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it’s a party (i’ll kiss you if i want to)

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Three weeks into production, and Wen Qing is finally beginning to realize that she is babysitting a bunch of six-feet-tall children.

“Stop.”

Under flashing lavender lights, her tired voice is drowned out by the pulsing bass. On the stage, said troupe of children continue to play on, oblivious to her internal crisis of faith. It’s not that the music is bad. It’s not that the dancing is bad. It’s just—

She raises her voice.

“Stop, stop, stop!” she shouts crankily, slapping her clipboard loudly against the edge of the stage.

Finally, the boys draw to a slightly bewildered halt.

Wen Qing stares at them for a moment longer, before she drops into her chair, massaging her temples slowly.

“Is there...” Lan Xichen begins, wide-eyed, “something wrong with our performance?”

“No,” Wen Qing admits. “You sound fine.”

She looks up at them consideringly as they stare back at her, shuffling their feet awkwardly. Finally, she sighs.

“Why,” she begins through gritted teeth, “do you lot have so little chemistry?!”

In the front, Lan Xichen’s eyes drop to the floor. The others sport little change in expression, but Wen Qing gets the distinct impression of guilt hanging in the air. After a moment, Nie Huaisang clears his throat.

“The collaboration timeline is a little rushed,” he defends weakly. “We’re still getting to know each other.”

Wen Qing sighs frustratedly.

“It’s not just that,” she says. “I can sense conflict .”

She stands up, jabbing a finger accusingly at Jiang Cheng.

“You, for example!” she begins sharply. “What was up with you and Lan Wangji glaring daggers at each other throughout the performance?!”

Jiang Cheng’s expression does not change. He continues to stare stoically at a spot somewhere over her shoulder. When she turns to Lan Wangji, raising a demanding eyebrow, his expression stays just as still as Jiang Cheng’s.

She turns to scowl at Lan Xichen instead.

“Why have you and your brother swapped positions without informing the stage crew?!” she demands.

Lan Xichen coughs.

Finally, she turns to Wei Wuxian, rocking guiltily back and forth on his heels.

“You and Jiang Cheng have also swapped positions,” she points out. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed that you and Lan Wangji are on opposite sides of the stage now.” She pauses. “Is this because of what happened last week?”

Wei Wuxian chokes on his next intake of breath, and immediately begins hacking up a lung. Behind him, Wen Ning winces, reaching to stroke his back.

“No,” Wei Wuxian manages, after a moment. “Of course not!”

Wen Qing raises an eyebrow.

“I don’t believe you,” she says bluntly.

She also can’t help but notice Jiang Cheng rolling his eyes as Wen Ning fetches a bottle of water for Wei Wuxian. There’s some conflict there between Jiang Cheng and her brother, but she holds back, hesitant to raise it publicly. A-Ning has always been sensitive to criticism. Pointing that out now will probably be counterproductive.

Finally, she groans, tossing her clipboard onto the seat beside her.

“Alright,” she grouses. “Let’s end for today.”

The group sags subtly, clearly relieved at the end to the grueling session. Nie Huaisang, on the other end, is a lot less discreet about his elation.

“We’re done?” he asks delightedly. “Oh thank god. My old back…”

“Huaisang,” Jin Guangyao murmurs reproachfully.

Wen Qing pretends not to hear it. She just does not have the energy at this point.

“Get lost!” she yells crankily. “By the time we meet back here tomorrow, you guys had better have sorted this out!”

As the boys unclip their microphones and remove their earpieces, handing them off to the stage crew, Wen Qing bites her lip.

“A-Ning, you stay,” she finally says. “I need to speak to you.”

Wen Ning winces. Wei Wuxian leans in with concerned eyes, murmuring reassuringly to him, which draws another eye roll from Jiang Cheng.

“Hey!” Wei Wuxian cries, as Jiang Cheng heads for the door. “Wait up!”

Wen Ning lowers his gaze as he rushes off. He looks up, however, as Wen Qing draws up behind him, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“I know my performance is not up to standard,” he says immediately. “Wei-xiong has been spending hours with me everyday. I’ll make sure not to be the weak link in the group, I promise.”

Wen Qing blinks, bewildered.

“That’s not what I wanted to talk to you about,” she says. “You’ve always performed well alone. I was just... concerned about your relationship with Jiang Cheng. Is everything alright?”

Wen Ning’s face closes off.

“It’s fine,” he murmurs.

He looks down at the floor. Wen Qing watches him for a moment, before she sighs. Her brother has always had a way of bottling up grievances, keeping them inside until they finally erupt. When that happens… the results have often been explosive.

“Is…” she begins hesitantly, “Is Jiang Cheng... bullying you?”

It’s something about his personality; so gentle, so meek, so kind. Goodness knows just how often her brother has been bullied in the past. There’s so much to love about his gentle-heartedness, but somehow, it has drawn so much unkindness. She doesn’t know what she’ll do if he’s being bullied at work now, right under her watch. But—

“No,” Wen Ning says.

She looks carefully at him. Although there is unhappiness in his face, she can see that he’s telling the truth. Wen Ning chews on his words for a moment longer.

“He’s frustrated with the quality of my performance,” he finally explains.

 

 

“Jiang Cheng!”

In front of him, Jiang Cheng continues walking, not turning back, or even bothering to acknowledge his call. Seething, Wei Wuxian picks up his pace, jogging forward to catch Jiang Cheng by the wrist.

“What?!” Jiang Cheng finally snaps, as Wei Wuxian yanks him around.

“You shouldn’t be so dismissive of Wen Ning,” Wei Wuxian scolds. “After all, we are trainees from the same company. We should support each other!” 

That only seems to agitate Jiang Cheng further.

“How much time have you been spending on Wen Ning?” he bites out. “Shouldn’t you be focusing on yourself and your own performance? I know you like feeling looked up to, but you shouldn’t get complacent.”

“You—“ Wei Wuxian begins, incredulous, but is promptly distracted as he catches sight of Lan Wangji ahead. Groaning, he leaves Jiang Cheng with only a sharp look, running after the other boy. “Wangji-xiong!”

Up ahead, Lan Wangji’s expression shutters as he averts his gaze, pointedly striding away from them. Determinedly ignoring his attempts to be stand-offish, Wei Wuxian catches up to him in the lift lobby, walking fast as Lan Wangji picks up his pace. 

“Hey, Wangji-xiong,” he begins, somewhat breathlessly. “You heard what Wen Qing-jie said! We need to sort out our differences by tomorrow! Wanna grab a cup of coffee with me? After dinner? Hey! Lan Zhan!”

Still not turning around, Lan Wangji pushes open the door to the fire escape, seemingly determined to avoid being in an enclosed space with Wei Wuxian even if it means taking the stairs. Jiang Cheng groans, yanking Wei Wuxian back by the elbow before he can follow.

“Leave him be,” he hisses. “Why do you insist on chasing someone so disagreeable?”

That finally gets Lan Wangji to turn around, shooting Jiang Cheng a vicious glare as the door swings shut behind him. Wei Wuxian waits until the door clicks shut between them before he turns to Jiang Cheng.

“Why do you have to antagonize him like that?!” he cries.

“I’m antagonizing him?!” Jiang Cheng scoffs, incredulous. “You’re the one who won’t stop annoying him!”

Wei Wuxian groans, jabbing at the button for the lift.

“We were fine before,” he grumbles, “but now Lan Zhan always glares and runs away whenever I approach.”

“Isn’t it all because of what happened last week?” Jiang Cheng jibes.

“Shut it,” Wei Wuxian snaps, turning to face the lift doors with a sigh.

Truthfully, up until last week, he’d thought they’d had pretty good chemistry. They’d been getting along fine. Lan Wangji certainly hadn’t had an issue with Wei Wuxian sidling up closer while on stage. And the look in his eyes, as Wei Wuxian had danced around his keyboard... Wei Wuxian had been so sure that it wouldn’t be long until he managed to tease a smile out of him.

Then, Wei Wuxian had gotten a tad bit carried away.

“You sat in his lap,” Jiang Cheng scolds. “His lap!”

The lift arrives with a ding . Huffing, Wei Wuxian heads into the open doors. He remembers the look on Lan Wangji’s face the moment it had happened, before he’d stood up, dumping Wei Wuxian to the ground, and strode off stage. They’d had to pause rehearsals while Lan Xichen went to talk his brother down.

“Why can’t you just leave him alone?” Jiang Cheng grumbles, jabbing agitatedly at the ‘close’ button. “Of all people—”

“Well, I don’t know,” Wei Wuxian mutters tiredly. “Why do you hate him so much?”

“He’s clearly looking down on us,” Jiang Cheng snaps. “He thinks he’s so much better, just because he’s from an established label…”

“No, he doesn’t,” Wei Wuxian groans. “That’s just your inferiority complex speaking.”

Jiang Cheng recoils, and Wei Wuxian registers his own words.

“Sorry,” he says at once, kicking himself. “I shouldn’t have—”

The lift draws to a halt.

“What?” Jiang Cheng seethes, striding out into the hallway as the doors open. “Do you like him?” He huffs. “For god’s sake, Wei Wuxian, we’ve talked about this. Feelings at work always make work messy. Don’t be stupid, and if you’re going to be stupid, then don’t drag me down with you!”

Finally, Wei Wuxian can no longer keep a lid on his temper. He shoves the key card into the slot, yanking the door open at the beep.

“You know better than anyone that skinship sells,” he snaps, slamming the door shut after Jiang Cheng. “You know that it’s part of my stage persona. I do that kind of stuff with you all the time! The stuff we do on stage is what got us our fanbase. At the end of the day, you know that it doesn’t mean a goddamn thing. Stop being so sensitive.”

Jiang Cheng’s face darkens.

“Yes! I’m sensitive!” he yells. “I’m disagreeable! I can’t do anything right!”

He storms off into his room.

The door slams shut behind him.

“Jiang Cheng—” Wei Wuxian begins helplessly, and then drops onto the couch and buries his head in his hands. “Ugh!”

He breathes out slowly between his teeth, willing the anger to drain from him as he does. As he calms, however, regret washes over him. He knocks the heel of his palm to his forehead. What was he thinking? Picking a fight with Jiang Cheng? After everything Jiang Cheng’s lost to be here today? They might have grown up together, but unlike him, Jiang Cheng had been born with a future, the heir to one of China’s biggest tech conglomerates. Wei Wuxian, on the hand, had been born to a pair of travelling musicians. It had been him who had introduced music to Jiang Cheng.

Madam Yu had never been pleased about that.

Jiang Cheng’s family situation had been… difficult, to say the least. His parents had basically disowned him after the two of them had run away to pursue a career in music, and Jiang Cheng has been desperate to prove himself ever since. The only issue is that in his stress, Jiang Cheng has been taking a lot more issue with the way Wei Wuxian spends his time.

It’s driving Wei Wuxian crazy.

With a sigh, he leans over, knocking his forehead into his knees, before he stands, and heads over to Jiang Cheng’s door.

“Jiang Cheng,” he calls placatingly, knocking lightly. “Jiang Cheng, I’m sorry. Please open up.”

He honestly doesn’t know what to do.

 

 

The window, when he wakes in the morning, is a blank sheet of white. Lan Xichen blinks at the window for a few moments, huddled up in blankets and shivering uncontrollably, before he finally determines that it’s not a problem with his eyes. Wrapping the blankets around him like a cape, he stands, and heads over to squint out of the window.

The glass is completely frosted over.

Snow? 

In Shanghai?!

When he takes out his phone, his weather app confirms his impossible observation. It’s indeed snowing in Shanghai this morning. For the first time in a decade too, according to Wen Qing’s text on the group chat, which means that the city has ground to a standstill, and so has their rehearsal plans. She is solidly stuck in her apartment on the other side of town.

