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The Darker The Weather, The Better The Man

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Xie Lian brushes his hair from his eyes with a flustered wave. 

“No, in your backpack! Your mamas and babas need to see those, they’re very very important forms, alright?” 

One boy inadvertently crinkles the notice with his pudgy hand and shoves it down beside his leaking water bottle, most certainly soaking it. Xie Lian sighs. Hopefully it’s still legible by the time his parents fish it out. 

He checks his watch, then his schedule, open on the laptop the school provided him with this morning. It’s typical of his luck that he’d begin his contract at a new school on a Friday; the kids are impatience manifest. 

“Okay, okay. Everybody come and sit down for circle time so we can do our new goodbye song!” He claps once then waits. 

Three children waddle over. Then two more. 

He goes to call one boy by name but stops when he notices that two other boys have the exact same little black bowl cut. Plus he’s only memorized half of their names. 

“Ah… Ziyu? Come to the mat now, please.” 

One round face turns toward him and follows his voice. It’s not the one he’d intended to call but it’s a win nonetheless. 

He checks the time again—they’ve already gone over by two minutes. 

“If you’re still grabbing your backpack, just sing from where you are, okay?” he calls. “Ready? Do you all remember the words?” He takes a deep breath to indicate the start, then sings, “Goodbye, goodbye, we’ll see each other soon. Goodbye students,” he waves at them, “goodbye teacher,” he waves at himself, “we’ll see each other soon!”  

A few of the kids sing along. Most of them try to find the toys they were just asked to put away. One is crying for her mother. 

Xie Lian breathes a sigh of relief when he opens the door to let parents in. He notices with a twinge of concern that many of them are brushing snow from their shoulders. But that’s quickly pushed to the side when he’s tackled, in all ways but physically, by curious parents wondering why the regular teacher is on leave. 

Tamping down his exhaustion, he smiles and gives runaround answers to hide the fact that he hardly knows how to teach their children, let alone what happened to the last teacher. Maybe she had a mental breakdown. 

Xie Lian is trained as a senior middle school educator specializing in history, and now he’s teaching four year olds in a town that’s a two hour bus ride from the city how to tie their shoes and blow their noses—he’s probably not too far off from one himself. 

He’s just not used to people without fine motor control. Or theory of mind. 

But substitute work in the city is growing more and more scarce, and his heart hurt a little when he heard about a rural kindergarten class in need. So this is what the next six to twelve weeks are going to look like for him. 

He’d better learn some more sing-along songs. 

Xie Lian shakes his head and continues to answer each parent’s questions to the best of his ability until they all seem satisfied, or at least abated. While he’s triple checking the substitute list to make sure he hasn’t missed anything crucial, there’s a tug on his pant leg. 

A little girl with big twinkling eyes looks up expectantly. “Mr. Xie, bye bye.” 

He kneels down beside her and pats her head. “Ah, thank you, Banyue. Have a good weekend, I’ll see you on Monday.” Provided he isn’t fired immediately upon exiting the classroom. “Oh! And enjoy your Dongzhi Festival, everyone!” he calls with a smile. 

The door shuts behind the last student-parent combo and Xie Lian collapses into the reading couch, which is really more pillow than couch. He pulls the laptop over from the desk and types up a brief report to email to the principal and dispatcher before deciding the rest can be done over the weekend. 

Thankfully the school is small or else he would have already forgotten where the staff room is. 

“Good first day?” 

Xie Lian perks up and looks around. 

“Or… manageable first day? Survivable? Hopefully it was at least survivable.” 

The questions are coming from the only teacher who could be bothered welcoming him this morning. She looks more like a student than a teacher herself, with a heart-shaped face and dark denim overalls. 

Xie Lian smiles and holds his hands up. “I survived.” 

Shi Qingxuan gives him a one-woman round of applause. “ And it’s the weekend, you lucky son of a bitch. Way to go.” She punches his shoulder. 

Xie Lian tucks his hair behind his ears. It’s been tugged on more than once today, and he’s thinking a ponytail might be in order for the upcoming weeks. “Though I’m not sure what it says about me that I barely made it through a one-day work week on the shortest day of the year.” 

Shi Qingxuan snorts. “It gets easier, swear to god. All you have to worry about right now is the snow.” 

Xie Lian winces. “Is it bad?” 

She laughs, hard and merciless. “You haven’t looked outside?” 

He shakes his head and his stomach drops further. 

“Well,” she sighs, “it’s not the worst we get out here, but it’s also not… what’s the word? Nice?” 

Great. It’s already a two hour ride home, but with snow it might be pushed closer to three. He does the mental math of what time he’ll get dinner and the answer makes his stomach grumble resentfully. 

They walk to the staff room together to grab their coats and bags. Xie Lian notices then that his shirt is stained with something that is possibly chili bean paste from lunch, or possibly something else, but hopefully chili bean paste. 

“See you on Monday?” Shi Qingxuan asks from the doorway as a sort of optimistic farewell. 

“Monday,” Xie Lian nods. “Happy Dongzhi.” 

“Mhm, you too!” Then she’s gone. 

So is everyone, for that matter. Except for maybe a custodian, it seems as if the rest of the staff ran off with the bell. Xie Lian pulls up directions to the bus stop for the only bus that runs through this town. Three blocks shouldn’t be too bad with a winter coat and boots. 

But the moment he pushes the front door open he eats his words. Or rather, the wind eats them for him. He immediately squints his eyes shut against the gale force winds that are whipping him with snow. Not the worst they get out here? It’s a full on blizzard!  

Xie Lian scans the parking lot to find it’s already empty, so no chance of a ride—no wonder the final bell triggered an exodus. He tugs his hat down over his ears and presses his lips together before taking the first step out. Thankfully the trail out to the main road has been worn down, but from there on, Xie Lian is woefully alone. 

The snow is up to his knees and he’s sweating climbing through it, but that isn’t the problem. The problem is the air is a blur of flakes and he can hardly tell up from down, let alone how far he’s walked or where the turnoff is. This road is rarely used as is, so he’s not even sure if he’s on the sidewalk anymore. His face is stinging and his eyes are sore from squinting, but it shouldn’t be too much further. 

Xie Lian hums to himself as he hikes, although the melody is mostly vibrating through his head since the blizzard is so determined to steal away noise. 

At the point where he’s struggling to breathe through the intense winds, he stops and turns his back to the source of it all. He squints to trace back his footsteps, but finds they’ve already faded into smooth snow drifts at the thirty foot mark. 

Maybe he should call someone. Would Feng Xin come this far out of his way to give him a ride? 

But… it’s the solstice. Everyone is home with their families. 

He couldn’t ask anyone to give up the rest of their night for him. 

So he sucks in a few deep breaths and braces himself not to be blown backwards. 

Except… When he turns around, the path he’s on seems to be growing denser with evergreens. Xie Lian stops in his tracks. He doesn’t remember a forest like this on the ride in. Although he was quite sleepy; maybe he’d just missed it… But the main road should at least be lined with streetlights, which he hasn’t noticed any of in the last fifteen minutes or so. 

A weak noise of distress leaves his lips, but the wind steals that too. It wouldn’t matter if he called someone now—he has no idea where he is! 

Now what?  

He’s been walking for—Xie Lian checks his watch—nearly forty minutes. If he were to turn around now, he’d have to walk just as long, if not longer, to get back to the school. But what other choice is there—huddle up beneath a tree and wait it out? They didn’t cover extreme element survival in his martial arts classes. Maybe he should’ve joined Scouts instead. 

So Xie Lian rubs his palms over his cheeks to get back a bit of feeling then turns around. 

Or… begins to turn. Something else catches his eye first. 

A light—the warm, homey kind—shines from a window, way down what must be a driveway under all this snow. It weaves through the trees, but the blizzard is preventing him from making heads or tails of the building at its end. 

Despite the classic horror movie set up, Xie Lian makes a beeline. Five minutes into the forest to a visible destination versus an hour along an unmarked road on which he’s already gotten lost once? He hugs his bag a little tighter and trudges down the driveway. 

With tree cover, the snow in here only comes up mid-shin. Xie Lian’s stomach growls. He hopes they have food, or at least a kitchen—he’ll offer to cook dinner if they let him stay to eat. Fingers crossed they’ll know where the bus heading east stops too, but if nothing else, it’s a quick reprieve from the weather. 

He feels like Red Riding Hood with so many evergreens looming overhead. But to the misfortune of whoever he’s soon to meet, he’s begging for food rather than delivering it. 

As he draws nearer he realizes this is not just a quaint cabin in the woods, but rather a decadent, chalet-style mansion. It’s ultra modern, all long glass windows and dark wood exterior. His father spits reprehensibly in the back of his mind at the exorbitance of the nouveau riche, but Xie Lian quite likes it. The harsh angles are softened by warm lighting, and made sweet by the thick layer of snow. 

Although, as expansive as the windows are, Xie Lian doesn’t see any activity inside. 

His cheeks are starting to ache like they’ve been sand-blasted by the time he reaches the front doors. He sends up a quick prayer that he’s not interrupting some sweet family’s Dongzhi celebrations, and knocks. 

At least if it’s a serial killer he can defend himself. 

He waits. It’s a large house, so waiting upwards of thirty seconds is reasonable. 

His toes are numb. 

After the minute mark passes, he knocks again. 

Vaguely, perhaps wishfully, he hears heels on hardwood. But then there’s another drawn out silence, and he itches as if he’s being observed. 

When the door opens, before anything else, Xie Lian registers the thick scent of cooked ginger and his mouth waters. He sways on his feet as his hunger truly hits him. 

“Excuse me, would you mind if I came in just for fifteen minutes or so to step out of the cold? I’m not from around here and I didn’t expect the blizzard and I really won’t be much of a bother, but—” 

The next thing he notices, perhaps belatedly, is a sleek leather eyepatch. And even more prominent, the curious eye pointedly roaming his body. It completes a comprehensive scan before Xie Lian squeezes out his next words. 

“Ah… but, but I would really like some food, if that’s possible.” He folds his hands together and smiles. 

This man—the homeowner, he presumes—is unexpectedly… unexpected. First of all, he’s young; Xie Lian’s age at the oldest, and his hair reflects that. It hangs short of ear-length and is handsomely tousled. It makes him look youthful but no less mature for it. Xie Lian’s hair, on the other hand, is pin straight and nearing his waist—it makes him look young in a different way. 

The man’s clothing too, boasts professionalism even while secluded in a forest chalet two hours from any central business district. The deep red of his shirt is a brilliant, warm break from the snow, rolled to his elbows with the top two buttons undone. 

His arms are crossed where he leans against the doorway, but it isn’t an uninviting posture. If anything, it’s more like a companion to his roguish smirk. He’s handsome like a sleek wolf—dangerous to the point of awe. 

Xie Lian clears his throat. 

“…Of course,” the man eventually says, and his voice is rumbling and velvety. “You’re welcome for as long as you need. Or like.” He steps aside. 

Xie Lian dips into a quick bow then shuffles inside. 

Into… the foyer? A row of closets line either side of the hall with benches set into them, and there’s an understated but expensive looking kilim rug on the floor. He certainly wasn’t off the mark with the nouveau riche guess. 

“You can leave your shoes on if you’d like. Allow me to take your coat?” The way he speaks, Xie Lian could almost mistake him for the attendant of the residence. 

“Oh, really?” He smiles sheepishly and slips out of his jacket, holding it out. “Thank you.” His boots come off as well, caked in ice three times over, as well as his hat, gloves, scarf… The man takes them all one by one and quickly finds a spot for each. 

Although his hands are just as cold as the rest of him, he plants them on his cheeks to ease the lingering sting. 

The man frowns. Then his hands slip beneath Xie Lian’s. 

Hot palms— searing when his skin is this cold—cup his cheeks and Xie Lian’s lips part briefly in shock. He’s a few inches shorter than this man but for all intents and purposes they’re face to face, eye to eye. 

His thumbs stroke over his cheekbones and Xie Lian sucks in a short breath. 

“God, poor thing. You’re half frozen,” he hums. He speaks as if Xie Lian is an injured animal he’s picked up off the side of the road, and it makes his stomach flip. 

“Mm… not too bad. The snow just caught me off guard.” 

His hands work in little circles, trying to build up some friction to warm him with. But then they’re gone. 

Not gone entirely, just gone from his cheeks. They cradle Xie Lian’s freezing hands now, and lift them to his mouth. 

