[identity profile] leen-go.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] leengonanowrimo
Length: 3139 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. what is happening with this fic sorry don't worry it'll be over soon D;



Yixing smiled as he strolled the streets with his elbow linked through the Duke’s. It felt like an eternity since the last time he’d done this and he leaned in closer to the Duke as if he needed to confirm that the other was real. The Duke looked down beside him with a raised eyebrow, a question of whether Yixing was alright exchanging silently. Yixing shook his head and dropped his arm to snakes his fingers between the Duke’s eliciting a smile from the latter as they dropped in on a textile store. Yixing’s fingers traced along the length of an emerald green, patterned with elegant swirls.

“You like this one?” The Duke asked, signalling for the shop owner to pull the roll out for a closer length.

Yixing’s face flared bring red, “You said you liked green, right?”

The Duke chuckled lightly and kissed Yixing’s forehead lightly, “Yeah, but I’d like any colour if it was you wearing it,” he replied, sending Yixing’s cheeks ablaze even hotter. He requested a length of the fabric from the shop owner, paying more than the product cost to get it delivered to his manor; the Duke had been adamant on sharing some private time with Yixing and had sent Minseok back home.

“You hungry?” The Duke asked after thanking the shopkeeper for the purchase.

Yixing shrugged, “Sure.” He couldn’t decide if the butterflies in his stomach could handle the company, but it seemed like it might be a good idea to give his legs a rest. He simply followed the Duke towards a restaurant that the Duke clearly frequented given how he was greeted by the host at the door.

“Your guest arrived only a few moments ago,” the host announced as he guided the couple towards the Duke’s ‘usual room’.

Yixing faltered at the comment. Guest? Hadn’t the Duke promised it would be a morning of just the two of them?

The Duke vocalised his appreciation as the door was opened for him, dismissing the man before disappearing into the room as Yixing fought to regain the strength in his legs enough to follow. He collapsed against the wall feeling dizzy as a flurry of questions racing through his mind. Why had the Duke not warned him of this guest? Who was this guest? What exactly was the plan here? For the Duke to give him some terrible justification as to why the Duke could never actually deliver on any of his promises?

“Hey,” the Duke stuck his head out from behind the door, “You coming in? I thought you said you were hungry?"

I said ‘sure’, Yixing wanted to retort; he should’ve said no at the offer of lunch.

The Duke’s eyebrows drew together in concern, “Lay?”

“Is everything alright, My Lord?” The outline of a slim figure appeared next to the Duke, her arm reaching up to touch the Duke before she turned and noted Yixing’s presence as well.

The butterflies in Yixing’s stomach quickly faded to an uncertain clench as he involuntarily took a step backwards.

“Oh, Hi, Lay! I didn’t realise we were having company,” Ah Mei trailed, turning to address the Duke in such a casual manner that brought the bitter taste of bile up.

Yixing could see the Duke give him a look that might have been of concern if Yixing wasn’t convinced that the Duke had planned this from the beginning. A nagging voice tried to remind him that he should trust the Duke but he silenced it; if the Duke didn’t have ill-intentions, why would he have kept the reasoning for this rendez-vous so secret? He struggled to come up with an excuse to leave even when he knew that any excuse would do; it wasn’t as it the most terribly nonsensical and unbelievable excuse could make the situation worse. “I-I have to uh-” he started, a jumble of instringable words stuck in his throat.

The Duke stepped forward and reached to Yixing who stumbled backwards out of his grasp.

“Can you give us a moment please, Ah Mei?” the Duke asked politely. While his question was clearly directed at Ah Mei, the Duke didn’t turn to address her properly, keeping his gaze steady on Yixing as he tried another step forward.

Yixing willed himself to simply turn and leave but his feet refused to obey. He watched Ah Mei give both the Duke and himself a questioning look but agreeing to retreat back into the dining room and closing the doors.

“I’m sorry, Lay. I thought this might be a good surprise...” the Duke whispered as he stepped forward enough to take Yixing’s hands in his own.

