Changcheng could only blame the whole fiasco on the very tiring day he had. And it was all because Ye Zun “escaped” from his special prison again. Ye Zun only did it to show them that he could, and that he was staying there of his own free will. And not because he absolutely caved, as everybody else did, under the pressure of Professor Shen’s special, and impossible to imitate to Changcheng’s eternal disappointment, brand of intimidation and authority mixed with gentle, but somehow impossible to resist, encouragement.
He was never too hard to find and he always went back without much fuss. Sometimes they even didn’t have to search for him at all. Like that one time when, soon after they got the message of his escape, he appeared suddenly in Chief Zhao’s office.
They all kind of got used to it being an almost weekly occurrence. But this time, due to a few minor mishaps, one of the newbies ended up with a broken arm. So Changcheng left the problem of putting Ye Zun back in his prison to Chief Zhao and went with the newbie to a hospital.
When he finally went home, he was feeling rather tired and wanted nothing more than some peace and quiet. And of course that was the day that his uncle decided that he wanted to set his nephew up on another date. Changcheng tried to persuade him not to, he really did. He wasn’t successful.
“Why are you so resistant? Are you already dating someone?” Guo Ying asked.
“No! I’m not,” Changcheng said, exasperated, feeling the beginning of a headache.
He instantly regretted it. Argh, he should have said that he was dating someone. He had wasted such a perfect occasion. But he really, really didn’t want to go for another arranged date. And it didn’t matter if the girl he was supposed to meet was the nicest person in the world. He wasn’t going to fall in love with her anyway. Since he was already in love with someone else. He still hadn’t done anything about his feelings, but he would. Soon. And doing something about it definitely didn’t involve going for more dates.
But his uncle was looking at him expectantly, so Changcheng had to think of something to say, and quickly.
“I mean... I’m not dating anyone,” he said slowly. “But I can’t meet this girl. Because.. Um... I’m... “
He’s what? What was the reason good enough to convince his uncle? He stopped talking, unable to think of a suitable reason, his mind a mix of blankness and panic. His uncle was looking at him with a frown, suspicion forming in his eyes. The panic won.
“I’m engaged,” Changcheng blurted out.
The suspicion in his uncle’s eyes turned into incredulity. Changcheng froze. That was the stupidest excuse he could have thought of. Who would even believe that?
Guo Ying opened his mouth and then closed it again without a word. He looked as if he had temporarily lost the ability to speak. His aunt, who until this moment was listening silently and only throwing disapproving looks into her husband’s direction, smiled suddenly, understanding in her eyes.
“I told you, you shouldn’t press him,” she said. “I told you that he would refuse. And I knew that was the reason.”
Changcheng sighed with relief. At least his aunt was on his side. But wait, did she say that she knew the reason?
Guo Ying looked at his wife with disbelief in his eyes.
“You knew that he was engaged?” he asked.
“Well, not that. The engagement is a surprise,” Yu Jinlan said. “But I suspected he had feelings for someone.”
Wait, what? Changcheng gaped at his aunt.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Yu Jinlan asked him with a gentle smile. “Did you think we would disapprove because he’s Dixingren?”
“What?” Changcheng and his uncle said at the same time.
Yu Jinlan smiled with an exasperated fondness at them both.
“Remember when he brought Chu Shuzhi to meet us?” she asked. “It was obvious.”
Changcheng swallowed, his cheeks heating up. Oh no, he didn’t think anyone had noticed. Especially his uncle and aunt. He should deny it, he should say that he’s not engaged, that it was just a stupid joke, he should...
“Changcheng, you kept talking about him constantly since your first day at work,” Yu Jinaln said. “Chu-ge this and Chu-ge that. I didn’t think anything about it at first. You talked about your other teammates, too. But the way you talked about him changed. I saw the light in your eyes every time you mentioned his name. And when you brought him to dinner I knew. I knew that my boy had fallen in love.”