Hot breath, hotter than his hands. He exhales, and a slow swell of warm air has Xie Lian’s hands prickling with feeling again. His single eye lazily roams Xie Lian’s face and his lips brush skin for a split-second on the next breath. 

Xie Lian’s throat tightens. 

“…A lot of things out here can catch you off guard if you aren’t careful.” He gives Xie Lian’s hands a squeeze then drops them. The man nods and heads up a half-flight of stairs, drawing Xie Lian’s attention to his smart, ankle-high boots. “Come on,” he smiles over his shoulder, “Let’s warm you up.” 

Xie Lian’s cheeks are a little redder than they were before, but not from the cold this time. Is this… a typical small town welcome?

The top of the stairs gives him a good view of most of the home. Two walls are floor-to-ceiling windows, and the third is a loft with a staircase to whatever else might be on the second floor. The kitchen, a half-step higher, looks like it belongs to a professional chef; the living area, a half-step lower, is chic and well-designed. The furniture is all either black or dark wood with burnished steel. A handful of red accents are what really brings it to life, though. 

It’s the product of good money. Very good money.  

Xie Lian bounces on the balls of his feet. The ginger duck hotpot balancing on the element in the kitchen is drawing his attention more than the interior design. 

He starts, “You have a beautiful house…” 

The man turns towards him in the expectant silence. 

“You can call me San Lang,” he offers. 

Xie Lian nods. 

“And thank you, but this is just my holiday cabin.” 

He thought that might’ve been the case—there’s an un-lived-in atmosphere permeating the air. 

San Lang walks over to the kitchen, unhurried steps clicking in the absence of noise. No… that’s not quite right. Quiet music drifting from some hidden speaker adds to the serene, winter atmosphere. 

“Soup?” San Lang asks. 

“Please.” Xie Lian stands a little taller. 

He serves up a bowl of broth with cooked duck and a few of the other plated vegetables mixed in. It’s a curious choice of dish for someone who lives alone, and especially when Dongzhi is usually marked by dumplings. But Xie Lian couldn’t care less about that when his stomach is about to eat itself. 

“Thank you so much, San Lang, I really—” 

He holds the bowl just out of reach when Xie Lian stretches for it. 

“My mother taught me never to share food with strangers,” San Lang says, “so I’ll have to bother you for your name first.” 

Xie Lian’s lips part in surprise. Then he flushes; he was too distracted by the prospect of food to properly introduce himself. “Ah… I’m so sorry, how rude. My surname is Xie, given name Lian.” 

“Mm, Xie Lian,” San Lang repeats, handing over the bowl and a pair of chopsticks. “Not rude at all. I’m glad we’re no longer strangers.” 

Xie Lian smiles, hands warmed by the soup. “Likewise.” 

He eats with restraint, aware of San Lang’s gaze on him. The immediate kindness he’d received was extraordinary and he’s deeply grateful, but he can’t shake the feeling that San Lang’s kindness has… something extra mixed in. 

“Can I ask what gege was doing that brought him all the way out here?” 

He finishes his mouthful. “Ah… I’m a teacher at the school just down the road. Or… somewhere around here. Today was my first day actually.” 

San Lang quirks an eyebrow. “You work with children?” 

“Mhm, shaping young minds,” Xie Lian jokes. 

“How honourable. Gege clearly possesses endless patience and stamina.” 

He supposes now, really looking at San Lang, he does seem to be a few years his junior. “Then, what does San Lang do?” He pops a mushroom into his mouth. 

“Me? Just some corporate stuff. Nothing exciting.” 

But it clearly comes with a salary with money to burn. Money in exchange for happiness is something Xie Lian long since learned is not at all worthwhile. He feels a temporary twang of pity for San Lang. 

“And you took the solstice off?” he asks. 

Taking a family holiday off when there seems to be no family to speak of is unusual. 

San Lang shrugs. “I need to get off the grid every now and then.” He shifts then, and runs his eye down to Xie Lian’s chest then back up. “…Would gege feel more comfortable eating near the fire?” 

“Hm?” Xie Lian turns around and notices an extravagant hearth, framed with sleek black tile. A fire crackles in the centre, clearly burning wood rather than gas. His joints ache with the lingering chill and he naturally gravitates toward it. 

The house is incredibly well-insulated for something that’s nearly fifty percent glass. He watches the snow outside being shaped into drifts as he drinks his soup, occasionally letting his gaze wander elsewhere. San Lang has fallen quiet, leaving Xie Lian to eat with only the comfortable croon of the music as background noise. 

His mind wanders too—maybe he can pick up a card for San Lang and drop it off when he’s at work next week. What else do you give as a thank you gift to a man who looks like he could pay your salary with his pocket change? Xie Lian chews absent-mindedly—he has the weekend to come up with something. 

He turns around to warm his toes and admires the trinkets on the mantle. A few metallic butterfly ornaments are fixed into the wall, looking like they’re flying up the length of the chimney. A handsome sabre in a display stand catches Xie Lian’s eye as well. Intricate designs around the hilt and pommel make Xie Lian wonder if it’s an antique. His interest is immediately piqued, and he’s about to ask San Lang about it when he notices a plaque on the wall and promptly chokes on a pea shoot. 

It’s some kind of award, but the meritorious honour isn’t what stops him dead. It’s the recipient. 

Hua Cheng.  

…Hua Cheng, like the casino ring owner? Like the man who made a quarter billion yuan by twenty-three? The one who gossip columnists make their livings on? 

Xie Lian has heard the name so many times in passing but never bothered to wonder what he looks like. The rumours always tended towards the risqué, so he knows he ought to be handsome, but… 

That couldn’t possibly be… 

Xie Lian turns, shock still lingering on his features, to find San Lang leaning against the kitchen island with his arms crossed and a lazy smirk. The house suddenly looks less like a secluded getaway cabin and more like the den of a wolf. 

“Too much ginger?” he asks teasingly. 

“You…” Xie Lian coughs again. 

His mind starts racing. Tabloid titles that before held such little significance are slinking their way to the front of his mind. What did they say, what did they say? 

…Young Multi-Millionaire Caught in the Midst of Indecent Scandal. 

Ghost City Conglomerate Owner Makes No Comment Towards Gay Rumours. 

Hua Cheng Faces Accusations of— 

Hua Cheng Doesn’t Back Down from— 

Hua Cheng Boldly States that—  

While Xie Lian has learned not to let hearsay impact his judgement, this is… quite excessive. A premonition rises in his chest that he might have fared better with a serial killer. 

Hua Cheng cocks an eyebrow. “I…?” 

Xie Lian averts his gaze and puts his half-empty bowl on the table. He frantically brushes his hair out of his face and clears his throat. “Ah, I’m really sorry, I just remembered I actually have to get home. Um… to my family. Do you know where the nearest bus stop is?” 

Hua Cheng tilts his head. “Mm, you hang a left at the end of the driveway, then take your first right and keep walking for ten minutes or so,” he answers with an easy smile. 

Xie Lian dips his head and murmurs his thanks then backs away towards the foyer. 

“Leaving so soon? Where are you planning on going?” 

Xie Lian stops in his tracks. “…The last bus leaves in half an hour, I really can’t miss it.” 

Hua Cheng’s lips quirk. “Then I’m afraid I have some bad news for gege.” 

His stomach drops before he can even say it. 

“The bus won’t be running during a blizzard.” 

He tilts his chin towards the window and Xie Lian follows his gaze miserably. The wind hasn’t relented—if anything, it’s stronger now than when he was fighting his way through it. Visibility through the trees is next to nothing, making him abruptly aware that even if he were to leave there would be nowhere to go. His options begin to narrow. 

He tentatively catches Hua Cheng’s eye, which is smouldering. “But as I said, you’re welcome for as long as you’d like.” 

Xie Lian clears his throat. “I really… ah, couldn’t intrude.” 

Hua Cheng drums his fingers against his forearm. “All intrusions welcome, I assure you.” 

Xie Lian bites his lip and feels his palms growing warm. “N-no, really, it’s a holiday, and I need to get home—” 

Hua Cheng’s lips part in understanding, then quickly curl into mischief. “Of course. To your family, right?” 

He ducks his head with a flicker of guilt. “…Mm. So I, um, I’ll just call a taxi and let you get on with the rest of your night.” Xie Lian is speaking faster, pushing his words out while he digs his phone from his pocket. 

Hua Cheng looks entirely unbothered, emitting a calm confidence that, frustratingly, shakes Xie Lian’s resolve even more. He unlocks his phone and groans internally. The blinking ‘No Service’ alert is taunting him, he’s certain. 

He takes a deep breath and looks back at Hua Cheng, who’s eye seems not to have left him. “Would you… be able to drive me, by any chance? Just to the train station?” 

Hua Cheng’s expression takes on a shade of regret—only a shade, though. “This San Lang, unfortunately, has already sent his chauffeur home and has no means with which to drive gege.” 

An anxiousness begins to itch its way up Xie Lian’s chest. 

“I do, however,” Hua Cheng continues, “have dessert, alcohol, a spare room, a hot shower… I could go on,” he smiles. 

By now, Xie Lian is in the doorway out of the living space, feet itching to run. 

To where? For how long?  

There are too many questions he doesn’t have answers to. And… he does have everything he could need here. Hua Cheng even offered him his spare room, his intentions can’t be too atrocious. Maybe he could just ask to sleep now. Or… maybe a bit more food, then sleep. If Xie Lian has to be trapped in a wolf’s den, he should at least be grateful it’s a den stocked with all the amenities, right? 

Waiting for Xie Lian’s internal monologue to taper off, Hua Cheng sits himself on a bar stool. 

Xie Lian’s rambling mind cuts out when his eyes are inadvertently drawn to the flawless fit of his slacks. Unlike Xie Lian’s pants, these stretch nicely around his thighs and sit higher on his hips—probably hand-tailored to fit his measurements. He hadn’t noticed before, but there are intricate designs embroidered into his pockets as well. 

Xie Lian doesn’t realize his gaze has become a stare until Hua Cheng casually hums, “Eight inches.” 

He makes a distant noise of confusion. Then a violent flush blooms under his collar, and he begins sputtering, snapping his gaze back up to Hua Cheng’s face then immediately to the floor. “You’re—p-pardon?” 

Hua Cheng’s smirk deepens. “Eight inches of snow. That’s how much more they’re expecting before midnight.” 

“O-oh,” Xie Lian squeaks, feeling suddenly faint. 

“And it’s not supposed to slow until mid-morning. I wouldn’t want gege to catch a cold out there.” He props his chin up in his palm. 

Xie Lian swallows hard and nods. “…How thoughtful.” 

He takes one cautious step back into the room, then another. 

Hua Cheng grins; this wolf is toying with its dinner. 

Speaking of dinner… Xie Lian moves back to his abandoned soup, peeking back every few steps like he expects Hua Cheng to pounce on him. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t even move, except to swivel his chair. 

“Warming up?” 

Xie Lian sits with the utmost hesitance on the edge of the couch, cradling his bowl to his chest. He can still feel the heat of the fire from here, melting the last of the ice in his veins. 

“…I am. Thank you, San Lang. Ah, or—Hua Cheng.” 

“San Lang is fine,” he replies quickly. 

Xie Lian acknowledges him then lifts his bowl and finishes off his soup. 

Hua Cheng is tapping his heel idly against the leg of the stool. When Xie Lian lowers his bowl, he sees his gaze slide back up from his throat. 

“…Is gege still hungry?” 

A shiver grips him, despite the glow of the fire on his cheeks. And as badly as he wants to deny it, it feels nice. 

“I’m… I’m alright,” he murmurs. 

“A drink, then,” Hua Cheng slides behind the island, “to warm you up on the inside.” 

Xie Lian is about to say no, but his mind rebuts itself. Just one.  

Hua Cheng places a tumbler of some kind of distilled wine in front of him and Xie Lian’s gaze follows along his arm up to his face. He has his own drink in hand and tilts it toward Xie Lian with a playful nod. 

“Cheers.” 

Hua Cheng takes a sip then drops into the couch opposite him, propping his ankle up on his knee. 

“…Cheers,” Xie Lian echoes. He takes a daring gulp and manages to swallow it without choking, although his eyes do water. 

“Tough day at work?” Hua Cheng laughs. 

Xie Lian sighs, focusing on the warmth as it crawls down the back of his throat all the way to his stomach. “…It was,” he admits, making a face. “I wasn’t made to teach kindergarten.” 

“No?” Hua Cheng asks. “Then what were you made for?” 

