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Jiàngzāi

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Xue Yang didn't want to go home that afternoon, not after running away from high school. It didn't make sense and he knew it. His parents were friends with many of the teachers, including Luo Qingyuan, and he just skipped her class. He had no doubt that the woman would warn Lan Xicheng and he would call Daozang and Song Lan. He kicked one of the cans that were lying in the street, he was an idiot. Xue Yang didn't want to imagine the argument when he got home, Xicheng's lost sad look or Song Lan's frown. The second had become much softer on him, still serious and cold at times, but since they had started their weekly boxing/emotional control classes it seemed that the tension between them had become smaller. He was an idiot and an asshole but… he didn´t want to disappoint his guardians

He had escaped the locker room in such a hurry that he was sure he had left some of his things there, but right now he didn't care, Shizui or one of the others would pick it and take it to A-Qing. It wasn't the first time Xue Yang skipped classes, and he was sure it wasn´t the last, it always ended the same way, but he wasn´t in discussion mood that afternoon

Xue Yang shouldn't have any problems, not like those, not since Song Lan had told Lan Xicheng the real reason for the fight and had switched Xue Yang to another class

His new class was so fucking chaotic. He had lost sight of Mo Xuanyu but in return he had ended up dragged into the middle of a group of chaotic people who he didn´t understand. Shizui and his boyfriends were very different from each other, Xue Yang couldn't help but wonder how they manage to stand each other, or how they tried to hide that they were actually, in a relationship, as if the looks and how they leaned on each other wasn't enough, or their fights weren´t just like the ones an old married couple would have. He couldn’t believe that anyone noticed how they talked about each other. If those three weren't a couple, they were pinning idiots. He liked Shizui, he was calm and quieter than the other two.

When Xue Yang arrived at their class, Shizui was the one who had made Jingyi sat down to leave Xue Yang alone, and he had asked Jin Ling to introduce himself with a smile on his lips. The fourth member of that strange group had introduced himself without the need for Shizui to say anything, and to be honest, he didn´t remembered his name

His teacher, Qingyuan or Mianmian, was also direct and a little bit rude. But he liked her. Xue Yang almost had a heart attack the day that he arrived home and she was in their living room, mentally reviewing everything he had done in the last month and a half, but then Wen Ning and another woman had come out of the kitchen, cups of tea in her hands and talking quietly with Xue Yang guardians. The doctor was only there to take a look at Xue Yang's hand and, because they were friends of the family, she had taken their girlfriends to spend the afternoon talking to A-Lan and A-Chen when she finished checking that everything was healing as it should

Xue Yang sighed, he didn´t want to hurt all the new persons in his new life…Not when Xiao Xingchén and Song Lan were paying for his classes... no when Song Lan sat next to him for hours trying to explain what he didn't understand, he didn't wanted to hurt them after all the efforts they made for him… for a thief that they had welcomed at their home

But the panic that had invaded him in the locker room was too much. Most of the time he would change in one of the cabins, wait for only a few people left in the room or get into the bathroom. But that day everything felt too much.

He had felt observed, he felt a horrible pressure on his chest. He didn't want to change his clothes. He didn't want to take off that huge sweatshirt that came up to his knees. Much less wanted to take off the binder, he couldn't, he preferred to exercise like that. Spend PE class wearing it even if he had trouble breathing... He was getting dizzy, the room was too small and, before he knew it, he was out, the hood set to avoid the rain and so mad at himself for being a coward and an idiot. His teacher was a fucking lesbian with two girlfriends and Shizui was dating his best friends. A binder wasn´t going to disturb anyone, but he wasn´t in the mood. Not after the last fight, not after that idiot and how he had referred to Xue Yang as someone he never was

When a hand landed on his shoulder Xue Yang turned to hit whoever was there,  surprised that the person held his hand, Mo's gray eyes looked at him open and frightened, a little nervous smile forming on his face

"Are you crazy? Don't scare me!" the boy let go, taking his hand to the back of his head and laughing uncomfortable

He noticed Mo's right wrist. Blue bracelet. So, he/him today. One of the first things he had learned about his friend was that he was genderfluid, and that each bracelet was associated with the pronoun he preferred each day, it was a simple method. No awkward questions or misgendering. Blue for he/him, white for they/them and green for she/her, though that last one was less frequent.

"Sorry, sorry... also ditching?", Xue Yang sighed before relaxing, trying not to give that idiot a real blow
"What do you think?"

"Your parents are going to kill you..."

"As if yours weren't going to do it too"

"Uncle Lan maybe... But Uncle Wei? I think he has skipped more classes than the ones you and me can put together..."

Xue Yang couldn't help but laugh, Mo Xuanyu was one of the first friends he had ever made in high school, before the whole fight mess and changing classes. He had noticed how similar they were as soon as he had seen him. Mo was like him, a boy who had grown up on the street trying to survive, running away from a horrible house... Talking to him was…safe, almost natural. He was nice. In addition, he was someone you wanted to have close to you, one of Mo's uncles/parents/whatever was the principal brother, and, even if he wasn't someone popular, he liked to have people like that around. And of course, as everyone in that city, his guardians and Mo's were friends. Xicheng had grown up in the same orphanage that where Wei Ying's mother, one of Mo's grandparents, worked. Xue Yang sighed, kicking another can, the world was a handkerchief

"Why are you here?"

