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AN IDIOT'S GUIDE TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE

Chapter Text

Break ups suck.

Yes, Shang Qinghua has gone through this before. Yes, it was with the same man.

But it’s different. This time, it’s different. Last time he was running away from a stranger that was a perplexing combination of rude, terrifying, and unfairly attractive. Last time he was stepping out of the water before it had even been brought to a boil.

This time he’s had to let go of a man he loves while he still loves him. The pain of it is slowly chewing on him from the inside. It had started from his sternum and it’s made its way outwards, till he feels it all over like an ache. He’s always been told that the first breakup is the hardest, but he’s not a fan of having to experience it first-hand.

It sucks. And on top of that, he hides.

It’s not that Shang Qinghua thinks Mobei Jun will actively come hunting for him. While Shang Qinghua isn’t completely blind to the affections that the man gave him, isn’t blind to whatever relationship had been built, he’s sure that Mobei Jun has realized that now, he’s truly free. That even without the marriage, his position as both the President and the potential heir of the company is safe.

Mobei Jun has texted him a couple of times, asking to talk, but he hasn’t called and he hasn’t asked where Shang Qinghua is. Shang Qinghua has not replied, and Mobei Jun has not shown up on his doorstep demanding an explanation and seeking a fight.

Not like he did when he saw him with Yue Qingyuan. That was different though— Mobei Jun has undoubtedly gotten assurance from his grandfather by now, and must be glad on some level to be rid of whatever nuisance Shang Qinghua had brought to the relationship.

Initially Shang Qinghua had thought to go back to his father’s place, or crash with Shen Yuan. Both seemed like terrible ideas at the time though, so he decided to go somewhere that he knows Mobei Jun doesn’t have the address for. He goes to his mother’s. 

He likes his mother well enough even though she acts more like a distant relative, and she’s long started another family since his father and her split up. She lets him stay with her for a week, and even asks him what’s wrong. It’s then that Shang Qinghua remembers he’s yet to tell her he got married.

So he tells her. He doesn’t go into too much detail but he tells her that it was a shotgun wedding that fizzled out. There’s no reason to disappoint her further. She had asked with a raised eyebrow if his father’s never-ending debt and his tendency to shove it onto Shang Qinghua had anything to do with it, and he shakes his head. He just tells her it was a hasty decision, and she lets him move into the tiny guest bedroom for the week.

Shang Qinghua doesn’t tell her who he married, nor does he show her any pictures. She gives a sympathetic look at that, and doesn’t press further for his ex-husband’s identity. Shang Qinghua doesn’t tell her the situation that brought it around nor that his father’s sort of the reason that the marriage ended either. It would probably bring up too many bad memories that would result in his mother showing up on his dad’s front step, yelling up a storm.

So, he just tells her it was a hasty decision that he’s embarrassed about, and leaves out the part where he feels like the grief has started to eat at him. He doesn’t tell her either what he did in his week between jobs.

 


 

 

 

The first person Shang Qinghua had visited after his initial meeting with Linguang Jun was Mobei Jun’s grandfather. The Chairman has a flat downtown that isn’t too far from the penthouse, and had been more than happy to have Shang Qinghua over.

Shang Qinghua had been so nervous he had been practically vibrating out of his skin. He had stood outside of the  building, pacing up and down the sidewalk for a good twenty minutes before he went in. It had taken a lot to work himself up, and he had thought he would chicken out the last moment.

But he didn’t. Shang Qinghua gathered up whatever fragments of courage he had, and had walked into the lobby.

The first thing the Chairman had done when he opened the door was draw Shang Qinghua into a tight embrace and apologize profusely. He had asked him not to press charges against Linguang Jun, and Shang Qinghua had waved it off.

The Chairman made him sit down in his living room while he got his personal assistant to brew them tea. Shang Qinghua’s palms had been sweating profusely the entire time and he knew there had been no way that the Chairman had missed his nervousness, as much as he had tried to hide it.

It is why he didn’t seem surprised when Shang Qinghua had brought forward his request. He had however, frowned deeply.

“I do not think I am a suitable match for your grandson anymore,” Shang Qinghua had said, more to the table than to the Chairman.

“Is it because of the fight?” The Chairman had said immediately. “I can assure you, that was as much of my son’s fault as it was my grandson’s. He’s always been a bit of a wild card.”

Shang Qinghua had shook his head and swallowed down whatever nervousness was rising up his throat. His heart had been beating so fast he was surprised no one else in the room could hear it. He bowed his head, perfect picture of deference as he spoke.

“The fight shook the confidence of the board,” Shang Qinghua had said. “And I heard that a big client dropped out.”

“Ah, that is true but—“

“I will accept responsibility for it,” Shang Qinghua had cut in. “I had angered Linguang Jun, first at the family dinner and then subsequently at that restaurant. I called your grandson and got him involved. I should not have created any discord between family.”

The Chairman had been silent at that, and had looked at Shang Qinghua with a steady gaze.

“You must remember,” the Chairman had said slowly. “My grandson too can be hot-headed. The two of them are as much adults as you and I.”

“I have brought him trouble,” Shang Qinghua continued. He hadn’t wanted to give the Chairman too much time to speak before he finished, otherwise he would have lost steam and would have chickened out. “And… my father is yet again in trouble. Inevitably I will get dragged into it and by proximity, so would your grandson.”

“Is it money?” The Chairman had frowned. “I do not think it would be unreasonable to see if we can absolve another debt of his.”

Shang Qinghua had come close at that point to telling the Chairman what had actually happened. He almost did, then he remembered that his intention was to put a stop to any of this ever happening again.

“I think it would be unreasonable for me to expect him to come clean up for bad decisions that weren’t his,” Shang Qinghua had said honestly, and the Chairman had sighed at that. He had given Shang Qinghua a forlorn look, and Shang Qinghua knew where that was going.

“Please do not remove him from his job,” Shang Qinghua had said quietly. “Please do not disregard his accomplishments because of that one incident. Please do not disregard him just because of me. Your grandson is a hardworking man who will do anything to succeed at his job.”

“What are you saying?”

“If we divorce,” The word had felt heavy and strange on Shang Qinghua’s tongue, like he wanted to get rid of it immediately. He still feels that way towards it. “Please do not let that affect anything. You would not find a better man than your grandson to run your company.”

“He had shown me kindness and I failed to repay it accordingly. I would humbly request that you would not hold this against him. That you would not hold any of this against him. He is a good man.”

The silence that had followed had been one of the longest in Shang Qinghua’s life. He had wanted to run, had wanted to dissolve through the floor even if it was a possible option. The grandfather’s face gave away nothing; he just held his teacup in contemplation, staring back at Shang Qinghua. It wasn’t unkind, but Shang Qinghua still wanted to hide.

“I know he is a good man,” The Chairman had said after what had felt like an eternity. “I know he’s the most capable of them all. He has been quiet and reserved since he was young, but determined nonetheless.”

Shang Qinghua had felt a bit of him deflate, felt a bit of relief at the words.

“This old man drew you in based on his own whims…” The Chairman had sighed, and set down his cup. “I do apologize. I can make my son apologize to you as well.”

“I will go talk to Linguang Jun on my own,” Shang Qinghua had said firmly. “I don’t want you to get dragged into my messes either, Mr. Chairman.”

And for good measure, Shang Qinghua had also added, “My father and I will repay you for the money you had spent on his debt.”

“No need,” The Chairman had waved him off, a deep downturn still set on his face. Shang Qinghua had opened his mouth to protest, but had gotten stopped with simply a look. “If you give it to me, I will refuse it. It is in the past.”

That had been that, and the Chairman hadn’t allowed Shang Qinghua to speak any further on the matter. Shang Qinghua hadn’t lingered long after, and the Chairman had been the one to see him out.

“Thank you,” Shang Qinghua had told him earnestly as he took his leave. “Thank you for allowing me into your family. And if you see…”

It had been hard to get his name out, hard to refer to him as my husband without feeling a growing ache in his chest. The foolish part in his heart that had thought that there was still time for the situation to be fixed in a way where he wouldn’t have to leave had long been extinguished. 

Shang Qinghua had swallowed around the lump in his throat and managed to get the words out.

“Tell him I said thank you too.”




 

 

Shang Qinghua had been just as nervous about meeting Linguang Jun, if not more so. It had been akin to walking into a lion’s den, and Shang Qinghua had to draw on years of being a host to maintain any sort of cool and unshaken demeanour.

It didn’t stop him from seeking a pep talk with Shen Yuan before he had gone in. Shen Yuan had told him not to worry, that men like Linguang Jun could scheme and devise all they wanted but their downfall would always be their lack of ability to factor in human emotion. And since Shang Qinghua was nothing but a ball of human emotion, he had the upper hand. Shang Qinghua didn’t feel like he had the upper hand, but he thanked Shen Yuan for his words anyways.

Linguang Jun had predictably been more than happy to meet with Shang Qinghua. He had even sent a car to the apartment to pick Shang Qinghua up, which felt kind of greasy, but Shang Qinghua had accepted anyway. For good measure, he had tucked his subway pass into his phone case. Shang Qinghua had put on his cleanest shirt, tried to hype himself up in the mirror of his washroom, and had his fists clenched in a death grip the entire way there.

Predictably, Linguang Jun took very kindly to the fact that Shang Qinghua had come begging.

“I’ll do anything,” Shang Qinghua had pleaded from across the dark oak desk Linguang Jun had his feet propped up on. They were in his office in a more secluded neighborhood in the city, and the forest green and navy blue walls gave Shang Qinghua the creeps. It looked like doom and gloom interior design was a hereditary trait.

“Oh?” Linguang Jun had raised a thin eyebrow, his face bored but his eyes glimmering. “Would you be able to get my nephew to publicly kowtow to me?”

Shang Qinghua had almost balked at that because— what the hell? What kind of demand was that? He tried to imagine Mobei Jun doing that, and realized that Linguang Jun, having styled himself after many a soap opera villain, had probably already imagined it multiple times.

“I’m kidding,” Linguang Jun had cut into his thoughts. “You know, you still have the capability to sign on as a guarantor. If you would like, you could completely take your dad’s place. Though, you don’t have any money, do you? I suppose it would be my nephew taking on the debt then. Just one more thing to add to the pile of trouble you’ve created.”

If Shang Qinghua hadn’t already mentally berated himself non-stop since he left his father’s place, Linguang Jun’s words might have actually hurt him. Actually, who was Shang Qinghua kidding— they did, and the way his face fell was completely natural.

“I’m sure there is another way,” Shang Qinghua had gulped.

As much as he was expecting it, as much as he had mentally prepared for it, Shang Qinghua still felt like he had been slapped in the face when Linguang Jun presented a solution. Shang Qinghua kept telling himself that he had already spoken to the Chairman, that Mobei Jun would be fine, that Shang Qinghua had overstayed his welcome in a world he did not belong in anyways.

Yet, when Linguang Jun spoke, Shang Qinghua could feel the corner of his eyes prickle with heat.

“You could always divorce my nephew,” Linguang Jun had said thoughtfully. “I would clear the contract then.”

“Divorce?” Shang Qinghua had repeated quietly, voice cracking over the word.

“Mm,” Linguang Jun had started to sound rather pleased. “You’re a thorn in my side and if you stick around, I know you’re only going to get worse. So leave, and I’ll absolve your father.”

“I… His position in the company…”

“Ah yes,” Linguang Jun had smiled thinly at this. “What do you think would affect it more? Him being divorced or him staying married to an idiotic family? Your foolish marriage was what secured him being named an heir, but what good did it actually do?”

There had been something about the way that Linguang Jun had smiled throughout their entire conversation, something about the way he looked at Shang Qinghua like he was a car and Shang Qinghua was soon to be roadkill.

“You’re such an asshole,” Shang Qinghua blurted out and Linguang Jun laughed.

“What are you worth to him anyways?” Linguang Jun had said, setting his feet down. He propped his elbows up on the table and leaned in, expression leering. “Even if he won’t be able to inherit the company, at least he can settle down with a better prospect.”

Shang Qinghua had pressed his lips together, and had tried his best to fight back any further smart-ass comments. Or tears. Or both. 

“Would you like to be absolved of your debts, Mr. Shang? Or would you like to continue seeing just how much of a burden I can make you?”

Shang Qinghua had swallowed his pride and had swallowed his hurt. He had known that it was what Linguang Jun would have wanted— that’s why he went to the Chairman first. Shang Qinghua is acutely aware of how cowardly Linguang Jun thinks he is, and had asked the Chairman to keep their meeting a secret. 

It had not been his first option. Divorce had not been his fifth or his tenth option either, but after realizing how many roadblocks were in place, Shang Qinghua didn’t know what else to do. He had even taken the contract to Yue Qingyuan and Liu Qingge and asked them for a favour. 

They had returned it to him with matching grim looks that only deepened his sense of foreboding. If his dad had signed all the pages willingly and sound of mind, there wasn’t much anyone else could do. There was no room to plead ignorance within it either. 

Shang Qinghua had even asked Shen Jiu to look at it, and Shen Jiu had asked to keep a copy for pointers. It had been a dejecting experience, and Shang Qinghua had come up with the inevitable solution when he was four beers deep at a pub with Shen Yuan.

Shen Yuan had given him a look when he explained it, the night before he was going to go meet Linguang Jun, and asked him if he was really sure.

“Look at how we got married bro,” Shang Qinghua had sighed unhappily. “This way, at least I’ll be setting him free.”

“Didn’t you say you…” Shen Yuan had started, but the distressed look on Shang Qinghua’s face must have been too pathetic because he never finished his sentence.

Shang Qinghua had known deep down it would lead to this. He had known that that’s what he would have been leaving Linguang Jun’s office with. Yet when he reached the subway station, he locked himself in the dingy public bathroom and cried for a good twenty minutes. It had been quiet but it had been long, and Shang Qinghua tried to smother any glimmer of hope or persistence that was there within him. Afterwards, he had called his mother and asked her if she had a room to spare.

He had packed first, mechanical and rough in his movements, tearing down any trace of himself in the apartment. Shang Qinghua hadn’t realized how comfortable he had gotten until he had tried to pack up everything that he had sprawled out. He had barely looked at what he had thrown into his suitcase, had eaten through some of his emotions with the leftovers he had in the fridge so that they would be gone too and had thrown the rest in the compost. Shang Qinghua barely remembers doing any of it.

All he remembers is that when he had written the letter to Mobei Jun, his hands were shaking so much he had to start over twice. It was when he left the building finally, single suitcase and garbage bag in tow after dropping the keys off with the doorman, that the gnawing ache had started. That the reality had set in. That he knew he was leaving without a chance of turning back. That this time, there wasn’t much of a chance of his husband— of Mobei Jun trying to win him back.

Why would he? What was what they had worth in exchange for freedom from his grandfather’s strange fancies? Why would he put the effort into fighting Linguang Jun over and over again?

Ah… Even the thought of that stung. Shang Qinghua wishes things were different. Wishes they were as stupid and silly as they were at the beginning of the marriage. He was and still is mad at his father, impossibly so. But he knows, his father knows, and Shang Qinghua knows that his father will never change. And because he was so mad at his father, he didn’t want Mobei Jun to find him yet, before he had gathered himself back together.

If he came looking.

 


 

So here Shang Qinghua is, broken-hearted as he sleeps in a cramped guest room. He has no point of reference for dealing with this sort of pain; Shen Yuan tells him to distract himself with books or videos or some sort of hobby, but Shang Qinghua barely registers anything he watches or reads. He gets enough strength to move through his day like normal, albeit without much emotion. His mother doesn’t comment on him moping around home, tells him that the first one is always the hardest but not much else.

A part of him, one that he’s trying desperately trying to suffocate, wishfully hopes that his husband will come sweeping in. But Shang Qinghua thinks that if he had wanted to, he would have already. Mobei Jun has found him in the middle of the street a couple of times. If he wanted to find Shang Qinghua, he absolutely could.

And then he remembers that he was the one to initiate the breakup. Again. Feelings aside, that may have been a blow to Mobei Jun’s pride; he may not even want to think about Shang Qinghua right now.

But Shang Qinghua can’t stop thinking about him. Can’t stop mulling over the memories, can’t stop mulling over what they had been able to share, can’t yet wake up without feeling the phantom weight of his ex-husband against his back, over his hip, around his waist. 

He dreams once, that things are back to normal, that they’re sharing a simple meal on the sofa over the weekend. It’s so innocuous and feels so real that it threatens to break him more than anything else.

His first week at Cang Qiong passes by in a daze. Shang Qinghua is thankful that he’s still got the ability to retain information through deep emotional turmoil and makes it through his orientation functional. He is also glad that he’s saved his capacity to experience emotions for when he’s in the privacy of his mom’s guest bedroom. Shang Qinghua goes through the motions of his day robotically but if anything, it serves as a good distraction.

He forces himself to socialize at the job, even manages to make a few acquaintances, and it takes his mind off the fact that the most he’s gotten from Mobei Jun had been a couple of texts. Mobei Jun doesn’t show up angry at his office, never calls him, doesn’t even send him a message in any other covert way. 

Shang Qinghua knows this absence is good. He knows it should help him move on. But when he’s home, when he’s alone in the guest bedroom with a silent phone while his mother and her family have dinner downstairs— that’s when it stings the most.

He doesn’t cry again, hasn’t cried since he left the apartment. He feels too numb to do so, which makes him feel even more terrible. Once or twice, mostly in the shower, it feels like he can’t breathe and that the pain will crush him. But then it bounces back into the nothingness and he can breathe, but he can’t relieve the tension with a good cry.

It just makes things worse, hardening the knot in his chest.

 

Shen Yuan takes him out for a pity dinner at the end of his first week on the job. Shang Qinghua feels bad that he’s been too busy dealing with a break up to properly appreciate the fact that he gets to work side by side with his best friend, but Shen Yuan waves him off.

They start with small talk, with Shang Qinghua trying to answer the best he can to Shen Yuan’s questions about him adjusting to the job. He makes it to all of ten minutes of doing his best to act normal before he breaks down.

“Do you know if he’s asked for me?” Shang Qinghua asks desperately, and Shen Yuan presses his lips in a tight line.

“Binghe will tell me as much about it as I tell him about you,” Shen Yuan says. He’s been doing a rather excellent job of keeping Shen Yuan’s comings and goings a secret, even from Luo Binghe.

But if Binghe is not telling him anything, it’s most likely a sign that Mobei Jun is not talking about him at all. Shang Qinghua tries not to let his hurt show on his face and fails miserably; he would be a blatant liar if he said he didn’t miss Mobei Jun so much that his heart ached.

Shen Yuan orders two extra baskets of steamed shrimp dumplings and pushes them towards Shang Qinghua with a sympathetic look.

“First one’s always the hardest,” Shen Yuan says and Shang Qinghua smiles in what he hopes is a thankful way and not in a way that belies the fact that he’s sick and tired of hearing everyone say that.

Yes, he knows the first one’s always the hardest! His was a marriage so it was extra hard! Compounded with the fact that Shang Qinghua had gone through so much of his teen and adult life with no romantic experience and barely any physical experience past kissing and some over the shirt groping— it really was too much for him to handle.

Shang Qinghua is pretty sure he’s felt more in the past year than he’s felt in his whole life before, and it’s overwhelming.

“Has Linguang Jun at least withdrawn the contract?” Shen Yuan asks and Shang Qinghua shrugs.

“Every time I call my dad, it goes to voicemail,” Shang Qinghua says. “But I used his notary to look it over, so he better have.”

“He really suggested divorce, huh?”

“No surprise there,” Shang Qinghua snorted. “He wants to snake Mobei Jun more than anything else. It’s not like he lost out on a stellar investment with my dad or anything.”

It’s a stupid game Linguang Jun had wanted to play, and Shang Qinghua has been wondering if he had made the right move. Every time he thinks about whether he should have brought it to Mobei Jun, he remembers how stressed out the man had looked, how much irritation was in his voice that time he snapped at Shang Qinghua. He remembers the amount of trouble the latest media circus brought him, and Shang Qinghua doesn’t think in good conscience he could drop one more problem at Mobei Jun’s feet.

