It would be a lie to say that Xue Meng never thought he would be in this kind of situation.
In hindsight, he should have expected something like this from the very beginning.
“I thought you said you’re not my son,” Jiang Xi coldly said, one leg crossed over the other. The smoke coalesced around him. It was a sweet, cloying scent, the kind that signified wealth and illicit smuggling across far too many channels to trace. “If you’re not my son, then the contract holds. So what is it, Xue Meng?”
The room was cold. The thin silk pajamas did little to shield his skin from the frigid air from an open window on the other side of the room blowing directly at his back. Xue Meng shivered as a particularly strong gust hit the sensitive skin just below his ears, his fingers tightened into fists. “I told you before. It doesn’t matter where you stuck your dick back then. You’ll never be my father.”
Jiang Xi snorted, taking another deep inhale from his cigarette. He stubbed out the lit end, tossed that almost-whole cigarette into the beveled ashtray, and calmly gathered the documents on the table. “Then sign here.”
“Why do I have to sign anything?” Xue Meng demanded hotly.
“Because along with the club, you’re mine now,” Jiang Xi lazily drawled, and that impassive face practically begged for Xue Meng’s fist to meet it.
Too pretty for his own good. Too pretty for his age.
Against his own wishes and his best judgment, Xue Meng signed the document.
It all started with the bunny suit.
Or rather, it predated the bunny suit. The bunny suit was a mere notch in a chain of events far too long for Xue Meng to properly recount, but the longest story could still be summed up rather succinctly if one worked hard enough at it.
Simply put, Xue Meng needed money.
“Don’t tell auntie and uncle,” Mo Ran warned, “and don’t blame me for when this backfires. I told you there are better ways to go about it.”
Xue Meng had only huffed at the time, fixing the bunny ears on his head. They were slightly crooked, likely a product of subpar manufacturing, and likewise the bunny suit was itchy against his skin. “You’re doing this yourself, stupid. What, you think I can’t handle this?”
“Why can’t you just ask your parents for money?” Mo Ran asked, reaching out to squeeze at the tip of one long, floppy ear. It was not supposed to be floppy.
“It’s embarrassing,” Xue Meng muttered. “They already paid for all of my tuition and rent.” He scratched absently at the thin fabric clinging to every contour of his stomach, flexing subconsciously. The long hours spent on the track team had chiseled away any baby fat that still lingered, but Xue Meng had never been the type to bare his skin like this. Not even for Halloween.
“And it’s not embarrassing to work in a nightclub in a bunny costume?”
Xue Meng threw a piece of fabric at Mo Ran’s face. His cousin was dressed in a dog costume, and through some miracles, what should have been some furry nightmare ended up looking passable, even cute, on Mo Ran’s enthusiastic, slightly smug expression. It had something to do with the fact that his cousin looked like he just stepped out straight from the gym dripping with steroids. “It’s honest work.”
And so it was.
The day the club burned down, Xue Meng had been entertaining a rowdy group in a corner of the club. His bunny costume was cut low in the front and almost non-existent in the back, the bottom part cut so high that his entire buttcheeks lay exposed to those hungry, wandering gazes and even more insistent hands.
The club had a no-hands policy. Not that anyone ever respected that.
“Kindly don’t touch me,” Xue Meng growled, sounding anything but kind. The group leader was a burly type, muscular and tall, and next to this veritable mountain of a man, Xue Meng’s diminutive form in his bunny costume must have made a pitiful sight. But the club was crowded and loud enough that he couldn’t call out for security without causing an even larger incident, and Mo Ran was nowhere to be found.
Of course Xue Meng could take care of this himself.
“Don’t be so feisty, bunny boy,” the man said, and his cronies joined in. They smelled of too-strong aftershave and cheap booze that clung to their every breath. The man leaned in closer, one hand on the small of Xue Meng’s back, caressing the thin pleather separating their flesh. One finger dipped down to where the crack on his ass began, sliding into the trough. Xue Meng felt that disgusting touch through the fuzz of his bunny tail. “You’re not a cat, you know. Bunnies are supposed to be sweet. You should stay in character for gege.”
“I’ll show you fucking in character,” Xue Meng remembered saying, and the next thing he knew, the burly man was nursing a bleeding, broken nose, and there was cold air in his lungs and cold air in his face, and the club’s purple lights gave way to the soft glow of the street lamps.
The hours were late. The snow had started to come down at some point, and in this frigid early winter night, clad only in a cheap pleather costume that robbed him of more modesty than it afforded, Xue Meng could only thank the stars for the weather warding off potential passersby who could see him like this. The streets were relatively empty, the late-night eateries around him starting to shutter up their windows, and in another hour or so, the club would also close, and Xue Meng would have to face the consequences of his rashness.
That was, if it was supposed to be a normal night.
If Xue Meng had been holding anything in his hands at that point, he would have dropped it straight into the muddy snow building up beneath his high-heeled boots.
Jiang Xi. In a fucking black SUV.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Xue Meng demanded through chattering teeth. Subconsciously, his arms crossed in front of his chest, as if he could hide what he was wearing just like that. If anything, the movement only pushed his chest muscles upward, rising above the skimpy, skin-tight pleather costume. “Isn’t it way past your bedtime?”
