[personal profile] maayacolabackup
Title: Sunsets (and Sunrises)
Pairing: Zitao/Kris, but mostly friendship
Rating: kids allowed
Summary: prompt: "taoris in america I DON’T KNOW, MAIA, WHATEVER."
Notes: A fluffy nonsense drabble for [livejournal.com profile] buzzbird because I know how much she loves fluffy nonsense, now ._____. i tried to not use the metric system, haha.
Notes ii: Happy Birthday, Linda!! Thank you for being unwaveringly kind to me and supportive always. During the periods when I forget that the reason I write is for myself and my closest friends, and I get really down about myself and want to give up, you’re always there to remind me that to you, I will always be good enough. Thank you for holding my hand through three fandoms now, and I adore you. And obviously, you should also expect a letter in the mail, but that might take a bit longer to get to there from here.







“You’ve got-“ Zitao stops, and rolls down the window instead. “Never mind.”

“I’ve got what?” Kris’s big hands are curled around the steering wheel. Zitao bets the leather is hot. The buckle of Zitao’s seatbelt burns his skin where his shirt has ridden up. It’s only May, but it feels like summer. Global warming, maybe, because last year around now, it was only in the mid-sixties.

Zitao looks at Kris out of the corner of his eye. His shirt is unbuttoned, and his hair is pushed back, blond fading to black where he hasn’t bleached the roots. His sleeves are rolled up to his elbows.

He doesn’t seem like his mind is on his graduation next week. Not like Zitao’s mind is. It’s hard to think about next year out here in the Midwest without Kris. Soon, Zitao won’t have to imagine it. He’ll just have to live it.

Kris has a company waiting for him in Nanjing. That’s really far away. Zitao’s been there once, when he was seventeen. It had taken sixteen hours, legs folded under him during the flight.

“Crumbs on your mouth,” Zitao mumbles.

“Oh,” Kris says, and he opens the glove compartment to get a napkin. He wipes his face tidily. Kris is the sort of guy that carries pocket-squares and never wipes his hands on his jeans; he’s been that way since Zitao met him, when Zitao was a lost freshman and Kris was his floor’s resident upperclassman. “Thanks.”

The first time Zitao had gotten drunk, Kris’s long fingers had run up and down his spine as he threw up into the toilet. Then he’d handed Zitao a kerchief. Zitao remembers half-laughing and half-sobbing.

But today, Kris doesn’t have a kerchief. His hair isn’t gelled up, either. “Where are we going?” They’d just made a stop at a gas station. Zitao had eaten an entire bag of beef jerky, and Kris had carefully consumed a hostess cupcake (“They’re on sale on Tuesdays”), making sure not to get icing on his fingers or clothes. (”You eat like a bird,” Zitao had said, because Yixing wasn’t there to say it for him. ”Shut up, Zitao.”)

“You’ll see,” Kris says.

Zitao sighs, because no amount of wheedling will drag it out of Kris now. That’s not the way Kris works. Kris is soft for favors; all Lu Han has to do is bat his eyelashes and Kris will melt like the middle of an ice-cream sandwich between his clever fingers.

Kris isn’t soft for giving up secrets. That’s all right. Zitao sort of likes the way Kris’s lips curl up a bit at the edges when he keeps them.

They drive for fifteen minutes before Kris pulls off Hwy 70 and onto the shoulder. “This is the place.”

Zitao pushes the release on his seatbelt and climbs out of the truck. “That was a shorter trip than I was expecting. Definitely shorter than last time.”

“I’m never driving to the Badlands again,” Kris says. “Although maybe it would be easier without Jongdae trying to land spitballs on other people’s tires out the window.”

“You totally overreacted to that.” Zitao runs his hand through his hair. “What are you doing?”

“Did you lock your door?” Kris asks, as he double-checks his own. Of course Zitao locked his door. Kris has hissy fits when he doesn’t. “We’re taking a walk.”

“Duizhang,” Zitao slips his hands into his pockets. “We’re in the middle of nowhere.”

“Don’t you trust me, Zitao?” Kris’s eyebrows lift slightly. Zitao sighs.

“Yeah,” he replies, and he kicks a pebble. It bounces off the bumper of the old red truck. “You know I do.”

“Then follow.” Zitao has been following Kris since the first day of freshman year, with eager eyes and even more eager ears. No reason to change things now. Soon, Zitao won’t have a choice.

Kris leads him away from the road and into the brush. “People are going to think there’s been a murder and we’re dumping a body.”

“Maybe,” Kris says. “Only there are only two of us, and as long as you behave, two of us will return.”

“Behave?” Zitao laughs. “Duizhang, I have always behaved.”

“You always were a much easier charge than Jongdae.”

Zitao knows that’s only because Jongdae’s never tried to impress Kris. He’s never felt that need like Zitao has; to make Kris look at him. Minseok, this year’s dorm assistant, has found Zitao a much more challenging sheep to herd than Kris ever had.

They venture further from the road. Kris walks in front, seemingly aimless, and Zitao watches Kris’s shoulders, and the way his hair sticks to the back of his neck with faint perspiration. The ground is veering downward now, uneven slopes that have Kris’s eyes choosing his next step more carefully.

This is probably the last time they’ll be alone together for a long time. Zitao wishes he could speed his steps so he could walk at Kris’s side. “The Chairman would be pretty amused to see you now.”

“She knows I’m not quite fenced in yet,” Kris says. “That’s why she sent me off to America for my education. Go anywhere you want, she’d said. Just don’t get in trouble or come back with any children.” Kris dotes on his mother. It’s another one of the numerous things Zitao likes about him.

