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If Nie Mingjue had to nitpick his emotions, he'd learn about the first one and then scream out of frustration after because he thinks it's a pain.

 

Because it is. You expect him to believe there's more to just his temper and eternal vexation towards his younger brother and Jin Guangyao?

 

Bullshit.

 

"Congratulations."

 

Lan Xichen grins, amber eyes crinkling and all of his teeth are showing and there’s a stupid kind of fluttering right where Nie Mingjue’s heart lies.

 

What.

 

“Thanks, Mingjue-xiong. I’m so happy!" The stupid, pretty grin is contagious, and soon after Nie Mingjue is smiling as well, feeling stupidly happy for his stupid best friend.

 

The fuck!

 

“You deserve it. I saw how determined you were even pre-tournament. They would be dumb if they didn’t make you captain,” Nie Mingjue is grateful for the table between them or he would have made an uncharacteristically stupid move.

 

Like hug Lan Xichen.

 

Or something as horrifying as kiss him.

 

Which is something you shouldn't be wishing to do to your best friend.

 

Which is also another form of bullshittery because Nie Mingjue knows exactly what he feels. He just doesn’t want to admit to it.

 

Shaking his head, he thinks fast to distract himself from fixating on Lan Xichen's cherry lips. His mind teases him of an image he saw earlier on Lan Xichen's WeChat moments. The said man was with one of his teammates, half-naked and dripping wet - an absolutely delectable sight. It would be incredible fap material for Nie Mingjue if not for the arm wound around Lan Xichen's waist and the matching grin and pose he had with his teammate-slash-rumoured boyfriend.

 

The boyfriend in question is a junior of Xichen in the swim team, a freshman with a handsomely boyish face who sometimes bears an emotionally constipated look.

 

He's seen Lan Xichen with him many times, and in most of those times his best friend had been happy.

 

Just thinking about it makes Nie Mingjue's blood boil. He snarled in annoyance, devising of ways on how he can maybe get people not to look at his best friend.

 

"What's wrong?" Worry laced Lan Xichen's voice, his smooth forehead creasing as he looks at Nie Mingjue in mild concern.

 

Oh how Nie Mingjue wants to grab him right this moment and ravish him.

 

"Nothing. So, where are we going tonight?"

 

"Oh I can't. I promised my team we would go eat out tonight. I'm sorry da-ge," said Lan Xichen.

 

Cherry on top of the fucking cake. Now they want to take their only alone time too?

 

What can he do against that anyway? It's his responsibility and knowing Lan Xichen he wouldn't miss it for sure.

 

Nie Mingjue's unable to keep the forlorn sigh from escaping, his heart feeling heavy as he grumbles, thinking on how to spend his Friday night. Alone.

 

Dark, gloomy air suddenly surrounded them, making one's body heavier. Lan Xichen tries to cheer his best friend up. "Don't worry! I promise we'll go back to that steak house we went last time!"

 

"You don't even eat meat."

 

"No, I don't. But I like seeing you happy, da-ge," Lan Xichen grins his toothy, pretty grin that sets Nie Mingjue's heart thundering against its cages.

 

Maybe it's the lighting? Is it the coffee he just consumed? Either way the world suddenly seemed a little brighter and a little more tolerable to live in. He might even start adopting fawns.

 

"Let's go drink after!"

 

That's it. That's the final nail to his coffin. Of fucking course, he agreed. There's no point in him trying to lie to himself.

 

His earlier mood exponentially lightened with the promise of meat with the best company he could ever have, he watched his best friend leave and he retreated to bed that night grinning.

 

--

 

Nie Mingjue looked forward to their weekly get together, because he can't really say it's a date since, well, they aren't that. Nevertheless, it put him in an overall good mood - which his classmates were overly conspicuous and cautious of, certainly knowing that something is definitely up - and even tried to be nicer to his peers in his own club, voluntarily teaching them new moves and helping them with trickier ones.

