His shoulders jumped until they firmly covered his ears. Three goddamn years he had worked in this field but he was STILL treated like garbage. Sure, he wasn’t always the most reliable, and he may have cut corners here and there, but it wasn’t as if they had given him much opportunity to be diligent. Any time he had tried to bring a story to life he was laughed at, belittled, ignored, or worse—had his good idea taken and given to a senior journalist. He’d been shuffled from department to department, and yeah, he complained constantly, but it’s not as if anyone ever listened to him when he spoke, so it wasn’t as if that could be why no one around here respected him.
He was, in fact, essentially the company’s longest ever intern. He was good enough at being ordered around to be kept around for grunt work, not power hungry enough to be a danger, and easily bullied into taking jobs no one else wanted, so his position, while ever changing, was mostly secure. The other interns he had been hired alongside had all long been hired on as full time staff, field reporters, and some even had interns of their own to boss around now. Somehow, he still couldn’t avoid being ordered around by them as well.
While he had no problem with not having to stick his neck out like some of the more risk taking senior writers, he was so much more likely to be scapegoated as an easily replaced intern, and so was desperate to find someone to protect him. Power? Responsibility? None of that, thanks, he’d just hug the thighs of someone who could safely stick up for him if anyone tried to blame any too too major screw ups on him. He wasn’t asking for much. Sure, a living wage would be nice, and hell, maybe he could actually eat the tasty snacks provided for staff without having to sneak bites of those damn tempting fluffy chocolate drizzled croissants whenever the other team members weren’t looking, but it wasn’t as if he wanted to be Editor-In-Chief. Even recognition wasn’t strictly necessary, so long as he could write what he wanted and still afford to add some egg to his shitty bulk ramen. Maybe even a vegetable.
Dare to dream.
As it was, he was currently busy being screeched at by some bully that had been hired on as his technical superior only a month ago. Why did the universe hate him? What horrible thing had he done in some forgotten past life that meant he couldn’t see a smidgen of justice or a safety net at his age? Woe was him, and he would absolutely fling himself to cry on the shoulder of his only friend here literally the second he could scamper away from this douche.
He’d apparently still been talking while he was having this internal crisis in front of his junior-in-age-but-senior-in-rank, and was left with absolutely no clue as to what he had said, or apparently, promised. This situation was nothing new to him, and he had to rely on the hope that his bullshit/begging/placating skills had been leveled up enough from past encounters with scarier people that he hadn’t said anything too damning. Sure enough, the significantly shorter man in front of him looked aggrieved, but mostly placated. Good, good, that was his sweet spot. If he could just manage to stay right there, he would be safe from scapegoating for a little longer. Just have to be useful enough to keep around, but not so talented that they feel threatened.
As he managed to scuttle away from whoever this guy was, he returned to lamenting his oh-so-unfair plot in life. Was it too much to ask that his life be easier? Where was his magical knight in shining armor/smoky handsome mob boss/dashing otherworldly prince to come protect him from all this bullshit? It was only when he was smacked in the forehead with the end of a promotional fan they were giving out for the summer that he realized he had apparently autopiloted to Shen Yuan’s cubicle and was currently sobbing these exact laments into his shoulder. This smack, of course, did nothing to deter him. In fact, it only turned his sobs into what could only be described as whispered wails of “how can you treat me like this when I’m so obviously being persecuted, Cucumber-bro??”
Being Shang Qinghua’s friend was a task in and of itself. You have cucumber salad for lunch ONCE three years ago because it was all they had left in the nearby café and you’re “Cucumber-Bro” for life. He wasn’t sure if Shang Qinghua had forgotten his name or simply never remembered it in the first place. Three years they’d known each other. Three years he had suffered having to listen to his bro’s tales of suffering. Truly, there really was no justice in this world, if this man was who the fates gave him as a best friend. He gently swatted the shoulder of the man sobbing in his lap, and asked himself what it was that attracted so many (two) other undeniably straight men to do this with him. It’s not as if he had some giant bouncy tits for them to nuzzle into, and frankly, he couldn’t imagine his somewhat bony figure to be at all comfortable. He sighed as he resigned himself to the temporary indignity, safe in the knowledge that unfortunately, no one batted an eye at the by now far too commonplace unusual behavior. Not for the first time he wondered just what sort of parents could produce a man-child like this.
“What happened?” Shen Yuan sighed, firmly shifting Shang Qinghua from his lap to the stool he initially got as a footrest, but had somehow turned into a makeshift (and quite ridiculous, giving his typical ‘client’s’ sizes) therapy couch. It was hard to not look ridiculous with your knees tucked up into your ears while straddling a preschooler sized chair, but somehow the whining was too distracting to notice his positioning.
Shang Qinghua, as always, didn’t have the decency to look embarrassed when he admitted that he didn’t actually remember, because he hadn’t been paying attention to whatever the other man had been yelling about.
Shen Yuan was tired.
So very, very tired.
As always, it wasn’t long before agreeing to something without listening came back to bite him in the ass. This was how Shang Qinghua ended up on a cross-country train trip (not even a bullet train! A regular old passenger train! Hell, it was practically a cattle car! That he paid for, with only the vague promise of reimbursement if he managed to save all the receipts. Which he didn’t.) on a bullshit mission that he and everyone else knew was an absolute wild goose chase.
Hell, even a wild goose chase would be better. At the very least he could always get lucky and accidentally catch something in that case, but this…this was absolutely impossible. In fact, it was likely to be the final straw towards getting him dismissed after these three long years.
