Quality Check: Isalee
First Published on Chaleuria
The door closed with a soft thud. Now that they were alone in the room, Zhang Zhun became a little embarrassed all of a sudden. He shook his hand, trying to pull it out of the other man’s grasp. Chen Hsin did not let go; instead, he tugged Zhang Zhun onto the edge of his bed, closer to himself. “I don’t feel too well…”
Although Zhang Zhun said nothing, he stilled in response. Wordlessly resting his hand in Chen Hsin’s grip, Zhang Zhun watched as the younger man closed his eyes in contentment. He seemed as if he was drifting to sleep, and Zhang Zhun was more than willing to stay and enjoy this quiet, restful moment with him.
Little by little, Chen Hsin pulled their clasped hands under the covers. Zhang Zhun did not think much of the action at first. However, as his hand was dragged deeper and deeper into the bedding, Zhang Zhun realized that something was not quite right. Chen Hsin was naked except for his underwear, and Zhang Zhun found his palm squarely pressed onto the clothed crotch. Chen Hsin even made his hand grind against the flesh underneath. A furious blush burst over Zhang Zhun’s face at once. Embarrassed and indignant, he yelled at the younger man. “Chen Hsin! Where the hell do you feel unwell?!”
Perhaps because of his sickness, Chen Hsin looked weak and harmless as he peered up at the older man with fond eyes. “I feel unwell here. Hurry up. Give it a few rubs and make it better.” Zhang Zhun started yanking his hand away, but Chen Hsin held on with a death grip, refusing to let go. Amidst their struggle, the clothed length began to stir. It hardened and warmed, prodding against Zhang Zhun’s palm while its spirited head twitched a little from side to side. “Hurry…” Chen Hsin’s voice was taut with feverish excitement. “Hurry up…”
Zhang Zhun remained motionless. Chen Hsin had no choice; he tightened his hold on the older man’s hand, pressed it harder against himself, and jerked his hips upwards with effort. “Why are you so horny…” Although Zhang Zhun had meant to berate the other man, his scolding sounded more like flirtation when spoken aloud.
“But I’ve held it in for so long. Even the best of equipment can’t be left untouched for this long,” Chen Hsin lamented in a pitiful voice. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, Zhang Zhun shot him a glare out of the rosy corners of his eyes. Stoked by the single glance, Chen Hsin became increasingly shameless and petulant. “Come on. I’m already like this. Would it kill you just to knead it for a while?”
Zhang Zhun looked away, appearing to ignore the younger man; yet, even as he averted his face, he gave the aching bulge a light rub and slowly closed his fingers around the shaft through the cloth. Chen Hsin breathed out a long sigh of pleasure. Low, eager moans followed, urging Zhang Zhun on with every lustful note. As if unable to bear the shame, the older man bowed his head as he began rubbing Chen Hsin off. He was so mortified that even his dry lips were suffused with a deep, ripe red. Chen Hsin swallowed, savoring the sight before him. “What, you’ve never tried this before with your buddies?”
After a moment of silence, Zhang Zhun replied, “I did. We did this quite often on the team.”
Chen Hsin frowned. “What team?”
“The martial arts team I used to train with.” Zhang Zhun laughed, as if telling a joke from the distant past. “Back then, anyone who was short, or slightly fairer and prettier than the norm, would be forced to stay on the bottom. To be used like a girl by others, you know, when fooling around.” Chen Hsin tensed. A single thought crossed his mind: Zhang Zhun was very pretty. His Adam’s apple bobbed nervously, but he could not bring himself to ask his questions aloud. Zhang Zhun, however, continued with unaffected frankness, “I’d been used before, but it’s not as if I was always the one being used. It’s not so bad.”
At this, Chen Hsin felt a sudden burst of sourness within himself. Galvanized by the tang of jealousy in his mouth, he shot up in bed and folded Zhang Zhun to his chest. Pressing his lips to the other man’s skin, Chen Hsin breathed into his ear, “Don’t tell me anything like this ever again. I can’t take it!”
Zhang Zhun leaned into his embrace, quiet and meek. Chen Hsin caught the faint scent of soap lingering at the edge of the older man’s ear and the crook of his neck. Lowering his eyes, he gazed at Zhang Zhun’s reddened earlobe and saw that he was not wearing an ear stud today. Instead, a transparent ear stick protruded from the tender flesh, looking refreshingly simple and clean. “Why did you get an ear piercing?” With a curl of his tongue, Chen Hsin rolled back the soft lobe and latched onto the piece of plastic with his teeth. Bit by bit, he pulled out the stick and spat it onto the floor. “Aren’t you martial artists all about being manly?”
No one had ever done this to Zhang Zhun before. A wave of weakness washed over him, and he shivered a little. “It’s just… It looked pretty nice.”
Chen Hsin was very bothered. Still, he could not help but ask, “You got it on your own?”
“A friend took me…” All of a sudden, Chen Hsin took the nub into his mouth and sucked. The tip of his tongue teased at the piercing, relentless and suggestive as it nudged the tiny opening over and over again. Tingling numbness spread down the side of Zhang Zhun’s face to his shoulder. Under the covers, his hand could not help but reach into Chen Hsin’s already sodden underwear. Wrapping his grip around the needy length, Zhang Zhun started jerking Chen Hsin off again – skin on skin, and flesh to flesh.
