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Underwater

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The ocean is a shallow place of joy and excitement, but deep down it is a cold, waiting graveyard. It’s easy to get lost in the ocean, much easier than most people think. The atmosphere invokes a sense of awe and respect, bringing out the peoples’ sense of adventure. The same water that they play in, that is so closely tied to life is just as equally tied to a quick death and isolation. The vibe of a beach is seldom dull and dark. Bright sunshine, sound of rhythmic, calming waves, animals, people playing, the feeling of the sand; it all lulls people into a false sense of security before ripping them away from everything they love; crushing them under its immeasurable weight.

Xie Lian learned early to give the ocean the caution it deserves. He spends his days working to ensure the people who visit his beach don’t feel the same ruinous loss he has. He protects them and teaches them to embrace the adventure of the unknown-explore and push your limits-but always come back from them.

The sun reflected off the rich blue of the water, scattering light to dance on the waves as Xie Lian sat on his board, rocking with the swells. This morning had been calm, with long breaks in between the waves he could hope to catch, but it was enough for him to just be out on the water before all the screaming kids and families arrived. He had walked down to the beach while most people were still eating breakfast or sleeping in late. The beginning-of-summer influx of people at the beach was dying down now; not too many people willing to wake up at dawn to fight for the best spaces, and some leaving on their summer trips. Xie Lian was sure he would hear all about them when the families returned and the kids were back swimming or taking his lessons.

Xie Lian stretched his arms high over his head, hearing the creaking of the wetsuit on his skin. “I think gege needs a new suit, that one seems a bit tight.” Xie Lian turned around to see San Lang sitting on his board a short distance away, his own wetsuit, a gorgeous mix of red and black neoprene, pulled taut across his chest. His long black hair was pulled up into a tight bun on his head, showing off his features. Xie Lian watched water run from his temple down his jaw; he swallowed. Hua Cheng smiled at this, his one visible eye crinkling at the corners, the other tucked behind his eyepatch.

“It is a little old, but it works just fine, strong seams, San Lang!” Xie Lian kicked his way a bit closer.

“Oh, I wasn’t complaining, gege, the sight is worth it! Could you imagine if all your seams burst! What a view that would be,” Hua Cheng smirked mischievously, eye raking over Xie Lian’s form, shamelessly as if imagining it. Xie Lian blushed, feeling it burn down his neck.

Xie Lian raised a hand to cover his chest, as if that would do anything, but Hua Cheng just groaned, his gaze boring into Xie Lian’s arm. Looking down at himself, Xie Lian saw his white and gold wetsuit pulled to its limit over his biceps and upper arm. The wetsuits were a thick material, hiding most of the details, but were tight over the swells of his muscles. This suit was so comfortable because it had stretched in the right places to fit him perfectly. Why get a new one? Xie Lian, thinking he might combust, threw his arm out into the water, spraying Hua Cheng in the face. Hua Cheng sputtered, wiping the salt water from his face.

“Fine, fine, gege! Have mercy!” Hua Cheng laughed, clear and free, before his eye took one final trip to land right on Xie Lian’s hips where his thighs were spread to grip the board. Xie Lian choked at Hua Cheng’s brazenness. He kicked out his leg to try to splash Hua Cheng more solidly, but his balance shifted too far, sending his board out from under him and he tumbled into the water. He felt the leash for his board pulling tight on his ankle. After he regained himself, he broke the surface of the water just in time for a small wave to catch his board and pull him back under.

Once he reeled his board back in and clambered so his arms and upper body rested against it and the rest of him still dangling in the water, he laughed at the state of his luck. Of course, he would catch the instant karma of trying to splash San Lang! He blinked a bit, rubbing the water off and pulling the ends of his ponytail from where they had stuck to his face. Maybe he should wear it in a bun like Hua Cheng. Opening his eyes, he instantly knew something was wrong. Fear and dread washed over him as blurry blues and greens engulfed him, tossing him into complete disorientation. The sea was a beast, churning and tossing, the horizon blurring into the startlingly clear blue water, taking even up and down away from him. The beach suddenly seemed silent save the sound of the water. Where were the people? Had he been pulled out in a rip tide? The sun blinded him as he tried to open his eyes more, only allowing him to see the vast roiling water. It surrounded him, with no hope of land.

Looking around frantically, Xie Lian spotted the starkness of Hua Cheng’s black and red among the waves. His presence soothing the building fear in his heart. Focusing in, he saw Hua Cheng’s lips pulled up into a vindicated smirk, his slit eyebrow quirked up, but he still gave the polite, “You alright, gege?” The laughter barely contained from his voice. Xie Lian caught the drop of his playfulness as he took in Xie Lian’s changing expressions.

