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#44 "Close your eyes"

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“Close your eyes.” Almost immediately after Ping whispered it, Shang blinked dumbly at him.

“What?” Ping laughed softly, biting his lip, lowering his gaze. He was pretty small, especially compared to Shang’s bulky figure, and his hands barely covered Shang’s as he held them between the two. Shang could feel the surprisingly soft skin dotted with new calluses and blisters that were cupping his rough, warm hands. It felt oddly soothing, like the calm in the midst of a storm. That basically described Ping’s involvement in his life: an unexpected sanctuary in the middle of the violence and havoc the war caused.

“If I’m going to help you, you gotta trust me,” Ping replied, looking up and smiling softly. And dammit, Shang did. If there was anything he was sure of regarding Ping, it was that he trusted him. Not the odd feeling in his chest that Shang had around him, not the way Shang could feel a blush creep onto his cheeks when he saw Ping kick ass, or the smile he couldn’t keep away when Ping made a stupid joke.

Shang gulped, realizing at once what that meant. This self revelation really couldn’t come at a worse time. He was just barely managing the death of his father and now he had a sexuality crisis as well? No wonder he wasn’t fit to lead.

“Hello? Earth to Shang?” Ping waved his hand in front of Shang’s face, and Shang instantly missed the warmth on his hands. He almost whined at the bitter cold that came in its wake, but caught himself and mentally slapped himself.

“Um, yeah, I’ll just… I’ll just close my eyes right about now.” So he did. Ping’s hands once again encompassed his own, his thumbs rubbing his hands. It was so soothing, everything just fell away, all the pressures of being the captain, of having to lead troops, of having to take over for his father, it all just fell away, and it was just him and Ping alone in their own little world.

“It’s okay to cry, Shang,” Ping whispered, “there’s no one here to judge you; you don’t need to keep up a wall; I’m here; I’m right here to catch you.” So Shang let it out: all the sorrow, all the agony, all the isolation, all the anxiety, all the pressure, it all came out in a sob. Then another. And another, and another, and then Shang was flat out crying. We was too detached to care; the only thing keeping him on the ground and not floating away was Ping and their hands linked together.

“You are strong, Shang,” Ping’s voice was barely above a whisper, and Shang could swear it was closer than before. “No matter what you think, you are the strongest person I know. You are good enough, you have done everything right. You are perfect, you are amazing, you are--” Shang couldn’t take it anymore; he leaned forward and prayed he met Ping’s lips. He did, and they were just as soft and lightly chapped as he imagined them to feel. After a few seconds, Shang pulled back, only for Ping to follow him with matched enthusiasm. Shang unlaced their fingers (when they had become like that, Shang didn’t know) to wrap his arms around Ping’s waist, cherishing in the feel of it. He felt Ping wrap his arms around his neck and leaned in closer to deepen the kiss.

After what felt like an eternity but was most likely no more than a minute, Ping pulled back, breaking the kiss, and Shang followed him for a half second. He opened his eyes to see Ping looking as wrecked as Shang felt.

“I can’t do this,” Ping said, removing his hands from Shang’s neck and forcing him to face the biting cold. “I’m sorry.” Ping ripped Shang’s hands from his waist. He turned to leave. “We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, we both deserve sleep.” And with that he left for the tents, Shang heart-broken behind him.