It’s a feat, but Zhanying manages to avoid Jingyan for a whole hour.
He’s at a high school reunion. He was told that it was going to be ex-student council members of various years plus others, but he guesses the organisers were pretty lax at the others—he doesn’t recognise most of these people when he’d stepped into the bar, save for a few who worked with him in his senior year.
But he did see the student council president of his junior year, now CEO of Xiao Corporation, enter the doors with none other than Lin Shu, the current Head of Creative Marketing of the same company. The two were immediately surrounded by excited ex-schoolmates, plenty of which Zhanying bet neither of them even knew.
They’re under thirties and highly successful. When Zhanying had known them in high school, he’d known that they were rich kids from the sort of business-empire type of family, but he hadn’t expected them to head the company just a decade after graduation. But that’s probably Xiao Jingyan and Lin Shu for you; Zhanying was surprised when he read the newspaper article a couple of years back of Jingyan being named the heir despite having older brothers, and then he wasn’t.
Jingyan had always been—…well. He’d always been unstoppable with Lin Shu by his side.
It’s not on…purpose that he doesn’t greet them when he spotted them over an hour ago, it’s just, it’s crowded, and Zhanying’s sure he’d speak to them at some point. Besides, the catering is non-existent at this event. He’s hungry as hell, and it doesn’t look like this particular bar serves anything decent. He’s squinting at the tattered menu the bartender had slid over to him when someone leans beside him at the counter.
Zhanying only glances over because he recognises the drawl in the voice.
“One glass of red wine, one half-pint apple cider and…one pint of the shittest house beer you have.”
Despite having long grey (silver?) hair that’s tied up into a messy bun, Zhanying immediately recognises the other as Ye Zun. It’s the face—the twins had always looked…ethereal, even during puberty. It’s Ye Zun and not Shen Wei because of the ‘shittest’ comment—even if they haven’t talked in a decade, Zhanying’s sure Shen Wei is polite and unflappable as ever, as opposed to Ye Zun, the potty mouthed twin.
Ye Zun was never on the student council in high school, but Shen Wei was the vice-president when Zhanying was secretary. Zhanying would never forget the pointless arguments and fights between Ye Zun and Zhao Yunlan, the then captain of the football team all those years ago—because he and Shen Wei filed a lot of paperwork regarding damage to school property.
It seems like Ye Zun doesn’t recognise him, however, because the other quirks an interested eyebrow when he spots Zhanying looking at him.
“Hey,” Ye Zun starts, lips curling and unsubtly leaning closer. “What can I get you?”
“I’m fine,” Zhanying says, edging away slightly in reflex.
Ye Zun’s smile drops a little at the rebuff, but he’s not daunted. “I wouldn’t recommend anything on the menu here,” he says, gaze flickering to the paper Zhanying’s holding. “I know a good place to eat just round the corner. Wanna get out of here?”
“No thanks,” Zhanying says again, this time more firmly.
“Alright,” Ye Zun replies then, looking disappointed. “What are you doing alone here then? Isn’t this some…” he vaguely gestures. “…reunion thing? Or the buddies you knew haven’t shown up yet?”
Zhanying deliberates answering because that’ll just encourage more conversation, but he also doesn’t want to be unnecessarily harsh. Thankfully (or not) he’s interrupted by a slap on the back. It’s hard enough that Zhanying lurches at the force with a curse.
“Ooh Zhanying!” Zhao Yunlan grins, wincing a little when Zhanying yelps. “Sorry, my bad, I got too excited. I haven’t seen you in years! You look exactly the same!”
Zhao Yunlan, really, is the one who looks exactly the same—scruffy, now even more so with the facial hair, leather jacket and black jeans ensemble. Zhanying spies Ye Zun’s face doing a weird expression of realisation as Yunlan ruffles Zhanying’s hair and manhandles him out of the counter seat; yeah, nothing has changed.
“Guys, look who I found~!” Yunlan sings as he successfully drags Zhanying away and pushes him right smack in front of Jingyan.
Zhanying finds his mouth going dry too fast too soon. The years have been really good to Jingyan, who looks way too good in justcasual shirt and pants. He hates that his cheeks automatically heat from the memory of his huge crush on the other—it’s been a decade, he’s over it, and yet Jingyan’s cologne smells so good.
Lin Shu is the second one to hug him, even if Zhanying tries his best to avoid it.
“Goddamn, did you grow taller, Xiao Ying?” Lin Shu demands, raising his hand to compare their heights.
Jingyan slaps the hand down, giving Lin Shu a glare. “It’s good to see you, Zhanying.”
“Mm, you too,” he mumbles, and then catches Shen Wei’s serene smile beside him—the one that says he knows too much.
The focus is suddenly on Zhanying, and he’s forced to make small talk. It’s…familiar, sort of, their little circle, and Zhanying quickly relaxes into the company, even if he does still feel sort of out of place. Their circle formation breaks when Ye Zun barges in between him and Yunlan, sloshing the glass of beer he’s holding straight into Yunlan’s chest.
“Woah—fuck, be careful!” Yunlan hisses at him, but Ye Zun feigns ignorance and hands over the apple cider to his brother with an innocent smile.
“And Xiao Ying, this for you,” Ye Zun holds out the glass of red wine he’s left with.
Zhanying rapidly blinks. “I didn’t ask for that.”
Ye Zun just smiles, a little predatory. “It’s on me.”
“I really don’t—”
Zhanying’s second refusal never goes through because someone apparently accidently shoves Ye Zun by the back as they walk past, and Zhanying finds the front of his shirt seeping with wine.
“Oh, fuck, that was not on purpose,” Ye Zun’s eyes widen, whipping his head around to spy the culprit. “Hey, the asshole who pushed me! Hey!”
“Ye Zun…” Shen Wei starts in warning, eyes narrowing.
“It’ll stain,” Ye Zun continues, grabbing Zhanying by the arm and waving the rest to move away. “Come on, you should rinse it off.”
Zhanying stumbles from the force that Ye Zun pulls him away towards the toilet, grip surprisingly strong. However, he grinds his feet down when they get to the entrance.
“I can do it alone,” Zhanying says, prying Ye Zun’s hand on him loose. “Thanks.”
“Nonsense,” Ye Zun ignores him, pushing him inside. “You’ll rub it and make it worse. Let me do it. Take off your shirt.”
Zhanying raises his eyebrow, honestly wondering if Ye Zun really expected him to just…obey.
“Ye Zun,” he starts. “I know you spilt the wine on me on purpose. So. Please leave.”
“What,” Ye Zun sniffs, “You think this is some kind of ploy to undress you and fuck you in the toilet?”
“I’m worried now that you said it,” Zhanying says, stepping towards the door.
Ye Zun grabs him before his hand makes it to the knob. “Sheesh, can’t you take a joke, Xiao Ying? I don’t fuck the unwilling,” he mutters.
“You did spill the wine on purpose,” Zhanying repeats.
Ye Zun sours, looking contrite. “…What gave it away?”
“Your brother knew,” Zhanying shrugs. “And I know the tone of voice he uses when he knows it’s your fault.”
“Fine,” Ye Zun huffs, dropping all pretence. “I’m sorry, or something.”
Zhanying pauses when there’s nothing after that. “…Are you not going to tell me why you did that?”
Ye Zun smiles. “No.”
Zhanying sighs, knowing it’s going to be more trouble than it was worth pursuing the issue. He turns to the mirror instead to look at how bad the wine had splattered. It isn’t a lot, but still, it’s a pain to wash it off. He goes to an empty cubicle to get some toilet paper and dampens it in the sink before trying to soak the wine spots into it.
“I told you, don’t rub it,” Ye Zun clucks his tongue, grabbing the tissue from Zhanying’s hands. “The trick is to blot it.”
Up close, Zhanying can see how long Ye Zun’s eyelashes are, which flutter slowly as Ye Zun dips his head down and looks up at him. Zhanying just blinks back after several seconds of Ye Zun gazing at him.
“Are you done?” he asks.
Ye Zun looks taken aback at the question. “W-what?”
