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Into The Digital Kingdom

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{use left stick to move}

 

It was the kind of day that would make a person sticky with sweat. Pulses could be felt in the swollen veins of hands, breath was short from just moving and hair was stuck to foreheads. Carrying a bag up multiple flights of stairs was enough to have lips cracking with dehydration, the sofa and the flat-packed bed was a challenge not even worth considering until water from the tap had been scooped into mouths as an act of temporary relief. Maybe it was luck that they didn’t have much, maybe that was actually a godsend. A short-lived one. But a blessing nonetheless.

Yifan looked over at Yixing for a moment. He saw the younger nudging the tattered brown sofa in front of a tiny empty table that was pushed up to the back wall of the dully painted living area that was a kitchen, lounge and dining area combined. Yixing was clad in denim shorts that rolled up to just above his knee and a tank top that had a worn out image of David Bowie on the front, the shoulders curled in, as did the neck, from where Yixing had cut along the sleeve seams and collar when he’d bought it. It was hot in the city during the summer but Yifan knew the younger would wear that kind of outfit even if it was cooler outside, it was what he could drift around in with the most comfort.

In that weather, though, that comfort was minimal.

“Why’s it so hot here?” Yixing stood up and ran his hand through his hair, small droplets of sweat splattered off to the floor in the process of the movement. Yifan didn’t answer, he only copied his boyfriend’s action in hopes of the heat abating. He himself was clad in basketball shorts and a matching jersey. Even with them so baggy, he couldn’t get cool air anywhere on his skin, it verged on torturous.

Yifan slunk off to the bedroom, hating how the open window did nothing to lower the room’s temperature but he looked at the duffle bags on the newly built bed frame tiredly before pulling them over to the front of the wardrobe. He didn’t bother to sort through the clothes to split them between himself and his boyfriend, they shared clothes more often than not and Yifan was just too bothered by the tropical atmosphere in the apartment to care about the organisation of it.

He was stretched out on the floor with his chest heaving by the time he’d finished his mediocre folding, hanging and shoving things into the cramped wardrobe. Yifan could hear Yixing muttering about the electronics in the next room, likely rooting around in the bag that was crammed full of tangled wires in search of whatever he was setting up next. Yifan strained from where he was on the tattered carpet to hear what was being said.

Even when he couldn’t make out a word of it, hearing the thoughts his boyfriend was having spoken aloud in a gentle voice, one that still carried over the sounds out on the street below, was nothing short of mesmerising. Listening to the tones, the hums in between words and the vibrations when Yixing spoke in a whispered drag were all Yifan needed to smile from where he was.

That was the moment, the first realisation, where it hit him that he was living solely with his boyfriend for the first time. They were hours away from where they’d both lived with their parents. They were alone in the city, they were alone in their tiny two room and one bathroom apartment and they were alone with each other. Along with the completely rational fear—why hadn’t they stayed where they knew they were secure?—came the calmness of knowing they’d gone there to be more.

They weren’t countryside boys who had been told that there was fame, glamour and perfection in the larger cities. No, it was the prospect of being able to nurture themselves on their own that had lured them there. Their parents couldn’t breathe down their necks at every moment about how they’d use their degrees, nor were they surrounded by friends who were all drifting as their time out of school increased.

What Yifan had was a worn down apartment in a building that was older than himself, heat covering every surface and the voice of his boyfriend floating in the air. They didn’t have it all, not the money or the concrete plans, but there was a crackling sense of determination in the air. They would make it work because they wanted it to.

Yifan was close to falling asleep on the floor, his clothes clinging to his body and eyelids heavy with heat when he felt the gentle tap of Yixing nudging his cheek with his foot. Eyes fluttering, dispelling the weight of sleep, Yifan saw Yixing holding up their most expensive item. Yifan’s PlayStation.

“Want to watch me play Grand Theft Auto before we go search for something to eat?”

It was a mundane proposition, one that most would reject, but in the golden glow of living life with Yixing at his side, night and day, he said yes.

 

{press x to interact}

 

By the end of August, Yifan barely broke a sweat anymore as he ran up the numerous flights of stairs with his apartment keys jingling in his hand. It was just before two in the morning and his back ached more than it ever had. He was ready to curl up on his bed with his boyfriend at his side and drift off to sleep the remaining two and a bit hours he had left before the younger’s alarm rang into the air. His eyes screamed out for sleep, his arms longed to lay limply on Yixing’s waist and his legs wished to have all weight taken off them.

He’d worked a seventeen hour day, firstly in a large architectural company that employed Yifan at their lowest salary, despite his qualifications, and secondly in the convenience store that was equidistant to the firm and the apartment. Normally, he’d be dreading the morning when he’d have to heave himself up to head out to his third employer, the call centre where he helped people with problems they had with their mobile phones, but he was free all day until his shift at the store began at six in the evening. He could sleep in, he could rest and lounge around all day until he pulled on the ugly polyester uniform with accompanying nametag.

Yixing was probably wiped out, sprawled out half under and half on top of the duvet on their bed. It was the sight that greeted Yifan on five of seven days in the week, each time being no less endearing than the last. Yifan could always edge his way onto the mattress, body moulding to Yixing’s back and feeling how the younger shifted into his touch as they grew more comfortable. It was the best part of his day. It was when all exhaustion could fall over him as feelings of safety and affection flooded through his body.

Usually, when he awoke, Yixing was gone. There’d be signs of his departure everywhere. The doors to wardrobe thrown open, a cup and plate in the sink and shoes missing from the door. They rarely ate together. Yifan was almost always was shoving toast into his mouth as he rushed out of the front door because he'd slept in ten minutes too late.

Yixing was in taking part in his first year working in the hospital, he made next to nothing as a junior doctor in China, especially when much of that was cancelled out to help pay off the bills he’d accumulated in medical school. He, too, worked long hours with his shifts of his rotations varying but he always favoured the early morning ones.

With Yixing’s job bringing in almost no income, Yifan worked his three jobs as much as he could. They wanted to, financially, breathe. It wasn’t like Yifan didn’t have his own debts to pay, especially given that he had ‘M.A.’ succeeding his name, and Yixing’s shift patterns were nowhere near as clearly mapped out as Yifan’s, leaving him to be the one to pick up the extra work to cover the costs their career incomes alone just weren't able to.

They were exhausted most of the time, hands shaking with coffee fixes, when they did see each other and their complaints were always bitten back. Yixing was taxed by the hours spent on his feet, the long periods of handling disgruntled patients and the emotional rollercoaster that appeared to elongate his day for him. Yifan was a bundle of pure exhaustion who had to fit work towards projects in around the three of his jobs, eating and sleeping. Their stress was equal and shared, leaving them both able to focus on everything but their tiredness when they were together.

