Actions

Work Header

And that's the one thing that won't change

Work Text:

Jing Ran loves the kind of life he now has.

If there is one thing he learned from the life he’s lived in Italy for so long, it is to slow down. He now knows how to breathe, despite still being busy with everything. He’s getting better at managing and balancing his time for things important to him. 

He is happier.

But on some days, it becomes increasingly overwhelming. Like everything is too much, all at the same time, and he doubts what he is capable of doing. 

It has been quite some time since Jing Ran felt like this. Rare, but he does.

His thoughts were interrupted with his phone on the bedside drawer suddenly lighting up with a new message. He picks up the phone and sees it was a message from Bai Qi.

 

[3:21am]

From: Bai Qi

Jing Ran, I can hear you thinking from over there.

 

Jing Ran was about to reply when another message came in.

 

[3:23am]

From: Bai Qi

It will never be bothersome if you stay here for a night. You know that, right?

 

"Fuck it," Jing Ran whispers as he taps on the call button. It takes two rings before the other person picks up the call. He breathes silently, willing himself to stay calm. "Dr Bai, it's past 3am. What are you doing up at this time?"

He hears Bai Qi snort on the other line, making him laugh because he knows Bai Qi is not buying his bullshit. 

“I’m tired and I miss you,” came the easy answer for the question Bai Qi hasn’t voiced out.

“You could have driven back to my place, it’s closer,” Bai Qi counters.

They haven’t been seeing each other much for the past weeks, mainly because it was crunch time for most of Jing Ran projects, and if he ever was free, Bai Qi was out doing something else. But as always, Bai Qi would know what to do with him and what he needs.

So Jing Ran proceeds to telling him things Bai Qi may find boring and mundane because they are mostly work-related but he listens to them anyway. He does this until he finally feels tired enough to sleep.

“Alright,” Bai Qi finally says, “I’ll stay on the line until you fall asleep. Okay?”

That night, Jing Ran falls asleep to the sound of Bai Qi’s breathing.

 

xxx

 

When Jing Ran wakes up the next day, the first thing he realises is he's not alone. There are fingers lightly carding through his hair, the gentle strokes giving him a soothing feeling. It was always easy for him to get up once his senses have become alert, but with Bai Qi doing what he's doing right now makes it hard for him to even move an inch away from his bed.

And so, Jing Ran slowly turns to his other side where he knows Bai Qi has made himself comfortable, most likely with his book on the other hand.

That's when the fingers in his hair stopped moving.

Jing Ran never thought of himself as someone who demands for affection, but at that moment, he wanted nothing but Bai Qi's fingers in his hair. Groaning, he burrowed himself further into Bai Qi's side while blindly searching for the hand that was just on his head. When he found it, Jing Ran guided the hand back to his hair and Bai Qi knew exactly what he wanted.

"Hmm? When did I adopt an oversized cat?" Bai Qi laughs as he continues to gently stroke Jing Ran's hair. 

Minutes may have passed when he finally hears the sound of a closing book and a slight shuffling on the bed. “Hey,” Bai Qi starts, “I made breakfast. If you feel like getting up now, we can eat together.”

It was scary how much Jing Ran wanted this. How he wanted this to be his life everyday. How he wanted Bai Qi to be part of his life everyday.

But would Bai Qi want that too?

Jing Ran thought of testing waters, trying to sound as nonchalant as he could possibly be. "Dr Bai, you'd really make a good husband someday, you know? Waking me up like this? Preparing my breakfast?"

One, two seconds passed. He still didn't hear anything and it was making him more scared that such a simple comment might ruin the perfect morning he is having. Jing Ran decides he has to look up to know the consequence of his little action so it surprised him when Bai Qi is already looking at him with a smile so bright, making his eyes crinkle at the corners. 

"I'm glad you think so," Bai Qi whispers as he reaches out to pinch Jin Ran's cheeks.

Maybe, just maybe…

Then Jing Ran’s alarm suddenly rings, startling both of them. He knows he has to get up soon but he suddenly hates the idea of going out of his room and leaving for work because that would mean cutting his Bai Qi time short.

