[identity profile] leen-go.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] leengonanowrimo
Length: 3970 words
Prompt: in simplified terms, Kris is a duke, Lay is a courtesan who has a jaded view on life and has trust issues.
Notes: see here. Unedited/unbeta-ed





It was an eternity before the doors opened again and Yixing jumped to his feet in surprise, hiding it in a deep bow in greeting.
He was received will much less enthusiasm, “Sit,” the Duke’s mother ordered tersely and in a manner that made Yixing’s leg bend at the knees immediately. Another terse command from the woman had the room emptied save for the two of them and Yixing chewed on his bottom lip nervously. She took a seat at the table as well, not yet speaking as if trying to compose her thoughts into coherent words.

“For some reason, my idiot son seems to have taken a liking to you, but let’s get something straight,” she started, prompting Yixing to bit down even harder on his lip, enough to break the skin, “You will never marry him, and you will never bear his children so what use do I have for you?”

Yixing could only open and close his mouth soundlessly; he’d never even contemplated marrying the Duke, and especially not now since he’d so recently decided he was leaving this place anyway.

The Duke’s mother took a deep breath as if to calm herself, “Yifan… my son has never done anything like this before. He’s always been such a good son, listening to everything I said, never a retort in his life and yet for you, he would dare fight his mother.”

Yixing grimaced, trying not to think about how the only maternal figure he’d ever had in his life was Lady Pearl and good as she’d been to him, she’d also made a profit off Lay’s body. “I-I’m sorry… I’ll leave,” he stuttered, starting to get to his feet only to be brusquely interrupted.

“Shut up, I’m not done yet,” she waved, signaling Lay to stay planted in his seat, “Yifan has never made a poor decision in his life until you came into his life. Now, I don’t know how long this has been going on, or just what it is between you two, but I want to be straight with you from the start,” she paused as if to make sure Yixing understood what she was about to say, “I don’t like you, not at all. But I do love my son. And for some strange reason, my son demands your existence in my home despite his own mother’s wishes. Yifan is just as stubborn as I am so if I find a way to forcefully remove you from his life permanently, he may just be angry with me forever. So until he comes to his senses himself, here’s how it’s going to be.” Again, she paused to make sure Yixing was paying attention, “For starters, you will cease this charade as a woman.”

Caught by surprise that he had been found out so soon, Yixing nearly slipped off his chair. ‘But how?’ Yixing had always been so sure of his ability to conceal himself.

“You will join Huang Zitao in his lessons,” the Duke’s mother continued, almost upon deaf ears as Yixing struggled with the first demand. “I will not have some… uncivilized bumpkin staining the Wu Family reputation. And if you put one hair out of line, I will have you removed from this home. And you,” she continued, only to turn around to face a dark corner in the room where Minseok revealed himself by stepping out from behind a hanging decoration cloth. ‘How long had the manservant been standing there?’ Yixing wondered for a moment, the shock of this discovery shaking him from his internal debate about how the Duke’s mother had so quickly seen through him; clearly it was because she knew everything.

“You go tell your master my terms,” the Duke’s mother continued, facing Minseok fully, “You let him know that if either of them try to pull anything, I will put an end to this farce immediately, mother’s love be damned. And make sure to tell him that under absolutely no circumstance,” she paused to glare at Yixing as she got to her feet once more, “Is this commoner to take a single step into my son’s chambers.” She seemed to finish, waving off Minseok before she herself took to leaving the room, not giving a single backwards glance at Yixing before she disappeared.

Yixing sat still as a statue in his seat, still a little stunned at the one sided conversation he’d just been a part of. It was only a little while later that he noticed how quiet the room has fallen without the shrill list of terms and conditions for Yixing’s staying at the Duke’s home. “Classes with Zitao?” he muttered to himself, eyebrows creasing into a single line across his forehead. What on earth was the woman talking about? He shook his head; what did he care what classes she was talking about? He was leaving here as soon as possible anyway.

