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place your bets (my money's on you)

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The progression of He Xuan and Shi Qingxuan becoming friends with benefits started out as a bit of fun every now and then when they both found themselves single at the same time.

Of course, He Xuan is always single, even when she’s technically seeing someone, and no one who dates Shi Qingxuan seems to take the relationship too seriously, so the two girls are effectively always available for each other. Their platonic relationship quickly escalated into… whatever it is now. They don’t like to label it.

If He Xuan could, she would put on the ‘girlfriend’ label and be done with it, but she’s under the impression that Shi Qingxuan is content with the way things are. She’s never asked for more, so why complicate things?

Even if, sometimes, when she goes on a date, she calls He Xuan the same evening to make herself feel better about how badly it went.

It’s a sound arrangement, despite what others (Hua Cheng) say. There are very few people whose company He Xuan can stomach for longer than a few hours anyway, and no one is able to make her come quite like Shi Qingxuan can, so she’s more than happy to heed her beck-and-call.

It’s how ‘every now and then’ became ‘once a month,’ and then ‘once a fortnight,’ and now it’s ‘whenever Shi Qingxuan wants to watch a movie.’

He Xuan has lost count of how many movies she’s seen the start and end of, but not the middle. There have been maybe five or six where she only saw the start. She can count those ones because she remembers very vividly why she had missed out on the end.

He Xuan never really liked movies that much anyway.

“At this point, you may as well be dating,” Hua Cheng tells her one evening over laksa and chilled sangria.

“Dating is complicated,” He Xuan says, pouring herself another glass of wine and immediately draining it. “Fucking is simple.”

Over his bowl, Hua Cheng rests his elbows on the table and his chin in his folded hands, looking at her with that infuriatingly perceptive eye of his. He only has the one, yet he somehow sees twice as much as a regular person. He Xuan hates it.

“Stop it,” she grumbles, picking up the sangria jug once more.

Hua Cheng extends a hand and covers the top of her glass. “I’m not going to tell you how you should deal with your feelings, but pretending they don’t exist does no one any good. You should go after what you want.”

“I really don’t think you’re in any position to lecture me about feelings,” He Xuan rebukes, snatching the glass out from under Hua Cheng’s hand. “Besides, Qingxuan’s clearly happy being friends, so who am I to ruin that? It doesn’t matter what I want.”

Hua Cheng shrugs, offering up his own glass for a refill like he’s conceding defeat to the reverse card she dealt him on the lecture. He Xuan obliges him, and then sets the empty jug aside.

“Cheers,” Hua Cheng says, moving to clink his glass with hers. “To submitting ourselves to the wants and needs of the people we’re in love with.”

He Xuan withdraws her glass quickly. “I’m not in love with Qingxuan.”

Hua Cheng’s eye drills into her, a smug, knowing smile on his face.

He Xuan clinks their glasses with a scowl, wasting no time in polishing off her drink. Her food is getting cold. She really doesn’t have the patience for Hua Cheng’s antics. 

But, when does she ever? She only puts up with him because she owes him a lot of money and he sometimes forces her to pay it back to him by hanging out together. It’s the closest thing she has to a friendship with anyone other than Shi Qingxuan. 

Hua Cheng taps his chopsticks against his bowl thoughtfully, and then reaches out and pokes He Xuan while she’s midway through inhaling her noodles.

“How about a bet?” he suggests.

He Xuan swallows, wrinkling her nose. “Don’t you do enough of that shit already?”

Hua Cheng is undeterred. “First to ask out their person, wins.”

“Pass.”

“I haven’t even gotten to the offer yet.”

“What offer could possibly tempt me?” He Xuan says, leaning over her bowl to jeer at Hua Cheng. He’s always playing these stupid games with her, and it’s never worth it.

“Your debt to me; consider it squared if you win.”

Hua Cheng sits back in the plastic dining chair and spreads his fingers wide, as if heaven itself could shine its light on him, and he would still somehow be in the shadow of his own greed and self-indulgence.

He’s never been one to let himself get bored.

He Xuan twirls her noodles around her chopsticks, making a whirlpool in the broth. She stares at it, wondering how easy it would be to drown herself in bean shoots and chili. Hua Cheng has never gone all in with her debt before… it makes her wonder what the cost will be if she loses.

“And if you win?” she counters.

“Work for me. In an official capacity,” Hua Cheng replies.

He Xuan groans. She didn’t know what she expected, honestly. Hua Cheng has been pestering her to work at his casino for years. If she didn’t know any better, she’d start to think he actually likes spending time with her. The shady, back-alley gambling den is part of the reason she’s in the hole in the first place, practically licking the grease off Hua Cheng’s boots just to dig her way out.

He’s told her numerous times that working for him is a sure way to settle her substantial debt, but He Xuan knows it will involve more than a little money laundering and number-fudging on her part, which is as illegal as Hua Cheng’s liquor license and underground basement opium den.

It’s risky, but no matter the outcome of the bet, He Xuan can kiss her debt goodbye.

Not to mention, Hua Cheng stands no chance of winning with his frankly pathetic track record of swinging wildly between wanting to propose to Xie Lian, and disappearing for several days because they briefly held hands and he thought that Xie Lian might need some time to get disinfected. If He Xuan guesses right, he’ll fold like origami to his own self-doubt at the very idea of asking out the person he’s loved since he was a boy.

“What if they say no?” He Xuan says.

“Hm?”

“What if we ask them out and they say no?”

Hua Cheng frowns, slurping up his noodles. Evidently, he didn’t take this possibility into account. He Xuan thinks he must be on the ‘proposal’ side of his irrational train of thought today.

“I guess we can’t factor in their own feelings, so just the asking will have to do,” he declares.

He Xuan grimaces. High stakes, high reward; Hua Cheng’s favourite way to play.

“Alright, deal,” she says. “But if I lose, I don’t want my name on the books.”

“That’s not what ‘official capacity’ means.”

 

He Xuan doesn’t dawdle on her plan to ask Shi Qingxuan out. Gambling is one of the few things Hua Cheng takes seriously, so he won’t tarry to confess his feelings for Xie Lian, which have long lingered in his heart.

He Xuan dreads to think what he will be like if Xie Lian actually returns those feelings. Hua Cheng is unbearable about him enough as it is…

But, she has her own side of the bet to uphold; there’s no time to worry about any worst-case scenarios until she’s at least made an attempt at winning.

