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lost my head inside the dream

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Shang Qinghua always assumed his cause of death would be something idiotic. Or pathetic. Or both, given how his actual life was a pretty even mix of the two. One of his energy drinks would turn out to be laced with rat poison, or he'd get trampled by rush-hour traffic on the subway, or his ancient laptop would finally fry something vital and electrocute him for good measure. Something that would leave the four people that would show up to his funeral laughing and cringing simultaneously.

At least you'd die the way you lived, the snarky voice in the back of his head always said, which sounded more and more like Shen Yuan every day. Not that it's something to be proud of.

His inner Shen Yuan was strangely silent, here at the most abjectly awkward moment of Shang Qinghua's life. He figured that made sense: not even the mental version of his "best friend" wanted to stick around to watch him inevitably humiliate himself to death in front of the hottest man to have existed, ever, in history.

Because he would humiliate himself. That was a given. Nothing in Shang Qinghua's life had been dignified, and it wasn't like his death would be any different. Nope. Shang Qinghua really was going to die as he lived, squeaking and flushed beet-red and frantically looking for something to hide behind, and he was going to do it on camera, while a nine-inch cock split him open.

Perhaps some context is needed.

He only started watching porn for research purposes. Honestly! Okay, fine! It was research for the first five minutes, and then Shang Qinghua got distracted for twenty minutes! Which was — a reasonable amount of time to be distracted by everything on display! And if he kept getting distracted, it wasn't his fault! He was a shut-in loner with exactly one friend and approximately ten million hate-readers; it wasn't like he had a lot competing for his attention!

But he managed to get it together long enough to actually research what he was trying to write about — never let it be said Shang Qinghua was not ready to sacrifice for his art! Even if all ten million hate-readers and his one friend would argue what he put on the page was, in fact, not art but where art went to die — and so his novels' papapa scenes went from openly laughable to something that someone, somewhere, might enjoy having.

The scenes still lacked a certain something, that something being a writer who actually knew how papapa operated when it was not on a screen and not really involving you, but something happening in your bed, with your body and your brain fully participating and with someone who was there just as fully as you were.

Shang Qinghua wasn't a total novice! He'd had sex three whole times in his life, and the last time he actually managed to last more than five minutes before an orgasm that was, to be honest, strictly mediocre. But he was smart enough to know the sex he'd had was not the kind of sex he wanted to write, and it definitely wasn't the sex his audience, hate readers or otherwise, wanted to read.

Obviously more work had to be done! Shang Qinghua was always looking for ways to improve, especially if improving meant more subscriptions and a path to a new laptop that didn't have a thirty-three percent chance of killing him every time he powered it on. A path to an apartment with walls that weren't made of tissue paper, to meals that didn't all have the word "instant" written on their containers.

Wow, big dreamer. You sure you won't strain something, reaching that hard? said the inner Shen Yuan, who really needed to shut his mouth, because the only real difference between Shang Qinghua's brand of loser shut-in and Shen Yuan's was that Shen Yuan's parents funded his and Shang Qinghua was all on his own.

What Shang Qinghua needed, he decided, was practical experience. He needed to get laid, preferably a lot — for experience! A good writer went wide and deep with their research! Tirelessly! So for three weekends running, he brushed his hair, put on his sexiest hoodie —

(No such thing, said Inner Shen Yuan.)

— and his least busted sneakers, and tried to look very small and twink-like and fuckable at a series of ever-more questionable bars.

He told himself he would have standards. No one already in a relationship. No one already drunk or high. No one who wanted to get him drunk or high. He would book an hour in a hotel rather than taking them back home. He would text Shen Yuan (Please don't. In general, not just about this.) if he met someone, and where they were going. His location would be on! He would insist on condoms and enthusiastic consent!

Maybe he had too many standards, he wondered, after two weekends went by and no one so much as glanced his way, while knowing very well he was really just an acquired taste no one wanted to acquire.

He could have just trawled the various hook-up apps — around two am on a Saturday, everyone started getting desperate — but he was saved, on the third weekend, by the person he least expected.

"You cannot," said Shen Jiu, "tell my cousin about this."

"I won't," Shang Qinghua lied, nodding vigorously. He already had his hand in his pocket, typing away. And Shen Yuan said learning to text without looking at his screen was a bad idea! The fool. "Your secret is, uh, safe? With me?"

Shen Jiu's eyes narrowed. His lipstick — lipstick! Shang Qinghua was totally going to use this in his next update — was smeared, and also mostly on the man Shang Qinghua had walked in on him blowing, in what turned out to be not the men's room but a porn shoot in an old supply room.

"I will tear you into so many pieces they'll never know you were a person, let alone identify you," he said, deceptively flat. "Stop texting."

"I'm not!" Shang Qinghua squeaked. Which was true! He had been too frozen with fear to keep typing after Shen Jiu glared at him. "I'm not going to say anything!" He hunched deeper into his sexiest hoodie, which was not going to be adequate armor if Shen Jiu decided it would be easier to just murder Shang Qinghua in a storage room, with only a very sheepish and handsome naked man and a very bored camera operator as witnesses. He had known Shen Jiu for a long time. The odds in murder's favor were very good.

Shen Jiu glared at him for another seventeen seconds, which was long enough for Shang Qinghua to start tearing up, and also to start babbling. "I swear! I was just looking for the bathroom! God! I'm sorry I interrupted your — your bl —"

"Finish that sentence at your peril," snapped Shen Jiu. He exhaled hard, and pinched the bridge of his nose. The naked, handsome man padded up to him and laid his hand on Shen Jiu's back, which would normally have guaranteed the naked, handsome man would be minus one arm, but Shen Jiu just sighed and relaxed into the touch.

Shang Qinghua boggled. Then Shen Jiu started glaring at him again, and Shang Qinghua went back to babbling.

"Look, I'll go, I'm not going to say anything, and you guys can get back to —" Don't say it, don't say anything about fun or blowjobs and definitely don't look at the naked man! Seriously, dude! There's a towel two feet away, please put it ON. "—this." Nailed it. "Seriously! Just pretend I was never here! Should be easy, right? Ha, I mean, it's not like — anyways, wait, actually, while I have you," he added, his brain spinning so fast he had to lean against a crate of beer to stay steady. "I've — you know I write, right? Of course you do, you told me my work was shit on sewage back in college! I've gotten better. That's why I'm here! Not here-here, but here in a bar. I wanted to have sex, so I could write better scenes for my novels — readers are really into realism today, and this all seems…"

(Stop talking, Shang Qinghua! Stop talking and run! You'll have a head start while he gets dressed!)

"…very real?" he finished, very aware of the pointed silence surrounding him. The cameraman, a pale guy with an eyepatch, wasn't even trying to hide his smirk. "So can I just ask you some questions? Or maybe observe? No, no, that would be weird! Forget I asked! But if you could spare, like, ten minutes, that would be —"

"Door." Shen Jiu pointed, apparently unaware of the considering look the naked, handsome man was giving Shang Qinghua. "Out, now."

"Yep!" Shang Qinghua said, just as the man said, "Wait."

"Fuck off, no."

"A-Jiu, he's just —"

"I said fuck off, and no."

"He's curious about what we do! This is an opportunity!"

"He's not allowed to know about sex! Or have it!" Shen Jiu pushed the man back. "None of this is allowed. I'm leaving! Don't call me."

"A-Jiu," said the man, looking very humble and resigned, which was an interesting look combined with his uninterrupted nudity. "Some of our other performers might be interested in sharing their experiences."

"Wait," said Shang Qinghua, loud enough to be heard over the argument and also the increasingly bad attempts on the cameraman's part to control his laughter. "You have more performers?"

The man — who, Shang Qinghua was about to learn, was Yue Qingyuan, Shen Jiu's co-star and boyfriend — smiled. It was oddly reassuring, despite the circumstances, or maybe because of them. "Let me find my pants," he said, "and we'll talk."                                                                                                  

Within three weeks, Shang Qinghua had enough interview material to keep any ten papapa writers happy, because most porn stars were very happy to talk about their experiences. Shen Jiu, of course, being the notable exception, but that was more because he would rather have a stroke than talk to Shang Qinghua for any length of time. A sentiment that was very heartily returned!

Along with a borderline encyclopedic knowledge of kinks, consent, positions, configurations, and extremely niche performance tips (Drink Pedialyte if you're supposed to squirt in a scene!), Shang Qinghua also found himself in possession, at the end of those three weeks, with a healthy respect for the performers. Shen Jiu once again was the notable exception, but only because Shang Qinghua had a policy of never respecting anyone who threatened to disembowel him. Lots of fear running around, but no respect!

But the porn stars of Cang Qiong Studio weren't just performers; they were practically athletes, with the way they obsessively cared for their bodies and honed their bodies' particular skills — whether those skills were multiple orgasms, or completely lacking the gag reflex, or contortion abilities that would put Cirque du Soleil out of business. All of it put to use with the goal of telling a good story — and that was something Shang Qinghua, loser shut-in, hack author, and noted almost-virgin could understand. 

Shang Qinghua's journey from observer to performer lasted as long as it took for him to come up short on one month's rent.

It was an easy decision, in the end, even without the pressure of imminent financial ruin hanging over his head! No one except Shen Yuan would care what he did, and Shen Yuan already thought his writing was the worst possible thing he could do with his one and only life.

(At least porn is an actual job! Maybe now you'll stop writing about suspiciously familiar mousy little twinks getting railed into incoherency by suspiciously similar stoic beefcakes! I perceive you, Shang Qinghua, and I wish I didn't!)

So, after an hour of staring at his bank account, and another hour of staring at the ceiling, in case he won the lottery or suddenly became the most-subscribed author in history, he called Yue Qingyuan, and asked if there was a market for mousy little twinks getting railed into incoherency. Stoic beefcakes preferred, but optional.

"As it turns out," said Yue Qingyuan, warm and polite as always. "There is."

And that, as they say, was that. No more scrounging for rent money between call center jobs and pumping out ten thousand words a day, possibly ever again, because the market for mousy little twinks having their chrysanthemums absolutely destroyed was a very, very lucrative one.

"Unbelievable," said Shen Yuan, six months later. The real thing, who was a whole three percent nicer than Inner Shen Yuan, but also fifteen to twenty percent more likely to make Shang Qinghua pay whenever they went out for drinks. "You're living out all your shitty self-insert dreams."

He was not, but Shang Qinghua was too busy drinking away the terror he'd felt that afternoon — when Shen Jiu found out they were tied for top-earning performers that month — to correct his best and only friend. If this really was a self-insert dream come true, then he would be getting railed by a stoic beefcake, with a chest he could park his bike in and eyes that would freeze him in place and preferably a cock that would refuse to quit, and then said stoic beefcake would take him home and feed him.

"Next round is on me," he said instead, which was enough of a distraction Shen Yuan forgot to make fun of him for fifteen minutes.

Two years after Shang Qinghua joined Cang Qiong's ranks, Yue Qingyuan sighed and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. "I don't know how you do it," he said, a bit muffled by his wrists. "Forty-five minutes in and all the numbers start to blur together."

Shang Qinghua had his mouth open to reply, but Shen Jiu, as usual, beat him to it. "Never trust anyone who actually enjoys spreadsheets." He slammed his laptop closed with enough viciousness to make Shang Qinghua light a mental candle for the poor thing's hard drive. "Let's just leave him to it. We've got a dinner reservation."

"A-Jiu," Yue Qingyuan began, but his boyfriend was already out the door. "You don't mind, do you?" he asked Shang Qinghua, though the concern in his voice was undermined a bit by the way he was obediently reaching for his briefcase. "If I go?"

Shang Qinghua waved him toward the door. "Nope. I'll get it all taken care of and email you about any issues this afternoon. Should have the report for you sometime next week."

"Ah, that's right, we're at the end of the quarter." Yue Qingyuan's face pinched with worry. "Let me reschedule with A-Jiu, you shouldn't have to —"

"It's not a problem." The last thing Shang Qinghua wanted, aside from having to film a scene with the guy again, was to be the reason why Shen Jiu's evening plans got derailed. The market for quadruple amputee twinks was a fairly limited one. "This won't take more than an hour, tops. I've got the magic fingers, after all."

Somehow, Yue Qingyuan had been running the city's foremost porn studio for ten years and still managed to miss half the sexual innuendos, accidental or otherwise, that came his way. Shang Qinghua wasn't sure if it was a super-power or just a very localized kind of denial, but since this particular innuendo had been very accidental, he was glad his boss went on smiling benignly. Happily ignorant of Shang Qinghua sticking his foot in his mouth, again.

"Well, say hello to the new talent for me." He scooped up his trench coat and patted Shang Qinghua on the shoulder. "And go gentle on them. They're —"

"A first-timer, yeah." Shang Qinghua squashed the urge to groan. He had three months' worth of expense reports to review before his ass got blasted all night; he really didn't have time for one of Yue Qingyuan's weirdly paternal moments. "Go on — you don't want Shen Jiu to run into the caterers at the elevator when he's all alone, do you?"

"Oh, god." Yue Qingyuan went pale as milk. "Right. Off I go. Take care — we'll check in tomorrow about the budgets. Don't worry about them now!"

And then he was gone, sprinting toward the elevator. Shang Qinghua almost felt guilty, sending him off in a half-panic, but he needed to get this review finished and then he needed to shower and prep and get to the studio room set aside for all the blasting of ass —

(Would you stop! Calling it that!)

— and then he needed to make sure there was time set aside to ease the newbie's nerves, even though their ass wasn't the one about to get pounded into oblivion. And he'd have to keep track of the time, because Zhuzhi Lang always let his shoots run off-schedule, and he really didn't want to spend the money on a Didi to get home if he didn't have to. Maybe it'd be worth the expense; his ass wouldn't thank him if he insisted on the subway. But — he was still too used to having no money at all to be able to easily justify spending it on non-essentials. According to the little hamster wheel that served as his brain, Didis weren't actually essential.

"Well, if I want to be able to walk tomorrow, they are," he muttered, adjusting his glasses and pulling up the next spreadsheet with a sigh. "Fine, a Didi it is. Just this once. Maybe I'll bill it to the studio, just to see the look on Shen Jiu's face right before he eats my face. It'd be worth it, right?"

Almost definitely not, but Shen Jiu noticing would mean he'd have to actually pay attention to the financial records, and understand what they meant. Shen Jiu was good at a lot of things, like ensuring everyone stayed on top of testing, and social media, and taking two cocks up the ass, but he gave less than zero shits about things like math.

Shang Qinghua didn't care for it much either, but he was good at it, which is why he was sitting in Cang Qiong Studio's dusty conference room — of course it was dusty, not much conferencing going on that didn't involve an intense focus on oral negotiations — and pecking away at the last quarter's reports.

