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an act too often neglected

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Lan Xichen likes sex because he likes people. Making them feel good makes him feel good too--in a mild, contented sort of way, like stepping back from a finished project and putting his hands on his hips and nodding in satisfaction at a job well done. He enjoys being a considerate, thoughtful lover in the same way that he enjoys picking up a stray piece of litter as he passes through the park on his way to work--it’s the warm, glowing feeling that in some small way, he’s left the world just a little bit better and nicer than he found it. 

He tries not to indulge in this feeling too much, because that way lies arrogance.

He likes sex, and he has a reasonable amount of it. He’s aware that he could probably have more if he wanted. 

He tries not to think about that either, because that way lies vanity, and it must be guarded against as firmly as arrogance. 

There are a number of things that must be guarded against. 

Promiscuity probably ought to be one of them, but Lan Xichen doesn’t see the harm of having sex--as long as he’s picking up the litter and leaving the park nicer than it was before, surely that’s a net positive for the world, isn’t it? Why does it matter how many different parks he walks through? Relationships just don’t seem to work for him--sometimes he’ll find some charming young man and spend a few months with him, but the initial spark never seems to kindle into a flame, and he’s never been able to figure out why. Eventually the time between their texts begins to grow longer, and weekly dates begin getting rescheduled, and then canceled, and suddenly he realizes one day that it’s been three or four weeks since either he or the young man of the moment initiated a conversation, and he understands with a soft wistfulness that he’s come to the end of that particular walk in that particular park. 

Once, he wondered whether all those young men were leaving him better than they found him too. This was too troubling to think about, so he simply set it aside, like an ugly knickknack from a relative, placed on top of the bookshelf where an accidental glance won’t fall on it too easily. 

He is not unhappy. He has his career, and his family, and his health, and his pastimes, and a more than sufficient amount of sex. He gets to make people feel good. He is content. 

(Once, just once, one of his lovers had grown frustrated with him. “But what do you want?” the young man had demanded, nearly in tears. “Why won’t you want anything?” Lan Xichen hadn’t understood the question. That had been more upsetting than anything else. He set that ugly knickknack on top of the bookshelf too, but despite his best efforts, his mental eye still snags on it sometimes. He still doesn’t understand the question, and that is still upsetting. It disrupts his sense of contentment.)

*

There’s a kind of ritual to hookups, a dance of set steps. The initial assessment of attraction, a little flirtation, perhaps the exchange of a few personal anecdotes or a little discussion about preferences and kinks, and then the arrangement of the assignation. Once they’ve met and reassessed attraction, there’s a little more flirtation--or seduction, or flat-out foreplay--and then Lan Xichen makes his partner come however they prefer and as many times as they’re in the mood for, and he usually gets off himself somewhere in the process. With the nicer sort of hookup, there’s a bit of cuddling in the afterglow before Lan Xichen politely excuses himself to go home. If it was particularly good, he leaves his number and earnestly assures his lover that he would enjoy a repeat performance if they’re ever interested. Sometimes they call him, sometimes they don’t. 

*

It begins the same way they always begin: Lan Xichen is lying in bed at the end of a long day, swiping through his favored dating app. 

Well, it’s not quite how they always begin--the single faceless, anonymous photograph on the profile that catches his eye is shot in elegant black-and-white, and there’s something about the crispness of the focus and the markedly off-center composition that says art, for once, rather than mugshot: A bare male torso, suit pants slung low on narrow hips, one hand tucked behind his back as he leans against a wall, the other raised to presumably cup the back of his own neck. Xichen spends several long seconds staring at the one visible nipple in the photograph, the shadowed dip of navel, the slope of hipbone, the trim musculature--a swimmer, perhaps, or a dancer. There is little else to be gleaned from these few features. It is a nice body. A very nice body.

The caption below is equally sparse: “5’6. Demanding.” 

Lan Xichen feels a low simmer of arousal kindle in the pit of his stomach, and he gazes at that word-- demanding --for nearly as long as he’d stared at the photograph. He swipes right.

A few minutes later, a notification pops up: < Hm, the size of your hands is promising.

This is familiar. This is the flirtation stage. Lan Xichen knows the steps to the dance. 

Or… he thought he did. There’s something unusual here, as unexpected as the artistry of the photograph, but Lan Xichen can’t quite put his finger on it. Perhaps it’s the way the man fires off questions at him--he feels a little like he’s being tested, but he’s not sure what the testing is about specifically. The man is… smart. Clever. That much is obvious. And, apparently, if it was a test, then Lan Xichen must pass. The man asks for (demands) some, ahem, intimate photographs, and then the strangeness passes and they’re back on solid, familiar ground. 

Lan Xichen has a whole collection of, ahem, intimate photographs in different styles, which he picks from based on the individual man he’s talking to. Some really do want the dick mugshot and couldn't care less about composition or chiaroscuro; some find more artistic pictures actively a turn-off, as if Xichen is implying that he’s better than them, or that he’s presumptuous and full of himself for bothering to taking the time to light a shot nicely or frame his body as a desirable thing, rather than a neutral, valueless object. But this man, Lan Xichen knows instinctively, will want the best of the lot. 

There’s a very long silence before the man replies, nearly two minutes.

< Well.
< Someone’s blessed.
< And biddable, apparently.

Lan Xichen feels like--like being at the symphony, enraptured in the music and unconsciously leaning forward in his seat as the piece begins to rise to the climax. And rise. And rise. And rise, while his breath gets short and his focus narrows to exclude all else.

               > Is that what you like? 

< Blessed and biddable? I certainly don’t hate it.

Usually the flirtation stage is at least a day or two, but the man invites (demands) him to come over within the hour. He gives Lan Xichen the address to a cafe with the sharp instruction to text when he arrives and then wait: < I don’t give my home address out to strangers, obviously. 

Lan Xichen finds himself almost fumbling as he gets his shoes, coat, and scarf on and stuffs his phone and wallet into his pockets. He feels… nervous. He hasn’t felt nervous to meet someone in ages, and for the life of him, he can’t figure out why tonight is any different. 

He texts when he’s at the cafe, and then he waits. 

And waits.

And waits. 

His nervousness spikes into concern, and then worry, and then a little anxiety--perhaps he’d said something wrong. Perhaps he’d failed those tests after all. 

Finally, after nearly twenty minutes: < Sorry, slightly delayed. What are you wearing?

               > Beige coat, blue scarf, Xichen replies, and suddenly he’s breathless with anticipation again.

He must live quite close, because it really does take only a minute or two before the cafe door opens, jangling the bell hung on the handle, and a young man bundled in a long coat comes in, lifts his eyes to look around, and locks almost immediately on Lan Xichen, who finds to his surprise that he is standing. 

Lan Xichen had been picturing someone pretty, but pretty doesn’t really fucking cover it. The young man is surpassingly lovely, with elegantly handsome features, neither too strong nor too delicate. He also had a shuttered-off expression when he first entered the door, but as he stares at Lan Xichen, it all melts away to blank surprise. His eyes flick down to Lan Xichen’s scarf, his coat, back up to his face. Lan Xichen had noticed before, while they were talking, that the man was clever and sharp, but… 

Why don’t you want anything? that former lover had cried, and Lan Xichen hadn’t understood. For years, he’s failed to understand that question--he’s worried over it like a dog with a bone, he’s wrung his hands about it, he’s prodded that memory in his mind like an almost-faded bruise to feel it ache again.

Now, in between one breath and the next, he understands.

Now, in between one breath and the next, he learns what wanting is. This man--small and bright-eyed and imperious and lovely--Lan Xichen wants him. 

He wants him, and failing that, he wants whatever he can get, even if that’s just half an hour of conversation. Xichen is helpless to do anything but smile at him, transfixed.

The man collects himself, comes forward, gives his name (Meng Yao, his name is Meng Yao; Lan Xichen is dying to ask which yáo it is, just in case he needs to write it down on a piece of paper surrounded by hearts and stars, a thing that he has never done with anyone’s name before but suddenly needs very badly to do with Meng Yao’s), and graciously accepts Lan Xichen’s offer to buy him a cup of tea and some pastries to share. 

Lan Xichen feels a little like he’s dying. He’s light-headed and woozy, and his mouth keeps going dry every time he looks at Meng Yao. If it weren’t for the decade of etiquette and comportment lessons his uncle had forced on him, he’d be stumbling and stammering his way through the conversation. He stares at Meng Yao’s delicate little mouth. He stares at Meng Yao’s small, well-manicured hands. He feels like he is dying. 

He keeps his hands on his lap below the edge of the table they’re sitting at so that Meng Yao won’t see that he’s clenched them both on the hem of his coat so hard that his knuckles are white.

He has no idea what they’re talking about. His mouth is moving, and apparently coherent words are coming out, because Meng Yao is looking at him attentively over the edge of the teacup and occasionally saying something in reply, but Lan Xichen is damned if he can remember any of it. It’s like a dream.

It’s also like a dream when Lan Xichen blinks and somehow finds himself following Meng Yao up a flight of stairs and standing behind him while he unlocks an apartment door. Another blink and his coat and shoes are off and Meng Yao is seizing him by the front of his shirt and shoving him onto the couch, climbing onto his lap, and kissing him.

He only really gets snapshots after that. The fierce little sounds Meng Yao makes; the smug hum of satisfaction, almost a purr, when he runs his hands over Lan Xichen’s chest and shoulders. The hitch of his breath when Lan Xichen bites his neck. His hands shoving into Lan Xichen’s pants and pulling out his cock, and how they’re slightly too small to wrap all the way around it--Lan Xichen has never been moved by that before, but now the very sight has his heart tripping in his chest, his blood rushing in his ears, and his cock straining and jerking against Meng Yao’s palm.

Snapshots: Meng Yao shoving him onto his back and biting his chest like something wild and feral.

His own hands clutching desperately at Meng Yao’s hips, trying to pull him closer. 

Getting Meng Yao under him somehow, his shirt rucked up high enough for Lan Xichen to suck at his nipple--the one he’d stared at in the photograph--until it’s red and wet and Meng Yao is squirming and gasping and yanking at his hair. 

Wrestling Meng Yao’s pants open, swallowing Meng Yao’s cock before he even has a chance to look at it.

The weight of him in Lan Xichen’s mouth. 

The shape of his hips as Lan Xichen’s hands grip onto them like the only rock in a tempest. 

The clean, warm scent of his skin. 

The texture of the neatly-trimmed hair at the base of his cock brushing against Lan Xichen’s upper lip whenever he dips down that far. 

His pulse. 

His hands in Lan Xichen’s hair, guiding him, demanding.

The sharp pain in his scalp as Meng Yao pulls his hair hard and comes, some unknown amount of time later, curling over Lan Xichen’s head so far that his heaving breaths gust against the top of Lan Xichen’s head. The bitter taste of him on the back of Lan Xichen’s tongue as he shudders to pieces. 

Time slows back down--Meng Yao groans and collapses onto his back, but Lan Xichen keeps mouthing gently at his cock, not withdrawing until he’s gone completely soft, a silk-slick and tender mouthful. 

Breathless (or is it just that Meng Yao is breathtaking?), Lan Xichen sits back. He’s kneeling on the carpet--he doesn’t remember moving off the couch--and he notices first that Meng Yao’s cock is as pretty as the rest of him, as nice to look at as it had been to feel in his mouth. The second thing he notices is that he himself is as weak-limbed and languorous as if he too had just come. The third thing he notices is that he has come, all over the carpet and the side of Meng Yao’s nice leather couch. He doesn’t remember when that was--he doesn’t think he even touched himself. He’d been holding onto Meng Yao the whole time--he still is, thumbs rubbing over the twin juts of Meng Yao’s sharp hipbones.

“Give me a moment,” Meng Yao rasps. “I’ll--ah--be with you in just a moment, to return the favor.” 

Lan Xichen swallows--he can still taste him. “No need,” he manages. “I, ah, already.” He swallows again. “Are there tissues anywhere convenient?”

Meng Yao raises his head and peers at him, then with a great effort shoves himself up on one elbow and peers down at Lan Xichen’s cock. After a long, pensive moment he says, “Huh.” He gestures vaguely somewhere behind Lan Xichen. “Table by the armchair.”  As Lan Xichen staggers to his feet and fetches the box of tissues, feeling as wobbly and ungainly as a colt, Meng Yao says in a wryly conversational tone, “Does that happen to you often?”

Lan Xichen hasn’t blushed in years. His ears feel hot as he kneels again. “Ah. What part, specifically?” 

“Coming untouched. Getting off just because you got someone else off.” 

He clears his throat, wiping up as much of the mess as he can. “Ah, no. I do enjoy pleasing my partners, but... No, never.”

“Hm.” He sounds smug. “Interesting.” Lan Xichen balls up the used tissues, sets them aside, and looks up to find Meng Yao glancing away, as if he’d just been watching him but didn’t want to be caught at it. Meng Yao sits up sharply and begins tidying himself, straightening his shirt and doing up his pants with quick, deft fingers. “Well! Thank you for coming over, that was very nice.” 

Lan Xichen knows a cue for Please leave now when he sees one. He doesn’t want to leave. He wants to lay his head in Meng Yao’s lap and kiss his stomach and his hipbones and get his clothes off properly. He wants to run his hands over every inch of Meng Yao’s skin and find out what other places, when bitten or sucked or licked, will make his breath hitch again.

But overstaying one’s welcome is absolutely forbidden, so he begins getting himself in order as well. “If you would like to do this again,” he says, not quite able to tear his eyes away from Meng Yao, “then I would like that too.” He’s made that offer dozens of times. He’s never been so worried that the answer might be no, thank you. He’s never worried at all, even when that was the answer.

Meng Yao gives him a politely confused look. “Again?”

“Yes. Another day, I mean.”

A flicker of a frown between Meng Yao’s eyebrows before that shuttered-off expression comes over his face, the one he’d been wearing when he first walked into the cafe. “You’re welcome to send me a message on the app,” he says, his tone entirely pleasant.

“May I give you my phone number?”

Another politely confused expression, this one faintly incredulous. “What for?”

“So you can reach me, if you’d like to... do this again.”

“If I’d like to.”

“Yes. Or if you’d like to talk, or go for dinner.”

Very, very politely, Meng Yao says, “Surely someone like you is very busy. I’m sure there are many things vying for your attention--I wouldn’t want to become a nuisance.” 

“You couldn’t be,” Lan Xichen’s mouth says, far too earnestly. The incredulous, confused expression has entirely vanished; Meng Yao looks only supremely polite. Lan Xichen’s heart quails in a way he has never experienced before. It feels like dying again, but in a much worse sort of way. “I apologize,” he says, tentative, trying to find his footing. “Now I’m afraid that I’m the one who’s being a nuisance.” 

“Not at all,” Meng Yao says immediately, but it’s in that same frictionless, polite voice, so Lan Xichen doesn’t quite believe him.

Somehow, he musters up a smile. “Ah. Well. I’ll say goodnight, then.” He goes to the door and gets his shoes on; he hears Meng Yao follow him. He shrugs into his coat, wraps the scarf around his neck, and steadies his courage to look at Meng Yao once more. “It was truly lovely to meet you,” he says--his voice is softer than he intends. 

Meng Yao’s polite facade flickers once more, but it’s too fast for Lan Xichen to catch whatever emotion that was. “Here, hold on,” he says, and he turns to the coat rack, digging through the pockets until he produces a pen. “Give me your hand.” Lan Xichen does, and Meng Yao writes a number across his palm. “It might get smudged before you can write it down,” Meng Yao murmurs, his eyelashes lowered. “A common misfortune.”

Lan Xichen has another moment of epiphany, another great understanding between one breath and the next: Meng Yao is giving him excuses. Lan Xichen has heard people make all manner of promises in the heat of the moment and the afterglow. Meng Yao has probably heard his fair share too--he must think Lan Xichen is saying something he’ll regret in the morning when all the endorphins have worn off. Meng Yao is trying to save him that embarrassment with this convenient little out. If Lan Xichen makes it home and thinks better of it, all he has to do is briefly forget the number on his hand and then… Oops, it was washed away, how sad. And Meng Yao would understand--it is, after all, a common misfortune

Or perhaps Lan Xichen is simply indulging in wishful thinking, and Meng Yao really doesn’t care to see him again. 

Another few polite exchanges of farewell, and then the apartment door clicks shut behind him and he’s standing in the hall with a phone number on his hand, a light ache of exertion in his jaw, the post-coital buzz still thrumming along his nerves, and a hurricane of wanting in his heart which he is somehow going to have to learn to live with now. 

Right there on the welcome mat, he digs his phone out of his pocket and enters the number into his contacts list, copies it into his notes app, emails it to himself, and takes a photograph of his hand. 

There. Four failsafes ought to be enough. 

*

He manages to make it until noon the next day before he texts Meng Yao. Hello, this is Lan Xichen. :) I meant it that I’d like to take you to dinner sometime.

The ‘read’ receipt pops up within ten seconds. 

Hours pass without acknowledgement.

His heart quails again.

Lan Xichen… mopes. Yet another thing he has never done before in his life. 

It isn’t even an elegant, wistful sort of moping, the sort of delicate melancholy that might move a scholar to poetry. It’s just a drudging, sore-hearted kind of moping. It feels like his emotions have a head cold. He can’t make it stop. He tries several times to make it stop, to simply set the feeling aside as he has done any other time an unpleasant emotion has become troublesome. 

It does not work. 

He finds this faintly horrifying. Has he gone mad? Did having sex with Meng Yao last night push him over some numeric threshold from “has had fair amount of sex” to “promiscuous”? Is this why promiscuity should be guarded against? Uncle had always warned that to indulge in one vice was to open the door to a host of others--perhaps all Lan Xichen’s chickens were coming home to roost now, and he would slowly begin to descend into debauchery, intemperance, and corruption. Was there anything to be done? Was there any way to fend off his imminent fall into dissolution? Should he take a vow of celibacy? Should he become a monk? Is this what was meant by “desire is the root of all suffering”?

So: Unable to not mope, he mopes. He drags himself through the rest of his day, drags himself home, doesn’t bother to straighten his shoes neatly when he takes them off, scuffles into his bedroom, changes into pajamas, and crawls directly into bed. Perhaps he will simply close his eyes and die here.

His phone pings with a text message alert.

He almost falls out of bed in his hurry to grab his discarded pants, lying in a pile on the floor with his other clothes, and feverishly fumble out his phone. 

He sees Meng Yao’s name on the notification bar and his heart leaps into his throat; he sees the preview text, I don’t think that’s a good idea[...], and it plummets down to his feet. His hands almost shaking, he opens the text, desperately hoping that there’s anything more to the message. There isn’t. The words glare into his eyes, the screen too bright. 

< I don’t think that’s a good idea.

He wants to ask why. He wants to beg for a reason. But Meng Yao doesn’t need a reason. He types a response slowly: > I understand. But Meng Yao wouldn’t have given him his phone number if he wasn’t at least open to conversing a little, right? > If you prefer things casual, I also meant it when I said I’d like to repeat last night.

The message is read right away, but it still takes a few minutes to see the ‘typing’ bubble, and then a few minutes more for the message to appear.

< I don’t think that would be wise either.

               > Wise? What do you mean?, Lan Xichen sends before he can think better of it, and then winces. > I’m sorry. I shouldn’t press you like that. You don’t need to explain yourself to me. And then, a third message, because he can’t stop his fingers: > I’m afraid that I must have made you uncomfortable or disappointed you somehow. If this is the case, then I cannot apologize enough. Would you prefer for me to delete your number?

This time the response is almost instantaneous: < You didn’t disappoint me. You didn’t do anything wrong. The typing bubble appears again, and then: < You were a perfect gentleman. Your performance and behavior was exemplary. Please don’t concern yourself about that. That’s some small relief, but it doesn’t do anything to quell the plaintive little voice in his head that cries out, Then why?  

               > If you’re certain that I shouldn’t, then I will try not to.

< I am certain. It has nothing to do with anything you did. It’s just the situation, Meng Yao says. < I just think it would be too complicated.

Lan Xichen’s heart falls even further.

               > Ah. :( Well, if anything changes, please feel free to reach out again. I mean that.

< Thank you for a lovely evening.
< I mean that too. 

Lan Xichen wants to reply again--he needs to tell Meng Yao how splendid he was, how Lan Xichen’s world shifted on its axis the moment he laid eyes on him. How Lan Xichen is never going to be able to forget him, how one dream-hazy half hour on a couch turned him upside down and shook him and how he doesn’t even recognize himself anymore. Words cannot capture the enormity of what has happened to him, and even if they could, telling Meng Yao what an effect he’d inadvertently had would be… too much, for too many reasons.

He turns off his phone, shoves his face into the pillows, and tries to learn to live with this vastness of feeling.

*

Perhaps this is how people feel when they’ve been dumped. 

Lan Xichen has never been dumped. He has drifted into romantic connections, and then he has drifted back out of them, or they’ve drifted away from him, or it has come to a mutual and natural end. 

He’s aware that he’s being excessive. Excesses of emotion are yet another moral weakness that his uncle had warned him about, growing up. He can’t help it. A week passes, and the moping doesn’t go away, and he can’t make it go away. He’s apparently moping loudly enough that it shows through his attempts to mask it when he’s around other people--at the office, his uncle’s secretary asks Lan Xichen if he is well, and notes with concern that he’s seemed “a little down”. He suspects even Wangji has noticed, judging by the amount of glances he’s caught Wangji giving him out of the corner of his eye, but of course Wangji would sooner cut out his own tongue than call attention to Lan Xichen’s unusual behavior. That said, his concern peaks midway through the second week: He sends Lan Xichen a picture of his rabbit, and then a short video of his rabbit being gently petted by a chubby-cheeked toddler that Lan Xichen doesn’t recognize--he’s not aware that Wangji knew anyone with children, but he doesn’t have the energy to be curious. 

Two days after that, Lan Xichen tries to heave himself back onto the horse. He spends an hour flicking through dating apps and exchanges several half-hearted messages with a few people, but there’s nothing there.

Late on Friday night of that week as he is lying in bed and reading (or rather, staring blankly at a page of a book without being able to focus on or comprehend the content), his phone pings with the text message alert.

He sets the book aside and dully turns to the nightstand to pick it up and check the notification on the lock screen to see who it’s from, at least.

He sits bolt upright when he sees the name: Meng Yao. The preview: hiiiiiiiiiiiii so ok  i should[...]

He scrambles to get the message open.

< hiiiiiiiiiiiii so ok i shld say first of all this is meng yao’s friend huaisang °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°
< we r DRUNK IN THE CLUB rn bc it’s BITCHES NIGHT OUT n he told me all abt u n i was like omg yaoyao u gotta text him u gotta say hi n he was like noooooo i can’t blah blah blah it was stupid n i stopped listening but anyhoo!!!!!!! i stole his phone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ☆*:.。.o(≧▽≦)o.。.:*☆
< i have so many questions for u!!!!!!!!!! im ur biggest fan!!!!!!!!! ヽ(°〇°)ノ
< but yao-ge’s gonna come back from the bathroom any sec n then a-sang is gonna be
< M U RDER E D 
💃 💃 💃 💃 💃 💃 💃 💃
< lmaoooooo
< ok so anywya i already got ur # so im gonna delete all this n text u from my phone ok!!!! dont text bakc here just b cool n wiat liek 2 secs ok!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lan Xichen knows that he should not condone or comply with this. It is unethical. He should tell Meng Yao that his friend is going through his phone when his back is turned.

A new text from an unknown number:
< OK HI ITS MEEEEE HUAISANG HIIIIII
< first of all can i have a pic of u plz, bc yao-ge said ur the handsomest man hes ever seen n a bunch of other
😉STUFF 😉 n now im picturing u as like the ULTIMATE SEX GOD so plzplzplzplzplz can i see ur face i swear im not gonna make it weird   (ŐωŐ人)
< number 2!!! so like are u on the dating app bc ur SINGLE N LOOKIN 2 MINGLE or just for the sex????????
< number 3!! yao-ge said u asked him to dinner????????? mr sir i need 2 kno wat ur intentions are towards my yao-ge!!!!!!!!!! LOLOLOLOL omg that sounds so scary LOLOLOL i sound like dage LOOOOOOOOL
(*/∇\*)
< N E WAY
< intentions like do u want 2 fuck him a couple times or do u want 2 marry him & have his babies???????????????
(ʃƪ ˘ ³˘)
< number 4!!!!!! i told u i have lots of questions!!!!!!!! LOL! what r ur top 5 blowjob tips, laoshi plz give me ur wisdom!!!!!!!!! 🙏🙏🙏🙏 laoshi!!!!!!!!!
< uhhhhh i feel like i had more questions 🤔 🤔 🤔 🤔
< lolololol i’ve had six appletinis, idk why we go to this bar, it’s not even a club, it’s a bar
< i mean i kno why
< its bc this is where we go to hustle ppl at pool lmaoooooooo
🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣  🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣
< but every time theyre like ‘wehhhh we dnt kno how 2 make appletinis, that’s a gross girl drink’ n im like ‘i teach u how EVERY TIME WE COME IN!!!!!!!!!!! do u expect me to drink beer!!!!!!!! im a paying member of the twink guild!!!!!’ (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻
< im like ‘if they find out i drank BEER theyre gonna b like ‘dammit huaisang ur a loose cannon!!! u do good work but i, ur chief twink, cant have that in this department!!!! ur suspended!!!! turn in ur badge and buttplugs!!!!!!!!!’’
< laoshi i teach them how 2 make appletinis every time and we give em real good tips with our pool hustling winnings, y does oppression have 2 exist in this world huh
(;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`)
< laoshi
< laoshiiiiii 🥺 🥺 🥺

Lan Xichen is a little dazed from the cascade of texts. 

               > I’m sorry, I don’t think it’s right for us to talk about Meng Yao behind his back. I don’t think he wants to hear from me, so please do the right thing and confess that you took my number from his phone.

< omg hot n dumb, that’s his favorite
< are u a himbo
< ive been telling him for years tht he needs 2 settle down w/ a nice himbo

               > I don’t know what a himbo is.

He sees the typing bubble come up, but it disappears, and then there is silence for several minutes. 

At length, another notification: A message from Meng Yao.

< I apologize for my friend. He is ver ybad at boundaries. I made him delete your number, he won’t be botherign you again.

Lan Xichen’s heart hurts a little.   

               > It’s no trouble. It sounds like you two are having a fun night :) Get him to drink some water, okay? 

He expects that to be the end of the conversation, and part of him is pathetically, yearningly grateful to have even this brief exchange.

< It woul dbe more fun if he wasn’t such a fukcing busybody.
< What did he ask you

Lan Xichen hesitates, but his moping wins out. 

               > He asked to see a photograph of my face, why I was on the dating app, what my top 5 tips for oral sex are, and he demanded to know what my intentions are toward you.

< Oh fuckin ghell
< I’m going to put him in a sack with some bricks an d throw him off a bridge like how people drown kittens, be rightb ack
< Why did he want to see a picture of you

Lan Xichen cannot bring himself to paraphrase it--it’s takes far too much vanity to type out “he said you said I was the handsomest man you’d ever seen”, let alone “ULTIMATE SEX GOD”, so he switches over to the other chat, takes a screenshot, and sends that instead. 

< Well, says Meng Yao a moment later.
< I will be putting myself in the kittne-drowning sack also.
< Please be assured taht i am an appropriate level of humiliated abuot all this.

               > There’s no need to feel humiliated, Lan Xichen sends as quickly as he can type. 
               > I’m flattered you were thinking of me. And then, feeling terrified and daring and yearning for just a little more, > I was thinking of you too, actually. I haven’t been able to stop.

< Don’t
< Please

Lan Xichen shuts his eyes and breathes for a moment. 

               > I apologize. That was too much. Have fun and get home safe, alright?

He turns his phone off, shuts his eyes, and mopes himself to sleep.

*

The next morning, he does half an hour of yoga, tries and fails to meditate, abandons this in favor of standing motionless in the shower with his forehead against the tiles as the water beats down on him, and finally shuffles morosely into the kitchen for breakfast. He turns his phone back on while the kettle heats for tea, and finds he has… dozens of messages from Meng Yao.

< Ugh no I didn’t mean it like that , reads the top one--the timestamp is only a minute after his own last message.
< you don’t
< it’s
< fucking fuck goddammit shit fuck

A gap of nearly an hour. 

< Okya I am now muhc more drunk than I was befoer. All this is yuor fault. For bein gtoo beautiful to look at. And nice. Itr eally sucks hwo nice you are.
< It’s very hard for me adn i feel like yuou aren’t aware of taht.
< Justt a minute, huaisang is abuot to letsome bikers do body shots off him, hang on
< Alright anyway
< You’re ver y incomsiderate, going aroudn in public with your face like that.
< Why’d you have to come on my carpet? I was goign to ride your dick untily ou coudln’t see straight.
< But no, you had to go adn get off wihtout me even touching you and then I thoguht to mysefl
< ugh
< I sho uldn’t tell you waht I thought.
< I thought, “Okay, i can’t ever speakk to this man or see him ever agian, becaus then I’m going to get obsessed wih him and start planning our wdding and then he will find out I’m crazy and leave and i’ll have to change my identity and fake my own death.”
< You’re too nice to get saddledd with some one like me, ok? Im doing this to protect yoou.
< Even Huaisang dosn’t know how crazy I am, taht should tell yuo something.
< God, your cock was pretty, thouhg. Fuck.
< I almost kept the tissues, that’s the kindof crazy I mean. It wuold have been disgustin g.
< I guess I techniclay did  keep thme ac tually, I havn’t emptied the trash bin by my desk yet, so they’re stil lthere.
< Why didn’t you text me? It’s been two weeks, if oyu were thinjking of me so muhc, why didn’t you text?
< Inconssiderate. Very rude.
< You knwo what would have been good? If you’d fucked me. Becuase then I could text you a week or so from now and say, “Oh no, I’m pregnant and it’s definiteley yours, we have to have a shotgun wedding”
< So inconsiderate of youo not to fuck me. Please explain yoursefl. 

Another gap of an hour or so.

< Nope, this wsa all a mistake. I’m deleting all these adn oyuou won’t even see tehm, serves you rgiht for not fucking me. Inconsiderate.

The messages do, however, seem to still be there. Lan Xichen is not sure if this is because Meng Yao ended up not deleting them after all, or if it is because he was able to delete them on his end and, perhaps out of excessive inebriation, did not realize they wouldn’t be deleted on Lan Xichen’s. 

He reads them over several more times. He feels lightheaded again, the same way he had when he was on Meng Yao’s couch. He spends far too long staring at the phrase “shotgun wedding”, and then an equal amount of time wondering wildly why the idea of Meng Yao keeping the tissues he’d used to wipe the come off the carpet and couch doesn’t disgust him as much as it probably ought to. He reads the messages again, and then he drifts back into his bedroom, buries his face in the pillow, and jerks off with no small amount of shame to the idea of “I was going to ride your dick until you couldn’t see straight”.

Dazed and sticky in the aftermath, he turns onto his back and stares at the ceiling. In a distant and scientifically fascinated sort of way, he marvels at the way his brain is currently incapable of even stringing two thoughts together. 

He picks up his phone, opens his texts, goes to the conversation with Huaisang, and pulls himself together enough to type: > Good morning! :) I hope you’re not too hungover. Did you get home alright last night?

< new phone who dis
< wait sorry is this the guy from last night who wanted to lick tequila out of my bellybutton
< i don’t remember giving u my number haha
(*ノωノ)
< sorry abt my friend!!!!!!! hes rly protective, he’s like a big brother to me, we’re definitely not dating or anything if u were worried abt that lolllllll 。゚+.(^_<)〜☆+.゚
< sweet of u to check on me tho omg  (゚ο゚人))
< everyone’s like ‘chivalry is dead, ur never gonna meet a gentleman @ a dive bar like that, why dont u date my cousin whos an accountant’ but u kno what, my faith has been restored hahaha
< im a lil hungover but like. not super hungover, if u get me
😜 😘
< like it’s probs a lil early in the day for tequila but idk idk how do u feel abt mimosas? i love brunch n i love being licked n it’s just TOO sweet that u texted to make sure i was okay, omg im all fluttery (*ノωノ) 

Lan Xichen is not accustomed to interrupting, but apparently one has to with Huaisang. > Ah, I apologize. No, this is Lan Xichen.

< who??????

               > You were interrogating me last night about what my intentions were with Meng Yao? You stole my number from his phone?

< O M F G!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
< LAN!!! XI!!!!!! CHEN!!!!!
< I HAVE SUCH MIXED FEELINGS ABT U!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
< yao-ge didnt actually tell me ur name lol
< holy shit
(○□○)
< why are u texting me @ 8:43 on a saturday morning when u kno very well i was White Girl Wasted on appletinis last night my dude
< other than the STILL V SWEET IMPULSE to check on me, omg too cute
(*ノωノ)
< i shld tell u now i do have a bros before hos policy tho
< like ur so so so so so so so sweet but im not gonna fuck u, k???? im not gonna do yaoyao dirty like that
< im sure ur mouth IS the best thing on the planet and proof of the existence of at least one god and possibly more, but like
< u get me?????? yah, u get me
(ノ^ヮ^)ノ *~:・゚✧

The lightheaded, dazed sensation intensifies. 

               > Did he say that? 

< did who say what

               > Meng Yao. About my mouth.

< OH
< yeahhhhh he super did lmaooooooooo so embarrassing
< which brings us back 2 a v important topic: GOSH GOLLY GEE WHIZ I HAVE *SUCH* MIXED FEELINGS ABT U

               > I’m sorry to hear that, may I ask what changed? Last night you claimed you were my biggest fan.

< dont ever listen 2 drunk huaisang, ok, he has terrible taste in men ヽ(゚Д゚)ノ
< just the worst .・゜゜・(/。\)・゜゜・. 
sober huaisang is as shocked @ his behavior as every1 else is, trust me  

Lan Xichen momentarily reflects on the fact that Sober Huaisang had been prepared to invite a man over to lick mimosas out of his navel at 8:43 on a Saturday morning. He decides not to comment on this.

< anyway MIXED FEELINGS ooooooooo such mixed feelings omfg
< like on 1 hand im VERY FUCKIN IMPRESSED w u
☆*・゜゚・*(^O^)/*・゜゚・*☆
< yao-ge has like SUPER high standards, hes like the pickiest bitch i kno, n then u come along like ‘hey’
< like nice goddamn job laoshi, lets get u a nobel peace prize for ur mouth work APPARENTLY
ೕ(•̀ㅂ•́ )
< and like on the other hand I would happily spit in ur drink if i had the chance (ᗒᗜᗕ)՛̵̖ LOLOLOLOLOL 
< like i dont picture u in my head as the sort of man who goes to laundromats but if i saw u @ a laundromat id wait til u went next door to buy snacks from the gas station n then id dump bleach on all ur clothes lmfao
< like if i saw u putting on sunscreen @ a beach, id kick sand on u 

               > I feel like I have missed something.

< U SNUBBED MY BOI  (╬ Ò ‸ Ó)
< MY BEST BRO!!! SNUBBED!!!!! BY U!!!!!!
< u practicly gave him the cut direct!!!!!!!!!!!! do u deny it!!!!!!
(ง •̀_•́)ง

               > Yes, vehemently. 

< pfhhthfhfhfht
< lies n perfidy
< y r all men like this, nothing in ur mouth but lies n deception, n sometimes a dick
< u were like ‘let me take u to dinner’ n he was like ‘no’ n u like ghosted him basically????
< ur like “its my way or the highway” n u shld of been like groveling @ his feet
< HE!!!! DESERVES!!! THAT!!!!
< HE DESERVES IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

               > He said he didn’t think dinner was a good idea, and when I asked if he preferred casual arrangements, he said he didn’t think that was wise. He said the situation was too complicated. So I said I understood, and I told him to reach out if anything changed.
               > I was not going to pressure him when he’d made his boundaries clear.

< oh hm
< ok some things are beginning to come back to me
< ok yah he’s basically a feral cat living behind a dumpster
< but 2 be fair 2 him its very rude of u to come along w/ ur pockets full of chicken scraps like u did

Lan Xichen wonders if this is what having a stroke feels like. He had meant to--to ask something, or to get an outside perspective, but getting anything useful out of Huaisang is a fool’s errand, and besides that, his brain has rebooted enough that his ethics are starting to come back online.

< idk why i’m giving u free advice
< u shld venmo me like $20 for this consultation lmao

Lan Xichen pinches the bridge of his nose for a long moment. 

               > Alright. What’s your username?

< holy shit i was sort of kidding
< but uhhhhhh i mean if ur rly down to give me $20 im not gonna say no lol it’s @hu4154ng

Lan Xichen sends him $30, just to be passive aggressive. He mutes the conversation with Huaisang and flicks back over to Meng Yao’s. Slowly and very carefully, he types: > Good morning! I just texted Huaisang to check that he made it home safely last night, and I hope it’s not overstepping to do the same for you. Are you well?

It takes a minute to get a reply. 

< Did you get any weird messages from me last night?

In Lan Xichen’s family, lying was absolutely forbidden. Lan Xichen never, ever lies. However, he does occasionally evade the truth. 

               > Weird? In what sense?

< In whatever sense. Any sense.

               > Hm, in the sense of “unusual”, then I suppose the whole conversation qualifies. In the sense of “unsettling or uncomfortable”, though, no, not at all. I wasn’t expecting to hear from you, but it wasn’t unwelcome. The weirdest messages I got were the ones from Huaisang.

< And then you *voluntarily* texted him again this morning?
< You might want to preemptively block his number. Now he has yours again, I can’t make him delete it. He’ll have written it down or memorized it, and you will never be able to get rid of him. Congratulations, you have a Huaisang now.

               > He seems like a good friend to have. :) He cares about you a great deal, and you’re both clearly protective of each other, Lan Xichen says, making a mental note to allocate more patience to Huaisang and revise his initial impression of him. (Lan Xichen’s brain, entirely without his consent, cheerfully points out that Huaisang will probably be Meng Yao’s best man at their shotgun wedding and so it would behoove Lan Xichen to be on good terms with-- He shoves the thought away, embarrassed.)

The read receipt flicks on, but Meng Yao does not immediately reply.

               > Speaking of being protective, you might want to follow up with him about the man who wanted to do body shots off him. When I texted, he initially thought that’s who I was, and before I could clarify, he had already gotten halfway through inviting me to his place for… well, that, but with mimosas.

< Oh fucking hell. I’m never letting him go anywhere unchaperoned ever again.
< Thank you for the heads up. 

               > Of course. :) I have a little brother too--they do take a great deal of worrying about, don’t they!

< What’s yours like?

Lan Xichen wasn’t expecting questions, open invitations to continue the conversation. It gives him a little bloom of pleasure in his heart. 