Yixing glances up at the door to find the guards’ shadows gone; he was finally alone. ‘As soon as possible? No, more like now, he thought to himself, noting his chance. He crept to the door, taking a furtive glance in every direction around him to make sure he was alone. He hesitated a moment, contemplating packing some things to take with him; it would be nice to have some clothes with him when he left. His teeth ground together as he imagined his chances of losing this opportunity; the risk of someone noticing him on the way back to his room seemed too great and he didn’t fancy the idea of waiting until the next opportunity presented itself, trapped in this hellish place.

He hadn’t realized he’d been shaking until he’d reached his hand out to open the door. Swallowing hard and taking a deep breath, he tried to still it with no luck. He scowled with irritation, “I don’t have time for this,” he berated himself, balling his hand into a fist and pushing the doors open as quietly as he could manage in his eagerness to leave. He headed North past the familiar peony garden, ducking left quickly when a couple of maids rounded the corner into view. He finally stopped when he arrived at the North Wing where there was a wall just that little bit lower than the rest. He reached behind one of the potted trees for the wooden stool he’d stashed there earlier that week; Yixing had found the place within the first couple of nights that he’d arrived. He hesitated a moment as he stood on the stool, hands reaching up to grab hold of the top lip of the wall; he shouldn’t leave Lu Han behind. He reasoned that the boy was better off staying in a the home of a well respected noble than in whatever life Yixing was heading into over this wall. Then again, who knows what would happen to Lu Han in Yixing’s absence?

He swallowed angrily when he heard his own mocking voice ask him if he was just stalling with thoughts of Lu Han so that he might get caught and have to stay. You don’t really want to leave, do you? As if to make a point, Yixing jumped up and pulled himself up over the wall, taking a deep breath before dropping off onto the ground on the other side, landing off center and sending a sharp pain up his heel and through his ankle. A string of expletives rolled off his tongue as he kneeled down to assess the damage.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were running away, scared of my aunt’s wrath.”

Yixing’s attention snapped up away from his hurt ankle at the sound of the mocking tone to find Tao leaning casually against the wall Yixing had just descended from with his arms folded across his chest. Too surprised to actually commit to any kind of verbal response, Yixing grew annoyed - what was it going to take to leave this miserable part of his life behind? When was it going to stop chasing him?

“If you’re trying to come up with an excuse, don’t worry about it,” Tao chuckled, pushing off the wall and stepping towards Yixing and offering a hand to help Yixing up, “I’ve used this wall many time to get away from her wrath too,” he laughed, even as Yixing swatted his hand away and got up to his feet on his own. He stumbled momentarily, wincing as he figured which way to lean to take pressure off his ankle. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell,” Tao continued, despite having a silent conversation partner. “That doesn’t look so good, want me to take a look at it?”

Yixing scowled as he pushed past Tao, “I’m fine. If you’re not here to summon me back, then just please leave me alone.”

Tao jogged a couple paces to stop in front Yixing. “Look, I was brought up not to abandon an injured friend.”

Yixing rolled his eyes, “We’re not friends,” he spat sharply just before his stomach growled embarrassingly; he’d been too nervous to eat when he had been alone with the Duke, and his appetite had diminished to nothing at the sight of the Duke’s mother.

“Want to get out of here?” Tao offered his hand again.

Yixing sighed as he turned around and eyed the dead end and then his hurt ankle; his options were limited, he could either climb back over the wall and be rid of Tao (but be back where he’d just ran away from) or he could go with Tao. He scowled again, but started forward, making a point of ignoring Tao’s outstretched hand as he limped around Tao towards the bustling street.

“So,” Tao continued - Yixing didn’t like how Tao was walking beside him, but he could hardly pick up his pace to get away from Tao in his current state. “I hear you’ve lived here your entire life. Why not show me where the good places to chow down in are?” Tao asked, clearly trying to make conversation.

“Not my entire life,” Yixing muttered under his breath as he made for a food stand selling dry squid. He dug into his belt to retrieve the proper change, only to look up to see that Tao was already paying the merchant. Yixing scowled again, but didn’t bother arguing with the noble, burying his expression in nibbles instead; he hated to use someone else’s money but he also knew he was going to need as much as he could keep if he was going to start a new life somewhere (he hadn’t yet decided where).

