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The first dry day of spring was quiet until approximately mid-morning, when the door to the house swung open and a loud, cheerful voice proclaimed, "I found the most awesome place for a secret fort!"

Faster than Gong Ji could react, Din had snatched Gong Ji's pillow from under him and put it over the top of his own head. "You told him to go play," he grumbled, his pillow-muffled voice still breathless from exertion that, had the interruption come mere minutes previous, might not have come to such a satisfying conclusion as it had. "You go deal with it."

For that, Gong Ji used Din's discarded nightshirt to wipe the crack of his ass and his lower back marginally clean, then tossed it in the far corner of the room, in the general direction of all things to be laundered. "I hate you," he said, smacking Din hard on his bare backside before pulling on a loose pair of drawstring pants. "Okay," he called out, opening the door between the bedroom and the cottage's main room, "what kind of place did you get out of the house this minute!"

Yi, for all his birth parents had both been soldiers, seemed completely immune to Gong Ji's rather insistent orders. Instead, he stood just inside the doorway, an enormous shit-eating grin he definitely hadn't inherited from his Pop plastered across his face, covered from head to toe in the darkest, thickest, sloppiest mud Gong Ji had ever seen. "There's a big bank by the stream about halfway down the hill," he announced with high spirits, as though Gong Ji hadn't just ordered his eviction, as though he weren't dripping large clumps of black earth to the ground with every passing second, "and there's this bear cub that ow!"

His words were cut off in a yelp as Gong Ji picked him up nearly by the scruff of his neck -- just turned seven, Yi was already getting big, but he'd have to get a hell of a lot bigger before he became too much for Gong Ji to swing around -- and deposited him outside, just beyond the stone threshold. "House Rule #86: If you are covered in mud, you stay outside."

"I thought House Rule #86 was 'don't pee on the vegetables'," Yi said, looking no less cheerful for his recent relocation.

"I thought it was 'don't antagonize the goat,'" Din chimed in from over Gong Ji's shoulder, apparently having decided that whatever was going on at the door to his house was worth putting on some measure of clothes to go investigate.

Gong Ji threw up his hands. "You know what you look like?" he asked, pointing at Yi. "You look like a little piece of jet. One that I sat on once. Small, black, and a total pain in my ass."

"Oh, Dad, I love you too!" Yi held out his arms and began marching forward, the smile on his face growing more wicked by the moment. "I'm gonna give you and Pop a great big hug!"

Ever the quick thinker, Din tugged Gong Ji back inside the house and shut the door before the small muddy terror on the other side could breach the threshold. With his hair loose and wild about his shoulders, Din almost managed to look sincerely irritated. "He gets it from your side," he said, poking Gong Ji hard in the middle of his chest.

"I don't know." Gong Ji shook his head, grinning down the few inches' worth of height difference between the two of them. "I think being a pain in my ass is your specialty." Muddy whoops and hollers of delight could be heard from just beyond the door, but Gong Ji found himself hard-pressed to care about the impending cleanup efforts as Din clutched a fistful of his hair and pulled him into a hard, deep kiss.