There was a cat perched on the counter. Granted, this was not an uncommon occurrence, Lin Jie did run a cat café after all, cats were a common sight in his daily life. In fact, this wasn’t even a strange cat, Lin Jie knew this cat very well. What was strange was that the cat had a kitten held up by the scruff of its neck.
Said kitten seemed displeased by the predicament it was in, curled ears flicking unhappily before it was unceremoniously dropped onto the counter before the larger cat hopped off, slinking away to nap in one of the soft igloos scattered around.
Lin Jie turned his attention back to the kitten before realising that the cat was likely full grown but as he was an American Curl, he was much smaller than Fang Shiqian, as the other was a Norwegian Forest Cat. The cat shook himself down, ears flicking, looking ruffled and unhappy while Lin Jie stuck his hand out, coaxing the animal to come closer.
He suspected the cat wasn’t a stray as his fur was too soft and he seemed completely unconcerned by Lin Jie, ignoring him in favour of washing his ears. The light caught on a little piece of metal and Lin Jie lifted the cat into his arms in order to get a good look at his collar which read: Wang Jiexi, shifter.
Lin Jie placed the cat- placed Wang Jiexi back onto the counter with an apologetic look, knowing that the shifter had been extremely polite to not claw his face off for being treated like an ordinary street cat. Wang Jiexi resumed washing his ears, pointedly ignoring him and likely waiting for an apology but before Lin Jie could speak, Fang Shiqian walked back into the room, eyes bright, suggesting he was about to come out with a new idea.
“I thought you could hire him! You always say that shifters bring in the most customers, because they’re aware that it’s a job and can enjoy being fussed over for a living and-“
“Shiqian.” The other man fell silent in an instance, eyes fixed on Lin Jie waiting for his response. “Did you speak to him about this before you grabbed him off the street?” Fang Shiqian’s mouth opened, likely to protest the question, assert that of course he talked to the other shifter before dragging him off the street-
Actually, now that it was brought up, Fang Shiqian supposed that grabbing the other cat by the scruff of his neck and walking off with him to a café was generally not considered good communication. He dropped his gaze when Lin Jie’s eyes shifted to knowing and slightly judgemental.
“I’m sorry,” Fang Shiqian scowled in a way that suggested that he wasn’t sorry but Lin Jie was more focused on the shifter. “I hope you weren’t too inconvenienced by this.” Wang Jiexi merely blinked slowly a few times before jumping off the counter and disappearing out of the cat flap. Fang Shiqian huffed out a breath, frustration colouring his tone.
“He’s really cute, he’d be great for the café.”
“You kidnapped him off the street Shiqian.” Lin Jie managed to keep his tone perfectly even and yet Fang Shiqian knew his boss couldn’t quite believe his behaviour. He ignored it in favour of going into the back to shift again, it was nearly time to open the café and Lin Jie couldn’t lecture a cat without getting some strange stares.
It didn’t stop Lin Jie from looking over at him, shaking his head with disbelief from time to time. And if Fang Shiqian was a little more prickly with the customers than usual, it couldn’t have anything to do with the cat with the curled back ears and the uneven eyes.
The next day, near closing time, found a man with uneven eyes walking into the café, catching Lin Jie’s attention and he hurried over, ready to take his order but he shook his head, speaking before Lin Jie could.
“My name is Wang Jiexi,” Lin Jie caught the way Fang Shiqian’s head snapped up from where he was lolling on a customer’s lap, his eyes suddenly alert. “I was offered a job here yesterday after,” Wang Jiexi’s gaze flickered over to where Fang Shiqian was sat, “after I was yanked in here without warning.”
“You’re interested in the position?” Wang Jiexi nodded, gaze unwavering and Lin Jie thought about how tempted he’d been to snuggle the cat before he knew he was a shifter. “Would you be willing to stay and discuss the position after closing?” Wang Jiexi hummed his agreement, ordering a cup of tea before finding a place to sit.
Fang Shiqian catapulted himself off the customer’s lap and made a beeline for Wang Jiexi, sitting himself down by his feet and meowing loudly. Wang Jiexi pointedly ignored him, continuing to sip at his drink while Fang Shiqian continued to try and get his attention, meows turning to wails when Wang Jiexi refused to lean down and scratch his ears.
