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Aftershocks

Chapter Text

He sat up in his bed and rubbed his eyes. The night had been awfully long, dragging on forever. Even though he couldn't see his face, he knew his eyes were swollen and red. It hurt to keep them open. But he had to. Had to get up and face the day. Face Zhan Zheng Xi.

Move, he told himself. Get out of the bedYou're better not coming late to school. But his body was stiff and unwilling. Unlike his mind that kept reminding him of that doom-laden kiss he had given his best friend only yesterday. He had been reminiscing about it the whole night, regretting his weakness in the spur of the moment. Regretting having jeopardized their relationship despite the fact that his twisted mind couldn't help but replay the scenario all over again. He had kissed Zhan Zheng Xi, felt his lips on his own. A memory he would never erase. Ever. The mere thought of it made his heart skip a beat but once he gave in to his happiness, the fear of the consequences descended upon him.

Jian Yi's mobile phone rang, flashing the screen up but he ignored it. He didn't even want to look at it although he had a hunch about who the caller was. On any other day he wouldn't have thought twice about it and launched himself onto his phone like a maniac, showing the brightest grin he was capable of. He would never have missed the chance to talk to his childhood friend. But today he wasn't ready. Neither for the dawning day that called for him behind the louvered blinds, nor for Zhan Zheng Xi who agreed to never speak about the fatal incident again.
See you tomorrow at school, he had said in his usual manner, waving him goodbye. Bye, had been Jian Yi's response. And now, with the rainy night gone and the daylight greeting him, he wasn't ready to abide by his own request to move on. He didn't want to forget. Not yet.

Jian Yi lay back into his bed, grabbed his blanket and pulled it over his head. His phone kept ringing as the sun rose gradually and since he started to feel bad about it, he decided to go to school eventually, even though he would be late for class. At least in school there would be other people to prevent him from drowning in his thoughts.

Jian Yi took a refreshing shower, dressed up and tossed his backpack over his shoulder. He wouldn't have time to eat properly and to be honest, he wasn't sure whether he would keep anything inside of his stomach if he tried. Perhaps he would buy something along the way.
He slipped into his shoes, took his keys and opened the front door when it came flying back at him, clashing with his head. His heart leapt into his throat even though he was squirming with pain but Zhan Zheng Xi's angry voice instantly lifted the suffocating weight from his chest.

"What are you doing, not answering my calls, bastard?"

Chapter Text

"What are you doing kicking my front door in?" replied Jian Yi, rubbing his aching brow. "I might get another headache."

"Deal with it. If it weren't for your lazy ass, none of this would have happened in the first place. Now let's go, we're already late."

They set off by foot and when they left the train station about half an hour later, Jian Yi spoke for the first time since they left his apartment. "Why did you even come?"

One of the first things Zhan Zheng Xi noticed was Jian Yi giving his best to avoid making eye contact. Even his cheerful attitude felt somehow forced. "To make sure you would."

"I said I would, didn't I?"

"Yeah." Zhan Zheng Xi fell silent but not for long as Jian Yi began to run down the street, scaring a swarm of school girls in the process. "What now?"

"Xixi!"

"Don't call me that!" Embarrassment crawled up Zhan Zheng Xi's skin, as some of the girls looked at him and giggled. Fortunately he didn't know any of them.

"Let's make up for lost time! The person that arrives last at school buys lunch for the other one."

"I'm not gonna do that. We're late anyway. Hey! Don't just ignore me, wait!"
Jian Yi started running off and without thinking, he was at his heels, trying to catch up. Naturally Jian Yi, having a head start, won and didn't shut up about it the entire day.

When lunch break came he lingered restlessly in front of Zhan Zheng Xi's desk with a broad grin. "Now treat me. I haven't had breakfast today and I'm starving."

"I can't remember ever agreeing to your stupid challenge." Zhan Zheng Xi wasn't surprised at all when Jian Yi started pouting. He did that a lot. Acting like a little kid when he didn't get his way. But fortunately he never stayed like this for long.

"Come on, don't be like that."

Zhan Zheng Xi didn't bother answering, kept putting his exercise books into his bag and deliberately took his time to clean his desk. Almost all of the students had already left the classroom and when Jian Yi gave up the hope of ever being given food, Zhan Zheng Xi fetched a lunch box from his bag and put it on his desk.
"I told you I'm not buying," he said nonchalantly and handed his friend chopsticks. "Now take a seat and eat with me." Jian Yi brightened up on the spot. "Don't get the wrong idea. I just asked my mom to make a bigger portion since I knew you wouldn't eat."
Hell, even he hadn't been able to eat this morning after the tiring events of the previous night. All the more he hoped to keep the food down now.

But a look at Jian Yi's happy face churned his stomach.

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He lay down on his back looking at the clear blue sky. Lunch break wasn't over yet but since he felt pigged out after eating most of Zhan Zheng Xi's food - even eating had become a competition - he had been craving for fresh air and decided to come up onto the school roof. Zhan Zheng Xi, declining his offer to accompany him, stayed in the classroom to snooze and mainly to avoid the oppressive heat.

Normally Jian Yi wouldn't have accepted that kind of response and annoyed the living shit out of his friend. Normally he wouldn't even have left his side but today he didn't want to push the matter further so he came alone.

He closed his eyes and enjoyed the rare, not so cool breeze. This morning he hadn't been sure if and how he was going to get through the day. He had been scared of Zhan Zheng Xi and scared that their togetherness would be tense and awkward. But both of them handled the situation pretty well. It was almost as if nothing had ever happened.

Jian Yi decided that he could live with that. Had to. Because he knew his feelings were unrequited. Yes, he was Zhan Zheng Xi's closest friend and yes, they had a pretty strong bond but that was all there was to it. Zhan Zheng Xi didn't feel romantic love towards him. Not like Jian Yi did. That's why he desperately needed to find a way to cope with his feelings so that one day he would be satisfied with only being the best friend that was perfectly capable of not giving in to the overwhelming urges of his mind and body.

For a brief moment he fell asleep and when he woke up, thanks to a disgusting smell of cigarette smoke clogging his airways, the black-haired nuisance sat beside him, blatantly staring.
"What are you doing?" Jian Yi asked promptly since he had hoped to get some peace and quiet but alas, he could tell that was over now.

"I was watching you sleep," He Tian replied with a smug face. "You looked very peaceful. And kind of beautiful," he added, knowing full well that Jian Yi would hate it.

"Get lost already."

"Hey hey, why so hostile? I came to ask you a question but couldn't bring myself to wake you up. So I waited." He Tian took a deep draw on his cigarette. "How did it go yesterday? Have you been able to go wherever you wanted to go after I helped you skip classes?"

"Totally have," Jian Yi answered with a sour taste in his mouth, blocking out his memories.

"Good, because now you owe me one."

"You're really holding onto that, aren't you..."

"I missed my lessons too."

"I never asked you to cut school."

"But you asked me to help you. So I did. And now you owe me."

Jian Yi grunted. "Fine." If he had known it would turn out like this, he would never have asked for help in the first place. Especially not this guy. "What do you want?"

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At first he thought he had heard wrongly and a part of him wished he had but then He Tian repeated his words. "Go out with me."

Jian Yi's answer almost came immediately. „Are you an idiot?"

„Why?"

„In case you didn't notice, we're both men."

"So what?"

"I don't like men. And neither do you. You're always surrounded by those annoying, squeaking girls with their high-pitched voices. It's ridiculous. Almost as if they were hungry wolves and you an appetising piece of meat. By the way, where is your pack now? It's rare to see you all by yourself." Jian Yi took a good look around him but could only find some other boys sitting and relaxing on the rooftop.

"Appetising, huh?" He Tian grinned. Of course that was the only thing an overconfident person would hear. "I dismissed them. I must say, you take a great deal of interest in my pack."

Jian Yi rolled his eyes. "You wish."

"And here I thought you would be interested in men. How disappointing." He Tian flipped his cigarette from the roof after putting it out.

That bastard, Jian Yi thought. Leading the conversation right back to the beginning. "What the hell?" he responded angrily. "Why would you even say that? I am most certainly not interested in men!" His bowels convulsed. All the more because Zhan Zheng Xi asked the exact same question only yesterday, which touched, no, hit a throbbing, sore, uglily bleeding point. But it was true. He didn't like men. He only liked one. To admit that to himself had taken him forever and he wouldn't just reveal his feelings to anyone else unless the person he was confessing to was his best friend. "And stop messing with me," he added annoyed. "If you don't have anything to ask of me, I'll take my leave." Jian Yi sat up when He Tians hand landed on top of his head, rumpling up his hair.

"Alright, alright", he said way too unconcerned, "I just wanted to rag you."

The school bell rang and they both got up. Before parting ways in the hallway He Tian added: "Don't you worry, I'll definitely get back to you."

Jian Yi's response consisted of a grunt. He entered the classroom where his peers chatted vividly and sought out his seat that was right behind Zhan Zheng Xi's. When he sat down, Zhan Zheng Xi lifted his head from his desk and turned to face him. He seemed awfully tired. "What took you so long? You were almost late. Again."

„I was being held up."

„By whom?"

„Don't ask." Jian Yi leaned against the window in his back and observed the hustle and bustle of his fellow students. It felt like ages that he had been as carefree as them. He sighed.

"Jian Yi." He looked back to his friend. "Your head."

"What about it?"

"You've got a huge bump."

Jian Yi started laughing. "From the door this morning?"

"Go to the infirmary and put some ice on it."

"There's no need. I'm fine."

"Then let me make this up to you."

Other than these unbearable temperatures, a welcoming warmth heated up Jian Yi's body. "I won't argue, if you insist," he said, trying not to sound too excited.

"Then come over to my place. Let's play video games."

He froze and for the first time today chills ran down his spine. Only yesterday he had been at Zhan Zheng Xi's and the both of them knew very well what had happened at that time.
Uneasiness filled his limbs as the unpleasant and yet pleasant memory came back.
"As a matter of fact," Jian Yi said nervously, trying to look for an out, "we're even now. I've got a bump on my head and so did you. And compared to you my injury isn't even worth mentioning."

Zhan Zheng Xi knitted his brow. "It's not a contest."

"All I'm saying is that we're good. There's no need for you to apologise." If someone needed to atone for the injury that got Zhan Zheng Xi into the hospital and after that suspended from school, it was him. "Plus, I just remembered. I already have plans."

Zhan Zheng Xi frowned. "Bollocks. I know you don't."

And so Jian Yi blurted out the first words that crossed his mind and regretted them immediately. "He Tian just asked me out."

Chapter Text

Zhan Zheng Xi arched his eyebrows, opened his mouth to reply but eventually didn't voice his thoughts.

That's when Jian Yi stammered: "I mean going out like hanging around, you know. Not like going out with each other..."
Shit. He had utterly messed up and it was all because of that cursed conversation they both had had just yesterday that made him way too self-conscious. The one they had sworn never to bring up again. Yet he didn't want Zhan Zheng Xi to think he was gay. Because that was definitely not the case and far from being the truth. Damnit. This edginess was not a state of mind he could stay in forever.

After a short while Zhan Zheng Xi nodded. "I figured. I didn't know you were so close though. Meeting him after school and all."

Jian Yi just shrugged and fortunately he couldn't say anything more since the teacher entered the classroom that gradually fell silent. The lesson began and although he tried to listen to the subject matter, his thoughts spiralled in his head. He rubbed his temples as his headache got worse. What big an idiot he was, a shameless coward. Lying upfront into Zhan Zheng Xi's face, out of fear. But now he felt like he had to keep his word and... hang around with He Tian? Jian Yi shuddered. He didn't want to. However, he didn't want to be a liar either.

He had almost pulled out all of his hair when a crumpled piece of paper landed on his exercise book, saying:

What about tomorrow then?

He never answered.

When school ended Jian Yi had finally made up his mind. He would NOT go out with He Tian, let alone go anywhere near him. But since he had told Zhan Zheng Xi he would, he hurried to say his goodbyes and walked off into the opposite direction to where He Tian's classroom was situated but didn't actually go there since he hid behind the first corner he took.
Zhan Zheng Xi was left behind in the middle of classmates filling the corridor, completely taken aback but composed himself eventually and left after a short while.

Meanwhile Jian Yi felt horrible and when he was able to move again he accidently collided with another person. His mood, if possible, dropped within seconds.

"So you are asking for a beating, asshole," the readhead that got Zhan Zheng Xi injured scowled. Like the latter, the delinquent had several injuries on his face.

Nevertheless Jian Yi wanted to add another one so badly seeing that he didn't get the chance to strike a blow the last time.
He already had his hands clenched and gritted his teeth, when the redhead pummelled him with fists. This time however, Jian Yi reacted fast and returned the favour in kind. Blind rage took over and both landed on the ground, cursing and exchanging volleys of blows. A bunch of students came running but didn't manage to separate the two of them. It was only when someone called out for a teacher who was nearing the scene that the redhead let him off and took flight.

Jian Yi would have done the same, if he had been able to move but here he was, aching all over. The teacher, who deliberately got blocked by some students, had probably saved his life since he had been shockingly far from winning, still he felt a great deal of relief. His feelings that had been bottled up had become more bearable with each punch he had landed and now he felt like the constant weight pulling him down had been lifted from his chest. He was finally able to breathe again.

"Jian Yi." A person he didn't even know caught his eye. "Move." He was being grabbed under one arm and dragged away from the looming detention he would probably face, if he stayed even one moment longer on the hallway floor.
But despite the lingering danger behind him and the blood dripping down his nose all he could think of was that he felt so much better. He couldn't help but laugh like an idiot.

Chapter Text

He lit his cigarette and deeply inhaled the smoke. He knew it was a bad habit of his. A habit he couldn't get rid of . It's not like he tried anyway. But smoking when it was already almost impossible to breathe, because of hot summery temperatures, was indeed a pain in the ass. And yet he had to satisfy his cravings. One being the toxin filling up his lungs, the other one torturing the living shit out of that redheaded guy that dared lay a finger on Jian Yi. Lucky for the former, he hadn't had the chance to, but the mere intention was enough to threaten that little shit until the end of time.

"See you tomorrow," said some random girl that exited the school gate where he was standing and waved shyly in passing. He didn't know her but replied politely, adding a smile. She almost swooned. So did the next girl and the girl after her.

Too easy, he thought, having overcome the disappointment of the female species a long time ago. All that was needed was good looks and a bit of self-confidence and they were all over you. There had never been a single woman that had been a challenge to him, up to this day. That's why they bore him. However, there was no need to be disrespectful whatsoever, so he kept being friendly to each and any equally.

Another swarm of school girls passed by and when they spotted him they began to giggle and point at him. He ignored them and threw the rest of his cigarette onto the ground, because he finally spotted his target.
As soon as he got close enough though he blocked the way for the redhead who clearly didn't see him coming and backed off in sudden terror.

"What do you want?" the redhead took additional steps back, almost colliding with a student behind him. He clutched the straps of his school bag, his body tense to the bone. He was more than ready to dish out punches.

"I'm hungry, so you better cook something edible for me today." He Tian wondered for a minute. Didn't that delinquent have more bruises than yesterday? Moreover, his wounds looked like they had been inflicted only recently.

"Screw you, you asshole! Do I look like I wanted to cook for you? Once is more than enough for a lifetime! Now get out of my way!" The redhead tried to push him aside but He Tian stood there like a rock. His facial expressions darkened.

"What was that?"

„You heard me, Mr. Moneybags! Go get order something if you're hungry but leave me the hell alone!"

He Tian grabbed the redhead's collar and hauled him closer. "Now you listen to me", he began with a deadly tone. He was not joking in the slightest. "You will answer to me as long as I see fit. Once you've redeemed yourself, you're off the hook but until then you will do as I say. Do you understand?"

"Redeem myself from what?" the redhead crunched, failing at the attempt to free himself.

"Your idiocy. Let's go."

"I don't want to!" The redhead struggled but He Tian didn't care one bit and dragged him along. He had barely left the school premises when someone called out for him and when he turned to see who it was he recognised Zhan Zheng Xi.

"What's up?" he asked wondering about the unusual encounter. Zhan Zheng Xi never spoke to him unless he was accompanied by Jian Yi, but the latter was nowhere to be seen.

"Why are you leaving?" Neither of them cared about the cursing redhead who didn't manage to escape despite his efforts.

"School's over. Why shouldn't I?" Unlike other people He Tian wasn't part of a specific school club. He rather enjoyed playing basketball in the school yard as a pastime.

Zhan Zheng Xi looked surprised. "Aren't you supposed to meet Jian Yi?"

"What are you talking about?"

"He told me you would spend the afternoon together."

He Tian couldn't help himself but grin. "Did he now? Interesting." He really liked the sound of it. "Well, sorry to disappoint you but my afternoon is already packed with me tormenting this simpleton. So no, I'm not planning on seeing Jian Yi. At least not today. He must've lied to you."

Hilarious, he thought and meticulously observed Zhan Zheng Xi's facial expressions stiffen.
By the time he got home he was in such a good mood that even the delinquent's presence was almost bearable.

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"Why are you grinning like a moron?" he was asked on their way to the infirmary. It was late in the afternoon and the school halls were almost deserted.

"Because I'm happy," Jian Yi answered and plugged two fingers into his nose to stop the bleeding. Which immediately reminded him of the last time he had a nosebleed and Zhan Zheng Xi told him to use his fingers to stop it.

"What are you happy about? You got your ass whooped. Big-time."

"Who are you anyway?" he grunted and looked at the student that had helped him escape earlier.

"I'm You Qiáng*. You don't know me but I do know you."

"How come?"

"Well, everyone in my class knows you."

They reached the infirmary where the school nurse tended to Jian Yi's wounds. He was given an ice pack to put on the back of his neck and some patches, covering the swollen parts of his skin. You Qiáng stuck around and Jian Yi didn't have any clue as to why this guy stayed. Didn't he have more important things to do?

After sitting on the stretcher and eying his dubious companion for a while he asked: "Why are you helping me?"

"Unlike you, I don't like taking beatings, so..."

"You're not making any sense."

His counterpart smiled. "I know."

"Alright then, don't tell me." Jian Yi checked his nose that was barely bleeding anymore and waited for the nurse to be discharged.

A few moments later You Qiáng accompanied him to the school gates only to return into the building afterwards to attend a sport's club, as he had explained on their way out.

Meanwhile Jian Yi was more confused than ever. Why would a total stranger take care of him? Fuck it, he thought, shrugging his astonishment away. I don't even know this guy. He proceeded to go home.

Jian Yi skipped cheerfully along the street and suddenly felt so light on his feet that he thought he could fly. Which he actually did - for a couple of seconds - before he slipped on litter and landed on the smouldering concrete. Face down. As if he wasn't already injured enough. Damnit. He was a wandering disaster. No wonder Zhan Zheng Xi was always angry at him. Being the driving force that repeatedly got them into trouble and all...

He got up crimson-faced, having the unwanted attention of most of the pedestrians, possibly even pity, and ran, leaving his shame far behind.

When Jian Yi passed a grocery store he decided to buy some ice cream. He imagined eating it in front of his fan while lazing about on the couch. He loved the thought of it and hurried home with a stuffed bag but when he entered the refreshingly cool apartment house and finally got to his floor, Zhan Zheng Xi stood at his doorstep, unmistakably waiting for him.

Well, shit.

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A/N:

*You Qiáng is a character I created and is not part of Old Xian's 19 days.

The name consists of "You" meaning "friend", and "Qiáng" meaning "strong, powerful, energetic..." You get where I'm going with this.

Chapter Text

"So you did lie to my face. I didn't think you would go this far to avoid me."

"I wasn't," Jian Yi hastily answered. "I really had other plans."

"I met He Tian a while ago. He told me you never agreed to do anything today."

Jian Yi frowned. "Why would you even go and ask?"

"Cause I knew something was off. And don't get mad at me. I am the one who's allowed to be angry and just so you know: I'm pretty pissed right now." Zhan Zheng Xi mustered his best friend warily and shook his head. "Why are you more injured than before? What the hell happened?"

"Retribution."

"I don't understand."

Jian Yi didn't plan on cluing him in and lifted his bag. "I need to go inside, the ice cream is melting."

"Jian Yi, stop running away from me."

"I am not. You can come in, too. My mom is not home anyways."

"That's not what I meant."

"So you won't come in? We can eat the ice cream together."

Zhan Zheng Xi bit his lower lip. For fuck's sake. He wasn't going to keep quiet any longer if Jian Yi didn't start talking to him any time soon. Promise or not. "So being at your place is fine but mine is a no-no?"

Jian Yi's face changed as the silence between them extended. But then, all of a sudden, his cheerful attitude surfaced again. "See you tomorrow then."
He opened the door to his apartment, intending to slam it right behind him but Zhan Zheng Xi didn't let Jian Yi have his way so he yanked his arms up and thrust himself forward. He wouldn't be brushed aside that easily. "Go home, Zhan Xixi," Jian Yi told him from the other side of the door, struggling to keep it in place.

"First I want some ice cream."

"Now you do?" Jian Yi unexpectedly stepped back and so it happened that the door burst open and got Zhan Zheng Xi tripping forward, losing his balance. He already saw himself face-planting the floor when Jian Yi's arm clasped his body, saving him from greater embarrassment.

"I got you," Jian Yi said with a sudden honest smile and let go of him. He closed the door and headed to the kitchen.

Shortly after, he came back with two glasses of iced water and turned on the fan in the living room. "We have to wait before we can eat. The ice cream has gotten a bit soft. What do you wanna do now?"

Talk, was the first thought Zhan Zheng Xi had in mind but apparently he was the only one wanting to do so. "Wanna tell me now how you got those bruises on your face?"

Jian Yi showed his fist. "I kicked a readhead's ass."

Zhan Zheng Xi widened his eyes in disbelief. "You did not."

"Nah, you're right. I was the one whose ass got kicked. But I had to make a point. Anyway, the matter is over now."

"You idiot. Always doing stupid things." Zhan Zheng Xi took a sip from his drinking glass and enjoyed the blowing wind of the fan, cooling his sweaty skin. He never liked it when it was too warm. It always made him tired. On top of that he had barely slept last night and to be honest, he didn't know how he was still able to move. He lay down on the floor staring at the ceiling.

"Wanna sleep a bit?" Jian Yi asked attentively. "I can wake you up when the ice cream is ready."

"Yeah," Zhan Zheng Xi answered, already drifting away. It was when a funny feeling arose that he woke up, not opening his eyes though. He didn't feel like he had been asleep for long and surely only a couple of minutes had passed. But the feeling became stronger the longer he acted like he still was. What was Jian Yi doing? It suddenly felt like he was very close to him, even watching him.

Anticipation rushed through every centimetre of his body and he desperately wanted to peek through his closed eyelids but didn't dare to eventually. Then he heard a soft and yet regretful murmur that got all of his attention.

"I'm sorry. I never meant to cause you trouble. It's just... I..."

Jian Yi's trembling voice tugged at his heartstrings and all he wanted to do was to comfort him. To tell him that he had nothing to be sorry for. But for one reason or another he didn't move - again.

Chapter Text

When they ate their ice cream Jian Yi was back to his old self. Cheery and overly enthusiastic. Especially when it came to cussing the weather.

If Zhan Zheng Xi hadn't known any better, he'd never have thought that Jian Yi was hurting. For he hid it so perfectly well behind his even more perfect smile that it made him somewhat angry. But there was no helping it. Clearly Jian Yi was not ready to talk about what was really going on, so he would be patient and wait.

"What are you doing next weekend?" Jian Yi asked bare-chested after having stripped himself out of his uniform. Now he fanned himself with his shirt. Apparently the cooling fan splendidly failed at its sole task.

"My grandma is coming to visit. Why are you asking?"

"Ah... Never mind then." Jian Yi went silent.

"Why?" Zhan Zheng Xi curiously urged his friend but obviously reached an impasse because Jian Yi bluntly changed the topic. "I almost forgot." He quickly got up to his feet, rushed through the apartment and came back with the jacket he had been given just yesterday. "I didn't have time to wash it, but if I don't give it back now, I'll forget about it."

"Keep it," Zhan Zheng Xi answered, sneering.

"Why? It's a good jacket. Don't you want it anymore?"

"Do you really think I want to have that filthy, stinking piece of clothing?"

"I wore it once! For less than an hour. It's not like I am contagious."

"You sure about that?" Zhan Zheng Xi distorted his lips in amusement, even more as he watched Jian Yi being... Jian Yi. In other words, being way too concerned about his reply. He sighed. "I don't want it back and if you don't want it either, throw it away."

"As if I would ever do that!" Jian Yi put the jacket into his wardrobe and paused, his fingers gliding over one sleeve. Then he turned around, energetic as ever, eyes flickering. "It's been ages that you've been here. I'm very happy." He genuinely smiled and scratched the back of his head in something that could be called slight embarrassment.

Hearing his childhood friend saying those words made Zhan Zheng Xi feel strange, too. Not in a bad way, which was in fact the disturbing part. It was more of a warm, welcoming sensation. Almost tingling. Jeez... He had to get out of here.

"Hey, Xixi!"

His train of thought was abruptly interrupted. Strange to say, he even felt somehow caught. "What!"

"All of a sudden you seem surprisingly fine with me calling you that."

"I am not, so cut it out. What is it?"

Jian Yi came up to him with a mischievous look on his face. As if he was plotting something incredibly stupid. Which was very much likely.

That's why Zhan Zheng Xi prepared himself for whatever would come next.

"I was wondering if we could continue where we left off the last time."

"And where would that be?" Zhan Zheng Xi asked cautiously. Surely Jian Yi did not mean the same thing he had in mind. Fuck. He was way too tense.

Jian Yi snickered and said: "You told me you thought I looked good."

Chills ran down Zhan Zheng Xi's spine. "Leave me alone, bastard. Why would you even bring that up again?" His body wouldn't dare blushing now, would it? Damnit. Why hadn't he shut his mouth back then? He could never let his guard down with Jian Yi.

"Because you never asked for my opinion on your looks."