An opportunity presents itself in the form of Shi Qingxuan asking if she wants to watch a movie. They both have the weekend off, and it’s been a while since they had sex, so He Xuan cuts her nails, buys new lingerie, and sets her plan into motion;

Shi Qingxuan has a thing about control.

It’s something He Xuan genuinely understands, as it’s a trait they have in common; they need to be in control of all situations in life. Shi Qingxuan has the air of someone who is carefree and easy-going, but He Xuan knows better than most the gripping anxiety she feels when something doesn’t go her way. It’s a raw kind of fear, broken down from vulnerability. Like He Xuan, Shi Qingxuan is a vulnerable person.

He Xuan, of course, doesn’t want to take advantage of that vulnerability, but she does wonder if she can make Shi Qingxuan yield. If she softens enough, then maybe she’ll say yes.

Because He Xuan isn’t afraid of asking Shi Qingxuan out; she’s afraid of being rejected.

But she doesn’t know how else to express her feelings, so it’s going to have to be through sex. Making Shi Qingxuan come and then dropping the bomb on her while she’s still hazy seems like the right way to go. Shi Qingxuan is amusingly pliant after a good session, and all their sessions are good.

“Seriously, He-jie, no one else fucks me as good as you do. I even deleted my dating apps, hahaha! I mean, what’s the point when I have you?”

He Xuan arrives at her apartment armed with snacks and Shi Qingxuan’s favourite wine, just in case she's worried He Xuan isn’t in the mood (which has admittedly only happened once or twice). The wine is confirmation that He Xuan is here to ‘watch a movie.’

He Xuan often and loudly makes fun of Hua Cheng’s adorable crush on Xie Lian, but she’d be lying if she said she didn’t understand how he felt. Shi Qingxuan has a way of affecting He Xuan’s heart that makes her think it’s faulty. As if the stone-cold rock in her chest has been replaced by something else… something sweet and bright, just like Shi Qingxuan herself.

He Xuan feels her soft, marshmallow heart skip a beat when Shi Qingxuan answers the door, a huge smile on her face.

Whenever they meet up, He Xuan is constantly tempted to turn around and look back, because it can’t possibly be her that Shi Qingxuan is so excited to see all the time.  

“Ah, He-jie, you’re the best!” she says, taking the wine out of He Xuan’s hands. “I really couldn’t be bothered going out today. You’re so good to me.”

She’s already in her pyjamas; a silky, pale pink chemise with matching bottoms, dancing around her ankles as she spins and disappears into the kitchen to get drinking glasses. He Xuan watches her go, the green ribbon in her half ponytail rippling behind her.

He Xuan toes off her shoes and closes the door, her socks sliding on the hardwood floors as she follows, keeping an eye out for Shi Qingxuan’s older brother, who tends to make rude remarks about He Xuan’s presence in the apartment.

But he doesn’t seem to be home, so she relaxes, dumping the bag of snacks on the kitchen counter and taking them out. Shi Qingxuan is already a quarter of the way through telling He Xuan all about the disastrous morning she had trying to fix her overlocker, which keeps snagging on the fabric of her new project.

“It’s never done this before. I have to submit the design on Monday, but what good is it if I can’t sew the damn thing? And I won’t pass if I don’t have an actual mock-up of the dress. It’s so frustrating.”

“Maybe you need to take a different approach,” He Xuan suggests, emptying a packet of sour candies into a bowl.

Knowing Shi Qingxuan, her latest fashion project is light, frilly, and completely impractical. You could argue she’s of the opinion that, if she’s not having problems sewing her clothes, then it won’t be worth wearing anyway.

Shi Qingxuan pouts, pouring generous helpings of wine into two glasses and passing one to He Xuan.

“Gosh, don’t call me out so fast.” She takes a sip, smacking her lips, leftover lip-gloss making them pop. “Ugh, maybe I’ll just hand-stitch it. Never mind! Come on, I already chose which movie we’re going to watch!”

She takes He Xuan by the hand and drags her into her room, all her fluffy pillows and squashy blankets arranged neatly on the bed in preparation for the evening. He Xuan admires Shi Qingxuan’s dedication to the joke. Wine, snacks, and comfy pillows. The movie is paused and ready to go on her flat screen television, as if there’s no doubt in the world that they’re actually going to sit down and watch it in its entirety.

He Xuan climbs onto the bed. Amongst the pillows, a stuffed, pink octopus sits in the centre, its stretchy tentacles tucked neatly away. He Xuan sets her glass of wine on the nightstand and picks it up, squeezing its soft head to distort its embroidered smile.

“Poor TaoTao missed you,” Shi Qingxuan says, switching off the light and scrambling under one of the many blankets. She leans over to pull on one of the octopus’ tentacles, beaming at it. “You have to spoil him with squishes while you’re here.”

He Xuan hands him over to her. “I know you like to cuddle him when we watch movies.”

Shi Qingxuan’s smile widens all the way to her eyes. “But if I cuddle TaoTao, who will jiejie cuddle?”

A tremor, shuddering down her spine. He Xuan squints at Shi Qingxuan, unable to decipher whether or not she’s joking.

She decides to say nothing, indicating that Shi Qingxuan should press play on the movie, whatever it is. As she does so, He Xuan turns in the bed and takes a very large gulp of her wine. This is going to be harder than she thought.

 

It’s about halfway through the movie when He Xuan realises the big flaw in her plan.

She almost never initiates sex. She comes over and sits on the bed until Shi Qingxuan inevitably gets bored and lets her hands wander. That’s how it usually goes.

Shi Qingxuan is always the one in control, and for once she’s making absolutely no move to redirect He Xuan’s attention from the movie. They’re more than halfway through it now, He Xuan’s chance to clear her debt slipping away with every minute that ticks by.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

He Xuan excuses herself to go to the bathroom, sliding close the door to Shi Qingxuan’s little en suite. She flicks on the light and stares at herself in the mirror, the touch of make-up she applied to complete the ensemble she’s wearing under her sweatpants and jumper already slightly smudged. She dabs at it, trying to reason with herself.

Hua Cheng was right; He Xuan only ever does what Shi Qingxuan wants. She’s a glorified service top, submitting herself to Shi Qingxuan’s every whim. She never truly takes control.

He Xuan grips the side of the basin, glaring at the drain as if its cavernous darkness might reveal how to get over her anxiety.

She’s not familiar with anxiety. She hardly knows how it feels until she’s with Shi Qingxuan.

That’s just love, she supposes. It makes you feel things you’re not used to.

