Binghe thought there was something wrong with his new neighbor next door.
In the beginning he was happy that the vacant apartment next to his finally got rented but his neighbor turned out to be a very private introvert.
He never went out on his balcony and his curtains were always drawn. The few times Binghe had seen him in the corridor he was always dressed to show as little of his form and face as possible. Trench coat, sunglasses, gloves, even a face mask. The only part of him that he could see was his long, luscious hair.
He always replied to Binghe’s greetings in a curt, polite way but never stopped to make small talk with him. He never supplied his name or showed any interest in knowing Binghe’s.
That’s why it was very strange when one day the doorbell to Binghe’s apartment rang - the man standing in the front door was no other than said neighbor. This was the only time he had shown his whole face without a mask or sunglasses.
He had fine features and phoenix eyes. His skin was far too pale, like he never went outside of his home, blue veins could be seen trailing down his neck. Binghe thought it wasn’t surprising with how much the other man was covering every time he went out.
The neighbor coughed awkwardly and Binghe shook himself out of his trance.
“Hello, can I please use your phone? I got locked out of my apartment and I don’t use a cellphone”. Binghe only blinked. Who didn’t use a cellphone in this day and age? Even more odd was that the man in front of him didn’t seem old, he looked only in his early thirties.
He swallowed down any criticism he had and let his neighbor into his own apartment, leading him to the living room.
“Sure thing, come in and let me go grab mine” he said with a smile trying to seem polite. Binghe didn’t really care about other people but he always made the effort to seem friendly and approachable.
When he got back, his neighbor was inspecting his bookshelves.
“I see you have many cooking books here” the man said in a flat tone.
“I’m a professional chef, of course I do” Binghe replied as he blushed. For some reason he felt self-conscious under the other man’s gaze.
“Ah that explains it” his neighbor mumbled with a small smile as he reached to take the phone he was offered.
He quickly dialed a number, but the person on the other end of the line wasn’t picking up. Eventually someone with a high-pitched voice answered. Binghe couldn’t hear it clearly but they sounded annoyed.
“I forgot my keys at your house can you- “ a frown brought his eyebrows together “I don’t care what you’re doing with him you owe me one” a sigh “pull yourself together and bring them now, ring the door to the right from mine” he half shouted and hang up.
His attitude changed in a split second as he turned around to face Binghe who was waiting for him to finish, silently intimidated by him.
“I’m sorry can I wait here for a few minutes? My friend is going to bring me my keys soon and I can’t be outside for too long because of my illness” he said putting effort into sounding sympathetic, Binghe could tell - he did that a lot too.
“Of course you can...?” He trailed off, leaving his neighbor to complete with his name.
“Shen Yuan. My name is Shen Yuan, and yours is?”
“Luo Binghe” he was about to extend his hand for a handshake, but Shen Yuan seemed too closed off to reciprocate so he let his hand fall. “How old is Shen Yuan?” he asked, eager to keep the conversation going.
“I’m… I should be… 31?” Binghe was careful with his face to not reveal his confusion. The man didn’t even know how old he was?
“Ah Shen Yuan is older than me” he exclaimed bashfully. Truth to be told the man indeed looked younger - if he didn’t know, Binghe would assume he was in his mid twenties.
Shen Yuan nodded in understanding. His half-lidded eyes and soft smile gave him an alluring vibe. Binghe, who normally wasn’t affected by other people, seemed to feel somewhat uneasy under the other man’s attention.
“And how old is Binghe?”
“Such a lovely and young age, you have the livelihood and vitality of youth, how I wish I could relive that” Shen Yuan sighed, his eyes never leaving Binghe’s.
He’s only five years older than me, the younger man thought confusedly.
He isn’t that old to talk and reminisce of my age like it was decades ago…
They continued chatting in the same way, up until Binghe’s doorbell rang and a small man appeared in his doorstep.
He was wearing a hoodie that was at least three sizes bigger than needed and he sported dark sunglasses too. He seemed anxious and skittish in the sight of Binghe.
He was about to talk when Shen Yuan came up behind Binghe, a judging stare nestled on his face.
“Shang Qinghua what kind of appearance is this? Are you not ashamed of going around with stains of THAT on your shirt? Are you that shameless?” Binghe took a better look at the smaller man and indeed he could see a few dark red stains, presumably from juice? on his hoodie.
Binghe didn’t mind that much since Shang Qinghua already looked worse for wear, like he had just rolled out of his bed. Despite that, when he opened his mouth, his voice was clear and loud.
“You saw Mobei Jun coming as you left!! You knew what was about to go down and yet! And yet you called me in the middle of it! You should have been more careful to not forget your keys in the first place” he half whined, half yelled, looking up at his friend.
Shen Yuan grabbed him by the arm roughly and dragged him in the direction of his apartment.
