Upon exiting the building, Xiao Yu'an spotted Ming Shu. He lifted a hand in greeting and got ready to walk over, but was suddenly called back by Yi Zhuo.
"Yu'an, come over to my car for a sec. I brought you a cat tower. I've got a bunch of them at home for my little masters, and none of them like this one. You can take it back and just assemble it."
Yi Zhuo was particularly enthusiastic about anything cat-related. He warmly continued, "Come on, come on. No need to be so courteous with me. That cat tower has only been used by one of my little masters once. It's practically brand new!"
Xiao Yu'an had just been messing around when he said he'd adopted a shorthair cat. But now he had to take a cat tower home.
From afar, Ming Shu saw Xiao Yu'an being pulled away by a man close to Xiao Yu'an in age. This guy obviously seemed like he was trying to get Xiao Yu'an to go somewhere with him, and he was acting pretty pushy about it too. Xiao Yu'an looked a little reluctant, like he didn't want to go.
Was this guy hitting on Xiao Yu'an? Unacceptable!
Ming Shu was instantly on guard. He rushed over just in time to hear that guy saying, "You have to take good care of your cat. You think shorthairs don't like cat towers? Your shorthair doesn't roll around on you, right? That means it doesn't feel close to you yet. I'm telling you, just bring this cat tower back, and it'll know you care. It'll definitely get clingy with you then. It'll get so clingy that it never lets you go!"
A string of question marks popped up above Ming Shu's head.
What cat tower? What cat? A shorthair? Clingy?
Just as Yi Zhuo finished speaking, he noticed the person who'd popped up next to him. "Eh? And you are…?"
Xiao Yu'an could sense that this conversation was going to lead to some problems today. He had no choice but to answer, "My di."
Ming Shu could put on a good act in front of strangers. He was polite, dignified, elegant—the whole package. He spoke warmly and modestly, like he'd folded up his peacock tail feathers for the time being.
"Oh, a didi! Hello, hello. I'm Yu'an's teammate, Yi Zhuo. You can call me Zhuo-ge." Yi Zhuo could strike up a sense of brotherhood with anyone in just a few words. "You're here to play with Yu'an?"
'Play' was such a shallow word. Ming Shu lifted an eyebrow, showing off a hint of ostentatiousness and childishly flaunting his relationship with Xiao Yu'an. "I came to pick him up and take him home."
"Whoa!" Yi Zhuo exclaimed, a little surprised. "You guys are living together?"
Ming Shu flashed a slight smile. "That's right."
Yi Zhuo suddenly came to a new realization. "You're the one who's raising Yu'an's cat, aren't you? I was just about to say, why did a guy like him suddenly get a cat?"
Ming Shu was the one who was left confused now. When did they get a cat?
Xiao Yu'an wanted to cut off this awkward line of conversation, but Yi Zhuo didn't give him the chance.
Yi Zhuo quickly continued, to Ming Shu, "I was just telling your ge that I have a cat tower in my car. Brand new! He keeps saying he doesn't want it. Can you raise a cat without a cat tower? No wonder the cat isn't clingy with him. I don't see a single cat hair on him. Come on, you help me carry the cat tower…"
In the blink of an eye, Yi Zhuo had hooked an arm around Ming Shu's shoulders and started dragging him away.
Xiao Yu'an looked at their backs and helplessly pressed a hand to his forehead.
Ming Shu, still baffled, suddenly found a boxed up cat tower shoved into his arms. It was only the bang of Yi Zhuo shutting the trunk of his car that startled Ming Shu back to his senses.
They didn't have a shorthair back home, but Xiao Yu'an had told Yi Zhuo that they did. Yi Zhuo, noticing the lack of cat hair on Xiao Yu'an, had come to the conclusion that the cat wasn't affectionate with Xiao Yu'an. So he'd generously gifted Xiao Yu'an a cat tower.
Although Ming Shu had no idea what circumstances had driven Xiao Yu'an to say he had a shorthair, it was obvious that the shorthair was supposed to be…
Ming Shu blinked.
Was he the shorthair?!
All the cars belonging to Xiao Yu'an and his teammates were parked in the same area. Xiao Yu'an made his way over to his own car while Yi Zhuo excitedly relayed the secrets of successfully raising an affectionate cat to Ming Shu.
Ming Shu already knew the truth in his heart, but he didn't blow Xiao Yu'an's cover. He acted like he was listening attentively to everything Yi Zhuo said.
Once Xiao Yu'an unlocked his car, he called back to Ming Shu, "Get in."
Ming Shu politely nodded his thanks to Yi Zhuo and said, "Thanks a lot, Zhuo-ge. My ge is calling me now. Let's talk more next time."