Tao didn’t seem to mind being ignored, grabbing a stick of his own before falling into step next to Yixing again. Slightly to his credit, Tao stayed quiet as he kept Yixing company as he wandered aimlessly along the streets. When the sky faded from vibrant pinks and oranges to a dull grey, Yixing finally stopped in the middle of the street and spun to face his escorter, “Don’t you have somewhere to be?!” he remarked, eyebrows furrowed together in clear agitation.

Tao sighed wistfully, Yixing’s tone seemingly not affecting him in the least, “Yes,” he replied with a thoughtful expression, “Probably some sort of restaurant.”

Yixing couldn’t tell if Tao was joking and his own stomach growled before he could come up with a retort; he hadn’t had anything to eat for dinner and the squid from hours ago hardly counted for a meal.

Tao laughed, “You know, that sheepish look on your face right now could’ve been avoided if you’d just brought me to a good restaurant when I’d first suggested it.” He didn’t even wait for a response before grabbing Yixing by the wrist and, taking care not to pull too fast so as to let Yixing’s ankle keep up, guided them towards the nearest restaurant. They climbed stairs to seats on the second floor balcony where Tao ordered something Yixing didn’t hear; he was too busy making out the outline of the gate to the Duke’s home against lanterns that were being light along the streets one by one.

The idea of Tao being the Duke’s mother’s spy had certainly crossed his mind a good couple of times during the day and Yixing wasn’t sure he was entirely convinced of Tao’s intentions but he was too tired right not to contemplate it. He reached down in his seat to massage his ankle, nodding a thanks to the waiter who brought them a couple cups of steaming tea.

“So,” Tao started, cup in hand as he eyed Yixing over the rim, “When are you going to be done throwing this tantrum and come home?”

Yixing chokes on his own tea, ‘home’? Was Tao talking about the Duke’s manor? He glances over the railing towards the fading view of the house he’d escaped from earlier today. He coughed a couple times, more to fill the silence than to clear anything from his throat. He flagged down the nearest waiter and ordered a bottle of wine. Yixing buried his face in his cup of tea, praying hard that the food arrived quickly and grateful that Tao didn’t seem to need to press for a response after he chuckled.

*

By the time Yixing noticed how dark the sky had become and how empty the restaurant was, he’d forgotten how many glasses of wine he’d consumed. All he could figure was that there were at least three empty bottles at their table now and Tao had started to look blurry. Dinner had been a quiet one and Yixing wasn’t even sure he remembered what exactly he’d even eaten. How long had he been sitting at this table anyway?

Yixing picked up a single chopstick clumsily and poked at the plate of half eaten desserts in the middle of the table; when had they ordered desserts? He popped one of the cubes into his mouth before leaning his chin into his forearm where it lay across the railing that looked out to the dark silhouette of the Duke’s manor. He sighed heavily and proceeded to trace the outline with his free finger. “Whatever did I do to deserve you?” he wondered out loud in a mumble as he tilted his head to lie on his arm further. “And a Duke too,” he sighed, “I mean it’s like something out of a story, right? It’s really too bad your mom is batshit crazy though.”

A snort sounded behind him and Yixing turned with some trouble, having forgotten momentarily that he wasn’t alone. He scowled at Tao and tucked his free arm under the other, turning back to watch stare at the Duke’s home, small lights flickering in and out to show life behind the gate. “And now she’s sent his monkey after me too,” he yawned, “You’re just going to go back to her and tell her how useless I am and probably devise some great plan to get rid of me. It’s really a waste of effort, you know. Just tell her not to waste her time, I won’t be going back.”

Tao laughed from behind which only made Yixing scowl, “Of course you think that’s funny, I’m a complete waste of space anyway, and she wins.”

Tao only laughed harder, “No, no. I’m just amused by the fact that you think highly enough of me that you would assume I was a co-conspirator with the Duke’s mother.”

Glowering as best he could, Yixing filled his cup once more and downed it quickly, welcoming the burning sensation and the blankness it brought with it.

---

Yifan paced in Lay’s room, as he’d been doing for the better portion of the day, wondering where Yixing could’ve disappeared off to, the most negative of his thoughts with references to the scars up and down Lay’s arm. The Duke had intended to talk to Lay before he had to take off for the wang gong at first light. Minseok had reminded Yifan on three occasions of the list of things he should finish before leaving but after Yifan had yelled at Minseok to ‘mind his own goddamned business’, the manservant had been quiet on the matter.

