixing managed to say that as the words of Yifan making the effort for him really seeped under his skin.

Yifan looked down on his body and immediately did as Yixing asked, the younger smiling at how little argument he got from his boyfriend. He imagined Yifan would have been more stubborn in not changing his habits but Yixing realised that it was probably just a show, something to highlight that Yifan always did as Yixing asked but the reverse didn't really happen. It worked though; Yixing knew he should drop the want to stay with Yifan so late on a night before important classes.

He could feel something molten and hot inside of him at the idea of Yifan caring about his education, probably more so than even himself. It felt nice to be cared for; to have the mundane everyday things cared for by the person he felt a lot towards. It made him let a soft smile plaster itself on his lips, lacing his fingers with Yifan's quickly on his thigh while his thumb brushed over the scar free skin of his hands. Yixing felt comfort in the gentle tightening of Yifan's hand as they pulled onto Yixing's street, he knew the elder probably didn't want to let go but knew that him sneaking into Yixing's house again would defeat the point of Yixing going home early.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Yifan whispered, inching his face closer to Yixing's until the younger leaned forward to press their kisses into each other's lips. Yixing felt something spark up within him, something that felt more like a fire igniting than it had when he had watched Yifan fight. Yifan pulled away just before Yixing was going to plead for his tongue to pass between them. "You finish at two, yes?"

"Uh huh," Yixing nodded, not trusting his voice to speak to Yifan.

"I'll be waiting for you," the elder promised and Yixing didn't doubt it, he knew that Yifan would be there before two just in case he was released from lessons early and he wasn't even trying to quash his smile at that thought.

Yixing kissed him again, his lips pressing harder and more eagerly against his boyfriend's than their previous kiss, his body shifting him across the centre console and Yifan had to push him back to stop him from crawling over as their lips dipped together.

"I'm not coming inside, Yixing," Yifan stated with finality that Yixing knew wouldn't waver at all, "We can make out all you want tomorrow."

Yixing huffed but undid his seatbelt nonetheless, pouting as Yifan let go of his hand to place it on the gear stick, "Tomorrow, at two, do you promise?"

"I do."

"Okay, goodnight, Yifan," Yixing sighed, kissing his cheek before opening his car door to step out onto the pathway.

"Night, Yixing, sleep well," Yifan was smiling and waving affectionately at him as he closed the passenger door behind himself and returned the gesture. They were both smiling at each other for a little while, tilting their heads every so often to take in more features that they could see in the lacking light and Yixing felt his heart race faster and faster.

Yifan even went as far as to blow him a kiss, a quick wink too, while Yixing dramatically pretended to catch it and place it over his heart and the younger felt as though he'd silently confessed how strongly he felt for the fighter but didn't really mind that.

He knew that Yifan must have felt somewhat the same because he waited until Yixing had closed the gates of his house behind himself before driving away.


###


Yixing felt rejuvenated the next day, his whole body thrumming with a high at the thought of seeing Yifan for more than a few hours or minutes at a time. It made him anticipate the ends of his classes more, ignoring the fact that the constant tapping of his foot would probably make those sat beside him feel as though they wanted to kill him with how repetitive the sound was and how distracting that would be from what his lecturer was talking about. Yixing, despite Yifan's stressed importance on his studies, was completely distracted by the thought of the fighter. It made him want to fidget until the moment he was released from his class, even avoiding talking to Bai in favour of checking if he could see Yifan stood outside of the university or his car parked by the edge of the gates. He wasn't disappointed when he saw his boyfriend leaning against the side of the American style muscle car, the vehicle looking even cleaner and perfectly coloured in the daylight. The tall male had his back to the students who were leaving the building, the questioning muttering filling the air as Yixing approached with a slight skip.

"Yifan," he called out, the elder looking over his shoulder with a smile and a slight shift of his body to face a little more towards Yixing, "You kept your promise."

"Of course I did," he let Yixing circle around to the driver's side, giving his boyfriend a tight hug and drawing in the scent of Lemongrass and Sea Salt that had grown to be so familiar over the months. "What kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn't?"

"A bad one," Yixing laughed, releasing the tall fighter and retreating back around to ride shotgun in the car. They both got in, ignoring the fact that they had an audience, Yixing smiling when he saw Yifan reach for the ignition but then pull back to drag his safety belt around himself, glowing inside at the fact that something so small was remembered from the previous night. "So, good boyfriend, where are we heading to today?"

"Lunch would be good," Yifan looked at his watch, smiling a little and Yixing wondered when the last time Yifan had seen the outside world at such a time of day was, "Then just go somewhere to relax a little."

"Where do you have in mind?"

Yifan paused, his fingers tapping the steering wheel in a tuneless procession before he turned the engine of the car on. He pulled away from the edge of the road, taking them out the main exit and away from the university, Yixing's smile growing even wider as Yifan took his hand in his own to kiss the palm of it. "How about somewhere like a park? I've not been to one since I moved away from home."

"That sounds like a good idea," Yixing agreed, relaxing into his seat and looking at Yifan's side profile while the elder concentrated on the roads ahead of them.

He could see the deep dip of Yifan's chin, how that sharpened his every bone pivot and it made Yixing scroll his eyes up to where Yifan's ears were scattered with piercings and where his nose flowed down in a slight curve. He could only marvel at the fact that the older male had such godly features, nothing subtle but nothing lost in a mass of bold features. Yixing found it endearing how Yifan always looked so harsh, so judging towards the world, but then his smile would break that up with golden dashes of warmth in his white teeth and pink lips. He didn't even stop staring when Yifan caught him, the fighter laughing at the intensity of it, how his face flashed up in what appeared to be a dusty pink colour. It was strange to see such a confident man appear taken aback at such gazes, as Yixing was certain that he was admired almost constantly by anybody he came into contact with, Yixing could only look at him in a way that came naturally.

He wasn't quite sure if that was adoration or love, neither would hurt but he would prefer the latter over the former.

"What are you looking at?" Yifan asked after a few more minutes under the blazing looks that Yixing was giving him. "Is there something on my face?"

"No," Yixing reassured him, fingers lifting to his own lips to run over them before his hand fell back down to his lap. "You just look different in daylight?"

"Really?"

"Yeah, you're far more handsome than I ever could have thought," Yixing didn't mind that Yifan looked torn between being insulted and being embarrassed by such an open compliment.

"Aren't you normally shy? Isn't this a bit out there for you?" Yifan's question made Yixing laugh in his seat, the elder smiling fondly as he stole looks at the younger's completely worry free face.

"I'm being myself," Yixing reassured himself and Yifan looked a little relieved, as if he had been expecting another answer.

"I'm glad I bring that out in you, I should have taken you out during the day before this," Yifan pulled up to a set of traffic lights, turning his head over to kiss Yixing, much like he had the night before, but Yixing didn't try to push on with it. He let the older male take his lips between his own, pulling them into his mouth before he released them to do the same again.

They were both smiling; the curve of their mouths making them both grin even wider and it had Yixing inexplicably happy within himself. It was like Yifan's smile spoke straight to his soul, that there was a deeper understanding between the two of them. Yifan only pulled away to continue driving, taking Yixing into the slightly less developed side of the city, a street that looked to be the main shopping road bustling with other people and Yifan pulled in to part quickly after then.

"I know this place, I think you'll like it, if my assumptions are right," Yifan got out, jogging around the car to open the door for Yixing while the younger was undoing his belt and picking up his bag.

Yifan guided him out, a warm hand on his back for a few seconds as he looked down the street and took them in that direction. It was a struggle for Yixing to not hold Yifan's hand; the streets which were empty during their previous dates were filled with people who may not feel as inclined towards their kind of relationship. It made Yixing stick closer to his boyfriend, maybe more than he would when their fingers would be linked, as he didn't have a hand keeping him grounded. It was a flicker of something different between them as Yixing really took Yifan in, his long legs clad in jeans and his upper half in a t-shirt and a black bomber jacket. It was so different to his normal boxing shorts and worn t-shirts. He was truly enticing to Yixing, his every movement was even and well placed, his long strides slow to help Yixing keep up and his eyes kept travelling down to the younger's face.

Yixing wondered how long he'd have the rippling feeling in his spine whenever he met Yifan's gaze, the same feeling as that of the first time they ever met had only become stronger, firmer in its hold on Yixing. It was difficult to not feel as though he was in love, as if Yifan could be that one that would care for him, even when he didn't think he needed it.

He followed apprehensively as Yifan took him into a slightly decrepit building, his hand pulling Yixing towards the tables at the back and he greeted the people at the counter warmly. Yixing felt as though the small, almost falling apart, restaurant shouldn't have been open. Either for hygiene reasons or the lack of clientele.

"What kind of food is it?" Yixing asked, his nose not picking up a combination of foods that smelt even remotely familiar and he felt a little behind in the fact that he couldn't identify anything other than chicken.

"This is a Frango house," Yifan explained, which continued to go over Yixing's head and the elder tousled his hair affectionately, "A couple from Macau do traditional Portuguese chicken, it's spiced and falls apart when you eat it. You'll love it."

"And you come here often?" Yixing was hopeful, he didn't want to hate somewhere Yifan loved and knew his boyfriend would only take him to a place he really trusted for food.

"More than I would ever like to admit to," he showed Yixing to a table for them to sit at, they sat opposite one another and Yifan smiled when he heard his name being called. The woman looking a little more on the tanned side, her black hair falling over her shoulder as she approached them both.

"This is not your time," the woman gasped jokingly, making Yifan beam up at her in the way that a child would do towards his grandmother. "It's far too early."

"I know but I don't think my date would like it if I brought him here at four in the morning," Yifan told her, her gaze falling on Yixing with a wide smile.

