It isn’t a promotion, despite what Meng Yao says. Grinning that way of his that hides everything and reveals absolutely nothing at all. Boyish dimples on his cheeks and the same innocent eyes he has always had.
He slides the contract across the desk. Terms and conditions. A little line with red pen x at the bottom.
Like Mingjue has any real say in any of this at all. He’s poured over every detail, looked for every loophole. There were none. The brotherhood will be binding. The partnership unshakable.
There was a time not so long ago when Nie Mingjue would have celebrated that. When it was one of the only things he truly desired for himself. That time has passed. The wounds on his chest are a reminder enough of it.
He takes the pen when Meng Yao—no, he’s Jin Guangyao now, a new name to go with the fancy adoption into the Jin family, the official recognition—passes it to him. He signs his name below Lan Xichen’s looping script.
“We can drink to it, if you’d like,” Guangyao says. He isn’t really asking. Just like the contract, these things are formalities. What he means is they will drink to it. He stands, sweeps over to the cabinet nestled in the corner of his office.
Mingjue can see his own reflection in the widowed wall that stretches the length of the office behind Guangyao’s desk. He looks fucking tired, dark circles beneath his eyes and his undercut drooping. Five-o-clock shadow on his cheeks making him look haggard and older than he actually is. He glances up when Guangyao approaches with the glasses.
He still holds them funny, with his hand spread wide around the rim of each. Good to see he hasn’t gotten any better at serving since leaving Mingjue’s house. The insult, the old familiar warmth of it tickles at the top of Mingjue’s throat, he quashes it down before it can surface.
Guangyao doesn’t deserve even a shred of it.
Mingjue takes the glass. He focuses his attention back out the window. The ice clinks, already melting in the rich dark bourbon.
“It’s a great view, isn’t it,” Jin Guangyao asks. “You can see the whole city from up here.” He cocks his hip, leans against the desk. His suit pants are just the slightest bit too tight, the sharp crease of them is pulled flat across his thigh.
Mingjue realizes he’s staring a second too late.
Meng Yao is smiling when he meets his gaze again. His soft pink lips tease against the edge of his own glass of alcohol. He tips it toward Mingjue just slightly. “To our partnership,” he says. “And the fruitful successes that will certainly sprout from it.”
Nie Mingjue feels his fingers curl against the glass. The cold moisture against his skin, trickling down his wrist. “To that,” he says, gruffly, hoping it will be enough to appease, to get Guangyao to stop looking at him like that.
With that fake fondness.
Like there had been any truth to their relationship before. Like there is still some now.
Mingjue isn’t stupid enough to believe for a second that there is. That someone as shifting and sly as Meng Yao could ever honestly have cared for him. It had been about survival then and this now is—
Mingjue doesn’t know. It doesn’t matter. He throws his head back, drinks the bourbon down, down. He indulges in the burn. The curling heat of it in his chest, rushing back up his neck to his cheeks. He savors the feeling, the tingling giddiness that comes with a nice swallow of expensive liquor.
He opens his eyes.
He isn’t imagining the naked desire on Guangyao’s face. The same blatant way Meng Yao had looked at him back when their positions had been reversed. Only back then it had been flattering, welcome, heady and wrong but thrilling too.
Now it only serves to make Mingjue feel sick. A tightness in his gut he can’t pretend is the bourbon. That he wishes, wishes were more disgusted than it truly is.
Guangyao bites his pretty, pink lip. His teeth make a shallow scraping noise against the skin; hardly a whisper but Mingjue can hear it easily in the quiet that has fallen between them.
“I haven’t had the chance to tell you how good you look,” Guangyao says, “after the last time I saw you that is.” He reaches forward to pluck the glass from Mingjue’s hand, his fingers linger on Mingjue’s knuckles for a beat longer than is necessary.
Mingjue grits his teeth over the fresh stab of anger that brings him. The last time they had seen each other had been in Leader Wen’s boardroom. Meng Yao and the letter opener and the thick copper smell of Mingjue’s own blood.
