花语 | huayu (n.) the language of flowers
The bite of snow was harsh against their faces the moment Wang Yibo and Xiao Zhan stepped out of the hospital. It was December, after all, so the cold was to be expected. And frankly, Yibo didn’t mind. It was nice to have sex at home when it was cold outside.
“Ahhh, it’s freezing,” Xiao Zhan muttered under his breath, his nose pink and face a bit pale under the lights of the nearby streetlamps. He stuffed a gloved hand inside his coat pocket, the other one holding a paper bag of his old work shoes he had been meaning to bring home.
“Makes me crave for hot chocolate. And sex,” Wang Yibo voiced out, wriggling his eyebrows.
Xiao Zhan rolled his eyes, looking obviously resigned, but he only huffed, “You always crave for sex. You are so kinky.”
“Hey, I’m not that kinky,” Wang Yibo protested immediately, getting the paper bag from his grip and pulling Xiao Zhan’s hand out of his coat, lacing it with his and stuffing it inside his own pocket. “I may be perpetually horny but between the two of us, Zhan-ge, you’re the one who’s actually kink—”
“Okay, shut up, you—!” Xiao Zhan clamped a hand on Wang Yibo’s mouth, turning his next words into a fit of low chortles.
He was cute, Xiao Zhan. Being embarrassed about stuff like this when they were already married for three years. Wang Yibo didn’t really mind because 1. It was endearing. The fact that his husband always got red-faced when they talk about sex and lovemaking in public (even if no one was actually listening) made Wang Yibo warm and uncharacteristically giddy. Also, because 2. They were true. Xiao Zhan (he chose to not change his last name), was The Kinky One. You could even say he was an exhibitionist in bed, alright, and it never ceased to amuse (and arouse) Wang Yibo in all other ways.
The amazing part was, those were just a part of the long list. There were a million-and-one reasons he married Xiao Zhan and those things were just a few of them. But to be honest, Wang Yibo never knew the concrete why or how or when he chose Xiao Zhan of all people because feelings were complicated. Feelings were abstract. Especially his feelings for Xiao Zhan. They were always changing—ever growing. Intense, alive, hot, and electric. So when someone would ask him the very reason—why him? Why Xiao Zhan? Why kneel and ask his hand for marriage? Didn’t you two have some bad blood back then? Wang Yibo could never really tell why, exactly.
Or maybe he could. By telling them what he saw in moments like this.
Xiao Zhan; his smile peeking underneath the knitted scarf wound around his neck, eyes sparkling and forever curious staring at the falling snowflakes from the night sky above. The whisper and soft crumple of Xiao Zhan’s clothes as he settled in the passenger seat of their idling car, watching Wang Yibo get rid of the snow stuck on their windshield. Xiao Zhan; his snort and breath of laughter as Wang Yibo shivered and shouted a curse against the harsh cold, rushing to join him inside the car.
It had been five years since they met. Their first few meetings were amusing as they were shitty and it might be bothersome in retrospect. But as Xiao Zhan had always said, fate could be funny—one moment you just met a guy and decided you were gonna loathe him for the rest of your life and then the next, you were exchanging rings and vows of eternity with him.
It was funny, in a way, but they were here now and they were one and they were in love. The glint of the bands around their fingers was enough proof.
Xiao Zhan’s fingers were on the dashboard now, fiddling with the radio as he chose a station. When Wang Yibo heard the beginnings of a guitar softly strumming, Xiao Zhan precariously smiled to himself. He didn’t really like EDM and dubsteps; he sang as a hobby, and very well at that. He also preferred acoustic and ballads over electro-pop.
“It’s much more...emotional, you know?” Xiao Zhan would shrug when asked about his opinion in music. “I don’t know, don’t ask me. I just think I’d be more of a classic balladeer if I’m not stitching intestines and muscle tissues in the operating room.”
“You like EXO, though. They’re k-pop.” Wang Yibo would always quip and Xiao Zhan would hit him, not really denying it.
Xiao Zhan was a doctor. He had volunteered for various medical organizations in the country and even abroad since the beginning of his internship years but he realized he enjoyed and loved serving for the public ones the most. “More people suffer in public hospitals,” he had said. “It means more medical attention is needed there and—what? Don’t look at me like that! It’s true!”
Wang Yibo smirked at the memory, switching gears as he drove. Xiao Zhan was a good person. Clever, spontaneous and beautiful. A real-life Venus. He might look pretty soft because of his pretty face but he was actually tough as nails—no matter how clumsy he could be. Wang Yibo’s smirk grew as he absent-mindedly sang along with the song, a little out of tune.
“Ah, no. Stop singing—this is my part,”
Wang Yibo grinned, singing more loudly.
“Ahhhh—stoooop,” Xiao Zhan groaned. He was fighting back a grin behind a fist.
“Zhan-ge! You’re mean. I’m not that bad. I mean I’m not as good as you but, I can still sing—!”
“But you can’t sing the high notes!” Xiao Zhan pointed out, pulling his scarf off and running his fingers through his hair. It was getting longer.
