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It had been an act of service. Shi Qingxuan made the choice to help fight back against an invading force. One that humankind hadn’t known. This was going to be a war of a different type. Shi Qingxuan couldn’t stand back and joined the armed forces alongside his brother, Shi Wudu. It didn’t take long for them to be separated. Shi Wudu moves up in the ranks, becoming closer to captain standings. Shi Qingxuan was happy to know he’d at least been bumped up to lieutenant. It was better than just being a soldier. The people had at least had some respect for him. More so the fear of angering his brother.

He currently sat across from his brother, picking at his salad, letting out a small sigh every few minutes. His brother chose to ignore this and kept reading through files while munching ideally on whatever he’d chosen. It looked gross to Shi Qingxuan. His brother finally turned his gaze to him.

“You’ll be getting a new partner today.” He sounded a bit discouraged at the idea but it made sense. His brother was moving up in the ranks. He didn’t have time to go on every mission with Shi Qingxuan.

“When do I meet them?” He asked. He was personally excited. It wasn’t often he had the chance to meet new people. If he was lucky the new partner would be around his age.

“He’ll be here any minute.” Shi Wudu closed the file and pushed it aside.

“Is he transferring in from another base?” Shi Qingxuan asked, reaching over to grab the file. He slid it toward himself. He opened it up, peeking inside to see the information on his new partner. A picture was provided of the man. He looked to be around Shi Qingxuan’s age. He was skinny and pale with long black hair. The name He Xuan was written across the top.

“He looks cool.” Shi Qingxuan said, closing the file and sliding it back over to his brother. Shi Wudu arched a brow at his brother but said nothing. It was only natural that he’d be excited to have someone around his age and same level. Before either could say anything else He Xuan approached the table, his hands behind his back.

“Lieutenant He.” Shi Wudu said as he stood up. The two of them gave a small bow to each other. “This is my little brother, Lieutenant Shi Qingxuan.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” Shi Qingxuan said, smiling. He Xuan nodded his head.

“Qingxuan, why don’t you show lieutenant He around?” Shi Wudu suggested, picking up the files from earlier. “I have some work to do, but if you need me let me know.”

“I think I’ll be fine.” Shi Qingxuan said as he stood up. He walked closer to He Xuan noticing that the man had a good six inches on him. Even if they were close in age, he still managed to be shorter. “Right this way.” Shi Qingxuan pointed and started walking. He glanced back to see that He Xuan was silently following him. As they walked along he pointed out each room and what it was used for. He Xuan just listened intently and nodded his head. After they reached the end of a long hallway Shi Qingxuan turned to He Xuan. “This room is mine and yours is across the hall. We’re partners now so naturally we have to be roomed near each other. Just in case we’re needed for a surprise mission.”

“Makes sense. Then why not have us room together?” He Xuan asked. The question caught Shi Qingxuan off guard. That was a good point. Why weren’t they rooming together?

“I guess they figure it would be weird. I have no idea.” Shi Qingxuan answered. He’d never really thought of it before. His brother, his former piloting partner, was always much stronger and higher ranking. It was only natural he wouldn’t share a room with his brother.

“Well, at least we’re close if either needs anything.” He Xuan said, shrugging. Shi Qingxuan smiled and grabbed He Xuan’s hand.

“It’s kinda funny. We both have Xuan in our name and we share a birthday.” Shi Qingxuan said. He Xuan looked a bit surprised at this information.

“That is odd.” He said and then looked down to see Shi Qingxuan holding his hand. “It’s also odd you’re randomly holding my hand.”

“It’s not that odd. We’re partners and friends.” Shi Qingxuan said, puffing his cheeks out and made a pouty face.

“We aren’t friends.” He Xuan replied. Shi Qingxuan let out a gasp and tugged on his hand.

“Then we will become friends.” Shi Qingxuan said, smiling up at He Xuan. He Xuan sighed and looked away, shaking his head. “The best partners are friends. Then I know we’ll have each other's back no matter what.”

“You’re strange.” He Xuan sighed as he pulled his hand from Shi Qingxuan’s grasp. He ignored the offended gasp Shi Qingxuan made when he pulled away. He walked toward his room, opening the door. “If you need me just come get me or scream.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, He-xiong.” Shi Qingxuan said as a small smile made its way onto his face. Today was a good day, he decided as he watched the door close behind He Xuan. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, poileting without his brother. Perhaps it was time he spread his wings and learn to fly on his own.

~

In the middle of the night Shi Qingxuan is jolted awake by screaming. He jumps out of bed and runs out of his room. The screaming is coming from He Xuan’s room. He quickly tries to open the door and finds it’s unlocked. He runs in to see He Xuan laying in bed, screaming and holding his head. Shi Qingxuan runs over, kneeling down next to the bed.

“He-Xiong! What’s wrong?” Shi Qingxuan said, worry lacing his tone. He quickly does the only thing he can think of, pulling He Xuan into a hug, shushing him. He starts to rub his back slowly. It’s what his brother used to do when he had nightmares. He Xuan wraps his arms around Shi Qingxuan, burying his face in his chest.

“It hurts. My head hurts.” He sobs, hugging him tighter. Shi Qingxuan shushes him, rubbing his head slowly.

“It’s okay. You’re okay.” Shi Qingxuan assures, frowning. He’s never seen someone with such bad migraines before. He Xuan kept his face pressed into Shi Qingxuan’s chest, small sobs still escaping him, but he seemed to be better.

“Do you want me to get you some water and medicine?” Shi Qingxuan asked. He Xuan nodded his head as he pulled back. He laid down on the bed, staring up at Shi Qingxuan with bright golden eyes. He didn’t notice earlier just how pretty his eyes were.

“You gonna stare all night or are you gonna get that medicine?” He Xuan asked. Shi Qingxuan snapped out of it and shook his head, standing up.

“Right. I’ll be back.” Shi Qingxuan ran back to his room, grabbing a glass and filling it with water. He then grabbed a bottle of pills from the bathroom and ran back to He Xuan’s room. He saw his partner was sitting up now, still holding his head. He walked over and took a seat on the bed again.

“Here this should help.” Shi Qingxuan said and held out his hand. In it a neon green pill sat. He Xuan grabbed it and looked at it, making a face.

“Is this even safe?” He Xuan asked. Shi Qingxuan gasped, sounding offended. How dare his new best friend, yes he did up the rank of their friendship, think he would poison him.

“Of course it is! I use them sometimes.” Shi Qingxuan said and poured one out into his hand again. “Here I’ll take one too. That way if I am poisoning you at least you know we both died.”

“That’s weird logic but whatever.” He Xuan said and downed the pill, taking a drink of water. Shi Qingxuan grabbed the water glass and downed his own pill. He set the glass aside on a table nearby.

“Your head should feel better soon. This stuff is really good.” Shi Qingxuan said as he held up the bottle. He Xuan could already feel the headache fading and a hazy calm falling over his mind.

“Where did you get it?” He Xuan asked. Shi Qingxuan laid down on the bed, looking at He Xuan.

“On one of my brothers missions. He took me with him and I snuck away and got this stuff.” Shi Qingxuan replied, smiling softly.

“I’m guessing captain Shi doesn’t know you have it either.” He Xuan carefully laid down next to him. Shi Qingxuan shook his head, letting out a small giggle.

“He doesn’t. He’s always so strict and harsh. Sometimes it’s suffocating.” Shi Qingxuan doesn’t know why he says it. It’s true, but he’s never spoke this aloud to anyone. He keeps that part locked away. Everyone admires his brother, most would just say Shi Wudu was right. That he was protecting his brother and maybe in his own way he was. Some nights though Shi Qingxuan wished he wasn’t held so tightly.

“I can only imagine.” He Xuan replied. He doesn’t judge Shi Qingxuan. He doesn’t say he’s wrong and it makes Shi Qingxuan’s chest tighten. Because he’s never had someone he could just talk to like this. “He seems like he can be a real pain.” He Xuan adds, sighing. Shi Qingxuan smiles wider at his words.

“See this is why we’re best friends.” Shi Qingxuan said as he propped himself up on his elbows. He giggled at the sight of He Xuan’s confused face.

“You changed it from friends to best friends.” He Xuan sighed. Shi Qingxuan poked his shoulder and smiled wider.

“Of course I did. We’re going to be the best of friends after all.” Shi Qingxuan said it like it was the most obvious thing. He said it like he believed it and as they lay together, inches apart, He Xuan started to believe it too.

~

Morning came too quick and Shi Qingxuan was jolted awake by someone pounding on the door. He quickly hid the medicine he’d shared with He Xuan last night into his pocket and walked over, opening the door. He was faced with his brother who looked disgruntled as usual. He didn’t think it was that late or they had missed anything important.

“Is everything okay?” Shi Qingxuan asked, confusion lacing his tone, his brother sighed and shook his head.

“I just got worried when I went to your room and you weren’t there. I thought something happened.” Shi Wudu seemed almost embarrassed about his outburst. Almost was a keyword as he saved all his embarrassment for his brother. He always said Shi Qingxuan did things that embarrassed him in the strangest forms. Shi Qingxuan would usually laugh it off or fake pout. He knew his brother meant well, he was just a bit of a stick in the mood at times.

