47: solitude, share a moment
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“There is a problem.”

Or so Yang Rong says, three days later, when he barges into the dingy old cottage, stomping his soot-stained boots in a frenzy. His footprints are murky brown and unsightly against old lumber planks. Immediately after his entrance, a foul scent wafts through the vicinity and Noah, lying motionlessly on the floor, shifts away in disgust.

He’d made himself quite comfortable with the colonel’s jacket as a pillow and blanket, burrowing himself into it without consideration for the wrinkled fabric. While Noah looks to be having the time of his life snuggled up and all, Colonel Yang is in a state of utter neglect.

The latter is still wearing the clothes he had on three days ago and not only are they unwashed, they’re also blackened with blood. The old gray cotton tee and the too-small cardigan (pilfered in the storage shack) is soaked with all kinds of revolting liquids. When the colonel goes out hunting – or whatever he’s doing to be out so late – he normally returns with an agitated expression on his face.

He stalks up to Noah, crouches down and practically rips the jacket off him. Sunrays stream down the open windows (rather, the open holes in the walls) and temporarily blind his eyes. In daytime, the solar radiation is dizzying enough to send small convulsions down his body. Though his genetic makeup is far beyond normal, Noah still has certain intolerance to direct light.

He lets out a soft groan and tries to hide himself again. Yang Rong, however, holds his wrist and pins him still. When Noah finally awakes, he’s met with a pair of scintillating green eyes. Yang Rong is always… unfortunately handsome, but he is even more eye-catching under golden rays. It isn’t the first time Noah finds himself admittedly aghast.

They’re so close Noah can pick out some individual strands, no split ends whatsoever. With daytime comes strange allure, luminescent dusting on the man’s pronounced cheekbone, his sculpted jawline, the angles of his face. Yang Rong’s hair, normally obsidian black, is given a soft backlight.

His daze is only broken when the man opens his foul mouth.

“Did you hear me?” Colonel Yang asks insistently, hovering over him in a display of power. “I said there is a problem.”

“Mn,” Noah mumbles begrudgingly in reply. His voice is coarse from fever. “The problem is how bad you smell right now.”

Yang Rong shoots him an exasperated look. They’re angled so Noah can see the twitch of his brows, the quirk of his mouth. “The problem is how you can smell like goddamn flowers despite being covered in sweat. Your Rong-ge doesn’t have that kind of superpower, alright?! I haven’t showered in days and must I emphasize that you’ve wasted all of our limited bathwater just to wash your face—it’s just a face! How high maintenance do you have to be—"

“Hygiene is important,” Noah retorts back. “I’m more appalled by the fact that you haven’t washed your face and…”

Colonel Yang prompts, “And?”

With his free hand, he musters all his strength to push the man off. Yang Rong hardly budges and soon, Noah is resigned from trying further. “When was the last time you showered?”

“Three days ago.”

The man admits it so easily it’s almost applaudable. Colonel Yang is never embarrassed when it comes to ‘trivial’ matters and as for Noah… The disgust on his face is all too telling. It is mesmerizing to see the shift from annoyance to disgust to agitation. Noah, catlike in nature, carries as much grace as he does recalcitrance.

His snow-white features are even more attractive in golden light. There’s haziness to his morning visage, his skin glowing almost satin against the dingy backdrop. Blue and golden orbs narrow in defiance and how quickly he turns from elegant to murderous is a sight to behold.

The wrinkle by his eyes indicates how repulsed he is, not so much by the colonel’s disregard of his personal space but by how foul-smelling the area is. He takes a tentative sniff, opens his mouth to retort, but then strangely…

As if he’d remembered something important, he turns around and doesn’t speak anymore. He also closes his eyes.

Such an unusual movement isn’t glossed over by Yang Rong’s ever-uncanny senses. It gets even more obvious when Noah’s ears begin to blossom a tinge of pink. The fluster snakes its way down the nape of his neck – extremely faint but suggestive nonetheless. It brings more color to the small hickey that still mars his porcelain skin.

A low hum from the person above him. The colonel studies him with meandering eyes, tracing the reddened area down to clavicle, down the neckline of his loose shirt. Yang Rong, still holding onto his wrist, leans down and chuckles. “What is it to make you so shy?”

