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At work, in public, Shen Wei is meticulously, seamlessly polite. He's personable with his colleagues and dotes on all of his students; he has a flawlessly politic grasp of honorific titles, demurs against attention, doesn't jaywalk, and has a supernatural ability to win the fight for the check every single time. He's the ideal of a noble scholar: without the sin of pride, unfailingly kind, yielding with the wisdom of his forebears.

In bed, he's something else.

Before, when Professor Shen had just been a pair of intriguing eyes hidden beneath a sweep of inky lashes and a fussy little suit, Yunlan had figured he'd be the shy type: lights off, close under the covers, a lot of asking, "Are you sure" and "Is this okay?" It'd been a fun thought exercise — in the shower, too strung out on adrenaline to fall asleep — to imagine playing bad teacher and peeling him out of his fucking sleeve garters, asking if there was anything he could do for a passing grade.

The reality's different, of course it's different. It's less low budget porno, less careful than his colorful history of one night stands with people you meet three drinks in, and with whom you come to common agreement in alleyways and elevators and sometimes club bathrooms to engage in civil debasement of one another.

"Are you talking about this to make me angry?" Shen Wei asks, looming, and inside the iron band of his hands, the bones of Yunlan's wrists grind together — it fucking hurts and it's so hot it leaves him desperate.

Yunlan grins. "I was wrong, Professor Shen," he says, the same way he said it earnestly to his blindly furious teachers in high school and college. "I'm willing to take whatever correction you want to administer."

In the low light, glasses knocked off and his hair a mess, Shen Wei's beautifully placid expressions have gone sharp edged and a little mean; it's what Yunlan used to imagine the envoy would look like, underneath his cloak and if you messed him up a little, if Yunlan got on his knees in the interest of diplomatic unity.

This is better, something in the hum of his chest whispers, shameless, this is Shen Wei.

"You would have been a nightmare as a student," Shen Wei says, and Yunlan would pretend offense except Shen Wei's kicking his feet apart — rubbing his knee up between Yunlan's legs through his shitkicker jeans: rough friction and a presumptive possession that makes it feel like someone lit a gasoline fire in Yunlan's belly. "I would have failed you on principle."

They're pressed up against the door of Yunlan's apartment, old mail and shoes a discarded mess in the entryway. It still smells like last night's oranges here, from where Shen Wei had carefully saved the peels for some charmingly domestic kitchen project he saw on the university WeChat group. This is familiar and thrillingly new, more frightening than any of the reckless leaps of faith that have come before, and Yunlan's so greedy for the danger of it he's dizzy.

"My father will kill me if I fail, he saved up his whole life to send me to school," he says, grinning around the words at the way Shen Wei's eyes go flinty and hot. Yunlan can't help himself, he asks, "Is this really working for you? Have I just uncovered a well-concealed and completely inappropriate kink, Profess — "

Shen Wei cuts him off with a kiss: it's savage and sharp, more teeth than tongue, and Yunlan hears himself gasp at the sting of hurt and groan at the drag of Shen Wei's fucking fangs, scraping over his lower lip, drawing a hot rush of blood just under the surface of his skin. Absurdly, it's only their third kiss. The first had been in a shadowed alcove, tucked away in a shady corner of campus earlier today: tender and revelatory, lingering, breathing one another in and feeling the press of Shen Wei's fingers into his spine, being gripped close, being wanted. The second had been after Shen Wei had said, "I — I suppose we should be measured, take our time," in the car and Yunlan had said, "Of course," and they'd made it all the way up to the second floor in their building elevator before Shen Wei had slammed him into one of the mirrored walls, given him a full oral exam and groped his dick through his pants until they'd hit the fourth floor and all pretenses toward dignity had been abandoned.

"You'd flirt with everyone in class, disrupt lectures," Shen Wei says when he pulls away, just far enough so that Yunlan can heave for breath in the millimeters between them. "I'd talk to you nicely, ask you again and again — I know problem students like you — "

Yunlan tries to kiss him again. "I was a good student," he lies.