So you’d better spend the day having some group bonding time, she messages, somehow managing to sound threatening over text. I am expecting everything to be sorted out between you lot by the time I return tomorrow.

Stretching briefly, Lan Xichen slides his feet into the fluffy hotel slippers, and then goes to check on his little brother in the other room. He knocks briefly before opening the door a crack.

“Wangji?”

Inside, Lan Wangji takes off his headphones, turning around with a little tilt of his head. His headphones are plugged into his keyboard, and there are papers laid out on the bed beside him, bars of notes scribbled neatly on them. He must have been composing.

“Wen Qing is snowed in, so we have the day off,” Lan Xichen informs him. “Wen Qing says that we should spend some time together as a group.”

Lan Wangji’s lips purse.

“Mm,” he acknowledges.

He does not make any move to comply with those instructions.

“Don’t you want to hang out with the other trainees?” Lan Xichen prompts.

Lan Wangji frowns.

“No,” he says.

Lan Xichen sighs, but he knows his brother, and he can sense that he will not budge on this.

“Have a good practice,” he says, and closes the door between them.

Heading back into his room, he opens his closet, and begins to pick out something to wear. Lan Wangji has never gotten along well with others, but Lan Xichen had been hoping that this collaboration would be a chance for him to make some friends. 

Since he’d never liked talking, it stands to reason that Lan Wangji never quite taken to singing. During his time as a trainee, he’d only gravitated more and more into instrumentals. And while Lan Xichen is glad he’s found his niche, being a keyboardist makes it all the more important for him to be placed with a good group. Unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten along with any group that Lan Entertainment has tried to place him in.

It’s honestly getting a little concerning.

But then again, Lan Xichen is certainly not one to talk. While Lan Wangji had been quite willing to follow their uncle’s command, becoming a trainee under Lan Entertainment, Lan Xichen had wanted to forge his own path. That path had taken him abroad to study theatre in New York. He’s had a good five years since. He’s won awards, had even made the cover of GQ after featuring in a western blockbuster last year. However, he’s found it... difficult fitting in with his peers in the idol industry. They are all a few years younger than him. He doesn’t get their jokes or pop culture references. Sometimes, they look at him like he’s some kind of alien…

Perhaps he’s been away from home for too long as well.

Lan Xichen sighs as he finally finishes dressing himself, picking up his wallet and heading back into the living room. The city might be at a standstill, but surely the buffet must be open for breakfast! He stops by his brother’s door again, knocking lightly.

“Wangji,” he calls, opening the door a crack. “I’m going down for breakfast. Are you coming, or shall I bring you something from the buffet?”

Lan Wangji stiffens. He does not turn around.

“I want to finish this song,” he says.

“I’ll bring you something,” Lan Xichen promises.

He closes the door behind him, then lets out another sigh, shaking his head.

Wangji has never liked crowds, always preferring to be alone. For a while, Lan Xichen had hoped that the young Wei Wuxian would finally succeed in bringing Lan Wangji out of his shell. However, since Wei Wuxian had made that ill-advised attempt to sit in Wangji’s lap on stage… 

Well.

His brother has only drawn further into his shell. He’s certainly been avoiding the common areas ever since. 

Just as Lan Xichen reaches the front door, there comes a knock. He opens the door to find Jin Guangyao standing outside, smiling.

“I brought breakfast,” he says, raising a paper bag. “Shall we eat together?”

“Please,” Lan Xichen says gladly.

As they sit down together at the table, Lan Xichen can’t help but smile. Although he’s had difficulties fitting in with the other idols, he had made fast friends with Jin Guangyao. But while Lan Xichen had soon become popular with directors and other executives, Jin Guangyao has faced more difficulties in his career. It’s strange, because the younger man had always seemed like he had everything he needed to make it big. The identity of Jin Guangyao’s father remains a lesser known fact. However, Lan Xichen highly suspects that a certain director has done something to have him blacklisted in the industry.

“Have you met with Director Nie recently?” Jin Guangyao asks with a gentle smile, drawing Lan 

Xichen from his thoughts. “How is he doing?”

Lan Xichen chuckles. Upon making each other’s acquaintance, they had been quite excited to find that they shared an unlikely friend. Jin Guangyao and Nie Mingjue had apparently become close while the former had been filling a temporary vacancy at Nie Industries some years back.

“Mingjue is fine,” Lan Xichen says. “He’s just worried about Huaisang, as always. This collab should hopefully get Huaisang started somewhere, and settle Mingjue’s worries.”

Jin Guangyao smiles. Before he can speak, their phones buzz against the table. Jin Guangyao leans over, and raises an eyebrow.

“Speak of the devil,” he says.

“Mingjue?” Lan Xichen asks, picking up his phone.

“No,” Jin Guangyao answers. “Huaisang.” 

Lan Xichen checks his messages. It appears that Huaisang has apparently woken up, and has just replied to Wen Qing on the group chat.

Huaisang // 怀桑
let’s meet in someone’s room for drinks!!!
Seen 8:21AM

Lan Xichen’s phone buzzes in his hands as a reply comes in.

Wei Wuxian // 魏无羡
did someone say drinks???
which room!!!!!!
Seen 8:21AM

His phone buzzes again.

Jiang Cheng // 江澄
the rooms the company booked are too small for everyone to fit…
Seen 8:21AM

Lan Xichen looks around at his very spacious executive suite, and guiltily remembers that he had paid for an upgrade out of pocket after seeing how cramped the assigned room had been. He supposes that’s the kind of lodging one gets while still a trainee…

Buzz.

Huaisang // 怀桑
why are you two texting separately...
while sitting at the same table...
Seen 8:21AM

Wei Wuxian // 魏无羡
ERM
Seen 8:21AM

Jiang Cheng // 江澄
YOU’RE SITTING AT THE TABLE WITH US
Seen 8:21AM

Wen Qing // 温情
……
Seen 8:21AM

Across the table from him, Jin Guangyao chuckles.

“They must be having breakfast together,” he observes. “They went to the same high school, didn’t they?”

“That’s what I heard,” Lan Xichen confirms.

He gingerly sets his phone down as it goes off in non-stop buzzing. From the looks of his notifications, it seems like the three have begun bickering over the group chat.

“It would be nice to have the opportunity for all of us to talk over drinks,” Lan Xichen notes. “Wen Qing-jie is right that this is affecting our performance, but the rehearsal schedule has been too tight to properly get to know each other…”

“It’s too bad that the assigned suites are indeed too small,” Jin Guangyao agrees. “Do you think we could use the performance venue? They’ve booked it for today, haven’t they?”

“It’s not a very intimate place for a gathering,” Lan Xichen muses, and smiles. “The executive suite is large enough to fit all of us, don’t you think? Maybe we can meet here instead.”

He picks up his phone. It continues to buzz away in his hands as he types.

Why don’t we meet in my suite?
I upgraded to an executive suite.
The assigned room was indeed very small...
But the executive suite is quite spacious!
Seen 8:23AM

Buzz.

Wei Wuxian // 魏无羡
GASPPPP
Seen 8:23AM

Buzz.

Huaisang // 怀桑
XICHEN-GEEEEEEE!!!!
Seen 8:23AM

Buzz.

Jiang Cheng // 江澄
is that really alright??
Seen 8:23AM

 

Opposite him, Jin Guangyao looks up from his phone, eyes wide.

“Xichen-ge really is generous,” he says. “Don’t you know that we are probably going to make a big mess in here?”

Lan Xichen chuckles.

“I’ve been to plenty of college house parties,” he says. “I know just how messy those get.”

Jin Guangyao tilts his head, a twinkle in his eye.

“Was Xichen-ge a party animal while studying overseas?” he teases.

They both laugh. Lan Xichen glances at his phone as it continues to buzz fervently against the table. The younger trainees definitely seem very excited. After a moment, he leans back in his seat, smiling a little to himself.

“Either way,” he continues, “I doubt we’ll be drinking as much as we did at college parties back in New York.”

 

 

“How is this not enough alcohol?!” Jiang Cheng explodes. “We have six bottles! Six! This is a work party, not a college party. We’re not out to get wasted!”

“It’s better to be unable to finish than to have not enough!” Wei Wuxian argues. “Besides… I want to know what Lan Zhan is like drunk, and he looks like the sort to have a high tolerance.”

“Bothering Lan Wangji again!” Jiang Cheng scolds.

“What are we gonna do?” Wei Wuxian continues, ignoring him. “We’ve emptied out the minibar in our room and Huaisang-xiong’s. Where else can we get alcohol?”

Nie Huaisang tunes out, letting them bicker. Somehow, the chatter brings him right back to old times, sneaking alcohol to each other’s houses back in high school, when no guardians were home to stop them.

“I’ll ask Wen Ning if he’ll surrender the alcohol in his minibar,” Nie Huaisang finally says, as the bickering intensifies. “That will make at least nine bottles.”

Leaving them to their argument, he leaves the room, and heads down the corridor towards Wen Ning’s room. Wen Ning answers after a knock and a short wait.

“Wen Ning,” he greets, and skips over to sprawl over the foot of Wen Ning’s bed.

“Not in your outside clothes, Huaisang,” Wen Ning says, returning to the couch. “You know this.” 

“These aren’t outside clothes because I haven’t been outside in them,” Nie Huaisang complains.

Wen Ning pauses. 

“You have a point,” he grants, before returning to… Nie Huaisang raises his head. Wen Ning appears to be folding his clothes. Who on earth folds their clothes while on a business trip? With a sigh, Nie Huaisang lets his head fall back down onto the bed. He and Wen Ning went to university together, and were even assigned to room together for a semester. He has never quite gotten Wen Ning’s fastidious cleanliness.

“Wen Ning,” he says after a moment, eyes closed. “I’m commandeering the alcohol in your minibar for the drinking session later. Wei-xiong’s orders.”

“Sure,” Wen Ning says absently.

“You can put it on his tab after you get the bill.”

“No need,” Wen Ning says, suspiciously quickly. “He’s done a lot for me. The least I can do is to buy him a drink.”

Nie Huaisang snorts.

He’s well acquainted with what Wen Ning looks like when he finds someone attractive. Unfortunately, Wen Ning is much like the other two in the Feelings At Work Makes Work Messy front. Nie Huaisang, on the other hand, has no compunctions about being attracted to all three of his colleagues. They are attractive men!

“Still finding it hard to adapt to performing?” he asks after a moment.

“A little,” Wen Ning mutters.

Nie Huaisang smiles.

“Hang in there,” he says.

Nie Huaisang has watched Wen Ning perform with their university’s musical theatre club, and he’s great! Since moving into Yiling Entertainment, however, it seems the stage fright has come back. Luckily, Wei Wuxian had taken a shine to him early on. Less luckily, Nie Huaisang is well aware of the tensions that have arisen with Jiang Cheng because of it. Nie Huaisang has a feeling that Jiang Cheng’s just insecure about Wei Wuxian spending time with other people. Nie Huaisang has no idea why! Jiang Cheng’s good-looking, smart, and a great performer.

Nie Huaisang, on the other hand…

He certainly never thought that he’d end up in this field. He’s always been a bit of a floater, just going wherever life takes him as long as it’s away from the family business. He’s had to pick things up along the way, and can’t help but suspect that his well-meaning brother had pulled some strings with Lan Entertainment to get him here. He isn’t sure what to feel about that.

His phone buzzes, and digging around in his back pocket, he fishes it out and presses it to his right ear.

“Hello?”