“That’s really no thanks to you,” he says. He manages to keep his voice more level than he feels. The growling warning of it usually enough for more cautious men.
Which Meng Yao, in this new position of power, is clearly not. Or at least, not in this case, not when it comes to Mingjue who is so powerless against him. His foot nudges against Mingjue’s, his expensive Italian leather loafers look ridiculous next to Mingjue’s own scuffed motorcycle boots.
“You’re not still mad about that,” Meng Yao says. His voice that fluttering innocent tone that had held Mingjue’s heart captive in the past. All part of the act, the wool over the eyes. His shoe hits the carpet with a muted thump; his socked foot braces itself on the chair between Mingjue’s thighs. “Or are you?”
Mingjue does not want to play this game. Not like this, not now, not with him. He grabs Guangyao’s ankle, digs his fingers in to stop its sliding advance towards his crotch.
“I still have the scars if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Let me see.”
Mingjue’s fingers tighten. His eyes never leave Guangyao’s face. “That’s a joke,” he says. Knowing even as he says it that it isn’t. That Guangyao is completely serious.
“Consider it an order,” Guangyao says. “And let go of my ankle while you’re at it, your grip is beginning to hurt, A-Jue.”
Mingjue flinches. Recoils like he has been scalded. It must be the reaction Guangyao was looking for because he pulls his foot back as soon as it’s freed. He levels his weight more fully onto the desk. He’s short enough that his feet dangle above the carpet, not quite long enough to reach the floor from his new perch.
He sits forward, like an excited child, hands braced on his knees. Eyes alight. That fucking, fucking smile dancing over his lips.
Mingjue hates him more than anyone else. The moronic facade he wears like a skin. Starry-eyed and grateful and tinsel false. He had worn this same face the first time they fucked, spread open on Mingjue’s bed with his lip between his teeth, his expression all hopeful and shy, and Mingjue knows that Meng Yao remembers it too. Knows exactly what the fuck he is doing.
He rips the zipper of his jacket down, more vicious than he needs to be but unable to temper his rage at this dog and pony show. This teasing reminder of how easily he had fallen prey to Meng Yao’s charms the first time around. He rolls his shoulders and tosses the jacket to the floor. The leather really should be hung, treated with proper care, but he’s beyond caring at this point.
His t-shirt clings to his chest. Molding over each pec. He wouldn’t have worn one so tight if he knew where this was headed, if he had had any inkling of the simmering desire for revenge still so high on Guangyao’s list.
Because that is what this is. What all of it is. The contract, the declaration of Brotherhood, stripping Mingjue of his dignity like this. Reminding him where he now stands in their relationship. Each act is a knife, tossed with precision and accuracy from Meng Yao’s delicate fingers. Each one set to maim and rip and shred.
He struggles a bit, pulling the shirt over his head, but he gets it after a moment. Lowers his arms and glares up at Guangyao. His biceps twitch, a shiver passing over his skin in the cool air of the office. His nipples are hard. He steels his gaze further and pretends he doesn’t notice.
“You don’t have to look at me like that,” Guangyao says. All soft and hurt, like he has a heart that could be broken over someone as meaningless to him as Mingjue. “I didn’t realize how many marks it would leave.”
Serrated little lines all over Mingjue’s skin. Across the cut of his abs, the defined ridges of his obliques. Wounds and wounds, whole sections of flayed flesh that has only recently healed over.
“You could have just shot me,” Mingjue spits. Thinking of his men, his loyal true men. A bullet to each of their brains, God, they had deserved so much fucking more.
“I thought you’d forgiven me for all that nasty business. I did what I had to do, Mingjue. For the good of everyone.”
“Then why do you hate me so still?”
“I could ask you the same question.”
Guangyao scoffs. A soft trill in the back of his throat. “Oh, Mingjue,” he sighs. And then he slides off the desk and onto his knees. The descent is smooth, not a clunky or wasted bit of motion, none of the bumbling fool he used to play in Mingjue’s home. That act, for the moment, has been put aside.
