“This is without a doubt the stupidest plan you’ve ever had,” Jiang Cheng says, as he pinches the bridge of his nose. “Of course I’m in.”
Wei Wuxian gasps in mock outrage but then he frowns.
“This is the stupidest plan I ever had?” he asks and Nie Huaisang closes his fan to point it at Jiang Cheng.
“Are you stupid?” he wants to know. “He’s had much worse plans. The last one got you arrested alongside him, and you want to tell me this is the stupidest plan?”
Jiang Cheng shrugs. “His plans usually only get him, and sometimes me, in trouble. This, this will be awkward and horrible for all of us, and I am really looking forward to it.”
Jiang Cheng sends a biting smile through the room, and suddenly everyone seems uncomfortable.
“How long do you want to bet it takes him to slide into the embarrassing secrets and kissing part of this game?” he then nonchalantly tacks on, and at least Nie Huaisang and Wen Qing have the good sense to go pale in the face.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be doing this,” Meng Yao pipes up but Jiang Cheng is committed now.
“Oh no, we’re doing this,” he decides and motions for everyone to sit down.
Lan Wangji has the same stoic look as always on his face, but Lan Xichen and Nie Mingjue seem a little bit worried, Jiang Yanli is just smiling like always—knowing damn well that no one would dare to mess with her—and the rest, Meng Yao, Nie Huaisang, Wen Qing, Wen Ning, Jin Zixuan and Mianmian, show various signs of panic.
Good, Jiang Cheng thinks. Let them experience the full force of Wei Wuxian for once.
It’s fine, for the first couple of rounds. The truths are small things no one has to die of embarrassment over, and the dares are all doable.
Jiang Cheng is just waiting for someone to get the alcohol out, so it gets more fun for everyone.
“Xichen,” Nie Mingjue suddenly says and now Jiang Cheng starts paying attention again.
No one has chosen him or Lan Wangji yet, not even Wei Wuxian.
“Truth or dare?”
Lan Xichen contemplates that for a second, before he shrugs.
“I dare you to tell us a secret,” Nie Mingjue says with a shit-eating grin and Lan Xichen narrows his eyes at him.
“Cheat,” he lowly accuses before he sighs. “I once had a profile in a dating app,” he then casually says, as if that isn’t crushing Jiang Cheng’s heart, but Nie Mingjue shakes his head.
“A secret is something no one in this room knows,” he explains. “Try again.”
Lan Xichen is silent for a long moment, before he shakes his head.
“I forfeit,” he then says.
“You can only do that once,” Nie Huaisang reminds him. “Are you sure you want to waste it for this?”
“Yes,” Lan Xichen says with determination, his gaze flickering over to Jiang Cheng, who immediately looks away.
Of course he wouldn’t tell a secret with Jiang Cheng in the room. Jiang Cheng can’t even fault him for that, because he, too, would not want someone he hates to know one of his secrets.
Jiang Cheng pushes the pain that thought causes away; Lan Xichen has hated him for almost as long as they know each other, it shouldn’t still sting like that and yet, Jiang Cheng can’t help it.
He knows it will hurt for as long as he is in love with Lan Xichen, because how could it ever do anything else.
The truths and dares make the rounds again, until Nie Huaisang narrows his eyes when it’s his turn.
“Lan Xichen,” he says and Lan Xichen sighs.
“Dare,” he immediately says and Nie Huaisang starts beaming at him.
“I dare you to spend ten minutes in the closet with Jiang Cheng,” he says, clearly having thought about this before and there are a lot of suggestive calls all of a sudden.
Lan Xichen is suspiciously silent.
“I forfeit,” Jiang Cheng says, because for all that he loves Lan Xichen, he’s not sure he can be subjected to be near him for ten minutes without a minor break-down over the fact that Lan Xichen hates him.
“You can’t,” Nie Huaisang informs him. “It’s not your dare. And Lan Xichen already used his, so you’ll have to do it.”
“Fine,” Lan Xichen stiffly says and walks over to the closet. “Jiang Cheng, if you would?”
“Whatever,” Jiang Cheng grumbles, but he gets up and enters the closet after Lan Xichen.
Nie Huaisang helpfully locks the door behind them, so they really have to spend ten minutes in here.
The first minute is full with a tense silence, both of them trying not to touch or look at each other, but a minute is all Jiang Cheng can take.
“I’m sorry you have to spend ten minutes in here with me,” he says, and looks down at his feet. “I know you hate me, everyone knows it, so I don’t know what Nie Huaisang is thinking.”
“I don’t hate you,” Lan Xichen slowly says, almost making it a question, and Jiang Cheng scoffs.
“Sure. That’s the reason you’re always so infallibly polite with me.”