Xie Lian winces and looks into his drink. “What a heavy question. I went to school to teach history, if that’s what you mean.” 

“I mean whatever you want me to mean.” Hua Cheng leans on the arm of the couch. “We can be made to do more than just one thing, I think. And gege, especially, looks like he’s exceptional in many areas.” 

His shoulders draw up a little; he’s out of practice at receiving praise. Particularly the kind of praise Hua Cheng seems intent to bestow. 

“Ah… no, no. Maybe I was when I was younger, but that was a long time ago.” 

He’d held the world in his hands as a teen. With natural excellence in every subject—academics, martial arts, music, the list goes on—he knows he’d fuelled others’ jealousy and been the target of spiteful eyes. But for each who envied him, there were two more who worshipped the ground he walked on. He’d made acquaintances easily and used his sway for the greater good—it feels like a lifetime ago. 

“Bullshit,” Hua Cheng hums, drawing him back. “Gege is clearly mature and refined. I can only imagine you’ve grown in all areas since then.” His voice is still sleek, just as it’s been since the moment he’d opened the door, but that doesn’t impact how genuine it is. 

A small smile creeps across Xie Lian’s face.

 “…And San Lang? How was he so certain of which direction to head in?” 

Hua Cheng waves his hand, joking, “It’s painfully superficial, gege wouldn’t want to hear about it.” 

Xie Lian chuckles. “Oh? I’m afraid that just makes gege want to hear more.” 

Something in Hua Cheng’s eye flashes. 

“What is it?” he continues, taking another sip of his drink. “Money? Sex? Big house, nice car?” 

Hua Cheng holds a hand to his chest, teasingly wounded. “Does gege think me a scoundrel?” 

“I never said those were bad reasons,” Xie Lian counters, cocking an eyebrow. 

“…Mm.” Hua Cheng taps a finger against his lips, which settle back into a smirk. “To tell you the truth,” he murmurs, leaning forward, “it’s influence.”  

Xie Lian’s hand tightens on his knee. The heat of Hua Cheng’s gaze pins him to the spot, silently reeling him forward. “How… how so?” 

“I need people to know who I am,” he says, “I want to make a statement.” 

He’s certainly done that, Xie Lian thinks; it’s just a question of what he wants the statement to be. He doesn’t feel at liberty to ask. 

Hua Cheng sits back then, throwing his arm over the back of the couch. “…But that doesn’t mean I would reject the occasional indulgence,” he purrs. 

Xie Lian’s breath hitches and he lifts his glass to his lips to hide it. 

“Doesn’t gege have his guilty pleasures as well?” 

…Does he? Xie Lian suddenly has trouble remembering the last time he’d done anything very guiltily. Or indeed for pleasure. Not recently, that’s for sure. 

“Ah…” He scratches his neck. “I’m not sure I do, actually.” 

Instead of surprise, Hua Cheng’s face flashes with something darker, just for a moment. Then it melts into a grin that’s a little more possessive, a little more lupine. He looks as though he’s caught a scent that he’s eager to chase to its source. He brushes his hair carefully out of his eye and takes a slow sip of his drink. 

“It sounds like you work too hard, gege.” 

He does.  

“Sometimes you just need to… lose yourself for a little while. Take it from me.” 

Xie Lian knows he’s right, to an extent. His day-to-day life is, in a word, monotonous. However, Hua Cheng’s tone carries a slightly different connotation. 

“Gege should find a hobby.” 

Xie Lian swallows. “…Mhm?” 

“Mm, something fun.” His eye flashes with the hint of a joke. “Good for releasing stress and tension. Maybe something that tires you out so you can get a good night’s rest.” Hua Cheng’s tongue peeks between his lips just for a second before it’s gone. “…Just my suggested criteria.” 

He thinks the alcohol is starting to do too good a job of warming him up. His gaze slips and lands on the table between them. “…I’ll, ah, keep that in mind,” he murmurs. 

The trees keep quivering in the wind, unable to stop the snow from piling up. The clock keeps ticking, unable to stop Xie Lian’s mind from slowly shifting gears. 

The longer they talk, the more Xie Lian finds himself struggling to care about the scandalous rumours and long-circulated gossip Hua Cheng’s name brings to mind. 

…No; it’s not that he doesn’t care, it’s that he’s intrigued by them. He wants to know the stories, the truth. He wants to follow the path Hua Cheng is slowly luring him down and find out what’s at the end. 

Half of him desperately hopes it’s the alcohol’s effect, but the other half knows it’s just… him.  

Xie Lian finishes his drink and stands up suddenly. “Can I use your washroom?” 

The corner of Hua Cheng’s lips twitch in amusement. “Back down the hall; second door on your left.” 

“Thank you,” he croaks, and rushes in the direction he’s been pointed. 

He shuts the door behind him and just breathes for a few seconds before feeling for the light switch. The bathroom, like everything else, is luxurious—an above ground toilet, two shower heads, and a huge mirror. He leans on the marble countertop and stares at himself. His cheeks are a little pink from the wine. His hair is still half-up but a mess with flyaways, which he hastily brushes down and behind his ears. 

“What are you doing?” he hisses to himself under his breath. His eyes are glowing, holding steady contact in the mirror. “This is not rational. This is… is… foolish, selfish gratification.” 

He winces when he realizes how much he sounds like his father. Xie Lian takes another steadying breath. 

“So what if he’s the most beautiful man you’ve ever seen? You haven’t dated since college, let alone… doing… doing… ugh.”  

He pouts. It’s been a long time since anyone looked at him like Hua Cheng does, talked to him like Hua Cheng does. Deep down he knows he’s hungry for just a bit of attention. Is that so bad?  

He groans. “You can’t let your—” Xie Lian’s whisper cuts out when he loses sight of himself. The lights click out, as does the quiet, ever-present electrical hum around him. 

The power. 

There’s still a bit of light coming in through the window—the moon reflected on snow. 

After a few moments, he hears a distant, “Gege?” 

Xie Lian bites his lip. He allows himself another slow breath before opening the door. 

“I’m alright!” 

He feels along the wall, hesitantly stepping over the threshold. However, his attention is all on not walking face-first into a wall, which leaves him painfully vulnerable to tripping. Even with the lights on, he hadn’t registered that the washroom was a half-step higher than the hallway, let alone in a blackout. 

Xie Lian sucks in a sharp breath, tries and fails to catch himself, and braces himself all in the split-second it takes to fall. 

But he never makes contact with the ground. 

He lands easily in the cradle of strong arms and lets out a breath like he’s been winded, blinking up with wide eyes. Of course, it’s still pitch black and he can’t see a thing. 

“…San Lang?” he murmurs. 

“Good timing?” The response is closer than he expects, instantly raising the hairs on the back of his neck. 

“Ah… so it seems.” He carefully feels along Hua Cheng’s arm up to his shoulder, and uses it to hoist himself upright. “Thank you.” 

His hand stays on Xie Lian’s waist. “Don’t thank me, gege,” he sighs, “the generator broke down the other week. Someone is supposed to come out to fix it tomorrow, but until then we’ll have to make do without power.” 

Xie Lian’s stomach flips once. 

“This town isn’t exactly high-priority for electrical maintenance,” Hua Cheng laughs, then ushers Xie Lian back down the hall with a steadying hand. “Step down,” he murmurs. 

Xie Lian follows his directions. He feels small now, pressed side-to-side with Hua Cheng; his ear is only brushing his shoulder. Or maybe it’s not that he feels small, exactly, but rather that Hua Cheng feels big.  

“And three steps up here.” 

The living area comes back into view, lit by the fire. The windows don’t let in much moonlight through the trees, but there’s still an ethereal kind of glow about the snow whipping this way and that. 

“I’ll light some candles, gege. Make yourself comfortable.” 

Xie Lian cautiously settles down on the rug in front of the fire. It’s much quieter now since the low, steady music has cut out. Out of the corner of his eye, he watches the silhouette in the kitchen fetch a stick lighter and ignite two candles. Hua Cheng makes his way around the room lighting candles that, until now, were solely decorative. Like a wave, the room is swept up in an orange glow. He finishes with the three on the table behind Xie Lian before setting the lighter down. 

Almost immediately he’s wrapped in the nostalgic scents of winter. It’s the kind of fragrance that’s almost impossible to pin down, identifiable only by the feeling it triggers. Xie Lian takes a deep breath and smiles. 

It’s calming. More than that, it’s encouraging. 

“…So,” Hua Cheng sits beside him with a curious hum. “Tell me more about this family of yours that’s sorely missing you in their Dongzhi celebrations.” 

Xie Lian purses his lips and looks down at the floor. “Ah… To be honest with San Lang, I really don’t have any family back home. A roommate, but he’s not really the celebratory type. I was just… anxious, I suppose.” 

Hua Cheng doesn’t seem surprised. “No beautiful wife with a baby in each arm?” 

Xie Lian huffs out a laugh. “I’m afraid not.” His fingers begin to fidget in his lap without a glass to hold. “Is… San Lang married?” 

“That depends. Are you offering?” Hua Cheng answers with a grin. 

Xie Lian sputters on instinct. “Y-you… No, I just thought since San Lang is so desirable—” 

“Mhm, go on.” His grin widens. 

Xie Lian forces back the heat that creeps all the way to his toes. 

“—ah, desirable as in… well-off, and—and attractive and so on, that maybe he would already be married, or at least have some eager admirers.” If the products of the rumour mill are anything to go by, Hua Cheng is far from settled down. 

“A very generous assumption to make about a man who’s spending the solstice in a big empty house on the edge of nowhere,” he chuckles. 

Xie Lian shrugs. “You could have a—a wife or a girlfriend back in the city, maybe.” 

His lips quirk into a smirk when he says, “That’s not exactly my style.” 

With the courage of the alcohol running through him, he asks, “Then what is your style?” 

Hua Cheng purses his lips and falls into thought. “Mm… a long night alone with someone. Nice and secluded with a good atmosphere; snow outside, maybe a few candles.” 

Xie Lian swallows hard. He forces out a quiet laugh, colour rising from under his collar. 

“I’m strict about the company, though,” he continues. “He has to be hard-working, caring, and easy to talk to. Preferably with long hair and a nice ass, too, because I’m a little shallow.” 

Xie Lian wants to laugh it off, make a joke, but it’s suddenly stuck in his throat. 

Behind that smirk, Xie Lian sees bared fangs and feels hot breath at his neck. 

“…Your blush is gorgeous,” Hua Cheng murmurs, leaning back on his hands. “Like watercolour.” 

Of course, that just paints Xie Lian pinker. “D-don’t—ah, San Lang. That’s embarrassing,” he mumbles. 

“What is? Being complimented?” 

He looks up from under his eyelashes and nods. 

Hua Cheng traces the curve of his shoulder with his gaze. “Then obviously it doesn’t happen enough. Not as much as it should.” 

His look runs through Xie Lian like a current, magnetizing him. Fangs are closing around his neck, tight enough to make him sweat. He dips his head then glances into the fire. It’s hot, it’s too hot directly on his face, but he needs to focus his gaze while he silently chants a makeshift mantra. 

Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, bad—  

Hua Cheng shifts closer, so their knees are brushing, and he quickly looks up. His eyes catch momentarily on the open slit of Hua Cheng’s shirt, then further to his eye. The flames in the hearth seem to be dancing there as well. 

Xie Lian visibly shivers, caught in that gaze. 

“Oh?” Hua Cheng murmurs, “Is gege still cold, even after all my efforts?” He lifts the back of his hand to Xie Lian’s forehead—it’s blissfully cool, now, against his warm skin. 

How poetic, he thinks distantly, to be reenacting their initial meeting in such a way. 

“A little,” Xie Lian whispers, not bothering to conceal his blatant lie. His breath is shaky; Hua Cheng’s is slow and steady. 

“…Then why don’t you come over here so I can warm you up?” His hand falls to his thigh and pats it twice, inviting Xie Lian. 

He realizes all at once that Hua Cheng’s intention was never to wear him down until he could pounce—it was to draw him out for long enough that Xie Lian would come to him on his own. A wolf who bats at the prey until the prey turns just as hungry for it. 

Like that, something in him snaps, and he decides being eaten whole might not be such a bad way to go. 

His lips quiver and part—he doesn’t miss Hua Cheng’s gaze dip. He leans over, bracing his hands on either side of his knees until their noses nearly brush, then sucks in a shallow breath. 

Hua Cheng’s hand lands on his waist. 