“Let’s go to continue this conversation somewhere else where I can yell at you the way you deserve!! You practically threw me out as soon as Mobei Jun showed up!! You good-for-nothing writer!!”
He would continue to scold him like that but suddenly he remembered Binghe’s existence - Binghe who was leaning on his doorframe, witnessing the scolding somewhat shocked as to how the man had gone from elegant and refined to an angry mess in the span of seconds.
For a moment he returned to that elegant image he had first presented as he turned to Binghe.
“Thank you so much for letting me in” his eyes sparkled for a moment “I guess I’ll be seeing you again” he said, then turned and continued to drag the so-called Shang Qinghua inside his apartment.
Luo Binghe stood there looking at the corridor like a hurricane had just passed him by.
He usually wasn’t attracted to people, men and women alike, only sleeping around here and there to fulfill his needs but something about Shen Yuan had stirred a weird feeling inside him. He deliberately never got too close to people romantically because deep down he knew he wouldn’t be able to maintain a normal connection with them.
His mother had died in childbirth and his father resented him for it. Since he was rich he could afford thrusting his child into the eager hands of expensive caregivers who treated him like a glass doll.
The older he grew, the more aware he became of how starved he actually was for affection and love, but it was too late to have a healthy view of it. The relationships with the two people he attempted to date during his highschool and later on in college had shown him his mind wasn’t normal in that aspect of life.
He became easily obsessed and totally wrapped up in the person he was seeing, longed for a deeper bond and more attention, and yet the exact feeling he was looking for to satisfy that urge alluded him.
Eventually, in both of his relationships, he broke up after seeing that his partners also grew to become tired of the clinginess and his own feelings of inadequacy from their relationships.
That’s why he stopped searching for a relationship. He could live, he thought, without that part of him being fulfilled.
Now, though, he was being swayed.
Shen Yuan had something enchanting in him. He spoke like an old man contrary to his actual age, and Binghe felt as if the man was indulging him. He made him blush when no one had managed to so before. He was like a magnet drawing him to his side.
Binghe thought that maybe this once he chose correct and this man was truly someone who could give him what he wanted.
Approach him casually and reign himself from not diving into this all at once…
Maybe this time it would work.
Freshly baked muffins were pulled out of the oven a few days later.
Binghe decided he was going to seduce Shen Yuan and the first step in his plan was to start regularly gifting him baked goods. It was his strong suit as a chef after all.
Now he stood on front of Shen Yuan’s door with a plate of steaming muffins to give to him.
The other man opened the door after a few rings and he seemed to be disoriented. He looked like he had just woken up in a plain t-shirt and his hair looked a little bit messed up.
The moment he saw Binghe he straightened up and pushed his glasses higher to the bridge of his nose. He gave a quick look to the apartment behind him and turned to face his neighbor again.
“Good morning, Binghe” he said as his morning voice cracked in the last syllable.
“Good morning” the younger man replied back with an innocent smile. “I baked some muffins and I thought to bring you some, since we are neighbors and all”.
He extended the plate to Shen Yuan.
The man eyed it and a crease appeared between his eyebrows.
“I- thank you so much, it’s just that… I don’t eat a lot of sweets because of my illness but…” he contemplated something “I guess a few muffins aren’t a big deal”.
He accepted the plate and flashed a smile back. Binghe thought he looked especially soft, the edges of his face weren’t as cutting as usual, maybe because he had just woken up, making him look ever younger than before.
He took another look at the state of the apartment behind him and sighed. Binghe could see his apartment was in an acceptable state only the few pieces of clothing that were thrown here and there and some empty bottles with coke on the coffee table.
“I would ask you if you want to come inside and have some coffee but the state of my home isn’t the best at the moment I fear”.
“It’s okay I wasn’t expecting a favor just for giving you some muffins” Binghe lightheartedly said back although he was hoping this could help him get closer to Shen Yuan and even get invited inside his apartment.
Shen Yuan seemed to think about it for a moment.
“Ugh, maybe we can arrange a time for a coffee. It’s good to know your neighbors after all”.
Binghe cordially agreed.
His plan was working. He would get closer.
Shen Yuan had lived in seclusion for far too long. He had been turned roughly 400 years ago and he had spent most of his time away from civilization. He was content living alone in a cabin in the woods with his only companion being the books he read.
Sometimes, over the years, he met other vampires passing by, but none could get used to his lifestyle. The one who prompted him to move to the city was none other than Shang Qinghua, a catastrophe of a vampire and writer, who occasionally visited over the years and bugged him with the atrocious novels he wrote.
He kept telling Shen Yuan of the brand-new world with its skyscrapers and electricity and modern comforts and how much better it was nowadays for vampires who hid in the big cities.
Shen Yuan had to begrudgingly agree that his friend was correct. He had noticed the changes over the years when he went to small towns to load up on books and from the few times that humans would violate his territory in their so-called hiking trips.