“I’m polite to everyone,” Lan Xichen gives back and Jiang Cheng has to agree with that, but it’s not what he meant.
“You’re being CEO polite with me,” he tries to explain. “You’re giving me the same smile you give CEOs of companies you want to take over. You give me the same smile you give CEOs you despise for their treatment of their employees. And I mean, I get it. You tolerate me, because if you wouldn’t, that would make Wei Wuxian sad, and that would mean Lan Wangji is sad, and you don’t like that.”
“I don’t just tolerate you,” Lan Xichen tries, but Jiang Cheng only rolls his eyes.
“Sure you do. Can’t even fault you for that, really, because most people I know only tolerate me because of Yanli or Wei Wuxian, so I’m used to it. But, you know, you can admit it,” Jiang Cheng says, though his heart is heavy in his chest.
Still, hearing Lan Xichen say that yes, he’s only tolerating him for his brother’s sake would beat this unspoken dislike. At least then Jiang Cheng was certain where they stood.
Because in this situation, his treacherous brain still makes up What if-scenarios where Lan Xichen does like him back. And Jiang Cheng is tired of it.
“I don’t—,” Lan Xichen starts and then takes a deep breath. “I’m going to tell you a secret,” he decisively says and for the first time Jiang Cheng looks at him.
“Tell me a secret? You don’t have to, you already forfeited that one.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Lan Xichen says with a shake of his head. “Are you ready?”
“Yes,” Jiang Cheng gives back, even though the answer is very much no.
He doesn’t want to know any of Lan Xichen’s secrets, doesn’t even want to begin to imagine how a secret could possibly relate to what Jiang Cheng just said, but Jiang Cheng knows Lan Xichen.
And he knows that look. There is no stopping him now.
“I’m not polite to you because I don’t like you,” Lan Xichen starts, and Jiang Cheng’s heart immediately goes into overdrive. “I’m polite to you because I’m in love with you and don’t know how to act around you,” Lan Xichen admits, and he keeps his eyes on Jiang Cheng.
In the end it’s Jiang Cheng who has to look away.
“You don’t have to lie,” he rasps out, heart in his throat and a sick feeling in his stomach. He never wanted pity from this man. “There’s no need for you to pretend.”
“I am not,” Lan Xichen says vehemently and carefully takes Jiang Cheng’s hands in his. “Ever since your brother stepped into my brother’s life, you’ve been always on my radar,” Lan Xichen says. “You always had something that captivated me. But then there was this one meeting where you put Old Man Yao in his place, with the sweetest smile on your face, and the most biting words in your mouth, and I was lost. I’ve been in love with you ever since, but I know you don’t feel that way about me, so I tried to keep my distance, tried to treat you like everyone else, and the only thing I really know how to do is be a CEO, so I fell back on that.”
The admission leaves Jiang Cheng speechless, because he cannot have heard that right.
“That meeting was years ago,” he blurts out and even in the dim light he can see that Lan Xichen is blushing.
“Yes,” he agrees and then quickly takes his hands away. “I’m sorry for dumping this on you, but you had to know. I couldn’t let you believe I hate you.”
“You—don’t hate me,” Jiang Cheng slowly says, trying the words out for the very first time because it’s what he believed all these years.
“No, I don’t,” Lan Xichen immediately says.
“You’re in love with me,” Jiang Cheng goes on, and Lan Xichen nods.
“Oh, wow,” Jiang Cheng mutters and then smiles at Lan Xichen, just a small thing, but Lan Xichen lights up at seeing it.
“I’m going to tell you a secret,” Jiang Cheng says and Lan Xichen takes his hand again.
“Tell me,” he encourages him, as Jiang Cheng threads their fingers together.
“I’m in love with you, too,” Jiang Cheng honestly tells him, more honest than he has been in years, and Lan Xichen lets out a relieved chuckle.
“That is very good to hear,” he whispers and then leans their foreheads together.
“It is,” Jiang Cheng agrees, and he tilts his head, just a little bit, just enough to brush their lips together, when suddenly the lock is being turned.
Jiang Cheng and Lan Xichen spring apart, and not a second too early, because then Nie Huaisang opens the door.
He looks them over critically, before he winks at them and turns back around.
“I have to disappoint you, they didn’t kill each other,” he calls out to the room and there are a lot of groans and one very enthusiastic “I told you so,” from Jiang Yanli.
“Do you want to keep this a secret?” Jiang Cheng mutters as he stops Lan Xichen from walking out by his sleeve.
“Never,” Lan Xichen gives back and takes Jiang Cheng’s hand again. “You?”
“Never,” Jiang Cheng agrees and squeezes Lan Xichen’s hand, before they step out into the room.
No one remembers they were playing something after they see their intertwined hands.