He flipped through the physical file in his lap, intent on saving at least some of his phone’s battery since this goddamn car didn’t seem to have any charging stations. Seriously, what year was this? The file was extremely thin, and the information inside even more sparse. Height, weight, a name, a photo, and then an exceptionally long list of competitions, awards, and statistics. He didn’t need to be a statistician to know that the person in question was off the charts skilled (the award list covered that quite well), but even so, his accounting background helped put into perspective just how insanely talented this guy was.
He didn’t need an accounting background to know that this guy was smoking fucking hot and could have literally anybody he wanted, either. In fact, it was probably less than useless in the face of how pretty this guy’s face was. Shang Qinghua had trouble scraping together braincells on the best of days, despite his technical intelligence, and he’s pretty fucking sure those last two were too busy having the brain equivalent of boners over this guy’s chiseled features to remember what one plus one was.
A party he’d like to be invited to, specifically by this guy, his brain boner helpfully supplied.
He was perfectly straight. He was! But it was totally normal for straight people to have an exception, right? One Get-out-of-jail-straight-free card? One man-crush Monday that lasts a few too many Mondays in a row? He caught the tip of his finger stroking the high cheekbone of the man in the photo, and decided resolutely that it was perfectly normal to find this guy hot. Surely it would be abnormal to not want to drop to your knees in front of this stranger he’d only seen in one photo once?
Just who was this man? Of course he had heard the many horror stories of people that had been war correspondents even being afraid to try and interview him, but why? Obviously the man was pants-ruiningly attractive, but so were many celebrities. What was it about this supermodel of an athlete that made him earn the name of Demonic Ice King? Given his reputation, it was no surprise that no one knew anything about him. Shang Qinghua prided himself on his knowledge of current events and celebrity profiles since he was often thrown into any random department at crunch time, and expected to pull something out of his ass without credit. Even if he snuck into Shen Yuan's flat and used his TV to watch nothing but sports reporters of the highest grade for weeks on end, the only learning he would get done was seeing his target's scheduled contest appearance dates. And he was supposed to get not just a full profile on this world class athlete, but an in-depth interview about his life? Fuck that guy who conned this assignment onto him…whatever his name was. Shang Qinghua pushed his thick framed reading glasses higher up on his nose, taking a second to pretend he was the suave nerdy best friend in some drama (when would they invent glasses that could do dramatic lens flares on their own?), before reading through the meager file properly. What did he know? A world-class figure skater, famous for his talent and skill, infamous for being literally impossible to interview.
And he had to interview him.
Cool cool cool cool cool.
He pressed forward, wanting to know more about this surely temporary man crush of his before the goose hunt began. The gentleman (somehow it felt wrong to call someone so clearly…elegant?? ‘dude’ like he would for most people) was tall, like almost scary tall, and had ice blue eyes that just about gave him a confused boner with their intensity. His lashes were unfairly long (hope he appreciates them, damn pretty bastard), a face that he was sure would look gorgeous if he smiled (something told him he never did), and had an air of lofty, regal, dignified untouchability that left Shang Qinghua equally afraid of spilling his clumsiness on him and desperately wanting to try his hand at sullying.
Well, the totally platonic man-crush of his was surely too cool (ha) to bromance, but he could at least be excused for his attraction to the slightly more than pg-13 rated scenarios threating to run across his painfully single mind.
This…this Mobei-Jun was certainly worth a dead phone battery, he decided. With that the physical file was abandoned to his backpack, replaced with some google image thirst searching. Unreasonably tall and not a goddamn ounce of anything but muscle and sin was his body type, it seemed.
Shang Qinghua swallowed shallowly, trying to convince himself that apparently that was his type too.
Fuck, he was so boned.
And so, so unfortunately not being boned.
The rest of the trip was spent blushing, cussing, demanding to know how this man was even real, and joining in some discussion boards dedicated to the illusive sexy ice man.
He sent a quick message to Shen Yuan asking if he still has to be professional if he’s technically not a pro, and is still just an intern.
Shen Yuan’s response was also bordering on an R-rating, but for totally different reasons.
Shang Qinghua had only brought his backpack, a tablet, and some snacks with him. He had no change of clothes, and had his borrowed press badge tucked away in an inside pocket of his jacket. There had been no attempt to tame the messy half-bun his wavy hair had been in all day. Besides, he was fairly certain that if he tried to tug it out of its literal rubber band (stolen from Shen Yuan's desk) he would end up half bald. No reason to be a bloody, sobbing mess even before he was obliterated by the sexy scary man. That didn't mean he planned on changing out of his frumpy green sweater, thick ass glasses, and low quality cuffed jeans before the imaginary big interview. They weren't standard Professional Journalist Wear, but no one expected him to make it passed Mobei-Jun's security team, so it didn't matter what he wore. Instead, he was expected to waste his night getting manhandled by bodyguards and spend the next morning sleeping on the train heading straight back to the company. They could’ve at least let him have time to nap in some shitty hostel or motel if they weren’t the ones paying for it, but whatever. At least they hadn’t scheduled him for an impossible morning shift like last time. A quick glance around the station found several chain coffee shops to choose from, and he picked the one with the shortest line. Well, no line. It would have struck him as odd, how deserted the whole cafe was, but he was too busy thanking the gods that were finally having mercy on him for their benevolent blessing of cheap, fast caffeine. He left the shop within a few minutes of getting his milky coffee drink, feeling something not quite placeable, but very, very familiar with each frothy sip.
It was regret, he realized, around the same time as he was puking all over Mobei-Jun’s socked feet.