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Emerald and Jade

Chapter Text

The café was in an upscale part of town, clean and modern. Overworked, underpaid start-up employees rapidly tapped on the keys of silver laptops, chugging free black coffee refills. Housewives in Gucci tracksuits gossiped over pumpkin spice everything while their little angels were transfixed by flashing tablet screens. Outside, autumn had turned the trees picturesque reds and oranges, leaves crunching underfoot. Back-to-school and Halloween displays dominated the windows of the expensive, luxury stores surrounding the café.

Shen Yuan pulled his scarf from his nose when he passed through the café doors, boots clicking against the floor.

It was best to keep the persona of Shen Qingqiu and Shen Yuan completely separate, lest inappropriate wires got crossed: on cold autumn days Shen Yuan would’ve been curled up in bed with a book. Shen Qingqiu dressed in designer clothes to meet with some lonely businessman.

Shen Qingqiu wore black knee-high boots polished to a high shine and a long emerald green coat with a beautifully subtle leaf brocade. His ink black hair was in a bun – the effortlessly messy kind that actually took a long time to make so perfectly chaotic. A playact of not caring – Shen Yuan actually not caring was far more terrifying.

He ordered a pumpkin spice latte and settled at a seat by the window, an untouchable jade statue. Shen Qingqiu was modeled after Shen Yuan’s older brother, Shen Jiu: beautiful, aloof, cold, and demanding. He couldn’t exactly see why some people were so into a partner being so cruel and dismissive of you, but he was good at acting the part.

The door opened again. Shen Qingqiu flicked his cool gaze towards it.

The man who entered was tall and broad-shouldered, the T-shirt under his leather jacket was struggling to contain his muscular build. Fluffy black hair framed his supremely handsome face – he was far too attractive to be among the coffee shop peasantry. He looked around and his eyes landed on Shen Qingqiu, his expression changing to one of wonder.

Oh Lord, thought Shen Qingqiu.

Rather contrary to common sense, he had found that the more attractive a client was, the harder his job. If a client was plain, ugly, old, or what-have-you, it was normally their looks preventing them from finding a more conventional partner. Usually, they just wanted someone pretty to pay attention to them for the night. However, if someone was attractive and still seeking him out, it usually meant there was something else so wrong with them a conventional partner could not be found.

An odd fetish was one thing – Shen Qingqiu could deal with those. An asshole personality was another. And then there were those who thought they needed to “rescue” him from his work. They required a tearful call to his brother-in-law, who responded with lawyers, and then a tearful call to Liu Qingge, who responded with violence.

“Ah, Shen Qingqiu?” the man asked. Shen Qingqiu gave him a soft, polite smile.

“Yes,” he said. “Luo Binghe?”

“Yes!” he exclaimed, before catching himself. “Ah, um. You’re even more beautiful in person.”

Internally, Shen Yuan sighed. “Thank you. Go get something to drink.”

Luo Binghe obeyed without question. Shen Qingqiu thought back on the email he received a week ago.

His website was sleek and professional, clear in his rules and boundaries – no sexual contact. No extreme humiliation. Just strict discipline with the promise of reward if his orders were followed – otherwise, punishment. He had a handful of reoccurring clients and the occasional curious one-off wanting to see if they were really into BDSM. Luo Binghe’s email had been short and professional, stating he’d like to “take care of others” and “not have to think about things for a while.” Fairly standard.

Luo Binghe returned to the table with a large cup of coffee and a plate nearly overflowing with pastries, his balance impressive. He set them down and looked at Shen Qingqiu with the same breathless puppy eyes, already eager for approval.

“Um, I wanted to try some pastries, but I couldn’t decide,” Luo Binghe said. “You’re welcome to try some, too!”

Shen Qingqiu revised his opinion of Luo Binghe to has a lot of money with no one to spend it on. That such a handsome and wealthy young man lacked a pretty thing to shower in gifts and affection was…deeply troubling.

“Thank you,” Shen Qingqiu said diplomatically. He nibbled on a croissant while casting a sad, longing eye at the powdered jelly donut. While Shen Yuan ate those by the dozen (and then had to tearfully work them off afterwards), such a thing was too messy for Shen Qingqiu. He had to look like he subsisted off of sunlight and water, like a plant, lest his illusion of Untouchable God was shattered. “Now, what can I help you with, Luo Binghe?”

“I’m—” Luo Binghe inhaled deeply, steadying himself. “I run my own company and often find myself very busy and…overwhelmed, I suppose.”

Shen Qingqiu nodded. A common story.

“It would be…nice to take care of someone,” Luo Binghe said, looking up at Shen Qingqiu with wide eyes. A service top?

“How so?” Shen Qingqiu asked. Luo Binghe blushed.

“I would love to make you dinner, and buy you whatever you desire,” Luo Binghe said, and then blushed harder, like he was asking for the most depraved and perverted thing in the entire world. “And perhaps to, uh, brush your hair or massage your feet. If that’s allowed.”

Shen Qingqiu narrowed his eyes, a horrible thought entering his mind. What if this beautiful, attentive, wealthy, and handsome man was a virgin? What a waste of a good-looking young master if he was too shy to find a proper partner!

“That sounds reasonable,” Shen Qingqiu said. “Now, I have limits about how much you can spend on gifts…”

After their meeting, Luo Binghe insisted on packing the rest of the uneaten pastries up and sending them off with Shen Qingqiu. They were parked near each other – Shen Qingqiu’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head when he saw Luo Binghe’s car. He didn’t know a lot about cars, but he did know luxury, and could spot a Mercedes Benz coupe that probably costed in the six figures in shining metallic black from a mile away.

“I can’t wait to see you again,” Luo Binghe said.

“Mhm,” Shen Qingqiu hummed. He was probably going to regret this.

He got into his own used Volkswagen and waited until Luo Binghe’s ostentatious flex of a vehicle drove off. Then he texted Liu Qingge that he was fine – no doubt the man had been clinging to his ancient Nokia – and drove home.

Shen Yuan’s apartment was in a comfortable walk-up, small but cozy. His microscopic living room was dominated by a soft couch. He rarely used the little kitchen. Everything that could be covered by pillows and blankets was. Shen Yuan kicked his uncomfortable boots off by the door and took out the elastic holding his hair up, letting it fall carelessly to his upper back. He groaned, tension headache already dissipating.

In his bedroom, he changed out of his fancy designer clothes into sweatpants and an oversized hoodie that may have been Liu Qingge’s or Mu Qingfang’s at some point. He zombie walked to his huge, overstuffed couch, crawling under his thick comforter and nuzzling up to his pillows. He pulled over his little wheeled laptop desk and turned the TV on to a mindless drama.

On Instagram, he posted his daily selfie, taken days ago when he felt assed enough to do the Full Shen Qingqiu with the makeup and the hair and the outfit. He made up a BS caption about how the cold weather had driven him inside to read. Posted for his thirsty followers to devour, he tabbed over to order himself a Big Mac with a strawberry milkshake and large fry. The order was a perfect amount of time to read the first half of the newest Proud Immortal Demon Way chapter; he angrily ate his burger while reading the second half. The fries were devoured while typing up his usual review for Airplane Bro, and he calmed himself with the milkshake as he ranted on his Top Secret Ultra-Private Twitter account.

Airplane Bro liked his tweets.

Shen Yuan yawned, settling into his couch nest. His brother had sent him an email about vacation planning, even though Shen Jiu would viciously rip apart anything he suggested. One of his clients said that he had gotten into a relationship and couldn’t see Shen Qingqiu anymore; Shen Yuan suspected he’d get another email in a few months. Luo Binghe had sent him the address details of the hotel and another too-earnest I’m so excited for next week.

Poor boy’s going to get his heart broken, Shen Yuan sighed, settling in to watch The Vampire Diaries.

Chapter Text

No one appreciated how much work Shen Qingqiu’s everything was.

Shen Yuan wasn’t the type of beauty who could just ignore himself and still be chased after. No, he had to put the work in – all sorts of lotions and creams, serums and oils, waxing and plucking, just to make his naturally plain face interesting. Instagram filters didn’t work in real life!

He hummed as he stepped out of the shower – face washed, body exfoliated to a shine, hair shampooed and conditioned. He combed his hair and twisted it into a loose, voluptuous braid. Makeup was kept minimal – tinted moisturizer, a bit of setting powder, some contour and eyeliner. It aided in the “aloof immortal” aesthetic.

He dressed in black – long-sleeve shirt, tight pants, some rather terrifying lace-up boots – and layered a high-collared jade green coat over it. Shen Qingqiu pondered what to bring – Luo Binghe hadn’t mentioned any hardcore punishment or bondage play, so he simply packed a flogger and riding crop with no real plans to use either. While he waited for Liu Qingge to arrive, he snapped a few pictures to store in the Daily Instagram Selfie bank.