“Mission success, Agent N,” Wei Wuxian says in a melodramatic tone, no greetings. “We have secured soju from the nearest convenience store.”

“You walked out to the convenience store?” Nie Huaisang asks. “In this blizzard?!”

“We needed soju!” Wei Wuxian defends. “Have you achieved your mission objectives or not?”

Nie Huaisang sighs.

“Yes, Wei-xiong,” he mutters, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. “I’m in Wen Ning’s room.”

“Great!” Wei Wuxian cries. “See you in Xichen-laoshi’s room in an hour!”

Before Nie Huaisang can answer, Wei Wuxian hangs up. Nie Huaisang lies there for a moment, before he sighs again, shaking his head as he sits up. Wen Ning looks up at him inquisitively.

“I have a really bad feeling about this,” Nie Huaisang says.

 

 

“Keep it together,” Jiang Cheng nags for the last time as they head down the long corridor. “Remember that this is a work function, not a party! Don’t get too drunk! And for heaven’s sake, don’t say anything inappropriate.”

Wei Wuxian sighs, phone out and cross-checking the room numbers on the wall with the one they’d been given.

“How are you going to be able to perform with these people if you insist on treating them only as colleagues— not friends?” he asks. “Don’t be so uptight. Have fun and loosen up! Treat it as an opportunity to make friends, not to network. Okay?”

Jiang Cheng opens his mouth, about to argue, but Wei Wuxian stops before he can. He double checks with the room number, and lights up.

“This is the room!” he cries gladly, before he knocks lightly on the door.

After a moment, Jin Guangyao opens the door. He smiles at the sight of them.

“Now we’re all here,” he chimes, and gestures for them to enter. “Please.”

They step through the door.

“Woah,” Wei Wuxian says. “This is a big suite.”

It is. In Nie Huaisang’s room, there had been barely enough space for him to open his luggage. The bedrooms in Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian’s two-room suite had not been any bigger, and the living area had barely been big enough for three to sit comfortably. The suite is about four times bigger than theirs.

They set their plastic bags of liquor down on the coffee table.

“Well,” Nie Huaisang begins jokingly. “I guess that’s what happens when you’re established and have money to spend.”

Lan Xichen smiles, a little awkwardly, and gestures at them to sit.

“I’ve had room service bring up some champagne, prosecco, and some wines,” Jin Guangyao says politely. “They are in the wine chiller. Please help yourselves!”

Jiang Cheng suddenly can’t help but feel a little crass with their offerings of mid-range spirits.  Wei Wuxian, on the other hand, does not seem to share his compunctions.

“We’ve brought several bottles of vodka, tequila, and gin,” he announces happily. “Oh! And we have soju and mixers!”

“The wines must have been expensive,” Jiang Cheng cuts in. “We should split the cost evenly.”

Jin Guangyao laughs.

“I’ll just charge it to entertainment when we check out,” he says. “That’s what I do with all my other work functions! Wen Qing gave me the go-ahead.”

“Damn!” Wei Wuxian cries. “If I’d known, I’d have ordered some better spirits! I guess we can order more if we run out later.”

“We’re not going to run out,” Jiang Cheng says flatly. “There’s a lot of alcohol here.”

“That’s what you always say!” Wei Wuxian accuses. “But we always run out, and it’s always because of you! You drink like water!”

“No?” Jiang Cheng splutters. “That’s you!” 

Everyone laughs, save for Lan Wangji. The stoic boy just turns away expressionlessly, picking Lan Xichen’s phone off the table, and tapping away at it. A moment later, something with a slow, rumbling beat begins to play. It sounds like there are speakers concealed in the ceiling.

“Fancy,” Wei Wuxian comments, before rubbing his hands together. “Alright then. I’m going to help myself. Let’s not be polite!”

“I’ll have whatever you’re mixing,” Jiang Cheng sighs.

“Same,” Nie Huaisang says.

“Same,” Wen Ning adds.

Wei Wuxian grabs a bottle out of the plastic bags and immediately begins to pour four full glasses of tequila— neat. Nie Huaisang and Wen Ning both lean in, looking slightly concerned. Jiang Cheng just sighs. Meanwhile, Lan Xichen turns to Jin Guangyao, seemingly resuming a previous conversation. That leaves Lan Wangji standing somewhat awkwardly on the other side of the table. Wei Wuxian seems to notice, because he puts down the bottle and beckons.

“Wangji-xiong!” he calls. “Why are you sitting so far away from everyone? Come join us!”

Lan Wangji visibly hesitates.

“Go on, Wangji,” Lan Xichen encourages gently. “You should talk to people your age for a change.”

Lan Wangji comes around the table to sit with them.

“What do you like to drink?” Wei Wuxian asks.

“I,” Lan Wangji begins uncertainly, “I don’t drink.”

Jiang Cheng raises both eyebrows.

“What?!” Nie Huaisang and Wei Wuxian chorus.

“Not at all?!” Wei Wuxian splutters.

Lan Wangji pauses.

“I’ve never drunk alcohol before,” he says after a moment.

“Well, it’s never too late to try!” Wei Wuxian says cheerfully, and pours Lan Wangji a shot of tequila. Jiang Cheng snatches it from him before he can give it to Lan Wangji.

“Are you crazy?!” he scolds. “He won’t like it!”

He downs the shot, and then turns to Lan Wangji. “Do you prefer sweet or sour?”

“Sweet,” Lan Wangji says without hesitation.

“Lucky we went to the convenience store for yakult,” Jiang Cheng says to Wei Wuxian.

He fishes in the plastic bag for the soju, and begins to mix. When he’s done, he hands the glass over to Lan Wangji. The boy’s eyebrows lift out of his usual severe expression as he takes his first sip.

“Good, isn’t it!” Wei Wuxian asks eagerly.

“Mm,” Lan Wangji agrees.

He continues drinking. Meanwhile, the rest of them turn back to one another, raising their glasses in a toast. Before they can speak, however, Lan Wangji sets down his (empty) glass, walks over to the couch— and lays down. He does not get back up.

The rest of them stare in shock.

After a moment, Wei Wuxian gets up and gently tries to wake him up, but he doesn’t stir. 

“Shit.”

“Look what you’ve done now!” Jiang Cheng yells.

“Me?!” Wei Wuxian yelps. “You were the one who mixed the damn drink!” 

Lan Xichen comes over, waving his hands.

“No worries, no worries!” he assures them. “We Lans have never had the best tolerance. Let him sleep.”

He sits down by Lan Wangji’s curled up body and lays a hand on his shoulder, Jin Guangyao sits next to him. They resume their conversation. With considerably more hesitation, the rest of them turn slowly back to each other.

“You need to mix me some of that,” Nie Huaisang jokes.

They laugh, and the tension dissolves.

Still, as the conversation resumes, Jiang Cheng observes Lan Xichen and Jin Guangyao for a while longer. As they laugh, leaning in, Jiang Cheng wonders if they notice how they’re laying hands on each other’s knees. To be honest, he’d always thought that there was something between them. But either they are both unaware, or else they are both too afraid to act on it. He doesn’t envy them. Feelings at work always make work messy.

He sighs.

But that doesn’t seem to be stopping Wei Wuxian from charging full steam ahead.

He can’t help but sneak a glance back at his partner at that. Wei Wuxian has always been too bright, too brilliant to be tamed. Eventually, he will move on without Jiang Cheng, and— Jiang Cheng thinks that it will probably be career-ending for him. He doesn’t want to make music if he isn’t making music with Wei Wuxian...

He is distracted from his morose thoughts by a quiet rustle of fabric. He looks up to see Lan Wangji sitting up, rubbing at his eyes.

“How are you feeling, Wangji?” Lan Xichen murmurs.

“Do you have a headache?” Wei Wuxian asks immediately. “Do you feel nauseous?”

“No,” Lan Wangji says. “I’m fine.”

For a moment, Jiang Cheng thinks that he has sobered up. Then—

He stands up, picks up the bottle of tequila, and begins pouring shots.

“You need to drink more,” he tells Jiang Cheng expressionlessly. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed that you’ve barely touched that drink. All of you need to drink more. Down it.”

Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang cheer, grabbing their glasses. Jiang Cheng and Wen Ning trade bewildered looks, but at Lan Wangji’s sullen look, they pick up their glasses. Lan Xichen, the asshole, is laughing. But as Wangji turns around, pressing a plastic cup into his hand, he stops abruptly.

“Ah, Wangji,” he says uncertainly. “You know that’s going to get me really drunk.”

“It’s a party,” Lan Wangji says stoically.

“Yeah, Xichen-ge! It’s a party!” Nie Huaisang crows.

“We’ll drink with you!” Wei Wuxian cries, and starts enthusiastically pulls out the plastic cups they bought from the convenience store, and begins lining them up. Lan Wangji begins pouring more shots as Jiang Cheng watches on in disbelief.

“You just want an excuse to get drunk!” he accuses Wei Wuxian, dismayed, before he turns to Lan Xichen. “Do what you’re comfortable with. Don’t feel pressured by my idiot of a brother.”

Lan Xichen purses his lips, looking at the cup. Then, he picks it up, and downs it in one gulp.

Jin Guangyao’s jaw drops.

“It’s a party,” Lan Xichen tells him, and then gestures at Jin Guangyao to finish his drink.

On Jiang Cheng’s other side, Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang are already gladly taking the opportunity to get shit-faced, cheering as Lan Wangji continues to pour shots. Jiang Cheng just stares for a moment longer.

“Fuck it,” he mutters, and starts to pour shots as well. 

If he stays sober, everyone will be embarrassed tomorrow.

 

 

Lan Xichen, it appears, does not have a much better tolerance than his brother. The man is an enthusiastic, giggly, and affectionate drunk. Around twenty minutes in, he stumbles over to his younger brother — Lan Wangji is attempting to balance three cups on his forehead as the others cheer — and drapes his arms over Lan Wangji’s shoulders.

“Let’s, he begins, with a little hiccup, “play truth or dare.”

It also appears that when drunk, he has the maturity level of a high schooler. But the rest of them are apparently no better, because Wei Wuxian sits up with a delighted little gasp. Beside him, Nie Huaisang grabs a nearly empty bottle of soju, and pours the rest of its contents into Jiang Cheng’s cup.

“Hey!” Jiang Cheng protests.

He is ignored.

“We can use this bottle,” Nie Huaisang suggests eagerly, and sets it down on the coffee table between them, spinning it. It stops with the bottle neck pointing towards Wei Wuxian, and the bottom of it pointing towards Nie Huaisang.

“Truth or dare, Wei-xiong?” Nie Huaisang asks.

“Truth,” Wei Wuxian says, without missing a beat.

“Have you ever had the hots for Jiang-xiong’s mom?” Nie Huaisang asks immediately.

Jiang Cheng chokes on his drink.

“I’m not a masochist,” Wei Wuxian says. “No.”

“But she’s so—“ Nie Huaisang begins.

Jiang Cheng reaches for his neck.

When they spin the bottle again, a minute later, it lands on Jiang Cheng and Lan Xichen.

“Truth or dare, Jiang-xiong?” Lan Xichen asks. He’s speaking very carefully, but there’s still a hint of a slur to his voice.

“You’re the one who has to choose,” Jiang Cheng corrects him. “The bottle opening is pointing at you.”

“Oh,” Lan Xichen says, and pauses. “Truth.”

“Have you ever cheated on a test?” Jiang Cheng asks.

Lan Xichen bites his lip.

“Yes,” he says.

A round of gasps go around the circle. Lan Wangji looks particularly betrayed.

“I hate math,” Lan Xichen says miserably in explanation.

“It’s okay, Xichen-ge,” Nie Huaisang tells him sympathetically, and reaches out to spin the bottle on his behalf. “I cheat on tests all the time.”

