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and i try, oh my god do i try

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“Professor Shen?”

Shen Wei turns from where he’s erasing the blackboard. “Yes?”

“I, uh, just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your lecture.” The boy flashes a tentative smile at Shen Wei. “My name is Zhao Yunlan,” he offers, almost a little expectantly.

“Zhao Yunlan,” Shen Wei echoes. He’s usually quite good about remembering the names of his students, but nothing comes up. “I’m glad you enjoyed the lecture,” he settles for. “Do you have any questions for me?”

Yunlan nods. “Can I...interest you in a cup of coffee? At the campus cafe by the lake?” he asks. “Just so we can continue discussions. I mean, there’s usually another class in here right after your lecture, isn’t there?”

That would be inappropriate. Shen Wei takes care not to appear to favour any one student over another.

“I’m afraid I still have some work to catch up on,” he demurs.

Yunlan’s face falls. “Oh.”

Shen Wei softens. Wrong intentions or no, as Shen Wei’s student, Yunlan is entitled to come to him with questions about the class, and making Yunlan feel uncomfortable would be counterproductive.

“My office hours are 2-4 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays,” Shen Wei offers.

“That’s tomorrow,” Yunlan says brightly, looking back up at Shen Wei again. “Okay! I’ll be there with coffee! Do you take yours with sugar?”

Shen Wei stares at him.

“Shall I guess?” Yunlan asks when Shen Wei doesn’t offer up an answer. He hums. “I’m pretty good at guessing. We’ll see if I can get your coffee just right. I’ll see you tomorrow, Professor Shen!” he says cheerily before turning to leave. He’s already at the door when he turns back to call out at Shen Wei. “I have a lot of questions, so remember to block at least half an hour out for me! I’ll be there at 2 p.m. on the dot, I promise!”

Shen Wei doesn’t give a second thought about Zhao Yunlan, really.

It’s not the first time that a student has tried to get friendly with him. Students have some sort of misconception that if they can just manage to get into Shen Wei’s good books, that Shen Wei would be more lenient when it comes to marking their finals.

It’s not like he’s being difficult to please on purpose. Shen Wei just has...high expectations of his student, and the stricter he is with them now, the more they will be able to get out of his teachings.

He’s always made his stance pretty clear about this, but it doesn’t stop students from trying.

Most of them try through smaller gestures. Notes tucked into assignments begging him not to be too strict because they are almost failing out of his class, small gifts left at his office door. Most of them are easy to ignore, and easier to discourage.

“Okay, so I know I said I would be here at two sharp,” Yunlan says, when he comes into Shen Wei’s office, ten minutes late, plopping down into the chair in front of Shen Wei’s desk, “but I promised to bring coffee, and I was near the law faculty where they have the trashiest coffee, so I had to run all the way across campus to the cafe by the lake.” He pushes one of the takeaway cups toward Shen Wei, and rests his chin where his hands are propped up on the table. “So you absolutely have to drink this, even if it’s just as a token of appreciation of my efforts.”

And then there are students like Zhao Yunlan, who try, and try hard.

“I promise it’s really good coffee,” Yunlan says, waggling his eyebrows.

“I don’t drink coffee,” Shen Wei tells him.

Aha!” Yunlan crows, switching their cups. “I thought you might say that, which is why I also bought a cup of tea.” He grins at Shen Wei. “Now you’ve got to give me points for effort and forward-planning.”

Shen Wei’s lips twitch at that, almost involuntarily, and Yunlan draws a sharp breath.

“Jesus, Shen Wei, they weren’t lying about you being the most beautiful person in Dragon City University at all, were they?” Yunlan murmurs quietly, seemingly almost unaware that he’s actually spoken the words out loud.

Shen Wei sighs.

This would also not be the first time that a student has approached him for...anything else unrelated to class.

He’s not completely blind to the facts — he knows that people think he’s good looking, even if he can’t really understand it himself.

He’s always thought that he was rather average-looking. A little boring, even, if you ask him. He doesn’t dress fashionably or even really understand fashion like Ye Zun does. Ye Zun looks at Shen Wei’s boring suits and shirts sometimes and laments that they are even related.

“Professor Shen,” Shen Wei corrects, when he realises that he’s been silent for too long. Best to nip this one in the bud, just like he does with all other students who try. “Please address me as Professor Shen. If you have any queries about any of the matters I raised in class on yesterday, I’m happy to go through them with you. Otherwise, I’ll have to ask you to clear out of the room so that other students can come and speak to me if they need to.”

Yunlan blinks at him. “I…”

Shen Wei arches an eyebrow.

“Uh, right. Questions,” Yunlan says. “I have so many questions. Could you walk me through the two formulas you were talking about before class ended on Monday again, Professor Shen?”

A quick search tells Shen Wei that Zhao Yunlan is not on the class list of any of his classes.

Shen Wei pinches the bridge of his nose.

There is always at least one student every semester who does this — sits in his class, shows up to his office hours, and keeps it up for a couple of weeks before they eventually deem Shen Wei to be ready, and present him with a love letter, or even worse, confess their feelings for him in person.

He sighs.

“I was thinking,” Yunlan starts, and Shen Wei is dreads the next half of his sentence. “You know how you always make me call you Professor Shen even though I’m not really your student? And how I’m always cool about doing it because you want me to?”

Shen Wei sighs. “If you’re in my class and I’m teaching you, then technically, I am your teacher and you are my student,” he says. “It’s not a choice, and you don’t get extra credits for sticking to my rules.”

“No, shh,” Yunlan raps his knuckles on Shen Wei’s desk in an effort to get Shen Wei to look up at him. “I’m trying to make a point here.”

“I’m really not seeing it,” Shen Wei says dryly.

My point is, that maybe you should start calling me by my preferred form of address as well,” Yunlan finishes. He grins at Shen Wei. “I was thinking...Ah Lan?”

Shen Wei stares at him.

“At least try it,” Yunlan tries. “Just once? I just need to hear it once? For very important scientific reasons?”

“Your thirty minute session is up,” Shen Wei says, instead of caving into Yunlan’s whims. “I’ve got another student coming in, so start clearing up.”

Yunlan sighs. “It was worth a shot,” he says woefully. “Even if Lin Jing already told me it was never going to work.”

The absolute worst thing is that Zhao Yunlan is so smart.

He doesn’t just show up at Shen Wei’s office hours to babble about something inane or just to make Shen Wei recap his lecture. He comes prepared with questions — good questions that lead to thoughtful discussions, great questions that sometimes almost trip Shen Wei up.

Shen Wei enjoys their discussions, enjoys the thirty-minute sessions that Yunlan drops by for every Wednesday and Friday without fail.

He’s even beginning to look forward to seeing Yunlan show up at his office with his ever-present smile, a steaming cup of tea for Shen Wei in hand, saying, “Did you miss me, Professor Shen?”

Fuck.

“You’re so fucked,” Ye Zun crows, when Shen Wei, after being bothered incessantly by Ye Zun, caves and admits to Ye Zun that he’s a little intrigue by this one student of his.

In retrospect, Ye Zun was right.

It’s almost two months from the first time Yunlan comes into his office when he tries again.

“So…” Yunlan says, getting comfortable in his seat, “I know you like books.”

Shen Wei looks up from his papers to give Yunlan his best ‘where are you going with this?’ look.

“I like books too,” Yunlan says, and inches closer. “I was wondering if you wanted to go to this book fair with me?” he asks.

Shen Wei sets his pen down. “I don’t-”

Yunlan doesn’t let him finish, and just keeps barrelling on, almost as if he’s intent on at least pitching his full idea to Shen Wei. “It’s at that exhibition hall near the beach!” Yunlan tells him. “I was thinking we could go this weekend, and then detour to the beach and maybe grab some ice cream? I had a look at the weather report for this Sunday. It’s supposed to be a fantastic day out.”

“Yunlan…”

Yunlan delates. “You’re going to say no to me again, aren’t you, Shen Wei?”

Shen Wei swallows, and then looks back down at his papers, even though he’s not so sure he can still concentrate on them now.

“Professor Shen,” Shen Wei corrects quietly, after a beat.

Yunlan lets out a long sigh. “Alright, Professor Shen,” he says, and then pulls out a piece of paper from his pocket. “I’ve got a couple of theories I wanted to run past you.”

“Shen Wei-”

“Professor Shen,” Shen Wei corrects absentmindedly.

“Why do I have to call you Professor Shen?” Yunlan says with an exaggerated pout. “I’m not actually your student.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re on the class list or not,” Shen Wei says. “If you’re going to continue to show up at my classes, you’re calling me Professor Shen.”

“Then maybe I won’t show up anymore,” Yunlan says sulkily.

Shen Wei has to hide his grin behind the papers he’s grading. “Don’t show up, then.”

Yunlan squawks, indignant. “And play into your hand? I will not!”

“Then keep calling me Professor Shen,” Shen Wei says simply.

“You’re so cruel to me, Xiao Wei,” Yunlan says.

Shen Wei’s gaze snaps to Yunlan. “What did you call me?”

Yunlan sighs. “Professor Shen,” he says dutifully, even though that wasn’t what Shen Wei meant, not really. “Is this secretly a kink? Do you ask people to call you Professor Shen in bed? I mean, first of all, wow, and second of all, I wouldn’t be against it, not even a little bit, but-”

Shen Wei can feel his cheeks heat. “Yunlan.”