Xie Lian plastered a smile to his face, desperately wanting the lively banter back, not wanting to worry Hua Cheng. He rubbed his eyes a bit, trying to shake the last bit of trembling from his limbs, the salt water itchy, “Of course, San Lang! But…” Xie Lian blinked a few times, unable to tell if he had really lost his contact or it was just the water in his eyes. He looked at Hua Cheng’s face before closing one eye and then switching, trying to see if there was a difference.

“That’s not fair, gege! I can’t wink back at you right now!” Hua Cheng pouted, blinking (winking?) a few times.

“I – I wasn’t winking! I lost one of my contacts.” Xie Lian grumbled but couldn’t help the smile pulling at his lips.

“Contacts, gege?”

“Yea, you know I wear glasses, but I’ve lost them, so now I have to wear contacts more often…” He’s been wearing this pair for a while, so he guesses it just fell out… A shame. Xie Lian huffed before pulling himself back onto his board fully.

“I know where gege’s glasses are.” Hua Cheng chirped.

“Oh?”

“At my house!” A bright smile spread on his lips.

“San Lang! You have them? Why didn’t you bring them back to me?”

Hua Cheng’s smile dropped to a pout; he even tucked his chin down a bit! “Because then gege wouldn’t have a reason to come back over.” Xie Lian didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He said it as if San Lang himself wasn’t enough reason for Xie Lian to come over! He was speechless, but apparently Hua Cheng was not. “In fact! Gege can come over and get them right now and we can have lunch before you have to go into work!” Xie Lian was planning on staying in the water until it was his time to head into the shop, but without his contacts, he would have to walk all the way back home and then back to the shop… Getting his glasses from Hua Cheng would be very nice, the lunch was just an added bonus!

Hua Cheng looked at him expectantly, “Alright, that sounds nice, but next time, promise to just give me my glasses back!”

Hua Cheng perked up in delight, his hair fluttering in the wind from where it was slipping from his bun, “I am giving them back, gege!” Xie Lian huffed a laugh but began paddling back to shore. They walked side-by-side up the beach until they found a trashcan where Xie Lian could dispose of his other contact; it was starting to give him a headache to have one in and one not. When he turned back around to face Hua Cheng, he saw that he had pulled the top of his wet suit down, exposing his chest and arms, the tattoo covering his left arm a stark contrast from the rest of his fair skin. The bright red chrysanthemums spread over his chest to his shoulder before coiling down his arm to rest on the inside of his wrist where there was a roman numeral XXXIII. Each flower perfectly framed the swell of hard-earned muscles, showing them off. Xie Lian’s fingers itched to follow their path. Filling the gaps of the large flowers were white irises, delicately interwoven with the larger red flowers. Silver butterflies fluttered along the field of flowers, so dynamic it truly looked like they were moving sometimes. His gaze following the tattoo down its thick black outlines, Xie Lian noticed the top was hanging dangerously low on his hips. It didn’t appear he was wearing anything underneath the suit…... Xie Lian, realized he was staring, whipped his gaze away. It was completely normal to not wear anything under a suit!! Completely normal, Xie Lian, calm down! Xie Lian cleared his throat, taking the first step toward Hua Cheng’s house, unable to meet the insufferably smug smirk on his face.

Hua Cheng’s house was close by, prime beachfront property, and they reached it quickly, their stroll filled with bouncy chatter and brushing fingers. They walked around back to where he had a private outdoor shower blocked off by a high wall of dark stone. Hua Cheng, already half undressed, moved into the warm water first. While he waited, Xie Lian took a seat on a waist-high stone partition that Hua Cheng used to lay out his wet suit. With Hua Cheng’s back turned to him, Xie Lian took his time letting his gaze pass over San Lang: all long, well-muscled legs, leading to a broad, built back, down to arms that could easily carry Xie Lian, to long fingers with enough grip strength to - Xie Lian coughed, cutting off his thought. He shifted a bit in his seat, causing his suit to squeak. Hua Cheng tossed him a knowing grin before he turned around to rinse out his hair. Xie Lian averted his gaze this time, unable to bring himself to openly ogle the other, already embarrassed enough. Hua Cheng openly laughed at that, the sound ringing through the stone enclave. In no time, he had wrapped himself with a towel, really low on his hips. Xie Lian had a happy little thought of dropping to his knees before lunch; but before he could, Hua Cheng had approached him and maneuvered himself between Xie Lian’s knees. He wrapped his arms around Xie Lian’s waist before leaning up to press his lips to Xie Lian’s.

