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So Manly

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                “Chu-ge?” Guo Changcheng asked as he and Chu Shuzhi walked to their next case.

                “Hn?” Chu grunted in response. He was only half paying attention to his partner, as he was spending a lot of mentally energy trying to convince himself that he did not remember his recent experience of being subject to a contagious form of dissociative identity disorder. Chu was a very disciplined man, and he told himself that if he was firm enough with his mind, he wouldn’t remember how he’d behaved.

                “Do you really think I’m manly?” Changcheng asked shyly.

                “No,” Chu said immediately. “I wasn’t in my right mind when I said that.” Well, there went pretending it didn’t happen.

                He noted the puddle up ahead of them. He was not expecting Changcheng to suddenly move toward him.

                Reflex kicked in, but Changcheng deftly stepped around the electric string Chu sent out. Chu swung his wrist around for another attack, but Changcheng caught it and used Chu’s momentum to pull Chu at an angle. Changcheng slipped his other arm under Chu’s legs and pulled him up into what could only be called a bridal carry.

                “What are you doing?” Chu demanded, but part of his mind was reeling. Yes, he had been training Changcheng hard, but he hadn’t expected Changcheng to be able to get the drop on him like that.

                Changcheng said firmly (but with a wobble in his voice), “I’m showing you how manly I can be.”

                Then he used his long legs to step right over the puddle. Once on the other side, he set Chu down gently.

                “What was that all about?”

                Changcheng looked bashfully to the side. “This way, you didn’t get your feet wet in the puddle.”

                “Quit clowning around,” Chu admonished him. “We have a case to get to.”

                He turned and continued down on the road, but he knew he hadn’t turned fast enough. His face felt hot, and he knew even Changcheng would have registered his surprise at Changcheng’s proficiency.

                With no point in denying it – and because credit should be given where credit was due – he grunted, “Nice moves.”

                He heard the patter of Changcheng’s feet behind him, just as he heard Changcheng whisper to himself, “Chu-ge thinks I’m manly.”