Lan Jingyi stuck out like a sore thumb.
This was something he was used to, however, as he was always an oddity in most places. He grew up as a rambunctious and loud child in the Lan household, a prestigious family that valued respect, conservatism and obedience. Being a child that preferred to shout rather than talk and always had something to say about someone, it wasn’t hard to see that he was the black sheep of the family. The Lan family was strict about spreading gossip or talking about others but even without overhearing the whispers of aunts and uncles, Lan Jingyi always knew that he was treated as the outcast of the family. Lan Jingyi was a child who always took things in his stride, so he never let these opinions bring him down.
When Lan Jingyi entered university, once again, he was looked at like a fish out of water. Having come to full terms with the fact that he preferred men over women, he didn’t bother to hide the fact that he was gay when he started his university life. Rumours about Lan Jingyi’s sexual preference spread like wildfire and only a week after disclosing his sexuality, he was already recognisable around campus as the ‘gay guy’. Sure, the stares and whispering irked Lan Jingyi a bit, but he believed that he wasn’t ever destined to be normal in any sense. So what did it matter if people stopped and stared? Feeling like an anomaly would never stop him from being who he felt like he deserved to be: happy and in love with who he truly was.
Unlike being an unruly child or the notorious gay guy on campus, in this instance, Lan Jingyi stuck out for a completely different reason. This was a good reason in his books though.
Stood in the entrance way of a bar at quarter to nine, Lan Jingyi attracted attention not because of his loudness or because he was gay. The four men in the corner, presumably drunk, where louder than he could ever be, and this being a gay bar, he fit right in. No, this time Lan Jingyi attracted attention and strange looks because he had to be the youngest person here by at least ten years. Every single patron here looked to be at least thirty years old, in their late twenties at least, whereas Lan Jingyi was only a freshly turned twenty one year old himself.
The fact that he was stood alone in a gay bar that catered towards the older, and more mature, gay crowd during evening on a weekday may beg the question as to why exactly he was here in the first place. And it was by no coincidence or chance. Lan Jingyi was here on a mission with one distinct purpose: to find an older guy and get laid.
During his debut into university life, not only did Lan Jingyi come to terms with his sexuality, but he also came to acknowledge that he was attracted to older men. He wasn’t quite sure what it was about older guys, perhaps a psychologist would tell him it was his desire to be disciplined by a figure of authority that drove him to seek out men ten years plus his age, but Lan Jingyi didn’t really care for the reason why. However, as he came to find out, finding an older man that was both gay, into younger guys, and a decent lay was hard to come across.
He had slept with countless men who either did not satisfy him sexually or they assumed that they could do whatever they wish with Lan Jingyi in bed. Thus, in his mission to take advantage of his youth and sleep with whoever he liked, he had far more bad experiences under his belt than good ones.
Lan Jingyi’s bad luck at finding decent men had made Lan Sizhui, his distant cousin and best friend, put his foot down finally and say that Lan Jingyi needed help. Knowing that his best friend had a preference to older men, Lan Sizhui directed him to a gay bar downtown that was known for catering to an older crowd. This particular bar was owned and run by the man that Lan Wangji, Lan Sizhui’s father and Lan Jingyi’s second cousin, was dating. According to Lan Sizhui, this owner named Wei Wuxian, would be able to help point him in the right direction of a suitable man from the many patrons at his bar. Lan Jingyi was both curious to meet the man that managed to garner the affection of his ice-cold second cousin and his ability to point him in the direction of a good lay.
Thus, Lan Jingyi decided that tonight, a day where he was procrastinating writing an essay that was due in two weeks and his friends were busy with other things, was a good as night as any to come to the bar and meet Wei Wuxian who would help him out.
Only, this plan proved to be futile when he got to the counter and asked for Wei Wuxian.
A nervous looking bartender gave him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, uh, sir? Master Wei is not in tonight. He usually works tonight’s shift, but he is out on personal business tonight.”
Lan Jingyi sighed and sunk into a bar stool in exasperation. Of course his luck would be this bad. Thinking back on it now, he should have asked Lan Sizhui when Wei Wuxian would be working rather just assuming the man would be here. Well, there was nothing he could do about that now. He was still horny and figured that he might as well still try to score without the help of Wei Wuxian.
“Can I get an Old Fashioned then?,” Lan Jingyi said to the bartender.