Nevertheless, time spent together was time sleeping, there was no other way to put it. They usually either ate alone or in transit, they tried to call each other to check-in when they both could get a five-minute break here or there. Other than that, Yifan had no idea what was going on in Yixing’s life.

Despite having both their names on the lease to the apartment, they rarely interacted and Yifan’s mind thought back to their desperation to be independent. He considered how they should have stayed with their parents until they were more secure in their jobs, hauling in income that could actually sustain them in the long run and let them relish in the alone time they could have.

When Yifan got to the front door, with his key hovering in front of the lock, he stopped to close his eyes for a few minutes. He leant his forehead on the door, taking in deep breaths to clear away the longing to be closer to his boyfriend, because a little time apart as they worked for their future was better than nothing at all. They needed to work to get that security they craved.

He waited two minutes, maybe three, before unlocking the door and stepping in. At first, he was too tired to notice that the television was on, that there were sounds of recorded sword clashes and the telltale noises of buttons being aggressively pressed on a controller. Yifan only really noticed all of it when it came to a halt. When the noises faded to nothing, he looked up from where he'd turned to lock the door behind himself and there Yixing was, sat on their crumbling sofa with a controller in his hand and sleepiness darkening his eyes.

With the lock latched, Yifan made his way to his boyfriend and his heart warmed at the lazy smile he was on the receiving end of. Only the light of the television illuminated the room, casting half of Yixing's face in blue light and leaving the rest in relative darkness, it softened his features up even further and Yifan wanted to kiss his smile so desperately.

"What are you doing still up?" Yifan checked the watch on his wrist. "Your shift starts in like two hours."

"Somebody had to swap shifts so they could go to a meeting in the evening and I volunteered my slot to them," Yixing placed the controller down on the armrest and made room for Yifan to sit beside him. "I thought it would be nice to see you when you came in, so I stayed up."

"You look exhausted, though," Yifan sank down to the edge of the couch cushion and ran his fingers below Yixing's left eye were his tiredness showed up like a purple bruise. "You should spend any of your free time sleeping, especially when you're so burnt out."

Yixing smiled, he wasn't offended by Yifan's words but appeared warmed by them. Yifan wasn't scolding him, Yifan wasn't saying he wasn't handsome when tired and he wasn't saying he didn't want to see Yixing when he came in—because he really did. Nothing could compare to that gentle wave of love that hit him when he met eyes with his boyfriend. Yifan was showing that he cared, that he loved, too.

"I thought we could play for a while," Yixing turned to pick up the controller from behind his back prior to bending down to grab the second one that had been unused since they moved into the apartment in June. "We haven't battled in a while, I thought it could be nice to just be stupid for a bit."

The younger held out the controller with a look of hope that had Yifan snatching the device from his hand faster than Yixing could blink, making Yixing laugh cutely as he changed the gameplay to two-players. Yifan could forget all about his body wanting to hibernate when he settled back on the sofa, the younger's legs in his lap as they ran around a fantasy land slaying creatures here, there and everywhere. Yixing's feet twitched out in short kicks when he got into the battle, his swelling determination expending itself by forming bruises on Yifan's thighs. Not that Yifan could feel it with how his entire body tensed up, only his fingers moving around the controller with urgency and his heart beating fast whenever he grew close to dying.

Yixing was always flicking through his cards, trying to get the most effective strike on his opponent and Yifan always tried to follow suit, despite his style being one of keeping consistency so he knew exactly what was where for when he needed it.

By the time they'd finished playing, they'd cleared round upon round of battle time with them both a little high from the adrenaline that came from playing in a digital world. Yixing, who had moved to lean on Yifan's shoulder as they saved the game, hummed tonelessly before stretching out. Instead of coiling his arms back in, he left both his hands on Yifan's shoulder in a loose hold.

"Do you want me to carry you to bed?" Yifan asked, putting their controllers on the floor and looking down at Yixing.

"I'm fine here." Yixing shuffled even closer, half sitting on Yifan's lap and half out of it. "I've not been able to do this for a while, my Yifan related HP is down so I need to refill."

Yifan snorted but still wrapped one arm around his boyfriend's waist, drawing him those final inches closer until they were snuggling up on the sofa with the summer sun quickly rising outside the window.

They probably should have slept far earlier and yet, staying right where they were was what they wanted even more than rest. It was a short time of escapism, they'd lost themselves in a fantasy battle game and didn't want to re-enter the world where they had all their responsibilities and human exhaustion. There were no Elixirs in real life, there were no instant boosts and there was no ability to truly turn it all off.

"I miss doing this," Yifan hummed, Yixing's head shifted to look up at him and Yifan turned to meet his eyes again. "Remember how in school we would stay up after our finals, eating pizza and playing games until we fell asleep on the floor?"

Yixing smiled, he nodded. It was probably in those times where they fell in love, they'd spent hours gaming on Yifan's old PlayStation, getting to know the uglier sides of one another through it. Yixing learnt about how much of a sore loser Yifan was when they played one another, how Yifan would take Yixing's controller and hold it high above his head so Yixing couldn't even jump to get it, just so he could win. (Though, Yixing would always find a way to get Yifan to lower his arms, mostly by kissing.)

Yifan saw how Yixing would yell at the screen, how Yixing would go from sitting to standing to walking right in front of the television, like getting closer would help him win, and how he'd never be above randomly kissing Yifan if Yifan had a higher kill count.

It had been such a long time since they'd been able to afford new games, most of the ones they had were gifts Yifan had received from family members when they couldn't think of anything else to buy him on special occasions. There weren't many games in their collection, most of them had been played through a few times by the both of them and, despite the nostalgia they brought, they were growing repetitive.

With how stretched their budget was, Yifan knew they would be unable to buy new things for a while.

Yixing shifted at his side a little, letting out a yawn that blew hotly across Yifan's bicep where his short sleeved uniform didn't cover and he knew it was time to break out of the glowing world they'd built up for a little. Yifan stretched first, making Yixing's arms fall off his shoulders and Yixing took it as his cue to stand up, clicking his spine in the process.

They made their way into the bedroom, shifting out of their clothes and crawling up the mattress with groans of thankfulness. When they were laid flat out, Yixing half on top of Yifan's chest and Yifan's waist twisted to direct towards Yixing, they kissed ever so gently. It was too tired to be anything other than a cluster of pecks on lips, their breathing heavy and their eyelids even more so. Even if they had broken out of their post-game induced calm, they could evade everything just by being close to one another.

 

{to select a weapon, use the d-pad}

 

It was a Thursday, and September was so very nearly upon them, by the time they were able to have some time off together. The half day was spent shopping, both of them nibbling their lips as they went searching for groceries in the closest market, their phones in hand with their calculators open as they tried to keep to their two-weekly budget of three-hundred yuan. Yifan was stood comparing the prices and deals between two vegetable vendors when Yixing disappeared off into the crowd.