“Well, I’m fine. Lieutenant He was in need of comfort and as his partner I assumed it was my duty to help him.” Shi Qingxuan shrugged as he said it. He was determined to be friends with He Xuan and friends help each other.

“It is.” Shi Wudu said, looking away. His tone was strange, the same one he used whenever he realized his brother wasn’t someone in need of his protection anymore. “Get Lieutenant He and be ready. We’re gonna do a test flight to make sure you pair well.”

“Yes sir.” Shi Qingxuan responded and went back into He Xuan’s room. He closed the door behind him, letting out a sigh. When he looked up he saw that He Xuan was awake and looking at him. He walked over to the bed, sitting down.

“My brother says we have to get ready for our test flight.” Shi Qingxuan said, gathering his hair in his hands. He tied it up in a bun using the hair tie he always wore on his wrist. For times like these when he had to get ready quick or just didn’t want his hair down.

“I know. I heard because your brother doesn’t have an inside voice.” He Xuan sighed and stood up. He grabbed his uniform and looked back at Shi Qingxuan and said, “Now I know why you’re so loud and annoying.”

“Rude!” Shi Qingxuan screamed, throwing a pillow at He Xuan. The pillow missed He Xuan by an inch and Shi Qingxuan blamed that on luck alone. He stood up, walking to the door.

“See you out there, partner.” He Xuan said as Shi Qingxuan was leaving the room. For some reason it caused both their cheeks to flush and hearts to skip a beat. The words held no meaning but the way it was said left both feeling something. Shi Qingxuan crossed the hall to his room and quickly changed into his uniform. He looked at himself in the mirror, noticing on how he’s changed over the years. Stronger and yet no where near as strong as his brother. Sometimes he wondered if he was even cut out for this at all. For fighting and defending. He broke from his thoughts by a knock at the door. When he opened the door He Xuan was standing there, in his black uniform. It contrasted well with Shi Qingxuan’s white uniform.

“Are you ready to test our flight ability?” He Xuan asked. Shi Qingxuan smiled and nodded his head. He started walking along side He Xuan. It was a short walk to the hanger. Shi Wudu was standing on an elevated platform, next to him was general Pei Ming and general Jun Wu. Jun Wu was the highest ranking general and all orders came from him. He was the one they had to prove themselves to.

“let's show them what we got.” Shi Qingxuan said, putting his helmet on. He Xuan nodded his head and put his own on. He Xuan climbed in first and then reached a hand out to help Shi Qingxuan, who happily took it. He sat down in the seat, He Xuan sitting behind him.

“Did you not want to be the one in control?” Shi Qingxuan asked, buckling in. he looked back at his partner who had a small smile. It wouldn’t have been noticeable if they were further apart.

“I trust you won’t crash us.” He Xuan replied. Shi Qingxuan let out a small laugh and turned around.

“I’ll do my best not to let you down.” Shi Qingxuan said, putting on his gloves. He pressed the button to turn on the comm. “This is lieutenant Shi. We’re ready for take off when we’re clear.”

“You’re all good.” Xie Lian’s voice came through the comm.

“Thanks, your highness.” Shi Qingxuan replied. A nickname he’d given Xie Lian after they first met. A teasing name since Xie Lian’s boyfriend always talked about him and worshiped him like he was a prince of some sort. Shi Qingxuan pressed a few buttons and they shot off into the sky. He’d pilotied a few times but usually his brother did the front piloting so the take off was a bit rough.

“Sorry, that was a bit rough.” Shi Qingxuan said, looking back at his partner. He Xuan shook his head.

“It wasn’t too bad. I’ve seen some of Hua Cheng’s take offs.” He Xuan said, smiling as he heard Hua Cheng’s angry gasp over the comm.

“I can hear you.” Hua Cheng yelled. He Xuan let out a small laugh. Shi Qingxuan found their banter funny. He didn’t know He Xuan and Hua Cheng were friends or even close enough to joke like this. He could see the view of a nearby planet, made solely of water.

“I know, it's why I said it.” He Xuan replied. Shi Qingxuan shook his head and focused on making sure not to leave the assigned area. Last thing he needed was to battle and try to impress the head general. He Xuan leaned forward.

“Wanna try a fun trick? I think you might like it.” He Xuan asked. Shi Qingxuan nodded his head. He Xuan put his hands over Shi Qingxuan’s. “Trust me and hold on tight.”

“I trust you.” Shi Qingxuan whispered. He felt He Xuan pushing the controls forward causing them to dive toward the ocean. Shi Qingxuan let out a scream, it looked like they were going to hit the water but He Xuan pulled up fast and they shot back in the air. Shi Qingxuan’s screaming turned into a laugh as he realized that not only were they safe but that was fun.

“See, I knew you’d like that.” He Xuan said, sitting properly in his seat again. Shi Qingxuan laughed louder as he brought them back to the hanger, carefully parking them. His landing was pretty smooth.

“I think that went pretty well.” Shi Qingxuan said, unbuckling. He Xuan hummed in response behind him. Shi Qingxuan opened the hatch, climbing out. He Xuan was right behind him. Right after he got out his brother ran over, a look on his face like he was going to yell at them.

“What the hell do you two think you’re doing?!” Shi Wudu demanded when he got closer. He pointed a finger at He Xuan. “You could have gotten both of you hurt. More importantly you, mister He, could have gotten my brother hurt.”

“Leave him alone. I agreed to go along with his plan and plus we were fine.” Shi Qingxuan said, stepping in front of He Xuan.

“It doesn't matter. He still was irresponsible. This isn’t a game.” Shi Wudu yelled, stepping forward. He grabbed Shi Qingxuan’s wrist. “I’m starting to think maybe lieutenant He isn’t a good match for you.”

“Let me go!” Shi Qingxuan yelled, snatching on his wrist, trying to loosen his brothers hold. He Xuan was about to step forward when Jun Wu walked up. Shi Wudu turned his attention to the general.

“What's going on here?” Jun Wu asked, frowning at the brothers. Shi Wudu loosened his hold and Shi Qingxuan took this chance to snatch his wrist free.

“Nothing.” Shi Qingxuan said, storming away. He Xuan slowly walked off as well. This left Shi Wudu to explain.

“The stunt lieutenant He pulled was dangerous. What if they got hurt or worse died?” Shi Wudu said. Why would Jun Wu pair up such a wildcard with his brother? He had a bad feeling about him since the moment he laid eyes on his file.

“Captain Shi, it’s your brothers job to put his life in danger for the sake of the world. You know this better than anyone. It’s better he be ready for anything.” Jun Wu said it in his usual caring tone. He had the ability to make a death threat sound like a good idea. “I gave him a partner who will react well and help him in the face of danger.”

“I still don’t approve of how lieutenant He did it, but if you say so.” Shi Wudu still had a bad feeling but choose to push it aside. He trusted Jun Wu’s judgement, after all he was in the highest position.

“Now that’s cleared up. I have other matters to attend to. You have a nice night captain.” Jun Wu said and turned around, walking the other way. Shi Wudu frowned, deciding to let his brother calm down before he talks to him. In his current state Shi Qingxuan won’t listen to any reason.

~

Shi Qingxuan reached his room, pulling his helmet off and tossing it on the bed. He covered his face with his hands and screamed into them. Why did his brother always treat him like a child? He wasn’t a baby. He didn’t need to be coddled. He sat down on his bed, pulling his knees to his chest as hot tears ran down his face. “Stupid brother!” He mumbled, pressing his face into his knees.

“Are you okay?” He Xuan asked, leaning on the door. Shi Qingxuan glanced over, teary eyes looking at his partner for a moment and then looked away.

“I’m fine.” He said, voice shaky from crying. He Xuan stepped into the room, sitting down on the bed next to Shi Qingxuan.

“No you aren’t.” He Xuan said, moving the helmet to a side table and scooted closer to Shi Qingxuan.

“Why does my brother treat me like a child? I can be strong like him. I’m not weak.” Shi Qingxuan sobbed, looking at He Xuan.

“You’re not weak in the slightest. Your brother is just cruel.” He Xuan reached out and slowly wiped Shi Qingxuan’s tears away.

“Your hands are cold.” Shi Qingxuan said, laughing. He reached up, placing his hand on He Xuan’s hand. “Thanks for being here for me.”

“What are best friends for?” He Xuan said, moving his hand to rub the back of Shi Qingxuan’s neck.

“Best friends. Has the great He Xuan finally admitted he has a soft spot for me?” Shi Qingxuan teased. He Xuan nurrowed his eyes and shook his head.

“Don’t push it.” He Xuan said. Shi Qingxuan giggled and leaned in close.

“But you do have a soft spot for me.” Shi Qingxuan whispered, looking down at He Xuan’s lips and the back to his eyes. Those beautiful golden eyes that seemed to glow.