Bai Qi taps his shoulders like he thinks Jing Ran will go back to bed (though they both know that’s impossible) and gestures for the door to the bathroom. “Shower. Then breakfast. Then I’ll drop you off.”

Jing ran is about to protest but Bai Qi beats him to it, holding out his hand in front of Jing Ran’s face. 

“No buts. I’m driving you to work.”

 

xxx

 

It starts out as a normal day in his firm – that is until his secretary reminds him of details of the week-long business trip to Tokyo on the following weekend. 

Jing Ran is not one to forget his commitments but this one slipping off his mind might be due to the fact that he rarely goes out of the country anymore for business trips and they usually only last for the whole weekend.

He was invited as a guest speaker and judge for the architecture conference that month and Jing Ran’s pretty sure he has done the necessary preparations for it if the invitation came almost one year ago. He searches his computer if he has any files relating to the conference and indeed, he has one folder dedicated to the conference. Checking the contents he made a few months ago, he decides he only needs to update the decks a little and he’s good to go.

Except Jing Ran doesn’t know how to bring this up with Bai Qi.  

“Bai Qi, about this weekend…” Jing Ran trails the moment he settles himself in Bai Qi’s car.

“Hmm,” Bai Qi hums, not taking his eyes off the road. “You mean your trip to Tokyo? Don’t tell me you forgot about it?”

The few moments of silence in the car was enough for Bai Qi to confirm that Jing Ran did forget about the conference which apparently he did discuss with Bai Qi beforehand.

“Don’t worry about it, we had everything planned months ago. You knew how busy you would be and you wanted to get it out of your way. We can walk through everything at your place?”

Sometimes, Jing Ran still thinks he does not deserve Bai Qi at all. Not when Bai Qi has always been so attentive and cares for him in his own little ways like today. And he suddenly feels not so good at all that he has to leave again so soon after getting out of hectic months.

Jing Ran knows Bai Qi isn’t like that, but what if he feels neglected already? That one day he will decide to just get up and walk away from Jing Ran’s life forever and……no, Bai Qi is not like that. Maybe it’s his own feelings screaming about the lack of Bai Qi in his life and he does miss his presence and maybe he’s the only one feeling like that.

But still, he feels the need to know. 

“What do you usually do when I’m gone?” Jing Ran quietly asks.

“Wait for you to come back.”

Jing Ran glances at Bai Qi then, who is still focused on driving but with his mouth now turned up into a small smile. And that is the answer he needs that the following week would be okay. They are okay.

 

xxx

 

After a short plane ride from Shanghai, Jing Ran arrives at Narita Airport on a Sunday afternoon.

The whole trip was so far going smoothly, from the time Bai Qi dropped him off at the airport in Shanghai until he had to get his luggage at Narita, and his hotel’s chauffeur was already waiting for him by the arrivals gate. Bai Qi insisted that Jing Ran stay at one of the hotels he owns instead of the free accommodation that comes with the conference invitation no matter how much Jing Ran said it’s fine and there’s no need.

He should’ve known that there is a catch.

Jing Ran doesn’t remember when or how it started, but there seems to be a little game he plays with Bai Qi. The unspoken rule is simple: Surprise him. No scores, no tallies. You just do.

On his first day in Tokyo, Jing Ran didn’t think he’d receive an attack from Bai Qi, albeit indirect.

There on the bed of his suite is a beautifully-arranged bouquet of white camellias, which is one of his favourite flowers. He gathers the bouquet in his arms and notices two envelopes were slipped in between the petals. He takes one and inside he finds a personalised coupon, stating the details of his reservation to his favourite restaurant in Tokyo.

Jing Ran knows just how hard it is to get any reservation from that place and it could take months but how Bai Qi pulled strings to make this happen is beyond him. 

He pulls out the next envelope and inside he finds a note that he’s sure is Bai Qi’s handwriting.

 

Always know that I’m proud of you.

Come back to me safely.