Yu Jinlan took Changcheng’s hand and squeezed it lightly.
“I was waiting for you to tell us. I’m glad you finally did.”
“But when...” Guo Ying started to say, but Yu Jinlan shushed him.
“Stop pestering him,” she said. “He will tell us the rest on his own time.”
She gave Changcheng a soft look. And Changcheng could only smile helplessly, speechless, the only thought in his mind a resigned oh, damn, now what???
Changcheng spent the next few days worrying and thinking hard about a solution to this whole situation. At first he decided that he would just tell his aunt and uncle the truth. But he kept postponing the talk. He had to admit it was kind of nice to finally be free from his uncle’s matchmaking efforts. And after each day it was getting harder and harder to admit that he had lied. Finally, he plucked up his courage and decided to at least tell Chu Shuzhi about it. He shuddered in terror just imagining Chu Shuzhi finding about it in some other way. He didn’t think that his aunt or uncle would call his “fiancé” all of a sudden and want to bond with him or something like that, but he couldn’t be sure. It was better to prepare Chu Shuzhi for that hypothetical situation. He cringed thinking about how awkward this talk with Chu Shuzhi would be.
And it was. Awkward and discomfiting and surprisingly tense. Later Changcheng couldn’t get rid of the image of Chu Shuzhi’s dark eyes looking at him intensely when he had explained, blushing and stumbling over his words, about his blunder. That look did strange things to Changcheng’s heart. He instantly started to assure Chu Shuzhi that he would correct the whole fiasco and explain everything to his aunt and uncle as soon as possible. And the whole time Chu Shuzhi was just looking at him.
“It’s fine, Changcheng,” he had finally said. “You don’t have to apologize.”
And then he smiled and gave him a friendly pat on the arm. It messed with Changcheng’s head. He expected to be yelled at and called an idiot, and not in the usual affectionate way. Instead he got this, whatever this was. So it was no wonder he wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings when he went into the main room at the SID. And that was the only explanation that he could give for being so thoroughly taken by surprise by what happened next.
One of the newbies Xian Bo was standing by her desk and talking excitedly to Zheng Dai and Su Yun. When the girls noticed him Su Yun giggled and Zheng Dai smiled. Then they both bowed.
“Congratulations, Senior Guo,” they both said in unison, while Xian Bo was frantically trying to silence them, waving her arm and blushing furiously.
Changcheng stopped and looked at them, frowning.
“Errr, what?” he asked.
“Congratulations on your engagement, Senior,” Su Yun said, while Zheng Dai pressed her palms to her chest and let out a loud happy sigh.
Changcheng’s first thought was that’s funny, what engagement? His second thought was oh, no as he suddenly remembered that Xian Bo’s older sister was working in the Ministry with his uncle. So his third thought was panicked oh, damn, followed by I hoped nobody heard that. Of course fate wasn’t really favoring Changcheng lately. As soon as he thought that, Da Qing, who was napping in his cat form, barely visible on Xian Bo’s black chair, got up, stretched and asked “Did I hear it right? Xiao Guo got engaged?”
And of course that was the exact moment that Chief Zhao walked into the room.
“Who got engaged?” he asked.
“Apparently Xiao Guo did,” Da Qing said, giving Changcheng a curious look.
Changcheng resisted the urge to cover his face with both hands and slink away in shame.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, trying to sound nonchalant.
Da Qing and Chief Zhao looked at him, two pairs of eyes alight with sudden interest. Oh no, Changcheng thought again, they won’t let it go. He took a deep breath preparing for the worst. And then he was saved.
“Don’t you have anything other to do than gossip all day?” Chu Shuzhi said in his usual gruff voice, appearing behind him suddenly.
The juniors scattered instantly to their desks, mumbling apologies. Da Qing and Chief Zhao didn’t cave so easily.
“Hey, that’s my line,” Chief Zhao said, eyes crinkling with amusement.
Da Qing yawned and shook his head.