Maybe if you'd thought for more than two seconds about it, you could have skipped the ass-blasting and gone right to being chief financial officer, said Inner Shen Yuan.

"I happen to like the ass-blasting," Shang Qinghua replied, hunting out the last few melon seeds in the dish at his elbow. And he did! He really did! Contrary to all of his assumptions about himself — contrary to all the syrupy romances he consumed and produced — he was very good at separating sex from love. Which was convenient, because while he was getting as much sex as a touch-starved loser shut-in could dream of, the syrupy romance side of things hadn't yet manifested.

And that was circling dangerously close to self-pity, and Shang Qinghua had a strict no-self-pity-at-work policy in place! Most of the time, at least! So what if he cried in the bathroom once! He had a strict policy he almost always followed and that meant he would save any self-pity for when he could cry it out at home into one of his custom-printed body pillows. One of his many, many custom-printed body pillows. He could probably build himself a fort at this rate. But he was gainfully employed! A man could treat himself, couldn't he? Especially when no one except Shen Yuan ever saw the inside of his apartment, and he was pretty much immune to that brand of judgment at this point.

The lack of screaming coming from down the hall meant Yue Qingyuan had managed to get Shen Jiu out of the building without running into the caterers who rented the floor above theirs. Shang Qinghua still hadn't figured out when the conflict had begun, or why, but he had figured out that Shen Jiu had major beef with one of the caterers, and that said caterer was always about two seconds from ripping off all of Shen Jiu's limbs, then beating Yue Qingyuan to death with them.

He wasn't sure which of the owners it was, since they were both enormous, strong, and very gorgeous in a terrifying kind of way, and the only time Shang Qinghua had tried to strike up a conversation in the elevator, that particular caterer had just smiled at him with far too many teeth and also his eyes had been red and nope, Shang Qinghua's desire to be a good neighbor did not supersede his desire to keep living!

Someday, he'd figure it out. Hopefully soon! If only because anything that annoyed Shen Jiu was a private source of unending delight. Something to get him smiling again after weeping forlornly into one of his body pillows. Besides, workplace gossip was surprisingly fertile ground for story ideas. Who knew what Shen Jiu's mysterious conflict would inspire?

He pulled up the next spreadsheet, adjusted his glasses, but his mind had left the numbers far behind. What it was focused on now was the tiniest germ of a story idea — good timing, since he was wrapping up a harem intrigue drama, and needed something to fill the update slot. Maybe something modern this time, an enemies-to-lovers story about a demon hiding in plain sight in an inoffensive office building, and the shy, repressed office worker who became the target of the demon's noxious affections?

"Ooh, noxious, that's a good word." Shang Qinghua scrabbled in his backpack for his notebook, and then for a pen. The spreadsheets faded out of his awareness as he started writing. Just a few notes! He had time for that much, before he had to get ready to break in the newcomer. Well, for the newcomer to break him in. He could have a little synopsis, as a treat.

"Elevator sex," he murmured, biting his pen cap, "there'll be elevator sex. Oh! Dream sex! Yeah, that'll sell. Virginity kink? Mhm. That's always a solid bet. And — and the demon just wants the office worker's approval! Maybe a sex demon? Huh. Yeah. Okay. Okay!"

When the intercom buzzed, Shang Qinghua screamed and threw his notebook at the door.

"Oh good, you're awake," drawled Sha Hualing's voice from the speaker on the table. "So here's the bad news."

"The bad — what? What do you mean?" Did Shen Jiu finally kill someone, and Yue Qingyuan forgot to hide the body?

"I mean your scene partner had to cancel. Something about a traffic accident on the other side of town."

"That's…" Shang Qinghua picked up his notebook, considering. Yes, this was bad, but not catastrophically so! Selfishly, he thought it might even be a decent or good thing, because he could go home and get some good writing time in. Good thing he was salaried these days! But first: "Is he okay?"

"Yeah, probably," said Sha Hualing, a little too disinterested for Shang Qinghua's liking. "Want the good news? I already found you a replacement. Vetted him and everything, all his paperwork's in place. Come say hi. He's a big fan of your work."

"Wait," Shang Qinghua called, before she could hang up. "Wait, just a — what's his name?"

Sha Hualing already had the phone halfway back to the cradle, if the tinniness of her voice was anything to go by. Shang Qinghua barely made out the words well enough to scrawl them on his palm before she hung up.

One of these days he'd get the last word in! Then her reign of disrespect would end! For like, a day, but still!

Now he was alone in the silent, dusty conference room again, heart pounding against his ribcage.

"All right, calm down," he whispered, patting his hair into place. "It's still a shoot with a newbie. And they're a little early. It's fine. Two deep breaths, and then — fuck!"

The last word warbled into a squeak of pure horror as his eyes fell on his phone, which was cheerfully buzzing an alarm, and apparently had been for the last thirty minutes. The new newbie was not early; Shang Qinghua was late, and now only forty-five minutes laid between him and fucking someone he had never met.

"Oh god oh no." He shoved his notebook into his backpack, too anxious to even congratulate himself on the twelve hand-written pages of elevator-dream-demon sex before he shoved his laptop after it. "No, no, no."

"Yes, yes, yes," chanted Sha Hualing, who hadn't hung up but had decided to wait around and listen to Shang Qinghua panicking. It was her favorite hobby, after hitting on the sculptor with studio space on the top floor. "Better save all the squeaking for your shoot, buddy. This one's gonna use you like a chew toy."

"Shut up!" he yelped, but this time she had actually hung up, and his yelping echoed around the room until his head ached. "Oh fuck!" he yelled again, for good measure, and sprinted out of the room.

Sha Hualing gave him a little finger wave as he blew past the reception desk, without looking up from what was obviously the sculptor's Weibo feed. She pointed at the end of the hall, toward the innermost set of doors, where someone huge and motionless was staring at the headshots arranged in neat rows across the wall.

"Good luck, chew toy," she whisper-yelled. The figure in the hallway turned their head at the sound of her voice, but Shang Qinghua just gulped and slowed to what he hoped was a leisurely, confident stroll. Odds were it was neither of those things, because he had been told by approximately everyone he'd ever met he projected nothing except Please don't step on me vibes, but hey! It had to work out in his favor one of these days! Statistically speaking!

"Hi," he said, holding out his hand, which he had just surreptitiously wiped on his pants to make sure he wouldn't sweat all over his scene partner before they started to have sex. "I'm Shang Qinghua! And you —"

Two things happened simultaneously.

One: Shang Qinghua made eye contact with the newbie, and felt his heart skip not one, but at least ten beats.

Two: he realized he had just wiped off the ink on his palm, and had no other way of knowing what this guy's name was.

The newbie, for his part, just blinked twice, his brows raising fractionally, before settling back into place. Waiting, very obviously, for Shang Qinghua to finish his sentence. Which Shang Qinghua couldn't do, because not only was this the most gorgeous man he had ever seen, not only was he about to fuck the most gorgeous man he had ever seen, he could not have remembered what this gorgeous man's name was if he literally had a gun to his head.

Of course you forgot, cackled Inner Shen Yuan, a thin thread of actual pity mixed with his amusement. Shang Qinghua, you literally just wrote it on your hand! Only you!

"In my defense I am not all that great under pressure," Shang Qinghua said with numb lips. His hand was still hovering in midair, while the newbie inspected it with about as much interest as someone would give a crisp packet lying crumped on the sidewalk. "Wait! Sorry!" he yelled, when the newbie pinned him in place with a scowl. "I wasn't talking to you! I was talking to —" The imaginary version of my best friend, which is somehow meaner than the real thing. "— myself. Sorry. I'm Shang Qinghua?"

"You said that already," said the newbie. He tossed a long, sleek lock of black hair off his forehead. Shang Qinghua's heart restarted, double-time, when the glacial blue eyes met his again. "Or are you asking me this time?"

"No! I am Shang Qinghua!" Oh god, those cheekbones should be illegal. Shang Qinghua was pretty sure the fit of the newbie's jeans were. "I am!"

"I believe you." The newbie frowned. Shang Qinghua was beginning to think that expression was a feature, and not a bug. "Your name's on your picture."

"Oh, right! Yes, yes it is." Shang Qinghua flapped his hands at his headshot — which wasn't bad at all, by any standards! Especially since he'd taken the time to Photoshop his under-eye circles — and nearly dropped his backpack. The newbie snorted a laugh while he struggled to catch it in time, then ended up holding it in his arms like a wayward toddler. "So uh. Welcome to Cang Qiong Studio! I'm — me, and I'm your scene partner for the day." Please introduce yourself, because I will not be able to make eye contact with you ever again if I have to ask for your name.

Not that names were strictly required in their line of work; odds were the newbie would use some kind of pseudonym like everyone else at the studio. There was an unspoken contest for who could have the most ridiculous one, which Shang Qinghua was currently winning, and probably would continue to win, forever.

But it definitely wouldn't get things off to a great start if he admitted in the first three minutes that he couldn't remember this guy's name, though in his defense he probably would have forgotten it in the first ten seconds anyways, because this guy, this fucking guy, was six and a half feet of solid muscle wrapped in black jeans and a heather grey t-shirt with a truly obscene v-neck. Were those motorcycle boots? Shang Qinghua was having trouble breathing.

Today, stoic beefcakes were apparently very much an option.

After giving Shang Qinghua another sweeping glance, the newbie finally shook his hand. A nice firm grip, just the right side of too strong, with long fingers and cool, slightly callused skin. Shang Qinghua barely managed not to shiver, and tried not to ogle him too closely.

But one of the many perks of this job was you really could ogle your coworkers — you were encouraged to do so, especially with the camera rolling! — so he allowed himself one appreciative glance, lingering on the newbie's firm thighs, his unexpectedly graceful wrists, his massive, perfectly-formed chest.

And oh, god, his face. Shang Qinghua wept silently over the fact today's shooting schedule meant he wouldn't get to sit on it. Well, maybe if the newbie liked the studio — and he should, it was a great place to work! Even taking into account Shen Jiu's ongoing war with the caterers. his co-stars, and existence in general — they could reassess, discuss a few new ideas. Today, though, was a fairly straightforward scene: Virginal twink gets blasted to kingdom come by huge top.

Shang Qinghua's oeuvre was not an extensive one, but he'd always appreciated the value of staying in one's lane.

Someone coughed behind them. Sha Hualing, obviously, and now that Shang Qinghua was not trying to write seventy thousand sonnets at once about the newbie's pecs, he could hear her trying to choke back laughter. A lot of laughter, given the weird creaky sounds coming from her desk. At that point, Shang Qinghua realized he was still clinging to the newbie's hand, and let go. Regretfully. It really was a nice hand. At least he'd get to have it all over his shrimpy little body for the next few hours, unless he absolutely fucked up in the next few minutes.

"So, uh," he murmured, trying hard not to feel like the newbie wasn't carving him open with every glance. Apparently x-ray eyes really were a thing. "You've got all your testing in place? You're clean?" The only thing Sha Hualing took seriously, other than verbally abusing Shang Qinghua, were making sure all the health records were clear, but no need not to get a bit more confirmation. Or at least, that's what the sad, administrative part of his brain said. "Not to imply you wouldn't be! Just uh, you know, good to ask! We're responsible smut artists here, ha. Very conscious of safety. Sha Hualing said you were a fan?" Oh god. Why did I say that?

"Last month. Haven't done anything since," said the newbie. He glanced at the wall again, back at Shang Qinghua's headshot, like he couldn't believe the picture in the frame had any relation to the man standing in front of him. Which, well, Shang Qinghua really couldn't fault him for that. He knew he wasn't the ethereal, austere beauty Shen Jiu was, nor did he have the everyday loveliness of Yue Qingyuan, and definitely not Liu Qingge's brand of harsh, demanding…hotness.

(Shang Qinghua! Get a damn thesaurus!)

He didn't even have Ning Yingying's bouncy sweetness. He was just small and bendy and his body had never learned what a refractory period was. But he had a nice smile, and a great ass, and everyone he fucked seemed to be comfortable during shoots — though he was not exactly a threatening presence, which might have had more to do with it than his actual personality. Still! He had a brand, it was a good one, and he was proud of it! Even if he wasn't hot or tall or well-endowed, which were all things this newbie, whose name he still did not know, seemed to be.

"And yeah," said the newbie. "I am."

"You're what?" Shang Qinghua asked. Behind him, Sha Hualing cackled. "Sorry?"

"A fan. Of yours." The newbie's eyes bored into his. "I like your work," he added. His voice sounded almost bored, or so dryly sarcastic it just came across that way.

"Oh." Shang Qinghua's neck was starting to ache from how far back he had to tilt his head to maintain eye contact. What did they feed this guy? Where did Sha Hualing find him? Could she really read his mind? Or, worse, his novels? "Thank you?"

The newbie nodded. Just once. And then he said nothing else, though he did keep staring so intently he seemed to be mapping Shang Qinghua's nervous system.

"Uh, so," Shang Qinghua said, after about ten seconds of the silent staring, just to push things along. He still had a shower and prep to get through — a lot of prep, if his guess about this guy's cock was at all accurate. "Well, in shoots I generally go by a stage name — it's a joke with my friend, because of, uh, never mind, and you already know it, but if you've got one —"

"Mobei Jun," said the newbie. Absolute zero had nothing on his eyes. "That's my name," he added, when Shang Qinghua opened his mouth. "You can call me that."

The name melted on Shang Qinghua's tongue. Mobei Jun. Oh god. "Well, uh, awesome!" Oh no. He needed to dial it back. "But just checking — and not in any way trying to tell you what to do, not like I could, you could snap me like a glowstick, ah —" And I would thank you for it, for the rest of my life. "— but most of us have stage names, just to — or not! Up to you!"

"Gentlemen," said Sha Hualing, all poisonous sweetness. Shang Qinghua whipped around to see her draped over her reception desk, grinning sleek and red at the newbie. She'd topped up her lipstick and looked, as she pretty much always did, like a literal sex demon. Shang Qinghua felt himself turning clear as glass by comparison, as he pretty much always did. "Not to interrupt, but the crew's setting up in the studio. Maybe you should get cleaned up, now that you're introduced." She flicked a glance in Mobei Jun's direction, and winked.

"Right!" Shang Qinghua squeaked. "Cleaned up, ready to work! Ha! Yes! I am ready to work!" He caught the edge of Sha Hualing's smile — delighted now, because she didn't need food or water to live, just a steady supply of Shang Qinghua humiliating himself — as he spun around, and once again felt the shock as the newbie's — as Mobei Jun's eyes met his.

