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the pain only lasts a short while (when i'm kissing you)

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"xiao, pass the remote."

"fight me for it, bitch."

"gladly."

xiao and hu tao have the perfect friendship! if you exclude the bickering, competitiveness, arguing (all the factors concerning how aggressively they interacted with each other, you'll find yourself two friends with a close bond like no other.

so that's how they found themselves in another argument revolving around the remote and who had tv privileges. xiao had invited hu tao over so she could spend time with him and venti while her girlfriend, yanfei, was away with her grandmother for the day. normally they don't hang out as often as they should, so hu tao graciously accepted the offer and now finds herself in a delightful quarrel with one of her best friends.

honestly, the most iconic way to spend a saturday.

"i vote we watch grey's anatomy," hu tao suggests. "it's honestly the best show in existence, and none of you can prove me otherwise."

"i'll do you one better, i've never even watched grey's anatomy to know that it's probably a shit show," xiao rebuttals.

hu tao gasps, loud. "you're crazy. you're actually insane." she crosses her arms over her black blazer, utterly shocked and playfully disappointed by xiao's statement. she decided to dress formal today, with her long, brown hair tied back in a tight ponytail and her black flats currently seated in the hallway as her feet now adorned white nike slippers (xiao's, but no one's really paying attention).

"i'm not, i just know what's quality television." xiao leans back with a spiteful grin, feeling loosed and pleased in his gray sweatshirt, black joggers, and white disney socks him and venti got a year ago during their summer trip. as for his hair, it's disheveled and untidy, but he doesn't have the will to fix it up. for now, blueish black strands of hair stuck up in various angles. "for instance, the office is on channel 54. and you know i'm not missing the rerun episodes for shit."

"venti!" hu tao calls. "can you tell your boyfriend him and his tv shows suck ass?"

xiao turns towards the open island in the kitchen, seeing venti chop at some cherry tomatoes to prepare the salsa for their movie night (or day?). he's all focused in his yellow jumper, white jogger's shorts, and bunny slippers with a matching hat (xiao knows, since venti had insisted on wearing them this morning, all sleep deprived and face puffy 'n pouty about it).

"toto, can you tell your bestie we're not watching white americans fuck for episodes on end?" xiao smirks in teasing spite.

venti glances up at the two of them bickering on the couch in the living room, throwing around profanities and evidence as to why their favorite shows are superior. venti doesn't immerse himself too much in their friendship- he would rather let them bond together in their own personal way. he knows they love each other too damn much to be genuinely offended.

"i'm going to put on my little pony if you two don't stop acting up!" venti threatens mischievously.

both hu tao and xiao groan. "please don't!" they say.

"then please," venti says dramatically, "let me cook in peace!" the boy shuffles over to the island window and takes the blinds on each side, pulling them to completely cover their view of him. his voice is a bit muffled when he shouts, "i'll be ready with the salsa soon, please pick something to watch in the meantime!"

xiao and hu tao look at each other, both pouting. but as their staring match increases, xiao cracks. he deposits the remote to hu tao on the other side of the couch with a light toss, sighing. "i suppose since you're our guest, you can pick whatever you want," he relents.

"aha! suck my dick, xiao," hu tao bites back, immediately switching from cable to netflix to search for grey's anatomy. she scrolls to season 5, episode 2, and clicks to watch.

a few minutes pass by as xiao bores himself into actually paying attention to the episode. he doesn't understand how someone could easily be invested in a repetitive show about doctors, but perhaps there are elements in there which bond the viewer to the characters so greatly, it's worth the obsession.

xiao catches a glimpse at hu tao again, and tilts his head. something's off.

"hey, did you take your piercings out?" he questions.

hu tao nods, her eyes unmoving from the screen. invested, she is. "you couldn't tell before?"

"nah, i guess not. now that i realize, though, you look really different." hu tao, like xiao, has many piercings. two on her nose, two on her right eyebrow, and one especially in the middle of her tongue. it's likewise for xiao, except he also has some on his bottom lip, both ears, and another set around the bridge of his nose. they had both went to their nearest tattoo and piercings shop once they reached legal age and got them done together, as a duo, with their partners trailing along after them. now, with them having completed college, they still don't regret the best night of their lives.

"yeah, i suppose i do, right?" she laughs.

"why'd you take 'em out?" he asks, sitting up from his lazy position now.

hu tao finally looked away from the tv and at xiao, whining, "yanyan said my piercings hurt her whenever we kiss.. so i had to take them all out. i'll put them back in soon but, for now, i'm looking normal again."

huh.

xiao's never.. considered that.

all the times he's spent kissing venti and giving him pecks.. was he, too, bothered by the metal getting in the way of their physical contact? did he mind it? does he still feel put off by it just like yanfei?

xiao's head is swarming with possibilities of accidentally harming venti, of making him feel uncomfortable during their intimate moments with his own messed up and mutilated face. he contemplates those negative thoughts suddenly creeping up on him; the concept of his partner feeling irritated because of piercings, an idea that his best friend introduced, is aggravating.. but something dangerous, and needed, to accept.

or perhaps is he making a big deal out of nothing?

"whelp! i'm 'gonna go use the bathroom real quick." hu tao stands up and stretches out her arms, back to her grinning self. "don't pause the show, and don't miss me too much, bestie." and she practically skips to the hallway.

xiao doesn't say anything, just lets her go. he leans back into the couch and just thinks, thinks, thinks, and his thinking is louder than the tv displaying scenes of a current extreme surgery in the hospital.

luckily, who he needs most arrives.

"baby!" venti cheers as he enters the room after a couple of minutes, a bowl of guacamole and tortilla chips cradled in his hands. he immediately sets them down onto the coffee table (carefully even despite his sudden excitement) and jumps into xiao's lap, finally seated in his safe place.

xiao's arms curl around his boyfriend to prevent him from falling, a closed smile forming on his lips. he tries to submerge the thoughts of venti potentially disliking his piercings with a simple conversation. "hey, honey. thanks for getting the chips and making the salsa."

"you're welcome, baby! the salsa's almost done, but i set out the guacamole here just in case," venti says. he looks around. "hey, where's hu tao?"

"oh, she went to the bathroom."

"and you didn't try to battle her way there?" venti teases.

xiao chuckles. "no, no, i promise i didn't."

"you sure? thought i heard a war out there, there were swords clashing 'n everything."

"shut up," xiao says with a smile.

and venti giggles, enamored by the man under him. and so a strange sense of quietness appears around them, and this time, it's not as comfortable as it should be. venti notices this and cups xiao's face in his palms.

"hey," he whispers, "you okay?"

now his eyes light up in concern, and xiao feels guilty for worrying venti. still, he can't help but to blurt out:

"toto.. does it hurt when we kiss?"

"huh? what are you talking about?" venti is frowning now, smoothing down xiao's sweater sleeves as a means to comfort him. his mouth is parted a bit.

xiao buries his head in venti's shoulder, embarrassed. "my piercings.. don't 'wanna hurt you," he mumbles, quiet. is it silly? silly to think that such a minor thing could possibly have a negative impact on their relationship? and even if it's the most nonsensical worry in the world, it's valid. xiao's emotions are driven by small insecurities embedded into his everyday thinking; just about anything could tip him over into doubt and guilt.

"ah..?" it finally clicks in venti's brain, and all he does it let out a laugh at how adorably concerned his boyfriend is. he was seriously worried about his tongue and face piercings hurting venti, when he can barely focus on anything else but tasting xiao? however, it's smart to be truthful, too. "only sometimes!"

xiao grumbles with his nose pressing into venti's jumper, turning a bit red. "'m sorry.. i'll take them out, promise."

venti giggles again and tugs xiao closer to him, embracing him in a tighter hug as he sits in his lap. the younger is warm, and extremely cuddly as his arms wrap around him in a firmer grip, too. the noise from the television show is faint now, only their soft breaths to be heard as they lavished the comfortable silence.

"there's nothing wrong with your piercings. what's gotten into you?" venti asks, lighthearted. he pulls back to smile prettily to xiao, suddenly feeling so happy even if he's confused. "i'd kiss you regardless.. stupid." he mutters the last part in a playful tone and leans forward to hug xiao close again. his boyfriend is pretty stupid sometimes, often doubting himself and his actions around venti as a way to convey that he cherishes him, and wants to be the best version of himself for him. whether that's staying out of physical fights (or as much as he tried to) during their high school years or taking out his piercings to prevent some type of affliction, it's what xiao thinks venti deserves.

only the best for the one man in his life he adores.

"mm, you're stupid," xiao retaliates, but soft and muffled. there's no bite to his small jab.

"and you're my xiao. mine." venti pulls back again, for the final time, and plants an insane amount of adorable pecks on xiao's closed lips. his hands bunch up into his sleeves. "my wonderful boyfriend. i love you and your piercings, okay? don't doubt what i like most about you. and honestly, i think they're pretty hot."

xiao scoffs. "you kinky motherfucker."

"your one and only! now 'gimme a kiss, stupid." venti smirks and brings a hand up to trace the edge of xiao's jaw, to which xiao replies with an abrupt jerk upwards to capture venti's lips in a harsh, surprising kiss.

yeah, venti thinks as he feels the tongue piercing graze his bottom lip. this does feel a bit rough. but it's how xiao chooses to express himself. the clothes he wears, how he presents himself to others, how he chooses to decorate his body.. it's beautiful. and who is venti to try and dictate what he wears based off mild discomfort?

besides, like he said, xiao's piercings are hot.

"you guys were breeding while i was gone?! gross!" hu tao complains once she exits the bathroom. "get a room, shitheads!"