The first day at a new job is always a bit nerve-wracking, but Xiao Zhan can’t help the excitement zipping through his veins as he walks across the Shanghai College campus. It has taken him a lot of time and hard work to get there, and he can’t wait to get started in his new career.
He takes another look around the campus as he walks, appreciating the architecture of the modern buildings and the landscaping around them. It is carefully constructed to take advantage of every available space, working in as much greenery and colorful foliage as possible in a location crammed into the middle of a huge, bustling city. The aesthetic works, Xiao Zhan thinks. He’s only been on the campus once before, for his final interview, but it feels like its own little world, like a bubble created in the middle of Shanghai.
It doesn’t take him long to get to his new home away from home, the Fine Arts building, a towering wonder of glass and shining steel. His artistic eye can’t help but appreciate the neo-modern design. The flat planes and long lines of the boxy style create a clean form, but the gravity defying angles give the building a feeling of movement and free-spiritedness that somehow soften the total effect. It’s a beautiful building, and Xiao Zhan has a feeling he won’t be able to resist taking a few pictures of it to send to his parents and friends back home.
He’s met in the brightly lit atrium entryway by his new supervisor, Song Qing. She is the dean of the Visual Arts department and certainly looks the part. While her hair and personal styling are rather plain and no-nonsense, she obviously lets her personality and love of art shine through in her clothing. The light blue top seems to float around her as she walks, and the bright yellow skirt with geometric shapes that extend to mid-calf lights up the entire room when she walks in. The entire ensemble somehow works together seamlessly and makes the experienced educator look far younger than her years. With her friendly smile and easy-going demeanor, Xiao Zhan can tell they are going to get along well together.
It’s his first day as an assistant professor, so before he goes to the standard new employee meeting and gets overwhelmed with paperwork, Song Qing gives him a tour of the building. As they walk through the various hallways, she shows him classrooms and workspaces for all kinds of students. Xiao Zhan thinks that the way the building is set up is an interesting concept, with all of the arts coming together under one roof. Each wing of the building is dedicated to music and the visual or performing arts. There are large practice rooms for orchestras and musical groups, and dance studios for the performing arts students. Recording rooms are even available for the music students in the vocal or instrumental programs.
“This is our theater,” Song Qing says, pushing open the large double doors to reveal an enormous space with an extensive number of plush red seats. “The visual arts people spend very little time here, but a lot of our students will either work on set design for plays and other performances for a class or just to help out.”
They are standing at the very back of the theater by the doors, but Xiao Zhan can see that there is a man dancing alone on the stage. He seems to be practicing a routine of some sort, though there is no music to be heard. Xiao Zhan assumes he must be using earpods, or he is just incredibly skilled to be able to move like that without music. His well fitted black pants and white t-shirt cling to him as he slowly moves, creating fluid lines with his body as he reaches up in a caress as if dancing with an invisible partner. It creates a beautiful silhouette, and Xiao Zhan can’t help but be struck by the artistry of it.
Song Qing and Xiao Zhan don’t stick around long, eager to move on to their own part of the building.
He’s shown to his office, a small room not much bigger than a walk-in closet, which he’ll be sharing with another junior instructor. Xiao Zhan isn’t bothered — between teaching classes and working on his own projects, he doesn’t expect to be spending too much time there.
The studios and labs are of much more interest. The bright open spaces, with white walls and lots of natural light, are the perfect environment for creating.
“All of the workspaces are well stocked,” Song Qing explains, opening one of the built-in cabinets along the side wall. Stacks of paper and a variety of markers and pencils are organized neatly on the shelves. “But if you need any materials we don’t have on hand, just put in a digital request to the department. You’ll want to go over your semester plan right away and assess that — it usually takes a couple of months for budget approval.”
Xiao Zhan nods agreeably, and Song Qing discusses a few other departmental procedures and things to note as she walks him back to the entryway where they began.
“Any questions?” his new boss asks with a soft smile.
Xiao Zhan laughs. “Probably quite a few I haven’t even thought of yet!”
Song Qing chuckles. “That’s to be expected. I’m confident you’ll get the hang of things quickly — and everyone in the building is very nice, so don’t hesitate to ask. And Xia Yu, our administrative assistant, is a great resource as well. She started here as a student, so she knows this place inside and out.”
“Thank you so much,” Xiao Zhan says, bowing to the dean. “I really appreciate you taking the time to show me around.”
Song Qing waves him off. “It’s nothing. I like to get to know my people! Good luck to you, Xiao Zhan. I hope you’ll be with us for a very long time.”
Xiao Zhan shakes her hand and thanks her again, and she checks that he knows how to find the human resource office before sending him on his way.
He heads to the administration building with an extra spring in his step. So far, it appears he’s made a good choice in jumping into this new opportunity.
He finds the conference room without a problem and glances around before choosing a seat. It’s set up like a classroom, with tables just large enough for two people spread out in neat rows, all facing the front where a large screen is hanging. There’s a podium nearby, but no one is standing there yet, and Xiao Zhan glances at his watch to note that he’s a few minutes early. He takes a seat at a table near the middle and sends a friendly smile to a couple of other people who come through the door. As expected at meetings like this, everyone fans out and takes their own table, avoiding any awkward small talk.
Xiao Zhan pulls out a pen and notepad, ready to be prepared just in case he has questions or needs to fill out any forms manually. Some of the requisite paperwork was already sent to him digitally, but he had learned that meetings with HR never seemed to be as straightforward as one would think.
