Author: Juxian Tang
Fandom: Farewell My Concubine
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Lilian Lee, the movie belongs to Chen
Kaige. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Dieyi is fighting his opium addiction.
Lots of thanks to Deanna for beta, help and support - and, of course, for
inspiring this story first of all.
Silence. But the scream that had already died away still seemed to
reverberate through them when their eyes met - identically black and widened in
the continuous shock of the anguish they were witnessing for the last days.
Dieyi's eyes, however, were closed - as unconsciousness put the end to the
bird-like excruciating cries of his. Now he lay on the bed - still - unfeeling
at last - or just too exhausted to continue thrashing.
For how long this quiet was - the question Xiaolou could read in Juxian's
eyes - maybe, more clearly because it sounded in his head, too. Well, by now
they should've slipped into the tormenting routine of Dieyi's suffering:
outbursts of rage that exchanged with these periods of apathy, when he could do
nothing but shiver - and two trickles of tears ran from under his closed
eyelids. Almost the only thing that indicated for Xiaolou that he was still
"He won't come round for a couple of hours," he whispered -
illogically because he knew his voice wouldn't reach Dieyi anyway. "Go
home, dear. Get some sleep."
He didn't add that she shouldn't have been here in the first place, owed
nothing to Dieyi - except a few bitter memories Xiaolou knew they shared. Going
through Dieyi's agony of opium withdrawal, cleaning the mess of blood-stained
glass and torn clothes after his fits of violence - and trying to spoon some
water in his mouth when he stopped flailing at last was certainly more than one
could expect from her. But Juxian stayed - and Xiaolou didn't need to ask why.
Not for Dieyi - she would do nothing for Dieyi - but for him.
"It's daylight, Xiaolou," she said reasonably, a tired smile on
her lips but not in her eyes. "I wouldn't be able to sleep anyway."
He thought about touching her face - so pale, purple shadows around her eyes
- thought about hugging her - and suddenly felt too weary even to raise his
"I'll go do some shopping," she sighed quietly. "I've been
dying for a watermelon for the last two days."
Dying... How many times during these days had he heard this word? Then, in
the very beginning, he'd set his mind on the thought that the withdrawal
wouldn't kill Dieyi - just had to be gone through. It was opium that was
killing him. But opium was killing him slowly and secretly - and when he heard
Dieyi's broken voice, hoarse with screaming, nothing of the exquisite
tenderness that had made his success left in it:
"I am dying, brother, help me, I am dying..." he was not sure what
was worse. And what if Dieyi would die? Or would kill himself - would have
already done it - a splinter of glass cutting through his fingers, aiming for
his veins - if Xiaolou didn't catch him, didn't hold him down on blood- and
piss-soaked sheets through all his struggle... and Xiaolou had never known he
could be so strong. Had never known he could scream like this, either.
And when later he ran the wet cloth over Dieyi's frighteningly thin and limp
body - listening to the small whimpers Dieyi made, the only sound he had
strength for - sometimes he thought that very possibly he would be better off
It was Juxian who stopped him when, driven to despair with Dieyi's pleas, he
was going to run out of the house - to find a dose for him, to give him
whatever he wanted - just not to have to see him suffer like this any more.
Juxian was stronger than Xiaolou. Sometimes he thought she was the only one of
the three of them who was really strong.
"Yes, a watermelon," he said faintly, his mouth filling with
saliva at the thought of the sweet fresh taste of it. "It'd be
He caught a short wave of hot air on his face as she left - the air that
still felt like a draft, so stiff was it in the house. The days were almost
blazingly hot - but Dieyi was saying he was cold, always cold - begged them to
keep the windows shut. Yeah, right - except the times when he tried to break
the windows with his bare hands, Xiaolou thought, smiling mirthlessly.
"Let me out... fuck you, bastard, you are killing me..." he
recalled - and, in a weird flip of mind, recalled something else, a moment of
stillness, a whisper, so soft that Juxian who was just a little away from them
couldn't hear it. "You are killing me, brother, but this death is a
It was pain talking, not him, Xiaolou told himself then and repeated it now.
For these days Dieyi was more often delirious than not - and what weird things
wouldn't one say in fever? He hadn't meant it - just like he hadn't meant it
when he was smashing the framed photos on the walls, screaming that they
disgusted him, that his life meant nothing, was only a joke.
Yes, it was delirium - illness - opium. The words not worth a second thought
- and Xiaolou had a better way to spend these possible two or three hours of
insecure peace than thinking about them. Could take a nap - had to give some
rest to his weary-to-the-bone body... or he would be good for nothing by the
next violent spell that was sure to come.