“I don’t… don’t ever do this,” Xie Lian breathes, maintaining their distance. 

Hua Cheng’s mouth quirks into a smug smile. “…Do what?” 

Xie Lian makes a weak noise of resignation and falls into the kiss. His eyes are shut and brows are furrowed like a schoolboy pressing a daring peck to his crush’s cheek. 

The response to it is expectedly smooth. Hua Cheng kisses him hard, but there’s no needy ache or desperation. His confidence bleeds into every action and every touch, and it just gets Xie Lian hotter. 

The set of his lips in a smirk like the cat who got the cream is a dare. 

Xie Lian breathes against him and cups his cheek, parting his lips and pushing the boundary. Hua Cheng hums and easily slips his tongue in. 

That’s the first genuine twitch Xie Lian’s cock gives in interest. He takes on a dominant edge suddenly, trying to open Hua Cheng up and kiss the smug out of him with a lingering, hot mouth. 

It’s been a very long time since he’d kissed anybody. But it’s enough to earn him a passing grade, clearly. 

Hua Cheng’s hands tighten, tugging Xie Lian into his lap with a growl. Xie Lian grabs at his shoulder, fine fabric under his fingers. 

Strong jaws are bearing down around his neck but he doesn’t struggle or scream—he lets those fangs sink deeper. 

They taste like wine, both of them; just enough to give a refined edge to the otherwise lewd slip of one tongue past the other. The pounding in Xie Lian’s ears is broken only by the occasional pop of sparks behind him. His hand strokes over Hua Cheng’s jaw and along his neck, eventually threading into his hair. 

He wants him closer; his nose is grinding into his cheek with how deeply they’re kissing but he wants to be closer.  

Through the fog, a single thought tries to find him: Why are you doing this? Why?  

Xie Lian hesitates for a split-second. But then Hua Cheng squeezes his hips and pulls them down against his own, and his trepidation pops like a bubble. 

Oh. That’s why.  

Xie Lian’s mouth falls open and he presses his forehead to Hua Cheng’s, whining. They’re both half-hard in their pants. 

Hua Cheng gives him a second or two to breathe before tilting his chin up and catching him in another kiss. The angle isn’t the best, so he moves Xie Lian’s hips on his behalf. 

A thrill shocks up Xie Lian’s spine both from the sharp grind of their cocks, and the confident manhandling. His mouth lolls open, panting while Hua Cheng continues to ease him into sloppy kisses. Their hips keep rolling and slotting together; Xie Lian feels himself steadily growing harder. 

Between the wet smacks of their kisses he gasps, “Mm, San Lang, I—” Smack. “I want—” Smack. “Nn, god—” 

“If it’s God you want, you’re definitely at the wrong house,” Hua Cheng breathes. 

He starts nipping down Xie Lian’s neck. One hand brushes his hair behind his shoulder and it gives Xie Lian the distinct sensation of being a meal on display. Lips and teeth easily find and latch to his pulse point. 

Xie Lian hisses, embracing the jerk his cock gives when Hua Cheng sucks and tongues at his neck. He bites hard but travels smoothly over Xie Lian’s skin, marking him up with a constellation of tiny bruises. It aches, but in a way that falls heavy between his legs. 

Hua Cheng’s tongue slides over each bruise then up to his ear, pulling his lobe between his teeth. His hands snake under Xie Lian’s shirt and up his sides where he touches like it’s new territory to claim. 

Xie Lian is panting and squirming in his lap—this is the erotic rush that floods his body moments before being consumed. 

He hugs Hua Cheng closer and breathes, “Are we going to go upstairs?” He can only assume that’s where the bedroom is. 

Hua Cheng releases his earlobe to nose up his ear. “Only if you’re asking because you want me to fuck you into the mattress rather than the floor,” he murmurs. 

Xie Lian whimpers and clutches him tighter. Either sounds pretty good. He rolls his hips down against Hua Cheng and nods. “Mhm.”  

“Off,” Hua Cheng whispers, tugging Xie Lian’s shirt up to his armpits. 

He lifts his arms like he would for his maid when he was in pre-primary, and is promptly stripped. He shivers despite the fire at his back and the warm hands on his chest. 

Hua Cheng leans up for another kiss while his fingers trace the defined muscle of his arms and chest. Xie Lian’s back settles into an arch, pleading for more touch. Instead, his lower lip is bitten and the moan it pulls from him is swallowed. 

“Relax, we have time,” Hua Cheng laughs. He gives Xie Lian’s nipple a sharp tweak and it shocks through his body with a gasp. “It’s the longest night of the year, remember?” 

He feels his smirk rather than sees it, already melting back into the next set of searing kisses. They have all night, he knows they do, but Xie Lian’s hands tremble with the need to feel and grab and ground himself. Hua Cheng’s cock presses into the junction of his thigh and he ruts against it, nosing along his jaw and relishing the growing hardness. 

“Fuck,” Hua Cheng hisses. “Alright, upstairs.” He pulls Xie Lian to his feet. 

The stairs split off from the hallway and climb over the kitchen, which is the direction Hua Cheng leads him in. He hoists Xie Lian into his arms so their hips are slotted together and presses him against the wall at the bottom of the staircase. Their kiss is messy and hard, more teeth on his lips than tongue. 

One of Xie Lian’s hands gropes down Hua Cheng’s front, searching for buttons to be undone. He pops them one at a time while the hands holding him up knead his ass. His thighs jerk tighter and their erections grind together. Xie Lian’s moan vibrates through his throat and down into Hua Cheng’s. 

He manages to get his shirt undone but can’t loose it from his pants while he’s straddling him, so he settles for shoving it off his shoulders and squeezing his biceps. They flex when Hua Cheng pulls him back from the wall. 

He carries him up the stairs and Xie Lian breaks their kiss to glance around the loft. There are plants up here: several expensive, broad-leafed tropicals which really highlight the opposition between in here and out there. Unlike the homey greenhouse feeling in other cabins, however, this room is painted black—severe and tasteful. 

Seductive.  

With its sleek silver accents, the room is a night sky with shimmering stars. The bed is similarly black and huge; it’s a standard king at least. Xie Lian clings to Hua Cheng a little tighter at the thought of being spread out across it. 

There are no candles up here—it’s easier to see, he realizes, because the windows face the moon. Even in a blizzard, glossy light filters through the trees to illuminate them. And it’s just these windows that Hua Cheng carries him towards, pinning him once more against the wall. 

Xie Lian’s legs drop and relearn how to hold his weight between the hot mouth at the corners of his lips. 

“Gege didn’t tell me he had such an amazing body,” Hua Cheng purrs. 

Xie Lian doesn’t feel he’s anything special, but he keeps up with training when he can find the time, so he’s toned at the least. “Nn— martial arts.” 

His eye flashes. “Oh? Flexible too?” 

“A little— ah!” The hold on his hips turns possessive, nails laying claim to the soft skin where the swell of his ass begins. 

He bucks up against Hua Cheng and shudders. 

“And don’t even get me started on how sensitive you are.” Hua Cheng grins and pecks his cheek. 

“Am… am I?” he whimpers. 

Hua Cheng lifts an amused eyebrow. He rubs a thumb over Xie Lian’s swollen lower lip then presses it into his mouth. 

Xie Lian’s eyes go wide. After a moment he takes it, closing his lips and suckling. 

The other hand traces above his waistband but pointedly does not slide any lower. Xie Lian wiggles his hips, trying to invite his hand in without so many words. …Maybe he is sensitive.  

“So sweet,” Hua Cheng coos, almost to himself. “…How many times do you want me to make you come tonight, gege?” 

His shocked whine is muffled by the thumb pressing into his tongue. 

“Whatever you want from me, I can do it. You just need to ask.” Behind that word, Xie Lian senses the meaning: beg.  

He shudders and nods. 

“Good boy.” The thumb slides from between his lips and is replaced by Hua Cheng’s mouth. 

Xie Lian focuses his efforts on stripping Hua Cheng again, abandoning all the finesse of the kiss. He tears his shirt from his pants and shoves it down his forearms. 

Before he can make it any further, he gasps. A steady hand is palming him through his pants, slow and sure. Their lips part with a smack when Xie Lian drops his head back against the wall. 

“Oh, yes, ” he whimpers. He weaves his arms around Hua Cheng’s neck and bucks up into his hand. “Mhm. San Lang, it feels good.” His voice is breathy and every good, hard grind pulls a new moan from him. 

Hua Cheng kisses his collarbone, hiding a laugh there. “It’ll feel better when I’m actually touching you.” His lips trace down Xie Lian’s chest like it’s a well-travelled path. His tongue flicks once over his nipple before catching it between his teeth. 

“Ah—!” Xie Lian sucks in a sharp breath, toes curling. 

One of his hands settles, of its own accord, at the back of Hua Cheng’s head and encourages more of that slick toying. The way his tongue curls diffuses a warm pleasure throughout his chest, punctuated by the little bites and tugs which directly make his cock throb in his pants. Xie Lian whines and arches his back like that will somehow give him a bit of reprieve. 

He doesn’t remember his nipples ever being this sensitive. In fact… he doesn’t remember ever being so thoroughly and easily aroused. Hua Cheng’s actions have clearly been honed into an art, transitioning smoothly from one to the other. 

He’s happily drinking in the effect it has, watching Xie Lian from beneath his bangs. His tongue lolls as it slides to the other nipple, pairing with a hooded eye to paint a breathtaking, lewd image. 

Preoccupied with that, Xie Lian doesn’t even notice Hua Cheng undoing his pants. Only when he feels his erection being shifted does he take notice that he’s being stripped. A moan catches in his throat and he looks down in time to see his cock bounce free, hard to an extent that might be embarrassing if he weren’t so deeply aroused. 

“Yeah,” he mewls, knees dipping in a moment of weakness. 

Hua Cheng holds him up by the hips while he drops to his knees. “Your dick is so cute,” he grins. 

Xie Lian’s legs tremble. “Ah, don’t—tease.” 

“Why not?” he purrs. “Teasing feels so good.” Hua Cheng kisses down to his navel then stops. His palms cup the slim line of Xie Lian’s waist. “Gege, you’re little. I can hold you in my hands,” he breathes. 

Although his fingers are still a ways off from encircling him, they’re long enough to make Xie Lian look small, and his cock jumps at the sight, quickly banking it in his memory. 

Hua Cheng rubs his thumb in a circle beneath his belly button. “I bet I could see my cock through here if I fucked you right.” 

That catches Xie Lian off guard. A pathetic cry tears from his throat, and he throws a hand over his mouth—too late—to stifle it. 

Hua Cheng smirks and kisses the leaking head of his erection. “Do you like how much bigger I am than you?” 

Xie Lian flushes to his ears and struggles to swallow with how hard he’s breathing. 

“Or do you just like it when I say dirty things to you?” 

“Nn—both.” He still has one hand fisted in Hua Cheng’s hair and it’s taking a lot not to lead his mouth to his cock. 

Hua Cheng hums, reading him like an open book. His fist wraps around Xie Lian and strokes him a few times before he bows and runs the head of his cock over his tongue. 

Xie Lian muffles his yelp with his hand, hips bucking up; Hua Cheng lets him. He closes his lips and gives Xie Lian his tongue as a track to fuck on. 

He’s already stupidly close, whining and weakly rutting his hips. He’s not big enough to choke Hua Cheng, or even make him look uncomfortable—in fact, he starts to dip his head every time Xie Lian rocks up, taking his cock in deeper. The tip slips along the roof of his mouth again and again, nudging at his throat, and Xie Lian starts panting. 

“San Lang , I can’t— That’s good, you’re really… really…”  

Hua Cheng looks up at him with an eye squinted in amusement. Then he cups his balls in one hand and hollows his cheeks and Xie Lian hardly has time to realize he wasn’t even trying at all before a sob wracks his body. His hand slams into the wall behind him. 

Is this what it had felt like the last time he’d had a blowjob?  

He slurs a curse, and holds Hua Cheng’s hair tighter. Despite his best efforts, Xie Lian is wobbly on his feet. The gentle palming between his legs draws the pleasure in tighter and he can’t quite suck in full breaths through the raw bliss. 

“Oh, yeah,” he whimpers, “Oh god.”  

The pressure around him eases then escalates, following a maddening rhythm. 

Hua Cheng is watching him like he’s the one getting pleasure out of this, with a hint of a smirk even while his lips are spread around his cock. Then he groans, long and low, and furrows his brows, ramping up the obscenity to a point Xie Lian is struggling to bear. 

“S-San Lang,” he chokes. 

Hua Cheng hums in response, blinking up. He encourages Xie Lian to keep fucking his mouth, and rolls his balls in his hand. 

“I’m coming,” he shudders, “That’s it, that’s it, I’m, ah—!”  

He curls off the wall, gasping and pulling at Hua Cheng’s hair as he comes hard in his mouth, down his throat. Whimpers carry him through while his vision goes spotty. 

Hua Cheng strokes him slowly, holding his head to his tongue and opening his mouth so Xie Lian can see himself striping it with come, then shuts his lips around the tip and swallows. 

If a second, pseudo-aftershock-orgasm was a possibility, that would’ve triggered it. 

With competent precision, he grinds the point of his tongue beneath the head and eases a final, shuddering jerk from Xie Lian. 

He’s panting—warm, nostalgia-scented air hazily circulating in his lungs. That… must be the hardest he’s ever come in his life. And judging by Hua Cheng’s expression, a little fascinated and a lot smug, he knows it. 

Xie Lian falls back on the wall and the impact punches a tired moan from him. Almost numb to him after the fire of that climax, Hua Cheng is gently licking him clean. He presses lingering kisses to his hips and the tops of his thighs, slow and sensual like they’re the beginning of an hour long session of worship. 

“Mm, San Lang let me… do you,” he murmurs. He re-tousles the hair he’d tugged entirely out of place, and cups Hua Cheng’s chin. 

He looks up but continues kissing his abdomen. “Hm? Suck me off, you mean?” 

Xie Lian nods, tasting embarrassment at the back of his throat now that the exhilaration has abandoned him. 

Even from his knees Hua Cheng exudes an unbeatable aura of confident sexuality. But when he rises to his feet again, lips tracing Xie Lian’s ear, it’s like his breath is knocked from him. 

“I want to see your lips stretched around my cock so fucking bad.” His thumb swipes the corner of Xie Lian’s mouth, which is partially ajar and struck dumb with arousal. His other arm sneaks around his back and pulls him towards the bed. 

Stumbling and pink, Xie Lian kicks off his pants, underwear, socks… They add artful mess to the sleek austerity of the room. He’s naked and so warm, falling back on cool sheets. The duvet huffs when he falls—or rather, is pushed —clouding around him like it’s trying to sink him. His cock slaps his thigh, still softening. 

Hua Cheng climbs over him and suddenly becomes a looming silhouette that Xie Lian practically disappears in. Backlit, he can only feel his hunger now, rather than see it. Wide palms slide from his pecs down to his thighs, where Hua Cheng squeezes, then back up to his abdomen. 

Xie Lian can’t help hunching his shoulders, appearing small even in his own mind. 

He touches him like he’s moulding warm clay: not pushy, just firm. Kisses, wetter and with a definite snarl behind them, track up Xie Lian’s torso to his neck. It’s already littered with fine marks, some of which he can still feel like they’ve been seared into his skin, but Hua Cheng tilts Xie Lian’s head with a knuckle beneath his chin and continues grinding deep kisses beneath his jaw. His hips are carefully vaulted so they don’t grind against Xie Lian, soft between his legs. 

To say that Xie Lian is used to any part of sex would be an overstatement, but he’s especially unused to this sustained attention to his pleasure during the slump after coming. Usually, and he uses that term generously, it’s his turn to work the moment he comes, whether that means using his hand, his mouth, or just letting himself be fucked through the tear-jerking sensitivity. And that isn’t bad; of course he’s happy to reciprocate. It’s just a lot. 

This is a lot too, but in a very good way. 

A crooning moan works it’s way from his throat out into the air and Hua Cheng kisses up the column of his neck as it thrums. 

A lulling arousal hangs in his body so that, while he can’t get hard, he’s still deeply immersed in the eroticism of Hua Cheng on top of him. His hands settle at the small of his bare back, swiping over the dimples that mark either side of his spine. Upon contact with his belt, the kisses around his neck become bites, sharp and too fleeting to leave marks. Xie Lian moans, chest heaving. He follows Hua Cheng’s belt around his hips until he reaches the buckle, hands a little shaky. 

He’s flipped before he can get a good grip on it, soundly lifted and dropped upright on Hua Cheng’s thighs. It’s a sudden and unexpected shift and he wobbles, catching himself with two splayed hands on a hot chest. 

Hua Cheng is toned. Not Xie Lian toned, but personal trainer four times a week and an indoor pool at his house toned. It’s the body of someone with a lot of luck and unfathomable determination. The money doesn’t hurt either, he’s sure. 

He’s ogling, just a little, and letting his fingers trace every dip of his chest. “God, you’re hot,” he lets himself whisper. It’s chased by a blush that flares up to his ears, but worth it for the way Hua Cheng looks at him. 

His eye is always lit with something Xie Lian can’t place. It makes him feel like no matter how many of his cards he pulls, there’s always an ace left in his sleeve. It’s not unappealing, though, having something dangled over him like this. 

Xie Lian’s legs are spread wide to accommodate Hua Cheng between them. He starts tugging at his belt, caring only enough to unbuckle it and not to slide it from his loops. Button. Zipper. Then he shuffles back to kneel at the bedside between well-shaped thighs. 

Hua Cheng sits up casually, eyeing every reaction his face offers, intentionally or not. 

Anxious teeth pinch his tongue—it’s been a very long time since he’d sucked a dick. He can only bear to tease the waist of his briefs for a few seconds, gaze flicking up and back, before sliding them down with his pants. 

On sight, Xie Lian makes a noise he would best categorize as ‘aroused dismay’ . His cock is stupid, pornstar big and heavy, flopping towards his face, which is probably drawn in apprehension. 

Of course, it’s easy to be a tabloid sex symbol with that in your pants! 

Xie Lian immediately mentally reprimands himself. That’s not giving him enough credit; Hua Cheng is proving to be an incredible lover. 

At a rough estimate, he can probably take half into his mouth. Even still, his stomach catches with a twinge of arousal. 

A gentle hand cups his cheek then slides under his chin, tilting his head back. Their gazes catch. 

“It’s not that scary, is it?” Hua Cheng teases, pouting. 

Xie Lian swallows hard. “No, I’m just… It’s been a while.” 

“Mm, I’m patient.” His nails scratch beneath Xie Lian’s chin like a cat. “Seems like the perfect opportunity to relearn, if you ask me.” 

A wavy hum in agreement. 

Hua Cheng’s fingers slide through Xie Lian’s hair—the half that’s down—and gather it behind his neck in a loose fist. 

Warmth creeps up his neck just… looking there, but it’s braided with a fair share of want, as well. Carefully, Xie Lian takes him in his hand; his fingertips don’t quite touch. The length curves nicely up to a head that’s pink and flared and begging for his tongue. 

A thumb strokes the back of his neck. 

He dips his head. Xie Lian nuzzles, open-mouthed, at the base of his cock so his hot breath fans over his pelvis before he presses a few easy kisses to his length. With any luck, it comes off as coy rather than nervous. Up, up, until his fist is curled just beneath the head, and Xie Lian tracks a bit of precome dribbling down and over his knuckle. He licks it up mostly without thinking, drawn in by an intangible curiosity. 

“Good boy,” Hua Cheng laughs, “Not shy at all.” 

Xie Lian’s stomach flips, taking the praise at face value. He closes his lips around the head and strokes back and forth, delicate and more than a little hesitant, with his tongue. Settling into his comfort area, Xie Lian relies more on the smooth and hot than the shock value of the deep and hard. 

He’s trying not to attune himself to the most minuscule of Hua Cheng’s reactions, but he still can’t help searching. Sure enough: grip tightens, breath shudders, legs tense. It may have been a long time ago, but Xie Lian always did give extravagant head. 

And Hua Cheng seems like an avid appreciator of the hedonistic. 

God, he hopes he hasn’t developed a gag reflex in the last few years.  

Xie Lian shifts on his knees and looks up at Hua Cheng, then takes a few inches just to remind himself that he can. 

Hua Cheng swipes a thumb past the stretched corner of his mouth and hums, “Those big doe eyes are going to kill me.” 

Rapidly, he blinks and flushes, pushing himself another inch or so down. The weight of Hua Cheng’s cock sits nicely on his tongue, and he sucks softly as he draws back up. A sharp, filthy slurp cuts through the air by accident and Xie Lian flashes hot. 

“Drooling on my cock?” Hua Cheng murmurs, clearly pleased. 

He is. Xie Lian can already feel the buildup of saliva in the curve of his tongue. It has to be at least partially from how wide his lips are stretched, but it isn’t not because he’s between the thighs of a fatally attractive man. 

“Mm… mm.” He bobs his head again— hardly halfway in, he notices. A little deeper and it nudges his throat. Xie Lian tenses, but doesn’t feel any signs of resistance. 

…Alright.  

Carefully, he works his fist back up to the head then down again. He hums and slides into a nice rhythmic up and down, lips spit-slicked for an easy slide. 

Hua Cheng sits steady for him, stroking his neck and urging him on with little purrs of praise. He seems well accustomed to having his cock sucked, abiding by all the etiquette. If anything, it makes Xie Lian want to overperform— prove himself to the nation’s most infamous and unruffled man bedding men. Surely that’s a common thread among the people Hua Cheng sleeps with, though. 

Nevertheless, Xie Lian straightens his back and takes a slow breath through his nose before bobbing his head again. He pushes until his cock bumps his throat, then he pushes further. 

Hua Cheng’s curse thrums from deep within him, followed by a sigh. “Fuck, you gonna stretch that tight little throat around me?” 

The hand that isn’t still wrapped around his cock clutches Hua Cheng’s thigh desperately. A satisfied haze drifts into his head. The head of his cock is fat and hot, intruding deeper than he thought he’d dare to take it. His lips are kissing his fist leaving no room to stroke, and Xie Lian pushes himself until his throat is seizing and he needs to swallow. 

He pulls back with a gasp. Hua Cheng’s length is pinker and glistening from his fist up, and Xie Lian’s hand makes slick noises when he starts to stroke him. 

“God, you take it like a little champion,” Hua Cheng laughs, trailing a finger down his neck, dropping off after brushing his Adam’s apple. 

The generous use of the word little isn’t lost on him, nor is it wasted on him; his cock gives a weak twitch between his legs. Xie Lian swallows, still breathing hard, and looks up at Hua Cheng. 

A smirk rests on his lips like it’s his natural state of being. “Gege doesn’t need to relearn anything when he’s already so skilled.” 

His compliments sink into Xie Lian’s cheeks and colour them. “Mm… You like it?” he hums, then clears his throat. 

Hua Cheng runs his fingers through Xie Lian’s hair, collecting a few loose strands. “Fucking love it.” 

Unwilling to let that bit of praise fade away, he takes his cock into his mouth again. Into his throat again.  

But this time, instead of holding him there, squeezing around him, he bobs his head until he’s rhythmically breaching the tightness of his throat; in and out, in and out. Obscene, wet gulps are forced from his throat with the effort, and his brows draw tight. 

“Oh, shit,” Hua Cheng hisses. “That’s right. Good fucking boy, taking my cock so deep.” 

It is deep, god, it’s so deep. It feels even bigger than it looks, shoved halfway down his throat. Still, he can’t quite take him to the base. 

Xie Lian breathes hard and squeezes Hua Cheng’s thigh. The squelches being fucked from his mouth are beginning to fill his cock in again. 

But still Hua Cheng doesn’t thrust; he lets Xie Lian control everything from the pace to the depth. Drool is liberally coating both his chin and Hua Cheng’s length and every now and then Xie Lian has to ease up to swallow and breathe. He’ll hold the head between his lips and work him in his hand before starting anew. 

His jaw aches in a way that doesn’t quite go numb and he soon stops caring about the slobbering mess he’s making of himself—of them both. 

Hua Cheng growls and it lights up Xie Lian’s spine. “You look fucking great on your knees, has anyone ever told you?” 

Xie Lian gulps and pushes out a, “Nn-nn.” He nearly chokes then, but stops himself and looks up with teary eyes. 

The squeeze must be noticeable because Hua Cheng grunts. “Mh… No? Clearly you haven’t been fucking the right people.” The palm that cups his cheek is enough to insinuate that Hua Cheng is the right people.  

The presence of Hua Cheng’s other hand at the nape of his neck, holding his hair and brushing the skin with a knuckle, is so deeply sensual to him. For whatever reason, that hand in such an intimate, innocent spot is more baring than having his throat stretched. 