Yifan wasn't worried about where Yixing was, the younger could easily look after himself and Yifan had been the one to charge his boyfriend's phone during the night, so he knew he could easily call him when they were ready to meet again. He only went searching for the other when all their vegetables were bought, as Yixing was supposed to be handling where they'd get their meat from, but when Yifan checked the stores and stalls, Yixing was nowhere to be found.

Sighing, Yifan took out his phone to dial Yixing's number but stopped himself when he saw a flash of bare arms across the road. With almost everybody else dressed in longer sleeves, Yifan knew it was likely to be his boyfriend because he'd left the house in nothing other than a sleeveless t-shirt and loosely fitted jeans. Plus, Yifan had Yixing's sweater draped over his own shoulder, meaning that the sight of skin often meant Yixing.

He followed where he'd seen the person disappear, finding that he'd entered a store that was crammed between others in the street almost claustrophobically. The tall male looked over the top of racks until he saw black hair that was starting to spring up into curls from where it had been straightened that morning. He made his way through the store and started laughing when he saw that Yixing was looking in awe at the wide selection of PlayStation games.

"Hey," Yifan chuckled out, stepping towards his boyfriend who was reaching out for the single Child of Light case they had, "that's not meat."

Yixing jumped slightly and looked across to Yifan, dropping his hand to his side with a bashful chortle.

"I was just looking," was his excuse.

"I didn't know you looked at things with your hands."

"Don't be smart, Yifan," Yixing grumbled as his expression flattened comically. "I wanted to see the back of it. So many people talked about it on the internet when it came out and I wanted to know more."

"Sure you did," the elder shuffled closer and draped the arm that wasn't carrying their vegetables over his boyfriend's shoulder. "I think your obsessive side would appear with this game. Like it did with The Last of Us."

"I think The Last of Us was a fluke. And it was not an obsession, what are you talking about?"

Yifan shot the other a confused look, not knowing how skipping meals and sleep to complete a game around his classes wasn't an obsession. Yifan couldn't get Yixing out of his university dorm at any cost when he was absorbed in The Last of Us.

"I had to force spray deodorant on you because you hadn't moved from that spot in my dorm for four days, Yixing. You were definitely obsessed."

Yixing laughed, Yifan knew the dimple and the eye glint were there, even without looking.

"That's when I knew it was true love," Yixing peered up. "You weren't completely repulsed by me being like that."

"Oh, I was," Yifan assured him, causing the younger to frown. "You smelt so bad that I couldn't get close enough to break up with you."

"You dick," Yixing twisted and hit Yifan's chest with a half-hearted slap as Yifan's laugh rumbled around in his throat. "Well, I know the truth now and I'll remember this our years to come, Yifan. Believe me, I will get my redemption."

Even though he was joking, Yifan couldn't help but feel his heart falter when Yixing mentioned them being together in the future so casually, like them actually breaking up was something that he hadn't considered to be a possibility. It was those short yet random instances that made Yifan feel like everything was worth it.

Yixing picked up the game, holding it in his hands until he sucked his teeth at the price stickered on the front of it. He put it back on the shelf, looking at it for a few more moments before focusing on Yifan again.

"Did you know they're going to be releasing a new Final Fantasy later this year? I'd love to be able to buy it, but I don't think we can. Especially if we can't even afford a game as cheap as Child of Light now."

Yifan watched how Yixing's expression turned somewhat solemn, not because he couldn't get the game but the realisation that they couldn't even scrape together the money for a two-year-old game, let alone any other comforts they could possibly want.

"Don't think about that right now and go barter with a butcher for some cheaper meat," Yifan put his hands on his boyfriend's hips and began to push him out of the store with gentle nudges. "We need protein more than we need Final Fantasy."

Yixing scoffed, looking at Yifan like he didn't even know who he was. "Are you sure of those words that just came out of your mouth? You would pick protein over Final Fantasy?"

"Yixing, you're a doctor, I'm ninety-nine percent certain that's not what you're supposed to be saying."

"Oh, shut up. You're not my boss."

 

{press l1 to choose ally technique}

 

"Whatcha doing?" Yifan heard a voice over the sound of the game playing in his earphones, making him pause the screen to look up to see Lu Han looming over the top of their cubicle divider.

Lu Han was Yifan's deskmate at the architecture firm, the son of a successful businessman and the only person who constantly pestered Yifan whenever he had the chance. His opening question of that day was a favourite of his, making Yifan cringe back as he put his phone down on the paper littered desk in front of him.

"Taking a bit of a break," Yifan lifted his mechanical pencil up and clicked the pump at the top.

"Playing a game?"

"Yeah," Yifan shrugged.

"I didn't take you as a gamer," Lu Han leant further into Yifan's cubicle.

Yifan locked his phone's screen and stretched upwards with an arch of his back. "I play a lot with Yixing."

"Who's Yixing?" Lu Han's head tilted to the side.

"My, uh, roommate," Yifan felt his stomach curl in on itself when he called Yixing that, he always hated not being able to be open with who Yixing really was to him, but it was just easier to say otherwise.

"I didn't know you had a roommate."

"You didn't know I liked to game either," Yifan hummed and turned back to the design he'd neglected for the temporary reprieve he could get from his game.

"This is all just a sign that we should get closer," the other argued and Yifan chuckled. "We've been sat next to each other for months and I didn't even know you lived with somebody."

"Split rents easier for those of us who aren't born into the Lu family. We can't all be you," Yifan dismissed and he knew Lu Han took no offence to it, especially since he laughed with a small clap.

"Ah, but you wish you were me. Everybody does."

Yifan shook his head. "No, it's okay, I'd much rather be tall, thanks."

"You're an asshole."

"A tall asshole."

"All the worse."

Yifan assumed Lu Han would go back to his work but the sight in his periphery of Lu Han moving around on his wheeled office chair was clear, he was moving closer to Yifan.

"Do you ever work?" Yifan's eyebrows furrowed and Lu Han smirked slightly when Yifan glanced back at him.

"I do, I merely much prefer annoying you whilst you're trying to work."

Yifan looked back at his desk and began to draw more lines along his ruler to add to the design of one of his projects, he ignored how Lu Han moved even closer to him and he groaned when a hand shot out to grab his phone. The taller whipped around on his own chair to see Lu Han pressing the home button to illuminate the screen, displaying a photo of Yixing pouting sleepily over a bowl of cereal.

"Is this Yixing?" Yifan didn't want to deny it and nodded. Lu Han smiled then howled, "Roommate, my ass. You two are dating, aren't you?"

Yifan licked his lips, reaching out for his phone and Lu Han held the device at arm's length. Yifan knew he could easily reach around the other and grab it back but nodded again instead. He wanted to see how Lu Han reacted and felt relieved when his colleague looked at the screen again, letting out a short: "Cute."

