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walk my days on a wire

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Wei Ying checks into the hotel under an assumed name. It's become a routine process over the past two years, but it still feels strange. Each time, Wei Ying expects the clerk to meet him with a raised eyebrow: Nice try, sir. But what's your real name, and why are you checking into hotels under an alias?

Nobody ever challenges him, though. He can afford the nice kind of hotels now, the kind wealthy businessmen use to carry on their affairs. If the staff know what Wei Ying is up to, they're too well-trained to give any indication. Instead, they turn over his keycards with a smile and wish him a pleasant stay. 

Check-in goes smoothly today. The clerk locates Wei Ying's registration without delay, and he nods.

"Ah, yes. Your husband is already here. He's waiting for you in the suite."

The clerk just offered him a complimentary latte and Wei Ying narrowly avoids spit-take. Over the past few years, he's spent a hideous amount of time in the business world. It's taught him how to keep a poker face. 

But this—more than any press junket, any board meeting, any magazine interview—challenges his ability to keep a straight face.

"Ah," he says. The clerk looks expectant, so Wei Ying nods as if this is wholly expected news. "That's nice! He got here early, then."

He sets down his credit card—the one he uses for these evenings and nothing else—and scrawls an indecipherable signature on his receipt. 

The clerk performs the usual hand-off: You're in Suite 3. Here are your keys. Please let us know if we can assist you during your stay.

Wei Ying nods blindly. He keeps up the act until he's safely in the elevator. Then, when nobody's looking, he scrubs his hands over his face.

Maybe, he thinks, someone is pranking him. It can't be that he's going to open the door to the suite and find Lan Zhan waiting for him.

Lan Zhan is the reason he's here, of course. Lan Zhan is the reason for every hotel suite, every furtive meeting, every weekend where Wei Ying tells people he won't be answering his phone.

But the hotel meetings are supposed to be about anonymity. Lan Zhan books a room and Wei Ying sneaks into the hotel without giving his name, or vice versa. That way, no one can prove they were ever in the same place at the same time. That's the whole point of Wei Ying booking a hotel under a fake name.

Lan Zhan would do—he has done—many things. But he wouldn't tell the hotel staff he's Wei Ying's husband

Or would he? 

Wei Ying bites his lip. Most days, Lan Zhan is the only real thing in Wei Ying's entire world. The only thing he can depend upon, the only thing he understands. But sometimes, he wonders if he ever really understood Lan Zhan at all. 

The elevator slows and stops briefly on the fifth floor. A blonde woman enters and pushes the button for the tenth floor. Wei Ying pretends not to see her. He and tries to look like an ordinary business traveler, rather than a man who's heading for a filthy X-rated rendezvous with his…

Wei Ying swallows around a dry throat and takes another sip of his latte.

They've known each other for six years. But he still doesn't have the right word for what Lan Zhan is to him.

His colleague? His fellow industry professional? Heir to his company's biggest rival? His fake husband?

If it is Lan Zhan, waiting in the suite…

It must him. Nobody else even knows Wei Ying is here. Nobody else is supposed to meet him at the suite. Nobody else is thick-faced enough to walk up to the hotel clerk and say, Yes, I'm here to meet my husband, Mr. Liang. Would you please let me into our suite?

But if it is Lan Zhan, what on earth is he thinking? It's for his sake they're doing this: fake names, hotels, secrecy. 

Wei Ying has spent two years squashing any rumors connecting him to Lan Zhan. He's tried—really tried—not to damage Lan Zhan's reputation any more than he already has. Now Lan Zhan has told the clerk they're married! The clerk probably doesn't know who they are. He probably doesn't care, probably won't remember. But if he does, and he blabs to the newspapers…

The elevator pauses on the tenth floor. The blonde woman exits. Wei Ying waits until the doors slide shut, then rubs his face again.

Saying that sort of thing...it doesn't seem like Lan Zhan. But then, maybe it is like Lan Zhan. Maybe it's exactly like Lan Zhan. Wei Ying isn't any kind of judge. 

If somebody told him, back when they first met, that this is where they'd end up? Wei Ying would never have believed it. He'd have laughed in their face.  

You must be joking! That cold guy? He doesn't even drink! He got somebody from our school suspended because they hacked their way through the computer lab's porn filters! He's probably taken a lifelong vow of chastity! He'd never arrange a booty-call in an anonymous hotel room! And he definitely wouldn't do that with me!

But here they are. Again. 

Wei Ying has lost track of how many times they've done this. It should be getting repetitive by now. But it isn't, because Lan Zhan is incredibly freaky and creative. He's deliciously filthy, in all the ways Wei Ying never expected when Lan Zhan just his favorite grad-school rival. 

So maybe that's it. Maybe that's the game they're playing today: We're pretending to be married to each other. 

Or, we're pretending to be married to other people while having an affair with each other.

It might be like that. They do that sort of thing sometimes. Wei Ying likes roleplaying. He especially likes it when Lan Zhan is the one to initiate the fantasy. If that's all it is, then it's fine. 

It's fine, except for the part where Wei Ying feels like he's ingested broken glass.

Your husband is waiting for you, the clerk said. Like that was a simple statement of fact, not a summary of everything Wei Ying has ever wanted.

That's not Lan Zhan's fault, though. Wei Ying knows that. This was only ever meant to be no-strings-attached sex. 

Anything goes, that's what Wei Ying always said when they were alone in another anonymous hotel room. Lan Zhan, anything goes, okay? You can ask for anything you want!

It's not Lan Zhan's fault that he accidentally hit on a scenario Wei Ying actually wants. It's something he wants painfully, viscerally: coming home to Lan Zhan, his husband .

Wei Ying pauses outside the hotel door and ruffles his hair. He spruced himself up before he left. But the flight took over an hour, and Wei Ying always feels like he needs a shower after he's been on a plane. 

His hair is still artfully tousled, though. His clothes are clean. He's freshly shaved, wearing cologne. He's ready—mostly ready—for whatever Lan Zhan wants to do this time. Thinking about that makes his throat dry up again. 

Wei Ying drains the last of his latte and pitches the cup into a nearby trash can. Then he straightens his collar and slides his keycard into the door.

He's not sure what to expect. When it's Lan Zhan's turn to book the hotel hotel room—when he gets to the hotel before Wei Ying—Wei Ying usually finds him fully dressed, drinking tea or doing something on his laptop. But on a few occasions, Lan Zhan was ready for him, wearing something gloriously naughty or nothing at all. It's too early to tell what sort of mood Lan Zhan will be in today.

Wei Ying pokes his head inside and drags his suitcase along behind him. The suite is clean and it has the impersonal smell of every hotel room Wei Ying has ever visited. But there's nobody in the living area, nobody drinking tea or watching the news. So he abandons his bag by the door and drifts toward the closed bedroom door.

Inside, Lan Zhan sits cross-legged on the bed. His jacket and tie are off, thrown across the duvet. His shoes and overnight bag have been tucked neatly into a corner. Lan Zhan doesn't have his laptop out, and he isn't watching TV. He's just waiting, his face patient and impassive.

The sight of him—Lan Zhan just sitting there—does something to Wei Ying's libido. Lan Zhan is probably just mentally drafting e-mails. Maybe he's running lines of code in his head. Just because he's sitting quietly on the bed, that doesn't mean he's thinking about Wei Ying. But it's nice to pretend that he is.

"Imagine my surprise," Wei Ying drawls, "when the clerk told me someone was waiting upstairs for me!"

He nudges the bedroom door closed and strips off his own jacket. He doesn't mention the husband thing, though he wants to. The unasked questions beat inside his ribcage in a steady thrum: 

Did you tell him you're my husband? Or did he just assume, because you're beautiful and well-dressed and confident? Did the clerk draw his own conclusions, or did you tell him that's who you are to me? And if it was you, then why on earth did you do that? Is this a game, or do you understand how much I actually want that?

"Correct me if I'm wrong." Wei Ying sways over to the bed where Lan Zhan sits. "You know how bad my memory is! But weren't you supposed to wait downstairs until I texted you?"

That's their usual routine. Somebody gets a hotel room, checks in, gets settled. Then they send a text. The other person—waiting in their car or the lobby or the hotel bar—heads upstairs. But Lan Zhan has broken the pattern.

Wei Ying reaches out to toy with a strand of Lan Zhan's hair. This is always the best part: the first touch, the promise of more. 

Lan Zhan's face is blank. It always is, this early in the game. Wei Ying knows he can change that soon.

"I didn't feel like waiting."

Lan Zhan's voice is perfectly even. But Wei Ying can change that, too. He trails his fingers down Lan Zhan's neck and pops open the top button of his shirt. 

"I see. In a hurry today, are we?"

"Yes," Lan Zhan says. 

He doesn't sound remotely ashamed, which thrills Wei Ying to the tips of his toes. Most of the time, Lan Zhan puts on a little bit of an act. He pretends to be aloof and he makes Wei Ying ask for what he wants. Lan Zhan usually doesn't admit he wants it until Wei Ying makes him confess. 

But Wei Ying loves when Lan Zhan is hungry for it. He loves the nights when Lan Zhan wants to be fucked hard and fast and right away. 

Lan Zhan meets his gaze steadily. Wei Ying toys with the second shirt button, and leaves it be.

"Are you that desperate for it? Hm." He tilts his head. "It's only been about a month and a half. A little longer than usual, but not that bad. Right?"

"Wrong," Lan Zhan says flatly.

 Wei Ying throws his head back and laughs. But there's a sharp knife in his chest. 

It has been that bad. It's always that bad. It's been six weeks since they saw each other last, exactly forty-three days. That's forty-two days longer than Wei Ying prefers. Forty-two days and eighteen hours.

"Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan." He slides his fingers inside the collar, draws his hand slowly around Lan Zhan's throat. 

Lan Zhan tilts his head to give Wei Ying more room to work with. He's been half-hard since he stepped off the elevator, but Wei Ying suddenly discovers that he's ready to go.

"Nobody would even believe me if I told them how insatiable you are!" he marvels. "You're in that much of a hurry?"

"Yes."

Lan Zhan's eyes are very dark. His body is still, the way it gets when he really wants it. 

Wei Ying has had two years to learn all his tells. He knows that Lan Zhan isn't fooling around tonight: he's really in a hurry.

He licks his lips, thinking quickly. The suite is booked through the night. He was sort of hoping they could start out slowly. He likes the evenings, too: when they eat room service, take baths, and talk about their day. He likes it when Lan Zhan pours his drinks and sits with him on the couch. Wei Ying likes those parts so much, even though they aren't the purpose of these visits. 

But if Lan Zhan needs it right now, how can he possibly refuse? They can go for one round and take the edge off. There's plenty of time for the rest later. 

"Take off your clothes," he says. "All of them."

It's beautiful how quickly Lan Zhan obeys. It's beautiful that he waited for Wei Ying, waited to be told when to take his clothes off. 

Wei Ying reaches for Lan Zhan's tie, tossed over the edge of the bed. If Lan Zhan is in that kind of mood—if he wants to be told what to do tonight—Wei Ying doesn't want to waste it. He waits until Lan Zhan is naked, then takes Lan Zhan's wrists and loops the tie around them. 

Lan Zhan lets him, with a placid sort of trust that makes Wei Ying's head spin. 

Lan Zhan doesn't do this with anyone else. Six months ago, they ran out of condoms unexpectedly. Lan Zhan merely said, I don't have any diseases and I am not with anyone else. 

It knocked all the air out of Wei Ying's lungs, Lan Zhan offering to bareback with him. Then later, the rest sunk in: Lan Zhan didn't have any other partners.

Wei Ying thought he did. After the third time, the fourth time. After he figured out that Lan Zhan wasn't a mythical ice prince, that Lan Zhan was actually really kinky. Wei Ying figured he must be sharing Lan Zhan with other people. Of course Lan Zhan had other partners.

The idea that he waited, saved it all up for monthly visits with Wei Ying, was too absurd. Wei Ying has been accused of being cocky, yes. But only when it comes to programming, software engineering, his company. He wasn't cocky enough to believe that Lan Zhan was his alone. 

But Lan Zhan said there was nobody else, and Lan Zhan never lies.

Wei Ying tightens the tie and checks to make sure it's not too tight. Lan Zhan has never used their safeword yet, and that's a point of pride for Wei Ying. He's not ready to destroy his perfect record. He confirms that the tie is snug, but comfortable. Then he glances up. 

It's risky, looking at Lan Zhan this early in the game. Lan Zhan is so unbelievably gorgeous that a mere glimpse of his naked body is enough to take Wei Ying all the way to the finish line. Wei Ying doesn't want it to be over yet, but he can't resist the temptation to take a tiny peek.

Lan Zhan waits, calm and still and patient. He won't move until he gets an order, Wei Ying knows that from experience. Lan Zhan can wait a long time, much longer than Wei Ying. Whenever it's Wei Ying's turn to be tied up, he's begging for it within five minutes. 

Wei Ying takes a deep breath. He moves Lan Zhan's hands to the button of his slacks. Lan Zhan gets the picture right away and he unzips Wei Ying with an avid look in his eyes. But before he can get started, Wei Ying catches his bound hands. 

"Do you want to be on the bed for this, or your knees?" he asks. "You can pick."

Sometimes Lan Zhan has a preference. Sometimes he won't say what it is unless Wei Ying asks. But Wei Ying always wants to know. 

"Knees," Lan Zhan says, right away. 

Wei Ying smothers an involuntary groan, but just barely. Lan Zhan slips off the bed and goes onto his knees the way he does everything: smoothly, gracefully, with astonishing poise. Then he tugs Wei Ying's cock out of his boxers and takes it into his mouth without another word.

Wei Ying shuts his eyes so he can enjoy the sensation. It's so much better without condoms. He didn't know that, before. Not until the night Lan Zhan looked him straight in the eye and said, I am not with anyone else. Are you?

He wasn't, of course. He hasn't been with anyone else in years, and definitely not while he and Lan Zhan have been doing this. He'd never done anything without a condom because this is literally the only relationship he's ever had that's exclusive. This, their filthy hotel hookups.

Wei Ying couldn't bring himself to admit that to Lan Zhan. It sounded too pathetic. 

Lan Zhan takes him all the way in. Then he sucks Wei Ying slowly, with terrifying gentleness.

When Wei Ying pries his eyes open, he discovers that Lan Zhan has dropped his bound hands into his lap. His body is pliant, letting Wei Ying use his mouth however he wants. That's almost enough to send Wei Ying over the edge. 

He fights his way back, stroking Lan Zhan's hair and threading his fingers through the long strands. Lan Zhan doesn't usually undress before Wei Ying arrives. But does take his hair down, because he knows Wei Ying always wants to touch that right away. 

Wei Ying combs the hair with his fingers, tucking it behind Lan Zhan's ears. Then he knots his fingers in the strands properly and tugs, so Lan Zhan will open wide. He rocks his hips slowly against Lan Zhan's mouth. 

"That's so good," he mumbles. 

He can never shut up when they're doing this, but that's fine. Lan Zhan seems to like it. He's never told Wei Ying to talk less. Not inside the bedroom, anyway. So Wei Ying takes what he can get, and makes sure to verbalize every thought that comes into his head.

"God, your mouth is so hot." He tugs Lan Zhan's hair a little harder, hard enough that maybe it hurts. "Can you take me deeper? There you go, good boy."

Lan Zhan makes a small, pleased sound.

Wei Ying grins. He can't help it. He's never going to be over this: the perfect and pure Lan Wangji—the Second Jade of Lan Technology—likes being put on his knees and told he's a good boy. 

Does anyone else even know this about Lan Zhan? 

Wei Ying curls his fingers in Lan Zhan's hair and wishes he knew for sure. There must have been someone else at some point. Lan Zhan was a little embarrassed about this at first: being tied up, made to kneel, made to beg for it. Wei Ying got the vibe that none of Lan Zhan's previous lovers had the nerve to ask him for that, and the revelation was heady. 

But there was a whole year to consider: the time between the start of this, and when Lan Zhan told him, I am not with anyone else.

There was probably someone else. After he tried kinky things with Wei Ying, Lan Zhan probably wanted to do them with another partner. It's too much to hope for, the idea that Wei Ying is the only one who's ever seen Lan Zhan like this.

But Wei Ying doesn't want to think about that now. Lan Zhan's mouth is hot and slick and open. He sucks cock like he's getting paid for it. Like this what he's famous for, rather than being a brilliant software engineer. 

Wei Ying tries to hold out for a while. But Lan Zhan makes a little sound around his cock, deliciously needy, and that's enough. Heat sweeps him, sudden and intense, carrying him far out to sea. He floats back down to earth slowly, like the first snows of winter. 

Lan Zhan swallows everything, but he's still on his knees. So Wei Ying tips his head back, bends down to kiss him. Lan Zhan tastes like salt and musk. His lips are beautifully swollen, his neck slick with sweat.

Wei Ying drags him onto the bed so he can drape himself all over Lan Zhan and lick every body part he can reach.

"What next?" he murmurs, mouthing along Lan Zhan's collarbones. 

Lan Zhan squirms against him but doesn't make a sound. That's the only thing about sex with Lan Zhan that Wei Ying doesn't like. It's quite literally Lan Zhan's only shortcoming: he doesn't talk unless Wei Ying drags the words out of him. 

