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your presence is a present

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Right. He could do this. Just walk up to Mu Qing, tell him he’s in love with him, and then give him the chocolates. Easy. Feng Xin knew Mu Qing would at least appreciate the chocolates. He wasn’t sure how well he’d react to the other part, but at this point Mu Qing would have to either be blind or stupid to not realize his feelings, right? Feng Xin took a deep breath. He’d been stalling for fuck knows how long, and if he didn’t do it soon (like, right now) he knew he was never going to do it.

He ventured into the kitchen and came to an abrupt halt when he found Mu Qing sitting at the table on his phone, an empty plate in front of him. He was pretty sure he was in some kind of alternate universe because Mu Qing never ate breakfast. He checked his phone. Oh, it was lunchtime already. When did that happen?

“So you are alive,” Mu Qing greeted him flatly without even looking away from his phone.

“Here,” he thrust the box of chocolates at Mu Qing.

Mu Qing finally looked up but didn’t take it, eyes narrowed. “What is it?” It didn’t sound like a question. So far so good. He wasn’t even hitting him. Yet.

“It’s for, um,” Feng Xin scratched the back of his neck. “It’s for Valentine’s Day.” 

Mu Qing eyed it with suspicion. “Okay and?”

“It’s for y—” He couldn’t say it out loud! He coughed. Wasn’t Mu Qing supposed to be smart? The man in question raised an eyebrow at him, clearly waiting for him to get on with it. He’d gotten this far, he had to push forward. There’s no way he could fuck this up. “It’s for Jian Lan!” he blurted out.


“Oh.” Mu Qing blinked, his face was carefully blank. “You guys got back together?” 

No! He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d seen her! “Yes,” he said, because he was a certified idiot. Feng Xin wanted to crawl into a hole and lay there for a few hours. Or maybe forever. It didn’t really make a difference at this point.

Mu Qing nodded slowly but didn’t say anything.

“So um,” Feng Xin didn’t know why he was still talking, “what do you think? Is it okay? You know, for Jian Lan?” Maybe he should just move and start a new life somewhere else.

Mu Qing gave him a weird look, which, okay he probably deserved that. “How should I know what she’d like?”

Feng Xin forced out a laugh. “Right! Good point. That’s—you’re so smart.” He clapped him on the shoulder. That was a bro thing to do, right? Mu Qing pointedly looked at Feng Xin’s hand still resting on him. He yanked his arm back and cleared his throat. “Anyway, I’ll just go, um, give this to her then. So yeah. Bye.”

And for the record, he did not flee . He was too calm and collected for that because he was a competent adult, thank you very much. He just walked out of the apartment. Very quickly. Because he was, you know, a competent adult.

Feng Xin was hunched over Xie Lian’s tiny kitchen table, face buried in his arms. Xie Lian patted him on the back because he was a good friend like that. The absolute best. 

“So you told him you were back together with your ex and that the gift that was supposed to be for him was for her. And then you ran away.” And how the best person ever could be dating the worst person ever he had no idea (and okay, maybe that was an exaggeration, but Feng Xin felt like his current frustration was justified).

Feng Xin lifted his head. “I did not run away!” he protested indignantly.

“Sorry, my bad.” Hua Cheng didn’t look at all sorry. That fucker.

Xie Lian hummed. “So what will you do now?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Feng Xin groaned. “I can’t go back with it! I already told him I was going to give this to Jian Lan, and I’ll look stupid if I come back with it.”

“You could always tell him the truth,” Xie Lian suggested. 

Feng Xin bolted upright in his seat. “Fuck no! He’ll laugh in my face. I’ll just—wait, could I leave this here? I’ll come back to get it later, but I just don’t have anything to hide it in right now,” he pleaded.

“Of course, but…” Xie Lian trailed off.

“But what?”

Xie Lian hesitated. “I still think you should talk to him.”

He probably should. But he really didn’t want to. Because what if Mu Qing really did laugh in his face? Or worse, was disgusted and moved out and never talked to him again? Mu Qing was a pain in the ass, but he was still his best friend. He sighed, “I’ll think about it.”