The Duke scrambled to the door at the first sound of clattering where he received his stumbling cousin. Frustrated from a day of waiting, he let out his frustration in the form of a lecture on how Zitao should really get his drunken habits in order before he realised why Zitao had been stumbling in the first place, holding up Lay who clearly was in no condition to hold himself up.

Zitao rolled his eyes when he realised that Yifan was too alarmed to offer any aid, “Shouldn’t you be entertaining your mother or something?” Zitao asked rhetorically, the stench of wine on every word waking Yifan from his shocked state.

“What the hell happened? Why are you bringing him back at this time of night?!”

“Okay, are you really going to do some stupid jealous thing here instead of helping me?”

Yifan crossed his arms, eyebrows furrowed and waiting for an explanation that Zitao didn’t bother providing. Instead, the Duke’s cousin rolled his eyes and let out a slight grunt as he picked up Lay bridal-style and placed him down on the bed. He grabbed the folded blankets at the foot of the bed and pulled them over Lay before signalling an irate Yifan to follow him outside the room.

Yifan hesitated; he was the one being wronged, why should he be the one following any sort of orders? He glanced back at Lay who had drawn the sheets into his chin and he sighed, deigning to follow his younger cousin out. He noted with alarm that Zitao knew how to be considerate of someone else when he’d never shown the same behaviour to the Duke, barging into his room at night and insisting (in his drunken loudness) to share the same bed as they used to when they were kids. He kept quiet however, waiting for Zitao to close the doors before pointing it out.

Zitao glared at the Duke but didn’t offer a retort, surprising Yifan again. “You sure know how to pick ‘em,” he states instead with a yarn. “Spent all day making sure she didn’t run away, you’re welcome for that, by the way.” Another yawn stretched across his face, fatigue and inebriation evident in all his features, and before Yifan could get in any questions, he continued, “I gotta hit the hay, your mom’s already got some ridiculous class on calligraphy or something tomorrow morning.” He spun around, and headed off with a funny walk, almost tripping over his own feet when he turned to hush Yifan, “Shhhh! Saozi is sleeping! If you’ve got so much time to just wait around, maybe you should come up with a way to keep her from running away again.”

Yifan wanted desperately to yell obscenities at his younger cousin as he backed out of the wing, only to have Zitao point at Lay’s bedroom door with one hand and a finger from his other hand pressed to his lips. Instead, Yifan bit his tongue and reached for his shoe, throwing it at Zitao as the latter ducked and laughed out of sight.

Cursing under his breath at his cousin’s ridiculous antics, Yifan turned back to Lay’s bedroom door and pushed it open gingerly. He began to obsessively tuck Lay into his bed before finally pulling up a chair next to it. He let out a long sigh of relief as he settling into the chair, watching the steady rise and fall of Lay’s chest under the blanket. Slipping a yawn into the back of his hand, Yifan finally let his heavy eyelids droop closed; he could say his temporary farewell to Lay in the morning now at least.

---

Yixing rolled over in the sheets, swallowing hard at the sleeping image of the Duke’s cousin. Even in the dark, Yixing could recognize the pointed peak of Tao’s nose and the soft eyelashes that fluttered slightly as their owner dreamed of whatever it was that delinquent cousins of dukes dreamed of.

Yixing squeezed his his eyes shut tightly and swallowed hard as he tried to calm himself before he clambered out of the bed, making sure not to disturb its other occupant. He drew his robes around him carelessly, eager to leave as quickly as possible, lest Tao awaken to the ruckus. Instead of risking a creak in the door, Yixing chose to climb out the already open window, tiptoeing across the room and picking up a chair to help him reach the sill.

As he crouched half in and half out of the room, Yixing took a last regretful glance at the room and sighed, “What are you doing, Lay?” he asked himself out loud, barely above a whisper. He tucked a stray hair behind his ear as he dropped silently to the ground outside, toes curling at the cold concrete before he hurried towards his room again.