“Who told you I can’t sing the high notes hah???” Wang Yibo reached out and pinched Xiao Zhan by the waist, making the other shriek. “And there are no high notes in this song, what the fuck??”
“Ne hyanggineun dalkomhan felony… neomu mipjiman saranghae~!”
“—Eoduun bami nal gadugi jeone, nae gyeoteul tteonajima—!” Wang Yibo mock-sang, trying to be off-key and raucous.
Xiao Zhan turned the volume up, his laugh echoing in the little space around them, and he sang along the song as well.
Wang Yibo whined loudly. “Hey, don’t sing—! You’re stealing my spotlight!”
“Geujeo nae gyeote stay with me..!”
“Oh and there he is,” Wang Yibo drawled. “You’re the real attention-hoarder, Zhan-ge...”
When the song faded to an end, Xiao Zhan was still laughing. “That is so ridiculous.”
Wang Yibo smiled, still bright-eyed.
For a few seconds, the couple was silent. And when Xiao Zhan turned his face to him, his face was serious and his eyes were unwavering. “I hate you,” he said.
Wang Yibo made a face. “No, you don’t.”
“I really do!” Xiao Zhan said, the edges of his mouth were upturning slightly.
“Oh yeah? And how can I woo you then?”
“I don’t know!” he snarked. “Don’t make me say weird things, Wang Yibo!” Xiao Zhan glared good-naturedly.
Wang Yibo grinned. His husband was so easy to tease. “Oi, I managed to make you marry me so I should say my wooing skills are topnotch.”
“Meh,” Xiao Zhan scrunched up his nose, “you are so full of yourself. For the record, I don’t know what came in my mind, marrying a kid...”
“I think I know why, actually. I pretty much remember you saying I’m good at rimming between our fourth and fifth date—”
Xiao Zhan’s scarf slapped against Wang Yibo’s chest. “I DIDN’T!” he growled. “ASSHOLE!”
“Yes, you did,” Wang Yibo laughed at Xiao Zhan’s flushed face. “Ai, why are you getting embarrassed? I know I’m good at—”
The bickering went on, peppered with Wang Yibo’s pathetic jokes and silly remarks and Xiao Zhan’s retorts and mild curses. It wasn’t difficult, their relationship. It was as easy and natural as breathing.
When the banter and laughter died down between them, tears were rolling down Xiao Zhan’s cheeks from laughing too much. Slowly, Wang Yibo switched gears again, and Xiao Zhan blinked around when Wang Yibo pulled the car on the sidewalk.
Wang Yibo reached out behind, at the backseat flooring, to get a big paper bag. He handed it to Xiao Zhan.
“What the hell is this?” Xiao Zhan blinked.
Wang Yibo didn’t answer. He stared ahead, a hand on the wheel.
When Xiao Zhan looked inside the bag, he discovered a big bouquet of forget-me-nots.
Speechless, Xiao Zhan brought the bouquet out, staring at it with too-bright eyes. “What is...” he whispered. He couldn’t tear his eyes off the bouquet.
“I,” Wang Yibo started, scratching his ear. He wasn’t embarrassed. Wang Yibo never got embarrassed. It was just, his stomach was in knots. “For you, Zhan-ge,” he finally said. “I figured I can be romantic sometimes,” he cleared his throat, lips twitching. “I don’t know if you’ll like it though,” he continued. “I mean, I never gave you a bouquet before. You never needed or asked for one, either, except when we exchanged vows so—”
There was a click, and after a second, Xiao Zhan was leaning in, having unfastened his seatbelt to reach his husband’s face to kiss him hard and long and slow.
Wang Yibo reciprocated automatically. It was instinct, the way he moved, reaching out to touch Xiao Zhan’s nape in place.
It was true that in the eyes of others, it was hard to pinpoint what made them fall head-over-heels in love with each other.
(Wang Yibo wasn’t exactly Xiao Zhan’s type to begin with. He could be demanding and a brat, which didn’t seem to impress Xiao Zhan at first. Wang Yibo didn’t like Xiao Zhan’s calm and collected demeanor either, the way he acted like he was so calculated about all the words he said.
It was so maddening.)
But Wang Yibo had a theory.
And that theory was about moments. Moments of impact.
Wang Yibo was not much of a romantic or any of that, really. But he believed that being in-love with someone shouldn’t be too concrete for it to be real. Wang Yibo believed that it just had to be genuine and everlasting.
Because for him, love was full of distinct moments and blurry memories you spent together—growing, maturing, and colliding with every piece of principle in life you were holding onto.
That sensation you felt when you were with that person. The pain and fear and exhilaration settling in the center of your bones when you realized that shit, I want to spend the rest of my life with this man and his flaws and imperfections and beauty altogether.
Xiao Zhan was made up of all of Wang Yibo’s moments of impact. Every little thing about him contradicted Wang Yibo’s sense of order and beliefs—or sometimes the lack thereof. They were a disruptive force together. They were each other’s game-changers.
Maybe that was why. Though it was still hard to explain through and through.