When the phone was returned, Yifan looked at the photo himself and bit back a smile as he took in the look of his boyfriend sat in his sleepwear, spoon halfway between his mouth and milk on the edge of his lip.

"So, you and Yixing like gaming..."

Lu Han was swinging on his chair and all Yifan wanted to do was finish his design, if he couldn't play his game in peace.

"Yes, we do."

"What kind of games?" Lu Han, Yifan could note, was in one of his frustrating moods that often had Yifan craving, in the strangest of ways, for his day at the firm to be over so he could escape off to the convenience store.

"I don't know, mainly sci-fi and fantasy ones," Yifan shrugged. "We tend to play anything we can get our hands on."

Lu Han continued spinning but stayed quiet for a short period of time, it left Yifan lulled into a false sense of security. He thought he could finish up his design and get it sent up to his supervisor to be checked over. It was very much his luck that Lu Han started up with his semi-annoying questioning.

"I guess you're aware of the new Final Fantasy game being released in November then?"

"Of course," Yifan nodded his head, remembering the way Yixing had frowned when he'd figured they couldn't really afford to shell out for another game. No matter how much they pined for it. "I think Yixing really wants it. He loved the last one."

"Do you think you'll get it when it comes out?"

Yifan considered biting back what was on the tip of his tongue but he guessed if his workmate hadn't judged him for dating Yixing then he was probably the less judgemental kind of person. "We can't get the money for it with how little we both earn right now."

"Oh, but I thought you had those other jobs?"

"I have them because I need them to help us cover the bills and school debts," he explained loosely and Lu Han stopped in his chair.

He looked almost distraught. "Wait? You can't even spare the money to get a video game?"

Yifan shook his head, "If you dare offer to buy it for us then I'll take all the graphite out of your pencils for as long as we work next to each other."

"I wasn't even going to offer, don't know where you got that from. Plus, I guess I just assumed you did all that stuff to have more disposable income," Lu Han detailed, shock rimming his eyes and Yifan twisted to look at the other with more precision. "I never thought it was because you needed that as money to cover the cost of your necessities."

"Like I said before, we can't all be you."

"But, still," Lu Han moved back to his desk but stayed directed towards Yifan in on his seat, not even making it look like he was doing any work. "I really hope you get promoted soon or something, so you can get yourself and your boyfriend that game. I don't think I can get my head around the fact that the cost of that game isn't even loose change for me and here you are, not being able to buy it for your boyfriend."

Instead of being affronted by his deskmate's words, it had the part of Yifan's mind that had been whirring thoughts around pertaining to how he could get the game for Yixing suddenly snapped things into place. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. Sat somewhat scruffily in there were small denomination notes, mainly jiao and a few yuan but Yifan thought things through. He and Yixing withdrew all of their money to pay for things in cash as often as they could, safe with the knowledge that they could keep better track of their money with it physically in front of them and very much countable.

They both got change back, they both tended to use it for smaller things like their transport passes, lunch and bottles of water to take to work with them.

He did the maths in his mind, taking into account what he spent on a monthly basis on things he could cut back further on. He also guessed that if he picked up a few hours more on the ends of shifts in any of his jobs then that would help that little bit more.

Yifan didn't even hear Lu Han as he got out his notepad and scribbled down everything he could reduce expenditure on, from the cheap shaving foam to the meals he bought between jobs. He concentrated on formulating his list, on making Yixing happy and on seeing that glimmer of joy in his boyfriend's eye as they played games in the dark.

Nibbling on his lip, he tentatively reached for his desk calendar and counted the days between that date and the release date, his heart weakened a little when he'd calculated that his plan wouldn't work in time. That was until he saw a second date, one listed in December and he felt his heart race as everything began to add up to be near enough.

He was a couple of yuan out without picking up a few more hours at his other jobs. Howbeit, there was a real possibility he could get the money in time, that he would be able to make it. His entire body thrummed with a contentedness that he'd not had since he received his Master's degree in Architectural Design, it was that pleasant him of achievement.

A hand hit the centre of his back, successfully nudging the delight away from his heart and out of his mouth in a choke. "Why are you ignoring me?"

"Can you not just leave me alone for like two seconds to think?" Yifan was playful in his quip, making Lu Han hit his back again.

"You make it sound like I should have better things to do with my time other than to make your working life here a misery."

"Strange that, isn't it? Having more to do at work than distract your colleague, Mr Han," a third voice interjected and Yifan knew it was their supervisor without looking. "I'm almost certain you have a project that's in for this Friday and your design sheet is looking rather bare."

Lu Han slunk back to hunch over his desk like a scolded small child and Yifan smiled as he turned back to his own design to add the final details.

"Nice work, Yifan," his supervisor rubbed his shoulder. "I'm sure your design will do well with the bosses."

It was a strange occurrence for Yifan to turn up at his second job with a smile stretched across his face and that didn't fade, in fact, it grew wider when he returned back to his apartment to see Yixing holding both controllers in his hands and a game paused on the screen.

 

{press r1 to lock onto the enemy}

 

Yifan looked at the small pile of notes that he had accumulated in one of his shoes at the bottom of his closet. It was Yixing's birthday and they'd both made it clear that they weren't buying one another birthday gifts because money was even tighter than when they went to school. But still, Yifan had found himself taking money out of his small fund to buy his boyfriend a cream cheese frosted cupcake as a celebratory gift. It was the tiniest of gestures but Yixing smiled as if Yifan had given him the world along with that tiny cake.

It drove him to anticipate the gift that would be handed over at a later date, the one that had that tiny bit more significance to the both of them. Whilst Yixing had whined and complained about Yifan working even more than he had done before, it was worth it to see his bundle of notes slowly increase in size. He was just shy of being a quarter of the way to the amount he needed and he was running on time with the mediocre deposits he could make.

That didn't mean that his stomach didn't flip around when the stove made a concerning noise or the shower rattled like the head would fly off, they could barely afford to fix or replace things as they were. They certainly did not need him taking out the odd five or ten yuan out of his daily allowance they would have to cover those costs.

Still, Yixing's birthday was a morning spent in their pyjamas playing Skyrim until their thumbs jammed in place. Their afternoon was devoted to playing Need for Speed against one another, it led to them both kicking and shoving with more playful ferocity than would be expected from two people who were in love. Yixing got ready for his night shift at the hospital as Yifan prepared himself for an eight-hour slot at the convenience store, they walked out onto the street with their hands clasped tightly together and parted ways just before Yifan's work came into view.