“It’s definitely past yours,” Jiang Xi sneered. The car slowed to a crawl, and Jiang Xi stepped out from the driver’s side, looking as if he was expecting flashing lights of camera bulbs to accompany his every movement. He was wearing something infinitely more appropriate for the weather; a long trench coat in dark green, the collar raised and trimmed in long black fur, suspiciously too genuine-looking to be faux. His long hair was clipped neatly into a low ponytail trailing over one shoulder, and he carried a small, elegant briefcase that caught every fluttering snowflake with impeccable precision. The glasses on his nose reflected off the glare of the lamp light. “Xue Meng. Does your mother know you do this in your spare time?”
“Don’t you fucking dare bring her into this,” Xue Meng warned. Jiang Xi swept his eyes up and down Xue Meng’s body, critically taking in the laughable outfit, and Xue Meng wanted to jump into the coldest lake possible to wash off the fire of that gaze licking along his form.
There was something a little strange in Jiang Xi’s eyes that Xue Meng had never noticed before.
His time in the club, after all, had taught him just a little more about this world.
At that time, the club door burst open, and the same gangly group emerged. The leader’s nose was still broken or at least appeared to be from this distance. Xue Meng noticed with satisfaction the way it had rapidly swelled and deviated to one side, and the wad of tissue paper stuck underneath one nostril was dyed in red.
He hoped the bastard’s nose would never heal right.
“You fucking slut.” The phrase came out, for lack of a better word, nasally. The leader staggered forward, completely ignoring their impassive onlooker, jamming one thick finger right into the middle of Xue Meng’s chest, towering over him by at least a head. “You think just because you’re pretty I don’t dare hit you? You thought wrong, motherfucker, I’ll fuck you up so good—”
Xue Meng struggled in that grasp; he could easily overpower this bastard, and he cast his eyes calculatingly at the group, wondering how many of them he could take down in his high heels. The sharp points could certainly be used as a weapon. But it seemed that all of his machinations had been for naught.
A wad of paper bills landed on that muddy snow. The leader blinked, stared down at the thick stack that looked like it could cover four months’ worth of rent in a swanky part of this city, and looked up at Jiang Xi, who had lit a cigarette with a silver lighter almost lazily, as if he was out on an evening stroll and had merely happened upon a distasteful scene.
“What is this?” the leader asked suspiciously.
Jiang Xi said nothing and only took another deep inhale of his cigarette. The smoke crossed that air to tickle at the back of Xue Meng’s throat, and he itched to rip that stupid cancer stick away from Jiang Xi, scolding himself at the same time. Jiang Xi could do what he wanted. Jiang Xi could die early if he wanted.
“Just take it and go,” Jiang Xi said at last. Xue Meng wanted that voice to be more gravelly than it was; make it more fitting, he thought, more reflective of what that gross rich bastard was really like.
As it was, Jiang Xi’s voice was soft as silk and clear as righteous fire.
“Old man, we don’t want any trouble,” another of the group joined in, clearly nervous about what was happening in front of them. “We just want a little payback. This bitch here—”
“I told you to take the money and go. No questions.” Jiang Xi was not looking at any of them. “Do it before I change my mind.”
“And what do you think you can do, old man?” the leader demanded. There was uncertainty in the way he already backed off of Xue Meng, and Xue Meng used the opportunity to bring his knee right up against that hateful crotch. The man dropped like a sack of rocks. HE clearly didn’t have enough hands to clutch at both his crotch and his broken nose. “FUCK. WHAT THE FUCK. You fucker—”
Jiang XI swiftly caught Xue Meng’s arm, and in the commotion of those cronies crowding around their fallen leader, dragged Xue Meng off the sidewalk and onto the streets.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Xue Meng growled, trying his best to yank his arm away from Jiang Xi’s grasp, but there was surprising strength in that slender wrist. He looked back at the group, who seemed too distracted now to pay attention to a boy in a bunny costume and a man dressed far too nicely for this part of town. “Let go of me. You’re no better than any of them.”
Jiang Xi sneered. “I’ve almost forgotten how foolish youth are. Thanks for reminding me of that. Now, shut up and get in the car, or do you want the rest of the city to see you like this? And send a photo back home to your parents, hm?”
Xue Meng jammed his elbow back as hard as he could; it was not very effective, as Jiang Xi easily evaded the jab. “Stop mentioning my parents. Actually, just stop talking to me, period.”
“Get in the car,” Jiang Xi repeated one more time, far too calm for how the fire had already ignited in the depths of his eyes.
The interior of the car smelled like leather and cigar. Xue Meng slid into the back seat, shivered in his costume, wrapped his arms around himself, and caught a flash of Jiang Xi’s gaze in the rear mirror.
The bunny tail was squished behind him. The ears should have been flattened against the roof of the car, but they weren’t. The ceiling was too high. Xue Meng leaned back, willed his body to respond, and glared back as hard as he could.
His body had never been very good at paying attention to what he demanded, only what it wanted.
They sped away from the nightclub and the grossness of the night, and when Xue Meng looked back, he could only take satisfaction in imagining how the blood from that broken nose would stain the thin sheet of snow around it.
He wished he was there to watch.
“Put on your seatbelt,” Jiang Xi commanded, and the fantasy dissipated.
The next day, news of the club burning down to the ground made its way around the city’s newspapers.
“What is the meaning of this?” Xue Meng demanded, shoving the article on his phone screen under Jiang Xi’s nose. Jiang Xi refused to drive him home last night, and the guest room in Jiang Xi’s absurdly large, absurdly empty mansion was too large for one person’s warmth to permeate through all that empty space. Xue Meng had spent the entire night curled up into the comforter, clad in Jiang Xi’s clothes that were just a tad too long on his shorter limbs, and cursed every fiber of his being for not being more insistent about being taken home.