               > He is the polar opposite of Huaisang in every conceivable way, based on my admittedly brief impressions. If Huaisang is the sun, the embodiment of exuberance, then my little brother is a black hole--the total absence thereof. He is a very quiet, serious, and profound person.

< What in the world do you have to worry about with him, then?

               > He is… a little inflexible. Once he forms a habit or an opinion, he doesn’t change it, so I worry that he misses out on experiencing the world. He is a little insular, so I worry that he is lonely. He is very possessive of the people he cares about, and I have seen him get deeply hurt because of that. There are not many people who are capable of seeing the deepest parts of him, and those are the best parts of him.

< Hm.
< Would you lend him to me? I would like to handcuff him to Huaisang for a week or so and see if they balance each other out.

               > Haha! 😊 Aren’t you worried that they would kill each other?

< Two fewer little brothers to worry about, then. It’s a win/win situation.

               > It would be a shame to let Huaisang die after you’ve gone to all the trouble of saving him from so many terrible men in bars, wouldn’t it?

< I suppose.

That seems to be the end of the conversation--Lan Xichen can’t think of any other ways to continue it, and Meng Yao doesn’t say anything else either. 

He stares at the ceiling for a while and bites his lip and thinks, very tentatively, of misbehaving a little. 

Chapter Text

  Huaisang does indeed turn out to be… incessant. He thrives on attention, often sending random selfies and pictures of things throughout the day--it’s like having someone’s Instagram account delivered directly to your inbox, and Lan Xichen can only assume Huaisang sends photos indiscriminately and at random to any of his contacts. Still, he always responds politely, on the assumption that being in Meng Yao’s best friend’s good graces can only benefit him.

Sometimes, Huaisang responds and gets chatty, whereupon Lan Xichen carefully gathers up any and all crumbs of suspiciously chaotic activity and shamelessly tattles to Meng Yao about them. It is the best excuse he has for starting conversations, after all, and he doesn’t know how else to break the ice.

He knows that Huaisang must be aware of the tattling, because Meng Yao must be scolding him or otherwise dragging him out of trouble after these incidents, but this does not seem to discourage him from sending Lan Xichen messages like < omg just walked past a tattoo shop n they have a special deal??? only $5 for a tattoo but u gotta let them pick it out, lmao shld i do it????? 🙈 🙈 🙈 🙈 🙈 🙈

*

After only a couple weeks of this, Meng Yao texts him out of the blue on a Wednesday afternoon.

< Do you have any plans tonight?

               > Nothing important, Lan Xichen replies, instantly ready to reschedule his dinner with Uncle and Wangji.
               > Why do you ask?

< Would you like to come over? Perhaps around 8?

Lan Xichen stares at message, dry-mouthed and suddenly half-hard and vibrating with anticipation. 

               > Sure, I would love to see you. :) Shall I bring anything?

< Not necessary. You may come straight up to my apartment, no need to hang around in the cafe.

Lan Xichen instinctively wants to bring… something , though. Tribute. A bouquet of flowers? No, that might be coming on too strong, and if this isn’t a booty call then it will be embarrassing for both of them. A bottle of wine? Still might be a bit much. Perhaps just a few danishes from the cafe, the ones Meng Yao had liked the last time--it’s enough to show that Lan Xichen remembers one of Meng Yao’s preferences, and it can be passed off merely as a thoughtful friendly gesture, rather than one that is weighted with… presumptions. 

He arrives on Meng Yao’s doorstep with his heart in his throat and a bag of pastries in his hand precisely at 8pm and knocks. Meng Yao opens the door--he’s freshly showered, still damp, wrapped in a very handsome and masculine brocade dressing gown. The sight of him takes Lan Xichen’s breath away, but he manages to greet him warmly, get his coat and shoes off inside, and present the bag of pastries. 

Meng Yao blinks at the paper bag, opens it, sticks his nose in. “Oh,” he says, sounding pleasantly surprised, if confused. 

“I remembered you liked them,” Lan Xichen says. “Just a small thing for you.”

“Thank you,” Meng Yao says, still delicately bewildered. “I do like them, but you didn’t need to.”

“I wanted to bring something.”

Meng Yao sets the bag on the end table and leans on the back of the couch with his arms crossed and says in a low voice, “You brought yourself.”

Lan Xichen’s heart skips a beat, a throb of want running through his whole body. He’s still not accustomed to this--this pure strength of feeling. Part of him had almost… not forgotten what it was like, but disbelieved his own memory, convinced himself that surely it couldn’t have been as intense and consuming as he remembers, could it?

 “I suppose that’s true,” Lan Xichen says. He dares to take a step forward, then another, just to the edge of Meng Yao’s personal space. Meng Yao reaches out, hooks a finger in Lan Xichen’s belt loop, and pulls him another step closer, gazing steadily at him from under his eyelashes. Lan Xichen’s heart skips several more beats. He is already getting hard; he knows nothing but want, he has never known anything but want. He licks his lip and says, “Am I to understand that the situation has gotten less complicated?” 

“No,” Meng Yao says, drawing him in and tipping his face up. “But it’s deeply attractive when you inform on Huaisang, and so I decided to love myself and have a treat.” 

Lan Xichen sets a hand on his waist. “That’s good,” he breathes, leaning down. “You should. You should have one. You deserve it.” 

He kisses Meng Yao against the back of the couch until he’s dizzy with it, until Meng Yao tugs loose the belt of his dressing gown and lets it fall down to his elbows, revealing that he is utterly naked beneath, his skin soft and fresh-smelling and glowing-warm from the shower. Lan Xichen groans and falls to his knees, sucking him down. He can’t quite control his hands--they sweep up and down Meng Yao’s body, all the way from his knees to his flanks and sides, up his back. He makes the most lovely soft noises, knotting his hand in the back of Lan Xichen’s hair and tugging just a little to direct him. Lan Xichen feels like he is being torn apart at the atomic level, and then Meng Yao slings one leg over Lan Xichen’s shoulder and demands breathlessly, “Fingers. Start with two.” 

Lan Xichen groans again around his cock, slides his hand up Meng Yao’s gorgeous thigh, and finds he’s already slick and ready--an image of Meng Yao preparing himself in the shower sears through Lan Xichen’s brain. Ravenous and rapturous, he sinks two fingers into perfect, tight, scorching heat and dedicates himself wholeheartedly to wringing Meng Yao dry. 

When he comes, Meng Yao again curls over him with a gasp, his hands clamped on Lan Xichen’s shoulder and the back of the couch for balance. Lan Xichen withdraws his fingers gently and carefully but, just as last time, keeps Meng Yao’s cock in his mouth until he’s soft. Meng Yao’s hands shake as he pets his hair. Lan Xichen releases him eventually, presses kisses along his hipbones and the juncture of his thighs--they’re quivering with the effort of staying upright, and Lan Xichen flames again with desire at the thought of sucking marks on them, biting them, bruising them a little so Meng Yao won’t forget that he was here. He stands and picks Meng Yao up--Meng Yao makes a woozy noise  of surprise--and moves them around to the other side of the couch, laying Meng Yao down on the cushions.

“Spoiled my plans,” Meng Yao croaks. “I had a whole--thing.” 

“Oh?” Lan Xichen says, kneeling beside the couch and nibbling Meng Yao’s collarbones.

“Yeah.” And then, sounding a little more like his brain is coming back online, “Did you come already?”

“No, but it’s not important,” Lan Xichen says, kissing his sternum and smoothing his hand up Meng Yao’s inner thigh and brushing the pad of his thumb over the saliva-tacky cock, the velvet skin of his balls. “Would you like another?” He’s being greedy. He doesn’t care.

Meng Yao’s silence is faintly astonished. “I mean,” he says slowly. “If you’re offering. And if you don’t mind waiting another few minutes.”

“No rush,” Lan Xichen says--every few minutes of waiting is a few minutes spent here with Meng Yao. He is happy to bask in it as long as he can. “Can I kiss you, or should I wash my mouth out first?”

Meng Yao makes an outraged little noise and drags him in for a kiss. 

They make out, deep and intense, the sort of kissing Lan Xichen hasn’t indulged in since he was a teenager. It gradually transitions into the second round, beginning with a shiveringly-pleasant bit of frottage, one of Meng Yao’s legs hooked around his hip, and then Lan Xichen turns him over and eats him out until Meng Yao is panting and clawing at the leather couch cushions hard enough to leave scratches. He comes into Lan Xichen’s hand and against his tongue, and Lan Xichen climbs over him and only has to thrust three times against the back of Meng Yao’s thigh before he’s shaking apart too--he hadn’t even gotten his pants open. 

Lan Xichen cleans off his hand and the better part of the mess in his pants with the tissues by the time Meng Yao manages to heave himself up on one elbow and cast an accusing glance over his shoulder. “Plans,” he says, outraged and petulant and barely coherent.

Lan Xichen kisses the base of his spine (which, he has learned today, is bracketed by a pair of perfect dimples, placed the exact right width apart for him to set his thumbs into when he’s holding Meng Yao’s hips--is this a sign that he is fated to always be holding onto Meng Yao’s hips? He is inclined to think so, yes). “I apologize,” Lan Xichen says, his lips brushing against Meng Yao’s skin; Meng Yao shudders through another aftershock and collapses back onto the cushions. “I hope it wasn’t too much of a disappointment.” This just gets another incoherent outraged noise in response. “If I had known you had plans, I would have been happy to accommodate them.”

“Next time, I’ll--” Meng Yao says muzzily, and then shuts his mouth with an audible snap. 

Next time. Lan Xichen doesn’t dare to move or breathe for a moment; Meng Yao has also gone still. 

An instant later, Meng Yao shakes himself, sits up, and drags the dressing gown around his body again, cinching the belt tight with a decided air. Lan Xichen emotionally braces himself to be kicked out--the words “next time” having being spoken aloud is a great balm on the woeful sting of being summarily dismissed, but besides that, he’s already developed a different perspective on and understanding of the situation, helped in no small part by Meng Yao’s drunk texts--particularly, “I thought to myself, ‘Okay, I can’t ever speak to this man or see him ever again, because then I’m going to get obsessed with him and start planning our wedding.’”

 “Well,” says Meng Yao, in a much clear-headed voice than Lan Xichen wants to hear from him right now. “If you’re satisfied, then, it’s gotten rather late, and I do have work in the morning, so…” 

Lan Xichen nods. “Of course. You should get some rest.” He leans in, cups Meng Yao by the back of the neck, and kisses him, deep and slow and lingering. He breaks away far sooner than he’d like, still so close that his lips brush against Meng Yao’s when he speaks. “Thanks for inviting me over.” He kisses Meng Yao’s cheek, then the tip of his nose. “I think you deserve treats as often as you want them.”

*

Two days later, on Friday night, he gets a barrage of texts from Huaisang.

< oKAY OKAY OKAY OK!!!!!!! OK!!!!!!!!!!!!!
< OK FINE
(┛ಠДಠ)┛彡┻━┻
< im back 2 bein ur biggest fan, laoshi
< no mixed feelings lmao just approval
“:♡.•♬✧⁽⁽ଘ( ˊᵕˋ )ଓ⁾⁾*+:•*∴
< n like 2% envy ┐( ̄ヘ ̄)┌
< n im STILL wanting 2 kno wat ur intentions are towards a-yao!!!!! VERY SUS, IM FEELIN SUS
< ok maybe thats like 1 mixed feeling.
🤔 🤔 🤔 🤔 🤔 🤔 approval but SUS
< tho maybe im just sus from listening 2 yao-ge so much lololol sus is his default emotion Σ(‘◉⌓◉’)
< NVM THAT THO CUZ OMG LAOSHI WOW 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏
< can i shake ur hand tho, laoshi??????? wow. omg. wow. (ノ^ヮ^)ノ*:・゚✧
< like its been 48 hrs n i think his knees r still kinda wobbly LOLOLOL
< but omg laoshi he is SO MAD you didn’t fuck him AHAHAHAHAHASLFWJLDHWH  
(*≧▽≦)ノシ))
< hes SO MAAAAAAD hes so so so so SO MAD (*≧艸≦) hes coming up w/ all these CONSPIRACY THEORIES
< this is the best thing thats ever happened 2 me, dont get me a bday present this year laoshi this is everythin i need
< hjkljklfghjkl he thinks u did it on purpose 2 fuck w/ his head
😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂
< laoshi did u do it on purpose, did u stick ur tongue in his ass bc of ULTERIOR MOTIVES

               > I am having a difficult time imagining what ulterior motives there could be for that.

< tbf tho so is he LOL
< i keep bein like ‘ok but wat ulterior motives specificly, whats lan-laoshi tryin 2 trick u into doin o.O’ n he cant come up with an answer, hes SO MAD
< omg i kno this is a huge ask but can u plz continue 2 not fuck him?
🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏  i wanna see how much more mad hes gonna get
< whats the opposite of dick-drunk? like when u want the dick real bad and DON’T get it
< can’t rly call it blue balls bc he IS gettin sum
< maybe just extreme thirst  
(´┓`*)
< severe dehydration
< hes liek HOPPING MAD im fuckin dyin
(*≧▽≦)ノシ))シ))シ))
Lan Xichen closes his eyes, takes several deep breaths, and grips his ethics with both hands, white knuckled. 

               > You shouldn’t gossip, Huaisang, especially not about things he’s probably telling you in confidence. Discretion is a virtue.

< lmao what????
< u sayin u wanna miss out on these HOT N EXCLUSIVE LIVE UPDATES?
━Σ(゚Д゚|||)━
< im givin u INSIDER INTEL n ur like “dont gossip huaisang”?????? rly????

               > Yes, really. Trust is an important part of a friendship, and gossiping about him is not honoring the trust he has given you.

< ok wait a sec HYPOCRITE < (ಠ益ಠ)> u gossip abt me 2 HIM all the time!!!!
< i text u somethin n like 5 min later he texts me like “dammit huaisang do NOT get a $5 tattoo”
(┛◉Д◉)┛彡┻━┻

               > Exceptions can be made in cases where one is concerned about a person’s safety and wellbeing and needs to communicate that to someone who has the power to prevent harm.

< jshgwkhfskhwlwhga?????
< mixed feelings kinda comin back tbh!!!!!!!!!!

               > Why is that?

< bc u don’t give a shit about him????
< ur just like “mmm boring i don’t want to hear abt that, even tho its abt me n its complimentary
┐( ̄ー ̄)┌ i dont care abt wat his feelings r”

               > On the contrary, I do care about what his feelings are and I want very much to hear about them, whenever he decides that I should know about them. But he has not yet decided that. It is therefore because I care, both about him and about his feelings, that I want to be respectful of his boundaries. I cannot help but feel that this would cross them.

< ….idek how 2 respond
< lan xichen what even r u?????

Lan Xichen does not bother to reply to this.

He is just about to turn off his bedside lamp and go to sleep when his phone pings.

Meng Yao.

< DO you hav e ulterior motives, though?
< I don’t know why I ask. What are yuo going to say? “No, of course not”? Thats just what someone with ulterior motives woul dsay.

               > I’m a little insulted that you think I’d need any motive, ulterior or otherwise, beyond thinking you’re beautiful and wanting to make you feel good.   
              > Huaisang came clean, I presume?

< Fucker. Told you he’s a busybod y, didn’t I?

               > You did.

< Youu shouldn’t listento him.

               > I promise I won’t. If it’s about what you want, I’ll only listen to you.

< fcukign hell fuck you
< I don’t mean  that.
< You’re so nice it makesme ang ry, that’s all.
< I don’t know what to do with taht.

               > I’d offer to stop, but even if I knew how, I’m not sure I would be comfortable with that.

< The fukc am I eevn supposed to do with you, then?

               > Anything you like.
               > What does “sus” mean? Huaisang mentioned it.

< Suspicious

               > Ah. Then if you are angry or suspicious of me, you’re welcome to say so directly. I would be happy to clarify anything I’ve said or done that upset or confused you.

< See? See thta? Thats’ suspicious. What is yuor angle, what are you trying to pull?

               > Well, ideally, my angle is to be agreeable enough to you that you invite me over again.

< Why?

               > Why what?

< Why doyou wantto come over if you’re not even geting anythin g out of it?

Lan Xichen pinches the bridge of his nose and calls him.

“Hello?” Meng Yao answers on the third ring--indeed, incredibly suspicious. Lan Xichen’s heart leaps just at the sound of his voice.

(“Is that him?” Lan Xichen hears in the background. “Oh my god, is that Lan-laoshi? Did he call you? On the phone? Who does that? Is he like fifty years old?”)

“Huaisang says hi,” Meng Yao says flatly.

“Hello, Huaisang,” Lan Xichen replies, and Meng Yao passes it on. “I’m sorry for interrupting, do you have a moment?”

“Obviously I have a moment, I was just texting you, wasn’t I,” Meng Yao says, snippy--he sounds… possibly a little drunk, but not excessively so. “Hang on, I’m going outside.” A moment passes; Lan Xichen hears the ambient sounds of the bar, people talking, and then the sound of a door as the noise abruptly drops off. “Okay.”

“Meng Yao, why do you think I didn’t get anything out of it?” Lan Xichen asks, as warmly and gently as he can.

Meng Yao is silent for a minute. Lan Xichen listens to him breathe. “I can’t imagine that it was very pleasant for you,” Meng Yao says. He already sounds a little more sober, controlled. Restrained.

“I’m sorry I gave you that impression. I thought that the evidence otherwise spoke for itself.” Lan Xichen feels suddenly awkward--he’s never done this before. He’s never had to navigate something like this. What if he misspeaks and Meng Yao never wants to see him again? How will Lan Xichen live with the wanting? How will he come back from this? So when he speaks, he does so very carefully: “Perhaps we’ve been misinterpreting each other a little?”

In a small voice, barely louder than a whisper, Meng Yao says, “Why are you nice?

“Because it’s the right thing to be. Because I want to be nice to you.”

Sharper: “People don’t do that. Not for no reason.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Another long pause. “May I try to set the record straight?”

A noncommittal noise, and then, “Alright.”

Lan Xichen suspects that even if he spent a solid hour professing his sincere admiration and describing the conundrum between his desire to be respectful and his willingness to show up on Meng Yao’s doorstep at any hour of the night, whether or not there was sex on offer, just because Meng Yao asked him to... He suspects that even if he did that, that Meng Yao would not hear or internalize any of it. 

People don’t do that, he’d said. I don’t know what to do with that, he’d said. 

If Lan Xichen tries to offer his heart up on a silver platter, tries to selflessly give Meng Yao the keys to his city, Meng Yao will only keep wondering, mistrustful, what the catch is.

It occurs to him, a dark and alarming and alluring thought, that he could… grab a little, instead of give. 

Isn’t that what wanting is? Doesn’t a hunger want to be fed? Why don’t you want anything, that ex-lover had cried, and perhaps he’d been asking, Why won’t you tell me what I can give you? Is that what Meng Yao is asking?

“I want to invite you over to mine,” Lan Xichen says. “I want to see you in my bed. I want to keep you there for hours. Days.” Forever? Forever would be nice.

“What for?” 

Huaisang had called Meng Yao a feral cat living behind a dumpster, and he’d accused Lan Xichen of showing up with his pockets full of chicken scraps--that analogy is suddenly making a lot more sense too. “Which ‘what for’? What are you asking about?”

Meng Yao clears his throat. “What would you do with me for days?”

“Kiss you. Touch you,” Lan Xichen says quietly--it’s too rough to be a confession. He hardly recognizes his own voice. He’s getting hard, he notices. “Make love to you until you’re too weak to even lift your arms, let alone stand or walk.” He shouldn’t touch himself while he’s on the phone with Meng Yao like this. It wouldn’t be polite. It wouldn’t be--he closes his eyes and palms his cock through his sleep pants. A stab of want runs through him and his breath catches.

“Are you--” Meng Yao says, cutting himself off. Lan Xichen grips his cock and lets his breath do as it likes. “Are you doing what I think you’re doing?”

“Depends,” Lan Xichen says. “What do you think I do when I think about you?”

Scolding, a little scandalized: “ Gege .”

His cock aches; he thrusts up sharp against his palm. Breathless, he asks, “Should I hang up?”

A beat of silence, a rustle like Meng Yao passed the phone to his other ear. Speculative, almost challenging, Meng Yao says, “No.” And then, in a voice that Lan Xichen can almost imagine accompanied by a narrowing of those hawk-sharp eyes, “Keep going.” Lan Xichen pushes his waistband down and takes himself in hand, exhaling in a rush. Meng Yao makes a little noise in reply, a sharp, heavy hrm. “So,” he says a moment later. “So. You think of me and do this, do you.” 

“Sometimes.”

“Sometimes,” Meng Yao echoes, dry. “Sometimes, he says. Are you telling the truth? Just sometimes? I’m supposed to think sometimes is flattering?”

A ripple of heat, paired with an even stronger ripple of fondness and amusement. He keeps his hand loose, his strokes long and slow. “I haven’t permitted it more than sometimes. It felt--ah--disrespectful.”

Meng Yao tsks. “Just thinking isn’t disrespectful.”

Lan Xichen gives a huff of laughter. “With your permission, then, it will likely be much more often than sometimes.”

“Hm. Gege is too polite for his own good.”

“Not always.”

“No?”

Lan Xichen’s stomach flutters at the arch, haughty tone. “I confess I think of you very informally,” he says, and gets another flutter when Meng Yao bursts out laughing--he’s never laughed before when Lan Xichen can hear him. He’s never even smiled, not where Lan Xichen could see him. He’s probably as beautiful when he smiles as when he comes.

“A hand on his cock and he’s still talking like I confess that I--” Meng Yao says, his voice laden with amusement. “Well, I should certainly hope so. How informally?”

“I think of calling you A-Yao.”

A beat of silence.

“Hm. Presumptuous.” Still haughty, but in the way that makes it sound like he’s trying to disguise that he’s pleased. “I suppose you may if you wish, gege.”

“A-Yao,” Lan Xichen breathes. His cock jerks in his grip, a bead of precome welling from the tip. “A-Yao.”

Meng Yao stays silent for several moments, listening to him. Lan Xichen rocks into his hand, still loose, barely more than a tease. Another hm . “Why didn’t you fuck me, gege?” 

“I did,” Lan Xichen protests.

“Fingers,” Meng Yao scoffs. “Tongue. Not that. You know what I mean.”

“I wanted to focus on--ah--on you. It was more important.”

“Why?”

Lan Xichen swallows to clear the dryness out of his mouth, squeezes just under the head of his cock to get another pulse of precome, just enough to slick his thumb. “I felt like I’d die if I didn’t make you come.”

A slight inhale, just a little unsteady. “I see.” A moment later, with just a hint of a playful pouting tone, “And here I thought it was that gege didn’t think I was pretty.”

He’s so obviously fishing for compliments, and Lan Xichen does not care how obvious it is, because it makes his heart sing. “You are,” he says, stroking a little faster. “You’re beautiful. The first time you looked at me, you were so beautiful I forgot where I was.” He swallows hard. “And you’re clever, and intelligent, and--”

“And prickly, and bossy, and mean,” Meng Yao offers blandly.

Lan Xichen groans softly, biting his lip. “Yes. Those too.”

Another beat of silence. “You like that?”

“Your profile. On the app. It said ‘demanding’.” It gives him goosebumps just to remember, and he fumbles in his bedside drawer for the lube.

“A filter,” Meng Yao says lightly, with the air of a man inspecting his fingernails. “It tricks men into revealing their true natures. The ones who are planning to call me a brat and tell me I need to be put in my place see that word and run their mouths immediately, so I know I needn’t waste my time on them.”

Lan Xichen gets his slicked hand back on his cock just as Meng Yao says this and releases a shaky breath.

“But you saw it,” Meng Yao says conversationally, “and you thought, what, ‘I’m going to suck that man’s brains out through his dick and rim his ass until he can’t remember his own name, and to hell with any of his demands’?”

“The only demands you made were for me to use my hands on you and to leave,” Lan Xichen says, trying not to think about how Meng Yao is saying those filthy things aloud in the open. 

“Are you calling me unfair? Need I elaborate every single demand I have? Clearly you should have known telepathically that I wanted your cock, gege, and therefore you must have been withholding it from me on purpose.” He sounds so imperious and disdainful; Lan Xichen thrusts up hard into his hand, lightning crackling across his nerves. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Come over,” Lan Xichen groans. “Come over and see if I withhold anything from you.”

“No,” Meng Yao says easily, smugly. “I’m at bitches’ night out with Huaisang right now. We have a, quote, bros before hos policy, unquote. His words. I couldn’t possibly ditch him.”

“Your loyalty is admirable, but must we talk about him now?”

“What if,” Meng Yao says, idly thoughtful but with an ominous suggestion of sadistic glee, “What if I told you to take your hand off your cock.”

Lan Xichen’s strokes slow and stop. “I...”

“Would you? What if I told you not to come? What if I said you weren’t allowed to come at all until you see me again?”

Lan Xichen… whimpers. 

“Oh,” Meng Yao says, startled. “Oh,” pleased. “Ooh,” very, very pleased. “Would you really?” Almost giddy.

“A-Yao,” he says, warning and--and desperate, really. Alarmed. He was--he’d been-- he’s close, he’d been getting close, another minute or two and-- “A-Yao, you--”

“Just answer,” Meng Yao says, silk and velvet. “Would you? Would you stop right now?”

Lan Xichen squeezes his straining cock once more and slowly takes his hand away. “Yes,” he says, low and rough.

Fascinating.”

Lan Xichen closes his eyes and tries not to whimper again. He’s never felt like this in his life. He’s never--he doesn’t-- “A-Yao.

“What?” Meng Yao says, laughing. God, Lan Xichen wants to see him laugh like that in person. “Weren’t you just saying you liked bossy and mean?”

He takes a breath. A second breath. “Yes. I did. I do.” He swallows again. “And demanding.”

“Would it be difficult to stop now, gege? Are you very hard? You sounded like you were.”

“Yes.”

“I haven’t gotten to touch your cock properly for more than a minute or two, so I don’t see why you should get to,” Meng Yao says cheerfully. “If I can’t have it, nobody can.” The logic sounds almost reasonable. He knows he should be able to think of reasons why it’s not reasonable. He’s waiting for any part of his mind to chime in with even one , but all departments seem to be in agreement that it is indeed reasonable, and that no further arguments to the contrary will be considered. Lan Xichen is so fucked. He is so gone on this man.

“You make a good point,” he says, clenching his fist next to his hip. 

“Gege thinks so? Even though it’s putting him in a difficult situation?”

“If the stories are true, sometimes one must endure a terrible trial to win the heart of a great beauty.”

Meng Yao laughs aloud again at that; Lan Xichen yearns towards him. Still with a grin in his voice, he says, “Are you still hard, gege?” 

“Yes.”

“How hard? Is it red? Dripping?”

A-Yao.” Meng Yao is in public, he is probably within earshot of people--

“Does it hurt?”

Lan Xichen steadies his breath. “It’s bearable.” He does ache. Every part of him aches. He’s feverish and wanting all over, but it won’t kill him. Nobody ever died of not coming. 

“It was so big in my hand, gege,” Meng Yao says, in the cutest, poutiest, most evil voice Lan Xichen has ever heard--he reconsiders wildly whether anyone ever died of not coming. He feels like he’s on fire. “Do you remember? A-Yao’s hands were too just too little to hold it, and it kept flexing and jerking. Even that part of gege is so strong--”

“A-Yao,” Lan Xichen grits out desperately, as if it’s the only word he knows.

“Hm,” says Meng Yao, clearly smirking ear to ear. “Well. Very interesting.” Lan Xichen takes another steadying breath, and Meng Yao laughs again. “Poor gege, suffering so much. Should A-Yao be merciful?”

With as much dignity and composure as he can muster, Lan Xichen says, “I daresay that’s between A-Yao and his conscience.” 

Another bright peal of laughter. When he speaks again, his voice is as rich as dark chocolate: “Ask nicely.”

Lan Xichen has to close his eyes for a moment. “If it pleases you,” he says, carefully steady, “I would very much like to come.”

“Did I say ask nicely? I misspoke--I meant beg.

Fuck--fuck. He clenches his eyes tight, clenches his jaw and his fists--even his toes dig into the sheets. He has never. He’s never. He feels so hot all over. He feels. It’s never been like this. He’s had so much sex and it’s never, never felt like this. “Please.” 

“Hm?”

“A-Yao, please.

“Do you want to come, gege?” Meng Yao asks sweetly.

Yes.

“Say it.”

“Please, I want to come for you.”

A sharp hiss, Meng Yao’s breath indrawn through his teeth. “Yes. Yes, alright, go on. Tight, though, make it tight, I know you like it softer but--” How? How does he know that? Lan Xichen doesn’t have time to wonder, his fist is already gripping his straining cock, “--but make it really tight, as tight as I would be. Can you imagine? Are you thinking about it? That tight--and slow, really slow, from the top, like I’m sinking down on you--you’re so big, gege, A-Yao will have to go so slow to make it fit--”

Lan Xichen doesn’t even get his fist halfway down before he comes so hard he goes deaf for several seconds.

He comes back to himself in stages, still throbbing with the last of that… that seismic event. He’s covered in come--not just his belly, but all the way up to his collarbones --and he’s wheezing for breath like he’s just been punched in the gut, and his ears are still ringing. He flexes his jaw to try to pop his eardrums, weakly shakes his head--the ringing fades a little, but everything is still muffled and cottony. He can vaguely hear Meng Yao’s voice. 

Fortunately, another few moments is all it takes--the ringing fades away, his eardrums finally recalibrate--

“--am at this point mildly concerned that you’re dead, is the thing, so if you could just grunt a little or something so I know you’re alive--”

“I’m alive,” Lan Xichen croaks.

“Ah, there you are, welcome back. So that clearly did it for you. What was that ripping sound?”

“Hngh?”

“It sounded like fabric? Tearing fabric?” 

Feeling weak as a kitten, Lan Xichen props himself up on one elbow and takes stock. He has to blink hard several times to get his eyes to focus. “Ah… My sheets. On my bed.” Right next to him, right where his hand had clenched, there’s a long T-shaped tear.

“Your sheets on your bed.”

“Yes. They’re. I was holding onto them.”

After a long moment, Meng Yao says again, “ Fascinating.

Lan Xichen falls back into the pillows with a delirious laugh. His voice is still hoarse. “Consider it a compliment.”

“Trust me, I do. How are you?”

Planning our wedding, Lan Xichen does not say. He clears his throat. “Very well, thank you for asking. Floating.”

A soft snort. “Yeah, I’ll bet.” A breath. “Look, I don’t want to figuratively throw you out of my house for a third time in a row, but Huaisang has just been left to his own devices in the middle of a shady biker bar and--”

“It’s alright.”

“--his brother will kill me if anything happens to him, and unfortunately Mingjue-ge isn’t nearly as susceptible to sweet-talking as you are--”

Lan Xichen squints at the ceiling. “Mingjue?”

“Eh?”

“Not Nie Mingjue?”

A pause. “You know him?”

“Old friend from college,” he says blearily. “I knew he had a little brother, but I never met him, so--”

“Wait--wait, Lan, how many Lans are there in this city--and you mentioned having a--hang on, you’re not Wei Wuxian’s boyfriend’s older brother, are you?”

Lan Xichen’s squint becomes a frown. “I beg your pardon, since when has Wangji been dating Wei Wuxian?”

“Oh! Oh, not to worry, they don’t know they’re dating yet,” Meng Yao says reassuringly. “You haven’t been left out of any loops.”

Lan Xichen attempts to parse this and fails. “Please explain this to me later,” he says at last. 

“Yes, when your brain is working again,” Meng Yao says readily. “No imperial court intrigue in the afterglow, I quite agree.” 

“And go back to Huaisang.”

“I will in a minute.”

“Dage worries about him.”

“He does, and rightly so.”

“If anything happens to him, he’ll--”

“Yes, I know, but Huaisang can survive another minute or two. That’s the point I was making before we got off track.”

“Point?”

“That I should go soon but I wanted to… You know. Keep you company through the comedown. At least for a few minutes.”

“Oh.” If Lan Xichen didn’t already feel like he was glowing and faintly thrumming all over, that would have done it. “What happened to prickly and mean?”

Meng Yao sniffs derisively. “There is basic etiquette to these situations. Especially when it’s… intense. And unplanned.”

Lan Xichen smiles to himself, pushes himself to sit up. “Mhm, I see, of course--it’s just good etiquette, not at all because A-Yao is secretly sweet and thoughtful.” Failing to find anything with which to wipe off his chest, he shrugs and uses the ruined sheet--it’s beyond repair anyway.

Meng Yao harrumphs at him. “And gege seems to be secretly a little catty, as it turns out.” He does not sound entirely displeased. 

Lan Xichen tosses the sheet aside and pushes his damp hair out of his face. “When can I see you again?” 

“Oh, right to business, is it? You take three minutes in the afterglow and you’re already trying to arrange your next one? Tsk! Men are all the same.”

“I want to see you,” Lan Xichen says, letting his voice drop low and beseeching. “Please, A-Yao?”

Cheating, gege.” Another huff of breath. “I’ll... think about it.”

A pang of slight disappointment. “Alright. Take your time.”

“I just…” He doesn’t finish. 

“It really is fine,” Lan Xichen says gently. “I mean it. Take all the time you need.”

“You aren’t--impatient?” There’s a glimmer of frustration in his voice.

“I am,” Lan Xichen says. “I want very badly to see you. But my wants don’t outweigh your needs.”

A huff and a grumble. “You say that now.” Another sigh. “Alright. I really should go, and you should--fix your sheets and get some rest.”

This isn’t quite the energy that he wants them to part on tonight, especially after… that, earlier. “One more question, if I may?” he asks, stretching back out on the sheets.

“Yes?”

“Would you like me to… refrain, until I see you again? Like you said earlier?”

Meng Yao’s breath catches. “You know I didn’t mean that. It was just talk.” 

“Mm. But would you like that?”

“Gege, are you offering?” he says, incredulous.

“Maybe I will wait regardless of whether or not you ask for it,” Lan Xichen muses. “Like going on a hunger strike.”

“You’re going to go on a jerk-off strike to get me to invite you over sooner?”

“I’m considering it. Will it work?” Lan Xichen asks cheerfully.

“Absolutely not.” But there’s laughter in Meng Yao’s voice as he says it. Just as Lan Xichen is about to shoo him off the phone, Meng Yao says, “A question for you in return.” 

“Of course.” 

“Huaisang is very good at reading me. When I go back in, he will… probably attempt to ply me with drinks in order to extract a full confession about this entire conversation. It may seem odd to him if I resist. I have never refused to tell him anything about my previous… encounters.” A pause. “Including ours, as you already know.” Meng Yao speaks more swiftly now, his voice clipped and formal, “Earlier, the things I told him about you, I wasn’t thinking of you as someone who had earned or deserved discretion. But. Huaisang showed me the conversation you had with him, and I…” A deep breath. “I felt. Humbled. That you thought I did deserve discretion. And that you knew that what Huaisang was telling you would upset me and so you put a stop to it, even though it could have been of material benefit to you. It was very... noble. So.” A breath, and then the firm conclusion: “So, if you’d rather that I not tell him anything, I won’t. Fair’s fair.”

Sweet. Thoughtful. Lan Xichen smiles at the ceiling. “And if I say I don’t mind?”

“I’m going to go back in there, snatch his fucking appletini out of his hand, chug it, and tell him absolutely everything I just did to you.”

Lan Xichen weighs his options, weighs the benefits. “You can tell him about this time,” he says--Meng Yao will relive it to an appreciative audience, Huaisang will be… probably delighted and encouraging, and will continue egging Meng Yao on as he has been. That’s worth the little embarrassment of having private matters aired. “I don’t mind. But ask me again next time, because the answer might be different.”

“Thank fuck.

He laughs. “Have a good night, A-Yao. Text me when you get home so I know you’re alright?”

A little snort. “Sure, gege, if you want. Goodnight.”

As soon as he hangs up, Lan Xichen flicks over to Venmo, sends Huaisang another thirty dollars, and texts him, > This should cover a couple drinks for you and A-Yao :) My treat! Remember to drink some water!

< lmao lan-laoshi wtf
< wait
< “a-yao”??????? excuse me????
∑(。・Д・。)??!?!
< when did u get a-yao privileges 

                > I’m sure he’ll explain. By the way, please tell dage I said hello!

< WAIT WHAT HOW DO U KNO DAGE?  (*〇□〇)……!
< *MY* DAGE???
< ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THE SAME DAGE

Lan Xichen mutes the conversation with Huaisang, changes the sheets on the bed, and goes straight to sleep.

*

The next morning, there’s the expected thousand-text avalanche from Huaisang with the usual range of histrionics, and a single text from Meng Yao which, thrillingly, turns out to be a selfie of him tucked in bed, sleepy-eyed, with the blankets tucked up to his nose and the caption, < Proof of getting home safe.

Lan Xichen immediately downloads the picture, makes it his phone wallpaper, and saves it in three different locations before he has a chance to come to his senses. 

                > Thank you for proof. <3 I hope you slept well.

Later that day--solidly into the afternoon, edging towards the evening, Lan Xichen is in the middle of cooking dinner when Meng Yao texts: < I made a catastrophic error of judgement last night.

This is, at face value, a terrifying thing to say. It ought to hurl Lan Xichen into another week of despondent moping, but… But. 

But he is beginning to get the knack of Meng Yao, the ways in which he speaks, the ways in which he hides his feelings or reveals them in twisty, backwards ways. A feral cat who lives behind a dumpster would naturally hiss and claw and skitter away into the shadows at the slightest sign of peril--and Lan Xichen supposes that there were signs of peril in what happened last night: Intimacy, intensity, warmth and teasing and joking and fondness, the threads of community overlap tying them together. All things that raise the stakes beyond a trivial, forgettable encounter. All, therefore, perilous. A feral cat hissing and clawing could either mean “Go away, I don’t want you”, or it could mean, “I feel unsafe; I believe I’m in danger.” 

Frankly, the fact that Meng Yao is saying this sort of thing is an enormous improvement. Better that than keeping it to himself, or whispering it only to Huaisang. Saying it to Lan Xichen is equivalent to offering him a chance to do something about it. He abandons the vegetables he’s chopping, wipes his hands off on a dishtowel, and goes into the living room to get comfortable so he can give this his full attention.

                > You were breathtaking. I was still smiling when I woke up this morning. If you were with me, I’d put your hand on my chest so you could feel how my heart pounds when I think about it.

< I should apologize. Lan Xichen notices that he is not saying “I apologize” or even “I’m sorry”. These are all still hints. Signals. Requests to be lured out from under the dumpster with soft coaxings and chicken scraps.

                > You should? For what?

< All of it.

                > Well, if you can find someone to apologize to, I suppose that’s between you and them, but I can’t imagine what you think you need to to apologize to me about.

