corde vult quod velit
They saw it in the lines of Jun Cheng’s body, how he suddenly relaxed, how his face softened, how his eyes got intense and fixated on their father. Jun Dao and Jun Ping exchanged looks. It wasn’t important anymore on which of their mothers their father had cheated on. They had to deal with more pressing matters. Jun Dao jumped forward as their father pulled out the photos of their maybe-brother and snatched them out of his hands. Both, Jun Cheng, and their father looked at him in surprise.
“So, who is this guy?”, he mumbled and ignored them, trying to get Jun Ping to get going. Jun Ping blinked at him for a moment but then positioned himself between him and their brother and started a discussion so Jun Dao could steal half of the photos and photograph the others with his phone.
“Who cares who he is anyway!”, Jun Dao exclaimed when he was done and threw the photos back on his father’s desk. “I don’t want to be CEO or have anything to do with this company. He can have it, gladly.”
Jun Cheng stared at him as if he couldn’t figure out what Jun Dao had said, but the longer he was confused the better. They had to act quickly otherwise someone was going to be dead soon.
“Let’s grab something for lunch and let them argue about it,” he announced and dragged Jun Ping with him out of the office. Their father’s secretary looked at them in bewilderment as they rushed past her to the elevators and after the doors closed Jun Ping looked at Jun Dao with big eyes.
“He’s going to kill him!”
“If he’s not our real brother, then yes.”
“We have to find him before he does.”
Jun Dao nodded and began sending messages to Xiang Shi in short intervals. They needed all the help they were able to get.
“I’m gonna ask Ah Rong, too. He’s really good at finding people on social media.”
Jun Dao nodded, and they hastily walked out of the elevator and out of the building. Jun Cheng most likely had better people for finding someone but—
“He found him!”, Jun Ping exclaimed as they climbed into Jun Dao’s car and happily shoved his phone against Jun Dao’s face.
“He’s at our college! He’s our senior!”
Relief flowed through Jun Dao. “Do we have an address?”, he asked and merged into traffic.
He saw out of the corner of his eyes how Jun Ping typed away on his phone and then made a triumphal sound.
“He has his address!” He punched it in the navigation system of the car, and they exchanged looks again but both knew this was the only way.
“Let’s go get him,” Jun Dao said and sped up.
Lin Xun had thought he was stronger. He hadn’t had lessons in self-defence but how hard could it be to throw some punches? Extremely hard as it turned out as he was ambushed by a guy who looked like he did golf for a living and a boy in the uniform of his college. He had no idea who they were.
Again, he tried to struggle against the ropes around his wrists and ankles but next to being experts in fighting they also knew how to tie a knot.
“Are you going to tell me why you kidnapped me?”, he asked because it was a bit disconcerting how they stood next to each other and stared at their phones as if they hadn’t thought about what they would do the moment they had him in their clutches. Maybe they realized they had the wrong person?
When they had dragged him inside the apartment the words ‘I don’t have any money’ had stuck in his throat because the living room was bigger than his whole apartment. Money wasn’t the problem.
“Hey! Why am I here?”
The younger one looked up and said: “It’s for your own protection.” Then towards the other guy, “Should Yue Rong buy the DNA kit online or…?”
“My own protection, what? Hey!! Hey, don’t go,” but the younger one already went, and Lin Xun had had the feeling that he had been the one who would have released him if he had begged long enough. But he wasn’t gone for long but came back and was followed by another guy in the uniform of their college, with a boyish face and a backpack.
“Is that Lin Xun?”, he asked excited and it convinced Lin Xun even more that he was in a nightmare.
“How do you know my name?”, Lin Xun asked and would have thrown his hands up if he could, but they ignored him.
The newcomer, Yue Rong was his name apparently, sat down on the couch and started to rummage around in his backpack. Please don’t let him pull out a gun, Lin Xun prayed and had to do a double take when he put a package on the table.
“We had a kit at home, already,” he explained and pushed the package towards the golf playing guy. “You know, from the time my cousin…”
“It’s not expired, right, can those tests expire?”
“What have you got there?”, Lin Xun asked and all of them turned to him. It was a bit eery but hopefully they would explain what they wanted from him.