One day he packed the few important books and trinkets he had gathered over the centuries and left his cabin once and for all. Shang Qinghua took him in and taught him about everything that had changed over the last 370 years. Shen Yuan had learned some stuff from his vampire visitors but fitting into the new society was a totally different issue.
Time passed and Shen Yuan found himself actually enjoying the 90s and immersed himself in the pop culture and took a special interest in computer sciences. Around the mid 00s Shang Qinghua found Mobei Jun.
Shen Yuan couldn’t see the appeal and he also had a suspicion that the man was a vampire hunter in disguise. He was always so serious and mostly sat silent. The vampire thought he was definitely going to dump Qinghua once he found out what he was or straight up kill him but the exact opposite thing happened.
He was more than content being Qinghua’s living blood bag, boyfriend and provider, since he was a rich CEO, a 3-in-1 deal as Shen Yuan called him behind his back. Qinghua described his blood as incomparable to all others. A couple of years later Mobei Jun drank Shang Qinghua’s blood and stopped aging. They had formed a bond and from now on the vampire could only be sustained from that specific human’s blood.
Shen Yuan was happy for his friend, but he continued deep down to find the whole situation strange. Ever since he had been turned, humans never appealed to him. Their blood was no different from the animals’ and sex with them gave the barest of pleasure. It used to feel good before but after he became a vampire it paled in comparison to what it used to feel like.
Before the modern era he survived on animal blood, not wanting to hurt humans, but as nowadays blood banks were a thing, he could indulge himself in frozen human blood since with that he wouldn’t even harm animals.
He had to admit his last 30 years living in civilization were good. He worked as a freelance programmer although he didn’t even need the job - Qinghua was always pushing his boyfriend’s money on him.
He played video games during the day, since he couldn’t go out, he went to the movies with Qinghua and at rare occasions he even indulged in one-night stands.
It was a very different life from one he had lived in the woods, but it had its appeal. He felt fulfilled. Qinghua was right, that era had come to an end.
30 years after he had first moved in with Shang Qinghua he had to move out. His friend was officially going to live with Mobei Jun meaning he needed to find an apartment for himself. He calculated he needed to find one for approximately 12-14 years before someone would start to suspect he wasn’t aging so that he needed to move to another one.
The one he chose was in a very busy area downtown but high up that his balcony had a view, and he couldn’t smell the car fumes. It was a little bit expensive, but he had decided it was the time to leech off of Mobei Jun’s money with Shang Qinghua’s wishes.
After he settled in, he spent his time working on a few projects he had taken on and playing video games in his free time.
He didn’t have any intentions of making friends with the other residents of his floor, but he couldn’t help but stare when he passed by the young man who lived in the apartment next door.
Although it has been centuries since he had found someone sexually attractive, he could still tell that his neighbor was very aesthetically pleasing. From his fluffy curls to his toned muscles under the thin shirts he wore, he looked like one of those heroes from ancient tales who conquered realms and slayed beasts.
He would never tell him any of that though, the furthest he got was polite good evenings and good nights.
When he got locked out of his apartment it felt like a push from the universe. He never carried a phone with him, a remanent from his old life, so he needed to ask a neighbor for a phone to contact Shang Qinghua.
His first thought was the beautiful man next door.
It turned out he was a chef and as nice as he always seemed on the corridor. Although Shen Yuan kept his human contact to the minimum, he could still make Luo Binghe - that’s what the neighbor’s name was, flush a deep scarlet color. He felt a little bit guilty for playing him like that as he looked truly adorable.
Shen Yuan felt weirdly alive after talking to him, like Binghe’s youth had rubbed off on him. That feeling was short-lived, though, as Shang Qinghua arrived with his hoodie stained with Mobei Jun’s blood and Shen Yuan felt an irrational fear arise.
Sure, most of the time humans weren’t suspicious that vampires lived amongst them and mostly likely Luo Binghe thought it was some type of juice but still felt as if he wanted to strangle Shang Qinghua on the spot.
After that incident Shen Yuan thought he wouldn’t come in close quarters with Luo Binghe again but there he was standing in his door on a random Tuesday morning.
The vampire slept during the day since he couldn’t go outside when the sun was up so Binghe’s ring on his door had woke him from the deep slumber he was in.
He accepted the muffins the human gave to him, but his heart clenched painfully. He knew he wouldn’t eat them. They would end up in the trash or in Mobei Jun’s hands since he was the only one in his close circle that could stomach regular food.
He thought of Binghe making them with care and his chest was filling with guilt. He thought he had to at least repay him for thinking of him, but his apartment wasn’t in any shape to accept visitors. Not to mention the bottles of half drank blood that loitered his living room. He was truly a disgrace.
He turned to Binghe and offered to make him a coffee some other time and the man accepted enthusiastically.
Shen Yuan noted that he had done what the rational part of his brain denied him but what he subconsciously wanted all along.
A chance to make Binghe blush brilliantly once again.