“Uh, yes,” the bartender answered as he began preparing Lan Jingyi’s drink. Lan Jingyi watched the man make the drink and was surprised at his fluid movements that displayed his experience with bar tending. When the bartender placed the drink in front of him, Lan Jingyi raised an eyebrow and took a cautionary sip. It was delicious.
“You know,” Lan Jingyi began, “you seem like a really nervous guy, but you are quite good at mixing drinks. How long have you been doing this for?”
The man blushed and ducked his head slightly in embarrassment. “T-thank you. I’ve been working here for five years now.”
“Hmm,” Lan Jingyi hummed aloud as he appraised the man in front of him and thought about his predicament. “Well, perhaps you can help me… uh, sorry, what is your name?”
“Wen Ning,” the man supplied.
“Wen Ning, I was wondering if you could help me with a problem I have.”
Wen Ning pursed his lips in nervousness. “Uh, if I am able to, I guess I can help…,” he said with some with some hesitation.
Lan Jingyi clapped his hands loudly in excitement, startling Wen Ning, and he offered the bartender his most genuine smile. “You see, Wen Ning, I came here looking for Wei Wuxian because my cousin, Lan Sizhui, suggested that he would be able to help me.” At mention of Lan Sizhui’s name, Wen Ning’s nervous face transformed into a more calm one. “Basically I came here to ask Wei Wuxian to hook me up with one of his more trustworthy patrons for a one night stand.” Wen Ning’s face went from a calm expression to one of shock and embarrassment. The man tried to hide his blushing cheeks by turning away but Lan Jingyi could see through the man’s actions. He giggled at the behaviour of the cute bartender.
“Uh, sir,” was all Wen Ning managed to get out before he was interrupted by Lan Jingyi.
“My name is Lan Jingyi.”
“Yes, uh, Lan Jingyi sir, I don’t think I will be able to, uh, help you with your, uh, predicament,” Wen Ning apologetically said.
Lan Jingyi raised an eyebrow. “Why not?”
“I’m not sure which patrons are suitable for that sorts of things. Master Wei is far better at these… things. I don’t want to be the reason why anything bad happened to you. I’m sorry,” Wen Ning says and offers a small, half bow to Lan Jingyi as way as apology.
Shocked, Lan Jingyi just erratically waved his hands to get Wen Ning to stop bowing to him. “Uh, please don’t do that! You are attracting attention!”
Wen Ning nodded in understanding and righted himself up. He picked up a rag and began wiping down the counter top as he continued talking to Lan Jingyi. “Master Wei will be back in tomorrow if you want to talk to him then. He will be able to help you far better than I will ever be able to.”
Lan Jingyi propped an elbow onto the counter and slumped into it to support himself. He was disappointed honestly. It had already been a time since he had last had sex and he even had prepared himself extensively tonight in hopes of getting laid. He knew that he could go and pick up any patron he wanted, but he had made a promise to Lan Sizhui not to take any more risks with sleeping around with random people. Having one night stands with people that Wei Wuxian would recommend was their compromise and Lan Jingyi didn’t want to violate that deal he had made with Lan Sizhui. It looked like he will be going home alone tonight.
Just as he was about to say his goodbyes to Wen Ning and call it a night, a loud beeping noise coming from the back room startled both him and Wen Ning.
“Oh no!,” Wen Ning whined and his shoulder sunk in defeat.
“Is everything okay?,” Lan Jingyi asked, however the beeping did not sound like good news.
Wen Ning turned around to him with a pleading look on his face and Lan Jingyi had a bad feeling. “Our fridge has been having issues and I need to go check on it. I am the only one on staff tonight though, so can you do me a favour?” Wen Ning bent down and retrieved a small bell, one that a you would expect to find at the concierge desk of a hotel, and placed it on the counter besides Lan Jingyi. “I will only be a few minutes. Five, no, eight minutes max! Can you just direct any patrons to ring the bell if they want a drink? I will come out if I hear the bell.” Before Lan Jingyi could even agree, Wen Ning was already retreating into the backroom with a “thanks” thrown over his shoulder.
Lan Jingyi slumped on the bar stool. Just when he was prepared to head home, he was now held up. Nothing was really going his way tonight. But he sat waiting for Wen Ning to come back and nursed his drink that was mostly melted ice now. When about three minutes had passed since the beeping stopped and it had been five minutes since Wen Ning had disappeared, a patron finally appeared at the counter, looking to order a drink.