At least this way, Mobei Jun is secured in whatever position he has within his family, and it is no longer hinged on some stupid union.

He remembers too what Mobei Jun had said at the beginning of their marriage. That if he thought it ridiculous that his debt would get absolved simply with this marriage, how did Mobei Jun feel knowing his position in the company was secured by a marriage to a person he didn’t know? And to an average person that he had not chosen. An average person with fickle behaviours, a middling account on Zhongdian and a father who liked to get into trouble.

It must have stung extra hard for Mobei Jun, now that Shang Qinghua pays more attention to it and that he knows more about his past. It must have been an insult to fight tooth and nail for his position, only to have his importance reduced down to a marriage. Even if they had managed to develop something, at the end of the day that still lingered above them.

So this way, he thinks he’s liberated Mobei Jun. From both himself and the Chairman’s whims.

And Shang Qinghua knows that maybe he should feel liberated too. But he doesn’t. Instead he feels a hurt so strong sometimes that he thinks it’ll dissolve him into nothingness.

He really wants to text Mobei Jun back, maybe call him, but he knows he needs to wait it out. At least until he’s in the clear with Linguang Jun. Then maybe he needs to apologize to Mobei Jun, and wish him the best in person. Maybe it’ll stop hurting and he can move on and if Shang Qinghua is lucky, maybe it’ll occur sometime before he hits old age. 

His dad finally calls him over the weekend and tells him that Linguang Jun withdrew the contract. His father apologizes too for ruining the marriage; Linguang Jun must have paraded it over his head, like he undoubtedly wants to do to Shang Qinghua. Unluckily for Linguang Jun, Shang Qinghua has long blocked his number.

I can’t believe I ruined another marriage like this,” Shang Qinghua’s father half-jokes on the phone. “And it wasn’t even mine.

Shang Qinghua doesn’t have an answer to that, doesn’t have the emotional wherewithal to even give a fragile laugh. His dad’s own chuckle tapers off awkwardly.

I’m sorry,” his father says again, and Shang Qinghua doesn’t doubt it. “I am truly and genuinely sorry. I promise I won’t trouble you like this again.

Shang Qinghua feels sorry for himself too. He also feels sorry for his dad, who seems to constantly approach life with the same scatter-brained enthusiasm that gets him in hot water without recognizing it.

“It’s not that you shouldn’t trouble me,” Shang Qinghua says bluntly. “It’s that you shouldn’t be getting into these kinds of situations in the first place. Even if this didn’t affect anything, you still shouldn’t be signing these kinds of things without reading them or letting me know.”

Shang Qinghua’s father doesn’t have much to say to that, and Shang Qinghua sighs.

“Look baba,” he says. “We’ll figure something out. I have to go.”

He hangs up afterwards, and lays back on his bed. It’s a Saturday afternoon, and he has no plans. He has no one free to have plans with either— well, that’s a lie. Ming Fan and Gongyi Xiao have asked him if he wants to get drinks but Shang Qinghua doesn’t want to be seen in this sorry state. Not yet. He’s already gotten a lot of his post-breakup drinking out with Shen Yuan, and he’s had his fill of being simultaneously miserable and hungover. 

There’s not much motivation for him to write either. There’s not much motivation to do much aside from aimlessly watch something on his phone till he falls asleep.

At least his father’s free of Linguang Jun’s contract. Shang Qinghua can breathe slightly easier now, knowing his father and him are no longer trapped in dire financial straits again. It also must mean that whatever Linguang Jun had wanted to accomplish, he did.

It then clicks in that if Linguang Jun has just withdrawn, it means he’s confirmed that Mobei Jun has already submitted the divorce papers to the court office. It means that he’s confirmed that the two of them have officially started the separation process; it must have been easy, given that Shang Qinghua has declined to go after anything like financial support. 

It means, ultimately, that it’s real. That the separation is real, that Shang Qinghua will carry the label of a divorced man now. That he and Mobei Jun are no longer tied together and that he has no right left to the other man.

He still isn’t able to cry. The tension that sits in his chest like a ball of lead just gets heavier and heavier, till it feels like it’s going to suffocate him. The corners of his eyes prickle with heat, but nothing happens, like his emotions are getting clogged even though he feels like he’s reached a bursting point. 

Shang Qinghua wonders how long he will have to carry it for.

 


 

The next week is worse, but Shang Qinghua manages to keep it reigned in. It’s for the better because no one seems to notice at work, save for Shen Yuan. It’s because not a lot of people know him and that’s just as well; Shang Qinghua thinks he’s going to puke if anyone asks him to talk about his feelings.

Mobei Jun hasn’t texted him at all this week. It’s not a surprise so Shang Qinghua tries to at least pretend that it does not upset him. He pretends that the last glimmers of hope that die painfully didn’t exist at all, the glimmers of hope that thought maybe Mobei Jun would chase after him. Shang Qinghua guesses now he just needs to look ahead.

His mom’s place is kind of far from Cang Qiong, and Shang Qinghua can’t stay in the guest bedroom forever. Shen Yuan has offered Shang Qinghua his old room in their apartment, which would be useful as it’s just a short subway ride away from work. But Shang Qinghua doesn’t think he’s ready to run into anything or anyone that’s adjacent to Mobei Jun, which includes his lawyer. Shen Yuan tries to tell him for at least the first month, they can work something out, but Shang Qinghua stops him.

“Only one of us can live life as a sad and single virgin,” Shang Qinghua tells him sagely. Instead of laughing, Shen Yuan just looks at him in pity.

There’s only one other option really, till Shang Qinghua finds his own place. It’s not an option that he wants to take but it’s a hell of a lot closer to his work than his mother’s place is, and his dad maybe kind of deserves to have Shang Qinghua hovering around the house like some sad, moping ghost. His dad agrees to it and Shang Qinghua pretends he doesn’t hear the reluctance in his voice.

So near the end of his second week of having left, he tells his mother he’s going to move in with his dad. She pats him on the back, gives him a hug, and tells him she and her family are going to go visit some in-laws, so to just leave the key with the doorman of the apartment building.

It’s so easy for him to flit in and out of people’s lives, even those that care about him. Shang Qinghua wonders what it would take for someone to want to keep him as a permanent fixture, to see him significant enough as to want him to actively stay with them. 

Ah, he’s wallowing again…

He reaches his father’s place on a Saturday, and his father greets him with a look that clearly indicates that he still feels guilty about the whole situation. 

His father makes them lunch and takes Shang Qinghua with him to do groceries. He makes small talk here and there, shows him off to the cashier and even buys Shang Qinghua one of those wrapped ice cream cones he used to love when he was a kid. 

Shang Qinghua goes through the motions of it with a half-hearted smile, hoping that his father will stop trying to overcompensate. He’s still irritated with the man to some degree, as much as his dad has apologized.

“I had a hard time when your mother divorced me,” Shang Qinghua’s father says, trying to comfort him. “It takes a while to get better but it always does.”

Shang Qinghua knows that; he just wants to fast forward to when he’s over this. Right now, he’s feeling a lot of emotions when he preferably would be feeling none of them. He tries voicing this to his dad but his dad gives him a kind of uneasy look that indicates that he’s already reached the limits of the kind of advice he can give.

It’s going to be awkward for some time, Shang Qinghua knows, but if he dwells on it too much he knows his blood pressure is going to go through the roof. So instead, he spends time unpacking.

He didn’t completely unfold at his mother’s place because he knew it wouldn’t be permanent, but he’s probably going to be staying at his father’s for a while. Yue Qingyuan has given him a rather generous starting salary at Cang Qiong but Shang Qinghua wants to get more situated before he starts apartment hunting and maybe saved enough that he doesn’t need to rent a complete shoebox of an apartment.

There isn’t a lot of free space in the bedroom he’s moved back into; it was his old one from when he was a teenager, one his father hasn’t bothered clearing out. Shang Qinghua moves an old stack of comics off of his desk to make space for some of his clothes; he’ll deal with the room at large once he’s more emotionally prepared.

As he pulls out his clothes, he comes across a rather soft black t-shirt that looks a few sizes too large for him. He holds it up and frowns for a moment, and then he remembers.

It’s Mobei Jun’s shirt. Shang Qinghua had never returned it after the night at his family’s place. Shang Qinghua, being optimistic about their future at that time, hadn’t had any plans to return it to Mobei Jun. He had packed so haphazardly when leaving that he barely even noticed that he had thrown it in.

The shirt still smells clean, like their shared detergent, a stupid luxurious brand that Mobei Jun refused to replace with something more sensible. It brings back the memory of that night, before Mobei Jun’s father had interrupted them, and Shang Qinghua feels himself heat up mildly. He shoves the memory away as fast as it comes; no point in thinking about it if he doesn’t have a chance at it again.

It does make him think about how Mobei Jun is doing. The lack of contact on the other man’s part is probably a good indication that he isn’t as hurt. At any rate, he’s probably not in as pathetic a state as Shang Qinghua. Shang Qinghua isn’t brave enough to creep social media either, as much as he wants to catch a glimpse of the man’s face.

(Part of him, the more hyperbolic part, is scared too that he’ll accidentally stumble across news of Mobei Jun dating another actress. It’d be silly to have happen so soon after the divorce, but it had happened during their marriage as well.)

Shang Qinghua doesn’t know what’s a normal amount of hurt and he doesn’t know what’s a normal amount of time to grieve for something like this. His dad has told him that it’s ok, to take his time. That marriage is a big thing to leave. Yet, Shang Qinghua still doesn’t know what he’s entitled to.

He clutches the shirt. He misses him. He misses him a lot. It’s stupid and probably not something he has a right to, but it doesn’t stop him from feeling it.

This time, Shang Qinghua does cry. It doesn’t come as the heaving, wracking sobs that he thought they would. It doesn’t instantly relieve the tightness in his chest either. He couldn’t be loud, even if he tried. 

It’s a quiet kind of crying, his tears hot as they start to drip, his eyes stinging and his nose starting to run. He presses the heels of his palm into his eyes until he sees stars but it still doesn’t stop the lump that swells in his throat.

He exhales sharply; at least this time, he can cry. At least this time, it doesn’t feel like he’s about to burst. It’s not cathartic and it doesn’t make him feel better, but at least it’s happened, leaking out his emotion slowly.  He sits like this for a good twenty minutes, flipping between feelings of being vacant and being hurt by something he brought onto himself.

And when he’s done, when he’s washed the crustiness off his face, when he’s eaten his feelings through a silent dinner with his father. When he’s showered off the day, head pressed against the cool tiles, trying to will the throb between his temples away. 

When he’s done all that, he shamefully slides on the black shirt before slipping into bed. It feels soft and over-sized on him, more luxurious than anything else he owns. The feel of it against his skin makes him shiver, and he feels that gnawing sadness again in his chest.

He ignores it though, and clings.




 

 

Despite how late he stays up moping, Shang Qinghua ends up waking up earlier than normal for a Sunday morning. That is, he wakes up before noon with his eyes swollen and puffy as he stares up at the ceiling of his room. There’s a bit of dried tears and snot on the inside of the very expensive t-shirt he’s wearing right now, but Shang Qinghua cannot be bothered.

For the first few precious moments after waking, Shang Qinghua feels normal. Then he remembers yet again that he had divorced a man that he loved, and the gloomy feeling settles in again.

He contemplates laying in bed all day. It’s been two weeks, but he’s got nothing planned, and finding the shirt clearly means that he deserves to wallow for a while.

Shang Qinghua thinks maybe he can hole up in his room and cry some more. It didn’t feel it at the time but after the fact, he thinks it’s actually helped him and given him something to do other than stare aimlessly at the wall. The ache in his heart feels like it’s still there, clutched around him in a vise-grip.

God, break ups suck. Shang Qinghua cannot recollect a time that he’s felt like this. Normally he goes with the tide in every bad event, always moves forward, but something with this is yanking him down like an undercurrent.

Amongst all this contemplation, Shang Qinghua’s stomach grumbles loudly and he groans. He thought that he would lose his appetite with how lovelorn he was, but it’s been the opposite for the past couple of weeks. At least good food will still bring him gratification, even if not a lot of other things in life will.

Shang Qinghua figures if he’s going to wallow, he may as well wallow on a full stomach. Maybe it’ll serve some emotional clarity or maybe he can grab a bag of lobster chips and eat through his feelings again. 

Yawning, he slips out of bed.

He brushes his teeth and washes his face, just to make the man looking back at him in the mirror fractionally less pathetic. His eyes are still red and his face in general is still pitiful, but Shang Qinghua knows that it’ll just be something that fades away with time. Then he can go back to his normal level of looking like a loser. 

Despite his hunger, Shang Qinghua decides he deserves to bike out and get breakfast at a local cafe. If anything, the physical activity and the cold chill of a winter that’s yet to leave should be enough to get him at least focused for the day. He asks his father if he wants anything and his father says no, so Shang Qinghua makes a mental note to grab him a sandwich otherwise he’ll be looking balefully at Shang Qinghua’s food.

The bike ride and the cold bite of air does Shang Qinghua some good in waking him up, as does the welcoming smell of strong coffee and food in the cafe. It’s pretty crowded given that it’s a weekend, so he gets two coffees, grilled breakfast sandwiches, and almond tarts to go. He gets a sausage roll too to eat on his bike ride back, and takes the long and winding way home.

It’s a busy Sunday, even with the low temperatures, and people are milling out onto the streets near the shops and the cafes. Shang Qinghua takes his time going home, even if the food and the drinks sitting in the front basket of his bike are getting cold. While it doesn’t ease the sadness, it does clear his mind and help him think.

Maybe he doesn’t need to lie in bed all day and wallow. Shang Qinghua wonders if after breakfast, he can bike around and maybe mope in the small tree lined park instead. Or maybe he can go catch a movie and forget his own existence for a couple of hours. As low energy as he is, many of these options seem a lot more appealing now than just laying inert. 

Or maybe he can make Shen Yuan come to him, and they can go give a local all-you-can-eat a run for their money. That’s if Shen Yuan isn’t busy hanging out with Luo Binghe; the thought of that brings another tinge to Shang Qinghua’s chest. He’s kind of jealous that his friend gets to have a functional relationship while he’s left himself out to dry but ultimately, it’s no fault of Shen Yuan’s.

Shang Qinghua texts Shen Yuan halfway on his meandering bike ride home, and looks up the movie times for some trashy fantasy action film that looks like it’ll lull him into a nice, dream-less sleep. Shen Yuan replies with a maybe, and it’s good enough that Shang Qinghua bikes home with some optimism for the day. Atleast he’ll have some pro-active wallowing.

When he gets home, he hears his dad has the television on in the living room, so he quietly takes off his coat and makes his way into the kitchen and sets down his dad’s portion of food on the table. While his dad means well, Shang Qinghua wants to avoid any kind of conversation with him at the moment, lest it result in him getting awkward relationship advice again. 

He microwaves the cold sandwich and his coffee and dumps some extra sugar in it, while texting his dad that he’s left the food in the kitchen. It’s not till Shang Qinghua is finished and passing the living room on his way upstairs that he realizes that it’s not the television making noise. It’s the sound of his dad talking rather animatedly with an excitement that has literally never bode well for either of them.

Shang Qinghua pauses, ready to change course and barge into another ill-fated business meeting of his father’s, when the answering reply causes Shang Qinghua to freeze.

“You are to put it through me first,” comes the familiar and commanding baritone. “I will leave my secretary’s number with you.”

Shang Qinghua’s heart stops for a moment, and his eyes widen. He thinks he must be mistaken for a moment, maybe it’s the yearning or something stupid like that because it can’t be— 

“Ah, it looks like he texted me,” he hears his father say as he shifts around the couch. 

“Hm,” comes the reply and Shang Qinghua can’t bolt. He’s too distracted, too rooted to hearing his husband’s — his ex husband’s — voice again, pulling him in like a magnet. 

That’s definitely a voice he’s subconsciously wanted to hear again and that’s definitely a voice that consciously terrifies him. 

Shang Qinghua’s father calls to him, and Shang Qinghua gulps. Maybe he actually does want to run. He did leave Mobei Jun rather unceremoniously. He hoped that the letter had been heartfelt enough but maybe Mobei Jun didn’t like being ditched in such an unceremonious way. 

Men like him probably don’t even like being the ones to be broken up with! It probably cramps their style. Mobei Jun is likely here to first wrangle an apology and then be the one to formally dump Shang Qinghua. It’s not like he’d be here to resolve any hurt— if that was the case, he would have done it a lot earlier? Right? 

A man like Mobei Jun probably needs at most half a week to get over a man like Shang Qinghua. Shang Qinghua is about to scurry away, when his father calls out his name again. 

“We heard you arrive,” Shang Qinghua’s dad says and Shang Qinghua can feel his bones calcify. 

“Who’s we?” Shang Qinghua asks in return. Maybe he really can make a run for it. 

“Come in here,” his father says, and Shang Qinghua sighs for himself in pity. 

For a moment, he contemplates just making a break for it. Then he remembers the last time he saw Mobei Jun’s face properly, and his feet automatically start moving. He tries his best to avoid Mobei Jun’s gaze, focusing instead on where his dad’s sitting on his favourite armchair.

It’s harder said than done. Shang Qinghua sneaks a sideways glance and Mobei Jun’s gaze as sharp as ever as he sits on the sofa, one leg crossed over the other. 

“Your ex-husband is here to see you,” Shang Qinghua’s father says and Shang Qinghua’s too quick to avert his eyes and misses the way that Mobei Jun visibly bristles at the introduction. “He wanted to talk to both you and I.”

“Together?” Shang Qinghua asks, but before his dad can reply, Mobei Jun clears his throat.

“We’re done,” Shang Qinghua’s father says, clearly ready to abandon him in his time of need. “It’s just you he wants to speak to now.”

“Um,” Shang Qinghua replies as intelligently as he possibly can, which isn’t very much. 

Shang Qinghua’s father stands up, and gestures awkwardly towards the coffee table. There’s a cooling tea pot and a tray with two cups, one clearly left empty for Shang Qinghua. Mobei Jun is holding onto the third one, the tiny porcelain dwarfed in his hand. Shang Qinghua’s dad gives a weird jerky bow towards Mobei Jun and Shang Qinghua feels some shame. Didn’t his father have some pride, bowing to his ex-husband like this!

“Thank you,” Shang Qinghua’s father says to Mobei Jun and then turns to Shang Qinghua. “I need to go pick up some groceries.”

“We already went shopping yesterday,” Shang Qinghua says to deaf ears. His father ignores him and within a blink, scurries out of the room and down the hall, leaving Shang Qinghua in the small living room with his ex-husband.

 


 

 

In the end, Shang Qinghua doesn’t make a run for it. Instead, he takes up his dad’s old spot on the armchair as an awkward silence falls over them like a blanket. He folds forward to set his breakfast down and pour himself some tea, and is too nervous to even put in any sugar.

“Did you want some more tea?” Shang Qinghua asks, and Mobei Jun just stares at him.

Despite being just one man, Mobei Jun’s presence takes up the entire couch he sits on. It takes up the entire cramped living room even, his face dark and the cloud that seems to be hanging above his head even darker. He’s in a black suit and a midnight blue shirt that makes him look even paler than he already is. There are bags under his eyes and his face looks a bit gaunt; it must be an exceptionally busy time at work because he looks exhausted.

Not that Shang Qinghua looks any better. He’s still kind of ruddy from the cold and he’s wearing a faded ugly sweater over his jeans. When he sits back with his cup of tea, Mobei Jun uncrosses his legs. The act is unnerving. The silence is unnerving. Looking at Mobei Jun’s face after mourning their split is unnerving. Everything about this situation is unnerving and Shang Qinghua wonders if now would be a good time for the Earth to split open and swallow him whole.

Mobei Jun leans forward and sets his own teacup down on the tray. He does it with so much anger in his movement that Shang Qinghua sinks backwards, trying his best to melt into the sofa cushions.

“Uh…” Shang Qinghua says, just to fill the silence. “I hope you’ve been well?”

“Do you?” Mobei Jun asks with a voice so icy that Shang Qinghua is barely able to suppress the shiver that runs down his spine. 

