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practice game

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"Truth or dare?"

Huang Shaotian jumps to his feet and pumps his fist into the air. "Dare! Come on, do it, dare me anything, I dare you." Whatever it is, he’ll show them, he’s not afraid of anything.

The group of trainees huddle together on the other side of the dorm room, whispering and sneaking glances at where Huang Shaotian is tap, tap, tapping his foot for them to hurry it up already.

Finally, they line up before him and declare, "We dare you to kiss the deadlast."

It takes a moment for it to sink in. Huang Shaotian figured they’d make him streak, or do some other publicly embarrassing thing, and his brain is still distracted planning the fastest route through the building. The rest of him is dreading how cold it feels to be naked, but it’ll be worth it when he wins.

His mind, when it catches up, does a weird hiccup. "You want me to what? No way, I'm not gonna kiss that guy, he can't even play Glory!"

The leader of the group takes a step forward. He’s a good player but not as good as Huang Shaotian. He tells funny jokes, though, and so they became fast friends. "You backing out, Huang Shao? Scared?"

"Shut up, shut up, I’m not scared at all. I'll do it, watch me! And then all of you have to do dares and I get to pick them!" Before anyone can argue, he spins on his heel and runs off to find their deadlast player.

That annoying guy isn't even hanging out with them so Huang Shaotian, followed by all his friends, has to track Yu Wenzhou down. He’s gonna find him and plant one right on his big nerdy face because he’s not afraid.

He's not afraid, but he is a little nervous. He’s not scared, it's just that he's never kissed a guy with glasses before. Or any guy, really. And okay, fine, he's never kissed anyone before except that one girl in school who said she liked him. All the dramas said he was supposed to kiss girls so he kissed her, because Huang Shaotian knows all about seizing the right moment. It was a bit of a letdown, to be honest. No romantic music started playing in the background, or anything like that. How boring. But that's what grabbing an opportunity is all about, right? Just because he didn't like it doesn't mean it was the wrong move, maybe he just hasn't found the right person yet.

He finds Yu Wenzhou in one of the lesser-used training rooms, the one with the outdated computers no one likes. He almost makes a joke about unwanted people who hide in unwanted rooms but cuts himself off before he can speak. It’s one thing to tell the truth about a person’s Glory skills—everyone knows how bad Yu Wenzhou is—but making fun of him outside of practice doesn’t sit right. Besides, Huang Shaotian is a Blade Master on a mission, and it’s probably not good to make fun of someone right before you kiss them. In this particular instance, his speed works in his favor. He catches himself before he says a word.

Striding across the room, he swivels Yu Wenzhou’s gaming chair around and hauls him to his feet.

Yu Wenzhou doesn’t protest, just removes his headset and clears his throat, staring pointedly at Huang Shaotian. “Can I help you?” The question is mild, like he hasn’t just been physically pulled away from his practice game.

Onscreen, his unmoving character takes a brutal hit and collapses. Whatever, it’s not like he was going to win, anyway.

"I'm gonna kiss you," Huang Shaotian mumbles, and then closes his eyes and shoves his face at Yu Wenzhou's lips.

He half expects Yu Wenzhou to duck out of the way and bolt—or maybe punch him—but he doesn’t. Ha, he really is too slow at everything. The rest of his thoughts scatter when the lips smushed against his own begin to move. Yu Wenzhou tilts his head, and Huang Shaotian isn’t sure what he does but it makes their mouths slot together like they were meant to fit. It feels kind of nice, actually. Way better than kissing Su Lichao that one time.

He doesn’t know what to do with his hands, clenched at his sides. Is he allowed to touch? No one told him kissing was so complicated. It might be nice to grab Yu Wenzhou’s waist. For stability, not because he suddenly likes him or anything. Stupid kissing, how is he supposed to know the best combos? Glory is so much easier, he always knows what to do with Troubling Rain. He’s about to make his move when a hand that isn't his strokes along his jaw. Huang Shaotian's brain sputters and shorts out because Yu Wenzhou’s tongue is in his mouth.