“No, I don’t have anything better to do,” he announced. “Let’s talk about Xiao Guo’s engagement some more.”
Chu Shuzhi rolled his eyes and grabbed Changcheng by the hand.
“Come with me, I need your help,” he said, pulling Changcheng by the hand towards the door.
“Come on, Lao Chu, we just wanted to congratulate you two properly,” Chief Zhao shouted after them.
Da Qing snickered. Changcheng groaned. He saw the juniors’ eyes widen and someone’s delighted “Awww…” reached his ears.
And then they were finally outside and Chu Shuzhi let go of his hand.
“Thanks,” Changcheng said. “And I’m sorry,” he added, dropping his eyes to the ground and feeling miserable. But he also couldn’t help feeling elated at the same time at being defended by Chu Shuzhi like that.
“It’s fine,” Chu Shuzhi said.
“I’ll straighten it out. I’ll tell everyone that I lied, I promise,” Changcheng said.
There was a strange look in Chu Shuzhi’s eyes and Changcheng’s heart squeezed in sudden anxiety. He felt the need to apologize again, but he couldn’t find the right words.
“I have something to do,” Chu Shuzhi said abruptly.
He turned around and walked away leaving Changcheng puzzled and confused.
Well, Changcheng was right about one thing. His aunt and uncle didn’t want to bond with Chu Shuzhi over the phone. But what awaited him at home was even worse, because apparently they did want to bond with their nephew’s boyfriend. Over the whole weekend. In a secluded summer house in the mountains.
“Changcheng, you’re home. Good. Can you call your boyfriend now?” Yu Jinlan asked as soon as he opened the door.
Changcheng’s brain was still processing trauma from the whole situation at work, so it did take him some time to catch up.
“Who?” he asked mindlessly.
One second later his brain did catch up, but it was too late and the question was already out. Changcheng froze, but Yu Jinlan only smiled apologetically.
“Oh I’m sorry,” she said. “Your fiancé.”
“Why?” Changcheng asked suspiciously.
“I just wanted you to invite him to spend the weekend with us. My friend allowed me to use her summer house in the mountains.”
Changcheng decided that fate must really hate him. Because that was the unusual and cruel punishment for his innocent lies.
“I don’t know, auntie. He’s pretty busy,” he said, hoping desperately that she would drop the subject.
“Please, Changcheng,” Yu Jinlan said. “We want to know him a little better. I want to know the man who stole my beautiful boy’s heart.”
His aunt was looking at him with a loving gaze, so earnest and eager, and how could he say no to that? And the thought of confessing the truth now made him shudder. He sighed with resignation and nodded. Maybe one weekend wouldn’t be that bad?
It was that bad. Which became obvious as soon as Yu Jinlan led them to the room upstairs and opened the door.
“And this is your room,” she said.
Changcheng peeked into the room. There was only one bed. He frowned.
“Which one of us?” he asked.
Yu Jinlan smiled at him with an indulgent smile.
“Changcheng, you don’t have to be afraid that you’ll offend my delicate sensibilities by sleeping in one bed. He’s your boyfriend,“ she said. “Your fiancé,” she corrected herself. “I’m sure you did more than kiss already.”
Changcheng blushed bright red.
“Auntie,” he whispered, mortified, not daring to look at Chu Shuzhi.
Yu Jinlan gave him a playful swat on the arm.
“Oh, stop blushing, you silly boy. Just go unpack. I expect you both at supper soon.”
Chu Shuzhi gave her a brief nod and went into the room. Changcheng followed him, biting his lower lip nervously.
“Chu-ge, I’m so sorry,” Changcheng started to say.
He wanted to explain or apologize for the inconvenience, for forcing this uncomfortable situation on Chu Shuzhi.
“It’s fine,” Chu Shuzhi said. “It doesn’t matter.”
Changcheng’s heart sank, whatever hope he might felt disappearing in a flash. It didn’t matter. Of course it didn’t matter, and he was a fool to think it did. Chu Shuzhi didn’t think about him like that. Why should it matter to him that there was only one bed?