< I was out of line.

                > You were perfect.

< I was horribly rude.

                > Is that what that’s called? Well, whatever the label, I’m trembling in sincere hope that you’ll do it again.

< You should despise me.

                > I disagree, I think I should hold your hand and call you A-Yao.

< It was too much.

                > I loved it and I’ve been driving myself to distraction all day just thinking about it.

< …How distracted?

                > In what form would you like the answer? I can provide amusing or poetic metaphors, or I can take a photograph right now.

< Photograph.

Lan Xichen unzips his fly, wriggles his pants down his thighs, and takes a picture of the bulge of his half-hard cock in his boxer-briefs. He’s been like this every time a stiff breeze blows past--even as a teenager, it wasn’t this bad. > Apologies for the lack of artistry, he says, attaching the picture.

< Hmph. Go jerk off and it won’t be a distraction anymore.

                > I’m happy to be distracted with thoughts of you, A-Yao. 
          
    > And anyway, I’m refraining and saving myself for you. :D

< I already told you that a jerk-off strike is not going to work.

                > Upon reflection, it’s not so much a strike as it is I’ve decided I agree with you. If you can’t have it, nobody can.

< THAT WAS A JOKE.
< That wasn’t SERIOUS, that was just stupid flirting in the moment!

                > No, no, I really think you’re onto something there, I think you’re right and you should say it.

< I can’t even DEAL with you.
< Don’t expect me to take any responsibility for this! You chose this all on your own!

                > Do you want to come over for dinner? :) I’m making stir fry.

< JERK OFF STRIKE IS NOT WORKING ON ME TODAY, GOODBYE GEGE

Lan Xichen smiles to himself, zips up his pants, and goes back to the kitchen. Half an hour later, his phone pings again, but it’s just Huaisang: 

< lan-laoshi, lan-gege, im like fully in platonic love w/ u, just thot u shld kno. ☆*✲゚*。(((´♡‿♡`+)))。*゚✲*☆
<
ur the wind bnth my wings ok??? (◦′ᆺ‵◦) ♬° ✧❥✧¸.•*¨*✧♡✧ ℒℴѵℯ ✧♡✧*¨*•.❥ 

....which Lan Xichen understands to mean that Meng Yao is hopping mad and ranting about it again. 

*

Through a ridiculous series of events, the next time they see each other is the following Friday afternoon, and it ends up with him fingerbanging Meng Yao on Wangji’s bathroom counter, so. There’s that. 

At some point in the week, he’d remembered to extract an explanation from Meng Yao about what “Wangji and Wei Wuxian don’t know they’re dating yet” meant, which--Lan Xichen despairs of his brother. He despairs of him. So of course he’d had to go straight over to Wangji’s apartment to gently but firmly interrogate him about the situation.

All of that had gotten fairly instantly derailed when no sooner had they sat down on Wangji’s couch but the adorable toddler from the rabbit-petting video Wangji had sent him a few weeks ago scuffles into the room in footie pajamas, sleepily rubbing his eyes, and flings himself unceremoniously on Lan Xichen’s lap.

A-Yuan, he is told. Wei Wuxian’s son. Apparently they live here now, due to some unfortunate events with Wei Wuxian’s apartment. 

Lan Xichen means to keep interrogating him, he really does, but A-Yuan is distractingly cute and impossible not to love, and frankly, Lan Xichen suspects that Wangji might be using the distraction on purpose to evade questioning, but--somehow he finds himself sitting on the floor by the coffeetable with A-Yuan in his lap, drawing a picture. Wangji has absconded somewhere. Lan Xichen cannot get up to track him down, because A-Yuan ordered Lan Xichen to hold the crayons, and so Lan Xichen is holding the crayons for him. Apparently this is a very important task, because otherwise the crayons will roll off the table, and A-Yuan told him very earnestly that that’s bad and crayons don’t go on the floor. 

So. 

So that’s where he is when the front door opens on a wave of loud bickering, and Wei Wuxian strides in with a bag of groceries in each arm and Nie Huaisang and Meng Yao trailing in his wake. “But it’s my turn to pick the bar!” Huaisang is screeching. “Wei-xiong!!”

“I haven’t had a turn in months!”

You haven’t even been to bitches’ night out in months, Wei-xiong!

“Because I have a baby now, Nie-xiong!” Wei Wuxian says, dumping the groceries on the kitchen counter and gesturing wildly towards the coffeetable. “I--” He double-takes at Lan Xichen. “Oh, shit, sorry, haha, thought you were Lan Zhan! Hi, Lan-dage! Sorry about the noise, uh--” 

Huaisang and Meng Yao have also just done double-takes at him. (A-Yuan, in his lap, continues doodling, utterly unconcerned about the ruckus.) 

Lan Xichen clears his throat. “Hello.”

“Have you met these guys?” Wei Wuxian says, gesturing towards them. “Huaisang--you know, Nie Mingjue’s kid brother--and this is Meng Yao--”

Huaisang is goggling at him, a profound delight dawning over his face. “Lan Xichen, as I live and breathe!” he crows. “The wind beneath my wings! The light of my whole life!! The only bitch in this house I respect!!!”

“Oh, so you do know each other!” Wei Wuxian says, unpacking the groceries from the bags. “Small town, haha!”

Huaisang leans across the counter and stage-whispers to Wei Wuxian, “I’ve been forbidden from gossiping on pain of death but let me tell you, the tea is so good. I am this man’s biggest fan. We’ll get Yao-ge drunk on vodka shots later and he will tell you allllllllllllllll about it--”

“Gege,” A-Yuan chirps. “Blue please!” 

Lan Xichen clears his throat again and manages to break the frozen eye contact he’d held with Meng Yao for the past several seconds. He hands A-Yuan the blue crayon.

The bickering continues (about which bar they’re going to, about the relative merits of hustling at pool versus hustling at poker, etc), but every time Lan Xichen glances up from A-Yuan’s drawing, on which he has pretended to fix his attention, Meng Yao is looking at him with an… expression… in his eyes than Lan Xichen is staunchly not going to think about while he has a four year old in his lap.

At some point, Meng Yao excuses himself to the bathroom. As he leaves the room, Wangji returns from wherever he was hiding and tells A-Yuan that it’s time to clean the bunny cage and whisks him away, and a moment later Wei Wuxian says, “Wait, where are the rest of the groceries? Nie-xiong!”

“I don’t know!”

“I told you to get them!”

“They were heavy!” Huaisang whines, and Wei Wuxian curses about the ice cream melting in the back of Wangji’s car, scruffs him by the back of the neck, and drags him out the door.

Lan Xichen finds himself suddenly alone in the living room.

He thinks about this for perhaps ten entire seconds, and then he goes and stands outside the bathroom just in time for Meng Yao to open the door. 

Meng Yao freezes, his eyes wide and fixed on Lan Xichen before they flick down the hall. Lan Xichen watches him register the silence. 

Meng Yao opens his mouth to say something, and Lan Xichen never does find out what it is, because he grabs Meng Yao by the neck and hip and kisses him, crowding into his space. Meng Yao grabs fistfuls of the front of his shirt, and Lan Xichen crowds in further, pushing him backwards into the bathroom, kicking the door closed behind him, pushing and pushing until Meng Yao is bent backwards over the bathroom counter.

Meng Yao keeps giving these shocked little gasps, but he hitches himself up to sit on the counter and he curls his legs around the backs of Lan Xichen’s thighs. It’s rough and fast and fumbling--within a handful of frantic seconds, he has yanked Lan Xichen’s clothing open, shoving his hands down Lan Xichen’s pants and curling them around his cock. “Did you?” he gasps into Lan Xichen’s mouth. “Did you hold off?”

Lan Xichen kisses him, wet and hot and open mouthed, and says, “Yes.

“Fuck. Fuck, gege--what the fuck--” Lan Xichen doesn’t dare look down--the sight of Meng Yao’s hand on his cock will make him come instantly--so he buries his face against Meng Yao’s neck and pulls his collar aside and sucks hard. Meng Yao gasps again and strokes him with brutal efficiency. “Fuck--no you didn’t, I don’t believe you--”

“If you can’t have it, nobody can,” Lan Xichen says, muffled against his skin. Meng Yao presses his face against Lan Xichen’s hair and moans very quietly, stripping his cock with expert little twists of his wrist, and suddenly Lan Xichen is right there on the edge, muscles tensing, heat overtaking him--

“Close already? Has it been difficult to go without? Are you desperate?” Meng Yao whispers into his hair; Lan Xichen can only shudder and nod, thrusting wildly into Meng Yao’s soft hand, rutting between his spread thighs. “Do you want to come? Come for me, gege. Come on. Now. Now.

Lan Xichen clamps his mouth shut on any noises and spills in great, shuddering, wracking pulses into the hand Meng Yao cups over the head. 

“Oh,” Meng Yao says. “Fuck, that’s--” He laughs breathlessly. “That’s a lot--you really weren’t lying, were you. Can you keep going? A little more?” He nips Lan Xichen’s ear, his strokes long and firm, wringing the orgasm out of him, making the end of it plateau for a long, excruciating moment while he shivers and stutters unevenly into Meng Yao’s hands. “Keep going--yeah, just like that, give me all of it.”

Lan Xichen loses a little time again, because the next moment that he’s consciously aware of, Meng Yao’s pants and underwear are gone, and he’s got one of Meng Yao’s legs up on his shoulder, one hand on Meng Yao’s cock, three spit-wet fingers knuckle-deep in his hole, his tongue in Meng Yao’s mouth, and there are muffled mumbles of, “Harder, harder, harder,” filling his ears. 

Lan Xichen goes harder with both his hands, kisses him until Meng Yao has to lean back against the mirror, bites at his mouth. Meng Yao’s fingernails are digging into Lan Xichen’s upper arms and his eyes are squeezed closed as if in concentration. It’s taking him longer-- he hasn’t been denying himself for the last week--and they do not have much time until someone wonders where they’ve gone. Lan Xichen kisses his neck, sucks the lobe of his ear. “A-Yao,” he whispers. “A-Yao. Please?”

“Gege,” Meng Yao says, no louder than a breath; his nails dig into Lan Xichen’s shoulders. 

He goes a little faster still, a little harder, until both his arms are burning with strain. “Please, A-Yao? Please. Please. ” Meng Yao slaps a palm to his mouth to muffle a strangled noise and breaks under Lan Xichen’s hands. Perfect. Perfect. Utterly enraptured, Lan Xichen fucks him through it and kisses his face, his hands gentling and slowing as all the tension goes out of Meng Yao’s body and his breath steadies. As soon as he takes his hand away from his mouth, Lan Xichen kisses that too.

“So mad at you. So mad,” Meng Yao says peevishly, cracking his eyes open--the effect is rather ruined by… well, everything. His color is high, his eyes bright, his mouth swollen--he looks debauched. “Talked a big game about not withholding anything, but now it is intentional, isn’t it.”

Lan Xichen rolls his eyes, laughing under his breath, and kisses him again. He slides his fingers free slowly--Meng Yao winces a little--and flexes the cramps out of both hands. “I wasn’t talking about that in the context of ten minutes or less on my little brother’s bathroom counter, and you know it,” he says dryly. “Come over to mine. You have an open invitation.” Another brief kiss, and then he shuffles a step to the side to do up his pants and wash his hands. 

Meng Yao grumbles and hops off the counter, wriggling back into his own clothes. “Terrible idea.”

“Then invite me to yours.”

“Can’t do that, also a bad idea.” 

Lan Xichen gives him an amused look in the mirror. He finishes washing and drying his hands just as Meng Yao steps up for his turn at the sink, and Lan Xichen wraps his arms around him from behind and kisses his neck. “If I have no opportunity to prove that I spoke sincerely, what am I to do? How am I to convince you that I’m not withholding anything from you?”

“Gege,” Meng Yao scolds quietly.

“Come over to mine,” Lan Xichen murmurs directly against Meng Yao’s skin. “Stay the night if you’d like. Stay the weekend. I’ll make it worth your while.”

Meng Yao leans back against him, just a very little bit. “I have to go. I have prior engagements.”

Lan Xichen lays one more kiss on his neck and releases him. “The offer’s open,” he says, smiling. “I’ll be thinking about A-Yao constantly until then.”

This, of all things, makes Meng Yao’s cheeks go a little pink. “I’m sure you will,” he says with some dignity, and stalks out of the bathroom.

Lan Xichen gets the cleaning supplies out of the cupboard and sanitizes the whole counter. And the floor. And the... wall. He vaguely recalls snatching Meng Yao’s hands off his cock when the oversensitivity got too great and pinning his wrists against the wall before he had a chance to wipe up, so that’s where most of that handful of come went. There’s also a great smear on the side of his shirt, in the rough shape of Meng Yao’s hand, which is apparently where the rest of it went. He wipes that up as best he can with a few wet paper towels, but… he’s going to have to borrow a shirt from Wangji or go out in public with a huge damp spot on his side. 

Oh well. Worth it.

At that thought, he has to stop for a moment and marvel a little at the person he has become. 

He just had a quickie in Wangji’s bathroom. Two months ago, that would have been… unconscionable. Two months ago, he would have been shocked and appalled at the very idea, and now he’s not even guilty. A little abashed, perhaps, but mostly just… pleased with himself. Pleased with Meng Yao. Glad that it happened, and hopeful that it will happen again.

Happy. He’s happy.

He looks at himself in the mirror and… sees someone who looks so visibly smug that he has to laugh at himself. Has to laugh a little at the Lan Xichen of two months ago, who had been moving through a world of misty pastels and couldn’t have imagined one filled with brighter shades--like someone who had spent his whole life in a pale blue fogbank of contentment, only to emerge and set eyes on a rippling wheat field of shining gold.

By the time he emerges from the bathroom, Meng Yao, Huaisang, and Wei Wuxian have already left, which is probably fortunate.

*

< Shit, okay, listen, Meng Yao texts him an hour or so later.
< You heard what Huaisang told Wei Wuxian in the kitchen earlier.

                > About getting you drunk on vodka shots?

< Yes.
< Look, I kept a straight face when I came out of the bathroom, but YOU PUT A HICKEY ON MY NECK AND HUAISANG SAW IT
< I am now being, and I quote, “FETED for contributions to the collective sluttiness of bitches’ night out”, unquote

                > Oh dear, I’m sorry, I should have asked if marks were alright.

< ??????
< Why wouldn’t marks be alright?
< You tried to leave it low enough to hide, it’s not your fault that Huaisang has cat eyes.
< Not the point.
< Lately I have one sip of alcohol and I start ranting about you.

                > Are you checking to make sure it’s alright to tell Wei Wuxian everything you already told Huaisang? <3 A-Yao is so thoughtful.

< Partially.
< But. You said to ask again next time.
< You said the answer might be different.

                > Do YOU want to tell them? If you don’t want to tell them, I can say, “Maybe keep this one private, please”, if that will help?

< I… don’t NOT want to tell them.

                > Is the ranting a specific group bonding experience?

< Well. Yes. That is a good way of putting it.

                > They’re your friends, A-Yao. <3 You’re allowed to want to confide in them.

< Wash your mouth out with soap.

                > For which part?

< “Friends”.  “Confiding in them”.

                > Haha! But aren’t they?

< THESE losers?!

                > For someone who doesn’t think Huaisang is a friend, you take very good care of him.

< Shut up. Can I brag about your dick or not?

                > Oh, so it’s bragging now, not ranting? :))) 

< You know what? I’m blocking your number.

Lan Xichen sends him one of his more artistic, almost safe-for-work dick pics.

< ...Gege, I am *appalled* with you. APPALLED.
< Fuck, why haven’t I blown you yet?
< That must be why you’re giving me so much backchat lately. If I’d sucked your dick, you’d be groveling at my feet and staying strictly on your best behavior.
< Remind me to fix that.

                > Certainly. When will I see you so that I can do that? :)

< THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN BY BACKCHAT.
< Unbelievable.
< I’m telling Wei Wuxian about your dick, speak now or forever hold your peace

                > Hold my 🍑? I did that earlier in the bathroom, didn’t I?

< UNBELIEVABLE.

Chapter Text

On Monday, just as Lan Xichen is leaving the office, Meng Yao texts: < I’m going to ask you something and I don’t want you to flirt or play coy. Just give me a straight fucking answer. Got it?

                > Yes, of course. What is it?

< The thing about inviting me over and keeping me there for a while. Was that a joke? Were you just being cute?
< I don’t care what the answer is as long as it’s what you really mean.

                > No, I wasn’t joking. I was deadly serious.

< Okay.

< I have a second question. I need another serious answer on this.
< Something happened today and I do not want to talk about it. Suffice it to say I am furious. I am not a pleasant person to be around when I am furious. I OUGHT to go directly home and lock myself in so that I do not murder anyone--I cannot emphasize enough how little I am joking about that being a possibility.
< However, due to the nature of the incident and the person who is the target of my anger, isolating myself in that way would essentially be proving him right.
< As murder is a tedious business that is difficult to get away with given modern technology, and as I do not particularly care to risk going to jail, and as I do NOT want to prove him right, I am proposing to deal with this in a spiteful and symbolic sort of way instead, to wit: Accepting your invitation and having sex on every surface in your house.

Lan Xichen silently opens a text message to his uncle and informs him that he will be calling in sick to work the next day.

< Before you answer, I would like to reiterate how extremely unpleasant I am to be around at this time. You should not expect me to pretend to be kind or sweet or thoughtful or any of those other things that you think I am.

                > Come over.

< Please confirm aloud that you understand the caveats I have laid out.

                > I understand you are furious, that you don’t want to talk about it, that you do want to have angry sex about it, and that you are not going to attempt to blunt your bad mood for the sake of good manners. Come over.

< I don’t know how long I will want to stay. Likely overnight at minimum.

                > I already told my uncle I’m not going into work tomorrow. Come over.

*

Lan Xichen opens the door of his apartment and Meng Yao charges in without waiting to be asked. He kicks off his shoes by the door, drops his satchel and jacket on the floor, and turns to Lan Xichen, seething.

Lan Xichen takes his face in his hands and kisses him. 

“I warned you,” Meng Yao whispers viciously, fists clenched in the front of Lan Xichen’s shirt. “I warned you. You’re not allowed to pretend later like I didn’t warn you. You’re not allowed to blame me for this.”

“You warned me,” Lan Xichen agrees. “I’m glad you’re here. What do you want first?”

“A shower. And your mouth.” 

Lan Xichen’s shower is excellent for sex--it has very good pressure, infinite hot water, and a tiled bench. Meng Yao does not comment on any of this, only strips off his clothes with ruthless efficiency, steps in, and stands motionless under the spray with a thunderous expression towards the wall. As Lan Xichen steps in after him and closes the glass door to keep the steam in, Meng Yao snarls a little under his breath. “I forgot to ask if you minded it rough.”

The water feels almost cold in comparison to how hot he feels at those words. “I don’t mind it, within reason.” Lan Xichen says, sinking to his knees. Meng Yao isn’t hard yet. His fists are clenched at his sides. Lan Xichen smooths his hands up Meng Yao’s flanks and kisses his stomach. “You’re here so that I can give you anything you like.”

So Meng Yao winds his hands in Lan Xichen’s hair and fucks his mouth until he comes. 

Before he’s even caught his breath from the first round, he snaps, “Again,” so Lan Xichen puts him on the bench and eats him out until he’s hard, then sucks his cock and works up to four fingers in his hole before Meng Yao comes a second time, silent and snarling. 

“Again,” says Meng Yao.

After the third round, Lan Xichen manages to wheedle him into getting out of the shower and taking a break for snacks and hydration, which Meng Yao complies with begrudgingly, eating his delivery pad thai as if it too has personally offended him. 

Well-fed, well-fucked, and loose-limbed from the heat of the shower, Meng Yao’s towering rage seems to have been somewhat disrupted, so he complies as well--grumbling like a cranky toddler the whole time, adorable --with Lan Xichen’s suggestion of a nap and a cuddle before the fourth round.

Spooning Meng Yao turns out to be Lan Xichen’s new favorite thing in the entire world. He nuzzles up against the back of Meng Yao’s neck and glories in it, right up until Meng Yao says under his breath, “I told you I wouldn’t be pleasant to be around.”

Lan Xichen kisses his nape. “I don’t know how you got that idea. I’m having a lovely time.”

“I’m still--I haven’t--”

“Hm?”

Meng Yao huffs and pointedly grinds back against Lan Xichen’s cock. “Still haven’t done anything with you.” Lan Xichen exhales against his skin and can’t help but rock against him--Meng Yao’s ass is round and plush, two perfect handfuls. 

He’d been aching with want in the shower and hard enough to feel his heartbeat in his cock, yet once again it had been easy to set that aside in favor of... higher priorities. They’d put on pajama pants to eat dinner, but even with the distraction of food, his arousal had only reduced to a simmer--impossible for it to fade any more than that when the pants he’d lent Meng Yao slung so tantalizingly low on his hips, held up only by the cinched drawstring.  “You can do anything with me that you’d like,” he breathes.

“You should get off once,” Meng Yao says, sharp and calculating. “Because you’re going to fuck me next, after I sleep a little, and I don’t want you to come too soon.” Lan Xichen groans softly and rocks more firmly against him, the two layers of fabric between them a dry grind. He’s aching again, steel-hard and feverish all over, and he can’t help but clutch at Meng Yao’s hip and flank. Meng Yao snorts. “Why in the world do you like it so much when I’m mean? I just accused you of premature ejaculation.”

“A-Yao can accuse me of whatever he wants. I’m not ashamed of my reactions to him,” Lan Xichen says, mouthing at his skin, his breath already coming faster. “Do you want--like this?” He grinds hard against Meng Yao’s ass and muffles a soft moan against his bare shoulder. “I can--I can leave you to sleep and--take care of myself if you prefer--”

“Gege,” Meng Yao says, exasperated. “For heaven’s sake.” Before Lan Xichen can apologize, Meng Yao is fumbling at the drawstring of his sleep pants, wriggling the waistband down under his ass, and reaching back to pull Lan Xichen’s cock out too. “Just shut up and fuck my thighs and stop being so infuriatingly noble, I’m not in the mood to hear it.”

Lan Xichen has fucked people’s thighs before, and had his own fucked, and it has never once felt as filthy as it does when he slides in between Meng Yao’s, his cock lube-slick and already dripping. Meng Yao isn’t even particularly trying make it good for him, not tightening his muscles more than an idle little squeeze now and then, and perhaps that, more than anything, is what makes Lan Xichen feel so… so wild, so boiling hot and desperate--Meng Yao is haughtily tolerating this as a necessary prerequisite for later, and it is so condescending, and it makes Lan Xichen want to bend over backwards to please him, and it takes away all his remaining ability to self-regulate. He pants and groans against Meng Yao’s neck and shoulder, fucking rough and uneven into the slick space, and he never, ever wants to be anywhere else. He thinks he might babble something to that effect, but by the end, all he can say is, “A-Yao, A-Yao, A-Yao, ” and come so hard he forgets to breathe. 

“That’s better,” Meng Yao says, patting Lan Xichen’s arm, lax around his waist--Lan Xichen notes the trace of smugness in his voice which has erased the last of the crankiness.

He quite agrees--that is better.

They clean up. They nap.

He wakes up when he’s pushed onto his back and kissed, and opens his eyes just in time to see Meng Yao straddle him, fully naked. His heart instantly begins thundering in his chest. “Hi,” he says, breathless.

Meng Yao tosses the bottle of lube aside and wraps his wet hand around Lan Xichen’s cock. “Hi. Wake up.”

“I’m awake.” He tries to sit up, tries to reach up for a kiss, but Meng Yao unceremoniously shoves him back down with one hand in the middle of his chest.

“Don’t you dare distract me,” Meng Yao says sternly. He’s rebuffed again when he tries to touch Meng Yao’s chest, and again a few minutes later when he tries to help Meng Yao prepare himself--

And then Meng Yao is holding his cock steady and sinking down on it, excruciatingly slow, incredibly tight, scorching hot.

Lan Xichen has never fucked bare before. 

He’s faintly aware that they should… talk about it or something, but in the same way that all departments of his brain had refused to consider the idea that “if I can’t have it, nobody can” was anything but reasonable, this too seems natural. Preordained. The only thought that is important enough to break through the drowning haze of lust is a chirpy little murmur of, Shotgun wedding!

And then there are no thoughts at all, because Meng Yao is working himself halfway down, and then three-quarters, his eyes falling closed and his soft mouth falling open, a tiny furrow of concentration between his brows, his fingers curling to dig his nails hard into Lan Xichen’s chest--and Lan Xichen, shaking like a virgin, like a man struck dumb by a glimpse of the divine, can only stare up at him in stupefied awe, wonder, reverence, worship--

Meng Yao’s expression smooths out and he exhales as he settles down, hilted right to the base, his weight and gravity pushing him down just those extra few millimeters so that Lan Xichen wonders wildly if his cock ever been this deep in anyone before, and...

Meng Yao opens his eyes, bright with a gleam of triumph, and smiles down at him.

Lan Xichen’s heart stops. 

He discovers, between one breath and the next, that he still had not understood what wanting was. Not until this moment.

He discovers, between one breath and the next, that he has never truly been in love with anyone before. Not until this moment.

 That moment of suspension, that instant between breaths, lasts like the split second before a car crash, before the collision of a wrecking ball, before the beginning of a fall when someone’s foot slips on ice at the edge of the roof of a skyscraper.

Meng Yao has never smiled in front of him before. It’s--incandescent. He has dimples .

How is Lan Xichen supposed to live now that he has this knowledge? Why has he not been struck dead? How is he supposed to look at anything or anyone else ever again?

“Better,” Meng Yao says, approving. “That’s better.”

“A-Yao,” he breathes in reply, because how is he supposed to speak again with words other than that one?

Meng Yao starts moving before Lan Xichen is ready for it--but how could he ever be ready for it?--and it feels like the end of the world, like the heat-death of the universe, like being torn apart not on the atomic level but down to his quarks and shoved slapdash back together, and Meng Yao’s smile only gets brighter and wider, his dimples deeper. His eyes flutter closed again as he says, “Oh, you feel good.”

“A-Yao,” Lan Xichen says again, desperately, clutching at his hips with shaking hands.

“Hush.”

Meng Yao’s small, rocking motions increase gradually until he’s fucking himself down harder than Lan Xichen has ever dared to fuck anyone, harder than he’s ever wanted to, but it’s perfect, it’s everything, and Meng Yao rides him like he doesn’t care how good it is for Lan Xichen, like he’s using him.

But even when he’s exerting himself, even when he’s slamming himself down on Lan Xichen’s cock and his brow is knotted up with concentration again, it’s still with wisps of that smile wreathing his expression like incense smoke, sweet and heady.

Lan Xichen tries to--to contribute, to match the pace and rock up into each thrust, to put his hand on Meng Yao’s cock and stroke him, but Meng Yao gasps, “No, still, be still,” and Lan Xichen freezes in place. At least Meng Yao lets him hold onto his hips, at least he has that to anchor him, because every time he is engulfed in that tight, wet, tight heat, he feels like he’s going to be swept away and--not just obliterated from the present, but obliterated retroactively so that he will not exist and will have never existed.

Orgasm should be an anticlimax by comparison.

Meng Yao has been fairly quiet the whole time--in all the times Lan Xichen has brought him to pleasure, he’s not been one for making a great deal of noise beyond that of his unvocalized breath--but as he gets close, he makes these choked-off little sounds, high and bright in the back of his throat, and he whispers urgently, “Gege, gege," and at last drags Lan Xichen’s hand to his cock and--

Lan Xichen hasn’t ever managed to come simultaneously with anyone before either, but when Meng Yao’s nails tear at his chest as he clamps throttling-tight around his cock, Lan Xichen loses his control and slams up into him as the earth moves and dying stars explode into new life and the dislocated universe wrenches itself back into place.

The comedown is… disorienting. He’s drenched with sweat, quivering all over, panting for breath, weak and watery. It feels surreal, in a way, to have a body. To exist and be embodied in a limited physical form. 

Meng Yao, propped up on his arms and hanging his head with exhaustion, his thighs trembling on either side of Lan Xichen’s hips, wheezes, “Fuck, I needed that.” He lifts his head, smiling openly again, and Lan Xichen loves him so much he cannot speak, can’t do anything but reach up and pull him down into a kiss, wet and open and slow. Meng Yao smiles at that too as he pulls away, braces his hands on Lan Xichen’s ribs and, with a heroic effort, lifts himself off--they both wince a little at the friction, and then Meng Yao topples to one side and stretches his legs out with another, bigger wince. “Stiff knees never used to happen back when I was sixteen.”

Lan Xichen feels--cold and bereft and empty. He ought to hold himself back and wait to see whether Meng Yao wants to be touched afterward, but he can’t. The thought is wildly distressing. He turns towards him and wraps around him like an octopus, hugging him close and tucking Meng Yao’s head under his chin.

“Mmph,” says Meng Yao, muffled against his chest. “Hi, gege.”

Lan Xichen hugs him tighter. 

He feels Meng Yao go still for a moment, and then he frees one hand to pat Lan Xichen’s side. “It was nice,” Meng Yao says. “I feel better.” Another pause, this one more thoughtful, and then Meng Yao nuzzles into his chest. “Gege made me feel better,” he says in a very cute voice. “Gege made me feel so good.”

“I’m glad,” he manages, whispering into Meng Yao’s hair.

“Did gege feel good too?” He nods, feels Meng Yao’s answering smile against his chest as he lays little kisses against his sternum. “Mm, yes, I could tell,” he says, almost purring. “Gege went so deep, A-Yao is going to be dripping for hours.”

Lan Xichen shivers all the way to the tips of his toes and feels one of his hands, quite without his conscious consent, drift down Meng Yao’s back, his fingers stopping just at the top of his ass. 

Meng Yao pushes back into it. “Does gege want to feel?” he says, breathy. “A-Yao feels so empty that it aches now. Gege is so big, he filled me up so much. He almost split me in half.” Lan Xichen shivers again and slides his fingers down, traces the wet ruin of him softly, so softly, until Meng Yao shudders, his hands flexing against Lan Xichen’s chest, and then he tucks in two fingertips just past the first knuckle--they sigh in unison, and Meng Yao’s catches on a surprised laugh. “Is it good? Gege feels better when he’s inside?”

That’s exactly what it is, and Lan Xichen flushes hot all over. “Don’t tease me,” he mumbles.

“Gege is so easy to tease, though.” 

“A-Yao.” Even to his own ear, he sounds… pleading. Beseeching.

Meng Yao must hear it too, because after another moment of thoughtful silence, he nestles in closer, wrapping one arm around Lan Xichen’s waist. “I think it feels better too,” he says quietly, as if confessing--his real voice, not his cute voice. “To be… close. Like that.” His hand strokes up and down Lan Xichen’s back. Another moment. “Are you. Alright?”

Lan Xichen’s eyes sting. He squeezes them tight and nods. “Yes,” he whispers, so that he won’t have to hear whether his voice breaks. “Yes, I’m fine. Overwhelmed, that’s all.” 

“Mm,” Meng Yao says, inscrutable.

“I just--” He cuts himself off. Swallows it down. It’s hard, like swallowing a very large pill dry--a hard lump that hurts all the way down his throat.

“Hm?”

He buries his nose in Meng Yao’s hair and breathes him in. “I just need to hold you for a minute,” he says, with some difficulty. “If that’s alright.”

A longer silence. “Yes, gege,” Meng Yao says eventually. “That’s alright.” 

*

They nap again. Lan Xichen wakes around midnight when Meng Yao extricates himself from his grasp and slips out of the bed. Assuming Meng Yao is just going to clean up or stretch his legs or visit the bathroom or get a glass of water, Lan Xichen does not rouse himself fully, but neither is he able to fall back asleep, and so he notices when a couple minutes pass and Meng Yao doesn’t return. 

A cold knot twists through his stomach, and he drags himself out of bed to go looking for him. 

He hasn’t unceremoniously left the apartment--and Lan Xichen hadn’t quite realized that that was his fear until he sees it isn’t true. Meng Yao is just pacing through the living room in his borrowed pajama bottoms, his hands laced together behind his neck, as if pulling his head down. “A-Yao?” 

“Go back to bed.” He doesn’t turn towards Lan Xichen, but neither does he turn away.

“Everything alright?”

“I warned you I wasn’t going to be good company. There’s nothing new.”

Lan Xichen shuffles forward and touches his shoulder. Meng Yao doesn’t shake him off, but neither does he lean into it. “Can I help?”

“You should sleep.”

“I’m not going to work tomorrow, so it doesn’t matter if I’m a little tired. There’s no reason not to stay up and keep you company.”

Meng Yao says nothing. Tilting his head a little to better look at Meng Yao’s downturned face, Lan Xichen can see his eyes are closed. He steps a little closer, wraps his arms loosely around Meng Yao’s body, so that he can pull away if he wants. “I’m not asking you to talk about it, because you don’t want to talk about it. But I want you to know that I’m angry with whoever made you angry.”

“I can’t imagine you angry,” Meng Yao says neutrally. “You don’t have the face for it.”

“It doesn’t happen often. As a child, I was taught never even to be annoyed, except in extreme circumstances. I was also taught that if I couldn’t help but be annoyed, I should never express it aloud.”

“That explains a great deal about you and your brother,” Meng Yao says. He lifts his head on a long inhale. “I’m fine, gege.”

“Could you be more fine?” Very innocently, he adds, “There’s still quite a few surfaces we haven’t had sex on, and you said--”

Meng Yao snorts and tips his face up. Lan Xichen kisses him. “I did say spite sex would prove him wrong, didn’t I.” 

It doesn’t sound quite like a come-on. Lan Xichen kisses his cheek, which makes Meng Yao blink as if startled. “Can I get you a cup of tea while you think about it?” 

A slow nod. “Alright.” 

He makes Meng Yao tea in one of his nicest teacups, with his nicest loose-leaf masala chai blend and installs him on the couch with an afghan around his shoulders. Sensing Meng Yao might want another moment or two alone, he goes to change the sheets on the bed--they hadn’t made much of an effort to clean up after the last round, so the sheets are fairly disgusting. Lan Xichen has another of those marveling moments at himself. With all his former lovers, he would have laid out a towel first, and cleaned up immediately afterwards, and probably showered. 

He makes the bed with fresh sheets and takes the bundle of dirty ones into the laundry room--he doesn’t notice that Meng Yao has followed him in with his teacup until he’s got the washer started. 

He’s so, so, so cute with the blanket around his shoulders and his borrowed pajama pants--they’re much too long for him, the cuffs pool around his ankles--and both his hands around the cup as he sips and watches Lan Xichen over the rim with big, dark eyes. He’s so perfect that it makes the bottom drop out of Lan Xichen’s stomach with a swoop, like riding in an elevator and feeling it unexpectedly fall an inch. Shotgun wedding, Lan Xichen’s brain says decisively, and his mouth, rasping with desire, says, “A-Yao, come here.”

Meng Yao primly sets the cup on the counter Lan Xichen uses for folding laundry and steps forward. He slithers between Lan Xichen and the washer and hops up on the edge. “I brought the lube,” he says conversationally, and--well, that’s that, then. 

They fuck on top of the washing machine, Meng Yao on his back and half-hanging off the edge, his hips supported only by Lan Xichen’s hands, his legs tight around Lan Xichen’s waist. “You’re not too sore?” Lan Xichen groans when he’s halfway inside, mouthing at Meng Yao’s nipple.

“Shut up,” Meng Yao says, gripping him by the hair again. “Fuck me like you mean it. Put your back into it.” 

Meng Yao keeps demanding more until Lan Xichen is railing him absolutely as hard as he possibly can, sweat stinging in his eyes and dripping off his nose onto Meng Yao’s chest as Meng Yao’s nails claw lines of fire down his back. Having figured out that Lan Xichen can be so easily goaded, Meng Yao is making all kinds of noise now--yes, gege, yes, take me, don’t stop, make me feel it.

Lan Xichen forgets about anything but feeling of Meng Yao around him--the arms around his shoulders, the legs around his hips, the fluttering insides around his cock--forgets about the burning strain of effort in his muscles and becomes nothing more than a tool, a machine whose only purpose is to make Meng Yao come. He fucks him until his muscles scream, until he’s certain his strength is about to give out, and he keeps going anyway. He fucks him until Meng Yao stops being able to talk at all, until even the slosh of the washing machine under them finishes and falls silent, until there’s no noise but the slap of damp skin and the panting of their breath, until Meng Yao clings tight to him and whispers, “Yes, yes, yes, yes,” and comes hard, his heels digging into Lan Xichen’s ass to pull him in just that extra bit harder--Lan Xichen spares one hand from holding his hips up to grab the back of the washing machine for even more leverage, ramming into him with deep, heavy thrusts. He’s been concentrating too hard on fucking exactly how Meng Yao wants it to think about his own pleasure, but now he feels it barreling down on him. The previous Lan Xichen would have been considerate enough to stop and ask his lover if it was alright to keep going after they’d come; the current Lan Xichen does not, even after Meng Yao has gone boneless and lax under him. He keeps going, not relenting in the weight or speed or depth of his thrusts, chasing his own need and finding it--just--barely--out of his grasp--

“A-Yao,” he gasps. “Please--

Meng Yao’s arms wind gentle around his neck and draw him down into a kiss. “You can do it,” he murmurs into Lan Xichen’s mouth. “You can do it, come on--”

“I can’t--”

“You have to,” so gently, not a command, not even a flirtation, just a soft statement of fact. “You have to, come on.” They’re not even kissing now, just pressing their sweat-damp faces together as Lan Xichen pants wildly into the air between them. “You’re almost there, you’re close, you’re so close, you’re going to come--” Lan Xichen distantly hears himself whining, desperate and frantic, crying out into Meng Yao’s mouth as he kisses him again. “You’re going to come for me--gege, you’re going to come--”

And then, all at once, he is. He does. He slams into Meng Yao with all the force of his rapidly dwindling endurance and grinds in with deep pulses of his hips--he’s never been so deep, surely he’s never been this deep in anyone--and comes, emptying what feels like his entire soul into Meng Yao, and a single thought pierces through the static roar of orgasm: Mine.

He loses his grip on the back of the washing machine and falls to one elbow. He’s gasping for breath, his forehead leaning against Meng Yao’s, and after a moment he distantly feels Meng Yao’s hands smoothing down his sides and up his spine, soothing and slow. Lan Xichen tips his head to kiss him, soft and slack and clumsy, kisses his jaw, his neck, his chest. He pulls out slowly, the too-much of overstimulation pulling up a high noise in his throat that never quite gets vocalized. 

He melts slowly onto the floor, kissing down Meng Yao’s stomach, his hip, his inner thigh. On his knees, he spreads Meng Yao’s cheeks and kisses his hole, keeps his tongue soft and gentle as he licks gratitude-worship-exultation into it. 