 

He goes about his days fairly well, and as Friday night nears, he's full on ecstatic. He's smiling like a buffoon, uncharacteristically so, and an occasional hum slips past his lips as he tries on shirts to wear. He settles for a gray button down and dark jeans, admiring his form in the body length mirror near his door.

 

His phone lights up, displaying a caller ID he's long been waiting for.

 

"Hey I'm about to--"

 

A hoarse voice croaked near the receiver.

 

"Xichen?"

 

"Da-ge, I'm really sorry."

 

There were some sneezing, and a string of coughs followed by dying whale noises. Nie Mingjue's stomach dropped as disappointment melded with concern stirred his heart.

 

He knew his best friend was a busybody - something they had to compete for most of the time so they can have some time together - but Lan Xichen had been a newly crowned captain and all of his teammates wanted some time with him. It didn't help that he actually had the looks of a captain too.

 

By the younger man's WeChat moments he knew they stayed late practicing laps and joking around in the pool before they stuffed themselves full with yuan yang hotpot. Given the circumstances, the exhaustion finally caught up with Lan Xichen and his body had shut down on him.

 

Nie Mingjue had the audacity to tattle at him through the phone, temper flaring. "Tsk. Dumbass! You think you have the responsibility to be with everyone? You think you're so great?! You know you're not used to that kind of lifestyle, so why'd you even do it!"

 

Lan Xichen was near sobbing, feeling like a child being reprimanded for trying to be everyone's friend.

 

"Mingjue-xiong.."

 

"Don't! I'm coming over!" It's only a 10 minute walk from where his apartment is.

 

"No no! Stay there! I don't want you getting sick!"

 

"Fuck that!"

 

"No! Please? I don't want you to come here. Besides, Jiang Cheng had already brought me some lotus root soup."

 

Oh. So he has a name.

 

How convenient.

 

Nie Mingjue's temple throbbed at this, knuckles turning white from how hard he was gripping his phone. His voice dripped with sarcasm and unfiltered jealousy as he spoke. "Really? That's good to hear then. Your boyfriend should definitely take care of you after all!"

 

And then he hung up.

 

He didn't have the heart to hear what Lan Xichen's reply was, feeling incredibly vexed and itching to punch some holes through walls.

 

It won't be his first time.

 

Throughout the night he held a pity party for himself, punched a gym bag to submission that was conveniently strung up his ceiling and called Jin Guangyao a SON OF A BITCH!! out of nowhere before hanging up and shutting down his phone.

 

Usually, he’s not like this. Most of the time there’s some sort of rationality involved in his actions despite his temperament and usually there's a Lan Xichen ready to soothe him. But right now?

 

He is Lan Xichen deprived. And he absolutely hates it.

 

--

 

It isn’t until a week later when Nie Mingjue runs into his best friend. After that debacle, he made it a point to avoid any type of contact with his best friend - he refused to pick up calls and had locked himself in their own club rooms or the gym until it was too late at night. His pride and shattered ego had prevented him from ever making the first move, had made up excuses for him like reviewing for exams and procrastinating.

 

His temper had escalated to full on rages more than once and the people around him were quick to scamper and dodge him like scared rabbits running away from an angry lion.

 

Nie Huaisang and Jin Guangyao had been on the receiving end of his mood swings one two many times the past week and they're about to give up and just call Lan Xichen to help calm him.

 

They did just that.

 

Unsuspecting of their plan, Nie Mingjue grumbles at his phone, opening and locking it. Having been done with exams, he's been bored out of his wits for a while as his own martial arts club has decided they would be throwing a celebratory party for surviving hell week.

 

He didn't have the mood to socialize.

 

He lets Jin Guangyao and his younger brother lounge around and make noise, squabbling over new boy groups and chinese dramas. Given that they don't start squealing, which Nie Mingjue suspects they would be doing very soon by the increasing number of opened magazines and merchandise, or else he will kick them out.