He sat down on the bed carefully, with Dieyi motionless - just a little
ripple of pain going over his face; withdrawal made him insensitive to crashing
glass in his bare hands - and it made him oversensitive to every touch and
"What have you done to yourself?" Xiaolou knew it was a question
that was supposed to stay unanswered - but bitterness got the better of him -
bitterness that fed as much on his exhaustion as on the sadness of looking at
Dieyi's pain-sharpened face, his dangerously bleeding hands wrapped thickly in
white marred red bandages. "How can anyone do something like that to
Half-contempt, half-pain; Dieyi, the prima, "the beauty of the
age" - his name more than once thrown in Xiaolou's face as an example of
someone who had achieved something he could achieve, too, but never had. Only
if this was the price one had to pay for it, Xiaolou didn't want to pay it.
"Where is... Lucky?" the voice was so faint that for a moment
Xiaolou couldn't discern the words - and then guessed their meaning. The cat.
Dieyi's eyes were closed - as if the eyelashes were too heavy to raise them;
but his hand moved - the fingers trembling as if he was patting the cat's nape.
"It ran away. Got crazy... we let it go."
He would have liked to say something more comforting but couldn't. At least
he didn't say that most likely it was lying dead somewhere. The cat Dieyi had
addicted to opium, that suffered through the same abstinence as its master.
But Dieyi probably guessed its fate himself.
"I'll die, too, Xiao Shitou."
"No, you won't."
The name he had carried in his childhood cut on Xiaolou's nerves and jolted
his memory - back to the time when everything seemed easy, when the worst pain
they had to fear was from their master's switch. When they hadn't started this
never-ending dance of hurting each other yet.
"I want to die," a quiet voice - deceptively quiet. And not the
voice of sanity at all. "Will you miss me then?"
Xiaolou thought he would get angry about these words - if he was not so
tired. So much like Dieyi. Even white-lipped with pain, still trying to
manipulate his friend, to play on him - still thinking that Xiaolou was easy to
play. Always thought him too simple, even if he never said it - and the truth
was that Xiaolou let him think it. It was safer like that. Or he would have to
admit that he understood - that he knew too much.
"An opera singer doesn't have to die like this," well, two could
play this game, he could pretend he took these words seriously. "Not of
inability to fight his opium addiction - on the soiled bed in a trashed house.
An opera singer must die on the stage, haven't you always told me that?"
Somehow this simple phrase frightened him - maybe, with its shortness. He
looked at Dieyi, trying to read the small changes on his face - and saw him
roll his head on the pillow, heard him say very quietly:
"It hurts, Xiaolou. It hurts so much."
Xiaolou felt as if something pushed him in his chest, tiredness and
resentment gone for a moment.
"No, no, it will be all right..." he whispered, passing the back
of his palm over Dieyi's cheek carefully, afraid that his touch would hurt
more. He was shocked at the eagerness with which Dieyi turned his face into his
hand, catching it, rubbing into it like a cat. Wetness of tears on his eyes,
his parched lips, so hot, the feverish breath between them almost scalding
"Save me, brother," the voice of a small boy, of Xiao Douzi.
Xiaolou's hand trembled, he was struggling between the wish to pull back and
the feeling of Dieyi's cheek pressing on it, forcing him to stay. He looked at
the man's closed eyes and trembling eyelids and saw fresh trickles running from
"You don't mean..." he started speaking and lost the trail of his
thought - and, anyway, somehow he knew Dieyi didn't hear him, not with the
words said without conviction like that.
"Kiss me... kiss the pain away..."
Dieyi's hands, still bleeding, caught his hand, toyed with it absently until
bringing it to his lips. A shiver ran over Xiaolou's spine. It was wrong; he
couldn't allow it to happen. He couldn't want it to happen. Had to stop it.
Just like he had to stop recalling all the times he had wondered, hearing these
rumors about Dieyi and Master Yuan, Dieyi and others. How would it feel...
Like this? The feverish mouth around his fingers, not wet and slick, all
liquid burnt out in Dieyi's body, his stomach having kept down no water for the
past two days. Hadn't Xiaolou known much more exquisite touch from Juxian, from
the girls in the House of Blossoms? But exquisiteness had nothing to do with it
- he understood it, almost terrified, as he looked at Dieyi's face, so pale but
with his cheeks flushed bright, his eyes still closed - and understood also
that he couldn't stop looking.
No more. He felt sweat beading on his forehead at the effort that suddenly
demanded so much strength of him - and Xiaolou had never lacked strength in his
life. He saw a short tremble of pain on Dieyi's face as he took his hand away -
and heard a whisper - barely audible but stunning him speechless:
"Why do you always reject me, brother?"
