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a certain kind of man

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Zhou Zishu is not the kind of man to come to a place like the club he finds himself in on an aimless Friday night. He’s not the kind of man to spend the night drinking, maybe dancing, maybe go home with someone he’s never met, who he’ll forget the second the night’s over.

He’s not unfamiliar with places like this. He’s not even unfamiliar with that kind of man. Zhou Zishu has been so many kinds of men already, he’s not sure he even knows what kind of man he really is anymore.

Or maybe he’s lying to himself and he knows exactly the kind of man he is. The kind that brought him here, so he could pretend, for a moment in time, to be some other kind.

It’s loud. The beat throbs in his temples and makes it hard to think. He supposes that’s the point. He’s almost grateful. He doesn’t want to think.

Whatever he’s pretending to be, what he is still spills out. There’s a pocket of space around him at the crowded bar, but he’s already two drinks in and doesn’t care. Whatever kind of place this is, the liquor is good.

Zhou Zishu is alone in a sea of faceless people until he isn’t. A man slots himself into the space beside Zhou Zishu’s left elbow, close enough to catch his notice. He leans over the bar and orders a drink. His voice is low and smooth. He calls the pretty bartender by name and doesn’t specify what drink, so he must be a regular. He’s wearing red slacks and a silky pale shirt so sheer Zhou Zishu thinks he can see the shadow of his nipples through it, necklaces that glint as they swing down from his neck when he leans over, rings that draw attention to his long fingered hands. His hair is long and dark, half pulled back from his face.

In the moment he’s distracted, Zhou Zishu takes a cursory measure of him. He’s tall, lean, mile-long legs, nice ass, small but pert, cute. Zhou Zishu has never been the kind of man to check out a stranger’s ass at a bar, but maybe tonight he wants to be. Maybe tonight he is. 

The man catches him looking. He doesn’t seem to mind. Everything about him draws the eye. He must be used to the attention. Maybe he’s the kind of man who likes it.

He turns to face Zhou Zishu fully – yes, he can definitely see his nipples through that shirt – and what a face it is. This man has the kind of face that makes people want, generous pink mouth, soft dark eyes that look black in the dim light of the bar, strong nose, defined jaw. He’s gorgeous and he absolutely knows it.

Zhou Zishu looks away. He definitely did not come here to be the kind of man who wants. At least not a man like that.

The man leans a little into his space, close enough for Zhou Zishu to catch the scent of his cologne. It’s light, fresh, the kind of scent that makes you want more of it. 

Zhou Zishu holds up a hand before he can try to speak, ticks off his words on his fingers. “No, I’ve never been here before so you wouldn’t have seen me. No, I’m perfectly happy with the drink I have. And no, you don’t actually want to know my name, so spare me.”

There’s a beat of silence where the man stares at him, and then he laughs, a light musical sound, and Zhou Zishu would really like for there to be one thing about this man that isn’t attractive.

He leans in more, enough that Zhou Zishu has to lean away slightly, holds up his own elegant hand and starts his own tick off list, only slightly mocking. “One, I’m here often, so I know I would have seen you before, also I am mortally offended you would think so low of me, on our first meeting no less, to think I’d use such a horrible line. Two I can see that, however unimaginative that drink might be, and three, I would actually like to know your name, but I can’t force you to give it to me, can I?”

An insufferable attitude, good to know. Zhou Zishu likes him a little more now.

The man holds out a hand. “Wen Kexing.”

Zhou Zishu turns slightly toward him. He looks at his hand for beat or two, long enough that it should be a little uncomfortable, though Wen Kexing does nothing more than stare him down with a hint of challenge in his dark eyes. Zhou Zishu takes his hand, grips it with a firmness just this side of uncomfortable. Wen Kexing doesn’t flinch.

“Zhou Xu,” Zhou Zishu says then, a bit grudgingly, and tries to let go.

Wen Kexing doesn’t immediately let him, tugs his hand into his space so Zhou Zishu has to lean into him. “It’s nice to meet you, Zhou Xu.”

Definitely insufferable. Zhou Zishu narrows his eyes, and Wen Kexing’s full mouth curves into a smirk. The urge Zhou Zishu has to drag him in is visceral. He wants to kiss him until both their mouths bleed. He wants to shove him to his knees and use that smirking mouth until it’s red and swollen. Right then, he is the kind of man who wants.

He pulls his hand away.

“I was going to say,” Wen Kexing says pointedly. “I was going to say you look like the kind of man who enjoys a quiet drink. You won’t find that here.”

Zhou Zishu hums, says blandly, “Is that what I look like?”

Wen Kexing nods. He picks up the tall glass that is set before him, swirls it so the ice clicks faintly against the sides. “You look out of place.”

Good, Zhou Zishu thinks. He’s spent most of his life blending in, being unseen, fading into the background. He wants to stick out. He wants to look like he doesn’t belong. He wore faded jeans and a t-shirt that’s just a bit too big. He washed his hair but forgot to shave. He doesn’t look like he belongs here, in this glittering club, talking to this glittering man. He likes that.

Wen Kexing continues his unprompted observations. “You look uncomfortable.”

Zhou Zishu snorts into his glass. “I’m not.”

Wen Kexing’s mouth curves again. “What are you then?”

Zhou Zishu sets down his glass. It’s almost empty. He toys with the idea of ordering another. “Annoyed is the thing that springs to mind.”

A short laugh leaves Wen Kexing. “Do you want to know what I think you are?”

Zhou Zishu looks at him steadily. “No.”

Wen Kexing ignores him, leans in close like he’s murmuring a secret. “You’re gorgeous.”

Zhou Zishu tips his head toward him. God, he smells good. He ponders what it feels like, to be a man considered gorgeous by a man like Wen Kexing. He’s sleek and poised, with glittering dark eyes and a sly smirking mouth. Zhou Zishu rubs the day old scruff on his jaw. If he kissed him now, would it abrade his perfect smooth skin? Would he like it?

“Am I still annoying you, Ah Xu?” Wen Kexing asks, when Zhou Zishu says nothing else.