“Welcome to Shanghai College!”
The presenter greets the room as they enter, and the twenty or so people in the room all stand and bow in return before quickly returning to their seats. The speaker introduces themselves as one of their human resources representatives and quickly outlines the tasks ahead. It’s the usual first day process of learning the policies and procedures of the workplace, as well as reviewing insurance and benefits and completing any additional paperwork that is necessary.
The rep passes out stacks of papers, and the new staff in the room dutifully take one set and pass the rest on. When it reaches Xiao Zhan, he briefly laments the waste of paper and the state of the environment before placing his own copy on the desk. Seeing that the person to his side already has their paperwork, he turns around to pass on the rest to the next person — and abruptly stops short.
For a fraction of a second, he thinks the person sitting behind him is a woman. Their head is bent down as they write on a paper, and their light brown hair, accented with blond highlights, is pulled back into an updo of sorts, with tendrils hanging around their face. But then he notices that the hand holding the pen is far too large and the shoulders too broad in the boxy jacket to be a woman. The man’s head raises, tilting slightly to one side to toss his hair away from his face, and his lips part slightly as he looks up.
Combined with the man’s flawless face, the effect is devastating, and Xiao Zhan’s brain abruptly short-circuits.
He has never, in all of his twenty-nine years on the planet, been hit with so much beauty and sex appeal all at once. He’s an artist — he’s studied some of the most impressive works ever created — but this is a whole new level. In just a matter of a few seconds, it feels as if the world has stopped spinning, and he’s pretty sure he’s stopped breathing.
Who needs air when he has eyes and this view to feast on?
The young man is inhumanly gorgeous, all smooth pale skin, plump lips, and perfect symmetry. The tan plaid jacket he’s wearing, with a white shirt and striped button-up layered underneath, might have given others the look of a dowdy professor. Yet on this man, it worked well, with the color bringing out the creamy tones of his skin and the crisp black lines like a contrasting accent to his flawless face. The man’s ridiculous pink lips curve sideways into a small smile, his bright brown eyes looking at Xiao Zhan curiously.
“Oh!” Xiao Zhan coughs slightly. Why is his throat suddenly so DRY? “I’m sorry!”
As he hands off the stack of papers, Xiao Zhan can feel his ears heating in embarrassment. Being caught staring probably wasn’t the best way to begin their working relationship, and in an HR meeting no less! He quickly spins back around to hide his flustered face.
The deep, smooth timbre of the man’s voice is like one more attack straight to Xiao Zhan’s libido, and he narrowly resists the urge to squirm in his chair.
Goddamn… Xiao Zhan thinks. He usually has way more control over himself than this. He’s an experienced man, confident in his slightly above average looks, and he hasn’t flailed so haphazardly over someone like this since high school. An internal pep talk is clearly in order. Get it together! You’re almost thirty, for heaven’s sake. Have some dignity!
With a mental slap to the face, and a physical pinch of his thigh for good measure, Xiao Zhan refocuses on his duties and forces himself to forget the handsome man behind him, training his gaze instead on the less attractive but much safer view of the man at the front of the room. He does a good job of keeping his attention on the necessary tasks for a while — it helps that much of what they are going over is actually important. Xiao Zhan is blessed to be in good health, but it is important to know about his insurance coverage and the other details of his benefits should he ever need them. At his first job, he had paid little attention to these things. But now that he was older, his father had made clear how important it was to know all the entitlements of his job.
The speaker calls for a short, ten-minute break, and a few people get up to stretch their legs or leave to make calls or use the facilities. Xiao Zhan stands as well, stretching his arms above his head to loosen the muscles that have cramped from sitting for too long.
“Wow… You are really tall,” a deep voice behind him says, and Xiao Zhan startles, just catching himself with his hands on the desk in front of him. He turns to the man behind him, who smiles. “Sorry. I know that must not be news to you.”
The man chuckles, looking embarrassed, and fidgeting with a strand of hair next to his face. His hand bumps the earring dangling from his ear, and it catches the light, glittering as it sways.
Xiao Zhan smiles.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he admits, grasping for a topic of conversation while trying hard not to drink in the man’s striking features. “These first day meetings are always a bit boring, aren’t they?”
The man shrugs. “I wouldn’t know. This is my first time doing something like this.”
Xiao Zhan is sure he’s doing a horrible job of schooling the shock from his face. “Really?”
“Yeah,” the man says, abruptly standing and reaching out a hand. “I’m Wang Yibo. Performing Arts graduate teaching assistant.”
“Oh,” Xiao Zhan breathes, taking the man’s hand to shake. It’s large and firm around his own palm. “You’re young! I mean — sorry, I just thought… Well, you don’t look… I thought you were a professor, too.”
Wang Yibo graciously ignores his stammering, still pinning him with his gaze and a soft smile. “You’re a professor? You don’t look old enough. I thought you were younger than me!”
“Assistant professor,” Xiao Zhan corrects him. “I’m Xiao Zhan. I’m in Visual Arts.”
“Oh! An artist! Cool!” Wang Yibo says. He sits back down, and Xiao Zhan follows suit, watching as Wang Yibo leans back in his chair, looking like a model at a photoshoot. “I guess we’ll be seeing each other around. We’re both in the Arts building. Not that I’ll get out of the studios much.”
“What’s your area?”
“Dance,” Wang Yibo answers, his smile a tad smug. “I just finished my undergrad and decided to stick around for my graduate work. I already know everyone in the department, so it’s easier.”