“It’s a DNA test,” Yue Rong explained, and smiled brightly at him. Did he see that Lin Xun was roped against a chair? Or was that normal between them?
“What do you need that for?”
The guy who was completely dressed in white leaned back on the couch and eyed him with a frown: “Your name is Lin Xun, right?”
“And your mother is Cui Ying, right?”
The guy nodded as if that confirmed everything.
“Then there is a fifty-fifty chance that you’re our half-brother.”
Lin Xun blinked. What?
“There’s no chance,” he said, and his chest felt stuffed.
“Wouldn’t I know if I had any brothers?”
“Not if your mum cheated on your dad.”
“But I’m his spitting image?”
“Pictures can be photoshopped,” one of them said.
“Documents can be forged,” said the other one and it sounded like they read from a script.
Lin Xun opened his mouth again but… this was insane! He was talking to lunatics.
“Wait. Am I here so you can take my DNA?”
“Then why kidnapping me? You could have knocked! At my door and ask me!” He was a nice guy. A few weeks ago, he rescued someone from gangsters! He would have given them his DNA if they had asked.
“Oh, that’s not because of the DNA, that’s for your own protection.”
And they sounded like they believed it. He was baffled.
“You kidnapped me, for my own protection?”
They nodded in unison and it was again, very eery.
“If the DNA test proofs you are our brother everything is fine, if not we’re going to ship you somewhere safe, no worries.”
“I AM WORRIED!”
“No need to yell!”
The need to yell had never been greater, Lin Xun thought but he was surrounded by lunatics. He took a deep breath.
“Why is it so important that I’m your half-brother?”
“To protect you from me of course,” a voice said from the door and Lin Xun twisted his head back.
Lin Xun stared at the man who he had rescued a few weeks ago. It was really him! Yuan Jun Cheng! There even was a shadow of the bruise on his jaw. What was going on here?
“You need to use gloves if you want to take his DNA sample, otherwise, you will contaminate it,” he said and threw a package of disposable gloves on the table.
Lin Xun couldn’t believe it.
“I’m disappointed in you,” Jun Cheng said, and Lin Xun sighed in relief. Finally, someone with a braincell.
“Next time you kidnap someone don’t hide in one of my apartments if you don’t want me to find out about it.”
“Are you serious? That’s what you are disappointed about?”, Lin Xun asked in disbelief.
“It was just a precaution,” Jun Ping murmured and pushed a glass of water back and forth between his hands while he watched Jun Cheng looking through the DNA kit.
“We had no idea you already knew him.” He could have told them, right? Who didn’t tell their brothers they had been ambushed by their uncle?
“It doesn’t matter anymore, what’s done is done,” Jun Cheng said but threw him a look that clearly said he expected Jun Ping to do better the next time. Jun Ping didn’t plan on kidnapping anyone anytime soon again so…
“How long will it take until we have the test results?”
“I know a lab who can do the testing in 48 hours, they owe me a favour.”
“You want to keep Lin Xun here until we have the results?”, he asked and looked back at Lin Xun who still sat on a chair, with tied legs and arms, and glared at them.
Lin Xun turned his head because it clearly was a lost cause to try to make their heads explode with his thoughts and started to stare at the guys in front of him.
“All of this because I called your father?”, he asked and his mind still hurt a bit from the explanation four people had tried to tell, simultaneously.
“Who might maybe be your father, too,” the one in white, who had introduced himself as Jun Dao, said.
“He really isn’t,” Lin Xun said but already accepted that his counterarguments were a lost cause. “Look. Take my DNA. I don’t care. I want to have it confirmed that I’m not part of the crazy Yuan family as fast as possible, but do you really need to tie me up for it?”
Jun Dao threw a quick look to where his older brother prepared the DNA testing kit.
“It doesn’t really matter anymore, I guess. He knows who you are anyway…so—”
All the heads turned to the door and Lin Xun wanted to groan. How could there be more of them?
“Hey Xiang Shi,” Yue Rong said from behind his laptop as if this was a cosy brunch. The man with a blue button down and a sweater around his shoulders started to massage the bridge of his nose and held up a hand when Jun Dao wanted to say something.
