Meng Yao - Jin Guangyao now, though he’ll always be A-Yao in his mind - has been there for most of the important events in Lan Xichen’s life, both good and bad. Sometimes he’s a comfort after a tragedy and other times he’s there to celebrate a success, but for today, he’s a friend to share a small bottle of Emperor’s Smile with. He had confiscated it from a younger disciple on his way out of the Cloud Recesses, and it had seemed like such a waste to throw it away when he had a good friend who would enjoy it as his destination.
Now, he’s not so sure it was such a good idea. It’s no secret that the GusuLan Sect bans alcohol, though that hasn’t stopped Lan Xichen from enjoying some on rare occasions- though always while away from home, with friends, and most importantly, in privacy. But that means he’s not a regular drinker, and his tolerance can’t match someone who lives in Lanling, where alcohol flows freely at the multitude of celebrations and banquets in Carp Tower.
A-Yao is telling him about a ceremony of sorts that he organized recently and the praise he received for his careful handling of it - his father even gave it passing notice, much to his delight - but Lan Xichen finds him attention drifting from the story, mind wandering as his gaze falls on A-Yao’s mouth. There’s something distracting in how it moves as he talks, lips parting softly through words, pausing only to take small, dignified sips of his wine, before he smiles gently at Lan Xichen. He has such cute dimples, he muses, thinking about how lucky anyone that A-Yao truly smiles at is, to see him soften from the ever-present politeness to something more genuine around those he trusts.
Lan Xichen gets lost thinking about how lucky he is to be witness to it so frequently, before finally realizing that the pause in conversation has stretched longer than usual, and he glances up to see that A-Yao is looking at him expectantly.
“Are you alright, Brother?” he asks, leaning in slightly to get a better look at Lan Xichen. “You look a bit flushed.”
Lan Xichen raises a hand to feel his cheek, the warmth confirming what he already knew. “Probably the wine!!! You know how it gets to me sometimes,” he exclaims, and he feels warm everywhere, like he can do anything without worry. Lan Xichen faintly tries to hold himself together but the smile A-Yao gives him is more intoxicating than the wine in front of him, and he smiles brightly back.
“I’m glad. I just worry about you getting lost in your thoughts, with everything you have going on. This should be a chance for you to relax,” Jin Guangyao says smoothly, voice tinged with concern for Lan Xichen and none for himself.
He does so much for everyone around him, taking care of so much in Carp Tower that barely anyone notices while also running himself ragged traveling back and forth between Lanling and Qinghe to try to soothe Nie Mingjue, and yet even in private with a close friend, Jin Guangyao is more worried about Lan Xichen’s concerns than his own. His heart aches, wishing he could express how impressive Jin Guangyao is. “Don’t worry, I was just thinking about you!!!” Lan Xichen assures him, and he gets to see a faint blush dance across A-Yao’s fair cheeks.
“Me? I hope it’s nothing bad,” he says, shifting slightly closer as though lessening the distance between them will give him a clearer look into Lan Xichen’s mind. There’s worry on Jin Guangyao’s face now, furrowed brows replacing the pretty blush, and Lan Xichen feels bad for upsetting him.
Lan Xichen shakes his head, ignoring the rush the sudden movement gives him. “Of course not!!! It was about how cute your smile is, you know, the real one, and I got too distracted thinking about nice it is!!!” he admits, alcohol fueling a confession he’d never make if he was sober, and A-Yao’s blush is back in full force. Lan Xichen smiles at him even more, and Jin Guangyao nervously tucks some hair behind his ear before responding.
“Thank you, ZeWu-Jun-” he begins, but Lan Xichen cuts him off with a finger on his lips.
“You don’t have to be so formal with me, especially when we’re alone like this!!!” he says.
Jin Guangyao takes the hand from his lips and holds it in one of his own, idly stroking Lan Xichen’s fingers. “Of course, A-Huan. I just- Well, you know how much I value the friendship you’ve given me, and I wouldn’t want to do anything to upset you,” he explains, twining their fingers together. Lan Xichen waits a beat, to see if there’s more coming. As the quiet fills the room, he grabs Jin Guangyao’s other hand, firmly holding them together.
“Of course I know; your friendship is just as important to me!!! I- I feel so close to you, I promise you haven’t upset me- because you can’t!!!” Lan Xichen tries to meet Jin Guangyao’s eyes to drive his point home, only to find him looking down at their joined hands. He takes his chin in one hand, trying to be gentle as he jerks it up to look at him.
There’s a flash of something in his eyes that Lan Xichen can’t place but desperately wants to. It feels like there’s a puzzle piece missing that he has all the clues on how to find, only to be stopped by the soft haze of drunkenness. Lan Xichen hasn’t moved his hand yet and there’s a slight shift in pressure as Jin Guangyao rests his head against it lightly, and it’s soft and comforting and almost like another hint at that missing piece that he’s trying to find. He runs the pad of his thumb over his lower lip while he thinks, but the quiet gasp from Jin Guangyao distracts him.
A-Yao is staring at him - Lan Xichen’s hand still enough to keep him from looking away, but he knows that’s not the only reason - and the air is heavy around them, like a string pulled taught, an arrow threatening to be fired, something about to burst, and---
When he thinks back on it later, while sober and lying in the calm quiet of the Cloud Recesses, Lan Xichen can’t recall who made the first move. But he can remember the softness of A-Yao’s lips under his, his hands delicately gripping Lan Xichen’s robes as though he’s afraid he’ll leave at any moment, and the warm, inviting glow of the candles around as he assured A-Yao that he wasn’t going anywhere, ever.
A drunken first kiss is neither dignified nor something he expected, but it somehow feels so right in his mind. His cheeks still burn thinking about what a silly fool he must have seemed. At least he can trust A-Yao not to tease him too much, especially since he had been just as shameless- though, as always, much better spoken and more composed.
Lan Xichen touches his lips softly, the scattered bits of memory dancing through his thoughts before he drifts off to sleep.