His roommates would worry, he should have said. His cousin would be looking for him.
None of those words made it at all.
He half expected Jiang Xi to do something—what, he knew not. The way Jiang Xi’s lips pressed into that tight line as he swept his eyes across Xue Meng’s bare arms and slender thighs spoke volume and yet said nothing at all, and Xue Meng was the one who broke eye contact first, storming upstairs to the guest room he knew was always waiting for him, sitting there on the edge of the bed with dangling feet until a firm knock sounded on his door, a cough, and then retreating footsteps.
When he opened the door, there was only a set of pajamas waiting for him.
At the breakfast table, Jiang Xi peered at him over his spectacles, dressed almost casually in a long, white buttoned shirt and gray trousers, soft cloth slippers over his feet. Xue Meng blinked, almost forgetting to be angry. “Eggs?”
“Do you want eggs?” Jiang Xi repeated, ignoring every other word out of Xue Meng’s mouth.
“Yeah—No. Stop changing the subject. The club burned? Did you seriously commit arson? Jiang Xi, I knew you were a crazy old bastard, but this is actually illegal.”
“It’s not illegal to set fire to my own property if I already discontinued the insurance. It’s a standalone structure. There’s no risk of the fire spreading to other buildings.”
Xue Meng enunciated each word slowly, “It actually is illegal, even if it’s your own building. Wait, what, you bought the fucking building?”
“It was cheap,” Jiang Xi offhandedly said and cracked an egg into the pan. It sizzled. The aroma of hot oil and cooked egg began to permeate the airy kitchen. “In any case, I didn’t set fire to anything. Didn’t make any sense not to buy it.”
“Didn’t make any sense for you to buy the fucking thing. Just because you have the money doesn’t mean you can just flaunt it like that,” Xue Meng hotly said, jabbing one finger into Jiang Xi’s chest. “You could have used that money for, I don’t know, charity or something. I hate rich bastards like you the most.”
Jiang Xi merely stared at him. He flipped the egg over once, let it rest for exactly five seconds on the pan, and slid it out onto a white, plain plate that probably cost more than Xue Meng’s monthly tuition. “There’s bread in the pantry. Toast it yourself.”
And so, when it came time to sign the document, Xue Meng couldn’t let the bastard get the upperhand of him.
He really, really hated people who thought they could use their wealth to force him into saying or doing things Xue Meng would rather die than do.
Like calling Jiang Xi his goddamn father. He had a father. His father was a tall, broad man, tanned with a smiling face lined in every marker of age, hardworking and jovial, who loved his wife and his son unconditionally and with every fiber of his being, and who was generous with his money but never as wasteful as this.
His father was not Jiang Xi. Would never be Jiang Xi.
“Put this on,” Jiang Xi said, and Xue Meng blinked at the box that had materialized under his nose. The document was soon tucked away again, and Xue Meng should have read them more carefully before he signed them, but recklessness was one of those character traits that he knew he possessed and had decided to conveniently ignore in favor of a bit of self-indulgence.
He really regretted not reading, sometimes.
The box was tied in a green silk ribbon. Xue Meng had the sudden flash of something he had seen on the screen before; it was one of those stupid wedding shows with the bride receiving her dress for the first time from a shop, and he gulped as he slid that ribbon off.
The box opened to reveal a bunny suit.
“What?” he said faintly.
“You signed up for this, didn’t you?” Jiang Xi said dispassionately. “I had it custom-made overnight.” Jiang Xi’s study was almost as sparse as the rest of the house; well-decorated, to be sure, but impersonal, as if an interior designer had come in, did what they wanted to with the space, and Jiang Xi simply moved in with nothing but the clothes on his back, content to exist in this space that told nothing at all about him.
Sometimes, Xue Meng wondered if it was a sad kind of existence, living like this.
The bunny suit was different this time. There was a pair of grayish white ears resting on top of the suit, and Xue Meng briefly ran his fingers over that soft fur, lush the way only real rabbit fur could feel, and shuddered as he threw it asides onto the table. The suit itself was a similar affair. He pulled the fabric apart at the folds, the clinginess of fine, full grain leather sanded until it was so smooth to the touch as to feel like skin itself. It was scandalously short, and in fact there was not much fabric at all; from what Xue Meng could tell, it would only cover his arms and the very upper part of his neck and shoulders, revealing the entirety of his torso. Long stockings, lace trimmed at the top, transparent black. There were two heart-shaped pasties that he supposed would go on some rather obvious parts of his anatomy, a slip of silky fabric that would cover the bare minimum of his nether region, and a pair of stilettos, taller and sharper than what he had worn before, the underside in that iconic red against the upper patent leather in black.
Of course Jiang Xi would go for fucking Louboutins.
Jiang Xi rose from his seat and turned toward the window that spanned the entire length of his study, his back to Xue Meng. “If you insist on debasing yourself like this, then at least do it right. What else was in that contract of yours?”
Xue Meng mumbled something unintelligible.
“Say that again.”
It wasn’t a question. Xue Meng rubbed his two fingers together, feeling the fabric of the top, and studiously ignored Jiang Xi’s gaze. “I said I do lap dances for extras.”