“Whatever you think was a good reason for doing this,” he said, walked forward and punched Jun Dao against the arm, “It was a goddamn stupid reason.”
“Hey,” Jun Dao complained.
Lin Xun saw light at the end of the tunnel as this Xiang Shi guy turned towards him and started to untie him.
“I’m sorry, these idiots did this to you. You need some water?”
“I have to pee,” Lin Xun said and massaged his wrists. Those ropes had been tight!
“I’ll show you,” Xiang Shi said, and Lin Xun saw in the glare he threw towards Jun Dao that the latter had to look forward to another verbal bashing. Good!
He was shown to a bathroom that was bigger than his living room and his kitchen combined and for a moment he wanted to see if there would be an echo if he would yell. He supressed the urge and took care of business. When he washed his hands, he looked at his reflection in the mirror and wondered why he had ended up in this mess? They had lived a quiet life, then his mother had gotten sick and even though he had to start doing part-time jobs to pay for her medical expenses it had been manageable. The college had shown understanding for his circumstances and then… then he had run into this Jun Cheng guy and since then everything had gone downhill.
“You okay in there?” Xiang Shi knocked against the door and entered upon Lin Xin’s affirmation. He looked at him for a moment and then handed him a towel.
“I’m really sorry they scared you like this. Don’t worry, they will want your DNA but then you will be able to go,” he turned his head and yelled in the direction of the living room, “OR ELSE!”
“Couldn’t they have just asked me in the first place? It’s a bit excessive to do it this way.”
Xiang Shi shrugged as if excessive had lost its meaning when you were in the vicinity of the Yuan brothers.
“They’re all still tense, I guess. Xiao Ping had been kidnapped five months ago and Jun Cheng had to kill the culprits so they’re quick to jump to extreme measures.”
Lin Xun stared at the towel in his hands and had to rearrange a few thoughts in his head because he clearly had misunderstood. Killed… what?
“He had killed them?”, he asked in a whisper.
Xiang Shi blinked at him.
“Yeah. He had to, they hurt Xiao Ping.”
For a moment Lin Xun had lived in a world where people weren’t crazy, and he almost jumped three metres in the air when Jun Cheng appeared with gloved hands.
“What are you doing?”, he asked, and panic rose in him. Was it easier to kill someone in a bathroom because the blood was better to wash off tiles? He jerked back when Jun Cheng took a step towards him but then he just held a cotton swab out for him. Lin Xun was wary of any kind of relief he felt because with how the day was going the next shocking thing was probably waiting around the corner.
“You need to rub the swab against the skin of your inner cheek for at least fifteen seconds. Gently. Don’t use too much pressure.”
It was bizarre, Lin Xun thought, to connect the man he had saved from a bunch of thugs to this… rich man who was also most likely a killer? Yes, he had thought he was a bit unhinged and the way he had acted in Lin Xun’s house as if he had no idea how normal people lived, his readiness to throw himself at any kind of danger but… so handsome? And funny in a way and Lin Xun had found him cute, too.
If his mum really had been the mistress of the father of these brothers, he knew were his taste in man came from, he thought with a frown and looked at the swab in his hand. They had left him alone and he was thankful for that because he felt he was on the verge of just screaming for several minutes. Would they really let him go after he gave them his DNA? Had Xiang Shi been serious about the ‘he killed them’ information? Or was that metaphorically?
He put the swap in his mouth with a sight and counted to fifteen in his head. He was only 20, how could this be his life?
“Oh! Hey Lin Xun!”
Yue Rong waved with both arms and then made his way through the library and after Lin Xun had nodded encouragingly at him, sat down next to Lin Xun on the table. He hoped it looked like he had spotted him by accident but if he was honest with himself, he had searched through the college for days in hope he would meet Lin Xun. Some people glared at him and he bowed at them in apology.
“I was a bit loud, mhm?”, he asked Lin Xun sheepishly in a whisper and got a warm smile in return. He really liked Lin Xun, he decided.
“Are you studying for the midterm exams?”, he asked, and Lin Xun just lifted his book in response. It looked thick and complicated.