That's not so bad, though. Wei Ying licks a stripe up his neck. Lan Zhan lets out a small, breathy moan and Wei Ying smiles. He can drag some noise out of Lan Zhan, and the effort makes each one infinitely more precious.

Lan Zhan is hard, wet, dripping. But Wei Ying doesn't touch him yet.

"If you want me to fuck you," he whispers, "you need to wait a few minutes. So what do you want in the meantime?"

Lan Zhan bites his lip and doesn't say anything. He's avoiding Wei Ying's eyes, so Wei Ying takes his chin and turns his face in the right direction. He smiles into Lan Zhan's dark eyes. 

"Do you want me to suck you? Or, how about I eat you out, get you ready for me?"

"Yes," Lan Zhan gasps.

Wei Ying feels his grin widen.

"Spread your legs," he says, and Lan Zhan does.

He takes his time sliding down Lan Zhan's body. Wei Ying can't pass all the loveliest parts without giving them a little attention. He licks at Lan Zhan's nipples, noses at his navel, nibbles a little on each hipbone. By the time he's kneeling between Lan Zhan's legs, he's already half-hard again. 

Wei Ying is closing in on thirty, and he feels it some days. His back hurts when he spends too much time behind a desk. It's getting harder to get by on three or four hours of sleep. No gray hairs yet, but Wen Qing—the dirty hypocrite—tells him that if he keeps pulling seventy-hour workweeks, he's going to find them soon. 

But the one place Wei Ying never has any old-man trouble is here, between Lan Zhan's spread thighs. Here, Wei Ying feels eternally twenty-two. Here, he's still a dumb grad student, drooling over his favorite classmate and jerking himself off every night, wondering if Lan Zhan would ever give him a second glance. 

Wei Ying mouths at the crease at the base of Lan Zhan's thighs. Lan Zhan is almost painfully hard, but Wei Ying doesn't intend to do anything about that yet. Instead, he nudges Lan Zhan backward and pushes his legs wider until he finds what he's looking for. 

There's slick everywhere and Wei Ying's tongue finds what he's seeking before before long.

"Oh, fuck," he sighs. "You're so wet."

It's hot and sweet on his tongue. Wei Ying chases the taste toward the pink folds which are already getting swollen. Lan Zhan makes a choked sound, almost arching off the bed. Wei Ying squeezes his thighs, grounding him. 

"Is this all for me?" he asks. He laves the folds with his tongue, making Lan Zhan writhe. "You liked having me in your mouth that much?"

Lan Zhan makes another choked noise, and Wei Ying thinks it's meant to be an affirmation. But when Wei Ying sneaks a look—up along the beautiful expanse of Lan Zhan's body—he's got the back of his hand pressed to his mouth.

Wei Ying makes a disappointed sound and brushes his thumb over the slick opening. It slides in easily. Lan Zhan is already wet and open, and he grinds down against Wei Ying's hand.

"Or were you thinking about this all day?" Wei Ying pauses to take another taste. "Sitting in your office and squirming around? Getting wet, thinking about how bad you wanted it?"

He wants to believe it's true. He doesn't even care if it isn't. If Lan Zhan finally wants to lie to him about something, he can lie about this. Wei Ying wants so badly to believe that Lan Zhan's been thinking about this all day. Lan Zhan, sitting in his neat linen suits behind his sleek mahogany desk, thinking about how much he wants Wei Ying to fuck him until he cries.

"Lan Zhan," he sings out. 

Lan Zhan makes another strangled sound. But he knows that tone of voice and he stills, waiting to see what Wei Ying has to say. He even makes eye contact, agonizingly brief. 

Wei Ying smiles as he draws his fingers back, licking them off.

"My mouth is going to be busy for a while," he explains cheerfully. "So you have to do the talking! Tell me what you were thinking about, what you were doing before you came here."

He noses along Lan Zhan's thighs, waiting. Lan Zhan takes a slow, ragged breath. 

"I was. In my office. Finishing work."

Wei Ying adores the way his voice sounds when they do this. It bears absolutely no resemblance to the voice Lan Zhan uses when he talks to his classmates, professors, clients, colleagues. Wei Ying has heard all those voices over the years. This voice is different, special. Sometimes, Lan Zhan's voice shakes when they do this. 

Wei Ying gives a few more appreciative swipes with his tongue to urge Lan Zhan along. Lan Zhan inhales sharply and keeps going.

"I…spoke to my brother." He shifts, opening his legs wider, impossibly wide. Lan Zhan is insanely flexible. "My assistant. Cleared my calendar for the weekend."

"Lan Zhan!" Wei Ying draws back, pouting. "You're not telling me the good stuff. What were you thinking about?"

"I was thinking about you," Lan Zhan says, with zero hesitation. 

Wei Ying's stomach swoops. 

He knows it's probably an act, he knows that. He's told himself as much, at least a hundred times. He tells himself every time, once they're finished and Wei Ying has to shower off, pack up, and piece himself back together. As part of that procedure—the detox process, Wei Ying glumly calls it—he reminds himself not to make any wild assumptions based on what Lan Zhan said during the heat of the moment.

It's sex. It's filthy, wonderful, freaky sex. They both say a lot of stuff, because they're getting off and it's fun. Everything Wei Ying says is true, as it happens. But he knows better than to assume Lan Zhan is playing the same game.

This is how the game is played: Your partner says, Did you think of me?  And you say, Yes, of course, I was thinking of nothing but you the whole time.   

But Wei Ying's stupid body still has a small heart attack every time Lan Zhan says it.

"I was wondering…" Lan Zhan falters. Wei Ying leans in, his breath catching. "What I should do to prepare. If I should wear something, bring something." 

"Bring what?" Wei Ying asks. 

His mouth stretches into another smile and his cock pulses. Lan Zhan almost never brings anything to their rendezvous. Except for his own lovely self, but that's enough. Wei Ying certainly isn't complaining. But he's suddenly desperate to know what Lan Zhan was visualizing when he thought, Maybe I should bring this…

Lan Zhan shakes his head, his mouth pressed in a tight line. Wei Ying nips at his hip. He wriggles up so he can kiss the flat plane of Lan Zhan's stomach. 

"Lan Zhan!" he warns. "My mouth isn't going below your waist again until you tell me what you were thinking about bringing!" 

He hopes Lan Zhan will cave quickly. Wei Ying would really like get his mouth back on the hot, delicious spot between Lan Zhan's legs. 

Lan Zhan's perfect teeth sink into his plush lower lip. He doesn't answer right away. But Wei Ying keeps his promise. He doesn't even let his fingers stray where they want to go. And after a few seconds, Lan Zhan breaks. 

"I have. A vibrator." He pauses. "It's remote-controlled."

Wei Ying mouth drops open, and he doesn't even try to stop it. 

This, he decides, is a wonderful day. A momentous day. Lan Zhan has never mentioned vibrators before, not during the whole time they've been doing this. Today ranks right alongside the time he peeled away Lan Zhan's crisp tailored clothing to find a lacy black teddy underneath. Lan Zhan is so full of surprises. 

Wei Ying must reward him for this revelation, so he gives Lan Zhan his mouth again. But before Lan Zhan can get too caught up in that, Wei Ying pulls back. 

"Did you bring it?" he demands.

"It's in my suitcase," Lan Zhan pants. 

His hair is everywhere, mussed by Wei Ying's fingers and the way he's been writhing on the bed. Wei Ying aches to pull on it again. But he doesn't intend to budge from his spot between Lan Zhan's thighs. 

"Very good," he says huskily. "Continue. Tell me what you were thinking of wearing."

Wei Ying traces his way between Lan Zhan's folds, not quite fucking him with his tongue. He has to use actual force to keep Lan Zhan from moving now, and it's while before Lan Zhan manages to speak. 

"I bought some new lingerie. It's in the suitcase too. I decided not to wear it. I wanted to take everything off right away."

The words come out in a rush, the way they always do when Lan Zhan feels too good to be self-conscious any longer. Wei Ying loves this part, the part where Lan Zhan will tell him anything.

"Ah!" He draws back and kisses Lan Zhan's thighs, nudging at his knees. "You knew I wouldn't let you take it off if I saw it!"

He wouldn't have allowed that. On the rare evening when Lan Zhan dressed up for the occasion, Wei Ying refused to let him take anything off for at least an hour. They did everything he could think of—everything either of them could think of—while Lan Zhan kept the lingerie on. The moment was too precious to be hurried. 

"Smart boy," he murmurs. "Keep talking."

"I was…thinking." Lan Zhan gasps, once Wei Ying's tongue finds its way back to the good spot. "What I wanted. I wanted you in my mouth right away. Then, I wanted you to take me."

Wei Ying pulls away, laughing. 

"Oh? Take you where? Lan Zhan!" He chuckles when Lan Zhan gives him a murderous glare. "You're still so coy about this stuff."

Wei Ying relishes it, though, and they both know it. He has to fight to get Lan Zhan to ask for what he wants, without any delicate euphemisms. That makes the result so much more satisfying. 

"What position?" he asks. 

Lan Zhan sighs and squirms and looks generally put-upon. 

"On my back. To begin. I wanted you to come in me. Then on me. My stomach and chest. I wanted…"

Wei Ying doesn't let him finish. He can't. He's achingly hard and teasing takes too much self-restraint. Instead, he pushes between Lan Zhan's thighs, right into the slick, tight heat of Lan Zhan's body. 

Lan Zhan presses against Wei Ying's chest with his bound hands, digging in with his nails. The pain is just sharp enough to be grounding, and that's good. Wei Ying has to make sure Lan Zhan comes first. It's a matter of pride. So he can't come right away, no matter how intoxicating it is to hear Lan Zhan say, I wanted you to come in me.

Sometimes, he can only look at Lan Zhan in fragments. It's worse when they have to meet in public. Wei Ying can hardly manage to look in Lan Zhan's direction. So he doles out little glimpses for himself: Lan Zhan's sleek hair, tied back. Lan Zhan's polished shoes, the ironed edges of his slacks. 

He tries not to look at Lan Zhan's face or hands if he can help it. It's impossible to really look at Lan Zhan and not think about what they do in hotel rooms when the Do Not Disturb sign is up. 

At most meetings and industry events with Lan Zhan, Wei Ying is hanging onto his composure by his fingernails. Even if he keeps his eyes glued to his tablet or his notes, he winds up thinking, I know what he looks like without his clothes on. I know what he looks like when he comes. I know what he looks like when he's asleep.

Lan Zhan's presence does nothing to bolster Wei Ying's tattered sense of professionalism.

But sometimes, looking at Lan Zhan is painful even here. He's impossibly beautiful, all the time. Every atom in Wei Ying's body aches with how lovely he is. When they're like this—when he's deep inside Lan Zhan and Lan Zhan is arching beneath him, his legs around Wei Ying's hips—Wei Ying feels like he's flying apart. 

He talks, of course. Talking is easy at moments like these. He can say anything he likes, everything he's ever wanted to say:

You're so beautiful. Look at you, you like this so much. You're such a slut for me, aren't you? Do you think about my cock all the time, how much you want me to split you open? I wish everyone could see you like this and know how shameless and dirty you are. 

No, no. It's better this way, isn't it? Nobody can see you like this except for me. Show me everything you keep secret, show me what nobody else is allowed to see. I'll give you what you want. I'll come inside you, all over you, in your hair. I'll make a mess out of you. You'll have to cover it all up later, the bruises and the hickeys. 

But you won't be able to cover up everything. I'll make sure you're sore too, every time you move. You'll be thinking about this for days. I want you to think about this. After you go home, when you're alone and you touch yourself, I want you to think about this, exactly this.

Lan Zhan never talks back when they do this. Not unless Wei Ying stops thrusting, pulls out, and refuses to continue unless Lan Zhan says something.

But Wei Ying doesn't do that today. It's enough: Lan Zhan saying that he thought about this earlier, planned for it, packed special toys. Lan Zhan thought about what he wanted Wei Ying to do to him. That's more than enough, and Wei Ying is half-drunk on it.

So he talks, in between rough thrusts. He starts out slow, uneven. At first, he doesn't give either of them the luxury of a steady rhythm. Lan Zhan grinds down on Wei Ying's cock desperately, and Wei Ying can't help the sound he makes then. But he forces himself to stop. 

"Ah, ah!" He reaches out, catching Lan Zhan's hands and pushing them above his head. "Somebody is forgetting the rules."

Lan Zhan gasps and squirms, trying to get a little more friction where their bodies are joined. But then he stops and goes still, his fingers loosening their grip around Wei Ying's.

Wei Ying leans forward, burying his face against Lan Zhan's neck. Somehow, he can't bear to look at Lan Zhan's face for this. 

"There's my good boy," he whispers. 

Lan Zhan becomes more motionless than ever, his body obediently lax. He's still breathing hard, his pulse fluttering beside Wei Ying's mouth. Wei Ying sucks at the pulse-point so Lan Zhan knows his good behavior has not gone unnoticed.

"Sweetheart, I can see how badly you want this." It takes effort for Wei Ying to keep his hips still. Lan Zhan is hot and tight, quivering around him, and yes, he can feel how badly Lan Zhan wants to be fucked. "But you're not allowed to come yet. You have to be patient. You have to wait until I give you permission."

Wei Ying waits until he feels a jerky nod. 

"Good." He sighs and trails a few kisses down Lan Zhan's throat. Then he shifts his hips, working in slow circles the way Lan Zhan likes. 

Lan Zhan makes a tiny noise—a bitten-off whimper—but he doesn't try to move. He lies perfectly still. When Wei Ying draws back, Lan Zhan's bounds hands stay where he left them.

"So good." Wei Ying kisses his mouth, his cheeks, his brow. "You're so good for me, you always follow orders so nicely. Such a good boy."

Lan Zhan's pupils are blown wide, his face completely relaxed. He seems okay, better than okay. But Wei Ying nudges his cheek anyway.

"Kiss me back," Wei Ying murmurs, "so I know you're okay."

Lan Zhan does, right away. The last bit of tension between Wei Ying's shoulders unwinds. He pushes himself up so he can start thrusting properly.

Sometimes, Lan Zhan goes down so deep. It's almost unnerving to watch. Wei Ying has only hit subspace twice, with an old partner in college. It never worked unless there was some pain to help him along. Someone spanking him or yanking his hair, maybe. Something the get the endorphins going. 

But Lan Zhan can go all the way down just from being tied up and told he's not allowed to come. It caught Wei Ying off-guard at first, how easy it was to push Lan Zhan right to the edge. Lan Zhan never told him to stop or slow down, never used their safeword. 

So Wei Ying checks in as best he can. He tries to read every line in Lan Zhan's face, every flicker behind his eyes. He thinks Lan Zhan likes everything they've done so far. But Wei Ying is careful not to push too hard. If he hurt Lan Zhan—if Lan Zhan walked away and never came back—Wei Ying doesn't know how he could live with himself.

Lan Zhan is dripping everywhere, thighs trembling. But he holds himself perfectly still, so Wei Ying rewards him with a few shallow thrusts. Lan Zhan draws his bottom lip between his teeth again. 

Wei Ying reaches out with his fingers, tracing Lan Zhan's lips so he'll stop. Lan Zhan opens his mouth right away, taking Wei Ying's fingers in, touching them with his tongue. Wei Ying chokes back a moan.

"Keep your hands above your head," he says. "Don't move your hips. I'll give it to you exactly how I want. But go ahead and make some noise, if you feel like it."

He pulls his fingers back with a meaningful brush against Lan Zhan's lips: Don't bite them, don't cover your mouth, don't muffle the sounds you make. 

Lan Zhan nods, but his eyes are still hazy and far-away. Wei Ying's mouth crooks into a smile as he slides in deeper.

"Ah, you weren't kidding, huh. You really needed it. You should've called me. We could've tried it over the phone, or Skype, or something."

He shuts his eyes at that thought, his hips working faster. Lan Zhan relaxes around him, adapting to the punishing rhythm. 

Wei Ying doesn't bother to hold back. Lan Zhan doesn't want him to: he needs it, he's been waiting for weeks, aching for this moment. 

He opens his eyes so he can look at Lan Zhan's face. Lan Zhan's eyes are closed, his head tipped back. He's exquisite, the long clean lines of his body on full display. Wei Ying shifts, pushing Lan Zhan thighs apart. He changes the angle of his thrusts until he finds one that makes Lan Zhan moan, long and sweet.

"Call me next time," Wei Ying says. 

His voice is breathless, choppy. Even he won't be able to talk much longer. They're both too close to the edge. But Wei Ying has to say this. Lan Zhan needs to know this. 

"If you're that desperate. I'll take care of you."

They've never done anything by phone or video or text. Wei Ying always assumed that Lan Zhan preferred to keep a clean line between this and the rest of his life. There is what they do in the hotel room, and there is everything else: no overlap.

But this is unbearable. Lan Zhan moans again, hungry and needy, and Wei Ying can't bear to think of him needing it this badly and not getting it. He'd do this every day, twice a day, if that's what Lan Zhan wanted. If that's what it took to keep him satisfied. 

Wei Ying almost says, Just call me next time, call me, I'll clear my schedule and get on a plane. I'll come to you no matter where you are. I'll give you this, and anything else you need. Just call me and let me give you whatever you want. 

But that's too much, even in the heat of the moment. There are some things he just can't say. So he bites the words back, swallows them down. 

Lan Zhan shakes around him and makes an absolutely desperate noise. 

"You can come," Wei Ying pants. "Go ahead. Whenever you want, beautiful."