"This is your Yixing?" She looked enthralled, her slightly wrinkled hand reaching to the top of Yixing's head her serene look making Yixing feel comfortable with the touch. "He's more handsome than you described but I see no dimple," Yixing felt himself smiling and the woman gasped happily, "Oh my goodness, isn't that just the light in all the dark?"

Yifan was smiling as the woman poked at the dent in Yixing's cheek, her nail pushing at the skin gently and he found himself smiling wider at the blush-inducing praise he was receiving.

"I'll put your normal food on now and I hope that little Yixing will love it too," she turned back to Yifan, her index finger still on Yixing's face and he could see the delight in his boyfriend's face, not an ounce of embarrassment on his lips as his talking of Yixing was revealed.

The woman walked away and Yixing quirked an eyebrow at Yifan, his silent question making Yifan laugh, "I come here after fights, or before training, for food and I'm usually the only person here and they have this 'make everybody feel at home' ethos, so we've been close for a few years."

"How long?" Yixing asked, his fingers edging over the forks that had been placed beside metallic chopsticks, the prongs digging in slightly into his flesh.

"Since I started training, so since I was fourteen, about ten years give or take then," Yifan held his upturned palm towards Yixing, an invite to hold his hands across the table. "They helped to guide me through stuff I couldn't talk about with my parents."

"You've been fighting for that long?" Yixing gaped, his eyes widening so much that there was a frame of white around them.

"No, nobody can fight until they're sixteen," Yifan explained, "House rules, one of the only ones that are actually enforced, but you can train from nearly any age. I'm the youngest that's been in my house and I had this mentor, a really great fighter, who taught me everything I know. I'm still pretty young, compared to other fighters, most are probably verging on thirty but I've been around for such a long time, people tend to forget that I'm twenty four."

"That's still so young," Yixing frowned and Yifan only squeezed his hand. "Have you ever fought your mentor?"

"You don't fight in house; it's counterproductive to do so. We do friendly sparring sessions to train but nothing other than that," Yifan sounded a little downtrodden, his next statement making Yixing understand why. "My mentor, he died during a fight when I turned eighteen, just after he gave me my name."

"Duizhang?"

"Yeah, he said I was going to be great and gave me a name he felt reflected that. He told me to own my confidence and skills. I guess I always wanted to set an example for others to not see what I do as a killing machine, that’s not to say that I haven’t done awful things when pushed to my fear limit. But, I guess that comes with the territory." Yifan shrugged, his lips pulling up a little more and Yixing smiled softly at him. It was quiet between them after that. A server brought them a jug of water and two glasses, which disturbed the silence, the foreign presence making Yixing want to pull his hand away but Yifan kept his grip firm. "Tell me about your day? Lighten the mood."

"I had finance first, which is always a bit of a chore but then I had a life drawing class that helped to break up my stress," Yixing smiled, his hands covered in pen strokes and smudges of ink. "I always prefer the days I have my art lessons to those where I do my academic courses, I feel that little bit freer."

"I actually have something to show you," Yifan said quietly, pulling his jacket off and Yixing's eyes focused in on his shoulder with a slight gasp. "I got it coloured, do you like it?"

"Yifan, you got a tattoo from the drawing I did on there?" His free hand reached forward to touch over the slightly risen scabs that were coloured beneath. "I would have done something better, oh my god."

"No, I love it," Yifan placed his other hand over Yixing's, "It's different from the others, I really love it."

Yixing let his finger remain over his design, the brushing of his fingertips over the tattooed skin was something he had never felt before and knew he never would when it came to himself. It was delicate in motion and feeling, the way his fingers managed to ghost over the skin and the tattoos. It made Yixing feel as though he was melting inside.

The moment was taken when their food came over, the chicken coming out as a mix of gold and brown. The more regal shade coming from the crisped skin and the rest from the marinade that had been used on it. The two of them devouring the dish in silence, only looking at one another as Yifan hooked both his long legs around Yixing’s, the warmth passing between them pleasant as they both smiled into what they were eating.

It was easy to be with Yifan, Yixing thought to himself, there was a relaxing sense of belonging when he was with the fighter and he had never found that with anything other than when he was being creative. It was something effortless to share moments with Yifan and that was all he ever needed. He wanted somebody to sit and enjoy the quiet with, rather than fill it.

That didn’t stop them from flirting as they walked through the streets once they had finished, Yixing played a game where he would let his hand wander over Yifan and then act innocently about it afterwards. It was ingenious; he could see the older male feeling uncomfortable that he was being felt up by somebody who didn’t seem aware of their own actions. Though, that ended when Yixing smiled as Yifan let out a small gasp as his nipple was brushed over softly by a thumb.

Yixing’s teasing drove Yifan to pin him to the nearest wall, his hands pinned above his head and legs trapped in by Yifan’s. He didn’t want to be turned on by such a vulnerable pose but he couldn’t resist it, not when his panting chest was bouncing off of Yifan’s and the elder’s hips were in the perfect place to thrust up towards. Yifan could read the situation as Yixing’s face began to pink, his eyes glazing slightly and it wasn’t long before he was being dragged by the wrist towards Yifan’s car, his back hitting the backseat while his boyfriend crawled over him in a fiery haze.



###


Yixing always felt restricted with his bow tie and fitted jackets, the cummerbund his mother picked out hugged tightly to his lower waist and his shoes pinched at his toes He hated dressing up, being penned in at an event as his mother did yet more showing off to her so-called friends. His father, a man born into riches, unlike Yixing's mother, always pitied the youngest Zhang. He knew what it was like to be flaunted, showcased and nitpicked to the finest detail at an age where he should have been running free. He had told Yixing that he wouldn't go down that path, that everything would be more lax and normal around him but his mother had other ideas.

She was fixated on fitting in, having once been the social outcast of black tie events and large afternoon brunches the women's societies had, her willingness and drive was what made her so unique in the beginning. She didn't flaunt the designer clothing, but shy away from them when bought for her, and she certainly did not keep in time with every event his father would ask her to accompany him at.

That was all before they got married, before their bank accounts combined and suddenly she had an ocean of money to dip her hands in, and before she had a child. Yixing had always been told by his father that it was her pregnancy which had drawn her into society, every person loving the idea of there being yet another poster child of the elite class' success. She became embroiled in manicuring sessions, luncheon dates with other jobless wives and had even had the extension of an invite to one of the Li family's exclusive dinners. Her life was made by the Li matriarch; her embracing attitude towards everybody had been a backbone, a structural support, to Yixing's mother. With their husbands being so close, school friends from their younger years up until they both had children within a year of each other.

Yixing hadn't known what happened between his parents and the Li family in his younger years, having spent much time living in the next city over with his retired grandparents, he just knew there had been a slight difference in opinion between the two wives and the men had tried to stay out of it as much as they could.

The issues, apparently, had all been resolved a few years before and Yixing would have believed it, if his mother wasn't so open in her dislike for the family which were richer, thus more powerful, than the Zhang family. It was a struggle to juggle his father's positive views on the Li family with his mother's.

However, Yixing's mother was buzzing with excitement on the way to the venue, there had been talk of the Li son attending the event. Yixing's father had tried to settle her, nodding along as he fiddled with his son's styled auburn hair and rolled his eyes as his wife prattled on.

Their arrival was marked with flashes of cameras and Yixing put his invisible blinkers on, he followed behind his father in walking straight up the entrance while his mother lingered back to appear in photographs. She was the one who had put real effort into her evening look, Yixing and his father not caring so much about their matching outfits.

There were crowds swirling around in the room, each person clutching drinks and Yixing took a quick sweeping look around the room. He couldn't see the family everybody was likely to have been talking about, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to because he wished they wouldn’t appear, for their own sakes. He knew his father mirrored the sentiment, as he sucked in a long breath when the Li couple entered the room.

Yixing saw nothing unusual about the tall couple; the husband looked sharp but kind and the mother as graceful as a swan with the legs of a supermodel. There was something striking about them, something that very few people had and Yixing could see why his mother harboured ill feelings towards them, especially if she was jealous. Yixing let himself relax as the couple headed towards them, both of them bowing and shaking hands with the two Zhang males and their greetings were responded to warmly. They chatted away, asking about Yixing’s art subjects, asking him if he had considered going into mural painting because their living room was looking a little lacklustre in recent months. Yixing could only fight to hold back his blush as people actually seemed interested in his passions, his palms sweating over their kindness and he could feel eyes on him for a long while.

“Oh, here he is,” the business woman cooed, her hand stretching behind Yixing, “We had to drag this one kicking and screaming to this event but wouldn't you both agree with how handsome he looks dressed like this.”

Yixing opened his mouth reflexively to say that he agreed, his polite core not letting him say anything else but then his eyes registered the man in front of him. His dark brown hair was styled in a slight bouffant, his body wrapped in expensive designer suit and his whole aura was different. Yifan was stood ahead of him, the Li couple both staring at him fondly and Yixing knew he was gaping. The fighter looked similarly as he realised that it was Yixing in front of him too.

“Jiaheng?” Yixing’s father questioned, making Yixing even more confused as Yifan seemed to shrink under his scrutinising gaze.

“He goes by Wu Yifan now, it helps him separate from us a little more,” the man, who Yixing could assume to be Yifan’s father, commented. “I like it; it suits him far better than Jiaheng ever did.”

The adults whittled on, their voices carrying over the crowds around them but Yixing was just staring at Yifan with his eyes wide. He could not believe that his boyfriend was the one his mother compared him to; the person who she used Yixing to make an example of and he felt angry.

Angry with his mother for saying such vicious things about the man he loved, he was angry that his father had never even said anything about knowing the Li son and he was angry at Yifan’s parents because he didn’t want to meet them in that situation.

Above all, he was furious with Yifan.

