Quality Check: Isalee
First Published on Chaleuria
It was Zhang Zhun. He dashed into the room, still wearing his headphones. Weighed down by the phone his pocket, his shorts hung low and loose below his waist, revealing the tantalizing strip of hip underneath. Lean muscles rose and fell irregularly as sweat trailed down the ridges of his topless, sculpted torso. Standing by the doorway with dampened hair and tightened buds on his chest, he apologized to Zhou Zheng between erratic breaths. “Sorry, I’m late. I was working out at the gym.”
Chen Hsin heard himself swallow audibly and even felt himself harden a little. Flustered, he pulled roughly at his hair and looked away. Despite his state of confusion, he caught Qin Xun-er’s voice as she turned to speak to her assistant. “Who’s that?” she asked.
“That’s the second lead, Zhang Zhun,” the young girl replied, a note of disdain in her voice. “Just some B-list action actor.”
“He’s a pretty hot piece of meat…” Qin Xun-er’s voice trailed off as she whispered something to her assistant and broke into a giggle. “Aren’t we evil for thinking that?” At this, Chen Hsin snapped around to glare balefully at the two of them. With her head tilted towards her assistant, Qin Xun-er was spared from the rage in his eyes. But the younger woman was less fortunate. Under the terror of Chen Hsin’s vengeful glower, she fell into a petrified silence.
Chen Hsin began walking towards Zhang Zhun instead. Even at this distance, separated by the milling crowd, he immediately saw the trail of bite marks he had left on that sweat-slicked neck. At the sight of those spots of red – irrefutable traces of the kisses he had once planted on that expanse of flesh – his head began to buzz and his chest began to ache a little from the pounding of his heart.
On the other side of the crowd, Zhang Zhun saw him too. How could he not? Chen Hsin’s presence was so dazzling that he was always the irrefutable center of attention wherever he went. Despite the thick layer of powder on his left eye socket, traces of the livid bruise still showed through. Under the perplexed looks of those who did not know the story behind the injury, Zhang Zhun gazed back at Chen Hsin strangely and almost sadly, with eyes filled with an inexplicable emotion close to tender attachment.
Chen Hsin finally came up to him. “You went to the gym?” he asked clumsily, stating the obvious.
“Ah, I was at the airport this morning.” Zhang Zhun peered at Chen Hsin with his large pretty eyes, the corner of his delicate lips flickering somewhat evasively, but also somewhat smilingly. “I’d just found some time to work out for a bit when the assistant director called and told me to come over. You…”
Before he could complete his sentence, however, the director barked out orders for everyone to get into position and be on standby. With great reluctance, Chen Hsin returned to the bed. Following the assistant director’s brief outline of the scene, the script supervisor announced, “Deep in the Act, scene 3, shot 1, take 1!”
Just as Chen Cheng-Sen was about the give the cue to get the camera rolling, Chen Hsin cut him off. Without thinking too much about what he was doing, he went into the bathroom, picked up his coat, and instructed a runner to pass it to Zhang Zhun. This unthinking gesture, however, created a stir amongst the film crew: “They seem really close, don’t they? That was so sweet… perfect boyfriend material there!”
As Zhang Zhun received the piece of clothing with a furious blush, Chen Hsin could not help but swear at himself mentally: Now you’ve made things awkward for him! Dammit!
The filming began. Chen Hsin got into bed with Qin Xun-er, still deeply agitated. After hugging and kissing for several moments, they began shrugging off their robes. Despite the number of people in the room, there was absolute silence except for the noises coming from the bed. Engrossed in the performance, Qin Xun-er moaned as she reached down and groped Chen Hsin between the legs. Then, wrapping her arms around him, she squeezed her large breasts against Chen Hsin’s chest and breathed against his ear, “You’re really in the mood, aren’t you? You’ve gotten so hard already, Chen-laoshi…”
Like it has anything to do with you! – Chen Hsin snapped inwardly with a roll of his eyes as he pried her away and called out to Chen Cheng-Sen, “I’m not feeling it, Director. Another take please!”
The crew began muttering incredulously: “Is he serious? He can’t get into the mood even though she’s so into it?” Qin Xun-er was mortified, but Chen Hsin could not care less about her feelings. He looked in Zhang Zhun’s direction, but the other man was not paying attention at all. Perched on the armrest of the couch, Zhang Zhun was staring intently at his phone. He was probably busy exchanging texts with his girlfriend, Chen Hsin supposed.