Mobei Jun gives a look that clearly means business; Shang Qinghua didn’t think it possible, but his face looks more stern and unyielding than ever before.

It’s kind of scary! Shang Qinghua wonders if he had accidentally done some other offence that he hasn’t accounted for. Mobei Jun has the same demeanour as someone who’s come to shake Shang Qinghua down for money, albeit the fact that the last guy who did that wore a suit that cost maybe the same amount as Mobei Jun’s pocket square.

There’s more silence, and Shang Qinghua has the urge once more to fill it. If Mobei Jun continues to stare at him like this, he’s going to shrivel on the spot. Or turn into a puddle of tears. The latter would by far be immensely embarrassing.

“Have you been very busy?” Shang Qinghua asks, taking a sip of his tea. It tastes like his father’s been using the more expensive stuff, and not the discounted box that has a strange synthetic smell around it. “You look tired.”

“I wonder why that could be,” Mobei Jun says dryly, and Shang Qinghua gulps. Ah, maybe going to Mobei Jun’s grandfather did end up bringing trouble first. What if it made Mobei Jun look like he couldn’t stand up for himself? Or something like that?

“You said you wanted to talk to me,” Shang Qinghua says, getting to the topic at hand. “What did you want to talk about?”

Mobei Jun doesn’t say anything. He just continues looking at Shang Qinghua, like he’s thinking about which way to string him up and punish him, and not in a fun way. Does he look at everyone like this? No wonder so many people are scared of him! Imagine having someone this handsome look at you like they’re ready to destroy you!

“Did something happen?” Shang Qinghua blurts out and winces immediately after.

Ok, so maybe that last part could have been phrased better. Shang Qinghua is just curious to see if there’s any new trouble that’s arisen; he’s very clear on the fact that something has happened, due to the fact that he was the cause. So it doesn’t surprise him when one of Mobei Jun’s eyebrows twitch and he narrows his gaze.

Did something happen ?” Mobei Jun repeats, voice low and mocking and Shang Qinghua rushes to take another sip of his tea. “I think you could say that yes, something did happen. A very stupid man decided to leave me.”

Shang Qinghua pauses for a moment, the words processing through his head on a syllable-by-syllable basis. Once his brain comes online, he turns indignant.

“Hey!” He says hotly. “Who are you calling stupid!”

“I feel like it should be obvious who,” Mobei Jun says flatly, and Shang Qinghua sputters over his tea.

“That’s rude! I was just trying to protect your future!” Shang Qinghua says insistently. There’s been a tremor in his throat he’s been fighting back since the moment he walked into the living room, and it threatens to make itself known. “I put a lot of thought into it!”

Mobei Jun’s stormy expression stays for a brief moment, before his brow relaxes into something more indifferent.

“...You did, didn’t you,” He states quietly. “I thought of that too.”

Mobei Jun leans back against the sofa, and looks at Shang Qinghua in contemplation. Even though his expression isn’t as scary, Shang Qinghua still kind of feels like a cornered mouse. Shang Qinghua’s about to speak but Mobei Jun beats him to it.

“I was incredibly angry at first,” Mobei Jun says, levelling Shang Qinghua with an unwavering gaze. “So much so that my first instinct was to track you down and drag you back. But then I realized you were the victim here.”

“A victim?” Shang Qinghua blinks, his tea cup still hovering near his mouth.

“Between the way my family is and my grandfather’s strange whims, I thought about how you had been pulled into a situation that was unkind to you. I thought the best way to protect you was to let you go. Especially since you never replied to my messages.”

Shang Qinghua gulps, and gingerly sets his teacup down on his table. He’s so nervous he’s pretty sure his soul is on the verge of vibrating out of his body. Is that why Mobei Jun had been so distant?

(That and probably having been unceremoniously dumped via a letter. At least Shang Qinghua didn’t do it via text!)

“And then imagine my surprise a few days later when Zhuzhi Lang tells me casually about a new business venture my uncle is funding,” Mobei Jun says. “One with a rather familiar-sounding man by the name of Shang Qian.”

“Then I do a little digging and don’t like what I see. So I put a stop to it. Easily.”

Mobei Jun emphasizes his words with an arch of one of his thick eyebrows, and Shang Qinghua’s eyes widen. 

“I thought he withdrew because you finalized the divorce,” Shang Qinghua says, and Mobei Jun’s hackles visibly rise at this. It’s only for a fraction of a second— a moment later, Mobei Jun’s face has returned to its stoic neutrality.

“I told you,” Mobei Jun says coldly. “They think I am a threat to their lifestyle. They are correct; I am. And I will never hesitate to make it known.”

Mobei Jun says this with the inflection of a mob boss, and Shang Qinghua thinks maybe its best that his own family has never struck it rich. If money brought these kinds of family politics, he cannot even begin to imagine anyone related to him navigating it properly.

“Thank you,” Shang Qinghua says, thinking he owes Mobei Jun at at least this much. Mobei Jun’s frown deepens and Shang Qinghua tries to move his gaze to the coffee table. “Uh— thank you. I thought Linguang Jun had taken it back because of the divorce.”

“The divorce,” Mobei Jun repeats, spitting out the words like it was dirty. “That’s the second time, right?”

“I feel like the first one shouldn’t count,” Shang Qinghua says weakly, and Mobei Jun snorts. “That was...um…”

That was nothing. That was a literal drop in the pond compared to this one. It had been so easy to make the decision when he was only twelve hours into the marriage.

“You did a really good job of cleaning up after yourself this time,” Mobei Jun continues, voice still even with a trace of agitation. “You had already left no trace of yourself in the apartment. I thought that would help me erase you from my mind.”

Shang Qinghua feels his heart drop at those words. So Mobei Jun had started the process of moving on after all. Shang Qinghua fidgets, squirms under the scrutinizing glance the other man is giving him. 

There’s a deep urge within him to go and hug the man’s thighs, ask for forgiveness, ask if they can go back to normal. But they can’t, or else Linguang Jun will be on his tail again. And Mobei Jun will have to clean it up. Again. Shang Qinghua lets out a shaky exhale.

“There is one thing though,” Mobei Jun says. “A thought that I had, after I had held my uncle’s feet over the fire and made him take back his contract. It was a rather pervasive thought, and the more I thought about it, the more I could not let it go.”

The way Mobei Jun’s face is downturned, the way his thick brows are pinched, the way his jaw looks tense like he’s barely holding back. The menacing aura radiating from this man is immense, and Shang Qinghua thinks he’s going to break out into a cold sweat if Mobei Jun keeps looking at him like this.

This is going just as well as he expected for a reunion of theirs. Mobei Jun choosing to come when he’s reached an angry boiling point seems to be par for course for what Shang Qinghua thought would happen. It’s not like Mobei Jun is a man of tender words or elegies or one to desire a heart-to-heart and closure.

Shang Qinghua braces, prepared to get scolded for some slight he overlooked.

“I tried to think about why you didn’t come to me with it,” Mobei Jun says. “Why is your first instinct always to run away from me, Shang Qinghua?”

The tone and inflection of Mobei Jun’s words make them sound deadly, as does the look on his face. But the question itself— what kind of question was that?!

“I… I didn’t want to bring you any more stress,” Shang Qinghua explains feebly. “I’ve already brought you so much already.”

He wrote it in the letter! Why is Mobei Jun making him explain himself like this!

“So?”

“What do you mean, so?” Shang Qinghua says. He has a brief moment of clarity where he realizes that maybe a written letter wasn’t enough for Mobei Jun. That he wants to extricate the words out from Shang Qinghua in person.

“You were clearly under so much pressure at work because of a simple, stupid dinner. You’ve already cleared my dad’s debts twice and you let me freeload off you for almost a year. I’ve caused you enough trouble, I don’t want to come to you with more!”

“Why not?” Mobei Jun asks, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Why— huh?” Shang Qinghua blinks, taken aback by the question. “What do you mean?”

Mobei Jun glares at him for a moment again, holding it till the force of it travels down Shang Qinghua’s spine.

“Let me be blunt,” Mobei Jun says in an extremely measured voice. “I am very annoyed with you.”

There it is. That is what Shang Qinghua had expected. Mobei Jun to verbally dress him down, and lay out whatever fault Shang Qinghua had, whether it be in the divorce or the marriage preceding it. It doesn’t mean Shang Qinghua is looking forward to it though.

“I thought I had found someone I could finally open up to and someone who in turn I could protect and support,” Mobei Jun says darkly. “And then I was proven wrong.”

The words feel like a punch in the gut, but Shang Qinghua swallows back whatever pathetic reply he has. Mobei Jun is incredibly direct with his words when he chooses to use them, and Shang Qinghua doesn’t know why he wouldn’t be this time. Still...

“I thought that I had found someone who trusted me, which made me trust them,” Mobei Jun continues, looking keenly aware of the way Shang Qinghua’s expression drops further. “And then I was proven wrong.”

Shang Qinghua exhales at this, pressing his lips together as he looks at Mobei Jun. Properly looks at him, at those thick brows and those blue eyes set in that impossibly handsome face. And he sees the anger that floods the room. And in that, he sees some pain too.

He can’t quantify or describe what he’s feeling now. It just feels like he’s sinking again, into mud maybe. He had expected anger, but he did not expect Mobei Jun to look like he had gone through some actual hurt.

“See, I do not understand,” Mobei Jun leans forward and for a brief moment, Shang Qinghua thinks he’s going to get off his couch. But the other man stays put, no matter how much it looks like he’s about to rear off the furniture. “You wanted me to treat you like a husband. You wanted to know about me—“

“Stop—”  Shang Qinghua can’t take it. He really can’t. 

He doesn’t want to cry in front of Mobei Jun because he’ll look absolutely disgusting and once he starts, he doesn’t think he’ll be able to stop. It’ll be ugly and it’ll probably be loud and something that’ll put off Mobei Jun even further. Shang Qinghua’s always been told he’s got a crying face that evokes the need to run away instead of any sympathy, and he doesn’t want to break it out right now.

“And I told you, despite the fact that I hate vulnerability. And what was it all for?”

He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know

“Please stop…” Shang Qinghua tries, worn down voice cracking near the end of his words. Whatever bad feelings he’s been carrying churn within him like an ocean in a storm as Mobei Jun makes him acutely aware that he’s made a mistake.

“I opened up to you, but you didn’t give me a chance to help you again,” Mobei Jun ignores his request and cruelly continues. “The first two times I helped you, we still didn’t know each other. This time we did, but you didn’t give me a chance. I thought we had reached a certain place in our marriage but then you did not confide in me.”

“Stop,” Shang Qinghua sniffs, barely holding back his tears. Being confronted with all of this is even worse than the emotions he went through post-breakup. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I failed. I’m sorry.”

He tries looking at Mobei Jun but he can’t; he feels his eyes grow hot and he ducks away, raising a hand to his face. He presses it to his eyes but his palm is clammy and as hot as the rest of him and it doesn’t help. His heart is beating a thunderous drum in his ears and he can feel the beginnings of an honest to goodness sob.

It’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing, he’s embarrassing, and he’s so stupid. He should have never agreed to this marriage in the first place, because he just tripped over his own feet and fell flat on his face and ended up hurting people along the way.

Why was he so incapable? Why was he so terrible at this?

Shang Qinghua inhales and tries to steady his breathing so he doesn’t choke up further. He squeezes his eyes shut, trying to press back whatever wetness has already sprung forth, and sniffs again. Whatever heartbreak he’s been feeling for the past couple of weeks echoes in his chest, and he’s on the brink.

He barely registers Mobei Jun calling his name, not until he’s reaching across the table to grab Shang Qinghua’s wrist. Shang Qinghua thinks he’s going to wrench his hand away but Mobei Jun just squeezes, tugging just enough to relieve the pressure off of his face.

“Hey,” Mobei Jun says once he sees he’s got Shang Qinghua’s attention. “Look at me.”

Shang Qinghua doesn’t want to and tries to pull his hand back. This time Mobei Jun does hold strong, his grip as firm as steel as he prevents Shang Qinghua from hiding in embarrassment and shame and hurt again.

“Look at me,” Mobei Jun repeats himself firmly, pulling Shang Qinghua’s hand away completely this time. Shang Qinghua looks up at him blearily.

“What?”

“You did not fail,” Mobei Jun says. The deep set frown is still there, but the eyebrows seem to have relaxed a fraction. “I failed you.”

“Huh?” Shang Qinghua lets his hand go limp as he looks at Mobei Jun. Mobei Jun still holds on to him tightly, like he’s trying to pin him to one spot. “But your uncle—”

“Shut up,” Mobei Jun says bluntly, causing Shang Qinghua to balk. “This isn’t about him, or my family. This isn’t about the company either. This is about us.”

There’s a pause between the two of them where Shang Qinghua gives Mobei Jun a bewildered look with his wet eyes, and Mobei Jun sighs.

“No matter how well you had removed all traces of yourself from my apartment, and now matter how much I tried to, I couldn’t erase you from my mind,” Mobei Jun says before easing up his grip. “Because I didn’t actually want to. I didn’t want to stop thinking about you and selfishly, I didn’t want to let you go.”

Shang Qinghua’s mouth parts, but no words come out. Mobei Jun looks at him as he keeps his hand circled loosely around Shang Qinghua’s wrist. 

“I had failed you by not showing you I could be someone you could come to these problems with,” Mobei Jun says, in a way that Shang Qinghua has rarely heard before. It’s the same voice he had back when they were at his family’s place, the same voice he had when they had stayed at that hotel. “I failed you by not showing you I could be someone who could protect you. Whatever I did, I was wrong.”

The surprise of it slams him.

Shang Qinghua is almost dizzy from shift in mood. His brain is spinning its gears so fast he thinks he’s head is about to steam but it’s not generating any actual useful thought. He hadn’t let himself think of any good scenarios while moping, knowing it wouldn’t do him any well to daydream about things that couldn’t happen.

So he feels slightly strange, like he’s floating in a dream, not quite understanding what Mobei Jun is telling him.

“I did not ask you for a chance, I simply expected one,” Mobei Jun says, turning Shang Qinghua’s hand over in his. He cups the back of Shang Qinghua’s hand in his palm and twines his fingers through. “That was not fair to you. But I am asking now.”

“A chance?” Shang Qinghua murmurs, watching as Mobei Jun rubs a circle over the heel of his palm. “For what?” 

“Give me a chance to prove myself,” Mobei Jun says, and it’s now that Shang Qinghua realizes that his voice too, has grown hoarse. “Give me a chance to be a proper husband to you.”

Shang Qinghua stills and stares at Mobei Jun. He can’t have heard right, right? Maybe he’s still in a fever dream. Maybe he hit his head getting out of his bed in the morning and this is just some concussion.

“You mean…” There’s a different quality to Mobei Jun’s face now. The blue in his eyes seem richer, more liquid and vivid and even in his naturally stoic demeanour, Mobei Jun looks…

...Earnest.

“Give me a chance to be more to you,” Mobei Jun says, tugging on his wrist gently. Shang Qinghua parts his mouth and no words come out. He gawps like a goldfish instead, and he can see Mobei Jun’s expression slip. 

A few moments pass by and when Shang Qinghua stays silent, Mobei Jun starts to withdraw his hand. That finally gets Shang Qinghua’s brain to turn its gears again and he grabs Mobei Jun’s hand before he can take it away.

“You already are so much to me,” Shang Qinghua says, not bothering to hide the desperation in his voice. Mobei Jun’s face falters for a moment and it’s Shang Qinghua’s turn to grip tightly onto him.

He doesn’t want to let him go. He never did. If Mobei Jun can look past what he did, Shang Qinghua doesn’t want to do anything that he’ll regret.

“Then stop running away from me,” Mobei Jun says lowly. “Haven’t I already said we’re on the same side?”

Shang Qinghua nods and Mobei Jun twists his hand out of Shang Qinghua’s grip, and laces their fingers together once more. 

“That isn’t just for any type of goal that I have,” Mobei Jun says in a serious voice. “But it’s for you too, for any trouble you get into. Let me be there to protect you, no matter what it is.”

Mobei Jun raises his hand to kiss the back of Shang Qinghua’s knuckles gently, and closes his eyes. Shang Qinghua watches as Mobei Jun sighs against the back of his hand.

“Give me a chance to love you the way I want to,”  Mobei Jun murmurs against his skin, eyes still closed. “If you think you are a burden, so be it. It will be one that I’ll gladly bear.”

The words pluck at him one by one like strings, each bringing forward an indescribable emotion. This was not how he imagined it going. The confession sinks into his heart, dissolving the tension that had been hardening within him for the past two weeks. He would be in a state of disbelief, if the other man’s touch wasn’t making him keenly aware that this is real.

Shang Qinghua is ready to cry again, albeit for a different reason this time. It feels like he’s about to float away, and he only manages to tether himself long enough to reply.

“I love you too,” Shang Qinghua says, no longer hiding the desperation in his voice. “I don’t want us to break up. I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Mobei Jun exhales, the sound heavy with relief. “Just come here.”

Without ceremony, Mobei Jun starts tugging at his wrist. Without thought, Shang Qinghua follows the move and lets Mobei Jun pull him off his arm chair and onto the couch. Shang Qinghua tries to land on the side but Mobei Jun manhandles him till he’s on his lap instead.

Strong arms wind around Shang Qinghua and pull him close. He responds in turn by slinging his own around Mobei Jun’s broad shoulders and squeezing, hugging him hard in return. 

He’s suddenly hit with the familiar smell of his expensive cologne, with the weight of their bodies pressed together, and holds on tighter.  His body is twisted at a kind of weird angle, his legs splayed out in front of him, but he doesn’t care. He embraces Mobei Jun for all he’s worth and in turn, Mobei Jun holds onto him like he’s trying to crush them together. 

Mobei Jun buries his face in the crook of Shang Qinghua’s shoulder and inhales deeply. One hand of his presses between Shang Qinghua’s shoulder blades while the other is slung around his hips.  Shang Qinghua missed him so much and hits him right now just how much he did. 

He draws back and cups Mobei Jun’s face. He doesn’t want to let him go. They stare at each other for a brief moment but before Mobei Jun can say anything, Shang Qinghua dives in for a clumsy kiss.

Their teeth clack together but he’s quick to correct course, tilting his head just enough so the kiss stops being painful. Mobei Jun responds in kind, squeezing his arms harder around Shang Qinghua as he presses forward into the kiss. 

He loves him. Mobei Jun loves him. Shang Qinghua feels light headed at the thought, feels light headed at the confession, feels like he’s dreaming and grounds himself through clinging onto Mobei Jun as much as possible. 

Shang Qinghua kisses like he’s a starving man, moving their lips together, trying to pour out all he feels into the action. Mobei Jun yields to him in a way that feels rare and precious and open. There’s no intent, just desperation to not give the other man a chance to take his words back. 

“Hey,” Mobei Jun says in between kisses, their noses bumping together as he tries to draw back and gets chased. “You need to breathe.”

Shang Qinghua pauses for a second then figures it’s ok to be this over eager; the situation calls for it anyways. He’s suffered enough. And when he tilts his head and parts his mouth Mobei Jun is easily taking in the invitation. Shang Qinghua twists his upper body more to deepen the kiss and Mobei Jun man handles his body till he’s straddling his lap instead. 

The other man tastes like tea as well, and Shang Qinghua reaches for it as much as he can. 

It feels amazing to have the familiar touch back. To have Mobei Jun clinging on to him as hard as Shang Qinghua is to him, to have him run a hand through Shang Qinghua’s hair and inhale again as they melt into the couch together.  For a moment, Shang Qinghua forgets where they are and gets lost in the kiss. 

“This probably won’t come as a surprise to you,” He says when he draws back, more to calm himself down than anything.  “You’re the first person to tell me they love me.”

“Do not give anyone else the opportunity,” Mobei Jun says, kissing the corner of his mouth. Shang Qinghua tips his head and they share a soft kiss again, and again. 

“I want to be a good husband,” Shang Qinghua says against Mobei Jun’s mouth and Mobei Jun hums, shifting one of his hands to sit on top of Shang Qinghua’s thigh. 

“Start by not divorcing me,” Mobei Jun says, squeezing his leg and pecks him on the lips again. 