He wanted to yell at his boyfriend for not telling him who he really was, that he wasn’t fighting for money like Yixing assumed and he wanted to kiss Yifan in front of everybody. It was a weird feeling to be so conflicted over a situation. Yixing wasn’t certain that he would ever be able to handle watching Yifan wear what he was without begging the elder to go home with him, whilst having an absurd amount of anger building up in his veins.

There was an awkward moment when Yixing’s mother arrived, her almost frosty approach to the other guests making Yixing want to combust instantly, especially while she started to brag about how Yixing was doing so well in his classes, all while side-eyeing Yifan as though he was something to throw away. Tension worked its way between them and the eldest child declared that he was going to get some drinks at the bar, his question angled so that he was asking Yixing to help him out with carrying the glasses.

They started to walk through the clusters of people, Yifan’s hand catching Yixing’s wrist and there was a moment when he considered ripping it out of his boyfriend’s grip. “I’m so sorry, Yixing. I was going to tell you.” The younger kept mum, his lips not moving as they drew ever closer to the bar. “I’m not the type to lie, Xing, you know that.”

“I don’t even know who you really are, Jiaheng,” Yixing hissed back, his defences soaring higher but a part of him knew that Yifan would always be able to climb over into his heart. “I can’t believe this… My mother hates you with a burning fire within her stomach.”

“Yixing, I can’t just go around telling people who my parents are, it’s bad fo–”

The student scoffed, “It’s bad for your image, I can’t believe you.”

“It’s bad for their image,” the taller corrected effortlessly, “I would have told you when the time was right. I can’t risk anybody working out who my parents really are; do you know how damaging that would be? They could lose everything they’ve ever worked for; I cannot be the reason for that. I may not be perfectly filial like you, but I know my duties as a son.”

“You think I would have told somebody or held it against you?” Yixing was a little hurt over that accusation, his mind humming with the need to punch Yifan’s chest ever so lightly. “You knew instantly who I was and I let that go because I trusted you, I thought that feeling went both ways but I guess not.”

“Yixing, please,” Yifan pleaded, alerting some of the people around them but the couple ignored it to pick up their drinks. “You must know how serious it is.”

“I accept that,” he snapped, his whole body tearing to get angry at Yifan’s stupidity. “It isn’t the fact that you kept this from me but more that you didn’t even trust me enough to say anything about it.”

Yixing ordered his own parents’ drinks, only picking up a soft drink for himself, and he could see that Yifan had only ordered water. He never expected Yifan to drink alcohol, the older male had to constantly have his head in the game and Yixing admired his willpower, especially given that so few drinks were enough to make the student tipsy. They were quiet for a short while, the different kind to what they had shared on their date a handful of days before. It made them slightly uneasy knowing that fact.

“Yixing, I do trust you,” Yifan whispered in his ear, his breath coasted over Yixing’s neck and the younger boy shivered. “I just needed to make sure.”

“I know,” Yixing mumbled, lifting his mix of orange juice and lemonade to his lips carefully, “But, I’m not sure if I can even really believe you right now. I didn’t even know your real name, Yifan. I have been in a relationship with somebody whose name I didn’t even know.”

“You know now though, that counts for something,” Yifan sounded scared, as if Yixing leaving him was his biggest fear and the younger felt himself smile a little at it. “I really do care about you, I would have told you, but can you imagine somebody wanting to be with you for you and not your parents’ name. I’ve been liberated by changing my name.”

Yixing rolled his eyes, feeling himself slipping into forgiving Yifan so easily and he turned back to make his way over to their parents. It was hard to ignore how Yifan’s mother looked between them fondly as they approached again, Yifan muttering how his parents knew about Yixing being his boyfriend. It left the student knocked for six, his shock making him spill his drink as he scrambled to follow Yifan.

It was awkward for the most part of the time that Yixing spent with his own parents, Yifan and his parents, seeing as Yixing was somewhat mad at his boyfriend and his mother wasn’t a delight to be around. It made him want to be at home, to have Yifan snuggled beneath his head and have him radiating the warmth between them. It was all Yixing really wanted from his evening. He had to put up with Yifan mouthing apologies and his hands wandering to rest, sometimes squeezing softly, at Yixing’s ass. He would do it all with a smirk on his lips, making him look cocky and Yixing could feel his anger bubbling back up again. The fighter only stopped what he was doing when his mother elbowed him in the ribs.

The conversation switched to Yixing numerous times, with his mother’s need to flaunt, Yifan’s teasing character and the Li couple inspecting him to see if he was a right match for their son. It was pleasant at first, it was talking that Yixing could keep up with but as soon as they shift back to their normal event conversations, it had him lost. Maybe he was a little happy to be seeing Yifan looking so good or his need to release frustration that had him following as Yifan mentioned going to the bathroom. It should have been a sign for something more when he was pushed into a cubicle wall, the fighter’s mouth over his and they both battled for dominance.

Yixing believed that he deserved it, that Yifan lying was enough of a reason for the younger to take the reins for a short while. That would have lasted if Yifan didn’t have an expertly refined tongue to delve between Yixing’s lips. His hand gripping at the younger’s hips in a bruising hold; his body responding positively with a swift body roll and that was when the taller pulled away from the lip lock. The student could only comment on Yifan’s mouth, how well it fit with his own before he was playfully batting at the elder’s chest with small, closed fists. Yixing knew that his trust in Yifan had fractured a little, seeing as he always viewed knowing his boyfriend’s name was a plus in a relationship. He couldn’t shake the feeling of betrayal that lingered in his mouth with the transferred parts of Yifan’s saliva. He wished he could rid himself from the insecurity but it stayed for the rest of the night.

It was still there when he got into one of his parents’ cars.

He heard his mother make numerous comments about Yifan, how his tattoos made him look unattractive and how he should have stuck with going to school, rather than appearing to fall from the face of the earth.

“He could have at least covered them up,” she huffed, Yixing’s father looking tiredly at her and Yixing felt himself growing irate. “I mean, what kind of drugs would he have been on to let his body be ruined so easily?”

“I don’t know,” was the sigh that Yixing could produce, his fingers plucking at the piece of thread that had unravelled from his jacket.

“Did you see those scars too? How ghastly,” she shook her head as if to dismiss the image but all he could think about was how perfect he found Yifan’s body to be. “I have no idea what’s wrong with him but he should definitely visit some kind of psychologist.”

“You can’t say things like that,” Yixing and his father spluttered at the same time, the both of them knowing Yifan more than Yixing’s mother did.

“It’s true,” she tried to defend, “nobody should have injuries like that, not that many. I bet there are more too.”

Yixing had to bite his lip, to force himself into not saying any more and he figured his father would have been doing something similar to suppress his distaste for what his wife was saying. They rode the rest of the way home with her throwing more dirt at Yifan, Yixing being close to tears by the time he made it to his room and he hated not being able to argue back that Yifan was nothing like his mother said he was; that there was a soft, caring man beneath all the smirking and steely expressions. He wasn’t how people depicted him and Yixing wished he could make people see that, he wanted to show people that Yifan placed himself second to those he cared about and never seemed to mind what bad happened to himself. There were so many sides to Yifan than the son of the Li family who went off the rails in his teen years and had yet to reconcile with his lifestyle differences.

Yixing felt numb to the fact that his mother would never accept the man he was in love with, she would never draw him into the family or ask Yixing to bring him over. It was something that broke the student’s heart easily as he undressed. He wanted to comfort himself with Yifan’s presence. Though his mind kept falling back into shock that Yifan was the one his mother compared him to, that Yifan was the person who had been placed as a bench marker throughout Yixing’s childhood. He felt a strange sensation of dread bleeding into his veins at the idea of Yifan lying to him, especially over something as big as his name, as his family. It wasn’t as if he had anything to be ashamed of, if what Yixing knew was to be the whole truth.

He tried to wrap his head around everything that had been said that night while he showered away all of the residual grime he felt build up at every social event. He wanted to be clean, rinsed from the drama and he could only hope it was that easy.

As he suspected, Yixing laid in his bed with the niggling sensation that Yifan had lied to him settling in the back of his head, and he knew it wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while. There was a definite strain in the trust built between them.


###


Watching from the edge of the ring helped Yixing to figure out the plans Yifan had made for the fight, if his confidence was high then his stance reflected that. But, with tense shoulders and slightly bent legs, Yixing could pick up from the elder’s aura that something was slightly wrong with the fight. Not only had his stomach been turning since Yifan had lied to him, the impending sense of dread hadn’t left him for a single minute since he had got home from the event in the days before.

Yifan looked like he was readying himself for something intense, the tension bubbling up and Yixing didn't want it to overflow. The younger was apprehensive, his gut was telling him that something was going to happen as soon as he spied his boyfriend through the crowd as he made his way into the makeshift ring. Yifan had his nervy stance, his whole body a coiled spring which was ready to explode and open itself up completely to his opponent. Yixing could see that the other fighter was more relaxed, his shoulders rolling like fluid and it was the first time he had ever seen somebody be so confident when going up against Yifan.

When the spectacle started, Yixing felt his love for watching Yifan return far quickly than it should have, ignoring the bad feeling that lingered over him like a grey cloud.

The opponent spoke, something too quiet for the crowd to hear but something was definitely said between them.

Yixing witnessed as something unknown rippled down Yifan's spine, he could imagine the fighter's expression darkening and his feet moved with even more intent. It confused the student to the point of no return, he watched as Yifan began to throw unprovoked punches and his whole demeanour shifted. It looked like rage, the way he held nothing back as he began to beat into the man ahead of him. There were kicks flicking and jamming into the opponent's ribs, his body curling in on itself as he feebly fought back.