This was unusual, Fang Shiqian was a pile of fluff and very few people could resist stroking him to find out just how soft he was. Wang Jiexi was holding out admirably, particularly when Fang Shiqian decided to show off the capacity of his lungs by beginning to yowl.
Lin Jie broke first, plucking Fang Shiqian from his place at Wang Jiexi’s feet and walking into the back with him, ready to give him a disapproving look. Fang Shiqian wriggled until he was set on the ground before bolting behind the changing screen, shifting back smoothly and now able to have a conversation.
“You’ll drive him away.”
“Good!” Fang Shiqian’s face was fixed in a scowl and Lin Jie had to fight the urge to laugh, even when he wasn’t shifted, he always managed to radiate an air of disgruntled cat. “He didn’t pet me!”
“Are those the requirements for a position here these days?” Lin Jie’s tone was as even as he could make it, trying not to smile as that would only rile Fang Shiqian up further.
“Of course-!” Fang Shiqian cut himself off to glare at Lin Jie who had lost the battle at keeping his face straight and had an amused smile curving his lips. “If he’s so standoffish then he won’t interact with the customers well.” Though Fang Shiqian had a point, Lin Jie politely refrained from pointing out that despite his prickly nature, he had no trouble being friendly once shifted.
“He may be more friendly when you aren’t wailing at his feet.” Lin Jie kept his smile polite but Fang Shiqian could read the laughter on his face and looked as if he were contemplating shifting back in order to hiss at him.
He refrained however and they both walked back out to find Wang Jiexi still patiently waiting, seemingly absorbed in drinking his tea, looking up as the two joined him, content for them to break the silence.
“You’re the American Curl I met yesterday?” Fang Shiqian was the first to speak and Wang Jiexi inclined his head slightly in agreement.
“The one you dragged in here yes.” Lin Jie placed a hand on Fang Shiqian’s back to stop him from protesting the statement, speaking before his employee could.
“You’re willing to take the position then?” Wang Jiexi hummed, gaze unfaltering as he seemed to gather his thoughts.
“What does it entail?”
“You are essentially a draw for customers, act cute, don’t bite anyone and you’ll be fine.” Lin Jie wondered if it actually was a good idea to have Fang Shiqian here until he realised that Wang Jiexi’s attention had shifted from him to Fang Shiqian.
“Do you enjoy your job?” Wang Jiexi took another sip from his cup as Fang Shiqian nodded, sensing that there was a time and a place to be sarcastic and this wasn’t it.
“I do, you get to lie around and be cute all day and nothing else, it’s fun and the customers are nice to us.” Wang Jiexi turned back to Lin Jie and there was a hint of a smile curling at his lips which Fang Shiqian found himself entranced by.
“I’ll take the job, when should I start?” Lin Jie beamed, smile wide and welcoming as he gathered the necessary paperwork, noting the way Fang Shiqian’s eyes remained glued to the new employee, eyes flickering away whenever Wang Jiexi looked up.
Fang Shiqian knew he was staring, was fully aware that he was paying too much attention to the way Wang Jiexi shrugged off his jacket, following the motion unconsciously. He was brought out of his trance by Wang Jiexi slipping behind the screen and Fang Shiqian remembered that he was here to work, even if working simply mean lounging on someone’s lap while they drank a cup of coffee.
The two padded out, finding places to settle before the café opened, Wang Jiexi settling behind his little sign that proclaimed he was a new cat. He kept his eyes half opened, tail flicking back and forth lazily, content to bathe in the sunlight.
Fang Shiqian on the other hand, had sequestered himself away in a corner, his eyes the only indication that he was there. Wang Jiexi looked over at Lin Jie who was watching Fang Shiqian, the expression on his face chiding but the café was open and he didn’t have time to coax the shifter out from his hiding place.
Wang Jiexi padded over to where Fang Shiqian had buried himself and he leant into the space between the bench and the wall. He could feel people’s eyes on him and quite a few cameras clicking as he nosed his way into the gap and gave Fang Shiqian a tiny lick on his nose.