“You didn’t sign the papers?” Shang Qinghua asks and he can feel more than see the slight up turn to Mobei Jun’s mouth. 

“No,” Mobei Jun says. “They’re garbage. So is your signature, by the way. Is that how you signed things at work, too?”

Shang Qinghua pulls off this time, looking down at his husband with an aggrieved expression. 

“Shouldn’t this mean you’re going to be nicer to me now?” He asks and the smile on Mobei Jun’s face becomes surer. 

“No,” he states in a matter of fact manner, and tugs Shang Qinghua into another heady kiss. It doesn’t last long; just when Shang Qinghua starts to suck on his lip, Mobei Jun breaks off the kiss suddenly. Shang Qinghua makes a noise in protest and tries to get another kiss but Mobei Jun stops him. 

“Your father is home,” he says and sure enough, there’s the sound of his father taking off his shoes and his coat at the front door. 

Shang Qinghua springs off him immediately and Mobei Jun grabs his wrist, steadying him so he doesn’t tumble onto the floor completely. 

“I’m back,” his father calls out a lot louder than necessary and Shang Qinghua tries to quickly rearrange himself. Mobei Jun reclines against the sofa, not bothering to fix his shirt or his collar at all as he looks at Shang Qinghua with some amusement. 

Shang Qinghua can hear his father take very measured steps into the home and clear his throat. 

“I brought food,” he announces even though they still have breakfast on the table. Shang Qinghua exchanges a quick look with Mobei Jun, who raises an eyebrow and the heaviness in his chest completely dissipates.

 


 

After an awkward but not entirely unpleasant lunch, Shang Qinghua finds himself packing again. 

(First he finds himself pressed into the thin mattress of his bed, moments after he closes the door and asks Mobei Jun if he wants to help him pack. It’s a very promising kiss and Shang Qinghua gets as far as bringing a leg up between Mobei Jun’s before his dad is knocking on the door and asking him if he wants to take one of the bigger suitcases, as if there’s anything in this room that he’s touched in the past five years.)

Shang Qinghua is ecstatic to go back. He’s excited that he’s wanted back, and that Mobei Jun has carved out a place for him in his heart. The whiplash from being sad to being incredibly happy is almost painful, but Shang Qinghua wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s going back, he’s staying married and the thought of it makes him drum his fingers and chatter away excitedly again.

It’s also a relief to know he’s not going to be around his dad anymore. The whole situation is kind of a relief actually and Shang Qinghua feels like a great weight has been lifted off of his chest. There’s still some sort of tentative feeling lingering around him, but it’s just residual from the two weeks he spent moping. 

It doesn’t take long to pack, and Shang Qinghua’s dad is just as happy to see him off. Shang Qinghua doesn’t think things will ever not be awkward between them but it’s something he has to live with. 

Just like when they had first gotten married, Shang Qinghua isn’t bringing a lot. It’s not like the stuff he’s had has increased by too much, just a few clothes here and there. He pops open the trunk of Mobei Jun’s SUV to throw his stuff in and sees a small dark suitcase sitting there already. 

He waits to ask about it though, waits till they’re buckled in the car and Shang Qinghua’s dad is a receding figure in the distance.

“Did you go somewhere?” Shang Qinghua asks Mobei Jun. “I saw your suitcase.”

Mobei Jun simply hums in response, drumming his fingers on the wheel.

“I had to fly across the country for a business conference,” Mobei Jun says. “I was there for the past couple of days. I have to go back tonight.”

“Tonight?” Shang Qinghua asks, despite himself. So soon? 

Shang Qinghua is incredibly happy that Mobei Jun is bringing him back. And he’s not going to lie— giddy emotions aside, he had been daydreaming of what they’d be able to do once they got home. Of what they’d be able to do once they had an apartment to themselves. But he sees that hope quickly draining down the drain…

...Why was his life like this! All this involuntary celibacy while he was married to a man like that!

“I was supposed to be there till the end of the coming week. But I got the weekend off so I took whatever flight I could,” Mobei Jun replies.  “I came back late last night. I fly back today.”

“What?” Shang Qinghua blinks. “That’s such a short time period! Why’d you come back?”

Mobei Jun gives him a side-eye at that. “Why do you think?”

Right. Well.

“I wasn’t going anywhere!” Shang Qinghua exclaims and doubles back on his statement as soon as he sees the dirty look Mobei Jun throws his way. “Well, you know what I mean. I wasn’t planning to leave my dad anytime soon.”

“You’ve already slipped away enough times,” Mobei Jun says. “After the first couple of days, I tried to find you and I couldn’t and you weren’t replying to my messages. Shen Yuan wouldn’t tell either me or Luo Binghe, and your dad didn’t remember your mom’s address and her public records only have her old one.”

Shang Qinghua is about to tell him that he could have just come to Cang Qiong but he realizes one of two things; Shang Qinghua would have probably hid from him, and Mobei Jun would probably be too busy to come while Shang Qinghua was there. And also maybe Mobei Jun took mercy on Shang Qinghua and decided not to cause yet another scene in front of his boss.

“Go figures,” Shang Qinghua sighs, and then doubles back. “Wait, so you actually were looking for me?”

“Why wouldn’t I?” Mobei Jun says in a matter-of-fact manner. “I had to leave for the conference and it was incredibly busy, so that slowed things down. But your dad called me and told me you were coming back to him so I decided to come back on the weekend.”

Shang Qinghua stares for a moment. Unexpectedly, a bit of a warm feeling starts to rise in his chest. Mobei Jun missed him! Mobei Jun actually missed him and had been looking for him! His dad betrayed him but this time, it was actually worth it!

“Aren’t you exhausted?” Shang Qinghua asks, and Mobei Jun throws him another sideways glance. He still looks exhausted and now Shang Qinghua can see the indications of him being travel worn, but Mobei Jun shakes his head.

“Not anymore,” He replies, and Shang Qinghua has a thought.

“What if I said no?” He asks, looking carefully at Mobei Jun.

“Were you thinking of it?” Mobei Jun counters, and Shang Qinghua quickly squawks to clear things up.

“No!” Shang Qinghua says. “Just…”

He just wants to know how dedicated Mobei Jun is to the cause. It’s crazy—  he didn’t expect a man like Mobei Jun to waste so much time on a man like him. Yet here they are. And he loves Shang Qinghua. And he was the first one to confess! Shang Qinghua has pinched himself repeatedly to make sure this is not a dream, to the point where he thinks he might have bruised himself. He can’t help but be a little curious.

“I would have flown back,” Mobei Jun says. “And when I returned, I would have tried again.”

Well… that’s rather warm for Shang Qinghua to know. He finds his cheeks heating at this, and looks back out the window.

“Thank you,” Shang Qinghua murmurs. “Sorry for causing trouble between you and your uncle.”

“It was not your fault,”  Mobei Jun replies evenly.

“How did you convince him?” Shang Qinghua says, watching the road go by and Mobei Jun huffs.

“Just some skilled persuasion,” Mobei Jun says cryptically. “People in my family have tried to play games like this with me before. I have no hesitation in squashing them. I just regret I did not do a better job protecting you this time.”

Shang Qinghua wants to push forward and know exactly what Mobei Jun did, but he’s sure it would be something beyond his understanding anyways. As long as it got Linguang Jun off his back. And as many times as Shang Qinghua has told his father not to do these kinds of things, his father never learns. Shang Qinghua wonders if there’s some community course he can sign his father up for, so that someone could drill the right thing to do into his head. Which reminds him...

“What were you talking to my dad about?”

“It was just a general discussion about why he shouldn’t go into business with men like my uncle,” Mobei Jun says. “And I offered him some help.”

“Help?”

“If he has any further ventures he would like to experiment with,” Mobei Jun explains. “He can clear it with me first and I can help him secure honest funding. If it’s something worthwhile.”

Shang Qinghua blinks. That’s… a rather large task to undertake for someone as busy as Mobei Jun and as harebrained as his father. And so involved too. What if Shang Qinghua had said no? Would Mobei Jun have still offered his help?

“I would have,” Mobei Jun says, Shang Qinghua having spoken out loud without realizing. “I didn’t want you to be burdened in the future either.”

Shang Qinghua doesn’t know what to say to that. He can feel his ears go pink and he turns his attention back to the road, watching the traffic go by as his husband drives them home. Mobei Jun keeps his eyes trained ahead but occasionally, Shang Qinghua will feel a presence upon him like the other man is looking at him.

They arrive back to the apartment building, and Shang Qinghua is buzzing the entire elevator ride up. He’s back. It’s worked out. It’s so strange that it’s worked out, so out of his scope of understanding given how events have played out previously in his life.

So he’s staying married. He feels like he’s on a cloud as the elevator slowly dings and announces their floor. He steps into the familiar apartment once more, and it's barely changed since he’s left, as stark and minimal as ever. Some part of Shang Qinghua is glad that Mobei Jun doesn’t have the same messy tendencies as Zhuzhi Lang.

“My room’s not going to be a disaster, is it?” Shang Qinghua half jokes, and Mobei Jun simply grunts in response.

“Unpack your things upstairs,” he replies briskly, and Shang Qinghua feels the back of his neck heat. After a moment, as if in after thought, Mobei Jun says, “If you run away again while I’m gone, I will hunt you down.”

Ah, there goes the tenderness. Shang Qinghua doesn’t mind though. The meanness has always kind of done it for him, as much as he refuses to admit it.

“So romantic,” Shang Qinghua says, looking over his shoulder at Mobei Jun. Before he can follow up with another smartass comment, he feels an arm wind around his waist and draw him in.

The kiss is not completely unexpected, but the intensity with which Mobei Jun sweeps in is. Shang Qinghua lets out a squeak as he finds himself pressed against the wall, Mobei Jun bearing down on him. It’s a lot more fierce than the one that they shared at his father’s house, and Shang Qinghua can feel Mobei Jun’s palm settle on the small of his back. Shang Qinghua makes a surprised sound when Mobei Jun bites his bottom lip, and the other man takes it as an opportunity to slide his tongue in.

It’s definitely a lot more steamy than the last one they shared. Mobei Jun presses forward hard enough that Shang Qinghua has to inhale deeply to remember to breathe. He’s clumsy but eager in his response, trying to pour just as much effort into the kiss.

Shang Qinghua wonders if his desperation for the man is obvious. It must be, with the way he grips onto Mobei Jun’s biceps like letting go will kill him. And it just might; if Shang Qinghua has to let go of Mobei Jun, with the way that he’s kissing him now, Shang Qinghua may die.

How much time do they have? Mobei Jun had been vague about telling Shang Qinghua when he was leaving. A new hope sparks within Shang Qinghua, a new hope that tells him maybe they have enough time...

“I have to go,” Mobei Jun says, effectively puncturing that balloon as he draws back. Shang Qinghua notes with some satisfaction that he looks as kiss bitten as Shang Qinghua feels. “Or I’m going to be late for my flight.”

“You’re going to leave me hanging like this?” Shang Qinghua says impulsively even though he’s not actually mad that Mobei Jun left. Not when Mobei Jun has gone through all this effort just to see him. But before he can feel any shame, he sees the corners of Mobei Jun’s mouth uptick into a faint smirk. He leans down and kisses Shang Qinghua’s neck, slow and deliberate and one after the other.

“I’ll be back Friday” Mobei Jun says in a low voice full of promise. He sucks gently on the skin right under Shang Qinghua’s ear, causing him to squirm. “Keep your weekend free.”

“Yessir,” Shang Qinghua says hoarsely, and feels Mobei Jun smile against his skin. They sneak in another kiss, deep and hurried and Shang Qinghua feels drunk on it. Even Mobei Jun holds onto him like he’s not quite ready to let go.

But five minutes later, he finds himself standing by himself in the middle of the apartment, staring at the front door out of which his husband just left from. Yet this time, Shang Qinghua feels a lot less alone. 




 

 

Shang Qinghua truly realizes how much spending two weeks moping sucked now that he doesn’t need to do it anymore. He follows Mobei Jun’s instructions and hauls his suitcase upstairs after Mobei Jun leaves. 

He manages to find a few unused drawers in the back of Mobei Jun’s closets and an empty rack. Shang Qinghua decides to show some mercy and not throw up his nerdy posters in the artfully decorated room, but dumping his clothes in the drawers makes him feel kind of strange and kind of giddy. It’s still not fully registered that he’s back yet, but it also barely feels like he’s been gone.

After he’s done that, Shang Qinghua lets his curiosity get the better of him and looks around the room as much as he can without snooping fully. 

The bedroom has its own temperature control but it seems to be password protected, so Shang Qinghua resigns himself to the fact that he’s going to need extra blankets. He dicks around with the light switches beside the bed and after he presses one metallic round button, there’s a whirring sound. Shang Qinghua doesn’t realize where it’s coming from before he sees that the footboard of the bed has an opening out of which a sizable flatscreen television emerges from.

It’s fucking awesome.

He tries taking a shower to wash off all the grime, but the shower in the very sleek yet stately master bathroom is too high-tech and complicated for him to figure out fully. It kind of reminds him of struggling at a hotel and after getting sprayed in the face with hot water, so Shang Qinghua decides that maybe he should stick with what’s familiar and uses the shower downstairs.

When he’s done, he grabs a bag of spicy shrimp chips that’s still surprisingly tucked away in the small pantry cupboard, as well as whatever real food he can scrounge. There’s no beer left in the fridge, but there is a garbage bag full of empty cans underneath the sink, so Shang Qinghua makes a note to himself to go buy some more. He’s a messy eater and he knows Mobei Jun’s sheets are expensive but he’s seen the man just dump them in the washing machine, so he’s sure he can do the same.

He hunts for the remote for the television, looking through the bedside drawers. He finds the remote and also finds a couple of other supplies that make the back of his neck heat. He grabs the remote and slams the drawer shut, flopping on to the incredibly soft bed.

Shang Qinghua is definitely sad that Mobei Jun isn’t there; his hindbrain is also maybe mourning the fact that they weren’t able to immediately make good on reconciling in a very physical manner. But Shang Qinghua has long come to terms with the fact that while he may lose a lot of things in his life, his virginity will stick to him like it’s been gorilla-glued on.

And he’s also going to furiously jerk off everyday till the day that Mobei Jun deigns to lay him out but he takes what he gets and the important part is that they’re actually back together. And they’re together. Shang Qinghua has someone who he loves and that someone, defying whatever pattern Shang Qinghua’s life normally follows, loves him back.

It’s not something he would have dreamed of, not in a thousand years, especially not with a man like Mobei Jun. And he’s maybe slightly nervous that when he wakes up the next morning, it’ll be in a cramped bedroom instead of a penthouse. But he doesn’t dwell on it too much, turning on the television instead. 

Later on that evening, he receives a text from Mobei Jun telling him he’s landed and telling Shang Qinghua to not touch the thermostat and it makes Shang Qinghua feel like he’s in grade school again, riding off the high of having his crush ask him what’s for homework. The adrenaline rush eventually wears off and he crashes but when he falls asleep, he’s no longer cradled in numbness.

 

Shen Yuan notices his lighter mood at work the next day and looks completely unsurprised. He gives Shang Qinghua a fake look of disgust as Shang Qinghua drops his bag on his side of their open-office desk and Shang Qinghua immediately wipes off whatever stupid smile he knows is sitting on his face.

“When did he hunt you down?” Shen Yuan asks. “Binghe said your husband left for the weekend.”

“Yesterday,” Shang Qinghua replies. “I moved back into the apartment.”

“Is that why you came to work on time?” Shen Yuan asks, and Shang Qinghua makes a covertly rude gesture in his direction. One of their more nosy juniors overhears them and does a poor job in hiding the way they turn their head in interest, so they drop the topic and hunker down for the day.

It doesn’t stop Shen Yuan from bringing it up during lunch anyways. They go to a place that serves cheap food and cheaper beer because Shang Qinghua hadn’t bothered to make his own food and Luo Binghe is travelling with Mobei Jun so he apparently can’t make Shen Yuan his lunch either. Shang Qinghua is still trying to reconcile the frankly terrifying and cunning man he sees with whatever tender lover Shen Yuan has managed to rope in. He tells Shen Yuan this in as many words, and Shen Yuan beats him around the head till he promises to never use the words “tender lover” ever again.

“Congratulations on saving your marriage by the way,” Shen Yuan says afterwards, taking a sip of his beer. “You consistently take me by surprise.”

“Shut up,” Shang Qinghua says, holding his own cold glass up against the side of his head. “I can’t wait till I can repress the last two weeks and pretend that nothing before yesterday happened.”

Shen Yuan snorts and they toast, before they each down the contents of their glasses. 

“Hey by the way,” Shang Qinghua remembers something he’s been meaning to ask Shen Yuan, especially since Mobei Jun’s answers were so cryptic. “Did Luo Binghe ever mention what happened with Linguang Jun? I assumed he would have helped with whatever was done.”

“That he did, but he wouldn’t tell me what happened,” Shen Yuan says, frowning. He goes silent for a moment and his frown grows deeper. “Apparently Linguang Jun is going on a leave of absence for a few weeks. One of your husband’s more favoured colleagues will be acting in his role in the meanwhile.”

Shen Yuan and Shang Qinghua both look at each other for a moment before they telepathically decide that maybe it would be better not to question it. Shang Qinghua doesn’t think he’d want to understand it anyways. Not fully.

...Ok. Maybe a little. Maybe he’d derive some glee from it. But still!

“There’s a more important question though,” Shen Yuan leans in and Shang Qinghua raises an eyebrow. After a very pointed pause where Shen Yuan doesn’t speak, Shang Qinghua mirrors him and leans in close enough that Shen Yuan can ask him in a low voice, “Bro, have you lost your virginity yet?”

Shang Qinghua’s face cracks in half and Shen Yuan cackles as Shang Qinghua tries to thwack him upside the head. 

“Who told you I’m still a virgin!” Shang Qinghua exclaims, maybe a little too loudly but he’s too busy being indignant to notice.

“You just did,” Shen Yuan points out. Shang Qinghua curses him out which only makes Shen Yuan snicker loudly.

“I think our lunch is over,” Shang Qinghua grumbles as Shen Yuan gives him a consoling pat on the back. But it doesn’t actually have as much of an affect on him as he pretends it does.

Even coming back to an empty apartment doesn’t dampen Shang Qinghua’s mood. He’s happy and nervous about a hundred different things. So maybe that would make him very nervous, but given the uniqueness of his situation, he feels it’s kind of justified. He has to re-adjust again to a new job and what will legitimately be a married life, so things are different this time.

Or a lot different. It’s still new and uncharted waters to him, but he has some more faith in himself this time. It’s clear that the two of them still need work, both individually and together, but they’re at least on the same page now. Yes, it’s also weird to comprehend everything that’s happened, especially since Mobei Jun had to rush back to his trip. But when he’s back, they can move forward together and the thought of it makes Shang Qinghua tentatively excited.

The only thing is, he doesn’t actually know when Mobei Jun is coming back. 

He doesn’t think Mobei Jun ever gave him a specific date or time, just told him some time before the weekend. Shang Qinghua tries to access the calendar that Zhuzhi Lang had sent him, but the link has long since expired. It’s too embarrassing to ask Zhuzhi Lang, even though the man would probably easily give him the answer. He doesn’t know whether he wants to ask Mobei Jun either, since he’s not sure he should be telling him he deleted the calendar in the first place.

Wait— he figures he probably has a right to this kind of information now. It shouldn’t make him nervous to ask! Before Shang Qinghua can talk himself out of logic, he pulls out his phone and texts Mobei Jun.

He doesn’t get a reply back for a while, so Shang Qinghua carries on with the rest of the evening as planned, meaning that he restocks their cheap alcohol supply and watches a terrible sci-fi show unblinkingly late into the night. Right before he passes out, his phone vibrates and he digs it out of the sheets.

His phone displays a single message that says Friday, with no indication of what time on Friday. Shang Qinghua feels light anyways looking at it as he sends back a thumbs up.

It’s vague but he can work with it.




 

 

The week passes by in a blur. Shang Qinghua mostly just works, goes out here and there with Shen Yuan, and watches a truckload of television as he lays in wait. It’s only a few days but it simultaneously feels like five weeks and five minutes. 