What kind of a man is Zhou Xu? Is he the kind of man who would like to hear his name purred in dulcet tones from Wen Kexing’s ample mouth? Is Zhou Zishu? Zhou Zishu decides he does not care.

He downs the rest of the liquor in his glass and says, “Do you want to get out of here?”

Wen Kexing rears back slightly, like he’s startled, the smirking teasing façade dropping for a moment to a much different man beneath, one with doe eyes and pinked cheeks, one who looks younger, when he’s surprised. It’s fun, Zhou Zishu thinks, to throw off a man like Wen Kexing. It’s also nice to know he’s not the only one who wants to be someone else. Wen Kexing recovers though, too quickly.

The mask slips back into place, the smirk returns. “And where would you like to go, Ah Xu?”

 Zhou Zishu shrugs. “A hotel, your place, I’m not picky.”

“Not your place though,” Wen Kexing observes, too knowing.

Zhou Xu is not the kind of man who lives in Zhou Zishu’s high rise apartment. He doesn’t belong in Zhou Zishu’s gilt cage. It’s being watched, most likely, and Zhou Zishu wouldn’t risk bringing Wen Kexing there anyway. Whatever kind of man he is, Zhou Zishu won’t put Wen Kexing in danger. He should go back there. He should leave and let Wen Kexing find more amiable company, he’s certainly not hurting for it. But he doesn’t. He can’t wait out his final days alone in that hollow place. Soon it won’t matter anyway. Zhou Zishu will be gone, Zhou Xu and any other kind of man he’d been, with him.

“Do I look like the kind of man who brings strangers home?” Zhou Zishu asks, voice bland.

“Do I?” Wen Kexing replies.

Zhou Zishu lets his bland gaze rake the length of Wen Kexing’s body, arches a brow, and lets his silence say all he needs to.

Wen Kexing laughs and it sounds realer than his façade, a little incredulous. “Do you always slut-shame your potential conquests?”

“When it works,” Zhou Zishu shrugs again.

Wen Kexing laughs again, in genuine enjoyment. “Fair,” he allows. “Tell me, Ah Xu. What’s in it for me, if I take you home with me?”

Zhou Zishu entertains the question for a moment. It’s amusing to play with what kind of man Zhou Xu is. What kind of man he wants to be, faced with a man like Wen Kexing. Then he leans in, catches Wen Kexing by one of his pretty necklaces, and tugs him close. Wen Kexing goes, his eyes darkening slightly.

“You’ll get fucked so hard you won’t know which way is up by the time I’m done with you.”

It feels good to speak like that. Vulgar, and to a man he’s known about ten minutes. Zhou Zishu doesn’t speak that way. Maybe Zhou Xu does. Wen Kexing takes a small breath, softens slightly, sways toward him. That feels good too.

“Fair enough,” Wen Kexing breathes. He leans back, forces Zhou Zishu to release him, and snags his wrist, practically drags him out of the bar.

Zhou Zishu follows along, keeping up with Wen Kexing’s ground eating stride. His legs are unbelievably long. Zhou Zishu wonders what it’d be like to have them up over his shoulders, or around his waist, or around his head. He wonders how much Wen Kexing will let him find out. He has a feeling, from the way Wen Kexing glances back at him with hungry eyes, it’s all of them.

Wen Kexing pauses long enough to say something to a man by the door, but Zhou Zishu is busy trying to get his arm back so he doesn’t pay attention to it. Wen Kexing releases him for barely a moment, casting an amused glance in his direction. Then he lays a hand on the small of Zhou Zishu’s back to guide him to the curb. His hand is warm through the thin material of Zhou Zishu’s shirt.

The car Wen Kexing must have sent the man to retrieve is not what Zhou Zishu expected. He’d assumed Wen Kexing would drive something as ostentatious as he is. Instead, Wen Kexing drives a late model two door in sedate maroon, sleek and high end, but ultimately practical. It’s the kind of car a man with no children would drive, a man with some expendable income, but not too much. It probably gets great gas mileage.

The interior is clean, but not sterile. Someone else must use the car, or ride it in often. There’s a purple scrunchie in the cup holder, a plastic bracelet like a child might make dangling from the rearview mirror, the colorful rainbow of beads faded from the sun or age. Zhou Zishu wonders briefly if Wen Kexing really might be a father. It’s so at odds with his flamboyant, teasing persona, Zhou Zishu feels like he’s seeing another slip of the façade.

If he had more time, would Wen Kexing become a complicated puzzle Zhou Zishu could nudge at until he found the solution, until the pieces of Wen Kexing formed the whole of what he was, not what he tried to make himself?

Zhou Zishu pushes those thoughts away. There isn’t more time. He will know what Wen Kexing wants him to see for a night, and then he’ll go. They’ll pass still strangers from each other’s lives. That’s all it will ever be.

Wen Kexing puts a presumptuous hand on Zhou Zishu’s thigh as they drive. Zhou Zishu lets it stay there, warm through his worn jeans, a heavy weight. Until they’re at a stoplight and Wen Kexing tries to push that hand between his legs. Zhou Zishu hisses and slaps his hand away.

He is not, it turns out, the kind of man to let himself be groped in a car where anyone can see.

“We’re in public,” he says, “Keep it in your pants.”

Wen Kexing whines, “Ah Xu,” with a cute little pout that Zhou Zishu, against his better judgement, wants to bite. He looks absolutely delighted by Zhou Zishu’s annoyance. Menace.

He’s suddenly very glad he only has a few more days, that he’ll only know this man for a night. He’s not sure he’d survive him longer than that.

“Watch the road,” Zhou Zishu says, his face warmer than he wants it to be, thankful for the car’s dim interior. “You won’t get anything from me if you wrap us around a pole.”

“True,” Wen Kexing agrees sagely, his eyes turning dutifully forward. “There is only one pole here I’d like to wrap something around.”

Zhou Zishu is startled into an unfortunate bark of laughter. Wen Kexing grins like he won something. Smug bastard.

“Shut up,” Zhou Zishu says. “Just don’t talk again until we get there.”  

“Not one for small talk then?” Wen Kexing says, teasing.