The bottle ends on Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian. Jiang Cheng closes his eyes as Wei Wuxian’s lips pull up into a mischievous grin.

“Truth,” Jiang Cheng grits out.

“Chicken,” Wei Wuxian says, and thinks about it for a moment. “Tell us about the last time you went skinny dipping. You know the time at the beach when you lost your pants—“

Jiang Cheng grabs the nearest bottle of liquor, and opens it.

“Pass,” he says.

“Chicken!” Wei Wuxian cries, affronted. “Alright then. Five seconds.”

Jiang Cheng tips his head up, pouring the liquor — vodka, it’s vodka — into his mouth as Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang begin excitedly counting down. When he’s done, he slams the bottle down, making a face as he wipes at his lips.

“This vodka is shit,” he says, and reaches out for the empty bottle in the middle of the table.

“Not so fast!” Wei Wuxian says, catching his wrist with a narrowing of his eyes. “That’s a little too easy, isn’t it? Since you forfeited that truth, you should accept a dare instead.”

“Fuck you,” Jiang Cheng says.

“Or are you chicken?” Wei Wuxian taunts.

“Who’s the chicken here?!” Jiang Cheng snaps. “I’ll do it!”

“Aren’t—“ Wen Ning begins meekly. “Aren’t you just falling into his trap?”

“Shhhh!” Wei Wuxian hisses.

Wen Ning’s mouth opens in an oh. Then he sits back, twiddling his thumbs.

“You need to drink more,” Lan Wangji says sagely, if a little drunkenly, and gets up to pour Wen Ning something to drink.

“I’m not afraid of you,” Jiang Cheng tells Wei Wuxian defiantly.

Perhaps it’s the vodka kicking in. He’s beginning to feel a little woozy. Has he had dinner? He vaguely recalls eating a single mantou in the convenience store before they had to rush back to meet the others.

“I dare you to tell them how many piercings you have, show them the piercings, and then tell the story of how you got them.”

“This is a targeted attack,” Jiang Cheng says sullenly. “And that’s three dares in one. Plus, isn’t this more of a truth anyway?”

“Alright, then take off your shirt like a sexy striptease. They’ll get to see it either way.”

Jin Guangyao raises an eyebrow at that. “Body piercings?”

“Two,” Jiang Cheng clarifies, glaring at Wei Wuxian, and raises the front of his shirt.

Lan Xichen claps his hands over his eyes.

“Ow,” he whimpers. A moment later, however, his fingers part, and he peers out curiously between them at Jiang Cheng’s chest. “Did those—“ he begins, fascinatedly. “Did those hurt? I heard those hurt a lot!”

“Like a son of a bitch,” Jiang Cheng agrees. “But you just grit our teeth and it’s over in about two seconds. You feel a little floaty after the first one. Adrenaline. The second one is easier.”

“Tell them the story of how you got them,” Wei Wuxian prompts gleefully.

Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes.

“What’s there to say?” he grouses. “I went to a piercing studio and got them. The end.”

“You’re not telling it properly!” Wei Wuxian wails, and then turns to the others with a put upon sigh. “So how it began was—“

“Am I telling this story or are you?!” Jiang Cheng demands incredulously.

“I’d been thinking of getting my belly button pierced for awhile,” Wei Wuxian continues, “but I knew Jiang Cheng’s mom would kill me if she knew. But I really wanted it! So while we were drinking one day I told Jiang Cheng. I’d found a piercing studio and everything— and Jiang Cheng got competitive.”

“That’s not how it happened,” Jiang Cheng interjects flatly.

“It was!” Wei Wuxian crows gleefully. “He was so drunk. He was like so you’re getting your navel pierced? I’ll go with you and get something too. And I was like you? What are you going to get? Your lobes? Madam Yu will kill you! And he said—“

He lowers his voice.

“Fuck you!” he growls. “I’m going to get my nipples pierced!”

“And then what happened when you sobered up?” Jin Guangyao asks, looking a little bemused. “You went ahead with it?”

“I’m no chicken!” Wei Wuxian snarls in that same low voice. “If I said I’d do it, then I’ll do it!”

“Alright,” Jiang Cheng seethes. “That’s enough.”

He reaches out and spins the bottle. This time, it lands on Nie Huaisang and a subtly swaying Lan Wangji.

“Truth,” Nie Huaisang says immediately.

Lan Wangji’s mouth pauses, looking taken aback, and at a loss from being so suddenly put on the spot. His entire face is pink from the alcohol. After a moment, Wei Wuxian seems to take pity on him.

“Ask him what animal he would lick if he had to lick an animal,” he says. Lan Xichen makes a face. Jin Guangyao barks out a startled laugh, looking a little bewildered at the question.

“What animal would you lick if you had to lick an animal?” Lan Wangji parrots obediently.

Nie Huaisang leans forward immediately, a solemn look on his face.

“Whatever animal licks me first,” he says seriously, “I would lick it back. To assert dominance.”

The room erupts into laughter, somewhat perplexed on one end of the room, and raucous on the other. Wei Wuxian stands up to high five Nie Huaisang over the table, chortling loudly, as Lan Xichen and Jin Guangyao trade another bewildered look.

“Spin the bottle, Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian hollers, through his crowing laughter.

Lan Wangji reaches out, fingers fumbling over the bottle in his apparent intoxication. The neck wobbles slowly to the left, pointing at Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji blinks. Wei Wuxian raises an eyebrow, shooting him a considering look.

“Dare,” he finally says, sly.

“Did you get your navel pierced in the end?” Lan Wangji blurts out.

Wei Wuxian laughs, surprised.

“That’s not a dare, Er-ge!” he chides, but smiles. “Yes, I did.”

“I dare you to show us,” Lan Wangji says.

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widen. Then, he begins to laugh. He raises the front of his shirt, just enough to show off the crystal nestled in the dip of his belly button. Everyone leans forward curiously.

After a moment, Wei Wuxian pulls his shirt back down, grinning cheekily.

“You gave me a truth and a dare,” he teases. “Does that mean you owe me a truth or dare now?”

Lan Wangji flushes.

“Wei Wuxian,” Jiang Cheng hisses warningly.

“Dare,” Lan Wangji says boldly.

“Wangji,” Lan Xichen reproaches, with a shocked laugh. “You are very drunk.”

“It’s a party,” Lan Wangji repeats.

“Alright, alright,” Wei Wuxian allows, laughing. “I can’t think of a dare right now anyway. Let’s save it for later, okay?” He winks. “When I think of one, I’ll let you know.”

With that, he reaches out and spins the bottle. It spins a good few rounds, before slowing to a stop on Nie Huaisang and Jin Guangyao.

“Ah, Huaisang, take it easy on me!” Jin Guangyao pleads.

“Truth or dare, Yao-ge?” Nie Huaisang asks, grinning evilly.

“Truth,” Jin Guangyao says.

“Tell us about the time when you—“

“I change my mind,” Jin Guangyao interrupts. “Dare.”

“Take off your shirt like a sexy striptease.”

Jin Guangyao hangs his head. “Ask me again when I‘ve had more to drink,” he says, and picks through the bottles until he finds a brand of tequila that apparently agrees with him.

“One!” they count in unison as he tips his head back and begins to pour. “Two! Three!”

Jin Guangyao straightens as they finish counting to five, making a face. “I really wish we had some salt and lemons right now.”

“You need to do a truth now,” Nie Huaisang points out mercilessly.

Jin Guangyao winces. “I’ll drink again,” he says. “You’ve got too much on me.”

He picks up the bottle of tequila again.

“One!” the others chorus. “Two! Three! Four! Five!”

Once he’s done, he reaches forward and sets the bottle spinning. This time, lands on Jiang Cheng and Lan Xichen.

“Truth,” Jiang Cheng says.

“Can I touch your piercing?” Lan Xichen asks immediately.

Wei Wuxian bursts out laughing. Jiang Cheng opens his mouth, and then closes it again.

“That,” he begins, “is not a truth.”

Nevertheless, as Lan Xichen flushes shyly, he finds himself caving with a long sigh. He raises his shirt, and Lan Xichen leans in, fascinated, curling his finger gently into the ring. Jiang Cheng is intensely aware of the fact that Lan Xichen is touching his nipple. Then, Lan Xichen tugs lightly at it.

“Oh,” Lan Xichen gasps, as the nipple pebbles, and draws back. “Sorry.”

Blushing a little, Jiang Cheng makes to pull his shirt back down.

“I want to touch too!” Nie Huaisang whines, pouting. “You’ve never let me touch!”

“You never asked!” Jiang Cheng seethes, but pulls his shirt back up. “Alright, hurry up then.”

Nie Huaisang stands up, climbing over Wei Wuxian lap to play with one of the rings, rotating it slowly. Wei Wuxian reaches out, shamelessly pinching Jiang Cheng’s other nipple, hard. Jiang Cheng sighs and slaps his hand away.

“Who else?!” he snaps.

Jin Guangyao purses his lips, and then finally steps over Lan Xichen’s legs, bending down to peer curiously at the ring as he rotates it slowly through Jiang Cheng’s nipple. Finally, he steps back across to his seat, and sits back down. Jiang Cheng reaches forward and spins the bottle.

“I’ve been wanting to get a— a piercing too,” Lan Xichen says suddenly. “A body piercing.”

“Uh huh?” Jiang Cheng prompts, curious.

“I heard it makes you… more sensitive..” Lan Xichen continues.

“Where?” Wei Wuxian asks.

Lan Xichen bites his lip.

“You know,” he says. “Down there.”

There’s a clatter as Jin Guangyao reaches out, slamming his hand down on the bottle, and stopping it with an uncanny precision between him and Lan Xichen.

“Er-ge,” he says, a little incredulously. “How do I put this delicately? Have you— with someone else…?”

Jiang Cheng can’t make any sense of what Jin Guangyao is trying to ask, but Lan Xichen seems to understand him perfectly fine.

“I had flings when I was studying abroad,” he clarifies.

Lan Wangji turns, looking at his brother with new eyes. Lan Xichen laughs nervously.

“It was,” he begins, “common for people in the industry to have casual sex with one another…”

“But—“ Jiang Cheng begins, shocked. “But don’t feelings make work messy?”

Lan Xichen laughs.

“Do you think only flings get messy?” he asks. “Broken friendships can get just as messy as any failed fling. Are you going to avoid forming relationships altogether? Our industry is one that thrives off chemistry. I’m sure that the reason why you and Wei-xiong have made it so far as a duo is because there’s strong relationship there.”

Jiang Cheng winces.

Lan Xichen’s got a point. Though the strong relationship between him and Wei Wuxian are perhaps… also the reason for the mess the relationship has been lately.

“Perhaps solo careers are more sustainable,” Jiang Cheng says glumly.

Lan Xichen laughs again.

“Feelings are messy,” he says, “but certainly the solution is not to avoid feelings altogether. The solution is to communicate with the people you care about, to detangle the mess together in a constructive way. Hiding your feelings is never a good idea. If you care about someone—”

And here, he clears his throat.

“If you’re attracted to someone,” he continues, pointedly, carefully not looking at anyone, ”then you should say it.”

There’s a moment of pensive silence. Jiang Cheng is surprised to see that the others seem to be processing those words just as seriously as Jiang Cheng himself.

“Alright,” Lan Xichen says after a moment, reaching out for the bottle. “Let’s keep going.”

The bottle spins a good few rounds, before slowing to a halt between Lan Xichen and Nie Huaisang. Lan Xichen raises an eyebrow at being the target for the second time in a row, but before he can comment on it, Nie Huaisang speaks.