Yi Zhuo smiled like a nice and friendly homeroom teacher. "If you have any questions, just come to Zhuo-ge! Zhuo-ge can turn any cat into a clingy, affectionate sweetheart!"
Ming Shu came over with the box, shoved it into the back seat, then climbed into the passenger seat that had become familiar to him. Everything seemed calm. It was a perfectly ordinary evening. But Xiao Yu'an was keenly aware of the fact that Ming Shu was brimming over with a new and unbridled sort of energy.
For a while, Ming Shu sat quietly. He was perfectly well-behaved. He even kept his hands curled around his seatbelt.
But after a few minutes of driving, Ming Shu couldn't hold it in anymore. There were words that he couldn't hold back any longer, and there were waves of heated emotions that he couldn't keep swallowing down.
He turned to Xiao Yu'an and asked, "Ge, when did you start raising a cat?"
Ming Shu thought his own voice was quite honest and sincere, as though he were asking a serious question. But to Xiao Yu'an's ears, it was the voice of a kid who was just asking for trouble.
There was a smug arrogance in those words that Ming Shu couldn't conceal.
He'd obviously already guessed that he was the cat.
But Xiao Yu'an didn't bother to explain anything to him. He answered simply, "Years and years ago."
Ming Shu couldn't sit still. He twisted around in his seat and continued, "Ge! I can't believe you're telling people I'm a shorthair!"
Xiao Yu'an smiled. "Didn't the shorthair just bring home a cat tower for himself?"
Ming Shu pursed his lips. "How am I like a shorthair?"
Even if he was a cat, he couldn't be a shorthair!
Xiao Yu'an watched the road. He didn't let his gaze drift for a second. "Then what kind of cat would you like to be?"
Ming Shu gave it some serious thought. "I would have to be a Persian, right?"
Xiao Yu'an didn't say anything else on the matter. Ming Shu kept his thoughts to himself, still thoroughly amused. He snuck a glance at Xiao Yu'an every so often. At this close distance, he could see everything clearly—the bridge of Xiao Yu'an's nose, his Adam's apple, his chest, and everything… lower than that.
When Ming Shu looked at him, there was no way to stop his desires from rising. There was no way to stop his thoughts from going in that direction.
He was so fucking horny.
He reached into the back seat for a cushion and pressed it down in his lap.
When they got home, Xiao Yu'an went into the kitchen to cook. Ming Shu stayed in the living room and messed with the cat tower. By the time dinner was served, Ming Shu had already assembled the cat tower and set it up next to the couch.
Xiao Yu'an looked at it. "Why?"
Ming Shu proudly lifted his chin. "Well, you do have a shorthair at home."
After dinner, Ming Shu cleaned up in the kitchen, then went to sit on the couch. Xiao Yu'an had already changed out of his formal work clothes. He'd gone to take a shower.
Ming Shu felt exceptionally restless that day. He just couldn't sit still. His left leg bounced, then his right leg bounced. He couldn't stop grinding his teeth. He was like a wild beast that had been starved for too long, finally ready to pounce on its prey.
But this wasn't right. The last remaining shreds of his rationality warned him against whatever he was thinking. How long had he been working at this? What happened to the step-by-step approach? What happened to taking it slow and allowing familiarity to breed fondness?
They weren't there yet! What if Xiao Yu'an got mad? What would Ming Shu do then? Ming Shu might end up without even a couch to sleep on!
Ming Shu's legs stopped shaking. His mood suddenly soured.
He'd been going through these ups-and-downs a lot lately. Working two jobs completely wiped him out, leaving him exhausted every day. But these highs and lows still danced around in his chest. The turbulence was never-ending.
That day, in the car, he'd had a 'reaction'. If he hadn't covered himself up with a cushion so quickly, Xiao Yu'an definitely would have noticed.
Sometimes he was elated, and sometimes he was embarrassed beyond belief. Xiao Yu'an hadn't even said or done anything at the time. He'd just focused on driving. He'd only bantered a bit with Ming Shu about this alleged shorthair cat, and Ming Shu had gotten carried away looking at his face, his neck. Ming Shu had even 'reacted', down there.
Wasn't his lower body too fucking out of control?!
The air conditioning in the living room was on, and Ming Shu had turned the temperature way down. But the longer he sat there, the more hot and bothered he felt. An indescribable force was rolling through his body. If he didn't let it out, he would suffocate to death.
He twisted around to look at the cat tower, and he suddenly felt like it would be nice if he really were a cat. At least then he would be able to zoom up and down the cat tower to work off all his pent-up energy.