 

Idly, he’s been changing and updating his Tantan profile for the past hour, indecisive on whether he's gonna upload more photos or just let his old profile picture be with the black icon. Like someone died.

 

Clearly, he hadn't bothered with it.

 

"Putting fighter/martial artist and gonna teach you how to with a sword emoji isn't going to rake the likes in, brother. And with that kind of photo too. Are you trying to scare potential suitors?"

 

Nie Huaisang quips beside his ear, startling Nie Mingjue. Unfortunately, his reflexes work faster than his mind and he accidentally slaps his younger brother on the face hard. He doesn't even realize what he did until Nie Huisang is down by the floor groaning, clutching his right cheek in pain.

 

"Shixiong!" Jin Guangyao is quick to help Huaisang up, all 170 cm of him glaring at Nie Mingjue.

 

"Oww what-"

 

"What did I tell you about sneaking up on me!" Nie Mingjue shouts, his cheeks and ears reddening in embarrassment at his uncouth and exaggerated reaction. An apology settles at the tip of his tongue when he hears Nie Huaisang sniggering at him.

 

The nerve of this child, Jin Guangyao can only shake his head.

 

It proves to be a pain even when he smiles, his face wincing and twitching. Nie Huaisang feels around his mouth and slightly tastes blood.

 

"I'm sorry!" He apologizes with his head down, trying to look contrite. However, disobeying his brother was something he was destined to do.

 

He quickly whips his head up, grinning smugly at Nie Mingjue before he’s schooling a serious expression, eyes furrowed in mock concern. "But brother seriously. No one's gonna want to date you with that boring and shady looking profile you kno--"

 

"GET THE FUCK OUT BEFORE I DO IT AGAIN ON THE OTHER SIDE!"

 

Nie Mingjue chases him out of his room with a thunderous expression, his hands clenched in fists as if ready to deliver another blow anytime and Nie Huaisang just ducks into a corner and slips past him and out of the room, cackling all the way.

 

“Mingjue-xiong, you really need to get La-” The retort died on Jin Guangyao's lips the moment Nie Mingjue looked at him with the stink eye, resembling a bull about to charge. “Laid.”

 

“Get the fuck out!”

 

And so, by unfortunate circumstances, that is how Lan Xichen discovers him shouting by the door right after he saw Nie Huaisang running away like a problem child who had been successful at his main role.

 

"Mingjue-xiong?"

 

"What are you doing here?"

 

Lan Xichen blinked at him, taken aback.

 

"They said we were going to have dinner? Was that a prank?" Lan Xichen asked hesitantly hovering by the door. The tension in the air had escalated so quick you could cut it with a knife.  "Ah. Maybe I should go, I'm sorry."

 

Feeling dejected, Lan Xichen turned to leave. Nie Mingjue didn't have the energy nor the heart to avoid him any longer.

 

He grabbed Lan Xichen's wrist and tugged him in. "We are going to dinner."

 

"But-"

 

"You said you'd treat me."

 

"Mingjue--"

 

"I don't take no for an answer."

 

Lan Xichen's face had finally lit up with his last attempt. Something unspoken passes between them, something forged from decades of friendship, and just like that they're back to normal. Nie Mingjue grinned and Lan Xichen followed suit. "Yeah okay."

 

--

Lan Xichen had turned a bright red as he laughed whilst re-enacting the shenanigans he had with his teammates. Nie Mingjue slapped the table and clapped like a big, awkward seal as he cackled with him.

 

They drank and ate and laughed till they felt ill. On their way back Nie Mimgjue had struggled a bit, trying to keep Lan Xichen upright as he wobbled, his cheeks and ears flushed as he hiccuped intermittently for the past half hour.

 

"Hey Mingjue- hic -xiong." Lan Xichen had plopped on the sofa, head lolling and groaning at the headache that was starting to form.

 

"Hm."

 

"Why were you avoiding me for one week."

 

"..." Suddenly, Nie Mingjue couldn't speak.