- Bai Qi

 

Well played , Jing Ran muses and he suddenly feels the need to see the other man. It was half past two in the afternoon back home and Bai Qi should be free from any of his appointments. He should be, as he apparently planned this whole thing, so Jing Ran straight up presses the video call button on Bai Qi’s number.

“Bai Qi,” Jing Ran starts when the call finally connects, and Bai Qi’s face appears on the screen of his phone. He is currently in his study, seemingly not doing anything else if that smug face of his is any indication, as if he has just been waiting for Jing Ran all this time.

The expression on Bai Qi’s face turns soft, and now he is smiling at Jing Ran, his eyes all-knowing and crinkling at the corners. For good measure, Bai Qi went ahead and asked, “Did you like it?” 

Jing Ran has to snort at that. “What do you think?” he retorts. “You really don’t play fair, you know that?”

That’s when Bai Qi starts laughing. “I suppose you liked it very much since you have been rendered speechless and instead attacked my well-wishes.”

Jing Ran is torn between punching him and kissing him senseless but since he can do neither of them, he resorts to just giving him a smile that he hopes can convey what he really feels. Both things can wait when he’s back home anyway.

“Thank you, Bai Qi. I don’t even know how you were able to make this happen. But really. I’m happy.”

“It’s the least I can do for you. So I hope you enjoy your stay there even when your schedule is packed starting tomorrow. Even when I can’t be with you.”

“Least. Right. As if this didn’t require you to move mountains or something.”

They just stare at each other for the next minutes, smiling contently, but Jing Ran knows he has to let Bai Qi do whatever he stopped doing while expecting this call. 

“I will see you in a week.” 

Bai Qi nods, “See you in a week.”

And I already miss you, is what he doesn’t voice out.

After hanging up, Jing Ran decides it’s still early and he’s free for the rest of the day anyway so he takes the train to his favourite part of the city. He could use the hotel car when going around, but he opts to take the train instead to enjoy the scenery Tokyo has to offer.

It has been a few years since Jing Ran was last in this place but he notices nothing much has changed. In a bustling city like Tokyo (or even back home, where Shanghai is just as busy), finding quiet and serene spots is a gift. That’s why when Jing Ran first stepped out of Daiba station after some colleague recommended him to go see this particular spot of Tokyo Bay during that business trip, he knew he would keep coming back.

For spring weather, this part of Tokyo still gets a little colder especially when it’s closer to nighttime. Jing Ran is a bit underdressed for this kind of weather as he decided to forego his jacket, so he kept on sneezing when the outside air hit his face. It was both chilly and windy but he still walks at a leisurely pace towards the observation deck.

The view that welcomed him will always be one of his favourites. Taking out his phone, he snaps a few photos and then chooses some to send to Bai Qi.

 

[4:49pm]

To: Bai Qi

Wish you were here.

Image_1.jpg (image of Tokyo Bay on the Rainbow Bridge side; the sky in pink and blue colours with fluffy clouds)

Image_2.jpg (image taken by the shore of Tokyo Bay facing Tokyo’s skyscrapers, the blue and orange sky giving a silhouette effect to the whole picture)

Image_3.jpg (panoramic image of Tokyo Bay, the Rainbow Bridge already lit up with rainbow colours during sunset; the sun over the horizon, painting the sky in orange and black; Tokyo Tower in the middle of Tokyo Skyscrapers all lit up to add beauty to the almost-night sky)

 

Not even a minute later, his phone pings with a new message.

 

[4:49pm]

From: Bai Qi

Let’s go back together soon. 

 

xxx

 

In the flurry of conference sessions, business meetings, dinners, and video calls with Bai Qi in-between, the week has finally come to an end.

The moment the conference was over, Jing Ran was more than ready to head back to his hotel, politely declining invitations from the staff and organizers of the event for dinner for having a successful event. No one knew that Jing Ran had changed his flight back to Shanghai to the next available one that day, which leaves in five hours.

He's only been gone for a week but it felt like forever.

This side of him, it is quite new to Jing Ran. Since meeting Bai Qi, he's learned that it is okay to want things for himself, especially when these things make him happy. Even if that meant rebooking his flight and arriving in the wee hours of the night.