Liu Qingge drove a big fuck off SUV, highly impractical for the city. He was great to have in the hotel lobby – despite his dour attitude, Liu Qingge’s handsome face prevented anyone from asking why he was sitting in the lobby not doing anything. It was also nice to know the Incredible Hulk sitting downstairs, just waiting to go ape shit on someone. First sessions were always a bit of a crapshoot, though Liu Qingge had only stepped in once during a session.

“Ready?” Liu Qingge asked.

“Yes,” Shen Qingqiu assured, double checking he had his phone.

“What’s this dude’s name? Luo Binghe?” Liu Qingge said.

“Yep,” Shen Qingqiu said. “I’ll text you a picture so you’ll have something to show the police.”

“Don’t joke about that,” Liu Qingge grumbled.

The Octopus was one of the most expensive and luxurious hotels in the city, and Luo Binghe had booked one of its most expensive rooms. Why he would spend all that money on a single night was beyond Shen Qingqiu, but he stopped asking those sorts of questions a long time ago. Liu Qingge found a chair in the lobby and sat in it, finding a newspaper to read like an old man. Shen Qingqiu went up to the elevator, catching a glimpse of his pale face in the reflective walls like he saw a ghost.

Luo Binghe opened the door, breathless, delicious smells pouring out into the hallway. He grinned widely at the sight of Shen Qingqiu, blatantly looking him up and down.

“Hello,” he said, surprisingly shy. “You look wonderful tonight.”

“Mhm,” Shen Qingqiu hummed, stepping inside. “Good evening.”

The hotel room was the height of luxury, resembling some errant apartments from Versailles – garish and opulent, everything covered in raised patterns from the silk couch pillows to the molding. It included a full kitchen, which was probably why Luo Binghe wanted it.

They went past said kitchen as Luo Binghe led him to the living room – Shen Qingqiu noted the abundance of Whole Foods bags littering the floor, the pots and pans bubbling on the stove. Shen Qingqiu settled on a luxurious settee in the adjacent living room, Luo Binghe sitting anxiously next to him.

“Do you remember your safe word?” Shen Qingqiu asked gently. While he didn’t think the session would get too intense, you never know what was going to be too much. He once had a client that could gladly handle being suspended for hours but found kneeling at his feet unbearable.

“Lotus,” Luo Binghe said confidently. Shen Qingqiu smiled indulgently.

“Good boy,” he said. “Now, what do you call me?”

“M-Master,” Luo Binghe stuttered.

“Good,” Shen Qingqiu repeated. “What do you call yourself?”

“This one,” Binghe said, a bit surer. Shen Qingqiu patted his head.

“Help me get comfortable, Binghe.”

Binghe hurried to help Shen Qingqiu set his bag on the coffee table and take off his coat, hanging it up with reverence. He dropped down to his knees and unlaced Shen Qingqiu’s shining black boots, taking them off slowly and setting them aside. Binghe stayed kneeling, looking up at Shen Qingqiu with big, pleading eyes.

“Much better,” Shen Qingqiu sighed, stretching out into a cat-like lounge on the couch. “Do you have anything for me, Binghe?”

Binghe nodded. Shen Qingqiu tapped his lips with one long manicured finger.

“Use your words,” he lightly admonished. Binghe swallowed.

“T-this one does, Master,” Binghe said. He got up and went over to a table, picking up a box in a familiar shade of blue He knelt back down by the couch, carefully opening up the Tiffany’s box for Shen Qingqiu to examine.

It was a silver cuff, so elaborate it looked woven rather than casted, inlaid with sparkling emeralds. Shen Qingqiu extended his hand to let Binghe put it on him. He brought his wrist up to his face, examining the craftsmanship – he had to get this appraised afterwards! How much money is Luo Binghe dropping on him?

“It’s lovely, Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu said, tranquil. “You picked well.”

Binghe looked about ready to combust from the praise. Shen Qingqiu thought to spare him.

“Go finish my dinner,” he yawned, rolling on to his back and stretching out. Binghe leapt up.

“Yes, Master!” Binghe said, leaping up and rushing over to the kitchen. Shen Qingqiu hadn’t appreciated a home-cooked meal in a…long time. Shen Jiu cooked for them when they were younger, sure, but once he came into (Yue Qingyuan’s) money such things became beneath him. Shen Yuan could cook just enough to not starve if worse came to worse, but the amount of delivery and microwavable meals he ate was probably worrying. The smells filling the hotel room were overwhelming and delicious; combined with his relaxed position, it was enough to have Shen Qingqiu dozing, though not quite asleep. He was too paranoid to ever sleep outside his or Shen Jiu’s apartment.

Shen Qingqiu sat up when Binghe started bringing out dishes, laying them out on the coffee table – snow white congee, soup dumplings, perfectly fried meat and vegetables. Shen Qingqiu swallowed his drool and instead said, “Hm. Attend to me.”

Binghe fell over himself for the opportunity to feed Shen Qingqiu. He pinched a piece of steak between a pair of chopsticks and lifted it to Shen Qingqiu’s lips. Binghe’s hands were calloused and nicked with white scars – the hands of a man used to work. Shen Qingqiu opened his mouth and let Binghe pass the steak into his mouth; Shen Qingqiu deliberately let his lips linger on the chopsticks as he pulled away. It was difficult not to moan aloud as the steak melted on his tongue, perfectly spiced and cooked. He struggled to maintain his aloofness as he ate some of the greatest food he ever tasted.

“Mhm,” Shen Qingqiu said after everything was gone. “Good.”

“This one is glad Master enjoyed his dinner,” Binghe said earnestly, setting aside the chopsticks. “What else can this one do for Master?”

“My feet hurt,” Shen Qingqiu declared. Binghe slammed down to his knees. “Be careful, don’t ruin your knees.”

“Yes, Master,” Binghe said like he hadn’t listened at all. He lifted up one delicate foot and dug his thumbs into the arch; Shen Qingqiu leaned his head back against the sofa. He hadn’t been lying about his feet hurting.

So Binghe could cook, afford expensive hotel rooms and gifts, and could give a mean foot massage. His lack of partner was becoming more and more concerning.

“You’ve been so good, Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu said, soft. He gripped Binghe by the chin, tilting his head up to look at him. Binghe was red and trembling. “I think you deserve a little reward.”

Shen Qingqiu patted the couch. “Come, lay down.”

Binghe scrambled to comply, and Shen Qingqiu laid Binghe’s head on to his lap. Shen Qingqiu dug his fingers into Binghe’s soft, fluffy hair, scratching his scalp. Binghe groaned, relaxing completely like a puppy getting a pat.

“Master is so good to this one,” Binghe mumbled, nuzzling Shen Qingqiu’s outer thigh. Shen Qingqiu had let Binghe feed him, give him an expensive gift, and massage his feet; this hadn’t even broken into the top one thousand weirdest things he had done. Perhaps Luo Binghe was just that lonely.

“Binghe is being a good boy,” Shen Qingqiu said. “He should be rewarded.”

Binghe made a noise of pure delight.

Their session was two hours, and at the end Binghe followed Shen Qingqiu out, hovering in the doorway.

“I’ll deposit the rest of the funds,” Binghe said. “And I’ll send an email. About our next session.”

“Mhm,” Shen Qingqiu said with a slight smile. “Looking forward to it, Luo Binghe.”

Liu Qingge got out of his chair when Shen Qingqiu came in the lobby, ready to go.

“You alright?” Liu Qingge asked. Shen Qingqiu waved off his concern.

“I had dinner and got a massage,” he said. “I couldn’t tell what he got out of it, honestly.”

His cell phone dinged, his bank telling him the rest of his fee was deposited directly into his account. Well, there was rent for the next three months.

Chapter Text

Shen Yuan sighed, wincing as his comb caught a tangle in his long hair. The clear, cold sunlight filtered through his curtains and fell upon him in a white bathrobe, kneeling on his bed as he fought with his hair. It was an unreasonable animal, always tangling and snagging no matter how much he spent on expensive shampoos, conditioners, oils, and masks! Maintaining such shining hair was a real pain in the a—

His phone buzzed, BIG BROTHER and a picture of Shen Jiu glaring flashing across it.

“Hi,” Shen Yuan answered. Even before he spoke, he could tell something was bothering Jiu-ge.

“Yue Qingyuan is insisting that a company birthday party is thrown,” Jiu-ge said, tight and tense. Considering how much Shen Jiu bitched and moaned about everyone and anything at the company him and his husband ran, it was an amazing amount of restraint. “You’re coming. That dog that likes to follow you around will be there, so you won’t be standing in the corner like a freak.”

“You shouldn’t call Liu Qingge a dog, Jiu-ge,” Shen Yuan lightly scolded. “He’s very kind.”