The sound of the running shower stopped. Ming Shu threw his hands over his face. Even without looking in a mirror, he knew his face was burning.
Before Xiao Yu'an even emerged from the bathroom, Ming Shu got his pajamas ready. He planned on rushing into the bathroom as soon as Xiao Yu'an came out.
He really couldn't hold it in any longer. He hadn't even turned nineteen yet. He was just a hot-blooded eighteen-year-old boy. That was an age of intense desire, and an age of not understanding how to control those desires. He was spending every day with the person he liked, and every day he did his best to control himself, but all that self-control was driving him mad.
He couldn't do anything with Xiao Yu'an. He would have to take care of himself by himself.
Ming Shu nearly barreled into Xiao Yu'an at the bathroom door. He tried to squeeze into the bathroom in a hurry, but he was barefoot, and the floor inside was slippery. Xiao Yu'an instinctively lifted a hand to steady him, only to find that Ming Shu's arm was scorchingly hot.
"Don't run," Xiao Yu'an chided. "You'll fall."
Ming Shu didn't even answer before he shut the door.
The sound of the lock clicking into place was sharp in Ming Shu's ears. Ming Shu felt like a complete and utter idiot.
He'd rushed into the bathroom in order to get away from Xiao Yu'an for a while, so that he could take care of himself. Then, he would take an ice cold shower to tamp down the outrageous desires that had surged up within him that day.
But now that he was really standing in the bathroom, he felt even more worked up than he had in the living room.
The bathroom was full of steam, and that steam carried the scent of shower gel, shampoo, and Xiao Yu'an.
The hot air enveloped Ming Shu. It was like being wrapped up in Xiao Yu'an's arms.
How could he stand it?
He closed his eyes and pressed his back to the tiled wall. He caught his lower lip between his teeth as all rationality left his mind. As the spray of the shower soaked him from head to toe, he thought only of Xiao Yu'an.
Finally, when his toes curled, he gasped against the flowing water.
The water was cold, and all the heat in the bathroom had dispersed. But Ming Shu's own body temperature was still scorching.
He spent a long time with himself in the bathroom, but afterwards, he found that it was all in vain. He was still uncomfortable.
He was still pent up.
He was overflowing with desire, with base instincts and impulses. He felt it filling him up to the brim. Just relieving himself once wasn't anywhere near enough.
He still felt half-mad with lust.
In the end, he squatted down right there in the shower and wrapped his arms around himself, burying his face against his knees.
What was he supposed to do?
If he couldn't control himself, what was he supposed to do?
As a third-year high school student, he'd learned to do countless practice problems and find and correct his own mistakes. He'd only recently graduated, and those habits were still deeply ingrained in his mind.
After hazily running through the events of that day, Ming Shu decided that today's situation had mostly arisen because of Xiao Yu'an.
It was Xiao Yu'an's fault.
Why did Xiao Yu'an have to wear that dress shirt and those nice pants to seduce him?
Why did Xiao Yu'an tell someone Ming Shu was only a shorthair cat he kept at home?
Was that not to provoke him? To tease him?
He'd tried so hard to control himself!
While Ming Shu locked himself in the bathroom, Xiao Yu'an cut some watermelon and boiled a pot of edamame. He left the edamame on the coffee table to cool, then turned on the TV. He tuned in to a random channel while he waited for Ming Shu to finish showering and come out to eat.
The self-control issues of a half-grown man weren't really worth mentioning, but Ming Shu's mind had descended into chaos. He felt like he absolutely had to do something, say something.
When he emerged from the bathroom, Xiao Yu'an called him over to eat. Ming Shu had never had edamame back at his own house, but he'd had it plenty of times at the Xiao family's house. After getting used to it, he started craving it every summer.
Ming Shu's face was abnormally red. His eyes were both wild and soft at the same time.
As soon as Xiao Yu'an met his gaze, he realized something was wrong.
Ming Shu walked over to the couch, stooped down, and lifted his head to look at Xiao Yu'an. His hair was still wet, and his eyes were even wetter, like the glassy surface of a lake. When he blinked, his lashes came away damp. He blushed fiercely and seemed too forward and too shy, all at once.
Xiao Yu'an furrowed his brow slightly, reaching out to pull Ming Shu up.
But his hand was knocked away.
Ming Shu lowered his head and pillowed his cheek on Xiao Yu'an's thigh, exposing the beautiful nape of his neck.
His posture and appearance, in that moment, were all that of a very sweet and well-behaved young man.
"Ge, who says your shorthair isn't clingy? He's obviously so clingy, so attached to you. But you won't let him cling."