"Cause I don't care, stupid. I'm going home." It was high time to leave this dangerous place before weird things could happen. Which, most of the time, was the inevitable result of their togetherness. "Thanks for having me."

When they were at the front door Zhan Zheng Xi examined Jian Yi insistently. Then he knew. There was still something he had to get off his chest before they parted ways, otherwise he'd never be able to find any peace of mind.
"Don't you ever lie to me again. I mean it." Jian Yi clearly did not expect this sudden utterance and, therefore, didn't know how to reply accordingly. "Sometimes," Zhan Zheng Xi went on, "I just don't understand you. You know you can tell me anything."

Jian Yi sneered. "Not true."

"It is true. I'm your best friend. I won't judge and I won't run. So don't ever walk out on me again. Have a little faith in me."

Jian Yi struggled with an answer and seeing him like that, being indecisive and insecure, hurt him somehow. What had he been his best friend for most of his life if they couldn't be honest with each other? What the hell was he so afraid of?

Jian Yi took a deep breath and nodded resignedly. Yet his misplaced smile didn't reach his eyes. "I promise."

Chapter Text

He turned the page of the magazine, sighing as he went on. He did not have the slightest idea what kind of flower could be to that person's liking. Some of the hibiscuses or rather irises? Perhaps even azaleas? As for him he didn't really care about flowers, nor had he any idea which one would be appropriate. Now that he thought about it... Didn't each have a different connotation? And if he accidently bought the wrong ones? Perhaps he'd be better off if he bought something else as he didn't even know whether that person liked plants in the first place. But trying to find another present, at such short notice, was even more nerve-wracking and he didn't want to show up empty-handed. That's why he had been so relieved when he had found the advertising magazine in his letter box this morning. At least now he had an inspiration. Maybe.

"Watch your step, idiot!" Zhan Zheng Xi drew him aside, just in time to avoid a group of people swarming out of the train doors. "What are you looking at the whole time anyway?" Jian Yi didn't answer but raised the magazine unlike his eyes, which were glued to the colourful illustrations. "Since when do you have an interest in flowers?"

"I don't."

"Then why aren't you throwing the magazine away?"

"Not telling." They entered the sticky train that was almost filled to capacity. They were partially lucky though to find a standing place between an open window and a smelly, old geezer. "Here." Zhan Zheng Xi looked irritated as he was handed the magazine. "Help me pick some flowers."

Although Zhan Zheng Xi didn't know why, he started browsing the pages. "This one."

Jian Yi leaned over his friend's shoulder to get a better look. "You are a monster. I don't know jack shit about flowers either but I do know that the ones you are pointing at are fucking death flowers. I'm not planning on going to a funeral."

"Well then tell me what the occasion is. It would help a lot."

"I'm just meeting someone. That's all."

When they reached school Jian Yi had finally made up his mind. He would go to a florist after classes and seek out an expert's advice on that matter. So he threw the advertising magazine into the next trash bin and went ahead to face the day.

His classes ended late in the afternoon. With PE, being the last period, he rushed right into the changing room - both the sinks and showers in school were so disgusting that he wouldn't even go near them. That's why he got into some dry clothes, instead of washing off the sweat with some cold, much longed-for water and body soap, and talked to two classmates, while waiting for Zhan Zheng Xi, who was painfully slow today.

"Hey Jian Yi," one of his classmates grabbed his arm, "we invited some girls to bar-hop. Come with us."

"I don't want to." Besides, he could barely hold his liquor.

"Don't be a killjoy, just come along. It's more fun with you." His hair was being messed up by a pair of patting hands and he didn't even start complaining, since this had become some kind of ritual quite a while ago.

"I don't have time. I need to buy flowers."

"Are you saying you've finally found a girlfriend? Well, congratulations, slowpoke. Better late than never." His classmates laughed wholeheartedly as he told them to shut up. Of course they didn't.

"The flower thing again?" Zhan Zheng Xi asked shortly afterwards, as soon as they aimed to leave the school. "Who do you intend to give them to?"

"I'll tell you next week."

"Why not now?"

"Cause I don't want you to cancel your plans for the weekend."

"And if I knew, I would?"

"Probably."

"Then I'll cancel."

"No."

"Why not? This must be important to you. Otherwise you wouldn't be convinced I'd ditch my grandmother on the spot."

Jian Yi nodded. "It is. But I have to go through this on my own. So... See you on Monday."

"Hold on." Zhan Zheng Xi's tone changed and he caught up with him. "You promised not to lie to me again. Have you already forgotten?"

"I'm not lying. I'm just not telling."

"Which is practically the same thing."

Jian Yi took a deep breath. "I promise I will tell you. Just let it go for now."

Zhan Zheng Xi clenched his teeth. "Alright. For now." And then they parted ways.

Chapter Text

"Hey there", said He Tian and put an arm around Jian Yi's shoulders. It was like a freaking addiction. Every time he saw this guy he had to go near him and touch him. "How are you today? I'm glad I caught you on your way out."

Jian Yi stared at him, taken by surprise. "What's wrong with you?"

"As a matter of fact, nothing. I'm in a very good mood." That got better by the second, since Jian Yi didn't push him off.

"Why is that?"

Some students, mostly girls, wished He Tian a good weekend in passing, ignoring Jian Yi completely. Unlike him. "Cause I wanted to ask you something. Are you free tomorrow?"

"No."

"Then make time for me."

"No."

He Tian pulled Jian Yi towards him, not letting him out of his hug. That way he could almost smell Jian Yi's hair. That and the fact that his body odour was so enticing took all of his willpower to keep himself from feeling up that loveable, blond puppy that he enjoyed teasing so much. "You're not gonna go back on your word, are you? If so, this could get really messy."

"Sunday would be fine," Jian Yi added, not even paying attention to his previous threat.

"Alright then," He Tian sighed. That absent-minded guy never took him seriously. But he didn't worry about that as he had already planned on taking care of it. "Sunday it is. Let's exchange numbers. That way it'll be easier to settle a time and place."

Jian Yi freed himself from his hug eventually. "Don't ask for my number so casually."

"Wanna see me go down on one knee? What are you? A woman?" He Tian laughed even harder when Jian Yi shoved an angry middle finger right into his face. "But if it's you, I'll do it. Just say the word."

"Shut up. You're so annoying."

They exchanged numbers in the middle of the school yard, where the sun hit hard. Even so, He Tian wouldn't run for cover as he couldn't help but watch Jian Yi intensely. He was too fucking beautiful with his blond hair, light eyebrows and fair skin. A hell of a temptation, not only for girls.
He Tian’s throat began to hurt and he wasn't sure anymore whether it was water or something else he thirsted for.

"Oh, I just remembered," he forced himself to put his mind back on track, "there was something else I wanted to ask. Are you having trouble in paradise? I was wondering whether you and your allegedly best friend had problems going on."

Jian Yi rubbed the sweat off his brow. "Not like it's any of your business, but no."

"Then why would you use me as an excuse to skip your date with him? Don't get me wrong, I feel honoured, I really do. But why would you pick me? Don't you have other friends to cover your ass?"

"Don't flatter yourself. It was just a spur of a moment thing. It had nothing to do with you. And we're not dating! Cut the crap already!"

He Tian’s smile got broader and when Jian Yi intended to leave him behind, he raised a hand to touch his cheek.

Jian Yi froze instantly. "What are you doing? Don't touch me."

"What are you so nervous about?" He Tian’s hand was being brushed off.

"I already told you, you're way too close."

He Tian shrugged as he couldn't care less. "One of your patches was falling off. I wanted to put it back on."

Jian Yi groaned. "Again? This has been happening the whole day. That damned heat. I'm sweating too much. Better now?"

He Tian suppressed a treacherous smile, because, in fact, the patch stuck perfectly to Jian Yi's cheek. But he'd never let this opportunity slip. "Not quite yet." He Tian pretended to fix it, when he actually took advantage of Jian Yi not backing down. Apparently a bit too long as the latter wouldn't hold still any longer.

"Alright, that's enough. I'm going now. See you on Sunday."

He Tian simply nodded and watched his blond, little pup leave.
When he ran his fingers along the lines of his lips they were slightly salty. Even Jian Yi's sweat tasted delicious.

Chapter Text

The alarm clock went off, forcing its unnerving sound into the depths of his not yet functioning brain and reminding him of the things he had planned for today. As the memory came back, his mood worsened considerably and if he had had any other choice, he'd have chosen to stay home. Hell, even plunging into his homework sounded fun all of a sudden, compared to going to that place. But somehow he felt obliged to go and since he had gone to the trouble of finding a florist and buying some flowers yesterday - he had put them into a vase overnight - the least he could do was to deliver them.

Jian Yi dragged himself out of his bed and went to take a shower that slowly but surely revived his spirits. He'd never been a morning person, including today, that's why he stood for almost half an hour under the pouring water. When he finally came out refreshed, he brushed his teeth and dressed up in casual clothes. Afterwards he looked into the mirror, pausing for a second. He couldn't tell whether he was ready to meet that person as he didn't feel all that steady these past few days. Meeting that person could make it even worse. Just get it over with, he thought to himself, gathering his belongings and pushing himself towards the front door.

Although he wasn't hungry yet Jian Yi bought some dumplings filled with vegetables on his way. He did everything to hinder himself from arriving at his destination too early but unfortunately he got there eventually.

Before entering the automatic doors though, he looked up at the huge, white building right in front of him: the hospital. He had been here some days ago, when he had visited Zhan Zheng Xi, exactly knowing that only a few doors further, there was another important person lying in a hospital bed. But at that time that person hadn't been conscious. He had only gotten the call from the doctors three days ago, informing him that that person had finally woken up. And only today he had been allowed to come and visit.

Jian Yi pulled himself together and went on, asking his way through the bleak, white hallways filled with patients, nurses and worrying families. When he reached the story he was sent to, and got to the right door, he stood there for a while, contemplating how to behave best. He didn't know as he had never faced a situation like this before. After a long, deep breath he opened the door.

Jian Yi got into a relatively small hospital room, which had a wardrobe next to a closed window on the opposite site of the door, an adjacent shower room to his right and a sickbed to his left. Under the window stood a wooden table with a chair for visitors and next to the latter were a trash bin and a white steel bedside cabinet. The entire room reeked like it had been disinfected only recently. Nevertheless he could smell the sickness lingering in the air. It clung to the walls as if they had absorbed it greedily for years now and no amount of fresh air could rid them of the stench.

Jian Yi strode across the room - which could have just as well belonged to any other patient as there was no personal touch to make it more homey - and put the flowers down on the bedside cabinet. He turned to the bed-ridden, middle-aged woman in a white, long-sleeved gown, who followed his every move with the same grey eyes he inherited. But other than that, she didn't move one bit. He could barely see her breathe, as against the perfectly visible straps, keeping her wrists and ankles in place.

Jian Yi approached the sickbed and when he stood at its food, his hand landed on the frame. That's when he found the courage to speak up. "Hey mom."

Chapter Text

The room was filled with an omnipresent, suffocating silence as his throbbing heart got both louder and faster with every passing second. The woman lying in the bed could just as well have been dead, if he hadn't known better. She was much paler than usual, didn't talk and barely showed any reaction. Her cold and indifferent eyes with the long, light lashes were the only thing moving from time to time, as well as her raising and lowering chest, indicating long, calm breaths. His arrival didn't seem to have affected her at all. She was neither surprised, nor appalled. Perhaps, he thought, while he grabbed a chair and sat beside her, a dead person would've shown more reactions than her after all.

„I've brought you flowers," Jian Yi continued, trying to sound casual, "they're yellow azaleas. I learned so many things about flowers yesterday, it was maddening. About their meaning, colour, both number and occasion they should be offered best... I spent at least one hour at a florist until I found the right ones. I hope you like them," he added after a short pause. "Do you want me to unwrap them for you so you can take a look at them?" Her blank stare made him feel uncomfortable. But why was that? Wasn't he already used to her looking at him that way? Or had he hoped that all of a sudden she'd start to care for him after the incident that brought her into this hospital? After all those years, in which she had treated him like he was invisible? "Then again," he continued nervously and played with his hands, as he couldn't keep them still, "I can't see a flower vase anywhere. I should have bought one too." Silence again. "Do you even like flowers? It occurred to me, I couldn't remember."

She leaned into her pillow and closed her eyes. She looked so peaceful, even beautiful. Even with that messy blond hair of hers and that morbid skin tone. And - above all things - the straps around her limbs.

As much as it pained Jian Yi to see her like that, he knew there was no other way. She couldn't recover on her own, she had tried for a lifetime and failed. Even he hadn't been enough to keep her sane. So being here, strapped to a sickbed was her only and last chance.

Yes, he had had a mother, an absent one though. She had been there for him, physically. Making him food, buying him clothes, paying rent. But she had never acknowledged his existence. Even when he had tried so hard - which had been a lot - to get her attention. However, she had always looked straight through him, she still did. And when he had tried to open up to her, she'd always walked away. She had never cared about his feelings, his fears or the things he took an interest in. For her, he had been a total stranger. Still was. In fact, they had been two strangers living under the same roof, until some days ago. That's why he almost never could have borne to be with her alone. And that's why he escaped to Zhan Zheng Xi's place at any given opportunity. At least he wasn't invisible there. Not in the same way as he was with his mother.

"I'm worried about you," Jian Yi continued and lowered his eyes. "Do you try to get better at least?" Of course she didn't answer and he knew that he would go back home without having heard her voice at all. An overwhelming feeling of loneliness engulfed him, drowning his wounded heart. "Mom, please try to get better soon. I need you." When he looked up again, their eyes met, which was encouragement enough for him to keep talking.

He babbled away. Whatever came to his mind, he said. He didn't care whether it was relevant or not. He just wanted to make his mother listen to the things he had to say. And maybe, one day, she would start to care for him. So he went on, forcing himself onto her. He told her about school, about how he lived without her being around and spilled the one thing, he never thought he'd reveal to anyone else but himself: that he was in love with his best friend.

For the first time during the entire stay of his visit, he could see a small reaction on her face. Maybe her facial features expressed horror, maybe surprise. He couldn't tell. But what he knew with certainty was that he was in total shock. What the heck? Why would he confide in his mentally unstable mother? Shouldn't he do anything in his might to ensure her recovery? Admitting that he was... gay... wasn't helping. But now that the cat was out of the bag, he couldn't refrain himself from going on.

"I made a move on him," Jian Yi murmured in a low voice, cheeks flushing at the mere memory. "A few hours after you've been hospitalised." He thought about his words for a while until it hit him. Maybe he'd never have made a move on his best friend, if he'd never been confronted with death only a few hours earlier. Because it had been him who had found his bleeding mother on the kitchen floor. He had been the one, calling the ambulance and thanks to him she was still alive today.

To go to school that day, as if nothing had ever happened, had been the hardest task he had ever been confronted with and to top it off, Zhan Zheng Xi hadn't been around either, as he had been suspended from school. So his thoughts had gradually turned him mad and since he hadn't been allowed to pay a visit to his mom, he had decided to skip school to head straight to Zhan Xixi's place. And when he had found himself to be in the fortunate position to decide whether he should kiss him or not, he had shrugged all of his fears and doubts away. Life was too short and he had already regretted his passive stance for a long while. So he had put everything on one card.

But now he didn't know anymore how to behave towards his best friend and that killed him, as he wanted to be with him as often as he could.
"I don't know what to do anymore." The words slipped from his lips - again - and he bent forward, putting his head on the ruffled sheets. He couldn't prevent the tears falling from his eyes and in that moment, he longed all the more for his motherly care. A gesture, a kind word, anything would've been enough but she didn't move, not even one centimetre.

Jian Yi felt a sudden vibration in his pocket and when he took out his mobile phone, all his sadness went away.

Jian Yi, call me as soon as you're awake, said the words on his screen and when he looked again at his mother, he uttered with a blissful smile:

"It's him."

_________________________________

A/N:

(Only   some ! details about the Azalea Flower; of course the symbolism depends on the situation and people you are presenting)

Meaning:

-Remembering your home with fondness or wishing to return to it

-Taking care of yourself and your family

-Connection to fragile or developing love that could still fail to blossom

 Colour:

-Yellow is primarily focused on friendship and family relationships

 Message:

"Care for yourself and those around you. Never forget where you came from, and stay in control of your emotions and actions for success in life."

 

Sorry for the long explanation. See ya!

Chapter Text

Shortly after he had received the message from his friend, a nurse had entered the hospital room in order to check up on his lifeless mother. Before leaving her in the caring hands of the professional, he had asked for a vase to put the flowers in so that his mother could look at them, in case she ever felt like it or cared at all. Then he had left her room, promising to come back soon. Sadly he had been right till the end: she hadn't said one single word to him.

When Jian Yi stood in front of the hospital, the gradually rising sun brightened the sky, changing its colour from dark blue to a purple reddish tone. The first rays of sun found their way through the scattered clouds, bathing the lower buildings and trees in a warm, golden embrace.

Jian Yi stepped out of the shadows into the light and felt a feathery tingling on his skin. The warm sensation was a good feeling, one of the few he had had today.

It was still very early since he had made sure to be at the hospital first thing in the morning and now, that he had plenty of time on his hands, he complied with Zhan Zheng Xi's message and called him. After the second dial tone his best friend answered.

"It's not like you to be awake this early on a day off. It's only 8 a.m."

"I had something to take care of." Jian Yi set off. Luckily his home was within walking distance.

"Where are you?" Zhan Zheng Xi asked, "I can hear noises."

"On my way home."

"Do you wanna come around? Come eat breakfast with me and my family."

Jian Yi’s heart leapt into his throat at the proposition of his friend and yet he declined. "I've got a lot of homework to do. And tomorrow is no good, as my day will be packed as well. So it has to be today."

"Bring your stuff then. We can do our homework together."

Jian Yi hesitated. Apparently too long, as Zhan Zheng Xi continued.

"You have to come to my house at some point. Jian Yi, are you still there?"

"I'm listening."

"Good. Now come over, you idiot. Everyone's waiting for you."

"Sorry, I already ate. Maybe next time." That's when he hung up. Hearing Zhan Zheng Xi's voice had lifted the unbearable weight for a moment that was continuously pulling him down. As short as the phone call may have been, however, for these few moments he had forgotten all of his sadness. But now he was left behind with his worries. Again. He was well aware that it was his choice. That he condemned himself into solitude but right now it was his way of coping with things. Not being around Zhan Zheng Xi too often was the best he could do. It was a start. Hopefully in the right direction.
He needed time and what's more, space to think. Which was impossible with his best friend constantly being around.

Jian Yi got home, starting with his homework straight away. It took him a few brain racking hours and when he was done, he planted himself on his couch, the television running in the background. What now? It was almost noon and he had nothing left to do. How could he kill time until tomorrow?

He grabbed his phone and wrote a message to that pushy, black-haired guy he had been exchanging numbers with just yesterday, asking:

When and where do we meet?

Great. One minute had passed, at most, and so he kept thinking. He could clean the apartment and do the laundry. Both long overdue tasks. Or he could simply lie here and rest for a bit...

Jian Yi woke up startled when his mobile phone rang and without checking the screen first, he answered the call. It was one of his enthusiastic classmates, inviting him to another round of bar-hopping. So persistent, he thought at first and was utterly annoyed, but changed his mind eventually. Maybe it wasn't too bad. That way he wouldn't waste the evening, doing nothing and reminiscing about things he couldn't change anyway.

Now that Jian Yi was awake and more or less rested, he decided to do the chores. He even went out again, to throw away the accumulated trash bags and to go grocery shopping - with his mom's credit card she had left behind - since the fridge was alarmingly empty. When he came back and had everything in the household done, it was almost time to meet his friends. He prepared a fast meal, blinding out the images of the tragedy that had happened in this very kitchen, took another shower and changed into new clothes.

He met two of his classmates at Shenzhen North Railway Station and three more in front of a cocktail bar where they intended to have their first round of drinks. As soon as they were complete, he was handed a fake ID with his picture on it, authorising him to consume alcohol as he was of legal drinking age now.

"Just act like an adult for a change and no one will get suspicious," was the defensive response of his small-time crook friend, after Jian Yi had pointed out, that the ID was very poorly made.

Still he decided to give it a go and they entered the shady place in Shenzhen's most popular nightlife district and looked for a table being big enough to seat them all. Meanwhile they were accompanied by some trendy pop music. They were lucky because the bar had a lot of young costumers, thus they didn't stick out. It was only when they found a place to sit down in the back corner that Jian Yi recognised that one of his companions - they were four guys and two girls in total - wasn't a classmate of his. Nor was he a stranger.

"I know you," he began, trying to remember the guy's name.

A humorous answer followed. "I guess I didn't leave a big impression, did I? I'm the guy that scraped you off the floor when you got beaten to a pulp two days ago. How are your injuries doing?"

"Healing," Jian Yi answered, still trying to figure out the name of the guy. "You Qiáng was it?"

"Bullseye."

"Why are you here?"

"I was invited. What about you? You didn't strike me as the outgoing type."

You Qiáng looked into the drink menu, as did the others. They conversed animatedly about the drinks they wanted to try and, every now and then, they looked at You Qiáng and Jian Yi. They seemed surprised that they knew each other.

"Normally I'm not," Jian Yi admitted as his eyes scanned the drink menu. He felt like he wanted to drink something strong today.

"Why are you here then? Didn't you originally say you'd have no time today? That's why you put off your plans with a certain person until tomorrow."

Jian Yi furrowed his brow and looked at You Qiáng, lowering the menu card and narrowing his eyes. "Who the hell are you?"

"I told you, you were quite the celebrity in my class. I guess you can call me a friend of He Tian's. If that's what it is."

"I didn't know he had friends. Apart from girls." Who looked more like groupies, going batshit crazy at the mere sight of him.

You Qiáng grinned. "I'm the closest thing to a friend he has. Especially because I'm the only one who's willing to deal with his condescending behaviour. He's quite a challenge but I guess you've figured that out already. Also, he told everyone in our class, me in particular, to have an eye on you. Not two, only one."

Jian Yi snorted. "So basically you're a stalker."

"Sort of," You Qiáng admitted without remorse. "But not today, as I didn't know you'd be here too."

He Tian... "What the hell is that jerk thinking? And why are you even listening to him? I can take care of myself."

You Qiáng hid a twitching smile under his palm and uttered in a sarcastic tone: "That, I have seen."

When they all had their drinks, they raised their glasses, hoping for a fun night. With each new round and each new location they went to, Jian Yi's mood got better and the pain in his chest lighter. He really had fun even though his pals messed with him every chance they got. The two girls he was in the same class with but had barely spoken to until today, grew to like to tease him very fast. As a result, his hair was never safe. Why did he even bother to fix it every time?

"Come on. Don't be a pantywaist, it's only our third stop. Drink." Jian Yi reluctantly detached his eyes from that horrendous, monstrosity, one of his friends had ordered when he had been on the toilet a few seconds ago, and looked into five expectant faces. That poisonous cocktail in front of him... Did they really expect him to drink it? His head was already swirling and he could barely place one foot in front of the other anymore. His little walk through the extremely crowded pub, filled with other drunken people, had been a real challenge. That he had gotten back without any incident, had been a wonder, really.

Jian Yi's hand landed on his stomach as he leaned back in his chair. Fortunately he sat right next to the entrance. In case anything got wrong, it wouldn't take him more than a few seconds to run outside to rid himself of the alcohol he had poured down his throat so mindlessly. He still hoped it wouldn't come to that.

Jian Yi forced an answer over his compressed lips. "Leave me alone, I'm at my limit. If I drink one drop of this, it will be the end of me." Fuck. He was already slurring his words.

"You really don't know how much trouble we went through to invite you, do you? You stood us up yesterday so we had to rearrange our plans on short notice when you agreed to come with us today."

"You could have just gone without me." Shit. His vision started to shift. Now he regretted his decision of ever leaving his apartment.

"No, we couldn't," one of the girls answered with reddened cheeks. Maybe the reason was the alcohol, maybe it was her sitting next to You Qiáng who she had an unmistakable interest in. Understandable, as he was obviously both good looking and charming. Albeit not interested. She still gave it her all. "It's more fun with you," she added chuckling. "What you did earlier? We'd never have such a good story to tell." Oh no. Not that again. His misfortune would haunt him till the end of his school years.

"Damn right," another one of his buddies butted in. "I still don't know how we managed to drag you out of that shop. You obviously didn't recognise what kind of shop it was."

"How could I have known?" Jian Yi felt embarrassed and somehow his cocktail got more attractive the longer the conversation went on.

"You should have known when you had that accurately defined toy in your hands." They all laughed in unison at the very recent memory. "You were way too interested in that shop."

Now the second girl raised her voice. "In my opinion the two middle-aged men checking him out were much more fun. And creepy. Good thing we saved you."

Jian Yi covered his face with one hand. What a disgrace... He vowed to himself, never to drink alcohol again.

"You should leave the house more often. These kind of things exist, you know. Men going out with men."

"I know," Jian Yi mumbled, cringing internally.

You Qiáng, being the only one who didn't join in the conversation, eyed him with an expression of heartfelt pity. However, at the same time he did nothing to stop the others from laughing either. Sometimes he even bit his tongue in order to avoid bursting out laughing.

Thank you very much. "You guys are unbelievable," Jian Yi repositioned himself on his chair, cumbersomely, having difficulties to breathe, when the weird feeling in his stomach got too intense. "Call me a cab," he managed to say, before he jumped to his feet and ran out into the streets.

Jian Yi vomited on the pavement, right in front of the bar, hearing agitated voices and footsteps of strangers talking to him. He felt so miserable right now that he didn't even had the strength to feel humiliated. Nor to look for an escape route.

"Jian Yi," You Qiáng cut his way through the crowd and grabbed him under the arm, in order to help him stand upright.

"Did you call a cab?" he asked, wiping his mouth. He needed to brush his teeth.

"No. We can't let you go home alone. But we called Zhan Zheng Xi. He's on his way."

