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hard to reach (harder to love)

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Feng Xin wondered what exactly he had done in a past life to warrant ending up in this situation.

Said situation seemed ideal at first glance. He was holding hands with someone pretty, who was curled into his side sleepily, hair smelling faintly of strawberries. 

Unfortunately, the only reason the aforementioned pretty someone (oh, and how Feng Xin loathed calling him pretty ) had decided to tame his regular asshole personality was because of a stupid lie to their stupid friend.

“I’m so happy for you two!” Xie Lian gushed, hands pressed together.

Calling Xie Lian stupid when he was so obviously happy for them made something churn uncomfortably in Feng Xin’s stomach, but really , if Xie Lian could just get together with Hua Cheng already, they wouldn’t be in this position! As much as Feng Xin and Mu Qing agreed on Hua Cheng definitely not being good enough for Xie Lian, there was only so much sad staring and pining they could take.

When they were scoping out a popular date spot and planning on how to lure Xie Lian and Hua Cheng there at the same time, they were caught by Xie Lian himself with Shi Qingxuan (who wanted to bring He Xuan , of all people, there). The only way to lie their way out of the situation ended up being Mu Qing grabbing Feng Xin’s hand and blurting out that they had secretly been dating for the last month.

Xie Lian had bought it. Oh, how he had bought it.

The past two days had been nothing short of interesting. Mu Qing and Feng Xin both agreed that Xie Lian would be suspicious if they broke up so quickly, so they would stay ‘together’ for the time being. Also, Xie Lian looked happier seeing them together. Feng Xin didn’t know what that meant, and didn’t want to think about it too much.

“Hm, thanks.” He carded a hand through Mu Qing’s hair absent-mindedly. For all that he was an asshole to Feng Xin, Mu Qing was nice (well, nicer) to Xie Lian. His abrupt, fiery personality had simmered down over the years towards everybody but Feng Xin.

They would never get along if it weren’t for Xie Lian. Mu Qing was just too... Mu Qing .

“I’ve got class,” Xie Lian said, standing up. “See you after?”

“Yeah,” Feng Xin waved goodbye, tugging his reading out of his back and balancing it in one hand as not to disturb Mu Qing, who seemed to have actually fallen asleep on him. Concerned, Feng Xin peered over him – sure enough, dark circles were under his eyes. Better to let him sleep, he would surely yell if Feng Xin woke him up. Besides, Feng Xin wanted peace and quiet to finish his reading.

Mu Qing was softer when he was asleep.

Feng Xin pushed his mind away from how Mu Qing looked when he was asleep and back to his reading. His important reading. His ‘I have 60 pages to finish before tomorrow’ reading.

...Mu Qing’s hair really shone a certain way in the sunlight.

Feng Xin sighed. Even asleep, it looked like Mu Qing was going to be an asshole. Characteristic.

It was Shi Qingxuan’s birthday, and Feng Xin wanted nothing more than to be buried under a blanket mountain in his freezing room back home.

He liked Shi Qingxuan enough. They were always nice to him, and brought coffee for the whole apartment (Mu Qing, Feng Xin, and Xie Lian – whoever decided on that living situation surely wanted to send Feng Xin to an early grave) whenever they visited. What he did not like were giant, out of control parties where he had to shout to even be heard.

Xie Lian was nowhere to be seen – of course he had abandoned Feng Xin at the very party he had dragged him to. If it were up to Feng Xin, he would have visited Shi Qingxuan earlier in the day, given them their birthday present, and left before they could have even asked him about the party. 

He tightened his jacket around himself. This shirt was too tight, the pants were no better, and he ached to tie his hair back in its usual short ponytail. 

“Hey,” someone said, bumping him lightly in the hip. Feng Xin glared, but softened when he saw that it was just Mu Qing.

“Xie Lian brought you?” 

Mu Qing rolled his eyes, “Who else. The things I do for him.”

“I know, right? I’ve even got to date you because of him,” Feng Xin teased.