Wei Ying fucks him through his orgasm, hard and fast. He doesn't let up because he knows Lan Zhan doesn't want him to. Only when Lan Zhan goes limp does Wei Ying let himself go, dropping onto his elbows so he can mouth at the sweat along Lan Zhan's chest as he comes.

Afterward, he doesn't want to pull out yet. Lan Zhan likes for him to stay inside for a while, anyway. Wei Ying stretches out, covering Lan Zhan's body with his. Lan Zhan gets cold after they do this, so he strokes Lan Zhan's hair and arms and thighs, keeping him warm. Lan Zhan is still so hot inside. 

When he's ready to pull out, Wei Ying does so carefully. He tries not to make too much of a mess, but the sheets are always a wreck by the time they're done. Lan Zhan leaves a cash tip for the housekeeping staff on the dresser, so Wei Ying doesn't feel too badly. 

It's still a thrill to see his come trickling out of Lan Zhan's body. Lan Zhan always lets him look afterward, because he's too wrung out to care what Wei Ying is staring at. 

"Can you scoot up?" he whispers, rubbing Lan Zhan's calf. "I want to get the blankets."

Lan Zhan makes a groggy noise of assent, but Wei Ying knows that sound. It doesn't mean, I heard what you said, and I'm prepared to comply. It just means, I heard you say something, but words still aren't making any sense to me. I'll just make some kind of noise because I think you might've asked a question.

He laughs, working around Lan Zhan's limp body until he can pull the blankets over both of them. It'll be a little too hot for Wei Ying, but he can help warm Lan Zhan up. 

Wei Ying doesn't bother talking after that. Lan Zhan is drowsy, half-asleep. He may want to nap for a while, and that's fine. They have hours left, even with Lan Zhan's ridiculously early bedtime. They have a whole night, and the morning too. Wei Ying wants to know more about the stuff Lan Zhan brought, the vibrator and the lingerie. But that can wait. 

He lies still. Lan Zhan curls against his shoulder, so Wei Ying spends some time playing with his hair. 

The air conditioner cycles on and off. It's a nice hotel, and the walls are thick. Wei Ying can't hear the traffic from the streets below. He slips into a half-dozing state and only blinks awake when Lan Zhan starts to stir. 

Outside the window, the sun is sinking fast. Hazy gray twilight paints its way across the sky. Wei Ying wonders vaguely what time it is, but it seems like too much trouble to check the clock.

"Good?" he asks, as Lan Zhan shifts against his side. 

Lan Zhan makes a pleased sound, and Wei Ying grins.

"Sore?"

"Not yet," Lan Zhan says. There's something almost reproachful in his tone, and in his face when he lifts it to blink at Wei Ying.

Wei Ying throws his head back and laughs.

"No? Please forgive me!" He musses Lan Zhan's hair. "I'll work harder during the next round, I promise."

"Hm." Lan Zhan sounds politely skeptical.

Wei Ying laughs harder. He can't help it. But his chest aches. Everything he's been trying not to think during the last two years rises up in a sudden tsunami.

I love him, he thinks. I love him, I love him, I love him.

"Lan Zhan!" he says instead. "You say that so skeptically. You're so disrespectful! It's really making me mad."

It isn't, though. It's making him horny. 

Lan Zhan does this to him. Wei Ying can have two solid, bone-shaking orgasms in one night. But all Lan Zhan has to do is look at him, coolly unimpressed:You didn't make me sore yet.  

That's all it takes. Within seconds, Wei Ying is half-hard and ready to try again. He could never resist a challenge, not even as a kid. Lan Zhan has always been the greatest challenge Wei Ying could ever ask for. He's been clamoring to prove himself to Lan Zhan ever since they met during grad school orientation. 

Somehow, the sex has done absolutely nothing to quench that desire. Having Lan Zhan beneath him, tied up, submitting to him doesn't help. It just makes Wei Ying more ravenous. 

He pinches Lan Zhan's bottom, and Lan Zhan gives him a disapproving look that absolutely will not last. Wei Ying grins.

"So insolent! Should I punish you now, or after we eat?"

"Food first," Lan Zhan says, with the decisiveness that makes him such a great vice-president.

"Good idea. I'll call." Wei Ying drags them both up and nudges Lan Zhan in the direction of the shower. "Go take a shower. Get cleaned up so I can make you dirty again."

Lan Zhan gives him a little look, cool and amused. Wei Ying nearly gives into temptation and tackles him, but he retrains himself. 

Lan Zhan is right, food is necessary. But it's hard to remember mundane concerns like dinner when Lan Zhan is covered in come and hickeys, his hair a wreck, and giving Wei Ying that look: Oh? You'll make me dirty, will you? I'm not sure you're up to the task. Perhaps you should come here and prove it to me.

Wei Ying waits until Lan Zhan disappears into the bathroom. Then he muffles a loud groan into a nearby pillow.

I'm going to die like this, he thinks. Lan Zhan is going to fuck me to death. I'll die of sexual exhaustion in a goddamn hotel room. It'll be a huge scandal, and our stock will tank. Wen Qing will resurrect me just so she can murder me herself.

It's not a bad way to go, though. So Wei Ying banishes those thoughts. He hunts around until he finds the room service menu, and calls in the order. A grilled chicken wrap for himself and a quinoa salad for Lan Zhan, along with hot tea. He tissues himself off so he's not covered in bodily fluids when the poor delivery worker arrives. 

Wei Ying doesn't bother to unpack. It never seems worthwhile when they'll only be there overnight. But he digs a pair of sweatpants out of his suitcase. He heads back to the living area to check out the booze situation.

There's plenty of liquor in the wet bar. Wei Ying juggles the small bottles thoughtfully. Then he puts them back. 

It's dumb and he knows it. But he likes to wait for Lan Zhan to fix his drink. He knows how to make drinks, because Wei Ying showed him. Wei Ying taught him because he likes this: the moments before they have sex, or after, when Lan Zhan fixes him a drink and they sit on the couch together. 

That's one of Wei Ying's favorite parts of the whole evening. During a typical night, he refuses to let himself think about why it's his favorite. But somehow, it's all coming out now, bubbling to the top of his brain like an overflowing pot.

Wei Ying doesn't have enough to keep him busy, that's the trouble. He gets a drink of water, washes his hands at the wet bar sink. He used to have another job to perform: condom disposal. He always got rid of the used condoms carefully, so the cleaning staff didn't have to touch them when they emptied the trash bins. Then he'd go into his suitcase and pull out more condoms for later. 

But they don't use condoms anymore. So Wei Ying has nothing left to do besides sitting on the couch, listening to the shower run, and imagining Lan Zhan naked beneath the spray of hot water. 

He wonders if Lan Zhan is cleaning himself up down there. Sometimes he does, if he gets a chance to shower between rounds. But sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes, Lan Zhan will come back from the bathroom and they'll go for round two, and Wei Ying will discover that Lan Zhan left his come inside. It makes him crazy. 

Wei Ying hasn't done that with anyone else, not ever. Even with condoms, half his previous partners—the ones who could get pregnant anyway—still wanted him to pull out. It's a horrible tragedy that he can't even remember the first time he did this with Lan Zhan. 

It was barely two months after he became CEO of YilingWei. He fought Wen Qing hard on that because she should've been CEO, but she shouted him down. 

They won't listen to me, she said. Not after everything my family did.

She wasn't talking about the employees. The staff at their fledgling enterprise was cobbled together from her family members and elderly Wen Enterprises employees. They were the ones left behind because they'd gotten too old or too expensive to keep on the payroll. 

They'd have listened to anything Wen Qing said. But their new board of directors didn't like her. Some investors, too, thought that anyone with the Wen surname was a risk. The PR was absolutely brutal that first year. They needed a fresh face, she said, a fresh name.

So Wei Ying stepped away from the R&D side of software engineering and became a CEO at the ripe old age of 26. Wen Qing signed on as his CFO, and they started the long hard slog of trying to keep the business afloat. That means, Wen Qing explained darkly, you have to show up to all the important events. 

That was how he wound up at a private gala for all the software bigwigs in the Asia-Pacific region. Everyone kept sneering at him, hinting that his company wouldn't last six months. 

That was how he wound up knocking back shots until he couldn't see straight. That was how he ran into Lan Zhan for the first time since they went their separate ways. He was drunk. Lan Zhan was drunk too because some shitty asshole from Jin Corp had made him take a shot along with everybody else. 

And that was how Wei Ying found himself in his hotel room the next morning, bare-ass naked in bed with Lan Zhan still passed out next to him. 

Wei Ying didn't remember much from that night, but he remembered enough. He remembered that they did it that way. So Wei Ying spent the next fifteen minutes hyperventilating in the hotel bathroom because he did not know that Lan Zhan was a carrier.

It wasn't like Lan Zhan was under any obligation to tell him. Nobody in the business world took out front-page newspaper ads to announce the particulars of their reproductive organs. 

Lan Zhan was busy climbing up the ladder at Lan Tech. He was already VP of operations by then. It was his family's company, so nobody there would dare to say anything, even if they knew. But the business world was still shitty to people who could get pregnant. Wei Ying knew that much already. 

Whenever there was a female candidate—or a male candidate who everybody knew was a carrier—people looked at them askance. The hiring manages always whispered, I don't know if we should take a chance on them. After all, they might wind up maternity leave within a year, and then we'd have to train a replacement.

That didn't fly at YilingWei, Wei Ying made sure of that. He was pretty sure it wouldn't happen at Lan Tech either. But other places were different. 

So, of course, this wasn't information Lan Zhan had made public. It wasn't anybody's business, anyway. It wasn't relevant to anybody. Except for Wei Ying, because he'd just fucked Lan Zhan without a condom. All he could think—holed up in the cramped hotel bathroom—was, Oh, shit.

Don't worry. I will take care of it , Lan Zhan said stiffly. By then, they were both conscious and relatively sober. They sat around on the bed, awkwardly drinking the awful hotel coffee and trying not to look at each other too much. 

They were talking about the contraceptive situation then. Wei Ying had finally stopped hyperventilating long enough to say, So, I'm pretty sure we didn't use a condom. Is that…going to be an issue?

Lan Zhan has just said, Don't worry. Wei Ying hadn't had the courage to ask what that meant.

Don't worry, I'm on the pill? Don't worry, I'll get emergency contraceptives? Don't worry, I'll go to the clinic and...?

Lan Zhan didn't have a baby. Wei Ying knows that much. He saw Lan Zhan in person, on a regular basis, for months afterward. Each meeting was completely fucking awkward and miserable. 

But Lan Zhan was just as slim and gorgeous as ever. So Wei Ying is pretty sure—a solid 95% sure, anyway— that Lan Zhan didn't actually get pregnant. He's pretty sure that Lan Zhan would have told him if he got pregnant. 

But knowing all of that—contraceptives exist, Lan Zhan knows how to use them, they won't have any accidental babies—has never stopped Wei Ying from thinking about the possibility.

Just sometimes. Idly. 

Wei Ying picks at his sweatpants and checks the clock. Room service isn't due for twenty minutes. The shower has stopped, but Lan Zhan is using the hairdryer now, and there's a low hum behind the closed bathroom door. It's the same distant hum that's always ringing in Wei Ying's ears whenever he thinks about this. 

Ever since the other awkward talk—the I don't have any STDs or any other sexual partners talk—they've done everything raw. Lan Zhan lets Wei Ying come in him all the time. It's amazing and unbelievably hot. It feels like heaven. 

Lan Zhan is on the pill now, he said so. Wei Ying trusts him, even though Wen Qing would punch him in the neck if she knew about this. She's always believed that there's no such thing as too much protection, and trusting your partner with the birth control was a sucker's game.

But Wei Ying knows Lan Zhan, has known him for years. Lan Zhan is impossibly, infinitely trustworthy.

He's told Lan Zhan other things over the years, things Wen Qing would also punch him for. Wei Ying doesn't always mean to tell him. But sometimes when they're in the hotel room, things happen. One of them has to take a call or send an e-mail in between rounds. Or their pillow-talk gets weird: it stops being about kinky sex and starts being about  business

So Wei Ying has accidentally dropped a few bits of information over the years, things Lan Tech would definitely be interested to know. But YilingWei's stock never falters after their furtive meetings. No lawyers make angry calls to Wei Ying's office. No crumb of information ever reaches the press. 

Wei Ying knows for a fact that—no matter what he's confided or confessed—Lan Zhan has told exactly nobody. 

Lan Zhan is too good for that. He's too good to betray Wei Ying, even if they aren't really friends and are basically rivals. So it's not difficult to believe that Lan Zhan is equally forthright and responsible about his contraceptive use. 

But sometimes it hits Wei Ying all at once. He'll be squinting down at his laptop or doing the final round of hiring interviews. Then he'll find himself thinking, Lan Zhan could get pregnant. He could get pregnant from what we do.

Birth control isn't 100% effective, after all. Lan Zhan must be extremely careful about the pill. He's that sort of person. But they don't use condoms. Wei Ying takes every opportunity to get his dick into Lan Zhan's body, and Lan Zhan never asks him to pull out. 

Wei Ying hauls himself off the couch and checks the hotel door. Nobody's there yet, but he needs to take the Do Not Disturb sign off. He hangs it loosely on the inside of the door, so they can put it back later. 

Later, because they'll want another round. They always do this two or three times, sometimes more. Lan Zhan just keeps letting Wei Ying do this—fuck him raw—trusting in the pill even though nothing is ever 100% effective. Pregnancy is always possible.

It should make Wei Ying panicky, that possibility. It does, sort of. 

It would be such a mess if Lan Zhan got pregnant. His family hates the Wens, hates YilingWei. Lan Zhan's career is gaining traction, finally reaching the point that nobody—not even the surliest, most jealous losers in the tech industry—can say his success is all due to his family connections. So Lan Zhan probably wouldn't want to be pregnant with anybody's baby, especially not Wei Ying's.

But Wei Ying still thinks about it sometimes, in a creepy and pathetic way. He thinks about what it would be like if they accidentally made a baby and Lan Zhan was willing to keep it. 

Wei Ying flops back onto the couch and shuts his eyes. This particular fantasy is stupid, torturous, and getting worse every day. 

It wasn't so bad before. Before the hotel visits, before the party where they both got drunk. Back in grad school, everything seemed so simple. 

Naturally, Lan Zhan would never be interested in Wei Ying. Lan Zhan would never date him. He refused to even give Wei Ying one lousy kiss during the department Christmas party, when there was mistletoe in the computer lab and everything! But that was all right. Wei Ying could nurse his stupid fantasies in peace, and they didn't torment him because he knew they'd never become real.

Then everything happened all at once. Wen Enterprises imploded, the scandal rocking the whole tech industry, and Wei Ying somehow ended up in the middle of it. Lan Zhan was around, floating somewhere in the periphery, but Wei Ying still couldn't touch him. He had even less of a chance than he did as a hotshot grad student, with his fancy internships and his shelf of awards. Before, he'd been someone who could hope to earn Lan Zhan's attention one day.

Afterward, his reputation was a wreck and he was the proud leader of a company he barely knew how to manage, one that was closing each quarter in the red. Lan Zhan wouldn't pay attention to someone like that, and Wei Ying knew it.

Except then the thing happened, the night with the drinks. Afterward, it was as if Lan Zhan suddenly thought, Well, I already slept with him once. It's too late to undo what's been done. I might as well keep doing it. 

It wasn't like Wei Ying was about to say no. The sex was incredible. Lan Zhan was incredible. Always, in every way. Lan Zhan must've liked it too because he kept coming back. 

They never talked about it. They barely contacted each other, even for business stuff. If they texted each other, it was only to say, I'll be in Hong Kong on the 15th. The Mandarin Oriental. Suite 3. 

It's been almost two years now. Wei Ying sat down and counted it out once, just because he couldn't help himself. He got out a fucking calendar and checked his e-mail archives for the date of the Jins' party. Then he started keeping a mental timeclock.

As of today, it's been twenty-two months, three weeks, and five days. 

It's not like they see each other every day. Sometimes their path don't cross for a couple months. When they're together, it's only for a night or sometimes just a few hours. 

It's only sex. If they sometimes do other things—eat breakfast, or talk, or watch TV—that's not what Lan Zhan is there for. He's there for the sex because Wei Ying shows up when he says he will and he never tells anybody what they do behind closed doors. It's probably too much trouble for Lan Zhan to try to get that anywhere else. 

It's just…

Ever since six months ago, Wei Ying can't stop thinking about this. Lan Zhan says he's not with anyone else, and he lets Wei Ying fuck him without a condom. And they could make a baby, if they were trying to. 

Wei Ying can't seem to stop thinking about that. He can push aside the other fantasies, most days: the ones where he comes home to Lan Zhan every night, where Lan Zhan fixes him his drink and sits with him. The fantasies where they talk about their days, their business, and nobody has to watch their words, thinking, Should I really be telling him about this when our companies are technically rivals?  

In those fantasies, Wei Ying can fall asleep next to Lan Zhan knowing he won't have to pack his suitcase in the morning, give an awkward goodbye, and walk away. Wei Ying can fall asleep next to Lan Zhan every night, wake up with him every morning. He can kiss Lan Zhan every day, fuck him every day, hold his hand and touch his hair, just be with him all the time.

Wei Ying has suffered through those fantasies for a long time now, and it's manageable. He keeps the fantasies tightly folded up, and he only unpacks them and spreads them out once in a while. He's got a handle on those fantasies. Mostly.

The baby ones, though. 

Wei Ying scrubs a hand over his face. The hairdryer shuts off, which means Lan Zhan will be out soon. That means Wei Ying needs to stop thinking about this. He needs to stop imagining it: what Lan Zhan would look like pregnant, whether it would be a boy or a girl, who the kid would take after. 

He needs to stop thinking about bouncing a kid on his lap, throwing them up in the air. Lan Zhan would probably scold him for roughhousing with the kid too much, after all. Wei Ying would get the kid excited when they were supposed to be taking a nap, and then Lan Zhan would be annoyed with him. 

They could have a whole bunch of kids. Three or four, at least. He could get Lan Zhan pregnant again and again. They could wind up with a house full of babies. A house where there were always tricycles in the front yard, stuffed animals on the couch, jarred baby food in the kitchen. A life where Wei Ying would have to scale back on his business responsibilities to attend prenatal scans and school plays and science fairs.

When the rap on the door comes, Wei Ying physically startles. He nearly falls off the couch. But then he scrapes together a few shreds of composure and stumbles over to collect the room service tray. He smiles mechanically at the delivery guy and tips him. When he closes the door again, his smile drops and he gives himself a hard shake, almost rattling the dishes on the tray.

That's not what this is, he tells himself. Don't be stupid, don't be an idiot. That's not what this is, and you know it. So get yourself together.

Lan Zhan will be done in the bathroom soon. Wei Ying reminds himself of that, as he lays out the dishes on the table. Lan Zhan will be finished with his shower, and he'll want to eat his dinner and drink his tea. Then he'll want Wei Ying to fuck him again because that's literally what he's here for. Sex, and nothing else.

Wei Ying lines up the dishes on the table grimly. His chicken wrap doesn't seem very alluring at the moment. Before he can resign himself to forcing down a meal, a flicker of white fabric catches his attention. 

Lan Zhan is fresh from the shower and dressed—barely dressed—in a white babydoll nightie. Wei Ying's whole mouth floods with saliva.

"Ah," he says, swallowing it down. "Come here."

He holds out his hand and Lan Zhan crosses the room to take it. Wei Ying watches him walk, the whisper of sheer white fabric. The lace is gorgeous, delicate and soft, but it leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. Lan Zhan has white knickers on underneath. Wei Ying wants to take them off with his teeth. 

"This is very nice," he says, once the power of speech returns. 

Lan Zhan looks cautious, the way he sometimes does when he tries out something new without prompting. Wei Ying squeezes his hand and reaches out to mess with the hem of the nightie. It's cute, the way Lan Zhan still gets a little bit shy about stuff like this. But it's also maddening. 

Somehow, Wei Ying still hasn't managed to convince Lan Zhan of the truth: that ninety percent of the planet would crawl across broken glass for the privilege of seeing him in lingerie. Lan Zhan should never, ever feel shy about wearing this sort of thing. Wei Ying would quite literally sell his soul to see this every day. 

"When did you buy it?" he asks, sliding an experimental hand underneath the nightie. He wants to know if the knickers match the nightie, and he's delighted to discover that they do. Lan Zhan is so methodical!

"Two weeks ago." Lan Zhan's voice is a little husky. His careful expression thaws a bit.

Wei Ying nods. He slips a finger beneath the elastic band of the knickers, and he nods some more. Truly, there are no objections to be found here. 

"Where from?" 

It's not that he's interested, necessarily. There's nothing he can do with this information. They don't have the kind of relationship where he can get away with buying Lan Zhan lingerie. Wei Ying isn't especially interested in buying anything himself either. Lan Zhan looks far better in this—and every other article of clothing on the planet—than Wei Ying ever will.

But he wants to know anyway. He wants to know Lan Zhan chooses his lingerie, and what he thinks about when he's shopping.

"Somewhere," Lan Zhan says evasively. 

He lets Wei Ying's hand drop from his, but that's okay. That means Wei Ying now has two free hands, and he puts them to full use.

"Hm." Wei Ying toys with one of the straps, sliding it off Lan Zhan's shoulder. That, he decides, is a very good look. "Did you go into a shop and pick it out in person?"

Lan Zhan gives him such an incredulous look that Wei Ying has to laugh. 

 "Okay, no I didn't think so." 

He didn't, not really. Lan Zhan is unexpectedly bold in his willingness to try new things. But Wei Ying can't picture him pushing through the racks at an upscale lingerie shop. 

It's too bad. That's another item on the long list of things Wei Ying would like to do with Lan Zhan someday: wander into Agent Provocateur and pick out something together.

"You bought it online?" He waits until Lan Zhan nods. "But how did you stumble across this, I wonder? Were you buying toothpaste and laundry detergent, and some mysterious algorithm rerouted you to the lingerie section?"

He pitches his voice low, rubbing the edge of the nightie between his fingers. He's hoping Lan Zhan will get embarrassed, the way he often does when Wei Ying catches him being naughty on his own time. 

Instead, Lan Zhan sighs. He almost rolls his eyes. 

"I was looking for lingerie," he says, with delightful frankness.

"I see." Wei Ying sways in. He thinks about trying to steal a kiss, but he doesn't want the conversation to be derailed. "No, no, walk me through this. You were looking for lingerie and thinking…?"

He knows the answer he's hoping for: I was looking for something you'd like. But it doesn't matter if that's not what happened. Any thought process that resulted in Lan Zhan buying lingerie is one he wants to hear about.

"I wanted…" Lan Zhan pauses and falters briefly. "To find something I would look nice in."

Wei Ying snorts and plays with the cute little bow at the front of the nightie. Finding 'something Lan Zhan looks nice in' takes about three seconds. Wei Ying has seen him in everything from bathrobes to towels to bedsheets. Suits and fancy clothes, for industry parties. Underwear and lingerie. Lan Zhan looks extremely 'nice' in all of it. 

"That's a low bar," he says. "That bar isn't just on the ground, it's ten feet below the earth's surface." 

Lan Zhan gives him a puzzled stare. Wei Ying gives up and kisses him. 

"You look nice in everything, that's what I'm getting at! Especially lingerie." 

Especially this particular piece of lingerie. 

Wei Ying can already see that this is a very good nightie. The color and cut do very flattering things for Lan Zhan's complexion, for one. But there's also a lot of room for movement. If Wei Ying just got those pesky knickers out of the way, he could bend Lan Zhan over the couch and the nightie wouldn't even get in the way.

His mouth is watering again. But that's not too shameful. After all, Lan Zhan was the one who picked it out, this nefarious article of clothing that's shorting out Wei Ying's higher brain function. 

Lan Zhan's smile is a bit smug. Wei Ying refuses to go down without a fight, so kisses him again in pure retaliation.

"This one is particularly nice," he says, once he pulls away. "I think it's my favorite so far."

"Hm. I am glad." 

Lan Zhan sounds glad. He looks pleased with himself, and it's too cute for Wei Ying to handle. He wants Lan Zhan to look like that—to look at Wei Ying like that—every day. Lan Zhan should always look pleased, confident, and smugly certain that he's the most beautiful thing Wei Ying has ever set eyes on.

"Do you have anything I haven't seen yet?" He tilts his head. "I saw the black lacy one and the blue one. And the garter and stockings, which I liked very much. But is there anything else hiding away in a drawer somewhere that you haven't shown me?"

Ever since the talk—I am not with anyone else—he's been operating under the heady assumption that he's seen all the lingerie Lan Zhan owns. 

If Wei Ying is honest with himself, he's been assuming that this is for him, that Lan Zhan buys these things and wears them solely for their encounters. It's probably not true. Lan Zhan probably has other pieces, stuff he's worn for past lovers. 

Probably Wei Ying shouldn't even ask about this. He'll only wind up hurt and disappointed if Lan Zhan says, Yes, I have lots of other things that I've worn for people who aren't you. 

This moment is too good to ruin. But the question escapes before Wei Ying can think better of it.

"Mm." Lan Zhan nods. "One."

"Oh? How mean!" Wei Ying ducks his head so he doesn't have to look into Lan Zhan's eyes. He nips at Lan Zhan's bare shoulder. "What does it look like?"

"Not telling." 

Lan Zhan hasn't touched him yet. Instead, he just stands there for Wei Ying's inspection. 

That's extremely sexy, but Wei Ying is suddenly desperate for some reciprocation. He takes Lan Zhan's hands and settles them at his waist. Lan Zhan squeezes Wei Ying's hips right away.

"Lan Zhan!" he cries. 

Lan Zhan's fingers curl into the fabric of his sweatpants, drawing him closer, so Wei Ying nips an earlobe. 

"You know I am a connoisseur of these things! How can you buy secret lingerie and keep it from me?"

"I ordered it with this one." 

Lan Zhan's breathing has sped up. Wei Ying can feel it. He's getting hard. Wei Ying wants to slip his fingers into the knickers and see if Lan Zhan is getting wet too. But if he starts that, they'll never bother to eat their dinner.

"It's for next time," Lan Zhan adds, after a pause. 

The words take some time to sink in. But when they do, all thoughts of the rapidly cooling meal are driven out of Wei Ying's head.

It's for next time. Lan Zhan bought two pieces of lingerie, one for tonight and another for next time. He bought them for this, for the nights he spends with Wei Ying. He bought them and he saved them, just for this. 

Wei Ying presses his mouth to Lan Zhan bare shoulder for a long time, long enough that Lan Zhan starts getting restive. His hands tighten on Wei Ying's hips and he tilts his head a bit.

"Wei Ying?" His tone seems to ask, Why are you not ravishing me, after I went to all the trouble of picking out sexy lingerie I could wear for you?

There's no good answer for that, of course. Wei Ying knows better than to open his mouth and say, Please tell me this is just for me, all for me, only for me. Please tell me there will never be anybody else, even if it's a lie and all you're trying to get out of this is an orgasm.

"Objection withdrawn," he says instead. He draws back and nods solemnly. "As long as I get to see it next time, it's okay."

Lan Zhan's expression clears, which is good. It means Wei Ying didn't spoil the mood. He decides to press his luck.

"Is food really that important?" Wei Ying sighs and glances at the stupid plates. His chicken wrap isn't nearly as appetizing as Lan Zhan. "I think eating is overrated. Let's just go back to bed."

"No." Lan Zhan lets go of Wei Ying hips. He even removes Wei Ying's hands from his body. "Eat your food."

Wei Ying tries to sneak his hands back under the nightie, but Lan Zhan pushes him firmly onto the couch and seats himself on the chair, out of Wei Ying's reach. Wei Ying sulks.

"Will you at least make me a drink?" he asks, using his most pitiful voice. 

Lan Zhan nods and rises to his feet.

"What do you want?"

"A Manhattan."

He's probably supposed to be doing what Lan Zhan said: eating his food. But Wei Ying ignores his wrap and dangles over the edge of the couch so he can watch Lan Zhan. 

The nightie is delicious, bare skin everywhere. There's something indescribably sexy about the way Lan Zhan mixes drinks, too. Each movement is smooth, deliberate, methodical. Wei Ying watches as he mixes, stirs, strains. 

He'd like to get Lan Zhan drunk again someday, but the timing has never been right. He used to offer Lan Zhan a few sips of whatever he was drinking, but Lan Zhan always shook his head. Finally, he admitted that he had no tolerance for alcohol. Like that wasn't something Wei Ying was intimately aware of. 

He still thought it might be fun, having Lan Zhan tipsy and completely uninhibited while Wei Ying was sober enough to enjoy it. But that was one of the few things Wei Ying hinted after that Lan Zhan seemed uninterested in trying. So he dropped it. 

Lan Zhan brings him his drink, and Wei Ying tries to give him a proper thank-you. The nightie is the perfect length, just short enough that Wei Ying can get a nice handful of Lan Zhan's ass. But Lan Zhan swats him away and pushes Wei Ying's plate into his lap. Then Wei Ying isn't allowed to put anything into his mouth except the dumb chicken wrap.

He gets to look at Lan Zhan, though, sitting in a prim lotus position on the chair. That position shows off a lot of beautiful scenery, so Wei Ying decides not to complain. 

"How was your day?" he asks when Lan Zhan is mostly finished with his salad. 

Lan Zhan doesn't like to talk when they eat, but Wei Ying can't let the whole meal pass in uncomfortable silence. 

"You can give a vague answer," he adds.

Technically, they're not supposed to talk about this stuff. There are nondisclosure agreements, non-compete agreements, all that stuff. Wei Ying glosses over most of the fine print that the lawyers shove in front of him. But he has a general understanding that he's not supposed to talk business with the scion of Lan Tech. 

"Boring," Lan Zhan says, as he sets aside his plate. "Meetings."

"Ugh, yes." Wei Ying chews one of his fries. "I had one this morning with…someone who shall not be named. Asshole."

Lan Zhan's mouth quirks.

"I know," he says.

He probably does know, too. The software industry is surprisingly small. Sooner or later, he and Lan Zhan meet all the same people. 

Lan Zhan does know who Wei Ying is talking about. That's clear from his follow-up question.

"How is your sister?" he asks. 

Wei Ying sighs and shoves aside his own plate.

"Good. She's gonna have a baby in the fall."

Wei Ying isn't supposed to tell anyone about this yet. Jiejie is only seven weeks along, and she said she won't make public announcements for at least a month. But Lan Zhan is not the public. Lan Zhan is Lan Zhan, and Wei Ying wants so badly to tell him about this. 

Lan Zhan lifts his eyes from his tea.

"Congratulations." 

"Yeah, we're pretty excited!" Wei Ying finishes his drink and stretches out his legs, staring at his toes. 

Excited is an understatement. But that's not all Wei Ying is feeling right now. 

Things have been weird ever since he bailed on the Jiang company to start YilingWei. Jiejie was supportive, always. But there's a distance there now, and it's only gotten wider since she got married. 

They used to be on the same team: her, Jiang Cheng, and Wei Ying. 

Now her first allegiance is to her husband, and Wei Ying has his own company to think of. They still have family dinners every now and then, and it's mostly okay. But sometimes it's painfully awkward, all three of them talking around the elephant in the room.

"Jiang Cheng and I are already trying to outspend each other," Wei Ying volunteers. He sits forward, propping his elbows on his knees. "I bought this really cute crib mobile, so you know what he did? He went out and bought a whole crib! Now what am I supposed to do?"

"Buy a pram," Lan Zhan says promptly. 

Wei Ying laughs. 

"I could do that, couldn't I? Some of those are really expensive, I think." He rubs his chin. "I'll pick out a fancy one. That'll show him!"

During the first year of YilingWei, Jiang Cheng glared at him every time they crossed paths. Can you really afford that, he'd mutter when he saw Wei Ying buying a coffee. 

It's because he was worried, Wei Ying knows that. Jiang Cheng thought—everybody thought—that the company would never survive. Jiang Cheng believed his brother would wind up homeless and living behind a Dumpster within a matter of months.

He never said it outright, not even during those awful first months. But it was there, lurking behind every tense silence as the lines deepened around Jiang Cheng's eyes.

Just hurry up and let the company go under, his eyes said. Let it fail, let the Wens deal with their own problems. Come work for me, like we always planned. 

Wei Ying couldn't do that, though. He didn't even know how to do that, how to let a company fail and dozens of people lose their jobs. Most of the Wens were effectively blacklisted by the rest of the industry. They'd never be able to get another job. Wei Ying could cash it all in and go back to work for his brother. Wen Qing and Wen Ning and all the others? They couldn't.

So Wei Ying built the company up, brick by brick. They got a few lucky breaks. First, they bought up some applications cheaply and tweaked them, rebranded them. Resurrection, the systems software Wei Ying had been working on since grad school, was a huge hit. They made some good hires, expanded their R&D department, dumped some money into marketing. The stock went public last year, just around the time the new version of their Talisman software hit the market. 

There's enough money now that Wei Ying doesn't even flinch at the expensive hotel bills. There's no guilt over spending thousands so he can have a place to be alone with Lan Zhan for a few hours. No guilt for about the money, anyway. He can definitely afford to buy a hideously expensive pram for the sole purpose of showing Jiang Cheng up.

But all of a sudden, Wei Ying doesn't feel like thinking about Jiejie's baby anymore. He's not interested in imagining how cranky his brother will be if Wei Ying outspends him. Wei Ying has better things to think of. 

"I'm fed," he says, pointing meaningfully at his empty plate. He shakes his empty glass. "I'm hydrated! And Lan Zhan is too far away!"

Lan Zhan takes the hint. Wei Ying props his back against the couch so Lan Zhan can climb right on top of him, straddling his thighs. Wei Ying doesn't waste any time getting his hands under the nightie again. But the beautiful knickers, so nice to look at, are in his way.

"These," he decides, "have to go. No offense! They are extremely sexy and I love them. But they're covering up all the nicest parts, and I just can't allow that."

Lan Zhan doesn't put up any kind of protest. The knickers are lying on the hotel carpet before Wei Ying finishes speaking. 

Wei Ying loves that, how quick Lan Zhan is to throw aside his clothing when he wants Wei Ying's hands on his body. It never stops being anything other than earthshakingly hot. 

Lan Zhan is hard already, but Wei Ying still gives him a few absent strokes. He hums, listening to the way Lan Zhan's breathing picks up. 

"Are you getting wet for me? I'm so jealous, I wish I could do that. Lube is too much trouble!"

He still likes getting fucked sometimes, and Lan Zhan is always willing to oblige whenever the mood strikes Wei Ying. But it's just so much easier to fuck Lan Zhan. He gets wet so fast and there's so much of it. There's no need to do any boring prep or messy clean-up. 

Wei Ying slides a couple fingers in, and there's no resistance. Lan Zhan is still open from getting fucked earlier. Or maybe he's just opening up again, his body getting ready for the next round. 

Wei Ying's cock throbs but he ignores it. Instead, he crooks his fingers, working the rim with his thumb, and Lan Zhan's whole body shudders.

He's unbelievably wet, and when Wei Ying pulls his fingers out to take a look, he realizes why. It's not just clear slick. It's his own come mixed in there too. Lan Zhan didn't wash it out. 

Wei Ying breath catches and he leans in to lick at Lan Zhan's collarbones. It's a mistake: from that angle, he can see Lan Zhan's knees spread wide, the nightie rucked up around his sides. He's dripping all over Wei Ying's sweatpants, slick and cum everywhere. Wei Ying can't choke down the moan that rises in his throat.

"Ah, you're so wet. I came in you so much!" He trails his fingers through the mess and slides them back inside Lan Zhan. 

Lan Zhan sighs, sinking further onto Wei Ying's lap and rocking against his hand. Wei Ying pushes aside the trailing edge of the nightie so he can get a proper look: his fingers, disappearing into Lan Zhan's tight folds, the fluid gushing. 

"We have to be more careful," he murmurs. "If we keep doing it like this, I might get you pregnant."

He doesn't mean to say it. He's got babies on the brain, that's all. Wei Ying wants to blame it on Jiejie's news. But he knows that's only half the story.

Lan Zhan pauses, his lazy movements against Wei Ying's hand slowing down. But he doesn't screw up his face, doesn't say, Gross, why are you talking about that when we're trying to have some fun? 

Instead, he lifts dark eyes to Wei Ying's face. He smooths aside a strand of Wei Ying's hair, almost absently. 

"I'm still on the pill." His voice is soft, tranquil. 

"Do you want to be? You don't have to take it."

Wei Ying doesn't mean to say that either, and his fingers still inside of Lan Zhan. 

He could play this off as respectful concern: You don't have to take the pill for my sake. I know you love it when I come in you. Believe me, I have noticed. But we could go back to using condoms if you don't like taking medication.

But can't make the words come. In the end, it doesn't matter. Lan Zhan blinks and Wei Ying can see his pupils dilate. He shifts, pushing himself down onto Wei Ying's fingers demanding.

Wei Ying gives a rough, startled laugh.

"Lan Zhan! Your body is answering for you. How shameless." He fucks Lan Zhan with his fingers because that's easy. He can do that on autopilot. But his mind is whirling. 

Lan Zhan stares at him, his eyes locked onto Wei Ying, wide and dark. He doesn't…

He doesn't seem like this is turning him off, talking about getting pregnant. He doesn't feel turned off at all. He's hard and wet, his lips parted and his hands squeezing Wei Ying's shoulders. 

"Wei Ying." Lan Zhan's voice is low, fraught with something. 

He likes this, Wei Ying thinks, dumbfounded. This is turning him on. 

It would be so stupid to take this any further. He'd do anything for Lan Zhan, roll with any fantasy that gets Lan Zhan remotely worked up. But he shouldn't do this. It's too much, too close to something Wei Ying actually wants.

The best-case scenario: they have wild passionate sex and then Wei Ying is left with the aftermath. He has to clean up the shattered fragments of his dignity and stare this mess right in the face. He has to admit to himself that he wants to marry Lan Zhan, make babies with him, have a whole disgustingly domestic life together.

The worst-case scenario: Lan Zhan realizes halfway through that this isn't just an idle fantasy for Wei Ying or some fucked-up roleplay in a random hotel room. That would worse, infinitely worse. 

Because Lan Zhan is a good person. He'd never fuck Wei Ying again if he knew Wei Ying had feelings for him. He'd decide that this was unfair to Wei Ying, it would be irresponsible, he'd be leading Wei Ying on. Then it would all be over.

Wei Ying works his fingers deeper, and Lan Zhan's lips part further. He still hasn't looked away from Wei Ying's face.

It's stupid, but Wei Ying knows—in a sudden, reckless moment of clarity—that he's going to do it anyway. 

"Come here," he whispers, easing Lan Zhan off his lap and setting him on his feet. "Let's go somewhere more comfortable."

He guides Lan Zhan back to the bedroom, where the bed is still unmade. The sun has set and Lan Zhan drew the curtains after he finished in the bathroom. The dim desk lamp is their only source of light.

Wei Ying usually prefers better lighting when they do this. He likes to see every part of Lan Zhan's body, every expression that flickers across his face. But maybe it's better if they don't look each other in the eye right now.

He pushes Lan Zhan onto the bed. Lan Zhan goes willingly, his legs already spreading so Wei Ying can settle between them. Wei Ying leans forward, lets his hair make a curtain between their faces and the rest of the world.

Then he does what he does best. He opens his mouth, and he talks. 

"We do it so much, you'd probably get pregnant right away if you stopped your pill." He runs his hands down Lan Zhan's sides. 

Lan Zhan inhales sharply. He hooks an ankle behind Wei Ying's knee, drawing him closer. It would be so easy: Wei Ying's cock is already poking out of the sweatpants. All he has to do is push them down and slide in. But he doesn't want to rush this, so he palms Lan Zhan's stomach instead.

"Hm. You have such a nice figure, it would be a shame to ruin it!" He parts the sides of the nightie to press his hand against Lan Zhan's belly, right below his navel. "But you'd look very cute, all round and full."

He would. Wei Ying lets himself imagine it properly without any effort to censor his own thoughts. He shoves aside the usual whispers—don't even think about that, Lan Zhan would never want that—and just lets himself imagine it. Lan Zhan, his belly swollen and round and heavy.

"I wonder if these would start swelling up too?" He lets a hand stray upwards, brushing his thumb against a nipple. "I've heard that happens sometimes."

Not all male carriers produce milk, he knows that much. But it would be nice if Lan Zhan did. It would be nice to see him get round there, too, round and full everywhere.

"Wei Ying..." 

Lan Zhan's voice is shaky. But he knows their safeword—kaleidoscope—and he hasn't used it yet. Instead, he reaches out. One hand drifts toward Wei Ying's cock, hovering but not quite touching. That's enough to give Wei Ying a fresh surge of boldness.

"'Wei Ying!'" he teases. He bites down hard at the base of Lan Zhan's neck. 

Lan Zhan makes a quiet, broken noise and rocks his hips hard against Wei Ying.

"You know how much I love it when you say my name like that," Wei Ying says, once he has enough oxygen for a full sentence. "But it's not an answer, Lan Zhan. I'm asking you if you want babies."

Lan Zhan doesn't answer. But he slides his hand inside Wei Ying's sweatpants and tugs at his cock, and that's answer enough: keep talking

"You're so busy with work, you probably don't. And it would cause a big fuss, wouldn't it? With your family, the press. But if you wanted a baby, I'd give you one."

Lan Zhan shifts, shoving Wei Ying's sweatpants down and using the hand on his cock to draw him closer. He seems ready to push Wei Ying inside, all by himself. 

Wei Ying almost chokes. Lan Zhan never does that, not unless Wei Ying is the one who's tied up and Lan Zhan has to set the pace. If Wei Ying's hands are free, Lan Zhan lets him put it in, always. 

But Lan Zhan suddenly seems desperate for it. When Wei Ying slides a hand down to check, Lan Zhan is hotter and wetter than he's ever been. Ever, in the whole two years they've been doing this. 

"Ah, you're so excited! Do you want to try right away?" Wei Ying pushes his fingers inside again. There's such a mess in there already, and he feels almost lightheaded. "I already filled you up, you know. All of this is still inside you. If you skipped your pill tomorrow, you might get pregnant even if we didn't do it again."

His cock aches. Every part of him aches. He doesn't think he's ever been this hard, this turned on in his life. His body burns when Lan Zhan nods, giving his cock a determined squeeze.

"Again," he says. There's hardly breath behind the word, but Wei Ying hears it anyway. 

"Again!" Wei Ying echos. He draws his fingers out and grinds his palm against Lan Zhan. 

Lan Zhan keens. 

"We've already done it once. How many more times must we do this!"

"As many as it takes," Lan Zhan says.

All at once, Wei Ying can't breathe. He tries to draw in a fresh lungful of air, but he can't. He's dizzy, burning up, his body falling to pieces.

"You want that," he chokes out. "You want me to knock you up."

It's not the sexy voice he's been going for, the don't worry, this is just dirty talk voice. It's too raw, too honest. But either Lan Zhan doesn't notice, or he's too far gone to care. 

"Yes." He nods, like maybe Wei Ying needs that kind of affirmation to keep going. He's squirming now, clearly ready to shove Wei Ying straight onto the floor and mount Wei Ying if he doesn't start fucking him soon. Wei Ying has never seen him like this before.

"You'd be so good with a baby," he murmurs. 

Lan Zhan would. He'd be such an amazing parent, Wei Ying is sure of that.

"They'd be beautiful, just like you. Ah, it would be a lot of fun to see you like that! You'd get so big..."

He bends down so he can press a kiss to Lan Zhan's belly, the way he would if there was a baby in there. 

If Lan Zhan was really pregnant, Wei Ying wouldn't be able to keep his hands off of him. It would be awful. They'd never get anything done. Lan Zhan would probably wind up punching Wei Ying on a daily basis because he'd keep grabbing at Lan Zhan's stomach, his hips, his chest. He'd want to feel how Lan Zhan was growing, see if he was any bigger than the day before.

"If you were like that," he says huskily, "I'd probably have to take you from behind. Your belly would be so big, it wouldn't work any other way. Should we try it?"

They don't usually do it this way. Wei Ying likes to see Lan Zhan's face, to watch him as he comes. Lan Zhan never asks to be fucked from behind. Wei Ying isn't even sure if he particularly likes it. But Lan Zhan is so turned on he doesn't seem to care how he gets fucked.

Wei Ying doesn't like his stubborn silence, though, punctuated only by ragged breaths.

"Hm." He kisses his way up Lan Zhan's stomach, up his chest and throat so he can whisper in Lan Zhan's ear. "You're not being very vocal right now. How can I be sure this is what you really want? Maybe I should stop."

He will stop, he will. If Lan Zhan decides this is getting too weird and he doesn't like it anymore, Wei Ying is prepared to stop. He'll jerk himself off in the bathroom and never speak of this again. 

But Lan Zhan turns his face, his lips grazing Wei Ying's.

"Wei Ying," he whispers. "I want that."

Wei Ying's breath stutters again.

"You want...?" He stops and hides his face in Lan Zhan's hair. 

Wei Ying has to hide. He doesn't want Lan Zhan to see how much he's smiling.

"I'm sorry," he sighs. "I'm so stupid, I just can't understand what you're saying. Please explain it to me. What do you want?"

Lan Zhan makes an adorably frustrated sound, like he's completely done. Like he's going to kick Wei Ying in the crotch if he doesn't put his cock to good use in the next three seconds. Wei Ying has never heard that noise before either

"I want you..." Lan Zhan's voice is slow, shaky, deliberate, "to take me from behind."

Wei Ying licks his dry lips and presses them to Lan Zhan's throat.

"My dear, I would be delighted. But why should I do that? We don't usually do it in that position. Why do you want it like that right now?"

Lan Zhan is going to punch him, he's sure of it. He's slick and hot between Wei Ying's fingers, so he's plainly enjoying this sordid little fantasy. Still, Wei Ying knows he's pushing the envelope pretty far. 

It's one thing for Lan Zhan to lie there and listen as Wei Ying says a bunch of filthy nonsense. It's another for Wei Ying to demand that Lan Zhan participate, that he open his beautiful mouth and say this stuff too.

"I want you..." Lan Zhan says. 

He stops, breathing fast and shallow. Then he lets go of Wei Ying's cock so he can grip Wei Ying's shoulders, his legs spreading further apart. 

"Yes?" Wei Ying nips an earlobe. "What do you want me to do?"

He hardly knows what Lan Zhan is going to say. Often, when they do this, Lan Zhan will talk around what he wants. He'll fall back on euphemisms, allusions, coded ways of saying, Get your cock inside me, right now. 

But sometimes he's terrifyingly, devastatingly blunt. Wei Ying knows that, but he's still not prepared for Lan Zhan to take hold of his jaw, turning Wei Ying's face so they can make eye contact.

"Get me pregnant," Lan Zhan says. 

His voice is horse and fraught, and he absolutely does not sound like he's joking.

Wei Ying's cognitive function always takes a solid hit when they do this. But he can almost feel every neuron in his brain shutting down, every drop of blood rushing south. He can't even tease any more. 

All he can do is choke out, "Get on your hands and knees."

Lan Zhan does, offering Wei Ying the beautiful expanse of his back, shrouded in white lace. He shifts his hair to the side so it falls over his left shoulder, but Wei Ying combs it back so he can play with it. 

He's not up for much—his capacity for foreplay is absolutely shot—but he wants to pull on Lan Zhan's hair while they do this.

"Ah, look at this lovely body! So young and healthy!" 

He presses a few kisses to Lan Zhan's back, where the nightie meets bare skin. Then he noses at Lan Zhan's hairline. He can smell the shampoo Lan Zhan likes, his favorite cologne. 

Sometimes those scents follow Wei Ying around for days afterward. He'll get a whiff of sandalwood and bergamot, and he'll get hard right in the middle of a fucking board meeting.

"I bet you'd have no trouble getting pregnant." He pushes the nightie out of the way, spreading Lan Zhan open. "I could probably knock you up on the first try. It's a miracle it didn't happen the first time we did this."

"I took Plan B," Lan Zhan says, shifting his knees wider.

This is Wei Ying's cue. This is the moment where he's meant to shove himself inside, fuck Lan Zhan into the mattress, and give them both what they're aching for. 

But he falters. His hand, smoothing the edge of lace along Lan Zhan's hips, pauses. It's something he's been wondering all this time, and he doesn't know if he'll ever get the chance to ask again.

"Mm. So smart and responsible." He covers up his sudden hesitance by pressing more kisses along Lan Zhan's spine. His voice is shaky, but he tries to sound nonchalant as he asks, "Did you rush straight to the pharmacy and take it? Or did you think about it for a while?"

"I...thought about it." Lan Zhan stops writhing on the bed. Those delicious movements that Wei Ying loves so much—hurry up and fuck me! —slow to a halt.

They're drifting off track. Before, they could play it off as a filthy weird fantasy and nothing more. But now it's getting real. They're talking about their history, stuff that's actually happened, and this is not supposed to be part of the fantasy.

Wei Ying should drop it. He's so hard, and Lan Zhan is so wet, slick spilling down his thighs. He should just slide in, yank on Lan Zhan's hair, and finish both of them off in silence.

Instead, he brushes his lips along the small of Lan Zhan's back and asks, "Did you really?"

Lan Zhan nods. Wei Ying can't see his face, but he knows a nod when he sees one. His mouth starts running away from him again.

"What did you think about?" he whispers. "The fact that you had a belly full of my come? Did you think about leaving it there? Just waiting to see what would happen?"

He leans in, pressing the head of his cock against Lan Zhan's opening. He's so ready for it, it would take no effort at all to push inside. But he doesn't, not yet. He just teases the opening, and Lan Zhan tightens around him. 

"Yes," Lan Zhan whispers back.

"Tell me what you were thinking," he says, and slides in, agonizingly slow. 

Lan Zhan gasps and squeezes around his cock. Wei Ying pushes harder, working his way in, and Lan Zhan makes a choked sound.

"I wanted…I always wanted children. So I thought… But I decided it wasn't fair. To you."

The words come out haltingly, one syllable at a time. Lan Zhan sounds like he can hardly draw breath, and Wei Ying sympathizes. He doesn't even try to respond until he's bottomed out, as deep inside Lan Zhan's body as he could possibly be. Then he stops and listens to them both gasping. 

He wants to move, wants it so badly. Lan Zhan makes a small, distraught noise, and Wei Ying wants to give him what he needs. He wants it with every fiber of his body. He wants to give Lan Zhan everything, everything in the entire world, but especially this.

"Lan Zhan is so kind." He presses his mouth to Lan Zhan's back again. He means it, every word he says. "But what if I wanted that too? To come in you, make you pregnant? What if I asked you to stop taking the pill so we could have lots of babies?"

"Wei Ying."

Lan Zhan hardly seems able to get the words out. It's more of a choked moan than human speech. Wei Ying gives him one rough thrust, then another. Then he stops, knotting his fingers in Lan Zhan's hair.

"If I got to see you like that, I don't know if I could give it up." 

His voice is steadier than he might've expected, but he's forgotten why he shouldn't say this. He's forgotten why this might be too much, too bold, too honest. 

"I'd want you pregnant all the time. As soon as we had one baby, I'd just want to put the next one in you."

Lan Zhan makes another wrecked, desperate sound and pushes back onto Wei Ying's cock. Wei Ying's body takes over then, shallow thrusts, fast and steady. 

"You shouldn't have told me you want kids," he says, around a gravelly throat. "Now I'll be thinking about that all the time. I'd give you as many babies as you wanted. Anything you wanted."

He wants to say so much more:

I'd conquer the whole world to lay it at your feet. I'd make everyone kneel down in front of you, hold a knife at their throat until they worshiped you the way you deserve. You are everything, everything, and I'd give you anything you asked for, anything you ever wanted.

Lan Zhan squeezes around him again, but he's so wet there's hardly any friction. Wei Ying pushes him down onto his stomach, so he can thrust harder.

"Lan Zhan," he whispers. "Will you promise me something? If you decide to have a baby someday, you'll come to me first, right? I want it to be me." 

"Wei Ying."

His hand finds Lan Zhan's somehow. Lan Zhan tangles their fingers together, gripping Wei Ying's cock inside his body like he wants to trap it there forever. 

Wei Ying buries his face in Lan Zhan's hair, his thrusts losing their rhythm.

"I don't want anyone else to make a baby with you. Just me. Only me, okay?"

"Only you," Lan Zhan says, sounding almost delirious. "Only Wei Ying."

It's enough. All at once, it's both enough and too much. Wei Ying makes a sound that's probably loud enough to be heard in the suite next door. Lan Zhan cries out too, and Wei Ying can feel his body shaking from the inside. 

He's covered in sweat. That's Wei Ying's first clear, coherent thought when he comes back to himself. They're both soaked with sweat, and the lacy nightie is ruined. The cleaning staff will have burn all the bedding. But Wei Ying can't bring himself to care. Even the distant drumbeats—you said too much, you made it weird, now Lan Zhan is going to know how you feel—can't seem to touch him. 

Lan Zhan is sprawled on his stomach, breathing hard, and he doesn't even try to budge. His face is turned away as Wei Ying eases himself out and slumps over to the unoccupied side of the mattress.

He plays with Lan Zhan's hair a little bit because he can't help it. He can't help a lot of things, these days. He can't help thinking about his come inside Lan Zhan, can't help thinking, Just lie there, keep it inside you, maybe then you'll get pregnant.

But he doesn't say anything to extend the fantasy any further. The post-coital silence is deafening, broken only by their heavy, ragged breathing. 

Wei Ying has a dim awareness that he should probably say something now. He should try to put what just happened in context: Well, that was pretty kinky! Lan Zhan is so unexpectedly freaky! Haha, but don't worry. We don't have to do that again. That was just a fun little one-time roleplay, right?

He said too much, especially toward the end. So Wei Ying needs to get out in front of this. He needs to re-frame the situation while they're both half-drunk off their orgasms. It'll be harder to manage this, the longer he waits. But Wei Ying can't seem to make the words come. Instead, he lies on his side next to Lan Zhan and toys with his hair. 

Lan Zhan goes very still after a while, like he's fallen asleep. The self-imposed nine o'clock curfew must've kicked in. 

Wei Ying sort of wants to get up and do…something. Something grounding, something sensible. He should brush his teeth, change the thermostat. Wei Ying is a hot sleeper, and he likes to crank up the air conditioning. But Lan Zhan is always cold at night, so they have to put the thermostat somewhere in the middle.

Wei Ying can't bear to think about that now, though. He can't face all their mundane little routines, the way they have an agreed-upon setting for the thermostat and preferred sides of the bed. They can order food for each other, and Lan Zhan knows how to make Wei Ying's favorite drinks. Wei Ying knows Lan Zhan's favorite shampoo brand, and how he neatly folds his dirty clothes before putting them back into his suitcase.

It's too domestic, and Wei Ying can't deal with that. Not tonight, not after everything that's just happened. Not when part of him want to shake Lan Zhan awake and whisper, No, actually, I wasn't kidding. Marry me, move in with me, have my babies. I don't want to be with other people ever again, and I'd die if you were with anyone else. Tell me you won't be, not ever. Say it one more time, please: Only you, only Wei Ying. 

If he had any energy left, he might be in real danger of doing just that. But shaking anybody awake—stringing together a whole coherent sentence—is too much work. Wei Ying feels spent, utterly wrung out. Even getting up to change the thermostat is too much work. He drags the blankets over both of them, but that's all he can manage. Then he shuts his eyes and the weight pulls him under.

Wei Ying wakes sometime later. He doesn't know how long it's been, but the sky outside is still dark. 

Lan Zhan shifts around on the bed beside him, and Wei Ying has a moment of panic: He's leaving, he's getting up and packing his suitcase and walking away. Then he realizes Lan Zhan is just fighting his way free of the tangled, stained nightie and flinging it toward the foot of the bed.

Wei Ying laughs, full of drowsy relief. He reaches out to rub a hand all over Lan Zhan's bare, exposed skin.

"I think I wrecked it," he mumbles. "Sorry. It had a good life. Short but sweet!"

Lan Zhan makes a sleepy sound and climbs back under the covers. But he doesn't shake Wei Ying's hand away. So Wei Ying's keeps touching him, slow, open-palmed strokes along his shoulders and arms and chest. 

He doesn't let his hand stray further down. It wants to. His hand desperately wants to palm Lan Zhan's stomach, the way it did earlier. It wants to press against Lan Zhan's flat belly: Do you feel that, all my come inside you? I filled you up so much. Do you think anything will happen, do you think anything will take root?

But that's over. They had their little moment of fantasy, and now Wei Ying has to leave it behind. They fucked; they came; the fantasy served its purpose. He can't bring it up again, even though Lan Zhan—impossibly—seemed to like it. 

He liked it because it was a dirty forbidden fantasy, that's all. He wouldn't like it if he realized Wei Ying was terribly, horribly serious about this. So Wei Ying keeps his hands where they belong, on Lan Zhan's shoulders and hair. After a moment, he realizes Lan Zhan is staring at him. 

The light is too dim, the crappy desk lamp barely reaching the bed. Lan Zhan's beautiful face is hidden in shadows and Wei Ying can't read this expression at all. 

Wei Ying tucks a strand of hair behind Lan Zhan's ear. He tries not to think about everything he just said, or what Lan Zhan said in return. He's going to have to build an enormous mental wall around that memory, blocking it off and quarantining it. He can't possibly forget it, but he'll have to find some way to bury it in a shallow grave. That's part of the damage control he'll have to do. 

That, and this:

"Did I make things weird earlier?" he asks quietly.

Lan Zhan shakes his head. But Wei Ying can't see his face well enough to know if that's a polite 'no' or a sincere 'no'. He tugs on another strand of Lan Zhan hair and swipes his thumb along Lan Zhan's cheek.

"If we're just having fun, messing around," he says, "then it's okay. But if I crossed a boundary and freaked you out, you have to tell me."

"You didn't." Lan Zhan's voice is soft and absolutely unreadable. 

Wei Ying stews on that for a while. 

"Are you sure?" he presses. He crowds closer on the bed, encouraged by the way Lan Zhan doesn't immediately pull back. "You seem a little freaked out."

Lan Zhan has quiet freakouts sometimes. It took Wei Ying a long time to identify them properly. Lan Zhan doesn't always express things the way Wei Ying expects, or the way he's used to. 

Back in grad school, Lan Zhan had no problem snapping at Wei Ying, even cussing him out on one special occasion. If he didn't like something Wei Ying was doing, he'd roll his eyes and walk away. That was easy enough to interpret.

But over the past few years, Wei Ying discovered another dimension to Lan Zhan's reactions. Sometimes they're muted, subtle, hard to detect. Sometimes, Lan Zhan gets freaked out and acts like everything's normal

Wei Ying tries to watch diligently for signs of a muted-freakout. But he often needs Lan Zhan's help to diagnose them.

"It wasn't…you," Lan Zhan says. 

That's not a denial: No, I'm not freaking out. Which means yes, he's freaking out. Wei Ying is getting the, 'it's not you, it's me' speech. 

He heaves an enormous sigh and strokes Lan Zhan's hair some more, just in case this is the last time he'll get to do that.

"Did you not know you had that kink?" he ventures. "Until, like, an hour ago?"

He's hoping it's that. He hopes Lan Zhan is just freaking out because he didn't know the idea of role-playing 'let's make a baby' would turn him on so much. 

If it's that, they can get past it. Lan Zhan can mentally adjust to living in a world where he's a little freakier than he realized. Then they can promise to never touch that fantasy again.

"Something like that." Lan Zhan's voice is half-muffled by the pillow, but Wei Ying can hear it clearly enough.

He scrunches up his face.

"Ah. Sorry."

Lan Zhan lifts his face from the pillow, blinking.

"Why?" he asks. 

That's not a question Wei Ying feels prepared to answer, and he flounders. 

"Oh, I don't know," he stammers. "It's probably my fault, right? Things usually are! I've been told I should assume everything is my fault, and apologize accordingly."

"By whom?" 

Lan Zhan shifts onto his side so he can face Wei Ying. He sounds charmingly annoyed, and Wei Ying muffles a laugh.

"Lots of people! It's okay, they have a point." 

Wei Ying shrugs. Lots of people have said this, and yes: they do have a point. He offends people a lot

"I've also been told, by a very reliable individual, that I'm extremely shameless," he adds.

Lan Zhan frowns at him, and Wei Ying can't quite repress a smile. It's one of his favorite memories, that's all. There were so many times in grad school when he did something ridiculous and irreverent, and Lan Zhan hissed under his breath, Shameless!

He had no idea how shameless Wei Ying could be. But then, Wei Ying didn't know how shameless Lan Zhan could be either. So that was a surprise for both of them.

"Shameless," Lan Zhan agrees, after a grudging pause. "But not your fault."

"Hm. Okay."

Wei Ying swallows down everything else to say. He's getting good at that. He's had a lot of practice, after all. There have always been a thousand things he wants to say to Lan Zhan.

He strokes Lan Zhan's hair some more. Lan Zhan eyes slide closed. Maybe he wants to go to sleep. That would be good, Wei Ying decides. Lan Zhan can sleep. Wei Ying can lie awake, and question everything in his life that led him to this point. 

He's not even sure when it all started. It's been so many years, and it took so long for him to realize he was in trouble. Wei Ying sighs.

Everything was okay when they were just classmates. They saw each other all the time then. Lan Zhan was in half of his classes. They had lab hours together, and group projects. Lan Zhan was always right there. Wei Ying could look at him, tease him. He could talk to Lan Zhan whenever he liked. So he thought it was a tiny crush, that's all.

Wei Ying brushes his thumb over Lan Zhan's cheek again. Lan Zhan doesn't stir.

Back then, it felt like something great was just around the corner. His graduation would only be the start. Wei Ying had so many dreams, so much he wanted to accomplish. Things were promising. He was getting attention and winning a few awards. He had actual job offers, not just from Jiang Cheng. 

Lan Zhan still frowned at Wei Ying all the time, and he never agreed to grab a coffee after their classes. He never accepted Wei Ying's invitations to go out for Thai food or see a campus concert. But that was all right. It made sense.

After all, Lan Zhan was the kind of person who could afford to be picky. He could afford to wait until someone really special came along. 

Wei Ying wasn't special yet, but maybe he could be someday. It never dawned on him that this sort of planning—Lan Zhan doesn't like me yet, but I'll just get really famous and successful, and then he'll pay attention to me —was maybe a symptom of something more than an idle crush. 

Then, all at once, it was too late. Wen Enterprises finally flew too close to the sun. Everyone ganged up on them, and they tumbled.

Everybody in the industry was so happy to watch their collapse. Jiang Cheng certainly was. He wouldn't listen when Wei Ying said it wasn't fair to the workers, the programmers. It wasn't fair to the people being blamed for corruption and criminal activity they never even knew about. 

Wei Ying stuck up for them, and he tried to help Wen Qing and Wen Ning. But then everything slipped out of his hands. The ground shifted beneath his feet. By the time he stopped to examine his surroundings, he was halfway down a path he'd never meant to follow. 

Wen Qing said, We need a new CEO. She didn't ask him, because she felt she didn't have the right to ask. But bills piled up on her desk and layoffs were coming. She looked so exhausted and desolate.

Jiang Cheng said, If you're going to go work for one of our competitors, then don't bother coming back. Jiejie swore he didn't mean it, he'd take it all back if Wei Ying only changed his mind. But it was too late for that. 

Wei Ying stares at the ceiling because he can't bear to look at Lan Zhan's face anymore. 

He knows Lan Zhan tried to defend him, afterward. 

It never happened when Wei Ying was around to hear it. Back then, their conversations never went very far. Lan Zhan just repeated the same stuff Jiang Cheng said: Wei Ying should stick with his family first and not get involved with the Wen's mess. 

Wei Ying shut those conversations down pretty hard. He could take it from Jiang Cheng. But he couldn't deal with hearing that from Lan Zhan. So he refused to discuss the topic, and Lan Zhan stopped talking to him for a long time. Wei Ying figured that was that: the last bit of camaraderie was gone for good. 

He'd never be someone Lan Zhan liked or admired. Not now. Wei Ying would never have any kind of shot with Lan Zhan, not when he'd thrown in his fortunes with Lan Zhan's bitterest enemies. The Wens—not the ones Wei Ying tried to protect, but Wens nonetheless—had burned down Lan Zhan's fucking family home. Of course, Lan Zhan would see Wei Ying's actions as a betrayal.

But Lan Zhan didn't, not really. In time, Lan Zhan said stuff that made it clear he didn't feel betrayed.

Perhaps Wei Ying is making the correct decision. It's best to try to salvage what the Wens left behind and put it to better use. The employees who knew nothing of the Wens' corruption shouldn't be punished. Wei Ying isn't disrespecting his family by trying to help innocent workers. 

Wei Ying heard about that eventually. Lan Zhan said it in front of people who really hated Wei Ying, so the rumors caught fire quickly. Nobody wanted to hear that sort of thing from Lan Zhan. His uncle certainly didn't, and neither did their board of directors. Their stockholders didn't like employees making public statements that hinted that maybe—just maybe—Lan Tech was on the wrong side of this conflict.

But Lan Zhan never issued a public apology, or even a retraction. He never took anything back, and he never said anything nasty about YilingWei. 

Wei Ying didn't know what to do with that. In the end, he had to conclude that he'd somehow managed to hold onto a small shred of Lan Zhan's respect. Impossibly, he'd kept Lan Zhan's good opinion. 

He never thanked Lan Zhan for any of it. Not for the way he stuck up for Wei Ying, and not for the small loan he'd quietly offered Wei Ying during the first awful year. Wei Ying was too proud to take it, and too ashamed to even thank Lan Zhan for the gesture. Now that things were so different —YilingWei was doing so much better—Wei Ying didn't even know how to bring it up. 

He'd tried a hundred times to open his mouth and say:Thanks for your support back then. 

But now that his company was doing well, that sounded almost sarcastic: Thanks for your support, but see how well we did without it?

Wei Ying sighs and rolls onto his back.

Anyway, when was he supposed to say that sort of thing? Just after they finished fucking? When they were cleaning up, getting dressed, rushing to catch their planes back home? It was never the right time. 

He could send Lan Zhan something, maybe. A letter or an e-mail. But that seemed strange, too. How was Wei Ying supposed to send a brief, professional note, like they were nothing more than grad school colleagues? How could he bring up all their history while pretending it had nothing to do with their present? Their future?

Thanks for your support, but the company is doing well. Am I good enough for you yet? I know I'm not, I know I'm only good enough for sex. But maybe I could be good enough for more, someday? If you'd just tell me what I need to do to be good enough, I promise I'll work on it. You can give me a list and everything!

Wei Ying mashes his face into the pillow and shuts his eyes.

He couldn't say anything like that. He has some self-respect, after all. Not as much as he should, maybe. He doesn't have enough self-respect to keep from coming back here every month. Or enough to stop fantasizing about more, wishing for more.

He doesn't have enough self-respect to keep from dragging his weird little fantasies into the bedroom and dumping them straight into Lan Zhan's lap. But he has some self-respect, anyway. Enough to keep from begging for something Lan Zhan doesn't want to give. 

Wei Ying squeezes his eyes tight and wills himself to sleep.

 

***

 

When he wakes in the morning, he can hear Lan Zhan moving around and getting ready for the day. But Wei Ying pushes his head under the pillow and keeps his eyes closed. 

When they first started doing this, Lan Zhan would sneak out early. He'd be gone before Wei Ying even woke up. Sometimes, if Wei Ying was lucky, there would be a note. Lan Zhan would explain that he'd paid for extended checkout, so Wei Ying could take his time leaving. Or Lan Zhan would say that he left a tip for housekeeping on the dresser, so Wei Ying didn't need to bother. 

It was all so incredibly dirty, but this was probably normal. Wei Ying knew that, even if he hadn't technically done this before: carrying on an elaborate hotel affair. 

He'd hooked up with plenty of people during college and grad school. But they were just dumb college kids, fooling around in cramped dorm rooms. This was something entirely different, and Wei Ying had absolutely no idea what the established etiquette was. But Lan Zhan must've known. So Wei Ying just took his cue from him. 

They didn't talk in the mornings, and they always exited separately. Then, one day, Lan Zhan's flight was delayed. He stayed at the hotel for breakfast. Afterward, they started a new pattern. They got ready together, ate breakfast, talked a little. It wasn't too awkward. Soon, it wasn't awkward at all. 

Wei Ying languishes in bed and wonders if they're going to revert to the old pattern now. Maybe Lan Zhan will return to sneaking out while Wei Ying is asleep. Wei Ying would probably do that himself, if their positions were reversed. But Lan Zhan doesn't seem to be trying too hard to keep quiet. He's back in the bathroom, using the hair-dryer again. After a while, there's a light knock on the suite door, followed by the smell of food and coffee.

Finally, Wei Ying accepts that the faking-sleep routine isn't fooling anybody. Not even him. He sits upright on the bed, staring at the mess they've made of the sheets and scratching his head. 

"Shower free?" he asks, when Lan Zhan steps out of the bathroom. 

Lan Zhan nods. He's wearing a nice sweater and dark slacks. Wei Ying starts to feel like he should be dressed too, preferably in something besides come-stained sweatpants.

He hurries through his shower, but he carefully scrubs away all traces of bodily fluids. Then he brushes his teeth twice, even though he usually delays tooth-brushing until he's done with his coffee. But oral hygiene helps him feel a little more composed. So does toweling and combing out his damp hair. 

Wei Ying has to return to the bedroom to get dressed, but he's careful not to look at the bed. Or the battered nightie lying crumpled on the floor. It tries to draw his eye, but Wei Ying stays firm. He keeps his eyes averted as he digs through his suitcase. Eventually, he finds dark-washed jeans, a black t-shirt, and a white button-down shirt. He decides that's formal enough for this sort of morning.

In the living area, Lan Zhan has the television on. He's watching a news broadcast while spooning sugar into a cup of coffee.

"Your flight has been delayed," he says, handing Wei Ying the cup. 

Wei Ying blinks down at his coffee, and it dawns on him that Lan Zhan is watching a weather report. When he turns to look outside, rain is lashing the hotel windows.

"Oh," he says. "Okay."

Wei Ying sips his coffee slowly. The front desk must have called. They do that, at hotels like these. They keep track of guests' travel arrangements. 

"Well. No big deal. I'll figure out if they're gonna rebook me for later, or whatever."

He blinks at the storm outside. The weather was supposed to hold till tonight, long enough for both of them to make it safely back to their respective homes. But it doesn't look like planes will be taking off anytime soon.

"Was your flight affected?"

Lan Zhan shakes his head as he sits on the couch with his mug of tea. 

There's a room service tray full of eggs, bread, congee, and fresh fruit. Wei Ying loads up a plate morosely, giving his hands something to do. Then he drops into an empty chair. 

"I will be driving," Lan Zhan says. 

Wei Ying stares. 

"In this?" He squints at the storm outside the window. 

Lan Zhan could drive, he supposes. It's not that far between here and his home in Guangzhou. Wei Ying was planning on heading back to Shanghai, and that's way too far to drive. But Lan Zhan could rent a car. 

He wants to say, Don't do that. That doesn't even sound safe. Just stay here with me. We can keep the suite for another night and rebook our flights tomorrow. 

But he doesn't have any right to protest. Lan Zhan is an adult. He can decide on his own travel arrangements. 

"Okay," Wei Ying says dully. "Well. Be careful."

Lan Zhan makes a small noise of assent as he cuts up his fruit. Wei Ying stirs an egg into his congee and mashes it with his spoon.

If Lan Zhan isn't staying at the hotel, Wei Ying doesn't want to stay either. He'll check out and wait at the airport, with all the other cranky stranded travelers. That sounds better than staying here, alone in the suite.

They don't say much while they eat. Lan Zhan never talks during meals, of course. But Wei Ying can usually keep up a running monologue. 

Not today, though. He chokes down his congee with half a slice of bread. Lan Zhan refills his coffee cup, without Wei Ying even having to ask. That puts a lump in Wei Ying's throat, and suddenly he can't manage any more food.

"Wei Ying," Lan Zhan begins once they're done eating. He doesn't look up from his own empty plate. "Last night."

Wei Ying forces down a sip of coffee and shakes his head. 

"Ah. Forget that. Lan Zhan. We can just forget that, I promise."

He tries not to shift—uncomfortably, guiltily—in his seat. He's been hoping they wouldn't have to talk about what happened. 

They never talk about this stuff. In the mornings, they make no reference to whatever happened the night before. Wei Ying doesn't see why it has to be different this time.

(But, no. He does see why it's different this time, he does.)

"I cannot." Lan Zhan's voice is quiet, even. He sets aside his plate, but he doesn't look up. 

Wei Ying's stomach sinks all the way down to his feet.

"You said—" Lan Zhan starts. He pauses. 

Wei Ying shakes his head again, furiously.

"I said a lot of things." He squeezes his hand around the coffee mug. "Please, forget them. I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable. I won't say that stuff again, I promise."

Lan Zhan doesn't respond right away. He stares into his mug, and Wei Ying wants to imitate him. 

But he can't. He can never stop looking at Lan Zhan. Wei Ying doesn't even know how to look at anything else, when Lan Zhan is in the room. He never did. 

"What if I asked you to?" Lan Zhan's words seem to hang in the air, and he looks up.

"You…" 

Wei Ying's mouth drops open. It takes a few seconds to remember to close it. 

"Ah. If Lan Zhan likes it, then that's different. Of course we can do it again."

He's not using the right tone, and he knows it. He should sound cheerful, smug, lecherous. Instead, his voice is hollow. He sounds winded.

Wei Ying doesn't know how to process this. He could tell that Lan Zhan liked it, what they did last night. What they said. Lan Zhan had never been that wet, that hot for it. He'd never fucked Wei Ying with that much fervor. 

If Lan Zhan likes it, then they can—they must—do it again. But Wei Ying doesn't know how much longer he can go on pretending that this is just a fantasy. He feels faintly sick. 

Lan Zhan seems to read the nausea on Wei Ying's face. His brows draw together. 

"Do you want to?" he asks.

"Definitely," Wei Ying says rapidly. Mechanically. "I like everything we do, you know."

It's the truth. But he isn't fooling Lan Zhan. The small line between his brow deepens.

"Wei Ying. It made you uncomfortable?"

"No, no." Wei Ying shakes his head. "No. I liked it, very much. Couldn't you tell?"

Lan Zhan's face does something complicated. Wei Ying can't even begin to decipher that look, not after the night he's had. 

"Don't make that face!" 

Wei Ying gets up, crosses over to the couch, and drops down beside Lan Zhan. He rubs at the line between Lan Zhan's brow with his fingers. 

"It's too early for that kind of serious expression! Anyway, if you leave with that kind of face, the hotel clerk is going to think I had a fight with my husband."

He regrets the words as soon as he's said them. But by then, it's too late. 

Lan Zhan's eyes are wide and his lips are parted, but the rest of his expression is impossible to read. Wei Ying swallows and takes another sip of his coffee.

"Did you tell him that? That we're married?" He tries to sound offhand, so he can play it off as a joke if he needs to.

Lan Zhan nods.

"So he would let me into the room." His voice is unreadable too, which just does not seem fair. 

Wei Ying lets out a helpless groan.

"I thought we weren't supposed to do that kind of thing. I'm not mad!" he adds hastily. He can read the expression that crosses Lan Zhan's face then. "Lan Zhan. I promise I'm not mad. It just kind of caught me off guard. I thought we didn't want people knowing about this."

He takes Lan Zhan's hand in his. They don't usually do that sort of thing during the mornings-after. But it seems necessary now. Lan Zhan absolutely cannot leave the hotel thinking that Wei Ying is mad at him. 

"You don't want that," Lan Zhan says carefully.

Wei Ying's hand spasms, squeezing Lan Zhan's tight. 

"No. No, when did I say that?"

Lan Zhan doesn't answer. Wei Ying's stomach sinks further.

It hadn't occurred to him for one solitary minute that Lan Zhan would interpret things this way. After the second time—when they weren't drunk, but languishing through another awful convention—Wei Ying had said, Maybe we should just skip the shitty meetings next time, and get a hotel room on our own. 

It had been appallingly presumptuous, even for Wei Ying. Lan Zhan had only slept with him twice. Wei Ying had no business assuming there would be a 'next time'. But he'd said it anyway.

We don't have to wait until the next industry thing, you know. It would be better if we don't do this at the next convention, anyway. Someone might see us coming out of each other's rooms. We don't want to worry about getting caught.

Lan Zhan had nodded. There had been a next time, another hotel room booked even though there wasn't any special event scheduled. Wei Ying hadn't bothered to say anything else, because he thought the rest went without saying. 

Naturally, Lan Zhan didn't want anybody to catch him stumbling out of Wei Ying's bed in the morning. But that didn't mean…

It would be crazy to think it went the other way: that Wei Ying was embarrassed to be with Lan Zhan.  

"Lan Zhan." 

He stares at Lan Zhan's hand, trapped between his. Lan Zhan's hands are exquisite. They were the first thing Wei Ying noticed when they met: Lan Zhan's fingers tapping neatly at the keyboard of a slim laptop during their grad school orientation. Wei Ying couldn't tear his eyes away. 

"Things were really tough after…" Wei Ying waves one of his own hands. "You know, everything. Everybody kind of hated me. Some people still do."

He pauses. But Lan Zhan doesn't interrupt, and Wei Ying can't manage to look him in the eye.

"Things are going better now, and the company is doing okay. I mean, I don't think anybody has been secretly spitting in my drinks when I go to industry events. But still." 

He grimaces. 

People are basically nice to him now, but it's only because things are going well at YilingWei. They see his company rising, money pouring in, and they wonder if they can get a slice of it. 

It's not because anybody in the industry has any particular fondness for him. If things started going downhill at his company, everyone would turn their back on him again. 

"I'm not trying to wreck your reputation," he says. He makes his voice firm because this is the foundation of what he's trying to say. It's the foundation of everything. 

"I know you stuck up for me, after the…thing. And I know your family was mad about that, and your company was mad. I know it was a whole PR mess." 

He knows—even if they never talked about this—that people tried to pressure Lan Zhan. His family, their publicists. Lots of people probably sat Lan Zhan down and said, Withdraw your support from Wei Wuxian. Everything you said, walk it back. Say you were misquoted, that your words were misconstrued. Say that you respect his ability as a software engineer, perhaps, but you don't agree with the course of action he's chosen.

But Lan Zhan never said any of that, and Wei Ying knows people must've given him hell for it. 

"I'm not trying to drag you back there," he says. He grips Lan Zhan's hand again. "Not after you've worked so hard at your job. Not when it's…"

"When it's…?" Lan Zhan echoes. He dips his chin, trying to meet Wei Ying's eyes. 

Wei Ying sighs and waves a hand. 

"When it's this." He risks a glance at Lan Zhan, who blinks at him. "This! Anonymous sex in hotel rooms! Meeting up for quickies when one us has a layover! I'm not going to ruin your reputation for that."

Lan Zhan is silent for a horribly long time. His face is utterly blank.

Wei Ying decides that this is probably it. This is the moment when Lan Zhan stands up and says, You're right. This isn't worth it. I was foolish to ever agree to this. Don't text me again. 

He thinks about letting go of Lan Zhan's hand, but doesn't. It might be the last time Wei Ying gets to touch him. He wants to make it last. 

"Is that the only reason," Lan Zhan says. 

Wei Ying tries to make sense of that statement—question?—and fails.

"For…?"

"Is that the only reason you want to keep this secret," Lan Zhan says, very evenly. "Because of my reputation. Because it's sex in hotel rooms."

He fires the words like bullets:  reputation, sex, hotel rooms.

"…Yes?" Wei Ying ventures.

The conversation is spinning away from him somehow. That seems to happen a lot with Lan Zhan. When they're not having sex, anyway. 

When they're naked, it's easy to take charge and steer the evening where he wants it to go. When they're not, Lan Zhan flattens him with one look. 

He does it now.

"I don't care about that," he says. "I don't care what people will say."

Wei Ying stares at him. Then he scrubs a hand over his face.

Mistake, he thinks. That was the wrong tactic. Lan Zhan has never been afraid of gossip in his life, and he's not going to start now. Wei Ying framed this as, What will people say?

Naturally, Lan Zhan is offended, indignant: I don't care what people will say. How dare you assume that's how I make decisions.

Wei Ying takes a deep breath and gathers both of Lan Zhan's hands into his lap.

"I don't think you're thinking this through," he says carefully. "People aren't just going to say, 'Oh, an affair, how scandalous, how sleazy!' It's not just that."

It's half the problem, and it's bad enough. But it's not what Wei Ying should've focused on. It's not the part that would really matter to Lan Zhan. He tries again.

"People will say, 'I wonder what he's telling Wei Wuxian. I wonder if they share trade secrets, proprietary information. I wonder if there's corporate espionage going on.'"

He pats Lan Zhan's hands grimly. Lan Zhan stares at him, right into his eyes. But somehow Wei Ying can't seem to hold eye contact. 

"It would be a mess. We're competitors. There would be, like, lawsuits." 

Wei Ying is absolutely sure that some asshole would try to file a lawsuit. It wouldn't go very far. Neither of them has actually done anything wrong. They haven't damaged their companies' stock values; they haven't betrayed any confidential secrets. But Lan Zhan's name would still get dragged through the mud.

"Nobody at your company would trust you anymore," Wei Ying says. He speaks bluntly because Lan Zhan absolutely must understand this. "You couldn't get any work done if nobody trusted you. Your whole career would stall out."

The little frown is back, the line between Lan Zhan's brows. But Lan Zhan grips both of his hands, so Wei Ying can't reach up and rub it away.

"You asked me something once," Lan Zhan says. "After you established YilingWei. We met in Los Angeles, for the expo. You made me an offer."

Wei Ying sighs, winces. He tips his head back. They've never talked about that either, and what a time for Lan Zhan to bring it up!

"I remember. Lan Zhan. That was…I was just teasing you." He shrugs. "I knew you wouldn't leave your job at one of the biggest software companies in the world and jump onto a floundering startup. Who would do that? You'd have to be crazy!"

It had been unbelievably cocky, the kind of shamelessness Wei Ying was known for. They'd talked at the expo, briefly. It was the first time they'd met since Lan Zhan tried to convince him to go back to Jiang Corp, and Wei Ying said no.

Hey, Lan Zhan, I'll tell you what! If you ever get tired of working at such a stodgy place as Lan Tech, you can come work for me. How about that? No need to even fill out an application! We'd hire you on the spot!

Lan Zhan had told him gravely that he would keep Wei Ying's company in mind. Everybody within earshot had laughed. They marveled at how polite Lan Zhan was, how professional. How courteous he was, to give such an outrageous proposal a respectful answer. 

"It isn't a floundering startup." Lan Zhan points out. 

Wei Ying blinks back to the present, where his company has had its most successful quarter on record.

"Well. It isn't now."

"Your stock is doing extremely well," Lan Zhan presses. "You've won several prestigious awards. You're expanding into new markets."

"Yes," Wei Ying says blankly. 

It's true, all of it. But so what? He's lost control of the conversation again, and Lan Zhan is spiraling off into uncharted waters. 

"Are you hiring?" Lan Zhan asks.

It takes a long time for the words to sink in. 

"Lan Zhan," he chokes, struggling for breath. "You don't want that."

"Please don't tell me what I want. I asked a question."

Lan Zhan's voice is admirably even. But his eyes aren't cool and remote anymore. They're full of feeling, and Wei Ying can't even bear to look at him. He stares at their joined hands instead. 

"You have non-compete agreements," he says numbly. It's the most inconsequential counter-argument, but it's the first thing that comes to mind.

"They expire in eighteen months."

Lan Zhan casually shoots down Wei Ying's objections like they're nothing. Like he's not talking about torching his entire career, and for what? 

To join Wei Ying's company, which is doing well but couldn't afford to pay Lan Zhan half of what he's worth? A company that won't be as prestigious as Lan Tech for another twenty years, and that's if Wei Ying is lucky?

Wei Ying can't breathe. It takes conscious effort to draw air into his lungs.

"Well, then you wouldn't be able to work for a year and a half!" His voice cracks. "Don't get me wrong, any company worth their salt would wait for you. Mine would. But what would you do for a year and a half, if you couldn't work?"

He shuts his eyes once he's said it. He just keeps driving the conversation back in this direction, or maybe Lan Zhan does. Somehow, they keep coming back here. 

It's not about the money. Wei Ying knows perfectly well that Lan Zhan has a trust fund. He even knows how much it's worth. Lan Zhan has never told him, but that sort of thing is public knowledge. It's not like Lan Zhan ever has to work for a living. 

Maybe he wants a sabbatical. That seems reasonable enough. As far as Wei Ying can tell, Lan Zhan has kept his nose to the grindstone pretty much since preschool. He finished college and went straight into grad school. He graduated and started working for his family's company the very next week. 

Wei Ying can't remember ever hearing about Lan Zhan even taking a vacation. Maybe he wants one now. That would be fine. 

But all Wei Ying can think is, Eighteen months would be the perfect amount of time for maternity leave. Which is just not what he should be thinking about right now, but Lan Zhan squeezes his hands tightly. 

"You made me another offer." 

Lan Zhan doesn't even blush and he says it. Wei Ying drags his eyes to Lan Zhan's face just in time to watch the words come out of his mouth. 

"You said, if I wanted a child, I should come to you. If you didn't mean it, please tell me now."

Wei Ying makes a sound that's awful, even to his own ears. It's not the right response, and neither is what comes next.

"You don't want that!" he says desperately. "You don't even like me!"

"When did I say that?" Lan Zhan voice—his gaze—is perfectly steady. 

It seems horribly unfair. Wei Ying feels like his entire being has just shattered into a million pieces. Lan Zhan shouldn't be allowed to look so calm about this.