Meng Yao’s hand tangles in his hair and pulls him away too soon. “You’re actually a very intense person, aren’t you,” Meng Yao says thoughtfully, levering himself up and looking down at him. His hair is a mess. His cheeks are red, his mouth is red. He’s just… so handsome. He’s so handsome. He cocks his head and gazes down at Lan Xichen, faintly smiling. 

He wants to lay his heart out to Meng Yao, wants to tell him that he isn’t an intense person by nature--or at least, he hadn’t thought that he was. It’s new. It’s only because Meng Yao brings it out in him. But he’s… nervous, a little, of being that forthright. It might be too much. It might send Meng Yao skittering away again, or he might say Don’t, please again. And on a day like today, when he’s already had something upsetting happen… No, that’s too much. So Lan Xichen lowers his eyes and strokes his hands down Meng Yao’s calves, hanging in front of him, and says only, “Apparently I am.” He can’t help but glance up, can’t help but add, “I hope it’s alright.”

Meng Yao’s smile widens--dimples!!--and he says, “Yes, gege, it’s alright.”

*

They shower again. 

They sleep. 

In the morning, Lan Xichen brings him tea, finds out that Meng Yao prefers coffee, and promises to have some on hand for next time. Maybe Meng Yao just isn’t awake properly yet, because he only hums in agreement and doesn’t even get twitchy about the words ‘next time’. 

Lan Xichen makes him breakfast, gives him a leisurely, unhurried blowjob while Meng Yao is eating his pancakes, gets dragged back into bed to doze for the rest of the morning. 

Around eleven or so, Meng Yao stretches hugely, yawns, and says, “Alright. You fucked all the murder out of me, so I should probably head out.”

Lan Xichen shifts so he’s lying across Meng Yao’s chest, pinning him down, and sleepily says, “Should you, though?”

Meng Yao laughs. “I should at some point.” He combs his fingers through Lan Xichen’s hair, traces the whorls of his ear. He’s quiet for so long that Lan Xichen dozes off again, and then Meng Yao takes a breath as if to speak. 

And doesn’t say anything.

“Mm? A-Yao?”

“Nothing,” Meng Yao says--a lie, clearly, but Lan Xichen does not begrudge him this little self-protection. “I was just about to say that I don’t think I’ll be telling Huaisang the details of this one.”

Lan Xichen nods against his chest. “I agree,” he says sleepily. “He doesn’t need to know.”

“I’m going to say I was here,” Meng Yao says, the smallest edge of sharpness in his voice. “I’m not going to lie to him and tell him I didn’t see you.”

Lan Xichen hugs him, nuzzles his face against his skin. “I agree with that too. You shouldn’t lie to your friends. Or your Huaisangs who are not your friends but whose care you have nevertheless been charged with.” Under his cheek, he feels a little tension go out of Meng Yao. Ah , he thinks. “It is only the details and particulars that I want to keep private. Anything else, I have no objections to.” No, that’s not quite right; Meng Yao will misunderstand that. It takes a moment for him to dig through his own feelings, to imagine how it would feel, to admit it. But it’s important. He has to, otherwise Meng Yao will think he doesn’t care at all. “In fact, I think I would feel… sad, a little, if you didn’t tell him anything at all. If you wanted it to be secret.” He doesn’t know how to quantify it or label it other than sad, a little , though it feels more complicated than that. 

There’s another long silence. Meng Yao inhales-as-if-to-speak again. He holds his breath for… it must be a full ten seconds. Longer. 

At last: “Are you doing anything late Friday night?”

Lan Xichen is suddenly very awake. He resists the urge to snap his head up and look at Meng Yao in astonishment. “No, not particularly. I usually just come home from work and read.” He adds delicately, “You have a standing date with Huaisang on Friday nights.”

“Bitches’ night out, yes.”

Very carefully, Lan Xichen says, “It wouldn’t do to leave him without supervision.”

“No, certainly not.” Another pause. Lan Xichen stays relaxed, not allowing himself to signal anticipation. “The bar we usually go to.”

“Mm?”

“It’s closer to your apartment than mine.”

Lan Xichen has to lift his head now, has to look at Meng Yao’s face for this one--he’s got his customer service expression on, supremely neutral and supremely polite. “Are you inviting me to come along?”

The neutral expression shatters to horror. “Oh goodness, no, you’d hate it. You? In a dive bar? Absolutely not. You’d wander in like a beautiful lost deer and they’d kill and eat you immediately.”

Lan Xichen studies him. “Then are you asking if you can come over afterwards?”

The bland customer service smile returns. “Oh no, I wouldn’t want to impose on you.”

Lan Xichen chuckles and lays a smacking kiss on the closest bit of Meng Yao, which in this case is his left pec, just above his nipple. “You know what, I’ve just had a lovely idea, apropos of nothing and completely unprompted. What if you come over after your night out on Friday? My apartment is so convenient to your usual bar, and I hate to think of you having to drag yourself home if you’re tired and tipsy. You’re welcome to crash here, if you like.” He lays another, longer kiss on the same spot. “I’ll even come pick you up, if you don’t want to take a cab.”

“No, no, I couldn’t possibly trouble you like that.” Still the neutral, polite voice.

“I insist,” Lan Xichen murmurs. Another kiss, wetter, directly on his nipple with a flicker of tongue. “I really very much insist.”

Meng Yao’s fingers slide through his hair. “I really oughtn’t take advantage of your hospitality.” Softer, velvety, a little breathy. 

Lan Xichen bites his nipple very gently and mumbles around the flesh, “If you don’t come over, I’ll go on strike again.”

“Oh dear, a jerk-off strike, is that supposed to be a threat?”

“All Friday night, I’ll be texting you about it. I’ll be lying in this bed, wanting you, thinking about you, wasting away from yearning.” 

“Now you’re just offering incentives. You know,” Meng Yao says, richly amused. “I told Huaisang about this. He called you opposite-Lysistrata.”

“Funny, I didn’t hear about that one.” 

“Well, he was quite drunk at the time. He doesn’t remember everything he says when he’s like that.”

Shotgun wedding, Lan Xichen remembers warmly, and his hand strays lower, down Meng Yao’s side to his hip. “Come over on Friday, please. I want you to. As a personal favor to me.”

“Well, if it’s a favor, then I suppose I could show up for an hour or two.”

“Stay over. It will be late and you’ll be tired. It only makes sense.” He breaks away from mouthing at Meng Yao’s nipple and looks up at him with an expression he hopes is beseeching. “Please? For me?”

Meng Yao gives a huge sigh, but Lan Xichen can see the pleased glow in his eyes, at the corner of his mouth, the suggestion of a dimple. “For gege, how can I say no?” Meng Yao pushes Lan Xichen’s head down towards his half-hard cock, and Lan Xichen smiles and bites down his stomach.

*

Meng Yao does manage to leave about an hour later, though not before being kissed breathless against the front door. He tsks and scolds Lan Xichen’s every teasing attempt to obstruct the collection of his belongings with further necking, but just as he sets his hand on the doorknob--shoes on, satchel hanging across his chest, jacket draped over his arm, all ready to walk right out the door--he pauses. 

Turns back once more to eye Lan Xichen, speculative. 

Says, “Hm.” 

Lan Xichen’s blood goes hot again. He wants. God, he wants.

Meng Yao turns back and pushes Lan Xichen up against the door with his free hand. “Gege did something dreadful,” he purrs.

“I did?”

“Yes.” Meng Yao pushes Lan Xichen’s pajama pants down his hips; they fall and pool on the floor. “Exceedingly dreadful. Gege forgot to remind me about sucking him off.” And then Meng Yao sinks to his knees right there in the entryway--shoes on, satchel on his shoulder, not even putting his jacket down--and swallows him whole.

Lan Xichen hears himself making noises he wasn’t even aware he was capable of, and he’s not even embarrassed about them. He’s not even embarrassed about how quickly he starts begging, either. Nor about how fast he comes.

Meng Yao pops back up to his feet immediately afterward, wiping a bit of saliva off the corner of his mouth with the pad of his thumb. “There,” he says, smug. “That ought to take care of the backchat.”

Lan Xichen stares at him and whimpers a little. He’s not even embarrassed.

Meng Yao’s smug expression intensifies. “Something to say, gege?”

Lan Xichen swallows. His mouth is very dry. “No one’s--no one’s ever.” Words. They’re hard.

“What, no one’s ever deep-throated you? Well, I’m not surprised, considering.” Meng Yao casts a pointed downward glance at his cock. “Gege is very blessed, but even great blessings have downsides, hm? Gege will have to be on his best behavior if he wants it again.”

Lan Xichen nods energetically. “Yes. Yes, of course.”

Meng Yao’s smugness increases until he’s all but giving off light. “That’s more like it.”

*

            > Huaisang.

< yo sup ☆*・゜゚・*(^O^)/*・゜゚・*☆

            > Ask me again about my intentions towards Meng Yao.

< uh
< ok………...
  ( ・◇・)?
< wat r ur intentions toward yao-ge

            > I want to marry him.

< OMG N HAVE HIS BABIES!??!?!??! ‧˚☆₊*̥ (∗*⁰͈꒨⁰͈) ‧˚₊*̥ ☆
< IM CALLIN U ERGE NOW OK
< DAGE IS DAGE, U WILL HAVE 2 BE ERGE
< WOW WELCOME 2 TEH FAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉  🎊 🎊 🎊 🎊 🎊 🎊 🎊 🎊 🎊 🎊 ✨ ✨ ✨ ✨ ✨ ✨ ✨ ✨ ✨
< If You Hurt Him, I Will Kill You And I Will Get Away With It. Please Know That And Hold It In Your Heart. ☺️
< (✿ ◕‿◕) ᓄ✂╰U╯
< omg omg omggggg this is gr8 im so happy for u YAYAYAYAYAYYAYAYAYAYAY 

< ♪♪\(^ω^\)( /^ω^)/♪♪

< “:♡.•♬✧⁽⁽ଘ( ˊᵕˋ )ଓ⁾⁾*+:•*∴

< ヽ(´∇´)ノ (∇´ノ) ヽ(   )ノ (ヽ´∇) ヽ(´∇`)ノ

< (〜⌒∇⌒)〜 

            > Help.

< wat
< へ(゚-゚へ)
< wat do u mean help
< wat am i sposed to help w/???
< idk how 2 help w/ nething
< ???????? wat help????

            > He was here. He stayed the night and most of the morning.

< HOLY SHIT LAOSHI DID U FUCK HIM SO GOOD HE COLDNT WALK OR??????
< I MEAN I GUESS THATS 1 WAY 2 KEEP HIM FROM ABSCONDING IN THE NIGHT
< wat help then????

            > I don’t know. Perhaps I shouldn’t have asked. I apologize.

< wait ur like. ur like smart n stuff
< u didnt TELL him abt wanting 2 marry him n have his babies, yeh???

            > No. Not yet.

< WHEW TNK GOD
< haha i was like omg is yao-ge abt 2 chnge his identity n join witness protection or sumthin lololol
< i was liek ready 2 naruto-run 2 the airport n intercept him LOLOLOLOL
< nyoooooooOOOOM

< sry neway we r talkin abt u
< now im havin 2nd thots tho
< like????? idk maybe ur like…. TOO nice 4 him
< liek mebbe a feral dumpster cat is not the cat 4 u
< liek do u know nething abt feral cats? idk! mebbe uv only had like pedigree show cats b4 this, mebbe u will take dis feral dumpster cat in n then leik 2mo l8r ull b like “this cat sucks aCKtually, all my furniture is ruined, im gonna put him back in the dumpster”
< or mebbe ull b like “I KNO, LETS GET HIM DECLAWED!!!!!!!!!”
< @ which pnt ill come to ur house n show u how they declaw cats but imma do it on ur actual hands 4 Demonstration Purposes
< (purrposes lololol)
< do u kno how? imagine the ends of all ur fingers gettin chopped off @ the 1st knuckle just so that u dont have fingernails nemore
< so mebbe it is better if u let the feral dumpster cat live in the dumpster, n u come by erry week or 2 w/ chicken scraps n give him a nice scritch, n just have a fun cat friend who ur chill bros with

< like
< i want dumpster cat 2 have a warm n loving home, obvs, w/ unlimited chicken scraps n scritches on tap, u kno?????
< but like
< omfg i sound like dage again HAHAHHAHAHHA
(*≧▽≦)ノシ)) 🙈 🙈 🙈 🙈 🙈 🙈 🙈 🙈 🙈 🙈
< “im sure a kitten sounds like a good idea now a-sang, but how r u gonna feel when it pees on ur clothes n barfs on ur sketchbook”

< its a valid question tho 🤔 🤔 🤔 🤔 🤔
< like u get wat im sayin???? ur like “omg i want 2 marry him n have his babies” n thats like SO CUTE n i love it (๑ˊ͈ ॢꇴ ˋ͈)〜♡॰ॱ
< but u have only rly seen the feral dumpster cat on his nicest “gimme chicken scraps, mortal” behavior, u get me????
< so idk idk idk idk idk
< IDK!!!!! i rly rly dk
< idk
< IDK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

< n also
< there4
< idk why i shld “”””help””””” u
< i just dk, u kno?????

< erge are u still there

< erge

< ok

< i guess ur probs goin thru a whole Thing rn
< good luck w that, like fr. like fr fr fr tho. f rly r.

< idk i just feel liek mebbe u cant rly kno if u want 2 marry sumby til u cum in them, im kinda an oldfashioned romantic liek that 😌 😌 😌 😌
< liek not “cum while ur in them”, i mean like…..
< like………. creampie em lololol
< thats y the only bareback porn i watch is by amateurs, bc thats how u kno theyre rly in love ahaha
< btw probs tmi but like
< if u want some porn recs, lmk ok? no pressure!!!!
(^_−)☆
< its just tht i can hook u up w/ recs of ppl who use real cameras n good lighting
< not the fuckin shitty shaky handcam kind where sum rando dude is goin HHHHHH HHHHH HHHHH directly into his iphone’s mic liek hes standin in gale force winds omfg
< bad audio quality is the leadin cause of erectile dysfunction IMO!!!!!!!!!

< tho
< cum 2 think of it theres probs sumby w/ a kink 4 ppl breathing in2 their ears so mebbe they like that shit
<
😔 😔 😔 😔 😔 😔 im not gonna kinkshame them 4 that

< how did i get on this topic

< o right, creampies (〜◕ヮ◕)〜⊹
< like lmao good luck w that buddy pal 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂
< lmaooooooo can u even imagine
< 1 time i was goin thru a Slutty Phase n yaoyao duct taped a strip of condoms 2 my arm n made me take just so many antibiotics
< basicly im sayin he wouldnt fuck bare even on his LITERAL WEDDING NIGHT ahahahahaha
🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣
< liek MAYBE 5th anniversary hed think abt it???? def not b4 then
< i mean unless it was 4 a scheme of sum kind
(;¬_¬)
< hes v schemy
< if he was liek “im gonna tell this man im preggers n steal all his money
∠( ᐛ 」∠)_”
< or like idk mebbe if he needed 2 steal sumby’s cum 4 a Dark Ritual
< or 2 grow a baby in a test tube or a convenient patsy, n hide it somewhere like idk fuckin PLUTO, n wait 4 it 2 grow up n bcum a cool space assassin w a bigass sword as part of a long plot 2 overthrow n kill GOD
< like then hed probs let sumby cum in him, if it was 4 reasons of killing god

< erge 

< u kno, u hurt my feelins when u dont reply ┏༼ ◉ ╭╮ ◉༽┓

< ergeeeeeeeeeeeeee 

< heck can i even call u erge if mebbe u rn’t gonna marry him
< too l8, i thnk ur erge 4eva now irregardless 

< erge .·´¯`(>▂<)´¯`·.

< omg r u mad at me 4 doin a gossip
< this isnt even gossip tho!!!!!!!!!!!
˚‧º·(˚ ˃̣̣̥⌓˂̣̣̥ )‧º·˚
< this is liek common knowledge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
< yao-ge made so much money in high school by crammin sex ed down errybody’s throats n then by bein the only guy w/ a thick enuf face 2 buy condoms @ the store so’s he could sell em 1 by 1 behind the bleachers @ a 4000% markup 2 ppl hed brainwashed like that guy from that movie
< “U WILL GET PREGANANT N U WILL DIE!!!!!
(☄ฺ◣д◢)☄ฺ ”  lmaooooo
< hes an entrepreneurial genius, ive always said so. u create the demand n then u monopolize the supply (n then mebbe w/ the ppl u dont like, u do a lil bonus extortion n tell em they can buy ur silence or u will tell their mom theyre gettin nasty @ school n skippin class.) cha-fuckin-CHING
🤑 🤑 🤑 🤑
< u cant be mad at me 4 gossipin abt that, thats not gossip its CHARMING ANECDOTES tht MANY PPL REMEMBER

< i forget wat my point was tho
< n im 2 lazy 2 scroll up ugh
< scrolling up is homophobia tbh

< erge

< erge

< erge plz

Lan Xichen sets down his phone, lies flat on his back on the couch, folds his hands on his stomach, and just… stares at the ceiling for a while.

*

Over the next few weeks, they develop something of a Thing. Meng Yao goes out with Huaisang every Friday, then comes to Lan Xichen’s apartment, and they have incredible, incredible sex. It doesn’t stop being incredible. It might be getting more incredible.

Lan Xichen wonders if they’re dating. He’s obviously not sleeping with anyone else. He doesn’t know whether Meng Yao is, but… he’s so busy, when would he have the time? And besides that, he doesn’t seem to particularly like people, so… Are they dating? Should he ask? Except asking is terrifying, because it’s admitting that he wants something and if you admit you want something, then the person you’re asking might say no, and that would be worse than not-quite-having-it. 

So he contents himself, for now, with sitting up on Friday nights, waiting for Meng Yao to arrive and yank him into a kiss and tell him what kind of sex they’re going to have and then fall asleep afterwards in Lan Xichen’s bed. He’s never drunk--he barely qualifies as tipsy, at worst. Lan Xichen wonders if that’s a deliberate choice. Perhaps Meng Yao is afraid of revealing too much of himself--one sip of alcohol and I start ranting about you, he’d said. If he knows he’s going to be going to Lan Xichen’s afterwards, it only makes sense that he’d choose to keep his head. 

They don’t ever have sex on Saturday mornings, and Meng Yao doesn’t linger. It’s never like it was that first time. Lan Xichen makes him coffee in the morning and Meng Yao shuffles into the kitchen before Lan Xichen can bring it to him in bed. He stands at the counter--doesn’t even sit down at the table--drinks the coffee quickly, declines any offers of breakfast, and leaves. That’s all.

And on the other hand, they have still only fucked bare, and it is on purpose, which Lan Xichen knows because he has watched Meng Yao rummage in his nightstand drawer and knock aside the condom box in order to reach the lube. It’s absolutely on purpose. Lan Xichen doesn’t know whether they have a mutual silent agreement to not talk about it or whether the not-talking-about-it is just happening by itself naturally. Maybe he’s the only one who is obsessed with overthinking about it. He comes inside Meng Yao on a weekly basis and Lan Xichen absolutely has no idea what it means, because Meng Yao doesn’t ever claim he’s pregnant and demand a shotgun wedding, and he doesn’t try to steal Lan Xichen’s money, and he doesn’t show any inclination towards doing dark rituals or killing god. 

Lan Xichen is feeling rather put out about this, if he’s honest with himself. He wants to ask. He wants to ask very badly. But how is he supposed to ask that? So we don’t have slow Saturday morning sex and you don’t let me bring you coffee in bed, but on the other hand, I come inside you every Friday night and leave hickeys on you that are still visible the following week, so like... What are we????

But even so, over the weeks Fridays become… Lan Xichen doesn’t know how to describe it. He watches the clock all day, counts down the seconds until he leaves work. Every passing hour brings him closer to the moment when he hears Meng Yao’s step in the hall or his knock on the door. The moment of setting his eyes on Meng Yao’s face and seeing him smile. The moment of leaning down to taste his mouth, of pulling Meng Yao’s smaller body against his own, of feeling his soul and his heart go quiet with joy merely to be in his presence.

Anticipation becomes familiar.

Chapter Text

Lan Xichen is not precisely sure why an event celebrating the birth of Jin Guangshan’s first grandson needs to be a black-tie affair, but it is the Jin family, so there you have it. The man will take any opportunity to make an event tasteless and extravagant and primarily intended to impress his business partners. 

Lan Xichen is invited not because he has any particular connection to the Jin family beyond the strictly professional, but because everyone who is anyone is invited. He would have politely declined, but he and Wangji made certain solemn oaths to each other as teenagers, namely that they would never let each other attend tiresome society events except as a pair. So: Because Jiang Yanli is the mother of the infant being celebrated, Wei Wuxian as her brother absolutely has to attend, which means Wangji absolutely has to attend, which means Lan Xichen absolutely has to attend. The chain of obligation is exhausting to even contemplate. 

(The only bonus is that the invitation specified that children were welcome, and thus A-Yuan is also there. Lan Xichen is extremely looking forward to the built-in excuse to leave early--A-Yuan will get tired and need to be taken home to bed, which means Wei Wuxian will be able to leave his sister’s side without more than minimum guilt, which means Wangji will follow, which means Lan Xichen will be free.)

Lan Xichen and Wangji have a system for extravagant society parties, which is to claim chairs against the wall or at a banquet table and refuse to move for the rest of the night--this is not necessarily Lan Xichen’s preference, but it is Wangji’s, and therefore Lan Xichen considers it his brotherly duty to stick by his side and keep him company and distract anyone who attempts to talk to him. Wei Wuxian’s attentions, of course, are quite naturally divided at this particular party, so he flits back and forth from Wangji’s side to Jiang Yanli’s. He looks splendid in a very narrowly tailored blackest-black suit that makes his legs seem ten miles long, and Lan Xichen has not missed the way Wangji’s eyes catch on them whenever Wei Wuxian turns to scamper away to his sister, seated at the head of the room in a lovely flower-draped bower like a little goddess while various relations drift in and out and fight for a turn to hold the baby. 

Lan Xichen does not count as “people who need to be distracted from talking to Wangji”, of course, so he can get away with asking pointed questions like, “So, how has it been, living with others in your home?” and “It’s nice to have children around, isn’t it” and “Perhaps A-Yuan and Wei Wuxian will stay for a while,” and so forth, and Wangi says Mn and only looks down with a heart-warmingly soft look at A-Yuan, who is napping across his lap as Wangji strokes his hair.

“Maybe you should talk to Wei Wuxian about it,” Lan Xichen cajoles. Hypocrisy is forbidden, his uncle’s voice mutters in the back of his head. “I think he’d be happy to hear that you like having him around.”

“Xiongzhang?”

“Wouldn’t he? It’s good to let people know that they’re important to you.” He can’t solve his own problems, so he might as well meddles in Wangji’s. Meddling is rude, of course, and one should not do it, but Lan Xichen has certain rights as the elder brother which he exercises from time to time, just as he has solemn obligations to keep Wangji company at parties.

Wangji thinks about this for a long while, then nods. “I will buy him some fruit.”

“Fruit,” Lan Xichen says.

“Wei Ying likes fruit. So does A-Yuan.”

Lan Xichen suppresses the impulse to scream or drag his hands down his face or strangle his brother--any of those would be absolutely appalling behavior even if they were not in public, let alone at a formal event. He nods mildly and summons up an encouraging smile. “It’s worth a try. The right gesture can be very meaningful.”

“Er-ge!” someone says, far too loudly, far too close to Lan Xichen’s ear. “As I live and breathe! The light of my life!”

Lan Xichen thinks, Oh--Huaisang, and immediately afterwards, urgently, Wait, is Meng Yao here?  “Ah, Huaisang. How lovely to see you,” Lan Xichen says, calling up a polite smile as he turns and looks up at Huaisang looming above him. “Good evening.”

“Hello! Hello also to you, Lan Wangji and--oh, you’ve brought the kid. Neat.” Huaisang returns his attention to Lan Xichen. “Listen, though, er-ge, I gotta cut past the small talk, because I have two super important questions for you. First of all…” Huaisang smacks him sharply on the arm with a folding fan. “Why don’t you ever reply to my texts!!”

Lan Xichen maintains his polite smile. “I apologize for disappointing you. I will certainly reflect on my shortcomings.”

Huaisang pouts at him. “Yaoyao says I should stop bothering you.”

“Not at all. I feel it’s terribly impolite to turn away the opportunity for a genuine friendship.”

“Then reply to my texts more, er-ge,” Huaisang says with a fierce glare. “Second question! Can I borrow you for like five minutes?”

“Ah… that depends. For what?”

“There’s a whole disaster going on with the catering staff, and a big strong man who takes direction well would be a total lifesaver.” Huaisang flicks his fan open and flutters it artfully, raising his eyes to the heavens. “A whole disaster.” He directs a pout at Wangji. “You don’t mind if I steal him, do you? You’ve got the kid, you won’t be lonely!”

“Mn. It is fine,” says Wangji, which effectively negates Lan Xichen’s one chance to deny the entirely reasonable request. Sigh.

“Great!” Huaisang grabs Lan Xichen’s sleeve and tugs him. “Come on, before Yaoyao starts murdering somebody.” 

“Oh.” Lan Xichen is on his feet before he can direct his legs to work. “He’s--here?”

Huaisang glitters wickedly at him over the edge of the fan. “Somehow I thought that might get you moving.” 

*

“One big strong man who takes direction well, as ordered!” Huaisang sings out as he drags Lan Xichen into the kitchen of the event space. 

“Hello, you’ve been press-ganged into manual labor,” Meng Yao snarls. He’s turned away, scribbling something on a clipboard, which is just fine with Lan Xichen because oh fuck, Meng Yao’s ass in those suit trousers. (How long has it been since Lan Xichen ate him out? A week? Two? Criminal. Lan Xichen is outraged with himself. He’s wasting his entire life.) “First, I need all of those boxes moved out of the way, and then I need--” It is at this point that Meng Yao turns around and looks up from his clipboard, the vicious snarl dying in his mouth as he sets eyes on Lan Xichen. “Oh.” He looks--surprised. Happy-surprised, his expression blooming slowly open like a flower in the sun. Lan Xichen’s heart beats wildly in his chest and he’s helpless but to smile back before Meng Yao drops his gaze and schools his expression into his usual calm, haughty mien. “Huaisang.”

“What?” says Huaisang airily, wafting himself with his fan. “You told me to go fetch help, and I’ve fetched help. I don’t know what else you want from me.”

Meng Yao closes his eyes. “I am so sorry about Huaisang,” he says.

“It’s no trouble,” Lan Xichen says quickly. How could it be any trouble? He’s already been paid back a thousand-fold by that single glimpse of that beautiful, wide-open expression of pleasure. And by the sight of Meng Yao’s ass in those trousers. “I’m happy to help. Ah… where would you like these boxes moved?”

So he moves boxes--heavy ones, filled with clinking champagne bottles--and he fetches things, and helps carry out more chairs for the banquet hall, and goes out back to help the caterers unload their delayed vans. At some point in the whole process, he’s warm enough that he has to take off his dinner jacket and roll up his sleeves, and he is almost certain he’s caught Meng Yao looking at his forearms.

After an hour or so, the crisis seems to have been averted--well, the party crisis, anyway. There is still the crisis of Meng Yao existing in formalwear within Lan Xichen’s line of sight. Every time he glances over, Meng Yao’s ass in those perfectly tailored trousers gives Lan Xichen what feels like a religious epiphany. Every time. (Shotgun wedding, his brain says insistently, and then supplies elaborate imagery of what it would be like to peel Meng Yao out of various types of formalwear and carry him to their marriage bed.)

“You ought to be getting paid for shit like this,” Huaisang says to Meng Yao. Huaisang is still (apparently) very out of breath from helping move exactly two boxes of champagne twenty minutes previously.

“You’re not getting paid?” Lan Xichen asks, momentarily distracted from all but openly staring at Meng Yao’s ass. “Why?”

Scribbling something on his clipboard, Meng Yao says through his teeth, “Jin Guangshan is my father. Jin Zixuan is my half-brother; Jiang Yanli my sister-in-law. It would be unconscionable for me to ask for payment.

Ah. Aha. A sensitive subject, judging by Meng Yao’s tone. Lan Xichen shoves it immediately out of his mind and resolves to never ask about it again. He already knows enough about Jin Guangshan and his… proclivities… to piece together a rough sketch of what the situation must be like.

“You’re still the one running the party, though, you should at least get to enjoy some of it!” Huaisang cries. “There’s nothing else to do for a minute, let’s go sit down so you can take a baby-cuddling break!”

A piercingly wistful light comes into Meng Yao’s eyes. He glances around at the bustling kitchen. “Well…” 

Huaisang links their arms and pulls him to the door. “Baby break! Come on.”

“Thank you for your help, Xichen-ge,” Meng Yao says over his shoulder as he’s dragged away.

“Of course; don’t mention it,” Lan Xichen says, following them out into the banquet hall. “If there’s anything else I can help with, come get me.” Meng Yao is too busy and has too many things to attend to; Lan Xichen couldn’t possibly distract him from his family duties with anything like… like convincing Meng Yao to take a second break and let Lan Xichen do unspeakable things to him in some convenient bathroom or storage closet.

“What do you mean ‘come get me’?” Huaisang demands, stopping in his tracks and looking back. “Where are you going?”

Lan Xichen pauses, about to split off from them. “Back to my brother?” 

Huaisang and Meng Yao, in perfect unison, crane to look over at Wangji’s table. “He’s got Wei-xiong, he’s fine,” Huaisang scoffs.

“And A-Yuan,” Meng Yao murmurs.

“Doubly fine, then. Leave ‘em be and come meet the baby, er-ge,” Huaisang says. “You like babies, and this one is… y’know. Fine. He’s fine.”

Fine?” Meng Yao demands.

Huaisang shrugs. “I don’t know anything about babies, I’m not into babies, I don’t know what makes a good baby. Is he good? I really don’t know.”

“Yes,” Meng Yao says immediately, offended. “He is good. He’s the best baby.”

Huaisang appeals to Lan Xichen with a helpless flail. “What does that even mean?”

“I think it means he’s A-Yao’s nephew,” Lan Xichen says, gently amused. “And that affectionate attachment is natural.”

Meng Yao tugs on Huaisang’s arm again to get them moving, and Huaisang turns his attention back to him as Lan Xichen drifts along in their wake. “Is that what it means? You’re biased because he’s related to you?”

“I assure you my assessment is entirely objective,” says Meng Yao.

“What about A-Yuan? As babies go, how’s he measure up? At least he can draw.”

“A-Yuan is a better baby than you are,” Meng Yao snaps. Huaisang gasps as if mortally betrayed and staggers, clutching one hand to his heart. 

There’s a small crowd of people around the flower-draped bower, but most of them are talking amongst themselves, congregated here as a focal point of the room. In the bower are two comfortable armchairs, occupied by Jiang Yanli and an extremely elderly auntie that Lan Xichen does not recognize, who is currently holding the new Jin heir and cooing over him. Meng Yao drifts up to the edge of the bower and nods politely when Jiang Yanli looks up and smiles at him. 

Lan Xichen has not had the opportunity to meet many babies, but there seems to be an etiquette to the situation--after a few minutes, the elderly auntie gets up and relinquishes Jin Ling to someone else, who chats amiably with Jiang Yanli until, in turn, someone else comes up and declares that they’ve been waiting ages, and so on. Meng Yao stands patiently to the side and makes soft conversation with Huaisang; Lan Xichen contents himself with the delight of existing near him and tries not to let his eyes linger on Meng Yao’s beautifully tailored trousers. (Hmm, traditional wedding robes? He would look so beautiful in red. On the other hand, they wouldn’t show his ass to any kind of effect. On the third hand, Lan Xichen could just bend him over and ruck them up and--)

Wei Wuxian appears out of nowhere, sweeps into the bower to kneel next to Jiang Yanli, who laughs, pats his head, assures him that she is well taken care of and that she does not need anything fetched, and shoos him off again. Wei Wuxian pouts dramatically at her as he bounces back out. He swings past Meng Yao and Huaisang and pauses, leaning in and murmuring just loud enough for Lan Xichen to overhear, “Planning to wait there all day?”

“No,” Meng Yao says tightly.

“Suit yourself.” Wei Wuxian shrugs and disappears again. 

Huaisang nudges Meng Yao. “He’s right.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Meng Yao says with his blandest smile. 

Huaisang sighs heavily and unlinks their arms. “Well, I’m not going to just stand here. You want a drink? I do.”

“Would you like me to get you something?” Lan Xichen asks. Meng Yao jumps a little and looks at him, startled, as if he’d forgotten Lan Xichen was there.

“No, no,” Huaisang says, clucking his tongue. “I’d rather stretch my legs. I’ll be back in a bit. Or later. Depends. Maybe I’ll go sit with Wei-xiong.”

Meng Yao doesn’t take his eyes off the infant as Huaisang vanishes, but when Lan Xichen steps up to take the open spot beside him, Meng Yao glances up at him briefly. “You’re still here.”

“Nowhere better to be,” Lan Xichen says softly, smiling at him. “Wangji has people to keep him company. You don’t.”

“That’s not necessary.”

“Is it alright if I do it anyway?”

Meng Yao shoots him an inscrutable look out of the corner of his eye. “It’s a party, you may stand around wherever you like.” When Lan Xichen hums in acknowledgement, he adds under his breath, “This will likely be very boring.”

“A-Yao is very thoughtful to warn me,” Lan Xichen says, and he can’t help how fond he sounds. Meng Yao shoots him another sharp little look, a twist in the corner of his mouth like he recognizes that Lan Xichen might be affectionately teasing him and that he refuses to be amused by it. “You look nice today,” Lan Xichen’s mouth says, independent of conscious thought.

Meng Yao’s cheeks go a little pink and he gives Lan Xichen another glance. “Thank you.” He clears his throat and says, as neutrally as if he is commenting on the weather, “So do you.”

Lan Xichen ducks his head on a smile. “Thank you.”

A minute passes in silence. All at once, Meng Yao whips out his phone and types furiously into it. Lan Xichen can’t see the screen, but out of the corner of his eye he watches Meng Yao’s thumb hover for a very, very, very long moment before he taps something, and an instant later, Lan Xichen’s phone buzzes in his pocket. His heart catches and immediately begins to race. He takes his phone out calmly. 

< Are you doing anything after this?

            > I didn’t have particular plans, no. His heart is in his throat. He adds, > Would you like to go somewhere afterwards? 

It’s a little surreal to watch Meng Yao read the message, his expression perfectly neutral. He’s such a fascinating person--Lan Xichen, having grown up with his brother, is accustomed to reading emotions out of the slightest microexpression, but Meng Yao’s masks are far superior to Wangji’s. They require a more big-picture, holistic range of data to interpret: The few glances Lan Xichen had caught Meng Yao when he’d had his sleeves rolled up earlier, the fact that it is not Friday evening, the knowledge that Meng Yao has set the Friday-night pattern deliberately and dug his heels in about changing anything… 

Lan Xichen exerts a huge amount of willpower to keep the majority of his sheer glee off his face. Meng Yao must think he looks very nice indeed. Nice enough to fan up Meng Yao’s desire to the point of being willing to break his own pattern--no small feat.

Meng Yao glances up again at Lan Xichen, catches him looking. Drops his eyes immediately. Begins typing.

< I’ll be very stressed and irritable by the end of this party. I won’t be good company. Lan Xichen must make some soft noise under his breath, because Meng Yao’s eyes flick up to his face. Meng Yao narrows his eyes.

< What’s that look for?

            > Just… remembering the last time you claimed you weren’t going to be good company.
            > If you ever claimed you WOULD be good company, I don’t know that I’d survive it.

A flicker of a smile passes across Meng Yao’s face, and when he raises his eyes to Lan Xichen’s now, it’s slower. Hotter.

Fuck. Fuck it, Lan Xichen can’t help it--

            > I’d invite you to go for a walk, but I know you’re busy right now and I don’t want to impose.

< Don’t you?

He meets Meng Yao’s eyes--there’s a little challenge there, an expectant light. He quirks an eyebrow at Lan Xichen and smiles. Dimples. Gods, those dimples. 

< “Go for a walk” is an interesting turn of phrase. Do you mean it literally, or is it a euphemism?

Lan Xichen should be used to his mouth going dry by now.

            > Either. Both. Whatever I can get.

< You know, they used to have a word for so-called gentlemen who lured innocents away from parties with the promise of a turn around the garden, only to ravish them as soon as they were out of earshot of the rest of the guests.
< “Rake”, I believe?
< Are you a rake, gege?

            > As much as you are an innocent.

Meng Yao snorts when he reads the message. Lan Xichen gives him a wry look when he glances up again. 

< Gege said, “Whatever I can get.” How is this A-Yao supposed to interpret that except as gege wanting to have his wicked way with this helpless body?

Lan Xichen flushes hot and reminds himself firmly that they are in the middle of a party and that there is a new mother and her infant less than ten feet away from them. 

            > Does that sound like something I would do?

< Yes.

Lan Xichen blinks at that word, surprise slicing right through the warm glow of attraction and adrenaline that settles over him every time Meng Yao so much as gives him a fraction of flirtation. He looks up from the screen to find Meng Yao’s beautiful dark eyes steady on him before he lowers his eyes to type again.

< You didn’t like that. I apologize.
< Gege is always so generous and eager to please, and I wonder sometimes what’s on the other side of that. That’s all I meant by it.

“I’m not upset,” Lan Xichen says aloud. One wrong twitch and Meng Yao is already withdrawing into politeness. “Really. Please don’t apologize, there’s no need.”

Meng Yao raises his eyes and studies him for a moment.

< You did have trouble with the thought, though. I saw it.
< I thought I had a hunch, but perhaps it was inaccurate and I had misread you. If my prying was unwelcome, I apologize for that as well.

            > It’s not that, really.

Lan Xichen hesitates.

            > I’ll explain if you like, but I’m afraid it’s not terribly enticing as a line of conversation. With this we’d be… going off track, and I was enjoying the flirting.

< Going off track is fine. You’re terrible at flirting anyway, Meng Yao says, with that lovely quirk of a smile at the corner of his mouth, suggesting that he’s teasing a little now too.
< You’re far too earnest with it. Implausibly so. You never give me anything I can work with, just things I’m forced to place in the “Well, what am I supposed to do with that” box.
< Leave the flirting to me, gege, I’ll correct course.
< You practically flinched and I want to understand why.

It takes a moment for Lan Xichen to find the words. > For most of my life, I haven’t been very good at wanting things.

Meng Yao cocks his head and frowns a little at the screen. “How so?” he asks aloud; Lan Xichen is--shocked, almost, to hear him speak. To hear him admit that the conversation they’re having over text is the same as one they might have in person.