“Lap dances.” Jiang Xi took a long inhale of another freshly lit cigarette, hand busying with the silver lighter with the most distracting click-clack sound. If Xue Meng didn’t know the way this man smoked like a chimney despite knowing full well the consequences of smoking regardless of day of the week or the state of his mind, he would have thought that Jiang Xi was nervous about something. “You actually do lap dances.”
“I’m there to make money,” Xue Meng said through gritted teeth. “If you’ve had enough shaming to fill you for the day…”
“Put on the costume,” Jiang Xi continued as if Xue Meng had never said anything. “It’s almost time to work, Xue Meng. It’s in your new contract, didn’t you read?”
Of course Xue Meng didn’t.
At least Jiang Xi afforded him the false modesty of averting his gaze when Xue Meng slowly stripped off the silk pajamas that Jiang Xi had lent him. He didn’t realize how comfortable, how warm that fabric truly was until he replaced it with that thin leather that constricted his arms and shoulders even through the breathable material. The lace stocking felt strange against his thighs, almost too tight. The ears went on his head easily enough, but the flimsy g-string refused to sit exactly right where he wanted it to, and as a result Xue Meng shifted restlessly from one foot to the other, balancing precariously on these too-expensive Louboutins that had somehow come perfectly in his size, and struggled with placing those pasties over his nipples mainly because he was only too fearful of that sudden, sharp pain he was sure would come when it was time for them to come off.
If they were to ever come off at all.
“What else do you want?” Xue Meng asked haughtily. If he couldn’t control his own situation, Xue Meng thought, if he couldn’t simply storm out of here because of his thin face and admit that he was beholden to Jiang Xi, then he could at least play up that confidence that he simply did not feel.
It wasn’t too easy to fake it around Jiang Xi. Jiang Xi inspired this kind of inferior feeling in people, Xue Meng thought, and far too many scramble to accommodate his every wish. There were people who fell at his feet in awe of his beauty and wealth, Xue Meng remembered, and there were the very few sensible people. The ones who recognized Jiang Xi for the true miserable bastard he was; the ones like him, who meticulously schooled their faces into expressions of complete disdain to match the haughtiness etched into every line of Jiang Xi’s exquisite face.
Jiang Xi’s fucking punchable face.
“As the new club owner,” Jiang Xi drawled slowly, almost carelessly, as if his words were meant to touch on the shell of one’s ears for a brief moment before wandering off elsewhere, meant to be chased. “I need to assess the quality of my investment.”
“Or you’re just a dirty old man.”
“I’m a businessman,” Jiang Xi said. “And you’ve signed a contract.”
“So you want me to rub my ass all over you.”
“I don’t know what you do in your club,” Jiang Xi said dispassionately.
Jiang Xi finally glanced at him, turning away from the windows. He stubbed out the cigarette again, crossed over to his leather chair behind the desk, and deposited himself neatly into that oversized chair. His gaze was almost… approving, Xue Meng thought, and his stomach did a funny little dance in response.
This was simply ridiculous.
And his legs had started to carry him toward Jiang Xi without any command from his brain at all.
The office chair sank a little under their combined weight. Xue Meng gripped at the armrests, most of his weight on his arms, and he gulped, feeling as unsteady as if he was standing upon the bow of a tiny boat on the crest of rising waves. The ocean lurched beneath his feet, threatening to topple him directly onto that all-too-solid form just under him. If Xue Meng leaned forward just a little more, that object under his thin silk g-string would make itself known against Jiang Xi’s stomach, a hardness that Xue Meng rarely ever indulged in at all.
He did not have a choice now. There was nowhere else to hide. “The patron would sit here,” Xue Meng said through the dryness in his mouth, a low whisper, “and I would dance over them. We don’t touch.”
“Do it, then,” Jiang Xi commanded. He tilted his head at an angle, and a pink tongue darted out to wet his thin lips. “Or are you only good at running your mouth? I hold very little illusion about your professionalism, as I saw it last night.”
It was absurd. It wasn’t as if this was his full-time job, and certainly Xue Meng did not take any pride in what he did for spending money. And yet, the way Jiang Xi’s cold, imperious eyes roved over him in that critical way only ignited the anger that Xue Meng always felt burning just under the surface when he was in Jiang Xi’s company. “I’m good at my job,” he insisted, hissing the words. “But I need music. This isn’t a club. This is your fucking office. None of this feels right—”
Jiang Xi sneered. “I didn’t know you have to get inspiration for your dance. Forgive my ignorance. It’s not within my purview to frequent such fine establishments as yours.”
Ignoring Jiang Xi’s barbs, Xue Meng called out over his shoulder, hoping that his phone would pick up the command, “Siri, play my club playlist.”
A tinny voice answered his command, and then the swell of equally tinny music emerged from where his phone laid on Jiang Xi’s desk. It was a slower kind of song, Xue Meng realized with trepidation. It was one of his least favorites, actually. Fast-paced stuff, he could work with. They were less personal, somehow, more like exercise.
This… and here, with Jiang Xi…
“Interesting choice of music.”
And Xue Meng had just had enough of this nagging. His arms already trembled a little from the effort it took to balance on the edge of the chair, the high heels pushing his calf muscles into sharp relief and thrusted his ass high in the air, and all that embarrassment, all that self-consciousness that Xue Meng hadn’t felt in the past two weeks at work suddenly came rushing back. They were so close, this proximity between them a complete farce, and when Xue Meng leaned forward to hover his chest just an inch away from Jiang Xi’s own broader one, their faces almost colliding, Xue Meng could swear that he smelled something other than that sweet tobacco scent that always clung to Jiang Xi’s clothes.