No, maybe it’s the juxtaposition of the two; despite the messiness of the head, his touch remains calm. 

Xie Lian starts to whimper, squeezing his thighs together. Hua Cheng is taking forever to come and he’s going to need a jaw massage after this, but it’s been long enough that Xie Lian is mostly hard again and every touch just feels better.  

“Ah, you could take it so well if I fucked your throat,” Hua Cheng murmurs. “I bet you’ll take me this well when I’m fucking your ass too, hm?” 

If his mouth wasn’t full, the sound that comes out might have been a sob. 

“Oh, yeah. You getting turned on thinking about how good I’m gonna tear your little ass up?” 

Xie Lian takes a harsh breath then pushes himself down as far as he can and holds it until his vision swims. 

All the while Hua Cheng is grunting and snarling out broken sounds of pleasure and Xie Lian wishes he could keep those noises as a memento. 

He’s sniffling when he starts bobbing his head again, but it doesn’t take much longer after that. 

“Shit, ah, Xie Lian.” His name rings out clear through the slurry of groans and curses. 

His throat is burning but he manages a response in the form of a raw moan between taking him. 

“You gonna swallow for me?” 

Xie Lian clutches his thigh then slides up to hold his hip, showing he has every intention to try. 

“Fuck, yeah? Let me pump your little belly full of come?” 

Helplessly, he bucks his hips up into empty air. His arousal isn’t smooth anymore, it’s biting. His cock throbs too hard at so few words and his limbs thrum. 

“God, that’s it, that’s so fucking hot. Gonna come for you.” 

Xie Lian pulls back in anticipation and starts stroking him. Too eager, it seems, because just as Hua Cheng comes, his cock slips from his lips. Come streaks his cheek, from the corner of his mouth to his temple, before he takes him back in his mouth. 

Hua Cheng is panting, watching Xie Lian through his orgasm like his sweet, messy face is what got him there. “You could’ve asked for a facial instead,” he teases. His cock still sits heavy on Xie Lian’s tongue, twitching as he comes. 

Despite the ache in his jaw, he still manages to swallow almost everything, pulling back slowly only when he’s sure Hua Cheng is finished. Xie Lian is breathing just as hard, looking up from between his legs at a complete loss for words. He hadn’t expected that from himself. 

A foot nudges his thigh. “Come here,” Hua Cheng murmurs, nodding. 

His chest is hot to the touch when Xie Lian climbs into his lap and falls into a kiss. 

The come dribbling down his chin and streaking his cheek is licked up quickly before a finger taps his lips. Breath faltering, Xie Lian opens his mouth and lets Hua Cheng spit into it. His cock gives a rough twitch and he whines, nearly choking in his struggle to swallow. 

“Fucking rockstar,” Hua Cheng pants. He grabs Xie Lian by the hips and pulls him closer so he can grind himself against Hua Cheng’s abdomen. “Where’d you learn to suck cock like that?” 

“Ah! I don’t know,” Xie Lian answers honestly. It was a mix of past experience, intuition, and a zealousness to stand out. Clearly successful.  

He hooks his chin over Hua Cheng’s shoulder, whimpering as he rolls his hips on his torso like he’s humping a pillow. He wipes his chin clean with the back of his hand. Hot kisses are pressed down his neck and strong hands knead his hips, helping him find a deeper friction. 

“Naturally talented, then?” Hua Cheng chuckles. 

Xie Lian wants to rebuff that, but he can’t turn down the swell to his pride. 

His fingers curl into Hua Cheng’s hair, pausing for a second when they find something that is not hair. The cord of his eyepatch, he realizes, and skirts around it. That seems too intimate a reveal for his solstice evening’s hook-up. Tighter, Xie Lian hugs him like a child hugs their parent’s leg. Hua Cheng’s shoulders are broad and excellent for hiding his face in when his panting becomes moaning, light and breathy and tied to each roll of his hips. 

Suddenly he’s lifted, and walked back towards the windows. “As much as I want to see you come all over yourself, I’d like it better if my cock was inside you when it happened.” 

Xie Lian swallows and lets himself be placed back on two feet. He yelps when his back brushes the window, frost-chilled from the outside, and jerks forward into Hua Cheng’s arms again on instinct. 

“Cold, ah! San Lang, it’s freezing!” 

“Mm, but the view is so nice, don’t you think?” 

He’s turned around so Hua Cheng is hugging his back and pushed nearer to the window. It’s chaotic outside, wind whipping the snow back and forth in an impressive, mercurial show of power. The forest is thicker behind his home than in front, and the boughs of the evergreens quiver and slump under the weight of the snow. Moonlight still filters through, though. The snow is just a bounce board, setting the space alight even in the deep evening. Despite all of that, or maybe because of it, it’s a nice view indeed. 

Xie Lian hums, his palms finding the glass. 

“Although,” Hua Cheng murmurs, sliding out of his pants, socks, boots, “the view from down there looking up would be a lot nicer.” 

Just like that, Xie Lian can’t feel the chill of the window with the flash of heat that lances through him. His cock jumps and his mouth falls open, choking on a little moan. 

“What a fucking picture you’d make.” Hua Cheng’s hand slides up his chest to cup his chin. “Pressed against the glass with your little cock bobbing between your legs, so fucking needy.” His other hand gives Xie Lian a few slow strokes. 

“Uh-huh,” Xie Lian whimpers, inadvertently pressing his ass back and bringing his face closer to the glass. 

Kisses skirt over his shoulder blades then unevenly down his spine in no particular rush. The hands on his body draw back to his hips and the hot breath above his tailbone abruptly vanishes. 

“And I thought you had a great ass with your fucking pants still on,” Hua Cheng murmurs. He kneads Xie Lian’s cheeks then gives the underside of one a little slap, and Xie Lian feels the residual jiggle vibrate down through his thigh. 

“San Lang!” he gasps. 

“Mhm,” Hua Cheng hums as he trails parted lips over one cheek and punctuates with a bite. He’s rubbing his thumb back and forth across the crease of his thigh, silently admiring. 

Xie Lian is teetering on that edge of arousal that strips his inhibitions, and he’s fighting the battle between clenching his cheeks in shame and spreading them in want. 

Lower, Hua Cheng pinches and nips the backs of his thighs, then snakes back up with intent. “Mm.” He noses his tailbone and hums, “Let me see your hole.” 

A shiver clutches Xie Lian and he falls forward until his forearms are braced against the window. Like his ass is a gift with Hua Cheng’s name on it, he uses both hands to spread his cheeks until the skin is taut, and Xie Lian is gripped by a sensation that makes his toes curl. His eyes squeeze shut and he lets out a shuddery whimper. 

“God, when’s the last time someone fucked you?” 

Even longer than the last time he’d blown someone

Hua Cheng slicks his thumb in his mouth then runs it over his hole. “You’re like a little virgin back here.” 

Xie Lian presses his cheek to the glass to calm his furious blush. The window is quickly fogging up with the heat of his body and the strength of his panting. 

Hua Cheng’s thumb slides easily up and down the cleft of his ass then pauses over his entrance. He puts a little pressure behind his touch—only enough for it to feel nice, not to squeeze in. 

Xie Lian whines, letting his body go soft and be felt. 

He sinks fully into the mindless pleasure when Hua Cheng runs his tongue over him. 

“Ah, fuck,” Xie Lian whispers, breath clouding the glass. 

A dribble of precome slips down his head and drips between his feet when his cock jumps. Hua Cheng, as he’s coming to learn, isn’t pushy or impatient with his pleasure-giving. His tongue is hot and soft and achingly slow, grinding between his cheeks like he wants to draw out the experience. His breath, too, is measured and warm on his skin. Xie Lian doesn’t quite comprehend the self-control, already beginning to wriggle his hips. 

“Oh, that feels… so good,” he gasps. 

Large hands keep him spread with enough leniency for Xie Lian to push his ass back against Hua Cheng’s face. His ears are burning and his toes curl against the hardwood. 

Hua Cheng hums, moans, growls—whatever you want to call his sounds—and it sends a shock through Xie Lian’s body. 

His useless jaw hangs slack and he’s panting quicker. His hands scrabble at the window but there’s nothing to grab or hold; the uninterrupted streaks through the condensation prove it. 

He’s ridiculously wet between his cheeks now. Lewd little noises rise, slick and squelching, from that spot when Hua Cheng starts mouthing and kissing and teasing with briefer flicks of his tongue. His nails bite Xie Lian’s cheeks, and the rough handling paired with blatant exposure is making him melt away in a shameful heat. 

Each breath takes on the edge of a moan, louder and louder until Xie Lian is pressing his forehead to the glass and fogging over everything from his lips down. 

One eye peeks open. There’s a moment of shock at how bright the moon is on the snow, looking more like a hazy dawn than late evening. He’s suddenly and quickly wrecked by the thought of people—hikers, maybe—passing through the forest only to notice Xie Lian pressed to the window, cock hard and dripping, ruined with arousal while Hua Cheng eats him out. 

They would notice the greedy way he’s rolling his hips back to get that tongue on his balls, or maybe even inside him. 

They would notice his chest heaving with the storm of stupid, sultry moans he’s spilling. 

If they looked really hard, they might even notice his legs trembling, struggling to keep him up. 

Maybe they would take pictures. Or videos, even. 

Maybe they would send them to their friends. 

A bead of condensation rolls down his wrist and drips off his elbow. 

Xie Lian whines and arches his back at the thought of being eaten out on camera, filmed by someone who doesn’t know him and never will. 

Hua Cheng sits back then and runs a hand down the curved small of his back. “You’re aching,” he murmurs, fingers trailing over his tailbone and down the cleft of his ass. It’s cool now without his breath and tongue there, just spit-slicked and waiting. 

Xie Lian’s hands curl into fists as one finger rubs over his entrance. “Yes, please,” he swallows. 

“Please?” Hua Cheng murmurs. 

His head drops, hanging heavy between his shoulders like that might preserve his dignity when he whimpers, “P-please stretch me out on your, ah, your fingers. I need them inside, need you inside me.” 

Hua Cheng huffs a laugh and kisses his hip. “You even beg nicely.” 

Xie Lian bites his tongue when that finger ups the pressure, then finally sinks past the tightness and slides inside him. “Ahh… god, yeah…” he rasps. 

His gaze is lowered between his legs, not quite able to find Hua Cheng, so it catches on his cock instead. It quivers, bounces a bit when Hua Cheng starts slowly fucking him open. He feels his own resistance to the finger pulling back despite knowing it’ll just push right in again, greedy to be fuller. 

The other hand grips his waist to keep him more or less in place as the finger starts pumping into him faster. Xie Lian lifts his head again with a low whine, nose pressing to the glass. 

“You like that?” Hua Cheng purrs. “God, you’re as tight as you look.” 

He finds his prostate like it has a bullseye painted around it and Xie Lian sobs, eyes widening. “Ah! San Lang, right there!” 

His gaze is blurred with lust but trained on the peaking snow drifts below; he can’t even comprehend the cold anymore with the persistent heat that’s gripping him. Although the first nudge at his prostate is rough and pointed, the following touches are more teasing than anything else. His legs quiver with each brush as he puts more and more of his weight against the window. The slope of his back is already severe, but Xie Lian can’t help curling his hips further into Hua Cheng’s touch. 

“Do you ever finger yourself when you’re jerking off?” Hua Cheng hums as his finger idly strokes. 

“Mm… mhm.” He sucks his lip between his teeth. 

Despite his outwardly… chaste demeanour, Xie Lian owns not one, but two dildos. He doesn’t get as much use out of them as he’d originally intended, but they’re not estranged either. 

“Yeah? How many?” 

He spreads Xie Lian’s cheeks again and his lip pops out of his mouth at the same time as his cock twitches. 

“T-two or, or three,” he murmurs. “Three if I’m gonna…” 

Pink has been painted, semi-permanent, across his cheeks for most of the night but that doesn’t mean it can’t flare up now and then. 

Hua Cheng snickers and presses his forehead to Xie Lian’s tailbone. “Oh, dirty boy. Fuck yourself? Ride your toys?” 

“Mm!” He presses into his prostate again and Xie Lian’s chest puffs up. “Yeah, yes,” he groans. 

“Fuck, that would be nice to watch,” he breathes. “Let’s try another, then.” 

A second finger squeezes in, slowly, alongside the first. Xie Lian’s legs tense. 

“Don’t clench. Good boy.” Hua Cheng’s palm cups and massages his cheek. 