Not wanting to get the sand from his hands in Hua Cheng’s freshly rinsed hair, Xie Lian reached around to tug Hua Cheng closer by this towel until they were flush. Xie Lian tilted his head into the kiss, their lips soft and warm against each other, the taste of salt permeating everything. Kissing Hua Cheng was an experience, time slipping away to the addictive feeling of a warm body against his, the feelings just so good, perfect, fun. Hua Cheng took one of Xie Lian’s hands from his waist to intertwine their fingers. He tugged Xie Lian’s hair out of the way to undo the back of his wetsuit, pulling the zipper down slowly. The breeze tickled his sweaty spine, the sound of the zipper tickled his ears. Hua Cheng broke the kiss to help Xie Lian free his arms. Xie Lian’s breathing was heavy, feeling Hua Cheng’s long fingers wiggle between his skin and the suit before solidly tugging it down. Goosebumps sprung up along his freed skin. Hua Cheng hummed his appreciation before diving in to mouth at Xie Lian’s neck, his fingers moving along the skin of his chest and hips. Xie Lian gasped at the hot, persistent tongue pushing against his neck, followed by the sharp nip of teeth.

Hua Cheng groaned, “Gege is too good for his own good, doesn’t even know what he’s doing to me,” his hand slipping down into the suit to grasp Xie Lian’s half-hard erection. Xie Lian started, his legs wrapping around Hua Cheng, squeezing his waist. Hua Cheng groaned at that, leaning back in to kiss Xie Lian hungrily while his fingers expertly brought him to full hardness, everything wet, and warm, and strong. Xie Lian’s head was buzzing, thoughts consumed by the boiling ecstasy. He moaned into Hua Cheng’s mouth, giving him the opportunity to slip his tongue in, brushing hot and wet, before breaking away to tug on Xie Lian’s lip with his teeth. Hua Cheng buried his face in Xie Lian’s neck while his fingers teased his head. Xie Lian twitched and jumped as Hua Cheng’s wicked mouth worked its way down his chest, biting and mouthing at his nipples and the underside of his pecs. Xie Lian hissed as Hua Cheng left a hard mark there; the sharp sting melding into the full-body pleasure. Xie Lian’s chest was heaving as Hua Cheng slipped down, tapping at Xie Lian’s hips before tugging on the wetsuit. Xie Lian put all his strength into his shaking arms to pushing himself up enough to allow Hua Cheng to tug the suit past his hips before flinging it off his legs, leaving him bare.

Hua Cheng finally made eye contact with Xie Lian, his eye was dark, “Ah, San Lang, you don’t –” Hua Cheng cut him off by moving on his knees back between Xie Lian’s legs, sucking along his inner thighs before taking Xie Lian into his mouth. His eyes squeezed closed, his head tipping back. Hua Cheng’s hands gripped his muscles, pulling them onto his shoulders, caging and squeezing his head. Xie Lian crossed his feet behind Hua Cheng’s back, digging his heels in to ground him to the overwhelming waves of pleasure brought on by his smart mouth. Hua Cheng moved with a suffocating air of confidence, his moves strong and sure to wring out every bit of pleasure he could. One of his hands tangled up in San Lang’s long, silky hair, his other gripping the stone ledge so tight his arm trembled.

Hua Cheng’s hands are startlingly large, even compared to Xie Lian’s thick thighs. His fingers do more than just hold Xie Lian in place, they squeeze and feel him up in ways that shoot right to his cock. Massaging the muscles at the same time as his tongue rubbing along his length. They press into him, holding tight enough to leave an imprint before moving along and teasing new areas. Xie Lian felt himself twitch as he thought about Hua Cheng’s hands, strong and powerfully holding him where Hua Cheng wants him, effortlessly moving him around and pressing into him. Xie Lian wanted Hua Cheng to reach up and push his long fingers into his mouth, to quiet him down so the neighbors don’t hear. Xie Lian flinches and tightens his legs around Hua Cheng’s head, and is rewarded with a harsh squeeze of his hand and a slap on his hip from the other. He takes his punishment and melts into a puddle, his brain foggy and his muscle fighting between the looseness of his soaring pleasure and the tightening buildup of his orgasm. He wants the light handprint on his hip to stay there and remind him of just how much he loves Hua Cheng’s hands. Maybe he could lean that hip against the counter at work and feel the sting. Would that make him get hard at work?

