Shen Yans home was not that far away from the clinic, so it took them less than ten minutes to get there.
The Northern part of the city belonged to the old town. Unlike in the new district where Qi Jing lived, the buildings here were rather old, and there were a lot of old-fashioned alleys and houses.
The majority of the residents had been living there for generations. Most of the younger people had moved out, while the retirees enjoyed this leisurely, slow-paced life. From time to time, old people sitting under the eaves drinking tea and listening to the rain could be seen on the quiet streets. Some of the more refined ones laid out the chess and played while listening to it.
Both the inside and outside of these walls were pervaded by a tranquil and simple atmosphere.
Amidst the heavy rain, vines that seemingly appear out of nowhere hung in front of the building, constantly dripping with water. Patches of grey moss could be found here and there on the white wall and they would occasionally catch little snails crawling slowly along the trails of the rainwater.
“Were here.” When they arrived at the front of an old-fashioned residential building, Shen Yan pointed at the unit closest to the inside.
Because it was an old building, the layout of the corridor was still the outdated one, so it seemed rather low and narrow. And just outside the building stood several towering Bodhi trees which made the path which was already fairly dim from the gloomy weather even darker, and he could barely see the steps below his feet when he entered.
The light in the corridor should be sound-activated, but it didnt turn on even after Qi Jing had taken a few steps.
Just when he was about to walk upstairs holding onto the wall, Shen Yan who was walking before him turned around and motioned for him to stop for a while: “The light in the corridor broke two days ago, and as for now, it still hasnt been repaired. Your hand is hurt, so youd better take care not to fall.”
Saying that, he stretched out his hand gently.
How fortunate the light is a little dim.
With his back to the light, the expression on Qi Jings face was covered by a shadow, but he still stretched his hand out slowly. He was a lot calmer this time when he held the mans hand for the second time. Its just that the temperature of his fingers were on the lower side. Shen Yan quietly grabbed his hand in turn. His palm was still as warm and strong when he led Qi Jing up the stairs.
By the time they arrived at the third floor, his eyes had already gotten used to the darkness, and there was a trace of sunlight at the end of the corridor.
But Shen Yan didnt let go of his hand at all. It was only when they came to the door that he gently lowered Qi Jings hand as he had to get his keys to open it. Qi Jing stood in the corner waiting, motionless, without uttering a single word as he clenched his hand into a fist and pressed it against the side of his thigh.
“Please, come in.” After opening the door, Shen Yan made way for him and invited him inside.
Although the residential building seemed old from the outside, the interior looked newer than Qi Jing expected. Perhaps it was renovated a little. The layout of the apartment was about the same as in your usual residential apartments, with two bedrooms and one kitchen. It couldnt be described as spacious, but it also wasnt cramped; the size was just about right.
Maybe it was because he was used to the emptiness of his apartment, but when hes here, Qi Jing felt as if the interior was filled to the brim.
It didnt feel overly packed, but rather quite homey. There was a lot of furniture there, and almost all of it was made from black walnut wood. There were all kinds of trinkets, books and pottery in the large cupboard placed in the living room. The sofa was covered with square cushions, that were soft and cosy. The coffee table and the dining table were quite wide, and occupied a lot of space. Visually, the house gave a safe and homely feeling.
This is what home looks like—Qi Jing couldnt help but think so when he compared it to the empty and simple layout of his own place.
“Sorry, the apartment is quite old.” Shen Yan leaned down and tidied up the cushions of various colours to make some room for him to sit.
“I dont mind, I think its very good.” Qi Jing said hurriedly.
But looking at the amount of things here... He probably isnt living alone. Sometimes, the observative skills formed by his occupation brought negative thoughts like this to his mind.
Qi Jing was thinking in silence while looking around, subconsciously searching for the traces of other people living here.
Seemingly able to read his inquiring gaze, Shen Yan suddenly said lightly: “I also live alone. This used to be my grandfathers place. After he passed, I kept all his things and I didnt want to give them away either, so it looks quite cramped here.”
Qi Jing was taken aback and blurted out two words: “Grandpas grandpa.”
Just after he said that, he realised these words were inappropriate, and awkwardly avoided Shen Yans gaze, regretting his slip of tongue. However, Shen Yan didnt mind it at all, he even smiled lightly, “Exactly, Grandpas grandpa. I was brought up by him.”
The topic stopped at that, and he didnt mention a word about his other family members.
Naturally, as a clever man, Qi Jing wouldnt do something as stupid as asking these questions on his own accord. He just quietly sat down with conflicted feelings.
“What do you like to eat” Shen Yan asked him.
“I dont have any special preferences, you can do something simple, dont trouble yourself too much.” Usually, Qi Jings diet was a mess. Sometimes he would be so busy with work that he wouldnt eat anything but biscuits to satisfy his hunger throughout the day. At his house, stomach medicine was a basic necessity, “The ones you sent me in the mail last time would be good, they are light and easy to make.”