A flash went through Mu Qing’s eyes. Feng Xin hated it instantly. Mu Qing cleared his throat, “We can stop – ”

“It’s too early.” Feng Xin finally found a hair elastic in his jacket pocket, reaching up to tie his hair back. “Besides, it could be worse.”

“Literally, how.”

“He Xuan. Or Pei Ming,” Feng Xin shuddered. “He’d try to sleep with me.”

“Eh,” Mu Qing chuckled. “He likes the pretty ones. I doubt he’d go for you.”

Feng Xin gasped, “You – ”

“Besides, isn’t he straight?”

Feng Xin snorted, because really , Pei Ming had slept with half the boys’ football team last summer alone. “Pei Ming is about as straight as I am.”

“Yeah,” Mu Qing said, “so, extremely.”

Feng Xin snapped the hair elastic in shock. “I’m not – what? I’m not straight!”

“You’re not? ” Mu Qing’s eyes went wide. “But – you and Jian Lan!”

“Bisexuality!” Feng Xin had never been more exasperated. He had a pride flag in his room!

Then again, had Mu Qing ever been in his room when they weren’t arguing? 

“I – oh. Sorry.” Mu Qing shrugged, eyes darting away. 

“Apologies sound weird from you.” Feng Xin looked around, “I don’t see Xie Lian. Want to get out of here?”

“That fucker ,” Mu Qing hissed. “He was my ride home.”

Feng Xin coughed. His chest felt warm all of a sudden, mouth felt dry all of a sudden. “I’ll drive you.”

Mu Qing nodded shyly, looking down. It was cute, he was cute . Feng Xin hadn’t had anything to drink tonight but he felt seven shots deep, swimming under murky waters, seaweed wrapping around his ankles and dragging him in deeper. 

Feng Xin reached out and took his hand. At Mu Qing’s glance, Feng Xin leaned closer and whispered, “I think I saw Shi Qingxuan. Just in case.”

Yes, he had seen Shi Qingxuan, but they were making out furiously with He Xuan, and what Mu Qing didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him (Feng Xin was a terrible person, wasn’t he?). Besides, what could he say? ‘I want to hold your hand?’ Mu Qing would stab him, revive him, and strangle him back to his grave.

Or, terrifyingly worse, he would ask ‘Why?’ in that soft tone of his that only came out when he was half-asleep or drunk, and Feng Xin would not know what to say.

The weight of Mu Qing’s hand in his, thumb stroking absently over the back of Feng Xin’s hand, fingers clenching just a bit too tight, felt like heaven.

No, absolutely not. Feng Xin just hadn’t had a date for a long time! This was a totally natural reaction! It wasn’t like he had feelings for Mu Qing , of all people. Absolutely not.

Mu Qing smiled as the cool hair hit his face as they stepped outside. Moonlight reflected off his silver hair, catching on his eyebrow piercing and the rings on his fingers. Oh . Oh, he was beautiful.

Oh, Feng Xin’s heart broke.

It was a devastating realization with not-so-devastating consequences.

Feng Xin immediately pushed any and all feelings down into the pit of his stomach, down where they could never emerge and burn. It was difficult, when Mu Qing laughed like that at his jokes when he thought Feng Xin wasn’t looking, when he swapped his regular eyebrow piercings out for the cutest silver stars, when his temper flared and they fought, but the heat was different. It didn’t flash hot and bright, but it curled warmly, molten and fond, overwhelmingly scorching in a different kind of way.

Is this what liking Mu Qing felt like?

Feng Xin could barely believe it. He was trying to set up Xie Lian but had accidentally set himself up instead.

Speaking of a set up – 

“You guys haven’t ever kissed,” Xie Lian pouts.

Oh. Oh no . “He doesn’t like public affection,” Mu Qing said, quickly.

“And you?” Xie Lian raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t mind it,” Mu Qing shrugged, softly.

Xie Lian gave Feng Xin a pointed look, leaving him sputtering, “Well – a little is fine – ”

“Fine!”

“Fine!”

“Fine!”

“Fine!”

Mu Qing scowled, leaning dangerously sideways and pressing a kiss to Feng Xin’s cheek. “Shut up! Idiot!”