A hitching breath caught in Xiaolou's throat - and he leant down, not yet
quite realizing what he was doing. And at the same moment Dieyi rose towards
him - blindly but as if drawn unmistakably - until their mouths met. Burning
hot on Xiaolou's lips - just catching his breath - no tongue - and it was still
draining his strength more than the most passionate kiss could. For moments
that stretched into eternity.
Then suddenly Dieyi's hands - all precision lost in their motions - reached
up and locked on his nape - and his mouth became furious, devouring Xiaolou's -
so violently as if he tried to squeeze all years of yearning into some short
moments - making Xiaolou moan slightly in pain; but he knew that never, for
nothing would he try to push Dieyi away.
It was Dieyi who let him go - his eyes opened suddenly - and with a start
Xiaolou saw them blind, looking somewhere into and past him. He went limp,
slumped bonelessly on the bed - but Xiaolou didn't let him fall, catching him
in his arms, lowering him slowly, leaning over him. The realization of
wrong-doing continued to burn through his mind but he already could hardly
resist being drawn into the stare of Dieyi's unseeing, misted eyes, full of
passion - and of strange, sad, disbelieving happiness.
It's a dream for him, Xiaolou thought, he's dreaming - and heard Dieyi
whisper softly, hastily:
Yes, brother. A part of Xiaolou's mind couldn't believe it but his hands,
his lips already had a life of their own - his body leaning over Dieyi's, his
hand locking on the man's jaw, mouth catching his lips that opened so eagerly,
so trustingly to him.
Did he kiss Yuan like this - all of a sudden a bitter, angry thought visited
Xiaolou. Yuan... and who else? He knew about them, had always known, hadn't he?
Had never cared... Or never let himself care - or it would hurt too much?
You are a slut, Dieyi, he thought. Beautiful slut... opium addict... the
great dan... Douzi... Little boy with the bandage swollen with blood on
his hand - just like his hands were injured and bleeding now. The warm little
boy cuddling to him in the cold bed. His friend... his little brother...
He didn't notice how his kiss changed - from violent, almost torturing to
melting gentleness - but Dieyi was just taking it all. There was nothing he
wouldn't take from me, Xiaolou thought suddenly and soberly.
But soberness was just a very brief visitor - together with as the
surprising thought that his touch didn't seem to hurt Dieyi, nor did Xiaolou's
weight on him. Xiaolou's hands cradled his face as he tasted the little salt of
blood from the cracked lips, felt the brittle warmth of Dieyi's skinny body
under him - his rising ribcage, the softness of his belly, the intimate warmth
of his cock and balls hidden under the clothes.
The thought made blood rush into Xiaolou's face - and not only to his face -
and his mouth caught a small moan Dieyi made as he must've felt Xiaolou's
member swelling and hardening against his own.
The hands - softness of fingertips and roughness of bandages - danced over
Xiaolou's nape - and he could feel drops of blood from them - but he didn't
care, it didn't matter now. A sound of ripping cloth startled him as his hand
slid under Dieyi's shirt - too abruptly, tearing the collar - but he didn't
care about that either. The smoothness of Dieyi's chest, the absence of curves
and of softness shocked him at the first moment, the way the skin was stretched
on Dieyi's ribs mystified him. He heard Dieyi make a small moan as his fingers
brushed over the nipple.
"Do you like it?" Xiaolou said and didn't realize at first he was
saying it. "Is it what you've always wanted me to do?"
He knew Dieyi didn't understand - was too messed up for it - and yet Xiaolou
heard him plead as if he understood:
"Please, brother... it feels good."
What kind of good was there, with his body so exhausted with pain that it
apparently couldn't discern its sensations, Xiaolou almost asked - but the
truth was that he didn't want an answer. And he knew he didn't have to stop.
He couldn't explain it - but there was something in what he was doing -
stronger than his doubts and more urgent than physical need. Xiaolou did it
because he wanted to do it - but also because he felt he needed to do it.
Needed to do it as much for himself as for Dieyi. Needed to do something that
would again tie the severed threads of their lives - the severed threads that
Xiaolou knew were there, even if he never admitted this knowledge. He believed
he found the way to mend things at last. And it didn't matter if Dieyi wasn't
lucid enough to understand. Maybe, Xiaolou wanted this veil of unreality to be
able to do it.