Wait, what? His stomach churned again and before he was able to protest, he threw up again.

Chapter Text

Jian Yi hid his face in both his hands, while he sat on the bench, leaning forward. His elbows rested on his knees as he took controlled, deep breaths. In and out and in and out and so on. He repeatedly tried to keep his eyes shut but gave up eventually, since having them closed was a whole lot worse than his swirling insides and the moving pavement below his feet. At least that's what Jian Yi muttered between long, distressed moans.

"Why did you drink so much, you idiot?" Zhan Zheng Xi asked his best friend, giving him all the time he needed to recover his breath. Which was quite a lot, since Jian Yi had to take a break and sit down every few steps. "Even I know you have a low tolerance for alcohol."

Once Zhan Zheng Xi had appeared in front of the pub he had been urged to come to, Jian Yi's treacherous companions had passed him over to him, not bothered in the slightest to hide the fact that they had wanted to get rid of him as soon as possible. They had gladly given him into his care, even forced him into his arms - literally - only to take flight as soon as they had made sure that Jian Yi was in good and safe hands. Then they had continued their drinking tour, not looking back once.

Zhan Zheng Xi eyed his suffering best friend and couldn't decide whether he felt for him or not. "Do you want me to buy a bottle of water somewhere?" he proposed, in a half-assed attempt to revive Jian Yi who had become as immobile as the bench he was sitting on.

"No."

"If you don't want to drink, you better eat something."

"Not hungry."

Zhan Zheng Xi gave up trying to reason with Jian Yi and sat down beside him. For a while, all he heard were his friend's strained breaths.

Zhan Zheng Xi looked around him. Fortunately they had left the crowded night life district behind them a while ago, however, they hadn't reached North Station either. He pondered on the possibility to take a taxi but when he checked his wallet, he didn't have enough money on him. Plus, he wasn't sure it would be a good idea either, with the vehicle bouncing over every speed bump and pothole, and taking sharp curves. Jian Yi's face was green enough already.

Zhan Zheng Xi stretched his legs, watching the few pedestrians walking past them, not giving them any attention. Nearby was a flickering street lamp, attracting all sorts of insects, while chilly summer breezes cooled his skin. Unlike to where he had picked Jian Yi up before, here the shops were nearly all closed. Only a deserted open-late store had its lights still on and a few metres from where they sat a gas station.

Other than that Jian Yi and he were pretty much alone on the sidewalk that was artistically lined with cut trees and different opportunities for seating. From those benches one could normally see crowds and jammed stores. At night however, there were only a few passers-by to observe, if at all.

Zhan Zheng Xi yawned and looked at his watch. It wasn't that late yet, only 10 p.m., but on any other day he would already lie in bed by now, fading away into a deep, welcoming slumber. He reckoned, that was nowhere near happening today, even though he could already make out the train station at a distance. And if he carried Jian Yi? Better not. He wasn't eager to be puked on. Again.

"A-Xi?"

"What?" he responded, ignoring his nickname entirely. It was no use to waste his breath and argue with Jian Yi in his momentary state.

"Thank you for picking me up."

"You can thank me when we're home." If they were ever going to get there.

"No, I mean it. Thank you for coming," Jian Yi insisted, desperately trying to articulate each word properly. "Despite my keeping you at distance today."

"And yesterday. And the day before that."

"Yeah," he acknowledged preoccupied in thoughts.

"You didn't answer my question." Jian Yi raised his head, staring at the closed shoe store in front of him. Distant voices arose but Jian Yi's was the only Zhan Zheng Xi was paying attention to.

"I tried to forget, even if only for a few seconds. But it didn't work."

"What did you want to forget?"

"Never mind." Jian Yi smiled and it pained him. Why was there so much sadness in his best friend's eyes?

"Don't 'never mind' me. Jeez, talk to me already. You keep running away, cut that crap out, you hear me? Stop pushing me away!"
Zhan Zheng Xi halted for a moment and realised that he had raised his voice in anger. But the feeling he had about Jian Yi desperately trying to erect a wall between the two of them, had him indignant.

Jian Yi turned his head, looking at him for the first time today. Even though he was drunk, his grey eyes were livelier than ever.
"I visited my mom today. It's been a few days since she's been hospitalised."

Zhan Zheng Xi couldn't believe his ears. "Is it serious?"

Jian Yi stood up and went a few steps, being alarmingly unsteady on his feet. "She's never been alright. Not since my dad left a lifetime ago. Did you know that she gave me away for two years, shortly after he turned his back on us? At that time I was one year old and lucky to have my auntie who took good care of me until my mom recovered from her broken heart. Only then she took me back in. But the truth is, she's never recovered. She has merely found a way to exist from day to day and gotten accustomed to her indifferent behaviour. I've felt it every day of my life. That she didn't want me. That she wished for my father to be with her instead of me. Sometimes she wouldn't even stand my presence and leave for days, even weeks, without trying to get in touch with me. Good thing I had my auntie. If it wasn't for her, I don't know where I'd be today. I guess you could say she's more of a mom to me than my biological one has ever been."

"What are you telling me?" Zhan Zheng Xi could barely process what he just heard. How could he not have known all of this? Before his eyes stood his best friend after all.

It hit him. Jian Yi had always been the cheery, goofy type. But now, when he thought about it, he'd never spoken about his home or his family. No, that wasn't right either. He had actually said something about his mom. Twice, if Zhan Zheng Xi remembered correctly. Both times they had been very little. Four, maybe five years old. Back then Jian Yi had told him that he had lived with his auntie and sometime later he had cried, with tears falling down his cheeks, that his mom had left for good.
For one reason or another, Zhan Zheng Xi had forgotten about it after a while. Because the carefree Jian Yi had never spoken about his family history ever again. That's why Zhan Zheng Xi had assumed that everything had ended well for him and gone back to normal.

I was a kid, he tried to convince himself, the feeling of guilt growing insufferably in his chest. I didn't know any better. I didn't understand the weight of the situation. I was a kid... I didn't know. Damnit.

"I'm telling you," Jian Yi answered, not being aware of the emotional torture he put Zhan Zheng Xi through that got even worse when he saw the helpless expression on Jian Yi's face, "that I was never enough for her. And although I grew to believe that she moved on in her own way, she had left me a long time ago. Maybe she grew tired of me or I did something to make her hate me more. I don't know what pushed her over the edge. But she tried to commit suicide." Jian Yi crossed his arms over his chest. It looked like he tried to hug himself, attempting to keep himself from falling apart. "Three days ago I found her on the kitchen floor in her own puddle of blood, her wrists slit. I thought I was lucky not having been able to sleep that night. That I was thirsty and aimed for the kitchen. I told myself that I saved her from a worse fate and was relieved but when I visited her today, I knew: she hates me for saving her. Now I have lost her for good." Jian Yi bit his lips. His drunken posture made him look more miserable. "But aside from that, there's something else I want to tell you. The other day..." Jian Yi tried to find the right words. "When I was at your place. You know... What I did to you... I'm sorry."

"Shut up."

"Zhan Xixi, listen to me."

"Shut up." Zhan Zheng Xi stood up and drew closer to his childhood friend. It took him quite a while to decide how to properly react. He wanted, intended to be rational and act like an understanding adult but his seething emotions took over so that he landed a fine punch on Jian Yi's jaw. The latter tripped over his feet and fell on his behind. "You bastard," Zhan Zheng Xi began, every part of his body trembling with anger. "Are you fucking kidding me? How could you not tell me this? Am I not your best friend? Why are you hiding things like these from me?" Jian Yi didn't respond. He merely held his cheek that seemingly hurt. "How could you have left me in the dark? Why won't you talk to me?" Now Zhan Zheng Xi was the one chewing on his lips. He was so angry, or rather hurt, that he almost tasted blood, but everything that kept him from succumbing to his tears was fine.

"It's my baggage," Jian Yi explained, ending the painful silence between them. "It has nothing to do with you."

"See? You shut me out again."

"Xixi-"

"I said shut up!" A group of noisy adolescents passed by, unscrupulously shouting back 'you shut up!' but he didn't care. He clenched his fists, keeping them occupied, in order to avoid punching Jian Yi again. "I know I'm not a big help to you. I also know that I can barely ease your pain but you have to let me fucking try. I would have come with you today. You could have talked to me. But instead you went out for drinks to numb the pain? Well, that worked out splendidly."

Jian Yi climbed to his feet. "It's not only because of my mother that I got drunk. It's also because of what I did to you."

"I realise that, I'm not stupid. But instead of keeping me at distance and trying to drown your sorrows, you could've just talked to me." Because there was nothing they couldn't figure out.

"You keep saying that," Jian Yi replied agitated and seemed surprisingly sober all of a sudden. He barely slurred his words anymore. "But I don't think you know what you are asking. You don't want me to be completely honest with you."

"Why not?"

"Because you don't."

"Let me be the judge of that." Jian Yi fell silent, his blonde hair falling into his eyes each time a breeze sprang up. "I take it you prefer to lie to me then."

"I'm not lying. Just keeping things to myself."

"I've heard that crap before. And you know that not saying is the same as lying." Jian Yi shook his head, clearly disapproving, but he didn't say anything further. "And what now? You live alone at your place? For how long?"

"I don't know."

I've heard enough, Zhan Zheng Xi thought determinedly and seized Jian Yi by the arm, dragging him along, regardless of whether he still felt sick or not. "Move."

To slow down his pace was the only compromise he was willing to make after Jian Yi's numerous, distressed pleas and when they finally reached North Station, they had to wait another fifteen minutes for the train to arrive.

"Why won't you let me out?" Jian Yi asked after they've been on the train for a while and finally reached his stop. He sounded pretty confused as his apartment was just around the corner and any additional train station would have taken him too far away.

"Because we're going home."

"Let go of me then, before the doors close."

"You're not hearing me. I said we were going home." Zhan Zheng Xi looked at his hand that held his best friend close to him. For nothing in the world he would let go. Not now, not ever, he almost thought but luckily interrupted himself in time, before he could scrutinise his own conflicted feelings. "You can bring everything you need to my house tomorrow. Until your mom is discharged, you'll live with me."

Chapter Text

Jian Yi jumped to his feet, somehow even managed to free himself, yet reached the doors too late that closed right in front of him, keeping him prisoner in the car. The train began to move almost immediately, leaving the station gradually behind, as well as the platform he desperately wished to be on.

For a moment the rattling of the wheels on the rails was the only audible noise until some passengers resumed their conversation.

Amazed at how determined Jian Yi was to look out of the window in order to avoid his gaze, Zhan Zheng Xi shouldered his way through the standing crowd and approached his friend whose back tensed at once. At least now Zhan Zheng Xi saw Jian Yi's confusion through the reflection of the window from up close.

"I'll get off at the next station," the latter announced, his throat hoarse.

The train was mostly filled with younger people, especially at this time, since it was Saturday evening, the perfect day for a party night out. But the more they headed towards more rural districts, the more the car got emptier.
"Jian Yi, you are coming with me." The answer was a firm no. "I'm not asking."

"I'm really grateful to you. You proposing something like this makes me very happy but you are not thinking things through."

"Yes, I have," Zhan Zheng Xi replied somewhat pissed. Since when did Jian Yi assume he wasn't aware of the things he uttered anymore? It's not like Jian Yi was the one who knew everything best. And yet he acted like it, deciding for the both of them and dismissing Zhan Zheng Xi’s decisions as if he were too dumb to understand his own words.

Jian Yi finally turned to face him. "Where would I live?"

"Like I said. In my house."

"No. Where would I live?"

"In my room," Zhan Zheng Xi specified his answer, hoping to be clearer this time.

"That's a hell of a no."

"What's the problem?" he asked, trying to sound normal, when in fact he felt a bit offended. One tiny, pesky part made him even feel rejected.

"You know what the problem is." Jian Yi looked exhausted. Like he was tired of explaining the obvious.

"Actually I don't."

"Then let me jog your memory."
Jian Yi placed his hands on Zhan Zheng Xi’s shoulders, holding them carefully. Zhan Zheng Xi stood still - what else was there to do? - until he felt Jian Yi's hands stroking down his arms. But before he realised what was happening, his wrists were clutched with an unexpected, brute force followed by Jian Yi's chest that shoved him against the train doors. A great deal of air escaped his lungs due to the impact and when he straightened himself, enraged and ready to fly off the handle, his anger evaporated into nothing.

Instead, both shock and confusion took over and paralysed him as his mind went blank. He even forgot to fight back considering that he fought another battle now entirely.

His mouth went dry, his heart began to race. But the worst thing of all of these fucked-up reactions was the anticipation he felt creeping up his body. Jian Yi stood so close to him that he could feel his damp, warm breath on his skin and his knee against his inner thigh.

But instead of feeling disgusted, as he would have expected, he shivered and stopped breathing. On the one hand to avoid the stinking smell of alcohol that shrouded him, on the other hand to restrain himself from saying things he'd regret with certainty as soon as they got out.

His rumbling thoughts got distracted by the emitting heat and the crackling tension that built up between them, which both were almost palpable. What the hell? Zhan Zheng Xi wasn't even the one being drunk and yet his imagination went berserk. He did not want to close the distance between their bodies and he did not want to keep looking into those captivating eyes, pinning him in place without a chance of ever escaping. What he wanted was to push Jian Yi away - far away - and slap some sense into him. But he didn't dare to move. Like a rabbit in the face of a snake, submitting to whatever would follow next.

The rails shrieked, when the train took a sharp turn and Zhan Zheng Xi finally came back to his senses.
"What are you doing?" he asked, panicking and finally resisting. Shit. He didn't expect Jian Yi to be this strong.

"Reminding you why it's not a good idea to let me live with you."
Jian Yi leaned forward and for a moment Zhan Zheng Xi's heart stopped. He only began to gasp for air again, when he felt Jian Yi's lips on the crook of his neck and not on his own lips, as he had feared for a second. However, the soft touch sufficed to kindle a flame that soon turned into a freaking wildfire on his skin, rendering the parts Jian Yi touched completely ablaze. Crap. What kind of inappropriate reaction was that now? And what was Jian Yi doing? What's more, in front of the other passengers?

"I can't get too close to you," Jian Yi explained in a low voice, not affected by the staring audience at all and barely removing his lips from Zhan Zheng Xi's neck, being the most sensitive part of his entire body right now. "If I did, I would try weird things over and over again. I'm not in control of myself. Neither of my mind nor my body. Don't you ever forget that. So no. I'm not coming with you."

Jian Yi unexpectedly stepped back and in that instant the doors, Zhan Zheng Xi was glued to up until now, opened. He hadn't realised that they had reached the next train station until he found himself almost falling backwards onto the platform, into a bunch of people gathering at the doors. He regained his balance fast enough though, unlike his inner one.

Jian Yi, also stepping out of the train, intended to take his leave without another word but Zhan Zheng Xi wouldn't let him get his way, so he called after him.

"Wait." His best friend didn't care to listen. "Wait!" he urged Jian Yi who finally stopped, only a few steps away.

"To what end?" came the immediate response.

"Don't walk away. Let's talk things through."

"On a train station?" Jian Yi laughed but sounded more exhausted than amused. It was a wonder he didn't stagger like a drunkard anymore.

"At my house. So come with me."

Before Jian Yi could reject the invitation anew, Zhan Zheng Xi added: "Please."

The way his friend looked at him, he knew he would give in to his pleas at any moment but when Jian Yi's lips parted to mouth a reply, a sudden noise shook up the night.

Zhan Zheng Xi looked for the source of the sound until he saw Jian Yi answering his mobile phone.

"Now you call?" Jian Yi's face matched his reproachful tone and he began to pace around. "You better tell me when and where we're going to meet tomorrow otherwise I'll stand you up."

The phone call didn't take long and when Jian Yi ended it with a 'got it' Zhan Zheng Xi still waited for him to answer.

"So?" he pushed him impatiently. "What do you say?"

"About what?"

"Are you being serious right now?"

"Ah, sorry," Jian Yi continued almost immediately as soon as he remembered. At least he had the courtesy to feel embarrassed. "I got distracted by He Tian."

"So it was him on the phone." Zhan Zheng Xi honestly didn't know what to think about this.

Jian Yi took his time to recollect himself and finally answered. "I don't think it would be a good idea to come with you."

"You were just about to say yes. Why the sudden change of heart?"

"We shouldn't talk about important things like this while I am not being completely sober. Besides, I'm meeting He Tian tomorrow and I need new clothes to change into."

"I can give you some of mine."

"Xixi, I'm going home."

Now Zhan Zheng Xi was mad. "Do you really think I'll stick around forever, if you keep acting like this?" His angry voice resonated across the station that had a few people waiting for the train.

"I didn't think you'd stay in the first place. I haven't considered any other possibility than you turning your back on me and now that you are still around, I need some time to adjust to this unexpected situation. I don't know how to behave towards you yet."

Zhan Zheng Xi was left in disbelief. "You don't have a shred of confidence in me, do you? It's rather insulting."

Jian Yi lowered his gaze and bit his lips. "I don't want to argue."

"Well, it's too late for that," Zhan Zheng Xi replied, hot-tempered as ever and walked up to his friend. "Now you listen to me. Either you answer me right here and now or I'm gone. You decide."
Jian Yi didn't say anything but his facial expressions revealed that he was far from being happy.
"And since it seems as if I can't persuade you to come with me, I'm asking you now." Even though Zhan Zheng Xi didn't like the location or the fact that Jian Yi was still kind of drunk, but he wouldn't let him run off again. "The last time, I fucked up. I get it and I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked if you liked men."

Jian Yi took a step back, terrified, and uttered with a trembling whisper: "Don't."

Under other circumstances Zhan Zheng Xi would have avoided by all available means to hurt Jian Yi but he understood now that their friendship wouldn't stop going downhill if they both pretended nothing had ever happened. And he wanted things to get better, not worse. That's why he went back on his word and broke his promise.

Gathering up his courage after a long, deep breath, he continued where he left off. His body was so tense that his shoulders ached but he had to get it over with. The sooner the better.
"But do you like me?"

Chapter Text

A silence, which was by nothing interrupted but his deafening heartbeat and heavy breathing, prevailed. What was he supposed to say? He didn't know and all words failed him. He couldn't possibly bring himself to speak up nor react in any other way than he did now by being stock still. He couldn't do anything because he was afraid. If he answered with 'yes' it'd be all over. Zhan Zheng Xi would never look at him the same way as before. He didn't want that. But if he said 'no' he'd lie and he didn't want that either. Especially since he had promised his best friend to be truthful to him. So Jian Yi kept quiet, looking for a loophole and suppressed any feelings that threatened to come out but realised soon enough that there was no way out of his misery. He had to move in whichever direction, yet here he stood, his throat dried out and his palms sweaty. He felt stuck.

"Jian Yi, say something, anything."

Despair came over him as he resignedly raised a hand to cover his watery eyes. Either way, he had no choice, really. Zhan Zheng Xi had told him just now to start talking otherwise he'd be gone. And if he said the truth, Zhan Zheng Xi would be gone as well. There was no way for him to win. I might just as well open myself up, he thought bitterly, in the hopes of stopping prolonging his pain.

"Don't tell me," Jian Yi began with a husky, shaky voice and trembling legs, "you never realised." He tried his best but felt that his smile was somewhat strained and when he gathered up the courage to look Zhan Zheng Xi in the eyes, he didn't care anymore about the tears falling down his cheeks. "Sometimes you can be really thick." Shit. Not again. Jian Yi hated his whiny, weak attitude and yet his best friend always managed to wake that pathetic side of his. Couldn't he just man up for once?

There they were. Zhan Zheng Xi's changing facial expressions. Was it pity that he felt? Or rather disgust? Jian Yi didn't dare to get to the bottom of it, so he shook his head instead, rubbing his eyes with the sleeves of his sweater. He felt like dying inside. But suddenly his hand was grabbed by a gentle and comforting touch.

"Let's go to my place," Zhan Zheng Xi said, his hazel eyes matching his soft voice. "No more resisting, just come with me."

And just like that Jian Yi admitted defeat.

"Be quiet, everyone else is already sleeping." They entered the apartment, tiptoeing, and only turned on a few lights. After having changed into slippers they headed for Zhan Zheng Xi's room.

Once there, Jian Yi was handed nightwear - no underwear though! - and later in the bathroom, a towel and a brand-new toothbrush.

As soon as Jian Yi was left there alone, he locked the door behind him and let his wrecked body slide to the ground. Only a few days earlier he had been in the hall of this very apartment, kissing Zhan Zheng Xi in the spur of a moment. The memory was so vivid that it felt like it was only yesterday. And although he knew that it should have been best to let that thought go forever, he still wished for an incident like this to happen again. Just once. So that he could appreciate it more this time and savour the memory to the fullest, for the rest of his life. Just once...

Damn you, alcohol, Jian Yi thought, getting off the floor. In a sober state he'd never have dared to think something as shameless as this. It was a miracle that Zhan Zheng Xi was still willing to speak to him to begin with and all that was on Jian Yi's mind was to fantasise about a second kiss. Or worse.

He took a cold shower to cool off his head, brushed his teeth and changed into the clothes that were given to him. The scent they were emitting stirred up his senses again, reminding him of how physically close he had been to his best friend today, smelling him and brushing his neck with his lips. It was maddening. However, the most exciting part had been to push his leg between Zhan Zheng Xi's even though he hadn't been brave enough to aim for the important area, which now he regretted wholeheartedly.

Jian Yi's breath shortened and his heart rate increased considerably and when he couldn't hold back anymore, he turned away from the bathroom door he was just about to open and sat down on the toilet lid. Struggling with both his desires and the knowledge that what he was about to do was morally wrong, he took care of himself, lowly moaning his best friend's name, before returning to face Zhan Zheng Xi with a guilty conscience.

"What took you so long?" Jian Yi was instantly asked but replied with a question instead.

"Where do I sleep?" He took a few further steps into the room and caught sight of the air bed on the ground, next to Zhan Zheng Xi's bed. He added 'Never mind' as he once had already slept on it, so it wasn't far to seek that it would be his sleeping-place today as well. Zhan Zheng Xi gave him a hard push though, causing him to fall onto the bed. Looking up irritated, Zhan Zheng Xi said:

"That's where you'll sleep tonight."

"Why? The air bed is perfectly fine."

"Because I said so. Now shut up and go to sleep."

Jian Yi did as he was told but still wondered why Zhan Zheng Xi acted so kind towards him. What his motives were and why he wrapped him up in cotton wool. Not that he minded, but... Was it out of pity after all? And why hadn't he reacted one bit to his confession?
Although Jian Yi felt better now, having gotten it off his chest, it really didn't seem like anything had changed at all. Which was, if he thought about it, probably for the best. That way he didn't lose his best friend. On the other side, what was the point of going through all the trouble then? Something had to change, for better or worse. Words had been voiced and they both couldn't just ignore it. And yet Zhan Zheng Xi did. Was it his way of dealing with things?
Jian Yi would never know unless he asked but right now all he wanted to do was sleep. Wrapped up in a warm blanket - what a heavenly smell! - he savoured each and every second, as it was the first and probably the last time he'd be allowed to sleep in Zhan Zheng Xi's bed.
It didn't take long for him to slide into a doze but before Jian Yi passed out once and for all, he could hear Zhan Zheng Xi's mumbling voice. What was it he said? He couldn't grasp the words despite his efforts and fell victim to his fatigue eventually.

Chapter Text

It took only seconds for Jian Yi to fall asleep, which was no wonder after all. This horrible, long day must have completely exhausted him and drained him of all strength. First the issue with his mother, then his attempt to eradicate his suffering, not to mention the feelings he harboured towards Zhan Zheng Xi, his best friend. Jian Yi had so much going on inside of his head that Zhan Zheng Xi feared he would never be able to catch up. To be of any help even.

A pregnant silence reigned throughout the whole apartment, rendering his own breathing, the ticking clock on the night table and Jian Yi's slow and deep breaths even more audible. Jian Yi's blonde hair lay flat over his forehead, almost concealing his closed eye lids while his body was curled up in a ball under the blanket, his lips revealing a slight smile... That bastard felt way too comfortable in his bed. Which was really a relief since Zhan Zheng Xi hadn't known how to make that painful look on Jian Yi's face go away. But seeing him like this now gave him a little peace of mind, even though all he had done was to offer his bed because nothing better had crossed his mind. What a simple-minded and clumsy way to handle things that were way over his head. Even so, he wouldn't stop trying.

When Zhan Zheng Xi decided he had loitered around long enough, doing nothing but watching Jian Yi sleep, he left his room, originally heading for the bathroom but took a detour as he felt like drinking a glass of water first. When he got into the kitchen his mother's presence surprised him. She looked pretty tired in her nightgown, strolling around the kitchen counter as if she were sleepwalking. Her short chestnut hair was a messy cloud and her eyes were only half open, due to the bright light that flooded the entire room. Even Zhan Zheng Xi squinted his eyes, as he had avoided to turn on any unnecessary lights on his way here.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, "did we wake you?"

"It's okay," she answered with a yawn and turned to ask whether he wanted some orange juice as well. He declined, rather wanting to drink water and so she offered him some.

"I reckon, it's Jian Yi that you brought?"

"Yeah." Zhan Zheng Xi sipped his water, doing his best to avoid reminiscing about his best friend's confession. This will be a topic for another day, he thought when his mother continued. "Have you guys finally made up? Your sister told me that there was an argument between the two of you. That explains your grumpiness these past few days."

"I wasn't being grumpy," he muttered annoyed.

His mother chuckled. "Of course you were. Now, did you guys make up?"

"Sort of."

"That's great. You're no longer mad about the kiss then?" Zhan Zheng Xi’s stomach sunk and he almost choked on his gulp. "Don't act so surprised. Your sister told me everything about the incident. Unlike you, she seemed really upset about it." That little blabbermouth. Why would she even mention this to their mother? Had she lost her mind?

For a moment Zhan Zheng Xi was at a loss for words but he regained his composure eventually. "No, I'm not mad. It's Jian Yi after all." His mother raised an eyebrow at him, making him feel compelled to add: "That came out completely wrong."