“Stupid sex jokes are small talk to you?” Zhou Zishu counters.

Wen Kexing gives him a lopsided little grin instead of answering. It has no business being as charming as it is. If Zhou Zishu weren’t so invested in fucking this man, he might hate him.

“Well what would you like to talk about then?”

“I thought I told you not to talk at all—” Zhou Zishu says.

Wen Kexing blithely ignores him, long fingers drumming absently along the steering wheel. “I could ask where you’re from, but I doubt you’d tell me. I’d ask what you do for work but—”

“I kill people for a living.” Zhou Zishu answers evenly, settles back against the seat.

That startles a laugh out of Wen Kexing this time. “I was going to say ‘that’s boring’ but you had to go and prove me wrong. An assassin, how scary. Does it pay well?”

Zhou Zishu lets his mouth curve into a tiny smile. “Very well, lots of perks.”

“Lots of travel, I’d imagine,” Wen Kexing says, playing along, because to him this is a game.

Zhou Zishu wonders what he’d say if he realized ‘Zhou Xu’ is the game, and the man he has in his car is a monster. It doesn’t matter because the monster will be dead soon enough. To Wen Kexing this would just be an amusing conversation he’d had one night with a witty man named Zhou Xu. It’s better that way.

“Not as much as you’d think,” Zhou Zishu shrugs.

Wen Kexing makes a little noise of understanding. “I like to think of myself as an entrepreneur.”

Zhou Zishu snorts. “So you’re unemployed.”

Wen Kexing makes a high sound of offense. “Rude.” He casts him a playful look. “Why don’t you guess what I do, Ah Xu?”

Zhou Zishu rolls his eyes, slouching in his seat. Still he says, “Gang leader?” That gets him another little offended huff. “Felon?”

Wen Kexing smacks at his arm playfully. “That’s not even a job.”

Zhou Zishu twists to evade his hand and looks at him seriously. “School teacher.”

That earns him another laugh, and Wen Kexing smoothly turns the car onto a quieter residential street. Zhou Zishu tosses out a few more guesses, each more benign or ridiculous than the last. He gets to “dog walker” by the time Wen Kexing pulls into a sloped drive and puts the car in park. He turns and shoves Zhou Zishu’s shoulder.

“I take it back,” Wen Kexing says, laughter in his voice. “You’re mean , stop trying.”

“Your own fault for asking,” Zhou Zishu says, trying and failing to hide the smile that keeps stubbornly trying to overtake his bored expression.

“I see that now,” Wen Kexing huffs as he climbs out of the car.

Zhou Zishu follows him. The place, like the car, is painfully nondescript in its benign affluence. Zhou Zishu, if he were a different man, might wonder how purposeful that is. He pushes those thoughts away by pushing Wen Kexing up against the door the second he’s closed it and taking his mouth like he’d wanted to from that moment in the bar. Wen Kexing makes a high little sound that is part surprise and part pleasure, and his keys clatter to the floor somewhere by their feet in favor of grabbing at Zhou Zishu instead.  

Their bodies slot together seamlessly, Zhou Zishu’s thigh pushed up between Wen Kexing’s legs, Wen Kexing’s hands tangled into Zhou Zishu’s shaggy hair. Wen Kexing kisses him with an edge of urgency, like he needs Zhou Zishu’s mouth on his more than he needs to live. They kiss for a long time there, up against the door. Wen Kexing makes small, needy sounds against Zhou Zishu’s mouth that go straight to Zhou Zishu’s cock. He wonders if he’ll make sounds like that while he’s fucking him, or if he’ll be louder, or quieter, if he can fuck him so well he won’t be able to make a sound.

Zhou Zishu pushes his leg up more against the apex of Wen Kexing’s thighs, makes him ride it with firm hands on his hips and Wen Kexing jerks back from the kiss with a breathless gasp. His head thumps back against the door.

“Bedroom,” he says breathlessly. “I have – fuck – what we need there.”

What they need, lube, condoms, the things Zhou Zishu needs to fuck him, preferably more than once. He eases back but not away, mouths at Wen Kexing’s arched throat and that makes him shiver.

“Okay,” he says against Wen Kexing’s skin. “Where?”

Wen Kexing makes a vague gesture toward the hall. The place isn’t that big, has a nice open floorplan. Zhou Zishu sees three doors, two open, one closed. He assumes Wen Kexing’s bedroom is one of the open ones. He shifts, grabs Wen Kexing under the thighs and hefts him up. Wen Kexing makes a frankly comical sound of surprise and wraps his legs around his waist, arms clinging around his shoulders.

It’s not difficult. Zhou Zishu likes to keep fit, and Wen Kexing might be tall, but he’s slender. It costs him very little effort to pull him away from the wall and walk them down the hall.

“Full of surprises, aren’t you, Ah Xu?” Wen Kexing asks with a breathless little laugh. “Not many men can haul me around like this.”

“Can’t imagine why not,” Zhou Zishu says, walking into what appears to be the bedroom. He gets a vague notion of furnishings, a couple doors, but the room is dominated by a big bed with a wrought iron frame and that’s all he cares about at the moment. “It’s not like there’s much to you.”

Wen Kexing gives an offended little laugh and swats his shoulder for that, to which Zhou Zishu retaliates by dumping him on the bed. Wen Kexing lands with a little oof and gives him a dirty look. But he must not be all that upset because the next thing he does is kneel up on the bed and drag Zhou Zishu into a frankly filthy kiss. He gets his hands on Wen Kexing’s ass and squeezes and Wen Kexing whines against his mouth, soft and needy.

“Clothes,” Wen Kexing pants against his mouth when they part.

It takes less time for Zhou Zishu to get undressed than Wen Kexing, but not by much, not when he’s barely able to get the impression of sleek muscle and smooth skin before Wen Kexing hauls him onto the bed and against him. Their mouths slot back together, and Zhou Zishu’s back hits the bed before he really registers Wen Kexing pushing him down and climbing on top of him. His hand curls around Zhou Zishu’s cock and Zhou Zishu has to break the kiss, the pleasure curling up his spine.