And Wang Yibo was holding on to that theory even as he saw the blinding light on the rearview mirror a little too late. As Xiao Zhan’s lips were abruptly dragged away from him. As he realized he became momentarily deaf and they were convulsing and everything was moving and something was plowing, crushing them from behind. As his eyes were forcefully shut and all he could hear above the white noise was a loud crash of glass against something solid. As the pain in his skull throbbed and pulled him under.
Wang Yibo couldn’t speak. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t breathe.
And he felt warmth trickling down his face as he willed his eyes to open again, just to see Xiao Zhan—his whole torso thrown outside the front hood of the car, past the broken edges of their windshield.
The air smelled thickly of iron and blood. Wang Yibo’s mouth was full of it, too.
Blue petals were falling all around them. Memories. Forget-me-nots. Ironic, really.
Light snow was still drifting outside.
Xiao Zhan, he called desperately. Only, it came out as a breath before the darkness clawed him out.
Then the sirens started to wail.
5 years ago
He was running the moment he was out of the operating room. Chucking the surgical mask and cap in the bin, his feet were moving fast, his heart thundering loudly in his chest.
“Didn’t you know? Your cousin is having a meeting right now with the rest of the committee.”
Xiao Zhan’s fingers almost faltered with stitching. “Cut,” he said to his scrub nurse, “Meeting?” he looked at his anesthesiologist. “What meeting?”
“Meeting. With the president of the Yuehua Corporation,”
“What? I thought the matter’s already settled—”
“Shit came up the past month, Xiao Zhan,” Xiao Zhan remained focused on his patient while words rattled off Wang Haoxuan. The guy was a bit of an egotist sometimes, but his words were always true. “The hospital’s numbers are falling, they said. Shame, really. I mean, everybody loves the hospital, even me; no one wants it to be taken down and be turned into some kind of a commercial joke and profit tool for the money-makers and the casino royales. But you know what they say, money’s money.”
“Lu-jie won’t let that happen.” Xiao Zhan had stated calmly but he was getting nervous.
“That’s interesting. Because I just heard that among the board of directors, it’s Xuan Lu who first signed the papers.”
That was why they scheduled Xiao Zhan’s six-hour surgery in the middle of the day. It was so he couldn’t interrupt the motherfucking meeting. Because they knew he would come barging in if he discovered. That was a smart plan, Xiao Zhan would give that to them. He wasn’t a shitty doctor. He always did his job well and they knew he wasn’t going to leave the OR in the middle of a life-or-death surgery just to interrupt something even if it could potentially cause the hospital’s downfall.
But Haoxuan’s words couldn’t be right. Xuan Lu wouldn’t let the hospital be sold.
It was already past four in the afternoon, and he was told the meeting started about two hours ago. He entrusted the surgery to his friend and colleague, Yu Bin and went off to see what the hell was going on. He still had time. It couldn’t be that fast to talk about everything. Please, he pleaded inwardly. Please don’t make that happen—
It was Wang Yizhou that Xiao Zhan saw first. He couldn’t make out his face from a distance, so Xiao Zhan jogged towards him as he stepped out the double doors of the conference room.
“Yizhou!” Xiao Zhan gasped. Yizhou looked at him, startled. “What happened? Where’s Lu-jie? Are they all still inside?”
“Xiao Zhan,” Yizhou said, his voice low and soft. Pity and sadness battling on his face. “It’s over—”
“What do you mean it’s over?” Xiao Zhan snapped, his rare temper flaring up. “They’re still inside, right? The meeting’s on-going, that means all of them are still debating about it—”
“Xiao Zhan,” Wang Yizhou said again. “There’s no debate. The papers were signed first thing in the meeting—”
“Cut the bullshit, Yizhou!” Xiao Zhan said. “Is their president still inside? I’m going to go in so I can enlighten him that the hospital is not for sale—”
“Xiao Zhan!” Wang Yizhou panicked, “The president didn’t come; he’s not there—” he held Xiao Zhan’s arms as he made a move to step in the conference room. “I told you, it’s over and they’ll be—”
The double-doors suddenly opened. The first one to exit was a tall woman. Her hair was locked in a bun, and her face was covered with meticulous make-up as if she was trying to mask her skin which was noticeably drained and pale. Her eyes widened when she saw Xiao Zhan struggling in Yizhou’s grip, still in his green surgical scrubs. There was a very faint smear of drying blood on his cheek he hadn’t managed to scrub off in haste.
“Xiao Zhan,” she began.
“Jie,” Xiao Zhan surged at her side; Wang Yizhou let him. “What the hell’s happening?” he said as the hospital’s committee members were stepping out the room one by one. Xiao Zhan can feel stares and murmurs all around them.
Xuan Lu couldn’t meet his eyes. “Zhanzhan, let’s talk about this in my office—”
“No,” Xiao Zhan said, his voice as hard as steel. The usual softness in his words were all gone. “We’ll talk about this now. You told me you’ll never let this happen! What did you do?”