“Why isn’t Jun Ping with you?”, Lin Xun asked, and Yue Rong snorted.
“He had to stay behind because our teacher wasn’t able to read is handwriting on his report. He has to copy it.”
Lin Xun smiled, and it was really so nice of him to not hold a grudge against Jun Ping. More so because it had turned out that he wasn’t related to the Yuan brothers. If he wanted to, he could sell the story to the tabloids and make a lot of money, but he didn’t, and Yue Rong thought highly of him for staying silent. He put his own study material on the table and made himself ready to go through his class assignments when he felt Lin Xun’s eyes on him.
“Can I ask you something?”, he asked, and Yue Rong nodded. He seemed to struggle with himself but then slid closer.
“Did Jun Cheng really kill Jun Ping’s kidnappers?”
As always, when the conversation turned towards that particular topic ice gripped Yue Rong’s heart. He had to tell himself to breathe and when Lin Xun saw his struggles and put a hand on his back, he was able to smile at him, but it was a forced smile.
“They deserved it,” he pressed out and his fingers dug painfully into his tights. “They threatened to cut off his fingers one after another and to send them to his brothers. Ah Ping isn’t able to sleep through the night since then…” he took a deep breath, “I hope he killed them.”
Lin Xun stared at him for a moment and then frowned down at his book. The three days of Ah Ping’s disappearance had been the worst three days of his life and he really, really hoped Jun Cheng had made those assholes suffer.
“Can we talk outside?”, Lin Xun asked suddenly, and Yue Rong nodded. He felt like a bit of fresh air would do him some good. They stopped at a vending machine and Lin Xun bought him a can of soda before they left the building and sat down on a bench.
Yue Rong smiled. He really liked having such a nice senior.
“There was no investigation about the killed kidnappers?”, Lin Xun asked, and Yue Rong shook his head.
“The police didn’t really care. It was most likely a gang I think.”
“Had he… had he done something like that before?”
Yue Rong opened the can and nodded.
“A few years ago, someone wanted to use their daughter and Jun Dao for a pregnancy scandal. They used that poor girl just because she had been in a class with Jun Dao once. Jun Cheng killed her father.”
“He… he did?”
“Good riddance I would say. The stuff that came to light after his death wasn’t pretty.”
“So, he thinks killing people is the best way to protect his brothers?”
Yue Rong took a sip of his soda and thought about that. The brothers were close, and Ah Ping had told him that Jun Cheng had been quick, even as a child, to protect his brothers with his fists so maybe evolving to killing had been a natural development?
“He would do everything to protect them and I think Xiang Shi and I are under his protection too.”
Which was comforting. Yue Rong knew the world they were living in and being part of a rich family was more often than not no walk in the park, especially if you just wanted to live in peace, or be a decent person and had no desire to be a backstabbing asshole.
“Okay, then why was it so important that I’m a Yuan, too? Why would they want to ship me off if it turned out I’m not related to them? Which I’m not.”
Yue Rong frowned at that.
“As a brother, you fall under the protection of Jun Cheng, but Mr Yuan is strangely obsessed with you, or your mum, I think? As a non-family member, you would be a threat because Mr Yuan could try to give you some of the inheritance? But…” Yue Rong started to nibble on his fingertips. “Nothing happened to you, right? I mean, next to them trying to get your DNA in a not very nice way, which Ah Ping is very sorry about!”
Lin Xun snorted and shook his head.
They had let him go after Jun Cheng had collected the cotton swab and then he had informed him about the result with a phone call. Since then… nothing.
From Jun Cheng, at least.
Mr Yuan had written him a letter, very polite, cautious in a way and had invited him to be part of his family in remembrance of Cui Ying, the love of his life. It had felt wrong. Lin Xun didn’t know the Cui Ying Mr Yuan talked about; this life she had apparently lived before she became his mother.
A shadow was suddenly cast over them and Lin Xun hastily jumped up when Jun Ping threw his body forward to get Yue Rong into a headlock.
“What have I said about chewing your fingernails?”
“I do it unconsciously!”, Yue Rong yelled out and twisted around but Jun Ping just let his bodyweight do all the work and while Yue Rong wriggled around like a snake he beamed at Lin Xun.
