Xiao Yu'an had long since grown accustomed to Ming Shu's occasional demands to be spoiled and pampered. But this time was different from any of the times before.
In the past, it was a didi asking his gege to pamper him. And his gege was obligated to dote on him and spoil him, patiently and indulgently.
But now, they were a pursuer and the one being pursued. The ball was in Xiao Yu'an's court now. He held all the power here, all the control, and he had no obligation to indulge his pursuer.
He looked down at the long, slender nape of Ming Shu's neck and furrowed his brow slightly. The white glow of the overhead light drifted down, casting shadows akin to a sky at sunset across his eyes.
He could have pushed Ming Shu away. In truth, his hands were already on Ming Shu's shoulders.
It was surely difficult for Ming Shu to keep his balance in that position. Xiao Yu'an only had to push lightly, and Ming Shu would have tipped over.
But in the end, he didn't push Ming Shu away. He allowed Ming Shu to continue resting his head against his knees.
Xiao Yu'an had known about Ming Shu's feelings ever since his visit last year. He knew everything. This year, when Ming Shu ran to him with all his worldly possessions in tow, saying he'd cut all ties with his family and needed to rely on Xiao Yu'an, they'd started to coexist without ever bringing up what had happened last year.
Ming Shu played the role of a patient pursuer, taking things step by step, clearly believing Xiao Yu'an was blind to his advances. But Xiao Yu'an had grown up with this boy; there was nothing he couldn't see, when it came to Ming Shu.
Xiao Yu'an hadn't rejected Ming Shu's slow attempts to lessen the distance between them. He'd lived alone for many years, and Ming Shu's sudden appearance in his life and his home wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The feeling of having someone with him, at his side, wasn't bad at all.
But he was conflicted.
He had a naturally cold and distant disposition in some regards. Not just anyone could barge into his world and make themselves at home. His emotions couldn't be soothed or stirred up by just anyone.
Ming Shu had been with him ever since he was little. That was why Xiao Yu'an felt at ease with him right away. If it were anyone else, this sort of spontaneous cohabitation wouldn't have worked at all.
But because Ming Shu had been with him ever since he was little, because Ming Shu was his responsibility, he couldn't give Ming Shu an answer so easily.
He was Ming Shu's guardian. How could he encourage Ming Shu's advances?
Ming Shu had clearly taken a cold shower, but he'd emerged with his whole body hot and flushed. After saying those few words, he fell silent. Intense emotions fluctuated in his heart. He was restless, he was electrified. Part of him was embarrassed that he'd spoken so shamelessly and thoughtlessly. But another part of him was proud, praising himself for saying what needed to be said.
Xiao Yu'an was the one who'd called him a shorthair. In that case, Ming Shu would be his shorthair.
He would be clingy. He had every right to be clingy. Wasn't that a shorthair cat's innate nature?
This shorthair cat felt like there was another cat in his heart, scratching away. Ming Shu lifted his head and placed his hands on Xiao Yu'an's knees. He looked up at Xiao Yu'an. His eyes were even more damp than they'd been a moment ago. The light flickered through those dewy eyes, stirring up both their emotions into a tumultuous mess.
"Ge, if you don't push me away, I'm really going to cling to you." Ming Shu must have stayed in the shower for too long. Even his voice seemed to have been softened by his long soak. "I was too afraid to stick too close to you before. I resisted for a long time. I controlled myself, even when it hurt, even when it was unbearable. I held it in so much, for so long, that I'm going crazy."
Besides Ming Shu, no one could speak to Xiao Yu'an like this. No one could make themselves out to be so vulnerable. No one would try so hard to please him. No one would look at him so passively while placing themselves in such a low position, yet still showing some measures of pride and arrogance, like they knew damn well they had every right to be spoiled.
Xiao Yu'an's shadowed gaze fell upon Ming Shu, bearing down on Ming Shu with the weight of a mountain. Ming Shu glanced up just in time to see Xiao Yu'an's throat bob as he swallowed. That was practically like the bellowing of a war trumpet to Ming Shu. It was like an invitation for him to attack.
Ming Shu was so nervous that his palms had become slick with sweat. He grabbed hold of Xiao Yu'an's knees and pulled himself up, climbing onto the sofa, straddling Xiao Yu'an's lap. He boldly wrapped both arms around Xiao Yu'an's shoulders.
Just a moment ago, he'd been on the floor, gazing up at Xiao Yu'an. Xiao Yu'an's eyes had been as black as the sea at night. Ming Shu could have drowned in them in an instant.
Now, Ming Shu had lifted himself up. In his new position, he had to look down at Xiao Yu'an. And in this new light, Xiao Yu'an's eyes were like clear pools of water reflecting the sun. And in the middle of those pools, Ming Shu's own likeness was reflected.