He Xuan shakes herself and uses the bathroom. When she gets out, Shi Qingxuan is on her phone, scrolling idly while she waits with the movie paused. She’s switched on the lamp on her nightstand, comparing the colour of some thread in her hand to whatever it is she’s looking at on her phone. She’s still got TaoTao lodged under her arm, his face squashed and his tentacles splayed over her lap.

He Xuan takes a deep breath. It’s now or never.

She strips her sweatpants and jumper with absolutely no preamble. Shi Qingxuan glances up in time to see He Xuan crawling back onto the bed. Her eyes rake shamelessly over He Xuan’s lingerie; at the heavy drop of her breasts in the soft mesh, angled perfectly for Shi Qingxuan to get a good look. She bites her lip, putting her phone upside-down on the nightstand, which means it’s been put on silent.

He Xuan almost feels bad for TaoTao as he gets unceremoniously dumped on the floor, face-down as if he shouldn’t see something so indecent.

“Is jiejie putting on a show for me?” Shi Qingxuan purrs, her hands already reaching out to touch and caress, palming at the fine fabric of He Xuan’s suspenders.

“Shut up,” He Xuan warns, shifting forward a little more.

“Why? I like it. This looks beautiful on you.”

He Xuan blushes, wishing her hair was down from its customary ponytail so that she could hide her face.

But she won’t let Shi Qingxuan’s effortless flattery get the better of her. She has to control the situation on her own terms, rather than because Shi Qingxuan wants to be pampered. If she likes it so much when He Xuan takes charge, then He Xuan will show her just how well she can rise to the occasion.

The sheets drag as He Xuan moves nearer, her knee placed between Shi Qingxuan’s legs, but not close enough to touch her. She leans in for a kiss, Shi Qingxuan’s breath already hot and erratic against her lips, sticky-sweet with pink wine and want.

He Xuan draws back without letting them properly meet. Shi Qingxuan whines quietly, lifting up from the pillows, her eyes fluttering open in the yellow lamplight.

“Don’t leave me hanging, He-jie,” she whispers, and the hoarse, worn-out edge to her voice has He Xuan suppressing a shiver, her thighs clenching involuntarily.

They’ve barely started and Shi Qingxuan is already desperate for it. Maybe she has been this whole time, but was waiting for He Xuan to initiate for once. It almost as if she knows it has to be He Xuan that does it tonight.

“Open your mouth,” He Xuan says.

Shi Qingxuan blinks once, and then obeys, her lips forming a perfect O. He Xuan slides two fingers inside, pressing down onto the pad of Shi Qingxuan’s tongue. Saliva pools around them, and Shi Qingxuan instinctively closes her mouth, not breaking eye contact with He Xuan as she sucks her fingers keenly, leaving a messy smear on her skin.

He Xuan dips in further, until she brushes the back of Shi Qingxuan’s throat. Shi Qingxuan gags, but doesn’t stop.

He Xuan watches, boldly fixated on the enthusiasm in which Shi Qingxuan yields to her commands. She seems to be enjoying being pliant and submissive, opening her mouth just because He Xuan told her to.

It makes He Xuan wonder just how far she could take this, and just what Shi Qingxuan is willing to do if she so much as asks.

Is it really going to be this easy?

No, of course it isn’t.

Shi Qingxuan moans faintly around He Xuan’s fingers, still refusing to break eye contact. Arousal flares within He Xuan, and she finds herself too readily picked apart, naturally undone by Shi Qingxuan’s relentless eagerness. She always wants it so much, and He Xuan is forever compelled to give it to her; whatever she wants.

He Xuan adjusts her position on the bed. Sitting slightly above, her long ponytail loops over her shoulder, down to the soft curve of Shi Qingxuan’s breasts. They heave with the effort she’s putting into sucking He Xuan’s fingers, and He Xuan stares, already lowering her other hand to slip under Shi Qingxuan’s chemise.

However, Shi Qingxuan uses the opportunity of He Xuan’s distraction to bite down on her fingers. Not too hard, but enough to make He Xuan hiss and withdraw.  

“Tsk. What was that?”

Shi Qingxuan lifts a hand to wipe at the stray saliva on her chin. “Jie, I can fuck you properly, you know? Or do you want to fuck me first? Come on, don’t make me beg for it.”

Something sparks He Xuan at that word. Beg.

She’s never heard Shi Qingxuan beg before. Not truly. She’s whined and cried, asking to come, or asking He Xuan to stop teasing her. But she’s never begged for it.

Wordlessly, He Xuan leans over Shi Qingxuan and snags the green ribbon from her hair, setting free her thick curls. Shi Qingxuan starts to protest, but He Xuan silences her with a misdirecting kiss, tender enough to make her fold into it, her entire body relaxing.

Pulling away, He Xuan takes Shi Qingxuan’s wrists and starts to bind them with the ribbon.

From where she’s half-lying on the bed, Shi Qingxuan grins, feverishly thrilled when she understands what He Xuan is doing.

“Oh? Will I need a safeword for what jiejie has in mind for me?”

“Only if you use it seriously,” He Xuan says calmly. She yanks the ribbon tying Shi Qingxuan’s hands up over her head. “And whether or not you think I’ll adhere to it.”

Shi Qingxuan’s expression falters for a split second, but she’s quickly smiling again as He Xuan ties the ribbon to the bed frame. She tugs on it sharply to make sure it’s secure. It’s good quality silk, however, so she’s confident it won’t break too easily. Shi Qingxuan is strong, but He Xuan will wear her down soon enough.

“Isn’t that the point of a safeword, though?” Shi Qingxuan counters, also giving the ribbon an experimental tug as she slides against the sheets in order to be fully lying down. “What if my hands go numb?”

Fair enough, He Xuan thinks. She has tied the ribbon quite tightly, but it shouldn’t cause Shi Qingxuan any harm or discomfort 

“Fine, then,” He Xuan says. “But I won’t listen to anything else you say, so don’t abuse it just because you want to come.”

Shi Qingxuan’s eyes flash greedily at He Xuan’s words, and she nods her assent.

Satisfied, He Xuan sits back on her legs to admire her handiwork, contemplating the scene before her.

In her movements, Shi Qingxuan has dislodged her chemise, exposing her stomach and the underside of her breasts. Her body curves beautifully, her hair pooling over the pillows. It seems she was not expecting to be tied to the bed, but she’s taking it in her stride, as she does with all things. When she catches He Xuan staring, her smile widens.