Mu Qing started when he heard the door unlock. Was Feng Xin back already? It hadn’t even been an hour. Surely he had something better planned for him and Jian Lan than….than whatever just happened. Did he forget something?

Feng Xin walked in, kicking off his shoes before collapsing in the armchair and throwing an arm over his eyes. Mu Qing wasn’t sure what to do. Feng Xin didn’t have the box anymore, so Jian Lan must have accepted it. Of course she would, she took him back , he thought bitterly. Then why did Feng Xin look so...unsettled? 

Maybe they fought or maybe Jian Lan wanted something else, but that didn’t really seem like Jian Lan—she’d be happy with anything from Feng Xin unless—oh god, maybe she wanted to get married . Mu Qing really didn’t want to think about that, but he couldn’t get the idea out of his head. Then did this mean Feng Xin didn’t want to get married? But that didn’t make sense either. Maybe the idea of a wedding was just overwhelming? Or maybe Feng Xin was just really bad at proposing. He hadn’t even mentioned a ring, and who proposes without a ring anyway?

In the end, his curiosity won out. “So how did it go?” he asked, trying to sound as uninterested as possible.

Feng Xin grunted.

“I don’t speak idiot. Use your words,” Mu Qing rolled his eyes even though Feng Xin couldn’t see. Pity. He knew how much it annoyed him.

“It was fine, I guess,” Feng Xin relented, arm still slung over his face.

Mu Qing quirked an eyebrow. “You guess ?” he asked incredulously. “Did she not like them or something?”

 Feng Xin paused. “What?”

Oh for fuck’s sake, had he not just come back from giving them to her? How could one person be so forgetful? “The chocolates, you dumbass!”

“The chocolate?” 


Feng Xin sat up suddenly. “Oh, the chocolate ! That I got for Jian Lan. Who I’m dating.” Was he having a stroke? Mu Qing would be worried except for the fact that he was trying his hardest not to care. “Yes,” Feng Xin continued, “she, uh, she liked it a lot. The gift. That I gave her. Because it’s Valentine’s Day.” 

Mu Qing stared at him, unimpressed, but Feng Xin didn’t even notice. His gaze was traveling down to the blankets wrapped around Mu Qing. Feng Xin’s expression went a little funny, like he was trying to bite back a smile. What? Sue him, he was allowed to mope around after hearing Feng Xin was still in love with Jian Lian. He could feel the heat rising up the back of his neck and narrowed his eyes. “Is there something wrong with you?” he demanded.

“If there’s something wrong with anyone, it’s you,” Feng Xin bit back way too quickly for Mu Qing to believe him. 

“Whatever.” Mu Qing didn’t feel like dealing with this. “Shouldn’t you be spending the day with her?”

Feng Xin furrowed his brows, looking a little lost. Mu Qing could see the gears turning in his head and the exact moment he finally realized who he was talking about. What an idiot. “She, uh, she’s busy. Studying.”

“Is that why she didn’t get you anything?” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. 

“Sure, I guess,” Feng Xin shrugged. “It’s okay, though,” he added hastily when he noticed Mu Qing frowning. “Really. Anyway, I’m kinda tired. I think I’m just gonna go to my room.” And for the second time that day, Mu Qing was left alone, eyes following his retreating form and wondering what the hell was going on.


Mu Qing couldn’t figure out why it was bothering him so much. But for some reason, the fact that Jian Lan hadn’t given Feng Xin anything and then proceeded to leave him alone on Valentine’s Day wasn’t sitting right with him. Which is how he found himself walking across campus to her apartment in cold as shit weather when he could’ve been back on the couch underneath his nice, soft blankets and trying to ignore his feelings . But noooo, apparently he just really liked suffering because there was absolutely no other explanation for why he decided this was an okay idea.

He spotted Shi Qingxuan on the opposite side of the street, hand in hand with He Xuan. She was chattering on animatedly about fuck knows what to her girlfriend, who appeared unmoved save for the light dusting of pink on her nose and cheeks. But whether that was from the cold or whatever Shi Qingxuan was saying, Mu Qing didn’t know. He ducked his head and kept walking.