The only reason Shen Jiu hadn’t stomped the idea of a birthday party entirely was because Yue Qingyuan suggested it. Both were hard-pressed to say no to the other. It was a wonder that the Cang Qiong Corporation got anything done sometimes.

“Whatever,” Shen Jiu said flippantly. “Anyway, he insisted on inviting our main suppliers.”

“Thought you hated them,” Shen Yuan said, pinching his phone between his cheek and shoulder so he could go back to hacking at the knot in his hair. How did this even happen? Did he not carefully brush and braid it before laying down on his silk pillowcases every single night?

“Yes, but they’re the best in the business so we have to play nice,” Shen Jiu sniffed. “The week afterwards we’re going to Hawaii, which is the only thing making this tolerable.”

“Right,” Shen Yuan sighed. Surely Shen Jiu will find something wrong with whatever 5-star Hawaiian resort they were staying at, too.

“Mhm, it will be at the Bastien hotel,” Shen Jiu said. “In the Grand Ballroom.”

“You got the Grand Ballroom?” Shen Yuan exclaimed. Shen Jiu huffed.

“Of course, Qi-gege wouldn’t settle for less,” Shen Jiu said flippantly. Shen Yuan wondered how many thousands of dollars Yue Qingyuan spent weekly to keep his precious Xiao-Jiu pleased. Really, Shen Yuan and Shen Jiu had the same job, Shen Jiu just did wholesale while Shen Yuan was retail. “Be there, and dress nice. Invitation is in the mail.”

“I know how to dress nice,” Shen Yuan grumbled, but Shen Jiu had already hung up. Shen Yuan tossed his phone aside, bouncing along the mattress to settle among his (embarrassing) plushie collection. Shen Jiu was always impossible, bad temper and sharp tongue legendary. There was no point in arguing with him, really. Shen Yuan cracked his neck and went back to work.

He had a session with Luo Binghe that night, and he wanted to step up the intensity – bondage, mostly. Mentioned a riding crop in that shy voice over the phone. Shen Qingqiu could do that. He still wasn’t quite sure what Luo Binghe’s deal was. He seemed to derive great pleasure from feeding Shen Qingqiu, from brushing his hair and massaging his feet and giving him gifts and overall acting like a devoted servant for over two months now. Shen Yuan certainly didn’t mind, but surely there were others out there far more capable of the “boyfriend experience” than him.

Well, whatever. It was Luo Binghe’s money.

Shen Yuan’s clothes were kept in a set of IKEA drawers; Shen Qingqiu’s clothes were kept in the small closet. He sorted through them idly, pondering what to wear – he didn’t own anything overtly sexy, but he probably owned more leather pants than average.

He tossed a pair on to his bed, followed by a white button-down shirt with French cuffs. Most of the closet was actually shoes, with some spill off into the living room. Shoes and jewelry were the default gifts his clients gravitated to, with the occasional bottle of perfume or Sephora gift card. If he was honest with himself, he viewed them all as insurance – if everything went tits up, he could sell them. This was a very Shen Jiu type thought.

Even so, Shen Yuan didn’t think he could part with his Louboutin Frenchissima Alta boots, no matter how desperate he got.

Patent leather up past the knee, shiny and reflective, with laces and gold button details up the front. A four-inch heel, the sole painted red…Shen Yuan once caused a minor traffic accident in them! They had paid so many bills! Shen Yuan hugged the boots to his chest, laying them carefully down next to the hastily tossed clothes. Jewelry?

The jewelry was kept in a deceptively cheap-looking IKEA chest of drawers, next to all his ratty clothes. His pieces ranged from subtle silver chain bracelets to glittering statement necklaces to incredibly awkward diamond rings. He tended to sell the rings, honestly, little reminders of uncomfortable moments in expensive restaurants that they were.

He settled for the cuff Luo Binghe bought him and a matching silver torque necklace that sat well under the collar of his shirt. For cufflinks he went with his jade ones, laying everything out neatly.

Sunlight fading fast, Shen Yuan twisted his hair into a tight bun, kept in place by bobby pins and cursing. Shen Qingqiu came together in pieces, carefully pinched and pulled into place until he stepped deep into that serene, cold lake. Not many things could bother him there. He settled a cape-style coat over his shoulders, with long slits for his arms. It was green, of course.

The same hotel, the same room, though now it lacked the delicious smells of Luo Binghe’s cooking. Instead, the man looked a bit nervous, staring at Shen Qingqiu with wide puppy eyes. Shen Qingqiu petted his hair, smiling softly.

“Are you nervous, Binghe?” he asked. Binghe nodded shyly, and Shen Qingqiu decided not to chide him for not using his words. “Do you think this master won’t take care of you?”

“No!” Binghe exclaimed, clutching Shen Qingqiu’s hands. “Master is good to this one.”

“Mhm, so just trust me, all right?” Shen Qingqiu said. “If you say your safe word, I’ll stop right away and make sure you’re alright.”

“Yes, Master,” Binghe said. Shen Qingqiu gave him an indulgent pat on the head before turning around, undoing his brooch and shrugging off his coat.

“Take off your shirt.”

Binghe’s muscles were sculptural, perfectly formed and maintained. He was riddled with a surprising number of scars, white and faded but still there. Shen Qingqiu didn’t bring them up, instead unfurling a length of deep red nylon rope; Binghe shivered in anticipation. Despite the size difference – not so much in height, but in width – Binghe seemed so vulnerable in only his pants, feet bare, while Shen Qingqiu was entirely dressed and completely unruffled.

“On your knees,” Shen Qingqiu ordered. “Eyes down.”

Binghe complied.

Shen Qingqiu started at the neck, tying the rope in a series of knots that formed elaborate patterns diamonds and triangles against Binghe’s pretty skin. His arms were locked behind his back, all that power tamed for a moment under Shen Qingqiu’s hands. Shen Qingqiu hummed, crouching down and running his fingers through Binghe’s hair before gripping it viciously, jerking him up.

“Do you like this?” Shen Qingqiu asked. Binghe groaned, and Shen Qingqiu pulled his hair harder. “Words.

“Y-yes, Master,” Binghe panted. “This one likes it.”

“Good boy,” Shen Qingqiu praised. He released Binghe’s hair and stood up, placing one sharp-heeled foot in the middle of his shoulder blades and stepping. Binghe bent with an indescribable noise, forehead touching the cold floor. Shen Qingqiu kept him there a long time, letting him sweat it out before stepping back.

Shen Qingqiu riffled through his bag, pulling out his riding crop. His boots clicked against the floor; Binghe’s chest heaved. Shen Qingqiu dragged the end of the crop across Binghe’s face and over his shoulder; Binghe’s head twitched to watch it. Shen Qingqiu drew the crop back and snapped it down hard on the exposed skin between the ropes, causing Binghe to jerk forward with a cry.

“Eyes down,” Shen Qingqiu remined. Binghe shook as he got back into proper position. “Mhm. You like following orders, Binghe?”

“Y-yes, Master,” Binghe stuttered. Shen Qingqiu stepped again on Binghe’s back, leaning more of his weight against it.

“Do you like it when I step on you?” Shen Qingqiu asked. “You look good on the floor like this, Binghe.”

Binghe let out a harsh breath, keeping his eyes trained down on the floor. Shen Qingqiu hummed and stepped back, settling into an overstuffed armchair. He dragged his nails across the silk, the rasping noise making Binghe shiver.

“Come here,” Shen Qingqiu ordered. Binghe rose up on to his knees and shuffled around, struggling to maintain balance as he walked on his knees to Shen Qingqiu. He did an admirable job, barely stumbling before he got to Shen Qingqiu; Binghe relaxed at his feet, awaiting further instruction.

Shen Qingqiu crossed his legs, bringing the tip of his boot in front of Binghe’s lips. “Kiss it.”

Binghe leaned forward and did so.

He lavished the leather with attention, kissing across the buttons and laces until he reached the ankle. When Binghe made to go further up the boot, Shen Qingqiu gave him a warning tap on the back with his riding crop.

“The foot, Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu reminded.

“Yes, Master,” Binghe mumbled. His eyes were wide and glossy, face flushed. Shen Qingqiu smiled, tilting his foot so the four-inch stiletto heel was pressed against Binghe’s plush mouth.

Binghe licked up the length of it, gaze going half-lidded as he lost himself. He shook all over, rubbing his cheek against the red sole, mouth open, tears leaking down his cheeks. He hiccupped out, “Master, please…”

Shen Qingqiu could tell he was entirely overwhelmed, and that it was a good time to wind down.

He pulled his foot back and planted it on the ground, leaning down to cup Binghe’s cheeks. Shen Qingqiu stroked his thumbs over Binghe’s skyscraper cheekbones, smiling softly.

“What a good boy,” Shen Qingqiu praised. “You listened so well.”

Binghe was listing forward, barely catching himself, and staring up at Shen Qingqiu like he was God. He should take that rope off.