His hands worked hastily - through his own clothes and through Dieyi's. He
felt how Dieyi's body pushed against his, seeking even more contact, whatever
it might be, pain, or pleasure, or just Xiaolou's weight on him. He found Dieyi
half-hard and he himself was fully, painfully hard, had to grit his teeth with
the urgency of the sensation. All he could do was not to be rough, not too
"Do it..." prayer-like insistence - and who was Xiaolou to deny
He spat in his hand, more intuitively than remembering anything he had heard
about this kind of love - and the first thrust shocked him with how difficult -
impossible - it was. It hurt. How could Dieyi do it before...
And how could he still ask:
"Yes, brother, yes, do it."
He clenched his teeth and thrust again - and being in, stilled for moments,
trying to get used to the amazing tightness and almost painful heat that
enveloped him. Then he moved - could do nothing to resist the overwhelming
sweetness of the grip on his strained pole. He kissed Dieyi again and felt him
kiss back - and felt him moan, Xiaolou was not sure whether in pain or in pleasure
but he thought Dieyi didn't know it either. A blind hand found his face, traced
Xiaolou's lips, the scar over his brow. "Brothers will become
enemies..." he recalled what Master Guan had told them about the
meaning of this scar. There had been nothing about brothers becoming...
"Do I give you what you want, little brother?" he asked with
sudden intensity, catching the hand, plaiting his fingers through Dieyi's -
pressing the hand to the pillow. The realization of the fragility of this hand
struck him. So easy to damage - and Cheng Dieyi's stage career would be
finished. So easy to damage... What would be left of him then? Was he anything
but his roles - for anyone but Xiaolou?
A wave of sadness mixed with anger washed over him, unexplainable and was
gone, and nothing stayed but - him being with Dieyi, being in Dieyi...
Was it what he, Xiaolou, wanted? Or was it what he had been running away
from all his life?
All the years they'd spent apart... maybe some day Dieyi would forgive him
for it - for being what he was, for loving as he could, whom he could. Or,
maybe, Dieyi had already forgiven him - for everything he had done and for
everything he would do.
He gasped suddenly, pierced with pleasure that was so strong and enormous
that it frightened him, felt like dying, but it lasted and lasted, tugging at
his brain, directly to his heart - and to the heat-enveloped pole of his cock -
and he barely believed in the possibility of release when it came.
He collapsed and saw a little waning smile on Dieyi's lips - contented smile
- and in a twisted mixture of gratitude, fear and defeat he touched the corner
of the smiling mouth with his lips.
And at the same moment - a short gasp behind him, just a split second before
a blunt juicy sound of something exploding on the floor. It couldn't be her, he
thought - and already turning knew what he would see: Juxian's white face, all
white, even the lips - and screaming eyes - like black pools of pain. And pink
among green insides of the watermelon that had slipped out of her hands.
Xiaolou's lips moved, he wanted to say something and realized that he didn't
know what he was going to say - and his lips were so dry that there hardly
would be any sound, just a rustle. But it seemed she heard what he didn't say.
Her hand rose to her cheek as if he'd slapped her - and then she turned away,
stumbled at the threshold, let the door slam shut behind herself.
He started getting up - not a glance at Dieyi - but their fingers were still
tangled - and when he pulled to free himself, Dieyi's peaceful face distorted
slightly as he murmured dreamily:
"Don't leave me."
Groping on the floor for his pants, Xiaolou cursed - mutely, his lips still
didn't obey him. Struggling with the sleeves on his shirt, he ran out of the
house, thinking that she was surely gone... disappeared... what if he would
never see her again?
A huge relief flooded him as he saw her on the stairs - not looking back at
him, hugging herself as if she was cold. Pain pierced his heart - so small she
seemed to him - small like a girl, a girl he hadn't known, not a woman he'd
lived with for so many years.
His hands trembled as he spread his arms, aching to embrace her and not
daring. She didn't turn back - submerged in her misery - and he walked
uncomfortably around her to be able to look at her face. Her eyes were wet but
she was not crying.
"It's not... what you think..." he said awkwardly. At last his
voice - his voice that had never failed him before - obeyed him again. But for
what weak words!
Her ink-black eyes lashed through him with undisguised suffering. Xiaolou
thought in terror she wouldn't answer - would just stay like that, frozen and
silent, and then everything would be lost, forever.
"What can I think?" she said at last, her voice husky with pain,
reminding him with a sudden pang that she'd talked this way after the
miscarriage - as if she was too weak to bring some sound into her voice.
It was because he needed me, Xiaolou wanted to say - but somehow knew it
would be a wrong thing, a wrong explanation. And it wouldn't be a complete
truth. He didn't want to lie to her. But the truth would hurt her even more.
He swallowed and stayed silent and she raised her eyes at him - still too
much sorrow in them and yet searching - eyes that consumed his face like a slow
fire. Xiaolou wanted to stand her gaze - and couldn't, looked away.