" — I'd just have to keep your mouth busy," Shen Wei finishes, and so close, he doesn't look anything like the elegant young teacher Yunlan had met that first day, that case where it had all begun. He looks like a wild thing, barely contained, all the power in him a blaze behind the eyes, and when Shen Wei fists his free hand in Yunlan's hair, he says, "Am I making myself clear, Zhao Yunlan?"

Yunlan's throat clicks when he swallows — parched.

"Yes," he whispers. "Yeah — yes — to anything."

Zhao Yunlan's never had lovers, per se. He likes to have a good time, and people are generally pretty agreeable to having a good time with him. It's always no strings attached, in hotels, in other peoples' apartments — memorably, once in the Hummer, which had been great until the fucking cat had sniffed around it the next day at work and screamed bloody murder into Yunlan's ear the entire two hour drive to Wuxi. Yunlan likes most people fine, enough to suck their dicks anyway, but he doesn't remember them after, think about them with regret. He hadn't been lying, long ago, when he told Shen Wei that love, relationships, they weren't for him, he'd closed the book on that ages ago. He'd spent his 20s waiting to feel something, and he'd come out of them division head and vaguely disappointed. Maybe he was wired differently, maybe there was no one meant for him, no ring finger at the other end of his red thread. Da Qing calls him cold, Yunlan knows, but that's only halfway fair: he's always been the flint without the spark — on his own he's not enough to make a fire.

And then he'd met Shen Wei.

Shen Wei's a courteous person, gracious and thoughtful, and even when he's shoving Yulan down to his knees by a fistful of hair, he knows exactly how much to make it sweet — how much to make it sting. Yunlan lets himself touch, run his hands down slim hips and thighs corded with muscle, to slide his palms up Shen Wei's knees and along the sleek fabric of his dress pants. Yunlan scrapes his nails across the leather of Shen Wei's belt, run the edge of his thumb around the button at the fly of his trousers, breathes out over the fabric, hot and damp.

"What do you like?" he asks, settling his weight off his bad knee, going for the buckle.

Shen Wei touches his face, presses a thumb into the corner of his mouth. His expression, in the bare light of the room and shadowed through, from Yunlan's supplicant's pose, looks ravenous. "Your mouth — any way I can get it," Shen Wei says, unembarrassed and raw. It's too much. It's just enough.

Yunlan prides himself on never being speechless, but all the words keep getting jumbled in his throat. He doesn't trust himself not to say something terrible, something true, so he lets his hands shake, unzipping Shen Wei's meticulously tailored trousers and leans in close so he can suck an open mouthed kiss through the silky boxer briefs instead. He tastes cotton and sweat and the salt of skin, hears Shen Wei hiss, his head tip back against the wall — fist tightening in Yunlan's hair.

Some people don't like too much pressure, a tight grip, but Yunlan can already feel the bruises setting into his wrists, so when he pulls Shen Wei's cock out of his briefs, he doesn't bother with a soft approach — sucks him in deep and swallows, deliberate.

Like slutty control freaks the world over, Yunlan loves sucking dick. It's a marriage of all of his most ardent interests, and right now, grinding the heel of his hand into his hard on, through his jeans, and feeling the heat and weight of Shen Wei on his tongue, stretching the corners of his mouth — it's bliss. Above him, Shen Wei's controlled declarations, so angry and impatient and incendiary, have fallen away to shuddery exhalations, and it makes Yunlan feel cosmically powerful to take him apart, to peel away Shen Wei's composure and responsibilities and leave him a wreck, hips jerking as Yunlan hollows his cheeks and hums.

Yunlan's a mess, mouth bruised from rough work and his chin sloppy. He keeps taking Shen Wei deeper and deeper, and the sharp ache and vertigo of it is stunning. He presses both hands into Shen Wei's hips — to keep him still — and Yunlan pops his jaw that last half centimeter, until he can fit the head of Shen Wei's gorgeous dick into the hollows at the back of his throat and just beyond, until he can choke on it, gone woozy from lack of air.

"Zhao Yunlan, you — " Shen Wei swears, and then Yunlan's getting pulled off his dick by the hair — it's upsettingly hot — and shoved across the apartment, manhandled into his unmade bed. One of Shen Wei's beautiful hands lands spread across the wings of Yunlan's collarbone, close enough to close around his throat.

