Yao Ai asked more questions about his course and Li Ming patiently answered while Duan Zhi Hao drove them back to the city, happy that he wasn’t being bothered.
When reaching the outskirts, he couldn’t help but give Yao Ai a look through the rearview mirror. “It’s already late. I’ll drive you back to your place.” Originally, he would’ve just driven to the Institute and let the two of them get off where they had started this morning, but now, it didn’t seem good to do that. It was already dark outside and he didn’t think that it would be smart to let Yao Ai walk outside alone.
Yao Ai naturally wouldn’t mind the extra service and reported her address.
Duan Zhi Hao nodded and drove there, waiting for her to get off and rush up to the door. He only started the engine again when the door opened and Yao Ai went in after waving at them a last time.
Slowly driving down the street, he glanced at Li Ming. “Well, since I’m already driving, how about I bring you back home too?”
Li Ming smiled but shook his head. “You don’t have to. You’ve been driving both ways and it’s not like you weren’t on your feet all day as well. You’re probably tired.”
Duan Zhi Hao clicked his tongue. “Well, look at it this way: If I drive there now, I’ll know where to go next week.” He hesitated for a moment and then raised his brows. “You were serious about inviting me next week, right?”
Li Ming raised his brows, surprised Duan Zhi Hao would even ask. “Of course. Unless you would find that awkward.”
Duan Zhi Hao’s gaze slipped from side to side, and he couldn’t help but give Li Ming another look, this time looking a bit uncomfortable. “Why would I find that awkward? I mean, it’s just having a meal together, right? Like, as friends.”
Li Ming raised his brows and slowly nodded. “Yes, naturally, that’s the case. What did you think it was?”
Duan Zhi Hao shook his head and motioned ahead. “So, what about your address?”
Li Ming kept quiet for a moment but finally told him. He wasn’t about to let the previous comment go though. “So, what is it about next week?”
Duan Zhi Hao drove in silence for a moment, hoping that he could pretend not to have heard. Li Ming was still staring at him though and he didn’t seem to want to let this matter rest. In the end, Duan Zhi Hao cursed. Anyway, Yao Ai wasn’t in the car longer so he had no problem with using some colorful language. “Well, I’m just asking. You know, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression with talking about your love life and everything so I just wanted to make sure you don’t see this as a date or something.”
Li Ming gave a hum and then leaned back, actually wanting to laugh. “You know, I was pretty sure you’re straight.”
Duan Zhi Hao froze and then nodded fervently. “I am! That’s exactly why I’m saying it’s not a date.”
“Are you telling me or are you telling that to yourself?” Li Ming smiled when he said so, tilting his head to the side a little and looking at Duan Zhi Hao’s profile. By now, his designated driver really seemed awkward.
Meanwhile, Duan Zhi Hao really didn’t know anymore why he had brought it up in the first place. He should have kept his mouth shut. “No, neither of us. I mean … I’m telling both of us. It’s just making sure. You know, this kind of thing, it’s easy to misunderstand.”
Li Ming finally laughed for real and shook his head. “With that one, there is absolutely nothing to misunderstand. I’m gay but I’m not into every man I meet. Honestly, I don’t want to hurt your feelings but you’re absolutely not my type. Next week, I’ll show you some photos of my ex. You’ll realize that there is absolutely nothing to worry about.”
Duan Zhi Hao gave him another look through the rearview mirror and then relaxed. “Well, looking at the guy we saw today, I already know that. He wasn’t my type either. I mean … not my type of person.” He frowned and figured that it was probably time to shut up. He was just making things worse.
Li Ming laughed again and nodded. “It’s alright. I understand what you’re saying. Anyway, you really don’t need to worry. Even if I somehow developed a crush on you, I wouldn’t make any moves. I know you are straight and I’m not the type of guy who would chase somebody who is definitely unreachable.”
Saying so, he couldn’t help but think back to those years when he had had a crush on Su Yan. He had always thought that he was straight. It had probably been idiotic to not even consider the possibility of him being into men but watching how he got along with their female coworkers, he had felt that either, Su Yan was in a secure relationship or that he wasn’t interested in relationships at all. There were people like that after all.
In the end, he regretted it. He should have been more daring. He should have asked. That was something that he had learned over the last couple of years. His slim chance of being with Su Yan, he had messed them up all by himself. First, by waiting too long and then by being too daring at the end when he got desperate.
Then with Mo Fang, he had seen that it might work out if you were just courageous enough at the beginning. He had also been hit in the face by the fact that you shouldn’t go overboard in the means that you used or you’d hurt the other person in the end. He had felt that pain himself so he never wanted to subject somebody else to it.
So, for the future, if there was somebody that he liked, he would dare to ask him out and then accept whatever answer he got. Trying to bend a straight man … no, that was one of those cases where you had left the right path and were heading to hurting somebody in a cruel way.
He wouldn’t want somebody to try and force him to be straight so he also shouldn’t go about things the other way around. Everybody deserved to have their sexuality respected. After all, it was a part of them that they couldn’t change.
The atmosphere in the car had turned better after Li Ming made things clear, and Duan Zhi Hao silently drove Li Ming back to the apartment.
Stopping the car and turning off the engine, he turned around and looked at him with the last bit of uncomfortableness being visible in his features. “I hope you’re not angry about what I said before. I know you’re not into any guy you see. I was just … you know …” He didn’t know what to say. He rubbed his forehead and finally shook his head. “I was an idiot. I’m sorry.”
Li Ming just smiled. “Apology accepted. Anyway, I knew you weren’t … being malicious. You were worried. And I guess in a certain way, I guess it’s nice that you didn’t want to mislead me. It’s just completely unnecessary. In the future, if you meet somebody else who is gay, don’t bother. They don’t need you to clarify and if they do, they’ll let you know.”
Duan Zhi Hao hung his head and then nodded. “I’ll remember that. Anyway, send me a message about the time I’m supposed to be here next week. Also if you need me to bring something, like ingredients or something, send me a message as well. I’ll get them fresh!”
Li Ming nodded but waves his hands at the same time. “Don’t bother about that. You’ve driven us today and we haven’t even given you any money for gas. I’ll pay for the meal. That’s the least I can do. Now, I’d better get going. I’m not sure how far you’ll have to drive home but it’s not getting any earlier.”
Duan Zhi Hao nodded and the two of them bid farewell, Li Ming going up to his own apartment, while Duan Zhi Hao drove home.