“I don’t.” He Xuan whispered back, looking at Shi Qingxuan’s lips. “I don’t have anything for you.” He Xuan whispered as he moved closer.

“You’re a liar.” Shi Qingxuan whispered, pressing their lips together. He Xuan kissed back, reaching up to undo Shi Qingxuan’s hair. Shi Qingxuan gasped allowing He Xuan to deepen the kiss. He Xuan laid back on the bed, pulling Shi Qingxuan with him. He moved his lips to Shi Qingxuan’s throat, hands resting on his hips.

“He Xuan,” Shi Qingxuan gasped. He closed his eyes, reaching up to grab He Xuan’s hair.

“Brother!” Shi Wudu yelled from the doorway. Shi Qingxuan pulled away, turning toward his brother.

“Brother what are you doing here?” Shi Qingxuan asked. His brother lared at him.

“I came to say sorry for my earlier behavior but I can see you aren’t even upset anymore. Go back to your business.” His tone is aggressive as he turns and walks off. The rage in Shi Qingxuan rises once again. How dare his brother just show up here and judge him. Look down on him.

“Let him go.” He Xuan said, walking up behind Shi Qingxuan. He rested his hands on his shoulders. Shi Qingxuan knew his brother needed time to cool off. He always did this, but he’d have his fit and be fine.

“I should get some rest. I’m tired and I have to meet with head general Jun Wu later.” Shi Qingxuan hadn’t realized how tired he was till all the adrenaline had left him. He Xuan nodded his head, rubbing the others shoulders a few times.

“I’ll see you later.” He Xuan walked around Shi Qingxuan and headed toward his own room. Shi Qingxuan sighed and he lied down on his bed. He fell asleep almost immediately after closing his eyes.

~

The next morning he was woken by the sound of his alarm. He rolled over, groaning as he sat up. Thoughts of last night quickly snapped him awake. He’d made out with his partner. He was so embarrassed, how could he do that? And his brother caught him too which only worsened his embarrassment. He climbed out of bed and quickly got dressed. Afterwards he brushed his hair. He’d always been very particular about his looks. He brushed his hair at least twice a day. He pulled it into a high ponytail. He was meeting with Jun Wu today to discuss how the flight test went yesterday. If Jun Wu thought they didn’t match well then it would be the end of their partnership. The idea of them not working together made Shi Qingxuan’s heart sink for some reason. He couldn’t quite place why. After all they could still be friends even if they weren’t partners. Shi Qingxuan walked down the hallway and went over to the elevator, press the button. He heard the ding and watched the doors open. He quickly walked inside, trying to push the anxious feeling down as the elevator descended. He tucked his hands behind his back and drew deep breaths. When the doors opened, he stepped out and walked down the long white hallway. Everything surround Jun Wu was white, giving off a feeling like you were trapped in a brightly lit prison. When he reached the end of the hallway, he knocked at the door.

“Come in.” Jun Wu called from the other side of the door. Shi Qingxuan opened the door and stepped into the room. He closed the door behind him and walked over to the desk, giving a small bow.

“I came to see what you thought of lieutenant He and I’s performance yesterday.” Shi Qingxuan faced the general who was watching him with a small smile.

“The two of you seem to work well together. Lieutenant He’s little trick was daring I must say, but you need to be ready to take risks in battle.” Jun Wu placed his hands together and rested his chin atop them. “I believe Lieutenant He will bring out a new side to you that will benefit us all.”

“What do you mean by that?” Shi Qingxuan asked, arching a brow. Jun Wu smiled wider and shook his head. He stood up and walked around his desk, moving to stand behind Shi Qingxuan.

“Your brother keeps you so guarded, so smothered. You deserve to be free.” Jun Wu said, his tone low. “That’s all I meant.”

“My brother is just worried. He’s trying to protect me.” Shi Qingxuan answered. He knew his brother meant well, even if he could be harsh.

“Even so, some space of your own to breath would be nice I’m sure. Someone to protect you but allow you to breath.” Jun Wu added. He walked around so he was facing Shi Qingxuan once again.

“I guess you're right.” Shi Qingxuan said. Jun Wu reached out, placing a hand on Shi Qingxuan’s shoulder.

“I have something for you that might help you with your piloting.” Jun Wu reached over picking up a bottle off his desk. “These pills will enhance your abilities. Take one a day, but if you feel you must, two is fine to take.”

“How will I know if I need more than one?” Shi Qingxuan asked, grabbing the bottle. When he opened it he saw brightly colored crimson pills with black lines on them.

“You’ll just feel it.” Jun Wu replied smiling. Shi Qingxuan closed the bottle and shoved it in his pocket.

“How long will it take for them to start working?” Shi Qingxuan asked. Jun Wu moved to sit behind his desk again.

“With that level of dosage the effects will be almost instant.” Jun Wu replied. Shi Qingxuan arched a brow.

“Isn’t that a bit high to start off with?” Shi Qingxuan asked.

Jun Wu just smiled and said. “Would I mislead you?”

“Of course not. I’ll let you know if they help.” Shi Qingxuan smiled and gave a small bow. “Thank you for your help, general Jun Wu.”

“Of course. I’m always here to help.” Jun Wu said, waving his hand. Shi Qingxuan gave another bow and then left the office. He walked down the hallway and boarded the elevator. A weight lifted off his chest knowing that He Xuan would stay his partner. He immediately went back to his room, it was still early and today wasn’t a training day so everyone was still asleep. Shi Qingxuan went to his room, pulling the pill bottle out. He opened it and dumped one into his palm. He swallowed it down, closing his eyes. Almost immediately he felt dizzy. He fell back on his bed, gasp as he gripped the sheets. His whole body felt like it was on fire. He could feel tears sliding down his cheeks, as he gasped out. He took deep breaths, feeling his concusses fading.

~

He was woken by He Xuan, worriedly shaking him awake. He looked around the room slowly, sitting up with the help of He Xuan. He was still a little off balance but the dizziness was getting better. He Xuan breathed a sigh of relief as he got Shi Qingxuan to sit up. He carefully took his face in his hands.

“Hey, you okay?” He Xuan asked, concern lacing his voice. “Do you need me to get your brother?”

“No, I’m fine.” Shi Qingxuan whispered, shaking his head. He gritted his teeth as the room spun. This had to be just a side effect of the medicine Jun Wu gave him. He just had to get through it. He was sure it would get better soon.

“What happened to you?” He Xuan asked and took a seat on the bed. He let Shi Qingxuan lean on him. He slowly rubbed Shi Qingxuan’s arms. A subconscious comfort movement.

“Head general Jun Wu gave me medicine that’s supposed to help me be stronger so I can handle the flight system better.” Shi Qingxuan answered. He rests his head on He Xuan’s shoulder. “I guess this is just the starting side effects. I’m sure they’ll wear off soon and I’ll be fine.”

“If it becomes too much you can always stop taking them. There’s got to be an easier way than this.” He Xuan said, frowning. Shi Qingxuan looked up at him.

“I’ll be okay. I’m already feeling better.” Shi Qingxuan said, smiling up at He Xuan. He righted himself on the bed, putting his hands on He Xuan’s shoulders. “Good news is we get to stay partners. Jun Wu thinks we work well together.”

“I’m glad he can see how helpful I am for your chaotic nature.” He Xuan teased, smiling softly at his partner. Shi Qingxuan glared at him, puffing out his cheeks.

“You’re the crazy one. I’m rational.” Shi Qingxuan yelled, smacking He Xuan’s shoulder.

“You keep telling yourself that, buttercup.” He Xuan sighed. Shi Qingxuan felt a blush rise to his cheeks at He Xuan’s nickname.

“What time is it? How long was I asleep for?” Shi Qingxuan asked, standing up and stretching.

“It’s nighttime. You slept all day which is why I was so worried.” He Xuan answered. He stood up as well.

“My brother didn’t ask where I’d been.” Shi Qingxuan asked, arching a brow as he fixed his hair into a ponytail.

“He was out on an emergency conference most of the day.” He Xuan answered. It wasn’t weird for Shi Wudu to be in long meetings. It came with the position he was in.

“If he asks and I’m suffering from the side effects of this medicine could you just lie and say I’m not feeling well?” Shi Qingxuan asked, slipping on his jacket.

“I don’t think that excuse will hold up long. Your brother is extremely overprotective. He’s sure to check on you if you’re sick too much.” He Xuan answered. Shi Qingxuan walked over to He Xuan and poked his nose.

“I’ll just have to be sure I’ve got the side effects under control by then.” Shi Qingxuan said. He’d said it as if it were that easy. As if he really believed he could overcome this. He Xuan could almost believe it too when he said it like that. He Xuan hated how Shi Qingxuan made him believe anything was possible behind those bright eyes and sweet smile.

“You’re strange, Shi Qingxuan.” He Xuan said, rolling his eyes. Shi Qingxuan just giggled and smiled wider as if he wasn’t writhing in pain moments ago.

“Lets go spar some. I wanna see if the medicine works as fast as Jun Wu says.” Shi Qingxuan said, grabbing He Xuan’s hand. He started walking, pulling him along with him. He Xuan followed, sighing. He knew that once Shi Qingxuan set his mind on something that was it.