Shen Qingqiu knew his knots and had the rope off in record time, leaving a raw red pattern across Binghe’s skin where it had rubbed him. Shen Qingqiu massaged his shoulders and arms, ensuring proper circulation. Binghe moved like a marionette, and Shen Qingqiu sat back in the armchair, patting his lap.

“Why don’t you rest here for a moment,” Shen Qingqiu said. He wasn’t entirely sure he could move Binghe somewhere else.

Binghe pressed his forehead against Shen Qingqiu’s thigh, letting out a rattling breath. Shen Qingqiu stroked Binghe’s hair and massaged his scalp, letting the silence settle over them like a warm blanket.

Binghe started to sob.

A lot of people cried around Shen Qingqiu, usually from being overwhelmed and overstimulated their bodies just had to purge the emotions somehow. After some comforting and kind words, they were fine – better, even. This didn’t feel like that, and it broke Shen Qingqiu’s heart. These were the sobs of a man who hadn’t let himself cry for a long time; he clung to Shen Qingqiu like a child.

He rubbed Binghe’s back and scratched his hair, making soft and soothing noises. “It’s alright, just let it out. I won’t tell anyone.”

Binghe wrapped his arms tightly around Shen Qingqiu’s waist, pressing his face into his stomach. He was no longer sobbing, but he was clearly struggling to regain his composure. Shen Qingqiu reached over to his bag and fished out a handkerchief.

“Here, look up,” Shen Qingqiu murmured. After a moment of hesitation, Binghe did, and Shen Qingqiu went to work cleaning up his face. “Don’t you feel better, letting all that out?”

Binghe nodded shyly. He swallowed and said in a low, vulnerable voice, “I haven’t cried like that since I was a little kid.”

Shen Qingqiu stroked Binghe’s fluffy hair, patient.

“My mom died when I was young,” Binghe murmured. “And I was in the foster system…I haven’t had someone to cry around for a long time.”

Binghe reached into Shen Yuan’s chest and squeezed. All those scars on his body…

“I was in the foster system, too,” Shen Qingqiu said. Binghe looked shocked. “But I had my brother looking out for me. I don’t know what I would’ve done without him.”

He bent down and pressed a chaste kiss on Binghe’s temple. “You’re a very strong person, Binghe.”

Shen Qingqiu waited for Luo Binghe to sort himself out before he even thought about leaving. Binghe sat on the couch, shirt on, and retrieved an envelope from a side table. He passed it to Shen Qingqiu – it was heavy, off-white, with Shen Qingqiu written across the front in elaborate calligraphy.

“It’s a gift card to a spa,” Luo Binghe said. “My, uh, secretary recommended it.”

Shen Qingqiu smiled and carefully tucked the envelope into his bag. “Thank you, Binghe. My brother is throwing a big party soon, I’ll use it then.”

Binghe beamed. Shen Qingqiu patted his cheek.

“Until next time, Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu said as he got up to leave. Binghe was starry-eyed.

“Until next time,” Binghe said back.

Chapter Text

The penthouse was high up in a tower attached to the Georgia Hotel and its residents enjoyed all that entailed. While Shen Jiu’s attitude had definitely mellowed out over the years, he still liked bossing people around and having a staff willing to listen to his every whim. It had been purchased when Shen Yuan was fifteen, and whenever he thought of his “childhood home,” he inevitably thought of dark hardwood floors and breakfasts in the Georgia’s fine restaurants.

Shen Yuan had been plucked, waxed, exfoliated, and soaked at the spa Luo Binghe gave him the gift card for. The full mani-pedi was especially appreciated, given how much shit he got from Shen Jiu for biting his nails. His ratty converse squeaked against the polished floors of the residents’ lobby, the sleeves of his oversized sweatshirt pushed up to allow for texting. The well-dressed doorman gave him a nod of acknowledgement, recognizing him as Mister Shen’s little brother. Shen Yuan took the gleaming elevator up to the topmost floor of the resident’s tower.

Shen Jiu opened up the door with a tut and said, “I told you to burn those shoes.”

“They’re comfy,” Shen Yuan said, stepping into the apartment and toeing them off by the door.

“They’re unsightly,” Shen Jiu sniffed.

Shen Yuan and Shen Jiu were easily mistaken for twins – tall and willowy, dark-haired and pale – rather than younger and older brothers. Shen Jiu kept his hair to his shoulders, rather than mid-back like Shen Yuan did, and there was something much more severe about his face. It was not due to their ten-year age gap as Shen Jiu maintained his youthfulness with gusto. Rather, there was a fierce, unabating hunger that lurked in Shen Jiu’s regal cheekbones and dark eyes.

“It’s a good thing you came here to get dressed,” Shen Jiu sniffed. He himself wore all black and all designer, right down to his house slippers. “I can’t trust you to wear something nice.”

 “I was at the spa today, I’m not going full-on for the spa,” Shen Yuan protested. “I dress nice all the time.”

“Whatever you wear for your clients is not appropriate for my birthday party,” Shen Jiu said. Shen Yuan rolled his eyes.

“You didn’t even want to have the party…” Shen Yuan mumbled.

The penthouse was originally built in the 1910s and then remodeled in the 2000s, giving it a mix of both Gilded Age and Modern styles. The centerpiece of the whole penthouse was the living room’s towering fireplace, as tall as Shen Yuan himself. On either side of its wall were glass windows up to the huge vaulted ceiling, leading out to the plant-covered terrace. Above the fireplace was a massive oil portrait of the three of them – Shen Jiu, Yue Qingyuan, Shen Yuan – that Shen Jiu had commissioned shortly after moving in. Shen Yuan had been in high school and already too nervous to invite anyone to the apartment; the portrait just cemented it.

Perpendicular to the fireplace were two long camelback couches facing each other, a coffee table between them. On the coffee table was an elegant agate tea set, placed beside tiered serving dish covered in delicate pastries and tiny sandwiches. Shen Yuan and Shen Jiu sat across from each other, Shen Jiu pouring him tea.

“Thank you, Jiu-ge,” Shen Yuan murmured. Shen Jiu hummed in acknowledgement.

“I can’t believe you went to the spa, you usually can’t be bothered,” Shen Jiu said, sharp eyes staring at Shen Yuan over the rim of a teacup. “It’s unusual.”

“One of my clients got me a gift card for the royal treatment,” Shen Yuan said. “I thought your birthday party was a good time to use it.”

Shen Jiu made a dismissive noise like he usually did whenever Shen Yuan’s clients came up. He had no problem with Shen Yuan’s job – Shen Jiu was of the firm belief that no action was immoral if it meant surviving – but he was also of the firm belief that the world was divided into suckers and those smart enough to use them. Anyone who paid thousands upon thousands of dollars just to spend a few hours in Shen Qingqiu’s presence was definitely in the “sucker” category for him.

“He’s nice enough,” Shen Yuan said. He nibbled on a delicate pastry. “A little sticky, but that’s fine.”

Shen Jiu rolled his eyes. “Disgusting.”

Having grown up around him and Yue Qingyuan, Shen Jiu had no right to call anyone’s affections disgusting. Yue Qingyuan was probably out buying all sorts of gifts to shower Shen Jiu in! They were going to some luxurious island getaway afterwards! Absurd.

Speaking of which…

“Where’s Qi-ge?” Shen Yuan asked.

“He’s handling some last-minute preparations,” Shen Jiu said. “Something about a coordination error between the caterers and the pastry chef. Honestly the hotel should be handling that, I don’t know why he has to get involved…”

The rant against the Bastien hotel – legendary host of thousands of high-society weddings fashion shows, and other expensive functions – was long and extensive. Shen Jiu never forgot a grievance, no matter how slight. Shen Yuan polished off his tea – oolong – and several of the cute little pastries before Shen Jiu lost steam.

He exhaled, standing up. “Come on, A-Yuan. You can borrow my clothes for the party.”

They were, after all, the exact same size.

A part of the ridiculous nature of the penthouse were the two walk-in closets that were bigger than Shen Yuan’s living room and kitchen – one for all of Yue Qingyuan’s suits, and then Shen Jiu’s...everything. The room was lined with dark wallet doors and drawers; Shen Jiu threw some of them open and started tossing out clothes without care.

While their sizes may have been the same, their tastes were not – Shen Jiu insisted on projecting an aura of refinement and power at all times, while Shen Yuan either dressed for comfort or for his clients’ edification. Shen Jiu tossed a black suit jacket at Shen Yuan: Alexander McQueen, with slashed sleeves and an elaborate lace lining that covered his hands.

Shen Yuan picked a royal green turtleneck to wear underneath. Paired against the black suit jacket and pants, its color was even richer. Shen Jiu’s jacket was embroidered with black silk thread in elaborate floral designs, imperceptible unless you stood close. He opened up his drawers of jewelry, glittering and gleaming in the low closet light.