Zhanying shakes his head and takes the tissue back from Ye Zun’s lax grip, tossing it to find a new one when he sees that it’s tearing from the moisture. Ye Zun just stands dumbly watching him, until he decides to prop himself to sit on the sink counter to watch Zhanying.
Zhanying glances at him while blotting the third stain. “You can leave, you know.”
Ye Zun crosses his arms. “Why do you want me to leave?”
“What else are you doing here?” Zhanying returns pointedly.
“Is it any better than going back there?” Ye Zun looks away. “They’re your friends, not mine.”
Zhanying isn’t trying to compare, but. “I haven’t seen or spoken to them for ten years. You know them more than I do.”
“…I said what I said,” Ye Zun states eventually. “Were you avoiding Mr CEO at the bar counter?”
Zhanying jerks his head up so fast that it’ll be too obvious if he lies.
“No,” he says, lying anyway.
“Hm,” Ye Zun hums, unbothered. “He’s not fucking anyone at the moment, you know.”
Zhanying just slides a side glance over. “…Why did you find that important to tell me?”
“Maybe you’d want to do something about your decade long pathetic crush, but what do I know,” Ye Zun shrugs, moving to release his hair from its bun, sighing when his tresses were free. “Enlighten me, Xiao Ying.”
Zhanying ignores him, and also very decidedly ignores that his ears go red. He doesn’t want to provoke Ye Zun to say any more.
“I’m not stopping you from leaving.”
Ye Zun purses his lips in thought for a moment, and then hops off the sink counter. “Hey, let’s get out of here.”
Zhanying tosses the last tissue into the trash bin—the stains are still glaring, but it’s the best he could do. “I’m not sure how you got the impression that I wanted to go anywhere with you.”
“Don’t be a dick,” Ye Zun says, but he’s smirking. “Let’s go to MacDonald’s. It’s just across the street.” At Zhanying’s confused face, he adds. “You’re hungry right? I’m hungry as fuck too, and trust me, this bar’s food is shit,” he stares at Zhanying challengingly. “…Unless you have anything more you want to say to Mr CEO out there. I’ll be happy to bring you right back.”
It’s a threat, though Zhanying isn’t sure what angle Ye Zun is playing at. All he knows from experience is that he doesn’t want to play. Ye Zun takes his hesitance as opportunity to yank him out through the backdoors, and Zhanying finds himself squinting at the bright lights of a MacDonald’s as promised. Ye Zun swaggers to the counter and orders something—he doesn’t let Zhanying go to order, just drags the younger to the nearest empty booth to settle in.
In better lighting, Ye Zun actually looks sort of tired, in a way. They don’t speak—Zhanying has never been a talker, neither has he even spent that much time with Ye Zun in the past. Anyway Ye Zun seems more occupied with his phone. When the food comes, Ye Zun tosses Zhanying a random burger and takes a huge bite from the one he picks up for himself, gaze still on his phone.
Zhanying looks at the one in his hands. A fish-o-filet, a harmless choice. He is hungry as hell, so he bites into it. He looks up when he hears a camera shutter sound in mid bite.
“My brother wants proof I haven’t murdered you in a dirty ditch,” Ye Zun explains nonchalantly.
Fair enough. Zhanying concentrates on eating, stealing the chips when he notices Ye Zun is too absorbed typing in his phone to notice.
This, well, this meaning Ye Zun and him in a MacDonald’s, is really weird.
They’ve never been friends. It’s a truth of fact that in the entire three years he’d known (of) Ye Zun back then, they’ve never had an actual conversation. It’s not a stretch to say that Ye Zun only knows he existed because he was in the student council and that he was also Lin Shu’s favourite junior to tease.
(Apparently anything that captures Lin Shu’s attention will be noticed by Ye Zun.)
So of course eating together in a MacDonald’s ten years later is an image Zhanying thinks would only happen in an alternate universe. There’s not much fanfare to it though; they both finish the meal relatively quickly in silence, attention on their respective phones. Finally Zhanying decides he’ll just go home and sleep off this weird night. He needs to let his shirt soak overnight anyway, before the wine stains become permanent.
When Zhanying makes to leave, however, Ye Zun automatically shuffles after him, tagging beside him while continuing to text. He doesn’t say anything as they walk to the train station, or even when they get on the same train—perhaps Zhanying should’ve, because when Ye Zun gets off at the same station as he does, he finally thinks to ask,
“Ye Zun, where are you headed?”
“Hm?” Ye Zun looks up at his question. “Aren’t we going to your place?”
Zhanying frowns. “Since when?”
At Zhanying’s obvious look of reluctance, Ye Zun pouts. “You’re just gonna ditch me like that? Even after I bought you a drink?”
“A drink that I did not want and that you spilled on me, so yes, I am going to ditch you,” Zhanying replies blandly. “Goodnight Ye Zun. It was…nice…to see you again.”
When Zhanying turns heel, Ye Zun probably sees that he isn’t going to entertain any nonsense—the other hastily grabs the back of shirt before he leaves.
“Zhanying, wait!” Ye Zun begins, teeth worrying the bottom of his lip. Zhanying only stops because Ye Zun has dropped that ridiculous nickname started by Lin Shu. “I...I just want a place to waste some time before my brother and his lap dog comes by to pick me. So. Let me crash for a bit.”
Zhanying hates that he’s not a dick. “…Fine.”
Ye Zun does not say thanks, but he does catch up to Zhanying’s heel with a renewed bounce in his step and tucks away his phone into his pocket. Zhanying lives alone a walk away from the station—his workplace is too far from his parents’ home—and he tells Ye Zun to excuse the mess by habit. He’s not a messy person, but it’s still the idea of a stranger invading his home space.
His studio is nothing impressive—small, cramped, but enough for one person. He’s got a small double bed, a couch squeezed at the foot of it in front of his closet, a tiny kitchen at the side and his worktable with two screens propped up beside his laptop.
“Why are your walls so bare?” is the first thing Ye Zun criticises about his apartment.
“It’s rented,” Zhanying replies, frowning when he notices that Ye Zun immediately goes towards his bed to sit down. “Don’t—sit on my bed,” he says the moment Ye Zun sits, shutting his eyes in exasperation.
To Ye Zun’s credit, the other does get up immediately, looking startled. “What, why? Are my pants dirty?”
“I don’t like going on it unless I’m clean. From the shower,” Zhanying explains, feeling a bit self-conscious. “Sit on the couch please.”
“Huh, you’re the same as my brother,” Ye Zun plonks himself into the said couch at the foot of his bed, surprisingly with no fuss. “…I hope you make an exception for sex.”
Sometimes Zhanying is unmistakably reminded that this is Ye Zun. “Do you want anything?”
“I knew you were dense, but the last line was kind of a—"
“I meant something to drink,” Zhanying looks at him pointedly. “Water? Hot milk?”
“Okay,” Zhanying nods, hiding his smile at the annoyed way Ye Zun purses his lips. “I’m going to shower,” he tells the other. “Don’t touch my computer,” he added. “I mean it.”
Ye Zun handwaves him away. Zhanying eyes him suspiciously for a bit but otherwise leaves to let him entertain himself as he grabs his change of clothes and gets into the shower. He almost forgets that Ye Zun is in the apartment, having taken a bit of time to soak his shirt in detergent properly in the sink, until he comes out and sees Ye Zun sitting in his chair in front of his computer.
“Didn’t I say not to touch it,” Zhanying hurries over, sounding much more pissed off than he hopes to let on as he fails to restrain his tone. “Get off the chair.”
Zhanying slides into the vacated seat and pushes Ye Zun’s hand away from the mouse, taking over control. Thankfully, from a quick glance it doesn’t seem like Ye Zun has disturbed the program.
“Telling me not to touch it is basically telling me you want me to touch it,” Ye Zun mumbles, though he does sound contrite. “What’s this anyway?” he cocks his head to the screen.
“A render,” Zhanying replies, leaning back when he’s satisfied his computer is running as it should be.
“A render of what?”