“D-Dumbass!” Feng Xin shrieked, face heating up rapidly. His cheek was burning where Mu Qing kissed him, and he was certain he would overheat. He turned his face away from Xie Lian, forehead hitting Mu Qing’s soft sweater. 

“Whoa, you okay?” Mu Qing asked. “Hey, I’m sorry,” he whispered, tilting his head away from their audience. 

“It’s fine,” Feng Xin whispered, equally quietly. “Sorry.”

“Don’t. I should have asked you.” He sounded...hesitant?

“Felt nice,” Feng Xin admitted, because he hated that tone in Mu Qing’s voice. Regardless, feelings or not, Mu Qing was still an asshole, and Feng Xin would not let that go unanswered. Feng Xin headbutted him lightly in the jaw, pressing a kiss to the soft skin there. Mu Qing went the most lovely shade of pink, and Feng Xin chuckled. “Pretty.”

“...”

“...” oh, he had said that out loud . Feng Xin was going to bury himself alive, and possibly everyone in this room.

Hua Cheng laughed – not cruelly, but still. Xie Lian laughed lightly as well, tilting his head. 

If anything, Mu Qing had gone even more pink, frozen and shell-shocked. Warmth blossomed in Feng Xin’s chest; delight that he could get such a reaction out of him. 

“I’ve got class,” Mu Qing said, finally, wriggling out of Feng Xin’s arms. Feng Xin wished he didn’t miss the other man’s warmth, but he couldn’t lie to himself. 

“Wait, on the north side of campus right? I’ve got to meet a professor there.” Feng Xin hopped to his feet. “Let me walk you?”

Mu Qing shrugged, “Do what you want.”

Feng Xin took it as a victory. Waving goodbye to Xie Lian, he walked with Mu Qing to class, hand in hand. 

“Do you want coffee?”

Mu Qing gave him a weird look. “Uh, I don’t have my wallet.”

“I’ll get it.”

Mu Qing’s eyes narrowed. “Alright.”

He sounded so surprised. Hadn’t Feng Xin ever bought him coffee before?

They were almost friends, Feng Xin thought, despite the arguing and the differences. Feng Xin had watched Mu Qing grow up from a shy seventeen year old asshole to a...well, outspoken twenty three year old asshole. He had to admire the way Mu Qing carried himself, how clever he was in his own snarky way, and his hard work and dedication. 

They really could have been friends if Feng Xin was a little kinder, if Mu Qing was a little softer. It was too late to change the past, but not too late to change the future. Feng Xin clutched Mu Qing’s black coffee in his hand, taking a deep breath. 

Stepping out of the coffee shop, his heart dropped into his feet.

Some guy was talking to – no, flirting with , Mu Qing. It was obvious, the way he leaned forward, the way his eyes skirted up and down Mu Qing’s body (and if that didn’t make Feng Xin want to break his nose), the way Mu Qing was blushing.

Oh. So that blush wasn’t special. It didn’t mean anything.

Until Feng Xin heard Mu Qing speak. “Sorry, I have a boyfriend.”

“I could treat you better than – ”

Feng Xin! ” Mu Qing’s eyes flashed when he saw him. “Sorry, I’ve got to go.” He stood up, rushing forward to stand next to Feng Xin. “Can we go?”

“Whatever,” the guy scoffed, “You’re not that cute anyways.”

Not that cute? Feng Xin stepped forward, ready to actually break the guy’s nose, until he felt a soft touch on his arm.

Mu Qing wrapped his hand around Feng Xin’s bicep. “Not worth it. Let’s go.”

Feng Xin breathed in once, twice. Mu Qing’s hand tightened, and Feng Xin nodded, turning around and wrapping his arm around Mu Qing, pulling him close. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Mu Qing shrugged, “People will be people. Besides, that wasn’t even that bad.”

Feng Xin blinked, “What.”

“I can handle myself,” Mu Qing bristled.

Shit . “I know,” Feng Xin said, counting out every word, making sure he said exactly how he felt. “But you shouldn’t have to, is all.”

Mu Qing shrugged, “I guess. Thanks.”

