04201007 (04201007) wrote in onlayforlu,
04201007
04201007
onlayforlu

[FOR EVERYONE] PUNCHDRUNK

RECIPIENT: EVERYONE
TITLE: Punchdrunk
LENGTH: ~13000
WARNINGS: violence, internalised homophobia, swearing, homophobia, mildly unrealistic settings
SUMMARY: Yixing has never really been a believer in ‘fairness’ – not unless you make it yourself. So that’s just what he’s doing. One fat, rich pig at a time. Then he finds a man beaten and left at the side of the road: a man who he brings into his home and eventually, his heart.
FINAL NOTES: dear recipient, thank you very much for your lovely prompts – I loved them so much I ended up switching between them several times before settling on this one. I hope you like this.



The rain is beating down on his shoulders. It's raining so hard it feels heavy, like there's something pushing down on him. It's not a feeling he especially likes. Shivering, he pulls his sodden jacket tighter around himself in a vain attempt to keep put the chill and walks a little faster through the gloom. Unsurprisingly there's nobody else out on the streets. The effect is surprisingly eerie - there's no sound but the drumming of the rain and the squelching of his own footsteps.


Then a gentle moan pierces the silence. At first Yixing thinks his ears are playing tricks on him but then it comes again, stronger this time. He edges forward towards the source of the noise.


There, lying on the pavement backed up against the wall of the house, is a body. The shock of bright blond hair that stands out starkly against the rain-darkened pavement is the only reason Yixing would have seen him there at all - the guy's clothes are black, whether from the rain or blood Yixing doesn't know. As he steps closer and squats down beside the body he can see red streaks of blood matted into the guy's hair too and his gut twinges with something that might be akin to pity.


He’s got a pretty face, this blondie. Kinda elfin. It makes Yixing wonder whether he’s one of Suho’s new boys. He looks again. Nah. Blondie’s face is certainly twinky enough but he looks too well fed for that kind of thing – the punters usually like them a little bit more on the skeletal side for whatever reason.



The guy is unconscious but moaning and shivering and Yixing wonders to himself how many people have walked past and left him there before Yixing showed up.


He half considers it himself. He could just carry on. He owes this boy nothing, and that’s generally how these things work in this neighbourhood. Give a little, get a little. An eye for an eye - that shit. And this boy hasn’t got anything, except a concussion and pneumonia. Yixing sighs.


"I shouldn't be doing this." He mutters to himself as he positions himself to lift the body up. "I don't know this guy. He could be fucking triad for all I know."


He looks down at the face now pressed against his chest and sighs heavily once again. This will definitely not be one of his better decisions, he can tell that now. He can't afford to have any attention drawn to him and whoever this guy is - druggie, mafioso or simple runaway - is sure to bring trouble.


Well, too late now. He can feel hot breath against his collar bone and the press of Blondie’s chest against his own as they breathe and he knows he’s not going to be able turn the stranger away now. He’s real now – not just a body at the side of the road but a person. Blondie.



Slowly Yixing begins the trek through the rain back to his flat, passenger nestled safely in his arms.



Xxx


In the harsh lighting of Yixing's bathroom the guy looks even younger. Innocent. Thick black lashes stand out starkly against white skin. He looks good, despite the blood matted into his hair and the bruises blossoming black and blue across his cheekbones.


"Hey." Yixing calls softly. "Hey." He taps the guy's cheeks. Once, twice. Just enough to get him to wake up.


The guy doesn’t stir beyond shivering harder and groaning a little louder. Yixing sighs. He doesn’t want to leave the Blondie to wake up on his own – there’s no way of telling where he could be injured, the black hoodie and jeans meaning that any blood stains would be impossible to spot, and Yixing can’t afford to wait. He’s not gone through all the effort of lugging an unconscious body back to his flat just to have it die on him. Nuh-uh. That’s the last thing he needs.


“Hey!” He says louder, tapping Blondie’s cheek a bit harder. “Wake up, sunshine.”


Blondie’s head lolls to the side before rising up slowly. As it does so the guy’s eyes flicker open and roll back into his head, whites flickering, before snapping back into their proper place. They are brown and hazy, as if unfocussed, fixed dead on Yixing’s face.


It’s disturbing.


It’s then he realises how close they are. Yixing’s hand is still hovering by Blondie’s cheek and he can pick out the crow’s feet starting to form at the corners of Blondie’s eyes. Slowly he sits back onto his haunches. He doesn’t want to frighten Blondie – he hates dealing with hysterical people.



Blondie doesn’t move, doesn’t so much as bat one of those overly long eyelashes. His eyes flicker over the bathroom – no doubt taking in the cracks in the tiles and the damp that refuses to ease no matter what Yixing does – before fixing themselves back on Yixing. He’s still shivering and Yixing tuts impatiently.



“You should take your clothes off.” He motions to Blondie’s sodden hoodie. “They’re wet.”


He gets a slow blink in response. The guy pulls absentmindedly at the hem of his hoodie as if he’s only just realised that it’s wet and Yixing gets the feeling that he’s never going to get Blondie out of his clothes if he doesn’t help.


“May I help?”


Yixing’s hands hover over Blondie’s, waiting for a sign. Blondie doesn’t move. The look in his eyes however, his eyes say ‘touch me and you’ll regret it’. Yixing barely holds back a snort. Big words for a man that can’t even pull his own jumper off.


“I’m Yixing.” He says. “I found you on the side of the road and I brought you here,” because I’m a soft-hearted fool “and I’d rather not have you die of pneumonia after all the effort I went to to drag you here.”