“Xichen-ge,” he blurts. “Did Da-ge pull any strings with Lan Entertainment to get me a spot on this collab?”

Lan Xichen blinks.

“It’s been on my mind for awhile,” Nie Huaisang continues, frowning. “I know he’s been worried about my career prospects, and I know he likes to… meddle. I just need to know if I got here by my own merit, or…”

“He submitted your profile to Lan Entertainment,” Lan Xichen admits, “but he asked specifically that you be considered fairly and without bias. My uncle is also not the sort to care about family connections.”

“So that means…” Nie Huaisang begins hesitantly.

“You got in on your own merit, Huaisang,” Jin Guangyao says gently.

There’s a moment of silence, then Nie Huaisang slumps back in his seat, letting out a shaky breath. After a second, he chuckles, running a hair through his hair.

“That’s good to know,” he says, and laughs. “That’s really good to know.”

Lan Xichen and Jin Guangyao trade looks.

“You are very talented when you apply yourself, Huaisang,” Lan Xichen tells him.

“It constantly surprises me how you just pick things up despite having no prior training,” Wen Ning adds quietly. “You have no performing experience, no dance background, and only the musical training that your agency has provided you. I, on the other hand…”

He trails off.

“Wen Ning,” Nie Huaisang says. “You are an amazing performer. I’ve seen you. Weren’t you personally scouted by Yiling Entertainment’s CEO? It was because he saw what I did, what everyone did, when you were performing on stage. You were our university’s pride and joy. You can sing. You can dance. Your acting is always so heart wrenching . There’s a reason why you always got the lead role, you know…”

“Wait,” Wei Wuxian gasps. “You have performing experience?! But— then why…?”

There’s a moment of awkward silence.

“Stage fright,” Wen Ning mutters.

“Moving to a broader stage is really nerve wracking,” Jiang Cheng finally says. “I get it.”

Wen Ning startles at that, looking at him with a complicated expression. Finally, he averts his eyes without saying anything. Jiang Cheng raises an eyebrow, wondering what that was about, but before he can comment on it, Nie Huaisang is pulling out his phone and tapping at it furiously.

“You’re amazing, Wen Ning,” he insists stubbornly. “I’m going to make you see it one day.”

Finally, he sets his phone on the coffee table, tapping the play button in the middle of the screen. It begins to play what appears to be a recording of a musical theatre performance. A voice bursts from the speakers, mid-belt, apparently in the climax of the song. There’s a younger quality to the voice, but it’s unmistakably Wen Ning, loud and clear.

Wen Ning flings himself over the glass tabletop, stopping the video.

“That was amazing!” Wei Wuxian bursts out. “Why do you never sing like that when we’re practicing!”

“Stage fright,” Wen Ning mumbles into the table.

“You dance well,” Jin Guangyao adds. “You have a contemporary background, don’t you? Why do you always seem so self-conscious during rehearsals?”

“Stage fright,” Wen Ning answers again.

“You shouldn’t need to be self-conscious,” Lan Xichen points out kindly. “You’re very good.”

“That’s,” Wen Ning says, “not how stage fright works.”

“It’s hard not to feel self-conscious,” Jiang Cheng mutters sympathetically. “Insecurity is seldom rational. No matter what you achieve, you never feel like you measure up.”

At that, everyone trades slow looks, before looking back at him. Jiang Cheng can’t help but suddenly feel self-conscious at all their looks.

“What?!” he demands.

“Jiang-xiong,” Nie Huaisang says, very slowly. “Are you talking about Wen Ning, or are you talking about yourself?”

“I’m talking about Wen Ning!” Jiang Cheng splutters.

“Remember,” Lan Xicheng says sagely. “Hiding your feelings is never a good idea!”

Scowling, Jiang Cheng picks his cup back up, drinking deeply from it.

“You are also very talented, Jiang-xiong,” Lan Xichen says kindly.

He promptly chokes on his drink.

“And attractive!” Nie Huaisang pipes up.

He begins coughing.

“Yes,” Lan Xichen agrees. “In the interest of taking my own advice, I must admit that you’re a very, very attractive man.”

Jiang Cheng can feel his face heating up. After a moment, he averts his gaze with deepened scowl, crossing his arms protectively over his chest. Jin Guangyao laughs at that.

“There are a lot of things to admire about you,” he says gently. “You sing well. You dance well. You have amazing stage presence, and you’re very driven and hardworking. The producers and directors all love you…”

He stops, biting his lip at that.

“Your father doesn’t know what he’s missing,” Lan Xichen says at once.

“You’ve won awards!” Nie Huaisang yelps.

The rest of them trade confused looks. Wei Wuxian shrugs at Jiang Cheng’s questioning expression. Jiang Cheng turns slowly back to Lan Xichen and Jin Guangyao.

“Who’s your dad?” he asks.

The two of them startle, as if they’ve somehow forgotten that the rest of them are still in the room. After a moment, Jin Guangyao clears his throat, looking a little sheepish.

“Jin Guangshan,” he mutters. “He doesn’t like me very much. I think he doesn’t want people to know that he has an illegitimate son, so he especially hates that I’m going into the entertainment industry. In fact, I suspect that he might have—”

He cuts himself off there, biting his lip.

Jiang Cheng winces, putting the pieces together. Indeed, for all that Jin Guangyao has gained recognition in the indie scene, for all his talent and accomplishments — he’s gained little traction in the mainstream industry. Suddenly, though, that strange coincidence makes an unfortunate amount of sense.

“Well, fuck that guy!” Wei Wuxian says fiercely. “We’ll be your connections from now on!”

“Yeah!” Nie Huaisang cries.

“I’m sure we can work in more collaborations when this one is over,” Jiang Cheng agrees.

Jin Guangyao seems vaguely surprised at the offer. Before Jiang Cheng can frantically take it back, however, kicking himself for being presumptuous, Jin Guangyao smiles.

“That is,” he says, and flushes, “very kind of you all.”

Wei Wuxian grins, and then leans over, elbowing Lan Wangji teasingly.

“Will you be able to put up with that?” he teases. “Collaborations? Social interactions?” He hesitates for a moment, before pouting dramatically. “You don’t even want to be friends with us.”

“I do,” Lan Wangji says immediately.

The others seem to startle at that. Jiang Cheng blinks, looking at Lan Wangji with disbelief. Lan Xichen, on the other hand, looks like Chinese New Year has come early. He’s beaming with open delight. Meanwhile, Lan Wangji seems to realize what he’s said, because he lowers his gaze to his lap, flushing lightly.

“I’ve never had friends before,” he admits.

“Well, you have friends now,” Wei Wuxian says immediately. “We’re here for you.”

Lan Wangji blinks, and then bites his lip, looking up through his lashes at Wei Wuxian. There’s a strange light in his eyes, glowing with a strange kind of… adoration. Jiang Cheng clears his throat, averting his gaze. A strange sensation is building hot and tight in his chest, bubbling up in his throat, and choking him with some unidentifiable emotion.

“Cheers to our friendship!” Nie Huaisang yells, holding up his glass.

Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji tear their eyes aware from each other, fumbling for their glasses as Nie Huaisang excitedly calls a toast to their heart-to-heart. Jiang Cheng makes a face at the unfortunate choice of phrasing, but raises his glass anyway.

“More,” Lan Wangji says when they are done, standing up and continuing to pour shots.

“Let me,” Jiang Cheng calls desperately. “Can we make something that’s tastier? Something that isn’t straight tequila?”

“I second the notion,” Jin Guangyao agrees.

“Then clearly it’s time for prosecco!” Lan Xichen cries. He picks up the nearest bottle — it’s champagne, not prosecco, Jiang Cheng can’t help but notice — and begins easing the cage open with apparent experience.

“Oh,” he says, as a loud pop fills the room. “There we go. No, we are not drinking this out of plastic cups. There are champagne flutes on the dining table. Everyone go and get a glass.”

Wei Wuxian withdraws his plastic cup, looking chastised, and scampers up to get the glasses. He comes back with four clutched in his fingers, setting them on the table.

“I’ll get the rest,” Wen Ning calls, jogging towards the dining table before Wei Wuxian can turn around to take a second trip. He returns with the last three glasses just as Lan Xicheng happily begins to top the few up to the brim.

“We’re going to run out,” he says cheerfully, as he empties out the first bottle, and reaches for another.

“We’re not going to run out!” Wei Wuxian mocks Jiang Cheng. “There’s a lot of alcohol here!”

Everyone laughs.

“Shall we continue?” Jin Guangyao asks, amused, and reaches for the bottle.

It spins a couple of rounds, before stopping on Nie Huaisang and Wei Wuxian.

“Truth,” Nie Huaisang says.

“Who would you most want to make out with in this room?” Wei Wuxian asks.

“That escalated quickly,” Lan Xichen notes, with apparent delight.

“We’re all friends here!” Wei Wuxian defends. “So who is it, Huaisang-xiong?”

“Easy,” Nie Huaisang scoffs. “Jiang-xiong.”

Jiang Cheng chokes and splutters on his drink as Nie Huaisang spins the bottle, as if he hadn’t just admitted to wanting to make out with Jiang Cheng. As he chokes, Jin Guangyao hands him a tissue, which he gladly accepts. Prosecco does not feel good in the windpipes.

The bottle lands on Nie Huaisang and Lan Xichen this time.

“That time you came back from the gym with Da-ge,” Nie Huaisang begins immediately, “you were so red and you couldn’t meet anyone’s eyes. What happened?”

Lan Xichen flushes.

“How do you know I was going to choose truth?” he asks nervously. “What if I choose dare instead?”

“Didn’t you say that you shouldn’t hide feelings?” Jin Guangyao says quickly. “Er-ge, don’t hide your feelings from us!”

Lan Xichen’s flush deepens.

“I give myself really good advice,” he says helplessly, “but I very seldom follow it.” He clears his throat. “I popped a boner at the gym… Mingjue didn’t notice…”

Jiang Cheng chokes on his prosecco again. This time, Jin Guangyao is too preoccupied to give him a tissue.

“Xichen-ge~!” he begins delightedly.

“Next!” Lan Xichen cries, and spins the bottle with an excessive amount of force. It spins for a good ten seconds before landing on him and Jin Guangyao.

“Have you ever popped a boner over Mingjue?!” Lan Xichen demands, without pause.

It’s Jin Guangyao’s turn to flush now.

“I choose dare,” he says.

“Didn’t you say that we shouldn’t hide feelings?!” Lan Xichen accuses furiously. “A-Yao! Don’t hide your feelings from us!”

“I was wrong, Xichen-ge!” Jin Guangyao pleads. “Please don’t turn my words back on me!”

“So the answer is yes!” Nie Huaisang yells gleefully.

“It’s impossible not to pop a boner over Mingjue-xiong!” Lan Xichen is screaming. “He benched me, A-Yao! He benched me!”

Jiang Cheng stands, beginning to pour himself something strong as the room erupts in cacophony. After a moment, he realizes that Lan Wangji is also standing, and is helping him to line up the empty plastic cups.

“More,” Lan Wangji sighs. “I need a drink.”

“Yakult and soju?” Jiang Cheng asks. “I think we have a little more yakult.”

“Yes, please,” Lan Wangji breathes.

Jiang Cheng hunts down the plastic bag with the yakult in it as, behind them, Jin Guangyao performs his forfeit as the others count down from five. Afterwards, he must have spun the bottle again, because Wei Wuxian speaks.

“Truth,” he says.

“Why not dare?” Nie Huaisang asks.

“The last time I chose dare with you,” Wei Wuxian says, “you dared me to lick a public dustbin.”

