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A Tale of Socks

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His twin brother was standing in the doorway with a judgemental frown on his face.

Shen Yuan was happily curled up in bed under his soft blankets. He had been in this position all day, and he has no plans to leave it any time in the future. His room in their shared apartment is cold and dark. Only the dim glow from his laptop creating a source of light. He looks from the newest chapter of his favorite novel to his brother’s looming figure in the doorway and promptly decides to ignore his intruder.

The twitch of his brother’s eye can be seen even in the darkness.

“A-Yuan if you don’t get out of bed in the next five minutes, you’ll wish I’d eaten you in the womb.”

Shen Yuan lazily scrolls through his update, “You practically did eat me in the womb, Jiu-ge. You sucked away all of my nutrients. Like a vampire.”

He hears a scoff, “Please. Don’t blame your pathetic body on me.”

Shen Yuan is desperately hoping that if he annoys his twin enough, the man will go away and leave him to his fortress of solitude. Unfortunately, his brother seems to be in a caring mood right now. His twin stomps over to the curtains. He barely has time to register what’s about to happen when he’s blinded.

He shrieks in pain and quickly pulls a blanket over his head.

His brother shows him no mercy. A heavy figure crushes him. Shen Yuan tries to flail and escape, but his attacker is ruthless. Shen Jiu rips the blanket off his head and tosses his laptop onto the floor.

Who knows if it’s survives it’s descent.

Shen Yuan’s too busy suffocating to properly mourn another victim in Shen Jiu’s plan to ruin his life.

“Gege—get off of me! You fat ass! Are you trying to kill me?!”

Shen Jiu’s poison green eyes look down at him disdainfully. “Fat? I think you’re mistakenly comparing a normal, healthy weight with your stupidly waifish form. You’re getting up and taking a shower. Look at you; you’re filthy.”

Shen Yuan tries to crawl out from underneath his twin to no avail. “I am not! I’m perfectly clean. How can I be dirty when I haven’t left my room in days?”

The atmosphere in the room grows colder. His brother presses his weigh down on Shen Yuan more firmly. “Yes,” Shen Jiu hisses, “How can my idiotic little brother possibly be dirty when he hasn’t left his room in days? More importantly, how can my idiotic little brother be healthy if he hasn’t left his room in days?”

Shen Yuan is beginning to see where his brother is going with this. “Fine! Fine, I’ll get up. Just get off of me!

Shen Jiu huffs as if Shen Yuan’s compliance isn’t nearly enough. However, his older twin does get off of him. The overbearing sibling stands and stares down at him imposingly, “I want you showered and dressed in the next twenty minutes. We’re going out.”

“Out?!”

His twin ignores his wail. His brother walks over to his closet and starts rummaging through it. A few seconds later, clothes are being thrown in the direction of his dustbin.

“Trash. Trash. This one would be nice if you weren’t a slob who stains everything I buy you. Trash.”

Shen Yuan slinks into the bathroom to take a shower and leaves his brother to battle against his ‘trash’ wardrobe. He turns the water on a nice, warm temperature and washes away the mild sweat that accumulates after days of staying in your room. Feeling refreshed, he realizes that maybe his twin was right about going out. He’ll never willingly say that out loud though. Shen Jiu would be unbearable.

When he’s all clean, he turns off the shower and wraps a towel around his waist. He’s about to go into his bedroom when he’s struck by lightheadedness. His mouth feels too dry and there’s a slight ringing in his ears.

He stumbles forward and leaves the bathroom. His twin is lounging on his bed and scrolling through his phone. Paying no mind to Shen Yuan’s privacy like usual. Usually, he’d yell at his brother for it, but he can’t seem to think straight.

Shen Jiu doesn’t look up, “Really, A-Yuan. Your predictable passwords never change. When are you going to present me with a chall—A-Yuan?”

Shen Yuan stares at his twin and mumbles, “I think I might be dehydrated.” He takes one step forward and suddenly his face is pressed against his mattress. Which is weird. Wasn’t he just standing?