The words themselves are harsh but they come out a lot less firm than Yixing would have liked. Almost soft, joking. Yixing wasn’t joking. He was deathly serious but he can’t be bothered to care too much, not when Blondie’s lips twitch upwards momentarily in what might have been a smile.


“Go on then.” Blondie croaks out. He sounds like one of the old men that hang around the mah-jong boards – voices ruined by the god-knows-how many cigarettes they smoke a day. It surprises Yixing. It doesn’t suit Blondie’s pixie face at all. The teasing, lilting quality though – that definitely fits the impish glimmer in Blondie’s eyes.

Yixing rolls his eyes and moves to tug Blondie out of his clothes. It’s hard going. They’re wet and heavy, and the guy really is in no shape to help out at all. It feels like trying to peel the skin off of a giant life-size doll.


“You got a name, Blondie?” Yixing grunts as he finally tugs Blondie’s t-shirt over his head. Blondie’s skin is pale and dotted with red marks – likely from a bad beating – and some are even starting to blossom mauve but there’s no cuts, no knife wounds, much to Yixing’s relief.


There’s a pause.


“Lao Fan.” Blondie answers eventually. He winces as his arms drop back to his sides and Yixing makes a mental note to get Kyungsoo to check him over tomorrow.


Blondie – Lao Fan – doesn’t offer any more and Yixing doesn’t ask. He seems to have expended all the little energy he had and sits slumped against the bath tub, panting heavily. Yixing drapes a towel over his head and shoulders to keep him warm as he gets to work on the more difficult task of removing Lao Fan’s jeans, talking only to get him to shift to help in easing them down his legs.


Eventually the stranger sits nude except for the towel and his boxers. He looks out at Yixing from under his towel-robe with big, wide eyes and it makes Yixing want to snap at him because he looks so weak and rabbit-like and helpless. It makes Yixing want to take care of him and he hates it. He can’t afford that kind of thing.


“Get up.” He says roughly, tugging Blondie up until he’s draped over one of Yixing’s shoulders. Blondie shivers and Yixing realises that he himself is still in his rain-drenched clothes. He hadn’t noticed.


They stumble to Yixing’s bed and Yixing hastily bundles Blondie up in the covers. He had thought about the bath, but honestly he thinks Blondie is about to pass out and he doesn’t want him to drown. Bath can wait for tomorrow and Kyungsoo.


He’s proved right not ten minutes later when he himself climbs under his blankets. Lao Fan’s breathing is a bit laboured, but it’s the even breathing of someone very not-conscious. Yixing snorts and presses his back up against Lao Fan’s. If he’s going to have an impromptu houseguest, the least they can do is provide some heating.


Xxx



Lu Han wakes up in a strange man’s bed.

The bed is small – only a single – and they’re pressed up against each other everywhere. It makes Lu Han’s stomach churn.


He wants to push this stranger away but he’s hot, so hot he’s feverish and everything aches. Keeping his eyes open is too difficult, let alone escaping this stranger’s grasp.


How did he get here?


He can’t remember. Everything is hazy and dark and cold and he can’t remember. He can’t think. The panic comes pushing up in his gut but it’s swirly and hazy just like everything else and the blackness consumes him.


He drifts back into oblivion.


XXX


Yixing is used to waking up before the sun rises, so when he awakes it’s still dark. There’s an uncomfortable warmth at his side – sticky and sweaty where their skin touches – and Yixing pulls himself away grimacing. At least he can be assured that Blondie or whatever he said his name was is still alive. He’s snoring softly.


Ugh. Yixing needs a shower and some coffee to deal with this. Not necessarily in that order. Still in his slightly damp boxers he makes his way to the kitchen to flick on the kettle. He picks up the phone.


No new messages.


Nothing new there.


He presses three on speed dial and waits for Kyungsoo to pick up.


“What?” An irascible voice crackles over the line. “You do know what fucking time it is, right, Yixing?”


“Good morning to you too, Soo.” Yixing grins to himself as he pulls the coffee down from its shelf.

“Don’t call me Soo. And it’s five thirty, you heathen. This better be fucking good.”


“I wouldn’t say good…”


“Xing.” Kyungsoo says with a warning laced into his tone.


“Fine. I brought a guy back to my flat last night-,” Kyungsoo chokes on the other side of the line, “- not like that you perve- and he’s not in a good way. Found him passed out at the side of the road in the storm last night.”


“A beating?”


“That’s my best guess. Either way, could you come and have a look at him?”


A pause.


“You know it’s going to cost you.”


“Yeah.”


Kyungsoo sighs deeply. “I’ll be there in an hour. Try to keep him alive ‘til then.”


Xxx


Kyungsoo does not have the best bedside manner. No one goes to see him for that though. They go to him because he’s the best medic the slums has and Yixing’s willing to bet if he’d ever gone to university he’d be the best medic the city has, but kids from the slums don’t go to uni so it’s a moot point.


“Has he been sick?” Is the first thing Kyungsoo says to Yixing as he barges through the doorway into Yixing’s flat.


“No, don’t think so.” Yixing answers immediately, too used to Kyungsoo’s way to be startled. “There was none on his clothing and he’s not thrown up since he’s been here. He’s in the bedroom, by the way.”


Kyungsoo gives him a brief nod and scurries off in the direction of the bedroom with a look in his eye that would frighten even the hardiest of men. Yixing snickers. Blondie is about to get a very rude awakening.


Soon enough a frightened yelp can be heard from the direction of the bedroom. Yixing snickers into his coffee. He should probably go and make sure Kyungsoo’s not frightening the poor boy half to death but well… if Blondie’s well enough to yelp he can survive a few more minutes of Soo’s ‘treatment’.