A few minutes later, he was standing near the entrance to her building, wondering how long he’d have to wait for someone to let him in. He might have forgotten about that part, and now he was just standing outside with his hands shoved in the pockets of his jacket because he’d completely forgotten his gloves like a dumbass and—oh shit, even if he did get inside, he had no clue which apartment was hers! Fuck, he really hadn’t thought this through. 

“Mu Qing? Is that you?” came a voice behind him. He turned to find Jian Lan approaching him, confusion written all over her face. Even he could admit Jian Lan was beautiful. And he knew enough about her to know she was kind as well. And Feng Xin was Feng Xin—a fucking dumbass but loyal to a fault. Mu Qing valiantly ignored the voice in his head adding that it probably didn’t hurt that Feng Xin was not completely terrible to look at too. No wonder they got back together.

Mu Qing pushed his thoughts aside and cleared his throat. “Jian Lan. I thought you were busy today.”

She tilted her head to the side, frowning. “Where’d you hear that?” 

“Feng Xin? He said that’s why you guys weren’t spending the day together?” 

If anything, Jian Lan looked even more lost. “Sorry?”

“You know,” Mu Qing forced himself to seem indifferent, “because it’s Valentine’s Day and all that.”

“I think I’m missing something here. We haven’t really spoken all that much recently.” 

That didn’t sound right, but she seemed genuinely confused. “I thought you two were back together though?”

“We’re not.” She paused before raising an eyebrow and questioning, “Is that what he told you?”

It was Mu Qing’s turn to be confused. Why would Feng Xin lie about that? Feng Xin could never get away with lying, he was terrible at it. After more than a decade of knowing him, Mu Qing could read Feng Xin like a book. A children’s book. But Jian Lan had no reason to lie to him either, so obviously something weird was going on.

“He didn’t give you, like, a gift earlier?”

Jian Lan shook her head. “I haven’t talked to him at all today, much less seen him. Are you sure it was supposed to be for me? What was it?”

“It was a box of chocolate,” he offered uncertainly. “He showed it to me earlier and when I asked him what it was for, he said it was for you. And then he left to give it to you.”

He tried not to fidget as she studied him, a thoughtful expression on her face. Eventually she nodded, seeming to have come to a conclusion. “Feng Xin did mention once that you really like chocolate.” She gave him what felt like was supposed to be a meaningful look except for the fact that it didn’t explain anything at all.

“Okay and?” he asked when she didn’t say anything else.

Jian Lan sighed but gave him a small smile. “I think you should talk to him.”

“What? Why?”

She shook her head, smiling to herself, and stepped forward to swipe into the building. She paused, looking back at him, and said, “Just talk to him.” And then she disappeared inside, leaving Mu Qing shivering outside in the cold, alone and confused.

Mu Qing locked the door behind him before shucking off his shoes.

“Is that you?” Feng Xin called from further inside the apartment.

Mu Qing rolled his eyes. “Who the fuck else were you expecting?” He neatly dodged the pillow Feng Xin threw at him and gave him a withering glare.

Feng Xin narrowed his eyes. “Give it back.” 

Mu Qing looked at the pillow on the floor. He looked back at Feng Xin. “No.”

“What?” Feng Xin looked unnecessarily outraged. “Mu Qing, just—”

He leaned against the wall and hoped Feng Xin could feel the judgment radiating from him. “If you wanted it, you shouldn’t have thrown it. Idiot. By the way, I just ran into Jian Lan,” he added casually like he hadn’t gone out specifically to talk to her. “She said some interesting things.”

As he processed these words, the annoyance drained from Feng Xin’s face so slowly that it would’ve been comical if Mu Qing weren’t so pissed. “Oh,” he smiled weakly, “did she?”

“Yes, for some reason she didn’t recall you ever visiting her today. In fact ,” he watched Feng Xin’s eyes dart around the room as if trying to find an escape, “she said you guys were never back together in the first place.”

Feng Xin’s mouth opened and closed a few times, trying to come up with a response. He looked rather like a fish. A really stupid fish. Mu Qing raised his eyebrows expectantly.

“I—maybe she’s just confused?” 