The moment he made contact, a paw shot out and bonked him on his head, lightly but with enough force that he stumbled back a few steps, falling onto his butt with a soft thud. Wang Jiexi took this opportunity to mewl sadly, opening his eyes wide and gazing unhappily at the gap where Fang Shiqian was, hoping the other would come out.
However, he remained hidden away, seemingly sulking but Wang Jiexi felt himself being lifted up by gentle hands and cuddled against someone’s chest, voice cooing softly above him.
“How could Aweto be so cruel to you baby?” Wang Jiexi let out another distressed sound, keeping his eyes big and round as everyone continued to coo over him much to Fang Shiqian’s annoyance. He padded out sulkily, brushing up against everyone’s legs as he demanded attention as well, glaring at Wang Jiexi who was still being cradled in gentle hands.
Fang Shiqian had the irrational urge to pull Wang Jiexi out of the customer’s hands and groom him carefully. The moment he realised this, he stomped down on the urge as quickly as he could, turning his back pointedly in favour of curling up in a patch of sunlight as the customers cooed over him, ruffling hands through his fur and declaring him jealous.
Wang Jiexi was a hit in the café, attracting a deluge of new customers, mostly due to his continued interactions with Fang Shiqian, running over to the larger cat and nudging at him hopefully, chirruping softly until Fang Shiqian inevitably batted at him with a paw and sent him tumbling head over heels. Wang Jiexi would then offer a sad mewl which Fang Shiqian would ignore and someone would come and coo over them both.
It was a routine they fell into with ease, but they got to know each other as humans as well and Fang Shiqian was struck by how dry Wang Jiexi’s sense of humour could be. Lin Jie was concerned at first as the two spent a great deal of time arguing and sniping at each other, mostly over their drinks of choice.
Lin Jie understood where Wang Jiexi was coming from, having been trying to convince Fang Shiqian that there was more to tea than “hot leaves” for years but his friend remained steadfast in how he viewed the drink. Wang Jiexi didn’t seem to be making any headway at convincing Fang Shiqian that tea wasn’t just vaguely flavoured water but at the very least Fang Shiqian had accepted a taste of what Wang Jiexi was drinking.
He made a face immediately after and took a long drink of his coffee but at the very least he’d tried the drink.
“It’s like you’re drinking dirt but you liquefied it and sold it at a high price.” Wang Jiexi looked scandalised at his words and Fang Shiqian found himself amused by the way the other shifter’s lips parted in shock. He pulled his gaze away from Wang Jiexi’s mouth, though it wasn’t much better to meet his eyes as Fang Shiqian found himself endeared with Wang Jiexi’s unique features, fighting down the urge to reach across and brush his thumb below his eyes.
“Tea does not taste like liquefied dirt!” Wang Jiexi took another sip, clearly savouring the taste and Fang Shiqian mimicked him, tilting his head up as he considered his next words.
“Ah you’re right, you’re right, liquefied dirt tastes much better.” Before Wang Jiexi could do anything more than stare in shock, Lin Jie reminded the two that they needed to get ready for the day and the two slipped into the back.
After working with Fang Shiqian for a few months, Wang Jiexi had seen past the prickly exterior in favour of the soft care that he expressed through little gestures. Like ensuring that they kept his favoured blend of tea in stock, even as he disparaged his choice of drink every time it came up. And how he was always the first to come to his defence when someone was handling him roughly and Wang Jiexi found himself growing more and more interested in the other shifter.
Fang Shiqian often began undressing before he made it behind the screen and Wang Jiexi pulled his eyes away from lingering on the expanse of his back, fingers suddenly clumsy on his own clothes. He shook his head to dislodge his thoughts, shifting into his animal form with ease, swiping at his ears briefly before padding out into the café, intent on searching out a comfortable spot in the sun to nap.
Wang Jiexi was curled up on someone’s lap. This wasn’t a strange occurrence, in fact, it was exactly what Wang Jiexi was supposed to do and it was what Fang Shiqian was supposed to do as well. Fang Shiqian tucked his feet beneath him, leaning into the scratches against his ears but his eyes didn’t shift from where Wang Jiexi was being fussed over.