“If it does then our general has just found the best new technology.” He Xuan remarked. They reached the soaring room in no time. Shi Qingxuan took off his jacket, tossing it to the side and turned around.

“Come at me.” Shi Qingxuan said, waving his hand. He Xuan sighed and ran toward him. He swung his fist and was surprised when Shi Qingxuan actually managed to dodge it. Shi Qingxuan attempted to kick He Xuan’s feet out from under him. He Xuan managed to jump at the last second, flipping over Shi Qingxuan and landing on his feet. Shi Qingxuan quickly turned around, attempting to kick He Xuan. He Xuan grabbed his foot at the last second and flipped him over on the mat. Once he was on the ground He Xuan climbed on top, pinning him down.

“You’re getting stronger, but still not as strong as me.” He Xuan smirked. Shi Qingxuan puffed his cheeks out and then smiled.

“You’re so strong He-Xiong.” Shi Qingxuan praised, looking up at He Xuan. He watched He Xuan blush and look away.

“Of course I train hard.” He Xuan said. Shi Qingxuan smiles wider, giggling.

“So do I. But you’re so strong and cool! I’m glad general Jun Wu paired us up.” Shi Qingxuan said, leaning his head up some. He Xuan looked back at him noticing how close their faces were. He Xuan took a deep breath, looking from Shi Qingxuan’s eyes to his lips and then back to his eyes.

“How do you feel about me He Xuan?” Shi Qingxuan asked, noticing how He Xuan was looking at him.

“I feel like,” He Xuan started but then stopped. He couldn’t find the words to explain how he felt for Shi Qingxuan. He felt warmth and like he wanted to hold him. He couldn’t find the words and so he bent down and kissed Shi Qingxuan. He felt the other return the kiss, an answer that he felt the same. Shi Qingxuan wrapped his arms around He Xuan’s neck as they deepened the kiss. He Xuan pulled back, staring into Shi Qingxuan’s eyes.

“Well I guess I know how you feel now.” Shi Qingxuan giggled, blushing. He Xuan sat up, helping Shi Qingxuan up as well. He giggled harder when he saw He Xuan blushing deeply as well. Shi Qingxuan reached out, grabbing He Xuan’s hand. “I’m glad. It makes me really happy.”

“Me too.” He Xuan admitted, scooting closer. He bent his head down, pressing a kiss to Shi Qingxuan’s knuckles. He then moved to press a kiss to Shi Qingxuan. “You look tired.”

“I am. Will you stay with me tonight? In case the side effects are bad again.” Shi Qingxuan asked. He Xuan nodded his head. He stood up, pulling Shi Qingxuan up with him.

“Need me to carry you?” He asked, arching a brow. It was meant to sound teasing but was clearly laced with concern.

“No, I can walk.” Shi Qingxuan smiled and started walking. He Xuan followed close behind, watching for a shake in his step. He was pretty steady for someone on the verge of fainting at any moment. They reach Shi Qingxuan’s room without incident. He Xuan sits down on the bed and watches as Shi Qingxuan gets one of the pills and downs it before sitting down next to He Xuan. He Xuan lies down and pulls Shi Qingxuan with him, holding the other against his chest. He Xuan pressed kisses to Shi Qingxuan’s head. He could feel Shi Qingxuan sobbing into his chest, shaking in his arms.

“You’re gonna be okay.” He Xuan whispered, running his fingers through Shi Qingxuan’s hair. He was saying it to convince them both. He needed to believe that Shi Qingxuan would be okay. He’d push through this and come out stronger. He needed both of them to really believe that. After what felt like forever Shi Qingxuan went still in his hold, breathing softly, finally asleep. He Xuan closed his eyes, praying that Shi Qingxuan would sleep through the night.

~

A week passed. The medicine went down easier and the side effects eased up. Shi Qingxuan wasn’t sleeping eighteen hours a day after day three. He Xuan was still worried but Shi Qingxuan was slowly getting back to himself. He was able to train for longer periods of time. But with the first set of symptoms gone came a new set. One that had Shi Qingxuan bent over a trash can at least twice a day. The first time it happened was in the bathroom after training. It was on the sixth day of taking the pills. He’d suddenly been hit with a sharp pain and then a nauseous feeling. He ended up throwing up and he sobbed at the sight of blood. He washed it away and hoped it was a one time thing, but soon learned it wasn’t.

“Maybe you should go back to Jun Wu and tell him about this.” He Xuan said, rubbing Shi Qingxuan’s back as the other threw up. Shi Qingxuan sat back, leaning against He Xuan.

“What if this is normal?” Shi Qingxuan asked, wiping his mouth with a tissue. He Xuan frowned, rubbing Shi Qingxuan’s shoulders.

“Then at least you’ll know.” He Xuan answered. At least they’d have some peace of mind that this was just another passing side effect.

“I’ll pay him a visit.” Shi Qingxuan said, rubbing his head on He Xuan’s shoulder. He Xuan smiled softly and kissed Shi Qingxuan on the head.

“Want me to go with you?” He Xuan asked. Shi Qingxuan shook his head and stood up.

“No, I’ll be fine. See you later.” Shi Qingxuan smiled and walked off. He thought about kissing his boyfriend but his mouth was gross. He’d give him plenty of kisses later. He walked down the hallway, shivering. He didn’t notice how cold it was outside his room, he shook his head and pressed the button to call the elevator. Once it arrived he stepped inside, sighing. He really hoped this was normal and would pass soon, he just wanted to feel normal again. To be strong like Jun Wu promised. When the elevator stopped Shi Qingxuan stepped off and started walking down the hallway. He knocked on Jun Wu’s door.

“Come in.” Jun Wu called from the other side of the door. Shi Qingxuan opened the door and stepped into the office. Jun Wu was seated behind his desk, a stack of papers in front of him.

“Can I talk to you?” Shi Qingxuan asked, giving a small bow. Jun Wu gave a small smile and held out a hand.

“Of course. Sit down.” Jun Wu answered, pushing the papers aside. Shi Qingxuan sat down in one of the chairs in front of Jun Wu’s desk. “What seems to be the problem?”

“The medicine you gave me has some intense side effects.” Shi Qingxuan answered. Jun Wu arched a brow ushering Shi Qingxuan to continue. “At first I was sleeping eighteen hours a day and that went away but now I’m vomiting blood.”

“I see how that would worry you, but don’t fret. It's a normal side effect and will go away soon.” Jun Wu reassured him. Shi Qingxuan nodded his head, wrapping his arms around himself, he was suddenly feeling extremely cold. “You’re already nearing the next stage of symptoms.”

“What are those?” Shi Qingxuan asked. Jun Wu stood up and walked around the desk.

“Chills. That should only last a few days.” Jun Wu answered. He walked behind Shi Qingxuan. “It’ll be a bit rough but it’ll pass.”

“Am I almost through all the side effects?” Shi Qingxuan asked, shivering.

“You’re so close. You’re doing so well.” Jun Wu praised, placing his hands on Shi Qingxuan’s shoulders. Shi Qingxuan whimpered at the feeling of Jun Wu’s warm hands on his seemingly freezing shoulders. Even through his uniform he could feel the warmth. He jumped up.

“Thank you for your help I should go.” Shi Qingxuan said, giving a small bow and walked past Jun Wu.

“Anytime you need me I’m here. It’s my job after all.” Jun Wu said. Shi Qingxuan quickly left the room, running to the elevator. He wanted to get back to He Xuan. To be in his arms. He needed it so much it hurts. He needed to be held. He was so cold. It felt like it took forever for the elevator to take him back to his floor but finally he reached it. He quickly walked to his room and smiled when he saw He Xuan lying on his bed sleeping. Shi Qingxuan took one of his pills and climbed into bed with He Xuan.

“You’re back.” He Xuan said, rubbing his eyes as he rolled over and pulled Shi Qingxuan close. He kissed Shi Qingxuan’s nose, earning a giggle from the other.

“Yeah, everything normal and will pass soon.” Shi Qingxuan replied, kissing his boyfriend. He Xuan returned the kiss, moving his hand to Shi Qingxuan’s waist.

“I’m glad you’re okay.” He Xuan whispered against Shi Qingxuan’s lips. Shi Qingxuan put his hands on He Xuan’s cheeks, smiling against his lips.

“Show me how glad.” Shi Qingxuan said, moving his hands to the edge of He Xuan’s shirt.

“Are you sure?” He Xuan asked, pressing a kiss to Shi Qingxuan’s cheek.

“I’m sure. I want this if you do.” Shi Qingxuan said, kissing He Xuan’s neck. They were soft kisses, followed back little gasps. “I need you, He Xuan.” Shi Qingxuan whimpered, closing his eyes. He was so cold, he needed them to be closer. Anything to help him warm up.