“Anywhere you want, and you chose here.” Zitao slips. Kris’s hand snatches his arm and balances him.

“Be careful.” His voice is low and his fingers are warm and strong. His palm feels nice on Zitao’s bicep, and Zitao feels safe. One more thing he likes; has always liked. “There’s a good business program here.”

“You like English.”

“But I majored in business.”

The ground flattens, suddenly, and Zitao realizes they’re standing on an almost-ledge. “I’m convinced you brought me here to kill me.”

“If I wanted to kill you,” Kris says, “I would have told Lu Han you’ve been looking for a girlfriend.”

“I’m not.” Zitao doesn’t want to really touch on that subject. He’s pretty sure Kris knows where he stands on that, even if they’ve never talked about it. Kris is really good at knowing things he hasn’t been told. It makes him a good leader for their strange band of friends.

“It would be a lie,” Kris admits. “But I can guarantee it would be your end.”

“What did you do before you had Jongdae and I to foist off on Lu Han to take torture in your stead?”

“Cry,” Kris says dryly. “This is the spot.”

There’s no brush, here. Just dirt and dust and weeds and a stretch of ground about seven feet wide and five feet deep. Big enough for the two of them. “Here?”

“When I was a sophomore, I found this place.” Kris sits down gracelessly on the edge of the rocks, letting long legs dangle. Yellow-brown dirt clings immediately to his designer jeans.

“What is this place?”

Kris laughs, and reaches up, lightly, to pull on Zitao’s wrist. Zitao sits next to him, careful to leave a few inches between them. “The perfect place to watch a sunset.”

Zitao stares at him blankly for a few moments, just taking in the easiness of Kris’s spine, and the way his hands splay wide across his thighs, and the cocky smile that’s tugging up on his mouth. “You like sunsets?”

“Better than sunrises.” Kris is solemn. Everyone knows not to wake Kris before noon if there’s no class, and not to wake him before nine if there is. (”Kris, your class starts at nine,” Yixing says. “You’re a terrible influence on the children.”)

“Me too, I guess,” Zitao says, finally deciding Kris will explain himself in his own time. Not that Kris needs to. Zitao has proven he’ll always follow. “Too bad all your major classes were morning classes.”

“I was going to transfer, you know?”

“Really?” Zitao tries to picture what college would have been like without Kris, who bandages Zitao’s cuts from wushu club practice, and takes them all to drive-in movies in the early fall, before it gets cold. Yixing sits in the front passeger seat while the rest of them pile into the truck bed with pillows snatched hastily from bunks on the way out the door. It’s hard to envision sophomore year without that. Really hard. “But you didn’t.”

“Then I realized I couldn’t leave you guys unsupervised. Who knows what Lu Han and Yixing would have done to you, Zitao.” He swallows. “And to Jongdae. Minseok alone couldn’t have protected you both.”

“Yixing’s still got another year with us.” Zitao looks out. It’s a pretty dangerous spot to sit, Zitao thinks. It’s like one of those places that cars drive off the road in James Bond movies. Maybe any second, a flaming car will come hurtling from behind them. “Plenty of time for corruption.”

“Two against one.”

“What makes you think Jongdae is on my team?” Kris snorts, and then looks embarrassed about it. Until he remembers he’s just with Zitao, who doesn’t care if Kris carries handkerchiefs and uses too much gel in his hair.

“Fair enough.”

There’s an extended silence.

“I like sunsets for a lot of reasons.” Zitao looks up from his examination of his fingernails.

“Like?”

“All good things come to an end.” Kris’s profile is too strong in the orange light. His chin is cartoonishly large.

“That’s true.” Zitao doesn’t think they’re talking about Tuesdays. Kris is almost as big on symbolism as he is on terrible puns, and Zitao thinks about Kris’s hand on his back as he’d helped Zitao uncover the secrets of Browning at half past three in the morning for an essay due at ten.

Those kinds of nights are at an end. Kris graduates on Saturday. Zitao’s still got so many things he hasn’t said yet.

“But I like sunsets because… it’s an end, but not the forever kind.” Kris flashes gums and crescent curling eyes. Zitao feels the effects in the pit of his stomach, heavy like the boulders they’d passed during spring break on that long drive to South Dakota. “Like, um, the sun will come out tomorrow.”

“Right,” Zitao says, and that’s totally a line from ‘Annie’, but Kris is graduating, so Zitao will let him get away with it just this once. Kris brings both thumbs up and smoothes his eyebrows.

“What I mean is…” And Kris purses his lips, now. It’s the face he makes when he’s nervous, that people always mistake for unfriendliness.

Zitao’s pulse feels quick; too fast and too harsh. It’s not a new feeling, but it makes Zitao sort of hold his breath anyway. “You’ll be turning your tassel before you get to the point.”

“If you get decent grades,” Kris says, “your junior and senior year, some companies would hire you in a second.” His tone is nonchalant.

“Some companies?” Zitao jokes. He hooks his thumbs through his belt loops, and stares at the dark denim. He’s got words on the tip of his tongue. A few questions. A few declarations.

Wu Fan leans a little closer, into Zitao’s warmth, and Zitao wants to blame the heat in his cheeks on global warming too.

“Yeah,” Kris says. “Especially any company of mine.”

Two years is a long time to wait for a sunrise.

“Well,” Zitao says, when he finds his voice. “I guess following you is something I’ve been doing for a while now.” He takes a deep breath. “What’s the weather like in Nanjing in July?”



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