“Ahh aren’t you just adorable Vaccaria? Yes you’re just the cutest!” The customer leant down and pressed a kiss to the top of Wang Jiexi’s head and something in Fang Shiqian snapped.
He leapt down gracefully and stalked over to where Wang Jiexi was curled up and without any kind of warning, plucked him off the customer’s lap and walked off with him, using his larger frame to manhandle the other shifter into the position he wanted.
Fang Shiqian curled his larger form around Wang Jiexi protectively, tucking the smaller cat into his fur and running his tongue across his fur, grooming him and occasionally glancing up to narrow his eyes at whomever tried to rescue the smaller cat from his embrace. Wang Jiexi didn’t seem bothered by his predicament, after getting over the initial surprise, he seemed happy to tuck himself up against Fang Shiqian and have a nap.
“Are you two friends now?” Was cooed from the crowd but Fang Shiqian kept his focus on Wang Jiexi, carefully ensuring he was well-groomed all over. He was surprised but pleased when the other shifter pressed into the affectionate touch gladly, seemingly content to remain in Fang Shiqian’s embrace, tongue flicking out against his nose, making the customers around them smile.
Wang Jiexi fit, fit comfortably against him and Fang Shiqian found himself wanting to keep him there.
The two shifters fell into a new routine, one that amused customers just as much, if not more, than the last one. Instead of Fang Shiqian pointedly ignoring Wang Jiexi, or pushing him away whenever the smaller cat came up next to him, the larger cat had taken to periodically kidnapping Wang Jiexi off customers’ laps in favour of tucking him up against him and grooming him.
If someone attempted to rescue Wang Jiexi from this predicament, Fang Shiqian would hiss irritably at them while Wang Jiexi tucked himself further into the embrace, looking catatonic with pleasure as he was groomed. After a little while, a freshly groomed Wang Jiexi would be released and the two would go their separate ways, neither talking about this new routine.
There was another shift a few weeks later, Fang Shiqian was dozing peacefully in a patch of sunlight when he was startled awake by a sudden weight on his stomach. He cracked open one eye, unhappy at being disturbed but his ire was soon soothed by the sight of Wang Jiexi curling up on his stomach. The other shifter burrowed deeper into the fluff, kneading for a few moments before he flopped down, shut his eyes and began to chirrup happily.
While Fang Shiqian was still confused by this, he was not opposed to having Wang Jiexi nap on him and he simply offered up his own rumbling purr before dropping back off to sleep, wondering if he’d have to speak to Wang Jiexi about their shifting relationship.
Yu Wenzhou’s nose wrinkled when Wang Jiexi walked in, something that he ignored in favour of unpacking their meal, attempting to fend of his friend’s new cat at the same time, who was climbing desperately onto the counter in an attempt to get at the food.
“Shaotian.” Yu Wenzhou didn’t raise his voice but the cat jumped to attention and his head ducked as he slunk away from the food in favour of wailing at Yu Wenzhou’s feet to be picked up. The moment he was in his arms, Huang Shaotian began chattering away happily, rubbing his cheek against Yu Wenzhou’s, trilling loudly.
“You spoil him.” Wang Jiexi murmured, pulling down plates and utensils but Yu Wenzhou didn’t rise to the bait, pouring them both a cup of tea as Huang Shaotian balanced on his shoulders.
“And you smell of your colleague.” Wang Jiexi didn’t say a word, but the barest hint of a flush crept across his cheeks and the next burst of chatter from Huang Shaotian sounded like laughter.
“He likes to groom me, it brings in more customers.” Yu Wenzhou raised one eyebrow even as he began to eat, occasionally pushing Huang Shaotian’s face away from the food and at one point having to stop him from falling headfirst onto the plate.
“You don’t like it when people groom you.” Yu Wenzhou kept his eyes on his food, knowing that his friend was mulling things over in his head and he fed Huang Shaotian a treat even if just to keep him quiet for a few moments.
“I don’t mind people grooming me,” Wang Jiexi tried but Yu Wenzhou simply offered him a disbelieving look as the last time someone had tried to groom him, Wang Jiexi had attempted to bite them. “I don’t mind Shiqian grooming me.”
