Meng Yao went into it with open eyes.
He knew how it would look, what everyone would say, what they would assume about him. He knew they were already saying it, and would say it regardless of what he did.
They had spent months— months — staring at each other. He wasn’t a fool, he knew what those looks meant. He knew that when the sect leader looked at him he was seeing more than just a diligent worker. He saw how his gaze landed on the places where his robes clung most closely to his body. The way his eyes sought out any hint of bare skin.
Meng Yao himself hadn’t been exactly subtle in his own glances, in the way he used his eyelashes and dimples and slender hips when he was alone with Mingjue.
His goddamn boss .
He had thought the proposition would come before the promotion, but it didn’t. Mingjue promoted him, kept eyeing him up, but never touched him.
He thought it would come soon after the promotion, but Mingjue kept his hands to himself.
And for all that Meng Yao wanted him, he was not going to make the first move. If he was misreading the signs… well, his position was precarious enough.
They spent almost every evening together, talking, eating, laughing. Mingjue urged him to wear the Nie braids, and he obliged. Mingjue urged him to get himself nicer robes, made of the same fabric that he and Huaisang wore. He obliged.
But still, Mingjue did not touch him.
He puzzled over it, alone in his bed. Was the sect leader shy? Inexperienced? Was he truly wrong about what all of those looks meant? Perhaps Mingjue had brought him into the family fold merely as a companion for Huaisang. In the months he had been spending with the brothers he had quickly learned that they were both lonelier than he would have guessed.
When the proposition finally came, it took him by surprise.
Huaisang was away, at Cloud Recesses, and they had spent a quiet evening with just the two of them. Nothing unusual. But when Meng Yao rose to leave, Mingjue grabbed his arm.
“Stay. Please. If you wish.” His voice was deep. His grip firm, surprising. Meng Yao looked at that big hand in his arm, looked at his choices, and he decided to take what he wanted.
Ah, it was so rare for him to do exactly as he wanted. He always had to be so careful, so aware of everyone else and what they might be thinking or feeling or planning… He wanted to turn off his mind and sink into lust.
“Is that what you want, Mingjue?” He peered out from under his lashes, but let his voice take on a steady tone instead of the coquettish one he typically would have used.
“A-Yao, yes . Stay with me tonight.” Mingjue's fingers rubbed gently on his arm, finding their way under the sleeve to touch his skin.
“I will only stay if you tell me what you want from me.” Meng Yao said firmly. He was not going to play a demure virgin, not after waiting so goddamn long. “What do you want from me?”
“A-Yao…” Mingjue looked like a starving man. Desperate. “I want you in my bed. With me. Tonight. Now.”
“Good.” With that, Meng Yao leaned forward to kiss Mingjue, taking his face in his hands. “Good.” He whispered again, then bit Mingjue’s lip.
Mingjue pulled him into his lap, and soon they were a tangle of robes and limbs and hair. Meng Yao didn’t hold himself back, didn’t sink under his mask of a polite servant. Not for this. He was going to take as much as he wanted, as much as Mingjue would let him have.
Which appeared to be quite a lot.
When he had imagined the sect leader in bed, he always pictured him as someone who would need to be in control in the bedroom. Meng Yao thought he might hold him down with those big arms, might enjoy how small Meng Yao was compared to him. The other men he had been with certainly liked to go on about it, how delicate he was, how easily they could break him if they wanted.
Meng Yao thought that was very boring.
He was pleased to find that here, Mingjue treated him as an equal. He let Meng Yao bite him, touch him, tug at his braids. He used his hands as if he wanted to memorize every part of Meng Yao’s skin. He bit him right back. They matched each other, beat for beat, and Meng Yao did not hide his desires.
“A-Yao,” Mingjue groaned his name over ans over again. “A-Yao let’s go to bed. We need more room.”
“Oh?” He leaned back and quirked an eyebrow. “Did you have something in mind?” He shifted his weight a little to brush against Mingjue’s cock. “Something you wanted other than sweet kisses and love bites?”
Mingjue shifted his weight, trying to get them off the chair, but Meng Yao pressed firmly down, pinning Mingjue to the chair. “I like when you use your words, a-Jue. Tell me what you want.”
Mingjue groaned and closed his eyes. “I want to get your cock in my mouth. I want to make you come with my name on your lips.” He opened his eyes then and stroked Meng Yao’s face gently. “You’re always so composed A-Yao, I want to make you fall apart.”
Well then. Who was he to say no to an offer like that?
Together they made their way to the bed, shedding clothes along the way until they were down to their innermost robes. Mingjue looked good like this, all starry eyed and sweaty. It wasn’t a surprise, he was a warrior, Meng Yao had often seen him sweaty, but this was just for him. He hadn’t worked himself into a sweat swinging his saber, or running miles over broken road, he had down it just by spending fifteen minutes with Meng Yao in his lap.