Ye Zun doesn’t seem fazed at his short answers. In fact, he just sounds more curious. “You’re making a game?”
“Yes,” Zhanying glances at him. “I work as a game developer.”
“Oh,” Ye Zun says after a while. “No wonder you’ve got all those little character figurines on your shelf. You should keep your fleshlight in a cupboard though—it’ll collect dust out in the open like that.”
At that, Zhanying’s jaw goes slack, and then he nearly trips rushing over to the three-tiered shelf beside his bed. Ye Zun is laughing behind him, taking great delight at his embarrassment. He has a fleshlight that he uses time to time, so what, he just doesn’t keep it hidden because no one comes over to his apartment anyway. He hastily shoves it under his pillow even though he knows Ye Zun had already seen it—probably held it for inspection.
“Honestly, I thought I would find some porn on your computer but that is way better.”
“I am not having this conservation with you.”
“Xiao Ying, there’s no need to be shy,” Ye Zun smirks, tilting his head. “We’ve all got needs.”
“Not. Having. This. Conversation,” Zhanying repeats firmly, ignoring how flushed he still felt. “When is your brother coming?”
Ye Zun shrugs. “I dunno. Sometime when he’s not sucking face with his lap dog.”
Zhanying takes a slow breath. “Did you lie to me about your brother picking you up?”
“Would I ever lie to you?” Ye Zun returns sweetly.
“Yes,” Zhanying says shortly. “Twice now, in fact. Many times in high school.”
“Well then,” Ye Zun still looks unbothered. “You’re used to it.”
“Ye Zun,” Zhanying begins with furrowed eyebrows. “I’m tired. Please leave now.”
“Leave,” Zhanying bites out. “I mean it.”
Ye Zun’s facial expression twitches, and he drops the smirk on his face. “…I didn’t mean to piss you off,” he says, voice suddenly unsure.
“You didn’t—” Zhanying sighs, but in truth he is a bit pissed off. “I’m not that angry,” he says eventually. “But I am really tired. So. Goodnight.”
“Zhanying, please,” Ye Zun stares at the ground and doesn’t move even when Zhanying nudges him. “Let me stay over.”
Zhanying almost can’t believe his ears. “What now?”
“Let me stay here tonight,” Ye Zun repeats, tone pleading. “I won’t disturb you anymore, I promise. I’ll take the couch and I’ll be out of your hair before you wake up. Just…just let me stay.”
Ye Zun is stubborn in answering that.
“Ye Zun…if you tell me the truth, I’ll consider.”
“I—I don’t want to go home, alright?” Ye Zun bites out finally, looking frustrated. “It’s just—” he sucks in a breath. “I just. I just don’t want to go home. I hate it there.”
Zhanying isn’t expecting an admission like that—what’s he supposed to do? Ye Zun looks like he’s going to curl up depressingly so Zhanying does the only thing he knows that might help—he goes to boil some water, and also to pull out the airbed he’d bought for himself when his mother stayed over plus some extra sheets.
“Use the mattress, the couch is too small to sleep in,” he says, dumping the sheets into Ye Zun’s hands. “Put that on yourself.”
Ye Zun looks at him in surprise, like he doesn’t expect Zhanying to agree even though he’s the one who begged. The water is done when Ye Zun finishes laying out the bedsheet, and Zhanying hands him a cup.
“What this for?”
“You’re sulking. Drink it. It helps,” Zhanying says bluntly. “I don’t have a comforter to spare, but here’s a throw that you can use. You know where the toilet is if you want to shower.”
Ye Zun nods mutely, sipping the hot water as he was told.
“What now?” Zhanying asks when Ye Zun grabs the edge of his shirt before he can go to his own bed.
“…Stay with me,” Ye Zun whispers. “Please?”
Ye Zun’s tone is a far cry from the one Zhanying heard in the bar—maybe that’s why Zhanying sits next to the other on the airbed, already regretting that he let him stay. Ye Zun continues drinking the hot water while they sit in silence, occasionally glancing at Zhanying, like he’s thinking of what he should say.
“Why don’t you keep in contact with the rest of them?” Ye Zun asks neutrally.
It’s a sudden shift in the topic, but it isn’t a terrible one. Zhanying shrugs vaguely.
“You guys graduated before I did. Life happens. Phone numbers change. We drifted.”
“My brother still uses the same number,” Ye Zun says.
“Oh,” Zhanying blinks. “Well. I don’t have it anymore.”
“Do you want it?”
“…I don’t have anything particular that I want to talk about with Shen Wei,” Zhanying says in response.
“Then what about Mr CEO? I don’t have his number, but Lin Shu does,” Ye Zun slides out his phone. “I bet he’ll tell me if I said it was for you.”
Zhanying looks away. “No thanks.”
Ye Zun sounds put out when he puts his phone down. “Why are you so…lacklustre about Xiao Jingyan?” he frowns. “He’s not seeing anyone—you guys could fuck, at the very least.”
“…Why are you so invested in me and Jingyan?” Zhanying asks in return.
“I’m not invested,” Ye Zun denies with a huff. “The only reason you turned me down at the bar is because you still have feelings for him—”
“That is not the reason I turned you down—”
“—so you should stop being pathetic and do something about it,” Ye Zun finishes. “…Wait. It’s not?”
Zhanying senses an oncoming headache. “Ye Zun,” he starts very plainly. “I’m not attracted to you—Jingyan or not.”
“Bullshit,” Ye Zun sniffs sulkily, flicking his hair over his shoulder. “Everyone is attracted to me.”
“Not when you open your mouth.”
“Aha, so you admit you are attracted to—"
“Whatever,” Zhanying rolls his eyes, because this is a pointless argument that he knows only Ye Zun cares about winning. “And. I don’t want to do “something” about Jingyan. Leave it.”
“Now that just sounds like you’re scared to.”
Zhanying knows a goad when he hears one, and yet, he can’t explain why he…tells Ye Zun this.
“I don’t want a relationship with Jingyan, okay?” Zhanying says. “Rather, I know it won’t work out. I know what I want from a relationship and it’s not something Jingyan will be able to give me.”
Ye Zun looks skeptical, but at least he’s listening. “…And what do you want, exactly, that Mr CEO cannot give?”
“Communication,” Zhanying says immediately. “Being comfortable with each other. Having common interests. Talking about the things that matter,” he lists them slowly, shrugging vaguely. “It’s…never been like that with Jingyan. Even when we were working together in the student council, we never spoke about anything beyond council related duties, and…we don’t have any similar hobbies. We don’t…click. That’s just how it is.”
“Isn’t it because you’ve always been too shy to hang out with him?” Ye Zun raises an eyebrow. “Like, unless you’ve gone on a date with him you can’t really say that you’ve tried.”
“I’m not interested,” Zhanying insists, and rolls his eyes when he sees Ye Zun giving him a disbelieving scoff. “It’s just a…a crush. It’s not anything major. I’m not interested in a relationship that I already don’t find appealing.”
“Because you haven’t tried,” Ye Zun repeats, groaning. “Whatever. Fine, I get that you have expectations of a relationship. That’s normal. I have them too.”
“Fucking good sex,” Ye Zun says bluntly.
“Of course,” Zhanying comments blandly.
“You’re thinking that I’m a slut now, aren’t you?” Ye Zun snorts, but he doesn’t look insulted. “I bet you’re a virgin—you can’t put a price on a really good fuck until you’ve had it.”
“I don’t care what you do with your body,” Zhanying pushes the finger Ye Zun jabs in his face away. “Just don’t judge what I do with mine.”
“You’re a—...you’ve never slept with anyone before,” Ye Zun says like he’s in a daze. “I was just kidding. But. You’ve really never…Never?”
Normally Zhanying doesn’t care about the number of people he’s slept with aka zero, but the way Ye Zun is looking at him like he’s a new sort of specimen is a bit unnerving.
“Blowjob? Handjob?” Ye Zun tries, leaning closer interest when Zhanying just edges away. “Kissing? Not even a fucking kiss?”