He’s rolled over so his face is turned towards his white ceiling. His brother’s panicked face looks down at him. Shen Jiu is saying something, but he can’t quite seem to understand.

A blink and he’s sitting up against his head board as his twin shakily tries to get sweatpants on him. He’s wearing a shirt. He has a water bottle pressed in his hand, and he grips it weakly. It’s half empty so he must’ve drank some of it? Or maybe Shen Jiu did. His brother would totally drink half of his water bottle before giving it to him. The jerk.

Said jerk seemed to be rapidly talking to someone on the phone. It’s on speaker, and he’s pretty sure that’s the soothing tone of their Qi-ge’s voice, but why would Shen Jiu call the man? He vaguely recalls that they were fighting over something. A missed date? He can’t remember.

Something purple and fluffy catches his eye. There on the bed is his fluffy socks. His favorite fluffy socks. The fluffiest fluffy socks in the entire world.

“Are those my fluffy socks?”

Shen Jiu’s head snaps up to look at him. His twin is finishing up putting his sweatpants on him, and the voice on the phone goes quiet. ”What?”

“Are those my fluffy socks?”

Shen Yuan tries to point at them, but his arm isn’t complying. It jerks and gives a good effort so he give it an A+.

His twin looks at him like he’s gone insane. “No, A-Yuan. Just no. Drink more of your water.” Shen Jiu grabs his phone and yells into it, “Qi-ge, where the fuck are you?! A-Yuan’s dying.”

A worried voice tells his twin that Shen Yuan isn't dying and blah, blah, blah. He’s got other things to worry about. Mainly, getting his arm to cooperate so he can grab his fluffy socks. His arm fights against the weight of gravity. It flops on the bed many times but eventually prevails.

Shen Yuan grips his soft prize. He feels the fluffy texture. His fingers recall the many times they have felt this material. He knows that he was right all along.

His arm regains strength, and he easily lifts it. He brings the fluffy socks closer to his face so he can make sure they’re the right color. They are! Victorious, he turns to face his twin. Shen Jiu is looking positively hysterically right now, but Shen Yuan has important news for the man.

He shoves his prize in his brother’s face, “These are my fluffy socks!”

Shen Jiu’s eyes narrow as he stares down at Shen Yuan’s prize. Calmly, his older twin raises his left hand and takes the fluffy socks away. His brother gently grabs his legs and places the fluffy socks on Shen Yuan’s feet. Once done, his brother stares at him.

Something like madness travels across his brother’s features, and Shen Yuan is finally beginning to feel coherent enough to realize that something isn’t right. Fortunately, Yue Qingyuan bursts into the room huffing and panting like he’s run a mile.

Shen Jiu’s face went from unreadable to murderous, “Finally! What took you so long?! Do you see A-Yuan? He’s so pale, and his eyes aren’t focusing! Come here and pick him up so we can get him to your car! Honestly—.”

Qi-ge simply lets the angry words flow as he pressed a quick kiss on his twins brother’s head. It was sweet in a sickeningly, disgusting kind of way. His brother repaid the kindness by shoving his boyfriend towards Shen Yuan. Honestly, these two were the worst kind of couple. Shen Yuan’s socks were far more interesting.

Unexpectedly, Yue Qingyuan quickly comes closer and picks him up bridal style. Shen Yuan lets it happen out of pure confusion, but mildly protests, “Qi-ge, Jiu-ge is right there. You know how grumpy he is. Why are you picking me up?”

Yue Qingyuan laughs lightly but his expression remains concerned, “I’m sure Xiao-Jiu will be more grumpy if I don’t pick you up. Please hold on to my neck. We need to get you to the car.”

Shen Yuan doesn’t understand but whatever. If the man wants to incur his twin’s wrath, he can go ahead. He wraps his arms around Yue Qingyuan’s neck and leans his head against the man’s shoulder. He’s feeling awfully tired.

A hand stokes his hair, and he’s resting in the back of a car with his head in Shen Jiu’s lap. He feels a tad more aware than he did before.

“Jiu-ge?”