Lin Xun smiled back at him albeit weakly.
Lin Xun munched on a bun while he shouldered the door open and for a moment he just breathed in the comforting smell of his home. His lonely home, but at least this wasn’t something he had to worry about. It would always be his, where he could still feel the presence of his mum.
He let himself fall face down on the couch.
Jun Cheng had disappeared from his life and he felt bereft, which was odd. He should feel relieved. Or scared because who knew what Jun Cheng wanted to do to him? But instead, he felt disappointed.
“Are you doing that often? Laying in the dark?”
Lin Xun yelled and fell off the couch, throwing his bun reflexive and it collided with Jun Cheng’s right cheek.
“What are you doing here?”
Instead of answering Jun Cheng wiped off the non-existing dirt from his cheek and picked up the bun with a disgusted curl around his lips. He held it between his thumb and forefinger as if it could explode any second and could infect him with poor people germs.
“Is this what people call authentic food?”, he asked, and Lin Xun still laid on the floor and watched the man walk into his kitchen to get rid of the bun.
“Hey, I wanted to eat that,” he heard himself say as if that was the biggest of his problems and rose quickly.
“It laid on the floor, I beg to differ.”
Jun Cheng wore a navy suit combined with a white shirt and a checkered tie and maybe he dressed up for killing people, maybe that was his aesthetic.
“You could eat like a king if you would accept my father’s offer. Why don’t you?”, Jun Cheng asked and blocked Lin Xun’s sight of the trash can. The lid closed with a loud clatter and his bun was forever lost.
“I don’t want to be a Yuan,” Lin Xun answered.
“I’m too nice.”
Jun Cheng chuckled and nodded, almost to himself. Good to know that a killer agreed that he was too nice.
“I can’t believe you actually want me to be a Yuan,” Lin Xun said because in a strange way he was curious. Was Jun Cheng here to make sure he wasn’t considering his father’s proposal?
Jun Cheng came closer and invaded his personal space and Lin Xun refused to back down because this was his home, his refuge and if someone was going to back off it should be Jun Cheng.
“Why wouldn’t I want you as my brother?”, he asked, too close and Lin Xun could smell the earthy tone of his cologne. Lin Xun had no idea where to look and his eyes jumped from the light smile around Jun Cheng’s mouth to his raised eyebrows, the look in his eyes both teasing and curious.
Was he here to threaten him? But it didn’t feel like it. Lin Xun, beside his initial panic, didn’t feel intimidated. Was this flirting? Was his view on how people should interact with each other screwed because of the Yuan brothers and their associates?
“It doesn’t matter what you want or doesn’t want,” he said and put his round kitchen table between them. His heart was fluttering wildly in his chest and he knew he couldn’t look Jun Cheng in the eyes any longer. “And I don’t want the special attention you give people around your brothers.”
“They told you?”, Jun Cheng asked and seemed really surprised but then he shrugged as if it was normal that his brothers talked about his killings with strangers.
“The way we grew up, we thought we never would have the freedom to do anything we want to do, above all the freedom to love who we want. They both have it now so I’m going to protect that.”
‘You don’t have the freedom to love who you want?’, Lin Xun wanted to ask but…
The way Xiao Rong and Jun Ping interacted made more sense now, and he really was bad at picking up the signs.
“Jun Dao and Xiang Shi?”, he asked to be absolutely certain.
“Engaged,” Jun Cheng answered, and the amused smile seemed reserved for Lin Xun only.
“Then why aren’t you clearing your father out of the way?” The words had left his mouth before he could really think about them and he was startled about his own thoughts.
“He’s a too public figure. They would investigate very thoroughly, and I can’t protect my brothers while I’m in prison.”
It sounded like he had thought about that before and Lin Xun had to wrap his head around the fact that a man stood in his kitchen who had thought about killing his own father but decided against it because it was too much of a hassle to deal with the fallout.
At this moment his stomach decided to make itself known and he sat down on his table with a groan because the bun had been his dinner and lunch in one and now, he had none of it.
“I’m going out to get myself something to eat. When I come back, I want you gone, and you better leave the key you made.”