Shen Yan replied with a short “Hmm”. He opened a refrigerator and bent over to look for the suitable ingredients.
At that moment, Qi Jing got up from the sofa and hesitated before speaking: “Um... I can help you if you dont mind”
To be honest, he was at loss when he first heard Shen Yans invitation.Going to his house to eat meant he would be cooking for him personally. Shen Yan had already sacrificed his free time to take care of Return Date, and now, even after he returned from the vet clinic, Shen Yan still had to busy himself to take care of him. Qi Jing felt sorry about it.
Although he could only use one hand, he could at least try to help around the kitchen as an assistant.
“Okay.” Shen Yan looked at him and nodded after a long while.
Then again... Watching after a fire isnt that much of a help, is it
Qi Jing looked at the flickering flame on the gas stove before him, then at the water that was just about to start boiling and at Shen Yan in silence. Shen Yan didnt meet Qi Jings eyes but kept his lowered as he chopped up the head of a cauliflower into smaller portions and said, “Just like this is fine.”
“I still can help with something else.” He insisted.
He had done a total of three things since stepping into the kitchen: rinsing rice, cooking rice and watching after a fire, all of which were simple chores that required no effort or skill.
On the other hand, Shen Yan was so busy he didnt have time to turn around, and the sound of chopping never stopped. On the kitchen counter there were not only vegetables, eggs, tofu and other healthy food, but also half a kilogram of lean meat to add some protein and two fish heads for making a soup later. He had his sleeves rolled up halfway, from cleaning and cutting vegetables to seasoning, he had done everything skillfully, his expression was concentrated as if he stood before the operating table throughout the whole process. Qi Jing waited for a long time before he found a suitable moment to speak.
Maybe it was because his voice was unusually earnest, Shen Yan stopped for a moment. He thought a little and cracked open two eggs into a bowl, then gave him a pair of chopsticks.
“In that case, you can help me with beating the eggs.” Thats what he meant bysubstantial work.
“Shen Yan,” It was the first time when Qi Jing felt that the cast on his hand was heavy, so heavy that it weighed down his heart, “I honestly want to help, really.”
“Youre already helping.” Shen Yans expression was calm and it didnt look like he was just paying lip service. His action of cutting vegetables slowed down a bit, as he said his next words in a hoarse voice amid the sound of chopping on the cutboard, “And also... Im already very content with the fact that youre willing to come here.”
The stove fire flickered a little.
The pot of water on the stove reached its boiling point at this time, and the air bubbles rising from the bottom of the pot broke through the waters surface, spraying water around.
This sound would be a good portrayal of what was happening in Qi Jings heart—on the surface he was calm, but the temperature inside was rising continuously as he gradually began to waver, until the feelings hidden inside him started to surge beyond his control, and erupt.
His face was pale, and he didnt say anything for a while. Large amount of steam rising from the pot concealed the slight shaking of his body.
It seems Shen Yan took it to his heart when I pulled away my hand.
Thats why he would say something like this.
Shen Yan was a very cautious person. He was quick to understand the hints in other peoples actions and adjust himself. Qi Jing knew Shen Yan used to suffer from the speech disorder, yet he still reacted in such a way that hurt Shen Yans feelings. It was simply rubbing salt into Shen Yans injuries. He clearly accompanied him through all these hardships, yet he was telling him he wascontent with just Qi Jing coming to his house and eating a meal with him.
So many times. I always receive his care, yet my only reaction is to push him away ruthlessly.
Theres no more hideous thing than that...
He lowered his eyes and saw that the bowl of eggs was already shaking even before he started beating it. Probably his hands were shaking too much. A sense of remorse tightened his throat, making his voice almost inaudible: “... In fact, Im very happy. Because its you who invited me.”
Afraid that the other person wont hear his words, he repeated himself, enunciating each word as clearly as possible.
“Its only because its you that I am so happy.”
At that moment the sound of knife chopping on the cutting board ceased.
Shen Yan heaved a deep sigh. It was hard to tell whether it was a sigh of relief, or deepening perplexion: “I always thought you hated me.”
Their conversation stopped at that.
I have never once thought that way—Qi Jing really wanted to reply like this. The reason he didnt blurt out that reply was because just as he wanted to open his mouth to refute, he realised that much of his behaviour thus far wouldnt be able to back it up. In fact, it might even backfire, so he could only stand there, unable to do anything.
When the meal was ready and the fire was put out, he had finally walked out of the kitchen slowly.
Eating around the table with your family was a normal thing, yet he hadnt done that for years.
It was not the same as social dining for work or meeting up with friends in private for a meal. Knowing that someone made the hot and steaming food before him just for his sake made him feel like he was taken care of by that person. And the last time he experienced something like this was before he left his home.
