The beginning of the hallucinations was the beginning of Fu Ge’s deterioration. Qi Han still remembered the doctor saying so a month ago.
The day he picked up Fu Ge was nothing special.
He had just finished a big project and went to a bar with his friends to relax. Before leaving, he ran into some scoundrels causing trouble, dragging a beta painter upstairs, not only smashing his easel, but also threatening to break his fingers if he didn’t serve them well.
Qi Han was too sensitive to the word “painter”, so he subconsciously raised his eyes before looking away; and it was this glance that made him see Fu Ge.
The former school god, the proud and elegant young painter, the young man who could make heaven and earth become colourless when he smiled, sitting on horseback, so wanton, so dazzling.
But that night, he was molested, pressed to the bar counter like a rag doll, not making a sound, not trying to escape, frozen like a fool, only crying out “Don’t smash my easel…”
Qi Han rescued him before he himself even had time to react, only to find that Fu Ge had long forgotten him, forgotten him as a person, forgotten what he had done, and even forgotten their short-lived romance.
Afterwards, Fu Ge kept thanking him, but every gesture and every word was slow, dull and rigid, as if normal expression was extremely difficult for him.
Qi Han lingered for a while, saying that he could do him another small favour. At first, Fu Ge didn’t accept it, fearing it would be too troublesome. After Qi Han’s repeated insistence, Fu Ge pressed his stomach and said in a low voice, “Can you treat me to something to eat?”
The picture he was painting for the customer had been ruined and he hadn’t earned any money for the meal today.
Qi Han said “yes”, and Fu Ge looked happy then, dragging him to the nearest KFC and ordering the smallest portion of French fries.
Although he had lost his memory and had become dumb and dull, Fu Ge still knew that it was embarrassing to ask someone to treat him to a meal, so he just ordered the cheapest fries and didn’t stay in the restaurant but squatted in the alley and ate them secretly.
Qi Han was hiding not far away at the time, watching Fu Ge put the small pack of French fries on his lap and eat them in tiny bites. Each piece had to be bitten thrice before finished, and he would suddenly squint his eyes while eating, as if he was very satisfied just like this.
The smell attracted two stray cats who were also hungry and kept circling around Fu Ge, rubbing against his legs and reaching with their paws. Fu Ge pursed his lips and hesitated for a while, and finally spilled the rest of the French fries for the cats.
That was when Qi Han walked over and asked if he would like to follow him. Fu Ge couldn’t understand, “Follow you… to do what?”
“I need an inhibitor, a quiet one.” Qi Han said.
Fu Ge blinked, “But I’m a Beta, I can’t give you pheromones.”
“Just let me fuck.” He deliberately used harsh words.
Fu Ge blushed and lowered his head in silence for a long time before stammering, “Let you… if I let you fuck, can I have French fries every day?…”
With that, Qi Han took him home.
Not much of a priority, the French fries were forgotten to be bought, but at least Qi Han had the presence of mind to take Fu Ge to the hospital.
According to Fu Ge himself, he lost his memory because he fell into the water by accident, and the situation was basically true when Qi Han went to investigate.
However, the results of the hospital examination eventually confirmed that Fu Ge was suffering from schizophrenia caused by a huge physical and mental trauma.
In the early stage, he was just unresponsive and his senses, logic and thinking were all impaired. So Fu Ge was slow in everything he did, his ability to perceive temperature was also decreasing, and he would go out in shorts in September.
At first Qi Han didn’t pay much attention to his condition, only thinking that it was a nervous breakdown caused by the life at the bottom, and that he had started to recover slowly after a month of recuperation in peace.
Until last night, Fu Ge had hallucinations for the first time.
Qi Han watched him walk down the stairs in a daze in pyjamas soaked in cold sweat, his hands gesturing strangely in front of him as he talked to the void, smiling, blushing, then suddenly bursting into tears and running away.
And there he was, standing on the top of the stairway calling to him, and Fu Ge couldn’t see him, and eventually mistook him for a hallucination.
The hallucinations were the beginning of a decline in his condition, and after this night, Fu Ge seemed to become more and more sluggish.
He didn’t like to go out anymore.
He spent the whole day on the single sofa in the living room, dressed in strange clothes, with a fluffy blanket around him, no matter whether it was hot or cold, staring at the floor-to-ceiling window for the whole day.
He had completely lost the ability to distinguish between reality and illusion.
Qi Han witnessed him getting up from the sofa, smiling and walking to the door, saying to the air, “Welcome home, sir.” With both hands, he helped someone undress, then poured a glass of water and handed it over.
The air, of course, didn’t catch it, and the glass fell to the floor and shattered in pieces, and Fu Ge jolted awake like a startled bird, staring blankly at the shards on the floor.
Many emotions would flash across his face, embarrassment, helplessness, fear, despair, and finally all of them turned to numbness.
So much so that when Qi Han actually stood in front of him, he would no longer react in any way.
He would just watch quietly and wouldn’t make a sound even when Qi Han spoke to him, and only after staring at him for a long time would he mutter to himself.
