Guo Changcheng was standing on the bridge running between the walkway and the conn pod. It was wide enough that he wasn’t in the way, although a few of the other technicians made faces at him as they passed, more amused than irritated. His cheeks flushed red every time one of them grinned at him – it was no secret what he was doing there; gossip spread around the Shatterdome faster than a kaiju rising from the deep.
He was a daily maintenance technician, which meant that during an attack, his role was to get out of the way but be ready in case anything went wrong. The wording of that was a little vague for his liking, but he understood the sentiment behind it. In truth, he really shouldn’t have been on the bridge, but he couldn’t help himself.
As Chu Nianzhi and Chu Shuzhi approached, both smiled at him. Nianzhi’s smile was wide and emphatic, lighting up his face, and clearly showing why so many of the technicians were always falling over themselves to help him. Shuzhi’s smile was softer, more discreet, and meant just for him. That was the one that made Changcheng’s heart flip.
Nianzhi slapped his brother on the shoulder. “I’ll see you inside. You’ve got 30 seconds otherwise I’m fighting this kaiju by myself.”
It was an empty threat, but Changcheng felt guilty enough for taking even that long out of the launch preparation. What if those 30 seconds meant the difference between winning and losing?
“Stop thinking so much,” Shuzhi chided him as he stepped in closer. “It will take the techs longer than that to hook him in. It’s fine.”
Changcheng looked up at him, this brave, wonderful man. A man who was literally putting his life on the line for the rest of them, yet was still the one reassuring him that things would be okay. Changcheng was so proud of him and so terrified for him at the same time.
He leaned up on his tip toes, hands on Shuzhi’s shoulders for balance, and placed a soft kiss on his boyfriend’s cheek. “For luck.”
Shuzhi laughed. “I don’t need luck,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve got Nianzhi.”
He kissed Changcheng back, this time a proper kiss that caused Changcheng’s toes to curl. It wasn’t the first time they’d kissed, but somehow every time Shuzhi kissed him, Changcheng felt as though it was. Shuzhi tasted of strong black coffee – desperately needed when a kaiju attacked in the middle of the night – and Changcheng wanted to chase the taste more. He felt Shuzhi’s hand on his cheek, his thumb gently stroking, and for a moment, the entire world disappeared.
A shout from inside the conn pod – “this is so not the time, big brother” – brought the world slamming back down around them. They reluctantly moved apart, Shuzhi’s hand lingering on Changcheng’s arm even as he stepped away, as though he wanted every moment of contact he could before he went.
“I’ll be back soon.”
Changcheng could only nod, fearful of the words and feelings that were clogging up his throat. He watched as Shuzhi stepped inside the conn pod.
“Be safe,” he whispered when he was sure Shuzhi couldn’t hear him. “Come back to me.”