 

"Mingjue-xiong, hic, come here," He patted the space right next to him.

 

"We should sleep."

 

"No! Let's talk!" A sudden outburst from the normally reserved man and Nie Mingjue had obeyed in mild surprise.

 

"Shixiong, did you know,” Lan Xichen slurred, leaning a little closer as he stared up at Nie Mingjue. “That I missed you?”

 

The alcohol had done its magic. Normally, the reticent man would just smile and placate the people around him, voluntarily taking the role as a middle man. His words were most of the time few, fewer than normal, but he was never one to keep to himself if he didn’t think anything right. This time, their drink had unlocked his chains and made him a little bold.

 

“Did I do something wrong?”

 

“No you didn’t.”

 

“Then why?” He’s practically in Nie Mingjue’s face now, hot breath fanning against the older man’s cheek.

 

Nie Mingjue doesn’t want to confess like this, with Lan Xichen drunk off his mind and the possibility of him forgetting everything in the morning.

 

Lan Xichen pouted. “You won’t tell me? Alright. I’ll talk.” He settled closer, his hot and hard body flushed against Nie Mingjue’s side.

 

“I got really sad, Mingjue-xionggg. I thought I did something, hic, wrong, you know? But then you told me you weren’t needed because I had a boyfriend. And I t-thought, I have a boyfriend? ” His words slurred as his brows furrowed whilst pointing at himself, looking confused. He looks utterly cute.

 

“And then I thought ahhh was it Jiang Cheng? But he’s my junior, da-ge! And one of Wangji’s and Wuxian’s friends, you know? He’s cute. I know, but..”

 

“But?”

 

“He’s not my type.”

 

Nie Mingjue’s ears perked up. He didn’t even mean to, but he wanted to gamble. “Then what’s your type?”

 

“Hm? I want someone who’s strong-willed, who’s handsome and looks tough but actually has a big, soft heart.” Lan Xichen had counted them on his hands. “And he also looks like he’s got a permanent scowl but is just really intense and passionate.”

 

“Isn’t that Jiang Cheng!” Nie Mingjue seethed.

 

“No! I thought you’d be smarter than this,” Lan Xichen had the gall to facepalm. “It’s you!”

 

For all his earlier saltiness, Nie Mingjue had only blinked back in response. It never occurred to him so it was only natural that he didn’t know how to react to it. Him? Lan Xichen likes him?

 

He wasn't sure. He wants to be sure.

 

“Say something?” Oddly, Lan Xichen looks like he’d sobered up amidst his rant. His hiccups miraculously disappeared too.

 

“Are you drunk? I feel like you’re still drunk so we should--”

 

He never thought his shixiong to be this dense and he knows by heart how much he becomes a real force to deal with, but this, this is ground-breaking. Impatience winning out, Lan Xichen surges forward, kissing Nie Mingjue on the mouth to shut him up. When he isn't pushed away he gets bolder, kittenish licks prying Nie Mingjue’s lips open as he climbs on the older man’s lap.

 

Nie Mingjue had groaned against the younger man’s soft lips, his sweet taste mixed with the tsingtao they drank earlier - a heady concoction that’s making Nie Mingjue’s head spin. The sudden onslaught of desire rushing through his veins is making him hard fast so he puts an arm around Lan Xichen’s waist and reluctantly pulls away.

 

Rationality comes first, something Lan Xichen was an expert at but somehow all of that had been temporarily out of service. And so, he had the responsibility to be the logical one this time.

 

"Wait a minute. How many fingers am I holding up?" He holds three fingers up.

 

"Three. Look, I'm not drunk," Lan Xichen tried to get on his knees to get a little more comfortable over the older man's lap but he had wobbled and slipped and he face-planted right onto Nie Mingjue's bountiful chest.

 

Was it the kiss? He thinks it's the kiss that made him a tad more muddle-headed. "Okay, maybe not that much. I am a little ditzy though."