It does make him feel a little silly when he thinks about this stunt he just pulled, like he was back to being a teenager recently got together with his first love and therefore cannot be without for so long.

More importantly, Jing Ran is back in their game. He realises Bai Qi had one(two?)-upped him and he can't let that be for so long. And what better way to do it than show up unannounced at Bai Qi's place with his favourite cheesecake tarts from Tokyo, right? 

Bai Qi knows that Jing Ran needs to be picked-up from the airport the next day, so Jing Ran had to make up an excuse why he would not be available for their nightly call, saying he had to go out drinking with the conference staff and other invitees and does not know when he will be back at the hotel – which Bai Qi easily understands.

Jing Ran had to stop himself from bolting out of the cab when it pulled up at Bai Qi's building. He greets the receptionists on duty that night and goes to the elevators for the upper floors. He watches as the numbers change as they go higher and mentally berates Bai Qi for living in such a skyscraper.

The elevator ride eventually came to an end, and so he started for the corridor leading to Bai Qi’s unit with only the sound of his footsteps and suitcase he could hear.

He reaches the door of and keys in the code he has memorized by heart.

Once inside, he lets go of the breath he didn't know he was holding. Now that he is only a few steps away from Bai Qi, he begins to think, was this too much? Should he have waited until later today instead and not rush back? Would Bai Qi even want to see him at this ungodly hour?

As doubts slowly crept in his head, he decided to go for the shower instead because although it was just short, Jing Ran hates the feeling left by being inside the plane for hours. 

 

xxx

 

After changing to the clothes Bai Qi always keeps for him whenever he sleeps over, he realises there’s no point in delaying his trip to Bai Qi’s bedroom. He was already there and only a few steps away, so really, it’s pointless. 

Jing Ran takes quiet strides to Bai Qi’s bedroom, passing by the kitchen bar where he left the dessert, not bothering to knock because he knew it was past Bai Qi’s bedtime.

There he was indeed welcomed by Bai Qi’s sleeping figure.

He settles the box on the drawer on Bai Qi’s side before carefully climbing up the bed on the other side. For a while, Jing Ran just observes how Bai Qi looks so calm and peaceful like this and how he has missed this. He wants nothing now but to move the stray hair covering Bai Qi’s eyes and to kiss him. Maybe.

So Jing Ran tries to lean in closer, but stops when he was just a few centimeters away. He hesitates.

“If you don’t do it, I will,” he hears Bai Qi say with his eyes still closed that Jing Ran has to wonder if he had only imagined it. The corner of Bai Qi’s mouth turns into a small smile and Jing Ran thinks, since when has he been awake?

The next thing Jing Ran knows is him being pulled closer to Bai Qi so he was half-lying on top of him. Now that Bai Qi is awake, Jing Ran takes the stray hairs between his fingers and moves them to the side, giving him a clearer view of the other’s face.

Seeing Bai Qi’s lips turn into a full-on smile makes Jing Ran want nothing but to capture them in his.

And so he does. 

When they both had to pull away, Jing Ran had to take a moment and rest his forehead on Bai Qi’s shoulder and Bai Qi just understands , cradling Jing Ran in his arms properly while gently stroking his back.

“Welcome home, love.”

 

xxx

 

A few days later, Jing Ran receives an email from one of his clients, Li Xian, inviting him to a charity dinner. Now, Bai Qi should have received a similar email since Li Xian was also one of his older clients, long before he met Jing Ran. 

Thing is, Jing Ran would have a hard time declining this invitation. After all, Li Xian has helped him a lot when he decided to bring his firm to Shanghai and expand his client-base in China. 

But Bai Qi is Bai Qi and even though he loves Jing Ran, he still hates social gatherings.

So Jing Ran goes back to Bai Qi’s place that same night, Bai’s Qi’s favourite cake in his hand. He sees Bai Qi reading another book on his chair by the window, and he has yet to say anything but Bai Qi beats him to it.

“No,” comes the firm statement from Bai Qi without looking up from his book.