Xiao Zhan’s brain is busy doing the math; the man is definitely a lot younger than he’d thought at first glance. Something about the way he carries himself, his confidence, gives him a more mature demeanor. Xiao Zhan regards him thoughtfully. “Are you wanting to teach, then?”
“I think so, yeah,” the man grins. “That wasn’t the plan when I started college, but I love doing choreography, and I guess I have a knack for it.”
For the next few minutes the young man barely takes a breath as he describes the tutoring he got roped into over the last few years, and how much he liked it, and how it made him rethink his plans for the future.
“My parents are thrilled,” Wang Yibo explains with a laugh. “They’re great, and super supportive, but they weren’t too enthused about dancing as a career choice. Teaching dance is a much more secure field, and we’re so proud of you for being so responsible with your future.”
He says the last line in a squeaky voice that Xiao Zhan assumes must be the man’s mother talking, and he laughs out loud.
“What about you, Zhan-ge? I can call you that, right?” Wang Yibo asks. “You’re — what? A 94, 95-liner? What brings you to Shanghai College?”
Somewhere in the last few minutes his intimidation at the man’s appearance has worn off, replaced by a feeling of camaraderie. After all, he’d just spent the last few years as a graduate assistant himself. “91, actually.”
Wang Yibo’s mouth drops open comically. “No…”
“Yes,” Xiao Zhan says with a wide grin. “And this is actually my second career, to be honest. But it’s my first time as an instructor, not counting the classes I helped teach as an assistant.”
Encouraged by Wang Yibo’s look of interest, Xiao Zhan quickly explains how he’d ventured into the world of business after finishing his undergrad program, only to realize his heart wasn’t really in it. A dinner with one of his previous college mentors led to a suggestion that he might be more comfortable with instruction rather than client relations, and he’d gone back to school for his doctorate.
The man running the meeting returns and gestures to everyone to return to their seats, and Xiao Zhan realizes he’s spent the entire break chatting with Yibo and completely ignoring everyone else around them. With a shrug and a smile, he turns away from the handsome grad student, focusing back on the presentation.
Ah well, he thinks. There will be plenty of time to get to know his colleagues over the course of the semester.
The first few weeks of classes have been a chaotic combination of getting lost, getting organized, and keeping himself from stressing out too much in the process. Luckily, he has a wonderful group of staff and instructors around him, and Xiao Zhan has always excelled at making friends. After two weeks of settling into a routine, Xiao Zhan finally feels like he’s getting the hang of being a college professor.
He has an hour between classes and nothing pressing to get done, so when he sees the notification that the book he had reserved from the library is ready, Xiao Zhan decides to stretch his legs and go get it. It’s a perk he’d never considered when he went into teaching, but easy — and free — access to all the books he could read was an added benefit to his job.
Xiao Zhan loved to read. Classics, informational texts, sci-fi — his natural curiosity led to a wide range of interests and topics to explore. He enjoyed learning about new things, so it was really no surprise that he would find pleasure in sharing that love of learning with others. Now, he also has the added benefit of watching his students learn to enjoy the discovery of new knowledge and their joy at mastering a skill or technique.
Knowing that his workload and the required reading for his job will lighten over the next few weeks, after grabbing the reserved text, Xiao Zhan heads into the stacks to see what kind of poetry selections the library has available. He pulls a couple of old favorites from the shelves, and is debating a new volume when he hears the clatter of dropped books, a loud sound and a screech that echoes through the silent room.
Xiao Zhan hurries toward the sound, rounding a corner to see a ladder leaning against the bookshelf and two men sprawled on the floor, one on top of the other. The man on the bottom has a riot of blond hair that looks different from the last time he’d seen it, but it only takes a second for Xiao Zhan to recognize him.
“Wang Yibo?” he asks, concern and curiosity both clear in his voice. “Are you okay?”
Xiao Zhan has been so busy in his own department since school started he had only seen Yibo once since the first day meeting, waving at him from a distance at the shouted greeting of “Zhan-ge!” coming from down a hallway.
Yibo’s eyes widen and his neck shifts into an awkward position on the floor, trying to see Xiao Zhan. His head snaps back to look at the man who is straddling his hips, then shoves at the man’s chest forcefully.
“Jackson! Get off me, you asshole!” he shouts angrily.
The other man grins down at him for a second, then gets up quickly, offering his hand to Yibo and then pulling him upright.
“I’m not that heavy,” Jackson says with a charming smile. “We both know you can take it.”
Xiao Zhan raises an eyebrow, wondering if he’s reading too much into the statement.
Wang Yibo laughs awkwardly and looks at Xiao Zhan, explaining, “He was trying to get a book and fell on me.”
“You liked it,” Jackson says with a smirk.
Yibo shoves the man’s shoulder, then quickly pivots back to Xiao Zhan. “Zhan-ge, what are you doing here? Do you come to the library often?”
Jackson leans in close to say something to Yibo, and the younger man grabs at the front of his shirt aggressively.
Xiao Zhan hears Yibo murmur what sounds like either “I will kill you” or “I’ll see you later”, and then Jackson pecks Yibo’s round cheek with a light kiss and steps back with a bright smile and a laugh. Assuming what he heard must not have been a threat but a promise, Xiao Zhan steps back a few paces to give them some space.
“I’ve got to get to my class,” he says quickly, suddenly feeling very single as he watches the way Yibo is clearly communicating something with his eyes to the man beside him. A very muscular man, Xiao Zhan thinks as he suddenly notices the way the man’s tight shirt clings to the defining curves of his arms and chest. Lucky Yibo. “I’ll see you around.”