“Just order something, I will pay,” Jun Cheng said and walked back into the living room as if he was the owner of the house and Lin Xun was his guest. The dismissive nature of his behaviour irked Lin Xun. He had worked hard for the money to buy the bun and Jun Cheng thought he could just decide over his head what he should eat? He stood up and slipped into his shoes.
“I’m going to go to the food truck at the end of the street. See you later.”
Jun Chen grabbed his wrist and the man really needed to learn that he couldn’t manhandle people all the time.
“What are you doing? Just order in?”, Jun Cheng said, and Lin Xun sighed. The man also needed to learn that not all his orders would be followed.
He leaned forward and said with a wink: “I’m really hungry for chicken butts, they only have the spicy ones at the food truck.”
Jun Cheng blinked at him, then frowned. “You want chicken butts?”
Lin Xun freed his arm and walked towards the door, Jun Cheng right behind him. Lin Xun learned at this moment that walking away was a powerful tool with handling Jun Cheng because he followed him like a duckling. He even closed and locked the door behind him.
It was already dark, and the temperature was mild as they walked through the streets and as they arrived Lin Xun had to smile about the way Jun Cheng didn’t fit in with the rest of the crowd. He put his arms around himself as if they would form a barrier against unwanted attention and he refused to touch the menu with the argument that he didn’t have a disinfectant with him. His suit looked like it was tailored on and Lin Xun wanted to get rid of the tie badly just to see how Jun Cheng would look more casual.
“We’re not going to sit down, right?”, he asked and stared at the chairs as if they had offended him and his family but he didn’t wait for Lin Xun’s answer because he jerked forward to almost topple Lin Xun to the ground because he wanted to pay. Lin Xun just raised his arms in defeat and smiled at the waitress in apology.
“That’s pretty cheap,” he commented under his breath and eyed the food container in Lin Xun’s hand with suspicion.
“Are you sure that’s real meat they use for… chicken butts?”
“Taste for yourself.” Lin Xun held out one of the skewers and he found another way to get Jun Cheng to do what he wanted, he just needed to chase him with the skewer because he did some impressive twists to get away from the food and with a wide smile Lin Xun took a bite. He chewed while he smiled at Jun Cheng and got a frown for his efforts.
“I’m not going to keel over, you know. Maybe you will because your palate wouldn’t be used to this kind of… cuisine.”
Jun Cheng’s frown intensified, and he really was quick because he was suddenly very close and looked Lin Xun straight in the eyes while he took a bite himself. Lin Xun’s heart did some twisting of its own and he felt short of breath. Swallowing felt like a heavy task now and he had to fight a cough.
“Spicy,” Jun Cheng said at last and the satisfaction in his voice made Lin Xun curious. Was he happy he had surprised Lin Xun or was he happy that the chicken was to his liking?
“You should order more,” Jun Cheng said, and Lin Xun wasn’t able to react quick enough, so he was loaded with more than he was able to eat in one sitting a couple of minutes later.
Jun Cheng carried the smug smile with him all night and all the way back to Lin Xun apartment. Apparently, Jun Cheng had parked his car there and Lin Xun really needed to be more paranoid about his surroundings because it hadn’t attracted his attention when he had come back earlier.
“You don’t need to escort me to my door,” he said when Jun Cheng continued to follow him up the stairs.
“I really need to,” Jun Cheng answered and handed him the bags full of food they hadn’t been able to finish at the food truck. Maybe that had been Jun Cheng’s plan all along, to provide him with food for a couple of days…
Jun Cheng didn’t follow him the last couple of steps and Lin Xun looked back and then down at him and it really hit him again how handsome he was. Especially in the soft light of the streetlamp next to the house.
“I have the urge to take care of you,” Jun Cheng said out of the blue and stopped every teasing word Lin Xun had wanted to say to him as a goodbye. He opened and closed his mouth like a fish and felt how a blush grew on his cheeks.
“I’m not one of your brothers,” he was able to say at last, but Jun Cheng just shrugged.
“You aren’t one of my brothers, yet.” He turned around with these words to walk towards his car and Lin Xun stared at his retreating back.