"I wasn't finished," Yunlan manages. He sounds breathless, croaky. His voice is thrashed and it's going to hurt to swallow for days. He can't wait.

Shen Wei looks haggard, wild-eyed. This close, with his control so overextended, he looks like the dangerous creature he is, and it makes Yunlan want and want and want. Yunlan took this man with his beautiful scholar's face and his kind hands and cracked him wide open, it makes Yunlan feel like he's touching some holy thing: incandescent.

"You're finished if you want to get fucked tonight," Shen Wei tells him.

"Compelling argument, you are after all a scholar of wide renown," Yunlan agrees, and slides his hands down the back of Shen Wei's pants, run his fingers over the taut muscle, straining. "I'm so fortunate to be in your good hands."

"Next time we do this, I'm gagging you," Shen Wei says. "Strip."

Zhao Yunlan tries not to examine too closely why, for someone who spends his life barely following orders, it's such a thrill to get them from Shen Wei. And there are other dividends, of course, tearing out of his button down shirt and shimmying out of his jeans. He can watch Shen Wei slowly disassemble himself: from that slate trench to his three-piece suit, a hundred little buttons. He looks like expensive pornography, whipping off his suit jacket, skimming out of his trousers, the shoulders of his shirt straining. Underneath it all, he's ceramic smooth skin over muscle, and Yunlan curls up to press his palms to the flexing plane of Shen Wei's chest, to dig his thumbs into the dip of his sternum and feel the heave of his breathing.

Yunlan wonders who else has seen him like this, so discomposed and disassembled, and the heat that runs through him is jealousy tempered by lust — all the emotional triggers of possession foreign to him like the characters on an oracle bone: distinct and intellectually familiar and nearly unreadable all the same. He tries to imagine Shen Wei unbuckling his fucking sleeve garters for someone else, crawling over them in his neatly made bed to suck bruising kisses into their throats, and it collapses his stomach with the sucking hunger of sustained famine. It doesn't matter any more: these are Yunlan's fortunes now, his marks to bear. He arches his back, bears his neck, scrapes his nails down the rungs of Shen Wei's spine, hissing.

He'd figured — because nobody's that politely controlled without being a fucking sadist in bed — that Shen Wei would be rough, but there's imagining it and there's getting pressed full-body into the sheets so they can bite the nastiest, meanest, deepest fucking mark into your throat.

"Fu—huck," is the best Yunlan can manage, because the hurt is breathtaking, and any blood that wasn't already circulating urgently at his dick abandons his brain completely to head south. It's all he can do to dig his fingers into Shen Wei's back, to buck against the unyielding weight of his body.

And with one last, vicious little scrape of teeth — it makes him gasp hard enough it comes out sharp — Shen Wei finally pulls away from the ruin of Yunlan's neck, braced with his elbows straight, coal-eyed and smug like an apex predator, perched over Yunlan.

"Stop looking so fucking pleased with yourself," Yunlan swears at him, panting.

Shen Wei just darts in, kisses him, and when he pulls away, Yunlan is dizzy and Shen Wei's mouth is wet and dark like wine. "You're not going to be able to hide that mark," he says, casually pleased with his own dirty work.

"I want you to know: when Changcheng asks what happened to my neck, I'm going to tell him to ask you," Yunlan says.

Shen Wei smirks. "I'm sure Chu Shuzi can explain as well as I can."

Yunlan barely has time to yell, "Shen Wei, you bastard," before Shen Wei's mouth is on his again: deep and desperate and hot. It turns out Shen Wei's a messy, greedy kisser, that he likes to tug at your hair and scrape his thumbs over your nipples, run his palms down your sides and tuck his fingers into the places where your thighs meet your hips — likes to close a fist around your dick and rub at the spot just under the head, that gets you shivery with overstimulation.

"Come on," Yunlan hears himself say. "Come on — fuck me already — "

Shen Wei's breath catches, all his muscles tensing, and he whispers, "Okay — okay," like it's an inconvenience, like he's being inconvenienced, like all he wanted to do was give Zhao Yunlan the most impossibly hot handjob of all time and chew on his neck until he bit through the fucking tendons but now he's obligated to put his dick in Yunlan's ass.