“Does jiejie like me all strung up and helpless? I bet you’ve wanted to do this for a while.”

Seeing her like this, He Xuan can’t explain why she didn’t think of tying Shi Qingxuan up before. With how much she adores to be edged and teased, it seems as though their activities logically should have progressed to this by now. 

But He Xuan has never dared let her imagination run wild when it comes to Shi Qingxuan. She’s only ever done as she’s asked. 

She trails her fingers to the pale, supple skin of Shi Qingxuan’s breasts, her mind starting to wander.

“Oh, how about ‘black’?” 

Shi Qingxuan interrupts whatever lewd train of thought making its way to He Xuan’s brain. She’s taken things this far, but she doesn’t actually know where to start yet. It’s like having every dessert option brought to her at once, and now she has to choose what to have first.

He Xuan’s hand pauses, just a fraction beneath the fabric of the chemise.

“You’re so childish,” she says.

Shi Qingxuan giggles. “But you won’t listen to anything I say, so it has to be something stupid like that. Oh, maybe I can challenge myself not to say anything at all. If you want me to beg, you gotta work for it.”

“As you like,” He Xuan concedes, schooling her expression, hardly perturbed by such a statement. She will make Shi Qingxuan beg. “But, like I said, don’t use it if you don’t mean it.”

Abruptly, He Xuan briefly gets off to remove Shi Qingxuan’s pyjamas pants, throwing them carelessly to the floor. She’s had enough banter

“Hey, those were expens – ah!

Finally, He Xuan pushes back the rest of Shi Qingxuan’s chemise, bending down to bite, hard, on her nipple. Shi Qingxuan gasps, whether from pain or pleasure, He Xuan isn’t sure, but the nipple pebbles in her mouth all the same. She tongues at it, palming Shi Qingxuan’s breast while she rolls her other nipple between her fingers. Shi Qingxuan’s head tilts back, her hips jutting upwards as much as He Xuan’s returned weight on top of her will allow.

He Xuan repositions so she’s sitting on one of Shi Qingxuan’s thighs. She grinds down while she teases Shi Qingxuan’s nipples, leaving bright, red marks all over her chest as she goes.

Shi Qingxuan moans as she feels He Xuan’s slick against her thigh through the lace of her underwear, and she raises her leg to add further pressure.

Momentarily hazy, He Xuan stops her ministrations, anchoring her hands on Shi Qingxuan’s waist to grind down harder, feeling that heady, exhilarating pulse.

Shi Qingxuan laughs airily. “You can sit on my face if you want.”

At once, He Xuan grits her teeth and stills, panting slightly from getting so rapidly carried away. She can’t come so soon, or Shi Qingxuan’s begging won’t be nearly as rewarding.

She’s not in control yet.

He Xuan looms over Shi Qingxuan to kiss her, forcing herself to calm her racing heart. She wraps a hand around Shi Qingxuan’s neck in the process, revelling in the way Shi Qingxuan’s breath hitches from the sudden tension. She kisses back fiercely, her tongue snaking across He Xuan’s lips.

“You don’t have to do it like this,” she murmurs, and He Xuan immediately applies more pressure, choking Shi Qingxuan enough so that her next words are broken and airy. “Don’t I make you feel good, jie? I know you like using my body however you want.”

He Xuan’s fingers tighten even further, and Shi Qingxuan’s mouth parts in a silent whimper, her breath completely stripped. But her gaze does not falter, locking onto He Xuan’s eyes with keen desire.

He Xuan lifts herself off Shi Qingxuan. Her right hand free, she lowers it between Shi Qingxuan’s legs, slipping past her panties.

“Ahh, don’t be a tease, alright?”

Shi Qingxuan’s voice is weak, but the words are clear enough. He Xuan isn’t using all her strength, but she’s still impressed at how much Shi Qingxuan can take without passing out. It’s hot, but He Xuan is still lacking that distinct feeling of control.

She slides two fingers against Shi Qingxuan’s folds, slipping one inside her to feel how wet she is. Shi Qingxuan sighs, and if she’s gasping for air, she doesn’t show it, though her cheeks and neck are flushed.

Taking pity, He Xuan lets go, gripping the bedframe for support instead. Shi Qingxuan inhales calmly, and a soft, blissed-out moan follows as He Xuan rubs a thumb over her clit. Shi Qingxuan squirms, angling her hips so that she might get He Xuan’s finger deeper inside her. Expecting this, He Xuan removes her hand completely, letting the band of her panties snap suddenly against her skin.

Shi Qingxuan whines, leaning up for a kiss instead, as if it might be adequate enough to replace the sensation of He Xuan’s fingers.

“You’re cruel. If you’re not going to fuck me, then sit on my face or something. Let me taste you, jiejie.”

A ripple. He Xuan bites down on Shi Qingxuan’s lip to punish her.

“Ah,” Shi Qingxuan hisses and pulls away, sucking on her bruised lip. “Don’t you want me to make you feel good? You’ve got me all tied up, but you’re not even using me. Really, how mean can you be?”

Heat swirls in He Xuan’s belly as her eyes flick over Shi Qingxuan’s lips, red and swollen and glistening with their last kiss. The idea is… sorely tempting, but He Xuan closes her legs to the thought of it. She wants Shi Qingxuan to fall apart first; wants her sweaty and overstimulated and crying. She wants her to use that safeword she thought was so necessary.

“You’re talking a lot for someone who just challenged herself to shut up,” He Xuan retorts.

Shi Qingxuan laughs. “I can’t help it! I’m not begging, though, am I? Because I know that’s what you really want.”

Despite all the times He Xuan has demanded Shi Qingxuan to shut up, she can’t deny she wants to hear every filthy word that comes out of her mouth for this. She wants her writhing and pleading until she’s so worked up she can’t speak of her own accord. Fucked into silence, completely at He Xuan’s mercy.

So, she gets to work.

He Xuan returns to Shi Qingxuan’s nipples for a while longer, flicking and biting them until they’re red and aching and Shi Qingxuan is gasping in pain more than pleasure. But He Xuan knows she enjoys a fraction of pain, so she keeps going until Shi Qingxuan begins to wriggle in a way that means it really is too much. She’ll never ask He Xuan to stop; she won’t beg for anything, but her body movements give her away all the same. And He Xuan isn’t truly that cruel.

She crawls back over her, kissing her way up Shi Qingxuan’s chest until she finds her neck, her jaw, her lips. Shi Qingxuan chases the light kisses, her face already a little damp with sweat.