His mother didn't seem to take his answer into account at all and said: "Interesting. Seems like the die is cast. You can't pretend to be in the dark about his feelings any longer."

His stomach sunk even further. Was this really happening?

"Actually I didn't know..." Why did he have to talk about this? With his mother? It felt so awkward and wrong he wanted to die on the spot.

"Sure you did. I didn't raise an idiot. But the bigger question is: what will you do about it?"

Zhan Zheng Xi put down his empty glass. "I don't know yet. And I'd rather not think about it."

"Sorting out your feelings has never been your strong suit. A piece of advice: don't take too long figuring out what you really want. You might regret it someday."

Wait. What was she telling him right now? That it was okay for him to get closer to Jian Yi? That he had her blessing if he ever decided to become involved with him?

No way. What the hell? Wasn't this day fucked-up enough already?

His mom cleaned up the little mess she had caused in the kitchen and kissed him goodnight. Zhan Zheng Xi was left behind, horror-struck and dumbfounded.

By the time he reached the bathroom, his head was filled with the overwhelming, recurring events of the day. His mother must have triggered something inside him and now he couldn't help himself but think about Jian Yi's words. Hell no. He hadn't known for sure whether his best friend had had feelings for him. Granted, he hadn't bothered to find out either. Until the kiss had happened. From there on there had been no way of ignoring it anymore.

Zhan Zheng Xi leaned against the tiles, the water pouring over his head. A deep sigh escaped his lips as he thought about tomorrow. And the day after that. And so forth. What was he supposed to do?

When he closed the door to his room he realised that he had completely forgotten to tell his mom that Jian Yi was about to stay for a while. Her unexpected speech had completely disrupted his thoughts. He still felt embarrassed when he thought about it.

Better clue her in tomorrow, he thought, drying his hair with a fuzzy towel. And whoop my sister's ass.

Zhan Zheng Xi opened a window and went over to his sleeping-place but when he was about to lie down, a familiar ring tone broke the silence. He was quick to look for that damned mobile phone before it could wake the entire building and when he found it somewhere next to Jian Yi – who was sleeping like a rock – he reflexively answered the call.

"Who am I speaking to?" Zhan Zheng Xi asked, deepening his voice but when he looked at the screen, like he should've in the first place, he knew.

"Who am I speaking to?" He Tian retorted, his tone as smug as his attitude.

That's why Zhan Zheng Xi did his best to avoid this guy. Which would be harder every day seeing that Jian Yi and He Tian had obviously decided to hang out.

"It's Zhan Zheng Xi. Why do you call so late? You almost woke my entire family."

"Oh? Jian Yi's at your place?"

"He's sound asleep. Anything you want me to pass on to him?"

"Yeah. Tell him our meeting place has changed. I've just checked the weather forecast for tomorrow and it'll be raining the entire day, meaning our initial plans fall through. Instead I've decided to invite him to my place. I'll just give you the address. Do you have something to write it down?"

Zhan Zheng Xi wrinkled his nose, trying to control his discontent but miserably failed. "Why?" Shit. That was unexpected – even for him – and, there was no other way to put it, kind of rude so he went on, a whole lot less belligerent. "As far as I know you guys aren't even that close. Which makes me wonder why you'd invite him so soon." He Tian didn't condescend to answer and when Zhan Zheng Xi knew that the silence between them would possibly last forever if he didn't say anything, he backed down, getting mad at his big mouth. "Sorry. I didn't mean to pry. Of course I'll tell him. Wait a second. I'll just go get a pen." Not even a minute later he wrote down the address dictated to him. "Anything else?"

"Yes. If he intends to ditch me in one way or another, he owes me. Twice. And he doesn't want that. I mean it."

What a pushy guy. "Got that."

"Hey, now that you're on the phone, I want to ask you something. Jian Yi and you. You wouldn't happen to be a couple, would you?"

"Fuck, no!" Zhan Zheng Xi exclaimed, startled by the forcefulness of his own voice. Jian Yi turned in the bed but fortunately didn't wake up.

"Good. Then stop monopolising him. If you're not interested, get out of the way."

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me."

"Hold on a second. He's my best friend so you back off."

"Best friend? Don't make me laugh. Is that what you tell yourself? Well, whatever helps you sleep at night, right? Anyway, just make sure to pass my message on to him." And then, without warning, He Tian hung up on him. Just like that.

Both enraged and upset Zhan Zheng Xi slammed the phone onto the window ledge, regretting it instantly but when he examined it thoroughly, it hadn't suffered any serious damage.

That bastard, he thought and a strong feeling of resentment came to life. How could Jian Yi get along with this guy? He Tian was way too tactless and clearly didn't give a crap about other people's boundaries. Who did he think he was? Sticking his nose in people's personal lives...

Zhan Zheng Xi paused for a minute. The way He Tian had talked to him... He was struck by a thought. That jackass wouldn't dare to meddle in his friendship with Jian Yi, would he?

Now all Zhan Zheng Xi wanted to do was to keep He Tian's message to himself. Fuck it, he'd even go one step further and turn off the damn phone. And so he did.

Zhan Zheng Xi sat down on his temporary bed, but even after minutes had passed he still was agitated. He figured that if he wanted to have any chance at sleeping at all, he had to calm down first.

Why was it that he was so mad in the first place? He couldn't explain it. It wasn't like him to get pissed over ridiculous things like that.

He looked over at his sleeping friend, which miraculously eased his anger within seconds and before he realised it, he reached out an arm to clasp Jian Yi's hand. It didn't feel strange in the slightest, on the contrary. Having their fingers interlaced felt like the most normal thing to do. Zhan Zheng xi tightened his grip, his lips pressed together into a hard line.

If you're not interested, get out of the way, was what He Tian said. "But... What if I am?"

Chapter Text

It took him a good while to realise where he was but when he sat up it dawned on him and everything fell into place. The hazy memory of yesterday, him agreeing to spend the night and... Holy shit. He had confessed his feelings to his best friend. "What has gotten into me?" he murmured in shock and took a brief look around him. It appeared to be morning, although Jian Yi wasn't too sure due to the heavy cloud cover he saw through the opened windows. Outside it was gloomy and it'd be only a matter of minutes before the sky would give in to a heavy downpour. Today was one of those days where the best thing to do was to bury yourself under a warm blanket and never surface again. A typical Sunday.

More importantly, however, was that Zhan Zheng Xi was nowhere to be found, which Jian Yi felt was a relief.

He sat there a while, thinking about what to do next but was unable to find an answer so he buried his beet-red face in the sheets. Only after a few more minutes he was ready to get up. He had just reached the windows to take a look at the bending trees, when the door opened behind him.

"You're finally awake," said Zhan Zheng Xi, completely dressed in new clothes. His spiky, chestnut hair was still damp from the shower he had taken and when he came up to Jian Yi, he could even smell the body wash he had used.

Zhan Zheng Xi leaned over to close the window and continued: "I put new clothes on the dryer for you. Go take a shower and join us in the kitchen. Everyone's waiting for you with breakfast."

Later on, when Jian Yi finally entered the kitchen, he was heartily greeted by Zhan Zheng Xi's mother and barely noticed by his sister. She didn't even try to hide her discontent about his presence which led to him addressing her all the more.

"Good morning, little sister," he said with a mischievous smile and ruffled her hair in passing, but she pushed his hand away at once. When he sat down next to Zhan Zheng Xi and faced her across the table, she pierced him with narrow, fiery eyes. His grin got even broader.

Feeling somewhat hungover, his headache became lighter little by little and by the end of breakfast - he had barely eaten or drunk; just two little dumplings filled with vegetables, a mild-flavoured rice porridge and chrysanthemum tea - he almost felt normal again.

"My son told me you're going to live with us for quite some time," Zhan Zheng Xi's mother said in a joyful tone while they were cleaning the table. Shit. Jian Yi had almost forgotten about it.

"Actually, I didn't intend to-" He didn't get to the point of refusing as he got cut off by his best friend.

"Jian Yi," he turned to face Zhan Zheng Xi who was washing the dishes, "you better wait to get your stuff from your place. Seems like a storm is coming."

He instantly looked out of the kitchen window. It was raining cats and dogs and the wind seemed to have become fiercer as well, continuously throwing branches against the window glass. Jian Yi agreed on the part that he would stay a little longer until the storm was over. But then he would go.

"Anyway," Zhan Zheng Xi's mother concluded, "we're glad to have you here. Since you already know your way around, make yourself at home."

"Don't be too comfortable," Zhan Zheng Xi's little sister hissed and left, stomping out of the kitchen like the stubborn teenager she was. It almost made him laugh.

Jian Yi helped cleaning up the rest of the kitchen, not wanting to be a burden whatsoever. At the same time he couldn't escape the feeling that something had slipped his mind. He felt like he still had something to take care of and when his eyes grazed the display on the oven, he remembered.

"Shit," he exclaimed, almost running back into Zhan Zheng Xi's room. He scooped the blanket up, examined every inch of the bed but couldn't find it. Where the hell was his mobile phone? Hadn't he put it right next to him last night before he fell asleep? He could've sworn.

"What's the matter?" Zhan Zheng Xi asked, turning the lights on, which made Jian Yi squint for a second, but his eyes adjusted fast. "Why did you run off so hastily?"

"My mobile phone... I can't find it."

"Oh that's right. It kept ringing last night so I turned it off before it could wake everyone else. There it is." Zhan Zheng Xi walked right up to his writing desk and came back with the phone to give it to him.

When Jian Yi looked at it, the screen was pitch-black.

"What is it? Won't you turn it on?"

"I can't remember my passcode."

"Are you an idiot? Who the bird's balls is not able to remember four digits?"

"Shut up. I just never let the battery run out that's why I never needed any passcode. But I wrote it down somewhere at my place."

"Just wait for the storm to pass, then-"

"No." This time it was Jian Yi, interrupting Zhan Zheng Xi. "I told you, I was going to meet He Tian today. We agreed to meet one hour ago. Fuck. He's gonna be mad as hell."

"You can't possibly believe he went out into this apocalyptic weather? I bet he's been home all along, that's what any sane person would do anyway, so why bother?"

Jian Yi furrowed his brow. Something about Zhan Zheng Xi's tone was off. Even his face looked sterner than usual. "I need to make sure he's not waiting outside." Jian Yi jumped off the bed but soon felt his friend's grip around his arm.

"Wait a second. Don't go. It's dangerous." At that very moment, a stone crashed against the window, scaring them out of their wits, but fortunately the glass didn't give in.

"The longer I wait, the more dangerous it will get. That's why I have to hurry."

Zhan Zheng Xi sighed. "You're such a mule. Alright, just wait a moment." He went to his wardrobe in order to come back with a rain jacket shortly after. "This one I will not give to you so make sure to give it back later."

"Later?"

"Right." Zhan Zheng Xi rummaged in his pants pocket and when he found whatever it was he was looking for he said 'catch!' and threw something into Jian Yi’s direction. Lucky for the latter, he caught the shiny object that turned out to be keys. "Regardless of the time, come back here. Don't go to your place."

Of course Jian Yi was flattered. That Zhan Zheng Xi cared so much, but it also made him feel uncomfortable. That's why he had to burst his bubble, even though he wanted nothing more than to stay in it, never to surface into reality again. However, he knew delusions wouldn't make him happy either. Not now, not ever. "Xixi, you're trying too hard. Do I make you feel awkward?"

His best friend wrinkled his brow. "Where does that come from all of a sudden?"

"Or do you pity me?"

"No!"

"Then stop being so nice. You've never been like this before and I've survived it. Don't worry about me."

"It's not that I worry."

"What is it then?"
Zhan Zheng Xi fell silent, shifting from one foot to the other. Seeing him being all insecure was a rare sight and even more out of character. What was going on?
"Tell me."

"I just remembered something," Jian Yi’s childhood friend said, obviously evading an answer. "Take this." He was handed a note. "It's He Tian's home address. He gave it to me yesterday."

What a surprise. "You guys spoke to each other on the phone?"

"Briefly." Zhan Zheng Xi didn't look like he was happy about it.

"Why didn't you say so earlier?"

"Cause it slipped my mind."

Jian Yi sneered. "You're very weird today."

"Whatever. Now hurry."

"Okay, I'm off then." A strange feeling befell Jian Yi when he left the room. On the one hand he wanted to stay with Zhan Zheng Xi who had worn an awfully pensive face - something must have bothered him - on the other hand he didn't want to owe He Tian more than he already did. This guy could become a real pain in the ass and he wasn't eager to be bullied for the rest of his life.

Heavy-hearted Jian Yi made his way across the corridor of the apartment and unintentionally bumped into his best friend's sister.

"Watch your step, pervert!" she snapped in a hostile tone and deliberately stepped back in order to demonstrate that she didn't even want to breathe the same air as him.

If he was being honest, it wasn't such a surprise that she detested him. After all he had viciously attacked her brother in front of her eyes and almost stuck his tongue into his mouth. Of course she wouldn't take it lightly and despise him wholeheartedly. Nevertheless Jian Yi couldn't care less about her feelings because he enjoyed teasing her way too much.

"Pervert? Really? Come on, I bet there's not one single moment you can't think of what I did to your beloved brother. So who's the pervert now?" He flicked her forehead, making her flinch.

"Don't you dare come near my brother again!" she shrieked in a high-pitched voice and clenched her tiny fists. Her brown eyes were widened, her breaths short and fast, her lips firmly pressed together. She was too adorable. And what's more: she looked like a female version of Zhan Zheng Xi.

"I can't promise that," Jian Yi answered composed, causing her to flush all over again. Maybe because she passionately hated him, maybe because she was imagining things now. "But if it reassures you, I'm not going to do it again in front of you. You have my word."

Zhan Zheng Xi's little sister was about to lose it but pulled herself together at the last second. So Jian Yi deliberately pushed her over the edge. "Maybe you should start calling me brother-in-law." He burst out laughing when tears of anger pooled in her eyes but when he felt a hard blow at the back of his head, he knew that this had been all the fun he would get.

"Stop talking nonsense and leave already." Zhan Zheng Xi kicked his shoes over the threshold and pushed him out of the door, while his sister clung to him, fuming.

Oh this is going to be fun, Jian Yi thought, tripping over the realisation that he now did contemplate to live in Zhan Zheng Xi's house for a few days. Perhaps it wasn't too bad after all. That way he wouldn't be all alone. And had a little sister to pester.

Jian Yi fought his way through the lashing rain, cursing more than once because of the gusty winds that pushed him in all sorts of directions, giving him a good whiplash. It had only taken him a few seconds to be soaked to the bone and now that he had finally reached the building in which He Tian resided, he asked himself why he had come in the first place. When instead he could've spent the time with Zhan Zheng Xi - in a dry place - playing video games or reading manhuas. But here he was, out of breath, drenched and not sure what to expect if he proceeded.

Jian Yi meticulously eyed the novel, white building in front of him. What the heck? The shiny glass facades that mostly consisted of enormous windows, the absence of balconies, and the ridiculous height... It sure looked like a banker's building and not like a comfortable place to live in. Was it really the right address? He checked the piece of paper Zhan Zheng Xi had given to him earlier today and sighed. According to the address he was at the right place: in the wealthy section of Shenzhen, where every building competed with the other and got more impressive the farther you walked towards the centre of the district. Even the people walking around showed a different attitude and wore different clothes, upper-class ones, and the cars that drove along the streets were more valuable than his family's entire belongings. Was He Tian a rich boy or something? Geez... Jian Yi seldom felt so out of place.

He reluctantly brought himself to approach the entrance which was guarded by a porter. A part of him expected him to be refused admittance to the building but the friendly man just nodded and let him pass.

In the mirrored elevator Jian Yi didn't dare touch anything, let alone breathe since almost every material that surrounded him consisted of glass, steel or brightly polished and gold-plated marble.

Next to the luminous buttons were name plates, most of them being left blank though. However, Jian Yi knew he had to get off on the thirteenth floor.
That jackass. Did he want to show off so badly or why did He Tian order him here?

The automatic doors opened, revealing a person standing right in front of him. He Tian. His facial expressions were grim, his black eyes unyielding. Yep. He was definitely pissed and didn't even try to hide it.

"If you're gonna start complaining about my being late, I'll just turn around and go back home. Don't even start."

He Tian scrutinised him keenly, not a flicker of a smile in his face and hindered the doors to close by stepping onto the edge of the elevator. Only after a few more seconds he said: "You know that I warned you, remember?"

"Yeah, in case I stood you up. But here I am." Damnit. How had this guy even known that it was him coming up the elevator?

"But you are late. You've got to deal with the consequences now."
He Tian suddenly clutched Jian Yi's face with both hands, holding it in place.

"Hey, what are you doing?"

"Punishing you."
The bastard came closer and before Jian Yi could react in any way, he felt the rich boy's lips meeting his own. His mind went completely blank.

Chapter Text

He Tian's body was on fire, a feeling he'd never felt in this intensity before. He hadn't even known that he was capable of having emotions like this. Sure, he wasn't stone-cold on the inside either but harbouring feelings for someone wasn't something he'd do easily, let alone fast.

However, since he had met Jian Yi, laid his eyes on this cute, little puppy for the first time he was all over him, although he couldn't begin to say why.

There hadn't been a trigger or an incident of any sort that had made him interested in Jian Yi, no special words or memorable actions. And yet he had irrevocably fallen under that person's spell.

It was a day like any other, squealing girls clinging to He Tian like shit to a shovel when all he wanted to do was smoke a cigarette in peace during school break.

Since he'd been too lazy to leave the premises, he'd chosen a shady corner in the backyard, thoroughly scanning the area in order to avoid being seen by one of the patrolling teachers.

His efforts had been for naught really soon though since a group of girls spotted and approached him, ruining the little moment of peace and quiet he desperately yearned for.

Needless to say, he kept a perfect smile in his face, when in reality he was so tired of this annoying, daily routine.

Sometimes he wished nothing more than to live out his actual feelings and to frighten all those noisy girls away - once and for all - but then his parental education kicked in and he kept the permanently, friendly fake smile, nobody seemed to notice was off. He was a good actor and an even better liar.

Later on, when he finally got away from the gossipy swarm, he felt so weary that he decided to smoke another cigarette - this time in the men's toilet, to which he occasionally went as this was the only tranquil place the girls wouldn't dare to follow him to.

However, not too long after he got there the door swung open and a blonde guy with a buff and yet slender physique stepped in.

"Ugh!" the latter blurted out, theatrically waving his hand in front of his face. "If you want to kill yourself, be my guest. But don't do it in the rest room where other people have to inhale your shit."

Jian Yi went to the urinal, shaking his head, his hair partially falling into his beautiful, defined face which was a shame, really. This face of his should never be hidden under a veil of hair.

"Gosh, I hate smokers. Always being selfish."

"Cause actual shit smell would be better?" He Tian uttered sarcastically but when grey, clear eyes met his gaze and Jian Yi furrowed his brow with his light, barely visible eyebrows, he found himself to be enchanted. And he didn't even know why exactly.

"You're disgusting." The handsome boy washed his hands and left the toilet room for good, leaving him behind, completely amazed.

Their first encounter made him smile to this day. Afterwards he had been more conscious of Jian Yi every day of school but soon realised that his interest wasn't mutual.

Even when they crossed paths - which he persistently made sure they would - the puppy looked right through him.

For the first time He Tian had been invisible to another person. A feeling he didn't like in the slightest, as he had found out back then.

That's why he had forced his way back into Jian Yi's memory, the latter not being able to remember their first encounter at all.

Only weeks later, when He Tian had appeared on the staircase on that special day of school, when Jian Yi had seemed completely devastated, he had been successful in leaving an impression on him. Only then Jian Yi had become aware of his existence.

Since that day they had been friends, at least from his point of view. And since that day he knew what Jian Yi felt for his allegedly best friend.

Zhan Zheng Xi however had only revealed his feelings yesterday, albeit accidentally, when they had talked on the phone.

Now it was up to He Tian to get to Jian Yi first, before he could become aware of the fact that his feelings towards Zhan Zheng Xi were reciprocated after all.

Hence, He Tian's bold and yet risky move: the kiss.

As his emotions steadily grew stronger and his desire became unbearable, he pressed his lips harder on Jian Yi's mouth, the blonde guy's face locked between his hands.

He wouldn't let go of him, not yet. Not before he managed to educe a reaction from him that would satisfy him. He wanted to see a bright red flush on Jian Yi's cheeks, at least. But the longer the kiss lasted, the more motionless Jian Yi became.

Alright then, He Tian thought, accepting the self-imposed challenge and relentlessly pushed forward.

Thumbs trailing over Jian Yi's thin lips, He Tian bent his head and leaned in for a deeper kiss. But only when he let his tongue follow the gingerly touch of his fingers, Jian Yi came back to his senses and gasped for air but as soon as his lips parted, presumably to protest, He Tian slid his tongue into Jian Yi's mouth, greedily wanting to explore more of its depths.

When Jian Yi tried to fight him and to pull back He Tian went along with the movement and pushed him against the back wall of the elevator, pinning both of his arms to both sides of his head, while gently nibbling on those intoxicating lips.

A part of him knew he was going overboard but he had set something into motion that he had no control over anymore. His passion was ablaze, his hunting instinct wide awake and his prey right before his eyes.

Only reluctantly and because the both of them needed to satisfy their natural bodily urge to breathe he backed off a bit, not releasing Jian Yi's hands though and when he looked into Jian Yi's face it was flushed from one ear to the other.

He Tian snickered and satisfaction unfurled in his thumping chest. This was the reaction he had been aiming for from the very beginning.

"Go away," Jian Yi finally managed to say between panting breaths.

His pupils were dilated, his voice hoarse and shaky. However, his reluctance was very clear.

"I said, go away!" His attempts to free himself were nipped in the bud as he was, too bad for him, the weaker party.

Upon noticing his physical inferiority Jian Yi tried to unleash a bunch of kicks instead, but was soon clamped between arms and legs, rendered completely immobile.

"Did you enjoy it?" He Tian asked his object of desire that shouted a 'hell no!' into his face. "Then tell me, why do you look like a blushing girl?"

"Shut up! I am not a girl!" Jian Yi turned as red as a beetroot.

He Tian smirked. He really liked what he saw. "Could be. See? Why else would there be tears pooling in your eyes? If that's not girlish, what is?"

"That's because I am angry!"

"Why? It was just a kiss. It's not like I stole your virginity or something."

"But you did, asshole!"

He Tian paused for a moment and then it dawned on him. "Are you telling me this was your first kiss?" He tried his very best not to laugh but was unfortunately caught at it.

Jian Yi got even angrier. "So what! Leave me alone! I'm tired of you playing your sick games with me."

All of a sudden the elevator creaked to a halt and when the both of them turned to face the doors, they were on the ground-floor, staring at an old couple stepping in.

Jian Yi was as surprised as He Tian was for none of them had realised that the elevator had been moving with them being inside.

He Tian's neighbours greeted them friendly, starting a conversation like they always did, but were cut off fairly quickly as he grabbed Jian Yi's arm just in time to prevent him from fleeing the scene.

"Hey, little pup. Don't go just yet." He didn't care that he stood between the doors, holding them and the elevator in place. "I promise, I'll behave."

Jian Yi didn't answer. He didn't look at him either, nor did he make any effort to push him away.

He sure did overdo it, He Tian had to admit unwillingly, starting to become more and more bothered the longer Jian Yi punished him with the silent treatment.

If hurting him was what he did, at least he wanted a chance to make it up to him.

"Excuse me, young man," the old lady said, who lived on the fifth floor, and didn't seem to be in a hurry as she addressed Jian Yi calmly, "the porter just closed the doors due to the nearing storm. My husband and I were lucky, we just made it here in time. I wouldn't leave the building, if I were you. For your own safety."

Jian Yi looked back over his shoulder, eyeing the couple that, just like him, was soaking wet from head to toe.

At least now he seemed to weigh up the pros and cons of staying.

"See?" He Tian said in an encouraging manner, hoping that Jian Yi decided to stay eventually. "I can offer you dry clothes. And a hot beverage. I would worry if you were to go now."

"Don't make me laugh."

"I would," He Tian emphasised candidly. What kind of monster did Jian Yi think he was? Of course he would worry.

"Yeah, whatever. I'll stay. But not because of you."

Jian Yi's answer, however deprecating it was, took a huge load off his mind.

"Just let me say one thing: the next time you pull something off like this, I will rip your fucking balls off. I mean it."

A mischievous grin tugged at the corner of He Tian's mouth as he answered:

"Got it."

Not even for a split second he let go of this little, yapping puppy of his that was far too adorable to be roaming the streets all by himself and so he drew him back into the elevator, not setting him free just yet.

Chapter Text

On the fifth floor they said their goodbyes to the friendly old couple that advised them to close all the windows and to stay inside the apartment.

Especially Jian Yi had to promise to at least stay the night and so he did, but rather to give them peace of mind than anything else, for everything in his face screamed that it would be a cold day in hell before he agreed to spend the night.

As soon as the elevator doors closed and they were back to being alone again, a heavy silence fell upon them and when He Tian saw in the corner of his eye how uncomfortable Jian Yi behaved, he broke the silence with a muffled chuckle.

"Relax, I'm not going to jump your bones or something." As a result, Jian Yi put a bigger distance between them. "Now tell me, was it the truth?"

"What?" Jian Yi didn't look at him. Instead he chose to glare at the doors right in front of him. He was still fuming and it didn't take a genius to sense how pissed he was. Even the fury in his voice was far from being gone.

"Was it really your first kiss?"

"That's none of your business."

He Tian had anticipated a reaction like this, which made him smile all the more. Jian Yi was so easily irritated. And then there was him, taking pleasure in provoking his little puppy as often as he could.

He Tian couldn't help it. He felt so weak-minded in Jian Yi's presence that he so easily succumbed to the temptation to tease him, at any given opportunity.

"Don't be so uptight. Just tell me." He wouldn't let himself be brushed off yet. At this point he couldn't let go anymore, mainly because his interest had been sparked and he needed an answer.

Jian Yi grunted and distorted his lips. Jeez, he really felt uncomfortable, didn't he?

"No, it wasn't."

"That's not what you said earlier."

"And it was."

"This doesn't make any sense."

Jian Yi gnashed his teeth and clenched his fists. "It was the first... with tongue."

"Oh."

"That's all you have to say, you jerk?"

"I suppose." He Tian suppressed another enormous smile which ached in the corner of his mouth. But he didn't give in as he didn't want Jian Yi to see how happy his confession had made him.

After all, he had been the first to put his tongue into Jian Yi's mouth. That, of that he was sure, Jian Yi would never forget.

Jian Yi darted a glance at him eventually. "How about 'I'm sorry'?"

"But I'm not."

Jian Yi angrily shook his head and faced the doors again.

Not long after, a strange noise worked its way into He Tian's ear and when he looked at Jian Yi again, the latter was furiously rubbing his arm over his lips.

"What are you?" he commented sneering, "a five-year-old?"

"Shut up. I'm just trying to get rid of your smell."

"Good luck with that." Then there was silence again and they both had their gazes locked onto the ascending numbers of the floor display panel as the elevator brought them closer to their story.

"He Tian." To his surprise Jian Yi sounded way less agitated now.

"Mhhm?"

"Have you stopped smoking?"

"No, why?"

"Cause you don't smell like an ashtray for once." Or tasted. He Tian could almost hear the addition.

"That's because I knew you would hate it."

There was a bell sound followed by opening doors. Thank heavens!

Finally He Tian could escape the confined place that relentlessly tugged at his willpower not to attack that defenseless, little pup right beside him a second time.

Who would've thought? That one day he'd be in constant danger of losing his composure?

Not so long ago he would have laughed it off. What an abstruse idea. But today, Jian Yi's mere existence proved his old self wrong on so many levels.

Apparently he was able to devote himself to another person. And it had to be a guy, he privately thought, sighing. Not that it bothered him in particular but it explained a lot.

His impassive behaviour towards girls. That not one of them had been able to become more than a simple acquaintance...

So what was he now? Gay? He really couldn't tell, since he didn't seem to be attracted to any other guy than Jian Yi. Nor girl, for that matter.

Either way, his thoughts screwed his brain, giving him an unpleasant headache and so he decided not to dwell on it any longer.

On the thirteenth floor they headed towards his apartment – he had left the door wide open – when Jian Yi stopped midway.

"Everything okay?" He Tian asked and watched as the puppy furrowed his brow.

"Aren't you worried that someone could enter your apartment?"

"No. I own the entire floor. It's just me up here."

He instantly regretted his words for Jian Yi took a meticulous look around, counting the doors on this story, growing paler by the second.

On each floor of this building were the same amount of apartments, hence doors and before Jian Yi was done counting, He Tian intervened:

"Eight."

"You're kidding, right?"

He saved himself the trouble of answering and kept quiet. Not wanting to admit that he felt a bit of embarrassment, he swallowed his upcoming uneasiness.

"Who the fuck needs eight apartments? How can one even live in all of them?"

"I don't. Let's go."

He Tian put the matter to rest and lead the way through the open door. Footsteps trailed behind him and as soon as they got into his apartment an enormous lightning came crashing down into the TV antenna of the adjacent building, bathing his entire apartment in a glistening light. Not long after, a growling thunder was heard, shaking up the ground.

Jian Yi stepped right up to the windows that basically took up one entire wall side in the living room, allowing a clear view over the south of Shenzhen with its business giants, banks, courts and expensive stores and restaurants.

He Tian was well aware that scarcely anything was affordable in this part of the city for people less well-heeled than he was and if it weren't for his uncle, he'd never had set a foot into this area in the first place.

Not because he couldn't afford this kind of lifestyle - thanks to his family's shady business he sure had the means - but because he didn't like the people that lived in his proximity.

For them all that seemed to matter was social standing and displaying perfect lives when the things that really counted, the things that couldn't be measured in wealth or belongings fell by the wayside.

If He Tian thought about it, the elderly couple on the fifth floor were the only people he'd encountered so far that still were down to earth.

They weren't half as self-centered as the rest of the inhabitants in this pretentious and yet popular district, including himself.

He Tian perfectly knew – and nobody in school would have believed him if he professed otherwise – that he wasn't the perfect example of a social person and most of the time he didn't want to talk to others either. He generally preferred minding his own business.

And yet he wasn't oblivious to the fact that most people that lived in his surroundings were harsh and cold, with false priorities. Not that he complained about his apartment though.

At least now Jian Yi was here. A genuine person with the ability to warm up the coldest of places, even this one. Simply by being... just him.

"For how much longer are you going to stand there?" He Tian asked fascinated by the pup's determination to keep staring out of the window, completely taken aback.

Far below were colourful, moving dots, not bigger than ants – cars –, above a living grey vortex that sent one lightning after the other flying towards the ground.

It rained so heavily that it was almost impossible to look further than a few meters and if he hadn't known any better he'd have assumed that it was already late in the day instead of midday.

"I bet you're glad now that you agreed to stay," He Tian continued and placed himself right next to Jian Yi who nodded absentmindedly, eyes glued to the mesmerising view.

"Okay, enough with the staring," he concluded after a while and grabbed Jian Yi's arm to drag him along.

"Where are you taking me?" the pup finally managed to utter, stumbling over his feet as he strode after him.

"To the bathroom."

"Wait a minute."

Before Jian Yi could vent his displeasure he was cut off. "You're not staying one second longer on my wooden floor in those wet clothes. I don't need you to ruin the parquet."

"Who's uptight now?"

"Scram." He Tian pushed Jian Yi into the bathroom. "Go take a shower. The towels are in the cabinet on the top right side. Feel free to take one. I'll bring you some dry clothes in the meantime."

Jian Yi ran his hand through his damp hair - why did he have to look so attractive? - and although the blond was about to say something, He Tian didn't want to hear it and forcefully slammed the door between the two of them. Saved.

After having picked some clothes out of the wardrobe from his spacious bedroom - he had made sure to get only undersized ones that barely fit him - he piled them up in front of the bathroom door where he lingered a little longer.

The thought of Jian Yi wearing them put him in such a good mood that he couldn't wait seeing him being dressed up in oversized clothes.

He Tian forced himself away from the door eventually and had just decided to go into the kitchen in order to look for something edible to offer his guest when the door bell rang.

Not once, not twice but several times consecutively. Someone was hitting the door bell furiously.

What the hell? Who would come to visit him with the apocalypse going on outside? Nobody would be that reckless. And as far as he knew he hadn't ordered delivery food today.

Wondering who it might be, He Tian made his way to the front door only to get his good mood being spoiled instantly as he saw the pathetic excuse of a redhead on his doorstep. Drenched by rain and blood.

"What do you want?" He Tian asked, no longer surprised that the porter had let the delinquent enter the building.

After all, he was a familiar face by now. His personal cook and housemaid he requested to his house at least once a day.

Until He Tian decided that the Redheads debt was paid. His debt to have dared to lay a finger on Jian Yi.

Besides - why lie about it? - he had taken pleasure in torturing the red-haired imbecile by constantly ordering him around and forcing him to do the chores for him. Which he did surprisingly well.

The carrot-top's talent must have been a remnant of the time when his family had owned a restaurant. Also, he was very skilled in flavouring the many various dishes and in preparing very decent meals he was told to cook.

Which, incidentally, he also had fun trying out. Especially now that he wasn't on a budget.

Granted, since Redhead had been at He Tian's place on a daily basis, his food hadn't consisted of coffee, cigarettes and takeout anymore. He had actually started eating healthy and regularly.

Nevertheless, this didn't explain why this guy stood on his doorstep now.

"I did not ask for you today," He Tian said very displeased with Redhead's unheralded appearance. "Don't even think to make it a habit of coming around as you please."

"He Tian," said the red-haired boy, barely being able to stand on his shaky legs.

In what kind of fight had he been involved this time? Would this idiot ever learn from his mistakes?

"I'm in deep trouble and I need a place to crash."

"Keep looking." He Tian had almost closed the door but then Redhead made a weak attempt to push his weight against it.

"I'm begging you. I can't go anywhere else."

He Tian had to admit that he had never seen this guy in such a miserable state before. His clothes were all torn up, blood dripped from everywhere. His ears, his lips, from the cut on his brow...

He didn't want to know what other injuries he hid under his shabby clothes.

"I'm won't disturb you, I swear. You won't even notice I'm there." The silence endured and Redhead desperately went on. "I'll do anything you want. Please."

Now look at that. This guy went all out. Something bad sure must have happened.

"Why are you acting so out of character? It's not like you to ask me for a favour. What happened that you'd rather lose your pride instead of keeping up your act of being a tough guy?"

"I... can't tell."

"Well, then don't bring your petty problems onto my doorstep." At that He Tian slammed the door and the last thing he saw was the little shit's pleading face.

Chapter Text

He Tian had barely closed the door when an immediate knocking and hammering was heard again. The ringing sound of his doorbell got on his nerves right away and for a moment he contemplated turning it off altogether but then again it wouldn't have done anything much against the nerve-racking knocking. So ignoring it wasn't an option either.

Annoyed to the maximum he tore open the door and took a resolute step forward. At the same time the startled Redhead almost fell over his own two feet, trying to back away.

"He Tian-"

"Shut it," the wounded boy was harshly interrupted before he could explain anything. "Now you listen to me very closely. I don't want you here and I am not going to help you either. So clear off my floor or I'll make you leave."

"You can't be that cold."

"Watch me."

The redheaded boy fell silent for a moment, all sorts of emotions crossing his stained face, but quickly regained his composure. "Just let me in. I'm begging you."

"Why did you come here in the first place?"

"I'll tell you. I'll tell you everything."

On second thought, He Tian didn't even care anymore. "Too late, you missed your chance one minute ago. Now leave. I'd like to attend to my guest."

Fury shot through his veins when the bold boy grabbed his wrist and forcefully yanked him back when he was just about to return into his apartment. He Tian broke loose immediately.

"Do you have a death wish?" he growled somewhat frustrated that he couldn't act on the urge to beat the shit out of the redhead. With all those injuries covering him from head to toe he would be dead within seconds.

Ignoring He Tian's – maybe – rhetoric question Redhead answered: "If you don't let me in, you're an even lower person than I thought you were."

"And if you don't stop bugging me, you'll regret it until the end of your miserable life."

---

"Who was that?" Jian Yi came out of the shower to join him in the kitchen where he was absently raiding the fridge.

Since He Tian hadn't eaten yet he had been looking for something edible to still his stomach, and to offer his guest but he had no fucking clue what to do with of all the ingredients that filled his fridge.

Hell, he was never one to cook, let alone being able to do so, hence he had no idea what to make of all that shit. Also, ordering dinner was probably not an option. No delivery guy would willingly expose himself to this shitty weather.

He Tian's mood sunk the longer he stared at the meal awaiting him on the plate right in front of him. It was covered with a plastic wrap and had a little note on it.

Don't let it go to waste, dipshit. I mean it.

By no means he would offer it to his guest, nor eat it himself and so He Tian slammed the fridge door shut. Shit. He would not allow himself to feel remorse. Not now, not ever.

"What did you do with your clothes?" Although he set his eyes on Jian Yi, the guest he had actually invited, the image of the bloodstained, redheaded fool was very much alive in his head.

Seeing Jian Yi in his clothes that were way to large for his physique was a marvellous sight in itself and yet He Tian wasn't able to appreciate it to the fullest.

Damnit. That redheaded little shit had already ruined his day. Next time he would see him, he'd make sure to make him pay for showing up like it was the most normal thing to do.

"I put them over the ledge of the bathtub."

"I'll go take them and put them in the dryer, just to make sure that they'll be dry by tomorrow."

Jian Yi's reply was immediate. "No way. I'm not staying overnight."

"Do you really want to leave now?" he retorted promptly.

"I'll wait for the storm to pass. Also, tomorrow is Monday and I don't have any school things with me."

"I can lend you a pen and a notepad."

"We had homework."

"It's not like you're a good student anyway. One additional bad grade doesn't make that big of a difference."

Jian Yi narrowed his eyes and stayed silent for a bit. He seemed to contemplate the offer.

Fortunately for He Tian, the weather did indeed serve his purpose and when Jian Yi looked out of the huge windows, an astonishing number of claps of thunder were heard, accompanied by fierce winds that slammed the rain against the window glass, making it almost impossible to see anything clear now.

Occasionally impressive fork-shaped lightning bolts stroke through the sky. Good thing, he didn't let the pup go out into the streets. He'd have gone mad not knowing if he was safe.

Jian Yi looked unhappy but then, all of a sudden, he shot He Tian a glance. Had he realized something?

"You bastard, you tricked me. You knew about the storm that's why you invited me here. You wanted me to be stuck with you."

Actually no. All He Tian had known was that it would be a rainy day. He hadn't heard anything about a storm whatsoever. A happy coincidence which he would keep to himself.

But since he badly needed something to lift his spirits – and he knew that Jian Yi's grim face would do – he answered teasingly: "Maybe."

---

After having put Jian Yi's clothes into the dryer, He Tian asked his guest whether he wanted to see the rest of his apartment to which the latter agreed enthusiastically. Jian Yi's astonishment grew bigger with each room they entered, twelve in total.

He Tian had two bathrooms, both with showers, bathtubs and toilets, one big sauna – it was so huge that he counted it as one room –, three living rooms, one kitchen right next to a pantry that was almost bigger than the kitchen itself, one bedroom with a king-sized bed that leapt to the eye upon entering, one walk-in closet, one storage room, in which he'd never let anyone set foot into to this day and one fitness room with all sorts of workout equipment.

"Is this how you keep yourself buff?" Jian Yi asked amazed, entered the spacious fitness room and grabbed the basket ball, he found in a corner, tucked between two dumbbells.

He walked right up to the small imitation of a court where a hoop was affixed to the wall and scored at the first attempt.

"Barely. My turn." And so they passed the ball to one another, occasionally shooting hoops. But very soon their little game became a friendly competition, in which they roughly fought over the dominion of the basket ball.

Jian Yi was good, a pretty skilled player. But He Tian was better. Probably because there was hardly a day going by without him spending time in his indoor mini basketball court.

Being victorious, he aimed one last time at the backboard from a great distance and couldn't help but grin when he scored and watched Jian Yi take out his anger on the ball.

"You're not that bad," He Tian admitted playfully, knowing full well that he aggravated the little pup even more. "But still no match for me."

"Home-turf advantage." Jian Yi pouted.

"Next time you choose the time and place of your defeat then."

He Tian raised a hand to ruffle Jian Yi's messed up hair that was both damp with water and sweat. To his surprise and contrary to his expectations, the little pup didn't flinch.

Instead he spun the basket ball on his finger and let out a deep sigh.

"You don't shy away from physical contact at all, do you? Ever heard of personal space?"

He Tian's lips twitched in amusement. "One arm's length was it? You don't follow your own rules so why should I?"

Jian Yi raised one of his very light eyebrows. "What are you talking about? You don't see me touching you all the time."

He scrunched up his nose, like it was the most disgusting thing he could think of.

"I'm not talking about me. And yet you don't seem to have a problem invading your best friend's personal space on a regular basis."

Jian Yi grabbed the ball and paused. "That's something totally different."

"How is it?"

"Because unlike you and me, he and I are close."

"Nothing that can't be taken care of." He Tian put an arm around Jian Yi's shoulders and when the blond darted him with a suspicious look he himself wasn't sure whether he meant the pup's relationship with Zhan Zheng Xi or his own with Jian Yi.

Back in the kitchen, he rummaged through every drawer, cupboard, both the fridge and freezer, and last but not least the pantry, his hunger driving him crazy by now and the more ingredients he got a hold of, the more he realised that he was being left stranded without the option of ordering food.

And, he cringed at the mere thought of it, without a personal cook. For a split second he regretted having refused entry to the birdbrain. At least the chump could cook. What's more, not all that bad. And he'd regrettably gotten used to it.

But now he was being left with his own inaptitude of producing something edible.

"Do you need me to help you with something?" Jian Yi offered, when he broke away from the windows yet again, having taken a liking to the view.

And he hadn't even seen the sunsets and sunrises yet. He'd be flabbergasted. Maybe a chance would present itself tomorrow morning.

"No."

"Something tells me you're not used to cooking."

"But you are?" He Tian crouched down to open the cupboard under the sink. Nope. Only detergents here.

"I bet I'm better than you. I've never had maids or chefs or could afford takeout, let alone on a regular basis."

"What makes you think I could?"

Jian Yi pointed with his finger at a garbage bag He Tian just remembered stood next to the trash bin.

Unwillingly, at the back of his head, a nagging voice emerged. The redhead asking him whether it'd be too much of a hassle to throw out the trash once in a while. Apparently it was. And now that he looked at the garbage, he did indeed see the empty food boxes piled on top of each other.

Jian Yi grinned, not even trying to cover up the sarcasm dripping from his voice. "And I bet you've also never touched a frying pan before."

Before He Tian could react to this unforeseen, snappy remark, Jian Yi went on.

"Don't even deny it. I just watched you turning your kitchen upside down. It didn't seem like you knew where to find anything. I mean," he hesitated, probably having the time of his life right now, "you even looked into your cutlery drawers... to find food?"

Jian Yi suppressed the urge to burst out laughing but failed miserably.

"You looked so disappointed."

He nearly pissed himself, not giving a damn about holding back anymore.

"Your expression was hilarious. And then again at the sink... How can you not know what's in your own damn kitchen?"

"That's it," He Tian burst out, both anger and embarrassment filling his guts. "I was trying very hard to be nice since I gave you my word to behave but you just forfeited the right to be spared my whims."

He Tian paced towards his guest that barely grasped the sudden shift of mood but before he could shut Jian Yi's big mouth with whatever would've come to his mind in the very few remaining seconds, a notification tone rang out, coming from the pocket of his sweats.

He Tian paused for a moment, puzzled at the ridiculous timing and decided to let Jian Yi off the hook. For now.

He pulled his phone out and upon unlocking the screen, a message popped up. When he saw the sender's name – the one he had particularly chosen for that person – he let out an annoyed sigh, as it read:

Cooking idiot :       2:34 p.m.

I need water.

This guy... Was he for real? Why was he still lingering in front of his apartment door?

Chapter Text

I did it, Mo Guanshan lowered his clenched fist that held his mobile phone to the point that it hurt in his palm. I bet that bastard regrets ever having given me his personal contact now, he thought maliciously and managed, despite the wave of pain surging through his face, to smile flatly.

Now all he had to do was wait. For the impending doom, for his demise. But there was no way he could've held back a second longer.

Trying to reposition himself on the hard ground of the dark hallway that was merely illuminated by the raging sky, whimpers of pain fled from his chapped lips.

Every part of his body ached like hell and it wouldn't get any better if he didn't do anything against it. He was aware. But he couldn't.

For one thing there was no fucking way he'd be able to walk, let alone stand on his own two feet without help.

One ankle felt like it was sprained, thanks to his idiotic fall when he had been on the run, praying to get away with his miserable life. So walking wasn't an option.

How he had managed to get here in the first place though, was beyond him. But now breathing was all the effort he was capable of making.

That was some fine ass whooping I got there, he thought sourly. Maybe even the best. And he had been smashed to the ground, kicked in the guts and hit in the face a lot of times but today had been the icing on the fucking cake. Today he had really feared for his life.

"Those fucking punks." A muscle in his jaw twitched at the memory of this very recent event. He had an awful headache, probably due to the extreme amount of blood he had lost. That he was conscious still, was a miracle. A fucking miracle.

For another thing Mo Guanshan was deadbeat, hungry and above all things thirsty. He knew he wouldn't have the strength to fight his way back home through this stupid-ass weather.

Leaving aside the fact that it was the last place he wanted to go anyway as he didn't exactly plan on endangering the safety of his mom by leading those damn thugs right to their fucking front door.

Which would certainly be the result if he tried and sneak past them, knowing full well that they were still there, downstairs, waiting for him to leave the building to smash his skull in for good.

Probably in their shiny cars, with the toned glass, armed with those lovely bats his head and ribs had already made acquaintance with.

So no. He wouldn't move his sorry ass anytime soon. Meaning that he was stuck. Of all things, right fucking here, in front of the apartment of the guy whose guts he hated with a passion.

All the more, because that bastard proved just a few hours ago that he deserved every ounce of hate directed towards him. That he had no compassion whatsoever. Probably not even a soul.
He just let him rot here, bloody and muddy as he was and didn't give a single fuck.

"Fuck!" Mo Guanshan exclaimed with all his might and slammed his fist onto the ground. Another foolish action he regretted deeply as, apparently, his little finger was broken as well.

If he hadn't been stripped of all choices, he never would have considered ringing this particular doorbell in the first place but here he was, at the douche's mercy, cursing every second of it.

Mo Guanshan closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing away the pain but every time he swallowed his throat got dryer. Fuck.

He was parched which led to him seeing funny things in the hallway such as shifting walls and wavy marble tiles. He was getting dizzy and felt the darkness slowly creeping up his bones. Not much more and he'd lose consciousness for sure. Maybe even for good.

He raised his phone back to the level of his eyes and typed in another message.

Fat Cat:       2:37 p.m.

You wouldn't want me to die here now, would you? A glass of water is all I ask.

For a moment Mo Guanshan contemplated adding an insult, which he really wanted to do, but figured this would more hurt than help his cause and so he hit the send button.

He couldn't imagine He Tian reacting to either of his messages until he heard the notification tone on the receiver's device. Right behind the door?

His heart made a huge skip when the doorknob moved and the bastard stepped into his field of vision, a look of disdain on his face.

Ugh. He was dead meat.

Mo Guanshan didn't exactly know why but seeing the black panther's anger distort his oh so perfect features made him chuckle. He must have been delirious or something to ask for his death so bluntly.

"You are not dying," said He Tian, perfectly ignoring him.

Probably because he looked so damn pathetic on the ground he wasn't even worth a sharp remark anymore.

"Didn't I tell you not to bother me?"

Even He Tian's tone had gotten softer. Or was Mo Guanshan delusional again? Yeah, this sounded more likely.

"I might," he answered groaning, as it took him ages to properly sit up and lean against the wall like a human being.

As soon as Mo Guanshan got a shred of his dignity back that was shattered all over the place, mingling with his blood on the floor, something wet and cold landed in his face.

When he grabbed at the washcloth, eyeing it like it was all he had ever yearned for his entire life, He Tian replied:

"Not on my doorstep. Now wash that ugly face of yours and get yourself patched up."

The Fat Cat put a first-aid kit right next to him. He then leaned against the door frame and tuck a cigarette between his lips and lit it with a storm lighter he had brought.

Then He Tian cast him a glance, holding up the smouldering cigarette.

"It takes seven minutes to finish it. It's all the time you'll get. So if you want to say something, now's the time. I won't listen afterwards."

"I don't have jack shit to say," Mo Guanshan mumbled, wiping his face with the pleasantly cool cloth.

Meanwhile He Tian slid down the door with his back and tapped the ash off his cigarette causing it to fall on the floor.

"Silence it is then."

Only the whistling winds were to be heard, the raindrops bursting on the windows and the thunder that got louder by the minute. It was an eerie atmosphere and for a moment Mo Guanshan was relieved to have company. Until he remembered who he was with.

When he hoped that his face was almost presentable eventually – a mirror would have been nice, however he wouldn't push his luck on that matter – half of He Tian's cigarette was burned down.

"Where's my water?" Mo Guanshan asked half grateful, half reproachful.

He Tian kept sitting in silence, taking a deep pull of his cigarette that gradually filled the hall with a disgusting stench.

Of course he didn't offer to open a window – which was probably for the best, considering the high winds and the rain – nor did he care about the people around him that had to breathe in the smoke. Correction: He Tian didn't care about him. Never had, never would. Once a condescending jerk, always a condescending jerk.

"Hey, answer me," Mo Guanshan urged the Fat Cat to answer.

He Tian raised an eyebrow. "Oh, now you wanna talk?"

"Cut that crap, asshat, just give me the goddamn water."

"Do you really expect me to listen to you if you keep talking like this?"

This little shit. Acting all high and mighty just because he had the upper hand for once. Well maybe... every now and then, but that was not the point.

"I'm not gonna butter you up so let us skip to the part where you give me something to drink."

He Tian took an extra long draw on his cancer stick and exhaled the smoke into his direction.
"I want something in return."

"No." Mo Guanshan tried not to break into a cough.

"You don't even know what I was going to say."

"Sure. You want me to leave."

"That's not what I was going to ask. You won't listen anyway, why should I bother to try and convince you otherwise?"

"Meaning that I can stay?"

"Inside my apartment? No. On this very spot? Yes. If it pleases you so much to warm up the ground and use up all of the valuable oxygen on my floor. Go ahead."

"Shut up. This is not what I'm doing." Not all he was doing. "I'm Hiding."

"From whom?"

Mo Guanshan fell silent again for a while but realised soon after that he had nothing to lose if he told He Tian. This guy would most probably not even care.

"My big-ass mouth got me into trouble with the wrong people."

"How surprising." Sarcasm dripped from He Tian's voice.

"At first I clashed with a guy whose appearance promised a real good fight but disappointingly I took him down with two or three blows. I thought matters were settled and forgot about it but he came back shortly after and brought three thugs along. The only choice I had was to run."

"Why?"

Mo Guanshan knitted his brow. "Have you even looked at me? I'd be dead by now if I stayed a moment longer."

"No. Why were you seeking trouble in the first place? What got under your skin?"

"Don't act like it's of any interest to you."

"It's not. And you only have two minutes left." At that He Tian looked at his cigarette.

They fell silent again. No. Mo Guanshan wouldn't act on the need to tell this douchebag what had really happened to him. Why he had gotten himself into this mess.

"What do you want?" he asked after a while, when he estimated He Tian to take his last draw. "You said you wanted something in return. What is it?"

At this point he nearly would have done anything just to moisten his throat with water.

He Tian got up to his feet after having stubbed out his cigarette on the floor. "Your name. Tell me."

What the heck? "Why would you want to know my name?"

"I thought you'd appreciate it if I stopped calling you names and started using your actual name. Also, you look pretty thirsty to me."

Meaning he wouldn't get something to drink if he didn't spill. So he did, teeth-gnashingly. "Mo Guanshan."

He Tian frowned. "Are you kidding me?"

"Why would I?"

"That's not you name."

"It is my name!"

"You're lying."

"What the fuck? Why would I lie?"

"To get something to drink."

"Just so you know, I did not lie. If you don't believe me, I'm happy to show you my ID." What the hell was wrong with this guy?

He Tian's features relaxed. "No need. Alright mountain guy. Here's your mountain water."

He leaned towards the inside of his apartment and got hold of a water bottle that he apparently had placed on the ground before coming out into the hallway.

"Don't get to close to... nah, forget it. I don't have anything witty to say." He chuckled, feeling hilariously funny.

Having revealed his name to that jerk had been a big mistake. By doing so Mo Guanshan had just traded one insult with another.

But right now he was too busy snatching the bottle out of He Tian's hand. However he failed at removing the lid so that the black-haired guy had to give him a hand. How weak could one be?

When Mo Guanshan finally got his first swig, he almost cried. The cool water running down his throat almost tore it apart in the process.

At least that's how it felt like and his stomach that devoured itself, seeing that he hadn't eaten for a while now, calmed down gradually. It was a pleasant sensation that soothed the pain.

"Listen, mountain guy," He Tian said on his doorstep. "If it weren't for my guest, I'd consider letting you in."

"Don't call me that." So the douche had friends? Surely some random girl that desperately hoped to be getting laid or something.

"But since my guest is going to spend the night, you should better go."

"I can't."

"Why not? A cab should get you home safely. Or to the hospital. You're in pretty bad shape as far as I can see."

"I can't." The response came out of his mouth more energetically.

"If it's money that you need, I'll give it to you. You can pay me back another time."

"I can't leave the building. They are still waiting for me."

"They are here?" For the first time today He Tian sounded genuinely interested.

"They followed me all the way down here, so yeah."

"You brought your thug friends to my house?"

Mo Guanshan shrugged. "Better than my house."

He Tian was speechless for a while. "So that's why you came here. I had already wondered."

"I didn't know where else to go. I didn't want to get my mom into trouble or any of my friends. Those thugs mean business."

He Tian clicked his tongue. "Good thing I'm not your friend, indeed. You stay here. I'll be right back." He walked right off to the elevators.

"What are you doing?"

"Getting rid of the scum that ruined my birthday."

Chapter Text

His mood was as gloomy as the cloudy sky, his thoughts as jumbled as the swirling winds, and his anger as fierce as the deafening thunderbolts.

It hadn't been that long since Jian Yi had left his apartment, maybe two hours, three at most, but he felt like it had been longer. So much longer.

Often enough Zhan Zheng Xi caught himself looking at the time on his mobile phone just to realise that only a few minutes had passed. Why was that idiot taking so long? And why hadn't he sent at least a message or called him?

Calm down, Zhan Xixi, he thought to himself. Three hours is a perfectly adequate time for two friends to meet. He himself spent a lot more time with Jian Yi when they were hanging out or out in town. No point in stressing over it.

He just managed to calm himself down when a snarky voice resonated in his head. Two friends, snorted his subconscious and got him all edgy again.

Zhan Zheng Xi practically stared a hole into his mobile phone until he decided to get it over with and call his best friend. When he did, he got redirected automatically to the answering machine. Four times.

"Shit!" he exclaimed frustrated and remembered that Jian Yi's phone had been already turned off when he had left. Thanks to his own doing. Great. Now he couldn't even be reached by phone.

What now? Zhan Zheng Xi's grip tightened around the phone in his hand. Why was he so uneasy anyway?

It wasn't like him to be concerned about Jian Yi having fun with other people. They weren't glued together after all. They both had very different lives and the right to do whatever they wanted to do in their free time. It's not like they had to spend every second, minute and hour of the day in each other's company.

But why did it have to be He Tian? Had it been someone else, he wouldn't have been so... insecure. Jeez, where did that word come from all of a sudden? He wasn't insecure for fuck's sake! He knew his place, knew what he meant to Jian Yi. Also, that nobody could ever replace him.

Zhan Zheng Xi tore his hair out. Frankly, he really didn't know whether that was still the case. He hadn't been very encouraging towards his best friend since he had learned about his feelings for him and Jian Yi surely wouldn't wait forever until he was ready to do whatever he wasn't prepared to bring himself to do yet.

But He Tian? He was the worst. Jian Yi could not possibly have contemplated to get off with this guy above all?

The sudden knocking against the door tore him away from heavy thoughts and when he bid the person to enter it was his sister with her everlasting sunny disposition.

Her brown eyes were widened with excitement, her arms waving around and her voice higher than usual.

"What do you want?" Zhan Zheng Xi asked grimly as he really didn't have the nerve to concern himself about her right now.

She climbed onto his bed he was idly sitting on and literally shoved a Nintendo game into his face.

"Please let us play this video game," she begged and put on a pout when his answer was no. "Please please please please please! I promise I'll let you win!"

"Don't you have homework to do?"

"Already finished. Please play this game with me."

He thought about it. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad idea. That way he would busy his mind with other things than Jian Yi or He Tian.

"Please!" Zhan Zheng Xi's little sister wrapped her arms around his neck and put her entire weight on his shoulders. Once she got hold of him, he knew she wouldn't let go unless he gave in to her. So he did.

---

As expected, she beat him in every round of Mario Kart even though she had promised to let him win once in a while. But she didn't. Which he had suspected from the get-go since she turned into another person entirely once she started to play a video game.

She got mean and ruthless and relentlessly kicked his ass at every turn. That's why he preferred playing those kind of games with Jian Yi. At least they were more or less on par.

---

One humiliating hour later, his little sister finally had mercy on him and let him off the hook.
But even after her very amusing victory march she didn't look very satisfied. Probably because he hadn't been a worthy opponent.

Now less than ever, considering that his thoughts were completely elsewhere. Good job I did there, not thinking about them, he sarcastically thought and rubbed his temples. He was getting a headache.

"Are you ok, big bro?"

Zhan Zheng Xi sighed and let himself fall back onto his bed. His sister nearly instantly blocked his view to the ceiling when she leaned over him, her two braids tickling his face.

"You didn't seem like you were into it today."

"I wasn't," he admitted and fought the futile urge to try and call Jian Yi again. "Sorry."

"Is it because of that idiot friend of yours?" Zhan Zheng Xi wrinkled his brow, so she went on: "You look pretty bummed since he left. FYI, I don't like him. He's weird. And a pervert."

"I guess so," Zhan Zheng Xi answered with a weak smile on his lips.

"Also, I don't like that he's living with us."

"Not for long though."

"For long enough!"

He sat up after a while and intensely eyed his sister whose cheeks reddened with anger. "What are you so mad about?"

"Why aren't you mad? He forced himself onto you and you don't seem to be bothered about it at all. You even invited him into our house."

"Cause he's in trouble and my best friend."

"Clearly, he doesn't see you as such."

"Mind your own business, little plague," Zhan Zheng Xi said fed up with her accusations eventually and pushed her out of his room.

As soon as her protests died and he was alone again, he walked across the room to the window.

The weather wasn't getting any better and he doubted that it would before nightfall. More importantly however was the fact that tomorrow was a school day.

Since he had invited Jian Yi in the heat of the moment, the latter didn't even have school things with him. Neither at Zhan Zheng Xi's place nor at He Tian's.

But at least the former was in the same class as him and could provide Jian Yi with the due homework. He could copy all of it today and tomorrow after school they could go back to Jian Yi's place and get his remaining school things as well as some of his clothes.

Zhan Zheng Xi frowned as another possibility presented itself. What if Jian Yi didn't care? What if he just went to school with nothing but his clothes on? What if he stayed the night at the douchebag's place?

Before Zhan Zheng Xi could completely go insane over this imaginary scenario, his mobile phone rang.

He lept to his bed and looked at the screen. A bit disappointed, as the caller's number was anonymous, he answered the phone.

"Xixi, it's me."

Relief overflowed his chest and took the heavy weight off it. What a reaction...

"I just wanted to let you know that I'll stay at He Tian's tonight. So don't worry about me. See you tomorrow at school?"

As quickly as Zhan Zheng Xi had been put at ease, he tensed up. "What?"

"I said, see you in school."

"No, not that part. You're going to spend the night?" Zhan Zheng Xi's mouth went dry.

"Yeah."

"Like hell you will. Get your ass back here. Pronto."

"Have you even looked out of the window? No way in hell I'm coming back."

Zhan Zheng Xi had to take a deep breath and swallow down a hot-headed outburst.

For the first time in his entire life he felt the cold sting of jealousy. And he didn’t handle it very well. Shit!

"What was that?"

Having unintentionally thought aloud, Zhan Zheng Xi resumed: "You stay put, I'm coming over."

"Wait! Are you-"

Zhan Zheng Xi didn't hear the rest of Jian Yi's question as he hung up on him.

Good thing he still had He Tian's address memorised. Under no circumstances he'd let Jian Yi stay there. Not even this god-forsaken weather could rein in his determination.

He was going to bring Jian Yi back, no matter what. Not one moment sooner he would have peace of mind.

Chapter Text

It took him a minute to reach the entrance of the building. Despite the efforts of the porter to hold him back for his own safety, he stepped out into the heavy rain, a hand protecting his eyes. Gust of winds shoved him in all sorts of directions and he had to fight them in order to keep going forward.

He peeked through the darkness and spotted them almost immediately. Those menacing cars nearby the flickering streetlamp, the moving shadows behind the car windows, the glaring eyes.

It was like a sixth sense. He always knew when he was being observed, an ability that has saved his hide a lot of times.

Clenching his fists, he walked up to the first car in line and knocked against the window. When it was being cranked down, he halted.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" was the first thing that came to his mind when he looked into an all too familiar face.

"He Tian," replied the shady man in the shadows.

He had turned out all the lights inside the car. But the glow of his cigarette illuminated his face every time he took a drag and revealed a big scar on his brow.

"Get inside the car."

"No."

"I wasn't asking."

"I don't care. Leave."

Before He Tian could make out the sudden movement in the darkness, he heard a click and froze on the spot. He would recognise that sound anywhere, even if robbed of his eyesight. A gun was being pointed at him, leaving him with no other choice but to comply.

Inside the vehicle where he was being shielded from the precipitation, He Tian ran his hands through his soaked hair and waited for his acquaintance to continue whatever he had to say.

"How're your parents?"

"I don't know." And he didn't care.

"Still leaving you all the liberties of the world?"

"My so-called liberty comes at a price and you know it."

A husky laugh was heard. "You brought it all on yourself."

He Tian frowned as he strongly disagreed. "Enough with the chit-chat. What are you here for?"

The man in the shadows, Shun Dao*, a henchman of the higher ranks from the Red Serpents*, nodded his head towards the great apartment house.

"We were following a little cur right to this place. We're still waiting for him to come out but he seems to have found shelter somewhere. Coincidence?"

"What is?"

"You don't know him by any chance?"

"Do you really expect me to know every crook roaming the freaking streets?" He Tian got annoyed. Why couldn't they just let it go?

"As far as I know there aren't many in this district. And the guy seemed to know exactly where he was going."

"I'm not the only one living in this building."

"You almost are," Shun Dao retorted. "Except for some old folks."

"Trying to imply something?"

"You tell me. Is he a friend of yours?"

"No." This wasn't a lie since He Tian didn't consider the idiot to be his friend and vice versa.

"Good. Cause if he were, you'd be in trouble." Shun Dao blew the cigarette smoke straight into He Tian's face. However, the latter didn't flinch.

"Can I go now?"

"One last thing. I've got a feeling he's not coming out anytime soon and I'm not planning on staying here forever."

"Nor do you have the permission to set foot in the building," He Tian reminded Shun Dao admonishingly. "It's not your territory."

"Right. So if you happen to accidently see him," He Tian could practically hear the quotation marks, "tell him that we don't let offences slide. And He Tian. Let this be a warning to you as well. You don't get to choose the wrong side. If you do, we will know it and you can kiss goodbye your freedom."

If there was something He Tian hated with a passion, it was him being threatened. He had never responded well to threats and he never would.

"I choose whoever the fuck I want," he snarled. "I'm not yours to command."

"Yet."

"Get it into your thick skull: I will never be!"

"We'll see."

Those snarky remarks pissed him off beyond imagination.
Gritting his teeth, he considered punching his acquaintance but he held back eventually because he knew he wouldn't leave the car with just a black eye.

"Now off you go. Have a good night's rest. And oh, I almost forgot... Say hi to Jian Yi from me." A mischievous smile distorted the lips of the man.

He Tian's heart sunk into his pants. "How do you-"

"I thought you knew that we're never far away." Another threat.

If that was the case, Shun Dao already knew about Redheads exact whereabouts.
Also, that He Tian was blatantly lying to his face. This couldn't be good.

Why did he get himself into trouble for the idiot in the first place? He didn't owe him anything. And the turnip was right with one thing. The Red Serpents were not to be taken lightly.

He Tian lifted himself from the seat and gladly stepped out into the rain. Before he could however slam the car door behind him, the bulky henchman leaned over to wish him a happy birthday.

He Tian mumbled a fuck off under his breath and rushed back into the building, where he was embraced by the illusion of a welcoming home in which he could live safely and freely.

He suppressed the knowledge that it was all but temporary as often as he could. That his freedom had been in fact a punishment all this time. To isolate him from others and to 'sort himself out in hopes of him coming to his right senses'.

When He Tian was back in the elevator, the faces of his parents flickered before his eyes. He hadn't seen them for weeks now.

Since he had failed to obey the first command he had ever been given to, they made a very good job to make themselves scarce.

They obviously didn't want to have anything to do with him, the one that had disgraced the family, unless he was ready get his job done. Which he wasn't. And he doubted that he ever would. So isolation it was.

He Tian got to his storey and when he laid his eyes on the picture of misery in front of his apartment door, anger gushed over.

"What the hell did you idiot do to them?" he said, dangerously looming over the intimidated redhead. "Why and how did you piss them off?"

The injured boy struggled for words and for the first time He Tian thought that he didn't look like the violent troublemaker he'd always expected him to be.

Right now he didn't even look like someone who enjoyed picking fights at all. Perhaps the reason was that he was in over his head with this one or that he had been assaulted to the point of being hardly capable of breathing without wincing in pain.

Either way, the idiot suddenly just looked like any other boy his age. A boy that was terrified.

"Are... are they gone?"

"I guess but I can tell you that they're never going to let this slide."

If possible, the redhead got even paler. "What do they want?"

He Tian creased his face. "Are you for real? You're the one who should know."

The red-haired boy tilted his head, apparently oblivious to the extent of trouble he had gotten himself into.

He Tian sighed. "You couldn't just have gone elsewhere, could you?" He launched a kick against the wall right next to the bleeding boy.

"Is it that bad?"

"You idiot, you have no idea who these guys are, do you?"

The idiot shook his head.

"They don't say ignorance is bliss for nothing, do they?" He Tian hissed sarcastically.

Neither of them said anything for a while until He Tian finally calmed down.

"Since I'm in trouble anyway, I can just as well give them a real reason to be angry. But don't believe for a second that I'm willing to take the fall for you. Mind you, if anything goes awry, I'm throwing you to the wolves. Got it?"

The injured boy nodded hastily, sensing the turning tides. "Understood."

"Good now get up the goddamn floor and get your ass into my apartment."

Mo Guanshan - what a stupid ass name - tried his best to get up on his feet but failed due to the weak physical condition he was in.

How badly has he been injured? He Tian wondered.

"Need help?" he asked superfluously and didn't wait for the idiot to answer. "Grab the first-aid-kit and hold on tight."

He Tian crouched down, placed his hands under Mo Guanshan's stiffening body and lifted him up in order to carelessly throw him over his right shoulder.

"What the fuck are you doing?!" the injured one exclaimed and started struggling as his view turned upside down. "Let go of me! I can walk!"

He Tian didn't give two shits about the redhead's wounded pride and closed the entrance door behind him.

When he strode through the hall of his apartment, Mo Guanshan's resistance had gotten on his nerves to such an extent that he only saw one way to bring the emerging pain in his back to an end.

He moved his hand from the guy's legs to his ass and pinched it.

The girly scream that resonated in every corner of his apartment, including his body, made him laugh.

"Stop moving," he said amused, as soon as he got enough air in his lungs again, "unless you want me to slap you next."

He Tian felt a bit disappointed, seeing that the redhead became more immobile than a corpse.

Which didn't stop Mo Guanshan though from spitting out the most unpleasant curse words He Tian had ever heard from anyone. He was actually impressed.

He Tian only put the boy back on his feet when he reached the bathroom. However, he didn't let go of him yet as one hand still lingered on his back, holding him close.

The idiot looked up at him with dilated pupils, his lips slightly parted as if to burst out in another rant but to He Tian's surprise, the redhead didn't say anything. Probably because he was still in shock. Instead, he let out harsh breaths.

If He Tian had known that it was so easy to shut this guy up, he'd have resorted to this solution much earlier. Well, now he knew and he certainly would make use of this newly acquired knowledge in the days to come.

"I won't let you wander about my apartment when you look and reek like this," He Tian said and gestured with a nod towards all the blood and scrunched his nose. "You go take a shower and then stick to your promise and prepare some food, I'm hungry."

"You'll have to let me go first," Mo Guanshan said snappishly, trying to push He Tian away. He lost his temper in a matter of seconds. "Back off, you fuckwit!"

He Tian chuckled. Of course the idiot bit the hand that fed him.

"You don't learn at all, do you? This mouth of yours got you into trouble in the first place and now you let it run wild again. Do you really think you're safer in here with me than out there?"

"Yes."

A bold little shit he was. "We'll revise that remark another time." He Tian said with a glimmer in his eyes. He'd make it his mission to prove the redhead wrong. "But for now I've got a guest to take care of. Oh and by the way."

He was almost out the door when he glanced back to Mo Guanshan.

"Youre going to make food for the both of us. And if you so much as complain, you'll be out on your ass in no time, you hear me?"

The redheaded boy obediently nodded. His facial features however were strained with his effort to obey without protest. He obviously couldn't stomach the thought to depend on aid - He Tian's aid in particular - but he hated the alternative even more.

"That being said, you'll be cooking for Jian Yi and me."

Mo Guanshan's face dropped and He Tian warily looked at him but the redhead gathered up all his strength to keep his facial expressions in check and just nodded.

"Good boy." At that He Tian went back into the living room where he found Jian Yi lazing about on the couch with He Tian's house telephone in his hand. Did he make a call in his absence?

He Tian grabbed the phone and put it on the coffee table before he devoted his full attention to Jian Yi who seemed to be sound asleep.

A wide grin forced its way into He Tian's face as a shitload of evil thoughts crossed his mind. This was a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity he had to seize. What could he do to the little pup to enrage him? Oh how he loved teasing him.

He Tian paused when Jian Yi's collarbone - that looked out from under the shirt he had given him earlier today - caught his eye. The corner of his mouth twitched in amusement as he got an idea. A hilarious idea.

He went into a kneeling position next to the couch and slid one finger under the neckline of the shirt, carefully, to prevent Jian Yi from waking up. Then he pulled the cloth downwards to reveal more of Jian Yi's chest.

He Tian admired the view for a bit but forced his eyes away in order to follow through with his idea. With this in mind, he bent down and gave Jian Yi the biggest hickey he has ever given anyone before.

Let's see what Zhan Zheng Xi has to say about this, he thought and eagerly perfected his artwork.

_______________________________________

A/N:

*Shun - to obey, to submit, to follow;   Dao - knife, blade, single-edged sword (OC)

Red Serpents - name of a yet unspecified mafia group

Chapter Text

Jian Yi opened his eyes due to the disgusting smell that crept into his nose and when he was done orienting himself and recognised where he was, he stared right into He Tian's face, who was only centimeters away from his own.

"Finally awake?" He Tian asked and, in the process, unleashed another cloud of smell into his direction.

"Back off," Jian Yi said immediately and pushed He Tian's chest away. "You reek of cigarettes."

Jian Yi sat up on the couch and scratched his head while he watched as He Tian shoved his legs out of the way to sit down himself.

"You should really quit. You're way too young to smoke and it isn't healthy."

He Tian rolled his eyes. "I've heard that plenty of times."
Then he locked eyes with Jian Yi, pensively.

When the dragging silence between them became too awkward, Jian Yi blurtet out: "What?"

"You know, I would stop for you, right?"

Jian Yi grimaced and shook his head. "Gross. See? That's the thing with you. I never know when you're being serious. Frankly, at times it's very exhausting."

"I'm being serious right now."

"You're full of crap, that's what you are."

He Tian's mouth distorted into a grim expression. "Am I?" he asked coolly, sending chills down Jian Yi's spine.

Whoops. Did he, in the end, accidentally hurt him with his words?

"When have I ever been dishonest to you?"

Come to think of it... "How would I know? Something is just not right with you. It doesn't seem like you're being honest. Not to me anyway. Take it from me. I know when people are hiding their true selves. But enough with the heavy talk. What's that sudden sound I'm hearing, coming from right over there?"

Jian Yi pointed into aforementioned direction.

"Oh yeah, that's..." He Tian hesitated and let out a harsh breath. "A guest."

Jian Yi brightened up. "The more the merrier."

Although he was surprised as he hadn't heard anyone entering the apartment. On the other hand, he had been taking a nap for... he didn't even know for how long.

"You wouldn't say that, if you knew who it was."

He Tian's expression didn't match his tone. While his face showed displeasure, his voice sounded amused.

Jian Yi shrugged. "It doesn't matter who it is. It's your place and you can invite who you want."

He Tian grinned. "Remember those exact words when you see who's coming out of the shower, will you?"

"Sure. Oh, by the way." Jian Yi nodded towards the telephone on the coffee table. "I made a call, I hope you don't mind."

Since he had decided to stay overnight, he had felt the urge to tell Zhan Zheng Xi about his plans.

And since his mobile phone had been dead from the very beginning, he had just taken the house telephone from He Tian, after having been ordered by him to wait in the apartment for just a few minutes.

Jian Yi still didn't know why exactly - maybe it had something to do with the person He Tian had brought - but as soon as Jian Yi had been left alone, he had called his best friend.

Funnily enough, he had never memorised the passcode of his own phone but Zhan Zheng Xi's number was burned deep and irrevocably into his brain.

He Tian bumped his shoulder against Jian Yi's, his eyes filled with a devilishly glimmer.

"Were you calling your boyfriend?"

Jian Yi frowned. "Stop. He's not my boyfriend."

"But you wish he were."

"Why are we talking about this?"

"You can't even give me a proper answer."

Not this topic again... "No, I do not wish it. Period. Can we move on now?"

He Tian sneered. "Liar."

"Shut up." Jian Yi punched He Tian in the arm. More playfully than anything else as he didn't intend to seriously harm anyone. Least of all himself.

"Not quite yet. There's still something I wanted to ask you."

A malicious grin worked its way onto He Tian's lips and Jian Yi knew that nothing good would come out of it. He braced himself.

"Who was your first kiss with?"

"What?"

"You specifically told me you never kissed with tongue which means you did kiss before. Who was the lucky one?"

He Tian's ability to change the topic at a moment's notice gave Jian Yi whiplash. And a beet-red face. This guy did not have the slightest sense of shame.

"My bet is on your not-boyfriend."

Jian Yi crossed his arms over his chest as if to build up some imaginary wall between the two of them and leaned sideways, in the opposite direction of He Tian. The farther away Jian Yi was, the safer he felt. Not only physically.

"You're really annoying."

"Which kiss did you enjoy more?"

"I said shut up! We didn't kiss."

Jian Yi was prepared to leave. Weren't it for one pesky detail: yeah, right. He was stuck at this place. A look over his shoulder, out of the huge windows, made him sigh in defeat. If anything, the weather had only gotten worse.
Was Zhan Zheng Xi really out there right now? Was he crazy?

"Look who's being dishonest now." He Tian's mocking voice brought Jian Yi back to the present.

"Even so. That's none of your damn business."

Jian Yi chewed on his bottom lip, losing himself in thought. Now that He Tian had stirred up the memory of both occurrences there was no way not to think about them.

He had indeed secretly started to compare, now that he had something to compare his first kiss with.

Despite all his efforts to try and find He Tian's kiss disgusting, he didn't think it was. It had been okay. But nothing in comparison to the kiss he had shared with Zhan Zheng Xi.

Even though they hadn't kissed with tongue and it had been pretty much one-sided and maybe even awkward. But this kiss had been everything to him.

However, Jian Yi was more confused now than ever. Since he did not not like either of the kisses, there could only be one explanation for it. Was he really into men?

On the other side there was no way to tell, since he had never kissed a girl before. But wasn't his lack of interest in doing so a big enough clue already?

Then again, nobody stirred his interest whatsoever unless that person was Zhan Zheng Xi himself.

"Hey." He Tian nudged Jian Yi with his elbow and got his attention back. "Still dwelling over our kiss?" He laughed his ass off, while Jian Yi sent a kick into his direction.

"Fuck you."

"Come on now, don't be like-"

"Hey, can you lend me some clothes?"

He Tian was abruptly interrupted and when he turned his head to where the voice had come from, Jian Yi's face dropped.

He jumped onto the couch and pointed his finger towards the unwelcome intruder. "You! What are you doing here?!"

The redheaded boy stood there awkwardly, feeling out of place and ignored Jian Yi's guts.

Instead he studied He Tian's every reaction who, however, bluntly stared back.

Redhead wore nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist that he held in place with one hand.

Very noticeable were the many colourful bruises covering his torso as well as the swelling wounds in his face.

But apart from that, he had a very decent body. Muscles in all the right places, no body fat and very little body hair. Just the top end of the auburn happy trail could be seen and when Jian Yi averted his gaze, he found He Tian's eyes glued to Redhead's lower body part.

Even though He Tian was never at a loss for words, let alone snarky remarks, he was completely taken aback now.

Jian Yi's mouth curved into a smile. Now look at that, he thought and really started to look forward to this evening.

He Tian finally managed to rise to his feet, his facial expressions back to normal.

"Just go grab something from the wardrobe in my room," he said monotonously but to Jian Yi he sounded a bit too forceful.

When Redhead made his way to He Tian's bedroom, Jian Yi couldn't shut up any longer. Payback was a bitch.

"He seems to know his way around," he began, already prepared to put more wood on the fire. "How many times has he already been here before?"

He Tian narrowed his eyes but Jian Yi offered him no opportunity to take the floor.

"He was behaving very comfortable around you, wasn't he? So calm and affable. Let alone the fact that he was... almost naked. Makes me curious how you managed to tame him. Although I may have an inkling..."

Jian Yi just got into his stride. He had so much more up his sleeve but He Tian grabbed him by the arm and pushed him back onto the couch, menacingly towering over him.

"Do you really wanna know?" The promising and expectant tone got Jian Yi to back up. "I could show you."

He Tian put his hands next to Jian Yi's shoulders against the sofa backrest, trapping him between them.

"So!" Jian Yi blurted out and twisted himself free from their closeness by escaping under He Tian's arms. "What are we doing now?" he asked, as soon as he had restored sufficient space between the two of them.

"Waiting for the idiot to make us some food."

"No way. I'm not going to eat something that was being made by that jerk."

"He's a pretty decent cook. Even though he doesn't look like it."

"Good for him."

"Do you have a better idea? A faster one? I'm starving." He Tian made his way towards the kitchen and Jian Yi followed suit.

"In fact, I do." He beamed with joy. "Let's cook something together."

He Tian dismissed his proposition by bursting out laughing. "I haven't cooked in years." He opened the refrigerator and took out a plate that was covered with a plastic wrap.

Jian Yi watched him intently. "I knew you were a spoiled brat."

"I'm far from being spoiled."

"Erm..." Jian Yi took a demonstrative look around. "I beg to differ."

He Tian ripped off the plastic as well as a note that was attached to it. "How is that being spoiled?" he continued while he put the plate into the microwave and set the timer for three minutes. "You've got a roof over your head same as I and, as far as I know, you don't have to pay rent either or work to buy food or clothes. It's not that different."

"But my apartment is not the size of a football field. Also, I don't own an entire floor."

"Which makes it even worse for me. At least you don't live alone."

Jian Yi halted for a moment. "But you do? Where are your parents?"

He Tian fell silent and stared at the turning food in the microwave until the three minutes were over. He then put the plate onto the kitchen island and chopsticks next to it.

After a short time the redheaded boy shuffled back to them, his body now hidden under a plain, black shirt and blue sweatpants, both pant legs rolled up. His hands were buried in his pockets, his shoulders tense.

He Tian waved him nearer. "Sit down and eat." Redhead raised his head and simultaneously turned pale. "It's the food you made, no need to be anxious about it."

"Didn't I tell you to eat it up?"

"Well, I didn't. By the way. You're wearing my favourite shirt. If you mess it up, I'll make you pay for it. Mind you, it won't be money I'll be asking you for."

"What then?" Jian Yi interposed, chuckling.

He really enjoyed watching He Tian being around the redhead. His behaviour was so different from how he acted towards him.

And even though He Tian spoke in a harsh and threatening way and didn't seem to particularly like Redhead, he liked him enough to invite him into his place. And to stare at him, his eyes lingering a tad too long on the boy, even now, although Redhead was fully clothed.

That's how I've been looking at Xixi, Jian Yi cheerfully remembered. That's how it all started.

Jian Yi made another observation. He didn't exactly know how close both of them were but He Tian seemed to be way more himself than he had ever been with Jian Yi.

I knew he wasn't being himself around me, Jian Yi thought and mentally high-fived himself.

"Hey," he had to say to tear He Tian's attention away from the carrot-top. "What do we eat now?"

Also an interesting fact: He Tian had preferred to give the little food he had left to Redhead instead of eating it himself. Boy. Wasn't he being obvious?

He Tian let out a sigh and leaned against the countertop. "Seeing that you don't want to eat something made by him," Redhead didn't even care to react, sat down on a bar chair and wolfed down the meal, "you tell me."

Jian Yi straightened his back as an idea hit him. "Let's make a competition. You cook something and I cook something. And the winner has to grant a wish to the loser. No matter what."

He Tian raised an eyebrow. "No matter what?"

"You can wish for anything you like and vice versa."

Redhead happily munched away, looking like a hamster. He perfectly blocked out whatever was going on around him. Jian Yi had never seen him so calm. That was definitely a first.

He Tian shook his head and pulled a cigarette out of his pocket.

"As tempting as it sounds, I told you I suck at cooking."

Jian Yi stepped forward and snatched the cigarette out of He Tian's mouth, before he could light it. Then he crunched it up in his palm and let the remains fall into the trash bin.

"You won't get any better if you keep killing your taste buds."

"He's right, you know," Redhead mumbled, without raising his head though and stuffed his mouth with another bite of... what was it anyway that he ate? Something with diced chicken, dried chili and fried peanuts.

"Shut up, mountain boy," He Tian retorted angrily and got hold of another cigarette. "And you," he pointed at Jian Yi, "stop trying to be my mother."

Jian Yi pouted. "I didn't expect you to be someone who backs away from competition. What a dud."

"What did you just call me?" He Tian lowered both the cigarette in his hand and the lighter. His eyes flickered with disbelief.

"A dud. I expected more of you."

Jian Yi knew his words weren't the ones that pushed He Tian over the edge but the carrot-top's muffled laughter.

As a consequence He Tian threw his cigarette into Redhead's direction that bounced off his head and landed onto the floor.

"What is your fucking problem, you dipshit?!" The redhead exploded almost immediately, ready to get into an argument but He Tian silenced him with an angry:

"Quiet."

At the same time he slammed the lighter onto the countertop and glared at Jian Yi who could barely hide a grin.

"Alright, I agree to your stupid proposition." He Tian's expression darkened. "You will regret this."

Jian Yi laughed. "We'll see."

Insulting this guy's ego works miracles. I should keep that in mind.

---

Both their food was disgusting. After having made a huge mess on the kitchen counter, two completely different dishes greeted them in all their glory.

One almost looking appealing - the one that Jian Yi had made - , the other like a lump of something that couldn't be described with words. He Tian's dish.

Jian Yi could almost hear it scream 'please kill me' and he could tell that not much more was needed for He Tian to toss it right into the trash bin. Which he would never allow since they both had to taste it first.

Honestly, Jian Yi's stomach turned already. He Tian hadn't lied when he had said that he wasn't able to cook. The understatement of the century. Gosh, what was that horrible stench?

"You go first," He Tian said encouragingly and took a step back.

That jackass just doesn't want to take the first bite... He knows that his dish couldn't possibly taste anywhere near good and still urges me to try it... ugh.

Jian Yi gnashed his teeth. However he didn't object and took a mouthful of the pork chow mein dish he, himself, had made - at least the resemblance here was notable - and then turned to take a spoonful of the dish they both considered to be something like sweet and sour chicken with fried rice. With heaps of imagination, that is.

Even though Jian Yi gave it his all, his face betrayed him with each and every twitch and sweat drop that appeared on his forehead.

Also, he could feel himself turning paler the longer he chewed. Which he did for a good while now, mainly because he didn't want to swallow the mush that was left in his mouth.

"Now you go," Jian Yi forced the words out, almost vomiting in the process, but bravely pulled himself together and kept the food in his mouth.

All the effort would be worth it. He knew he would win and He Tian grant him anything. Jian Yi thought about it. What could he wish for? Oh the possibilities...

He Tian suddenly grabbed both dishes and walked towards the trash bin.

"Nah, I'm good," he said amused and threw both failures far, far away into the depths of oblivion.

"What are you doing?" Jian Yi came running and caught He Tian's arm but it was too late. "Mine wasn't too bad. I won!"

"We'll never know that for sure now, will we?"

"You sly bastard. You just wasted one hour of my time." Jian Yi placed both hands on his hips, looking at the mess they had made throughout the entire kitchen. Despite his words and pursed lips he wasn't too concerned about the wasted food though. "What are we going to eat now?"

As if on cue, they both looked at Redhead.

---

"I'm hungry..." Jian Yi rested his head on the kitchen island, while all sorts of indefinable smells floated through the air.

Oddly enough, the spices that Redhead used to make a hopefully delicious food reminded him of the ones his mother used and for one uncontrollable, little moment he allowed himself to miss her. Sad thing was he knew, that this feeling wasn't mutual.

Before his heart could become too heavy, He Tian replied.

"Stop whining," He was leaning against the countertop and stood close to Redhead as he watched him fry some chicken pieces mixed with shallot, garlic, onion and ginger slices in a saucepan.

It smelled so good, Jian Yi wanted to die on the spot. At the same time he didn't as he enjoyed way too much watching He Tian pestering the redheaded boy who had the patience of a three-year-old.

When He Tian tried to steal a piece of chicken out of the saucepan for the fourth time, Redhead completely lost his shit and vigorously hit his knuckles with a cooking spoon.

"Get. Out. Of. My. Kitchen!" Redhead insisted, the veins popping out on his temples.

"Your kitchen?" He Tian repeated displeased and rubbed his reddening knuckles.

"Yes, MY kitchen! Right now, this is my turf, so fuck off unless you want to eat a huge pile of charred crap!"

Jian Yi laughed. "Somehow it's cute how he can't hide his fangs for longer than three seconds."

"You get out too!" Redhead turned around to look at Jian Yi. It was the first time since his arrival that they locked eyes. "Your constant moaning gets on my nerves! You two are distracting me!"

For whatever reason He Tian's salty expression softened but before he could add insult to injury, as he tended to do, the doorbell rang.

Jian Yi sat up on the bar chair. It couldn't be Zhan Zheng Xi already, could it? His reaction must have betrayed him as He Tian sceptically eyed him.

"Really?" he asked somewhat annoyed and apparently needed no further explanation.

"Sorry," Jian Yi answered apologetically and felt a bit guilty about not telling He Tian about Zhan Zheng Xi's coming. The doorbell rang again. This time more impatiently.

Ugh. Xixi is pissed.

"Should I go open the door?" Jian Yi offered, because neither Redhead nor He Tian seemed to be bothered about the doorbell.

He Tian let his eyes wander over him which made Jian Yi feel a bit uncomfortable but then He Tian's eyes stopped somewhere where his neck was... and grinned.

"Go ahead," he suddenly said with amusement in his voice and nodded him towards the door.

Jian Yi, confused about the sudden change of heart, made his way to the front door and greeted a drenched Zhan Zheng Xi who was fuming.

Even so, Jian Yi's heart was melting. It made him happy that Zhan Zheng Xi had come all the way here through the raging storm to get him.

"Stop looking at me like that," Zhan Zheng Xi said in a harsh tone and disrupted Jian Yi's nascent surge of joy.

"Like what?"

Zhan Zheng Xi's mouth set in a hard line. "Like that. Now go get your things, we're leaving."

"But I don't want to."

"I don't care."

"I want to eat first." Jian Yi looked at his best friend, a bit surprised.

Zhan Zheng Xi hesitated. "You know how badly I want to punch you right now?"

"Nothing new. Want to come in?"

Zhan Zheng Xi run a hand through his soaking wet hair and just when Jian Yi closed the door behind him and was about to lead the way, a firm grip on his wrist stopped him.

"What is that?" his best friend asked and Jian Yi had no idea what he was talking about. "On your neck?"

Jian Yi felt his skin. "What are you on about?"

"There's a huge haematoma."

Jian Yi stormed off to the nearest mirror he could find, which happened to be situated in the hall. He looked into it and saw the prune-sized skin irritation.

What the... Then it dawned on him. He Tian's close proximity earlier today, his grin a few seconds ago...

"Oh, I'm so gonna kill him," Jian Yi blurted out but when he turned around, Zhan Zheng Xi held him back.

"What are you talking about?"

"That bastard must have done it while I was asleep." Jian Yi scratched his head and mumbled to himself: "Or was it when we kissed?"

"You did what?" Zhan Zheng Xi's jaw tightened.

"Ah, nothing. Forget what I just said. I need to punch someone right now." Jian Yi could barely make a step because he was being shoved backwards against the mirror.

"Jian Yi, Goddammit. Tell me what happened."

Zhan Zheng Xi's hazel eyes flickered and a deep line appeared between his very defined brows.

"Nothing much," Jian Yi answered carefully and watched as his best friend's grip tightened around his shoulder to the point of it being hurtful.

"Except you kissed." Jian Yi tried his best but he couldn't get to the bottom of it. Why was his best friend upset? "Did he kiss you or did you kiss him?"

"What difference does it make? Either way, it happened. Now let go of me."

Zhan Zheng Xi stepped back, however wouldn't let go of the subject matter. "It makes a world of difference."

"Not to me." A painful silence arose in which they both could hear He Tian's and Redhead's voices coming from the kitchen, paired with cooking sounds.

When Jian Yi expected it the least, Zhan Zheng Xi broke the silence. "But it does to me."

"What did you just-"

"Would you please tell me?"

Jian Yi couldn't believe his ears, let alone his eyes. Zhan Zheng Xi had an expression on him he'd never seen before. And it ripped his heart into pieces. "He did it."

Now Jian Yi could make out relief. Was he imagining things or was this really happening?

"And... did you like it?"

"Don't go there." Jian Yi's voice was merely a whisper.

"Why not?"

"You wouldn't like where this is heading."

"Don't assume random things. Just answer the question."

"I don't know," Jian Yi admitted nervously. "It wasn't bad, I guess."

His best friend froze.

"But," Jian Yi added quickly, "but... it paled in comparison with the kiss I gave you. Although it wasn't reciprocated. And without tongue. But I liked our kiss much better."

In fact the only person he ever wanted to kiss again was Zhan Zheng Xi.

"But forget about it, it's my problem. Not yours."

Both of them kept being quiet for a while but then Zhan Zheng Xi straightened his back and nodded.

"Alright," he said eventually, mollified. "Let's kiss again." Jian Yi widened his eyes in shock. "Properly this time."

"What?"

And without further explanation, Zhan Zheng Xi closed the distance between them.

Chapter Text

His face was being clutched when he was only centimetres away from the lips he desired so much and without even realising it he was being pushed back by his best friend, whose confusion was written all over his face.

Jian Yi’s hands on Zhan Zheng Xi’s cheeks were ice-cold and trembled. At the same time he stood with his back tightly pressed against the mirror that threatened to shatter into thousand pieces because of the exerted pressure. Without the wall, Zhan Zheng Xi was sure of it, Jian Yi would have backed off farther.

“What are you doing?” Jian Yi’s shaky voice almost didn’t allow the words to come out of his dry mouth.

“I’m trying to kiss you,” Zhan Zheng Xi responded firmly and was surprised that he was able to reply with such ease in a moment like this.

“But… why?” Jian Yi’s beautiful light skin turned red and Zhan Zheng Xi caught himself being mesmerised at the view. As a result, his impatience grew bigger and the fire in his chest burnt brighter.

“Don’t you want me to?” he asked cautiously and fought the urge to follow through with his desire, regardless of Jian Yi’s feelings.

“Yes, of course!” came the immediate answer that sent butterflies flying through Zhan Zheng Xi’s tummy. Thus, bit by bit, his steely composure made way for incertitude. “But do you?”

Zhan Zheng Xi gave a slow nod in response. His face must have taken on the same colour as Jian Yi’s by now. “I think so.”

It got awkward. Horribly awkward. The more so because none of them said anything and just looked at each other. The only things that could be heard were He Tian’s bickering with another person, whose voice Zhan Zheng Xi couldn’t recognise, and the sound of running water. He assumed. Then there was the constant grumbling of the sky in the background and the whistling of the wind.

“Jian Yi?” Zhan Zheng Xi dared to ask after a few seconds. His best friend’s grey eyes were wide open, his pupils unnaturally dilated. Was he being afraid or expectant?

Jian Yi snapped back to reality. “Okay. Let’s do it.”

Zhan Zheng Xi’s blood pressure went through the roof when his best friend pulled his face towards himself. Still he went with the flow and stepped closer to Jian Yi. The radiated heat of their bodies shrouded his senses and blanked out all of his maddening thoughts but one, which was his insurmountable, growing desire.

He wanted this so badly, however up until now he had never known. But how could he not have known? Did he understand so little of himself?

Zhan Zheng Xi’s lips almost touched Jian Yi’s but then someone cleared their throat and made their hearts jump out of their mouths. Before Zhan Zheng Xi was able to realise what was going on, he was being pushed back by his best friend with such a brute force that it hurt in his lungs and made him gasp for air.

“Fuck!” Jian Yi hunched over and put his hand over his heart. “He Tian, you fucktard. You scared me shitless!”

“Did I?”

When Zhan Zheng Xi darted a look at He Tian who stood in the hall, the black-haired boy had a triumphant smile plastered over his smug face. Zhan Zheng Xi would have loved nothing better than to wipe off that arrogant smile of his. Preferably by using his fist.

That bastard had definitely interrupted them on purpose but Jian Yi’s extreme reaction to it bothered Zhan Zheng Xi a lot more. He had pushed Zhan Zheng Xi away in no time, without even considering another option. As if he was afraid of being caught. As if he attached any importance to what He Tian might think. Zhan Zheng Xi felt a bit irritated. And hurt.

“I was wondering why you guys took so long, so I came to see for myself but seeing you two going at it sure comes as a surprise.” He Tian’s grin grew bigger and Zhan Zheng Xi felt the treacherous redness climbing up his cheeks.

“Shut up! You better explain what you did to my neck!” Jian Yi exclaimed vividly, as if he had already forgotten what Zhan Zheng Xi and he were about to do only a few seconds ago. Damn, was Zhan Zheng Xi the only one still being flustered?

Jian Yi grabbed onto He Tian’s collar and drew him nearer. “What was your twisted brain thinking again?”

“You can’t be really mad at me now, little pup, can you? Seeing how things turned out for you. You should thank me.”

“As if I would ever… Hey, wait. Good point.” After a moment of consideration, Jian Yi let go of He Tian and smoothed out the creases on his t-shirt. “Thanks.”

Zhan Zheng Xi was confused. Had his best friend not initially been infuriated? And now he even thanked this black-haired bastard? Wait. Surely not for the almost-kiss?

“You’re welcome.” He Tian let out a deep sigh. “Although I have to admit that this wasn’t the reaction I was expecting let alone aiming at. I feel a bit disappointed now. Anyway, you guys hungry? Dinner’s ready.”

“Hell yeah.”

“No.” Zhan Zheng Xi finally stepped forward in order to grab Jian Yi by the arm again. “We’re leaving.”

“Come on, don’t be like that,” He Tian insisted and Zhan Zheng Xi had no idea why. It wasn’t like they were friends or anything so why act like it? “Just stay a little longer. We could watch a movie together.”

Jian Yi, who was already on his way to the kitchen, left Zhan Zheng Xi no other choice but to take off his coat and shoes and follow him.

As soon as he left the hall behind him he could no longer contain his amazement. His jaw dropped. What kind of seven-star apartment was this? He’d never have assumed that He Tian was well-off. Well maybe that was the reason why he was so damn overconfident.

Zhan Zheng Xi passed the ridiculuous window front and caught up with the others who were in the kitchen, pestering a third person he wasn’t able to recognize from where he was standing.

Mouthwatering smells clung to the high walls and although he had just eaten before coming all the long way here he wouldn’t have minded taking a little portion of whatever it was the... He held his breath. Redhead was cooking.

Confusion and surprise messed up Zhan Zheng Xi’s brain but as he was seemingly the only one being weirded out by the redhead’s presence, he came to the conclusion that he and Jian Yi had made peace. By some means or other.

Zhan Zheng Xi decided that he himself would also no longer hold a grudge against the redhead whatsoever. Added to that, the delinquent was, by the looks of it, actually good at something.

Zhan Zheng Xi sat down on the bar chair at the kitchen island and tried to rid himself of the raindrops that kept falling into his face and when the boy at the stove turned to look at him, his face flushed with anger. But neither of them said anything, so the redhead continued cooking in silence.

“Hey Xixi,” Jian Yi sat next to him and bumped his shoulder. “Did you really walk through the rain?”

“No. I took a taxi.”

“So you actually paid money in order to pick me up?”

“…”

“That’s cute.”

Seriously… This guy would be the death of him. Especially if he kept on smiling like he was the happiest human being to have ever walked the earth.

“Here, take this,” He Tian returned into the kitchen and handed Zhan Zheng Xi a towel. The latter accepted gratefully and rubbed himself dry.

“Hey,” Zhan Zheng Xi said after a while and meticulously scrutinised his best friend. “What are you wearing?”

Jian Yi looked down at himself. “He Tian’s clothes.”

Great. What pissed Zhan Zheng Xi off even more was that he couldn’t ignore the damn hickey that Jian Yi sported on his neck. It was so incredibly huge… He Tian had made sure to leave a permanent mark on Jian Yi. It stung every damn time Zhan Zheng Xi looked at it and made him want to act on his lingering urges even more. He wanted to be the only person to leave marks on Jian Yi’s body.

Zhan Zheng Xi hid his glowing face in the wet towel. He was so gone on Jian Yi. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck! And He Tian of all people had to make him realise it. No, had to make him admit it.

Now that he thought about it… The signs had always been there. Fleeting moments and thoughts that are now so crystal clear. Zhan Zheng Xi had been living in denial for a while now and had never been bothered by it. Until now. Until the fear of losing Jian Yi to another person had taken possession of him. How low.

“So? What do you guys want to watch?” He Tian asked and pulled a cigarette out of a packet that he put back into his pocket a moment later. “Horror? Comedy? Romance?” He laughed at his last proposition.

While Jian Yi enthusiastically answered ‘comedy!’, Zhan Zheng Xi dully said ‘nothing’ and turned to his best friend. “I told you, we’re not staying. I don’t mind you grabbing a bite to eat but after that, we leave.”

Jian Yi pouted. “But why?”

“Because.”

He Tian dramatically shook his head. “You’re such a bore.” When he was about to light his cigarette, the Redhead practically yelled at him to get out of the kitchen if he wanted to taint the air with the fumes of his cancer stick.

It was obvious that the black-haired boy already had a response on the tip of his tongue but he let it go eventually and moved towards the living room where he sat down to have a smoke.

To Zhan Zheng Xi’s surprise, Jian Yi followed He Tian so he didn’t hesitate to do the same, choosing the spot right next to his best friend on the couch. He consequently faced He Tian who sat across from them in a black arm chair.

“So?” the black-haired boy began after a long drag on his cigarette. He took his time to examine them both from head to toe. And to make them feel uncomfortable, at least Zhan Zheng Xi was.

Looking at He Tian’s pitch-black, devious eyes that went back and forth between the two of them and his barely visible smile on his lips, Zhan Zheng Xi knew that He Tian had set his mind to pissing him off again. But with no imaginable earthly effort he could have braced himself for what was about to follow.

“Tell me about you guys.”

Zhan Zheng Xi could feel the sudden rise of tension in Jian Yi’s arm that was brushing against his own. That’s how close they sat to each other. Zhan Zheng Xi made sure of it.

Jian Yi was the first to react. “What?”

“I said,” He Tian wasn’t able to finish the sentence and let a hand slide into his pants pocket. When he pulled out a mobile phone and looked at the blinking screen, his expression changed. “Excuse me for a sec,” he said in a dark voice, rose to his feet and took the call, while walking away.

Zhan Zheng Xi turned to Jian Yi. At last. They had a moment to themselves. “Why won’t you leave with me?”

“I am. After dinner.” Jian Yi did his best to avoid eye contact.

“Just tell me the truth.”

“See, I made an astounding discovery about He Tian.” Jian Yi’s demeanour suddenly changed and his grey eyes glistened with excitement. His face looked like that of a four-year-old who just got a new toy to play with.

Well, that was unexpected.

Jian Yi looked up to the ceiling, as if in deep thought and tapped one finger against his chin. “And I wanna know if it’s true.”

“A discovery about what?”

He grinned. “You’ll see.”

Jian Yi and Zhan Zheng Xi observed a restlessly pacing He Tian but couldn’t understand the words he said on the phone. For one thing, because of Redhead who wasn’t exactly quiet in the kitchen, for another thing, because He Tian made sure not to be heard. It was only just before he ended the call that he raised his voice and yelled at whoever was on the other end of the line, to leave him the hell alone.

Visibly exhausted by the short conversation, He Tian slumped down into the arm chair and stared absentmindedly at the ground. He looked pretty tense with his hands tightened into fists, his trembling shoulders and his furrowed brow. He Tian was breathing harshly and Zhan Zheng Xi felt very uneasy watching the black-haired guy behaving like this.

He had always known that He Tian had something inexplicable and… dark and twisty about him that he couldn’t put his finger on but the way his eyes blazed with pure hate now was simply scary.

Zhan Zheng Xi got goosebumps but they didn’t go away even after furiously rubbing his arms.

Jian Yi however, entirely oblivious of the situation, addressed He Tian way too cheerfully. “Who was that on the phone?”

“Jian Yi,” Zhan Zheng Xi said admonishingly, “don’t be nosy. It’s none of your business.”

He Tian broke his trance-like state and locked eyes with Jian Yi. It took him a while though to be able to smile in a nonchalantly way again.

“My father.” He Tian reached for another cigarette and only calmed down, when he was halfway through it which was about ten seconds later. “But forget about it. Where were we before we were interrupted? Ah, yes. The two of you. Are you guys dating?”

They both answered in unison, “No!”

At that He Tian chuckled. Zhan Zheng Xi found that he had regained his composure way too fast. “It didn’t look like it though a few moments ago. Just admit it to yourselves, you guys are more than just friends.”

“Shut up,” Jian Yi hissed, not flustered in the slightest. Meanwhile Zhan Zheng Xi was a total mess. All the more because the hickey Jian Yi got from He Tian was constantly attracting his attention.

“But what about your friend?” Jian Yi retorted offensively.

He Tian raised his eyebrows. “What friend? I don’t have friends.”

“Yeah that’s for sure.”

A painful silence followed and Zhan Zheng Xi felt hella uncomfortable. Again. And he hadn’t even said anything nor had he been in any way or another the cause for He Tian’s somewhat baffled expression. Why did Jian Yi have to run his mouth off again? One day Zhan Zheng Xi should teach him a valuable lesson about self-restraint. And about not invading other people’s privacy. And about reading the mood… and not saying inappropriate things. And...

Zhan Zheng Xi let escape a desperate sigh. Why was he even friends with someone like Jian Yi?

“Although,” his best friend kept on blabbing, perfectly ignoring He Tian’s tensed jawline, “that’s not entirely true either. You do have a friend.”

Zhan Zheng Xi was relieved. At least Jian Yi was going to make it right this time.

“You Qiáng is your friend, isn’t he? At least he considers you as such.”

Zhan Zheng Xi facepalmed and was never happier to be called out for dinner.

 

They seated themselves on the bar chairs at the kitchen island and when Zhan Zheng Xi looked at the plate he had been given to without having been asked, the mere presentation of the food had him amazed. It was a delight to all senses. It looked beautifully arranged, smelled heavenly and would surely taste the same, if not better.

Zhan Zheng Xi was eager to taste the braised chicken with port and soy sauce, even though he wasn’t really hungry.

But as soon as he dug in he was about to cry tears of happiness, so good was the food. Sure, his mother was a pretty skilled cook but not even close to Redhead. The flavour combinations were on point, it wasn’t too spicy but just perfectly balanced. Where did he learn to cook that well?

“See, that’s how you cook,” Jian Yi’s snide remark was directed at He Tian who simply sat in front of his plate, his arms crossed over his chest with a face as sour as vinegar.

Zhan Zheng Xi had been heavily distracted by the food but now that he looked at He Tian it was obvious that the guy was pissed.

“Hey, are you okay?” Jian Yi asked when he got no reaction from He Tian. At least he realised now that something was wrong. “Weren’t you hungry just now? Why aren’t you eating?”

A deep line appeared between He Tian’s brows and his eyes narrowed which gave him an even more grim expression. Zhan Zheng Xi was glad that Redhead was still around, washing the dishes and producing any kind of noise seeing that up until now nobody had said a word.

He Tian pushed his plate away from him and addressed Jian Yi directly. “You don’t consider yourself to be my friend?”

“No.”

Zhan Zheng Xi couldn’t help but kick his best friend in the shin.

“Ouch! What are you doing?!”

“What are you doing, you idiot?” Despite the mixed feelings he harboured towards He Tian, Zhan Zheng Xi started to feel sorry for him.

By that time Redhead had turned around and chuckled boisterously at Jian Yi’s words. Clearly, he felt entertained. Zhan Zheng Xi not so much as he began to fear for Jian Yi’s health considering the death stare he got from He Tian.

Jian went on, “I mean, I don’t know. Why do you even care about it? You just said yourself you don’t have friends, so you don’t consider me to be your friend either.”

“No. I said, I don’t have friends, as in plural.”

“Oh.” Jian Yi shrugged at the thought. “Okay, then I guess we are friends.”

Zhan Zheng Xi shook his head. How could one be so simple-minded?

“Dude, that was lame,” Redhead said and for once Zhan Zheng Xi agreed with him. “Look how crushed he is.”

He Tian turned his head into the direction of the boy whose malicious smile faded in an instant. “Hey mountain boy,” He Tian began menacingly and gave him a once-over. “You messed up my shirt.”

“The hell I did. It’s just water. And don’t call me that.”

“Remember what I told you earlier? Mess up my shirt and you’ll pay for it.”

“Calm down, I didn’t mess it up. You won’t see anything anymore once it’s dry.”

“But I do see it now.” He Tian stood up, more than ready to seriously whoop some ass, but stopped just after a few steps. Again he pulled his flashing mobile phone out of his pocket. This time he didn’t walk away though when he accepted the call.

“What do you want?” he said in an aggressive tone. Then there was a short pause. “I told you to stop calling me. And no. I didn’t change my mind, I won’t ever. Don’t bother... I don’t care.” He hung up on the caller – maybe his father again? – and was distracted to such an extend that he completely forgot about the redheaded boy who was noticeably relieved and resumed cleaning the kitchen. But then He Tian remembered and lifted one arm.

“Hey, Guanshan.”

The redheaded boy spun his head around, almost horror-struck and at that very moment He Tian took a picture of his frozen face.

“This might be of use later.” He devishly grinned and put his phone away. Only then the redhead realised what was going on and physically urged him to delete the picture but He Tian would have none of it and rendered the redhead immobile with his iron grip but let go soon after, since the boy squirmed with pain. Surely it had something to do with the bruises that covered his face and arms.

“You should take some medicine,” He Tian suggested... concerned?

While Zhan Zheng Xi observed Redhead’s heated outburst, as he stomped like a child in a tantrum while leaving the room, he could see a slight movement in the corner of his eye. Jian Yi was wiggling his eyebrows.

“What?” He Tian asked right away.

“Nothing~”

Zhan Zheng Xi wasn’t the only one who knew that Jian Yi’s anwer was a big fat lie. There were a lot of things going on in that brain of his, the fewest of them were healthy.

Zhan Zheng Xi took advantage of the moment and stood up. Before Jian Yi could put his foot in it again with He Tian and make things worse. Which he was about to do, hadn’t he been cut off by Zhan Zheng Xi.

“Jian Yi, let’s go.” He partially expected his best friend to be reluctant about his wanting to leave but surprisingly Jian Yi nodded without making a fuss.

“You sure, you don’t want to stay?” He Tian asked and when he did, he only looked at Jian Yi. Zhan Zheng Xi gritted his teeth.

“Nah. You should take care of your not-friend.”

He Tian snorted his disapproval. “The little street rat is not my friend.”

“Exactly. That’s what I just said.”

“He’s more like my maid.”

Not only Jian Yi’s mouth but his entire face twitched when he asked: “Any special services he provides you with?”

“Hey, what are you implying?”

“We’re leaving,” Zhan Zheng Xi said instantly and pushed his best friend towards the door. Geez. Why couldn’t he just shut up?

 

“That was fun,” Jian Yi said in a good mood while they were standing in the ground floor right in front of the huge glass doors of the apartment building, waiting for their taxi to show up. The porter had been kind enough to let them linger in the entrance area a little longer, sheltered from the rain.

Fortunately, the weather had cleard up a bit. Not much but enough to brighten the evening sky. A perfect reflection of Zhan Zheng Xi’s inner workings. He was so glad that they had finally left He Tian’s apartment and that the huge weight that had tugged at his heartstrings the entire day was practically non-existent anymore. Now that Jian Yi was back at his side.

But then Zhan Zheng Xi’s gaze landed on Jian Yi’s neck again. That damned hickey...

“Oh shoot. I forgot my mobile phone.”

“Leave it. It’s out of power anyway.”

“And my clothes.”

“We’ll call He Tian later. He can bring your stuff to school tomorrow.”

“But there’s also your key.”

“Forget about it,” Zhan Zheng Xi said insistently. Damn, no way in hell he would allow Jian Yi to go back to the apartment. “We don’t need my key. My family is home anyways.”

Jian Yi jammed his hands into his front pockets and looked at him apologetically, with his grey puppy dog eyes. “Sorry.”

Zhan Zheng Xi said nothing for a while and just watched Jian Yi who was impatiently staring at the street.

The longer he looked at his friend, the more restless he became. But it was only when the struggle threatened to make him snap that he allowed himself to be driven by the thing that had occupied his mind since forever. At least if felt like it. And so he grabbed Jian Yi by the shoulders and turned him around to face him.

“Woah, you scared me there,” Jian Yi said, unaware of Zhan Zheng Xi’s inner musings. “What’s the matter?”

This time around Zhan Zheng Xi wouldn’t let himself be pushed back by Jian Yi and so he gathered up all his courage and covered the hideous hickey with the palm of his left hand. His right hand however slid in the back of Jian Yi’s neck to pull him closer to him and when only centimetres were left between them, Zhan Zheng Xi pushed all of his fears and doubts aside and kissed Jian Yi on the lips.

 

------------------------------

A/N:

This time for real, though... I’m sorry, but I have to stop here... Don’t hate me >_<

Also... Today's update of 19 Days gave me life. Anyone else though who thinks that Old Xian (or rather Xixi) is gonna drop the hammer soon? I mean, it's going way too well lately between all of them. And remember December 2015? The time around Xmas? When we were supposed to be happy and stuff? Yeah, no. Well, Old Xian crushed my heart back then and I've never recovered. (JiXi kiss & Jian Yi crying like mad... Ugh...) Anyway... This time I'm prepared! (I hope...) Bring it on, Old Xian!

Another thing: I could only update so fast up until now because the story had been prewritten already but from now on updates will take a little longer, I'm sorry :(

Chapter Text

Jian Yi gasped for air and his first reflex was to pull away from his best friend's unexpected grip but Zhan Zheng Xi wouldn't let him. What the fucking fuck was just happening? Jian Yi's brain went into overdrive.

This couldn't be real. No way in hell Zhan Zheng Xi would ever kiss him. This must be a dream, there was no other explanation, no other way to put it. A beautiful dream that would slip through his fingers as soon as he woke up.

Jian Yi waited for that unpleasant, heart-wrenching moment he had experienced so many times before but it never came. Instead he was still here, his lips connected to Zhan Zheng Xi's. And they were so incredibly soft and warm.

Jian Yi's heart rate started to pick up the beat and slowly but surely the gears in his brain started functioning again and realisation hit him. Not even in his wildest dreams had it ever felt like today. In fact, his imagination had been an insult compared to what he was experiencing right here and now.

His breathing got heavier, the more conscious he became of the situation and, eventually, he managed to indulge in the magic Zhan Zheng Xi worked on him.

Jian Yi closed his eyes and was unexpectedly inundated with the heightened sensitivity of his body.
He felt his best friend's every reaction, his hesitation, his restraint.

Zhan Zheng Xi's lips moved slowly and gingerly, almost as if he was afraid of something. As if he waited for Jian Yi to respond in kind in order to convince himself that what he was doing was alright.

Jian Yi's passion broke loose as one of his hands found its way into Zhan Zheng Xi's spiky hair and the other onto his waist to prevent him from drawing back and to keep him in place.

He dared to push forward, to even become more aggressive and just like that he found himself to be the one taking the lead.

The kiss became more firm, more lustful and wet and he could feel the sexual tension washing over his body. Jian Yi lived a sensation he'd never experienced before and it drove him into a frenzy.

When he was forced to pull back in order to satisfy some of his human needs, one of them being the urge to gasp for air, both Zhan Zheng Xi and Jian Yi were panting like mad. None of them said anything, they just looked into their smouldering eyes.

However, Jian Yi felt that the moment was gone. That he wouldn't be allowed to plant a second - third - kiss onto Zhan Zheng Xi's lightly reddened lips.

Of course his physical needs had to thwart his plans. What now? He wanted to kiss him again so badly. Again and again and again. And never stop.

Jian Yi's eyes rested on his best friend's quivering lips. They were slightly opened and had tasted like the spices the redhead had used for the delicious dinner they previously had.

Only that Jian Yi craved a lot more for the feeling of Zhan Zheng Xi's lips on his own than the taste of the food. He practically would have sacrificed his own soul just to be near them again.

If possible, Zhan Zheng Xi had turned him into an even bigger addict with this very kiss and by being the one who initiated it. Jian Yi was so hung up on him now that he never wanted to miss those enticing lips ever again.

Zhan Zheng Xi had become his personal drug, like the air he needed to breathe and Jian Yi knew that it would be impossible for him to keep his distance from now on. Unless he wanted to drown in the whirlpool of his raging emotions.

Jian Yi slowly but surely regained his composure and sucked in the air through his clenched teeth, internally fighting with his demons and angels.

Zhan Zheng Xi, however, reacted first, opened his mouth in order to say something but, in the end, not a single word passed his lips.

That's when Jian Yi decided to focus on the pros and to shrug off all the cons that had him in a stunned state until now and to follow through with his selfishness.

What was there left to lose anyway. They had already shared two kisses, a third one wouldn't make a big difference.

And thank God he did allow his urges to take control of him because when their lips touched again, a guttural moan escaped Zhan Zheng Xi's throat. That was all the invitation Jian Yi needed to push his tongue past his best friend's lips right into his mouth.

Jian Yi sensed Zhan Zheng Xi's surprise as the latter suddenly held his breath while Jian Yi kept on invading every nook and cranny of his mouth. He wasn't going to hold back, not until Zhan Zheng Xi gave him a sign to stop. Which he didn't, so he kept on going.

Jian Yi took his time to explore every centimetre of Zhan Zheng Xi's perfectly shaped lips that had practically rejected him on a daily basis. But now they did quite a good job doing the exact opposite, in a very convincing manner at that. They lured him into their trap and invited him to stay.

Jian Yi gently nibbled on Zhan Zheng Xi's lower lip that he had always found very kissable and slid his tongue back into his mouth cavity.
In that instant Zhan Zheng Xi regained control of both his body and senses and met him halfway in order to push him back with his own tongue.

At first it was like the perfect reflection of their respective characters. Neither Zhan Zheng Xi nor Jian Yi wanted to yield and give way to the other and so they squabbled over the dominion of the kiss and got engaged into a heated fight with their tongues.

But very soon they found a mutual pace and that's when Jian Yi felt like he was in heaven. Never had he ever assumed this could be happening one day and yet here he was, sharing a mutual kiss with the person he loved most.

Somehow he mustered up all of his strength not to fall on his knees and to confess on the spot. Instead he tried to convey all of his feelings by kissing Zhan Zheng Xi like there was no tomorrow.

The more the seconds went by, the more they found a perfect rhythm, and the more the kiss became more carnal.

Shit. Jian Yi started to feel a bittersweet pain growing in his crotch but he absolutely didn't want to let go of Zhan Zheng Xi just yet. So he tried his best to shift his body sideways without having to break the kiss but by doing so, his leg accidentally grazed Zhan Zheng Xi's leg. No... Wait. It was definitely not a leg.

Zhan Zheng Xi broke away from him in a matter of seconds and when their eyes met, Jian Yi was almost as horror-struck as Zhan Zheng Xi, whose face lit up bright red.
What's more, he awkwardly tried to hide the bulge between his legs by covering them with both hands. But Jian Yi saw. He saw everything. His best friend was as erected as he was.

Jian Yi bit his lower lip while his thoughts ran wild. Had there been anywhere to go just now, a hotel room or something, and had he had any money on him, he wouldn't have hesitated to drag Zhan Zheng Xi right off to that place.

Jian Yi shook his head, desperately trying to refrain from such thoughts. He shouldn't think like this. As for him, he had been in this relationship for quite a while now, unlike Zhan Zheng Xi who just made a first step into his direction.

Jian Yi needed to hold his horses, before he could screw everything up and scare Zhan Zheng Xi away. They were nowhere near sleeping with each other yet.

After a short while, Jian Yi was the first who managed to find words. "Xixi, you-"

But he was cut off at once. "Don't," Zhan Zheng Xi uttered in a harsh, decisive tone, yet the tremble in his voice was perfectly audible. "Just... don't say anything."

Before he succeeded in hiding his face by turning away, Jian Yi caught a glimpse of the tears that pooled in his best friend's eyes.
Zhan Zheng Xi was on the verge of crying and witnessing his looming nervous breakdown almost broke Jian Yi's heart.

For a moment, he considered saying something but frankly, he didn't know what to tell. He didn't even know what was going through his best friend's mind. Why he was about to cry in the first place.
Was it remorse that he felt? Or was he just being overwhelmed by his feelings? Unlikely.

Jian Yi ran a hand through his hair, becoming more nervous as he didn't know what to do. How could he help Zhan Zheng Xi deal with this very unfamiliar situation? Preferably, before things got worse.

Jian Yi who was at a loss for words chose rather to act than risking saying the wrong things and when he walked over to Zhan Zheng Xi eventually, he carefully wrapped his arms around him, pressed his chest against his back and rested his chin on his shoulder.

Right now he couldn't care less whether they made a public display of themselves. It was just them and the porter anyway. Who hopefully minded his own business.

"Jian Yi, go away," Zhan Zheng Xi said almost simultaneously, trying to tear himself away but Jian Yi didn't let go of him and kept Zhan Zheng Xi's arms trapped in his firm embrace.

Jian Yi didn't listen, as usual. "Don't freak out, okay?" He buried his face into the nape of Zhan Zheng Xi's neck and took a few deep breaths. He smelled so good...

Zhan Zheng Xi squirmed in his arms. "Jian Yi, please... Stop. You're too close."

Oh boy. Jian Yi had never known that his best friend's voice could sound so seductive...
He intuitively pulled him closer, fully aware of his erection that poked Zhan Zheng Xi's backside.

"Promise me, you won't run," Jian Yi said, breathing a few light kisses on Zhan Zheng Xi's heated skin that was covered with goosebumps all over.

Jian Yi liked the effect he had on his best friend and went one step further, by tracing the nape of Zhan Zheng Xi's neck with his tongue until he reached the lobe of his ear to gently bite it.

In that instant Zhan Zheng Xi winced and successfully escaped, using all of his force this time. When he whirled around, he was red with anger and didn't hesitate to throw a punch into Jian Yi's face who stumbled over his own two feet, holding his pounding cheek.

"Don't you ever do that again!" Zhan Zheng Xi glared at him, huffing and puffing.

Jian Yi straightened his back, not allowing himself to lose his composure, even though his face was about to split into a wide smile.

He was still floating around on cloud nine, nothing could ruin his mood so fast, let alone that easily. Not even Zhan Zheng Xi's half-assed punch.

"Do what?" he asked innocently, the corner of his mouth twitching.

"Don't play dumb."

Jian Yi paused for a moment and pondered on the remark, while unconsciously chewing on his lower lip until he was being brought back down to earth by Zhan Zheng Xi's commanding voice.

"Jian Yi, I told you to stop."

"What? I didn't even do anything."

"Yes, you did. You..." Apparently Zhan Zheng Xi didn't exactly know what to say. "Just stop being you. It's irritating."

"And how would I do that?"

Zhan Zheng Xi creased his brow. "Forget it."

"Wait. I promised you once never to run. Time to keep your side of the bargain."

"I never promised you anything though. Also, I'm not running."

"I used to say that too. Guess who lied."

Zhan Zheng Xi turned to look out of the vitreous front door, his expression as hard as the marble floor under their feet.

"The taxi is here."

He took a few steps but Jian Yi caught hold of his hand before he could exit the apartment building and step into the pouring rain.

"Don't touch me!"

One part of Jian Yi wanted to back off immediately since he didn't want to be at the receiving end when Zhan Zheng Xi snapped for good but the other part of him was on such a high right now that he felt invincible.
He had to make use of that feeling before it wore off.

Jian Yi took a deep breath. "What are you so afraid of?"

"I'm not afraid," Zhan Zheng Xi retorted sharply through clenched teeth.

"Then tell me what's going through your mind." Maybe he could help make things easier, seeing that he's been, still was, in the same boat as Zhan Zheng Xi right now.

"I don't want to." Zhan Zheng Xi tried to tug his wrist from Jian Yi's hand, doing his best to avoid eye contact.

"Talk to me, Xixi... Please?"

In that moment their eyes met and Zhan Zheng Xi stopped resisting. Jian Yi must have had a strange expression on him because all of a sudden the hardness in Zhan Zheng Xi's face and eyes faded. He even looked concerned.

"Okay," he unexpectedly agreed and Jian Yi couldn't possibly understand his sudden change of heart. "Okay, I promise we'll talk about this but please don't cry."

"I'm not... crying?" Jian Yi let go of his best friend in order to run his hands over his cheeks. Dammit. He was crying and hadn't even noticed.

"Let's go back home," Zhan Zheng Xi said and led the way through the rain.

Jian Yi, still puzzled, took one last look over his shoulder to meet the beaming eyes of a blatantly staring porter who clearly enjoyed himself way too much.

Jian Yi frowned at the sight and followed his best friend out of the apartment building, even more confused than before.

---

As soon as they set foot in Zhan Zheng Xi's place, his little sister came running to the entryway to cut their way off. However, at the sight of Jian Yi her happy face dropped. She raised an eyebrow at him and crossed her slender arms in front of her chest.

"Oh look who's back. The pervert."

"You wouldn't mean your brother by any chance?" Jian Yi said, chuckling and got punched in the ribs by Zhan Zheng Xi.

The vivid girl with the pigtails puffed up her cheeks and put her hands on her hips. "Mom just asked if you were hungry," she addressed solely her brother whose daring eyes were still on Jian Yi.

Was he really expecting Jian Yi to spill the beans?

"We already ate," Zhan Zheng Xi replied eventually and ushered Jian Yi to his room.

Of course his little sister chased after them but Zhan Zheng Xi forced her to stay out and threw a towel to Jian Yi so that he could dry himself off.

"I'm going to take a shower. Do your homework in the meantime."

"Again?" Jian Yi sighed and sprawled out on Zhan Zheng Xi's bed. "I already did it yesterday."

"Yeah, but you don't have any of your stuff with you."

"I'm not doing my homework twice." Jian Yi closed his eyes, buried his nose into the sheets and absorbed Zhan Zheng Xi's smell with every pore of his body.

Funnily enough, only yesterday it had almost melted his heart to nuzzle the sheets but today the faint scent wasn't enough anymore to intoxicate his senses. Now that he's been closer to his best friend. So much closer...

Jian Yi heard a light thump on the bed and when he finally bothered to open his eyes, two different exercise books and a blank note book were piled on top of each other right next to him. Then something hard was being thrown against his head. He recognised a pencil case.

"Make sure to change some things. And don't feel too comfortable on my bed," Zhan Zheng Xi said, his brow knitted, and was out the door before Jian Yi could say 'thank you'.

---

It didn't take long until he had copied all of their homework and after that he observed Zhan Zheng Xi who dawdled away his time by playing a Nintendo game. For that, he sat on the floor, his back leant against the end of the bed.

Jian Yi intently watched his back and even more so the little droplets that had formed in Zhan Zheng Xi's chestnut hair. Some of them were too heavy and slid down his temples and the side of his neck but he only rarely wiped them away.

Jian Yi's breathing got heavier and his heart rate quickened again. But as soon as he began to move towards his best friend, Zhan Zheng Xi said:

"Are you done?" He didn't even bother to look up from his Nintendo.

"Yes." Jian Yi crept closer to him with a dirty mind, his thoughts at least two hundred steps ahead.

He felt like a predator, ready to sink his fangs into Zhan Zheng Xi to never let him go. That's what his best friend had turned him into by giving him an inch. Now he desperately longed for the mile.

"Then go take a shower."

Jian Yi who definitely had other plans closed his arms around Zhan Zheng Xi's neck as soon as he was right behind him.

"Fuck!" His best friend jolted up. "What are you doing?" The Nintendo flew out of his hand right on the ground, a few metres away.

"Zhan Xixi," Jian Yi pouted and wouldn't let go of his best friend, who tried to push him away by shoving his hand into Jian Yi's face.

"What!"

"Let me kiss you again."

At that Zhan Zheng Xi gave in to Jian Yi's relentless pulling, only to launch himself onto him with such a force that even Zhan Zheng Xi hadn't expected. As a result, he lost his footing and landed chest first on Jian Yi whose arms hadn't budged one millimetre.

Zhan Zheng Xi steadied himself until he realised that their faces were only centimetres away. For a few seconds they looked into each others eyes but when the tension became too intense, Zhan Zheng Xi chickened out, as expected from him, and grabbed a pillow to put it over Jian Yi's face, threatening to smother him with it.

"Stop saying weird things."

Jian Yi grinned, although he was barely capable of breathing but having Zhan Zheng Xi sit on his lap had him in a very good mood.

He deliberately carried the situation to extremes. "So you're not going to kiss me?" Jian Yi asked with a muffled voice and placed both his hands onto his best friend's thighs that trapped him in between.

"What? No! Never again!" Zhan Zheng Xi pushed his hands away and increased the pressure on the pillow. "And don't ever bring this up again!"

Jian Yi's face heated up under the thick fabric of the pillow and when his lungs ached because of the lack of oxygen, Zhan Zheng Xi snatched the pillow away.

"Are you okay?"

Jian Yi caught his breath, his smile never leaving his lips. "I've never been better."

He sat up and in that instant Zhan Zheng Xi realised the position they were in and tried to escape the sudden close proximity but Jian Yi made sure to hold him in place.

"Didn't you say earlier that we would talk about this?"

Zhan Zheng Xi's breath hitched in his throat as he struggled to put some distance between them.

"I did. But on my own terms."

"Not fair. Don't make me wait too long."

Against all expectations, Zhan Zheng Xi surprised him yet again when he cupped Jian Yi's face with both hands.

"Listen to me," his expression hardened and his voice got more serious.

Jian Yi knew that whatever would follow next would be crucial so he swallowed hard and patiently waited for his best friend to continue.

That is, until the door was flung open to reveal an excited little sister that froze on the spot as soon as she saw her big brother sitting on Jian Yi's lap.

Welp.

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A/N:
This chapter killed me. I mean, really killed me. I had so much fun writing it but at the same time it was so challenging. Ugh... But I still love my little gaybies *-*

Aaanyway, I'm glad that I made it in time. On the last day of the year.
Do you guys have any resolutions?
I gave up on that a long time ago xD
Anyway, I wish you a Happy New Year. Take extra good care of yourselves.

Until next year!

Rii