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Go Beyond Our Fighting Borders

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“Come on, we barely even use the extra room, and Mu Qing using it to film his stupid make up tutorials does not count. We can even reinstate your smarmy pirate bastard’s house privileges.”

 

“Feng Xin, you know I love you and Mu Qing but I’m not moving back in with you guys. I want to be able to see my boyfriend without furniture being broken.”

 

Feng Xin winces, remembering the particular incident that had led to Hua Cheng being banned from their apartment. The hole in the wall has been patched up, but the couch still lets out a rather horrifying and prolonged creak if you sit down on it too hard.

 

Xie Lian continues  “Besides, I’ve been living with San Lang for nearly half a year now, and it seems like things have been working out fine with the two of you. What brought this on all of a sudden?”

 

“Working out fine? We got into a fistfight in the kitchen last week!” Feng Xin continues to be mystified that someone as slim as Mu Qing manages to pack such a heavy punch.

 

“But not this week?” Xie Lian sounds pleasantly surprised.

 

“That's not the point!” Feng Xin slams his fist down on Xie Lian’s kitchen table. Honestly, he wishes they had gotten into a fistfight, it would be better than this. “The point is that everything is terrible and I need you to move back in so you can stop me from doing something stupid and fucking everything up so that Mu Qing hates me even more than he does already!”

 

"Whoa, wait. Why do you think you're going to fuck things up?"

 

"Because I already am! And as much as I fucking hate to say it, it's not even really Mu Qing's fault this time. It's me and my own goddamn issues. And I didn't even know I had issues!”

 

"Gege, are we talking about Feng Xin's many, many issues?" Hua Cheng saunters through the kitchen doorway and wraps his arms around Xie Lian from behind. Xie Lian tilts his head up to look at him, giving him a gentle smile.

 

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Feng Xin asks.

 

"It's my apartment. A better question would be why you’re here in our apartment wasting gege's oxygen with your obnoxious yelling."

 

“Don’t be mean, San Lang, Feng Xin told me he had something important he needed to talk with me about.”

 

“Then please, go on ahead.” Hua Cheng says cheerfully, folding his lanky form into a cross legged position on the countertop behind Xie Lian. He looks like he wants to break out a bag of popcorn. Trying to get him to leave would be far more of a production than it’s worth, so it looks like Hua Cheng gets to bear witness to Feng Xin’s humiliation. Great.

 

“So what’s the issue then?” Xie Lian asks.

 

Feng Xin sighs. How is he supposed to admit this to Xie Lian of all people? Xie Lian has been his friend since kindergarten, but something like this is definitely enough to potentially put a dent in that.

 

“I just want to preface this by saying I’m so sorry, and I’m trying to work on it, I really am. I honestly had no idea I even felt this way until recently, and I’m so fucking angry at myself.”

 

Xie Lian frowns and reaches across the table to take his hand. “Whatever it is I don’t think it's as bad as all that. And you know that we’re here for you no matter what.”

 

“I’m not.” Hua Cheng says as he idly inspects his flawless black nail polish. and Xie Lian shoots him a look. “Sorry, sorry.” He says, not sounding sorry in the slightest. Goddamn shitty bastard , Feng Xin thinks. He’s literally only here to torment him.

 

“Go on.” Xie Lian says encouragingly.

 

“Again, I am really fucking sorry.” Feng Xin says. He takes a deep breath in, lets it out, and then breathes in again. “What I’m trying to say is, I think I’m homophobic.” 

 

Xie Lian stares at him unblinkingly, and Feng Xin stares back mournfully. For a few seconds the only noise breaking through the dead silence after his announcement is the soft hum of Xie Lian’s new kitchen appliances in the background.

 

Then, Hua Cheng breaks out into snickers, raising a hand to cover his mouth. Feng Xin wants to punch the smirk off of his face. “So, you’re gay and homophobic? That doesn’t sound healthy.”

 

“Wait, what?” Feng Xin splutters. Maybe he preferred the silence after all. “I’m not gay! Why would you think that? What the fuck are you talking about!?” 

 

Hua Cheng’s eye twinkles merrily, a look that has only ever meant Feng Xin’s doom. “So what you’re saying is that you don’t want Mu Qing to bend you over the nearest table?”

 

Feng Xin stands up from his chair so fast that it clatters to the floor behind him. Hua Cheng raises one perfectly plucked eyebrow at the sound, wordlessly managing to convey his judgement, and Xie Lian puts a hand on Feng Xin’s arm and looks at him pleadingly. He glares at Hua Cheng as he rights the chair with perhaps more force than is necessary.

 

Xie Lian takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, putting his hands on Feng Xin’s shoulders and lowering him back to the table. Then he grabs one of San Lang’s hands in his, whose expression smooths out at the touch. Xie Lian looks like he can’t decide whether to start laughing or crying. “San Lang, please be nice. Don’t fight, ah? Let's break this down one thing at a time. Feng Xin, why don’t you start from the beginning?”

 

“Oh, please do.” Hua Cheng adds.

 

Feng Xin buries his face in his hands.

 

 

It’s impossible to pinpoint the true beginning of this whole mess (maybe it had even been that fateful day in middle school when Mu Qing was accused of stealing Xie Lian’s favorite gold foil backpack charm, Xie Lian had stood up for him in front of the principal, and Feng Xin had been sent home early for punching both the kid making fun of Mu Qing’s ratty worn out t-shirt and Mu Qing himself), but Feng Xin can definitively say the problem really started making itself known in the months after Xie Lian had moved out of their shared apartment.

 

Xie Lian and Hua Cheng had been dating for nearly a year, to Feng Xin and Mu Qing’s perpetual and ever growing dismay. In a way, it had been good for their relationship; they finally had someone to be more outraged with than each other. Mu Qing and Feng Xin had formed a grudging alliance in their attempts to oust Hua Cheng from their lives as ungracefully as he’d inserted himself into them. Unfortunately, Xie Lian had, for some unfathomable reason, chosen to keep around the creepy adult who was then discovered to have also been the creepy middle schooler who’d followed Xie Lian around after school for a semester. Xie Lian had caught the kid when he’d fallen from the stands at one of Xie Lian’s martial arts tournaments, and after that he’d trailed after him like a lost duckling. Given that that had also been the semester Xie Lian’s entire life had been imploding as their family company failed, maybe it was some sort of trauma bonding response between the pair of them. 

 

It’s probably the worst of the sore spots between Feng Xin and Mu Qing, the fact that they had both managed to fail Xie Lian so badly and neither of them had been there when he really needed them. Any reference to it can easily turn playful fights into something more vicious. Maybe it's unfair, but if Feng Xin’s not going to forgive himself for it he’s sure as hell not going to forgive Mu Qing.

 

All of this inevitably led to problems whenever Hua Cheng visited. After the couch incident, Xie Lian had agreed that it was perfectly reasonable to ban Hua Cheng from the apartment considering the noise complaints and miscellaneous broken objects that inevitably resulted, but said that it didn’t change the fact that he wanted to see more of his boyfriend. The ‘without you two threatening to break every bone in his body every time he so much as looks at me’ went unsaid, but was understood nevertheless.

 

And so Xie Lian had moved into his asshole boyfriend's apartment, leaving Feng Xin and Mu Qing alone with each other. The thunk of the door closing behind Xie Lian as he carries his singular box of belongings out to Hua Cheng’s obnoxiously fancy car echoes through the house like a death knell.

 

“Dibs.” Mu Qing says almost immediately. The two of them are standing by the raggedy little mat in front of the apartment door, and Feng Xin is not internally panicking at being alone with Mu Qing, thank you very much.

 

“Huh? On what?” he asks, responding a bit too late.

 

“Xie Lian’s room. I want it. I called dibs first, so it’s mine now.”

 

“What the fuck?! No it’s not! You can’t call dibs on an entire room of the apartment!”

 

“Too bad, I just did.” Mu Qing gives him his simpering, fake smile that never fails to rile Feng Xin up. “I need it for filming my tutorials.”

 

“What!? You don’t need an entire goddamn room for your shitty makeup videos! Just keep using your own room for them like you have been!” Mu Qing’s videos are surprisingly good -not that Feng Xin will ever admit to Mu Qing that he's watched any of them- and he knows that the make up stuff is only half of what he does, but insulting them is a great way to piss Mu Qing off.

 

“Why should I? Xie Lian’s room is the one with the best natural light in the apartment, although I suppose I shouldn’t expect a meathead like you to notice subtle nuances like that.” Mu Qing sneers.

 

“I notice plenty! And so what about the lighting, that doesn’t mean you just get to lay claim to the entire room! Maybe I want to use it too!”

 

“Oh yeah? What for? Are you gonna set up an indoor archery range in an 8 by 11 box?”

 

“Don’t be stupid, I can use it as an exercise room. You’re the one who’s always complaining about me lifting weights in the living room.”

 

“Yeah, because you take up all the space in front of the tv, and you’re loud as fuck. Did no one ever clue you in that it’s possible to do a chest press without grunting like a pig?”

 

Feng Xin feels his face start to turn red. “Fuck you, I do not! And you agreed that it would be good to have a designated exercise room. I’ll even let you use it for your jazzercise yoga shit.”

 

“Yoga and ballroom dance are two completely separate things you imbecile, and ‘let me’? ‘ Let me’? And oh, Mu Qing really is livid now. Feng Xin probably should have been expecting the punch, which hits him in the solar plexus and knocks the wind completely out of him.  

“I’m the one who called dibs” Mu Qing hisses as he darts towards the newly vacated room. 

Although he’s still wheezing from the blow, Feng Xin lunges forward and kicks Mu Qing’s knee inwards to topple him to the ground. As he falls Mu Qing manages to twist an arm around Feng Xin’s legs so that he falls with him, landing heavily on Mu Qing’s chest. 

Mu Qing flips them over so that he’s straddling Feng Xin’s hips, then pushes himself upwards by slamming his palms into Feng Xin’s chest, once again knocking the air out of him. 

Feng Xin wraps a hand around his ankle and brings him back down again. He then pushes Mu Qing’s pretty face straight into the floor as he vaults himself up and sprints towards Xie Lian’s room. He gets about halfway there before Mu Qing body slams him from behind. 

 

Needless to say, it takes a while before either of them actually reach the door to Xie Lian’s room.



Their first week living alone together is a powder keg of minor annoyances, and Xie Lian is no longer there to help put out the sparks between them. Their schedules have always interacted in odd ways, what with Feng Xin’s sports medicine internship, Xie Lian in law school, and Mu Qing’s thesis research in some insane combination of poli sci, international law, and sociology, and to keep up with it they had kept a rotating list of chores for the week maintained almost exclusively by Xie Lian. They discover the flaw in this system when Feng Xin opens the fridge to find that it currently contains a half empty tupperware of pho takeout, several unopened jam jars, and a bottle of unopened orange juice of indeterminate age.

 

“Mu Qing!” Feng Xin yells. “Where the fuck are our groceries for the week?”

 

Mu Qing sticks his head out of his room, glaring. “I don’t know Feng Xin, maybe they're at the grocery store, as groceries tend to be when you don’t actually bother to buy them.” He must have been in the middle of applying eyeliner, and only one eye is finished. The asymmetry would be comical on anyone else, and yet Mu Qing somehow manages to pull it off.

 

“I know that, do you always have to be patronizing? Why the hell haven’t you bought groceries?”

 

“Why would I buy groceries?”

 

“Maybe because you want to eat and it's your week to buy groceries?”

 

Mu Qing rolls his eyes. “No it's not. It's your week.”

 

“It literally has your name under groceries on the fridge.”

 

 Mu Qing walks closer and looks at the note. “That’s because that list is from last week, when I bought groceries. Did you not bother to read the date at the top?”

 

Feng Xin looks at the date on the note, and sure enough, that it is indeed the task list that Xie Lian wrote out during his last week that neither of them have bothered to replace since.

 

 Mu Qing snickers. “It's ok, we all make mistakes when we learn new things. Maybe once you master dates and numbers you can move on to the alphabet.”

 

“Fuck you, I’m not the only one who didn’t bother to update the stupid schedule.” Feng Xin tears down the note and takes out the tupperware of pho to reheat. “Do you want any?”

 

Mu Qing snorts. “How generous of you to offer me my own leftovers. You can finish it off, I already ate a serving earlier. But for the love of God, go to the grocery store tomorrow.” He retreats back to his room, presumably to line his other eye, and Feng Xin most definitely does not watch the way his ponytail sways in time with his hips as he leaves. It’s not until later that night that Feng Xin thinks through the implications of Mu Qing ordering more food than he knew he would eat by himself. If Feng Xin’s heartbeat picks up speed at the realization that Mu Qing intentionally bought him dinner, there’s no one around to prove it.



Mu Qing texts him requests the entire time he’s at the grocery store. Not for actual food, just drinks of questionable nutritional value and off brand energy bars. Feng Xin sometimes wonders whether Mu Qing would have survived to adulthood without him and Xie Lian around to force him to eat actual food.

 

Resting Bitch Face 

Mu Qing

Get more lime seltzers, we ran out last week                   7:18 pm

 

We need more orange juice                                              7:20 pm

 

Coffee                                                                               7:38 pm



Dianxia

Xie Lian

Mu Qing texted me asking me to remind you to buy coffee filters, orange juice, and black cherry tea                    7:45 pm

Feng Xin

  7:46 pm    Why is he texting you? Tell the motherfucker to text me himself

Xie Lian

He says uh  7:47 pm

That you're more likely to do what I tell you, and  … he said something else that I don’t want to type.                 7:47 pm



 

 

Resting Bitch Face 

Feng Xin

picky little fucker

7:52 pm   [img.0789427 stack of five boxes of cherry tea on checkout conveyor belt, blurred thumb in corner of photo] 

Mu Qing

Shit for brains

[img. 5108320  middle finger silhouette backlit by the light coming through Xie Lian's window]  7:53 pm



 The moment Feng Xin sets the grocery bags down on the countertops, Mu Qing seemingly teleports himself into the kitchen, craning his neck around Feng Xin’s shoulder like a particularly elegant baby bird.

 

“Did you get orange juice?”

 

“Why would I? We already have a full bottle.” Currently, the orange juice is one of the only things on their refrigerator shelf, rather hard to miss. Feng Xin opens the fridge and starts stacking Mu Qing’s lime seltzers into the door. “Why do you need orange juice all of a sudden? You clearly weren’t drinking it before. Are you gonna help me put these away?”

 

Mu Qing does not in fact start helping Feng in putting up groceries, and instead leans back against the counter. “Its for a new juice cleanse called none of your fucking business. And that orange juice is past its expiration date, I’m not going to drink that.”

 

“So? It’s unopened, it's fine. Fucking hell, if you want orange juice, we have orange juice.” Feng Xin pulls out the bottle, unscrews the lid, and sniffs it. “Smells fine.” Feng Xin isn’t actually sure what orange juice is supposed to smell like, but nothing seems immediately wrong with it. 