Was Feng Xin even trying to sound convincing? Did he not know how absolutely shit he was at lying? Mu Qing couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Whatever, it didn’t matter. He was getting fed up. “Well I know I definitely am,” Mu Qing shot back, unimpressed. “So now you’re going to tell me what the fuck is going—”

There was a knock at the door followed by Xie Lian’s voice calling out a cheery hello, and they both froze. Feng Xin released a breath, visibly relaxing. Mu Qing glared at him to make sure he knew this wasn’t over before heading over to open the door.

“Hi, Mu Qing! Can we come in?” Xie Lian smiled. 

“Do whatever you want,” Mu Qing dismissed but took a step back to let him inside.

Wait, ‘we’? He peered around Xie Lian to find the crimson brat lurking behind him like the fucking creep he was. Mu Qing narrowed his eyes at him as he passed to remind him that he wasn’t welcome, but Hua Cheng merely smirked. Mu Qing seethed and slammed the door shut with way more force than necessary, but it made him feel better so who cared.

He returned to the living room to find Xie Lian already deep in conversation with Feng Xin. But Mu Qing couldn’t care less about what Xie Lian was saying at the moment, instead zeroed in on the familiar looking box he was holding. His jaw dropped. 

“You gave them to Xie Lian ?” he asked Feng Xin in disbelief. He looked back and forth between the two, both of whom were staring at him in confusion. He saw Feng Xin glance in Xie Lian’s direction and then blanch at the sight of the chocolates. An unpleasant feeling settled deep in his gut. “Hold on, do you like him?” 

Several things happened at once. Feng Xin sputtered, instantly turning an attractive—wait that wasn’t right—an UNattractive shade of red. Thankfully Mu Qing didn’t have time to dwell on that thought, distracted by the sound of Hua Cheng choking. (Serves him right, Mu Qing thought vindictively.) Xie Lian hurriedly rubbed small, soothing circles on his back, a blush spreading across his cheeks. Of all people! Mu Qing knew Feng Xin would never so much as glance in his direction if he didn’t have to, but there was always that stupid stupid sliver of hope. But now? How the fuck could he ever compare to Xie Lian! Maybe he should’ve seen it coming. The two had always been close, so this was probably just a natural progression except—

“Wait, you’re okay with this?” he nearly shouted at Hua Cheng. Wherever Xie Lian went, so did Hua Cheng, and evidently Hua Cheng had no objections to Feng Xin’s token of affection. But that didn’t make sense! The bastard didn’t seem like he’d be fond of sharing.

Hua Cheng dropped his forehead onto his boyfriend’s shoulder and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “gege, please kill me.” Xie Lian, still pink in the face, awkwardly patted his head before holding out the box to Mu Qing. 

He sneered. “I don’t want your pity,” he spat.

Xie Lian laughed awkwardly but didn’t retract his hand. “Um, actually, I think these were supposed to be for you.”

Mu Qing eyed the box warily. He looked at Xie Lian, then back at the box. He snuck a glance in his roommate’s direction, but Feng Xin was studiously avoiding his gaze. This had to be some kind of joke. “That’s ridiculous. Feng Xin would never do that.”

“Why wouldn’t he?” Xie Lian, bless his heart, seemed genuinely perplexed.

Mu Qing fought the urge to roll his eyes again. Really, how could one person be so oblivious? “Because,” he said slowly, as if talking to a small child, “he doesn’t like me.” 

Feng Xin’s eyes snapped toward him in shock. What, was that supposed to be a secret or something? Hua Cheng stared at him like he’d grown a second head, which, okay rude, before walking out the door. Good riddance.

After an uncomfortably long silence during which Feng Xin was looking at Mu Qing, Xie Lian was looking at both of them, and Mu Qing was pointedly looking at neither of the other two, Feng Xin finally spoke. “You think I don’t like you?” he asked quietly.

Mu Qing really didn’t have time to be dealing with the stupid puppy dog eyes. He huffed, “I mean obviously you like me enough to tolerate me—we fucking live together, you idiot, unless you managed to forget about that, though with the size of your brain I wouldn’t be at all surprised—but you don’t…. like me.” He winced internally. (Seriously, he sounded like a fucking child!)

“I, uh,” Feng Xin averted his gaze, “I actually, um, like you. A lot?”