Wen Kexing sits up over him, long thighs splayed over his hips. His dark, playful gaze is fixed on his hand around Zhou Zishu’s length, fingers sliding teasingly over him. “Going to have to prep,” he says. “I don’t think I can take all this without it.” His generous, kiss red mouth curls into a pleased smile when he meets Zhou Zishu’s gaze. “Want to watch?”

Zhou Zishu has no plans to just watch any part of this. He grabs Wen Kexing by the hips and rolls him beneath him, pinning him down. Wen Kexing’s expression goes from surprise to amusement to heat and he presses up against him.

“Ah Xu,” he says, teasing. “If you wanted to do it for me, you could have said so.”

Zhou Zishu sighs, but far less exasperated with Wen Kexing’s teasing than he’s pretending to be. “Lao Wen,” he replies, “Shut up and hand me the lube.”

Wen Kexing looks surprised and cautiously pleased by the address and he chuckles, stretching his arm to reach into his bedside table. He pulls out a bottle and a condom. Zhou Zishu takes both from him. Wen Kexing opens up easily on two of his fingers, body going lax and shivery when he pushes them into him. He’s so hot and tight inside, Zhou Zishu’s cock throbs at just the thought of how it’s going to feel when he fucks him.

Zhou Zishu braces his weight on his free hand, leans in to mouth biting kisses down Wen Kexing’s throat. That makes him whine and arch up against him. His hands slide and grab at Zhou Zishu, at his waist, his back, his shoulders, across his chest to thumb at his nipples. Zhou Zishu shudders, and Wen Kexing does it again, pinching this time and an involuntary low sound leaks from Zhou Zishu’s throat as the sensation shoots straight to his dick.

“Sensitive?” Wen Kexing asks innocently, even as he gently and purposefully twists Zhou Zishu’s nipple between his fingers, drawing a full groan out of him.

Zhou Zishu curls his fingers, finds the spot he’s looking for and rubs firmly. Wen Kexing’s thighs clamp around his hips, his body rippling around his fingers and a short little yelp leaves him.

“Sensitive?” Zhou Zishu parrots back.

Wen Kexing huffs a breathless laugh, but it gets lost on a soft cry when Zhou Zishu doesn’t let up. He twists beneath him, making little ‘ah, ah, ah’ sounds as Zhou Zishu works his prostate. It’s hot. Zhou Zishu gets a little caught up in watching Wen Kexing writhe beneath him, forgets what he’s actually supposed to be doing in favor pulling more of those little cries out of Wen Kexing’s throat.

“Ah Xu,” Wen Kexing gasps, flushed now, panting, eyes pleasure glazed and wide. “Wait – oh –Wait. I’ll come if you keep doing that. Ah Xu !”

Wen Kexing’s body flexes rhythmically around his fingers, his cock jerking and leaking onto his belly, a frantic high sound choking up in his throat. Only then does Zhou Zishu ease his fingers back, drawing a whimper out of him.

Wen Kexing goes lax beneath him. “That was mean ,” he pants, shaking still.

Zhou Zishu tests how ready he is by fitting a third finger into him. It goes easily. Wen Kexing gets squirmy and shivery from sensitivity, his hand flying down to lock around Zhou Zishu’s wrist and push his fingers back a little, but he doesn’t tell him to stop. Zhou Zishu strokes his rim and presses a kiss to his panting mouth.

“Are you ready?”

Wen Kexing squeezes his eyes shut for a second, a little whine sounding in his throat and he nods. “Fuck…Yes. Ah Xu, stop teasing.” The order comes out a frustrated little growl. It’s cute. Which is probably not what Wen Kexing was going for.

Zhou Zishu does not sink to Wen Kexing’s level to point out that he started it, and Zhou Zishu simply finished it, but he does arch a brow at him as he draws his hand back. Wen Kexing gives him a narrow eyed pout and pushes at him so he can turn over onto his knees.     

It’s still a bit tight, when Zhou Zishu grabs onto Wen Kexing’s hip and sinks the head of his cock into him. Wen Kexing makes another one of those small ‘ah’ sounds and shudders. He pushes up so he can wrap his hands around the metal rungs of his headboard, and slides his knees wider apart.

“Okay?” Zhou Zishu pauses, gritting his teeth against the shivery heat that crashes through his body.

Wen Kexing’s head dips down between his arms, his body arching slightly. “Yes,” he says, breathless and strained. “Just… go slow.”

Zhou Zishu does, rocking slowly, a little more each time, until Wen Kexing shudders and relaxes enough for him to rock all the way into him. A moan slides from Wen Kexing’s throat, his body trembling so hard Zhou Zishu can feel it where they are connected.

“How are you so big ?” Wen Kexing pants out, huffing something that sounds almost like laughter. “It’s like I can feel you in my throat.”

Zhou Zishu breathes an amused sound, slides his hands up Wen Kexing’s waist and rocks gently against him. “Are you complaining?”

“No,” Wen Kexing replies, glancing over his shoulder at Zhou Zishu, his eyes pleasure blown and sparkling with teasing humor. “But I will start if you don’t move. I seem to remember you promising to fuck me hard.”

Zhou Zishu feels his mouth curve almost against his will. “I did.” He is the kind of man who keeps his word.

He grips Wen Kexing’s waist and slides back, almost all the way, and then slams back into him. Wen Kexing lets his head fall down back between his arms with a wail, his body rolling with Zhou Zishu’s thrusts. Zhou Zishu does as he promised, fucks him so hard the headboard rattles and Wen Kexing has to keep a white knuckled grip there to brace himself. Wen Kexing makes more sounds, bitten off shouts, and sharp wails, and low desperate moans. He begs too, Ah Xu and more and harder and faster , and please , please , please .

Zhou Zishu fucks him past words, past sounds that aren’t breathless gasps. Then Zhou Zishu wraps a hand around his cock and he finds the breath to choke out a moan. He’s so wet, Zhou Zishu’s hand slides slick over the hard length of him, jerks him easy in time with his forceful thrusts. Then Wen Kexing’s body locks up, his breath heaving out of him, clenching so hard Zhou Zishu can’t move for a moment, and it wrenches the orgasm from Zhou Zishu too, drags it up from his gut like a hook sunk in and yanked. He bows over Wen Kexing’s back, forehead between his shoulder blades, pleasure a roar in his ears.