 

They say that 酒後吐真言 (one spits out the truth after drinking alcohol) and he admits he wasn't prepared to experience it first-hand. With Lan Xichen no less.

 

"Let's go to sleep. We'll talk about it in the morning."

 

"Is that a no?" Lan Xichen was near tears. Nie Mingjue was quick to placate him. "No! I'm just- we need to rest, Xichen."

 

"I can stay?" He sounded so hopeful that Nie Mingjue had to gather him in his arms and quickly kiss him. "Yeah."

 

"Can I sleep with you?" If Nie Mingjue was a meme, he'd be the pikachu one.

 

Despite how flushed he looks, Lan Xichen had finally realized how bold he was being (as if he wasn't earlier) as his ears turned a brighter red. "I-I mean, next to you."

 

The older man suddenly had the driest throat. He coughed a little bit, hiding his blush as he turned away to march awkwardly to his bed.

 

They each took turns taking a bath before bed, with the older man ensuring that Lan Xichen wasn't gonna slip during his shower. He gave one of his shirts for the younger man to use and they retired to bed without much fanfare with their backs facing each other.

 

--

 

Lan Xichen had woken up first, and for a split second he was afraid that everything that ever happened the night before was all a wonderful dream.

 

He slowly cracked an eye open and what greeted him was the sight of an unmarked column of throat; big, strong arms loosely wrapped around his waist, and soft snoring right above his head.

 

Somehow, they had gravitated towards each other's warmth in the middle of the night and had curled up together. He sighed, feeling contented and happy. However, it was quickly shattered when he felt a headache coming on from having more drinks than he could normally handle. He shifted a little bit, trying to find a comfortable position and the arms wound around him tightened their hold.

 

Hundred thoughts raced through his head, before they settled on one realization. What now? What are we?

 

"Stop thinking so much it's too early," A gruff voice said. The warm body shuffled impossibly closer and the next thing he knew, they were kissing.

 

It's soft and sweet, warming Lan Xichen like the first rays of sunrise that had filtered through the half-masted blinds. He settles a hand on the older man's cheek as he opened up, relishing Nie Mingjue's guttural moan as it reverberated from the tips of his fingers to his toes. The older man rolled so he was on top, dominating as they kissed deeper, licking inside the wet heat, slick tongues sliding against each other and leaving the both of them breathless.

 

When they parted, Lan Xichen looks divine in the morning light. His raven locks splayed on the pillow, his cheeks wonderfully flushed and his swollen, slick lips open as he pants. His honeyed amber eyes are hazy as he stares up at his shixiong in the biggest tshirt he ever wore and Nie Mingjue growled low at how it had slid up to reveal Lan Xichen's long, pale legs.

 

"You're not allowed to go out today."

 

"Huh? Why not?"

 

"As your boyfriend, it's my responsibility to show you how much I love you."

 

Stunned, his heart beat twice as fast, stomach doing a somersault at those honest words. Immense happiness had bubbled up from within him and formed his most genuine smile yet.

 

Then, he started giggling uncontrollably.

 

It was a chain reaction and soon after Nie Mingjue was grinning with him as well as they held each other close, feeling euphoric and in love.

 

Their lips sought each other again, slotting against each other perfectly and swallowing up soft moans and ragged breaths. Nie Mingjue had gone lower as he sucked a mark underneath where Lan Xichen's collar should be, hidden when he's clothed but visible when not. Smugly, he thinks of the surprised reactions of the younger man's teammates when they notice it on Monday.

 

Sighing, Lan Xichen had felt extremely giddy despite being surprised at the sudden mark. He knows how possessive his shixiong could get, and he just knows this won't be the last time. He'll just have to regulate it. Somehow.

 

"Hey da-ge, can you say that again?"

 

"Which one? That I'm your boyfriend?"

 

"Yeah. And the other one too."

 

"I love you."

 

They both had grinned like silly children as they drowned themselves in each other's embrace for the whole day.

 

"I love you too."