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What Could Have Been

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Jiang Yuelou is facing the gun when it goes off, and for a moment he thinks he was the one shot. Zhao Moqin stood right in front of him, wide dark eyes piercing into his own and the gun raised. It seemed almost impossible to miss. He waits in that heartbeat of time to feel a familiar pain, and wetness against his chest.

But he doesn’t. 

In a flurry of seconds, he turns and looks to see Chu Ran slump out of Zhan Junbai’s arms and onto the bed. He can’t even see the blood; the red textured dress hides it too well, as if she had just gone to lay down and take a nap.

There’s a roaring in his ears and his knees feel weak. It’s Chen Yuzhi and Zhan Junbai moving at the same time that has him tense up and hold onto his gun tighter. One moves closer to Chu Ran and the other rushes in the opposite direction.

Zhan Junbai moves past him and grabs onto Zhao Moqin. Her eyes are wide again, not from wild frenzy, but in absolute fear. His rage towards her threatens to be overwhelming, but he focuses.

He quickly lifts the gun steady in their direction, and clenches his jaw, “Zhan Junbai.”

“Step back!”

Jiang Yuelou hesitates, and in those two seconds, he can hear the laboring pain breathe behind him, and Chen Yuzhi’s broken voice.

“Okay. I’ll go with you. Let her go.” 

He see’s Zhan Junabai think, and nod. But he doesn’t believe him, even when he says a quick, “Okay. I’ll let her go.”

But when he takes a hopeful small step forward, Zhan Junbai makes his move, pushing Zhao Moqin toward him and in a rapid flash shoots her in the back. His eyes widened and he leaps forward to catch her as she collapses. His hand is instantly covered in blood as he touches the wound and brings her closer to the floor.

She stares at him, and he’s able to see the light leave her eyes as they glaze and fall behind him. It takes less then a second for her body to become limp in his arms.

Zhan Junbai’s footsteps echo away from them, rapid, and he suddenly doesn’t know what to do. The loud thundering in his ears, ever since seeing Chu Ran fall, echoes louder and louder like train tracks.

He stands quickly, clasping tightly on his gun and he runs out the door without looking back. He knows the moment he makes that decision that he will regret this. Have nightmares about it. No matter the future outcome. He leaves Chu Ran and Chen Yuzhi, because Jiang Yuelou knows if he looked at the bloody broken scene of the pair he wouldn’t be able to take it.

He runs down the hallway, following the only rapid footsteps he can hear. The halls are surprisingly empty. Everyone had been cleared out, but he knows that there will be a few officers in the front entrance. Zhan Junbai won’t be heading that way. The best bet was the back. 

Jiang Yuelou takes two steps at a time down the stairs, and lands at the bottom with a loud noise. In his rush, he is lucky to be able to spot Zhan Junbai just as he enters what looks to be like the kitchen.

He rushes across the floor and bursts through the door, gun in front of him and his eyes lock onto Zhan Junabai’s form trying to escape from the windows. “Stop!” 

He shoots the area right next to the window, almost where Zhan Junbai is gripping with his fingers. This causes him to lose balance, and fall backward, but Zhan Junbai still has a gun secured and shoots in his direction.

Jiang Yuelou ducks quickly, and pushes forward along the counters. He can’t let this person leave his sight. It’s one more second he can escape, unpunished, and cause harm.

He’s able to see the windows at this angle, so he’ll be able to see if Zhan Junbai is making another chance to leave.

With a deep breath, he peeks over the large counter, and his sight allows him to see much of the kitchen but no Zhan Junbai. He must be hovering under the counter's sight just like he was.

He tries to be as quiet as possible as he shifts his feet. The dress shoes he is wearing make the smallest noise and he closes his eyes briefly in annoyance. 

There’s a shift just ahead of him, and he shakes his shoulders, preparing himself to attack. Quick and fast. 

It’s when he hears another shift that he moves, crouching and rushing around the corner of the counter. It’s his luck that Zhan Junbai is looking away from him, and when he turns toward him, raising his gun, Jiang Yuelou runs forward and knocks into him.