“Xiao Zhan, please. Not here,” Xuan Lu’s voice shook. “You’ll understand it if you could just—”
The double doors opened once again, revealing a tall and unfamiliar man with short, brown hair, his bangs parted off center. He looked young. Like a son of one of the committee members.
Xuan Lu pursed her lips at the sight of him, and Xiao Zhan slitted his eyes. “Where’s that Yuehua president they are all talking about?” Xiao Zhan said, noticing the boy almost glancing at the sound of the corporation’s name. “Let me talk to him—”
“Xiao Zhan, just stop, please, he’s not even here—”
“His secretary, then? His representative? A minion?” Xiao Zhan pressed. “Show him to me, Lu-jie. Where the hell are they?” Xuan Lu was trying not to panic. She knew it was rare for Xiao Zhan to lose patience like this, and she also knew that every time it happened, it wasn’t a pretty sight. “Zhanzhan…” she tried to plead, eyes flitting towards the young guy who passed by. Xiao Zhan frowned. “Is that him? That guy over there?” He watched the young guy sauntered away, discreetly conversing with another tall guy who was carrying an attaché case.
Xiao Zhan was walking swiftly towards the two men before he knew it. They were in front of the elevators when Xiao Zhan caught up with them.
“Excuse me!” He called out, pausing a few meters away from them, his teeth clenched.
The attaché case guy was the one who turned to face him, but he didn’t say anything. Xiao Zhan’s eye ticked in annoyance. “Where is your boss?”
Attaché case guy blinked, almost sleepily, as he said something under his breath to the young man beside him.
“Well?” Xiao Zhan stepped closer, eyes livid, yet he was still trying so hard to contain himself.
It was attaché case guy who spoke. “Unfortunately,” he glanced briefly at the young man—(or boy? Xiao Zhan was getting a little distracted. Who exactly was he?)—who had his arms folded across his chest, staring calmly at the elevator doors ahead. “Laoban can’t attend the paper signing today—”
“Why, is he a coward?” Xiao Zhan said. Attaché case guy visibly winced at his words. “He can’t stomach overseeing the way he’ll ruin thousands of lives by demolishing the hospital and turning it to a casino? Hm? Is that why—?”
“Economics, politics, strategies and business,” the young man suddenly drawled, turning to look at Xiao Zhan. “I’m pretty sure they’re not your strong points, that’s why you can say those things right now, Xiao-boshi.”
Xiao Zhan’s knuckles were white. “What do you mean,” he said. His emotions were about to burst.
“I mean,” the young man continued, “You should’ve listened to Xuan Lu-xiaojie first before everything else because as I can see, she is the more capable one in understanding what is actually happening in your beloved institution,” he paused, smirking when Xiao Zhan couldn’t offer a retort. “In contrary to everyone’s belief: you can be stubborn and a little harebrained. You can also be shallow, seeing how emotions have overtaken you now. Don’t you think that is one of the reasons rumors say that you can’t be a candidate as a professor?” The smirk grew more malicious. “A good one can’t be rash, after all.”
“Don’t antagonize me,” Xiao Zhan said lowly, seeing red. He had to abort now. “Who do you think you are?”
“Wang Yibo,” the man inclined his head as a greeting. “I’m laoban’s second-in-command.”
“Well, Wang Yibo,” Xiao Zhan lifted his chin. He can barely keep it together. He slowly stepped closer, and he saw the other man with the attaché case almost backpedaling. Wang Yibo, on the other hand, was not as sensible. He was full-on facing Xiao Zhan now, his shoulders and arms relaxed, having unfold them and were now on his sides. He was still smiling; his eyes roaming Xiao Zhan as he covered the space between them. “I don’t care if I am rash and I am harebrained and I am stupid in all the things you deem more important than the lives and health of the population in this rural area.” Xiao Zhan took a deep, shaky breath. “No matter how small Chuanli is, it’s still not right for your corporation to exploit its weaknesses. Do you even know the traffic and general accident rate around this area ever since your casino popped out? No. You don’t. Because you don’t consider anything except economics, politics, strategies and business,” Xiao Zhan said. “You are all money-whores,” he continued. “I hate your boss and your company and I really hate you Wang Yibo.”
Slowly, Wang Yibo’s smirk turned into an evil grin. His eyes were blank, though. “I should admit, Xiao-boshi.” he said, shaking his head slowly. “I’m quite sad I had to hear that from you.” When Xiao Zhan didn’t say anything, he continued. “But you know what? That’s all rich. Coming from someone bearing the Xiao name himself. I wonder wh—”
It was fast, that first blow.
Yibo stumbled backward, having Xiao Zhan’s fist landed on his face. He ended up sprawled on the floor as Xiao Zhan swooped down and reached out to grab his shirt collar, eyes dark and unseeing, fist preparing to swing for a second blow—
The guards stopped him, unfortunately. He struggled, almost ripping his scrubs as he thrashed. It was only when he saw Xuan Lu and the board members watching the brutal scene unfurl in front of them that he stopped.
