First Published on Chaleuria
Standing behind Fang Chi, still holding onto his bag, Gao Zhun watched as the other man pulled down the blinds in the room one by one. “Dr. Fang, please don’t… take the things I said yesterday to heart.”
The room darkened, and a shroud of vague, suggestive intimacy settled in the air. Fang Chi turned to look at him. “I understand. You were just too nervous,” he replied with his usual gentle smile, “I didn’t take any of it seriously.”
Gao Zhun felt a slight pang of disappointment at his reassurance. “I made a wooden frame for your letter. I carved it by hand. Would you… like to see it?” he said as he took out his phone. “I only managed to complete it sometime after four this morning.”
Fang Chi strode over. Instead of looking at the phone, he studied Gao Zhun’s face and stroked it lightly with his right thumb, just below an eye socket. “You didn’t sleep well.”
Electric shocks ripped through Gao Zhun’s entire body at the touch; even his tailbone tingled with chills. Then, Fang Chi moved behind Gao Zhun and held his hand while he took a look at the photo on the phone. “That looks really amazing. You designed it yourself?”
Gao Zhun blushed and nodded. “Send me the photo later,” Fang Chi said, patting him on the shoulder, before moving a stool to the side of his crimson couch. “Mr. Gao, we will begin with your formal treatment today. Just relax and follow my instructions.”
“Begin… today?” Gao Zhun was a little stunned. “What about…”
“Our previous sessions made up the pre-diagnosis assessment phase of the therapeutic process.” Fang Chi took his position behind the couch with an air of professionalism and rolled up his shirtsleeves. “Take off your jacket.” As he focused his attention on adjusting the recline angle for the couch, he added absently, “Remove your tie and belt as well.”
Gao Zhun had begun undressing, but his hands paused at the sound of Fang Chi’s additional instructions. “When you say ‘remove’, do you mean…”
“Take them off altogether.” Fang Chi fetched another stool as he continued, “I need you to be thoroughly relaxed. If the waistband of your trousers feels tight, please unbutton it. You can pull down your fly a little as well.”
Gao Zhun hung up his jacket and reached for the fabric around his neck. He was no longer afraid of undoing his tie, but in the absence of fear, the act now filled him with a new, inexplicable sense of shyness. When Fang Chi looked up after he had finished setting up the area, he saw Gao Zhun still holding on to the knot with hesitant hands. “Does it still frighten you?” He strode around the couch and came up to the other man. “I’ll help,” he said, standing face to face with Gao Zhun, wrapping his hand around the knot. Then he gave a light tug, and Gao Zhun could not help but shiver as an odd feeling began encroaching on his senses in the dim light.
“Unbutton your shirt a little and lie back on the couch,” Fang Chi instructed, holding Gao Zhun by the shoulders and easing him onto the couch. “We will start with some relaxation training, which will take about twenty minutes. You can practice on your own as well, when you’re at home.”
Gao Zhun’s heart pounded itself into a delirious frenzy. This was not right – he knew – it was wrong of him to feel this way. Yet, when Fang Chi helped him straighten his legs on the couch, he felt as if he had even stopped breathing. “Let’s start with some breathing exercises,” Fang Chi said, his voice unusually vivid in the dark. Sitting on a stool, he lowered his left hand onto Gao Zhun’s chest with slow, deliberate movements – and felt an obvious twitch in the muscle under his palm.
“Stay calm. Just relax,” he coaxed as he kneaded Gao Zhun’s chest. “There are two types of breathing. Chest breathing is the more common of the two. Now, we will try switching to abdominal breathing.” Gao Zhun was alarmed. He had a bad feeling about the word ‘abdominal’, but nothing prepared him for the sensation that assailed him in the very next moment. Without any warning, Fang Chi’s right hand pressed onto his lower belly, and he exhaled a soft, velvet moan almost unconsciously.
“It’s okay,” Fang Chi cut in before he could apologize, “this is a normal reaction for many patients. It’s possible that your trousers are too tight.” He reached for the button at Gao Zhun’s waist and undid it with an inward twist. “Sorry. I’m going to loosen them a little for you.”
Fang Chi’s touch continued to linger. He began pulling down the zip, bit by bit, until one-third of Gao Zhun’s fly lay open under his hand. Gao Zhun held his breath. The soft metallic scrape was too grating in his ears – too much for him to take – and he could not help but clamp a hand over his mouth in desperation.
“Relax your body and remove your hand,” Fang Chi tried to stop him, unintentionally pressing down a little on Gao Zhun’s lower belly in the process. The sensation overwhelmed Gao Zhun; it seared through his body and made him want to curl up on himself. Noticing his nervous tension, Fang Chi stood up to look at him in the face. “What’s wrong? Are you feeling unwell?”