Zhang Zhun was really good with his hands, Chen Hsin thought with a pang of jealousy. Yet, the more he thought about it, the harder he became. Pleasure swelled within him. He felt close to melting, like a slab of ice or a cloud of mist in the warmth of the most dazzling light – a secret sunshine of his own, enveloping him from above. Little by little, he edged toward that brilliance overhead. He was close, so close. Cries of Zhang Zhun’s name falling from his lips, he strained toward his release –
And the door opened just then with a maddening ring from the electronic lock. Feng Yunting was back, a glass of milk in her hands. Though she had been gone for longer than was needed to get milk, it was clearly not long enough to bring an illicit quickie to completion. Zhang Zhun withdrew his hand at once and sprang to his feet with a guilty conscience. Chen Hsin, thwarted right before he could come, flung himself back onto the bed. Panting hard as he sank into his pillow, he pressed a hand to his forehead in chagrin.
“Honey, have some milk. It’s good for your body.” Feng Yunting was all smiles, her saccharine sweetness dripping with blatant mockery as she came up to the bed. Zhang Zhun stepped aside for her in embarrassment. Then, covering his red, swollen ear, he strode towards the door and left.
There was no filming for the entire day. Zhang Zhun took some time to work out at the gym, but returned from his training feeling rather idle. Since the reporters were still prowling around, he remained holed up in his room and whiled away the time watching movies on his tablet. After a quick search, Zhang Zhun came to the realization that Chen Hsin had never acted in TV dramas before. From the very day of his debut, Chen Hsin had been the invincible darling of the silver screen – a born superstar.
In his teens, Chen Hsin acted as a delinquent student in a gang. In his twenties, he played the everyman as well as the homeless man living off the streets. Now, in his thirties, he took on the roles of a drug dealer, a lunatic, and a gay man with equal finesse. His brilliant career was never marred by slumps that had him waiting for phone-calls on an empty stomach. Neither was it ever stained by a single immature or clichéd role. All of his characters had been complex individuals with the most vivid emotions and experiences; all his films told unforgettable, moving stories. He was so lucky, so blessed, that he was almost detestable.
Zhang Zhun did not want to think about the past, but he could not stop the memories from flooding his mind. He recalled a brief episode during the filming for Galloping Steed. It had been a grueling day in the mountains, with Zhang Zhun spending hours without rest on wirework as the stunt double for the female lead. To make matters worse, it began to rain just as the team was leaving the mountain after filming. Chen Hsin was the leading actor, and he stayed at the head of the crowd, holding on to the leading actress while they made their way across the rugged terrain. Umbrellas broke one after the other in the strong, freezing wind. When the assistant director caught sight of Zhang Zhun, he called out at once, “Bring your umbrella over!”
Zhang Zhun remembered how he had rushed over, running, and how his umbrella had been held over Chen Hsin’s head as soon as it left his hand. At the time, the younger man had turned to take a passing glance over his shoulder, but a drenched, insignificant stuntman could never have left much of an impression on a star like Chen Hsin. Hence, when they met again on the set of Northern Peak, it was only natural for that proud gaze to slide right past Zhang Zhun’s slightly reddened cheeks to alight upon the executive producer standing farther away. Then, breaking into his most charming smile, Chen Hsin greeted the other man in his soft Taiwanese lilt, “How have you been, Director Qin? It’s been a long time since we last met, about six years ago, on the set of Galloping Steed.”
It hurt – it hurt so much. Sensing the slight wetness in his eyes, Zhang Zhun looked away from the screen, his heart raw and aching. Galloping Steed was playing on his tablet at the moment. Dressed as a brigand and armed with a broadsword, Chen Hsin moved across the screen with disheveled hair and flung the panic-stricken heroine onto a bed. Although the bedroom scene had been considered to be very explicit back in the day, it seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary now. The entwined figures were just another set of pining lovers lost in the throes of passion. The scene soon cut away to the next morning. After a night of absurd debauchery, the woman and the brigand came to blows, darting across rivers and mountains with light, nimble steps. Zhang Zhun’s eyes fell on the lithe figure flitting across the screen and recognized himself at a glance. The slight outward stretch of the sword-wielding hand was a habitual movement of his.
They had once been so close, Zhang Zhun and Chen Hsin, in the days when they were still living their unrelated existences. Zhang Zhun had not met Xie Danyi, and the name “Feng Yunting” had yet to enter the industry. At the time, the closeness they shared was just a matter of course. Whenever the action sequences became frequent, he and Chen Hsin would rise and sleep at identical hours, and spend their days wrist to wrist, chest to chest. Everything had been so easy then. Everything had been so natural between them.
The hotel phone rang. It was Xiao-Deng. “Hello?” Zhang Zhun answered the call, “No, I won’t be eating. You go ahead without me.” Just as his assistant was about to hang up, Zhang Zhun asked, “Do you have a cracked copy of PR?”1 The young man did, and Zhang Zhun added at once, “Send it to me.”
- PR: A widely-used, high-performing software for video editing. Given the reference to piracy in the context, its full name is left out on purpose in this chapter.