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Bonding time

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When someone knocked on the door Xue Yang stiffened in his chair, his fists clenched so tightly on his lap that his knuckles turned white. Song Lan came into the office, a frown in his face and angry. So, so angry. He came alone, there was no sign of Xiao Xingchén or A-Qing. Although Xue Yang didn't know what he preferred, Song Lan being angry or Doozháng smiling at him but disappointed.

"What happened brat?"

Despite the six months he had been living with them, Song Lan kept calling him a brat, he didn't care, he knew he was joking, at least most of the time. But at the time he felt the nickname sinking him into the chair, as if Song Lan was scolding him for real

"Dàozháng hasn't come?" Xue Yang sank further into the chair

"I didn't mean to bother him about a high school fight, what happened?"

The director cleared his throat, looking from Xue Yang to the adult

"Your son hasn't gotten into a schoolyard fight, sir. Xue Yang has broken a classmate´s arm"

Song Lan's gaze pierced his bones, Xue Yang wasn´t even able to replicate

"Why have you done that?" he sounded angry. A lot.

"We accepted your son in our high school mid-yearly, with his record and... problems. And now he does this, the other guy's in the hospital, his mother's take him there as soon as possible… You should be glad about her not filing a complaint...". Xue Yang put on his hood, trying to disappear, he didn´t liked the situation. He didn't want to meet Song Lan's angry look. He didn't feel capable of it. "I convinced his mother that the school would solve everything…"

"Am I expelled?" Xue Yang spoke quietly. "I have to leave?"

"Yes." Xue Yang bit his lip. "Just for a week"

"Thank you Lan Xi Chén...", Song Lan put a hand on Xue Yang´s shoulder, squeezing with a little more force than necessary. "I'll make sure it doesn't happen again..."

"You´re friends of the family, consider it a favor. Little A-Qing was also a little chaotic at first, you can't have forgotten about that... Xue Yang is a good boy, I'm sure of that..."

The quiet smile man reminded him of Xiao Xingchén’s, calm, almost relaxing

"All right, thanks again... let's go before I kill you boy..."

Song Lan took his backpack, leaving the office at long steps and Xue Yang had to run to reach him. The man didn't even bother looking at him, he kept walking to the car

"Are you going to let me explain something or are you going to keep ignoring me?" Xue Yang stood, refusing to move if the other didn´t turn. "Now are you going to get angry?"

"I'm already angry. Speak fast, I want to go home." Song Lan crossed his arms. "Tell me what excuse do you have, what reason would you have to do something like that? Lán Xi Chén wouldn't have expelled you if there was a good excuse-"

"I haven't told you, "he interrupted Song Lan, his hands in his pockets and his gaze nailed to the ground. "I... I didn't tell him what happened..."

Song Lan sighed, taking his hands to his head, massaging his temples. He could see a headache coming

"God give me patience... why?"

"I… was ashamed ok?” Xue Yang gaze was fixed in the floor. "I wasn't able to…"

"You?" he knew Song Lan had raised an eyebrow without having to look at him. "You being ashamed? You are a... arrogant little brat-"

"He misgendered me!" Xue Yang lifted his head suddenly, kicking the ground. He regretted it at the time, he didn't want to look like he had huff. "He was teasing me and... he knew me from… from the orphanage. He deadnamed me…"

Song Lan put his hands on his shoulders, crouching down to be at Xue Yang´s height

"Why haven't you started from there A-Yang?" the kid looked at him surprised

Song Lan never called him A-Yang, only Doozháng did. A-Qing also, as a mockery. But it was the first time the other man had done it

"I... I was ashamed to have been angry about something like that..." Song Lan pulled away the hair from his face. "It's silly and... I shouldn't care what an idiot said…"

"Did you break his arm?" Xue Yang nodded. "Well, now I'm just mad that you just did that."

"You're not... huh?"

"Look, I'd be mad if you'd hit him out of boredom, for a stupid fight. But listen to me, I know you and I have our differences, but no one, no one, can treat you like someone you're not. You have my permission to hit anyone who does..."

"Really?" Song Lan smiled, leaning on Xue Yang´s head to stand up again

"Of course I do, misgendering someone is... something cruel and disgusting. No one like that deserves to be treated well..." Xue Yang smiled a little, the weight on his shoulders dissipating a little

"Thank you..."

"Don´t thank me, now we have a bigger problem..." they got in the car and Song Lan threw the backpack in the back seat. "How well are you at faking being sick?"

"What level of sick?" smile Xue Yang got bigger

"Enough so that you can stay home without telling Xingchén the truth, but not so much as to go to the doctor..."

"Wait, aren't we going to tell him the truth?"

"No. Not to mention that. I didn't even tell him they called from high school... look, I know you don't want to disappoint him, nobody wants to disappoint someone like Xingchén... But... I assure you, if you tell him he´s not going to be disappointed, he's rather going to stand in that hospital and finish that kid off. No one hurts anyone who Xingchén cares about and comes out unscathed..."

Xue Yang looked at him surprised before bursting into a loud laugh, Song Lan joining soon after

"You're afraid of him! You're afraid that Doozháng will get mad!”