“What’s the big deal?” Zhanying glares, holding Ye Zun an arm’s length away when the other shakes him by the shoulder at the revelation. “I don’t want to kiss anyone I don’t like. That’s just disgusting.”
“Because they weren’t Jingyan,” Ye Zun inserts smugly.
“Will you give it a rest already?” Zhanying groans. “I swear, I’ll throw you out if you bring him up one more time.”
Ye Zun glowers, but otherwise shuts his mouth. For just about three seconds.
“Xiao Ying,” Ye Zun starts, lips curled, and voice pitched breathy and seductive. “Let me show you how it’s like to—"
“Good night, Ye Zun,” Zhanying says firmly, promptly standing up.
He ignores all of Ye Zun’s attempts to get his attention back again, sliding himself into his bed and pulling the covers over his head after a last order to turn the lights off when the other was done. There’s some kind of shuffling in the room, until he hears the toilet door being opened—likely that Ye Zun has finally given up and went to clean up. Zhanying is asleep before Ye Zun comes out (he wasn’t lying about being tired).
The next morning, Zhanying wakes to an empty airbed with the throw haphazardly tossed aside, no Ye Zun in sight.
When Ye Zun rings his doorbell about a week later, Zhanying is in a middle of a League of Legends campaign, so it’s entirely understandable that he doesn’t hear it until a good ten minutes later. In his defence, no one ever rings his doorbell either, so he spends a good while wondering what that background noise was before he realises it’s someone at the door. It’s ten at night, and Zhanying didn’t order any takeout—and he’s seen enough thriller movies to feel like whoever out there is going to knife him the moment he opens the door.
It’s only Ye Zun, however, in his pyjamas and slippers.
“Xiao Ying!” Ye Zun smiles brightly when he opens the door. “I thought you weren’t home.”
“With the way you incessantly jabbed my doorbell, you certainly thought I was,” Zhanying says blandly. “What do you want?”
Ye Zun rocks on his heels innocently. “Can I come in?”
Zhanying stares at him, and then up at the dark sky behind the other. “Why are you here? In your…pyjamas…no less.”
“I was in the area,” Ye Zun answers vaguely. “Are you going to let me in or not?”
Zhanying tosses a glance back towards his computer, where he had put the game on pause. Ye Zun sounds cheery, but his eyes are swollen red, like he’d been crying or rubbing his eyes too much. Or both. Zhanying staunches down the ‘bad idea’ warning blaring in his head and pulls the door back wider for Ye Zun to step in.
“You had a fight with Shen Wei?” Zhanying asks after he’d locked the door, watching Ye Zun freeze in mid-step. “Should I let him know you’re safe?”
“You will not tell my brother anything!” Ye Zun hisses when he whirls around to face Zhanying. “You don’t have his number anyway.”
“There are other ways, like email. You do know that your brother’s contact is listed in the staff directory in Dragon University’s website, right?”
“So why haven’t you kept in touch then?” Ye Zun throws back spitefully. “Are you scared that he wouldn’t have remembered you? Or that he wouldn’t care if you did?”
It’s quite amazing how Ye Zun manages to pull out insecurities Zhanying has buried a long time ago—thankfully, it doesn’t quite hurt as much as it would’ve then.
“Sit,” Zhanying says sternly, pointing to the spare chair he has.
Ye Zun frowns to himself, looking torn between arguing and obeying. He sits eventually. Zhanying turns to the kitchen to boil water, and neither of them says anything while the gurgling sound fills up the background.
“Drink,” Zhanying orders, pushing a mug with the hot water into Ye Zun’s hands. “I’m going back to my game.”
Ye Zun just clenches his jaw, takes the drink and stays quiet. Zhanying ignores him, going back to his computer and slips his headphones back on. He only glances over when Ye Zun pulls his chair next to him after ten minutes of sulking by himself to watch him play, but otherwise Zhanying forgets he has a presence next to him until his campaign ends.
“Is this why you’re such a shut in?” Ye Zun says the moment he pulls off his headphones.
“Do you have a habit of insulting people in every sentence that comes out from your mouth?”
“I’m just saying,” Ye Zun sours, noisily sipping the last bits of his water. “You’re alone at home on a Friday night. What else are you then?”
“Weren’t you at home too?” Zhanying shoots back.
Ye Zun’s jaw tightens. He purses his lips. “…I’m staying here tonight,” he declares. “Get me the mattress.”
Zhanying is kind of in awe at how audacious Ye Zun is—maybe he really hasn’t known how Ye Zun could be in high school. “…I have half a mind to throw you out,” Zhanying says honestly.
“Listen to the other half then,” Ye Zun says, pulling his feet up to perch on the chair.
“Zhanying,” Ye Zun cuts him off sharply, staring at his feet, throat bobbing with the next words. “I don’t want to go home.”
It’s probably the first honest truth that comes out from Ye Zun’s mouth tonight, so Zhanying sighs and gets up to get the airbed.
“This will not be a common occurrence,” he says firmly when he sports Ye Zun smiling to himself. “I won’t let you in next time.”
“Mm, sure,” Ye Zun says distractedly, obviously not listening as he pats down the covers. “Do you have anything to eat? I’m hungry.”
“No, I do not,” Zhanying says, not bothering to check. “I’m going to shower. Don’t touch anything,” he warns.
“Give me your Wi-Fi password then.”
Zhanying gestures vaguely to the router near his computer before he grabs some clothes from the closet and shuts the bathroom door behind him. When he comes back, he’s not surprised to see Ye Zun clicking things on his computer. He is, however, annoyed.
“Didn’t I say not to touch anything,” he grumbles, swatting Ye Zun by the back. “Get off.”
“I told you you can’t say that to me and expect me to sit still,” Ye Zun huffs, pushing his hand away. “You have Netflix. Let’s watch something.”
“We are not watching something,” Zhanying snaps the laptop shut when Ye Zun ignores his tugging to move him away. “I’m going to sleep.”
“It’s only eleven!” Ye Zun protests indignantly.
“Yeah, my bed time,” Zhanying replies flatly.
It’s not exactly true—he does keep rather regular sleeping hours but he’s definitely not so anal about it, it’s just that he doesn’t really want to be awake in Ye Zun’s presence more than necessary. Ye Zun sighs like he’s the one being hustled to do things he doesn’t like, wrapping himself under the throw on the airbed. Zhanying feels vaguely bad about treating his guest that harshly, but Ye Zun’s the one who suddenly imposed himself here. Zhanying flicks the lights off, crawls into bed and turns on his side, ready to fall to sleep when Ye Zun speaks.
“Did you ever miss me?”
Zhanying sighs. “No,” he says bluntly.
It is, however, the truth. They weren’t…friends back then. Or now.
“What about my brother?”
“Sometimes,” Zhanying agrees, though he’s not sure why he does.
“You should come over for dinner.”
“It’s been ten years, Ye Zun,” Zhanying says to the ceiling. “It’s weird.”
“It’s only weird because you think they’re not your friends anymore.”
“It’s weird that you’re lecturing me about friends.”
That seems to shut Ye Zun up, and Zhanying hears nothing else but the sound of even breathing that night.
Again, the airbed is empty when Zhanying wakes, even though it’s just past sunrise.
Only three days pass when Ye Zun comes by again, this time with a backpack and plastic bags in hand. Zhanying had a thought of turning back on his heel when he came down the corridor and saw the other sitting in front of his door playing with his phone, obviously waiting for the occupant (hint: Zhanying) to come home.
“Why are you here?” Zhanying sighs, leaving out the again he wanted to tack on.
“Oh, welcome back, Xiao Ying! Late night?” Ye Zun grins when he looks up. “Date night?” he asks, and then scrunches up his face when he flickers his gaze over Zhanying. “Nah, you’re still wearing boring work clothes.”
Zhanying looks at his shirt and then back at Ye Zun again. “Answer my question.”
“I bought you food, okay,” Ye Zun grumbles, showing Zhanying the Styrofoam boxes in the plastic bags. “Someone said I was rude to you, so. Here.”