Lan Xichen doesn’t trust his own tongue--and there are too many people around, besides. Too easy to be overheard, and this ought to be private. Texting is safer. Texting gives him time to catch himself before he steps too far.

            > Lately I have been learning new things about myself. It’s strange.
            > It’s like living with someone for decades and then suddenly realizing that maybe you don’t know them as well as you thought you did, except that the someone is yourself.
            > It’s not a bad strange. Just… strange. 
            > And good, I think. So far it’s good.
            > So it wasn’t that I don’t want you to know things about me. It was only a little disorienting to think that you might have figured out something about me that I haven’t yet learned myself.

Meng Yao looks… almost stricken, when Lan Xichen glances up from his phone screen. Taken aback. Oh dear. 

            > The disorienting isn’t a bad thing either! Please don’t be worried.
            > Ah, perhaps I’m not good at this part either. Too earnest for flirting, and too clumsy with explanations.

Meng Yao frowns hard at his phone and sends: < Do you like yourself? Almost immediately, he mutters, “Damn, that came out wrong.”

< I mean the “new you”, as it were. Do you like this one better than the old one?

            > Yes, Lan Xichen says, without an instant of hesitation. 
            > Yes. Very much.
            > That’s what I meant when I said that I think it’s good so far.

< You’re happy about it, then? Being a new person?

            > That’s a big question, isn’t it.

He frowns at his phone, thinking. In his peripheral vision, he sees Meng Yao looking at him, watching him think, waiting for him to finish answering. 

            > I am happy to have grown. I think growth is something one can be happy about.
            > But when I wonder if I am happier as a person, I don’t know yet. It remains to be seen.
            > I think my capabilities for happiness have expanded. My “range”, if that makes sense as a term. But I’m aware that an increased capacity for joy means an increased capacity for sadness as well. That’s the gamble you make, I think. No reward without risk.
            > The idea of liking who I was wouldn’t have even occurred to me four months ago. But now--yes, I do, I think.

Meng Yao stares hard at the screen for a long minute before he starts replying. Lan Xichen watches the typing bubble appear. Disappear. Appear. Meng Yao looks increasingly frustrated, his brow knotting up, his lips pressing together.

Lan Xichen’s exhausted anxiety rises up right on cue. “Did I say something wrong?” he asks faintly.

Meng Yao’s eyes snap up to him. “What?” He shakes his head. “No, it’s not--it’s not you.”

“Ah,” Lan Xichen says, unconvinced. 

Meng Yao must hear that in his voice, because looks even more frustrated, and he grits his teeth, and-- “Fuck it,” he says under his breath, and stabs his thumb at the screen of his phone, shoves it in his pocket, crosses his arms, and turns to stare fixedly at his infant nephew.

Lan Xichen’s phone vibrates in his hand with the message.

< “Four months ago” is strangely SPECIFIC, and I would shrug it off, except I met you four months ago, and I kind of want to know if that had anything to do with it.

The same moment Lan Xichen finishes reading the message, Meng Yao whips his phone back out and starts typing furiously once again. Lan Xichen panics and sends, quicker than Meng Yao can finish whatever second-guessing he’s in the middle of, > Yes. You did.

Meng Yao’s fingers fumble on the screen and he nearly drops his phone, and--

< Never mind, I’m just jumping to conclusions YET AGAIN. Of course I am not that vain to think I am anything more than a side-effect or a symptom at best of whatever else happened four monthkwlkw

--accidentally sends the message he was typing.

Lan Xichen feels a little… delirious. Drunk, maybe. Reckless. 

            > There wasn’t anything else that happened, other than meeting you and knowing you for half an hour, he sends before he can think better of it, and then he forces himself to turn off his phone and stuff it in his pocket. He stuffs his hands in his pockets too, to hide how they tremble. He turns to look at--anything else, really, anything to occupy his eyes so he won’t look at Meng Yao and give the rest of himself away with one glance. Too earnest, Meng Yao had said about his flirting. You never give me anything I can work with. He’d been teasing--Lan Xichen is confident that he was only teasing--but it was a tease with a truth underneath, he thinks. 

Among the list of welcome distractions Lan Xichen could have thought of, Jin Guangshan would not have made the top ten thousand, but when he bustles up through the crowd and catches sight of Lan Xichen--well. Beggars can’t be choosers, can they? “Ah, Lan Xichen, how kind of you to come!” Jin Guangshan says, loud and hearty. “How’s your uncle, my boy?”

“Very well, thank you,” Lan Xichen says.

“Good, good! Ah, that’s good! Give that old man my regards, won’t you!” Lan Xichen knows for a fact that his uncle would happily spit on Jin Guangshan’s regards, were it socially permissible. Still, he nods and murmurs his assent. “Have you gotten to meet my new grandson yet?” He snaps his fingers imperiously. “Bring A-Ling over here, girl, let Lan Xichen have a chance to hold him!” He claps Lan Xichen on the shoulder, his hand a heavy weight, and gives him a broad wink. “Get some practice at it, eh? Isn’t it past time you started thinking of a family of your own, young man?”

Lan Xichen smiles politely at the approaching “girl” (a woman fully-grown; one of the uncountable Jin cousins, he thinks). “Ah, thank you, but actually Meng Yao has been waiting a while for his turn.”

“Meng--” Jin Guangshan splutters and seems to glimpse Meng Yao for the first time. “What are you doing out here? Isn’t there work to be done, boy?”

“Not at the moment, sir,” Meng Yao says, blanker and more polite than Lan Xichen has ever heard him. He hadn’t realized that there were depths of blankness yet unplumbed. 

Jin Guangshan casts him an absolutely filthy look of pure disgust, and Lan Xichen goes ice cold. Exquisitely polite, he says to Jin Guangshan, “I’ve been meaning to offer my compliments on the event, Jin-xiansheng, it is undeniably the most pleasant one you have ever invited me to.”

“How kind of you to say so, far too kind,” Jin Guangshan says gruffly, because he cannot spot a backhanded compliment even when one is served directly to him. It is the most pleasant Jin party that Lan Xichen has ever been to, because all the others have been dreadful.

“Indeed,” Lan Xichen says, feigning warmth. “I knew as soon as I arrived that behind all of this would be someone hard-working, talented, and truly devoted. When I discovered that A-Yao was responsible, I could only think to myself, ‘Aha, it’s just as I expected.’” 

Jin Guangshan’s lips have pressed together into a thin white line.

Lan Xichen smiles steadily at him for several long seconds until it becomes clear that he is not going to answer. The Jin cousin awkwardly holding A-Ling is glancing back and forth between the two of them as if waiting for someone to decide to take the baby off her. Lan Xichen smiles at her too and glances behind her to Jiang Yanli, who is clearly biting back a grin, her eyes sparkling. “Is it alright if Meng Yao holds him now?”

“Of course it is,” Jiang Yanli says firmly. “A-Yao must come sit down for a few minutes too, I know he’s been on his feet all day.” She glances around. “Oh dear, I think I’ve sent A-Xuan and A-Cheng on errands already--would someone mind fetching A-Xian for me?”

“I will,” Lan Xichen says. He nods to Jin Guangshan. “If you’ll excuse me.” 

He risks a glance at Meng Yao as he turns away--Meng Yao is carefully taking A-Ling from his cousin’s arms, but he meets Lan Xichen’s eyes briefly with an absolutely poleaxed expression, his eyes wide and his cheeks pink.

Lan Xichen gives him a bracing smile and goes off to find Wei Wuxian--at Wangji’s table, of course, their two dark heads leaning close together in conversation. A-Yuan, still in Wangji’s lap, is drawing a picture with Wangji’s fountain pen in a pocket-sized sketchbook that has to be Huaisang’s--he’s seated at the table too, his chin in his hand and a drink in the other, his attention divided between A-Yuan and whatever nonsense is happening over A-Yuan’s oblivious head.

“Your sister is asking for you,” Lan Xichen says with a touch to Wei Wuxian’s shoulder.

“Oh, shit! Sorry, Lan Zhan, I’ll be right back! Hold that thought!” 

Lan Xichen remorselessly steals his chair as soon as he gets up and… lets himself gaze back across the room to the bower: Jiang Yanli, in one of the two comfortable chairs, is talking animatedly to someone standing nearby; Meng Yao, in the other, is clutching A-Ling to his chest like he’s a treasure that’s about to be snatched away, and he’s staring back at Lan Xichen. 

Lan Xichen ought to… to look away, to lower his eyes demurely and smile softly and say nothing. He doesn’t look away. He holds Meng Yao’s gaze from all the way across the hall.

Meng Yao breaks first, fumbling one-handed in his pocket for his phone, shifting A-Ling onto his shoulder so he can hold him and text at the same time.

Lan Xichen takes out his phone slowly, not looking away from Meng Yao until he has to look down to unlock the screen, just in time for the message to come through.

< Thank you.

Ah, Lan Xichen loves him. He smiles down at his phone, doesn’t even bother trying to hide it, just in case Meng Yao is looking again. 

            > What, for complimenting you and being snide to Jin Guangshan? No need, I assure you. It was my sincere pleasure.

< Yes, that too.
< But I meant for making sure I got a turn with A-Ling.

            > Oh! It was nothing. :) You’d been waiting, after all.

< No, it wasn’t.
< It wasn’t nothing.

Lan Xichen looks up quizzically. Meng Yao isn’t looking back, his face is turned down towards his phone so Lan Xichen can’t see his expression at all.

            > Are you alright?

Another of those familiar long silences. At least this time he can watch Meng Yao--see the way he stares down at his phone, the way he hesitates, bites his lip before he starts typing again. It’s… vulnerable, unexpectedly so.

< I haven’t gotten to hold him before.
< I don’t have many excuses to visit my brother’s household, and when I do, there’s always someone else cutting in. Usually Father. Usually when he sees that I’m about to ask.

            > Oh dear. I’m so sorry, sweetheart, that’s not fair at all.
            > Have I caused trouble for you? :(

< Nothing I can’t handle.

And then:

< Worth it, anyway. This kid smells fucking great.

Lan Xichen laughs under his breath, looking up just in time to see Meng Yao all but huffing the top of A-Ling’s head. They look so sweet together, and Meng Yao looks relaxed and easy in a way that Lan Xichen hasn’t seen more than a glimpse of before. He loves him. He loves him, he loves him, he loves him. He loves him so much that his heart aches with it. 

His phone vibrates again, which is odd, because at this precise second he is literally watching Meng Yao not text him. He looks down.

< omfg erge r u guys talkin 2 each other on ur PHONES from ACROSS TEH ROOM LMAO ゜+.(。´>艸<)*.☆

Lan Xichen abruptly remembers that other people exist and that he is in fact sitting at a banquet table with three of them. A-Yuan, at least, is minding his own business, entirely occupied with drawing his picture. 

Wangji and Huaisang are both staring at him; Huaisang is doing so from over the edge of his phone with a delighted look.

< omfg u R!!!!!!!  😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂

Incredibly, Huaisang manages to type and send this without breaking eye contact with Lan Xichen, which is terrifying and admittedly impressive.

“Xiongzhang,” says Wangji.

Lan Xichen gives him his blandest smile. Huaisang cackles and finally breaks eye contact to type--a moment later Lan Xichen’s phone vibrates again.

[Nie Huaisang has added you to the group.]

< ER-GE HAS NO POKER FACE YAOYAO
< Y R U TEXTIN WHEN UR IN THE SAME ROOM
<  welcum 2 ur new groupchat btw, idk y we havnt done this b4 haha
o((*^▽^*))o

[Meng Yao has left the group.]

[Nie Huaisang has added Meng Yao to the group.]

[Meng Yao has left the group.]

[Nie Huaisang has added Meng Yao to the group.]

< wat r u guys talkin abt :DDD
< feelin left out tbh
(◕︿◕✿)
< erge keeps makin faces at his phone
< inqurin minds want 2 kno!!!! wat! is! happenin!!!!!
(╯✧∇✧)╯lololol
< lan wangji also over here like ‘lmao wtf’ but hes 2 polite 2 say so
< id add him 2 teh groupchat but he blocked my # :((((((((

“Lan-xiong,” Huaisang says aloud, beseeching. “Unblock my number so I can add you to this groupchat.”

“No,” says Wangji.

< omfg hes so mean n scary lololol

[Meng Yao has left the group.]

< 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭
< 。・゚゚・o(iДi)o・゚゚・。
< 。゚( ゚இ‸இ゚+)゚。

Lan Xichen eyes Huaisang--he’s barely pouting.

< sooooooooo its just u n me huh erge
< ur havin sum more “marry him n have his babies” feelins huh lmao
< dont lie 2 me, u have a face, i see u
< i see u in ur fancy pants, erge, I SEE U

Lan Xichen leaves the group chat. Huaisang looks up from his phone in outrage.

*

Meng Yao eventually relinquishes the baby to someone else and vanishes into the backrooms of the banquet hall, doubtless to oversee things that need his close scrutiny. Lan Xichen texts him once to reiterate his offer of help if Meng Yao needs an extra pair of hands. Meng Yao neither replies nor summons him or Huaisang, so things must be relatively under control.

Speeches are made. Dinner is served and cleared away--Jiang Yanli and her husband and son abscond somewhere in the middle of it. Lan Xichen sees and respects the use of a small, tired child as an excuse to leave a party early, even though A-Ling has been extremely good-natured about being passed around to dozens of people.

A-Yuan, too, has been very good. He is perfectly content to sit in Wangji’s lap and scribble all over Huaisang’s mini sketchbook, and whenever Wei Wuxian comes swooping back to the table, he looks up with a huge grin and chirps, “It’s baba!” and Wangji answers with a soft smile, “Mn, it is,” and Wei Wuxian, every time, scolds them roundly for trying to kill him with excessive cuteness. He stays put at the table after Jiang Yanli leaves, bickering and gossiping with Huaisang--Lan Xichen keeps expecting Wangji to hint that it might be time for them to leave soon, but it never comes up, even after the waiters have been around the room twice to offer tea, coffee, and dessert. He just looks at Wei Wuxian, and holds Wei Wuxian’s son on his lap, and seems content.

Just as the waiters are disappearing from their second circuit of the hall, Meng Yao appears out of nowhere, slams an unopened bottle of champagne on the table, and flings himself into the chair beside Lan Xichen. His tie is hanging loose around his neck; his top button is undone. Half of Lan Xichen reflects on how badly he wants to lick the hollow of Meng Yao’s throat; the other half of him is too shocked and delighted (at Meng Yao’s sudden appearance, at his open willingness to sit next to him ) to think of anything at all. “Someone tell me not to chug this entire bottle of champagne.”

“Chug it,” Huaisang says instantly. “Chug it, chug it, chug it.”

“Hm, champagne makes you bitchy,” Wei Wuxian says. “I vote no.” He takes a flask out of his breast pocket and slides it across the table. “Emergency tequila, on the other hand? Yes.”

“Ooh, I love Tequila Yaoyao. Yes, Wei-xiong’s right, chug that.”

Meng Yao studies the flask seriously for a moment, sighs, and wearily leans forward to pick it up. Takes a long swig, and passes it back.

“What, that’s it?” Wei Wuxian says.

“Yes, thanks. I want to keep my head.”

Lan Xichen’s entire body has been on high alert from the first instant he registered Meng Yao in the corner of his eye. He isn’t sure what to do or say--dragging him under the table to ravish him probably isn’t the socially acceptable move. It’s just that there are four other chairs at this table, and Meng Yao had chosen to take the one next to him, and he’s never shown that kind of familiarity before, and Lan Xichen certainly wasn’t expecting it in public. Meng Yao hadn’t even asked if he could have that chair--he’d just claimed it, like it was his right. Lan Xichen wants to be able to lean over and kiss Meng Yao’s cheek like that’s his right.

“Do you need anything?” he asks quietly. Meng Yao shakes his head and, under the table, under the fall of the tablecloth, puts his hand on Lan Xichen’s knee.

Lan Xichen is so overcome by this gesture that he misses the next few moments of conversation. His cock is half-hard in an instant--it’s just so brazen, and so shameless, and so intentional, and so proprietary, and such a crystal-clear statement that Meng Yao wants him. Right at this moment, he desires Lan Xichen, he’s thinking about him, he’s seducing him. Right at this moment, Meng Yao must be picturing what they might do later, and planning for it, and wanting it. 

Subtly, he shifts his leg, tilting his knee closer to Meng Yao so as to bare a little more of his inner thigh to easy access. Meng Yao takes the invitation, his hand sliding to Lan Xichen’s inseam and squeezing in response. Lan Xichen’s heart skips several beats. He makes a valiant attempt to at least paste on an attentive expression and direct his gaze to Huaisang and Wei Wuxian’s bickering, and at the same time he slips his hand under the edge of the table and lays it over Meng Yao’s, pinning it gently in place. Meng Yao’s thumb rubs once against the side of his hand as if he’s saying hello, and Lan Xichen’s heart catches again. 

The hot flare of arousal simmers down over the next few minutes, spiking up every time Meng Yao squeezes his thigh. Meng Yao joins in the conversation, but Lan Xichen remains quiet and reserved--he’s not so accustomed to wanting yet that he can multitask with it. He’s a little vexed that it seems to be so easy for Meng Yao.

When Wangji gets up to take A-Yuan to the restroom, Meng Yao calmly continues talking to Huaisang and slides his hand an inch or two further up Lan Xichen’s inseam and kneads at the meat of his thigh, his hand flexing under Lan Xichen’s.

Lan Xichen is sure his face must be giving something away--he must be scarlet with a blush, but the lights are low and moody enough that maybe it’s concealed. He takes out his phone and texts: > Are you trying to drive me crazy on purpose? 

Meng Yao is too involved with the conversation to check his own phone for several minutes, but when he does, Lan Xichen glances at him out of the corner of his eye and catches a flash of a smile quirking at the corner of his mouth.

In the interests of subtlety, Lan Xichen forces himself to wait a minute or two before looking at Meng Yao’s reply. 

< I don’t know what you’re talking about, gege. Whatever do you mean?
< Is gege being driven crazy by something?

As Lan Xichen reads, Meng Yao digs his nails into the soft flesh of his inner thigh, and he has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from making any noise. He can’t think--he can barely breathe. Meng Yao was right, he’s no good at flirting at all, he doesn’t know what to say in response to this except to beg for Meng Yao to show him no mercy whatsoever. He just-- He needs Meng Yao to know what sort of effect he’s having. Look, look what you’ve done to me, look what you’re doing to me, look how desperate you’ve made me, take responsibility, he wants to say, but he can’t get his brain to work well enough to verbalize it.

To his great fortune, there’s an almighty clatter on the other side of the banquet hall--a waiter stumbling and dropping an entire trayload of dishes. Everyone in the room turns to look, including Huaisang and Wei Wuxian.

Lan Xichen had not been thinking at all of what he might do if a convenient distraction offered him an opportunity, but the moment it happens, he lets his most impulsive instincts take control--his hand on Meng Yao’s tightens suddenly and drags it up between his legs, pressing Meng Yao’s palm against his aching cock, which is by now straining against the confines of his dress slacks. Meng Yao’s breath catches on a bitten-off gasp, his mouth falling a little open--his hand spasms as if instinctively trying to pull away, but Lan Xichen only presses it firmer against himself. His cock throbs hard--Meng Yao shuts his mouth with a snap and curls his fingers, squeezing just as he’d done to Lan Xichen’s thigh.

“Ugh, I’m too tired to get up,” Meng Yao says. “Can one of you go make sure that waiter isn’t injured? Ending the evening without a lawsuit would be great.”

“I got it,” Wei Wuxian says immediately, already halfway out of his chair.

“Oi!” Huaisang objects. “You’re just taking the excuse to sneak off because you know I was about to start interrogating you about Lan Wangji! Wei-xiong! Wei-xiong, come back here!”

“He’s going to abscond into the night the second we both take our eyes off him,” Meng Yao says, sounding supremely bored. “You know how he is. The harder you try to force him to get a clue, the more stubborn and evasive he gets.”

Huaisang swears under his breath and scrambles out of his chair to run after Wei Wuxian.

And then they’re alone. Well, relatively alone--the table is tucked in a quiet back corner of the hall. But no one’s looking at them, and thus: alone.

Meng Yao smirks at their companions’ retreating backs and turns slowly and languorously to Lan Xichen. He puts his elbow on the table, and props his chin in his hand, and he doesn’t make the slightest attempt to pull his hand away from Lan Xichen’s cock even as he makes his eyes wide and shocked and says, “Gege, what’s that?”

Fuck--that voice does things to him. Maybe Meng Yao was a little bit right in that guess he’d made earlier, about… about Lan Xichen and what he’s capable of wanting. He swallows so he can speak. His voice is low, rough: “That’s what happens when you tease.”

Meng Yao blinks innocently. “What teasing? A-Yao hasn’t teased at all.” His eyes are sparkling--he likes this. He likes knowing Lan Xichen wants him so badly. 

He wants to be chased a little, Lan Xichen realizes suddenly. Meng Yao’s been dropping hints about it all evening--how strange to be able to recognize that. The Lan Xichen of four months ago would have found it an entirely alien concept. But every time he’s near Meng Yao, he finds new parts of himself coming to life--like a forest at the end of a long winter, with all its plants unfurling new leaves in the golden sunlight and all its animals stirring and blinking awake from hibernation and shaking the dust off their coats. Even just two hours ago, when Meng Yao had first written about Lan Xichen having his way with him, it had been a strange and unfamiliar concept, but--two hours is enough time to process it, to grow fresh green tendrils over it, to find that capability stirring awake and stretching its limbs and yawning. 

Alive. He feels alive when he’s with Meng Yao. Alive and filled to the brim with springtime.

“A-Yao has teased,” Lan Xichen says. His eyes keep drifting down to Meng Yao’s soft little mouth. He wants to kiss it. “A-Yao has been terribly mean.”

Meng Yao feigns a hurt look, and Lan Xichen thrills to it--he’s so good at faces, he’s so talented. He could just as easily have made a face that seemed genuinely offended, but he’s letting Lan Xichen read him clearly, he’s offering cues. “But doesn’t gege like it when A-Yao is mean?”

“Yes. Tease.”

Meng Yao rocks his hand against Lan Xichen’s cock; it takes all of his willpower not to pulse his hips up into it, or let his eyes fall closed on a gasp. “Gege’s the mean one,” Meng Yao says with just the slightest edge of a pout in his voice. “Gege’s doing shocking, shameless things right where anyone could see. A-Yao has never been so shocked.”

“Come home with me, then,” Lan Xichen says, rubbing his thumb against the back of Meng Yao’s cupping hand. “I’ll do shameless things there instead.”

Even in the moody lighting of the banquet hall, he can catch the tint of Meng Yao’s cheeks now, the brighter sparkle in his eyes, the deepening of his dimples. “Like what?”

Lan Xichen lets his eyes drop deliberately to Meng Yao’s mouth, to the hollow of his throat. “I’ve never tried to have my wicked way with someone before,” he murmurs. “It sounds like something worth experimenting with. Who knows? I might like it.” He presses Meng Yao’s small hand more firmly against his cock, lets him feel how the thought makes him throb and grow harder. “I might end up wanting it all the time.”

Meng Yao exhales, shaky, and bites his lip. “Gege’s not playing fair at all. A-Yao really doesn’t know what to do about it.”

“A-Yao doesn’t have to do anything except come home with me.” He pauses, leans in close to Meng Yao’s, lowers his voice, “And say yes, later, when I ask if you want me inside you.”

Meng Yao shivers and makes an intent “Hrm” sound, as if biting back a stronger reaction. He pulls his hand away from Lan Xichen’s cock and gazes fixedly across the hall. He clears his throat. “I have a... few more things to attend to. Before I can leave.”

“Of course,” Lan Xichen says, nodding serenely. It’s taking everything he has to keep his smile from becoming a smirk. “Take as much time as you need.”

Meng Yao shoots him a look out of the corner of his eye.

“Please hurry,” he amends, and adds cheerfully, “Or I’ll die.”

The look becomes pursed-lipped and distinctly scolding.

“Or I could haul you over my shoulder and abduct you right now.” He’s… giddy, a little, in that way he always gets when he tries something new with Meng Yao and it goes well.

Gege,” Meng Yao huffs. In a being-serious voice, he says testily, “I really do have things to attend to.”

“So go attend to them.”

Meng Yao gives him a flat, sarcastic smile. “And do you particularly want to stand up from this table at the moment?”

“Ah.” He glances down at Meng Yao’s lap, but his legs are crossed and the drape of his dinner jacket is strategic--if he’s hard, Lan Xichen can’t tell. Still, he experiences another giddy rush of pleasure to know that he’d had an effect, that there were things happening in Meng Yao’s brain that Lan Xichen has no hope of glimpsing unless he is allowed, but which he can nevertheless guess at. Meng Yao wants him--wants strongly enough that he is reacting to him, enough to need a moment to calm down before he is presentable. “I return to my first reply, then--please take your time.”

“Quite,” Meng Yao says crisply. Lan Xichen loves him. He tries to take his hand; Meng Yao bats him away. “Gege, please.

“I just wanted to hold your hand,” he says reasonably.

“Too distracting.” Meng Yao turns away, sniffs primly, folds his hands in his lap.

Lan Xichen thinks about pouting at him, maybe even whining a little to test where the new boundaries are, but--he still doesn’t quite dare yet. For once, it’s more from anticipation, in this moment, rather than fear. 

And in any case, there’s lots of ways to tease.

He takes his phone out.

“Gege,” Meng Yao says warningly.

“Hm?”

            > I’ve been dreaming about you lately--three or four nights a week. Sometimes I dream about making love to you, but often it’s just about kissing you, or holding you, or waking up beside you, or seeing you laugh.

“I am not reading that right now,” Meng Yao growls as soon as his phone vibrates. “Gege is being too forward. Very rude.” Ah, but he’s still saying gege, so this is still flirting.

“How do you know it’s forward?” Lan Xichen says, tucking his phone into his jacket pocket. “I could have said anything.”

“It’s something about wanting to make me come until I can’t stand up,” Meng Yao says darkly. “Or how you jerk off thinking about me blowing you. Something like that.”

“Could be. Those are both true, so it could well be along those lines.”

Gege.”

Lan Xichen smiles to himself and reaches for the sweating pitcher of ice-water to fill up Meng Yao’s glass.

*

Wei Wuxian is surprised and bewildered when Lan Xichen turns down the offer of a ride home with him and Wangji in favor of waiting for Meng Yao to finish his last few obligations for the evening. He grows deeply pensive as he walks off with Wangji, casting glances over his shoulder at Lan Xichen and then, inexplicably, glancing at Wangji and down at A-Yuan, holding both their hands as he shuffles sleepily along between them.

Lan Xichen waits alone at the table and feels strangely content to do so. A great deal of his life is now occupied with waiting for Meng Yao in various forms and contexts; this is comfortable and familiar by now.

The other guests are beginning to trickle out when Huaisang arrives back at the table and sits with a huge sigh. “Still waiting for Yaoyao, huh?” He shakes his head mournfully. “Better brace yourself for a disappointing evening, er-ge.”

“What? Why?” 

“His shithead dad is yelling at him backstage,” Huaisang says, jerking his head in the direction of the kitchen doors. “He’s gonna clam up and go cold and there won’t be anything to be done about it. Honestly, I’m writing this all off as a loss.”

Lan Xichen gets up.

“No, no, no,” Huaisang says, catching his sleeve. “Don’t go back there, trust me, it won’t do any good. We’ll grab him as soon as we see him and talk him into going out for shitty gas station nachos, and we’ll make him look at his collection of A-Yuan photos.” He tugs hard on Lan Xichen’s sleeve. “Trust me, I’ve been talking him down from the murder ledge for like a decade now, I’ve got a system.”

Lan Xichen sits slowly, gazing towards the kitchen doors. “Are you sure he’s alright?”

“Yeah, it’ll be fine, as long as we get nachos and cute baby pictures into him, stat. It won’t be fun, but…” Huaisang’s expression becomes noble, looking into the middle distance. “It’s what has to be done.” He drops the act and eyes Lan Xichen. “I expect you haven’t seen him in one of his moods yet,” he says primly. “This would be what I was referring to with the ‘feral cat clawing up your furniture’ metaphor.”

“I see.”

Huaisang eyes him. “Ah, you Lan boys. I can’t ever tell what’s goin’ on in your heads. You thinking of slipping out and leaving before he comes back?”

“No,” Lan Xichen says.

“Maybe rethinking the marry-him-and-have-his-babies thing?”

Lan Xichen closes his eyes and allows his patience to be tested. “I appreciate that he has a friend like you to protect him. I gather that he must have needed one in the past.”

“Well, men are shit, and Yaoyao does not know how to pick ‘em.”

Lan Xichen nods and opens his eyes. “I am not the kind of person who would blame him for having a terrible father, nor for having an emotional response to encounters with him.”

Huaisang heaves a sigh. “I asked dage about you, y’know. He said you’re, quote, ‘alright’. He said if Yaoyao gets hurt, it’ll probably be his own fault, not yours. For pinning his heart on you and getting his hopes up or something.”

“There is nothing A-Yao could ask me for that I would not be prepared to give him,” Lan Xichen says simply. By the bushel, if he could. By the truckload. All that Meng Yao asks for and more. “Please tell dage that I am flattered to have his good opinion.”

“Hah. It is pretty high praise, coming from him, huh?” Huaisang sighs again. “Ugh, you’re too sus.”

Lan Xichen shrugs a little. “I understand. I hope I can alleviate some of your suspicions in time.”

“That’s just what a really sus person would say!” Huaisang shrieks, slamming his hand on the table.

“What is?” Meng Yao says, approaching the table--Lan Xichen’s heart lifts just to see him and falls again at the tense, drawn expression on Meng Yao’s face.

Huaisang tilts his head all the way back to look at Meng Yao upside down when he stops behind Huaisang’s chair. “Er-ge’s being sus--he wants me to stop thinking he’s sus.”

“Hm,” Meng Yao says. He adds, neutrally, “That is what a sus person would say.”

“I said I would like to alleviate his suspicions,” Lan Xichen says. “In time. I am very much not asking him to stop being wary of me now, and in fact,” he says with a pointed look at Huaisang, “I prefaced that remark by saying that I was glad that A-Yao has friends to be protective of him.”

“So incredibly sus,” Huaisang stage-whispers to Meng Yao.

Meng Yao nods and pats his shoulder. “Yes, the excessive sincerity sets my teeth on edge too.”

“What’s he hiding? What’s his game? I know we’ve had this conversation already, but it’s still sus! I’m just saying!”

“My newest hypothesis is just that he’s nice,” Meng Yao says. He still sounds flat and toneless, almost clinical, but Lan Xichen’s heart lifts again.

Huaisang groans. “Nice is sus.”

“Yes.”

Lan Xichen shakes his head, fond and rueful. “I have no way of defending myself or my motives, do I?”

“Defending yourself is sus,” Huaisang says with a firm nod. “That’s just what a sus person would do.”

“Ah, of course.” Lan Xichen shifts his attention to Meng Yao and smiles at him, as soft as he can. “I heard gas station nachos might be in order.”

Without missing a beat, Meng Yao smacks the back of Huaisang’s head sharply. Huaisang squawks and whips around in his chair. “What was that for!”

“Gossip,” Meng Yao says forbiddingly.

“I was giving him useful information! That’s allowed! Look--” Huaisang pounces on his phone, unlocks it, and scrolls furiously. “He said it--he said it himself, look--here! Exceptions can be made in cases where one is concerned about a person’s safety and wellbeing and needs to communicate that to someone who has the power to prevent harm.” Huaisang pouts up at Meng Yao. “He has the power to take us to a gas station and buy us shitty nachos, doesn’t he?”

“I don’t want any.”

“Well that’s just too fucking bad, isn’t it,” Huaisang says. He clings to Meng Yao’s sleeve and whines, “What would I do if you were in jail for murder, huh? Who would look after me? Who would save me from myself?” He sounds like he’s on the edge of tears. “How will I solve any of my problems without you telling me what to do? As soon as one problem vanishes, a new one appears! Yao-ge, you must come eat the nachos.” His voice quavers with sorrow. “You must.

“No,” Meng Yao says, shaking him off. “I’m going home.”

Huaisang wails and throws himself half out of his chair at Meng Yao, wrapping his arms around his waist and burying his face in Meng Yao’s abdomen. “Yao-ge!”

“I don’t need any nachos and I don’t want them,” Meng Yao says, prying Huaisang off and shoving him back into his chair. “I’m fine. This is not a nachos emergency.”

“But your dumb dad--”

“Don’t,” Meng Yao says sharply. “It’s handled.”

Huaisang’s eyes go wide. “Handled? Did you already kill him?” he whispers loudly.

In response, Meng Yao gestures grandly to the other side of the banquet hall, where Jin Guangshan is talking to several business associates and looking very much alive. “If it were a nachos emergency, you would know,” Meng Yao says peevishly. “However, it is not.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Huaisang says, pouting. “I don’t understand. Is it just because you got to hold the baby? Did you fill up on chill?”

“Something like that,” Meng Yao says. “Goodnight, Huaisang.”

“I don’t get it, I really don’t get it,” Huaisang sighs mournfully.

Meng Yao ignores him and turns to Lan Xichen. For a moment, a horribly disappointing moment, Lan Xichen thinks he’s about to be summarily wished goodnight as well. “Ready?”

Lan Xichen does not quite scramble to his feet, but only because uncle’s expectations of comportment are impossible to shake. “Yes.”

“Oh, I see how it is,” Huaisang says, pouting. “You don’t want nachos with me, you want to go off with er-ge and hold hands or something.”

Goodnight, Huaisang,” Meng Yao says, stalking off to the door.

“Goodnight, Huaisang,” Lan Xichen echoes, unable to keep his smile off his face. He follows Meng Yao and, with his longer legs, catches up to him in just a few strides.

“Did you drive?”

“Wangji did, we came together.”

“We’ll order a ride back, then.”

Lan Xichen takes out his phone and does so, finishing just as they make it outside into the cool night air. “Five minutes away.”

Meng Yao goes right up to the curb and stops, tilts his head back, and exhales long and slow. Lan Xichen takes the gamble and reaches out to brush his fingers against Meng Yao’s. When he’s not rebuffed, he takes Meng Yao’s hand properly and squeezes it. “Are you really alright?”

“Yes. Surprisingly.”

“You deserve to be appreciated for your hard work,” Lan Xichen says. He squeezes Meng Yao’s hand again, gets a little squeeze in reply. “It was a good party. Jiang Yanli looked very happy and relaxed, your brother seemed… fine…” A small snort from Meng Yao. “The other guests were pleased. You did well, even with the troubles at the beginning.”

“Yes. I did.” Meng Yao’s eyes are still closed, his face still turned upwards towards the sky. Lan Xichen has a hunch that he might say something else, and so stays silent. It pays off: “I wasn’t expecting to be alright.”

“Hm?”

“Going into the party, I mean. I wasn’t expecting to be alright when I came back out of it.”

“And you did it anyway?” Lan Xichen asks gently, squeezing his hand again. “Even though you knew it would be hard?”

“Yes,” Meng Yao says. “Story of my life, really.”

“I think that’s very brave. And admirable.”

“Nothing to admire here.” His voice is flat again, hollow. “It’s got to be done. It’s just sweaty, grubby, tedious work. Like digging ditches or hauling rocks.”

“Those are professions that deserve admiration as well. It takes fortitude, and so does what you do.”

“I don’t think of it like that.”

“How do you think of it?”

A shrug of one shoulder. “The definition of insanity, maybe. Trying again and again and expecting different results. I just keep showing up, because… Because. And it’s always the same, no matter what I do.”

Lan Xichen is silent for a long moment. “But you did get a different result this time. You were expecting to be upset, but... You’re alright.”

Meng Yao huffs a laugh through his nose and finally ducks his head. “Ah, I can’t take credit for that.”

“You can,” Lan Xichen insists gently. “You should. I’m sure holding the baby helped, but your strength of character is yours.”

Meng Yao takes his own long moment of silence. He shifts. Scuffs his shoe against the ground, a tiny movement. Inhales, as if he’s about to speak-- and shakes his head wearily. “Not now,” he mutters, as if speaking more to himself. “Too tired.” 

Lan Xichen pulls him closer by his hand and puts his arm around Meng Yao’s shoulders. “If you want,” he says quietly, “I can just put you in the car and send you home. If you’re tired.”

Meng Yao pauses. “I expect you’re tired too,” he says neutrally.

“Not too tired for you, if that’s what you’re implying.” Lan Xichen leans his head down to press a kiss to the top of Meng Yao’s hair. “Do you want me around tonight?”

Another long silence. Almost imperceptibly, Meng Yao angles himself a little closer to Lan Xichen’s side. “Depends.”

“On what?”

“Did you mean it, earlier?”

“A-Yao is going to have to be a little more specific one of these days,” Lan Xichen says, pressing another smiling kiss to his hair to take any sting out of the words. “I’ve meant everything I’ve said to you, so yes. But which part?”

In a very quiet murmur, Meng Yao says, “About how I wouldn’t have to do anything but go home with you and say yes.”

“I meant it.”

“How much did you mean it?”

“A-Yao.”

A little huff, and Meng Yao turns even closer towards him, until his forehead is almost leaning on Lan Xichen’s lapel.  Lan Xichen takes the opportunity to wrap his other arm around him too. After a long moment, Meng Yao says, “No. Nevermind.”

“If you don’t want to do anything, we don’t have to do anything,” Lan Xichen says, rubbing his hands up and down Meng Yao’s back, the smooth perfect tailoring of his dinner jacket. “If you think my willingness to be around you depends on that--or if your preferences depend on that--”

“It doesn’t. I was being-- It doesn’t. Really.”

He is so wildly in love with Meng Yao, but sometimes Lan Xichen needs to rub menthol on his temples about him, and the dissonance between those two things is… occasionally difficult to navigate. “A-Yao,” he says, attempting a wheedle--Huaisang’s whining seemed to have some effect, so maybe that’s just the sort of thing Meng Yao responds to. “You’re very clever and very subtle, and it sometimes makes it hard to guess what you want. Won’t you have mercy on gege and tell him directly?” He pulls Meng Yao close and rocks them back and forth, almost like they’re slow dancing. He attempts his most Huaisang pout. “Gege only wants to make sure A-Yao is getting the thing he needs.”

“Wow, fuck off,” Meng Yao says, muffled against his chest, and Lan Xichen laughs silently.

“I can send you home by yourself, or I can go home with you, or you can come home with me, and when we get there, we can do whatever you like.” He drops another kiss on Meng Yao’s hair. “I mean it. What were you going to ask about?”

“I’ve already decided not to.”

“Why?”

“It’s too selfish.”