“Sir is appearing so often today, actually… There is nothing wrong with that, I used to not see him even once a week. I was the only one in such a big house. Now I can see him every day, I should be happy.”
Qi Han didn’t dare to make a sound for fear of waking him up again.
When Fu Ge was tired of talking, he would quietly rub against him, grabbing his hand and placing it on his head to create a false hug for himself.
“I always wanted you to hug me like you do now, but you wouldn’t do it and I didn’t dare to ask for it. When you brought me home in the first place, sir, you said you were going to do that thing, but you never touched me. I think it is probably because I am a Beta with no pheromones and my skills are really bad.”
“What exactly are Omega’s pheromones?”
He raised his head at that point and looked at Qi Han, a hint of blush on his face, “I secretly used your shower gel in the bathroom and it smells on me, would you like to smell it?”
Qi Han buried his head in his neck, sniffed for a while and said, “It smells good.”
“That’s nice,” Fu Ge smiled contentedly, but that smile quickly froze on his face again, “but you’re fake, I seem to be… also fake, only the man in the dream is real, and he will come for me again tonight…”
Fu Ge clutched the hem of his coat helplessly, his hollow eyes seeming to have dried up from crying, “Sir, will you come home tonight, please, come home and save me…”
“Okay, okay, I’ll come home…” Qi Han was in so much pain that even breathing was like torture. He held Fu Ge’s hand and asked him to touch his face, “Don’t be afraid, I will be back tonight, don’t be afraid.”
He deliberately went out and bought a large portion of French fries with a coke and opened the door at nine o’clock sharp.
Fu Ge still watched quietly as usual until Qi Han gave him the coke and held his hand for him to return it to him.
The coke didn’t drop and Fu Ge knew he was real.
“Sir, are you back?” His tone instantly became cheerful.
Qi Han hugged him, “Thank you for waiting for me to get off work.”
Fu Ge was so flattered that he didn’t even dare to move too much as he shrank in Qi Han’s arms, “It’s as it should be.”
“Have you had dinner yet?”
“Hmm… I’ve eaten.”
Qi Han didn’t expose the clumsy lie; he just put Fu Ge on his lap and sat on the sofa, “Then have some supper, I bought you French fries, can you drink coke?”
“Yes!” Fu Ge was so happy that his eyes flashed with joy, “Thank you, sir.”
He was still the same as he was a month ago, pinching his French fries and eating them in small bites. Even after living at the bottom, elegance and gentleness were still engraved in his bones, and he would not gobble food up no matter how hungry he was.
“Let’s take you out for a walk tomorrow.”
He was afraid that if Fu Ge continued like this, he would close himself off forever and turn into a piece of dead wood made of flesh and blood.
Suspecting that he was hallucinating again, Fu Ge asked incredulously, “Will you take me out?”
“Yes, let’s go together.”
“Go out together to play?”
He smiled in surprise, his long-depleted vitality flowing back into his body with those words, like cells under a microscope that had absorbed water, becoming full and lovely.
Qi Han kissed his forehead tenderly, “Not really to play, just a small social gathering, they are all good friends.”
Pop! The coke fell on the floor. Fu Ge opened his eyes wide and looked at him, his lips trembling unnaturally, “A… social gathering?”
“Yes, what’s wrong?”
“I, can I not go? I’m too ugly like this, I’ll make you lose face.”
“Not ugly,” Qi Han stroked the tips of his hair. “Beautiful.”
Just this one word caused Fu Ge’s newly awakened vitality to collapse instantly, the full cells suddenly shrinking as if salt water dripped on them.
He stared blankly at the ground, muttering “beautiful”, and finally let out a light chuckle, as if he had given in to everything.
“Okay, I will accompany you…”
Qi Han didn’t understand why he had changed so much back and forth until the day of the party.
After three rounds of drinking, he left the table because of a phone call, asking his friend beside him to take care of Fu Ge.
He had just walked out the door and picked up the phone when his friend’s shout came from the private room. Qi Han quickly went back and opened the door to see Fu Ge stripped naked and forcibly getting on top of his friend, like a prostitute who was forced to sell her body.
“Damn it, Brother Qi, it’s not my fault! He pounced on me as soon as you left!” The friend struggled, shouting, treating Fu Ge like a raging beast, “What’s going on here, I’m innocent, I don’t fuck around!”
The first thing Qi Han did was to take off his coat and put it over Fu Ge, telling everyone to get out and asking him angrily, “What are you doing, huh?”
He pinched Fu Ge’s face, not sure whether he was more angry or heartbroken, “What the hell have you been doing for the past five years? Is this what you did for a living before I met you? Fu Ge! Do you fucking need to be so cheap?!”
Yet the man in front of him had hollow eyes and stared at him blankly, “You asked me to accompany you to the social gathering and help you take care of them. I thought it was to play with them like before, for them to sign a contract with you when they are happy… Sorry, I messed up…”
With just this passage, Qi Han was struck by lightning.
He finally knew why Fu Ge was so scared when he heard about “social gathering” and why he was ashen when he was complimented on being “beautiful”. Because in his only memory, he had been used as a tool to entertain clients by the man in his nightmare.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, I don’t blame you, we won’t play anymore.”
He picked up the clothes and helped Fu Ge put them on piece by piece, speaking softly whether the other man could understand him or not, “No one has ever treated you as a tool to entertain someone, whether it was five years ago, or five years later.”
Fu Ge, however, acted as if he couldn’t hear it. There was only relief on his face, “No more playing, then can I go home?…”
He began to walk, dragging his feet again, the soles of his shoes rubbing against the floor with every step. The chains on his ankles had been removed, but the shackles on his heart would follow him like a shadow.
It was only today that Qi Han knew once and for all that the proud, romantic little painter would never return, that he had been grinded into a piece of junk, a piece of wood, a man who was good at everything, just not like a living human being.
“Wait.” Qi Han called out to him and took a wine opener from the table, shaped like a key.
Fu Ge turned around, clutching the hem of his clothes tightly, “Can’t we go?”
Qi Han didn’t even dare to look at him. He walked up to him, squatted down, held his ankle, inserted the “key” into the air, turned it and said, “The chain is unlocked.”
He raised his eyes and looked at Fu Ge: “Xiao Ge, it’s all in the past, walk lifting your feet.”
A tear fell and landed on his face, and Fu Ge’s eyes regained clarity, as if he finally recognised him, “Is it you… sir?”
Like a bird with broken wings, the man flung himself into Qi Han’s arms, “Please take me home, don’t leave me here alone…”
Today Fu Ge got a half hour long hug.
The entire return trip, Qi Han held him on his lap, in his arms, wrapped in clothes stained with his pheromones, his warm palms covering Fu Ge’s eyes.
“Is it real now? Sir.”
“Yes.” Qi Han rubbed his hands to warm them up and stroked his forehead, “Feel that? My palms are very hot.”
Fu Ge let out a soft hum, comfortable and drowsy like a baby in swaddling clothes.
But he tried not to fall asleep; he treasured every minute he could spend with Sir.
“How long were we together, sir?”
“After graduating from high school, eight months and fourteen days.”
“And how far did we go?”
“Talking about marriage.”
“How nice, then… was I the one who caused the break-up?”
Qi Han paused for a moment, “Yeah.”
Fu Ge didn’t dare ask what he had done wrong for fear of affecting the warm atmosphere now, but he knew it must have been a very excessive thing.
“After we broke up, I had another boyfriend, and he treated me very badly.”
He relied on what was left of his memories, “But I forgot what he looked like, I just remember he was a tall Alpha with three loops of navy blue silk ribbon tied around his right wrist and a very small prayer wheel hanging from the ribbon, made of silver.”
As he said that, he raised his eyes and traced his fingers across the bridge of Qi Han’s nose, “I’ve been dreaming about him all the time lately. Those dreams are horrible. I must be sick, so sometimes I think of you as him. It’s very disrespectful to you, can I apologise to you? Don’t you be angry with me.”
Qi Han looked into his eyes and said after a long time, “No need to apologise, it’s alright, he… What has he done to you?”
The expression on Fu Ge’s face froze for a moment, his shoulders trembling instinctively, “I can’t remember much. He lied to me about his sudden rut, and then had sex with me day and night. He tied me up in a very dark place, hung me up, with chains rubbing my arms and legs. I couldn’t talk, couldn’t make a sound, or I’d be put in a very, very narrow place where I could only curl up…”
“Okay, okay, enough, stop talking.”
Qi Han pressed his head into his arms, “Xiao Ge, forget about it. Forget about it and you will get better.”
Fu Ge let out a “hmm”, “I was lucky to meet you again, sir.”
Qi Han froze for a moment, “Do you feel you’re lucky?”
“Yes.” Fu Ge smiled at him, so affectionate, so grateful, “I don’t remember, but I regret leaving you, sir, back then, otherwise I wouldn’t have met that other boyfriend.”
He tilted his head up and kissed Qi Han’s chin, each word extremely reverent, “Sir, I’m grateful to have met you, and even more grateful to be reunited with you.”
Qi Han didn’t make a sound, his eyes empty for a long time, and finally he dropped a kiss on Fu Ge’s forehead, “Forget it all.”
Fu Ge eventually fell asleep, both mentally and physically exhausted.
Qi Han carried him back to his room and covered him with a quilt, before walking into the bathroom to wash his hands.
He didn’t know what was on his hands. He soaked them under the faucet and scrubbed them repeatedly, harder and harder, and his breathing became more and more chaotic, and finally he punched the mirror with a bang.
The glass shattered, blood flowing all over the broken lines.
Qi Han looked at himself in the crimson shards, remembering the words of an old friend at the party today.
He said that Fu Ge must have been with a scumbag before, and if the guy let his lover entertain clients for him, he would suffer retribution sooner or later.
Qi Han sneered, collapsing on the floor.
The sleeve of his shirt was pulled upward with this movement; three loops of navy blue silk ribbon were tied around his right wrist, and a tiny prayer wheel swayed on it.
They were together for eight months and fourteen days. Eight months was the time they loved each other, and fourteen days was the period when he imprisoned Fu Ge.
What he would never admit was that he was the scumbag and that retribution had come.