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armor up and say your prayers

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Ironically, the street above ground is much darker than beneath, even as the dim streetlights are reflected in the rainwater that settles in pools on the asphalt. The air prickles in Mo Ran’s throat, sharp and cold, like he’s swallowing needles. Every building front has its signs and windows blacked out and its metal gate rolled down: there isn’t a soul to be seen, only the smoky puffs of his ragged breaths as he heaves his body forward, step by step.

Everything hurts.

Which, to be fair, is expected in Mo Ran’s line of work. Bare knuckle boxing comes with a laundry list of risks, especially in a cramped, stuffy basement where the ring is little more than a clearing in a sea of sweaty bodies clawing and crawling all over each other for a closer look. It would be stranger if Mo Ran left without a bruise here, a cut there, maybe even a sprained wrist if he was unlucky. But that’s usually the extent of his injuries. His nineteen-bout-strong winning streak speaks for itself.

Mo Ran scowls, then winces when his lip throbs. He raises a heavy hand, still wrapped in white athletic tape, to wipe at his chin. It comes away red.

“Fuck,” he mutters, or tries to. The inside of his mouth feels sticky. 

He swallows the blood pooling beneath his tongue before he can think about it. Shit. Is that what he’s supposed to do? Probably not, but it’s too late now.

Mo Ran trudges towards a flickering street lamp and lowers himself to the curb, his aching legs protesting the whole way down. There’s water running along the curb and over Mo Ran’s sneakers in a little stream towards the storm drain, but he can’t bring himself to care. There are bigger things to worry about right now.

He’s not going home. Even if Xue Meng is asleep now, when he wakes up in the morning he’s going to take one look at Mo Ran’s busted lip and the black-blue bruises like ink stains on his skin and know that he’s been fighting again, and Mo Ran will never hear the end of it. There’s only so much that he can pass off as “I ran into a pole, stop laughing, Xue Meng,” after all.

Shi Mei is out of the question, too. He probably wouldn’t call Xue Meng if Mo Ran asked him not to, but if the guilt from having possibly interrupted Shi Mei’s sleep the night before an exam doesn’t kill Mo Ran, then the soft worry in his eyes the moment he sees Mo Ran’s sorry state certainly will.

And fuck if he’s ever going to see Rong Jiu again after tonight. He can rot in hell, for all Mo Ran cares. No amount of homoerotic first aid is going to make Mo Ran come within fifty meters of Rong Jiu after the stunt that he pulled.

Mo Ran leans against the lamppost. The metal feels good on his swollen cheek. He closes his eyes and breathes, warmth dancing over the crest of his lips before dissipating into the night air. If worse comes to worst, he supposes it wouldn’t be so bad to just spend the night there. If he freezes to death, at least it would stop hurting.

“Hey,” somebody says. With great effort, Mo Ran looks up.

He might really be freezing to death. Standing over him is a stranger dressed from head to toe all in white. From this angle, a ring of lamplight glows behind him, a halo. This, in combination with his swollen eye, makes it difficult for Mo Ran to see the man’s face, but from the fuzzy blur he draws kind eyes and a high, regal nose. It makes Mo Ran’s chest stir; in the good way, not the obnoxious, grotesque way it’s been lurching for the past hour.

The stranger speaks again. “You can’t sleep there.”

He has a nice voice, too, Mo Ran thinks. Like ocean waves, deep and rolling. He thinks he could very easily drift off despite his aching everything if he gets to listen to this beautiful (so Mo Ran has decided) stranger talk him all the way there.

Mo Ran must be staring, because the stranger nudges him with the still-wet umbrella in his hand. “Hey,” he says again.

“Hey,” Mo Ran finally manages back, his tongue thick and useless in his mouth.

“Don’t sleep there.”

“Don’t worry, angel,” Mo Ran says, because injured or not, he has no self-control in front of a pretty face, “I won’t be much trouble. Just take me with you on your way back to heaven.” He tries to smile, hoping he’s still just as disarmingly charming with a puffy face and blood-stained teeth.

He isn’t. “Go to a hospital.”

“What, no bite? Not even a nibble?”

“Did you hear me?”

It’s useless. Mo Ran sighs and closes his eyes again. “I’m not going. I’m too tired to walk, and it’s far.”

“Take a taxi.”

“You see any taxis driving back here?”

“Then go home.”

“Can’t do that either, da-ge.”

It’s silent for a while. Mo Ran thinks the man has left him, when he suddenly hears a clicking noise and the man’s voice, inexplicably softer this time, saying, “Hey.”

Holding back a pleased smile, Mo Ran cracks an eye open. “Hey yourself—ow, what the fuck?”

The man is crouching down next to Mo Ran, a keychain flashlight in his hand. “Look at me.”

“Gladly,” Mo Ran mumbles, as the stranger studies him under the flashlight. This close, he can see the gentle curve of the man’s cupid’s bow, and his cheeks tinted pink in the cold. The flashlight is too bright for him to make out much else, but it’s enough for Mo Ran to confirm that maybe flirting through the pain would be worth it, actually.

The stranger clicks the flashlight off. “Follow this with your eyes.” He moves the keychain back and forth in front of him, and Mo Ran follows the shape of the little dog. When Mo Ran confirms he doesn’t feel dizzy, the man moves the keychain up and down and asks again.

With a thoughtful hum, the man tucks the keychain back into his coat pocket. “Did you lose consciousness at all?”


“Can you say your name and the date?”

“Mo Ran, February sixth—uh, actually, seventh. It’s past midnight by now.”

The stranger nods. “You have a mild concussion. Get up. I’ll hail you a cab from the main street. You should go to a hospital.”

“No hospital,” Mo Ran protests. “Not for this. And I told you I’m too tired to walk anyways.”

“You can’t stay here all night,” the stranger frowns.

Mo Ran smiles coyly at him. “Then I guess you’ll just have to carry me, da-ge.”

What he expects when he says that is one of two things: for the stranger to get fed up with his nonsense and leave him alone, which would be a shame but not unwarranted, or for him to blush and maybe flirt back enough for them to exchange numbers, and Mo Ran would figure out where to go from there.

He does get a blush, but he also gets the stranger presenting his back to him and saying, “Hurry up, then.”


The stranger looks back impatiently. “I’m carrying you. Either get on or I’ll pick you up myself.”

“Oh.” Mo Ran blinks, dumbfounded. “Okay.” He wraps his arms around the man’s shoulders and places his legs on either side of him.

They don’t move for a while. Mo Ran follows the man’s line of sight to the bloody tape still on his hands.

“I’m alright,” he says. “You should see the other guys.”

The man says nothing in response.

Despite Mo Ran’s height and considerable muscle mass, the stranger lifts him up with surprising ease, hooking his arms under Mo Ran’s thighs and moving forward with little more than a quiet huff of effort. He walks rather slowly, but that’s to be expected, considering he’s carrying Mo Ran’s sizable person on his back. Mo Ran clings a little tighter to the man, but avoids resting his chin on his shoulder lest he bleeds on the man’s white coat.

“Da-ge, you’re very strong,” Mo Ran tests, after a couple minutes.


“You work out? Girls must love you, huh.”

This one takes the man longer to answer. “I exercise as much as any other person.”

“I don’t think ‘any other person’ can carry upwards of seventy kilos of man as easily as you can.” Mo Ran notices it, but he lets it slide. “Do you think you could beat me in a fight?”

“Stop talking.”

“If I stop talking I might fall asleep. I can’t promise your clothes won’t be bloody if I’m not awake to stop it.”

“Sleep, then. Never mind the clothes.”

“I can sleep after a concussion?”

The man shifts to get a better grip on Mo Ran’s thighs. The umbrella hanging off the man’s wrist taps the back of Mo Ran’s shin with every step.

“Yes, since it’s only mild. I’ll be waking you up when I can find a taxi anyways.”

Mo Ran hums, amused. “Da-ge is so kind, letting me sleep on his back.”

“Sleep,” the man insists.

He laughs again, his chest untangling until he feels almost weightless. He sinks into the man’s shoulder, resisting the temptation to bury himself in the warm, sweet-smelling crook of his neck. He breathes in deep and mumbles, “Goodnight, da-ge.”

As he’s drifting off, he hears a quiet “Goodnight,” back.

When Mo Ran wakes up again, he’s certain he’s in heaven. The room that he’s in is blindingly white: the lights, the walls, the bench beneath him. The sheet covering him is thin, but pleasantly warm. Once his eyes adjust and refocus, he realizes that it is not a sheet, but a faintly familiar white coat, a small red-brown stain on its shoulder.

He pulls himself into a sitting position, very slowly through his protesting muscles, and carefully peels back the coat and sheet. He blinks blearily down at himself, bare from the waist up, the worst of his injuries wrapped up in white gauze, the lesser ones plastered over with band-aids. His bruises still ache, but the pain isn’t nearly as bad as he’d thought it would be.

Just as he’s turning his bandaged wrist over, the door to the room opens. Mo Ran looks up.

He was right. This is heaven.

The man before him is nothing short of beautiful, now that Mo Ran is finally seeing him in better lighting. His long hair is swept over one shoulder in a soft-looking braid, looser around his face to frame its elegant shape. He looks to be no more than only a couple years Mo Ran’s senior, his features sharp and youthful, with warm brown eyes that flicker gold in the light, like a crackling hearth. It almost feels like a disservice to call him an angel—he’s a descended god, grace given human form, something something, his dick is hard, whatever.

Mo Ran vaguely remembers being told he had a concussion.

“Oh,” the man says, and holy shit, his voice is even more addictive when Mo Ran isn’t half out of his mind with pain, “you’re awake.”

“Uh,” Mo Ran replies. Suddenly he wishes he had laid on the flirting a little thicker last night.

The man sets down the bowl in his hands on a desk in the room, grabbing a metal water bottle instead. He holds it out to Mo Ran. “Here. Drink.”

Mo Ran gratefully accepts. He doesn’t know just how parched he is until the water hits his tongue, and before he realizes it, he’s downed the whole thing. The man watches him swallow the last of it before taking the bottle from him.

He wipes away a few drops that cling to his chin, careful not to wet the bandages around his hand and wrist. “How long was I asleep? Where is this?”

“Only for a couple of hours,” the man says, refilling the bottle from a dispenser in the corner, “and this is a clinic, since you insisted on not being taken to a hospital.”

Mo Ran takes the bottle again and peers over its rim before asking, “What clinic is open this late?”

“Mine,” the man answers smoothly. He even tilts his head, as if it’s the most obvious answer in the world.

If he wasn’t so thirsty, and didn’t want so badly to look cool in front of this gorgeous man, Mo Ran would spit out his water right then and there. So not only is the man the most beautiful creature to walk the earth and a living saint, having picked up a complete stranger off the street, but he’s smart, too? Is he even real?

The man’s brow furrows. “Are you feeling dizzy after all?”

Mo Ran blinks at him. “Did I say that out loud?”

The man nods.

Well. There goes looking cool.

“I’m not dizzy,” Mo Ran reassures, sipping the water at a controlled pace, lest he chokes on it and makes a bigger fool of himself. “In fact, I feel—well, not great. But much better already. Thank you, by the way…um…”

“Chu Wanning,” the man says.

Mo Ran smiles. “Chu-yisheng. Thank you for,” he gestures down at himself, “this.”

Chu Wanning glances at Mo Ran’s body only once before quickly looking away. “It’s nothing,” he says, curt. The tip of his ear turns red. A smug satisfaction hums low in Mo Ran’s chest. 

“You’ve bled through the bandages on your shoulder,” Chu Wanning says, turning fully away from him to rifle through a drawer at the desk across the room.

Mo Ran looks to his side. Oh. So he has.

“Sorry,” he says. “I’ll pay for your coat.”

“No need.” Chu Wanning fishes out a fresh roll of gauze. “Just keep it. I’ll give you this, too. Rebandage yourself once you get home.”

He reaches behind him with the gauze in hand. When he realizes that Mo Ran still hasn’t taken the roll, he chances a glance back.

Mo Ran looks at his injured wrist. Looks back at Chu Wanning.

Chu Wanning huffs quietly, finally turning around, though he keeps his eyes trained on the ground. “It’s sprained. Avoid using it for a couple days. Get somebody to help you redo your bandages.”

Mo Ran grimaces. He can practically already hear the fit Xue Meng will throw if he asks him to help him with his bandages. One hour for every wound, and then a couple more just to call Mo Ran stupid in as many ways as he can come up with. “Hmm. I don’t think that’s happening.”

There’s a pause. “Is there,” Chu Wanning purses his lips for just a second, “is there no one who can help?”

“No, my cousin is at home. It’s not like he can’t,” Mo Ran replies. His shoulders slump with a heavy sigh. “But he’d be really upset with me. Yell at me, probably. All while doing a bad job of it.”

The last time Xue Meng bandaged Mo Ran’s injuries was when they were still in high school. He remembers with startling clarity the image of Xue Meng clumsily tangling his own hands in the roll of gauze. Xue Meng had thrown it at him in frustration before he had managed to wrap Mo Ran’s hand.

“Perhaps a friend.”

Mo Ran hums, considering. “Shi Mei then, I guess.”

Chu Wanning’s expression changes, just minutely enough that Mo Ran can’t tell what’s different, though he recognizes that something is. “Your girlfriend?”

“God, no,” Mo Ran laughs. “It’s just a nickname for a friend. His name is Shi Mingjing.”

The mention makes him look up. “Shi Mingjing?”

He would be lying if he said that he didn’t feel the slightest bit jealous that it’s Shi Mei’s name that finally makes Chu Wanning raise his head. When Mo Ran is shirtless, right in front of him! He should be offended! “You know him, yisheng?”

“He’s my intern,” Chu Wanning says.

Suddenly he feels embarrassingly like a whiny child. “Oh!” he says with just a bit too much enthusiasm, “then I’m sure he’ll do just fine, if he learned from you.”

“You don’t need to be a medical student to know how to wrap someone’s bandages.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised,” Mo Ran says, once again recalling how the roll had somehow looped around Xue Meng’s skinny leg. “I’ll call Shi Mei in the morning.”

Chu Wanning frowns. “They should be changed before you go to sleep.”

“Well, I’m not going to wake him up at ass o’clock just to have him work for free,” he shrugs, a spike of pain jolting through him. He hisses loudly, uninjured hand flying to his wrapped shoulder. He makes a show of looking meaningfully at Chu Wanning until he stares back, unimpressed.

“And you intend to make me do so, instead?”

Mo Ran can’t help the lopsided quirk of his lips. “You already gave me the coat.”

With a sigh, Chu Wanning opens the drawer again and takes out a washcloth and a small plastic tube. He sets the tube and the roll of gauze on the cart next to the medical bench, and says “Wait here,” before leaving with the cloth in hand.

It’s not long before he returns with the now-wet washcloth. Chu Wanning pulls the rolling chair from the desk and sits down, pushing up the sleeves of his white sweater and reaching for Mo Ran’s shoulder. “Raise your arm.”

Mo Ran is all too happy to comply, carefully lifting his arm so that Chu Wanning can unwind the gauze. It’s quick and efficient work, but Chu Wanning is incredibly gentle, even when he gets down to the last layer of gauze, soaked through and sticky with half-dried blood, stubbornly clinging to Mo Ran’s skin.

The cold air of the clinic is especially sharp on his newly freed shoulder, but he barely registers it before the warm washcloth touches his skin. He sighs, content, as Chu Wanning wipes away the blood.

“You’re good at that,” Mo Ran says.

Chu Wanning replies dryly, “I would hope so.”

“I’m just saying, you’re much better than anyone else who’s bandaged me, and that’s a lot. How have you already hired an intern, by the way? You’re practically green yourself.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Look at you. What are you, twenty-seven? Twenty-eight? And yet you’re running your own clinic already. You’re mentoring a man only two years younger than you at most.”

Chu Wanning raises an eyebrow at him. “Is that how old you think I am?”

“How old are you?”

“That’s an awfully rude question to ask someone you just met.” Chu Wanning cleans off the last of the blood with one final sweep of the washcloth. “I’m thirty-five.”

“Thirty—” Mo Ran whips around. A bruise at his waist complains loudly, and he winces, but not before staring at Chu Wanning in disbelief. “Are you serious?” Then, when he nods in confirmation, “Holy shit. What’s rude is that your skin looks leagues above mine when you’re a full ten years older than me. How is that fair? Thirty-five. Oh my god.”

“Stop moving,” Chu Wanning chides. He unscrews the cap of the tube and peels back the foil, an herbal scent wafting from it. “I’m putting ointment on you. This might sting. Tell me if it’s too much.”

Mo Ran nods. Chu Wanning touches his fingers to his shoulder with the utmost care. It does sting, just a little bit, but the pain is no worse than any of the injuries Mo Ran already has, and Chu Wanning’s hands are soft and warm, delicate despite the strength Mo Ran knows he hides under his baggy sweater. He tries his best to keep his shoulder relaxed as he applies the ointment.

“You’re too young to be getting this injured every day.”

“I would argue that when you’re young is the best time to get injured, actually. And it’s not every day.”

Chu Wanning doesn’t answer, only shoots a glance down at Mo Ran’s forearms, littered with bruises fading at various stages.

“Alright, point taken. But it’s not every day,” Mo Ran concedes. Chu Wanning’s fingers slow almost imperceptibly. The silence between them sours, the weight of it pushing on Mo Ran’s chest until the words spill helplessly from his mouth.

“I’m not in any trouble,” he says, “I promise. It’s just work. I box. It’s all in the contract, bloody noses, bruised knuckles, you name it. But the pay’s good. It’s worth it, in my opinion.”

There’s a particularly raw spot on the wound on his shoulder that Chu Wanning’s fingers have been circling around. When he speaks, he inches closer to it, making Mo Ran’s skin prickle with pain. “I don’t recall there being a gym in the area.”

Mo Ran is used to lying about work to Xue Meng and Shi Mei, who have both accepted his cover story about his night job being a personal trainer without much complaint. So it’s strange, really, that the first time he’s felt this pang of guilt in his stomach in a long time is not in front of either of them, but this almost-stranger.

“There’s no contract either, really,” Mo Ran confesses. “It’s all underground. I know it’s dangerous, but again, the pay is good. I have another job, but it’s not enough. I need to cover my half of the rent somehow.”

Chu Wanning says nothing. The drying ointment on Mo Ran’s shoulder makes the room feel even colder.

“I’m not smart enough for a fancy degree anyway. Fighting is one of the only things I know how to do.” He shrugs with his other, uninjured shoulder. “At least I do it well.”

“This is well?”

Mo Ran scoffs. “This is the fault of my shitty ex. You really think you know a guy, but one moment he’s licking your wounds, and the next he’s leading you dick-first to a fake match and laughing while his sugar daddy and his lackeys are coming at you all at once.”

He says it all in one breath, and by the end, he’s shaking a little. Then there’s a warmth at his hand, and he looks down to see Chu Wanning gently prying Mo Ran’s fingers away from where they’re digging into his own thigh. 

The ointment is dry. Chu Wanning takes the roll of gauze in his hand and unwinds it. In a voice as soft as his hands, he commands, “Up.”

Mo Ran follows without a word. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Chu Wanning passing the roll of gauze from hand to hand as he dresses his wound.

“Why are you telling me this?” Chu Wanning asks, after Mo Ran’s shoulder is snugly rewrapped and he’s taping the end of the gauze in place.

“I don’t know,” he answers. “I want to.”

It’s the truth. There’s something about Chu Wanning that makes Mo Ran want to be an honest man, at least in his eyes. Maybe he’s under some kind of reverse-Nightingale effect. It certainly doesn’t help that Chu Wanning looks like that, either.

He smiles over his shoulder, catching Chu Wanning’s eye. “I’m a little stupid, you see. I put too much trust in handsome strangers who pick me up off the street.”

Chu Wanning scowls back. “Stop spouting nonsense,” he says, taping the end of the gauze in place. “Can you move alright?”

Mo Ran rolls his shoulder slowly, avoiding aggravating the newly-bandaged wound. “It’s perfect. Thank you, yisheng. I’ll be sure to pay you back somehow.”

“It’s only basic first aid. There’s no need to pay for anything,” Chu Wanning says. He exchanges the roll of gauze for the bowl he had set on the desk when he first came in, and hands it to Mo Ran. “Eat this.”

It’s a bowl of vegetable stew. It looks innocent enough, but when Mo Ran raises the spoon to his lips, he finds himself with a mouthful of a confusing mix of textures, held together only by its inoffensive—which is a very nice way of saying painfully bland—flavor. The broccoli is still raw in the middle, and yet the mushrooms and carrots are gummy and overcooked. He bites into a piece of tofu and finds that only one side was fried. It doesn’t help that the stew has gone cold while his shoulder was being redressed, either.

“Perhaps I should have reheated it after all,” Chu Wanning mutters, watching Mo Ran’s face contort as he struggles to swallow the stew.

Mo Ran shakes his head, sticking his tongue out in disgust. “I don’t think reheating it will save it, yisheng. Where did you get this? You shouldn’t order from there again, their cook doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing.”

Chu Wanning’s brow sets in a firm line. “I made it.”

He freezes. “Oh.” Nice going, Mo Ran.

Chu Wanning reaches over to take back the bowl. He moves so quickly that some of the broth splashes out of the bowl and lands unceremoniously on the white coat still over Mo Ran’s lap. “If you’re not going to eat it, then give it here.”

He spoons some of the stew into his own mouth, as if in defiance. It’s a valiant effort, but Mo Ran watches the corners of Chu Wanning’s mouth stiffen. He tries to suppress the chuckle that bubbles up out of his chest at the sight, but it still escapes him in a snort.

Chu Wanning glares at him. “What.”

“Nothing,” Mo Ran says, raising his hands as if to signal peace. “I just thought of a way I can repay you for the bandages.” When Chu Wanning looks at him curiously, he continues, “I’m a baker at my day job. I don’t know how you feel about cake, but if that’s not up your alley then I can cook you up a meal and swing by with it.”

As it so happens, Chu Wanning’s eyes glint when he mentions cake. Mo Ran makes a mental note to include some sweets in the meal he decides to bring over in the future.

“That,” Chu Wanning starts, before hastily looking away from Mo Ran, as if remembering himself. “Do whatever you want.”

Despite himself, Mo Ran’s smile grows wider, watching Chu Wanning’s cheeks turn pink. “It’s a date, then.”

If it’s possible, Chu Wanning flusters even more, crossing his arms in a failed attempt to hide the way his hands fidget in what Mo Ran hopes is excitement. Mo Ran’s heart softens watching him, tracing the outline of his body with his eyes. It’s clear that he likes sweets, but Mo Ran wonders just how much sugar he can get away with feeding him. Maybe he’ll bring him a cupcake, specially decorated to express his thanks, and maybe ask him out on a more proper date. Or is he more inclined towards traditional sweets? If Mo Ran brings a few osmanthus cakes, maybe he could get away with hand-feeding Chu Wanning one or two of them, those pretty pink lips opened wide to accept the treat. And they are working on a new recipe for them… 

Mo Ran blinks. The new recipe for the osmanthus cakes, that they were supposed to test out today.

He swears suddenly, eyes darting to find a clock. The one on the wall reads half past four in the morning. “Oh, shit!”

Chu Wanning startles. “What’s wrong? Are you in pain?”

“No, no,” Mo Ran says, scrambling off the medical bench. “I’m gonna be late for work. Fuck, Mengmeng’s going to fucking curse me out—where did you say you put my shirt?”

“Um,” Chu Wanning blinks. “It’s in the break room down the hall. It should be dry by now, I’ll go get it.”

Mo Ran nods and mutters, “Thank you,” as he fishes in his pants pocket for his phone. The screen blinks to life. Xue Meng has tried to call him twelve times. Another one comes in just as Chu Wanning reappears in the doorway, and Mo Ran makes the mistake of answering.

“Xue Meng, I can explain—”

“Fuck is wrong with you, dumb dog, you can’t even text me and say you won’t be home, do you have any clue how long I’ve been trying to call your sorry ass—”

Xue Meng’s voice is so loud that Chu Wanning nearly drops Mo Ran’s shirt. He catches it with his better arm just before it hits the ground and mouths thank you at Chu Wanning.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m on my way, save it for later. If you yell too much this early your face will stick that way.”

“—motherfucker, that doesn’t even make sense—”

Mo Ran hangs up, and Xue Meng’s voice disappears as quickly as it came. Mo Ran tugs his shirt on over his head, an impressive feat considering the state of his shoulder and wrist. He snatches the white coat off the medical bench and hangs it over his shoulders, the sleeves just a bit too narrow to be worn properly.

Once he’s reasonably dressed, he turns back to Chu Wanning, who’s staring at him, at a loss for words. “Can I borrow a pen?”

“On the desk,” Chu Wanning replies.

Mo Ran plucks a pen from the cup on the desk. He reaches for a pad of sticky notes and scribbles down his name and number, tearing the top note off and pressing it into Chu Wanning’s hands. “Here you go. Call me when you want that meal, okay, yisheng?”

He waits for Chu Wanning’s absent nod before flashing him what he hopes is one of his more brilliant smiles and rushing past him, out the door of the clinic, into the fresh morning air of the street.

He doesn’t make it very far before his phone rings again, and he picks it up as he’s jogging away. “Hello?”

There’s a pause on the other end of the line, until a honey-sweet voice murmurs, “Come by again if you need your bandages changed.”

Mo Ran grins. “Will do, Chu-yisheng.”

The sky is only just starting to turn blue, and the road is still wet with rain. His breath comes out in white puffs, the air so sharp it almost cuts his cheek, but with the white coat over his shoulders, Mo Ran is warm, warm, warm.