Lan Jingyi cleared his throat and gestured to the bell. “The bartender is out back trying to fix an issue. He said to ring the bell if anyone wants to order something.”
“Oh?” The man said and gave it a ring. The both of them waited in silence for about thirty seconds, but Wen Ning did not make another reappearance. Obviously finding the silence awkward as Lan Jingyi did, the man gave a nervous chuckle. “I guess he can’t hear it from back there.” The man took a seat beside Lan Jingyi and flashed him a charming smile. “I guess I will just have to wait for him here.”
“I guess you will,” Lan Jingyi answered back, unsure if he was supposed to carry on a conversation with this man. He looked to be in his mid thirties and was wearing a black t-shirt that and a pair of dark washed jeans. He had a bit of a beer belly and his hair also appeared to be thinning, but Lan Jingyi didn’t mind so much. In fact, he thought he looked quite cute.
“Is this your first time here? A bit of a strange place for someone so young to be here. I thought boys your age would have much preferred a more lovely dance scene?,” the man questioned and leaned a little toward Lan Jingyi. Lan Jingyi raised an eyebrow in question and tried to determine if this uncle character was just a friendly person with a lack of personal boundaries or if he was hitting on him.
“Well,” Lan Jingyi said with a coy smirk back, “I am definitely not here by chance.”
The man chuckled and leaned even closer in and reached over with his left hand to rest on Lan Jingyi’s right thigh. “I have to admit, I overheard your conversation with the bartender before.” The man’s hand slipped down a little further until it came to rest on the inside of his thigh and he stroked Lan Jingyi’s flesh through his pants with his thumb. “How about I fix your little problem, huh? We can head to a hotel and have a fun night, just the two of us. How does that sound to you?”
Lan Jingyi was intrigued and attracted to the idea, but his promise to Lan Sizhui was stuck in his mind. Going to a hotel with this man would be betraying the trust that Lan Sizhui had put in him by telling him about this place. And no one night stand would ever make him compromise his pact with his best friend. Just as Lan Jingyi was trying to find a way to reject the man in a way that wouldn’t cause a scene (he looked to be the type of person who would get angry with rejection) a voice butted in for him.
“I think it would be better you head home to your wife instead of preying on kids fifteen years your junior,” the voice said from the other end of the bar counter top that ran from one wall to the other. The man was sipping on a whiskey on the rocks as he eyed the pair. He must have been there the entire time Lan Jingyi was here, but he just didn’t notice him. He was possibly one of the most handsomest men Lan Jingyi ever had the pleasure to lay eyes on and he stuck out just as much as Lan Jingyi did in a bar like this. The man was dressed in an eggplant coloured dress shirt and black slacks with perfectly polished dress shoes. His suit jacket, which looked as designer as the rest of him, was slung over the back of the bar stool.
He had long bangs, parted down the middle and framed his angular face well while the hair at the back of his head was cut shorter. He gave off an impressive and domineering aura that made Lan Jingyi want to wet his lips in desire. Lan Jingyi wondered how on earth did he not notice this man sooner.
The man, who still had a hand on Lan Jingyi’s thigh, sputtered in indignation at this man’s interruption. Lan Jingyi was then suddenly reminded of the stranger’s words and lent against the bar to take a look at the man’s right hand who sat next to him. When Lan Jingyi saw the silver band on his ring finger, he didn’t hesitate to brush his hand off his thigh and turn away. A cheater was someone that Lan Jingyi was never going to give the time of day. He refused to become a homewrecker.
Seeing that Lan Jingyi was now giving him the cold shoulder, the attempted cheater turned red in anger and then stomped away and left the bar promptly, unable to handle the humiliation.
Now that he was rid of a nuisance, Lan Jingyi turned back to the handsome stranger who had turned back to sip at his drink once again. Lan Jingyi abandoned his own empty glass at his seat and walked down the row to take up a seat on the stranger’s left. The man didn’t say anything but just raised in eyebrow in question at Lan Jingyi.
“Thanks for that back there. I wasn’t sure how to shake him off. Can I get you your next drink as thanks?”
The stranger scoffed as though he found it amusing that a kid was offering to buy him his drink. “No thanks, kid, this is my last for the night.”