Zhao Yunlan decides not to examine why Shen Wei, without prompting, knows that Yunlan keeps his lube jammed underneath the pillow nearest to the window. He'll pick a fight about it later, but right now, Shen Wei's slicking up two fingers and rubbing them slow, slow down between Yunlan's legs and so Yunlan's investing all of his limited functional capacity into bearing down on Shen Wei's gorgeous hand as aggressively as fucking possible, to muttering, "Now — now — come on — you're killing me here," as he goes crazy, as he feels the whorls of Shen Wei's fingerprints rub over his opening.

"Don't whine — I don't want to hurt you," Shen Wei says, ignoring Yunlan in his extremis of suffering and lipping slowly down the length of his body, dipping his tongue into and out of Yunlan's naval — somewhere between tenderness and a tease.

Yunlan stares at the jet black of Shen Wei's hair, feels the fine strands across his belly, the heat of his mouth marking the cut of Yunlan's hip, the slow and steady press of two fingers, working him open by decades and degrees. It's been a while; not even Zhao Yunlan is shameless enough to cruise for dick when he lives across the hall from a man who he'd suspected — even long ago — was going to be the period at the end of all his run-on sentences. So it hurts a little in all the best ways, intense and intimate and exposing, to have the Shen Wei's beautiful white shoulders pressing his knees apart, his fingers making a space inside Yunlan for himself. It's hot and it's terrifying, and it's work to breathe through it, to squeeze his eyes shut and roll his hips into the stretch.

Shen Wei drags his mouth across Yunlan's knee, whispers, "Okay?" and Yunlan says, "Yes, yeah, more," and gets another finger for his trouble. He bites his lip; he feels his cock twitch, hardening up again, and he feels the sharp, hot itch of neediness begin to burn up the ladder of his spine, feeling Shen Wei stroke him slow and steadily open, taking him apart. He feels Shen Wei's breath on the inside of his thigh, feels Shen Wei's lips pressing open-mouthed kisses to base of his cock, feels his own heart juddering in his chest — a cosmic force of its own, roiling. He feels empty — he feels hungry.

"Now — now, come on, please," he begs. He can't take it anymore. He threads a hand through the silk floss of Shen Wei's hair and pulls. "Xiao-Wei."

"Okay," Shen Wei promises, voice shaking.

He kisses Yunlan's stomach, his arm; Shen Wei kisses his way up Yunlan's shoulder, and Yunlan feels the slick weight of his cock pushing into him by the time Shen Wei is finally sealing their mouths together again. Yunlan lets himself give way — make room.

Zhao Yunlan never spent much time thinking about fate. It's a practical reality to someone whose third eye has always been blown wide open, like death and taxes and so beyond the scope of his concern. But since Shen Wei, destiny's felt so much closer to hand, less a series of inevitabilities than a choice he makes every day. It frays his understanding of the universe, of the mandala wheel of life, death, and the progress of a soul toward Nirvana. Zhao Yunlan thinks that if escape from the cycle is to abandon all desire, then before that day on campus, he could have died and departed, been free — and now, here, pulled apart mid-explosion, he feels a hundred thousand red embroidery threads tying him back into yearning, into another infinity of wanting.

Shen Wei is the immovable object and irresistible force. Pinned underneath his weight, all Yunlan can do is take it, whatever he can get, whatever Shen Wei decides to give him — and so far, Shen Wei's decided to give him maddeningly slow and deep. It's the contrast of a deep bruise to a quick spark, and it makes Yunlan fucking insane, feeling the hot, thick stretch of inescapable pressure — the head of Shen Wei's dick rubbing soft and relentless at him until Yunlan can feel his thighs shaking.

"Come on," Yunlan says, and it comes out a whine.

He tries to push himself up, to shove Shen Wei onto his back so he can climb on and get some leverage so he doesn't die mid-fuck from old age and blue balls. But it only makes Shen Wei execute one of those casual feats of inhuman strength, where in one move he slides his thighs under Yunlan's hips to cant him up for a better angle while trapping both his wrists against the mattress with pale hands and iron fingers. It leaves Yunlan suspended at a 45 degree angle, his knees against his own chest, and now he can't even jerk himself off — fuck.

