His arms ladened with heavy bags, Wen Kexing kicked the door closed behind him before toeing off his shoes. A look of concentration briefly appeared on his face as he blindly searched for his house slippers; after putting them on he made his way to the kitchen, the dimly lit apartment silent save for the jangling of his bangles and the steady hum of the air conditioning unit.
“A-Xu!” Wen Kexing called again as he began unpacking the bags and putting away the groceries. “Are you home?” A hand suddenly appeared, plucking a can of beer from Wen Kexing’s hand. He could feel his face warming slightly at the barely there press of lips to his cheek before a hiss of compressed air sounded.
“I thought you were going to be late,” Zhou Zishu said before taking a sip of the alcohol. Zhou Zishu was completely unadorned and relaxed, a stark contrast to the jeweled up handsome face that currently plastered many jewelry store windows. He wore gray, almost threadbare sweats, long hair mussed and still damp from a recent shower as he leaned against the countertops sipping from the can. His neutral expression didn’t change as Wen Kexing stepped in close and rested those long fingered hands lightly atop Zhou Zishu’s hips.
“I haven’t seen my A-Xu all day.” His voice was a hushed whisper, lips brushing against the curve of Zhou Zishu’s ear as he spoke. “How could I stay away a moment longer?”
“Shameless,” came the annoyed reply. But a brief, pleased smile flickered across Zhou Zishu’s face at the kiss pressed to his temple.
“Hungry? Let me go and clean up, then I’ll start dinner.”
“Take your time. I’m in good company.” He gave a small, sly smile as Zhou Zishu waved the can between them. He didn’t react to Wen Kexing’s frown as he took another sip of beer. There was a brief rustling sound before Wen Kexing pressed something thin and spiced between Zhou Zishu’s lips.
“Eat something, you drunkard.” He gave a smirk before sneaking a bite from the other end of the pretzel stick. Without another word, Wen Kexing turned and headed towards the bathroom, leaving Zhou Zishu staring after him as he slowly chewed on the snack.
After a dinner of spicy liang mian and chilled sliced mango with sweet syrup and shaved ice, Wen Kexing stretched out on the couch, arms crossed over Zhou Zishu’s lap and his head pillowed atop them. The television was on - some costume drama flashing across the screen - but neither of them seemed to be paying it much attention to it, more focused on each other’s company.
“The bosses called me into the office today,” Zhou Zishu murmured as his fingers lightly combed through Wen Kexing’s loose hair.
“Oh? For what?” He flinched as Zhou Zishu gave his ear a playful flick.
“Those earrings you gave me for the New Year, the ones with the blue stones.”
“Those? You haven’t worn them out yet.”
“That’s the problem. I did wear them, last month on the way to a shoot. There are photographs of me wearing them all over the internet.” One dark eyebrow arched at the confused stare Wen Kexing gave him.
“A-Xu, I don’t…” He flinched again, this time at the flick that landed between his eyes.
“Where did you buy them, idiot?”
“I didn’t. I was allowed to keep some of the jewelry after the modeling shoot just before the holidays.”
“Exactly. Those earrings are from your company. Did you forget which company I model for?”
“But you like them!”
An inelegant snort sounded as Zhou Zishu rolled his eyes. “Yes, I do. But those stiff shirts were all twisted out of shape when they saw the photos.” Zhou Zishu pitched his voice high, a nasal whine sounding as he spoke. “‘You can’t wear those - even on your off days! What will people think if they see you, our top model, wearing another company’s newest jewelry line? What will happen to our sales?!’” He gave another snort before crossing his arms, an irritated expression on his face.
“What did you say?” Wen Kexing asked. There was an expectant look in his eyes as he waited, the corners of his lips quirking upwards ever so slightly.
“What’s the point in saying anything? The sales increase every time there’s a new marketing campaign. They know just as well as I do that doing anything more than a reprimand means they lose money.”
“So you just gave them that intimidating stare of yours?” There was a confident, almost smug look on Zhou Zishu’s face, one that Wen Kexing found endearing. He rolled over, laying his head back on Zhou Zishu’s thighs and toyed with the hem of his shirt. “Oddly enough, I also got called into the office today.”
That dark brow arched again. “What did you do? Did you flirt with anyone you weren’t supposed to?”
“A-Xu! You wound me! I would never…”
“….spout romantic poetry to a complete stranger and compliment their butterfly bones?” That smug look remained in place as Zhou Zishu smirked in the face of Wen Kexing’s indignant huff.
