Translated by zellyfish of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
His father’s study was not the best place to be alone in, so Zhang Jue brought Chen Boqiao back to his bedroom.
Zhang Jue’s bedroom was a spacious room on the west side of the third floor.
When they were having dinner in the evening, the housing staff had come in to tidy the place up. They’d secured the curtains to the sides of the wall to let the soft evening light flow through the window. There was a tall cypress tree right outside the floor length window; the gardener had trimmed it neatly and placed a landscape light between the branches to make the room brighter.
There was a simple bed against the west wall of the room, and the bed sheets and pillowcase were all in a gray color. On the other side of the room, a small sofa was placed together with the coffee table and a small cabinet. The cat plushie Zhang Jue had fished out from the hidden compartment of his suitcase was resting on the cabinet.
Chen Boqiao saw it immediately when he came in. Turning his head, he smiled at Zhang Jue. “I was worried you’d never find it.”
Zhang Jue watched as Chen Boqiao walked over to the cabinet and picked it up. “I didn’t at first.”
Zhang Jue could only see Chen Boqiao’s profile from where he was standing, and he was looking down at the toy as if he was checking its wellbeing. His fingers around the plushie were slender, yet strong from his knuckles to the tip of his fingers.
“And it was flattened when I took it out,” Zhang Jue told him.
“I see.” Chen Boqiao sat down and rubbed his thumb against the shiny plastic nose of the toy. He looked up at Zhang Jue. “The suitcase was too packed, I couldn’t find anywhere else to put it.”
Zhang Jue thought about how the plushie was crushed when it slid out from the suitcase, and hinted at Chen Boqiao, “If it was that full, you could just not put it in.”
“I could,” said Chen Boqiao, eyebrow raised, “but some people would overthink.”
“Some people’s” hint was not taken, but he was not upset. He stood by the door and looked at Chen Boqiao from a distance. He could not help but purse his lips and smile sheepishly. Chen Boqiao raised his chin towards Zhang Jue and said the phrase he had used many times before, “Come over here.”
Zhang Jue walked towards him, and he placed his arm loosely around Zhang Jue’s waist. He pulled Zhang Jue onto his lap and looked up at him. He stared at Zhang Jue for a few seconds and quietly explained, “It’s not like it’d be destroyed after being flattened. After a while it’ll go back into shape.”
“I was thinking,” He looked at Zhang Jue peacefully, “Zhang Jue had mustered his courage to give me a gift, if he had to hide it himself, it would be too sad.”
Chen Boqiao’s arm around Zhang Jue tightened, so Zhang Jue leaned down and closed his eyes.
Chen Boqiao intertwined their hands. His fingertips were caressing the back of Zhang Jue’s hand, tracing his veins, and closing in around Zhang Jue’s hand like it was a cherished treasure.
Zhang Jue’s lips were moist from Chen Boqiao’s pecks, and he felt that his heart rate was fluctuating. Suddenly, the collar of the sweater that had been covering his neck was pulled away. Chen Boqiao’s hand behind his back had rested on his scar before he knew it, drawing a pattern with his fingertip down from the scar.
Zhang Jue’s wound had healed, but it was not ready for the scar removal yet. The scar was around five centimeters long, and sprawled across the back of his neck along with dots from where the suture was. Zhang Jue could not see it himself, but from the reaction of his mother, he guessed that it was scary and ugly.
Chen Boqiao did not spend long touching his scar, he just used his fingertip to touch it once over, and then put down his hand to kiss Zhang Jue on his chin lightly. He said, “It’s a little shorter than I thought it would be.”
Zhang Jue leaned away from Chen Boqiao, looked at him, and then opened his mouth. “I’ve gotten an appointment with the cosmetic surgeon.”
He observed Chen Boqiao’s facial expression and told him, “He said it could be removed, but it would take a while more for it to be ready.”
Chen Boqiao stared intently into Zhang Jue’s eyes, and after a moment, he told him, “If you care about it, then remove it.”
The room fell into a quiet lull. Chen Boqiao reached a hand into Zhang Jue’s sweater and placed it on Zhang Jue’s still-flat belly, touching it tentatively. Chen Boqiao’s hand was calloused, but very warm. He looked very serious with his eyes down, like he was feeling the little surprise he brought to Zhang Jue that has yet to grow up inside him.