His twin glances down at him, but doesn’t stop petting his hair. Which is nice. Shen Yuan doesn’t want his brother to stop.

“Rest, A-Yuan. We’re almost at the hospital.”

Shen Yuan wonders why they’re heading there. He asks, “You okay?”

The hand in his hair tightens. He makes a noise of complaint, and it relaxes and continues petting him. Much better. Shen Jiu sternly says, “I’m fine A-Yuan. Sleep.” His twin’s voice sounds strangled.

He’ll figure out what might be wrong later. For now, he just wants to….

He wakes to a familiar white room. He’s hooked up to all sorts of machines, and there’s an IV stuck in his arm. Shen Yuan looks around and sees Shen Jiu and Yue Qingyuan asleep in two chairs that are placed side by side. His twin is drooling on Yue Qingyuan’s shoulder. He wishes he had a camera.

He suddenly recalls the events that led him here. Mortification nearly overwhelms him. Jiu-ge is never going to let him live this down! His brother is going to be an absolute hell beast to live with for months! He bemoans his future.

He glances at his tired older twin, and feels a pang of guilt. Shen Yuan remembers his brother’s panic and worry. He really needs to start taking care of himself. If not for his own sake, than for his overprotective brothers.

Shen Yuan just hadn’t been motivated lately to go out. It’s like there is something missing in his life. Some important something that makes him feel bereft without it. He’s felt this strange ache for the longest time, but it’s been getting worse lately.

Ache or no ache, he needs to get it together. He never wants to make his brother go through a repeat of this experience. Shen Yuan is going to turn over a new leaf!

A light knock on the door interrupts his inner pep talk. The two sleeping figures don’t even flinch so it’s up to Shen Yuan to socialize. He lightly calls out for whoever to come in.

He’s expecting to see a doctor or a nurse, and he’s not wrong. Unfortunately, he’s not prepared for the most beautiful man he has ever seen to walk into his hospital room. He nearly chokes on his own saliva.

The man is tall. At least a head and a half taller than Shen Yuan would be standing up. The guy’s got fluffy black hair that’s pulled back into a ponytail. It shouldn’t be attractive. Not at all, but somehow this man makes it work. Dark eyes turn towards him, and Shen Yuan swears he sees galaxies.

The beautiful man looks equally as shocked by Shen Yuan. The man almost looks… awed? Which is ridiculous. He’s got to look sick and frail lying in the hospital bed. Nothing to look at here! Please try again tomorrow.

The beautiful man is dressed like a nurse. So, the man must be here to check on his vitals or something. Instead of questions, he gets nothing but wide eyes and a slightly gaping mouth.

The silence is deafening.

Shen Yuan nervously smiles and clears his throat. It sparks the man into action, “Hello! I’m your future husba—I’m your nurse! Nurse Luo Binghe! That’s me! I’m in charge of your care.” An equally nervous smile is sent his way.

“It’s nice to meet you, Nurse Luo. Thank you for taking care of me.”

Luo Binghe gives him an abashed look, “Please call me Binghe. I haven’t done anything for you to thank me for.”

Shen Yuan smiles, “Binghe, then. I’m sure you’ve done plenty for me. I’m Shen Yuan.” He laughs nervously, “Which you probably already know.”

“No! I mean yes, but not properly. This is much better.”

The beautiful man is kinda... adorable.

Shen Yuan thought he was a wreck, but Binghe is like an overgrown puppy. He can practically see a tail and ears that perk up whenever he speaks. Luo Binghe interrupts his musings.

“I-I’m actually here to let you know your test results. I’ve got them all right here! Would you like me to wake up your family?”

Shen Yuan doesn’t even look at his family when he politely declines. No way was he ready for his twin’s tirade. Luo Binghe smiles at him before going over the results.

It seems that dehydration was the primary cause of this little trip to the hospital. They’ve got him fully hydrated now so it’s no longer a concern. What is a concern, is his not so healthy lifestyle.

“You need to increase your exercise and eat healthier foods. Plenty of fruits and vegetables. Meats too. You’re too skinny.”