He only knows Hua Cheng has spit by the hot, wet dribble over his hole, easing the slide of two fingers. 

His breath picks back up by a margin. 

“Ah… it’s nice,” he chokes after a minute of hot kisses back and forth between his hips. 

“Is it?” Hua Cheng’s voice is weighted with pent up arousal. 

His voice, on the other hand, is already wearing thin. 

The fingers sliding in and out of him twist with each pump, gradually fucking deeper and strumming breathless gasps from Xie Lian. 

“Oh yeah, oh—yeah.” He shudders and tucks his face into his elbow, throat bobbing. 

“Shit, I could really get used to this view,” Hua Cheng murmurs. He smacks one of his cheeks again, just enough to make it bounce, not sting; Xie Lian bites his arm. 

By no means is this the preliminary, rushed stretching he’s been given in the past. On the contrary, colours burst behind his eyelids at the attention to detail, to the finer things. This is drawn-out: viscous and sweet. He’s grinding back on his fingers like he’s trying to keep them inside him forever, like he’ll fall apart without them. 

“Fucking look at you go,” Hua Cheng huffs. “You gonna ride my cock like that too?” 

Shame is too far out of reach right now. Xie Lian is panting and sweating; his muscles are tight, using the weight on the window to push himself onto those fingers. 

“Ah, ahh… ‘nother one,” he gasps. 

He’s too deep in his pursuit for pleasure to notice Hua Cheng standing until he’s being tugged, back-to-chest, into his arms. Two fingers are still lazily curling inside of him and Xie Lian can’t help dropping his head to a solid shoulder when he shivers. 

Hua Cheng noses behind his ear then kisses his way lower. “You need lube. Let me spread you out on the bed instead, hm?” he murmurs against his neck. 

The arm around his torso helps steady him until he can fall into the ocean of sheets again. He spends a second, maybe two, relishing being horizontal. Then Hua Cheng eases him back up and into his lap; it’s the same way they’d sat during their kiss by the fire, but fully and miraculously naked. 

Xie Lian chirps as he’s hauled into place, straddling Hua Cheng’s lap and feeling his revived erection on his thigh, his hot skin beneath him. 

He surges into a kiss. 

It catches Hua Cheng off guard for a split-second, which wasn’t Xie Lian’s intention but feels kind of nice nonetheless. When he reciprocates, though, it verges on vicious. 

The lube snaps, open then shut, all behind Xie Lian’s back and Hua Cheng’s brazen competence is, once again, stupidly sexy. Two fingers slide back in and work into an easy pump before the third squeezes in beside them. 

Xie Lian’s mouth falls open and is just as quickly taken advantage of. His lip is pulled between teeth and sucked on while the fingers sink in deep, deeper, the deepest they can sink. 

“Mm… mm!” 

His nails dig into Hua Cheng’s shoulders. A long, quiet whine works it’s way from him as the fingers draw back, then push in, then draw back. He rocks along with them, grinding their cocks together. 

Side by side like this, Xie Lian’s length is… it feels ridiculous to say half the size but it really is so. Instead of self-pity or envy or whatever someone else might feel, though, he’s choking with arousal. Heat that flares to the tips of his ears and the soles of his feet has him in its clutches, squeezing until he can’t breathe. He wants Hua Cheng to hold him down, or lift him up, or wrap him in his arms, or between his legs—anything that will showcase how small Xie Lian is beside him.  

For now, he settles on rutting his cock up against Hua Cheng’s and relishing the weight of it. 

Hua Cheng leans back then, and just watches. He watches Xie Lian’s face, his fascination with their cocks, his body curling into every epicentre of sensation. 

And Xie Lian doesn’t hide. His arousal is painted just as plainly across his face as his blush, and woven into the music of his moans. His eyelids are heavy but he can still see Hua Cheng’s entertainment in the turn of his lips. 

“You’re pretty good at working yourself up, hm?” Hua Cheng coos. “I’d better get my cock in you before you make a pretty little mess all over yourself.” 

Already, Xie Lian feels on the brink of tears, like that’s the only outlet for his pleasure. “Uh-huh, mhm,” he whimpers. 

His eyes slip shut just for a moment, and he feels hot breath at his neck. 

“I’m clean; tested two weeks ago. Condom or no?” 

It’s a simple question, prompting a simple yes or no answer. But Xie Lian doesn’t quite register that above the glaring need to whine, “Oh god, please come inside me.”  

So that’s what he does. 

The breath at his neck catches. 

“…Fuck, I can’t believe you just showed up at my fucking door,” Hua Cheng hisses. 

He pushes Xie Lian up onto his knees, where he wobbles. 

“I never expected that knock to be a sexy little schoolteacher, let alone that he’d be begging me to fuck him raw a few hours later.” 

Xie Lian blushes hard and it feels so good. “I’m, ah!— just as surprised,” he gasps. 

If not more so.  

Hua Cheng’s cock, already slicked, nudges between his legs and he’s being fully guided by the hand on his hip. 

Very faintly, his body murmurs to him, Can I still do this? Neither of his toys are this big and his stamina surely isn’t what it used to be. But then the head is squeezing, raw and hot and slippery, into his hole—just the head. 

All the ‘can’ s and ‘can’t’ s fall away. 

“Ah! Ahh, San Lang, wait!” he wails. 

Sweetly, Hua Cheng presses a kiss to his palm. He’s on his back, head cushioned in a pillow. “I’m already waiting. You take it from here.” 

Xie Lian is holding his breath. His fingers curl and uncurl in Hua Cheng’s hold as he slowly lets it out and slips down another inch or two. He bites his tongue and grunts. 

“That’s right, nice and slow, good boy.” 

Xie Lian swallows and drops his head, suddenly taken with the urge to watch himself sink onto that… impressive length. Maybe it’s because he notices Hua Cheng’s eye caught on the same spot. With one hand in his and the other on his waist he feels extremely supported and manages to sink the rest of the way down, gawking at how deeply he can feel him. 

“Oh… my god,” he breathes, cock aching. 

Hua Cheng groans, “How’s that? You feel nice and full?” 

“Ahh… mhm. San Lang, you’re big ; you’re s-so big inside me.” He shifts his hips a little, this way and that, getting himself comfortable on his new seat. 

“Yeah?” Hua Cheng hums. “I’ll feel even bigger when you start moving.” 

A short, sharp breath leaves Xie Lian. He braces both hands on Hua Cheng’s chest then and carefully lifts himself, mouth falling open. 

It’s not like his toys at all—this is hotter and deeper and so real his heart almost can’t take it. 

Sliding carefully back down, they both moan, watching each other embrace their pleasure. He starts with a quick rise and a slow fall. As much as he’s still getting used to his size, Xie Lian also just wants to relish the stretch, and squeeze every last inch in. 

His furrowed brow smooths, easing his features back into calm euphoria. The ride becomes smoother, too—up, down, way up, way down. His ass starts quietly slapping Hua Cheng’s thighs as he takes him to the base and grinds a little to really feel him inside. 

“Oh, oh—” he pants. 

“God, this tight little ass,” Hua Cheng growls. “You’re squeezing my cock so fucking good.” 

“R- mm!— really?” 

Xie Lian lifts himself a little higher, thighs tight, and falls back into the heat of his lap. His chest fills, albeit shakily, then is forcefully emptied when he drops himself down, again and again. 

“Nn, fuck yes. I could watch you ride me like this all night.” Once again, his eye drifts between Xie Lian’s legs. 

If he could ride him all night, he probably would.  

Inhibition is a shackle already long lost by now, replaced with the thick squeeze of Hua Cheng’s cock. 

His own cock is bouncing and slapping between their bodies, slick and sticky with precome and painfully hard. He refuses to touch himself, though; this needs to last for as long as possible. Xie Lian puts more weight into his hands so he can bounce himself faster. He’s breathing hard and squeezing Hua Cheng’s sides with his knees like he’ll slip out from under him if he isn’t careful. 

Why did he ever think this would be a bad idea? This is the best he’s felt in months, if not longer. 

If the blizzard had hit a few hours later, Xie Lian would be in his apartment right now eating grocery store tangyuan with Mu Qing while the news droned in the background. 

Mu Qing would tear him limb from limb if he knew he was sleeping with the man who, at times, single-handedly cranks this country’s rumour mill. He tries so hard to act as the voice of reason Xie Lian is too indifferent to need, and casual sex is already something worth hissing at him for, let alone casual sex that could land him on a magazine cover. 

“Ah… My roommate would kill me if he knew I was fucking you,” Xie Lian breathes. 

Hua Cheng laughs, “Why? Does he want to fuck me?” 

“God no. At least I don’t— ah! —think so.” 

Speaking of, he should probably try to call to let him know he’s safe—  

Hua Cheng brings his hand down on the side of his ass and Xie Lian gasps and sinks down hard. He’s panting, everywhere from his hips up a healthy, warm pink. 

He shifts his hands from Hua Cheng’s chest to his thighs behind him and starts rolling his body, sliding up and down his cock now, more than bouncing on it. 

“Fuck, you move like a practiced little slut, don’t you?” 

Xie Lian bites his lip and groans, dropping his head back. A moment later, he does one better and tugs at his elastic, letting his hair fall loose around his shoulders. 

Hua Cheng hums and slides his hands up Xie Lian’s chest, pinching his nipples. 

“What the fuck did I do to deserve this?” he purrs, voice edging on gravelly. 

Around his bitten lip, Xie Lian smiles. 

This angle only does good things for him. Hua Cheng’s cock rubs nicely on his prostate with every roll, sending pleasure skittering through his entire chest. 

He’s flying, no, melting—maybe both. Whatever is happening, it’s fed by the gruff pants Hua Cheng is making every time he sinks down again. 

After a moment, he hisses, “Shit, let me…” 

Then his hands curl around Xie Lian’s waist again, boasting their size difference, and his hips lift off the bed, fucking into Xie Lian’s tightness with an added viciousness. 

Xie Lian cries out, a stunned, pathetic noise that he’s never heard from himself. “San Lang! Oh, that’s so good, yes, yes, yes…”  

He slumps forward until they’re sharing breath and lets Hua Cheng take the lead. 

His cock twitches, already so eager to come. The force that Hua Cheng’s hips slap his ass with makes Xie Lian think he’ll have bruises there tomorrow. 

He doesn’t need to whine when they’re this close, just whisper. “Fuck. Nn, you’re so deep, I’m so—ah, I’m so full.” His voice breaks on the last word. 

“Shit.”  

Hua Cheng’s thrusts slip into slow, thorough pumps and Xie Lian takes a much-needed deep breath. It’s only for a moment, though. 

Then he growls, “Turn around, I wanna see how stretched that little hole is.” 

Xie Lian whimpers. He shuffles forward until Hua Cheng’s cock slips out of him and flops against his stomach, then climbs out of his lap. Hands and knees is an unusually natural position to be in with how tired his limbs are. 

It only takes Hua Cheng a second to kneel behind him and spread his cheeks, and a grateful moan is the applause he gets for his flaring vulnerability. 

He has no idea what he looks like back there—no concept whatsoever. He’s never taken it upon himself to scrutinize that part of himself in the mirror, and especially not after sex. Or during.  

“How are you still so tight when you’re this fucked open?” 

Xie Lian’s cock jumps hard. 

Hua Cheng pinches his cheek and murmurs, “It’s like you were made to take my cock.” 

Three fingers slide with astonishing ease into his hole a few times, giving Xie Lian an idea of how much wider he’s been stretched. 

“Pink and fucking perfect—let me fuck you like this too.” 

Xie Lian nods, blood rushing to his head. A sharp, slick sound accompanies Hua Cheng’s cock slapping between his cheeks before he pushes in again. 

What little strength Xie Lian was glad to still have is immediately sapped. He falls from his hands to his forearms as he’s pulled right into a nice, hard pace. His moan is high and brittle and the counterpart to Hua Cheng’s rough, low one. 

Xie Lian is at a bit of a loss as to how Hua Cheng can fuck him so precisely but have the same impact as reckless abandon. Of course, it doesn’t really matter how—what matters is that it’s bringing tears to his eyes. 

He presses his cheek to the mattress, lips parted, and revels in his body jolting forwards. One hand pulls him into every thrust and the other slides up his hot back then around to his chest. Hua Cheng’s palm rests over his wild heart for a moment then lower, lower… 

He seems to have the same idea about not touching Xie Lian until the last possible moment because his fingers skirt around his length. 