When he finally saunters his way into the bedroom he finds Blondie shirtless and Kyungsoo listening very intently through a stethoscope to Lao Fan’s chest. The light streams through the paper-thin curtains and onto Blondie’s hair, making it glow in ways that look like Lao Fan has glow stick head. It’s not making his skin any less grey-green looking either.


“How’s he looking, Doc?” He says, leaning against the wall with his mug of coffee cradled in both hands. “Not likely to die today?”


Kyungsoo glowers at him to be quiet. He finishes his inspection in silence (and in his own time, as Kyungsoo does) before he turns to Yixing.


“I don’t think he’s got any internal bleeding, so count yourself lucky. He’s not dying any time soon. His lungs sound a bit weak, but that’s probably partly due to the bruising. He’s got a slight fever too – I’d keep an eye on that.”


“Yessir. Anything else?”


“Keep him warm and well fed, and give him one these every three to four hours. They’ll help with the pain and the fever.” Kyungsoo places a small, inconspicuous pill bottle into Yixing’s outstretched hand as he brushes past Yixing on his way to the door.


Ah, the other reason everyone always goes to Kyungsoo. He always has the best drugs. (No one asks how he comes by them though. Never ask.)


“I’ll see myself out.” Kyungsoo calls from down the hallway. “And you owe me one!”


“Yeah, yeah.” Yixing yells. He doesn’t move from where he’s leaning against the wall.


“You’re welcome!” He hears, and then the slam of the front door.


“Isn’t that good news? You aren’t dying.” He grins at Blondie. “You can be on your merry way, do whatever it was you were doing before this whole thing happened.”


Lao Fan looks like he’s about to vomit.


“Please let me stay.” Blondie pleads, eyes desperate and feverish. “I have nowhere else to go.”


Yixing looks doubtful at that. Blondie certainly doesn’t look homeless to him – he’s yet to take on that sunken, hungry look those who live on the streets get.


“Where were you staying before?” He asks. “You should go back there.”

“I can’t.” Blondie says desperately. “It was a hostel, they won’t take me without any money. I don’t have a job, all that I had was on me last night.”


“No family? No friends?” Seriously, how much clearer can be say he doesn’t want the guy to stay? He’s done his good Samaritan bit now, thank you very much and now he would like to be free of any more responsibility – not least because having a stranger round the house means he’s a thousand times more likely to be caught.


Blondie either doesn’t seem to pick up on his reluctance or doesn’t care, however.


“Got kicked out.” He supplies. “And all my friends aren’t from around here. I’ve got no one. Please.


The whole conversation Lao Fan has been looking dead into Yixing’s eyes, but as soon as he starts talking about his ‘home’ his head drops forward towards the floor. It’s telling. So his home life embarrasses him? Maybe Yixing can use that.


“Did he beat you?”


“What?” Lao Fan looks up, startled.


“Your father, did he beat you?” Yixing repeats slowly.


“No!” Blondie says, outraged. “Of course not!”


“So why are you so ashamed to talk about your family, huh? Mother’s a prostitute? Don’t worry, I won’t judge you for it; it’s pretty common round here.”


“My mother is not a prostitute!” Blondie protests.


“Drug dealer dad? Alcoholic? Junkie mum?” Yixing grins to himself. This really is fun. “Come on, Lao Fan, just tell me. Otherwise I’m going to keep on guessing and I really could do this all day.”


“I’m gay!” Lao Fan cries. “I’m gay, alright. That’s why I was kicked out.”


Suddenly Yixing realises he’s trembling under the blankets. The guy’s eyes are wide and watery as they stare at Yixing and it can only mean one thing. Lao Fan is terrified.


“Your parents kicked you out for being gay?” He asks slowly. Blondie gives him a shaky nod.


“I don’t care if you’re gay.” He says bluntly. It’d be a bit hypocritical of him to care.


“You don’t?” Blondie doesn’t quite look like he believes it.


“I’m bi.” Yixing tells him. “So no, I don’t care.”


Blondie looks stunned and Yixing wants to snort. What, did Lao Fan think he was the only gay man out there? Silence falls over them. Lao Fan still seems to be processing that he’s not being hunted with a pitchfork and Yixing just watches him. There’s something about Lao Fan that seems off – his hair, though a shocking colour, is well dyed and soft for a start. Possibly a salon job. There’s this air about him that screams different. The way he speaks – all perfect round tones, no accent at all – Beijing standard. The way he makes himself vulnerable without a second thought and trusts that Yixing won’t take advantage.


“You aren’t from around here, are you?” Yixing breaks the silence and Lao Fan looks like he’s been caught. “How did you end up in the slums?”


“It’s stupid, but I just wanted to be as far away from them as possible, so I got on the first bus that passed and ended up here. Pretty dumb, huh?” Lao Fan’s smile is self-deprecating and acid and it gnaws away at something in Yixing’s stomach.


Is it pity? Or compassion? Yixing can’t really remember what those feel like anymore.


“Oh for fuck’s sake. You can stay. But only until you can find a job.” Yixing grumps.


Blondie’s smile, even with the ashen, sweaty skin and fever, is enough to blind Yixing. It’s enough to make him not care at that moment that later he’s going to be regretting this decision later.


If taking him in is mistake number one, letting him stay is mistake number two.

Xxx


Living with Blondie – Lao Fan, whatever – isn’t very different to Yixing living alone in the beginning. He mostly sleeps. He wakes up to eat and relieve himself and that’s about it for the first week. Yixing has to remember to get more groceries when he goes out, but that’s about it. Nothing drastic.