“Fair point,” Nie Huaisang grants. “Can you suck your own cock?” Lan Wangji nearly spills the cup Jiang Cheng hands to him.

“No,” Wei Wuxian says, sounding perfectly casual, “but Jiang Cheng can.”

This time, Lan Wangji actually spills the drink. Wen Ning yelps as Lan Wangji fumbles, pulling a few tissues from a nearby tissue box, and quickly mopping up the mess, while Jiang Cheng turns furiously on Wei Wuxian.

“You were supposed to tell them about yourself!” he hollers in dismay. “Why are you telling them about me?!”

“Why do I feel tempted to ask for a demo?” Lan Xichen mutters.

Jin Guangyao chokes.

“Did you have to train?!” Wen Ning blurts out. “How did you get that flexible?!”

“I— I started doing yoga as stress relief!” Jiang Cheng defends. “There are some stretches that help with that!”

There’s a long pause, and then Nie Huaisang leans forward.

“Which stretches?” he asks, and clears his throat. “Purely for academic interest, of course.”

Jiang Cheng scowls, feeling vaguely like he’s falling into some kind of ploy, but gets down on his back anyway, rolling his hips up and over his head, pointing his toes and touching them to the floor behind his head. There’s a moment of silence, before he rolls back upright.

“That one’s called the plow ,” he says self-consciously.

The silence stretches on. Everyone seems to be avoiding his eyes.

“What?!” he snaps.

“Moving on!” Nie Huaisang cries, strangely flushed, as he leans forward to spin the bottle.

It lands on Wen Ning and Jin Guangyao.

“Erm,” Wen Ning begins.

“Truth!” Jin Guangyao says— and hiccups behind a raised hand. He’s beginning to get awfully flushed. Jiang Cheng can’t help but remember how many times he’s forfeited his turn.

“Ask him who in this room he most wants to make out with,” Nie Huaisang prompts Wen Ning.

“What he said,” Wen Ning agrees, before pausing at Jin Guangyao’s pleading look. “Or… not?”

“Too late!” Nie Huaisang cries. “Answer the question, Yao-ge!”

“Pass,” Jin Guangyao says, and stands, reaching for a random bottle. “Ask me when I’ve had more to drink.”

Jiang Cheng obligingly begins to count down for him.

“Oh, alright,” Nie Huaisang grumbles afterwards. “But you have to do a dare. When I asked at the beginning, you said to ask you when you had more to drink, so I’m asking now! Take off your shirt like a sexy striptease!”

Jin Guangyao stares at him for a moment, and then lowers his head. As Lan Wangji hands him a bottle, however, he shakes his head, pushing it away.

“Alright,” he says.

As the others begin to howl, he stands up.

“I’m,” Jiang Cheng says, “going to make a jug.”

He blindly snatches up a few bottles of something, and retreats quickly into the kitchen as the living room lights up in shrieks. It’s only when inside that he takes stock of what he has.

Lots of alcohol. No mixers.

Someone sets down the pack of yakult on the counter next to him. He follows the pale arm up to it’s owner.

It’s Lan Wangji.

“I spilled the one you made for me,” he says plaintively.

“I’m not making a jug of that,” Jiang Cheng says, aghast. “Do you know how many calories there are in yakult?! You get a cup, and then I’m making a jug of something that isn’t going to destroy all our diets.”

Lan Wangji’s expression turns even more plaintive, and despite himself, Jiang Cheng finds himself wavering.

“It’s a party,” Lan Wangji says.

“Wen Qing is going to kill us,” Jiang Cheng argues weakly.

“It’s a party,” Lan Wangji says again.

Jiang Cheng stares helplessly at him, and then he groans, and begins tearing the plastic open with his fingers.

“Help me peel the foil back and pour the bottles into the jug,” he says brusquely.

When he comes back into the living room, jug held carefully in both hands, Jin Guangyao is shrugging his shirt back on, face bright red. Lan Xichen’s face is red as well, and Wen Ning is drinking deeply from his cup, while the other two holler and scream.

“He gave Xichen-ge a lap dance!” Nie Huaisang shrieks. “A lap dance!”

“You look like you need a drink,” Jiang Cheng says sympathetically to Jin Guangyao, and gestures at Lan Wangji for a cup. He steps up from behind Jiang Cheng, producing one like some alcohol-conjuring magician.

Jin Guangyao gladly accepts the cup from him when he’s done pouring, chugging it down like a man dying of thirst. Meanwhile, Lan Xichen watches him, also like a man dying of thirst — a different kind of thirst. After finishing his drink, Jin Guangyao sheepishly spins the bottle. It lands on Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji.

“Truth?” Lan Wangji says.

“What’s the worst lie you’ve ever told?” Jiang Cheng asks, half expecting that Lan Wangji will say that he’s never told a lie. To his surprise, however, Lan Wangji bites his lip immediately, gaze dropping to his lap.

“I,” he begins, eyes flickering briefly to his brother, before dropping back down into his lap. “I ate brother’s chocolates… and then I blamed it on the bunnies…”

Jiang Cheng bites his lip as well. Meanwhile, Lan Xichen looks like he might burst into tears from emotion, reaching out carefully to pat Lan Wangji on the head.

“Wangji,” he says helplessly. “I don’t know how to tell you this but… I knew you ate the chocolates.”

Lan Wangji’s mouth drops open in an oh.

“You knew?” he asks, in quiet dismay.

“Yes,” Lan Xichen confirms. “Chocolate is toxic to animals, but your rabbits are alive and well. Also,  you gave no explanation on how they got out of their pen and into the fridge before running away guiltily…”

“Oh,” Lan Wangji says, and pauses. “I’m sorry I ate your chocolates. Will you forgive me?”

“Of course!” Lan Xichen cries. “You can eat all my chocolates! Anything you like, you can have! I’m just glad you enjoyed them…”

“And anything of mine that you like,” Lan Wangji returns earnestly, “we can also share.”

Lan Xichen looks like he’s actually about to burst into tears at that. He pats Lan Wangji’s cheek fondly.

“Aww,” Wei Wuxian says, and then turns to Jiang Cheng. “If you ever eat any of my chocolates, I will murder you in your sleep.”

The others burst into laughter.

“I cook,” Jiang Cheng grumbles, reaching out to spin the bottle. “I clean. I do the laundry and the groceries, and I can’t even eat the chocolate that I bought for you? Where’s the gratitude?”

“Jiang Cheng is my waifu~!” Wei Wuxian tells the others cheerfully.

Jiang Cheng grabs a scrunched up ball of tissue off the table and chucks it at Wei Wuxian, right as the bottle lands on Jin Guangyao and Wei Wuxian.

“Dare,” Wei Wuxian says. “Because I’m no chicken.”

“Alright,” Jin Guangyao says breezily. “Change Jiang-xiong’s contact in your phone to Waifu.”

Nie Huaisang starts howling. Wei Wuxian grins evilly. 

“Gladly,” he says.

“Don’t I get a say in this?” Jiang Cheng asks helplessly.

He is ignored.

The bottle lands on Nie Huaisang and Jin Guangyao next. Nie Huaisang’s eyes widen, looking slightly apprehensive.

“Tru—“ he begins, before stopping at the alarming look of glee on Jin Guangyao’s face. “Dare.”

“I dare you to kiss someone’s neck for fifteen seconds,” he says. “By the end, there should be a hickey.”

Nie Huaisang winces.

“Yao-ge,” he whines. “Why are you being so hard on me?”

“Payback,” Jin Guangyao says viciously.

“Fine,” Nie Huaisang says, and scoots closer to Wen Ning, leaning over to place his lips against Wen Ning’s neck. 

“Oh hush,” he groans, when Wen Ning jumps right out of his seat. “It’s not like we never did this when we were in university!”

“You need a drink,” Lan Wangji notes placidly, and pours Wen Ning a full glass.

Wen Ning drinks it like a shot, and then makes a face.

“Is this yakult?” he asks. “Do you know how many calories there are in drinks like this?”

“That just shows that you need another drink,” Lan Wangji says, and takes his empty cup, topping it up to the brim.

Wen Ning drinks that too, then sits down with a sigh, tilting his jaw up, and baring the side of his neck to Nie Huaisang. Wei Wuxian begins to count down excitedly as Nie Huaisang leans in. His voice thankfully drowns out the slick sounds of Nie Huaisang… doing what he’s doing. Jiang Cheng pours himself another drink, clearing his throat awkwardly.

Once the fifteen seconds are over, Nie Huaisang straightens. Wen Ning’s face is bright red. After a moment, he crosses his legs. There’s a maroon mark on the underside of his jaw, glistening with spit. He wipes it dry with the tissue Lan Wangji helpfully offers him.

“Alright,” Nie Huaisang says, and spins the bottle. It spins a few rounds before landing on him and Jiang Cheng.

“D-Dare,” Jiang Cheng manages, not liking the thoughtful gleam in Nie Huaisang’s eye.

“Give Wen Ning a lap dance,” Nie Huaisang says immediately.

Wen Ning’s eyes widen.

“Why do I keep getting sucked into other people’s dares?” he asks plaintively.

“Because the bottle hasn’t landed on you a single time!” Nie Huaisang complains.

“What?!” Wei Wuxian cries. “That’s unfair!”

“I’ll drink,” Jiang Cheng says.

“Chicken!” Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang cry in unison.

“I’m not chicken,” Jiang Cheng denies. “I’m just prudent.”

“You’re chicken,” Lan Wangji says casually, and pours another drink. “Drink this, and then give him a lap dance.”

“Wangji!” Lan Xichen shrieks. He’s laughing.

“You heard the man,” Wei Wuxian says.

“But if you’re chicken,” Lan Wangji says, picking up a bottle of whisky, “you can do the forfeit.”

“I’m not chicken!” Jiang Cheng yells.

“Sounds like what a chicken would say!” Nie Huaisang hollers.

“I am not chicken,” Jiang Cheng says furiously, “and I’ll prove it.”

With that, he downs the cup that Lan Wangji hands him — liquid courage — and swings one leg over Wen Ning’s lap.

“Are you ready for the ride of your life?” he asks through gritted teeth.

“No,” Wen Ning admits.

“Too bad!” he snarls. “You’re getting it anyway!” He turns to look over his shoulder. “Hello?! Play something I can dance to?!”

Lan Xichen reaches behind the couch and retrieves his phone. A moment later, something sultry comes on over the speakers. Jiang Cheng turns back to Wen Ning. He pauses for a moment, and then scowls.

“I don’t know how to give a lap dance,” he admits.

Wei Wuxian bursts out laughing.

“How the fuck are lap dances supposed to work?” he yells angrily over Wei Wuxian’s laughter, and drops his ass down until he’s sitting in Wen Ning’s lap. “Am I just supposed to? Grind?”

“No,” Wen Ning says, grabbing Jiang Cheng’s hips as he begins to roll them. “You— Up. You do that with your hips— but not on me.”

Jiang Cheng lets Wen Ning guide his hips back up.

“Like this?!” he demands angrily, thrusting his hips.

Wen Ning flushes. As he tears his eyes forcefully away from Jiang Cheng’s crotch, Jiang Cheng tries to synchronize his hips to the beat of the music. Wei Wuxian has collapsed sideways, and is now lying on the couch, clutching at his stomach.

“Just,” Jin Guangyao begins helplessly, “don’t think thrusting, but think body waves.”

Jiang Cheng’s body falls into the rhythm of that easily.

“Ohh!” he gasps.

