Relearning how to live with Lu Hao was a strange process. Hong Sheng felt the weight of the apocalypse pressing down on him, and he couldn’t help but feel that he needed to do as much as he could to prepare.
The villa hadn’t been lived in for a while, so the first time they drove back to the city to buy groceries Hong Sheng had worked on autopilot, gathering all sorts of heavy bags of rice, canned foods, and dried goods.
When the cart had been loaded up imperishables, Lu Hao had looked at Hong Sheng with a wry face and asked, “Are you stocking up?”
Hong Sheng froze, several cans still gathered up in his arms. “Um,” he said. “Maybe?” Thinking quickly, he made up the excuse, “Well, the villa is far, you never know if maybe we won’t be able to get to the supermarket before we starve.”
“I’m sure we won’t have to starve,” Lu Hao said kindly. “But you’re right. We should be prepared for any circumstance.” And then Lu Hao started piling some dry goods into the cart with him.
Hong Sheng had also nervously eyed all of the open windows and clear scenery around the villa. Lu Hao had noticed, of course, and asked if Hong Sheng wanted to redecorate.
“It’s… this is your house,” Hong Sheng said helplessly. Even if he wanted to start building the villa’s defenses, he didn’t dare modify the house like he owned it.
“We’re both living here now, so I want you to be comfortable and consider this your own home,” Lu Hao refuted. He took Hong Sheng over to a window and raised a hand to the clear glass. “Tell me, what do you think we should do with this?”
Under Lu Hao’s scrutiny, Hong Sheng finally muttered out that the windows should be covered with sturdy shutters. Lu Hao then dragged Hong Sheng all over the house, asking what needed to be changed - and Hong Sheng ended up spilling all of the memories and suggestions he had, recalling all of the ways the past life’s villa had been modified.
Lu Hao looked intrigued. He probably thought Hong Sheng was crazy with his talk of barricades and limited ingress points and traps. But Lu Hao smiled and said, “Alright, we’ll get this done,” and then over the next few weeks entire truckloads of construction materials arrived, and contractors came to build the new installations.
Though Lu Hao’s family was certainly not lacking in money, Hong Sheng felt ill about making him front all of these costs. With the rest of his savings, Hong Sheng secretly ordered the generators, purifiers, and security technology that would complete the villa’s preparations.
And with that, an entire month before the apocalypse, the villa had become a fortress.
The days passed by quickly. It was the calm before the storm, a taste of paradise before hell. Hong Sheng spent every day with Lu Hao. They ate together, exercised together, watched TV together, read together. Sometimes Lu Hao withdrew to his room to work on something with his laptop, and Hong Sheng took the opportunity to care for the small garden he had started to raise.
“What about school? And your girlfriend?” Hong Sheng asked one time. He was worried that Lu Hao seemed to put his life on pause, almost as if nothing else mattered other than staying here.
Lu Hao just smiled and said those things were already done with.
For some odd reason, Hong Sheng felt that Lu Hao was pampering him. When Hong Sheng had stayed still too long, or stared at something more than usual, Lu Hao always came to hug him and check on him, asking things like, “How are you feeling?” “Is this place okay?” “Do you need anything?”, and if Hong Sheng expressed even the slightest discomfort Lu Hao sprang into action to correct it.
There was one day where Hong Sheng had refused to leave bed. Lu Hao had knocked on the door and quietly entered when he didn’t answer. Seeing Hong Sheng curled up under the blanket, facing away from the door, he slowly sat down on the bed.
“Did you have a nightmare?” he asked quietly.
Hong Sheng didn’t want to speak. He had dreamed of dying, dreamed of being a zombie, dreamed of killing.
He nodded, and said nothing else.
Lu Hao didn’t ask more about the nightmare. He had simply laid down on the bed and held Hong Sheng in his arms until Hong Sheng stopped shaking, hours later.
That was a bad day, but it was better to not have to face it alone.
Today was a leisurely period.
They had finished everything they needed to do today. Hong Sheng’s garden had been tended to, and Lu Hao’s mystery hobbies were done.
Now, Lu Hao lounged on the sofa, reading while basking in the sunlight of one of the open windows. All other windows were dark, covered by the shutters, making the one spot of light brilliant in contrast to the shadows. Lu Hao looked warm and effortlessly beautiful, one arm slung over the back of the sofa, the other holding a book.
Lu Hao tilted his head, noticing Hong Sheng standing at the staircase. He smiled softly and beckoned Hong Sheng closer.
“Come here,” he said.
Hong Sheng padded toward the sofa and sat stiffly at the other end. Lu Hao dropped his arm from the sofa and onto Hong Sheng’s shoulder, effortlessly dragging him closer until they sat side by side, Hong Sheng’s head pillowed on Lu Hao’s chest. Snuggled up like this, the scene was so warm, so comforting. Hong Sheng closed his eyes, savoring the closeness.
Lu Hao had always been free with his affection, so Hong Sheng knew better than to assume this meant anything other than Lu Hao’s friendship. But still, to be this close, sharing breaths and drinking in his warmth, his scent, Hong Sheng felt so happy that he could have been drunk.
With the sun covering his skin like a blanket, Hong Sheng dozed off.
The night the apocalypse came had been quiet.
After all, over here, there was only Hong Sheng and Lu Hao. It was nothing like in his first life where he had been surrounded by people, trapped in the mire of the city, the sound of tearing flesh and screams everywhere.
In the darkness of the night, Hong Sheng sat in his room, staring out at the balcony. A flash of light illuminated the sky; the end of the world had come.
A low snarl sounded. In the room across the hall, Lu Hao was already changing, becoming something more than human.
And Hong Sheng remained the same as always.
He let out a shaky sigh of relief, put the knife back into the drawer, and waited for morning to come.