Lan Jingyi’s brows drew together in uncertainty. “Well can I do anything for you as thanks?”
The stranger spared him a glance that looked more like a scowl. “Next time you can keep your voice quieter. I don’t need to hear how horny you are across the bar.”
Lan Jingyi’s cheeks flamed red in embarrassment as he didn’t realise just how loud he was speaking. He really needed to learn to speak in a quieter voice when talking about sensitive subjects, like how he wanted to get laid.
“Uh, sorry about that. Should I leave you alone then?,” Lan Jingyi suggested, quite disheartened that he couldn’t speak to the man anymore, but just as he was leaving the seat to return to his own and resume his responsibilities as guardian of the bell, the stranger spoke up.
“Just why is brat like you here in a place like this anyway?”
Lan Jingyi gave pause to the strangers question and just sank back into the seat as he tried to find a suitable way to answer the question. When he couldn’t come up with anything smart or witty to answer with, he decided that the truth was good as anything. “I’m here to find someone to hook up with.”
The man glared at him as though what Lan Jingyi said just insulted his intelligence. “Not that!,” he spat out, “why are you here instead of somewhere you can hook up with someone your age?”
“Oh!” Lan Jingyi could only say, now embarrassed. “I have a thing for older guys and my friend said that the man who is dating his father runs a gay bar here that caters to an older crowd, so I came to see if I could find myself an uncle to sleep with.”
The stranger choked a little on his drink, not expecting that sort of answer. “Older guys?” The man could only get out after he recovered from coughing.
“Yeah. I have a preference for middle aged men.” The stranger refused to at Lan Jingyi again and instead just hummed in response. Finding the silence awkward, Lan Jingyi tried to carry on the conversation.
“What about you? Is this your usual bar to come to?”
The man glanced at Lan Jingyi out from the corner of his eyes. “Hmmn.”
Now disgruntled that the man asked him questions but wouldn’t answer any back, Lan Jingyi resolved to get this man talking more. “Why this place though? It doesn’t seem suited for someone like yourself.”
“And what sort of place suits a man like me then?”
Lan Jingyi stroked his jaw and he considered the well put together man sitting beside him. Not only was he well dressed, but he seemed to carry himself in a manner that screamed upper class, much like how Lan Jingyi’s family did. Lan Jingyi could best describe this man as suave and sophisticated at first glance. “Maybe a bar that caters to businessmen that are as debonair and handsome as you,” Lan Jingyi teased with a small giggle.
“I think you have the wrong read on me kid,” the man gruffly dared. “Those sorts of princely places aren’t suitable for my purposes.” The deep timbre of his voice went straight to Lan Jingyi’s crotch and he had to shift slightly to adjust himself.
Lan Jingyi had to clear his throat slightly. “And what purposes are those exactly,” he coyly asked, eyes questioning the man through the flutter of his eyelashes.
The man smirked. “The same as any man here. To drink good alcohol and to be in the company of other gay men.”
“Well, you don’t seem to be seeking out the company of gay men,” Lan Jingyi said and gestured to his lack of company with his hands in emphasis.
“I don’t seek out men. They seek out me.” Lan Jingyi’s breath hitched slightly in response of the man’s answer.
The stranger took a long draw out of his glass, draining it of its remains, and appraised Lan Jingyi whilst he did so. Having the man’s striking eyes consider him from head to toe made a small shiver run up his spine. Lan Jingyi was shocked by the response his body gave to the man’s stare. He received dozens of interested looks often, but this man’s stare was something new to Lan Jingyi. It was something more along the lines of a spoilt, rich master admiring his newest and prettiest maid. It was a gaze of lust and desire that made Lan Jingyi feel like he needed to earn the right to be broken in by this man. At least Lan Jingyi thought so, but before he could analyse his gaze some more, it was gone and the man turned back to staring ahead of him.
“Besides,” the man began, “I co-own this place with my brother.” His response grounded Lan Jingyi from letting his mind begin to wander into fantasies of this man towering over him. Ah! Too late, Lan Jingyi thought as he chastised himself.
“So, that means you are brothers with Wei Wuxian?,” Lan Jingyi pressed.
The man sighed and nodded his head. “He is my adoptive brother, but yes.” The man’s eyes roamed over the bar before landing back onto Lan Jingyi. “I invested some money into the place to help him start it up. Plus, Wen Ning makes some really good drinks here.”