Rolling his body in time to the music, he drapes his arms over Wen Ning’s shoulders for balance. After a moment, he grins, tilting his head back and closing his eyes, rolling his head slowly to the slow bass. When he opens his eyes again, looking at Wen Ning with half-lidded eyes, Wen Ning just looks at him for a moment, expression open— wild—

He lunges— 

Jiang Cheng has just a moment to register another pair of lips against his— 

And then he moans, pressing in fiercely and with a quiet growl.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” Wen Ning snarls. “You’re not getting the better of me.”

In a movement that Jiang Cheng doesn’t really process, Wen Ning has somehow managed to turn their positions around, grabbing Jiang Cheng’s hair and pinning him roughly to the back of the sofa. They both freeze, staring at each other. 

The others fall abruptly silent.

Even Wen Ning seems surprised by his own actions.

The shock seems to pass after a moment, because he’s shrinking suddenly back into his usual meek demeanor, the furious visage from before nowhere to be seen.

“Sorry,” he mutters, in a small voice.

As he pulls back, Jiang Cheng realizes that he still has his hands fisted in the waist of Wen Ning’s shirt, and quickly lets go. The sultry music continues to play as Wen Ning stands and reaches for the bottle. His expression is timid again, but there remains something wild and unfettered in his eyes.

The bottle spins a few rounds, before landing on Wei Wuxian and Wen Ning. 

“Seven minutes of heaven,” Wei Wuxian says flatly, without waiting for Wen Ning to choose. “You and Jiang Cheng, in the coat closet. By the time you come out, you’d better have sorted out— whatever this is.”

There’s a moment of silence. Wei Wuxian points at the closet.

“Now,” he says sternly.

Jiang Cheng stands, heading wordlessly towards the closet in the entryway. Wen Ning follows silently. He ducks into the closet after Jiang Cheng, and settles in a ball on the floor, while Jiang Cheng closes the door after them. They sit there for a while, curled up awkwardly against opposite walls. The closet is small enough that their knees are touching.

“I know you look down on me,” Wen Ning finally mutters. “You think Wei Wuxian is wasting his time.”

Jiang Cheng licks his lips, unsure what to say.

“But I’m trying my best,” Wen Ning bites out. “I’m just nervous.”

“I’m sorry,” Jiang Cheng whispers.

“And you— you just make it worse!” Wen Ning continues.

“I’m sorry,” Jiang Cheng says again, helplessly. “I—”

He closes his eyes.

“I know what it’s like to worry about measuring up,” he says quietly. “It’s not that I look down on you. It’s not that at all. It’s just that— that I’m—” 

He swallows, and opens his eyes, looking pleadingly at Wen Ning as if begging him to… somehow discern Jiang Cheng’s meaning, without Jiang Cheng actually having to say it. When Wen Ning just stares back at him, waiting patiently for him to continue, he sighs.

“I’m just insecure,” he admits, in a small voice. “I worry that he’ll leave me behind. I don’t know what I’ll do if he leaves me. It— It would end my career. But— more than that—” 

He trails off. 

Wen Ning reaches out after a moment, touching his knee. His eyes are dark, and kind. Jiang Cheng’s voice chokes in his throat.

“More than that,” he whispers, “I think it would break my heart.”

His face scrunches up, and he hides his face in his knees. The hand on his knee begins to stroke soothingly down his shin.

“You’re in love with him,” Wen Ning murmurs.

“No,” Jiang Cheng says immediately, and then pauses. “I don’t know,” he admits, and groans, raising his head and rubbing roughly at his face. “He’s just… the most important person in my life. I want to stay by his side for a long time, and I want to matter to him. Does that— Does that mean that I’m in love with him?”

Wen Ning bites his lip.

“I don’t know,” he admits. “But if that’s love... then I suppose we’re all a little in love with him.”

Jiang Cheng laughs. 

“He’s as fickle as the wind, isn’t he?” he says bitterly. “Always on the go, always one foot out the door. You never know when he’s going to leave you.”

Wen Ning looks at him pityingly.

“You’re important to him,” he says quietly.

“Not as important as he is to me,” Jiang Cheng sighs.

Wen Ning is quiet for a long moment. Then, he exhales, and reaches out for Jiang Cheng.

“Come here,” he murmurs.

Jiang Cheng leans in as Wen Ning tangles his fingers into his hair, and guides him forward. They press their faces close, hands gentle, lips moving slow. After a moment, Wen Ning pulls back a little, sighing against him. He rubs the bridge of his nose against Jiang Cheng’s cheek, kissing him there once, and twice.

“Kiss me again,” Jiang Cheng pleads.

Stroking his thumb tenderly behind Jiang Cheng’s ear, Wen Ning leans back in.

They kiss for a long time, slow and warm and wet, until finally— there comes a tentative knock. They pull apart just as Nie Huaisang opens the door.

“Everything alright?” he asks.

They look at each other. Somehow, that prompts a little chuckle from the both of them.

“Yeah,” Wen Ning murmurs.

They join hands as they stand, movements ginger after having spent so long curled up. As Jiang Cheng ducks out of the coat closet, however, he feels his face fall despite his best efforts. Lan Wangji is sitting in Wei Wuxian’s lap, leaning back against his chest, with Wei Wuxian’s arm around his waist. Wei Wuxian’s face is turned towards him, mid-laugh.

Wen Ning squeezes his hand, and Jiang Cheng carefully neutralizes his expression. They sit.

“What did we miss?” Jiang Cheng asks.

“Ah, you two missed so much!” Lan Xichen says, laughing.

“Wei-xiong finally used the dare that Wangji-xiong owed him!” Nie Huaisang explains excitedly. “He dared him to sit in someone’s lap for a round. Xichen-ge was all—” He lowers his voice, mimicking Lan Xichen’s concerned, kindly, smile. “You can sit in my lap, Wangji.” He returns to his usual pitch, gesturing gleefully. “But Wangji-xiong got up and sat in Wei-xiong’s lap instead!” 

“Revenge,” Lan Wangji says contentedly.

“Am I supposed to feel punished by this?” Wei Wuxian asks good-naturedly. “Because I’m not feeling very punished.”

Lan Wangji turns to them.

“We’re waiting for you two to finish the round,” he says.

Right. The dare was only supposed to last a round, Jiang Cheng recalls. He reaches forward obligingly and spins the bottle. It spins a few rounds, before slowing to a halt on Nie Huaisang and Wen Ning.

Nie Huaisang shoots Wen Ning a sly look. 

“So,” he begins with a lazy smile, “is Jiang-xiong a good kisser?”

Jiang Cheng blushes.

“Yes,” Wen Ning says easily.

Shocked at his shamelessness, Jiang Cheng slaps his thigh with an incredulous noise. Wen Ning chuckles, kissing his cheek sweetly in apology. Wei Wuxian blinks, looking taken aback at the gesture. He expression turns a little complicated. Before Jiang Cheng can wonder too much at it, however, Nie Huaisang is speaking again.

“This is unfair!” he whines. “The two people I most wanted to kiss got to kiss each other before I got to kiss them!”

“I dare you to kiss him,” Wen Ning says immediately.

“It’s not my turn,” Nie Huaisang sighs.

Wen Ning raises an eyebrow.

“Are you saying no?” he asks pointedly.

“Fair,” Nie Huaisang, then, before Jiang Cheng can register the full implications of that, Nie Huaisang is stepping over Wen Ning’s legs and dropping down into Jiang Cheng’s lap. His lips are soft, moist from some kind of chapstick. Jiang Cheng sighs, exasperated, but fond, and cups the back of his head. Nie Huaisang doesn’t linger for too long before draws back, dropping a kiss on Jiang Cheng’s cheek.

“It’s your turn now!” he tells Wen Ning cheerfully, and pounces into his lap.

As Nie Huaisang climbs Wen Ning like a tree, Jiang Cheng moves away to give them space. He murmurs an absent apology as that brings him flush against Lan Xichen’s side. Lan Xichen’s arm is bent up over the back of the couch, but at Jiang Cheng’s movement, he stretches it out behind Jiang Cheng’s head. With some surprise, Jiang Cheng turns to look up at him.

His eyes are very brown, and very kind. Then he bends his head, and suddenly— they are kissing.

“Xichen-ge is very forward,” Jin Guangyao comments, teasing.

Lan Xichen smiles in response.

“Is this okay?” he murmurs against Jiang Cheng’s lips, thumb stroking gently down the sensitive back of Jiang Cheng’s ear. Jiang Cheng can’t help but shudder at that.

“Yeah,” he says.

With a chuckle, Lan Xichen presses in more firmly, cupping the back of Jiang Cheng’s head to angle him up into the kiss. He is— a very good kisser, gentle, but unyielding in all the right ways. Too late, Jiang Cheng realizes that he’s melted into Lan Xichen with a moan, hands against his chest and head arched back like… some kind of wilting flower.

“Erm,” he whispers awkwardly.

Lan Xichen chuckles again, low, his chest rumbling under Jiang Cheng’s hands. Then he draws back, leaving Jiang Cheng to blink stupidly for a few seconds.

“Wow,” he finally says.

He snaps back to earth, scowling, when Lan Xichen laughs. The man pecks him on the lips in apology.

“I suppose that’s what a couple years of experience does,” Wei Wuxian pipes up.

There’s a very odd look on his face, lips puckered, and expression almost… sour. Did he want to kiss Lan Xichen too? Jiang Cheng hadn’t gotten the impression that he’d been interested in Lan Xichen in that way.

“At this rate,” Jin Guangyao begins, amused, “we should just play spin the bottle.”

“Oh! Yes!” Nie Huaisang cries, pulling back from Wen Ning to speak. “Let’s do it!” 

Then his expression turns sly.

“Is there someone you want to kiss, Yao-ge?” he asks pointedly.

Jin Guangyao flushes, and coughs, averting his eyes.

“If you’re attracted to someone,” Jiang Cheng says brusquely, unable to stand the tension for a moment longer, “then you shouldn’t hide your feelings.”

“Yeah, you don’t have to hide that you want to make out with Xichen-ge~!” Nie Huaisang sings.

“Huaisang,” Jin Guangyao hisses, and then looks fearfully at Lan Xichen for his reaction. He shouldn’t have feared, however, because in the next moment, Lan Xichen is yanking him forward. “Mm!”

It seems to take him a moment to realize what’s happening, but once he does, he throws his arms around Lan Xichen’s neck. They are all but eating each other’s faces off now, and Nie Huaisang clears his throat awkwardly, reaching out for the bottle.

“Well,” he says, and deftly sets it spinning. “Let’s leave them to it.”

“Is there someone you want to make out with, Huaisang-xiong?” Wei Wuxian asks immediately, with a cheeky wink. “If you do, you should just say so!”

“I want to make out with you, of course,” Nie Huaisang flirts back, without missing a beat.

“Come here,” Wei Wuxian says, and then Nie Huaisang is skipping over towards him.

As Nie Huaisang climbs into Wei Wuxian’s lap, the bottle slows to a halt between Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji.

“Oh,” Lan Wangji says, and then looks around, as if for permission. With the others otherwise preoccupied, however, there seems to be no one to grant him permission.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Wen Ning and Jiang Cheng say in unison.

“We can just spin the bottle again, and pretend this didn’t happen,” Wen Ning adds.

“Not like the others will notice,” Jiang Cheng says dryly. They are very busy, after all.

Lan Wangji licks his lips, seeming to consider the suggestion. After a moment, however, his expression grows determined, and he stands.

“I want to,” he decides.

He steps over the coffee table in a slow stretch of his long, long legs. The man is unfairly tall. And suddenly, his unfairly tall self is stepping up to kneel over Jiang Cheng.

“I’ve never done this before,” he tells Jiang Cheng frankly.

“Never done what?” Jiang Cheng asks distractedly, laying his hand on the side of Lan Wangji’s neck as he settles in Jiang Cheng’s lap.