“I haven’t even said anything,” says Jing Ran in defense.

“I know what you are going to say.”

“But I want you there. With me. Isn’t that enough reason?”

Bai Qi finally looks up from his book and sighs, “I will regret this.”

 

xxx

 

Maybe Jing Ran has forgotten that he isn’t just Jing Ran.

The moment they arrived at the dinner, people were all over him, everyone wanting to catch up with how he’s doing and how’s life in China after not coming back for a long time because he is world-renowned architect Jing Ran. And although Bai Qi isn’t as famous, he has his fair share of people who also wanted a word with him.

And if Jing Ran is not something, it’s being dense.

He knows when someone genuinely wants to have conversation with him, and some who just like to throw themselves at him. 

On the eighth set of people who were the latter, Bai Qi decides that he’s reached the limit of socialising that night and excuses himself from the on-going conversation. Jing Ran has to admit, it’s pretty tiring dealing with this kind of people.

Jing Ran watches him make way for the bar, sitting himself on one of the bar stools.

He is suddenly taken back to that night they first met – the way his interest was caught by the man sitting a few tables down from him, who looks put out and would rather be anywhere else than here. 

Jing Ran never believed in love at first sight, but there certainly is something charming at that man with a scowl. Even now, five years later, and he sees almost the same expression on Bai Qi – except this time, it was more than just not wanting to be there.

From the spot where he’s standing, he continues to stare at Bai Qi who now flags the bartender and asks for a drink. A glass of martini, if Jing Ran were to guess. He chuckles as he notices that Bai Qi already downed half of the glass so it was time for an intervention.

Jing Ran slides on the seat next to Bai Qi, lightly tapping his arm to alert him of his presence. Bai Qi is still scowling at him, his mouth dangerously a thin line.

“Do you remember the first thing you said to me? You said, “I’m sorry I don’t drink.” But now look at you.”

“Do you buy drinks for everyone?”

“Only those who I find attractive.”

Bai Qi just stares and shrugs, not happy with Jing Ran’s answer, and just takes another slow sip from his glass.

“Okay, let me rephrase that. Only those whose scowl I find attractive.”

Jing Ran remembers that night clearly, how Bai Qi, seemingly standoffish and with his eyebrow raised at Jing Ran, quickly shot down Jing Ran’s attempt to get to know him. Still, he stayed on the same couch Bai Qi was occupying. He was never able to strike a proper conversation with him, nor did Bai Qi ask him to leave him alone so he still counted that night as a win.

(“I’m not rude, I just think I have no right to tell you to get off that couch because it isn’t even mine in the first place. But if I had a say, you won’t even have a place to sit,” Bai says the first time Jing Ran brought it up. 

“Sure. Whatever you say, Bai Qi,” Jing Ran acquiesces as he laughs into his drink.)

Bai Qi then downs the rest of his drink. “May I remind you that I can only drink one glass. Two at most. So I really fail to see what benefit I could have from this.”

“Well, for one, you are spending time with me.”

Bai Qi just looks at him, unimpressed.

“Maybe I just really wanted to show you off, how good-looking my boyfriend is until he decided to run away tonight.”

Beside him, he hears Bai Qi let go of the giggles he was trying hard to suppress since the whole exchange started.

“You’re dumb,” Bai Qi says finally facing Jing Ran.

“You laughed. I win,” Jing says as he reaches out to touch Bai Qi’s face. He then leans forward and captures Bai Qi’s lips in a quick kiss, feeling Bai Qi’s smile against his lips. 

“Let’s go home,” Jing Ran whispers and takes Bai Qi’s hand in his.

 

xxx

 

Jing Ran lies awake in bed that night.

They are in his bed, with Bai Qi’s arms around him tight because Bai Qi is a clingy drunk - A giggly and clingy drunk. Bai Qi isn’t even that drunk in that instance but the effects of alcohol in him is almost the same whether it was only a glass or five. 

Jing Ran thinks it’s endearing, how the usually prim and proper Bai Qi can be a hugging monster. 