Wen Kexing slumps forward bonelessly, but Zhou Zishu tips them both carefully to the side. His cock slips out of him, and Wen Kexing shudders, shifting onto his back.

“Fuck,” he says eloquently and Zhou Zishu can only agree.

For a while, they just breathe, lying next to each other. Then they do some cursory clean up. Zhou Zishu lays back down. The bed is shockingly comfortable. Wen Kexing sits cross legged beside him, weight resting back on his hands.

“You can use my shower if you want,” he says, voice somewhat hesitant.

He’s giving him a graceful out. Zhou Zishu can hear it in his voice. He also thinks maybe Wen Kexing doesn’t want him to leave just yet, and Zhou Zishu finds he doesn’t want to either.

He squints one eye open, “Are you kicking me out?”

Wen Kexing laughs and it might sound a little relieved. “No. Give me a half hour and I might ask for a repeat performance.”

Zhou Zishu hums and closes his eye again. There’s another small silence and then Wen Kexing sighs and fidgets a little. Zhou Zishu lets himself drift for a while until Wen Kexing’s squirming becomes too much.

“What?” Zhou Zishu asks.

Wen Kexing startles like he wasn’t expecting Zhou Zishu to speak again, and worries at his lower lip with his teeth. “Do you want something to eat?” He finally asks.

“No,” Zhou Zishu says, bemused.

“Thirsty?”

“No.”

It’s becoming clear that either Wen Kexing doesn’t bring men home often, or that he doesn’t normally let them stay. Zhou Zishu eyes him, wondering if he should do something. He’s not sure what, he’s not used to this either.

“You don’t want anything?”

“Lao Wen,” Zhou Zishu sighs. “I want you to lay down and be quiet for a while.”

Wen Kexing gives him big doe eyes and says in a saccharine tone, “Ah Xu, do you want to cuddle?”

Apparently he’s decided to fall back on the ribbing banter that’s taken them this far. Zhou Zishu snatches up a pillow from behind him and swats Wen Kexing with it.

Wen Kexing squawks an indignant protest. “Rude. With my own pillows no less. Maybe I should kick you out if this is how you treat me—”

Zhou Zishu makes an exasperated sound and yanks Wen Kexing down, rolling him beneath him. “Lao Wen. Shut up.”

Wen Kexing gives a soft laugh. His dark eyes take on a playful light. “Do you want to make out?”

Zhou Zishu sighs heavily. “Fine. If we do that, you can’t talk.”

“Ah Xu,” Wen Kexing whines. “You’re so mean to me—”

Zhou Zishu kisses him silent, and then Wen Kexing just moans sweetly into his mouth and slides his hands over his back. They spend long, unhurried minutes like that, until Wen Kexing’s aimless touches gain more purpose, until Zhou Zishu slots himself fully between Wen Kexing’s thighs and rocks against him.

They fuck again in the same unhurried way, this time with Wen Kexing’s legs up over Zhou Zishu’s shoulders, his body folded nearly in half, small pleading whines the only sounds he can manage between breathless gasps. It lasts longer this time, and when it’s over Wen Kexing seems surer of things, he slots his long body to Zhou Zishu’s side and presses his cheek to his shoulder.

Zhou Zishu tries to think of the last time he felt this comfortable with another body against his and sadly, he can’t. He rests his hand on the back of Wen Kexing’s neck and lets himself be the kind of man who holds a lover as the sweat cools on their skin.

He dozes off and wakes up with Wen Kexing’s hand on his cock. Wen Kexing rides him the third time in a frankly impressive display of athleticism. All Zhou Zishu can do is hang on.

After, they lay side by side, fighting air back into their lungs. Zhou Zishu’s muscles twitch with the pleasant soreness of exertion, his mind still pleasure hazed.

“The offer to use the shower still stands,” Wen Kexing says. “I’m not asking you to leave. But I don’t think I can go again.”

Zhou Zishu makes a low sound of agreement. He will. In a few minutes when his brain comes back online.

The intention is not to fall asleep there. It certainly isn’t to sleep so deeply that apparently Wen Kexing was able to pull the sheets out from beneath him and get him between them. But those were apparently things Zhou Zishu allowed, he realizes when the light filtering between the tasteful damask curtains on Wen Kexing’s high windows falls right over his face and pulls him unwillingly into consciousness. The bed smells like sex and the fading hint of Wen Kexing’s cologne. The side Zhou Zishu remembers Wen Kexing being on is empty. It looks slept in though, the pillow is crumpled and the sheets are folded back.

Wen Kexing slept there, slept next to him. Zhou Zishu slept next to another person for the first time since – his chest pangs and he steers himself away from those thoughts – For the first time in over a decade and it was some of the best sleep he’d ever gotten. A cursory glance at the clock tells him he slept most of the morning away. Through the partially open door, Zhou Zishu can hear the sounds of a person moving around. Music plays so softly he can just barely hear it.

Zhou Zishu’s back twinges when he climbs out of the bed, reminds him he’s getting a bit too old for that kind of a work out without stretching first. He uses the bathroom and cleans up a bit, finger combs his hair into something like order and tries to decide how to make his exit with some dignity intact.

He doesn’t come up with much.

Wen Kexing is in the kitchen when Zhou Zishu makes his way out with what he can gather of his courage. He’s humming along with the music, tuneless and unashamed, monitoring two pans sizzling on the stove. He wears shorts that don’t cover most of his legs and a t-shirt with a stretched out collar. The only jewelry he wears is the one necklace he didn’t take off last night, two interlocking rings on a simple gold chain. Whatever he’s cooking smells delicious. When Wen Kexing notices him, he smiles happily, and Zhou Zishu wonders what he’d ever done in his life to make someone smile at him like that.

“Good morning,” Wen Kexing says, far too chipper. “I was wondering how long you were going to sleep. I would have tried to wake you sooner, but you seemed so peaceful I didn’t want to disturb you.”