“Let go of me,” Xiao Zhan snarled, and the guards were still cautious around him. “Goddammit,” he cursed, and hurried away. He was crying silently.
The milling people scattered one by one, and Xuan Lu rushed to Wang Yibo’s aid.
“Wang Yibo-xiansheng, are you alright? You’re bleeding.”
“I’m alright,” he said calmly, standing up. “I’m fine, no need to worry.”
“Please let us bring you to the ER to treat the wound. I’m so sorry about my cousin. He’s not usually like that but the hospital is very close to his heart and he can’t take the news so lightly—”
“I can see that,” Wang Yibo said, slightly wincing at the pain on his busted lip and bleeding nose. “Your cousin sure knows how to punch, though,” he murmured, smirking inwardly. “I wonder about the rumors describing him as the most gentle, kindest, softest Dr. Venus...?” He could feel Yixuan rolling his eyes, having left his attaché case on the floor to assist Yibo.
You’re actually something, Xiao Zhan, he thought, and Wang Yibo was suddenly curious when he would be able to cross paths with the doctor again.
8 hours after the accident
“Please, sir, you can’t stand up, yet. Please don’t move! You can’t move without a wheelchair; your left leg is broken—”
“I said I’m fucking fine,” Wang Yibo snapped at the nurse fussing beside him. “Get me some goddamned crutches; I have to see my husband—”
“Sir, please! Oh my god your stitches are going to tear open, please sir— we’d have to strap you down if you don’t lie back—”
“I’d like to see you try strapping me down—”
“What’s happening here?” A doctor finally approached them. When she saw the scene, she glanced down at the file in her hands, and then looked back up at Wang Yibo.
“Wang Yibo, is that right?”
“Yes,” Wang Yibo said, voice strained. His neck throbbed. Maybe he shouldn’t have chucked the neck brace too soon.
For a moment, the doctor and the nurse were both quiet. Then, “I assume the other man you were with when the car accident happened is Xiao Zhan, based on the identification records found in your things—”
Wang Yibo’s stomach coiled at the sound of Xiao Zhan’s name but he has to stay calm for goodness’ sake. “Where is he,” he said. “Xiao Zhan. Where’s my husband? Is he alright?”
The doctor hesitated, lips pursed. “Xiao Zhan-xiansheng is alright for now, sir. He’s still breathing. He’s still alive. But as of the moment, he’s in the Intensive Care Unit, and he needs to rest.”
Wang Yibo could be a calm person. He could contain himself, to be honest, even if at times, (mostly with his husband) he was inanely chaotic and mischievous. Wang Yibo could be seen as cold and apathetic at the direst moments. But right now, he was in borderline panic. He almost didn’t want to ask, but he needed to. “How bad is he, doctor?” Images of Xiao Zhan: bloody, unconscious and half-a-body thrown outside the car surged up in Wang Yibo’s mind. “I won’t calm down until I see him.”
The doctor, resigned, looked at the nurse pointedly. “Get him a wheelchair, please,” she murmured.
“I’d prefer some crutches,” Wang Yibo said. “I feel fine.”
The doctor looked back at him, resigned. “Fine.” she sighed, and the nurse hurried away, getting Yibo some crutches. “I’ll tell you everything, Wang-xiansheng. Please wait for the crutches so we can see your husband after a moment.”
Wang Yibo lost track of time.
The doctor’s words were swimming inside his skull. He was by the glass window overlooking Xiao Zhan on the bed—connected with multiple tubes through his nose and mouth. He was also hooked up with some kind of IV fluid. The sound of the life support system continuously beeped and pumped generated oxygen for Xiao Zhan. Bandages covered most of his head and face. Yibo couldn’t see his hair under the thick layers of white cloth.
“Your husband got most of the impact and severities,” she had said. “As you can see, what you got was a broken leg, some wounds and lacerations, and a mild concussion. Most of them aren’t fatal.” She paused. “Xiao Zhan-xiansheng, on the other hand..”
Wang Yibo’s throat constricted. He knew the doctor wasn’t really trying to make him feel the guilt and despair. But those were what were seeping through him. He felt terrible.
“The most severe injury Xiao Zhan-xiansheng had acquired from the accident is the one on his head. There’s swelling and inflammation in the brain, and inter-hemorrhages in his medial temporal lobe,” she paused, choosing her words carefully. “As you see, your husband is now in a coma, but that is perfectly fine. We usually let the patients stay in a coma for a while just to let the inflammation subsides and to let the brain heal itself. It could be worse, I can tell; he is still very lucky. But.. we cannot still be sure until the patient wakes up…”
Wang Yibo opened his mouth slowly, “What are the chances that he’ll wake up?”
It looked like the doctor was expecting the question all along, but she smiled sadly, eyes soft and warm. “I’ll say you have a whole sixty percent, but as I said, we cannot confirm the extensive impairments involved.”
“Just make him live,” Yibo sounded almost desperate. “Just make him live and wake up. Xiao Zhan is strong, he can get past anything as long as he wakes up so, please do everything you can, doctor.”