Yixing swallowed, “What am I doing here?” he asked, tone a little harsher than he has intended it to be. “If you wanted a lunch date with her, why did you bring me along?” He glowered at the closed door, wondering if that woman would be pressing her ears on it.

The Duke paused a long beat, as if in contemplation, “Lunch, right?” the Duke answered, a slight grin starting to form upon his lips  that made Yixing frown in response.

“Is this all some game to you?”

The chuckle that the Duke responds with was enough to finally unglue Yixing from his spot. He turned and started away before the Duke caught him around the waist.

“Of course it’s not a game,” the Duke insisted as he set Yixing to face him once more, his grin widening.

Then why are you laughing?!” Yixing argued indignantly, throwing the Duke’s hands off of himself. Why did he have to see the Duke with his fiancee? Yes, he had the admit that Ah Mei was a nice enough person, but it didn’t mean that the idea of the Duke with her.

The outburst seemed to only feed the Duke’s amusement as he chuckled again. “Because it’s cute.”

Yixing could only narrow his eyes, both confused and sceptical of what the Duke was trying to say.

“You being jealous is cute,” the Duke answered nonchalantly, as if the most natural comment.

Yixing’s ears burned with affront, “I am not,” he insisted, especially since he couldn’t be jealous, it simply wasn’t his place. Yixing had always known his place and he’d known the Duke’s. Yes, he could admit that he didn’t particular enjoy the thought of the Duke with someone, anyone else, but he was hardly jealous.

The Duke smiled softly as he stepped forward to press his lips briefly on Yixing’s forehead, hand placed at the base of Yixing’s back comfortingly, “We’re just here to clarify something,” the Duke declared gently, bringing Yixing towards him to rest his chin on the top of the shorter’s head. “I promise we can leave as soon as we’re done.”

Just spit it out, Yixing wanted to say, hating how his own hand had naturally and involuntarily come up to settle on the Duke’s hip when the latter had stepped forward. He breathed the Duke’s scent in deeply and chose to trust him, quelling with difficulty the voice that insisted that this was all an elaborate plan to prove to Yixing that there was no place for him in a duke’s life.

“I’m calling off my engagement with Ah Mei,” the Duke announced in a hushed tone, eyes flickering back to the closed door for a moment.

“What?” Yixing responded flatly, taking a step back only to have the Duke drag him back.

“You heard me,” the Duke whispered, “And don’t ask me why, you know why.”

Yixing had his mouth open halfway before the Duke answered his unasked question. He pressed his lips together a moment, almost bringing himself to smile until the consequences of that action reminded him of greater forces at play. “The Emperor has already given his blessing for this union. You cannot simply cancel the wedding. It’s in two days!”

The Duke pushed a loose hair behind Yixing’s ear before his palm rested on Yixing’s cheek. “I don’t care.”

Yixing reluctantly pulled away from the Duke’s warmth, “What do you mean you don’t care? You could get beheaded for this!”

The Duke frowned, “I doubt the Emperor would have me beheaded for this, but even if he were to, I don’t care.

“Well, I do!” Yixing exclaimed, not entirely sure where his anger was rooted.

The Duke seemed to share the same confusion, eyebrows raised. “Is this another test?” he asked gingerly.

Yixing felt his teeth ground together as he ignored the comment to press on, starting to pace in front of the Duke, his own eyebrows stitching together as he considered the options, “Best case scenario, you don’t get killed for going against the Emperor’s words. He allows your continued existence, but I earnestly refuse to believe that he’d simply let you carry on your life as you have been until now. You’d likely lose your position as a Duke and you would no longer be in charge of keeping this village in order. Could you live with that?” Yixing saw a muscle tense in the Duke’s jaw and despite being the point out the issues with the Duke’s plan, his heart sank. As his chest started to throb painfully, he forced himself to finish, “You have to marry Ah Mei.”