"I told you," she said at last. "If you tire of me, I'll kill
She didn't finish the phrase but he guessed it unmistakably - a question she
omitted - was it time for her to die? - and trembled, shaking his head
"It'll never again... I'll never..."
She will ask how she can trust me, he thought - but she stayed silent. For a
few unbearably long seconds her eyes continued to absorb his face and then she
He almost gasped in relief.
Her gaze changed as if she was listening to something in the house -
although it was still quiet - and when she spoke, her voice was almost normal -
maybe, forcefully tranquil but not revealing pain in every word any more.
"Go to him. I'll tidy the mess."
She turned away and walked back to the house, just her head lowered slightly
- not a flower on the proud stem as usual. For a few moments Xiaolou stood,
catching full lungs of the stiff afternoon air. A sudden flood of sounds and
sensations overwhelmed him - the noises of the street, people going by. All the
time while he had been talking to Juxian he hadn't noticed them - like on the
stage in front of an empty house. He heard someone greeting him and nodded in
reply mechanically. The man didn't look at him in an odd way, though, and in
amazement Xiaolou thought how non-dramatic for an off-site watcher the whole
scene had to be. Just a little conversation between a husband and a wife, not
even a quarrel.
He suddenly recalled a much flashier event of many years ago, Juxian coming
to him to the theater to tell she had been kicked out of the House of Blossoms,
the cheerful crowd of his colleagues that had gathered around then. Her proud,
earnest words as she had vowed her loyalty to him.
How could he ever hurt her like this?
When he returned to the house, Juxian was kneeling on the floor, gathering
the succulent lumps of the watermelon into the bucket. Xiaolou gazed at her for
a moment, saw her raise her head, an unbridled strand of hair falling across
her face. There was no animosity in her eyes and she hurt him more with it than
she could have with any reproaches.
He walked slowly to the backroom, to the bed where Dieyi lay - just as he'd
left him. Sleeping - for the first time in days. Almost tranquil - his chest
was fluttering oddly and the fine arcs of his eyebrows broke slightly in a
frown as if something deep in him still hurt. Yet at least he slept.
Xiaolou stood at the bed, looking at his friend, and unreality of what had
happened descended on him, weighing heavier with every second. He couldn't have
been doing it - not with Dieyi, not with his friend, his brother, the man he
had known for so long that he sometimes wondered if he remembered anything
before that. It must've been a dream. It had to have been a dream.
Hands, lips, smoothness of his skin on fragile ribs rising and falling under
his palms... almost in pain Xiaolou shook his head. Even if he would never be
able to forget about it, he would never let himself think about it.
He took the crumpled quilt at Dieyi's feet and covered him carefully,
listened to a short sigh the man made as if in contentment of getting warm at
last. In the other part of the house Juxian filled a bucket with water to wash
the floor. A cozy, familiar sound that sent a shiver of pain and pleasure
through Xiaolou's body. It was over. Thankfully, somehow it was over.
Well, not exactly over, of course. In a few hours Dieyi was back and in a
worse state than before, thrashing in Xiaolou's arms so violently that Xiaolou
thought he would break his bones... making little harrowing sounds of pain. No
quilt, no embrace could make him warm then.
But days passed - and at last Dieyi sat in his bed, ghost-pale and still
helplessly weak, but smiling his little wicked smile of a winner, meeting his
colleagues who came to congratulate him. His bandaged hand held Xiaolou's
possessively, but the short glances he cast at Juxian who served them tea
contained only restrained triumph. Small triumph - worth of just this - of
holding his hand. Not more.
Didn't he know that there had been a moment when he'd almost won, Xiaolou thought,
watching the usual mixture of feelings in Dieyi's eyes - hostility and fearful
disgust that Xiaolou was so good at pretending not to notice but had learned so
well in details for all those years. Didn't he know that the battle might be
over? What an irony. Dieyi had been fighting this battle almost all his life -
and now he even didn't remember his victory.
At night, back at home, Xiaolou verbalized this thought:
"He remembers nothing."
And after a small pause, in the darkness, Juxian answered in a quiet and
strangely hard voice:
"Nothing happened for him to remember."
Xiaolou didn't know why thinking about it caused such pain to him - short
but encompassing pain - and then he nodded, accepting the truth of her words
and the relief that they had to bring:
And when he touched Juxian tentatively, her body responded to him, for the
first time in days, reluctantly in the beginning and then getting aflame
slowly. And as he submerged into the warm core of her, this word was the only
one that continued to sound in his mind, unconnected to any image and almost
unconnected to any emotion: