23 A smile long forgotten

Over the meeting of the next Sunday, Zeng didn't speak about their relationship status. The topic was still awkward. He had told Zaria that now Yul knew about his past. She had said it was a good thing that everything was cleared up. But even then, Zeng had his share of doubts. However, Yul had been so nice to him that those doubts were fading away week after week and Zeng was starting to feel more open and honest around Yul.

"You got a haircut, I see," Zeng said, pulling one of the small hair strands, trying not to laugh. Yul swatted his hand away, frowning as they sat in Zeng's living room with Zeng sipping coffee and Yul, chocolate milk.

"They'll grow long soon," he retorted with a pout and sipped his chocolate milk in large gulps. Yul loved his hair, loved styling them. They were a part of his coolness and so cutting them on a monthly basis in the Academy was his least favourite thing about it. Also, not many knew but he was quick to show his displeasure over any comment on his hair. When Zeng found this out, he couldn't help but try and tease him.

The doctor chuckled softly as Yul was now chomping down upon his favourite home-baked choco-chip cookies, seeming to be thinking about something.

There was silence as Zeng worried about Yul's blood sugar and revised the treatment of diabetes mellitus in his head before Yul blurted out.

"I have something to confess," Yul said all of a sudden. Zeng blinked as Yul's sudden revelation pulled him back from his thoughts.

"Yes?" Zeng set down his mug, turning to face the boy. Yul, unlike himself, appeared shy and doubtful at the same time. Zeng took his hand in his own. "What is it? You know we don't judge each other, no matter what."

That seemed to have boosted Yul's morale and he pursed his lips before speaking slowly, "I think I might have observed guys before."

Zeng was confused for a second before he understood. "Oh." He could only manage to say that before Yul let loose, "Zeng ge, I have been thinking about it all, and maybe I have noticed guys in a more keener way than I should. I mean… I don't know if I have seen them like that. I never even fantasized about them, hell, I even had a girlfriend. So I got so overwhelmed with all that. I discussed it with Subin for many hours over the week, even then I cannot get the hang of it. It just feels so weird, you know. I always believed I was straight. I was never confused about my sexuality, More like I never allowed myself to think otherwise. But after I pondered over it in a new sense… it's all so new and I am a bit scared."

He stopped talking and looked at Zeng, who knew the look very well. When Zeng took rounds in the wards, the patients and their relatives would often give him the same look, a look that demanded answers. The fear and confusion on their faces was so evident, just like it was with Yul now.

Zeng smiled before opening his arms. Yul wordlessly crept in comforting a hug.

"It's okay," he patted the little one's head. "We all have our confusing moments. We just need to let ourselves freely think over it. Bisexuality is more prevalent than you think. It's nothing to be scared of."

Yul kept quiet, his head on Zeng's shoulder, then sighed, "Don't people realise it at puberty or something? In that sense, I am fuc-... I mean I am damn late."

Zeng chuckled at his attempt to not curse and kissed the top of his head, "Better late than never." He pulled away, Yul still in a stupor.

"I feel weird about myself," he said again, arms engulfing his knees drawn to the chest.

"Don't worry about it," Zeng pinched his cheek, "Initially it feels like that, because it's a new realisation, but you will get used to it because you have learnt a fact about yourself. And this isn't something about your family or friends or even about me, it's about you. Embrace it. There's no rush, you can take it slow. Trust me, I have been there."

He fixed Yul's short hair before pointing at the glass of chocolate milk, "Now finish that up."

Yul lifted himself up, somehow feeling more relieved. He picked up his mug and took a sip before speaking, "You know, you are the only guy for me." He felt the need to assure.

Zeng just smirked, "I know, piggy."

Yul frowned, "Again with that piggy thing? I am a fierce Leo!"

"Okay, okay, Mr Baby Leo. Now finish that chocolate milk," he ruffled Yul's hair, earning another frown from him. Zeng laughed and Yul too was quite relieved to have told him. And to be accepted so easily without any objections, it was soothing. He smiled as he brought the glass to his lips, glancing at Zeng through the corner of his eyes. Yul thought Zeng was so understanding and mature. He wanted to have those qualities of him, wanted to be a better person.

…..

One Sunday, they decided to go to the mart to shop for some essentials. Zeng was putting things in the trolley as per his list. Yul just looked at all the products placed on the shelves. He was never a shopping person. He would buy the first thing that he laid his eyes upon, without wasting time. Simplistic and efficient. On the other hand, Zeng would pick up the product, check its ingredients, the quality, the expiry date, the options available and then he would decide to put it in his trolley.

A young lady with her son was in the same row, holding the trolley in one hand and the other one held her son's tiny arm. The little boy looked thoroughly bored walking lifelessly along with his mother. But when his eyes wandered to the other people shopping in that row, he immediately brightened up seeing a familiar face.

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"Mall uncle! Mall uncle!" He called out. When his mother recognised that person too, she let go of her son's hand so that the little boy ran over to his 'Mall uncle'.

Yul whirled around, his cold face going soft as he recognised the timid, childish voice. A smile formed on his lips.

"Hey, champ!" Yul was more than delighted to meet the kid from Mall again. Zeng was many steps behind but he recognised the woman from the mall who stood by her son and was talking to Yul. However, this time he only smiled and continued filling up the trolley, leaving them to chat. Yul glanced at him doubtfully to which Zeng smiled and urged him to interact. Yul gave a goofy grin before turning to the little boy, whom he remembered as A'Ling.

"You are not running around, are you?" Yul asked A'Ling with a faux-stern expression. His mother shook her head, smiling, "No, he isn't and all thanks to you. Ever since you told him, he doesn't run around on his own anymore. Also, his dad is here so he's being extra obedient to avoid any scoldings. Isn't that right, A'Ling?"

A'Ling only giggled, clutching the sides of Yul's pants, looking up at him with great admiration.

As the trio chatted, Zeng was about to go to the next row, when a familiar figure crossed his path and he froze. He felt his world taking an abrupt halt for that moment upon the sight of the charming man.

"Hi Zeng," the person said casually, showing his dimpled smile.

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