Who knew that slow, plodding Yu Wenzhou, who isn't very good at Glory, is a good kisser. A great kisser, gentle and firm all at once.

An embarrassing whimper breaks the spell, and Huang Shaotian hopes it wasn’t himself. Judging by the way Yu Wenzhou’s chest rumbles in soft laughter, he thinks it probably was. In retaliation, he digs his fingers into Yu Wenzhou’s shoulders. If Yu Wenzhou can stick his tongue in Huang Shaotian’s mouth, he can deal with Huang Shaotian's wandering hands.

In the background, the muted tones of the Glory theme song play from Yu Wenzhou's discarded headset. His friends cheer and laugh as the kiss goes on, the group of them counting down in unison to the allotted time the kiss has to last. Luckily, none of them seem to have heard Huang Shaotian embarrass himself.

At the final shout of, "Zero," Yu Wenzhou pulls away.

Cool air chills the front of Huang Shaotian’s body in the space Yu Wenzhou had occupied. Normally he’d complain about not having an extra jacket, but he can’t stop staring at Yu Wenzhou’s lips, pink and plump. Like he was thoroughly kissed.

He was kissed. Huang Shaotian kissed him. He kissed Huang Shaotian back.

The lingering silence stretches as Yu Wenzhou collects his account card and his headset, leaving without a word. Huang Shaotian can only watch him go and wonder what the hell just happened. And how he can make it happen again.


The next time they play each other in practice, Huang Shaotian is extra loud and twice as brutal, verbally tearing Yu Wenzhou's playing to shreds like he hasn't done since the earliest days of the training camp. He can’t have their deadlast player thinking that kissing him changes anything between them, or raises his status in the camp. By the time practice is over, he’s satisfied he made his point.

Instead of making him feel better, he walks away feeling like a piece of shit.

It's not Yu Wenzhou's fault he's not a good Glory player. It's obvious he's trying to get better, but there's no getting around his slow hands. He's doomed to failure. If playing him wasn't such a waste of time, Huang Shaotian might actually admire his fierce stubbornness. And that’s it, no more kissing for him, not now and not ever. Clearly, it’s affecting his brain. He needs to concentrate on Glory, not feeling bad for slow players who have no future on the team. It doesn’t matter how good Yu Wenzhou kisses or how soft his lips are, Huang Shaotian has more important things to think about. Like proving to Captain Wei he’s good enough to debut on the pro team next year.

He’s so distracted on his way to the cafeteria that he doesn't notice the hand that comes out of nowhere and drags him into an empty storage room. He most definitely notices when a mouth is pressed over his own. A nice mouth. A warm mouth. A familiar mouth that kisses really good, insistent yet gentle against his own. His lips part and his arms move without his input, wrapping around a firm waist.

And then Huang Shaotian gets a hold of himself and pushes the other person away.

Across from him, Yu Wenzhou’s chest is heaving and his thick glasses are slightly askew. Even his hair, usually combed, is a dark messy halo around his head. It's the most disheveled he’s ever looked. Huang Shaotian shoves his hands in his pockets to keep from doing something stupid like reaching out and fixing his glasses. Or grabbing his fancy polo shirt and dragging him back for another kiss. He has a terrible urge to find out what Yu Wenzhou looks like without the last of his composure. Would he make a soft gasp as he loses control? Is his messy hair as soft as his lips?

Huang Shaotian physically shakes away his dumb thoughts like a shaggy dog emerging from a pool of bad ideas. "What the hell was that, Deadlast? You can't just grab people and kiss them, you know. You’re supposed to ask first." He pauses, a terrible thought coming over him. “Wait, did you like that I yelled at you so bad in practice today?”

“No,” Yu Wenzhou scoffs, but there’s a pink tinge to his cheeks, visible even in the poor light of the equipment storage room. He straightens his shirt where Huang Shaotian’s grip wrinkled the fabric. "You did it first. Kissing without asking."

"I did not!"

"What do you call what happened in the training room that night?"