“Kissed anyone,” he says, and leans forward.

Their lips brush briefly for a moment, before Jiang Cheng pulls back sharply.

“Woah,” he says. “Wait a goddamn second. Are you sure you want to— You’re very drunk. And? With me?!”

“I want to practice for Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji confides.

Jiang Cheng leans back, looking at him. There’s a complicated feeling bubbling up inside him.

“You really like him,” he says.

“Mm,” Lan Wangji agrees. “But you’ve been— very nice to me, even though I haven’t been very nice to you.”

“Me?!” Jiang Cheng yelps. “Nice?!”

He laughs, bewildered. Wearing a disapproving smile, Lan Wangji cups his cheek, tilting Jiang Cheng’s face up to look him in the eye.

“You’re sharp on the outside,” he says, and leans in, pecking Jiang Cheng once on the lips, “but soft on the inside.”

“You’re soft on the inside,” Jiang Cheng grumbles, and tilts his head up, deepening the kiss. The other man hesitates for only a moment, then he’s pressing forward, curious and searching. Humming welcomingly, Jiang Cheng parts his lips, chuckling as he feels the flicker of an uncertain tongue across his bottom lip.

“Like this,” he murmurs, and then begins to move his lips against Lan Wangji’s.

To his credit, Lan Wangji picks up the rhythm quickly enough.

“He usually kisses a little faster,” Jiang Cheng mutters after a moment. “And with a bit of tongue.”

He demonstrates. Lan Wangji hums, but pulls back at the first contact of a tongue against his. He wipes his mouth with a bit of a grimace, and then raises an eyebrow.

“We experimented a little when we were younger,” Jiang Cheng explains. “But It didn’t mean anything.”

“Did you want it to mean something?” Lan Wangji asks.

Jiang Cheng flinches.

“I don’t know,” he admits.

Lan Wangji just looks at him for a moment, hazel eyes so incisive, seeming to read Jiang Cheng like a book. Jiang Cheng can’t help but drop his eyes self-consciously. After a moment, Lan Wangji sighs, leaning back in.

“You told me how he kisses,” he murmurs. “But how do you like to be kissed?”

That surprises Jiang Cheng a little.

“Slow,” he answers, after some thought. “And without tongue.”

“I don’t like the tongue thing,” Lan Wangji agrees quietly. “It seems unsanitary.”

Jiang Cheng chuckles, and presses their lips more firmly together.

“Mm,” he agrees.

Lan Wangji cards his hands slowly through Jiang Cheng’s hair, down the sides of his neck, as they kiss. Jiang Cheng strokes his flank affectionately in response, humming contentedly as Lan Wangji stops to kiss his cheek.

If he had to lose Wei Wuxian to anyone—

He strokes his thumb slowly down Lan Wangji’s cheek.

They are interrupted by a clearing of a throat, and pull apart, with some surprise, to note that they are being watched. The rest of the group are sitting around the coffee table again, bottle in the middle pointing between them—

And a sheepish looking Wei Wuxian.

“Erm,” he says.

His hair is tousled— and not just it’s usual, artless, windswept tousled. The first two buttons of his shirt are undone, and there is a bright red hickey under his jaw. Nie Huaisang’s work no doubt. With a quiet exhale, Jiang Cheng nudges Lan Wangji off him.

“Go on,” he mutters. “You wanted this.”

Lan Wangji looks at him, inscrutable, before he cups Jiang Cheng’s face, kissing him deeply. Then, he climbs unsteadily off Jiang Cheng’s lap, and goes to sit beside Wei Wuxian.

“Hi,” he whispers.

“Hi yourself,” Wei Wuxian returns, smiling tenderly. He brushes Lan Wangji’s hair back, and then leans in.

Jiang Cheng clears his throat, looking away. A moment later, there’s a warm body against his side, a hand squeezing his comfortingly.

It’s Wen Ning.

There are hickeys scattered all over his neck, and Jiang Cheng can’t help but laugh. He looks like he’s been mauled by some kind of animal. Jiang Cheng kisses him chastely on the lips, and then bends his head to gently suck a mark of his own into Wen Ning’s skin. His is a few shades lighter than the others, just a light flushing of skin. In return, once he pulls back, Wen Ning bends his head and leaves a light mark in the hollow of Jiang Cheng’s clavicle.

His breath catches as he feels a hot mouth descend on the other side of his neck.

“You look very good in red,” Lan Xichen murmurs, and nips him gently.

“He does look very tempting like this,” Jin Guangyao comments, watching amusedly from across the table.

Finally, Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian part from each other. Noticing this, Lan Xichen dutifully finishes making his mark, and then retreats back to Jin Guangyao’s side. Across from them, Lan Wangji kisses Wei Wuxian on the forehead once, and then scoots backward.

“The bottle was pointing at Jiang Wanyin too,” he says matter-of-factly.

There’s a moment of silence. 

Jiang Cheng blinks.

“What do you mean?” he asks, confused.

“Just now,” Lan Wangji clarifies. “The bottle was also pointing at you.”

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widen as he catches on to Lan Wangji’s meaning.

“You don’t have to,” Jiang Cheng says immediately.

“You do,” Lan Wangji corrects. “Rules of the game.”

“We can drink as forfeit,” Jiang Cheng says.

Wei Wuxian wavers, eyes flitting back and forth between them. After a moment, Nie Huaisang groans.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” he sighs exasperatedlu. “You two want to make out with each other! So make out! Why does this have to be a whole production?!”

He grabs Jiang Cheng’s arm. Wen Ning firmly takes hold of the other arm. Together, they drag him towards Wei Wuxian, who is being pushed towards them by a very determined-looking Lan Wangji.

“Now kiss!” Nie Huaisang snaps.

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian look at each other for a moment. 

Then, the corner of Wei Wuxian’s lip curls up. Something in Jiang Cheng eases at that. He finds himself smiling as well, the humor of the situation finally hitting him.

“Just like old times, huh?” Wei Wuxian murmurs.

He steps in close, close enough that his lashes flutter against Jiang Cheng’s cheeks when he closes his eyes. They stay there for a moment, pressed forehead to forehead, nose to nose. Then, Wei Wuxian drops a kiss on the corner of his lip, first on the right, then the left, before kissing him full on the lips— chaste.

Jiang Cheng tips his face up, parting his lips with a quiet, hitching breath, and they are finally kissing for real, breaths hot and mingling between them, their hands tangled desperately in each other’s hair.

After a moment, Wei Wuxian huffs, and pulls back just enough to speak.

“Let’s not argue anymore,” he whispers placatingly. “Next time, let’s just kiss all our problems away. I don’t think I’m lazing off. I don’t think I’m unready for the performance. So let’s not argue anymore.”

Jiang Cheng’s heart squeezes. 

He licks his lips, a little confused at those words. Is that… why Wei Wuxian has seemed so frustrated with him of late? Has this been on his mind? Has he been wanting to say it for awhile?

“It’s not that I think you aren’t ready,” he says.

He feels the flutter of lashes against his skin, and opens his eyes to see Wei Wuxian looking at him.

“Then why?” Wei Wuxian asks softly.

Jiang Cheng closes his eyes again. He can feel the angry tears welling up in them, embarrassed at his weakness. Wei Wuxian’s arms tighten around his waist.

“You’re always spending so much time with other people,” he finally bites out, “always looking away, running off wherever you please—“

The rest chokes in his throat.

“Leaving me behind,” he finishes, voice thick.

Surging forward, Wei Wuxian kisses him fiercely, as if he could devour Jiang Cheng whole. He pulls back suddenly after a moment, breathing hard.

“But at the end of a long day,” he whispers, “don’t I always find my way back home?”

He draws back, kissing Jiang Cheng’s forehead.

“I always find my way home,“ he answers, and chuckles. “To you.”

With a barely stifled sob, Jiang Cheng tightens his arms around his partner, turning his cheek against Wei Wuxian’s.

“I love you,” he whispers.

“I love you too,” Wei Wuxian chokes out in return.

They stand there for a long moment, eyes closed and pressed cheek-to-cheek, just breathing together slowly. It’s been a long time since he’s held Wei Wuxian like this. It’s been a long, long time.

Finally, they gather themselves enough to part, settling back on the couch with slightly wet eyes. The others just watch them, not saying a word. Across from them, Lan Wangji is sitting against his brother’s side. Lan Xichen turns his head as they sit down, pressing an affectionate kiss to his younger brother’s temple, and murmuring something.

Jiang Cheng feels abruptly bad. He knew Lan Wangji had feelings for Wei Wuxian, and instead of pushing them together—

“Sorry,” he mumbles.

Lan Wangji turns to look at him, blinking slowly.

“Jiang Wanyin,” he says matter of factly. “I would like to kiss you again, preferably in a bed, and preferably until we both fall asleep.”

That— somehow answers nothing, but everything, all at once.

“I would too,” Nie Huaisang volunteers after a moment, and then yawns, loudly and unashamedly. “A bed sounds really good right now. Are we sleeping over?”

“I’ll get the blankets and pillows out,” Lan Xichen allows.

“Cuddle pile!” Wei Wuxian crows, and launches himself at Lan Wangji, who accepts him with a surprising amount of grace. Beside them, Nie Huaisang crawls into Jin Guangyao’s lap, kissing him briefly, before resting his head in the crook of the other man’s neck. Jin Guangyao just smiles. 

Meanwhile, Wen Ning leans quietly against Jiang Cheng’s side.

“I would also like to kiss you to sleep,” he murmurs, and Jiang Cheng chuckles, turning his head to nuzzle Wen Ning’s cheek.

“I’ll schedule all of you in,” he whispers.





The morning is still young when Wei Wuxian wakes to the smell of coffee, and the sizzle of bacon and eggs on the stove. Opening his eyes, he is met with the sight of sunlight filtering over tousled sheets. There is a large lump under those sheets, a crown of black hair peeking out at the top, a low snore issuing quietly from the bundle.

Extricating himself carefully from Nie Huaisang’s barnacle-like embrace, he stands with a stretch and a yawn. He can see Lan Xichen standing at the stove in the kitchen. Jin Guangyao is sitting on the counter beside him. They are speaking in low voices, smiling, and chuckling here and there at the quiet conversation.

Over the dining table, Lan Wangji freezes in the middle of dipping a biscuit into his milo. It’s a surprisingly unflattering position to be caught in. After a moment, Lan Wangji draws the soggy biscuit sheepishly out of his beverage, and sets it on the plate beside him.

“Good morning,” he says quietly.

“Good morning,” Wei Wuxian returns.

He hesitates, before coming around the table to drop a kiss on top of Lan Wangji’s head. He is half-prepared for a glare, for regrets, or even for blame— Lan Wangji had not been entirely sober the night before, and in retrospect… Wei Wuxian feels like an asshole.

But Lan Wangji just hums contentedly.

He has his phone turned on by his elbow. After a moment, Wei Wuxian notices that he seems to be looking through cafe reviews.

“What are you doing?” he asks curiously.

Lan Wangji blinks, before tracing his gaze to his phone screen. He reaches out, locking it, and then turning it face-down on the table.

“Looking for a place,” he says mildly.

He picks the biscuit up, and takes a bite out of it.

“A place?” Wei Wuxian repeats, confused, when he does not elaborate.

Lan Wangji hums in agreement.

“To take you,” he clarifies. “Do you want to get coffee sometime?”

Wei Wuxian’s heart skips a beat. 

Oh.

After a moment, he clears his throat, embarrassed at the flush he can feel rising on his face.

“It’s a date,” he says, as casually as he can.

Lan Wangji smiles.

“It’s a date,” he agrees.