“You’re going to end up marrying one of your clients one day,” Shen Jiu said. Shen Yuan prepared himself for the ice-cold advice about to be dispensed. “Before you do, make sure you get a full view of his finances. Don’t just marry someone because they’re nice.

Shen Jiu was pulling open drawers with thousands upon thousands of dollars of jewelry in them, yet his wedding ring was still the plain 10 Karat band Shen Yuan watched Yue Qingyuan buy in a shitty pawnshop one boiling hot summer’s day. Hypocrite.

“I don’t plan on marrying anyone ever,” Shen Yuan said bluntly.

“You should consider it,” Shen Jiu hummed. He put on a Chanel necklace, a string of silver and diamond camelias. “Good retirement plan once you get too old for whips and chains.”

Shen Yuan rolled his eyes and drew his hair into a high ponytail. Shen Jiu insisted on heels, of course, clicking against the lobby floor as they went to the town car awaiting them. The chauffeur opened the door to the back, and they slid elegantly into the large black car. Shen Jiu tapped on his phone; Shen Yuan watched the city pass by.

The Bastien’s Grand Ballroom was one of the most famous venues in the city, if not the world. It was designed in the Rococo style, its tile floor arranged in geometric patterns and its cathedral ceiling decorated with gauzy pastel murals. Heavy curtains covered arched windows and balconies that overlooked the city below; crystal chandeliers bathed everything in warm orange light. A band was setting up on stage. Waiters were doing last minute tweaks on the elaborate floral arrangements on the round tables dotting the ballroom, each covered in deep green tablecloths and beautiful bone white tableware. In the room in front of the Grand Ballroom, a cocktail hour was being prepped as well.

Yue Qingyuan rushed out to greet them, gripping Shen Jiu’s hands and pressing a kiss to the knuckles. “Xiao-Jiu, A-Yuan, how are you?”

“We’re good,” Shen Yuan said. Shen Jiu examined the ballroom with a critical eye.

“Looks…fine,” he said. Yue Qingyuan beamed, pressing a kiss to Shen Jiu’s cheek.

“Only the best for my Xiao-Jiu,” Yue Qingyuan declared.

“You’re embarrassing yourself, Qi-gege,” Shen Jiu huffed, but did not pull away from the affections. Shen Yuan almost gagged.

The guests filtered in slowly, a who’s who of high society wanting the favor of the Yue-Shens. Despite Shen Jiu’s misgivings, Shen Yuan fitted in well among them, a natural chameleon. He was trying to politely extract himself from a conversation with an over-eager and very old businessman when he caught sight of someone who absolutely shouldn’t be here.

The relationship between Airplane Shooting Towards The Sky and Peerless Cucumber was…odd.

Monthly, Shen Yuan and Shang Qinghua got brunch reservations at the most exclusive and expensive restaurants in the city solely to bitch about cartoons, TV shows, and other forms of trashy entertainment. Outsiders simply saw two well-dressed young men with minimal responsibilities, while the truth was that they were sullying these esteemed places with discussions about otome games. Shen Yuan was certain he was the first person to utter the word hentai at the Four Seasons’ famous afternoon tea.

The unusual strength of their bond was due to their not-quite-the-same but very much adjacent career paths; Shang Qinghua funded his stallion novel writing hobby by attaching himself to wealthy men as a spoiled sugar baby. What these men saw in the anxious, stuttering, and frequently flustered Shang Qinghua was a bit beyond Shen Yuan. Maybe being cute and stupid was enough.

Shang Qinghua’s latest victim was a far cry from the usual old men he complained about. Indeed, he was holding on to the elbow of what appeared to be a marble statue – chiseled to perfection and stuffed into a bespoke suit, face handsome and cold. Shang Qinghua caught Shen Yuan’s eye, and Shen Yuan saw his panic mirrored. Their worlds weren’t supposed to touch like this!

Shen Yuan was hovering by the cocktail and appetizer bar, which gave Shang Qinghua an excuse to detach himself from his latest victim and “casually” approach Shen Yuan.

“What’re you doing here?” Shang Qinghua asked, trying to look like they just stumbled into conversation together. Shen Yuan nearly had an aneurysm.

“What am I doing here? This is my brother’s birthday party,” Shen Yuan snapped. “What’re you doing here?”

“I’m here with Mobei Jun,” Shang Qinghua said. “He got invited because he’s the second-in-command of the supply company Cang Qiong uses.”

“I see,” Shen Yuan said with narrowed eyes. “Jiu-ge hates your Mobei Jun, by the way.”

“I think the feeling’s mutual,” Shang Qinghua said. “I can’t believe your brother is the black-hearted snake Shen Jiu. You aren’t a black-hearted snake at all.”

“Thank you,” Shen Yuan said flatly. “I hope you remember he raised me since he was ten, by the way. I really hope you remember that.”

Shang Qinghua looked suitably chastised. “…Right.”

On the other side of the room, Yue Qingyuan and Shen Jiu were having a terse conversation with Mobei Jun, who kept discretely looking over to where Shen Yuan and Shang Qinghua were. Which was to say, not discretely at all. “Can he not be parted with you for a moment? What’s wrong with your man?”

“I don’t know,” Shang Qinghua sighed. “He’s, ah, not very expressive? I have no idea what he’s thinking most of the time.”

Shen Yuan snorted, looking back to the door. Whatever cutting remark he was about to say died on his lips.

His luck was shit tonight, wasn’t it?

While Mobei Jun’s face looked cold because that was just how it looked, Luo Binghe radiated an aura of fuck everyone here. There was already a trail of women flocking around him, cruelly ignored. He seemed like the polar opposite of the adoring figure kissing his shoes and buying him jewelry and cooking him dinner! What in the world was this switch!

“Oh my God,” Shen Yuan murmured. “That’s Binghe.”

“Eh? Mobei Jun’s boss?” Shang Qinghua said. “Do you know him?”

“He’s one of my clients,” Shen Yuan hissed.

“Oh my God,” Shang Qinghua exhaled. “The terrifying CEO of Huan Hua is an incurable M?”

“Don’t say it out loud,” Shen Yuan spat, smacking Shang Qinghua’s shoulder.

Luo Binghe’s frozen eyes looked around the room and then landed on Shen Yuan, widening in surprise. He moved to cross the cocktail party to Shen Yuan, but Yue Qingyuan interrupted with a declaration that dinner was to start soon. Shen Yuan exhaled in relief – his brother-in-law was too good for him.

Yue Qingyuan had, fortunately, set the party of Luo Binghe, Mobei Jun, and Shang Qinghua far from the head table where Shen Yuan sat. The elaborate floral arrangement blocked Shen Yuan’s view of Luo Binghe, allowing him to just focus on the dinner. Yue Qingyuan and Shen Jiu were holding hands, their matching pawn shop wedding bands glinting in the light. Shen Yuan took a long swig of wine.

The cake was raspberry lemon poppyseed with cream cheese frosting, Shen Jiu’s favorite. Everyone had politely clapped when the candles were blown out and Yue Qingyuan planted a kiss on Shen Jiu’s cheek. Shen Yuan wolfed down two pieces of cake, knowing that the leftovers would be going right to his fridge. Cake for breakfast for at least a week!

Dessert was followed by champagne and presents. People came up to Shen Jiu to give him gifts and engage in fluttering words to raise their standing in Yue Qingyuan’s eyes – if his infamously cranky husband liked them, surely kind-hearted Yue Qingyuan would too! Shen Yuan wandered off, bored and hot.

He stepped out of the ballroom and on to one of the beautiful balconies overlooking the glittering lights of the city. Down below, people rushed about, ducking in and out of the many restaurants and hotels lining the street. The air was cold, late autumn becoming winter – the forecast promised snow soon. The champagne bubbles were filling up his head and making him dizzy. His feet hurt; he wondered if he could get away with taking off the heels for a moment.

The door behind him opened. Shen Yuan turned to see Luo Binghe, looking a bit lost.

“Shen Qingqiu,” Luo Binghe said. Shen Yuan flushed – at least he hadn’t called him Master.

“I’m not Shen Qingqiu here,” Shen Yuan said firmly. “I’m here for my brother, not for a client. Call me Shen Yuan.”

“…Right,” Luo Binghe said, thrown off-balance. “I didn’t expect you to be here.”

“Not a lot of people realize Jiu-ge and I are related,” Shen Yuan said. “Did you think I was here with a client?”

Luo Binghe’s silence spoke volumes.

“That’s not a service I deliver,” Shen Yuan said. “I was surprised to see you here, too.”

“You were?” Luo Binghe asked. He crept a bit closer.

“Yes, I try to keep my private and work lives completely sperate,” Shen Yuan said. “Most of my clients never meet Shen Yuan.”