Yunlan pouts. “I’m sorry for running my mouth, Professor Shen. I was joking.” And then as an afterthought, he adds, “Mostly.” He leans back in his seat and sighs again. “I just honestly can’t think of any other reason why you would want me to keep calling you ‘Professor Shen’. I mean, there’s literally no-one else here but the both of us.”

Shen Wei sets his papers down.

It’s about time he has The Talk with Yunlan.

The more Yunlan comes around, the fonder Shen Wei grows of him, and it’s dangerous to grow too fond of a student, to allow a student liberties the way he’s allowed Yunlan.

“Look, Yunlan,” Shen Wei starts, gentle, “you may not be my student-”

“-but I attend all your classes, which sort of makes me your student anyway, blah blah blah, I get it,” Yunlan interjects in the well-worn tones of someone who has had to say that one too many times. “You’re taking it to such an extreme, though.”

Shen Wei sighs, and starts over. “You may not be my student, but you are a student.”

“What.”

The look of incredulity on Yunlan’s face does nothing to stop Shen Wei. He’s learnt to be immune to the way students look at him when he’s going through The Talk by this point. It’s always good to start and finish strong.

“And in my interactions with you, a student, there are certain lines that I, as a professor, should not cross.”

What.”

“I’ve been very lenient with you over the last couple of weeks, and that might’ve inadvertently encouraged you. I’m sorry. I admit that I’ve found your company interesting, but for the sake of maintaining an appropriate relationship between us, I think you should stop coming by so often.”

What in the fuck.” Yunlan breathes out. “Am I dreaming? Did I hit my head on something? Am I hallucinating this conversation? Oh my God, I know Da Qing said that I shouldn’t keep myself so clean-shaven because then students don’t take me seriously, but what in the fuck.”

He leans across the table to grab Shen Wei by the shoulders.

“Yunlan-”

“Professor Shen. No, Shen Wei,” Yunlan says. “My darling, darling Shen Wei.”

Shen Wei swallows.

Darling.

Maybe he really should’ve had this talk with Yunlan a lot earlier.

Maybe Shen Wei should’ve been more careful himself, because even just Yunlan’s proximity, the way he’s just said darling?

Shen Wei likes that.

“I’m not a student,” Yunlan says.

Shen Wei blinks. “Wait. What?”

“I’m not a student,” Yunlan repeats, laughter bubbling out of him almost maniacally.

What?”

“God, Shen Wei, I teach the Criminology course,” Yunlan tells him. “How the fuck did you think I was a student?”

“You were in my class!” Shen Wei says. “And you came to my office hour with questions!”

“Because you wouldn’t go for coffee with me the first time I asked!” Yunlan yells. “Wait, is that the only reason why you wouldn’t agree to go on a date with me? Because you thought I was a student?”

Shen Wei is silent for a beat.

And then he nods. “I thought you were nineteen at best,” he admits.

Christ,” Yunlan breathes out. “No wonder my students don’t take me seriously.”

Shen Wei snorts. “I find it hard to believe that that’s the only reason.”

Yunlan shoots him a dirty look. “I would really defend my honour as a professor, but we’ve got more important things to discuss right now.”

“Do we?” Shen Wei asks, lips curling.

“Do w- Do we?” Yunlan echoes, incredulous, shaking his head. “Quick-fire questions - do you have a thing against dating colleagues? Do you have a thing against dating me specifically? Would you chase me out of your office if I were to kiss you right now? Would you chase me out of your office if I were to do more than just kiss you?”

Shen Wei laughs. “No,” he says. “No. No, again. And I think that last one really depends. I’m going to need more particulars before I can make an informed decision.”

“More particulars?” Yunlan purrs. “I can get as descriptive as you need me to. Christ, I’ve wanted to do so many things to you over the last couple of weeks, you have no idea.”

That coaxes a smile out of Shen Wei. “Well,” he says mildly. “Looks like we’ve got a lot of time to make up for, huh?”

Yunlan’s grin turns positively devilish. “Looks like we do, Xiao Wei,” he murmurs, and then kisses Shen Wei.

--

By the time Shen Wei gets to Lecture Hall G03, Yunlan is already wrapping his lecture up.

He grins when he sees Shen Wei.

“Alright class, that’s it for today,” Yunlan tells his students. “Professor Zhao has better things to do today.”

“Like what?” a student quips.

Yunlan smirks, and then points over at Shen Wei.

“You see Professor Shen there?” Yunlan asks the student. “Dragon City University’s #1 Beauty? Your Professor Zhao has a date with Professor Shen tonight!”

Shen Wei is going to kill him.

“So now chop, chop, all of you please leave in an orderly but speedy manner, so that I can go and spend my time with the love of my life instead. Don’t forget to do your assigned readings before class on Friday!”

Or kiss him.

Probably just kiss him.

Shen Wei’s always been a little weak when it comes to Yunlan anyway.