"I don't know," he stammers. Wei Ying stares at their hands again, because that seems safer than looking at Lan Zhan's beautiful, resolute face. "I'm going off of how you acted in grad school. You always looked like you wanted to shove me in front of a train."

"Did it occur to you that my feelings might have changed since then?"

"No! It didn't!"

As soon as the words are out of his mouth, Wei Ying realizes how stupid he sounds. He suddenly wants to cry. 

Why didn't it occur to him? Because Lan Zhan didn't act any differently, he thinks. But that's a lie.

Lan Zhan was a little bit different every time they met. Not in important ways, of course. He was the same in the essentials.

But he didn't always pour Wei Ying's coffee or fix his drinks. He didn't always spend the mornings with Wei Ying. He didn't always buy lingerie to wear for Wei Ying, or hold his hand on the couch, or do any of the stuff that clearly wasn't just about sex. 

"Were you under the impression that I do this with everyone I meet?" Lan Zhan asks. His calm, even voice frays a little. That's enough to make Wei Ying's head snap up.

"No." 

He did not think that, ever. He has never been under the impression that Lan Zhan is just sleeping his way through the entire tech industry. He has never once—not for a single minute—believed that Lan Zhan bangs anybody who's young, attractive, and bold enough to try to claim some of his attention. 

"I do not," Lan Zhan says firmly.

Wei Ying hangs his head. 

"I know that." He squeezes Lan Zhan's hands some more. He actually does know that. Wei Ying knows there has to be some kind of affection there, or respect, or something. 

Lan Zhan wouldn't sleep with him if there wasn't at least a little bit of trust between them. He wouldn't be doing this—talking about quitting his job, having Wei Ying's baby—if there wasn't a lot of trust. 

But Wei Ying can't wrap his head around it. He feels dizzy, almost sick with how much he wants it. 

Lan Zhan can't be joking. He wouldn't do that. He wouldn't lead Wei Ying on, only to laugh in his face and say,  Oh, did you actually think I was being serious?

Wei Ying doesn't know much about some things, maybe. But he knows Lan Zhan would never do that.

"In fact, there has never been anyone but you."

Wei Ying's head snaps back up.

Lan Zhan's face is set, and he doesn't exactly look embarrassed. But there's something there, and Wei Ying can see that he means exactly what he says. 

He's not saying, There's never been anyone else with whom I had sexy hotel hookups. He's not even saying, There's never been anyone else with whom I considered having a child. 

He's saying, There has never been anyone else. Full stop. 

The bottom drops out of Wei Ying's world. 

"But we were drunk the first time!" he gasps.

"Yes," Lan Zhan says, quite calmly. He says it like this is not the most horrible thing Wei Ying has ever heard.

There were drunk the first time. Like, really drunk. Drunk enough that Wei Ying barely remembers anything from that night. He doesn't think Lan Zhan fared much better. 

It was shitty enough for Wei Ying, waking up to realize that he fucked somebody new and didn't use a condom. He can't even imagine how bad it must've been for Lan Zhan, if he'd literally never had sex before.

For a moment, Wei Ying thinks he might throw up all over Lan Zhan's nice pressed slacks. 

"Well," he chokes out. He clears his throat. "That sucks. That's a terrible way to lose your virginity! I demand a do-over."

"You have had several." Lan Zhan's mouth quirks a little, like this is funny. 

But it isn't, Wei Ying thinks frantically. Nothing about this is funny! They've done it a lot, sure. But it wasn't what it should've been, not in those early days. 

Lan Zhan was a little bit shy back then. But Wei Ying hadn't thought much of it. He probably was embarrassed. Someone as proper as Lan Zhan was sleeping with Wei Ying, of all people! 

Wei Ying had already guessed that none of his past lovers had asked for anything kinky. But he thought there had been past lovers. Maybe they were boring, vanilla, missionary-sex lovers who never did anything exciting for Lan Zhan. Still, he thought there was somebody. He thought that at least the basics—oral sex, doggy style, handjobs—were familiar ground for Lan Zhan. 

So Wei Ying didn't have any compunctions about asking for kinky stuff right away. He feels panicky when he thinks of that now. He was so quick to say, Hey, how about handcuffs? How about I hold you down and tell you what to do? How about spanking, how about blindfolds?

Lan Zhan said yes to all of it. He was an adult, able to decide for himself. But all Wei Ying can think is, I didn't do it right, I didn't make it nice for him. There should've been candles and rose petals on the bed, silk sheets and romantic music. It wasn't good enough, it wasn't what Lan Zhan deserves. I definitely need a do-over!

"Yeah, well," Wei Ying says helplessly. "Maybe I want more. Maybe I want a do-over every day. Every single day for the rest of our lives."

"I see." Lan Zhan nods. He absolutely fails to look appalled by that proposition. 

Wei Ying shakes their joined hands.

"I'm very unreasonable!" he says. 

He is so unreasonable. He wants so many greedy, selfish things. Lan Zhan should be running in the other direction, not sitting there placidly and asking Wei Ying if his offers are still on the table. 

"Hm." Lan Zhan is smiling, a tiny bit.

Wei Ying wants to shake him, too. 

What is it?  he wants to scream. What could possibly be funny? This is a terrible situation! You're telling me I took your virginity while we were both drunk! You're offering to quit your job and have a baby with me, like that isn't the worst life choice you could possibly make!

"I mean it," he cries. "I'm the worst. I forget birthdays. I drink milk straight from the carton. I leave my dirty socks all over the house, and I never remember to put the cap back on the toothpaste."

"I have noticed," Lan Zhan says placidly. 

He probably has. They've done this enough for Lan Zhan to notice Wei Ying's everyday bad habits: the toothpaste, the socks, their eternal thermostat wars. But Wei Ying doesn't think he's hammering his point home.

"My point is, I think you could do a lot better. In terms of employers." Wei Ying's mouth works soundlessly. "And, like. A husband. A father for your children. I think your standards are too low."

Lan Zhan has abysmally low standards. Wei Ying wonders how it's possible that he never realized that before this moment. 

But Lan Zhan is still smiling, like there's a secret joke Wei Yin isn't in on. Wei Ying has never seen him smile before, not really. He stares, transfixed. It should be impossible, but Lan Zhan is even more beautiful when he smiles.

"I don't agree," he says. His tone is businesslike. "What are Wei Ying's standards?"

Wei Ying spends some more time gaping like a fish. 

"Just Lan Zhan," he says, helplessly. "My standard is Lan Zhan." 

It has been ever since grad school, really. They met, and Wei Ying thought, Yes, this person. This is the person I will judge all others against, for the rest of my life. Nobody else is ever going to measure up, I can see that already, but that's just too bad. 

"Just you," he whispers. "It can't be anyone but you."

Lan Zhan reaches out to touch his face. Wei Ying takes his hand and kisses the palm. It buys him a few moments to push down the tears rising in his throat.

"Are you really quitting your job and bailing on your family?" 

His voice is muffled against Lan Zhan's hand, but he thinks it's clear enough. Lan Zhan nods.

"Just so you can marry me and have my babies and work for my company? Is that seriously what's happening here? Because I was not expecting that when I woke up this morning. I have whiplash."

Wei Ying has never felt this wrong-footed in his life, not ever. He seems to be tumbling off a cliff. But Lan Zhan is taking the plunge with him, so it's not so bad.

It's not bad at all, actually. 

"Wei Ying will have to adjust." Lan Zhan pushes a strand on hair out of Wei Ying's eyes. 

Wei Ying tries to adjust. He really does. But he only winds up replaying their conversation in his head. The last few sentences finally sink in.

"Oh my god." He gasps aloud. "I just asked you to marry me. That doesn't count!"

He throws the last bit of dignity to the wind and shakes Lan Zhan by the shoulders.

"You have to wait!" he insists. "Until I can get, like, a ring. Some flowers. Dinner reservations, at least."

Lan Zhan looks horrified for a minute, like he thinks Wei Ying is trying to take it all back. But then his face smooths out. He relaxes and nods patiently, but Wei Ying groans.

He's always had dreams of a big romantic proposal. It didn't seem to matter whether he was the proposer or the proposee: it just had to be good. A whole room full of orchids, and a team of string musicians playing from the next room. Or a treasure hunt, culminating in a beautiful ring. The details didn't matter, as long as the proposal was aweseome.

This, Wei Ying decides hysterically, was not awesome

"That was a shitty proposal!" He gives up on shaking Lan Zhan and buries his face in Lan Zhan's shoulder. "You can't tell people I proposed like that, it's not allowed!"

Lan Zhan smooths his hair. When he speaks, he sounds amused again.

"Technically, I believe I proposed."

Wei Ying blinks and lifts his face from Lan Zhan's sweater.

"Technically, I guess you did." He furrows his brow and tries to replay the whole conversation. "Wait. No. I made the original offers, and then you accepted?"

He can't seem to place the events in their proper order. His brain is slowly shutting down. Lan Zhan keeps smiling and touching Wei Ying's face, and that knocks the rest of Wei Ying's brain offline.

Wei Ying gives up and puts his face back in the crook of Lan Zhan's neck.

"We both proposed," he decides. "And we did a shitty job at it! We can't tell anybody it went down like this. We're going to have to come up with a romantic story."

Jiejie will be so disappointed in me, he thinks miserably. She'll be horrified to hear that he proposed on a hotel couch. Her stupid husband did a big romantic proposal for her. Wei Ying refuses to be outdone by the peacock. 

"I see," Lan Zhan says gravely. "What would you suggest?"

Wei Ying has a hunch that he's supposed to sit up properly for this conversation. But it's nice, having his face mashed against Lan Zhan's neck. He doesn't think he'll ever come out. Lan Zhan has said he's prepared to deal with Wei Ying's unreasonable behavior, so he'll have to put up with this.

"Can we tell people we fell in love in grad school?" Wei Ying asks, pressing his face harder against Lan Zhan's bare skin. "Because that's actually true for me, so."

"It's true for me too."

It turns out, there is something that can persuade Wei Ying to pry himself out of Lan Zhan's arms. Wei Ying bolts upright and stares into Lan Zhan's face.

Lan Zhan stares back, like he said something perfectly obvious and not at all shocking. 

Wei Ying parts his lips and tries to speak. Then he gives up and kisses Lan Zhan, again and again.

"No, that's bad too!" he cries, once he pries himself away. 

Lan Zhan is beautifully flushed, and it's very distracting. But Wei Ying manages to stay focused.

"People will say, 'In love since grad school? Then what took you so long?' We'll have to say, 'Well, we were having a lot of freaky sex, but we never got around to talking about feelings until we decided to maybe have a kid!'"

Wei Ying groans and drops his head into Lan Zhan's lap. 

This is a bad story, he decides. So bad. He's going to have to explain this to people. They will have to explain this to people. Jiejie and Jiang Cheng. The Wens. Lan Zhan's family.

People will say, You're eloping? Are you crazy? You aren't even dating!

They'll have to say, Well, technically no. But it's okay, because we've been sleeping together for twenty-two months! We've been in love for years! We just forgot to actually talk about things like dating and marriage and feelings! But we remembered now, so it's fine!

Wei Ying shakes his head vehemently. He can imaging Wen Qing's reaction to that announcement. It isn't pretty.

"That sounds worse than the shitty couch proposal," he says.

Lan Zhan makes a faint noise of assent, but he doesn't seem too bothered by this dilemma. He's busy combing Wei Ying's hair with his fingers.

"Give me a few days," Wei Ying mumbles into Lan Zhan's thighs. "I'll think of something better."

But he'll have to exile Lan Zhan to another room while he does his thinking. Clearly, his brain doesn't work properly when Lan Zhan is around. 

He tilts his head so Lan Zhan will rub his ears, and feels very satisfied when Lan Zhan does.

"I will rely on Wei Ying's innovation," Lan Zhan says.

Wei Ying pries his eyes open and squints up at Lan Zhan's smiling face.

"Are you making fun of me?" he demands. 

Lan Zhan sort of looks like he might be making fun. He seems to be stuck on some funny side to this situation, one that Wei Ying simply isn't appreciating. 

But that's fine. Wei Ying decides that's fine. If Lan Zhan runs away with him, everything else is fine. Lan Zhan can make fun of Wei Ying every single day of his life, and Wei Ying will never complain.  

"I am not."

Wei Ying squints at him some more. He doesn't lift his head from Lan Zhan's lap, because he likes it there. He wonders briefly if he could conduct meetings like this. 

He could try. Lan Zhan could come with him to the office, and Wei Ying could keep his head in Lan Zhan's lap all day long. If Lan Zhan won't be working for a while, that seems feasible. 

"Are you really in love with me?" he asks.

Wei Ying tries not sound too needy about it, but he doesn't think he succeeds. Lan Zhan brushes the back of his fingers over Wei Ying's face. 

"Yes."

Wei Ying soaks that in, the absolute surety in Lan Zhan's voice. It's humbling, and he swallows hard. 

"Do you actually want to quit your job and marry me? You've thought this through? One hundred percent?"

"One hundred percent." Lan Zhan nods. He pauses, hesitates for a split-second. Then he adds, "I have a ring."

Wei Ying jolts out of Lan Zhan's lap so quickly that he nearly knocks their skulls together.

"What," he says.

Lan Zhan looks very, very slightly abashed. But he repeats himself.

"I have a ring."

Wei Ying hopes he doesn't look as shell-shocked as he feels. But this, this is the most shocking revelation of the day.

"Is it here?" he asks. Then he has to stop and clear his throat. His voice is downright squeaky.

"No. It's at home."

Lan Zhan lowers his hands from Wei Ying's hair and puts them into his lap. But Wei Ying snatches them back.

"Just to be clear, the ring is for me? You bought it for me? Like, it's a wedding ring?"

He doesn't care if it isn't, not really. Lan Zhan could have bought him a promise ring, a class ring, something he got out of a gumball machine. It doesn't matter. The idea of Lan Zhan acquiring a ring of any kind and thinking, I'll keep this and give it to Wei Ying someday, is dizzying. 

"Yes."

Wei Ying squeezes Lan Zhan's hands so hard he can almost feel the bones grind together. He lets go. 

"Okay." He gives a decisive nod. "Before we run away together, we need to make a detour back to your place. We need that ring. Also, the secret lingerie that was supposed to be for next time. Then we can elope."

"Agreed." Lan Zhan nods back.

He doesn't even bat an eyelash, Wei Ying thinks. He's going to elope with Wei Ying, and he doesn't even look scandalized about it.

Wei Ying should take what he can get. Something impossibly good has tumbled into his lap, and he shouldn't ask too many questions. Lan Zhan says he loves Wei Ying, and he has for years. He's going to marry Wei Ying. He's going to leave his family, his company, his entire life. Just to be with Wei Ying. It would be unbearably greedy to ask for more.

But the words tumble out anyway. 

"Do you really want a baby?" Wei Ying asks. Then he falters. "Someday? Because I want that a lot. It wasn't just a kinky thing. I definitely want kids. But we don't have to do that right away. It's okay if you want to wait."

He can wait. Wei Ying decides that he can definitely wait. He'll wait a whole decade, if that's what Lan Zhan wants. They're still young. They have time. He can make himself wait.

"I will throw away my birth control today," Lan Zhan says easily.

Wei Ying dives back into Lan Zhan's lap, and hides his face against the smooth material of Lan Zhan's slacks.

"Sorry," he mumbles, once he can speak again. "I'll pull it together and say something romantic in a minute. Just give me a second."

"Take your time."

Lan Zhan's fingers card through his hair again. 

Wei Ying really tries, but it's no use. There's so much he wants to say about how Lan Zhan makes him feel. How stupidly in love he is, how boneshakingly grateful for what Lan Zhan is offering. But he can't say any of it. His throat closes up the minute he tries. Instead, he sucks in a deep breath and pries himself away from Lan Zhan's lap.

"I want us to shut off our phones and stay here tonight. Then tomorrow we can fly to your place and pack up whatever you want, and fly to my apartment. Then on Monday, we can tell our families and our companies that this is happening, and they're just gonna have to deal with it. And we'll get married, ASAP, and have some babies and be disgustingly happy for the rest of our lives. That's what I want."

He falters.

"I don't think that was very romantic, but..."

It wasn't romantic, not even a little. It was just a greedy list of everything he wants. But Lan Zhan smiles at him anyway and threads their fingers together. 

"Wei Ying," he says. "It was romantic. Very romantic."

Wei Ying takes Lan Zhan's face in his hands, pressing their mouths together. His mind is still whirling, but that doesn't matter. Thinking, he decides, is grossly overrated. Planning is overrated. They'll get married and have babies, and that's the only thing that matters. Wei Ying is willing to strip his entire life down to the joists and rebuild it, just to make that happen.

"Do you think the nightie would hold up for one more round?" he hints. "I have a good feeling about that nightie. I think it's lucky."

It's a blessed nightie, he's already decided that. It's what Lan Zhan was wearing when they decided to make a baby. Maybe it'll be what Lan Zhan is wearing when they really make a baby. Wei Ying feels extremely positive toward that nightie.

"If it isn't," Lan Zhan says gravely, "I will request a refund."

Wei Ying bursts out laughing.

After all, the weather has them trapped for awhile. They may as well put the time to good use. So it just makes sense to chase Lan Zhan back into the bedroom and snatch the nightie up off the floor.