---

Yifan froze in midstep, not sure what to make of the scene unfolding before him. He’d left Lay’s room when he’d woken up in the middle of the night to find the latter’s bed empty. Immediately, he’d searched his entire dwelling for Lay, but he wasn’t in the library or the kitchen. His work office and the aviary were empty and Yifan began to wander about his home aimlessly, trying to figure out where he hadn’t yet searched and whether Lay had decided once more to leave, though the guards at the front gate hadn’t seen him.

He certainly would not have included his cousin’s room on his list of places to check and yet here he was, arms dropping limply to side and eyes widening as he watched Lay stumble out of Zitao’s bedroom window, clothes in such a state that made no illusions of what had transpired behind those closed doors. Yifan made no move to go after Lay, transfixed in place as he processed.

Wasn’t it only a earlier today that Zitao had sat by his side, trying to comfort him about Lay? And wasn’t it only a few hours ago that Zitao had been campaigning for Yifan to figure out how to keep Lay from running away from him? Wasn’t Zitao the one who kept using the term saozi for Lay even when Yifan corrected him repeatedly? What in the hell was Zitao doing, bedding Lay?!

Yifan finally managed to take a slow step forward that turned brisk as the anger set in. He made no effort to conceal his irritation as he flung the doors to Zitao’s room open with a loud bang, roaring his cousin’s name as he marched straight to the bed, trying to dispel the sickening images of Lay wrapped up with his cousin in his head. “What is the meaning of this, Huang Zitao?! How dare you make a fool of me?”

Zitao seemed to need a second to awaken, but when he did, his tone nearly matched Yifan’s as he let out a slew of expletives, “What in the fucking hell are you doing in my room?!”

Yifan’s jaw locked and he could only glare with every other fiber of him held back from doling out a much deserved beating upon his cousin only because the need for an explanation surpassed his desire to punch Zitao in the nose. “You have a lot of explaining to do, you fucker,” he managed to bite out.

---

Yixing didn't catch a single wink of sleep that night, laying awake in his bed and staring blindly somewhere between the legs of the table and its set of chairs. He'd just have to try harder in the morning.






A/N: HAHAHA WTF IS THIS UPDATE AFTER MORE THAN A YEAR SINCE THE LAST CHAPTER???? HAHAHAHA No, but in all seriousness, it really bugged me that I never got around to finishing this fic, so even though I'm all but disappeared from the fandom, I was determined to get this done. So, I've managed to get a first draft done all the way to the end! Whoo! So now that it's all written and just needs to be editted! Hopefully, all of it should be up and done in a month or so!
I'm thoroughly amazed that I got a comment on the last chapter wondering if I was still updating. I was really just finishing the fic for my own sanity but apparently, there are people still following this? WHAT THE ACTUAL?????? But thanks so much to those who have kept up with this mess of a thing. It's been a great ride, thanks so much to everyone who ever commented and spent any amount of time reading this! thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!

Date: 2016-07-17 01:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tixing.livejournal.com
OHS DMDS IM SCREAMINV THIS IS AN UPDATE WTDKFK IM AT WORK ON BREAK ATM SO I CANT READ THIS YET BUT HOOOOO BOY IM SO EXCITED YESSSSSS THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR UPDATING!!!!!!! ILL COMMENT PROPERLY LATER ONCE IVE READ IT

Date: 2016-07-17 10:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] damnthesefeels.livejournal.com
I have been following this story for awhile. Thank you for updating..... This is such a nice and interesting story.

Date: 2016-07-17 06:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kim-dajung.livejournal.com

I almost cried 😢😢😢 u haven't left us hanging thank youuuuuuuuuuu

Date: 2016-07-18 01:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pika-chan92.livejournal.com
!!! Update!!! I'm kind of shocked tbh and I'm as confused as Yixing xD
but I'm curious what and how the situation will unfold

Date: 2016-07-19 06:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anya-azrael.livejournal.com
OMG IM SO GLAD YOURE CONTINUING THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVOURITE STORIES AND THIS CHAPTER WAS SO GOOD THE DRAMAM KEEP S COMING I LOVE IT AND I LOVE YOU PLS DONT EVER GIVE UP OKAY I LOVE YOU BYE

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