"Josh, you should let the housekeeper handle these things."
Stephen sat at the dining table, accepting the hot towel handed to him by Joshua. He wiped his hands and picked up his chopsticks. On the table were three dishes and a soup: steamed perch, tender beef stir-fried with green beans, stir-fried vegetables, and a seaweed pork rib soup. They were all home-cooked dishes that Stephen loved, all prepared by his husband, Joshua.
"The housekeeper has a strong palate, and your stomach isn't good," Joshua explained briefly, placing a steaming bowl of rice in front of Stephen and taking a seat opposite him. "Go ahead and eat, the dishes will get cold."
Joshua was also a man, but he willingly assumed the role of a wife. Perhaps some people were naturally suited to be a wife, irrespective of gender. Joshua had a gentle and quiet demeanor, unsuited for the high-pressure work environment of urban professionals, and he was not adept at dealing with all kinds of people. It seemed as if he were born to be a homemaker.
So after their marriage, he almost became a full-time househusband, becoming the pillar behind a successful man. He took care of Stephen meticulously and managed the household efficiently.
The two of them sat facing each other, eating in silence with only the sound of utensils clinking. After seven years of marriage, they had long become accustomed to these silent dinners, with nothing much to say.
After the rapid expansion of Stephen's company in the previous years, it was no longer the small company it had been seven years ago. The business it now dealt with was something Joshua was quite unfamiliar with.
On the other hand, Joshua's life revolved around a routine: taking care of the household, teaching piano classes three times a week, and practicing yoga twice a week. It was mundane and unremarkable.
Stephen could see the familiar face across from him just by raising his eyelids. After seven years of looking, that face was still the same as when they first met—youthful, beautiful, and clean.
Joshua had a gentle and refined face, with single eyelids, thin lips, and a pointed chin. His shoulder-length hair, naturally slightly curled, was neatly tucked behind his ear, revealing half of his face.
His fair skin was so pale that two small black dots just below his right eye were very noticeable. The two moles formed a line, and there was another mole on the left corner of his mouth. The irregular arrangement of these three black dots on his face, combined with his features, made Stephen feel like it was an abstract painting, with a meaning that he couldn't quite grasp.
Joshua felt Stephen's gaze and remembered something. He took out a small silk pouch from his pocket and placed it in front of Stephen.
"What's this?" Stephen set down his chopsticks and began to unwrap the small pouch.
"It's a bracelet. I found it in the pocket of your coat when I was doing the laundry today."
Stephen opened the pouch and saw the customized Hermès bracelet inside. His expression changed slightly.
But he quickly composed his various emotions and looked at Joshua indifferently, who seemed completely unaware and continued to calmly pick out the fish bones with public chopsticks.
Skillfully removing an entire fishbone and placing it aside, he rearranged the fish meat and the vegetables in front of Stephen.
If it were someone else, Stephen would think that he did it intentionally just to evoke a sense of guilt in him, but he knew that Joshua wasn't like that. He was simply accustomed to taking care of him, a habit that began three years ago when he had a fishbone stuck in his throat and had to go to the hospital to have it removed. Joshua never grew tired of doing these things.
Because he knew it wasn't intentional, Stephen truly felt a little guilty.
"In another half month, it will be our seventh wedding anniversary, remember?"
Joshua nodded and accurately stated the date of their anniversary, "December 12th."
"The bracelet was originally prepared as a gift for you, but the store made a mistake with the engraving."
Instead of engraving LMC&SSH on the inside of the bracelet, it was engraved as LMC&LY.
"I planned to go and exchange it yesterday, but I forgot as soon as I arrived at the company."
"The surprise for you is gone." As he said this, Stephen used his chopsticks to pick up a piece of food and offered it to the man sitting across from him.
Joshua smiled shyly. " You are already busy enough with the company. I don't wear these things anyway."
Stephen knew very well that he never wore jewelry.
"Whether you wear it or not is up to you, but it's my duty as your husband to give you gifts."
Joshua said thank you.
He was always like this, seldom having opposing opinions. Even if he did, as long as Stephen became slightly firm, he would back down.
Their partnership was probably the ideal model for all exemplary couples. Even after seven years of marriage, they had never argued with each other.
After dinner, Stephen returned to his study to continue working, while Joshua cleaned up the dishes and tidied up the house.
They had hired housekeeping services, and Stephen had told Joshua more than once that he didn't need to do these tasks. But he would always find some shortcomings in the work of the housekeepers. Eventually, Stephen stopped persuading him and gradually understood his need to find something to do for himself.
After washing up, Stephen went to bed, and Joshua collected his dirty clothes before going to wash up. Both of them got into bed, it was already time to sleep.
Joshua turned his back to Stephen. Stephen's mind was still on the bracelet just now, feeling a mixture of guilt and curiosity. He reached from behind and embraced the slim shoulders of the man. His hand slipped into his clothes, clearly indicating his desire.
Joshua didn't refuse, but raised a question softly, "Isn't it not yet the first day?"
Whether it was due to shame or a naturally cool demeanor, after years of marriage, Joshua had never shown much enthusiasm for this matter. The first day of each month gradually became the unspoken day for fulfilling this obligation.
Stephen kissed his ear and neck, originally intending to test his reaction, but as he continued to kiss him, he started to feel an increasing sense of pleasure. After all, this was how men were, and there was a touch of firmness in his murmuring voice. "I've been wanting you..."
But as long as his husband made a request, Joshua generally wouldn't have any objections, only asking to turn off the lights.
Darkness fell, but the man wrapped under the covers beneath him didn't relax. It was as if he was suppressing something, occasionally making sounds that seemed more like unbearable pain. Stephen couldn't tell whether he was in pain or pleasure, as the reactions to these two sensations seemed so similar in this matter.
He had asked about it before, but Joshua never said, only looking awkward and embarrassed.
Being two men, Stephen secretly speculated that perhaps his husband was involuntarily taking a bottom position, so he didn't press further into this topic of shame.
Because of his reaction, Stephen felt some regret, knowing that it was just a hasty act without much pleasure. Only a small corner of his heart felt somewhat relieved, realizing that his husband truly seemed unaware.
After they were done, while the lights were still off, Joshua hurriedly ran to the bathroom. Stephen turned on the lights, tidied himself up, and returned to bed.
At that moment, the blinking light of his phone on the bedside table caught his attention. He unlocked the phone and was stunned by the messages from Jess.
Honey, what are you doing?
Stephen didn't have time to respond before a long string of messages followed.
Do you miss me? I miss you so much.
Can we talk on the phone tonight? I want my dear to lull me to sleep.
You're not with that person right now, are you? Reply quickly.
Reply to me quickly, okay? I'll call you in five minutes.
Stephen replied briefly.
I'll come see you tomorrow.
Really, Honey? It's been two days since I last saw you, and I really miss you.
I'll show you my new navel piercing.
Then a series of revealing photos followed, and of course, it wasn't just the navel piercing.
Darling, how do I look?
Am I irresistibly sexy?
Stephen frowned, wanting to ask why he didn't seek his consent before getting such a thing, but he felt it unnecessary and finally replied.
It's already late, let's sleep first. We'll talk about it when we meet tomorrow.
Then I want to sleep with you, kisses.
Reading through that series of messages from Jess, Stephen thought of that bracelet again, and his displeasure resurfaced, making him restless.
At this moment, Joshua had finished washing up and came out again. He lifted his half of the blanket and lay properly on the bed.
After waiting for a while, Stephen still hadn't turned off the lights.
"Steve, aren't you going to sleep yet?"
"I can't fall asleep. You go ahead and sleep, I'll go to the study."
Joshua, nestled in the covers, nodded gently and comforted him, "You should sleep earlier. Don't put too much pressure on yourself regarding work."
"Alright." He turned over and pulled the blanket over the man, "Goodnight."