"Let me show you to the shower and dressing rooms," he said, and scurried off down the hall, very aware of Mobei Jun's booted feet hitting the ground in a solid, patient rhythm behind him. Sha Hualing snickered as he went past, but he didn't respond. He was thinking again about the handshake, and imagining those fingers on his thigh, his ass. Around his throat, squeezing ever so gently.                                                                                                  

As per usual, Shang Qinghua jerked off as he showered. It had been the only piece of real advice Shen Jiu had given him — So you don't shoot off three minutes in and delay the shoot while we wait for you to recover — and it was nice to take the edge off and slow the endless circuit of his brain worrying, doubting, gnawing itself to death.

For five minutes, he lingered under the hot spray, idly washing the come off his belly, stroking his thighs in the afterglow. This was as close as he ever got to really being relaxed, the last of his orgasm tingling up and down his spine, while he floated above his anxieties like a cloud over a flooding river. He couldn't linger too long, because hot water always turned him lobster-red and no one was into that, and he still had to get half a bottle of lube and a plug into his ass. Luckily he didn't have much in the way of shaving to do, and his hair would be a mess no matter how hard he worked to style it, so his pre-shoot prep could focus on fingering himself open — two fingers to start, because he loved the slight burn as they breached his rim — and trying not to jitter out of his skin.

He had this part of the routine down to a science. Even with the extra time in the shower, he was spread and plugged in fifteen minutes, with plenty of time to slather on a bit of lotion — eucalyptus-scented, bright and easy on the nose — trim his nails, dry his hair and tie it in a sloppy topknot, brush his teeth twice, add a bit of lip balm, switch to contacts…

Well, he would have switched to contacts, if he hadn't forgotten the case back in the conference room. No one would bat an eye if he jogged back to retrieve it, even with a sparkly blue gemstone winking between his ass cheeks — so many unexpected perks, to working at a porn studio! — but leaving the dressing rooms meant he might run into Sha Hualing. Who would be all too happy to inform Shang Qinghua how far out of his league Mobei Jun was.

"Joke's on her," he said to his reflection, thumbing at a dark nipple. "Everyone's out of my league."

He looked about as good as he was going to get — which really wasn't all that bad! He was definitely the soft and shrimpy brand of twink, but his ass did consistently look fantastic, and he even looked a bit whimsically cute with a bunch of hair wisps falling out of his topknot. So he shrugged at his reflection, pulled on the over-sized t-shirt and dark blue boxer briefs that were his costume for the day, and headed out to the set.

On the way, he popped a breath mint. Kissing wasn't part of the day's script — it never was, though some of the other performers ad-libbed it if the mood struck them — but he could make sure Mobei Jun had as little to complain about as possible. He owed the newbie that much, he told himself, ignoring the painful leap his heart gave when he thought about that perfect, strangely soft mouth pressing against his.                                                                                                  

The day's script — such as it was — was a fairly standard set-up. Mobei Jun and Shang Qinghua were roommates (Oh my god, said Inner Shen Yuan, who never missed a chance to meme at Shang Qinghua's expense, you're roommates!), with the standard amount of unresolved sexual tension floating around; Mobei Jun's clothes kept disappearing, which drove him nuts until he realized his roommate was stealing them to wear when he wasn't around; Mobei Jun would then have an awakening about how his roommate in his clothes made him feel, and then they'd fuck about it.

A standard set-up, with a million other porn companies shooting a million variations on the same themes, but Cang Qiong's production values set them apart. The set were two rooms, one dressed to look like a little college apartment kitchen, and the other like a messy, lived-in bedroom, down to the empty tea cups on the nightstand and the posters on the wall. The transformation was impressive, especially since when Shang Qinghua last filmed in here, the kitchen had been a classroom, and the bedroom a doctor's office. Within three days, they'd be something else entirely.

The cameraman, who insisted on being called Xiao Hua and about whom Shang Qinghua still knew absolutely nothing, was lounging against the back wall, glaring at his phone. He looked up as Shang Qinghua entered, some unreadable expression flashing across his face before he went back to his usual glaring.

Shang Qinghua didn't take it personally. After all, Xiao Hua didn't like anybody. Still, he was a genius camera operator, to the point Shang Qinghua privately thought his talents were wasted at Cang Qiong. He also knew exactly how much they were paying for Xiao Hua's genius, so he figured Xiao Hua didn't have a reason to move on. Maybe he was filming little indie movies in his spare time. He could certainly afford to.

He sat on the edge of a kitchen chair, wriggling a bit as the plug shifted inside him, and wished he'd brought his own phone with him. There were books in the bedroom set, and he'd almost decided to go grab one when the door opened, and Mobei Jun walked in.

He was —

He really was the most gorgeous man Shang Qinghua had ever seen. And now that he feeling a bit calmer, and also knew Mobei Jun's name, Shang Qinghua could actually process how hot he was, and how well that aligned with his own personal tastes. Which, yes, he had spent years writing about, across twelve finished novels and four that were still in-progress. Tall, imposing, cold and severe, definitely a little mean — but somehow, Shang Qinghua could still see him smiling a little, fondly, over a bowl of noodles. Impatient to get back to his bullying, and Shang Qinghua to his cringing.

Being in a kitchen made it all so easily to imagine. That part of Shang Qinghua's fantasy wasn't about to come true. But enough of it was that he didn't really mind, especially when his brain finally rebooted and he realized Mobei Jun was extremely shirtless, that his chest was just as massive and well-defined as promised, and that he was clearly wearing nothing under his sweatpants.

"I'm going to die," he whispered, eyes locked on the bulging seam in front of him. It wasn't his fault! With him sitting down, it was basically at eye level! "Oh god, sorry, I didn't —"

Mobei Jun snorted again and leaned against the set's kitchen counter. "You always talk so much?"

"Yes," said Xiao Hua, the traitor. "I'm surprised they didn't mention it in your contract."

Mobei Jun shifted, eyes darting away and locking on a point somewhere on the fake-tiled floor. Shang Qinghua swallowed the urge to keep apologizing while he mentally sent Xiao Hua every rude gesture he could think of. Thanks for reminding Mobei Jun he was about to fuck an utter disaster on camera, Xiao Hua! Your tattoos are stupid and your eyeball necklace is creepy! Shut up forever!

He nearly panicked when Mobei Jun glanced up sharply — if he'd been talking out loud again, Xiao Hua would probably murder him — but he just looked at Shang Qinghua, his face impassive but his eyes brighter than ever. Shang Qinghua immediately checked himself over, in case he'd gotten a nosebleed or there was something on his glasses or his shirt was on backwards, but it was just…him, that Mobei Jun was looking at. For whatever reason.

Before he could think about it too hard, the door banged open again, and Zhuzhi Lang entered, beaming at them all, his arms full of water bottles, wet wipes, and extra lube.

"Ah, you're all here," he said, dropping them on the low table next to the director's chair. "Excellent. Everyone hydrated? Stretches done? Wonderful."

Shang Qinghua's anxiety, which always ramped up around hot people and also around terrifying people — and Mobei Jun definitely qualified as both! Xiao Hua did too, but Shang Qinghua was far more terrified by than attracted to him — began to deflate. He trusted all the directors at Cang Qiong, but he liked Zhuzhi Lang the most.

"Oh, dear." Zhuzhi Lang tutted over a file folder he'd somehow manifested in the last ten seconds. "I don't seem to have the contract here — just the blank form. And Sha Hualing has disappeared again. I can never make sense of how she organizes her files. It's not alphabetical or chronological — hm. My apologies, I'll have to —"

"We'll sign a new one," interrupted Mobei Jun, his hand already held out. "Give it to me. I wanted to reread it anyways."

What, so you can find a loophole to get you out of this? Shang Qinghua shook the thought off as soon as it formed. No self-pity at work! Definitely no self-pity while wearing a butt plug with a sparkly blue gemstone on it.

"Not a bad idea," he said, grinning at Zhuzhi Lang. "I like my co-stars prepared."

He couldn't read the look Mobei Jun gave him then, either.

Shang Qinghua was not so overwhelmed by personal blessings he could take any of them for granted, but when it turned out he was a decent actor, even judged by non-porn standards, he decided not to question it. Sure, no one watched porn for the acting, but he could still sell the shit out of every contrived coincidence and paper-thin excuse for nudity that came his way!

After all, if there was one thing he knew, it was the importance of fantasy. It didn't really matter if that fantasy was about the mousy little scholar actually catching the eye of the frigid, righteous prince he'd worshipped all his life, or that the twink on your screen really did want to trade blowjobs for good grades. What mattered was not laughing at your audience's need to escape for a little while.

So, whether the day's work meant getting folded in half over a desk or finally paying off all that foreshadowing from forty-seven chapters ago, Shang Qinghua committed! And he had yet to meet a challenge he couldn't meet, given enough time, or lube.

Staring at Mobei Jun's truly spectacular abs, he thought today might be the day. At least selling the whole "fragile twink overwhelmed by lust for his gorgeous roommate" angle would be the simplest part of the shoot; it was always a nice change to fuck someone he was attracted to. Thank god he was horny enough in general to get it up for Shen Jiu, when the situation called for it, but it was so much easier when he didn't have to split his attention between hitting his marks and fantasizing about the fanart of the previously-mentioned, much-imagined, frigid, righteous prince.

Today's challenge would be not embarrassing himself by actually saying any of the incredibly horny, longing, pathetic things currently clouding his head. Because Mobei Jun really could put all Shang Qinghua's body pillows and furtively-commissioned papapa art to shame, even just taking the cut of his hips into account. Shang Qinghua was risking an aneurysm every time he looked in Mobei Jun's direction.

Which! He was doing a lot of! Because Zhuzhi Lang was off conferring over some lighting issue with Xiao Hua, and the sound guy hadn't yet arrived, so there was nothing to do but stare, and try not to clench too obviously around the plug, which really didn't seem up to the job of preparing Shang Qinghua's precious little chrysanthemum from the strafing run it was about to endure.

You've taken bigger cocks before! he told himself, hands clenched on his thighs under the kitchen table. He snuck a glance at Mobei Jun, who seemed to be counting the fake tiles with a disturbing amount of concentration. Sure, you couldn't walk the next day, or for like, ten days after that, but that's the price of being a secret size queen! Size prince? Size slut? Whatever. You can take it! This is not a problem!

No, the cock was not going to be a problem. The cock was never a problem! The problem, today, at least, was the person this particular cock was attached to! And now that person was back to staring at Shang Qinghua, with eyes that could put liquid nitrogen out of a job! There didn't seem to be any interest in the staring, or any expression at all, but Shang Qinghua couldn't hold his gaze for more than two seconds before looking away, blushing down to the soles of his feet.

He was, not to put too fine or punny a point on it, completely fucked.

"Right!" Zhuzhi Lang clapped his hands and strode back toward the set, his polite smile a little strained around the edges. "We've figured out the lighting problems — thank you, as always, Xiao Hua — so let's begin."

"Already?" Shang Qinghua squeaked, with a completely involuntary clench around the plug. His cock stirred against his thigh. Curse his body and its eternal readiness to be dicked down!

"We're off-schedule," said Zhuzhi Lang, apologetically. Shang Qinghua couldn't believe he'd actually noticed. "Again, I'm sorry for the delay, but now that our sound operator is in place —" He waved in the general direction of the sound booth, which was concealed behind last week's ceiling mirrors. "— we have a great deal to make up. Places!"

He clapped again, and Shang Qinghua's conditioning took over. Padding across the kitchen meant he passed in touching distance of Mobei Jun, but he still let out a yelp when his co-star — Oh god, he's my costar! — caught his arm.

"You okay?" Mobei Jun's thick, perfect brows pinched together. "You're all twitchy."

"He always is," answered Xiao Hua, before Shang Qinghua could do more than register the size of the hand on his arm. Well, that, and imagine it wrapped around his thigh. "Better get used to it, because that's your next few hours."

"Xiao Hua," Zhuzhi Lang said, all disapproval. "You're not helping."

"Oh, good." Xiao Hua smiled. Nice and wide and fake. "Because I'm not trying to."

"I'm fine!" Shang Qinghua yelled. An affronted, muffled shout came from the sound booth. He swallowed, and ran his free hand over his face. "I'm fine," he said, like a normal person this time, forcing himself to hold Mobei Jun's eyes. "Trust me. Just the usual jitters. What, you don't get them before a scene?"

Mobei Jun let go of Shang Qinghua's arm. "No," he said, so tersely Shang Qinghua almost reached out to pat his arm. Just to be friendly! He could keep it together and be a respectful, supportive costar, without faceplanting into Mobei Jun's crotch and never leaving, ever. But Mobei Jun backed away, and disappeared through the door leading into the bedroom set, leaving Shang Qinghua alone in the kitchen.

The script called for Shang Qinghua to be cooking — something. Again, Cang Qiong's porn scripts weren't so much scripts as they were a few necessary beats to hit before the five-to-seven page list of positions, acts, and toys became immediately, overwhelmingly relevant. So Shang Qinghua, furiously repressing the twin urges to flee and start crying, decided to exercise a little performer discretion, and opened the fridge. He could barely hear Zhuzhi Lang calling action from the other side of the door, but once he did, he made sure the curve of his ass was clearly on display.

Then he waited. And waited. And waited some more, until the temptation to turn around and see why Mobei Jun hadn't yet arrived to speak one of his three scripted lines ("Those are my clothes"; "You steal my clothes, there'll be consequences"; "Shut up and suck it") nearly overcame his professionalism. But Zhuzhi Lang hadn't called cut, which meant he had to stay where he was, halfway into an empty but very operational fridge, while his poor nipples turned into little ice chips.

Maybe he should have made more of an effort to talk to Mobei Jun before they started filming. Odds were, he was just dealing with first-time nerves, because really, even someone as confident and spectacularly-hung as Mobei Jun would probably need a few minutes to process fucking on camera. Shang Qinghua decided to give it another fifteen seconds — then he'd turn around, with a smile he hoped would be reassuring rather than pleading, and get ready to walk the newbie through the process.

Then a cold hand landed on his back, heavy and unyielding, effectively trapping him inside the fridge while he squeaked in surprise.

"You're wearing my shirt," said Mobei Jun, so low it was almost a purr. His fingers dug, ever so slightly, into Shang Qinghua's back. "Don't you have your own clothes?"

Ah, going off-book? Okay, Shang Qinghua could handle that. Never let it be said he couldn't improvise! After all, he'd rewritten half of The Winter Palace, Surrounded by Cranes in a week when his readers changed their mind about who the main couple should be!

"Yours are just so much nicer!" he chirped, wriggling back into the touch. Flirty but still innocent; the script had him playing a virgin this week. "It must be that detergent you use. Your shirts always smell so good!"

Mobei Jun grunted. His hand tightened again — blunt nails or not, that was going to leave some marks — then yanked Shang Qinghua out of the fridge and pinned him against the now-closed door.

His breath left him in a huff. Not that it hurt; Mobei Jun was definitely controlling the power of his biceps, for which Shang Qinghua was very grateful! But! That was…an objectively hot move, and Shang Qinghua's cock was strongly in favor of more along the same lines.

"We've talked about this." Mobei Jun plucked at the collar of the t-shirt, then let it fall back into place, hanging off Shang Qinghua's shoulder. He skated cool fingertips over Shang Qinghua's bare shoulder, almost considering, and the shiver that ran through Shang Qinghua in answer was completely involuntary. "If you're going to keep stealing my clothes, there'll be…consequences."

Shang Qinghua blinked at him. He knew his mouth was open, and there was a non-zero chance he was drooling, but what the hell! Where had Sha Hualing found this guy?! Who showed up to shoot their first porn and treated it like a political drama? Other than Zhuzhi Lang, before that whole thing at Hengdian World Studios with the —

No! No distractions! Stay in the moment, Shang Qinghua!

"You keep saying that," he said, grinning into Mobei Jun's face and shoving at his — his really, truly, wonderful chest. Mobei Jun did not move a centimeter. "But you know what? I think you're all talk. I think you like seeing me walk around in your shirts."

Okay, as far as ad-libs went, not Shang Qinghua's best, but it sounded good as soon as he said it. Zhuzhi Lang flashed him a subtle thumbs-up from the director's chair. So he decided to run with it a little longer, since Mobei Jun didn't seem inclined to do anything except keep him pinned against the fridge.

"I think," Shang Qinghua said — not aiming for sexy or seductive, because even with a dick in his ass he would never be either of those things, but for cute and playful and small — "I'm just gonna keep stealing your shirts, and you're never gonna stop me."

He thought he heard Zhuzhi Lang gasp, but before he could be too proud of what had just come out of his mouth, Mobei Jun's eyes went wide, and a little wild.

Oh fuck me, he thought, as Mobei Jun leaned in, his cool, minty breath washing over Shang Qinghua's face.

"I said there'd be consequences," he purred — which was illegal! So very illegal! And not great for Shang Qinghua's life expectancy, either! — and let go of Shang Qinghua's shoulder. "You want to play around? Works for me."

"Wh-what are you —" Shang Qinghua stuttered, then squealed as two massive hands grabbed him by the hips and swung him onto the counter. He managed to stay in character, but it took every last brain cell and all of his self-control not to just start begging for mercy. "Hey, I was just playing around! Look, sorry, here's your shirt —"

"You wanted it so bad," said Mobei Jun. His hands were going to leave bruises on Shang Qinghua's hips for weeks. "It's all yours. "

"Oh my god," Shang Qinghua wheezed, as Mobei Jun buried his face in the curve of his neck, and bit down. Hard. "Oh my god! You — why are you —"

"Consequences," came the reply, close to his ear. Mobei Jun bit at his earlobe, soothing the sting with long, heady strokes of his tongue. "I told you."

"I, uh — oh, ah —" He clutched at Mobei Jun's shoulder as he started to mouth his way down Shang Qinghua's throat. His mouth, contrary to the rest of him, was boiling hot, and soft, and clever, waking nerve endings Shang Qinghua hadn't known existed. Which yeah, was a very cliché thing to think, and a cliché he was guilty of using at least once per novel, but —

"Yeah," Mobei Jun said, right in his ear. When Shang Qinghua looked down, his mouth — that perfect, firm, impossible mouth — was red, and his cheeks were slightly, barely pink. It made something jolt deep in his chest: he, Shang Qinghua, pathetic, horny loser shut-in, hack author, and unexpected porn star, had made this flawless human specimen flush. "That's what I thought. When someone calls you on your shit…" He reached down and palmed the curve of Shang Qinghua's ass, smirking when the touch made Shang Qinghua jump and cling closer and yes, whine a little. "It's cute."

"I'm not —" Shang Qinghua's eyes shut as Mobei Jun went back to working over his neck, nipping at his pulse, laving the same spot with his tongue. He heard a faint thudding noise and realized he was kicking at the fake cabinet doors as he wriggled in Mobei Jun's hold. Trying to stop seemed counter-productive, and Zhuzhi Lang hadn't called cut yet, so he kept it up, leaning back to give Mobei Jun easier access. Never accuse Shang Qinghua of not being a team player! "I'm not — not cute. And I already said you could have your shirt back, so—so you don't…"

Mobei Jun grunted, nuzzling into the hollow under his ear. "You're talking too much. But that's cute too." When Shang Qinghua squawked, he laughed, smug beyond words, and squeezed his ass again, fingers delving into the cleft between his cheeks, dangerously close to the plug.

Shang Qinghua threw his head back and moaned. His cock twitched again. He could feel the growing wet spot on the boxer-briefs, cool against his heated skin. Mobei Jun's face was so close to his — they were almost of a height, with Shang Qinghua sitting on the counter, and if he leaned up just a little, he could kiss Mobei Jun. He nearly did. The wanting almost strangled him.

He didn't. Instead, he pawed weakly at Mobei Jun's chest, vaguely aware the situation was getting away from him, and he was just helplessly riding a wave of arousal he hadn't felt — well, ever. Not even in the days before sex was something he had often enough to forget all the little details. We haven't even done anything, he thought, fuzzy, moaning louder with every moment as Mobei Jun pressed his mouth to the hollow of his throat and hummed.

It wasn't fair! Now Shang Qinghua was going to be all confused, because he was the one getting aroused and turning into jelly thanks to Mobei Jun's hands and mouth, not the Shang Qinghua who giggled and squealed while someone worked him open for the camera. This was — getting inside him, making him want in a way that would go past the end of the shoot.

Time to pull it together. What did every good author do when the story got away from them? Go back to the outline. Go back to what was written, follow that to the end. He could still salvage the shoot! Maybe not his brain or his heart, but they weren't really necessary — and besides, he was already used to useless pining. A little more wouldn't change things!

"Hey, hey," he said, pushing Mobei Jun away. This time, Mobei Jun let himself be pushed, though Shang Qinghua nearly reeled him back in the moment he saw Mobei Jun licking his lips. "I, uh, I haven't…"

He couldn't remember his next line. Something-something Oh I'm a virgin and I've never done anything like this before, please don't pay attention to the forty other videos of me saying the exact same thing on this here website!

"Yeah, I know," said Mobei Jun, unexpectedly. Shang Qinghua made a startled noise, which in turn made Mobei Jun smirk, and flick him in the forehead. Oh, and pinch his ass, too. The little sting made Shang Qinghua tumble forward into his arms, his cock grinding against Mobei Jun's truly granite-hard abs. Honestly! How did he exist, with so many muscles? "That's cute too."

Oh, for fuck's — "I said I'm not cute," Shang Qinghua snarled, as best he could. "God! Just take your stupid shirt and —"

Mobei Jun rolled his eyes. "Too much talking." Then he yanked off Shang Qinghua's boxer-briefs, in one practiced, efficient motion.

Shang Qinghua watched, strangely detached, as his cock slapped against the t-shirt, leaving beads of precome smeared on the soft fabric. It was a pretty cock, all things considered: uncut, decently thick, rosy pink at the tip. He always got a lot of nice comments on it, whenever Cang Qiong debuted a new video of his.

"Hm," said Mobei Jun, while he spit into the palm of his hand. Shang Qinghua's cheeks flamed — how did that feel so dirty, after everything he'd done or had done to him the past two years? "Like I said. Cute."

Okay! Who told you it was okay to call someone's dick cute? Stupid Mobei Jun!

Exactly one second later, Mobei Jun started jerking him off, and Shang Qinghua no longer cared what adjectives were applied, to any part of his body. He also no longer cared about breathing, or conscious thought, or anything except the huge hand ruthlessly driving him headfirst into orgasm.

"Fuck," he panted, while his head lolled against the upper cabinets and Mobei Jun made soft, pleased sounds somewhere close by. "Fuck, I'm — it's — oh my god, you're…"

The pleased sounds got infinitely more so. They were still quiet enough Shang Qinghua didn't think anyone else could hear them, but each one ratcheted his arousal higher, hotter. He was burning up from the inside out. They hadn't even fucked yet.

"I'm gonna —" he whined, as the hand on his cock sped up. He was pretty sure he was clawing Mobei Jun's shoulders hard enough to draw blood.

"You are," Mobei Jun said, almost a command. Shang Qinghua wailed as he pinched the head of his cock. "Right now."

What a relief, to be told what to do, and when. Shang Qinghua's voice broke as he came, long, hot ropes of come staining the t-shirt, Mobei Jun's hand, Mobei Jun's chest. God, it almost hurt, to come that hard. He might actually have gone blind for a few seconds there.

It was the oddest thing, he mused, while he tried to catch his breath. Mobei Jun had been watching his face the entire time. Who did that, outside of cheesy romance novels?

From the other side of the planet, Zhuzhi Lang called cut.                                                                                                    

Porn, at least in Shang Qinghua's experience, lacked dignity. Not that he was particularly attached to having any; the closest he'd come to actual dignity was the time a cologne sample worth two month's rent accidentally got mailed to him. He was also very aware he was barely 167 centimeters tall on a good day, and the constant cringing made him seem at least six centimeters shorter than that. Oh, and he slept in a mound of body pillows while wearing footie pajamas. Which were a conscious choice, to be fair! But who wouldn't choose constant warmth and comfort over style and panache? Especially when the only person who ever entered your nerd-grotto of an apartment was your best friend, who had body pillows and footie pajamas of his own?

(I told you, if you ever mentioned that out loud, I would throw your back-up hard drives into the ocean, you hack!)

Anyway! Dignity, and the lack thereof!

It would have been hard to maintain dignity, if he had any to begin with, because working in porn meant figuring out how to gag, but in a sexy way, or not laughing when the person/persons you were with farted two seconds after you got their pants off. Not much room for dignity in situations like that!

What porn did have were things like:

  1. copious fluids
  2. said fluids ending up in surprising places (between his toes; behind his ear; inside his ear, at least that one time)
  3. giggle fits at the worst possible moments
  4. very weird bruises in equally weird places ("I said," Liu Qingge hissed, without making eye contact, "I was sorry.")
  5. directions like "Shang Qinghua, unless you want everyone watching to go screaming into the night, please stop making that face"
  6. getting a bloody nose from being hit in the face with a dick, when he turned around too quickly ("How many times do you want me to apologize for this?" "Once more couldn't hurt, Liu-xiong!!")
  7. increasingly contrived plots — which, coming from Shang Qinghua, was saying something!
  8. murderous coworkers. Okay, really only Shen Jiu, but he was murderous enough for four porn studios, let alone just one! 

Porn had a lot of things! Dignity just…wasn't one of them. But he'd learned to live without it, just as he'd learned to live without dignity in every other aspect of his life. No hardship there, and at least he was paid to be undignified in the confines of Cang Qiong Studio. No one else had much in the way of dignity there either, except for Yue Qingyuan, who couldn't really help it. They all sailed the same ridiculous, horny seas together!

Still. Shang Qinghua wished he could claim just a little dignity, the tiniest smidge, just so he wouldn't have to feel quite so swallowed up by Mobei Jun's shadow. It really shouldn't have been a problem, filming with someone so painfully, obscenely handsome. So tall, so broad-shouldered. So mind-meltingly huge, from the vast plain of his bare back, to the hands that could almost span Shang Qinghua's waist.

It was, obviously, a very large problem, Shang Qinghua realized, as he pitched forward, right off the counter and straight into Mobei Jun's arms. His sculpted, granite-hard arms, which caught his weight and hefted him into a bridal carry so smoothly Shang Qinghua barely noticed he was moving. Part of that was thanks to his post-orgasm haze, which was also the reason why he went so utterly boneless, but part of it was just…grace. Mobei Jun was graceful, on top of being so beautiful it was giving Shang Qinghua a migraine and so strong he could probably pull entire houses off their foundations. Even his armpit — which was where Shang Qinghua's nose had wedged itself, since none of Mobei Jun's grace had extended to him — smelled good, like expensive designer deodorant and just a little bit like clean sweat.

Shang Qinghua sighed, not caring about the drying come slowly gluing the t-shirt to his thighs and belly. He was miles above the clouds, floating along, not really in control of his body and definitely not in control of his impulses, which right now were telling him to nuzzle into the very solid chest next to his cheek and to never, ever leave. Reaching out without opening his eyes, he slid his hand over an expanse of cool, inviting skin. Nope. Never leaving. He would just float here forever and never think or walk again.

"Are you always this clingy, too?" said a dry, unamused voice from overhead.

"No," Shang Qinghua murmured dreamily. He patted the chest and sighed, then turned his head to blink up at the eyes boring into his. "Just feels nice, all big and strong and —"

The haze evaporated, faster than the speed of light, as he realized where he was (in Mobei Jun's arms), what he was doing (groping Mobei Jun's very grope-able chest), and who he was doing it to (Mobei Jun! Mobei! Jun!!).

"Oh god oh god I'm sorry please don't kill me, your chest is just so good and it was right there, but no, wait! I'm not blaming you! I own my actions and I am so sorry! For all of them!" He wriggled, feeling like a very tiny, stupid worm on a very huge and inescapable hook, and managed to thrash enough that Mobei Jun's arms relaxed and he hit the tiles with a resounding thud.

No dignity. None whatsoever.

"Please don't kill me," he pleaded, while scooting backwards — and bare-assed, for added fun, the plug shifting inside him in all sorts of interesting ways — across the floor. Xiao Hua followed his progress with the camera, grinning in the way that meant this was definitely going on the year-end blooper reel. Shang Qinghua ignored him, because he needed to de-escalate the situation and he needed to do it now. "I didn't mean to grope your boobs!"

(Nailed it.)

Mobei Jun blinked at him. The blinking was better than him just up and murdering Shang Qinghua — a crime for which no court would convict him — but given that his features looked a little more glacial than usual, it probably wasn't much better.

Then Mobei Jun, the most beautiful man Shang Qinghua had ever seen, and one of the few people Shang Qinghua had ever truly wanted to have sex with, turned and walked out of the room without another word. Back to the showers, where he would rinse off the last hour and then forget about Shang Qinghua completely.