~

Shi Qingxuan woke up the next morning, his head resting on He Xuan’s chest. He smiled at the feeling of He Xuan’s arms wrapped around him. Memories of the night before flashed through his mind causing him to giggle. He pressed a kiss to He Xuan’s shoulder, watching as those beautiful golden eyes opened. He Xuan reached a hand up, brushing his fingers over Shi Qingxuan’s cheek.

“You look happy.” He Xuan said, kissing Shi Qingxuan’s cheek.

“How can I not be when I get to wake up to you?” Shi Qingxuan asked, poking He Xuan’s nose. He Xuan blushed and shook his head. Shi Qingxuan sat up and climbed out of bed, slowly getting dressed.

“I’m glad you’re starting to feel better.” He Xuan said, getting out of bed and started getting dressed as well.

“I’m still a little cold, but you did really well warming me up last night.” Shi Qingxuan teased and added a wink. He Xuan rolled his eyes, smiling slightly.

“Well, hopefully I can warm you up again soon.” He Xuan teased. He pressed a kiss to the corner of Shi Qingxuan’s mouth.

“Oh, darling, you will.” Shi Qingxuan laughed, fixing his hair in a ponytail. “My brother is back today so I gotta go meet him, but later I will see you.”

“I’ll hold you to it.” He Xuan answered, watching as Shi Qingxuan fixed his hair. He reached out, running his fingers over Shi Qingxuan’s cheeks.

“Is everything okay?” Shi Qingxuan asked. He Xuan was looking at him weird. Like he was worried.

“You’re just really pale.” He Xuan knew he was likely worrying too much. Shi Qingxuan seemed to be feeling better. He’d even said the symptoms were easing off.

“I don’t get a lot of sun of course I’m pale.” Shi Qingxuan said, placing his hand over He Xuan’s. “Plus I’m recovering from those hell pills. I’m sure my complexion will return soon.”

“I just worry about you. The pills are making you stronger but I’m scared they’re doing more damage than good.” He Xuan knew first hand just how much damage certain types of medicine could do. Shi Qingxuan pressed a kiss to his lips.

“The pills have bad side effects but I’m almost done with them and none of the side effects seem permanent.” Shi Qingxuan reassured He Xuan. He Xuan smiled and kissed Shi Qingxuan’s forehead.

“As long as you’re fine, I’m not worried.” It was a lie and both of them knew it. He Xuan just needed to believe that Shi Qingxuan really was okay.

“I’ll see you later.” Shi Qingxuan smiled and kissed He Xuan’s cheek before walking off. He walked down the hallway, excited to see his brother. He’d been away on a meet. Shi Qingxuan had really missed his brother. This was the longest he’d been away for quite some time. Last time he was gone for this long he’d taken Shi Qingxuan with him. Due to them not being a team he didn’t have that chance this time.

He arrived before his brother and took a seat at one of the tables. He wasn’t left waiting for long before his brother appeared with a tray of food. He took a seat and his eyes widened when he saw his brother.

“Qingxuan, are you okay?” Shi Wudu’s voice was full of concern. Shi Qingxuan hadn’t heard his brother sound so panicked in awhile. He didn’t think he looked that bad. Or maybe He Xuan left visible marks? If he did Shi Qingxuan would end him.

“Of course, why?” Shi Qingxuan answered, arching a brow. Shi Wudu just staring at him. He was starting to think he Xuan really did leave visible marks.

“You’re really pale. Are you sick?” Shi Wudu asked, reaching across the table and pressing a hand to Shi Qingxuan’s forehead. Both of them let out a gasp. Shi Qingxuan because his brothers hands felt like they were on fire. Shi Wudu because his brothers skin was freezing cold.

“You’re freezing, Qingxuan.” Shi Wudu said. He sounded even more concerned now. Shi Qingxuan just shrugged.

“Yeah, it’s a side effect of the medicine.” Shi Qingxuan replied. His brothers face turned from worried to a look of confusion.

“Medicine? What medicine?” Shi Wudu asked. Shi Qingxuan arched a brow. Did his brother did not know about the medicine for his training? Had Jun Wu not yet told him?

“For my training.” Shi Qingxuan answered. His brother only looked more confused and worried at his answer. Before Shi Qingxuan could say anything else a sharp pain shot through his head. He grabbed his head, gritting his teeth. He could feel the blood dripping down his nose. He could faintly hear his brothers voice but mostly all he heard was a high pitched ringing before everything went black.

~

When he came to he was in a bright white room. He looked over to see He Xuan sitting next to the bed. He brushed Shi Qingxuan’s hair out of his face. Next to He Xuan was Shi Wudu. Both of them looked extremely worried.

“Where am I?” Shi Qingxuan asked, reaching up to feel his head. Everything felt fine, he was a little lightheaded but at least the headache and ringing had gone away.

“The infirmary. You got a migraine and fainted.” He Xuan said, frowning. He looked like he wanted to say something but was holding back for some reason.

“What did you mean medicine for training?” Shi Wudu asked, stepping forward.

“Jun Wu gave me some medicine to help better my piloting skills and make me stronger. I assumed you knew and authorized it.” Shi Qingxuan answered, confused now. Why was his brother getting so antsy about this?

“He never said a word to me. When did he do this?” Shi Wudu asked. Something about this whole situation didn’t feel right.

“Shortly after you left he gave it to me. It’s got some weird side effects, but it seems to be working I’m getting stronger.” Shi Qingxuan sounded so proud of himself for being stronger. This meant he could rise up in the ranks. He wouldn’t need his brother to protect him anymore. He wouldn’t be weak anymore.

“It seems like it’s hurting you more than making you stronger.” Shi Wudu said. Was his brother that desperate to get stronger that he’d just accept these awful side effects?

“This isn’t the worst of it. They’re getting better.” Shi Qingxuan answered. Shi Wudu wasn’t sure he wanted to know what the worst of it looked like. He needed to figure out what this medicine Jun Wu had given his brother was. He couldn’t accuse the man of something without proof.

“I’m feeling better. Really, so don’t worry.” Shi Qingxuan said, attempting to calm both his brother and He Xuan’s nerves. The headache had gone away and he really was feeling better.

“If you say so, but if the pain returns let us know.” He Xuan said, carefully grabbing Shi Qingxuan’s hand. Shi Qingxuan smiled softly at He Xuan. Shi Wudu shook his head.

“I have to go. If you need me call me.” Shi Wudu said and ran out of the room. He needed to find Ling Wen. She could get him the information he needed. She had access to files that others didn’t. He had a sick feeling in his stomach that he had to put to rest. He had to prove to himself he was overthinking this. His suspicions couldn’t be true.

It didn’t take long for him to reach Ling Wen’s office. He saw his friend at her desk, going over some papers. He walked up, placing his hands on her desk. She looked up, arching a brow and said. “Hello to you too, Wudu.”

“I’m sorry. I need your help and it’s urgent.” Shi Wudu said. He didn’t care how pathetic he sounded, how much it sounded like he was begging. His brother, his baby brother who he fought tooth and nail to keep safe, was in danger and he was powerless to stop it this time.

“Of course. What do you need?” Ling Wen said, frowning. She could see he was frantic. It had to be about his brother, Shi Wudu was only ever frantic about his little brother.

“I need all the files on He Xuan.” Shi Wudu said. He knew it sounded crazy but he didn’t care. Ling Wen looked confused but got up to grab them. Shi Wudu followed her, watching as she went through a drawer full of files and handed one to him. Shi Wudu opened it and flipped through the pages, stopping on the one about the experiments. The project he’d kept his brother from by switching his name with another boys. With He Xuan, of course that’s why the name was familiar. Shi Wudu covered his mouth, muffling a sob as he read over the symptoms He Xuan had shown.

“What's wrong?” Ling Wen asked, moving closer. Shi Wudu closed the file and set it down, holding onto the wall for support.

“I switched my brothers name years ago so he would avoid a dangerous experiment and so it was done on lieutenant He.” Shi Wudu started, tears forming in his eyes. Memories of his brother pale and cold. The headache he was suffering from, the lack of appetite Pei Ming had said he’d shown the past few weeks. “While I was away the same medicine He Xuan was given was given to my brother.”

“What? Why?” Ling Wen asked, pulling Shi Wudu close. He returned the hug, sobbing into her shoulder.

“I don’t know. That’s my brother, my baby brother. He’s suffering and I can’t help him.” Shi Wudu cried, hugging Ling Wen tighter.

“It’s gonna be okay. We’ll figure this out.” Ling Wen said, trying to reassure him. She didn’t know how they would fix this. She didn’t even know if they could.

~

Shi Qingxuan walked next to He Xuan, glancing over every once and awhile. After he’d been released the two decided to go back to Shi Qingxuan’s room. The walk back was quiet, whatever He Xuan wanted to say back at the infermy still on his mind. Finally Shi Qingxuan broke the silence.

“Okay, you want to say something so please say it. You’re killing me with this ominous silence.” Shi Qingxuan said. He Xuan frowned and pulled him into the room. He sat down pulling Shi Qingxuan with him.

“Your migraines are caused by the medicine. They won’t go away ever and before you ask I know because I took that same medicine Jun Wu gave you.” He Xuan said, taking Shi Qingxuan’s face in his hands. “You and I are the same now. We’re experiments.”