"I'm going to go crazy like this," Yunlan complains, but it comes out one of those long, luxuriating groans, a plea for clemency.

Shen Wei's answer starts with a sharp-toothed smile. He says, "Good."

Zhao Yunlan wants to say, you're a real bastard, Shen Wei, but the good hurt that had transfigured itself into hot pleasure is changing again, into that knife edge that precipitates a great fall — his whole body the overtightened string of a violin, ready to snap at any moment and all the sounds discordant now. It leaves him shipwrecked, the corners of his mouth cracked from wordless begging, from his fever-hot panting.

His words have gone from him, forced out like the air in his lungs, and Yunlan feels as if he's boiling from the inside, steam bursting from the seams of him in desperate, broken little noises. He can't get his eyes open and he can't keep his mouth shut, and Shen Wei seems to like arching over him, drinking all his pleading from his lips.

Yunlan loses track of everything that's not distilled to sensation: the sharp grind of Shen Wei's pubic bone into him, the wet, slick feel of himself gone wet and worked over, the sharp cut of nails digging into his own palms because he's fisting his hands so tightly. His whole body is the throbbing clutch of his ass, and he feels turned inside out, faster and faster as Shen Wei starts to lose his composure, that deep, easy stroke getting dirtier and more desperate, meaner by degrees. Sweat's beading on Shen Wei's throat, rolling down his chest, and he starts losing his own plot, lets go of Yunlan's wrists to press a hand into his chest, to fist his other one around Yunlan's cock, almost too tight, almost too much, just like everything else in this bed and in this moment between them.

"Zhao Yunlan," Shen Wei whispers, closing his eyes now, pressing his forehead into Yunlan's shoulder — throwing the full weight of himself into his fucking now. He's gone past bossy and deliberate through to reckless, and it makes Zhao Yunlan feel infinitely powerful to have the Ghost King — to have Shen Wei — in his thrall. "Yunlan."

That drop between bliss and suffering is getting closer and closer, and Zhao Yunlan squeezes his eyes shut, feels his lashes go heavy with tears. He loops his arms around Shen Wei's shoulders, feels the hot shift of muscles underneath the skin, and Yunlan puts a hand into the sweat-damp hair at the base of Shen Wei's neck.

"I want to feel you," Shen Wei says, the words bursting out of him hitches and gasps. "Are you close? I want to feel you."

Zhao Yunlan feels outside himself, all the architecture of him folding up and flying away in the column of a tornado, his heart a chemical fire in his chest — it's all he can do to grit his teeth, to say through the wreck of his voice, "Come in me — come on, Xiao-Wei, now, now — "

Shen Wei makes a noise like a ship breaking in a storm, and that's all the forward warning Yunlan gets before he feels the sharp serration of teeth in his throat again — the savage pressure of an unrelenting bite — and when Yunlan comes, it's a shock, the sudden, violent escape from gravity, the explosive weightlessness of a body flung into celestial infinities.

Zhao Yunlan wakes up when the diffuse light of morning is beginning to burn away the night. His limbs are the weight of mountains. His eyes feel gritty, his throat is raw, and the less said about whatever structural damage he's abetted in the general area of his lower back and spine the better. He's making the strategic decision not to worry about whatever's happening between his legs. That's all in the past now. He's ascended to another plane. He wants to drink two liters of water, tie Shen Wei to the bed and do that all over again.

When he cracks open one eye, it's to a vision of Professor Shen buttoned up, starched and pressed within an inch of his immortal life, looking haunted and cupping a ceramic mug of something sharply herbal in his pale hands.

"What the hell are you doing?" Yunlan asks, halfway into one of his pillows, because he's lying facedown and repositioning himself isn't a great plan right now.

Shen Wei goes — if possible — even paler. "I'm so sorry," he says, so earnest it makes Zhao Yunlan's teeth hurt. "I've — it was — I have no right to speak to you, but I can only beg you to forgive me — and to drink this."

He shoves the bowl toward Yunlan's face, looking wretched.

"It's an herbal restorative," he promises, sounding penitent and dreadful. "It's got ginger, and mountain ginseng — "

Zhao Yunlan turns his entire face in the pillow now. Oh, my God. "Oh, my God."