It didn't surprise Shang Qinghua — his mouth had led him into worse situations, after all, usually on a weekly basis — but it…stung. He wasn't so delusional he'd let himself think Mobei Jun would be attracted to him, but he'd hoped Mobei Jun would at least enjoy himself. And Shang Qinghua had been very much looking forward to following the rest of the so-called script, if only to pay Mobei Jun back for what had been a really excellent orgasm.

Zhuzhi Lang bustled forward, wet wipes in one hand and an electric hand fan in the other, but Shang Qinghua just closed his eyes. Maybe if he wished for it hard enough, he'd sink through the floor and into the earth's crust, never to be seen again. With the sparkly blue plug still in his ass, because even in death he would have no dignity.

A foot jabbed him in the side. Shang Qinghua squeaked and rolled away, only to find himself stopped by another foot. His eyes opened on reflex, to find Mobei Jun standing over him, peering down at him with an expression that on a less-intensely-attractive man would be called confusion.

"Get up," he said, jabbing Shang Qinghua again. "Break's almost over."

While Shang Qinghua gaped at him — and at the still-present bulge in the sweatpants, which looked a lot bigger from this angle — he huffed, and opened his hand. Something dark and heavy fell out of it, crashed on the floor next to Shang Qinghua's head, and then started to roll away. On reflex, again, Shang Qinghua's hand reached out and caught it before it was out of reach.

Chilly plastic met his fingers. When he turned his head, he saw a water bottle, a little dented from impact, but blessedly, invitingly cool. Shang Qinghua pressed it against his cheek, shifting onto his back to say thanks, but Mobei Jun was already disappearing into the bedroom set, with Zhuzhi Lang padding along behind.

"Okay, I'm not going to die," he whispered to himself, still cradling the bottle against his cheek and staring up at the lights.

"Day's not over yet," said Xiao Hua helpfully from behind the camera.                                                                              

Twenty minutes later, Shang Qinghua was pinned to the bed, with Mobei Jun's (impossibly-massive, nearly-godlike) thighs bracketing his (frail, mortal, very crush-able) hips. He wasn't sure how they'd gotten there, just that Zhuzhi Lang had been enthusing about capitalizing on this extraordinary chemistry when Mobei Jun tossed Shang Qinghua on the bed and then crawled after him. Not that he was going to complain, because as soon as Zhuzhi Lang called action, Mobei Jun went right back to mauling his neck.

"F-fuck," he gasped, as Mobei Jun's teeth grazed his pulse. "You — ah! Ah!" His cock, trapped against his thigh, was already hard again, and leaking steadily onto Mobei Jun's sweatpants.

Mobei Jun pulled away, insufferably pleased with himself, which was just as good a look on him as every other expression. "Yeah?" he said, the tiniest bit breathless, the faintest hint of color in his cheeks. "What about me?" He rolled his hips, bringing their cocks together for a heartbeat before easing back.

Shang Qinghua closed his eyes briefly, thought of Shen Yuan doing karaoke, of Shen Jiu doing anything, but when he opened his eyes, Mobei Jun was still there, and still smirking. And he was grinding down on Shang Qinghua's hips now, slow and deliberate, letting him feel every excruciating inch before settling back and palming Shang Qinghua's chest through his shirt.

He was a professional; he could handle this! None of what Mobei Jun was doing hadn't already been done to Shang Qinghua, hundreds of times over! He just…needed his body to remember that, or he was going to embarrass himself in about five minutes.

So he licked his lips, and did his best not to notice how Mobei Jun's eyes tracked the movement. "It's just…a lot," he said, truthfully, shyly. "It feels — ah, ah!"

Mobei Jun had one hand under his shirt now, pinching at his nipple just a little too hard. Shang Qinghua's hard boundaries included pain play, but this wasn't quite pain. It was a shock, short and bright, lighting up every nerve, but it didn't hurt. Everything felt better in its wake, from the new, slow rhythm of Mobei Jun's hips, to the way the plug pressed against him just right when Mobei Jun held him down by the hips — to the surprising warmth of his tongue when he dragged it across Shang Qinghua's throat.

He touched himself like this when he was alone, he thought idly, in the part of his brain still capable of coherent thought. A little rough, a little mean, keeping him sharp and aware of pleasure's fine edges. Sometimes his co-stars managed it by accident, which was fine; he didn't need this to get off, so why complain? And besides, it was nice to keep something for himself, when all the rest of him was laid bare.

Somehow, Mobei Jun kept guessing right, nipping at Shang Qinghua's jaw or earlobe whenever his moans got too loud or too frequent, smirking whenever Shang Qinghua whined and tried to push into his touches.

"So eager," he said, too low for the camera to pick up, while he pulled off Shang Qinghua's t-shirt.

"Yeah, yeah." Shang Qinghua gasped when the weight pinning him down vanished. Before they started filming, Zhuzhi Lang had turned on the air conditioner on Mobei Jun's request, and now a frigid air current washed over him. "Wait — no, come back, where are you going?"

He hadn't meant to sound so pleading, but at least it worked for the set-up! And Mobei Jun stayed right in character, too, eyes going dark and heated as he stripped out of his sweatpants, and…

…Shang Qinghua was going to die. Of joy, possibly, or sheer want, but most likely from being fucked to death by the most intimidatingly perfect cock he had ever seen.

"Oh, my god," he whimpered, and hid his face in the covers. "That's not — that's not going to fit. No matter where you put it, it's not going to fit!"

Mobei Jun rolled his eyes hard enough Shang Qinghua thought he could actually hear the muscles moving in his head. "It'll fit," he said, exasperated, then grabbed Shang Qinghua by the ankles and dragged him forward, till his legs hung off the bed.

His heels did not reach the floor. Shang Qinghua was mostly certain the camera angle would hide that — there was a fine line between lusting after the tiny twink, and laughing at just how tiny the twink was — but Mobei Jun definitely saw, if the return of the smirk meant anything.

"Cute." He pushed Shang Qinghua's legs open briskly, huffing with impatience when Shang Qinghua snapped them closed again. "Hold still."

Shang Qinghua threw an arm over his head to block his face, then tipped his chin down between his legs. He was briefly gleeful over how Mobei Jun's eyes paused on his dick, but he wasn't sure what to make of the expression Mobei Jun made when he caught sight of the plug. Confusion, maybe? Disapproval? Well, newbie co-stars didn't get to comment on his choice of butt plugs! It was cute and functional, which was the pinnacle of sex toys! Mobei Jun could just keep his opinions to himself, and also not accidentally flash the plug to the camera! Yes, that kind of thing could get cropped out, but the editors already had enough work to do!

"What? Are--are you gonna make me?" He didn't even have to try for the whole out-of-my-depth-and-trying-not-to-show-it thing. He very much was out of his depth, and sinking farther every second Mobei Jun's hands stayed on him. "Just gonna — gonna shove me down and f-fuck me?"

Okay, it had been a mistake to say that, for two reasons: one, because Shang Qinghua was quickly losing sight of why Mobei Jun shouldn't do exactly that, and two, because Mobei Jun's breath caught, and then he yanked Shang Qinghua off the bed, not unkindly but definitely not gently either, and pushed him down onto his knees.

He took it back. Saying all that had been the best idea of his life, because he was now face-to-face with Mobei Jun's cock. Which seemed to have a sizable gravitational pull, given how quickly Shang Qinghua reached for it. Mobei Jun snorted and shoved him back, giving himself a few absent strokes along the way.

"Too much talking," he said, almost purring. "Open your mouth."

God, that was doing a lot to the inside of Shang Qinghua's brain. Along with the meanness, and the way Mobei Jun could just move him however he wanted without straining, and how he cupped Shang Qinghua's chin with his free hand, tilting it up so their eyes met. 

"What did I say?" Mobei Jun's thumb tugged at his lower lip. "I said —"

Shang Qinghua opened his mouth, sucking eagerly as soon as Mobei Jun's thumb passed his lips. Mobei Jun made a soft, almost shocked noise, his own mouth falling slack. A little of that pink flush colored his pale cheeks again, but it was gone almost before Shang Qinghua could be sure it was there at all.

"You really are eager," he murmured, pushing his thumb deeper into Shang Qinghua's mouth.

Normally, this was the point when Shang Qinghua would start the wriggling and fake-but-sexy gagging, because that was part of the fantasy. That was the story they were telling tonight, in this chilly studio, with three sets of eyes watching them, with thousands of eyes waiting to watch them. He knew exactly what should come next: a playful nip to Mobei Jun's thumb, a coy little blowjob, a strategic position change to let him take out the plug without a noticeable cut. It all came so naturally to him now, or as naturally as having sex in front of a live audience could.

But. But.

But Shang Qinghua wasn't eager, not really. What he was, was greedy. When was he ever going to meet someone just the right combination of stern and mean and powerful and gorgeous again? Let alone get the chance to touch them? If this was the only shot he had, then…then he was going to play this out the way he wanted to. Just a little.

Dreams were important! He knew that better than most.

So — what would he do, if this was his room? If he had somehow gotten Mobei Jun home, and they were alone and not performing? Dangerous to play this kind of game, but if it would just be this one time…

Shang Qinghua tipped back his head. Mobei Jun's hand followed the movement, his fingers brushing against Shang Qinghua's mad pulse, his thumb pressing down on Shang Qinghua's tongue. His mouth was still open, the tip of his tongue caught between his teeth. In spite of the chill in the room, a bead of sweat tracked slowly down his cheek.

The way Mobei Jun was still staring at him. The pressure of his thumb on Shang Qinghua's tongue and how he was gripping his cock by the base, as if just this was almost too much.

Shang Qinghua gave a whole-body shudder, moaning around the thumb in his mouth and grabbed Mobei Jun by the hips. He was close enough to see fluid beading at the tip, and his own cock twitched as he thought about ducking forward, dipping his tongue in for a taste — but Mobei Jun held him still, while he started stroking his cock again.

"Please," Shang Qinghua whispered. He flushed hot as he heard the way his words blurred around the thumb still teasing at his tongue. "Please, let — let me…"

"What was that?" Mobei Jun asked, a faint frown drawing his brows together. Mean! He was so mean! "Can't hear you."

This was where Shang Qinghua, The Twink For All Seasons, Porn Star Extraordinaire, would pull away from Mobei Jun, smiling and slick-lipped, and say something like Let me get a little taste, please? But that Shang Qinghua had vanished, and so it was the real Shang Qinghua who said, "Let me suck your cock."

Mobei Jun made a noise like someone had punched him in the kidneys. Shang Qinghua squeezed his hips, ready to ask if he was okay the second his thumb left his mouth, but Mobei Jun seemed to be okay, just a little flushed again. He stared at Shang Qinghua with another inscrutable expression, tension coiled so tight in his body the air around them was practically vibrating with it.

In the half-second while neither of them moved, Shang Qinghua nearly signaled for Zhuzhi Lang to cut. Just to be on the safe side; he had no idea what had gotten Mobei Jun wound up like this! But Mobei Jun made another one of those punched-out sounds, and fed Shang Qinghua his cock.

The joke around the studio was that no matter how big a cock looked, it always felt bigger. Shang Qinghua had privately disagreed — big was big, right? — but with his jaw straining ever so slightly just to get the head of Mobei Jun's cock into his mouth, he was rethinking his position. On the joke, not his actual, physical position, which he wouldn't change if his life depended on it.

He moaned again as he tasted the first drops of precome. A little bitter, a lot salty, but he lapped it up, best as he could, with Mobei Jun easing another inch of his cock past his teeth. He wasn't exactly delicate, which probably would have been impossible anyways, given the size of his particular weapon, but he wasn't cruel, either. When he thrust forward too far and Shang Qinghua choked, tears in his eyes, he tried to pull away, but Shang Qinghua clung to his hips and relaxed his throat.

I'm a professional, it's fine, use me! he thought, dimly aware of how hard his own cock was, how much it was leaking. Taking care of himself would mean letting go of Mobei Jun, however, so he kept his hands where they were and guided to Mobei Jun to fuck his throat.

And Mobei Jun did. He was almost silent the whole time, aside from a hiss when a thrust went a little sideways and Shang Qinghua's teeth accidentally grazed his cock, but once he caught his rhythm he didn't stop, or slow, or even seem to be breathing anymore. He just fucked into Shang Qinghua's mouth, grunting whenever the head of his cock met the back of Shang Qinghua's throat, eyes boring into Shang Qinghua's. If he blinked, Shang Qinghua didn't notice.

It wasn't the whole throat-fucking that was getting, and keeping, Shang Qinghua so hard. It was the unwavering gaze that held his, cold enough to make electrons stop moving, watching him.

No, no. Lots of people watched Shang Qinghua, but — it hurt his writerly heart to admit to such a cliché, it really did! — that wasn't the same as being seen. And Mobei Jun was seeing him, practically refusing to do anything else, even as Shang Qinghua did his best to take every inch Mobei Jun was offering him.

He was so preoccupied by being noticed that his second orgasm of the night took him by surprise. Warmth splashed his belly and bare thighs, and then the pleasure arrived, scouring every nerve raw and leaving them singing. He whined against Mobei Jun's cock, his hands clenched so tight he knew he was leaving tiny nail marks all over his co-star's hips, but he couldn't help it — he could just writhe and moan and gasp, and hope Mobei Jun wasn't too bothered by his lack of control.

Mobei Jun went still, his eyes wild, and then he swore and threw back his head, gasping as he thrust once, twice, three more times, and came in a hot flood down Shang Qinghua's throat. A few drops escaped, dripping down Shang Qinghua's chin to pool along his collarbone or scatter across his chest, almost scalding compared to his skin.

And Mobei Jun was still coming, his cock pulsing against Shang Qinghua's tongue, gasping into the pin-drop quiet. Shang Qinghua stayed very still, shaking in the aftermath, until Mobei Jun looked down at him. He eased his cock free almost clumsily, not caring about Shang Qinghua's strained jaw or sore tongue, but then up came his hand, to thumb a drop of come from the corner of Shang Qinghua's mouth.                                                                                                    

As it turned out, Mobei Jun didn't have much in the way of a refractory period either, which meant he really was Shang Qinghua's dream guy. That, or he was an extremely realistic hallucination brought on by bad pudding. Shang Qinghua was leaning toward the latter, because even after blowing a truly kingly load down Shang Qinghua's throat — and into his mouth, and all over the lower half of his face, and his chest; message received, Mobei Jun, you are truly without peer! — his dick only went to about half-mast. A very interested half-mast, given how it twitched when Shang Qinghua tried to stand on wobbly baby-deer legs and immediately collapsed backwards on the bed. Legs splayed, chest heaving, the very picture of a debauched barely-virgin.

"And cut!" called Zhuzhi Lang. Shang Qinghua felt the heat of his grin all down his side. "Wonderful! Just wonderful. Let's take a break, so you two can sort yourselves out, and then we'll continue with the final scene. Thank you both!"