Things do change though. It’s inevitable. It starts with Yixing coming back to Lao Fan curled up on the sofa in one of Yixing’s hoodies and too-short sweatpants reading a book. Yixing’s favourite book. It’s worn and the cover’s faded from the amount of times he’s re-read it. He doesn’t like to see it in someone else’s hands.


“I’m sorry.” Lao Fan says out of the blue. “I was just bored and it’s one of my favourites. I’d been meaning to reread it for years, but I never got round to it. Forgive me?”


“Forgive you for what?” Yixing mutters as he dumps the groceries in the kitchen. Behind him he can hear Lao Fan ease himself off Yixing’s creaky couch and make his way into the kitchen.


“Borrowing the book without your permission.” Blondie says as he starts picking food out of the brown paper bags and stuffing them in cupboards. It’s weird to think he knows where everything goes. Yixing has never lived with someone before.


“It’s fine.” He replies shortly.


Lao Fan laughs. “Yes, that’s why you’re looking at the broccoli like you want it to burst into flames. I’m sorry. Next time I’ll ask.”


Yixing looks up from the broccoli to look at Lu Han. He’s still putting things away from the shopping bags, focussed completely on whatever he has in his hand, which allows Yixing to get a good look at his profile.


It’s strong. A sharp jawline contrasts with his little pixie nose and it’s cute. Yixing looks away quickly. He shouldn’t be thinking that his freeloader is cute.


The atmosphere in the kitchen is light, not awkward at all and somehow Yixing feels both uneasy and comfortable at the same time. This is strange. He shouldn’t feel so comfortable around a complete stranger but he can’t help himself. The aura around Lao Fan is very inviting somehow. Warm.


“I was thinking,” Lao Fan starts, “about looking for a job. Does the place where you work have any vacancies?”


Yixing has never told Lao Fan where he works. It’s not that Lao Fan doesn’t know – Yixing is out every day from eight til five, it’s pretty obvious he’s got some type of work – but it strikes Yixing again how naïve Lao Fan is. Here in the slums professional gangster can count as work, but here Lao Fan is asking if he can join Yixing’s work without even knowing what Yixing does for a living.


Lao Fan is really lucky Yixing just works in the repair shop downtown.


“Got any experience fixing cars?” Yixing asks.


“No.” Lao Fan says, with a grin. “But I make a pretty mean espresso?”


Against his will Yixing laughs. It’s not a mean laugh, it’s a genuine one. He almost doesn’t remember what that sounds like. “That’s not going to get you far on this side of town, Blondie. Got any real skills?”


“I know a bit about computers.” Lao Fan offers as he takes the jar out of Yixing’s hands and places it on the top shelf. “Apart from that, not much I’m afraid.”


Yixing hums thoughtfully. This kid is useless. How old did he say he was again? How had he survived up to now if he has no skills? “To be honest I don’t think I know anywhere that’s hiring, but the best way to get a job around here is just to ask. Go into shops, see if they’ve got an opening.”


“Okay.” Blondie says. “I’ll go while you’re at work.”


The corners of his eyes wrinkle up when he smiles, Yixing notices. It’s nice. It takes away from the ethereal elf thing Blondie’s got going on. Makes him look more human.


“Okay.” He replies dumbly.


“Okay.” Lao Fan says again.


Then they are grinning at each other over the brown paper grocery bags and Yixing has no idea why. It’s dumb and silly and Yixing can’t remember the last time he felt this relaxed.


Xxx


Lao Fan’s promise to find work is completed in record time. He apparently manages to use his efl-powers to charm the sweet old lady that runs the local grocers that she needs a shop boy to help her with the heavy lifting and comes back home to Yixing with a smile, holding his ratty green apron proudly.


“She said she’d pay me cash-in-hand too,” He beams, “So I can stop wearing your clothes soon.”


Yixing pouts a little at that. It was fun seeing Lao Fan wander around in trousers too short for him and shirts that were too baggy.


Very soon they fall into a routine that’s almost sickeningly domestic – they wake up in the morning, Lao Fan on the sofa and Yixing on the bed. Lao Fan makes coffee while Yixing takes a quick shower and then Yixing makes breakfast while Lao Fan showers, because while Lao Fan’s coffee was possibly heaven sent, his cooking is enough to kill small animals. Yixing knows this because he tried to feed it to the pigeons and they’d keeled over as soon as the food had touched their gullets.


They eat breakfast in silence usually before heading out together. Yixing always ends up walking Lao Fan to the grocery shop where he works because it’s on the way to the garage and he doesn’t quite trust that Lao Fan won’t get mugged again. At least if they see him with Yixing most people will know to leave well alone.


The journey usually consists of Lao Fan rambling on about one thing or another – last time it was how to make the perfect latte, this time it’s how amazing that new boy group sound – and Yixing joins in whenever he feels like it. Sometimes he’s content to just listen (he really knows nothing about pop music, but hearing Lao Fan gush over how hot the boys are in such and such a group is really unbearably cute) and sometimes he’ll add his two cents. (Like how the new Jaguar really isn’t better than the Mercedes, thank you very much.) Lao Fan doesn’t seem to care either way. He just seems to be happy that Yixing walks with him.


After work Yixing will pop by to pick Lao Fan up as he closes (often carry groceries he’s picked out for them) then it’s a repeat of their morning walk back to their flat. (He’s even started calling it their flat in his mind. He must be going mad.) Yixing makes dinner, Lao Fan washes up, and then they settle down on the sofa to read. Lao Fan had gone exploring one day and found a second hand book shop tucked away in an alley and since then has been spending probably half his pay on books even though Yixing keeps reminding him that they really don’t have anywhere to put all these books.