The night passed slowly and Yifan made sure to walk past the store that would soon house the game he wanted to buy Yixing. It had his fingers tingling in anticipation as his wallet was weighted with those few extra notes from the day. He felt like a child, his hands pressed on the glass with his face barely an inch away from it. Even with the security shutters down, he could pick out exactly where it would be placed amongst the shelves. It would have its own stand when it was in the stages of being newly released. If Yifan had enough money when it happened he could probably pick it up from one of those stands.

All he could think about on the walk back towards his home was Yixing's face, the look of renewed and refreshed excitement that Yifan hadn't seen in far too long. It bubbled up within him, his hands jittered as he ran his fingers along the walls of buildings and his entire body sang with the want to make Yixing happy.

When Yifan eventually got back to the apartment, Yixing was curled up in a little ball in the middle of the mattress. Such an action left Yifan to crawl in behind him, wrap his body around his boyfriend's and whisper a soft 'happy birthday' into the back of his neck. He replaced his words with a kiss on the younger's skin, hoping everything would work out for the best.

 

{hold square to take cover, only if near cover}

 

It was rare for Yixing to clean, the only rarer thing was for Yixing to clean Yifan's things, so when Yifan walked into the apartment in the evening of a Saturday in late October, he choked. Yixing was sat in front of their wardrobe, folding and organising what Yifan had avoided to do during their summer move. He was pulling each item out individually to neaten up the storage cupboard, all Yifan felt was his stomach move with the motions of Yixing's hands as the dread rose up his windpipe.

"Oh, I left you some dinner," Yixing's voice was light, which would be heavenly on a normal day. However, he was sat within two feet of Yifan's shoe-cum-piggy bank. "Sorry for not waiting, but today was hellish. I only had a bagel for lunch and I was ready to eat a scabby horse and its rider by the time I got home."

Yifan frowned, not because of the imagery his boyfriend had conjured but because he really needed to make sure the money was left undiscovered. He'd never considered the idea that Yixing would ever get close to finding it. They may share clothes and live on top of one another but almost all other items were sacred. Privacy, they had both outlined early on in their relationship, was healthy for a couple. It helped maintain individuality whilst allowing for things to be shared, but only if they were offered.

So Yixing reaching out for the shoes Yifan had worn to his post-graduate graduation was enough to have his head spinning.

"'Scabby horse'?" Yifan's mouth ran as he approached his boyfriend. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"I've been looking up slang around the world during my breaks at work and apparently it's something British people say when they're hungry. I think there are a few variations but they involve scabby horses in each."

Yifan was beginning to sweat, Yixing was getting closer to the old basketball shoe filled with bills and Yifan just couldn't cross the distance between them fast enough. "Why not just say you're hungry as a horse?"

"Why be hungry as a horse when you can be hungry for a horse?"

Once Yixing was within reaching distance, Yifan's hands shot out and grabbed at the shined leather shoe. He held it to his chest and began to push Yixing away from the front of the closet. Yixing had an affronted expression on his face and Yifan's guilt welled, though it was still drowned out by the ocean of fear that jabbed at Yifan internally. There a couple of seconds before Yixing's countenance was exchanged for something different once more, he started to move closer to Yifan with his palms showing. It was entirely open, a display of Yixing having taken no offence to how Yifan had acted, it was something else.

"Are you okay?" Yixing was concerned. Of course, Yixing would be concerned if Yifan suddenly barged in front of him somewhat aggressively, it wasn't in Yifan's nature to be so harsh. "I was just trying to sort out the mess."

"I know," Yifan's forehead felt hot. "It's just..." He was struggling to find the words and Yixing reached out to place a hand on his bicep, causing his brain to work overtime and spew out something half believable. "I said I'd do this when we first moved in, it seems a bit unfair that you're doing it. You've probably been doing rounds all day—or observing in surgery—and you shouldn't have to come home and clean my mess."

Yixing's face spread into a grin as he stepped closer to Yifan, he took the shoe from Yifan's hands and kissed Yifan's sternum through his shirt.

"How about this, I'll go make sure your food is warm then I'll come back and we'll do this together?"

Yifan licked his lips, he knew Yixing was only suggesting it so that they could spend some time together but Yifan just wanted to get Yixing as far as possible away from Yifan's section of all the shoes as soon as he could.

"That sounds great," Yifan's smile wasn't faked or forced, but it should have been.

Once Yixing left the room, having put Yifan's graduation shoe back and turned the slight corner to go to the kitchen, Yifan scrambled to get the basketball shoe out of the wardrobe and get the money out within an instant. Yixing was humming over the sounds of bowls clinking and pans clattering, Yifan could hear it so sharply that it was jarring him from thinking of a decent hiding place for the handfuls of small bills that he had. It was a stroke of luck that he could see the entire room from where he was stood.

Glancing frantically around, Yifan saw a row of gold plated, and extremely gaudy, trophies on the window sill. Each one was inscribed with Yixing's name. The younger had been a spectacular dancer in his university days, clawing in trophies and small cash prizes all through the years. The reason why they were so perfect for Yifan? They were hollow, they had been untouched since they'd moved in and, finally, Yixing hated them.

The only reason why the mementoes had travelled with them was because Yifan had packed them, Yixing had wanted to throw them out but Yifan, he was sentimental. The elder of the two loved being able to see his boyfriend's achievements right in front of him every day, so they sat in pride of place at the window.

With his hands still clenched around the money, Yifan knocked one of the badly coloured lids off the roundest of the prizes and stuffed the bills into it. He replaced the lid and dashed his way back to the wardrobe. The tall male only had time to sparingly wipe the tiny beads of sweat from his temples before Yixing entered the room with the simple broth they ate every other day of the week.

"Dinner's ready," Yixing sat down on the floor with Yifan's bowl in his hands, peering up at the standing man with his dimple displayed like a prize itself. "I guessed we could eat here and not in the kitchen."

Yixing still wanted to spend time with Yifan and the panic was ebbing away with every breath Yifan took. "That sounds great."

The elder moved to sit down next to his boyfriend and Yixing's fingers ghosted over Yifan's forehead, his face creased with worry and Yixing laid his palm down flat with a shift in his expression. Like he was calculating. "Are you okay, Yifan? You've got sweat on your hairline and your face is boiling. Do you feel like you're getting a fever?"

"I'm fine," he tried to reassure the other, who had moved his hands around to feel at Yifan's cheeks with the backs of his fingers. "It might just be from where I came up the stairs before coming in."

"Are you sure?" Yixing moved even closer, cupping Yifan's face with his hands with a serious yet sincere look in his eyes. "You've been working hard recently and exhaustion can lead to a weakened immune system, so you need to be careful. Plus, this winter is supposed to be rather mild, which won't kill off the viruses and bacteria floating around."

The guilt that had been dulled by fear came back like a tsunami, Yixing looked so saddened by the mere chance of Yifan growing sick that it melted his heart straight into that expanding pool of dislike of keeping things from his boyfriend. "It's okay, Xing. I'm sure I'm fine."