He gently looks up from where his head was laid comfortably on Bai Qi’s chest, blissfully unaware of how Jing Ran’s head just keeps going on and on with I want him. I want this. I want us. Can I keep this forever? Am I allowed to have this?

Jing Ran suddenly feels a hand pat his head that startles him. “You’re thinking. Again. Loudly,” Bai Qi mumbles almost incoherently. He continues to stare at the sleeping figure before him, who still looks after him even when half asleep and half drunk.

“I love you,” Jing Ran says as he lightly presses a kiss on Bai Qi’s forehead.

 

xxx

 

Jing Ran gets up a few hours later, carefully extracting himself from Bai Qi’s so he will not wake up.

That morning, he was set on making breakfast for the both of them which he hasn’t done in a while. They either eat outside or Bai Qi does all the cooking so this time, he wanted to finally do something again.

Jing Ran was halfway through cooking the eggs when he spotted Bai Qi leaning against the wall by the kitchen entrance, smiling so bright and lovely like watching Jing Ran move around the kitchen is the best thing he’s ever seen. He throws a smile back and a good morning towards the other man and orders him to set the table.

As soon as he turns off the stove, Bai Qi suddenly hugs him from behind, wrapping two arms around him securely and he cannot do anything but hold on to them.

They stayed like that for what felt like hours to Jing Ran. This feels nice , Jing Ran thinks, but maybe even better when Bai Qi suddenly speaks. 

“Marry me.”

Hearing Bai Qi whisper those two words, heartfelt and so fervent, makes his head scream yes, yes yes, I will Bai Qi, like he only realised then how much he’s wanted to hear those words.

Jing Ran opens his mouth to say something back, but what comes out instead is a quiet sob, and the next thing he knows, tears are already streaming down his face.

Jing Ran gets out of Bai Qi’s embrace, not too far away, so he can face Bai Qi and give him an answer he deserves. He takes both of his hands, kissing each of them. 

Instead, what he says is, “Shouldn’t there be a ring?”

Jing Ran knows that was the dumbest thing to say, but he cannot take it back anymore because Bai Qi is flashing him a knowing smile and making his way back to Jing Ran’s room.

Suddenly, Jing Ran’s heart starts beating so fast, like he knows what’s coming and he’s having a hard time coming into his senses.

It can’t be….right?

But Bai Qi does come back with a red velvet box in his hand, and although he sort-of expected it with the way Bai Qi threw him a smile a few seconds back, he can’t will himself to calm down. He doesn’t know how his peaceful morning, where he only wanted to make both of them breakfast, turned out to be like this.

Bai Qi kneels in front of him, still wearing the same smile, and Jing Ran feels like his heart is going to burst any moment now

“I’ve been thinking about this. If the chance to do this finally comes, what will I say? Honestly, I still don’t know. But what I do know is that, I love what we have right now. I want to be there for everything, and I mean everything, that happens in your life and I want you just as much in mine. And I would like to keep making you happy, surprising you in every way I could think of for all our days together. For the rest of our lives, if you will let me. Marry me, Jing Ran?”

Bai Qi opens the box, revealing a plain silver band not too flashy so Jing Ran knows he can wear it any time. Attentive to the tiny details, Bai Qi still is.

Jing ran can’t say he hasn’t dreamt of this from happening. He did so a few times, seeing as this was something he really wanted to do. Either it was him doing the kneeling or Bai Qi, like what just happened. But nothing could ever prepare him from the real thing. At this point, he almost chokes in his own tears but he still manages to let out a strangled yes to Bai Qi’s question.

Jing Ran smiles through his tears and decides to throw himself towards Bai Qi, before Bai Qi was even able to put the ring on his finger. And just like the first time he told him he loves him, Bai Qi was ready to catch him.

 

(When Jing Ran recalls this moment some years later, he’d definitely laugh. He’d tell people he meets in the future this: Imagine two grown-ass men in the kitchen, one was crying in the other’s arms because the latter decided it was the perfect time to propose. While still in their pajamas, mind you.

But Jing Ran won’t have it any other way. He knows it was the perfect moment and the rest of my life he wanted.)