Lu Guang can't stop thinking about Xiaoshi's hair. It's getting, quite frankly, ridiculous. He thinks about it in the morning, the way the dark waves splay across the pillow, the slight halo of frizz from the friction of tossing and turning. He thinks about it while they're working, the bob of the tiny, pointless ponytail, the ever escaping strands floating around his face. He thinks about it when they're relaxing on the couch, the longer pieces around Xiaoshi's face falling into his eyes as he taps away at his phone game.
Once, Xiaoshi leaned in close to look at a photo Lu Guang was holding, and he caught a whiff of the soft clean scent of his shampoo. He makes sure to hold every photo just a moment too long after that, in hopes of repeating the incident.
It doesn't help that Xiaoshi is, in a word, insanely clingy. He's constantly nuzzling his head against Lu Guang's to force him to agree to his latest idiotic idea, the soft brush of hair against his neck making it harder to disagree every time. Every night, Xiaoshi's position on the couch gets more and more comfortable, inching towards Lu Guang, until one night, his head is lying directly in his lap. It becomes impossible for Lu Guang to focus on his reading and he can only hope that Xiaoshi doesn't realize he's been reading the same book for weeks.
It takes him another week before he can no longer resist the urge to touch Xiaoshi's hair, hesitantly stroking at first, before gently carding his fingers through the silky strands. It surprises him then, when Xiaoshi sighs quietly and turns to press his face into Lu Guang's stomach, eyes fluttering closed. Lu Guang doesn't know what to do with this new information, so he simply continues threading his fingers through Xiaoshi's hair. He marvels at the changing textures of the waves, how it's finer at the temples, curling tighter at the nape of the neck. He tries not to think about the trembling flutter settling into his stomach.
When he wakes, they carry on as if nothing unusual happened, with Xiaoshi throwing out one of his stupid jokes, and Lu Guang responding with gently amused silence. But the next night, and the next, they repeat the same routine, Xiaoshi falling asleep on Lu Guang's lap with his hands in his hair, stroking, stroking, until it becomes as natural to them as breathing.
It isn't until Xiaoshi casually mentions that those naps are the only times his sleep is free from the nightmares, that Lu Guang suggests they sleep in the same bed. It's pragmatic, he thinks. Nothing more to it.
The twin sized bunk beds are a snug fit, but they make it work. Lu Guang realizes that he finds it incredibly hard to sleep with the scent of Xiaoshi all around him, his hair pressed up against his neck, entwined in his fingers, tickling his chin. The racing of his heart keeps him up for most of the night but his hand continues its slow repetitive movement through Xiaoshi's hair. Xiaoshi has no nightmares that night.
They make it close to two weeks before Qiao Ling finds out. "You're dating??" she inquires excitedly, eyes wide.
"No," Lu Guang says. "He just sleeps better like this."
Xiaoshi is quiet for the rest of the day. When Lu Guang offers to redo his loosened ponytail, he refuses, turning to gather it up himself. Confused, he wonders if Xiaoshi is ashamed of what they were doing. Maybe he didn't want Qiao Ling-jie to know? Still, he hopes that doesn't mean their nights together have to come to an end. The thought of going back to the top bunk alone sends an unexpected pang through his chest.
But when he leaves the bathroom that night, Xiaoshi is there on the bottom bunk, a hand reaching out to touch his arm, a silent question. When they get settled, Xiaoshi turns his head to bury his face in Lu Guang's chest. His heart does an odd stutter in response.
"Why'd you say that to Qiao Ling?" Xiaoshi's voice is so small, Lu Guang has to strain to hear.
"Because we're not dating," Lu Guang replies, confused by the way the words stick painfully in his throat. Xiaoshi lifts his head and Lu Guang's hand stills in his hair. The other man's dark eyes shine in the moonlight and Lu Guang absentmindedly wonders if they'd always been so beautiful.
"W-what... what if, that's not what I want?" Xiaoshi's eyes search his now, wide and vulnerable. "What if I want us to be dating?"
Oh. Lu Guang could slap himself. He'd been so stupid. All those strange feelings he'd stuffed down, all those nights his heart had raced with Xiaoshi pressed against him. Images flash through his mind—Xiaoshi's bright smile, the way his eyes scrunched up with joy, Xiaoshi's hands, the bones and tendons delicate as he worked with photos in the darkroom, Xiaoshi's lips, Xiaoshi's eyes, Xiaoshi, Xiaoshi, Xiaoshi.
Lu Guang smiles softly, bringing his hands up to cup the back of Xiaoshi's head, pulling him closer to press their lips together.
"Okay," he says. "I'd like that."