In the second take, Qin Xun-er’s noticeable improvement in her behavior left Chen Hsin with no cause for complaint. The filming proceeded much more smoothly this time as the actors went through the motions with practiced ease. However, the lack of enthusiasm in their lukewarm interaction did not escape Chen Cheng-Sen’s notice. Scratching his head, he called for a third take, “That was way too bland – I couldn’t feel the mood at all. Let’s give it another go!”
But the third take was just as dissatisfactory. Instead of directly proceeding with the fourth take, the director gave the actors a break to get into the mood. In the short interval, Chen Hsin whipped out his phone and fired off a text message to Zhang Zhun: [Dinner with you and your girl after we wrap up for the day. My treat.]
Zhang Zhun took a long time to respond. The filming for the bedroom scene dragged out torturously, and it was only after the torment finally ended that Chen Hsin received a simple reply: [Okay.]
Dinner took place at six in the evening, at a KTV lounge near the hotel, and the entire film crew was invited. It turned out to be a party to celebrate the beginning of the filming process, and not a private gathering between the three of them. Two rooms were booked – one for Chen Hsin and Qin Xun-er, the other for Zhang Zhun and Xie Danyi. The atmosphere brimmed with excitement as the boisterous crowd mingled in drunken revelry all around. Zhang Zhun did not hold his liquor well; he stopped after his second shot. Xie Danyi sat leaning against him. She waited for the crowd to take their merry-making to the next room before reaching up to touch the side of Zhang Zhun’s neck. “He did this?” she asked.
Taken by surprise, Zhang Zhun paused for a moment before finally understanding her question. Blushing a little, he nodded in response. “I’m getting jealous now!” she declared, her tone playful but with an edge of petulance.
Zhang Zhun laughed. Clasping her hand gently, he replied, “Even if you don’t have faith in me, you ought to have faith in my sexual orientation.” He handed her a glass before picking up one for himself. “Let’s go join the others.”
The next room was crammed with people. The door was left ajar. The two of them were about to make their way into the room, hand in hand, when they heard Chen Hsin proclaim loudly and drunkenly, “Yeah I want to get into Zhang Zhun’s pants. So what?”
His words created an uproar as the crowd began hooting and whistling at the top of their voices at his bold statement. No one took his intoxicated words seriously, but all color drained from Zhang Zhun’s face as he let go of Xie Danyi’s hand.
Suddenly, someone caught sight of him in the doorway and called out, “Zhang-laoshi!”
At this, Chen Hsin staggered to his feet and pushed through the crowd to stumble towards the door. Zhang Zhun turned and left immediately. He strode down the long KTV corridor, his head hanging low as he felt the rush of alcohol overwhelm his mind. Chen Hsin was too much, he thought – He really was too much!
Someone was trying to catch up with him. Thinking it was Xie Danyi, he slowed down. But the very next moment, he felt the press of a broad chest against his back as Chen Hsin embraced him from behind and pushed him into the toilet ahead. Locking the door behind him, Chen Hsin shoved Zhang Zhun against the sink and forced Zhang Zhun to look at him. “Sorry…” he slurred drunkenly, gazing at Zhang Zhun.
In a split second, Zhang Zhun – soft-hearted and easily moved – felt his anger give way to the voice of forgiveness deep within his soul. Before he could say anything, however, Chen Hsin suddenly kissed him, gnawing madly at his lips in a frenzy. Zhang Zhun began to struggle. Fully aware of Zhang Zhun’s strength, Chen Hsin moved to his earlobe and bit down. “Yes, go on and hit me. Bruise my other cheek as well!”
Zhang Zhun froze, glaring furiously with watery eyes and tightly clenched fists. Taking advantage of this opening, Chen Hsin pressed in again to cover Zhang Zhun’s face with kisses, trailing his lips over Zhang Zhun’s ears, cheekbones, brow, and lashes, as he mumbled into Zhang Zhun’s skin, “Sorry… I’m sorry…”
Zhang Zhun was stunned. He could not understand what was happening.
“Zhang Zhun! Zhang Zhun!” On the other side of the door, Xie Danyi began calling out to Zhang Zhun. She saw Chen Hsin shove Zhang Zhun into the toilet but did not expect him to lock the door. Baffled and unsettled, she pushed and knocked on the door until it suddenly opened from inside. Pushing her aside, Chen Hsin dashed out of the toilet and fled back the way he came. She rushed into the toilet and saw Zhang Zhun standing quietly by the sink with tousled hair.
“Were you… fighting?” she asked, her voice full of apprehension.
Zhang Zhun understood. He knew that this was not what she really meant to ask. “No we weren’t,” he replied, lifting the corner of his lips as he walked over and took her hand in his. “Everything’s fine.”