His hands are warm where they grip Mingjue’s thighs. His thin fingers tease at the inseam of Mingjue’s jeans. “Can I,” he asks like it’s a fucking question. Same boyishly eager expression that he used to wear.
The difference between then and now is that at the time it had been a question with two possible answers. Now it is just another formality.
“Make it an order,” Mingjue says.
Guangyao blinks. His eyelashes sweep down and back up, delicate and black. “Have it your way, then. I’m doing this, take them off.” His fingers slip into the belt loops, tug impatiently at the fabric.
He doesn’t do much to help Mingjue beyond that. His hands get more in the way than anything else; delving into the zipper once it’s open, hardly letting Mingjue push the pants down past his hips before he’s tugging at Mingjue’s cock.
The sight of him, bending his head to kiss his way sloppily down Mingjue’s cock is terribly familiar. Memories of before like glittering shards of glass piercing Mingjue’s gut. Meng Yao beneath his desk at his office in the Unclean Realm, sucking him off just like this during conference calls.
Well, maybe not exactly just like this.
“Something wrong,” Mingjue says. He is almost surprised how nonchalantly his voice rises from the depth of his chest. None of the cold reproach he feels surfacing.
Guangyao looks up at him. His lips are spit shiny and obscene. “You tell me. I thought you always said I looked so good on my knees.”
Mingjue’s eyes narrow. “Guess that ship has sailed.”
Guangyao is still toying with his cock, twisting his fingers around the soft girth of it, pressing his thumb up against the head. The disconnect—that those touches would have had him leaking into Meng Yao’s palm only a few months ago—is like barest glimpse of something beneath the surface of the ocean. Shifting darkness and vague familiarity.
“That old age catching up with you,” Guangyao says. “A pity. Or is it just for me you’re like this?”
Mingjue presses his thumb into Guangyao’s mouth, pulls the corner of his lip down to expose his teeth. He considers not lying; admitting that it’s been months since he felt anything close enough to physical desire to get hard. Admitting that since Meng Yao left him, used him and fucked him and turned his Goddamn back on him, that he hasn’t been able to get it up at all. He considers saying all of this.
And then he doesn’t. He opens his mouth and says, “Just you, Jin Guangyao. I’ve had a real thing for hookers lately, been trying to sire my own little bastard, you know, maybe the problem is just your lack of tits.”
For a second he thinks maybe it doesn’t land, that the old wound of his parentage has finally healed over. But Guangyao’s expression goes flat and dead, the light in his eyes shuttering dark for a moment. Then he smiles. Dimples and teeth.
“That’s cute,” he says. “But you should know I...I mean, I’m very close to Lan Xichen. Really. Quite close. So maybe I know that you and he had a fling after you kicked me out. Maybe I know that he wanted so badly to make you feel better, him being the good and caring person that he is and you being so unbelievably distraught over losing me. And maybe I know that a fling is a really generous word for what you two got up to together. Hm?”
“He told you all that?”
Guangyao pouts. If Mingjue didn’t know better, it would be so easy to believe it. “Is there a reason he wouldn’t? He’s worried about you after all. Impotence is so emasculating, you know, and your tough, virile image is so important to you.”
Mingjue takes a slow breath. His lips are dry. He wets them with a pass of his tongue. “Fuck you.”
“I really wish you could. I miss your thick, hard cock, A-Jue. Missed you so much once you kicked me to the curb.”
The desire to defend himself, to justify his more than justifiable actions then, is not as easily conquered as it should be. This isn’t the time nor the place for that conversation and nothing would change between them by having it.
Jin Guangyao would still be a snake.
Mingjue would still hate him and love him and revile both parts of himself for it.
“You’re fucking lying.”
“You think I’m down here on my knees for my health, A-Jue,” he says. “You’re not that much of a fool.” He leans forward again, slurps his way down the length of Mingjue’s soft dick. His tongue flutters around the foreskin, teasing it back to slide against the head. The sensitive slit. Little tricks he used to use to make Mingjue come on the spot.