The doctor nodded, glancing at Xiao Zhan. She hesitated. Then, “If I’m not mistaken, Wang-xiansheng, your husband is also a doctor, is that correct?”
Wang Yibo tore his gaze away from Xiao Zhan, glancing at the doctor beside him. “Do you know him?”
She smiled wistfully. “I met him once at a seminar, I think. His name is quite known around Chongqing and here in Beijing, since he is a Xiao, ” she paused. “I just never thought I’d get to meet him again like this.”
Wang Yibo wanted to smile reassuringly at her, but his strength to do so was drained. He couldn’t even put up a mask. “Don’t worry, doctor,” he said anyway, voice almost lifeless, turning to look back at Xiao Zhan. “You’ll get to meet him properly.” Xiao Zhan was stronger than they all expected. He had to wake up soon.
The kids were all rowdy. Wang Yibo didn’t know how Kim Sungjoo handled them every day.
“Can’t believe you got all the time and shit in the world and you choose to spend them taking care of kids…”
Sungjoo leaned back in his chair, smiling lightly at Wang Yibo’s words. “I don’t know. I enjoy taking care of them.”
“Uh huh.” Wang Yibo snorted, watching his friend eyed the orphans so fondly.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and Wang Yibo took an unexpected visit at one of his friend’s beloved orphanages he was sponsoring for. He wanted to talk and chill over booze or wine actually, but he could only settle for coffee. At least it didn’t taste shitty.
“How ‘bout you? Are you enjoying your new sideline?” Kim Sungjoo eyed him over the rim of his coffee cup.
There was a shriek of glee, and Wang Yibo snorted at a little girl (her name was Meimei if he remembered correctly) playing with a bunch of other kids in the garden. He shrugged nonchalantly at Sungjoo’s question. “I don’t know... So-so. It could be boring from time to time. Depends on my moods. But at least I’d get to race and dance.”
“And you and Yixuan aren’t Yuehua’s lapdogs anymore.”
Wang Yibo looked at him sharply. “I’ve never been their lapdog.”
Kim Sungjoo hummed, looking away and setting his cup down the coffee table. “Well, yeah. You’re you,” he agreed. “But you know what I mean, Yibo. At least you don’t get to do shitty things anymore.”
Wang Yibo’s lip twitched, almost smiling. “I didn’t leave because I don’t want to do shitty things anymore. I do shitty things all the time. You know that, hyung.”
Kim Sungjoo just raised a brow. “Uh-huh. Why’d you leave then?”
“Ahh… I don’t know,” Wang Yibo tilted his head in a carefree gesture. “I just felt like it’s starting to bore me.”
“You just said running your current studio could be tedious.”
“At least there I get to take lots of leaves and absences without anyone minding it. That alone is a plus.”
It looked as if Kim Sungjoo would want to retort more, but then his shoulders slumped a little, and he sighed lightly. “If you say so,” he said instead. “You’re lucky the chairman don't mind. And you have Seungyeon and Wenhan to handle your other shared businesses.” He shook his head. “Ah, the privilege of being an old money…” A pause. Then, “What about the hospital though?”
“What about the hospital?”
“You know that one in Tianjin?”
Wang Yibo shifted, draping his arms at the edges of the backrest of the couch he was sitting on, letting his head fall back. He stared at the ceiling fan above. “Oh. That. Demolished seven months ago, I guess.”
He didn’t see Kim Sungjoo’s reaction but the surprise was obvious in his voice. “Seriously?”
“That sucks...” the other guy said after a while. Of course, that would suck for him. Kim Sungjoo, one of Wang Yibo’s best friends since college, was the better man. He invested a good amount of his fortune in an orphanage, of all things, after all. “You really let that happen?”
“Well...” Wang Yibo said evasively. “It’s my job at the time. So I can’t really refuse, not exactly.” He shrugged again. He liked shrugging these days. It was effective if you didn’t really know what else to say.
Kim Sungjoo was quiet again, then, “You’re right. You did shitty things. You were heartless.” The words didn’t have venom. But still.
Wang Yibo lifted his head to look at Sungjoo across the coffee table. He didn’t try to be defensive. It was heartless.
But then Kim Sungjoo continued, “Not anymore, though.”
He blinked. “What do you mean?”
Sungjoo shrugged. Huh. People really liked shrugging. “I don’t know. Something changed. But you could still be a bastard.”
“Ai, you flatter me, hyung,” he said, smirking.
Wang Yibo shifted again, turning his body so he could prop his chin at the backrest, overlooking Sungjoo’s beloved children playing bubbles. Meimei was still shrieking out of mirth. They looked so happy. He wondered sometimes if he needed to go back to his youth in order to achieve that same level of happiness. He sighed inwardly, suddenly feeling gloomy and pouty.
Meimei was still laughing nearby and the sound almost drowned Sungjoo’s words at him. “…what about the doctor?”
Wang Yibo blinked, slowly turning his head to look back at his friend. “What about the doctor?” he repeated.