 

“It’s been in there for months! I’m not drinking it!” Mu Qing wrinkles his nose, although Feng Xin is sure there’s no way he can smell anything from where he’s standing. Of course he’s going to be picky enough to let perfectly good juice go to waste.

 

“Fine then, I’ll drink it!”

 

“What the FUCK are you doing, stop that!” Mu Qing screeches as Feng Xin chugs the orange juice straight from the bottle. It’s acidic and a little lumpy, but Feng Xin is pretty sure it was supposed to have pulp in it anyways. He manages to down half the bottle without pausing for breath. Mu Qing watches with his expression split between rage and horror, and Feng Xin maintains eye contact as he drinks. There is possibly a bit of orange juice dribbling down his chin.

 

 “Don’t be so picky. It tastes fine.” He grins as he lowers the bottle. There's orange juice on his lips and he maintains eye contact with Mu Qing as he sticks his tongue out and exaggeratedly licks it off. Mu Qing wrinkles his nose in disgust, but his face is suspiciously red as he breaks eye contact first so Feng Xin counts it as a win. Mu Qing snatches it from his hands and pours the rest of it down the sink.

 

“Stop saying that it’s fine! Who even knows what was growing in there. God, don’t come bother me when you start puking your guts out. And buy more orange juice.” Mu Qing turns around and storms out of the kitchen, whacking Feng Xin in the face with his ponytail as he goes. Feng Xin is 99% sure its deliberate, and wonders what Mu Qing would do if he just grabbed on to his stupid, pretty hair and pulled .



As it turns out, the orange juice had definitely not been fine . Feng Xin learns this later when, as he and Mu Qing are arguing about what movie to watch (there's no way Mu Qing actually likes Quentin Tarantino movies, he's got to be doing this specifically to torment Feng Xin) he tries to stand up in protest and the room begins to spin. He falls back onto the cushions with a thunk, and the couch lets out an angry creak of protest. He can’t tell whether it’s him or the couch that’s shaking more.

 

Mu Qing frowns at him. "Are you okay? You're even more clumsy than usual."

 

"Yeah, I'm great." Feng Xin says. Mu Qing's face is sort of melting and blending into the wall behind him, and all the colors are running together. Of course Mu Qing still looks pretty when he's a blob of colors. At least he’s pretty colors. Black and silver and white. Mu Qing would probably sue the color people if they didn’t give him pretty colors. Which is mean. Mu Qing is mean. Pretty and mean. He thinks he might be swaying a bit.

 

“Feng Xin, seriously. Stop messing around.” Mu Qing’s voice makes his head spin even more, but he wants him to keep talking. Mu Qing’s voice is nice, all low and smooth. If he could it eat it would probably taste like chocolate. He tries to shake his head to clear it, and the spinning gets worse.

 

"Don’t sue the color people." Feng Xin says. Then his body slowly tips over and he falls off the couch.




When Feng Xin wakes up, he has been magically transported into his bed. Nothing is blurry anymore, but his skin is hot and his stomach feels like it's trying to burn a hole through the rest of his organs. He blearily tries to sit up, and a strong pair of hands presses him back down onto the mattress. Hot , Feng Xin thinks, feeling dizzy again.

 

Mu Qing is leaning over him with his characteristic scowl. "Stay still, you imbecile. You might throw up again if you keep moving, and then you'll just be laying in your own vomit. I'm not going to haul your muscled ass around again, it was hard enough getting you here in the first place."

"Muscled?" Feng Xin repeats the only word his brain managed to latch onto.

 

"Shut up. Stay there, I'm going to bring you some water." Mu Qing exits the bedroom, leaving Feng Xin to wrap his head around the fact that Mu Qing had, apparently, been taking care of him. He wonders if he’s still hallucinating.

 

“What time is it?” he asks when Mu Qing returns with a glass of water and a pair of white pills. Feng Xin doesn’t recognize them, but he figures if Mu Qing was going to kill him via lethal drugs we would have done so when he was still asleep, so he goes ahead and downs them.

 

“Around noon or so, I think.  I don’t know what you remember, but you were crouched over the toilet for half the night puking up orange juice before passing out again at ass o’ clock in the morning.”

 

“Huh. I don’t remember any of that. Wait, noon? FUCK, I’m missing work, fuck shit fuck-” Feng Xin tries to scramble out of bed again and Mu Qing pushes him back down again with embarrassingly little effort. Feng Xin tries very hard to erase the feeling of Mu Qing’s hands pinning him to the bed. They’re millennials, they get prizes for the effort, right?

 

“You can barely even stand, you are not going to go check football players for concussions for nine hours straight.”

 

“That's not even what I do, I-”

 

“ And I already emailed them for you saying you’re sick, so they’re not expecting you anyways.”

 

“You hacked my email?!”

 

Mu Qing rolls his eyes. “It’s not hacking if you literally never log out of your accounts you moron. I have no idea how no one has stolen your bank details yet.”

 

"I … thanks, I suppose."

 

Mu Qing glares at him, but there's a fascinating red tinge spreading across his cheeks. His pale skin always has blushed embarrassingly easily. "Whatever.  I just didn't want to have to be the one to explain to Xie Lian that you died by orange juice the instant he wasn't here to supervise you."

 

"Xie Lian wouldn't have stopped me. He probably would have drunk it too."

 

"That doesn't mean anything, Xie Lian is Xie Lian; he could eat compost and come out fine. I'm going to go do my actual work now, but I swear that if I see you up and about I will knock you out and tie you to the bed."

 

"Kinky."

 

"You wish." Mu Qing flips him off as he leaves. Feng Xin thinks about getting out of bed just to spite him, but he really does still feel like shit so he reluctantly relaxes back onto his pillows. He doesn’t know what to make of the strange feeling he gets in his chest knowing that Mu Qing took care of him for the entire night; the most he would have expected Mu Qing to do was take a video of him puking his guts up as blackmail material. Although he supposes he can’t entirely discount that possibility.

 

An hour later Mu Qing barges back in, this time carrying a bowl of what looks like cereal. He sets it down on Feng Xin's night stand and stares expectantly. Feng Xin blinks up at him. "Is that for me?"

 

"Obviously. You haven't eaten since dinner yesterday, which doesn’t count since it came back up in a spectacular fashion. I cooked for you, be grateful.”

 

“Cooked? This is literally a bowl of cereal.”

 

"Shut up, it's breakfast food."

 

"It's nearly two in the afternoon."

 

“So what? Are you gonna eat it or not?” Mu Qing gives him a glare that says the only reason he’s not committing violence right now is because Feng Xin is an invalid. “Because if not I’d be happy to take it and pour it over your head instead.”

 

“Aren’t you supposed to be nice to me right now? I’m sick!”

 

“Only because of your own goddamn stupidity. You literally study health and medicine, how the fuck do you not know better than to drink expired juice.”

 

“I study sports medicine, not microbiology, or juice…ology? Whichever field studies juices.”

 

“I think the term you’re looking for is food chemistry.”

 

Feng Xin grins. “You mean Xie Lian’s cooking?”

 

“ Definitely not. Xie Lian’s cooking defies chemistry and every other natural law.”

 

They bicker back and forth as Feng Xin eats his cereal and ignores the odd, warm lump he feels pressing against his rib cage. By the evening he’s recovered enough to make them both a proper dinner because of course Mu Qing forgot to eat even when he was pestering Feng Xin about doing the same. Feng Xin mixes ingredients for soup and stands watch by the stove while Mu Qing cuts vegetables into highly irregularly sized chunks for him because ‘you’re still too wobbly to be trusted with a knife right now.’

 

As he’s throwing away some packaging, Feng Xin notices the remains of some painfully burnt toast and some gloopy substance that might be egg whites in the trash can. Did… Mu Qing actually try to cook for him earlier? Feng Xin isn’t sure what to make of that, so he tries to focus on boiling the potatoes Mu Qing cut into some truly bizarre shapes.

 

They fight each other for control of couch space and over what movie to watch, and Mu Qing wins because he has absolutely no compunctions against fighting someone who’s still weak from food poisoning. He puts his legs up on the couch, and chooses some terrible, mindless disaster movie from the early 2010s because Mu Qing has the same taste in movies as an 11 year old boy with insecurity issues. He digs his toes painfully into Feng Xin’s thigh around the point when the badly rendered CGI aliens show up, and leaves them there until the end of the movie. For reasons he isn’t entirely sure of and doesn’t feel like thinking about, Feng Xin lets him.



They survive their first week together (however barely in Feng Xin’s case) and begin to resettle into a new, somewhat unfamiliar version of their old routine.

Feng Xin moves his exercise equipment into Xie Lian’s old room, and Mu Qing promptly piles it into a corner out of the line of sight of his camera. He also strings up fairy lights and moves half of his houseplants into the room, and Feng Xin accuses him of turning it into the dorm room of a freshman sorority girl. 

They set up a new system of notes and chores, and only get into three shouting matches and one physical fight during the process. 

 

They go to a department store together to buy a new welcome mat and carpet to replace their shitty old ones, and end up arguing for at least half an hour over the rug and an hour over the carpet, but they don’t get thrown out of the store so Feng Xin looks on the bright side. They end up buying a medium-green carpet patterned with dark green vines (Feng Xin wanted something with a floral pattern, Mu Qing wanted something that ‘wasn’t an eyesore’), and a plain black welcome mat.

 

Xie Lian and Hua Cheng come by the second week with a batch of cookies filled with unidentifiable black lumps that could be chocolate chips, raisins, or just exceedingly burnt bits of dough. Hua Cheng maintains eye contact with Feng Xin as he eats one, and it's one of the most terrifying experiences of his life. Xie Lian appears both surprised and relieved at the fact that their furniture is still mostly intact, and when he leaves his parting words to Feng Xin are “I’m so glad you two are figuring things out” with a smile and a wink that make Feng Xin feel like he’s missing some crucial piece of a puzzle.

 

One Saturday almost a month after Xie Lian moved out,  Mu Qing asks for Feng Xin’s help with one of his videos. Well, ask might be a generous term. A more precise version of what happens is that Mu Qing rudely pulls out one of Feng Xin’s earbuds and says “I don’t have a mannequin for modeling my clothes. Surely even you can manage to pretend to be a lifeless doll for an hour or two.”

 

Mu Qing isn’t a big name or anything, but he’s got a pretty decent following. Feng Xin forgets sometimes that Mu Qing doesn’t just do makeup tutorials, but spends just as much if not more time doing fabric crafts. He mainly forgets because the days he does the make up tutorials stick out so much in Feng Xin’s memory; Mu Qing will walk around the apartment all day looking like he walked straight off the page of a magazine spread. Usually he goes for a sort of razor edge look with sharply lined eyes, dark lipsticks, and cheekbones that could cut diamonds, but occasionally he’ll do something with blush and powder and gloss that rounds his cheeks and makes him look softer somehow, like something that can be approached without danger. Feng Xin isn’t really sure which look he prefers, but either way it means he won’t be getting any work done for the rest of the day. It’s worse with Xie Lian gone, since now there’s nobody else around to distract him from from hyperfixating on Mu Qing’s stupid, pretty face. 

Feng Xin snatches his earbud from Mu Qing’s hand, thwacking him with it as he twirls the cord. “Wait, are you asking me to help you with your video?”

 

Mu Qing sniffs. “You’re not doing anything else right now, so you might as well come stand around in a way that's useful.”

 

“Why don’t you try asking me nicely?” Feng Xin says, curious if Mu Qing will actually do it.

 

Mu Qing smiles at him, all teeth, and Feng Xin’s breath catches. “Feng Xin, please come stand in for mannequin for my videos that help buy both our groceries, or I’m going to take apart your weight equipment and refashion it into a mannequin for me to use, and then bludgeon you to death with it.”

 

Mu Qing frowns at him after Feng Xin stares for a few seconds too long, and he snaps himself out of it. “Well, since you said please.” He grins.

 

That’s what you take from what said?”

 

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say please before. You should do it more often.” Feng Xin grins at him, and Mu Qing smacks him lightly on the head.

 

“Don’t get used to it, now come and help me.”

 

"Yeah, yeah. What do you need me to do?" Feng Xin hauls himself up off the couch and follows Mu Qing to the exercise/studio room. Mu Qing sits him down on Xie Lian's old bed which is still shoved against one wall, and starts pulling out an assortment of powders with varying degrees of color and sparkliness.

 

"Wait, I thought I just needed to stand around and hold stuff for you. Why do I need to wear makeup? That shit always dries out my skin."

 

"Because your skincare routine is atrocious. " Mu Qing takes one of his brushes and starts dusting some sort of tan powder across Feng Xin's face. 

 

"I don't care if you're a background prop or how strong your jawline is, if you're going to be in my video you're going to look your damn best, however little it is."

 

"But you're not-" wearing makeup is what Feng Xin wants to say, before he notices the subtle lining around his eyes and the slight shimmer on his cheekbones.

 

Mu Qing raises an eyebrow at him. "Not going to finish that idiotic sentence? Ugh, of course you're the kind of guy who can’t tell the difference between no makeup and a more natural look." He shoves his brush particularly hard against Feng Xin's cheeks, which are turning red.

 

"I can tell the difference! I’m just used to you going for a less subtle type of thing."

 

"Yeah well, I'm doing an instructional video for sewing, not a makeup tutorial. People should be focusing on my hands and not my face."

 

That doesn't seem likely, Feng Xin thinks but doesn't say.

 

"I'm just getting rid of any shine from oil on your face, and highlighting your bone structure a bit. Don't worry,  your ugly mug will still be recognizable."

 

"What happened to my strong jawline?"

 

"Never said that." Mu Qing lies blatantly,  and Feng Xin is abruptly too distracted by Mu Qing leaning closer to dust something light and sparkly over his cheekbones to argue back. His gaze is intent, and he's close enough that Feng Xin can see traces of brown in his eyes, which appear black from a distance. Feng Xin twitches as the brush passes a bit too close to his own eye, and Mu Qing pins him with a glare and grabs his chin to turn his face back towards him and hold him still. A jolt of something electric shoots through him at the touch and pools low in his gut. He feels slightly drunk. Has Mu Qing always had a freckle right under the corner of his left eye? He wants to reach out and touch it with the pad of his thumb.

 

"Hmph." Mu Qing pulls back and examines him with a critical eye, and Feng Xin is left reeling. He reaches out and pulls the elastic from Feng Xin’s messy bun so that it falls around his shoulders. "That'll do, I suppose." He gathers his makeup supplies back into a small bag and turns to set up the camera. There’s a red tinge high on his cheeks that is not helping Feng Xin to regain his senses.

 

"Since I'm doing a tutorial on how to properly tailor a shirt, all you have to do is stand still while I pin things on you. Don’t move or talk, but don’t be a creep about it either. Just try to look natural.”

 

“Why are you making doing nothing into something so complicated?”

 

“Why are you too dumb to understand something so simple?”

 

It takes about 2 hours of filming before Mu Qing is happy with what he has, and he redoes steps several times to get the take he wants. Occasionally Feng Xin will make a comment under his breath, and Mu Qing will threaten to stab him with one of his pins if he doesn’t shut up, muttering something about cutting the segment out later. But Mu Qing will make jabs too, usually about how Feng Xin is doing something wrong.

 

“What radioactive waste were you fed as a child to make your shoulders this broad, you’re making me waste fabric on you.” he grumbles at one point. 

 

Although Mu Qing is much slighter than Feng Xin, they’re the same height. Feng Xin remembers how they would compete over it throughout middle and high school, always standing back to back and having Xie Lian compare them. There had been many times when one of them would hit a growth spurt and gain a half inch or so, and gloat over it until the other caught up. Mu Qing had been taller than him by an inch or so for the entirety of senior year, and it had annoyed Feng Xin out of his mind. Now they’re the same height, and all Feng Xin gets out of it is that his lips are level with Mu Qing’s as he makes snide comments about his shoulders.

 

It’s truly impressive how efficient Mu Qing is, as he moves from cutting and shaping the fabric to Feng Xin, to running it through his sewing machine, to adding finishing touches like the embroidery around the collar and the cuffs on the buttons, until Feng Xin is standing with a brand new dress shirt in his hands. Mu Qing’s ending spiel is filmed with Feng Xin standing in the background modeling the cut of the fabric, and Mu Qing occasionally pinching or gesturing to the fabric as he talks. 

 

Once Mu Qing is satisfied with his final take, he turns to Feng Xin with an assessing look. “Might as well keep the shirt. I did a good job, obviously, so it suits you well and it’s miles above most of the rags you keep in your wardrobe.”

 

“You’re giving this to me?” The shirt really is high quality, made out of a rich brown fabric accented with gold. Not that Feng Xin would admit it, but it would possibly be the nicest thing in his closet.

 

“It’s not a gift!” Mu Qing says quickly, avoiding his gaze as he organizes his supplies. “Consider it payment for your time. It’s tailored to you anyways, so it’s obviously not going to fit me.”

 

That’s true, Mu Qing would probably be swamped in anything of Feng’s Xin’s. He’d look like one of those cheesy photos of girls wearing their boyfriend’s hoodies, Feng Xin thinks.

 

“I didn’t realize I was going to be receiving compensation beyond the survival of my exercise equipment.”

 

“Shut up and take the damn thing while I’m feeling generous.” Mu Qing says, the blush on his cheeks making a reappearance. Feng Xin shuts up and takes the shirt. He watches the video within hours of Mu Qing posting it, like he does with all of Mu Qing’s videos, and discovers that Mu Qing hadn’t actually cut out any of Feng Xin’s intermittent interruptions. There’s one section of the video in particular, where Feng Xin grumbles at the fabric being too tight and Mu Qing lightly smacks his shoulder while the corners of his mouth tilt up in a way that could almost be described as fond, that Feng Xin rewatches over and over.



 

Before he even realizes it, another month and a half has passed, and a new routine has developed. Feng Xin isn’t sure what to make of the odd thrill in his chest that he gets when he anticipates coming home to find Mu Qing there pretending not to be waiting for him. Feng Xin will make dinner, and Mu Qing will hover around like an anxious bird until Feng Xin gives him something simple to help with. Then they’ll eat dinner on the couch and fight about what to watch, and a warm feeling will settle low in Feng Xin’s gut for the rest of the night. 

 

Slowly, he and Mu Qing are edging out of their precarious limbo as  not-quite-friends/ not-quite-rivals, and settling into a new equilibrium resembling genuine friendship. Maybe it’s possible for a friendship to consist of you, your competition for your best friend's attention, and your gradually diminishing mutual disdain for one another. Their bickering is something familiar and comfortable, and more often than not lacks the bite of anything genuinely meant to hurt the other. Maybe it’s been like that for a while Feng Xin thinks, but it took him until now for it to really sink in. Feng Xin would never admit to it out loud, but even when they were at each other's throats he considered them friends of a sort. Now, he thinks they might even be starting to become the sort of friends normal people usually associate with the word.

 

This fragile new equilibrium lasts right up until the night Feng Xin walks in on Mu Qing making out with some random guy on their couch.

At first, Feng Xin isn’t sure of what he’s looking at, and then his vision focuses, and yes, that is definitely a strange man sitting on their couch with his hands under Mu Qing’s shirt. They both start at the sound of the door opening, and Mu Qing abruptly pushes the guy away from him by smashing his palm into his face. Mu Qing and Feng Xin stare at one another for a few seconds. Feng Xin’s mind is completely blank, and all he can focus on is the sound of blood rushing in his ears. And then, 

“What the fuck.” Feng Xin says, breaking the excruciatingly awkward silence. Mu Qing rolls his eyes and sits up farther. He adjusts his shirt to pull it further up and Feng Xin’s gaze is tragically drawn to the dark purple spot on his collarbone. Mu Qing. Hickey. Collarbone . Feng Xin’s brain is skipping back to those details like a scratched DVD. He feels slightly nauseous.

 

“Xi Ling, this is my roommate Feng Xin.” Mu Qing says. His face is turning beet red, and he’s refusing to meet Feng Xin’s gaze. In contrast, Xi Ling is looking directly at him like a deer in headlights.

 

“Nice, uh… nice to meet you?” Xi Ling says. He’s got a dusting of freckles across the bridge of his nose and he seems fairly slight, although it’s hard to really tell with the way he’s shrinking back into the couch and closer to Mu Qing. He’d probably be cute if his existence wasn’t currently making Feng Xin feel so bad he thinks he might throw up.

 

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Feng Xin says. 

 

Xi Ling stutters and Mu Qing lets out a sigh.

 

 “I apologize, I forgot to mention Feng Xin was raised in a barn and never taught that the proper response is ‘ You too ’.” He’s ostensibly talking to Xi Ling, but he’s glaring daggers at Feng Xin as he says it.  “And I would think it’s pretty self evident what exactly he’s doing here.” 

 

“Ok, but why is he here ? In our apartment?”

 

“Well, sometimes when a date goes very well you invite someone upstairs to continue it in private. Did your parents never explain about the very special hug either?” Mu Qing says sarcastically. Xi Ling lets out a squeak of embarrassment.

 

“What the fuck, no, that not what I - you had a date?” Feng Xin's stomach is turning over itself, and his palms feel clammy. Mu Qing had a date. Mu Qing had a date, and that date had his hands up Mu Qing’s shirt, and that date is currently sitting on their couch with his feet on the rug Feng Xin and Mu Qing picked out together.

 

“What is that supposed to mean?” And fuck, Mu Qing definitely looks pissed off now.

 

“You never have dates.” Feng Xin says dumbly.

 

“Just because I don’t bring everyone home to meet my roommate doesn’t mean I don’t date. My dates are my business.”

 

“They’re kinda also my business if you’re gonna be making out with people on the couch!” Feng Xin isn’t sure if he’s yelling, but his voice is definitely getting high. Mu Qing looks like he’s about to try and behead him with the nearest sharp object. Xi Ling appears to be trying to make himself disappear into the couch.

 

“I, uhh, I'm just gonna go.”  Xi Ling says. He darts off the couch, giving Feng Xin a wide berth as he  speed walks to the door. “I’ll call you?” he says to Mu Qing, but it sounds more like a question.

 

“Yeah, ok.” Mu Qing says, still glaring at Feng Xin. He stands up off the couch, which makes a sound like metal in a meat grinder that cannot be normal, and angrily makes his way to the kitchen. “Fucking wonderful, you scared him off. With the way you were glaring at him he probably thought he was about to get hate crimed.”

 

“What? I would never- ” Feng Xin splutters, and his low level panic threatens to spill over.

 

Mu Qing holds up a hand, rolling his eyes. “Sure, I know that of your many faults, that’s at least not one of them. All he knew was that a guy twice his size looked like he wanted to deck him after seeing him make out with his roommate.” 

 

Feng Xin has absolutely no idea what his face had been doing to make the guy that nervous. Surely he hadn’t looked that intimidating?

 

“I didn’t want to deck him!” Feng Xin exclaims. Ok, maybe he had, just a little bit. But that was just because … because...

 

“Why the fuck were you giving him that death glare then?” 

 

Feng Xin musters up the best excuse he can think of. “I was surprised! I wasn’t expecting to come back and find you sucking face on the couch! I bought that couch!”

 

“You did not, Xie Lian is the one who paid for that couch! All you did was pick it up from IKEA and assemble it wrong! It’s not your couch, what sort of three year old logic are you using?”

 

“I assembled it fine , I did exactly what the instructions told me. You’re the one who insisted on getting a model with a bazillion tiny parts!”

 

“I picked out an ergonomic model that actually fits inside the space we have and looks decent, unlike that paisley monstrosity you wanted!” Mu Qing scoffs.

 

Wait, why the fuck are they arguing about the couch now? “We’re getting off track, I wasn’t saying it’s my couch, I’m saying it's our couch! Would it kill you to make out with your boyfriend somewhere else, like your private bedroom?”

 

 Feng Xin immediately regrets every word of that sentence, and he’s not sure which part of it he regrets more; the suggestion of Mu Qing having a boyfriend or the idea of them actually going to Mu Qing’s bedroom, where there is a bed . He might prefer for them to stick to making out on the couch after all.

 

“He’s not my boyfriend, we’ve been on exactly two dates. And besides, what we were doing was nowhere near as bad as when you would stick your tongue down Jian Lan’s throat on every surface in our dorm room.”

 

Feng Xin’s first reaction is a wave of relief that the guy isn’t Mu Qing’s boyfriend ( yet , his mind whispers), followed by a feeling of defensiveness over his relationship with Jian Lan.

 

“That was in college! We were in a serious relationship!”

 

“So? That doesn’t mean you had to suck face with her right in front of me and kick me out of our triplet dorm room every chance you got! It was fucking unbearable .” Mu Qing’s eyes are bright with pent up rage and some other buried emotion that Feng Xin can’t identify.

 

“All of that is completely beside the point! I just want to know when someone else is going to be in our apartment! Is that really so unreasonable?”

 

Mu Qing pinches the bridge of his nose. “Sure, fine, whatever. I’ll make sure to text you next time I bring someone over. Happy?”

 

Feng Xin is really, really not, but he nods and bites out “Ok. fine. Glad that’s settled.” and retreats back to his room as quickly as he can to try and sort himself out. He closes the door and throws himself onto his bed, heaving out a breath. It's the shock, he tells himself. That’s why his stomach is tying itself in knots, and there’s an unpleasant burning sensation at the back of his throat. It’s just the shock of seeing Mu Qing like that , when as far as Feng Xin knows he’s never brought anyone home before. Or has he, and Feng Xin has just never walked in on it before? Mu Qing had said that he and Xi Ling had been on two dates. Maybe Mu Qing has been bringing people over the entire time. The thought makes Feng Xin’s stomach twist violently. 

Unbidden, his mind replays the scene he'd walked in on when he had first opened the apartment door, with Mu Qing sprawled out on the couch and his loose necked shirt hanging half off his shoulder. His normally perfectly tied ponytail had been set askew as if someone had been running their hands through it, and the dark purple bruise on his collarbone had contrasted sharply with his pale skin. He thinks that the only other time he’s seen Mu Qing look that disheveled before is after their fights, an association he immediately tries to banish. It’s just the shock , Feng Xin repeats to himself. Next time (and at the thought of a next time his stomach does another unpleasant flip) I’ll be used to it, and I’ll introduce myself like a normal person, and rib Mu Qing about having poor taste, and I’ll feel completely fine the entire time.

 

The feeling does not go away the next time. A week later Mu Qing texts him saying he’s planning on having someone over, and Feng Xin gets the urge to throw his phone into the wall in the back of a sports equipment room. 


Resting Bitch Face

Mu Qing

I’m planning on having someone over tonight. You don’t have to talk to him, but if you scare him off like last time I’ll gut you with the blunt end of a kitchen knife.       4:22 pm

 

He’s at archery practice for a local team, and he’s supposed to be retrieving their arrows, but right now all he can do is swallow back the rising tide of bile in his throat.



Feng Xin

4:24 pm          I didn’t realize you knew where the kitchen knives were. You definitely don’t ever use them.

Mu Qing

Why should I? That’s what I have you for isn’t it?            4:25 pm

 

That’s what I have you for isn’t it? Feng Xin stares at the text, unsure why his heart is beating double time in his chest. He doesn’t know how long he spends just staring at the words on his screen before Feng Xin is unpleasantly jolted out of his reverie.

 

“Feng Xin? What the hell are you doing back there? Are you gonna come shoot with us or what?” Pei Ming’s voice echoes from outside the room.

 

 Feng Xin stuffs his phone back in his pocket and tries to forget about the texts. It’s not my business. It’s fine. It’s not my business. Everything is goddamned fine, he tells himself as he picks up his bow and Pei Ming claps him on the back. Far fewer of his arrows hit the inner ring than usual, and three of his shots go wide and miss the target completely. Several of his teammates ask him if he’s feeling alright, and Feng Xin assures them as best he can. It’s not like he can tell them he’s feeling crappy, because then he would have to tell them the reason for it, and that would sound weird as hell. Pei Ming especially would completely misinterpret it, and Feng Xin does not want to deal with that.

 

Dread builds up as he climbs the stairs of their building, and turns into resentment as hears a burst of laughter from inside as he turns the key in the lock. Who the fuck was able to make Mu Qing laugh ? Mu Qing never laughs. He’ll snicker while he makes fun of you sure, or he’ll occasionally let out an amused snort, but a full on laugh? Feng Xin doesn’t think he’s ever been able to provoke that response from Mu Qing, and the knowledge that some stranger was just able to makes Feng Xin want to put his fist through the hallway wall. 

 

He opens the door to find Mu Qing and a new guy standing in the kitchen, thankfully a few feet apart. The new guy is tall and lanky, with a shock of blond hair falling over his forehead and a smirk on his lips. Feng Xin automatically dislikes him. Mu Qing is smiling, his hand covering his mouth as his shoulders shake with residual laughter. He turns to look at Feng Xin as the door opens, and he raises an eyebrow at him. That awful feeling from before is back in full force, making him feel like he’s going to be physically sick the longer he looks at them.

 

 Feng Xin nods at both of them and retreats to his room as quickly as possible. Feng Xin a hears a quiet murmur and Mu Qing replying just loud enough to make out;  “Oh, just my roommate. Don’t worry, he’s always like that.”

 

Luckily, the guy only stays for another hour or so, which Feng Xin spends locked in his room with his headphones in and music cranked up to full volume. The sick feeling remains simmering low in his gut the entire time, and an ache settles in his chest. Once the guy has left, Feng Xin figures he should probably come out of hiding, if only to make food for himself. He’s not really hungry, but he should probably try to act like nothing’s wrong. Mu Qing will definitely suspect something if he doesn’t at least give the appearance of eating, or as Mu Qing puts it ‘stuffing your face with everything in front of you like a starved dog’. 

 

He comes out and starts half heartedly taking things out of cupboards. “I’m making dinner, do you want anything?” he asks Mu Qing, who is now lounging on the couch and typing something on his phone.