"You don't want to see my husband angry; I assure you..." Song Lan started the car. "Are you going to be able to be sick?"

Xue Yang started coughing, shrinking in the seat and complaining quietly

"I think it'll do. Want some ice cream in the way home brat?"

The atmosphere seemed calmer, at times like that, he liked Song Lan a little more, he wasn´t so bitter, maybe at that rate, they got to get along

Four days later, wrapped in blankets and lying on the bed looking at his cell phone, Xue Yang couldn't be happier. He hadn't had to step on high school in days, he'd spend his time sleeping and playing videogames, Song Lan helping him keep the sick facade and preventing the high school principal from saying anything to Doozháng

When the door opened, he hurried to let go of his cell phone and start coughing, but the one at the door was Song Lan, looking at him with exepticism

"Are you done with your performance?"

"Tsk, you were the one who told me to act like that... what happens?"

"Your boyfriend come to leave you some notes and homework, " he threw a notebook at him and Xue Yang looked at him with an eyebrow raised

"Eh? I don't know who you mean..."

"Mo something, don't look at me, he kept asking me to let him in and see you, ahhh youthful love. How nice..."

Xue Yang threw a cushion at Song Lan´s head, his checks tainted in red

"Mo Xuan Yǔ is a classmate, he´s nice... it's not my fault you're a nostalgic old man... If you miss your husband, go with him."

"Yes, of course... Come on, I'm not here to be your errand boy. Get dressed and get in the car, I'm going to take you somewhere before Xingchén comes back."

"Where´s Dàozháng?" Xue Yang came out of bed, looking for a jacket among the clothes he had lying on the floor

"He'll be back in two days, he's gone to visit Baoshan Saren..." Song Lan started picking things up too, trying to help." A-Qing is at some friend's house, so that leaves you and me alone. Come on, we've got things to do."

Xue Yang followed him, trying to catch up

"Where are we going?" Song Lan threw a helmet at him and Xue Yang looked at him surprised. "Are you going to let me get on your bike?"

Song Lan sighed, taking the helmet out of Xue Yang´s hands and putting it on his head, as if he was a mother tying her child's helmet before getting on the bike. The bike was completely black, white orchids painted on one side, as far as Xue Yang knew, it was Song Lan's most precious possession, a gift from his husband on one of their anniversaries. Dàozháng had told him the story, a quiet afternoon while helping him in the garden, but the truth is that he hadn´t listen him too much.

"Stop asking questions, come on, I don't have all day."

When they got on the bike Song Lan said nothing more, and Xue Yang holded tightly to his waist. He didn't know how long it was before they stopped, but they were in an area of the city he didn't recognized, in front of a building that looked like it was abandon.

He walked down slowly, trying to find the street name written somewhere, but he didn't find anything. Just a sign that was falling into pieces above the door. Baixue Temple

"Have you brought me to an abandoned building? Are you finally going to get rid of me?"

Song Lan sighed as he approached the door

"Don't be an idiot, come on, it's a friend's gym. The building is old, but I'm not going to kill you."

They went quietly, it was early and the gym was almost empty. Some people scattered through the room, an older man approached them as soon as they entered, smiling and happy. Song Lan bowed to him as soon as they were around

"Shifu..." the man put a hand on Song Lan's shoulder, forcing him to rise

"Leave the formalities A-Lan... is this your new kid?"

Xue Yang put his hands in his pockets while snorting

"Can everyone stop calling me a kid?"

"You're a kid. And… yes. Shifu... he´s Xue Yang, Xingchén and I are his legal guardians now. He´s a tough nut to crack, that's why I brought him here."

He put his hands on his shoulders, giving him an almost affectionate squeeze and the other man laughed

"I was hoping you'd come to accept my offer..."

"You know I can't go back to the ring Shifu, my shoulder wouldn't allow it, " there was a nostalgic smile painted on his face, Xue Yang looked at him surprised

"You boxed?"

"A-Lan was my best student. Fast and strong, he won all his fights... with too much rush sometimes. He was…crude..."

"He doesn't need to know all the details Shifu...", Song Lan sounded almost embarrassed
"I think he needs A-Lan, your father was an aggressive and angry teenager... He used that energy to train... he's still the best boxer that has ever stepped on my gym... It was a shame when he was injured, I've been offering him a position as a teacher for years. But he's too busy with that husband of his..."

Song Lan's cheeks were stained red and Xue Yang laughed

"That's why Dàozháng wanted to adopt me! I remember him of you! Oh my god..."

"Shut your mouth or I'll tell him about the expulsion!" he was getting even more red. "We don't come here to talk about my past"

Song Lan pushed him away from there, pushing him to one of the corners of the gym and sit him on one of the benches. He knelt in front of Xue Yang and pulled bandages out of his bag

"Are you going to explain to me what we´re doing here?"

"Silence and be attentive, you're going to have to learn to do this alone..." he slowly bandaged Xue Yang´s right hand, with all the care in the world, so he could see well what he was doing. "You think you can use your left hand?"