"You'll take a break, won't you? If it all gets too much," Yixing ran his thumbs over Yifan's cheekbones in a tender way Yifan knew he would never get used to. "Your health is what's important to me, so don't work yourself to the bone."

In a momentary lapse where all he could see was Yixing, Yifan let himself smile goofily at the affection he was being shown. "But if I do become ill, I've got you to nurse me back to health."

Yixing blinded Yifan with his smile in that moment, leaving Yifan speechless as the other nodded his head.

"Of course, I'll always make sure you get better," Yixing released Yifan's face and kissed his cheek. "Now, eat your food. It'll make me worry less."

 

{hold circle to sprint}

 

Yixing watched the people queueing up in the store and Yifan observed Yixing. It was unmistakable how Yixing appeared to itch with want as he witnessed people buy the new Final Fantasy game. His fingers fidgeted and his eyes blinked rapidly, those were the telltale signs. Similarly, Yifan nibbled on his lip, almost drawing blood as he tried to keep a mental tally of how long it would take him to have the money to buy the full game. There was nothing stranger than how it had dwindled down from months to weeks and was quickly verging upon days before Yifan could get his hands on that plastic case.

"Wouldn't you just love to get that deluxe edition?" Yixing didn't look at Yifan as he spoke but he knew the question was certainly directed at him. "Look at that cover art, all those blues and pinks."

"I would," Yifan agreed and Yixing reached out towards one of the shelves to get a copy.

"Do you think they would notice if I just took this?" Despite his tone and playful action of pretending to tuck the game down his shirt, Yifan heard the jest in Yixing's words and plucked the game straight out of the other's hand.

The whining noise Yixing made as he was parted with the case made Yifan's heart more resolute in its want to see Yixing happy whenever he could. The game was placed back amongst the others that were quickly being snapped up by other players, Yixing looked more and more heartbroken as the numbers left behind dwindled down to almost nothing.

"Why did we come to watch this? It's just torture," Yixing sighed, turning to Yifan and tucking himself as close as he could into the taller's side. "Whose idea was it anyway? Whoever it was should be punished. God, who would do this to themselves?!"

"Uh, it was yours," Yifan pointed out and Yixing huffed, knowing Yifan was right but not wanting to admit it. "Don't worry, Xing, we'll own it one day."

"Yeah, when you build your first skyscraper and I finally get clients for the bonuses at work," Yixing leant his cheek against Yifan's shoulder, whining through his exaggeration. "How long will it take us to get there? I don't want to only be watching as these things happen, I want to be one of those people who gets here first thing in the morning with enough money in the bank to buy every copy the store has."

"We'll get there," Yifan draped his arm over his boyfriend's shoulder to give him that little bit more comfort. "Nothing we do now will be fruitless."

"I know, I know," Yixing nodded, he sounded tired and well on the way to being worn out. "It's so stupid. I just wish we were comfortable enough to buy big release games when they come out, I like what it means to us and how it links to those long nights after we just got together. It's important to me."

Yifan kissed the crown of Yixing's head, not minding so much if people saw, as he was swiftly nudging his boyfriend from the store and onto the crowded streets. They walked home quietly, Yixing frowning at his thoughts and Yifan wanted to tell Yixing what he had planned. He needed to make his boyfriend light up and knew of no other way to do so. In actuality, he wanted to dig down and rectify things so that Yixing, and himself, had that cushion of security beneath for the sole purpose of being able to do dumb things like play video games for hours on end.

As if it wasn't already beforehand, Yifan's heart was steadfast in its want to give his boyfriend the ability to have something as materialistically small as a PlayStation game and see that smile that was worth more than anything else in Yifan's world.

That night, Yifan worked some impromptu paid overtime, it wasn't a lot but it was that few more yuan that he could really use to speed up the process. He got home two hours later than normal, he found Yixing curled up at the arm of the couch with two controllers in his lap and the television still on. He'd waited up for Yifan and Yifan hadn't shown, the guilt from the day when he was almost caught with the money returned. It was a tiny amount. It was just enough.

"I waited up for you," Yixing sleepily mumbled as Yifan lifted him up to carrying him to their bed. "I waited."

And Yifan knew Yixing would have waited until the sun rose for him.

"I know, baobei," he muttered. "I know."

 

{press r2 to open item menu}

 

Lu Han was stuck to Yifan's side, December had brought the winter cold November had lacked, and the two of them were walking through the streets on their lunch break. Yifan had a backpack over one shoulder that was rammed full of one, five, ten and twenty yuan notes until it came to the price of the game Yifan had seen online. His coworker was only there for the ride, knowing he'd just get bored without Yifan at his desk.

They got to the store and it was almost deserted. Not that Yifan took any notice, due to the fact he'd spied the game, much like a magpie clocked onto a diamond from a distance. He honed in on the packaged item and picked it up with both of his hands, he checked the price once more and he was sure he had enough in his bag to afford it.

He was as excited, if not more, like he was going to be the one receiving the gift and Yifan guessed that, in a sense, Yixing's moment of joy would be his present.

With his lungs full of air that he'd sucked in so deep that his body ached, Yifan approached the counter and placed everything down. He swung the bag from his shoulder around and began to open it up, he was far too animated to feel the embarrassment of paying completely in such small notes. The cashier looked surprised but didn't laugh or comment, he merely began to count out whatever was being handed over to him.

Yifan dug his fingernails into his palms once the final notes had been given over, he looked at the electric payment summary attached to the cash register and felt his whole world implode as he saw that he stilled owed one-hundred and seven yuan. He desperately wanted the game and there was no way he could get that money before he had planned to give his gift over to Yixing. He panicked, he fumbled around to search his wallet and found nothing but his bank card, one which was of no help because where was barely anything kept in there, and his emergency credit card.

There was no way Yifan could justify buying a game for a gift, for Yixing or not, enough to buy it with his credit card. It left him wanting to cry right there in the store, he had tried so hard and still hadn't managed to do something that would make his boyfriend feel that tiny bit better about their current lives. He bit the insides of his cheek, not looking the cashier in the eye and shifted to dig his fingers into his thighs instead.

Just as Yifan was about to retract from the transaction, he heard a loud groan and rustling behind him. In the flurry of wanting to pick up the game and finally buy it, he'd almost forgotten about his workmate's presence. Especially since he had been so quiet as he ghosted Yifan around the store, which was completely out of character.

A plastic card, one that was well worn with use, was thrust forward and Lu Han practically elbowed Yifan out of the way.

"You owe me," the shorter said over his shoulder as he moved to complete the payment.

Yifan stared at Lu Han in shock, not quite knowing how to handle the situation. On the one hand, the game was being paid for and Yifan could indulge in that look on Yixing's face. On the other, Yifan knew that the game wouldn't be the fruits of his own hard work that he could hand over in a single object to the person he loved.