Mingjue feels barely a ripple of it now.
He sinks his fingers into Guangyao’s hair, mussing the strands from the sharp side part he had been sporting. He pulls gently, guiding the movement of Guangyao’s head the way he remembers that Meng Yao had always liked. Even flaccid, he’s still big; Guangyao makes an appreciative noise around his mouthful.
It’s such a strange experience, the revulsion and the residual muted arousal. He’s turned on, hates that he is; contradictions, contradictions. He is both thrilled by and hates that his body has absolutely no reaction to Guangyao’s talented mouth.
Guangyao’s hand raises, traces some of the scarring up to Mingjue’s chest. He pinches one of his nipples, rolls the pebbled flesh between his knuckles. Mingjue grunts at the sensation; his legs press inward, jam against Guangyao’s shoulders. The motion jostles him enough that he slides too far down on Mingjue’s dick.
He chokes, pulls back with an undignified sputter, coughing wetly into his fist. Spittle tracking down his chin, thin strands of it dripping onto Mingjue’s lap.
“Wow, A-Jue,” he says, throaty and rough. “You really are broken, huh? Gagging like that used to make you shoot so early.” He traces his fingers along the exposed divots of Mingjue’s hips. His expression shifts into a frown, a pout that is only marginally better than his usual smile. The overall effect is only slightly ruined by the puffiness of his lips.
Mingjue removes his hands from Guangyao’s head. “We can stop if you’re so bored.”
“Bored?” He smiles. “I don’t know about all that. Seeing you this utterly useless is kinda nice. Big and strong and capable Nie Mingjue, reduced to this.”
He clambers up onto Mingjue’s lap, catches Mingjue’s hand and presses it to the front of his slacks, the material stretched taut over his own straining cock.
“You don’t need me to make this an order too, right,” Guangyao says. His skinny fingers flutter where they are holding Mingjue’s, alternating the pressure of their shared grip across his bulge. His palm is sweating.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Mingjue says.
Guangyao doesn’t roll his eyes but he huffs out his annoyance anyway. He steps back, undoes the clasps of his own pants. Fingers dancing up to unbutton his shirt, loosen his tie. He balances on one foot to kick against Mingjue’s shin.
“Come on,” he says. “Hurry it up.”
Mingjue sighs. He reaches down to untie his boots, tugging his jeans up from where they are tangled in them. By the time he’s finished undressing, Guangyao is already on the other side of the desk, rooting through one of the drawers for...something.
Lube probably. If Mingjue is lucky.
He isn’t sure exactly where this is headed, what parody of their past affair Meng Yao is looking to gut him with, but he braces himself for the hurt. The physical, the emotional. Old bitter memories.
“Go to the window,” Guangyao says. “Don’t worry, we’re high enough up no one can see you.” Mingjue can feel his eyes as he follows the order. As he stands with his back to the window, holding his head high, like he isn’t humiliated at all. Guangyao grins, he glances down at Mingjue’s still soft cock, his gaze skipping up his stomach to his chest to his face.
He closes the drawer he had been digging through with a snap. The expensive wood clicking shut with a finality.
“Turn around,” he says.
There is little point in arguing, Mingjue does as he’s told. He presses a hand against the glass when Guangyao crowds up behind him, standing on the balls of his feet to be tall enough to press his chest against Mingjue’s shoulders.
“Are you nervous?” he asks.
“You don’t scare me.”
“That’s good, Mingjue,” he says. His voice tight, tittering excitement at the edges. Mingjue can see in the reflection when Guangyao’s hands lift, can see the glittering something between them.
Then they come back down and the glittering thing is pressed into his throat, a string, a rope. No, it’s metal, his brain flits across the possibilities and a million light years a second. Mingjue’s knees go weak, his weight drops a little which only serves to let Guangyao shift closer, stretch the cold, deadly wire tighter.
“Hey, relax,” Meng Yao says. “Breathe, A-Jue, it isn’t too tight yet.”