 

“I already ate.” Mu Qing says without looking up. Is he texting the new guy? What the fuck are they talking about that he’s too absorbed to even look at Feng Xin?

 

“Did you guys go out to dinner earlier?” Feng Xin asks,  desperately not wanting to actually know the answer.

 

“Yeah, some new Italian place. The leftovers in the fridge are mine by the way, and I’ll break your legs if you so much as touch them.”

 

"Wasn’t planning on it.” Feng Xin snorts. And then, because he apparently hates himself, asks “So what happened to that vow of abstinence you took?" 

 

Mu Qing finally looks up from his phone, sputtering. "Fuck you, you know none of us ever took that shit seriously."

Mu Qing and Xie Lian had both signed up for the same weirdly religious cotillion dance program in freshman year of high school, which had turned out to be more concerned with making everyone take abstinence pledges and teaching about the evils of sexual immorality than it was about actual dancing. The only actual dances they held were purity balls, which according to Mu Qing, were the grossest events he’d been to in his life. 

 

When Feng Xin asked him why he’d signed up if it was so terrible, he’d said “Well, it’s not like I’m going to get very many other opportunities to practice waltzing, am I?” 

 

Then Feng Xin had offered to learn with him, Mu Qing had laughed in his face, and the conversation had ended with both of them in the principal's office for disrupting class time.

 

"You literally still have the ring they gave you, for, what was it? Symbolizing your commitment to purity of mind, body, and soul?"

 

Mu Qing rolls his eyes. "I only kept the ring because it was genuine silver. I wasn’t going to throw it away over the principle of the matter."

 

“Xie Lian sure seemed to take the pledge seriously.”

 

“Xie Lian used it as an excuse to turn down drunk frat guys at parties. He’s also strictly Hua Cheng- sexual, so it's not exactly like sticking to an abstinence pledge he made when he was fifteen was an inconvenience for him. I wish it was an inconvenience to him.” They both collectively shudder a bit at the memory of some of the things they have walked in on Xie Lian and Hua Cheng doing.

 

“I mean, you definitely gave the appearance of keeping up with it. I don’t remember you dating anyone throughout college.”  And Feng Xin would definitely have remembered if Mu Qing had ever bothered to give the time of day to any of the various suitors trying to walk Mu Qing to his classes or slipping their number into his tip jar.

 

“I was literally working three different jobs while keeping up with a 4.0 GPA. I didn’t exactly have the time to deal with an extra person wanting my attention.”

 

Feng Xin still has no idea how Mu Qing was able to juggle a job at the university library, working at the campus coffee shop, and waiting tables on the weekends with the full course load that he took every semester to keep his scholarship. Feng Xin wouldn’t call himself a slouch either, he majored in kinesiology while also being a star player on both the archery and track teams, but he knows that it was nowhere near the level of stress Mu Qing was under.

 

“Still though, you weren’t exactly hitting up the town once you graduated either.”

 

“Perhaps I was simply emulating Ju Yang’s legendary prowess.”

 

“Fuck off !” Feng Xin hisses. One goddamn administrative fuck up on an ID badge, and he never lives it down for the rest of his life. Mu Qing especially liked to poke at him for it during college, asking him how he was going to show off his ‘assets’ if he ran away every time a woman tried to talk to him.

 

“At least I had a long term relationship, unlike you.” He grumbles. 

 

“Are we going to keep interrogating each other about our dating habits for the rest of the night or are you going to cook dinner?” Mu Qing snaps, his previously relaxed mood disappearing.

 

“I thought you didn’t want anything.”

 

“I don’t. But you’re just standing around looking like a lost puppy. Make yourself food, don’t just hover in the kitchen.”

 

Feng Xin snorts. “You’re one to talk. That’s literally all you do every time I cook.”

 

“Oh please, I’m not doing it now, am I?”

 

“That’s just because I’m not cooking for you.”

 

“See if I ever help you in the kitchen again.”

 

Feng Xin likes this. He likes the easy back and forth they settle into when it’s just the two of them. It eases the ache in his heart, and as he gradually lets go of his earlier turmoil, he wonders if it’s selfish of him if he wants this never to change.




By the third date, Feng Xin realizes that this is not a problem that is going to go away with exposure. The drop in his gut when Mu Qing tells him he’s going out with someone again is just as bad as it was the first time around. If anything, it’s gotten worse. 

 

“He’ll be by around six, so you’ll have the apartment to yourself for most of the night. Don’t enjoy yourself too much.” Mu Qing tells him this while he does his makeup in the bathroom mirror, carefully applying some sort of glittering, smoky eyeshadow that brings out little gleams of light in his eyes. He’s gone for one of his fiercer looks this time, highlighting all of his face’s angles and edges. He looks razor sharp, so much that Feng Xin wonders if he’d bleed if he ran a hand down his jawline.

 

“The same guy from last week? What was his name?”

 

“Doesn’t matter, this is someone else. The other one was possibly stupider than you are, he kept pronouncing my name ‘Quinn’ no matter how many times I corrected him. Drove me absolutely crazy.”

 

Feng Xin snorts. He’s not sure why he’s relieved that the last guy turned out to be an idiot, but he is. He heads back to his room about ten minutes before Mu Qing’s date is supposed to arrive because he doesn’t know what will happen if he’s forced to try and hold a civil conversation with him. He turns his music up as loud as it will go and tries to spend the next 30 minutes doing miscellaneous paperwork for his job so he won’t know when Mu Qing leaves, but he’s too wired to focus properly.

After about an hour he pulls his headphones out and meanders out into their living room. He already knew Mu Qing would be gone by now, so he’s not sure why he feels so disappointed at the empty apartment. He should be happy that they’re out somewhere and not actually here and making him feel awkward, but somehow it’s almost worse. 

 

He spends the entire evening distracted by thoughts of what Mu Qing might be doing at that particular moment. Laughing over a glass of wine (unlikely perhaps, since Mu Qing doesn’t drink), or leaning into his date’s side as they wrap a protective arm around him (also unlikely, Mu Qing hates casual touches from people he doesn’t know well. He once sprained a guy’s finger for running their hand through his hair without permission). Or maybe they’re making out in a car park somewhere, hands wandering and cheeks flushed (not as unlikely as Feng Xin wants it to be). Feng Xin feels gross and weird for thinking about it,  but he can't seem to banish the images from his brain. 

 

Finally, around 11pm, there's the sound of murmuring voices and an apartment door opening. 

“What, no kiss goodnight?” he makes out a stranger's voice, saying, followed by a low giggle. What the fuck? Was that Mu Qing? Mu Qing doesn’t giggle . It sounds odd and unnatural to Feng Xin’s ears. He pokes his head out in time to see Mu Qing kissing someone on the cheek before waving and shutting the door. Something low and dark coils in Feng Xin’s gut at the way Mu Qing smiles at the guy, making his hand clench. He wishes he knew what was wrong with himself.

 

“Have fun?” Feng Xin asks, straining to keep his voice light and casual. 

 

Mu Qing gives him an odd look, but says “Wasn’t as bad as the last one at least. He could actually hold a decent conversation.”

 

“It sounded like the other guy could too.” Feng Xin hopes he comes off as nonchalant, and not bitter. “ I heard you laugh at something he said.” If the tension he’s feeling is evident in his voice, Mu Qing blessedly opts to ignore it.

 

Mu Qing shrugs. “Probably. Stupid people are often the funniest. Why do you think I laugh at you so often?”

 

“Hey, fuck you! And you never laugh at my jokes.”

 

“Yeah, because they’re terrible. Your sense of humour is geriatric.”

 

“Dad jokes are funny because they’re bad.”

 

“Or they’re just bad.”

 

“I’m not trusting the judgement of someone who forced me to watch every single goddamn Transformers movie with him on what counts as bad entertainment.”

 

“Right, because early 2000s chick flicks are so much classier.”

 

“Don’t be sexist.” Feng Xin heads to the kitchen to grab a glass of water.

 

“Fine, romance movies with identical characters and plots churned out by the hundreds and mass marketed in pink and white color schemes. Are you making dinner?” Mu Qing abruptly changes the subject

 

“What, no? It's 11 at night. Didn’t you eat already?”

 

“We got distracted.” Mu Qing shrugs. And fuck, now Feng Xin is going to be tortured by those three words for the rest of the night. “So, are you making anything?”

 

Feng Xin realizes he got so caught up trying to distract himself from thinking about Mu Qing that he also successfully distracted himself from actually eating dinner. He’s not really hungry, but he knows that Mu Qing will probably needle him until he gives in.

 

“Fine, but you’re gonna help.” 

 

Mu Qing grins, and oh fuck, Feng Xin was not prepared for that. Feng Xin thinks he can count on one hand the number of times he’s seen Mu Qing smile like this. He feels a bit dazed. He must have been staring for a bit too long, because Mu Qing's smile slowly fades and he raises an eyebrow at him. Feng Xin’s cheeks start to burn and he turns away abruptly.

 

“Can you grab the pot under the sink? It’s too late to make anything complicated, but I’ll boil some noodles for us.”

 

They eat together on the couch, and Feng Xin isn’t sure whether he’s imagining the strange mood between them. He’s not really hungry, and he keeps getting distracted by his own thoughts. Finally, he gives up on swirling his noodles around in their bowl, puts away the rest of his food as leftovers, and sets about cleaning up the kitchen. As wipes down the countertops with a dishrag, he gets dragged down into a never ending spiral of thinking about Mu Qing’s dates, then thinking about his own subsequent emotions of extreme irritation and something adjacent to disgust, then feeling guilty over his irrational negative emotions, and then feeling exasperated about getting this worked up about Mu Qing of all people in the first place, which brings him back around to the beginning of the spiral and Mu Qing’s stupid dates.

 

Suddenly Mu Qing is right next to him, and he’s scowling. “Why are you being weird?”

 

“What? I’m not being weird.” Denial has worked pretty well for him so far, he’s not going to give it up now.

 

“Yes you are. You keep giving me these looks, and you’ve been scrubbing the same spot on the counter for the past minute.”

 

“The dirt won’t come off.” Feng Xin protests weakly.

 

“That’s not dirt, that’s a chip in the tile covering. Idiot. Stop doing that, you’re going to make it bigger, and neither of us want to deal with trying to retile a kitchen counter.” Mu Qing pulls the rag from his hand, and Feng Xin lets him, embarrassed.

 

“Seriously, what the fuck is up with you?” Mu Qing continues.

 

“Nothing! I’ve just been feeling kind of weird all day!” There, that’s not technically a lie.

 

Mu Qing’s scowl gets deeper and suddenly he’s reaching out to put his palm against Feng Xin’s forehead. His face is close enough that Feng Xin can feel his breath against his cheek, and it’s distracting enough that he forgets to push Mu Qing’s hand away. Why the fuck are Mu Qing’s eyelashes so long? This close, Feng Xin could probably count every single one of them. You DO NOT want to count Mu Qing’s eyelashes. Feng Xin tells himself emphatically. No. Absolutely not.

 

“You weren’t imbecilic enough to ingest something expired again were you? Your forehead feels hot.”

 

“No, I didn’t! I’m fine!” Feng Xin jerks back. His entire face feels like it’s on fire.

 

“Obviously you’re not, you’re turning red. If past experience is anything to go by you clearly can’t be trusted with your own health.”

 

“Can you please just drop it?” Feng Xin begs. 

 

“No.” Mu Qing’s expression is mulish. Why do people always think Feng Xin is the more stubborn out of the pair of them? Once Mu Qing sets his teeth into something nothing can make him let go.

 

“I’m probably just tired, ok?” That’s enough to throw someone off, right? “You being in my face is just making it worse,” he adds, and Mu Qing’s hand clenches at his side. “ I’m going to go to bed, you don’t need to worry about me.”

 

Mu Qing glares at him. “Fine. Wake up dead in the morning for all I care.” He finally looks away, and Feng Xin makes a quick retreat to get ready for bed. He wasn’t completely lying; he is tired, and he is very, very ready for this day to be over.

 

He’s in the middle of changing into the old, baggy t-shirt he sleeps in when there’s a quiet knock on his door. He opens it, and Mu Qing is on the other side carrying a mug. He only meets Feng Xin’s eyes for a second before focusing them on the doorframe like he’s trying to burn a hole in it with his stare.

 

“Would it kill you to wear a shirt before you open your door?” he mutters, eyes still averted, and Feng Xin realizes abruptly that he didn’t actually finish changing. The rush of embarrassment and some other burning emotion at being exposed in front of Mu Qing is completely unwarranted, so he pushes it away.

 

“It’s not my fault, you interrupted me in the middle of changing. What does it matter, you’ve seen me wearing less before.” They’ve changed in gyms together plenty of times, neither of them should be embarrassed.

 

“Whatever, just- here, take it.” Mu Qing shoves the mug into Feng Xin’s hands, nearly splashing hot water onto his currently vulnerable chest. He turns away, mumbles something under his breath that sounds suspiciously similar to “Feel better”, and leaves as quickly as he can. 

 

Feng Xin is left standing in the doorway of his room, clutching a warm oversized mug with both hands. The brownish red liquid inside looks like tea. More specifically, it looks like Mu Qing’s cherry tea that he covets to a concerning amount, and which Feng Xin isn’t allowed to touch on the threat of Mu Qing cutting off his fingers. It doesn’t actually have any medicinal properties that Feng Xin knows of, but - Mu Qing made him tea. Mu Qing assumed he wasn’t feeling well, and he made him tea. He raises it to his lips, blowing on it before he takes a sip.

It’s faintly sweet, barely enough to be tasted but still there, exactly the way Feng Xin would have made it himself. The cherry is tart and lingering; fruit teas aren’t really Feng Xin’s favorite, he prefers black tea, but… Mu Qing made it, and he even remembered how much sugar Feng Xin likes. Feng Xin really hopes he’s not about to cry just because Mu Qing made him some of his cherry tea, because that would probably rank in the top ten of the most embarrassing things he’s done in his life. His chest feels tight and warm, like something is growing inside, gently suffocating him as it expands and sending tendrils of warmth throughout his body. He drinks every last drop of cherry tea, and cradles the mug for an unfortunate period of time afterwards.

 

Neither of them mention the tea the next morning.



By the fourth date, things are getting ridiculous. Feng Xin knows he has no good reason for feeling like this, and that just makes everything worse by piling guilt on top of all of the other vaguely terrible emotions swirling inside him. While Mu Qing is out somewhere with a guy with light brown eyes and an easy smile that makes Feng Xin instantly suspicious of him, he tries to figure out what, precisely, is wrong with himself.  He flops down onto the couch, which shudders and makes an ominous creaking noise that Feng Xin chooses to ignore. It's fine. Probably. 

Why the fuck does he keep reacting like this? He doesn’t usually have a problem with PDA. If he did, he would have already died from a heart attack from some of the positions he’s walked in to find Pei Ming in over the years, or Xie Lian and Hua Cheng for that matter. And other than that first time, which Feng Xin has tried and failed to delete from his brain, Mu Qing hasn’t even really been engaging in any PDA, so it’s not like that’s what’s making him uncomfortable.