Zhou Zishu doesn’t know what to say. For a moment, he wants to thank him. For last night, for letting him stay, for giving him one moment of peace, one good thing before everything goes to shit, something for Zhou Zishu to hold onto in the end. But Wen Kexing wouldn’t understand any of that.

Zhou Zishu just says, “I should go.”

Wen Kexing nods, but something goes a little dimmer in his eyes before he recovers. “Alright. If you wait for me to finish this, I can take you back to the club.”

“I can make my own way,” Zhou Zishu replies. He shouldn’t want to spend more time with this man. It’s not fair to him.

“Are you sure? I made plenty.”

Zhou Zishu hesitates. Here there is Wen Kexing’s company, which he’s starting to like more than he can admit to himself. If he leaves, there’s a half empty bottle and gilt noose around his throat, slowly tightening as he walks himself toward a cliff.

Wen Kexing waits, one brow faintly arched, something like amusement in the curve of his mouth. “I can turn around,” he offers. “Pretend I didn’t notice you there.”

Zhou Zishu lets himself rise to his teasing. “I’ll stay if you promise not to talk so much.”

Wen Kexing draws up with an offended laugh. “I am a delight and you know it, Ah Xu.”

“I do not,” Zhou Zishu argues flatly, even as he walks over to the short bar counter that separates the kitchen area.

Wen Kexing watches him with a kind of warmth Zhou Zishu should dissuade and selfishly tells himself he doesn’t know how. “Oh really? Then why were you so hesitant to leave?”

“The food smells good.”

Wen Kexing laughs at him with a fondness that threatens to knock the air from Zhou Zishu’s lungs. It’s cruel to stay. He knows that. But Zhou Zishu can never remove himself from the man he is , regardless of what he’s pretending to be.

They eat with the companionable banter that is becoming too familiar, too easy, for only having known each other for less than twenty four hours. Zhou Zishu loiters at the counter while Wen Kexing cleans up their meal, tells himself after a shower he’ll go.

Instead, Wen Kexing invites himself into the shower with him, some half baked complaint about Zhou Zishu using all his hot water, as if that’s a concern for him in a place like this, and at first all he does is wash Zhou Zishu’s hair for him. For a moment, Zhou Zishu thinks that’s all he’ll do.

Then Wen Kexing gets on his knees and swallows Zhou Zishu’s cock like he doesn’t actually need to breathe. He sucks him so well it’s like he’s trying to suck Zhou Zishu’s soul out through his cock. Zhou Zishu has to yank him up and spin him around. He fucks him right there against the shower wall until the icy water chases them out. Then he bends him over the counter and finishes fucking him there.

Wen Kexing braces against the mirror, shaking and whining. Zhou Zishu watches his face, watches the way his eyes widen when he grinds against his prostate, like the pleasure surprises him, watches the way his expression shatters open when he’s overwhelmed, watches the way his lips part and his eyes squeeze shut when he comes, a little furrow appearing between his brows.

Zhou Zishu doesn’t let himself wonder how many men have been allowed to see Wen Kexing like this. That’s not the kind of man he is, and not the one he’s pretending to be either.

Zhou Zishu doesn’t leave.

Wen Kexing complains about the smudges on his mirror and shoos Zhou Zishu out so he can clean up. Wen Kexing seems to be fussy about cleaning. He cooked for them, but no one would know it now, by how spotless his kitchen is. He offers to wash Zhou Zishu’s clothes and gives him a pair of sweatpants to wear. And a t-shirt after Zhou Zishu glares at him, though not without whining dramatically about the unfairness of Zhou Zishu covering up as he hands it over. He changes all the sheets and bundles them off to wash after Zhou Zishu’s clothes. He’s definitely a fastidious person. It’s a strange thing to know about someone who you don’t really know at all.

If he had more time. The thought sits in the back of Zhou Zishu’s mind, stuck like a tick.

The things he knows about Wen Kexing are sparse, based on his observations. Wen Kexing is neat, about his home and his person, but he’ll suck on Zhou Zishu’s come stained fingers without batting an eye. He’s well off, but not as much as his fashion choices would imply. Someone else lives here, at least sometimes. Like the car, there are signs of what Zhou Zishu now thinks is a teenage girl. There’s a pair of purple flats tucked in the shoe rack by the door, an extra set of car keys hung on a hook in the kitchen, a little black and pastel stuffed bear hanging from them.

Zhou Zishu pokes around a bit while Wen Kexing does other things. If he had more time he might ask if the signs of another person he sees are the girl that grows from chubby cheeked toddler to pretty young woman in photos scattered about the place. Zhou Zishu decides she must be his sister, since one of those photos features that toddler in the arms of a lanky adolescent with softer more rounded versions of the refined beautiful features Wen Kexing has as a man. He might ask about the other women that feature heavily in the photos, lovely middle aged women who stand close together in every image. Relatives perhaps? Or friends?

If Zhou Zishu had more time to get beyond the surface level observations, the things about Wen Kexing he can know, like the things he has learned about Wen Kexing’s body. His prostate is very sensitive but his nipples aren’t, but if Zhou Zishu bites them that will make him whine. He likes being pressed beneath Zhou Zishu’s weight, but if his wrists are pinned he locks up and his mouth will thin unhappily. Zhou Zishu takes care not to do that again.

Maybe, if he had more time, he’d ask him why that is. He’d ask if it has anything to do with the black tattoo on his hip that covers a cluster of what feels like cigarette burns. He’d ask about the major surgery scar on his shoulder, and the obvious bullet wound beneath it.

Maybe he’d tell Wen Kexing about the burns on his own back he felt him run his hands over while they fucked. Maybe he’d tell him he was an older brother once too. Maybe he’d tell him why he was at that bar last night pretending to be someone else.

Maybe he’d tell Wen Kexing his name.

He hears Wen Kexing’s steps and turns to watch him walk back from the hallway. It’s closer to evening now, the lingering golden light from the windows softens the line of Wen Kexing’s face, lights his dark eyes. He smiles at Zhou Zishu too softly. Suddenly, all Zhou Zishu wants to do is fuck him again.