The Duke flinched visibly as though the words physically burned him. His eyebrows drew down as he closed his eyes briefly, a hushed curse slipping from his lips, “But I love you, Lay.”

Yixing swallowed hard at the declaration and had to bite his tongue: tell me I’m wrong, tell me there’s another way, he wanted to shout. A dreadful cloud of silence hung in the air between them until there was a soft knock on the door frame before it slid open. “Uhm, I’m really sorry to intrude, but you two are really not as quiet as you think,” Ah Mei stated matter-of-fact. “Why don’t you just come in and perhaps we can discuss it together instead of me sitting in here eavesdropping?”

Yixing’s face burned in alarm at the interruption and he turned away quickly, feeling guilty. The Duke seemed to take on the same expression, only he recovered much more quickly than Yixing, apologies rolling off his tongue as he returned to the room. Yixing stared after him, stonelike until Ah Mei grabbed him around the elbow gently to guide him inside after the Duke.

The room’s silence echoed louder than the screaming in Yixing’s own mind; how terrible Ah Mei must feel at the moment, finding out that her fiancee wanted to cancel their wedding through a wall. Yixing took a seat at the table as far away as possible from both in his company. His breathing seemed too loud in this vacuum so he held his breath instead.

“I’m sorry you had to hear it like that,” the Duke started, a look of regret written in every feature, “But it is true, I’d like to dissolve our arrangement.”

Another sullen silence fell in the room and Yixing instinctively reached one hand to the opposite arm, nails chipping away at an aging scab as a distraction from the deafening thumping of his heart in his ears.

“I’m sorry,” Ah Mei finally vocalizes after what felt like an eternity to Yixing, “but I have to side with Miss Lay.”

Yixing let out the breath, though he was unsure if it was relief at being validated or gratitude that Ah Mei hadn’t immediately exploded into a thunderous rage, though her calm was just as unnerving.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Ah Mei continued, interrupting the Duke before he could begin whatever rebuttal he’d prepared. “I’ve known for a while now that your heart does not lie with me, and it doesn’t bother me.” Both Yixing and the Duke glanced each other momentarily before both turning a bright pink. “But you should know by know that my father is not a forgiving man. If you call off this wedding, I’m not certain what he’ll do.”

The Duke sat up straight, determined, “I’m sure if…”

Ah Mei shook her head before the DUke could finish, “No, there is no negotiating with my father. And especially not when it is a personal matter.”

The Duke scowled but kept silent. Yixing bit down on his bottom lip as his fingernails dug into a fresh nerve. He flinched when the distinct taste of iron coated the inside of his mouth, not realising how hard he’d been exerting. He slackened his jaw and wiped the back of his hand across his lip, running a streak of bright red across it.

“There’s got to be a way,” the Duke sighed, turning around to glance at Yixing who swallowed and looked away quickly when he saw the conflict in the former’s eyes. He continued to work at the scab, digging deeper even as he started to feel the tips of his fingers grow moist.

“Marry me,” Ah Mei offered before holding up a hand to ask for the Duke to allow her explanation, “I already know your secret,” she glanced at Yixing, “and I have no intention to share it. Nor do I have any intention of keeping you two apart. If you did manage to hold off this wedding, I’m willing to bet that your mother would work to find another, and you might be able to fight that one too, and the next one, but not forever.

“I’ll play along to anything public, but when we are alone, I shall tend to my own matters as you tend to yours. A mutually beneficial business arrangement, as my father had intended in the first place, just perhaps not in this specific manner. And he certainly doesn’t have to know.”

The Duke was reluctant to commit to answer either way, looking to Yixing who could only swallow hard as he glanced between two expectant gazes.

*

Yixing took a deep breath as he stepped forward with tray in hand. Taking careful steps, he made his way to the front of the room where the Duke’s mother sat with a slight smirk on her features as she watched Yixing move, practically ignoring the couple dressed in red kneeled before her. The Duke seemed to be making a point of avoiding Yixing’s while Ah Mei had the slightest sign of a smug grin on her face.