Translation: our resident twink needs to get mopped up, and also regain language skills. Shang Qinghua stretched, grimacing as his spine and knees cracked — Mobei Jun, have mercy on this poor man's joints! — then settled back into the rumpled sheets with a luxurious sigh. Trust Shen Jiu to spring for the nice linens, even for a porn shoot. They'd be one of the many, many budget lines Shang Qinghua had to parse in the morning. If he survived the night.

Which was looking less and less likely, as he watched Mobei Jun briskly clean himself off from the corner of his eye, and finally got a look at Mobei Jun's ass.

He made a weird noise, even by his standards, because there were asses and there were Asses and then there were carved-from-living-marble altars of mortal glory — and then there was Mobei Jun's ass, which defied words, reason, and probably all the laws of physics. Shang Qinghua had been metaphorically drooling over him all night, but the drooling was very real now! And also mainly happening because Shang Qinghua was pretty sure his throat was broken, but also! That ass! Shang Qinghua was very happy bottoming through life — less exertion, if more clean-up and limping — but…but if Mobei Jun asked…

He'd save that for later, when this was all over and he was back to snuggling his body pillows and jerking off in the tub on his days off. You know, for when reality kicked back in and Mobei Jun disappeared. Because he would! Shang Qinghua knew lightning didn't strike twice!

Ah, no self-pity at work! Just try to get an eyeful now, because in less than two hours you'll never get this chance again!

As if his co-star had heard his horny, sad, wistful thought, Mobei Jun dropped the packet of wet wipes and bent over to retrieve them.

"Thank you," Shang Qinghua whispered, in a cracked voice that sounded nothing like him, and also on the verge of happy tears. "I don't know who I have to thank, but thank you."

The packet hit him in the face mid-prayer. He yelped, aware again of the cold air and the come drying all over him and also the unamused face of Mobei Jun looming close to his. Shang Qinghua's mental thesaurus scrolled through a few more synonyms for beautiful, and landed on incandescent. A very good word, especially for those eyes! But he still had a faceful of plastic, so maybe he should concentrate on that, and save the odes to Mobei Jun for later. When the hugging of body pillows started happening.

"You're a mess," Mobei Jun grunted, shoving at Shang Qinghua's still-splayed legs. "Clean up. They'll be back soon."

"And whose fault is that," Shang Qinghua muttered, though he let himself be shoved until Mobei Jun had enough room to sit on the bed. His arms were about as noodly as his legs — that last orgasm had been a solid 8.5/10 on the going-boneless scale — so he kept dropping the wet wipes, huffing as he tried, and failed, to pull one free.

"Smooth," said Mobei Jun, who was watching with an expression that could have meant boredom, confusion, or the disappointment Shang Qinghua was all too used to weathering. "You sure you don't need help?"

"You didn't break my hands, just my —" For once in his life, Shang Qinghua managed to shut himself up before the really incriminating stuff came out of his mouth, but unfortunately for him, it looked like Mobei Jun had picked up on the context clues. A small, smug grin tugged at the corners of Mobei Jun's mouth, and settled there, possibly to stay. "Never mind!" And don't you have some, like, protein powder to eat by the spoonful, or something? Just so you don't lose a millimeter of ab definition while you're — while you're —

"Fucking you?" Mobei Jun offered, still with that smug grin. Shang Qinghua groaned and let the packet fall onto his face for the final time. "And I don't eat it. I mix it with —"

"I know!" Shang Qinghua squawked. "I know how protein powder works! I know how lots of things work! Except these — these wet wipes! Or just how to open them! It's hard when you're all noodly and the glue they use to seal these things, it's probably illegal, and hey, what's happening? What are you doing?"

Mobei Jun ignored him in favor of peeling open the wet wipe packet. Shang Qinghua braced to get one just tossed on his face, and flinched accordingly, but Mobei Jun just wiped off his chin, with the same brisk efficiency he'd used on himself.

It didn't hurt. Mobei Jun had a surprisingly light touch, when he wanted to! And it was nice to be cleaned up like this, even though Mobei Jun probably just wanted to speed things along so Shang Qinghua wasn't still struggling with a wet wipe packet when Zhuzhi Lang came back into the studio.

"I can finish up," he protested, against every instinct and impulse he possessed, right as Mobei Jun said, "What do you do, when you're done here?"

They looked at each other in silence, while Mobei Jun's hand moved lower, and started cleaning the mess on Shang Qinghua's belly. Which was…a lot to take in, and his dick was taking a valiant interest in what that huge hand was doing, and where. He swallowed hard and licked his lips, wincing when Mobei Jun's eyes fluttered briefly shut — sorry for still being a mess! And probably all red too, on top of sticky and noodly.

"I, uh." Come on, brain! Where are those tens of thousands of words you shit out on a good writing night! Put a sentence together! "I do stuff?"

(As always, Airplane, your eloquence leaves me speechless.)

"What kind of stuff?" said Mobei Jun, like each word was being forced out by sheer force of will.

Shang Qinghua finally pulled his attention away from the hand now cleaning his thighs, and bit his lips closed instead of licking them. Mobei Jun inhaled, sharp and fast. Message received! Shang Qinghua would answer quickly!

"Usually it's late, so I just head home." He shrugged as best he could while lying flat on his back. "I'm a night owl, so I'll get something to eat — there's this great noodle shop near my stop, and it's open all night, so I'll pick something up there, settle in with a drama or with replying to comm — emails, and then I pass out. Nothing exciting."

Mobei Jun hummed, finally done with his clean-up job. He gave Shang Qinghua a once-over, cool and business-like, then wiped his hands clean with the last of the wet wipes and lobbed them, along with the packet, into the waste bin across the studio. He didn't miss, because of course he didn't. And he also didn't add anything to Shang Qinghua's reply, just say, reclining back on his elbows, completely at ease.

"What about you?" Shang Qinghua, who was nowhere near at ease, and probably never had been in his life, managed to ask, when the quiet between them got too heavy. Not uncomfortably heavy, but heavy the way a nice blanket was heavy. Safe. Reassuring.

That was a dangerous way to think, Shang Qinghua knew. So he asked, as much as he wanted to stay in the quiet. Yeah, I know, for once in my life, he thought, before Inner Shen Yuan could interject.

Mobei Jun scratched his chest. "Probably sleep. But food sounds good," he said, glancing back at Shang Qinghua, who shivered under his gaze.

Crystalline. That was a good word for Mobei Jun's eyes, Shang Qinghua decided. They caught the light in amazing ways, when Mobei Jun tilted his head back, still staring at Shang Qinghua down his nose.

Belatedly, he hitched one leg over the other — no need to let go of all his modesty, in spite of this being a porn shoot! — and Mobei Jun's expression darkened. Stayed dark, too, even after Shang Qinghua gave him an apologetic smile. Sorry, Mobei Jun! Next time your scene partner won't let it all hang out till the cameras are rolling!

Ah, but there wouldn't be a next time, would there? This was a one-off, and the clock was ticking. One more scene, and then Mobei Jun really would shower Shang Qinghua off, and stomp out of his life forever.

A pang struck Shang Qinghua's chest, but before he could yell at himself, Zhuzhi Lang burst back in, calling for Xiao Hua. Mobei Jun stood up, cracked his neck twice, and wandered over to the mini-fridge. Shang Qinghua stayed where he was, and stared at the ceiling. If his eyes burned, that was his fault for staring up at the lights.

The next few minutes passed like skips on a record, or frames missing from an old movie reel. Shang Qinghua was lying on the bed, listening to Zhuzhi Lang give a few final notes. Then he was on his knees, his hole clenching around nothing because the plug was gone and he couldn't remember when it had been taken out, or by whom. The distinctive noise of a bottle of lube clicking open, a heavy, cold hand touching his head. Pat, pat. The bed dipping under Mobei Jun's bulk as he climbed behind Shang Qinghua. The red camera light blinking on. The only sounds the air conditioner, and him inhaling in time with Mobei Jun before Zhuzhi Lang called action.                                                                                                    

In hindsight, Shang Qinghua probably jinxed himself when he started feeling all congratulatory about making it through the shoot with only the usual amount of embarrassment. Which was! Quite the accomplishment! Especially given how his tendency to babble while also inserting both feet into his mouth at once sharply increased as the person he was fucking — well, the person who was fucking him — got more and more attractive. Other than the inadvertent groping of Mobei Jun's chest, and some very on-brand rambling, Shang Qinghua had done pretty well! Even that whole "I got off while sucking your dick" thing could be viewed as a compliment!

He really should have expected he'd lose it at some point in the night. And he did, the second he felt Mobei Jun's cool, slicked fingers spreading his ass wide, wide, wide.

"Oh god!" he squealed, unable to help the reflexive urge to wriggle away. At least that could be considered in-character for the shy little twink he was supposed to be, all virginal uncertainty. Mobei Jun's hands were just so cold, even though Shang Qinghua had gotten used to the air conditioner blasting away, and they were on a very sensitive and personal part of his anatomy! Who wouldn't get all wiggly at a moment like this? Even if they'd been wearing a plug for the last forever!

Mobei Jun grunted and slipped one hand down to clasp Shang Qinghua's thigh. His fingers kneaded the soft skin there, rubbing circles Shang Qinghua pretended were soothing and affectionate instead of a silent message to calm the fuck down. "Stay still," he said, squeezing when Shang Qinghua whined and arched his back. "Stop twitching."

Shang Qinghua let his head drop between his shoulders and tried to remember how to breathe like a normal person, all while biting back several sharp replies. "I'm — I'm trying," he whined, breathless. Oh, the virginity kink crowd was going to eat this up! Still! One cold hand wasn't easier to handle than two, Mobei Jun! You try holding still when the man of your dreams starts prodding your chrysanthemum with his icicle fingers!

At least Shang Qinghua could be thankful Mobei Jun hadn't decided to just jam an unlubed finger or four in there, which was something that sounded very sexy in papapa but in reality just led to crying and hiding in the shower. He was surprisingly gentle, if a bit brusque, teasing at Shang Qinghua's rim with soft, rhythmic circles that slowly, slowly started to open him up. It felt…oddly familiar, and also very similar to how Shang Qinghua liked to treat himself when he was doing solo shoots. Well, Mobei Jun said he'd seen a few of his videos, so maybe he was just trying to be a considerate partner.

Shang Qinghua closed his eyes and breathed in through his nose, then out through his mouth. The tip of Mobei Jun's finger slipped into his hole, up to the first knuckle, and Shang Qinghua's surprised gasp almost drowned out the pleased noise Mobei Jun made as he started to thrust, light and shallow.

"Good," was all he said, squeezing Shang Qinghua's thigh again.

At last count, Shang Qinghua had written over eleven million words of papapa. And yes, he may have cheated on more than a few scenes, when he was working on thirty-six hours of being awake and needed to update or he wouldn't pay rent, but! Eleven million words!

And, he'd starred in a not-inconsiderable number of porn films, sometimes in configurations that exceeded his own papapa! Which was all to say that Shang Qinghua should have been well-beyond a compliment or two in bed, no matter how beautiful the person giving it happened to be.


That single word settled at the base of Shang Qinghua's spine, molten-hot and primed to explode. He didn't know what would set it off, only that its fuse was short and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Heat crackled along every nerve, the way it did in the really good papapa scenes, when emotion and desire combined and something — something sublime happened, almost alive, almost close enough to touch. He was shivering, and didn't want to think about why.

(You really are stupid sometimes, bro, said Inner Shen Yuan, a little affection mixed in with the disdain and pity. Like, even by your standards, you're stupid.)

Shang Qinghua ignored him. Now was not the time to get distracted! They'd gone the whole night without having to film a second take and Shang Qinghua was not changing that now!

He opened his eyes, which meant he got a great view of his own dick hanging between his shrimpy thighs, flushed and leaking. Also: he got to see Mobei Jun's thigsh bracketing his own, which was hot enough to feed his sad loser shut-in fantasies for the next twenty years. Well, he'd already known he had a thing for big guys, right? No surprises here.

"Feels good," he said on a gasp, as Mobei Jun thrust a little harder. Still with only one finger, and not deep enough to really set off any fireworks, but finally having something to clench on that was real and not a sparkly blue butt plug sent wave after wave of relief through him.

Mobei Jun added more lube, and pressed his finger deeper, and curling it just so, a wicked tease. Shang Qinghua whined, pushing his hips back into the touch, just like a good horny virgin was supposed to, and blushed when Mobei Jun laughed quietly in response.

"Don't — don't tease," he said, turning to look as well as he could over his shoulder. He could only see the edge of Mobei Jun's face, which gave nothing away. At least he didn't look bored, which would have obliterated Shang Qinghua's soul, instantly. "I want — please —"

Mobei Jun cocked his head enough to make, and hold, eye contact, while he kept thrusting in that unhurried rhythm. "What?" he said, punctuating the question with an especially sharp thrust that made a really helpless noise tumble out of Shang Qinghua's mouth. "What do you want? Use your words."

Mean! So mean! Shang Qinghua whimpered as his dick twitched. "More," he whispered. "More — you can use more —"

"Don't know if I can," Mobei Jun said thoughtfully. "You're awful tight." He pulled his finger free, but before Shang Qinghua could say another word, he slipped two fingers in, all the way to the base.

Shang Qinghua spared a moment in the midst of his pleading and whining to give due credit to Mobei Jun's acting ability. He really could have a career in porn, bullying a long line of poor needy twinks, if he wanted it!

That made something nasty and vinegar-sour twist in the pit of his stomach. The only thing that saved him from thinking about it was Mobei Jun finding his prostate.

"Finding" was a nice way to put it. What Mobei Jun actually did was slide his fingers against it, then press, so suddenly Shang Qinghua howled and clawed at the sheets, tears burning at his eyes. After so much teasing, the pleasure cracked him open, and all he could do was grind back on the fingers, and gasp into the mattress.

"Too — too much —" he managed to choke out, and immediately regretted it when the fingers disappeared. No! No!! Too much doesn't mean stop! He just needed a tiny breather, to gather himself against the onslaught so he didn't embarrass himself by shooting off all over the pricey sheets!

When three fingers teased at his hole, it occurred to him he was already embarrassing himself, what with all the writhing and moaning, which was definitely true to his character but also not. How could it be, when he was being taken apart so effectively?

"You said more," said Mobei Jun, a hint of something dark and pleased at the borders of his voice, and pushed all three fingers into Shang Qinghua's hole, hard enough to stab the breath from his lungs.