 

An awful possibility occurs to him. 

Surely it can’t just be because Mu Qing has been going out with other guys. It’s not like he hadn’t known Mu Qing was gay or anything, he and Xie Lian had both come out in their freshman year of college.

 He's not homophobic! He's really not! Feng Xin has never had any sort of problems with that sort of thing; hell, he’s beat up people who have had problems with it and have tried to start shit with his friends. But he's also not sure how else to explain the sick feeling he gets in stomach every time he thinks about Mu Qing even looking at another guy. In a way, it kind of even makes sense; Mu Qing always has been able to bring out the worst in him. Of course Mu Qing would also be the one to bring out his buried prejudices.

Oh God. Honestly, if this is the reason why seeing Mu Qing with other men upsets him so much then he deserves to feel this shitty about it. What the fuck does he do? How does he get over this? He doesn’t want to be homophobic! 

 

It’ll go away. Feng Xin tells himself with resolve. I will make it go away, and I will be absolutely fine with whoever Mu Qing dates. Just because none of them are good enough for him- fuck, I don’t care about who Mu Qing dates, or moves in with, or gets married to, or grows old and dies with and gets buried next to. I don’t care. 

 

 If he repeats it to himself enough times, maybe it will come true.




 

It does not go away. Instead, it gets progressively worse. Over the next few months, Mu Qing continues to go out on dates every week or two, and Feng Xin feels progressively more hostile towards each one that steps foot inside their apartment.

 

When Mu Qing is inside their apartment with someone, all Feng Xin can think about is how much he wants the guy to leave. When Mu Qing takes them somewhere else, all Feng Xin can think about is what they might be doing at that given moment. Either way, he feels sick, and a little disgusted, and a lot like he wants to put his fist through a wall. Most of all, it makes Feng Xin feel disgusted with himself for being so resentful of Mu Qing.

 

And although Mu Qing won’t ask about it since he’s allergic to confronting any emotion that isn’t apathetic disdain or seething anger, Feng Xin can tell he’s starting to notice how moody Feng Xin has been lately, and it’s been making him a bit more snappish in turn. It’s a bad combination that’s been slowly taking its toll, and Feng Xin hates it. He wants so hard to just get the fuck over himself and be happy for Mu Qing, but he just can’t.



 

 

Everything comes to a head around six months after Xie Lian’s moving out. Feng Xin’s work ends unexpectedly early and he comes home in a good mood, toeing off his shoes in the entryway and failing to note a third, unfamiliar pair of sandals next to Mu Qing’s low heeled boots. He heads to the kitchen to put on a kettle of tea, humming under his breath. He knows better than to touch Mu Qing’s cherry tea without permission, but if he made him earl grey chances were he’d drink it.

 

 He frowns when he notices a pile of wet rags on the counter, soaking up something brown and starting to congeal. Did Mu Qing try to cook actual food, or is this some odd experiment gone wrong?

 

He turns his head at the sound of a door opening in the apartment hallway. “I know how much you whine about black tea, but-”

 

The person standing there is not Mu Qing. He’s tall and skinny, and wearing a sheepish expression on his face.

 

 “Er, sorry. I’m guessing you’re the roommate Mu Qing mentioned.” His voice is vaguely familiar, and Feng Xin realizes with a jolt in his stomach that it’s the same guy from last week that had picked Mu Qing up at the door. Apparently Mu Qing has finally judged someone worthy of a second date.

 

“Yeah well, I don’t think Mu Qing mentioned you.” is all Feng Xin can think of to say. It’s true, Mu Qing hadn’t warned him he was having anyone over.

 

“Ah hah, yeah.” the guy laughs awkwardly, clearly unsure how to respond to that. “Mu Qing is in the shower, he’ll probably be out in a couple of minutes. He mentioned you might be back, but he thought it would be later.”

 

“Well clearly I’m here now.” Feng Xin says, his brain still reeling around the fact that Mu Qing is currently in the shower and there’s a guy in the hallway in a half buttoned shirt, the two facts together implying things that Feng Xin is trying vehemently not to think about.

 

Actually, his shirt looks familiar. The guy walks closer, coming to stand next to him in the kitchen. Feng Xin notices the specific gold sheen to the brown fabric, and then he realizes. The guy is wearing one of Feng Xin’s shirts. More specifically, he’s wearing the shirt that Mu Qing made for him.

 

“I’m  Zhang Yu, nice to -”

 

“That’s my shirt.” Feng Xin interrupts. There’s a faint buzzing in his ears.

 

Zhang Yu’s polite smile falters. “Ah, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize. Mu Qing was trying to make hot chocolate on the stove, and then it sort of got everywhere. He told me to just grab something from the laundry hamper, I hadn’t realized it was yours.”

 

Feng Xin feels like he’s about to vibrate out of his skin, and there’s a faint buzzing sound in his ears. ”That’s my shirt.” he repeats dumbly. That’s the shirt that Mu Qing had made for him, tailored specifically to him, and now this fucker is standing here in their apartment, wearing this  shirt, like he belongs here, like he has any right to anything between Mu Qing and Feng Xin. He wants to sink to the ground, he wants to throw up, he wants to rip his shirt off of this guy’s body, he wants to… 

 

Zhang Yu steps closer with a faint frown. “Hey, are you okay?” he puts a hand on Feng Xin’s arm and Feng Xin slaps it away, before fisting his hand in the shirt sleeve.

 

“Take it off.”

 

“What?”

 

“I said, take it off. You can’t wear that. Take it fucking off.” Feng Xin takes a step closer. He’s not sure what expression he’s making but Zhang Yu is looking progressively more freaked out by the second. He tries to pull his arm away, and Feng Xin yanks it back. He’s hand is locked around the guy’s wrist.

 

“Give me my fucking shirt back-”

 

“Hey, just let go-”  Zhang Yu’s eyes are wide, and he’s leaning his entire body away from Feng Xin.

 

“What’s going on?” Mu Qing emerges fully dressed from the bathroom, a towel flung across his shoulders. His hair is still wet and hanging loose around his shoulders, and his face is set in a deep scowl. His appearance distracts Feng Xin enough to loosen his grip, and Zhang Yu rips himself away, cursing. Feng Xin belatedly realizes that he had backed him up against the counter.

 

“Dude, what the fuck is wrong with your roommate? I did not sign up to deal with this.” Zhang Yu glares at Feng Xin as he grabs a set of keys and a wallet off of the couch, stuffing them into his jean pocket.

 

“Zhang Yu, what-” Mu Qing starts towards him, but he’s already got his shoes on and is halfway out the door.

 

“Listen, I’ll see you later Mu Qing. Tell your roommate to chill the fuck out.” Zhang Yu disappears through the doorway still wearing Feng Xin’s shirt, leaving Mu Qing and Feng Xin standing silently together in the kitchen.

 

Mu Qing stares at the shut door for several seconds before turning his gaze on Feng Xin. The kettle goes off, breaking the stifling silence, and Feng Xin moves it to an empty burner on autopilot.

“I made tea.” he says, because he has no idea what else to say. His voice sounds strange in his ears, like it’s coming from far away. There’s no response, and Feng Xin finally turns back to face Mu Qing.

 

Mu Qing's expression is an icy blank, and he's holding himself completely still.

 

"Feng Xin." and there's a quiet deadly fury in his voice that’s a hundred times worse than when he's screaming at the top of his lungs, "What. The fuck. Was that."

 

"I don't know." He says helplessly,  because he doesn't, and there's really no right answer.

 

“You don’t know? You don’t know why you nearly physically assaulted someone you don’t even know in the middle of our kitchen?” Mu Qing takes a step closer to him. “Well, I hope you figure it out in the next five seconds before I break your fucking nose.”

 

“He was wearing my shirt.” It’s all he can think of to say, and it was the thing that truly set him off, even if he’s not 100% sure why.

 

“What?” Mu Qing scowl becomes laced with confusion.

 

“He was wearing my shirt without permission.”

 

“You were that worked up over a shirt ? I know you only have a brain cell or two to rub together, but surely even you aren’t that much of an imbecile.”

 

“Well how am I supposed to react when there’s some stranger who I wasn’t expecting standing in my apartment in my shirt!”

 

“Like you have at least one neuron operating on a higher level than ‘me smash’!” Mu Qing spits.

 

“Maybe I reacted a bit badly, but you didn’t tell me you were bringing anyone back!” Feng Xin rebuts. He knows he shouldn’t be escalating, that he should be trying to apologize, but he’s still high on his previous anger and he instinctively lashes back in an attempt to keep Mu Qing from exposing the ugly tangle of emotions that even he doesn’t understand.

 

“You aren’t even supposed to be home right now, I’m not arranging every detail of my life around the fact that you’re apparently suddenly too prudish to handle the sight of two people standing next to one another. You’ve been acting weird since this whole thing started, and I’m not going to keep putting up with your moodiness if it’s going to end with you getting into fistfights with my dates.”

 

Feng Xin scoffs. “That wasn’t a fistfight, I barely even touched him! And I haven’t been acting weird!” 

 

“Yes you have! Every time I go out you keep getting squirrely and quiet, or just avoid me! What sort of problem do you have with me going on dates that is such a goddamn hangup for you?”

 

Fucking hell, this of all things he does not want to explain to Mu Qing. How exactly do you say ‘Sorry I keep acting weird when I see you with another guy, it’s just because I’m a homophobic asshole’? Before he can think of any sort of response Mu Qing continues.

 

"You're able to put up with Xie Lian and the crimson bastard acting like lovesick idiots in front of you despite how much you hate Hua Cheng, so how is this different?"

 

"I don't know! It just is!"

 

It just is. ” Mu Qing mimics, voice shaking. “Right, because you hate me even more. It’s not like I didn’t know that already but is it really so much that you can’t even stand to see other people not doing the same?”

 

"The fuck? I don’t even know what you’re saying, date whoever you want, just keep it out of my face!" Feng Xin's voice is rising in pitch.

 

"Right, just like you did when you were shoving your relationship with Jian Lan in my face!" Mu Qing hisses.

 

Feng Xin recoils,  his temper flaring. "Don't you dare drag Jian Lan into this!" he yells.

 

"Oh, of course, because that's what really matters here, your precious Jian Lan."

 

"She has nothing to do with this!"

 

"I don’t even know what ‘this’ is! Why the fuck to do care what I do?"

 

"I don't care what you do!"

 

"Right. Of course you don't. You don't care about anything I do, unless it might actually make me happy, and in that case you can't stand it."

 

"Oh, so making out with some new stranger every week is your idea of happiness?" Feng Xin immediately knows it's the wrong thing to say, and wants to stuff the words back in his mouth, but Mu Qing is already spitting back at him.

 

"So fucking what if it is. Is Ju Yang himself trying to fucking slut shame me?"

 

"That's not what I -"

 

"Because of all the hypocritical bullshit that really is a cherry on top. You of all people have no right to tell me what to do with my life, my time, or my body. "

 

"I wasn't trying to! Fuck, that's not what I meant! Sleep with whoever you want, it's not my business. Can you please just not do it here where I have to know about it!"

 

Mu Qing's first clenches and for a second Feng Xin thinks he's going to punch him. He welcomes it, because hitting him would mean that Mu Qing is willing to solve things the usual way, venting their frustrations with split lips and bruises that spill all their anger out between them, raw and open. And afterwards, once their anger has been released and the wounds have been bared and cauterized, it’s followed by gentle ribbing,  and hands helping each other up.

 

Instead, Mu Qing takes a deep breath in and unclenches his fist, and Feng Xin's heart sinks. Mu Qing's entire body seems to relax, and a deadly calm layers over the boiling anger in his eyes.

 

“Fine then. We’ve established that you so very much don’t care what I do.” Mu Qing smiles, and it’s poisonous. “So you won’t have a problem with it if I sleep at his place instead then?” 

 

Feng Xin swallows back the bile in his throat. “Like I said, it’s not my business.”

 

“Great." Mu Qing's smile widens, baring his teeth. "I’m off then. Don’t expect me back anytime soon. Have a wonderful night, because I certainly will.” 

 

With that Mu Qing grabs his keys and shoes and storms out of the apartment, and Feng Xin is left standing alone in front of the stove. He can’t remember ever feeling worse than this; not after his break up with Jian Lan, not even after drinking that expired orange juice. He does the only thing he can think of; he calls Xie Lian.

 

 

“And this is why you need to move back in with us so you can keep me from fucking everything up even worse with Mu Qing and driving him away for good.” Feng Xin says.

 

“That’s possibly the most excruciatingly moronic story I’ve ever had the displeasure to listen to.” Hua Cheng says a few seconds later. Xie Lian appears to still be stuck in some sort of trance state, and doesn’t even attempt to chide him. He opens his mouth, then closes it again.

 

Finally, he says “Feng Xin, surely you realize that me moving back wouldn’t actually solve any of the root problems here.” He tucks a loose strand of hair behind his shoulder.

 

“And gege doesn’t need to be troubled by your problems in the first place.” Hua Cheng adds.

 

“Then what am I supposed to do?” Feng Xin asks Xie Lian helplessly. “Mu Qing hates me even more than he did at the beginning of this mess, and it’s actually definitely my fault this time.”

 He knows asking Xie Lian to move back in with them was a long shot, but he really has no idea how to fix this on his own, and he can’t lose Mu Qing over this. He can’t .

 

Xie Lian blinks at him a couple times, running his hands across the table as if he’s psyching himself up.

“Ok. Well. It sounds like you have a lot of repressed emotions you haven’t really been processing. That might be a place to start.”

 

“I know that, but I don’t want to process them, I want to get rid of them!” Feng Xin raises his voice slightly. “I don’t think emotional processing is going to make me less homophobic when my emotions just make me even more angry.”

 

“Feng Xin, you’re not homophobic.” Xie Lian says helplessly. “Honestly, I still don’t understand why you think that and you just spent an hour explaining it to me.”

 

“Because I get angry and disgusted every time I see Mu Qing with another guy! If that’s not homophobia then what is?”

 

“Feng Xin, you’ve supported Mu Qing and I ever since the day we came out to you. You’ve helped Shi Qingxuan pick out guys on Grindr before. You got into a fistfight with someone who called Mu Qing a slur sophomore year of college. In all of the many years I’ve known you you’ve never done anything in the slightest to indicate that you’re homophobic.”

 

“Until now.” Feng Xin mutters.

 

Xie Lian sighs, a hint of frustration seeping into his voice. “But that doesn’t actually make sense, does it? Why would you only be homophobic over Mu Qing specifically, and only ever in the context of when he’s on a date with someone?”

 

“But what other explanation is there?” Feng Xin runs a hand through his hair in frustration.

 

Hua Cheng smirks at him. “Whyever wouldn’t you like the fact that Mu Qing is finally getting some and you’re not even his first pick? It’s truly a mystery for the ages.”

 

Feng Xin glares at Hua Cheng. “Can you just speak like a normal person for once and not in goddamn riddles?”