Unable to see much in the dark, Fang Chi leaned in for a better look. He was so close that the hair on Gao Zhun’s forehead began stirring in time to his breaths. Gazing at the vague lips that loomed before his eyes, Gao Zhun was seized with a sudden yearning to claim them with a kiss. At this distance, he could cling to those shoulders with ease, pull that man down with all of his weight, and devour every inch of that mouth – bit by bit, licking and sucking… Heat roiled in his lower belly. Roaring torrents tore through his body towards a single destination. Sexual desire awakened within him, violent and all-consuming, shaking him to the core. An excruciating thrill pierced through his being, and he was jolted back to his senses, overwhelmed with disbelief at his own shameless imagination.
Meanwhile, in reality, Fang Chi had already returned to his seat. Pressing down with his left hand, he instructed, “Keep your chest still. Try to inflate your abdomen as much as possible when you breathe in. Fill your belly with air.” Then, patting Gao Zhun’s lower belly with his right hand, he continued, “When you breathe out, tighten your abdominal muscles as much as possible, as if they are collapsing inward. Pull them towards your back.” He glanced at the luminous hands of the clock on the wall. “Give it a go. Take your time. Don’t rush.”
With widened eyes, Gao Zhun stared up at the ceiling in a daze as he began to breathe using the new technique. Every inhalation was accompanied by a pang of shame to his heart; even without looking, he could feel the rhythmic upward thrust of his belly against Fang Chi’s hand.
“You’re not breathing out completely,” Fang Chi observed. He stood up and pressed down according to the rhythm of Gao Zhun’s breathing. “Try to empty all the air out when you exhale.” Focusing his attention on his right hand, Fang Chi did not notice that the little finger of his left hand had brushed past Gao Zhun’s open collar. It rested on Gao Zhun’s skin now, and its warmth – negligible as it was – sent him reeling with confusion as it set his entire body on fire.
Fang Chi noticed Gao Zhun’s squirming. Although it was difficult for him to see anything, he sensed the tension in the body under his hands and guessed that Gao Zhun might have become aroused. “Mr. Gao, please let me know if you feel any discomfort.”
“I…” Gao Zhun’s voice was tight and hoarse with nervousness. He cleared his throat and tried again, “I don’t feel too well. Can we pause here for a while?”
“Where do you feel unwell?”
The swelling between Gao Zhun’s legs worsened. He had no choice but to turn his body onto his side and shield his crotch with his hands. “I need to use the washroom.”
“You can’t hold it in anymore?”
Gao Zhun’s bulge strained against his underwear. It pushed through the opening of his partially undone fly and prodded hard at his palm. “No, I can’t.”
Like a punishing, unforgiving officer, Fang Chi stared at Gao Zhun through the darkness. After a long, protracted pause, he let the other man off at last with a single command, “Go on.”
Fang Chi backed away a little. Gao Zhun got up at once, slid off the couch against him, and dashed into the washroom. The door closed. After giving the door another push from the inside, he locked the door with a resounding click. Then, turning on the tap, he filled the washroom with the sound of running water, completely drowning out the sounds of his subsequent movements. Alone in the room, Fang Chi sat in a daze for a very long time, transfixed by the sight of the couch before him. In the dark, its bright crimson shade took on a heavy, blackened hue. An inexplicable impulse came over him. Just as if Gao Zhun was still lying on top, he sank his hands into the couch and began fondling its surface. Back and forth, he ran his insatiable hands all over the couch, his touch burning with flagrant lust.
Fang Chi did not know how much time had passed before the tap was finally turned off. At the sound of the toilet being flushed, he pulled his sweat-drenched hands away as if he was waking up from a dream. In a panicked haste, he wiped his palms on his shirt, in the inconspicuous areas under his arms. As he raked his fingers raggedly through his hair, the door opened. Gao Zhun snuck out of the washroom. After hesitating in the doorway for several moments, he hung his head and trod back to the couch.
“What took you so long?” Fang Chi found himself asking, much to his own disbelief.
Gao Zhun stood before him, ashamed and mortified. “My… my stomach was acting up.”
“Perhaps you were too nervous.” Fang Chi lowered his head as well, averting his gaze from the other man. “Do you want to try it again?”
Gao Zhun shook his head at once. A split-second later, however, he added with a cautious note in his voice, “But if… if you want me to…”
“That’s not necessary.” Fang Chi got to his feet, strode across the room, and switched on the lights. When he turned around again, he was wearing his warm smile once more. “You’ve done very well today. As a reward, I’ll take you somewhere to wind down.”
Stunned by the sudden brightness and Fang Chi’s smile, Gao Zhun blinked in momentary confusion, dazzled by both alike.