He makes sure to keep in touch with Mobei Jun too; he doesn’t want to bug him with calls while he’s busy so he sends him pictures of little strange things he sees along his day and Mobei Jun will send him a goodnight message. They’re small things but they make him look forward to the end of the week anyways.

Before he knows it, he’s clocking out on Friday evening, earlier than normal since he got his work done in a sudden burst of productivity. The apartment is still empty when he comes back, with no familiar shoes at the front. Shang Qinghua had texted Mobei Jun in the early afternoon asking him what time he’s coming back but hasn’t gotten a reply back. He tries not to feel antsy about it. 

Shang Qinghua has spent a good chunk of his week looking forward to today but since he doesn’t know when his husband is coming back, he doesn’t actually know what to do with himself while he waits.

...Maybe he’s been a little too optimistic. What if Mobei Jun is coming back late at night? He’d probably want to eat and then crash. So does Shang Qinghua get dinner? He’s definitely feeling too jittery to make anything.

Shang Qinghua ends up heading back out to pick up some food. He waffles around in indecision near the strip of upscale restaurants near the apartment building. Mobei Jun had said to keep his weekend free but given Shang Qinghua’s luck, what if that meant something totally different? Though there’s no mistaking the intent in his words when he sent it, Shang Qinghua’s brain loves to leapfrog to conclusions and think of new problems. It’s what makes him a prolific writer.

He ends up getting a couple of dishes from a tiny tucked-away restaurant whose roast duck and shrimp dumpling noodle soup he favours. The apartment is still empty when he arrives back and he sets the food on the counter as he checks his phone. There’s still no reply, and he tries not to feel dejected over it. After all, he’s got enough evidence to the contrary.

Shang Qinghua decides to take a shower, and it ends up being a relatively long and thorough one as he gets lost in his thoughts. He has no idea what the night entails, if it even entails anything. Maybe tonight will not be the night but Shang Qinghua hopes that sometime this weekend he’ll be divested of his virginity and will finally be able to climb his incredibly handsome husband like a tree the way he’s wanted to for what feels like ages now. At this point, even some heavy petting will do it for him.

Maybe he’s being vey presumptuous. Mobei Jun would be coming back from an extensive business trip and would undoubtedly be incredibly exhausted. He already looked so tired when they were at Shang Qinghua’s father’s house; maybe he would be more so now. 

And their last talk together was emotionally exhausting, so Shang Qinghua thinks it’s reasonable that they might have a more mellow weekend ahead of them. That he would be fine with too. As long as they get to spend some time together that’s not shrouded with fraught emotions.

He comes out of the shower more optimistic, even if his hopes for the night itself have been lowered accordingly. Shang Qinghua changes into a pair of soft sweats and a shirt after he dries off and for good measure, runs a comb through his hair. Just in case.

It sounds like he forgot the television to turn the television off when he steps out, but Shang Qinghua figures he might as well watch some TV and wait up for a while. He’s been snacking in the bed upstairs but he changed out the sheets in the morning and doesn’t want to get any crumbs or sauce on them. He’s already encountered one harrowed evening when he tried to figure out the washing instructions on sheets that cost more than a month’s salary; he’s not looking for another. 

He checks his phone as he approaches the living room, and there’s still no reply back. There is however a corny video his dad sent him on the healing benefits of a plant that Shang Qinghua’s pretty sure is a scam. Preemptively, he texts his dad and tells him it’s not something he should get into but he opens the video anyways as he sinks down onto the couch. 

Shang Qinghua is engrossed enough in the weird jingle music and rainbow text effects that he actually ends up watching the video. Something gets bumped against his hand and too oddly fascinated by the strange infomercial, Shang Qinghua grabs his hand around a cold bottle without looking up.

“Thanks—” Shang Qinghua takes the beer and then pauses. He realizes many things at that moment, freezing as he stares at his phone, the main one being that he had never turned the television on when he got back. He looks up immediately, almost startling off the couch and dropping his phone. “Wait, you’re home?!” 

“Appears so,” Mobei Jun replies dryly as he takes a seat on the other side of the couch. He doesn’t look at Shang Qinghua when he sits down, just stares ahead with mild fascination at the television. It’s just as well because Shang Qinghua doesn’t know what to do with himself for a moment, so he stares at him.

His crisp white shirt is unbuttoned at the top, sleeves rolled up to his elbows and tie hanging loosely around his neck. Even though he’s been travelling all week, his face looks a lot less tired than the last time Shang Qinghua had seen him. Shang Qinghua feels several things suddenly, but his brain manages to remind him to greet his husband like a normal person.

“How was the trip?” Shang Qinghua asks, setting his beer down on the coffee table. “Was it interesting?”

“It was ok,” Mobei Jun replies, barely stifling a yawn against the back of his hand. “Tiring. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

“When did you come back?”

“This afternoon,” Mobei Jun says nonchalantly, and Shang Qinghua blinks.

“This afternoon?” He repeats, and Mobei Jun nods. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

And more importantly, why didn’t he text Shang Qinghua back!

“I only stopped by here for a shower before I had to head back to the office,” Mobei Jun tilts his head just enough to give Shang Qinghua a look out of the corner of his eye. “Some of us actually have to work.”

“Hey,” Shang Qinghua immediately protests. “I was at work too!”

If he was that busy though, Shang Qinghua guesses he didn’t have time to check his personal phone. Mobei Jun doesn’t answer, but the corners of his lips slightly curl around the mouth of his bottle and he looks back at the television. When he lowers the beer, his expression has returned to one as stoic as ever.

“Did you eat?” Shang Qinghua asks, and Mobei Jun replies with a grunt that doesn’t particularly answer him so he starts to get up. “I brought food back for us. Are you hungry? I could get us some—“

“Stay,” Mobei Jun says firmly. Shang Qinghua does just that, planting his ass back into the sofa. He doesn’t get any more marching orders, though Shang Qinghua is kind of buzzing out of his own skin.

It’s not the first time they’ve had a night in or they’ve just hung out in the living room without much aim. It is however, the first night after— well, it’s different this time, and something new. The past few weeks have gone in such a way that Shang Qinghua’s meager scale for social interactions with his own husband have been adjusted in a way he doesn’t quite know yet. 

What does he do now? What do married people do? Mobei Jun is slumped against the couch and Shang Qinghua wants to reach out to him. That should be ok now, right?

Part of him was kind of hoping that the other man would take initiative the way he has all the other times. Shang Qinghua finds it much easier when he doesn’t have to be the forward one in the equation, mostly because he doesn’t know how to without making it awkward. Nor has he had many opportunities to try.

Shang Qinghua makes up his mind and decides to shuffle over on the couch. Mobei Jun pauses, but doesn’t make any move as Shang Qinghua leans in. Shang Qinghua wants to tell him to turn his way but feels slightly unwieldy already. So instead he sends a silent prayer before he presses a kiss to his husband’s unfairly chiselled cheek, and hopes for the best. 

He feels Mobei Jun stiffen and his jaw clench and… ok, maybe this is kind of stilted so he starts to draw back. Before he can fully escape though, an arm quickly snakes around his waist.

“Where are you going?” Mobei Jun asks as he stops Shang Qinghua from withdrawing fully. 

“Back to my side of the sofa?” Shang Qinghua offers weakly, and Mobei Jun huffs as he pulls Shang Qinghua in by a fraction of an inch.

“I come home from a trip and you won’t give me a proper welcome?” Mobei Jun asks, and Shang Qinghua has gotten adept at figuring out when there’s an underlying tease to the man’s voice. 

“Am I your house husband?” Shang Qinghua says indignantly. “You didn’t even bother to tell me that you came back earlier!”

“And what would you do if I did?” Mobei Jun asks, finally tilting his head and looking at Shang Qinghua. “Weren’t you at work too?”

Whatever retort Shang Qinghua has dies in his throat as he meets the familiar wintery blue gaze.  Mobei Jun simply waits, eyebrows slightly raised with no trace of a smile on his face. He looks expectantly at Shang Qinghua and it makes him look haughty. 

It’s incredibly appealing and Shang Qinghua realizes he’s definitely an idiot if he doesn’t just go for it. They’ve had so many squandered chances between them that he would be a fool not to leap at the opportunity of another one. So with all the grace of a teenager that just discovered that someone wants to kiss him, Shang Qinghua launches forward. 

He’s not got a lot of finesse but Shang Qinghua couldn’t care less— the feeling he’s hit with as Mobei Jun instantly kisses him back far surpasses any shame he has over his own lack of technique. He’s allowed to be this way anyways, since he’s missed his husband. 

A hand cups his neck and holds him firm as Mobei Jun presses forward, tempering the kiss and taking control. Shang Qinghua still balances himself with one hand planted on the couch; Mobei Jun tilts his head and Shang Qinghua’s other hand immediately flies to his chest. 

“Is this a proper enough welcome?” Shang Qinghua asks against Mobei Jun’s mouth and the other man scoffs before sucking on Shang Qinghua’s bottom lip. 

Shang Qinghua tries to move onto Mobei Jun’s lap but the his husband seems to have other ideas; they surge against each other for a moment but Mobei Jun’s strength dwarfs Shang Qinghua’s and Shang Qinghua finds himself getting flattened against the back cushions of the sofa. 

Mobei Jun slides his mouth against his and Shang Qinghua clutches onto his biceps, all awkwardness completely forgotten. Yet again he realizes he’s missed Mobei Jun; but this time there’s also the realization that for a change they’re in the comfort of their own home, with nowhere else to go. And more importantly, with no one else barging in to interrupt them. 

It fills him with a flood of anticipation and nervousness as they share their languid kiss on the sofa. Mobei Jun runs his hands along Shang Qinghua’s sides, squeezing his waist with purpose. Shang Qinghua digs his fingers tighter into the soft and luxurious material of Mobei Jun’s dress shirt and he has to remind himself to just breathe. 

“I didn’t tell you when I came back,” Mobei Jun says against his mouth. “Otherwise I would have been too tempted to interrupt your day.”

“Interrupt my day with what?” Shang Qinghua half-slurs, feeling like he’s tipsy with the way he’s been touched. Mobei Jun pauses for a moment before his lips tick up in a half-smile. It’s not there when he draws back, but his eyes are dark and filled with intent as he stares down Shang Qinghua for a moment. 

Then Shang Qinghua finds himself being bodily pulled off the sofa. As soon as he stands up, Mobei Jun is on him again, cupping his face and bringing him in for a more aggressive kiss. He moves them too, guiding them artfully around the sofa and out of the living room. 

Shang Qinghua breaks it off to look around and make sure they don’t bump into anything but Mobei Jun grabs him by the chin and redirects his attention back to the kiss. He’s too commanding for Shang Qinghua to even think about anything else. 

Somehow Mobei Jun manages to guide them up the stairs as they frantically make out. Shang Qinghua blessedly doesn’t trip and fall due to the sheer fact that Mobei Jun is coordinated and competent enough for the both of them. Once they reach the top, Mobei Jun pins him against the hallway wall, biting at his lips before pressing wet kisses along the line of his jaw and down his neck. 

Shang Qinghua lets his head fall back against the wall with a thud, his heartbeat ratcheting up as he tries to stay grounded as the rest of him comes to a full realization of what’s going to happen. 

“Did you miss me?” He asks, more to prevent himself from making any kind of embarrassing noise than seeking an actual answer. He doesn’t get a response; instead, he gets two large hands reaching down to grab his thighs. Shang Qinghua finds himself getting hoisted up against the wall and immediately wraps his legs around Mobei Jun’s body. Mobei Jun makes sure to capture his lips again as he swings them around and marches towards the bedroom with a single minded focus. 

The lights come on as they stumble in and Shang Qinghua’s head is spinning. He’s spent so much time fantasizing about it that he’s got to actively tell himself that no, this is not another one of his over the top dreams.

And clearly, he’s wasted time trying to use his imagination. There’s absolutely no scenario that his frontal cortex can ever conjure that will hold a candle to the actuality of having Mobei Jun tossing him onto the sheets of the stupidly large bed. Shang Qinghua hits the mattress and sinks in, Mobei Jun crawling on top immediately to bear down on him.

He doesn’t know where to put his hands first so he settles for resting them on Mobei Jun’s shoulders; that’s just as well, since Mobei Jun effortlessly keeps control over the kiss, pushing them both up the bed as he presses his tongue past the seam of Shang Qinghua’s lips.

Shang Qinghua’s legs fall apart and Mobei Jun slots in between them with ease as he licks into his mouth. Shang Qinghua feels light and slightly dizzy but he’s not sure if it’s from the novelty of finally getting laid or the fact that his blood is rushing south at a speed that could be considered inhuman.

He thought he knew. Shang Qinghua thought he knew from his meager experience from before, thought he had seen the extent of Mobei Jun’s desire when they spent that night at his family’s or that time in his office, or even the time in the car. Clearly he was mistaken. 

“Is this mine?” Mobei Jun asks, tugging at the hem of Shang Qinghua’s shirt and yeah, the soft heather grey shirt is his, but only because Shang Qinghua is too lazy to do laundry. It looks like that laziness was an excellent idea because Mobei Jun descends upon him again with a type of determined ferocity.

The way he was devoured before is nothing compared to now. The kiss is bruising enough to make his lips swell and whichever way Mobei Jun pushes and pulls at his body, Shang Qinghua easily goes. Sure, he maybe had some half-witted seduction plan on how he was going to act and move during his first time, but all of that goes flying out the window.

Mobei Jun yanks Shang Qinghua’s legs up to wrap around his waist  and Shang Qinghua gives a tentative twitch of his hips. He finds himself immediately pinned down, the other man’s weight settling down the length of his torso. Mobei Jun responds with a roll of his hips so slow and so filled with intent that Shang Qinghua thinks his brain is going to leak out of his ears. He’s not proud of it but the friction makes him whimper a little, and Mobei Jun does it again.

“I don’t think it would be— ah, too bad if you interrupted,” Shang Qinghua sucks in a deep breath as Mobei Jun squeezes his hips and rocks them together again. “If you interrupted my day with this?”

“Is that so?” Mobei Jun asks, licking a stripe across Shang Qinghua’s bottom lip. “I feel like you’d have some complaints.”

“About what?” Shang Qinghua asks, because he cannot fathom what the answer could be. Belatedly, he realizes that it sounds like a challenge when Mobei Jun draws back. 

Shang Qinghua’s about to ask where exactly Mobei Jun is going when he shifts his leg, pushing a muscular thigh up between Shang Qinghua’s legs. He hikes Shang Qinghua’s lower half up again, and drags it across his thigh.

Shang Qinghua can’t stop the low ah from dropping from his lips, nor the way his hips tilt out of their own accord, trying to make themselves as pliable as possible. Mobei Jun moves him, making Shang Qinghua rub off against his leg. Through the fabric of his sweatpants, the friction makes Shang Qinghua groan and heat pool at the base of his spine.

It’s too much; each time Mobei Jun touches him, it’s something more than before, and he gets submerged in the sensation of it. Shang Qinghua finds himself getting hard embarrassingly fast as Mobei Jun looks down at him with a very particular interest. He squirms but it’s to no avail; Mobei Jun keeps moving him, keeps making him rut while he watches him with fascination.

Shang Qinghua can feel heat rise to his face, feels a tell-tale tightening in his gut that lets him know that he’s going to make a mess fast. While there’s an urgency in the air to get off before something interrupts them again, Shang Qinghua would rather not embarrass himself for his first time. No matter how much Mobei Jun looks at him like he’s a particularly compelling piece of prey. 

“Enough, enough—” Shang Qinghua gasps and when Mobei Jun doesn’t immediately listen, he kicks his back with the heel of his foot. It’s maybe too desperate but,  “I’m going to come if you don’t stop.”

“Surely you have enough self control,” Mobei Jun says, voice low as he gives Shang Qinghua a flat look. There’s something about that particular expression, the way that it looks mildly unimpressed, that makes Shang Qinghua shudder in the best way. He thinks Mobei Jun knows what effect it has on him and is doing it on purpose.

“You know I’m new to this,” Shang Qinghua says, and Mobei Jun raises an eyebrow.

“We’ll make sure your introduction then is very thorough,” he replies, finally taking mercy and dropping Shang Qinghua’s lower half as he lowers himself down on him again. 

There’s some more care this time when he kisses Shang Qinghua, and it’s not as bruising as before. It’s still exploratory as Mobei Jun licks into his mouth and runs his hand over Shang Qinghua’s thigh, squeezing the side there. Impatience still thrums between them loudly, and it feels like ages before Shang Qinghua feels a tug at the hem of his shirt. 

Mobei Jun’s palm is cool against his skin as he pushes underneath the fabric and Shang Qinghua shivers as it slowly creeps upwards. Mobei Jun’s fingers trace shapes and press at various spots while his other hand decides to join in. 

Shang Qinghua makes a sound of surprise when he feels Mobei Jun cup his chest before pinching and tweaking where it’s sensitive. It sends a sharp jolt of pleasure and it's a testament to his desperation how fast his hands fly to the hem of his shirt.

Maybe Shang Qinghua is too over-enthusiastic with the way that he tries to tear off his shirt because midway through, he gets his head stuck in it. Shang Qinghua squawks— the collar would be too big but the shirt’s gotten twisted and bunched in a way that traps him. He gets flustered, which makes things worse, and feels his ears heat as he hears Mobei Jun’s low laugh as he’s trapped in the darkness.

Mobei Jun tugs at the collar of the shirt and brings it up over Shang Qinghua’s bright red face. He pulls it off enough to free his head but when Shang Qinghua starts to raise his head and arms to help the rest come off, Mobei Jun yanks the fabric down. It slides down behind Shang Qinghua’s head, bunching behind his neck and trapping his arms. 

“Stay still,” Mobei Jun commands and Shang Qinghua squirms at the firmness in his voice. “What did I say?”

It’s a very benign way of binding him and if Shang Qinghua had either the will, the sense of self preservation, or an active brain, he could easily reach back with his hands and tug it off. Given that he has neither of the three, all he can do is hold his wrists together above his head and grasp at the pillow.

“I can’t help it,” Shang Qinghua blurts out and before Mobei Jun can comment, he tries to encourage the man further by squeezing his legs around his waist. He also tries not to concentrate too much on how it feels like being trapped, both by the shirt and by Mobei Jun’s contemplative gaze because if he does, the night’s about to end way earlier than he wants it to.

“Hm,” Mobei Jun says, one of his hands settling over Shang Qinghua’s hip. It plucks at the waistband of his sweatpants, making sure it snaps loudly against Shang Qinghua’s skin. “What should I do with you?”

Honestly, whatever he wants. Shang Qinghua doesn’t have a game plan, he just knows he wants to preferably end the night being fucked hard enough into the mattress that he doesn’t remember his own name. It’s not too high a standard for a first time, he thinks. He deserves it, after all that he’s put up with!

“You’re very enthusiastic,” Mobei Jun comments. “You had seemed so nervous all the other times. And maybe scared.”

“I was never scared,” Shang Qinghua protests, trying to move. He can only flail his arms weirdly though, and it takes one arresting look from Mobei Jun for him to still himself.

“You looked it,” Mobei Jun replies, hand settling on Shang Qinghua’s stomach. It rubs a circle into the skin there, leaving a trail of warmth that’s painfully teasing. “That’s why I never pushed with you. You always appeared to be mildly terrified.”

A thoughtful hum and then, “Maybe it’s just the expressions that you make.”

Go figures that Mobei Jun was mean in bed too! He’s bullied him all other times, and no amount of softness between them seems to take it away. Shang Qinghua tries not to think too hard about what it means that he rather likes it.

“That’s just how my face is,” Shang Qinghua retorts instead, pinching his brows. “Sorry it’s unappealing.”

“I find your face very appealing,” Mobei Jun slides his hand up, circling it around Shang Qinghua’s throat. He draws a line with his thumb against the curve of it, before pressing gently on his Adam’s apple. Shang Qinghua gulps, and Mobei Jun’s face has a shade of satisfaction passing through it. “I find the rest of you extremely appealing as well.”

What was Shang Qinghua supposed to say to that! He couldn’t just have words like that sprung onto him!

“In fact,” Mobei Jun says as his hand’s journey continues, cupping Shang Qinghua’s jaw. A slight grin makes itself known on his face as he runs his index finger over Shang Qinghua’s lips. “I have found it very hard to restrain myself.”

Mobei Jun pushes his index finger forward and Shang Qinghua parts his mouth obediently as he looks up at him. He presses his middle finger in too, and Shang Qinghua gives a tentative lick before he closes his mouth around them. 

Shang Qinghua’s brain is going to melt out of his ears, and they’ve barely even started. He’s never been this hard, has never had this much desire honed in on him from someone this hot, ever. He lets out a soft moan around the fingers and the hand on his hip grips him so hard that he thinks it’s going to leave marks.

“I—” Mobei Jun starts, voice low and raspy, but is cut off with a shrill ringtone. Both of them freeze.

The phone rings for a solid five seconds before it shuts off and for a moment, Shang Qinghua thinks he can sigh in relief. But it’s short-lived, as the ringtone goes off again. Mobei Jun uses his relatively free hand to dig into his pants pocket and pulls out his cellphone. 

“Huh, it’s Zhuzhi Lang.”

And despite the fact that he’s got Shang Qinghua half naked in his bed, partially restrained with his fingers down his throat, Mobei Jun decides to answer his phone.

“Yes?” Mobei Jun says, and frowns a few moments later. Given the trajectory of… well, Shang Qinghua’s entire life so far, including the times he’s tried to get some, he can feel his stomach sinking.

He can’t hear what Zhuzhi Lang is saying, but the subtle facial journey Mobei Jun goes on tells him what he needs to know.

“And how immediate is the attention needed?” Mobei Jun says, and Shang Qinghua finds himself exhaling a lot louder than he intends to. Internally, he’s cursing his luck to the high heavens. “I see.”

Mobei Jun frowns, his eyebrows pinching together, and Shang Qinghua knows he’s out of luck tonight. Maybe he should have allowed himself to be over-enthusiastic and get off from simply rutting against Mobei Jun’s leg. At least that would have been some relief.

Shang Qinghua relaxes, and accepts the fact that yet again, no matter how much he wants to scream in frustration, he’s facing an interruption. Mobei Jun catches the action and the downturn in his mouth deepens further. Shang Qinghua lifts his head, about to push up and slide out from underneath Mobei Jun, when he finds his head getting shoved back unceremoniously against the pillow.

Mobei Jun keeps his fingers buried in Shang Qinghua’s mouth as he hums and looks down at his husband. 

“It sounds like something that the Vice President can address,” Mobei Jun says, voice blunt as he strokes Shang Qinghua’s chin with his thumb. “And if you absolutely cannot leave it to her, I can take a look at it after the weekend. Surely they will have no problem waiting till then.”

There’s a good pause and Shang Qinghua swears he hears a laugh on the other end of the line before Zhuzhi Lang says something. Mobei Jun just grunts in response and disconnects the phone before tossing it to the side of the bed. It slides off the sheets and hits the plush rug under the bed with a soft thud that brings Shang Qinghua back to earth. Slightly. 

“What’s happening this weekend?” Shang Qinghua jokes weakly but the way that Mobei Jun grabs him, rough and demanding, tells him that he’s going to find out very soon.

Thank fucking god. Shang Qinghua thinks he might have an aneurysm if he’s got to go through any more involuntary abstinence. While he’s ruminating on that, Mobei Jun yanks his sweatpants and boxers off in one go and tosses them away, leaving Shang Qinghua completely naked.

Mobei Jun sits back and starts unbuttoning his own shirt, and Shang Qinghua’s brain hones in on the action.

“Let me do it,” Shang Qinghua starts, trying to wriggle enticingly in a way that would get him permission. Mobei Jun gives him a look that tells him it did not work. “Please?”

Mobei Jun doesn’t reply, just deftly undoes his shirt. He shrugs it off, pulling off his undershirt as well, revealing a broad chest and tapered waist as he sets his clothes aside. Mobei Jun looks more bulky and muscular with his shirt off to the point where it’s almost intimidating and Shang Qinghua feels his mouth run dry at the sight. 

The tattoo that’s perpetually haunted Shang Qinghua sits stark against Mobei Jun’s skin, bright red, blue and black as it snakes a violent picture around his torso.  Mobei Jun looks less like a proper business man and more like some… well, Shang Qinghua doesn’t know what exactly he’d call it but it’s definitely a look that’s going to star in every single one of his wet dreams from now on. Not that there’s been a dearth of his husband in any of them to begin with.

Shang Qinghua thinks he’s about to absolutely lose his mind with the way that Mobei Jun grabs one of his legs and manhandles him like he’s nothing, throwing it over his shoulders. 

Mobei Jun kisses the inside of his knee, first briefly, then lingering as he looks at Shang Qinghua from under his lashes and starts to slowly slide down the bed. Shang Qinghua is too enraptured to be self conscious about the fact that he’s very much on the edge and that any little movement might set him off.

Each press of his lips leaves blooming warmth in its wake as Mobei Jun kisses down the inside of Shang Qinghua’s leg. When he gets to the inner thigh, he looks up at Shang Qinghua again, absolutely wicked in between his legs. He sucks a small bite into the sensitive skin there, before raising his head and hovering over where Shang Qinghua is hard and dripping.

Mobei Jun huffs, and even the warm breath that washes over him has Shang Qinghua gasping. Clearly understanding how affected the other man is, Mobei Jun leans down, only to kiss Shang Qinghua’s lower abdomen. He licks there, licks a line down to his hip bone before sucking a mark there as well. Mobei Jun blows lightly on wet skin and the chill of it makes Shang Qinghua arch. 

He does it again, makes it look like he's going to take Shang Qinghua into his mouth before he pulls away at the last moment, choosing to let his tongue trace shapes against his thigh instead. Every time Mobei Jun ducks away, Shang Qinghua wants to scream. He clenches his fists, blunt nails digging into the meat of his palm in a desperate attempt to not get off with the mere presence of his husband near him.

He could get off like this and be fine with it, but Shang Qinghua has a very clear picture on how he wants his first time to go. Has had it for a while now, and has thought about it more while waiting for Mobei Jun to return.

“I kept,” Shang Qinghua tries to get out as Mobei Jun places a kiss dangerously close, but now quite where Shang Qinghua wants him. “ Ah, uh, in your drawer.”

“Hm?” Mobei Jun asks, finally putting his mouth somewhere useful. It’s just a tiny, kitten-like lick to the tip but it makes Shang Qinghua’s core twitch and his brain practically vibrate out of his skull.

Mobei Jun keeps teasing him like this, barely giving him any reprieve as he tastes him lightly. It’s a clear dare for him to continue— well too bad for him, because Shang Qinghua is determined!

Ikeptthelubeinthedrawer,” Shang Qinghua manages to rush out in one breath, just as Mobei Jun suddenly decides to engulf him with his mouth.

Shang Qinghua can’t help it— he’s wildly inexperienced and this is the most that anyone’s ever touched him. It’s a given really, that if he’s got someone this insanely hot going down on him that he’s going to completely lose it. And he does, arching properly off the bed with a sharp cry before he can warn Mobei Jun.

He white-knuckles the pillow as he comes down Mobei Jun’s throat, the feeling of it slamming into him as he babbles something nonsensical. Mobei Jun slides a hand along his back and holds him there as he swallows around him, hollowing his cheeks like he’s trying to get everything from Shang Qinghua. Shang Qinghua is getting off something that’s not his own hand for a change and god, it’s so hot. 

The heavy fog that had been threatening to propel his soul out of his body lifts as Mobei Jun finally draws off. But the lust is still there, settled heavy within him and his now sensitive body. Mobei Jun sits back on his haunches once again and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, looking extremely self satisfied. 

Shang Qinghua tries to get his breathing under control as the aftershock of it makes itself known throughout his body, his knees in particular feeling rather weak.

“Surprisingly easy,” Mobei Jun comments nonchalantly, causing Shang Qinghua to sputter, even as the rest of him feels too boneless to move.

“Are you going to make fun of me the entire time?” He demands instead, and Mobei Jun gives a smirk that affirms it. 

There’s a soft clink as Mobei Jun undoes his belt and slides it off, dropping the leather to the side. He unbuttons the front of his slacks and tugs it down just enough that Shang Qinghua can see the obvious evidence that he’s hard too. And he’s also reminded of the fact that he’s seen Mobei Jun completely naked before, and that he’s acutely aware of just how gifted his husband is. Even though it’s covered by his black briefs, Shang Qinghua can still see the outline of it, still sees it’s as big as he remembers it. 

Despite having already come once, despite his body feeling slightly raw, Shang Qinghua is still determined to do all the things he wants to do.

Mobei Jun reaches over to rummage through his drawer, and pulls out the bottle that Shang Qinghua had gotten from the pharmacy the night before. Mobei Jun had his own stash of supplies in his drawer but some things were more untouched than others; Shang Qinghua optimistically decided to restock and for once, the optimism is clearly paying off. 

“You’re prepared,” Mobei Jun says, inspecting the lube that may or may not come in a large, value-sized bottle and may or may not claim to be flavoured. Shang Qinghua may or may not be easily swayed by appealing packaging.

“Let me out of this,” Shang Qinghua says instead, trying to pull his arms forward. He doesn’t actually need to ask but he does anyway, and Mobei Jun laughs.

“Why?”

“I just want to touch you,” Shang Qinghua says because now that his head has cleared up a bit he’s realized that frankly, it’s unfair that he’s got a man that looks like a literal god in bed and he’s not been able to touch him as much.

Mobei Jun gives a noncommittal hum as he lowers down and flattens himself against Shang Qinghua’s body. His torso is cool against Shang Qinghua and feels like a balm, because Shang Qinghua has felt overheated since he hit the sheets. He pecks the tip of Shang Qinghua’s nose before kissing the corner of his mouth, and only then does Mobei Jun finally pull off the shirt.

As soon as the fabric comes off, Shang Qinghua’s hands fly so fast they almost thwack Mobei Jun in his excitement. He starts by grabbing the back of Mobei Jun’s head and pulling him into a kiss while his other hand reaches down to push at his slacks and his briefs.

The moment he feels Mobei Jun kick them off completely, Shang Qinghua pushes forward till they are both on their sides, Shang Qinghua tilted over Mobei Jun’s chest as he kisses the man sloppily. He swings a leg over Mobei Jun and presses close, determined to get as much skin on skin contact as possible. Shang Qinghua can feel how hard the other man is and breaks off to lick his palm before he reaches for it with a clumsy hand as they make out.

It feels even bigger in his hand, and Shang Qinghua gives it an experimental stroke. Mobei Jun grabs Shang Qinghua’s ass hard enough to leave a mark and in turn, Shang Qinghua twists his wrist in a way that he hopes the other man likes. Mobei Jun groans into his mouth and Shang Qinghua tries to stroke him again, squeezing at parts he knows he likes on himself. It works and he feels Mobei Jun bite his lower lip again. 

“Want more?” Mobei Jun asks roughly and while Shang Qinghua is still soft, there’s still a fire stirring within him. The more he touches his husband, the more he feels his confidence building too, knowing that he’s not the only one who is extremely affected. “I thought you’d be out for the count after that.”

“I’m very pent up,” Shang Qinghua informs him, circling his thumb near the tip. Mobei Jun seems deeply fascinated with his ass because all he does is knead it for a few moments, groping and kissing until Shang Qinghua reaches for the bottle of lube. 

He barely brushes his fingers across it before he finds himself getting flipped onto his back again.

“What—” he starts, but he sees Mobei Jun has sequestered the dark blue bottle and is already popping it open. 

Mobei Jun drips a generous amount of lube onto his hand and reaches between Shang Qinghua’s legs, spreading it across his inner thighs. It’s cool at first but starts to warm up, and Mobei Jun massages it into his skin. Shang Qinghua is about to sit up and tell him that he wants to take it one step further, but gets sidelined by the sight of Mobei Jun taking himself in hand.

The sight of his husband slicking himself up is maybe the hottest thing Shang Qinghua has seen in his whole, measly life. He cuts a powerful image like this, his naturally stern face looking fiercer in concentration as he grips. Mobei Jun looks down at Shang Qinghua’s gaze with eyes that threaten to sear right through him, and Shang Qinghua makes a pathetic sound. 

Shang Qinghua doesn’t know if he wants to run his tongue all over his gifted body or offer himself up like some sort of sacrifice. Ideally, he would have time for both.

“Squeeze these together,” Mobei Jun commands, tapping the side of Shang Qinghua’s calf. Shang Qinghua quickly obeys, bringing his knees together. Mobei Jun grabs his ankles and lifts his legs up, settling his calves against one of his shoulders. Shang Qinghua understands now what he wants to do, and lets his head drop back against the pillow.

Mobei Jun groans as he slides between Shang Qinghua’s thighs, hot and heavy. Shang Qinghua mirrors the noise and squeezes further as he feels his own interest start to stir again. Mobei Jun loops an arm around Shang Qinghua’s legs while burying his other hand in the sheets beside him. He rocks his hips gently once, before pushing forward with some more force.

There’s clear restraint in the way that he moves, his thrusts measured and controlled. Shang Qinghua can feel him dripping too, can feel him making a mess as he ruts between his legs. Even with the way his own body is angled, Shang Qinghua tries to roll his hips down to meet Mobei Jun.

Mobei Jun presses forward, bending Shang Qinghua’s legs enough that he can feel the back of them start to  burn, and keeps slowly canting his hips. Shang Qinghua mumbles nonsense, trying to gather his thoughts but the motion is driving him insane. He lets himself enjoy it for a minute, lets Mobei Jun chase his pleasure as he looks down at Shang Qinghua.

But Shang Qinghua wants more, wants to try more. Whatever way Mobei Jun is moving right now, Shang Qinghua wants him to move like that while he’s in him. It’s something he’s thought a lot about and dreamt even more about and despite how intimidatingly large his husband is, Shang Qinghua’s definitely got determination and a healthy amount of self practice under his belt.

“You can…” Shang Qinghua starts and doesn’t even know how to phrase it. Or he does, but it’s hard to get the words out when Mobei Jun’s dropping his weight against him and making himself known between his legs. “Ah, ah …”

“I can what?” Mobei Jun asks, giving one particularly hard thrust that solidifies Shang Qinghua’s need. 

“You can fuck me,” Shang Qinghua manages to get out, with grit and determination. Mobei Jun pauses for a moment and his eyes widen by a fraction as he looks down at Shang Qinghua. 

He lets go of Shang Qinghua’s legs, lets them fall apart as he looks down at him with a dark expression. Shang Qinghua feels his embarrassment start to make itself known but before he tries to fill the silence with his blabbering, Mobei Jun thankfully cuts him off.

“Are you sure?” He asks, leaning down, and Shang Qinghua nods.

“Don’t make me say it again,” he says and without waiting for a response, surges up.

It works— Mobei Jun is taken by surprise and in a show of false confidence, Shang Qinghua manages to roll them over till Mobei Jun is the one on his back and he’s straddling his lap. Shang Qinghua is the one to reach down this time, feeling around for the bottle as he sweeps Mobei Jun in a wet and messy kiss.

Shang Qinghua is not bold enough to work himself open in front of Mobei Jun though, so using a lifetime’s worth of coordination, he makes sure their kiss doesn’t break off as he uncaps the bottle and slicks up his fingers.

When he reaches back, Mobei Jun’s hands are already there, parting his legs for him. Shang Qinghua feels him try to pull away from the kiss but he pushes forward with his lips as he presses a finger into himself, muffling his sharp inhale. 

It’s more to get himself steady than anything, more to make him mentally prepared. Shang Qinghua steadies himself with his free hand on Mobei Jun’s shoulder, digging into the muscle as he tries to work himself open. He knows he should take it slow but his whole body is crackling with electricity and eagerness. Before he can ease in a second finger, Mobei Jun slides his own slick hand between Shang Qinghua’s legs. 

“Easy,” Mobei Jun says into their kiss and Shang Qinghua simply pants in return as Mobei Jun presses forward with his fingers, much larger than Shang Qinghua’s. It’s uncoordinated and messy, Shang Qinghua’s hand bumping into Mobei Jun’s, and Shang Qinghua feels himself get harder. “Want me to do it?”

“No,” Shang Qinghua says almost immediately, even though Mobei Jun is already moving his hand with expertise. He knows Mobei Jun will just use that opportunity to tease him further and today, Shang Qinghua is nearing the end of his patience. He can’t register whether its pain or pleasure coursing through him right now, just knows what he wants.

Slowly, they work him open till Shang Qinghua thinks he’s ready. He withdraws his hand and sits back, his chest flushed red now with the effort. He looks down at Mobei Jun and is filled with a strange emotion he can’t quite place. It fills his heart with warmth and Mobei Jun raises his eyebrows, like he’s waiting expectantly.

Shang Qinghua reaches for the box of condoms from the dresser drawer and grabs a packet, scooting back onto Mobei Jun’s torso. Mobei Jun holds him steady by the hips and rubs soft circles into them. Shang Qinghua feels clumsier than normal when he tries to rip open the foil, and Mobei Jun makes an amused noise.

“Let me help,” Mobei Jun says and Shang Qinghua shakes his head. He can see Mobei Jun’s mouth uptick into a smirk, and his own fingers are clearly trembling too much to open it. 

Shang Qinghua tries to rip it open with his teeth which doesn’t work either, causing him to curse his luck. It’s most likely not the sexy image he was hoping it would be and any dream of not appearing totally clueless and inexperienced goes out the window.

“Are you trying to eat it?” Mobei Jun asks and fed up, Shang Qinghua throws it at Mobei Jun’s face.

“Shut up,” Shang Qinghua says as Mobei Jun laughs and picks up the silver packet.

He easily tears it open with his teeth just to show off. Shang Qinghua can’t even complain about it because the site of it is so incredibly hot that instead of indignation, his brain is just filled with static. Mobei Jun rolls it on and slicks himself up but Shang Qinghua swats his hand away after that. 

He shuffles back and raises himself onto his knees, taking Mobei Jun in hand with a look of determination on his face. Shang Qinghua tries not to feel too self conscious or nervous about anything he’s doing as he holds Mobei Jun in place and starts to sit himself down. 

Or tries.

He may have not been as thorough as ready as he had hoped. It feels way different than anything he’s ever done to himself, way bigger and way heavier. Even the initial press feels overwhelming. Shang Qinghua’s breath comes out in short pants as he tries to acclimatize to just managing to get the head in. 

It hurts, kind of. He thinks. It definitely feels too big and when he tries to push himself a little faster, he realizes quickly it’s a bad idea. But Shang Qinghua is determined if anything, and he has waited way too long to not lose his virginity in every way possible.

“Go slow,” Mobei Jun says, slowing Shang Qinghua down as he tries to himself work down on Mobei Jun. “You’re going to hurt yourself if you rush.”

Mobei Jun is wrong because Shang Qinghua is already hurting himself and cursing his own lack of experience. He’s not got much control over his own expression as he tries to situate so Shang Qinghua ducks his head. He’s pretty sure his ruddy-faced, open mouthed look is not the most appealing thing to look at, especially as he curses. 

“Relax,” Mobei Jun tries again, drawing soothing circles into Shang Qinghua’s skin.

“I’m fine,” Shang Qinghua grits out as he continues to rock his hips, slowly easing down. He pauses for a moment and tries lifting up instead; the drag of it sends heat shooting down his spine instantly. But the moment he tries to work himself down again, he feels a small sweat break out across his forehead. “I’m fine — oh god, oh god—

“Come here,” Mobei Jun says, and Shang Qinghua can hear some strain in his voice. He can also hear some amusement in his voice, and he knows the other man is undoubtedly entertained with Shang Qinghua’s lack of experience. “Let me do it.”

“Stop ordering me around,” Shang Qinghua hisses, balling a fist against Mobei Jun’s chest. He looks up at him through his lashes with a beleaguered look and sure enough, Mobei Jun’s expression is incredibly familiar. “Stop looking like you want to make fun of me!”