Even though Lan Jingyi learnt this man had personal ties to this bar, his previous statement of how men seek him out echoed around in Lan Jingyi’s head. This man was charming and exuded all the charm of an older, more mature man that Lan Jingyi loved. Lan Jingyi knew he shouldn’t even be thinking these thoughts about any man, but he couldn’t help it, he wanted this man to take him now.
As he was tossing up whether it would be right to attempt to pick up this man in accordance to his promise with Lan Sizhui to no longer go home with strangers that had no form of credit to their names, Wen Ning finally returned. Not even having considered his choice logically and instead being led entirely by his lust, Lan Jingyi quickly turned to Wen Ning. “Would you say that this man here is trustworthy?,” he asked as he pointed to the man next to him. The stranger only merely raised an eyebrow in curiosity.
Flustered about the sudden question, Wen Ning didn’t know what to say immediately, but quickly jumped to when he felt a heavy gaze on him. “Of c-course! Master Jiang is a very trustworthy person!”
Satisfied with Wen Ning’s assessment of this Mr. Jiang, Lan Jingyi turned back to the man at this right and offered him a sensual smile. “I came here to find your brother tonight to set me up with a decent man for a one night stand. But of course, he isn’t here, but I trust Wen Ning’s opinion on the fact that you are a trustworthy man. So, Mr. Jiang, would you be up for sleeping with me tonight?”
Mr. Jiang scoffed. “You sure are something, kid. You don’t even know my name and you are taking Wen Ning’s assessment of me being trustworthy as a recommendation for me being a good lay?”
“No,” Lan Jingyi firmly answered. “I am taking Wen Ning’s assessment of you being trustworthy as credit for you not being a sleazebag who will beat me black and blue. I am only hoping you are a good lay simply because I find you incredibly sexy.”
This time it was the man’s turn to be shocked speechless and Lan Jingyi patiently waited for his response. Mr. Jiang stared at him with a look Lan Jingyi wouldn’t know how to describe. “So you came to find my brother tonight so he could point you in the direction of a decent man? One who won’t treat you badly as you had in the past?”
Lan Jingyi met his measured gaze confidently. “You are right on the mark, mister.”
“You have no sense of danger. You are taking the word of Wen Ning, who is a stranger to you, just so you can sate your lust.”
“You’re right. I’m impulsive and don’t think things through most of the time. But I trust my cousin, Lan Sizhui, in that Wei Wuxian is a trustworthy man. If you are related to Wei Wuxian and co-own a business with him, then that gives you at least some credibility by association,” Lan Jingyi flashed him a smirk. “And besides, if you do treat me badly, I know who to run to.”
Mr. Jiang only stared him down, appraising him with careful eyes. “You said Lan Sizhui is your cousin?”
“Yes. You know him?”
“And his father. Your a Lan then?” The man’s face seemed display a bit of annoyance and Lan Jingyi figured that he did truly know Lan Wangji then.
Mr. Jiang hummed. “I’m familiar with a number of your family members.” He tsked as he gave Lan Jingyi another once over. “I gotta say kid, you are the most un-Lan Lan I have ever met.”
Lan Jingyi flashed him a genuine smile. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Mr. Jiang levelled him with a stare that Lan Jingyi easily returned back. “What’s your name?”
“Lan Jingyi,” the man repeated as though he was testing the youth’s name on his tongue. “I’m Jiang Cheng.”
Lan Jingyi innocently titled his head and gave Jiang Cheng a coy smile. “So what do you think of my proposal, Jiang Cheng?”
Jiang Cheng took in an audible breath. “You know, Lan Jingyi, I think your assessment of yourself isn’t quite right. You may be an impulsive kid, but you don’t necessarily not think things through carefully.” Jiang Cheng stood from his seat and put his jacket, that was slung over the back of the stool, back on. He raised an expectant eyebrow at the still seated youth. “Are you coming or am I going to be spending this night alone after all?”
Lan Jingyi beamed and quickly stood as Jiang Cheng made his way out of the bar without another word. As he walked away, Lan Jingyi turned back around and offered Wen Ning, who was stood shock still, a wave goodbye. “Thanks for all your help, Wen Ning! Hopefully we will meet again!”
As the two unlikely patrons left the bar, both as much as remarkable as the other, Wen Ning could only murmur to himself in shock. “What on earth just happened here?”