He wasn't sure how Yifan managed it, but both of his fists were suddenly around the other man's throat. His whole strength being used in lifting the man off his feet, the smaller fighter's legs dangling as he struggled against the iron grip and he was turning such a deep shade of red that he looked purple. People around were screaming, so many bets flying around and Yixing felt dizzy. His throat had shut off as if Yifan was strangling him, his long fingers around his neck to cut off the air and Yixing could feel himself crying over the murderous appearance of the scene. Yixing felt his fingers shaking where they were by his side as the body in the air went limp, completely lax under the fists being pushed together on his windpipe.

Yixing gasped, stumbling away to the back room as he heard commotion exploding around him. He threw up, too much bile and food in his throat to push it back down and he fully emptied his stomach as he heard talk of death. Words of Yifan's first unprovoked kill spreading and Yixing couldn't stop his stomach from clenching, making everything come up until he dry wretched. Even then it didn't stop.

Not until a wary hand touched his back and he jumped away from the pressure, his body spinning around to see Yifan. The fighter looked impassive, his face giving nothing away and Yixing used a limp hand to wipe the vomit away from his lips.

"Yix–"

"What did you do?" Yixing interrupted, his whole body cowering as he tried to press himself closer to the wall. "Yifan, what did you do?" Yifan reached out to touch him, his finger stretched out towards Yixing's face but the younger flinched away. "Do not touch me with those hands."

"Yixing, I had to."

"You murdered somebody, I watched you. I saw with my own two eyes the life fading from another man's eyes because of those hands," Yixing yelled, his voice echoing through the empty room while Yifan stood with his hands limply by his side, as though he was a scolded child. "You did not have to kill, Yifan, so do not say that you did."

Yifan walked towards the younger male, not touching him but cornering him into the farthest part of the room. Yixing was shivering with something like fear and anxiety; his whole body looking as though it was vibrating as he tried to avoid Yifan but he couldn't get away. Unless the wall would open up and swallow him.

"Yixing, I have killed people before, I'm sure you know that," Yifan said softly, as if he was proclaiming his love to Yixing in the back corners of a library. "This is the life I lead, the way I live, and you know that. People die easily in this world, if not from my hands then from another's."

Yixing didn't want to believe it, he couldn't let it filter into his mind that Yifan could hurt somebody as easily as he did and remain to be expressionless. He didn't want to let himself believe that Yifan accepted death. It was easy to live in denial after it had only been implied that Yifan had done such things but Yixing was certain that it had only been in self-defence, that none of it was done as maliciously as he had witnessed.

"No," Yixing shook his head, refusing to believe what had come from Yifan's steeled mouth. "You're lying."

"Yixing," Yifan raised his voice a few decibels, making him shudder away, "Even you flinch from me. Don't deny it."

Yixing collapsed to the floor, his knees no longer bearing his weight and it was as though everything was crumbling away from him all at once. There was salt delving into the healing wound of his trust in Yifan, the one that was back to a gaping slash through his heart and he held his head in his hands. Yixing was falling apart so easily that he wasn’t sure he could have stopped it in any way.

“Yixing, this is me,” Yifan declared with a definitive finality that shook Yixing right into the marrow of his bones. “If you don’t want this life, if you don’t want me, then it’s best you leave and never come back.”

The student was left there, Yifan taking his leave from the room and Yixing could only try to relax himself as the urge to vomit arose again. His heart break thundered in every beat of his heart that he could hear in his ears, it was burning hot and rife in his veins. He could feel himself shaking until he could no longer feel his fingers and toes, his whole body numbing over to save himself from feeling the pain that had torn through him. Yixing felt as though he didn’t know a thing, like his life for months had been something baselessly created on a whim that Yifan had. He had not only been lied to but he had no idea what he was doing anymore.

 

###

 

Sitting through lectures day upon day was never something Yixing wanted in life, nor was the dull ache in his chest. He figured that throwing himself into his work was the easiest way to stop himself from crying but that didn’t seem to get any better as days passed. He still cried when he laid out in his bed and stood under the falling water of his shower. The places marred with the memory of Yifan were the worst to be in, his heart kept him away from the fights and the other side of the city. Yixing didn’t want to be chasing silhouettes of somebody he couldn’t accept, he was trying to let it go but it was difficult to do so when his whole life had shifted its core.

Yixing was in the library, his fingers tapping emptily across the keys of his iMac in the most repetitive and monotonous tone, not caring that the same character was imprinting itself on the document he had open. He had grown bored of his work, each part of him reverting itself to what he had been in the months before he had first seen Yifan and there were edges of him that evolved fully to fit with the more exciting life he had built.

He was close to giving up on any work, his eyes aching as the clock ticked around to half past eight in the evening and he knew it was only a matter of time before he called home for one of the cars to pick him up. However, a presence beside him had him startling in his chair and throwing a hand over his chest as he looked around at the intruder.

“Bai-ge, it’s a bit late for you to be here,” Yixing frowned, knowing in complete certainty that there was likely to be a fight that very night.

“I came to check up on you,” he hummed, his finger placing itself on the backspace to clear the thirteen pages of nonsense Yixing had managed to produce. “I haven’t seen you around recently.”

Yixing’s expression fell, his whole body coiling up, “I thought I would concentrate on school.”

“Ah, that makes sense,” the older student agreed, his chewing gum smacking behind his teeth. “I mean, it would explain why Duizhang has been so off his game recently, I mean people are landing hits on him like he’s barely even trying. Maybe that’s why he’d agreed to this rigged match, but I can’t imagine his biggest cheerleader would ever let him do such a thing.”

“A rigged match?” Alarm bells rang in Yixing’s head as he repeated the words the other spoke.

“Yeah, rumour is that Duizhang is going to purposely lose this fight to repent for killing that guy a few weeks ago,” Bai moved in closer to Yixing, his finger still resting on the keyboard and Yixing could only stare at his own hands. “That’s actually the last time I saw you at an event.”

“He’s purposefully losing a fight?” Yixing gasped, his hands acting on their own accord as he piled his books into his back and stood up from his chair. “That can’t be right.”

“I’ve heard it from my boss, who is a very reliable source of inf–”

Yixing was out of the library in a snap, a firework of adrenaline making him run out onto the street. He hailed a cab, his fingers picking at the seat material once he had got into the vehicle and told the driver where to head to. It was nerve racking. He willed himself to get there in time, to see Yifan to tell him to not throw the fight. Maybe even plead for him not to if it meant a less favourable fate. Yixing could only silently plead that his driver would take him faster, that he would push at the speed limit and drive them both onwards to where he wanted to be more than anything. He stumbled out of the car, his money shoved in the general direction of the taxi driver and he was running down the streets. They were all familiar to him as he weaved through the block and to where the abattoir had been deserted; he flew into the building and slowed when he saw the large masses all crowded around for the fight. He managed to push himself closer to the front, giving him a great view.

Yixing felt like his heart was rattling thunderously in his throat, he didn't feel any sort of rush when the fighters were announced or when he saw Yifan, not looking proud or cocky, but downcast. His shoulders were sagging forward slightly, the tattoo that Yixing had drawn standing proudly in colour on a canvas of monochrome. The student was glad for his slighter stature as he could hide behind the shoulders and backs of others, he didn't want to be seen and he could easily hideaway if he didn't want to look. He was so scared, each thing around him was happening either too fast or too slow.

People around him were bumping and bashing into his less than enthusiastic body, his eyes unmoving from where Yifan was stepping up to the slaughterhouse platform and he didn't look up at the crowd. He didn't have to; he thought nobody was there for him.

Yixing held his breath when the fight was called, Yifan's arms only lifting up slightly in a limp defensive pose and the first hit connected. Yifan should have easily been able to win over his opponent; he should have blocked that punch with his right arm then kicked around with his left. But, there was nothing.

There was a punch to his stomach, one which had him coiling straight into the knee of the other fighter and his nose began to gush out in red. Yixing didn't understand, he couldn't fathom why Yifan would give himself up like that. He was supposed to be strong and resilient, the strong pillar in the derelict world he lived in but he wasn't. He was recoiling with every kick to his ribs, his head lolling around with punches to his cheekbones and legs swaying as he tried to stay standing after so many hits.

There was blood edging out of cuts that appeared almost successively, edging from his nostrils into his mouth and edging towards the upper layers of his skin as bruises. Yixing could hear the thuds of each attacking hit, how hollow they were and the fact that they were often echoed with small cracking sounds. The people around Yixing were hyperactive, the sight of one of the top fighters crumbling so easily at the hands of somebody of a lower level, the gamblers who had risked a punt on the underdog were going crazy as Yifan stumbled with his head bowed and Yixing felt himself crying.

There was no reprieve, the lights dimming to start the knife round and Yixing started to perspire in a frenzy as he watched Yifan's hand loosely hold his weapon. He wasn't even wearing his arm guards, Yixing covered his mouth as he saw Yifan bloodied and bruised from a carnal assault. There was bile lingering in the back of his throat, crawling further up as the fighter came at Yifan with his knife and wanted to sigh out in relief when it was just a slash, rather than a stab. Though, the menace on the attacker's face made him dread everything to come.

The opponent was enjoying the fact that Yifan wasn't doing anything but trying to remain standing, he was getting off on the physical torture he could engrave with his knife and Yixing could almost hear the taunts leaving the smaller fighter's mouth. There were so many lashes on Yifan's torso, his body starting to look more like the floor of an artist's studio as his body took each blow without defence.

There was only a beat of relief when the timer was up on the bladed round, a scene that switched back over to weapon free fighting. Yixing watched as the man aimed for the places Yifan was cut, his dirty feet landing directly onto the larger slashes and Yixing was going to be sick. His body convulsed in the urge to vomit, his crying eyes not taking themselves away from the scene as Yifan finally fell to the ground in a weak bundle.