Mobei Jun sighs, and settles back into the pillow while he watches Shang Qinghua. “Suit yourself.”

But it’s clear that this is  maybe not the best position for his first time doing something like this. Mobei Jun is overwhelmingly huge and gravity isn’t doing him any favours. It feels like it won’t fit and at this rate, it probably won’t.

Why’d he want to get on top? Why did Shang Qinghua want to try and appear like he’s not completely clueless? He definitely is! Both of them know it! What kind of welcome home was this!

The feeling he gets when he lifts his hips up can only get him so far, and Shang Qinghua makes it about half way down before he gives up. The strain coupled with his embarrassment is too much, and he can feel himself flagging.

“You— ah, you do it,” Shang Qinghua says, thumping his fist against Mobei Jun’s chest. 

“Are you sure?” Mobei Jun says. “I wouldn’t want to steal your thunder.”

His voice is even but when Shang Qinghua looks up at him, he can see the other man is affected too. His stupidly high cheekbones are tinged pink and his eyes are dark and burning. He looks hungry, like he’s waiting to pounce.

“Just do it,” Shang Qinghua grits through the pain, half-moaning as he lifts up and allows Mobei Jun to fall out of him completely. “Please don’t make me say it twice.”

Within a fraction of a second, Shang Qinghua finds his world tilting as he gets pressed down into the sheets, turned over onto his belly. Mobei Jun’s weight lays along his back immediately and Shang Qinghua turns his head. He’s met with a kiss, a soft and brief press of the lips.

“I wasn’t making fun of you,” Mobei Jun murmurs against him. “Let me take care of you.”

Shang Qinghua makes an unintelligible noise in agreement and Mobei Jun moves, pressing a kiss to the nape of Shang Qinghua’s neck. He kisses him once more at the knob of his spine and sucks there gently for a moment before moving down.

He lays wet, unhurried kisses down Shang Qinghua’s spine in what Shang Qinghua thinks is an attempt to reassure him and calm him down. But Shang Qinghua is gone enough for him that each touch makes him more restless. The fact that Mobei Jun takes his time with each kiss, like he’s trying to truly taste Shang Qinghua, makes him feel like he’s balancing on a tightrope. 

Shang Qinghua grabs a pillow to bury his face in, just so that he doesn’t do anything rash. He’s flat against the mattress so he digs his toes in and tries to rock forward as Mobei Jun takes him apart with clever hands and a clever mouth. He doesn’t know if he’s relieving pressure or he’s building it up but Mobei Jun stops him anyways with a firm hand on his lower back.

“Impatient,” Mobei Jun states against the base of his spine and Shang Qinghua makes an incoherent sound. He feels teeth graze over the curve of his ass and bite down, leaving another mark there before Mobei Jun finally lets him go.

“I’ve waited long enough,” Shang Qinghua lifts his head back to look as Mobei Jun drips lube over him again. The feeling of it makes him twitch, as does the sight of Mobei Jun stroking more onto himself.

“So have I,” Mobei Jun replies, and hitches Shang Qinghua’s hips up. Shang Qinghua can feel Mobei Jun position himself behind him and drops his head back down as Mobei Jun starts to press in.

The initial stretch still feels strange, feels like more even. But in this position, Shang Qinghua’s body also has a lot more give. Mobei Jun takes his time, gently rocking in with a lot more skill than Shang Qinghua had. He pulls out a little too before he works himself back in and the sensation of it has Shang Qinghua’s breath hitching. 

Shang Qinghua bites the pillow to hide his sounds, not looking to embarrass himself any further. In this position, his legs turn into jelly fast, but it feels a lot better. It hurts a lot less too as Mobei Jun works his way in slowly; the feeling of pain and discomfort quickly giving way to pleasure makes it more staggering. After what feels like a thousand years, Mobei Jun fully seats himself. Shang Qinghua lets out a small whimper as Mobei Jun swears and curves over his back.

“Look at me,” Mobei Jun says into Shang Qinghua’s ear and Shang Qinghua lifts his head to blink at Mobei Jun through damp eyes. Shang Qinghua parts his lips, thinking he’s going to get a kiss, but Mobei Jun just holds his gaze as he withdraws just the smallest amount before grinding forward.

Shang Qinghua sucks in a breath and scrunches his eyes shut. This time Mobei Jun does actually kiss him, sliding their lips and tongues together as he gives short, slow thrusts. It feels so much better this way, the pain completely ebbing away to a strange new sensation that Shang Qinghua tries to commit to his memory.

It takes a few thrusts for Shang Qinghua to stop white-knuckling his pillow and instead start grasping the sheets with one of his hands. He still tries to bury any sounds he wants to make into the pillow as he’s gently rocked into. He wants to move but he’s still trying to get used to the sensation of being so full. 

A large palm closes over his hand, twining their fingers together and pinning him into the mattress. Mobei Jun tilts his hips with his other hand and thrusts with some more intent. He shifts Shang Qinghua by minute amounts and Shang Qinghua has a faint idea of what he’s looking for. He tries to help but Mobei Jun’s hand tempers him, clearly determined to do this on his own.

It works because a moment later, a change of angle has Shang Qinghua almost jumping and keening, loud enough to be heard even as he tries to swallow the sound. Mobei Jun stills for a moment and makes an interested sound, before he withdraws and cants his hips forward a little harder. 

“Holy shit,” Shang Qinghua can’t breathe so he lifts his head up, cursing as Mobei Jun hits that spot again. “Holy shit— oh, there, yeah—“

Mobei Jun acquiesces, fucking forward slightly harder each time as stars bloom behind Shang Qinghua’s eyelids. He tries to move his other hand off the pillow and that gets secured instantly too, with a bruising grip around his wrist. Shang Qinghua lets out a soft, shuddering moan as the bed starts to slowly creak beneath them. 

It’s well out of his realm of imagination. His body feels like his soul is slowly detaching and he’s sure he’s going lightheaded with how hard he is. He wants to touch himself to relieve some of the building pressure but Mobei Jun has him completely pinned down, and the thought of that is too insanely hot to let go. One particularly well-aimed thrust has him dropping his face back into his pillow and whining in a way he’s not proud of. 

“You don’t have to hide,” Mobei Jun says not unkindly. “This apartment is soundproof.”

Shang Qinghua isn’t hiding— he’s just overwhelmed. Now that the slide has become easy and each movement sends a jolt through his body, he feels shattered. He’s dripping all over the expensive sheets as he gets fucked into and feels completely consumed. And if he doesn’t muffle himself, he’s going to start running his mouth about a million things, like how much he missed his husband, how lucky he feels, how he wants more and more and more of him and just not like this.

Mobei Jun drags out more than half way and pauses for a moment before he snaps his hips forward, seating himself to the hilt in one go. Shang Qinghua cries out at the intensity of it and Mobei Jun immediately descends on him, pressing a kiss against his cheek.

“Did it hurt?” Mobei Jun asks and Shang Qinghua shakes his head furiously. “Good.”

Mobei Jun does it again, and again, till it’s the new pace that he’s set. The aim is precise each time and if Shang Qinghua thought it had been so much before, it doesn’t compare to the way that Mobei Jun is earnestly fucking into him now.

Shang Qinghua lifts his head, trying to take gulps of air as he pants and moans. It feels so incredibly good and takes him apart piece by piece, steadily and fiercely. Shang Qinghua didn’t ever think he’d earn someone’s desire like this. Now that he has it, he does not want to let it go. He wants more and more and his husband is more than eager to deliver, bruising the back of Shang Qinghua’s thighs as he gives in to his demands. 

His head is swimming, and it feels like he’s drowning in it. He doesn’t want Mobei Jun to want anyone else, he doesn’t want him to crave anyone else or think of anyone else. He just wants him to take as much as he wants from Shang Qinghua till there is absolutely nothing left of him. 

He has no control over himself; Shang Qinghua’s body doesn’t feel like his own. He can’t even think of touching himself now, too wrapped up with how his husband moves in him. Shang Qinghua feels like he’s been broken apart in the best way and squeezes their intertwined fingers together.

Shang Qinghua has sunken far enough into the pleasure that he doesn’t notice when Mobei Jun slows down. He lifts his head up in a daze and once again feels the presence of his husband beside his ear.

“You want to get on top again?” Mobei Jun asks, voice so low and sultry that it makes Shang Qinghua’s toes curl.

“I don’t think I can,” Shang Qinghua says weakly and Mobei Jun huffs a small laugh before he nips at his earlobe.

“I’ll help you this time,” Mobei Jun says in a voice enticing enough that Shang Qinghua would jump off a cliff if it told him to do so. 

Shang Qinghua gives a garbled reply that he thinks is an affirmation. Mobei Jun pulls out so slowly and purposefully that drag is blissfully torturous. He slides a hand under Shang Qinghua’s chest and turns him over gently. Shang Qinghua feels his legs and arms tremble as he tries to sit up. He waits for Mobei Jun to lie back but instead the other man kneels in front of him, knees digging into the mattress.

“Come here,” Mobei Jun says, reaching for Shang Qinghua. Shang Qinghua goes readily, allowing Mobei Jun to man-handle him till he lifts Shang Qinghua onto his lap. 

With whatever strength Shang Qinghua has left, he hooks his legs around Mobei Jun’s waist. It’s a little precarious at first but Mobei Jun wraps an arm around him and pulls him in for a kiss. Shang Qinghua opens up for him easily and as they slide their tongues together, Mobei Jun lifts him up and takes himself in hand.

When Mobei Jun sinks Shang Qinghua down onto himself, Shang Qinghua scrunches his eyes shut and buries his face in the crook of the other man’s shoulder. It doesn’t hurt like it did the last time. In fact, as he draws in a deep inhale and is flooded with the scent of salt and sweat and a familiar cologne, Shang Qinghua feels like he’s melting again. Before his mind can catch up, they’re moving together again. 

Mobei Jun does all the work this time, moving Shang Qinghua’s body in time with his own thrusts. Shang Qinghua wraps his arms around his shoulders and clings on, yelping and moaning as Mobei Jun wastes no time in settling back into the same pace as before. The more noise Shang Qinghua makes, the harder Mobei Jun goes, inspiring Shang Qinghua to hold a lot less back.

It does not take long for Mobei Jun to hook one of Shang Qinghua’s legs over his elbow, bending him and finding just the right angle to roll his hips, eliciting something that verges onto a scream for Shang Qinghua. Mobei Jun holds him up mid air as he fucks into him, pace growing more and more unforgiving as they both lose themselves in it. His hips are powerful against Shang Qinghua, and Mobei Jun lays claim to him thoroughly. 

Shang Qinghua thinks he’s going to cry. He thinks his eyes are already prickling with heat and he’s completely submerged in the pleasure of it. Mobei Jun mouths at his neck, leaving sloppy kisses and inhaling deeply like he’s trying to absorb as much of Shang Qinghua as possible. Shang Qinghua feels ruined with how hard he’s driven into, ruined because he knows this is going to be something he’s going to crave and ruined because he knows he has this man to do it all over again to him. 

He draws back, suddenly feeling desperate for something he can’t quite place. He pushes back Mobei Jun’s hair as the man looks up at him, gaze still heavily predatory. Shang Qinghua really is going to float out of his own body if he doesn’t get tethered down.

“I missed you,” Shang Qinghua blurts out and Mobei Jun jolts him with a particularly hard thrust at those words. “I— ah, I missed you so much when you were go— oh, oh — gone—“

Mobei Jun doesn’t reply to this, but Shang Qinghua doesn’t need him too. Not with the way he can feel the other man’s hands tighten on him. He drops his head forward till their foreheads are touching and exhales, trying to choke back a moan.

“Even from before this week,” Shang Qinghua manages to get out. “Even from before, I shouldn’t have left you, I’m sorry, I’m sorry— ah —”

Mobei Jun silences him with a fierce kiss as his movements grow more frenetic. He sucks on Shang Qinghua’s tongue, bites it and soothes it as he takes Shang Qinghua apart by degrees. Shang Qinghua can feel his core and lower body tighten and knows he’s coming incredibly close.

With a shaky hand, he reaches down to touch himself, feeling tremors run through his body the moment he grasps himself. His loud, choking cries mix in with the other obscene sounds that fill the room and Shang Qinghua feels himself rapidly tearing towards his finish. Mobei Jun fucks into him with a lot more determination and Shang Qinghua can barely keep his eyes open, his vision vignetting.

The feeling of it encompasses him so deeply that he almost misses the words that Mobei Jun says into their kiss.

“I missed you too,” Mobei Jun says and it’s enough to send Shang Qinghua barelling towards his end in full force.

It hits him so hard that Shang Qinghua is legitimately sure his soul leaves his body this time. He knows he blacks out for a moment as pleasure bursts within him so loud that he can’t breathe. It’s more intense than the first one, more intense than anything Shang Qinghua has experienced in his life. The sound that leaves him is loud, and he feels it echo through his bones. 

Vaguely, he registers that his face is wet. Shang Qinghua is gasping, completely new to every sensation hitting him. It’s incredibly different from anything else he’s ever felt and he’s sure it’s something he’s going to get addicted to. 

He can slowly feel himself unravelling as stars bloom in his vision, and it feels like it lasts forever. A huge pressure feels like it’s been relieved as he spills between them and Mobei Jun keeps fucking into his oversensitive body. All his nerves are on fire and Mobei Jun’s thrusts grow shallow and fast.

This is beyond his wildest dreams. He can’t believe he finally lost his virginity and it was like this. He can’t even say that his future experiences are ruined, because they’re going to be with the same man that gave him this one and that fills him with excitement that feels tangible.

Shang Qinghua squeezes his legs and feels Mobei Jun shudder in him as he comes with a guttural noise that shapes around Shang Qinghua’s name. They’re both jolted up as Mobei Jun rides it out, thrusting purposefully in him as he finishes, holding him up as he stutters to a halt. Shang Qinghua can feel the tremor in Mobei Jun’s shoulders too, can feel the way his breath comes out in short puffs. Shang Qinghua still feels like he’s riding some sort of mental high, but his body feels like it’s useless.

Well.

Almost.

He’s oversensitive all over and some of the aches have already started to settle into his muscles. New sensations spark wherever his bare skin touches his husband’s, and Shang Qinghua feels like he won’t be able to collect himself for a while. 

But he looks down at his husband, looks at the way his muscles flex as he slowly lifts Shang Qinghua up off of him, and his mouth gets even drier. He’s wanted to touch for so long and now that he has, Shang Qinghua wants to keep going. Somehow. The heart is there, even if the body is begging for reprieve.

Maybe it’s the fact that he’s had so many missed opportunities that Shang Qinghua still has an overflow of energy that he has no clue where and how to direct. Or the fact that his outlet is a man that he loves and a man that is built particularly like he’s been made to fulfill Shang Qinghua’s needs. 

Mobei Jun gently sets him down into the sheets, pulling away the ones that have gotten messy. He hovers above him, one hand planted beside his head as he looks at Shang Qinghua like he’s in a daze too. His eyes travel downwards and he  can’t tear his gaze away from between Shang Qinghua’s legs. Shang Qinghua feels self-conscious underneath his gaze but Mobei Jun places a hand on his knee before he can close them.

“Stay,” Mobei Jun says, and gingerly peels off the condom. He ties it off and throws it in the trash bin underneath his nightstand before reaching for one of the dirtied sheets.

He gently cleans them down, moving extra carefully between Shang Qinghua’s legs. Everything below the belt feels extra tender yet Shang Qinghua’s lack of self preservation tells him it’s a good thing.

“How are you feeling?” Mobei Jun asks in a hoarse voice as he wipes down Shang Qinghua’s stomach.

“Ask me in five minutes,” Shang Qinghua says feebly as he stares at the ceiling in a daze. “Please don’t make me think right now.”

“Mm,” Mobei Jun responds and for a few moments, there’s silence as he finishes up. He sets the sheets aside but instead of sprawling out on the bed beside Shang Qinghua, he lingers. He presses gently at the skin down there, pushing Shang Qinghua’s wobbly legs further apart.

Shang Qinghua instantly starts to flush again when he realizes that Mobei Jun is looking at his own work with fascination. This time when he tries to close his legs, the hand on him is a lot firmer.

“Can I make a mess in you next time?” Mobei Jun asks, as if he’s in his own daze, not bothering to look up. Shang Qinghua gulps, and thinks he’s opened the gate to something equally dangerous and desperate within Mobei Jun.

“Have some mercy on me,” Shang Qinghua says, but finds himself reaching for his husband anyways. 

 




It’s early in the afternoon the next day by the time that Shang Qinghua regains any sense of actual consciousness. He drifts awake, content despite the face that his entire body feels like a giant ache. His head is pillowed against a rather firm chest and his mouth is parted as he drools with little grace. 

He did try to wake up earlier in the day, and had rolled over in his husband’s arms only to get pinned into the mattress. It didn’t matter to either of them that he was still feeling raw from the night before and this time, Mobei Jun had made good on his promise to make a mess inside Shang Qinghua. 

Shang Qinghua groans as his brain wakes much before his body does. He buries his face further into his husband’s chest as he shifts his legs, keenly aware of the fact that maybe they should have cleaned up after their small morning tryst. But he had been too exhausted, having been up for a significant amount of time the night before and Mobei Jun, having stayed up with him, had been as well. They had passed out before either of them could even mention breakfast. 

It had been, as Mobei Jun had promised, a very thorough introduction. 

But sadly it’s Mobei Jun right now who’s trying to cruelly bring Shang Qinghua into the world of the conscious despite being the reason that Shang Qinghua can barely move. 

“Hey,” Mobei Jun pokes his side, not exactly gentle with the action. “It’s time to wake up.”

Shang Qinghua grumbles and turns his head, pointedly ignoring Mobei Jun. He tries to squeeze the arm he has wrapped around Mobei Jun’s waist in an attempt to make him forget about any ideas about getting out of bed. It doesn’t work. 

“We need to shower,” Mobei Jun says, running a hand over his back. 

“How am I going to make it into the shower?” Shang Qinghua groans, raising his head and looking at Mobei Jun with bleary eyes. “I can barely even walk.”

“Then crawl,” Mobei Jun says and Shang Qinghua narrows his eyes as the expression on his husband’s face grows extremely smug. 

Maybe he’s somewhat justified in looking this self-satisfied. The enthusiasm last night and this morning was definitely a mutual decision but Mobei Jun had taken charge of most of it. By the end of it, whatever remaining filters Shang Qinghua had completely dissolved and it had been a lot easier to coax out sounds and garbled sentences from him. 

He may have been loud. His throat might feel incredibly sore. He may be a little embarrassed. 

“You’re unfair,” Shang Qinghua informs him. “And a bully.”  

“You’ll learn to live with it,” Mobei Jun says  in a matter of fact manner, pinching his side. “The sooner you shower, the sooner we can get breakfast. Or lunch.”

That does sound like a rather good idea; Shang Qinghua is starving, having not eaten since the evening before. But the fact still stands. 

“I told you,” Shang Qinghua says, flopping his head down. “I can’t move. Bring me breakfast in bed.”

But five minutes later, he finds himself propped up in Mobei Jun’s unnecessarily elaborate shower, dozing off as the hot steam and water relaxes his body. He’s leaning back against a solid wall of muscle courtesy of his husband, who runs a soothing washcloth over his body in sharp contrast to the way he practically hauled them out of bed. Occasionally, he’ll follow the cloth with a barely-there press of his lips but it’s languid and lacking intent.  Which is all and well since Shang Qinghua feels like a thoroughly rung out towel. 

It’s not his fault. They had a lot to make up for. Maybe they should have talked before they went at it like animals. But Shang Qinghua isn’t hard pressed about it— in his defence, he was so pent up that if he didn’t relieve it, it may have become a medical issue. 

“Are you falling asleep again?” Mobei Jun asks him, snapping him out of his reverie. Shang Qinghua turns around to deliver a retort but is met with a face that’s uncharacteristically gentle. 

Or, as gentle as a man like Mobei Jun can get. His eyes have softened and his brows seem relaxed. He’s not smiling but he’s not frowning either, and the fact that the shower has plastered his wet hair to his face makes him look a lot younger. 