Or perhaps he was recalling the night in North America and the way they had lay together in bed.
“Zhang Jue.” He called Zhang Jue again, and the latter answered with a soft noise while looking into his eyes.
Chen Boqiao suddenly asked a question that Zhang Jue was not prepared for, “Did you get your alpha glands implant after being rejected by me?”
The answer was yes, but Zhang Jue denied it.
Chen Boqiao did not look convinced.
“You…” Chen Boqiao redirected his gaze and asked Zhang Jue, “How did you confess to me?”
Zhang Jue was startled for a moment, and Chen Boqiao added, “Where did you do it?”
Zhang Jue knew that Chen Boqiao had forgotten about it, so he wasn’t disappointed. He thought about it and told Chen Boqiao honestly, “It was in the changing room of the canoeing team.”
Chen Boqiao looked at Zhang Jue and there was no change in his expression. He probably didn’t think that someone would confess to him in the changing room, since most people had chosen a more romantic location. However, he didn’t ridicule Zhang Jue either. He asked after a moment, “Just the two of us?”
“I thought so,” Zhang Jue told him, “but Pei Shu was also there, I just didn’t see him.”
The corner of Chen Boqiao’s mouth twitched. “No wonder he knows.”
“How did you say it?” He asked again.
“I said…” Zhang Jue called Chen Boqiao’s name softly, the tip of his tongue against the roof of his mouth, then his lips together and finally with his upper and lower teeth touching, “I like you.”
“I like you,” Zhang Jue said seriously. He had almost forgotten how nervous he was back then, but he could still recall clearly what he had said.
“Do you want to try with me?”
When he was seventeen, he had thought of a whole bunch of ways to confess to him. He had looked for examples of confessions on the internet and on books from the library and secretly calculated his chance of success. He had a piece of paper full of sentences he noted down, he looked at himself in the bathroom mirror and ended up choosing the one that was the most plain.
Every time he practiced saying it to the mirror, Zhang Jue felt an indescribable shyness; the kind that Harrison and Jiaxi would not believe had come from Zhang Jue. Zhang Jue himself had not known he had such a side.
But Chen Boqiao was truly one of the only names in Zhang Jue’s dull and boring life that could bring palpitations to his heart just by thinking or pronouncing it. Even now that they were familiar with each other, having had extensive conversations, hugs, kisses, and sex, Zhang Jue still felt flushed when Chen Boqiao gazed at him during his confession for a second time.
Chen Boqiao looked at Zhang Jue and breathed calmly. His pheromones enveloped Zhang Jue tightly, and his hand on Zhang Jue’s belly shifted ever so slightly.
“Yes, I do.” Chen Boqiao added, “Me too… I like you too.”
After a moment, Chen Boqiao asked, “How old were you then?”
There was a slit in the window in Zhang Jue’s room, and they could hear the sound of the engine downstairs. The headlights moved, and the shadow of the cypress tree shifted in the room.
Zhang Jue’s father had come home. However, both Chen Boqiao and Zhang Jue decidedly ignored it and did not comment on it.
Chen Boqiao chuckled, saying, “If we had gotten together then, you’d have been pregnant way earlier.”
He carried Zhang Jue to the bed and pressed him into the mattress.
The two did not mess around for long before Chen Boqiao let go of Zhang Jue. He said next to Zhang Jue’s ear, “I’ll come pick you up tomorrow morning.”
Zhang Jue walked him down the stairs. The living room was empty, and Zhang Jue opened the door for him and watched as he got into the car. He watched as the car ambled out of the wrought iron gates and its red taillights disappeared in the evening fog.
As he returned to his room, his father caught up to him in the corridor of the second floor.
His father brought along the remnants of the chill spring air outside, and he stood tall under the orange glow of the wall lamp. His mother was a few paces behind in her silk sleeping robe, her hair let down.
Zhang Jue’s father said, “Chen Boqiao is not too bad.” He told Zhang Jue to take care of himself in the Asian League and to go for his regular checkups. Once the wedding date was settled, he and Zhang Jue’s mother would go over as soon as possible.