The fighter didn't stop the numerous kicks, each of them coming to land upon the man Yixing loved, in rapid and brutal succession. He could see blood slipping out from Yifan's mouth, landing in a thick pool on the ground beneath his face which Yixing could imagine smudging up the side of his cheek. Yixing saw Yifan's eyes look out glassily, his mouth moving to mumble out words he couldn't decipher and Yixing could feel himself yelling.

He was calling for everything to stop, for somebody to intervene before something more happened to Yifan but it was getting lost in the booms of the audience. His voice was lost, not reaching anybody who could do anything to stop the onslaught and there was a fast rawness in his throat as Yifan appeared to go limp on the floor.

It was then that somebody stepped in, the man from Yifan's house that Yixing had interacted with in infrequent moments, making the fighter seize in his movements and step back with a victorious raise of his fists. Yixing wanted to spit, wanted to scream, at the fact the man was celebrating such an awful win. If it could even be classed as that.

There was a group of others surrounding Yifan, somebody telling them all to step back and Yixing knew that wasn't a good sign. A few minutes passed and a stretcher was brought out, all of the people aiding in lifting his body and Yixing followed them around as they left the plinth down the stairs. He felt a sense of deja vu as he barged through the crowd and out to the back room, everybody turning to look at him as Yifan was placed down on a metal table and somebody started to protest. However, the man who Yixing had become a little familiar with said that he was okay to stay in the room, that he should move closer.

There were quiet groans coming from the man on the table and people parted as Yixing came closer, his fingers touching a blood doused cheek and Yifan whined out at the touch.

"It's okay, Fanfan, I'm here," he soothed moving even closer and touching his lips with Yifan's, not caring about the disgusted and disapproving noises from the others in the room. "You're so stupid, what have you done?"

He didn't mind that there was the thick fluid of blood on his lips; he was completely transfixed on the man ahead of him. Yixing could feel that rising sensation in his throat, edging upwards as he heard Yifan's breathing rattling and crackling in his chest, sounding like it was doing more harm than good to him. Yixing didn't want to move from being near Yifan's blood-coated face, not even when he was nudged by paramedics to check the fighter over but an arm pulled him back when Yixing was too in the way.

He only stumbled backwards, his fingers dipped in red as they stayed stretched out to Yifan's head and one of the paramedics was talking to him but everything sounded like he was underwater. Sounds and tones were distinguishable but words and voices were impossible for him to decipher, he only followed the stretcher as it left the building. Yixing, it seemed, was the only person let into the ambulance. Voices still speaking to him and getting nowhere with his ability to hear, it was when somebody touched his arm with a glass of water in their hands.

Yixing could suddenly hear everything; the engine of the ambulance rumbling, the sounds of oxygen being pumped into the face mask that was resting on Yifan's face and the concern of the medic. It was being explained to him that he had gone into a mild state of shock, that he needed to drink and eat something sugary to feel somewhat better. For the first time, he nodded and the woman smiled at him.

"What's your name?" She asked when Yixing looked at her in more than a glance.

"Yixing," he choked out, his eyes flooded with tears in seconds, "Zhang Yixing and he's Wu Yifan." Yixing froze up then his mind produced another name. "H-He's also ca-called Li Jiaheng, I don't know wh-what would b-be on his rec-record but he goes by Yi-Yifan."

"That's okay; we can search that when we get back to the hospital. How are you related to Yifan?" Her smooth voice calmly queried, still checking numerous things on the elder man's body.

"I'm his boyfriend," Yixing didn't let his words crack as he spoke, the woman throwing him a curious glance and he could feel his defences start to climb up.

"And do you know if your boyfriend has any longstanding medical issues? It's okay to say that you don't know."

Yixing shook his head, his blood rushing in his ears as he did so, "No, no, he's never said anything and he's healthy as far as I know."

"Yixing, is there anything else the hospital will need to know?" She was talking above the noise which had increased suddenly as they came into city traffic.

"His parents, they need to know," he decided, his fingers edging to hold Yifan's perfectly still hand where it was laid out. "He doesn't talk to them much but I know he would want them to know."

The woman kept asking Yixing questions, some about Yifan and others about himself, her soft ones about their relationship making him feel completely warm on the inside and the fear he had felt after seeing Yifan's murderous fight was gone.


They pulled up to the hospital, the medics bringing Yifan's body out on their gurney, Yixing trailing helplessly behind them. He was allowed through far and close enough to hear what the woman in the ambulance had deduced; that there was fluid in Yifan's left lung, most likely blood, and that the breaks in his ribs were consistent with the type that would cause a punctured lung. He heard words like urgent, critical and surgery flurry around his ears in a frenzy as people spoke about Yifan's condition. He wanted to ask questions, to know what he could do to help and have somebody tell him that Yifan would be okay. It wasn't much to say or query but it was too much for him to utter.

His lips had sealed themselves shut and he went to take another step towards his boyfriend but everything stopped as a soft hand landed on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, mister Zhang, but you're neither family nor recorded as his next-of-kin, I can't let you in until he comes around and gives permission," the nurse told him as delicately as he could and Yixing wiped his tears with the sleeves of his shirt, nodding in knowing.

"I understand," he mumbled, some coherency returning to him with the human touch, "Is it okay if I come back tomorrow and wait?"

She frowned but didn't say no, having assessed Yixing’s state as pure distress over the unconscious male, "Visiting hours are between two and six, don't come any earlier or you'll be asked to leave. If you have nowhere else to go, there's a public waiting room by the main entrance."

Yixing felt himself walking backwards, his legs moving as he stared down the hallway that Yifan had been taken on a gurney through. He had people looking at him as he made his way out on the street, blood on his shirt, face and hands like some killer.

He put his shaking hand in his pocket and unlocked it quickly, finding the closest number for whichever of his parents. There were only a few moments before the phone connected and he heard a sleepy sigh pass through the other’s lips.

"Yixing?" He heard his mother ask, groggy voice making his name catch in her throat a little more than normal.

"Mama, I'm at the hospital," he said in a sob and he could hear her waking his father immediately. "Can you come and get me?"

"What's happened?" She worried, shuffling through the house echoing through the receiver and he could hear his father asking about where the car keys were.

"I'm not hurt; I just need you to come."

Yixing cut off the phone, not wanting any more questions from his parents and he found himself crumbling against a street lamp, a shake of his lungs making his body expectorate out a cry. He could feel the few people around looking at him, either in pity or a subdued level of fear. Time scrolled by slowly until he saw the white LED lights of his mother's Mercedes roll around to park in front of where he was, both his parents scrambling to get out of the car and hold Yixing to their chests.

"Xingie, what's wrong? Tell mama what happened," his mother mumbled into his ears, hands rubbing up and down his back in the most coaxing of motions. "Where is all this blood from?"

"He-He's hurt," he whimpered weakly and he could feel his parents looking at each other over his head, their chins brushing over his bowed head. "There was so much blood and I couldn't do anything to stop it."

Yixing's parents both questioned him, asking who he was talking about and what happened for him to have blood smudged down from his lips to his jaw, the dried darkness of it making it look all the more sinister. He tried to calm himself, take in deeper breaths and really feel as though he could keep himself together to come clean to his mother and father. The student stepped back and took a massive gulp of air deep into his lungs.

"I'm gay," he finally said, his father's face the picture of shock as he looked up at the slightly taller man and his mother started to become glassy eyed. "I can't keep it from you anymore, I want you to know who I am and this is it, I like other men and I can't do anything to stop it."

Things were quiet, Yixing preparing himself to retreat into his own shell and crack under the pressure of his parents' gazes. He watched them look at each other for a moment before his mother stepped forward, her arms circling around his waist slightly firmer than before.

"That's okay, Xingie," she mollified, her gentle words making him relax into her hold more than he had. "It is okay, I promise, we trust that you will know what to do to keep this low profile."

Yixing was happy that his mother had accepted his sexuality and hated the fact that she was already thinking of ways he could cover it up, to make sure that they appeared perfect to the outside world when Yixing knew he hadn't run right from a young age. He knew he was different and he could embrace that now, Yifan had taught him to live more for himself than his parents. Yifan had taught him freedom, set him loose from an enclosure that he wanted to break out of.

"I don't want to hide," he whispered.

"You're distressed, you don't know what you're saying," his father tried to argue in the most harmonious voice he could muster. "Why don't we go home and get some sleep? You can have a shower and then we will reassess in the morning."

"No," Yixing stepped back more harshly, his mother recoiling towards his father more. "I know what I want and I've wanted it for so long that I don't think one more night will make any difference on how I feel."

"Yixing–"

"I've got a boyfriend," he finally said, his heart suddenly loosening the shackles it had bound itself in, "I love him and I don't want to hide that."

Yixing's mother's face dropped, her expression completely shifting to one of complete horror, "Is that who you've been sneaking in and out of the house?"

Yixing nodded, his bottom lip slipping between his teeth and they gnawed at it nervously. He didn't look up from where he had rested his chin on his chest, the image of somebody who was ashamed of themselves and he felt guilt simmer in his gut.

"He's the one who's hurt?" His father asked quietly, seeming far more calm than his wife was portraying, "The blood is his?"

"Yes," Yixing choked, his father immediately clutching him to his chest while his mother seemed to look all the more distraught at her son's revelation. "He's really hurt and I can't see him, they won't let me. Not until his parents get there but I don't think they'll let me."

"Why?"

Yixing wrapped his arms around his father, so tightly he could feel his breathing stutter in his lungs, which only made him think of what the doctors had said about Yifan's condition, "He's the Li son."

His father, the ever calm rock of support, whispered soothing things in his ears but his mother looked outraged, her face reddening as time went on.