"Don't overthink this, Wu," Lu Han warned as he picked up the game and placed it into Yifan's now empty backpack. "I know that if the roles were ever reversed, you'd pay for me. And anyway, it's just over a hundred yuan, that's nothing for me right now."

Yifan didn't want to say it but it meant everything to him. That one-hundred yuan was so incredibly important to him, it was his chance to spoil his boyfriend with something he truly deserved and Yifan did not want to blow it.

Instead, he unhinged his fingers from his legs to take the bag that Lu Han held out to him, he held it so tightly in his fist until his knuckles turned white. He didn't know what to do, or what to think, as he was laden with the shock of Lu Han's apparent kindness. He had to be pushed out of the store by Lu Han and encouraged down the street, otherwise, he would have been there all day.

When Yifan could finally ask him why, Lu Han had a mischievous expression draped over his features. "I only did this for the cutie that's on your phone. If he can put up with you, he deserves this game just for that. And, I guess, if you can put up with me chatting your ear off for hours, you do too."

To that, Yifan couldn't argue. Yixing deserved everything he wanted in life and if Yifan could give it to him, even if it was with a little bit of help, that would be fulfilment enough.

 

{press x to attack}

 

It was never understood why Yifan's mother insisted on putting all of his gifts into bags instead of wrapping them. Or just handing them to Yifan as they were. There was, however, one advantage to that approach. Yifan had a mountain of gift bags to choose from to place the game into. He worked quietly as Yixing had disappeared off into the kitchen on Christmas morning. He removed the tag that had addressed the bag to Yifan and followed after his boyfriend, holding the gift behind his back until he was stood almost directly behind Yixing.

"Xing," Yifan began and he was amazed by the lack of nerves in his stomach. "I know we don't really celebrate Christmas and we said that we wouldn't buy gifts at all this year for any occasion, but I really couldn't resist."

Yixing turned to regard Yifan curiously, he seemed to process Yifan's words as if he was speaking in tongues with no way of deciphering what was happening. So, to help out his boyfriend, Yifan took the bag out from where it was hidden in his hands and held it forwards to the other. The shorter male took it and held it with his fingers, just glancing back and forth between Yifan's face and the bag that dangled between them.

After a few moments and an awkward shift on his feet from Yifan, Yixing put his right hand into the bag and drew out the game.

The reaction was instantaneous. The long high-pitched noise that broke off halfway through pierced Yifan's hearing enough that he could hardly hear the clattering of the game touching the floor. Yixing jumped on the balls of his feet once before bending down to pick the game up with both of his hands. He held it up, admiring it like it was an oracle from a god then looking at Yifan with a horror the elder would normally have laughed at.

"Yifan, how did you afford this?" Yixing moved one of his hands to twine his fingers with Yifan's in a sign of confused gratitude. "You surely couldn't have bought this."

"I was saving for a few months," he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand. "Lu Han helped me out a bit but he's getting his payback by making me some kind of problem solver to his designs."

"But how?" Yixing asked. "Yifan, how could you afford this?"

"I worked," was all he could say because Yixing was crying, the damp in his eyes was swelling up until they spilt over.

The younger male latched onto Yifan, his arms tight and his body making Yifan lean back slightly to compensate for the centre of balance shift. The shorter lavished Yifan in kisses, the game never once leaving his hand and Yifan knew he'd never forget that moment. Neither of them would.

Yixing was crying, the wetness was felt on Yifan's shirt and he made sure to hold Yixing as closely to his chest as was physically possible. Yifan had anticipated yells and maybe a few kisses, but to have Yixing crying, he felt torn. He knew it couldn't be anything other than happiness that Yixing felt, but his tears must have been the stress applied with the need to do better by the both of them. They were the build up of what had been happening to the both of them, that stagnation where neither knew the outcome or where they were headed tied hand-in-hand to an underlying anxiety.

With one gift, Yifan had managed to show how their burdens weren't handled alone, they were split down the middle to take the weight from one another every so often.

That moment, even though it was marked out by fantasy world created in pixels and code, was that feeling of having a lock slide peacefully once the key had been turned. The game may not have been much, physically, it was the catalyst of Yixing unleashing that feeling he shared with Yifan but also the sign that things could get better.

Yifan had worked himself to the point where all he wanted to do was rest his aching body from the stresses of going for hours on end in a single time. It was worth it, though. To have that snippet in time to happen just between the two of them, that was far more rewarding than Yifan had dreamed it to be. There was no way to top that feeling. He didn't think about proposing, or being proposed to, could bring them closer than Yixing deflating on his chest on that late December morning.

"I didn't even think to get you anything," the shorter sniffled as he pulled away from the taller. "I feel so guilty now."

The elder lifted a hand to run it through Yixing's hair, loving how Yixing leant into the touch with closed eyes for a couple of seconds. "Don't feel guilty, I kept this from you for a reason and I think it's better like this. You didn't expect it and it still happened. It's my Christmas gift to you."

Yixing lifted himself up and kissed Yifan directly on the mouth, letting their lips warm and soothe each other. The younger was still recovering from his small burst of emotion, his breath stuttered whilst remaining hot and wet on Yifan's mouth. A tongue, Yifan couldn't recall whose, flicked out experimentally until they were in one another's mouths. It was then Yifan placed his arms around his boyfriend's neck and the younger let his slip down to hold around Yifan's waist, the game pressing on Yifan's back.

"I hope you know that I'm going to play this until we're both sick to death of it," Yixing whispered against Yifan's lips. "Get the deodorant ready, because this is going to be far longer than a four-day stint."

"Not so fast," Yifan tilted his head further down to Yixing, "I'm joining you this time."

"We'll never leave if one of us isn't responsible," Yixing smiled, his lips were wet with tears and their mixed saliva. Not that Yifan cared, his boyfriend was the epitome of happiness.

"Then we'll stay here forever. Together."

Yixing snorted, it was an ugly sound to hear but it spurred warmth from within Yifan that transformed it to become something endearing. "Please hold back on the cheesy comments, I don't want to vomit before we play."

"I am trying to be romantic here," Yifan lamented fakely, letting it out a long sigh at the end.

"The only time you're romantic, and attractive, is when you're topping up my HP."

Yifan lifted one eyebrow, "Wow, Yixing, dirty talk in the kitchen. How scandalous."

The taller was shoved away sharply, choking off the laughs that were in his chest and Yixing was chuckling as he turned to head towards the television and gaming console.

"Normal new game rules?" Yixing asked, looking over to Yifan with a look of confidence.

"Of course, how else could we play?"

Whilst maintaining eye contact, they both recited the rules they'd set out the very first time they'd played Final Fantasy together: "First to die does the dishes, first to get all four-star element cards gets first dibs on dinner and any intentional sabotage means that we break up."