" — and imported New Zealand manuka honey," Shen Wei rushes to add, and following an extended silence between this last outburst and Zhao Yunlan inhaling the weft of his pillowcases, Shen Wei repeats, "Again — I'm so sorry. I can't understand how I could have been so — brutish and — "

Zhao Yunlan's ass hurts too much for this. He twists his neck around so he can catch Shen Wei's crazed eyes. "Hey," he says.

Recovering himself, Shen Wei forces himself to take a deep breath and straightens his spine, preparing for whatever eventuality may come. "Whatever you have to say, I accept it as whatever I deserve," he says, with the heavy weight of a true noble exemplar.

"Put down the stupid ginseng," Yunlan instructs.

Proving Shen Wei is garbage at feigning submission even in the throes of evidently crippling guilt, he says, "But you should drink this — you're very dehydrated."

"Then go get me a giant bottle of water, take all your clothes off, and get back into bed, you fucking lunatic," Yunlan tries to yell at him. It's not an impressive effort; his throat's still a mess. "Are you crazy? Who told you to get up? Why did you put on a tie?"

Shen Wei doesn't put down the fucking ginseng, he doesn't take off his clothes, and he doesn't even look phased about Yunlan's completely legitimate question on the tie. Unbelievable.

"You don't need to — to exercise any bravado here," Shen Wei says, halfway into his canonization as a martyr. He reaches one hand out to touch hesitating fingertips to Yunlan's shoulder, slides the points of them — hot from the bowl — to Yunlan's jaw, his neck, where the pressure transforms the dull ache into a sharp flare. "You look as if you were attacked."

Zhao Yunlan closes his eyes and asks all the spirits of the earth and skies for strength.

He says through gritted teeth, "Shen Wei — put down the ginseng," for which he's rewarded with a pouty little clink of ceramic on wood and Shen Wei saying, prissy and wrong-footed, "I don't know why you're so against it — as a paranormal professional you should know enough to understand that — " before Yunlan grabs him by that fucking tie and pulls him savagely back into the bed, tumbling him head over feet into the linens.

"Zhao Yunlan, you — !"

"Hey," Yunlan says, rolling them over so he can hold Shen Wei down with his thighs. So he can cup the sharp lines of Shen Wei's jaw, feel the grip of Shen Wei's hands on his sides, hot on his skin.

Zhao Yunlan can't help the smile that creeps across his mouth, looking down into the fathomless black of Shen Wei's eyes. Yunlan hurts all over. He probably looks like he lost a fight with a wolverine. He has the most beautiful man in all the heavens and hells in his bed; it is Thursday morning, and outside his windows, he can smell the promise of rain.

"I like it," he tells Shen Wei, says it with his voice and the weight of his hands, the heat of his body, the shameless press of all his soul — in case Shen Wei can see it, agitating like a burning halo. "I like you, and I want to do this again as soon as possible, with you, as frequently as possible — am I making myself clear?"

Shen Wei's eyes look red and starry, and the hands gripping at Yunlan's sides tighten before they go searching, stroke down the length of Yunlan's thighs.

"Your neck really does look awful," Shen Wei says, mournful but not terrified anymore.

"Yeah, well it feels amazing," Yunlan says; he's never managed the parse out the boundaries between post-coital endorphins and the addictive zing of physical danger particularly clearly. Oh well, that's what he's got gorgeous here for, he guesses. "Do you understand me now? Are you going to stop acting like a crazy person?"

Shen Wei stares and stares at him, something wondering on his face, and it's after a long time, after the warm fingers of dawn have started to creep across the expanse of Yunlan's bed that he finally, hesitating, nods, slow but sincere.

"I understand," Shen Wei says, reaching up with his hands now, reaching up to cup Zhao Yunlan's face and draw him closer. "Zhao Yunlan, I understand."

It makes something in Yunlan's chest hurt, worse than all the radiant aches in his body; it makes him shy.

"Okay," Zhao Yunlan allows, feeling shivery all of a sudden, his limbs going weak, and he lets himself be collected into Shen Wei's arms, to be rolled onto his side, to be kissed, lingering and indulgent, as a sun shower breaks out over the city.