“Is that ‘someone’ your brother?”
“Maybe,” Ye Zun sours. “Are you going to let me in or not? I waited over an hour for you. You should give me your number.”
“Don’t you have somewhere else to be?” Zhanying says tiresomely as he unlocks his door. “Someone else to bother?” He isn’t sure what Ye Zun does in his free time. “There’s a bar two streets away.”
“You have Netflix,” Ye Zun says, like that’s all the reason in the world. “And your place is near to my shoot location tomorrow.”
Zhanying glances sharply at him. “Did you just…assume that you can stay over?”
Ye Zun smiles winningly. “You’re a really nice person, Xiao Ying,” he flutters his eyelashes, as though that measly action will win Zhanying over. “The best I’ve ever known.”
“That means nothing to me,” Zhanying says, but for some reason, he does let Ye Zun step in. “And what shoot location?”
“Work,” Ye Zun explains absentmindedly as he heads directly to the fridge, and then unloads several bottles inside it. “Wow, what are all these lunchboxes? You fucking liar, you said you had nothing to eat the last time!”
“It’s my food for the week,” Zhanying replies, frowning. “What are you doing in there?”
“My food for the week,” Ye Zun shows him one of the bottles, which Zhanying reads the words ‘meal replacements’ on the label.
“That’s all you eat?”
“Mm, yeah, I don’t have time to eat lunch or even if I do, food will bloat my body,” Ye Zun says, taking the bottle back to squeeze it into one of the shelves of the fridge. “And then the damn director will get all fucking bitchy just because my abs aren’t washboard enough.” At Zhanying’s raised eyebrows, Ye Zun tilts his head. “I’m a model, Xiao Ying. What else do I do with this face?”
“…Your brother isn’t one,” Zhanying points out.
“Yeah well, his hair isn’t as pretty as mine,” Ye Zun snorts, lazily twirling an end lock of his hair around his finger.
Zhanying just rolls his eyes. “You said you bought me food.”
Ye Zun unpacks the Styrofoam boxes, and also takes out two tupperwares. “Dim sum. And soya bean pudding,” he looks around after, frowning. “Don’t you have a dining table or something? Where do you even eat?”
Zhanying cocks his head towards his worktable.
“So you eat staring at the screen.”
“I live alone, Ye Zun, so yes, I eat while I entertain myself on the computer,” Zhanying says blandly. “And in case you haven’t noticed, this apartment isn’t exactly big enough to put another table in.”
Ye Zun sniffs like he’s personally offended, plonking himself on the couch with one of the Styrofoam boxes. He breaks the wooden chopsticks to eat, and raises an eyebrow when all Zhanying does is to stare at him.
“What? Sit down and eat.”
Zhanying would never say no to free food—and it has been a while since he had shrimp dumplings. He sits next to Ye Zun and chews on the dumpling he’s put into his mouth. For just a couple of minutes, it’s a nice quiet atmosphere.
“How was work today, Xiao Ying?”
“…Small talk is really awkward when it’s coming from you.”
“Fuck you,” Ye Zun says, although there’s no heat in it. “I bought you dinner. I’m trying to be nice.”
“No, you’re not. There was a catch.”
“No such thing as free food,” Ye Zun agrees. “So how was work? Did you finish that game you were working on the last time?”
“Of course not,” Zhanying snorts. “How fast do you think games are made? It’s a lot of beta testing even after the first working model is done.”
“I dunno,” Ye Zun shrugs. “You tell me.”
It’s not everyday that anyone’s interested in hearing what Zhanying’s job entails. He’s a game developer working in a start-up—that means that because of the small employee number they have, he’s involved in various stages of the game development process, not just a specific part. He’s got most experience in programming, but he’s also been made to pitch ideas for game design, render art and play for testing.
Ye Zun tries out the mobile phone application game on his own phone when Zhanying shows it to him as an example of what his company has worked on before, and basically criticises every aspect of it while playing it for twenty minutes straight.
“This is the stupidest game ever,” Ye Zun says for like the thousandth time. “Joining cats to make new species of cats? Who came up with this concept?”
“A client pitched this,” Zhanying answers. “You can close the app, you know. You still earn coins.”
“No! I’m close to the next level.”
Zhanying decides to leave him to it and shower since it looks like the other’s actually invested in the game—hilarious, really. Ye Zun looks like he’s waiting to use the bathroom when he comes out this time, with a whole bag of toiletries and a huge towel in his arms. Ye Zun saunters in and shuts the door like it’s his own home, and Zhanying just resigns himself to the other’s antics.
Zhanying waits ten minutes, and then he realises that Ye Zun is probably not the type to take a quick shower but instead waste his hot water for at least thirty minutes. He mentally calculates his heating and water bills, gets slightly annoyed, but otherwise decides to push it out of his mind, choosing instead to watch something to pass the time. He’s in the middle of a show when he feels his bed dip with Ye Zun leaning his knee on to it, clearly intending to join him.
There’s a really nice citrusy scent coming from Ye Zun’s skin—probably some kind of soap.
“I’m clean,” Ye Zun professes sourly, shoving at Zhanying to move to let him sit on the bed. “I took a shower and everything.”
It’s not about Ye Zun being clean so much as it’s just Ye Zun; Zhanying shifts eventually, because he’s not that terrible of a person.
“Is this Black Mirror?” Ye Zun pulls the covers over his feet, eyes wide when he squints at the screen. “Shit, I love this show. Start this episode from the beginning.”
It’s just easier to give in to Ye Zun’s selfish demands than to argue, and Zhanying’s always been the sort to take the route of least effort. They end up watching three episodes past midnight, where Zhanying learns Ye Zun is the worst person to watch shows with, because the other just has to comment about every single thing about what he predicts the ending will be.
Ye Zun, as Zhanying suspects, tries to snuggle down onto his bed when Zhanying declares he’s too tired to watch anymore, and strictly makes sure Ye Zun gets down to the airbed before he turns off the lights. Ye Zun whines that he’s being too much of a prude—it’s not like Ye Zun’s going to grope him under the covers or whatever—but because Ye Zun said it out loud, Zhanying blunts retorts that’s exactly what he thinks Ye Zun will do. Ye Zun grumbles, tosses around noisily, until Zhanying tells him to stop being such an ass and to go the fuck to sleep.
Again, Ye Zun is gone when he wakes up the next morning. But the mess that Ye Zun leaves behind, is again, still there.
Zhanying folds up the airbed, and he notices that Ye Zun has left his towel and some clothes behind, shucked over his couch. He doesn’t think too much about it past Ye Zun being a terrible guest until he gets into the shower, bends for the shampoo bottle, and then cracks an eye open under the water spray when he feels the shape of the bottle.
He usually buys a generic brand in a pump bottle—but that bottle is gone, instead replaced by some fancy squeeze bottle of something else. Zhanying wipes the water out of his eyes and squats down fully to examine the row of new bottles he’s clearly never seen before; he recognises shampoo and soap, but he definitely has never used conditioner or whatever this hair treatment paste was. They smell really nice—and Zhanying can’t find his original shampoo and soap, so he just lathers it into his hair and body and gets on with the day.
The next time Ye Zun rings his doorbell Zhanying isn’t phased anymore. He notices Ye Zun’s plastered grin wobbling and the red stained eyes before he spits out a refusal—and…Zhanying just can’t slam a door into someone who’s obviously upset.
“…Not going to ask why I’m here?” Ye Zun mutters when Zhanying gives him a mug of hot water.
“It’s always the same reason, isn’t it?” Zhanying says without bite. “Though I don’t know why you keep coming here.”
“You can’t leave me hanging on the season finale,” Ye Zun pouts. “Can I have some clothes to change into? I want to take a shower.”
“You have your own clothes,” Zhanying points to a plastic bag he left near the door. “I washed it. You also still have those meal replacements in my fridge. Please take them away.”
“Oh,” Ye Zun blinks. “I forgot about those.”
“I’d bet,” Zhanying mutters under his breath as Ye Zun hops into the shower.