Shen Yuan shrinks into the hospitable bed. He’d finally being faced with the results of his laziness. It’s just his luck that a super attractive guy has to be the one reading all of his flaws. He wants to sink into the bed and suffocate.

Luo Binghe seems to sense his embarrassment and gives him a concerned look. Shen Yuan covers his face with his hands. He feels miserable and very unattractive.

A weight presses down on the left side of his hospital bed. A hand lightly pats his ankle. Shen Yuan reluctantly glances up. Luo Binghe eyes are warm as they gaze at him, “It’s alright.”

Déjà vu hits Shen Yuan with the strangest sense of familiarity. It’s as if he and Binghe had been in this position before. Him embarrassed and Binghe reassuring. It’s a crazy thought that Shen Yuan dismisses.

“If I’m not being to forward, I would like to offer my assistance. I go to the local gym nearby. We can meet once a day, and I can help you exercise. I’ll even bring food!”

The invisible tail is wagging again. Shen Yuan knows he shouldn’t agree. He really doesn’t know anything about this Binghe, but … there’s something about this man. He wants to spend more time with him.

“Alright.”

Luo Binghe freezes and stares at him in surprise. For a moment, he wonders if the man had merely been asking to be kind, but the thought vanished at the sight of a beaming smile. It’s blinding. Even more blinding than the sun.

Shen Yuan can’t help but smile in return, “Please take care of me, teacher.”

Luo Binghe blushes, “No need for that. Just Binghe is fine.”

He can’t help but tease, “Just Binghe? That’s good, but maybe I should call you Shiz—.”

They both start.

Shizun.

Something about that almost spoken word has Luo Binghe staring at him like they’re the last two people left alive. Like Shen Yuan is lifeline he didn’t know he needed. At least, Shen Yuan assumes that’s what Luo Binghe is thinking. He personally wants to grab Binghe and pull him into a hug. Wants to hold him close and never let go.

They stare at each other with wide eyes, but there’s a connection there now. Some invisible thread that ties them together. It’s terrifying but bizarrely thrilling. For an unknown reason, he lifts his hand to touch Luo Binghe’s. The man raises his to do the same. Their fingertips brush one another’s.

“What the fuck is going on here?”

Shen Yuan and Luo Binghe jerk back in shock.

Shen Yuan grips his hand to his chest. His heart is pounding. He looks over at the source of the interruption.

Uh-oh.

His twin looks like he’s about to kill, and Luo Binghe is the future victim. Green eyes stare at the poor man with venom. Shen Yuan doesn’t know whether to interfere or make a run for it. The pitiful look Luo Binghe sends his way makes the decision.

“Jiu-ge, this is Luo—.”

“I don’t care what his name is. The beast shouldn’t be on your bed.” Shen Jiu glares at the nurse, “Off.”

Shen Yuan wants to cry. He knows that Luo Binghe acts like a puppy, but you can’t treat him like one! Honestly, his twin is too much.

“Jiu-ge, plea—.”

“Shut up! Do you know how worried I’ve been?! Don’t Jiu-ge me! I’ll kill you myself if you don’t shut up.”

His twin obviously wasn’t going to be reasonable. Luo Binghe stands up and looks torn between defending Shen Yuan or leaving to keep the peace. It’s time he diffuses the situation.

“Binghe, do you have a pen?”

Luo Binghe looks confused but readily hands one over. As Binghe’s passing it to him, he grabs the man’s hand and writes his phone number on it. A jolt of heat passes through where they touch.

Shen Jiu catches on to what he’s doing and jumps out of his chair as if to stop him. Yue Qingyuan, who had somehow remained asleep the entire time, jolts awake. The man sleepily blinks around in confusion, but they sharpen when they spot Luo Binghe.

Shen Yuan would be worried if he wasn’t busy grabbing his brother’s arm so Luo Binghe doesn't get murdered, “Sorry, Binghe! Text me later, and we’ll set up a time for the gym meetups!”