Xue Yang looked at his hands. One of the first things the couple had done after adopting him had been to take him to the hospital, the doctor who attended them, Wen something, was a friend of the family too. She said thar she could try to fix his hand, even if she didn't promise being able to heal it completely, the lesion was very old. But Xue Yang wanted to try, he agreed, and after the surgery it was a little easier for him to look at that hand.

The woman hadn't been able to save his pinky, but she had placed the rest of the bones in some way it didn’t looked so deformed. It was less ugly, there were pale scars that he kept covering with the gloves, Xue Yang closed his hand carefully before looking at Song Lan

"I can… I want to try. It's been months... I want to try..." the man nodded, bandaging the hand hand even more carefully. When he finished, he put the gloves in Xue Yang hands with the same care

"Let's get all that rage out of here, " he stuck a finger in his chest. "What Shifu has told you is true, when I was your age, we were very alike. And this helped me get my emotions out. To control them. So, stand up and show me what you're capable of..."

Song Lan got up, shaking the dust off his pants before walking to one of the punching bags, putting himself in the back to hold it. Xue Yang obeyed, but the man stopped him before he could take a second blow

"What happens now?"

"You're going to get injured if you do it like this, open your legs." He put his hands on his shoulders and pushed down. "Knees bent, I'm going to teach you how to box, kid, not like fighting for candy..."

"I've been in fights... I know how to throw a punch"

"You know how to hit someone. It's not the same." Song Lan held him tighter to turn him. "The force comes from the extension of the body, from turning your hips and moving your whole body kid..."

Xue Yang growled before obeying, the sack moving much more this time

"Do you notice the difference?" Xue Yang nodded. "Good. Once again. Come on, with all you might. Think about what angers you the most..." he took another hit. "Get all that negative energy out"

The next blow was accompanied by a cry

"I don't care if you get into fights, but I don't want my husband to be sad if you do. So, we're going to come here every week, I'm going to teach you how to fight. You're going to get all your bad mood out here, not in high school. Not with other people. Think of the guy you had a fight with..."

Xue Yang chained several blows, shouting again

"Scream, cry, do what you need. But from now on, anger stays in this place, no one is going to judge you"

Xue Yang thought of everything that had happened in the last few months. He had left the street alone because of Xiao Xingchén’s kindness, and Song Lan had accepted it, he was sure that the man couldn´t deny anything to his husband, including adopting abandoned thieves. He wasn't going to complain either, after all, he had a home now. A family that wasn't bad, even if A-Qing was irritating and Song Lan was serious and cold most of the time

They had given him a chance, a roof to live under. He took another hit, thinking of Chang Cian smashing his hand. One more hit. Song Lan kept holding the sack, frowning almost with concern

He thought of all the foster homes that had been thrown back into the street. How that had changed. How he had a place to go back to now. He thought of the boy he had fought with, his face when he had begun to insult him. The fear of being kicked out after what he had done. His eyes were blurry, he felt Song Lan holding his wrists, pulling him into a hug

"Breathe A-Yang... Come here... I think that's enough for today..." he stroked his back slowly. "It looks like this is going to be good for you... breathe..."

Song Lang crouched down to take off his gloves and bandages, making sure he didn't have any wounds on his hands.

"And then you say you're not a brat..." Song Lan put his hands on Xue Yang´s face to dry his tears. “Come on... let's go home. Enough emotional management for a week..."

Xue Yang hid his face up his sweatshirt's sleeve, he hated being seen crying. Showing that weakness. He didn’t even remember how long it had been since he last felt that way, the last time he had lowered his defenses. Crying instead of hiding all his feelings under that fake smile

He felt good, he was embarrassed, emotionally exhausted. But he was okay. He leaned against the man, letting Song Lan hug him again.

"Not a word about this..." Xue Yang parted, crossing his arms

"About the crying or about the hug?"

"Both. This is a secret...", Song Lan laughed, a hand in Xue Yang´s hair, disheveling it

"Agree... let's go..."

The man's hand stayed on his shoulder, guiding him to the door, Song Lan stopped to greet his master before leaving, Xue Yang´s eyes nailed to the ground

"Are you leaving now?"

"Yes, don't be rude, kid. Say good-bye..."

"Don't be like that, A-Lan, it's okay. I've seen you two train... you have a future in this kid... a few more classes from your father and I could sign you up for some tournament..."

"Shifu... Not so fast. I still have a lot to teach him, and if I get him in a ring his father´s going to have a heart attack."

It was the first time he'd ever listened to Song Lan use that word. Father. He always said Xingchén. Not his father... Xue Yang couldn't help but smile that occupied his face

"Whatever you say A-Lan… come back soon."

Song Lan said good-bye to the man and they finally left the gym. It was damp, Xue Yang didn't know that they'd spent so much time in there. He got on the bike again ang hugged the man

"Thank you for this... It´s... been ok..."

He turned to look at the boy and Xue Yang could see that he was smiling under the helmet

"It´s nothing, Xingchén wanted to make you take yoga classes. I think this option suits you more…"

Xue Yang laughed, sighing as he grabbed the man's waist. He was right about that

And now they were going home, and he liked that word more and more everyday