He Xuan prods at her mouth with her fingers again, silently seeking entrance. Shi Qingxuan sucks on them obediently; two fingers, then three. He Xuan fucks her mouth until drool starts to seep and trail down her chin, dotting the pillows underneath her.

Shi Qingxuan moans keenly, her hips jutting upwards to seek some kind of friction against He Xuan’s body. But He Xuan is positioned too high for her to reach with any kind of satisfaction. Her brow furrows with frustration, but she does not break eye contact as He Xuan continues to fuck her mouth with her fingers, brushing the back of her throat as her tongue works tirelessly to keep He Xuan’s fingers nice and wet.

He Xuan draws them out quickly, and immediately moves her hand between Shi Qingxuan’s thighs. Shi Qingxuan’s eyes widen with anticipation, and He Xuan is almost tempted to fuck her properly, since she wants it so bad. But she knows she can have Shi Qingxuan wanting it even more than this.

Shi Qingxuan is so wet now that there was almost no point in sucking He Xuan’s fingers. He Xuan yanks her panties down, biting back a whimper of her own at the way Shi Qingxuan easily gives into the touch of her hand.

Shi Qingxuan moans, tugging at the bonds as He Xuan refuses to touch her with the pressure she desires. She uses two fingers to tease her, spreading her folds and dipping into her slick heat, but never quite taking the edge off.

“He-jie, please,” Shi Qingxuan utters, her voice deep and gravelly.

She’s not begging. Not quite. He Xuan wants her to beg.

She withdraws her hand and lies herself down between Shi Qingxuan’s legs, shucking away her underwear and pressing gentle, almost tender kisses to her inner thighs. Shi Qingxuan looks down longingly. She’s a mess already, her mascara smudged and drool smeared across her chin. Her hair frames her face beautifully.

He Xuan zones out and takes her time here, because she knows by now what really gets Shi Qingxuan off, and this tends to only edge her. She tongues small, thoughtless licks against Shi Qingxuan’s clit; enough for her to feel it, but not enough to provide much relief. Shi Qingxuan fidgets, panting erratically, her breathing becoming wilder and wilder as He Xuan refuses to completely ease her arousal. He Xuan mouths at her lazily, waiting for her to start pleading.

But she doesn’t. He Xuan can feel that she’s close, could probably come on just one finger, but she doesn’t beg for it. Her eyes glazed over, Shi Qingxuan stares at the ceiling, appearing barely coherent. He Xuan might have mistaken her for having come already if it wasn’t for the persistent crease between her eyebrows.

Taking pity, He Xuan obliges a single finger, inserting it right to the knuckle.

Shi Qingxuan yelps, high-pitched and filthy, the bed creaking as she pulls helplessly at the ribbon, instinctively wanting to put her own hands to use.

He Xuan works her way in and out of Shi Qingxuan slowly, agonisingly, still tonguing at her clit. It’s swollen and painful, quivering under He Xuan’s half-hearted attention.

The entire time, He Xuan has been holding back on her own desire. She didn’t realise the implications involved in trying to break Shi Qingxuan like this. She’s soaked through her fancy new underwear, her thighs glossy and debauched with her own want. She’s always been proud of her self-restraint, but this is proving a bit much even for her. Shi Qingxuan’s resolve is fiercer than she anticipated.

She stops, abating her tongue and removing her finger. Shi Qingxuan pitches woefully at the departure, her eyes wandering hazily to where He Xuan is moving.

She gets off the bed and removes her underwear, tossing it to the floor. Shi Qingxuan watches greedily, licking her lips, taking in He Xuan’s form as she returns to the bed.

“Sit up,” she says.

Shi Qingxuan does, turning her body to the side to accommodate her hands, which are still tied to the headboard. Her eyes are impossibly dark as she stares as He Xuan, wondering what will happen next.

“The less you talk, the longer it will take for you to come,” He Xuan tells her plainly.

Shi Qingxuan smiles, a little too self-satisfied for He Xuan’s liking. “I’m not going to give in to your little game. I’m quite enjoying myself, you know.”

“Seems like it,” He Xuan comments idly.

She shifts next to Shi Qingxuan on the bed, leaning over to kiss her, just once.

Then, she settles herself against the headboard and parts her legs, lowering a hand in between to rub at her own clit. Shi Qingxuan’s expression turns from bemused and cheeky to utterly horrified.

“J-jiejie, what?! Let me!”

She yanks uselessly at the silk ribbon, only able to watch as He Xuan fingers herself. She tilts her head back against the pillows to look at Shi Qingxuan as she does so, admiring her curves framed in the yellow light, and the way her nipples poke out, still hard, from beneath her pink chemise. He Xuan should have taken it off before she tied Shi Qingxuan’s hands to the bed, but it’s somewhat more erotic this way, not quite being able to see her breasts properly.

“He-jie, please,” Shi Qingxuan murmurs; begs. The tone of her voice is honeyed and desperate, moans trailing after every word. He Xuan closes her eyes to listen, slipping another finger inside herself. “Please, I can do it. Don’t you like the way I do it? I’m good to you, aren’t I? Isn’t your Qingxuan good to you?”

He Xuan feels her walls tighten as she deepens her fingers, hooking her arm to get the angle just right. Her body tingles with pleasure; with the thrilling knowledge that this is what makes Shi Qingxuan yield control.

She’s not the vocal type, but a sigh escapes her, and she hears Shi Qingxuan whine in response, the bed creaking at her protestations to the ribbon.

The soft whimpers are enough to tip He Xuan over the edge, every seam of her desire pulling her apart. She works herself faster, opening her eyes to watch Shi Qingxuan, whose expression is the perfect picture of agonised ecstasy. She’s leaning forward, breasts squashed against her restrained arms, absolutely despairing to get any kind of attention from He Xuan.

He Xuan obliges her, shifting over to receive hot, yearning kisses. She opens her mouth against Shi Qingxuan’s lips, the heat inside her building like a pyre. Shi Qingxuan bites at her lips and ears and jawline, messy and uncoordinated in her attempt to relieve her own arousal, while also adding to He Xuan’s. She’s frustrated to have to witness He Xuan build to climax without her help.

“Ah, don’t come, jiejie.” Her voice is deep and raspy, the same way it is when she tells He Xuan to do the opposite. “Let me do it. I want to be the one that makes you come.”

He Xuan moans; loudly. She can’t stop herself, and Shi Qingxuan’s eyes light up wickedly.