 

Xie Lian sighs again. “Ah, I think what San Lang is trying to say is that from everything you’ve just told us, is that, uh, it kind of sounds like you were jealous?”

 

Feng Xin frowns. He’d considered the possibility that maybe he was just jealous of the fact that Mu Qing had been going out on dates when Feng Xin hasn’t tried to have a serious relationship since his break up with Jian Lan at the end of college, but that doesn’t fit right. He doesn’t actually want to be going out on dates with random people like Mu Qing is. He just gets upset when Mu Qing does it.

 

“I don’t think that’s it. I don’t really care that Mu Qing is going out on more dates than I am.”

 

“No, uh, how do I say this?” Xie Lian darts his eyes over to Hua Cheng and Hua Cheng smiles at him encouragingly. “I didn’t mean that I thought you were jealous of Mu Qing. It sounded more like you were jealous of the people Mu Qing was dating.”

 

“What? Why would I be jealous of them?” Feng Xin bristles, already not liking where this is going.

 

“Oh I don’t know, maybe because you’re in love with Mu Qing?” Hua Cheng drawls.

 

“What the fuck?! No I’m not! What the fuck?!” Feng Xin scoots back from the table, eyes wide. His heart is pounding wildly in his chest. “How can I … be in love with Mu Qing?” the words don’t want to come out of his mouth but he forces them out. “I’m straight! And even if I weren’t, it’s Mu Qing !”

 

“Feng Xin, calm down. It's alright. We’re just going through all the possibilities.” Xie Lian puts a hand out to him as if he’s trying to calm a spooked horse.

 

“You mean the only possibility.” Hua Cheng smirks. Xie Lian shoots him a look and Hua Cheng mimes zipping his lips. Feng Xin is shaking like a leaf.

 

 “Ok so.” Xie Lian takes a deep breath. “First. Are you 100% sure you’re straight?”

 

“Yes! I’ve never dated a guy, I’ve never been interested in guys. I don’t even look at guys!”

 

“You look at Mu Qing.” 

 

Feng Xin opens his mouth to protest but Xie Lian interrupts him.

 

 “Don’t try to deny it. I’ve been there for the entirety of your relationship with him. Don’t even get me started on the ways I’ve seen you look at him.”

 

“Ok, fine, but Mu Qing is Mu Qing. He doesn’t count, he’s too pretty not to look at.” Literally everyone looks at Mu Qing, Feng Xin isn’t special in that regard.

 

“Is that your defense?” Hua Cheng raises an eyebrow at him. “Because that is one of the gayest things I’ve ever heard, and definitely makes it sounds like you’re in love with Mu Qing.” 

 

Feng Xin should probably be worried that Xie Lian doesn’t even try to shush him, and just continues to stare at Feng Xin with the expression that says he isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.

 

“Ok, let’s approach this from a different angle. Ignore how you feel about guys in general, just tell me how you feel about Mu Qing.” Xie Lian asks him.

 

“How do I feel about Mu Qing?” Feng Xin isn’t even sure where to start. “He’s the most irritating motherfucker on the face of the planet. He never says what he means, half the words out of his mouth are insults, and he never admits to when he does something nice for once. Or not for once, because he does nice things all the time and then tries to act like he didn’t and it drives me fucking insane. He pesters me about little things like food or chores, but big things he always handles by himself even when he shouldn't. He acts like accepting help of any kind is showing weakness, and I hate it so much. ”

 

He pauses for a moment, trying to properly organize his thoughts into something comprehensible. 

 

“Fuck, I don’t know, there’s just sort of this weird, warm lump in my chest, and it's always there, but then when Mu Qing does something unexpectedly nice, or insults me, or flips me over a table, or looks at me, the lump gets bigger and presses the air out of my lungs. And it hurts, and it will possibly kill me, but I like it?”

 

“So that’s a lot to unpack.” Xie Lian says.

 

“A lump. You would describe your feelings for Mu Qing as a lump.” Hua Cheng says disbelievingly.

 

“Shut the fuck up.” Feng Xin growls at him. His face is on fire.

 

“And when did you first start getting the lumpy feeling in your chest?” Xie Lian asks.

 

Feng Xin tries to think back, tries to pinpoint when the fire that always erupted when Mu Qing was around coalesced into a permanent part of him. 

 

“College maybe? Freshman year when Mu Qing was working at the student coffee shop, and would always misspell my name and get my order wrong, but undercharged me crazy amounts for the drinks? And then I only ever found out about it because Shi Qingxuan was complaining about the coffee prices there. Or earlier that year when he started wearing that silver pleated skirt that was definitely too short for how long his legs were. Wait, I remember senior year of high school when Mu Qing and I waltzed together at homecoming to see who could step on the other’s feet the least. Mu Qing won since he actually knew how to waltz, and then he kicked me in the shins once the song ended ‘to repay me for how much his feet were hurting.’ Or actually before that, in freshman year of high school when-”

 

“Stop, stop,  never mind.” Xie Lian holds up his hand to put a halt to Feng Xin’s word vomit. “I really should have known asking when it started wouldn’t be helpful.” he says, rubbing his forehead. 

 

“Ok, so, why do you get that feeling then?” he stares at Feng Xin expectantly.

 

“I don’t know! It’s just there, whether I want it to be or not.” Feng Xin hates this; the layers of protective denial he’s been carefully wrapping around his heart for over a decade are being peeled away, and it’s excruciating.

 

“I generally make a point to disagree with every word out of Mu Qing’s mouth, but you really are dumber than a sack of bricks.” Hua Cheng says.

 

“Lets try something new.” Xie Lian says before Feng Xin can respond. “What would you do if you were Mu Qing’s date? How would you react?”

 

“That’s a pointless hypothetical. Mu Qing would never go on a date with me.” Feng Xin says, ignoring the unpleasant twist he feels in his stomach at that acknowledgement.

 

Xie Lian sighs. “You don’t actually know if that’s true. But let’s just pretend he would, and you were. Try to imagine what you would do, how it would make you feel.”

 

“I do know,” Feng Xin insists, but he sighs and acquiesces. What would he do if it were him Mu Qing was on date with, and not one of random strangers Mu Qing acts so differently around?

 Feng Xin tries to picture it; He imagines Mu Qing in that loose of the shoulder shirt he wears so often on dates, putting the finishing touches on his soft, slightly glittering makeup that makes him look like something unearthly, like something sprung from a dream, and yelling for Feng Xin to stop rushing him and he’ll be ready when he’s ready. 

Mu Qing grabbing Feng Xin’s hand as they walk side by side on the street, interlacing their fingers together. Mu Qing rolling his eyes, but pressing his slim, warm body against his, burrowing into his side like he belongs there as Feng Xin wraps an arm around his waist.

 Back home, with Feng Xin tugging Mu Qing’s long fall of silky, night dark hair loose from its ponytail, and running his hands through it as it falls down his back.

 

“Gege, I think you broke him.” Hua Cheng’s voice filters through distantly.

 

Now that he’s started thinking about it, it's like the floodgates have been opened and he’s drowning. Mu Qing wrapping his arms around him from behind, pressing his face into Feng Xin’s neck as he peers over his shoulder. Them in the kitchen, and Mu Qing laughing at a joke he just made, smiling up at him with his eyes full of poorly hidden affection. Mu Qing perched on top of him, pressing him down onto the couch with Feng Xin’s wrists pinned over his head, eyes gleaming and a smirk on his lips. Feng Xin flipping them over and running his hands along Mu Qing’s ribs under his shirt, mouthing at his collarbone until it blooms into a bruise that contrasts beautifully against his pale skin. Mu Qing, making tiny punched out breaths like he does sometimes after a fight. Mu Qing gazing at him, close enough to make out the hints of a softer brown inside the harsh black of his eyes, before leaning forward to softly press a kiss against his lips. 

 

Holy hell. Feng Xin wonders if he’s about to have a heart attack. He possibly, perhaps, might be in love with Mu Qing.

 

“Feng Xin? Feng Xin!” Xie Lian’s concerned voice finally breaks him out of his reverie. “You’re going to break my table if you keep gripping it like that.” 

 

 Feng Xin realizes that his fingers have been clenched tightly around the edge of the table, and there’s a small crack in the wood. He lets go, and promptly puts his head down on his arms. 

 

“Fuck. I’m in love with Mu Qing. Goddamnit all to hell. Fucking shit. Fuck.” 

 

“I can’t believe he finally figured it out. Gege is so smart, to be able to get through even to this moron.”

 

“At least he figured it out eventually, ah?”

 

Feng Xin lifts his head to glare pathetically at Xie Lian. “Gee, thanks for the pity. I thought you were supposed to be on my side.”

 

Xie Lian shrugs. “I’ve had to put up with this since I was thirteen. I’ve had to live with you two being like this for years. It’s you who should take some pity on me, no?”

 

Feng Xin groans and lowers his head back onto the table. This probably means he’s not actually as straight as he assumed he was. He knows his feelings for Jian Lan were real, so does that make him bisexual? Uggh, he doesn’t want to think about it right now. What he knows for sure is that he’s in love with Mu Qing. He is probably not straight, and he is definitely in love with Mu Qing. He thinks he has been for years now. Fuck. This cannot be happening to him. 

And Mu Qing currently either thinks that he’s some sort of homophobic bigot, or that he’s such an asshole that he can’t stand to see Mu Qing happy in any way. But he’s not sure how he’s supposed to clear things up without vomiting his newly discovered feelings all over the place.

 Oh God. If Mu Qing ever finds out about his feelings, he’s going to gut him and then bring him back to life so he can strangle him with his own intestines. Perhaps rinse and repeat the process a couple of times if he’s really angry.

 

Fuck. 

 

“This doesn’t actually help me figure out what I’m supposed to do.” Feng Xin finally lifts his head back up to meet Xie Lian’s eyes. “Now I’ve just got a different unacceptable explanation for why I acted like a dick.”

 

“It’s certainly better than telling him you’re homophobic.” Xie Lian says.

 

“Barely! Mu Qing will gut me like a fish! Emotionally, if not literally. At best, he’ll think I’m a pathetic idiot who fell in love with someone who hates them, and he’ll probably tell me to move out, and I’ll do it because I love him. Then I’ll be heartbroken and homeless, and my corpse will be devoured by rats.”

 

“That’s not realistic. He already thinks you’re a pathetic idiot.” Hua Cheng says. 

 

Xie Lian clenches his fists in his lap, and smiles as wide as he can. “San Lang, that isn’t very nice. Feng Xin, Mu Qing’s never hated you, and he’s definitely not going to kick you out.”

 

Feng Xin snorts. “Thanks, but we both know it’s a lie that Mu Qing never hated me.”

 

“I’m not going to speak for Mu Qing’s feelings, but please believe me that he doesn’t hate you. Sure, you fight all the time, but neither of you would devote that much time and energy to it if you actually disliked each other the way you say you do. You said yourself that Mu Qing never actually says what he means, why can’t the same be true with how he feels about you?”

 

Feng Xin’s heart clenches. “Even if he might have been warming up to me recently, all of that goodwill is gone now. You didn’t see the way he was when he left.”

 

Xie Lian sighs again. “Look, one way or another you’re going to have to talk to Mu Qing about this.”

 

“Or, different plan: I poison myself with your cooking and leave all my belongings to Mu Qing so he can pawn them off to cover rent until his next boyfriend moves and they live happily ever after.”

 

“Hmm. Let’s call that plan Z. Plan A will be talking to Mu Qing about your feelings.”

 

“Better idea; I could just take them with me to my grave.”

 

“Feng Xin.” And Xie Lian’s tone is more serious now. “You said that when you were arguing Mu Qing said that you hate him. From his perspective, just as you guys started getting closer you also started acting weird and possibly actively sabotaging his dates. We both know how he overthinks everything just so he can arrive at the worst possible conclusion. How exactly do you think he’s currently interpreting all of this?”

 

Feng Xin’s heart feels like a cold stone in his chest. “He probably thinks I hated him the entire time and couldn’t actually stand trying to get along with him. Fuck.”

 

“Mu Qing cares a lot more about what people think about him than he pretends to. If you don’t talk to him about how you actually feel he’s going to carry on assuming that you despise him too much to even try to get along, and then you might actually not be able to fix everything.” Xie Lian says.

 

And this is when Feng Xin knows he’s lost the argument. Maybe six months ago he could have stomached Mu Qing thinking Feng Xin hated him, but now that he understands how he truly feels, he can’t do it. Even though Mu Qing won’t reciprocate, even though there’s a high probability he’ll laugh in face, at least he won’t keep thinking Feng Xin hates him. Either way he might lose Mu Qing. He might as well do it in the way that lets himself be honest.

 

“Damn everything to hell. Fine. I’ll talk to him. Can I come sleep on your couch afterwards?”

 

“Absolutely not.” Hua Cheng says.

 

“You’re always welcome here, but I promise you it won’t come to that. Now go clear things up with him.” Xie Lian says.

 

“Please get out of gege's house.” Hua Cheng says.

 

 

Mu Qing isn't there when Feng Xin gets back. Feng Xin wasn't expecting him to be, but it hurts anyways. Feng Xin had gone over to Xie Lian immediately after their fight, and even now it’s only 9pm. Feng Xin almost can’t believe it’s only been a few hours since they fought. With the rollercoaster of emotions he’s experienced, it feels like far longer. He doubts Mu Qing will be back tonight, but just in case he decides to wait for him out on the couch.

 

It’s a Friday night, so at the very least he won’t have work tomorrow. He flicks restlessly through channels, finally settling on some wedding themed rom com Mu Qing would hate. He doesn’t remember a single word of it.

 

He must have fallen asleep, because sometime after 2am Feng Xin is jerked awake by the sound of the apartment door creaking open. “Mu Qing?” He asks blearily.

 

“Luckily for you, yes. You left the door unlocked you idiot.” Mu Qing must have tied his hair up sometime after he left, and it's back into its usual high ponytail. He looks far too put together for this time of night, but there’s a telltale droop to his shoulders that tells Feng Xin that Mu Qing is just as tired as he is.

 

“I didn’t think you’d be back tonight.” Feng Xin blurts out.

 

“Well. I am.” Mu Qing studiously avoids looking at him as he hangs up his coat and toes off his shoes. There’s a strange quality to the silence between them, caused by the interplay between the lingering tension in the air and their own exhaustion.

 

 Finally, Mu Qing looks toward him, meeting his gaze for a fleeting moment before his eyes flicker away again. “What are you doing out here? Were you waiting for me?”

 

“I- yeah. Mu Qing, about earlier-”

 

“Why did you wait up for me if you didn’t think I’d be back.” The way Mu Qing says it, it’s more of a statement than a question. “Moron. Listen, we are not doing this right now. I’m too tired to properly fight you, and from the looks of it so are you. Whatever emotional shitshow you want to unleash can wait until hopefully never, but at the very least until tomorrow.”

 

“I don’t want to fight.” Feng Xin’s voice is quiet, but he knows Mu Qing hears him by the way he pauses his head mid turn. “I’ll leave everything else until tomorrow, but Mu Qing- I’m sorry for earlier. I don’t hate you, and I really don’t want you to hate me either.”