He turns on his heel and strides away, hearing Yibo call his name but not daring to turn back to look when he also hears scuffling and some very suspect grunting noises in close succession.
Xiao Zhan shakes his head as he makes his way back to his office to grab his lecture notes for class. Honestly, the things college students will get up to in broad daylight, he thinks with a smile.
In fairness, he’d have a tough time keeping his hands off Wang Yibo, too.
A week later, Xiao Zhan thinks he must have read the whole situation in the library wrong.
He’s headed back to his office, glad the meeting he’d just had in another building gave him an excuse to get out and enjoy the scenery on such a beautiful day. He’s crossing the large grassy quad and basking in the blue sky and the fluffy white clouds dancing across it, when Yibo’s distinctive blondish-brown hair catches his eye. Xiao Zhan nearly stumbles when he realizes the man is wrapped in an embrace, one hand holding his partner’s out to the side.
As he gets closer, he realizes the other is a man of about the same height and build as Wang Yibo. They’re swaying together slightly, and Xiao Zhan realizes he’ll have to get around them in order to reach his building. He quietly attempts to sidestep in a wide arc around them, since he doesn’t want to draw their attention. Every time he runs into Yibo on campus the young man goes out of his way to talk to him, which Xiao Zhan certainly doesn’t mind, but this doesn’t seem like something that he wants to interrupt.
Unfortunately, just as he’s almost made it past them, Yibo turns his head to the side and catches sight of him.
“Xiao Zhan!” Yibo says, pulling away from the man in his arms. “Hey!”
“Yibo,” Xiao Zhan says in greeting. He shoots an embarrassed grimace at the man standing next to Yibo. “You guys look… busy.”
“W-we were just… practicing,” Yibo stutters. “He’s not… He’s nobody.”
“Nobody!” the other man squawks. “I’m only your partner!”
The look on Xiao Zhan’s face must give away what he’s thinking because Yibo’s face morphs into something bordering on panic.
“Hey, you’ll get no judgement from me,” Xiao Zhan reassures him with a small smile.
“No! Wenhan isn’t… It’s not like that,” insists Yibo, his eyes wide as if he could persuade Xiao Zhan through sheer will.
“That hurts me, Yi-baobao,” Wenhan says, clutching his chest dramatically. “Does what we have mean nothing to you?”
Yibo turns his head and shoots Wenhan some kind of look, but the other man just grins.
Xiao Zhan, not wanting to cause some kind of unintentional harm to their relationship, leans closer to Yibo with a conspiratorial grin that he hopes will help put the man at ease. “It’s 2021. We can be seen in public with our boyfriends. It’s really ok, you know?”
He’s revealing a little more about himself than he usually would, but he hates to see young people being afraid of embracing who they are — especially when there’s certainly no reason to be concerned about him taking offense.
Unfortunately, Yibo only seems to pale further at his words. His face goes blank for a moment before he gapes at Xiao Zhan, his mouth opening and closing like a fish. His apparent boyfriend takes some kind of pity on him, wrapping an arm around Yibo’s shoulder and whispering something in his ear.
Xiao Zhan seizes the opportunity to take his leave, smiling kindly at them once more. “I’ll just… leave you to it.”
He gestures with his thumb in the direction he’s headed and strides off quickly, before any more overly honest comments can come out of his mouth — like if he had a boyfriend as cute as Wang Yibo, he definitely wouldn’t want to make a secret of it.
A month has passed, and Wang Yibo is killing him.
The man seems to pop out of nowhere at every opportunity, constantly wanting to talk or ask his opinion of something. And he could swear he’s somehow bribed the department secretary for Xiao Zhan’s schedule, because Yibo seems to have a knack for showing up during his free hours of the day. What’s worse is the man’s blatant flirting.
Now, Xiao Zhan is but a man — and a gay one at that. And though Yibo is a little young, he is incredibly hot. So Xiao Zhan may have checked into the campus policy on romantic relationships, and he may have been relieved to find that since Yibo was in the graduate program and they were in two different departments, there would be no employment-related conflict if they were to take their friendship to a different level.
The only issue is that Yibo seems to have several other dating options — and Xiao Zhan is not the type who likes to share.
Besides the men he’d seen with Yibo in the library and the quad, there had been the evening they’d found themselves headed to the parking lot together, making their way home for the day. Waiting in front of the building on a large, shiny motorcycle was another of Wang Yibo’s “friends.” Yibo had introduced him to Yin Zheng, a decent-looking guy in black leather that really worked for him. He’d come to give Yibo a ride, since his own bike was in the shop.
The way Yibo interacted with him seemed a little too comfortable for just a pal, but Xiao Zhan couldn’t help but notice the smile lines on the man’s face and think he was too old for Yibo.
As Yibo said farewell and threw his leg over the back of the bike, plastering himself against the older man’s back and wrapping his arms around his waist, a twinge of jealousy curled in Xiao Zhan’s gut. Watching the two colorful helmets drive away, he told himself that he couldn’t let his own feelings drive his judgement of Yibo or the other men in his life.
Yibo is an incredibly attractive, friendly and likeable guy. Of course, other people grasp at any attention he offers.
Xiao Zhan has almost managed to put Wang Yibo firmly into the box in his mind labeled “friend only” when he walks into a storage closet and his brain nearly implodes.