Was Luo Binghe even meeting Shen Yuan right now? Dressed up as he was, so far from the comfy bed and Netflix he truly desired?

“Work?” Luo Binghe asked.

“Mhm,” Shen Yuan hummed. “I like my job, but I also like getting away from it, you know?”

Luo Binghe gripped the railing of the balcony. “…Sure.”

The balcony door opened again. Liu Qingge stood there, silhouetted by the party inside. Shen Yuan smiled at him.

“Of course you’d show up when the party’s almost over,” Shen Yuan laughed, adjusting Liu Qingge’s askew pocket square. His sister must’ve dressed him. Liu Qingge probably didn’t know pocket squares existed before tonight. “You will do anything to get out of a party.”

Liu Qingge snorted and glared at Luo Binghe. What a guard dog! “Who’re you?”

“He’s just another guest I was talking to,” Shen Yuan said, not wanting to explain everything to Liu Qingge. Knowing the man, he’d think Luo Binghe was stalking him or something. “Come on, you have to at least pay Jiu-ge lip service on his birthday.”

He pushed Liu Qingge out the door. He flashed a smile over his shoulder at Luo Binghe. “It was nice talking to you! Until next time!”

“Until next time,” Luo Binghe mumbled.

The party was indeed winding down, a mountain of presents on the table behind Shen Jiu. The band was playing a lively song, and Shen Jiu looked…pleased.

“I still don’t see what Mister Yue sees in him,” Liu Qingge muttered. Shen Yuan elbowed him.

“They’ve been through a lot together,” Shen Yuan said. “Also, why do people keep badmouthing my brother right in front of me.

“Sorry,” Liu Qingge said, not sounding sorry at all.

A waiter discretely handed Yue Qingyuan a microphone. Yue Qingyuan announced, “It’s time for the final gift of the night.”

Everyone paused their conversations, wondering what was about to happen. Shen Yuan hid his smile behind his hand.

“Xiao-Jiu, never regretted a single moment I’ve had with you,” Yue Qingyuan said. “All I want is to give you the wedding you deserve.”

Yue Qingyuan knelt down and pulled out a small box, opening it to reveal a beautiful golden band. “Let’s get married again, Xiao-Jiu.”

Shen Yuan could tell Shen Jiu was trying not to cry.

“…Sap,” he said. He plucked the ring out of the box and put it right on top of the 10 Karat pawnshop ring. Yue Qingyuan put the microphone aside and embraced Shen Jiu, pressing a chaste kiss on his lips.

“Shen Jiu’s going to be happy about Qi-ge making it a big deal,” Shen Yuan laughed. “He loves shit like this.”

“Embarrassing,” Liu Qingge said.

“Not for Jiu-ge,” Shen Yuan said. “Their vow renewal is going to be a spectacle, just how Shen Jiu likes it.”

Yue Qingyuan made a gesture for Shen Yuan to come over, and Shen Yuan did, embracing the two of them with a smile. He did not see Luo Binghe leave.

Chapter Text

The elevator moved like a creeping panther, Shen Qingqiu forced to look at himself in the mirrors surrounding him. It descended down without a sound, the low crystal light glimmering in his long hair and catching the metallic threads of his jacket. He away from himself. Up above was slowly but surely getting covered in fluffy white snow; as the elevator descended, “up above” became a distant dream, forgotten upon awakening.

The doors opened to the round basement room, illuminated by tiered crystal chandeliers. One of the most exclusive and expensive restaurants in the city was empty, left with only a single round table in the center of the room, right underneath the most elaborate chandelier. The singular table was crowned with a centerpiece of rare green roses in full springtime bloom despite winter’s coming grasp. Luo Binghe was waiting for him, ready to vibrate out of his skin.

“Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu greeted with a slight, practiced smile. “Good evening.”

“Hello,” Binghe exhaled.

Shen Qingqiu descended down the curving stairs to the dining room proper, and Luo Binghe rushed to greet him. Shen Qingqiu waited patiently as Binghe undid the brooch holding his coat together with trembling hands, passing the coat off to a waiter. The entire wait staff seemed rather…subdued. He thought of Luo Binghe’s cold eyes at Shen Jiu’s birthday party and shuddered.

“This one thought it would be nice to have the space for just the two of us,” Binghe declared. He pulled out the chair for Shen Qingqiu, pushing it back when Shen Qingqiu settled in. Binghe sat across from him, big scarred hands clenching and unclenching with nerves. Shen Qingqiu felt a cold worry settle into his gut. “Does Master agree?”

Binghe was shameless, using that sort of language in front of waitstaff. Most of Shen Qingqiu’s clients wouldn’t dare use words like Master and this one during their public outings to restaurants and clubs. Binghe had no such reservations.

“It is nice here,” Shen Qingqiu agreed, ruthlessly pushing down his growing unrest. “You’ve done well, Binghe.”

Binghe preened like a peacock.

“This one is glad Master is pleased,” Binghe said.

The first course was an endive salad, a delicate little thing. Shen Yuan was never one for salads, considering them boring at best and terribly bitter calorie wastes at worse. Shen Qingqiu ate the salad with a polite smile, lest he offend Binghe somehow. Binghe, on his part, was far more focused on Shen Qingqiu than his own food.

Fortunately, the salad course passed quickly enough and was replaced with a filet mignon and roasted potatoes and vegetables. Shen Qingqiu ate that with much more gusto.

“It’s good,” Shen Qingqiu said with a wide smile. Binghe returned it. “But not as good as Binghe’s food.”

Binghe flushed, so pleased he looked ready to explode. “Master!”

Shen Qingqiu laughed, waving his hand. “Ah, don’t act so flustered, Binghe, it’s true.”

“Master is so good to this one,” Binghe sighed. “This one doesn’t deserve it.”

Shen Qingqiu frowned. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Binghe. You always listen to my rules, don’t you?”

Binghe looked unbelievably smug at the praise, making Shen Qingqiu laugh again.

“Don’t look so pleased with yourself,” Shen Qingqiu chided. Binghe did not look reprimanded in the slightest.

Finished with the steak, the waitstaff swept away their ivory white plates. Shen Qingqiu was feeling nice and full, already looking forward to a nice long sleep. Binghe fidgeted with his napkin, seeming more and more anxious as the minutes pass by. The cold dread was making itself known again in Shen Qingqiu’s gut.

A waiter rolled out a cart, a Baked Alaska on top. With pizazz, he splashed the top of the dessert with dark rum and then lit it with a blow torch. Shen Qingqiu clapped with delight as the flames danced, bright in the low light of the restaurant. The fire was snuffed with a cloche, and then served.

“So good,” Shen Qingqiu said. “What a treat.”

“Master has liked tonight?” Binghe asked, voice a little odd.

“Yes, of course,” Shen Qingqiu said. “Nice food in nice company is always welcomed.”

“Would Master enjoy having more nights like this?” Binghe asked, tentative.

“Sure,” Shen Qingqiu said. “We can expand into some minor public play—”

Binghe got out of his chair and strode over to Shen Qingqiu’s side, dropping down to his knees beside him. Binghe gripped Shen Qingqiu’s hands in his own, drawing them close to his chest. Shen Qingqiu’s heart thudded wildly, eyes widening.

“Please forgive this one for his impudence,” Binghe said. “But this one must let Master know how he feels. All this one can think about is Master and giving him whatever he desires.”

Oh Lord, Shen Qingqiu thought.

“Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu said with all the kindness he could muster. “I don’t know who you think I am, but it’s not…it’s not real.

Binghe frowned deeply. “This one knows that Master puts out a different face to the world, but this one knows he is kind and will take good care of this one—”

Shen Qingqiu snatched his hands away, clutching them close to himself, falling back to familiar words. “Listen, Luo Binghe, Shen Qingqiu is a…is a persona. An act. That’s what you want.”

Binghe would’ve looked less hurt if Shen Qingqiu kicked him.

“I—I—” Binghe stuttered. “…I want to know the real you.”

“You do not,” Shen Qingqiu said firmly. “You do not.”

“I do!” Binghe exclaimed, clutching at Shen Qingqiu legs. Shen Qingqiu stood up and brushed him off, stumbling away from Binghe. “Shen Qingqiu, please—”

“No,” Shen Yuan said, heart aching. “I…I can’t do this, anymore. Goodbye.”

He grabbed his coat and hastily put it on as he left, rushing into the elevator. He caught a glimpse of himself in its mirrored surface, alien and bizarre.

The winter storm had only picked up steam, Shen Yuan’s high-heeled boots making him stumble in the snow. His appearance made it easily to hail down a cab, despite the weather. Shen Yuan slipped into the back, clutching at the edges of his coat. He rubbed furiously at his face with his sleeve, smearing his fine jacket with mascara and eyeliner.

The night doorman said nothing as Shen Yuan rushed into Shen Jiu’s building, hiding his sobs.