 

Mu Qing stares at him expressionlessly for far too many seconds. “I don’t care whether you hate me, and I don’t accept your shitty apology. You were acting atrociously, and you aren’t forgiven.”

 

“I know.” Feng Xin swallows.

 

“But. I don’t hate you.” The words appear as if they have to fight their way out of Mu Qing’s mouth, but they unfurl at least a few of the knots in Feng Xin’s chest that have been there since their fight.

 

"Oh. Good." Feng Xin is too tired to come up with a response that properly expresses his relief.

 

“Now go the fuck to bed. We can talk in the morning.” Mu Qing brushes past him, close enough to touch. Feng Xin wants so badly to reach out and catch Mu Qing’s hand with his own, but he keeps it at his side.

 

"And here." Mu Qing drops something into his lap as he passes. "You can wash it yourself." Feng Xin distantly hears Mu Qing's bedroom door close as he stares down at the shirt in his lap. It's been crumpled up into a ball, but looks largely unharmed. Feng Xin sits in silence on the couch for at least another three minutes, fingers curled in the fabric. 



The next morning, things are still a bit tense, but bearable. Feng Xin wakes up around nine and decides to make breakfast for both of them. Mu Qing finally drags himself out of bed an hour and a half later,  and appears in the kitchen with his hair loose and a blanket still wrapped around his shoulders.

 

"Look who finally dragged their lazy ass out of bed. "

 

"Shut up." Mu Qing rubs a hand over one of his eyes, scrunching up his nose, and it's possibly the cutest thing Feng Xin has ever seen. "What is all this? Did you invite a construction crew over for brunch?"

 

"I figured I'd make us breakfast,  and then I uh, got carried away?" Carried away is perhaps an understatement. Feng Xin likes to keep his hands busy when he's anxious. He'd started with making eggs and bacon, but then it was only 9:30, and he had extra time to kill. So then he'd made French toast. And then pancakes. And then sausages And then he figured he might as well cut up some fruit. Currently, he's in the middle of frying a rather large batch of potatoes.

 

"Do we even have any food left in the fridge?"

 

"Uh, maybe?"

 

"Imbecile." Mu Qing rolls his eyes and steals a piece of bacon off the plate. "We're going to have to eat breakfast food at every meal for days to keep this from going to waste."

 

"Think of it as an apology breakfast. You don't have to accept or anything,  but you deserve an explanation for how I was acting."

 

"Feng Xin, I will sit down and eat your stupid apology breakfast with you on the one condition that we pretend yesterday never happened."

 

"But I-"

 

"Feng Xin. Take it or leave it. " Mu Qing's jaw is clenched, and the expression in his eyes looks almost desperate. 

 

"Alright. Now sit down and tell me how many pancakes you want." Feng Xin already knows he’s going to have to break his side of the deal, but hopefully Mu Qing will be too busy being angry about what Feng Xin confesses to him to remember to be angry about this.

 

Feng Xin teases Mu Qing for the truly disgusting amount of syrup he drizzles on top of his pancakes, and when Mu Qing snipes back Feng Xin feels things tilting ever so slightly back to normal. If he could just keep this forever, Feng Xin thinks, this would be enough. Not everything, but enough.




Despite his claim of pretending nothing ever happened,  Mu Qing still seems slightly on edge all day. He spends the early afternoon filming another makeup tutorial, and if Feng Xin thought Mu Qing was distracting before, now that he understands he's in love with him it's a hundred times worse. Feng Xin wonders what the shimmer highlighting Mu Qing’s cheekbones would taste like if he ran his tongue across it. He wonders how long it would take to lick all of the candy pink gloss off of Mu Qing’s mouth. He thinks that the wanting was more bearable before he realized he was doing it.

 

Mu Qing leaves to get groceries only 20 minutes after he finishes recording, citing the need to restock after Feng Xin demolished their food stores. Feng Xin is still full of anxious energy, and not sure what to do with it. He goes on a cleaning spree, but then he’s cleaned and reorganized the entire kitchen and Mu Qing still isn’t back, so he turns to exercise. When Mu Qing comes back an hour and a half later with his arms laden down with grocery bags, he finds the kitchen scrubbed clean and Feng Xin doing yoga in the middle of the living room.

 

“What’s gotten into you? The apartment isn't even dirty, since when are you this gung ho about cleaning things?”

 

“I don’t know. I guess I didn’t have anything better to do.”

 

“That’s extremely sad. And since when were you into yoga?” Feng Xin can’t see the expression on Mu Qing’s face but his voice sounds slightly higher than usual.

 

“Maybe I’ve always been into yoga and you just never noticed.” 

 

Mu Qing snorts. “You’re doing that pose wrong. Here.” Feng Xin can’t see him but there’s the sound of approaching footsteps and then a pair of slim fingered hands gripping his waist, and pushing his hips into a different alignment. And oh fuck. Feng Xin just barely stifles the embarrassing whine that wants to come out of his mouth. His legs feel like they’ve turned to jelly, and suddenly he’s on the ground with Mu Qing staring down at him bemusedly.

 

“Of course you’re enough of a moron to try and do something without learning how to do it first. If you actually care about yoga you can join me sometime and I can show you how to make less of an idiot of himself.”

 

Feng Xin thinks he would actually die if he took Mu Qing up on that offer, but he nods anyways and pushes himself to his feet. 

 

He microwaves leftover French toast and eggs for them while Mu Qing sits on the counter idly swinging his leg, and Feng Xin valiantly resists the impulse to wrap his hand around his calf and still it. 

 

After dinner , he thinks. He’ll bite the bullet after dinner. One or the other of them suggests a movie marathon, and they settle onto the couch with their reheated breakfast food. The couch groans warningly as Feng Xin sits down, and Mu Qing picks at him for throwing his body around like a sack of bricks. The familiarity and routine of it all is both comforting and nerve wracking. Feng Xin wants to do this forever, he wants all of this and so much more, and he’s absolutely shit terrified of losing it.

 

 Feng Xin is so nervous he lets Mu Qing pick out the movies without complaint, which is how they end up in the middle of a Tarantino movie marathon before he even realizes it. Feng Xin is going to have to confess his unrequited love with the sound of people getting their brains blown out in the background. Absolutely perfect.

 

Feng Xin is noticeably distracted throughout Pulp Fiction, and Mu Qing gives him an odd look every time he fails to complain about the gratuitous violence or say the film is overrated. The next movie plays, and Feng Xin is still too distracted to really pay attention. Somewhere past the halfway point of the first Kill Bill movie, he finally works up the nerve to say something.

 

“So um. I need to tell you something and I’m not really sure how to, and I really don’t want to say it but Xie Lian convinced me that I need to, and-”

 

"I thought we agreed to pretend yesterday never happened." Feng Xin watches the lines of  Mu Qing’s body tense up as he speaks. 

 

Onscreen, a very intense fight is happening between a katana wielding white lady in a yellow jumpsuit, and a Japanese schoolgirl with some sort of ball and chain flail.

 

"I know, but listen, I need to get  this off my chest and out in the open. I owe you a proper explanation."

 

"You already apologized, you don't need to keep going on about this." Mu Qing's mouth is pressed into a thin, bloodless line.

 

"But I do! Because I know the way you extrapolate the wrong conclusions, and you probably think I was acting shitty to fuck with you or something, or because I hate you-"

 

"See, this is why I told you to shut the fuck up, you don't need to reiterate things I already know-"

 

"But I don't! I- I the opposite of hate you. I was acting weird because I was getting this sick feeling in my stomach every time I thought about you with someone else, and I acted shitty to your dates because I wanted it to be me." Feng Xin lets out a long breath, his hands clenched in the fabric of his jeans.

 

Yellow Jumpsuit Lady has just whacked mace girl over the head with a nailed wooden board, and the nails are now stuck in her skull as fake blood drips from her eyes.

 

Mu Qing’s eyes are wider than he’s ever seen them. “I- I don’t understand.” his voice cracks.

 

Fuck, he has to say more? He’s not sure how to express it all properly. All he can manage is to regurgitate the tangled mess of his feelings into Mu Qing’s lap, like a cat proudly dragging in unwanted dead mice for its disgusted owner.

 

“I’m saying I want to date you. I want to hold your hand in the grocery store, and kiss your neck while you make fun of stupid people on tv, and wake up next to you in the morning, and buy you your goddamn orange juice that you won’t touch for another six months. Mu Qing, I love-”

 

“Shut up!” Feng Xin is startled at the vehemence Mu Qing’s voice unexpectedly takes on. “Shut up. Shut the fuck up. No you don’t! Why are you saying that?” Mu Qing's face is doing something complicated, confusion and anger and possibly a hint of fear are all playing out across it.

 

“Because I do! I have for years!” Feng Xin’s voice rings even louder, and he supposes that he shouldn’t be surprised that between the pair of them even this turns into an argument.

 

“Now I know you’re lying. What, is this your attempt at a joke?” Mu Qing’s voice cracks slightly on the last word. “Because it’s fucking awful.” Mu Qing’s eyes are wide and bright, and Feng Xin’s not sure how to make that terrible expression on his face go away other than to keep moving forward.

 

“I know you don’t feel the same way, and you can be angry at me or hit me or whatever you want, but when I say that I love you at the very least believe me when I say it!” Feng Xin is shouting at the end, and heaves in a breath, trying to calm down his heart. He said it. He actually said it. 

Mu Qing is completely quiet  for several excruciating seconds, and the only noise is the shouts and yells on screen as Yellow Jumpsuit Lady slices her way through dozens of yakuza members.

 

Finally, Mu Qing stutters out a reply. “You l-l-love me.” He sounds like he’s in shock, and his entire body is still and tense. 

 

Feng Xin lets out a deep sigh.  “Like I said, I know you don’t feel the same way, and I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable, but I needed you to understand how much I don’t hate you. Because I really, really don’t hate you. Like, I love you so much I don’t know what to do with it, and then I get angry about it and then we fight, and it just keeps going in circles. I don’t expect anything from you, and I promise I’ll work on being less shitty to your dates. I consider you a friend, and I really hope you’ll still consider me one.” 

 

 Feng Xin feels completely gutted. this is a thousand times worse than when he had to admit to his feelings in front of Hua fucking Cheng. He’s cut his heart out of his chest, bloody and raw, and now he’s waiting to see what Mu Qing will do with it.

 

Mu Qing is curled in on himself with his back against one arm of the couch and his arms hugging tight around his legs. He’s staring at Feng Xin, but with a look in eyes like his mind could be anywhere. The sight makes Feng Xin’s gut clench horribly. The swirl of emotions on Mu Qing’s face is completely unreadable, and Feng Xin braces himself for his response. Suddenly, as if waking from a trance, Mu Qing uncurls and leans forward.

 

“You are an absolute idiot.”  Then he’s right in front of him, his face inches away, and before he can blink there are a pair of lips pressing insistently against his own. Mu Qing's mouth burns against his, and his fingers dig into the sides of Feng Xin’s face. He sucks Feng Xin’s lower lip between his teeth, and bites down hard, before running his tongue lightly along the seam of Feng Xin’s mouth. Mu Qing kisses him like he’s trying to win an argument, and Feng Xin’s brain is still too caught up circling around the singular thought of Mu Qing is kissing me to even think of kissing him back.

 

Finally, Mu Qing pulls back with a more familiar expression of exasperation settled onto his features. 

 

“Imbecile.” A piece of Mu Qing’s hair falls down and brushes his cheek, and he realizes he’s on his back on the couch cushions with Mu Qing hovering above him.  “Why would you want me to still consider you a friend?” 

 

“I- what?” Feng Xin is still too dazed from the fact that Mu Qing’s lips had just been pressed against his to formulate a proper sentence, but he tries to wrap his head around what Mu Qing just said. 

 

“So you don’t want to be friends?” Feng Xin’s heart is slowly tearing itself to pieces in his chest, but he tries desperately to hold it together.

 

Mu Qing pinches his arm rather viciously. “Obviously not, you idiot.” he says, and for a second the remains of Feng Xin’s heart are plummeting down, down, down. 

 

“Do you like me or not? If we’re doing this then we’re going to do it properly.”  Mu Qing’s face is redder than he’s ever seen it but he stares defiantly back into Feng Xin’s eyes.

 

Feng Xin’s brain finally catches up past the part where Mu Qing kissed him . “Wait, you- you mean you want-”

 

“You are the biggest moron on the planet. But I.” Mu Qing pauses, struggling for words. “ I guess I l-love you anyway. Idiot.”

 

Feng Xin must spend too long simply staring at Mu Qing’s face, trying to process his words, because Mu Qing turns his gaze to the coffee table and smacks his shoulder. “Well? Are you going to say something?”

 

Feng Xin finally snaps out of his daze and pulls Mu Qing down into a bruising kiss. Mu Qing responds with equal ferocity, digging one hand into Feng Xin's hair and pulling his head back as he licks into his mouth. Mu Qing runs his tongue along the ridge on the roof of Feng Xin's mouth, causing Feng Xin to shudder at the sensation. He lifts his hands from Mu Qing's waist to rake them through his hair like he's wanted to for so long, fisting his hands in the long strands. Mu Qing lets out a high keening sound, so Feng Xin repeats the action, using his grip to tilt Mu Qing's head back and gain better access to the pale expanse of his neck. He scrapes his teeth against  the juncture between Mu Qing's jaw and his neck, then circles his tongue around the spot. Mu Qing makes a drawn out hissing sound and tightens his hands in Feng Xin's hair, fingernails scratching along his scalp. One of his hands trails down Feng Xin's back then traces the exposed skin where his shirt is riding up. 

 

Feng Xin continues pressing kisses down his neck, finally reaching his collarbone. The bruise Feng Xin remembers from when he first walked in on Mu Qing and one of his dates is long gone, but Feng Xin remembers its exact position. He feels a dark curl of satisfaction as he laves his tongue across the spot and sucks a mark of his own onto Mu Qing's pale skin. 

 

Mu Qing sinuously rolls his body against Feng Xin's, ending in a slow grind of his hips, and Feng Xin groans loudly and flips them over, pinning Mu Qing against the couch.

The impact of Mu Qing's back against the cushions and Feng Xin's weight on top of him turns out to be the last straw for their cheap, dilapidated couch held together by glue, scotch tape, and prayers. It gives one last long, piteous creak as its wooden frame falls apart and deposits the two of them in a pile of flower patterned cushions, springs, and miscellaneous pieces of wood. Feng Xin lands on top of Mu Qing, who lets out a quiet whuff off air at the extra weight.

 

Kill Bill is still playing on screen, and a truly impressive amount of fake blood is spurting everywhere. Dozens of corpses and lopped off body parts litter the ground.

 

They stare at each other in shock for a few seconds before Mu Qing sniffs and says “I told you that you never connected the couch frames properly.”

 

Feng Xin drops his head down against Mu Qing’s shoulder, holding in the urge to start laughing maniacally. “Or maybe you picked out a shitty couch.”