He needs to get some paints for his class to begin acrylic work next week, so after double checking the location of the materials with the department staff, he makes his way to a hallway near the auditorium. Finding the correct door, Xiao Zhan swings it open to see two bodies pressed against each other and the shelving along the wall. They are both facing the shelves, so Xiao Zhan can’t see their faces, but the position of their bodies makes everything a little too clear. One man is standing on the floor, feet spread slightly apart, his hands grasping at the waist of another man in front of him who’s being lifted, his bare arms reaching up to grasp the top shelf.
A younger man, whose telltale blond hair is pulled back into a ponytail.
Xiao Zhan freezes in place, feeling as if he’s walked right into a porn set, as he hears Yibo whine breathlessly, “Aaaugh! Xuan-ge, you’re killing me… Move!”
“Holy shit,” Xiao Zhan hears, taking a second to realize it’s him who’s said it.
Yibo and the man both startle and turn toward him, and Yibo loses his grip on the shelving as the man holding him stumbles back. A few of the objects on the shelf tumble from the jarring and fall to the floor with a clatter. Their wide-eyed faces staring at him are both flushed red from exertion, and Xiao Zhan absolutely refuses to look anywhere below their necks as he slams his eyes closed.
“Shit! Sorry!” Xiao Zhan spits out, hurrying to turn around and bolt out the door before he can see any more than he should. It’s on the tip of his tongue to bitterly point out there are more appropriate places to wreck someone than a closet where you work, but he’s not going to stick around to give that lecture. The picture has already been etched behind his retinas.
His trauma, if you can call it that, is evident later that night, when Xiao Zhan has a very vivid dream recreating the scene. The difference is that Xiao Zhan is the one with Yibo’s front pressed against the shelves, admiring the definition of his arms and the feel of tight abs under his hands as Xiao Zhan fucks a litany of indecent sounds from the younger man’s mouth.
Xiao Zhan wakes with a start, hard as nails and nearly coming in his pants from the arousal strumming through him. Not bothering to reach for the lube in the drawer beside him, it only takes a few strokes before blissful release is achieved, cooling the heat and tension that had built as he slept.
As he cleans himself up and tries to get back to sleep, Xiao Zhan wonders how he is ever going to face Yibo the next time he sees him.
Wang Yibo got started a little early, not waiting for his friend to make it to the bar before he ordered and helped himself to a few shots. He’s already given his well-practiced bitchface to a handful of girls, all of whom had seen him sitting alone and jumped at the opportunity.
He feels a little bad for how rude he was to them, but he’s just not in the mood to be nice tonight.
But when Liu Haikuan gets to the table and gives him his patented look of brotherly concern at Yibo’s already slightly slurred greeting, the younger man concedes to switching to beer when the server comes over.
“Three — no, four,” Yibo tells her with a scowl, and she scurries off to fill his order.
“Four?” Liu Haikuan asks. “Who else is coming?”
“Nobody, it’s just us,” Yibo answers. Liu Haikuan opens his mouth to question him again, but Yibo waves him off. He feels bad unloading on the poor guy the minute he’s sat down. Instead, he asks, “How are you? How’s ZanZan?”
They’ve known each other for years now, so the other man knows better than to press Yibo to open up before he’s ready.
Liu Haikuan is Yibo’s oldest friend on campus, though he’s no longer a student. He’d been Yibo’s freshman mentor, an older student living next door in the dorm, and had been assigned to help Yibo settle into college. The two of them had hit it off — both were quiet and had similar personalities, enabling them to understand each other better than most. They hung out so much during Yibo’s first year, a group of fan girls (and boys) who had occasionally followed them around campus had given the two of them the nickname “Twin Jades of Cloud Towers”. Eventually the entire building had called them that, and even now, after years of living off campus in apartments, people who see them together will still often make a comment about the “Twin Jades”.
Haikuan had graduated a couple of years ago, but took a job at the university in the drama department in order to stay close to campus. His boyfriend, Zhu Zanjin, is in his last year as a student in the dance department. Yibo was the one who introduced them, and he’s both amazed and glad that they’ve stayed together for so long.
He’s never had that kind of luck for himself, unfortunately.
They make small talk for a bit, catching up on meaningless gossip and news. Haikuan lovingly complains about the new stray dog ZanZan has brought home that won’t stop stealing his socks. They’ve got three little fur balls now and have somehow managed to not get kicked out of their apartment. Haikuan thinks ZanZan has sweet-talked their landlord and secretly gifts him with homemade cookies in exchange for overlooking their “babies”.
“So what about you?” Haikuan asks. He gives the two empty beer glasses, upside down shot glasses, and the half full beer all on Yibo’s side of the table a meaningful look. “Did you meet someone? Did it not go… well?”
Yibo’s face crumbles. “The most beautiful man… the nicest, prettiest man in the whole world!”
The way he’s drunkenly gushing doesn’t match his distraught face.
“O… K?” Haikuan prompts him, watching as Yibo starts into a familiar spiral. The younger man won’t make eye contact and is picking at the label on his beer bottle. “I didn’t even realize you were dating anyone seriously.”
“Not dating!” Yibo says, pouting. He runs his hands through his bleached hair, pulling it back away from his face. “He’ll probably never date me now.”
He looks so forlorn, Haikuan resists the urge to jokingly ask if the man has seen Yibo, instead questioning, “Why? Who is this guy anyway?”
“Xiao Zhan,” Yibo sighs — actually sighs the name like some lovesick girl in a web drama, which only concerns Haikuan more. He’s never seen the kid like this over a guy. Ever. The name rings a bell though.