“Only my A-Xu is worthy of such things.” Wen Kexing held up his hand; around the middle digit glittered a pair of bright silver rings, each set with a single shimmering stone. “It was because of these.” His expression was almost sad as Wen Kexing twisted one of the rings around his finger. “They said the same thing to me, that I couldn’t be seen wearing them, and that it could hurt the company. But I told them I didn’t care, that A-Xu said they looked good on me. They gave in and just told me to be careful next time.”
“Did you give them that face?” Zhou Zishu asked.
“That face.” The look in Zhou Zishu’s eyes appeared tearful, his lower lip slowly pushing outward into an almost perfect mimic of Wen Kexing’s pout. “The face you gave me the first time you asked for a ride, and the first time you asked to borrow money.”
“I did not make such a face!” Wen Kexing retorted in horror.
“Yes you did. Oh, and you still owe me for that meal - and don’t forget the interest.” He gave another flick between Wen Kexing’s brows before reaching for Wen Kexing’s still raised hand. Slowly, Zhou Zishu removed one of the rings from Wen Kexing’s finger before sliding it onto his own hand, aware of the other’s eyes watching his every movement. Zhou Zishu gave a small sigh as he began to twirl a lock of Wen Kexing’s hair between his fingers, an unreadable expression crossing his face. “The color is fading.”
Wen Kexing blinked a couple of times before lifting a few strands of his hair, examining them in the light. A frown appeared as he noted the distinct glimmer of silver amongst the dark mahogany tresses.
“Should we dye it again?” he asked.
Zhou Zishu shook his head, setting his own dark locks waving. “No, let it fade.” Fondness crossed his features as his fingers resumed combing through the silken locks. “I miss it, the original color.” He didn’t resist as Wen Kexing reached for his hand, interlocking their fingers.
“It wasn’t the color I was born with.”
“But it’s the color I’m most used to after all these years, Lao Wen.”
There was a moment of silence, the sounds of the drama on the television filling the space. Wen Kexing appeared contemplative as he fiddled with the ring on Zhou Zishu’s finger.
“A-Xu, the seasons are about to change,” Wen Kexing remarked. “It will be summer soon. Should we…”
“Yes,” Zhou Zishu agreed. “I think it’s time to move on. We’ve been here long enough. People are going to start to wonder.” His lips quirked into a wistful smile. “Should we go back to Four Seasons Manor first?”
“Of course! Cheng Ling must be missing us. I’ll bet the little brat is still scared of the chickens pecking around his memorial.” A long ago memory resurfaced, bringing a wistful smile to Wen Kexing’s face. “We should try to go to Nanjiang to see Qi Ye and Da Wu. We didn’t get to go the last time we had off. And also…” Something flickered in his eyes, his smile turning a bit sad as he clasped Zhou Zishu’s hand tightly, resting their intertwined fingers atop his chest.
“I think…we should visit them as well.”
Zhou Zishu nodded as he rested his other hand lightly upon Wen Kexing’s head. “It’s been some time since we’ve been back to see them. I’m sure she misses you.”
“Hmph! She’s probably more preoccupied with that idiot. I’ll bet she has forgotten all about me by now.”
“A-Xiang would never forget you. No matter what lifetime, deep down in her soul, she wouldn’t forget about you.” Leaning in, Zhou Zishu pressed a kiss to his crown. “Don’t worry about A-Xiang; I’m sure Cao-gongzi is taking good care of her.”
“That is exactly why I should worry!” His annoyed expression slowly changed into one of sadness. “I hope they are together and happy, wherever they are.”
“They are.” Zhou Zishu heaved a small sigh before leaning down. He pressed his lips to Wen Kexing’s, the kiss soft and loving. “As long as they are together, they can weather anything.”
“Sounds familiar,” Wen Kexing murmured. Reaching up, he let his fingertips glide over Zhou Zishu’s cheek, lingering a little longer over the tiny beauty mark in the center of his cheek. “The world doesn’t matter…”
“…as long as I have my zhiji by my side.” The smile on Zhou Zishu’s face disappeared as Wen Kexing pulled him down into another kiss.
Times had changed even if they hadn’t. The jianghu they used to know was no more, the people they cherished long gone. But they still had each other, and an untold number of years yet before them. For the rest of the night, Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing whispered to one another, making plans for the future as those twin rings glittered in the darkness.