It’s all very strange to Yixing. If you’d told him two months ago that he’d be living in some domestic idyll with a relative stranger he would have laughed in your face. Now it’s getting hard to remember what life was even like before Lu Han fell into it.


It’s scary. It’s most scary that he never wants it to end.


Xxx


Yixing knows he’s going nowhere in life. He has no qualifications, no training, and all he’s good at are cars. He’s going to be earning the same wage for the rest of his life if he’s lucky enough to keep his job at all and it’s shit.


He’s from the slums. Born and raised. And in the slums he has seen the worst of everything. Poverty, prostitution, pain. It’s all here, plain as day. Yixing has lived here twenty four years now and he knows he’s never going to escape because he knows the way the world works and he knows that the people at the top are never going to let him escape. They want to keep him here, downtrodden and quiet, too busy fighting to survive to make waves.


Well Yixing won’t have it. What gives men born rich the right to use the poor to make themselves richer? Nothing except the power of money. So Yixing takes it away from them.


He’d started small, petty theft really. Then he’d moved on to banks and armoured cars when he’d met Tao at work. The guy was from the country, an expert at Kung Fu, and had an axe to grind with the boys upstairs. Destroying a family’s livelihood to make profit can do that.


Soon after Minseok had found him. He wasn’t like Tao, tall and imposing, but something about him had screamed determination and power. He was a hacking expert and had promised to bring them to a whole new level of robbery.


And so their team had been formed. Minseok the brains, Tao and Yixing the brawn. Together they acted out a twisted parody of Robin Hood – stealing from the rich and giving it to the poor – and honestly it’s the only thing that’s kept Yixing going the last couple of years. Until Lao Fan.


But now Lao Fan’s here Yixing hasn’t been able to sneak out as much. He manages, especially on days when Lao Fan is especially tired, but he hasn’t been by to see Minseok nearly as much as he should. The man is starting to pry.


He knows Yixing brought a guy home. He doesn’t know he’s still there. He’d be furious if he knew which is why Yixing isn’t planning on telling him. What Minseok doesn’t know can’t hurt him.


It’ll be fine. Lao Fan sleeps like the dead after work at the shop – it’s like he’s never done a day of manual labour in his life – so the chances of him waking up are slim. Yixing always changes out of his Robin Hood clothes before he gets home anyway. It’s just the bow that gives him away.



It won’t be fine, and Yixing knows it. But he can’t give up Lao Fan and he can’t give up being Lay, his fat cat destroying alter ego, so this is the way it has to be. He knows it’s going to end badly. He just can’t bring himself to care.


xxx


“Who’s the girl?” Minseok demands, not looking away from his monitor, the next time Yixing lets himself into his flat.


“Nice to see you too, Minseok.” Yixing dumps his coat over Minseok’s sofa. “And there’s no girl.”


“You’re all smiley and shit, there’s definitely a girl.”


Yixing snorts. Minseok narrows his eyes.


“Or a guy.” He says cleverly. Yixing rolls his eyes, but something must tip Minseok off because the next words out of his mouth are, “Oh my god, it’s a guy isn’t it.”


“It’s not a guy. There is no guy.” Yixing negates firmly, but Minseok is looking away from his computer screen now. His gaze is fixed on Yixing like a hawk to a rabbit and Yixing’s stomach sinks.


“So who is it?” Minseok asks. He doesn’t wait for an answer. “It’s got to be someone new… It’s not me or Tao because just no, so it must be someone you met recently. A new guy at work?” Minseok looks him over, scrutinising. “No, not your type. You like the damsel in distress type.”


Yixing chokes on nothing. “What the fuck, Minnie? ‘Damsels in distress’?”


“Goes with your whole, Robin Hood, gotta right the wrongs thing.” Minseok replies cheekily. Then his eyes light up. “Oh, I’ve got it. That guy you saved, the blond one. It’s him isn’t it? I’m right, tell me I’m right.”


Yixing stares at him, mouth agape. “How did you know that?”


“I’m a genius.” Minseok says haughtily. “It’s not my fault you’re too blind to see it most of the time.”


“Yeah, yeah.” Yixing rolls his eyes.


Suddenly Minseok sobers. “He’s living with you, isn’t he?”


“Yes.”


“For how long?”


“Since I found him.”


“Since you found him?” Minseok shouts. “Are you crazy? It’s a miracle he hasn’t found out yet! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”


Yixing throws his hands up in defeat. “I know, I know. It’s stupid of me, but I-”


“But nothing, Zhang Yixing. This is all going to go tits up, mark my words.” Minseok warns.


“I know Minnie, but what can I do? I can’t give this up and I can’t kick him out, so what do I do?” Yixing hates how helpless he sounds. He’d never have been like this before Lao Fan, but Lao Fan has changed so much.


Minseok’s angry look softens.


“Pray that Lady Luck is on your side, my friend. I’ve never seen you like this, not with anyone so you better be sure this guy is worth it because it’s my arse in the firing line too.” His tone is soft and joking but Yixing can hear the serious undercurrent to Minseok’s words.


Don’t fuck up. He’s saying. Don’t fuck up, because if Lay goes down, we all go down with him.


xxx


Three weeks later and Yixing is suddenly very aware of the fact he is standing in his living room with a bow in his hand and Lao Fan is looking at him like he’s a criminal. It shouldn’t hurt. He is a criminal. Everyone around here is. He just got used to Lao Fan looking at him like he was something good.


“I won’t tell.” Is the first thing that comes out of Lao Fan’s mouth.


“How do I know that?” Yixing’s grip on his bow tightens.


“I owe you my life, Yixing.”


“That’s not enough.”


Lao Fan’s eyes widen to comical proportions. “How much deeper can a debt get?”