Feng Xin smiled at him, chest expanding from the feeling of his heart rising in his throat. He didn’t know whether it was a blessing or a curse to have this ridiculous crush on Mu Qing of all people, but –

Mu Qing was smiling, pink dusting the tops of those pretty cheekbones.

– it could be worse.

It could not be worse.

Feng Xin wanted to ascend into the vents and never come back down.

Mu Qing, in general, made Feng Xin have a heart attack in the best way. A drunk Mu Qing, with no filter? Terrible for his health as a whole.

“Why aren’t you smiling?” Mu Qing pouted. “I like your smile.”

This wasn’t real. He’s drunk. It doesn’t mean anything. Even though drunk people are always supposed to tell the truth...or are they supposed to lie?  

His brain was deciding to stop functioning. At the worst time. Just his luck.

“Do I not make you happy?”

Mu Qing’s eyes filled with what looked suspiciously like tears, and Feng Xin panicked.

“No, no, you make me so happy. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than when I’m with you.”

“Really?”

Really.

“Then...then date me,” Mu Qing hiccuped. “For real. Date me.”

Oh. Oh, no . Xie Lian was giving them a confused look, and Feng Xin’s brain continued rapidly disintegrating. Feng Xin turned back to Mu Qing, who had draped himself across Feng Xin’s lap.

“Hey, you wanna go home?”

“Are you coming? Don’t want to leave you.”

He was so wonderful, and it hurt because it wasn’t real, because in what real world could Mu Qing ever want Feng Xin? He was too much – too loud, too thoughtless, too oblivious to his own feelings. He was too much and not enough and it hurt.

He plastered on a smile as he pulled his friend to his feet and out the door. “Someone’s got to drive you home.”

Mu Qing looked like an angel in the moonlight. He was at home in the night, stars glinting in the sky and in his eyes. “We’re going home?”

“Yeah, we’re going home.”

“Sorry,” Mu Qing whispered.

“For what?”

“Fighting. Yelling.” 

Feng Xin shifted in the driver’s seat, uneasy. “Hey. You’re drunk.”

“Doesn’t mean it’s not real.” Mu Qing looked at him, eyes large and silver and full of something gentle, something warm. Feng Xin could barely take a glance; he felt like he would explode.

Or do something stupid. Like kiss him.

“Tell me when you’re sober,” he said, voice hoarse, instead. 

“What would you say?”

“I think, by now, you know how I feel about you.”

Mu Qing chuckled. “You’ve always been such a good liar.”

“Not around you. You see right through me.” 

“Don’t be cruel, Feng Xin.”

Feng Xin parked, reaching across Mu Qing’s body to open his door. 

“See, like that. You keep doing...doing things like that,” Mu Qing whispered, “And you expect me to hate you.”

“Don’t you?”

“I haven’t hated you for a long time. Idiot.”

Well, drunk Mu Qing was still Mu Qing. “I’m the idiot?”

“We’re both idiots, probably,” Mu Qing muttered. “You’ll see tomorrow, though. I’ll tell you tomorrow.”

Feng Xin couldn’t help but smile. “Tomorrow.”

Mu Qing walked backwards into his room, not taking his eyes off Feng Xin. His back hit his bedroom door, and he stumbled. Feng Xin chuckled lightly; he was unfairly cute. Mu Qing stumbled into his room, with a last call of tomorrow .

Oh, no. Tomorrow.

Feng Xin contemplating fleeing the country. Hua Cheng would probably help him out if Feng Xin told him Xie Lian’s favourite flower or something.

But...what if.

What if Mu Qing didn’t plot his murder tomorrow? What if, what if , on the rare off chance, Mu Qing was going to tell him…

Feng Xin’s face burned what had to be an ugly, splotchy red (there was no way his blush was cute and soft like Mu Qing’s, and didn’t that say enough?). 

What if Mu Qing was going to tell him that he liked him? And Feng Xin just disappeared? The tentative friendship they had built would be destroyed – Feng Xin would not let that happen.

If he was murdered by Mu Qing, he was murdered. 

He really was a fool for love.