“Just hypothetically, then. Surely things aren’t selfish except in practice.”

Meng Yao hesitates. Suddenly, he wriggles. Lan Xichen loosens his arms to let him go free, but Meng Yao is only digging out his phone. “What about that text you sent, hm?” he says, faux-brightly. “I forgot about it, I was too distracted. I’m sure you thought of something better than my stupid thing.” Lan Xichen waits while Meng Yao gets his phone unlocked, tucked in the dark space between their bodies. He waits while Meng Yao reads the text.

Meng Yao groans and slumps against him. He pounds his fist weakly against Lan Xichen’s chest. “You’re the worst, you’re the worst, you’re horrible, what am I supposed to do with that, how dare you, what am I supposed to do with that--” 

Lan Xichen laughs under his breath again and pulls back a little as he sees their ride turning into the parking lot. “The car’s here,” he says, lifting Meng Yao’s face and dropping a kiss onto his scowling mouth. “Am I coming with you or no?”

“Yes, obviously,” Meng Yao grumbles. Lan Xichen kisses the tip of his nose. Meng Yao smacks him in the middle of his chest and brandishes his phone in Lan Xichen’s face. “What am I supposed to do with this,” he demands. “How am I supposed to respond to that?”

“Couldn’t say.” The car pulls up; Lan Xichen bundles him into the back seat and slides in after. “Your apartment or mine?”

Meng Yao leans forward to give the driver his address and sits back, shooting a sharp look at Lan Xichen from the corner of his eye, and types furiously on his phone. Lan Xichen smiles to be returning to this form of communication again and takes out his own.

< That’s exactly what I meant by bad flirting! Gege, how is this fair?

            > What were you going to ask about?

< GE!!!

            > :(

< Ugh.

Meng Yao huffs and lowers his phone, looking out the window for a long moment before he replies again.

< Just a very boring interpretation of what you said.
< The most boring possible interpretation.

            > About you coming home with me and saying yes?

< And the… other part.

He gives Meng Yao a quizzical look. Meng Yao returns one filled with suffering and exasperation and--insecurity, maybe. An edge of vulnerability.

< “A-Yao doesn’t have to do anything except...” -- that’s what you said.
< And I had a moment of being a mind-numbingly boring person, and I thought about… not doing anything. About just… lying there and not having to be in charge, not having to do any of the other things I always have to do.

            > Like what? What things?

< Like… observing myself. Scrutinizing everything I’m doing so that I’m not too noisy or too quiet, not too bossy or too lazy, not making ridiculous faces, not being selfish. I thought… It was stupid. I only thought about it for a moment or two.

            > I must be missing something, how is that selfish?

< “Just lying there and not doing anything”??? That’s the definition of selfishness.
< And in any case, that’s not what we do, we don’t do that.

Lan Xichen gives him another puzzled look.

            > There is nothing inherent in the situation that stops us from doing that, other than mutual agreement.

< You wouldn’t like it, anyway, so it’s a moot point.

            > Are you saying that to discourage me from pursuing this topic, or because you truly believe that?

Meng Yao hesitates over his screen.

He wants to be chased a little, Lan Xichen remembers. 

            > I very much enjoy it when you’re demanding, as I have said before and as I am sure you have deduced from repeated observation.
            > But it is not the demands themselves that I find compelling; it’s the idea that I am pleasing you exactly how you want to be pleased. In the past, I’ve made you come three or four times in a row without a thought for my own satisfaction, because I was getting plenty just from seeing yours.
            > If the idea of being in charge and making decisions is tiring today, then don’t do that. I still stand by what I said before. You don’t *have* to do anything.

“Gege,” Meng Yao mutters under his breath, but it sounds… exhausted, despairing, rather than annoyed. 

            > Will you let me take care of you, sweetheart? Will you tell me what you need and then let me give it to you?

Meng Yao gazes down at his phone screen, his thumbs poised as if to reply. He sighs a tiny, quiet sigh.

            > There’s a lot I’d want to give you, if you let me, you know. But you have to let me, or else I can’t.

Meng Yao closes his eyes and thumps his head back against the headrest, then sighs again and tips sideways until he’s leaning against Lan Xichen’s arm. “Ge.”

“Excessive sincerity?” Lan Xichen says, smiling helplessly down at him.

Meng Yao huffs. Lan Xichen tucks an arm around him.  

After a few minutes of contemplation, during which Meng Yao does not attempt to pull away, Lan Xichen sends:

            > Earlier, you were flirting about me having my way with you--isn’t that essentially the same thing?

Meng Yao reads it right from Lan Xichen’s screen as he’s typing and huffs again.

< No. Maybe. Kind of. It’s different.

            > One is acceptable and the other isn’t. Somehow. For some reason.

< Yes.

Lan Xichen hums thoughtfully to himself and tucks his phone away. They ride in silence all the way back to Meng Yao’s apartment, and Meng Yao only pulls away when it’s time to get out of the car.

Lan Xichen has been thinking about… chasing. About what that looks like, and what Meng Yao might like. He catches his hand again on the sidewalk as they go into the building and follows him up the stairs. When Meng Yao pauses on his doormat to dig out his keys, Lan Xichen wraps himself around him from behind and kisses his neck. “Would you like me to touch you?” he murmurs against Meng Yao’s skin. 

Meng Yao shivers and presses back into him, tilting his head away to give Lan Xichen better access. “Yes,” he says. He gets the door open, the keys jangling in his hand. Lan Xichen stays plastered to his back as they step inside and close the door. He separates only long enough for them to take off their shoes, and then he takes Meng Yao’s wrists and turns him around, backing him up against the door and pinning him there gently.

Meng Yao looks up at him with big, dark eyes. A little wary, maybe. A little hopeful. A little like he doesn’t want to let himself expect anything.

Lan Xichen kisses him, deep and slow. Meng Yao shudders hard when Lan Xichen’s tongue first dips into his mouth, and again when Lan Xichen kisses his neck, and a third time when he whispers against Meng Yao’s skin, “I want you.”

Meng Yao’s throat bobs on a swallow under Lan Xichen’s lips. “How?” Meng Yao rasps. “How do you want me?”

“In your bed. Underneath me.” Lan Xichen scrapes his teeth against the tendon of Meng Yao’s neck in that way he likes best and gets another shudder for his troubles. He rolls his next words over his tongue, feeling the shape of them before he speaks them: “Letting me have my way.” It’s--easy, to say it. Easier than he would have thought it would be. Heady and intoxicating. 

Meng Yao’s breath catches. “It’s--different. To what I said.” His voice cracks in the middle. “It is. It’s not the same.”

Lan Xichen crowds closer against him, uses the weight of his body to press Meng Yao against the wall. “Don’t think about it.”

“I can’t,” Meng Yao says with a desperate little laugh. His hands are clutching Lan Xichen’s sleeves. “I can’t just not think about it.”

“Think about something else, then.” He gets his hands under Meng Yao’s thighs, hoists him up to hold him against the wall. Meng Yao makes a soft noise and wraps his legs around Lan Xichen’s waist, his arms around Lan Xichen’s shoulders, pushes his face against Lan Xichen’s neck. “Think about how I want you. Think about how I want everything I’m doing to you.”

Meng Yao’s fingers dig into his back; his breath stutters against his skin. “This is a bad idea,” he manages. 

Lan Xichen palms his ass, grinds his cock into the crux of Meng Yao’s legs. “You said the same thing about seeing each other again, and then the same thing about coming over to mine.” It occurs to him suddenly, through the thickening haze of desire, that he spends so much mental energy letting his thoughts circle around “shotgun wedding” that he doesn’t spend nearly enough time thinking about the other part of those undeleted drunk texts, possibly the most important part: “I can’t ever speak to this man or see him ever again, because then I’m going to get obsessed with him.” Did he? Is he? Does he think about Lan Xichen as much as Lan Xichen thinks about him?

He pulls back to look at Meng Yao--he’s already short of breath and red-mouthed from kissing. “It’s not a bad idea,” Lan Xichen says in a low, velvety voice, the sort he might use to gentle a startled animal. “It’s not.”

“You’re going to make me--” Meng Yao cuts himself off, shuts his eyes.

Lan Xichen kisses him until Meng Yao’s soft mouth opens helplessly for him, licks into him until he’s trembling again. “I’m going to make you what?”

“Forget,” Meng Yao chokes out. “Myself.”

“And that’s a bad idea? Forgetting yourself?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t trust me with that?”

“I don’t trust me with that,” Meng Yao whispers. “You wouldn’t--” He makes a high noise, almost a despairing laugh, but it has too many edges to be a laugh. “Don’t make me say something we’ll both regret.”

“I won’t regret hearing your thoughts. Tell me--I wouldn’t what?” Lan Xichen says, mouthing at his neck just under his ear and squeezing two perfect handfuls of Meng Yao’s ass.

“Like it. If I--” He doesn’t finish. That’s fine--he dropped words like individual puzzle pieces, and Lan Xichen has enough to begin to fit them together.

“I wouldn’t like it if you forgot yourself?” Meng Yao goes tense all over, his eyes shut tight and his lips pressed together, which is answer enough. Lan Xichen bites his neck and rolls his hips slowly against him--they’re both hard now. Lan Xichen feels like he’s hard enough to pound nails. “Sweetheart, I would like that the most. ” 

Meng Yao makes a soft, desperate noise. “You won’t,” he whispers. “You won’t. I swear you won’t.”

Lan Xichen shifts his grip to better support his weight, steps away from the wall, and takes a gamble as to which door leads to Meng Yao’s bedroom. “Don’t think about it now.” He shoulders open the door and wins his gamble. The bedroom is neat and tidy, the bed almost perfectly made--the covers all smooth but for a rumpled spot at the edge, as if Meng Yao had sat there at some point after he’d made the bed, and a dent in the middle one of the pillows, as if it had been punched. 

Lan Xichen sets him on his feet in the middle of the room and kisses him again while he pulls the already-loosened tie from Meng Yao’s neck and bends to lick the hollow of his throat like he’s been dying to do for eternities now.

“Lan Huan--”

He thrills to hear his familiar name fall from Meng Yao’s tongue. “Don’t think about it.”

Meng Yao’s breath is rough and uneven as Lan Xichen gets him out of his devastatingly lovely formalwear piece by piece--it is just as intoxicating as he’d imagined it to be. Meng Yao tries to help, his hands drifting to his buttons, but Lan Xichen pushes them gently out of the way and kisses him again.

When Meng Yao is naked, Lan Xichen discards his own jacket, vest, and shirt, throws back the covers on the bed, and topples him gently and inexorably into it. He climbs over him--Meng Yao is shivering, his cock hard against his stomach and his eyes wide with anticipation--or trepidation, perhaps.

“Don’t think,” Lan Xichen whispers into his mouth. “You don’t have to do anything but enjoy yourself and let me take care of you.” He knees Meng Yao’s legs open and kneels between them, taking Meng Yao’s cock in hand. “I want to. I think about it all the time.” 

He jerks Meng Yao off until he’s gasping, and then he sucks him until he’s yanking at Lan Xichen’s hair, and then he pushes Meng Yao’s beautiful, perfect thighs up to his chest and licks his hole until Meng Yao is whimpering, muffled against his own palm and still louder and more responsive than Lan Xichen has yet heard him. 

He doesn’t let Meng Yao come yet; when he slides back up Meng Yao’s body to knock his hand aside and kiss him, Meng Yao is rumpled and strained-looking, clearly not following Lan Xichen’s directives to not think about it. He fetches out the lube from the nightstand--he can’t help but notice that Meng Yao does own a box of condoms, though it’s not like Lan Xichen’s going to start bothering with them now. He opens him up on his fingers the way Meng Yao likes best, too-fast and probably burning a little, fucking him hard and ruthless while he kisses him exquisitely slow and gentle. 

“You were working so much today,” he says softly between kisses. “You did it all yourself, and you did it brilliantly. It was a good party. You made people happy.”

“Don’t--” Meng Yao gasps into his mouth. “Don’t talk about it, I don’t want to think about it--”

“Good,” Lan Xichen says, putting as much warmth into his voice as he can. “Good. Don’t think about it. Don’t think of anything but this.” He thrusts his fingers harder into him, and Meng Yao groans under his breath and tightens his arms around Lan Xichen’s shoulders. “Think of how I want to do this. I want to be right here, doing exactly this.” Another strong tremor runs through Meng Yao’s body; his legs shift wider, his hips rocking up into Lan Xichen’s hand-- “No, shh, relax, just relax.”

“I need--” Meng Yao pants, digging his nails into Lan Xichen’s shoulderblades. “I need--”

Lan Xichen kisses him. “You’ll get it, you will, I promise. You’ll get everything you want, you don’t have to fight for it. I’ll make sure you get it, just trust me and let me.”

Meng Yao makes a strangled noise of despair. “Are you-- Do you--”

“I want to. I want this, I want you.”

Meng Yao seems to fight some fierce internal battle, his eyes scrunched closed. “I just--” Lan Xichen presses his lips against the pulse in Meng Yao’s neck, feels his heartbeat thundering, rabbit-quick, quicker than it should be even with the exertion of sex and arousal. His face is all knotted up, his hands clenched into fists against Lan Xichen’s back. “Don’t--don’t fuck this up,” he says in a rush.

“I’d rather die.”

Please don’t fuck it up,” Meng Yao whispers desperately.

Lan Xichen kisses him hard, twists a fourth finger inside him. “I won’t. I won’t. I swear it, I promise.” He bends to suck at one nipple, flutters his fingertips against Meng Yao’s sweet spot until he whines in his throat. A moment later, he exhales a long breath and begins to go limp and liquid under Lan Xichen’s hands like slowly-thawing snow. “Good,” Lan Xichen says, kissing over his heart. “Good, sweetheart, that’s beautiful, thank you.”

The thawing continues, as if it’s a process that has to be consciously authorized at every stage--Meng Yao’s arms fall from his shoulders until there are just his hands laying loose and easy over the back of Lan Xichen’s neck and head. His breathing slows; each muscle releases its tension one by one. When Lan Xichen glances up at his face, even his expression has eased, though there’s still a knot between his eyebrows--worry, or concentration, or uncertainty. Lan Xichen leans up to kiss him again, laying a series of chaste kisses across his cheekbones and his brow before taking his mouth again--Meng Yao tilts his face into it and lets his mouth fall open and soft, but otherwise doesn’t kiss back. It sends an unexpected and powerful surge of heat through Lan Xichen’s core; his cock, hard but perfectly ignorable a moment before, is suddenly aching for touch, throbbing and straining in his dress slacks. He groans into Meng Yao’s mouth and ruts urgently against his thigh; Meng Yao clenches on his fingers, his whole body twitching with a series of aborted half-movements before he stills again.

“Perfect,” Lan Xichen groans. “Perfect, sweetheart. Perfect. Perfect.”

Meng Yao’s hands flex against his hair and neck, and his breath stutters. “You--” His voice cracks. “You want me.”

“I want you.” He can’t stop his hips from hitching against Meng Yao’s leg, no matter how he tries to find his control again. “I want you.” Fuck, he can’t bear this. Meng Yao is being so perfect, lying there trembling and open and letting Lan Xichen do whatever he wants--he’s enflamed with the thought of it, he’s burning up with want. He has to make Meng Yao come, he has to, he wants it more than air, like he’ll die if he doesn’t--

He almost asks Meng Yao what he wants, how he wants to come. He catches himself at the last second. He’s not taking direction tonight; he’s having his way , he’s doing all the work so Meng Yao can lie there and understand that Lan Xichen wants him, that he doesn’t even have to be doing anything for Lan Xichen to want him, that he doesn’t have to work for it or force it or make any effort to incite it because Lan Xichen will want him regardless. That was the agreement, that he’d let Lan Xichen take care of him, and that he wouldn’t have to do anything except-- “A-Yao, sweetheart--” he’s surprised by how desperate he sounds, how wrecked, “I need--I need to be close to you, I need to be inside you, please, may I--”

Meng Yao makes a high, bright sound and nods immediately and energetically. “Yes, yes.” He tries to pull Lan Xichen close by his shoulders, his fingernails digging in and scoring lines of bright, mind-clearing pain across his skin; he tries to wrap his legs around Lan Xichen’s waist--

“No, shh, be still, just relax,” Lan Xichen says, drawing his fingers out and nudging Meng Yao’s legs down again, and this time Meng Yao makes a protesting noise and cracks his eyes open. Lan Xichen is expecting a glare. He’s bowled over by the naked, raw vulnerability lying open in Meng Yao’s expression, and for once, for this one thrilling, heart-rending moment, Lan Xichen can read him as easily as if the words had been written across his face in ink: but I need, and are you going to withhold it now you know I need, and it will hurt me if you do, and Lan Xichen’s heart twists to see it. He dives forward to kiss Meng Yao again, delirious with want and love and tenderness and a fierce need to stand between him and whoever tries to hurt him. “Oh, no, don’t look so sad, you’re too lovely to be so sad,” he says. He kisses him, ardent and worshipful and adoring. “I just want you to be comfortable, sweetheart, do I look like I could deny you anything?” Meng Yao huffs a thin laugh and shivers all over. Lan Xichen kisses him and draws back to get him arranged, turned on his front with a pillow under his hips so Meng Yao really can just lie there like he wants, and so that Lan Xichen can be as close as possible and cover him entirely, envelop him and protect him and make it good for him, make it effortless--

He slicks himself liberally, using far too much lube, and slides in--it’s still thrilling and wildly arousing to be doing it bare. It’s never going to get old. It’s always going to be pure glory, like fireworks in his brain, to feel this close, this joined together. Every time he holds Meng Yao, every time he sinks in him to the hilt, he is swamped with a wave of wonder and amazement and awe at how well they fit together, how Meng Yao’s whole body is flawlessly proportioned to nestle into the circle of his arms and be tucked under Lan Xichen’s chin--he is so small, the perfect size to hold. And even stretched with four fingers, he’s so blissfully tight that Lan Xichen falls in love with him all over again, groaning into the crook of Meng Yao’s neck and kissing him rapturously. “A-Yao, A-Yao,” he pants, pressing his face to Meng Yao’s cheek. “You feel so good, you’re so--” He rolls his hips, grinding in as deep as he can go, and Meng Yao gives a musical little sigh and goes utterly boneless. “Good, oh, good, good, yes, thank you, sweetheart, thank you, just like that, just exactly like that.” He’s plastered over Meng Yao’s back, bearing just enough of his weight on his elbows that he won’t be crushing him. Meng Yao’s hands are fisted in the sheets on either side of his head--Lan Xichen takes one hand and twines their fingers together, gets the other arm underneath Meng Yao to hold him even closer and give him a hand to rub his cock into. They’re as close as possible, unbelievably close--Meng Yao, eyes fluttering closed, reaches back with his other hand to cup the back of Lan Xichen’s neck, and he doesn’t have the heart to bat Meng Yao’s hand away or to remind him to be still and pliant. They’re so close, he’s as deep as it’s possible to get, and he can’t bear to pull away even to thrust--he just rolls his hips, rocking in, adjusting the angle until Meng Yao gasps, “There.” 

He fucks him like that, just there, tiny grinding thrusts against that one particular good spot, until Meng Yao is groaning and crying out, muffled into the sheets but still louder than he’s ever been before, his muscles spasming and jerking reflexively and uncontrollably. Lan Xichen squeezes his hand, kisses his face. “There, sweetheart?” he says breathlessly. “There? Like that? Is it going to make you come? I want to, I want to, I need it, baby, I need to see you come, I want to feel you--” Meng Yao is arching beneath him, almost thrashing with desire, and Lan Xichen just eases more of his weight onto him until he’s immobilized, pinned down by his body and speared open on his cock and--helpless. Lan Xichen burns. His cock pulses hard, and Meng Yao must feel it inside because he whimpers and clenches and turns his face to be kissed. 

Lan Xichen kisses him, fucks him impossibly deep, holds him impossibly close. Meng Yao’s legs, sprawled on either side of Lan Xichen’s, keep twitching and fidgeting and kicking up in unconscious reflex--they’re the only part of him besides his one free hand that’s able to move, and Lan Xichen doesn’t want even that much movement. “Legs together,” he rasps in Meng Yao’s ear--it takes a bare moment of rearranging, but then he’s straddling Meng Yao’s legs, his knees pinning them tight together and his ankles crossed over Meng Yao’s so even that small movement is restricted. 

Meng Yao feels much tighter like this, and he must feel it too, because his breath catches on a whimper on Lan Xichen’s first rolling grind in. “Oh--oh, you’re--” He chokes on the second. “Oh, fuck, gege, you’re--” He muffles himself in the sheets for the third, and Lan Xichen kisses the nape of his neck and makes sure to angle right--exactly--there.

“I’m what?” he says, tucking his face right by Meng Yao’s, so they’re cheek to cheek, so every single part of them is touching. He kisses his ear, his jaw, his temple, every bit of him he can reach, and keeps rolling and rolling and rolling in. “What am I, sweetheart?”

Big,” Meng Yao chokes out. “Like this, you--oh--feel, you feel so--”

“For you,” Lan Xichen whispers, his lips smudging up against the hinge of Meng Yao’s jaw. “Big for you, so I can make you feel good, so I can make you come, so I can--so I can have my way with you.” Meng Yao pants wildly into the sheets, his hands flexing, one tangled with Lan Xichen’s, the other on the back of his neck, holding him close. “Big so I can get in as deep as you need.” Meng Yao is shuddering again, trying desperately to arch up and fuck back onto Lan Xichen’s cock, his hole squeezing and clenching like it’s trying to suck his cock just that little further bit in--he’s so tight like this, strangling-tight. When he comes, he’s going to clamp down so tight Lan Xichen won’t even be able to move. He shifts the arm that’s under Meng Yao’s waist and fucks a little harder in, and... “Oh--” He turns his hand palm up, presses against Meng Yao’s stomach as he pulls back just an inch or two for a proper hard thrust in--and feels the shifting weight of the thrust against his palm, feels Meng Yao’s insides giving and making room for his cock-- 

He groans, pulls his hand free just long enough to grab Meng Yao’s from the back of his neck and shove them both underneath their bodies. “Feel,” he whispers, pulling Meng Yao’s palm where he wants it and keeping it there, just as he’d done at the party earlier when he’d dragged Meng Yao’s hand to his cock under the table-- He thrusts hard, and Meng Yao bites his lip to stifle a cry. “Do you feel it?”

Meng Yao nods frantically. “You, feel you, I can feel you--”

“Can feel me what?”

“Having your way,” Meng Yao breathes. “Wanting me.”

Lan Xichen shudders and grinds in deep and hard--their cheeks are pressed together again, their breath gusting hot and damp and filling the space between them. “I do want you,” he says, going faster, rutting in without ever pulling out. “I want you, I want this, just like this-- You’re perfect, you’re being so perfect--”

“Gege--” He’s getting tighter, his legs squeezing together.

He needs to make Meng Yao come, he’s dying for it like it’s his own orgasm hanging just out of reach--he can’t bear to pull away from Meng Yao’s face, can’t bear to stop pressing his lips against Meng Yao’s jaw and neck and shoulder, but somehow he finds the leverage to pull back his hips just enough to thrust properly, deep heavy fucks that jolt Meng Yao up the bed until Lan Xichen slides his hand from beneath him and holds onto his hip, his thumb falling perfectly into one of those dimples at the base of his spine.

“Yes,” Meng Yao gasps. “Gege, yes, yes, there, yes.” 

“I want you, I want you, I want to make love to you until you can’t go on, I want to make you come, anything you want, sweetheart, anything--”

When Meng Yao comes, shouting into the sheets, he does clamp down so hard and tight that Lan Xichen can’t even pull out enough to keep fucking him. He has to resort to those rocking, grinding pulses while Meng Yao’s slick, hot, silky insides wring the orgasm from him, the contractions so powerful that it feels like the come is being sucked out of him, milked dry while he tries desperately to bully his way in just a little deeper.

Meng Yao’s orgasm goes on a while, dragging out past Lan Xichen’s by several impossibly long moments. Every time that he slumps limp and boneless and Lan Xichen thinks he’s done, the littlest shift of their skin or the slightest touch of Lan Xichen’s lips against his shoulder makes Meng Yao’s whole body seize up in another pulsing aftershock. It’s… fairly excruciating, as sensitive and overstimulated as Lan Xichen is, but he can’t bear to pull out--he just kisses Meng Yao’s shoulder again, kisses the sweet spot on his neck to make him seize up around his cock one more time and grits his teeth through the too-muchness.

“Mnghghm,” says Meng Yao eventually, when Lan Xichen has managed to lay four or five kisses in a row without inciting more than a weak little throb of an aftershock.

“Perfect,” Lan Xichen murmurs against his skin. “Perfect. Thank you. I want to do that again.”

A faintly horrified, protesting noise from Meng Yao.

“Another day, I mean,” Lan Xichen says.

“Hghrhg,” says Meng Yao.

Lan Xichen sets his teeth gently against the nape of Meng Yao’s neck and scrapes--aftershock, a solid one that makes Meng Yao hide his face in the sheets and curl up as much as he can, his hand thumping hard on the mattress and clawing at it. “I want to stay inside you,” he whispers. “Can I? I don’t want to be apart from you yet.”

“Hmrrrrrgh.” An exhausted little nod, and Meng Yao reaches back weakly to lay his hand on Lan Xichen’s neck again. It takes several more moments before Meng Yao inhales to the bottom of his lungs, coughs a little bit, and rasps, “Holy shitting fuck.”

“You’re lovely, you’re the loveliest thing, you’re perfect,” Lan Xichen murmurs against his skin, too drunk on sex and Meng Yao to worry that he’s coming on too strong. “Was that alright? Was that what you wanted?”

Meng Yao nods, tired. He has to clear his throat and swallow a couple times before he can speak again. “You didn’t fuck it up.”

Lan Xichen laughs and kisses his shoulder. “I’m glad,” he whispers. “I’d do that whenever you wanted.”

“Don’t say that. You’d get bored. You like mean,” Meng Yao says--too bleary with satiation for it to have any sting of defensiveness. “You like me bossing you around.”

“I like you, full stop,” Lan Xichen says, and--and it should be scary, it should be terrifying, but it’s… easy. The words fall off his tongue and the world doesn’t end and Meng Yao doesn’t freeze up and pull away--though he does grumble under his breath and push his face into the sheets. Lan Xichen tucks his nose against Meng Yao’s neck, revels in the heat blazing off him, the sweat-tackiness of their skin everywhere they’re stuck together, the occasional twitch and flutter of muscles around his cock, the smell of him--a warm muddle of sex and salt whatver soaps and colognes he uses, which without fail makes Lan Xichen smile like a loon whenever he catches lingering traces of it on his sheets. “The way you were talking earlier,” he murmurs, tasting salt as his lips press under Meng Yao’s ear, “it sounded like being bossy in bed was tiring for you.”

“Sometimes,” Meng Yao says. His eyes are closed and he’s still a limp, relaxed puddle beneath Lan Xichen, though he’s speaking more clearly now. “It takes a lot of energy.” He breathes deep, as if stretching out his lungs, and sighs again, somehow melting even further into the sheets. “Sometimes worth it, though.”

“You don’t have to do it if it’s tiring. Certainly not if it’s only for my sake.”

Meng Yao snorts and pushes his hips up a little, squeezing tight around Lan Xichen’s cock and turning his head just enough to watch from the corner of one eye as Lan Xichen winces with overstimulation. “Not only for your sake,” he says. “I seem to remember telling you that I was partial to ‘blessed and biddable’.”

“So you did,” Lan Xichen says, a little strained, and pats Meng Yao’s flank until he goes lax and easy again. “Still. There’s all manner of things you can bid me to do. This one was certainly not a hardship.”

“Hmmm.” A moment later, Meng Yao says neutrally, as if commenting on the weather, “You should be careful of how you speak.”

“I am. I mean everything I say to you.”

“So you claim, but if you keep saying things about how I can have anything I want, sooner or later I’m going to do something dreadful. For example, I might start believing you.”

“Oh, indeed, how terribly dreadful it would be to be believed,” Lan Xichen says, smiling, and then leans in to whisper in Meng Yao’s ear, “Anything you want. You can have anything you want.”

“Careful.”

“I am very carefully telling you that you can have anything you want from me.”

Meng Yao huffs, irritated. “Gege, you shouldn’t say that, you don’t know what I might ask for.”

Lan Xichen kisses his cheek. “Anything you want.”

“You might not like it.”

“Mm. And me liking it is important, is it?” Lan Xichen hooks his chin on Meng Yao’s shoulder and studies as much of his face as he can see. “You want me to like it. You want me to like you.

Meng Yao is still, silent.

Lan Xichen kisses the closest bit of him. “I do like you, you know.”

“Well, with the amount of great sex you’ve been getting, I’d be surprised if you didn’t,” Meng Yao says archly.

Lan Xichen cuddles closer, nestles around him. “I like you. A-Yao, I like you.”

“Yes, because I don’t ask for nonsense things.”

“Whether or not you ask for nonsense things has no bearing on it.”

“I disagree. You would enjoy my company a great deal less if I were asking.”

“Your conclusion is predicated on incomplete data.”

Meng Yao snorts. “Is that so? A man with his cock up my ass thinks that gives him the right to tell me my data is incomplete?”

Lan Xichen hums thoughtfully. “I could pull out and tell you your data is incomplete.”

“Don’t you dare.”

That’s that, then. He rocks his hips a little, though he’s too soft now for it to have much effect or get him in any deeper, and rubs his nose just under Meng Yao’s ear. “Your data is incomplete, A-Yao.”

“Fine. What am I missing?”

“That I like you.”

Meng Yao heaves a huge sigh. “Circular logic, gege.”

“Must I have reasons for liking A-Yao? Must I calculate how much I value him by adding up all his virtues and best qualities and weighing them against how much space he does or doesn’t take up in my life?”

“That is how most people function,” Meng Yao says patiently. “For example: ‘good sex’ plus ‘I do not ask for nonsense things’ equals positive value.”

Lan Xichen takes a moment to marvel at this completely foreign way of looking at the world. “I don’t think most people calculate attachments like that. I certainly don’t. Am I not permitted to like A-Yao simply because he is A-Yao?” Meng Yao turns his head enough to give Lan Xichen a flat look. Lan Xichen returns it curiously. “If you were asking for nonsense things and we weren’t having any sex, I would still like you.”

Meng Yao studies him. “Would you?”

“Of course. You’re clever, and you have a sharp sense of humor, and you care fiercely for your friends, and you’re loyal to your family, and you’re talented, and you threw the best Jin family event I’ve ever been to.” Meng Yao rolls his eyes and mutters something that sounds like The bar was low. “What’s not to like? A-Yao is very likeable.”

Meng Yao’s mouth twists ruefully. “Hm.”

“You disagree?”

Meng Yao shifts a little under him. “Out, please.”

Lan Xichen lays one last kiss on his shoulder and pulls out slowly, an excruciating drag--the lube has gone a little tacky, and the air is distinctly and unpleasantly cold compared with the clutching warmth inside Meng Yao’s body. Meng Yao rolls onto his back, flings away the come-soaked pillow that had been propping up his hips, and leans down to grab the covers and pull them over him. Lan Xichen, half-sitting up, watches him for a moment in case he’s about to be summarily thrown out again, but Meng Yao only wriggles to get comfortable on his back, an inscrutable expression on his face.

“Did I ruin the afterglow?” Lan Xichen asks. Meng Yao looks at him briefly, shakes his head. Lan Xichen lays down slowly on his side, facing him. He tweaks the blankets with two fingers, and Meng Yao relinquishes enough of them that he can at least get his legs covered. “Did I say something wrong?”

“No.” Meng Yao adds after a moment, “There was a time I would have disagreed.”

“About--being likable?”

“Yes. There was a time,” he says, more delicately, almost pointed, like he’s wanting Lan Xichen to notice that he’s dropping another handful of puzzle pieces, “that I would have heartily assured you that I wasn’t likeable at all. I would have gone to great lengths to prove it.”

“Why?”

“Because it would have been very important to make sure that you didn’t like me. It would not have been permitted,” Meng Yao says with a sage nod, as if this is a sense-making kind of thing to say.

“Why not?” Lan Xichen asks, propping his head up on one hand and smiling down at him.

“It’s a very dangerous thing, being liked.”

Lan Xichen digs under the blankets with his free hand so he can find one of Meng Yao’s and lace their fingers together. He studies him for a moment, fond and a little exasperated. “Does this have something to do with how you told me that it would be a bad idea when I asked you out to dinner?”

Meng Yao tilts his head back and forth, still gazing fixedly at the ceiling. “It is... related.”

Lan Xichen studies him for another moment. All this time, he has been trying so hard to be polite and respectful that he’s been missing a great deal of signs, as if he’s been circling Meng Yao’s fortress and generously overlooking every door standing a little ajar. All these hints, though, all these little tests, the fact that Meng Yao had called him Lan Huan--it’s signaling, maybe. It’s a bright-colored scarf hung out of one of the fortress windows as a sign from an unexpected ally on the inside who wants his siege to persevere. So--no more overlooking the doors left ajar. He’s going to shoulder every one of them open and stride inward until he finds one that’s truly locked, and even then he’s going to jiggle the handle pretty firmly, just to check.

Brisk and businesslike, he pulls up the covers and shifts up close to Meng Yao so they’re skin-to-skin again, gets an arm around his waist and a leg hooked over his legs, tucks his head into the crook of Meng Yao’s shoulder. All of this is allowed with no comment, so Lan Xichen kisses the corner of his jaw. “If one is liked by someone,” he murmurs, “then one might begin to like them back.”

“Hm,” Meng Yao says.

“And,” Lan Xichen continues, “if one wanted badly to be liked by that person, then one might worry that they’d stop.” He cuddles closer. “One might feel that the stakes were uncomfortably high. The risk of having that liking withdrawn might feel daunting.”

“Hm,” Meng Yao says again, except Lan Xichen grew up with Wangji for a brother and happens to be fluent in the subtle nuances of Hm. That one meant yes, but I don’t want to say so out loud. 

“Mm,” Lan Xichen agrees. “If it’s that daunting, then perhaps one would conclude that it’s better not to let someone like one in the first place, then. Easier that way, easier than being liked and then losing it.” He thinks about what he knows of Meng Yao, of--his family. Of that drunk text--not the I’m going to get obsessed with him part, but the bit immediately after. He’ll find out I’m crazy and leave. Lan Xichen hugs him closer and presses a long kiss to his shoulder. “And especially so if one felt as though the loss would be one’s own fault, or like merely taking up space was sufficient cause for affection to be rescinded.”

“As I said,” Meng Yao whispers. “It is dangerous to be liked.”

Lan Xichen considers leaving it there. But--no, there are doors still standing ajar, and doorknobs yet to be jiggled. “I noticed you were speaking in past tense, a moment ago. There was a time, you said.”

“Yes.”

Lan Xichen lays another long kiss on Meng Yao’s collarbone while he considers his next move in this little chess game. “I notice as well that you are not now trying to convince me not to like you.”

“I think that ship has fairly well sailed, hasn’t it,” Meng Yao says, snippy.

“Yes, it has,” Lan Xichen agrees cheerfully. He ponders for another moment. “Does it worry you? That you can’t get control of whether or not I like you?”

Meng Yao pauses, inhales a deep breath as if steadying himself. “It has caused me some… unease.”

“Ah. Because I have not been allowing you to minimize risk.”

“Yes.”

“Because I have callously, selfishly gone around liking you with no thought whatsoever for your feelings, and as a consequence, I have saddled you with high stakes.” Lan Xichen makes his voice very mournful. “How monstrous of me.”

“Gege isn’t even sorry about it,” Meng Yao mutters at the ceiling. “That’s the most monstrous part. No remorse, no repentance. Huan-gege has done a terrible, dreadful thing and he will not even attempt to reform his behavior.”

Oh, Huan-gege now, is it? Smiling, Lan Xichen leans up to plant a smacking kiss on the corner of Meng Yao’s mouth. “So there was a time, you said, that you would have disagreed about whether you were likeable. And you are not now disagreeing.”

“Hm,” says Meng Yao, which is a crystal-clear signal. It’s a game of hot and cold--when Meng Yao responds with wit and snark, Lan Xichen is drifting further away from the core point. A hm means he just took a step closer.

Lan Xichen props his chin on his hand again to look at him. Meng Yao keeps his eyes steady on the ceiling, his hands folded over his stomach under the blankets--though one pinky is moving in tiny strokes against the arm Lan Xichen slung across his waist. “You asked me earlier if I liked myself,” Lan Xichen says, as soft as he can, and yet he still sees the flicker of Meng Yao’s expression, the moment of tension as if he’s been menaced or struck. He feels the expansion of Meng Yao’s chest under his arm as he inhales.

“Mm,” Meng Yao says--Lan Xichen doesn’t need the confirmation that he’s getting close to something, but it’s nice.

“Does A-Yao like himself?”

A long silence. “There was a time,” Meng Yao says, very carefully, “when I did not like myself very much at all.” 

Lan Xichen hugs him for that. “And now?”

“I don’t know.”

“That’s progress, then, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to actively like myself.”

Lan Xichen hums in understanding. “If you’ve never done something before, I think it is natural to be skeptical of your own ability.” 

“Yes.” Meng Yao’s jaw works for a moment. “I think--it might be possible to learn.”

“I think you certainly could. It takes a little time to figure out where those muscles are, I’ve found. One can strengthen them by liking and caring for others, but it’s not quite the same.” He smiles. “Having a nephew is excellent practice, I highly recommend it.”

Meng Yao flat stare at the ceiling softens a little, doubtless at the thought of his own little nephew. 

But this isn’t--it’s not quite the right angle on the conversation, Lan Xichen can tell. Perhaps… 

Oh, he’s still uncertain of asking questions like the one he’s contemplating, but perhaps he has to take a few risks and gamble on doors standing ajar even if he can’t directly see them. And the whole night has been going so well, other than regarding anything related to Jin Guangshan, and Meng Yao has left so many doors open for him already-- 

“When do you think your perception of yourself started changing?” Lan Xichen asks. “Was it fairly recent?”

Meng Yao’s softened look goes neutral and unreadable again. “Mm.”

Lan Xichen can’t bear it, he has to, he has to ask, he can’t not ask-- “Was it sometime in the last four months?”

Meng Yao exhales. Clenches his jaw. Nods.

Lan Xichen’s heart sings. He can’t help but smile, though he manages to hold it back enough that it’s probably not too big and silly. “I’m glad.” He feels like he is shining with gladness--how can Meng Yao think this is a dangerous thing? How can he feel like there is any risk to this at all? Even if the unthinkable happened and their attachment came to an end, have they both not been enriched by this? 