Xie Lian let out a strangled moan as Hua Cheng took him all the way into the back of his mouth and Xie Lian could feel the head of his cock press into the soft tightness of his throat swallowing down around him, humming deep as Xie Lian tugs on his hair. Xie Lian chews on his lower lip, trying to keep quiet as Hua Cheng presses his tongue to the underside of his cock while his fingers dig into the meat of his thighs, keeping them tight around him. His eyes start to roll back as his cock is slowly brought out of his throat to rub against the texture of the roof of his mouth. Xie Lian hears him taking a few casual breaths, as if he is barely trying, before he settles into an even, sensual pace of taking Xie Lian’s cock into his throat and back out. Xie Lian cracked an eye open, taking the risk to peer down at Hua Cheng. He groaned at the sight of Hua Cheng’s eye closed in concentration while he bobs up and down on Xie Lian’s shaft, sucking as he drags his head back up. At the sound, Hua Cheng opens his eye to look up at Xie Lian. At the sensation and the view, Xie Lian’s whole body shudders, nearly toppling him off his perch, but Hua Cheng holds him steady while milking him for everything Xie Lian gives him. Xie Lian feels lightheaded, sucking in air as if resurfacing after an extended time underwater.

“Ah – San Lang – you!” Xie Lian’s voice shakes, as his body continues to shudder as Hua Cheng licks his lips and stands back up between Xie Lian’s legs. Xie Lian lifts his trembling arms to wrap them around Hua Cheng’s neck, pulling him in close to bury his burning face into San Lang’s broad shoulder. Hua Cheng laughs, the vibrations sending tingles through Xie Lian before he wraps his own arms around Xie Lian’s waist, kissing his neck sweetly.

When Xie Lian’s breathing steadied out and he could feel his fingers and toes again, he leaned back, ready to give Hua Cheng his! But when he met Hua Cheng’s gaze, he saw such a soft expression, a smile pulling on his lips more easy going that his usual smirks, his eye wide and open as he looked at Xie Lian. He felt a blush rising on his cheeks; all thoughts lost at the look of love and devotion.

“San Lang aaaaahh.” He groaned, leaning in to brush his nose along San Lang’s, intertwining their fingers. Hua Cheng leaned in to place soft doting kisses on his lips before stepping back, tugging Xie Lian with him, steadying him as he landed on shaky legs.

Xie Lian moved to press Hua Cheng back against the ledge, but he pushed against him, back in the direction of the water, “Go clean up, gege, I’ll get started on lunch.” With that, he slapped Xie Lian’s ass and waltzed into his house through the back door, leaving Xie Lian alone with the running water.

Xie Lian’s head was still swimming as he meandered into the water. The stream was pleasant, stronger than the ones you would find on the beach and whisked the sand off him quickly. He rubbed at his face for a moment to try to get the feeling of being pulled under off him. Taking a deep breath, he pulled his hair from its tie to try to rinse out as much as he could. Feeling refreshed he dried off, turning off the water quieted down the roaring in his head, so he placed out his suit to dry and walked into San Lang’s air-conditioned house before he started sweating again.

“Gege, I got you out some clothes and your glasses.” Hua Cheng smiled at him from where he stood at his kitchen counter. He had thrown on a loose tank top and sweatpants, but Xie Lian wanted to laugh, it could barely be called a shirt with how low the arm holes went, practically exposing all of Hua Cheng’s flank and his broad shoulders. Xie Lian smiled, rising on his toes to kiss Hua Cheng’s cheek. He had also taken off his eye patch, revealing his deep brown glass eye. The blush that already covered his cheeks deepened as his eyes shifted between Xie Lian and the noodles he was preparing. Looking down, his hair fell to cover his face from Xie Lian’s gaze, but he could still see how red his ear and collarbones were. Xie Lian decided to spare him a little face and quickly put on the clothes waiting for him on the table. It was an immediate relief to have his glasses back. The pants were definitely his, but he squinted at the red sweater for a moment before pulling it over his head.

“Where is E-ming?” Xie Lian asked, looking around the luxurious living space for the black Doberman. He hears Hua Cheng make a disgruntled sound before motioning loosely towards his bedroom. After hearing Xie Lian’s voice, there’s a sound of something hitting the bedroom door before a high-pitch whining sound. Xie Lian giggles as the howling picks up before it sounds like E-ming was wailing at being kept in the room. Xie Lian stands to let him out.

He hears a whine behind him too, “Gege… Don’t let him out… You will only encourage this behavior!” Like father like son with whining and wanting attention, Xie Lian thought to himself. Hua Cheng had raised E-ming since he found him on the streets as a newborn puppy, and although he acts cold towards the dog, Xie Lian eyes the plethora of toys and knows of the cabinet of treats for him.

“He’s a good boy, I want to see him before I have to go to work,” Xie Lian said as he approached the door.

“If gege says so,” Hua Cheng mumbled.