"We are going home," she hissed, pulling her son's hand in a harsh yank, "I can't believe you right now, Yixing, I raised you better than to go for somebody like that.

"It's okay, Xingie," his father whispered in his opposite ear, "I know you love the person that you love because they're good for you."

"Zhang Yixing," his mother yelled, making him turn to her in his father's arms to see her get into her car, "If you do not come home right now then don't bother coming home at all. We need to talk about this."

"No," Yixing whispered, his head shaking as he looked up to face her with a more defensive expression, "There is nothing to talk about, I am in love with somebody who loves me back, somebody who looks after me at times that I don't even realise that I need it. I don't want to talk about it."

"Then don't come home," she snapped loudly, drawing attention to them as she slammed her car door shut.

"Stay here, I'll try to calm her down before you try to talk to her again," his father whispered over the revving of the car engine, which showed his mother's impatience. "I love you, okay? We will make everything better; you focus on yourself and your boyfriend."

With a kiss on the head, his father turned abruptly to leave, getting into the car while Yixing started to cry again, seeking his retreat in the public waiting area.


###


Being allowed into the hospital unit where the sounds of heart monitors, oxygen being released into masks and the soft hum of people talking to patients made Yixing teeter on the edge of feeling okay. He knew which bed Yifan was in, not because his parents were sat to the side, but because a nurse had told him that it was bed number six. He walked slowly and tentatively until Yifan's father stood up from his chair to greet him, his mother not too far behind and Yixing could feel Yifan staring at him. Even with his eyes bloodshot and raw, he didn’t look away once.

"Yixing," Yifan's mother smiled warmly at him, the fact she had Yifan's gummy smile helped to soothe him into moving closer a little more confidently. "It's great to see you. Yifan has been asking for you since he woke up."

Yixing nodded, accepting the third chair at Yifan's bedside, which was opposite the two elders, and he felt his heart twinge when Yifan's fingers fidgeted towards him. It was a natural reaction to take his fingers in a slight grip and Yixing pretended not to hear the heart monitor slow to a more pleasant thud at the contact. "How is everything?"

"The operation went well," his father began, his eyes scanning over his son, who was just staring at Yixing under the swelling of his face. "His lung was salvageable, his rib only managed to puncture at the base of it and we're thankful that none of the broken ribs above cut through. No brain damage from the head wounds or any other major bone breaks, seeing as everything seemed central to his upper body. He lost a lot of blood but that's nothing that can't be fixed."

"So what now?" Yixing queried, his fingers clasping more around the man in the bed's hand and stroking his finger over it. "I mean recovery wise."

"Just letting everything heal and then things will be figured out, I think the biggest fear is infection at the minute." His mother sighed, the weariness of her voice relaying how Yixing had felt in the last twenty four hours. "Only God knows what was on that knife."

Yixing didn't say anything, his body exhausted from sleeping across hard plastic chairs and living off what he could get from vending machines or the canteen. It was physically taxing but he guessed it was worth it to be around Yifan while he was awake, to see if he was really okay.

"Well, he's in the best place for him," Yifan's father tried to appease, to coax his wife into relaxing about the situation. Yixing could see where Yifan got his caring nature from, that he exercised his most human traits because of the two people who had raised him.

Yixing sat quietly as the older couple continued to talk to each other and their silent son, the only sign that Yixing had that Yifan was even paying attention to those in the room was that his fingers were playing with Yixing's. It was a peaceful few hours, ones where time slipped by slowly until Yixing was asked to leave the ward because the visiting time slot was over and Yixing had to try to pry himself out of Yifan's hard grip. He could only do what he felt was right; he reassured Yifan that he would return and placed a gentle kiss on the small space on Yifan's face where he wasn't cut or bruised. It seemed to relax the elder, a small and silent chime that Yixing still cared for him through everything. He could see Yifan trying to smile beneath his oxygen mask and dimpled back at him, using Yifan's finger to poke the small dent before leaving.

He was walked out by Yifan's mother, who hugged him tightly to her chest and she asked how the student was getting home, to which he told her to not worry with a smile on his face. That seemed to have the reverse impact when she took in Yixing's more dishevelled state of dress and the thin sheen of grease on the curls of his hair. She assumed the truth, her hands pressing to Yixing's cheeks softly as she invited him to stay at her family home but Yixing politely declined, his claim that he was completely okay making her nod in understanding that Yixing wanted to remain close to Yifan.

Though, as the days passed, she would bring newly bought clothes and travel wash kits, which included dry shampoo for him to use. He felt cared for, like Yifan's parents really liked him and he was nervous whenever they were there watching how he interacted with Yifan. They often saw Yixing brushing his fingers through their son's hair, how they would hold hands and that Yifan would only watch Yixing when he was in the room. However, they could sense the awkward air between the younger pair.

Yixing still flinched a little if Yifan's hands moved too quickly, that Yifan looked at Yixing with sadness layering in his eyes and that Yixing didn't speak much to him. When he did talk, it was never anything major, just about the weather outside or worrying if Yifan was warm enough.

The day when Yifan started to try and use his voice more happened sooner than Yixing expected, the pain involved in having the airflow coming in and out of his lungs should have kept him unspeaking for a little while longer but Yixing knew that Yifan's pain tolerance was higher than the average person's. It made his heart thud in a deep bass when he heard his name in a scratchy baritone but smiled at the sound. It felt like a worried call, as if Yifan was wanting his attention to not slip away for a single moment. Everybody could see Yifan tiring himself out quickly, even just by speaking, and Yixing would try to get Yifan to use his touch more to communicate. But, the fighter was stubborn and wouldn't try to shut up for a moment. Not while Yixing was there.

It was when Yixing entered, almost a week later to find Yifan sat up in his bed and the connected television playing a daytime game show quietly that the younger first saw his boyfriend alone. He was unsure of whether or not he should be there if his parents weren't around, with Yifan technically being under their care while he was in the hospital. Before he could back out of seeing Yifan for the allotted four hours away, the elder saw him and immediately beckoned him over while weakly nudging the television out of his way, until Yixing came over to move it completely out of the way.

"Hey," Yixing greeted lamely, his voice catching on the single syllable but Yifan didn't seem to notice, he only tried to smile without moving his cheeks too much.

"You're always so punctual," Yifan commented, watching as Yixing took his normal seat, "As soon as the minute turns to start visiting, you're here."

"It's the least I could do," Yixing responds weakly, his body exhausted and aching all over from his uncomfortable sleeping positions. "You're the one that's stuck in this hospital all day and night."

Yifan watched Yixing, his eyes telling nothing of his emotions and the younger could feel himself cowering slightly at how plain his gaze was. A minute must have passed before Yifan sighed; rolling what little of his eyes Yixing could see under the last of the bruised swelling. "Yixing, my mother told me that you've been sleeping here, that you've not gone home since I was brought in and I think you should go home to have some real sleep."

"I would," Yixing laughed awkwardly, "but I've been kicked out."

Yifan's hand suddenly wrapped around his wrist, making him jump back slightly and the elder let him go immediately, his hand retreating back to his side like Yixing's fright had managed to burn him. There was more quiet when Yixing looked down at his knees, his body exhausted and he could finally show it in front of the fighter.

"Why were you kicked out?" Yifan's question was muted slightly, his voice relaying that he could easily guess the right answer and Yixing let his own hand initiate contact between the two of them.

"Because I'm in love with you," Yixing started to shake, his proclamation of his true feelings coming at a time when he was afraid over what and who Yifan was. It wasn't how he wanted to say it. "My mother, she's so ashamed, I wouldn't be able to face her even if I could stay at home."

There was more quiet, enough to course between them like it used to and give Yixing the kind of comfort he had been in need of since his last full conversation with Yifan.

"Would you like to stay at my apartment?"

The question made Yixing freeze, each vision of seeing Yifan sleeping in cars or staying in his parents' lavish home skirts out of his mind, his shock gripping at his throat and he tried to keep his expression schooled. "Your apartment?"

"Yeah, I've got one near the centre of the city. Halfway between my parents’ and the training house," Yifan let his fingers clasp at a notepad and pen that he used when he was too tired to vocalise his thoughts. He wrote quickly and tore the paper away before handing it to Yixing. "This is the address and the key codes."

"Yifan, I can't," he refused but the paper was placed in the hand that was holding the elder's loosely.

"Yixing, you need to rest," Yifan said quietly, one of his hands coming to touch at the student's face and he looked heartbroken as Yixing moved out of his reach. "If not because you're tired but for your health, if you've not been home then you've not been taking your medication."

Yixing looked at the scrawled writing on the piece of paper in front of him, the familiarity of the street name ringing in his head and he wondered how many times in the past seven months he had walked past Yifan's apartment without knowing that he lived there. He accepted it with strain, his mind whirling with thoughts on whether or not he would feel comfortable there, whether he would be able to accept living in Yifan’s home or if he would evenwant to be there.

They were quiet, the low buzz of chatter coming from Yifan’s television filling the space between them and he could feel the elder staring at him, the crown of his head growing hot under the heat of the gaze and he could almost count down the minutes before Yifan snapped.

“Do you hate me?” As if he had predicted it, Yifan spoke with a loud clarity that Yixing couldn’t explain but he wished things were quieter, as they were on a small and private but still very public ward.

Yixing shook his head.

“You flinch away from me,” Yifan pointed out, raising his palm up towards Yixing who still jolted away from the touch he used to seek out so much. “I’ve done awful things but making you react like this is the worst.”

Yixing felt himself steel over a little on the inside, “How can you say that when you’ve killed people?”

“That’s different, Yixing.”

“How is it? You have actually taken lives and you don’t even seem to regret it!” Yixing tried to keep his voice down, not wanting to alert anybody of their conversation but his whispered yells were constantly increasing in volume. “Do you know how it feels to be in love with somebody you realise that you barely know?”