And oh yeah. Oops. Huang Shaotian shuffles his feet, looking down at the floor. "I gave you warning." Not very much warning. It's a half-hearted defense and they both know it.

"Not all of us are as fast as you, Huang Shaotian."

Something about Yu Wenzhou’s tone is strange. Too friendly, Huang Shaotian's mind offers. He shouldn’t be friendly, he should be mad. Surely he’s heard the whispers and the laughter about the Truth or Dare game and put the pieces together. Huang Shaotian only kissed him to win, not because he likes Yu Wenzhou.

But the look on Yu Wenzhou’s face isn’t mad. At least, Huang Shaotian thinks it isn’t. It’s hard to tell. Yu Wenzhou rarely loses his cool, even when he gets trounced and insulted and called names. Even now, the last of his disheveled appearance has smoothed away, leaving him steady and untouchable once more, his smile giving nothing away. Or maybe it's more of a gloat than a smile, a private joke only Yu Wenzhou can hear.

Huang Shaotian should have known better to think he’d react to this whole situation like a normal person. Yu Wenzhou has always been a strange one.

"Now we're even," Yu Wenzhou says, nodding once. He walks to the door, pausing to look over his shoulder. Something like mischief glints behind his glasses, or maybe it’s just a dying lightbulb. “You know, if you wanted instruction on kissing technique, you could have just asked. No need to use a game as an excuse.”

“I—what?!” Huang Shaotian gapes. “That’s way, no way, that’s not what happened at all. I was dared!” He gets himself together and scurries over to jab Yu Wenzhou’s arm with his fingers. “Don’t go around telling lies, don’t you dare, do you hear me?” He can feel the heat flooding his face. Yu Wenzhou must have figured out Huang Shaotian didn’t know what he was doing. Or maybe he remembered that stupid moment of embarrassment. “Don’t think you were anything special just because I made a… a stupid noise. I make noises all the time, everyone says so, everyone complains that I’m loud. It didn’t mean anything, do you hear me?”

Huang Shaotian slaps a hand over his mouth before he can say anything more. He meant he was loud in Glory and normal life stuff. But the way it came out sounded like he was talking about kissing stuff. He’s never going to live this down.

Yu Wenzhou merely nods, but there’s a tiny curl to his lips that makes Huang Shaotian want to kiss him again to snuff it out. He’d bang his head against the door to drown out the impulse but Yu Wenzhou is in the way.

“Of course. My apologies for the misunderstanding,” Yu Wenzhou says, straightening his glasses.

He leaves Huang Shaotian alone in the storage room with his lips feeling as warm as his face.

What the hell was that?

There’s no time to pick the threads of their encounter apart. He’s famished and late for dinner. Luckily, none of his friends think to ask him about his delayed arrival. He waves in greeting and immediately shovels as much food as he can into his mouth so he doesn’t accidentally tell them about the second kiss.

Training camp continues as usual, and the infamous Truth or Dare kiss—thank fuck—fades into collective obscurity after another week or so. Nothing changes between him and Yu Wenzhou. At least, that’s what he tells himself.

The guy’s still crap at Glory, but his presence in the camp no longer feels like a personal insult.

If Huang Shaotian maybe scales back the “deadlast” jokes, it’s only because using the same insult over and over is getting lame. And if Yu Wenzhou starts backtalking more—soft-spoken yet cutting remarks about Huang Shaotian’s attack timing which are both scary-accurate and kind of useful in helping him hone his offensive—it’s probably only because he’s trying to beat Huang Shaotian at his own game.

He can’t put his finger on why his rivalry with the worst player in the camp feels different than it did. What he does know is that he's determined to get Yu Wenzhou back for the storage room kiss, all he needs is the right moment to spring his trap. He's been practicing his kissing skills on a bunch of oranges he took from the cafeteria and he can't wait to see Yu Wenzhou's face when he backs him against a wall and shows him how good he’s gotten.

His hand drifts up to touch his lips. Yeah, he’s gonna show Yu Wenzhou, he’s going to get him back good.

With his mouth.