 

{hold square to defend}

 

Christmas became a more important affair between the two of them after that year; Yixing because he felt guilty for not gifting Yifan anything, and Yifan, because he wanted to get back that moment of happiness that he had been privy to before. Even as they were promoted and Yifan could drop down to just having one job, they only exchanged a single gift on Christmas day because it had to be a thoughtful one.

It was their sixth year of the tradition. They had a bigger apartment, a gaming collection that anybody would be in envy of and a diary, one with open slots of spare time to be spent playing, alone or together.

And still, Yifan knew there was something more missing. They were growing older and had still yet to advance any further in their relationship. Whilst their parents often pestered about them somehow getting married, the two of them had decided that it wasn't for them. Not yet, at least. They had never shut the idea down completely, but it wasn't something they wanted for them at that moment. 

Yifan's gift, for that year, hadn't been quite as considered as he would have wished. Nevertheless, it wasn't entirely thoughtless either. The discovery was all by chance, pure and honest. He had gone down to the building site of a project his company had been working on and walked past a row of stores. He'd ignored all of them in the beginning, only gaining the ability to let his curiosity roam once he'd straightened out a few structural issues with the contractor. On his way back, he took a little more time to appreciate everything surrounding the construction area and slowed his pace completely when he passed the select row of shops.

He had stepped into each of the stores, hoping look at a few things here and there until something caught his eye as the panic of a swiftly approaching Christmas set into his bones. When his eyes fell onto one thing in a shop he'd stepped so hesitantly into, he knew he had found the perfect present for Yixing. It was expensive, he could see that from where he stood at the other side of the shop floor, and yet, he was drawn to it.

Christmas was almost upon him and the world evolved into a winter palace of ice, but there was still no gift for Yixing beside their fireplace. With his eyes fixed on that one thing, Yifan approached the counter and spoke with the woman who appeared to be in charge.

Where the price of the gift would have once made Yifan splutter and want to cry, he could then confidently hand over his payment card and know that he could make that purchase without it keeping him up all night.

Keeping gifts from Yixing was the hardest part, but Yifan knew how to make it work.

Sometime around midday of Christmas day, the couple sat in their lounge and wait to exchange gifts with one another. They usually did it after breakfast, howbeit, Yifan's gift had needed some preparation in the morning, so they had decided to wait for a short while before opening up what was sat near their fireplace. (They always skipped out on the tree because Yixing complained about not having a real one, and refused a fake one until he'd experience the smell of real pine in their living room.)

Yixing's present to Yifan was, indeed, a thoughtful one. Yixing had bought Yifan a four-day beachside break for them to take in the spring. Apparently, it was much awaited after Yifan had caught a virus that had him bedridden for numerous days during the later days of November. Yixing had scolded Yifan for working at such cold building sites in nothing but his shirt and trousers, leading him to the conclusion that Yifan needed to head towards warmer climbs. Still, every morning that Yixing could, he would make sure Yifan was wrapped up warmly before heading out to work. The younger was only satisfied when Yifan was covered from head to toe to insulate him from the cold.

It was unwritten but they always competed to see who could get the most unexpected but caring gift possible. So, when Yifan handed Yixing the bag he'd used in the first ever year with the same game inside it, Yixing had looked aptly confused. Even though the game had turned into their own sacred crystal of sorts, it was unlikely to be what Yixing had expected. At all. Most lovingly, Yixing forced a smile onto his face like he could fake his usual brimming Christmas happiness, trying to see the meaning in the gift.

"Open the case," Yifan urged and Yixing did.

Instead of the disc falling out, something smooth, black and leather toppled onto Yixing's lap.

"You bought me a collar?" Yixing asked, fumbling on the metal name tag which only led to a deeper depression on his forehead as his eyebrows drew even closer together. "Noctis," he read. Everything on Yixing's face straightened out like he understood the meaning but fell right back into befuddlement within an instant. "Is this some kind of cosplay urge or your way of telling me that our sex-life is dead, so we need to spice it up with some roleplay?"

Yifan smiled and shook his head, taking Yixing by the hand to where they had a balcony protruding from their bedroom on the apartment block highrise they lived in. The blinds were lowered and Yifan had to give Yixing credit, he wasn't yet freaking out and was sure to take his time processing everything.

"Sit on the bed," Yifan instructed and the other did as he was asked.

The taller quickly left the bedroom and stepped out onto the balcony and picked up his gift, feeling how it squirmed slightly in his hand and when he returned to Yixing, the younger froze.

Noctis was a grey tipped Malamute with the fluffiest body Yifan had ever seen a dog have, and by the time Yixing had fully registered what Yifan had bought him, the puppy was licking over his face as Yifan held him out to his boyfriend. Yixing accepted Noctis with a grin. Yifan wanted to freeze-frame that moment in time when Yixing laughed out as the puppy licked his nose. The whole scene weakened Yifan, he knew that one more critical blow would have felled him where he stood.

Yixing looked down at the collar on his lap and asked Yifan to go over to hold the excitable puppy as Yixing fastened the soft leather around his neck. The younger looked at the name tag once more and started to chuckle to himself as Yifan cuddled up with the Malamute.

"You're the biggest dork for naming a dog after a Final Fantasy character, you know that, right?" Yixing queried and Yifan couldn't do anything other than nod.

"You can't say you wouldn't have done the same, though," Yifan scratched behind the puppy's ear affectionately, enjoying the small yip that was gifted in return. "He does look like a Noctis, just look at him. He has the dark silvery hair and everything, plus, I was thinking that if he ever fathered puppies of his own, we could name them Astrals because only he'd be able to summon them."

"I can't tell whether that's lame or cute."

"It's cute," Yifan beamed his reassurance down at the other.

"The jury is still out on that one, baobei. You can't decide that for yourself; you think that Worms is cute."

They placed the puppy down on the bed, playing around with it as it explored Yixing's scent, as he had already familiarised himself a little with Yifan. The puppy had razor sharp baby teeth, they nipped and drew a little blood with every odd bite. It was a delight for Yifan to be involved in, to see his boyfriend laughing with his face scrunched up as the puppy yipped and yowled at them. Though, it was barely two hours later when Noctis' eyes began to droop down in a way that had Yixing covering his hand because he could not handle the adorable sight of a tired and yawning puppy.

"At least you now have somebody to console you whenever I beat you when we play," Yixing whispered as the puppy plodded back to Yifan to cuddle up on his lap.

Yifan huddled the Malamute in his arms and smiled at his boyfriend, "Xing, there's a reason why I bought him for you. You're the one that needs him."

Yixing's eyes narrowed in on Yifan and they were both moving towards the living room, Noctis in hand, before the words, "Best of three?" left Yixing's mouth.