“Oh… Does he work in the visual arts department?”
“You’ve met him, right?” Yibo asks with a lovesick look. Haikuan nods, and Yibo’s expression suddenly morphs into panic. He leans across the table toward Haikuan, nearly knocking over the glasses as he gives a stern look, pointing his finger in a way that would be threatening if he didn’t also seem to have trouble focusing his eyes or holding said finger steady. “You’ve got ZanZan! Don’t even think about it!”
Haikuan laughs, putting a hand on Yibo’s and pulling it down to the table. “I promise, it’s not a problem.”
He’s only met the man once and doesn’t know much about him, but Haikuan has no question that Xiao Zhan may be cute, but he’s definitely not his type. In fact, he may be about as opposite to his ZanZan as people could get.
“It doesn’t matter,” Yibo says dramatically. “He’s never going to give me a chance, anyway.”
“Why is that?”
“Every time I run into him, I keep ending up in these awkward situations!” Yibo complains, throwing back his beer and letting half the glass slide down his throat in one go. “I swear, he probably thinks I’m some kind of campus merry-go-round, just giving everybody a ride!”
“Yibo, you hardly even talk to girls,” Haikuan argues. “How could he possibly think that?”
“That’s the worst part!” Yibo’s voice screeches slightly in his highly agitated state. “He knows! Well, he doesn’t know that he knows, but he’s definitely assuming I’m into guys — but it’s all the wrong guys!”
Haikuan’s expression morphs into a very stoic confusion, reminiscent of Yibo’s freshman year when he would vent his frustrations with his classes or his instructors and his mentor had to talk him down from his panic. “I don’t understand,” Haikuan admits.
Yibo proceeds to spill the whole dreadful story in detail between multiple drinks and refills. The way Xiao Zhan found him with Jackson in the library after the other man had fallen off the ladder and landed right on top of him. The time he’d been working on a dance routine with Wenhan in the quad. Worst of all, and the most mortifying, the completely innocent situation in the supply closet with Xuan-ge, that Xiao Zhan had clearly not thought was innocent.
He had just been trying to get ahold of the paints they needed on the top shelf. Yibo had insisted they didn’t need to go find a ladder, instead making Yixuan hoist him up so he could reach them. But looking back on it, from Xiao Zhan’s perspective… It probably had looked a little suspect.
“Oh god!” Yibo moans, throwing his head down onto the table. “He probably even thinks there’s something going on with Zheng-ge, too!”
“That guy you go riding with sometimes?” Haikuan asks. “Isn’t he, like, ten years older than you?”
Yibo lifts his head. “He doesn’t look that old, but yeah.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t think that, Yibo,” Haikuan attempts to console him.
Yibo’s lower lip wobbles, and his eyes get slightly shiny.
From experience, Haikuan knows that drunk Yibo only has two settings: loud and excited, wildly dancing and having the time of his life (occasionally sliding into horny and grabby if someone nearby has caught his attention) or morose and upset, which sometimes turns into tears if not distracted quickly enough.
Haikuan promptly stands up, waving the server over to scan his phone to pay the bill. “Ready to go home, Didi?”
Yibo nods, stands, and then promptly stumbles and catches himself against the table. Haikuan rushes around to keep him from falling flat on his face, wrapping an arm around his waist.
“I’m fine! I can walk,” Yibo argues, even as his words slur slightly and he grabs at Haikuan’s neck to help keep himself vertical.
They make their way to the door, with Haikuan carefully steering them through the crowd, apologizing to the people Yibo has bumped into along the way. He’s turned slightly backward doing just that when Yibo’s forward movement abruptly stops.
“Zhan-ge!” Yibo cries, letting go of Haikuan, who turns around just in time to see the young man literally launching himself at the art professor.
Xiao Zhan’s eyes are wide with surprise, but he reaches out instinctively to catch Yibo by the forearms.
“Hi… Yibo,” Xiao Zhan says, his eyes straying to Haikuan in a look that is somehow both apologetic and threatening at the same time. “Are you leaving?”
“I’m taking him home,” Haikuan answers for Yibo, in what he thought was a simple explanation. But the dark look he gets from Xiao Zhan makes him wonder how the statement is being interpreted.
The professor turns to Yibo, his expression shifting immediately to concern. “Do you know him? Are you ok to go with him?”
The gentle way he’s still holding onto Yibo, the softness in his voice, makes Haikuan convinced Yibo must be reading Xiao Zhan’s disinterest all wrong.
Yibo laughs loudly and shoots Haikuan a bright smile. “Of course I know Kuan-ge! He knows me better than anybody!”
Xiao Zhan looks at Haikuan again, this time with a strange disappointed look. Flatly, he says, “Oh.”
He lets go of Yibo’s arms and steps back, his eyes cold. His voice is overly polite and controlled when he tells Yibo, “Don’t let me keep you then.”
Neither Yibo nor Haikuan quite know how to react, but Yibo has lost all ability to read the room. He presses forward, asking, “Did you just get here, Zhan-ge? We don’t have to go yet. Let’s go get a drink.”
He makes a grab for Xiao Zhan’s hand, but the other man pulls it back quickly, his expression murderous.
“Stop playing, Wang Yibo!” Xiao Zhan hisses, pushing a finger into Yibo’s chest.
For a moment, Haikuan wonders if he should get between them to protect Yibo from the angry professor. But Xiao Zhan doesn’t seem like the type to get into a physical fight, and clearly, there’s some type of miscommunication happening. Maybe Yibo had been right about Xiao Zhan’s assumptions, after all.