Their bodies touched. Their legs were pressed flush against one another. Xiao Yu'an could instantly feel that Ming Shu was trembling.
But he had no way of knowing what that trembling meant. Was it excitement? Timidity? Or the fraying ends of his self-control?
Xiao Yu'an was suddenly left a little dazed by his own indulgence. He'd indulged Ming Shu every step of the way. This was no shorthair house cat; this was a proud and defiant leopard.
And the leopard's claws were on his throat.
Just as Xiao Yu'an took hold of Ming Shu's left arm, preparing to pull that restless, wandering hand away from his body, Ming Shu bowed his back and buried his face against Xiao Yu'an's shoulder. Ming Shu's damp hair brushed against the shirt Xiao Yu'an had just changed into.
"Ge, I don't feel good. I did it once, by myself, in there. While thinking of you."
Xiao Yu'an's brow furrowed into a deeper vee.
"I thought it would get better if I just did it once. When I touched myself, my head was full of you. Your voice was in my ear, your scent was in the air all around me. You called me a cat. That burned me up, all over." Sweat was starting to bead on Ming Shu's back, and his breathing was gradually growing heavier. "But afterwards, it didn't help. Taking a cold shower didn't help either. I still feel bad. I'm uncomfortable, I'm pent up.
"You touch me."
As he spoke, Ming Shu grabbed Xiao Yu'an's hand and urgently dragged it to his own back. He wanted Xiao Yu'an to comfort him, to stroke his back. As he led Xiao Yu'an's hand to the back of his shirt, he arched his spine into the touch.
Xiao Yu'an let Ming Shu have his way. He let Ming Shu stick himself to his body. It was like embracing an extra large heat source. After a long while, he finally gave Ming Shu's back a pat. "How long are you going to mess around like this?"
"I'm not messing around." Ming Shu's voice was muffled. Urgent. And a little whiny. "Ge, I'm not."
Xiao Yu'an took on a soothing tone, as though to comfort Ming Shu. "But you won't get up? It's so hot. Isn't it uncomfortable to sweat like this?"
"Then I'll be uncomfortable." Ming Shu refused to move. "Ge, my heart wants what it wants. I have needs. Desires. Keeping it all in is what makes me uncomfortable."
When Ming Shu spoke of his 'desires' so clearly, so explicitly, Xiao Yu'an couldn't help but falter. His hand froze against Ming Shu's back for an instant.
Ming Shu suddenly pushed himself up to loom over Xiao Yu'an, gazing at him with barely any distance between them at all. "Ge, don't you have wants? Needs? Desires?"
Xiao Yu'an's eyebrows jumped up.
"You're six years older than me. I won't believe that you don't have desires," Ming Shu said. He pressed his hips closer as he spoke, carefully and subtly grinding down against Xiao Yu'an's lap. His face was red. The heated flush spread to the tips of his ears, which turned such a deep red that they looked like they could start seeping blood at any second.
Xiao Yu'an took hold of Ming Shu's waist and tightened his grip, like a warning. But Ming Shu didn't stop. He moved slowly and subtly, but he stubbornly refused to stop.
"I look at you every day. Sneakily, secretly. I look at every part of you. I look at that part of you. I look at you when you wear dress pants, I look at you when you wear pajama pants. I look at you all the time."
Ming Shu grew more and more impassioned as he spoke. His head was spinning. He barely knew what he was saying. He only knew he had to keep talking. All the lewd, shameless things that he'd kept bottled up, to the point of choking, spilled from his lips now. He let it all spill, even knowing he was going too far.
"I have desires, I feel lust. But I'm almost nineteen. Shouldn't I have desires? You have them too, I know you do. It's impossible that you don't."
Xiao Yu'an gave Ming Shu's lower back a slap. "What are you saying?"
Ming Shu came back to his senses with that slap, but it only invigorated him. His gaze traveled lower, settling on a faint but noticeable bulge. "Am I wrong? You're normal! You just pretend you don't feel what I feel!"
Xiao Yu'an secured his arm around Ming Shu's waist, holding him firmly. He had every intention of pushing Ming Shu off.
But Ming Shu strengthened his hold on Xiao Yu'an too. He remained firmly lodged in place, straddling Xiao Yu'an's legs. His muscles tensed. He staunchly refused to budge.
"Get down!" Xiao Yu'an, naturally, would have been able to push Ming Shu away. Although Ming Shu was much taller than he used to be, he was no match for Xiao Yu'an in terms of raw physical strength.
But Xiao Yu'an couldn't bring himself to forcibly shove Ming Shu off either. Ming Shu clearly wasn't in the right state of mind. If he pushed Ming Shu off now, it would have been all too easy for Ming Shu to bump into something and hurt himself.