“That’s not going to happen,” he shout-whispered and quickly opened his door to slid into his house. His heart hammered. He put the bags down and held his hand against his chest to feel his beating heart.
He had the urge to smile widely and… fondness. Why was he so fond of Jun Cheng?
He felt drawn to his loyalty for his brothers, the way they never seemed to have to ask for anything, their big brother would make it happen. Even if Jun Dao and Jun Ping wouldn’t have Xiang Shi and Yue Rong, they had Jun Cheng and each other. That was… something he wished for.
Lin Xun woke with a start and he stared at the thin strips of sunlight which hit his nightstand, making the dust particles dance in the air. He had dreamed. He had dreamed about Jun Cheng and… he frowned and tried to grasp the last pieces of his dream, but it slipped through his fingers like water.
His head was full of images and fragments he couldn’t associate with anything tangible he climbed out of bed and plodded through his apartment on naked feed in the search of… but it was empty. It was only him here and…
He scratched his head in confusion and the feeling that someone should be here, that it wasn’t normal for him to be here alone lingered at the back of his head even as he tried to shake the last remnants of his sleep off and took a shower. Was this about his mum?
Maybe he was overstrained from the pressure of learning for his midterm exams? He dressed quickly and with a look at the clock realised he had to get going to get a good spot in the library. A quick peek in the fridge made him stop in his tracks and he stared at the container of dumplings. The last remains of his evening with Jun Cheng. He should take them with him, right? Otherwise, they would turn bad and he wasn’t someone who had been raised to let good food go to waste. He packed them in his backpack and left the apartment just to stop again in his tracks when he saw the black car and the man leaning against it.
Be silent, he wanted to hush his heart who went into overdrive again and the feeling of loneliness he had carried with him since he woke up from the dream vanished.
“Do you need a ride?”, Jun Cheng asked and threw his keys in the air just to catch them with a smile on his face.
There was a No in the back of Lin Xun’s mind as if some lizard part of his brain urged him to say No because it was the smart and right thing to do regarding the stuff he knew about Jun Cheng.
He said: “Okay.”, instead. Which said maybe more about him than he cared to think about.
“They kidnapped me with a similar car,” he said when he put on his seatbelt.
“You would get a similar one if you accept my father's offer,” Jun Cheng said, and Lin Xun rolled his eyes heavenwards.
“Good that I already have a functional vehicle.”
Jun Cheng chuckled as if he couldn’t take Lin Xun’s scooter seriously and Lin Xun was offended on behalf of it.
“That scooter saved your life, or have you already forgotten who rescued you that day?”
“Oh, I haven’t, believe me. Like a knight in shining armour.”
Lin Xun refused to blush and started to fiddle with the clasps of his backpack.
“Your shadows are already waiting for you.”
Jun Cheng signalled and drove onto the main road.
“Yue Rong and Jun Ping. Aren’t they following you around college day in and day out?”
Lin Xun saw Jun Cheng’s smirk and if he wouldn’t be the one driving, he would have tried to pinch him.
“They just follow me because I took almost the same classes as them in my first year. Also, Jun Ping is really sorry about kidnapping me, you remember?”
“Oh, I remember that too,” Jun Cheng said and the way he said it made Lin Xun frown. Had there been something about their encounter in Jun Cheng’s apartment that he should have noticed? Next to the craziness and being told how Jun Cheng dealt with threats to his brothers?
He left the car when they arrived at the college and when Jun Cheng said “See you later” he didn’t even question the implication that Jun Cheng would drive him home too.
It became a habit.
Soon enough Jun Cheng would text him if he wasn’t able to pick him up and their daily drives turned sometimes into breakfast stops along the way and getting dinner together after Lin Xun was done studying. Lin Xun was able to count the days he didn’t see Jun Cheng on one finger in comparison to the days he saw him.
It… it made him happy.
And when he took his exams and fell into bed after his last one, all the tension leaving his body there was food waiting on his table when he woke up, still warm, as if Jun Cheng had come early to arrange it on the table.
Lin Xun stared at his birthday cake that evening. The cake he had bought from the bakery a few streets over, the cake his mum always bought for him. He had lightened the candle and stared at the flame for what felt like an eternity.