Shen Jiu screeches, “Gym meetups?! Do you even know what a gym is? Let my arm go! Obviously this beast is some kind of predator. I’ll cut off his hand if he even thinks about touching you!”

Wow, Jiu-ge was really on a roll today. Luo Binghe opened his mouth as if to say something, but caught sight of Shen Yuan’s pleading expression and wisely closes it. The nurse looks at him a tad forlornly but something like determination shines in those dark eyes, “I promise to text you later Shen Yuan! Your doctor will be in soon with release forms. Please take care until we meet again!”

Shen Yuan smiles as his brother practically frothes from the mouth in rage. It’s only his tight grip on his twin’s arm that keeps things from turning into a bloodbath.

“I’ll look forward to it! See you later, Binghe.”

Luo Binghe smiles back before finally leaving. The man clutches the hand Shen Yuan had written his phone number on to his chest like it’s made of gold.

As soon as Luo Binghe’s gone, his twin’s wrath shifts to him. “What were you thinking?! A-Yuan, that man could be a serial killer. Did you see that face? He can’t be trusted.”

Shen Yuan is exasperated, “Binghe, is perfectly nice. He’s going to help me with my health. We’re going to go to the gym together.” He pauses, “His face is fine.” More than fine. How could a face like that look twice at Shen Yuan?

Shen Jiu looks moments away from strangling him. Instead, the man sighed, “Your tastes are abysmal as always.” He gets pushed over, and his twin crawls into bed beside him. Which… rude. Who was the sick one here?

Thinking now was the best time to get back into his twin’s good graces, he leans his head on Shen Jiu’s shoulder and says, “I’m sorry for worrying you.”

His brother snorts in derision, “I’m sure.” Despite this an arm pulls him closer into his twin’s side. Yue Qingyuan startles them both by speaking up, “Don't worry, Xiao-Jiu. We can always supervise his meetings with that friendly nurse of his.”

The unexpected betrayal threw Shen Yuan for a loop. “Qi-ge!” He’d just gotten his brother to calm down! And no way was he letting either of them supervise his da—meetups.

His twin looks towards Yue Qingyuan with a pleased expression, “You’re forgiven. Though we won’t need to supervise A-Yuan since I’ll be destroying his phone later.”

Yue Qingyuan nods and smiles like that’s the sweetest things he’s ever heard Shen Jiu say. The dopey look of love is painful to look at, and even his twin begins to look a bit flushed under that gaze.

Shen Yuan gapes at the two. WTF?! These two were supposed to be fighting. He’d wanted them to make up, but not at the expense of his love li— pursuits of friendship.

Instead of arguing futilely with the unreasonable couple, Shen Yuan buries his face in his brother’s shoulder and makes plans to rescue his phone. If all else fails, he can always drop by the hospital again later and give Luo Binghe his email instead.

A hand brushes through his hair, and he can’t help but relax in contentment. For all that his brother was a pain, his twin really did mean well. Shen Jiu will always be his favorite person, and that will never change even if the man drives him insane.

A couple hours later, Shen Yuan is released from the hospital, and Yue Qingyuan is driving the twins home after making a quick stop at McDonald’s.

“Jiu-ge, please let me have your fries.”

Shen Jiu turns and glares back at him from the passenger seat. “I told you to get some fucking food, but no. You ‘weren’t hungry’.”

Shen Yuan is offended by that tone, “I wasn’t! The thought of food made me nauseous, but now your food smells really good! Have mercy on your sick twin.”

His only response was Shen Jiu pulling out a french fry and purposeful eating it. His brother was obviously still feeling spiteful about the entire dehydration incident.

“Jiu-ge…”

A decisive crunch.

“So cruel!”

“Shut up. I’ll make you something healthy to eat when we get home.”

As the Shen twins continue to bicker, Yue Qingyuan happily drives them home while watching them in blatant amusement.

It was a nice ending to a crazy day.

Years later, Shen Jiu would retell the entire “fluffy sock incident” in great, excruciating detail as the man simultaneously cusses out Luo Binghe for marrying Shen Yuan.