The teacups on his tray vibrated from his apprehension even as Yixing tried to steady his grip, and only grew worse as he neared the Duke’s mother. “Keep it together,” he berated himself under his breath, reminding himself that he’d been the one to volunteer when the Duke declined Ah Mei’s suggestion that Yixing be their tea bearer.

“It’s the only way he’d be allowed in, and I really would like him to be there with us. It wouldn’t be right to do it without him.

Yixing had felt that he owed Ah Mei at least something, since he was, in essence, ruining what was supposed to be the best day of Ah Mei’s life, her wedding, not to mention, the rest of her life. But as he stood shaking before the Duke, his mother and his wife, Yixing began to doubt his decision.

The Duke’s mother made no effort whatsoever to conceal her glee at the wedded couple before her, understandably so, given that she’d never liked Yixing from the day she’d set her sights on kicking Yixing out of her precious son’s life.

Ah Mei’s expression was an alarming and unexpected mix of amusement and smugness, as if gloating a victory. Yixing swallowed nervously, not sure what to make of it and immediately looking to the Duke beside her for reassurance but he only continued his determined act of avoidance.

Yixing’s nerves finally got the best of him and he stumbled mid-step, sending one of the cups crashing to the floor. He hurried to kneel down to pick up the scattered pieces, trying to block out the raucous and mocking tittering of the Duke’s mother. In a rush, he knicked his thumb on a particularly sharp shard and he gasped out loud in alarm. He chanced a look up as he sucked on the injury, noting with a pang that thought the Duke had finally turned to pay him any attention, it was with a disgusted look on his face. Ah Mei barely hid her amusement behind her sleeve, veil doing little to conceal anything.

“On your knees and doing a servant’s job, that’s more like it,” the Duke’s mother crowed with a chuckle.

Yixing choked on nothing but the heavy air in the room, scrambling to his feet, eyes searching for the quickest way out of the room.

“Good, run away,” the Duke called after Yixing, cutting like a blade through the latter’s back as he ran. “That’s all you’ve ever been good at. It’s not like you could ever be a match for me, anyway.”

Yixing covered his ears in a desperate effort to tune the words out, hitting too close to home for comfort. The exit was but steps away, but the more Yixing took, the further it seemed. His shoulder finally crashed through the door, tearing away the wooden frame and doing nothing to slow him down as he hurled off an edge he didn’t know was there. His scream got lodged in his throat as the sensation of falling engulfed him, the image of the Duke’s disgusted face looking down at him the last thing he saw as he shut his eyes tightly and waited for the end.

*

Yixing woke with a start, sweat beading all over his face and his heart pounding in his chest and climbing up into his throat when he sat up. His breathing came in short gasps and he fought to get it steady again, swallowing thrice when he thought he might lose the breakfast he had yet to eat. One hand clutching his chest and the other cradling his forehead, Yixing bent over in his bed, eyes wide in horror as he remembered the nightmare in all its vivid details.

What had he been thinking when he agreed to making an appearance at the tea ceremony today? Yixing had no business there, no, he really had no business being here, back at the Duke’s mansion, surrounding by artifacts of nobility and class that was well above what he was.

Yixing had been so caught up in the ecstasy of it all that he’d irgnored all reason and now his conscience was punishing him for it. He eyed the pack he’d brought with him from the other house, the key still laying on the table. He took a deep breath and stood up; it was a good thing he hadn’t unpacked when he arrived in evening, opting to immediately collapse in his bed instead.




A/N: OMG ONLY ONE MORE CHAPTER TO GO AND I WILL BE FREEEEEE. I'm still finishing it up and will likely also have some epilogue written up after as well. It might take a while to get posted; I'm going on a semi-vacation thing from work so I might be distracted and forget to post. I PROMISE IT WON'T BE ANOTHER YEAR BEFORE THE NEXT POST AGAIN, OKAY *weeps in corner feeling forever guilty. Comments always welcome! ^^
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