“What do you mean?” Shi Qingxuan asked, eyes widening. Where was this coming from?

“When I was younger I was forced into taking part in a study. It was supposed to be you but your brother switched you out because it wasn’t safe.” He Xuan said, rubbing his thumbs over Shi Qingxuan’s cheek. “I was in so much pain I don't remember all the symptoms it's only when you mentioned that migraine that I put everything together.”

“So what does this mean?” Shi Qingxuan asked, tears forming in his eyes. He Xuan suffered because of him and his brother. He suffered through this pain.

“I don’t know, but I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you okay? We’re in this together.” He Xuan hugged Shi Qingxuan against his chest. He ran his fingers through his hair and pressed kisses to the top of his head. Shi Qingxuan just lied down with him, processing all this. He lied on He Xuan’s chest and closed his eyes. He didn’t know what all this meant. He didn’t understand anything and it scared him.

“Partners for life.” Shi Qingxuan sobbed, pressing his face in He Xuan’s chest. He cried till he felt better and then he sat up. He wasn’t sure how long they’d laid together like that. Both crying for what they lost. For what they would keep losing. Shi Qingxuan stood up, walking toward the bathroom.

“You okay?” He Xuan asked, slowly sitting up. Shi Qingxuan looked back and nodded his head.

“Just getting a drink of water. I’ll be back.” Shi Qingxuan said and walked into the bathroom. He turned on the light and saw his reflection, pale and ghost like. He looked eternal. He walked over to the sink and turned it on, getting a mouth full of water. He swallowed it and looked down to see the pill bottle sitting on the edge of the sink. He picked it up with shaky hands and took a deep breath as he opened the bottle, he downed one of the pills, telling himself this was to get stronger. He couldn’t turn back now.

~

Shi Qingxuan was seated at a table in the far corner. Across from him sat He Xuan. The two were sharing a plate of food, as they often did these days. Their abilities, for Shi Qingxuan they were newfound, made them lose their appetite. They learned they could go longer without eating than most found possible. Likely a side effect to make them better soldiers. They could focus on the battle and less on more human needs.

“Stop that.” He Xuan said, looking up from the plate. Shi Qingxuan arched a brow.

“Stop what?” He asked. He didn’t notice himself doing anything.

“Looking at me like you wanna eat me up or something.” He Xuan said. He watched as Shi Qingxuan smiled, shaking his head.

“You always look at me like that.” Shi Qingxuan said, taking another bite of mush in front of them. He still had no idea what this stuff was but it wasn’t bad. He Xuan had picked it out.

“I never noticed.” He Xuan responded with a small smile. Shi Qingxuan rolled his eyes and took another bite of food.

“You think my brothers gonna react badly when he finds out what Jun Wu did?” Shi Qingxuan asked, setting the spoon down. He Xuan shrugged.

“I’m guessing since he was willing to hurt me to keep you safe. He’s gonna flip.” He Xuan answered. Shi Qingxuan nodded his head.

“It’s for the better it ended up this way. I’ll be stronger now and I won’t need my brothers protection.” Shi Qingxuan reached a hand over the table placing it on He Xuan’s. “Plus, now you won’t be so alone in all this.”

“I never wanted you to suffer like this.” He Xuan said, intertwined his fingers with Shi Qingxuan’s.

“And I hate that you had to.” Shi Qingxuan squeeze He Xuan’s hand. “But you’re not alone anymore He Xuan. We’re in this together, like you said last night.”

“I couldn’t ask for a better partner.” He Xuan said, smiling at Shi Qingxuan. He watched Shi Qingxuan smiled back, pressing a kiss to his hand. Shi Qingxuan turned when he heard his brother approaching. He was clearly angry, beyond that.

“Brother,” Shi Qingxuan started when he brother got to the table. This was the most enraged Shi Qingxuan had ever saw his brother.

“We’re going to talk to Jun Wu. I’m making his fix this.” Shi Wudu said, grabbing Shi Qingxuan’s arm. He pulled his brother to his feet, shivering at the feeling of how cold his brothers skin was.

“Fix this? So you know about my condition?” Shi Qingxuan asked, looking at his brother. His brother frowned and nodded his head. “For how long have you known?”

“Since last night. I dug through some files.” Shi Wudu said. Shi Qingxuan pulled his wrist away from his brothers hold.

“Then I’m sure you remember He Xuan whose life you ruined.” Shi Qingxuan said, pointing to He Xuan who was still seated at the table, he was thankful no one was around to interrupt them or hear the conversation.

“I was trying to protect you.” Shi Wudu said, frowning. Shi Qingxuan glared at him, tears forming in his eyes.

“Yeah, well look what good that did.” Shi Qingxuan snapped, turning to face his brother. “You screwed He Xuan over and I still ended up a lab rat.”

“I’m sorry if I had known, I wouldn’t have left you.” Shi Wudu said. Shi Qingxuan shook his head, glaring at his brother.

“Well you did.” Shi Qingxuan answered, wiping the tears away. Shi Wudu felt so helpless. Jun Wu had managed to get to his brother while he wasn’t around. Now Shi Qingxuan knew the truth of Shi Wudu’s twisted deed and even worse how Shi Wudu wasted He Xuan’s life just for this to happen.

“I’m sorry for what happened. I was trying to protect you, but I swear if Jun Wu has a cure for this, we will make him fix He Xuan too.” Shi Wud said, stepping forward. He pulled his brother into a hug. “I will make this right I swear.”

“I believe you.” Shi Qingxuan said, hugging his brother back and sobbed into his shirt.

“I’m gonna fix this for both of you. Somehow.” Shi Wudu reassured them. He still wasn’t a fan of this He Xuan guy, but if his brother really cared for him this much, Shi Wudu would do his best to right his wrongs.

The walk to Jun Wu’s office felt like a long one. Longer than Shi Wudu had ever felt. He couldn’t get there soon enough, get the answers soon enough. He wanted to hear Jun Wu’s excuses. Somehow he wanted to believe that this wasn’t planned. That Jun Wu didn’t purposely wait till Shi Wudu was away to use the medicine on his brother. When they reached Jun Wu’s office Shi Wudu knocked on the door, taking a deep breath.

“Yes?” Jun Wu’s voice could be heard through the door. It wasn’t weird for people to visit him with questions. After all, he was the head general here and a mentor to everyone. The whole army looked up to him, afterall he was always so kind. The three of them stepped into the office. Jun Wu didn’t even act surprised, smiling at them.

“Captain Shi, what brings you here?” Jun Wu asked, closing the file he’d been signing. Shi Wudu held back his snarky comments. He needed to be level headed.

“Why did you give my brother some weird medicine without my approval?” Shi Wudu asked, doing his best to stay calm. Jun Wu pressed his hands together and smiled wider.

“Your brother agreed to take them. He wanted to be stronger and I thought I would help him.” Jun Wu answered, looking over to Shi Qingxuan and He Xuan and then back to Shi Wudu. “I mean no disrespect but lientent Shi was not cut out to be in the army.”

“What's that supposed to mean?” Shi Wudu asked, clenching his fists. How dare Jun Wu say that and right in front of Shi Qingxuan too. Shi Wudu looked over to see his brothers gaze on the ground.

“Shi Qingxuan was never cut out for fighting. He’s not strong like you or anything special. He always had to rely on you to keep him safe. He only made it this far with your help.” Jun Wu said, his words harsh and true. Shi Wudu couldn’t believe he was hearing this. Jun Wu was tearing his brother apart in front of him. “This was an act of mercy on my part. Now your brother can finally stand on his own, he’s stronger now.”

“He’s suffering.” Shi Wudu yelled, glaring at Jun Wu. He hated how his brother just stood there and took this. His head lowered as if he believed what Jun Wu was saying and it finally hit Shi Wudu, maybe his brother felt this way too.

“No pain, no gain.” Jun Wu answered. Shi Wudu was about to swing to punch Jun Wu when his brother grabbed his arm. It was faster than Shi Wudu could even blink.

“He’s right.” Shi Qingxuan said, holding his brothers arm tight. He looked at his brother, tears in his eyes. “Before this I was weak. I don’t need to be saved anymore. I’m not so pathetic now.”

“Qingxuan,” Shi Wudu slowly lowered his arm, watching as his brother forced a smile.

“This is for the best. At least I won’t be a burden to you anymore.” Shi Qingxuan said, smiling wider. He was crying but smiling and Shi Wudu felt his heart break. His little brother really thought he was a burden to him.

“Qingxuan, I never thought of you as a burden.” Shi Wudu said, shaking his head. Shi Qingxuan stepped back and nodded his head.

“I did and so did others. I was holding you back, but no more. I’ll be stronger now.” Shi Qingxuan said it like he was proud of the fact. As if all this pain was nothing when it came down to being strong. Shi Wudu hated that he could see it. That he’d missed all those times his brother felt weak. That for years Shi Qingxuan followed him while feeling like a waste of space. That he felt so useless that taking dangerous medicine and being in pain was worth it to get stronger.