“You could tell him that.” Yu Wenzhou offered as a solution, such a simple, easy solution but Wang Jiexi shook his head, offering Huang Shaotian a treat as well.
“He has only just become more friendly with me, there’s no need to change our relationship like that.”
“Other than the fact that you want your relationship to change.” Yu Wenzhou shot back and Wang Jiexi sighed, noise quiet and frustrated.
“If he doesn’t feel the same way-“
“He’ll tell you and if he cannot conduct himself in a professional manner then you could always come back to Blue Rain.” Yu Wenzhou smiled at the pleased expression on his friend’s face, glad he was able to reassure him, even just a little.
Of course, Huang Shaotian took the opportunity to try and lunge for some food and ended up toppling face first into the plate before bolting off to try and hide, leaving Yu Wenzhou to coax him out and into a bath.
Fang Shiqian had the unfortunate habit of treating the backroom of Tiny Herb like an extension of his own flat, with various piles of his belongings scattered around the space. He could also be found napping in the back, in both forms, leisurely stretched out on the sofa as he slept peacefully. Wang Jiexi frowned at the second pair of trousers that he’d found casually slung over the curtain rail before his gaze flicked to his co-worker who was napping in a patch of sunlight.
Despite his size, Fang Shiqian was still dwarfed by the jeans as they landed on top of him and he took a moment to hiss at Wang Jiexi before scampering behind the screen to shift back in order to have the proper equipment to yell at him.
“Now my jeans are covered in fur!” Wang Jiexi continued gathering the assorted clothing into one big pile, occasionally humming to himself and Fang Shiqian was distracted by the noise for a moment, the sound pleasant before he pulled his mind back on track.
“You shouldn’t leave your clothes scattered about. It’s a bad habit.” Fang Shiqian tried to ignore the fact that this was the exact conversation he’d had with his last boyfriend in favour of clinging to his indignation.
“I forget that I leave this stuff here, Lin Jie doesn’t mind.”
“Just because you are allowed to leave your belongings here does not mean you should. Besides, I mind.” Fang Shiqian opened his mouth, unsure what he was going to say in response, perhaps some bluster about how he’d been here longer, or that he didn’t care what Wang Jiexi wanted.
But he glanced up at his co-worker before he spoke, spotted the faint curve to his lips, the amusement in his eyes and Fang Shiqian scowled, snatching his clothes out of the taller man’s arms and began picking up his clothes himself. He glanced back at Wang Jiexi and his eyes narrowed when he noticed that the other’s smile had only grown wider and he whipped around to point accusingly at him.
“I’m not doing this because you told me to!”
“Of course not.”
“I’m doing this because it’s impolite to Lin Jie.”
“That’s very kind of you.”
“It has nothing to do with you!”
“I’m sure Lin Jie will be very pleased.” Fang Shiqian couldn’t help but feel like Wang Jiexi was laughing at him, but as his face hadn’t even twitched, he knew accusing him of laughing would make him look insane and the other shifter had already won too many times today.
So he resumed gathering up his clothing, being confronted with the reality that no, a malicious spirit was not stealing his clothes, he had simply left half his wardrobe at work. Wang Jiexi had already shifted and padded out into the café area, probably already curling up in someone’s lap and Fang Shiqian collected the clothes as quickly as he could, padding out into the café only to see Wang Jiexi hurtling towards him.
The smaller cat darted behind him, aiming a hiss at the offending party who was still coming closer, muttering about a grumpy kitty and Fang Shiqian had no reservations about showing off his teeth, baring them in a snarl. When the customer came even closer, reaching out a hand for Wang Jiexi, Fang Shiqian lashed out without another thought, claws scratching at his hand and the man recoiled with a howl.
After that, everything descended into chaos.
Fang Shiqian threw himself into a frenzy when he felt himself get picked up and tossed, twisting mid-air to land on his feet, Wang Jiexi had bolted, wedging himself under a sofa and refusing to come out. The customer began complaining immediately about feral cats while Lin Jie attempted to mediate but Fang Shiqian was too busy trying to nose under the sofa to notice.