Yixing doesn’t know whether this naivety is real or just a fabrication, an imitation. Either way, it’s not gonna work on Yixing.


“Except you’re alive, aren’t you? You’ve got no need of me anymore.”


“You said it’s an eye for an eye around here, right?” Lao Fan says desperately. “So you do something for me, and I won’t tell. Deal?”


Lay lets out a short, sharp bark of laughter. “Of course.”


“Hey.” Lao Fan’s face twists up angrily. “You’re the one who won’t trust me to keep this a secret, even though I owe you my life. You’re the one making this into something ugly. Not me.”


“Just tell me what you want.” Yixing has no time for Lao Fan’s mind games right now. He needs to do this while he’s still Lay – while he’s still ruthless, before Yixing has time to come sinking back through and gets sucked in by Lao Fan’s big, wide innocent eyes.


“I’m looking for someone.” Lao Fan says. “Someone very important to me.”


“I didn’t take you for one set on revenge.”


“He’s my brother.” He corrects himself immediately. “Half-brother. He’s six. I don’t know his name, but I know his mother’s. Help me find him.” It’s supposed to be a demand, but it comes out more as a plea and it strikes Yixing once again that Lao Fan is not from this neighbourhood.


It’s not much. Lao Fan could still get rid of him once he’d got what he wanted. After all, he’d have to keep Yixing’s secret forever. A boy could be found in a couple of weeks. If he’s still alive.


“I’ll leave after that, you’ll never see or hear from me again. I promise.” Lao Fan begs. “I’ll be far away and you won’t have to worry about me keeping your secret because even if I were to tell it,” Yixing’s scowl darkens, “which I won’t - nobody would know you anyway!”


“So that’s why you’re really here. Not because your dad kicked you out but to find this kid?”


Lao Fan shrugs. “I wasn’t lying about that. My father really doesn’t approve of that kind of thing. I more ran away than I was kicked out though.”


“Your dad sounds like a right piece of work.”


Lao Fan shifts awkwardly on his feet. It’s obvious he doesn’t feel comfortable hearing his father talked about that way, even if his silence probably means he agrees with Yixing.


“So is that a yes?” He says instead of acknowledging Yixing’s statement.


“It’s a yes.” He sets his bow down on the table beside him. The noise it makes against the wood makes Lao Fan flinch. “We’ll start tomorrow.”



Xxx


The next day Yixing phones Minseok. “I’ve got something for you to work on.”


There’s a deep sigh on the other end of the line. “Why do I get the feeling you’ve landed yourself in trouble and now I’m the one having to bail you out?”


“I need you to find someone.”


“Who? A shady business man? A contact for a job? I’m telling you though, I’m not dealing with the Mafia. Not even for you.”


Yixing snorts. “I don’t think this guy’s a Mafioso, Seok. He’s six.”


“You’re wanting me to find a kid? Jesus Yixing, tell me you didn’t knock some bird up.”


“I didn’t knock some bird up.” Yixing deadpans.


“That’s hardly reassuring.” Minseok grumbles.


Yixing sighs. This is going nowhere and he knows it won’t get anywhere until he tells Minseok what he wants to know. Fucking Minseok and his need to nosy in all of Yixing’s business like an overbearing grandma.


“You know the guy I took in.”


“Aha! I knew it had something to do with him. You’re getting soft in your old age, XingXing.” Minseok teases. He doesn’t seem to realise that Lao Fan knows about their little operation and Yixing breathes a sigh of relief.


“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” He says, more blithely than he feels. “He wants to find his kid brother. Half-brother. Something. You think you can help with that?”


There’s a pause on the other end of the line. Yixing knows Minseok isn’t thinking about whether he’s going to accept – he had him from the moment he told him he needed to do something. No, this is more sinister than that.


This is Minseok being his mother. This is Minseok working out how he can meet Lao Fan to make sure he’s good enough for Yixing. This is not good.


“You should bring him in.” Here he goes. “I’ll need to talk to him, find out what he knows.”


“And you can’t do that over the phone?”


“I could do,” Minseok admits easily, “But I’m curious as to who’s got you so wrapped around their little finger that you’re calling in a favour from me.”


Yixing groans. “And this is the only way you’ll do it?”

“Yup!” Minseok says brightly. “Got it in one.”


“Fine.” Yixing replies through gritted teeth. “We can be there in a couple of hours. Happy?”


“Ecstatic.” Yixing can hear the victory in Minseok’s voice and has a sinking feeling in his chest that this is really not going to be a meeting he’ll enjoy.


Xxx


The walk over to Minseok’s is deathly silent. It’s not one of the silences that Yixing enjoys, warm and cocooning. This is frosty and Yixing hates it. He knows Lao Fan is pissed at him for not trusting him but there’s nothing he can do about that. It’s how he was raised, it’s all he knows. And Lao Fan seems to be forgetting that he is really a stranger to Yixing.


“Minseok can be a little… abrupt.” Yixing warns him when they reach the door.


“Minseok?” Lao Fan spaces out for a second.


“My friend.” Yixing clarifies. “The computer expert I told you about.”


“Ah, right.”


Yixing lets himself and Lao Fan in and then closes the door behind himself.


“Minseok!” He calls. “Might as well get this over with.” He mutters under his breath.


There’s a shuffling sound from the kitchen and then Minseok’s little round head pokes round the corner. “Hi!” He chirps. His eyes widen as he takes a look at Lao Fan. “This is him?” He asks incredulously.

Yixing rolls his eyes again. “Minseok, this is Lao Fan, Lao Fan this is Minseok. I’m sorry, he’s a little strange.”

Lao Fan looks a little worse for wear and Yixing is hoping Minseok hasn’t scared him too much. He’s been relatively polite, as he goes.

“Ah,” Minseok says. “Lao Fan, was it?” There’s a strange intonation to that sentence that Yixing doesn’t quite catch the meaning of but it’s over before he can blink. “I’ve just made some coffee, would you like some?”

“I’d love some.” Lao Fan says, still reserved.


“Coming right up!” Minseok’s head disappears back into the kitchen. There’s some clanking – Tao’s probably put all Minseok’s cups on the top shelf again – and then Minseok reappears with two cups of coffee and one of tea. He hands them out and motions for them all to take a seat.


“So tell me about your brother.” Minseok says as he sips his coffee. “What do you know?”


“Not very much.” Lao Fan says apologetically. “He’s my half-brother by my father and his mother is called ‘Oh Chanmi’. I was lead to believe she was a prostitute, but I don’t know whether that’s true. He should be about six years of age by now.”


Minseok hums thoughtfully. “Would he have your father’s name?”


Lao Fan shakes his head. “My father would never have allowed him to take the family name, so he must have his mother’s.”


“Do you know what part of the slums they lived in?”


“I had an address in my wallet, but it got stolen. The general address was South Side, I think. Orchard lane?”


“That’s right slap bang in the red light district, so I don’t think you’re wrong about his mother being a prostitute.” Minseok says encouragingly. “I’ll put some feelers out and see what I can find. I’m not promising anything, mind you.”


Lao Fan’s face lights up. “So you’ll do it? Thank you, thank you. Even if you don’t find anything, this is still more than I’ve managed to do up ‘til now. How can I repay you?”


“Don’t worry about it, Lao Fan.” Yixing says from the other side of the sofa. “I’ve sorted it. You’ve got nothing he wants, anyway.”


“Are you sure?” Lao Fan worries his bottom lip. “I owe you so much already.”


“What did we say?” Yixing reminds him. “You don’t owe me anything.” He’s very aware of the fact that Minseok is listening very carefully to their conversation and he doesn’t want him to know that Lao Fan knows he’s Lay. “I’m sorry Minseok, we’re going to have to go, we still have work.”


“Sure,” Minseok says, smiling widely. “I’ll let you know if I find anything.”


“Thank you again.” Lao Fan bows to Minseok as they make their way to the door and Yixing has to grit his teeth because he does not want those two spending any more time together. Who knows what Minseok could weasel out of Lao Fan in time.

“Oh, it was my pleasure.” Minseok says easily. “And by the way Yixing, I definitely approve.”


Yixing feels his face grow hot and quickly pushes Lao Fan out the door, ignoring his whines of ‘what did he mean by that?’ ‘what does he approve of?’. He hates Minseok.


Xxx


One week later, after a week of a nervous and jittery Lao Fan playing on his nerves, Minseok calls.


He has news, he says, but he doesn’t know if Lao Fan will like it.


Yixing quickly calls Lao Fan over and puts the phone on speakerphone. The boy’s name is Oh Sehun, Minseok tells them. He’s six years old and is currently residing in the South Side Orphanage for Boys. His mother passes away a year ago. Suspected suicide.


At this point Yixing can see Lao Fan fighting back tears. He’s such an empathetic, kind person and Yixing wonders again how people like him can still exist in this world.


Minseok gives them an address for the orphanage and a warning that it isn’t the nicest place (which makes Lao Fan tear up all over again). Lao Fan can’t stop thanking him and telling him that he will never be able to repay him for this which has Yixing feeling quite uncomfortable. He ends the call abruptly.


“I’ll book some time off then.” He says.


“You’ll come with me?” Lao Fan says incredulously. “You’d do that?”


“Of course I would.” Yixing replies gruffly. “I said I’d help you find him, didn’t I? I’ll see it through to the end.”


“Thank you.” Lao Fan says, reaching over to squeeze Yixing’s hand. His fingers are soft and warm and Yixing shivers despite himself. “You’re a good person Yixing.”

Yixing wishes he could believe that himself.


xxx


They turn up at the orphanage on a rather dreary day. It doesn’t help the already rather worn-down building any and out of the corner of his eye he can see it clearly written on Lao Fan’s face how appalling he thinks it is.


“Let’s go inside then, shall we?” He says, stuffing his hands against his pockets against the chill.


Lao Fan gives him a determined nod.


They walk up to the office together. The woman running the place is neither friendly nor helpful, but she does know immediately who Lao Fan is talking about.


“Oh Sehun.” She says, voice old and cracked with hardship. “A troublemaker, that one.”


“He’s my brother, Ma’am.” Lao Fan replies firmly, “and I would like to see him.”


The hag sighs, and mutters, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Follow me.”


They follow her down what seems like a labyrinth of corridors until they come to a rather dismal room. It appears to be an attempt at a play room – there’s a few broken toys about the place and scribbles all over the walls. Yixing can see Lao Fan try to hid his disgust.


“Oh Sehun!” The woman shouts. “Stop playing with Jongin, there’s a man who’d like to meet you.”


A sullen looking child near the centre of the room sat next to another child with wide eyes shouts back. “Don’t wanna. I’m playing with Jongin.”


Yixing sees the tick in the woman’s forehead and he can see that she’s about to go over there and physically haul Sehun to Lao Fan if she has to, but Lao Fan places a gentle hand on her arm and says, “Don’t worry ma’am, I can go to him.”


He walks through the crowds of children like a swan, floating above them all. Maybe he really is an elf. He crouches down next to Sehun and the other boy, Jongin, and smiles at them.


“Hi.” He says. “My name is Lu Han, what’re yours?”