Kim Sungjoo’s cheek almost lifted. “That doctor you have a crush on. That one who can unexpectedly throw a punch.”
Wang Yibo continuously stared at his friend for a few seconds. When nobody said a word, Kim Sungjoo opened his mouth again and—
“Oh shut it.” Wang Yibo mildly scowled.
“Why?” Sungjoo smirked. He hated it when Sungjoo smirked. It was a rare occurrence but when he did, it would surely get on your nerves. “You never told us anything but I knew you. Yixuan and I knew you. That doctor did a good number, eh?”
Wang Yibo shook his head but he could feel himself getting amused at the memory itself.
“What, don’t tell me you managed to bed him already you son of a—”
He waved a hand, shaking his head no. “Nah, I didn’t. I never saw him again after he punched my lovely face.”
Kim Sungjoo blinked. “Oh... I see.” He frowned, but he smirked again. “You sound disappointed.”
“Sucks as well. You seem to really like him.”
Wang Yibo didn’t want to elaborate; he only hummed as he stared at his cup.
“Oh, come on. I know your type. You like...surprisingly stubborn ones. It gets you excited.”
Wang Yibo just smiled at him; eyes slitted in a malicious manner.
“You didn’t deny it.”
“Doesn’t mean it’s true.”
“Well then, I’m sure that’s not your one and only encounter. Fate isn’t that cruel.”
He laughed lowly, sipping his coffee and wincing as the taste hit his tongue once again. “Hyung...” he said, a grin starting to eat his face. “That’s not our first meeting, actually…
A blink. “Really?”
“No,” Yibo scowled. “Not really. I mean. I saw him before that incident in Tianjin.”
“He met you before that?”
“Uhh, no.. I don’t think so.”
“What? Thats... Wait a moment, were you stalking him or something—?”
“How, though? You never told us.”
“Hmm. I don’t know; I didn’t feel like sharing a memory of a pretty guy with you right then, so.”
Kim Sungjoo shook his head lightly. “You’re whipped.”
“I am not.”
“You really are. I didn’t believe Yixuan at first but—”
“Hyung!” he whined. “You’re mean to me! You’re not supposed to tease me! It’s usually Seungyeon who does that...!”
This was why Wang Yibo liked visiting the orphanage. Maybe it sucked a little because there was never a stock of alcohol, and sometimes the kids were all noisy and rowdy, but talks like this with his friends were always so easy. Wang Yibo would never dare admit it, but this was one of the few places that he could actually breathe a little easier.
Well maybe until that day.
Wang Yibo choked in his coffee, warm liquid spilling down his shirt and slacks. “What the fuck is he doing here?!” he coughed, eyes wide at the new comer. He was sipping a mouthful of his coffee when Meimei’s little shriek stole his attention again, making him glance at the garden. Only to witness the arrival of a new guy.
His hair was the same, so was his face that was as youthful as Wang Yibo remembered. He seemed taller from a distance but Wang Yibo knew he was only a centimeter or two taller than himself. He was grinning as he played with Meimei and the other kids. The children seemed to like him very much, and they were all trying to get his attention. He fit very well in the scene because he shone like a motherfucking sun: bright eyes, easy smile, white shirt and casual jeans and all.
Kim Sungjoo threw some wad of tissues nearby. “What? Xiao Zhan-boshi, you mean?”
Wang Yibo stopped gaping, turning to look at his friend. “You know him?”
Kim Sungjoo blinked. “What? Of course. Why would you—” he paused. “Hang on,” he said slowly, turning to look at the doctor who was currently playing with the children in the garden.
Wang Yibo’s friend wasn’t an idiot. The words he said to him a long while ago—tall, beautiful, sexy, secretly badass—were surely running in his head right now. Wang Yibo could almost pinpoint the exact moment Kim Sungjoo realized.
Finally, he said, “You’re bullshitting me, Wang Yibo.”
He could tell Kim Sungjoo was quite astonished because of the cuss. Cussing wasn’t his thing. But Wang Yibo only repeated: “What the fuck is he doing here?”
“He’s... a regular volunteer here, almost half a year now,” Kim Sungjoo managed. “He does monthly check-ups for the kids. He sometimes visits to play with them, like now. But—wait. You’re really bullshitting me. Don’t tell me that Xiao Zhan-boshi is actually that doctor you were...”
Wang Yibo didn’t answer; he stared back at him, at a loss for words.
“What the actual…”
Wang Yibo could flee. Because he was pretty sure the doctor would like to give him another blow in the face if he saw him right then and there. But he could also think of a few things to turn stuff around. It would sound pretty stupid but well, it’d been a boring week…
“No,” Kim Sungjoo finally said at his growing smirk. “Don’t think of anything right now Wang Yibo—”
“Hyung. You know you’re my bestest friend, right?”
Wang Yibo’s smile was terrifying and Kim Sungjoo could only sigh, resigned. “You’re going to get yourself killed. I hope you know that.”
Maybe, he had thought then. But I’m sure it’d be worth it.
Xiao Zhan was letting Meimei wipe his face clean of yellow paint when the door of the playroom opened unceremoniously.