Yang Rong, an absolute blockhead when it comes to emotional intelligence, has the keenness of an eagle at the worst times. No subtlety goes unnoticed in front of a man who’s honed his observation on the battlefield, a man who’d spent perhaps his entire life studying movement. With a teasing glint, Yang Rong lightly scratches Noah’s chin, handling him like he would a small animal – and Noah is too disconcerted to complain.

“Hmm?” Yang Rong is having fun pushing up the corner of his lips, poking at his cheek, doing anything he can to get Noah’s undivided attention. The playful gestures are less domineering than usual but still just as bold. “You’re averting your eyes again?”

Noah, unable to deal with him any longer, licks his lips and begins, “…A few nights ago, you…”

He trails off and resumes to play dead. The flush on his ears is growing more apparent and his cheeks, too, are prettily shaded coral. Yang Rong, for all his sadism, seems to find enjoyment in riling him up, smushing his face and watching as the hue glows darker.

“A few nights ago, I what?” he says teasingly. “Which part did you feel embarrassed about? The dashing deep sea rescue, the CPR, the princess carry, the piggyback ride… or was it when you went into heat, kissed me and—"

“—After that.” Embarrassment paints a pretty picture on the perpetually calm and cold Noah. Perhaps he’s not so much embarrassed as he is distressed, his gaze lowered to avoid Yang Rong. Adamantly, however, his tone isn’t any less sharp. “…Don’t do it so close to me.”

Yang Rong, not expecting such an answer, is genuinely confused. “What did I do close to you?”

Noah gives a drawn-out sigh and says, curtly, “The cottage walls are thin and almost nonexistent. Colonel Yang, your pher—your scent is so strong I can practically taste. I am still semi-conscious during my heat, so you should get further away instead of staying in a room barely five meters away.”

A moment of quietude as the colonel processes his words. Noah watches as the realization dawns in, the colonel’s face turning from mild amusement to perplexity, twisting to some strange unidentifiable mix. Noah is almost prepared for more teasing before—

“It was a physiological reaction, alright?!” the man suddenly shouts out loud, startling Noah into shrinking backward. The volume gets increasingly louder as he speaks. Yang Rong, complete with gesticulation and all, is acting more intensely than expected. “It is only natural that I—wouldn’t it be more strange if I didn’t get off to y—to an omega’s heat? Your Rong-ge is the most supreme of alphas, second to none so of course my physiology would be affected! It is lucky that I didn’t get into rut, okay?!”

At the face of Colonel Yang’s sudden outburst, Noah is completely baffled. He can only blink his eyes slowly, trying to process the words being mouthed faster than sound can travel. Yang Rong, still hovering over him, has on an overly serious expression while defending his innocence.

“Listen here,” Yang Rong continues to say. “I used to jerk off twice a day, so this little incident is nothing to make a fuss over, alright?!”

“…Mn,” Noah says slowly, “I got it.”

Then, a little while later, as if stuck in some strange mental loop, Yang Rong corrects himself. “No, it wasn’t twice a day but twice a week. Your Rong-ge has a very healthy libido but nothing overly excessive, alright?”

“…Mn.”

“I am not hypersexual,” Yang Rong repeats to make his point known. He leans down even more, pressing Noah’s wrist further down on the floor – the action is subconscious, considering how Yang Rong is still very much into proving his integrity. “I am not a beast nor am I too much to handle, understood?”

“Yes,” Noah says just to pacify. “…Colonel Yang, my hand.”

Finally, Yang Rong remembers to let go of his hand. Noah has to rotate it a few times to regain feeling on his carpal bone. The fluster on his face still remains, though it’s now added with a bit more confusion. His clean-cut features are even clearer in broad daylight and while he has half a mind to tell Colonel Yang to shield from the radiation, the latter’s gaze is drilled into him fixatedly.

Noah has an aura of lethargy, his hair sprawled backward to reveal a clean forehead, his duotone eyes half-lidded and puffed on the rims. Normally he would’ve kneed the colonel for being on top of him like this, but blame the sunlight for making Yang Rong less domineering and more agreeable.

Noah opens his mouth to speak, “About the—"

“—I thought about it some more,” Yang Rong accidentally cuts him off at the same time. Noah allows him to speak first – an action he regrets immediately because the man’s lips begin to curve up, indicating he has absolutely nothing appropriate to say. “Are you so flustered because you got off to my pheromones?”