“Ah Xu,” he says, something like a greeting, something like he expected Zhou Zishu to be gone, even though he hasn’t given him back his clothes yet. “Are you hungry?”

Zhou Zishu says, “Yes.”

There’s a moment when he could leave. After they’ve eaten, after Wen Kexing has cleaned up, after he’s given Zhou Zishu the neatly folded pile of his clothes.

Wen Kexing offers him a drink. Zhou Zishu doesn’t leave.

They sit on the couch, on opposite ends turned toward each other. Wen Kexing has his long legs outstretched, crossed at the ankle, bare feet on the floor. Zhou Zishu has one leg on Wen Kexing’s lap. Wen Kexing rubs at his calf, the touch absent.

They talk about things two people who don’t want to talk about themselves talk about. Wen Kexing tells him about a movie he saw that he can’t remember the name of now. Zhou Zishu makes half-interested noises between sips from his glass.

Zhou Zishu wants to ask Wen Kexing if he expects the girl who lives here, at least sometimes, to come back. He hasn’t made any indication he wants Zhou Zishu to leave, lures him back in fact, when he looks like he might try. He hasn’t made any phone calls or sent any texts Zhou Zishu could see, to warn her away.

Zhou Zishu’s phone is probably dead. He hasn’t looked at it in a while. No one will bother him. He was given a month, so generously, to mourn, to put himself back together. No one will miss him.

If Wen Kexing knew, would he miss him?

Zhou Zishu sets his glass aside, pulls his leg from Wen Kexing’s lap. “Lao Wen. Come here.”

Wen Kexing’s soft mouth curves into a smirk and he crawls over the length of the couch and into Zhou Zishu’s lap. The shorts he wears bunch up at the bend between hip and thigh. If Zhou Zishu lays his palms on top of Wen Kexing’s smooth thighs and pushes his hands up, his thumbs settle right against the tender inner skin just below his groin. So he does. Wen Kexing lays his arms over Zhou Zishu’s shoulders and kisses him leisurely.

“Yes, Ah Xu?” he purrs against his lips. “What can I do for you?”

He can stop making Zhou Zishu wish he had more time.

“I want to eat you out,” Zhou Zishu says.

Wen Kexing’s expression flits from surprise to pleasure to heat and he nods, slipping off Zhou Zishu’s lap so he tug him up by both hands. They go back to the bedroom. They undress. Wen Kexing lays on his belly beneath Zhou Zishu while Zhou Zishu kisses down the curve of his spine, breathing in shivery little sighs. Then Zhou Zishu drags his hips up and rims him until his thighs quake and he’s begging breathlessly for Zhou Zishu to fuck him again.

He gives him what he wants. They’re on their sides, Wen Kexing’s back pressed tight to Zhou Zishu’s chest, his thigh held up and out by Zhou Zishu’s hand, while Zhou Zishu fucks him leisurely. He can’t get as deep in this position, but the angle is perfect to grind against Wen Kexing’s prostate and he makes such desperate gorgeous sounds when he does. It’s perfect because Wen Kexing can twist and press biting, breathless kisses to Zhou Zishu’s mouth and make those sounds right against his lips so he can swallow them down. It’s perfect because Zhou Zishu can hold him in a way he shouldn’t want to.

Zhou Zishu knows he should leave. Wen Kexing says he’s too tired to go again. He needs a break. Zhou Zishu isn’t going to argue with him. He’s lost count of how many times they’ve fucked in the last day and a half. Wen Kexing doesn’t bother putting on clothes when he pulls the sheets back and slips beneath them. He leaves one side of the bed open.

He doesn’t ask Zhou Zishu to leave. He doesn’t ask him to stay either. Zhou Zishu knows he should leave, but slides into that open spot in Wen Kexing’s bed anyway.

This morning, Zhou Zishu wakes before Wen Kexing does, with just the barest of pre-dawn light filtering into the room. Wen Kexing lays sprawled on his belly beside him, arms curved around his pillow, face half buried in it. The blanket has been kicked down to his thighs. Zhou Zishu reaches out, drags his fingers feather light along the knobs of Wen Kexing’s spine all the way to the small of his back, just before the slight swell of his small pert behind.

Zhou Zishu wonders what kind of man he could have been, to wake up every day to this. He wonders what kind of man eventually will. He hopes it’s a better kind than him.

Even though he knows he shouldn’t – and Zhou Zishu has done many things this weekend he shouldn’t have – he grazes his fingers over the smooth flesh of Wen Kexing’s ass, into the crease to drag them against his rim. He’s still a little loose and lube sticky, Zhou Zishu does nothing but touch him gently. He means to pull away, leave Wen Kexing to sleep but then Wen Kexing shifts and sighs and when he looks up, he’s watching him. His eyes are dark and still a little sleep hazed.

“You can,” he breathes sleepily, and he reaches for a bottle still tucked half lost among the pillows. It’s noticeably lighter than when Wen Kexing had first handed it to him that first night.

Zhou Zishu shouldn’t want to so much, but he does. Wen Kexing is sleep loose and pliant, it’s so easy to sink into him. Zhou Zishu lays on Wen Kexing’s back, weight on his forearms, and rests his forehead against his shoulder while he rocks slowly against him. Wen Kexing breathes low sighs and hums that sound like purrs and doesn’t do much but reach his hand back and paw at Zhou Zishu’s messy hair.   

Wen Kexing eventually relaxes back into a doze, making the occasional sleepy murmur, and Zhou Zishu doesn’t come, but it doesn’t really matter. He slides away, pulls the blanket back up, smiling at Wen Kexing’s little complaining noise, because Wen Kexing’s eyes are closed and he can’t see him.

“I can make you coffee,” Wen Kexing says, sleep slurred.

“I have to go,” Zhou Zishu murmurs, and this time, he needs to. “Go back to sleep.”

Wen Kexing sighs, mutters something. Zhou Zishu brushes his lips against his temple, lifts his hand and kisses his knuckles.

“Thank you,” he whispers into his skin.