Shen Jiu and Yue Qingyuan were, of course, not there – they were off to Hawaii, on their pre-vowel-renewal vacation. He collapsed on the leather couch in all his finery, covering his face with his hands as he sobbed.

Shen Qingqiu got exclusive restaurants, designer clothes, diamonds and gold, luxury vacations, slavish devotion. The last time Shen Yuan was asked out, it was in high school, and it turned out to be a prank. He swallowed down great, hiccupping breaths as he tried to grant himself equilibrium again.

“You’re fine,” Shen Yuan mumbled to himself. “You’ve dealt with this before. Get yourself together.”

He always managed to get it together. Perhaps it was in the Shen DNA, that ability to let everything just float to the bottom where it didn’t hurt anymore. This had happened before, this would happen again. There was no point in being upset over it.

Shen Yuan stood up and made his way to his childhood bedroom, the walls still plastered with anime posters and shelves still full of figurines. The jewelry clunked down on the scarred wooden desk as he took them off; his coat fluttered to the ground in a green pool. He found some old clothes of his to use as pajamas and crawled under the covers of his pristine childhood bed, hiding his face under the pillows.

“Never show someone your tears,” Jiu-ge murmured after A-Yuan got hit by one of the older kids in their group home. He was tender as he mopped up A-Yuan’s split lip, but his words were ice cold. “Especially men. They’ll use it against you every time.”

No one was here to see him here, the bright lights of the city smothered under the piling snow.

Chapter Text

Shen Yuan took a vacation.

Others would’ve gone off to some exotic locale to be pampered by cabana boys and escape the city’s piling snow. Shen Yuan, however, holed up in his apartment with piles of junk food and mountains of trashy television. All the curtains were drawn tight; the only light was his TV playing The Bachelor. He only left his oversized couch for food deliveries, a human sized lump under layers of blankets and pillows.

Karen R, a beautiful nurse, was getting rejected by the Bachelor, an absolute pig of a man named Ethan that had no idea he was letting a perfect goddess of a woman go! Karen R, who valiantly maintained good friendships with her fellow contestants in spite of the producers trying to rip them apart! Karen R, who was bright and chipper no matter the circumstances, who was intelligent and witty, who was beautiful and calm! Brutally shot down in favor of Lisa J, a saboteur of the highest order.

“You dumbass!” Shen Yuan yelled as he threw popcorn at the screen. “How could you do this to her?! Idiot, fool, moron—”

There was a tentative knock at his door. Shen Yuan whipped his head around to stare. Slowly, he crawled out of his blanket and staggered to his feet, creeping over to the door. He opened it slowly, one bloodshot eye peering out the door.

“Uh, hey,” Shang Qinghua said. “Please don’t slam the door on me, I’ve got several threats against my life right now.”

Shen Yuan exhaled through his nose and let him in.

Shang Qinghua took in the state of Shen Yuan’s apartment with a dawning horror – even at his laziest, Shen Yuan was always fussy. His apartment was comfy and perhaps disorganized, but clean. This was an absolute mess, wrappers, pizza boxes, takeout cartons, and fast food bags littering every surface. Shang Qinghua’s foot crushed a soda can.

“…Everyone’s very concerned,” Shang Qinghua said. “Uh, Liu Qingge threatened my life—”

“I’m on vacation,” Shen Yuan said petulantly. Shang Qinghua looked over at the TV judgmentally. “…A staycation.”

“Listen, man, we’ve all had bad clients,” Shang Qinghua said. “But this seems excessive.”

Shen Yuan crawled back under his blankets. “You know how draining these sorts of things can be. I can’t imagine your ice king is an easy client, either.”

“Mobei Jun is actually very nice!” Shang Qinghua defended. “He’s concerned about his boss…they went out for drinks together! You know how hard it is to get Mobei Jun to leave the house?”

Shen Yuan groaned, fully burrowing under the covers. “Now I feel bad. I didn’t want to reject him, but you know how it is! He was getting too close.”

“Shen Yuan…” Shang Qinghua said softly, sitting at the end of the couch.

“He doesn’t like Shen Yuan, he likes Shen Qingqiu,” Shen Yuan mumbled. “It happens all the time.”

“Have you heard him out?” Shang Qinghua asked. Shen Yuan peeked out from behind his blankets.

“What do you mean?” Shen Yuan countered.

“Well, you know,” Shang Qinghua said. “Uh, um, me and Mobei Jun were having communication issues. About what we wanted to get from the relationship.”

“…Money? Sex?” Shen Yuan asked. Shang Qinghua’s arrangements were always kind of awkward to talk about.

“That was the arrangement at first!” Shang Qinghua admitted. “But things were so awkward and uncomfortable until Mobei Jun finally admitted that he didn’t like our current arrangement, and now were just a regular couple! It’s possible!”

Shen Yuan huffed. “That’s not…that won’t work for me.”

Shang Qinghua sighed. “…Can I at least get you outside the house? We can get ramen at that one shop.”

“Fine,” Shen Yuan huffed.

“Please take a shower, at least.”

“…Fine.”

Sheng Qinghua left, and Shen Yuan crawled off to the shower.

 

--

 

Shen Yuan brushed out his hair and put it up in a loose bun; his sweater was oversized, barely fitting under the long, kind of ragged plaid coat. He swaddled his face with a cream color scarf before setting out, boots sinking into the snow. The ramen shop was just around the corner, a rundown spot with a handful of plasticky booths lit by harsh fluorescents, the linoleum floor always vaguely sticky. It had the best noodles in the entire city, and when him and Shang Qinghua didn’t want to dress up for fancy brunch, it was their number one destination.

He stepped through the doors, already exhausted. Shen Yuan’s eyes swept lazily across the store, figuring Shang Qinghua wasn’t there yet—

“…Shen Yuan?”

Luo Binghe partially rose from his booth, looking just as shocked as Shen Yuan felt. Shen Yuan took a step back, and Luo Binghe extended his hand, as if to stop him.

“Wait!” Luo Binghe exclaimed. “I didn’t expect…please, can I just talk to you?”

His eyes seemed wet, his face haggard. He hadn’t shaved in a while. Shen Yuan stepped forward, almost against his will.

Shen Yuan and Luo Binghe sat across from one another in the booth, stiff as they stared at each other. It was quite the departure from their previous meetings in five-star hotels and expensive restaurants, Shen Yuan stripped bare of Shen Qingqiu’s protective layer.

“Mobei Jun set me up,” Luo Binghe said. “I didn’t know he was capable of that.”

“I think his boyfriend helped him,” Shen Yuan said. He was going to strangle Shang Qinghua. Little bastard was probably on the next flight to the Bahamas by now, too. “He’s capable of that.”

Luo Binghe snorted, looking down at the table. “I did think it was weird for Mobei Jun to invite me to a place like this. He’s never…he was born rich.”

“I see,” Shen Yuan murmured. An awkward silence descended – the owner’s teen daughter took their orders with little of her usual chatter. She left; Luo Binghe clenched and unclenched his hands on the scratched tabletop. His clothes were simple, plain, but his expensive watch reflected the fluorescent lights above.

“I’m sorry.”

Shen Yuan blinked, looking up.

“I saw how much your brother liked spectacle, and I assumed…” Binghe said. Stopped himself. Resumed. “I don’t know you, at all.”

“Not a lot of people do,” Shen Yuan said softly. Binghe swallowed.

“I do know that you’re kind,” Binghe said, growing more and more sure with each word. “And that we’re similar. And that…that I would like to know more about you.”

Shen Yuan blinked in surprise. Binghe extended his hand across the table, palm up. The light caught all the white scars littering it.

“Please,” Binghe murmured.

Shen Yuan flushed and looked away. Yet, his hand still crept across the table. His fingers touch the tips of Binghe’s, calloused and strong.

“All right,” he answered.

Chapter Text

The winter was proving unforgiving, piles and piles of snow drowning the skyscrapers in white. Most had retreated entirely into their homes, waiting for spring to come and thaw them out again.

Binghe’s penthouse was high and remote, its grand windows giving him an unprecedented view of the city. Dirty dishes were piled beside the deep, stainless steel sink; an empty wine bottle sat on the table beside discarded napkins and stained glasses. Problems for the morning.

The door to the grand master suite was closed and Binghe stood in front of it, biting his lip. He wore only a pair of loose pants, feet bare against the cool floor. Slowly, he opened the door.

The long room was lit with low, flickering candles, casting warm orange light. At the very end, opposite the door, was a sprawling California king, covered by a gauzy curtain. A dark silhouette lay behind it in graceful repose. Binghe came close to the bed and kneeled beside it, swallowing in excitement. The silhouette moved, a beautiful hand reaching to part the curtain.