“See, I helped your brother. Shi Qingxuan will be one of our greatest pilots alongside He Xuan.” Jun Wu said, standing up from his seat. He walked around his desk.

“Thank you, general Jun Wu.” Shi Qingxuan said, giving a small bow. Jun Wu smiled wider. He smiled like he’d won and in some ways he had.

“Anything to help my army and it’s soldiers feel stronger.” Jun Wu replied. He moved his hands behind his back and glanced over at Shi Wudu and then looked back to Shi Qingxuan and He Xuan. “Would you mind giving me a moment alone with Shi Wudu? I feel like he hasn’t gotten all his anger out.”

“Yes, leave us.” Shi Wudu said. He knew Jun Wu wouldn’t fully show his true colors with Shi Qingxuan and He Xuan standing here. He believed he could trust them. Shi Wudu hoped he couldn’t.

“I’ll see you later, brother.” Shi Qingxuan said and grabbed He Xuan’s hand. The two walked out of the room, shutting the door behind them. Shi Wudu turned to face Jun Wu, glaring at him.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve acting like fucking my brother over is mercy.” Shi Wudu said. He didn’t care Jun Wu was his superior. He’d crossed the line, harming Shi Qingxuan and acting high and mighty about it.

“Your brother was too perfect of a candidate. A weak boy in need to prove he can be something too. He was so willing and eager to please.” Jun Wu replied, shrugging his shoulders. “Plus, you ruined He Xuan’s life to save your brother. I’m only evening the playing field.” Jun Wu stepped closer, smiling wider. “You’re no better than me. You ruined an innocent man’s life without a second thought, so don’t act like you’re any better.”

“He’s my brother.” Shi Wudu yelled. Jun Wu started laughing, shaking his head.

“Is that supposed to mean something to me?” He asked and got in Shi Wudu’s face. “He Xuan meant nothing to you, just a means to an ends. Your brother is a pawn in this game. You’re just mad because you failed to protect your brother and that nasty little secret about what you’ve done thus far to keep him safe.”

“Fuck you!” Shi Wudu yelled as he swung to punch Jun Wu. He was surprised when the man caught his fist and twisted his arm behind his back. Jun Wu slammed him down against his desk, pinning Shi Wudu down. He didn’t think Jun Wu would be this strong, it surprised him.

“You’re first mistake was dragging your weak brother into this fight.” Jun Wu started, tightening his hold on Shi Wudu. “Your next was thinking you could win against me.”

“Why are you doing this?” Shi Wudu asked, gritting his teeth as pain shot through his wrists.

“I need the perfect army if we’re gonna win. Two perfected soldiers will make for a good test. If your brother and lieutenant He surpasses my expectations then I know what steps have to be taken.” Jun Wu answered. In his mind all he could think of was winning. He saw this life as a chess match and he would be the winner.

“You did this all on purpose. You went under my nose and used my brothers insecurities.” Shi Wudu growled, looking back at Jun Wu and glared.

“I had this planned since the moment I partnered them up. I’d get better results if I had two perfected experiments working side by side. I got lucky they fell in love.” Jun Wu said. Shi Wudu felt so helpless. He couldn’t save his brother and now he had to listen to the man that ruined their lives taunt him.

“You of all people should know captain Shi, just what sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. Now your brother will be helpful to the cause.” Jun Wu said as he backed away, letting Shi Wudu stand up.

“I understand perfectly.” Shi Wudu said, gaze on the floor. He didn’t understand at all. Why his brother had to suffer? Why he had to be tied up in this battle? Why he couldn’t put a stop to all this?

“I knew you’d see it my way once you thought about it.” Jun Wu said with a smile. Shi Wudu needed to retreat and figure this out. What the best next move would be. So, he just nodded his head and walked out of the office. He had to find his brother. He had to make this as right as possible. He walked down the hallway and got to the elevator, pressing the button to call it. He stepped inside, taking a deep breath. He’d never felt so defeated in his whole life. Once he reached the floor where his brothers room was he stepped out, walking down the hall. He got to his brothers room and found him sitting on his bed next to He Xuan.

“I’m so sorry.” Shi Wudu said as he stepped into the room. Shi Qingxuan looked at him and shook his head.

“Don’t be. Like I said, this is for the best.” Shi Qingxuan answered. It had been painful and came with some nasty side effects but he really was getting stronger.

“That’s why I’m sorry.” Shi Wudu said, shaking his head. “All this time you felt weak and helpless and I didn’t even notice. You felt this was your only option.”

“It’s not your fault. I never told you how I feel.” Shi Qingxuan stood up and hugged his brother. “Being a captain was so important to you, I couldn’t get in the way of that. Your focus needs to be on what was right for you. Now, it’s time I do what’s right for me.”

“We’ll figure this out.” Shi Wudu said, hugging his brother back. They would figure out something, somehow. He just didn’t know what they could do yet.

“First we need to figure out what all the restrictions with your new powers are.” Shi Wudu added, pulling back. He turned his attention to He Xuan. If anyone would know it would be He Xuan who had lived with this for years.

“You don’t have much of an appetite. You can go days without food. You’re cold, but after awhile you won’t even notice.” He Xuan frowned. “You can’t go back to earth. We’re unable to breath there.”

“The perfect weapon. Of course you’d belong in space.” Shi Wudu said, shaking his head. Jun Wu needed soldiers who could withstand long periods in space. It likely never crossed his mind that they might want to go home.

“We can’t let him get away with this.” He Xuan said, clenching his fists. “He used Qingxuan’s own fears against him. I’m the only survivor of my group.”

“All the others died?” Shi Qingxuan asked, eyes wide. How many people had died for this cause? How many died thinking they were saving the world? What had Jun Wu told them?

“Unfortunately. I’m the only one who didn’t die due to complications from the experiments.” He Xuan answered. He stepped closer. “I hated you, I think part of me still does. At the end of the day, you were protecting your brother. Jun Wu did those experiments and he’s still doing them.”

“He can’t get away with this.” Shi Qingxuan shook his head. He couldn’t believe it. The man he and his brother had followed and respected for years was a monster.

“He won’t. I won’t let him.” Shi Wudu said. He would be sure Jun Wu got his just deserts. For his brother and for He Xuan. For all those who died for this.

“We’ll figure something out.” He Xuan added. They had to, it was just too cruel of a fate to not give Jun Wu his just deserts.

-

A few days went by uneventfully. Shi Qingxuan and He Xuan continued training, the increase of strength only becoming more and more apparent by the day. Shi Wudu would sit in for the training seasons and as much as he hated to admit it, they did make a good team. They brought out each others strengths and compensate for each others weaknesses. Shi Wudu smiled softly as he realized just how happy He Xuan made his brother. The way they looked at each other and then his cheeks flushed as he realized that's how he looked at Pei Ming. That little smile Pei Ming gets when he does anything. How Shi Wudu’s heart flutters when Pei Ming does that cocky smirk he always seems to pull at the worst times. He was in love with Pei Ming.

“Are you okay? You look like you just had some kind of gay awakening.” Shi Qingxuan said as he walked over to his brother. Shi Wudu was just staring into the distance, blushing and making a weird face.

“More like a gay epiphany.” Shi Wudu said as he stood up from where he was sitting. “And now I have to go do something.”

“Have fun, but not too much fun.” Shi Qingxuan said, arching a brow. Shi Wudu nodded his head and ran out of the room. Shi Qingxuan was sure he’d never seen his brother run so fast in his life. He must have really realized something to move that fast.

“Where is he going?” He Xuan asked, confused as he walked up and placed his hands on Shi Qingxuan’s shoulders.

“To get his man.” Shi Qingxuan said. He Xuan looked even more confused at that. He didn’t know Shi Wudu liked anything at all.

“Whose his man?” He Xuan asked. Shi Qingxuan turned around, smiling wide.

“General Pei Ming.” Shi Qingxuan answered. He Xuan made a face and then shook his head.

“You know what, they fit.” He Xuan nodded his head. He could see it now that he thought about it. He decided to think no more about it and kissed his boyfriend instead.

Meanwhile Shi Wudu had managed to track down Pei Ming who was trying to save his dying aloe plant. Shi Wudu was still trying to figure out how Pei Ming thought an aloe plant would survive in space, but this was just another Pei Ming thing. Pei Ming didn’t know Shi Wudu was there and so his tough guy act was dropped and he was half sobbing over the dying plant.

“Come on little buddy, just a few more days and I’ll take you home. I promise no more space adventures.” Pei Ming sighed, leaning on his hands as he stared intently at the plant. Shi Wudu knew in that moment he was morosexual. He was attracted to an idiot, a cute idiot.

“Pei Ming.” Shi Wudu said, clearing his throat.. Pei Ming jumped and turned around, face red with embarrassment. He’d been caught talking to a plant. He always tried to keep this cool guy facade on, but deep down he was a dork. He let his guard down a little around Shi Wudu but he still tried to keep some cool guy act.