Lan Xichen remembers again that pale blue fogbank of contentment that he had spent his life wandering through before laying his eyes on this golden field of joy shimmering like wheat in the wind. Even if this ends, even if one day he must wander back into the fogbank and never have this joy again, he will still be enriched by the fact that he had it once, and by the memories of it. No matter what, it will have done him good because of the color of the wheat fields.

“Stop looking at me like that,” Meng Yao mutters without breaking his stony stare at the ceiling or even glancing at Lan Xichen.

“Like what?”

“Sparkly.”

“I am not looking at you any particular way. This is just what my face does when I look at A-Yao.”

Meng Yao grumbles under his breath, but he doesn’t push Lan Xichen away. In fact, he slides one hand onto the arm Lan Xichen has across his stomach, as if grounding himself or holding it there. 

It makes Lan Xichen so giddy with delight that he blurts, “You really should ask me for nonsense things, though.” Never mind storming through all the unlocked doors he can find in Meng Yao’s fortress, he wants to fling open all of his own doors and hang welcome banners from the windows. “What if I did like them? What if it turned out that I wanted to give them to you?”

Meng Yao’s cheeks go a little pink and his stony glare intensifies. “I will ask for too much.”

“You couldn’t. It is impossible.”

“You’d think I’m crazy.”

“I do not consider that a reason to like you any less,” Lan Xichen says, brimming over with affection. “And I already know this about A-Yao anyway. For one thing, no fully sane person would choose to spend quite so much time with Huaisang.”

A pause, and then Meng Yao grumps and allows, “An extremely fair point.”

“Speaking of Huaisang--”

Meng Yao shuts his eyes as if in absolute pain. “Must we?”

“Well, no, if you’d rather not. But he, ah… said something I’ve been wondering about.”

“What did he say?” Meng Yao cracks one eye open, his expression as revolted and dubious as if Lan Xichen had offered him a particularly smelly dead fish. 

“He... told me a story about you.” Lan Xichen feels his ears going hot, sees Meng Yao’s hawk-sharp eyes clock the blush.

“I thought you didn’t listen to his gossip,” Meng Yao says warily. 

“I don’t. I would have given him my usual rebukes about it, but he said it wasn’t gossip so much as a… I believe his exact words were something like, ‘a fun anecdote that lots of people know about’.”

Meng Yao’s expression grows more wary. “What story was this?”

“It was the one about, ah… Your business monopoly in high school?”

The wary expression clears immediately. “What, selling condoms behind the bleachers? Huaisang was right; that’s not gossip, everybody knows about that. In fact,” he adds, smug, “I went to my ten-year high school reunion a year or two ago, and several people came up to shake my hand in thanks for the very useful services I provided them back then. They weren’t even mad about the five hundred percent markup.”

“Huaisang said it was four thousand percent.”

“Huaisang failed algebra twice, and he would have failed a third time if I had not helped him cheat,” Meng Yao says, withering. “What were you wondering about my most genius entrepreneurial empire? Is it about how I came to have the thickest face of anyone in my high school? That’s usually the first question.” He yawns and stretches his legs out, rotating his feet under the blanket until his ankle joints pop. “My mother was a sex worker until I was about seventeen. Sex ed was an extremely boring topic for me by the time everyone else was losing their shit over it. Really it wasn’t the hormones that drove sales, though, it was intense teenage shame. I was selling condoms even to the pimply virgins, because they wanted to be seen buying from me so people would think that they were getting laid.”

Lan Xichen laughs softly. “That wasn’t what I was wondering. It was, ah…” 

“Spit it out,” Meng Yao says, yawning again. “I’m going to be dropping off in a bit.”

“Alright.” Lan Xichen struggles for a moment to find a polite and tactful way of wording it. There is none that he can think of. Tactless it is, then. “So… When we’re having sex, I come inside you more often than not and--”

“Ah,” Meng Yao says, no longer drowsy in the slightest. “This one.”

“--considering your history, it… merely made me wonder.”

“People change a lot after high school,” Meng Yao says. “Maybe I developed a fetish.”

“Maybe, but Huaisang said--”

And how did this topic come up with Huaisang-- Wait. No, you wouldn’t have gossiped about it to him. Or anyone else.” Meng Yao narrows his eyes at the ceiling. “He was going on about his porn again, wasn’t he?”

“That… might have also come up in the conversation, such as it was. I had stopped responding.”

“So he babbled to get your attention.” Meng Yao heaves a sigh. “What did the wretched little miscreant say?”

Lan Xichen rolls away just long enough to get his phone from his pants, abandoned on the floor. He unlocks it, finds the conversation, scrolls up, and hands the phone to Meng Yao, who takes it and peers at the screen. 

If he scrolls up, he’ll see the text about Lan Xichen wanting to marry him. If he scrolls down even a few lines, he’ll see the one from Huaisang about maybe not marrying him after all. Lan Xichen watches and waits to see where fate will lead them.

Meng Yao does not scroll in either direction, just heaves another enormous sigh. “So you were doubtless wondering when we were going to get to the part where I--” Meng Yao checks the screen again, and says with delicate incredulity, “--declare I’m pregnant and take all your money, announce a dark ritual, or attempt to kill god.

“I’m sure A-Yao has his schedule for such things well under control.” That, at least, earns another snort from Meng Yao as he hands back the phone. “I was only wondering what it… meant.”

“Maybe it doesn’t mean anything.”

“Pardon my presumption, but that does not precisely sound like A-Yao.” He sets his phone on the nightstand and lays down again, wrapping himself around Meng Yao once more.

“Do I need a reason? Maybe it is just as you said, and I like it merely for its own sake.”

Lan Xichen mentally takes a step back and surveys the field. Perhaps a little vulnerability of his own, then, to model to Meng Yao that it’s quite safe to do so, that there will be an exchange. “I’m certainly not complaining, of course. In fact, I… very much like it.” His voice goes low quite without intending to. “It feels good. It feels incredible. Both the physical sensation and… the more psychological ones. The intimacy and closeness. And it’s, you know. Wildly arousing.”

“Hm,” says Meng Yao, and this one has a trace of smugness to it. “Yes, I’d noticed.”

Not enough vulnerability, then. “I didn’t know I’d like it. I’d never done that with anyone before,” he says, and immediately feels awkward for how shy he sounds.

It’s like those moments when Lan Xichen is so overwhelmed in the aftermath of particularly incredible sex that he can’t help but ask meekly if it’s alright for him to keep holding Meng Yao: Meng Yao blinks, his expression going a little surprised and (as always) ten times softer than Lan Xichen ever expects it to. The smugness from a moment ago transmutes to something more pleased and abashed, and Meng Yao entirely fails at fighting it back. “Hm,” he says, lowering his eyes demurely in that way he uses as his last resort, when all his other tools have failed him. “Well. If it helps, neither had I.”

Lan Xichen feels a rush of arousal at that thought--but it will still be a few more minutes before he’s ready to go again. He tightens his arms, pulling Meng Yao closer, nuzzles into his neck, breathes him in. “Tell me what you were thinking that made you do it,” he whispers. “I want to know.”

“Gege,” Meng Yao says, gently scolding--very gently.

“What’s the harm of telling me now?” Lan Xichen lips at the tendon of his neck, letting one of his arms drift down to grip a handful of the side of Meng Yao’s lovely porcelain flank.

“I wasn’t thinking about anything of note. Just silly things.”

“I want to know all your thoughts, even the silly ones.” He hugs Meng Yao, has another moment of extraordinary awe at how well they fit together. “Please? A-Yao can be silly with me if he wants.”

“How could I? How could I, when gege has never been anything less than perfectly elegant and poised a day in his life?”

“I never feel elegant or poised when I’m around you,” Lan Xichen says softly. “If I seem so, it’s only because of practice and habit.” Another of those surprised-pleased-abashed-soft looks from Meng Yao, which only gives him the courage to go on. “When I’m around you, I feel terribly clumsy and gawky. I second-guess myself constantly.”

“Whatever for?” Meng Yao says, sounding genuinely mystified.

Lan Xichen pulls back enough to look at him. “Because I like you,” he says simply. “And I want badly to be pleasing to you.” He can’t meet Meng Yao’s wide dark gaze for more than a moment--he drops his eyes. “I worry that A-Yao will not find me worth his while unless I prove myself.”

“That I won’t find you worth my while?” Meng Yao demands, scandalized. “Gege!”

Lan Xichen shrugs one shoulder. “You’re quite busy. You have many demands on your attention.”

“And you think that I’m going to cut you loose if you don’t prove yourself, whatever that means? Gege! Huan-ge! Please be reasonable!”

“I am.”

Meng Yao gives him an outraged look. “Why in the world would I cut you loose? Have you seen yourself? Do I look like an idiot?”

“No, of course not. But A-Yao is bewitching enough to have anyone he wanted, and they would be grateful and honored to have his attention.”

“Well, historically, they haven’t been,” Meng Yao says heatedly, pushing himself up onto one elbow. “Whereas you, on the other hand--why anyone let you out of their clutches so you could wander around on your own on hookup apps, I truly cannot fathom.”

“Historically, no one outside my family has been very concerned about keeping me.” Lan Xichen murmurs. “I suspect that before this, I... was not very interesting as a long-term prospect.”

Meng Yao exhales, soft and sharp, the quietest version of being hit in the solar plexus. When Lan Xichen manages to lift his eyes, the look Meng Yao is giving him is that same stricken, taken-aback look he’d had earlier, at the party, when Lan Xichen had told him about growing to like himself. Meng Yao shakes himself. “No. No, that doesn’t make sense. Who in their right mind would’ve been so short-sighted?”

“It wasn’t their fault. It was mine.” In a smaller voice, he adds, “I was a little boring, I think.”

“Boring!” Meng Yao says furiously. “Boring! You?

Lan Xichen shrugs again. “I have as much trouble believing that anyone could meet A-Yao and not be entirely charmed and enchanted by him, so--”

Names, give me names, gege,” Meng Yao demands. “Give me the names of all your exes, I am going to have them interrogated. I am going to get to the bottom of this, I am going to make them explain themselves.”

Of course he isn’t going to give Meng Yao any of their names, but--but part of him still fills up with warmth and affection and comfort at this little act of possessiveness. “That’s really not necessary,” he says, fighting back a smile. “They were not very interested in me, and I was not interested in them.”

“Oh, so they were boring. That explains it, boring people are like that.” A speculative light comes into Meng Yao’s eyes, as if he’s trying to calculate a complex equation. “Perhaps they were intimidated by you, and that’s why they had to dump you.”

“They weren’t. There just… wasn’t much of a spark, that’s all. Not a sustainable one. Things petered out, and I thought that that was a sign that we weren’t meant to be after all.”

Meng Yao huffs, but subsides a little. “I genuinely cannot fathom that sort of person,” he mutters. He huffs again. “Idiots.” After a moment, in a much different voice, he says, “That’s why you never push for much of anything, isn’t it.”

“It’s probably related, yes,” Lan Xichen says softly. “And it’s why I am so worried about proving myself to you. If I can be useful and pleasant enough, then perhaps it won’t matter if I’m boring.”

Gege.” A third huff. “You’re going to get me into bad habits. Giving you things the first time you ask for them, answering questions, being straightforward--horrible things. Bad habits.” 

“You never have to give me anything you don’t want to,” Lan Xichen says firmly, but Meng Yao is already flopping back into the pillows with a groan and covering his face with one hand.

“Ugh, fine, gege, fine, it’s--look, the thing about fucking you bare--it was a very silly thought, and I’m aware it’s a silly thought, so I will simply tell you, and we can all nod and agree that it’s a silly thought and never speak of it again.” He pauses, heaves a sigh, and doesn’t take his hand down from his face, which rather belies the casual, conversational tone he continues with: “You may have noticed that I have been exerting a great deal of willpower and discipline to--to maintain boundaries. Rules. Rules are important.”

“I agree that rules are important,” Lan Xichen says carefully. “I have not noticed that you have been particularly straining your discipline, though.”

“Yes, well, I have. These are rules about… about how I wasn’t going to see you again, for example.” The bottom drops out of Lan Xichen’s stomach to all but hear one of those drunk texts he’s tattooed on the backs of his eyelids now spoken aloud, though heavily paraphrased. “And as you can see, my willpower failed me spectacularly in that regard, so then there had to be other rules instead, ones about…” He waves vaguely.

“Only seeing me on Fridays,” Lan Xichen supplies. “And only at my apartment, and not letting me bring you coffee in bed, and no morning sex.”

“...Yes. Yes, quite. And almost never texting you first,” Meng Yao says, his voice smaller now. “And I’m aware that’s cruel of me, you’re welcome to say so.”

“You didn’t do it with the deliberate intent to cause me harm or suffering,” he says softly. “You didn’t do it to amuse yourself. You did it because you thought you had to, in the pursuit of protecting either yourself, or me, or both. It wasn’t cruel.”

“It saddened you,” Meng Yao bites out. “It disappointed you. I disappointed you.” 

“Only because I wanted so very much for you to let me in,” Lan Xichen says, even more gently.

Meng Yao inhales roughly, and says in a rush, “Yes, well, that’s the crux of it, which is that I kept trying to build walls to--to keep myself in, or to keep you out, I’m not sure which, and I kept failing in a thousand little ways. I failed more often than I succeeded. For example, at the beginning, I kept swearing to myself that I wouldn’t kiss you.” Meng Yao pauses, swallows hard. “You probably didn’t even notice that one. You just… existed, or you’d just reach for me, and I’d cave and kiss back. Pathetic of me. Weak.”

“Sweetheart…”

“Or I’d make deals with myself about--about how I could let myself flirt a little on Friday nights, as long as I also promised that I wouldn’t make any noise in bed later.”

A-Yao.

“No, I know,” Meng Yao says bitterly. “I know that doesn’t make any fucking sense, I know. I wasn’t precisely in my right mind, is the point. I kept--breaking my own rules, or failing to have any willpower, or--or outfoxing myself.” He scowls at the ceiling. “That’s the problem with being very clever. Sometimes there’s two of you in your own head and one of them plays dirty, or wilfully sabotages the other one. The one saying you little asshole, don’t fucking do it, don’t kiss him, and the one making me put my hands on you and tilt my face up so you’d kiss me. Sabotage.” Meng Yao puts his other hand over his face and says, muffled, “I told you it was a stupid thing. Nobody’s clever enough to sneak around behind their own back in their own head.”

Lan Xichen smiles a little ruefully and kisses Meng Yao’s forehead in the gap between two fingers. “It’s not stupid. It’s--”

“So,” Meng Yao says, interrupting ruthlessly. “There I was, spending literally hours of my life negotiating about how much I could allow myself, setting conditions and rules to keep you out, except--” He stops, breathes roughly for a moment. “Except,” he says, as if he’s forcing the words out. He sounds angry--at himself, of course, and Lan Xichen hurts to think how angry with himself Meng Yao must have been all this time. “Except that stupid little saboteur part of me decided that he didn’t want to keep you out at all, so he allowed the other one to keep setting rules as a distraction, and then he went and… took advantage of a loophole,” Meng Yao grits out.

Lan Xichen feels almost euphoric with the rush of pure understanding. “Because all the rules were about your feelings, and none of them were about your body.”

“It’s so fucking stupid.”

“You wanted to let me in,” Lan Xichen says, smiling helplessly. “You wanted that badly to let me in, so you found the only way you hadn’t blocked off, and then-- Your inner rule-setter didn’t notice after that? He didn’t try to make rules about not doing it again?”

“There was a sunk-cost trap he couldn’t argue his way out of,” Meng Yao grumbles. “And it--felt good.” A slow, shaky breath. “It felt like--” He still has his hands over his face. Lan Xichen wants to pull them down and kiss him, wants to hold Meng Yao’s face in his hands and look at him while he says these things and reveals all the blueprints of his fortress and the systems of defense, but that’s probably too much to ask for today. That’s fine. There will be other times. It’s a process.

“I want to know,” Lan Xichen says, kissing the point of his shoulder. “Even if it’s silly, I want to know. I want to know you.”

“It felt--” He cuts himself off again with a frustrated noise. “I can’t. But I need to. I shouldn’t. But I want to say it. It’s a horrible idea, you’ll be disgusted with me, you’ll laugh at me. No, you won’t, you’ll be kind. Oh, that will be worse, it will be worse if you're kind.” Lan Xichen realizes, with the usual entranced fascination that he always feels for Meng Yao, that this is just those two inner aspects arguing with each other--the rule-setter and the saboteur, as Meng Yao had called them--except…

“Oh, this is sabotage again,” he says, adoring this strange, complicated man in his arms. “You can’t let yourself say how it felt, but you can sabotage that rule so I somehow figure it out anyway?”

A sharp exhale, a soft little noise that on anyone else might be a half-sob of relief. “I don’t know why I keep trying to set rules,” Meng Yao says, his voice thin and thready. “I’m obviously outnumbered.”

Lan Xichen loves him so much. He hugs him tight-tight-tight, nuzzles against the side of his head, kisses the edges of his face that aren’t covered by his hands. “You’re just trying to protect yourself.”

“It’s exhausting, isn’t it.”

“No,” Lan Xichen says firmly. “I will never, ever blame you for trying to protect yourself, even if it later turns out that it was unnecessary or a false alarm.” Meng Yao turns towards him blindly, buries himself against Lan Xichen’s chest, shivering lightly in his arms. Lan Xichen kisses his hair. “And even if it were exhausting for me, I know it’s a tenth of how exhausting it must be for you inside your own head.” A hitching little huff, possibly a laugh, possibly another half-sob. “If you can’t say it, shall I guess?”

Meng Yao burrows closer against his chest and nods.

Lan Xichen hugs him, closes his eyes, and mentally takes a step back to look at the whole picture. One has to look at the whole picture when it comes to Meng Yao--clues are hidden in strange places, or they’re left out in the open so obviously that no one would think that they’re clues. “That day,” Lan Xichen says, “you were angry about someone. Angry enough that you were genuinely contemplating murder. You said--” Lan Xichen leans away just enough that he can grab his phone from the nightstand, and he scrolls up through weeks of their very brief conversations to find the place he’s looking for. “You said that you should deal with it by isolating yourself, but that that would be proving him right. You said that coming over to have sex on every surface of my apartment would be a spiteful and symbolic response.”

“Yes. That day, my father had told me that a worthless and illegitimate person like me deserved to die alone.”

Lan Xichen hugs him closer. He feels Meng Yao lower his hands from his face just enough to slip one arm around his ribs. “I don’t know any words bad enough to describe that man. I cannot even say that you’re worth ten of him and leave it at that, because you are precious and priceless, so the true ratio is incalculable.”

A pause. “Gege,” Meng Yao mumbles, but there’s a warmth to his voice like he’s holding back a smile. “Don’t distract me with dirty talk like that when you’re trying to guess how I feel about you fucking me bare and coming inside.”

The tension cracks and Lan Xichen laughs and kisses his hair again. “You came over to prove him wrong--therefore you knew I’d give you something besides what he wished on you.”

“Hm.”

“You knew I’d want you,” Lan Xichen says, quieter. “You knew I’d want to give you whatever you asked me for. You knew I’d give you my full attention. You knew I’d make it good for you. You wanted to be taken care of.”

“I’m an adult man. I don’t need anyone to take care of me.”

“I didn’t say you needed it. I said you wanted.”

“It’s a stupid thing to want.” 

“Not at all. Everyone likes to be taken care of sometimes. Or to feel appreciated, or just less alone. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re all human, we all need connection.”

“Hm.”

 He pauses, smooths his hands up and down Meng Yao’s back. “Is that what you were after? Connection? It would make sense, I think, if that was the spark point for wanting badly to let me in somehow.”

Hm.”

Ah, he must be getting very close. He presses his lips to the top of Meng Yao’s hair again. “It felt good, you said. It gave you something you needed. So you kept doing it, and--oh. Oh. ” He pulls back just a little, just enough to look down at Meng Yao’s face buried against his chest. “It got easier to keep to all your rules afterwards, didn’t it? After that was when we kind of settled into an equilibrium, things stopped changing and we got a routine--and it was because you stopped needing to sabotage yourself so much, wasn’t it?” He doesn’t even wait for the hm, because he knows he’s right--it’s like jiggling one of the doorknobs in the fortress and finding a wide, long hallway he can sprint down. “So what did you need so much beyond intimacy and connection and letting me in? What did it mean to you, that it was enough for you to find your balance?”

He hesitates, just for a split second, casts his mental gaze across the entire big picture, the entire thing, all the clues Meng Yao has dropped deliberately or left out in the open to be noticed or ignored: shotgun wedding , and if I can’t have it, nobody can , and how closely he’d clutched Jin Ling earlier, and Huan-gege , and smiling about being told he was precious and priceless, and or I’ll get obsessed with him, and I almost kept the tissues...

“Did you--” His mouth is dry. He swallows, licks his lips. His heart is pounding. Meng Yao can probably feel it. “Did you want to feel like--like I belonged to you?”

Meng Yao draws in a breath. His hand, on Lan Xichen’s ribs, tightens into a fist.

“I do,” Lan Xichen says in a rush before Meng Yao can speak and have his inner rule-setter throw more caltrops in the road and build more walls around the fortress. “I do. Or I would, if you’d let me. If you wanted that. Is that what you want? Is that the nonsense thing you won’t ask for because you think it would be too much? It wouldn’t be. I was yours from the first moment I set eyes on you.” His eyes burn, and his voice cracks, and he can’t stop the words from rushing out of him now the seal has been broken. “Why else would I want so badly to prove myself to you? I wanted to be yours--how could I not? How can anyone compare to you? How could I look at anyone else ever again? I wanted to be yours. I wanted you to be mine.” That last one, that’s the harder thing to confess; his hands are shaking on Meng Yao’s back. They’re both shaking, he notices with a distant part of his brain. “I didn’t stop you--maybe you wondered why I never stopped you or asked about it, and it’s because I wanted you to be mine. And I couldn’t say so because I was afraid that you’d tell me it was a bad idea, and then I would have to make myself stop wanting that, and I didn’t want to.”

“Gege,” Meng Yao manages, sounding panicked.

“No, wait, listen to me, please--” Lan Xichen fumbles for his phone, dropped on the mattress behind Meng Yao several minutes ago. “Look--look, at this--you’re not too much, you could never be too much.” He scrolls up frantically through their text history all the way to the beginning, finds the barrage of drunk texts, shoves his phone in Meng Yao’s face. “Look--this wasn’t too much, I liked this, I’ve thought about this nonstop for months--”

Gege,” Meng Yao chokes out, grabbing the phone and sitting up--he’s blushing scarlet, his face redder than Lan Xichen has ever seen it, and he looks frightened and--and humiliated, and hurt--

“I didn’t lie,” Lan Xichen says desperately, sitting up too. “Look--please, it says right there--I only told you that nothing you’d said made me uncomfortable, and that the weirdest messages were from Huaisang, and that was the truth.” Meng Yao tosses the phone aside and covers his burning face with his hands. “I liked it, A-Yao, I liked you, I liked you so much, and--and you had already turned me down, and you said those messages were a mistake and you tried to delete them, and so I thought you’d prefer to just pretend it had never happened--but I can’t, I think about them every day. I liked them, I liked that version of you, I like every version of you, I’m in love with you and I want us to belong to each other.”

“Gege,” Meng Yao says weakly--but it’s still gege, it’s still not Lan Xichen, so--

“You’re wonderful. Just knowing you for half an hour upended my entire life, and I am glad that it did. A-Yao, I’m glad this happened, I’ll be glad no matter what happens, you could kick me out and say you never wanted to see me again, and--”

“What, like one of your idiot exes?” Meng Yao snaps, taking his hands down. He is still red, red, red, his mouth and his cheeks and--and his eyes, as if he’s been tearing up a little. “Do I look like an idiot?”

Lan Xichen finds himself suddenly speechless, and he’s swamped with a wave of relief as he entirely fails to hold back a smile. He shakes his head silently, biting his lip.

“Stop it,” Meng Yao huffs. “Stop looking at me like that. I said stop it. What is it for? What did I say?”

“A-Yao doesn’t want to be one of my exes,” Lan Xichen says, trying to keep some of the giddy glee out of his voice. “I’m happy.”

Meng Yao freezes. His face goes redder, somehow. “Lan Huan.

“I don’t want A-Yao to be one of my exes either,” he says. He’s smiling so hard his face hurts. “Ever.”

Meng Yao seizes a pillow--Lan Xichen thinks for a moment that he’s going to be smacked in the head with it, but Meng Yao only turns away and buries his face in it. He doesn’t even scream into it, he just sits there for a minute, trembling. Lan Xichen scoots closer to him and drapes himself over Meng Yao’s back, puts his arms around his waist and lays his cheek against the back of Meng Yao’s shoulder. Marvels a little, as is customary, about how well their bodies fit together.

Meng Yao lowers the pillow. “I’ve had a very long day,” he says, his voice carefully steady. “I have experienced every possible emotion in the last eight hours.”

Lan Xichen makes a sympathetic noise and tightens his arms so it’s a proper hug. “You’re right, I’m sorry--and you did even say earlier that you were tired. Would you like to table this until tomorrow?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” He kisses Meng Yao’s shoulder. “That’s fine.”

Meng Yao takes a shaky breath. “No one would hold it against you if you felt entitled to expect some kind of response, after all that.”

He… does kind of have a gnawing, plaintive hunger in his heart, the sort that happens after they have particularly intense sex. But… “I can wait until tomorrow, if I’m allowed to stay and hold you tonight.”

Meng Yao is quiet for a long moment. “I am debating,” he says suddenly, “whether I will be able to cry myself to sleep silently without you noticing, or whether I am better off excusing myself to do so in the shower by myself, or--”

“What? Why?” Lan Xichen draws back a little. He can’t--after all this, after looking so deeply into Meng Yao’s heart and taking so many strides forward through his fortress, he cannot even begin to convince himself that it’s because of anything he said or did. It’s just-- “Oh--too overwhelmed? Not bad feelings, just too many?”

Meng Yao nods. “I am also debating whether you will abruptly decide to hate me and take back all those lovely things you said, if I do cry and you notice.” He sounds like he’s trying to be stiff and formal and customer-service blank. He’s rather failing at it. “I am debating whether it will be the thing that pushes you across the line into thinking I am too much.”

“I won’t. I won’t, I promise. We’re miles and miles away from that line, we’re nowhere near that line. You can cry if you need to.”

“I am just somewhat concerned that you will interpret it as--as a response to what you said, and--”

“I won’t. You had a long day, you were already tired, you are feeling overwhelmed. It’s not about me--or it’s not only about me, I should say. You can do whatever you need to do.”

“What if it wasn’t crying?” Meng Yao says, his badly-formal voice slipping into something sharper and more raw. “What if I just needed to scream into the pillows for a while?”

“I thought that’s what you were going to do with this,” Lan Xichen says, plucking at the fabric of the pillow Meng Yao had dropped into his lap. “That’s okay too.”

“If you change your mind and find it disturbing, I will understand. Many people have.”

“I am not many people.” I am Lan Huan, and I am yours, and I am in love with you, he does not say aloud, because Meng Yao knows, and the issue is tabled for tonight. Meng Yao leans back slightly into his embrace, relaxing an infinitesimal amount. “Witnessing you experiencing an emotion would never, in and of itself, be disturbing to me, nor burdensome, nor an offensive thing in any other way.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I care about your well-being. I want you to sleep instead of tossing and turning all night, so anything that helps with that is something I am in favor of. Today it might be screaming or crying; that time you came over to mine when you were angry, it was sex. Whatever you need.”

Meng Yao pauses for a long moment. “It could also be sex today,” he says--his voice is neutral, but he leans back into Lan Xichen’s arms a little.

Lan Xichen’s libido, as always, is instantly on board with this idea and revving itself up without any further encouragement, just as it has every other time Meng Yao has suggested or vaguely alluded to sex. He slides his arms further around Meng Yao’s waist and kisses his neck. “It could also be sex today, yes,” he agrees. “Whatever you need.”

Meng Yao turns and kisses him--it’s sharp and hard and a little desperate, and when Lan Xichen tugs him into his lap, Meng Yao wraps all his limbs around him and clings like he’s afraid Lan Xichen is going to pull away and leave. Lan Xichen’s heart aches and aches for him, and--he really wasn’t expecting a response, but this is really as good as one: Meng Yao still wants him, still wants connection and belonging and closeness with him. In the end, nothing else really matters.

“Fast or slow?” Lan Xichen murmurs into the kiss, running his hands up and down Meng Yao’s back and dipping his fingertips down between his cheeks where he’s still open and wet with lube and Lan Xichen’s come--honestly, Lan Xichen doesn’t need any more foreplay than that, just one touch and he’s aching to sink in.

Meng Yao trembles and for a moment Lan Xichen really thinks that he’s going to say slow, that he’ll want to be laid out on his back and fucked tenderly while Lan Xichen gazes into his eyes and says I love you, I love you, I love you. “Fast,” he says. “Hard. On my hands and knees,” which is probably the inner rule-setter trying to save him a little face.

But Lan Xichen did say he could have anything he wanted. Meng Yao usually wants to be fucked hard enough that he stops thinking--not a surprising thing, considering the frantic endlessly-running state of his brain. Doubly not surprising today. So Lan Xichen kisses him once more, long and lingering, and pushes him off his lap onto his hands and knees, lines up, and slams into him with not even a touch more. Meng Yao shouts into the pillows and claws at the sheets as Lan Xichen gets his hands on his hips and sets his thumbs into the dimples at the base of his spine (where they belong) and fucks him into oblivion. He goes until the sweat is pouring off him, until Meng Yao comes around him and gasps, “Keep going,” until Meng Yao is clamping a pillow to his face and whimpering with overstimulation, until he gets hard again and comes a second time, screaming into the pillow just like he’d threatened, and Lan Xichen leans over his back and bites his neck as he spills inside him, and just manages to say, “Mine, mine,” instead of I love you, I love you.

There are tear-stains on the pillow when he pulls out and tips Meng Yao over onto his side, but all the tension has gone out of him and left him utterly boneless and relaxed. “Feel better?” Lan Xichen asks. He cups Meng Yao’s face and tenderly brushes his thumbs across his cheeks to check for any more tears.

In reply, he gets a woozy smile and Meng Yao leaning up to catch his mouth in a kiss. “Yes. Feel better.”

Lan Xichen cleans them up with the wet wipes in the night stand and fetches them both some water from the kitchen. When the lights are off and they’re settling into bed, Meng Yao squirms close to him and nestles up against his side with his head on Lan Xichen’s shoulder.

Shotgun wedding, Lan Xichen’s brain purrs as he drops off to sleep.

Chapter Text

 

He wakes at his usual ridiculous hour, spends a minute gazing adoringly at Meng Yao sleeping in his arms, and goes right back to dozing for another hour or two. When he finally grows restless and hungry, he begins extricating himself from Meng Yao’s grasp. Meng Yao cracks an eye open just as he’s slipping out of the bed, so Lan Xichen leans down to kiss the tip of his nose. “Good morning.” I’m yours and I love you. “I’m going to run down to the cafe for coffee and breakfast. It’s against the rules for you to get out of bed.”

Meng Yao huffs at him. “Too early to be so rude, gege,” he grumbles, but he turns over, wraps himself around a pillow like a koala, and goes back to sleep.

He’s still there when Lan Xichen comes back twenty minutes later with coffee and fruit danishes, though when Meng Yao wakes up this time he seems a little more alert. He accepts the coffee and holds the cup in both hands as he sips from the travel lid, watching with those big, pretty eyes as Lan Xichen sheds his suit trousers and rumpled dress shirt and gets straight back into bed. “Do you have objections about eating in bed?”

Meng Yao surveys the sheets around him. “No,” he says. “I’ll have to change the sheets today anyway, they’re filthy.” Lan Xichen gives him the bag of pastries and Meng Yao rummages in it. “Your phone was going off a few minutes ago. Texts from your brother, I think--I thought it was an alarm, so I looked at the screen.”

Lan Xichen picks up his phone from the nightstand, turns it on just long enough to see the preview of the text from Wangi: < Xiongzhang, good morning. Thank you for your company last(...)

“Just the usual thank you note. Wangji always sends one after we’ve been to a social event. He thinks he has to be grateful to me for sitting with him through it.” He smiles and sets the phone down without another glance.

“Hmph,” Meng Yao says around a mouthful of pastry. “Huaisang never sends me thank you texts for saving him from himself.”

“Ah, but I think he finds ways to show his affection in other ways, doesn’t he? Like stealing my number from your phone and giving me just enough hope so that I wouldn’t shuffle off and join a monastery to try to get over you.”

Meng Yao’s cheeks go pink. “Hm.” This one is a not-unpleased sort of hm.

“Or asking me what my intentions were toward you, or saying alarming things so that I would have excuses to talk to you.” He leans in and drops a kiss on Meng Yao’s shoulder. “He’s a very good little brother in his own way.”

“Is that what they call it,” Meng Yao mutters darkly to the last bite of his blackberry danish.

Lan Xichen takes an innocent sip of his green tea and says sunnily, “Isn’t it nice to have someone who will simply agree without asking any questions whatsoever when you ask him to be your best man at our shotgun wedding?”

Meng Yao does not choke on his danish, but he does close his eyes as if nobly enduring some great agony. “Can we go back to never speaking of that again?”

“No,” Lan Xichen says, beaming.

Meng Yao harrumphs. “I wouldn’t ask him anyway,” he grumbles. “Huaisang? Please. A-Yuan is going to be my best man. There’s no one else I like. Other than A-Ling, but he’s a bit young for it.”

Lan Xichen has to pause and take that in. Too cute. Too cute to cope with. So cute he can’t breathe for a few seconds. “Mhm,” he manages. It sounds rather high-pitched. “A-Yuan, yes, good idea.” It’s a great idea. It’s a brilliant idea. Lan Xichen starts a mental subheading under “shotgun wedding”.

“I already asked him what kind of bachelor party he would throw for me,” Meng Yao continues wretchedly, sipping at his coffee. “He said cupcakes and the dinosaur museum. He’s a genius and I’m going to hire him to plan all my large events until the end of time. Also, Wei Wuxian sent me pictures of him in a bowtie this morning for some reason,” Meng Yao pauses as if, again, in excruciating pain. “It’s awful. Here, look.” He pats around on the bed beside him until he finds his phone--he must have gotten up to fetch it from his suit blazer while Lan Xichen was out getting coffee. He unlocks it with a few swipes of his thumb. “Look at this shit.” 

Lan Xichen leans close to see, almost hooking his chin over Meng Yao’s shoulder--a photo of A-Yuan, grinning from ear to ear and looking like the tiniest, most dapper little gentleman ever with a button up shirt and suspenders and, indeed, a bowtie. It has ladybug polka dots on it. Lan Xichen hears himself wheeze a little. 

“Yes, exactly,” Meng Yao says. “It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. Why didn’t they bring him to the party like that? Did they think that just because the invitation said ‘black tie’ that I wouldn’t let them get away with putting him in a bowtie with ladybugs on it? Do they think I am utterly heartless? Look at this one.”

This one is of A-Yuan hugging someone’s leg--pale grey slacks and familiar-looking shoes, so probably Wangji--and grinning up at them. 

“I’ve been thinking of faking my own death so that they’ll have to put him in formalwear again for the funeral,” Meng Yao says, very serious. “His tiny little vest last night was the height of fashion and I will hear no arguments to the contrary. Also his tiny little shoes. And his tiny little pocket square. Why does a four year old need a pocket square? I don’t know, but I don’t think it matters, because it was perfect.”

Lan Xichen digs his own phone out of his pocket and finds the video Wangji had sent him during his first session of moping, the one of A-Yuan patting the bunny.  He hands the phone to Meng Yao, who watches the video loop five or six times with an utterly solemn expression and sips his coffee. “Okay,” he says. “Now this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.” He nods morosely. “I’m going to send this to myself.”

“Go ahead.” 

“I will watch it thirty times a day,” Meng Yao says, flicking at the screen, and then starts. Blinks in open surprise.

“Hm?”

Meng Yao silently turns the phone towards him--ah. The background wallpaper. That one snuggled-in-bed selfie Meng Yao had sent as proof he’d gotten home safe. 

Lan Xichen feels his ears heat and shrugs one shoulder, smiling. “What can I say? It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me and I look at it thirty times a day.”

“Ge,” Meng Yao scolds under his breath. He finishes sending himself the video--his phone, dropped in his lap, vibrates in receipt of the text. He hands Lan Xichen’s phone back to him with a stern, forbidding look. “Would gege like to confess to any other terrible crimes?”

“Crimes like being sweet on you, you mean?” Lan Xichen asks, smiling.

Meng Yao closes his eyes again. “This is precisely what I meant when I said you were bad at flirting, gege,” he says, reproving. “That goes straight into the ‘What am I supposed to do with that?’ box with all the rest.”

Lan Xichen takes the coffee away from him and sets it on the nightstand. Meng Yao allows this with no more than a raised eyebrow, and then Lan Xichen turns back and topples him sideways into the pillows, kissing him. Meng Yao makes a grouchy, protesting noise, but he also slides his hands into Lan Xichen’s hair and kisses back and wriggles until he’s in a more comfortable position. When Lan Xichen breaks away to suck a hickey onto his collarbone, Meng Yao sighs as if horribly put-upon and says, “This is not flirting either, gege.”

“Do you have anywhere to be today?” Lan Xichen asks, muffled against his skin.

“The day after a family event? Perish the thought. I always take the next day off, just in case I need to lock myself in my house so I don’t murder anyone.” Meng Yao scratches his nails lightly over Lan Xichen’s scalp and pulls him closer, close enough to run his foot up and down the length of Lan Xichen’s calf. “You?”

“The day after a Jin family event?” Lan Xichen says, matching Meng Yao’s incredulous tone, which gets a bright, full laugh out of him. Lan Xichen pulls back from his neck so he can take it in, and also to put a kiss on each of Meng Yao’s dimples. “Stay here with me today,” he murmurs. “Let’s not go anywhere. Let’s stay in bed.”

“Okay, that’s a little closer to flirting, if we set aside how gege has simply invited himself to linger at my house all day. Terrible manners, just terrible.”

Lan Xichen returns to work at the hickey, pushing Meng Yao onto his back and getting a knee in between his legs. “Is it inviting myself, if the apartment is yours and I am also yours?”

Meng Yao’s breath stutters a little and he squirms just a little to push his half-hard cock against Lan Xichen’s thigh. “Technically, yes, it is.”

“Do you not keep all your belongings in one place?”

“Is--ah--” He wriggles again when Lan Xichen gives him a little more pressure with his thigh, and he hooks his leg over Lan Xichen’s hip. “Is that supposed to be some kind of argument for me to let you move in?”

Lan Xichen thrills at the thought. “Oh, can I?”