(Had Yixing heard correctly? It sounded like Lao Fan had said his name wrong for a second there – it’s hard to hear over the hubbub of the room.)


“I’m Sehun.” The sullen one says. “And this is Jongin. He’s my best friend.” Jongin looks very pleased with this statement.


“It’s very nice to meet you, Sehun and Jongin.” Lao Fan continues. “May I play with you for a while?”


The two boys look at each other, clearly having some kind of conversation only they themselves can understand. It strikes Yixing then they probably have never been asked what they want, only told.


The quieter one, Jongin nods.


“Really?” Lao Fan’s smile widens. “Thank you.”


Yixing watches them play from the door way. The crone has long since gone off somewhere, likely to skin cats or something, so he stands alone. Lao Fan is brilliant with them. He treats them like people, not like they’re stupid. He lets them play with his blond hair, laughing in delight as they run their hands through it and becomes horse for them to ride. He’s the image of a perfect father and Yixing thinks Sehun will be very lucky to have a brother like Lao Fan.


As play time ends and the crone comes back to take them back to the exit, Lao Fan leans down and asks Sehun a very important question.


“Sehun,” he says, “I haven’t been entirely honest with you. I have come here today not just to play with you, but because I am your brother and I would like it very much if you came and lived with me. Would you like to come and live with me, Sehun?”


Sehun glances over at Jongin standing next to him. “Can Jongin come too?” He asks, voice quiet and pleading. Now it’s clear they’re related – Lao Fan has the same puppy eyes as his brother.


Yixing would have expected no, but Lao Fan doesn’t even hesitate. “If I am allowed to adopt you both I would be very happy to have you both come and live with me.” He turns to Jongin. “Is that okay, Jongin? Would you like to come and live with me and Sehun if I can adopt you both?”


“Yes.” Jongin says shyly, intertwining his fingers with Sehun’s.

Lao Fan positively beams. “Then that’s what I’ll do.” He turns to the hag behind him and asks, straight out, “Can I adopt them both?”


The crone looks surprised, but shrugs. “Sure. The both of them are more trouble than they’re worth, but if you want them both you can have them.”


Yixing grits his teeth. This woman is talking about children as if they were unruly dogs to be put down. Lao Fan looks just as outraged, but swallows down any protest. He needs to be on her good side to get her to sign the paperwork.


“Goodbye Sehun, Jongin. I’ll see you again soon.” Lao Fan says cheerily. “I have to go sort some stuff out with Madam Wu, and I won’t be able to take you home today, but I’ll be back, okay?”


The children nod, but it doesn’t seem like it’s sunk in for them yet. As Yixing suspects it won’t for a while. These children are probably used to not getting what they want, as sad as that is, so they no longer expect good things to happen to them. It makes Yixing so angry. He wishes he could take them all home, but he doesn’t even know if they’ll have space for Sehun and Jongin in their flat, let alone the hundreds of children here.


(But he’s forgetting that Lao Fan doesn’t plan to stay. He planned to leave as soon as he found his brother, so where does that leave Yixing?)


The paperwork is frighteningly easy. The hag doesn’t ask them for any proof of identification, nothing to show Lao Fan is really Sehun’s brother, she doesn’t even ask where they’re going to live. It just seems like she’s happy to be rid of them, which is terrible. Lao Fan looks like he’s warring between being glad and wanting to attack this woman for being so callous, and Yixing is about in the same place.


“You can pick them up anytime.” She says disinterestedly. “I’ll get them to pack up their stuff.”


“Sure.” Lao Fan fakes a smile. “I’ll be over tomorrow then.”


“Whenever.” She replies.


They are shown out with the same warm attitude as with which they were received and they leave with very mixed feelings about the whole thing, though soon enough Lao Fan is gushing about how cute his ‘two new brothers’ are.


It’s not enough to settle the unease that sits, heavy and leaden, in Yixing’s gut.


xxx


When they get back to the flat and into the door Lao Fan still hasn’t stopped talking about his brother and his friend, Jongin. Yixing knows that for Lao Fan it was love at first sight and it’s evident now more than ever.


Lao Fan’s eyes are shining with happiness through the gloom and he looks so cute. He’s looked cute all day – happiness really is a good look on him – and Yixing can’t resist the urge to lean forward and press a simple kiss to Lao Fan’s lips.


It’s over far too quickly. Yixing pulls back because he’s not sure Lao Fan wants this – whether he’s felt the same pull Yixing has – and the look on Lao Fan’s face as he does so really isn’t reassuring him. It’s inscrutable, torn somewhere between fear and – wait, was that desire or are Yixing’s eyes playing tricks on him?


As Yixing stands there awkwardly, trying to figure out what Lao Fan’s expression means, Lao Fan places his hand on Yixing’s cheek. Yixing freezes. Is this really happening?


Lao Fan leans forward, eyes downcast to stare fixatedly at Yixing’s mouth. His eyelashes stand out thick and black against his cheeks. He presses his lips to Yixings. Once, twice. Their lips part, tongues touch.

They pull away minutes, could be hours later, gasping for breath with lips puffy and red. Yixing thinks he really likes this look on Lao Fan.


Yixing gently presses himself further into Lu Han's space. They are so, so close but not touching. The heat that radiates of Lao Fan’s body is leeching into Yixing’s t-shirt and Yixing wants so very badly to close those few millimetres and feel every inch of Lao Fan against his skin.


"Lao Fan," He says breathily. "Have you ever done this before?"


Lao Fan turns his head away, embarrassed. "Not with a boy," He whispers and Yixing is struck again by how beautiful this boy is.


"There's no shame in that," Yixing tells him. "You don't have to be perfect with me."

NEXT


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