“Mm, come here.” 

Again, he’s pulled upright and held to Hua Cheng’s chest. His hips halt and he starts kissing the side of his neck. It’s a sweet moment of reprieve while his cock still keeps Xie Lian pleasantly full, and he can both feel and hear Hua Cheng’s rough breath. 

He whines, just a sound between breaths, and wiggles his hips to squeeze around Hua Cheng. 

But the kisses continue. His hair is swept aside so they can round his shoulder, and Hua Cheng’s hand lies flat over his abdomen. 

Speaking of hair, in this position it’s almost long enough to be in the way, hanging loose between their bodies and ending just short of where they’re connected. 

Hua Cheng’s fingers start stroking, massaging little circles into Xie Lian’s skin, but still not touching his cock. 

Xie Lian’s moan comes out a little more petulant than he’d intended. “San Lang—” 

He doesn’t get to finish. 

“Remember what I said about seeing my cock through here?” Hua Cheng murmurs, nipping Xie Lian’s earlobe. 

Then he rolls his hips, nice and slow, from a brand new angle. 

At the first feeling of his belly curving, Xie Lian nearly chokes, eyes going wide. At the second, he sobs and flashes hot with an unexpected, violent flood of arousal. He looks— stares— at the spot just below his belly button. Hua Cheng’s fingers are nudged, over and over but at a cruelly slow pace, by the head of his cock gently protruding. 

He curls his hips in and grinds flush against Xie Lian’s ass until Xie Lian wants to scream and cry and come but he can’t. His breath is stuck in his throat, let along his words. 

Close enough that they could melt together, Hua Cheng hooks his chin over Xie Lian’s shoulder and hums as he traces the same sight. 

“Does it feel as good as it looks?” he murmurs. “Cause it looks really fucking good.” 

Xie Lian sucks in a shuddery breath and has to look away to keep himself from coming on the spot. 

A laugh brushes his collarbone. “I’ll take that as a yes.” 

Carefully, Hua Cheng’s fingers start rubbing circles into the head of his cock through Xie Lian’s skin and he moans into his ear, “Shit; oh, that’s fucking nice.” 

His lip trembles. “San—San—” 

It’s when he takes Xie Lian’s hand in his, presses his palm to the bump, and pushes that he feels whatever he’d been holding back break free. 

Xie Lian sniffs then sobs, although it’s cut off by his voice cracking. He noses at Hua Cheng’s jaw and mewls, “God, San Lang, I can feel your— ah, p-pushing. My body is… mm! It’s too much, it’s too— don’t stop!”  

He claws madly at Hua Cheng’s hip, ass, anything to keep him inside. And he does—stay inside, that is. But his hips don’t still. Hua Cheng pulls out and pushes in and it’s like resetting and feeling that little bulge for the first time all over again. 

It feels redundant to narrate how deep he is, how full he feels, but that’s the only thought playing in Xie Lian’s mind. 

“Ah, it’s big,” he whispers, words dragging carelessly over Hua Cheng’s neck. 

“Fuck, I hit the jackpot with you,” Hua Cheng groans quietly from between gritted teeth. 

He fucks slowly against their hands, merciless on his prostate, until Xie Lian physically can’t take anymore and his eyelashes are heavy with sweet tears. 

“I need— hic— San Lang, I have to come, I can’t—please, please.”  

There’s even less resistance than he’d imagined—none whatsoever. He’s flipped easily onto his back and pressed into the mattress by hands on the backs of his thighs. 

In this order, Xie Lian: clutches at the sheets, hooks his ankles behind Hua Cheng’s neck, and silently but desperately prays for mercy. To no avail, he thinks when Hua Cheng slides right back inside with a wet slap. 

This all resonates so nicely in his chest—Hua Cheng above him, looming over him, surrounding him, spreading him, fucking him, taking him. When’s the last time he was so welcome to someone assuming power over him? Xie Lian is rendered breathless not only by the staggering realization, but by the pleasure tearing up his spine when Hua Cheng grinds into him. 

Still— still— he doesn’t move recklessly. And it doesn’t radiate smugness, only patience and a genuine desire for Xie Lian absolutely falling apart. There’s none of the desperation to use him as a means to an end that Xie Lian has known before; this is complete dedication to the ride. 

Clearly the magazines haven’t exaggerated the amount of practice he’s had. 

He struggles to swallow between the whimpers being fucked from him, and pushes into the hands sliding down his thighs to hold his ass. Hua Cheng’s chest and arms flex when he rolls his hips and Xie Lian is dizzy trying to take everything in. 

A laugh draws his gaze back up to his face. “So sweet like this, all fucked out and overwhelmed.” 

Fucked out? Is that the phrase for how he feels right now? His eyes are nearly crossed, only registering the hands on his skin and the cock slipping into and nudging unexplored depths. 

Hua Cheng hums and squeezes his cheek, “I told you you were made to take my cock.” 

He really does take it so well. That edge of discomfort is long gone, leaving him with just the raw pleasure. 

“Mm, I was, I was,” he whimpers, clutching the sheets tighter. “You—ah!” 

Suddenly Hua Cheng rises up on his knees, lifting Xie Lian’s hips with him and sending his back into a steep arch. His grip is tight and unyielding, and he begins to move Xie Lian where he wants him, pulling him onto his cock. 

Xie Lian melts on the spot. “Oh god, oh my—”  

It isn’t rough manhandling, but it’s competent and sure and that’s what pushes him to fall limp in Hua Cheng’s hold. Xie Lian watches him with a slack jaw, taking indulgence in Xie Lian’s body and basking in bliss. He shifts between holding him still to fuck him and pulling him down into each thrust and Xie Lian is struggling to breathe. 

No matter what he does, it hits Xie Lian’s pleasure points and his body sings. Precome smears his stomach as his cock jumps and bounces, needing so badly to come. The noises he makes are all involuntary, channeling his arousal into sweet, primal moans. 

“Fuck, keep making those sounds,” Hua Cheng groans. 

He buries himself deep then tugs at Xie Lian’s hips so his cock shifts inside him. 

The moans slide up towards cries and his toes curl behind Hua Cheng’s head. 

Slowly, Hua Cheng’s expression has shifted into something heavy and gorgeous, his cheeks nicely flushed and his eye blown dark. He dips his head and spits between their bodies, and Xie Lian doubts it’s purely to ease the slide given how hard his cock twitches when he sees it. 

He can’t be any better than dead weight, but Hua Cheng lifts him easily enough, grinding his ass up and down over his hips. Xie Lian almost wants to say he feels like a toy, but toys don’t have this much attention paid to their enjoyment. He moans on an exhale, floating up and down as he’s moved around. 

Hua Cheng has to come soon, right? 

Like he’s read his mind, Hua Cheng’s hips start snapping and he leans over Xie Lian. 

“You are so fucking hot, it’s ridiculous,” he growls. 

Xie Lian nearly screams. He bites his tongue and nods helplessly. “Nn… San Lang! Ah, just like that, that’s it, that’s it, that’s—!” He breaks off with a whine, hitting and tearing at the mattress. 

“Shit, use that pretty mouth,” Hua Cheng groans, “Tell me how good it feels.” 

“So good!” he cries. “The best, oh god, it’s the best, you’re the best!”  

“The best what?” His eye is glowing. 

Xie Lian gasps and brings his hands up, bracing them against the headboard as the thrusts jolt him closer to it. 

“Ahh! The best fuck! Th-the best in bed, I don’t—I don’t— Everything! Everything feels so good.”  

Right now, Xie Lian couldn’t care less if he’s just another body on a long list of brief lovers to fall into this bed; that’s more than enough. 

Hua Cheng wraps a fist around his erection and starts to stroke him— firmly, with intent.  

Immediately, Xie Lian’s breath catches and he gasps, “I’m gonna come, I’m gonna come!” 

“Fuck, yeah you are. I wanna see you come all over yourself, get your chest all sticky and messy,” Hua Cheng growls. 

“Ah, yeah!”  

“And then I’m gonna pump your pretty ass full until my come is sliding down your thighs—” 

“San Lang!”  

Xie Lian’s ankles press down hard on Hua Cheng’s shoulders, boosting his hips as he’s thrown into his orgasm. His throat rolls around a sob and a curse, struggling as he sucks in deep, heaving breaths. Come stripes his chest and dribbles down Hua Cheng’s knuckles as his body seizes and jerks with sudden swell after swell of pleasure. His cheeks are hot and his mouth is lolling and Hua Cheng is taking him apart with his gaze, still steadily fucking into him. 

“That’s it, ah, that’s fucking perfect,” he groans, lips twisting. 

Xie Lian is hard-pressed to speak but manages to thread together some desperate encouragement. “Come on, come on, come on.”  

Hua Cheng lets out a sharp breath, lips parting and brows drawing, and Xie Lian is rocking back on him as the last of his orgasm fades into the swell of Hua Cheng’s. 

A gasp, awe as much as pleasure, punches Xie Lian’s lungs but gets lost beneath the raw, sweat-soaked moans Hua Cheng is panting as he comes hard inside him. 

It’s easily the most vulnerable he’s been all night and Xie Lian wants to snapshot this moment. He reaches up and cups his neck, stroking his jaw with his thumb and urging him on with little whimpers. 

“God… fuck,” Hua Cheng shudders. His hips give one last, deep curl then hold there until his climax retracts its claws and lets him breathe. 

Xie Lian is looking up at him when he opens his eye. They’re both panting, sweating, glowing. 

For a few long seconds they just look at each other through the shimmery haze of orgasm exhaustion, then Hua Cheng lets out a slow breath, dropping Xie Lian’s legs from his shoulders, and leans down to kiss him. 

“How was that?” he asks against his lips, before he drifts to kiss his cheeks and chin and nose. 

Xie Lian laughs a little, beyond breathless. “H-how…? That was—the most incredible thing. San Lang, you really are too amazing.” 

Hua Cheng hums—smooth, like he’s heard that before—and nips his earlobe. “Mm, likewise. I think gege has me wrapped around his finger.” 

Before he can really think through what that means, Xie Lian breathes, “I’ll wrap you around any of my fingers, any time you want.” 

It’s only when Hua Cheng sits back and grins that he really hears his own proposition. 

Had he just… offered a friends with benefits relationship to the man with possibly the highest body count in central China?  

But Hua Cheng just looks between his eyes. “Yeah? How long are you working at the school for? I’m sure I could make some arrangements.” 

…What?  

He moves his hips, shifting his still-softening cock and Xie Lian yelps. 

“Or you could come over to my place downtown. That’s where you live, right?” 

Xie Lian’s breath catches in his throat. “You… really?” 

“Mm.” He catches Xie Lian’s lips one last time and breathes, “I’ll regret it if I lose this, I can tell.” 

Then he sits up and carries Xie Lian, warm and stunned, into the ensuite opposite the wall of windows. It’s easily the most spacious ensuite he’s ever seen, with a few pots of ivy cascading down from the windowsill. 

He blushes hard, endorphins still skittering around in his brain, when Hua Cheng spreads him and hums appreciatively, before wiping away the come that’s dribbling between his legs. The motions are soft and careful, and if Xie Lian was ten years younger, he’d probably already be hard again. His chest, too, is wiped clean while Hua Cheng hugs his back, and it’s like that that they eventually fall back into bed for the night. 

Hua Cheng holds him close with an arm around his waist, and noses at the back of his neck. The scent of sex clings to the sheets and Xie Lian tucks his face into his pillow and smiles a smile that he feels glowing through his whole body. 

He knows they’ve settled on a very tentative agreement to meet again, but there’s still a little pit of unknown action in his stomach. So before he can begin to nod off, he quietly asks, “In the morning… am I supposed to get up at dawn and collect my clothes in the dark so I can leave before you wake up? Or… not?” 

Hua Cheng traces his lips along his shoulder. “My, my, such appalling etiquette?” 

Xie Lian wraps his foot around Hua Cheng’s calf and pouts. “I told you I never do this sort of thing, San Lang, ah.” 

A laugh-lined hum is pressed into his skin. “Well this San Lang is, shamefully, excessively greedy, and was hoping he could wake you up by sucking you off, then maybe fuck you into the couch before making breakfast.” 

The strangled noise that would’ve left Xie Lian is swallowed down at the last second. “O-oh… Alright, that’s… mhm. Okay,” he murmurs. 

He feels Hua Cheng’s lips split into a grin. 

“And besides, the snow isn’t supposed to stop until Sunday.”