She’s changing tactics. She works tirelessly for He Xuan to make sounds like that, and doesn’t always succeed. But it’s happening almost effortlessly now, all because of what she’s saying.

He Xuan wanted her begging, and she is, but she’s gone the wrong way about it. As her orgasm flickers closer, He Xuan realises her mistake too late.

“Black.”

“Fuck, Qingxuan…”

“Black. Jiejie, you have to stop. Those are the rules.”

He Xuan forces her fingers to a stop, leaving them buried inside her for a moment. She’s made a mess on the sheets, her thighs shining in the low lamplight. Her chest heaves as she takes a much-needed breath, quivering as the build-up dwindles, guttering out like a doused flame.

“Sit on my face.”

He Xuan clenches her teeth. “No.”

Shi Qingxuan smirks. “Mm, you’re so close, though. I bet I could finish you with just my tongue.”

Too much talking. Time to properly take charge.

Calming down, He Xuan eases out of herself and turns to face Shi Qingxuan fully. She grabs her chin with one hand, prying her mouth open. He Xuan slips her slick-soaked fingers inside, fucking into Shi Qingxuan’s mouth with earnest.

Shi Qingxuan rasps around them, her tongue curling between He Xuan’s fingers, licking them clean. When He Xuan is satisfied, she moves the fingers between Shi Qingxuan’s legs, palming over her clit.

Shi Qingxuan quivers, her wrists struggling as she tries to reposition herself. He Xuan adjusts so that Shi Qingxuan can lie down again, her hands back over her head and her body laid bare. He Xuan looms over her, kissing her neck and shoulders, rubbing circles over her clit until she’s panting and moaning.

It’s a sweet sound, despite He Xuan’s original temptation to gag her. It stirs something feral within her, but something warm as well. Something a little bit like love.

Even if Shi Qingxuan says no after tonight, at least He Xuan can have this.

She lowers her hand some more, slipping two fingers inside Shi Qingxuan easily. Shi Qingxuan’s hips rise for a moment, a soundless cry on her lips. She’s drenched with sweat and trembling, completely undone by He Xuan’s relentless teasing. He Xuan fucks her steadily, slowly, going as deep as her fingers allow.

Shi Qingxuan moans breathily in time with it, her eyes closed, her brow relaxed. He Xuan almost feels bad for her merciless teasing before. Seeing Shi Qingxuan like this is arguably more rewarding, but she knows Shi Qingxuan likes to be played with first. Her orgasms are better that way, she says.

Fingers never tiring, He Xuan drops between Shi Qingxuan’s legs to use her tongue.

Here, Shi Qingxuan almost goes completely silent, her sporadic moans gasping out with no rhythm, except perhaps when He Xuan sucks on her clit in just the right way. He Xuan lends her ear to the sounds for an indication of what Shi Qingxuan wants her to do, but just as equally listens to her silences, for they tend to mean much more.

Then, begging. Finally, she’s begging.

“Oh, my god, jiejie, I’m so close. Please… fuck. Please, you have to stop or I’m going to –”

No safeword, so He Xuan doesn’t stop. She evens out her pace, focusing on Shi Qingxuan’s clit with her other hand now because she knows Shi Qingxuan comes better this way, elbows pressed deep into the mattress to steady herself.

“Jie… jie, please stop. Hnng, yes, yes. Fuck, jie, wait. I’m –”

He Xuan feels, rather than hears, Shi Qingxuan’s orgasm. Her walls tighten around her fingers, and Shi Qingxuan goes dead quiet. For all her jabbering, she comes completely silently, utterly overwhelmed by the sensation. He Xuan keeps going, neither slowing nor speeding up, knowing exactly how to make it perfect.

Then, Shi Qingxuan spasms and inhales, like someone just startled her awake.

“Ah, fuck. Okay. Fuck, jie. I’m done.”

He Xuan takes out her fingers carefully, pressing a final kiss to Shi Qingxuan’s thigh before clambering back over her. She wipes her mouth before receiving a kiss, aware of the smile on her face. Shi Qingxuan looks dazed and witless, her long hair sticking to her face.

She blinks several times to restore her coherency, frowning slightly.

“Untie me,” she demands. “What the fuck, you weren’t supposed to make me come already. It was meant to be you first.”

“I didn’t want to give you the satisfaction,” He Xuan says mildly, leaning over to untie the ribbon. Shi Qingxuan has pulled on it so much that the knot is impossibly tight, so He Xuan gets up to get a pair of sewing scissors from the desk.

“Aw, no! This is my favourite ribbon,” Shi Qingxuan complains when she sees the scissors.

He Xuan smirks, pausing over Shi Qingxuan with a harsh glint in her eyes. “Oh? Would you like me to keep you here forever, then?”

She points the scissors at Shi Qingxuan, pressing the cold blade against her chest. Shi Qingxuan shivers, and something in her expression tells He Xuan that she might be tempted to agree to such terms. She really is too shameless.

But He Xuan raises the scissors and cuts neatly through the ribbon, unwinding Shi Qingxuan’s wrists. Shi Qingxuan sits up, rubbing the red marks on her skin and looking at the ribbon forlornly.

“I’ll buy you another one,” He Xuan says.

“Fine, but if you’re going to tie me up again, use something else. I’ll buy handcuffs, even. At this rate, I’ll need a bigger box for our toys. Now, come here. Seriously, jiejie, I’m actually so angry.”

He Xuan complies, settling herself over Shi Qingxuan’s thighs and smirking darkly. “Really? You didn’t seem that angry to me.”

Shi Qingxuan runs her hands up He Xuan’s curves, before removing her bra and pinching her unpierced nipple. He Xuan doesn’t react, bending low to kiss Shi Qingxuan, dipping her tongue lazily. Shi Qingxuan wastes no time in lowering her hand to press her fingers into He Xuan, needing no prep considering how wet she already is. 

One, then two, and He Xuan gasps against her mouth, her ice-cold composure momentarily undone.

“You hardly ever make those kinds of sounds for me, He-jie,” Shi Qingxuan murmurs, her lashes fluttering low as she glances down to where they’re connected. “I want to hear it when I make you feel good. Maybe I should beg like that more often? You liked it so much…”

He Xuan closes her eyes, rocking her hips against Shi Qingxuan’s fingers, her elusive orgasm already spiralling back up within her.

“Does jiejie want to come for me?”

“Shut up,” He Xuan snaps.

Shi Qingxuan laughs, manoeuvring her other hand to palm at He Xuan’s clit. He Xuan moans, her grip on the headboard tightening, her resolve crumbling in the seconds it’s taken Shi Qingxuan to build her back up.