"I didn't feel like being in class... I spent the morning at the mall, do you like it?"

He pointed to his face, Xue Yang hadn´t noticed that Mo had changed that black and exaggerated eyeliner he was always wearing for a red one

"It´s okay, I suppose, bought or stolen?"

"Who do you think I am? I bought it with my money, like an honest person..." he started rummaging through his pockets. "But I've stolen it, take one."

Xue Yang laughed as he took the cigarettes in the air, there were things that never changed, and he had no doubt that he and Mo were also similar in that. Mo put the box in his pocket again, without bothering to take a cigarette, he would probably ask for Xue Yang´s in a few minutes, but they were used to it. They had acquired routines over the months, Mo got the cigarettes, Xue Yang didn't ask and always had a pack of gum in his pocket to disguise the smell of tobacco when they came home.

They walked together, no talks about why Xue Yang wasn't in class or why Mo hadn't set foot in high school for three days. They had their reasons, they had their problems, and they were fine without talking about it. A-Qing had laughed the first time Mo went to his house, "Edgy lords always found each other”, or something, and the truth, though he wouldn't admit it, she was somewhat right. Mo had been the one who had taught him to do a perfect eyeliner. And he had the fashion sense of someone from a strange magazine from the 2000s. But he was a good friend, different from the four chaotic idiots he shared class with now.

"Then someone called, at two in the morning, you won't believe who…"Mo took the cigar off Xue Yang´s lips, taking a puff before continuing his story. “Ru-"

A noise interrupted the boy and Xue Yang looked into the alley from which it was coming, the rain had calmed down, there was still light and he had a knife in his boot. So, he decided to approach, Mo's platforms echoing against the ground as he follows Xue Yang.

"Is anyone there?" Xue Yang elbowed him, a murderous look in his face before turning to keep walking

There could be nothing too big in that alley or they would have seen it, the noise came from one of the garbage cans and Xue Yang approached slowly

"Hold, " he gave Mo his cell phone as he laughed and took off his hoodie, leaning over the bucket. "You'd better thank me for this..."

"Hey? What's the matter?" he could notice Mo's confused look. "Have you finally just gone crazy?"

Xue Yang suddenly got up and the dull noise of his head banging on the metal echoed in the alley, he stuck out his tongue as he placed what was in his arms in a comfier way, Mo could see a head peeking through the folds of the hoodie
"This little boy had got stuck in there... what? I'm a bastard, but I wasn't going to leave this thing in there..."

The thing was a small black cat. He lacked hair, had a gray eye, and was full of wounds...

"It's fucking ugly"

"So are you and no one complains," Mo pretended to be offended by the answer and he put the cigar on the ground before returning his phone to Xue Yang, putting his hands in his pockets

"You don't have to be rude either... what are you going to do with that thing?"

"Take him home... and ask Song Lan to take him to the vet..."

"And what about the argument? For skipping classes and all that?"

"He'll forget as soon as he sees the cat, he's a weakling for them... what do you say friend?"

Xue Yang came close to letting go of cat when he scratched his face, Xue Yan yelled, looking at that small, aggressive thing

"I think you just found your animal spirit..."

Xue Yang laughed, lifting the cat to look him in the eye. Mo used the sleeve of his coat to wipe the scratch off Xue Yang´s cheek and the boy felt the heat go up his cheeks

"And that's why they're going to let him stay... will you come home with me? They'll be softer if there´s someone else..."

"Okay… let´s go"

He followed Mo out of the alley, looking at the kitten in his arms without being able to disguise a smile. They walked in a comfortable silence, Mo's arm passed over his shoulders, Xue Yang felt as his heart was about to come out of his chest, the heat invading his face as he nailed his sight to the ground
"What are you doing?"

"Trying to keep you from freezing. Come near me, it's starting to rain again…”

Mo held him carefully, and that wasn't like him. Kids like them didn't cover each other from the rain, it wasn't necessary, much less when people were around. They kept the facade, at least until they were left alone. But Mo was losing some of those customs faster than others, he had only been off the street two months longer than Xue Yang, but his defenses also came down much faster

"You're an idiot..." but he stuck more near him, Mo was always warm and being near him felt right and safe. 

They were the same height, but Mo was wearing some of his stupid platforms that day, perfect for Xue Yang´s head to rest on his shoulder, perfecto so Mo could hug him

"One day you're going to hurt my feelings for real and you're going to regret A-Xue...", Mo was the only one who used that name." Do you have the keys?"

Xue Yang nodded, looking into his pockets careful not to drop the cat and giving them to Mo, who opened the door, his arm not leaving Xue Yang´s shoulder, dragging him into the heat of the house
"Well... then can I stay a while?"

He was smiling. His dimples were so fucking cute and Xue Yang cursed in his head

"Yes..." He looked away from the other boy to look at the kitten. "Welcome home to Jiàngzāi "

When Song Lan show in the corridor, asking what was going on, he didn’t even notice that his hand was still intertwined with Mo's. The boy squeezed his hand and for a moment, looking at him and the small dimple in Mo’s face he thouug that maybe it was time to lower another defense