Mingjue inhales, shakily. His fingers trembling on the glass. His cock is still not hard, but if it were it would be smearing precome all over the window, showing off just how shamefully into this he is. The mixed blessing of his impotence settles like a weight in his gut.
“I’m not gonna hurt you,” Guangyao says. In the reflection, he is smiling.
The piano wire is tight, tight, stretched right beneath Mingjue’s Adam’s apple. The steel string biting into the soft flesh of his neck. Guangyao’s breath is hot against the shell of his ear, panting, every exhale pushes his chest against Mingjue’s muscled back.
“Jerk me off,” he says.
Mingjue’s hands fumble behind him, blunt and clumsy from the awkward angle, from the lack of wiggle room between Guangyao’s body and that choking wire. He’s already bleeding, can feel the shocking warmth of it pattering against his collarbone, but neither of them care. What’s a little more blood spilled between the two of them?
His shoulder aches with the effort, but he manages. Guangyao’s cock fills out his palms, hot and hard and so fucking familiar. Mingjue closes his eyes, he twists his wrist. It doesn’t take much.
Meng Yao never took much.
Time and circumstance has changed a lot between them, but not that.
“Fuck, A-Jue,” Meng Yao groans. Broken little keening that is probably still half-act. The wire cuts deeper as his hands curl tighter. “Christ, you’re so—god so obedient like this.” His teeth catch on Mingjue’s flesh, his sloppy thrusting against Mingjue’s spine dissolves further. Splashes of heat, liquid and sticky as he comes in stripes all over the tight muscles. “Fuck,” he says again. Then quieter, “Shit.”
He slumps forward, chest colliding solidly with Mingjue’s back, his slight weight not even enough to tip them. His elbows unlock, his joints creak as he straightens them, lets his arms dangle down Mingjue’s pecs. The bloody wire hangs loose from his fingers, leaving a bright trail of sticky crimson down Mingjue’s sternum.
He breathes against Mingjue’s shoulder. The heavy huffing billows over Mingjue’s flesh, fogs the window pane in front of them.
Mingjue stares down at the twinkling lights of the city below. The dashes of traffic, tail lights like red eyes in the dark. He braces his hand on the window, leaves a smear of sweat and come that he doesn’t even bother to wipe off. Guangyao’s weight is still dead against his back, his breathing has evened out and it only takes a moment for Mingjue to realize…
He meets the gaze of his own reflection in the glass. Has a silent moment of debate before wrapping his arms back around, manhandling Guangyao into more of a piggyback embrace. He carries him over to one of the couches in the middle of the room, dumps him rather unceremoniously onto it.
Meng Yao doesn’t stir.
He’s either faking or he truly doesn’t fear Nie Mingjue’s wrath any longer. It could be either. Mingjue doesn’t have the patience to work out which. He stares for a long, long moment at Guangyao’s exposed throat. He imagines how easy it would be to wrap his hands around the delicate column and squeeze and squeeze until Guangyao just no longer is.
He locks his jaw and turns away.
He signed a contract after all. Eternal fucking Brotherhood. Killing him now, like this, would cause more hassle for Huaisang in the end, leave too much weight on his unprepared shoulders.
Mingjue smooths a hand through his hair. He finds his clothes where he had thrown them by the desk and he pulls them on. He’s zipping the jacket when he happens to look over at Guangyao and sees that the younger man is staring at him.
Their eyes meet and Guangyao offers a shaky smile. Not quite as shining as his others, not as showy or as demure, but Mingjue doesn’t trust it anyway. He rolls his eyes and looks away from the naked man on the couch. He stuffs his hands into his pockets and heads for the door.
“A-Jue,” Guanyao says before he reaches it. “I’ll call you, huh?”
Mingjue bites his tongue. He bites it so hard he tastes blood.
It doesn’t matter how he responds.
It isn’t really a question.
He pulls the door open and heads for the elevator that will take him out into the city. Into the night. He doesn’t shut the door behind him, Guangyao deserves the little inconvenience.