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Under the Layers (your sweetness I crave)

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"You know, you can just walk in," Zhao Yunlan's saying almost before he opens the door. "That's the whole point of—" He breaks off when he sees what Shen Wei's wearing, and his heart sinks despite the lovely view. "Umm, do you have a meeting with the university chancellor tonight?"

"No," Shen Wei says simply, then holds out a plain white cake box with a gold bow. "Happy birthday, Zhao Yunlan."

"Thank you." Zhao Yunlan smiles a little distractedly as he takes the box and gestures Shen Wei inside. In truth, he doesn't make much of a big deal about his birthday, and nobody else has since his mother. Shen Wei asked about it last week or the week before, and he'd said something flippant about cake. Trust Shen Wei to take him seriously.

He finds two clean forks in the kitchen, because Shen Wei has been practically living with him and thus his whole apartment is in a state in which Shen Wei is willing to live. He holds one out to Shen Wei as he sprawls on one of the counter stools, because he only hogs cake—stolen cake, at that—when he's trying to get a rise out of certain stupidly stubborn, stupidly hot professors, but Shen Wei just gives him a look. "It's your birthday cake, Zhao Yunlan."

"Does that mean you'll let me eat it in bed?"

Shen Wei doesn't blink. "If that's how you'd rather spend the evening."

Zhao Yunlan laughs, positive he's joking. Maybe. Almost certainly. Shen Wei's expression doesn't change. Just to be safe, Zhao Yunlan opens the box and slides out the piece of cake. There's a single gold candle in the white frosting and "Happy Birthday" piped in black, elegant, familiar strokes. He jerks a startled look up at Shen Wei. "You made this?"

That makes Shen Wei duck his head, color coming up on his cheeks. "There are ovens at the university, and I know one of the pastry instructors. There's enough left to take to the SID tomorrow."

"You want me to share my cake that you made?" Zhao Yunlan doesn't even wait for an answer before he takes a large forkful and sticks it in his mouth. The cake itself is moist, with the rich, sweet flavor of vanilla; it's amazing in itself, comparable to the best he's tasted from the city's bakeries, but it's layered with jam that tastes like fresh peaches—his favorite flavor of lollipop—and more frosting, unexpectedly mellow to cut the sweetness. Zhao Yunlan closes his eyes to better appreciate it, making happy noises while he chews. When he swallows, he immediately opens his eyes, intent on another bite, but a glance at Shen Wei makes him pause. Shen Wei's staring openly at his mouth, whole face flushed, eyes nearly all pupil. Zhao Yunlan licks his bottom lip for any crumbs. Watches Shen Wei track the movement. Asks teasingly, "Are you sure you don't want any?"

"I think," Shen Wei says, in a tone of voice that very nearly bypasses Zhao Yunlan's ears and speaks directly to more southerly regions, "that you should unwrap your gift now."

Shen Wei only brought the cake, but then Zhao Yunlan takes a second look at Shen Wei's outfit. It's a dark charcoal suit he's not seen before, buttoned up and cufflinked, with a crisp white shirt beneath the jacket, and a subtly patterned gray tie that looks like it might be silk. The collar stays are in place, and Zhao Yunlan would bet Lin Jing's next month's bonus that there are coordinating sleeve garters, possibly a waistcoat. Shen Wei really does look like he's about to go to a meeting with somebody important at the university, or maybe present at an academic conference. Zhao Yunlan has fantasies about messing him up when he looks like this, detailed daydreams of just ruining him. And possibly whatever he's wearing.

Zhao Yunlan sets down his fork, then slowly rolls up until he's standing in Shen Wei's space, one hand lightly resting on Shen Wei's hip, the other on the top button of the jacket. Then he tugs a little, grinning with delight when Shen Wei allows himself to be moved. Zhao Yunlan tilts his head down the necessary distance, and whispers against Shen Wei's skin, "I hope you'll let me do this in bed."

"If you can make it that far."

Turns out he can't, especially when Shen Wei has no interest in helping. Fortunately, the sofa's only a few steps away. It's still the best birthday of his life.