There was something softer, almost floral.
With a jolt, Xue Meng realized it was the scent that his mother liked to wear.
He ground his teeth so hard he must have cracked his molar. The music picked up, and Xue Meng moved with it, forcing his body to go through the motions that he had learned to perfection, willing his mind to blank out for long enough to put up with this humiliation, wondering what exactly was wrong with him that the hardness in his silk string only grew more unbearable with every breath from Jiang Xi’s nose onto the crook of his neck, every pounding of Jiang Xi’s heart that he could hear through their nearly joined chests.
He thrusted his hip forward. This was simply too dangerous. If he got any harder, Jiang Xi would surely feel it in the next movement.
If he leaned forward just a little more, their lips would touch.
“Is that all you’ve got?” Jiang Xi murmured at last, imperceptible in his calmness.
But Xue Meng could see the way his knuckles had grown white on the arms of the leather chair, mere inches from where Xue Meng’s own hands laid gripping.
“Unless you want me to suck you off,” Xue Meng countered, immediately regretting each syllable spat out of his mouth.
Jiang Xi’s eyes flashed dangerously, and before Xue Meng knew it, Jiang Xi’s arms were around him.
He did not know how strong Jiang Xi was that the journey from the office chair to the couch barely took any time at all. Dragging his kicking and screaming form as if Xue Meng weighed nothing at all, Jiang Xi threw them both down on that white leather surface. Xue Meng inhaled a lungful of that rich, distinctive scent, too scrambled to effectively protest but for the incoherent shrieks.
“Jiang Xi, you motherfucker—”
“Yes,” Jiang Xi agreed easily. “I did that. Or would you rather you not exist at all?”
At this moment, Xue Meng really would have chosen that option. Jiang Xi manhandled him as easily as if he was a child even if this year Xue Meng stood almost to Jiang Xi’s full height, only looking up a few centimeters to reach the other’s eyes.
Those few centimeters, for some reasons, made all the difference in the world.
It seemed the most natural thing in the world to lie there on Jiang Xi’s lap, his bare ass in the air, and Xue Meng covered his mouth with his hand, biting down hard to muffle the shrieks as Jiang Xi’s palm made contact with the rounded cheek, first one, then another.
“I should have disciplined you better,” Jiang Xi started, and there was a light pressure on his head. Xue Meng looked up, mortified.
Jiang Xi had tugged at the grayish, fluffy bunny ears still on Xue Meng’s head.
Xue Meng grabbed helplessly at Jiang Xi’s thigh. He would have clawed at the leather and left his marks there, but it looked like it would hurt him more than it would hurt Jiang Xi’s pocket. “You dare act like you’re my father…”
“Hush. If I were your father, you wouldn’t have run off to a nightclub in this kind of get up,” Jiang Xi coldly replied.
“I am an adult,” Xue Meng hissed and yanked his elbow backward to slam into Jiang Xi’s sternum, but Jiang Xi was too quick for him. The hand descended again.
“I’m going to fucking kill you,” Xue Meng hurled out, knowing all too well that he would not.
“What a mouth on you.”
“Ah!” There was something different about that slap. It was not that firm pressure of Jiang Xi’s palm that smarted for only a brief moment and quickly alleviated into a glowing warmth around his buttocks. This one lingered, hot fire on Xue Meng’s skin that licked dangerously close to that area just behind his balls. “Jiang Xi! Stop it!”
“Your parents coddled you too much,” Jiang Xi continued. Xue Meng could hear the most minute shift in Jiang Xi’s voice, as if the bastard had been holding something in all this time, and now it was leaking out drop by drop, the vessel already filled to bursting. “No discipline whatsoever. I’ve done you great wrong.”
It hurt. It hurt more and more, and Xue Meng shoved both hands over his mouth, stifling the sounds that sounded suspiciously more like a moan than a sob. Jiang Xi was unrelenting in his ministration. Xue Meng counted the thud, thud, thud of his own heart, almost sure that it had fallen in the same rhythm as the punishing pace of Jiang Xi’s perversity.
“Why are you like this?”
“Why didn’t you just ask for money?”
“Why are you so bent on embarrassing me?”
“Embarrassing you?” Xue Meng could no longer hold it back. He gritted his teeth, swiveled his head painfully backward and upward, and met Jiang Xi’s eyes. There was redness at the tail ends of those eyes, as if their owner was suffering from an inner crisis that could only simmer restlessly with no release. “What face do you have to say that? What am I to you, Jiang Xi? Who do you think gave you the right to have any opinion on my life at all?”
Jiang Xi let out a bark of laughter. “I made you, Xue Meng.”
“I’m not your son,” Xue Meng growled. “I’ve told you a thousand times. I don’t fucking care what you did—”
That handsome face twisted for a moment. Xue Meng watched as those sharp, elegant eyebrows drew together, saw those eyes that bore too significant a resemblance to his own narrowed almost imperceptibly, and Jiang Xi appeared as if he was considering something unthinkable, unable still to reach the conclusion.
Xue Meng had had enough.
“You’re not my father,” he said and reached up to bring their mouths together.
It was everything his dreams had told him it would be.
“I fucking hate you,” Xue Meng gasped into Jiang Xi’s mouth, hands cupping that face and holding it fastened to his. “I hate you so fucking much.”