When Ye Zun invites himself into Zhanying’s bed again for Netflix, Zhanying actually lets him—until the other very obviously leans into his neck and takes a long sniff. Zhanying jolts, edging at least ten centimetres away.
“What are you doing.”
“You smell nice,” Ye Zun says, smiling. “Did you like the soap? It’s expensive, you know.”
“Then take it back,” Zhanying states. “What are those bottles you left on my sink counter?”
“Toner. Moisturiser. You know, usual face care stuff. You can use them if you want.”
“I don’t use any of that stuff.”
“Really?” Ye Zun leans towards him again, peering curiously. “Your skin is really pretty,” he murmurs, lifting one hand to touch Zhanying’s cheek.
This close, Zhanying can see the slip of pale chest from Ye Zun’s loosely buttoned shirt, the way Ye Zun looks at him with eyes half-lidded, and the dark colour of his black irises. Ye Zun’s lip curls slightly when their gazes meet—and Zhanying immediately turns away from the touch.
“Haven’t you heard of personal space?”
“I’m not trying to kiss you,” Ye Zun mutters, leaning back. “I wouldn’t be that subtle about it.”
“Good to know,” Zhanying says blandly. “Are you going to watch or are you going to be creepy?”
“I’m not creepy,” Ye Zun crosses his arms, huffing. “It’s seductive. You wouldn’t know seductive even if it punched you in the face.”
“Uh-huh,” Zhanying replies, unbothered. “Shut up and watch.”
It’s no longer a surprise when Ye Zun turns up at his doorstep at night.
Sometimes he comes with takeaway food and an excuse that he doesn’t want to travel far to his workplace in the morning, sometimes he comes with a forced grin and runny eyes and Zhanying can’t shut the door in his face. Apparently Ye Zun fights with Shen Wei a lot more than Zhanying has ever thought. He doesn’t pry into it, seeing that Ye Zun reacted snappishly the first-time round, just gives him hot water to drink and puts on a Netflix show so the miserable tense atmosphere isn’t so obvious.
Once, Ye Zun curls up next to him on the bed while they’re watching Tientsin Mystic, face pressed into his arm and hands clutching the side of his shirt. Zhanying jerks at the sudden touch—it’s the first time that Ye Zun physically clings to him, and he hadn’t thought they were that close to do that kind of thing.
“Xiao Ying,” Ye Zun grips him tighter when he squirms a bit. “Aren’t you ever lonely? You live alone. You don’t even go out.”
Zhanying eyes the moving characters on screen for a bit before turning the volume down. “…I do go out.”
“Yeah, to work. That’s it.”
“What’s your point, Ye Zun?” Zhanying sighs, not wanting to feel insulted because Ye Zun has a very blunt way of speaking—he’d learnt that easily enough.
“You, you—” Ye Zun sounds frustrated. “You’re so. Unbothered. Living alone. Being alone. How do you stand it?”
Zhanying looks down at the mop of silver hair that has a blueish tint from the light from the laptop. “I like being alone,” he says after a while. “I get to do things I want to do.”
“Like masturbate?” When Zhanying shoves Ye Zun’s head in response, the other grumbles. “Stop that, I know what you meant. But like,” Ye Zun swallows, voice going softer. “Don’t you wish you had someone to do things with?”
“…Yeah, sure,” Zhanying says after a while. “But it has to be with the right person. Otherwise, I’d hate it. So,” he looks at the screen, decidedly avoiding Ye Zun’s glance up at him. “I prefer being alone, for now.”
“What if you never find that person?”
“Then I’m okay with being alone.”
Ye Zun lets go of his arm then, turning to the other side. “You’re lucky you feel that way,” he mumbles.
“…Hey,” Zhanying starts when Ye Zun doesn’t say anything else. He pauses the show and shuts the laptop, just so that Ye Zun understands he’s giving him his full attention. “It’s not that I don’t ever feel lonely. I still do. Sometimes,” he adds after a while. “I just…learned how to like own company.”
Zhanying gives it some thought. “What do you like to do in your free time?”
“Spend time with Ge,” Ye Zun says, and it sounds rather miserable. “But he doesn’t want to spend time with me, so what now?”
“…I don’t think that’s true,” Zhanying says carefully. “…Ye Zun?” he prods when all he gets is silence and Ye Zun curling up tighter into a ball in response.
He clambers off the bed to find a tissue box when he hears the first sniff—oh dear god, he really never expected Ye Zun to just…cry. In his bed.
“Hey,” Zhanying places a gentle hand on his shoulder and puts the tissue box by his face. “Don’t drip your snot on my bed. I mean it.”
Ye Zun noisily yanks out like five pieces of tissue and starts stuffing his face with it. “You clean freak,” Ye Zun mutters with his wobbly voice. “You were supposed to make me feel better.”
“I’m not good at comforting people, as you now know,” Zhanying admits, lying back on the bed himself. “Like you’ve said, I don’t spend a lot of time with others.”
“Everyone likes you, you know,” Ye Zun says, turning on his back too. “At the bar—they all missed you. I can see it. You’re alone because you choose to be. But me,” he snorts. “…Even my own brother hates me sometimes.”
“I don’t think Shen Wei would ever…hate you…” Zhanying trails off.
“I dumped Zhao Yunlan’s liquor collection into the toilet bowl today,” Ye Zun informs him, sounding a bit sour at the memory. “Ge said I was being a bitch.”
“I bet he definitely did not.”
“He said I was unreasonable,” Ye Zun amends. “And doesn’t want to see my face again until I apologise to that fucking dick.”
Zhanying glances at him. “What did Zhao Yunlan do to offend you?”
Ye Zun says it with so such dramatic dripping venom that Zhanying inappropriately barks a short breath of laughter. Ye Zun shoots him an annoyed glare.
“Do you know how fucking annoying it is to see them suck faces every fucking day at home?” he demands. “It’s my apartment too! I never wanted Zhao Yunlan to move in, but if I kicked up a fuss then it’s my fault Ge isn’t happy, isn’t it? And now we have to include that ass into every single one of our household decisions, like he’s a fucking member of the family—”
“Ye Zun,” Zhanying cuts him off before his ranting gets any deeper. “Have you told Shen Wei about this?”
“Of course I have! Ge said I was a dick.”
“He did not.”
“He said I was being very uncompromising,” Ye Zun mutters.
“To be fair,” Zhanying says. “I agree with Shen Wei.”
Ye Zun actually snarls. “Fuck you—you should be on my side—”
“And,” Zhanying swats him to keep quiet. “I think you should tell Shen Wei that you miss him.”
Ye Zun stares at him, and then turns on his side, back towards Zhanying again. “…That’s fucking ridiculous. How can I miss someone I see every day?”
“That is it, isn’t it,” Zhanying says gently. “You miss how it was like before Zhao Yunlan came into the picture.”
“So what? That asshole is never going away, I tried for ten fucking years—”
“So you should just tell Shen Wei you miss him, and he’ll understand,” Zhanying says. “Probably.”
Ye Zun falls silent. It’s not remarkably difficult to guess that Ye Zun feels upset about the lack of attention Shen Wei showers on him—it’s been a thing since high school, since Zhanying was privy first hand to Zhao Yunlan unsubtly courting Shen Wei. It’s been a disaster between Ye Zun and Zhao Yunlan then; Zhanying doesn’t expect that has changed over the years.
“…If he doesn’t I’m going to blame you,” Ye Zum mumbles, but he does sound calmer.
Zhanying sighs. Ten minutes later, he speaks up. “Ye Zun.”
“Get off my bed. Sleep on the mattress.”
“You’re so stingy.”
Several weeks later is the first time Ye Zun comes to his apartment drunk. The other had popped by a couple of times in between and left behind enough clothes that Zhanying has sorted them into his closet, because there’s just no space in his apartment. He hadn’t expected it—Ye Zun hasn’t turned up with tear marks for a while now, so when the other throws himself into Zhanying’s chest with full on waterworks, Zhanying is flabbergasted.
He also winces at the stench of alcohol, like Ye Zun’s doused an entire bottle over his head.
“Xiao Ying, you’re, you’re the only one who cares about—about me, right?” Ye Zun blubbers, staggering as Zhanying tries his best to help him in properly to sit down. “Even if I’m, I’m mean and a piece of f—fucking shit—"
“Stop talking,” Zhanying sighs, weary when Ye Zun doesn’t let him go when he tries to make for the kitchen to take some water. “Come on, let go of me.”
“No, no, no, no—you’ll leave—leave, like Ge, and never come back, and, and—” Ye Zun’s breath hitches when he breaks into loud sobs.
Zhanying pauses. “…Ye Zun, can you even listen to me?” he asks gently when he squats down to have them on eye-level.
He ignores the alcohol breath as he cups Ye Zun’s face, checking for how slow Ye Zun’s pupils dilate under the dim light, a sign of his inebriation. Ye Zun stares back at him, and then more fat tears started rolling down his cheeks. Zhanying hurries to wipe them in panic when they won’t stop falling.
“What happened?” he asks, actually worried.
Ye Zun’s face scrunches up again, and wordlessly he launches himself into Zhanying’s arms. He cries for like a whole thirty minutes. Zhanying uncertainly soothes down the back of Ye Zun’s head, occasionally rubbing the other’s back. The front of his shirt is fully soaked when Ye Zun finally manages to find his voice to speak.
“Let me stay here.”
“You’ve insisted on staying here for the past two months, I don’t see what’s the difference is with today.”
Ye Zun stifles a sob. “I-I…don’t have anywhere to go!”
Zhanying stills at that. “Ye Zun, I’m not kicking you out, okay?” he purses his lips. “Just, just let go of me for a bit. I’ll get you some water, and then you can tell me what happened if you want, and then we’ll go to sleep. Alright?”
Ye Zun shakes his head. “Don’t leave.”
“I’m not leaving,” Zhanying repeats, gently prying the other off. “Just going to take some water. You’ll have a headache, since you cried yourself sober.”
With a bit more assurance Ye Zun lets him get up. He comes back after changing his wet shirt, and carries with him a mug of warm water as promised, plus a wet towel. Ye Zun yelps when Zhanying wipes his face unceremoniously.
“Take your water and go sit on the bed.”
“I’m not clean,” Ye Zun mumbles.
“I’ll make an exception today,” Zhanying says eyeing him. “Move in.”
Ye Zun shuffles over, huddling himself under the blanket.
Ye Zun drinks.
“Want to talk, or want to sleep?”
Ye Zun chews on his bottom lip. He’s quiet for a very long while, long enough that Zhanying feels kind of awkward and itches to go turn off the lights.
“…It’s so fucking stupid,” Ye Zun whispers, sounding upset all over again. “So fucking stupid. I don’t—I don’t know why but I just…I….”
Zhanying hastily takes the cup when Ye Zun pulls up his legs and face plants into his knees.
“I’m just so…” he sniffs. “I’m so fucking pathetic. I knew it was coming and I still…”
Zhanying rests on hand on his back cautiously. “Knew what was coming?”
“They’re getting married,” Ye Zun spits out, squeezing his eyes. “Engaged. Fucking knew it was coming, and I—I thought it wasn’t a fucking big deal. It’s not like, like Ge’s moving out or some shit…"
“But,” Ye Zun swallows. “It fucking hurts. It really…” he sniffs, starting to wipe his eyes. “It really hurts.”
“…Shen Wei’s not going forget you.”
“I know that!” Ye Zun snaps, voice raw. “I know that…but…I’m not…his only family anymore. Zhao Yunlan is…his first choice. I’m…I’m…” he sobs, “I’m going to be alone forever, no one is going to want me, because I’m, I’m…difficult and a fucking pain in the fuck—fucking ass—”
Zhanying can’t disagree with the last bit, but he does think that Ye Zun isn’t…that terrible to be sentenced to such self-pity.
“You’re not…broken…if you don’t have somebody,” Zhanying starts carefully. “You’re enough by yourself.”
“Easy for you to say,” Ye Zun bites back. “You’re so fucking nice, Zhanying, you’ll find someone. It’s a wonder you’re not hitched yet.”
“I don’t think I’m particularly nice,” Zhanying admits slowly. “I haven’t really been all that nice to you.”
Ye Zun snorts, even amongst his tears. “Yeah, actually you’re kind of bitchy.”
“And I disagree. I don’t think…it’s that easy…for someone like me,” Zhanying shifts his gaze to his lap. “You know, I…I do…think about whether I’d die alone. And that, that does scare me,” he confesses. “Even if I…look like I don’t care about it…but I do. I mean, I—” he swallows faintly. “It took me years to be okay with being by myself.”
It’s not something he’s ever admitted to anyone—or to himself out loud, for that matter.
“You were right, you know, about me. When Jingyan and your brother graduated, I wanted to keep in touch. But I…overthought it. Whether they’d still like me outside of council duties. We weren’t really friends, we didn’t have anything in common, and I was…convinced…they didn’t like me that much. And you know how they’re like. Jingyan owns a multi-million-dollar company, your brother’s a professor, and I…what am I, Ye Zun, compared to them?”
It wasn’t a question Zhanying needed an answer for, but Ye Zun answers anyway. “They’re fucking monsters, that’s what they are,” the other mutters under his breath.
“And,” Zhanying continues. “It took a while but…I’m okay with who I am now, even if I’m not what I think I wish I would be. It’s just whether there’s anyone would be fine with that too. If there isn’t, then…” Zhanying smiles faintly. “I’ll just love myself more to make up for it.”
“...But it still hurts?” Ye Zun murmurs, looking at him with red rimmed eyes. “Sometimes?”
“Sometimes,” Zhanying nods. “You’re not alone. I promise.”
He doesn’t push Ye Zun away when the other uncurls to hug by him the waist, crying his last tears into his freshly changed shirt.
It’s the first time he lets Ye Zun sleep on the bed.
Ye Zun doesn’t bring up Shen Wei’s and Zhao Yunlan’s engagement again, although Zhanying wonders briefly in his head if he should send a congratulatory email to Shen Wei. But that might expose Ye Zun coming over his apartment nearly twice every week now, and Zhanying isn’t so sure if Shen Wei knows about their sleepovers, or whether Ye Zun wants their little sleepovers to be known.
After all, Ye Zun shows quite a different side to himself—and Zhanying can’t fault the other for being human; looking at it now, the selfish and bratty way Ye Zun behaves can be explained by his intense insecurities. It doesn’t excuse it, of course, but it just means that Zhanying takes it much less personally when Ye Zun touches the thing Zhanying specifically stated not to touch, and doesn’t get annoyed when Ye Zun stuffs his fridge with those meal replacement bottles or insists on watching so many particular shows on Netflix that the items on his recommendation list has changed.
He also doesn’t bat an eye when he comes home one time and finds Ye Zun already inside having stolen his spare key, cooking instant noodles for himself. He does insist that Ye Zun returns the key though, which the other does after a lot of pointless whining. He should’ve known Ye Zun probably made a copy for himself, because he comes back this time and finds Ye Zun in his bed watching his Netflix on his computer, like Ye Zun’s the owner of the apartment.
“Are you clean?” Zhanying demands.
Ye Zun waves at him lazily. “Yes. You’re late today. That’s rare.”
“Had a dinner,” Zhanying answers absentmindedly as he puts his bag down, heading to the closet for a change of clothes.
“Oh? With who?”
Ye Zun obviously thought he was joking, but when there’s nothing more to it, the other sits up, snapping the laptop shut. “…Seriously?”
“Yeah,” Zhanying says. “He’s a new client. He’s donating a quite a bit of money into a charity for the refugee crisis, and they wanted to do some outreach to the public with a mobile app game. It’s quite interesting, really—”
“Dinner, like, alone?” Ye Zun interrupts curiously.
“No, my boss was there too,” Zhanying blinks. “Though we did get some dessert afterwards. He still likes hazelnut pastries.”
“Of course you’d remember that.”