 

“Considering what Hua Cheng did to it, it’s amazing it even held together this long. Obviously the model I picked is top tier.”

 

“Or maybe it held together for so long because I did such a good job putting it together.” Feng Xin argues. 

 

Mu Qing rolls his eyes. “I can’t believe you just broke our couch.” he laments.

 

Feng Xin lifts his head so he can raise an eyebrow at him. “I’d consider that a team effort, wouldn’t you?” he grins.

 

Mu Qing blushes. He looks more undone than Feng Xin has ever seen him, with his hair askew and falling from its ponytail, lips red and ever so slightly swollen, and his pupils still blown wide. Feng Xin wants to trace his fingers along the traces of red dusting his cheekbones, and then he realizes he can . Doing it has the advantage of making Mu Qing blush even redder. He leans down to drag his mouth across the same stretch of skin, but startles at the sound of someone yelling loudly in Japanese.

 

“Fucking hell, can you turn that off?”

 

“With what remote? It got buried when you collapsed our couch.”

 

"It's gotta be here somewhere." Feng Xin presses his face into Mu Qing's neck, running his nose along its side. Mu Qing shivers, but pushes on his shoulder. "Come on, get off. We're not going to find it by lying on top of it."

 

Feng Xin hugs Mu Qing tighter against him for a second before letting go and pushing himself up. They search fruitlessly through the remains of the couch for a few minutes while Yellow Jumpsuit Lady and someone who might be Lucy Liu fight on in the background. Feng Xin gets progressively more frustrated as they tear through couch stuffing and broken wooden bars, until finally he gets up, marches over, and unceremoniously unplugs the tv from the wall.

 

The scene of the top of Lucy Liu’s head flying through the air abruptly cuts off.

 

 "Why the fuck did you want to watch a white lady with a katana for four hours?" Feng Xin asks.

 

Mu Qing shrugs. “The fight scenes are good.” Suddenly, his eyes focus, and he reaches down and plucks the goddamn remote from where it had been wedged into a rip in a cushion. 

 

"Found it." he smirks.

 

Feng Xin lets out a groan as he collapses back onto the pile of couch detritus face down, and Mu Qing pushes hard on his shoulder.  "Come on, get up. That's definitely full of splinters."

 

"Don't want to. S'comfy." Feng Xin mumbles.

 

"You know what else is comfy? Hospital beds after you're stiff as board from the tetanus you got from all the rusty staples buried in there."

 

He pulls on Feng Xin's arm until he lets out a long sigh and clambers to his feet. "Fine, fine. What are we going to do with this mess?"

 

"It can wait until tomorrow. I can think of better things to be doing right now, can't you?" Mu Qing raises an eyebrow at him. Feng Xin feels a bolt of heat through his core, followed by a sudden rush of nervousness. 

 

“We’re dating now, right?” Feng Xin asks Mu Qing. He’s pretty sure of the answer, but he still feels a slight anxiousness as he waits for Mu Qing's response.

 

“Well, you haven’t actually taken me out on a date yet.” Mu Qing smirks. “So…”

 

Feng Xin throws a piece of cushion stuffing at him. “Just answer the question! I get to call you my boyfriend, right?”

 

“What happened to you being straight? Like you insisted suspiciously often in college?” Mu Qing asks, raising an eyebrow.

 

Feng Xin slowly turns beet red. “I mean. I guess I’m. Probably … not?”

 

Mu Qing frowns. “Because if this you trying to do some sort of experimentation thing I swear to God I will cut your balls off and -”

 

“Fuck no! I’m interested in you. I literally just asked for you to be my boyfriend.”

 

Mu Qing opens his mouth, then closes it and looks away. After a few seconds he quietly says "You know I won't change, right? I'm still going to be prickly, and not say what I mean, and get in fights with you when you say something stupid. I'm still going to be me ." He's studiously avoiding Feng Xin's eyes, and Feng Xin feels slightly affronted.

 

"Mu Qing, I love you. I mean that I love you , exactly as the prickly little fuck that you are. I know we're still going to fight but that's fine because we always come back to each other afterwards. That's- that's all I really want. That we always come home to each other."

 

Mu Qing finally meets his gaze again. "That was unbelievably cheesy." he says, but his eyes are suspiciously bright.

 

"So we're dating? I officially get to call you mine?"

 

Mu Qing blushes but holds his gaze. “Yes, you possessive idiot. And I get to call you mine.” Feng Xin feels a spike of arousal hearing those words on Mu Qing’s lips. He pulls Mu Qing against his chest, wrapping his arms around him. 

 

“Such sweet pet names you have for me.” He murmurs against the shell of Mu Qing’s ear, gratified when he feels Mu Qing shiver slightly against him.

 

“Would you prefer something else? Moron? Blockhead? Shit for brains? Dar-” Feng Xin shuts him up with a kiss, and Mu Qing responds by biting down on his lower lip as he sucks it into his mouth. Feng Xin takes a hand down Mu Qing's back, the other gripping his hipbone tight enough to bruise. Mu Qing is pressed all along his front and his body is like a brand against Feng Xin's. He breaks away from Feng Xin's mouth and kisses along his jaw, nipping lightly at the corner of his jawbone, and Feng Xin lets out a gasp at the sensation. He turns his head until his lips meet Mu Qing's again, licking deeply into his mouth. Then he surges forward, backing Mu Qing up until his back hits a solid surface and Feng Xin presses even more closely up against him. Mu Qing makes another small keening sound, tongue entangling with Feng Xin's as he presses back. He pulls away to mumble something against his lips before kissing him again.

 

"What was that?" Feng Xin asks. He can't resist tilting his face so his lips meet Mu Qing's  again before he answers.

 

"I said, you're my home too." Mu Qing repeats, obviously trying to hide the blush on his cheekbones as he turns away, and oh, Feng Xin feels like he might die. He can't help turning Mu Qing's face back to him and kissing him, slow and deep. Surprisingly,  Mu Qing matches his pace, raising a hand to cup Feng Xin's face as he sucks gently on his lip.

 

"Feng Xin. As, ah-" he breaks off as Feng Xin mouths particularly hard at the side of his neck- "lovely as this is, perhaps we could move to somewhere with a bed."

 

"So far away." Feng Xin grumbles. He bites at the bruise forming on Mu Qing's neck then smooths his tongue over it, and Mu Qing's head tilts back, knocking against the wall.

 

"Well maybe if you hadn't broken our couch- !" he cuts off with a startled noise as Feng Xin hooks his arms around Mu Qing and hoists him up. 

 

“Showoff.” he mutters while he wraps his legs around Feng Xin’s waist to better maintain balance.

 

“You can carry me next time, if you can even lift me.”

 

“I’ve thrown you over my shoulder plenty of times, what's one more?” Feng Xin can feel My Qing's lips smiling against his ear, and he’s not sure whether Mu Qing’s words or the tug at his earlobe is more responsible for the heavy breath he lets out as a bolt of heat that goes through him.

 

“We’ll see,” Feng Xin tries to say, but it comes out more as a gasp. Mu Qing digs his heels into Feng Xin’s ass at the same time that he grinds his hips forward against his own, and Feng Xin lets out a low groan before slamming them up against the hallway wall.

 

 If it perhaps takes them longer than they should to reach Feng’s Xin’s bedroom because they keep getting distracted by making out against the walls of the hallway every foot or so, it’s no one’s business but their own.




A while later, they’re lying in Feng Xin’s bed, Mu Qing sprawled out on top of him while Feng Xin cards a hand through his hair. A question has been building up in his mind, although he’s not sure if Mu Qing will actually answer it.

 

“How long?”

 

“Hmm?’ Mu Qing blinks, tilting his head as if reorienting himself, and Feng Xin barely resists the urge to kiss him again.

 

“Since when did you like me?” Feng Xin asks.

 

Mu Qing turns his head away, and for a few seconds Feng Xin doesn’t think he’s going to respond. But then, he murmurs “No idea, really. But I … I realized during junior year of college.”

He hesitates for a few seconds, as if recollecting his thoughts, then continues. “I’d been in the library for 18 hours studying for three different midterms and researching for a paper. You came by to try and force me to leave, and I told you to go die in a hole. And you left, but then you came back maybe an hour later with a bag of way too much food that definitely wasn’t allowed in the library, and instead of trying to make me leave again you asked when I’d be done. Then you sat with me in the library until I finished, and walked back with me to our dorm."

 

Mu Qing pauses, glancing up at Feng Xin briefly. “ I don’t know … I just… you came back. And instead of trying to make me leave again, you stayed with me.” Mu Qing mumbles the last part, face red.

 

Feng Xin remembers the time Mu Qing is talking about. He had gone to the library and found Mu Qing in the same cubicle he’d last seen him in the previous day, swaying a bit in his seat. When Feng Xin had asked him when the last time he’d eaten was, Mu Qing had muttered something about having plenty of coffee, and that it wasn’t Feng Xin’s business. Feng Xin had gotten pissed off because Mu Qing refused to leave when he clearly needed to take a break and looked like he was about to pass out from exhaustion. He’d been so angry that Mu Qing wasn’t taking care of himself, was pushing himself to the brink like this and refused to stop. 

He had finally left once the librarians started giving him judgmental looks, and he’d realized that there was nothing he could say that would convince Mu Qing to leave with him. Then he’d gone to the grocery store, filled a bag with chips and energy bars and any cheap snack he could find, and went back to the library. Mu Qing had glared at him with red rimmed eyes and told him to get lost again, but he selected a couple of the energy bars from the bag and actually ate them as he worked. On the way back to their dorms, Mu Qing had been listing from side to side like he was drunk, and squinting under the glow of the streetlights. Feng Xin had put an arm around him to keep him steady, and had been quietly thrilled when Mu Qing didn’t push it off.

 

“And then all of it was absolutely terrible because I still had to put up with you and Jian Lan were acting like lovesick idiots in front of me every goddamn day, and the realization only made me want to scratch my eyeballs out even more than I did already.” Mu Qing adds.

 

Feng Xin grins. “So you really were jealous.”

 

Mu Qing gives him a halfhearted glare, and flicks Feng Xin’s nose. “Like you have any room to talk. What about you? How long for you?”

 

“I don’t know. Way too fucking long. At least since high school. I just never realized what the weird feeling I got around you was until Xie Lian whacked me over the head with it. I think maybe the reason it took me so long to figure it out is because I don’t remember what it feels like not to love you.”

 

“Sap.” Mu Qing says, but once again his blush gives him away. “Still, how could you be that jealous over me and not know it?”

 

Now it’s Feng Xin’s turn to slowly turn red. “I. uh. I thought maybe I was homophobic, and I hadn’t realized it before then?”

 

Mu Qing stares at him. Then he leans down and sinks his teeth into Feng Xin’s neck. Feng Xin jerks upwards at the sensation, gasping lightly, and Mu Qing bites down even harder.

 

“You are so fucking stupid. I cannot believe I managed to fall in love with the stupidest man on the planet. What the fuck.” Mu Qing starts laughing into Feng Xin’s neck and Feng Xin gazes at him, spellbound. He thinks he could watch Mu Qing laugh like that, open and bright with an unguarded smile, for the rest of his life and die with no regrets.

 

“You know it’s your own damn fault in the first place.” Mu Qing mumbles, pressing his face harder into the crook between Feng Xin’s shoulder and neck. “The main reason I even started going out on dates when I did was because of how terrible it was having you around without anyone else as a buffer. And then you had to be weirdly nice on top of it, and it made me feel things I didn’t want to, so I decided I needed to actually start making an effort to get over you before I did something highly regrettable.”

 

“Don’t get over me. Please, don’t ever fucking get over me.” Feng Xin presses another kiss against Mu Qing’s mouth, savoring the way it trembles against his.

 

“‘Mm not planning on it.” Mu Qing mumbles against his lips.



 

 

When Feng Xin wakes up, the first thing he feels is warm. It emanates from the heavy weight on top of him, seeping through his skin and flesh until even his bones are basking in the gentle warmth. He drifts in and out of consciousness simply relishing the feeling of warm weight on top of him, until the weight shifts ever so slightly. Feng Xin wakes up a bit more, and the weight resolves into a bare torso against his own, and a leg across his waist, and dark hair spilling across his chest and into the sheets. Mu Qing is still fast asleep, his face open and strangely vulnerable. Feng Xin shifts himself so he’s sitting up slightly more on his pillows, but Mu Qing’s only response is to cling tighter where his arms wrap around his middle.

 

From his new vantage point, Feng Xin can see Mu Qing’s face better, how relaxed he looks when his brain is no longer running at 90 miles per hour. He knows how much Mu Qing hates to ever show any sort of perceived weakness, and it makes him cherish the trusts placed in him, to be allowed to see him like this, even more. He plays with the tips of Mu Qing’s hair for a bit, then begins to stroke his hands through it, relishing its silky texture. Mu Qing still doesn’t wake up but he lets out a small noise and shuffles a bit higher on Feng Xin’s chest. I love you , Feng Xin thinks. I love you so goddamn much .

 

Some number of minutes later, Mu Qing blearily cracks open one eye, then closes it and nuzzles into Feng Xin’s chest. “Were you watching me sleep?” he mumbles. “Creep.” 

 

“Mm. Just thinking.”

 

“Knew it would happen one day. Proud of you.” he mutters against his chest. The hot air of his breath against his bare skin makes Feng Xin’s muscles shiver.

 

Mu Qing has always been a kind of hilarious blend cranky and sleepy in the morning when he drags himself to the kitchen, and despite the harshness of his words Feng Xin can’t help the burst of fondness he feels at seeing him like this when he first wakes up.

 

“Remember when we first met?” he asks.

 

All he gets in response is a noncommittal hum and the tightening of the arms around his waist. One of Mu Qing’s hands begins to trace shapes on Feng Xin’s side.

 

“You know, I remember the day you were transferred into Xie Lian and I’s classroom in seventh grade, and I thought you were the most ridiculously pretty boy I’d ever seen in my life.” Feng Xin mumbles sleepily into Mu Qing’s hair. “Still the prettiest boy I’ve ever seen in my life.”

 

Mu Qing hums, and Feng Xin feels the vibration against chest. “I remember thinking you were loud and irritating and that you yelled too much. I guess my first impression was right too.”

 

“Hey!” Feng Xin bites his shoulder lightly in retribution, and Mu Qing squirms in his arms. “You could be pretty loud too. How many times did we both get sent to the principal's office for disrupting class?” They’d gotten disciplined countless times throughout the years, and yet in every grade without fail they’d chosen to sit next to each other at every opportunity.

 

“Only after you got me riled up. You always did have a unique talent for it.”

 

Feng Xin kisses Mu Qing’s shoulder blade and rolls on top of him, lazily pinning him with his weight. “Oh yeah? Do you wanna see how loudly I can rile you up?”

 

Mu Qing smirks up at him, lifting his head to nip at the tip of Feng Xin’s nose. “Let’s see what you got, Ju Yang .”

 

They don’t end up getting out of bed for another two hours.