Jiang Xi let out a short, curt laugh. “I know.” And before Xue Meng could stop himself, his mouth had opened completely under Jiang Xi’s, letting in that roving, insistent tongue, long held back by its owner, now gasping at its own bewildering liberation for the first time, unrestrained.
Xue Meng wondered, too, how long his own body had been waiting for this. Judging by the frequency with which that face appeared in his dreams as of late, what he could rightly say was this.
Jiang Xi’s stupid face was the only thing his body responded to these days.
They bit more than kissed, clawed more than touched. Jiang Xi’s hands on his back were firm, but Xue Meng knew no such restraint. He tugged at the long strands of Jiang Xi’s hair, grabbed fistfuls of it, and yanked it as hard as he could to keep that face exactly where it should be.
Flushed against his.
It was like stepping into the wilderness with only the clothes on one’s back, Xue Meng realized, and his thoughts jumbled in his head as if he was dropped from a great cliff onto nothing but air below. Jiang Xi’s hardness pressed into his thigh, and it should have repulsed him, struck so very clearly by precisely how wrong this whole situation was, and absolutely powerless to stop the force of gravity from compelling his downfall.
Jiang Xi ripped off one of the pasties with his teeth. The graze of sharp canines against the sensitive skin of his nipple, freely and newly opened to the cold air, brought a gasp to Xue Meng’s lips. “Jiang Xi, I…”
“Changed your mind?” Jiang Xi asked almost bitterly, already drawing back.
“I… I haven’t… this…”
“You’re a virgin.”
Jiang Xi did not know how to mince words. Xue Meng bit his lower lip, and then, thinking better of it, decided that the source of his frustration deserved the fruit of his labor. He leaned across the space between them, bit hard at the juncture of Jiang Xi’s neck, nails clawing trails down his back, deterred only by the thin silk shirt still clinging onto Jiang Xi’s upper body. “Take this off.”
“Ordering me around, are you.”
“Jiang Xi,” Xue Meng snapped. “If I’m rude, or short-tempered, or whatever, you know that it’s from you, right?”
That shut him up. Xue Meng ripped the pearly buttons from that shirt, sliding his fingers underneath the opening, and caught onto the flesh of Jiang Xi’s back, digging in. Jiang Xi’s glasses were slightly skewed. “If you don’t know how to do this properly, what do you think it is you’re doing?”
“I…” To be completely fair, Xue Meng never expected they would get to this stage at all.
“The first lesson I have to teach you,” Jiang Xi said almost quietly, almost a purr, “is how to properly listen to your elders.”
Xue Meng certainly never thought that wearing a bunny suit to work at a shady nightclub would one day lead to having a finger up his ass, coated in something slippery that Jiang Xi obtained from his desk drawer, and wearing an even more shameless bunny suit than he had started out with.
Or at least, he never expected that the finger in his ass would be Jiang Xi’s.
“Jiang Xi, stop,” Xue Meng gasped, back flushed against Jiang Xi’s chest. “Stop, stop, I can’t take it anymore, ah, it won’t stretch, no, wait—”
“Shh,” Jiang Xi sighed into the small of his back. “Calm down. I’ve got you.”
“I can’t, I can’t, please, I’ll be good, please let me go… I’m going to, I’m going to shit myself… I don’t want to...”
“You won’t,” Jiang Xi laughed. It was the first genuine laugh Xue Meng had ever heard from him. “You’re safe. Xue Meng.”
And another finger joined, and then another. Xue Meng whimpered around Jiang Xi’s arm around him, biting down hard, and when the threat of violence didn’t work, when the pleading didn’t work and a fourth finger threatened to split him apart, Xue Meng could no longer hold back what he had been meaning to say all this time.
“A-die... diedie, please. I’m scared.”
The words slipped out of his mouth before Xue Meng could grab them and shove them back in, but it was too late.
They had been released, and Jiang Xi seemed to have been too glad to catch them with open hands.
“Diedie’s got you,” Jiang Xi murmured, and all of a sudden, the fingers were removed, sucking all the sensations out from Xue Meng’s stomach, replacing them with something thicker and larger, Xue Meng repositioned on his hands and knees, face down on the couch.
“Shh,” Jiang Xi said, and it was no longer the tip hovering at his entrance.
Xue Meng sobbed, and this time, he didn’t even bother to muffle the sound at all.
Xue Meng never thought that being completely breached could feel like this. He could almost feel it in his stomach, the way Jiang Xi moved within him, and when he glanced back, he could see something almost tender crossing Jiang Xi’s expression, shrouded behind a curtain of loose hair. “Hnn…”
“Xue Meng,” Jiang Xi simply said, and twisted his hips.
It burned. The cry ripped from him was unnatural, abrupt, a shriek. His toes curled up, his fingers clenched painfully tight around Jiang Xi’s own, and Xue Meng pressed his face into the white leather surface, his mouth completely out of his control. The saliva pooled. “Diedie. .. Jiang Xi…”
“Call me diedie again,” Jiang Xi commanded, biting at his ear. A slap sounded; the sore skin on his ass absorbed the impact.
Xue Meng whimpered. “Diedie. ..”
“Are you being good for diedie, Mengmeng?”
“I’m good, diedie, I’m being good,” Xue Meng sobbed. Jiang Xi held him in that position, hands at the small of his waist, gripping tightly onto the flesh of his cheeks. Xue Meng could have sworn that Jiang Xi had squeezed his bunny tail. “A-die … I, umm, ahh, ahh, stop, too fast, ah!”