“Actually, it’s more because Lin Shu had an allergic reaction once and I thought he was going to die,” Zhanying states. “I’m forever traumatised.”
Ye Zun’s expression twists into something rather unreadable. “…You’re in a good mood.”
“Am I?” Zhanying blinks and then faintly scratches the back of his neck. “…I guess it was nice.”
“What was nice? Talking to Mr CEO again?”
“I suppose. It was kind of sudden, but, you know, Jingyan’s always been…nice.”
Ye Zun stares at him with furrowed eyebrows. “You think you’d have dinner with him again?”
“Well, obviously there’s still more things to discuss—”
“No, Xiao Ying,” Ye Zun cuts him off sternly. “I mean dinner dinner. Leading to a fuck.”
Zhanying rolls his eyes. “I told you I don’t do casual sex. Anyway, why is that any of your concern again?”
“Not having things in common,” Ye Zun points out. “That was what you were worried about, right? Now you have stuff to talk about. So are you going to tell him about your feelings?”
“It’s just one dinner, and we only talked about work—”
“If you had more dinners then,” Ye Zun presses frustratedly, eyes almost blazing. “Would you tell him?”
“Well, I…” Zhanying trails off, feeling kind of confused.
He’s not sure why Ye Zun looks more and more aggressive about this topic—like, surely Ye Zun can’t be that dead set on hooking him and Jingyan up together. Sure, the thought of Jingyan has always fluttered the butterflies in his stomach a bit, but like he’s said to Ye Zun before, it’s not the same as what he wants in a relationship. Although, if…Jingyan is able to give him what he wants, then…that’s a different story.
Ye Zun takes his silence as an answer, throwing back the covers and literally storming towards the door. “I’m going home tonight.”
“Huh?” Zhanying blinks—it’s the first Ye Zun’s ever said he wanted to leave. “Are—are you sure?”
“I won’t get in your way of jacking off to Mr CEO,” Ye Zun snaps harshly, obviously ticked.
“Ye Zun—” Zhanying frowns, following him to the door where Ye Zun straps his shoes on—which look ridiculous considering Ye Zun is in sleepwear. “Why are you pissed at me? You’re the one who keeps bringing Jingyan up!”
Ye Zun glares at him, and then glares even more when he sees that Zhanying genuinely doesn’t know why.
“You’re—you’re so fucking dense!” he yells, loud enough that Zhanying winces. “It’s fucking un-fucking—believable! You don’t even notice it, do you?” he demands, hands shaking in agitation. “I—I was—I am, trying, and you just—” he sucks in a breath. “Forget it. Fucking forget it. Obviously I’ve never been up for consideration.”
“Ye Zun,” Zhanying grabs him tight by the wrist before he storms off. “If you’re going to mad at me, at least spit out why.”
Ye Zun’s lips curls into a snarl. “You know, I haven’t fucked anyone since that stupid reunion.”
“Okay…” Zhanying nods slowly.
“Because you said you didn’t do casual sex.”
“Okay, that was about me, but not that you couldn’t—”
Ye Zun stares at him like he’s an idiot. “I watched all sorts of shit with you. Every fucking night. I watched you play that dumb ass roleplaying game for hours. I asked about your work, I asked how your day was, I talked to you about the things that fucking matter to me!” he hisses. “That was what you wanted, wasn’t it? I tried so fucking hard to meet your shitty requirements and you—you, you don’t even look at me,” he scoffs, voice going hard. “Of course, why would you ever want the fuck up when you’ve always been in love with Xiao Jingyan!”
Zhanying’s grip goes slack in shock, and Ye Zun wrenches his wrist out of the hold angrily.
“Why do you think I come over every other night?” Ye Zun demands. “What the fuck do you think we’re doing when we Netflix and chill?!”
“I…I mean…you…” Zhanying opens and closes his mouth for a bit. “You could’ve…told me…you…um, like…me.”
“Like how you’ve fucking told Xiao Jingyan?!”
Zhanying shuts his mouth. “…I just,” he says very faintly after a while of tense silence. “It’s a bit...hard to believe. That. You. Like me.”
“Why?” Ye Zun snaps, looking hurt. “Because I don’t care about anyone but myself? Because I’m a fucking asshole who would never have feelings for anyone? I didn’t want to like you, just maybe—fuck you,” he spits. “But you—…I’m not lonely…when I’m with you,” he says, turning away with a shaky breath.
Zhanying does not find any words to say.
“…I won’t bother you anymore, Zhanying. You can keep the fucking shampoo and soap.”
Ye Zun really does look terrible going out in his silk pyjamas and shoes, and Zhanying’s also sure the other probably left his phone behind in this mess, but that’s not the reason why he hurries after the other barefoot when Ye Zun stalks off.
“What,” Ye Zun moodily snaps at him when he manages to grab Ye Zun’s wrist again.
Ye Zun’s eyes have already started to film with wetness.
“You’re such a crybaby,” Zhanying says, and watches Ye Zun’s cheeks flush with anger. “…But I don’t mind that about you.”
It’s not a well-executed kiss—Ye Zun isn’t exactly facing him properly, and Zhanying has never kissed anyone before, but, essentially, it’s the attempt that matters, Zhanying thinks. He presses his mouth awkwardly to Ye Zun’s, having needed to crane his neck down a bit, and holds Ye Zun’s hand tighter in case the other has a bad reaction. Zhanying pulls back a second earlier than he’d like, but he’s already feeling really self-conscious, especially with the incredulous way Ye Zun stares at him with parted lips.
“…Was that because you pity me?” Ye Zun demands, sounding like he might just punch Zhanying.
“I’m not that much of a pushover,” Zhanying retorts, although his voice does shake—well, he just gave away his first kiss.
Ye Zun just frowns more. “That was terrible. That was not a kiss.”
Zhanying reddens. “I’ve never—"
“I know, you virgin,” Ye Zun mutters softly.
It probably happens much faster in real time, but Zhanying watches right down to the minute detail how Ye Zun takes two steps closer and angles his own face up, perfect to look at him up through those beautiful lashes and uses one hand to tilt his chin down.
It’s not at all like how Zhanying ever thought Ye Zun would kiss.
It’s soft, the way Ye Zun gently brushes their lips together first, mingling their breaths and softly nipping at his lips. Ye Zun presses in bolder when Zhanying leans further forward, unconscious at how he leans into it, parting his lips when Ye Zun licks at him. It’s slow, it’s incredibly warm, and Zhanying can’t remember to breathe, head going dizzy. He shudders when Ye Zun’s palm runs along the back of his neck, pulling him down to make their tongues twine deeper—and it feels so new but so hot.
Zhanying is only vaguely aware that he’s being pressed against the corridor wall when they part, brain too muddled to think straight.
“Now that,” Ye Zun murmurs between them, now looking like the cat got the cream. “Is a kiss.”
Some time later Shen Wei tells Zhanying that Ye Zun replaced his shampoo and soap because Ye Zun wanted Zhanying to smell like him.
Zhanying doesn’t know if he expected anything else.
Since they’re dating, it’s only logical that they go on an actual date, instead of Netflix and chilling. Ye Zun relents when Zhanying insists, but sarcastically suggests that they should go to the amusement park and be love-y dove-y like all those sappy couples.
The joke’s on Ye Zun because Zhanying buys those tickets precisely because he knew it’d annoy Ye Zun.
Actually the joke’s on them both because they end up having a really good time, going on every single ride at least twice. Zhanying hates the tower drop and Ye Zun grins so hard when the other nearly cries on the second around. Ye Zun hates the haunted house and Zhanying scares him precisely eight times in both rounds.
Ye Zun even kisses Zhanying when they’re right on top of the Ferris Wheel, and if Zhao Yunlan ever finds out, he’ll never let Ye Zun live it down.
A couple of months later Zhanying pitches an avatar character for a game to his team with really pretty eyes and silver hair but with the most stuck up personality ever. He names it Mian Mian, and Ye Zun hates it so much.
(Ye Zun uses the avatar as his social media profile picture.)