“Yixing, please,” the elder tried to mitigate; his hand coming to hold around Yixing’s clenching hand firmly. “Let me explain.”

“There is nothi–”

Yifan interrupted Yixing with a louder voice, “There is, now just let me explain.” Yifan took a deep breath in, his eyes closing for peace before he looked at Yixing directly. “Let me fix this.”

Yixing didn’t have it in his heart to ignore the elder, his defences obliterating themselves to let Yifan worm his way back in and there was nothing more he could do than deflate and listen to his boyfriend.

“I want you to know that I’ve only ever killed when I was too scared in a fight to be able to control the outcome, if somebody comes for me and I know I can’t knock them out, I know it is kill or be killed on many occasions.” Yixing felt Yifan’s hand squeeze his lightly, the younger brushing off the touch easily as a natural response to their bodies touching. “I barely ever lose control of myself; I never have in a fight. Not before that night. I knew the fighter was good, that he had the potential to be a rival, that he could one day beat me but I knew I had the upper hand in that fight. I knew that if I tried that little bit harder, I could win over him easily. Trash talking and taunting,” he began to explain, his hand gripping tighter yet, “is something that happens all the time during fights. It is ingrained in each fighter to rile up and push their opponent to the edge of their control; it makes them unpredictable but easier to control. I’m usually unfussed, never fazed by the words that come from whatever fighter I am going up against but he knew my sensitive nerve.” Yifan was holding Yixing’s hand so hard that the younger knew it was subconscious, that Yifan was being angered just by thinking of whatever had been said to him during his fight. “He knew about you.”

“Me?” Yixing asked in a croak, his voice rough from sudden nerves as he began to lose feeling in the tips of his fingers.

Yifan didn’t seem to hear Yixing speak, the suddenly distant look in his eyes frightened Yixing - not through fear of what he would do but in distress over what it was doing to Yifan. “He said he would find you once he was done with me, that he would use a knife to cut his name into your skin,” Yixing began to fear that his fingers would crunch, the ends of them having gone almost completely blue. “That he would let you bleed out and then he said what he would do to you after then, when you couldn’t stop him from touching you an–”

“Yifan, you’re hurting me,” Yixing gasped loudly before he could carry on, breaking the fighter out of his reverie and pulling his attention back into the room. Yifan let him go at lightning speed, his heart rate, which had increased exponentially while he was talking, began to race wildly as he began to realise his surroundings. The student didn’t want to hear about it, he didn’t want to know what had been described to Yifan, not if it was enough to turn him into some bloodthirsty monster.

“As terrible as you think I am,” Yifan whispered, his voice frail and fragile as his energy waned. “I could never let anybody hurt you, or even consider it. I hate the fights that end up in death, I hate being a part of them when I have to take a life but I would kill a thousand times to keep you safe.”

He didn’t quite understand why that statement gave him goosebumps, whether or not they were from excitement or fear.


###


Yixing moving into Yifan’s apartment was strange at first, he had done it while the homeowner wasn’t there and he had no idea where anything was. There was no grand tour to put him in good stead for living there, nor was there anybody to guide him through what to do. He hadn’t spoken much to Yifan after his declaration of complete protection; he didn’t know how to react to it. A part of him loved Yifan for being so open about how he would keep Yixing safe but another loathed it. He didn’t want to be in a position where people could die at the hands of the man he loved because they had said something untoward. It wasn’t a normal position to be in, to be both scared and enthralled by the same man.

He let that thought linger as he scanned over the room with sharp eyes, taking in how clean it was while still looking as though it had been lived in. There were things dotted around that made Yixing think of Yifan, his personality flowing in through the bold but warm decor. It was a strange mix of feelings as though he was at home while being in a completely new place.

He lived teetering between the two for the rest of the week before Yifan was discharged, the fighter being told not to lift anything too heavy or partake in any strenuous physical activity until the doctor gave him the go ahead. It was intense trying to figure out how to live together, especially when Yixing took leave from his studies to be Yifan’s sole carer, Yixing’s ineptitude with basic domestic skills seemed to irritate Yifan, who had no energy to do anything but Yixing tried his hardest. He was earnest in all his attempts of cooking food and cleaning, Yifan often said that he knew that but it didn’t help the student when he could feel the elder’s frustration. It was easy to say that the tension between them had built. Yixing still flinched when Yifan brushed by him, he was too scared to say anything negative and he held his breath whenever he helped to change Yifan’s dressing. It was on one night, when Yifan had reached out for Yixing in bed and the younger moved onto the floor, that everything came to a crescendo.

Yixing hadn’t even left the bed yet when he heard a pained sound, his head snapping around to see Yifan sit up in the bed and he was half certain that there were tears splashed in the elder’s eyes. He watched as Yifan pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes and sagged forward onto the pressure, it was a strange sight of vulnerability displayed and he almost immediately crawled across the mattress to kiss Yifan happy again. But before his frozen legs could move, the fighter looked up at him. It was easy to see the heartbreak all over his face, as the swelling had gone and the bruising turned a shade of yellow.

“Do I disgust you that much?”

Yixing hadn’t thought of himself being disgusted by the elder, while he hadn’t wanted to be touched by Yifan at any point, none of that was through that feeling. It was more the fact that Yifan had killed somebody with his bare hands with such ease that frightened Yixing. “No.”

“Then why can’t I touch you? You sleep in my bed, in my clothes, and yet when I brush against you, you move away. I just want to hold you, that’s all I want. I don’t need you to speak or to hold me back; I only want to be able to feel you here.”

Yixing was speechless, his fingers beginning to tremble at his sides while he was divided by his urge to comfort Yifan or comfort himself first, “It isn’t that easy.”

“Is it because I’m unclean?” Yifan murmured, which confused Yixing because he knew Yifan had showered twice daily since his arrival from the hospital. “Because I’ve been trying to get clean, to wash everything away for you to want to touch me again. I’m really trying but maybe scrubbing isn’t enough.”

Yixing felt his chest slow to a frighteningly calm pace, his legs unsticking themselves from the floor and making their way around to Yifan. He knelt down beside the taller male, his eyes watching how Yifan’s hands pressed onto his sides and he moved his fingers to push up the plain white shirt he had been wearing to sleep in. Yixing could feel bile rise up in his throat when he took in the redness under the limited light, how the skin looked almost raw under the sores, as if they had been scratched in.

“What did you do?” He whispered, Yifan’s normally proud expression looking at him as though he was completely lost. “Yifan, whatever you have done needs to stop.”

“I’m making myself clean,” he tried to explain, his larger hands layering over Yixing’s, “I want you to feel comfortable touching me.”

“But Yifan, you’re hurting yourself,” Yixing reasoned back, folding the shirt back over the other’s body and Yifan looked so ashamed of himself. Guilt covered every inch of his face and it made Yixing see deeper, he could almost feel Yifan’s torment when he looked in his eyes. It took all he could muster to not throw up, to not feel disgusted with himself for not considering Yifan. The man who had pushed himself into a situation where he could have died for guilt.

That’s why he slowly crept onto the bed, his thighs on top of Yifan’s as he leant forward to press butterfly kisses around the edge of the elder’s soft mouth. He muttered what he felt were soothing words, things that he wanted to hear from Yifan when he was sad and he could feel the fighter relax beneath him with every small touch of their bodies. It wasn’t long until they were laying together, Yixing trying to show Yifan that he’d meant it when he said he was in love with him and the student had heard Yifan’s quiet declaration of love as they both drifted off to sleep.

That was a turning point, Yixing tried his hardest not to jolt from Yifan and had found that their living tensions eased up a little. He wasn’t sure about their relationship status, unknowing of whether or not they ever officially broke up. He didn’t want to bring the topic up, not when they were still talking things through every night, Yixing learning about Yifan’s life. About how as a child who loved his parents but was too different to stay with them, how he wanted to protect everybody but himself and how it really felt to take a life. Yixing learned that Yifan’s conscience tortured him, telling him that fighting with the intent to kill wasn’t how he wanted to continue and Yixing did nothing but stroke his hair as he said his piece. It was easy for the student to atone with his feelings, knowing that Yifan wasn’t a bad man but he was somebody good who had been backed into a corner by people who knew how to torment him. It was from there that Yixing figured out that Yang Bai was the culprit for Yifan’s misery, especially after Yifan had mentioned him and Yixing had never felt rage like it before.

His mind screamed for him to confront his classmate but his rational side told him not to, he decided that taking care of Yifan was the biggest payback, the fact that their betrayer wouldn’t have succeeded in damaging either of them permanently enough.

There were frequent visits from Yifan’s parents, their presence helped to relax the younger pair and even Yixing’s father had been over. He had dropped off clothes and medication, the latter made Yifan frantic and he made Yixing take it in front of him, but there had been an air of awkwardness surrounding the last visit made. He had made a comment on how he wanted to watch Yifan fight one day, which had made Yixing grow silent as he hadn’t even considered Yifan going back to training, let alone fighting again. But, Yifan had actually seemed eager, accepting the elder Zhang’s self-invite readily.

Nevertheless, the biggest trial they faced was Yifan’s lingering dislike for himself, the fact that he had been reduced down to somebody who had doubted his own strength and power scared Yixing. He had always known Yifan’s confidence to be through the roof, his self-assured attitude was what had let himself keep the name Duizhang and the reversal that he had seen was bewildering. He had tried coaxing Yifan into being a little rougher with him with anything, his body relaxing more around the fighter every day, and Yixing was building things up piece by piece.

It was playful and nothing too much for Yifan when they hit the nine week mark, the point where his body was beginning to regulate itself a little more easily, when they started to play fight. Even having not trained and been through what he had, Yifan pinned Yixing every time but released the younger when things became a little more passionate.