“Stop bugging me so much,” Shang Qinghua says lazily, reaching up to push back his hair. “What are you thinking about?”

He doesn’t actually expect an answer, but it’s a pleasant surprise when he gets one anyways. 

“Next time I travel, call me,” Mobei Jun says, reaching for Shang Qinghua’s wrist. 

“You seemed so busy,” Shang Qinghua says honestly. His brain is still half-mush and he doesn’t  have much time to overthink before he speaks. “I didn’t want to bother you.”

“Fine,” Mobei Jun replies, lowering Shang Qinghua’s hand for him. “I’ll call you then. I like to hear you talk.”

Shang Qinghua grins at this openly. That’s definitely not something he’s heard as a compliment before; Mobei Jun must not know what kind of hell he's going to unleash by letting Shang Qinghua have free rein over his mouth. Shang Qinghua snakes his arms around Mobei Jun’s waist and even though his body is in a world of soreness, he still looks up at Mobei Jun in what he hopes is an appealing manner. 

“You didn’t text me back yesterday,” Shang Qinghua says, and Mobei Jun gives him a flat look. 

“I left my personal phone here,” Mobei Jun states. “Just call me on my work one next time. Stop being so afraid to talk to me.”

“Well it’s not like you had made it easier,” Shang Qinghua frowns and Mobei Jun hums for a moment before drawing in.  

“I guess we’re both learning,” Mobei Jun says quietly and honestly in a way that makes Shang Qinghua’s heart swell. Shang Qinghua starts to talk again but Mobei Jun is already ducking down. 

This kiss is a sweet and unhurried one and Shang Qinghua does a valiant job of hiding the fact that he accidentally inhales some water. Or maybe not as valiant as he thinks, because he feels Mobei Jun chuckle against him. 

Even though they spent a considerable amount of time getting physically acquainted, the press of their bodies together is still a novel experience for Shang Qinghua. Shang Qinghua’s quick to run his mouth at any given moment but for a change, he doesn’t know what to say first.

They’ve done so many things backwards, but it’s somehow worked out. For all of Mobei Jun’s abrasiveness and Shang Qinghua’s stubbornness, they’ve managed to meet in the middle and find in each other someone that they like. Love, even.

It’s strange and bizarre and Shang Qinghua feels incredibly thankful for it. He’s incredibly grateful too that Mobei Jun came back for him—  the feeling of being wanted to this extent is also foreign to him, and he feels kind of greedy when he thinks about it. But it’s hard to verbalize all that he feels as he stands under the warm water, tilting his head to allow the kiss to deepen. 

“I missed you,” Shang Qinghua settles on saying instead. “Not just while you were away.”

He talks a lot, but it takes a lot for him to talk about his actual feelings. But for Mobei Jun he knows he needs to learn, learn how to communicate and learn how to cherish whatever vulnerability he receives.

“I missed you too,” Mobei Jun replies, kissing his temple. “Both times. Severely so.”

He tenses slightly as he talks, and Shang Qinghua knows that even if he’s more experienced in some ways, this is new to Mobei Jun too. He’s been trying to make this work too from the beginning, but Shang Qinghua knows now how it had become more and more sincere each time.

Clearly, there are things that they both need to work on but they can work on it together. They’re moving forward as a couple, they’re moving forward in this marriage.

They’ll figure it out.

 


 



 

 

Shang Qinghua’s track record with birthdays hasn’t particularly been exciting. The supposedly auspicious ones he did celebrate in his childhood weren’t too exciting, and he tends to ignore it most years. There’s one notable exception from last year, but he’s packed the memory of that away neatly and it doesn’t necessitate revisiting, unless he wants to bring it up in a petty argument.

Which is why when he was ordered by his husband to decide what he wanted to do for his birthday, Shang Qinghua did the following:

  1. Invited a bunch of people to his favourite cheap and smoky bar
  2. Panicked after realizing he actually had people he may be leaving out and invited an even larger amount of people to the bar and
  3. Forgot to tell everyone what they were actually congregating for.

It works in his favour though; the people clustered around the groups of tables set aside for him see Shen Yuan arrive with a sizable chocolate cake and start yelling at Shang Qinghua once they see what’s written on it. Afterwards they start shoving money in lieu of gifts towards him and grumbling though in Shang Qinghua’s defence, it’s not his fault that apparently no one had noticed that they’ve not had to pay for their own food or drinks.

The group is mostly just a mix of his co-workers, old and new. A surprising amount of people from Cang Qiong have shown up, including Yue Qingyuan, who is listening patiently to Shen Jiu and Mu Qingfang squabble over something and Liu Qingge, who is talking with Wei Qingwei and being tailed around the bar by one of his summer associates, who Shang Qinghua has met in passing and decided to throw an invite to. A few of Shang Qinghua’s juniors from the office have come too including a few interns he likes but barely remembers the names of, and they’ve commandeered their own table, red-faced and drunk and trying their best to avoid their bosses.

Shang Qinghua is sequestered away with Shen Yuan right now, leaning against the counter of the bar and trying to down some particularly vile liquor that Shen Yuan swears on his own life is as healthy as it is potent. It makes Shang Qinghua’s face pinch like he’s had a rotten lemon and makes him regret many of his life choices.

“How much longer till he’s here?” Shen Yuan asks, patting Shang Qinghua’s back with fake concern, as if he’s not the source of his suffering.

“Eventually,” Shang Qinghua wheezes, just to spite Shen Yuan. 

Shen Yuan is pretending to ask about Mobei Jun, but that’s only because Luo Binghe will be attached to him as well as the two of them have been in Munich for the past week. Shen Yuan has pointedly told Shang Qinghua that they better hang out now because as soon as Binghe comes, he’s going to demand all of Shen Yuan’s attention. Shang Qinghua likes to annoy him by asking him why he ever says that like it’s anything he’s ever tried to stop, because Shen Yuan severely overestimates his ability to keep cool.

Shang Qinghua has already had a small celebration for his birthday before Mobei Jun left for his business trip. Mobei Jun had cooked him dinner, something Shang Qinghua had discovered a couple of months earlier he was oddly very capable of doing, and had given him a laptop.

Mobei Jun had actually tried to give him this laptop a few weeks ago, when Shang Qinghua had been sequestered away in his old room writing and Mobei Jun could hear the fan from the living room. Mobei Jun had told him the sound was disturbing and Shang Qinghua had told him to mind his own business. Mobei Jun told him if he was going to continue writing his stories into the late hours of the night, he better not do it on something that loud and then Shang Qinghua had squawked at the fact that Mobei Jun knew about his stories.

Mobei Jun had pinched the bridge of his nose and told him he knew from before they even met because ofcourse he would do a thorough background check on a man he was marrying. Shang Qinghua had asked why he didn’t bring it up and Mobei Jun asked him why he never told him and then somehow their stand-off had ended with them furiously making out on his old bed with the twin sounds of the living room television and his laptop overheating.

A lot of their disagreements end up that way. Shang Qinghua stands by the fact that it’s effective because they always are able to re-approach the problem with a clearer head after. Mobei Jun had tried to get him to pick out a new laptop afterwards and even though it was a piece of shit, Shang Qinghua had been protective over his old laptop. 

But eventually, the hard drive went the way of the fan and died a glorious, melting death on his actual birthday. Shang Qinghua was allowed approximately five minutes to mourn it before Mobei Jun placed a box on top of the carcass of his old laptop and folded his arms. He had looked incredibly pleased when Shang Qinghua had opened it and promptly forgot about the laptop that took him through all of college and beyond. 

Mobei Jun had to leave for a business trip shortly after but had made sure Shang Qinghua made some arrangements for his birthday. Shang Qinghua figured he might as well so here he is, trying not to throw up whatever wretched alcohol his best friend just made him drink. Mobei Jun should be back today but his flight got delayed so Shang Qinghua only has a vague idea of when he is coming. 

Someone thumps him on the back causing Shang Qinghua to sputter harder and he turns to see Ming Fan, Ning Yingying and Gongyi Xiao grinning at him and Shen Yuan. 

“Thanks for inviting us,” Ning Yingying says, and nudges his side. “And also not telling us it was your birthday.”

“It happens every year,” Shang Qinghua points out and she rolls her eyes while Shen Yuan flags down the bartender for more drinks. 

“They must be paying well at your new job,” Ming Fan comments as he looks around the pub. He’s half right—  Cang Qiong is paying more, especially since Shang Qinghua actually focuses on his job.

“He married rich,” Shen Yuan says sagely and yeah, that’s the other half of it. A lot of this has been funded courtesy of Mobei Jun, who told Shang Qinghua to save his money for something more useful.

Ming Fan barks out a laugh that sounds maybe too disbelieving for Shang Qinghua’s liking while Gongyi Xiao gives a smile, but whatever. 

“Hey, be respectful,” Shang Qinghua tries to elbow Ming Fan and misses, the alcohol from before soaking into his bloodstream.

“What, you’re actually married?” Ming Fan asks in an amused tone, and when Shang Qinghua gives a slow nod, his eyebrows shoot up. So does Ning Yingying’s, while Gongyi Xiao looks mildly surprised as well.

“Congratulations,” Gongyi Xiao says and bless his soul for not sounding judgemental or asking if it was the same man Shang Qinghua had been having problems with. 

“Why didn’t you tell us earlier?” Ming Fan demands and Shang Qinghua shrugs. 

“It was a spur of the moment thing,” Shang Qinghua says, and when they all narrow their eyes, he raises both his hands. “Uh, but we love each other very much and are very happy and it was a good decision! Promise!”

His new co-workers know about his husband because they’ve seen him get picked up after work or during his lunch a couple of times, but up until now, Shang Qinghua had yet to tell his ex co-workers he was married. Mobei Jun didn’t necessarily see the need for a veil of secrecy over their relationship anymore, but Shang Qinghua has never quite found a way to ease in the fact that he’s married and who he’s married to. 

“You’re not doing a good job selling it,” Shen Yuan says and Shang Qinghua decides that for a change, maybe saying nothing would be best. Shen Yuan turns to the group and despite the fact that he’s meeting them all for the first time, decides to lay Shang Qinghua’s business out. “His husband is very rich, very good looking, and very mean.”

Ming Fan snorts and even Ning Yingying looks like she’s having a hard time believing him. Thankfully, the conversation steers away before any more offenses can be drawn against Shang Qinghua. 

The three of them seem enraptured by Shen Yuan, who grins through one bullshit story about Cang Qiong after another. Shang Qinghua jumps in every now and then; he and Shen Yuan have been doing a good enough job that they’ve even started to travel for their work, which goes about just as well as it can with the two of them. They’ve definitely taken advantage of having two rather powerful men dote on them to get them out of hot water. As long as Yue Qingyuan doesn’t figure out the trouble they’ve gotten into while attempting to make their way across a foreign country, they’re in the clear.

The evening is pleasant enough, and Shang Qinghua feels oddly content. He’s not been one to have many friends and just over a year ago, he was working hard to impress some people who had forgotten why they had drifted away to begin with. He’s not some overly self-assured man now with a handle on everything, but he’s definitely got more self-confidence and finds less of a need to impress others around him.

Part of it is just the job he works at, part of it is his forced socialization outside of work, and part of it has just been learning how to coexist in a marriage with someone like Mobei Jun. A lot of the way that his personality has developed has been molded by the unwavering one of his husband’s and Shang Qinghua has found a lot more assurance in just being himself. 

Minus the panicking when it came to inviting people to the bar. In his defense, Mobei Jun had been very generous with paying off the bar beforehand and Shang Qinghua is very keen on not causing anyone any offense. 

(There’s also been Mobei Jun’s family who, minus the grandfather, will always be more or less a thorn in their side. But Shang Qinghua’s long learned that they only have as much power as his husband allows and he feels like less of a headless chicken when dealing with them. And his own father too has learned to be a lot wiser, courtesy of getting politely beaten over the head by Zhuzhi Lang.)

“Hey,” Shen Yuan nudges Shang Qinghua while Ming Fan robustly starts to recount a story about his weekend. Shang Qinghua follows the way Shen Yuan tilts his head and sees two people come out from behind the kitchen, instead of through the front like normal people.

“Are you going to take off?” Shang Qinghua asks out the side of his mouth and Shen Yuan scoffs, despite the answer clearly being yes.

Surely enough, it takes less than five minutes for Shen Yuan to take his leave. Shang Qinghua has turned back to their co-workers, and they go silent when they spot someone familiar over his shoulder. 

“Is that the president?” Ning Yingying hisses, while Ming Fan pauses in his story. Shang Qinghua doesn’t bother to look. “What’s he doing here?”

“He’s invited too,” Shang Qinghua says blandly and Ming Fan snorts.

“Why would he come to your birthday party?” He says, but the three of them surreptitiously set down their drinks. 

“Hey, everyone else I invited came!” Shang Qinghua points out, though he’s not as indignant as his voice may suggest. Undoubtedly, seeing their boss must be terrifying. Shang Qinghua sometimes feels that way around Yue Qingyuan until he remembers that first, they were university classmates and second, Yue Qingyuan has already seen some excruciatingly embarrassing moments of Shang Qinghua in the past year. Blessedly, he has never brought them up again.

“He’s done a few strange things lately,” Ning Yingying says. “I saw him smile the other day. I had to deliver something to his floor and he was randomly smiling at his phone. It was terrifying…”

Ning Yingying trails off, presumably still reminiscing about the horror she felt when she saw that smile. Shang Qinghua can’t blame her.

“There’s not enough muscles in his face to smile,” Shang Qinghua says gravely. “You must be mistaken— Ow, hey!”

“They’re still my employees,” Mobei Jun says as he approaches them, flicking the back of Shang Qinghua’s head as he catches the tail end of their conversation. Shang Qinghua rubs the back of his head and looks over his shoulder to glare at his husband, who has decided to come in a tailored black business suit. Mobei Jun has admitted he does that sometimes just because it entertains him to know how nervous it makes people.

Ning Yingying, Ming Fan, and Gongyi Xiao all stand to attention. It’s kind of comedic, really, and Shang Qinghua turns to Mobei Jun.

“You’re scaring them,” he says, not so quietly. “Go away.”

Mobei Jun gives him a glare that maybe a year and a half ago would have an affect on him. Now he knows better. Or he’s lost his sense of self-preservation. It could likely be a healthy mix of both.

“You weren’t kidding,” Ming Fan blurts, openly gawking while Ning Yingying’s eyes are over-bright.

“About what?” Shang Qinghua asks, watching how Gongyi Xiao seems to be going a furious pink. Mobei Jun seems to catch it too, and he narrows his eyes in the direction of the young man.

Mobei Jun steps closer to Shang Qinghua, sliding an arm around his waist. Three pairs of eyes drop down to the action before slowly dragging back up.

“About...the invite…” Ming Fan says and gestures towards the hand around Shang Qinghua’s waist. “And...um, this.”

“That would be a weird thing to lie about,” Shang Qinghua frowns. “Why would you think I’d lie about something like that? Wouldn’t that be a little too pathetic?”

Everyone immediately gives him a look, including Mobei Jun, which Shang Qinghua definitely takes offense to. He wasn’t that pathetic, ok! Not anymore! He slides off the barstool and the arm around him tightens.

He can tell that they want to know how. Shang Qinghua doesn’t know what he’ll tell them yet, and he knows for sure he can’t tell them they’ve been married for over a year now. But he’ll figure out something. Maybe not now though, because he’s got a more important matter at hand.

“You guys should go get some more food,” Shang Qinghua tells them, and he doesn’t need to tell them twice for the three of them to make themselves scarce. He turns to Mobei Jun with a fake sour expression. “You chased away all my friends.”

“Go back and get them then,” Mobei Jun rolls his eyes before letting go of Shang Qinghua. Shang Qinghua already misses the touch so he presses close to Mobei Jun’s side.

He looks around out of habit and sees that no one’s quite paying attention to them. With the exception of his ex-co workers, who quickly look away when he catches their eye. Mobei Jun turns them around so that Shang Qinghua’s back is pressed against the counter and Mobei Jun is blocking his view of everyone else.

“What do you want?” Shang Qinghua pretends to grumble but he’s already reaching up to give a kiss in greeting to his husband. The first one after a trip always lingers longer than most and given that he’s tipsy, he’s feeling particularly forlorn.

“Well, I’ve just come back from a long trip,” Mobei Jun says back, voice low. It’s evident by the way that he looks at Shang Qinghua and the timbre of his voice that he’s not looking for either of them to stick around for long.

“Do you want to get a drink?” Shang Qinghua asks, and Mobei Jun raises an eyebrow. A surreptitious hand drops down and Shang Qinghua feels it not-so-gently squeeze his ass.

That’s been another development in his life over the past few months that has been more than beneficial to Shang Qinghua. After doing a speed run through losing his virginity, Shang Qinghua has learned that Mobei Jun hadn’t been lying about showing immense restraint during the beginning of their relationship. Even a busy schedule doesn’t stop his husband— there’s been many times where they’ve both been crunched at work, too rushed in the mornings and too tired in the nights, but Mobei Jun shows up during Shang Qinghua’s lunch hour. 

Most of the time they don’t make it out of the underground parkade, but once or twice, Mobei Jun has taken them back to that love hotel they had snuck into a while back. The trysts feel illicit and Shang Qinghua always needs to spend five minutes getting himself together in the washroom before he heads back to his floor. And it always threatens to get undone by Mobei Jun texting him after.

The most out of hand it’s gotten had been on their official anniversary. They had a lot of plans for the day, but had checked into the hotel early and hadn’t emerged till their four day vacation was done. Idly, Shang Qinghua wonders about having a repeat experience soon.  

“Fine,” Mobei Jun replies, flagging down the bartender for a beer. “One drink, and then we go.”

“So bossy,” Shang Qinghua pouts. “For my own celebration too.”

“...What would you like to do then?” Mobei Jun asks.

“Two more drinks,” Shang Qinghua says. “Then we go.”

Mobei Jun looks smug again, like a rather pleased cat. Shang Qinghua’s developed a mental codex of all the expressions his husband makes and knows that this one always brings the best kind of trouble. In turn, Mobei Jun has learned to understand Shang Qinghua.

It had still been a little rocky initially, while they figured out how the other worked, but their determination prevailed. Talking comes easy to both of them now, and Shang Qinghua feels a lot less inhibited with his husband. It’s nice to have someone to talk to, and someone who is willing to be as open with him as he is to them.  

They’ve learned what it means to be loved in their own ways and have learned to communicate the love that they have. Mobei Jun puts in a visible effort, and Shang Qinghua has never felt unwanted. It acts like a tether, and Shang Qinghua doesn’t feel like running away from problems anymore. 

Amongst his thoughts, Shang Qinghua finds Mobei Jun pressing another kiss, one that tastes like the beer he’s been sipping. 

“Missed you,” Mobei Jun says and Shang Qinghua feels more than hears the words against his lips. His heart does a funny flip at it, even though it’s nothing new. They’ve gotten better at being more honest with each other, but that hasn’t taken away or dulled the way Shang Qinghua feels warm at minor admissions like these.

“I’ll get spoiled if you keep talking like that to me,” Shang Qinghua says, looping his own arm around Mobei Jun’s waist.

“I’ll spoil you to your heart’s content,” Mobei Jun replies and kisses Shang Qinghua again, with a flagrant disregard for whoever may be watching. Shang Qinghua can’t be bothered to care either. “That’s my duty as your husband.”

He still remembers the way Mobei Jun had easily told him to fall in love with him in his office, before they had even gotten married. And even though this marriage was anything but easy at the beginning, it’s surprisingly easy to be in love. Despite any differences in their personality, there is still a deep friendship and congruence between them, and it makes Shang Qinghua feel like an extremely lucky man.

This marriage is not what Shang Qinghua had anticipated, but he landed a man he’s in love with and a man that’s become his best friend. After their reconciliation in the winter, Mobei Jun has shown him a level of devotion that Shang Qinghua had never thought he would earn in this lifetime. The trouble and the heartache have been worth it, because he’s found someone to stand beside him, to spend time with him and face whatever the future has lying ahead for them. 

And that alone makes for a happy marriage.