Agreeable one second and incredibly annoying the next, Yang Rong has quite the propensity for foul words. Noah thinks that if the other could keep his mouth shut for a day, they just might be able to figure out this… temporary cohabitation of sorts.

“…” The fever only makes him more distressed. “No. I took sleeping pills.”

A low chuckle and then Yang Rong ruffles his hair. “Noah, you are even cuter when shy. But don’t take so many of those unknown drugs, hm? I’m afraid I’d find your unresponsive body when I awake and that wouldn’t be very pleasant.”

Colonel Yang continues to ruffle his hair for a while longer, his calloused palms sliding down smooth silver locks. Even in such a gritty environment, Noah radiates refined appeal. Not like he belongs here, of course – his bearing, his aura, everything about him screams he should be in some high-class residential area. Some place in the Nexus away from blood and grime, shielded from whatever hellhole of a planet they’re living on.

There is serenity in being here, a place so far from civilization, thrown off the charts. Yang Rong is voluntarily off-duty, and Noah has no place to go.

“Sleeping pills…” Yang Rong repeats, his volume lowered in morning ease. He rests a palm on Noah’s forehead, feels up the scalding temperature and gives a small frown. “Is that why you sleep for twenty-three hours of the day? Your physical health is quite concerning, Noah.”

“It is normally fine,” he says, closing his eyes. Noah finds himself strangely relaxed in skin contact – he’s fickle, perhaps, but Yang Rong has a way of making him feel… eased. Sometimes. Soft touches, light massages that are meant to appease – not to subdue – and Noah much prefers how Colonel Yang looks like under gentle morning light. “Only my digestion poses a problem.”

“Low blood sugar,” the colonel suddenly brings up. “You’ve mentioned that when we first met. Perhaps you have a specific diet?”

He hums in affirmation. “Some cooked foods are edible but not exactly… appetizing. My carnivorous hybrid allows me to ingest more radioactive creatures, but I dislike those too. They are unappetizing to see, let alone to eat. I would vomit if I ate something raw. I also dislike pork, beef, deer, duck and most meats. If I had to prepare a meal, it would need to be seared perfectly on both ends, yet still retain protein. Steak, for example, is a good source of myoglobin and…”

“…” Yang Rong stares at him in dismay. “Are you serious?”

Noah looks at him with furrowed brows. “Why would I not be?”

“I knew you were a picky eater, but…” Yang Rong gives a deep frown. “Am I raising a domestic cat?”

“On the contrary,” Noah counters, “a feline has a more selective palate than I do. I have said very specifically that I can eat certain—"

“—Then why don’t you?” Colonel Yang barks out. “Do I have to cater to your refined palate whenever I go hunting, little kitten? What do you actually eat out here? How do I find a plump cow to skewer for you out in the woods, huh?! Isn’t this a little too much?!”

“I said I dislike beef,” Noah counters sharply. “It is also impossible to find pure cattle in negative five-degree weather. If you find a plump one, it’d be a radioactive mammoth with ten hindlegs and while you, Colonel Yang, may find enjoyment eating such a hideous—"

The colonel pinches him hard on the cheek and, to Noah’s utter chagrin, proceeds to tug his silver hair, his ears… Yang Rong doesn’t leave a sliver of skin untouched, flicking him in reprimand. “You are incredibly hard to handle, you know that, Noah?! So what if we eat ten-legged, twenty-legged cows, elephants or leviathans for Christ’s sake?!”

“You are annoying,” Noah barks out angrily, trying to shift himself away from the harassment. It doesn’t help that the colonel’s dirty pants are rubbing on his own, the kneecap area smearing streaks of animal blood. “My preferences don’t have anything to do with you, so—"

“Do you think sustenance is easy to find out here, huh?! And you care about how hideous they look? Is that why you’re so goddamn lanky? I wonder how you’ve lived being so spoiled!" Yang Rong continues to fire out at him, pressing him down on the ground. “Twenty legs just mean more protein! You’re so small I can lift you with one hand—"

Noah, fed up, lifts a leg to kick the other man off of him. In a surprising display of strength, he grabs Yang Rong by the shoulders and pushes him down. The action topples them both downward, and after some maneuvering, Noah finally holds a position of dominance. There is little resistance coming from Yang Rong as their positions are flipped, Noah pivoting his body on top and digging his knee hard into the man’s upper thigh.