“Hey, how long have you been standing there?” Pei Ming asked, clearing his throat and trying to fight back his embarrassment. Shi Wudu could only smile at that.

“Long enough to see you giving your plant a pep talk.” Shi Wudu answered and stepped into the room. He pulled up a chair next to Pei Ming, sitting down. Pei Ming placed a hand on his shoulder.

“You okay? You look stressed.” Pei Ming frowned as he said it. Shi Wudu was surprised. Did he really look that bad? Was Pei Ming just that good he noticed how Shi Wudu was feeling.

“Honestly, I’m not okay at all.” Shi Wudu said, feeling tears well up in his eyes.

“This is about Qingxuan isn’t it?” Pei Ming asked. Of course it was. How could it not be? Shi Qingxuan was all his brother had.

“Jun Wu did something terrible. He used him for some sick experiment and now my little brother will never go home.” Shi Wudu started crying as he said it. He felt so weak and stupid. Breaking down and crying in front of his crush. He didn’t even know if Pei Ming likes him back.

“That’s awful.” Pei Ming pulled Shi Wudu into a tight hug. “Don’t worry we’ll figure something out. You’re not alone, okay? I’m gonna do all I can to help you. Whatever you need, I’m here.”

“Thanks. It means a lot knowing I have someone in my corner.” Shi Wudu sobbed, resting his head on Pei Ming’s shoulder. Even if Pei Ming didn’t like him romantically, and now really wasn’t the time for that, at least he knew he could count on him.

“I think I know how we can get the son of a bitch back.” Pei Ming said as he pulled back. He was pretty good at coming up with plans, with the help of Shi Wudu that is. Pei Ming came up with good plans and then Shi Wudu would always think out all the possible flaws.

“I’m listening.” Shi Wudu replied. He’d do anything to make Jun Wu pay for his crimes. Just like he would pay for ruining He Xuan’s life.

~

The example was made. Jun Wu watched, smiling wide as his perfect experiments fought off a horde of exterestals. The experiments had been a success. He Xuan and Shi Qingxuan we’re both stronger. They far surpassed human capacity. His greatest accomplishment. It came with some minor costs, it was normal nothing came without sacrificing something. The important thing was he’d made progress, a development.

“They’ve come a long way.” Jun Wu said, casting a glance over to Shi Wudu. He saw the way the man clenched his fists as he watched his brothers mecha return.

“Shut up.” Shi Wudu growled. He hated how smug Jun Wu was. Not for long though, he would be sure the man didn’t hurt anyone else or get away with his crimes. No one else would suffer the fate Shi Qingxuan and He Xuan had. Shi Wudu turned his attention to his brother who was running toward him. He was smiling and loudly cheering about their victory. This would turn the tides and protect future generations.

“Did you see us? We kicked ass!” Shi Qingxuan yelled, laughing as he hugged his brother. Shi Wudu returned the hug, shivering at the feeling of his brothers cold skin. He saw He Xuan watching them. He even seemed a little more happy than usual. This was a big step.

“I believe this calls for a celebration.” Jun Wu said, smiling wide. He Xuan only nodded his head as Shi Qingxuan started rambling about parties and how fun it would be. Shi Wudu sighed but agree as he pulled his brother away. He Xuan followed close behind them.

It didn’t take long for everyone to gather. Everyone cheering on Shi Qingxuan and He Xuan for being saviors. All excited about this new fix to their issues. They too could be saviors. The cheers that should have made Shi Qingxuan’s heart soar left a bitter taste in his mouth. This was a curse in disguise of a blessing. He wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

“Anyone can have this power.” Jun Wu started, gesturing first to He Xuan and Shi Qingxuan and then to the crowd. “Lieutenant Shi and lieutenant He are the first of many who will protect what we’ve fought for.”

Before anyone’s questions could pour in Pei Ming ran up on the stage, running to Jun Wu’s side. He quickly leaned in, whispering to Jun Wu. “There’s an issue on the outer deck that needs your attention right away.”

“I will be back to take your questions.” Jun Wu addresses the crowd. He then followed Pei Ming out of the room. Shi Wudu followed close behind. He watched as Pei Ming brought Jun Wu to where the exit ports were.

“What’s the issue, general?” Jun Wu asked. Pei Ming sighed and looked at the exit hatch.

“There’s an issue with the hatch sir. It won’t open properly.” Pei Ming replied. Jun Wu arched a brow and shook his head.

“Is this really that important?” Jun Wu asked and started typing in the code to open the hatch. “After all, we’ve got a big celebration tonight.”

“If It were an emergency and we had to use it then it would be extremely important.” Pei Ming countered. Jun Wu just laughed and shook his head.

“You have a point there.” He replied. Right after the doors opened Jun Wu turned to speak to Pei Ming. To tell him it seemed to be working fine. Before he could get the words out though he was shoved out the door. He turned as he fell out into the emptiness of space to see Shi Wudu. So this was his revenge. The doors on the hatch closed and Jun Wu’s fate was sealed. Just as he’d done to He Xuan and Shi Qingxuan.

“That was cool!” Pei Ming yelled, smiling at Shi Wudu. They’d done it. He wasn’t sure if it would work, but they pulled it off.

“I guess it kinda was.” Shi Wudu shrugged, trying not to blush at Pei Ming’s compliment. He’d really done it. Only he and Pei Ming would ever know about what happened here. It would be their secret.

“We should get back to the party before anyone gets suspicious.” Pei Ming said. Shi Wudu nodded his head and followed the general back to the party. When they got back everyone seemed to be enjoying the drinks and food. Shi Wudu saw his brother standing by He Xuan’s side. He was smiling and seemed to be telling some type of joke. He Xuan was smiling softly as he listened to Shi Qingxuan.

“He’s gonna be okay.” Pei Ming said, looking over at Shi Wudu. He placed a hand on Shi Wudu’s shoulder, giving a small squeeze. “They have each other. Qingxuan won’t be lonely.”

“I know.” Shi Wudu said. He knew Shi Qingxuan was strong and he would be fine.

“You aren’t alone either.” Pei Ming added, smiling softly at Shi Wudu. Shi Wudu decided screw this. They just beat the big boss and won. He pressed his lips to Pei Ming’s, surprised when the man eagerly returned the kiss after a moment.

“I have you.” Shi Wudu whispered against Pei Ming’s lips. He ran over to his brother who was watching with a wide grin. Before Shi Qingxuan could say anything he pulled him into a tight hug.

“I’m gonna miss you. I promise I’ll visit when I can.” Shi Wudu said, pulling back for the hug. He patted his brother on the head. “You’re the boss now. Make me proud.”

“I don’t know what that means, but I will.” Shi Qingxuan replied, nodding his head. He watched his brother look at He Xuan.

“I’ll tell your family you’re alive and well. I owe you that much.” Shi Wudu said. He Xuan smiled and nodded his head.

“Thank you.” He Xuan replied. He was truly grateful. He hoped that all the bad blood between them could one day be laid to rest. This was a start.

“Have fun with Pei Ming.” Shi Qingxuan teased, winking at his brother. He watched as his brother blushed and rolled his eyes, but he didn’t deny anything. Shi Wudu walked over, grabbing Pei Ming’s hand.

“Lets go.” Shi Wudu whispered and the two of them slipped away from the party. They walked to Shi Wudu’s mecha, climbing in. Shi Wudu set it to autopilot. It was best they weren’t around when news broke of Jun Wu’s death. Just in case. Shi Wudu felt Pei Ming’s hands resting on his shoulders. Once they were home he’d rest his head against his chest. He’d take in everything he loved about earth, everything he’d fought to save, he’d see it in a new light as the sun rose and he felt the warmth of love and a newfound acceptance that some things just have to change. That somethings won’t ever be the same because war costs and it hurts. He would be okay, they would be okay, just like Pei Ming had said.

Somehow the world would go on and things would find a way to be somewhat alright. Shi Wudu just needed to find a way to feel okay in this new reality. This future without his brother. It would be hard, but he’d figure out a way. Pei Ming would be there to help.

“In time it will get easier. It’ll hurt less leaving him.” Pei Ming said. His voice sounded so wounded. He sounded so tired.

“How do you know?” Shi Wudu asked, looking back. He was met with a sight that broke his heart. Pei Ming was crying.

“Because I’ve been there.” Pei Ming sobbed. Shi Wudu had only seen Pei Ming cry like this once. Pei Ming never said why. “With little Pei.”

Shi Wudu swallowed hard and just cried with Pei Ming. They both lost someone important to them.

~

“You think he told my brother.” Shi Qingxuan asked, frowning. He Xuan stood next to him, face solemn.

“If not he will.” He Xuan answered. His eyes, along with Shi Qingxuan’s, were trained on the bed. The boy laying on it was pale. He’d been asleep for months, maybe even years. They didn’t even want to think about how long he’d been like this.

“What should we do?” Shi Qingxuan asked, glancing at He Xuan.

“We wake him.” He Xuan answered, swallowing hard. “Or at least we try.”

They needed to figure out just what Jun Wu had done this time. This was their place after all now.