“That was a joke, I meant it as a joke, that’s what flirting is, it’s jokes--

“If I moved in, you could instruct me on how to be better at flirting,” Lan Xichen says, biting his way down to Meng Yao’s nipple--the first touch of his tongue makes Meng Yao sigh and arch up into his mouth, pulling Lan Xichen’s hair to direct him to go harder.

“Appalling idea,” Meng Yao says breathlessly. “You’d have to deal with me every day.” 

Lan Xichen rocks his erection against Meng Yao’s leg as a demonstration of exactly what he thinks of that. He sucks Meng Yao’s nipple hard and slips his hand under the covers to cup Meng Yao’s cock. “Mmm. Several times a day, probably.”

Meng Yao groans--difficult to say whether it was because of Lan Xichen deliberately misunderstanding him or because of how he’s being touched. Somewhere, lost in the bedsheets, a phone buzzes twice, then twice more, then twice more seven more times-- Meng Yao groans again, outright annoyed now, and pushes Lan Xichen’s head away from his chest. “Fucking hell, shut up, Huaisang,” he mutters as he rummages in the blankets. He finds his phone, turns it on, puts it on airplane mode, and tosses it aside. He grabs Lan Xichen by the hair and drags his mouth back to his nipple. “What were you saying?”

Lan Xichen wasn’t particularly saying anything that he can’t communicate in other ways, so he touches him and licks him and kisses him until Meng Yao is shivering and breathing heavily under his hands, and then--

“Fuck, silence your phone, he’s just bored and wants attention,” Meng Yao pants when Lan Xichen’s notification chime goes off seventeen times in a row—the signal of a texting pattern that belongs exclusively to Huaisang. Lan Xichen laughs and obeys, not even bothering to read the message previews. He throws his phone aside when he’s done and is promptly pounced on by Meng Yao and rolled onto his back.

Meng Yao jerks him off with steady, light touches, exactly the kind that drive Lan Xichen out of his mind, all while he whispers, “Look at my hands, gege, look how small they are. You like that, don’t you? You’re just too big for me to hold--watch me touch you, watch,” and Lan Xichen comes so fast and so hard that he’s almost embarrassed, even though he refuses categorically to be embarrassed of any of his reactions to Meng Yao.

“Tsk,” Meng Yao says, as prim and haughty as he’d been coy and flirtatious only moments ago. “I wanted you to fuck me again. Now what good are you?”

“I’ll be good,” Lan Xichen says, still dizzy and reeling from the force of the orgasm. “I’ll be good for you.”

“It’s been a few weeks since we had shower sex,” Meng Yao says speculatively. It has. It’s been months since they had any kind of morning sex too, but look at them now. Lan Xichen basks in all of this for a few moments--this is the response, he thinks. This is Meng Yao picking up the discussion they’d tabled last night and saying something about it. There had been a rule he’d mentioned about “no morning sex”, and now it has been conclusively struck from the record.

Lan Xichen carries him to the shower, kisses him under the spray, drops to his knees when Meng Yao pushes his shoulders down. He sucks him off long and slow and leisurely, refusing to speed up even when Meng Yao swears at him and grabs his hair and tries to fuck his mouth. Lan Xichen pins his wrists to the wall by his hips and just keeps working him gently, glancing up at his face every now and then to watch as something in him slowly fractures and breaks until his curses turn into gasps of, “Please, gege, please, please--” Meng Yao’s comes, shaking violently, and when his knees give out and he slides down the wall, Lan Xichen pulls him into his lap and kisses him, the water running between their mouths and making everything soft and warm and slippery.

Meng Yao’s shower isn’t as roomy as Lan Xichen’s is and his hot water supply is not quite as infinite, so it’s not nearly as good for this sort of thing. But that doesn’t matter--they kiss and kiss and kiss until the water cools to the temperature of summer rain, and Meng Yao just holds Lan Xichen’s face in his hands and keeps kissing him like there’s nothing else in the world he wants to do, like there isn’t a world outside this bathroom, and Lan Xichen puts his arms around Meng Yao’s waist and rubs his water-pruned fingertips into the dimples at the base of his spine and basks in it.

“Let’s get out,” Meng Yao murmurs into his mouth eventually. “Gege didn’t let me finish my coffee.”

They untangle themselves from around each other, stopping for several more long kisses in the process, and find that their legs have fallen asleep while sitting in the shower like that. Lan Xichen’s are bad enough that he can barely stand without staggering--his numb knees nearly give out on him as he steps out of the shower and he only just saves himself from falling on his face with a lucky flail towards the bathroom counter. Standing only gets more difficult when they’re both overtaken by a gale of giddy hilarity--their mutually wobbly state is somehow so funny to both of them that it takes minutes to recover any kind of sanity or sobriety. Lan Xichen has to keep leaning hard on the edge of the counter just to keep himself upright as he shakes with laughter, and Meng Yao has simply given up and slid back down to the floor of the shower--he’s laughing so hard he’s got tears in his eyes, and that makes Lan Xichen laugh harder, their voices ringing off the tiles.

His ribs and his cheeks are aching by the time they manage to get themselves together. Meng Yao has so much phlegm in his throat from laughing that he can’t speak without coughing, and his eyes are shining even as he sits there all wet and bedraggled and naked on the shower floor, his smile broad and his dimples very deep. He’s perfect. He’s the only thing Lan Xichen wants--the only thing he can ever imagine wanting for the rest of his life.

“I’m in love with you,” Lan Xichen says. 

Meng Yao goes pink in the cheeks and straightens his back, ducking his chin and doing a rather poor job of schooling his face. His eyes are still twinkling from all the giggling, and his guard has relaxed so very much that this statement, catching him by surprise, gets a quick flash of shy pleasure before he shoves it all away. He clears the phlegm out of his throat again and says, “So you’ve mentioned,” and that shy pleasure is in his voice too, disguised with only enough imperious formality that it sounds like flirting, and Lan Xichen supposes it is. Meng Yao holds out his hands. “Help, gege. This A-Yao can’t get up on his own.”

Somehow, with a few more terrifying moments of precarious balance, they both manage to prop themselves and each other upright. Lan Xichen dries Meng Yao off with a couple of the huge fluffy bath towels from the cupboard while Meng Yao, in silence, lets him do it and watches his face the whole time with those beautiful big dark eyes as more and more of that shy pleasure in his face becomes gradually less disguised, like the moon passing out of an eclipse to reveal the sun again. Lan Xichen still isn’t quite sure what Meng Yao is looking for or what he’s seeing, but he has nothing to hide now. Whatever Meng Yao sees must please him, because when Lan Xichen levers himself upright from where he’d knelt to dry off Meng Yao’s calves and feet and leans in to kiss the tip of his nose (just visible above the edge of one of the fluffy towels, which Meng Yao has wrapped around his head and shoulders and nestled into so that he looks heart-wrenchingly cute with only his eyes and nose and forehead visible), Meng Yao goes pink again, lowers his eyes, and shuffles close enough to bump his forehead against Lan Xichen’s chest, which of course compels Lan Xichen to hug him and rub his nose against the top of Meng Yao’s head through the fluffy towel covering it.

“Dripping all over my floor, gege,” Meng Yao says, the softest scolding voice Lan Xichen has heard from him yet. Lan Xichen laughs and gives him a smacking ‘muah!’ of a kiss to the towel covering his head and steps back to pick up the second towel, the one he’d used on Meng Yao’s lower half, and attends much more briskly to himself. After a moment, Meng Yao reaches out and uses a single corner of his bundling towel to help, dabbing Lan Xichen’s face and shoulders dry, then his pecs and abs, glancing up at him now and again. Too much of his face is covered to determine his expression, but there is an air of tentative experimentation to his movements, as if he is feeling out whether this is a thing he wants to do, whether it’s allowed, whether it’s safe, as a fox might stick its nose out of its burrow to sniff at the wind, or a feral cat might creep out from behind a dumpster to inspect the chicken scraps.

They go back to bed and Meng Yao sits on the ottoman at the foot of the bed and drinks the rest of his coffee and watches Lan Xichen change the sheets. “Maybe we should have waited on that,” he says when Lan Xichen is tucking in the last corner. “Or maybe you should have gotten dressed first.”

“I have no idea what you mean,” Lan Xichen says innocently.

“You’re showing off for me,” Meng Yao murmurs. “Posing and flexing and bending over and so forth.” A pause. “You like it when I look at you.”

Lan Xichen smiles and leans down to kiss him, a series of chaste little pecks to his soft mouth. “I like being pleasing to you,” he says between kisses.

Meng Yao makes a soft sound and drops his (now empty) coffee cup on the floor, twining his fingers into Lan Xichen’s hair and deepening the kiss. He tastes of coffee, bitter and sweet and dark and rich. “You can,”  he says, with some difficulty. “Please me. If you want to.”

Demanding , his profile on the app had said, because Meng Yao doesn’t feel like he can count on ever getting anything he wants unless demands it, fights for it, insists on it. Even last night, with the whole song-and-dance it had taken to get Meng Yao to allow himself to indulge in passivity, there had been an element of demand to it. Instructions. Desperate entreaties for Lan Xichen to not fuck it up.

This, by contrast, is not a demand, but an offer--another test, probably, because Lan Xichen doesn’t think that he’s come to the end of Meng Yao’s tests, but they keep being such easy tests that the only danger of failing them comes from not noticing one of them. They’ve run through all the tests for “Will you give me things when I demand them?” and for “Will you still give me those things if I tell you I won’t demand them?” and now they’ve arrived at, “But what happens if I merely offer, instead of demand? Will I get anything then?”

Lan Xichen lifts him into his arms, hitching Meng Yao’s legs around his hips, and kisses him again. “I always want to please you,” he whispers, and Meng Yao shivers and wraps his arms around Lan Xichen’s neck. “I always want you,” he says as he lowers Meng Yao into the freshly-made bed, his damp hair all tousled. Lan Xichen kisses his mouth and neck and chest and strokes his sides until Meng Yao sighs. “Am I guessing how to please you today, or taking direction?” Lan Xichen says, worrying one nipple gently with his lips.

“Which--whichever you want,” Meng Yao says, his breath hitching, and Lan Xichen smiles and understands that the test has not yet ended.

He spends a long time kissing him, touching him, grinding gently against him when they’re both hard. Meng Yao is in an unusual, in-betweeny kind of mood, it seems--perhaps he’s just holding himself back to let the test run its course, perhaps he’s still carrying a little of that exhaustion from last night. Perhaps maintaining this vulnerability of offering makes it difficult to multitask with anything else.

The mood steadies out by the time Lan Xichen eases inside him--he spends so long lavishing adoration on Meng Yao with his hands and his mouth that Meng Yao is shivering with arousal and laughing and cursing him all in the same breath by the time Lan Xichen is satisfied enough to move things along, and Meng Yao sighs beautifully, dropping his head back into the pillows as as Lan Xichen hilts himself slowly. He mouths at the side of Meng Yao’s neck, groaning at the layers of feeling--the bite of Meng Yao’s nails on his shoulderblades and the hot-wet-tight perfection around his bare cock, yes, but the thing that takes his breath away most is the overwhelming, joyful sense of homecoming, the relief of completion, as if he only feels whole when they’re joined like this. “Can I go slow for a little while, sweetheart?” he says, already breathless. “Just like this?” He rocks his hips gently in demonstration; Meng Yao’s nails dig harder into his shoulders and a soft noise of desperation tears itself out of his throat. “Is it good?” 

“Tease,” Meng Yao spits, wriggling restlessly under him, digging his heels into Lan Xichen’s glutes to incite him to go faster.

“Just for a little while, sweetheart, I just want to feel you like this--”

“I could--oh, ohh--make you. I could whine about how big your cock is and then you’d fuck me properly.” Lan Xichen drops his head onto Meng Yao’s shoulder and groans, feels himself swell and twitch inside him--Meng Yao must feel it too, because he laughs aloud. “Gege’s got a filthy mind behind that handsome face,” he says, his voice rich and warm with desire and amusement. “Ooh, you’re too big, gege, it won’t fit, I’m too small and tight down there for it to fit...” Nevermind that he’s already comfortably balls deep, it still makes Lan Xichen pant against Meng Yao’s neck and shove in deeper before he gets ahold of himself. “I’m so little and helpless compared to gege,” Meng Yao continues mercilessly, rocking up onto Lan Xichen’s cock as best he can and clenching.

Lan Xichen pushes himself up, grabs Meng Yao’s ankles from around his waist, and puts them on his shoulders so he won’t have the leverage to cause trouble. “So little, so helpless,” he agrees as he sinks back in slowly, hitting an angle that makes Meng Yao’s eyes slam shut and his mouth fall open on a silent gasp. “So tight and perfect.” He keeps to that slow, gentle pace, but it’s apparently good enough that Meng Yao thrashes and arches under him, clawing at the sheets until Lan Xichen catches his hands and laces their fingers together. “All the more reason to take my time making love to you.” Meng Yao shudders all over and squeezes Lan Xichen’s hands, shudders again with every lingering withdrawal and every smooth thrust back in. “Only a little while, sweetheart, can you bear it that long?”

Meng Yao is biting his lip now, panting too hard through his nose to answer coherently, his cock steel-hard and dripping onto his stomach, so Lan Xichen takes that as assent and leans down to kiss him again, tender and soft and easy and utterly unhurried--he has nowhere else to be, so why would he want to be anywhere but exactly here, exactly like this?

Meng Yao does not regain his powers of speech until several minutes later when Lan Xichen’s feverish desire begins to overcome his adoration, driving his hips forward in gradually harder and sharper thrusts. Meng Yao squirms his hands free and wraps his arms around Lan Xichen’s shoulders, dragging him down so Meng Yao can cling tight to him, even folded in half as he is. He buries his face in Lan Xichen’s neck and gasps, “Talk.”

“Perfect, you’re perfect, you feel perfect,” Lan Xichen says deliriously with what little breath he has to spare. He’s going quite hard now--not yet as hard as Meng Yao can take, he knows, but hard enough to bump the headboard against the wall. He squirms a hand between them to stroke Meng Yao off. “Sweetheart, A-Yao, you’re perfect, you’re perfect for me.”

Meng Yao clings harder to his neck. “Tell--tell me what--oh -what you said before--”

Lan Xichen has no earthly idea which thing Meng Yao could be referring to, so he simply starts running through the list of everything he can remember: "Perfect, you’re beautiful, I’ll give you anything you want, I want to make you feel good, I want to please you, I love you--” At that last one, Meng Yao gasps and nods frantically against Lan Xichen’s neck, clinging harder, clawing desperately at his back. “I love you, I love you, I’m in love with you, I don’t want anyone else but you, I love you, I’m yours, A-Yao, I love you--”

Meng Yao bites down viciously hard on his neck, fingernails tearing across his shoulders, and comes in great wracking pulses into Lan Xichen’s hand, and Lan Xichen follows, his own orgasm as sharp and sudden and devastating as a lightning strike and a roar of thunder.

Untangling and cleaning up is something of a slow process. Lan Xichen, sensing that Meng Yao might need a moment to collect himself and put his face back together, averts his eyes and fusses with the towels, fluffs the pillows, straightens the covers and tucks them over Meng Yao, and fetches a glass of water from the bathroom tap before sliding back in bed and curling around him. Meng Yao huffs and turns his face against Lan Xichen’s chest, grabs one of his hands, and drags it down to his ass. Heart brimming over with swooning, possessive adoration, Lan Xichen slips his fingertips back inside; Meng Yao hums in approval and nestles in closer.

Lan Xichen has almost dropped off into a little nap when Meng Yao says, “I’m being unfair.”

“Hm?”

“By--by not saying it back.”

Lan Xichen yawns and shakes his head. “No, sweetheart, it’s not unfair.”

“One is supposed to say it back.”

He lifts Meng Yao’s face just enough to lay a sleepy kiss against his forehead. “Hello, A-Yao’s little rule-setter,” he murmurs. “All is well. There don’t need to be rules for this. You can rest for now and leave A-Yao alone.”

“You want me to say it.”

Lan Xichen forces his eyes open, fighting off sleep. “I want to have you in my life. I want to be yours, and for you to be mine. I want to feel secure in knowing that that’s true and won’t change.” He hugs Meng Yao closer. “If one truly knows someone, knows their feelings, then one doesn’t need them to say it aloud.”

Meng Yao exhales, long and slow, and a great deal of tension runs out of him, tension Lan Xichen hadn’t even noticed until it was gone. “Yes, that’s true.”

“Anyway, if I really wanted to hear it aloud, I could ask Huaisang to relay it.”

“Ugh. Gege.”

“Or I could have him get you drunk and wait for the revealing text rant to arrive on my phone in the wee hours.”

Huan-ge.

*

They rouse around lunchtime and spend half an hour leisurely debating what kind of delivery food to get for lunch--it is an unspoken given that they will not be putting on more than the bare minimum of clothing, let alone leaving this apartment.

Having settled on salads and soup, Meng Yao nabs his phone from the nightstand and takes it off airplane mode. Before he can open the delivery app to find a restaurant willing to provide them salads and soup, a cascade of notifications all but blows up his phone. 

“Oh fucking hell, Huaisang,” Meng Yao says, incredulously--the notifications are coming in too fast for Lan Xichen, peeking over his shoulder, to read them. He catches glimpses of parts of elaborate kaomoji, lots of “A-YAO” and “YAOYAO PLZ” and “YAO-GE PICK UP YOUR PHONE”. By the time the wild pinging stops, there are nearly four hundred unread texts, twelve missed phone calls, seven unread emails, three voicemails, and a handful of direct messages on Meng Yao’s various social media platforms.

“Is he alright?” Lan Xichen asks with some concern.

“I don’t know.” Meng Yao sits up and flicks open the text app. “What the hell? Mingjue-dage and my brother both texted me asking if I’m dead, Wei Wuxian sent me… several more pictures of A-Yuan in his bowtie outfit, okay, that’s great…” His eyes flick across the screen and he frowns. Lan Xichen sits up beside him and hooks his chin over Meng Yao’s shoulder. 

< lmao are u coming or???? says one of the texts in Wei Wuxian’s text thread. 

< I told lan zhan to tell lan-dage to bring u so don’t be mad at me, it’s illegal to be mad at me on my special day haha!!!!

This is followed by several more pictures of A-Yuan in his bowtie--outside on a sidewalk, on a flight of stone steps outdoors, sitting in a drab chair in what looks like a very bland room and swinging his legs... He’s beaming at the camera in all of them except the one where he’s concentrating hard on sipping from a conical paper cup, the kind that one gets from waiting room water coolers. He’s holding it with both hands, which is very cute, but not nearly so cute as when Meng Yao does it.

Meng Yao frowns harder. “Special day? His birthday isn’t for months.”

Lan Xichen puzzles as well. “Wangji was supposed to tell me something?” He reaches for his own phone and unlocks it--he’s got dozens and dozens of texts and missed calls as well, the majority of them from Huaisang. There are also three texts and one missed call from Wangji, which is very unusual, and two texts from Nie Mingjue.

He opens Nie Mingjue’s first--surely Huaisang would have called his brother if he were in trouble or hurt? But the text isn’t about any trouble at all:

< huaisang just told me what’s up and says i should tell you what ill do to you if you fuck over meng yao

< no one would ever find your fucking body

Lan Xichen sends back, bewildered, > Not to worry! <3 I am going to try very hard to make him happy!

               > I’m glad he has such loyal friends, though!

Nie Mingjue’s reply comes uncharacteristically fast, before Lan Xichen can even tab out of the conversation: < ??????? im not friends with that little snake

               > Ah, I apologize. Well, in the event of you feeling I have wronged A-Yao, I will certainly not fight my rightful fate. I will submit humbly to your justice and vengeance.

< attaboy

< always said you were a good sort xichen

Lan Xichen tips the phone towards Meng Yao, who pauses in the middle of attempting to scroll up through hundreds of incomprehensible, emoji-laden texts from Huaisang and peers at Lan Xichen’s screen. “Congratulations,” Lan Xichen says. “You have a Mingjue.”

Meng Yao scrunches up his nose and turns back to his phone. “Ew, I don’t want one. I want a refund.”

“You can’t return him, he was a free gift with your purchase of a Huaisang.”

“Well, lost the receipt for that one, can’t get rid of him now,” Meng Yao mutters. “What on earth is going on?”

Lan Xichen opens his voicemail app and selects the one from his brother--it’s apparently just twelve seconds long.

Xiongzhang,” Wangji’s voice says evenly. “I hope you are well. We have waited as long as we could, but there are other appointments following ours. Please call back or text in the next few minutes to let me know if you’re on your way.

At the same time, from Meng Yao’s speakerphone: “Yaoyao, where the fuck are you!!! Why are you not here! How am I supposed to deal with this on my own!! Jiang-xiong is the only other one here and he is NOT being supportive to me in this very distressing and difficult time!! Answer your phone!!! Stop riding er-ge’s incredible perfect dick for two seconds and ANSWER YOUR PHONE! Look what you’ve made me do! Look what I have become! I have become someone who calls you on your actual phone without any warning in advance, like an asshole! Like a literal monster! Who does this!?! Me, apparently! Text me back as soon as you get this, okay!!!”

While this plays, Lan Xichen goes to Wangji’s text thread, reads it, and freezes.

“For fuck’s sake, he’d better start explaining,” Meng Yao snarls, stabbing at his phone screen. “I don’t want to scroll up to figure out what he’s having a meltdown about.”

Lan Xichen reads Wangji’s texts again, clears his throat, and says carefully, “Wangji and Wei Wuxian eloped this morning.”

Meng Yao whips to face him. “I beg your pardon?”

Lan Xichen hands him his phone.

< Xiongzhang, good morning. Thank you for your company last night. I appreciate it deeply. A-Yuan was very happy to see you, and he was also distressed to realize when we arrived home that he had forgotten to give you a picture he drew for you. I hope you will be available to visit our home soon so that you can collect it. I believe A-Yuan is a very talented artist for his age. 

Additionally, the single message continues, because Wangji is the sort to use paragraph breaks within one text rather than sending multiples, there have been some developments in my personal life since last night. Wei Ying and I are preparing to go to the courthouse this morning to be married. We would be honored if you would attend as a witness. Wei Ying has instructed me to let you know the invitation is extended to Meng Yao as well. --Your brother, Wangji

< Xiongzhang, says the next message, timestamped two hours later, I hope you will not consider it rude for me to “double-text”, as Wei Ying calls it. Perhaps my previous message was too long and did not go through? If this is the case: Wei Ying and I are to be married this morning. We are awaiting our appointment at the courthouse in approximately half an hour. If you and Meng Yao are able to attend, I can send you further directions and information on where to park. --Your brother, Wangji

< Xiongzhang, says the third text, an hour after that, I am concerned that something may have happened to you or to your phone last night. I hope you are well. Wei Ying and I proceeded with the ceremony. Wei Ying would like to know whether you might be willing to look after A-Yuan for a night or two, as he has ideas for a “mini-honeymoon staycation”, which he has explained to me means, “a trip without the travel, where one stays in one’s town of residence and sleeps at a nice hotel as if one were on vacation.” We will also be celebrating with a dinner for friends and relations who were unable to attend due to the suddenness and unexpectedness of the event. The dinner will not happen for several weeks, in order to give guests sufficient time to organize their calendars. --Your brother, Wangji

Meng Yao’s jaw drops slowly as he reads this and he snatches up his own phone the moment he’s done, jabs his thumbs at the screen, and raises it to his ear.

Yao-ge!” Huaisang wails after two rings. “Yao-ge, why have you forsaken me!!!"

“My phone was off,” Meng Yao snaps. “Is this serious? Did those little assholes get married this morning?” 

Yes!” Huaisang shrieks, a little tinny through the speakers. “And I had to stand there and be the witness! Where were you! I needed you for emotional support! You’re my emotional support Yaoyao! Where are you?

“I am in my home.

Where’s er-ge?!

“He is also here.”

Lan Xichen skims through the texts Huaisang had sent--many, many crying kaomoji, primarily.

What do you mean he’s there? He went home with you last night and it’s lunchtime now, why is he there!? Did he leave and then come back or--”  Huaisang gasps hugely and dramatically. “Oh my god, Yao-ge, I was joking about the ‘stop riding his perfect dick for two seconds and answer your phone’ thing, holy shit, was he there the whole time, did you miss Wei-xiong’s wedding because you were busy getting RAILED?

Meng Yao sighs heavily, annoyed.

I can’t deal with this! This is too many emotions all at once for little A-Sang!" Huaisang howls. “What the fuck happened? You said you’d outlawed morning sex! You said it was too romantic! You said it made you have intrusive thoughts, and I was like, ‘Yaoyao, those aren’t intrusive thoughts, those are soppy domestic fantasies,’ and you told me to shut up! You said morning sex was too dangerous, and now I find out you have been getting fucked for so much of the morning that it is now afternoon!?"

“You’re on speakerphone,” Meng Yao says grimly.

Huaisang is silent for almost three entire seconds. He laughs nervously. “He’s not sitting right next to you, is he?

“Hello, Huaisang,” Lan Xichen says.

Oh fuck. Haha. This doesn’t count as gossip!!! I have not gossiped or accidentally spoiled any of Yao-ge’s schemes or anything! I cannot be held responsible for not knowing I was on speakerphone, okay!!! Listen, laoshi, er-ge, light of my life, I was just running my mouth, you already know not to believe anything I say, right? Just tell him you didn’t hear what I said or that you don’t believe me, please, because I don’t want to be murdered.” 

“It’s fine,” Meng Yao says irritably, sighing again. “You won’t be murdered.”

What do you mean I won’t be murdered? And why did you have morning sex if it’s illegal? Did you make an exception because his dick was even better than usual, or did you fuck all night until the morning sort of happened on its own and you just kept going because that doesn’t really count as morning sex, or did something HAPPEN?"

“None of your business.”

“Is this what you’re like after you’ve gotten to hold a baby? Is that the secret? A-Yao holds a baby and it makes his biological clock go haywire so he has to go get a cock in him immediately? Y’know, it’d be a lot easier for him to knock you up if you stop waiting for the condoms to break on their own and poke holes in them with a pin like the rest of us do, I’m just SAYING--

“Shut the fuck up,” Meng Yao snaps. “Where are the idiots now, what’s going on?”

First of all, it IS my business, as your primary confidante re: Lan-laoshi’s life-changingly immaculate dick game. Think of all the times I have listened to you wax drunkenly lyrical about how much you want to wreck him, or about how you want to sit on his face, or about the way he eats ass like it’s going to solve world hunger! Or all the times I’ve sat through you complaining about how you can’t stop yourself from compulsively shopping for lockable cock-cages like a creepy stalker, or how you can’t go into a bathroom anymore without thinking about him fingerbanging you on the counter! And also how every time, you’re like, ‘I have intrusive thoughts about bathroom counters now, Huaisang, he’s ruined my life,’ and I’m like, ‘Those aren’t intrusive thoughts either, Yao-ge, you’re just mega-horny because it’s Friday and you know you’re going to get dicked down later!!!’ After everything I have endured, I am emotionally invested in this epic saga, okay!

“Where,” Meng Yao says pleasantly through gritted teeth while Lan Xichen bites his tongue hard and represses the urge to squirm with adoring delight, “are you and the idiots now?”

Oh right, we’re at the dinosaur museum.

There is a beat of silence.

“Huaisang,” Lan Xichen says, clearing his throat and firmly setting aside the glee of five seconds previously. “Perhaps you shouldn’t be talking like that in a public space where there might be children.”

There’s no children around!!! I’m out on the terrace of the museum restaurant, I’m drinking mimosas with Jiang-xiong and the Wen sibs, we’re the only ones here right now. And by mimosas I mean we ordered orange juice and Jiang-xiong is sharing the flask of Everclear he brought to the wedding on account of being a genius. The museum restaurant obviously does not serve mimosas. Extremely shitty brunch selection, I must say! And before you ask, NO, I am not standing right next to them so they can hear all your secrets, so you don’t need to murder me about that either!!”

“Who, may I ask, decided about the dinosaur museum?” Meng Yao says, terrifyingly polite.

Oh, A-Yuan, obviously, that kid is also a genius. Wei-xiong told him weddings mean a big party, and somehow he knew about bachelor parties? We were like, wait, you’re like four, how do you know what a bachelor party is? And he was like ‘I know about that, I know things, you get married and then you go to the dinosaur museum and eat cupcakes.’ And we were all like, holy shit, that sounds like the best party ever?? Let’s do that.”

“I see.”

You should come join us! Crowbar yourself off er-ge’s dick, clean up all the condoms, put your panties back on, and come join!

“I’ll think about it,” Meng Yao says tightly.

Cool, great, can you stop at a liquor store on the way and get a bottle of something you can smuggle in? Champagne would be great, I don’t really like these Everclear mimosas--”

Meng Yao hangs up on him.

Lan Xichen wraps his arms around his waist and kisses his shoulder. “You’re upset about the dinosaur museum,” he guesses.

“Wei Wuxian stole my idea,” he says darkly. “Now I can’t have anything to do with the dinosaur museum or everyone will think I am copying him.”

Lan Xichen hums sympathetically. “Perhaps a four-year-old cannot be counted on to offer unique and individual party suggestions.” He kisses Meng Yao’s shoulder again. “Do you want to get dressed and go join them?”

“No,” Meng Yao says petulantly. “I want to stay here and plan my revenge.”

“Okay.” A third kiss. “Order the soup and salads while I call my brother?”

Meng Yao fidgets. “If you want to go join them, you can. You don’t have to stay here and watch me sulk.”

“Sulking doesn’t make me love you less,” Lan Xichen murmurs against his neck. “And if Wangji had truly needed me beside him when he got married, he would have given me more than two and a half hours’ notice.”

“Better call him and make sure,” Meng Yao says quietly.

Lan Xichen cups his cheek in his hand and turns his face enough to kiss his mouth. Breaking the kiss, he looks deeply into Meng Yao’s lovely eyes as if gazing into his soul and whispers romantically, “Soup and salads, please, I’m getting hungry.”

Meng Yao snorts and shoves him a little but, apparently mollified, picks up his phone and opens the delivery app.

Lan Xichen’s phone call is significantly shorter. Wangji is not at all offended that Lan Xichen missed his texts--he firmly declines Lan Xichen’s apology, and offers his own apology in turn for the suddenness of the invitation, which Lan Xichen declines as well. “May I ask what happened? I was not aware you two were… together.”

“We discussed our feelings last night. We decided to be married this morning,” Wangji says, as if this explanation is all that could possibly be required. 

“Ah, I see.” Lan Xichen briefly pinches the bridge of his nose. “I’m very happy for you, Wangji,” he says sincerely. “I know how important he is to you. He and A-Yuan both.”

“Mn,” Wangji says. Decisive, certain, confident. It makes Lan Xichen smile to hear, and it conclusive settles any lingering doubts about whether this is true and permanent, and whether Wangji is feeling like he’s standing on solid ground.

“Will you be disappointed if I don’t join you at the museum? A-Yao isn’t feeling up for going out, and I don’t want to leave him all alone.”

“It is not necessary to come,” Wangji says immediately. And then, more delicately, “He is important to you as well.”

“Yes,” Lan Xichen says, smiling again. He repeats so that Meng Yao can hear, “Yes, A-Yao is very important to me.”

“Mn. Stay, then. I am fine.”

“Alright. I will come over to visit in the next few days if I don’t see you before that.” He pauses. “A-Yuan looked very cute in his little outfit, I saw the pictures Wei Wuxian sent to A-Yao. Did he have any duties in the ceremony?”

“He is four,” Wangji says, politely confused.

“Of course, of course. I was thinking he could have held the rings, but if it was such a sudden decision, I imagine you might not have them yet?”

“Ah. No, there was no time.” They exchange a few more pleasantries; Lan Xichen offers his congratulations once more and asks Wangji to relay a message to Wei Wuxian and A-Yuan to welcome them to the family. 

He hangs up just as Meng Yao finishes the delivery order. He passes his phone to Lan Xichen, who puts both of them aside on the nightstand and topples Meng Yao down into the pillows, kissing his cheek where his dimple would be. He props his head up on one hand so he can look down at him fondly. “What revenge is A-Yao planning?”

“I simply have to throw a better party than Wei Wuxian’s,” Meng Yao says with a firm nod, glaring at the ceiling. “Eloping at the courthouse on two hours’ notice and going to the dinosaur museum where your guests have to smuggle in their own alcohol? Child’s play. I will crush him.”

“You can still have A-Yuan for your best man, at least. Wangji and Wei Wuxian didn’t even have him as a ringbearer--I imagine they were in too much of a rush and caught up in the moment to think about assigning titles or tasks.”

“Oh,” Meng Yao says, apparently greatly cheered up by this. “That’s something.”

“Mm. That is the benefit of making plans well in advance. More time to attend to details.”

“I completely agree,” Meng Yao says.

“Although,” Lan Xichen says delicately, twining a lock of Meng Yao’s hair around one finger. “Children grow so quickly, you know, so if you want a best man that small and cute, there’s a limited amount of time.”

Meng Yao goes still. “Hm.” His eyes flicker briefly to Lan Xichen. Very carefully neutral, he says, “I can’t imagine why anyone would want to elope like that.”

Lan Xichen hums pensively. “Mm, I can. If you have someone who is very important to you, someone who you’d like to spend the rest of your life with, it might seem horrifying to contemplate delaying that for even a day or a week. The desire to establish a claim on one another as soon as possible outweighs any benefits of being patient enough to plan a more conventional occasion.” He smiles at a memory and adds, “As a child, Wangji was never very good at delayed gratification. Wei Wuxian still isn’t. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that it’s played out like this between them.”

“Indeed.” A moment later, still very neutral, Meng Yao asks, “You mentioned benefits? What would you consider the benefits of a conventional occasion?”

“Showing off,” Lan Xichen says, a little wry. 

Meng Yao snorts and glances at him again. “I would not have expected the likes of you to consider bragging opportunities a benefit.”

“Not bragging opportunities, per se, no. Not the flaunting of wealth for the purposes of making others envious. Showing off in the sense of… displaying your happiness for others to see, because you are not ashamed of it, and because the people in attendance love you and would be comforted and reassured to know that you have a source of joy, that they don’t need to worry that you’re lonely anymore. Showing off because…” He tips his head back and forth, considering, traces a finger in pensive little circles against Meng Yao’s collarbone. “Because a relationship that serious isn’t just two people--it’s also their families and their friends. A good marriage can strengthen an entire community. So you show off for them in order to include them, so that they’re part of the promise of a happy future. And,” he adds innocently, “possibly also as a reward for any of them who helped along the way to get you to that point. A resolution for anyone who has felt... emotionally invested in what they might have perceived as an epic saga.”

“A person like that wouldn’t deserve it,” Meng Yao says immediately, mercilessly.

Lan Xichen laughs, and loves him, and drops a kiss on his mouth. “Perhaps not. A punishment, then, to look at it from another perspective. A way of spiting anyone who has wished unhappiness on you, whether or not they are in attendance.”

Meng Yao groans and turns towards him, burying his face in Lan Xichen’s chest. “You’re cheating again, gege, you can’t say things like that. It does things to me when you start talking about spite.”

“I suppose that is more like bragging, isn’t it? Advertising your happiness while certain people grind their teeth because their ill-wishing failed so comprehensively? Advertising it because you know it will be a slap in the face for them?”

“I’m not kidding about what happens when you talk like that, gege,” Meng Yao says, pushing his groin against Lan Xichen’s hip--his dick is warm, chubbed up just enough to tell. Lan Xichen’s entire body twangs in reply, as if just the knowledge that Meng Yao is sincerely getting a little hot over this is enough to make Lan Xichen’s libido perk up and go Oh??? Is it time?

“Even I have to admit that there are a few people who would deserve it,” Lan Xichen replies, sliding his hand around Meng Yao’s waist. “It is an appropriate punishment because it would stop at the precise moment that they stopped being hideous people.”

Meng Yao laughs around a groan and his cock twitches against Lan Xichen’s hip.

“Maybe I did mean bragging beyond just those people,” Lan Xichen says, running his hand down Meng Yao’s flank. “Maybe if you’re marrying someone so wonderful, you can’t help but want to show off to everyone that your person is yours and that you were the one who won their heart when they could have had anyone.”

“Hm,” Meng Yao says, pulling back just enough to look at him. There’s a ghost of a dimple that suggests he’s trying not to smile. “Gege seems to appreciate those benefits more than those of eloping.”

Lan Xichen almost says, I would be fine with either, whatever made my spouse happiest, but--

He has spent his life trying to leave his partners better than he finds them, like picking up litter as he walks through a park. He had wondered, once, whether all those young men he’d dated had left him better than they found him too, and he’d scrambled to shut that thought away. Or the old Lan Xichen had, anyway, because the new one, the Lan Xichen who he is right now, can look at that thought quite easily and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this man is leaving Lan Xichen better than he found him, and also that he doesn’t seem like he’s inclined to leave at all. It is a rippling golden wheat field of joy laid out before him, all the way to the horizon, a broad world of possibility, a thrilling awareness that even this new Lan Xichen is not the last one he’ll be, because every day he spends with Meng Yao, he grows better. 

Wanting and desire, once such alien concepts, have become uncomplicated and comfortable just by dint of daily familiarity. And now he finds that even simple preferences are starting to develop an ease of access.

“I do,” he says. “I do appreciate them more.” He can’t look away from Meng Yao. He doesn’t want to. “If you decided you wanted to marry me with two and a half hours’ notice--even with ten minutes’ notice, with thirty seconds of notice--I would do it without hesitation, and I would be the happiest person in the world. But if you asked me to imagine how I’d want to do it, I would picture the latter way, yes. In front of everyone I know, in front of everyone you know, so that I’d have a hundred or so witnesses to all the promises I’d make you.”

Meng Yao sniffs, a little haughty, and says, “A hundred people is kind of small, as weddings go.”

“Two hundred. Five hundred. I said everyone we know. All of them and their plus-ones. Even the people who have treated you unkindly, so that I can demonstrate to them the correct form for how you ought to be treasured.”

Meng Yao’s eyes are shining even as he tries to stamp it down. He gives Lan Xichen a sly, sidelong look. “And what about all your idiot exes?”

“Of course, if you want them there,” Lan Xichen says, glowing with delight. “If A-Yao feels like he has something to show off about, it’s only fair that he has someone there to show off to.”

“Hm.” Meng Yao burrows against his chest to hide his look of pleasure (dimples!! Lan Xichen sees a flash of them just before Meng Yao’s face is hidden) and says, muffled, “What have you done to me? How can I live like this? I don’t even recognize myself anymore. Gege should take responsibility.”

“I will,” Lan Xichen says readily, wrapping himself around him--they fit together perfectly, he notices with marvel and wonder for the hundredth time. “For as long as you want me to, I will.”

Meng Yao says, tentatively, “Forever?”

“Yes, forever.”