“I thought you abandoned your habit of sitting alone in the dark?”
Lin Xun didn’t even turn.
“I thought you stopped breaking into my apartment,” he said.
He had known that Jun Cheng would come over even if they never had talked about when Lin Xun’s birthday was.
“You already have a cake?” Jun Cheng put another box on the table and looked at the cake in front of Lin Xun has if it had insulted him. He really was a possessive one.
“It’s the one my mum always bought me,” Lin Xun said, and the way Jun Cheng’s eyes softened made his heart clench.
“Sit down,” he said and pulled on Jun Cheng’s sleeve. “I’m going to blow out the candle.”
“Aren’t you a bit too young for that?”
“I have to eat two cakes all by myself because you can’t help me. Oh! And it’s my birthday.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Jun Cheng replied and made a go-on gesture as if Lin Xun had been the unreasonable one.
Lin Xun closed his eyes, clasped his hands and wished.
“What are you wishing for?”
He shouldn’t say it out loud, right? That wasn’t how it worked but he had the feeling that that particular wish needed to be articulated otherwise it wouldn’t come true.
“I wish for you to stop wanting me as a brother,” he said and felt the silence that overcame them. He blew out the candle and the smell of the smoke tickled his nose. He opened one eye slowly to peak at Jun Cheng who stared at him. He had a stunned look on his face which wasn’t something new because every time he encountered something he hadn’t known before he froze for a solid minute to process the sensation. It was more often than not because of food.
“I don’t want you as a brother,” Lin Xun said again and if the universe would grant him one wish it surely would be possible on his birthday?
Jun Cheng sat close and Lin Xun just had to turn his upper body and lean a bit forward to see Jun Cheng’s eyes widen and hear his breath hitch and he took his time for Jun Cheng to be able to turn away but he didn’t and his kiss couldn’t even be described as a kiss, just a soft peck on the corner of Jun Cheng’s mouth.
Lin Xun cleared his throat when he pulled back.
“No brotherly feelings here,” he said to make this unmistakably clear and why was Jun Cheng so quick? The air left his lungs in a shocked exhale as Jun Cheng pushed him back on the couch and climbed atop of him. Lin Xun blinked at Jun Cheng and suddenly he was being kissed and that… that was awesome.
They parted out of breath and Lin Xun smiled wide when Jun Cheng said ‘Happy Birthday’ in a low and definitely rough voice, utterly fond and Lin Xun wanted to kiss him some more.
“No more brother talks,” he said between butterfly kisses and Jun Cheng nodded obediently.
“Maybe brother-in-law talks.”
Lin Xun frowned at Jun Cheng in suspicion. What had he said? But then Jun Cheng put his hand under Lin Xun’s shirt and that was something that needed Lin Xun’s undivided attention.
Lin Xun felt the dip of the mattress and unconsciously turned his body towards the disturbance. A warm hand caressed his cheek and he buried his face in the pillow, determined to ignore Jun Cheng’ attempt to get his attention. Lips were next and he couldn’t hide his smile. Jun Cheng made a journey from his cheeks to his eyebrows over his nose to his lips and Lin Xun sized the opportunity to wrap his legs around Jun Cheng who fell on him with a ‘Humph’.
Revenge, he thought and opened his eyes a little bit. It was still dark outside, but Jun Cheng was already dressed. Lin Xun frowned at that.
“Where are you going?”, he asked and laughed when Jun Cheng’s answer was incomprehensible because his face was pressed against his neck. Lin Xun unwrapped himself from Jun Cheng and let him lean on his elbow to be able to look at him.
“I have to deal with something,” he murmured and brushed his hand gently through Lin Xun’s hair. Lin Xun searched his face for any clue and then frowned when he thought he found it.
“Yue Rong’s harasser?”
Jun Cheng nodded, and Lin Xun cradled his face with his hands to kiss him.
“Is this a strategy to keep me from leaving?”, Jun Cheng asked in the distance between their lips.
“Just be careful,” Lin Xun said and kissed him again. He watched as Jun Cheng left the bedroom and then rolled over to Jun Cheng’s side of the bed to surround himself with his smell.
He hoped he would come back home quickly.