“Why do you keep talking to me? Are you trying to add me to the collection?” Xiao Zhan nearly shouts, and even over the music and other sounds of the bar, people are turning to see what’s going on.
“What?” Yibo asks, his face scrunched up in confusion.
“Just how many men on this campus have you got on a string, Wang Yibo?” Xiao Zhan says it entirely too loudly, and there are definitely people staring now. He looks at Haikuan, saying flatly, “Sorry.”
Haikuan, who has had about five drinks less than Yibo and is much more functional, has figured out the issue and decides to resolve it. By force if necessary.
“I think you two need to talk,” he says, grabbing both men firmly by the shoulders and steering them toward the exit. Luckily Yibo seems to stumble less now that he has Xiao Zhan’s face to act as a spatial anchor, since he also appears unable to look away from it. It’s a testament to their long friendship and the fact that Yibo is like a little brother to him that Haikuan stops him just in time from running headfirst into the door frame, too busy watching Xiao Zhan to watch where he’s going.
Once out in the fresh air, he steers them to the side of the building and away from the entrance, so they are less likely to draw attention. The two men both teach classes at the nearby campus, and though this particular bar isn’t usually frequented by too many undergrads, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Haikuan leaves them standing looking awkwardly at each other and walks back toward the entrance to give them some space. He’s far enough to give them some privacy, but near enough he can hear Yibo shout, just in case he was reading the art professor’s passive demeanor incorrectly.
He gets out his phone to text his boyfriend with an update, letting him know he should be home after he gets Yibo back to his apartment safely. He checks some messages and social media for a few minutes, and then hears an impassioned shout of “The only gege I want is you, Zhan-ge!!” come from Yibo.
Haikuan waits a moment, listening to see if their conversation has escalated, but it’s gotten eerily quiet, not even a murmur of the voices he had heard before. He decides they must have either worked it out or have come to an impasse — either way, it’s getting late and he wants to get going.
He walks around the corner of the building and then comes to an abrupt stop, feet freezing in place. Xiao Zhan has Yibo pressed up against the brick wall of the building, one hand gripping Yibo’s shoulder, the other unseen but most likely somewhere near his hip.
And he is kissing the living daylights out of him.
And it is, admittedly, hot as fuck.
Xiao Zhan breaks away to move his lips down his neck, and Yibo lays his head back against the wall. His blond hair sticks in places to the rough texture of the brick, giving him an even more wild look. He looks like he could melt into a puddle and die happy for it, with his mouth open and groaning indecently.
Haikuan never wants to see his didi like this ever again.
He turns on his heel, and with the practiced skill of an actor, makes a swift exit to the parking lot. He’s obviously leaving Yibo in much better hands to help him find his way to bed tonight.
***** +1 *****
The Fall Showcase is a tremendous success, and as the show wraps up, all of the participating staff and students make their way to the stage to take a bow. Haikuan whistles for his boyfriend, who finds him in the audience and smiles brightly. When the graduate students come forward, Yibo looks toward the noise,squinting slightly to see a group of his friends all clustered together. His eyes slide to the front few rows, scanning for the one face he wants to see. He finds him, sitting with a few instructors from various departments, clapping and beaming his sunny smile like it’s a spotlight just for Yibo.
Once they get backstage, Wenhan pulls Yibo into a one-armed congratulatory hug.
“Let’s get changed and we can meet up with everyone else?” he suggests.
Yibo nods in agreement. He can already see Kuan-ge’s head towering above most everyone else’s in the crowd of singers, dancers, and actors, and he quickly snags Zhu Zanjin and points him in the right direction. He heads farther backstage to the dressing rooms, which were reserved for the most senior performers to use. It’s a pleasant change for Yibo from previous years, when he’d had to either change in the large group rooms with the other undergrads, or go out with his friends afterward in full stage makeup.
He wipes off most of his face, leaving his eye makeup in place for the rest of the night. (It had been a nightmare to get right, requiring the help of two other students because Yibo could manage nothing himself except basic eyeliner, and frankly, it looks too good to waste it.) He’s just finishing up and throwing the makeup remover wipes into the trash when there’s a knock at his door.
He expected his friends to be more patient and give him a little longer to get ready — but he somehow did not consider that Zhan-ge would be the one to come looking for him. When he opens the door, he’s greeted with a small bouquet of white roses and sunflowers and the most beautiful man in the world.
“Zhan-ge! I didn’t need flowers,” Yibo argues, even as he takes them out of the man’s hands with a pleased smile and pulls him inside by the hand. The door closes behind them, and Yibo sets the flowers down on the table near his phone.
Xiao Zhan pulls Yibo into his arms, hugging him tightly. “You were so amazing. You and Wenhan did so well, and your solo dance! Oh my god, Yibo…”
His voice trails off as he presses his nose into the side of Yibo’s neck and then runs it softly along the man’s jawline.
“Did you like it?” Yibo asks, though he can already tell from Xiao Zhan’s reaction what the answer is.
“Like it? God, Bo-ge… It was so sexy,” Xiao Zhan replies. His hands move up to cup Yibo’s face. “Do you have any idea what seeing you move like that does to me?”
Xiao Zhan doesn’t give him time to respond, instead kissing him, hard and insistent.
Yibo responds eagerly, licking into his mouth and running his hands under the top of Xiao Zhan’s suit coat, sliding it off and setting it next to him on the table that’s pressing against his butt. Too quickly his blood heats and his body is surging with need, and Yibo pushes him away, catching his breath. “I need to get cleaned up and changed, Zhan-ge.”