Normally that would have sent Shang Qinghua yowling to the other end of the studio, because even with a plug keeping him stretched, taking three fingers always took a bit more prep — but nothing about tonight was normal, and Shang Qinghua was worked up enough to barely feel the sting. He just let out a long moan, head thrown back, then dropped his shoulders to rest on the bed.

"So full," he murmured, eyes drifting shut as Mobei Jun's fingers started to rock back and forth inside, almost soothing compared to the way they'd entered. They just brushed his prostate on each stroke, the little spike of pleasure a pinprick of light against the inside of his lids. He wriggled his hips back, just to take a little more, huffing when Mobei Jun held him steady. "Feels too good."

Mobei Jun's rhythm stuttered. The fingers went still, then pulled out. With them went the hand on his thigh, which was apparently the only thing holding Shang Qinghua upright. He plopped onto the mattress, groaning at the friction against his dick, not even bothering to resist the temptation to grind down, just a bit. Everything felt so good, even the sting in his ass from when he'd been stretched too far, too fast. The only thing that could feel better than this would be — would be Mobei Jun's cock inside him.

Shang Qinghua lifted his head, bleary-eyed, and found Mobei Jun rolling a condom onto his cock in two quick movements. Their gazes locked as Mobei Jun reached back for the bottle of lube, and stayed locked as Mobei Jun poured the lube into the palm of his hand and slicked his cock in messy, uneven strokes.

There was a moment when Shang Qinghua's brain nearly short-circuited — yes, he'd had that beast down his throat less than an hour ago, but looking at it again, dark and heavy and so thick it didn't seem real, he couldn't imagine how it had happened. It all seemed impossible, which, well, was the theme of the night.

If I die, Shang Qinghua thought, as his pulse roared in his ears and his breathing turned into pants, then I will die happy. That's all that matters, right?

Then Mobei Jun clutched his hip, bruisingly tight, pulled him up on his knees, and pressed in, brows pinched together as Shang Qinghua's hole strained to take the head of his cock. He kept making these rough, bitten-off grunts, more air than sound, but each one felt like a punch straight to the chest.

He wasn't even halfway in. Shang Qinghua shouldn't feel like he was about to vibrate out of his skin, or scream, or cry, but he felt all of those things, rising in him like the tide, and the only thing he could do was clutch at the sheets and whine.

"Don't stop," he begged, smashing his face into the mattress. He could feel how red he was, how flushed and hot, how sweaty, and he knew he should care because there were some things no one wanted to see, but all he cared about was the implacable weight of the cool, heavy body bearing down on his. "Don't — don't, oh my god, please, don't — ah, ah!"

His voice climbed into a whine, wordless and sharply cut off as Mobei Jun bottomed out with a groan. He was skewered, trapped on Mobei Jun's cock, and now he was crying, floating unmoored in a sea of arousal.

They were going to have to trash this entire scene, he thought, in the last reasonable corner of his mind. He'd gotten too into it; he'd stopped being aware of how to position himself so the viewers could see everything in the best light, of how to pitch his moans so they didn't sound too breathy and loose on the audio tracks. He'd stopped acting and started wanting, and now his mind kept saying What if this could keep happening? What if he wanted this too?, and he couldn't stop shaking while Mobei Jun slowly, brutally fucked him apart.

Zhuzhi Lang was going to call cut any second now. And Xiao Hua would complain not-so-subtly about the delay, and Mobei Jun would give him another one of those glares, and Shang Qinghua was still going to be pathetic enough to jerk off about this, the best sex of his life, for the next twenty years.

He was reminding himself to focus on the moment, if only so he didn't forget any detail for later, when Mobei Jun stopped thrusting, and shifted his hand from Shang Qinghua's hips to his waist. Then Shang Qinghua was in freefall, tumbling backwards and gasping when his back hit a solid, cool chest. His legs fell open, his dick smeared pre-come across his belly, and Mobei Jen let out another one of those pleased noises as his cock slipped even deeper into Shang Qinghua's hole.

"Oh, oh," he whined, while his head lolled back and finally came to rest on Mobei Jun's shoulder. He tried to close his legs, stupid reflex, but two broad hands cupped the back of his knees and spread him wider, his thighs draped over Mobei Jun's own.

"Yeah," breathed Mobei Jun in his ear, fucking into him with short, almost vicious strokes. "Yeah."

He mouthed at Shang Qinghua's neck, more teeth than tongue, but every nip made Shang Qinghua jolt and writhe and yes, cry a little, because he was being taken apart so completely and the couldn't do anything but gasp for air and blink up at the lights. Which were a big shiny blur, because his glasses were gone, they'd vanished while the record skipped, and he was so exposed, spread open, with fingers rubbing his stretched and swollen rim as he was fucked breathless.

The need to come was driving him out of his mind; Mobei Jun was catching his prostate on every thrust, but after coming twice already, Shang Qinghua needed — more. More friction, more pressure, more attention on his poor neglected dick. So he tried to get a hand around it, but Mobei Jun growled in his ear, stopping him cold.

"No," he snarled, teeth snapping against Shang Qinghua's skin. It should have been terrifying, but Shang Qinghua just moaned, eyes rolling back in his head. "On my — cock."

When Shang Qinghua tried again to start stroking himself, he batted his hands away, then lifted him off his cock — without any apparent strain, which turned what remained of Shang Qinghua's brain to red vapor — until only the head remained inside, then dropped him.

Shang Qinghua wailed until his voice cracked, but Mobei Jun didn't stop. Just lifted him, dropped him, biting at his ear and licking the sore spots while Shang Qinghua sobbed and went boneless, unable to do anything except let himself be fucked. He could hear the noises he was making — tiny, squeaky moans, half-caught in the back of his throat — and he wanted to stop, but the world had narrowed and there was nothing to distract him from the pleasure coiling tighter and tighter in every inch of his body.

"Oh god," he whimpered. "Oh, oh, Mo-Mobei Jun…"

He cringed, waiting for Zhuzhi Lang to call cut — this is why we use stage names, Mobei Jun! — but no one did. No one else seemed to be in the room, and certainly no one said a word as Mobei Jun made a sound like he'd been stabbed and started slamming his hips up, to meet Shang Qinghua as he was impaled on Mobei Jun's cock.

"Shang Qinghua," he said, his mouth so close to Shang Qinghua's they could have kissed — just the thought made Shang Qinghua clutch at the hands on his hips, wild and begging Please, please over and over, even if he didn't know what he was begging for anymore, and —

— and Mobei Jun did kiss him. Messy and wet, their mouths not quite aligning, too much tongue and not enough pressure, and nowhere near ideal or sexy. But it was the spark, the lighting of that short fuse, and when Mobei Jun's hand closed over his cock it was almost redundant, because Shang Qinghua was already exploding.

Two more thrusts, and Mobei Jun joined him, breathing hot against his open mouth as his cock pulsed deep in Shang Qinghua's hole. He stroked Shang Qinghua through his orgasm, even after Shang Qinghua hissed — he was going to be so sore tomorrow — though his touch turned gentle, just the tips of his fingers coaxing out the last few tremors.

They were both shaking now, Shang Qinghua realized. But that didn't seem important, because Mobei Jun's hand cupped his face and brought their mouths together, harsh, almost claiming, and Shang Qinghua didn't see any reason to resist.                        

If Shang Qinghua had been writing this story, he would have ended it with something contrived, and maybe a little trite: the main couple so deep in their own world they didn't notice everyone else leaving, having accepted they were completely unnecessary to the great love story unfolding in front of them. There would have been some tears, some soft touches, a lot of cuddling. He was big on cuddling, even though Shen Yuan never let him get close enough to try and his body pillows weren't anywhere near the real thing. But in fiction? They would cuddle.

But, as this was not a story, as soon as the afterglow began to fade, Mobei Jun made a face like he'd just stepped on a piece of old gum and wiped his hand off on the expensive sheets.

"You're all sweaty," he said, as if that wasn't all his fault! "Move."

"I can't," Shang Qinghua whined, even though Mobei Jun wasn't wrong, and he was also not a fan of how much lube was somehow managing to leak out of his ass. "You broke me. Take responsibility."

"Move," Mobei Jun growled, in a very not-sexy and terrifying way, and then simply lifted Shang Qinghua off his cock and dropped him on the bed. Not meanly! But also not gently. Shang Qinghua even bounced a little when he landed on the very springy and also very expensive mattress.

"Fine." Shang Qinghua pouted while he reached for a corner of the sheets, dabbing the hopeless mess spread over his belly and chest. His dick ached, and there weren't words for what his poor ass was going to be feeling soon enough, but not even the unceremonious finish to the evening was enough to banish the warm, satisfied glow deep under his ribcage. It wouldn't last, but hopefully it would last till he got cleaned up and headed home, so he could start pining in solitude.

"You're all red," said Mobei Jun, as he carefully took off the condom and twisted it closed. "And sticky, too."

The glow decreased by a solid ten percent. He knew he was a mess, but there was no reason to remind him of that! Come on, Mobei Jun, have some respect for the ass you just blasted, if not the person it was attached to! "Well, I couldn't help that," he snarked, wriggling to the edge of the bed. He didn't quite trust his legs yet, so maybe he would just flop here a while longer, before creeping to the showers. Xiao Hua would never let him live it down if he collapsed halfway there. "Comes with the territory."

"It's not a bad thing." Mobei Jun, having disposed of the condom, lay back down on the bed. "It's cute."

Shang Qinghua braced himself for the next jab, but Mobei Jun seemed content to lounge, swiping aimlessly at the fluids staining his thighs. Well, if Shang Qinghua looked like a god among mortals, he'd be content to lounge with it all hanging out, too! But the camera wasn't rolling, so he should probably get a move on, and figure out how to say a non-awkward goodbye, and…

As soon as he started to roll to his side, a hand planted itself on his hip and rolled him back. Shang Qinghua hadn't realized how close they were, despite his wriggling; even without his glasses he could see the thick fringe of lashes around Mobei Jun's eyes, and the hard black ring circling his irises.

Might as well get one last good look, he told himself. Wasn't like he was really capable of walking yet, either.

Mobei Jun frowned at him, which really was just a minuscule contraction of his forehead muscles — still! Shang Qinghua was proud of himself for noticing. If he had more time, he could probably figure out what each little variation of frown or scowl meant. But there was no more time, or at least not much, so he just stared, committing his perfect man to memory.

He'd write a better ending for the night later, he decided. Just for himself. It wasn't hurting anyone if no one else knew, right? And it would be better than just watching this video over and over, pining after what he couldn't have.

Mobei Jun was still frowning. His hand was still on Shang Qinghua's hip. They were still naked, on the bed where they had fucked, and been filmed doing it, and in spite of all Shang Qinghua's experience he couldn't think of any other time when someone had just watched him, calm and silent, once the actual sex was done.

He was going to start babbling soon, he knew it. And once he did, Mobei Jun was going to remember who, exactly, he was fucking, and why, and Shang Qinghua did not want what seemed to be a round of mutually-excellent sex to be derailed by that fact that it was literally all a joke! So he pushed up on one elbow, ready to excuse himself and try to make it to the shower on his noodly, shrimpy legs, without falling over, and then the door opened and three things happened, very quickly.

One: a smiling man in crocs and cut-off overalls on top of a white hoodie stumbled into the room, holding a bubble tea.

Two: Mobei Jun pulled the sheets up over Shang Qinghua, but not himself.

Three: Xiao Hua made a noise somewhere between a scream and a laugh, and knocked over the camera rig.

None of it seemed to be specifically related, and anyways Shang Qinghua missed a few seconds on account of being hidden by the sheets. By the time he untangled himself from several yards of Japanese linen, Zhuzhi Lang was mourning the camera and Xiao Hua staring at the smiling bubble tea man. Who was apologizing, to everyone in earshot, about the camera.

"— so sorry!" he said, gesturing with his bubble tea. "I heard voices from this door, and I knocked before I came in, but I didn't realize this was…ah, a studio! I was just so turned around, looking for the temp agency. I'll be going."

"The temp agency is on the first floor," said Zhuzhi Lang, like he was narrating a funeral. "Ah, gentlemen, I'm sorry, I think the footage is gone. We could reshoot, but…" He gestured at the camera, which was in at least seven different pieces. Shang Qinghua counted.

"Oh, no." The bubble tea man looked heartbroken, which made it difficult to be angry at him, even if he had just destroyed all evidence of Shang Qinghua's dreams coming true. "I'm so — I can replace it, or try to fix it. I'm so sorry!"

"It's fine," said Xiao Hua, in a voice Shang Qinghua had never heard him use before. Cheerful, helpful, almost eager. He angled himself toward the bubble tea man, the way sunflowers leaned toward the sun. "I'll buy a new one. Is gege all right?"

The bubble tea man's cheek pinked, just a little, under Xiao Hua's regard. And Shang Qinghua, who had read too many meet-cutes to count, and also written far more than his fair share, decided he didn't need to know what happened next. After all, the last thing anyone needed to see after getting a taste of what they wanted, but couldn't have, was someone else's love story just getting started.

He gathered his shrimpy, sweaty, pathetic self together and pushed off the bed, without looking once at Mobei Jun. In an hour or so he'd regret skipping his last chance to take a look at his perfect man, but Shang Qinghua had no illusions about himself, and if he looked back he'd just crawl right under the covers and permanently attach himself to one of Mobei Jun's tree-trunk thighs. Which was definitely not allowed, or welcome, or forgivable. So he took himself to the showers, as fast as his legs would carry him, and stayed under the hot water until he was sure everyone else was gone.

No one commented when Shang Qinghua said he'd work from home for the next week, mostly because he claimed he was focusing on budget lines and no one wanted to accidentally get roped into helping. Yue Qingyuan quietly arranged lunch deliveries for him, which Shang Qinghua appreciated even if they did mean more work on the financial end of things, but no one else seemed to notice he was gone.

Shen Yuan, after his first few messages got monosyllables in response, went silent. Call me if you need it, was the last thing he wrote, but Shang Qinghua hadn't bothered to reply. If he did, then he'd have to explain what he was moping over, and he wasn't sure what would be worse: Shen Yuan mocking him, or Shen Yuan sympathizing.

Most telling of all, even Inner Shen Yuan was quiet. Nothing else showed Shang Qinghua the depth of his own ridiculousness quite so well. He really was pathetic, if his own mental critic had powered down.

All for the best, he told himself. If people started getting all concerned about him, they'd want to check in, and then how would he get all his wallowing done? He was on a schedule, after all! By the time he went back to the studio, he had to be over this — well, he couldn't call it a broken heart, could he? Whatever this was, it wasn't quite so easily nailed down, or easily dealt with. It was just…

"Just sex," he told himself, as he bent over his laptop. The numbers swam on the screen, probably because he'd staring at them so long and definitely not for reasons related to the periodic sniffling sounds he was making. And his eyes were red because of allergies, which had just happened to arrive early that year.