That had been until Yixing had whimpered and whined for Yifan to take him, to manhandle him because that’s what he would enjoy and that it would be proof that Yifan could use his strength to make somebody feel as though they were in utter bliss. Yixing succeeded in provoking the elder after Yifan’s first handful of thrusts into his willing body, making himself pliant and malleable for Yifan to shape him however he wanted. Maybe it had been Yixing’s whispers of love and trust that had toppled Yifan over the edge or it could have been the way that Yixing reacted so sensitively when Yifan pressed on his prostate.

Things became fast, Yixing’s hands pinned restrictively above his head as Yifan folded his legs up to get a little more depth into his swift and hard thrusts. Yixing writhed and whined under the hot touch of the elder, his body finding new levels of pleasure as Yifan leaned in to do something the younger had never experienced before. Yixing had asked to be choked, pleaded for it but it was swiftly rejected. However, Yifan used his teeth to wrap around the tender throat that Yixing had revealed with an arch of his back and clamped down, the pressure applied by both his teeth and his tilted head had Yixing gasping. He could barely breathe, his body becoming more and more stimulated by the second and he couldn’t even moan as there was no air to vibrate through his vocal chords. It was something that he knew Yifan would be able to control enough to make him feel pleasure but it was foreign enough to have adrenaline in Yixing’s bloodstream.

He came with a silent scream, convulsing as his cum splattered on Yifan’s healing chest in a mess of thick white, his body clenching around Yifan’s cock intently and the older male’s stamina meant that he had to continue on. His own orgasm striking three minutes later, a wonderful burst of fireworks before Yixing’s eyes in their dark bedroom and it had him dizzy. His head spun with how Yifan kissed over his painfully indented bite mark, both of them whispering about how Yixing would need to cover it up before their next round of visitors.

The rest of their life seemed to slip into place after that night, Yifan’s fear of hurting Yixing abolished when he saw how happy the student was and he had even begun to comfort Yixing when the strain of being apart from his mother was felt strongly. It gave them a connection, a base to build up from and it never failed to make Yixing smile when he thought of Yifan. His fear was almost gone until Yifan entered the apartment after finishing his rehab with news that he was given the all clear to train again.

That’s when hell broke free between them again, if only momentarily.


###


Yixing could feel the texture beneath his fingers, the material Yifan had called 'Mexican wrap' numerous times since he got back into his training, and it was a natural reaction to run it along his skin. It reminded him of the times when Yifan had touched him, even fucked him, when he had only just finished training. Yixing didn't mind the long hours during the day where Yifan would be absent from their twentieth floor apartment, it made him more able to study and focus on his dissertation in utter peace. It was the nights when Yixing missed the older male, his breathing enough to ease Yixing into living each day and his gentle touches, if Yixing had done something he found sublime. It made Yixing learn a little, his hands wandering through the apartment and he came across the binding materials weeks before.

At first, he had felt that betrayal that Yifan was fighting again, without Yixing's knowledge but was pleasantly surprised when there were no bruises or cuts on his boyfriend's body when he eventually got home. He had asked Yifan on a rest day how to wrap a hand for a fight, the material creating more impact in a punch, and it was Yifan's torn expression that made Yixing smile. He could see that Yixing was taking an interest and developing his knowledge of fighting but there was also the fact that doing such things would suck him back into that life. But, Yifan decided that showing Yixing couldn't hurt, that doing so could lead to some weird kind of foreplay, and Yixing could feel the pride swelling out of his boyfriend's chest when he got it right the first time.

From then it became routine, Yixing binding Yifan's hands before he left to drive to his training gym and it was something he could do perfectly in a sleepy four in the morning haze. He didn't mind being woken up when the sun was still deep below the horizon, not when it was because large hands were running through his hair and soft lips were on his face. Yixing would get home from his classes to see Yifan sleeping on their bed, his legs tangled in the sheets and arms stretched out over where Yixing would normally lay.

The younger had picked up on changes in the months during Yifan's rehabilitation process; things like his breathing calming as he figured out how to work around his damaged lung, about how frustrated he got when he couldn't let out all the energy he would expel by training and how hard the fighter pushed himself to always be better. Yixing could tell when the trainers had let Yifan spar again, he was excitable and his confidence was climbing as he started winning against his partners again. He could hear Yifan talking on the phone to one of his trainers, the soft rumblings of his deep voice was what made Yixing fall asleep most nights and things became easier when Yifan was able to do what he loved again.

Yixing had argued and cried when Yifan said he had a fight, a real life or death match. He had told him that he was stupid, that he should think of how Yixing would feel if something were to go wrong again or if Yifan had even considered how everything would impact on the younger. It made Yixing's chest heave as he finished yelling at his boyfriend, his heart thumping in his chest and he had slept in the living room for the night. Though, he had woken up in the bed clutched tightly to Yifan's chest.

There was a shift after that argument. It was their first major once since they began to live together, Yifan's worry on how his injuries had impacted on Yixing came to the surface in small loving ways and Yixing learned to slowly accept that he couldn't be the one to keep Yifan from what he loved. The younger had fallen in love with the fighter in Yifan first and in his mind, he knew Yifan's training would one day lead them back to abandoned buildings with makeshift fighting rings. The elder kept his domestic focus on Yixing with things like small kisses on the closest part of his body, lots of worshipping his unblemished body and then making sure Yixing kept on top of all his prescriptions.

Yifan had even started to miss out on sleep to attend Yixing's visits to the doctor, the woman immediately approving of Yifan when he brought out chocolate, completely unprompted by either, to give Yixing once he had his blood taken. She had even seen Yifan kiss Yixing as a catheter was used for a blood transfusion, making him forget about the pain of it and the pressure in his arm changing as he felt the blood flow in. Her comments to Yixing about the tall fighter had all been of how well looked after he had appeared since Yifan starting joining him on visits, much more than when Yixing would go alone.

That was the only thing Yifan said he hated about Yixing living with him, the fact Yixing was alone so much. Yifan had seemingly scared off Bai from bothering Yixing with physical intimidation, the younger having caught Yifan with the promoter in a chokehold in his university’s grounds. Yixing had also seen his betrayer appear to classes with a black eye and a limp, Yifan’s house having sought their own revenge for placing one of their fighter’s integrity and life in the name of money. Apparently, according to Yifan, there had also been a formal public punishment in front of a crowd and the young promoter had been penalised greatly for his wrongdoing. Yixing was glad when he realised that he had a snake weeded out of his life, but he still got angry. The fury was real when he thought back to Yifan’s weak state.

"You know, I think if you think any harder then you'll break my hands," Yifan said quietly in front of Yixing, making his brain snap to the present and look down at how tightly Yixing was tightening the bindings. "Don't over think things, Xing. Enjoy yourself and feel the excitement, share this moment with me."

Yixing nodded, looking down at where Yifan's large hands were held in his own and he loosened the fabric a little. The edges of it shook as his fingers trembled but Yifan was unmoving, always remaining steadfast in his movements. Yixing knew that Yifan was happier in the knowledge that he would fight again, that he would be able to continue with what he loved.

"Yes, Yixing," a familiar voice spoke behind him, the deep vibrations of it making Yifan smile in the corner of his eyes and Yixing looked behind himself in shock. "Have more faith in your boyfriend."

"Baba," Yixing gaped, his whole body renewing in comfort, "what are you doing here?"

"Your mother is off on one of her weekend breaks and I thought I would spend some time with my son," Yixing's father stepped forward, closer to Yixing with a caring air about him and his vibrant smile. "I don't think this is my kind of place but I want to know what had my son sneaking out of the house numerous nights in a week."

"I think it's great that you're here," Yifan spoke from behind Yixing's head, his hands still within Yixing's and clasping softly at them. "Xing has been nervous about this since I told him about this fight, which I can completely understand because I've been an idiot, and it's a relief that he won't be alone for it."

Yifan's name was called, all three men in the room reacting differently as Yixing lifted himself up to kiss Yifan's cheek, the fighter freeing his arms to stretch out and Yixing's father lingered more closely to the door. Yifan seemed to ensure to cast a look down at the student, his expression calm and reassuring which flowed straight from his eyes into Yixing's. It made the younger settle on his feet, following behind the taller male out the door and towards the room Yixing had first seen Yifan in.

He could feel his father's presence beside him, the steady and unwavering aura that had been there all his life, while Yifan jumped down into the hollow swimming pool.

There was nothing quiet about Yifan's return, everything was louder than any other fight and Yixing closed his eyes as the first hits happened. He couldn't watch. Not begin with, anyhow.

It was impossible not to feel it, not to have it running like electricity through his veins, it would always be there. The excitement and thrill of watching the man he loved physically defeating an opponent, the sense of wonder that came with the deepening of the tension. His eyes opened, the lights blinding for the first second before he managed to focus on a tall, muscular body. Yixing's nerves were suddenly gone, his whole body thrumming in want for his boyfriend’s glory. He didn't take his eyes away from Yifan, forgetting about everybody else in the large room while Yifan worked with more skill than he'd shown in previous fights. Yixing’s father even faded into the back of his mind when he looked at his boyfriend.

Yixing could feel that Yifan had been trying harder in training to soothe Yixing's built worry swirling around in his head. The fact that the elder has been arriving back at their apartment even more exhausted than he would be after one of his old fights, that he would often catch him practicing sequences in at random points in their time together and that Yifan seemed more focused than he had been before his losing fight. It was as soon as a body hit the floor, and Yifan looked up at him, that Yixing felt the explosion in the centre of his chest stronger than he ever had before. He could only smile wide enough to show his approval for what Yifan had done. He wasn’t scared, not while he had Yifan.