“Can’t you take your a-die in more fully, Mengmeng?” Jiang Xi was not moving too fast, actually. Each thrust was slow, measured, methodical, designed to strike at precisely one spot within Xue Meng.
Never in his life did Xue Meng imagine that anyone would ever touch his prostate outside of a doctor’s office, and that would not start until he was much, much older.
And well, perhaps this was a doctor’s office.
“So tight,” Jiang Xi hummed, nipping at his ear. “Little bunny, you’ve been waiting for diedie?”
“I… I… ah!”
Jiang Xi caught the lace garter between his teeth and snapped the elastic band on one of Xue Meng's stockings. Xue Meng’s back arched almost painfully. Jiang Xi drove into him again, burying his cock to the hilt every single time. Jiang Xi was not overly thick, but the sheer length of the thing made Xue Meng scramble for purchase, fearing that it would pierce through his abdominal wall with how fierce Jiang Xi’s movements were.
“Tight little bunny.”
“Hnn… diedie… ”
“Never done this with anyone at the club, have you?”
“No, no… never…”
“Good,” Jiang Xi sighed and pulled him back again.
He was so close, and Jiang Xi refused to touch his dripping cock at all. It laid pressed between his body and the couch, forlorn. “Please… let me come.”
“It’s not time yet,” Jiang Xi said. In a quick movement, Jiang Xi had drawn Xue Meng backward so that Xue Meng sat entirely on his lap. Xue Meng did not realize how wet his face had become, both from tears and from saliva. “First, you have to show diedie how good you are.”
“I’m showing you,” Xue Meng insisted.
“You said you did those lap dances in that club,” Jiang Xi growled. “But you didn’t touch them.”
Xue Meng nodded too enthusiastically. “I didn’t touch anyone.”
“I want a different kind of lap dance,” Jiang Xi commanded. “A special one, for your a-die. Ride me, Meng’er.”
Xue Meng glanced down at the way their bodies were still connected. It was different to see it, somehow, bringing about a strange, almost sickening sensation to his stomach to see something so large protruding out of him. He could scarcely believe that he had fit that entire thing inside. Xue Meng clenched his hole, seeing the way Jiang Xi’s eyes dilated just a fraction more, and began to move clumsily.
“Is that the best you can do?”
Xue Meng puffed his cheeks and quickened his movement. There was a mirror, he realized, hanging just above the couch, and from this angle, completely subsumed in Jiang Xi’s lap, he could see just how the two of them looked.
The bunny ears had flopped to one side at some point during their play. The Louboutins were still strapped onto his jumbled feet, the red underside as vivid as blood. His black leather top stretched tightly across the taut muscles of his shoulders, one of his nipples exposed, the other one still covered in the heart pasty. The lace stocking was ruined on one side, a long run stretching the length of that silky black net. His skin was littered with marks left behind from Jiang Xi’s tongue and lips, wild and scattered like crimson flushes of the setting sun against an endless field of pollia in full bloom. There was one single ring of teeth marks around his navel, the bunny tail askew from where it attached to the silky g-string, pushed asides by Jiang Xi’s cock buried to the hilt within him.
Jiang Xi gazed at him lazily under his glasses. Their eyes met in the mirror. Xue Meng wanted to bite that smug expression from that all-too-youthful face, and at the same time, there was something within him that wanted to replace that expression with something more…
More the way he looked right now, with half-lidded eyes and gaping mouth, with flushed cheeks and tears glistening on his skin.
Jiang Xi still looked entirely too composed, and Xue Meng could not stand it. Could not stand him.
He began to move.
The music had changed. The track was something he was unfamiliar with, but Xue Meng picked up the rhythm far too easily. It was easy to press his palms onto the meat of Jiang Xi shoulders, partly bare from where the ripped shirt still clung to his back, revealing a trim physique that Xue Meng wanted to claw and scratch until it bled beneath his fingers. That mindless screaming from earlier, that squalling noise that he must have made himself, seemed to have been a mere fever dream now that Xue Meng finally regained some control of himself.
Calling him diedie of all things.
He would ride Jiang Xi until the old man broke, Xue Meng thought, and ground his hips.
What he did not realize, in fact, was that the subject of the riding was not the one being penetrated.
“Oh!” Xue Meng exclaimed. There was something like fireworks lit within him; a small jolt, over with as quickly as it had descended upon him. Xue Meng reached for it again, burying his face into the crook of Jiang Xi’s shoulder and neck, and all too soon he was guided backward, their faces parallel once more.
“I want to see you,” Jiang Xi said. “Look at me while you do it.”
“You… you…” Xue Meng panted, but before he could go on, Jiang Xi’s index and middle fingers had stretched his mouth open. “Mmf!”
“Lick them well, little bunny,” Jiang Xi said, “like how you would lick them if they were the only thing lubing up your little hole.”
“Mmf!” Xue Meng said again in protest, but another glare from Jiang Xi forced his mouth to close around those long digits, his tongue pressing against the index fingers, swallowing it further into the back of his throat. Jiang Xi’s eyes took on a glazed look.
Xue Meng took that as encouragement.
“Don’t forget to move,” Jiang Xi said almost mockingly. “First lesson, and I’m simply not impressed, Mengmeng. You’ll have to work much harder.”
“Jiang Xi,” Xue Meng mumbled around the fingers in his mouth. He bit down hard. Jiang Xi hissed. “If you want to fuck me so bad, then why don’t you just do it yourself?”