He slams one hand on the floor, right by the side of Colonel Yang’s face. Then in a moment of coy, he drags another slender hand up sculpted torso, past prominent collarbones and upward to the lump of Colonel Yang’s throat. Reminiscent of chokehold.

The sudden movement blasts Noah with vertigo, but still he plays it up all too well – the aggression, the provocation, the slow curl of his lips that hint just a bit flirtatious. Noah leans forward and Yang Rong is all too interested in following his every action, those lightened green eyes flickering with as much amusement as there is fascination. Zero resistance as Noah presses lightly on the nape of his neck, circling around his scent gland.

Warm breaths ghost over his ears and Noah leans even further, almost enough for lips to touch on the lobe. The gesture carries mischievousness but also danger – Noah is never one to suppress killing intent.

“Colonel Yang, you should not underestimate me.” There’s a flash of something competitive in Noah’s murmur, and then it’s overtaken by something sly and much more devilish. “I just might eat you.”

Colonel Yang’s lips curve. He allows Noah to straddle him, but it doesn’t mean he allows for him to take charge. Even in a position of disadvantage, Yang Rong remains completely at ease – his alpha nature is infuriatingly egotistical. Overpowering. There’s his black dagger (strapped onto his belt) poking Noah on the lower abdomen, easily in position to be unsheathed and then there’s the interest in his green eyes.

“Oh?” The tone matches in kind – low and flirtatious, honey-like in the way it drips southward. Yang Rong, for all his exasperation, has the most magnetic voice. He snakes one hand up the back of Noah’s neck, pulls him closer and says, with the same lasting smirk, “Why don’t you give it a try?”

He rubs a thumb teasingly on the corner of Noah’s lips, pushing it further up the opening—

Just then, Noah feels a sudden throb of pain on his stomach, a wound being torn open, some numbing sensation that threatens to paralyze. His pale eyes scrunch up in agony and all retorts on the tip of his tongue are muted into soft groans.

Yang Rong, confused, holds his collapsing body upright. “What’s wrong?”

“…” He plants himself face down onto the colonel’s neck. “…My stitches opened up.”

“…Goddamn it,” Yang Rong says in exasperation. “This is why you shouldn’t have moved. Do you think we have so much medical supplies for you to burn through? Is this a hospital?!”

Noah shakes his head, unwilling to deal with him any longer. His voice is muffled. “Hurts.”

There’s already warmth beginning to seep through their clothes and Colonel Yang stills at a loss. With a drawn-out sigh, he maneuvers them both upright, loosens the embrace, whispers words of cajole – it hardly helps because Noah is breathing heavily in pain – and lightly massages the sides of Noah’s body, intending to distract. “Shh… We’ll patch it up again… It doesn’t hurt…”

Noah would like to argue that it really hurts but he’s too unenergized to put up a fight. Instead, he rests his face onto Yang Rong’s shoulders, scrunches his eyes closed and tries to focus more on Yang Rong’s fingers, the surprisingly soft rubs on his skin.

It is of his own accord to be in this close proximity to Colonel Yang. In daylight, his senses are distorted enough to find the man… almost pleasant to be around. One firm arm holds his body firmly, securely and the treatment is so abnormally tender that Noah preens for it.

“Yang Rong,” he says suddenly, lifting his head up to look at the other.

His eyes trace from the dirty cotton shirt to deep collarbones, following the dog tag chain up to the man’s throat. The pink traces are gone.

A quirk of the brows is all he gets in response and Noah asks, softly, “Does it hurt?”

It takes a while longer for Yang Rong, so concentrated on disinfecting his injury, to understand the implication. “Like I’ve said, little kitten,” the man chuckles, matching him soft in volume. “You’d need to try a little harder to injure me, so…”

He ruffles Noah’s hair, reveling in the little strands that fall to obstruct his eyes. Yang Rong brushes away a lock of silver, leans forward (almost close enough to bump foreheads) and says with a smile (that may almost be considered fond), “So there is no need to look so embarrassed.”

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