Mu Qing narrowed his eyes. If he didn’t know any better, he’d almost say Feng Xin looked nervous. “What?”

“Like, I might be in love with you, and I think about you a lot?” Feng Xin ran a hand through his hair. “Um, all the time? Romantically? Sexually?”

Xie Lian coughed.

Mu Qing physically recoiled like he’d been slapped, and alright he might as well have been. He felt his face heat up and covered it with his hands.

And was Feng Xin still talking? 

“—don’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable, but I just—”

“What the fuck?” he interrupted, face still hidden in his hands. “You can’t just, you can’t just say things like that! What the fuck? Why would you—so shameless ! What the fucking fuck! Feng Xin, you asshole , what the fuck ?”

The sound of his harsh breathing punctuated the silence that followed. He peeked through his fingers to gauge Feng Xin’s reaction.

Feng Xin was hunched in on himself. “I’m sorry.” And he had the audacity to look guilty! “I know you don’t like me, and now I’ve made this weird, but,” his mouth twisted into a grimace, “look, I can move out if that—if that makes you feel better.”

“Don’t you dare fucking leave me,” Mu Qing growled instinctively, hands clenched at his sides.

Feng Xin peered up at him hesitantly. Mu Qing wanted to scream, he had no right to start looking hopeful.

“You think you can just say things and then leave? And not even wait to see if I have anything to say? Who do you think you are? How do you know how I feel about you, because clearly you don’t know shit , otherwise you would’ve known I’ve been in love with you since fucking freshman year!” He threw his arms up and turned his back on Feng Xin so he didn’t have to look at him anymore, and added in for good measure, “Unbelievable!”

A pause and then. “You love me?” 

He whipped around to shoot Feng Xin a glare. “I fucking hate you.”

Feng Xin blinked, clearly still trying to process the sudden turn of events. “Wait since freshman year of college?”

Mu Qing only glared at him harder because the truth was even worse, but hell he’d already told him this much. “Of high school,” he said through gritted teeth.

A myriad of emotions flashed across Feng Xin’s face. “You never said anything!” he shouted accusingly.

“Yeah?” Mu Qing shifted uncomfortably. “Well, it’s not like you ever looked at me twice! Besides, it’s your fault for being so unobservant.”

“Who’s unobservant? You didn’t even think I liked you!” 

Mu Qing opened his mouth to bite out another retort before slamming it shut, jaw clenched because, okay, what was he supposed to say to that?

The tension was eventually broken by the sound of Xie Lian clearing his throat. Honestly, Mu Qing hadn’t even realized he was still here.

“Well, then,” Xie Lian clapped his hands together, inching towards the door, “it seems you two have everything pretty much figured out, so I’m just gonna go.” He waved the box of chocolates in the air and set them down on the counter. “Right, well. Goodbye!” 

Mu Qing watched as Xie Lian swiftly made his way out of the apartment, the door clicking shut behind him. He blinked and turned back to Feng Xin only to find him already looking at him. Mu Qing wracked his brain for something to say that wasn’t completely terrible but everything he thought of sounded dumb. He glanced at the box sitting innocuously on the counter.

“It really was supposed to be for you,” Feng Xin said quietly. Suddenly self-conscious, Mu Qing fought the urge to cross his arms over his chest. He frowned and kept his eyes trained on the box, feeling as though it had personally offended him. “You don’t have to, um, you know,” Feng Xin continued, “but I know you like chocolate so.” Jian Lan’s words echoed in his head. Feng Xin did mention once that you really like chocolate , she’d said and...oh, she already had it figured didn’t she? He wasn’t sure how to feel about knowing she knew Feng Xin liked him before he knew Feng Xin liked him.

Mu Qing walked over to pick up the box, lifting it up to eye-level to inspect it more closely. At least the packaging wasn’t some kind of embarrassingly colorful, cheesy thing like he’d seen in all the stores. He gently pulled the lid off to find an assortment of different kinds of chocolate—expensive, fancy -looking chocolate. None of them were heart-shaped, much to his satisfaction. He might’ve smacked Feng Xin if he’d actually had the audacity to give him something so tacky. 