“Should have known you would be a pillow princess,” Jiang Xi murmured, but there was no trace of anger in that voice. Only a low, amused kind of taunting that showered Xue Meng in humiliation and desire all at once. “Then tell diedie what you want.”
“I’m not calling you that again— Ah!”
Jiang Xi’s hands tightened around both cheeks, fingers digging into the firm flesh. It hurt, all the more because of the way it already hurt for that skin to make contact with anything at all. “Tell diedie what you want.”
“You said you’d be good for me, Meng’er. You’ve already forgotten. What an unfilial son.”
Jiang Xi squeezed his nipple, twisted it. Xue Meng’s mouth fell open, letting Jiang Xi’s fingers in his mouth drop; his body no longer existed, his entire being coalesced to one single, pulsating spot, and Jiang Xi lifted him with the surprising strength hidden behind that sinewy form, driving the point home over and over. Jiang Xi’s hand made a tight circle at the base of Xue Meng’s cock; the thing twitched desperately, as if that leaking head was a blind kitten searching for any scrap of contact at all.
The pressure building inside him had reached the threshold of pain. That brief spell of control disappeared as quickly as it had come. "Diedie… ”
“Want… want to come,” Xue Meng slurred out the words. He looked at their reflection in the mirror again, seeing his own eyes glazed the way they had only been by virtue of cheap wine at a dorm party. “Diedie, want to come.”
“Want me to come in you?”
“Want you… want you to come… in… in…” Xue Meng hiccupped, repeated the words almost mindlessly.
“In you,” Jiang Xi repeated.
Xue Meng nodded, but it was more a loll of his head. “In… in me.”
“Good boy,” Jiang Xi praised, and it would have been unimaginably embarrassing for Xue Meng to spurt all over Jiang Xi’s hand that quickly when Jiang Xi released that ring and pumped twice at his swollen cock, slamming Xue Meng on him one last time, if Xue Meng didn’t also happen to catch the way Jiang Xi’s eyes rolled to the back at his head at the very same moment.
“Next time, that bunny tail is going to go inside you instead of attached to the string,” Xue Meng heard someone whisper in his ear over the roar of rushing water, but it might have been a dream, after all.
They did not talk. When Xue Meng woke up, he was alone in his guest room, thoroughly cleaned with no memory of any of the intervening events. The remaining heart pasty on his chest was gone, and there was only a warm sheet covering his body, a thick blanket on top. His hair was still a little damp. The sun had begun to set outside the window, and Xue Meng shifted restlessly on the bed, back sore and bottom completely destroyed, and began the arduous process of sliding on the clothes that Jiang Xi had laid out on the bed next to him.
Nondescript, far too high quality linen clothes, just a little too large for him.
Xue Meng grabbed the envelope on top of the pile, drew Jiang Xi’s borrowed coat over his shoulders, glanced at the pile of discarded bunny suit in the corner, and headed out into the cold afternoon.
As he passed the gate, Xue Meng did not know what possessed him to look back, but he did. And there was Jiang Xi from the second floor window, that visage slightly distorted behind the glass at this angle, and just as quickly as their eyes had met, Jiang Xi drew the curtain and turned away.
Xue Meng’s stomach squeezed painfully tight, and the wind only gave his feet wings.
On those fucking Louboutins, of course. Those, he would keep.
Mo Ran wasn’t home when he returned, and his other roommates seemed to be out for the day. Their shared apartment suddenly looked so small now, Xue Meng thought, casting his eyes around the furniture that the four of them had painstakingly collected from various thrift shops and street corners. There was a strange part of him that seemed to remember the white leather couch in Jiang Xi’s study, and against his own best judgment, Xue Meng closed his eyes, imagining phantom hands around his shoulders, fixing a coat to shield him from the cold.
The door opened.
“Hey,” Mo Ran called out absently, eyes still on his phone. He dropped off a large bag of groceries at the shoe rack and sauntered in with bare feet, barely sparing Xue Meng a look. “Long night last night, huh. Hey, did you hear about the club?”
“Of course I heard about the fucking club,” Xue Meng grumbled. The fact that his cousin simply assumed he was alive and not stuck in a burning building somewhere said plenty about his cousin’s capacity for rational, sensible, adult thoughts. “Where have you been?”
“Out celebrating with my boyfriend,” Mo Ran cheekily said. “Gotta use that bonus for something.”
Mo Ran gave him a strange look. “You didn’t get the email? The club was disbanded last night before the fire started, and each of us got a severance package worth three months of pay, plus a one-month bonus deposited into our accounts. I went out for some lamb barbecue with Wa—... I mean, with my boyfriend.”
Xue Meng let Mo Ran chatter on inanely, but there was only one thing on his mind. He rummaged through his—Jiang Xi’s—coat pockets for the envelope, tore it open in one quick movement, and let his eyes roam over the document he had signed without a second thought.
The document was a simple one. At the top, written in Jiang Xi’s own scrawling, barely legible cursive, read:
Don’t be so stupid in the future. I’ll take care of you.
And underneath, where Xue Meng had signed his own name in blue ink, intent on selling away his own agency for the sake of vanity, was printed a long string of numbers that threatened to squeeze all the air out of his lungs at the realization that actually, finding Jiang Xi’s personal bank account number on that supposed contract was not at all a surprise.
That perhaps Xue Meng already knew what he would find on that piece of paper.
It had never been about agency at all.
Against his best judgment, Xue Meng dialed a number on his phone.