Shen Qingqiu peered out, looking down at Binghe with heavily kohled eyes. He wore a long robe made of emerald green silk, the sleeves and hem decorated with leaf-like lace. He hummed, plush mouth drawn into a serene look. His dark hair fell down like a curtain.

“Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu said.

“Master,” Binghe breathed, trembling all over. Shen Qingqiu smiled and pulled out a fan, covering his lower face. He shifted, drawing his legs out and resting his feet on the floor. He wore thigh high leather boots with a five-and-a-half-inch heel, closed with ties. The soles were red.

Shen Qingqiu pressed the front of his foot against Binghe’s crotch, rubbing it in circles. Binghe whimpered, clutching at his pants. The boot was dragged up against his chest, the heel sharp against his muscles, until the tip rested against his lips. Binghe licked the shiny patent leather, eyes going hazy.

He kissed and licked up the length of the boot, gently holding Shen Qingqiu’s shapely leg. The silk robe parted ever so slightly, revealing black stockings and pale inner thigh. The sight made Binghe pant, the elastic of the stockings squeezing ever so slightly and emphasizing the lushness of his Master’s legs. Binghe’s tongue left the leather wet and shining, staring at Shen Qingqiu with besmirching eyes.

“What a good boy,” Shen Qingqiu praised. “You deserve a treat.”

He undid the stash of his robe, pulling it apart to reveal what was underneath. He wore a sheer black bodysuit, cut high over his hips, with a V-neck that went past the sternum. It emphasized his chest, nipples peeking through the lacy fabric, and delicately cupped his cock. Binghe panted like a dog.

Shen Qingqiu parted his thighs. “Come on.”

Binghe kissed Shen Qingqiu’s inner thigh reverently, shoulders shaking. Here in the cradle of his legs, Shen Qingqiu was so warm, smelling like flowers and papers. He laved his tongue against the soft skin, hands running up and down his towering shoes. His heart thudded, just the taste of his Master enough to have him losing his mind.

“Ah, Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu sighed, as if disappointed. “I know you can please Master far better than that.”

Binghe felt stabbed through by those words and hurried to please his Master. His hands shook as he hooked his fingers into the crotch of the bodysuit and pulled it aside, revealing his Master’s soft cock. He swallowed down salvia and suckled on the head, staring up at his Master with beseeching eyes. Shen Qingqiu sighed.

Slowly, Shen Qingqiu’s cock hardened and Binghe grew sloppy. A fan hid his Master’s face except for his bright, burning eyes, staring impassively down on Binghe. Binghe whimpered, softly, tentatively touching Shen Qingqiu’s legs with his fingertips. Shen Qingqiu ran his hand over Binghe’s hair, scratching his scalp.

“So good,” Shen Qingqiu sighed. “Ah…”

Binghe whimpered, trembling all over. Shen Qingqiu leaned back, fan falling away from his face, revealing a flush. His mouth was parted, pink, wet, eyes half-lidded. Binghe sucked harder, drawing Shen Qingqiu deeper into his throat. He felt hot and cold all over, Shen Qingqiu resplendent and godlike in the flickering candlelight. Tears prickled in the corner of Binghe’s eyes.

Shen Qingqiu tossed his head back, long hair shimmering and shifting, and he gasped as he came down Binghe’s throat. Binghe eagerly drank him down, so thankful for the opportunity. After a minute, Shen Qingqiu pushed Binghe away; Binghe rested his head on Shen Qingqiu’s knee. Shen Qingqiu gave him an indulgent smile.

“Such a good boy,” Shen Qingqiu praised. “Come up.”

Binghe scrambled up to the bed, sitting back against the headboard. Shen Qingqiu elegantly shrugged out of his robe and swung his legs over Binghe’s lap, hands resting on Binghe’s broad chest. His nails scratched into Binghe’s skin.

“You made me feel so good, Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu said softly. “Do you want a reward?”

Binghe nodded. Shen Qingqiu softly smacked him with his fan. “Use your words.”

“Y-yes, Master,” Binghe whined. Shen Qingqiu stroked his face.

“What do you want?” Shen Qingqiu asked. Binghe looked down at Shen Qingqiu’s chest, the sharp V-neck, the see-through lace. Shen Qingqiu smiled indulgently, pulling the V-neck of the bodysuit apart and revealing those pert, pink nipples.

Binghe surged forward, wrapping his mouth around one of Shen Qingqiu’s nipples and suckling. He gripped Shen Qingqiu’s hips, slowly drifting out of his mind. Saliva dripped down his chin, deeply inhaling the scent of his Master. Shen Qingqiu pulled down the waistband of Binghe’s pants, Binghe’s long thick cock smacking against his stomach. Binghe groaned at the feeling of cool air against it, sucking harder on Shen Qingqiu’s nipple.

“Nice and hard for me,” Shen Qingqiu praised, lightly stroking Binghe’s cock. Binghe stared up at Shen Qingqiu in awe. Shen Qingqiu pulled the crotch of his bodysuit further aside, positioning himself just above the tip of Binghe’s cock. Binghe groaned simply from the anticipation.

Shen Qingqiu sunk down and it took all his self-control for Binghe not to buck up. He tried to focus on suckling on his Master’s nipple, soothed by his scent. Shen Qingqiu settled against Binghe’s pelvis with a soft sigh, taking a moment to adjust to the stretch. Binghe whined, trying not to sink his nails into his Master’s soft, supple skin.

“Oh, such a good boy,” Shen Qingqiu praised. “Are you waiting for me?”

“Yes, Master,” Binghe mumbled against Shen Qingqiu’s chest. “P-please…”

Shen Qingqiu hummed and rolled his hips.

Binghe would never delude himself into think he had control over the situation. Shen Qingqiu simply took what he wanted, using Binghe as he saw fit. Binghe panted against Shen Qingqiu’s chest, heat wrapped tightly around him. His whole body shook.

“M-Master,” Binghe panted. “Master…Master is so good…”

Shen Qingqiu moaned freely, tossing his head back. He was focused entirely on his own pleasure, while Binghe was forced to hold on – he wouldn’t dare come before his Master did. Wouldn’t dare come without his Master’s permission.

“Mhm,” Shen Qingqiu hummed. He gripped Binghe’s hair and pushed him back to his nipples. Binghe latched back on, eyes dazed and body lax. His Master scratched his scalp, hot and tight around his cock. “Feeling good?”

Binghe nodded.

“Touch me.”

Hand shaking, Binghe gripped Shen Qingqiu’s cock and stroked him. Shen Qingqiu hissed and moaned, riding Binghe harder and harder.

Yes,” Shen Qingqiu moaned. “You’re sweet, Binghe. Keep doing that, oh yeah.”

Binghe stroked Shen Qingqiu faster, sucked harder on his swollen nipples. His mind felt so far away from his body, driven out of him by his pleasure. Shen Qingqiu moaned, long and loud, and orgasmed all over Binghe’s hand. He stopped moving, and Binghe whined, legs twitching as he stopped himself from jackhammering his hips up. Shen Qingqiu took a moment to settle himself before smiling down at Binghe.

He started moving again.

Binghe clutched at Shen Qingqiu’s hips and moaned, smearing cum against the beautiful lacy bodysuit. Shen Qingqiu ground his hips down, squeezing around Binghe. He pressed his lips against Binghe’s ear.

“Don’t you want to come?” Shen Qingqiu murmured. “You’ve been so good, why don’t you come inside me?”

Binghe cried out as he came, pumping Shen Qingqiu full. Shen Qingqiu stroked his hair and made soft, soothing noises. As he came down, he felt completely purged. Binghe clutched at Shen Qingqiu, hiding his tears in Shen Qingqiu’s shoulder.

“Ah,” Shen Yuan murmured. “You made me feel so good, Binghe. Did you feel good too?”

Binghe nodded, inexplicitly shy. Shen Yuan shifted, and Binghe pulled out. Binghe fell against his pillows, feeling completely exhausted. Shen Yuan took Binghe’s pants completely off before getting out of bed to take off his own ruined bodysuit and shoes. The candles were snuffed out, leaving them in darkness, and parted one curtain. The apartment looked out over the city, its towering buildings becoming more and more covered in snow.

“Gege,” Binghe whined. Shen Yuan turned and smiled, coming back to Binghe. He laid down in bed, and Binghe cuddled close, resting his head on Shen Yuan’s chest. Shen Yuan drew the blankets over them. “Gege, I love you.”

“I love you too, Binghe,” Shen Yuan said, stroking Binghe’s fluffy hair. “Now go to sleep, you’re tired.”

“Gege is the best,” Binghe mumbled, warm and sleepy, scalp scratched. “Thank you…”

“No, thank you, Binghe,” Shen Yuan said. “You made me feel so good today, you did so well…”

Shen Yuan’s soft, warm voice lulled Binghe to sleep, pressed skin-to-skin, lover-to-lover under the plush covers.