“It’s fine, I guess,” he allowed, finally looking at Feng Xin which turned out to be a mistake. He was wearing a soft smile, so open and loving that Mu Qing wanted to put a bag over Feng Xin’s head. “I didn’t get you anything though.” It came out more annoyed than he meant it to.

Feng Xin shrugged. “I didn’t do it because I wanted something in return. I did it because I lo—”

“Stop! Stop! I get it! Okay? You don’t have to say it!” He flopped onto the couch beside Feng Xin and buried his face in his hands. He was acutely aware of the mere inches separating them and that knowledge only made him flush harder. He couldn’t even bring himself to look at him!

Feng Xin chuckled but sobered up almost immediately. “I’m serious though. You don’t have to do anyth—”

“Who said I don’t want to do anything?” Mu Qing uncovered his face to shoot daggers at him.

Feng Xin gaped. “What, um,” he cleared his throat, “what did you want to do?” he asked hesitantly.

Mu Qing was pretty sure he was about to combust and sputtered. “You—I don’t—”

Now it was Feng Xin who turned red. “No, no! That’s not what I—well, actually yes, maybe,” he said distractedly, but when he saw whatever look Mu Qing had on his face he hastily added, “But I didn’t mean it like that!”

Mu Qing sniffed. “I guess we can be a thing . Or whatever. If you want.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Feng Xin shake his head and bite back an amused grin. “What are you, a child? You can’t even say it?”

Mu Qing refused to take any responsibility for what happened next. “Who’s being a child?” he snapped before tugging a wide-eyed Feng Xin closer and covering his mouth with his own. And, well.

It wasn’t necessarily bad . It just wasn’t as exciting as everyone always made it out to be. Mostly it was just stiff and awkward, but then Feng Xin brought one hand up to cup his cheek to angle them so that their lips were slotted together and started moving , deepening the kiss. And okay, maybe Mu Qing was just horribly inexperienced because this was infinitely better. Embarrassingly so.

He gasped into the kiss, delving in for more, but all too soon Feng Xin was pulling away. Mu Qing opened his eyes and blinked up at him in confusion. Feng Xin merely smiled and pressed a feather-light kiss on the tip of his nose, making Mu Qing go nearly cross-eyed. He leaned back no more than a few inches, but Mu Qing found himself fighting the desire to close the gap again. Feng Xin took in the faint blush spreading across Mu Qing’s cheeks, and his smile widened. 

“Cute,” he murmured. But before Mu Qing had a chance to hit him, he was already getting to his feet. 

“What are you doing?” Mu Qing couldn’t help but ask. Did Feng Xin regret the kiss? What if he changed his mind about everything?

“We,” Feng Xin strolled back over to the couch, laptop in hand, “are going to watch a movie.”

Mu Qing quirked an eyebrow. “What movie?”

Feng Xin paused and looked up from the laptop screen. “I have not thought that far ahead.”

“Typical,” he muttered, rolling his eyes. “Just put on whatever.” He didn’t realize he’d been staring until Feng Xin turned to him, and he averted his gaze to the screen to find whatever movie he’d selected starting. 

He could feel Feng Xin’s gaze on him and pretended it didn’t affect him in any way. He tried and failed not to yawn.

“You can lay on me.” Mu Qing’s eyes snapped to Feng Xin, who turned bright red. “I mean, you don’t have to, obviously. I just—you seem tired. So, uh, if you want to then...”

“Why would I want to do that?” Mu Qing grumbled, but he curled up against him anyway so Feng Xin probably wasn’t convinced. He couldn’t bring himself to care though when an arm wrapped around him, and oh, was this what it was like to be held. He felt safe, warm, loved.

Mu Qing was already barely paying attention to the movie, and about halfway through, he felt his eyes start to droop, struggling to keep them open. Feng Xin shifted, and he let out a displeased whine at being jostled. But then he was being enveloped in soft, fluffy warmth, and the weight of Feng Xin’s arm settled on his back once again. Mu Qing vaguely registered that Feng Xin had draped a blanket over him. Cozy and content, he hummed and snuggled deeper into Feng Xin’s side. The last thing he remembered was Feng Xin pressing a kiss into his hair before he was carried off to sleep, a small smile on his face.