Just once, he will thank Wen Kexing for letting him be the kind of man he wanted so desperately to pretend to be. Wen Kexing made Zhou Xu what he was, a kindness Zhou Zishu doesn’t deserve.

After Zhou Zishu is dressed and half way to the door, Wen Kexing mutters, “Goodbye. Ah Xu.”

Zhou Zishu stops, looks back at Wen Kexing’s long body, at his face, buried in the pillow but turned toward him now. He manages a smile that feels more like a grimace on his face. “Goodbye. Lao Wen.”

He walks out without looking back again, makes sure Wen Kexing’s door is firmly shut and locked behind him. He walks past the sedate maroon car and down the drive. There’s a train station not far from here.

There’s a folded piece of paper in his pocket when he shoves his hand in there as he walks. He pulls it out. Just a number, neatly printed. He knows what it is and tosses it into a nearby trash can. It’s not for him. The man it’s for stopped existing the second Zhou Zishu closed Wen Kexing’s door behind him.

Still, he murmurs a soft apology to the damp dawn air even though no one is around to hear it.

 

-- * One year later *--

 

Zhou Zishu died.

For two minutes his heart stopped beating and he was medically dead. Perhaps he should have stayed that way. He would have, but for Beiyuan’s help, Wu Xi’s intervention. He owes them much, more than he will ever be able to repay.

Dying is hard on the body. Living through seven bullets to the chest and recovering from them is harder. It takes Zhou Zishu a long time to heal. He hears often during those arduous months how miraculous it is he survived at all.  

Beiyuan jokes it’s because he’s stubborn. Zhou Zishu doesn’t say it’s because maybe, he’d found something he wanted to live for even though at the time, he hadn’t even realized it.

He’s still a little too thin. He’s wearing faded jeans and a t-shirt and he washed his hair but forgot to shave. He goes to a crowded club with pulsing music and he still doesn’t belong there. He finds a place at the crowded bar, lets the pocket of space open around him. It’s the same pretty bartender as that night. He feels like he’s seen her somewhere else too, but he can’t place her.

A man slots himself into the space at Zhou Zishu’s left elbow. His cologne is fresh and light, the kind that makes you want more of it.

He says, “Come here often?” His voice is low and smooth.

Zhou Zishu swallows, something like relief sinking into his veins. He turns slightly, takes the measure of him. He wears peacock green slacks and a deep red shirt half open on his chest and it shouldn’t work but it does. His hair is just a little shorter than it had been, dyed a platinum so pale it’s almost white. He is gorgeous and he knows it.

Zhou Zishu knows what kind of man he is now. “Not as often as you, apparently,” he says blandly.

“Well,” Wen Kexing says with a sly smile. “I am the owner. It stands to reason I would spend most of my time here.”

Zhou Zishu huffs a laugh. Of course. He came back to this place not ever expecting to see this man again but hoping maybe he would. Of course he’d turn out to be the owner.

“An entrepreneur,” Zhou Zishu says.

“And not unemployed,” Wen Kexing teases, knocking his shoulder into Zhou Zishu’s. He leans into his space. “Are you happy with your drink?”

Zhou Zishu considers the few fingers of liquor in his glass. “I’ve been told it’s unimaginative.”

Wen Kexing laughs. “Well we can make you something special. On the house. I want you to be satisfied . Ah Xu.”

Zhou Zishu sets his glass down and turns so they are fully facing each other. “Zhou Zishu,” he says. “My name is Zishu.”

Wen Kexing considers him, the hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth. “It’s nice to meet you, Zhou Zishu.”

“Call me Ah Xu.” It’s meant to be nonchalant, and maybe it would have been if he hadn’t needed it so much. “Lao Wen.”

The smile teasing at Wen Kexing’s mouth widens, turns soft, and maybe Zhou Zishu is the kind of man who can have a man like Wen Kexing smile at him like that. “Ah Xu.” He sighs, gives Zhou Zishu a pout he wants to bite. “I’ll have you know I am mad at you. I gave you my number and you never used it. That was very cruel of you.”

Zhou Zishu shrugs slightly. “I had some things I needed to do.”

“Fair,” Wen Kexing says. “And now?”

Zhou Zishu leans into Wen Kexing’s space, places a hand on his waist and lets his mouth curve into a small smirk. “I can think of one thing that still needs to be done.”

Wen Kexing softens slightly, sways toward him, pink cheeked and doe eyed. His smile is cautiously pleased and warm. He doesn’t recover as quickly. “I wouldn’t stop you from doing something you feel you need to do.”

There was one space of time, one weekend a year ago where Zhou Zishu got to see the kind of man he wanted to be. Zhou Xu never existed. Maybe Zhou Zishu wasn’t the man who died. The man who didn’t die might be both. Or neither. But Ah Xu is very much a man he would like to be.

“Do you want to get out of here?” Wen Kexing says with a coy little smile.

Zhou Zishu pretends to consider it, and laughs when Wen Kexing whines and nudges him. “Sure. I prefer a quiet drink.”

Wen Kexing slides his hand down Zhou Zishu’s arm, plucks up the hand he has on his waist and curls his own around it. “Well I can offer you a drink, but I can’t promise anything about this evening will be particularly quiet.”

Zhou Zishu gives a little snort. “I remember how much you talk.”

Wen Kexing huffs an offended laugh. “Cruel man,” he accuses. “You’re lucky I like you, Ah Xu. Showing up here after a year … For me to even entertain this—”

Zhou Zishu sighs, curls his free hand around the back of Wen Kexing’s neck and tugs him in. “Lao Wen. Shut up and come here.”

He kisses him like he’d wanted to that first night at the bar, just like this. Wen Kexing melts against him with a shivery little sigh and when Zhou Zishu pulls back his cheeks are flushed a soft pink that contrasts nicely with his pale hair, his eyes dark and soft.

He breathes, “Ah Xu.”

Zhou Zishu squeezes his hand and tugs him away from the bar. The kind of man who gets to hear his name breathed like that in Wen Kexing’s low, sweet tones, that’s the kind of man Ah Xu gets to be.