“I can help with that,” Xiao Zhan suggests, his eyes holding a fire Yibo can never say no to. His hands slide against the white, silky fabric of Yibo’s top, unbuttoning it all the way down and then doing the same for his pants.
“I’m sweaty and gross,” Yibo argues weakly, doing nothing to stop Xiao Zhan’s movements.
“Don’t care,” Xiao Zhan says, falling to his knees on the hard concrete floor. He looks up at Wang Yibo from under his lashes with a coy look. “I really want to show my appreciation for your… artistry.”
Yibo immediately decides that it would be incredibly wrong of him to deny Xiao Zhan his right to support the arts.
In no time at all, Yibo has a death grip on the table, and his toes are curling as Xiao Zhan kneels in front of him, doing that thing with his tongue that makes breathing almost impossible. His brain can barely still focus on anything besides his boyfriend’s talented mouth when there’s a loud banging on the door followed by Wenhan and at least one other person shouting his name.
Before Yibo has time to open his mouth in warning, the door bursts open and an entire group of men come piling through the door. A few things happen in quick succession:
Jackson, who had led the charge, squeals like a small child in horror and covers his face.
Yibo grabs his jacket from beside him, throwing it over Xiao Zhan’s head and torso in a desperate attempt to maintain what little modesty they have left. One hand falls to Xiao Zhan’s shoulder, holding it firmly to keep him from shifting. From his friends’ vantage point at the door, as long as Xiao Zhan stays frozen in place like a shield, at least no one can see what’s still in his mouth.
Which is… not helping Yibo’s ability to focus.
“Oh, God!” (Wenhan)
“Holy Shit.” (Yixuan)
“These doors don’t even LOCK…” (Haikuan)
“Let’s go, people!” Yin Zheng says loudly but calmly as he herds everyone out the door, and Yibo gives a silent prayer of thanks. Yin Zheng throws him a wink as leaves. “We’ll meet up with you guys when you’re done.”
“We’re not waiting for you!” Wenhan yells through the door as soon as it clicks shut. “I need a drink, like, right now.”
“You guys find us when you’re… um, yeah,” Yixuan says.
“I’m going to pour the alcohol in my eyes,” Jackson whines, his hands still covering his face.
“You would probably go blind,” Zhu ZanJin tells him seriously.
“Worth it,” Jackson answers with a groan.
Yin Zheng smirks at the young men. “You all act like you’ve never seen a man get a blowjob before.”
Jackson and Yixuan both look at him, then around at the group, then at each other.
Yin Zheng raises an eyebrow at Jackson. “You have seen porn…”
Jackson stares at him for a moment, and then like a lightbulb clicks in his head, responds, “Oh, yeah.”
Yixuan’s face is still the color of a tomato, hanging back as they walk down the hallway as if hoping no one will prompt him to take part in the conversation. He turns a little puce when Zanjin points out, as if discussing the weather, “It appeared that Xiao Zhan was doing an excellent job.”
Haikuan leans over to say quietly, “Honey, I don’t think anyone wants to relive it long enough to give a critique.”
“I’m just saying, good for Yibo!” Zanjin responds, sounding affronted.
Their voices trail off until they disappear down the hallway, and Xiao Zhan redoubles his efforts, hell bent on sucking Yibo’s brain out through his dick like it’s some kind of retribution for what he’s had to endure.
Either that, or his knees just hurt from being on the floor for so long.
Whatever the case, Yibo’s not complaining when he comes so hard that he gets a little dizzy. He closes his eyes for a second, opening them to the sight of his boyfriend giving him an incredulous look as he wipes at his mouth. Unfortunately, his puffy lips are so sinful, Yibo just wants to kiss him again. He grabs for him, but Xiao Zhan steps back, gesturing for Yibo to do up his pants and put himself back together.
“The door doesn’t lock?!” Xiao Zhan asks, walking over to inspect it more closely. He turns back to Yibo, running a hand down his face. “Oh, my god… If that had been anyone other than your geges, I could be fired right now.”
Yibo can tell from his wide eyes that his boyfriend is giving the situation way more thought than it deserves, and tries to shut it down. “Relax… Nobody other than those assholes would have walked right in! It’s their own fault if they got a show they didn’t want.”
He’s taking the whole thing in stride much better than Xiao Zhan, who stares at him in panic. “How am I ever supposed to face all of your friends again?”
“Because they’re my friends and it’s fine,” Yibo tells him, circling his arms around his waist. “Besides, you didn’t have any problem when you thought I was sleeping with them, like I had some type of gege harem.”
Xiao Zhan’s mouth opens to argue but Yibo’s cackling laugh cuts him off.
“You know what that makes you?”
Xiao Zhan just looks at him, dumbfounded.
“The king of the geges!” Yibo laughs a little hysterically. “You’re the crown jewel of my gege collection, Zhan-gege!”
Xiao Zhan grits his teeth in mock outrage, and Yibo laughs loudly as he jumps back out of reach and away from the hand attempting to swat at his backside.
They leave together hand-in-hand soon after, and Xiao Zhan takes in the lights from the buildings twinkling in Yibo’s eyes as he smiles and the way the breeze blows around his still messy blond hair. He does love his job, he thinks silently to himself, but maybe the best one he’s taken on this year is being Yibo’s number one gege.
There’s no way he’ll be willing to give up that crown any time soon.