Due to his larger size, he couldn’t fit under the sofa but he managed to fit one paw underneath, patting around until he felt Wang Jiexi nuzzle up against his paw, head a reassuring weight. The customer was hard to appease but the chorus of people chiming in that approaching a hissing cat was stupid wore him down and he stormed off in a dramatic huff.
Wang Jiexi took this opportunity to creep out from underneath the sofa but he stuck to Fang Shiqian’s side for the rest of the day, kept himself curled up in his fur and refused to budge even as the larger cat twisted to shift positions, Wang Jiexi merely readjusted himself and burrowed deeper in his fur.
“Are you hurt?” Was the first thing Wang Jiexi asked once they were both shifted back after their shift was over. Fang Shiqian had offered Lin Jie a muttered apology for scratching a customer, having to pointedly avoid his friend’s knowing look and the glance he threw at Wang Jiexi before they both vanished into the back. Fang Shiqian startled at the question, shoving the assortment of clothing into a carry bag as he answered.
“Do you think I was stupid enough to get hurt? You’re the tiny one, you are far more likely to be injured if people start getting angry.” Wang Jiexi’s concern didn’t budge and Fang Shiqian rolled his eye, turning to face his friend. “I didn’t get hurt, I’m fine, don’t work yourself up over getting me hurt, I’m not weak enough to get hurt.”
The tension in Wang Jiexi’s shoulders eased slightly and he nodded, unsure of what else to say now but unwilling to leave yet. Unspoken words hung between the two, why Wang Jiexi instinctively ran behind Fang Shiqian, why the other shifter’s response was to lash out protectively, the knowing look in Lin Jie’s eyes, all hung in the air but neither gave voice to them.
“Thank you.” Fang Shiqian’s eyes were wide with surprise when Wang Jiexi spoke but the other shifter wouldn’t meet his eyes. “For protecting me.”
“I’m- I’m glad you trusted me.” Before Wang Jiexi could answer, Fang Shiqian had already left, vanishing out of the door, face turned pointedly away. But it didn’t hide the flush, high on his cheeks and Wang Jiexi hummed thoughtfully, wondering if Yu Wenzhou was right after all.
Fang Shiqian barked out a sharp laugh when Wang Jiexi walked in, hair plastered to his forehead, standing on the mat, dripping in the entrance way, waiting for Lin Jie to bring a towel as to not soak the floor. Lin Jie took the time to shove Fang Shiqian, cutting off his laughter as he went in search of a towel and Wang Jiexi cursed his lack of a raincoat.
He startled when a cup was pushed into his hands, warm against his skin and he looked up in surprise, something that seemed to fluster Fang Shiqian.
“You’re shivering, and if you get sick, everyone will try and cuddle me instead of you. And I might have to start cleaning the backroom again. So drink the tea. Even if it does taste like dirt.” Before Wang Jiexi could muster a reply, the other shifter had already retreated and he contented himself with taking a long sip, savouring the flavour.
Despite his repeated insistence that tea was the worst beverage one could choose, Fang Shiqian had the art down to a science when it came to Wang Jiexi’s preferred blends.
Lin Jie offered him a towel, shaking his head sympathetically as Wang Jiexi began drying himself as well as he could, occasional shiver running through him.
“You can leave your clothes on the radiator, they may dry before the end of the day.” Wang Jiexi nodded, disappearing in the back, missing the way Lin Jie glanced at his mug and then Fang Shiqian, smile on his lips.
Fang Shiqian hadn’t expected Wang Jiexi to be shirtless when he walked in, the other shifter had always ensured he was hidden behind the changing screen before he began to strip but Wang Jiexi was shirtless as he began to lay his clothes on the radiator. He found his eyes following a droplet of water trailing down the planes of his back, dipping beneath his waistband-
He pulled his gaze away violently, vanishing behind the changing screen, face bright red as he tried to push the memory of Wang Jiexi shirtless from his mind. Even if he wanted to linger on how the expanse of his back lacked any marks, and how his pale skin would look pretty with a few marks- perhaps from his teeth-
Fang Shiqian pushed down on the urge to scream, knowing that the noise would just bring Wang Jiexi in to investigate and he didn’t trust himself not to react to that. He shifted smoothly, deciding that it would be safer to escape out into the café and hide from his impulses.