Feng Xin waited with baited breath the next morning, spinning nervously on the barstool in the kitchen, heart dropping when Mu Qing’s door opened. 

“What...what happened yesterday?” he groaned. “My head hurts.”

Oh. Of course.

Feng Xin knew it would be like this.

“Nothing really. You were drunk, and I drove you home.”

“Thanks, Feng Xin,” Mu Qing said, softly. “Can I take these?”

He gestured to the water and painkillers Feng Xin had set out for him. Feng Xin nodded, and turned away as Mu Qing took the medicine.

Feng Xin’s chest was shrinking in on itself. It hurt in ways he never expected it to, never thought it would. “Mu Qing?” he said, voice shaking, breaking.

“Yeah?”

“We should break up.”

A beat of silence. Two. Feng Xin’s hands were trembling; he dug his nails into his palms, desperately, quietly. Mu Qing didn’t move, didn’t say anything, and for a terrifying moment, Feng Xin thought he would leave – slam the door and never look back.

A hand tipped his chin up, gently, far more gently than he deserved. Mu Qing stared at him, looked in his eyes for mysteries Feng Xin couldn’t solve. Feng Xin didn’t even try and hide anything – he wasn’t lying, last night, when he said that Mu Qing could see right through him, could knock down all of his hastily built walls into rubble. Mu Qing’s eyes went wide, apparently finding what he was looking for.

“Oh,” he whispered, reverently, hand sliding up to cradle Feng Xin’s jaw softly, and kissed him.

Feng Xin couldn’t breathe.

Mu Qing pulled back after what felt like forever, after what felt like no time at all. “Ah,” he said, sadness clouding his tone, “I’m sorry – ”

Mu Qing had just kissed him.

Feng Xin’s brain caught up, and went into overdrive.

He wrapped his arm around Mu Qing’s waist, pulling him into his lap, and kissing him back desperately.

Feng Xin lost himself in Mu Qing, in his little shivers and soft moans, Mu Qing’s hands in his hair and his hands on Mu Qing’s waist, Mu Qing biting gently at his bottom lip and less gently along his neck. Feng Xin knew that the marks would be visible above his collar, and held Mu Qing a little tighter, a little closer.

Mu Qing pulled back, eyes dark, lips red. Feng Xin was sure he looked no better; his hair felt like a mess and his throat ached from phantom bites. Mu Qing looked so good , Feng Xin wanted to kiss him again, again; but he refrained.

“What was that?” his voice was shaking, from something else, something monumental.

“You really are an idiot,” Mu Qing huffed. “I like you.”

I like you. I like you, I like you, I like you. “Mu Qing,” he said, for lack of anything else to say, half desperate, half starved. “I like you.”

“Obviously,” Mu Qing tightened his legs around Feng Xin’s hips. “Are you going to ask me out for real now?”

Feng Xin’s heart was exploding, full of warmth and happiness he had come to associate with Mu Qing. “Mu Qing. Would you like to date me? Again?”

Mu Qing chuckled, “I guess this whole fake dating thing turned out...interesting, huh.”

Fake dating. Xie Lian . “Xie Lian!”

“Please don’t bring up Xie Lian when I’m sitting on your lap.”

“Xie Lian didn’t make it home last night,” Feng Xin gasped. “Do you think he and Hua Cheng finally – ”

“Wait, I got a message from him this morning,” Mu Qing shifted, pulling his phone out of his pocket, and Feng Xin had to concentrate very hard on a crack in the ceiling to ignore the exact way Mu Qing’s hips pressed against his. “Here. Have fun . What does that mean?”

His phone beeped again, from Hua Cheng. Mu Qing read it out loud, “Sincerely hoping you and the other idiot got together, for gege’s sake. It was seriously getting painful.”

“He knew!” Feng Xin gasped. “What? How?”

“By the way, gege and I have been together for the past two months now.”

Mu Qing turned to look at Feng Xin. “As much as I want to stay here and make out with you all day...”

“I’m with you.” Feng Xin gently lifted Mu Qing off his lap, standing up. “Xie Lian has some answering to do.”

They didn’t make it out the front door.