Its been so many years that Qi Jing had already forgotten about how it felt because he didnt have anyone to remind him about that feeling for too long.
Until now. Until he met the man across the table.
“Lets eat.” Shen Yan seemed to have no intention of continuing the previous topic. Qi Jing nodded his head obediently and thanked in a low voice, sitting down behind the table.
It was just two of them, but they had five dishes and one soup on the table. Cauliflower with garlic, tofu egg drop soup, auricula fungus, and poached sliced pork, even fish head soup with pickled bamboo shoots... They were all completely ordinary home-cooked meals, but not only was each dish colourful and pleasing to the eyes, they were also extremely fragrant. Even his appetite—which had been bad since he caught a cold—had improved.
Shen Yan got him a bowl of just cooked white rice and put it before him, then helped him with grabbing the chopsticks.
In recent years, apart from when he ate out in restaurants, Qi Jing hardly had the chance to see such a wide spread of dishes before him, much less in a private setting, where all the dishes were prepared by Shen Yan himself.
He couldnt even bear to move his chopsticks, “... Your cooking skills are really good.”
Shen Yan saw that he had not tried anything yet, and the corners of his mouth quirked up a little, but just lightly: “How do you know that before he even tasted it”
“I can see that its delicious just by looking.” Qi Jing answered honestly.
He suddenly remembered that hospital boxed lunches that accompanied him for days he spent in a hospital bed—rice hard like gravel, too salty endivia, tasteless eggs, and only one dish that was barely worth any praise, fried tofu.
He forced a smile and said: “In the first days after the surgery, I was alone in the hospital and didnt have anyone to bring me food, so I would go to the hospital cafeteria to buy boxed meals. That meals were the complete opposite, just by looking at them you could tell theyre disgusting.”
Nevertheless, he at least had these lunch boxes to accompany him in the most difficult time, and didnt die in the hospital bed
The source of this content is n/ov//el/bin[./]net'
At that moment, Shen Yan spoke suddenly: “You lost a lot of weight compared to before the accident.”
Qi Jing was taken aback as he turned his head towards Shen Yan in a daze.
That man sitting across the table full of steaming dishes showed a solemn expression as he frowned. His eyes stayed on his face for a long time as he said: “Every time we chatted before, I had vaguely sensed that... you had probably suffered a lot during that time. But when I saw you once again, it gave me a scare.”
Hearing that, Qi Jing subconsciously covered half of his cheek with his hand, and asked in a hoarse voice: “Did I lose so much weight that I could scare people now”
He didnt know how much weight he had lost during that half month, he didnt measure it at all. But if everyone said the same thing, then he had to have lost quite a lot. He could only wish that Shen Yan did not find him unbearable to look at.
“Its not a matter of changes in your body, but your whole person.” Shen Yan said slowly.
He still remembered his impression on Qi Jing from when they met at the hospital for a follow up report on the cat abuse news.
Back then, although Qi Jing would look tired from time to time, he was still full of vigour. His face was always full of smiles, and he always greeted everyone politely. He was like a ray of morning sunlight. Although not as intense as the midday sun, it was gentle and warm, as it made one feel comfortable.
Unlike him at that moment.
Unlike how Shen Yan had seen him under that umbrella; sitting by himself in a corner, with his hand covered in cast. Alone and helpless, as his face looked exactly like the city during rain—dark and gloomy.
“Of course my complexion wouldnt be as good, I broke my hand after all.” Qi Jing smiled while shaking his head, although his smile was a little forced.
After all, no sick person would have a good complexion.
Shen Yan also shook his head lightly, but did not smile, “You can obviously treat yourself better.”
Qi Jing blinked slowly, bewildered.
Better... The concept of treating himselfbetter was too vague, and it was too unrealistic to attain with his current life situation. So he did what he was the best at; finding positives in the midst of harsh reality. “The company gave me a month worth of leave because of my injury, so I can recuperate at home. Compared to how I usually have to run about busily without any regular sleep hours or meals, its already much better. I would have to quit my job to change my current lifestyle.”
Shen Yan still didnt smile, “I know that journalism is a hard profession, but Im not saying you should change your job.”
So... he wasnt referring to that
Qi Jing looked at him in confusion: “Then, what do you mean”
Shen Yan looked away. He lowered his head and looked at the bowl and chopsticks in front of him as he raised his hand, lightly touching his lips with a finger. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but it took a long while before he got the words out.
“What I mean is—you should find yourself someone that would take care of you.”
Lucilla: Qi Jing, youd better decide quickly. He cooks, he fluffs and he protecc, if you wont grab him, I will. ( •̀ ω •́ )
Mashiro: My brain automatically converts it as “Lets be together”
And my fujoshi mind started screaming, “Yeaaa!! My Ship started sailing, my ship started sailing!! Bon voyage mon ship!!”