Despite his best efforts to remain out of reach of Wang Jiexi, the other shifter was much smaller than him, meaning hiding in cracks and underneath sofas was impossible. And even if Wang Jiexi couldn’t jump high enough to reach the rafters, mewling pathetically at a customer’s feet would have them cooing and scooping him up to place him on Fang Shiqian’s stomach.
Wang Jiexi would then chirrup happily, eyes already half lidded as he yawned, tiny fangs flashing before he curled up, vanishing into Fang Shiqian’s fur, seemingly content. And despite his turbulent emotions, Fang Shiqian refused to remove him, finding his quiet purrs soothing, the sound sinking into his bones and lulling him to sleep.
Wang Jiexi frowned at his jacket, the piece of clothing still too wet to wear. Everything else had been light enough to dry before the day ended except this. Usually he wouldn’t mind, but the temperature was cold enough that going outside without an extra layer would be uncomfortable and Fang Shiqian glanced over, noting the frown on his friend’s face.
“Is it still wet?” Wang Jiexi’s deadpan look answered his question effectively, as did the water tricking off the jacket when it was lifted. Fang Shiqian rolled his eyes, glancing around the room until his eyes landed on a jacket he’d left behind the day before. Even though he’d tried to avoid letting his clothing pile up in the back, the habit was hard to break but he suspected, for once, Wang Jiexi would be glad of it.
“You can borrow this, just for today, so you don’t call in sick and inconvenience people.” Wang Jiexi tugged the proffered jacket on and Fang Shiqian regretted his offer immediately.
While he didn’t want Wang Jiexi to get a cold, he’d underestimated how much he’d like the sight of his friend in his clothes. Though the difference was difficult to see, Fang Shiqian was slightly taller and broader than the other shifter, which meant his clothes hung off him slightly and he scoffed, turning away to hide his flushed cheeks.
“You should eat more, you’re so small!”
“Thank you.” Wang Jiexi’s voice was annoyingly sincere and Fang Shiqian nodded brusquely, heading towards the door, throwing his last words over his shoulder.
“You can give it back tomorrow, make sure you don’t freeze to death before then!” Fang Shiqian kept his eyes firmly away from Wang Jiexi which helped keep his composure and the two locked up behind them. Fang Shiqian was grateful for the biting wind, allowing him to pass off his flushed cheeks as a result of the weather, even if it was a feeble excuse at best.
Wang Jiexi wasn’t wearing the jacket the next morning, he had it slung over one arm, but Fang Shiqian could still picture how he looked in it. He tried to focus on what Wang Jiexi was saying instead of that. He still watched the other shifter’s lips move more than anything else.
“-for lending it to me.” Fang Shiqian startled when the jacket was suddenly in his hands, realising that he’d missed most of what Wang Jiexi had just said.
“You don’t have to thank me, just don’t forget an umbrella next time, it’s not sensible to go out without one, Lin Jie says you’re responsible so you should behave like it.” Wang Jiexi’s eyes were bright with something Fang Shiqian couldn’t name and his next words were completely unexpected.
“Would you go on a date with me?” Wang Jiexi watched as Fang Shiqian’s mouth dropped open and he seemed to be lost for words, giving him the opportunity to continue speaking. “You’re kind, even if you try and hide it, and I like napping on your stomach. It would be nice if you would let me do that when we’re not shifted.” Wang Jiexi wet his lips nervously as the silence stretched out, readying himself to take back the offer before Fang Shiqian seemed to regain his bearings.
“Yes! Don’t look like that, like you’re about to take it back, you’ve already asked and you can’t take it back now, I’ll go out with you and you can nap on me even when we’re not shifted.” Fang Shiqian flushed when he realised what he’d said, wondering if he’d sounded too eager, but from the growing smile on Wang Jiexi’s face, he didn’t mind.
And if Fang Shiqian never got his jacket back after that?
Well, neither of them minded that either.