They tumble toward the floor and Jiang Yuelou tries to grab the gun, but stronger hands push him away. 

“You bastard!” 

Zhan Junbai has the audacity to laugh and it pierces his lungs, almost making him forget to breathe. It seemed impossible to think of a day where he had been able to say that this man was a friend.

“Bastard? You're the one to leave their friend bleeding dead!” Zhan Junbai exhales, as Jiang Yuelou struggles to get on top of him. 

“You did this! You did all of this!” He shouts, filled with so much rage that he shakes, so much it courses and becomes his entire body.

The upper hand finally comes, and he grabs tightly onto Zhan Junbai’s gun. It’s a swift motion of grabbing it and pressing it harshly to Zhan Junbai’s forehead. 

They both breathe heavily as they stare at each other. Every second one of them was alive was a hazard for the other, and Zhan Junbai knew this.

“Are you going to kill me?”

Jiang Yuelou breathes out heavily, and blinks as tears fall from his face. There was no more holding them back.

“Yes.” 

As soon as his finger presses the trigger, his right eye explodes with pain and he falls backward on his back. He drops the gun and presses against the wound. He feels the blood immediately poor from his face onto the floor. 

It’s such an agonizing pain that he almost feels numb. He slumps against the counter, and turns his face and with blurry vision looks.

There’s a knife gripped tightly in Zhan Junbai’s hand. But there is no more life in that hand. Lifeless eyes peer into the world and blood leaks from his forehead.

The knife had probably been knocked to the floor in the scuffle, and somehow Zhan Junbai’s hands had come to grips with it.

“Taking out one last thing, huh?” He mumbles to himself, and the pain makes him want to curl forward. But the physical pain in no way outweighs the pain in his heart.

The door to the kitchen bursts open, and he’s able to make out Jin Dacheng, with officers following right behind him.

He sees the other man take in the sight before him, mainly Zhan Junbai, before he quickly makes his way over to him. They meet eyes and Jin Dacheng, for the first time, hesitates to say something.

He wonders if it's about Zhan Junbai. A witness is always the strongest lead for the police. And Zhan Junbai was the biggest witness they could have gotten. To stand and reap the justice that was due to him.

“He killed himself.” Jiang Yuelou whispers, quietly and pained. Blood runs down his face and neck, but he wanted to say this before he passed out. “A coward.”

Jin Dacheng looks at him strangely, and clenches his jaw, before he nods. He knows he’s not believed, but Jin Dacheng will help him run with this lie.

His head suddenly feels weightless and he pitches forward. Red completely fills his vision as he hears Jin Dacheng shout for help.

Darkness meets him like a welcoming friend.

 


 

Jiang Yuelou awakes to light.

It blinds him and he quickly closes his eyes again. It springs a dull pounding in his head, but he tries to breathe through it. 

He tries again, more slowly, and in a daze realizes he can’t open his right eye as he opens his left. It should elicit panic from him, but he knows why. And he knows how. 

Zhan Junbai.

He wants to close his eyes again, and fall into a painless sleep, because he doesn’t want to deal with this aftermath. Not this time.

But just as he considers doing so, he spots a figure to his left. It was someone leaning against the soft sheets of the hospital bed. Light reflected her dark hair and he slowly recognized her as Chen Keying.

He wants to smile, wants to be overwhelmed with happiness, the sight of her safe; there’s no fire and a car, there’s only her unharmed. But he can’t, at least not right now.

“Hello.” His voice comes out raspy, but loud enough to awaken the sleeping figure. 

Chen Keying eyes meet his eyes, wide, but she’s smiling widely at him. “I knew you’d wake up soon!”

Jiang Yuelou’s eyes slid past her, expecting to see another figure, but from his vantage point he’s unable to see anyone else.

