After dinner, Lin Xi as usual threw his bowl down and disappeared immediately. He was especially quick today; earlier this morning, he had gotten his family to pack up his things and move all his stuff over. Among all that was his game console.
Eager to spoil his long-neglected “beauty”, he threw down his chopsticks before rushing into his room. After twenty minutes when he came out, barefoot, to get water, his eyes landed on the table. No one had cleaned up the chopsticks or dishes.
From inside the study, the door slightly ajar, came the sound of Duan Shen on the phone.
Cup in hand, Lin Xi stared at the table. For whatever reason he remembered something that had happened when he was a teenager. During high school when he had just gotten a girlfriend, he had skipped class and left early more than any other kid in the class.
His homeroom teacher kept calling his brother with more complaints, and his brother lectured him again and again. All of it went into one ear and out the other.
One day, even Lin Xi himself got tired of the whole thing and slept on his desk in the back row from the first class of the morning to the last in the afternoon. His homeroom teacher called his brother to report the good news.
A month after that, when Lin Xi trotted up to the ATM to check his balance, he saw that his spendings had gone up by a thousand.
Two minutes later, Duan Shen, who was sitting in the office and talking business on the phone, heard the clear ring of broken china.
Not bothering with an explanation, he hung up and strode towards the kitchen with a frown. Lin Xi was near the sink, bent over with a blank expression. He looked up. Near his feet a white plate had shattered into pieces.
“Don’t move!” Duan Shen commanded, his face serious.
Lin Xi was already jittery from having caused trouble, so the scolding tone only frightened him more. He stared at the floor for a while before he managed to mutter in a quiet voice, “I wasn’t moving…”
Duan Shen said nothing, his frown deepening as his eyes fell on the younger man’s bare feet.
Seeming to come back to himself, Lin Xi curled his toes and stood up, pointing at the plate on the floor, “This is one of a set, right? How much is it? I’ll buy you another set.”
Lips pressed together, Duan Shen didn’t speak, although his face seemed flushed with anger.
Unconsciously, Lin Xi’s fingers began to pick at the counter’s side as he carefully spoke up again, “Was it…really expensive? More than my allowance each month–?”
Duan Shen interrupted him, his expression dark and his voice cold, “How many times have I told you? Wear your shoes at home. Why aren’t you wearing them?”
Lin Xi stuttered, unsure what to say, “I…I forgot…”
His head lowered, he glanced at the scattered pieces on the floor. He seemed a completely different person from his past self with a sharp, quick tongue who was eager to argue about anything. Negative emotions like nothing he had ever experienced before swept through his chest.
The next moment, Duan Shen’s arm passed under his armpit while the other went behind his knees. He carried him, bridal style.
Without realizing what he was doing, Lin Xi’s hand scrambled for Duan Shen’s collar. He was so nervous that his whole brain went blank. When he came back to himself again, he realized that he must have been so nervous that he accidentally pulled off the second button on Duan Shen’s shirt.
His eyes dropped from Duan Shen’s face as he stuttered an explanation, “Your shirt is too cheap, it’s not my fault…”
“I don’t want to reason with you about if this tailored shirt is too fragile or if you’re too strong,” Leaning over, Duan Shen lowered him to the sofa, his eyes somewhat questioning, “Why were you so nervous when you broke the plate?”
Lin Xi’s mouth opened and closed, but no words came out.
“Worried I’d scold you?” Immediately, Duan Shen’s intimidating air disappeared, his voice returning to its normal flatness. “Why are you worried that I’d scold you?”
Lin Xi stared for a minute, then looked away evasively.
“Because you’re afraid of me?” Duan Shen sat down to him with a calm look on his face. “The only reason your brother can’t control you is because you’re not afraid of him. I’m almost the same age as your brother, from the same kind of family background. I’ve got two eyes, one nose, one mouth, and I’m a normal human being just like him. Why aren’t you afraid of him? Why are you afraid of me?”
Duan Shen’s hand gripped his chin, forcing his eyes up. “Listen to me, Lin Xi. Just like you said before, you’re looking for a man to spend your life with. Not a dad who will force you to study, to remember to drink milk before bed. So, in the same vein–”
“There’s no reason for you to be scared of me.” Duan Shen’s voice paused, and he slowed down his speech. “What you need to know is that I wasn’t angry at you for breaking the plate, but–”
“Your broke the plate and were trying to pick it up with your bare hands. Plus–”
“Do you know how dangerous it is, how likely you’ll hurt your feet if you stand near broken shards like that?”
Lin Xi’s eyes seemed frozen, his chest filled with confusion to what he should do. Within three seconds, his brain started to churn at an amazing speed. Countless ways to respond or react passed before his eyes, yet he could say nothing.
Finally, his lips moved. Climbing up, he pushed Duan Shen down onto the back of the sofa. His trembling lips pressed against the other man’s, and without regret or embarrassment he opened his mouth, deepening the kiss.
A small smile flashed through Duan Shen’s deep eyes.
And then Lin Xi heard his deep voice, suffused with the slightest bit of amusement and happiness. “Lin Xi.”
“A situation that can be resolved with a kiss…why must you always try to escape it with the assumption that you’ll be punished?”