Changcheng tried to push away these depressing feelings and gave out a short, unconvincing laugh.
“Of course it doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s big enough for us to sleep together. I mean not together together, just… you know…” he trailed off helplessly, tongue-tied and embarrassed.
And damn it, he was blushing again. Maybe it was better to just go and put some distance between them, before he blurted out something he would really regret.
“I’ll help Auntie prepare supper,” he said.
He left the room quickly without looking at Chu Shuzhi.
The supper was awkward. But maybe it was just Changcheng’s impression. His aunt and uncle talked, like they always did, and didn’t seem to notice the tension between their nephew and his “fiancé”. They even managed to engage Chu Shuzhi in a conversation about mahjong. His uncle tried once to steer the conversation to the topic of their relationship, but his aunt shushed him and told him to give them some space. The conversation returned to safer topics then. Changcheng wasn’t really listening, too preoccupied to think about anything but their future sleeping arrangement. His mind was a tangled mess of worry and embarrassment and unwanted excitement. Because every time he thought about sleeping by Chu Shuzhi’s side for the whole night, uncomfortable heat spread through his body and his brain started to conjure arousing images.
Maybe they should just stage a loud break-up? Ohhh, that was actually not a bad idea. Then he could pretend to be devastated. And here Changcheng ignored the little voice in his mind telling him that he wouldn’t have to pretend that hard. But the break-up would allow them to leave early and avoid all weekend of awkwardness and that weird tension. It really seemed to him like the best solution and he sighed with relief so loudly, that everyone at the table looked at him surprised.
When they were back in their room Changcheng took a deep breath.
“Can we talk, Chu-ge?” he asked. And then he added quickly before he lost his courage: “I think we should break up.”
“I mean, not really break up since we’re not in a relationship, ha, ha...”
Chu Shuzhi looked at him strangely, and his eyes... It wasn’t disappointment in them, was it?
“If that is what you want,” he said.
“It’s not!” Changcheng said much louder and with much more force than he intended.
And then he felt stupid again. He didn’t want to end a pretend relationship. He sounded ridiculous. Chu Shuzhi was looking at him strangely, silent, and suddenly Changcheng found it hard to bear
“I’m sorry, ok, I’m sorry!” he shouted. “I know it’s all my fault. You can yell at me or insult me. I know I deserve it.”
“I don’t want to yell at you,” Chu Shuzhi said.
“Then what do you want?!” The words escaped Changcheng’s mouth before he even had time to think. “You never say anything, only it’s fine, I’m fine. What do you want from me?”
He didn’t notice before but he was standing very close to the other man all of a sudden, trapped under his dark, intense gaze. He wanted to move, to take a few steps back. But all he could do was stare at Chu Shuzhi’s mouth and think I really want to kiss you right now.
Changcheng didn’t think that Chu Shuzhi had suddenly gained the ability to read people’s minds, so maybe Changcheng’s feelings were easily read on his face. Because Chu Shuzhi took a step forward and grabbed him by the nape of his neck and yanked him into his arms. And then kissed him with a hard, demanding and scorching hot kiss. The skin of Changcheng’s neck felt as it was burning under Chu Shuzhi’s palm. And Changcheng felt as if his insides melted from sudden spikes of hot desire coursing through his veins. Chu Shuzhi drew back and looked at Changcheng. He was breathing hard, lust in his eyes. And Changcheng responded without hesitation, throwing his arms around Chu Shuzhi’s neck and pulling him closer for another kiss.
Chu Shuzhi tugged at Changcheng’s shirt with impatient hands, pushing it up. Changcheng raised his hands, equally eager, overwhelmed with want to just feel Chu Shuzhi’s hands on his naked skin. The shirt landed on the floor and Changcheng was pushed onto the bed. He fell down with a soft “oof”, landing on his back. Chu Shuzhi’s body covered his as his lips were claimed in another bruising kiss.