White heat swirls all the way to her head, making her dizzy. Her breathing comes out frantic, broken by moans she can’t bite back.

“Faster...”

Shi Qingxuan smiles beautifully, and the breath is almost entirely knocked out of He Xuan at the sight of it. Shi Qingxuan doesn’t need to choke her to render her speechless.

“You want to come? That’s too bad. What if I want to hear you beg for it first? It’s only fair, jiejie. You were so mean to me.”

Shi Qingxuan flicks her wrist, driving her fingers impossibly deeper. He Xuan whines and her back arches, her legs trembling to keep her supported. Shi Qingxuan bites her nipple, tonguing at it until it hardens around the gold piercing.

He Xuan’s vision blurs, and it’s here she realises that maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t want control over Shi Qingxuan. The bet seems so pointless and far away now; so utterly meaningless. He Xuan has always been at Shi Qingxuan’s mercy, and… maybe that’s a good thing. 

Nothing needs to be different as long as it means she gets to feel like this.

Shi Qingxuan keeps fucking her, never quite bringing her all the way. She alternates between her fingers and her thumb on He Xuan’s clit, removing them every now and then to dip them into He Xuan’s mouth, dragging her jaw down so that she might meet Shi Qingxuan’s eyes; that golden kind of brown that contacts can’t imitate. Like black tea with a little bit of honey.

He Xuan’s moans are ragged and desperate as she crumbles completely. She’s just Shi Qingxuan’s plaything, rocking up and down on her fingers like it’s all she’s good for.

She curves low, kissing Shi Qingxuan fiercely in the hope to crest the hill of her orgasm, but to no avail. Shi Qingxuan only slows her fingers, curling them to make He Xuan whimper. They pulse inside her, well-trained to know every one of her weaknesses.

“Please… Qingxuan, it’s too much. Let me come. I’m –”

“You’re what?” Shi Qingxuan catches quickly onto the last thread of the sentence, eager to unspool it and fashion it into something wonderful.

He Xuan exhales. “I’m begging you.”

Shi Qingxuan takes her free hand and caresses the planes of He Xuan’s body, almost lovingly, admiring her smooth, warm skin. She lingers on the little birthmark on He Xuan’s right hip, which she insists looks a bit like a fish.

“I could keep you here forever,” she whispers. “You’re so beautiful, He-jie. I should be the one to tie you up next time.”

The heat blazes through He Xuan’s chest at this, but she doesn’t have enough of her mind left to consider what that means. She’s hazy and tired, her clit swollen and needy. She’s never gone this long before and the edging is tearing at her frayed and withered seams.

Shi Qingxuan crooks her fingers again, and He Xuan gasps.

“Please…”

“Say it.”

“No.”

“Don’t you want to come?”

Shi Qingxuan removes her fingers entirely, sliding them between He Xuan’s folds teasingly.

“Fuck…”

“Say it.”

He Xuan falls apart.

“Black. Fuck, Qingxuan. Black.”

Shi Qingxuan’s smile is a cruelty all its own; an indicator that He Xuan has lost at her own game. She kisses it away, biting down on Shi Qingxuan’s lip until she nearly draws blood.

Shi Qingxuan flips them around mid-kiss, pressing He Xuan into the pillows and leaving her breathless, allowing her legs to finally rest. Shi Qingxuan slides her fingers back inside her and continues at a brutal pace, shimmying down so she can use her mouth as well. He Xuan claws at the sheets, her eyes glazing over.

She’s not even aware of the sounds she’s making, if she’s making any at all. She’s given up all pretences now, her mind drowning with desire. She can barely tell what Shi Qingxuan is doing. All she knows is that –

He Xuan’s eyes roll to the back of her head as the orgasm arrests her body. It totally consumes her, and she comes for so long she’s dizzy by the time it’s over, limp and panting, Shi Qingxuan’s fuzzy pink blanket sticking to her back.

Shi Qingxuan sits on top of her, kissing her firmly. He Xuan can taste herself on her mouth, and runs her tongue over Shi Qingxuan’s lips, still gasping.

“You see, isn’t it better when I do it?”

He Xuan closes her eyes, covering her face with her hands. Her body momentarily shakes with aftershocks, and then she lies still. Shi Qingxuan gets off and drops to the bed next to her, the strawberry scent of her shampoo catching in the air above them.

They remain quiet for several minutes, calming down. The television buzzes lightly in the background, still paused on the movie they abandoned.

Absently, as if she’s half asleep and half a world away, He Xuan feels Shi Qingxuan leave the bed to use the bathroom. When she comes back, she kisses He Xuan.

He Xuan opens her eyes and lowers her hands.

Shi Qingxuan is hovering over her, a stunning smile on her face. She always acts like she’s won some type of award for giving He Xuan an orgasm, and He Xuan doesn’t have the heart to explain how easy it is when it’s Shi Qingxuan giving it to her.

By now, He Xuan is usually packing up to go home. But she’s still here, because she hasn’t asked her question yet, and seeing how beautiful Shi Qingxuan is looking down at her, she wonders why she never stays the night. 

How does she stand to leave her every single time?

“You know, that was fun, and... I think it might be too late, but I want you to ask anyway,” Shi Qingxuan says quietly.

He Xuan stares, her heart thudding like it’s been electric-shocked.

“What?”

Shi Qingxuan’s smile widens, her eyes sparkling. “I know about the bet you made with Hua Cheng.”

“How do you know about it?” He Xuan demands, briefly raising her head with indignation.

“Xie Lian told me. He and Hua Cheng confessed to each other a few days ago; before the bet was made.”

He Xuan lies in silence, putting all of these things together slowly in order to prevent her temper from getting the better of her. At least for now, since Hua Cheng isn’t within curb-stomping distance.

“So, there was no chance of me winning?” she concludes.

Shi Qingxuan reaches out and tucks a few stray hairs behind He Xuan’s ear. “I’m afraid not.”

He Xuan sighs. She’s going to kill Hua Cheng.

“My answer is yes, by the way," Shi Qingxuan adds. “I'm all-in, but I still want to hear you ask.”

He Xuan looks at her. Somehow, knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. Her heart is skittering like a loose, forgotten sidewalk stone.

“Why is it ‘yes’?” she asks instead.

“Because I love you, jie. You’re my best friend.”