In bed, Mingjue laid him down and crawled on top of him. His mouth was everywhere, his tongue everywhere. His hands pushed aside that last layer of clothing and he licked Meng Yao’s skin like he wanted to devour him.
It was perfect.
So often in bed, men wanted to be too gentle with him, or too rough. They wanted to treat him as a delicate flower, or do everything they could to break him. Meng Yao could enjoy that, it could be fun, but what he liked most was the give and take of someone who knew both their strengths and used that knowledge to push and pull in exactly the right measure.
Apparently Mingjue had been paying a lot of attention to him.
When he came in Mingjue’s mouth, he did cry out his name. He gave himself to the feeling completely, his whole body shuddering with pleasure. Mingjue held him there through it, then gently moved back up to eye level.
“That was what I wanted.” He said. “You, like this.” He gently stroked Meng Yao’s chest until he regained words and opened his eyes.
“And for yourself?” He murmured. “What do you want for you?”
“Hmm. I suppose I hadn’t thought that far.”
“Liar.” Meng Yao pushed against Mingjue’s chest a little. “You know what you want. Do you want to fuck me, da-ge? Do you want my mouth on you? My hands,” he let his hands wander down where they wanted, brushing lightly against Mingjue’s cock. Mingjue groaned again.
“All of that. Anything you want to give.”
“You’re being so polite, a-Jue. I always thought you would simply take what you wanted.”
“A-Yao…” he sat up too quickly. “Wait. Stop.” Meng Yao froze his hands, and pulled them back to his body. “I will take nothing that you don’t want to give.” He looked angry, passionate. Meng Yao had seen similar looks before—Mingjue was a man of many tempers. “If you do not want this you can leave now and I will never hold it against you. This is not… I am not…” he seemed to run out of words, so Meng Yao finished for him.
“I’m here freely and happily of my own accord, a-Jue.” He kissed him softly. “I want this. I want you. I want to please you.”
“I would not force you.” Suddenly, all those months of looking and not touching made sense. Mingjue was too honorable for his own good.
“I would not let you force me.”
“We are equals here. Do you understand?” Mingjue looked deep into his eyes. “I see you, Meng Yao, and we are equals.”
“Aaah, da-ge.” Meng Yao looked away. “I understand. Now.” He wiggled. “Let me please you. You did such a good job for me, you deserve the same.”
He mirrored Mingjue’s movements from earlier, kissing his way down his body. He took his time admiring the firm muscles and sweat and hair, before taking Mingjue’s cock in his mouth.
Meng Yao had been raised in a brothel, but he had never worked there, never taught any special tricks or teases. He had learned all that later, when he became curious enough to seek out his own partners. He was a smart man, and a quick learner, quick enough to adapt to Mingjue’s needs. He listened for the little hitches in his breath, and moved his tongue accordingly.
When Mingjue came, he went completely silent, and so still. It was as if Meng Yao had sucked all the passion out of him, and only his husk remained. His chest rose and fell in steady breaths, and when he rested his head on his chest he could hear the steady beat of his heart.
“Thank you a-Yao” he murmured, after a long silence. “You are a wonder.” He drew Meng Yao into his arms and held him there against his chest. “I have wanted you for so long.”
“Before I even knew your name. And then I grew to know you, and you are even better than I imagined.”
Meng Yao averted his eyes. He didn’t want to put his mask back on yet. He wanted to bask in this feeling and forget that in the world outside this room they were decidedly not equals. He wanted to forget that if Mingjue wanted, he could destroy his life in an instant.
“Meng Yao.” Mingjue lifted his chin to look into his eyes again. “I am not a man who is good with words. I say things wrong, my temper gets the best of me. But you...I see you. I see your diplomacy. I know not all your smiles are real.”
“Sect leader I…”
“No. Here we are equals, remember?” He brought Meng Yao’s fingers up to his lips and kissed them. “I would like all your smiles for me to be genuine. I do not like games, or lies. Here, I want us to be equals, with no pretense between us.” And oh, how that divided them, Meng Yao thought. That he didn’t see that the idea of them being equals was in and of itself a pretense. A fun game.
Meng Yao nodded, and filed away Mingjue in his head as a good man, a passionate man, someone who made an excellent lover and fighter, but not someone to rely on in any real way. How could you hold power without lies? How could you live a life free of pretense? Was that what it was to be rich?
Meng Yao kissed him again then, but he could already see the full shape of their relationship. One day he would be caught in a lie Mingjue couldn’t forgive. One day Mingjue would see that his diplomacy was more of a panicked scramble to safety. One day Mingjue would actually see him, and he would not be forgiven.
And so he went into the arrangement with both eyes open, knowing what people would say and how it would end for him. Knowing the pain it would cause, the tears he would have to cry later. Meng Yao went into it with both eyes open, and even later he couldn’t say he truly regretted it.