“Okay, kids!” A cheery voice said, “Who wants some cake? Uncle Sungjoo has some cake and ice cream at the kitchen!”
Xiao Zhan frowned, turning to look at the speaker. “But it’s late; the kids wouldn’t be able to eat proper din—” The words froze in his lips when he saw whom he was talking to.
Xiao Zhan clenched his fists around the painting brush he was holding but was able to control his mouth until all the kids were out of the room.
When there were only the two of them inside, Xiao Zhan stood straight, eyes cold. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Wang Yibo grinned. “Oh, he remembers me,” he said. “And hey, that’s also the first thing that came out my mouth when I saw you earlier out in the garden.”
Xiao Zhan wasn’t going to attack. He couldn’t lash out here. He breathed in deeply, almost shaking with the effort. “What do you mean,” he said. “And of course, I remember you, Wang Yibo,” he added. “You’re one of the people who ruined the hospital.”
“Chuanli, you mean?” Wang Yibo stepped closer, looking up at the wall painting the kids and Xiao Zhan were finishing before he arrived. “That small, crumbling hospital in Tianjin?”
“What else,” Xiao Zhan said. Then he huffed. “Oh wait. Of course, you won’t vividly remember. Chuanli was only one of the hundreds of insignificant things you have to get rid of for your laoban, am I right?”
Wang Yibo didn’t answer immediately, merely standing near Xiao Zhan, hands in his pockets as he continuously stared at the wall. “I wouldn’t forget Chuanli,” he said quietly. If Xiao Zhan hadn’t witnessed firsthand this man’s cruelty, he could say his voice sounded a little somber and... regretful. “It’s the last job handed to me before I resigned as Yuehua’s second.”
Xiao Zhan slitted his eyes then he turned his back to him and continued to paint the outlined giraffe on the wall. His fingers were jerkier and rougher. He breathed through his nose as he said, “Doesn’t make you any less evil.”
“That’s similar to what Sungjoo-hyung said to me,” he heard him. “He said I was heartless,” he paused. “Oh, and he’s one of my best friends, if you’re gonna ask. Small world, ah? I didn’t know you volunteer here—”
Swiftly, Xiao Zhan turned to face him, and was surprised to realize that he was less than a meter away. “Look,” he started, relieved that the kids weren’t here anymore. “I’m trying to be as civil as I can, considering the circumstances but I don’t know what you’re playing at, okay? I seriously want to break your nose right now but I won’t. Because I’m trying to be a good example.”
“Aiyo,” Wang Yibo smirked. “Good example for what? The kids aren’t here anymore—”
Xiao Zhan exhaled an exasperated breath, harshly throwing his brush and palette at the wooden floor. Yibo glanced down at it before looking at him in mild surprise. “Are you shitting me? You’re bipolar, aren’t you?”
The bastard frowned. “What? No—”
“Then what are you doing?” Xiao Zhan scowled. “If you’re in the right mind and you already saw me, you will go away. You will not strike up a conversation with me. You will not come up to me while I’m holding anything that can be potentially used as a murder weapon.”
Wang Yibo blinked back, glancing momentarily at the brush and palette on the floor. He didn’t say anything.
“You really had the nerve to talk to me like you just didn’t—” Xiao Zhan stopped, closing his eyes. He wanted to say more. He wanted to gouge Wang Yibo’s eyes out. But he couldn’t. So he just breathed. He wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand, smearing the yellow paint left. “I can’t stand your face—” And he made a move to exit the room.
When Xiao Zhan was almost out the door, a hand held him tightly by his arm. “I just want to say I’m sorry,” Wang Yibo said in a rush. “I’m sorry. I know you hate me with every fiber of your being but I still want to say I’m sorry. It was stupid and cruel and heartless of me, what I did, what I said months ago. I didn’t mean any of them. That was a job, and I don’t—I can’t refuse. I should’ve, but I didn’t. So, I’m sorry. Really. Seriously.”
Xiao Zhan shifted, turning to glare at him and jerking his arms away from Yibo’s touch. “Tell that to every person’s life you ruined in Chuanli,” he said. “Not only the staff and residents. But also the long-term patients who already found their home there.”
And with that, Xiao Zhan walked out, barely noticing Kim Sungjoo—one of the major sponsors of the orphanage—leaning casually on the wall beside the door, arms folded and staring at the floor.
“I told you it won’t end well,” Kim Sungjoo hummed, entering the room. He found Yibo in the middle of it, staring at the wall canvas. He scanned the unfinished painting as well. “That doctor’s pretty good with his hands,” he murmured. Then, “Are you okay? Yibo?”
“Hm,” Wang Yibo hummed, hands still buried in his pockets.
“What are you going to do now?”
It took a while for him to answer. But when he did, his words were clear and sure: “I think I’d like to ask Xiao Zhan-boshi out on a date.”
Kim Sungjoo sighed, and shook his head slowly, clearly resigned. “Good god,” he said. “Yixuan was right. You really got it bad.”