Xie Lian smiled to himself before approaching the dark wood door. The howling had quieted down, Xie Lian could hear rapid sniffing from the other side. He cracked the door open, not wanting to hit the dog with it. As soon as there was a suitable space, a long black snout poked through the crack, sniffing excitedly. Xie Lian laughed as he heard his tail slapping against the wall with a resounding whump. Opening the door fully revealed a glorious proud-standing black Doberman, his eye wide as he panted, looking up at Xie Lian before he bolted through the open door, throwing himself against Xie Lian’s legs. The blow knocked him back a bit, but he laughed further as he bent down to rub and scratch all along the beautiful shiny coat. E-ming’s strong tail thumped against his leg as he leaned his flank against Xie Lian’s thighs. Waiting until Xie Lian bent down further, E-ming took the opportunity to jump up slightly and lick a broad stripe across his face.

“E-ming!” Hua Cheng scolded from across the room, but Xie Lian just laughed and secretly scratched him behind the ears. Xie Lian was sure that E-ming was a high breed dog, with his gorgeous appearance, stature, intelligence, and mostly, perfect behavior. The only thing keeping him out of the showroom was that he was missing one of his eyes from birth. Hua Cheng had found him abandoned on the street and decided to take him in, raising him with utmost care, keeping his ears and tail long. Xie Lian giggled as master and pet stared off across the room, both jealous of the attention the other received from Xie Lian. Usually, E-ming was the pinnacle of the perfect guard dog. He was very wary of newcomers, and guarded Hua Cheng’s house well, on perfect behavior. But whenever Xie Lian came around, his manners slipped, and he would even try to crawl onto Hua Cheng’s expensive couch to be in Xie Lian’s lap! Hua Cheng would scold him, calling him a mutt and to not let Xie Lian spoil him.

Eventually, Hua Cheng won the stare off, scowling enough that E-ming reluctantly obeyed when he was told to go lay down on his (plush) bed by the couch. He huffed as he went, shaking his head around as he passed Hua Cheng to plop down on his bed and stare longingly at Xie Lian.

 Xie Lian followed behind back into the kitchen to wrap his arms around Hua Cheng’s waist. Before he could think about it too much, a bowl was placed in front of him; so, he simply rolled up the sleeves and forgot about it as the aroma hit his nose. He hummed in appreciation for the rice noodles as his mouth watered in anticipation for the spice he could smell. He glanced up to find Hua Cheng smiling softly to himself as he sat across the table from Xie Lian. Their lunch was filled with soft conversation, talk of their plans and schedules for the week. Even after they were done eating, they still sat there basking in the natural light, fingers intertwined atop the table. While Hua Cheng was distracted, E-ming had gotten up, snuck behind his master to lie down, curled around Xie Lian’s feet. He felt the dog take a deep, satisfied breath.

Xie Lian asked if Hua Cheng would compete in the tournament over in Sanya, but he got only a noncommittal reply. Xie Lian couldn’t help but laugh. Hua Cheng entered into the Hainan Open two years ago as a no-name “rookie” but ended up sweeping the tournament! He was immediately posted on the tabloids and got the nickname “Crimson Rain” for his recognizable wetsuit and how he fearlessly carved waves even the pros shied away from. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know him and have him on their talk-shows or newspapers or podcasts, but he shrugged them all off saying he had to get back to work; work that just happened to be in the same town Xie Lian lived and worked in, only slightly away from the tourist attractions. He claims he only surfs because Xie Lian taught him how to, but Xie Lian can’t ignore the juxtaposition between how he surfed in the competition and the gentle way he helps Xie Lian coach the kids. Xie Lian also doesn’t miss how he quietly signs the smaller children’s boards with “Crimson Rain Sought Flower.” Xie Lian doesn’t want to force Hua Cheng into the competitions just because he misses them, but he also can’t help but laugh at how, even though he says he can’t enter because he is working, but Xie Lian never sees him working! San Lang is always surfing with him in the mornings or stopping by to chat with him at the shop or cooking for him. What time does he leave to do this work?! Isn’t this too much spoiling, San Lang?!

After noticing E-ming not in his bed, San Lang huffed before standing up to clean up their lunch. Xie Lian tried to stand to help him, but the heavy dog only wiggled so he was laying more solidly across Xie Lian, pinning him in place.

“I got this one, gege, but you should come back over after work, since he is hogging all my cuddling time,” even with his back turned to Xie Lian, he could still hear the pouting tone to his words. Even if Hua Cheng was spoiling him, Xie Lian supposed he was spoiling him back too as he quickly hummed out his agreement. He bent down to scratch at E-ming’s ears again, delighting in the softness of them.