Xiao Yu'an's words, however, had been cold and stern. Ming Shu subconsciously straightened his back. But he'd already said too much, and he didn't want to retreat. He stubbornly continued, "Then what do you do, when you get worked up? What do you do about your needs? Do you touch yourself, like I did? Do you take cold showers?"
The couch was starting to squeak faintly under their weight as they grappled with each other. Ming Shu was keeping himself in place through brute force, and Xiao Yu'an was holding on to rationality, restraining Ming Shu and keeping him from getting any closer.
"I'm here, ge. You don't have to do it yourself anymore," Ming Shu said. His right hand crept lower. He looked almost pitiful, but his words were charged and aggressive. "I can take care of you. I can help you. I… I can do it for you. You can use me…"
A loud slap resounded through the living room. Xiao Yu'an had slapped the back of Ming Shu's hand.
Ming Shu jolted. A flash of heat shot up his spine, from his tailbone to the nape of his neck. His whole body spasmed with that sharp sting of pain.
He finally came to his senses, a bit. A distinct numbness spread through his body, stemming from the reddened back of his hand.
The corners of his eyes reddened as well. He touched the back of his hand and murmured, "Hurts."
Xiao Yu'an had indeed used some force in that slap, but it shouldn't have been enough to really hurt anyone. Ming Shu curled into himself, hunching his shoulders. But he still held himself in place, in Xiao Yu'an's lap. He didn't seem to have any intention of moving away.
He was like a cat who'd been scolded by his master, but was still unwilling to slink away. A cat who was waiting to be comforted and soothed by that same master.
A cat, again. Always acting like a cat.
Xiao Yu'an's heart wasn't anywhere near as calm as his outer appearance implied. Ming Shu hadn't been wrong; Xiao Yu'an was indeed a normal man. With desires, with needs. He, too, needed a reasonable way to satisfy his impulses. To relieve himself.
The way Ming Shu bore down on him, straddling his waist, grinding against him again and again, provoking him with a deep flush in his cheeks, trying to find Xiao Yu'an's breaking point—
Xiao Yu'an wasn't a saint. Even if he had all the self-restraint in the world, he wouldn't have been able to withstand this sort of intimacy for long.
But he was Ming Shu's older brother, and Ming Shu wasn't thinking straight. He couldn't indulge Ming Shu in this nonsense.
"Get down," Xiao Yu'an repeated. His voice had grown softer by a few measures. He lightly patted Ming Shu's hip. "We…"
"What's wrong with me? In what way am I not good enough?" Ming Shu's shoulders trembled and shook. His voice had shifted as well, like he was suddenly choking back a sob. Tears gathered at the corners of his eyes, threatening to fall. "Xiao Yu'an, why can't it be me?"
That night, the sky was clear and calm. But Xiao Yu'an still thought back to the night a year ago, when they'd talked with the wind and rain howling outside. That night, a year ago, Ming Shu had also called him by his name.
Xiao Yu'an had grown accustomed to hearing Ming Shu call him 'ge'. When Ming Shu changed his way of address so abruptly, Xiao Yu'an had been subjected to a foreign, new sensation. It was like he'd been stung by a mosquito. His name falling from Ming Shu's lips left him with a light yet unignorable itch.
Ming Shu had ridden out the wave of energy that compelled him to expose everything he'd been holding in. Now, he deflated and buried his face against Xiao Yu'an's shoulder again. His whole body went soft, losing the force he'd exuded earlier. He continued, mumbling, "Xiao Yu'an, I'm an adult. I'm nineteen, and I still can't be with you? I always listen to you. I do everything and anything you say. But you still don't like me. What part of me isn't good enough? Am I not better than anyone, everyone else? Xiao Yu'an…"
It seemed almost like Ming Shu had been bewitched, falling under a spell that compelled him to repeat Xiao Yu'an's name over and over again. It was like that name was all he could say, and each repetition of that name felt like a kiss to its owner.
"Do you always listen to me?" Xiao Yu'an smoothed a hand down Ming Shu's back. "I told you to get down. Aren't you still lying right here?"
Ming Shu let out a muffled huff and listlessly mumbled, "That's different. Xiao Yu'an, that's different."
There was nothing Xiao Yu'an could say now. Ming Shu wasn't in the right mind to hear any of it. Xiao Yu'an sat up abruptly, taking Ming Shu into his arms and lifting him up as he rose to his feet.
"Xiao Yu'an!" Ming Shu exclaimed softly as he was suddenly lifted from the couch. His legs dangled in the air.
Xiao Yu'an didn't answer him. He carried Ming Shu into the bedroom and set him down on the bed. Ming Shu called out to him in the dark, but Xiao Yu'an closed the door.
He went back to the living room alone.