“Where is your brother?” He can’t help the slight fear from leaking into his voice. Regarding Chen Yuzhi, he is always worried. Could something else have happened? Did he leave him vulnerable again when he went down to chase Zhan Junbai? Was he hurt? Was he dea-

“Yuelou…”

The voice pierces his ears, and empty feeling in his heart stutters to life. He closes his eyes briefly for a moment. He lets the sound of his own name echo in his ears, trying to let the soft and safe sound be committed to memory.

When he opens his eyes again, he turns his head against the pillow to see Chen Yuzhi standing at the doorway. He’s wearing soft cream colored pants, and a dark warm sweater. His hands he’s carrying food.

It doesn't take another second for his eye to become wet, and even from this distance he sees the same reaction in Chen Yuzhi.

“Keying, there’s a nice young lady across the hall giving out candy, why don’t you try and get us some?” 

The prospect seems to jolt the young girl, and she nods, quickly jumping up from the chair next to the bed and walking out the door.

Chen Yuzhi approaches slowly, and only breaks eye contact to set the boxed meal on the stand next to the bed and sit down on the unequipped chair.

“Chu Ran…?” Jiang Yuelou asks because he just wants to know, and he gets the answer immediately when Chen Yuzhi’s eyes glisten again and glance away from him.

He inhales, and he clenches his teeth together to stop any noise from escaping. Pooling tears fall against his cheek but he has no strength to wipe them from his face. 

A hand suddenly covers his own and he glances up to Chen Yuzhi, who is also not bothering to wipe his own falling tears. The hand on his own holds tightly and he wraps his fingers in return and holds.

“I ran downstairs as soon as she was taken care of. I-...I didn’t know where to go or where to find you, but I saw a group of officers running into the kitchen and I followed.”

Chen Yuzhi’s gaze seems to fully crack, and he leans forward against the bed of the hospital and presses his forehead to their tangled hands. His body trembles as he struggles to speaks again, “I saw you first. Your face was covered in blood. It-...It was everywhere and I was so sure that he had gotten you. I thought you were gone again, Yuelou.” 

“Yuzhi…” Jiang Yuelou feels his chest stutter to inhale, and he wished his body didn’t feel so tired so he could sit up. At this moment, there was nothing that he wanted to do then gather Chen Yuzhi and press him close into his arms.

“I’ve never felt so broken…” Chen Yuzhi sobs with his whole chest, heaving into his breaths as he tightens the grip of their hands together. 

“Then I saw you were breathing, and then Zhan Junbai’s body, and I was so relieved. You were alright, and still with me.”

“Look at me.”

Chen Yuzhi slowly lifts his gaze, eyes red and cheeks soaked. Love.

Jiang Yuelou saw love in Chen Yuzhi's eyes. It was so clear. The gravitation they had toward each other. The risk they always took for each other, the risk they didn't take, all in because they couldn't lose the other.

He knew what Chen Yuzhi’s gaze reflected because that's what's been in his own heart for so long.

Mustering the strength, he lifted the hand that wasn’t tightly collapsed with Chen Yuzhi’s. It slowly made its way, before finally meeting a warm cheek. With his thumb, he caught another escaped tear before it went too far.

He let his hand slide further until it was behind Chen Yuzhi’s neck, and used his limited strength to pull him close. Chen Yuzhi does nothing to stop him and follows the action. 

When it’s all said and done, Chen Yuzhi’s leaning over the hospital bed and there foreheads are pressed together. They share one breath. 

“I’m alright. I’m still with you,” Jiang Yuelou assures with a whisper, his good eye half closed, but he still sees Chen Yuzhi looking at him closely. “I’m yours.”

Two words are all enough. Jiang Yuelou sees Chen Yuzhi’s gaze crack again, and his mouth trembles as they pressed against the side of his own. 

Not a kiss, but Chen Yuzhi’s hand pressing also against his heart fills him up with so much love it feels like he could survive anything.

It will be tough. He knows he’s lost his eye, and the weight of everything that has happened, everyone he has lost will bear an indescribable weight against his shoulder. But for this one moment, it’s him and Chen Yuzhi.

Together.