It was wonderful. It was the best feeling. And all the thoughts about talking and explaining, and about all that mess before, vanished from Changcheng’s mind, replace by desire and unbearable need.
Chu Shuzhi unzipped Changcheng’s pants and pushed them down his hips. Somehow Changcheng had enough brain cells left to cover his mouth with his palm. Otherwise his moans would definitely be heard all over the house as soon as Chu Shuzhi’s hand closed over Changcheng’s cock.
He was so aroused that too soon he felt that delightful familiar tension taking over his body. He came, gasping and moaning into his palm, biting on his thumb. He felt Chu Shuzhi’s hardness against his thigh and he itched to touch it. Chu Shuzhi groaned when Changcheng’s fingers sneaked between his legs. His eyes were full of hunger and desire. It made Changcheng’s heart pound and heat spread through his body.
“Changcheng,” Chu Shuzhi moaned.
In response Changcheng increased the pressure of his fingers a little bit. The sounds Chu Shuzhi was making and his body so hard and hot and so close were making Changcheng’s head spin. He wanted so much. And so many things. And luckily they had all night.
In the morning Changcheng woke up first. And he spent a good fifteen minutes on staring at the man sleeping beside him in the bed with what he was sure was a stupidly blissful look on his face.
When he returned from the bathroom Chu Shuzhi was awake and very easily let himself be convinced for a quick round of morning kissing that turned into other very pleasurable things that left them both panting and sweaty, and in need of a shower.
And then suddenly it was time to go for breakfast. But Changcheng really needed to confirm one thing first.
“I guess we’re not pretending anymore,” he said. “Because you are my boyfriend now,” he felt the need to add and hoped it didn’t sound as pitiful as he heard it in his head.
Chu Shuzhi hummed as if he was thinking hard about the response. But he was smiling with such a tender, happy smile that Changcheng’s heart started doing a crazy dance of joy in his chest.
“Don’t you mean fiancé?” Chu Shuzhi asked, his dark eyes dancing with mirth.
Changcheng wanted to laugh, giddy with happiness, but he put a serious face on.
“Oh, no,” he said. “Not until you go down on one knee and propose properly.”
He let out a loud squeal when Chu Shuzhi pounced on him and pressed him to the bed again. He raised his head and looked at Changcheng with so much open love in his eyes that it took Changcheng’s breath away.
“Dumbass,” Chu Shuzhi said affectionately.
Changcheng readily agreed with that assessment. He was a dumbass for not realizing sooner what was right in front of him the whole time. A very lucky dumbass. But he finally did realize it, so maybe his dumbassery was curable after all.
And then his boyfriend lowered his head again and Changcheng stopped thinking about the world outside this room for a long, long while.
They were late for breakfast, of course. Very late. Guo Ying shook his head and gave Changcheng a stern look. Yu Jinlan just smiled at them both with a knowing smile. Normally Changcheng would be cringing with shame, but now he couldn’t find it in himself to care. Not when his heart was filled to the brim with happiness and his lips were still stinging from his boyfriend’s kisses. He didn’t talk much and just kept throwing secretive loving looks in Chu Shuzhi’s direction.
Or maybe not so secretive, because after breakfast, when he started to clean up, his aunt followed him to the kitchen.
“I’m glad you made up,” she said.
Changcheng looked at her startled.
“What?” he asked.
“Things were pretty awkward between you two when you arrived. I thought you had a fight,” Yu Jinlan said. “I’m glad everything is fine again.”
Changcheng smiled and gave her a tight hug.
“Yes,” he said. “Everything’s fine.”
He thought about everything that had happened and the reward he got for the stupid mistake he made. He thought about Chu Shuzhi’s kisses and the love in his eyes. And he thought about the future. And how it seemed so bright and full of promises now.
“Everything’s more than fine, Auntie,” he added. “It’s simply perfect.”