Shi Qingxuan says ‘I love you’ to He Xuan every chance she gets, but He Xuan thought it was the kind of ‘I love you’ that you might say to a pet, or a sister. The ‘thanks for driving me to the airport, I love you!’ kind of ‘I love you’. 

Not the kind that Shi Qingxuan is saying right now, as if she’s always said it like that, and He Xuan simply didn’t hear her properly; or hadn’t realised she needed to be listening to know what it meant.

“I thought you just like the way I fuck you,” He Xuan insists, because it’s a little hard for her to believe that someone as amazing as Shi Qingxuan could love her.

Shi Qingxuan laughs her bright, sing-song laugh. The one that never fails to make He Xuan smile.

“I do! I love it! I love you. The sex was only ever a bonus.”

“Oh.”

He Xuan feels a little bit stupid, and a little bit vulnerable. She’s so bad at talking about her feelings that even Shi Qingxuan can’t make it simple for her.

But it’s a near enough thing.

She’s always been able to talk to Shi Qingxuan about anything, and she’s generally felt safe to do so. That in itself is a fucking miracle, given He Xuan’s tendency to push people away at the first sign of emotion, whether hers or theirs. She was never able to do that with Shi Qingxuan, and that wasn’t for lack of trying. Though He Xuan believes that’s partially due to the fact that Shi Qingxuan wouldn’t let her.

She’s so clingy… and annoying… and kind… and caring…

She –

“Will you go out with me?”

Shi Qingxuan grins. “Yes.”

She drops to kiss He Xuan, very sweetly. The kind of kiss to close your eyes to.

He Xuan loses herself in it. Maybe not winning the bet isn’t so bad.

 

As it turns out, working for Hua Cheng in an ‘official capacity’ does indeed involve having one’s name on the books, but not in the way He Xuan was expecting. According to her bank records, she gets paid by a little hole-in-the-wall flower shop that barely breaks even each fiscal year. The pay is shit, of course, because the whole concept behind working for Hua Cheng is to pay off her debt to him, but he has to deposit something to make the job look legit, so He Xuan takes her measly salary and doesn’t complain.

Above her office, she can hear the tumultuous noise of the Gambling Den in full swing. Even in the middle of the day, there are people rolling dice and shuffling cards, betting away their money and lives. 

But it’s not as bad as He Xuan was led to believe. She has her own room with soundproofing and a new computer. There’s even a lock on the office door to stop other employees from barging in as soon as something goes wrong, because apparently, if Hua Cheng is not available, then He Xuan is second-in-command. 

She’s already had to go upstairs several times to break up fights and ban people for cheating. It’s not what you’d call a relaxing job.

Not to mention, in the rare moments of the day she’s left undisturbed, Shi Qingxuan will regularly swing by on her way home from uni, sweet coffees in hand and gossip to dish.

She perches herself on He Xuan’s desk, bouncing her leg on her knee. It’s nearing the end of summer, so she’s got an oversized, knobbly cardigan over her floral-print dress. She looks so pretty, as always. He Xuan forces herself to focus on her work while Shi Qingxuan gazes pensively around the little office, taking in the fancy computer and filing cabinets full of the casino’s daily accounts. 

“I don’t like you having a job, jiejie. You have so little time for me,” she pouts, pausing her fidgeting. She sits back on the desk, letting her wavy ponytail droop to tickle He Xuan’s arm. “How am I supposed to go about my day without being able to nag you for attention?”

“I’d say you nag me about the same amount you always have,” He Xuan notes, not taking her eyes off the computer screen.

“Yeah, but you reply to me even less than you did before. It used to be sometimes, but now it’s not at all! Our WeChat looks like I’m having a conversation with myself. I’m so pitiful. I’m your poor, pitiful girlfriend.”

Shi Qingxuan bats her long eyelashes at He Xuan, her head lolling to the side. Her leg resumes its fussy bouncing when He Xuan doesn’t immediately answer.

“You didn’t have to say yes,” she says eventually.

Shi Qingxuan straightens up and spins around on the spot, sitting cross-legged to glare at He Xuan from the empty space on the desk. He Xuan kept an in-tray and an out-tray there when she first started working, but now that space is reserved for Shi Qingxuan to park her ass and be distracting. 

He Xuan once made the mistake of complaining to Xie Lian about it, until Xie Lian pointed out, “If you don’t want Qingxuan sitting there, then why do you give her the opportunity? If there’s nowhere for her to sit, then she won’t be able to distract you.”

After that, He Xuan decided it was best not to talk to Xie Lian about these things. He, like Hua Cheng, seems to see right through her. He Xuan is beginning to think her cold, unapproachable demeanour isn’t as people-proof as she’d hoped.

That, or maybe she’s lowered her guard too much around the people she talks to.

“And what would you have done if I didn’t say yes?” Shi Qingxuan retorts, crossing her arms in an impressive display of a spoiled child being told she can’t have a lollipop. “Just stay friends with benefits? That makes me even more sad.”

“Is there something wrong with that?” says He Xuan. “I thought you liked how things were.”

Shi Qingxuan uncrosses her arms. “I did! But you fuck me like you love me, jie. You couldn’t have done that shit indefinitely without getting something out of it.”

He Xuan finally looks up from her computer, meeting Shi Qingxuan’s glittering eyes. 

She wants to say, “I’m happy as long as you’re happy,” but she thinks it might not be right. She’s supposed to be going after what she wants; it’s not supposed to be about Shi Qingxuan all the time, even though He Xuan hardly knows how it can be any other way. There’s Shi Qingxuan, and then there’s everyone else.

“As long as I’m with you, I get something out of it,” she says instead.

Shi Qingxuan blinks, as if startled, and then she smiles beautifully. 

“Aw, jie! Stop it, you’re making me blush so much. Is this what dating you is really going to be like? I can’t possibly take it. There’s a totally new side to you that I get to fall in love with! I didn’t think I had room in my heart for more of you.”

Shi Qingxuan slides off the desk and into He Xuan’s lap, straddling her comfortably. He Xuan steadies her with her arms, curling a finger around a lock of Shi Qingxuan’s hair. She tugs it, making Shi Qingxuan’s head tilt back a bit.

“Stop complaining,” she admonishes tonelessly. “Aren’t you satisfied?”

Shi Qingxuan’s smile twists into something mischievous, and she bridges the short gap between them on the chair, nosing at He Xuan’s neck and pressing closer.

“You should know by now that I’m never satisfied,” Shi Qingxuan murmurs.

He Xuan is very thankful to have a lock on her door.