It was just sex. Very good sex, possibly the best he'd — no, definitely the best sex he'd ever had, but still just sex. And just because the best sex he'd ever had had been with the most beautiful man he'd ever met, who had made eye contact and called him cute and kissed him

There were little drops of water all over his keyboard. He nudged one with the tip of his pen, while a second and a third joined it. Maybe he should call his landlord about the apparent leak in his ceiling, but that meant getting up and digging his phone out of the pile of unfolded laundry he'd hid it in, and he couldn't quite face that yet. And no, not because he couldn't handle the thought of the screen being blank except for some comment from Shen Yuan about his latest chapter. Definitely not that. After all, why would any other messages come through? He'd left too quickly to give Mobei Jun his ID, and anyways it wouldn't have been wanted! It was business! It was just sex!

Sex with a holy-assed, cut-marble, blue-eyed god, who had apparently been grown in a lab by scientists who had read every yearning, hopeful word Shang Qinghua had ever written, and then was sent to torment Shang Qinghua with all the things he specifically could never have. Or at least, not have for long.

If Shang Qinghua had known sex with Mobei Jun would have left him too sad to even jerk off to the memory, he never would have indulged! Better to never know what you're missing than find out all too well, and never be able to forget!

When he wasn't poking at layers of spreadsheets that made it clear they should start investing in lube by the barrel, he was writing. If he was going to be broken-hearted, despite knowing he had no reason to be, he might as well funnel it into his work, right? Make it useful, make it pretty. Make it an escape, where someone would have a happy ending, even if it wasn't him.

How strange, Zhou Li thought to himself, as the general glowered at him from the mess they'd made of the blankets. One always thought of blue eyes being cold, and yet blue stars burned hottest. Perhaps there was more to this man, stern and unyielding, than was immediately apparent. Perhaps he should stay, and find out.

It was the best kind of time travel. No consequences, no risk. These written versions of himself, endlessly refracted, could be wanted. Sure of their welcome. They could stay, as long as they liked.       


There was a limit to just how much wallowing he could do, even if there was a certain luxuriousness to weeping all over a multitude of body pillows. So, on the seventh day, Shang Qinghua packed up his laptop and headed into Cang Qiong Studio, just after nine in the morning. He hadn't been sleeping, just staring at his ceiling and being very tired of himself, so the decision to finish the budgets in the old, dusty conference room had been an easy one. After all: no self-pity at work! He was very much intending to abide by that policy!

And, if nothing else, Shen Jiu might be floating around, and could distract Shang Qinghua by being all snide and sneering!

Shen Jiu was not floating around when he arrived; the main building doors weren't even unlocked. The only people in evidence were the terrifying caterers from upstairs, who were waiting by the elevator and arguing about teachers, or something. Shang Qinghua hunched in on himself to avoid their notice, but as usual, being openly miserable was way better camouflage. No one ever wanted to talk to someone in their mid-twenties who'd obviously spent half the night crying.

Well, that ends now! I'm at work, so I'm all business. I am competent! I have restraint! I am only allowed to cry in a bathroom stall once, if absolutely necessary!

He was trying to think of the best stall to accomplish the potential crying in — privacy, sound-absorbing, and a locking door were all non-negotiable requirements — when he realized the red-eyed terrifying caterer was staring at him.

(Too bad you can't play dead like a possum, said Inner Shen Yuan. It was the first time he'd spoken all week. Not that it would help you, this guy doesn't look easy to fool.)

"Uh," Shang Qinghua said, offering a weak smile. "Good morning?" Whatever I did, please don't kill me. Or at least kill me fast!

The red-eyed caterer gave him a narrow look, lip curling in clear disgust, then sighed and pulled out his phone. He did not acknowledge Shang Qinghua again. Neither did the other terrifying caterer, who was even bigger than his red-eyed business partner. Shang Qinghua hadn't realized that was possible.

Moments later, the elevator arrived. The caterers, back to their teacher-related argument, didn't notice or didn't care when Shang Qinghua took the stairs instead.                                                                                                    

When the conference room door opened, Shang Qinghua didn't bother looking up. He was almost done with his summary — which, as usual, boiled down to Stop letting Shen Jiu use the company card for his 3am Taobao retail therapy. The challenge was saying so in a way that wouldn't ensure his immediate, messy death! — and he'd promised himself he could go out for lunch when he finished. But he was riding that thin line between hunger-as-incentive and hunger-as-distraction, and the fact that whoever just walked in had clearly brought fried noodles with them was tipping him toward the distraction side. And fast.

"Almost there," he said. "But you'll be pleased to know I figured out how we can afford to replace the rig Xiao Hua, ah, broke. Accidentally, of course! Please let him know that I definitely know it was accidental and do not hold it against him." Even if it means now there's no way to prove that once upon a time a mousy shrimpy little twink named Shang Qinghua had sex with a man so perfect and so mean and so well-hung it beggars the imagination.

He managed to swallow down that thought before he spoke it into the world, and took off his glasses to rub at his sore, gritty eyes. The person was still standing in the doorway, blurred by the soft lights and smelling very strongly of the cold air from outside. Also of fried noodles. The combination was doing funny things to Shang Qinghua's miserable, sleep-deprived brain, so he didn't notice at first they weren't replying, or moving, or doing anything that wasn't standing in the doorway like a creep.

"Sorry?" He squinted at their massive figure, wondering if it was Ming Fan, being all pissed off he couldn't use the conference room for a sneaky nap. But Ming Fan wasn't so big, was he? No one at the studio was, and this person had shoulders wide enough to fill the doorway. His heart kicked painfully, once. "Do you need some help? Are you —"

"Shang Qinghua," said Mobei Jun, in a blast of sub-zero rage. "It's been a week."

"What — why?" he squeaked, rocking back in his chair while he scrabbled for his glasses. No, no, bad idea! He didn't want to see his death coming at him! Leave them safe on the table! "Ah, how —"

Something heavy thudded on the table. Mobei Jun's blurred form left the doorway to loom over Shang Qinghua, pinning him against the wall and cutting off all hope of escape. "A week," he said, an unplaceable emphasis on the second word.

How odd; he almost sounded like he was out of breath. Probably because of the cold, Shang Qinghua decided. Mobei Jun seemed wreathed in chill winds. He wore the winter like an old, tattered cape.

Remember that for later, Shang Qinghua! It's such a good line. You know, if you survive to write again!

"I'm sorry?" he said. Bad start! He could feel Mobei Jun's scowl, even if Mobei Jun's face was still all blurry and shadowed. "No, I am sorry. Let me — let me make it up to you, Mobei Jun! Whatever the problem is, I'll take care of it! That's what I do here, well, part of what I do here. You know the ah, the rest. But never mind that! Was your check late? It wouldn't bounce, ha, I would know since I take care of the money! Or was there another problem?"

Please don't have come here just to tell me how bad it was for you, he thought, fighting against the urge to just hide under the table. Which, really, was subordinate to the real urge, which was to grab the closest bits of Mobei Jun's body and attach himself like a lamprey. I couldn't take that. Leave me my delusion that you at least liked it, a little!

"Another problem." Mobei Jun somehow managed to laugh tersely. "Yes, I think there is one."

Shang Qinghua felt his chest shrivel. One more sentence, one more word, in that tone, and his bones would turn to dust. "Well, ah," he began, aware of how his throat clicked as he spoke. "I'm sorry to hear that. Really, I'm — we try hard to make sure everyone is comfortable here, but I understand sometimes things, uh, happen, and if you'd like to talk to Yue Qing —"


"O-okay?" Then what do you want? Why are you here? What am I supposed to do with this? Also why are you talking to me, when I'm getting the feeling I'm the problem you're so pissed about? Help me just a little, buddy!

"It's been a week," Mobei Jun said, then paused.

In the quiet, a tiny flash of irritation burst past Shang Qinghua's misery and anxiety, and kick-started his mouth.

"I'm aware!" he snapped. "So give me a hint, please, so I can figure this out!" He winced at the pleading note in his voice, which made the semi-righteous anger waver a bit, but then Mobei Jun said, "I waited," and his brain screeched to a halt.

Briefly! Very briefly! But for a full two seconds, Shang Qinghua's brain was empty of any thoughts at all. A record, probably, but he was too busy gaping up at Mobei Jun to care.

"For what?" he said.

Mobei Jun let out the world's most long-suffering sigh. "Shang Qinghua."

"Because honestly, you could have just talked to Sha Hualing — you didn't have to wait for help, you could have just texted, so really it's not on me at all, is it? If you waited? I'm sorry that you did but please, don't take it out on me, I'm just —"

"I waited," Mobei Jun said, clearly through gritted teeth and at the tail end of his patience, "for you."

This time, the silence in Shang Qinghua's head lasted for at least ten seconds. Which was a pretty conservative amount of time, given what had just been said, and by whom.

"But why?" he asked, why his neurons started firing again.

There were no words for the noise Mobei Jun made, though in a pinch Shang Qinghua would have called it volcanic frustration. "Shang Qinghua."

(For fuck's sake, howled Inner Shen Yuan, who sounded on the verge of tears. Please, give this one conscious thought or put me out of my misery.)

Mobei Jun shoved the heavy object across the table in Shang Qinghua's direction. At last, the source of the delicious fried-noodle smell was uncovered. Shang Qinghua would have figured it out sooner, if he wasn't so busy ignoring the obvious.

He's a big fan, Sha Hualing had told him.

It's been a week, Mobei Jun had said. I waited.

What do you do, when you're done here?

I'll get something to eat — there's this great noodle shop near my stop…what about you?

Food sounds good.

"You didn't say what kind you liked," Mobei Jun said. Shang Qinghua would never say so out loud, but he almost sounded nervous. "So I got four. Four kinds."

Shang Qinghua nodded, reached out for the bag. It was still warm. Maybe he should be bothered about Sha Hualing's maneuverings, but…Mobei Jun was here. Close enough to touch. Why waste time on anger? On anything that wasn't this moment? "I'm not picky," he said, not daring to look up. Not that he'd see anything if he did, without his glasses on. "I, uh, tha —"

"You left before I could ask." The accusation in Mobei Jun's voice was clear, but faint enough Shang Qinghua could ignore it. "And I waited. For a week."

A week during which Shang Qinghua cried into cup after cup of instant noodles, and onto his keyboard, and in the bathtub. Really, you'd think an author would be better at picking up on context clues, but maybe Shen Yuan was right, and he was actually a hack.

Not a hack, he thought. Just an idiot.

"I…yeah." He sighed and let go of the bag. His stomach rumbled plaintively, but it could wait just a little bit longer. "I guess…I'm sorry, Mobei Jun. I didn't —"

"And you left me," Mobei Jun interrupted, "with your cameraman, and his…new person."

The amount of offense in his voice was nearly at critical mass. Shang Qinghua couldn't help looking up with a helpless grin. "Uh, sorry for that, too? I didn't know that was going to happen, honest, I've never seen the bubble tea g—"

He was cut off by strong, callused fingers catching his jaw. Mobei Jun was close enough for Shang Qinghua to smell his breath: harsh and just-brushed minty. It made his heart kick again.

"Shang Qinghua," said Mobei Jun. "Do I need to be clearer?"

From anyone else, it would have been an obnoxious question. In that moment, it was a simple request: what do you need from me, to believe what is happening?

Later, Shang Qinghua would regret skipping the chance to get an honest statement about feelings out of Mobei Jun — he figured those were pretty hard to come by, and was it really a romance if the climax didn't have a good grovel and/or heart-to-heart? But --

— but a week was long enough to wait. And Mobei Jun was here! Still a bit out of breath but with his teeth brushed, with noodles, waiting on Shang Qinghua's word before he took the next step. He was here, and the least Shang Qinghua could do was take a little on faith.

He could do a little more than that, actually!

He leaned forward, almost falling out of his chair along the way, but Mobei Jun's arms caught him and pulled him upright. Shang Qinghua used the momentum to push up on his toes for a kiss, which landed about halfway down Mobei Jun's chin — damn this height difference, and also his lack of glasses! — but the pleased noise Mobei Jun made, still familiar after a week since the last time Shang Qinghua had heard it, more than made up for it.

Then they were kissing, slow and languid, like they already knew how the other wanted to be touched, and held, and moved. Which wasn't totally wrong, after all! They'd had a crash course in this exact subject last week, and Mobei Jun hadn't forgotten any of it.

He had a moment of sheer panic when he felt Mobei Jun tugging his hoodie off and remembered he was wearing his hamster one — with the ears and the zipper in the hood and the little tail on the back — but Mobei Jun just huffed and whispered "Cute," in his ear, and well, if cute was what got Mobei Jun's motor running, who was Shang Qinghua to complain?

"Wait," he gasped, when they finally parted long enough for him to inhale. "Wait, ah, Mobei Jun? How did you…how did you know I was here today?"

Mobei Jun's hands were under his shirt, cool fingers pinching hard enough to leave little marks. "Luo Binghe texted me," he said, as if this should have been obvious.

"Oh, got it." Shang Qinghua nodded. "Who's Luo Binghe?"

"Caterer." Mobei Jun's mouth was on his neck, licking, sucking. "Works upstairs. A friend."

"Is he — oh, oh god, right there, yeah — is he the one with the eyes, or the really, really big one? Because — fuck I have no idea —"

"With the eyes," said Mobei Jun. "Stop talking, Shang Qinghua."

"Hey, rude!" Shang Qinghua grabbed a fistful of Mobei Jun's shirt and yanked until he thought Mobei Jun was looking at him. He really should have put his glasses on. "Also, don't you want me to eat the noodles?"

He was just trying to be a little shit, and didn't actually want Mobei Jun to stop kissing or licking or pinching him, like ever, but he couldn't resist! A person deserved to tease their boyfriend, just a little! And they were boyfriends now, right? Or close enough?

"Not now," said Mobei Jun, interrupting Shang Qinghua's mental ramblings. "We'll reheat them."

Before Shang Qinghua could protest — he really was hungry, Mobei Jun, and what they were about to do would burn a lot of calories! — Mobei Jun had unzipped his jeans, and Shang Qinghua's brain went silent for the third, and final, time that day.                                                                                          

One of the many benefits to working at a porn studio was no one could really complain when they walked in on your boyfriend — your boyfriend!! — blowing you on the conference room table. Not that it stopped Shen Jiu from trying, but Shang Qinghua, for once, didn't care.

And the noodles, it turned out, were delicious.